Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Celebration

What a wonderful slow-paced Christmas Day!  No one had to get up early to be somewhere for breakfast or gift openings.  No one had to cook a bunch of food.  It was the perfect first Christmas by ourselves.  We got up late, admired the 10 foot tree, lounged about, and enjoyed the morning.  Cinnamon Chip French Toast and bacon for brunch for Emil and a mushroom egg scramble for me!  We finally opened gifts in the early afternoon.  Emil was very surprised when he opened an envelope from me.  Ukulele lessons starting on Tuesday!

YAY!  I can learn from someone other than!
After calls to family, I popped a bone-in ham in the oven (not spiral cut, they dry out) and did my mise en place for mushroom risotto.  The cranberry sauce was made yesterday, so my time in the kitchen was super short!  Once the ham was heated through, Emil brushed on the glaze, and I started the risotto.  Time to eat because we had places to go!

Maple Mustard Glaze

Thick slices

The real star of the show
After dinner, we headed over to Tim and Renee's house for games.  They had lots of family in town, so we played Apples to Apples and Sorry.  Everyone was super friendly, and they had traveled from Everett, Seattle, and the Bay Area.  On the way home, we cruised the neighborhoods and Eagle Crest looking at the festive lights.

Hope everyone had a good Christmas, surrounded by friends and family.  A special shout out to Brian and Tara - congratulations on your nuptials!  I'm so happy for you both!  I've known Brian since 2003, and all of our adventures started off with one of Brian's crazy ideas.  Remember that famous craigslist posting??? 

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Eve

Merry Christmas to everyone!  Hope this holiday season finds you healthy, happy, and surrounded by friends and family.  We had a super fun Christmas Eve, filled with warm memories and delicious food!  The day was spent catching up on errands, baking, shopping, and menu planning.  In the evening, we had dinner with our neighbors at their lovely home.

Carving the leg of lamb

Fall salad with lots of goodies!

Fried Asparagus
We also went to the 7 p.m. Candlelight Service at Community Presbyterian Church.  Then, we regrouped with our neighbors for a music jam (uke lessons start on Tuesday, so we WILL improve), Mexican Dominoes tourney, Christmas cookies, and hot chocolate spiked with homemade Irish Cream.  What fun!

Friday, December 23, 2011

For Wood Enthusiasts

We had a successful trip to Portland buying wood for ukuleles.  Hit several wood stores, plus Rockler and Woodcraft, of course.  A quick stop in at Penzey's Spices to stock up on chicken base, cocoa powder, and other seasonings.  It was also wonderful to visit with Teri and Troy and see their newest grandbaby, Louis.  He's a cutie!

Emil met some really nice folks at the wood stores, and I think he'll become a frequent shopper at Gilmer Wood Company and Northwest Timber.

Emil and Lewis Judy, owner of Northwest Timber

BIG jointer

Anyone know what this machine is?

Gorgeous, smooth maple

Burl, the cat

Port Orford Cedar - $100/foot

Perfect for a table

My big splurge - a new uke book!

Tuning a uke at Beacock Music in Vancouver, WA

Look at all this instrument wood

I'm SO buying this one!

Salivating over the wood selection

Emil has enough wood now for seven ukuleles.  He's almost done making a workbench for his shop, and he bought a heater to keep him warm.  I've started a spreadsheet of items to do to start up the business, and I'm building a marketing plan.  Tis the new year for exciting adventures!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Luthier

I'm so proud of my husband!  He's following his heart and leaping into the ukulele-making business.  A luthier is now among us!  Kudos to Sylven and Melanie for introducing us to music night and the happy ukulele.  One shopping trip later, and we were soon roadtripping with two ukuleles and a book of music.

Now, Emil is setting up his workshop, hunting down hardware, sheet goods, lusting over wood, and dreaming of ukuleles.  He'll also make stands and other accessories.  For my part of this adventure, I'm going to learn web design, so I can help on the marketing side of his business.  We'll unveil the business name soon.

Thanks for your kind support, and I'll keep you posted on this exciting journey into music, instruments, and more.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Houdini the Packrat

Success with the live trap in the garage!  Houdini, the packrat, enjoyed a snack consisting of peanut butter and homemade strawberry bread as the door slammed shut last night.  Yep, homemade strawberry bread.  Hard to resist.  This little rodent is responsible for eating the top of my barn boot and other stuff in the garage.  Bad packrat!  After a call to Animal Control and a visit to the Humane Society, we went to a little deserted area and let Houdini go.  What did Houdini do?  Promptly ran under our van and crawled up in the wheel well.  I kid you not.  He just really wanted to go home with us.  We're hoping he crawled out and ran away when we weren't looking or poking around with a stick.  Emil looked in the engine and under the car with a flashlight.  No sign of Houdini.  Time to set up the trap again for his friends.

