Posted by: ashburnreviews | September 15, 2009

Crazy “Step” Ladder

photoWhile I am talking about the weekend, I wanted to share with you the creative “ladder” that my husband built (and used this weekend) to paint the walls on either side of our stairs.

This man has no fear of balancing. Me on the other hand, watch out. 🙂 I get dizzy just looking at the contraption.

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Posted by: ashburnreviews | September 15, 2009

Potato Latkes

Last Sunday night around 8:30, I had a sudden craving to make potato latkes.

I must admit, I make pretty great latkes, but the process is quite a bear so I don’t often do it.

Traditionally latkes are made at Hanukkah. I believe there is some association made between the oil that the latkes are fried in and the oil that kept the temple lit. Any religious tradition that encourages me to eat fried food, I am all for. 🙂

Anyhow so it was late. My husband and I were just driving back from the grocery store and I thought, we have the stuff at home, “I’m going to make potato latkes.”

My wonderful husband – who that night was extremely tired that night and had never had the good fortune to try my latkes before said, “I’ll peel the potatoes.” What a good man. That is one of the many reasons that I love him. He just wants to help – no matter how silly or random the project.

With my husband’s help, miraculously I was able to make the latkes in about 30 minutes. This is a world record for me I’m sure. Somehow I was able to keep the mess down to a minimum too. Although I didn’t use the carrot or the zucchini and I added some fresh herbs from my garden (tarragon and chives), this batch of latkes turned out excellent. I love them with apple sauce. And my husband now is a fan too. (But really how can any one not be – we are talking about potatoes and onions. Practically natures most perfect food combination.)

I am writing all this above back story to share with you my latke recipe – that I wrote down to save in my collection some years ago. When I read it again Sunday night, it made me laugh out loud because the language that it was written in is so me. Very colloquial. So here it is with as much as the original wording and formatting intact as possible.

Latkes for Hannukah
Potato Pancakes

2 baking ptatos
1 zuchinni
1 or 2 carrots
1 onion
all veggies peeled
2 tablespoons of flour
2 eggs
salt, pepper and marjamon to taste

1. Shred all veggies (use big hole).
2. Squeeze the heck out of the veggies to remove the liquid.
3. Make sure that there are more potatoes them anything else. The starch is the important part.
4. Mix everything together – including spices – squeeze more.
5. Form flat balls and drop in oil (7 balls).
6. It takes longer then you’d think that it would to cook the latkes, but you can flip them a few times without breaking them.
7. Take the latkes out and put them on a drying rack. Or use some system in oven to keep them hot. Do not let them sit in their own oil if possible.
8. Serve hot. Salt if needed. Top with apple sauce. Mmmm.

I should also mention that my mom cooked these differently when I was growing up. Instead of shredding the ingredients, she would put them all in a blender. This is good too but just a different product. I prefer the shredded ones.

Posted by: ashburnreviews | September 9, 2009

Bookcases

I have been starting to think that for the built-in bookcases, we may just need to built them from scratch. Trying to find some premade cases that will work with our space is proving difficult.

I may be best if i just map out what exactly I want (if there were no limits) and them from there we can start pricing out our options (rather than finding something premade that will fit into our space).

thumb_P2090063_0090_001One idea is to incorporate base cabinets in the bookcases like shown in this photo. I’m not sure if we have room for cabinets for the whole row but some hidden storage may be useful.

Except for the sawtooth motif at the top of the mantel shown in the picture, I also like the mantel shown in this photo. It is simple.

Of course the biggestest issue with the space we have to put the bookcases is the space on the right side where the window is. There is only 8 inches (or is it 9?) over there. I am sure you have heard me rant about that before. The most obvious solution I think is to have narrow shelves on that side (and the other to match) with deeper shelves in the middle. I like the look of consistent shelving. These bookcases are nice too.

dn1119-lead

As another option, I am also thinking that on the bookcase side near the window, we could stop that bookcase short of the window and  we would put a corner shelf, like what is in this photo.

thumb_CIMG0455Of course ours would be painted white or be a pretty maple color – not that awful dirty brown color in this photo.

(Photos Source: thebestcabinets and plansnow)

Posted by: ashburnreviews | September 9, 2009

Why No Update

Well after my husband’s birthday, I came down with being rather sick. A sinus infection, an ear infection and bronchitis. Bleh. I am much better now after some well-needed antibiotics but for a while there I was pretty much out of commission.

Other then that, not too much going on. Just some minor home improvement stuff I guess.

My husband has been busy painting the downstairs. We picked 2 colors to alternate between on our walls on the lower level; a sage green and a beige color called coconut milk. He is making good progress. It looks good.

Also in the dining room, we put in a length of chair rail to keep the chair (that sits against that wall) from banging up the wall. I am particularly happy how this turned out. See photo here.

