Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Warm Things for Fall

I follow a couple of blogs from Australia. I have a friend in New Zealand. For them, spring is coming. Here, fall is around the corner. Can you feel it? For once, I'm looking forward to it. Maybe it is because I want an excuse to cuddle...who knows?

Back to pits...sweaters...jeans...scarves...soup...colors

The list of great, inviting things about fall goes on and on.

I saw this image on Pinterest and got to thinking about fall. I'd really love to have an outdoor party here.

(Image from Country Living via Pinterest)

Only a few days of summer left. Enjoy them.

(Image from via Pinterest)

What are you most looking forward to this fall?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

This Hive's a Buzzin'

OK, so I snuck out of work early to meet some men. Don't get too excited, they were the type that fix broken stuff. Like my ducts and electrical under the house.

Did you know there are people you can pay to crawl under the house to do stuff? Like the stuff I did the other day. I think I may have referred to it as "the most vile job I've ever done." If I didn't type that I certainly thought it. There were probably curse words peppered throughout those thought as well. Obviously, I didn't know that a phone call would have brought people to do said work. Now I know. Handy, since this area floods frequently. Awesome.

Like the past two days, today is beautiful. There is a blissfully cool breeze, the birds are singing, the sun is out and the stinky puddles of storm water are evaporating. If it wasn't for the growing piles of storm damaged carpet, insulation, wallboard and tree limbs, branches, leaves dotting the curbs, you'd think no storm had come through here. But the multi-billion dollar clean up makes it ever so clear that Irene left a mark here.

Part of her temporary mark is in the form of service trucks and vans; men and women who come in, some from as far away as Georgia and Alabama, to get us back on our feet. Though they don't blend with the decor of the neighborhood, they are an accessory I don't mind.

As I turned in to my neighborhood I saw all kinds of vans and trucks and cars with signage like "Getem Pest Control." That one made me smile. Then it made me sad that someone is dealing with flood damage and found some sort of pest infestation. I guess when it rains it pours. (And floods and then things creep and crawl.)

I got to thinking, one man's disaster is another man's meal ticket. I guess it it the circle of life in suburbia, right? What I think is really cool is that every service professional I've talked to over the last few days has said thank you to me. They are glad I am considering them for the job. And here I am thinking that I won't be able to pay enough money to get someone to crawl under this house and work in the two feet of space to get me the comforts of air conditioning. Seriously. It is dark and creepy and claustrophobic, and now it is smelly and wet.

Actually, in some places, there are inches of space to work. Nope, can't pay me enough. At this point in the clean up, I'm so grateful to the people who are here to help us get back to normal. They've thanked me for the business. I'd like to thank them for doing what they do without complaint or profane thoughts. Then I'll write them a big fat check.

When was the last time you were thanked for something that you totally thought you should be doing the thanking for?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Literal and Figurative Tea Heaven

If you know me at all you know that generally speaking, if I have a beverage in hand (and it is before 5:00 p.m.) the odds are really good that I have either hot or iced tea.

When this store opened at a nearby mall, I was ready to do back flips!

It really is like a little spot of tea heaven. (See what I did there? Spot of of tea heaven. Hee hee.)


Anyway, back to sanity.

They have items like this:

I love it. And it "features a Japanese goldfish or 'yamabuki,' whose color reflects the richness of pure gold. Because of this, the fish symbolizes wealth, fidelity and prosperity." (Thanks I love it even more. (Because who doesn't love anything that symbolizes wealth, fidelity and prosperity?)

It would be pretty in any kitchen, huh? Function and aesthetics all in one. Double bonus.

Also if you know me, you know I am pretty plain. In fact, Plain Jane turned into Amy Jane, which is my nickname. I love plain English Breakfast tea. Can't get any more boring than that. Teavana has a delicious English Breakfast tea. You could probably buy stock in it and retire rich since I drink so much of it. (P.S. Rumor has it that Teavana is soon to be traded publicly. )

Despite my desire to embrace all things boring and plain, the shop has made me venture out into the vast and scary world of flavored tea. I know, I know, I'm brave. Here are two of my favorites:

Peachberry  Jasmine Sutra Green Tea. Mmmmm. Peaches and jasmine. Together. In a steamy tea concoction. Brilliant.

Fruta Bomba Green Tea. The name just sounds like it has to be a party. (Or it'll get La Bomba stuck in your head for days...)

I still drink all of my tea unsweetened, so don't think I've gone totally crazy here...

