Sunday, November 18, 2012

We have internet!

I still don't have a way to transfer pictures until we get the other computer set up, but here's a quick text update for you. Moving was a much bigger hassle than I expected. I've only ever moved cross-country before, never in-town, so I foolishly expected it to be super easy. Actually, I now think my cross-country moves were easier. At least then I could only take so much and then I had to just forget everything on move on. This time, we made so many trips back and forth and back and forth, moving stuff and cleaning things and forgetting random necessities... Gah. It was a mess. But we're done now - handed over the keys to the old place Thursday, so for better or for worse, we're stuck here.

Here, incidentally, is a total wreck at the moment. This place is currently, for lack of a better term, a complete shithole. It's been foreclosed on three times in the last decade, and nobody has lived here for nearly two years, so you can imagine the condition it was in when we first stepped in. Fortunately, Emmy and Ilya (my lovely sister and brother-in-law, for those of you who may not know) came down to help clean. We spent a solid three days scrubbing the walls and wiping out cabinets and cleaning the absolutely disgusting toilets. It was terrible. I probably shouldn't forget to mention that we did it all in the freezing cold. The gas company can't get here until tomorrow, so we haven't had heat.

The mess and the cold weren't the only problems. The same day that we officially moved in (ie, slept here), a pipe broke, so we were without water for three days, too. The pipes hadn't been used in two years, remember, and the previous owners did an awful lot of half-assed DIY, so something was bound to happen, but it still wasn't much fun. Fortunately it's back on now, though, and taking showers again is absolutely glorious. Once we get heat tomorrow, we'll have a fully functioning modern house.

Basic necessities aside, it hasn't been too bad. Our last place was around 1800 square feet and this one is about twice that, so it looks cavernous and empty with our puny bits of furniture peeking out of the corners. Jim sleeps well, but he's very clingy during the day - no wonder, given this huge change from the only house he'd ever known before. Most importantly, we've finally started to eat real food again, after a week subsisting on fast food and frozen pizzas until our appliances arrived and the water turned on.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Just so you know, we're not dead.

We're just reeeeeally busy getting this house in shape so we can move in on Tuesday. The previous inhabitants appear to have been some sort of livestock (you can tell because there's crap everywhere and traces of someone eating carrots), so there has been a LOT of cleaning. A lot a lot. Add to that that we need to replace most of the light fixtures, some plumbing fixtures, most of the appliances, AND move in all our own stuff... Gah. This is probably the last chance I'll have to use internet until we get it Friday, so just hold your horses, wait for an update, and know that there will be pictures of both house and Jim soon.

Thursday, November 8, 2012


After six months of trying to get this damned house, we finally closed! Expect pictures soon. Many, many pictures.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

And now Jim will read you his favorite book.

Forgive the first part of the video where we're trying to figure out where the heck to put the camera. Also, I don't think you can hear him go ssssssssss for the snake, but he totally did.

Monday, November 5, 2012

17 months!

Don't know how much longer we'll be able to get a picture with Captain Bear. Jim really prefers mauling him to sitting quietly.

There's really not a lot to report for the month. We've got some new signs: bedtime, up, egg, sit, and chicken. Everything else seems about the same. He's somewhat more cooperative than previously with regards to most things (ie, if you tell him to get off the TV stand, usually he will), but he's also more set on the things he DOES feel strongly about. He will, for example, go into a complete shrieking broken-spined meltdown if forced to leave Sears' tool department without getting to wield the chainsaws himself. He's also developing quite the defiant stare about things that he knows he shouldn't do. Basically the only thing in the living room that he can't touch is the coaxial cable in the wall - we tell him "No coax" and move him away from it whenever he grabs it, because he likes to yank on it. Now he likes to walk over to it and then just stand there staring at us with a smirk on his face. If we get up to move him away, he either shrieks and runs away laughing or grabs and yanks with all he's got until we pry him off.

"There, see? I'm sitting with the bear."

The ONLY one we got in the usual position.

One amusing development this month is that he has increasingly strong opinions about what foods he likes. Mind you, he'll still eat pretty much everything (except sweet potatoes - he loves zucchini, loves broccoli, loves curry and sausage and pickles and peppers, but won't eat sweet potatoes). He just won't eat it if he sees something better at the time. For instance, yesterday morning he was sitting in his high chair watching me make muffins while he ate his morning banana. He threw the banana on the floor, pointed at the bowl of batter, and started signing for food. So, I gave him back his banana. He looked me dead in the eyes and, without breaking eye contact, carefully lifted his banana and threw it on the floor. He then pointed at the batter, shouted as loudly as he could, and then signed FOOOOOOOOOOOOD again. Cruel creature that I am, I figured that if he was only hungry for muffin batter, he probably wasn't actually hungry at all, so the poor suffering urchin had to wait like the rest of us until the muffins were done.

