My life has a superb cast but I can't figure out the plot.
~ Ashleigh Brilliant


Thursday, January 31, 2013

S'no Fun...

... if you can't have fun in the snow! :-) So I grabbed my camera and had a little before my fingers froze.

It's been snowing (and sometimes blowing) here every day this week, which has resulted in several inches of accumulation and some mighty drifts, along with a couple of unusual wild critter sightings...

We never see Rocky Mountain goats around here. 
So to spy one scaling a snowy peak in my front yard this morning was quite a thrill! ;-)

The Abominable Snowpup
(aka Tessa) :-)

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A romp through the random

I've been accumulating random goodies to share for some time now - reckon it's about time to stop collecting and start sharing! :-) 


Utah 3D

I can't even remember where or when or how I found this web site, but their gallery of stunning Utah scenery has grown a lot since I did. This kind of 3D photography has since become popular on many real estate sites (even our realtor used it on the listing of our Big Horn house), but back when I found this site, it was rather new and unique. If you know of any other beautiful scenery 3D web sites, please let me know!


The Penny Floor

A recent find through a news article about a creative young couple who resurfaced their bedroom floor using nearly 60,000 pennies, their web site shares photos, instructions, trivia, and videos. I love the look... how about you?

A l'aise (At Ease)

That link will take you to one of my favorite wildlife photos ever - and I'm not just saying that because I'm partial to foxes. :-) Isn't that the most blissed out expression you ever saw?

Enjoy much more of Dutch photographer Roeselien Raimond's incredible wildlife and nature photography on her Flickr page or her web site.



First I got an article about Simon Beck's amazing snow graphics from Joanne (aka "AdventureJo," quilter extraordinaire), then my friend Robyn sent me an email with these same photos, and then The Weather Channel web site ran a photo-story about them! So chances are, you've already seen these yourself. But here they are again, just in case.


And now turning from the pretty to the practical...


A free online tool to remedy jet lag, you can read about it here. Since I have no plans to travel across more than one time zone in the near future, I'll have to leave it up to any frequent flyers among you to let me know if it works for you!


And finally, here's some video help with three things I'm a total spaz at: folding t-shirts and fitted sheets so they don't look like chaotic fabric wads, and tying my shoelaces so they don't come untied every 50 feet. Happy to have found these instructional videos, happier still to find evidence that I'm not the only one with these dysfunctions, and happiest of all to share them with any of you who wear wrinkled t-shirts when struggling to fold fitted sheets while tripping over your untied shoelaces. You're welcome. :-)

I rather enjoy receiving instructions in a British accent. :-)
(And it's easier for me to follow than the Japanese version a friend sent me years ago, 
though their shirt did come out better!)

That is so me. And so...
 
Gotta love a sheet-folding man.

Can't believe I've been doing it wrong all these years.
Well, my dad (youngest of five) had to teach himself how to tie his shoes.
Clearly, he was the one who taught me! :-)

Monday, January 28, 2013

Turmeric Tea

Okay, show of hands - how many of you wrinkled your nose when you saw this post's title? Well, at least you still clicked on it, you intrepid adventurers you. :-) If it's any consolation, I wrinkled my nose too (and curled my lip, I think) when my neighbor Carol asked me a couple weeks ago if I've ever had turmeric tea. She had just made it for the first time that day and was nearly dancing in the street with enthusiasm over it. When she saw my expression and heard my dripping-with-dubiousness "Uh, nooooo" reply, she asked, "Don't you like turmeric?" "Yes," I answered, "in curries!" And in other savory dishes and to add a lovely hue to my tofu scrambles, of course... but turmeric tea? Seriously? So then Carol, who was about to embark on a four-month cruise and so you'd think would have better things to do, asked if I'd like her to make me a cup. Well, admittedly intrigued and priding myself on the fact that I'll try any-vegan-thing once, I said sure. Besides, Carol loves whipping up goodies to share with us, and I'd hate to rob her of the joy. :-) So moments later she met me on the sidewalk with a mug of the delightfully aromatic, steaming frothy stuff. My first sip was a pleasant surprise, and by my second sip I was hooked. I've been drinking a mug of its creamy goodness every day since. Sometimes, I actually crave the stuff. Especially on wintery days like today...

