Friday, December 7, 2012

A Video Tour of Happy Bear Farms (hopefully)

As many of you know, about 2 months ago Jason and I put a bid on a house that we hope to name Happy Bear Farms.  It won't be a REAL farm, more like a small homestead.  It's on 3 acres, has a small barn, and a big space we can make a garden out of.  The house is a short sale, which means that its a big pain in the butt.  Right now our file is on some bureaucrat from Bank of America's desk and they're taking their sweet time to deal with it.  Yet our real estate agent and the listing real estate agent assure us that it will go through.  We wanted to go back to the property, take some measurements, get a better idea on what fixes we will want to do, etc.  We decided to use Jason's iPad to take some video so that our friends and family who live far away can see it.  I have embedded the video below.  We didn't realize that when we change the iPad from horizontal to vertical and vice versa that the viewers would need to look at it with their head tilted to see it. so apologies for that.  But here is the first videos of Happy Bear Farms.

This one is of the drive to the Farm, it was raining/snowing

This one was before the real estate agent got there, so it's of the outside and garage/shop areas

Here is the bottom floor of the house

Here is the top floor (bedrooms)

I hope that you guys like our house!

Getting the Help that I Need

No, it's not THAT kind of help.

After the frustrations vented in the last post, I decided to get some help with my sewing and enrolled in a class at PatternReview.Com on fitting bodices.  This class is online and has video, chats, and a message board.  I have learned a lot so far in this class and by the end I will (hopefully) have a bodice pattern that fits my body perfectly that I can then adapt to make different shirts, tunics, and dresses.  There have been a few our temporary apartment the only mirror that we have is the bathroom medicine cabinet mirror so I can't see my full body for fitting.  After three days I figured out to stand on a milk crate so that I can see most of my bodice.  I also use the timer on my camera to take photos of myself to see the changes that need to be made.  I am not very good at visual/spatial tasks and I think that working my brain in this crazy way is hard, but helpful.  As soon as I have my bodice done, I will post some pictures.

In the meantime I continue to sew pajama pants for X-mas gifts.  Next week I will be starting  a new dress for Leora.  I keep experimenting with new healthy recipes for dinner and we keep hoping to get news on the house. 

Here's to patience and learning!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Sewing Disasters

About 5 years ago I decided that I wanted to learn how to sew clothes.  I bought a cheap sewing machine on clearance and asked my Gramma to teach me how to sew.  She and I sewed two skirts, but the truth was she sewed them and I watched her do it.  I decided that I needed to go to a class.  Luckily I lived in St. Paul and Treadle Yard Goods offers amazing classes.  I took a beginning sewing class, a winter coat class, and an advanced beginner class.  From there I started sewing when I could and I used their sewing salons for help when I got stuck.  I didn't have a ton of time to dedicate to sewing and found that the clothes that I made just turned out "ok." 

One of the reasons that I wanted to learn how to sew is that I have kind of weird proportions and it's sometimes hard to find clothes that fit well.  I am fairly little on top.  I have wide hips and fat thighs.  I hoped that sewing would allow me to create clothing that fit me better.  The problem is, I don't know how to adjust patterns to make them fit me better.  And now I live in a place where there aren't any sewing classes or salons to help teach me these skills.

I now feel fairly confident on a sewing machine and following patterns.  Where I fall flat is in choosing the right fabric for a pattern and choosing the right pattern for a flattering look on my body type.  Take my sewing project of last week.  I decided to create Simplicity 2690, view A (that's the one the model is wearing in the picture).  It is a mini dress.  I thought that the V-neck would help me look taller and I liked the ribbon detail.  I thought the flared bottom would help hide my fatter bottom.

Thought this would be a great pattern!

I chose a silky fabric from Joann's because I thought a cotton fabric wouldn't drape as nicely.  It turned out to be a tough fabric to work with.  It was really slippery and I needed to use lots of pins to keep the seams together and it unraveled quickly so I had to finish each seam with a serger-type stitch which made taking it apart and making adjustments next to impossible.  Here is my finished look.  The bodice turned out too big, the bottom turned out too tight, and I feel like it makes me look like a fat box.

