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March 30, 2007

That 70's Vibe

We found this wallpaper hiding behind the medicine cabinet in our bathroom.

And this flooring was underneath the top layer of vinyl and particle board that we removed in the kitchen.

I actually kind of like both of them (maybe they remind me of my childhood), but I'm not sure I could have lived with them for very long, which I guess is why they were eventually covered up.

It's fun peeling back the layers of an old house!


March 29, 2007

10 Years

Today is the tenth anniversary of the day I married my partner in crime. We'd been together for four years by that point, and had already had our first child. I never really wanted to go to all the fuss of getting married - to me, having a child together was more of a commitment than any piece of paper could ever provide (in fact, we'd already given each other rings), and the majority of people that I knew who'd ever gotten married ended up getting a divorce eventually, so it certainly wasn't a guarantee. I wasn't going to change my name anyway, so what was the point?
Well, it turned out it was important to my significant other, who, several months after our daughter was born, decided that marriage was something he really wanted. Unable to say no to his cute dimples, I eventually gave in.

This was us back in the day (sorry for the quality of this picture, it's a photo of a somewhat damaged photo). I'm stunned by how young we all look, it was only ten years ago for goodness sake!

We're probably not going to do anything very exciting to celebrate (unless you consider packing and installing baseboards exciting), but we figure that getting our dream of a house in the woods for our tenth anniversary is pretty incredible! I'm not big on the whole "romance" thing anyway - I'll take some time alone with my honey and a good case of the giggles over roses and candlelit dinners any day.

I have to admit, I am glad that we finally made it official. He's a smart guy, my husband.


March 27, 2007

Spring Blossoms

We've had two gorgeous days in a row and the flowers are bustin' out. The view down our street is one of my favorite things about this house, the cherry trees are amazing.

The photo doesn't show it very well, but when they planted the trees, they alternated dark pink blooming trees with light pink ones, making for an even more impressive display.

This is the flowering currant in my mom's garden. It doesn't produce fruit, but it sure brightens up a spring day!

March 24, 2007

My Very Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies

There are times when nothing hits the spot like a homemade cookie (and if it's still a little warm from the oven, so much the better).

With the return to gloomy weather, there was a real need for some chocolate action, so I made a batch of these, which are the best chocolate chip cookies I've ever tasted. They're soft and chewy, and are just the thing to brighten up a drizzly day (Who? Me? An emotional eater?).


I've adapted this recipe slightly to suit our tastes (replacing the shortening with butter, and adding a little extra salt so they don't taste "flat" like store-bought cookies).



Chocolate Chip Cookies:
  • 1 cup butter or non-hydrogenated margarine (I like Earth Balance)
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 cups unbleached white flour
  • 1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream butter in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add sugars, and beat until smooth. Add egg and vanilla, and beat until combined.

Put the flour and the chocolate chips on top of the butter/sugar mixture, sprinkle salt and baking soda over top (you can mix the dry ingredients together in a separate bowl, but I'm lazy and do it this way instead). Turn the mixer on to low and mix until everything is well incorporated.

Drop by tablespoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes (do not let them get dark - they're better lightly golden or barely colored). Allow to cool on the pan for a couple of minutes before removing them to a cooling rack.

Makes 2 - 3 dozen, depending on cookie size. (Do not double the recipe or they won't be as soft).

March 22, 2007

Seed Starting

I'm falling behind in my seed starting this year, as planting has had to take a back seat to everything else we've been doing lately. I did manage to start my onions a few weeks ago, though.

I grew onions from seed for the first time last year, and I was thrilled both by how well they grew and how well they've kept.

This is one of my Red Wing onions from last summer - it's still very plump and firm inside its protective papery skin. In addition to the Red Wings, I am also going with Copra (a yellow onion), which is supposed to be one of the best keepers there are.

Part of the reason for the delay in seed starting is that I'm not sure how much I should be planting this year. We take possession of the property on June 1st, which in theory gives us enough time to get things into the ground, but since we won't actually be living there full-time for quite awhile, any garden that I put in will just become a snacking spot for the area's large deer population.

That being said, I'll hopefully get around to starting my tomatoes this weekend, as the thought of not planting anything is too painful to think about!

Click here to see the neat creatures we met yesterday.

March 21, 2007

Happy Vernal Equinox!

Today is the first day of spring, and I for one have a bad case of spring fever. I always feel a bit like a curtain is being lifted at this time of year, and I spend the last week of March with a constant bubble of giddiness percolating in my belly.

Big changes seem to happen for me at this time of year - my husband and I finally admitted our feelings for each other within days of the vernal equinox, and we got married that same week four years later. I also went into labor with my daughter at the end of March, (although she didn't show up for two more weeks).

Today also happens to be the birthday of one of my favorite people. Happy birthday Carla!


March 18, 2007

Bunk Mates

I'm too pooped to write a long post tonight, so instead I'll leave you with this photo of the animals.

