Friday, December 12, 2014

Wildlife Watch !X

We've caught our local flying squirrel visiting the bird feeders several-to-many times several times since our initial meeting back in January 2013.  But I finally got some (crappy) photos of my own!

I was sitting in the hot tub the other night and heard the scratching of wee claws on the tree by the deck on which the bird feeder hangs.  I was cruising pinterest on my phone and tried to use the light from the display to see. No dice.  So I texted Eric to ask if he'd turn on the deck light. He did, but I saw nothing, but a swaying bird feeder.

The two lower light smears are it's eyes!

When I went back into the house, I grabbed my digital camera and tried the and turned the deck light. There it was sitting on the swaying feeder!  I turned the light back off, but the results were less than satisfactory with the "night vision" setting.

Obviously the night-vision setting wasn't going to yield results, so I resorted to the old fill flash. At least, I think that's what it's called.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Wildlife Watch V!!!

So there I was minding my own business, throwing balls for my own dog in my own yard on my own Thursday afternoon when I noticed a dark movement in the sky near the house.  What did I see?  A BALD EAGLE LANDING ON A TREE RIGHT BY THE HOUSE!

See that majestic profile view he threw me?

Luckily, I had my own Galaxy S5 in my own pocket so I could take my very own crappy photos of that BALD EAGLE SITTING IN A TREE RIGHT BY MY HOUSE!

Annnnnnnd in case you didn't get enough majestic bald eagle poorly captured by camera phone here's a shot of  it looking right at me. Just like Paul McCartney did this summer. Right. At. ME.

This was not my first ever bald eagle sighting, not even here in the Bitterroot, but it is the closest I've been to a still one annnd IT WAS AT OUR HOUSE!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

What a Bunch of Turkeys: A Thanksgiving Review

I've been as busy preparing for Thanksgiving this year as last year, but I sure haven't have a chance to take photos and write blog posts.  One reason is because many of the preparations are because both Eric's mom and my mom are flying out for the long weekend  Obviously there are meal preparations, but this also means house preparations.

Occasionally we have more than one guest at a time or a family with kids, so we finally got an inflatable bed to set up in the office/studio. since we already had a third down comforter, I wanted to make a duvet set for that bed.  I managed to put it together over a weekend. WHEW!  Hopefully I'll get some photos soon.  If you've been following along, you know that I sewed a new shower curtain for our main bath, too.  It's the start of the "remodel" project that I hope I can accomplish in January of February.

I'm just starting to enjoy Thanksgiving now that I'm middle-aged so I went on a bit of a decoration-acquiring kick this summer in between trips to Bend for work.  Now that live turkeys are as much a part of our daily life as neighborhood cats were when we lived in Portland, I've taken a shine to turkeys and knick knacks in their image.  Yeah for friends, Ebay and thrift shops!

Two tureens, one candy dish, a pair of candles, two salt & pepper sets, and one candle holder.

As long as I can remember I have been fascinated by honeycomb paper decorations. The left-hand turkey is vintage from a thrift store and the right-hand turkey is a dollar store item.

Of course I have a pinterest pinboard for Thanksgiving and after I heard that most likely those at the first Thanksgiving served venison, I had to include deer imagery along with the turkeys.  So it's all about turkeys, deer, pumpkins, and that forest classic: pine cones.  

The leaf bowl was a welcome gift from one of the neighbors. In it are various pine cones: glitter ornaments, handmade felt that I put together for another project that didn't work out, and a real one from the property.  So far the dogs haven't noticed!  Last years' centerpiece craft project and place setting pumpkins have found their way to the end tables in the living room.

Last year I had fun putting together place settings for just us two and this year was fun doing the same for the four of us. One really neat thing is that this year we used both of our maternal grandmothers' china!  And I went ahead and made two more "gobblets" using some of the "things I'd do differently" that I wrote about last year.

Set up and photo-ready a few hours before The Moms arrived and dare I say, several hours before dinner was served,

All set!  See the pilgrim buckle homage?  Ha!

I decided to make special Thanksgiving napkins and found this pretty aubergine linen.  I found a tutorial for easy, crisp, mitered corners and just love how they turned out. They were fiddly and sort of time consuming, but man they sure look nice.

One of my early pins for Thanksgiving was a centerpiece similar to this one that I made from an antler I found in the forest last winter, pine and fir cones from the property, a turkey feather Eric spotted on the road our 2nd autumn in the Bitterroot, and cedar bows I ordered from a local florist.  I keep a thrift store list on my phone and found the wooden bowl this spring.

It was so nice to smell the cedar.

So all this stuff on the table meant that we served the food buffet style on a table in the kitchen.  We also got to use our grandmothers' things for serving.

Left to right, top to bottom: Lefse, cornbread stuffing, lemon almond green beans, roasted acorn squash with bleu cheese, maple apple gravy, cranberry sauce, and butterflied turkey with maple apple glaze.

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.