Sunday, April 27, 2008

Happy weekend!

Hope everyone is having a great weekend!

While we're washing our way through about 10 loads of laundry, I thought I'd post a couple pics of the latest pool progress. Today's pics are not as dramatic as the last few, because we're getting into detail work now. But they've finished the coping (border) around the pool, as well as a lightning grid (scary thought).

The flagstone around the pool (the decking) will have a little more variegation than the coping; it will resemble the coping around the spa with more grays, browns and beige. And the stacked stone work on the spa is pretty much done!

They are also working on a stacked stone retaining wall which will sit behind the spa. For now it's cinderblock, but it will soon resemble the work around the spa.

And last but not least, I wanted to share a pic of our (newly spring green!) backyard trees. They're filling out quickly and I'm so happy. Soon (I hope) to be followed by our gardenias. Trees are probably not a big deal to most, but around here (where almost every subdivision is clear-cut), seeing all that green come back after a cold and gray winter is amazing. It's so incredible what God can do!

Happy Sunday!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Foodie Friday

(Subtitle: Desperately-Seeking-Dinner!)

Happy Friday!

I thought I would share something besides pool pictures for a change. In keeping with one of my other loves (that being food of all kinds!) I am planning to start sharing a recipe or something food-related each Friday. Or at least most Fridays!

I recently received one of those recipe exchange emails where you are supposed to send a "quick and easy" recipe to the person at the top of the list, like a chain letter. The idea is that they will get several recipes and your name moves up on the list. Well (probably because a lot of people are like me and break the chain), it never seems to work for me. But I liked the idea of the recipe request - an easy, well-loved recipe with only a few ingredients, and one that is a family favorite. Preferably one you know by heart and can type out right then and there. That last part struck me as important. The best recipes are the ones we know by heart and which are our "go-to" meals when time is short and tummies are growling. Those tend to be the best recipes I make, and I realized that I do have several I can share. One of our favorites has fewer than five ingredients (in the main dish) and I will post the link below. I'm not sure if I can post the actual recipe (I know, I's the lawyer in me) but you should be able to follow the link. Let me know if not.

This is a favorite Rachael Ray recipe. Some people hate the woman, and others like me love her and wish we had even half her creativity in the kitchen. She just makes yummy food (prepared from fresh ingredients, no less) seem so darned accessible. So the link is for Parmesan Crusted Chicken and I promise you, it's one of the easiest and tastiest recipes I have ever made. Hubby gives it two thumbs up and cleans his plate every time. SO yummy. I also usually make the roasted potato side dish she recommends in the recipe, but you could make anything you want. And I keep Giada de Laurentiis's marinara sauce in my freezer ALWAYS. It's perfect with the chicken (or anything else you can think of to eat with red sauce). That saves me making the sauce that Rachel recommends.

As far as recipe notes for cooking, there aren't a lot of inherent pitfalls in this recipe. The only thing to watch (besides being sure to use shredded, not grated cheese) is that the pan needs to be hot enough - but not so hot that it burns the cheese - (about medium-high) and once the chicken is in there, don't move it around for at least several minutes. I'm not kidding. Don't touch it, don't shake the pan, just leave it!! I use a silicone spatula to gently lift a corner and check on the cheese, but that is it. When it's time to flip them they'll release pretty easily (may need that spatula) and you'll have a beautiful (and exquisitely yummy) cheesy brown crust on your chicken. And - bonus feature - it keeps the chicken very moist. I like to add fresh basil over the top as it's a nice complement to the tomato sauce.

Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A pool update is coming!

...but not tonight :-) Unfortunately I slept really badly last night, so it's early to bed tonight. But I should have a good update for tomorrow. Lots happening, so hubby is staying home to oversee things again!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

More Mealtime Success

I figured I would give everyone a break on the pool news and talk about something else for a change :-) We've been trying out the "freezer meals" idea, kind of like what those national franchises offer but without all the added expense. Working primarily off of menu ideas from the Dinner Diva, I have also incorporated a few of our own favorites that I think/have found work well for the concept. You essentially spend a few hours preparing a group of meals ahead, but don't cook them, which means you get fresh-cooked meals when you're ready to eat them. To me that's much yummier than reheating already cooked and then frozen food. So far it's working quite well and hubby has given three or four of the recipes a "favorite" rating. And there is a surprising variety of things you can freeze that then cook quite well. I was pleasantly surprised at some of the options on the menu I linked above.

