Monday, February 26, 2007

Winter Storm, Round Two: Power's Out!

Shortly after I posted my blog on Saturday, the power went out. Obviously, the ice had downed the power lines, so it got dark in a hurry. The power had been blinking on and off all afternoon so we figured hey, it'll be out for a little while, and hopefully it will be back on by bedtime. We meant bedtime Saturday. We didn't get power until bedtime Sunday. 28 1/2 hours without electricity is a long 28 1/2 hours, believe me.

It could have been worse. We're on city water, so we still had water pressure, and we have a natural gas range, so we could cook food and boil water (lots of water) for hot beverages. Our house is only 10 years old, so we have good insulation and no drafts. We only lost 12 degrees in temperature over time, and foodwise all we lost was a carton of vanilla ice cream. We ended up putting our food in coolers and setting it out in our uninsulated shed which was just as cold as the outdoors (27 degrees). Carl and Mary managed to scrape and salt the ice off the paved portion of the driveway Sunday afternoon, so when we get our next batch of bad weather (allegedly Wednesday night/Thursday morning) we won't have to deal with ice under whatever we get.

We didn't realize how bad the power outage was until we listened to the news. I can get the local TV stations on my weather radio, and they said that 100,000 people in our utility's service area were without power, and more than 1000 poles were down. 500 miles of lines and cables were downed or damaged, and they were saying that it could be Friday before everyone had power restored. For some reason, they singled out Benton County as the worst to restore, and that freaked Carl and I out to the point that we called my brother Keith to see if we could somehow get his generator. It's kind of an old generator - it belonged to my Dad originally - and my sweetheart younger-older brother tried to get it to work. He managed to get the motor started, but there was something wrong with another part of the machine, so that option was a no-go. (Just to let you know how nice my brother is, he even offered to bring it here if he could get it working. What a great guy!) Anyway. So Carl and I decided that, first thing in the morning, if the power still wasn't on Carl was going to go generator hunting. We laid out a plan of which shops to hit and when, and I also made a short list of other items needed (milk, batteries, etc) and we went to bed. About 20 minutes later, I felt Carl stir and he said "The power's back on!" He walked around the house to make sure everything was running and that the air coming from the furnace was warm, and all was well. We slept until about 4:45 - Hannah caught a cold over the weekend and was coughing, so we got her some medicine and sent both girls to their own beds. (We'd had them huddled up together on our futon.) Hannah went back to sleep, but about an hour later Mary came in and laid in bed with me to watch TV. Naturally, the girls and I don't have school today, but good ol' slave-to-his-job Carl went in to work. Devoted, ain't he?

So now everything's pretty much back to normal. I have some cleanup to do: putting storm stuff away, sweeping up all the dog hair (he spent the weekend inside with us) and folding the laundry that I managed to get washed before the power went out. Over all, I'd have to say that even though it wasn't a nice weekend, it wasn't bad, either.

I mean, it could have been a LOT worse.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Winter Storm, Round One: The Ice

This is our front porch. It has about 3/8" of ice on it.

This is our mailbox. I'm guessing those icicles are around 5" long.

This is our purple ash tree, coated with ice and bent by the wind. Poor tree. Maybe it needs a hug from AlGore. Global warming? HAH!!
This is our basketball pole. It is not an optical illusion that the net and icicles are all leaning to the right (pointing west). The wind is strong from the east, and they froze like that.
This is our ice-coated driveway. Sensing a theme yet?

This is a north view of our swingset/treehouse thingy. Again, notice the icicles pointed west.

A final view of the swingset/treehouse thingy. And a big thanks to my wonderful husband who braved the elements and went outside to take these photos. They may come in handy later; if we have damage, the insurance company may want proof. Brother, they'll get it!

Monday, February 19, 2007


My daughter Mary saw a robin this morning. She was so excited! Both she and her sister can't wait for spring. I must admit, I'm a little tired of winter myself. Fortunately, this week the weather around here is supposed to be warmer. We're finally supposed to have an entire week where the morning lows will all be above zero. Whoo-Hoo!!(Today's high is supposed to be around 40.)

