Friday, February 26, 2010

The Big Snow (Take 3)

It has been snowing for the past 24 hours and still going strong. We reportedly had gusts up to 30 mph, and thankfully it has finally died out. It's hard to tell how much accumulation we have because of the drifting. I walked out to a relatively sheltered area, and there was every bit of 12 inches of new snow there.

JP plowed out the upper part of the driveway this morning, where there was about 2 feet of drifted snow. By noon, it was drifted full again. I shovelled a foot of snow off the concrete in front of the house this morning, and 18 inches off this evening. There was even 6 inches of snow on the porches (the ones that are covered). That gives you an idea how much our 12" is drifting.

JP reported that he saw several people today with pathological anxiety that the power will go out again. I am trying not to think about that possibility, but I cleaned house this afternoon, and went grocery shopping yesterday, so we should be set...just in case.

My friend gave me a recipe for Naan using my sour dough starter, so I tried it out tonight. It turned out well, although the texture was not as tender as that served in the Indian restaurants. It is worth tweaking to make it better, and relatively easy!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Things are Looking Up!

The sun was out today! J came up this morning and said "it was so bright in my room, I thought it was summer!"

I made $.50 at Aldi's today, returning shopping carts. That will cover 2 more chai lattes at Walgreens!

This essay was in Time Magazine 2 weeks ago, and is a nice way to think about (or not think about) birthdays. It's worth reading.

JP and I have a romantic comedy to snuggle up together and watch tonight.

Life is indeed good, despite the inevitable messes.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Cleaning Frenzy

I must preface this post by warning you that it is NOT a happy one. Even the $.25 chai latte at Walgreen's (yes, they've raised their prices 500%!!) did little to cheer me up. It's another gray February day.

The percentage of school J and I have completed today: 25%

The number of times I've spanked L: 2

The number of things I've cleaned today: ummm, let's see...

- The dog drooled all over herself on the way to the vet, we're talking soaking wet from her chin, down her chest and both front legs. I cleaned her up there, then at the auto repair shop where we stopped on the way home for a 1000 mile overdue oil change. Then I had to give her a bath and clean out the van when we returned home.

- I cleaned up the floor and clothes where L peed twice. Once at the above mentioned auto repair shop.

- I've scoured the house looking for a pair of soaking wet pee socks which L was supposed to leave in the sink. They've completely disappeared, but all of the stuffed animals in the girls' room are completely in order, as are their beds and drawers.

- Oh, and of course there is the entire pot of coffee that I managed to knock over this morning, which ran down into the cabinets. I found some petrified hot chocolate down there that was spilled about a month ago, so I cleaned that up too. The worst part of this was that it happened BEFORE I had my morning cup of joe.

- All of the laundry from the above mentioned episodes are currently in the dryer. Now it appears that it is time to do dishes.

The really dismal thing about this, besides the overpowering grayness outside, is that it's just a typical day (except for the vet and auto repair shop trip). I'm extremely likely to clean up more pee and dog barf and spills in the near future. SIGH.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Playing With Fire

I spent a couple of hours yesterday baking these s'mores cupcakes. I even used my small butane torch for the first time EVER.

Of course the most fun part of making them was using the torch!

The girls thought it was pretty fun to eat them too!

Unfortunately, I thought they looked better than they tasted, so this recipe is a non-keeper. Oh well, you don't know until you try!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Going for the Gold

I have finally crawled out from the bear trap of this sinus thingie that I have been twisted up in for the past week. I think today was the first day that my face and head didn't throb with pain every time I bent over. Wouldn't you know it? Today was the first day that the sun has shown his beautiful golden face since the 6th.

That day, we were too busy digging out, and hauling water and splitting wood to appreciate it. Today, we took full advantage. The girls and I ran out before lunch to play in the sled, to romp, to simply roll in it and look up at the sun. It felt so good to be done with school for the day and to see the blue sky and begin to get a seedling of hope deep in my heart that Spring will one day come again.

Some folks around here are spreading nasty rumors about another storm on Sunday, bringing an additional 15-30 inches of snow. I refuse to believe it. At this point, denial is my best defense, because I'd just have to hide in the closet and rock in a fetal position if I thought it might really be true. Playing Pioneer might have made me a stronger person, but that doesn't mean I'd like to do it again.

Now the Olympics are keeping me up late. I find myself drawn to the underdogs. (Probably because I have no concept of how it would feel to be the best at anything.) I was intrigued,however, by the snow boarding earlier in the week, especially by the guys who couldn't seem to pull up their snow pants. I'm too old to get it, I guess. Lots of gold showing up in Vancouver as well.

Bring It On!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

21st Century Pioneers

Our electricity came back on today. After living with out it for nearly 8 days, I feel as though I have stumbled, confused, and blinking with the brightness into a world I have become unfamiliar with.

It started snowing last Friday morning. It looked like this much of the day.

JP's office closed up early. Soon after dinner, the lights flashed a couple of times and went out. Dark. Quiet. 20 degrees outside. So, we broke out the oil lamps and read to the girls. We lit a fire in the woodstove, and went to bed.

