Sunday, October 18, 2009

Home Projects Galore!

The weather is cool and inspiring here right now so we have been busy bees doing our respective projects. Since I covered Paul's major project last time, I am only including one picture here of him working on the same project. Now he is sanding and painting, hoping to complete this weekend.
I have been doing field work the last two weeks in Kinston, NC. So I stopped by my favorite antique store: Some Like it Old. I bought the cute blue table, coffee pot and oil lamp shown below.

And also the table behind the couch here..

And a piano bench and lamp. The deals were too good to pass up.
But yesterday, we had the most unique, impulsive experience. A furniture distributor showed up on our street with his 18 wheeler, selling boxed furniture right out of his truck. They had cabinets, coffee tables, dressers, couches and these beautiful grandfather clocks which excited me very much (I love clocks and old pocket watches). Well, we bought one, and I didn't even have to plead with Paul too much. The guy brought it in, got it started and gave us some operating instructions and we were proud new clock owners in about 15 minutes from start to finish.

Another exciting thing that has happened is that I finally finished the bedroom curtains. I have been working on them each weekend, doing only one curtain each week, and only portions at a time. For example, I did the side seems on one curtain each week until that was finished. Then I added the heading tape (which I had to buy online from England because I couldn't find it here) to one curtain each week. And lastly, I hand sewed the hems, one curtain each week. Finally a few months later, they are done!

Yesterday, I started painting the basic outline of my tree design on the dining room ceiling. I have been designing and contemplating this for a long time, and with the curtains finished upstairs, it was time to get started. I had drawn out the basic forms on graph paper to the scale of the ceiling and so it was pretty easy to get everything sketched on (last weekend) and then painted. I decided to do a rough outline in dark brown first, and then next available weekend I will do a blue wash of the sky with clouds. I'm hoping the brown trees will show through so then I can pick back up with the trees once the background is in. I didn't think it would work to do the sky and then try to sketch the trees over the paint.

Yesterday, after painting, I went to pick up a bushel of apples from a lady I know through church. She had taken orders from anyone that wanted some and was taking a trip up to an apple orchard to bring back everyone's apples (out of the kindness of her heart). So, being that this would be a big event, I also borrowed Shauna's steamer again and apple peeler/slicer/corer. Paul helped me with the peeler contraption and together we canned 14 quarts of apple slices for apple pie. The blueberry pies have turned out so well from our spring blueberry-picking extravaganza, we decided to give the apples a shot.
Earlier yesterday I put all the jars and lids in the dishwasher. Once I brought home the apples, Paul peeled, cored and sliced.
Then I had to blanch the apples for 3 minutes, one batch at a time, in hot sugar water to stop discoloration and preserve flavor.

The next step was to pour the water used for blanching into the jars.

Then, the lids that had been simmering in water had to be placed on the jars with the rings tightened finger tight. 7 quarts at a time were placed in the steamer and steamed for 20 minutes. The jars were removed and the rings were tightened all the way. Lastly, the jars were flipped upside-down on a towel, as per Marie's secret advice. She says this is the trick to making sure that none "pop" overnight (or become unsealed).

The last project that has been ongoing for a few weeks, is I'm spinning my very first 5-ply yarn. The yarn is a blend I've created on my drum carder from Merino wool, opossum down, yak down and soy silk. Each batch I've blended on the carder consists of 3 grams of the Merino/opossum blend, 1 gram of soy silk and 2 grams of yak down. I bought all of these from The Woolery online. I've spun a very fine yarn and wound onto 5 toilet paper rolls. I learned from my online research that to keep the yarn strands separate you need to use a template with 5 holes or a spice jar lid with the holes. I was excited about this because who doesn't have one of those in their kitchen? So, I have mine placed between my fingers on the right below (you can't really see it), and I'm gradually spinning the strands together while keeping a firm grip on the strands to keep them from tangling.

A few weeks ago I had fun time volunteering with Habitat for Humanity in Charlotte. My company was provided half the labor of volunteers and a local bank was providing the rest of the volunteers.
I was assigned to help with the roofing crew- very scary. The floor of the roof wasn't up yet, just the trusses. So my job was to partner with Joe to put the plywood flooring onto the trusses.
Joe was a banker and so none too experienced in roofing either. So we had some good laughs.
Actually, I was the only one from my company that was able to make it that day so everyone except me was a banker. But once Joe and I got the first row of the roof down, the rest was much more comfortable. The rest of the day was just swinging a hammer to get the rest of the kajillion nails in. I was moaning and groaning all the next day since I hadn't been this sore since I ran a half marathon in 1998ish.

Here I am above, and here is the house we were working on. The future home-owner was also there working on the house.
Oh my goodness, I forgot about these pictures. Well, this is one of our new dinner combos: Yorkshire Pudding by Paul and Zucchini cakes with tomato sauce by Yours Truly, compliments of the internet for the recipe. I had some zucchinis that weren't going to last long and Paul was wanting some Yorkshires something fierce, so we comboed the two into a surprisingly tasty dinner! As I've been blogging for a fair bit of time, I'm not going to post the recipe now, but I'll try to remember for next time.

An embroidery project that I'm working on for Darla. I'm making a sweatshirt with cheerleaders and football players for her dad for Christmas and this was a practice run of a few of the characters to figure out where the problems might be. I'm learning heaps on this project!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Fall Is In the Air

We have been doing loads of projects and having fun around the house the last few weekends starting with a long Labor Day weekend. The weather has been cooler and so it has been more fun to be outside than it was in August. Even the critters seem to be enjoying it!

My plants have been thriving too...

The "Trifids" have been catching lots of bugs in their pitcher-like mouths and have been multiplying like rabbits.

