mon, 17-sep-2007, 18:57

stoves

old and new style stoves

Yesterday I had a chance to actually cook something on our new stove. We got it on Wednesday, moved it into the house on Thursday, converted it to propane and hooked it up on Friday, but we’ve been so busy with moving and taking care of Ivan that we hadn’t had a chance to do anything except boil water on it. I made pancakes and bacon. The stove has a large oval shaped central burner with a griddle that fits over the top of it, but I used our cast-iron griddle on the left two burners instead. Like the electric range we bought six months ago, the new stove is able to heat my biggest cast-iron pan from edge to edge and cooked a full pan of bacon evenly with a minimum of rotating.

The pancakes weren’t as good because I need to learn the correct burner settings again. I'd just gotten used to the electric, but I'm already enjoying the gas stove. It's nice even heat, it's really easy to manipulate the burner settings because you can actually see the flame. This particular stove has a simmer burner in addition to the central griddle. I tried the simmer burner last night, but I think it’s set a bit to high at the moment.

We debated getting a dual-fuel range but Consumer Reports tested electric and gas ranges in July and didn't find any differences in evenness or temperature control between the two, and the dual-fuel models we saw were all more than twice as expensive as a single fuel range. I bake a lot of bread, so I think the moisture produced during propane combustion might actually be a good thing for the crust. I'm hoping to have a bit of time during the week to try out a recipe from my new bread book.

Soon we should also receive the firebox parts for our wood-burning cook stove. Last weekend I managed to get all the melted, warped, and cracked pieces (!) of cast-iron out of the firebox, and called Lehman's. They sell the stove we have, and also sell parts for it. Shipping all that cast iron from Ohio to Alaska is going to cost more than $100. But it'll be worth it. It's been cold and rainy all weekend and I wished I could have fired up the wood stove. Gotta move some firewood from the old house.

living room

living room

On the subject of temperatures, we’ve already noticed that it’s much colder at our place than in the rest of town, and certainly by comparison to our old house in the hills. I’ve got a little plot on the sidebar (labelled ‘Temperature anomaly’) that shows the difference between the morning temperature at our house, and an average of the temperature readings from the Fairbanks area. Each blue bar represents a single day’s observation going back two weeks and the orange lines show the average anomaly for each week. Thus far, it appears that we’re about 10 degrees below the Fairbanks average when it’s clear, and pretty close to average when it’s cloudy.

We're still moving stuff from the old house to the new one, but are nearing the end of that process. Unpacking has now overtaken packing so the house is starting to look more like a place that people live, rather than an empty storage unit. We’ve got the first floor set up much the way the previous owners had it set up with a little entry way / pantry next to the door, a “dining room” in front of the big south window, the entertainment center next to the sliding glass doors, and a couch on the opposite wall (formerly known as the “red wall”.) Right now we’re using a bookshelf as shelves for the pantry, and we haven’t figured out what to do with the area to the right of the couch (where there was a little office), but at least it’s functional. I think some sort of storage bench next to the door, a storage unit under the window, and a better pantry unit will help organize things quite a bit before the complexities (coats, boots, snow, extreme cold, etc.) of winter arrive.

new junk room

new junk room

Most of the stuff that had been in the library / junk room in our old house, as well as the stuff from the office (we had a lot of rooms in the old house…) have been shoved into the third room on the second floor of our new house. This is supposed to become an office in the near future, but at the moment it’s looking a lot more like a new take on the “junk room” concept. The red cabin, which is absorbing everything from the garage also has this appearance. Until we can get a handle on unpacking some of the boxes, both areas are going to be pretty hard to navigate.

Still, it’s all progress. I’m sure it’ll be awhile before it really feels like home, but having a bunch of our normal stuff close by and out in similar places certainly helps.


sat, 15-sep-2007, 15:45

ivan on bookshelves

ivan on top of the bookshelves

Our cat Ivan died of kidney failure today. We’d known for some time that it was coming, but he had been managing pretty well with subcutaneous fluids and a restricted diet.

I got Ivan and Alexi (who died a little over three years ago) at the Portland Animal Shelter in 1993, and they traveled up to Alaska with me in the Volaré. He was a very playful cat and had learned to play fetch. He’d bat a toy around on the floor for a little while, bring it back while meowing, and then flop next to the toy until someone got up to throw it for him. As he got older he became very affectionate, and whenever we were home he’d curl up on our legs. At night before bed, and in the morning when my alarm went off (sometimes before it went off!), he’d come up on the bed, snuggle in close to my neck and purr and knead. It’s going to be hard to get to sleep tonight without him coming up to say good night.

