Monday, May 31, 2004

Boxes and leaks

(Originally posted on Monday, May 31, 2004 by Cathy)

Well, we filled a ton of boxes this weekend. All of the books, most of the games, and too many knick-knacks. I didn't realize we had so much kitsch!

Meanwhile, we've been living without water again today, trying to plug the leak behind the water heater. We'd tried plumber's goop and reduced it to a very slow trickle, but never got it stopped, a few weeks ago.

So today we turned the water off, got the pipe as dry as we could, and tried a solid epoxy that's supposed to glom onto copper. Well, it was hard to work with, and had no affinity whatsoever for copper. First application leaked. Next two patches - still leaked. Yuck. The problem is that the pipe is low to the concrete in the garage, so it's still got a bit of residual water pushing out. That's why the goop failed, and the epoxy stuff didn't care to stick enough to have a chance anyway. Oh, and we don't want to solder (the obvious first choice) because it's BEHIND the water heater, inches from the gas supply line (which has of course no shut-off between it and the gas meter). Even without that gas pipe, I don't think there's enough room to solder without possibly setting my hair on fire, thanks to the utility sink. There're two ways to access the pipe. For semi-two handed access to one side, laying sideways with most of one's body under the utility sink, reaching around the back leg of the utility sink, resting one's head on the gas line. From the other side, wedging one's upper torso between the wall, the water heater, and the grounding wire from the furnace to the water line gives one-handed access, more or less.

Ugh. We're going to call a plumber, who will likely want to MOVE the water tank, which is on two concrete blocks and weighs enough even EMPTY to make it difficult for two people to lift it. Gonna be a fun week. :P

Sunday, May 30, 2004

Why moving to our new house will be sort of like Christmas

(Originally posted on Sunday, May 30, 2004 by Cathy)

  1. At Christmas, there is wrapping paper and boxes everywhere. When we move in, there will be packing paper and boxes everywhere. Probably for longer than for Christmas.

  2. We're going to open up the walls and see what we find. Sort of like opening packages to see what's inside, only different somehow.

  3. There will be blinking and flickering lights, and possibly some overloaded circuits. Unlike Christmas, the lights will likely not be pretty colors.

  4. We'll look at our credit card statements for several months afterwords and wonder what we were thinking.

  5. There will not be prancing, but there will most certainly be pawing. And there will definitely be clatter out on the lawn.

  6. Not so sure about ashes and soot, but high probability of dust.

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Tandoori Tofu and Vegetables

(Originally posted on Saturday, May 29, 2004 by Tim)

As Cathy already posted, we are making tandoori tofu tonight. It smells wonderful, but feels like a cheating. The tandoori marinade is yogurt and "commercial tandoori marinade". It's the sort of recipe that has me trapped in the ethnic foods aisle of the grocery store for about a half an hour. The first 15 minutes is spent trying to find the tandoori related liquids and pastes. After that there is the required agonizing over what is closest to "commercial tandoori marinade". Is it "Paul Newman's Tandoori Ranch Salad Dressing" or "Texas Bob's Fire Hot Barby-Q Tandoori Sauce". In the end I settled on "Neera's Spicy Tandoori Indian Grilling Paste" because it had "spicy" in the name, and because it was manufactured in the Indian culinary center of the universe, Prescott Arizona.

Tandoori Tofu and Vegetables
2/3 cup "Commercial Tandoori Marinade"
1 cup plain yogurt
12-16 oz. firm or firmer tofu cut into 1/2 inch squares
1 medium eggplant sliced into 1/2 inch rounds
1 green pepper cut into 2 inch squares
1 red pepper cut into 2 inch squares
1 medium red onion cut into 8 wedges
1/4 lb button mushrooms
1 pint cherry tomatoes

Mix the "Commercial Tandoori Marinade" and the plain yogurt. Add the tofu to this mixture and marinade overnight in the refrigerator or for several hours at room temperature.

Remove the tofu from the marinade and set aside. Toss the eggplant rounds in the marinade and allow them to sit for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 450oF

Remove the eggplant from the marinade and set aside. Coat peppers, onion wedges, button mushrooms, and cherry tomatoes in remaining marinade (there will not be too much marinade left for this).

Place the tofu and vegetables on baking sheets that have been sprayed with PAM. Arrange all pieces so that they are not touching each other (this took me three baking sheets). Put loaded sheets in oven and bake for 10 minutes. Flip tofu and vegetables and bake for an additional 10 minutes. Serve hot with brown rice.

This meal was tasty, but the flavor was very similar to a tofu satay recipe that I have yet to post. I'll probably make the tofu satay in the future because that recipe is slightly better and doesn't require "commercial tandoori marinade". The official recipe for this meal has you grilling the tofu and vegetables on skewers. If you're a fan of grilling on skewers, it works great on them as well. I just don't feel I get enough of a difference in taste with the grill attachment on our oven to make it worth the additional cleaning time.

