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I am a pug elevator and Mr. Demo is a hoarder

I am a pug elevator and Mr. Demo is a hoarder

The transition is now officially official. We are well and truly settled into the new house, and I have accepted my role as a pug elevator. The treads on the stairs are very high, and Harry can’t make them on his own. Which means that I cart him up and down the stairs about 20 times a day. We joked about installing a little elevator for him on the side of the stairs. Who needs it when I’m there? Also, I think the mechanics of it all might be a little beyond his mental abilities.

Anyway, the officially part of the official is that we have also finally rented out the old place. Apparently, there’s a rental shortage in Seattle. Within three days of listing it on Craig’s List, I had more than 20 responses–and had already rented it out. The big surprise is that we were right on schedule; our plan was to have it listed by July 1 and rented out by August 1. Well, really, we listed it by July 8, and had it rented out by July 26. Woo!

And it was a lot of work. Aside from the cleaning, electrical, painting, patching, power washing, and all the stuff, there was the question of Steve’s stuff.

Make that STUFF, all capped.

I knew he had a lot of STUFF, but I hadn’t realized how much. And I also hadn’t realized how dangerously hoarder-like he is. Don’t get me wrong: I applaud the waste-not-want-not mentality. But there’s a limit. Here is a typical conversation:

Me, pointing to a weird very heavy metal thing: What’s this?
Steve: Oh, that’s really cool. It came off job xxx. You put it into a wall, and then you can mount a bench on it.
Me: Are you planning on using it somewhere?
Steve: Ummm, well …. nooooo.
Me: Can we give it to Goodwill?
Steve: NO, it’s worth something.
Me: Can we sell it on Craig’s List?
Steve: Eh, I don’t think anyone would want it.

Multiply this conversation by 1,000, and you have the dilemma. And that was just the tool/building/construction stash. Even more problematic was the gear stash.

Me, after dealing with trying to get him to get rid of three canoes and two windsurfers, which would leave him two of each: I found your ski stash.
Steve: Oops.
Me: Yes. Well. I have one set of cross country skis. You have three sets of cross country and two downhills. Can we get rid of two cross countries? XXX gave them to you, and they’re too long. Remember? That’s why you bought the third set.
Steve: No, I might need them someday.
Me: Why?
Steve: Because.
Me: Hmph. Okay, well let’s talk about the downhill skis. You haven’t been downhill skiing since we’ve been together and that’s 12 years. Can we get rid of these?
Steve: No, because I might take it up again.
Me: You won’t.
Steve: You don’t know that.
Me: Okay, well, can we get rid of one pair? How about this pair?
Steve: No, because those are super cool. They’re, like, SO FAST.
Me: Okay, how about this other pair.
Steve: No, I need those, because the other pair is too fast for my skill level.

But, it’s all over now — and we have a huge basement to put it all. Sigh.

The big news: we moved

The big news: we moved

Steve and I weren’t sure about staying in Seattle. It’s the weather. Which, around about February, makes it dangerous to keep sharp objects in the house. We dithered for a couple of years. Should we move? Where do we go? What about work? What do we want? I was pushing going overseas somewhere; Steve resisted. Inaction is its own decision, and so we went nowhere. But at some point last fall, we made the active choice not only to stay, but to buy a bigger house.

South Seattle is a vastly underrated area. It’s diverse and interesting–and in a city known for eight-way stops and no straight way from getting from Point A to Point B, it’s also surprisingly easy to get anywhere you need to go from where we are. In other words, we wanted to stay in the general vicinity. I called up Serena, our realtor, and we started looking. One night, after about three weeks of looking, we were sitting in the living room, me glued to my monitor, and I pulled up recent listings.

And there was the house across the street and two houses down–the Craftsman-y remodeled thing that I had dubbed the view stealer’s house when we moved in because it was so tall that it obscured the view we would have had of Lake Washington.

Here’s the short version of the news: We moved across the street.

Here’s the slightly longer version: I am not religious or given to portents, but I still think this house was meant to be. We got in the next day, it was a short sale and we put in an offer, and the sale went through in two months, which is, apparently, shockingly fast.

So here we are.

