Living the cottage life, Alaskan style!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Our New Woodstove

Woo hoo!  I'm going to be warm this winter!  Woo hoo Woo hoo!  That's me, doing the happy dance!

For years, my hubby and I have had discussions of an alternative heat source for the house.  When we moved into this house, there was electric heat and a Monitor stove.  We knew we wouldn't be using electric heat and the Monitor was old and not efficient. 

So we installed a boiler.  My husband thought that was the solution to my problem of always being cold. 

But it wasn't. 

So two years ago we applied for a state energy audit and the experts came in and did their tests and outlined all the steps we needed to do to take our cute little cottage from a two ** to a four ****.  So we did. 

It didn't help.  I was still cold.  And it didn't matter if it was winter or summer or spring or fall.  I'm always cold. 
So this year I finally convinced my hubby that a wood stove, not a pellet stove or an oil stove, but a wood stove is what we need.  This has been my mantra for years now.  Something we can cook on when the power it out, to warm our clothes on a cold winter's day, to dry out our mittens after shoveling snow for hours.  It would cut our oil bill down considerably which was another major consideration. 

For whatever reason, he jumped on board and immediately had a wood shed built and firewood delivered.  Now the fun of stacking it although I have to say I wasn't allowed to help....  I guess it's a "man's" job..... But I do I find myself going out to look at it and feel proud of our wood pile.  I can feel the warmth! 
No, I couldn't help pile the wood, but my little grandson could!  Look at him go!  He filled his little 150 Ford truck with wood, then drove it to the woodshed, helped unload, came back for another load.  This little guy worked! 

This is our wood stove.  Nothing fancy.  We were asked if we wanted the gold trim.... no....  Any fancy attachments?  No.....  This is a work horse as far as I'm concerned.  We got it for one reason and one reason only.  To stay warm. 
And for the first time in years, I've been warm.  I sit in my rocker in front of it and read, enjoying the warmth that creeps through every part of my body.  Eventually, we'll look at the thermostat and it'll be 75 degrees or hotter, and I'm just comfortably warm.  That just goes to show how cold I've been if my new norm is 75! 

I'm looking forward to winter for the first time. To being warm during winter, for the first time. 

Later....  Nancy
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Sunday, October 2, 2011

This Week With the Grandkids

We had a really busy week with the grandkids. 
Lots of fresh air.
School time.
And long naps.
I have to admit that I've not yet gotten used to their pre-school schedule and not having them here all day, all week. 
And even though they're in pre-school two mornings a week, I still want the rest of their time at Grandmas to be special, productive, and worthy. 

So this week we bundled up and gathered leaves from the yard and up the road a ways to make a special Fall decoration for their mommies and dads. 

I had to laugh as we went walking down the road and Ellis, carrying her basket to put leaves in, goes, "I'm Little Red Riding Hood!"
Would that make Hunter the Big Bad Wolf.....?
Both kids love craft time, but I think Hunter has a better time.
Especially when there's glitter involved!
He really concentrates when he's working on crafts, whether it's a painting project or stringing beads.
Our project this week was to string pretty Fall leaves onto autumn-colored braided string (for a better description). 
I had already added the pretty beads to it so all the kids had to do was stick the leaf stem up into the beads, which would hold them in place. 
Aunt Georgia, the one on the left is for you!  Ellis made you a Fall decoration, but after I explained that the leaf was going to dry and become crumbly and it wouldn't make it to Kalama, she opted to have a picture taken of her holding it up for you.
So there you have it!  Enjoy! 
Ellis made several "leaves" that she was going to share with her mom and daddy. 
Hunter hasn't decided, yet, who he's giving his leaves to.  He thought maybe Grandma Wendy or Grandma Jill.  The decisions of a three year old. 
Regardless, they were both so very proud of their projects.
And this little darlin is Avery. 
 It's one of the few pictures I have of her because she's always moving so quickly. 
All I seem to get is a picture of her ear.  Or her hair.  Or her jacket.  Or her butt.  Something other than a cute picture of this adorable little girl.
But rest assured, we DO have a third grandchild that we take care of! 
Ellis got into sending emails this past week (or maybe it was last week....).
She sat at my computer and just typed away. 
Every few seconds, she would hesitate.  Then with her index finger would hit the bracket key.  Then the B key.  Then continue typing away.
A few seconds later, she'd do the same thing.
With the same keys.
As if she actually knew what she was doing. 
She's certainly watched her mom (or maybe me) type!
We sent off emails to her mom, dad, Grandma MiMi and Grandpa Steve, Aunt Georgia, and Josh and Shodie.
And was thrilled to get responses back!
So much, that I got a kiss! 
I'm sorry if you weren't on her initial list of emails, but maybe next time. 