Been to Teavana? If not, I highly recommend it.

On a semi-related note, today I went back to being an English teacher. I am a living caricature of an English teacher. Mug of tea? Check. Hair in bun secured with pencil? Check. Plastic, dark rimmed glasses? Check. Soon I'll be wearing long floral skirts and calling everyone "Dear."

Or not.

What's your favorite Teavana tea flavor? Not tried it yet? Go here, click on the tea types at the top of the tea and then click on the images for descriptions so you can pick the tea you most want to try. What is it?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

All's Well that Ends Well

Well, we survived. Apparently the national news made Irene look like a terrifying ordeal. She wasn't as mean as I thought she would be. That's not to say she was nice. Not one bit. Fortunately for us, there seems to be little to no damage to the house (I've got to wait for it to dry out a little underneath to take a look at the duct work to see if it survived. And I've got some electrical in the kitchen out that needs to be assessed and repaired pronto. My stove and dishwasher are out, so you see why the rush is necessary...)

I'd like the jerk faces (typed with love, not anger) working with beau to know that aside from the unexplained electrical outage in the kitchen, it survived. Those floors that I painstakingly and lovingly stained and sealed are 100% intact, thank you very much. I did demolish my manicure and pedicure today working in the yard, so I think that bet money should go to the re-beautification of Amy. Cash is fine.

So I thought I'd share the last 24 hours with you through photographs. Obviously, I didn't take my camera out into the storm (too busy drinking, eating Oreos and playing dominoes), and you don't get to see how high the water came in my neighborhood (high!), but I have some before and after shots.

I think I mentioned that I stocked up on Hurricane Food. This is the stuff I bought specifically for the hurricane. Clearly I am a very healthy eater. Don't worry, it is not all I had on hand; I had normal food, too. Notice the loaf of bread. That's what happens when a gallon of water rolls on it in the car. Don't worry though, it still makes a fine peanut butter sandwich to satiate a gnawing hunger that grows after working in the yard all day.

I also think I told you about the shed Tetris I played to get as much yard junk in a tiny shed as possible. Here's what that looks like.

That's 2 gas grills with side burners, 2 bikes, 7 plants, a table, 2 chairs, 2 coolers, and 2 lanterns on top of all of the goods that hang out in the already jam packed shed. Messy and crowded!

When I woke up the water was starting to rise. Here's what it normally looks like at low tide.

This is maybe eight houses down the street that our house backs up to. Like I said, we are very close to the water. Sometimes it gets closer.

Like the next morning. I posted some photos before I left the house, but it rained while I was typing that entry. Here's what it looked like when I left the house.

The bottom photo above is the same curve as the bottom photo in the pair of low tide photos above. (I couldn't get the same angle because the water had already come up too high.) Crazy, huh? Boy was I glad I had beau's truck and not my little car!

The drive to Andy and Meagan's Safe House was just as wet.

In the bottom two photos the water has come up over the retaining wall, across the grass and sidewalk and into the street. These guys didn't seem to mind, though.

I made it safely to the Safe House, rode out the storm and came back to my house early in the morning. Meagan came with me to help assess the damage and then we went to the marina to check out their sail boat. It fared just fine.

Our house had a lonely but adventurous night. I came home to this:

See the line of debris on the house right below where the siding begins? That's also where my kitchen begins. We lucked out. Had the water come up another inch or so we would have had water in the house. You can see the water line much more clearly on the white fence. The line comes up to my knee; about a foot and a half or so.

The wind was pretty fierce last night. It blew down some branches in our yard.

I had to clean it all up.

Our little limbs are nothing compared to these two trees that were taken out by the wind.

Another house around the corner had a tree fall on it. I didn't take a photo because I thought it would be tacky to do that while the poor homeowners were just getting home and digesting the idea of a tree falling on their house.

We were lucky, but not totally lucky. Like I said, the crawl space flooded. When I got home there was standing water in it. I cleaned up the yard and swept the puddles of standing, nasty water and when i was done with that, I decided it was time to clean out the nasty, standing water under the house. We don't have a sump pump (yet), so I had to use the Shop Vac to get as much of the water out as possible. There was quite a bit.

It is possible that I'm not bothered by their butting in in this particular instance. :)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Early Morning Update

Not much to report at this point. I woke up at about 4:00 to wind and rain. (Don't worry, I went back to sleep for a while. Four in the morning is uncivilized and this gal is totally civilized.) It isn't bad yet, but there are some reports of power outages already. I'm going to jump in the shower then head over to my "safe house."

