Categories
Family Fluff

SpeedSnail! Where are you?

I got a fish tank a year or so ago. It’s one of those Back to the Roots garden tanks that support a betta and three plant buckets. We had an alge problem, so we added a snail. He gets around a lot, so we call him the SpeedSnail.

(The fish is Fish Stick. It’s what was for dinner the night we brought him home.)

Yesterday, I noticed that the tank walls were getting a little brown. I decided today was the day to clear the counters and do some maintenance on the tank. The first part of that maintenance is to take out the plant pots.

So, I take out the middle pot. The roots are a little long, but not bad. Take out the far left pot. That one is ew and I may need to invest in new growth rocks. Then comes the one with the spider plant in it. This was an experimental plant. I look in the pot and notice one of the rocks looks strangely smooth. And round.

We collect shells. I have several snail shells from various beaches and our yard. So the obvious first thought is, “who put one of the shells in there?”

Then I look at the tank, and all the alge. I look at the tiger-striped shell in my pot. And SpeedSnail took a quick trip back into the tank.

He must have climbed up the feeding tube, gotten across the rocks, and discovered there was no water up there. He sealed himself up, and waited for the water to come back.

I watched him for a while before I left to meet Quinn for lunch, and spotted him sneaking a peak from inside his shell. When I got back to the house, he was busy hoovering up alge as fast as he could.

So, the snail had an adventure. The tank will get nice and clean again. FishStick can make aggressive moves against a tank-mate that can’t care less about what he’s doing.

All is well.

Categories
Family

A project elided

After a few too many close calls, I approached the town about making our street and another into one-way lanes.  A counter-clockwise, 1.7 mile loop around the lake.

SilverLake, Wilmington MA
Silver Lake, bounded by Main, Lake, and Grove

The town said “no” for some very good reasons.  I knew they would, but I had to give it a try.  They paid the courtesy of taking it seriously, giving me a meeting with various officials, and explaining the reasons.

I had put an actual proposal together in case this went further.  I include it here for posterity.  Read it here: Better Traffic Around Silver Lake

Categories
Family

Anchors Aweigh!

Living where we do, with a high water table, houses are obligated to have a large hole in the floor of the basement called a “sump“.  For those lucky enough to not know, a sump’s job is to collect groundwater before it seeps up through the floor of the basement.  You then evacuate the water with a pump, colloquially (and quite logically) known as a “sump pump”.

A sump pump is a replaceable part.  The typical lifetime is supposed to be around ten years, give or take.

We last replaced our pump in 2014.  I purchased a replacement unit from “Watchdog” that proclaimed it’s longevity, speed, and reliability.  This is that same unit, a mere five years later:

decrapitated watchdog sump pump
Notice the hole in the side of the housing. It was not there when I purchased and installed the unit.

The unit continued to work in some condition, until it didn’t.  It completely failed during a heavy December rainstorm this weekend.  I came into the basement early Saturday morning to find ankle-deep water on the floor.

Woe unto the person who does not have a water alarm or redundant standby sump pump.  That person would be me.

The pump is now replaced with a unit from a different manufacturer.  Hopefully this one stands up to the elements a little better.  We’re working on a water alarm as well.

Categories
Family

Winter, New England Style

Ah, winter in New England. Go home, winter, you’re already drunk and it’s barely December.

Last week we had a snowstorm and we were home-bound for three days.  School was cancelled on Monday and Tuesday.  I worked from home both days and slowly dug out in the afternoons.

Snow on the back deck
We finally leveled out with over a foot of snow

A week later, temperatures reached 60° F.  I was walking around in shorts and flip-flops.  (I might be weird, but you have to admit that it wasn’t weather-inappropriate.)  The clouds dropped two inches of water on us.  With nowhere for the water to go, there are puddles and ponds everywhere.

Last night, the temperature rapidly dropped, the rain turned to snow, and we got a couple or more inches.  At least the end of the day cleared up with some sun.  The snowmelt, which became treacherous as night fell, was downright beautiful for a while.

Ice caught in mid-freeze
This water on the back of my car hadn’t finished freezing when I walked by.

Tonight, as I left the house to take the dog for an icy, slippery walk, I saw signs that we had some visitors during the day.  A hawk snatched a meal from our front yard.  Meghan left our Thanksgiving bundle of corn out for the birds and squirrels; it seems that we’re feeding the whole neighborhood instead.

Imprint of hawk wing in snow
Some small animal and a hawk came to our front yard expecting a meal. Only one of them was disappointed.

By this weekend we’re expecting to be back in the 50s with more rain.  The rollercoaster that is our local weather continues.  Whee!

Categories
Family

Its been a while

I haven’t been posting much lately. Lets see what I’ve bee up to:

  • I’ve repaired 6 Chromebooks this week. There will be more tomorrow.
  • Apple is replacing a damaged iPad because I am wicked polite and prepared with documentation.
  • I’m not going up the 20′ ladder. Just no.
  • I’ve finished yet another stocking, except for the name. I’m putting it off because I’m not sure about placement. Probably, I should make it easy to remove and change if they want to.
  • Accidentally ruined my favorite hiking boots.
  • Took some pictures.
  • Knit a hat.
  • Bought Christmas cards. I’ll start filling them out as soon as I’m done with the stocking.

