Saturday, August 21, 2010

Master Bathroom Redesign Part 1

During my annual hibernation in August from the heat, I usually start looking around the house for projects. Our master bathroom is ready for a redesign and needs some structural help as well. So today we started what will be a long chain of events, we removed the sink and vanity.

I have an old dry sink that I picked up at a local thrift store probably almost a year ago The plan is to turn it into a vanity with a hand painted Mexican talavera basin sink that I've also had for awhile.

Unfortunately we need to replace the flooring because it is rotting underneath due to water escaping the shower/splashy kids, and the ceiling also needs to be replaced due to a leaking vent in our roof (it sounds like our house is falling apart but for some reason it has all happened in this one room of the house). I won't be sad to see the popcorn ceiling go though, I can't stand the popcorn!

My good friend Elizabeth volunteered to help (bless her heart) and as soon as JW heard a demo was going to happen he was onboard too. He was the perfect size for the job.

Here are all the tools we used based on what we could scavenge from Jason's shop/the kitchen: A crowbar, a steak knife, a screw driver and a crescent wrench (not pictured). We decided we need a tool box if we are going to continue with this type of work. I think I made about 12 trips back and forth from the house to the shop.

This was a close as I could get to "before" pictures.
We had already cleared out all the stuff and removed the drawers.

Next we had to disconnect the water lines.
We were worried, but we never got wet!

Then, we took down the mirror.

We worked and worked on getting the counter loose.

We got it out. These pictures don't accurately reflect the thinking/effort it took.

Next we removed the remaining structure, which required lots of unscrewing, prying, cutting. We went through several plans.

What got us baffled was that the holes in the vanity where the water lines/drain are were not large enough for us to pull it out of the wall over the water lines.

Then the guys came in and cheated with power tools.
We would have gotten it though.

How can so much dirt accumulate under something that is completely enclosed?

I want to say a HUGE thank you to Elizabeth for helping today.
She has some serious demo talent!
Stay tuned for more updates...hopefully coming soon!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread

I am on a chocolate chip zucchini bread kick this summer and I have the jiggly stomach to prove it. It really is one of the easiest baked snacks/desserts you can make. It requires no mixer, you can whip it together fast, it uses typical pantry items and makes 2 loaves. You can't beat that! Also, removing the chocolate chips makes it dairy free, which is unusual for baked goods.

I use this recipe by Paula Dean, but it is a pretty typical recipe. I will cover the basic steps below, but consult the recipe for more details.

First grate up one medium sized zucchini, to make about 2 cups. I grate it by hand, it's really easy to grate.

Mix together all the dry ingredients, except sugar. I don't use nutmeg, just cinnamon. Technically you should probably sift it together, but I just don't have the patience for sifting. I've tried it, I just can't do it. Maybe I need a different sifter?

In another bowl, mix 3 eggs with a fork or whisk until they are light and airy.

Add the sugar and mix together.

Add the oil and vanilla. Mix it all together.

Add the zucchini.

Add the flour mixture.

Stir in the chocolate chips.

Pour batter into two 9" bread pans.
I have one in our family who won't eat nuts, so I mixed the nuts into only one pan.

Bake at 350 for 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

You can eat one and freeze the other, or you'll be surprised how fast both loaves will disappear.

You will love this and kids will too.
And they won't even notice that they are eating a vegetable.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Book Review: "Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society"

As the summer draws to an end, I thought I'd highlight some of the excellent books I've read in the past few months. I love to read books based in history (love the ones that are based on actual events/places) and small town, rural and/or western America, but I'm not afraid to venture out to read anything (when I have time to read of course, which is rare).

The first book I read this summer was "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" by Mary Ann Shaffer and Anne Barrows.

I wasn't sure whether I'd like this book, because it is written entirely as a series of letters and telegrams between the main characters. But I ended up loving it. The book takes place post World War II in London and Guernsey Island. Guernsey is one of the Channel Islands between England and France. Honestly, I had never even heard of this island let alone it's strategic position in the war.

This novel has both bright and dark elements, interweaving the tragic events that occurred during the German occupation of the island with humorous post-war recovery stories of the quirky islanders and the main character, a successful London journalist, looking for a subject for her next book.

I highly recommend this book, it's one that is hard to put down and gives a great look into what England and Europe were like post WWII.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

When Good Gardens Turn Bad

I'm here to officially document the rise and fall of the 2010 TripleCreek Farm garden.

Warning: Some photos in this post may be disturbing to serious gardeners.

I'm just keepin' it real, people.

We typically tend to the garden from March until about August, when we're forced to wave the white flag and abandon it to hibernate through the extreme heat of the summer. But we usually can get a pretty good crop in by that point.

This year was different. We had an all out attack of nature on our garden, on multiple fronts, and were forced to surrender in June. Here is the full series of events, sad as they may be.

Nov 2010. Planted garlic. You can read more about it here.

Feb 2010. Planted cool weather crops. Broccoli, peas and onions. You can read about it more here.

April 2010. Cool weather crops coming up nicely.

