July 31, 2009

The Thing About Inspiration

I have no photos for you today. And this time it's not the fault of the camera, or the user forgetting to take photos before the food has been eaten. I took several photos with my new camera (thanks mom and dad!) of the Halloumi, sweet potato and bacon tray bake I made for dinner and even more of the kitchen in its together but not stage of creation. Sadly I also downloaded the Aristocats on Itunes so that Evelyn could watch it on my phone when we needed to distract her and apparently, my computer is now full to bursting and it does not want to download my pretty new photos. I could simply run though my computer and delete things but today we are moving. No really, MOVING. As in couch, TV, bed, junk being hauled across the street to the new house. So I don't have time. And on top of moving all our belongings over the next two (or more) days, we are also painting our new and now almost all assembled, kitchen cabinets.

These cabinets have been the bain of my existence for the past three weeks. When we first offered for the house we were going to keep the old cabinets. They were ugly, but they were solid. And with a new counter top, paint and maybe even new doors, they would have been fine. Or so I thought. Will, hated them. They were crooked, they were dirty, they were just plain wrong. So we made a deal. Instead of buying counter tops and living with the cabinets, we'd buy cabinets and make counter tops. Specifically concrete counter tops.

But then I couldn't find the cabinets we wanted. And here is where the problem of inspiration comes in. Long before we even closed on the house, I went thorough all my old Domino magazines, Pottery Barn and West Elm catalogues, and vast stacks of the Architectural books will has laying around the house and created a pin board of inspiration. I liked the trim in that photo, the paint in this one, and the kitchen in that one over there. It's all well and good to have inspiration until you can't find what you want. And that;s what happened with the cabinets.

Originally we'd planned on getting cabinets from IKEA. For the money they are pretty good, and when you walk though the sample kitchens you kind of get sucked into the pretty organized spaces and find yourself thinking, "I want all of these, just like this!" But the kitchen I had found had one little detail that made IKEA cabinets impossible. The color blue. Not just any blue. A beautiful, steely gray blue on all the clean, shaker style cabinets. I was in love. And surprisingly, so was Will. It's not anything like the kitchen style we usually go with. Usually we lean toward old fashioned. Yellow walls, white cabinets, pots from the ceiling, could be your grandmothers kitchen type of kitchens. The style fit the bungalows we've often lived in. This kitchen was slightly modern, lots of clean lines. Lots of exposed things. But IKEA does not sell steely blue cabinets. And we couldn't afford to have any custom made. And the Lowes ready to take home ones were, well, I'll be nice, not my style. SO I spent the better part of a week searching the Internet for unfinished shaker cabinets that could be delivered before September. In the end I found the style I wanted and the delivery date I wanted in a finished maple that we decided "eh, we can just sand them and then paint."



Sanding and painting has taken over our lives for the past two days. Will's hair looks gray at the end of the day from all the dust. And we're only on coat one. Of three. So this morning we are sanding the first coat and painting the second. And tomorrow we'll sand the second and paint the third. And then Sunday night, after they have had time to dry, we will try to finish putting them together.

And then we have to deal with the overly heavy farm sink I had to have that will need some serious support to keep it up. And there is also the making of the counter tops which I fear is a few weeks away, meaning that we'll have a plywood counter top, if we have any counter top at all, for a while. Oh, and we have to move all the plugs lowers for our cool but unusual all under counter appliances. And we have to plumb for a dishwasher in what will be the island and hope that turns out.

It will be worth it. I know, in the end, I will love having what I wanted. But sometimes I wish that I hadn't found that picture to be inspired by so we could have had something nice and simple and ready formed to plug into the empty space where our kitchen will be. Sometimes. Now it's off to paint. I wonder if my fingernails will ever stop being blue.

July 29, 2009

All My Eggs in One Basket

Yesterday was quite a day at the downtown chicken coop, our hens, who up to now have produced one or maybe two eggs a day (total, not per chicken) laid two in the morning and two more in the afternoon. it takes a while for chickens to be at full production and with eight hens we are still not anywhere near there even with the impressive four eggs in one day, but it was exciting none the less.