See those trees? 
(Of course you do, there's a giant red hand pointing at them!)
Here's what my new telephoto lens and a little editing did for them...

Trippin' on turmeric tea and telephoto trees :-)

Turmeric tea may prove to be more of an acquired taste for some of you, but for anyone out there who hasn't tried this yet, I would also hate to rob you of the joy. So below is the recipe, which Carol told me comes from Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who drinks a cup of it every night before bed to calm his nerves. I definitely find it a very comforting beverage, plus the spices in it are anti-inflammatory, and the (ceylon) cinnamon in particular packs a big dose of antioxidants and other health-promoting goodness. A mug or two of this a day is good stuff - but if you suffer from kidney stones, it's prudent not to exceed a teaspoon of turmeric a day due to its oxalate content.


Turmeric Tea

1 cup almond milk (I use vanilla flavored)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp ground ginger
(if using unsweetened vanilla almond milk, add 1 tsp sweetener of your choice)

Heat the almond milk in a microwave or on the stove and mix in the spices.


Carol mixes hers in her Vitamix, while I've used my regular blender, immersion blender, a whisk, and a spoon. In every case, the last swig is pretty much a tasty but sludgy mouthful of spices. I find just using a whisk does the best job with the least fuss.

When I had no vanilla almond milk on hand I tried this with vanilla soymilk, but it just wasn't as tasty. Neither is unflavored almond milk. Nope, vanilla almond milk is the way to go in this! (One of these days, I might even try it with chocolate!) 

Friday, January 25, 2013

SkyWatch Friday: What goes up must come down

I've been taking so many sunrise photos since Autumn (since our sunrises are usually more spectacular than our sunsets this time of year), that I think I'm in a rut. And so does Mother Nature, apparently, for she outdid herself with a splendid sunset last week. Here's how it looked from our back yard's view to the east, seizing the sunrise's domain...


I love the soft clouds, so softly tinted

And here it is in its usual setting (ha, punny!) in the west, viewed from our front porch...



It grew increasingly dramatic and more colorful each minute...


Can you see the paintbrush-shaped cloud above the light post on the left? 
I wonder if that cloud is responsible for painting this sky? :-)

It's a shame the sun ever has to set on a sky like this one. Then again, 
"A thing of beauty is a joy forever... it will never pass into nothingness." (Keats). :-)

Enjoy the last SkyWatching skies of January at...

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

ABC Wednesday: Buddies

Photos of some critter buddies I took last summer...

Pronghorn
Who says three's a crowd? 

Mule deer near our house
They're not fenced in; the chainlink fence surrounds a golf course behind them.
(Here's a photo of this handsome pair that gives a better - but less unique - view of them)

Field Mice
This is Val and Tino, brothers (we think) who sought refuge in our garage during a blizzard on Valentine's Day six years ago, were given temporary housing in the "Whiskers Inn B&B," decided they knew a good thing when they saw it and signed a long term lease. :-) They live with us still, elderly but still quite active, as well as safe, warm and happy. (This photo was taken before they figured out how their exercise wheel worked! LOL!)

Dogs
Josie and Tessa, taken just after a car ride and before we could remove Tessa's Doggles! Josie looks decidedly unimpressed with Tessa's fashion sense. ;-)

Canine & Equine Interspecies Friendship
Tessa makes friends with a horse during a walk in the countryside.

For more examples of interspecies friendships, please enjoy these beautiful and very touching photos by amazing animal photographer Tanja Askani. I recommend that you view this wonderful slideshow full screen with your speakers on (the music is lovely!)...

 

And for more takes on the letter B, visit

Monday, January 21, 2013

In the Garden of Good & Evil ;-)

It may not be midnight and it may not be in Savannah, but....

My friend Robyn took a workshop at our local greenhouse last spring to learn how to create a faerie garden. And for my birthday earlier this month, she created one for me! Only she couldn't find a faerie, so she put a gnome on the bridge.

I decided to have some fun and add some water to the birdbath and a few goodies from my little collection of miniatures. I replaced the gnome with a little Dutch girl hauling pails of water (or perhaps it's almond milk), and put a vase with a rose on the table...