The next projects are of course the bookcases along that wall downstairs and also creating a new beautiful fireplace mantel.

Posted by: ashburnreviews | August 27, 2009

Ukulele Cake

Today is my wonderful husband’s birthday. I made him this ukulele birthday cake.

For a first go at a fancy cake, I’m pretty happy with the results.

I’d say that the hardest part were the strings. It was difficult to keep them straight.

Posted by: ashburnreviews | August 21, 2009

Spiced Creamed Honey

photo(3)Spiced Creamed Honey.

Until a visit to the farmers market last Sunday, I didn’t know that there was such a product. We bought a small jar of this and I’m glad we did. I’ve had some on a buttered bagel every day this week. The honey is very yummy and completely worth the try. It is sweet and cinnamony. It It reminds me of cinnamon toast but with a smooth texture.

And like all smart companies these days, the makers of this fabulous concoction, have a web site, beesandblossoms.com.

Posted by: ashburnreviews | August 21, 2009

Custom Flame Painting

There is a car in my neighborhood that has the worst custom (I hope it is custom) flame painting that
I have ever seen. It is so bad, I just had to share.

photo(4)
detail

For the sake of the car owner’s pride, I hope they aren’t one of the 20 regular visits to to blog…

But if they are… Can you tell me – what were you thinking?

Posted by: ashburnreviews | August 21, 2009

Rainy Day

rainAs I was turning the corner – driving home from some errands, the sky opened up. It is pouring outside now. This is probably a good thing because it has been so HOT lately but poor Daisy is beside herself because she really wants to go out – but not in this weather.

The iPhone camera does not do justice to just how much it is raining. But here is a picture anyhow of my back deck now. I wanted to get you a picture of Daisy looking outside at this rain but she won’t go anywhere near the door.

Posted by: ashburnreviews | August 19, 2009

Bookshelves

Now that the shop is almost complete, time to move on to the next big home improvement project. Bookshelves. Perpendicular to the shop is a 188″ long x 96″ height wall that is in dire need of some built-ins. Ideally these built-ins would go from floor to ceiling and would include some sort of small desk area for my husband’s computer.

The slight complication to this is that the wall areas to the left and right of the 188″ wall aren’t very big. On the side of the shop, the wall is 12″. On the other side, it is 8″. That is it and then it buds against a window.

bookcasewall

So what to do? Well the first thought we had (and I don’t know if it is the final or right one) was to put six 30″ bookcases along the wall.

And to have the 4 in the middle be 12″ or 14″ deep while the 2 on each end are 8″ deep.

bookcasewall-shelves

But then today, in looking online, I came across. a furniture company in the UK called Wharfside. And on their web site I found a unit that I love.

bookcases

(cropped photo via Wharfside)

Although I don’t know the dimensions of these beautiful pieces, I like the look and the idea. The like having the look broken up somewhat by instead of just having shelves, having drawers and cabinets too.

I’ve emailed the company and have asked for costs and if that even sell in the United States.

So many decisions… I just want to get something wonderful and useful.

Posted by: ashburnreviews | August 19, 2009

Sleep Away Summer Camp

Yesterday while watching TV with my husband, I found myself thinking back to the years that I was in summer camp. I went to camp most of the years of my childhood but two of the camps specifically that I was thinking of where the two sleep away Girl Scout camps that I went to, May Flather and Potomac Mills.

I actually still know the Potomac Woods camp song. It is funny how these things can stick with you.

I noticed while poking away on the Girl Scout Web Site that Potomac Woods is located “near Leesburg, VA”. Isn’t that funny? I live so close to there now. I had no idea. When I was younger camp felt like a million miles away. I wonder where it is exactly.

Posted by: ashburnreviews | August 19, 2009

Goodbye Restaurant Review Blog

I’m closing down my Restaurant Review Blog. It hasn’t been fun for awhile. The comments people make are just too much for me. And besides there aren’t that many good restaurants opening up lately. It is just depressing to write a bad review after another.

That being said, I don’t have the heart to delete it yet. 147 posts. It was a labor of love. Maybe I should print it out and keep it somewhere.

Posted by: ashburnreviews | August 18, 2009

Some New iPhone Aps

Just a day over a month ago, I posted a list of the iPhone Applications that I have with short descriptions. Here are the updates to that list.

grocery I replaced, the shopping application Bread & Milk with one called Grocery IQ. The nice thing about Grocery IQ is that instead of just typing in items that I need to buy, I can type in bar codes and it will give me the exact item that I am looking for. I can then save any of the items I search for to my favorites list and from that list (and just a regular search) pick the items that I want to buy. Also by grocery store, I can sort the order of the store aisles and save that order so that my grocery list shows up in the right order. After one good shopping trip with it, I’m happy to say this is a nice upgrade to the old shopping list.

bumpBump is an application that allows me to share photos and contact information with other iPhone users. At this time, the only one that I have used this application with is my husband with his new iPhone. both parties need to have bump installed. Once running, both users bump their hands together. From there you have opened a connection and you can send files back and forth too each other. It is such a neat idea and seems to work rather well for what it does. You may have seen this application on TV as it is one of the ones they feature for the iPhone.

pigsPass the Pigs is a drinking/gambling game that I have played with friends. If you have never seen this game played the explanation of it will sound very odd to you. But basically you take these small plastic pigs and roll them and based on the way the pigs land, you get a different number of points. On a whim the other day I bought the iPhone version of this game. I’m happy to say, it is rather fun. Although, I’m not sure that it is anything but random.

