Two lane blacktop (and more)

On Tuesday morning, I received a call that the paving company would be here at noon on Wednesday to tear up the old driveway and put down a new one. Oh My Gosh!

The old driveway was in bad shape where it was cracked and the bed had fallen down. We had water draining into the garage and seeping under the driveway. That’s probably why it had sunk and fallen unevenly all over the place.

I had to go into the office in the morning, but I made a beeline back home before noon so I could be here for the pavers to arrive. I put Sascha out and moved the final items out of the way. I could hear the big trucks when they entered the neighborhood and made their way back to the house.

The first 20 minutes of the job was just getting the old asphalt out along with the base that needed replacement. I was sneaking peeks out the window as they were working. It was coming up fast.

New rock for the new base went in. The whole area looked great just like that. The trucks started arriving with the asphalt. The foreman had this big booming voice that I could hear over the noise of the trucks and other equipment. Not surprising since he was about 6’6″ and a good sized guy.

Pretty soon, the asphalt was down and being smoothed out. It was a really nice dark, black color. What a difference it was to look at.

In about 3 hours, the old was removed and the new was in. The foreman came to the door for his check. He played with Sascha while I wrote out the pretty big number in the small space. If it holds up to the weather, it will be worth every penny.

Rich came home and inspected the job. Rain had started and you could see where the rain was running in all the correct directions. There was no need for the extensions on the downspouts anymore.

Three more days until we can park in the garage. A few more days after that before we can start parking on the driveway directly. It is beautiful. Never thought I’d say that about a driveway.

The existing driveway was so old and crumbling while there was only gravel for the new garage.
The existing driveway was so old and crumbling while there was only gravel for the new garage.
Old driveway in front of the main garage.
Old driveway in front of the main garage.
Gravel and weeds to be replaced with better materials.
Gravel and weeds to be replaced with better materials.
Edge at the street was really beat up.
Edge at the street was really beat up.
The old driveway is so worn and cracked.
The old driveway is so worn and cracked.
Some big cracks spidering over the surface.
Some big cracks spidering over the surface.
Corner of the driveway had holes and water was seeping into the base.
Corner of the driveway had holes and water was seeping into the base.
Sascha in her spot by the small garage door.
Sascha in her spot by the small garage door.
Still warm from the crew putting down the asphalt.
Still warm from the crew putting down the asphalt.
View from the street looking up to the patio.  So nice and level and black.
View from the street looking up to the patio. So nice and level and black.
View from the main garage looking down to the street.  The level is so nice.
View from the main garage looking down to the street. The level is so nice.
A nice level surface out on the side of the main garage.
A nice level surface out on the side of the main garage.
View from the patio down to the street.  The water is pooling right where it should.
View from the patio down to the street. The water is pooling right where it should.
Very nice driveway in front of the new garage.
Very nice driveway in front of the new garage.
Water now drains away from the garage.  No need for the 12 foot extension to get the water away from the structure.
Water now drains away from the garage. No need for the 12 foot extension to get the water away from the structure.














Chicken Piccata

Thought I would try a Domestic God post like my sister Rose.

For Sunday dinner I made the family Chicken Piccata, Lemon Butter Noodles, and Steamed Broccoli. This is one of my favorite ways to prepare chicken breast.  It adds a lot of flavor. The saltiness of the capers and bitterness of the lemon juice make the flavors interesting. The lemon butter noodles add to the lemon theme.  The broccoli is steamed in the microwave so that was the easiest thing to prepare this afternoon.

The lemon butter noodles where also easy.  First cook noodles.  I used thin spaghetti and cooked on salted water.  When they where done I grained them.  Melt 1/4 cup of butter in the pot and then add the noodles back in to fry them a little. Then I added the zest and juice of one lemon.  Stirred this all together.  They where ready to serve.

Lemon and Capers
Lemon and Capers

Now for the fun part making Chicken Piccata. First slice half a lemon into thin slices. Rise two tablespoons of capers. Set to the side.  Now is time to pound the chicken breasts.  I like to cut each breast into two or three pieces depending on size.  Then pound the pieces until they are 1/4 inch thick.  You can use a meat mallet. frying pan, or my favorite a rolling pin.  The rolling pin work best for me. It has a nice heft to it and a wide area. Salt and pepper each piece then dredge in flour.

