Sunday, February 1, 2015

Olivet church: Progress, sweet progress

We are celebrating some progress on the renovation of the Olivet church.

You might remember that we bought my childhood church with the intent of renovating it for community use. Our first goal for the project was to replace the roof.  After collecting bids from a few contractors, we found a highly recommended and trustworthy person who was willing to help us. His business is in the county where the church is located and we felt good about keeping money within the county.

We got word last week that the project was finished.  With only a few "no good deed goes unpunished" moments, we were really, really pleased to have something finished.

The first phase included completely replacing and shingling the roof, installing new guttering, and replacing and painting some fascia boards.  We are most proud of the bell tower - it was shored up with the replacement of some boards and a new paint job.

We look forward to catching up financially and then tackling the next phase.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Let's make some stuff!

One of my goals in the new year is to make some stuff. 

I have a lot of unfinished projects and ideas galore.  One of our favorite sayings is, "More ideas than time."

In an effort to make good on some of my promises to myself and the desire to make some stuff and tell people about it, I made vanilla.

I get a real kick out of trying something, just to see if it will work.  I had read about making vanilla and it seemed pretty straight forward.  My first batch was purely for our consumption - just in case it went terribly wrong.

Well, it didn't!

I read a few recipes and followed the instructions and it turned out pretty great!

Just before the holidays, I started four more jars.  You can see in the picture a jar that has had three months to process and a new jar on the right.  The small bottle in the foreground is the sample that I sent home with my mom.  The big jar of vodka in the back - the main ingredient that makes all of the magic happen.

One of the hints I discovered in my research was to order the vanilla beans in bulk - they can be expensive at the local grocery store. I ordered from Vanilla Products USA on Amazon.

I also read some conflicting advice about the vodka to use - some recipes recommended the cheapest possible and others recommended buying something more expensive.  I went for middle of the road.

Dreaming of spring

This time of year always begins to wear on us - too much time cooped up inside, too little sunshine, too much cold.

We begin to feel a little hopeful when the seed catalogs start to arrive in the mail.  My dad has already called and asked about my wishlist for our combined seed catalog order. The tradition of collaborating in planning our separate gardens is one that I love.

This month's Midwest Living has a feature on a plant about which I know very little, but it has made it's way to my wishlist.

Hellebores is touted as an early bloomer, but I can't figure out if it will grow in Kansas. It has an old-fashioned look that
I love and the idea of having early blooms is certainly attractive.

I will have to see if we can some to plant as an experiment.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

This rose smells like cheese...and other signs this might have been a long week

 This lovely rose was given to me at the grocery store.  I must have looked like I was having a long week (and I was) and the kind lady at the floral counter must have thought that giving me a rose would make it better (and it did).

This week has been one for the record books.  My husband has a bad cold that has caused him to lose his voice.  This is terribly inconvenient for a high school basketball coach who instructs through each game. (I wanted to say that he yells, but that sounded much too much like he is screaming at them to do better.  It truly is instructing and being positive.  It's kind of fun to watch.) This week has been about trying to get his voice back and him feeling better.

I also have the sniffles and work has offered the usual back to the semester chaos.  It's messy, but it's my mess and I am ok, but I am tired and kind of grumpy. 

We're just both peddling as fast as we can to try to keep up.

This morning I woke up, made breakfast, put two lasagnas in the oven for tonight and tried to get some things ready to take with me to the C-team basketball tournament.  It was a typical morning when we have a small window to get some things finished before we run out of the house.

I was moving my rose from the bedroom to the living room and I took a minute to smell it.  And, it smelled like cheese!  I thought, "Wow.  That's really weird.  This smells like cheese."  So, I took it to my husband (who is super congested and can't smell anything) and asked him if he thought it smelled like cheese.  His response was that something smelled like cheese. He was kind of non-committal about the rose smelling like cheese.

And, then it hit me.  The rose smelled like cheese because the whole house smelled like cheese because I was baking two lasagnas!

Just one more sign that it has been a long week.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Street wisdom

Our trip to Salt Lake City was a great escape to the city.  I loved some of the street wisdom we found along the way.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Food finds in Salt Lake City

Our favorite part of vacation is finding local restaurants.  As soon as we landed, I did a search for the best breakfast places in Salt Lake City and found several really great possibilities.  At the top of the list was the The Park Cafe.  The food was delicious and the atmosphere was just how we like it - crowded, but comfortable.  We always see a short wait as a sign of great food.

