Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Let's Do Some Catching Up With Nancy!

It's been a while since I set these pictures aside to share with you. I've been very busy with writing and renovation projects here on the farm. So busy, I never got a chance to post anything but writing stuff since way back in October. Yeah, it's been a while! Let's see if we can get past the holidays and into the New Year.

Christmas was a busy time, but my kids—who are all adults mind you—begged me to bake gingerbread cookies. It's the only food they asked for specifically, so how could I say no? I made several batches, enough for them to share. I can't have the sugar anymore, so I had to give them all away. Don't they look nice? 

While my back wasn't happy, I didn't really mind doing them because I work in shifts. I made the dough one day and baked it a couple days later. The frosting part takes forever though. While I am not really skilled at it, and I use the tubed stuff, I am fussy and detail-oriented. The little trees and wreaths on the houses are decorated. The snowmen have carrot noses and coal eyes and buttons. I added those things one sprinkle at a time by dipping a toothpick in a bit of matching frosting and sticking them in place. I find a toothpaste tube squeezer makes getting that frosting out far, far easier. It takes a lot of pressure and a fairly steady hand to do something even this simple! 

At least three days worth of work went into frosting these in between wrapping gifts and writing. An old office chair with an orthopedic cushion in the seat, rolled up to the kitchen table, made a world of difference in my comfort.

That is what you call a labor of love. Or insanity, if you are the one doing it. I was able to send some of these gingerbread masterpieces of mine down to Roger too. I'm sure that didn't hurt his feelings any...

This is a cheeseburger pie, requested by my oldest son Jason, whose birthday is December 23rd. We had pizza too, but he really wanted this. I made a similar one for New Year's Eve 2011, and he really liked it. Unfortunately, I never wrote down the recipe! They didn't care for the traditional pork toutiere, but this one got raves. So I had to recreate it from scratch. This time I wrote everything down.

It is filled with ground beef cooked with onions and some quick oats to take up the juices. I mixed in shredded sharp cheddar cheese. He tells me it was the best thing he ate that night. That's a compliment when you are also having 4 kinds of takeout pizza! 

We exchanged holiday gifts that evening too, since with so much family to see on DDIL's side, it made things easier. That part of the holiday was spent at their house, as with the renovations here, I don't have room for a tree. We had Ma and Jason here on the farm for a while on the 24th, as well as an elderly neighbor, and the whole gang showed up over here for a late Yuletime dinner. It was great fun!

I got the best gift of all this year—I found out I have a new grandchild on the way!  

Fall and winter is the time of year when I do the most cooking. This was a yummy winter chowder with potatoes, broccoli, bacon, and cheddar cheese. SOOOO good! 

We're eating more soup this year, both canned and homemade, and I have been making regular usage of my thrifted soup mugs. Being a writer who works from home, I eat often at my desk, and a plain sandwich with a mug of soup sure makes lunchtime far more interesting. The soup above only needed a buttered roll, it was filling. 

Excuse my messy house, we have several rooms under renovation so we're kind of packed into the ell. At one end is the dining room which is also my office. You can see my computer in the background. That's where the writing magic happens. 

Those exposed beams were begging for some interest, and so when I got a box of throw away baskets from a rummage sale this fall (they were going to the dump!) I cleaned them up, added a few of my own, and started finding spots for them. A few have come from thrift stores since then. The icicle lights look wonderful up there, so we still have them in place, and they cast just enough light to sit here at my PC and work. I plug them in every evening. The baskets aren't touching them, the lights are on the other side. 

A lot of the trim is still down where new windows were put in. This place is a work in progress. 

This is my only little holiday tree, and my small decoration spot, this year at one end of the kitchen table. This was taken right before New Year's Eve. The plant stand you can see in the previous picture would be on the right here.

The tree was a holiday markdown last year, and it came pre-lit. I decorated it with marked down ornaments. The bubble nightlight, the rooster mold, picture, most of the stuff on the table, the tin and even that chair you can see the top of were all thrifted. The table, clock, and wreath were left in the house. Roger gave me the eight resin reindeer. Yeah, no window trim here either, but we want to get some barnboard up there eventually. 

Here's where a lot of our time and money went this winter, we had to get two new furnaces. The house had a combination wood and oil furnace right under the kitchen ell, but it was on its last legs and was far from efficient. We bought this woodburner below and put that into the lined chimney right where the old oil waterheater used to be. It has a blower and ties into the existing ductwork. Works very well, though it is slow to start and get the heat going. 

