Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Make me feel better about 2014, please...

So Chris was a bit depressed by the goal update post. He wanted me to expand on the "obviously things got done that weren't on the list" comment. So here goes - other stuff that got done:

We started clearing trees for the apple orchard which had the added advantage of giving us firewood.

We cleaned out and built shelves for the utility room.

We revamped our storage solutions by cleaning off the porch (again and again), clearing out and reorganizing the garage/workshop, and emptying, adding shelves, and turning the Nest into a storage shed.

We took out the previous living room windows and put in new big ones!

We (well, mainly Chris) helped Dad build an addition onto his house.

We put the porch ceiling up.

We (Chris again) built an equipment shed.

And I spent Thursday mornings working at my local CSA.

So - hopefully this helps with the general feeling of accomplishment around here!

It's that time again - time to see how you did on your goals (groan)

Let's take a look at what got done on the goal list, shall we?

1. Install closet space -  this means the linen/utility closet, the stairwell closet, and the upstairs wardrobes. We've already begun the stairwell closet and the linen/utility closet so we're off to a good start. The stairwell closet got organized (hanging bars, shelves, box storage) but it did not get finished - basically it's missing the door. The linen closet is done though and the clothes closet upstairs just lacks cupboard doors.

2. Create a functional mudroom with seasonal storage, dog crate, bench, and anything else I can think of that will fit and add function so I'm not constantly tripping over our winter boots. Good thing I said functional instead of beautiful. The dog crate moved into the stairwell landing (best idea ever), a tall dresser moved into the mudroom for shoe and hat/mitten storage, and the sewing table moved back into my room for use as actual sewing support (that freed up space for coats and boots). Hooks were hung, coats were stored, and the mudroom works. It is ugly though - no paint on the walls, no paint on the doors, and no character at all. 

3. Design and plant a potager. I had tomatoes and basil last year. Let's see if I can get a whole Italian meal going. While planning this one out I think I'll add designing the Eastside patio & grill area (since I intend for all of them to be connected). I'm going to count this one a win even though it didn't quite work out (very few veggies). The overall design is done and I learned a lot about where to put stuff and will be able to better locate the beds in the future.

4. Stain interior windows and add trim. Stain, yes. Trim, no. Wood still drying, sigh.

5. Finish the exterior siding, including window and door trim. Probably ought to paint the doors while we're at it. Done! Done, done, done! 

6. Tile the Bridge and install walls and ceiling (oh boy, getting ambitious). Well, I did say I was getting ambitious. Didn't even try.

7. Finish painting the interior walls rather than waiting for baseboards and ceiling trim to be installed. Done downstairs. Mostly done upstairs.

8. Install railings for real (we have safety railings up right now). Nope.

9. Finish the stairwell by adding permanent treads and a pretty landing. Nope again.

10. Finish the downstairs bathroom sink cabinet. Done.

11. Build and populate a chicken coop. Not sure if I want layers or meats at this point. I'm leaning toward meats since we're not sharing a beef cow this year and we'll need to fill the freezer with something. Ha! Didn't even try. Freezer got filled with veggies from my CSA share.

Several of these goals are dependent on us getting our hardwood logs sawn into boards this summer (which did get done) And all of them would go much easier if we got this next one done:

12. Build Chris's woodworking shop. A project that would smooth the way for pretty much all of the goals mentioned above. Picked the location and decided on a design, but nothing else was done.

Obviously other things got done that weren't on the list so I think it was a productive year. We've decided to do the 2015 goal list a bit differently -  we're going to focus on just the 1st quarter projects and add/adjust as needed. That way we can make allowances for weather and other circumstances that we failed to take into account - like the wood needing to dry for a year before you can use it for trim for example.

Monday, December 29, 2014

At least I can work in it now

My room continues to come along. The armoire is painted and organized. 

The top is for extra baking supplies & platters
The bottom holds craft & sewing supplies
The twin bed has been cleared of non-bed related stuff (flat surface syndrome had struck it hard). The filing cabinets are being used as a temporary desk area. 

