Thursday, September 30, 2010

California Trip Cancelled

Good News! I don't have to drive down to California to pick up my new prosthetic. UPS delivered it today!

I was planning to visit next week, but when I called for an appointment, the prosthetist told me he'd be out of town. Then I told him the next time I could visit would likely be the end of October. So, he basically gave up and shipped it to me! Yeah!

Though, unfortunately, now we need to figure out how to go get the bird child. Maybe Thanksgiving week because most of my classes have been cancelled that week. =)

This morning, I realized I had so much homework, I needed a way to keep track of it, so I made myself a spreadsheet. I went through all my syllabi and entered all the reading and homework assignments I could find. It was more than a page-long; 65 lines to be exact. And this doesn't even include homework that has yet to be assigned. I am keeping busy these days!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Busy Weekend

On Saturdays, I have two paralegal classes, from 10AM to 4PM, with no break between them. And with PCC's new American Bar Association-certification, they really aren't letting students out of class early. Jeff also has his Organic Gardening class from 9AM to 4PM, so we're both busy all day. (Poor Shasta.)

Yesterday afternoon, Jeff's high school friend, Erik Hendrickson, arrived in town. He is visiting down from Seattle this weekend. Jeff and Erik seem to be planning to play games and cook all weekend. I'm looking forward to the truffles they're currently working on. Pictures will surely follow.

Yesterday evening, while Erik and Jeff were catching up, I spent the whole evening dealing with outstanding paperwork. I packaged up the taxes to go out on Monday. I filled out our voter registrations. I took care of some address changes. I wrote a couple of letters on matters I really needed to take care of. (I keep getting delinquency notices from California for our vehicles despite the fact we registered them up in Oregon—I'm trying to get those cleared up.)

Today, I spent all day doing school work. I'm guessing spending most of my free time on school work is going to get pretty old. So far, it's taking me two or three hours for every hour I'm in class, so it's looking like it's going to be somewhere between 36 and 48 hours a week to keep up. It's definitely going to reduce my hobby time. Getting a job might just end up being a welcome relief; less work, more income. =)

I cannot believe it's Sunday evening and I have class already tomorrow morning. Luckily the homework is done. This week I'm caught up. Next will be another matter, because I still have to drive down to California.

My current plan is to head down to California a week from tomorrow, right after class. Then I'll have to drive back to Oregon on Friday, because I cannot miss the 2 classes on Saturday. I really need to try and get ahead this week, since I'm going to lose 5 days of study time. Sigh.

Friday, September 24, 2010

2009 Taxes Done...

...with over two weeks to spare before the extension filing deadline! =)

Actually, I'm a little embarrassed I didn't finish them earlier in the summer. It really only took me about 20 minutes of inputting values for non-cash donations and clicking the option for the Homebuyers Tax Credit and then a few more minutes to run the review functions in Turbo Tax and I was done!

Printing, on the other hand, took much longer. I've spent about 2 hours feeding paper into the printer because I didn't buy a printer with duplex and I don't want to print single-sided. Yes, I still print my returns and mail them. When they make e-filing FREE, I will e-file. I absolutely refuse to PAY to make the government's job easier.

Frankly, I'm at a loss for how the printout of the returns for our records needs to be 66 pages! We have practically no deductions, no businesses, and we pretty much only enter W-2s and 1099s. Crazy. I don't print all the extra worksheets because I have never needed them. I just print copies of the returns we file which still exceeds 30 pages double-sided.

Thanks to the First-Time Homebuyers Tax Credit we are getting a nice refund. While technically it's a refund, I am simply applying the refund to 2010's taxes which are going to be REALLY BAD. Jeff had to sell all his outstanding options when he left his job. Yeah for Apple options, but our income taxes will be a bummer. Hopefully they pulled out enough taxes when he sold the stock—they kept half of all proceeds when the stock was sold—but I'm not going to count on it.

In other news, Jeff drove out to Cornelius to pick up our quarter of a grass-fed cow/?steer. Our freezer is nicely stocked now for the winter. There will be lots of stews in the crockpot, I suspect, with us so busy in school.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Moving Up In the World

Today we are finally moving from the basement bedroom up to the upstairs Master Bedroom. Though we spent a few nights up there earlier in the month, today we are actually moving for the season. I'm packing up whatever cool weather clothes we have down there and pretty much whatever stuff we might need between now and next June.

