Sep 25, 2017

Cabin Exterior Painting Part One

I know what you're thinking: 

"What great Halloween costumes, complete with creepy diabolical facial expressions!"

But no, these are actually the super cute outfits we put on each day before scraping flaking lead paint off the outside of our cabin in order to get it ready for painting. The diabolical expressions are actually expressions of disbelief and shock, as in, "What the heck were we thinking when we took on this fixer upper!"

If the peeling layers of paint tell the story; our sixty-seven year-old cabin has only been painted a few times over all its years. Not nearly often enough. You can see from this uneven surface of previously scraped layers of paint, this isn't the first time it's gone too long without new paint. Note how the wood is cracking and rotting around the nails from exposure to water - tsk, tsk.   

We don't have the stamina to sand all the siding down to bare wood for a smooth surface, nor the funds to pay someone else to do it for us. We've been told with some TLC that we can do ourselves, though, these beautiful old boards will once again keep our little cabin weather-tight. We never even considered replacing them before their time is up - that would be wasteful.  

So we've taken on what has turned out to be quite a huge task for a couple of sixty year-olds. We're scraping off the old loose paint, priming the bare wood, caulking cracks and holes, and screwing down loose boards to prepare our cabin for fresh paint. 

Before we bought our cabin we knew this would be a DIY job. However, we had no idea just how much paint was peeling off until we actually started scraping. Hence, the look on our faces of, "oh my gosh, what have we gotten ourselves into?!?!" 

I don't get along well with ladders, so I scraped and primed the bottom halves while my husband did the top halves. He also did all the caulking. He's a wizard with a caulking gun.

The masks we're wearing are protection from breathing in lead paint dust. Each day after scraping, we carefully wrapped up the paint flakes we had let fall onto thin plastic tarps. These will be disposed of at the hazardous waste dump sight. 

There were days I almost cried over this paint scraping job. To be honest, I would think long and hard before tackling this one again, folks. But it's funny how things work out - just when you think you're going to drop from fatigue and you can't go another inch, you look up and find you're done!

Well, kind of done. 

Tomorrow we start painting!


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Sep 19, 2017

A Summer Forest Walk

I'm saying farewell to summer today with walk through the late summer forest in Ponderosa State Park. The park boundary is just a few short blocks from our cabin and a favorite morning destination for Tucker and me.  

Tucker is over twelve years old now and still my constant hiking companion.

He's always the leader!

Ponderosa State Park is on a peninsula that juts out into Payette Lake just outside of McCall, Idaho. I'm awed by the majesty of the park's Ponderosa Pines. According to Wikipedia, they're the second tallest pine trees after Sugar Pines.

Eventually the trail opens out onto our destination, a small cove on the Lake where Tucker has a drink and cools off, chases a few tossed sticks, and then we head back. 

What a lovely last summer walk, and a perfect farewell to the season! 

Sep 11, 2017

Tomato Basil Tart

I don't usually share recipes on my blog. However, over the weekend I tried out our cabin oven for the first time with such great results I wanted to share my cabin cooking saga experience and a link to the recipe I made. It's one of my all-time favorite dishes that I've been making with luscious summer tomatoes and fresh basil from our garden every summer for years. If you grow tomatoes, you probably have lots of them right now, so I hope you'll be tempted to try out this easy and delicious late summer tart. If you don't grow your own, I bet you can still find wonderful summer tomatoes at your local farmer's market. I only make this recipe for special once each year and only with home grown summer tomatoes. I wouldn't even think of making it with grocery store tomatoes. (Maybe grocery store tomatoes where you live are edible, but not here in Boise, Idaho. Blah!) 

The oven in our tiny cabin kitchen is a small cute 24" wide range that was here when we moved in last fall. I wanted to buy replacement drip pans for it, and when I googled the model number I was surprised to see it's still available. I had never seen such a tiny cook range, and I just assumed it was old like our cabin. We've been so busy working on fixer upper projects around here, we are just either too exhausted or haven't had much time to cook here. We usually fix a quick sandwich, get takeout, or grill something quick and easy on the Weber, so after scrubbing the cabin oven until it looked like new (no self cleaning option), it just pretty much sat unused for months. This weekend I knew I'd have some extra time, so I picked some fresh tomatoes from my garden at home and brought them up to the cabin along with the other ingredients for this recipe.

