The Joy of Home Winemaking

Of Juice and Thrips and Ceiling Wax
August 2000

Miniblind Madness, Aug 8

Sticks and Rats, Aug 26

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Miniblind Madness
Tuesday, August 8

Denny and I have been repainting the guest room (don't worry, fans of the Noah's Ark Rainbow wall paper, we left it up, although most of it has been covered by a big bookcase). The dirty white is gone, replaced by a nice sky blue. I decided the old cafe curtains had to go, and thought miniblinds would be nice, with a valence on top. Clean, simple, won't take long to put up, I mused.

Bought some inexpensive ones (on sale for $3.60, with a $2.00 rebate) and while we had all the junk out of the room, gathered Denny and proceeded to try to install them.

It's embarrassing but important to note at this point that although I've seen miniblinds at other people's houses, I've never actually had any myself. Partly because of inertia, and partly because of a childhood dislike of Venetian blinds which I've never been able to fathom.

I opened the package, and pulled out the instructions. They seemed fairly straightforward, but the illustrations about the brackets were badly done, and we had a bit of trouble. First they wanted us (in English, Spanish and French) to open the blinds to their full length. We couldn't get them to let down. We tried and tried. We passed them back and forth, examining the mechanisms and cords in puzzlement.

With visions of going from door to door begging people to show me how the dumb things worked, I accidentally hit the right sort of twitch and got the cords to let the blinds down after 10 sweaty minutes.

Then Denny got on the stool and held them up (we have tall windows) and we marked for the brackets the way we thought the instructions instructed. Again, never having dealt with the things before, we weren't quite sure of the actual physical details, although we understood the theory. We centered the blinds. We measured: we marked.

Well. Previous experience with the oak trim in our old house had forewarned us that pre-drilling the screw holes was the only way to go. So I climbed up on the stool (too hard for Denny to see the little marks) and drilled. Then he climbed up on the stool (after I had descended, of course) and hand-screwed the brackets in. Even with pre-drilling, it wasn't easy, and the brackets were small and sweat made them slippery.

Got them in. Found that there was no way the blinds would be secure that way—the brackets were too far apart. Groaned. Read the instructions (only the English). Saw that the instructions were wrong. Measured and drilled again. Finally got the brackets at the right distance from one another, if a bit off center. Looked glumly at the holes I'd have to fill with wood putty at a later date.

"Slide the blinds into the brackets and install the end caps" the flimsy piece of paper said. Slide? Surely they jested. The top bar had no inclination to slide into place whatsoever, and we only got them in eventually by main force and cracked the ends to boot. Then we realized the middle support was too darned high. The bar that held the blinds bowed up.

Wrenched the damned things out. Climbed up. Climbed down. Climbed up. Lowered the bracket. Crammed them back in. It was an hour and 20 minutes since we had started. We were tired, cranky, sweaty and there was still one set to go. We went downstairs to cool off and rehydrate.

The second set went in with no trouble at all. For one thing, we had learned to distrust the instructions, and for another thing, the bar slid into the brackets on this set with no trouble at all. The first set had been defective.

All in all, it took almost two hours for two people to install $7.00 worth of miniblinds (only about $3 with that rebate!!). The amazing thing is they work and they look nice. I am contemplating replacing the torn shades and dirty curtains in my office and the sewing room with them, but not for a while. We'll need at least two months to recuperate from the horror.

Ominously, that same day we installed a window air conditioner in my upstairs office (Yippeeeeee!) and a mysterious thing didn't happen. Not once did we have to go to the hardware store. I am now waiting for the other shoe to drop. You can't do this sort of thing without having to go to the hardware store at least once. Everyone knows that. Was the recalcitrant blind our pre-payback for that, or will the Hardware Store Gods get us for it later? Stay tuned for when we paint the garage.

