Saturday, December 22, 2012

let it snow!

What a sweet surprise yesterday to look out and see snow falling. I don't imagine it will still be here on Christmas morning but there's nothing like the first real snowfall to put me in a happy mood. 
 I love how a blanket of snow makes the fields, the yards, and the shoulders of the road all clean. Like fresh sheets on the bed.  I love the sound of snow falling; how it muffles all the dirty sounds of the day to day busy-ness and transforms it to a distant hum. Snow falling softly, floating down like a heavy sigh from above, reseting my balance and the world outsides'.  
I feel warm, and cozy, and content, and blanketed - inside and out.

Hope you are all having a relaxed weekend before Christmas! 

hugs, Karen <3 p="p">

Monday, December 3, 2012

It's a Wonderful Life

Today I was reminded of how I am blessed. 
While we decorated the tree we watched this movie. It"s one of my all time favourites. And Mike's too.

Chilly, rainy days, like today, are precious. Conversations with Mom. Spending the afternoon cuddled up next to Mike under a home made quilt, watching an old black and white movie for the hundredth time.  A hot cup of peppermint tea with honey and a candle burning.  A homely little, make-do tree.  Kids home for dinner. 

These Santas were on the tree in Mike's childhood home. 

The true value in these old ornaments is the connection they have to Mike's Mom, who passed away years ago, and his story book childhood, that made him the man that I adore today.

"Only the heart knows what is precious" 
Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Have you seen "It's a wonderful Life"?
What's your favourite Christmas movie? 

<3 karen="karen" nbsp="nbsp" p="p">

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Barn Love and a Book

I have a penchant for barns.  When we were property shopping we looked at a house that had a beautiful big round barn. We couldn't make it work... but I really wanted that barn. 
This barn is just down the road my old house. It stands on a stone foundation and is built into a small hill.
Sadly, it sits unused and has fallen into disrepair.

I found a book called The Enchanted Barn  available free here
It's a story about a young woman and her family that move into a barn in the early 1900's.  Here's an excerpt: 
They were coming now to a wide, old-fashioned barn of stone, with ample grassy stone-coped entrance rising like a stately carpeted stairway from the barn-yard. It was resting on the top of a green knoll, and a great elm-tree arched over it protectingly. A tiny stream purled below at one side, and the ground sloped gradually off at the other. Shirley was not noticing the place much except as it was a part of the landscape until she heard the conductor talking to the man across the aisle about it.
"Good barn!" he was saying reflectively. "Pity to have it standing idle so long; but they'll never rent it without a house, and they won't build. It belongs to the old man's estate, and can't be divided until the youngest boy's of age, four 'r five years yet. The house burned down two years ago. Some tramps set it afire. No, nobody was living in it at the time. The last renter didn't make the farm pay,—too fur from the railroad, I guess,—and there ain't anybody near enough round to use the barn since Halyer built his new barn," and he indicated a great red structure down the road on the other side. "Halyer useta use this,—rented it fer less'n nothing, but he got too lazy to come this fur, and so he sold off half his farm fer a dairy and built that there barn. So now I s'pose that barn'll stand idle and run to waste till that kid comes of age and there's a boom up this way and it's sold. Pity about it, though; it's a good barn. Wisht I had it up to my place; I could fill it."

What have you been reading lately? 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Kitchen Dreaming

I've always had trouble making decisions. I remember as a small girl going to a toy store and being told to choose one thing. I knew I wanted Barbie clothes... but I couldn't  decide which package.  
Even ( or maybe especially )  under threat of leaving with nothing.  
More often than not, that's exactly what happened. I'd leave with nothing.

I remind myself that not deciding is still making a decision...

 So the delays in construction at our new house have given me an opportunity to dream. I'm figuring out what I love most
This weekend we went out shopping for a kitchen. 
These cupboards from Martha Stewart at Home Depot...

this pantry ( which I have to find ) ...

This sink ( which I already have ) ...

these floors ( which I have ) ...

This countertop ( which I have but am hoping that we can make the backsplash too ) ...

I hope it all comes together as in my imagination. And I hope I don't change my mind after it's too late.
Any ideas or suggestions? 

Hugs, Karen

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Old Stuff

I like like old stuff. 
In the beginning, everything I owned was second hand out of neccesity.  We were young, and I stayed at home to raise our family. Being frugal was simply part of my job. 
Now, "making do" is just what's comfortable.   
There's freedom in living simply.
There's beauty in the everyday.
You just have to look. 

