Sunday, July 29, 2012

ニューイングランドからこんにちわ

今日はしとしと雨の日曜日。涼しくて過ごしやすい一日になりそう。

日本のみなさんにはニューイングランドといってもピントこないかもしれませんね。イギリス人がメイフラワー号で最初に入植したアメリカ東北部といえば、「そういえば歴史の教科書にそんなこと書いてあったな。」と思い当たるかもしれません。具体的にはニューヨーク州から東側のエリアーコネチカット州、ロードアイランド州、マサチューセッツ州、ニューハンプシャー州、バーモント州、メイン州ーがニューイングランド地方です。アメリカで最も長い歴史を持つエリアとも言えます。

私はマサチューセッツ州のアメリカ独立戦争前にできたボストン郊外の小さな町に住んでいます。ジョージ・ワシントンが見聞の旅の際にこの町に立ち寄った記録があるそうです。コンコード・レキシントンの戦いの舞台となったこれらの二つの町の近くにあたります。この戦いに参加した人たちがコンコードへ向けて行進した道の前に私たちの家が建っています。

気候的には北海道を思ってもらうといいかもしれません。日本に比べると空気はずっと乾燥しているので、夏は過ごしやすいです。春に雨期が訪れるので日本のような梅雨がありません。冬は長く、たくさん雪が降ります。アメリカのある地域に比べると四季の移り変わりがはっきりしているので、それぞれ特徴ある季節を楽しめます。

時差はサマータイムの間は13時間、冬には14時間遅れ。日本時間から半日ひっくり返して1時間/2時間差し引くとこちらの時間になります。それから日本から一日遅れね。

このブログは基本的にはジャーナルです。日々の出来事やそれについて思ったことを徒然したためているといった感じ。日本の友人や家族への現状報告の場と言ったところ。電話やスカイプもいいけど、なかなか時間が折り合わなかったりするのでついついご無沙汰気味。ごめんね。ブログだとコメントを通してみんなで一緒にお話できそうでしょ。

日本語ポストは英語版の翻訳を目的にしたものではありません。もし英語ポストに興味があるようだったらお知らせください。翻訳版を掲載します。日本語ポストはすべて「日本語」のラベルがついているので、ラベルで検索してもらうと簡単に日本語のポストだけをインデックスできるはずです。

今年は渡米から12年を迎えます。アメリカ人の主人と来月13歳になる愛犬マリリンと一緒に1925年に建てられた家で郊外生活ーといえば聞こえがいいけど、ようは田舎暮らしーを楽しんでいます。部屋の模様替えや庭づくりの様子、ご近所さんとのおつきあいなんかが主な話題になります。12年も暮らしていると日本とアメリカ、両方の観点から結構いろいろなことが見えてきます。こちらで見つけたおいしいレシピなども追々掲載していくつもりなので、どうぞよろしく。

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Muscle Baking

Last weekend, I made cinnamon buns. I was not so satisfied with the outcome. They were not as soft as I expected. That was a kind of ok because they can be a little bit rustic. But, it could be better. What did I miss?

I love home made bread. It tastes different from commercial ones. It has a happy homey smell. Ironically, making bread is not so my thing. I don't like kneading. Kneading bread dough is a muscle job. I don't want any muscle on my arms. They don't need to get any bigger than they are. That's why a bread machine exists, right? Well, bread from a bread machine is not so appealing to me. I feel like it takes fun stuff away from me. I love getting my hands dirty. Some no-knead bread recipes at King Arthur Flour hooked me to home made bread. No-Knead Crusty White Bread is my favorite. Its rustic texture goes well with soups and stews. It kept me happy for a while, but I started thinking of Cynthia's soft rolls, which definitely requires kneading. She makes heavenly delicious rolls. I guess it's time to learn kneading.

I've held an apple butter rasin roll recipe for years thinking to try someday. Today is the someday.

This recipe has an egg, honey, yogurt and salad oil. I'm going to use a free range egg from Theresa. She cuts my hair. She and her husband have chicken in their yard. They sell their eggs to local restaurants. If I ask her in advance, she puts aside some for me. Their eggs are delicious. Their yolks are very bright. Their tough shells tell me the chickens are healthy and treated well. These are a kind of eggs you'd love to enjoy as simple sunny side, boiled eggs, plain omelet or flan.

I made an omelet the other day with those eggs. Even some milk was added, the mixture is still brighter than ones from grocery stores. Their price is more reasonable than so it called "organic" eggs at a farmer's market. Plus, they taste much better.

Anyway, milk, yogurt, egg, honey and salad oil mixture was added to yeast. I put flour and mixed, but it was pretty drippy. I kept mixing it, then it started getting together. It was ready to knead.

According to the recipe, I'm supposed to knead until the dough gets smooth for fifteen minutes. That is a quite exercise. Exercise is not my cup of tea.

After ten minutes, the dough looked smooth. I decided to move onto the next step. Actually, it was not as bad as my whining.

epicurious put a informational video for Kneading Bread Dough. It seems over-kneading doesn't make good bread either. You need to watch the texture.