I'm getting impressed with the quality of education at Portland Community College. The teachers are assigning a tremendous amount of coursework as compared to the community colleges in California. Even Jeff made a comment about how much work he is being assigned "at a community college." It sounds like we'll be busy the next 12 weeks doing school work!

I guess I'd better look at my task list and figure out what needs to be done before December and try and get non-school stuff done ASAP, before the coursework gets really heavy around midterm time.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Making Pear Butter

We found this recipe for Caramel Spice Pear Butter over a decade ago, and Jeff just loves it!

We found a good deal on pears at Grocery Outlet last week so today we're making a batch of pear butter because I'm pretty sure we've gone through everything we had in our pantry.

Here is the recipe for anyone else who might be interested; from Sunset Home Canning, 1993 edition:

Caramel Spice Pear Butter

Caramelized sugar and a trio of sweet spices lend this fragrant pear butter its distinctive flavor. It's perfect for cool-weather breakfasts; try it on hot toast or English muffins.

7½ pounds (about 15 large) firm-ripe Bartlett pears
2 cups water
6 cups sugar
1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Core pears, but do not peel them. Slice pears and place in a heavy-bottomed 8- to 10-quart pan. Add water; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Then reduce heat to low, cover and cook until pears are tender when pierced (about 30 minutes). Let cool slightly, then whirl in a food processor, a portion at a time, until finely chopped. Return to pan.

Place 1½ cups of the sugar in a wide frying pan. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until sugar carmelizes to a medium-brown syrup. Immediately pour syrup into a pan with chopped pears (syrup will sizzle and harden, but dissolve again as the mixture cooks). Stir in remaining 4½ cups sugar, cinnamon, cloves and ginger until well blended.

Bring mixture to a boil over medium high heat, stirring. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, stirring often, until thickened (about 45 minutes); as mixture thickens, reduce heat and stir more often to prevent sticking. Stir in lemon juice just before removing from heat.

Ladle hot pear butter into hot, sterilized half-pint jars, leaving ¼-inch headspace. Wipe rims and threads clean; top with hot lids, then firmly screw on bands. Process in boiling water canner for 5 minutes. Or omit processing and ladle into freezer jars or freezer containers, leaving ½-inch headspace; apply lids. Let stand for 12 to 24 hours at room temperature; freeze or refrigerate. Makes about 9 half-pints.

Storage time. Processed: Up to 1 year. Unprocessed: Up to 1 month in refrigerator; up to 1 year in freezer.

Per tablespoon: 45 calories, 0 g protein, 12 g carbohydrates, 0 g total fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 0 mg sodium

It's a lot of work, but well worth it in Jeff's opinion. =)

We usually reduce the sugar; today we're trying 4 cups total. We've found jams and butters to be plenty sweet with sugar reduced by up to ½ the recipe calls for. I've also successfully tried substituting Splenda for sugar, but we're not doing that today. We have a lot of sugar on hand so I'm trying to reduce that oversupply.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Finishing class: Glossing over the last day

The last day of our finishing class was an opportunity to see the results of our prep work pay off (or our foibles and inattentions amplified as the case may be).

With out of town guests on the way, Sharon decided to leave it to me (Jeff) to wrap things up which is why I am stunt-blogging here today.

The final steps involved

  • Sanding with either 400- then 600-grit and then a pad of 0000 steel wool, or for the hand rubbed finishes just skipping to the steel wool.
  • Wiping the finish down with a clean cotton cloth to remove the grit from sanding.
  • If desiring a high-gloss finish, buff with a rubbing compound — lots of elbow grease required!
  • Apply a quick light coat of wax (place a daub in a cotton cloth and fold up into a pad for an even coat)
  • Once the wax has set up after a couple minutes, buff with a cloth — more elbow grease

  • Overall, it was a good way to get some exercise and it was remarkable how much it helped to make the pieces look fantastic. It also became clear anywhere you skimped on the prep work.

    Back to School

    I started back to school this morning. I'm currently enrolled for 4 paralegal classes at Portland Community College, though I am hoping to add one more, for a total of 15 units this quarter. It's looking like it may just be a very busy schedule.

