still here!

I have seriously lost my blogging mojo!! But instead of boring you with why I don't feel like updating the blog after work lately, suffice it to say that I'll be back...eventually. :)


the semi-finished product

Whew! That was a long weekend! I felt like I barely did anything, especially compared to the amount of work that Karl and Rocky did, but I'm still tired from it!

As a reminder, here's the before photo...

And by the time Rocky and Susan headed out of Seattle yesterday, here's how the wall looked...

We laid down new laminate flooring that is a 99% match to the old stuff, added one more coat of mud to the drywall and finished hooking up the water and power. The kitchen feels so spacious now with all this extra space!

The only downside to this project is that we did sacrifice some of the open flow between the living room and the rest of the house by creating this little hallway into the room instead of just having a big opening. But the upside is that the flow between office/kitchen/dining room/bedrooms is much more open now. All in all, I'd say it was definitely the right decision!


better late than never...

Sorry, Dad...I got completely wrapped up in reading a book yesterday afternoon, and before I knew what had happened it was midnight already!

Okay, back to the kitchen renovation. On Friday I started out the day by wielding a power tool. See the sawzall at the bottom of this photo? I used that to cut out the studs in our old wall! It made me feel like I'd been shaken up in a blender, but it was still pretty cool. :)

By the end of the day on Friday, the new wall (moved ~2 feet into our living room) was framed and most of the electrical wiring had been ran down from the attic. The was a mean gap in our floor and in the ceiling where the old wall had been, but we knew Rocky would know how to fix it.

Henry was not entirely sure what to make of all of this.

Saturday morning brought with it sunny skies, drywall and a bunch of work under the house. Rocky moved our water line so that we can put the fridge on the new wall and he also moved our cable line to the new wall so I can have our TV on the inside wall of the living room instead of by the window.

Before we closed off both sides of the wall with drywall though, Susan and I added insulation to the area where the fridge will be against.

And by the end of the evening Rocky had applied several coats of joint compound to the new drywall (I think I took this picture after the first coat) and to the wall/ceiling gaps left from the old wall. He also did some repair work to the nasty cracks that had formed in our hallway. He seriously is a rockstar, and when he leaves here he's going back down to Portland to do some projects around Laura & Scott's house before heading home to CoMo. I can't even tell you how much we appreciate that Rocky and Susan help us out so much with our home projects when they come to visit. They are awesome!

Oh, and see that little beauty on the wall beside Karl in the photo above? Goodbye ugly 1960s thermostat, hello modern programmable one! :)

Today, before Rocky and Susan head out of town, we'll finish up the mudding and then lay down some new Pergo flooring on the kitchen side. Karl and I will do the finish work (sanding, texturing, painting, baseboards) on our own...although I'm sure we won't finish it all quite as fast as stuff has been getting done these last few days!

So that's what we've been up to for the past few days. Again, I can't even adequately express how appreciative we are to Rocky and Susan. We've undertaken some big projects with them before (umm, adding a wall and window where there had previously been a big ugly sliding glass door), but this one ended up being the biggest project yet. We got so much more than just a new wall - a new header up in the attic, electrical wiring that's up to code, plumbing work, ceiling crack repair, flooring and a completely unrelated project also (pictures of that to come). We've already decided that their 2010 visit will be strictly a fun visit....no work!


2nd kitchen sneak peek

Today I discovered that I like knocking down drywall (especially when a big ol' maul is involved!). Inhaling all that dust and cleaning up the mess? That I don't like so much. :)

Rocky, my father-in-law, is a stud. He sure knows his way around a toolbox.

And he's dedicated, too! Not only is he working his tail off on his VACATION, but he's also still working as I post this (it's 9pm, for cryin' out loud!). Love that guy!

And to Leslie...yep, our appliances were delivered on Monday night. There are 3 tiny dings on the right-hand side of the fridge, but they are only noticeable if you look at it an a particular angle. Considering those 3 tiny dings saved us almost $600, I consider them a badge of honor! :) Rocky and Karl got the gas line hooked up to the stove today, and I'm looooooving cooking with gas. Love it!


auf Wiedersehen

We've decided to fire our kitchen. And unfortunately there won't be room for much of the old kitchen in the new org structure. :) (I'd jumbo-size that smiley if I could)

Here are a few sneak peeks at what we're doing....

It's going to be a long process, but there will definitely be more to come!


before and after: Henry

Henry was WAY overdue for a haircut!

There, much better...


Tomato Week: Wrap-Up

To wrap up tomato week, I wanted to highlight two varieties of tomatoes grown in our garden this year. A winner and a loser, if you will.

