Reboot

I spent much of last weekend packing up the Christmas decorations and putting the house back in order. After the over-the-top excess of the holidays with stockings, and trees, and nutcrackers, I’ve been slow to put back decorations on the mantel and shelves.

The fall season is over, and we’re not quite ready for fresh spring flowers. Do I give in to the cold and icy feel of winter or add some hearts and red in tribute to Valentine’s Day?

I noticed a friend from college still has her Christmas village decorating her living room just because she likes them. It’s OK not to rush into the next big thing.

Like a palate cleanse between courses, sometimes your eyes need a rest. Besides, this will give me a chance to touch up the paint on the fireplace and get Baby Girl’s sketches framed. It’ll all come together eventually.

Do you change up your decorating with the season or stick with tried and true?

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You Just Never Know

I remember when me and the MR were getting ready to buy our last house. It was located a block from the high school, and our realtor recommended coming out by 7 am on a weekday to see how much noise kids heading to school would make.\

Hmm, while that sounded like a smart idea, I had a toddler and a preschooler. There was no way on earth I would wake those two up, pack them in the car, drive a half hour, and then sit by the side of the road to check out traffic noise at 7 am. Needless to say, high schoolers like to honk their horns and yell at and to each other on the way to and from school.

We survived. There are just some things you don’t realize until you’ve lived in a place,

When we moved here, we know it had an awesome view of the valley and the mountains in the distance. But it was the amazing sunrises that floored me.

On sunny days, this time of year, they are quite spectacular.

A friend told me I didn’t need to write anything, I could just post pictures of the sunrise. She just might be right.

Hope your days are filled with beauty and light.

My First Stab at Salt Block Cooking

Sometimes you get something for Christmas you’ve never even heard of. Himayalan Salt Block, huh? The Fella must think I’m a fancy chef; Sweet Miss explained how you can cook on it.

You know me; I’ll give anything a try. So last week, my new salt block spent hours in the oven curing. I set the heat at 170-degrees and then bumped it up 50 degrees every half hour until it got to 500-plus. This is not the most exciting part of the experiment, but it supposed to keep the block from breaking apart and gets it ready for cooking.

Since it’s awfully chilly out at the moment (not east coast chilly, but northwest 30-ish chilly), I decided to cook on the stovetop rather than the BBQ. Besides, I wanted the joy of using it for the first time rather than letting the MR steal all the fun.

Supposedly, you don’t even have to season your food on the salt block, that pink salt does it all for you. We had salmon, green beans, brussel sprouts, and yellow peppers.

I did add a little freshly ground pepper, and it was all quite tasty. The salmon stuck a little and was perhaps a bit thick for this cooking method. And the green beans kept rolling off the brick into the bottom of the burner–good thing I have long tongs. I did end up with a bit of a scorch mark on the bottom, but your supposed to dedicate one side for cooking and the other for heating, so maybe it was meant to be.

This might be a fun way to try teppanyaki or bulgogi right at the table. For just me and the MR one brick is perfect. If I want to start adding more people, I may need another brick. I’m going to do some more research and work on my technique.

This is definitely a fun and interesting way to make dinner. Many thanks to the Fella for such a thoughtful gift.

I wished you all a Merry Christmas, but I didn’t share much of ours. So I know you’re wondering about Christmas pjs. This year, I had a bit of a tall order. When I visited the girls in October, Sweet Miss declared that she and the Fella wanted matching pjs with beavers on them.

She’s also the one who stated emphatically years ago that she wants flannel pjs in Christmas-y colors. OK, that means beavers, red and green, in male and female appropriate print…hmmm. I found little woodland creatures gamboling about; no man I know would wear that print.

Then Kaufman Burly Beaver flannel came to the rescue. It’s kind of stretching it colorwise with only a bit of red, but hipster, bearded lumberjack beavers seemed the perfect fit for a pair of Oregon State grads living in Portland.

Baby Girl made it simple with snowflakes in red on a white background. Everyone looked great. So glad to be able to share the holiday with our kids.

 

And did I mention it was a white Christmas? This happens every 10 years or so. It’s so pretty, but I’m glad it only lasted for a few days. With all our hills, snow makes traveling quite tricky.

Today is the first day with Baby Girl back to school.  It makes for a quiet house, just me and Cocoa.

Hope your new year is starting off well. Any salt block cooking tips to share? How about other adventures in cooking I should try?

 

Looking Back & Forth

A few days ago, I spent the afternoon looking through last year’s posts. Wow! So many crazy things happened, and I’ve totally forgotten about them. So let’s look back a little at the highs and lows of 2017.

