Monday, August 23, 2004

My First Renovation

We survived our first home renovation. It was relatively minor, but it did involve a general contractor, sub-contractors, pneumatic power tools, and a town permit.

As you may have read in a previous post, our front porch plan didn't work out, so we had our front entryway rebuilt so that it doesn't expose the foundation. This involved knocking down a wall and rebuilding it 6 inches out from where the original was. Some rotted sill wood was replaced and the wood floor had to be patched. My favorite thing about all this is that I got really nice wooden shutters with faux harware.

Here are before and after pictures of our house. The first was taken before it was ours, in May 2003.


Talk about curb appeal! Check out more pictures here, including interior shots and some of the garden as well.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Good Things Orange

1. Sweet Potato Spears

  • 2 sweet potatoes (yams, actually) peeled and cut into 1/2 inch spears

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil

  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme

  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg

  • 1/2 tsp salt

  • 1/4 pepper

Mix up the above ingredients in a bowl and spead on a cookie sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Bake on bottom rack in oven at 450 degress for 25 minutes, turning once. They taste so good you will forget that they are good for you.

2. My orange tabby cat, George seen here with his look-alike heirloom tomato. Notice the two pointy ears on the tomato. Quite a resemblence, huh?

Here is another picture of the cats in the living room window. You can see how lush my window box plantings have become.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Another Yummy Summer Pasta Dish

This is another recipe from the same August Cooking Light. It was great - another keeper.


  • 9 oz Papparadelle pasta (or any wide ribbon shaped pasta)

  • 1 1/2 cup halved red cherry tomatoes

  • 1 1/2 cup halved yellow cherry tomatoes

  • 5 cups fresh arugula

  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

  • 3 cloves of garlic sliced thin

  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper

  • 3 Tbsp lemon juice

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 1/3 cup parmesean cheese

Cook the pasta, drain and keep warm. (You can rinse it under warm water if it starts to stick together.) Saute the garlic and pepper in the olive oil for one minute or until fragrent. Then, add the tomatoes and cook for about 45 seconds (yes 45 seconds). Remove skillet from heat, stir in lemon juice and salt. Combine pasta, arugula, tomato mixture and cheese. Serve it up!

Tangy, salty, cheesy, tomatoey, peppery, arugula-y, long comforting noodle goodness!

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Penne Pasta with Roasted Fennel, Cherry Tomatoes, and Kalamata Olives

Need I say more?

It's been a while since I posted a recipe. I have to admit that I haven't been too creative in the kitchen lately. The August issue of Cooking Light had a lot of promising recipes in it so last night I tried the pasta with roasted veggies recipe (see post title).

It was sooooo good! Here is the rundown:

  • 1-2 cups of chopped fennel bulb (I got mine from the Central Square farmers market)

  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved (also from the farmers market)

  • 1/2 cup pitted and halved Kalamata olives

  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano (from my garden)

  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary (I only had dried, unfortunately)

  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

  • 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

  • 8 oz penne pasta, uncooked

  • 3/4 cup Pecorino Romano cheese

Roast the fennel, tomatoes, olives, herbs, pepper, and oil for 30 minutes at 450 degrees. The veggies get very soft and carmelized - yum! Pour roasted veggie mixture over cooked pasta and mix in the cheese.

I'm always a little wary of pasta dishes that don't have a defined sauce. They're sometimes too dry or way to oily. I was worried this dish would be the same, but there is just enough liquid from the vegetables that mix with and melt the cheese to make a creamy salty sauce.

Very very good.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Another Baby Project

I recently finished another baby project for another one of my several pregnant friends. This was a crocheted baby blanket. It's been years since I've crocheted anything, since typically, I like the results of knitting better. I forgot how fast crocheting is! I finished this blanket with time to spare for the baby shower. Crocheting blankets is nice because it is fast and you don't have to think too much while you are doing it. I think I'll crochet more often.

Here is a picture of Tracey (the pregnant friend) opening the blanket at her shower.

baby blanket

I'm pretty pleased with how the blanket came out. I wasn't intending for it to be striped, but the yarn was varigated and it just worked out that way. I am also pleased to find out that the nursery is painted lavender so this blanket will go nicely.