This morning I was able to make a whole pan full of fried eggs for breakfast that came entirely from our hens. Will's dad is in town picking Briton up for his annual Texas visit and the five of us feasted on the almost orange yolked eggs, two of which were double yolkers. there is something infinitely satisfying about serving eggs from your own chickens, I doubt I'll ever get used to it. So cool!

July 25, 2009


Strawberry season totally passed me by. I'm not sure what world I was in when it happened. Probably stressing about if the house thing would ever happen. Who knows. Sometimes I still forget that the Virginia growing season is not the same as the Oregon one. I somehow still associate strawberries with the July that I was pregnant with Briton when I made gallons of jam to keep myself occupied. But alas, here we are with one measly jar of strawberry jam in our pantry and strawberry season come and gone. In a last ditch attempt to see if local berries could be had I drove the kids out to the pick your own place where I got strawberries last year. If nothing else, I knew that peaches were in.

The strawberries, as I had feared, were long gone, but the kids and I spent a happy hour picking ripe juicy (on my part) and not so ripe (Briton's) and not ripe at all but low to the ground (Evie) peaches. In all we brought home about 9 pounds of yellow peaches plus a small bag of white peaches from the farm store. Evelyn ate both hers and her brother's and her father's white peach though some sneakiness (as in every time I turned around yesterday she had climbed up on the counter to sneak another and then hid in a corner to snarf it down before I could take it away) but even with her pilfering the best of them, we still have tons of peaches. And while I'm deciding if I want to make peach butter or canned peaches or peach jam, I'm taking full advantage of the largess.

Last night I made another round of pasties for dinner and since I was rolling out crust anyway, I went ahead and made a peach tart for dessert. I wanted something that gave the flavor of the incredible grilled brandy peaches my mom made last week when I visited (which I'll have to get the recipe for and post because it was divine) but I didn't want a soggy crust which often seems to happen with juicy peaches. After skimming through a few recipes I decided to improvise a semi-custard base for the tart to help soak up all that lovely juiciness. Yumm.

Peach and Rum Tart

Peel and thickly slice three large peaches and sprinkle them with a tablespoon of rum (I used run that had a vanilla bean soaking in it

Melt 3 T butter and mix in 1 cup of sugar. In a separate bowl whisk together 2 egg yolks and 2 T flour and then combine with the sugar butter mix. Add a T or so of rum to the mix (or Brandy, but I was out) until it is thin enough to be pourable but not super runny.

Blind bake the pie crust of your choice in a tart pan with a removable bottom then lay the peach slices in circles and pour the egg/sugar/rum/flour mix evenly over the top. Bake at 375 for about 45 minutes or until the filling is set and golden. Sprinkle with coarse sugar before serving.

This would be great with vanilla ice cream. We didn't have any, but I could just imagine the combination....Divine.

July 24, 2009

And Now We Pause From the Renovation To EAT!

Despite being knee deep in painting and stripping (floors, that is) and moving, we still do need to eat. And while most of our meals have been of the throw a sandwich together or cook some pasta and heat up some frozen meatballs variety, I did make an honest to goodness dinner the other night. No baking these days, but with two birthdays coming up in the next few weeks I'm sure that will return soon (I'm thinking something with mint cream and chocolate ganache for mine...ohh the possibilities)

But back to the dinner. Time wise it was one of the quickest dinners I've made in a while. Faster even than pasta and Trader Joe's meatballs, but far more tempting. About two hours before dinner I mixed a cup of milk with a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and set my very thin, bone in pork chops into the liquid. What? You say? Milk and vinegar? Doesn't that curdle? Why yes, yes it does. It makes a buttermilk like substance. In fact, when I make soda bread and I don't have buttermilk on hand (which I usually don't) I mix the milk with a teaspoon of white wine vinegar and it works like a charm.