First rise. It's supposed to be double the size. Today was not so hot, so I estimated it would take at least two hours. I got two hours free time for regular weekend chores such as cleaning.

I happened to take a picture of the bread dough of the cinnamon buns in this stage last week, which is the right one. The left is today's dough. The right one looks rough. I didn't knead it enough.

The rise is done. See how it turned big and puffy.

I led the air out from the dough, rolled out, spreaded apple butter, sprinkled walnuts and rasins, rolled them up, then sliced them up. Time for the second rise before baking.

Once the rising process is done, the rest of the steps are pretty quick. It seems that making bread takes a whole day, but it's not. Hands-on time is usually less than one hour. If you coordinate your day, you can do as much as you do normally making bread.

I followed the temperature in the recipe, but they turned too dark. A part of the cause could be the parchment paper.

The bread is nice and soft. Kneading is the key of bread's texture. It doesn't seem to be any easy way to get around it if you choose to work with your own hands. The labor is totally paid off. Even better, tomorrow's breakfast is ready.

Birding

I happened to capture a finch was landing on the feeder. I think it's pretty cool because it solved my mystery. I'd been wondering how they land on the feeder.

I used to have regular bird feeders, but they were destroyed by squirrels. They tore them apart. Well, no more food for them. I got this squirrel proof feeder. Unfortunately, at the same time, it also excludes big birds like cardinals. They hang out on the ground picking seeds fallen from the feeder with pegions.

When the old feeder was hung, cardinals often came over as a couple. They were at the feeder, a male picked seeds from the feeder and gave them to a female. That was a sweet picture. Then, the female took the seeds, then kept feeding herself. Oh well, the sweet picture just ends there. Now, I see the same picture on the ground around the feeder pole. Male birds sing and feed to females, but females take seeds, but completely ignore them. It's a tough world to males to get dates to cardinals no matter how beautiful the males are.

They are the regulars in my yard. A hummingbird and woodpeckers were flying into our house a couple of times. They lost and got panicked. I caught and released them. I realized how tiny and fragile they are. They just fit into my hand. I was so afraid that I would hurt them while I tried to catch them. They were amazing experiences to see them so close. After the incidents, we make sure the screen door is always closed. Birds are welcome, but we don't want them to get panic and hurt themselves while finding their way out.

We have big birds as well. Turkeys are a big party. Mamas take their babies and follow their routine everyday. Males show up individually.

We had a turkey vulture once though they are not welcome. He was huge. I'd never seen a vulture before. I thought that was a bold eagle. When these guys are around, some dead animals are near by. A good thing about them is they don't hunt. You don't want to see hunting in your own yard.

Right now, the yard is not so perfect to little birds. They get food, but the area is exposed. As my gardening project progresses, I hope they find some safe spots to hang out. I saw orioles in the neighborhood. I'd love to invite them to my yard. So, I just started putting grape jelly out. Let's see how it goes. In the little yard, there are many visitors to keep entertaining us. I just cannot help looking forward to finding any new comers-especially cute ones.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Taking off the Layers

It started with its broken door knob. The 80's shiny brass color knob had gotten losen quite often and also tighten up whenever it got to the point that the knob didn't function as a door knob.

The solution is replacing the knob. So, I got a new one. It was supposed to be an easy project. Once the old knob was removed, another problem was revealed. The area covered by the door knob plate had a different color from the rest of the door. Even worse, a piece of paint came off. The piece was thickness of card stock for a thin business card though that was only the top layer and there were more layers of colors left on the door. I kept peeling the layer to assess amount of work I need to put into. The assessment was extended to actual work. More I peel, more paint got lifted. As if it was saying "Peel me!" I kept going. I was not even using paint stripper. This is bad. I decided to scrape off any layers as long as it didn't requie any muscles. Two weekends later, this is what I got. Hope none of the layers are lead paint. Well, it's too late to say this though.

Originally, this door was finished with shellac which I found at the bottom of the layers. I don't know what made them to paint over the shellac, but that was a very bad decision. The door is supposed to be as beautiful as this one. The paint colors indicate when they got put on. I can see some nostalgic side, but it's an arts and crafts house. Exposing the beauty of woodwork is the style of arts and crafts. They shouldn't have touched any woodwork.

So, what I want to do is refinish this door with shellac in as close shade as the other door. Shellac is not just a pretty face. I found the article, Tips For Using Shellac, on the American Woodworker's web site. Cool stuff!

The door is ready to apply paint stripper. Thank God, it's only painted on one side. This makes my job much easier. I've been using Peel Away 6 which is biodegradable. I have to mention that this might not matter after use since it contains paint though I love to use and support eco friendly products. After all, as long as it contains paint, it doesn't seem to be good for the environment. Anyway, the most important thing to point out is this stuff works like a charm. No harsh smell or anything. It doesn't damage material's surface even it's plastic. I used it quite a lot to clean up my stencils when I worked on the dining room walls. Another thing I like about this product is easy clean-up.