Princess isn't usually allowed into the kids' room, as it's always been a bit of a haven for the cats (they're not fond of her exuberance, and she'll eat every last scrap of their food if she gets the chance) . But on this day, she was allowed in, and she immediately grabbed herself a spot on the lower bunk.

She secretly aspires to be a cat (you should see how well she perches on the arm of the couch) - maybe one day she'll be invited to join their club.

March 17, 2007

What we did today.

House preparations continue, and in an attempt to get as much out of this place as we possibly can, we've decided to do some of the major projects that we'd been putting off, like tearing out the kids' grungy old carpet and replacing it with laminate flooring. It looks so bright and clean now that we're wondering why it's taken selling our house to make us finally do it.

We were hoping to also tear out the old vinyl in the kitchen and restore the oak floors that are underneath, but once my husband started lifting the floor underneath the stove, we realized that there are two layers of old asbestos linoleum tiles glued onto the wood. The asbestos in the tiles is bad enough, but apparently the glue they used to stick them down has asbestos in it too, so sanding it off is not an option. We're not sure what we're going to do instead, but we're thinking about pulling up the vinyl and laying ceramic tiles over top.

Why are renovations in an old house never straight forward??

March 13, 2007

Here it is!

We made our way to the property today for a meeting with the septic engineer, and it turns out we're not going to get away with installing a basic septic (we have to have a more advanced waste treatment system put in). It wasn't a huge surprise, but we were hoping to catch a break on this rather large investment. Composting toilets are looking better and better!
Of course I had to know that by going out on a limb and saying that spring was in the air yesterday, it would ensure a complete weather reversal, and did it ever. We woke up to near freezing temperatures, and faced blizzard conditions while we were tromping around the property, though it didn't stick (except to us).

This was the lovely view at one stop along the road as we made our way toward the lot.

After our meeting was over, we decided to take a walk through the park that borders our (prospective) property. We discovered this lovely boardwalk that cuts across the marsh lands.

There's no shortage of water in the area, especially during a rainy West Coast winter.

This bench makes a nice spot to sit and soak up the surroundings (or the slushy snow, whichever the case may be).

This was the view along the path as we approached the property...

...and here is the main part of the lot (with the trails running along its edge on the right hand side). It's been mostly cleared, which put my husband off at first, but I see the potential for huge gardens and lots of fruit trees. The building site is off to the left on a large rock outcropping (a good foundation for a house here in earthquake country). The land continues up behind and beside the building site for a little way.

Despite getting soaked and chillded to the bone, going back there has renewed our excitement and reminded us of what we are working so hard for.

We came home to some good news this afternoon. The property assessment that we had done yesterday came back much higher than we expected, so we're feeling more hopeful as far as getting a good selling price (but I've still got my fingers crossed).


March 12, 2007

House Prices, a Yummy Meal, and Green Building

It was an absolutely gorgeous day here today. Unfortunately we spent most of it inside the house in a state of mad panic, trying to clean up our construction mess before the bank's property assessment guy came buy to have a look around and figure out what our house is worth. We're starting to worry that we're not going to be able to get enough for our house to make this property purchase happen smoothly. The house that's for sale nearby that we were basing our estimates on (it's the same size and age as ours) just lowered its asking price, so that's not really filling us with confidence. It's still in the ballpark of what we were figuring on, but it's starting to make us sweat a bit.
To take our minds off things, we went outside in the afternoon to start clearing out the flower beds and enjoy the sunshine. The fruit trees are all flowering or are just about to, the violets have started blooming, and things are starting to leaf out and green up. Spring is in the air.
To help soothe our stressed-out souls, I made comfort food for dinner. This recipe for Mac N' Cheese is a fairly recent addition to our mealtime repertoire, and it's a good one. It's easy to throw together and gives you time to relax before dinner while it's in the oven.
We're going to the property tomorrow morning to meet with the septic engineer to try and get an idea of what it will cost to have one installed. I'm seriously considering composting toilets and a grey water system instead, but my husband is worried about resale value (to which I say, why would we ever sell our dream home??). Anyone out there using composting toilets? I'd love to hear from someone with experience in this area. We're looking at the Envirolet low water remote system because it looks good and is Canadian made. I've heard a few negative things about them lately though, like people finding that they don't compost properly, so dual-flush toilets and water conservation may be the route we end up taking
Another consideration is the cost of running utilities to the house versus putting in alternative energy systems (I'm thinking about a combination of solar and wind power with either a geothermal or air source heat pump for heating). There's certainly a lot of research to do, so please feel free to share any insight you might have!

Who do you look like?

