In Between the All Consuming Clean Out

The all consuming cleaning out continues. I’m trying to attack every inch of the house and remove everything that has not been used in the last 10+ years or has no sentimental/material value. This has resulted in many piles. Fargo may be concerned about the status of the house.

The air hockey table is gone to make room for a craft table. It went to a good home where youngsters will hopefully have lots of fun playing. The craft table is downstairs, but since I have everything pulled out of the closet below the basement steps, the furniture has not yet been re-arranged.

We did manage to move my in-laws’ jelly cupboard into the dining room and it is absolutely perfect. I think they would be proud of what we are filling it with.

I added a new recipe to to my baking toolbox, and it’s so yummy that I made a 4th batch this morning. Favorite Pumpkin Muffins by Pinch of Yum are easy to make in the morning. Warm muffins for breakfast pretty much ROCK!!

All of the ingredients go in the food processor or blender (which is on the max end of what my ancient work horse of a unit can tolerate).

I didn’t put chocolate chips in the batter because I thought that might put the machine over the edge, so just added them to the top at the end.

Unfortunately, the first time, I forgot to spray the tin. It wasn’t a complete disaster, and I did get to eat about a half a muffin’s worth of bottoms that were attached to the tin. You can see the raggedy bottoms.

I remembered to spray the next three times. These are definitely worth trying if you like pumpkin muffins.

When I do sit down to cross stitch, or attempt my (as yet to be identified) crochet project. Fargo has been extra good about keeping me company. He is an exceptional hip warmer.

Look at that lower lip!! I just love that lip!

 

 

 

Cleaning Out

This has been our focus the past few weeks. Dealing with so much stuff from my in-laws’ house prompted us to take preemptive action here. How is it possible to accumulate SO MUCH STUFF!?!?! Of course, much of it can be chalked up to sentimentality. But the rest is just not going back through it all every few years to clean out the crap.

We opted for a staycation last week to try and get a handle on our house. Four heavy bags of paper went to the curb for recycling. Garbage cans were full as well. But now there are piles of “what the heck should we do with this” stuff. It’s random, no solid theme, and very few large items. We have china, beanie babies, old cameras, sheet music, statuettes, Disney VHS tapes, etc.

It took way longer than it should have, but I posted 9 whole things in ebay. No takers yet. Here are a few of them.

See what I mean? No theme. I keep hoping, as most people I’m sure do, that something in the piles will be worth millions. So far, no dice.

I want it all gone. I want to work towards only having stuff we really use, or which has sentimental value left. It’s a LOFTY goal, that’s for sure. Hoping the kiddos appreciate this (way) down the road.

It’s That Pumpkin Time of Year!

Fall happens to be my favorite time of year. Amongst all of the stress and emotions, I have tried really hard to stop and breathe and look at the colors, even though they were fairly muted this year. These are cell phone pics. I did get the new camera about 2 weeks ago, and I’ve been reading the manual, but haven’t gotten the guts up to use it yet.

We even got some pumpkins and mums and attempted to decorate.

I hadn’t really had a chance to do too much pumpkin baking, but made time last week to try something new. Sally’s Baking Addiction Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bundt Cake was the winner.

Unfortunately, we didn’t grow any type of pumpkins or pumpkin-like baking squash this year, so had to settle for canned. It is what it is. Here are just a few pics.

I have a pretty narrow bundt pan with a wide circumference, so I knew it wouldn’t turn out quite the same as Sally’s.

I should have thought to cut some of the pointier peaks off because once I turned it upside down and cut individual pieces, they toppled over. Next time.

So so soooooooo good!!!!

It really has continued to be unusual times in our household. We have been trying so hard to catch up. I have been trying hard to get back to moving the body, though it’s in the form of walking, and only a mile or two at a time. In the few moments when I do stop and relax, I sometimes have company.

Pergola Proud

Every day I have good intentions of putting together a blog post. It actually takes way more mental energy than one might think, and I’m low on that lately. We still have a lot of rough family stuff to deal with, though I’m REALLY hoping we are on the other side of most of it now. The girls are good, which helps. We’ve crossed a few things off the huge to-do list, which helps. I’m cooking/baking some yummy stuff again, which helps. Fargo keeps us busy, which helps.

I realized, as we ate lunch in our new and beautiful outdoor space yesterday, that I never wrote the “we finished the pergola” post. Although it took longer than anticipated, and due to The Lost Summer we haven’t been able to use it as much as we anticipated, it is done and it is wonderful. Neither of us can believe how it has changed the patio space into so much more than it was.

You can go back and see the earlier stages of the project here: Pergola I and Pergola II. We had gotten as far as putting enough of the structure together that it was time to fasten it to the concrete. Unfortunately, that process was more intense than we had anticipated. Between needing (very good) friends and relatives to lift the sucker into place, to chalking out where it would sit, to moving it away again, and then moving it back once the rubber footers were fastened, all proved challenging. The fastening was a hurdle as well, since the lag bolts kept breaking off and we had to get new ones. Finally, the fastening was done.

And the structure was attached.

This particular pergola has a high table on one side and a bench seat on the other. Next step was the table.