10pin 10 Pin Shuffle is a way fun game that I’m so glad I downloaded. With it, I can play Shuffleboard or Shuffle Bowling. In addition to the great graphics, this game’s best feature is like Scrabble, I can play it against my husband over wi-fi. You know about a year ago I had a another Shuffleboard game that I played on the iPhone, but this one is way better I think. The graphics are just so beautiful. I also really like the shuffleboard bowling part. I never really understood how you score bowling until I played this game. Now I kind of get it.

puzzleSort of like bejeweled, Puzzlings is a game where you match up similar items in rows of 3 to remove them. There are also some twists to this game – so it gets harder – and an interesting back story where winning puzzles helps you win prizes to customize and decorate your player. I think this game is interesting, fun and cute.

I deleted Tangram Pro. I just wasn’t using it anymore.

crazyCrazy Machine is a game that my husband likes. I cannot get into it. The object is to build Rube Goldberg like machines that transport balls different places. For now it has just been a bit annoying to me. But since my husband has an iPhone now and through the miracle of modern technology we can share applications, he has this game too and he seems to really enjoy it.

paraPara Panic Lite is a fun and cartoony (i.e. stick figures on notebook paper) parachuting game, where you need to help little sky-diving stick figure men land safely on boats by controlling the wind and opening the parachutes on the falling men. There is a paid version of this game as well. I haven’t played the free version of this game enough to know if buying the other would be worth my while.

solitareSolitaire City Lite is a game like Solitaire Klondike but it is called Spiderette. It is an interesting game. The graphics are nice. It is made by the same people (Digital Smoke) who make the 10 Pin Shuffleboard game. I have enjoyed playing it.

Posted by: ashburnreviews | August 17, 2009

Quote from Akeelah and the Bee

My husband and I watched the movie Akeelah and the Bee the other night. It was an okay movie. Good for kids I guess but there was a great quote by Marianne Williamson in the movie that I thought I would share.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you NOT to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Posted by: ashburnreviews | August 17, 2009

The Shop

It occurred to me that I haven’t shown off the shop since it was completed yet. Except for the base shoe (which is a small wooden trim that will go around the edge of the room and touches the floor) and the doors, we have a completed shop.

shopphoto

Growing up, in the basement of our house, my dad used to have a work bench and have all his tools there. Looking at this shop, reminds me of that and brings back found memories. For us, this is such a great upgrade to the house.

And as an added bonus, it takes the tools out of the living room downstairs, which gives us added living space. 🙂

BTW, I tried (without success) to get Daisy in this photo like the last shop photo, but she wasn’t having it. She was laying 10 feet in front of the shop when I took this photo.

Posted by: ashburnreviews | August 16, 2009

Today’s Harvest

We picked a chocolate pepper, a not-yet-ripe yellow pepper and two tomatoes today.

All looked good except the yellow pepper had a soft bruise on the bottom of it. So we chucked the yellow pepper…. No use letting the bruised pepper hog up all it’s plant’s nutrients.

It was quite a colorful batch of picked plants.

croppedharvest

Posted by: ashburnreviews | August 16, 2009

Grace After Midnight

grace Last week I finished reading Grace After Midnight by Felicia Pearson. Grace After Midnight is the story of Felicia Pearson’s (Snoop from the TV Show The Wire) life as told by herself. Felicia grew up in Baltimore and took to a life of crime very early in life despite many loving influences around her. As an adult she lands a job playing herself as an actress on the TV show the Wire.

Although this book seemed somewhat short – but maybe that was because of the last monster long book that I read before this one, The Poisonwood Bible – I enjoyed it and would recommend it.

This book felt very honest, and was written in a casual style that I enjoyed.

Posted by: ashburnreviews | August 16, 2009

Dahlias

p_2048_1536_5808f487-e99c-4adc-98b2-ac5f0ab55200

Check out these beautiful Dahlias that we bought from the farmers market. So pretty.

Posted by: ashburnreviews | August 10, 2009

The Poisonwood Bible

9780060930530 A week or so ago I finished reading The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver on my iPhone.

