Monday, December 5, 2016
I love taking part in Holiday traditions and now that I have children, I'm excited to create new Christmas traditions and memories. So far we have kept the Holidays as simple as possible for the girls but now that they are three and will start to remember things more I'm looking forward to celebrating Christmas through traditions that we can share every year.
Below are some of my favorites:
1. Advent Calendar or Advent Wreath
2. Christmas Caroling
3. Hot Chocolate on a Snowy Day with by the Fire
4. Reading the Story of Jesus' Birth
5. Packing a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child or buying gifts for needy families
6. Decorating the house with fresh evergreen
7. Driving as a family to see Christmas Lights
8. Making paper snowflake garlands (even when there is no snow!)
9. Going to see The Nutcracker
10. Keeping the Holidays simple and "homespun"
What are your favorite Christmas traditions?
Tuesday, October 18, 2016
Sometimes during a natural disaster we don't think much about our historic buildings. It's important to know in the aftermath how to treat historic properties that have sustained damage.
Hurricane Matthew has had a devastating effect here in North Carolina with the flooding of so many communities and homes in addition to the loss of life. Once the waters have receded, we must think long and hard about how to rebuild appropriately in order to save the parts of our built environment that are so important to our local and state history. Documentation of the damage is critically important!
Most large-scale historic sites should have a plan for natural disasters such as hurricanes and flooding. But many smaller historic sites as well as commercial historic downtowns and historic districts that never expected flooding do not have a plan. Below are some links to valuable resources providing information from the North Carolina Historic Preservation Office on what to do should a natural disaster strike in order to protect and repair historic properties.
Click HERE for a great article from the NC HPO's website on the importance of planning for natural disasters near historic properties.
Click HERE for information on Hurricane Preparedness and please check out all the other links (located HERE) to very informative articles on other disaster preparedness topics such as "Tips for Drying Out a Water Damaged Building," "Reporting Damage to Your Historic Property," and many more.
Tuesday, October 4, 2016
After almost 3 years since the girls were born I thought it was about time that I shared with you my birth story. I never intended to share it so publically but I hope I can connect to and perhaps help other women who have experienced similar things in childbirth.
I am one of those who describe my birth experience as "traumatic." We had a lot of things happen that were unexpected and scary and as a result I don't remember a lot of the details and the rocky recovery made caring for newborn twins especially difficult.
|The week before I delivered my girls|
|June and Georgia a few hours or so after delivery (the night the girls were born)|
|Sleeping together in the hospital--my beautiful tiny babies|
|Georgia doing skin-to-skin...I think this was very healing for me and definitely helped with bonding|
|Holding June at home|
We are so incredibly blessed with June and Georgia and I love being a mommy to them. Yes, the birth was very difficult and traumatic but it was so worth it :) However, my experience definitely makes me think long and hard about wanting to have another or not. I'm sure a lot of my complications were due to the fact that I had twins, but even still the fear of having to go through all of it again can be very daunting. I know there are many of us out there that feel like this after having a child and it's good to think that I'm not alone.
Saturday, September 24, 2016
What is black garlic? It's delicious and potentially a new "superfood." We decided to try our hand at this delicacy since we had grown so much garlic this year and had plenty to work with.
Black garlic is made by heating garlic very slowly for about 30-40 days at a temperature of around 140 degrees. It slowly caramelizes the garlic and turns a deep brown to black color. We converted a food dehydrator to make ours.
The garlic has to be wrapped in cheese cloth and then sealed in jars (or you can use a ceramic container) in order for enough moisture to be retained. What occurs to the garlic during the process is referred to as a Malliard reaction. The photo below shows finished product with the black garlic cloves inside of the skins. Black garlic has a lot of potential as a niche market product--often selling for around $1 per clove!
Once your black garlic is done, keep it in airtight jars or containers. Enjoy it plain, use it as a spread with butter, or use it chopped or sliced up in any dish you would normally use a lot of garlic in. I think it would particularly pair well with a creamy pasta dish with some parmesan and mushrooms.
So, how many of you out there have heard of black garlic?
Tuesday, August 23, 2016
I recently teamed up with Arhaus to collaborate and brainstorm with them on the subject of turning an outdoor space into an additional living space with the comfort and warmth of the indoors. This trend is growing everywhere as we seek to make porches, patios, and garden areas into secondary living rooms set right into nature.
If you know anything about houses in North Carolina you will know that living out the country almost always necessitates having a screened-in porch!! We already use our screened-porch as an additional room for entertaining, dining, storage, and a whole host of other things.
Rear elevation of 3D modeling of house, the porch is located at the center and right (imagine screening between those posts). There will also be a screened porch door and steps, as well as two windows on either side of the French doors that are missing from this rendering.
Side elevation of 3D modeling of the house, the screened porch is to the far left.
We have already picked out a few of the details like fans and French doors but there is still much to be decided. Making a porch feel more like another living space requires that you fill and decorate the space with things you wouldn't expect necessarily in an outdoor space. Things like:
-Pillows and throws
-Storage pieces (the one on our current porch is made from free wood pallets!)
