Friday, 12 August 2016

Friday 12th August - Barn Raising!

We spent last summer researching a replacement shed, as the old shed and garage had been demolished back in The first months of 2015.

We eventually made our choice,, ordered it, and took delivery in October 2016. To cut a long story short - an 18-month-long story - we set to yesterday starting at 9am, and finished, all bar a couple of extra brackets which he is installing even as I type), and finishing just after 5pm.

A lot of preparation had been going on over the intervening months. The slap has a 9 inch slope in one directions, and a couple of inches in the other direction, so we have built a supporting framework of stout timbers mounted on adjustable feet. That took several months or researching options, choosing, ordering, taking delivery, measuring, measuring, measuring and building. Worth it: the foundations are rock steady, and there is no movement at all when you move around. That was as far as we got way back in the spring.

What with one thing and another it's been an eventful and exhausting year, so progress was slow. We were waiting for a particular combination of circumstances: time, weather, fitness, family health issues, to all be reliably in our favour for a dependable number of days.

As we had ordered the version made with thicker, rather than standard panels, we had to work out how we were going to manage to move, raise, and steady the panels with just us two. Each panel would have to be positioned correctly on the base, which meant lifting them nine inches or so, and then balancing them on the very edge of the base. In order to minimize the risk of having your feet broken by a panel suddenly dropping off the base, we bought 8 concrete blocks to set down immediately beside the edge we were working on, to catch the panel. Good thing too; this did happen a couple of times.

 He also pre-drilled all the pilot holes over the course of a few days, so that I wouldn't have to hold the panel up for any longer than necessary. He also constructed a couple of cross-braces, which could be fixed in seconds, to support the heavier panels.

We sized up the job on Wednesday, and decided that 11am was too late to start, to we put it off until Thursday.

The first snag we hit was that I was nowhere near strong enough to support the main rear panel for long enough for Nelson to secure the brace. Had we fallen at the first hurdle? Nope: I got a crash course into how to work the electric screwdriver, so that I could whop in the screws while Nelson held the panel. With the temporary strut it in place, it was no problem to secure the panel properly.

The side panels are massively lighter, and I had no problem balancing it upright. This was all very encouraging. Our next door neighbour appeared to "see what all the bustle was about". Great! "Have you got time to give us a hand?" "Sure!" was his reckless reply. He was only filling in time before going off to have a tooth out in half an hour or so.

With his help the heavy front panel was no problem for me at all (I didn't even need to assist). After he left to go to the dentist (I like to think that we helped take his mind off things while he was waiting) we got the roof panels on. There was a little delay in fixing the felt - part of the prep work had been cutting the hedge at the bottom of the garden the day before, so that we could extricate the step ladders, which now needed serious WD40 before they would condescend to function.

However, by lunchtime, the felt was on, and he was able to use the position the concrete blocks in their final place, to make the steps.

And here it is - the completed building, with window boxes and fancy carved eaves. We have opted not to add the decorative, but non-functional, shutters at this stage. There is "sweetly pretty", and then there is "insufferably twee". One has to have a little taste and discernment in these matters. 

The next task is to sort out and tidy that great conglomeration of assorted garden stuff, and useful bricks, sticks, buckets and whatnot that is visible behind the shed. 

He's back now; so the extra brackets are on to make sure that our shed roof never gets delusions of being an glider in high winds.

Another job done.

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Thursday 4th August - Snails, Scones, etc

Yesterday we opened the bedroom curtains and saw this:

I remember when we lived in our first house, a neighbour was alarmed to find a snail track going all the way up to her bedroom window. Back in them thar days of yesteryear, double glazing hadn't happened and we all had old fashioned, badly fitting, near-original sash windows that rattled in the wind and would all to easily let a snail in through the gaps.

We had a window cleaner who came when he pleased (rather like the one we have now), but as each house only had two windows at the front, and there was no way through to the back for the other two windows, he was very cheap. As far as I can remember, we used to leave a 10p coin on the bedroom windowsill and he used to collect it when he cleaned the windows. Forty years later, our window cleaner charges £10, which is fair as he has 9 windows including the french windows and two bays.

In "Anne of Green Gables" and the "Little House" books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, they constantly eat "biscuits and gravy". What kind of biscuits, I wondered, (thinking of digestives, ginger-nuts, shortbread) and how could they ever be any good with gravy?

A week or so ago I had more yogurt than I could sensibly eat, so googled for "biscuit recipes using yogurt". I didn't have any eggs, so cake wasn't an option. That's when I discovered that they think scones are biscuits on the other side of the Atlantic.

The recipe I followed came out more like plain muffins in texture than anything else. They tasted fine while they were warm - good with cheese or honey, but became rather stodgy as they cooled.

Today, I found myself in the "too-much-yogurt-but-no-eggs" situation again. This time I went for drop scones, experimenting with the "measure it all out with the yogurt cup method.

I would say that it was a success, judging by the fact there are none left for a photoshoot.

Tip out a carton of yoghurt (in this case, Yeo Valley Greek yogurt)  into a mixing bowl. Add a tablespoon of sugar (I used brown) and two cartons of self-raising flour (that comes to about 4 ounces). Then add two cartons of milk, and mix together. I would hold back on some of the milk, just in case you don't need it all, ad be ready to add a little extra milk if necessary, to get the consistency of very-thick-only-just-pouring-custard.

Heat a thick non-stick frying pan on a medium heat, and grease lightly. Drop tablespoons of mixture in the pan, wait until you see bubbles rising through the batter, and turn. They should be "golden brown" - that means anything between pale blonde and oops-that's-a-bit-dark when I'm making them.

Use a fish slice to extract them from the pan and cool on a rack. I say "cool", but we always eat them wen they are warm. This amount should make around 10 drop scones. Five each. Perfect.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Tuesday 2nd August - This'n'that

I've spent most of today switching between watercolour painting and practising the first Goldberg Variation.

It works like this: I paint in a wash of colour, but then it has to dry completely before the next step. So, I just turn round,

and get to grips with the next bit of Bach. That distracts me from trying to carry on with the painting too soon. 

I'm messing about with watercolours - something that I keep returning to every couple of years. My mother tried to get me interested in acrylics, but I just didn't like the gloopy feel of the paint. Watercolours have a surprising congruence with playing the harpsichord which I wasn't expecting. It's all about the precision of articulation and phrasing, balancing the tone, leaving clear space between colours and sounds. There's a lot of work to be done on both the painting and playing.

I've tripped across a website where every week they put up a list of ten words to react to;  

The game is to follow each word with whatever comes into you mind first.

If you want to have a go, without being contaminated by my answers, stop reading now, as my responses are below.

I'll just fill in the space with the explanation from the website. You can take it with as much salt as you please.

"Free association is described as a "psychoanalytic procedure in which a person is encouraged to give free rein to his or her thoughts and feelings, verbalizing whatever comes into the mind without monitoring its content". Over time, this technique is supposed to bring forth repressed thoughts and feelings that the person can then work through to gain a better sense of self.

That's an admirable goal, but for the purposes of this exercise, we're hoping to have a little fun with the technique. Each week I'll post ten words to which you can respond to with the first thing that comes to mind.

Rules? There are no rules. There are no right or wrong answers. Don't limit yourself to one word responses; just say everything as it pops into your head."

Product Details

Here are my replies:

Substandard - Not there yet
Rude - Mechanicals
Equality - not to be grasped at
Smile! - no
Presidential? - Like Trump?
Fish - nor fowl
Cloudy - Rather pleasant little piano piece by Christopher Norton that I'm teaching at the moment called "Cloudy Day"
Wondering - maybe
Thought - deep
Calculator - articulation