Archive for August, 2008

The new oven

Thursday, August 14th, 2008

My mother will be intensely gratified to learn that my demon-possessed oven, which has previously misbehaved only in her presence, has finally shown its true colors to me.  Tuesday night, while I was cooking a little casserole for dinner, my eyes started to smart just a little, like they do when someone’s cutting up onions 3 houses away, or there’s a bit of smoke in the air.  My dish still had about 10 minutes to cook, but I went over to open the door.  Nothing was burned (YET!), but the bicuits on the top were getting pretty crispy, and the oven seemed awfully hot.  I tried turning the oven off, and nothing happened.  In fact, when rotating the temperature dial to try to find out what the actual temperature was, I heard the infamous “click” just below the “Broil” setting.  Joe turned off the circuit, which resolved the problem the last time this happened, six or seven years ago.  Not so this time.  As soon as the circuit came back on, the oven started up again.  Even today, a day later, it’s still doing it.  So, we went shopping for a new oven today.  It’s probably just a thermostat that needs to be replaced, or something, but I’ve been wanting a new one for a couple of years, so this gave us a good excuse.  It’s a dangerous fire hazard, after all!  And we’re going away for a few days next week, and I’d hate for my poor housesitter to burn the house down. 

Having been raised with gas cooktops, I always swore that’s what I was getting next.  But, I’ve read so much about gas ovens having problems, and my own mom has always preferred her electric oven, so what I really wanted was an electric oven with a gas cooktop.  Such things exist as stand-alone units these days.  They’re called dual-fuel ranges, and they’re highly rated and pretty highly expensive as well.  Apparently hard to find, too, because no one had them locally, even to look at.  So, I thought maybe I should just get a gas oven, too.  We studied them quite hard today, but virtually all gas cooktops have knobs mounted on the front of the oven, rather than up top the way electric cooktops do.  I suppose that’s so you don’t sear your arm with the flame while you’re lighting a burner.  I watched my kids gravitate toward those knobs like moths to a flame time and time again in the store, so I started to rethink the whole gas cooktop thing.  I think someday when I have a bigger house, or get to enlarge/remodel this one, I’ll have a separate cooktop and a wall oven like my mom does, but for now, we’re kind of stuck with a single unit.

So, we switched our interest to the electric ranges.  They’re a lot different than they used to be.  Thinking we would likely have this one for awhile, we decided to look at the mid-priced ranges.  It’s a whole new world to explore.  Sealed ceramic tops or the old open coils, dual-powered burners, convection oven or not, sealed baking elements …  It just went on and on.  We finally decided what color we wanted, and then looked at what seemed to be the best value for the money. 

We opted for a Samsung.  I quizzed our salesman at Lowe’s, who seemed to be very knowlegeable, and he said Samsung has been making large appliances since the 1950’s, typically selling them to Maytag.  When Whirlpool acquired Maytag, they no longer needed to contract with Samsung, so Samsung started to sell their applicances under their own brand.  They seem to be of good quality and reliability.  The one they had at Lowe’s was particularly feature-laden for the price, so we opted for that one.  Naturally, it wasn’t in stock, but none of the other stainless steel-fronted stoves were in stock at the store, either, so we didn’t have any option to bring one home today.  It should come in 3-5 days, though, as they are in stock at the nearest warehouse, wherever that is.  The salesman thought perhaps Sunday, so hopefully, we’ll get to pick it up Monday.  The installation will be much easier with the electric option, so we should be up and cooking shortly. 

We’ll be microwave-dependent for the next few days, and I won’t be able to bake a dessert for the Pastor’s going away party on Sunday (guess I’ll just have to buy one – drat!), but soon I’ll have no good excuses for not baking more.  I’ve pasted some data from the Samsung website about our new stove below – it’s a sealed surface ceramic top with 5 burners, a convection oven and sealed heating elements inside the oven for easy cleaning.  Pretty snazzy!  Grandma will be thankful that she doesn’t have to worry about burning the house down when she comes to visit next month!

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The trip to Ithaca

Friday, August 8th, 2008

Each summer, the Cornell Feline Health Center at the veterinary school hosts a continuing education meeting at the end of July with a focus on feline medicine.  I wish that I could do more focusing on feline medicine myself, so I try to attend this meeting whenever possible.  I think this is the third one I’ve been to since we moved up here. 

