Monday, November 24, 2014

It's CURTAINS for YOU, Shower!

We've been living with our temporary shower curtain for over two years.  It's not a bad shower curtain. In fact, it cost more money than I usually would consider spending on a plastic shower curtain, but it just isn't the right one of this house and this bathroom.  And it kept two bathrooms dry over the course of about 7 years; mission accomplished, Mr. or Ms. Curtain.

You can see it in the reflection in the mirror here. You can also see the vinyl wallpaper that is just not "us."

I want to try to display and use some of my heirloom and vintage linen towels and the like, so I decided that I'd make a linen shower curtain.  I've made a few shower curtains before, but was a little nervous about the linen, because linen can be kind of costly... unless you use your 60% off one item Jo-Ann coupon. POW!  I chose a not-bright white, but not quite cream or natural.  The material was 50" wide, so I had to put a seam in; I debated over a) 2 seams with a wide center, b) one seam down the center, or c) one 50" wide piece and then one 20" wide piece. I went with that last one and am please with that choice.  And I made my first French seam!  That I then sewed down, because the flappy bit unsettled me. Meh.

Button-holes for hangers because I thought the look would be better with the vintage linens vibe and when I was ready to finish this project, I did not want to go out to buy more nickel grommets.  I wanted to do keyhole buttonholes, but I couldn't make it work on my trial pieces, so I just went with the regular ol' buttonholes.

Cute li'l half-inch button holes!  I did many test buttonholes before attempting them on the actual, nearly-finished ,shower curtain; I'm not sure when I got so skittish about making buttonholes.

I want the other colors in the bathroom to be aquas and purples, so I added this cotton print border to the bottom hem.  Because of the obvious stripe-y pattern, it was fiddly to get neatly cut and sewn, but I'm glad I took the time to fiddle with it. 

Like all the photos, the colors are slightly off due to the NW facing window, short day length, halogen lights, and my lack of skill with cameras.  It's pretty close, though, and I can't be good at everything, right?

I hope that I'll be able to do the major projects in redecorating this bathroom in January or February next year.  I'll strip the wallpaper and repair the walls, skim over the popcorn ceiling, apply finishes to the walls and ceilings, refinish the cabinets, reset some of the hardware, etc.  You'll see it here* if I do.

I wish I knew how to do the linen justice in my photos. Linen is just so pretty and nice and you can't tell much about that here.

BONUS INSIGHTS INTO SHOWER SITUATIONS!* I cannot believe that I hadn't thought of this before or even seen it somewhere. I've been procrastinating cleaning the shower curtain liner because it's such a hassle. I've had bad luck with the washing machine and other methods. Then today I suddenly realized that because it's hung on a tension rod, I can just move the rod to the wall side of the shower and hang it there. Then I'll have the shower wall to support my scrubbing! Duh. The whole thing took a dozen minutes, worked like a goddamn charm, and now I won't have to feel guilty about considering just tossing it for a new one. I saved $5.99, too. 

What you can't see is how the vinyl wallpaper is mostly attached only to itself at the seams, and to the ceiling and tub shower insert seams.  As far as being attached to the wall (or backing paper), well it's only doing that in a few places.  At least the top layer should be pretty easy to remove. The backing paper is anyone's guess.

We have struggled with our shower drain. This is not normally something I'd really talk about on the interwebz even though most of us have had to deal with shower drain issues.  I have really thick, quite coarse, long-ish hair.  The man in the house isn't the kind to shave his legs and such, so he sheds those and then we have two dogs who manage to get their shed hairs on and in everything.  Add lint and hard water minerals to that and well, it required constant attention to keep it from clogging and then it clogged eventually, anyway.  We've tried a few hardware drain sieve thingies and they just didn't give very good results.  Then I spotted this in the cleaning aisle at our local grocery. Two for $3.99, so I there goes some of that shower curtain liner savings, but I'm still up $2!

So far, it's much better. Both easier and less disgusting to clear out, easy to install and uninstall, top rack dishwasher safe when needed.  