And added a wee and curious squirrel to the daisy-filled planter...


And an equally wee (and thirsty) bunny beside the stream...


So far, it seemed to be a Garden of only Good. Till I noticed the displaced gnome casting a jealous and malevolent eye at the innocent Dutch girl from his hiding place...


And then ah dew dee-clayah (said in my best Savannah drawl) that I heard the evil gnome swear at her!


Or maybe that was just my imagination. Who can say for sure? For both High Noon and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil are full of mystery. ;-)

Friday, January 18, 2013

SkyWatch Friday: beautiful world

I've decided to combine three of my favorite things ~ poetry, quotes and photography ~ by now and then adding some favorite words to some of my favorite photos. With maybe a little music thrown in from time to time. :-)

Sunrise from our back porch, taken with my new Rebel on 12/26/12

Of course, what other song could I have chosen, really? :-)
If you're unable to view it from here, the short jaunt to YouTube is well worth it!

And so is the short jaunt to SkyWatch! :-)
Enjoy beautiful skies from around the world, and a beautiful weekend!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Holiday House Tour, Part 2 (the kitchen)

It feels like I posted Part 1 of our new house tour a year ago! ;-) Sorry for the delay on Part 2; I took these photos in December while the house was decorated and had hoped to post it by New Year's weekend, but things conspired to send my good intentions down the loo, and this post took even longer to put together than the last one despite being primarily limited to just one room! But it is, after all, the heart of the home so far be it from me to be a total slacker with this post. 

So, picking up pretty much where we left off, here are a couple of views from the kitchen into the living room/dining room area. We redesigned the kitchen island, in the foreground, from the small, odd and inefficient "space module" island in the original floor plan...


See Part 1 for info/links for the paint colors, hardwood floors, fireplace, art piece, windows, etc. As with that post, I'm sharing links to some of the products used in our house, and this time some links to a few favorite "accessories" as well! :-) (As I mentioned in part 1, we shopped around and hit a lot of great sales, special offers, or got items through our builder and/or subs, so the prices currently listed on these web sites are usually far higher than what we paid). 


The drawer beneath the sink is a tip-out, stainless-lined storage tray. I'd never had one before and I LOVE it! It's so nice to have sponges, etc off the counter and out of sight.

The dishwasher is so quiet, I usually have to look at the light panel to know if it's running!

Faucet: Delta "Leland" Single Handle Water Efficient Pull-Down
Dishwasher: Bosch Ascenta Series in stainless steel

This photo, though not my favorite since it looks like I took it on the deck of a listing ship, does the best job of showing the majority of the kitchen and nook. The pantry door is on the left, the door to the garage (which the floor plan lacked and we added) is straight ahead, and the French door to the patio on the right. The garage door leads to the "3rd car/storage area" portion of the garage, which in our family's case is our dogs' heated kennel with a dog door to the back yard.

A better, though smaller, photo of the same area...

Kitchen Island pendant light: Royce "Essex" mini pendant from Lighting Direct

You can just see Willow peeking through the patio door. The dogs love to peer at us, Snoopy Vulture-like, through that door and low awning windows when they're outside. :-)

The oak wardrobe is an antique from England, purchased from an antique dealer in Dallas right after we got married. Moving it is always a bit traumatic, and it always gets pride of place in our home. Here's a closeup of the basket of grape lights, which some of you may remember I bought as a housewarming present to myself when we sold our house and moved into Dragonfly Cottage. :-)

Wall color: Sherwin Williams "Kilim Beige" SW-6106
Ceiling Color: "Divine White" SW-6105
Trim color: "Pure White" SW-7005

We were able to get this tile less expensively at a local flooring store than at Home Depot. We used the same tile in our front entry, but in the 12x12" size.

We chose epoxy grout for all the tiled surfaces in the house except the kitchen backsplash and are very glad we went to the additional expense, especially in the kitchen. We just had no luck sealing and/or cleaning regular grout in our old house. Epoxy grout needs no sealing and wipes clean with water - even when it's taken a hit with pomegranate juice! :-) And since we had an excellent professional install all the tile, he had no trouble with the challenges of working with epoxy.


