Monday, September 27, 2010

Our House, is a Very, Very, Very Fine House

with two cats in the yard, life used to be so hard... now everything is easy 'cause of you.

Ok, maybe it's not easy, but it's coming along really well. We still need to finish painting the deck and railings and get the new roof on. Soon. Soon. That will be accomplished.

Here's before

During (so that you can appreciate Kent's hard work)

And after

Oh, and then a new walkway and gutters. Yeah, that's it. I think. And of course we still have the barn/greenhouse to paint. I do believe we'll beat the snow!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Signs of the Times - #6

Tonight we had the first fire of the season. Our chimney liner, installed this summer, works great. Even with winds gusting at 40-60 mph outside, the fire burned sure and steady. It was nice to warm my feet while munching on a bowl of popcorn.

And while we were out for a visit to the museum today, we stopped for our annual supply of green chilis. Each September tents and stands pop up all around Denver with hot peppers for sale and they roast them while you wait. Oh, the heavenly aroma! We only bought one gunny sack this year (that's about 2.5 bushels). We usually buy two but we didn't know if we'd have the freezer space since we've still got a lot of beef from our quarter. Then they dump them into a big roaster that looks like an industrial bingo tumbler. They fire up 6-8 super hot propane burners and crank the barrel around. In 10 minutes or so you've got steaming, roasted peppers. Then they are dumped out into a large plastic bag and you take them home. You can bet the car smelled great. Kent went to work bagging them, one pound or a little moore to each quart freezer bag, for a total of 21 bags. We'll use these for the next year to make fabulous burritos and breakfasts. Do they have these kind of roadside stands in Pennsylvania?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Signs of the Times - #5

It's hard to ignore autumn when the aspens near

and far

are putting on such a splendid show.

"B" is for Boil, Bagels, and Breakfast

I would call today productive. We painted over half the house and made the fixin's for a great breakfast tomorrow. Before we started painting, Kent put some wild caught salmon in the smoker. It was prepared with a kosher salt/brown sugar cure. Oh, it's been ages since we've had smoked salmon!

As we worked and I smelled the smoker going, I got the urge to make bagels. I've never made bagels before but we had cream cheese, would soon have salmon and I had no bagels in the house. I'd found a recipe in my mother's handwriting a week or more ago when bagels had also been on my mind. Tonight I dove in after dinner and had a lot of fun trying something new. Here are my little dough bagels on their second rise. It was slightly challenging to poke my finger through the center and shape them. They aren't exactly balanced but they'll do.

Then comes the boiling. I put four of them in the pot and considered whether I could fit a fifth.

Here they are after 7 minutes. I think it's a good thing I only put four in the pot.

I decided to make them "special" so I did six as onion/sesame seed bagels

And six as cinnamon bagels. They look pretty tasty already.

Ooh, ready for salmon and cream cheese! I know what I'm having for breakfast.

Monday, September 20, 2010


We are getting very close to having things done on the house. I'm ever grateful to Kent, a man who is not just hard working but skilled, gifted and smart. With him as the job foreman, we've painted, repaired, laid flooring, lined the chimney, done rockwork - and now, painting the outside! Our plan is to finish it this week so that the roofers can start next week. The roof is the only job we decided to hire out.

By the time the first snow flies, we hope to have the house on the market and be able to enjoy some projects not related to home improvements.

Here are some before and after photos of painting the garage. I think it makes it look like a different building.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sustainable Living Fair

Yesterday Kent, Kathy and I attended an event to which we'd all been looking forward. In fact, Kent took a personal day to be able to go.

While it was interesting, we were a little disappointed by:

1. A seeming lack of organization with regards to layout and finding tents and booths.
2. Parking was a huge hassle and seemed very disorganized. We ended up parking on a side street behind the fair and walking along some railroad tracks and through the woods to get to the entrance after failing to find any of their designated parking areas.
3. It really seemed geared to the people dwelling within the city of Ft. Collins. Perhaps we misunderstood the audience but I got the impression it would be a little more broad ranging and comprehensive.
4. Backwoods Home did not show up at the booth they were scheduled to have at the fair. Of course I wasn't expecting to see Jackie Clay, but I had hoped to meet at least one of the folks from BH.

On the plus side:

1. The talks I attended were well done and interesting even if they didn't provide me with a great deal of new information.
2. I got to spend the day with Kent and Kathy
3. There were some interesting vendors. I was very interested to talk to the yurt folks. I got information thinking it could be a distinct possibility of a cozy little place to live if we end up building our dreamhouse on our next property.

You can add plumbing

and a woodstove

For around $10,000 you can have a cozy little home that could serve as a guesthouse when you've built your dream. And there are yurts that folks have been living in for 20 years. Hmmmmm. Just has me thinking.

