Sunday, January 31, 2016

Other stuff in January

I figured I'd better mention all the other stuff we've done in January while it still is actually January. 

Remember the bread bowl/trencher that Chris started for me?  Well, here it is finished. He added a slim band of walnut to the end (that dark line at the top) to give it a little extra oomph. The hole at the bottom is actually a worm hole in the wood. I love that kind of stuff.
My new trencher
Every year I take advantage of the freezing outside temperatures to defrost the chest freezer. This year I decided to also do an inventory (we bought part of a steer this summer and I needed to document what we had). An inventory is only good for, you know, that moment so I wanted an easy way to keep it updated. Hmmm, make a chalkboard? Buy a dry erase board? How about shop the house and use a pretty picture with glass? Yes!

Freezer organization
 We also helped my brother add tin to his drive-in shed. Let's hear it for nice weather!
Adding the ridge piece
Nearly done
I don't generally make New Year Resolutions but I thought I'd try something fun this year (I figured the odds of actually keeping it would be much better). I love to cook. I own many cookbooks, some of which I've actually cooked from (uh-hem). So my resolution this year is to cook a new recipe each week from one of the cookbooks I already own. Not a Pinterest recipe or one I find in a new magazine. As a side resolution, I intend to get rid of cookbooks that I no longer find interesting.
Blueberry-Cassis Cobbler
Minestrone Potpie
Spinach and Ricotta Lasagna
All of these worked but I also made a total failure of a recipe - the flavors didn't blend, the sauce was weird, and I've marked it as a stinker in the cookbook. Up this week is a Chicken Tortilla soup. There are many recipes out there; we'll see how this one cooks up.

In weather related news, we have little to no snow. We do have ice.

No need for snowshoes
Definitely need crampons though
And a Cooper picture is always nice way to finish a post.  
Hugging her bone

Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Mudroom - a work in progress

January's main focus has been the mudroom. Specifically, it's been adding storage to this oft used space. We added hooks to the walls for coats, put an old dresser against the wall for hat, mitten, and shoe storage, and made do for three seasons of snow, mud, and sawdust. The room was constantly overflowing with boots, shoes, coats, and gear. 

So we went to Pinterest for some ideas on storage units, morphed a few of them together, and came up with a plan. Chris got to building and here's where we are at the moment.

Chris built the unit in the workshop and then disassembled it for painting. That also allowed us to more easily move it into the mudroom. There was a brief moment where we considered repurposing it...
Puppet theater
There are going to be upper cabinets added at a later time - we wanted to get the main unit in place before we decided on a final design.
Securing the unit to the wall
The upper shelves will be left open for storage boxes - mittens, hats, etc, etc.  Shelves for the side unit have been completed and will be installed to hold the GPS, tissues, dog treat jar, outgoing mail, and library books waiting to be returned.
Boot bench before the drawers
Drawers were added to the boot bench so we could keep gear close at hand; these mainly hold our daily-wear hats and mittens.  All the pretty wood came from the property - in this case it's spalted maple. The white stuff is just plywood (purchased) or ash (from the property).
With boots and drawers
In the works are the closet doors. The plan is to store seasonal coats in the closet itself but have hooks on the doors for daily use. Personally I hate having to hang coats on a hanger; they always seem to fall off or get wedged tightly together. So the hooks will make it easier to keep everything hung up properly.

This is just one side of the mudroom. The other side will have a boot bench that follows the corner as well as hook storage above. No deep cupboard though. Once that's complete we'll take another look at the upper cabinets and see how we want to tie the two sides together.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Christmas 2015 (I know it's January; be nice)

The last catchup post for 2015! Hooray! 

We like to support local businesses and we typically buy a pre-cut tree from the family-owned local hardware store. But this year we found a local tree grower and got to cut our own. 

They grow the trees grouped by type (pine, hemlock, fir) so you can easily find the type you want. This year we chose a hemlock as I really wanted that wonderful aroma in the house. They provided an extremely sharp bow saw and Chris performed the harvest.

The perfect tree
Cooper got to come too! They allow "well-behaved" dogs, on lead, with poopy-bags. We were all set.
Surveying the crop
We chose a small tree (small being relative, it was about 6.5 feet but slim) to better fit the space. Loved that we had a lot of selection.
Christmas morning dawned bright and snowless.
Normally the house is cloaked in snow this time of year
And our Christmas morning walk was much more brown than usual.
One of the old streams - see the rock wall?
Cooper didn't mind the lack of snow but I kind of missed it.
She blends well
Still, sunrise was pretty and we spent a couple hours just wandering the property. This has become something of a tradition with us and it's a pleasant way to start the day.
Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Annual Wreath Party

Our trip to Scotland meant that we had to combine the annual Wreath Party with Leftover Sunday (everyone comes to my house with their Thanksgiving leftovers transformed into a dish to share). Fortunately the weather was wonderful so the late date didn't prevent us from working outdoors.

Lots of gathered materials
Yes, it was that warm
Chris found me a mini dressmakers dummy to decorate
The kids still love the stairs
Ta dah!
A fun day and everyone went home with a wreath (or kissing ball, or skirted dummy). The food was great too: a casserole made with layered turkey, mashed taters, stuffing, and gravy; turkey and cabbage salad spring rolls; sweet potato casserole; and turkey soup. Amazing what you can do with leftovers!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Being prepared

We didn't get our first snow until December 19th - and that was only five inches. But it's much easier to install the snow thrower and chains before you need them so Chris and Dad spent an hour getting the tractor set up.