*You lucky schmoes! 

Monday, November 17, 2014


Last Monday we got our first snow!  As you can see it was windy, too.

Snowflakes on Bert, my pickup truck.

Then on Thursday night and Friday, we got more snow!  It's been quite cold, too.  Below zero some nights with highs in the low- to mid-20s during the day.

The turkeys are back in the yard.

The garden is officially done.  Eric is ripening most of the last of the tomatoes by layering them in newspapers in a good dry place i.e. the unused shower stall.

Annnd whatever these berries that grow in the yard, they're done too.

We got the wood from the trees we took down in the spring stacked to dry for the winter. We're told that the freeze-drying effect works pretty well. We shall see.

We reserved when one of the big ones for chopping kindling. It changes everything.
I accidentally shot this when I was putting my phone back in my pocket. Strange framing, but I like it anyway and I like that you can see the snowflakes falling.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Homemade Gin, No Bathtub Needed

If you read my post about the barter party, the you know I've made some gin.  YEY GIN!  The Real Leopardstripes, requested a tutorial, so... yup.

Some history: For Christmas last year, Eric gave me a make-your-own-gin kit. It was fun and easy which made me want to make more.  So for Valentine's Day he looked up some recipes online and then bought me ingredients at our local, awesome herb & spice store: Missoula Tea and Spice Trading.

What You'll Need*:
Low of the mid-range vodka, $10-$20/750ml bottle.  I've been using New Amsterdam.
Dried Juniper Berries
The botanicals (herbs and spices) listed in the recipe that you find online
A tightly woven sieve
A funnel with a wide opening for the various spices to pass through
Bottles or jars for your finished product
(Scale is handy, but not totally required. Same for a paper coffee filter.)

I love an economy of scale, so I went with the 1.75 liter bottle.  Heck, who doesn't enjoy an economy of scale?  With a bottle that size there's not necessarily enough room for all the things you'll be adding, so start by making a cocktail or two to bring the level down a little.  Time to take one for the team.

One of the drawbacks of making this tutorial in November in Montana is that this recipe is on a 24 and 12 hour schedule and there is not daylight for 12 hours so the photos are shot in our poor kitchen light.

For 750 ml, I use about 0.3 oz of juniper berries. That's about a heaping tablespoon.  For the 1.75 liter, I just doubled it, but you could just as easily do the math and do "correct" proportions.  Use your funnel to add them to the bottle of vodka.  Put the lid on, give it a good and thorough shake then put it in a cool, dark space for 24 hours.

The juniper berries and the botanicals tend to stick in the funnel, but a little tap n' shake usually gets them through.

After shaking they still float; don't sweat it.  The next say you can see the berries are a little swollen and the vodka has yellowed.

Twenty-four hours later, measure out your botanicals and add them using your funnel. Replace the lid and give it another good shake.  Put the bottle back in your cool, dark space for 12 hours.

For this batch I added equal parts by volume (approx 1 heaping teaspoon) of Mexican Allspice, Camomile Tea, Lavender buds, and Coriander Seeds.  Then about three-quarters of that of Cardamom and black peppercorns.  And one Bay Leaf.  The total weight was about 0.3 oz.  The Cardamom and Bay Leaf  are easier to get in the bottle w/o the funnel using the poking-with-your-finger-method.
Yup, all this stuff floats, too.  A little bit of the chamomile stays in suspension.

Twelve hours later, it's time to filter this concoction.  Use the sieve over your funnel to pour the bottle's contents into another jar or bottle.

A wider mouthed jar holds the funnel in place which is helpful if you're doing this by yourself.

Some of the botanicals get through the sieve and that was the case with the kit, too.  They chocked it up handmade-ed-ness and for home use I'm okay with that.  But for bartering or gifting I like to get rid of the floaters.  So I use a coffee filter in a more standard sieve placed in a funnel.  With an extra set of hands you could probably skip the funnel or put the filter directly into it.  You can either pour into your final jar(s) or bottle(s) now or filter once more as seen below.

