We were bookended this week by the Deep Freeze. At the beginning of the week it was below zero and we were shivering and glad of the new heating system in the house as well as the beautiful fireplace upstairs and the gas fireplace in the bonus room downstairs. Besides the cheery flames they give off quite a lot of heat. When I think back to our first winter here with the old furnace and lousy insulation, the fireplace kept our spirits up. It was one of the first things we did when we moved into the house at the end of October in 2019 and it is still one of the best things that we did. Turn the fireplace from a terrible woodstove insert back to a regular wood burning fireplace. Then the new furnace and last January the addition of the gas fireplace in the bonus room. We are cozy and cheery despite the weather. We woke up Sunday to -6F on the thermometer.
Update on Jenny Lane
Where do I start. The picture above does not tell the story. #1 was on Tuesday as we prepared for the crew to come back on Wednesday to begin the renovation of the bathroom and laundry room. We knew they had to cut through the cement to get to the pipes because they were old and we were going to have to reroute things. John worked very hard to empty the space of everything that he could. He put a lot of it in Jack’s room and the rest in the bonus room. We also emptied the front hall and put down some floor covering to protect the slate floor. We knew it was going to be rough but weren’t prepared for how rough. Wednesday was a very noisy day. The guys arrived with a cement cutting machine and later added a jack hammer to the equipment list.
It was noisy and dirty and wet. As they dug up the cement the old copper pipes were exposed. What they discovered, to their horror and ours, was that the pipes were rotted right through. See below.
Not only the inside pipes but the one that went to the main exit pipe that then went to the sewer pump outside. Mason, our wonderful plumber, said we had to get an excavator in here ASAP to dig from the house to the sewer pump. This drain was not only for the downstairs bathroom and laundry but also for the entire house. If it failed, which it was going to do at some point, we were going to be in big trouble. Not a great distance but it went about 10 feet from the base of the house right through the patio (which was rebuilt two summers ago). We are incredibly blessed to have a crew of workers who care about us but who also have great friends with excavating equipment. Chris called in a favor at 4pm on Wednesday and JT showed up at 8:30am Thursday morning to dig the trench.
By the end of the day on Thursday we had all new drains in the cement floor in the laundry and bathroom but also a new drain and connection to the sewer pump. If you had told me on Monday that this was going to happen I wouldn’t have believed you. I know more about this stuff than I really need to know but am so very grateful we found this problem BEFORE we did the new tile and walls etc.
While the guys were here we had an opportunity to give them their Christmas gifts. Their names were handpainted by Libby and each contained some special goodies for them. I think they liked them. It was two very tense days but it all ended up ok thanks to these guys and their associates. We can’t thank them enough. Jenny Lane is truly their project and they are putting a lot of themselves into it.
Working Out This Week
During it all we managed to get on the exercise bike or the treadmill every day. For me, the mix of the two is perfect. On Mondays and Fridays I do the bike and on Tuesday through Thursday the treadmill. Terrific workouts on both. I’ve bumped the tread up to a 60 minute workout and the bike is 45 minutes. Throw in a stretch class or a yoga somewhere in there and that cold outside is not bothering me much at all. However, by Friday before the next deep freeze, I did get out with the dogs for a fabulous hike through the Morris Trail at Colby-Sawyer. We loved it.
Ending the Week on a High Note
Our Jack was inducted into the Order of the Gown on Friday, January 14th at The University of the South, Sewanee. It is a sign of academic achievement and as a Junior he earned it after he maintained an average of 3.2 or above for two semesters in a row. Thanks to modern technology the event was livestreamed and we were able to be there virtually. It is a very impressive service presided over by the bishop. Two honorary degrees were awarded at the same time. One to retired Major General Charles Bolden, former NASA administrator, who gave a truly inspiring set of remarks.
Here is what is said on the Sewanee website about The Order of the Gown: “Among Sewanee’s many customs, none perhaps is more distinctive than the wearing of the gown by students and faculty. Gowns were originally authorized to be worn by all students in 1871, and the Order of the Gown (OG) was established in 1873 at the instigation of Chaplain William Porcher DuBose. The students who are members of the OG have worn the gown as a badge of academic distinction ever since. The OG was the original and only form of the student government until the 1960s.”