So anyway, I'm hoping to put a few more in the freezer today. I have really enjoyed the convenience, as well as knowing what's in the food we're eating. It takes about 1/2 an hour from beginning to table, and that's perfect for us on weeknights. But we're getting home cooked, well-balanced meals (with vegetables! Heavens!) and I have healthy leftovers to take for lunch. So far, I think we've saved a ton of money in just two weeks, based on no wasted food and bringing lunch from home. I love it!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Concrete Jungle

The backyard landscape is changing every day! Today was a big day, with the installation (application?) of the "gunnite," basically concrete shot from a spray gun. Interesting concept, and I have no clue how they make it stick. Apparently the method has to do with the point at which the water is injected into the concrete mixture. At any rate, the process is fascinating to watch!

Here are a few other sequences, showing the application and the results of the smoothing process. The end result is kind of amazing to me. They did that in one day!?

These last two shots are sort of miscellaneous. In the first (do not try this at home :-) hubby is measuring to satisfy himself that the pool is actually 8 feet deep, as promised... I think his informal measurements indicate about a 7.5 ft depth from the waterline. And the second is a pic of the progress on the "under-deck" system. They're working on that as I write this, and should finish up tomorrow. Wahoo!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Lizzie Block 10

I'm finally into the double digits with Lizzie! I've spent most of today knitting and feel only slightly guilty about it :-) Here is block 10 of 24 - this one was made from "leftover" yarn from other blocks, so I could stripe it however I liked. I love spectral colors, so this one will be a nice contrast to some of the more muted ones I have done recently. I really like this one! (PS the block has an odd shape in the photo for some reason, but it's not really zigzagging down the edges)...

Spring has sprung!

Happy Sunday!

I don't really have any new pool pics to show today. The only new thing is that there is now hay everywhere covering the loose dirt, which helped a bit with yesterday's rain (and will, hopefully, help with what is predicted tomorrow). I'm not sure what the schedule is for the week, since it is now supposed to rain again tomorrow. But hopefully we'll get the under-deck system installed this week (like dry-down-under) which will create a dry space for chairs and things poolside. Then they are supposed to do the gunnite (concrete walls) of the pool this week. Apparently that stage involves a big truck with an arm-like device that carries the concrete up and over the house (the truck can't get to the actual site). And I don't even want to know what else is involved; we're just praying that operation goes smoothly with no stray concrete blobs landing anywhere!

Anyway, in the meantime, we're enjoying a glorious day here with my favorite weather (clear, crispy and breezy!) - and spring is everywhere. The trees are coming back, which I just love to see. And our tree in the front yard has the most beautiful blossoms. In another couple of weeks, I'm hoping the gardenia bushes will pop.

Have a great day!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

More pool progress...

If you can stand another pool update! Lots of photos today, because I did not post yesterday and they have made a great deal of progress (and caused even more damage!) in a short span of time.

Here's the essentially finished excavation, including the spot for the spa and a little bench or step out that will go in the deep end.

And here is my beautiful blooming vine (no idea what type of flower this is; hopefully Robin can help me out here) that is persevering mostly bravely despite chaos and destruction on all sides!

This is a shot of the entire deep end; that rock strata is about 10 feet tall. I guess if we wanted the "really natural look" we could just line this pit with river stone and fill it! Doesn't look like the water would go anywhere!

Here, you'll see a couple of shots of the guys laying the plumbing and the rebar interior (the rebar will support the gunnite). I am still amazed they got all of this done in one day. Wow.

Then, a couple of shots of the finished product, including the spa. I'm guessing with this much rock this close to the surface of the yard, they must have blasted an awful lot of rock out of this hillside in order to build our house!

And last, but not least for the day, the visible evidence of today's record-high pollen count, which is making all of us (human and canine alike) miserable. Tomorrow's rain will be welcome, as even the air has a yellowish tint!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Day 3

Feels like Day 33! Today's update will be short and sweet - good news is the excavation of the pool is more or less finished. Bad news is they broke another pipe and hubby is beside himself with four days of water hassles now. It's the kind of thing where they break it and then we're expected to fix it. So hubby fixed it once and they broke it again. Geez! But it's fixed (again) now, and hopefully they won't break anything else (including the house itself) tomorrow! All that really remains from the earth-moving stage is for them to haul the enormous pile of rock away, and re-grade the damaged portion of the yard (oh - and find a way to get those monstrous machines out of that hole... I *really* don't want to be around to see that maneuver!). There still won't be grass much of anywhere, but at least there should not be as many tire ruts! Without further ado, here are the pics:

Monday, April 7, 2008

Day Two...and a new Lizzie Block!