Jim's war face.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Scuppernong Jelly (without a water bath canner, even!)


Since most of the people reading this are of the Yankee variety, I suppose I ought to first tell you all what a scuppernong is. It's an awesome name for a green muscadine grape, which are the sort grown most often down hereabouts. Noah and I saw some at the farmer's market on Saturday and I was compelled to get them, since I'd never heard the word or tried the fruit before. Turns out they're not really much good for plain eating. They taste pretty good (VERY strong), but the skin is unchewably thick and they're full of seeds, so it's quite a lot of effort for not much fruit. So in the interest of not losing our $3 investment, I decided to turn them into jelly Sunday morning. And lo, I did.

Despite the plethora of online recipes, I foolishly decided to just wing it. I started by mashing and boiling them with a little water for a couple minutes, at which point they looked terrible and smelled worse, and then drained them into a bowl, which yielded much less juice than I was hoping for.

Noah helped by wringing them out once they cooled enough to not scald the flesh from his bones.

Jim helped by fetching my apron with a perplexed look on his face.

I helped by making a haphazard guess as to how much pectin to add.

I wound up adding about 3 cups of sugar and 1.5 tablespoons of low-sugar pectin (for about 2 pounds of fruit originally, which yielded around 2.5 cups of juice). That turned out to be too much pectin, I think, because the resulting jelly is VERY thick (but nonetheless tasty). Next time I'd add maybe 1 tablespoon of pectin, and possibly a bit less sugar, too, although I think that part is a matter of taste.

So then I boiled the bejeezus out of the juice/pectin/sugar mix for a couple minutes and then poured it into the preheated jars. At that point I decided to try to can them with a good old-fashioned heat seal, since I don't have a canner, so I boiled the lids too before I put them on. Apparently the only really important thing is that all the different parts (jelly, jar, lid) be hot and clean before you put them together, and then ideally the heat will seal it all up. It seemed to work for me - the buttons on the lids all popped down liked they're supposed to. We might all die of botulism in a few months, who knows, but for now I'm going to claim success.

Jelly jars cooling down upside-down on the counter to facilitate sealing.

Finished product looking pretty.

At that point we turned our attention to different matters. Noah, bless his frugal heart, was unable to stomach the idea of all those poor grape skins going to waste, so he decided to remedy the situation by making some prison wine. He stuffed the skins and juice-soaked cheesecloth into an empty jug, then filled the rest with water and a bit of sugar and yeast. The idea is that it'll ferment into something that will not taste awful, but I'm personally not going to try it until Noah proves that it won't burn its way out of my innards.

Noah poses proudly with his hooch. This is his entire repertoire of facial expressions.

The waste problem taken care of, I turned my attention to more important matters. Namely, I had jelly cooling and no bread. So, obviously, I made some bread. And naturally I made twice as much dough as I needed, so what was I to do but make cinnamon buns? Terrible situation, folks, just terrible.

You really don't want to know how little of this was left over the next morning.

There is nothing (no exaggeration - NOTHING) better than fresh hot bread with butter and jelly.

And how did it taste? Amazing, seriously. It was kind of weird having that super-intense grape taste in an extremely non-purple jelly, but it was REALLY good (even if it did turn out so thick it was hard to spread). Even Jim gave it his blessing, but given the amount of dirt and sticks the kid eats, I'm not sure I should take that as an endorsement.

Clockwise from top right: Jim tastes, Jim ponders, Jim gives his seal of approval.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Jim is determined to murder himself.

Seriously, babies/toddlers are just like little semi-suicidal drunk peoples. They laugh hysterically at the drop of a hat, go into hysterical tears for the same reason, and seem to be completely bent on whatever source of self-harm they can find nearby. Here's one hazard that Jim was recently pleased to discover. Rest assured that I took it away from him and put it out of reach immediately - well, as soon as I finished taking pictures, anyway.

An empty plastic blocks container!

Jim models his find.

True joy only comes in the face of danger.

But fortunately danger loses its charms in the face of a good book.