Fargo supervised, as per usual.

At that point, we decided not to use the bench seat. After spending some time walking around the patio and assessing the things, it seemed like it would close in the space too much. I am very happy with our decision.

We found some high stools to go with the high table. We mixed and matched some end of the season outdoor furniture. We attached a shade above the high table that can pull down to the ground (if necessary) and block the setting sun. The shade makes the space usable, as the hot late afternoon sun was one of our main problems.

It’s pretty fantastic!

We are hoping to use the heck out of it starting next Spring. I enjoyed working with hubby on this project and I’m hoping we can do more empty nest building of stuff together.

Sauerkraut

It was about a year ago that a friend and I got to talking about sauerkraut, of all things. She had made some and then was nice enough to bring a jar in for me. It was awesome! Being the wild and crazy empty nester that I am, I decided right then that I wanted to add cabbage to our garden this year, specifically to make sauerkraut. Hubby was totally on board.

I opted for Gunma from Fedco Seeds after reading all of the descriptions. The resulting cabbages were HUGE!!! We had four of these suckers!

My friend loaned us her Ball Canning book when it was time to shred. Sounded pretty simple, but it was a LOT of shredding.

As I shredded each batch, hubby salted it. I guess I didn’t realize that sauerkraut is simply cabbage and salt left on its own to do its thing.

There are quite a few ways to ferment the cabbage into sauerkraut, we opted for jars. Thanks to my friend, Beth, who gave me many jars of grain to grind, there were a few large ones in the house. Hubby smashed the cabbage down into the jars while I still continued to shred.

Once we filled four jars, we used cheesecloth to cover the cabbage and sewing weights in sandwich bags to hold the cheesecloth down.

 

Time to stink up the house! Every few days we removed the scum that formed, but otherwise, it was low maintenance. Fast forward to five weeks later. We used the smaller three jars this morning for the first batch of canning. We need to get some more small jars in order to do the rest.

We tried the “raw” sauerkraut, but it definitely has a different taste, neither of us was super excited about it. We again followed the directions from the Ball Canning book and cooked the cabbage until simmering.

Ta-da! And I can tell you, as we dropped sauerkraut everywhere and ate the dropped blops trying to get it into the smaller jars, that it is crazy delicious.

As soon as we have time, we’ll do the rest. It will be interesting to see if a few days more of fermentation makes any difference in the taste. It’s definitely going to be an every year thing!

Special note: As an early anniversary/holiday gift, we picked out a fancy camera for beginners. Hopefully it will improve the pictures on the blog…once I actually learn to use it.

 

Saying Goodbye is Hard to Infinity

We said hello to our kiddos last week. They came home for the Celebration of Life we held for my in-laws. Their plane landed at 11:30pm and that is WAY past my bedtime. There are only a few reasons I would be not only be awake, but also out of the house, at that hour and the girls are most of those reasons.

My parents came in as well, first time since my dad was sick. It was pretty great to have a full house for a few days. We stuffed ourselves with Indian food, did a little shopping, and prepped for the big event.

Fargo was in his glory because he loves his girls and he loves my parents. He played and visited until he was worn out.

 

It was a beautiful day for us to gather. Too hot for my comfort, but could have been way worse. We had a good crowd and I think people enjoyed being together.

It was happy and sad and included emotions in between. Having the girls, my parents, our family and good friends in one place to eat and to talk and to remember and to celebrate two incredible people was perfect.

Hubby’s co-workers did something pretty incredible for him. His boss/friend had the idea, he ran it by me, I ran it by the girls, and we all agreed that we LOVED his idea. We now have a beautiful glider bench with a plaque on it to commemorate and celebrate the lives and the love of hubby’s parents

My parents left early the next morning. We had  booked the girls on a later flight than we usually would have in order to squeeze as much as we could out of the very quick visit. Though it ended up being stressful for them, and resulted in a very late arrival home, I very selfishly enjoyed having those extra few hours. We LOVE these two and we’re so stinking proud of them. So is Fargo, as he looks on longingly.

And then we said goodbye. Saying goodbye is hard to infinity and it still sucks.

 

 

The Lost Summer

Back in mid July, I started drafting a blog post entitled, “Walking is Our New Running.” Hubby is no longer able to run so we were trying to embrace walking together. We had been doing pretty well the previous few weeks, walking 4-5 mornings/week, seeing pretty sunrises. I was going to include pics of the pretty sunrises and scenery in the post, like this:

Hubby’s body even managed a 4 miler, which was our last real walk. In the third week of July, we said goodbye to our Summer.

Who here has ever heard of Babesiosis? It’s a tick borne parasite. Only a very small number of you? I hadn’t heard of it either, until my dad contracted it. Here is some information:

https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/babesiosis/index.html

From the “Disease” page, some important information that pertains to my dad is that Babesiosis can be a severe, life threatening disease if you do not have a spleen. My dad does not have a spleen and he became critically ill. We are pretty certain that if his family doctor (whom I called and thanked), did not immediately think to have his blood tested for this parasite, my dad would not still be with us. It’s been a months long recovery, and his red blood cells are still being monitored.

