Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Pruning Berries

Once in a while we do get a relatively warm day - meaning something above 35 degree Fahrenheit (about 2 degree Celsius).  On those days, Jeff does venture out into the berry patch and works on pruning the bushes.  Lars will join him when he get home from school as well, and they are making some decent progress.  It won't be much longer when pruning will be all-consuming.  Personally, I can't wait until we change time and I'll get to work outside in the evenings.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Bathroom Remodeling - Week 6

And we have progress!!  The whirlpool tub is totally installed, all the plumbing and the electric pump are hooked up and it works!  Not that anything surrounding the tub is finished yet, but Jeff did take a bath this evening :)

We also got all the wiring finished in the bathroom, and some of the lights are installed.  This is very helpful for working at night - working with the shop/job lights was getting old.

In the meantime, the guestroom wall is completely finished and now has its first coat of paint.  We decided to not simply paint the new wall a matching shade for the room - rather, we decided to completely redo the room.   Sammy helped to pick out the colors - which is always very reassuring.  The room is taking on a completely different look and it is so much fun to see this transformation.

The colors we chose are a rather muted dark green, a grayish light green and the same dark purple color we have in the barn.  All this is set off with a soft, very warm white for the trim.  We decided that the guest room, the laundry area and the bathroom need to use the same color scheme, just re-arranged, so that the transitions work well.

The bedroom - at the end of the weekend -  has a dark green accent wall, and will have dark green below the chair rail, with the light green above.  Purple is the accent color which we will pick up in the sheets, the quilts and other accessories.  All the moldings, doors and windows are trimmed with the warm white.  It looks very calming.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Tasty Red Cabbage - A Traditional German Recipe

I know that not everyone loves red cabbage - I really do, but it may be one of those genetically inherited tastes.  Here is our favorite recipe, which goes well with pork roast or beef roast, especially a "Sauerbraten" - mashed potatoes or dumplings are also great with it.

  • 1 medium head of red cabbage (about 2 - 3 lbs), finely shredded, hard center core removed
  • 1 medium onion, finely cubes
  • about 1/4 cup of butter
  • 1 glass red wine (we like to use fruit wines for this one, like blackberry or blueberry)
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (or regular vinegar)
  • 5 tablespoons of blackberry or current jam
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • optional: a dash of cloves

Sauté the onions in the butter, until translucent, add the shredded cabbage and stir well.  Add all other ingredients, mixing well.  Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to let cabbage simmer for at least 2 hours.  This vegetable is great warmed up - I think it tastes even better if reheated :)

Friday, February 22, 2013

Visit to PA Garden Expo

Had a great time visiting the Garden Expo at the Farm Show Building this evening with Gracie. We met after work (for me it was just a stop on my way home) - and they offered a reduced $5 after 5 rate, which is pretty reasonable :)

Some of the landscape exhibits were remarkably elaborate, considering they were all set up inside just for this event.  All of them featured outdoor kitchens, and outdoor fire pits or fireplaces.  Some had extensive stonework - and most had water features. Ponds, streams and lots of artsy light and water focal points.  Definitely got some great ideas.

The expo did not have quite as many garden related merchandise, like seeds, shovels, food processing type of things, which was a bit disappointing.  But they had PA wineries, one meadery, and several other PA specialty food companies - all with tasty samples.  There also was a fair amount of yard art, and some very pretty pottery and tons of jewelry.

Gracie's Favorite
Tina's Aspiration
Grace and I each bought a "starter bonsai" - with instruction and lots of good advice from "Nature's Way Nursery" .  I also bought these Peruvian Wonderflowers - these bulbs, which basically look like black carrots,  are supposed to bloom profusely, all through the summer, and the bulbs are winter hardy.  It almost sounds too good to be true - we'll see...

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Bathroom Remodeling - Week 5

This seems like the never-ending project (mostly because we only have a few hours each week to really dig into this).  But there is definitely slow progress.  This week, Jeff and Lars got more waterlines run, both showers, the bathtub and the sink now have access lines.  They also ran all the electric lines, and some of the outlets and switches are actually installed.  They also cut pieces for the sub-floor and got those nailed down.

Jens came on Saturday and helped put up the ceiling drywall in the bathroom, and the drywall for the wall between the bathroom and the laundry area.  The bathroom door also got installed (which means we have CONTAINMENT of DIRT).  The guestroom wall and closet got another coat of joint compound and all the seams of the newly installed drywall have been "mudded" as well.  This week, we hope to get the rest of bathroom walls drywalled and maybe start building the frame that will hold the whirpool tub.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Fiona's First Birthday

Birthday Girl
Today we met in Bedford to celebrate Fiona's first birthday.  It was really a wonderful family get together.  We all met at "Aunt Ruth's" house. which was sort of a central location.  Zach, Rachel, Toben and the birthday girl drove in from Ohio. Anja and Lief came from Boston via Pittsburgh (where Anja had spent most of the week at the University),  with Samantha (who was in Pgh to babysit), and Tina and Lars came from Carlisle.  Grammy, Rose and Jessica, Cayden and Cohen (all residing in Bedford county) came as well to help celebrate Fiona's special day.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Garden Update?