The theory behind this came from old fashioned fried chicken recipes which call for the meat to be marinated in buttermilk. I though, hey why not give it a try with pork? And since I wanted a stronger flavor, I went with a good balsamic instead of a plainer vinegar. After they rested in the marinade for about an hour and a half I took them out and seasoned them with salt and vinegar.

In a large, non-stick skillet I fried chunks of potato in a tablespoon or so of olive oil until they were crisp and then removed the veg to a bowl and fried the chops in the same pan. Since they were thin they needed only about a minute and a half per side. is it just my grocery store or are they cutting meat thinner these days and then charging the same price. You think you are getting the same meat for the money but in fact you are not! But I digress, back to the pork. I used a high heat to cook them so that the outside would be golden and the inside still just barely pink. The result was very tender and between the two of us (the kids had eaten earlier) we ate the entire plate of six chops. definitely a keeper. The picture doesn't justify the taste, I think meat never photographs well, but you get the idea.

July 23, 2009

The Two Hundred Dollar Hardwood Floor

This is our third home purchase and, as I've said, the third house that we've needed to renovate inside and out. We're either gluttons for punishment or we like this gig. I think the latter. Over the years we;ve become pretty good at renovating on a tight budget. With our first house we had about $50 to spare a month for renovation. And with that we painted every room, refinished the floors, resurfaced the cabinets, put in new countertops, laid new grass, build a fence, a pergola and a gravel and brick patio, and painted the exterior of the little house, all in about a year. It was a lot of work because we did everything ourselves and the results weren't perfect, but it was a big improvement and we loved it. I became a disciple of freecycle and craigslist, particularly the free section and we were able to get alot of what we needed for not much money.

In Portland we once again had a tight budget and a house sadly in need of some love. Portland is a mecca for that kind of thing. The garbage authority produces recycled paint in an array of colors for something like $5 a gallon, craigslist has dozens of free postings a day, maybe even hundreds. We dug plants out of gardens that were being relandscaped and transplanted them into our yard. We tore down and old fence to build our first chicken coop for absolutly nothing (we even got the nails for free). It became a game, how much work could we do on the house for next to nothing?

Up until last week, my best find was the countertop at the first house. The bowling ally was being demolished and I spotted an add for cut to length wooden lanes for $6 a linier foot. We picked out a section with the little arrows inlaid in walnut and hauled it home in the back of our trusty 1980's Landcruiser, Ramona. After some stripping, sanding and refinishing we manhandled it into the kitchen and onto the cabinets where it got comments from everyone who stopped by. I thought nothing would top that. cheap, cool, and just perfect. But then I was cruising the Habitat store last week when I spotted two pallets of hardwood flooring. Our new house has hardwoods in every room but the kitchen which was covered with an almost but not quite funky cool linolium from the 60's. Even if it had been the right color though we would have had to remove it due to the wall removal/kitchen butting into the dining room plan. I wished for hardwoods, but knew that wasn't in the budget. i had almsot resigned myself to linoliaum or maybe if I coudl find it at a good price, laminet,w hen I found the flooring at Habitat. One of the boards had $75 scrawled on a piece of masking tape but the other pallet had no tag. When I asked the price of the two together they told me people had been taking just a board or two and so they could give them both to me for $100. Sold.

When I brought them home I foudn that they matched, almost perfectly, the flooring that was already in the house. And after two nights with a compressor powered floor nailer and some serious cleaning, we have a beautiful new hardwood floor, and I have a new "best cheap renovation find."

July 22, 2009

Roll Em On Up

I don't know why I have a sudden fondness for roller shades. Maybe it's the cheapskate in me, they are about as inexpensive as you can go. They are even cheaper than mini blinds, which I hate and always seem to hang from every window of every house we've owned. I'm not even sure where the idea of covering them with something came from. Did it pop fully formed into my mind? Probably not. More than likely I saw something somewhere and it registered in my brain as an entry on the "I could do that!" list (*again, I'm a cheapskate I think that about a lot of things I see, sometimes they work, sometimes they don't sometimes they cost more money in the long run, but hey, a tightwad can try...)