My cook range at home back in Boise is dismal. It has one of those encased heating elements in the bottom and I can only describe how it bakes food as steaming, not baking. It rarely browns food, and recipes just don't taste as good as they did in all my other past ovens. Plus, it takes an eternity to preheat. It also has a glass cook top that responds to heat changes at a snail's pace. I just hate it and hope to replace it with a gas range one of these days. Meanwhile, I have to admit that because it's such an unpleasant experience I've sort of lost my enthusiasm for cooking in general. In fact, the only reason I can imagine a company designing and selling such a dismal piece of cooking apparatus is as a kitchen place holder for people who don't cook. I've seen people like that on HGTV's House Hunters - they want great looking appliances, but they admit they never use them!

I'd forgotten how nice it is to cook on a normal range and oven until I used our inexpensive little cabin range this weekend. The electric coil burners heat up and cool down with the flick of a knob and the oven preheats in no time and (drum roll) it browns food! Honestly, it's nothing that special; it's just that I've been using my crummy range at home for a couple years and forgot how a normal cook range is supposed to cook!  The only thing it doesn't do is have a timer, so I bought a cute little owl timer to sit on top and it's like my little buddy now. 

So when my tomato tart turned out golden brown and bubbly delicious I decided to share it with you. I didn't want to step on any copyright toes, so I googled the recipe and was amazed to see almost everyone has this recipe on their food website! I guess I'm not the only one with good taste. :)

The recipes online are all pretty much the same, so I'm sharing the link to this one from the Better Homes and Garden Website. Basically, you just bake a store bought pie crust, sprinkle some shredded cheese in the bottom, arrange drained tomato wedges on top then spread spoonfuls of a cheese mixture on top of the tomatoes and bake. Trust me, this is food fit for the gods. If you love tomatoes, cheese, and basil, you will LOVE this tart. Serve it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, appetizer, whenever. 

(And then you might want to go for a long walk, run or bike ride because, be forewarned, it's not a skinny recipe - so worth it, though!)


Sep 3, 2017

DIY Cabin Kitchen Work Bench

We're having a late summer heat wave here this week in Idaho, so it's a good time to stay inside where it's cool and share a project my husband built a few weeks ago for our cabin kitchen.

Scary before pictures.

When we bought our cabin last fall the kitchen was very crowded and dark. The refrigerator stuck out into the middle of the room, and we had to stand to the side to open the oven door on the opposite wall. The very first thing we did after we bought the cabin, even before we scrubbed and cleaned, was move the refrigerator into the back room next to our pantry cupboards so we could move around.


Unfortunately, we couldn't move this huge water heater out of the kitchen, too! I've never heard of a hot water heater just sitting out in a room before, so I was really surprised the first time I saw it. It's not exactly a charming design statement, to say the least, but the space is too tight here to box it into any kind of a cupboard or closet. I was at least a little happy when we removed the ugly brown cover to clean it and discovered it was reversible to a somewhat less ugly brown cover with flowers. I'm very good at ignoring things that bother me, and I've decided to simply ignore the water heater. It honestly just doesn't register with me anymore. 

But I'm sure glad to have hot water! 

Eventually, we plan on having a propane tank buried on our property and a gas line extended to the cabin for a new tankless water heater that will hang on a wall in the back room. Then, once the water heater and old unused chimney are removed from this corner, the refrigerator will go back in the water heater corner and a new range with hood will move to the opposite wall. But for now, a new metal roof and exterior painting have to be checked off our list before we get to that.


You can see that once we moved the refrigerator out and set up our little temporary folding camp table we had a lot more room in which to work. Fresh white paint lightened up the space and made it seem larger.  

My Photoshop idea board.