Here are some pics from a couple of months ago. Things look slightly different now–some furniture has been rearranged, and my mother and I roadtripped a bunch of stuff up here several weeks ago. But it gives you a general idea.

Steve, the blacksmith

Steve, the blacksmith

Steve has been taking blacksmithing classes and has been doing some amazing stuff. Like this coat rack:

And this plant hanger:

A hook for my closet:

And two hooks for the bathroom:

And then, of course, there is the Japanese gate that he just built, modeled off the one at Kubota Garden:

With two very cool hinges and a latch:

The cow in the bedroom

The cow in the bedroom

When we moved in, there was a window in the bedroom closet–a closet that wasn’t terribly practical. When Steve redid the bedroom, he shortened the closet itself and built a little exposed nook. Then, he took a cabinet and built it into place. Like so:

He had originally wanted to do a marble top for it, but decided to see if he could do something that looked like marble in concrete. I think it looks pretty cool–and we’ve both agreed that it looks like a Holstein:

Swallowing the tongue

Swallowing the tongue

Yes, I cooked the tongue.

It looked like a tongue when I threw it in the pot and simmered it for a couple of hours. It looked like a tongue after I took it out and sliced the base off to give to the chickens (they didn’t care). It looked like a tongue when I peeled the tough tough membrane off it, which was totally weird; it just sort of peeled off in these almost plasticky sheets. And it looked like a tongue after it was peeled and placed in a backing dish with some mustard, apples, and onions. There were still taste buds on the inner membrane. We cooked it, and it still looked like a tongue when we put it on the table and sliced it.

But when you cut into it, the meat looks like beef, and it was tender and delicious. I personally felt the need to peel the inner membrane off entirely because I just couldn’t get over the taste buds. If you didn’t know it was tongue, you’d have no idea. Well, except for Geoff, who came over for dinner and not only raved about how much he liked tongue, but snagged the tip. “It’s the tenderest bit,” he explained.

So will I do it again? Yes. But I think I would bake it using a different recipe. I had assumed we had horseradish, because who doesn’t have a jar hanging out in the back of the fridge? We didn’t. So it was a little bland.

And there you have it.

Today, I cook tongue.

Today, I cook tongue.

We’ve really stepped up buying local/sustainable this year. Part of this has entailed going to Bob’s Quality Meats, a local butcher in Columbia City that features all local, pastured meats. I swear, their whole chickens are the most delicious things ever. A few weeks ago, I was perusing the freezer and came across a beef tongue. I was feeling daring that day–and thinking about eating “nose to tail”–and thus the tongue found its way into my basket and into our freezer at home.

Now my grandmother used to cook tongue all the time. I remember it as being very tender and tasty. I never really thought about it that much, probably because it generally appeared on my plate already sliced and smeared with horseradish. But this … this hunk of tongue. Any recipe entails boiling it and then peeling the skin off it. It’s been taunting me from the freezer.


Last night, I pulled it out out the freezer and stuck it in the fridge This morning, Steve took the Pyrex dish out of the fridge and onto the counter because it wasn’t thawed. We stared at it wordlessly. Finally, he broke the silence. “I’ll eat anything,” he said. “But I have to tell you. I’m not really looking forward to dinner tonight.”

The thing is, a tongue is a tongue is a tongue. It doesn’t matter whether it’s from a pig, a cow, or a human. They all look the same. (Except of course for size, which led to some fairly ribald comments as we were contemplating it.) But I tell myself: How is it any worse to eat tongue when we eat other meat? The only difference is that it’s more easily recognizable for what it is. When I was 10 or 11, I went out to a fancy dinner with some relatives and ordered sweetbreads off the menu. To be totally honest, all that was going through my head was, “WOW! I like this place–you can have COFFEE CAKE or DONUTS as DINNER!” So yeah, I pretty disappointed when I got some meat in a buttery sauce. It was pretty good. But it wasn’t CAKE. Later on, my great aunt told me what sweetbreads really were. I just shrugged. It was okay.

I’m hoping the tongue is like that.

So here I go ….

Tuesday morning conversation

Tuesday morning conversation

Otherwise entitled, Not only am I turning into MY mother, I’m turning into Steve’s as well.