The easiest way to put on the chains

Get them all lined up

One person backs, one person guides and drags
It's taken some trial and error to figure out the easiest way to mount the chains. They're heavy and unwieldy and there's not much room between the tire and the frame. But we've got it down to a science now and they go on quickly.

Now we just need snow.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Celebrating 25 years

We celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary with a trip to Scotland in late October/early November. A few days in Glasgow followed by a week on the isle of Islay. The weather was rainy and cold (as expected) but the visit was full of surprisingly good food (don't believe the rumors of blandness) and wonderfully friendly people.

A popular item at tea is a hot sandwich pocket - bread and filling pressed in a hot iron that seals the edges. We used to make them over camp fires in cast iron forms. They have electric ones much like a waffle iron. The fillings were sometimes strange combinations and our favorite turned out to be banana and cranberry on wheat. Especially good with the strongly flavored tea.

We discovered "tea" means a full lunch. You don't leave hungry.
Wandering around Glasgow was lots of fun and we went to museums, green houses, botanical gardens, parks, and kilt shops where they plied you with whisky (no "e" in Scotch whisky) while offering custom fittings. I said yes to the Scotch while Chris passed on the kilt.

In fact, Scotch was very much on my mind as headed to Islay. There are seven active distilleries on this small isle (with several more in the process of being rebuilt) and they offered tours and tastings. This is all single malt Scotch and it's wonderful.

My preferred whisky is distilled by Ardbeg and that's one of the reasons I chose this isle for our vacation. That and the fact that we could actually lodge at one of the distilleries - Bowmore offers housing in buildings that used to accommodate various workers or support businesses (distillery master, bakery, etc).

Ardbeg is extremely peat smoke-flavored and not exactly to everyone's taste, but I just love it. They are celebrating their 200th anniversary this year and the distillery is all gussied up for the party.

Love the logo and barrel seats
A new coat of white paint
Note that it wasn't 200 years of continuous operation. It's only been 10 years or so since it's most recent purchase and it's been through many owners over the years. It was also shuttered for many years while the whisky aged in barrels in the warehouse (can you imagine?). But it's kept its same flavor profile throughout the incarnations. 

One of the old stills, now art
Also on the island is Laphroaig - a very good whisky with a high peat content as well. The best thing about Laphroaig? It's marketing arm is fantastic. They let you "own" a square foot of their peat bog - you get a certificate with GPS coordinates and can borrow Wellies to plant your flag on it - and they pay you a mini bottle of Scotch every year as rent. The only catch is that you have to appear at the distillery to collect. 

Not all of the distilleries have that high of a smoked flavor. Bowmore is much less peaty and the 12 year old bottle that they gifted us with was wonderful to sip on all week. 

And Caol Ila is very mild. In fact, most of their production is sold as "spirits" to Johnny Walker rather than being matured to Scotch. 

Of course it wasn't all whisky all the time. There were lots of cool ruins, walking trails, thrift shops, sheep meadows, and restaurants to enjoy. 

The oldest Celtic cross in Scotland
We even found a textile mill that makes tartans and plaids for the movies and Saville Row. This gentleman designed the plaids used in Braveheart, Forest Gump, and a slew of other movies. He was wonderful - gave us a tour of the factory (one loom, minimal inventory, great shop), told us some history, and let us play with the fabrics. I confess I brought home enough to make a skirt (assuming I'm brave enough to cut into it).

Islay Woolen Mill
We had a great time and I'd love to go back to explore more of Scotland. We didn't make it out to the Highlands or even up to Edinburgh. Maybe for our 50th? Nah, I won't be able to wait that long.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Miscellany - catching up on September and October

In between installing trim, visiting with family, and doing the normal chores we've also been working on little projects Throughout late September and October.

Chris started making me a bread bowl. I love seeing these things in antique stores and magazines. And he decided it would fun to make me one from some maple found on the property.

The beginnings of a large bread bowl (or trencher)
The cat adopted the wool tartan we brought back from our Scotland trip (more on in another post).

I started making our own training treats from the liver we got from the beef cow we had slaughtered. I use this recipe and Cooper loves them.

Easier to cut when the liver is frozen
Cooper is doing great. This is her favorite perch - it's chippie central around the flower garden. The perennials I got from my friend Jane are doing great, especially considering this was their first year.
She's also been entertaining doggie friends.

Chris dug out a drainage ditch in the woods to direct seasonal runoff. Hopefully this will help eliminate standing water and reduce the mosquito population. 

Inspecting the ditch

I brought the herbs in from the garden in late September and put them in pots. This one decided to go for a tractor ride to Dad's. Unfortunately the herb pots I kept died horrible deaths while we were away on vacation. Should have just left them in the ground. Oh well, lesson learned. 

Every tractor needs a plant
Chris got out the welder to help with a smokestack issue. So far so good (it's stayed on 5 months now).

Monday, January 18, 2016

San Diego - blue skies, black gold sand, great seafood

Took a trip in September to San Diego with my niece. She had a training seminar and I got to tag along as the Plus 1. What a great city! Lots of gorgeous sunshine and ocean views. We spent a lot of time wandering around and exclaiming over how blue everything was.

The bay
We ate lots of seafood (hello mixed risotto - clams, shrimp, lobster, crab, and mussels - oh my!), walked miles every day, and soaked up the sun.
Ahh, the Pacific. So pretty.
The ocean off Coronado
Finally saw the sun set on the Pacific. Cool