Week 32: Cor…nices? Cor…bels?

You’d never know that I once took ‘History of Architecture’ to fulfill a world history credit in college based on how I’ve been talking about the exterior of our house recently. 🙄 I have very conveniently been making up names for the “little things that stick out the front of the peaks” since I told Josh that I wanted “little things that stick out the front of the peaks.” But most recently I’ve settled on calling them “cornices.” As he knows what I’m talking about, he doesn’t generally correct me. But for the architectural record, this is a cornice…

Image result for cornice

And that is not what we’re putting on our house! This is a corbel…

Image result for corbel

And that is what we’re putting on our house. We even spent a lot of time talking about whether they’d be natural wood or it we’d paint them white. So you’d think in all that conversation I would have locked in on what they’re called. I think I’ve got it now that the first ones showed up on the front of the house this week.

Corbel…like Korbel Brut! Not cornice like the game hen

Oh…that’s Cornish.

Oh boy!

Well, cheers anyway!

Wine for your Weekend: Wild Wild West

As a kid, the best day in “computer class” was on Fridays when we got free time to play games. And there was no better game to play than ‘The Oregon Trail.’ The goal was simple…get to Oregon via the virtual trail. At the beginning you choose your profession and how many provisions you wanted to take; then you set off as early and as fast as you could manage limiting rations and rest days trying to keep your wagon party alive against the perils of the digital frontier.

Someone always died of dysentery…and nobody ever knew what dysentery was!

Hunting for food was considered by most to be the best part of the game…especially if you could get a buffalo or bear.

Caulking your wagon and floating across rivers was cause for much anxiety and nail biting.

The game was excellent!

Image result for oregon trail game

20-some odd years later, I can now play The Oregon Trail online via various websites whose mission is to preserve “old” computer games. My high school students actually use it now in American history, and whenever it comes up in the school year, I always have at least one kid in my homeroom ask if I’ve ever heard of this “really cool game called Oregon Trail?”

Have I heard of it? Move over young grasshopper and let me show you how to sail that river down to the Willamette Valley!

Image result for willamette valley oregon trail

It was YEARS after I first reached that promised land of the Oregon Trail game that I learned that the Willamette Valley was the heart of Oregon wine country! So, in the interest of childhood nostalgia, go ahead and click this link to take you to the Oregon Trail game, and then let’s venture into that revered and elusive valley this week for your wine for your weekend recommendation!

COELHO ATRACAO PINOT NOIR WILLAMETTE VALLEY

Coelho Atracao Pinot Noir Willamette Valley

This weekend’s pick is a traditional pinot noir, generally ranked highly for the region. If you’re not familiar with Oregonian wines (and I really wasn’t before coming across this bottle), Pinot Noirs is the varietal of choice, so this is a good introduction. You’ll likely be pleasantly surprised with the bright fruit flavors of strawberry and cherry, played nicely against it’s tannins and acidity. Many reviews compared it to it’s more expensive counterpart, a Burgundy, which I’ll have to take someone else’s word for as I have little Burgundy experience. However, generally speaking, the wine was approachable, easily paired with a variety of meat/potato based meals and dishes, and at a reasonable price point. The average bottle sells between $17-$25. I happened across this one for $9, and it was a steal at that price!

Cheers!

Week 31 – Friends on our side(ing)

Week 31 – The start of November, and it’s getting colder. While we fortunately dodged the 5 inches of snow that fell some places this week, there is no denying that we’re running short on good days outside. “Falling back” on the clocks at the end of the week didn’t help much either, as we essentially lost an hour of working daylight in the evenings. The siding to this point is maybe a little past half finished, and the schedule to get it finished is going to run right up against what looks to be the end of an otherwise pretty short fall.

As such, this weekend we called in the cavalry! Josh had already arranged to have a friend come help side on Saturday, and on Friday night we got an unexpected offer from friends in La Crosse to come help in the afternoon. So with the troops rallied, Saturday saw a big push to get around the final side of the house which hadn’t seen any siding yet. As a result, the siding is now finished around the entire house up past the first floor. This, however, is where it starts to get tricky as the majority of our ladders have run out of range.

