Thursday, December 9, 2010

An Apple Wood Mantle

My sister told me yesterday that mantles and banisters are the best for Christmas decorating.  How true, right?  The Apple House has a very special mantle and banister, they are both made of apple wood from the orchard.

I have never had a mantle before, so I was very excited to get to decorate it for Christmas.

 It's not a small job.  The mantle is 10 feet long and about 5 feet off the ground, much higher than your typical mantle.  That posed some challenges.

 Off to the far right are the three little trees I made from burlap, tea stained coffee filters and buttons.  I painted a piece of scrap lumber to provide some variety in height.  I bought those cute lamb skin boots for Leo, but they didn't fit the giant baby.  Oh well, they make a charming addition to a winter themed display.  Link and I purchased the jug on our first trip to this area several years ago.  It was made by a local artist.  I would have never thought then we would be every be living over here!

 The polar bear print was a gift to my parents from my uncle many years ago.  It doesn't fit well in the style and decor of their home, and it eventually ended up in their basement.  When Link and I got married I went "shopping" for art to hang on our walls down there.  This is one of the items that I took and it has hung in various places in our homes ever sense.  I love it.  It reminds me that in nature, with no need for pretenses, the most ferocious hunters living in the harshest climate find no need to disguise sweetness and affection.
The nativity set is one of a few that I own, but it is my favorite.  You will probably laugh, but it was given to me by the younger brother of my high school boyfriend long before Link and I ever dated.  I love the simplicity of it.  I found a weathered piece of lumber to provide some height variation and to prop up the baby Jesus a bit, as the mantle is so high that you could not easily see him.

 We don't know where the giant pine cones came from.  They were in the house when we got here.  They are very cool, though.  We think they are from a Jeffery Pine, but aren't sure.  The cone tree in the back I also made.  I hot glued some leftover Detra in a cone, then covered it in craft paper and tied a ribbon around it.  Simple and cute.  To the left is another simple nativity that I made a few years ago.
All of the greenery was cut from a huge pine tree in my front yard.

 I picked up these ornaments last weekend at a craft bazaar.  The woman who makes them pours them, fires them, and paints them.  I HAD to have this one for Leo's first Christmas ornament.  Could anything be more perfect for my little chunk?

John Henry is currently loving a game we call "Amazing Tricks!"  The kid can twist himself into all sorts of crazy positions and move in ways that humans really weren't meant to.  This pose happens to be one of his favorites right now.  Perfect.

I will add the stockings I am working on under the mantle before Christmas along with my favorite advent calendar.  Link's aunt gave it to me.  Each day has a little knit hat or mitten with the appropriate number knit into it.  Inside of each is a cute hand painted ornament.  John Henry LOVES to get out the ornaments and hang them on the little tree we got for him.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

REdecorating for Christmast

The last few days I've been working on new Christmas decorations for the Apple House.  My shiny, modern, silver and cranberry decorations from the Seattle house just don't look right.  So I took a little trip to the dollar store and to the hardware store. . . then I pulled out the twine, the burlap, and the buttons and went to town with my glue gun!

Here is a preview of what I've been up to.

Cute little button and burlap "tree".

Twine, tea stained coffee filters, buttons, hot glue. . . . hurray!!!

 I'm really loving this wreath.  I gathered all of the materials from the orchard, the pine needles and the pine cones.  You can't really tell very well from this picture, but this wreath is BIG.  I want to hand something else inside of it, but I haven't decided what yet.
Five inch burlap and button "tree."

A button ornament.

The sticks for this wreath came from my front yard. I stuck them through burlap that was covering some floral foam and then hot glued buttons on. I really love this particularly cutie!

I'm having fun and loving how everything is turned out.  Later today we are off to get our Christmas tree and get try to get more serious about some seasonal decoration.

We are not traveling this year for Christmas, for the first time ever.  It is also the first Christmas that John Henry understands that something unusual is happening and I really want him to feel the magic and excitement of Christmas.  He is all ready very excited about the few decorations I've finished. 

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Take Comfort

When it looks like this outside.