I just found out it has been discontinued and replaced with Smart Strip. This is also biodegradable. Smart Strip has been in the market for at least 5 years now. In fact, I originally looked for Smart Strip, but couldn't find any at local stores. Then, I picked Peel Away 6 instead. If my left-over Peel Away 6 is not enough for the door, which is most likely, I'll try Smart Strip. It is interesting how it's better than Peel Away 6. Hopefully, all layers come off cleanly and the door has its original beauty back. I'm already crossing the fingers.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

domino

I love being home. Home is always my favorite place to be, and I hope it always stays that way.

Home is my sanctuary. It makes me feel safe, peaceful, relaxed, inspired, creative, excited, and most importantly happy. It's filled with my favorite things. I can do anything I want. If you have a such place, why don't you want to go anywhere else?

domino has been my favorite magazine. It was so heartbreaking when it was shut down. A couple months ago, I received its special edition out of blue. I was so excited to see it again. When I flipped a couple of pages, I was stunned with these words.

Home should make you happy. Those were the first words of domino's first issue, and they're the guiding principle of this special issue, too. We refuse to let a blank wall, boring floor, or chaotic kitchen stand between you and earthy bliss...

No wonder I love this magazine. What I'm aiming is as same as theirs. That's where "smitten home" comes from.

This issue has already inspired me for new projects. Their ideas stir up my head with confetti and fireworks. I take them in and bring out something more suitable to my taste and needs. Life should be fun. I make my life fun adding styles to it, and that makes me happy. It makes me think how I want to live. I care things are around me. Styles are not all about looking good. They are philosophies. Everybody has their own. They inspire each other and create something new. That's the beauty of styles.

Hope they publish a next issue of domino soon.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Summer Bloomings

There are many things at home make me look forward to coming home everyday. Especially this time around a year, there is always something going on (good and bad) in the yard. Flowers make me surprise and smile. When I get out to the yard, some unexpected colors in green catches my eyes. "Oh, you are finally blooming. Great job!" Especially when I find one recovered from Chuck's attack, I just cannot help getting excited.

Most of the perennials are having the first year this year. They are not as full as they are expected to be. But, as long as they have some blooming, they give me some home for next year. Even annuals could come back next year with more buddies. I just celebrate their first season with them and enjoy their colors and forms.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Wanted

Somebody has been enjoying free meals from my garden. Uh, it's not offered.

These are just a part of it. My radish, parsley and oregano were wiped out. The seedlings of basil and tomatoes were left little wimpy sticks, no leaves, a day before they were transplanted to the garden. Even chives got chopped off. Somebody must have had a stinky breath.

The viola don't look welcoming anymore... The welcome sign shows it even more sad.

Here is the source of the problem. On the border of the property, a woodchuck has been living for years. This is Mama. She had three babies last spring. Olga told me that she had another three this spring.

Chuck, one of her kids born last spring, settled in our yard. He made his home under the side porch. His house got great access to my herb garden. Appearlantly, he knew real estate is location, location, location. A house with free meals. Perfect for a bachelor patch. Since then, he'd been eating out of my garden.

Unfortunately to me, he was not a picky eater. He tried everything. Eggplants and even one of the lemons got his bite marks on. I couldn't make any pesto because of him last year.

Mama has been eating in Shirley and Nana's garden. She ate their zucchini flowers. That has been a headache to them. No flowers, no zucchinis.

These little chubby gangster family is the most wanted in the neighborhood. A funny thing is it seems they have some sense of territories even in the family. I've never seen Mama is in our yard, and Chuck is around the border where Mama's house is.

I googled natural ways to deter them from the gardens. I spent quite while looking through bottles in the pest control product aisle at the hardware store. To me, it's fine they hang around in the yard as long as they don't eat out of the gardens. They are welcome to eat grass in the yard. There are some clover patches, too. They are supposed to like clovers. But, Chuck kept eating in the garden. I tried hot pepper flake based repellent. This was a waste of money. It did nothing. FYI, it doesn't work to squirrels either. Thus, my seek for effective ways to keep Chuck away from my garden continued.

One day, I saw a woodchuck was laying in front of the fire hydrant at the front yard. His legs were stretched out. He was not moving at all. He was dead. It seems he got a hit by a car. It didn't take long to find out that was Chuck. My garden hasn't gotten any damages since then. But, I was upset. I felt terrible that he had a such ending. I didn't like he was eating out of my garden, but I don't think he deserves ending his life by hit by a car. He deserves completing the cycle of his life just like anybody.

After Chuck was gone, my strawberries were getting bigger. Niel warned me that bunnies love berries. Sure, bunnies visits my yard, too. It turned out I didn't need to worry about bunnies at all. They were waiting the berries get ripe. On the other hand, squirrels didn't. They picked green berries one by one everyday to check if they were ready or not. They left the bitten green berries around the fountain. Now, all berries are gone. None of them made it to red. Busterds!

Now, raspberries are turning red. Marilyn has been enjoying them as we find deep red ones. Let's see how many berries end up in our bellies.