Friday, 29 August 2008

Long long weekend ahead

It's Friday and we have the Labor Day weekend before us. Hurricane Katrina and friends arrive on Monday night and hopefully we will be prepared! When blogging service returns expect to hear about the beach, the birthday celebrations and the crazy antics of Auntie Kat.

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Pizza Oven Update 4

On Sunday Andrew laid the first level of the concrete base to support the dome. The first photo is the site preparation, the second photo is the poured slab and the third photo is the slab from the back. Note that Andrew is wearing his Andrew's pizza hat whilst working! He hopes to do the next layer of the slab which will include the vermiculite very soon.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Herb garden update

As you can see the herb garden is doing well in some areas and pretty terrible in others. On the positive side the birds are now happy that I cleaned the black gunk out of the bird bath and filled it with water for them to splash in again.

Outcomes as of mid August:

Mint and Basil - excellent, multiple crops, still going strong
Coriander and Parsley - now dead but provided good crops earlier in the summer
Sage and Rosemary - were both doing well until attacked by unknown (but different) bugs and now totally destroyed. Underlying root system seem to be intact so they may well grow again. See the photos above for the results of the bug attacks.
Oregano and Thyme - were both doing well and now invaded by caterpillar webs. Both still alive and growing but half of each plant is unusable
I am goign to try to find out what to do about the bugs. Any suggestions?

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Product of the week: Liquid smoke

"Where there's smoke, there's flavor!"

We were introduced to this product by the always excellent America's Test Kitchen. Ingredients include water, natural hickory smoke flavor, vinegar, molasses, caramel color and salt.

The instructions are pretty simple - just brush onto the steak before cooking.

The result....excellent smoke tasting steak. A winner! Recommended! Go buy some!

Monday, 25 August 2008

Construction Complete

Andrew is now busily putting up speakers and adding string lights! If you look closely at the pine tree in the background of the last photo you'll see the white birdhouse Lucy made. We are still waiting on gutters and the final inspections but the screened porch is by all accounts complete.

Friday, 22 August 2008

Construction update 6

Construction is almost finished after a frenzy of activity on Wednesday when a team of Mexican roofers descended on the deck and then the screening efforts of Steve and Mr Gerard on Thursday. We are 99% done - just awaiting the electrician to finalise the fan/light and for the guttering to be put in. Now I can supervise the pizza oven construction in bug-free comfort. But more importantly we can just sit back in the swinging chair with a glass of red and enjoy the warm summer air at dusk. Don't you just wish you were here!!!

Thursday, 21 August 2008

The world's latest birthday present

In April 2007 Lucy and I, together with the Lambertons gave Andrew a voucher for a kite surfing lesson. In August 2008 thanks to the graciousness of the trainers Andrew took his lesson with an expired voucher! After several cancellations due to tropical storms Andrew took 3/4 of his lesson the other week. He learned to maneuver the kite and surf on the board but again due to bad weather he didn't get a chance to put it all together. He did however get to jetski out to Masonboro island, an uninhabited island in the sound, which also explains the lack of photos as we couldn't go to watch and laugh at him. He had a fabulous time and is looking forward to finishing off the lesson one afternoon soon (but don't hold your breath waiting!)

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

American food

When people ask me the biggest difference between living in the US and living in Australia I always say that it's the food. The food in general is so much better in Australia both in terms of quality and variety. Maybe it's Wilmington being a small town, maybe it's American indifference or even the lack of multiculturalism but it just seems that it is hard to rave about the food here. There are some awesome top end restaurants that I can highly recommend but when it comes to everyday dining or shopping it is a lot harder to get what you need.

However it is easy to get some traditional American foods that I hadn't really eaten before moving here. These are the sorts of the food you read about (or see in American movies):
  • graham crackers (pronounced 'gram' crackers)
  • mac and cheese
  • pie (like a large custard tart)
  • grilled cheese sandwich
  • bbq (shredded pork)
  • sweet tea

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Product of the week: Chicharrones

Who can resist fried pork skins? Not our family.

When cruising the Mexican aisle at Food Lion I came across these chicarrones. The ingredients are literally fried pork skins and salt.

Andrew was pretty excited to give them a try. However it turns out they are fairly tasteless, almost like eating packing foam - light, airy and not very flavoursome. Nothing like Mr Porky's pork crackles. Katrina, you better bring a big suitcase full of Mr Porky's products when you come over (then again to keep Andrew's cholesterol down maybe just a couple will do!)

BTW check out this website dedicated to Hairy Bar snacks!

Monday, 18 August 2008

Gold medal bricklaying

Well first I was a sound widow, then I was a SWAG widow and now I am officially a pizza oven widow! Whilst I have been watching the Olympics (and cross stitching) Andrew has spent 3 consecutive nights working on the pizza oven. Over the weekend we also found time to do some weeding, go to gymnastics and attend church. Andrew is hoping to get the formwork done this week in order to pour the concrete base of the oven next weekend.

The summer is almost over! 'Over' in the sense that in the past week the humidity has dissipated and we are left with lovely 29 degree days with lower humidity. It now feels like a Sydney summer and we are enjoying the outdoors immensely apart from the bugs. It seems ridiculous to say but for some days in July/August it was too hot to go outside! Now that summer is nearly 'over' we are making the most of being outside but missed going to the beach yesterday due to tropical storms.