Do you remember the Big Stink (aka Life Is Messy)? The MR tore apart the house looking for something dead or a break in the plumbing. The good news, we don’t have rats; the bad news, mice are inevitable in this locale. Not sure what brought on the whole issue, but sinks have been returned to their bathrooms and all holes have been patched.

Then, we also had the Big Sink in Winter Storms & Prepping for Spring. This was a big problem for everyone on our hill not just me and the MR.

I’m hoping this winter won’t be quite as wet as last. We have had snows, but so far we haven’t had to ask When a Tree Falls In the Woods…

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We only had a few big changes around the house. The first was new carpet in the master and guest bedroom and the sewing room. Cocoa approved of both the color choice and the install. (For details, check out How’s That for Color? and Chaos in the Name of Progress.)

We also had the soffit replaced on the deck, which uncovered a ton of rot, which in turn extended the work for months on end. What’s rather sad is that after everything, we have the same thing we started with minus rot and a hot tub. We had hopes of adding some new deck furniture, making paths in the hillside, and enjoying quiet evenings looking out over the valley. I guess we’ll save all that for this summer.

The garden and orchard faired well after the MR got rid of our unexpected guests. He’s installed a veritable fortress around both of them now.

We spent a big part of our year traveling. In January, we visited Miami flying on to Turks and Caicos. Next, we visited family in California, and then it was April and we were off to Washington, D.C. with the MR’s parents. May we traveled back to Zihuatanejo with my brother and his wife. Then in June, we checked out wedding venues in Chelan with the MR’s parents and Sweet Miss. July, we traveled with Sweet Miss to Prague and Vienna before meeting up with Baby Girl in Rome where she was studying. September brought our big adventure down under in Australia with my dad. October we flew to Cabo San Lucas for a few days of sun, and finally the whole family (me and the MR, Baby Girl, Sweet Miss & the Fella) all traveled to Playa del Carmen for a few days before Christmas.

 

Yes, it was a travel-heavy year. But that doesn’t even include all the trips to Oregon to move girls in, move girls out, Dad’s Weekend, Mom’s Weekend, buying a wedding dress, viewing a total eclipse, and visiting my sweet girlies just because everyone needs a skull candy garland for Halloween.

One surprise from my blog blitz was how many times bee’s wraps popped up. OK, so only twice in Saving the Planet and then The Mystery Unwrapped. But we also made bee’s wraps for our Thanksgiving craft for the family, and then for the MOPS ladies as one of my “Favorite Things.” With a few leftovers, Sweet Miss’ friends received them with cookies and beautiful shell candles, and finally Santa stuffed them in everyone’s stockings.  They really are a good thing.

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I was also sad to see our little lemon tree bravely producing lemons beyond its size. Alas, it was a casualty of our European trip.

And now for a little honest reflection. I love the pillow with outlines of trees that I featured in It Feels Like Fall. It’s a beauty, but if you have a black dog, you should never buy a pillow with a white background.  Now, Cocoa isn’t allowed on the couch, but her fur gets everywhere.

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6. If Feels Like Fall

Fortunately, the pillows I made in the diamond and gray fabric are working out splendidly. I like how the diamond print instantly brightens the feel of the room, and simply turning them over tones it down with the gray.

Another possible miss in the purchase department is the new coverlet for our bed. I like it, but… all the snags are driving me crazy. We feel guilty when we leave Cocoa for a couple of weeks and let her sleep on the bed with us. Her paws have made loops and pulls all aver this bedspread. Let’s just say, I’m keeping my eyes open for a new one. Let’s hope it’ll go with the shams I bought last summer.

New Shams

 

Now that we’ve looked back, let’s look ahead. The sewing room has been in utter chaos for most of the year–since we installed the new carpet. I didn’t want to bring back the old dresser with that was broken, but I wasn’t sure how to fix it or where to store all my yarn. (You know I have a lot.) So last month, when a dresser went up on the local trading post group, I snapped it up. It is now sitting in the hangout room in pieces, but I did finish the Christmas pj’s. Getting organized is a definite must.

So goals for this year include:

  • Putting together the sewing room
  • Completing all those halfway done knitting and sewing projects
  • Making more use of our deck space with furniture
  • Adding some paths to the garden and orchard
  • Not letting travel or workers deter me from putting a garden in
  • Organizing the storage room off the garage

That seems like a good start for now. Along with travel, we are looking forward to Sweet Miss and the Fella getting married in July.