We are so caught up in the remodel project, that is seems we are not thinking about our garden, brambles and vines - but that is not quite true.  Tina actually started 3 kinds of peppers a while back, and created a page on this blog to attempt and track the vegetable garden for a year.  We also purchased several packets of seeds already and Jeff has been checking out the various heirloom websites trying to decide which seeds might be fun to "play" with this year.

We have also been trimming the blackberry bushes, whenever it is not too cold or windy and we are making some progress with it.  We are still holding off on trimming grapes until it is just a bit warmer.  We don't have that many to do this year, so we are taking out time with them.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Bathroom Remodeling - Week 4

This project is taking longer as we keep "improving" the design.  This week Jeff decided that it is totally foolish to have a double sink without having two places to take a shower.  So in addition to planning water lines for a shower in the bathtub, Jeff and Lars are now running lines for a corner shower unit.  We picked that up at Lowes today - while buying missing plumbing fittings.

Another improvement is the "grandchild switch".  Jeff actually installed a three-way light switch by the door, one at regular people height, and one at toddler height.  (We know they don't like to pee in the dark).

The guest room closet now has the access to the crawl space below the house, as we could no longer keep the existing access in the bathroom - due to the new corner shower.  We finished hanging drywall in the closet, an added a coat of joint compound.  The guest room wall was sanded and got its second coat. 

There is still some more wiring to be done, but at least the missing bathroom wall is now installed, complete with the door opening.  Hopefully this coming week, we'll get drywall up on this wall and get the door hung - so the dirt is more contained!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Another Way to Serve Frozen Strawberries

Lemon Pound Cake with Strawberries and Whipped Cream

I was searching for different ways to utilize my many bags of frozen strawberries, and came across this lemon pound cake recipe from Southern Living.  I modified it a bit (did not include the mint, added baking powder and a bit of salt)... it turned out well, not too much lemon, since my guys are not big fans.  Me - I like super sour lemon cake, with lemon drizzle and lemon icing, but not the rest of my family.  So this cake is a very mild flavored lemon pound cake:
  • 3/4 cup butter, room temperature
  • 2.5 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1.5 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • lemon zest from one lemon
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Beat butter until creamy, about 2 minutes.  Add the powdered sugar slowly, and beat for about 5 minutes.  Then add the eggs, one at a time.  Add the flour, alternating with the whipping cream on low speed.  Then add the lemon zest and juice.  Pour batter into a buttered loaf pan (8.5 x 4.5")

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 1 hour, or until wooden pick inserted comes out clean.  (Mine took about 1 hour and 5 minutes)

Let cake cool, then serve slices with thawed-out strawberries and whipped cream.  (If you really crave more lemon flavor, fold in some lemon curd into your whipped cream before serving).  Enjoy!!

Bathroom Remodeling - Week 3

Finally it looks like we are making some progress: this weekend we hung the drywall on the guest room wall, studded in a small closet, installed the door and added moldings...and got the first coat of drywall mudd on the seams.

During the week, Jeff and Lars pulled out all the old plumbing and wires, and removed the smaller wall near the dryer. Two interesting facts came to light:  someone had "patched" the copper plumbing with a piece of iron pipe - no wonder the downstairs bathroom water always had that annoying iron taste in it.  Every DYI 101 show explains that those two metals should NOT be mixed.  They also found a wire above the ceiling which was wrapped around a rafter near the outside wall.  Jeff used his electric tester, and it turned out that this wire is connected to the "mystery switch" by the kitchen door.  We think that at one time, there was an additional outside light by the far corner of the house, controlled by that switch.  We are considering bringing that light back, or else installing a lamppost by the herb garden.  Possibilities...

They also chiseled out all the broken tiles on the bathroom floor (using an air hammer, which supposedly worked amazing), and cut out the wood floor, which had been part of the closet.  Now the floor is bare, except where we are keeping existing tiles, and the foundation 2x4 has been installed where the new wall will be placed.   Coming up for this week:  installing the new water lines, which have to run through this new wall into the crawl space and connect to the sink and new bathtub.  Hopefully running the electric lines as well, so the wall can be built.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Roasted Winter Vegetables

Here is an easy, delicious medley of winter vegetables...if you like rutabagas, parsnips, carrots and garlic:

  • 5 parsnips
  • 6 carrots
  • 1 medium sized rutabaga
  • 6 (or more) cloves of garlic with their skin on
  • 1/4 cup light olive oil
  • 1 sprig dried rosemary (about 2 inches - more or less to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup (or honey would also work)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Wash and peel the parsnips, carrots and rutabaga and cut into chunks, approximately 1 inch.  Place them in a large (10 x 15 inch) oven proof glass dish and cover with the olive oil, mixing the vegies and oil thoroughly.  Season with salt and pepper and place in oven for 30 minutes.

Strip the needles off the rosemary sprig and chop them finely,  mix these with the garlic cloves (in their skins).  Add this mixture to the roasted vegetables after the 30 minutes are up and return to the oven for another 25-30 minutes (depending on how big your vegetable chunks are).

Remove from oven and immediately pour the maple syrup over the vegetables and mix them up.   For those who like garlic, squeeze out the soft insides and discard the paper skins. 

(This evening we had these vegies with maples glazed grilled ham slices and potatoes - the squeezed garlic mashed into potatoes with some butter was delicious as well)