We had some difficulty choosing a kitchen countertop surface that worked with our budget and our criteria for looks, durability and ease of maintenance, sustainability, and future home resale. BW really liked soapstone (far too expensive, and I didn't want gray countertops), while my first choice was recycled glass - I had my heart set on Vetrazzo - but that proved difficult to find in our area, and cost-prohibitive when we finally located some in Montana. After researching and eliminating other possibilities, it came down to a choice between granite and quartz. After studying several articles and helpful tools, including these...


...and shopping around at our local building supply/design stores and comparing countertop samples to our chosen cabinet colors, we'd pretty much decided on quartz, preferring the look, available colors and ease of maintenance. Then the decision was virtually made for us when we learned that one of our two top quartz choices had been substantially marked down due to "inventory overstock" at one of the local countertop fabricators. The fabricator we'd chosen (he was far less expensive and came highly recommended by our builder) was willing to match the sale price, and the deal was done. We're happy with our choice with one exception: quartz slabs are smaller than most granite slabs, so we have an extra seam. And though our installer did a good job (well, not at first - we had him come back and vastly improve one of them), seams still show, especially when the sunlight hits them. I don't know that we would have made a different decision knowing this, but the deed is done, we love the look and ease of the quartz - and we more or less came within our builder's paltry countertop allowance for the entire house. (We did end up with granite in the guest bath when we got a killer deal on a beautiful remnant that went perfectly with our chosen tile and vanity colors!)



Here's a closeup of the plaque over the pantry door. Can't remember where we bought it years ago, but have seen them for sale in various places since.

Our kitchen cabinets were the first thing we chose, figuring we could more easily match flooring tile and countertops to the cabinets than vice versa. Given that this was one of the bigger expenses in the home, we once again did our homework first:


These were helpful, though once again our budget, product availability, looks and features were also key to our decision. And once again we shopped around - at Home Depot and two local kitchen design places, one of which dropped the ball and never bothered to give us a bid. In the end, Home Depot's prices and features on our choice of Kraftmaid cherry cabinets could not be beat (and then we ended up lucking into a great sale on top of the already better pricing and free features!) And we adored our designer, Rachel, who moved to Virginia when her fiance was transferred there just as our project finished! We were incredibly lucky to work with her, and she was as delightful as she was skilled. Kitchen design would have been pretty stressful otherwise.

The cabinet color and style were surprisingly easy choices since we knew we wanted a warm, rich color (we went with cherry with a stain color called "Chocolate," so I love to tell people I have a kitchen made with chocolate covered cherry!), and a simple Shaker style to go with our Craftsman home. 

Then the hard part started.* Veneer vs solid center panels (the awesome sale was for the veneer, so that decision was made for us), glaze (no, it costs 10-15% more and I don't like how it looks on Shaker style doors), drawer fronts (we went with slab, which we preferred and was standard so didn't cost extra at the time, but now it does), soft-close (oh yeah, on every cabinet door and drawer in this house! It was one of the free features with these cabinets), full extension drawers (highly recommended!), the Lazy Susan style (we chose an upgrade; "Easy Reach" with wood shelves, no center pole), full or partial overlay (ours our full), how many roll-outs (we have four, including two huge ones beside the range where we store our skillets, pots & pans and casserole dishes - and they're so handy we still wish we had a couple more... but there's always the after-market!), all the other available features like cutlery trays (we passed on most of them), and of course the cabinet sizing and placement. Rachel did a great job helping us with placement (and was invaluable in helping us redesign our island), and we love the layout of our kitchen, which is very efficient and user-friendly. Where we goofed a bit was in the cabinet height. We wanted the end and corner cabinets to reach the 9' ceiling (for complicated carpentry reasons, they don't quite reach it) and the others to be a foot shorter so I could put crocks and baskets up there. We even had the electrician install a couple of outlets above the cabinets so I could put little white lights among the greenery in the baskets. What we failed to take into account was the 4" tall crown molding - there'd be room for my baskets up there, but only if I could fold them flat first to squeeze them between the molding and the ceiling! Oh well, now we're thinking of putting LED rope lights and artificial grapevines up there instead - just haven't had time to make it happen yet.