Hello! Today was an excellent day all the way 'round. The local schools are on spring break, so traffic was light. Work was pretty calm for the same reason. Our first homemade "freezer meal" for the month (stuffed Italian chicken breasts, from this genius) turned out amazingly well, and took only half an hour, I got in a good run to start off my week of working out, I finished Lizzie Block 9 (I'm so happy to be knitting again!) AND they made a lot more visible progress on the pool today (as opposed to mere wanton and apparently aimless destruction of my backyard). Wahoo and praise God!!

So here are a couple more pics of the pool progress, as well as Block #9. A few notes - the mammoth machine from last Friday was joined by its big brother today, which has an enormous jackhammer sort of thing on the end of its arm. Hubby said they spent all afternoon crushing through rock with that thing; I'm sure our neighbors hate us. (Click to enlarge picture for the full effect; it's scary! If anyone can think of any cute and inexpensive gift ideas we could give our 10 closest neighbors with an apology note, I'm open to ideas!)

The pool is starting to take shape, though, and with all this rock in the vicinity the builders say there's no worry about it going anywhere or really, for that matter, even being able to leak.

For reference, that band of bedrock you see in the closeup is almost as deep as the shallow end itself, currently (before concrete, etc.) about 6 feet.

The side yard, while still icky, is not nearly as wet today, so that is an additional blessing. And having seen just how much rock is under our house, I know I never have to worry about it going anywhere! At least, it won't be sliding into the backyard. I guess sliding toward the front is always a possibility, but we're going to think positively! And here's hubby, with a smile on his face (now that the clanging and banging has ceased for a bit).

And oops, I almost forgot LIZZIE!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

What a difference a day makes!

I could write a narrative to describe the beginning of pool excavation, but before I do, I think I will start by letting the photos speak for themselves:



They have to come around the far side of the house, the "long" way, so they are doing maximum damage to the yard. Daniel said one guy asked (gleefully) if they got to destroy the waterfall. He said NO!!



Poor hubby had a rough day: Work as usual (several conference calls), me calling every five minutes (it was killing me to be at work and unable to do anything), the contractors asking questions every other five minutes, and then...they cut a water line. Unfortunately it was not a small line, but rather a sprinkler system pipe tied directly into the water main. Since the cut occurred above all the shutoff valves, the only way to stop gallons of water flowing out by the second was to turn off water to the entire house. And of course, though we (ironically) hoped they would not begin digging on possibly the wettest weekend of the year so far, they did... and it's still raining right now. Rained all night, and supposed to continue today. I'm VERY grateful for the rain, but it makes repairing leaks outdoors a bit of a challenge. And of course it exacerbates the mess in the backyard. There are plumbers on the way now, but I bet when they see the pit in the backyard they're going to love this. Meanwhile, even as I write, rain continues to fall harder. I don't know how much we've gotten yet, but I bet it's almost two inches. Will check the rain gauge if it ever slacks up!

More updates soon! At least the pool is underway! I'm planning to spend this rainy day at home cooking, avoiding the outdoors except for going to the grocery.

Tucker's planning to spend the day curled up by the fireplace!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Knitting (and pool) progress - wahoo!

Okay, unfortunately I don't have any photos of this block yet, but I am thrilled to say that the knitting of Lizard Ridge blocks is back on the rails. I got a little sidetracked there with life :-) But I spent lunch knitting the first quarter of Block 9. This one is going to be another neutrals/naturals colorway, with lots of browns, pinks and oranges - almost sunset colors, really. Then there's some bright green thrown in for contrast. And the best part is it's my last skien, so I get to order MORE! The good news is when I take a break from knitting I am a lot more careful with the pattern, so I have fewer errors on the first couple blocks "back." It's later, when I've done about five in a row, that I forget things as I rush through. I'll post a pic as soon as it's done.

And PS - THANK YOU to Robin for your prayers - our pool plans were approved by the neighborhood yesterday and, if we don't incur a rain delay this week, we could begin digging as early as Friday! YAY! Once they start digging and we know we won't have a rock problem, I'll be able to sit at the window, knitting and dreaming of our pool! (Wait, who am I kidding? I need to be cleaning those windows! :-)
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