Friday, June 7, 2019

Memorial Day Weekend

Garden with red mulch.This year our Memorial Day weekend ended up being a kind of suburban super-event. We’ve spent three and a half days working on our yard, front and back and have started, moved along and completed a large number of projects.

So I just wanted to do a diary kind of post and list out a bunch of these things in sequence.

Front yard with freshly cut grass.I had a half day at work on Friday because of an incoming long weekend. We’ve started with mowing the lawn right after arrival of my dad and my sister for their long weekend stay.

My dad asked us not to do the whole lawn ahead of their arrival because he loves the smell of a fresh cut grass.

Hydrangea.Speaking of mowers — we have purchased an electric Ego mower powered by a massive battery that lasts for a good hour and a half on a self-propelled machine. No messing with gasoline, no oil changes, no hard starts. Press a button and it runs.

In fact we were so impressed with it that now we have a full set of Ego tools — a wire grass trimmer, a chain saw, a hedge trimmer and as of this weekend a leaf blower for small clean-up jobs that can be used in place of a usual sweeper.

Leveling the sand.Back to the diary — we installed three large stepping stones next to our trash bins for easier access. And we finished fully mulching our “mid-yard” — total 10 bags of red mulch used. Home Depot had them on sale for $2 per bag.

Towards the end of Friday we marked down the area for our shed walkway with stakes and orange string.

Marking off the new portion.And at the end of the day I drove down to a local train station to pick up my mom who was coming down directly from Manhattan after her work day.

This was the first time that my parents decided to arrive separately — the reason for that was a nightmarish traffic that can precede a long weekend. Dad and sister drove out in the morning and missed it all and trains are trains.

Digging.On Saturday morning Alёna took Arosha to taekwondo make up class and took my dad and Anna along with them for a walk in a park after the class.

Meanwhile my mom and Lina were busy making a massive lunch-dinner meal for the family — manti. Probably one of my favorite dishes, but it is very time and labor intensive to prepare.

Gravel.When Alёna arrived we started digging the foundation of our shed walk. It was going very slowly. The soil was filled with gravel and we had to work our way through it with picks — these were kindly gifted to us by one of our neighbors.

After eating our lunch we proceeded to dig further and made good progress for the day.

Almost done.Also I went through our lawn with a rake to collect all the excess grass that was left by a mower a day before. The grass grows really quickly this time of the year and we decided to leave the grass on the lawn instead of bagging it.

In retrospect this was not a right decision, but an easily correctable one.

Grilling.Also we spend a good amount of time on walking around our whole property and cutting down parasitic vines off our trees. Some were chocking trees, some were just starting, but we had a lot. We used a big wire-cutters and an axe when that wouldn’t work.

After running through bushes, grass and tick-untreated areas we all did a mandatory shower and tick check — one of the dark sides of life in Connecticut.

Salmon and steak.We finished the Saturday with putting kids to bed and had a nice conversation for several hours in our kitchen with parents and Lina.

Sunday was started with work on the dig. And we only finally completed that job on Monday. We took out a large number of huge boulders out of the earth during the process.

Lunch on the porch.Then I took a drive to a local supermarket to acquire provisions for grilling. I bought three 2-inch thick steaks, a medium-sized salmon filet, 8 burger patties, vegetables and grilling beans.

The steaks, fish and vegetables we grilled for lunch. Everyone seemed to enjoy it quite a bit.

Spruce and lilac.After lunch I used our manual aerator to lift up a bunch of soil in the areas of backyard where we are growing new grass — quite successfully so far.

We felt that we could’ve put down more seed during our initial sowing, so I repeated the process in the areas that seemed sparse with new grass.

Mulched bushes.When I was done with grass we got into our cars and went to a highly recommended nursery in Bethel — Hollandia Nursery.

My mom wanted to get us a new plan and she settled down on hydrangea. And Alёna and I got a pair of our long-standing wishes fulfilled. Alёna loves lilac and we bought a young plant for ourselves. And I wanted to get an evergreen tree for the longest time — so we got a young spruce.

Lilac.Then we rearranged out empty planting bed. We moved one of the bushes we planted last year closer to the center and planted our spruce close to the steps and our lilac to the opposite end of the bed.

For all these plants we started with peat moss “soup”, then backfilled it with earth and added fertilizer on top. The final touch should’ve been mulch which we didn’t have any left of.

Mulch.So Alёna, my mom and I got into the car and went to Home Depot. We ended up buying another 14 bags of red mulch. My mom got a couple of perennials and we also picked up Ego blower on Memorial Day sale.

Monday morning we started with more digging and an early burger lunch. After my parents left we finished the dig and filled our foundation with small sand-like gravel and leveled that out.

Fig tree.Alёna cleaned up our house beds from weeds, we trimmed some bushes and filled both of these beds with mulch along with our hosta plant by the door of the garage.

Then to finish our job with our walkway by the shed we needed some actual fine grain sand. So we went to Home Depot again and were surprised to discover that they had none. Went to nearby Lowe’s — same result.