Whale of a dress!
Does anyone know of any good resources for learning how to choose patterns based on body type?  Adjusting patterns for a better fit?  And choosing the right fabric for a project?  I have a closet full of clothes that I won't wear in public (well 3 shirts and a dress-but that's a lot of wasted effort!).

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Rural Winter Living

So the place that we moved to while we are waiting to buy our house does NOT have internet.  Jason and I got a mobile router that gives us internet through our cell phone service but it's kind of expensive and we are burning through the allotment, so I am trying to limit my internet surfing.  Luckily my car needed an oil change and the auto shop has wifi so I have a chance to respond to emails with more than a sentence, update the blog, and do more in depth web surfing.  We're hoping that there will be a way to get high speed internet at the house.

We still haven't heard from the seller's bank to see if they will accept the offer.  Short sales certainly aren't short.  Our realtor continues to tell us that he thinks that the bank will eventually accept the offer.  I am learning patience. 

In the meantime we have had two snowfalls and the latest one (Sunday night) is still lingering on the ground.  The snow is beautiful here in the mountains.  I just wish that our apartment had a window with the beautiful view we get from the exterior stairs up to the apartment. 

Winter Wonderland

Because of the weather our already dark apartment is even more dim which makes sewing a little more difficult, but I have been carrying through.  I have made a pair of work out pants for myself which inspired an idea for Christmas presents for my in-laws (they don't read the blog so I can post that!).  I also hemmed some fabric for the Kettle Falls library display cases.  Right now I am working on a mini-dress pattern that is considerably more complicated than anything that I have done previously.  So far it's going pretty well.  I chose a silky fabric from Joann's and it's pretty slippery so I am learning a lot with this project.  Next I want to make another dress for my friend's daughter (we will spend Thanksgiving with them and I would like to bring another dress) and start making pajama pants for the in-laws for Christmas presents. 

I need to figure out a way to meet more people in town.  Next week our friends Hillary and Mark leave for Pullman and we won't have easy friends to count on.  Through them we have met some people and I need to be diligent about calling them and trying to build friendships, but I also want to meet some new people.  I have been thinking about volunteering somewhere, but I am not sure how to find those opportunities.  I thought about joining a knitting group (even though I don't know how to knit) but when I showed up at the fabric store, it was about 10 women in their 60's lamenting Obama's reelection, so I just walked away.  If anyone has any ideas of how I can meet more people, please let me know!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Our New Apartment in Kettle Falls

Moving from the city to a rural area is going to take some getting used to.  Today we paid the first and last month rent and I started moving our stuff into a SMALL one-bedroom apartment in Kettle Falls.

Kettle Falls is the red dot, it's 7 miles from the metropolis of Colville.

When I got to the apartment at 10am like we had agreed, the owner wasn't there.  I called her and it went straight to voice mail.  It was raining and a little cold out so I sat in my car and read on the kindle ap of my iphone.  She called me back, she had been held up at the vet but told me I could start moving my stuff into the apartment.  I start lugging action packers and canvas bags of stuff up the outdoor stairs and into the apartment.  When I got into the apartment, I was shocked!  There were hundreds of dead bugs everywhere-on the window sills, on the floors, under rugs-this is the stuff that nightmares are made of.  Luckily I had my vacuum cleaner with me and before getting anything else from my car, I quickly vacuumed all of those buggers from the apartment.  I still shiver thinking about it. 

When the owner got home, I gave her the check and asked for the keys.  "Oh honey, no one here uses keys or locks up their apartments.  In fact one of the apartments doesn't even have a lock."  I explained that we are coming from the city and even though it's perfectly safe, we would feel comfortable with keys.  It took her about 10 minutes to find a HUGE ring with about 10 keys on it labeled "GARAGE APT."  By comparing the keys, we realized that there were 4 different keys on this ring.  She gave me one copy of each and asked me to figure out which one opened the deadbolt and which one opened the door knob.  Only one of the keys was actually for our apartment, and it opened the door knob.  She has no key for the deadbolt.  There was no-"I'll get you a key." or anything like that, we just only get to lock our door knob.  Maybe I am being paranoid, but I would like to be able to lock our door with the deadbolt.  What if the zombies come?  They can totally get through the door knob-anyone with a credit card could. 

