Friday, August 30, 2013

More from the Garden

At least once a day we head to the garden to see what's ready to pick and gawk at how big the plants are getting, and every time we discover something new. Today we spotted a number of hornworms feasting on our tomatoes. Apparently these are common tomato plant pests, but I'd never seen one before and they are HUGE.

Look at this guy just chomping away on our tomatoes!

Hornworms aside, we had a nice haul from the garden this evening.

The tomatoes and beans became our dinner.

We also made a wood frame to help hold up our tomato plants. The standard metal tomato cages just did not cut it with the size of these plants. Some of them had completely fallen over.

Riley and Fern love it when we work in the yard. That's a Riley smile :)

Josh's parents arrive tomorrow afternoon to help us with the house, and we'll be putting the finishing touches (fingers crossed) on the covered porch remodel. We are getting so close to the end and it is looking really good. After this weekend we should have just the floor tiling left to do, which unfortunately will not happen before the wedding because of the delivery date for the tile. It's a bummer, but I'm practicing just letting it go. It's good practice for me :) Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Before & After: Downstairs Bathroom

Ladies and gentleman, drum roll please. We are DONE with the downstairs bathroom! It took us four months start to finish, with a huge learning curve along the way as we learned to do our own plumbing (shower, sink, toilet) and tiling (shower and floor), but we're all the better for it and finally ready to share some pictures.

First, let's take a walk down memory lane....



And there you have it. I am going to pull together a few dedicated posts for some of our DIY projects in the bathroom, but in a nutshell here's what we did:

Sink: The sink stand was made using a simple $50 oak table from the flea market, outfitted with a bowl sink and brushed nickel bridge faucet. The wood looks rather dark in the photos, but does not appear as dark in person.

Mirror: The mirror was a $10 flea market find. It had a layer of chipping veneer, so I soaked it in the tub until the veneer peeled off easily, sanded the wood, and refinished with stain and sealer.

Medicine cabinet:  Again, a flea market find for $40. It had a bad paint job, so I sanded and repainted it.

Shower: We used a shower kit to build out the shower curb and floor. Josh poured concrete to angle the floor slightly so that water runs to the drain, rather than pooling. He also added pipes to move the shower head and installed an on/off shower dial in the middle of the wall. We hand cut small square tiles from our slate tile stock and tiled the shower floor and curb. We tiled the shower walls with white ceramic subway tile.

Floor: We tiled the floor ourselves with slate tile from the quarry.

Peg rack: We built a peg rack/towel bar by attaching 4 shaker pegs and this towel bar from the hardware store on a wood plank. We painted the whole thing white then mounted it to the wall.

Thanks all for following along on our first bathroom remodel journey! We are already brainstorming ideas for updates to the upstairs bathroom...

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Crab Apple Crisp

The crab apples on the tree in our yard are now ripe, and surprisingly they taste pretty decent. The taste is similar to a Granny Smith, but slightly more bitter. Because tart apples are good for cooking, I decided to give a crab apple crisp a shot, and it turned out delicious. The apples had a nice bite and weren't too sour at all once cooked. If you have a crab apple tree in your yard with not-too-sour apples, consider giving a crab apple crisp a whirl! If not, this recipe works just as well with regular apples or peaches. I haven't tried it with berries or plums, but I imagine it would work for those as well.

Crab Apple Crisp Recipe

6-7 ripe crab apples
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar (white or brown)
1/4 tsp. baking soda
2 sticks butter
3 tbsp. cinnamon

Cooking Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wash and slice apples, then add to a mixing bowl with 1 tbsp. cinnamon and a few shakes of sugar. I generally use about 1/8 cup, but you can use more or less depending on how sour your apples are and how sweet you like your apple crisp. Mix apples with cinnamon and sugar until the apples are evenly coated, then transfer to a 8 x 10 inch or similar size casserole dish.

In a separate mixing bowl, start your crust by combining 1 1/2 cups flour, 3/4 cup sugar (can easily be reduced to 1/2 cup), 2 tbsp. cinnamon, and 1/4 tsp. baking soda. Melt 2 sticks of butter and add slowly to the mixture until the crust sticks together but has a slightly crumbly consistency. Make a ball of dough that fits easily in the palm of your hand, then press into a small patty. Lay the patty on top of your apple mixture in the casserole dish, then continue making and placing patties until the apples are covered. I like to overlap my patties just slightly. Sprinkle cinnamon on the top, then bake for 35-45 minutes. Let cool for half an hour before serving with ice cream and/or berries.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Vintage Postage Stamps

When I was a kid my mom had a craft supply closet full of rubber stamps, paints, buttons, markers, glitter, decorative papers, and hundreds of other things. Tucked in the back was an unassuming cardboard box filled with old postage stamps collected for our art projects. My mother removed them from fan mail my father's band received from around the world. We spent many an afternoon arranging stamps on handmade notecards, licking the backs to secure them next to hand cut paper stars, bright strips of origami paper, and glitter glue line drawings.