All in all, life has been pretty good!

Categories
Family

Highlight of the Day

Meghan and I just heard an MBTA commuter train sound out “shave-and-a-haircut” on it’s airhorn.

Categories
Family

New LEAF

Meghan got a new job here in town a while back.  More to the point, it’s two miles away.

I realized after a while that her car wasn’t really getting a chance to get up to operating temperature very often, even in the middle of summer.  She makes several trips throughout the day to various buildings around town, but they’re rarely more than a couple of miles per hop.

This is the worst-case scenario for a gasoline-powered car.  Her mileage suffered considerably: she was barely getting 20 mpg.  I knew that the car would shortly show signs of fast aging — this is part of the “severe driving” section of the manual.

After hemming and hawing a bit, we decided that the best way to protect our asset would be to go electric.  (I can’t say “protect our investment” because, lets face it, cars are not investments.)  Meghan is the best-case scenario for an electric: lots of starts and stops (which lets regenerative braking recapture lots of energy) and no range anxiety since she’s never far from home.

We did our research, tried out a few cars, and finally found a good match.

Introducing Meghan’s new-to-her 2016 Nissan LEAF SL

Meghan's New LEAF
Meghan in her new Nissan LEAF.

Another shot of the front:

Front of LEAF

Categories
Biking

Highlight of the Week

My personal highlight of this week:

Just finished a 20 mile bike ride with Meghan.  We’re sitting in a McDonalds in Danvers.  At the table next to us, we’re listening to a 99 year old guy (gonna be an even 100 next month!) come over and start chatting up a group of 80-something women.

Categories
Recipes

Classic Marinara Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 28-ounce can whole San Marzano tomatoes, certified D.O.P. if possible
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 7 garlic cloves, peeled and slivered
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large fresh basil sprig, or 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, more to taste

Steps

  1. Pour the tomatoes into a bowl and crush them with your hands
    1. Afterwards, fill the can about 1/4 to 3/4 way with water; slosh around to capture the tomato juices and bits, and set aside for a moment.
    2. Use more water if you want a lot of sauce, or are finishing meatballs, or want it to simmer for a long time.  Use less water if you don’t have much time
  2. Slice the garlic cloves as fine as you can
  3. Put the pan on medium heat and add the olive oil
  4. When the olive oil starts to shimmer, toss in the garlic and let it sizzle
  5. BEFORE the garlic starts to brown, pour in the tomatoes, followed by the water from the can, and sprinkle on the oregano and pepper flakes.  If you’re using fresh basil, lay it on top.
  6. Turn down the heat and let the sauce simmer for 30 minutes to an hour.  It will get a nice orange-y color to the top.  You can reduce it until there’s no visible water, but no more than that – remove it from the heat if you reach that point!

Notes

  • This recipe is great because it’s tasty and doesn’t take a lot of extra work, but it does take time.  Expect prep plus cooking to be an hour.
  • You really want to use a heavy stainless pan, 12″ or larger.
  • Our local grocery store carries canned whole San Marzano tomatoes, and they are certified D.O.P., but they already have basil added (so we don’t actually put additional basil in).
  • I’ve tried using canned crushed tomatoes but it messes with the texture and flavor.  Crushing them yourself is easy yet so satisfying.
  • Our best experience was making meatballs at the same time, and finishing them off in the sauce.  The sauce picked up some extra flavors that made it sublime.

Source: https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1015987-classic-marinara-sauce

Categories
Recipes

Sausage and Vegetable Roast

This is a kind of suggestion-type recipe, throw in your favorite vegetables and ignore the ones you don’t like (or don’t want to do today).

Ingredients

  • Two medium-sized red potatoes
  • 1 head of broccoli (or cauliflower)
  • 2 bell peppers (use two different colors, for the look)
  • 1/2 pound green beans (a couple of handfuls)
  • 1 bunch of asparagus
  • 3/4 pound of sausage
  • Olive oil
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Steps

  1. Heat up an oven to 400° F
  2. Cut up the potatoes into small (less than 1 inch) pieces. If they’re too big they won’t cook fast enough
  3. Cut up the broccoli, peppers, and asparagus into comfortably-bite-size pieces, and snap the stems off the beans
  4. Slice the sausage into “coins”
  5. Toss veggies, sausage, cheese, and spices into a large bowl with enough olive oil to lightly coat everything (a few tablespoons)
  6. Spread out onto a couple of pans
    1. Everything should be a single layer; doubling up will lead to a mix of burnt and raw bits
  7. Bake for 15 minutes
  8. Flip the veggies and reverse the pans top to bottom
  9. Bake for another 10-15 minutes

Serve with brown rice!

Variations

Swap in a cup of any of the following:

  • butternut squash
  • zucchini
  • sliced carrots
  • a sweet potato
  • turnip
  • radishes
  • sliced jalapeños
  • cherry tomatoes (cut in half)
  • red onions
  • mushrooms