Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Signs of Spring

Spring is truly here and we are seeing proof of it all over the property:

Wet snow sliding off the roof
The fire pit is emerging
Husbands on Ice!
Cooper can see over the drifts
Fog in the woods
The fog in the woods is one of my favorite signs of spring. It means the air is truly getting warmer and we can soon go out with just a heavy jacket as opposed to 15 pounds of outer gear (seriously, I weighed it). Mud season is upon us and we're still seeing some road damage down on the access road. We'll definitely need to add more stone down there and I have the feeling that this will simply be a yearly chore and expense. Well worth it to be so far back off the road though.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Indian food - Karavalli restaurant

In our continuing effort to try new-to-us restaurants, we dined at a local Indian restaurant recently, Karavalli in Saratoga Springs. It had come highly recommended by several friends but we were still a bit leery of going. Since we don't normally eat Indian food we had no idea where to start. Fortunately we grabbed three friends who were familiar with the menu and they gave us good suggestions on what to order.

Let me say - yummy! We loved everything. We shared an appetizer of mashed potato stuffed in a crepe with several sauces on the side. Excellent and more than enough for all of us to share as a starter. I ordered a chickpea salad that was bright and fresh and very nicely seasoned plus lamb kebabs. The kebabs were slightly spicy and came with grilled veggies. Chris got a spinach and chicken dish that was extremely tasty with a medium spiciness level (he will probably go hotter next time). Our friends had an assortment of dishes that I cannot for the life of me remember the names of. Drat! One was chicken with rice; another was chicken in a yellow sauce (sounds appetizing, doesn't it?); and the last was ???. I have no excuse as we weren't even drinking that night.

I do certainly remember that the food was well prepared and the service was attentive if a bit slow (it was Saturday night and the tiny restaurant was very full so we just enjoyed the company while waiting for the entrees to come out).

Dinner with tip, no drinks, came to $30 per person with significant leftovers for lunch (and dinner!) the next day.

Friday, March 20, 2015

At least it's a cute box...

Another sewing project! I was actually supposed to be making string covers for Chris's guitars and basses but started here because I thought it would make a good top for the cover. Nope. Wrong size and shape. But it's an adorable box and will make a great thread catcher. And now I've got a better idea on how to go about actually doing the string covers. You'll be subjected to photos of those soon.

Anyway, these were a Pinterest inspiration that started here and got refined here. 

The finished product
Both these women wrote great tutorials - so easy to follow even a beginner like me could do them. Our second floor (where the music loft is located) will have lots of color (you know, for creative inspiration) so I chose some bright yellow and purple fabric. This worked out well since the box will now reside in my colorful and creative project room instead.
Cutting the fabric
Look! I quilted something!
Other side
Catching threads
I'll use the box as a thread catcher when I sew. I've been using a mason jar but I'm always afraid I'll knock it to the floor and it will shatter on the concrete. This will be much better and quite a bit cuter to boot.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

What the heck happened to working on the stairs?

For those wondering why I'm showing posts about crafts rather than actual work on finishing the house - the planer is still broken. 

There should be two sprockets
 So the planer is still in pieces.
Many parts
The part arrived but didn't quite fix everything. Another part had to be ordered (turns out the bushing was jammed which is why the sprocket broke). It has now arrived as well.
The broken sprocket 
We'll be returning to our regularly scheduled DIY soon. In the meantime, allow me to leave you with a cute kitty photo.
"Somebody let me in!"

Monday, March 16, 2015

My linen pinafore is done!

As mentioned, I love the rough draft I made of a pinafore. It's out of a baby blue flannel sheet and is not exactly something you'd wear out of the house though. But this one! It's made of linen and I'll have no qualms about heading to the farmer's market in it.

I used this Pinterest pin as my starting point and then spent much time actually figuring out how to do the seams neatly, how and where to attach the straps, and just what size to make it so it would fit me (and several other women in my family). Here are some pics of my draft version.

We took advantage of our first 50 degree day and got a couple snaps of the finished linen version. Yes, that is a 4 foot tall pile of snow behind me.

Front with pockets
Crossover back straps
 Here are some of the things I learned:
1. Linen requires some technique to cut. If you just square up a side and cut away, the fabric will not hang properly. Instead you need to pull one of the threads to create a cutting channel. I found great instructions on this embroidery site (plus I picked up some nifty embroidery tips).
2. Speaking about hanging properly, that's all about warp and weft. These are weaving terms and refer to the threads running vertically and horizontally that form the fabric. If these are out of whack then your fabric will not drape properly. Do you have a pair of cheap sweatpants where the leg seams twist a bit? That's drape - they didn't bother straightening the fabric nor did they bother cutting on the thread. Probably because it wastes fabric and takes time to do it the proper way. You need to pull and adjust the fabric to true it up before cutting.
3. Figuring out how to fold together the seams and sew them neatly was the hardest part of this project. Lots of layers of fabric once you start folding in bottom hems with side seams. Trim edges and corners to make it easier.