The antique sewing table is in place and is once again being used to support a sewing machine. I even got to do a bit of sewing! 
For some reason I didn't take a photo of the sewing table alone. Huh.
The boxes that were on the chrome bakers rack are now either in temporary storage upstairs or they are on moving dollies under the work tables (love my moving dollies!). Chris has been busily planing the rough cut pine boards smooth so that he can build my semi-loft bed - that will get the twin bed off the floor and give me storage underneath (that's where the box/dollie combinations will reside). 

And we moved the Craig's List dresser in today. It's in good enough shape that I can use it as-is. I'll paint it at my leisure (guess that means it's a craft project rather than a task. It's all in how you think about it). 
All clean and ready to store sewing materials
The china cabinet now holds the fruits of my summer canning labors as well as empty canning jars ready for next year's crop.
I need to cover the back with a cloth so the contents show better
The work tables in the middle of the room are temporary - they're there to give me an idea of the size I want for my work island. I'm thinking  42" x 42" at the moment, which is actually slightly smaller than the two tables. I want enough surface area for good workspace but need to be able to easily move around the table as well. There are lots of small and large tasks to be done, but the goal will be to keep the room usable throughout the process. Seems doable now.

The bed succumbed to FSS. Again.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Christmas morning walk

We had a great snow storm last week - incredibly wet, heavy snow that came down one day and into the next. It was so heavy that it didn't look like much accumulation but when we tried to move it, it just didn't go any where. Couldn't throw it, couldn't shovel it, could barely scoop it with the tractor front loader. 

It was gorgeous on the trees. Temperatures were low and the sky was a leaden grey.

Cooper enjoying the heavy snow
Then this week the rain began and everything started melting off (I'll be posting stream pictures soon). It's been grey and sloppy all week.

However Christmas morning dawned bright and sunny. The morning walk was a great way to start the holiday.

Bright morning light

These rocks were coated in ice four days ago

Streams are full

Golden light
The whole day was full of sunlight and temperatures were in the low 40s. What a fantastic holiday!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas to all!

Wishing everyone a very merry Christmas!

Our living room at 5:30 this morning. Santa came!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Plum Blossom restaurant review

The Plum Blossom in Troy is an old favorite of ours. When we first moved to the area back in 1999 (so long ago!), it was recommended to us by the people from whom we were buying a house. Both the restaurant and the house turned out to be great.

Plum Blossom has been consistently wonderful for the 15 years we've eaten there. And now that we live an hour away it's a special treat to stop in and enjoy the food. When we dropped in for lunch on Sunday we found that they had updated the menu and added new noodle dishes and rice bowls.

I had the new grilled shrimp with spinach noodles and it was fantastic. In addition to shrimp and noodles there were grilled onions, green and red peppers, and some kind of lemony-mustardy-amazing sauce that I have got to figure out. Chris went for the safety dish of General Tso's Chicken which is always yummy there. Both meals came with soup and the bill came to around $20 before tip.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Slowly, progress is being made

My new mantra: It gets worse before it gets better; ommm. It gets worse before it gets better; ommm. 

Still a hot mess.
But it is getting better.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Progress on my room

*Sigh*. Is there any better feeling than having a tidy closet? Okay - no comments about beating cancer or having babies or saving children from burning buildings. I want to enjoy my closet after-glow. Okay, moment over.

I tackled the freezer closet! I relocated some items to the armoire and then moved around shelves and shuffled goods. When I first set up the closet last year I just unpacked a bunch of boxes and stuffed all the stuff (lots and lots of stuff) on the shelves figuring that as I used things they'd kind of self-organize. Yeah...that doesn't actually work. Instead the items you use a lot end of jammed around the stuff you hardly ever touch and it gets more and more frustrating. I'm sure we've all been there.

