Happy 2019!

Writing a blog post has been on the to-do list for way too long. Although I’ve spent time watching woodworking youtube and Instagram videos, I’ve really kept pretty busy with projects that pushed the blog further and further down the list. Today seems like a good day to cross “blog post” off the list…til I add it back on there tomorrow.

The kiddos were just home for a week+ visit, which was so very wonderful. It was a year since they had been home, and it will likely be a year til their next trip back, so we all tried hard to appreciate squeezing each other. Hopefully we’ll see them somewhere on the West Coast during the year. Saying goodbye NEVER gets easier and I’ve allowed myself a few sad days since they left. We kept forgetting to take a really nice family picture while they were here, so here are our “smile through the tears” goodbye airport selfies.

When your kiddos live on the other side of the country, and you only see them three times/year, it’s hard. 2018 is when it really hit me that they’re not coming back. I’ve been blogging about empty nest for three years, but this is the year it really hit me, hard. They love where they live, they love the people who surround them. Unfortunately, where they live is not a place where Tim and I could ever see ourselves living. A lot of the past year (and probably the next few years) will be spent trying to figure out what this means for us.

I am proud of myself for the fact that through this tough realization, I was able to keep moving forward with my Hobby Adventures. Under the “better late than never” category, I found woodworking. I love it! If you’ve followed along here, you’ll know that with Tim’s help/knowledge, youtube/Instagram tutorials and inspiration, websites like Shanty-2-Chic, Ana White, Rogue Engineer, and more, there is a new workbench, miter saw cart, lumber storage cart, bed, nightstands, corbel lights, and more in the house.

This new found passion has led to the garage insulation project. Yesterday, we finished the ceiling insulation which was a HUGE accomplishment. We even managed to do it in one day!! Tim was amazing with how he maneuvered around in that tight space, something I tried to do and had small space anxiety.

I was in my protective gear the entire time.

The garage door insulation is done.

And one of two exterior walls.

Unfortunately, everything we moved is along the remaining wall, so it will take time to clear it all away and finish. Then we still need to mud/tape and organize EVERYTHING. After yesterday’s accomplishment though, I’m feeling really excited about it all. Can’t wait to finish because (as previously mentioned) I want to make SO MANY THINGS!!

Lots of changes are happening in 2019 which I’m really excited about. I will definitely try hard to take you along on this journey of learning. Thank you to everyone, especially my family and friends, who have supported me with words and actions, along the way.

Happy New Year to all, and best wishes for a happy and healthy 2019. Hoping we all have a year of fun, adventure, opportunity, achievement and education.

Smaller Pieces Out of Wood

As promised, late, but getting done, I wanted to share pictures of some of the smaller pieces I’ve been working on. I had a bunch of leftover 1x4s from the bed, and some leftover 1×12 from the nightstands since I didn’t use it for the bottom shelves. I used it for the following, using inspiration from some of the AMAZING woodworkers I follow online and on Instagram.

Completely unrelated is that my phone died. I lost some pictures, unfortunately, and I’m not quite over the learning hump with the new phone. I’m figuring out that some of the pictures I took with the new phone are on a super small setting and are blurring a little when I make them larger. Sorry, it’s not your eyes, it’s the pictures.

Here are pieces ready to be Weatherwashed for two trays, a centerpiece box, a wine tote and a beer tote.

Below is one of the many display ideas I tried in a tray photo shoot.

Here is the centerpiece box. I have battery operated pillar candles that I can picture in there with seasonal additions.

I also built a Shanty-2-Chic inspired wine rack. I used the Weatherwash Pined and Clear Maintenance Oil (I used it on the box above and the Rusted stain on the tray). I woodburned two designs, three of one and two of the the other.

Lots of pocket hole action using the Kreg jig.

Final product (with a very rare blue sky background)!

And something really, really exciting is my early Hanukkah, Christmas, Anniversary present. After a TON of research and review reading, I now own pretty RIDGID Power Tools! Still a few I want to add to the collection, but woooooooot!!!

 

 

Hobby Adventures on the Water

Many years ago, we bought the kids a kayak to go with our canoe. They went out a few times for floats, but the kayak wasn’t highly used. I usually declined going along for the opportunity to have some quiet time. Since the nest has been empty, the kayak has had even less activity.

We’ve had the neighbors’ kayak at our house for a while as Tim has used it a number of times for fishing. One morning, we decided to take both the kayaks to the lake a few minutes from our house. It was a most fantastic decision.

We went at 6:00am, because we’re morning people, and we only stayed for about an hour, but it started off our day with some much needed zen.

We went out two more times. I’m hoping we’ll go many more. No chance I’m taking the fancy camera out on the water. I was nervous about dropping the cell, but I’m glad I got a few pictures from that first morning.

 

Belated Big Anniversary Trip

It was almost a year late, but we planned and went on a trip to celebrate our 25th anniversary. A lifetime ago we lived in the Pacific Northwest, and have wanted to get back out there again for a while. What better excuse for a trip back to where we started out our lives together?

