Saturday, August 2, 2008

Allow Me To Clarify

Because I'm feeling lazy and uninspired this morning, and because it's Saturday, which means all my cubicle-dwelling, slacker readers aren't at work and probably won't be reading, I'm just going to answer some questions/comments that were posed yesterday.

1) Mayberry Magpie asked how the mozzarella was made. I wasn't there, but I saw the recipe. There are a million recipes for making mozzarella, some that are ridiculously complicated. It involves a milk thermometer (a special kind that floats in the milk and goes to high temperatures), rennet (which used to come from a calf's stomach lining but is now commercially manufactured) for coagulation, citric acid to "curdle" the milk and separate the milk solids from the whey, and unpasteurized milk. This kind of milk would probably be the hardest of all of these things to get if you don't live around dairy farms that can sell directly from their dairy, like we do. The milk in stores is all ultra-pasteurized, though some recipes say you can do this with organic store milk.

2) Lennie asked if we used our own nuts in the pesto. The answer to that one is no. We have black walnuts, which are a lot more bitter than the English walnuts you typically buy at the store. So to make a fully Blackrock-harvested pesto, we'd have to use black walnuts and lard. And I would just rather not imagine that.

3) Roger suggested that the bats that would bite you in the night (GAAAH!!) are vampire bats. He's the biologist, so I bow to his expertise on this one, but are there vampire bats on Long Island? Because that's where the girl who died was bitten.

4) Mayberry Magpie asked if house cats will take care of bats. Well, funny you should ask that. I think the bat I found in the kitchen was delivered there by James. However, the bat wasn't entirely dead (it chittered weakly at the MiL when she picked it up) (GAAAAHH!!!), and you most emphatically do not want your cats messing around with bats. Especially if they haven't had rabies shots. James had not. The MiL brought him and the bat to the vet last night. James got a rabies shot and the bat is awaiting pick-up by the county health person for testing for rabies.

5) Ms. Picket mentioned a bat that survived freezing in water. This does not surprise me, as I have witnessed a bat getting sucked up in a Shop Vac and living to bare its teeth at A. when he dumped it out (GAAAHH!!).

That's all. You may go.

P.S. Mayberry Magpie also said that she hopes this bat thing was an isolated incident.


Woooo. Pardon the hysterical laughter. See here, and here, and here and you'll know why that was so funny. But funny in a depressing and creepy way, because the bats, they just keep on comin'.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Seriously, What the Hell?

So I just went downstairs to do some laundry, and made my way to the kitchen to grab the napkins to wash. Just as I got to the door, I saw . . . something gray on the kitchen floor. I didn't have my glasses on, so I couldn't really identify it. But I think you will all understand when I say that I'm very, very cautious of unidentifiable objects in my house. Especially gray ones.

In a curiously uncharacteristic move, I actually mopped the kitchen floor today, so there should not have been anything on the kitchen floor. And it was kind of big. My first thought was a clump of mud that I somehow tracked in without realizing. But no, the ground is dry and hard, so no mud. Maybe a mouse one of the cats brought in?

So I approached very, very slowly, ready to bolt if it was anything alive, and I got close enough to identify it:


Did you see that one coming? Yeah, I had my suspicions, too. It didn't move at all, even when I grabbed a bucket and upended it over the nightmare. Maybe it's dead. I'm not going to look any closer to find out.

And in related bat paranoia: The MiL informed me last night that the little bats can actually bite you while you're sleeping (GAAH!) and you wouldn't even know it (GAAAAAH!!). AND, she had a student whose best friend got bit while she was sleeping, and then she got rabies AND DIED. GAAAAAAH!!! Why does she tell me these things?

So, who wants to come visit?

But Speaking of Awards . . .

If anyone gives out awards for going above and beyond the call of duty in the kitchen, the MiL and I surely deserve that award for dinner last night. We had pizza. But not just ANY pizza. Oh no--we had a Blackrock pizza. Here's what it included:

Pizza dough--homemade, by me
Pesto--homemade, by me, using basil and garlic from the garden
Fresh tomatoes--from the garden
Beet greens--from the garden (I don't want to hear any "ewwww"s--it's good on pizza)
Fresh mozzarella--homemade, by the MiL

Did you catch that last one? Mozzarella that the MiL made? Only superkitchenheroes make their own mozzarella. But she did. And it was delicious.