I've got my traveling gear laid out, and I'm baking scones to bring over. Nothing fresh and tasty, these are from a bag. Don't judge.

Here's the street directly outside the house.

A few small branches have come down and the intersection is starting to flood. It always does in any decent storm. So far we've gotten just over an inch of rain. According to the news, we've got about nine more to come. (Gaaaah!) Plus the storm surge. (Double Gaaaah!)

I walked down to where the two sidewalks meet at the end of that picture to show you a little further down the street. Usually if you make a left at the next sidewalk, you're at the water. Today, you don't have to walk quite so far...

I sure do hope those people plan on moving their cars, like, soon. If not then they're gonna have an insurance claim to make tomorrow. I'm kind of wishing we had a kayak for Sunday.

The water is coming...Irene is coming...

Remember how I told you beau was out of town for work? I talked to him last night. He said the guys he works with are taking bets on what time the kitchen will be destroyed. Taking bets. Jerks. Hey, no Christmas cookies for you guys, k? I told beau that when the floors remain pristine he needs to collect the wager from them and tell them karma's gonna get them. And then buy me a present. A really really nice one. Taking bets. On my kitchen. Phsssssa.

Scones are ready. Time to shower, do some final steps around the house and then bust a move out of here.

So, what's the worst bet you've lost?????

Friday, August 26, 2011

Neighborly Love

Have you seen her? She's incredibly huge. She's all that's been on our minds all day here. Once again, the image below is from my now favorite website, (Don't worry Pinterest, I'll be back to you soon.)

Do you see that? She's bigger than South Carolina. Bigger than a state. And I'm not even talking about those little states up north. Irene is probably bigger than four of them! She's no joke at all. Yesterday I mentioned that a mandatory evacuation order was in place for low- lying areas of my city. (That's meeeeee!) I also said I'd evaluate in the morning. I decided to stay, but I won't be staying at my house. I'll be spending the night tomorrow night at a higher lying friend's house. Well, the house is higher lying, which I guess makes them higher lying, too. Sorry for the bad grammar. I'm not sure how else to phrase it.  Even El Presidente encouraged us to leave in a press conference today. I'll heed his warning, but only sort of.

I don't want to be stranded far away from my house. I had many offers to stay and wait out the storm with various friends and family, but even my very good friend's house in the next town over seemed like it would be a million miles away if Irene causes the damage she intends to cause.

Image here.

But I've strayed away from my topic. Let me get back there. A few hours ago there was a knock at my door. It was a neighbor letting me know the caravan to the parking garage was leaving. After we left our cars there and hitched a ride back, we all did a house by house sweep. One neighbor is vacationing. We went into her house and moved items from her low garage to the higher house. We put plants and toys in the shed. Then we cleared porches and did yard sweeps throughout the neighborhood. We double checked yards and made sure everyone had somewhere to go and took note of those who will stay.

Now we are going to have pizza together. All of us. It is kind of a Friday thing.

Does that happen anywhere else? I mean, all of us are scared. All of us are worried about our own homes and our own belongings. But everyone has put selfish needs aside and worked as a team. I have bragged about my neighborhood before. It was in an entry that made beau want to barf because it was so "cheesy." And it was. Here it is. See? Super cheese.

But you know what? I meant it all, and I feel even more like I live in the perfect neighborhood after today's teamwork.

I'm lucky to have the support I have. This is what neighbors should be like. I know most are not. Today, I am especially lucky to have had the luck to wind up in a neighborhood like this.

This was the beach this morning. Deceptively beautiful, huh? Photo from Buzz Hayes here.

Do you have awesome neighbors? Do I live in the last friendly neighborhood?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Batten the Hatches

Well, it looks like this will be a doozie.

Four of the eight possible tracks on that image from The Weather Channel go directly over my home.

The Weather Channel's website had a few pieces of information.

This is taken directly from their website, minus the emphasis, which I added. Consider the italics the places where I had to reread a few times for my brain to process:

"- Irene is a hurricane that poses an extraordinary threat and is one that no one has yet experienced in North Carolina to the mid-Atlantic to the Northeast and New England.

- We can now narrow the projected path corridor. Confidence is growing that locations from eastern North Carolina and the eastern Mid-Atlantic states to Long Island to southern New England are all in the potential path of Hurricane Irene.