I took Joe and the kids, and we finally found a nice place to stay in Ithaca, after all these trips!  We really like the Courtyard by Marriott, and we highly recommend it to anyone traveling to Ithaca.  Big room with a separate bedroom with a king bed for Joe and I, and a sleeper sofa in the living area for the kids.  Nicely maintained small pool, too, just the right temperature.  No kiddy pool, but then again, it’s a hotel designed for business travelers, so I suppose we really couldn’t expect that.  Anna had a great time in the water there, and showed little fear even while out of her floatie.  Will, on the other hand, became a petrified stick out of his floatie, and completely resisted all my attempts to teach him the first thing about swimming on his own.  I’ll probably have to put him in a swimming class because he gets that “deer in the headlights” look every time I try to teach him something.  I am one scary mama, apparently.  No comments from the peanut gallery.

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08070803.jpg What’s a pirate’s favorite letter?  RRRRRrrrrrrrrr!

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On this, my n-th trip to Ithaca, I learned that there is a lovely waterfall right in the middle of downtown Ithaca.  I have no idea how I’ve missed it in all the driving around town I’ve done, but I did not know it was there until the headline speaker at my meeting showed a slide of it in his presentation.  Ithaca Falls are reported to be somewhere between 75 and 150 feet tall, depending on which website you look at, but they are pretty dramatic regardless of the stats. 

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08070811.jpg Please don’t climb on the guardrail 50 feet over the river!

08070812.jpg Do not drop your blankie down there; we are not going after it!

08070813.jpg Eh – waterfall, shmaterfall.  Big whoop.

On to Taughannock Falls in a state park a couple of miles out of town.  We arrived there after lunch, which Anna had to eat in the car because she tried to pull the fire alarm in the restaurant, and then tried to do it again immediately after I told her not to do that.  She was markedly unrepentant, and she was definitely on the wrong side of her mama for quite a while since I had to eat my lunch in the car, too.  It took her a long time to apologize, but she finally did, and we were able to get on with our day.

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A 3/4 mile hike was required to view these falls.  It was kind of cool, following a wide, flat, stone riverbed all the way to the falls.  We didn’t have our river shoes with us, but it would have been fun to walk all the way to the falls in the shallow river itself.  It was too slippery with moss to walk in your bare feet.

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Of course, the highlight of that hike was getting back to the main park area where there was a nice playground.  Anna made it through a few things before melting down again, but it was a rough day for her.  She’s more temperamental than Will, so everything is more dramatic for her at this point.  Will’s a tough little bugger; he did that mile and a half of hiking with fewer complaints than any of us, including his “broken” baba, who had to carry the princess for much of the walk!

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The trip to the beach

Wednesday, August 6th, 2008

I hope that I’m not going to live the rest of my life a month behind, but I suppose that’s a distinct possibility.  In fact, a year from now I might be looking back, and saying, “I wish I was only a month behind now!” 

In any case, last month we packed up and took a 2 day trip to the southern Maine coast town of Wells.  We went there last summer as well.  The place we stayed last year wouldn’t allow only a 2 night stay, so we stayed at a condo hotel next door.  It wasn’t quite as lux, but it was huge!  We had a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom apartment with a full kitchen.  I think it might have been bigger than our house.

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The next day we headed to the beach.  We like to access it through the Wells Estuarine Reserve at Laudholm farm.  It involves about a half mile hike through a wooded, swampy area, but we end up on a beautiful, uncrowded stretch of public beach right in front of some of the pricier beachfront mansions. 

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Last year, Anna was a water baby.  This year, Will was fascinated by the ocean.

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Anna, however, spent most of our time at the beach doing this:

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She has begun a phase where she’s afraid that we’re all going to be separated, and we have to stay together.  She also worries about leaving home, and you’ll often hear her little voice sigh from the back seat of the car, “We’re NEVER going to get home!”, even when we’re just going to the store.  On this occasion, she was a bit afraid of the ocean, and she was petrified that we were too far away from our towel up higher on the beach.  When she and I headed back to the towel, then she became terrified that Baba and Will were too far away from us, so she couldn’t settle down until they left the water and came to sit with us.  We spent some time building sand castles, and drinking juice, and driving our boat around in the sand:

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It wasn’t until the irrepressible urge to throw rocks overcame her fear that I could convince her to go back toward the water.  That, and the fact that Mama made it into a competition with her brother to see who could throw their rocks the farthest.  Not much of a contest; they both insisted on picking up bowling ball-sized boulders, so they rarely actually made it to the water.  But, then we were brave enough to put our feet in the water again, and soon we were jumping through the waves as they came to shore.

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We had enough fun to plan a 5 day trip back to Wells at the end of this month.  Our favorite hotel has a bit of a discounted rate, so we’re going to take advantage of that.  We’ll see if Anna can get to the water a little sooner next time.