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Thursday, December 31, 2009

And they sang... "Frosty Sno-Homey"

Early this morning, this Brooklynite Snow Man virtually flew into Fair Oaks for a visit. I suspect his creation had something to do with two little great-nephews I know of - and one niece.

I decided to read his palms (not of palm tree but of , A Tree [that] Grows in Brooklyn).

I concluded as follows of this snowy personality.

  • He loves his veggies (confirmed by carritoid schnoz) as I hope my nephews do.
  • He has a spicy personality (note: clove eyes & mouth).
  • He is rather settled in his ways (has yet to leave the chair...).
  • He is a good neighbor (belongs to the local volunteer fire department)
  • He is a snazzy dresser (see pine-green scarf ensemble).

    Yep, this little fellow gets two snaps up from A.C.

"So now you got my press release, do I get to co-star
in Lost? I'd be great in a Polar Bear scene!"

Sunday, December 27, 2009

La Chez Claire Entertains

La Chez Claire, the renowned 'B&B' is entertaining this week. I was out to a lovely post Christmas dinner last night, at my friends, Rick, Nancy & the boys for a nice post Christmas dinner. Mommy Nancy is a pro at 'warm fuzzy food' (meaning 'comfort food', not actually fuzzy food) and original salads. My contribution was a persimmon pudding I made, using persimmons Rick picked and gave to me a week ago. The boys and I had fun, heating up brandy, pouring on the pudding and setting it ablaze. The flames died out quickly, but quick thinking Diego, gave up trying to relight the pud, and put the long fireplace match atop the pudding so we still got to make a flaming entrance to the dining room - Huzzah!

The whole family planned to take off to Tahoe in the morning and while the family dog Tippy was off to the kennels, I agreed to take care of Sofa.

Sofa, is not furniture, and I have decided to refer to 'La Lapin' in question as 'Sophia', as a girl does object to being referred to for her... girth.

Diego and doe-eyed Sofa AKA Sophia

Sofa was an unexpected present given to Diego for his birthday by his college buddies. He was rather surprised and will be challenged by the sudden bunny stewardship he inherited, but I think he'll be up to the task. Meanwhile I get to play with the bun-bun! I drove her home late last night, hardly able to wait for morning, when I prepared her special bunny suite, and introduced her to it. Here she is below, shortly after moving in. She was fascinated by the girls, who were not all all surprised with Sophia, but were intrigued with the new things in their old renovated pen.

Sophia wonders what life is like on the 'outside'

I was watching them from the living room so didn't get a picture of Colette, pecking at Sophia's green hay, that hangs on the corner of the pen. Should be an interesting week. I am determined to find out what tickles Sophia's bunny bone, so she will be entertained while visiting me. So far she wasn't impressed by a chewing block of pine, a sugar pine pine cone, a pillow case to shove around, or a hanging toy with hay stuck into it. I am determined to find out what what makes gets this bunny going on all four cylinders - I mean, all four gigantic bunny feet.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

To Market, To Market to Buy a Something-or-the-Other

Today was cold(ish), overcast and rather gloomy for the start of Christmas week. Mommy Nancy and I decided to meet up and visit the way-cool Farmer's Market under the freeway.

Fish area at Farmer's Market

We had loads of pre-holiday shopping to do. Nancy bought an organic, free range, Christmas ham. It came from a happy pig that spent its days romping in a pasture and getting its ears scratched by the farmer that ultimately slaughtered said piggy. [Oh yes! Sure, you judge us! Thinking we are heartless bastards, buying an innocent young pig; cut down in the tasty, hickory smoked, honey glazed prime of life.] Humanely raised critters - if you can get them, is wonderful for both your karma and your carnivorous needs. That I can get such meat now makes me wildly happy. I don't have a problem with eating animals, I just want to know they got a fair shake before I salt, pepper and devour them.

My own first stop was the fish market area where I intended to buy a nice mackerel or a pompano, which sort of looks like the butterfish that was my childhood favorite.

Pompano masquerading as Butterfish

On my first visit to the Farmer's Market I thought the fish market was awesome. However, only today, when planning on actually walking off with a fish did I suddenly become a bit - squeamish. Here, check out the fishies, up for purchase.

Is that Red Snapper warning me of digestive doom?