We've been doing a lot around the house over the past few days - painting, tiling, decluttering, etc. I'll have some before and after photos for you soon, but in the meantime I thought I'd point you toward this fun website that I discovered through someone else's blog (sorry, I can't remember who, it was one of those random surfing kind of things). On this site, you can upload a photo of yourself, and they use some kind of facial recognition software to tell you which celebrities you most resemble (hardly earth shattering information, I know, but kind of fun). I did it, and apparently I look like a cross between Drew Barrymore, Evangeline Lilly (I had no idea who she was, but apparently she's a fellow Canadian), and Dolly Parton (hopefully the pre-plastic surgery Dolly). Trust me, I am not nearly as "put together" as these three women - I guess facial recognition doesn't take "time spent in front of a mirror" into account!
My husband's closest matches were Jeff Bridges and Cary Grant, with a little Alice Cooper thrown in for good measure.
You can try it out for yourself here.
I'd love to hear your results, if you care to leave them in the comments!

March 06, 2007

Some News

I've been keeping a secret for the past month or so, but now I think it might actually be safe to talk about it (I'm a little superstititous). It looks like we're finally on our way to having the homestead of our dreams, as we've just had an offer accepted on our very own lovely little acreage! There's still the issue of selling our house before things will be totally final, but I'm hopeful that there won't be any real problems, and if all goes well, we should be moving by early summer.
Needless to say, renovation plans are on hold, and we're busy getting the house ready to go on the market.
There's a lot more to tell you about, but I'll have to save that for another time.

March 03, 2007

A Day in the Life

I've seen several people taking part in a fun blog project (started over at Owlhaven, I believe), posting photos of the various things that occur over the course of one day in their life. Here's my day as it happened on Wednesday, February 28th.

The first thing I saw when I woke up was a still-snoozing pup (her bed is on the floor beside ours). I'm usually woken up by my son crawling in for a cuddle, but everyone slept in that day.

While letting the dog out to pee, I noticed that we got a light skiff of snow overnight. It was gone within a couple of hours.

After a quick breakfast, we headed out the door to drop my daughter off at her twice-weekly girls group.

While she's there, my son and I play games and read together, and I try to catch up on some chores and homeschool reporting (check out my ancient laptop complete with valentine sticker and broken hinge).

We are unschoolers in approach, but we register as homelearners with an alternative private school that favors child-led learning. In exchange for a few minutes of daily reporting on my part (the kids are only vaguely aware of the reporting - I just basically journal about what they've gotten up to that day), they supply us with $1000 worth of funding per child for their various activities and supplies. While it's a mild annoyance for me, we wouldn't be able to afford all of the wonderful classes that they take part in without it.

Just before lunch, the boy and I hopped back in the car and ran back to pick her up. Here he is while we were waiting for her to come out (don't you just love that staticky, cold-weather hair?).
We take advantage of our time in the car by listening to audio books (we're currently listening to The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman). It's a great way to pass the time, and we've "read" some great books this way (some favorites include Magyk, Redwall, How to Train Your Dragon, and the Little House on the Prairie series).

Bee is in desperate need of some new shirts, so we stopped at our favorite kids' consignment shop to see what we could find. There wasn't anything in that she liked that day, but Jay came out with two Bionicle sets for himself.

By this point we were starving, so we ran across the street to Tinkers Hatch Bakery and got ourselves some salmon/sausage rolls for lunch (as well as a bag of day old goodies to go with our tea later).
The kids were horrified that I was taking photos of everything ("Mom!! You look like a tourist!!).

We came home to discover that Bee's new piano books arrived in the mail. She spent a long time playing her favorite songs and pouring over the new ones.

The kids built a fort in their room in the afternoon, and Shadow seemed to enjoy hiding in the tunnel (click here if you haven't met the cats yet).

While I was out taking the laundry off the line, I noticed that the crows were going past on their daily migration. This photo doesn' t do it justice, but there were hundreds (probably even thousands) of them flying overhead in a seemingly endless stream. This phenomenon is one of the most amazing things I've ever seen. Each day, just as the sun starts to go down, every crow in the entire lower mainland flies east to a meeting point somewhere in Burnaby (which is the city just east of Vancouver). I've been close to that part of town right as they were congregating, and it was incredible - like a scene right out of "The Birds", every tree and rooftop filled with their cawing blackness.

Walking through the back room later, I noticed how beautiful the "Lions" looked all covered in a fresh dusting of snow (you may have to enlarge the photo to see them clearly, but the Lions are a natural rock formation on the mountains north of Vancouver that resembles two regal lions watching over the city).

Here's what we had for dinner - creamed salmon and peas on toast. Quick and easy comfort food.

Bee recently decided that she wanted a change from her usual ponytail and asked me to give her some shorter, funkier layers (I taught myself how to cut hair years ago in order to save ourselves a few bucks). It's crazy how much more grown up it makes her look!

Just before heading off to bed, I did one last check on the kids. Poor Jay has to fight Baxter for his share of the pillow every night.

And that was pretty much our day. I didn't manage to catch a few key moments (the evening beverage and chat session with my darling hubby for one), but some things are too precious to interrupt by rushing off to grab the camera.

Hope you're having a good weekend!

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