The arrival of spring means the arrival of shorts-wearing season. This could be a problem - all of the shorts I have hanging in my closet are either size 20 or 22 (women's) and I'm currently wearing a Misses size 18. Depending on how you count, I've lost something like 2 to 2 1/2 pants sizes. My weight is fluctuating between 195 and 198. If I'd stop baking stuff, I'd lose weight faster!

Anyway. So I don't have many pairs of shorts to wear. I have a couple pair of denim shorts that are around 15 years old, and I'm sure I can get into those, but I don't think that will be enough to get me through the spring and summer. That means I have to go shopping. I don't mind going shopping for clothes (I am, after all, female) but somehow I have to find time to go, and that could pose a problem given the increasing workload school is giving me. Oh, well. Everyone should have such dilemmas, eh?

Speaking of dilemmas and workloads, would all of you pray for Carl tomorrow? He has an interview for a Project Manager position at his job (around 1 PM, I think). This would be a major promotion, and Carl feels that he's ready for a new challenge. He wants to use the knowledge he got with his Master's degrees, and this job would utilize all of his skills. But mostly, Carl wants to follow God's will, so please pray that His will be done as Carl interviews. He has another interview sometime next week, and I'll let you know when so y'all can pray for him then, too.

In the meantime, enjoy the weather. I plan to. Since I live in Iowa, the weather will probably change in five minutes anyway, so I'll take nice weather whenever I can get it.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Caked Over

The weekend past, I assembled an office furniture kit for my Mom: a computer desk, return and hutch. I mention this because I happen to think that I'm pretty good at kit furniture assembly. I had to call Carl for help only once, and his advice worked. Put tools in my hands, give me a set of instructions, and I can (99 times out of 100) put it together.

Which brings me to Tuesday. Carl, bless his fuzzy little heart, bought me (as a Valentine's Day gift) something I've been wanting for months - he got me a new electric hand mixer. I got the gift on Sunday when I returned home from Mom's. It's a good mixer, a Kitchen Aid. So I thought, "What can I give Carl for Valentine's Day, something he really likes, that I can make with my new mixer?" The answer was simple. I'd make him a cake - German chocolate with coconut pecan frosting, his favorite. At first, I figured I'd do it the way I always do it: with a cake mix and ready-to-spread frosting. But then I thought, " You know, he's such a great guy, always thinking about what I want, I should really do something extraordinary for him." So I decided to make the cake from scratch, using the recipe his Mom always used when she made him that cake for his birthday. I have the recipe in a three ring binder, and I took the binder with me Monday when I went to school. I stopped at the grocery store on my way home and got the stuff I needed - so far, so good.

My troubles started when I got home from school. I tossed the grocery bag on the counter, and forgot to put the buttermilk in the fridge. It sat out for hours and got warm, so I pitched it. I went to our local convenience store to see if they had any (since going back into the city was not an option) and they didn't. What to do? I pulled out a "substitutions" chart that I've had for a while, and discovered that buttermilk and sour milk were near cousins. But since I'm no cook, and I wasn't sure what to do, I called my Mom and my sister for help. I was assured that replacing buttermilk with sour milk would be OK, so I relaxed. No problem, I thought.

HA!! Tuesday rolled around, with 2" of snow and 35 mph winds, so school was cancelled for all three of us girls. Since I had the entire day before me, I decided to do the cake. I figured it would be best to lay out all of the ingredients first, then put the cake together. I began reading, and soon discovered that this was going to be harder than I thought. For one thing, the recipe called for cake flour. I didn't know there was such a thing as cake flour, but my chart-thingy said you could substitute all-purpose flour for cake flour if you took out 2 Tbsp. per cup. For another thing, the recipe said you needed three 8" or 9" round pans, and I only had 2. What to do? Call my sister, of course. She advised me to use the chart's flour substitutions and to use one square 9" pan with my two round 9" pans, then cut off the corners later. OK. Fine. I'll do that. Later down the recipe, it said to melt the chocolate in a 1/2 cup of boiling water. I didn't think you could do that, so I called my Mom and asked her if I should grind up the chocolate before I added the boiling water. She said no, just break the chocolate bar up into chunks and melt the chunks three at a time. You'll be alright, she assured me. Of course she was correct, but the concept of melting chocolate in water instead of over it was a little freaky.