- It is becoming clear that Irene's future track will NOT be a Hurricane Earl (2010) scenario where a hurricane barely brushes the Outer Banks of North Carolina then stays well offshore.

- There is historical precedence for a hurricane impacting the major metropolitan areas of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast but these hurricanes are rare.

- However, with a population explosion along coastal areas of the Northeast during the past several decades, a hurricane this strong hasn't affected the Northeast urban corridor for at least the past two decades.

- Regardless of track and intensity, confidence is growing that Hurricane Irene will cause extensive tree and power line damage. Electricity infrastructure will be greatly compromised for millions if not tens of millions of Americans.
- Recent heavy rains over parts of the Northeast, especially New Jersey, have made tree root systems highly vulnerable. Flooding rains combined with high winds will add to tree destruction.

- Extent of water level rise (surge) for local bays, inlets and sounds is dependent on the local geography however suffice to say new high water marks could be set.
- Severity of Irene's impacts are dependent on the final track.

- Please begin to think about and act on your hurricane preparations. Now is the time."

Scary, right? Yeah. Scary. Seriously scary. I'm not quite certain what to do. I live here. This is my home. I should stay because the storm will pass and I will need to assess the damage. I will need to make sure that everything is OK. (Like my new kitchen. Sigh.) But then there is that what if that is nagging at the back of my mind. What if?

I live in the purple area. The "extreme" threat area. I'm making the (hopefully) appropriate preparations. (I bought Oreos.)

I was able to place most of our outside furniture, grill, the neighbor's grill, my bike, plants, construction junk, etc in our little shed. I did manage to break one of the window panes on the door with the handle bars of my bike. (Oops. Sorry, beau!) I couldn't fit the wheel barrow, outdoor heater, or my potted lavender plant inside.  Hopefully they are heavy enough to not blow around and crash through a window.

I went to the store for supplies. I'm emptying the ice maker into bags to keep things cold when/if the power goes out. I've got a plan with neighbors to move vehicles to a parking garage at the local university. I've got flashlights, candles, batteries, water... but I'm still nervous. This gal is no joke. Irene will be mean. (I just made that up, so if it is a headline in the papers, they can credit me, please.)

Beau is out of town for work and there is no way he can come home; that's part of his job. I'm not going to lie (even though he may read this and I really want to put on a brave face for him), I'd feel better if he was here to be strong. He's not, and so I will take that fear that is slowly growing, push it down, keep it there, until it turns to resolve.

My father (who is directly in the path as well--he's on the Albemarle Sound in NC) says I'm stubborn. That's true. I'm not stubborn enough, though to ignore sage advice. If this thing gets more powerful overnight, I'm out of here first thing in the morning. I'll wait it out in Williamsburg at mom and Perry's house. I really don't want to do that. I don't want to be stuck there not knowing what the damage to my home was.

I am comforted by my neighbors, though. most of them are staying and most of them have been here long enough to know how bad the flooding can get. Katharine, my neighbor across the street has been here for 50 years. She came over to let me know if I need any help I just need to come get her. Bless her heart, she's 80 (ish) and lives on her own. She assured me that her house is more low lying than mine and I should be fine. I'm not 100% sure.

Look at it from space. "High above the Earth from aboard the International Space Station, astronaut Ron Garan snapped this image of Hurricane Irene as it passed over the Caribbean on Aug. 22, 2011."

(Photo and quoted caption from here)

I'll keep you posted, and I'll post photos (albeit not as jaw dropping as Ron Garan's) when I can.

Prayers would be appreciated.

What would you do if you knew getting home would be an issue? What if the city just issued a mandatory evacuation for all low lying areas? What if you looked on a map and you were low lying for a category 1 and this is looking like a category 3?

I know. I should leave. I'll assess in the morning and make my final decision when Mean Irene makes her path of terror more apparent.

Note: Beau and I both have family all the way up the East Coast. I'm hoping and praying for safety for everyone we love from North Carolina to Massachusetts. Will you join me?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Baja Fish Tacos

My first meal in the functioning kitchen wasn't something that I had planned to make at all. In fact, it came to be simply because a package of mahi mahi got a little defrosted when I had to take everything out of the old refrigerator to put it in coolers, and then finally into the new behemoth of a fridge. Love it. The old fridge, btw, found a nice home as a garage beer fridge for a nice man who saw it on Craigslist. I tell you what, you market it as "Beer Fridge for Football Season" and you get replies! (I'm a bit of a marketing genius, so watch out Don Draper!)