When we left our house early in the morning it was a warm day with clear blue skies. By the time we got to the junction of I-70 & 76, it was completely cloudy, chilly and threatening moisture. As we drove the two hours north it became downright cold (only in the 50's!), we needed the wipers for the incessent mist and I was regretting leaving my jacket and umbrella at home. I suggested that we look for a thrift store as soon as we got near Ft. Collins so that I could find something to keep from freezing. After getting a little lost getting into town, we happened upon the EcoThrift Shop. Turns out they had maps and info on the fair, so that was very helpful. And I found a really nice grey fleece turtleneck "poncho". I was so happy to put it on. I was already chilling through.

So here I am holding up my thrifty find and realizing I'm just a nifty thrifty girl. My top is a linen tunic that I picked up from a dry cleaners that went out of business and was selling unclaimed items. I get complimented on it all the time. And my skirt is a Ralph Lauren denim from ECHO Resale. I was tickled to realize that I reduce, reuse and recycle to an extent I don't even consciously realize!

If you are interested in learning more about the Rocky Mountain Sustainable Living Association or the annual fair, you can visit here.

Signs of the Times - #4

When I let the dogs out this morning the small cottonwoods caught my attention with their beautifully detailed leaves. Fascinating to me is the fact that they are turning from the bottom toward the top. Also interesting to note is that these little trees are this year's volunteers. They already stand nearly three feet high. In a handful of years they will actually provide shade.

While they are abundant in the west, cottonwoods are not necessarily favored children. They are huge water hogs. They typically spring up along rivers and irrigation ditches and can actually put a measurable drain on the water flow. They release snowy clouds of pollen fuzz to which nearly everyone is allergic to some degree. And Kent and I can attest that while they are abundant for firewood, it takes a heavy duty splitter and brute force to break them up small enough to burn. They also burn fast. But in an area where shade is a desirable and frequently scarce resource, you've got to love how quickly and thoroughly they can shade you.

What we haven't figured out is why there are several little cottonwoods springing up on our high altitude, waterless property. Still, anything that is willing to live here is welcome.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Makin' Wookie

So last night Kent shared a URL with me from his web browsing. It was a short bit about making cookies with a waffle iron. Hmmm, small batch cookies, made quickly and with less energy? Keep talking.

So I read through and got the idea. Then I found a basic recipe and tore it apart and put it back together again as my own. My goal was to make a cookie that was a healthy treat - or as healthy as a bit of sweet can be.

To that end, let me present to you my recipe for Oatmeal Raisin Wookies (Waffle cOOKIES)

I went from walking into the kitchen to having two dozen cookies and cleanup complete in just 30 minutes.

Isn't this a great waffle iron? It was my grandmother's. I usually use it to make "Oh Boy, Waffles!" - a recipe from her very old Better Homes and Gardens cookbook.

The vote came in. Kathy, Kent and I all give them a thumbs ups!

Go Fly a Kite!

No, seriously, when was the last time you flew a kite? It's a lot of fun. Even though we've been working really hard, we try to make sure to schedule a little relaxation time as well, so that we don't burn ourselves out and we take the time to enjoy God's creation. This was the first time out for my big geometric rainbow kite. I wasn't quite sure how to launch it. And the wind that day was so changeable. It was a real challenge keeping them up when the wind would suddenly shift from westward to eastward.

Here my Buzz Lightyear kite is chasing Kent's Spiderman kite. Spidey later took an unplanned trip after the wind yanked the string spool right out of Kent's hand. It sailed over the road and off into the woods before being snagged by a kite eating tree. But we hiked into the woods and found it, then proceeded to use a dead tree to dislodge it from the tree in which it was snarled. We eventually met with success though Spidey was a little worse for the wear.

And eventually we did get the big kite up. I think if I'd had more string I could have kept it up better by getting into the upper currents. I'm already looking forward to our next kite flying day!

Hanging Out at the Park, Colorado Style

Looks like a movie scene, doesn't it? I took this out the window of our car as we were going from the veterinarian to the library. Technically this isn't a park, it's an open space. There are lots of them here set aside for the enjoyment of the residents. Usually encompassing countless acres and great views. You can walk, run, hike, bike, and horseback ride.

And thus begins another shotgun blog post series. I'm sorry I've been MIA. We've been pushing hard on the house projects. With Kent's help and supervision, I undertook to frame the downstairs outside windows. We've power washed the house and outbuildings. We've prepped and caulked and made ready to paint. And today the painting itself began. In my free time I've also helped my sister move furniture and paint as she readies her house for market. I can't believe how much we've managed to get done. Looks like a roofer will start that project in about 10 days. I don't know what we'll do with ourselves when all the big projects are wrapped up.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Tie One On!