So now I had all my ingredients laid out, and I started mixing stuff together. I tried to use my hand mixer for the entire cake, but it soon became evident that I'd have to use my pedestal mixer for the heavy work. Finally, I had all the ingredients mixed together, in the pans, and in the oven. Whew!

HA!! again. When the cakes were done, I flipped them out onto plates to cool while I made the frosting. That was yet another adventure, but I got it done and started to assemble the cake. However, the cake stuck to the plates, so I had to scrape the cake off the plates and pile the stuck parts in the middle of the cake and "glue" it all together with frosting. But once completed, I put the cake in the fridge, wrote Carl a nice little note to accompany the cake, and started cleaning up.

This was one ugly cake. It leaned to one side, was terribly uneven, and I was scared that it would taste as bad as it looked. But fortunately it actually tasted good, and Carl was happy to have his favorite cake. But, he said, he and his Mom had always put it in a 9 x 13 pan, so the next time I try this cake I'll have him bake it for me.

If I ever try this cake again. It'll be a looooong time before I tackle a cake from scratch. I don't want to be pestering my Mom and Sis with questions, and besides, cake mixes are so much easier.

Given the choice between furniture assembly and cake assembly, I'll take the furniture, any time.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Parts Is Parts

It started last week (Wednesday, I think). I let the dog in after school, kind-hearted fool that I am, and took him down into the basement with me while I worked on my china cabinet. I've been sanding pieces, trying to get most of the old stain off so I can restain the pieces a uniform color. So I'm working away, not paying attention to anything but my work, and I thought the dog was on his rug next to the table, about six feet from me. I finished a piece, shut off my palm sander and took off my hearing protection, only to hear the phone ring. I ran to my studio, picked up the phone, looked down and saw wood splinters all over the floor in front of my dog. I told the caller, "Please call me back later. My dog just ate my china cabinet!" Apparently, the dog was either bored, or jealous of the cats (or both) and decided to take his frustrations out on an 80 year old piece of poplar. I promptly sent him back out to the yard - he had that hang-dog expression on his face, the one where he knew that he was doing something bad but he felt worse because he'd been caught - and went to analyze the damage. The part Moose Mutt had chewed was a curved piece that attaches to the top (underside) of the cabinet and holds the glass in place. Fortunately, this piece had lost its veneer, so I was going to have to re-veneer the piece anyway, but unfortunately, this curved piece had tenons cut out of the edges, plus it was routed on one side, so trying to fabricate a replacement at home was impossible. I quickly ran to the lumberyard, where the ever-wise Tom Lange told me to call a guy near Fairfax who does custom cabinetry to see if he could make a replacement. Well, he can, but it will cost me.

Enter Tom Hyde, my AutoCAD instructor. (I know alot of Tom's, don't I?) I told him my sob story and showed him the remaining pieces (there's 3 left) and asked for his advice. He said I could draw up a copy of my needed replacement on AutoCAD (with his help, obviously) and if I can find someone with a CNC wood router, I can take my CAD drawing on my memory stick to them, and hopefully get a replacement part fabricated at a lower cost than the cabinet guy quoted me. I was afraid that I wouldn't be allowed extra time on the CAD computers, or that it wasn't allowed to do non-schoolwork projects, but not only is it allowed, it's encouraged. So I took a tracing of my piece to school today with all the necessary measurements, and with Tom's help I was able to draw up my piece (2D only). My printout matched my tracing, but the real test was at home, where I put the mirror piece (the same shape as my missing piece, but from the bottom of the cabinet) on my CAD printout, and it matched!! It wasn't a perfect match, but it was darn close, so Thursday I'm going to go back and get the 3D image done. Then I'll start calling cabinet makers in the area and see if one of them will help me out at a reasonable cost, since I've already done all the hard work.

Wish me luck!

P.S. I should mention that Tom Hyde is a super great guy - not just because he wants to help me out, but he really wants students to learn and is willing to take extra time and teach them. Plus, he reminds me of my dad in that he's extremely smart and understands all that engineerical-type stuff, and he reminds me of my Uncle Don (from when I was high-school age) with his facial expressions and his body posture. Going to CAD class is kind of like going to a family reunion, only without the potato salad.