Since I haven't been cooking or crafting much in the past two weeks and my life (and blog) have been crammed with renovation issues, I thought I'd shake myself back into my craft and how to routine though and tell you about my adventures in roller shade decoupage.

So far I've embarked on two different ways of covering roller shades. For our bedroom I used the last of my precious Orla Keily wallpaper. It took some work since there was just barely enough to cover the two shades. And I mean barely, as in about two inches of scraps.

Because my husband things that people can see though thick shades and are always on the lookout for a chance to peep into our bedroom, I choose the thickest light blocking shades they had at the store for our room and then pasted the heavy wallpaper on with border glue just as if I was wallpapering a wall. In the end they are almost too heavy, but since they wont need to be rolled up and down several times a day they will work. I think if I was going to do wallpaper again I'd choose a lightweight shade to help balance out the heft of the paper.

For the kids room I wanted them to be light blocking but not as heavy since they will be rolled up and down. I found some lightweight but room darkening shades at Lowes and cut up the top sheet from Briton's sheet set for the fabric. Have I waxed poetic on the wonders of using a flat sheet for projects yet? No? Sheets are just about the cheapest way of getting fabric that I've found. You can get much wider pieces than you'll find at any fabric store and if you're not looking for high thread count or fancy labels, you can often find what you need on sale or at least pretty cheap.

For this project, one sheet covered three roller shades. I actually forgot that the kid's room has four windows when I was buying the shades (how I don't know since it's right there in my master lists of all things new house! I guess I need to start wearing my glasses again!) I'll make the fourth out of his fitted sheet that we won't be using in the new room so that they will all match, but that's another project for another day. For the three I did make I cut rectangles about an inch wider than the shade and about a foot longer than the length of the window. You don't need to cover the whole shade unless you plan to pull it all the way down, which I don't. Once the fabric was cut and ironed, I took the shades outside and sprayed them (one at a time) with spray adhesive then spread them out on the dining room table to adhere the fabric. The nice thing about spray glue is that if you let it sit for a minute before sticking it to whatever you are sticking to it, it creates a better bond. And (unless you get the kind that does) it doesn't stick permanently for about half an hour which is important when you are wrestling a long piece of fabric over a slippery piece of vinyl.

The trick to getting it relatively smooth is to lay it gently over the whole thing and then, working from the bottom, pull the fabric from the overlapped sides to get rid of any bubbles. Once the fabric was smoothed out over the whole shade I flipped it over and glues the bottom over lap over (about an inch) with tacky glue then trimmed the excess with a pair of sharp scissors (so that they will slide along the fabric rather than having to "cut" and giving you a smoother finish) Once they were hung in the rooms I rubbed fraycheck onto the edges and trimmed away any threads.

It sounds like a lot of work but it really wasn't I finished all three during Evelyn's short nap yesterday and still had time to make lunch for Will and I, so I promise, they aren't as labor intensive as they might seem. And if you ask me, the result was pretty cool. I love how the red looks against the green trim. I think it might be my favorite room in the house.

And just for kicks, I've put in a before of that room so you can see the difference. I can't help it! This renovation is eating up my life!

Next project (after finishing the hardwoods and decorating the kids room and moving the HOUSE! that is) is to cover the bathroom shades with some kind of pretty paper and probably some for the play room covered with, well, I'm not sure what. We'll see.

July 21, 2009

Just To Get Us Started....

Some pictures

First the thimble we got at an estate sale. I used to poo-poo thimbles. Mostly because I wasn't much of an embroiderer. But since I've recently been sewing dinosaur ties and kitty cat coats I've been wishing I had one that fit my finger well. And this one is so neat! Not only does it fit but the ring chain thing will keep me from loosing it, which has been a problem in the past.