*This is handy stuff to know when shopping for kitchen cabinets!

Kitchen cabinets: Kraftmaid "Layton" in Cherry with "Chocolate" stain, purchased through Home Depot.

See our pizza stone inside? :-) Can't live without that baby!
(I don't recall the brand of ours, but it's similar to this one)

We were also somewhat challenged by our decision on appliance colors. I'm fond of white appliances and love the fun, playful colors offered by companies like Big Chill, Smeg and Aga - but none of those were going to work in this Arts & Crafts, Tuscan-themed, earthy kitchen (or within our budget!) What would work was black or stainless steel. Not a big fan of stainless steel - I think it's an overdone trend that may be close to playing out, especially given the extra maintenance required to keep smudges at bay, and the "commercial kitchen" look is really not my style. But it's still considered high-end, and around here at least (Wyoming is usually about a decade behind any current fashion), it's still very popular. So again, with resale in mind, we felt compelled to consider it. I refused, however, to have a stainless fridge. Polishing the one in Dragonfly Cottage was a royal pain in the arse, but the real deal killer was the fact my magnet collection wouldn't stick to it! :-) So we chose a black fridge... and, hedging our bets, a combination of black and stainless for our other appliances. Again, we hit a great sale - the President's Day sale at Sears combined with additional savings on Bosch appliances. We wanted to get the microwave in black, but conditions of the sale required we buy the stainless one. I actually like our stainless dishwasher, which matches our sink and faucet nicely, but I really love our range. This was one of our splurges - we wanted dual fuel and were willing to pay the extra $ for it, and have no regrets. We love cooking on gas burners and having the consistent results and zero hassle of an electric oven. This range has been awesome, and we like its looks, too! (The microwave is just okay).

Microwave: Bosch Microhood


We ordered the corner cabinet doors without glass, since it was substantially cheaper to have our local glass place cut pieces of glass to fit them. We chose seeded glass for a vintage look you can easily see through. 

The backsplash appears to have a greenish tint to it on my computer monitor, but in real life it's a very neutral off-white that matches some of the quartz in the countertop. Nothing fancy, but we like the clean and simple look.

Here's a closeup of the stained glass rooster light; again, I can't remember where we bought it years ago, and unlike the "Vive Bene" plaque, I've never seen one exactly like it since!

LED Under Cabinet Lighting: Model UCB Double Row LED from Broadwax (top item in third section from top)
LED puck lights in corner cabinet: Maxim Light Disc Starter Kit from Lighting Direct

This guide was a very handy resource when buying LED lights, especially since we prefer "warm" light temperatures...


The kitchen viewed from the nook

Since there are just the two of us and we have an additional refrigerator in the garage (the original Jenn-Aire that came with our Big Horn house that we bought in 1991, can you believe that?), we bought a small fridge but had the space for it constructed so that with the easy removal of a spacer trim piece, a larger one can fit there.

Blender: Waring Professional Bar Blender in Chili Pepper Red from Amazon.com (purchased 10 years ago next month and still going strong!)

This photo is payback for Ellie C (aka Elephant's Child!) :-) Not the most focused photo, and the glare from the nook windows or flash is giving me fits - but I have an idea so will keep trying and will replace it if/when I get a better one...

The magnet collection: a big reason our fridge isn't stainless steel! :-)


And here is the nook viewed from the kitchen. The cupboard on the left is one of these 
(only we went with a single, since we have our recycling containers in the garage)

Bookstand: ORE International 3-tier metal book rack from Amazon

Since our pub table is taking the place of a dining room set for now, Willow has commandeered the nook with her bed and water bowl (Tess and Josie love their big garage kennel, but want nothing to do with coming in the house!) The nook is a strategic spot that's perfect for being first in line for handouts of her favorite from-the-kitchen treats: raw red cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms and carrots! 

Spoiled rotten? You betcha! Wouldn't have it any other way. :-)

Dog: One-in-a-million border colllie/collie mix adopted from local shelter. Highly recommended. :-)

These days she's also having to share "her" nook with two enormous house plants that we're babysitting for our next door neighbors while they're on a four month cruise. One of our benches had to go elsewhere to make room. (Now I just hope I don't kill the poor dears - one of them is 30 years old!)