I want to feel warm on the inside.  For me that means soup.  Link and I are huge soup fans.  However, the thing that really makes soup great, warm, fresh baked, heavenly rolls.

This is actually my mom's bread stick recipe, either way, long and thin or round and fat, they are my ultimate comfort food.

2 C. + 3 T. warm water
1/8 cup yeast (or three packets)
1 3/4 tsp. salt
1/8 C. shortening, butter or margarine
1/8 C. sugar
5 C. flour

I use my Kitchenaid mixer with a bread hook on it to mix the dough.  Combine all the ingredients except for the flour.  Turn on your mixer, then slowly add 1 C. of flour at a time.  Let it mix until it's "soft but not sticky".  (It always seems sticky to me, though.  If I can get it out of the mixing bowl w/out too much trouble, that is the right consistency.)  Cover and let raise for at least 30 min.  Punch the dough down and divide it in two.  Shape into balls for rolls or snakes for bread stick and lay on a slightly greased cookie sheet. 

When my mom makes these into bread sticks she brushes them with butter then sprinkle Parmesan cheese and Salad Supreme on them.  TO. DIE. FOR.

When I make rolls I just leave em alone.

Let rise for at least 15 min.

Preheat oven to 400*, bake 10-15 min.  (here at 843 ft - 12 min, is perfect.)

Let them cool just long enough so that you don't burn your mouth when you eat them.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

People who live in Apple Houses. . .

are bound to learn every possible way to cook/process/eat/enjoy apples.

A friend on facebook said she could just hear me (ala Forest Gump) apple pic, apple fritter, apple sauce, apple butter, apple soup, pork with apples, apple crisp, apple cider. . .

She isn't far from the mark!  While we didn't get to enjoy the full harvest season here this year, there was still apple sauce, apple butter, and apple crisps made from the fruits of these orchard.

Last, but no where near least, was the small and precious batch of apple cider that I extracted, all without an cider press.

It starts with a bowl full of apples.  This many apples yielded about 1 quart of cider.  Be sure that you have a variety of apples, a cider from only one kind will not be near as pleasing.  Choose at least one tart variety.

Quarter them.

Throw them in your food processor and turn it on.  Your goal is to make apple mush.

Now you need a large bowl and a strainer that will fit inside of it.  Lay a large, fairly wet, but not soaking towel over both of them.

Like this.

Dump your apple mush into the bowl/strainer/towel. 

Wrap it up (like an apple mush present, don't you all wish you were on MY gift giving list!)

Take a picture of your fairly messy kitchen (you can skip this step, but expect that this will make a bit of a mess.)

Now SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEZE.  Squish, push, ring, do what ever it takes to get the juice out of that mush.  It will take a while, about 10-15 minutes.  It's a lot of effort for a small amount of cider, but you have never tasted cider like this before.

At the end you will be left with this.  Can you believe that this is all that is left of all those apples? 

Isn't it a lovely color?  You may want to add a little water to this, as it is very intense.  I imagine this would change from batch to batch, so test it first and then add just a little water at a time.  Chill it or heat it and add mulling spices to it.  It was a very special treat!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Can you find us???

The first thing that my friend Sonya and I learned when we first came to look at the Apple House was that it was HARD TO FIND.  My GPS was about a mile off and while Sonya's iPhone got us in the right vicinity we still couldn't see the house.  Lucky for us there was a group of goofy teenagers playing basketball at a home near where the iPhone said the house was.  We took our chances and asked them:

me: "Hey, do you guys know where number 88 is?"
super smart teen boy (with a grin):  Well, this is number 87, so it's gotta be close!"

there is not another house that can even be seen from where we are.

me: "OK, super smart teen, then where is the log house around here?"
sstb (points across the street) "in that orchard, way back there."

Thank you sstb who is now my neighbor.  I appreciate your help and I'm sure you appreciate me as a source of entertainment.

The Apple House has a driveway that is about 200 yards long.  You can not see it from the road at all, as it very literally is in the middle of a huge orchard.   This became a problem in our first week here as we had deliveries (minor things, you know, like internet modems and preschool paper work) coming to the house almost every day and people had a hard time finding the place, especially in the dark.