My next project is a husband sweater. I just started this weekend. I hope to have it finished in time for the holidays.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Where have you been?

I came across this tool that produces a map of the United States with states that you've visited highlighed in red. Here's my map:

create your own personalized map of the USA

There're are a whole lot of states I haven't seen.

Here's a fundamental question: If you've only been in an airport in a particular state, can you say you've actually been there? Does it even count? If the answer is no, I'll have to remove Utah. After all, I never actually stepped foot on Utah's ground. Only its airport floors.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Quick and Easy Corn on the Cob

My mom, who is the Microwave Queen (she even nukes rice) taught me a great way to cook corn on the cob.

Shuck and rince each ear of corn. Then individually wrap each ear in wax paper. They should still be wet from when you washed them. Put all of the ears in the microwave, and cook on high, 2 minutes per ear. They come out perfectly cooked every time! They're steamed so they should retain their nutrients, unlike boiling. There is no risk of over or under cooking the corn. It's much faster and less clean up than boiling. True, you must use wax paper that gets thrown out, but you are saving on water and cooking gas or electricity. (I'm assuming a couple minutes of microwave use uses less energy than 20 minutes of boiling water on the stove, but I have no scientific backup for this.)

This quick corn cooking method easily adds a little summer to every meal!

Last night, in fact, we had quick and easy vegetarian sloppy joes (from the Fantastic mix), green bean salad, sliced heirloom tomatoes, and corn on the cob! The longest part of prepping the meal was snipping the stems off of the green beans.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Make your squirrels dizzy!

Lisa suggested several solutions to my squirrel problem. (Thanks Lisa!) One potential solution was the Yankee Flipper bird feeder from Droll Yankees. This bird feeder is battery powered. When a squirrel sits on the perch, its weight activates a motor that spins the perch so that the squirrel flips off of the feeder. The Yankee Flipper website has a video of the flipping sqirrels in action. The video is really funny. I don't think the sqirrels are hurt, but is this really less cruel than cyanne pepper? I guess burning eyes are a little worse than being thrown across the yard.

My cats would love to watch this from the window. Unfortunately the suggested retail price for the Yankee Flipper is $119! That's a bit more than I want to spend on a bird feeder. Maybe I'll try throwing clothes pins or better yet, I'll get a water pistol!


I discovered that my local grocery store makes and sells bialys (or is it bialies?). A bialy is similar to a bagel, but it's not a bagel. It is a Jewish/Eastern European style yeast roll with an indentation in the middle (not a hole) that is filled with sweet onions. The bialy is chewy, but it is dusted in flour so it is not shiny like a proper bagel. The dough is slightly salty and flavorful. I was very surprised to find a high quality bialy, let alone any bialy at Roch Brothers supermarket in Acton, Mass.

Bialies were a rare treat for me as a child. I grew up in New Jersey so good bagels were not hard to find. But as I was far enough away from New York, bialies were rare. I worked in a very good bagel shop in college and the baker who was from Long Island said he didn't make bialies because they were so labor intensive. Decent authentic bagels are pretty labor intensive so I can't imagine what goes into making a bialy.

I'm not sure how most people eat bialies. I like them unsliced, and slightly toasted to give them that fresh out of the oven taste and texture. This weekend, however, I discovered a new way to eat a bialy. It is probably not orthodox, but I will forgive myself. I also discovered that Trader Joe's makes really good home style hummus. It's chunky and garlicky. It really tasted like it was home made. I spread some of this on a toasted bialy and YUM! It was a garlicky, oniony, chewy match made in food heavan!

Beware of bialies though. They are not bagels, but they deserve the same respect as bagels when slicing. Matt sliced his hand open while trying to split a bialy on Sunday morning. I almost took him to the emergency room, but he stopped bleeding pretty quickly. It was a little unsettling though because he turned a very pallid yellow color and almost passed out. I think it was from shock more than anything else. There is a proper way to slice a bagel (or any type of roll). NEVER slice a bagel while holding it in your hand. They're slippery buggers.