I also learned not to go shopping on the first of the month.  I don't know if it's just pay day or some other reason, but the stores were crazy!  I didn't know that there were that many people in this little area!  I needed to get 2 light bulbs and a trashcan and I could hardly move around the store.  People in small towns just randomly stop in the  middle of the aisle, blocking it unaware of the people behind them.  They also walk so slowly.  Maybe someday I will be one of them and learn to slow down, but I still have the city in me and it was infuriating today!

One great thing about the apartment is the view.  Kettle Falls is much smaller and more rural than Colville and it's close to many rivers.  Here is the view from the stairway to our apartment.  The owner has horses and there are farms all around.  It was raining so there's lots of mist.

Tomorrow I will finish moving the rest of our stuff in the apartment and give Hillary and Mark's basement a thorough cleaning.  We have loved being here and will miss them a ton but it's time for us to be on our own.

We're starting to settle down here.  I still can't believe that we moved to Washington!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Child's Dress

Since moving WA and not having a job, one of my most enjoyable tasks has been sewing!  I already blogged about making baby clothes, but today I finished a dress for my dear friend Nolie's eldest daughter.  When we stopped in Leavenworth to visit them on the way to Colville, her daughter gave us a fashion show and confessed to me that she would love to wear dresses every day but all of her dresses are fancy and need to be dry cleaned.  I told her that I would make her a dress that was easy to wash.  Unfortunately I didn't have my measuring tape handy (it was somewhere in a box buried in the truck).  Nolie told me that she wears a size 9 or 10 kids. 

On to Joann's I went (although I try not to support corporate whores like Joann's, when you need a pattern, it's hard to beat $1.99).  I wanted a long sleeved dress and that was surprisingly hard to find.  I ended up choosing McCall's 6594 and because I wasn't sure on the fit, decided not to do all the putzy embellishments.  The pattern (and all the patterns I saw) only went to size 8, so I looked at the spacing between sizes on the pattern and drew the pattern one size bigger.  While at Joann's I saw that they were having a 50% off clearance fabric sale, so I bought enough fabric to make 3 of these dresses. 

The dress and the neighbor's cat in the corner.

Today I am sending the dress off to my friend, so that her daughter can try it on and see if it fits.  If it fits, I will make another with all the embellishments. 

I also think I need to start working on Christmas presents.  I won't be going to Minnesota for Christmas this year, but we will probably go to Las Vegas to see Jason's parents.  I need something that I can send to MN for the major players (mom, grandma, godson) and then something for Jason's family.  If you have any ideas, let me know!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Joys of the Short Sale

So last Tuesday Jason and I made an offer on the only property around that had everything on our "must have" list.  There are other properties that could work-but they would need a lot of renovation.  There are only two problems with the property, first there was already an accepted offer contingent on the buyer selling their home.  That offer was accepted more than 6 months ago and according to our realtor, they won't be able to sell their home without putting a lot of work into it.  The second issue is that it's a short sale.  A short sale is a sale of real estate in which the proceeds from selling the property will fall short of the balance of debts secured by liens against the property and the property owner cannot afford to repay the liens' full amounts, whereby the lien holders agree to release their lien on the real estate and accept less than the amount owed on the debt (wikipedia).  The owners moved to Kentucky a year ago. 

On Wednesday Jason and I were driving to Oregon so that Jason could go to a class and our realtor called us at 9:01am to tell us that the seller accepted our offer.  Our realtor had told us that probably the earliest we would hear something was Monday, so we were excited to hear so quickly.  The next step, according to our realtor, was to wait and see if the bank accepted the offer and then the previous buyers (the ones with the contingency) would have 48 hours to decide if they wanted to buy the house even though their house hasn't sold. 