First up is the Sun Gold Hybrid. We bought this seedling at the Tilth plant sale earlier in the year, and man alive did we ever get our money’s worth out of this tomato plant! The plant is HUGE, over 7 feet tall, and it is insanely prolific. And the best part? These are the best tasting cherry tomatoes that I’ve ever had, and we’ve been eating them like candy for about two months straight now. We’ll most definitely be growing this one again.

In fact, I think one of these plants will keep us covered on the cherry tomato front. We harvested 2-5 pounds per week for about 2 months straight!

Next is the Tasty Evergreen. As the name suggests, this is a green tomato. As the name also suggests, this is quite a tasty tomato. However, much to my husband’s chagrin, I don’t think I’ll grow green tomatoes again. It’s enough work to stay on top of 20+ tomato plants...but to also try and remember which plants are the green ones and to keep an eye on them to figure out when the fruit goes from green and unripe to green and ripe? Way too much work for this suburban farmer!

For those of you who actually read all 6 of these posts...thanks for sticking around! Hopefully you didn’t mind a themed week too much, because I think I’m going to do another themed week coming up soon...camping week, anyone??


Tomato Week: Day 5

Today I want to share a few of my favorite ways to enjoy fresh homegrown tomatoes. Yes, we do actually eat some of our tomatoes fresh off the vine instead of just preserving them all for the winter! :)

One of the simplest ways to eat fresh tomatoes (especially cherry tomatoes!) is to melt a little butter in a skillet, heat it over med-hi heat, toss in the tomatoes, saute until the skins are just about to burst, season with salt and pepper and toss with fresh basil. Yum!

My other favorite way to enjoy fresh tomatoes is in a caprese salad. Take a salad plate and alternate slices of tomato with slices of fresh mozzarella, season with salt and pepper, pile on the fresh basil and then drizzle with EVOO and balsamic vinegar. I looooooooooove this salad, and I'm sorry that I don't have a photo to share. I'm usually so anxious to eat it that I can't stop to take pictures before digging in!

And finally, this cherry tomato salad is super simple and super tasty.

I love tomatoes! :)


Tomato Week: Day 4

Possibly the most perfect looking little tomato ever...


Tomato Week: Day 3

It’s been said that sometimes you have to jump off a cliff to see if you can fly, and I guess that’s what we finally did with our pressure canner this year. We jumped!

And it turns out we can fly! Oh Yes We Can! Following the USDA’s guidelines (found here), we've canned 20+ quarts of tomatoes this year. Some of the jars didn't properly seal, and with those we either put them in the freezer for use at a later time or we refrigerated them and used them within a few days. It was messy and time consuming, but not nearly as scary or difficult as I was imagining it to be.

I am wondering, however, what on earth possessed me to buy such a HUGE pressure canner?! Seriously, this thing takes for-freaking-ever to come up to a boil and it doesn't even really fit in our sink (which makes washing it a fun task). Oh well, if I ever have the desire to can TWENTY pints all at the same time...I guess that dream is within reach. ;)

We also made up several batches of sauce and either pressure canned or froze those as well. This is my all-time favorite tomato sauce recipe (makes a great chili base, too!), although this one is quite good as well. Soule Mama's sauce tastes like summer in a jar though (plus, it's much lower in fat since it doesn't have all that butter!), so that's the one I usually go for even if it does take quite a bit more time to make.

The color is all off in this next photo, and there's a distracting mess in the background, but it shows my own personal pressure monitor in action. Aww, Nervous Ninny...I love you. :)

My stretch goal this year was to put up 52 jars of tomatoes, and I ended up getting a little more than half-way there. Not too shabby for my first real year of canning! And I learned a lot about which varieties of tomatoes are the best producers for our relatively short growing season. Now I'm just keeping my fingers crossed that we have another warm summer next year so I can put those lessons to good use!


Tomato Week: Day 2

Most of the time I have sole gardening responsibilities. Karl did a lot of heavy lifting to build the garden, and it's my passion...so usually I don't ask him for much help once the plants are in the ground. Plus, it's nice to have some "me" time down in the garden after work. But this year I pulled a muscle in my back, right near the end of August when the garden was positively EXPLODING with ripe tomatoes. Karl jumped right in to harvest the tomatoes for a couple weeks (and he even donned my big floppy garden hat...protection from the sun is essential for our pale skin!). All I had to do was sit on the patio with my feet up and take pictures.

It was kind of like a live-action game of Where's Waldo.

But then the relaxation time was over once he inundated the house with tomatoes...luckily he helped me with the preserving, too. I think I'll keep him around. ;)

Coming up next....Under Pressure (canning, that is...although I did often hum the Queen song while waiting for the canner to reach the proper pressure)!