I grew up hanging laundry out to dry. I enjoy the process, love to save the wear and tear on my clothes, enjoy saving money and using less energy, and mostly I love that fresh from the line scent. But while I grew up using the "hang on the line" style clothespin bag, I have become a real fan of the clothespin apron. No matter what part of the line you walk to, you have your pins handily in a pocket right in front of you.

I've been working up a new design for an apron and I finished it last night. I'm really pleased with the outcome. I have a purchased clothespin apron which has served its purpose but never thrilled me. I always believed I could design one that worked better. And I finally have. I was motivated by making one for Stephanie who finally has a clothesline for her laundry.

No more pockets that gap open too far and allow clothespins to spill. No more saggy, sleazy fabric. This baby is designed to last and be attractive.

I didn't realize that this picture would have a blinding ray of sun in it, but it's too late to take another as the apron is already on it's way east thanks to the US Post Office. But here you can see the pleated pockets with button closure. I love this hydrangea print!

Want to make your own? I have the directions right here.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Squashed Dreams

I harvested the first of our squash today. It was so large that I put it in an old shopping cart to get it into the house.

There are several more that are nearly ready. The tomatoes, all three, are coming along. I can see the stripes starting on the Zebra tomato. There are even a few cucumbers coming on now that the days are getting a bit cooler. And the beans that seemed dead and gone? Two of the Contenders are now growing like weeds. They stand abouot 10 inches high and one is in bloom. Two of the Striped Annelino Bush Beans have also risen from the dead and are about half as large as the Contender bushes. We may get more beans yet.

So you're thinking something didn't look right about my squash? Were they just too huge? Ok, so that was a little tricky of me. They might be a tad smaller than that photo makes them appear.

Kent is such a good sport.

Raising the Bar

We're always looking for ways to be more productive and efficient around here. So when a friend told me about keeping a salad bar in the refrigerator, I listened. I mean, don't salads always seem more fun and tasty when you can just stroll the bar and build a salad to suit your mood? Who has time to make a salad for lunch? Enter the home salad bar:

We've been doing this for two weeks now and we are loving it! And it's not just for salad anymore. We pull this out in the morning and toss already chopped veggies into our morning omelets. I've added veggies to my pasta dishes on the fly. And last night's stir fry was done in a flash.

I was concerned about how I would find room for this in the freezer. Turns out that when I make most of my produce recipe ready, I freed up a whole produce drawer to put those odds and ends into that take up a lot of shelf space, such as butter, yogurt, and hummus. I tweaked the placement of my fridge shelves and this is the result - a perfect spot for the salad bar...

It gives a whole new meaning to "going out to the bar"!

Want more details about how I made this work and what it's good for? Check it out here.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Wildcrafting -or- Gather Ye Rose Hips While Ye May

While walking Bear this week I noted that the rose hips were in prime form. So I called my friend, Anne, to see if she'd like to do a little wildcrafting with me. Wildcrafting is "the practice of harvesting plants from their natural, or "wild" habitat, for food, medicinal, or other purposes" (Wikipedia) Well, I certainly felt qualified since I was only practicing. And these mountains are pretty wild. Anne was game for it, then Kent's work schedule changed so that he was able to join us. And I'd invited my sister up to spend the night and she quickly got excited about it as well.

This is like some scene from Wizard of Oz, heading down the trail to unknown adventure!

All being amateurs or novices, we found it helpful to confer on the herbs we saw. Here Kathy and Anne are discussing the finer points of Juniper berry ripeness.

What a beautiful day it was. We spent time in the woods and the meadows. Here Kathy's smile is proof of how much fun we were all having.

And our haul was satisfying for a first effort. We came home with chokecherries (which I might make into a pancake topping for tomorrow morning), rose hips, yarrow, potentella, and red clover. In another week or two we'll revisit some locations to get more rose hips and see if the Juniper berries are ripe yet.

My main guide on this wildcrafting adventure was a great book that I had picked up at the library sale, From the Shepherd's Purse. It covers identification, time of year and time of day to harvest, what to harvest, how to prepare it for different applications. Very thorough and easy to understand. It's a resource I would highly recommend!

Friday, September 3, 2010

It's My Anniversary!

It's my one year anniversary of becoming a stay-at-homemaker.

I can't believe where the year has gone. It's flown by and yet it seems like it's been years since I was heading to the office each day. And Kent and I have accomplished so much in the year that has passed. Things that we'd planned, hoped or dreamed of doing for many years. In part we've got more done because I've been home to help him on his four days off each week. In part I believe it's because I'm able to take care of so many day-to-day things and free him up to do bigger projects with his time. In part, perhaps it is because I am not at my wits end all the time and I can take better care of him and me so that we have the energy and freedom to do these things.