We are very proud of Jack and the hard work he has put in. The pin he is wearing is from the Sewanee Volunteer Fire Department. I think he might have worn his helmet if he could. Congratulations Jack.
Cooking This Week was a Marathon
Early on in the week I had read about 58 one pot meals in a Bon Appetit article 58 Dutch Oven Meals. Let me start out by saying that one pot is only because it is served from one pot not necessarily all made in one pot. Katie and I sat down with the recipes and figured out which day we would try each one then we set up a shopping list and believe it or not, I went shopping. Most of the time it is Katie or John that do the food shopping but I said I would do it this time. It took me almost two hours to find everything but I did it and there weren’t very many folks in the store so that was good. The first meal we tried was probably the easiest so I will include the recipe here. This meal was delicious but in my opinion too salty. I would not use the amount of salt they recommend for the pasta water.
3tablespoons (or more) kosher salt
3links sweet Italian sausage
115-ounce can cannellini (white kidney) beans
1bunch of Tuscan kale, rinsed
12-ounce chunk of Parmesan
3tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
12ounces rigatoni pasta
½teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2tablespoons unsalted butter
1. The first thing you want to do is get your pasta water boiling. Fill a large pot (preferably around 8 quarts) with approximately 6 quarts water, then put it over high heat. When you see wisps of steam, add 3 Tbsp. salt, stir once, and cover the pot. This will make it boil faster. Yes, it’s A LOT of salt, but as the pasta cooks, it absorbs the salty water, ensuring the pasta is seasoned from the inside out. You end up dumping most of the salt anyway when you drain the water.
2. While the water comes to a boil, prep your other ingredients. Remove 3 links sausage from its casings and set aside. Dump 1 can beans into a strainer or colander and rinse well. Shake off excess water. Turn out beans onto a couple of sheets of paper towel and pat dry with a few more paper towels. Strip kale leaves off the thick woody ribs and tear into small pieces; discard ribs. Finely grate 2 oz. Parmesan using the small holes of a box grater. Set aside about ½ cup cheese for garnishing.
3. Heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a large Dutch oven or large skillet, preferably with straight sides, over medium-high. It’s best to use a vessel with high sides, because you’re about to do a lot of tossing and flinging when the pasta goes in, and this will minimize spillage. Add sausage and cook, breaking up with a wooden spoon and stirring occasionally, until meat is browned, crispy in places, and cooked through, 8–10 minutes. Transfer with a spider or slotted spoon to a plate. Remove pot from heat and set aside.
4. Pour 12 oz. pasta into water and stir once. Set timer for 3 minutes less than the package advises. You’re going to cook it well shy of al dente.
5. While pasta is cooking, return pot to medium-low heat and add beans and ½ tsp. red pepper flakes. Cook, tossing occasionally and mashing some beans with spoon, until browned in spots, about 5 minutes. Transfer about half of beans to plate with sausage.
6. Using a ladle or liquid measuring cup, add about 1 cup cooking liquid from pasta into pot with beans (reserve remaining liquid). Increase heat to medium-high.
7. Using spider or a slotted spoon, transfer pasta to pot with beans and add kale. Toss vigorously with tongs to move the pasta around to incorporate the kale as it wilts.
8. Continue to cook, tossing often, until kale is wilted, pasta is al dente, and water is reduced by about half, about 4 minutes. If water is reduced before pasta is al dente, add another ¼–½ cup pasta cooking liquid. Reduce heat to low.
9. Add another ¼ cup pasta cooking liquid, then gradually add cheese, tossing all the while, until cheese is emulsified into the water and forms a luxurious, glossy sauce.
10. Remove pot from heat and add reserved beans and sausage, then 2 Tbsp. butter, tossing, until butter is melted.
11. Taste pasta and add more salt if needed. Cut 1 lemon in half and squeeze one half over pasta, then drizzle with remaining 1 Tbsp. oil.
12. Divide pasta among bowls and top with reserved ½ cup cheese.