Back before we even closed on the cabin I had been designing temporary kitchen solutions on Photoshop. We couldn't install base cabinets with a countertop along this wall until a major remodel because of the baseboard heater, so I had decided a European-style work bench on wheels might work well.

When I couldn't find a workbench large enough to purchase, I gave my husband a few Pinterest photos (several versions of two shelves and a worktop on wheels) and my preferred dimensions (5' long, 36" tall, and 25" deep) and asked him to custom build it, with the caveat that he keep it simple and not work too long on it. (It's supposed to be all about fun around here, not work!) A couple of weeks ago he loaded up his pickup with his table saw and a bunch of scrap wood from our garden shed in Boise, and he built this work bench for me at the cabin. I'm thrilled with the top that's long enough for two cooks to work side by side. It's also the same comfortable height as the other counters. The open shelf storage below easily holds large items, like the microwave and pancake griddle, and is easy to see and access. The wheels allow us to keep the work bench up against the baseboard when the heat's not on and pull it a few inches out from the wall when it is.


Until we find a bargain priced slab of marble or soapstone for the top, we have it covered with easy to clean oil cloth and a large cutting board. My husband was thrilled that he could use up free scrap wood and that our cost for making the bench, including four locking wheels, the wood for the top, and the oilcloth fabric, was less than $100. (Note: he made sure none of the scrap wood was treated and that it would be safe for indoor use, even though food won't be touching any of the wood surfaces.)

As you can see, there's plenty of space between the new work bench and the stove. The walkway isn't blocked while someone is working at the stove or at the counter, and the oven door can be fully opened while standing in front of it. The refrigerator is only a few steps away next to the food pantry in the back room. 

I threw together a DIY chalkboard by painting a scrap piece of wood with chalkboard paint and hung it with a nail and some twine. I write lists for shopping and things to remember to bring to the cabin from home on my next trip, then I take a photo of it on my phone so I always have it with me and don't have to remember paper lists. I found the fish mold at a thrift store and my daughter gave me the moose cookie cutter for a Christmas gift. 

We will probably live with the original counter, backsplash, and floor until we do a major kitchen remodel. There's no telling when that will be, but this little kitchen works just fine for now for our weekend visits. Eventually, we'll put a dishwasher where the drawers are, but for now we don't even mind doing dishes here by hand.  

An Ikea cart is sturdy enough for the blender and toaster which we use right from here. These little carts are so handy!

If you're very observant, you may have noticed we modified the cute little shelf over our sink. Our kitchen sink area was like a dark hole. We tried under counter lighting and a brighter light bulb in the ceiling light, but it was still so dark! So our electrician installed a light over the sink and my husband cut the shelf out so it could shine down. It not only lights the sink now, it adds a ton of light to the entire kitchen. We miss the cute little shelf, but my husband left a bit of an edge so he could display something very dear to him.... 

My husband's precious Russian River Brewing Co. Pliny the Elder Beer Bottle
....two Pliny the Elder beer bottles from my husband's and his brothers' boy's week at the cabin last July. Now, I'm not really into decorating with beer bottles, so my husband really had to convince me that these were nostalgically important to him as well as somehow otherwise significant as special beer bottles. Apparently, and if you're from the Bay Area you'll understand this, Pliny the Elder Beer is incredibly hard to find because it's made in small fresh batches and sells out in the blink of an eye because it's so well thought of and in such demand. So, he said, it was a BIG DEAL that his brother brought some to the cabin for their reunion here, and it was REALLY GOOD.

American Homebrewers Association
You might be able to imagine my skepticism and eye rolling as my husband is trying to convince me his beer bottles deserve the place of honor on our little shelf above the kitchen sink. But when he told me the story of Pliny the Elder and how the beer named after him is on almost every Best Beer of America list (note #2), I had to agree; my husband's precious beer bottles are worthy of cabin kitchen display. 

Along with our thrift store fish mold and moose cookie cutter. 


I'm trying to decide between hanging a poster or open shelves above the new kitchen work bench. It will probably depend on how many more important pieces of artwork we collect... 


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