Monday, November 26, 2007

Snow + Flash

It looks like a galaxy of stars, but this is actually snowflakes hit with the camera flash.
Yes, that's right, it's SNOWING! Woo! Its sticking and starting to pile up, there's a little over an inch as you can see on the railing behind me:

It is pretty heavy and somewhat wet, but it seems like it means business. It's cold out, and it has been for several days so the ground and everything is well chilled. I dumped a a four-inch thick slab of ice out of the big green wheelbarrow yesterday.

Oh, and, er... look, more snow! In a tree this time.

Pretty impressive, no?

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving 2007

We hosted both our families for our first Thanksgiving here. I was a little nervous, but everything turned out great. I did a bunch of planning & prep work beforehand, so it wasn't too hectic to get everything finished in time for a 3 pm feast.
I'd never roasted a turkey before, but thanks to Cook's Illustrated's instructions my bird turned out beautifully. I brined it overnight (noone in my family had ever brined a turkey before, and everyone was impressed with the results), then air-dried it in the fridge for four hours, stuffed it with rosemary, thyme & sage and put it in the oven at noon. I basted it occasionally with melted butter. It cooked at 400F breast-down for the first 45 minutes, then flipped it over and put it back in for another 1 3/4 hours. Stuffed only with herb sprigs, it didn't take nearly as long as a traditionally stuffed bird would to cook, so despite the fears of a few doubters it was ready to come out of the oven at 2:30. As you can see, it was gorgeous. I was feeling pretty proud of it. :)

Here's the full feast spread on the table, ready to eat! There were 9 of us (Dave, Anita, Grandma Marjorie, Cary's Cousin John, Mom, Dad, Grandma Joy, Cary & I) and way more than enough food. Leftovers are a wonderful thing.
In addition to the turkey, I made:
Bacon & Apple Stuffing
Herbed Vegetarian Stuffing
Carrots roasted with maple syrup
Brussels sprouts braised with garlic & pine nuts
Mashed Potatoes
Gravy and Cranberry Sauce
Grandma Joy brought the butter-flake rolls
Dave brought Roasted squash
Mom & Anita each brought apple pies.

And as if that weren't enough, later in the evening Nick & Tombi & Moira stopped by with some of Tombi's pumpkin cheesecake, and then Bo & Charlotte came out and brought Charlotte's chocolate-ammarretto mousse. I'm sure it's completely unrelated, but the pants-shrinking gnomes hit in the middle of the night and made my pants tight. :)

We are so blessed. What a wonderful day, what a wonderful life!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Things I'd Change

The house is wonderful, don't get me wrong. I'm not complaining. But a common question I get is "So, what would you have done differently?" And I must admit, after living here for nearly a year, I've noticed a few things that aren't quite as wonderful as they could be, such as:

#1 - The door to the sunporch opens directly into the inside-corner pillar supporting the porch roof. There's plenty of room to open the door, but it does rather spoil the view out the window in the door, and it makes it a bit tight if you are carying something large through the doorway. There's no structural reason the door couldn't have been located 3 feet or so further to the right, putting it squarely between the two support pillars... we just didn't notice until it was done.

#2 - We shouldn't have run the radiant heat into the pantry, it gets really warm in that little room when the door is closed. It doesn't really need to be heated, but when we were laying the floor we just didn't think about leaving any spaces unheated. It's not really a problem for dried goods or canned foods, but I've stopped keeping garlic, onions, potatoes, apples, squash and the like in there because they tend to go bad. (On the other hand, the sun porch being unheated makes it a great storage area for that sort of thing. In the future when we have bumper crops of fruits and vegetables out of our garden & orchard, this space is going to be filled to the brim with harvest bounty.)

#3 - The upstairs bathroom door opens right next to the sink/vanity, making the space tight and awkward, right where you want to stand to use the sink or look in the mirror. It's cramped enough that the right-hand drawer on the vanity won't open if the door isn't closed completely: There's also the wierdness of having the closet door open right behind the main door. I should just close the door to the bathroom before opening the closet door, which but I seem to be incapable of remembering to do that. I'm forever banging the closet door into the bathroom door. Both of these issues would have been solved by using a pocket door for the bathroom door. Unfortunately, it's too late to change that. I don't even know if its possible to retrofit a pocket door into an existing, load-bearing wall, but if it is I bet its a real hassel.

#4 - No overhang on the kitchen countertops. They are faced flush with the cabinet fronts. It looks really nice, and I'm not even bothered that it makes clean up slightly more difficult because you can't catch the crumbs in your hand as easily when you wipe off the countertop. No, the real problem is that whenever a liquid spills and runs over the edge, it somehow suctions itself into the crevase between facing and the cupboard or drawer. Sometimes I don't notice the spill right away, only to later find a little puddle in the silverware drawer, or a half-dried sticky dribble down the inside of a cupboard door. What makes this worst of all, though, is that my little brother accurately predicted that this would happen. When he first visited the house, shortly before we moved it, he took one look at the countertops and said exactly that would happen. Of course I argued with him at the time, declaring it preposterous to think that having flush-fronted countertops would make any difference at all. It pains me greatly to admit, Jon, but you were right. I hope you'll be up for helping us redo the countertops - with an overhang this time - in a few years!

That's it so far - and it's really very minor stuff. There are also a few light switches and outlets that could be in better spots, but I don't really think you can ever get that sort of thing 100% right.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Clawfoot tub, how I love thee

Instant home spa: fill tub with really, really hot water. While the tub is filling, light candles, find a book, make a cup of tea, and inflate the bathtub pillow. Bath salts are optional. Make sure you have some nice clean towels on hand. Then get in the tub, shut the world out and relax...