    I met with the department chair a couple of weeks ago and he went over what classes he would transfer from my California course work and I have to repeat Ethics and the advanced Legal Research and Writing. I guess they're different in Oregon! =) I also learned, at that meeting, I'll have to take 30 units in residence at PCC to get my degree/certificate there. So, I'm hoping if I can manage 15 units a quarter, I can finish in two quarters.

    I can easily come up with 15 units this quarter, but I still might not be able to finish next quarter if they don't offer the specific classes I need to complete the program. I'm hoping I'll get lucky and be able to finish, otherwise I'll be taking classes until next June.

    This morning I had the Ethics class. The instructor, Steven Taylor, JD, is going to work our be-hinds off. It looks like he is going to cover a lot of material in the next 12 weeks and assign a LOT of homework. I am definitely going to have to work harder this quarter than I'm used to.

    In another couple of weeks, I'm really going to be wishing that I got around to finishing the 2009 taxes this summer. Come to think of it, I really should try and get them done this week. We are so close—I think we just need to add our house tax credit and tax deductible donations. Hopefully this week...

    Saturday, September 18, 2010

    Dads are Awesome!

    My father and stepmother arrived Friday afternoon and we've been busy ever since! My Dad is a champion fixer and it's been great to have him help us figure out the right hardware bits to buy and to have him here to install it!!

    On Friday evening he fixed the main floor toilet—its chain was broken and it didn't flush. Also, most of the lights in the room were broken—we were down to one flickering fluorescent tube. So Saturday morning we went off shopping for several hours. Then he went right to work when we got back. We still need to do some sheetrock repair and some painting, but here is the before and after in the tiny main floor bathroom.

    (That medicine cabinet is a cheapo $99 Home Depot special but it fit in our tiny 14.5" hole we had in the wall and is better than what was there. It will do for now.)

    He also installed grab bars, a removable shower head and a towel ring in the upstairs bathroom. And he repaired the rattling fan in the ceiling—yeah, it's much quieter now.

    He was also going to rekey our locks for us, but I told him we had the wrong brand of locks and he didn't bring the right pin kit. Dang. Next time, maybe.

    Tomorrow we're going to try and run Cat-5 wiring down to our home theater in the basement. Dads are so Awesome!

    Thursday, September 16, 2010

    Too Cute!

    I ordered a purple hoodie (from the Sears website) for Shasta and we received it today! She is too cute in it!

    Finishing Class: Glazing Over

    Today in class was another slow day. The weather has been a bit damp and the finishes just weren't drying fast enough.

    Today's lesson was: Glazing!

    Glazing is a technique where you add gel stain into the profile detail to make it look more antique. It was amazing to watch! You apply it thickly and then rub it down until there is just some darkening of the finish. This technique is definitely worth learning.

    Tomorrow they're covering how to buff the finish to a high gloss, something I don't have a ton of interest in. So, I decided I am going to skip tomorrow's class. Jeff is going to go and learn the material and I'm going to stay home and do some last minute dusting and vacuuming.

    My stepmother is allergic to dogs and I'm trying to do everything I can to remove the excess dog dander we have everywhere! It might be a lost cause, but I'll try and minimize her discomfort.

    Wednesday, September 15, 2010

    Finishing Class: Sealing Coat

    Class today was mostly spent applying the first, and sometimes second, sealing coat and a whole lot of finishing talk while we waited for boards to dry. This teacher is a real advocate for shellac, lacquer or varnish finishes; his favorite is lacquer. In his opinion, polyurethane is evil. It impossible to repair and it fills your wood grain with plastic. He's an advocate for the less high tech finishes because of their repairability.

    In the morning we got a chance to play with dye! We made purple! In some sense we failed because we were trying for burgundy! But I like the purple better. This would be a very fun color for a piece of furniture. =)

    During the lunch break, Jeff and I walked next door to EcoHaus and checked out some materials for our remodel project. I think we might have to go with Fireclay Debris Tile for our bathroom addition. The tiles contain over 60% recycled materials and are made on the west coast!