Flat Chicken Breast
Flat Chicken Breast

Preheat your serving platter in a 200 degree oven. The chicken pieces are going to need a place to stay warm while your making the sauce.

Fry the flour dredged chicken until golden brown and place in warm oven. I like to use olive oil because this is an Italian dish but I don’t think you have to.  Also I don’t use a lot of oil.  Do small batches and don’t crowd.  When all the pieces are done then it is time to make the sauce.

Chicken fried golden brown
Chicken fried golden brown

Pour off any excess oil from the chicken frying pan.   You only need enough oil to brown two or three cloves of minced garlic.  Th garlic should be lightly browned then add one cup of chicken stock.  Use this to dissolve the brown bits left over from chicken frying.  This is important for flavor.  When the sauce thickens up add a 1/4 cup of lemon juice and start to thicken up the sauce again.  When it is starting to thicken add the capers. I don’t add the lemon slices until there is about one minute left. You want the lemon slices lightly cooked or too much bitterness will come out into the sauce.  At the very end add three tablespoons of butter and whisk together.

Making the sauce
Making the sauce

Then pull serving platter of chicken out of warm oven. Arrange the lemon slices on top of the chicken pieces.  Then pour the lemon caper sauce over the chicken and lemon slices.  Garnish with some fresh parsley. We grew this parsley in the back yard. This was delicious and the lemon butter noodles where a nice complement.

Final Chicken Piccata
Final Chicken Piccata

There are a lot of Chicken Piccata recipes on the internet. This is dish is simple to make Chicken Piccata at home just as good as most restaurants.

Sascha can play in the yard again! The roof is done!

Yes, the roof is done!  No more banging, dropping things, or saws going off.  And it’s pretty!

I worked at home for the last days while they were putting a new roof over our heads.  The last roof might have been 18 years old.  No one is sure.  During the last windstorm, we lost a few shingles.  Rich and Rick have been doing repairs on the loose shingles for a while.  Time to give in and just replace the bad boy. 

I called around about a metal roof.  The only estimate we got was extremely high.  Rich took one look and said, “Are you crazy?  No metal roof for you, young lady.”  I then turned to the last company who did work for us.  Pete came out with his samples and we talked roof.  Turns out, they could do a metal roof much cheaper, but Rich had his mind set on architectural shingles by now.  I only had one requirement:  color.  I wanted red, but Rich wouldn’t go for it.  However, he did bend to having a green roof.  At least it wasn’t gray, black, or brown.

On Monday, the shingles were delivered.  Rich took a picture of them and sent it to me.  Yes, he was off that day brewing beer for the pig roast.  They were a nice deep forest green.  On Tuesday, three guys showed up to do the work.  From the sounds, they were all Polish.  Steve came to the door to announce their presence, but Sascha had already told me they were out there.

I had to finally put Sascha inside.  She wouldn’t leave them alone when they were on the ground.  She attacked one poor guy so she could give him kisses.  I resorted to walking her in the yard.  She was hating life lately. 

All day long and into almost the dark, they tore off the old, sawed away bad, hammered on tar paper and edging, and then the shingles went on.  They got the back of the house done by 7:00.  Then on Wednesday, they returned to finish the front.  At lunch, I noticed that there was no noise.  I peeked out and the ladder was gone.  I stepped out and noticed all the cars were gone.  Walking out to the garage, I noticed the dumpster wagon was gone.  They were done!

I could let Sascha back out into the yard without having to restrain her.  She was loving life once again.  She rolled in the grass and stretched out.  At one point, she took off to the far reaches of her lead so I couldn’t take her in.  It was nice day so I left her out there.  There were no more roofers to watch though.

I walked around the house with my camera and took pictures.  It turned out nice.  When Rich got home from work, he walked around the house to take in the roof and look for glaring issues.  He didn’t seem to find an.  Now the building inspector for the village gets to have his say.  But it looks like we have a new roof for another 20 years.  Then I assume it will be the next owner’s problem to repair and replace.

Old and stained roof from the front of the house
Old roof from the back of the house. Not so old on the addition though.
New roof over the living room and Rick's room.
New foof over the garages
New roof from the back over the dining room and addition.
Sascha refusing to come in after the roofers left.