-outdoor fireplace (not sure if this will ever happen, but hey, one can dream!)
I put together an inspiration board (see below) for my porch on Olioboard, to better see what everything will look like put together. I love rustic wood elements, a few of industrial accents, and styles that remind me I do indeed live on a farm and the screened porch will indeed get dirty :)
Tuesday, August 9, 2016
One of the most exciting things about homesteading for me is planning our orchard and reaping the sweetness of fresh home grown fruit!
Fruit tree selection and placement definitely requires some forethought as some fruit trees are very high maintenance. You don't want to go to the expense of planting a lot of fruit trees only to have them fail to bear fruit or succumb to disease. Well-drained soil is very important as is exposure to full sun and proper pruning.
I've made a list of the fruit and nut trees we would like to plant for our homestead (see the plan above for where the orchard will go) that would work for our area in North Carolina:
Can't have a farm without apple trees, right?!? I'd love to have several varieties of apple trees, some of them heirloom perhaps.
Peaches are the most high-maintenance of the bunch that we are looking at. I'm planning to plant only the white-flesh variety, as they have a higher antioxidant level (and I like the taste better too!).
We cannot wait until fresh figs!!!! In North Carolina a really common type of fig is the Brown Turkey fig and that is probably the one we plan to go with.
We will probably only plant one or two of these because I'm not sure how well cherry trees actually do in our area.
2. American Hazelnut
Are there any that I'm missing? What kinds of fruit trees are your favorite to grow?
Monday, July 25, 2016
This is the current state of our dining room table. Oh, the fun of building a house!
Our cost-to-build estimate for our new house went over budget of what the new house appraised for--by quite a bit. So, we are finding ourselves having to cut or change things in order to find more cost savings.
We knew with our budget we certainly wouldn't be building our "dream home" but we are still hoping to include a lot of nice custom features. As we analyze the cost-to-build numbers with our builder, we are making changes and cuts to save some cash so that we can invest in the few things that we absolutely don't want to compromise on (which is mostly me putting up a big fight on things like windows, ceiling height, and the fireplace). Building a house can cause a lot of arguments with your spouse, so choose your battles wisely!
Below is a list of some of the things we are doing to save on costs:
1. Lower grade flooring in some rooms. Carpet for all bedrooms and upstairs loft, linoleum in the laundry room. Save nicer hardwoods for great room, dining room, kitchen and entry hall.
2. DIY open shelving instead of upper cabinets in the kitchen.
3. Stock/inexpensive bath vanities in the children's and guest baths
4. Inexpensive tile in bathrooms (and for Kitchen backsplash)
5. Minimizing the complexity of the roofline
6. Minimizing corners of the exterior of the house
7. Simple interior moldings and woodwork, no crown molding
8. Composite interior doors instead of solid wood. Save solid wood for front door and French doors.
9. Wood decking floor for the screened-in porch instead of tongue-and-grove flooring
10. No cabinets in laundry room (we will build our own in later)
11. DIY shelves in pantry
12. Reuse of our current refrigerator, washer and dryer
13. Doing all of the landscaping work ourselves
14. Painting all the interior walls one color to start, no complicated paint designs
15. Finding light fixtures that are on clearance or repurposed from Craigslist or Ebay
16. Finding cheap salvaged brick to use for foundation, fireplace and chimney
For those of you with experience in house-building, can you add anything else to this list?
Sunday, July 17, 2016
HOLY GARLIC BULBS! This was one awesome harvest of some HUGE heads of garlic (at least for us).
In addition to planting our usual little plot of garlic in one of our raised beds, we also planted a sizable patch out at our new property (beside our new neighbor's garden). All of the seed we got from our local feed store which sells garden supplies as well. We were pleasantly surprised when we pulled up some enormous heads of soft neck garlic with a smaller amount of the hard neck variety.
hard neck garlic
I've been using it as "green garlic" ever since we harvested but currently we are letting it cure until it is thoroughly dried out and will not mold or rot. To cure, we let the garlic sit on tarps for a while until we had the time to hang it up on our screened in porch to dry for at least a few weeks.
We plan to make garlic braids to give away and to sell and I hope to preserve a good amount of this delicious stuff by pickling and making a garlic powder and spice mix. In the past we have supplied our garlic needs for almost a full year by using what we have grown in our garden.
Nothing like having homegrown garlic hanging on your screened porch!
Additionally, we are going to try our hand at making "black garlic"--so stay tuned for an upcoming post on this antioxidant-rich gourmet delicacy.
The size of the cloves in the large bulbs are nice and big!
We will definitely be planning more garlic in the fall--it might just be our best bet for an easy cash crop :)
Thursday, June 30, 2016
This is the first year we have ever been able to grow beets that actually developed a root!
I had to thin them out quite a bit along the way, so although I didn't end up with a ton, I still had enough to make one jar of pickled beets and have two or three batches left for regular cooking.
I just love pickled beets. It's one of my favorite types of pickled vegetables for sure and beets are so healthy for you I like to enjoy them any way possible.
I used a recipe from the TV show A Chef's Life, found on their website here. It was featured on the "beet" episode but instead of processing my beet jars I just stuck them inside the refrigerator instead since it was such a small batch and I knew I would eat them soon anyway.