Hosta at the start of driveway.But then we stumbled open a small fig tree which our kids really wanted to get. And it already had fruit developing on it. We bought that. Stopped by a nearby Raymore and Flanigan and cashed in our gift card for a guestroom bedside lamp.

Upon return home we planted our new fig tree, mulched it and that was pretty much the end of our weekend. Phew. So much stuff accomplished.

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Thursday, June 13, 2019

Some Grilling Notes

Grilled vegetables.The grilling season is upon us, so it’s time to expand our summer cooking horizons. Our most infallible item is still grilled salmon, but we’ve tried a few new things as well.

Salmon


Ridgеfield's summers are great.I marinated the salmon in mixed garlic-lemon zest-lemon juice-olive oil-salt mixture last time. It had a bit of added flavor, but on the down side it separated from the skin and somewhat fell apart on the grill. I still like it as a variation of the plain grilled salmon, which I’ve grew quite tired off by now.

Grilled Italian sausages


Ignat, Vika and Alisa weekend.Of course we’ve grilled them before, but on occasion they were under-cooked inside or somewhat burned outside. So after doing some research we found that the secret step to insure evenly cooked, juicy and crispy on the outside sausages is poaching. Pretty much you put them in cold water, bring to a boil, let simmer minute, turn the heat off and let them cool in the pot.

Roasted peppers and onions


Welcoming summer.This is not a dish cooked on the grill, but it came out so nice, that I wanted to put it here before I forgot all about it. We found the recipe bounded together with the sausage recipe. Just in case the link will stop working: I mixed 6 bell peppers, large sweet onion, 6 tomatoes, 4 garlic cloves, a few tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, salt and olive oil. The vegetables were julienned, cut and sliced to my liking. I did not have any fresh basil on hand, but I’m sure adding it would have only enhanced the flavors. I roasted the vegetables in 370 F degree oven for a little over an hour, turning twice.

Steak


Thick ribeye steak.This is not a new item for us either, but Daniеl keeps experimenting with different cuts of meat. He figured out that the steak thinner than an inch comes out too dry and he actually liked the 2 inch rib eye the most so far. I marinated it in salt, pepper, oil and a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce for about an hour. Not sure if that made the meat better, but it’s a possibility.

Corn


Marshmallows.We used to grill corn wrapped in foil, but I wanted to see if we can avoid this time consuming and waste-producing step. Turns out that you can. More over, the cooking time is shorter and the corn has more flavor! So we simply removed the husks, grilled the corn on medium heat for about 10 minutes turning once and rubbed it with butter right after, while it was still hot.

Pineapple


Grilled pineapple.We always loved pineapple in Brazilian steakhouses, but never grilled it at home before. I think Ilya got us excited about grilling it after our Canadian trip, so we tried it and the results were pretty nice. The process is simple — cut pineapple in wedges first, then cut the core and the skin off, then coat with a mixture of brown sugar and cinnamon and grill.

Pork


Well done marshmallows.We’ve tried some recipe last year, but I can’t remember what it was. This time we marinated pork chops in mashed onion (I used an immersion blender to mash it), salt and pepper mixture. This is actually the recipe that I got from Illona for pork shish kebab, but we don’t have a mangal yet, so we just tried it with chops. They came out pretty well — soft and onion-y.

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Monday, June 24, 2019

The First Year Sagа

I'll start from the end. This is our little helper mowing the lawn just this past weekend.For our first anniversary of living in our own house I’ve decided to go pick out all home related pictures on my phone taken throughout this year. I heavily trimmed this collection and still have ended up with a massive number — 100 photos in total.

These photos tell a gradual story of us making this home ours. It starts out with how things were and how we progressed to making it what it is now. We’ve done a LOT of things and this collection show only certain aspects of our saga. Although even a number of later photos in this collection is already outdated.

The photo of the entrance taken during our original inspection. This hideous chandelier has got to go.The photo of the entrance taken during our original inspection. This hideous chandelier has got to go.

Dining room photo taken on the same day. Hideous wall lights and another terrible chandelier.Dining room photo taken on the same day. Hideous wall lights and another terrible chandelier.

First shots of the patio. Note the chair. It will show up later in this set. We are going to restore it to its former glory.First shots of the patio. Note the chair. It will show up later in this set. We are going to restore it to its former glory.

View of the kitchen from the living room. That bracket on the wall is going to be replaced with a TV that we often watch during our meals at that kitchen bar.View of the kitchen from the living room. That bracket on the wall is going to be replaced with a TV that we often watch during our meals at that kitchen bar.

Kitchen from another angle. Our furniture of our first weeks can be seen through the door on the side.Kitchen from another angle. Our furniture of our first weeks can be seen through the door on the side.

Our naked porch door.Our naked porch door.

Empty porch. Great place to eat during the summer dinners, especially with guests. No furniture yet.Empty porch. Great place to eat during the summer dinners, especially with guests. No furniture yet.

Same porch, different angle. It really needs stuff. And a grill which will be our first purchase for the new house.Same porch, different angle. It really needs stuff. And a grill which will be our first purchase for the new house. Continue Reading
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