The oil furnace below was professionally installed, and it is a good one, very efficient, and keeps the house toasty warm. Far more comfortable in here this winter and we have gone through 2/3 less oil too. This one is in the same place as the original combination burner used to be, and uses the kitchen chimney. By code you can no longer have both oil and wood in the same flue.

The two furnaces set us back around $6000, but were a total necessity. The cellar here is messy looking but clean enough to be safe. Someone had let coal in rotten bags sit on the floor for decades and it took forever to get that out. That little garbage can is for ashes from the woodburner, it was on its way out the door when I snapped this. Never put ashes in anything combustible even if you think the are cold. They always have some little tiny hot coal in there and that's enough to cause a fire. The firewood behind the furnace here is fine, that unit only has internal heat, the jacket is cool to the touch. It's a weird angle, and things are a lot farther off than they seem. This is right below the edge of kitchen and dining room in the ell.

Now on to some of my crafting purchases before the holidays. 

I am making a crocheted baby blanket for a family friend who just had a little boy. Isn't that luscious yarn? The blanket is nearing completion, so later on I got some white to edge it. I hope to have it done before the little tyke gets to college. LOL! Then I need to make one for my own grandbaby...

The punches were 75% off because Halloween had long since passed. The cording I needed for another project I never seem to get to. 

Had to show you that yarn again. It is gorgeous! But it sure doesn't go very far. I worked on this a lot while watching old programs on HULU. I still don't have cable TV here. *POUT*

Yep I made more of the double thick hot pads for the holidays, these were in cotton yarn from my stash. They sure came in handy! These are the fronts...

And these are the backs. 

With the 17" long casserole dish I have I used two of these beneath it and that worked fine. They are washable. Cotton yarn is best for kitchen stuff, because if for some reason you get it too close to a flame, it will only scorch and burn normally. Acrylics and blends melt because they have plastic in them, and they can weld themselves to your stove or your skin. Plus they give off a terrible stench. NOT good! 

I went thrifting!!!! And I got two really interesting baskets. I have so many now, I only want the special ones. 

You can see these in the holiday lights display above. To hang things on those beams, which are 242 year old chestnut and very hard, we've had to start holes with a drill or awl, and then work like demons with pliers to screw in cup hooks. That wood is very solid! 

Same trip I got these little goodies. They were marked down because it was well after Halloween. 

The little ghost is so cute I could not bear to put him away, so he is living on the lower rail shelf in my dining room. I am a sucker for those silicone mold and pans and I loved Jack O'Lantern pumpkins, so they found room in my cupboards. The squish up nicely and easily spring back to shape, so they make great padding between glass and ceramic baking dishes. 

I have no idea what I am going to do with these, but could not resist them. It was only $1.99 for all.

They are a nesting set of stainless steel lunch containers. I will find some use for them, maybe holding birthday candles and stuff like that. You know me and tins of any kind...

Two more of my thrifting treasures. I don't buy many books anymore but I have been dying to read a Dresden Files story and I did start this one. Man, is it a hoot! LOVE IT!!!!! Just wish I had more time to read, and better eyesight too. Writing is about all my eyes can take most days. 

You saw the little bubble candle earlier. It works fine and brings back memories of my dad, who was always a gadget guy. We had bubble lights like this back in the 60s. They were better in candelabras where they can stay upright, than on the tree, where their weight made them droop and they refused to bubble.

I will buy books I like for my grandson though. I keep some here at the farm for those rare times when he might not have a handheld game with him and the weather is not good for fishing or whatever activity he might be into at the moment. 

Curious George and Ferdinand are classics anyway. Brings back the days when Captain Kangaroo read them on his morning program. You can't imagine how important it is to read to children and encourage them to read to you. My lifelong love of books was sparked by the ones the Captain read. I might not have become a writer had I not been such an avid reader. You better believe that I read to my kids too, and I've watched them reading to Ben. 

OK, so I did buy some books in that trip. It was a good day for them!

Cookbooks are a passion of mine, but I am selective about what I buy. These were all small but filled with things I would actually make—and yes I have a KitchenAid mixer with several attachments. And really... sugar free Jello recipes with two pre-diabetic people in the household, you know I wasn't going to pass that up! The crochet book was a find, the afghans in there are adorable. If I only had more time to cook and crochet! 