One of the interesting things I remember them talking about was how important it was for flavor purposes to leave the beet greens on the roots when cooking them before canning the beets.
|Beets cooking in the water with greens still on|
Here is what you will need, taken directly from the website:
Tuesday, June 14, 2016
This year's Vernacular Architecture Forum (VAF) conference was held in Durham, NC a few weeks ago! That means I got to go for the first time :) It was a wonderful conference and so cool to have so many folks from all over the country (and Puerto Rico!) right here in the Triangle!
second floor bedroom at Horton Cottage, late 18th or early 18th century, Durham County
The conference began with a great opening plenary session with keynote addresses by Catherine W. Bishir and Jim Goodmon. Then, on to the all-day bus tours on Thursday and Friday.
West Grove Meeting House, ca. 1915, Alamance County
The tour that I chose and assisted with was the "Piedmont Patchwork" tour which consisted of historic sites with Quaker, German, Scotch-Irish and African American heritage as well as multiple textile mill industries in the mostly rural areas of Alamance and Guilford Counties.
Spring Friends Meeting House, 1907, Alamance County
Our tour began with traveling from Durham to Snow Camp in southern Alamance County, where we visited two Quaker churches, the West Grove Friends Meeting House (1915) and the Spring Friends Meeting House (1907).
Rear and side elevations of Old Brick German Reformed Church
Then we visited the Old Brick German Reformed Church (1813, 1840 and 1946). We enjoyed lunch at Historic Jamestown, a Quaker settlement in southern Guilford County, where we toured the Jamestown Meeting House (1819), the Mendenhall Plantation (1811), Barn (early 1800s-1900) and Store (1824) and the Madison Lindsay House (early and mid-1800s). At this point (I had forgotten to bring my good camera with me on the bus) my cell phone ran out of storage space and I couldn't take any more pictures. Nooooo!!!
Next we traveled to the Charlotte Hawkins Brown Museum and Palmer Memorial Institute (1902-1971), an African American college prep and elite finishing school. To learn more about this historic site, please visit here.
We drove through the historic textile Mill Villages of Alamance (est. 1837) and Bellemont (est. 1879) on our way to the striking brick antebellum Hawfields Presbyterian Church (1852-1855) which also included a Session House and a large cemetery.
Finally, we ended our tour at the Saxapahaw Mill Village (mid 1800s-mid 1900s) where we were able to tour the rehabilitated mill complex and enjoy a fabulous local barbecue dinner at the Haw River Ballroom.
Former spinnng mill at Saxapahaw on the Haw River, Alamance County
Friday's tour focused on Durham County with the second half featuring some of the City of Durham's historic buildings. Our day started at Horton Grove and Stagville Plantation in northern Durham, an important early state historic site formerly belonging to the Cameron family with an impressive number of former slave dwellings that survive and allow for the interpretation of African American history in Durham during the eighteenth through the twentieth centuries. To learn more or plan a visit to Historic Stagville, click here.
Horton Grove former slave dwellings and tenant houses (ca. 1859-1960), Durham County
Large timber frame antebellum barn at Horton Grove, ca. 1859-1860. , Durham County
Stagville Plantation House, ca. 1790 and 1799 addition, Durham County
Interior of main house at Stagville Plantation, Durham County
Then we toured the Umstead Farm and Store, a late 19th century restored frame "I-House" with outbuildings, one of which used to serve as a post office and rural store.
Umstead Farm former post office and store and farm buildings, Durham County
Umstead Farm main farmhouse, Durham County
Next we visited Russell School (1926-1927), perhaps the most well-preserved and intact Rosenwald School in Durham and Wake County area, and enjoyed a fantastic lunch provided for us by the ladies of Cain's Chapel Baptist Church.
The Russell School (1926-1927), a former Rosenwald School, Durham County
Interior of the Russell School with former alumnae of the school standing at left, Durham County
Interior of the Russell School, Durham County
In the afternoon we toured the Golden Belt textile factory and mill village (1900-1930s) in downtown Durham, much of which has been rehabilitated into other uses and preserved with the help of historic tax credits.
exterior of rehabilitated Golden Belt textile factory, Durham County
We saw more former tobacco warehouses that have been rehabbed at the former Liggett and Myers Tobacco Factory complex (1880s-1940s).
The Cotton Room, rehabilitated former Golden Belt Textile Factory, Durham County
One of the highlights of the afternoon was our visit to St. Joseph's AME Church (est. 1891) in the Hayti community, a thriving African American community in downtown Durham during the early 20th century.
St. Joseph AME Church in Hayti Community, Durham County
Friday's tour ended at Duke University where VAFers were given a chance to see the impressive newly restored Gothic Revival Duke Chapel (1930-1932). Exhausted from the busy all-day tours but energized about the wonderful vernacular forms of architecture right here in the piedmont and the Triangle, I left feeling incredibly grateful to be able to attend the conference and learn from so many professionals. I hope there will be more VAF conferences in my future :)
Interior of main house at Stagville Plantation, Durham County