Whatever the case may be, it's been a year of adjustments and a year of blessing. I could not have predicted how it would play out but we've found a real groove and I so appreciate my husband for being a wonderful provider and for helping me when I floundered and needed direction. He has, as he always is, been a great encourager and nurturer.

I have to wonder what the coming year holds in store. We will keep listening for that still small voice, trusting in God's direction and provision. Perhaps we'll sell the house and move across country. I hope to see Kent have more time to work on a book project. I hope to make some crafts for selling at local events and perhaps online. And there's that Family Herbalist course I plan to take. And Kent has ideas of things he'd like to build and he has sculptures he could cast. We are looking more diligently after our health and, between the two of us, hope to shed significant weight in the next 6-12 months. So much possibility. So much uncertainty. It's quite the journey!

Enough with the Tomatoes Already!

Ok, I'm not promising but I think this is the last tomato post. For now, at least. The picture that accompanies the recipe for the tomato soup is a previous year's jar. Here are this year's jars of soup - don't they have a great tomato color?

And can you see that some of my lids are different looking? That's because I'm testing a dozen Tattler Reusable Lids with this batch of soup. These are plastic disks and rubber rings that you use with regular bands. They are, according to the company and the box, "Indefinitely reusable". But they are definitely priced higher than my usual Ball or Kerr one-time use lids. I've heard great things about them and it appears that I followed the directions correctly because they all sealed. I'll have to weigh the benefits against the cost. I do a lot of canning and that initial outlay could be painful.

True Confession

I hate to admit that I am at times shallow. But I am. Sometimes it is all about the packaging. Take this wine bottle as an example. Yes, I like blush and rose wines. But that's not why I bought this (for me) rather expensive bottle of Sophia Rose. I bought it because it was pretty. I was immediately drawn to the elegant lines, the lovely, feminine little label, and it's original color was very captivating. Once it was emptied, I was still taken with it and couldn't throw it away too quickly. I filled it with water, tinted to replicate the color of the original contents, and set it on a shelf in my kitchen where I could admire it.

Today I was ready to part with it. I drained the now faded contents and placed the bottle in the recycling. But be warned, put something in a lovely tin, or make it look old, or perhaps Victorian, or just make it elegant and clean in form, and I will be drawn to it like a bee to a flower. Does that make me shallow?

Signs of the Times - #3

I woke this morning following a particularly restful night's sleep for which I was grateful. And as I lay there waking up, I could hear a dripping sound outside my window. Now this confused me initially because I knew that rain was nowhere in the forecast. This is late summer in Colorado. Rain is not happening right now. And then I had the shocking thought - could this dripping sound be melting frost!?


All Dried Up

Just a quick update on the drying project. Look how pretty these turned out. I have bcome quite enamored of drying as a food preservation method. I still like to can but some things are just better dried. Here I have tasty mushrooms for soups, pizza, sautees. And these strawberries might just go directly on cereal, although they will rehydrate nicely for mid-winter strawberry shortcake. Tomorrow I'm going to start on apples and peaches.

Criminal Activity

Yesterday I had to go to town to see the dentist. Since I was there, I decided to stop at my favorite store, ECHO Resale. That's short for Evergreen Christian Outreach. It's a large and well managed thrift store. I went in looking for a sweater for my niece, who probably will be wanting some warmer clothes when she arrives from India, and a Foreman-style grill to replace mine which is losing it's nonstick coating (hopefully not on our food).

I came out with:

1. Two skirts for $1 each. One is an Eddie Bauer that looks like new.

2. A waffle iron for Stephanie. It's nearly a match for my grandmother's, which I still use and I knew Steph would be thrilled to have an old fashioned one for whipping up Grandma's "Oh Boy, Waffles" recipe.

3. A lovely hardbound book of pincushions to make. 93 of the most unusual and striking pincushions!

4. A yard of cream colored fleece to add to my puppet project for 75 cents.

5. A cute retro apron which appears to be handmade. It's white with a purple donkey hand appliqued and a basket of embroidered flowers is on it's back. Super cute.

6. The STEAL of the day (are you ready for this, Diane? I have a feeling you'll appreciate these as much as I do)

This is where the criminal activity comes in. I paid just $1.50 each for these gorgeous battenburg lace napkins. They are on the finest of linen and appear to be hand-stitched and have a tatted lace edge that is so delicate and beautiful.

There isn't a stain or tear in them. There is one-half inch of lace edging loose on one of them and on another there is a spot where the battenburg cutout needs stitched to prevent fraying. Other than that, they are in pristine condition. Oh, and did I mention that these are no small matter? I didn't measure but I would say each napking is at least 18x18 inches. I was tickled pink!

And no. I didn't find a sweater or a grill.