The two redwood trees I got in the late spring have each grown about a foot (behind the bear)!
Tracy's birthday was last weekend...

and we've done a bike ride or two...

Yep, it's still humid.... see hair.

... but that didn't stop Paul!
He poured his own sweat into making some shelves for the Star Wars room, even learning to use 3 new power tools: the router...

Table saw and lastly a bisquit-joiner (not shown).
He covered the garage and himself from head to toe in sawdust in the process.
... and then collapsed.

Maybe next week I'll show what projects I was working on. For now, it's dinner time. Goodnight!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Cooking Tip from the Sister-in-Law

Straight in off the press -- Alison passed a message along to me through Paul, that if you want to have an easier time chopping rutabaga (or swede, as it's called in England), boil it for a few minutes and then chop it. Gone are my troubles with rutabaga- I love the veg but will cook with it often now that I know how to minimize the trouble of preparing it.

Capitol Visit Part 2

Sunday morning we all decided, after Nate had made us a fancy breakfast, that the zoo was first on the list. The cheetahs were the highlight for me.
Lunch time already? Well it was 3:00 by then and we all had planned a trip to this Indian buffet as priority to fit somewhere in the weekend. So we high-tailed it there after the zoo and were lucky to get there a 1/2 hour before the buffet closed down. We all ate too fast, in hopes of getting seconds, so was it worth it? You betcha!
Laura and Nate dropped us off at the Memorials again, since we didn't have time the day before to finish them, and they headed off to church.

First we went to Lincoln's memorial - a favorite.

We loved that we could see the Washington Monument from between the columns of Lincoln Memorial.

Then we trekked the Mile and half or so to get to the Jefferson Memorial across the lake, but in the process came across the Roosevelt memorial, which was filled of many of his wonderful quotes. Here is just one portion of the large memorial that wandered like a trail through his life.

The Jefferson Memorial was my favorite as far as beauty, although they were all magnificent in the uniqueness of each that represented very distinct and influential heroes.

Jefferson had a cool ponytail tied with a bow, but it didn't show up very good here.

A few hours later we were all hanging out at a bar and grill enjoying the beautiful weather outdoors while sharing appetizers and drinks. We hung out and talked for hours before heading back to go to sleep.
We had to leave Monday morning from Union Station after Nate left for work. We had to ask Laura to take us to Target to buy a blanket for the train trip back because the air on the train is kept at 60 degrees we are convinced.
It was sad to go, but we were not bored on the long trip back with all the entertainment we brought. Between naps I did plenty of spinning on my drop spindle, reading, knitting and movie watching on the laptop, and Paul watched movies.

We had such a fun weekend, and although it felt like it went fast, it was the perfect combination of sightseeing and relaxation, with nothing over-powering or taxing in effort. We came home feeling so refreshed and had so much fun spending time with the cousins. I am sorry to see them go, but I'm sure they will have the greatest life experiences traveling abroad.
A few days after coming home I made a huge pasta casserole using the basil Laura sent home from her herb garden. Nothing like fresh basil!! Thanks, Laura and Nate, for such a great weekend-- We will miss you!!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Capitol Visit

Whew! Been a busy month with work - no traveling, but report-writing mania that took over my body and soul (so it seemed). So, no blogging or picture-taking until last weekend. It was great timing: Paul and I needed a break from work, and my cousin invited us up for a visit, so we got away for an extended weekend to visit my cousin Laura and her husband Nate in Washington D.C. They are getting ready to move, and we wanted to see them before they left the east coast.

Last Friday, we got up at 4:00 and drove to the Light Rail on the outskirts of Charlotte because we have seen the Amtrak station in Uptown, and didn't want to leave our car there for the four days. It was a good choice! We took the Light Rail into Uptown, and then caught the bus to the Amtrak station. This did take a coordinated effort to figure out what time we needed to catch the bus, which route and how to work it. We got it down, thanks to a very patient bus driver. Once we got on the train, it was smooth sailing and we had plenty to do: movies to watch on our laptop, knitting, books to read and we even spent time talking to each other, despite all the media devices. We arrived in D.C about 10 hours later, quite refreshed after all the naps.

First thing we did when Laura and Nate picked us up was eat dinner and head to the county fair to see if Laura won a prize for her oatmeal cookies she submitted. They were very good cookies and figured the judges must have erred.

We were pretty tired after that and headed to "Bedfordshire" as Paul calls it, waking up at a decent time to hit the sites the next morning. We started the day by going to Market Lunch for breakfast- a fun experience where good food is served at a price: "No Saving Seats". It was a free for all once you got your food- you had to hurry and sit down on the bench. Paul had his tea and sat down to save me a seat while I rounded up condiments on our tray and put syrup on the pancakes. By the time (30 seconds later) that I got to where I thought Paul was sitting, he had already been whisked away by the bus boy, who said that tea does not count as having your food, and he must vacate until he has his food. While stressful, it was worth it and worth the half hour wait in line to order your food.

We wandered around the outdoor market after that and spent some time in Capitol Books- a very intriguing used book store that was loaded literally from top to floor with books. It was an old house so there were books in the "bathroom" books in the sink, books in every bedroom and even lining the stairs.

We all went to a museum and to the White House and then Laura and Nate had a wedding to go to, so Paul and I continued to wander around to see the Capitol....

And to the national botanic garden...

...And then the fog and rain set in so we high-tailed it into the National Air and Space Museum so Paul could check out all the planes and space craft. It was pretty interesting, even for me.
By the end of the day, the rain had cleared out all but the most stalwart of tourists and so we got to see the Declaration of Independence with hardly any wait at all. It was wonderful to see the most important documents of our nation in person.
Then the sun peaked out, just to say goodnight as we made it to the Washington Memorial.

More to come on the next day... later! I'm heading to bed. Goodnight everyone.