Give the people something to look for!

 This was the sad state of our mailbox when we arrived.  It is a quirky thing, obviously home built.  More on that later.  Link thought we should replace it, but I kind of liked it and told him to give me a crack at it first.
Goodbye newspaper tube!  John Henry and I scraped and sanded the old paint and lettering off of it, and then covered the cool old wood.  We didn't want to mess with that!
HELLO!  A couple of coats of chartreuse paint and we are getting easier to find all ready!
Next I dry brushed the entire thing lightly with red to give it some age and depth, painted the flag red, added the appropriate numbers and a sign with our name on it made from one of the old shingles off of the house.  John Henry and I also collected large rocks from around the area and dry stacked them around the base to strengthen it and also to cover up the white PVC pipe that is holding it in place.  Last, we added a small solar power light to up light it.

Now when people come to visit we tell them "Look for the apple green mailbox with our name on it and turn into the orchard there."  No one has had a problem finding us since!

One more fun fact.  While I was painting, our neighbor (sstb's father) came over to meet us.  He told us that the previous owner had, in fact, built the mail box.  It is constructed of iron and probably weighs 70-80 lbs.  He had done it after loosing his mail box one too many times to baseball bat toting teenagers in a pick-up truck.  Our neighbor also came up with his own solution.  He had what appears to be a normal looking mailbox, but the inside of it is partially filled with concrete.  He told us it was a satisfying night not long after they were both installed when he was awoken by the ring of aluminum hitting concrete, tires squealing, aluminum hitting cast iron, more squealing, and finally the sound of pick-up truck swerving off the road into the field.  The culprits managed to extract their truck and were never hear of again.

I LOVE IT!  And that mailbox is not going anywhere!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Desperate Times - Desperate Measures

The Apple house is located in a part of WA state where the water is very very hard.  The house had also sat empty for about 3 years, although the water remained on during that time.  However, no one thought to refill the salt in the water softener.  The insides of both of the toilet bowls were bright green where the water had eroded and oxidized the copper pipes.  The insides of both toilets had to be replaced, the washer hook-up had to be replaced, and basically, we are finding that every place that water comes out has been destroyed by the massive amounts of minerals (including sulfer - gah!) in our water.

Worst of all, the hard water has destroyed the dish washer and all of the associated plumbing.  I haven't had a dish washer for a month while it was on order / lost/ sitting in the warehouse because it was marked for pick up instead of delivery. . . yeah.  OK, so that's a pain, but manageable.  My chapped hands will tell you otherwise, but I am willing to do dishes by hand.  However, when they come to (at long last) replace the dishwasher they had to turn the water off to the kitchen sink.  Then there were plumbing problems, then there were parts missing, then, then, then. . .

A dishwasher I can live without, a kitchen sink I can not.

It is two days before Thanksgiving.  I have company coming.  It has been two days.  The dishes are piling up!


 Do the dishes in the bathtub.  This works surprisingly well.

Drain and rinse.

Lay out a clean drop cloth and allow to dry.

  Take a picture of your adorable baby who thinks you are a genius!

Then curse silently to yourself as the workers show up not 3 minutes later to fix the plumbing and install the dishwasher.  Actually, it's now been over an hour and they are still working on it.  Of course, there are more problems, so I am glad I got most of the dishes done beforehand.

Gotta love an old house.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


Earlier this year our family decided that we needed to uproot ourselves from our beloved Seattle and move to the MIDDLE OF NOWHERE.  In October we left our first home, a modern townhouse in the city.  We drove and drove and drove some more.  We landed in a log house that sits in the middle of 20 or so acres of apple orchards.  John Henry, our three year old son, christened it the "Apple House" right from the start.

The Apple House needed more than a little bit of work.  The Wrights are the family for the job!  We will be working with our land lord (yes, we are renting, we aren't sure we want to stay in the middle of nowhere forever) to revive this long neglected, but once well loved, home to a comfortable and cozy state.  Our goal is to make it fit for an energetic family and a retreat for the friends and family we must bribe to make the long long drive to visit us.

Please join us as we chronicle this transformation, here on Apple House Revival.
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