There are a couple options to get past this final hurdle. The first would be scaffolding which we potentially have a few leads on. The second would be pump jacks, which is what the pros would use. Thus, our connection to a pro builder may come in useful here, provided he is not also at an end of the season crunch time job and thus using the equipment. A third, and less ideal, option is to continue to forge ahead with the one very large ladder we have, though it’s possible even this would not reach the peak in the back where the ground starts to slope, so it’s likely we will be exploring other options in the week ahead.

Inside, the plumbers and HVAC crews have wrapped up for the moment. The HVAC will most wait now until the gas and electric lines are run. The plumbers most recently set the water heater, and will eventually come back in to run the main water lines throughout the house.

And in, perhaps, the most important interior decision this week, we’ve moved the location of the wine cellar in the basement from the back corner where the sump pump is, to the main basement area where the bump out (the mirrors the kitchen) is. Some recessed shelving surrounded by three walls of concrete should be plenty to keep it relatively ideal for temperature, and we’ll throw some sliding double doors on it to make it pretty!

Cheers!

Week 29 – The saga of the siding part 2

WEEK 29 – I’ve been asking Josh to put just one piece of siding on the house for weeks…just so I can see it…just so I can imagine what it’s going to look like and secretly to verify that I did, in fact, make the right choice out of all of those siding samples on the kitchen table.

Not that there’s anything we could have done about it now!

Week 29 was finally that week.

There have been lots of design decisions that have been made for the house thus far, and not a lot of design decisions that have been executed in the house because we’re not to that point yet. Things like hardware, cabinetry styles, tile, flooring, paint colors, etc. That’s where I feel like I’ve thrived in this process. And that is not the stuff that has generally been happening for the first 29 weeks of building. But the siding and wooden porch work…that was one of those design decisions too. So I’ve been really invested in seeing it go up and making sure that reality matched what I’d envisioned in my head while sorting through those siding samples.

I was not disappointed, and I’m really excited to be entering a stretch now where the face of the house will come along a little more each day.

That is if it stops raining. Week 30 has started with rain…

Nevertheless, a little rain will not dampen my spirits. I’m just so pleased with how the exterior is coming together!

b35bf9ec-dcfa-4b1d-9661-4c1cb1528835
img_6664

Wine for your weekend: Tuscany at your table!

One of the things that Josh and I like to do when we travel is to drink wine from the local region. Not every area is known for its wine, but many areas make their own wines, and it’s interesting to get a feel for a place through its wine. We’ve found great wine in truly unexpected places. One of my favorite red blends came from a winery in…Kansas. Not exactly the wine mecca of the USA!

img_4381img_4378In the Swiss Alps, we drank Swiss wine. In the Greek Isles, we drank the golden wine of Santorini. That one time we got stuck in Germany for a night, I drank German riesling. And during our many many days in Italy, we drank many many bottles of Italian wine.

The wine regions of Italy are numerous and expansive, and you could spend A LOT of time touring around the country sampling from various varietals, blends, and labels. Our travels found us spending quite a bit of time on the edge of Tuscany, falling in love with the tuscan wines, and when we came back to the States, we immediately sought out wines that captured the essence of those sun drenched summer weeks that we spent between the mountain terraces and the seaside harbors. And we found them in the “Super Tuscans.”

Super Tuscan wines are red wine blends that exist outside the Italian wine ranking system. Generally speaking, certain wine varieties have to contain certain percentages (or less than certain percentages) of grape blends in order to qualify for a certain wine label. Chianti, for example, is a Tuscan wine that can contain NO MORE than 70% of Sangiovese grape, and MUST include at least 10% of local white wine grapes. If the wine blend does not meet those specifications, it can’t be sold as Chianti, and instead earns the lowest label ranking: “Table Wine.”