We're still waiting for our trophies to arrive.

The Lovely Lenore LOVES Me, Too!

Why are all the awards in Spanish? Oh well--gracias, Lennie!

Lenore (isn't that the greatest name?), also known as Lennie, at Alphabet Soup Studio, has gifted me with the Brillante Weblog Premio award. I'm not entirely sure what it's for--is it the fascinating photos of my tomatoes? the all-too-frequent horror stories of bats in the house?--but what it means is, SHE LOVES ME!

Right back at ya, Lennie.

Now the rules state that I must nominate seven blogs myself. I am normally a slavish follower of rules, but . . .

I'm not going to nominate seven more (don't hate me, Lennie!). And the reason I'm not going to do this is I have all the blogs that I read on a daily basis already listed in my sidebar, and I don't want to pick seven of them. It makes me feel all wriggly and uncomfortable to pick. So please accept my blogroll over there on the left as all my nominees for awards. I love them all, I read them all, and those are my recommendations.

Thanks again, Lennie!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Please, Drink the Water

Ladies and gentlemen, I no longer live in Mexico!

Yes, I can now drink the water from the faucet in my house. After extensive work by Henry the Plumber (the bill for which we have still not received and I'm frankly afraid of) and multiple costly filters, the lake water that we pump into our cisterns has been deemed acceptable for human consumption. We just had it tested by a real, science-y kind of lab, and they have confirmed that drinking from the faucet will no longer kill us dead.

I'm almost as excited about this as about the new dryer. Because let me try to explain how we obtained water before.

Before A. put in the lake pump (the installation of which would be a post in and of itself--suffice to say it was an impressive feat), we had to call a guy with a big water tank on his truck to pump water into the cisterns when they got low. And you never knew when he would be able to get here, which meant a lot of anxious rationing of water, lest the level in the cisterns get too low and burn the pump out.

Since that water was only filtered through a sediment filter, and an old, crappy sediment filter at that, there was no way we were using it for consumption. It was yellow, for God's sake. Which makes for a very disturbing bath, by the way.

BUT ANYWAY, we got one of those water coolers with 5-gallon jugs of water for drinking water. That's all well and good, but 15 gallons of water a month (all we were willing to pay for) barely covers the straight-up drinking water and leaves no water for cooking and such. But we didn't even want to use our tap water for cooking--it was that sketchy. So for cooking water, we (mostly I) filled up gallon jugs at various family members' houses in the village. And I HATED HATED HATED doing that. First of all, it made me feel homeless or something. Secondly, it always involved climbing stairs, and climbing up and down stairs with four gallons of water, multiple times, is not a pleasant experience. And we were always running out, because I hated doing it so much I would put it off.

NO MORE! There is nothing so freeing as knowing I can safely drink the water from any tap in the house. If I wake up thirsty in the middle of the night, I no longer have to climb out of bed, maneuver the stairs, and trudge half a mile for water (perhaps a slight exaggeration, but the kitchen IS downstairs at the opposite end of the house, and that distance in this house is no joke when you're half-asleep). No more hauling of water jugs, no more paying for the water cooler every month, no more leaping towards new visitors to our home with cries of, "Don't drink the tap water!"

Potable water and clothes dryers. Blackrock has entered the 20th century.

P.S. I got another Mystery Link last night, this time from "Snow Bug." I appreciate the link to another blog with a bat story (but this woman actually killed the thing and brought it to be tested for rabies--we are not that responsible and I just want the monsters out of my house thank you), but Snow Bug, who are you? My sleuthiness leads me to suspect you live in a cold place, but other than that, I got nuthin'. Please, enlighten me as to your identity so I may thank you properly.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Try To Contain Your Excitement

Yes, I have returned. Actually, I returned yesterday, but my brain was so scrambled from lack of sleep, I thought it best to spare you the gibberish that would have resulted from writing in that state. I don't think my brain has quite recovered yet, which is why I present a random collection of tidbits from our trip, instead of my usual carefully thought-out and organized post (snort).