From the book jacket, this is the description:

The Poisonwood Bible is a story told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry with them everything they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it — from garden seeds to Scripture–is calamitously transformed on African soil. What follows is a suspenseful epic of one family’s tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa.

This wasn’t the first time that I read The Poisonwood Bible. The first time I read this book was shortly after it had been published – which I believe was in 2005.

But from what I can gather, this – the most recent read – was the first time that I finished The Poisonwood Bible. Because for the life of me I cannot remember anything past the chapter called What We Carried Out.

Falsely, what I did recall from the first time that I read the book was that the first part of the book I enjoyed every much (although I wouldn’t be able to tell you when that first part ended); But after that part, I did not like it, but that I went ahead and trudged through the 2nd part of the book and finished reading it because I thought that the story line within the book would redeem itself. My memory is that not only did I finish the book, but that the storyline never did infact redeem itself.

Now of course, since I cannot remember the last part of the book from my previous reading – I have no idea where the above memory of the book reading experince came from. I don’t know if that first time I just gave up reading and forgot, or if I had blocked out the last part of the story somehow? Maybe I was just so glad that they were getting out of the village that I didn’t really care what happened next… I don’t know.

While the first part of the book – the hog share of it – focused on the family within the Congo, the last part of the book (the part that escapes my memory) completely changed direction and covered what happens when time keeps on moving on and people get older and grow up, and how the events from the first part of the book affected everyone for the rest of their lives.

Anyhow… this was a monster of a book. The printed addition had 700 some odd pages. Even with the sour ending, I am glad I read the book. It was an interesting read. Barbara Kingsolver did an excellent job of developing the characters. It was easy to see what peoples’ motivations were for the things that they did. I liked reading about the cultural misunderstandings as well. Where you come from affects how you act in situtations, and how you feel about them as they happen to you. Your past has to affect you in that way – it is how people survive.

And also I love a good missionary narrative because it is so interesting and forgein to me. (Don’t Sleep There Are Snakes was also about missionaries.) In all frankness -a missionary’s “job” just doesn’t make sense to me. As I understand it, to prevent people from going to hell, missionary’s go seek out people who don’t know about hell so that they can teach them how to avoid it.

I should say that I know some people believe missionary work is what they are destined to do and they feel like they are saving souls in the process – and for this reason I mostly respect these people because their heart seems to be in the right place. If you are able to save some one from danger and you don’t, what type of person are you? But it is the whole idea behind the issue that they are trying to help with that seems off-kilter to me. I just don’t understand why a religion that would punish people who were born into a life where they didn’t know “the truth” -whatever that may be. That being said I like reading about missionaries.

I also like stories that put people who don’t belong in a specific situation in that situation. How would so-and-so would act if he were here.

This book captures both ideas really well. Here is why the missionary and his family went somewhere that they probably shouldn’t have been in the first place. And here is what happened when they did. It makes a good story. Sort of like watching a train wreck. I particularly liked reading about the items that the family picked to take with them to the Congo.

But then – in the latter half of the book – after those that leave the small village in the Congo, leave, and the book hits the point where I cannot recall reading anymore, I did unfortunately loose most of my interest in the story. I just didn’t care as much at that point.
I think that I would have rathered imagain the events that happened to these people later in life myself then read what “really happened”. It was all rather sad I think.

I should note that I did think overall this was a good book. And the copy I have from reading in in paper back years ago will remain on my bookshelf.

Posted by: ashburnreviews | August 9, 2009

Sidewalk Tomato Plant

We were out to dinner this evening and came upon an unusual sight. A tomato plant was growing out of the sidewalk in front of the resturant! At first we thought that some one was throwing out the plant or that there was a pot somewhere that we were missing. But no – on closer inspection there it was just poking out of the sidewalk. And man…. was it ever healthy. The leaves were a beautiful rich green color and the plant was loaded with green tomatoes. I felt a little jealous of this plant.

My husband and I have lots of questions. Did someone intentionally plant it there? If so, how? How do you get one little seed to grow in the sidewalk?

Did it just grow from some one’s fallen tomato from the local sub shop?

Or did it grow from the leavings of a nearby – now gone – tomato plant?

Is some one mending the plant? Trimming it, watering it… taking the tomatoes home? There weren’t any red ones. Just lots of green ones in all differnt sizes.

And why does this Charlie Brown tomato plant look so healthy? What is this sidewalk plant getting that my plants are lacking? More sun? Less water? Better roots?

Here is a close up photo where you can see the root coming out of the sidewalk!

Here is a cropped photo of the root from the bottom right of the above photo.

closeup

Posted by: ashburnreviews | August 7, 2009

The Shop

Speaking of projects… we have made amazing progress on my husband’s shop downstairs. Since the project was started, walls have been put in and painted, lights are in, cabinets have been put in with a home-made counter top, most of the base trim is done and the shelves have been put in.

There is still a ways to go but good progress has been made. I just love it.

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