The sediment or "floaters" (left), as I call them, can be off-putting to a recipient.

It catches most of the floaters, but doesn't make the liquid clear.  I assume that's something to do with the distilling process and I just embrace the golden color as "artisinal."

If you have a canning funnel and canning jars, this is a cute way to package it up for barter or gifts. It's reminiscent of moonshine & hooch!  And what's more charming than hooch?  I had a couple labels left over from the barter party and used one for this pint jar which is going to a friend.

The rest I decanted into a, uh, decanter.  OK, it didn't all fit, so there is some left in that hinged lid jar on the right in the photo. We'll use that first.

One downside to photographing the steps along the way during November is that we definitely don't have 12 hours of daylight/day so most of these photos were taken in crummy, artificial light.  That said, yes this gin is not crystal clear like the pro stuff and ends up a golden color.  Seems just like more goodness to me.

* The kit I received for Christmas came with everything except the vodka (and scale).

Friday, October 24, 2014

Costumes for Everyone!

Trick or treat!  Here's Mavis the Blue Wizard at your door begging for candy.

I picked up this hat in the bins years ago 

And good ol' Ramon, bustin' out his classic Viking disguise.  He'll take mead, thank you.

Monday, October 20, 2014

I'll Trade You.

We were invited to a Harvest/Barter Party and boy, was it cool!  Not only were there lots of interesting and friendly people to visit with, but it was a beautiful day on a great piece of property in the valley.  "What's a barter party?" you ask?  I'd never heard of this either, but I am sure glad that I have now.  Basically, everyone brings things we have grown, harvested, caught, canned, baked, frozen, or made that we might have more of than we need or want and then we all barter for what others have brought.  Also it was potluck.

At first I was stymied about what to bring. Eric suggested baking up some sweet treats, but it seemed like maybe longer-lasting things like canned good or freezable foods were more on-target.  We didn't have that.  Then I floated dog treats by him and he agreed that was a good idea.  Something a little different and when I last made them to share with his coworkers many raves were issued.

The tags say "BACON BONES & BATS For DOGS" with ingredients listed on the bag in case of food allergies.

I tend to overdo rather than under-do if given enough time to over think and so I became less convinced that dog treats were enough.  This is despite the invitation saying that any amount is more than welcome.  So with a just few days to spare, I said to myself, "Eff it, I'm making gin" and went out early the next morning to pick up supplies.

A 1.75 ml bottle of vodka yielded <4.5 pints of gin once "processed."

Plus, I got to use some new stamps I picked up recently to make labels!  One of the few requirements is that all barter items are clearly labeled with what it is and who brought it, so I was required to make labels.

On the day of the party I reread the invitation and worried we weren't bringing enough.  It's our first time, we don't want to look stingy, right? RIGHT!?  Annnnnd since, my friend Tiffany at Fizzy Party, had just sent me a fun "scare package" full of Halloween crafty stuff, I decided to whip out a few handmade Halloween cards (stationary was on the list of popular items from previous years).  I didn't take pictures of all four unique cards as I was feeling pressed for time, but here's how I presented them on the table.  All four were bartered in exchange for a one-pound bag of hand-raked, fresh cranberries that another guest had picked up on a trip to Wisconsin.