Rick’s Super Secret Project

I’m still working on updating the WordPress stuff and finding a template to fit what I want. Nothing looks very good though. Tried some hand coding without any luck. Maybe I really need to explore the world of blogging better.

Last Christmas, I had seen these little metal creatures and I wanted one. I put it on my Christmas list as an item that the guys could get for me. I gave them the catalog address even. There was no way they could miss how much I wanted one.

While cleaning up the roadside with the Streeters car club, Rick found a 6 foot piece of rebar lying in the grass. Rich got the idea to save his money and make me a garden gnome. I didn’t really care, but I worried what a homemade one would look like. One cold day in December, Rich got out the welding equipment, left over car parts, and the rebar with an idea in mind. What I got was the cutest little guy! 

Vanessa and Kelli had really liked the garden gnome and expressed definite interest in one for their own patio. This blog is about getting Rick to make a couple of gnomes. Sorry, it’s not about Sascha today.

Back in October, I tried to get Rick started on a little project as Christmas presents for his aunts. Needless to say, he didn’t jump at the chance then. So on Dec 22, I gave him no choice. He had to make a garden gnome for his Aunt Vanessa. 

I guess the real problem turned out that the last time Rick was welding, he caught his glove on fire. That kind of scared him away from gas-generated flames and something you had a hard time seeing until it was burning well. But Rick had to learn to weld and handle working on metal. He’s going to own a really old car one day!

On that Thursday, Rick set off to the hardware store for rebar, bolts, nuts, and other odds and ends that he might need to make a suggested human form from car parts and other metals. He returned with enough for one gnome. Why hadn’t he gotten enough for two then? He was pretty sure one was all he could make. OK.

So I fed him breakfast on Friday morning and kicked him out into the garage. After consulting with his father on a couple of facts, Rick began to cut rebar down to size. Bending and shaping, a pair of feet emerged from the bar. Bird-like in their structure, they were kind of cute. And look, Ma, no gloves on fire.

It was really cold on that Friday. This meant that Rick went back and forth between the house and the garage a lot. The tongue (previously known as a mower blade) was welded into place after some design flaws were corrected. After the feet were attached to the bottom of a brake part, he decided to give up until the next day. I assured him that I would once again fix breakfast and send him back out to continue his work.

Saturday was Christmas Eve. True to my word, there was breakfast a plenty before the garage door opened. It was a good thing the gnome wasn’t needed until the 29th. Rick seemed pretty happy to return to his work today. Was he beginning to like welding, hammering, and shaping metal?

By noon, the entire gnome was put together and waving his arms in the air. On close inspection, the welds appeared to be smooth and well sanded. All the bends were nicely turned. Wow! A garden gnome had appeared on the work table in place of the rebar, brake drums, bolts, and pile of nutes. I thought it needed ears, but Rick assured me it was completed.

All day Christmas, I continued to mention that Aunt Kelli really needed a garden gnome also. She might feel slighted if one didn’t have her name on it. Rick finally gave in and accepted that he had work to do on Monday and Tuesday. So bright and early Monday morning, Rick set off for the hardware store. He returned with more rebar, bolts, and a pile of nuts. 

Once again, a pair of bird-like legs appeared on the work table. These were welded to the bottom of a brake drum. Arms appeared with small fingers. A tongue was welded in place using the latest design. Finally, the head and body were connected. A second gnome was completed. To add to the unique design of each, this gnome had one hand up and one hand down.

On Wednesday, Dec 28th, the gnomes and other presents were packed into the back of the car for the long trip to Michigan. On the 29th, the gnomes were presented to his aunts. Vanessa got first choice since she had put in her request first. I do believe his aunts were suprised by the effort and their little metal creatures will find nice homes.

Norm and Norma wishing everyone Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Christmas Eve 2011

So Christmas Eve has finally arrived.  As usual these days, it’s just Rich, Rick, and I celebrating together. Ah, but this year, we have Sascha as well.  This is one of those Polish eating holidays.  There is food all the time.

Christmas time is also Sascha’s birthday.  It’s too bad we don’t know the exact date.  We’ve decided to celebrate on Dec 26.  Sascha was originally named Holly to celebrate her Yuletide birthday.  I just couldn’t call the dog Holly without thinking of my Aunt Holly, also born on Christmas.  I think Sascha fits her. 