Fast forward to this week...On Monday our realtor called us and we had to sign a bunch of paper work that basically said that we aren't related to the owners or going to give the owners any money.  Then the mortgage broker called, the pre-qualification letter wasn't strong enough and the bank wants to see that we can actually afford a mortgage.  So with 24 hours notice we had to get together: 2 years of taxes and W2s, 2 months of pay stubs, 2 months of statements from every bank account, a quote for homeowners insurance, and copies of our driver's licenses.  Here's the silly part-when I put all of our stuff in storage, I put my filing cabinet with all of my tax information in storage.  Luckily for me I had pdfs of my taxes and most of my previous employers quickly emailed me W2s, but I am still waiting on the flakey English institutes that I worked at in 2010.  Luckily the mortgage broker said that he can submit the paperwork and wait for them to ask for those W2s (if they notice they aren't there). 

So now it's a waiting game.  We're waiting to see what the bank says. 

In the meantime on Thursday we move into an apartment while we wait for this all to go down.  It will be tough the leave Hillary and Mark's basement because it's nice to have friends around and a year-old baby to play with.  But at the same time it will be nice to unpack a little, even if we will only be there for a few months. 

If anyone has any tips for dealing with a short sale, please let me know!  We want to get started creating Happy Bear Farms!

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Big Move

It has been a busy fall!  In August Jason was offered a job in Colville, WA (only 30 miles from Canada).  After a lot of deliberation, we decided to take the job and work on our dream of starting a homestead.  We moved up here October 10!  Right now we are staying with friends while we look for a home.  On November 1, we will move into a furnished one-bedroom apartment because the friends we are staying with are moving away.  It has been kind of a whirlwind.

Most of our stuff on our driveway while the movers categorized and organized it.  Gotta love the Transfer of Station from the USDA!

I had to quit my job teaching.  :(  As a teacher it's always tough to leave your students, but I feel like I abandoned them since it's so close to the beginning of the year.  As far as I know, the administration still hasn't filled my position and my students have been acting out for the subs.  :(  So far Washington won't let me apply for a teaching credential because I don't have a permanent address.  Once we move into the apartment, I can finish the application and get fingerprinted.  I am not sure about my teaching prospects up here-there IS a population of Russian immigrants but not a lot of ELLs in the schools.  Also it's pretty rural-Colville has 4,000 people and Kettle Falls (where we'll probably buy the homestead) has about 1,000.  I have heard from 2 people that the Spanish teacher may be retiring at the end of the year.  If I can't get a permanent job, I can always sub and work hard at being self-sufficient on the homestead.

Maybe we'll get a yurt for the homestead!

In the meantime, I have been sewing up a storm!  Before the move I made a few dresses and right now I have been making baby pajamas (so many friends having babies) and I am sewing a dress for the 9-year old daughter of a good friend.  Most of our belongings are in storage, but I kept out the sewing machine and some notions.  I will let you know as soon as we get our homestead and let you know about the progress.

Baby pajamas from Amy Butler's Little Stitches.
In the meantime, if you have ideas for what I should do to meet people and not go stir crazy without a job, please let me know!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Brewing in a Bag

 Jason and I seem to collect hobbies.  After the success of our cider at our wedding, we have decided to learn how to brew beer.  In a previous post I talked about making an American Amber Ale with help from the nice people at Ballast Point Brewery.  This time we went closer to home to the Mother Earth Brewery in Vista where they convinced us to take it up a notch and brew an all grain beer using a technique called brewing in a bag.  The people at Mother Earth helped us get the grains and hops necessary to make a cross between a Hefeweizen and a Pilsener.  Instead of using a malt, we kind of made our own malt using the grain.  I don't know all of the beer terms, so please bear with me if you are more of a beer expert.

Brewing in a bag!

We got about 15 pounds of grain from the brewery and first we had to let it steep in hot water for about an hour to get all of the sugars out.  The brewery recommended using a measuring cup to pour water over the grains for the last 15 minutes so that the interior grains could get purged.  We knew that it would be super heavy to hold for 15 minutes, so Jason in his ingenuity strung up a pulley to hold the grains above the pot.  It was crazy how sticky that grain tea was!!