The inherent flaw in the system is that sometimes forcing wine into certain blend ratios, thought it meets standards, doesn’t make for very good wine. Such was the case with Chianti, which experienced a decline in public opinion through the 70s and 80s as the wines produced at the regulated ratios was largely lacking in quality. As a result, wine makers developed wines outside of the given regulations, marketing them as red blends of labels of their own making and design. One of the first of these blends was the now widely popular Tignanello, which soon surpassed traditional Chianti in price and quality. As the market for these wines grew, the unofficial designation of “Super Tuscans” was established, and now the “Toscana” label designation is widely distributed throughout the world.

Image result for kirkland signature toscanaRecently I was at Costco when a new offering, the Kirkland Signature Toscana 2016, was being put on display. I immediately snagged a bottle to do some research as Kirkland Signature has a pretty good reputation of distributing high quality wines at a reasonable price point. Their Toscana follow suit, produced by Alexander Van Beek of Caiarossa winery whose other Toscana wines sell for over $20 a bottle. At $13, Kirkland Signature is a high quality offering, at a more approachable price point.

A red blend of Sangiovese, cabernet sauvignon, and merlot, the wine plays on the best parts of each varietal layering flavors and creating structure that’s best if left to breathe first. (As suggested by the wine maker. I decanted for about 30 minutes before sampling.) There are plenty of dark fruit flavors on the front: cherry, black raspberry, and plum. That said, the wine is not overly fruity nor sweet. Sharp tannins cut through the fruit flavor and while the finish is smooth, it’s also rather dry. I felt that made the wine rather versatile as you could pair it with a wide variety of food playing up either the fruit elements or the dry acidity.

For our purposes of a wine to pair with mixed appetizers and a variety of leftovers in the fridge, that made it an ideal choice! It also makes it an ideal choice for your weekend, as it can easily adapt to whatever plans you have in mind!

Cheers!

 

Four non-fiction reads this fall!

There is nothing quite like a gray fall morning with a blanket, a cup of tea, and a good book. Unless of course, it’s a sunny fall morning that’s unseasonably warm so that I can sneak out onto the patio one last time and soak in the sun with a blanket, a cup of tea, and a good book!

Simply put, you can’t go wrong giving over a little bit of your fall to good reading in snuggly blankets. And whether you’re trying to soak in the last ounces of sun and warmth, or you’ve given over to a cozy spot snug and warm indoors, there’s just something delightfully comforting about turning the pages of a book while the leaves and seasons turn around you.

I tend to keep an impossibly long list of books to read, and while I generally don’t like reading more than one book at a time so as to fully engross myself in one storyline, I do find that from time to time I enjoy bouncing back and forth between a fiction and a non-fiction read simultaneously. Some non-fiction is just a bit too heavy to sit down and devour for hours at a time, and it can be nice to supplement the doses with something lighter…or at least less “real life!”

That being said, the non-fiction reading I’m doing this fall has been exceptional, and while I’m simultaneously reading the fictional and substantial Red Queen series, there are many nights where my non-fiction reading gets the bulk of my time and attention. Perhaps it’s a little easier to be reflective and introspective as the weather changes and seasons turn, but there’s something about this time of year that just makes non-fiction go down a little smoother. So whether you’ve been meaning to do a little non-fiction reading or you’ve never given it a go and are diving in for the first time, here are four titles to add to your list this autumn reading season!

Talking to Strangers – Malcolm Gladwell 

If you’ve never read a Malcolm Gladwell book before, this should be stop number one on your non-fiction reading tour. If you have read a Malcolm Gladwell book before, the recently released Talking to Strangers will not disappoint you! Gladwell’s style is to take a commonly held social structure or belief and turn it on its ear to figure out the inner working of what we do, why we do it, and why it’s probably wrong that we do it that way! In Talking to Strangers he examines the tools and strategies we are hardwired to use in trying to understand people we don’t know. And because we don’t know how to objectively and reasonably talk to strangers, Gladwell asserts, we open ourselves to conflict and misunderstandings that have a profound impact on our communities and world.