But now I have room! Actually, that's been an overriding theme to this whole house design and build. Have room for the stuff you do and use - but not too much room. I didn't want to build a tiny house nor a McMansion. I just wanted something the right size for how we live.

Anyway, back to the closet. The items I used frequently over the last year got moved to the lower shelves. The small appliances that don't fit in the kitchen right now (still don't have the kitchen cabinets built because the wood is still drying) are on the bottom shelf where they are easy to grab. Entertaining platters (did anyone else just get a mental picture of dishes dancing around with top hat and cane?) which I thought would end up on the top shelf actually get used all the time and are now front and center. It's just wonderful. And I have my ladder conveniently stored to the right so I can easily reach the highest shelves (I love our 9 foot ceilings). 

Tidy! Usable!
Of course, that leaves this mess to be dealt with. That bakers rack is full of boxes. Boxes full of fabric, project materials, paperwork, and office supplies. And it's all gotta go somewhere in this room. 

This photo actually shows improvement. Argh.
I'm in the process of cleaning off the rack so I can move it out of there. Most of the boxes are full of fabric and project materials; they'll get moved upstairs temporarily. The file cabinets will be moved to where the rack is now and will serve as a temporary desk. Then I'll move in my antique sewing table and the free Craig's list dresser so I can actually unpack some of the boxes instead of just shuffling them around. Then it's building a loft bed (more storage space!) and creating a center work island. And I want to figure out a cute way to paint the dresser too.

Know what, I'm going to go look at my freezer closet again. I need to recapture that feeling of peace.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Green bean casserole

Well, I finally got around to cooking the Thanksgiving green bean casserole. I normally stagger the Thanksgiving dishes but it's definitely out of the ordinary for it to take me this long to make a one. Basically we just had so many other things to nosh on. Plus I was planning to use my blanched and frozen beans from my summer CSA share so I didn't have to worry about ingredients going bad. Wow, did that share work well for us!

Anyway, I don't do the traditional green bean casserole with cream of mushroom soup and canned fried onions. A few years back I found a recipe that involved using fresh haricot vert, onion, mushrooms, a butter/flour roux with milk for the cream base, and a topping of shallots that you fry yourself. It's a bit more complex to make, but since I don't do it on the big day, I can take the extra time to make what is a stunningly tasty dish.

So it was bean casserole and mashed taters for dinner tonight. Didn't miss the turkey at all!

Veggie dinner tonight

Friday, December 12, 2014

The armoire is done!

Painted! Reassembled! And it came out great!

Putting the back panel on
See all the crap everywhere? This armoire is going to help so much. It's main function is going to be for pantry items like bulk baking ingredients, big platters, and that kind of stuff. At least that's the plan at the moment. I find that I like to live with a situation for a little while, see if it works, see if something else needs to be done, and then adjust accordingly.

The doors needed some fru-fru to make them prettier. I picked a fun stencil, taped off the pattern and got to work. Went much faster than I thought it would.
Stencil in place
 Now the doors are on and I've started to fill it.
I love these colors
Every time I look in the corner I do a double-take - it's so bright and happy. I used a different stencil in two spots. A bird/tree that I think works well with the squiggles. I'll use birds and trees to tie the other disparate pieces of furniture together too.
I used the Apple Green for the stencil and painted the back panel, inside door panels, and shelf lips with it too. I like the contrast against the lighter Fresh Cut Grass.
Good shot of the two tones of paint. Subtle, huh?
I don't have much in it yet because I'm still fussing with what goes where. I'm sure it won't take long to fill it though. This officially kicks off the room reorganization process as I move stuff out of the freezer closet, rearrange those shelves, fill the china hutch, and prepare to move in the dresser. Gonna be a busy winter.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

This, that, the other

My Room is taking up most of my attention right now. But it's a huge job. Not because the room is big but because there is so much going on in there. So many functions to be served (admittedly, they're all my functions, but still -a lot of them to consider). I find that I go in, stare at stuff, move an item or two, and stare some more. So I figured a break was in order.