“Zia, can you show me where those cake pans are?” Steve asked. “You know, the ones that have the sides and bottom that separate?”

“You mean a springform pan?”

“Yes, that. Where are they?”

“Why?” I asked suspiciously. “Are you baking something?”

“Kind of,” Steve hedged.

“Tell me what you’re planning on doing with it.” I crossed my arms over my chest.

“I need to mold something,” he said vaguely.

“What do you need to mold?” Foot tapping.


“No. No way. Absolutely not.”

“But you have two, and one doesn’t work as well,” he wheedled.

“They both work just fine.”


Making butter

Making butter

Sometimes I wonder whether cookbooks are becoming obsolete. I mean, I have cookbooks–and nothing is a better quick kitchen reference than The Joy of Cooking–but I find myself going online to find recipes far more often than looking through cookbooks. (I actually posed this question recently at a small dinner gathering; one guy said that he thought books in general were becoming obsolete. Yikes. Perish the thought.)

Anyway, one of the perils of researching recipes online is the fact that one gets easily sidetracked. For instance, I went online this morning to get the proportions of beef bones to water to make stock. And before you know it, there I am on a page on how to make butter.


Why not?

Here’s the page (complete with an explanantion of why you shouldn’t feel guilty eating butter). His directions are nice and lucid, and include complete pictures. Should you not feel like clicking, the process of making butter is as simple as throwing heavy cream into a KitchenAid and whipping it until the fat sticks together

So here we are at the buttermilk whooshing out of the butter stage.

We just happen to have an antique butter mold and paddle.

With a nice little pattern inside the mold.

Pressed it in

And now it’s resting in the fridge, waiting to be unmolded.

*Update: It behooves one to read up on how to use a butter mold before one actually uses it. To wit: Apparently, you are supposed to soak it in water for 30 minutes before using it. Otherwise, the butter won’t pop out. Sigh.

You’re not going to believe this …

You’re not going to believe this …

but the kitchen is FINISHED.

Well, okay, not 100 percent finished. We still need to get a new fridge and hood for the stove, but those are last on the line. We’re also getting new curtains for underneath the sink. But the bulk of the work? DONE.

It’s amazing.

Here’s a recap of the kitchen’s past.

Here’s what it looked like completely gutted.

And now, here’s a panoramic set of photos of what it looks like now.

I’m feeling very grinchy today

I’m feeling very grinchy today

I know! Let’s ban the holiday season entirely.

Well, I’m not totally serious. It’s nice to be baking and listening to the Messiah, but there’s just too much to do, and too little time in which to do it. Need to get presents wrapped and mailed. Which is a daunting task in and of itself.

But, there’s a hafla tonight at the bellydance studio, and I’m taking my Little Sister. And the house is clean–well, relatively. I still haven’t figured out how I can spend three hours cleaning, and then the cleaner arrives and unearths yet more grime. Sigh.

After two years, five months, and two days—we have a countertop

After two years, five months, and two days—we have a countertop

Just one because the large one is too heavy for me to carry, and he still has to pour one over the dishwasher (which requires rebuilding the cabinet).

But seriously, it’s going to be gorgeous. We’re both pleased, and, despite our WANTING concrete, still pretty surprised at how good it looks.

countertop 008

Pouring the concrete countertops

Pouring the concrete countertops

It finally happened.

Here’s the mixer Steve rented from Home Depot:

Mixing the concrete:

Steve built the molds more than a month ago:

The, um, vibrator. After you dump the concrete into the molds, you have to vibrate it to get it rid of all the air bubbles and make it even. This was my job.

Making it all smooth:

Now they have to sit for four days.

Kiyoshi Saito meets garage art

Kiyoshi Saito meets garage art

Or rather, Kiyoshi Saito meets crazy chicken lady meets crazy chicken lady’s unemployed boyfriend meets the alley-facing back of our garage.

But that wouldn’t fit in the title area. And it probably wouldn’t make a lot of sense. Not that the name Kiyoshi Saito necessarily makes a lot of sense either, unless you’re a fan of sosaku hanga.

Anyway, I have a Kiyoshi Saito woodblock print of two roosters called Competition for a Charm. I love it. There are other prints of his that I covet fiercely and can’t afford, but I remember this one from my childhood, when it hung in my parents room. It went with me to college and it has been with me in every place since.