Now a before and after. Although, it
s not really an after since the furniture and decorations aren't in yet, but it's a peek. Here's the playroom, nice and grotty before, pretty and blue almost after.... Now I'm off to hang the roller shades so I can take an after picture of that.

July 20, 2009

Did You Miss Me?

No, I haven't been trapped inside Lowes hardware section or sanding my fingers to the bone so that I can't type. I've been visiting my parents in Missouri with the kids. And while I'd love to tell you all about the floor that Will ripped up while I was gone or the crazy cool thimble my mom bought me at the most amazing estate sale or the rack I'm painting for Briton's side of the room, I've been up since 6:15, driven two hours to St. Louis, flown a hour and a half to Atlanta then another hour and a half to Richmond, driven around Richmond for an hour while I waited for them to get my bags off another flight then in the car through rush hour traffic for two hours to get home. So I'm beat, and wet since there is a serious rainstorm going on outside. But tomorrow, I'll be rearing to go again. For now.....sleep.....

July 14, 2009

And the Walls Came Tumbling Down

We are making progress. It's weird to have someone workign on my house for me. I've never done it that way. Usually we are moving in the second we've signed on the dotted line and then living amongst the dust and the paint splattered clothing and the weekend/late night projects. We still have the late night/weekend projects, but it feels, I don't know, very grown up, I guess, to have contractors and painters doing things that we either would have tried to do our selves or only dream of doing. Not that we arent' doing projects. ALL THE TIME. which is why I've neglected my poor little blog.

Yesterday the A/C went in, leaving behind a cooler house, a far too complicated digital touch screen thermostat and a spot where there will be an exposed heating duct. When the wall came down betwen the kitchen and the dining room it turned out that the main duct to the upstairs ran right through the middle of it. After listening to all the "we could knock out this plaster or that wall and put it there's" we put out the idea of having the duct running up the outside of the wall. the kitchen will have a slightly industrial edge to it anyhow, so why not. I overheard the contractor tell the A/C guys what we wanted and then followed up with "look, he's an architect, they want an insustrial style kitchen, he knows what he wants, so just do it." We didn't know we had that kind of pull....

Now that the wall is out and the ugly old refrigerator has been hauled away (thank you craigslist!) we can finally get a clearer picture of what we will have. It's hard to see in photos so you'll just have to take my word for it but it changes the whole house. And once we put in the salvaged hardwood flooring that I scored at Habitat for Humanity (perfect match thank you very much!) you wont know you're in the same house. My only concern is that Briton seems worried that the house will fall down with out the wall, so somehow we're going to have to convince him of the strength of the pretty little glue-lam beam that runs across the ceiling where the wall once stood. (I want it exposed but it won't go with the look of the room, ah well, maybe just one exposed part is the right way to go....sigh...)

Yesterday I wallpapered two roller shades for our room with the last of my Orla Kiely wallpaper and I would have a picture of that for you but the airheaded woman who cut the roller shades for me at Lowes took out all the hardware and didn't put it back, and I havent' made it back up there yet. Lowes is my enemy. I know I'll be spending a lot of time there for the next year or so, but ohhh, how I dislike that place. It shoudl be called Slows not Lowes.

Ok, back to work, bags to pack, laundry to fold. junk food to buy for my husband to eat while I'm out of town for the next five days. More pictures coming soon!

July 12, 2009

Keys to the Castle

So we are now officially (and again) homeowners. This is the part where I start panicking. Why do we want a house anyway? Now we can't up and leave for Ireland again, or maybe it was going to be Slovenia this time. Why do we want the bills, the work, the responsibility.