We arranged to meet the kids for the first weekend, and then we had four more days on our own. It was an amazing week all around. I am grateful I was able to squeeze my babies and take them on a nostalgia tour. I am grateful to have had great catch up visits with three former co-workers. I am super grateful to have a partner whom I love, and love spending time with, after so many years.

The weather started out rainy, but we did fine, and ended up perfect for the last few days. We saw some incredible scenery and I’ll let the pictures speak from here with a VERY small sampling (of the 500+ pics we took).

We’re ready to go back.

Where Does The Time Go??

It appears that blogging is a lot like running/exercising, once you get out of the routine of doing it, it’s easy to continue to not do it. I actually have quite a bit to share, but now I’m feeling a little overwhelmed about getting to it all. In addition, there’s been a lot going on in life. Some good, some stressful, some neutral, but just a lot.

I had begun a post about food, but we just had a very amazing weekend in NYC and I decided that should come first. The hubster and I recently celebrated a milestone anniversary. My parents, who are incredibly wonderful people, got us tickets to see Come From Away on Broadway. It’s been years since we were in NYC, and we’re not city people, so it was a big deal.

We were grateful to have a good friend not only put us up for the night, but spend her entire day with us on Saturday. After I told her what we were hoping to do, besides the show, she planned out all of the logistics. It was such a bonus to be able to spend the day with her (and her brother and their friend) and to not worry about getting around.THANK YOU JENNIFER!!!

First stop was the Brooklyn Bridge. Hubby had read The Great Bridge by David McCullough and was excited to see the subject of the book. It didn’t sound as exciting a destination to me, but it really was fascinating. I loved all of the different shapes and structures and signs and views.

 

From the bridge, we walked to the 9/11 Memorial. We didn’t have time for the museum this visit, but we took a few minutes to pay our respects.

It was so very moving, and it felt important to visit before the show, as the show is also about that day. We really don’t have strong enough words to describe how amazing this show is. The music and choreography and writing and songs were so incredible that we’re still walking around singing, “I’m an islander, I am an islander, I’m an islander, I am an islander….”

GO. SEE. THIS. SHOW!!!!!!!!!

Almond Butter Cups

I follow a few food blogs on Instagram. I have to admit, I LOVE the little food videos they post and I have been motivated to try quite a few recipes after watching. One of the recent videos was for Almond Butter Cups, posted by Pinch of Yum. It looked fairly simple, and it definitely looked very yummy.

Yesterday was a gross, foggy, rainy, cold day….so, perfect to try this out. I made one adjustment in that I split the 1/2 cup cocoa between dark and regular.

 

Pinch of Yum suggests 2-4 Tablespoons of maple syrup, so I went with 3. The coconut oil thickened back up quickly once I added the other ingredients, so I put the mixture in the microwave for just a few seconds. It was much easier to work with in a thinner state.

 

There was enough for 14 cups. By the time I got to the last two, the coconut oil was thickening up again. The original 12 looked pretty darn great, but these two were definitely seconds.

 

Hubby and I ate these two bloopers without freezing them, and his comment was, “these are evil!” They were so darn amazingly good. I froze the rest as directed and was super proud of how pretty they turned out. I posted this pic on Instagram and got the most comments ever in my Instagram history.

Hubby and I split this one, right from the freezer, and I have a suggestion. If you make these, although the recommendation is to store them in the refrigerator or freezer, let them come closer to room temp before eating them. When frozen, hubby and I agreed that the overwhelming flavor is the coconut oil, the chocolate and almond flavors just couldn’t compete.

 

For a first go at making a candy type dessert, I label this a success. And given that there is only 3T of maple syrup, and no sugar, I think it’s an even bigger success. There is, however, PLENTY of coconut oil, so I’m not sure how it really ranks on the healthy scale.

 

Picture Post

There hasn’t been much baking, or new recipe experimenting, or new creating lately. Pretty much just creating the same things I was before, beer totes and cross stitch. I did see a chocolate almond butter cup recipe on Pinch of Yum that I intend to work on in the near future.

I’m still having a lot of fun with the fancy camera, so I thought I’d share some recent pictures. Still mostly automatic settings, but I’m watching video tutorials and maybe some of it is starting to sink in. Maybe.

Apologies to those of you on Instagram, as some of these are repeats.

 

 

 

 

 

Fargo humors me and doesn’t complain…too much.

Blooper.

 

 

Sometimes it’s nice to have boring, even though I’d rather have full nest boring than empty nest boring. Boring doesn’t lend itself to interesting blogging. I’ve got some things in mind over the next few weeks that should be more fun.

Molly’s Mac N Cheese Adventures

We decided to have a cooking day on Sunday. I wrote about the Chocolate Coconut Almond Tart, in the previous post. This time I’m talking about our mac n cheese adventures as we followed the Molly on the Range flowchart. We followed the right side, doubled the recipe and ended up with one baked dish and a batch of deep fried cubes.

Making the sauce took longer than expected, though Molly doesn’t really indicate how long it should take. We ended up using less milk because it never seemed to want to thicken up. It finally did though.

This was Fargo, the whole time we were grating/adding cheese.He can sure concentrate when he wants to.