A different thrifting trip, this one right after the holidays. I keep all my $1 bills at the end of shopping and put them away for mad money. They are what I take to the thrift stores or flea markets and yard sales. Everyone is always happy to get ones. 

I am using the wooden spoons, and have the copper mold up in the kitchen, now that I've changed calendar locations. The silicone kisses mold went into the cupboards with the others. I am going to have to make some filled kisses with that, with something sugar free. Hmmmm, Valentine's Day is this week....

Some of my happier finds. I still have to find a good place for the stained glass star, but I love that. I grabbed the little hanger for it too. 

The tin is being used for storage. I have a thing for tins with interesting pictures, and I love birds. Dry and mouseproof storage in this old farmhouse is a must. I just now opened the little box that was sealed in plastic, and has been living on my PC since it came home. It is filled with little squares of notepaper with that print on one side and tied with a small apple green satin ribbon in a bow. I was originally going to give it away, but then fell in love with the box. Yeah, I'm a cheap date! 

Well let's shift gears now and talk about the weather...

It's been a odd winter, we've had howling wind, some snow now and then, and long periods of bare ground. The grass stayed green until late in the year. Some nights it's so quiet out here, you can hear the trains in the distance.

We see deer regularly. Sometimes up to seven at a time! 

These two look big but they are only this past year's twins. They come regularly now that momma doesn't want them around all the time. Sometimes she does rejoin them though, now that she's bred and the bucks have stopped chasing her. We have another doe who had a single fawn, and we see them now and then too. They love the big field where they can graze in peace.

Now we need to go back indoors for a bit...

This is the beginning of the renovation of the smaller bedroom, which is not really a bad size at all. Because the weather was cooperative, two brand new energy efficient windows got put in. 

Yes, it's white vinyl because we couldn't afford the colored version. I insisted on vinyl because it is low maintenance and doesn't rot or swell. It will be wonderful to have windows that open and close. We did this before the rest of the yuck was stripped out of the walls because we got a few mild days. You don't want to put in windows when it's bitterly cold out! But doing it at this time of year cuts down on dealing with nasty things you can stir up, like wasps. The window is square but the framing looks weird. How good would you look at 242 years old? Making stuff fit is always a project with these old houses.

A dividing wall built between two rooms. All the bedrooms are in the front of the house facing the highway. I have always lived on back roads, but I find you do get used to the noise, which quiets down at night.

The new bedroom is to the right. There was a middle room here, that was small, and another decent sized bedroom to the far left. I decided we can get by with two bedrooms instead of three so we are keeping the middle and lefthand bedroom as one bigger room. 

With the old plaster walls gone, you can more easily see the original post and beam construction in this old place. That patterned stuff you see is old wallpaper. That wiring is shut off and capped, and will be all replaced. Like I said, this is a big project! 

OK, now we're going back outdoors again...

One of the lighter snows we had this winter. I think we got a few inches from this one. We had a lot of light snows, and plenty of wind. 

We've had snow off and on, with one storm dropping 6" and another 11". But we just got about 30" from a blizzard that fell on bare ground. So it's been interesting! 

That barn roof is a favorite of mine for taking pictures. 

As are the pines out front. They look frosted! The haze you can see is snow still sifting down.

I have feeders all over the place. We attract a lot of birds. I have several families of cardinals in the area. This guy is sitting in the white lilac between the house and barn. 

I think the cardinal was was waiting his turn at my main feeders. The woodpecker and gold finches below found something they liked right there in the lilac. I love the mesh feeders. So do the birds!

We do get bothered by squirrels now and then but they haven't been too bad. I wired the little covers of the mesh ball feeders to the base, so if the squirrels get them open, they don't fall far. We almost lost them a couple of times to those crafty tree rodents!

Well there you have another holiday season and some of the aftermath here on the farm. I know some people hate winter, but I've always found it a snug and cozy time to get things accomplished indoors. Of course, I don't have to go out in the cold and drive to work on icy streets in traffic anymore. But I never seem to get the blues—I'm too occupied with projects for that. Maybe that's the secret? 

Whatever you do, make it something worthwhile that keeps you happily busy, and makes someone smile in the process. The world will be a far better place with more happy and smiling people in it.


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