Nancy pointed out that the fish - all the fish offered at the market, were flash frozen as caught - guts intact! Not a clean fish in the place; every scale and intestine intact, all arrayed atop tubs of ice, pretty as you please.


I couldn't do it. The thought of cleaning a fish that had been caught God knows where or when, was too much for me. Thus the little fishes stayed right where they were. Oh well. There's always Trader Joe's frozen fish fillets.

No bother. What I did not spend on fish, I spent on some lovely grass fed, pasture-reared beef and the usual assortment of veggies; chard, diakon radish, yams and shitake and oyster mushrooms. As my ingredients reveal to the trained eye, I'm learning to cook Japanese style.

The biggest discovery of the day was DUCK EGGS for sale! Ages ago when I lived in Riverside I routinely got free duck and goose eggs - and avocados & oranges in season. The eggs were all humongous, fresh and delicious. So today I couldn't resist buying a half dozen duckie eggs, which are equal to a dozen chicken eggs. I wish I could raise ducks for their eggs, as I do chickens, but ducks, bless 'em are a complete noisy messes of feathers. They require at the very least a wading pond, which amounts to a pond of poo and feathers. Ugh! Anyway, I hope the duck egg seller is a regular at the Market.

Duck Eggs!

Our shopping bags full up, I took Nancy back to her place. Before I left, she and Rick were kind enough to give me some of their own home-grown produce - fresh persimmons, lemons and oranges, right off their trees. Produce doesn't get any fresher than that.

Rick & Nancy's Orange Tree

Yummy Meyers(?) Yellow Lemons

I found a recipe for persimmon pudding - which, based on the recipe photo, looks like an old fashioned Christmas pudding. I think I am going to make one and set it ablaze with hot brandy and perhaps a sprig of holly.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Another Sunday Frittered Away

Hurrah! Have finally begun converting old family slides to digital. I bought a small slide scanner - no larger than a pint of cream. The scanner is not only small but it has only a couple of button controls. To start with, it would only take photos that converted normal slides into negatives. Below is a negative of my brother Juan.

The next digital, is how the same slide appeared in the digital converter, AFTER I read instructions. Duh. For the record, this photo was taken by my father, the first & only time he took Juan and myself horseback riding at some stable in the Bronx. I think I was 9 yrs old, which makes Juan 15 yrs old here.

Juan's horse had a cool McClellan cavalry saddle
probably just like one William Miller rode on in the Spanish American War

Only took 7 years to find, but here's a pic of me on the same day. Check out the knock knees (on 'moi') not on the horse.

Here's the thing - I can copy slides as either a negative or a normal slide. My happy accident was I discovered that a negative, switched to 'normal' by Photo Shop, reverts to colors the slide lost to old age. Doesn't make any sense but who cares about sense, right? Here, let me explain the happy accident like this. This next picture of my mother is how an ancient (50 something year old) slide looks if you just hold it up: washed out, blue, color tones missing.

My Mother around 30 yrs old; in Canada

This next photo does not exist as a slide. To get it, I copied the blue-ish above as a negative, then using Photo Shop, converted back to normal. But look how the converted side picked up all the color hues that are missing above! The blue tones disappate and the green grass and terra cotta take on more natural tones.

So 'positive' to 'negative' and back
again, restores lost slide element, but washes out detail

Content of wonderful photos aside, both photos kind of suck. The top photo has more details of my mother's face, but everything is blue toned. The bottom photo picks up more natural coloration, but then my mother's face loses detail and is too bright. I think the actual solution to this puzzlement is to take a Photo Shop Class and learn what tricks there are to correct both of those photos.

Sad thing is the old family slides are way past their sell-by date; dirty, dusty and many are spider-webbed with fungus. Good news is I can do some repair on the slides for myself. For example, here is a slide of my Mother and Father in Canada. The slide was wiped with special dry cloth, which did no flippin' good at all; slide is still filthy. To get the full effect of the dirt & lack there-of, you need to click on each slide for a closer examination.

Voila! Same photo, not quite done yet, but
getting there. Glitches were removed via Photo Shop

Okay! Photo Class is over. You did well, so for a treat, here are a few more newly digitized slides. For the most part they are raw, meaning I haven't digitally cleaned them up yet; that's another Sunday!