How did Fidel Castro fool the CIA for a generation? Why did Neville Chamberlain think he could trust Adolf Hitler? Why are campus sexual assaults on the rise? Do television sitcoms teach us something about the way we relate to each other that isn’t true? Gladwell digs into these questions and more all the while challenging the reader’s own thinking and prejudices in how they interact with those around them. In a country and world more polarized than ever, his message and insight should be mandatory reading!

Becoming Us: Using the Enneagram to Create a Thriving Gospel-Centered Marriage – Beth and Pat McCord

Becoming Us: Using the Enneagram to Create a Thriving Gospel-Centered Marriage by [McCord, Beth, McCord, Jeff]Admittedly, this book is going to have a target and niche demographics. But if you’re married, and have a mild interest in the enneagram, and consider yourself a Christian, then you’re likely going to find something of value in this book. Scratch that. If you’re married…OR have a mild interest in the enneagram…OR consider yourself a Christian, then you’re likely going to find something of value in this book. That’s how much good stuff is packed in this brand new offering out October 1, 2019.

Enneagram coach Beth McCord unpacks common questions and misunderstandings that plaque many couples, using the lens of the enneagram to explain why a partner may act the way the do, and how the other partner can best respond based on what that behavior represents and/or is motivated by. Pastor Jeff McCord offers a Christian perspective, but it does not feel heavy-handed, and as the enneagram is deeply rooted in the Christian tradition, it won’t feel jarring to anyone who’s done some enneagram study. At its heart, this book strives to prepare couples to better support each other, communicate, understand differences, and resolve disagreements.

And if analytics is the kind of thing that dazzles you, between Good Reads and Amazon this book has over 300 ratings, and not a single review under 3 stars. In fact, of it’s 119 Amazon reviews, 118 are 5 star, and 1 is a 4 star review. I’m not the only one raving about this book!

The Lost City of the Monkey God – Douglas Preston 

The Lost City of the Monkey God: A True Story by [Preston, Douglas]If you want to trick yourself into reading non-fiction, then you need the kind of story that’s told as a narrative with twists and turns that are almost stranger than fiction! An expert non-fiction narrator might even make you forget that the tale they tell is, in fact, real-life and not a made-up impossibility. Such is the case in The Lost City of the Monkey God when Douglas Preston tells his story of venturing with scientists deep into the rainforest to map the region, and in the process coming across evidence of a long lost metropolis and a horrific, incurable jungle disease.

Built on the foundations of journalist Theodore Morde’s work, which ended with his tragic and unexplained suicide after supposedly finding the city of the monkey god in 1940, Preston walks up to the edge of civilization in search of history, and comes away having made one of the greatest discoveries of the 21st century, only to risk losing it all to the hidden perils of the rainforest!

Loaded: A disarming history of the second amendment – Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

I try very hard to walk away from the political lines when writing and sharing blog posts, so take that to heart as I recommend this book as I truly believe it firmly and convincingly straddles the political aisle in terms of perspective and ultimate conclusion.

True, author Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz is not a fan of guns and believes the laws surrounding them are inexplicably lax. However, she does not offer the host of usual progressive talking points. Nor does she give a pundit’s answer as to how and why we as Americans should fix gun violence. Instead, Dunbar-Ortiz exposes the roots of gun culture in America, the construct of second amendment constitutional law, and the blind spots that both liberals and conservatives lose sight of in the relentless debate over gun control and the role of lobbyists and the NRA in Washington.

Regardless of what party you might affiliate with, or where you fall on the political spectrum, this book will challenge you. I was viscerally upset at times while reading. And it left me deeply unsatisfied with the conversations that are being had around guns and the talking points of both sides. If meaningful and lasting debate and/or change is ever going to be possible in this country, our leaders will need to grapple with at least a fraction of the history and precedent explored in this book!

Happy reading!

Cheers!

Week 28 – Inside stuff AND outside stuff!

WEEK 28 When snow hit the forecast for the first time this week, I had the immediate reaction that it has only not been snowing for two months. How do I live in a place where it doesn’t snow only two months out of the entire year?! In truth, it hasn’t snowed since April, and there were five snow-free months between then and October. So I guess it’s not as bad as it seemed. But still…I really live in a place where in the last year we’ve had snow in more months than we haven’t had snow?? I guess I do.