Today was kind of slow. I was mostly hanging out. My sinuses are bothering me, so I’m only blowing my nose.  Rich decided to paint the metal beams and poles around the bar area.  He picked out what he thought would be a nice Bavarian blue color.  It’s probably pretty close to Detroit Lions blue as well.  It definitely brightened up the bar.  Rick was in the garage working on a super secret project yesterday and today. 

This afternoon, Rich was watching the Lions and Chargers game.  Sascha decided to sit on the couch and watches as well.  I think it had more to do with the beer he was drinking than the actual game.  I can’t say I believe Sascha is a fan of football or a particular team. I took a couple of neat pictures of them together.  Sascha loves her daddy.

This year, we broke with the fish tradition and decided to have duck for dinner.  Around here, duck goes over very well.  A little wild rice and a few fresh vegetables along with crescent rolls make for a nice dinner.  Of course, Rich had to break out some of the wine.  Today, a nice white wine with the duck.

Tomorrow is Christmas.  It’ll be another quiet day.  Dinner is standing rib roast with Yorkshire pudding.  I believe Rich has a nice red wine to compliment the meal.  To space it out, we are doing the typical sausage and pierogi brunch on Monday.  Then I’m taking my wonderful husband out on a date Monday night.  Rick has agreed to make sure we get there and back safely.  It’s Duke O’Brien’s for dinner with their wide selection of craft beers and wines.

I have to say I really hate the program I’m using for my blog.  I’m going to have to find something that allows me more freedom to format!  This is crazy and it sucks!

Merry Christmas all!

All the Babies at Home

I knew I was going to have trouble writing a blog too many days in a row.  It’s not that my life isn’t interesting.  It’s just not interesting enough for print.  I knew I wasn’t going to keep up with this like Rose does with her Daisy blog.  Rose does a nice job with her blog.  (Insert Zurek family plug here.)  Oh well, once in a while I’ll put something up.  I guess I wait until Rich, Rick, or Sascha do something interesting.

Anyway, Rick was home today starting his Christmas vacation.  I was working at home and keeping very busy.  Rick went out and brought in lunch so I wouldn’t have to stop.  Later in the day, he was watching a cheaply produced movie on SyFy.  I walk through the living room and there he is with Sascha in Dad’s chair.  They looked comfy and cozy.  Sascha didn’t even want me to pet her.  Well, I just had to take a picture of them.

Last Saturday, we invited some people over for a casual evening.  Mostly, this was to get rid of the Pumpkin ale left over from Thanksgiving.  We had appetizers and sat at the bar talking.  It was a nice time.  Our friend, Jay, brought over his dog, Guiness.  This was the first time Sascha had another dog on her territory.  She did well and only tried to herd Guiness a couple of times.  Mostly, Sascha occupied herself going from person to person and hanging in their laps to be petted.  Such an attention getter.  Every time I looked at her, Sascha is hanging on someone.  Once, she was standing up with her front paws and her head laying in Cathy’s lap and the next time she is Diane’s face trying to get attention!  Needless to say, she was very, very tired the next day.

Very Large Array (VLA)

We went to see the Very Large Array.  It may look familiar if you saw the movie Contact.  Found out that SETI does not use this array. If they ever did find any Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence this would the be used to get a closer look.  The array is a big Y shape with each leg 13 miles long.  We had to turn off the cell phones while looking around. The effective width of the dish array is 27 miles.

New Mexico Animals

It was fun to run across animals while looking at the sites in New Mexico. Here are some of the animals I saw.  I did see an interesting looking snake at the Three Rivers Petroglyphs.  It was mostly tan with reddish blotches on him.  When into a crack before I could get a picture.


When the weather service said go home and stay there for this storm that was good advice.

At the start of the storm I tried to shovel snow but it came down too fast.  The wind was terrible and was causing me to get cold.

We had big drifts by bed time.  Our furnace stopped about 3:30 because its’ vent ports where buried in snow.  Had to go out and unbury them.

They said this was the forth worst blizzard to hit Chicago since keeping records.  We hope we don’t get to see more of these it was nasty.