By Saturday morning, the snow had stopped, and we began digging out. There was a lot of digging to do!

We measured over 21" of snow on Poplar Ridge, but apparently down in the lower areas, there was heavier snow and more of it. Here is a picture of Dad in the snow, looking remarkably like a garden gnome.

We also needed to get ourselves situated for the long haul. The power company estimated our electricity to be restored by midnight the next Friday. We have a well, which requires power to run the pump. But fortunately, we have a huge, 2000 gallon cistern that fills from the well. JP dug it out, and dipped out water to fill 5 gallon buckets that we kept in the showers to flush toilets and containers of water to drink. This became a daily chore, and about 3 days in we finally got smart and used our small generator to pump water from the cistern with a sump pump into the buckets!

The other daily chore was hauling wood. We were woefully understocked in the firewood department. Fortunately, when our property was cleared, they left the trees and debris in hedgerows around the perimeters, so we didn't have to look far for wood, just had to uncover it...

...haul it to the splitter...

...and split and stack it. JP and Dad did this on Saturday,

and Dad and I did this on Wednesday.

We kept the woodstove hot. The upstairs stayed between 65 and 70 during the day, and dropped to the mid 50's at night (unless I got up and put more wood on). Downstairs was chilly...50 at the most, so the girls and my parents snuggled up under lots of blankets to sleep!

Without an oven, I decided to experiment with baking on the woodstove. The first couple of attempts were barely edible, but I managed to bake rolls, sourdough bread, brownies, biscuits, and banana bread on the woodstove!

Luckily, JP had the foresight to put 2 propane/natural gas stove burners in the kitchen, so we were still able to cook quite easily. We kept my dutch oven full of water on the woodstove and usually had several gallons of hot water available for dishes, coffee or sponge baths. (I love my Bodum even more after providing me with coffee even during the power outage!)

Saturday afternoon, we all ventured out to see white world. It was gorgeous and quiet! The girls thought that these ice crystals looked like fairy wings.

By Monday, we were finally dug out all the way to the road. Then we were finally able to see the damage from the heavy snows.

The cause of our power outage was obvious at the bottom of our drive: downed power lines. (Click on the picture for a better view.)

On Tuesday, I had a bit of a breakdown when I heard the weather forecast calling for 8-10 more inches, and realizing that this would probably slow recovery efforts, but I pulled myself together for 4 more days of dark.

After a couple of days, we fired up our little generator in the evenings for a lamp, to run the freezers, and to watch a movie with the girls. It gave us a semblance of normalcy, although we completely missed the Superbowl and the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics. All the refrigerated food was stored in coolers on the deck.

We made it in to town, to the warm homes of our friends twice during the week for showers. I also spent an hour and a half in the Laundromat on Tuesday, then an hour at McDonalds where they have free wifi. Do you know how difficult it is to do cyber school without power or phone/internet?

JP went back to work Wednesday. By Friday, the rest of us were tired of being in a dark, cold, and smokey house, so we drove in to the Science Center in Pittsburgh. It was a wonderful diversion!

This afternoon, I took the dog for a walk down the driveway, and when I returned to the top I noticed the furnace venting outside. The power was on!

Last Friday, I never imagined that I could live for 8 days without power or phone. We all worked together and stayed positive and we did it with style! But heaps of thanks to those guys from Alabama who got our power going again...cheers!

Now, we are working our way through mountains of laundry, and I am ready for a hot shower! What are your stories from the big snow of 2010?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Pets & Projects

Contrary to what it may seem, I'm not going to blog about our puppy today, who has reached the size of a small horse at the tender age of 4 months. (Look here for a small video clip of her on my Mom's blog.) This post is about my sourdough starter that has been in my possession for about 2 months.

A friend of mine shared her starter with me, and despite the fact that I nearly killed it on the first go-round, it is still hale and hearty in my refrigerator. I was a bit afraid that it would turn into the nightmare of "Amish Friendship Bread", but I was dead wrong. I have used my starter about twice a week, and everyone in our home seems to be enjoying it. I've made bread, pancakes, pizza crusts, bread sticks and rolls. I need to try it for some cinnamon rolls one of these days. Who knew it could be so versatile?

In my copious spare time, I've started a crash course in Landscape Design, sponsored by our local "Creative Industries". I began a week late, so I've been scrambling to get my assignment, a to scale drawing of our house and environs drawn by my Thursday night class. I'm nearly finished since there isn't a whole lot of existing landscaping here except for the scraggly grass and a few trees. I'm hoping to get ideas for beds in the front yard area, and some inspiration for the entrance of the house which is lacking in "curb appeal" at the present time. I'll post pictures as I progress. I am really looking forward to this Spring, when I'll have a blank slate for planting, planting, planting! JP and I have been pouring over the nursery catalogs as they trickle in. It is so exciting to be able to buy in bulk instead of a single plant here and there!

What kinds of interesting things are you planning to plant this year?