    These photos are similar to samples they had in the store, and they were quite nice (though not the colors we are likely to choose). Craftsman bathrooms just seem to need subway tile, though I think we do have to be careful not to overdo the accent tiles. I'm gonna have to do more research about how they tiled their bathrooms in period.

    I discovered these tiles are made in San Jose, CA and I can go drop into their factory showroom when I visit next month. I'm definitely gonna have to add it to my itinerary.

    Tuesday, September 14, 2010

    Finishing Class: Hide Glue Discovered!

    Today we spent the class time preparing our wood surfaces for staining. Our big learning for the day was: Hide Glue!

    We didn't actually use the glue for gluing, but for sealing the pores of the grain. We applied the hide glue to the wood, let it dry, then applied stain. We tried samples with a couple of different sealers and without, and in our opinion, the hide glue was always the best at smoothing out the surface.

    We also got to experiment with mixing up colored stains.

    Monday, September 13, 2010

    Finishing Class: We Scraped By

    We attended our first day of Finishing class today. It was wonderful and we learned a lot. We learned some skills for preparing the unfinished wood for finishing.

    We got to use card scrapers and smoothing planes for the first time! They worked really well and we're going to try them out on the cabinet doors with the pesky white paint. These hand tool skills are great to learn and we'll also be able to use them in SCA later on.

    Sunday, September 12, 2010

    More Progress, but Slow

    Now that our furniture population has mostly stabilized, Jeff and I have been shifting furniture around to get it fit in better. We had a printer cabinet to put down in the home theater area so we actually had to move over the entertainment center about 6 inches. Boy, was that ever fun! But at least now that we know the arrangement has stabilized, I feel free to "move in." I unpacked a number of boxes yesterday into the drawers of the entertainment cabinet.

    Also, since I cannot bear to get rid of the DVD cases, we put the disks back in them last night. A couple years ago, due to space constraints, we had pulled the disks out of the cases and put them in binders and put the boxes in storage.

    Last night we put the disks back in the boxes and alphabetized them and put them in the entertainment cabinet. Unfortunately, the drawers don't fit all the different kind of DVD cases, so we actually have two separate sections! (Bummer!) All the DVD cases that fit in the drawers are alphabetized in the drawers and all the ones that were too tall are in the right upper cabinet. It will have to do for now, until we manage to rip the movies to a disk then they all can get stowed away.

    Our tapestries have been rolled in a bundle and kicking around my sewing room since we moved to Redwood City, so today I finally unwrapped the bundle and we decided to at least hang them temporarily on the picture rail. That way they aren't kicking around the rooms and they get to be enjoyed. Ultimately, I don't know if they'll survive the remodel; we may well sell them because they don't necessarily fit the Craftsman look we're going for, but we're enjoying them for now.

    We're off this afternoon to go buy tools for our finishing class. We signed up for the class over a month ago, but they wait until the last business day before the class to tell us what supplies we're expected to bring. Nice! So now we don't have sufficient time to shop around online for good deals. Oh well, another lesson learned.

    Saturday, September 11, 2010


    This morning I started watching the "Hoarding" series on Netflix — OMG! The people on this program are scary. It is clear to me hoarding tendencies definitely run in my family.

    Watching this show has unearthed many memories of our efforts to help my Mom clean up her house. While her house definitely isn't as bad as some of the houses on the show, she has many of the same issues as these folks. She always had to touch and "approve" everything before it left the house. You'd spend hours cleaning and only manage to unearth like a square foot of floor. The one time I really screwed up is when I tried to clean up the garage without my Mom's permission (by inviting my father and brother to remove their stuff). She took away my house key and I'm pretty sure, she never forgave me for that... So, after that, I simply just stopped trying to help.

    I guess this can be a wake up call for me. I tend towards being a "keeper." As long as I have space, why get rid of something I might need later? So far, I've been lucky to have had large homes, for the most part. I am also lucky I am an organized person and am able to organize the stuff I save, so we can usually find it again.

    But with the last several moves, we've accumulated more and more misc. boxes. And I picked up a number of boxes of "Grandma's Stuff" from my grandmother's house I still need to sift. Once we finish remodeling the house next year, we really need to finally adjust our stuff supply so it fits comfortably in our space. I want to be able to clean up for company and not be embarrassed by how cluttered my home looks.