Friday, 15 August 2008

Construction update 5

Construction work ground to a halt last Friday when the inspector failed the porch. The inspections department is re-interpreting the rules for hurricane strapping so although the porch failed the inspector could not clearly tell us what needed to change to pass. Already there appears to be so much strapping to prevent the roof flying off during a hurricane I'm not sure what else can be done. The fact is that during a very severe hurricane the screened porch will be left standing and the rest of the house will have blown away (or one of our 35 pine trees will fall over and smash the porch!) Anyway, additional strapping has been added and we await the structural and electrical inspections on Monday. All going well the porch will be finished next week.

The pizza oven is also coming along nicely. The 4th layer of concrete blocks was laid last night by Andrew and Gary, with Daryl watching on. Lucy has been a little helper donning gloves and using a trowel in a rather expert way. She is really getting into her role as Pizza Slave! Andrew still thinks we can have a functional launch in October, let's hope so!

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Enforced garbage collection

Whilst driving down the highway it is not uncommon to see this sign - "Caution: Prison inmates working ahead" And then a few minutes later you see a dozen or so men dressed in bright orange vests picking up garbage from the roadside and putting it in bags. The NC Department of Correction's website states that "Today's N.C. prison inmates work on the farm, on road crews and in prison construction. More than 2,000 minimum and medium custody inmates from more than 60 prisons work on the state's roads, clearing right-of-way, picking up litter and patching potholes. Medium custody inmates work under the supervision of armed correctional officers. Minimum custody inmates work under the direction of Department of Transportation employees." One thing I can say is that the highways in NC are incredibly clean and in our recent travels we did not see any litter lying around. I guess there must be a lot of prisoners to do the work.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Bumper stickers I have seen around here...

Friends don't let friends re-enlist

Don't blame me I was born red

Drill for American oil

Don't pray in my school and I won't think in your church

W 2004

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Product of the week: Abuelita

The Nestle package says that this is an "Authentic Mexican style instant chocolate drink mix". You just add hot milk or water. Abuelita (which means 'grandma') is flavoured by sugar, cocoa and cinnamon. Ingredients include: sugar, nonfat milk, dairy product solids, vegetable oil (partially hydrogenated), corn syrup solids, cocoas, various other ingredients and of course mono- and diglycerides. This particular packet mix is not too good and our Mexican friends suggest buying the tablet version which is much better. We'll check out the tablet version soon - or else make our own mix with sugar, cocoa and cinnamon.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Friday, 8 August 2008

Attention basketball fans

This sleepy town of Wilmington has some surprising secrets. Did you know that Wilmington's most famous son is Michael Jordan? Yes the man dubbed the greatest basketball player of all time lived just around the corner on Gordon Road and attended Laney high school. Apparently the basketball hoop he used to practice on is still up at his mom's house. His first job was at 'Whitey's' restaurant, a long time eating establishment here in Wilmington which still serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and has just gone smoke-free. I only realised that he had lived here when I saw a sign up on the I40 a few weeks ago and then made some inquiries of some Wilmington natives. See the things you can still find out after living here for a year or so!

Thursday, 7 August 2008

The digital transition is coming!

Wilmington NC has been chosen as the test city in the US for converting from analog broadcasting to digital television! I guess we are big enough to be a test case but small enough that if something goes wrong it doesn't really matter. So on Monday 8 September our local stations are being switched over at noon. The rest of the US converts on 17 February 2009. I'll let you know how it goes!

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Construction Update 4 + snake tales

After a week of vacation our builders are back and working hard. The roof has been built and the shingles laid. Steve found that the skylights in the existing roof were leaking and fixed those too. We are now on track for the electrician to install the lights and for various county inspections.

In less exciting news around 8pm last night we spied a snake in our herb garden. Some of the herbs are doing great and others are doing terribly so we really didn't need a snake eating the caterpillars attacking the thyme. Andrew killed it with a spade (the snake not the thyme) and then re-killed it when it came alive again. We have no idea what kind of snake it was but Andrew wasn't taking any chances (remember this is the man who jumped behind me for protection when we encountered a rattlesnake whilst hiking in Yosemite!) In a freaky end the snake was decapitated yet the body kept moving.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Product of the week: Tam tam crackers

The name of these kosher crackers caught my eye (I was hoping for tim tams) and decided they were work a try. "The sweet taste of chocolate combined with the salty Tam Tam crunch is sure to entice every chocolate lover's palette." And indeed they are very good. So good that the contents of the packet only lasted 2 days in our house and they were all gone (or as Lucy says "in the mouth, down the throat, in the belly") Highly recommended!

Monday, 4 August 2008

Weekend bricklaying

Andrew worked hard over the weekend and was able to lay two rows of concrete blocks. He visited the hardware store three times (including once with Lucy who participated in the childrens activity where she helped nail together a birdhouse). He worked until 11pm both nights! I think he is determined to prove me wrong and have the pizza oven ready by October. The definition of 'ready' is debatable but he is one tired boy today!

Friday, 1 August 2008

Pizza Oven Update 3

The concrete slab is almost complete! Day 3 it was poured, stamped and top-coloured in one day and then cleaned and sealed on Day 4. It looks awesome! The backyard does not look awesome and has been quite torn up by various machines. However we are looking ahead and dreaming of wood fired pizzas (and so are all our neighbours, friends, mums groups, churches and acquaintances)