OMG, a recipe! (Potato and Kale Stew with Corn Dumplings)

(Originally posted on Saturday, May 29, 2004 by Cathy)

No photo of this one, since it's somewhat of an ugly duckling. (We're not actually making this tonight, we're making experimental tandoori tofu, more on that later)

1 c cornmeal
1/2 c white flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
5 tbsp cold butter (substitution probably unwise)
1/3 cup skim milk
1 egg, beaten

Mix the solid ingredients in a food processor, then cut in the butter. Add milk and egg and run the food processor until the dough just sticks together. Chill. Form into 1 inch balls.

8 cups veggie stock
12 large garlic cloves (or more!)
1/2 c sherry or cheap-o white wine
2 bay leaves
1 tsp ground coriander
1 fresh jalapeno pepper, with or without seeds, chopped into rings
2 large potatoes, in 1/2 inch cubes
3 large carrots in 1/2 inch pieces
3 cups kale - stemmed and chopped into edible chunks
3 tbsp cornmeal
1/4 c cream
1 tomato, chopped
1/4 c chopped cilantro
1/2 t salt (more or less depending on saltiness of stock)
lots of black pepper
1 tbsp sacred substance

Bring stock, garlic, cheap wine, bay leaves, coriander, and jalapeno to a simmer for 10 minutes. Drop in dumplings and simmer until they rise (5 mins?) and a minute or two longer. Scoop out the dumplings, put escaped garlic cloves back into the pot. Eat any broken/smooshed/asymetric dumplings, remembering that most of them are needed for the recipe later on.

Put the potatoes, carrots, and kale into the pot, simmer partly-covered until the potatoes are almost tender.

Sprinkle the cornmeal over the mixture, and add the cream. Cook another minute.

Stir in the tomato and carefully add the dumplings, again eating any defective dumplings. Simmer for a few minutes to allow any remaining dumplings to warm up, then add the cilantro, salt, pepper, and lime juice.

Tick... tick.... tick...

(Originally posted on Wednesday, May 19, 2004 by Tim)

Things are going better today - I have a quote for insurance that's very reasonable, only stipulation is that we have to finish the electrical within 30-60 days. 60 is doable, particularly if we book right out of here when classes end.

The seller got a lower quote for radon mitigation, and we agreed to a credit for that amount. So it looks like (barring mortgage issues - knock on wood) we're set here.

The lender and our real estate agent both asked today if we'd chosen a lawyer. Lawyer? Urp. A detail I'd missed. Anyway, looks like we're set up with the lawyer Jessica used, so that should be covered. I think...

Trying to close on a house without being there is certainly interesting. Last time, Tim at least was in the area, and some of the issues were easier since that house was a quarter the age of this one. Plus doing this with a 3 hour time zone offset is a big difference. I'm usually swamped with classes and students in the morning, but then by the time I get a breather in the afternoon, everyone back on the East coast is leaving for the day. This morning, the phone rang at 5:15am - the agent who'd said he'd call us back "first thing in the morning" apparently meant HIS morning, not ours! *Sigh*

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Survey - it's ok :)

(Originally posted on Thursday, May 27, 2004 by Cathy)

Turns out that the survey we have from '87 is fine, as the road was widened before that. The '87 survey just hadn't been filed with the town, so the attorney was looking at a much older document.

There is some risk that the city could decide to widen the road again in the future, munching more of our (already small) front yard, but apparently that's unlikely with the new bypass.

Still all systems go go go...

Stove pondering

(Originally posted on Thursday, May 27, 2004 by Cathy)

Not like we don't have a million other things to think about, but I'm having fun thinking about what to do with the kitchen. Some of the 1920's and 30's vintage stoves are REALLY cute. The question is, what do we do for a fridge? There are companies that make pseudo-50's fridges, but that's a few decades off, and they're pricy! I haven't found anyone making monitor-top fridges, although there is a company or two that restores old ones. Other options: built in fridge hiding behind a cabinet panel, white fridge and just ignore it, or...?

More stove pictures: 1, 2, 3


(Originally posted on Thursday, May 27, 2004 by Cathy)

Our boxes showed up, only slightly damp. (Ah, Seattle liquid sunshine.) Now we "just" have to put stuff into them :)

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

now what?

(Originally posted on Tuesday, May 25, 2004 by Cathy)

Waiting to hear back from the attorney - apparently he wants the property surveyed, some worry about where the house is relative to the road? We've got a copy of a survey from '87, but the road has been widened (twice?) since then.

Worry worry... waiting for a call tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Insurance blues

(Originally posted on Tuesday, May 18, 2004 by Cathy)

UGH. If I had a nickel for each time today an insurance agent has told me that they'll be delighted to write a policy after we fix the wiring in the house and remove the buried tank, I'd have enough money to self insure.