Last weekend at a yard sale I happened upon the vintage postage stamp stash of a serious stamp collector. Two large tables were stacked high with envelopes stuffed full of old stamps organized by year and country. Most were from the 1930s and 40s. At the end of the table was a catch-all cardboard box chock full of beautiful vintage stamps from all over the world. I was suddenly back in my mom's craft supply closet, peering into our postage stamp box. Once I started pawing through the box, I didn't want to stop. Josh became impatient and my neck started to hurt from straining over the box, but I kept digging. I had forgotten how beautiful many of the old stamps are, how each one is a little work of art. I left the yard sale with the entire stamp box, a vintage vornado fan, and a 1940s Royal typewriter.

Old postage stamps are nothing rare or unusual. Large lots of them sell for cheap online and in antique stores. But pawing through an old box of stamps from hundreds of countries ranging from 1930 to 1988 is a treasure hunt to me. There's something so perfect about a piece of art printed on a tiny little stamp, and with an assorted box of stamps spanning fifty years, each one is a surprise. I was tempted to keep the entire box and make dozens of Stamp Rainbow posters like this one from OneShyMouse on Etsy, but instead I am resisting the hoard, saving only a few of my favorites and selling the rest in curated lots of 50 stamps for $3.50 in the shop.  Give them a try if you're looking for a fun, cheap, and easy art project to work on with kids or your own. The colors and designs are so lovely, it's hard to go wrong.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

State of the Garden, Late August 2013

We are humbled by the results of our first gardening season in Vermont, and we're just getting started.

Images from top to bottom: garden arbor  //  picking tomatoes  //  cucumbers growing on the fence  //  moonflower plant climbing up the fence post  //  lots of basil  //  tomato in hand  //  overgrown  //  cucumbers and green tomatoes for pickling  //  view from outside the fence  //  pole beans  //  cauliflower  //  butternut squash  //  bell pepper plant  //  sugar pumpkin

Covered Porch Update

We've been making steady progress on the covered porch build out this week, and all of the windows are now in and trimmed out on the inside and outside of the porch.

Next we will tackle framing and installing the two doors, add trim above the windows to tie them all together, then install horizontal wood planks below and above the windows to make the "walls". Our goal is to have all of the woodwork done by next weekend in time for Josh's parents arrival. His parents have graciously offered to help with the house again, and we figured painting the porch would be the most effective use of extra hands if we can get all the woodworking done in time. Painting is one of those things where many hands make light work, and with four people we should be able to whip it into shape over the weekend.

But now, a few photos of our progress from this week...

Trimmed out windows on the inside of the porch ↓

Window trim as viewed from the outside ↓

Can't wait to get this all painted, add our sage green doors, and lots of potted plants. By the end of next weekend we should be well on our way!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Garden Pizza

Our tomatoes are finally ripening in the garden, and I was able to cook with them for the first time last night. Using a few small Sungold tomatoes, one large Brandywine tomato, and a bunch of basil from the garden, I made a simple "garden" pizza for dinner.

I added tomato sauce (hopefully we will be canning our own soon), thin mozzarella slices, garlic, and kalamata olives to the mix.

It turned out to be a very tasty combination, one I would recommend to anyone. By using a gluten free crust and thin slices of mozzarella instead of layers and layers of shredded cheese, we keept the pizza on the healthier side while still getting great flavor.

It feels really good to be cooking from the garden, and I can't wait to do more of it as our other veggies ripen. We have at least a dozen squash growing, a pumpkin, lots of cucs, pole beans, cauliflower, tons of greens, and will have more tomatoes than we can eat in a few weeks. We are planning to make lots of tomato sauce and butternut squash soup to can. We are also planning to pickle a few of the green tomatoes with a recipe Josh found. The way the cucumbers are growing we'll need to pickle a batch of those soon as well. Already we can't keep up with them. I'm excited to try pickling and canning for the first time this year. Lots of good things to come :)