Good night little buddy. We’ll miss you.

snuggling

snuggling

banana boy

banana boy

upside down

upside down

tags: cats  Ivan  memorial 
mon, 10-sep-2007, 18:59

finished dog yard

finished dog yard

Well, we’re still moving into our new house, but it finally feels like we’ve got more stuff in the new house than the old one. Last night was the first night spent sleeping in our bed in our new master bedroom instead of sleeping in the guest bedroom. The struggle started almost three weeks ago when we bought all the materials for the new dog yard. Fourty-three 4x4’s, 45 2x4’s for rails and the gate, and later a bunch more wood for the gate on the deck and a set of stairs from the deck into the yard. Not to mention 300 feet of six-foot, “no climb”, wrapped wire fencing and 30 yards of wood chips. My plan called for 4x4 posts sunk between two and five feet in the ground, with notches at the top of each post to accept 2x4 rails that run from post to post. Each 2x4 is also notched so the two 2x4’s fit together, and as a pair, fit into the 4x4 notch. A long lag bolt holds the two 2x4’s together, and attaches them to the 4x4. All that notching took several days after work. Starting on Monday August 26th, we started tearing out the old dog yard, moving the wood chips around the yard, digging holes with a post hole auger, sinking the posts and attaching rails, hanging the fencing and big gate doors, and building the deck gate and stairs. Along the way we also did some painting, and moving the bare minimum of stuff needed to actually start living in the new place (coffee supplies, dog and cat food, etc.). It took us eleven days to get the whole thing done. The first photo on the right (click on the photos to see a larger version) shows the completed dog yard from the deck. The yard connects the deck (and thus, the house) with a covered dog shed at the other end. The dog houses are all pretty far from the house, but it’s the flattest, highest ground, so it makes the most sense to locate them there. There’s a double-wide gate near the houses so we can pull in the pickup truck if needed, and so it’ll be easy to get the dogs ready for mushing. At the house end, there’s a gate to keep the dog entrance to the house (a sliding glass door, unfortunately) separate from the human entrance (the front door). A gallery of all the photos we took during this process is at: Building a dog yard

goldstream creek

goldstream creek

Finally on Labor Day, we were ready to move in. But the refrigerator we’d ordered was being delivered a day and a half early and instead of moving in, we had to wait several hours while they got their delivery truck towed out of our driveway. But since then, things have been going well. Yesterday we rented a moving truck and loaded almost all of our furniture, our freezers, and some other larger items that needed to stay dry for the trip over to our new house. There’s still a bunch of work to be done at the old house, and even more work unpacking and trying to figure out where everything will go, but progress is being made. In a few weeks I might even be able to bake a loaf of bread or read a book! I can’t wait to try some of the recipes and techniques from Peter Reinhart’s new book Whole Grain Breads: New Techniques, Extraordinary Flavor. Possibly even in a new propane-fueled oven.
tags: bread  creek  dog yard  house  moving 
sun, 19-aug-2007, 18:43

truck and trailer

the second load

The move has finally started. Although the closing won’t officially “record” until tomorrow, we’ve been moving some things from our old house to the new one. It’s very exciting, but after living here for almost eight years, we’ve collected a lot of stuff. Planning and installing a dog yard at the new house is the other big task. I’ve set up a wiki so that we can keep track of all the things we need to do, and our best guess of when they’ll get done. It’s turning out to be a really good way of planning it all out, and for forcing us to get particular tasks done when we need them done. I wish I’d started it a month ago when we first knew we were likely to be moving.

The photo on the right shows the second load we took over. We’re borrowing a trailer from a friend and it’s turning out to be really helpful. It’s amazing how much stuff it can hold.

I doubt if I’ll be finishing any more books this month, and I haven’t really had much time to seriously consider the Bach Violin Concertos CD. Hopefully we will have settled down in our new house in a couple weeks and things will start returning to normal.

P.S., Anybody want to buy a house?


tags: Dakota  house  moving 
mon, 06-aug-2007, 05:12

curious_incident

the curious incident of the dog in the night-time, mark haddon

The Tanana Valley State Fair (Faster than a speeding pullet is this year’s pun) started Friday night and we went on Saturday. For me, the Fair is actually more of an “event,” than something I really enjoy. It marks the beginning of our descent into winter and usually also coincides with the rainy season (August) in Fairbanks. I do like the food (grilled corn on the cob, deep fried halibut are my favorites), it’s fun to wander around and see what our community looks like, and sometimes I discover something new like the hardwood charcoal supplier operating out of his garage in North Pole. The reason I don’t entirely enjoy the Fair is that I don’t like crowds. I’m nervous in groups larger than a few people, and at the Fair I really have to concentrate to keep from being overwhelmed by all the people and what they’re all doing. When we got home on Saturday night, I was exhausted.

What does this have to do with Marc Haddon’s debut novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time? The main character is autistic, and in addition to several strange quirks like refusing to eat yellow or brown foods, he is easily overwhelmed by people because he can’t comprehend their emotions or perspective. At one point in the book he’s in a train station, and is unable to read any of the signs because he’s so overwhelmed. It’s a strange, and compelling, voice to narrate a story, and it was easy for me to sympathize with him because of my own introversion.

The book is narrated in his voice, with language like this (from page 56):

Then Ivor did a poo and Mrs. Alexander picked it up with her hand inside a little plastic bag and then she turned the plastic bag inside out and tied a knot int the top so the poo was all sealed up and she didn’t touch the poo with her hands.

There are cool mathematical digressions showing how his deeper understanding of mathematics helps him navigate the minefield of the world he is largely closed off from. (I’m still trying to wrap my head around the solution to the Monty Hall Problem.)

It’s a very effective book that shows a little of what it might be like to see the world in a completely different way, as well as how difficult it is to be a parent to a child like that. The first amazon customer review is written by an autistic: “As an autistic, I have a special interest in reading works that feature autistic main characters, partly to see how neurotypical people thing our brains work, but partly just for the joy I feel when someone ‘gets it right.’ Mark Haddon absolutely ‘got it right’ in this book.” It would be hard to give the book higher praise than that.


tags: books  Ivan  review 

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