Thursday, April 10, 2014

Making A House A Home

Liz and I have finally found soil in which our roots want to take hold. We have been making the house our home over the past 6 months. Periodically painting some walls white and some black. While Liz re-skins the interior I tend to tackle the yard. She keeps track of it nicely here

Well, the ante was upped as my future in-laws came to visit recently. They came with a vision and knowledge. A magical combination. It was the first time I heard the phrase “exploratory demolition”.

The kitchen backsplash and the upstairs bathroom were the primary focus. Now don’t get me wrong; other things were addressed as well. To date 60+ bags of leaves and pine needles have been removed, and the tally continues to rise. Trees and limbs have been cut, bundled, and hauled off. Flowerbed borders were disassembled, and compiled into a centralized pile.

The Fabry visit was a great crash course in demolition, renovation, wiring, and other knowledge that only comes with hands-on experience. I personally learned a lot including the confidence to say, take a swing at the tile floor with a crow bar or reach into a wire-filled hole where a light fixture once was. My small hatchback has gone from being treated as a clean, cute car to a tiny “truck”. Most likely never to be the same.

I’m still impressed by what was accomplished while they visited, and look forward to continue to carry on the momentum of modifying. The house is becoming more Liz-and-Micah-like each day. Come visit. We’ll put you to work.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Buttermilk Biscuits

How have I never learned to make buttermilk biscuits before now? I grew up with a fear of the combustible breakfast breads. Peel. Peel slower. Slowly now. BOOM! Prepackaged biscuits still, to this day, scare the crap out of me. It is an AM jack-in-the-box. That is not what I want to wake up to.

For one reason or another I have been enamored with making a proper homemade biscuit lately. Maybe it is because I have a bit of time on my hands. Maybe it is the yin to my gravy-obsession yang. Maybe it is because I am channeling my inner southern grandma. Nevertheless, I have recently been committed to figuring out the proper ingredient ratio for comforting, crumbly, buttery, biscuits.

After only my first batch, White Lily self-rising flour was brought to my attention, and highly recommended as the flour of choice for biscuits. Game. Changer. With the search for a great homemade buttermilk biscuit shorter than anticipated, I have found myself seeing what additions work with the recipe. The latest batch had lavender in the mix. It works.

In no way did I reinvent the wheel. I just learned to drive. I look forward to embracing my inner southern grandma. Wait, would that be like giving myself a hug? Regardless, buttermilk biscuits are just a start.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

For The Birds

When we bought our house last fall I found myself with a greater interest in wildlife in our area, on the trails we hike, and more specifically, in our back yard. My grandfather always seemed to have that type of knowledge. “That’s Bermuda grass.” “That’s a Silver Maple.” It was something I assumed just came with his life experience. And then he would throw in things like “That’s a saber-tooth crotch cricket.”

I have casually looked for books that cover bird species found in North Carolina, but found myself looking for lists more specific to the area. Naturally, there will be coastal species that won’t find their way to Durham. Likewise, birds in the Blue Ridge Mountains may not make their way east. With my own self-imposed specificity I decided to begin compiling my own list of backyard birds.

I have been placing bird feed outside our windows, on the patio, in the feeder, and on the fence. By the time I get back inside there seems to be several birds eyeing the fresh spread. Like an indoor pet I’ve become interested in everything going on outside. Part of it even though only looking out from a window. Excited every time something different is seen. Frustrated when a squirrel, or three, can’t be bothered by attempts to scare it away.

While I’m not sure if this quirkiness comes with age, homeownership, or excessive available time, I have decided to give it a purpose. A personal project of sorts. In addition to identifying the species I see in our yard, I’ve entertained sketching each type. The goal wouldn’t be to get all Audubon on it, but rather to compile a collection of simple sketches for reference. As I accumulate sketches of several species perhaps I will share a few. 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Playing In The Dirt

I have been playing in the dirt lately – namely in the front and back yards. Liz and I have decided to cleanse the two before we start adding. No need to be stuck with someone else’s vision. Let’s wipe the slate clean then make it ours. Flower beds have been disassembled. Large stones have been gathered and piled. Many, many leaves have been bagged up and hauled off. And volunteer saplings have been removed – with an axe no less.

My yard tool selection could use some diversity, but in the mean time, I am content with using an axe for everything. Oh, that tree branch that collapsed under the weight of the winter precipitation needs removed. Axe. Those grapevines on the arbor need cut away. Axe. What is that? The whole arbor isn’t your jam. AXE. As long as I don’t have to start congratulating people with high-fours I’m good-to-go for a bit. 

As I hack away at everything, and the neutral colored blanket of leaves and pine needles is pulled back from the yard, it is nice to get a glimpse of what spring holds. Small patches of bright green moss have started to stand out. Previously hidden bulbs have sprouted all over – in the flower beds, along the back of the house, in the middle of the yard – and are blooming yellow and purple. To be honest, I will sometimes come across a bulb, sprout, or blooming plant and save it from the purge by finding a place for it in another area.

In the same vein, I thought I'd get the ball rolling by starting some seeds for the gardens. I found a couple starting kits and seed packets that had made it through the move – including ones that Liz had left from the Clyde Oak urban farm seed collection – and took the opportunity to try to give them a jump-start. Maybe I’m trying to prompt spring weather, or maybe craving fresh vegetables, but if nothing else it gives me an excuse to keep playing in the dirt. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Anniversary in Asheville

Liz and I spent our fourth anniversary together in Asheville. We planned a weekend of hiking, eating, and drinking with a few stops at antique malls sprinkled in for good measure. All went just as planned – except for the hiking part.

The stretches of the Blue Ridge Parkway that we were hoping to use, to access the trails, were closed. I was a bit disappointed and surprised at first. I was hoping for some scenic views. In fact, the only “scenic” picture I took was of the quote above, printed on a wall size image, in the Blue Ridge Parkway visitor’s center. However, after taking a moment it completely made sense. Elevated, narrow roads on the sides of mountains probably aren’t the best to drive on in sub-freezing temperatures. The time we had allotted for hiking and exploring the mountains, turned into hiking and exploring antique malls and breweries. Not a bad plan B at all.

We hit several antique malls that took me back to my grandparents’ barns in Oklahoma. The familiar sights and smells brought about a joyful calm as I casually walked through the comfortably crowded booths. Liz captured it nicely, here.

If I am not mistaking, eleven craft-breweries call Asheville home. We got the pleasure of visiting three while we were in town. The highly recommended (and for good reason) Wicked Weed Brewing lived up to the hype. A Double IPA known as the Freak of Nature, and French Toast Stout? Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! It was nice to relax in the Green Man Brewery tasting room. And pizza and pints at the Asheville Brewing Co. was just the cherry on top.

It was nice to spend additional time running around town taking in the shops, brews, and ever-present street art. Asheville is always a refreshing change of scenery. While we didn’t get the chance to drive the scenic parkway, and hike the picturesque trails, Mr. Blake’s quote still holds true. We are already looking forward to returning when the parkway opens up later this spring.