Thursday, April 23, 2015

Spring is here! Well, kinda...

It's Spring! It's 35 and is supposed to snow today! Wait, what? I'm sure all the fans at the Detroit Tigers game felt the same way last night. Not supposed to snow at a baseball game.

Anyway, we're doing the best we can with the weather we've got and we're working on Spring projects. Here we go:

Cleaning up all the dog mess that accumulates no matter how many poopy bags you carry with you on walks. Note that this also includes chewed boxes, miscellaneous toys that were buried in the snow, and assorted sticks that were dragged out of the woods.

Sprinkling grass seed in a perhaps futile attempt to control the mud pit that is our front yard. Need to bring in some fill to do the finish grading too.

Cleaning out the flower beds, noting that the garlic is starting to peek out of the ground, marveling over the fact that the oregano and sage both made it through the winter, and figuring out where to plant this year's stuff. The herb seeds that I started inside are poking up and I may get my first batch of cilantro quite soon. In fact, I doubt it will make it into a flower bed - it'll go straight into guacamole.

Starting to cut firewood. Yes, already.

Switching out the tractor's winter implements for the summer ones. Off come the chains and snow thrower, on goes the backhoe.

Road work - gotta consider getting a back blade attachment to grade the driveway. Oh, and it should be safe to order stone for the driveway in another month (gotta wait until the weight limits are removed from the roads).

Grading the yard and promising that this is the year we start the stone patio.

Repairing the planer so that we can start working on the interior woodwork again. The thing that broke before has been fixed, now he's working on replacing the blades. Two screws stripped and they are special ones that have to be ordered from the OEM. Soon...

I took advantage of a sunny and warm day to throw open the windows and stain them. So the windows in My Room are now ready for trim (as are all the rest of the windows in the house). I'll pick another sunny and warm day - it's gotta happen eventually, right? - to do the main entry door and the utility room dutch door. Even if it's low VOC, it still stinks in a confined space.

Okay, enough of the list. Here is Cooper proving that it's just not all that cold, no matter what I think.

Look! All the ice melted!
Just a little dip to prove I can do it.
For a mutt, she sure does love to swim. Must be some labrador way back in the genetic makeup. The upside is that all the toweling off she gets results in a super soft coat.

Hope you're enjoying your Spring!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Harvey's in Saratoga

Harvey's is an Irish pub in Saratoga. It's in a great building on Phila Street, occupies two floors, has a big (and noisy) bar area on the first floor, a pleasant (quieter, but sound does carry up from below) dining area on the second floor, and a patio that I can hardly wait to try this summer. They also have a small library with balcony for private functions.

The menu items seemed pretty typical for a pub until we started reading the descriptions. Then things got interesting! We actually ordered an entree as an appetizer just because it sounded so good - The Really Good Grilled Cheese sandwich is, indeed, really good. Cheddar cheese, bacon jam, red onion, mustard sauce on sour dough bread - it might actually be better than really good. I'll have to go back to make sure.

Fish and chips for Chris and the french fries were awesome. The batter was light and the fish was flaky - another winner. And it came with a mustard slaw that was wonderful.

I had their Mac & Cheese which has corned beef in it. It also has a very light spice that makes it sort of hot. Subtle but definitely there; we spent a good bit of time enjoyably trying to figure out what it was. Again, very good.

Our friends had the Rubin and it was huge. Also apparently it was yummy as it disappeared. It came with fries and this nifty kalamata olive salad that I wanted to steal. The goat cheese, arugula, kale, beet, and candied walnut salad also got eaten with gusto.

All in all, a very good meal. Came to about $50 per couple including drinks and tip. And we had enough mac & cheese for lunch the next day.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Still sewing - now it's PJ bottoms

I had a favorite pair of pajamas that I got from Eddie Bauer - they fit great, the fabric was so soft, and I wore them as lounging pants around the house. Then, inevitably, they wore out. So I decided to test my slowly developing sewing skills and make a new pair.

I deconstructed just one of the legs of the PJs so that I could use the other leg as an example in case I had construction questions. This turned out to be a really good idea and one that I'll use again in the future.