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Baby Girl may be interning in the Seattle-area this summer, so our empty nest might actually by half-full.

We’re looking forward to all the adventures this new year holds.

Wishing you and yours a Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas from the BWHotH

It’s been a slow time on the blog with a head cold, kids home, a vacation, and all the crazy busyness that comes with the season. In spite or perhaps in the midst of all of that, I wanted to share warm holiday wishes to all my faithful readers.

The ribbon trees decorated the top of the china hutch and the TV console. It might be time to make a few more. I’ll have a veritable forest before you know it.

I went a little less glitzy with the mantel and gathered some wooden santas and a nativity puzzle Sweet Miss received as a baby. With all my nutcrackers–new and old–it felt sweetly understated.

I especially liked the view at night with the snowflake lights aglow.

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And now on Christmas Eve with stockings ready to fill, a very Merry Christmas from Me/Kim, the MR, Baby Girl, Sweet Miss, and the Fella.

Family at Chitzenitza

Saying Goodbye to November

My herbal wreaths have faded, and I’m sitting in a world of fog. I guess that means November is gone and winter is here in earnest.

We had five days without rain last month, so when the sun comes out That Golden Glow is greatly appreciated. I came down with a cold the week before Thanksgiving–just in time for Dad’s Weekend. But me and the MR still enjoyed seeing the girls and spending time together.

We celebrated Thanksgiving with my brother and his family and are learning to be gracious and share Sweet Miss with the Fella and his family. Baby Girl was home, and we binge watched Stranger Things rather than get our tree. We’re saving that for this weekend when finals are over and Baby Girl is home for a whole month.

Besides going through lots of kleenex, I did A Little Kitchen Organization and managed to redo some chairs for Sweet Miss with The Power of Fabric.

Speaking of fabric, I’ve been anxiously waiting for some Christmas PJ flannel I ordered over Thanksgiving weekend. It’s nice to get the sale price, but it’s hard to stay patient especially on a deadline.

Another bonus of not bringing out all the Christmas decorations on Thanksgiving weekend is being able to decorate in more manageable bits. Sometimes, it’s hard to stay festive when you’re surrounded by tons of boxes.

Hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving with family and friends and looking forward to sharing the Christmas spirit with you.

 

 

A Little Kitchen Organization

With Thanksgiving over and Christmas just around the corner, I know a bit of baking is on my to-do list, and I bet it’s on yours, too. So I thought I’d share a recent, upgrade to my spice drawers.

In the last house, I had risers in the cupboard and carefully placed my spices alphabetically row upon row. It was with great care and trepidition that I’d carefully reach for a jar and hope not to knock over half-a-dozen of my carefully arranged containers. Here, in my huge kitchen, with 17–yes, count them 17– drawers, I’ve arranged my spices in drawers, on their sides, easy to find with no danger of toppling in sight.

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Is this bliss? Sort of, but you know there’s always room for improvement. All the jars are different sizes, and they get all wonky. Wouldn’t it be great if they were the same size instead of a hodge-podge? It would be so neat and tidy, and they wouldn’t use up the better part of two drawers.

Well, that little jar I was using for some of our dried basil gave me a great idea. A friend’s daughter had handed out little jars of coffee and tea as a wedding favor. We had been blessed with some of the leftovers, and I’d used one of these jars to hold some herbs. These would be great for my spice drawer. Even better, when I asked where my friend had bought them, she was happy to give me 20 more.

I do like organization and get a little picky about things–just ask my family–so I started with my tried and true alphabetical plan.

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This ended up much too hard to navigate: too many sizes, too many shapes, too chaotic. So I compromised by separating the jars by size and then alphabetically.

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I’m rather pleased. Cost Plus World Market offers spices in little cellophane bags at reasonable prices, so I can restock my jars economically. PCC Markets are a local grocer that allows you to bring in jars and refill them, so if I’m really organized, I may try that.

I started labeling the lids with a wine glass writer but worried they would smudge if grabbed with a wet hand, so I switched to a chalk marker. I guess I’ll wait and see which one holds up the best. As I make my way through the larger containers, I’ll continue to replace them with little hex jars that are readily available on Amazon.

Spices lose their potency over time, so the little jars are another way to up the flavor in my cooking and keep me organized.

So for zero dollars, and just a little time and energy, I was able to free up a drawer and make another one oh-so much neater.

I’ll have to keep that in mind the next time I feel the urge to organize. Just a little effort can have a big pay-off.

Any organization tips to share?