Tomato Week: Day 1

Today I’m kicking off a week of blog posts centered around my summer obsession – tomatoes. Since they’ve taken up so much of my time and energy over these past few months, it’s only logical that they take up some of my blog time as well. Plus, summer is definitely over now...so this is my way of fondly remembering the warmer weather. :)

So today’s post is about The. Biggest. Tomato. Ever. Forget that previous record-breaker (for me, anyway)...this one takes the cake! A full 2-hander that clocked in at 2 pounds 9 ounces! I’m sure it’s not the biggest tomato ever grown anywhere, but it’s definitely the biggest tomato ever grown by me. (photo is from Aug 26, 2009)

Just like our other big tomatoes, this one had a really good flavor and wasn’t mealy at all. I skinned it, chopped it and canned it right along with the rest of our harvest from that particular week. It probably filled at least a quart-sized jar all by itself!


Astoria revisited

When we first got in to Astoria, the sun was out and it wasn't raining...so we busted a move up to the Astoria Column.

Somebody in our party had the harebrained idea to climb up all 6,000 steps (actually, it's a mere 164 steps...but when you're just getting over a mild case of the flu and you've recently thrown out your back, it feels like at least 6,000 steps!). It was super windy when we got up there, and the hubs didn't last very long before heading back down. Dad, Barb and I persevered though...just long enough to snap a few photos and laugh about how lovely our windblown hair was looking. :) The view sure was nice though!

Throughout the rest of the weekend we ate some really great food (Mmmm, Bosnian food)...

Went sightseeing...

And just generally enjoyed hanging out together...

Plus, these two were (mostly) very accommodating while I played around with different settings on my camera. :)

I'm so thankful that Dad and Barb live close enough that we can take little trips like this together. I wish we could be so lucky to have the rest of our parents live a little closer as well...but we'll take what we can get. :)

If you'd like to see all of my Astoria pics, here's a link: Astoria album.


Britta's Inn, year 2

Remember our trip to Astoria last year? Well we decided to make it an annual tradition, and this year my dad and stepmom joined us (it was actually their combined Christmas/birthdays gift from us). We stayed at our favorite little B&B, Britta’s Inn, again and since we had both rooms reserved...we had the whole place to ourselves!

Well, we had the place to ourselves save for Rona (the owner), Teddy (her ADORABLE dog) and the family of deer that roam through their backyard every evening at dusk. Are you freaking kidding me? They have charming little deer that walk right past their picture window every night, practically on cue? As if this place wasn’t picturesque enough already with its classic craftsman style, close-to-town location, crazy cute dog and super friendly owners...but now you add baby deer into the mix?? It’s almost too much to handle!

But sadly for us, our annual tradition is more than likely only going to be a 2-year tradition. Rona and Skip are packing up and moving back to northern California for a too-good-to-pass-up job opportunity. You know how hard it is to deal with the internal conflict of hearing news that’s really great for your friend but might make you a little sad on the inside? Yeah, that’s how it was when Rona told us about their upcoming move. We’d so looked forward to many return visits to Britta’s Inn over the upcoming years, and we’re just not sure if it will be the same under new ownership.

Oh well, I guess you never really know what lies ahead for the future. We made sure to let Rona know that we’d like to be on the lottery list if they end up retaining the B&B and just allowing guests for a very limited number of days a year.

And we also made sure to take lots and lots of photos to commemorate this lovely little respite from the hustle-and-bustle of Seattle life.

Thanks for the memories...we sure do love this place!



I have a thing for driftwood. I like how it's weathered the storm and come out even more beautiful on the other side.

(huge logs of driftwood found on the shore near Astoria, OR)


Speak softly...

...and carry a big stick!

Now if only Henry would work on the "speak softly" part of that...


Couldn't resist...

Found on a recent weekend getaway...

And it tasted pretty good, too!


Hello Fall?

Yesterday was the first day of fall, yet it's been in the 80s all week. Crazy Seattle weather this year! I'm not complaining though....I'll take all the tomato ripening weather I can get.

One sure sign of late summer / early fall in Seattle is spiderwebs. They are EVERYWHERE. You can't hardly walk two steps without running into one. Yuck!


...and the answer is...

...plum jam!

Despite losing a good portion of our largest Italian plum tree last year, we still have quite the plentiful crop this year. I was bound and determined to not let them all go to waste (or let them all go to Henry and the raccoons), so a-jam-making I went. I tried out two different recipes that I found online (this one and this one, in case you are interested)...and I gotta say that I had a hard time picking a favorite. They were both easy and both turned out delicious, so I'd recommend going with either one.

By the way, none of my canning books have a plum jam recipe in them. What's up with that?? Thank goodness for the internet.

Yay for plum jam! :)