I'm planning to tackle some linen tops next - sleeveless tops and tunic shirts! Can't wait.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

A philosophical view toward kitchen design

I am an accountant. Not only by training, but by inclination. There was no question what profession I would pursue and I started training way back my freshman year of high school. By this I mean I am precise; I enjoy detail, clear instructions, and rules rather than guidelines. The odds are that if something needs to be done, then there is a right way to do it.


As I progressed through my career I found that even in accounting there are "grey areas" (we've all heard about those, right?). Those areas are particularly prevalent in financial analysis where you take assumptions and history and try to figure out the best answer to what will happen if you do X. You learn to work with ambiguity and accept that your assumptions may be flat out wrong (hopefully not, but many people help develop those assumptions, so it's often more of a crapshoot than anyone wants to admit). You find that you have to adapt to new data, to stay flexible.

I turned to the kitchen to help restore my faith in "exact". Baking in particular is more science than art. Understanding the ratio of wet ingredients to dry, using weights instead of volume measures, following the rules, will yield consistently yummy results. I'm a very good baker. Cooking is more flexible and I was never an intuitive cook. That's why I enjoy Cook's Illustrated magazine - they are the ultimate do-it-this-way and it-will-turn-out-that-way resource.

But again...

I now spend significantly more time in my kitchen and I have expanded my repertoire of dishes. I stepped away from cookies and cakes where ratios really matter, and entered the world of bread where you have to adjust according to the feel of the dough. And I have begun to apply that instinct to my cooking as well. I still use recipes but I'm learning to treat them as starting points and I'm starting to trust my knowledge of flavors, textures, and the way ingredients work together.

So, what does this have to do with kitchen design? Well, I've been thinking about all this because I'm finalizing the kitchen layout. I've worked in this space for over a year and I think I have a much better feel for what I want and need. I've moved things around, used temporary storage racks, and tweaked to get what works for me. Most of the work left to be done centers around the cabinetry so there will definitely be some precise calculations, but I'll remember to stay flexible. To appreciate the art and purpose behind the numbers. And to let instinct guide the process.

Friday, March 6, 2015

I'm being thwarted

I keep trying to work on projects and I keep getting thwarted. My linen pinnie? Get it all cut out (have you ever cut linen? It's weird and you have to pull a thread out in order to create a cutting channel so it'll be straight) and realize I don't have the right color thread. That's okay, I'll make some pajama pants instead. Oops, turns out I don't have quite enough fabric in my stash. How about the guitar neck/string covers that Chris has been requesting? Sure! Got into the project and realized that I needed quilt batting to add structure. Huh, don't have any. Thwarted again! Okay, regroup, relax. Try something completely different. Go to pool league and lose the match. Argh! I've decided to sit down and read a book - hopefully it'll have all its pages.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Well, that's odd...

So, on February 28th my blog got 300 views in one day. This is not a 300 view type of blog. I have 12 followers (thank you to every one of them!) and most of the folks who look at it are close friends or family members. Plus I didn't even do a post that day. So either I got really lucky with a post title (I'm thinking it might have been the conjunction of moon, venus, mars) or something really weird happened. Whatever the cause, if you're new here, welcome. If you've been following along for a while, thanks for staying around.

Anyway, here's what's happening. We're healthy again! But the planer broke (or rather the drive gear for the feed chain did) so we're in wait mode until the new part arrives. That means we're not planing wood for the stairs/wall and we've got some free time on our hands. Always nice to have free time.

We made bird seed ornaments using this recipe. Worked really well and the birds are sort of eating them. We also have sunflower seeds out, so that may be why they're being a bit slow to consume these. I also used some donut lard to make some suet feeders. The woodpeckers love them.

Hanging a birdseed ornament
We've been snowshoeing (gotta do something to enjoy all the snow we've got). Some days have been wonderfully sunny so we're getting out as much as possible.
Could not see the camera screen at all
But the snow is wicked deep. We've got trails established so it doesn't look too bad, does it? But if you step off the trail at all, you sink up to your upper thigh. Makes it really interesting to get back onto the trail. I picked a couple of trees that we're going to use to figure out just how much snow we have. This one had a branch that exactly sat on top of my head. We'll see how tall the branch is once all the snow melts.
Marking the depth with a tree branch
I had this really fun idea - this summer we're going to mark feet & inches on a small beech tree near our trail. That way we'll be able to see how deep the snow is as it accumulates all winter. I think it'll be really fun.
Streams are starting to show again
This little oak sapling has been severely nibbled by deer. Usually it's at least waist high but now it's barely sticking out of the snow.
Need a picture of this in summer too
The streams are starting to melt and are becoming visible again. They flow all winter but usually freeze over and get covered by snow. I doubt we'll be crossing over this one much longer.

Big foot!
The fire starters that I attempted to make were duds. They burned, but too quickly and the wood stove smelled like candles. A good try but ultimately not worth the effort.

The planer part should be coming this week and we'll be back to working on house projects soon. March is a great month as it really feels like winter is over (despite all the snow). It's my turning point for the Winter/Spring seasons and I always feel energized by it. Hope you're feeling up too!