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October 30, 2007

A Trip to the Pumpkin Patch

I wasn't looking forward to our planned trip to the pumpkin patch this year. The weather had been particularly cold and drizzly the day of our scheduled outing, but our group of homeschooling friends heads out there together every year and we certainly didn't want to miss out. Besides, what would we do without pumpkins for Halloween? (Our pumpkins from the garden were gobbled up as pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving). Thankfully, the rain stopped just before we left, and by the time we got to the farm, the sun was shining brilliantly!

I tend to go a little camera crazy when I get to this place. They just display everything so nicely, and there's nothing so appealing as endless piles of squash, in my opinion (I think it appeals to my strong hoarding instincts).


The pumpkin patch itself was a bit of a challenge, though. We've had a substantial amount of rain this summer and fall, and the poor pumpkin farmers suffered serious losses (as much as 50% apparently). So not only was the field a mass of rotting pumpkins (probably 95% of them were mushy - making it difficult to even find a pumpkin let alone the perfect jack-o-lantern), but our boots got sucked off our feet with every step.

The sunshine made up for it though, as did the massive flocks of snow geese that were gathering and vocalizing in the area (enlarge the above photo to see them flying in the background).

Huge flocks of these geese pass through the Fraser River delta on their annual migration, and tens of thousands of them spend the winter here before returning to the Soviet arctic to mate.

It ended up being a lovely day, and I was really happy that we forced ourselves to get out of the house in the end. I'll have to file this memory away for those days when I don't want to get out of my pj's.

October 23, 2007

Colours of Fall

A few random fall photos.




Don't you just love this time of year?

October 19, 2007

Gathering

We've been slowly collecting things for the house, which means I finally had an excuse to browse through a shop which I've eyed longingly for years. This place is jammed with reclaimed doors, windows, and other salvaged treasures.

We didn't find a salvaged door to fit our needs, but we have put an order in for one similar to the door on the far left, except the six panes of glass will be bevelled, and we're adding some dentil molding under the windows.

It's a good thing we stopped here when we did - the owner is planning to retire and is selling off his entire inventory. I suspect I may just find a few more "necessities" before we're through!

Another great find was this butcher block/island that we bought on Craigslist.

It's made of solid maple and is just the right size for our smallish kitchen. It should help create the "modern farmhouse" look we're going for, and I can already envision the many loaves of bread that will be kneaded on that countertop!

Now if only I could get my hands on some great reclaimed light fixtures...

October 14, 2007

Grilled Eggplant

It's been awhile since I've talked about anything other than the house, so I'll spare you my thoughts on exterior doors/house colours/trim size for at least a few days and post a recipe instead.

I've been wanting to share this one for a while, and since we managed to produce two lovely eggplants in a year when we couldn't even get tomatoes to ripen, I figured now was the perfect time to share it. The cookbook that this recipe comes from is packed away with everything else I own, but it's a very simple combination, so I was able to reproduce it without any trouble.
The book is called Inspirations, and it's a compilation of recipes put together by a group of seven renouned Vancouver chefs called "The Girls Who Dish". They've written several cookbooks, and while I've only really cooked from this one, I don't think you could go wrong with any of their recipes. This particular favorite of mine is for grilled eggplant with feta and mint, and I don't care if you think you don't like eggplant, I can almost guarantee that you will love this recipe!

Start out by slicing two large eggplants into 1/4" rounds. Brush each side with a light coating of olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Grill until the eggplant is tender (I used the barbeque this time, but I usually just use a cast iron grill pan on the stovetop). Lay the grilled slices (a layer at a time) on a large platter, and sprinkle with red wine vinegar (a few tablespoons should be enough for the whole batch). Next, top it off with with some crumbled feta and finely chopped mint. Layer the rest of the eggplant rounds on top, and repeat. Serve at room temperature with pita bread cut into small wedges and watch it disappear!
This is a great appetizer to make when you've got people coming over (it also transports really well if you're going to a pot luck), but it would also make a nice light summer meal, preferably paired with a glass of your favorite wine.

October 10, 2007

Ground Breaking and Thanks

First off, I'd like to thank everyone who left comments on my last post. Your remarks were much appreciated, and gave us a lot to think about. If you're curious about which way we went, after a lot of hemming and hawing we decided to go with the fiber cement. It was a difficult decision to make, especially as I'd just finished helping replace some of the cedar siding on my mom's house and the smell alone was almost enough to sway me in that direction. But, we're concerned about the risk of forest fire, as we will be surrounded by trees on three sides, and the area is prone to water shortages and dry summers. While researching fiber cement at a local building supply, the man working there mentioned that several of the homes that survived the severe forest fires that swept through BC two summers ago were spared because of their fiber cement siding. A pretty convincing argument in my books.
While talking to our contractor, we learned that the James Hardie line of products was an option for us, and we decided to go with that instead of Certainteed, as we feel that their shingle siding looks more realistic.
For those of you who were pulling for cedar, all of our trims, decking, and decorative moldings will be made of cedar, so hopefully our house should still have some of that natural warmth.
Concern about the risk of forest fire also led us to change our mind about the Enviroshake roofing shingles. It turns out they only have a Class "C" fire rating, so we tossed around the idea of going back to the steel roof option. Unfortunately, the curved roof over our front entrance is concave, and standing seam steel roofs can only be used on convex curves. Can you see where this is going? You guessed it - we ended up having to go with the product that we were hoping to avoid in the first place - asphalt shingles. The upside is, they have a Class "A" fire rating, and since we opted for the ones that come with a lifetime warranty, we hopefully won't have to deal with replacing them in our lifetime. If we ever build another house, we'll be sure to avoid house plans with curves in the roofline (although that was one of the things that drew us to this particular plan!).

See that lovely mud pit above? We finally have a hole in the ground! This was taken on the day that we went over to the property to spray paint the house's footprint on the ground so the blasters could come in and make some room for the foundation. The house is going to run the length of the rock along the trench that you see on the left, with the back extending over the rock's slope, and the front entrance on the right hand side on the rock. I was initially against blasting to put in a basement, but because of where the house has to go (due to covenants, etc.), the front of the house was going to require a 9 foot foundation wall anyway, so it made sense to blast out a little bit more of the rock to give us a full basement for storage (that way we don't have to build a garage or shed right away). At this point, the blasting is nearly done, and we're hoping that the foundation will start going in over the next few weeks.

We're currently recovering from a lovely Thanksgiving weekend, and we've been happily munching on leftovers every day since Sunday. Saturday was also the last regular farmer's market of the year, so we stocked up on apples, asian pears, cranberries and honey. Luckily, they're planning to do bimonthly winter markets this year, so we didn't have to stockpile quite as much as usual.

I'm not sure how much time I'll have for posting in the coming months, as things are just starting to rev up for us. Our part of the work probably won't begin until around December however, so I should be around for another month or so. I look forward to catching up with all of you again - I've fallen way behind in my blog reading!

Thanks again for the good advice!

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