How the heck are we supposed to close on the house so that we can DO the wiring work, if we can't get a policy until AFTER we've done the work? Huh? Inquiring minds would really like to know.

I finally talked to someone at Allstate who was helpful enough to point out that Virginia has sort of a last-recourse insurance plan, that isn't very expensive, and that every agent is required to sell it. (And none of the first 5 people I talked to bothered to mention it??) It's about double what insurance on a new house would cost, but it's tolerable. And then Allstate can have our business once we become insurable, since they have at least one agent who doesn't SUCK.

I like Christiansburg

(Originally posted on Tuesday, May 18, 2004 by Cathy)

Full points for informative webpage on what you can and can't do without a permit. Unfortunately, they missed the opportunity for extra credit - providing a way to contact them by email.

Nope, I'm an idiot. It's right there on their front page, I just didn't see it. And they read and answer email, too! A+++

More insurance fun

(Originally posted on Tuesday, May 18, 2004 by Cathy)

Here's another fun one - I had an agent I'd left a message this AM call me back and quote me a super low rate. (Lower than Amica's quote before they found out about the wiring and tank.)

I said: "...and you got in my message that there's knob and tube wiring and an underground tank?"

He said: "Underground tanks are no problem - they're really common in this area."

("Ok," I thought, "that's not super inconsistent with what some other companies have said, they're mostly having issues with the wiring.")

I said: "And the knob and tube wiring?"

He said: "What's that?"

I said: "Vintage 1920's wiring? Probably original to the house? Any problem with that?"

He said: "Umm. I'll have to call you back."

He hasn't.

Good tank news

(Originally posted on Tuesday, May 18, 2004 by Cathy)

The house has an underground oil tank. That's scheduled to change, since we don't want the headaches from the insurer and since the rules and regulations on tanks could change at any point, leaving us with a mess. But in the meantime, we had someone check out the tank today, and it's dry inside (contains no water, lotsa oil), so it's probably not leaking. That's good news, means we shouldn't have any mitigation/clean up issues when we get it removed.

Monday, May 17, 2004


(Originally posted on Monday, May 17, 2004 by Cathy)

The radon test on the house came back too high, so we're asking the sellers to do some radon mitigation or drop the price to cover the cost of us doing it. The good news is it's pretty cheap (under $2k) and the EPA says that the method that the contractor recommended almost always gets an 80-99% reduction in levels. The house is at 10 pCi/L and 4 pCi/L is the action level, so that should get it down no problem.

(Aside: Apparently radon mitigation normally runs $800-1200, but there's a big spot in the basement that is dirt, not concrete, so first they have to pour a concrete slab. Kudos to our realtor for getting an estimate on the price to fix it - I was going to ask for less.)

The radon stuff is interesting - apparently you can't just ventilate the house and deal with the problem - you get a chimney effect where the house sucks more radon out of the ground if you do. Instead, they do sub-slab depressurization, where they put some pipes under the basement slab and run a pipe up the above the roof, where there's a fan providing a little bit of suction. Radon goes up the pipe, instead of through cracks and into the house.

Possible kitchen idea

(Originally posted on Monday, May 17, 2004 by Tim)

We both like this one.

Huh. How did I get logged in as Tim?? --Cathy

Friday, May 14, 2004

Kitchen ideas

(Originally posted on Friday, May 14, 2004 by Cathy)

Pondering what to do with the kitchen - I mean, after we put holes in all the walls to rewire it, and maybe redo the plumbing while we have the holes... Should we go vintage?

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

More photos!

(Originally posted on Wednesday, May 12, 2004 by Cathy)

There are more photos of Modi's new house in the photo album.

Monday, May 10, 2004

A New House for Modi

(Originally posted on Monday, May 10, 2004 by Cathy)

The picture doesn't really do the house justice - it's nice red brick, despite the appearance of the photo.

Back Porch

(Originally posted on Monday, May 10, 2004 by Cathy)

Here's where dogs will whine to come in, three minutes after going out.


(Originally posted on Monday, May 10, 2004 by Cathy)

This room is upstairs somewhere (we think)!

Side note: The house is unoccupied, but obviously still has furniture??

Side note from 2008: nope, that's the downstairs sunroom.

Living Room

(Originally posted on Monday, May 10, 2004 by Cathy)

A spot for flopping in front of the fireplace.


(Originally posted on Monday, May 10, 2004 by Cathy)

This is where Sam, TY, and Modi will stand when they want to bark at the UPS guy.

New Yard

(Originally posted on Monday, May 10, 2004 by Cathy)

Modi's new yard is huge - 1.2 acres. Either dogs need to eat more grass, or we're gonna have to get a flock of goats.