May 2010: Peas are in and we plant 30 pepper plants, zucchini, yellow squash, cucumbers, watermelon, about 30 potatoes, carrots, & tomatoes. We suffer through about 6 weeks with no rain. Luckily our automatic watering system keeps the garden going.

June 2010: The garden suffers it's first major attack. Of the chickens! As soon as the garden starts to produce, the chickens move in for a feast. Every time we turned around, a chicken would run off with a tomato in it's beak. They also ate entire zucchinis, and any cucumber within reach. The only safe crops were the peppers (guess chickens don't care for habaneros) and the underground crops.

So we decided we needed to secure the perimeter. I bought a cute white picket fence that Jason hastily puts up, unfortunately I don't get nearly enough. By the time I get more, the 2nd force of nature has moved in, and that is the amazon heat. The entire month of June had temps at least 10 degrees above normal, mostly in the upper 90's close to 100.

The rest of the fence never gets installed because we are forced into early hibernation in the A/C. We turned on the automatic waterer, turned our backs on the garden, leaving it to fend for itself, the best it could. Bless it's heart.

July 2010: We are gone for weeks at a time, on vacation and to summer camps and the heat continues. We occasionally venture into the garden, but not too often. The dragon carrots survive. Zucchini, squash, tomatoes, and garlic are dead and gone.

August 2010: What's left of our garden. The weeds have taken over. The peppers are still hanging in, the bugs got the potatoes, and there is something strange growing in the tomato cages. It's thriving actually. I have no idea what it is.

Anyone have any idea what this vine plant is?

So there it is. The good, the bad and the ugly.
We'll try again next year!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

10 Things I Learned on our Family Trip to California

We bravely ventured out on our first big time family adventure this year. My parents took us on lots of family trips to see America when I was growing up, and I plan to do the same for my kids now that they are finally old enough.

We decided to go to California to see the big trees I've been telling the kids about for so long.

Due to Jason's business, we only had 5 days to cram in as much as we could and 2 of those days were travel days. We were so excited and then right before we left I got really nervous, suddenly doubting whether we would ever survive to make it back home. After a VERY rocky start at the airport, I am happy to say we did survive and had a great time!

Here was our plan: Day 1-San Francisco, Day 2- Yosemite National Park, Day 3- Kings Canyon/Sequoia National Park, Day 4- LA/Hollywood.

Here are 10 things we learned on our trip:

1. People in California and a hillbilly cannot communicate without a translator. As we were all sitting in the airport after our flight was cancelled having a pity party, Jason called the rental car company to reschedule our car. They asked him to spell his name, in his usual accent he said "H" - "I" but as he says it it sounds more like "ahhh". The lady on the phone said "R?". He said no "ahhh". R? no "ahhh" R? He looks desperately at me for help. I said "say EYE" pointing to my eye. He said "ahh?" She said R? No "I-YA" I said, trying the phonics approach. "ahh?" Then I gave up on that and said tell her Igloo! she said "R?" Finally he said "ice!" and she got it. We were all rolling on the floor by that point.

2. No matter how many times you tell your southern raised son that there is no sweet tea in California, when the wait staff asks for drinks, he will say "Sweet Tea". Then have your credibility as a parent destroyed completely when you go to a national BBQ chain in Fresno, where they actually have sweet tea. Oh and while we're talking southern, don't order biscuits in a restaurant in a National park in California, yikes.

3. Parking. Resist the urge to grab the first parking space you see when you get close to where you need to be. This will result in LOTS and LOTS of walking, of which 6 & 7 & 35 year olds are not fond of. Go to the place you need to be and then work your way out to find parking. We made this mistake twice and paid for it. As soon as we saw the first star on the walk of fame, we parked. Little did we know that the walk of fame is very, very long and we were at the very end of it. We ended up aborting our mission to make it to see John Wayne's star.

4. No matter how cool the historic hotels or cabins are that you find to stay, the Fairfield Inn with the pool will be the kid's favorite place to stay.

5. When using pay showers in a National Park, take more coins than needed for 1 shower in case the power goes out and your shower turns off and does not come back on.

6. A hike to a waterfall or giant tree in a National Park does not count if the path is paved. There has to be rocks and fallen trees for it to count as an official hike for 6&7 year olds. Heavy breathing and panting on hikes is due to the altitude and NOT because mommy is out of shape.

7. Bribery is a miracle cure for whining kids and will add a couple miles to your hikes.

8. Picky eaters will not eat their favorite food unless it looks EXACTLY like it does at home. 95% of all menus are reduced to one suitable kid item: chicken tenders. It is very difficult to eat healthy on the road. Actual fruit and vegetables are scarcer than hen's teeth, even in California!

9. A GPS has no idea what to do on a winding road down a mountain or in the middle of LA for that matter. I still hear "Recalculating!" and "Lost Satellite reception!" in my sleep. A GPS should be used as a back up for an already planned route. In no way should a GPS be the sole source of guidance, they cannot be trusted and will lead you astray. Resist the urge to yell at the person inside your GPS and/or throw it out the window. If the Exit sign says Airport, take it, regardless of what the GPS says! Use your common sense people!

10. Take your family on a vacation to see America, it is definitely worth it and is great family experience that you just can't have at home.