Another photo I've shared before but that feels appropriate to share again here: our nook light. The one light fixture I intend to take with us when we move!...

"Maple Jewel" Tiffany-Style Pendant Light from Lighting Direct

The final part of the house tour (it certainly won't be a "holiday" one anymore, unless I don't get around to posting it till next December!) will be the upstairs, but I honestly don't know when that might be. Some of it is still a work in progress.

Thanks for coming over for another tour! As your reward, here's a treat...

Applesauce Ginger Cake with Maple Glaze

Or as we call it, Gingersnap Cake - because duh, it tastes just like gingersnaps!  :-) I made this for the first time this weekend and we devoured it (before I even thought to take photos, but no matter since Susan's pictures are better than any I'd have taken anyway). I made no changes to the recipe, just used sucanat for the sugar (as usual), which was a perfect sweetener for this cake. I intend to make it again soon, and this time will reduce the amount of sucanat to 3/4 cup, since the cake was sweeter than we're used to. But so moist and yummy! Bon appétit! :-) (Update: It's perfect with the sucanat reduced to 3/4 cup!)

Friday, January 11, 2013

SkyWatch Friday: A Wizardly Sunrise

I'm sorry to say I've only had time lately to learn a few basics about my new camera, so I'm still using its auto settings, which is what I used to take these photos of our sunrise yesterday morning. It does such a great job, I'm going to have to demonstrate some serious resolve to buckle down and learn how to take photos using manual settings! :-)



The above photos, taken with the Rebel's regular "Auto" setting, are how the sky actually looked. I took the two photos below using its "Landscape" setting, and was surprised to see the colors deepen, darken and change. Although the sky's actual colors were not quite this dramatic, I thought these were so beautiful I wanted to share them anyway...



If you think this sunrise looks a bit ominous, you'd be half right. A winter storm was predicted to hit us late last night, and when we saw this sunrise we thought it was going to arrive early. It was cold, breezy and overcast all morning, but by noon we were enjoying such bright sunshine, virtually cloudless blue skies, and warm temperatures (46ºF/8ºC) that I took our dogs on a 90 minute walk (in sneakers, without hat or gloves, and with jacket unzipped) and did a bunch of outdoor chores, eventually shedding even the jacket while growing increasingly cynical over the warnings for Winter Storm Gandolf and its prediction of 4-6" of snow, 30 mph winds, and a high today of 10ºF (-12ºC), not counting wind chills.

Well, the sky changed at dusk when we could finally see the eerie front coming, and will be experiencing blizzard conditions most of today and tonight. The Weather Channel, which recently began naming big winter storms, may not have spelled it the same but I'd say what we've got here is a Wizard Blizzard, and I think our friend Gandalf would agree! :-)


Happy Friday and Happy SkyWatching!

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SOME CURRENT & RECENT READING...

SOME CURRENT & RECENT READING...

  • INFERNO ~ Dan Brown
  • MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD & EVIL ~ John Berendt
  • MY NOTORIOUS LIFE: A NOVEL ~ Kate Manning
  • ONE SUMMER: AMERICA, 1927 ~ Bill Bryson
  • QUIET: THE POWER OF INTROVERTS IN A WORLD THAT CAN'T STOP TALKING ~ Susan Cain
  • THE BEAUTIFUL CIGAR GIRL ~ Daniel Stashower
  • THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY ~ Erik Larson
  • THE SHADOWS, KITH AND KIN ~ Joe R. Lansdale
  • THE TIPPING POINT ~ Malcolm Gladwell
There is still strong in our society the belief
that animals and the natural world have value
only insofar as they can be converted into revenue.
That nature is a commodity.
And that the American dream is one of unlimited consumption.
There are many of us, on the other hand,
who believe that animals and the natural world
have value by virtue of being alive.
That Nature is a community to which we belong
and to which we owe our lives.
And that the deeper American dream is one of unlimited compassion.

~John Robbins, "The Food Revolution"