This old car was just left in a field at the side of the road. 
I can imagine it's whole beautiful life - can you?

I hope you have a beautiful, simple week :-)


Sunday, November 4, 2012

Potlake Update

Progress on the house has been slow most of the summer, but October brought cooler temperatures and lots of activity. We discovered that there wasn't much ( well, none really ) of a foundation under the east side of the house so had to  deal with that. 
It  seems that the path of progress is one step back then two steps forward. 
We are on a roller coaster - discouraged, then hopeful; impatient, then filled with anticipation.
We are trying not to stress about how long this is taking, focusing on what we have control over,  letting go of things we cannot change, and working at choosing our battles.
It's been a real test. 

I'll show you what's happening right now...  
This is the back of the house... all the windows are in and exterior insulation is up.
The rock pile in the foreground is a whole other storey - stay tuned. 

This is a view of the kitchen. The bathroom has been moved and the patio door is where the window used to be. The small over-the-sink window has been replaced with a larger one, which came from directly across on the opposite wall.  A french door will go in that spot. 
You can see the ceiling a bit too.  

We are adding a small front porch. 

This is a straight on front view of the front porch. The french doors will go in once the exterior construction is finished. 

This week we hope to have the roof finished and the siding on... 
Keep your fingers crossed! 

hugs, Karen

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Chicken Drama

Some people's homes are like sitcoms ( well, mine is kinda like that too ) but raising and keeping chickens has been somewhat of a Shakespearian play at our house. 
Part tragedy. Part comedy.  Part romance.  
We got our first chickens a year and a half ago. Little peeps, and we raised them up nicely. We had just moved them out of the garage and into the coop when I had to go on a business trip. I was gone two nights. When I returned I was anxious to see my girls, Minnie, Martha, McAdoo, and Rose.
Where I had expected to see 3 plymouth rocks and one rhode island red there was a mismatched menagerie including 3 brown leg horns and 4 buff rocks. 
What the dickens! Where are my chickens? 
To Mike's horror, ( " how am I going to tell Karen?! " ) when he went out to check on them the very first morning without me he discovered that some critter had actually gotten in somehow and absconded with three of our four chickens.  He was panicked. He scrambled to find a few replacements ( as if! but thanks for trying ).  
His go-to person didn't have any to spare, but just so happened there was a chicken auction in town that same night.  Who even new this happens!  
So... I tell myself  "this happens when you live on a farm." I remembered the saying " Where there's livestock, there's deadstock".  I pull up my bootstraps and set to getting to know the new girls. I give them names. One of the buff rocks was quite malnourished and had only a few feathers. We name her Plucky and we change the name of the only survivor of what we now refer to as the massacre, to Lucky Martha.
  We focus on getting them healthy and happy. We do a great job . Our friend in chickens drops off a little black hen and we name her Butterfly. 
Our chickens start clucking like crazy, feathers start getting a little fancy, and combs are getting a little on the showy side.
2 of the leghorns and 1 of the buff rocks are definitely not hens.  We can't have roosters in a backyard coop. They make too much noise.  We decide that they must go in the freezer.  I encourage Mike: "'You can clean a fish - you can clean a chicken." 
He googles it.
We do it. 
And then we try not to think about it. 
We get back to waiting for eggs. Lucky Martha starts laying. We are chicken farmers! 
2 more buff rocks reveal themselves to be roosters. More tragedy. 
We can't  muster the conviction to do our on dirty work again and so they go to auction. 
While we are there I spy 2 beautiful aracanas. I was not successful n the bidding but I made a connection with the chicken farmer Mr Drury. Yay - next month when he comes I won't have to bid - we've agreed on a price for 2 auracnas and 2 blue laced red wyandottes.  We come home  that night with an old lady and we name her Gladys. She's a good buy at $5 and lays a beautiful large brown egg every single day! 