In order to go for the deep fried mac, you need to do all of the steps but the baking. We made the two batches of mac in the morning and stuck it in the fridge for a few hours. I didn’t get a finished picture of the baked version, but it looked like this, with bread crumbs on top. YUM!

 

When it was time to fry, we dug out the VERY rarely used deep fryer and set up the flour, egg and bread crumb bowls.

It was quite a messy process, cutting the mac up into cubes, then rolling each one in flour, egg and breadcrumbs.

We could only put four into the fryer at a time, so four batches of four. It took about $4 worth of oil to fill the fryer. So, it was a lot of work, and a little on the spendy side when all of the butter and cheese is added. They sure turned out pretty! They were really good, needed some salt/pepper, but good.

Both versions were excellent. Our conclusion was that we’ll stick with the baked, since it was as good as the fried, and a whole lot less work. Chalk up another round of kitchen adventures to the empty nesters.

Pictures (except for the flowchart) taken with the fancy camera!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake

I bought myself a little present a few weeks ago. Of course I researched, because I do that even for a small purchase. Prior to this year, I used a bundt cake pan once. The pan we have was handed down to us. It gets the job done, as you’ve seen if you follow along, but the ring is wide and the cook space is narrow. It doesn’t result in super pretty cakes.

Ta da!! New bundt cake pan (oiled for impending cake mix in this picture). It’s a much heavier duty piece of kitchen equipment.

While the youngest was still home on break, we did some baking together, WHICH I LOVED!! We decided to take the bundt pan for a spin with a modified¬†Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake from Sally’s Baking Addiction. We subbed applesauce in for half the oil, reduced the granulated sugar by 1/2 cup and added some honey, and split the flour 1 cup wheat and the rest, white.

Looked pretty in the pan when we took it out of the oven.

The youngest wanted to sub in cream cheese icing. We again based it on a recipe from Sally and modified. We used half the butter, then taste tested after each half cup of confectioners sugar. After 1 1/2 cups of sugar, it was perfect!

I’m sure I should have evened up the bottom before turning the cake out, or somehow smooth the batter better. I had no idea how to spread the icing on the cake so it would be pretty. We all ended up spreading more icing on our pieces, so I also should have just put more on to begin with, but it really did turn out fine.

Very, very yummy!!

Here’s a bonus pic of Fargo and the youngest, which you may have seen on Instagram, and is one of my all time favorites.I’m learning about color adjustments, as you can probably tell.

Can you tell which of the pictures in this post were taken with the fancy camera? I’m having a lot of fun with it. I love the bigger lens that came with the deal. I’ve taken tons of bird, Fargo and landscape pictures.

 

Two Wood Projects

Before I begin, best wishes to everyone for a happy and healthy 2018. As I noted in my last post, I want to start off this year by writing about two fun wood projects I worked on. Besides painting and stenciling, I have little experience working with wood, and even less with saws and drills. I didn’t post about these earlier because we gave them all away as holiday gifts.

My first step was to google “wood projects for beginners.” Pretty sure I have about 20 bookmarks for items I really want to make. I thought it would be the smart thing to start out with a smaller project, and I found free plans for a wine caddy on Shanty-2-Chic.com. There is a video with instructions on their website as well.

Hubby and I went out and bought supplies, and then he set up the mitre saw and showed me what I needed to know. Apparently mitre saw = outside use, which is fairly limiting at this time of year. Luckily, this day wasn’t too bad.

I’m sure it took me way longer than it should have, but I was pretty proud of my mitre saw prowess.

Instead of staining them, I decided to use leftover paint from our upstairs hallway because I really love the color. I must say, that I didn’t find it helpful to glue first because as soon as I started hammering the brad nails, the glue job was toast. Maybe if you have a brad nailer to use, it would make more sense. It did make things more complicated in terms of measuring, angles, etc.

Another first for me was using a drill. I love that our drill has a level on it so that you know if you are actually straight up and down.

I also used it to drill holes for the handle.

I really love how this turned out! If there was anything I would change, it would be the shiny silver corners, but after looking at multiple stores and online, there aren’t many other options in a similar price range.

Next was a beer tote by Rogue Engineer. I didn’t want to send in my email address to the site, so I followed from what was online the best I could. I decided to go buy supplies on my own. Apparently I have a learning curve in this area as well, because I had to make a return trip and returns, before getting what I actually needed. It was darn cold windy this time and I had to take breaks to get feeling back in my finger tips. We set the saw up going the other direction, behind the car, to try and buffer the wind a bit.

I cut angles this time!

I made four of these at once and had an assembly line going.

I bought bottle openers online. A lot of bottle opener reviews focus on how far you have to tilt the bottle to catch the top. I figured that with this beer caddy, the actual caddy could be tilted as well if need be.

Again, so darn excited with how these turned out.

I am absolutely making more of these. I enjoyed the project and the finished product. I will, however, need to wait until the temps rise above the teens.

Also, I’ve walked two miles on the treadmill two days in a row. YAY ME! Maybe I’ll get crazy and throw a few minutes of running in there. I’ll see how it goes.