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April 26, 2007

Yummy Apple Muffins

With the warm weather we've been having lately, some of the apples that we've had stored in the garage (we got 70 pounds last fall when they were cheap) are finally starting to go bad. I'm really happy with how well they've kept though, and will definitely stockpile them again.
So basically I'm back to madly making anything with apples in it like I was last fall.

These apple muffins are one of my favorite uses. They're fluffy and light, and have a yummy streusel topping.

Fluffy Apple Walnut Muffins (from Allrecipes.com):

1/2 cup butter
1 1/4 cups white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (
I used half whole wheat flour with excellent results)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup milk
2 cups peeled, cored and sliced apples
1/2 cup walnuts

1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons butter, cubed

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Coat top and insides of muffin pan with cooking spray, or line with muffin papers.
In a large bowl, cream together 1/2 cup butter, 1 1/4 cups sugar, vanilla, and salt until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at time. Mix together the 1 3/4 cups of flour, baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Stir in the flour mixture alternately with the milk, mixing just until incorporated. Fold in apples and walnuts. Scoop into muffin cups to fill 3/4 full. Lightly sprinkle the tops with cinnamon crumble.
To make Cinnamon Crumble: In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup white sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour, and 2 tablespoons cubed butter. Mix together using a pastry blender, or two butter knives (
I find it faster to rub the butter into the dry ingredients with my fingers). The crumble topping should resemble small peas.
Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until tops are golden brown, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. If they are browning too quickly, cover with tin foil. Remove from pans, and cool on wire rack.

Makes 12 regular sized muffins, or 6 jumbo.


These make a great breakfast, and are a nice addition to tea time.

Now I'm off to make some apple sauce!

April 25, 2007

The House

After much deliberation, we have finally picked out house plans! The one that we chose is a Ross Chapin design called the Morgan Hill, and it is exactly what we were looking for as far as a modest, efficient layout, and it is a design that will work perfectly on the building site. The house will eventually be sitting on a bit of an angle to take advantage of the views, but we still wanted the entrance to be facing the driveway as you approach it, which was a surprisingly difficult thing to accommodate.

It's a somewhat traditional design while still being interesting and "West Coasty". Other features that sold us on it include lots of windows along what will be the south and west sides to take advantage of passive solar heating, and the two main floors are within our goal of 1500 square feet (1490 square feet, to be exact). It comes with plans for an optional basement (which would give us an extra 800 square feet or so and space for cold storage), but we haven't decided whether we will put that in or not, as there is a large boulder on the building site that would have to be dealt with (unless we build slightly in front of it, but then we'd be encroaching on garden space!).

If you'd like to take a peek at some interior photos of it, as well as the floor plan, click here. Several of these houses have been built in a development in Washington state, and there are photos of them here (the first 8 photos are of the Morgan Hill design), where you can also see a virtual tour listed on the right hand side (it's the "H" plan). The original Ross Chapin plans have an office on the main floor, which we will be turning into the master bedroom (this is what they did in the Cottage Company houses).

I love that the main floor plan is so open, while still having a few spaces for things like a piano and a dining hutch (something most of the other small, open plan houses didn't have).

Now that we know what we're going to be building, we can set about collecting various bits and pieces from places like demo sales and Craigslist. We almost got several dozen sheets of drywall off of Freecycle the other day, but someone else beat us to it. It will be fun to see how much we can reuse and recycle while building the house of our dreams.

To see my daughter's vision of life on our new little farmstead, click here.

April 19, 2007

Seeds and House Plans

There was enough of a break in activity over the weekend that I finally managed to plant some tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and cabbage. It's a little later than I would like, but according to the planting chart that I have from West Coast Seeds, I'm pretty close to being on schedule.
You may be asking yourself why I'm bothering to start seeds when I won't actually have a garden this summer. Call me crazy, but I'm hoping that I'll be able to put a garden in on our property, fence it off from the deer, mulch it well, and check in on it periodically while we're building over the course of the summer. Option two (and perhaps the more realistic choice) is that my mom will take pity on me and share her lovely garden with me if I promise to share my plants with her (we will be living with them while our house is being built). Option three is that I leave them here as a housewarming gift for the woman who will be moving in when we leave.
Speaking of building, we've been consumed lately with trying to settle on house plans. I've always dreamed of building either a cob or strawbale house, but that doesn't seem possible when we have such a short period of time in which to build (maybe we'll build a strawbale or cob guest house or chicken coop one day). With the location being somewhat remote, and contractors being in short supply, we are looking at using a company that will build our house here in the city in a warehouse, send it in pieces by truck to the property and put it together for us in a few short weeks. That will get us to a "lock up" stage, which essentially means the outside of the house (siding, decking, windows, doors, siding, roof) will be ready and waiting for us to come in and finish the inside. This company uses locally sourced woods, builds smaller homes, and has many green options, so we're feeling pretty comfortable with this option.
So lately I've been pouring over Sarah Susanka's "Not So Big House" books, and have spent a lot of time on Ross Chapin's site (his small houses and cottages are so beautiful), at the Robinson Residential site (gorgeous Craftsman style cottages), as well as at BC Mountain Homes (a local firm that designs wonderful "West Coast" houses). There are so many to choose from that it's really hard to pick one. It's also difficult to find a plan that squeezes 3 bedrooms into a small floor plan that works with the layout of our lot. We're slowly getting an idea of the things that are most important to us, and will hopefully settle on something in the next week or so.
If you happen to like looking at house plans and feel like sharing your opinion on any of them with me, please do! (I would also really appreciate being pointed toward any other sites with plans for small, efficient homes).