My Sister Dolores, friend Begi, and Cousin Cynthia - Brooklyn NY

John W. Brown High School Freshman Juan
lookin' sharp in his school uniform

I have no idea why this slide of my Father went all green!
I converted one to B&W but at the cost of all contrast

Easter Sunday on the steps of St. Patrick's Cathedral, NYC
My Mother, Aunt Elaine, Juan and myself

My Father in his beloved white-walled, Studebaker circa 1951

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

And Why Was Today Special?

*sigh* Well, I got it very nearly balanced. Hope you had a great day Niece.

Love, Claire

Monday, December 07, 2009

Stupid Experiments for Cold Winter Nights

Ok, this is absolutely a v. silly post. It is cold here in Sacto, hitting freezing at night. In a yearly fight for survival, I put away my flimsy duvets and got out the heavy artillary - my down quilt. So when I went to bed last night, I was all snug and happy. I drifted off to sleep and in the wee hours, woke abrupty, and sweaty.

On a whim, I grabbed my bedside alarm clock - it has a thermometer. For a stupid experiment I placed it under the down quilt about a half foot from myself. Here are the results.

Room Temperature = 53 degrees
House Thermostat Setting = 55 degrees
Temperature under covers, when Claire woke a second time = 89 degrees!

I'm telling you - it was all I could do to stop myself getting up and putting on the air conditioning! Needless to say, spent the night alternately in and out from under the quilt. TMI? Yes. I see your point.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Nearly Forgotten 2008 Kitchen Remodeling Project

A year ago I decided to remodel my kitchen, and to do so as cheaply as possible. Little did I know then, that a year later, I would still be working on the project and doing so on a Furlough Friday budget. It took me a week or so to give the kitchen walls a fresh coat of white paint. Then I painted over the faded blue cabinet doors with a thick coat of sage green paint. The messiest bits I 'improved' were the white painted cabinet door hinges. I soaked them in gelatinous water soluble solvent to reveal pretty copper door-hinges.

The tall pantry cabinet on the left, helped tremendously
to increase reachable cabinet space in my kitchen.

Details/photos on the fridge replacement are here.

Now, that brings me up to yesterday, when work started on removing the grubby white tile cabinet tops with granite. First, here's a look at the kitchen view with some of the old tile visable on the nearest to the camera bottom cabinet.

Things already moved around,
but tile surfaces visable - dirty grout and all

The workmen striped off all the tile surfaces;
note the stove was moved out before work began.

The real work began Saturday morning. Workmen arrived and started measuring and cutting the granite slabs in my driveway.

Cutting granite outside

All the cabinet tops had to have new
wooden boards to lay the granite on.

It cracked me up when they put up sheets of plastic in the kitchen to cut down on dust. It reminded me of the the cable show Dexter, when he prepares his work room for his - upseting - dastardly deeds.

Dexter! Is that you in there?

Anyway, there was dusty galore in spite of the plastic sheeting. I had the whole house fan on and I like to think that helped move the dust up and out of the house (or maybe just out of the kitchen? Oopsy).

By mid afternoon the work was done & I am happy with it. The lady who runs the company with her husband delivered all she promised. I like the granite behind the stove area as a backdrop for splatters and such. A fumes hood needs to go up there.

With one job complete, others
suggest themselves, like a hood over the stove

The window side of the kitchen is looking slick

The lady had one great idea I would never have thought of. There is a space between one cabinet and my dishwasher. I keep a narrow garbage can there. It was her idea to extend the granite counter top across that space to the dishwasher. Great idea! Doubled my countertop space there and covers over the garbage can.

Love the increased counter space
over the little garbage can slot

I like that they suggested that expanded counter top. Also she told me since the sink had to be removed for the work, that if I bought a new garbage disposal she would have the men install it for free. As the old one sounds like one is grinding up chain-mail, I took her up on the offer.

Work's not totally done on the granite yet - it needs sealing which they'll do in about a week, and then again, 6 months after that, as part of the original costs.

Hurrah! Of course, one job down, several more to go. I need to finish the kitchen painting - the upper cabinets and some work on the bottom ones. The stove needs a proper hood and as is obvious in the photos above, I intend to have a tile floor installed; all the fresh new paint makes the old linoleum look cheese-yellow.
Meanwhile there is post-job clean-up to contend with. Everything in the house is covered with the delicate white blush of dust. Where the heck did I stash the sponge?