I had some wonderfully soft flannel that I bought last spring for a different project but never used. Awesome! Except when I laid out my pants I realized that I didn't have enough fabric. The piece was only 42 inches wide and I couldn't keep the same grain direction for all four pieces (two fronts, two backs). I knew I didn't want to mix the grain direction as that would likely result in a bad drape, so I went back to the store for some more flannel. Of course they didn't have my pattern any more (it had been a year after all). So I bought some totally different flannel and figured I'd make something fun.

My two flannels and laying out the first pattern piece
My new furniture arrangement is really working for me. The large table top is great and I like the configuration so we'll be making this permanent. The two tops are not level to each other at the moment so one needs to be raised slightly and they need to be connected so they can't shift. I've asked Chris to inlay a yard stick so that I have some building in measuring tools. I think it'll look cool too.

Chris and Cooper both love the bed in there. A lot of napping goes on while I sew.
A typical view when I'm working in there
Back to the PJs - they were super simple to make. Cut two fronts, two backs, sew the inner seam, sew the outer seam, and then do a bit of magic to sew the crotch seam. One leg is inside out (right sides together) and you turn the other leg right side out (wrong sides together). Fit the RS out leg into the WS out leg and pin the crotch seam. Then sew in one continuous seam. Pull them apart and voila! you have pants. I'm sure seamstresses already knew this trick, but I actually figured it out on my own, without looking at any instructions. A big deal for me as it suggests I'm starting to get the hang of all this.
I purposely mixes the front and back fabrics
After hemming the legs and adding elastic to the waistband I now have super comfy lounging pants and they look silly and fun with the alternating front/back fabrics.
LOVE them
I want to make some in cotton for summer next. Oh - and I have enough fabric leftover to do a top. Just gotta figure out what style.

Friday, April 3, 2015

The continuing saga of My Room

I continue to refine My Room. I'm quite pleased with the loft bed and the storage I gained by raising it. I also like the location of the dresser and how the room flows around the tables.

But those plastic tables were never supposed to stay very long and I really wanted to get started on an island. I was just waiting until building the storage bases percolated up to the top of the project list. Then I had an idea (Pinterest is very dangerous) - use bedside tables along with my other file cabinet as the base. 

I looked at Craig's List but couldn't find anything I liked (and was willing to pay for), so we went down to our local Restore (Habitat for Humanity charity thrift store). They had some great nightstands and it was even 10% off Wednesday. Woot! 

Nice legs
They're actually made of wood as opposed to pressboard and they have a pullout writing shelf that I'm going to lower to get another shelf.
Dovetail drawer and pullout shelf
At first I just took out one of the plastic tables and used them like this. It sort of gave me an idea of how it felt to move around them.
The first setup
And sure enough, I didn't like it. The sides on the nightstands gave the island a bit too much solidity in the middle of the room. Although I still had plenty of walking aisle, it felt crowded. So I decided to forgo the island and have a peninsula instead.

This also meant I could use the top from my old desk instead of having to buy or build a new top. Shopping the house again - nice!
Better layout
I moved Sheila to the Northwest corner, shifted the sewing table closer to the dresser, and used my file cabinet to anchor the North end of the desk. The two nightstands support the South end.
Sheila looks good in her new spot
The top isn't level yet as I want to be sure I like this layout before doing anything more. If it works for me, Chris will connect the top pieces and I'll figure out how I want to paint the file cabinet and nightstands.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Animal tracks in the snow

We've had lots of tracks in the snow this winter - birds, squirrels, fishers, coyote, and deer just to name a few. Last year the turkey tracks were enormous and fun to follow but they seem to have ignored us this year. That may be a result of the fisher and coyote tracks that were so prevalent in early winter.

The deer trails are well established and we follow them sometimes. It's hard to duck under the brush that they move through so easily, but worth it when you find a bedding site. They're never around when we find these as they've been up and moving long before we arrive, but we'll still stop for the spring just in case they've left babies tucked away. Don't want to scare them.

Yesterday's walk was exciting because we came across some new tracks - bear. Here are some pictures we took for comparison:

Cooper prints - smallish and a distinctive grouping

Coyote - bigger and more distinct

Bear - oh my

Slightly bigger than my hand, 5 toes
We found the tracks on our morning walk and they were very clear in the crisp snow. By the time we got back with the camera they had blurred a bit as the sun hit them. This is probably the same bear we  saw sign of back in the early winter, hopefully he'll move along and we won't have to worry about him.