22 September 2018

Kitchen photos

For years we've talked about having our kitchen here remodeled — putting in a new kitchen with a different arrangement for cabinets and appliances. It would be especially nice to have more storage space in there. Right now, racks for hanging pots, pans, and other utensils help a lot. Still, we store a lot of kitchen items in the closet in our guest room and in a cabinet in the den where we have Walt's computer workstation and our library.

The idea of living in a construction zone is not appealing. We did it in San Francisco, but there we both worked for a living and we were out of the house when the work was actually being done. Here, we'd have to experience the noise and dust first-hand. As you might know, we spend a lot of our time in the kitchen.

This the new dishwasher we just had installed. It's a Bosch model — not the fanciest but not a low-end model either. We had a Whirlpool dishwasher for 15 years and it got a lot of use. This one should last as long. It really doesn't seem to be much quieter than the old Whirlpool was, but it's quiet enough for us. We normally run it overnight, and we don't hear it.

Anyway, the kitchen is perfectly functional, and we've done our best to make it efficient and pleasant. We've been here for 15 years now. We're on our second refrigerator, our third kitchen stove, and now our second dishwasher. Getting new appliances creates good opportunities for  "spring cleaning" — no matter what the season.

The area of the kitchen itself is about 12.5 m². That's nearly 134 ft², and it's square at about 11½ x 11½ feet. Our kitchen in San Francisco was about the same size, so it didn't look too small when we saw the house in 2002 and decided to buy it. We took down the door that closed it off from the living room. Cabinets, sink, and tile were in place. We just had to buy appliances.

The refrigerator, dishwasher, and stove are tucked into one corner. The kitchen is open to the living/dining room, and the appliances are what they call pose-libre models, not built-ins. Here's an example of some of the food we cook: pulled-pork seasoned with North Carolina BBQ sauce, French fries made from fresh potatoes, and lettuce with a mustardy coleslaw-style dressing.

Today, it'll be
blanquette de veau.

21 September 2018

Bonnes nouvelles !

I got this e-mail from my sister and our cousin yesterday afternoon. Ginger's mother and my mother were sisters:
We are alive and kicking in NC!! Lots of damage, as bad as I have ever seen and I will not ride the next one out!! Joanna and I have had the mission [the food bank] open since Monday. Power and phones are spotty. We received donations from some of your fellow bloggers and are very appreciative!! We love you and are okay
Ginger and Joanna
This made me very happy, as you can imagine. I take it that Martha's Mission's building and stocks of food survived the winds and flooding. Ginger is the organization's operations manager and Joanna, who still works part-time as an optician, is her side-kick and right-hand woman now. It's so good that the two of them have become such good friends and cooperate with each other the way their mothers did, especially during the last 25 years of their lives.

Obviously, I didn't take this photo of the Oceanana fishing pier in Atlantic Beach, North Carolina, during Hurricane Florence. When the storm was over, the end of the pier and the gazebo had washed away. Credit and thanks to the AP.

Maybe I can start to relax now. Tasha is all better, we think, and our daily walks have resumed. It's supposed to rain this morning, and we really need that. The new dishwasher was installed on schedule late yesterday. I've received the new display panel for my laptop — all I have to do now is find time to remove the old screen and put the new one in. I'll find time for that "operation" very soon.

20 September 2018

Wet vs. dry

I don't seem to be able to find any photos from storm-damaged Morehead City (my home town in North Carolina) that aren't several days old. I assume that's because the people there are too busy cleaning up and maybe don't have electricity back yet. I still don't have news from many people that I'm concerned about. I feel cut off from N.C. and the U.S. now the way I used to feel so cut off from France before I came to live here.

Here in Saint-Aignan, on the last day of astronomical summer, it's just dry dry dry. It's a parallel universe in some ways, given how wet it has been in Morehead City and the rest of eastern North Carolina. Forecasts say we might get a sprinkle of rain tomorrow.

Here are some local Saint-Aignan scenes from a few days ago, when I was coming back home from a vineyard walk with Natasha the Shetland sheep dog. Good news: we've started up our daily walks again. Shorter walks than before, but walks quand même.