Pouring hot water on the grains

 Pouring water on beer is tough work, so I had to quench my thirst with some of the American Amber ale from a month ago.  It turned out nice.  Jason thinks it will be even better after a few weeks in the bottle.

The next step was adding some hops and then boiling the beer tea for an hour.  We were making a concentrated batch so that we could use cold water to help chill it more quickly so that we could get it into the carboy.   We had a couple of issues with the beer.  First of all the sugar reading of the beer wasn't as high as we had wanted (probably because we didn't get all of the sugar out the grains while we were steeping it) so we didn't add as much water when it was done boiling.  So instead of 6 gallons, we got a little less than 5 gallons.

Jason is good at taking notes to remember all of the details of the process

 After a week percolating in the carboy, we transferred the beer to a new carboy and added more hops.  It has about another week to go before we can bottle it.  It's fun to learn new hobbies and the beer has certainly come in handy when I have needed bribes for other teachers to cover my classes or after school duties. 
The beer patiently waiting to be bottled and consumed

Friday, May 18, 2012

What to do with Leftover Fruit from School

So at our school everyday our students don't eat about a case of fruit everyday.  The district tells our school to get rid of all unused food (throw it away), but our intrepid custodian/lunch attendant puts the fruit in the teacher's lounge for teachers to much on.  Sometimes there's a lot of fruit, sometimes not much, but most times the fruit sits in the lounge until it starts to go bad. 

When I see that fruit just going to waste my heart just about breaks.  Earlier in the year I dehydrated some kiwi fruit (yummy but left a weird residue on the back of my throat) and I have taken oranges to juice.  At the end of the week today there were about 20 oranges, 40 kiwis, 30 bananas and 50 gala apples.  I couldn't let them go to waste.

These fruits aren't organic and don't have a ton of flavor, but I don't want to waste them either.  So here's my plan for the fruit, if you have other ideas, I would love to hear them.

1.  Freeze the bananas-I have a smoothie every day for breakfast and bananas give just the right hint of sweetness.
2.  Juice the oranges-last weekend we also got some Meyer lemons and grapefruit that I can juice as well.  Depending on the yield, I will either freeze the juice or leave it in the fridge.
3.  Make apple sauce-the apples don't have a ton of flavor so I will add some of the lemon juice and some spices to make it more tasty.  Depending on the yield I will either keep it in the fridge or can some of it.
4.  I am not sure what to do with the kiwis.  They tasted good dehydrated, so I may go there again.  I am not sure if they can be preserved in other ways.

What do you do with a bumper crop of sub-par fruit? 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

A Weekend with Friends

So much has happened since last summer when I posted last.  Jason and I got married.  I got immersed in a new teaching job.  And although I still have been gardening, preserving, brewing cider and mead, I haven't had time to take pictures and write about it.

This weekend our good friends Kim and Don came down from the Los Angeles area for a visit.  They have had a bumper crop of chard so they brought us some, along with some grapefruits and Meyer lemons, YUM!  We put the chard to good use by making chard stem pickles following this recipe here.  Although it seemed like we had a TON of chard, we only yielded 5 pints of pickles-we doubled the brine in the recipe and had a bit left over.

Don and Kim filling jars of chard stems

Filling the water bath canner-I love our outdoor burner!

Outdoor burner set up

On Saturday we also bottled some mead that had been fermenting since February (in a secondary fermentation bucket).

We used the rest of the chard as a topping for pizza (Saturday night) and in a fritata (Sunday morning).  Chard is yummy!
Paleo pizza crust (almond and coconut flour)

Pizza with lots of chard and other vegetable goodness!

On Sunday we decided to brew some beer since our carboy was empty.  We went to Homebrew Mart where the EXTREMELY helpful staff helped me picked out the grains and malts to make an American Amber ale.  We really need to get a wort chiller because it took about 4 hours for our beer to cool down enough to put into the carboy and we're still waiting for it to be 70 degrees so we can pitch the yeast.
Steeping the grain for the beer!

It's nice to have friends around who like to can and brew and eat good food.  Thanks Kim and Don!