Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!!

Wishing everyone a wonderful year in 2009! More time pursuing your dreams and less time slogging uphill through mud in the rain!!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Shout Out to California

Hey California relatives!!! Thanks for the toys!!

From the moment the package was delivered, Bailey was especially excited about it.

This dog knows what to do with presents!

It's a liver-flavored everlasting treat! (Bailey takes that "everlasting" as a personal challenge).

Sue & Bailey enjoying the new toys.

Thanks guys!!! We challenge you to a game of Blokus at our next get-together!

Christmas Breakfast: Sticky Buns

I've had some Christmas breakfast successes, along with some failures. This year I'm trying a new recipe for Sticky Buns, from King Arthur Flour. They use a yeast dough - a source of some of my notable Christmas breakfast disasters. However, the recipe says you can assemble the buns the night before, and then just warm them up and cook them on Christmas morning. Sounds safe enough!

King Arthur Flour's Sticky Bun Recipe

All fall I kept promising myself that I'd test the recipe before Christmas. But here we are.... Christmas has arrived and I'm testing the recipe on Christmas morning.

You may wonder what instant mashed potatoes are doing in my kitchen....Well, apparently that's one of King Arthur's baking secrets. They're a dough ingredient. Who knew?

Through bread machine magic, the dough is kneaded and has risen.

I just put together the glaze and spread it in the pan. (Super easy).

Then pat out the dough, fill, roll,'s ready to go....into the fridge overnight.

After an hour getting back to room temperature in the morning, I bake the buns.

Uh oh!! Disaster looms...

But when the smoke clears, the sticky buns look great.

Whoops - they come out of the pan without their glaze.

Quickly smearing the glaze in place makes things right again.

The results, I'm happy to report, were delicious!! I flirted with Christmas breakfast disaster, but escaped unscathed!

I definitely need a deeper cake pan for the recipe next time, so the glaze doesn't bubble up and out....that was the source of all that smoke!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Robins Coming Home to Roost

Starting at 3:45 pm, scattered groups of robins arrive and land in the oak trees along the Squamscott River. Sunset is at 4:14 pm, so presumably the robins are returning to their nighttime roost.

The robins gather into larger groups in the treetops.

In addition to a few hardy birders, this large number of robins attracts other interested this sharp-shinned hawk.

Sharp-shinned hawks prey on smaller birds, like robins, so every time the sharpie moves, all of the robins around him scatter. We see him chase birds several times, but we don't see him capture anything.

A red-tailed hawk is also surveying the scene.

Robins continue to arrive in groups of 10 - 50, and then they head from the oaks to the conifers. A knowledgeable local birder estimated that this roost contains several thousand birds each night.

What are robins doing in New Hampshire in the winter? They may be birds from farther north who will winter here. When the ground is frozen and snow-covered, robins mainly eat fruit - berries, crab apples, sumac. Often this fruit is bitter tasting in the summer, but by winter it loses its bitter taste.

If the food supply in an area gets depleted, the wintering robins will move on to an area with more food.

After parts of the flock gather in the treetops, they fly into the conifers on land that was formerly a Christmas tree farm where they will spend the night.

Time for this cold birder to head home and warm up!!

Monday, December 22, 2008

How is my Loom?

Once we got the loom unloaded, we experimented with different ways we might revive the 35-year-old finish. I couldn't capture it in pictures, but it looked pretty beat up.

Thursday night we visited our local Woodcraft store, where the very helpful woodworker on duty took one look at the loom pieces we brought him, and said "Sandpaper.....or an axe!" Actually, he spent quite a bit of time with us. He tested the finish with a pocket knife even, and recommended that we sand and apply Bush Oil to the wood.

Here are 5 finished beams.....Note that my studio is re-arranged and covered in plastic....All other projects are pretty much at a standstill.

We've still got sanding in progress and many untouched pieces (the bench, the beater, most treadles).

For anyone interested in more details of the process we're using:

First we sand until the piece looks fairly uniform. We're using 80 or 100 sandpaper, then 150, then finishing with 220. The wood we're working with has 2 coats of varnish on it, and then has been sprayed with a milky-looking opaque, drippy finish - wear and tear and dirt have been added to the mix too.

Toika, the loom manufacturer, was comfortable with the sanding approach. In fact, when I emailed them, they recommended that we use power tools to sand it down. We haven't had to resort to power tools yet!

Next we wipe the loom down with microfiber cloth, and then with our hands, to remove all of the dust from sanding.

Finally, we apply 2 coats of Bush Oil following the instructions on the package. Basically, the first coat is a heavy coat, which rests for 30 minutes, then we apply a second coat. After 15 minutes, we wipe the wood completely dry then allow it to cure for 14-16 hours before use.

Before we decided on this process, we experimented with Murphy's Oil Soap, Orange Oil, Wax, De-waxer, Howard refinisher, and Formby's. Because of the combination of finishes on this loom, we decided refinishing the main pieces of the loom would get the best result. Fortunately, the moving parts of the loom appear to still have their original finish, so we don't anticipate as much work on them. At least, that is my fervent hope!

First Snowshoe of the Season

You want me to go out there?

Lots of new snow to play in!

Bailey & me taking a break.

Bailey on the run.

Bailey thinking "Hurry up! My feet are cold!"

Heading home!

Hello Winter!

Two snowstorms in a row...Friday and Sunday. Last week we had a little snow on the ground. Now, we have over 2 feet.

Since the sun is finally out, Jim decided to clear the way to the road.

He almost looks like he's having fun.

This morning on WMUR, they reported that 2008 is now the wettest year on record. (Records have been kept in Concord since 1870). 2005 and 2006 are the second and third wettest years here.

Time to break out the snowshoes!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Sweetness and Light

Sometimes it really is all sweetness and light!

Tonight we had dinner at the Wentworth, one of our favorite places for special occasions. No special occasion today though.

My dessert was molten chocolate cake with brandy ice cream - sweetness.

The Wentworth was all gussied up for the holidays - light.

In these dark December days, I need to remember to look for sweetness and light.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Heat, Light, Running Water

So, so nice!! Our power is back!! We have heat and light and running water again! The generator is great, but it's a relief to have the house back to normal and to be able to put the generator away. A hush falls over the neighborhood as the generator motors go silent.

Hopefully the power crews will be able to continue restoring power quickly to everyone else whose power is still out!!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Neither Snow, Nor Sleet, Nor Freezing Rain

I'm home with a Sudoku & flashlight - while Jim's off at a neighbor's rigging things up so they can turn on their furnace with our generator.

I hear some one walking across our porch.

OMG! It's Fed Ex.....unbelievable. There wasn't mail service today, but Fed Ex delivered packages. Pretty amazing!

Go Big or Go Home!

We decided to get more gas for the generator, since the power company is saying this outage will go on for days for some customers.

We made it out of our neighborhood OK, but in the 2 mile drive along a numbered route to a highway, we passed several downed trees, and had to squeak under a couple of downed or loose and sagging powerlines. All to get to the nearest shopping area where there was no power and no gas.

I got a little freaked out by it and decided one of us should stay at the house. And it should be me - with the pup of course!

So Jim dropped me off, and uneventfully found a gas station that had power.

The nearest shopping malls are the only place around with power, so they are packed like it's the day before Christmas.