Overnight train+Coach class seats=no sleep. Then add in 8 hours of driving after getting off the train, and you have 20 straight hours of travel on about 20 minutes worth of sleep, resulting in two deliriously tired travelers. The end result of this long equation: Thursday was Not a Fun Day.

But! On Friday we awoke from the sleep of the dead in Decorah, Iowa, to find that they were beginning their Norway Fest. I saw a man with a grossly large belly on the street corner wearing a t-shirt that read "Lefse Fed." I will tell you right now that there is no way his gut was the result of a surplus of Norwegian flat bread. A more truthful t-shirt would have read "Twinkie and Budweiser Fed." BUT ANYWAY . . . There is a really good Norwegian-American Museum in Decorah. I thought it would be lame and podunk, but it turned out to be four floors plus outdoor exhibits. Two thumbs up.

And then, because I am a huge geek, we drove to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum in Walnut Grove, Minnesota. One of the great trips of my life was visiting the "Farmer Boy" museum in upstate New York, so of course we had to go to this one. I make no apologies for my excitement about this museum. I was on the banks of Plum Creek, y'all. It was a highlight.

After that, it was time to stop indulging ourselves and meet up with my family for the actual reason for this trip. Speaking completely objectively, I can say with authority that my niece is definitely more intelligent, adorable, and advanced than most 2-month-olds. Nope, no bias here.

The Catholic church the baptism was in was incredibly beautiful. It's in the middle of a tiny town in Nowhere, Minnesota (not its actual name), but those German immigrants that built the church threw all their Germanic love of wood carving and ornamentation into this thing. It looked like a cathedral. Very cool.

Saturday was our fifth wedding anniversary. We celebrated by totally forgetting about it. I remembered about 8 p.m., went outside to wish A. a happy anniversary, he replied in kind, and then we went back to drinking beer with my family.

Sunday we went to Minneapolis to meet with my friend Sarah. I hadn't seen her in a few years, and she looks all sophisticated with pretty highlights in her hair and nice nails. I wish I could pull that off. I could try, but I don't think it would impress the sheep much.

Monday we were in Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin. Have you ever seen the Mustard Museum on the Travel Channel or the Food Network? That's in Mt. Horeb. We went there, it was kind of interesting, I bought some mustard and felt cool for actually going to a place that was featured on the Travel Channel. Then we went to Little Norway, which has not been featured on the Travel Channel but should be because it was a lot better than the Mustard Museum.

Little Norway is the largest privately owned museum in the U.S. It's an old farm settled by Norwegian immigrants (duh) with all the original buildings and tons of Norwegian antiques. I highly recommend it if you're ever in the Mt. Horeb area. But what are the chances of that, right?

We stayed in three different hotels/motels on this trip. The motels were all classic A. picks, meaning built in the 1960s with ugly architecture, real keys instead of cards, room doors opening to the parking lot, and costing less than $60 a night. The hotel was a Holiday Inn that we stayed in with my family. It cost twice as much as the motels and was twice as unpleasant. There was a Little League tournament in town, so my conservative estimate is that there were five million children screaming and racing around the pool area to the background music of bass-thumping tween bands. The pool was open until 11 p.m., and all the rooms, ALL OF THEM, overlooked the pool. Little punks kept me awake. Am I a grumpy old lady? Yes. NOW GO TO BED, YOU ROTTEN KIDS!

However, is there anything better than lying in bed in an air conditioned hotel/motel room watching "I Love the 70's" on the VH1 Classics channel? Not if you don't have air conditioning or cable at home, there isn't.

Our rental car was a Kia Reo. It didn't have cruise control and seemed a little reluctant to start. But it did have air conditioning, which gives it an immediate advantage over both of our P.O.S. vehicles, AND it got 40 miles to the gallon. Let me repeat that: 40, four zero, miles to the gallon. Sweet.

So there you have it: A brief recap of the travels of A. and Kristin. Now I must wrestle with the Grasshole for an intensive lawn-mowing session. It's good to be home.