And of course, now I have become a crazy chicken lady with a boyfriend that has too much time on his hands. Not, you understand, that I’m complaining. “We need some chicken art on the back of the garage,” he said the other day. “I know what I’ll do!”**


**Steve credits his inspiration to Joy Wants Eternity. If anyone should feel so inclined, he would love free tickets.

I know why the uncaged hen doesn’t lay

I know why the uncaged hen doesn’t lay

The welsummers haven’t laid a single egg. Now this could be normal because from everything I’ve read, it can take several weeks for them to get over the trauma of being moved. But again, you don’t know why they’ve been sold at auction. Perhaps they’re just old. “Check their vents,” one Web site urged. “If they are moist, they’re of egg bearing age. If dried and puckered, the hens have probably outlived their usefulness.”

(If the above grosses you out, read no further.)

So I checked their vents. This, for the unititated, basically means running around after chickens who don’t want to be caught, rounding them up and herding them into the coop, and lunging at their feet–at which point you dangle them upside down. The hens don’t like this, but at some point, they give up–and just kind of go stiff, like they’re dead. Which made life much easier.

And which made it much easier to see that they were crawling–CRAWLING–with lice. There were eggs crusted around their vents, creepy crawlies scurrying over their skin. It was gross, and those poor hens must have been miserable.

Now I had dusted them before they went into the coop in the first place, but obviously it didn’t work. So I dusted them again with diatomaceous earth (which, by the way, totally kills any chicken poo smell in the coop and I’ve started adding to their feed as a dewormer), and went down to Del’s to get a permethrin spray. I would like to be all natural and everything, but sometimes you just need to use chemicals. Came back, cleaned out the coop, sprayed it down. Caught ALL the chickens, sprayed them down too (though no one else seemed to have lice). This was Sunday; yesterday, they were clean and clear.

So what I think is that they just had a bad infestation and stopped producing–and that’s why they went at auction. Could be wrong, but it’s a working theory that allows me to the luxury of thinking that one day they will produce.

Oh, and I battened down the hatches of the run yesterday. The buttercup and Stubbs both gave me an egg. So there’s a clutch of eggs somewhere out there in the yard ….

Concrete table, revisited

Concrete table, revisited

Still no progress on the concrete countertops, but that’s really my fault because I’ve been too swamped with work to help. (Poor Steve. He feels neglected because every time he tries to talk to me during the day, I tell him to zip it.) But remember when he was doing his test run on working with concrete? The bbq table? The finished product’s pretty darn cool. And handy, too.

The top of the table

The whole thing

“It’s been a long, hard day free ranging.”

“It’s been a long, hard day free ranging.”


Don't forget me!

Steve has been complaining that I don’t post any of his pictures, to which I say, “Get your own blog.” However, to be fair, I will say that he was right and I was wrong about the height of the roost. Okay, Steve, does that make you feel better?



Which is what I am hoping is NOT the reason that the four Welsummers I bought aren’t laying yet. It’s been two weeks; supposedly, this should be enough time for the little stewpots to get over the trauma of moving. And really, there is NOTHING traumatic about their existence. Trust me. They have a nice comfy place to sleep, lots of yummy organic mash and daily treats, fresh water, and a carefree existence. A very carefree existence: Geoff and I like the idea of everyone free-ranging. I mean really free ranging, not just hanging out in their 150 square foot run.


(In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that today is the first time I’ve just opened the gate; the Houdini twins–two of the chickiepoo crosses–have been squeezing out the gate for eons.)

But have the Stewpots given me a single egg? Nope. Nothing. Nada. The only eggs we’re getting are from the buttercup, who is coming to be known as Old Faithful. She lays eggs more often than what I’ve read about buttercups. I think she’s just so happy not to have a rooster coming after her all the time that she’s laying eggs doubletime in gratitude

So the question is whether they’re going through henopause. It’s either that, or they’re molting. Such is the risk of getting chickens at auctions: Who knows why they were given up?

Like clockwork

Like clockwork

Another egg from the buttercup this evening.

So … what should I name her? Please don’t suggest Buttercup …