What snow is not particularly good for is siding a house. And as 30 mph winds are also particularly bad for being up on a 12-foot ladder, it was a particularly dismal week as far as exterior work goes. Ever the trooper, Josh did put up a bunch of foam insulation to go under the siding, and the yard did finish getting a preliminary grating. But after a week of heavy rains foiled last week, cold weather and wind weren’t exactly the bounce-back week we were hoping for!

Fortunately, the crummy weather outside isn’t hindering the work inside, where our plumbers and HVAC crews were able to continue full steam ahead. Many of the plumbing drains throughout the house have been roughed in, including the kitchen sink and dishwasher which currently just pop right up in the middle of the floor.

Ductwork is quickly sprouting up in the walls as well, and the exterior vents and such have been planned out so that (any minute now!) when the weather cooperates we can really get rolling on that siding!

img_6648
img_6645
img_6647

Easy autumn wild rice soup

One of the most undeniably lovely things about fall setting in and the weather getting colder is the deliciousness of tucking into a warm bowl of soup for supper. There’s just something about soup in October that tastes different than soup in July, not to mention the simple fact that few are going to be lured into the kitchen over a boiling soup pot when it’s 90 degrees and humid outside. When it’s 40 and overcast with a threat of sleet. Oh year, I’ll stand over that simmering pot all afternoon!

Of course, the beauty of most soups is that you don’t have to slave over a pot all afternoon. Once you get past the prep work and get everything into that pot or slow cooker, you can ordinarily just let them go do their simmering soup thing! The kitchen gets warm and steamy, the house fills with the smell of herbs and spices, and the soup gradually takes on and melds all those flavors together in one delectable bowl! A few occasional taste tests, a dash of salt or pepper as needed, and voila! Isn’t fall comfort and happiness by the ladle full!

There are lots of excellent “fall soups” that particularly capture the flavors of the season. I love wild rice soup, but I had never made it for myself before because I guess I thought it was complicated. Turns out what I thought was “complicated” was really just making sure that the wild rice had plenty of time to cook so that it didn’t remain as crunchy black grains in the bowl.

What I also tend to think of as “complicated” is any kind of soup that calls for a rue to be added at the end. A rue in and of itself isn’t complicated, but it’s not inherently gluten-free either. There’s also the matter of not scalding the milk, and on the whole, it’s just another step in the process. As I said, soup can, and should, be pretty easy. Just throw everything into the pot and let it simmer for…however long you want to let it simmer! Rues complicate that!

But when I recently read a vegan kitchen hack that suggested replacing the rue step at the end with a can of whole fat coconut milk, I figured the perfect first soup to try it with was wild rice soup!

The results were delicious in a “I’ll-never-make-another-rue-in-my-life-if-this-works-in-all-soup-recipes” kind of way! And because I just added it to my own mix of vegetables, rice, and broth, I’m pretty sure there are probably lots of combinations that can and have been experimented with to glean future inspiration from.

I’m happy to give you your first dose of inspiration right here! A hearty, vegetable and wild rice soup that’s creamy, flavorful, gluten-free, and easily made vegan should you opt for vegetable broth instead of chicken stock. With snow already showing up in the forecast for the upper midwest, I’ll be keeping these ingredients close at hand throughout the season for a comfy, cozy, delicious dinner option!

AUTUMN WILD RICE SOUP

Image result for vegetable wild rice soupIngredients:
1 cup chopped onions
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup shredded carrots
8 oz finely sliced portobello mushrooms
1 large sweet potato, cubed
2 cups cubed butternut squash
1 1/2 cups wild rice
6 cups chicken stock
1 can whole fat coconut milk
salt, pepper, spices to taste

To prepare: 
1. Prepare all vegetables: slice mushrooms, dice onion and celery, peel and cube potatoes and squash, shred carrots

2. Saute onions, celery, and mushrooms together in olive oil. I do this directly in the soup pot meaning any “deglazing” when the broth is added puts that flavor right in the soup. Salt and pepper to taste. I also add garlic powder, thyme, paprika, and old bay seasoning.