Lucky Martha, Gidget,  and Butterfly are introduced to four new coop mates the following month. 
It doesn't go well. The wyandottes are pecked to death the next day while we are at work.  It's my fault; I should have prepared even though Gladys's introduction went so well. 
I'm an accomplice to murder.
 Mike and I have a new understanding of the phrase "pecking order". We set to work and build a temporary shelter for the aracaunas to separate them and we enlist the help of Mr Vintage to help out with something more permanent.  
We set to getting to know Goldie and Esther and helping them all make friends. 
It's going great. They are all laying eggs.  We get through the winter virtually drama free.
We learn what it means to be egg-bound ( you can read about that here ) but there are no deaths. 
We buy the Potlake farm and are excited to let our chickens range the yard freely. The chickens are happy.  We are spending every minute that we can at the farm although we aren't living there yet .
One sunny afternoon, we take a walk to the back which really isn't our property but there's a lovely pond with ducks and willows blowing. On our return some 20 minutes later, we approach the owner farmer on his tractor. He has stopped and gotten off and is walking toward us. I suspect that he is coming over to ask us not to walk his farm so I head toward the house and Mike heads over to have the conversation.  As I approach our own backyard, I see a poof of black and white feathers on the ground so I rush to find my girls! Oh no! I can find everyone but Lucky Martha! 
Mike returns to tell me that our farmer neighbour stalked over to Mike through the field red-faced and angry. Mike expects to apologize but our neighbour tells the story of seeing another neighbours dog running across the field with our chicken in his mouth! 
Just then the dog owner arrives with our inured chicken.   Martha isn't so lucky after all. She died of her injuries 2 days later.
All of the original peeps are gone. We are sad and angry and agree that the girls cannot be left in the yard when we are not present even though the dog owner has agreed that he will be tied or fenced.
Summer continues on and we don't lose any more birds. The girls are doing what girls do.  They scratch around the yard looking for good bugs and munching grass.  They use their feminine wiles to persuade family and friends to feed them tortilla chips and strawberries by hand.  

They discover the benefits of  a good dirt bath.

One day late this summer we are overly confident, have become lacidasical, and we leave the chickens roaming around and run into town. We return to  tuck them in for the night but discover the mysterious disappearance of Gidget.  Poof - gone. Naturally, we suspect the neighbour dog but I am ultimately responsible again!  
We now have a new coop ( thanks to one handy guy named Dale and his tractor ) and a nice sized fenced yard.  

We are on a hiatus from tragedy. 
We bring home 2 Blue Wyandottes. 
Meet Annie... 

...and Dottie.

They are a bit bossy so have only been in the yard with the old girls for a few hours during the day an sleeping in their own coop, but they will soon be living all together in one coop.

Now for getting us into our new house!

<3 karen="karen" nbsp="nbsp" p="p">

Monday, August 20, 2012

A Break in the Heat

Finally, the temperature outside is reasonable. lovely. fresh. 

I'm feeling like nesting...
I came across this wonderful old seed packet and was so inspired - just had to "homemake".
Had to put something by, stock up. 
So what to do when all your canning jars are packed away, stored deep in a garden shed along with all the canning equipment ( and almost everything else that one could live without while living in a temporary location ). 

I have discovered Ice box pickles. 
And a reason to bring home some pretty jars when I couldn't logically go out and intentionally add to an already ridiculous collection of canning jars. 
I've heard more than once "Oh, Karen, you can; would you like some jars? I'm ( also my mother or my Grandma is ) not canning like I  ( she ) used to..." ) How could I not accept such a gift?
This is how it happens. One day you're begging folks to return the jar when they finish the jelly, then your asking your friends to help move 36 boxes of jars. 

Ice Box Cucumber Pickles

Bring to a boil:
4 cups Cider Vinegar
10 cups water
1/4 cup pickling salt
1/4 cup sugar

Let cool to room temperature then pour over  

4 quarts of quartered 4 inch cucumbers 
2-4 tbsp pickling spice ( the more you use the more mustardy they will taste )
10 cloves garlic
1 jalepeno pepper ( optional ) 
a bunch of fresh dill 

I used 2 really sweet 4 quart jars 

It'll be tough, but wait a week to eat them. They are super crunchy, and super yummy!  And you can keep adding cucumbers to the jar - the lighter the pickle, the newer the pickle. 

And what do do with a couple of beets and a few turnips?

Ice box Turnip Pickles ( Kabees )

Pack into jars: 

6 turnips peeled and cut into 1/4 inch matchsticks - raw
2 large beets - peeled and cut into 1/4 inch matchsticks - raw
1 or two cloves garlic
1/2 jalepeno pepper seeded and sliced 

Mix and pour over: 

1 part white vinegar to 2 parts water
2 tbsp salt per quart jar
2 tsp mustard seeds

The beets turn the turnips a beautiful shade of pink.  These are terrific in salads and sandwiches...mmm especially cold roast beef  -  or straight out of the jar! 