April 15, 2007

My Girl

My lovely girl turned eleven today. I really don't know how we've gotten here so fast.

B. at three and a half.

What can I tell you about her - she's hilariously funny, incredibly thoughtful and caring, a talented artist, a voracious reader and an aspiring writer. She adores babies (she's been begging me to have another one for years now), loves animals, and is a good friend.

We're no longer doing large birthday bashes, focusing instead on making a special day just for her. She started her morning with some fluffy aebleskiver, followed by a leisurely bike ride with her dad, an afternoon movie, and at her request we had an Indian feast with family (curry is her favorite), with a yummy homemade lemon cake for dessert. Tomorrow she and I are going out for high tea at our favorite tea house (this hasn't really turned out to be any cheaper than a big bash, but it's a lot more fun!).

Happy Birthday sweetheart!

April 12, 2007

Sold!

After being listed for just less than a week, and having had one Open House last Saturday afternoon, our house is officially sold! We started accepting offers yesterday afternoon, and by 7:30 last night, we'd gotten an offer for just slightly over our asking price, with no subjects. You can't ask for much more than that!


The best part is, the person who's buying it is planning to put in a basement like we'd always talked about (increasing the house's 770 square feet to a whopping 1540!), and is going to do to the kitchen what we had been planning to do. Happily, it seems that our fears about the house getting knocked down were completely unfounded!
Luckily, the buyers had no problem with us taking the wood stove with us when we go - we weren't too keen to part with our lovely Jotul!

I'm still pinching myself and can hardly believe that we are actually moving to the rural property we've always dreamed of. My friend Holly is partly to thank for getting us there. I'd seen our lot online many times but was completely unimpressed with it, and would never have made the trip to view it in person, but while I was at her house one afternoon a few months ago, she showed me a new listing for the cutest little bungalow that was for sale in the area we'd always dreamed of. When we went to look at the house, it ended up not being exactly what we were looking for, but the realtor also took us to see a few pieces of raw land, and when I finally saw our property in person, I knew even while looking at it through the trees from the road that this was where we would end up. There have been several hurdles and close calls over the past couple of months (competing offers swooping in, fears about not getting enough for our house, etc), but it always felt like it was meant to happen, even when it didn't look like it was going to.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got some sleep to catch up on!


April 08, 2007

April's Garden

I spent Easter morning poking around in the garden, taking a look at what's been happening while we've been dealing with the inside of the house. Here's what's blooming at the moment:

Bleeding Hearts.

Primroses.



Lungwort.


Peach Tree.

Cherry Tree.



Pear Tree.



Everything is covered in blooms and I'm seriously wondering whether I can leave the garden behind. My darling husband and our realtor looked at me like I was deranged the other day when I told them I wanted to take the fruit trees with us when we go. I planted like we were going to be here forever, so it's killing me to leave it the year that everything will finally start producing.



I'm taking the Lungwort with me though, just try and stop me.




April 02, 2007

Changes

Our major renovations are coming to an end, so I thought I'd share some of the before and after photos with you. Just for fun, I thought I'd show you the "real" before shots from when we bought the house. We did a lot to it before we moved in (removing carpets and wallpaper, painting, etc.), so it hasn't looked like that for a while now, but it's sure fun to compare!
The biggest project was tiling the kitchen. As I mentioned earlier, we were hoping to sand the oak floors that are underneath the lovely lino in the above photo (that's my mom you see lugging a huge bag of mortar), but there ended up being two layers of asbestos floor tiles under it, so we decided not to disturb them and tiled over top instead.
I've already shown you the kitchen's before photo, but here's what it looks like now with its pretty new floor.
I'm wishing we'd done this two years ago, because the variegated brown tiles are great for hiding paw prints and other messes.
This is what the kids' room looked like when we bought the house...

...and this is it with its brand new floor.


The bathroom was particularly lovely, with its stuck-in-the-seventies feel...

...but now it's feeling very calm and spa-like.
The vanity is the same one, but I painted it a rich espresso color and added some new stainless steel knobs, re-enameled the cultured marble counter top (covering its crackled gold glaze with a shiny white one), and added some new taps. The tub was also re-surfaced (it was gold-toned and rusty before), I tiled the floor, and the beige toilet was replaced with a nice white low-flush model.
I think I'm happiest about this room.

This is the living room before...

...and after (sorry it's so dark, I took it without a flash).


Here's the master bedroom before...


...and after. Scraping the wallpaper off the far wall was a major pain, but it was worth it in the end.
And that's it! I have to say, I love being able to look at the photos side by side. In the midst of doing the work, it never feels like you're accomplishing a whole lot, so having concrete evidence of the change is very satisfying.
The most amazing thing is, none of these changes cost very much. It's surprising what a little paint and elbow grease can do!

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