The truth is that we do want it. There will always be that gypsy part of me that wants the freedom to get up and go when I want. And where once upon a time we could, even when we owned a house before. Because the market was good and even after just a year, we would come out ahead. Sometimes the gypsy part of my expands so rapidly and so fiercely that I think I will explode with longing to just go. But that's a whole other post. Most of the time, and more often the older I grow, I am content, more than content, pleased beyond imagining, with the city I live in, the life we lead. And this is one of those times. Surprisingly, the moment we walked out of the title company, the moment when in the past I could hardly breath from the fear and the panic, I just wanted to go get a hammer and get to work on making the house mine, ours.

The countdown has begun. Twenty six days before we need to be into that house and out of this one. The contractor comes tomorrow to knock down the wall. The A/C guy comes Tuesday (thank god it was sticky hot work to rip out manky carpet with no A/C today!) The paint guy thinks he can get all the walls, ceiling and trim done before the end of the month. Colors are picked, appliances are (more or less) chosen. The sink I've wanted for ages (white single bowl farm sink, ah how I love you) is in the back of our car waiting for the countertop to be in and the cabinets to be painted so it can crown our new (old) kitchen. It feels a little like we've jumped onto one of the cogs in a great big factory and we wont get off for who knows how long. But that's the fun part. Who knows where this house will go for us. Will we build that wrap around porch that Will dreams of? Will we turn the random once was a screened porch room into a mudroom or an indoor/outdoor living room? Will the fence be white or natural wood? Where will it go from here?

So, as a newly christened member of this cog, what did the machine that is home renovation accomplish today? The stairs, thank you very much. The nasty, smelly carpet has been removed to reveal practically perfect oak stairs in need of not much more than some buffing and a fresh coat of trip paint. And you know what? That's the best part of renovating a sad old house, you never know what you are going to find under that grotty old carpet, it could be your new favorite part of the house.

July 9, 2009


Well, while I'm sitting at the computer waiting for my scanner driver to reinstall so I can get what I hope is the last of our paperwork to our mortgage broker I thought I'd throw up a quick post. Today is the running around like a chicken with its head cut off day in the home buying process. Tomorrow, when we actually close will I'm sure be a little anticlimatic. Walk to the bank, get the cashier's check, walk to the title company, sign papers and poof, we're homeowners again. but as I'm sitting here cursing my computer for bugging out on the week that I REALLY needed it, I'm feeling like tomorrow will never get here. So keep all your fingers and toes crossed for me that a) all the paperwork goes through and we actually get to close tomorrow and b) that I can keep my sanity through this crazy crazy last day.

July 8, 2009

Stand by Your Naan

Ok, baaaaad pun. Not mine either. I read this book once, I can't even remember what it was about, although I think it was by Marion Keyes, and the main character and her friends would go out for Indian food and have a contest fitting the names of the dishes into songs. The only two I can remember are Stand by your Naan and Korma, Korma, Korma, Korma, Korma Chameleon. I know it must have been set in the UK or Ireland because they didn't say "let's go get Indian Food" they said "let's go get a curry." One of those weird Englishisms. Like calling math "maths". As in "I'm good at maths." Since they invented the language (more or less) they are probably right. But still, maths?

Back to curry. When I was growing up, curry was a dish my mother made, one of my favorites that involved meat in a yellow creamy sauce, usually studded with raisins, and served over rice. it wasn't until we moved to Ireland that I really had curry from a restaurant. The choices were mind boggling, the flavors were nothing like what I had grown up with. I was immediately hooked. Inf act, throughout my pregnancy with Evelyn, which was riddled with terrible morning sickness and an almost total loss of appetite, Chicken Korma was one of the few real meals that I craved. That and Sushi (I know, baaad, I also wanted coke, coffee and goats cheese. Seriously, what should I expect from this child's teenage years if she was making me break all the rules from the womb!)

We had a great, relatively cheap curry place down the street from us that we frequented so often that I became totally spoiled by the almost instant access to good Indian Food. Imagine my surprise when we moved back to the states only to find that curry was not cheap, not really easy to find and often not that good. Sad days. I spent about the first six months that we were home having daydreams about a fantastic meal we'd eaten in a small town in the west of Ireland, probably the best I've ever had, and cursing the fact that I couldn't find the same thing at home.