3. When onions are translucent, and most of the moisture has been sweat from the mushrooms, add 6 cups of stock, potato, squash, and rice to the pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer. The soup will need to simmer at least an hour to make sure the rice cooks all the way through. Taste occasionally and season as desired during this step.

4. When rice is cooked through, add one can of whole fat coconut milk. Stir thoroughly so that the coconut milk solid melt completely into the soup. It will not thicken immediately but will start to thicken as the soup cools. After solids have dissolved remove from heat.

Serve with a big chunk of warm crusty (gluten-free if needed!) bread!

This made about 8 servings for us. And was delicious as lunches throughout the week! After chilling overnight in the fridge, the coconut milk solids (unable to completely reform) made the broth really thick and creamy, and the flavor was really excellent with just the slightest hint of sweetness.

Recommended wine pairing: A pinot bianco or pinot grigio will provide a nice freshness to compliment the rich flavors of the soup, and the savory nature of butternut squash and coconut milk. Also, depending on your preferences in soup seasonings, the relatively high acidity of the wine may also play nicely with the saltiness of the broth! 

Cheers!

 

 

Wine for your weekend – Everyday bubbly

I don’t pick up sparkling wine a lot, but there are some occasions that just call for a glass of bubbly! I like a sparkling wine with appetizers. I like a sparkling wine with brunch (you know, mimosa style!). I like a sparkling wine as a dessert wine or nightcap. And I like a sparkling wine when a life moment dictates the need to celebrate, especially midweek! It feels a little bit posh and fancy to pop open champagne or asti on a random Tuesday night! Don’t believe me? Try it! You’ll feel swanky!

If you want to feel really swanky and have the money to afford to do so, really expensive champagne is the ultimate indulgence. In fact, I once read a life hack that suggested you should always keep a nice bottle of champagne on hand in the event that you or a friend has a reason for an impromptu celebration. Expensive champagne is not an indulgence I’ve personally ever partaken in, and I’m particularly bad at keeping sparkling wine on hand (it’s also difficult to store correctly). Therefore, it’s much more important to me that I have an affordable, widely distributed, and well-liked option that I can grab from my local liquor store on the fly as occasion calls for it! Better yet, I’d like to grab one of the options provided in the chilled wine cooler so that it’s ready to go immediately on pickup!

Such was the case recently as our own personal circumstances called for a midweek bottle of bubbly. I think Josh thought I was kidding when I suggested I was going to stop and grab a bottle of champagne on my way home midweek to pair with our five-day old leftovers. But it’s not every day that you pay off your mortgage, and as it will be a shortlived celebration given the mortgage we’ll take on when we move into the new house come spring, it seemed to warrant at least a toast and swallow of bubbly!

Cupcake ProseccoThe bottle of choice for this weekend and our own celebration is not expensive or even champagne at all for that matter. Cupcake Prosecco is a perfect, reasonably priced, well rounded, and approachable sparkling choice for those toastable moments! Juicier and fruitier than a dry asti, but not as sweet as a sparkling Moscato, this prosecco is well-balanced with notes of honey and melon that are fruity without being overpowering or “sugary.” It also has the right amount of sparkle with carbonation that is very present but not overpowering on the palette outshining the flavors of the wine.

As a mixer, say for mimosas, the flavor of the wine would definitely play second fiddle to the sweetness and fruitiness of the juice. So if you’re looking for something to add the sparkle and booziness while not drawing attention to itself, this is a great choice. If you want something that’s going to remain a strong flavor within your overall cocktail, something with a bolder fruit profile, a sparkling Moscato perhaps, maybe a better option.

At just $8, Cupcake Prosecco is an affordable and widely available option for your celebrations formal and spontaneous.

And is there really any better time for a spontaneous celebration than this weekend?

Cheers!