Of course, I had planned to take a few photos of the tables laden with produce, home-canned and homemade goods, but we were having too much fun visiting, enjoying the weather and views, and paying attention so we could learn how it worked for me to hassle with photos. Sometimes you give up documenting the moments to actually live them.  You'll just have to imagine an large, clean, brightly lit garage/shop with 3 or more tables and some sawhorses with boards on top stretched down the middle, all covered with colorfully table clothes and loaded up with great things.  There were fresh, dried, and canned fruits and veg, frozen meats, knitted and sewn things, various forms of alcohol, baked goods, handmade cards (in addition to mine), glass art, seeds, bulbs, and roots.  I'm sure I'm forgetting some things, too.  It worked like this: the host and hostess started by introducing themselves and describing what they had to barter and then we just went around the tables, kind of in order.  We were reminded that it was okay to say "no thank you" if you just didn't want something and encouraged to not get our feelings hurt in such cases.  Last rule: once you've bartered an item, remove it from the table. Then we were set loose to barter!  For us, the first three pints of gin went quickly, then there was a bit of a lull.  Next the dog treats started going and then I traded the cards for the cranberries.  Just when I was thinking we'd go home with gin, I was approached about the last jar.  Then the last of the dog treats found homes in quick order and we were done.  Prior to beginning, Eric and I discussed items we were interested in and then both bartered around.  Eric started us a little pile on the edge of the building, as did everyone else.  Our little pile got kind of big!

Anyone who makes anything knows how much fun it is to share and how great it feels when someone appreciates what you've made, perhaps especially if they make things, too, and know the time, thought, skill, talent, etc. that can go into making. That was the most fun,but it still was really fun to come home with all these great things made and grown by others.

The oldest person we traded with was Mabel, aged 90, 91, or 93 depending on who's telling.  She wanted some gin and we wanted her to have it, so we have maybe more heirloom tomatoes than we need, but we'll find a way to use them.  The youngest person was a fellow who mumbled his name into his companion's knees and who I would guess was about 4 years old.  He wanted dog treats and had made chili kits containing herbs, spices, a couple-few finds of beans, and a recipe card hand decorated with colored markers.

If the hosts do this again next year, I hope we're invited. I'm already socking away ideas of things to take.  I bet I know quite a few people who like this idea and I hope some friends back in Oregon and beyond will organize something like it.

Who wants dog hair?  We have more than enough.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Whose Poop Is This, Anyway?

Since the fence went up there are a lot fewer opportunities for spotting scat.  For one thing, fewer critters are just wandering onto the upper property during the night.  For another thing, we are not having to walk around the woods with a dog on leash 2-8 times/day.  Also, I was gone so much this summer that leisurely walks in the woods just didn't happen for me.  I thought maybe the "Whose Poop Is This, Anyway?" feature may have been unintentionally shelved, at least for awhile.  THEN, I went just on the other side of the fence to take a photo of the orange square (you're welcome) and spotted this!

It's got the little swirly bit on the, uh, trailing ends that seem to indicate coyote.  It was found in a spot of flattened down grass, which seems like a deer thing, but I don't know why deer would be so near the fence.

So, there you go.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Winter is Coming. In the Meantime There is Autumn.

Autumn is here.  In general, we have lovely days, cool nights, but with the occasional rainy spot here and there.

Autumn road. New fence on the right, old fence on the left.

And with autumn comes hunting season with which comes with blaze orange.  As I've mentioned before, it seems odd that the facts that there are houses every 5 acres that often have fences and that there's a BIG sign at the bottom of the road stating, "private road, no trespassing, etc." aren't enough to indicate that ya' can't hunt here.  Most of the neighbors have "No Trespassing/No Hunting" signs, orange tape tied to fence posts, etc. so we believe we should do similar.  You've seen the signs on the gates, but because the old owners had some small squares of plywood painted orange and posted on the old fence we thought we'd just repaint those and put them on the new fence.

New orange square on old fence.

Because there's lots more fence than the two existing squares can cover and (mostly) because some of the neighbors seem to mark the heck out of their borders, I made a few more orange squares.  I didn't have plywood, but I did have the material I make sample boards with already cut into 8" squares, masked and primed.

They originally were screwed into the old fence posts, but I wanted to refrain from unnecessary holes in the new fence posts (just more opportunity for water and bugs to hasten their demise) so I just used the hole that was already in the ply wood to attach them with wire. The washer gives the wire something to run through.

Also the fence staining is DONE, thank you very much.

It's already getting that lived-in look, by which I mean pooped-on look.  There's no telling whose poop this is, anyway.