What to add to some fresh spinach? 

Pink Pickled Eggs! 

Just put peeled hard boiled eggs in leftover pickled beet juice ( from when you've already eaten all the beets )  and wait a week or two.
To your spinach, add your eggs, some crumbled bacon, sliced red onions, a little crumbled feta - voila!  Lunch is ready! 

Ice box Pickles - give it a try and let me know what you think!

<3 karen="karen" nbsp="nbsp" p="p">

Monday, August 6, 2012

Backyard Babies

 Just look at what I found while cutting the lawn this past week.

I don't know how I saw him scramble through the grass. He was such a wee little guy - no bigger that my baby finger.
I  mowed over the nest in the grass. 
 I put him back where I found him and covered him up with the ball of fluff and dead grass and left him for his mumma to find.  I imagine she did. This little guy may well be responsible for infestations in my house in the fall, but what else could a mother do? 

This baby robin was hopping along the side walk chirping like crazy! Shhh! your mother knows where you are! 

I've never seen so many bunny nests as this year. I'm sure they just find a divet in the lawn and fill it with fluff and grass then call it a nest. Still, they are difficult to see even if you're looking right at them! 

This little oriole was hanging on for dear life; it was so so windy.

Notice the similarities between this little new guy and this old guy?!
( Sam the eagle from the Muppets )

Hope all is well with you!

<3 karen="karen" p="p">

Saturday, July 21, 2012

What's Going on at the Potlake House?

After a month long break inside the house, we are back in motion!
It might not look like much - but it makes me very happy to see even a bit of progress. 
Would you like a tour?
Lets get started! 

This is a view of the kitchen from the dining room... see the ceiling has been removed to the roof? 
We are going to leave it open like that. It feels so much larger.
The stud wall on the right will come out and what used to be the washroom will become part of the kitchen too.

This is the dining room from the kitchen. That window will be moved to the opposite wall in the kitchen and a french door will go there in stead.

This is part of the addition - our bedroom! The french door has been installed. They will lead to a gorgeous ( in my imagination ) porch.

This is the spare (aka Adam's ) room - windows installed.

This is the new bathroom - used to be the master bedroom. The shower has been framed in.
You can see the drying off space.

Another view of the framed in shower.
( no - we aren't keeping the ceiling fan )

This is the front room, where the front door used to be. It's just of the dining room. What used to be the front door has been closed in and the small window has been replaced with a larger window that we salvaged from the living room.
This room will be a home office and sewing room for me! 

We are working hard to get Mike healthy and stay motivated and positive.
Even baby steps will get you somewhere, right?

Hope you're staying cool! 
<3 Karen 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Fooling with Photoshop

Its been too hot here to do anything.  Too hot to even think about doing anything.  So instead of cutting grass, gardening or cooking, I've been fooling around with Photoshop.  I took a pic of a pansy on white paper and then added a layer to create a background.

Then I took the same photo, made it black and white, added back some colour then added 2 layers.  I like the antique, kinda shabby look.
I wouldn't have stopped here - except that this took all morning. Yes. All. Morning.  Two pictures. 
But I'm not giving up.

I'm going to keep at it - I'd like to figure out how to add text. 
I wish I had all day... every day...  

how have you been staying cool ? 
<3 Karen 

Sunday, June 17, 2012


Progress, however slow it seems, is much appreciated! Since I've last posted, we have a first floor addition. 
This will be two bedrooms. We're looking at the south side of the house, which looks out over the back yard.

 Shortly after that, the roof trusses are placed and the porch takes shape.
The big hole in the wall will be french doors onto the porch from our bedroom! 

We had three v.e.r.y. large trees taken down. As much as Mike wanted to do it; they were so big and so close to buildings that he couldn't be sure he wouldn't drop them exactly where they needed to fall. 

The tree above was sacrificed for sunshine so that we can plant a veggie garden. 
The tree in the below pic was growing roots all through the weeping bed.

and finally, sadly, there was a beautiful elm growing into the roof on the garage.

We are finished "gutting " the interior. All that remains are the stud walls and the toilet! 
We spend a lot of time here, after all...

When we are tired and dirty and discouraged ( there was mouse poop all through the insulation in the ceilings and a squirrel living under the bathtub ), we reminisce about the best vacation ever.
Wouldn't you love to go punting on the Cammes?

Nothing could be finer on a sunny spring day in Cambridge!

<3 Karen