I'll be going out with the dog in a few minutes, once the sun comes up. Other good news: our new dishwasher is supposed to be delivered and installed later today. Because we do so much cooking and processing of food for storage, it turns out that a dishwasher isn't exactly a luxury for us.

P.S. I just found out that the newspaper based in Morehead City, the Carteret County News-Times, was able to publish yesterday. The newspaper's on-line edition is not available in the European Union unless you have a VPN set up on your internet connection. I just recently set up a VPN (Virtual Private Network) so I was happy to get some information from home (but not enough).

19 September 2018

Les vendanges continuent

I haven't had any more hurricane-recovery news from North Carolina. From what I see in the papers, my friends and relatives there probably haven't had electricity restored yet. Here's an article from the local newspaper (not available in Europe). I'll try to get my sister on the phone again today. The good news on this side of the pond is that Tasha is doing much better. She's already walking normally again, and we're trying mightily to keep her activity to a minimum. No running, no jumping. I carried her down one flight of stairs this morning, but she did the second one, which is not so steep, on her own.

I have to say I've missed my walks in the vineyard with Tasha these last few days.  Maybe we'll start taking short walks again this afternoon. I might have to take her out on the leash, to prevent her from getting too excited and injuring her leg again. You can see how beautiful the Gamay, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec/Côt grapes look right now. I took these photos three or four days ago.

Yesterday a tractor pulling a trailer loaded with red-wine grapes passed by our house. So the red-grape harvest is under way. I understand now why the harvester came in and started taking in grapes yesterday morning at six a.m. It rained beginning at mid-day. I think the grape-growers have some kind of direct line to reliable weather forecasts that the public doesn't have access to. Or maybe they are just really cautious.

It didn't rain much, however. It wasn't enough to get the ground wet, that's for sure, but it was refreshing. Maybe just that little bit of humidity would be enough to cause mildew to start growing on such ripe grapes. I didn't see the harvester again during the day. But then Patricia and Bruno have vineyard parcels all around the area, not just near our house. So they could have been working elsewhere.

18 September 2018

The state of things today

The vet told us yesterday afternoon, after looking at x-ray images, that Tasha's injury is "just" a sprain. All the little bones in her "wrist" are in place. Nothings broken, but the lower part of the leg is swollen. The vet gave her a shot of anti-inflammatory medicine, and gave us pills of the same kind to give her once a day for the next week or 10 days. The good news is that her limping is already visibly reduced this morning. She's putting her foot down on the floor or ground and walking carefully, but almost normally. Things are looking up!

Meanwhile, around here, our weather continues to be weirdly hot and dry. This is starting to seem like a major drought, but nobody is talking about it. It hasn't rained since mid-July. Yesterday, I did hear one woman on France Inter radio say that she's fed up with this endless summer (j'en ai marre de cet été éternel...). I kind of feel that way too. I will welcome some rainfall, so that things will feel normal again. France is supposed to be gray and damp most of the time. Then you can really enjoy the warm, sunny days that come along, instead of finding them oppressive.

We've pretty much had to give up on the vegetable garden and outdoor plants. There are still a lot of tomatoes on the vines, but they are sun-damaged and blighted at this point. The kale and chard plants are puny and sad-looking. With everything that's been going on — driving back and forth several times a week to the computer store, figuring out how to order parts from internet sites and install them, researching dishwashers and getting a new one ordered — not to mention doing all the dishes by hand! — there just isn't enough time in the day. Having to carry the dog up and down stairs for the past two days has been stressful.

Life continues, however. The grape harvest, especially. Above is a photo of a winery that's just a ten-minute walk from our house. Obviously, it's not a tourist destination. At this point out in the vineyard, most of the white wine grapes — Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, and Chardonnay — have been taken in now. Yes, those Chardonnay grapes on the north side of our yard have finally been harvested. The photos here show how mechanical harvesting machines leave the vines looking. The harvester shakes the vines hard enough that the ripe grapes fall off the stems (the stems that the grapes, or grains de raisin, grow on to form bunches, or grappes, is called la rafle in French, I think — I'm not sure if we have a word for that in English). The red grapes are still on the vines...