Take good care of yourselves,

Sticks and Rats
Saturday, August 26

Here in Minnesota, time is short if you want to put up any produce for the winter, because it might be the dead of summer now, but next month, POW, winter. So last week Denny and I went to the Farmers Market and invested in tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, and eggplant. The eggplants always seduce me— so purple, glossy and round. Denny patiently hauls the stuff back to the car for me. Have you noticed that at the beginning of the seasons it's light things, like green and strawberries, and gradually the produce gains serious heft, up to the squash and apples in the fall?

At that early hour I am not at my most bright. Hunting and gathering and grunting is about the best I can do, but Denny makes puns and comments, only about half of which I get, being on automatic pilot and taking things literally. On the way back from the market the road divides into several directions, and I was awake enough to remember this one, as we approached a sign that said : Left Lane — "Left Lane. Wasn't that Lois Lane's younger sister who had to go into hiding in the Sixties?"

Over the course of the week I got it all taken care of, doing 20 pints of salsa and freezing 16 quarts of ratatouille, my all-purpose melange of tomato, eggplant, zucchini, onions, garlic and mushrooms. Darned handy, for soups, sauces, casseroles, and just as a vegetable. Tomorrow we are going to try for the simple stuff, like sweet corn, string beans, and maybe red peppers. I've got to get stuff done before I leave for Chicago and Worldcon on Wednesday. Picture if you can, four of the Lady Poetess From Hell together all day on the train. Poor Amtrak.

Went to the State Fair Thursday at work. Our boss buys us discounted tickets the first day of the Fair. It's just down the road from the campus. We have to buy our own lunches, though. We take a long lunch and wander around till we feel guilty and trudge back up the hill, full of food, longing for air conditioning.

The running joke at the Fair is that you can get almost anything on a stick: corn dogs, pickles, fried walleye, pork chops, ice cream, fried cheese, sausages, egg rolls, alligator, chicken, fruit, and this year there are two new items: teriyaki ostrich and Scotch Eggs. As Denny says, the Fair really sticks it to you.

I tried the Scotch egg. It was pretty good. And being on a stick made it easier to eat. For a few seconds I wondered why the Brits didn't do it that way then thought of a pub full of drunken football rowdies waving sharp sticks around the place. Not a pretty thought. Better off with finger food.

The Fair is an amazing experience. Denny and I will go in the next couple of days, say hi to the cows, the quilts, the machinery, the Midway (from a safe distance) and all the fooforah.

I've just finished reading an interesting book called "Art, Culture, and Cuisine" by Phyllis Pray Bober. The footnotes take up one third of the book. It's quite good, and goes from prehistory through the late gothic period, discussing mostly European culture and food history. Very scholarly, and a lot of fun. She puts some sample recipes at the end, and I have to share a note at the bottom of page 294 with you. She's describing how to roast a pig in the old Greek style, and says:

"Note: It is not necessary to cut up the chitterlings, but my experience with stuffing a 102 pound wild boar with great strings of Italian sausage taught me that people's sensitivities do not condone such realism."

Her style, dedication to authenticity and sense of adventure reminded me of a lovely book (of which I have an autographed copy, thanks to Doug) "Lobscouse & Spotted Dog" by Anne Chotzinoff Grossman and Lisa Grossman Thomas, mother and daughter, who have written a gastronomic companion to the Aubrey/ Maturin novels by Patrick O'Brian in which they gamely cook things mentioned in the books, from Millers in Onion Sauce (or, rats, as we know them) to Jugged Hare to Flummery to Spotted Dog (a pudding, fear not) and I kid you not — Boiled Shit, from a passage when the heroes are stuck on an island full of guano. A highly entertaining book, and those two women have incredible intestinal fortitude.

As for wimpy old me, I like my ratatouille without so much rat in it.

Hoping I've spelled ratatouille correctly, but knowing I probably haven't and my spell checker is not up to it and I'm too lazy to go downstairs and look it up on the wall o'cook books,

Of Juice and Thrips and Ceiling Wax
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Copyright 2000 by Terry A. Garey.