Back when I was a California girl, I loved Wahoo's Fish Tacos. For the longest time, I wasn't brave enough to try the fish tacos because, well, I was a weenie who thought fish was gross. We'd go and have family dinners there and mom and Perry would get fish tacos and rave about how delicious they were. Eventually, I manned up an took a bite.

Let me tell you, the idea of a fish taco is kind of gross. Fish. Taco. But then you take a bite and you realize that it is an obvious combination. Like macaroni and cheese. Or ice cream and brownies. It just works and it is an incredible taste sensation.

Since moving to Virginia, I've had just a couple of fish tacos (Baja Cantina in Virginia Beach is good). Most places here want to fry the fish. That's not the Baja way, that's the Southern way. Contrary to popular belief, some things just shouldn't be breaded and deep fried. See, the key to Baja Fish Tacos is the blackened wahoo or mahi.

Like I said, my mahi didn't move to the new freezer well, so I immediately thought about fish tacos. They are fast and easy, and I wanted to make something that would make my mouth forget that it had eaten at restaurants for so long.

I wasn't totally sure how to make them, so I went to my trusted and found a recipe to work as a starting point.

The first thing I did was open a package of guacamole and make some pico de gallo. Because, frankly, it was 8:30 at night and I needed food. Like now. In my belly.

I don't really measure much when I cook, especially when I am making something tried and true. With that in mind, here is an approximate recipe for my small serving of pico.

2 large Roma tomatoes
cilantro, chopped
1/4 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
1/8 red onion (I usually use white, but I had a red one handy)
salt to make the tomatoes juice
juice of 1/4 lime squashed over the whole mixture

Sometimes I add garlic, but really, there is enough flavor with what's there. Since I didn't have fresh garlic, I opted to let the onion and jalapeno do all the work.

After satiating myself enough to avoid eating my own arm, I made the marinade for the fish. Again, these measurements are pretty approximate. If you want exact, see the Epicurious recipe.

1/4 cup vegetable oil (or if you're out like me, substitute olive oil and hope for the best)
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon (or more) chili pepper
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

I sliced up the fillet of mahi and stirred the pieces into the marinade.

While the marinade and the fish were doin' their thang, I noshed on some more chips, pico and guacamole and sliced up some cabbage. (Because friends don't let friends put lettuce on their fish taco.)

The Epicurious recipe says this is a grill recipe, and while it probably would work best there, there was no way in h-e-double hockey sticks that I was going to grill instead of using my fancy new cook top. So, to give it a more authentic feel, I busted out the cast iron skillet and placed the fish inside over a medium flame. I didn't just dump the whole bowl in because the fish should cook, not fry.

It doesn't take long for this fish to cook, so after a few minutes I flipped it and moved it to a plate after about the same amount of time on the other side. I did add liberal sprinklings of more chili pepper on the cooking fish for a more blackened flavor. Next, came the preparation of the tortillas and then final assembly.

Back  when I was in college, I had this wonderful roommate who was an authentic Mexican (I'll post more about Ameila at some later date, I'm sure). She'd cook for us sometimes. She would always heat up our tortillas on a comal (or a flat, cast iron skillet). While I don't still have my comal, a cast iron frying pan is veeeery similar.

When the corn tortillas are soft and bendy, you put the whole shebang together. These, my sort-of-authentic baja fish tacos, were layered as follows: tortilla, fish, cheddar cheese, cabbage, sour cream, pico, guacamole. In an authentic taco you'd use a mayonnaise based white sauce that I cannot stomach making. (Mayo makes me want to puke.)

And here's my first meal in the new kitchen:

Oh. My. Gosh. I'm hungry again. Don't they look amazing? They were.

They weren't close to Wahoo's, but I wasn't trying for that. I just wanted something that would make my mouth happy. And happy it was!

Beau was out of town earning the big bucks, but I know he would have loved this meal. It did need a nice cold Corona with a lime, but you work with what you've got.

I highly recommend this to fish fans or people who maybe want to be fish fans but are kind of scaredy cats. You can't tell this is fish. You just taste mouthful after mouthful of yum.

So what'd I have tonight? Chicken enchiladas. See, I had to get 100 corn tortillas to get those three, so there will be a distinct Mexican theme for a while. That's OK. It brings me back to my So. Cal days.

What was the last dish you thought would be terrible but ended up being super yummy-rific?