My poor boot

Close up of Houdini

Sunday, December 11, 2011

New Recipe

Since I've had some time on my hands, I've been trying out some new recipes, and I'm really impressed by the results.

Gingered Carrot-Sweet Potato Soup
I selected this recipe, so I can use my new stick immersion blender.  Plus, it's one of those throw it in the crockpot and forget about it types.  Perfect!  The recommended garnish for the soup is creme fraiche or lightly whipped cream.  I tried it with a little sour cream, but I liked it better with no garnish at all.  Simplicity at its best.  The outcome:  Healthy, delicious soup for four people.

1 medium-size to large sweet potato
6 medium-size carrots
1 medium-size to large sweet onion (I used half of a yellow onion since that's what I had on hand)
1 inch-long piece of fresh ginger
4 c. chicken broth
Salt and pepper to taste

Peel the sweet potato and chop into pieces no larger than one inch on a side.  Peel the carrots and chop into pieces no larger than 3/4 inch on a side.  Peel the onion and chop into 3/4 inch pieces.  Use a vegetable peeler or a paring knife to peel the ginger.  Mince finely.  Place the sweet potato, carrots, onion, and ginger in the slow cooker and stir to combine.  Add the broth.  If you are using canned broth, do not add salt and pepper at this point.  If you are using unseasoned homemade broth, add 1/2 teaspoon salt and a dash of pepper.  Cover and cook on low until the vegetables are quite tender, 9-11 hours.

Turn the slow cooker off, uncover, and allow the soup to cool for a few minutes, then puree with immersion blender or food processor until smooth.  You will want to obtain the smoothest puree possible, so let the blender to its work for a few minutes.  Check the seasonings and add salt and pepper if necessary. Serve the soup hot or cold.

Gorgeous color!

On to other subjects, no critters in the trap yet.  The peanut butter is not worthy enough, I guess.  Will try some apple in there tonight. 

I'm baking up some quick breads for gifts and packing up gifts to mail back East.  Time to stand in line at the post office.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Mule Deer Galore

In Alaska, every time I saw a moose, I took a picture.  They are such graceful animals, browsing their way through the woods, chomping on my friend's apple tree, and ambling down the sidewalks in downtown Anchorage.

The tradition continues here in Central Oregon with mule deer.  Over the last four days, mule deer have been in the yard every day.  On the first day, we saw a yearling with a broken leg hobbling around with a family of deer.  It was heartbreaking to watch, and I tried to convince Emil to lasso it and put it in the chicken coop as a pet.  Since Emil doesn't know how to lasso or own a rope, my scheme didn't happen.

Over the next few days, other deer families came through to munch on the grass, lavender plants, and rose bushes.

A young buck

No need to cut the grass
Hello big buck

The chickens are guarding their territory
A nice 10 point buck
As Emil makes room for his tools (shipped down from Alaska) in the garage and begins his adventure as a Luthier, he noticed some animal has been chewing on everything.  This animal ate the top off of one of my tall rubber boots.  What the what?  How did it eat the top of my boot?  How tall is this creature?  Who eats rubber and survives?  We will know soon!  A big trap, borrowed from our neighbor is baited with a big ol'spoon of peanut butter.  A kangaroo rat?  A raccoon?  A hungry cat?  A mountain lion?  I'll keep you posted on the outcome!

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

First Christmas Tree

I'm so excited!  Our first Christmas tree EVER.  Usually, we're traveling for the holidays or not around the house much, so we haven't bothered to buy a tree in the past.  Plus, most of my ornaments are stored in my hope chest at my parents house in Greenville.

Our wonderful neighbor, Mark, offered to take us tromping through the woods about an hour from our house.  We had permits to cut a tree, and it must be under 12 feet.  Since we don't have any decorations, we decided in advance to shoot for a five footer.  Buy some lights, hang our one ornament from Ron and Carrie, made in Saudi Arabia, and call it good.  Less is more.

Ummmm...yeah.  Funny how trees look bigger once you cut and put them in a tree stand.

A little too small

Definitely over 12 feet
Measuring a tree for Mark
This one was a runner up

Our tree

Get out the saw!

Goofing off
Emil carrying our tree back to the rig

The tree wagon
Walking back after a peek at the creek
Such a lovely day!  Sunny blue sky, 40+ degrees at least, and walking on top of crunchy snow, only post-holing every now and then.  I laughed when we would post-hole....thinking of the Ski Train in Alaska.  Another story for another time.

Time to buy lights and a tree topper!  I'm looking forward to collecting sentimental ornaments over the next few years.  Growing up, my favorite ornament was a cute set of green and red felt ice skates.  I wonder if Mother still has them.....

Thursday, December 01, 2011

The Truck and Goat

Just a typical day at Goodwill....stopped in to look at coffeemakers and random items.

Luckily, we had a camera and snapped a pic of this friendly goat hanging out in the back of a pickup truck.  Yep, that's how we roll here in Redmond.