I share this, in more detail than the happenings in the rest of our lost summer, as a heads up, a plea, to be vigilant about checking yourself and your pets for ticks. My parents are not outdoorsy. The chances of them getting a tick bite are very slim, let alone my dad getting a tick bite from a tick with babesia. All of the doctors and researchers are saying that Lyme disease and other tick borne diseases are on the rise. Please don’t take any chances.

At this point, let’s just say that the bad news Summer continued. We lost both of my in-laws, 10 days apart, and learned that a close family member has terminal cancer.

It’s been hard on the girls, and on us, that they’re so far away. With the eldest no longer in college, she moved further from campus. The girls don’t see each other as often, so when they sent us a picture together, it helped our hearts.

The pergola and pergola space got finished, but we haven’t had been able to really make use of it (pergola post to follow later).

It’s been hard to give Fargo The Terrible the time he deserves. He did his best to hang in there (always more Fargo pics to follow later).

It’s been hard to do anything in the house beyond the basic dishes/laundry. (I can’t bring myself to share a pic of the messy house to illustrate). As you may have noticed, there have been no blog posts for a long time. It’s been hard to find the energy to do more than the bare minimum. We are lucky to have friends/neighbors who made us food. THANK YOU, you know who you are!! It has been hard keeping up with the garden produce, and a few things did end up going to waste.

We randomly had enough hours and energy, at the same time, to be productive. We are attempting to make sauerkraut, which is currently smelling up the closet in which it resides (sauerkraut post to follow later).

We got one batch of peppers canned. We are calling these (and any batch of cheesy roasted peppers we make) Pepper Roulette this year. Every once in a while, there’s a HOT one in the mix and it can be from any of the three varieties.

We made a first go at pickles (pickle post to follow later).

And we just got the sweet potatoes harvested last weekend. They are smaller and many are unusually shaped, but hopefully they are yummy.

A more positive and productive Fall is welcome.

(Not Actually) Gluten Free Berry Crisp

As I type this, there is a 4th rendition of this recipe in the oven. I originally found it in an attempt to make a gluten free dessert for company. Although it was delicious and I used GF flour, I failed because I thought rolled oats were inherently GF, and they’re not. In order to be gluten free, (if I’m correctly remembering what our company said) the oats need to be certified not to have been grown where wheat/etc. was grown for at least 3 years and processed where wheat/etc. are not processed. Luckily, he was happy to have vanilla ice cream instead.

Each time I’ve made this, I’ve (of course) tweaked it some. The best tweak has been to use 4 cups of berries vs 3. How can more berries NOT be better!?! I’ve used blueberries and black raspberries every time, but different ratios. I think I like it best with about 3 cups of blueberries and 1 cup of black raspberries. This picture is from the first time I made it and it’s about a 50/50 mix.

I followed the rest of the recipe pretty exact. Maybe it’s so good because of the 1/2 cup of butter?

One of the things I like about this recipe is that it has you put half of the “crisp” on the bottom and then bake just the bottom for 5 minutes. It’s pretty fun to have the berries surrounded by crisp.

The version in the oven right now is almost all black raspberries. We used 10 cups of blueberries to make some possibly burnt jam (more on that later), so we’ll see how the mostly black raspberry crisp comes out.

Appreciating Our Homestead

I love our house/property, and I have since we moved here more than 10 years ago. In the last year or two though, I am trying to more purposefully take time to observe and notice. I am using the day-to-day beauty of the flowers and the veggies and the fruits, and the hard work that goes along with it, to help me with missing the kiddos every day. It seems to help me stay (at least slightly more) centered.

The blog and my newer enjoyment of taking pictures also helps. So, while I’m waiting for us to make more progress on the pergola, I thought I’d share a few flowers with you.

The bee balm was beautiful again this year, though it gets a powdery mildew pretty quickly.

And the echinacea did really well.

Daylilies with larkspur and bee balm make a pretty color palette.

Of course, having Fargo The Terrible around helps (most of the time).

Veggie garden, blueberry and pergola updates coming soon!

Pergola Part II

This is such a huge project, that I think it will require a three-part series. I started assembly in the garage. I asked hubby to look things over before I put pieces together and then I did my best to get things moving.

I began on my own because the neighbors had some trees cut down and were nice enough to offer us the wood. When you heat with wood, you need to be thinking about the cold, even when you are sweating your a$$ off in the summer.

I only made it through step 4. The next one required the big posts, so had to wait for the hubster to be available. After a few hot, sweaty and tiring days, the main structure is up.

This was the first big project in a while that we were able to work on together. I really enjoyed it (95% of the time 😉 ). I did mess up a bit, but luckily hubby can cover for me. I pushed out of my comfort zone and really worked hard on something that I would have previously thought of as “his project.”

It’s not throwing much shade yet. We’re hoping to have some sort of climbing/trellising type of plant. We do have a shade for the side to block the setting sun, but may need to get something lightweight to cover the top for a while too.

There are quite a few more steps to go, but we already love it. It makes the back of the house more interesting, and somehow homier. Shoulda, coulda, woulda done this years ago.