There are, of course, great curry places. And they aren't all expensive, but so far I haven't had the greatest luck in finding a substitute for my curry love so I've been reduced to making things myself.

Well, sort of making it myself. I'm not quite ready to dive into making sauces and naan from scratch, but I have discovered that there's a pretty decent selection of sauces and mixes out there and I'm taking full advantage of it. So far my favorite sauce has been Trader Joe's Korma Simmer Sauce. It's spicier than we like (I'm a wimp!) so I usually add a can of coconut milk and a teaspoon of sugar to the sauce as I'm cooking. The korma from my beloved curry shop was mild and kind of sweet so I try to nudge it more in that direction. Our local grocery store has some decent Naan that I buy most of the time but last night I used a box mix I'd found which turned out much better than the store bought stuff. I also tried the ready to cook poppadom which are crazy! They come out of the box looking a little like thin, round, lasagna noodles. But brush them with a little oil and pop them in the microwave (seriously, the microwave!) for a minute and poof! Poppadoms. Nutty. And yummy. It's one of my favorite weeknight meals to make since it's fast and fun and delicious. In fact, it was so fast last night that maybe I'll reconsider the making naan from scratch thing and give it a whirl.

And speaking of interesting foods, I was just flipping through this great old cookbook my mom gave me and found a recipe for peeled melon filled with tomato aspic, frosted with cream cheese. i mean, maybe it's good, but really , who sat down and said, you know what would be great with cantaloupe? Tomato aspic and cream cheese. There's even a photo of the frosted and aspiced cantaloupe slices up on a platter of lettuce. It looks, ummm, interesting?

July 6, 2009


This weekend, after saying we were going to for more than a year, we finally took our tent trailer camping.
Let me emphasize the finally.
See, we bought this thing more than two years ago and this was it's maiden voyage. Well not maiden, since the thing is from the 1960's and has, as is evidenced by it's many many patches, seen many a camping days. But for us it was our very first excursion with her.
It isn't like we haven't tried. Will bought the trailer, which is a crazy cool 1964 Heilite Valient (we think) for a Mother's Day gift for me when Evie was a baby. I had been angling for a tent trailer for years. It's how I'd grown up camping and it seemed like the perfect combination of ease and roughing it with kids. Will had resisted, claiming that it was whimpy to camp with a trailer of any form until he ran across a photo of a Heilite, and the lure of "cool and vintage" trumped "man with a tent". I would like to be one of those hard core campers. The ones who pack in everything on their backs, have special soap and freeze dried food and hike all day. But you see, just thinking of hiking kinds makes me want to crawl in bed with a good book. And until (and probably long after) my kids can pack in their own gear, food and tents, it's wimp camping for me.

So there we were, bitchin tent trailer, willing kids, beautiful Oregon campgrounds aplenty. And then we moved. And just the getting ready for moving and selling the house took up most of that summer. And last summer. Well, I'm not even sure what happened. We did go camping once but couldn't get a hitch that fit our car (three hours of my life spent on the phone with Uhaul trying to emphasize the difference between a Volkswagon WAGON and a Volkaswagon SEDAN "You have a Volkswagon" "yes, a Volkswagon WAGON" "right, a Volkswagon four door sedan." "No a Wagon!" "right, a Volkswagon, sedan" -not my favorite moment) And by the time we got a hitch made for the car it was just too hot to camp.

I do love camping. I can't remember many childhood vacations that didn't involve camping or hanging out at my Grandparents Cabin in Northern California. I'm sure we camped because it was the least expensive form of vacation available to us, but I'm glad we didn't have the money to jet off to France for the summer (although that would obviously have been lovely) because I think those many many weekends of roughing it were some of the best of my life. Except maybe for the one time it was like 110 degrees and we ended up going to see Dances With Wolves in a nearby town because it was the longest movie we could find in the blissfully air conditioned theatre. But come to think of it, even that time was pretty memorable.