Cooper agreed. Walkies!
Love that sky. Tree is pretty too.


What Cooper does after walkies. 
I worked on My Room some more and then took another break to make this bread. I originally found the recipe here and like her instruction/measurements a bit more. This bread is consistent - always light, good crumb, and great cinnamon flavor. And I finally got the swirl just right!

Tastes fantastic
This works out perfectly - I work on My Room while it rises and get a slice of hot cinnamon bread as a reward at the end. Yum!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Just what is this room anyway???

When I designed the house I had a room designated as "pantry". It's a big room and has it's own closet so the architect chose to call it a bedroom - and who knows, if we're still in this house when we're 70 maybe we'll end up down here instead of climbing the stairs. But for now - it's supposed to be a pantry, or craft room, or office, or something. It seems to wear a lot of hats so finally I just decided to call it "My Room".

Not much has been done since we put up the freezer shelvesinstalled the door, and jammed it full of furniture. I've managed to make use of it but it frequently becomes the storage spot for whatever jobs are getting done in the house; which means it's frequently a pain in the rear to get in and out of it.

No more! I have reclaimed the room and it's going to be wonderful. First up was to find appropriate furniture for storage. I was going to have Chris build it - but that takes time and let's face it, he's got enough to do. Then I looked at IKEA and found lots of nifty stuff but that takes money and I really didn't want to spend it. Then I looked at Craig's List and found free stuff! And that made me look at my own house and I found stuff that I already owned! A big win all around.

Here's what I've got so far:
Craig's List dresser - free! (people are crazy)
Dad's no-longer-needed china hutch
Two good file cabinets made of wood, an antique Singer sewing table with drawers, two card catalog knock-offs that hold an amazing amount of small stuff, and this beauty - a massive entertainment armoire that Chris built many years ago when TV's needed a way to hide their huge backends. I was going to use it out on the Bridge but realized that it would work great in My Room instead. So we moved it downstairs (add "repair stairwell ceiling" to project list), removed the doors, back panel, and shelves, and I got to sanding and priming. Chris got to making a new back panel (so long TV air hole) and some extra shelves.
A hot mess
Priming is easier than sanding
Since this is a creative space I decided to use fun colors on the furniture (the walls will be kept neutral). Benjamin Moore to the rescue! Only in the sense that they have awesome colors in their Aura paint line, not that they gave me anything. Bummer - that stuff is expensive.

Here's a sneak peak at the first coat on the armoire. It's Fresh Cut Grass and it's awesome. Computer monitors are screwy for viewing colors so I can tell you that it's actually a very soft grellow type color. I also bought some Apple Green (same color card) to use as a door stencil. I'm not the most artistic of souls (accountant, remember? We're creative, just not that kind of creative) but I'm pretty confident I can use the wee sponge to good effect.
First coat
The fun part has been deciding where everything goes - what gets stored here versus there? And I'm still picking colors for the dresser and maybe the china hutch. I'm struggling with the hutch because the finish is gorgeous. Maybe I'll just do a pretty background cloth behind the shelves instead. Decisions, decisions, decisions. Let the fun begin!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Quick change in the weather

I mentioned we had a snowy Thanksgiving; I didn't mention how quickly we went from sunny and warm to snowing and cold though.

On the 25th we decided it was time to set up the porch wood cribs. We keep two racks on our porch so that it's easy to grab wood for the stove. Takes about eight trips with the tractor to completely fill the cribs and we'll have to do this several times throughout the winter as we use up the wood. Makes for extra work to have the wood lot away from the house but I prefer it that way. Tarps are not overly attractive after all.

Nicely stacked but still ugly
 It was a gorgeous day for this chore. Sunny, warm, dry.
T-shirt weather
 We took a break and went for a hike too. Here is the landscape on Tuesday.
 And here is it Thanksgiving morning.
We got snow!
The creek
The house does look pretty all blanketed in white. And we got the wood moved so it was easy to keep the stove going all weekend.
Snuggled in for the winter