While out adventuring, we found a place for dinner - Taco Taco. It was a short walk from our hotel and the food was so delicious.  The customer service was amazing and we loved the selection of delicious tacos.  I am a huge fan of sweet little local places.  The two crosses on the wall were so cool.

Earlier in the day we found the Holiday Craft Market at the Rio Grande Depot in the downtown area.  We found some great food items and enjoyed seeing the historic depot.  After we made a couple of purchases, I realized that we would have to ship a box home because we were buying a lot of liquids and we only brought carry on bags.  We were violating our three ounce rule on several items.
 Some of our favorite finds included the vinegar and marinade from Slide Ridge. We are a little crazy about honey and loved meeting the producer and hearing about his products. We also learned that we can find these items in Whole Foods in Kansas City or Denver.

Our other purchases included some delicious cheese and two half pints of jam.  The story of the jam is really spectacular. The Green Urban Lunch Box harvests fruit from trees in the city for a fruit share program and then some of the fruit is used to make jam that is sold by the non-profit.  We loved the jalapeno plum jam and the pear citrus jam.

I have been a little obsessed with jam since my jam making marathon when I had a bumper crop of peaches delivered by my dad. I started following Food in Jars and have been dreaming about new recipes that I want to try.  This trip gave me a lot of inspiration.

With all of that in mind, when we were faced with our next breakfast decision, a place call Pig and a Jelly Jar was the natural choice. Again, we had a short wait and were really pleased with the food.  I was really taken by the jam. They had a great holiday special where you could choose three jams - one savory and two sweet - and get a gift card.  We chose bacon onion, blueberry lavender, and spiced peach. The gift card also meant that we returned for a second visit.
 We also tried Eggs in the City. This place was great - again, a short wait.  We loved the open kitchen and the space - a converted garage.
One of our other food finds was some flavored balsamic vinegar.  We conducted a self-guided tasting which mainly consisted of us using about a dozen little cups to try as many vinegars and oils as we could.  We walked away with peach and black cherry varieties.  We can't wait to try these with some salads.

Overall, the food finds on this trip were a highlight.  We also loved seeing mountains at every turn - a great change of pace.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Winter vacation

 We have stumbled into a tradition of taking a short vacation in December.  It has turned into our chance to slow down just a bit and get into the holiday spirit.

We had a couple of hotel nights on a gift certificate and that helped us choose our destination - Salt Lake City!

I had been here a few years ago for a conference.  My mom had traveled along and she had the chance to really take in the city.  It was always a place that I wanted to visit and actually see more than the hotel and the airport.

We splurged on a night at the Grand America Hotel.  If there ever was a place that made me think of Eloise, it is this place!

My previous visit happened in the fall and the hotel was beautifully decorated and the city was gorgeous.  This visit - with Christmas decorations and holiday lights - was simply magical.
 We arrived early in the morning - thanks to a 6 a.m. flight and the time difference.  It did mean that we had a 4 a.m. wake up call, but that was ok, I was already awake with a little stomach bug.  Needless to say, we said some prayers and made it through the direct flight from Kansas City to Salt Lake City.

By nightfall, I was feeling much better and finally getting into the Christmas spirit.  I can attribute this to the lights...they were everywhere and so classic and elegant!
 An outdoor tree in the courtyard was a brilliant focal point.
The interior of the hotel was beautifully decorated.  The window displays around the hotel each had a different  holiday theme.  The hotel sponsors a window viewing experience and the chance to earn a cookie by visiting each window and answering a question.  We learned that the viewing of the windows is a family tradition for many in the area.
 Did I mention the beautiful trees and floral arrangements?  There was so much to see and so much to help us feel like the holidays were here.
On Sunday morning, we woke up to a rain shower that had settled in.  I convinced my husband to make the walk from our hotel to the convention center to hear the Morman Tabernacle Choir during the Music and Spoken Word taping.  It was a really beautiful 30 minute session where the audience was directed to be completely silent.  The music was beautiful and the message was so inspiring.  I loved the reminder from the season to "fear not." You can read the message now and a year from now, see the whole service.

More from our adventures soon!