So when our Dinner Club decided on a camping trip for the July get together we were gung ho on board. Nell and Steve kindly let us camp out at their property up near Sherando Lake since, being Fourth of July weekend, we weren't likely to get three spots together at any campground in the country. Camping at their place was even better since they are renovating an old farm house there and have already installed kitchen appliances and a bathroom. It was even better to be near a house when it poured down rain Saturday night and into Sunday. Nothing like a rainstorm to break up a campout, unless you can move indoors for breakfast and then sit on the covered porch, coffee in hand, and watch the kids run around screaming in the rain.

The perfect end to the perfect campout. Good friends, good food, great card game (Oh Hell or Dammit depending on your name preference) and tired kids who slept all the way home and then some.

July 2, 2009

For the Love of Trader Joe's

This is my favorite week of the month. And not because of birthdays or holidays or even the fact that next week we will get to close on the new house. No, the reason I love this week is because it's the week after our (roughly) monthly trip to Trader Joe's. I didn't realize how much I loved this store until we moved to a city that had none.

Grocery stores in general have been a problem since we moved to Charlottesville. The problem being that I don't like any of them. We were spoiled for grocery stores in Portland you see. Within walking distance from our house there were two, excellent local stores. One that was kind of a regional version of a super target and one that was a fabulous small Portland chain called New Seasons that carried local produce, organic fare as well as the normal stuff that my husband can't live with out (like Coke and Shredded Wheat). Within an easy five minute drive there were about ten other grocery stores, including a couple that would deliver. We went to Trader Joe's when we needed to, stocked up on wine and fun foods, but most of the stuff that Trader Joe's is known for could also be found at New Seasons or Natures or Freddys and so on.

Before Portland we lived in Ireland where, on top of two good sized walkable grocery stores and a good dozen butchers, delis, greengrocers etc, we could hop on a train and three stops in either direction be at a Marks and Spencer which is, well, the best store ever. I could never cook from scratch again quite happily if I could shop only at Marks and Sparks.

But I'm getting away from myself. The point is, there's nothing like that here. The only recognizable grocery chains here are Kroger (always dingy, yuck) and Whole Foods (I wont even go into why, but I really dislike Whole Foods). Everything else is just, blah. The meat is ok, the vegetables are ok, the selection is decent. I can survive. They have my coffee and my tea, both of which are pertinent to my survival. Everything else, well, like I said, I can survive. We do shop at this funky little local grocery store that has good meat (not organic or necessarily local, but fresh. Fresh as in, they are usually busy cutting it up while you are picking it out) But overall the grocery scene isn't my fav.

When they opened a Trader Joe's in Richmond this spring I was thrilled. Both because now I could go stock up on some of my old favorites and because there was a hint, a mere whisper that if there was a TJ's in Richmond, and on the close side of Richmond, surely one in Charlottesville isn't far behind. And sure enough, a few weeks ago they were approved for a liquor license for Charlotttesville. Yeah!!!! And then, Wahhhh! Because they aren't supposed to open until 2011! To long. I NEED some ready to cook Orange Chicken in my freezer NOW! I can't stand paying more than three bucks for wine! Then there is the salsa (Oh! I forgot to buy salsa this trip! Damn damn damn!) and the pasta sauce and the curry and the dried fruit and...see what I mean. So much to love.

So for now I will make an excuse at least once a month to make the trek to Short Pump (what a name, I mean really? Short Pump?) to haul home three or four bags full of jars and bags and boxes. And for a good week my pantry will look like a Trader Joe's stockroom. And cooking dinner will be easier. Because while I like to cook, in fact, I'm starting to love cooking more and more, there are always days where I just don't want to. And to be able to pull out a jar of Korma Simmer Sauce and flip on the rice cooker and be done with it, well, that's worth the drive.

What kind of dork am I, eh?