Seriously, I do love this bathtub. It's so wonderfully deep compared to standard modern tubs. I could wish for it to be slightly longer (it's only a 5-footer) but since it was free (a family heirloom) I'm not going to complain. Before this tub I only rarely took baths because in a regular tub its just not worth the time it takes to transform the utilitarian shower area into a comfy soaking environment. I'm actually glad we didn't try to install a shower fixture for the clawfoot, and not just becuase it would have been difficult and expensive - it means that this space is always 100% ready for a relaxing bath. There's really nothing better to restore the spirit on a dark cold night after a long day at work. Having this tub is worth every minute I spent restoring it to good condition.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Oooh! I get a tiger!

Thanks Keely... this is fun. I've only read the first book of the series but I really enjoyed it, and look forward to reading the sequels. I didn't know they were making a movie, but it looks really neat.

UPDATE - Whoa, it changes the animal when you answer the questions! Note - You have to click in the brown half circle in the lower right of the picture, just above - but not on - where it says "More" on the bottom bar, to get the next question.

Electricity is Nice

Well, as of this morning, the power is still out at home (has been since about 10 am yesterday morning) and may not be turned back on until late afternoon or evening. On my drive to work this morning I counted 7 places, just on Everson-Goshen road, where large branches or fallen trees were tangled in or leaning against the power lines. It was quite a windstorm:

Clallam Bay reported a gust to 92 mph, while Bellingham had an official gust to 74 mph, and an unofficial gust of 97 mph from a trained spotter six miles northeast of the city (that might have been a localized effect.) Anacortes recorded a gust to 73 mph, while on the coast, wind gusts were between 70 and 79 mph, including 71 mph at Hoquiam. Source: KOMO news Emphasis added.
Other than not being able to work on the pacific arts advertising again*, it was actually kind of fun to be without power all night. We lit about a million candles, made a fire in the fireplace, cooked some soup (the propane burners work, we just had to light them manually) and played board games until bedtime. The only real problem was not having water, but luckily we had plenty of half-full water bottles around the house and in our cars, so we were able to brush our teeth and make tea. I'll pick up a couple gallons of water and maybe a bag of ice or two on the way home today, just in case our power still isn't restored.

Well, there was one other problem. I set the alarm on my cell phone before going to bed, and was awoken by it's beeping in the middle of the night. "Urghhh... no... can't be... not 6:30 already?" I thought. Nope, when I looked at the phone I found out it was beeping to tell me that it was running out of batteries. So much for that attempt at a back-up alarm clock! Luckily our feline alarm clock went off about 7 am, so I was only about a half-hour late to work.

*I'm starting to think the universe has something against PAHM advertising.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Catastophic Hard Drive Crash

This week my hard drive died. My IT guy says he's never seen such total destruction - "nuclear winter" is how he described the condition of the drive when I brought it to him. At least it was quick and painless; it didn't suffer - just a sudden and eternal bluescreen of death.

Nothing is recoverable. Which means that this blog now contains 100% of the existing photos of this past year moving into our house. I never thought my semi-obsessive blogging would turn out to be so useful! The wedding pictures are all safe on disc, but I just never got around to backing up anything else. Luckily I have a print-out of the wedding address list, I'd sure hate to have to start from scratch tracking down all those addresses again as I send out the thankyou cards.

The biggest immediate loss is the graphic design work (Ads, Posters, Handbills, and even a Billboard!) I have been doing for
Pacific Arts Holiday Market. Luckily I still have all the raw materials (files) that I need to recreate everything, but it's a major frustration and REALLY bad timing - several of the ads deadline on Monday. Still, as you can see, I am now back up and running. It'll all work out.

The moral of the story is, Back Up Your Computer Today! And also, it's probably not a good idea to set your CPU on the floor if you have radiant heat. :)

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Weekend Chores

We finally started on the mega-project that is cleaning up and organizing the shop. Between our moving into the house, friends storing their stuff, the pottery studio, and the general craziness getting everything ready for the wedding, things've been piling up willy-nilly in there for a couple of years, and you can see the result: It's a big space with plenty of room for everything we've got in there, but we needed to organize to a higher degree beyond "heap on the floor" so that there'll actually be room to move around and work on projects. We didn't finish cleaning it up this weekend, but we made a great deal of progress. One more solid saturday and we might even be able to park inside!

In addition to working on the shop, we also cleaned the chimney in preparation for winter. Last year we burned a lot of green wood, so it seemed like a good idea to scrape out the creosote before we started firing the stove. Brushing out the stovepipe turned out to be the easy part of the job, Cary had no trouble getting up on the roof with the chimney brush and working it down the pipe. Vaccuming out the creosote flakes from the bottom turned out to be really complicated, because there are all kinds of crazy baffles between the firebox and the stovepipe. They make the stove burn nice and clean and efficient, but they sure do hamper efforts to get the shop vac nozzle where it needs to go! Eventually after much cursing I managed to get the baffles out, and then with Cary's help was even able to get them back in afterwards.

The cats had a productive weekend too, as you can see: Iggy and Sprout really enjoy the picnic table. Sanford prefers to lounge ontop of our cars. Marcel prefers to stay low to the ground, although he actually climbed up onto the observation platform - without any human help - for the first time this weekend, which is quite a milestone.