    We're living in a bit of chaos right now because we don't really want to unpack everything and "move in" when we'll be remodeling in the next year and we'll have to move out of the spaces again.

    Jeff and I actually cleaned a fair amount this past week just by wandering around the house and collapsing empty boxes. My father is visiting soon and I didn't want to have the living space filled with a bunch of empty moving boxes and packing supplies. It's better—but it's not clean by any means.

    Fall Classes Begin

    Jeff went off this morning to start an Organic Gardening class. He signed up for the Multnomah County Extension Service Organic Gardening Certificate. This class runs every Saturday from 9-4 through November 13.

    It's actually a little odd having him gone. We've hardly been separated since early July and the house is very quiet. Though, soon I'll also be too busy to notice.

    On Monday morning, Jeff and I both start a week-long Finishing course through the NW Woodworking Studio. The class was very spendy but we're hoping it will pay itself back when we have the skills to finish our own woodwork after the paint is stripped off.

    The following Monday, we both start classes at Portland Community College. I am taking 4 paralegal classes, Jeff is taking 3 landscaping classes.

    Thursday, September 9, 2010

    Happy Birthday Shasta!

    Our dog child is 2 years old today! Yeah! Though she still acts like a puppy, her energy is perhaps a little less than when we got her at 6 months. She does seem to have a bit less range on the scooter.
    Anyway, we sent Shasta off to doggy camp (daycare) for fun today because she seems to really enjoy it! We are trying to clean house for my father's visit the week after next. We have quite a lot of stuff still sitting around. Time to either repack and store stuff, put it away, or just get rid of it!

    We tried another session of paint stripping this morning on cabinet doors from the cabinets we removed in the basement. Today's effort was mostly unsuccessful. It required quite a lot of effort and just barely scraped off the top layers of the paint. We think perhaps the paint is oil paint and we'll have to treat it with linseed oil first to soften it. But we don't have any linseed oil right now, so we're just going to clean up and set this project aside for now until our next hardware store run.

    Here are some recent cute photos of our dog child. =)

    Wednesday, September 8, 2010

    A Bit More Shopping

    We are pretty much done shopping, but we have picked up a few more purchases this week. Our master bathroom has virtually no storage other than a medicine cabinet, so I've been poking around on craigslist for a couple of weeks to find a suitable piece of furniture that would hold a few spare toiletries.

    This week, I found this mission oak commode (a small cabinet originally used to hold a bed pan) being offered by someone in West Linn and tonight we went by and bought it. The seller claimed it was originally made for the Multnomah Hotel in the 1910s and their family acquired it when the hotel remodeled in the 50s.

    Yesterday afternoon, we dropped in at House of Antique Hardware to purchase picture rail hooks and cord. We had expected the business was a hardware store but it turns out that it's more of a warehouse. They were nice to us and still sold us what we wanted, but it was certainly more of a hassle. We haven't actually hung up any art yet, but we're prepared now.

    Today we received a new runner for our entryway from Jeff's and my textbooks have also started arriving; Jeff's books definitely look more enjoyable to read!

    We Stripped — Paint

    When we first arrived in Oregon, we bought a used Silent Paint Stripper from a Portland blogger named Dawn. She has a really amazing craftsman that she's already stripped the paint and she sold us her now unneeded paint stripper.

    Then, a couple weeks ago, we bought some painted douglas fir cabinet doors salvaged from a kitchen remodel from a nice lady on craigslist. Today, we finally found the motivation to try out our electronic paint stripper.
    The process is pretty simple, but it really only works well on the flat portions.

    We stripped all the flat portions that we could get to and now we're trying a chemical stripper to get the profile we can't get to.

    Dawn also gave us some Soy-Gel and we're giving that a try. We've applied the stripper and we're letting it work while Jeff enjoys a short nap this afternoon. (Stay tuned for the results of the stripping experiment.)

    Results, a few hours later:
    Paint is still in the small profile grooves. We don't have a scraper small enough to fit that curve and the wire brush seemed to be tearing up the wood. Overall, I'm pleased with our first try. Now we just need to track down some better tools for our next effort.

    Maybe for our next effort, we'll pull out one of the doors from my sewing room and do a real project. =)