Later....  Nancy
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Saturday, October 1, 2011

This is why I don't have anything nice!

They start out so cute.
And I have to admit, I love my Chippy.
I feed him peanuts.
But he's started chewing up my outside tablecloths! 

He's yanking and pulling with all his might, trying to get the cotton backing off.

I know he's lining his nest somewhere, and I'm almost tempted to just throw some cotton out for him.  Maybe he'll leave my tablecloths alone.
He probably thinks I'm the nicest person ever to provide this nesting material for him.
So I let him.  The tablecloth is ruined now, anyway. 
Later!  NancyPosted by Picasa

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Good Reads

Fall is hitting us head on!  The leaves are falling.  It's windy.  The days of all daylight are turning into shorter days with less daylight.  Pretty soon we'll be winterizing our gardens and tidying up the place in preparation for winter. 

Then I can sit back and read. 

I don't have a lot of free time in the summer.  I mean, it's daylight all night long.  We're busy busy.  We're trying to get projects done and enjoying life while the weather is nicer.  But I don't generally read much in the summer. 

This time of year, though, I start thumbing through my piles of books to select the next few to read.  I'm a light reader.  I don't like to invest a lot of energy into reading a book that I have to contemplate and I certainly don't like books where I have to analyze what's being said!  Just give me a good read.  It can be a romance, a western, a comedy, a true story, a mystery.  It can be about dogs, or other countries, wars, or the Oregon Trail.  It just needs to be light otherwise they'll only put me to sleep.  Actually, all books do, put me to sleep.  As soon as I start reading, my eyelids will get heavy. 

I've read some really good books this past year.  I actually keep a list of the books I've read throughout the year and rate them with stars.  Yes, I'm pathetic, I know!  But those books that I rate a three of four star (****) are books I will keep in my library to reread. 

Like Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay.  Good.  Good.  Good.  This was a 4**** book. Sadly, I did give this book away and I don't know why.  Now I'll have to buy another copy.
Sarah's Key 1st (first) edition Text Only

Some of my other favorite reads are books that are centered around cooking, like Francesca's Kitchen by Peter Pezzelli and .  And The School of  Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister.  I love books about cooking because they're always centered around love, family, or romance. 

I also love book series.  The Mitford series by Jan Karon is one of my long-time favorite series.  Every year when the next book comes out, I re-read all the previous books before I'll read the newest.  Course, after doing this every year, they get to be pretty fast reads because I already know all the characters and what's going to happen next.  But series draw me in and I feel like I know the characters.  The Cedar Cove series by Debbie Macomber is another favorite series of mine.  These series take me away into a place where I'm comfortable. 

I love romance novels....  I'm such a sucker for a good romance.  Like Nights in Rodanthe by Nicholas Sparks. I love all Nicholas Sparks books, but just recently got rid of all of them.  There are some books that I love, but don't re-read over and over because they're so similar to any other romance book out there.   They're a dime a dozen. 
Nights in Rodanthe

Then there's books about dogs.  I have a couple in my library that make me laugh and cry.  Running to the Mountains and A Dog Year by Jon Katz.  If you're a dog lover, check out these two books. 
A Dog Year: Twelve Months, Four Dogs, and Me

I'm also drawn to historical novels.  Not non-fiction, but fiction about the real events.  One of the best I've read recently was Moloka'i by Alan Brennert.  A good, good book about the Leper colony of Hawaii. 

So there you have it.  Some of my favorite reads.  These are all books I'll keep in my library.  The books I didn't keep, aren't worth mentioning, I guess! 

What are some good books you've read recently?  Nancy

Friday, September 2, 2011

Ash Spirea

Isn't this beautiful? 
It's Ash Spirea.
It comes into its glory about this time of the year to give me something to drool over.
It starts out with little droplets of white beads. 
A neighbor took some cuttings for wedding bouquets she was making.
I bet it was gorgeous.
The plant itself gets to be 10' tall and makes a great hedge and barrier.
It can also be considered invasive because it sends out runners for 3' in all directions.
I've decided to let it take over this particular garden as I love it that much.
Soon, it will change colors and I'll have a wall of oranges.
I'll share Fall pictures soon. 

Later!  Nancy
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Thursday, September 1, 2011

Morning Time Granola

I love my mornings.  I love getting up early and waiting for the morning to happen.  I love sitting at the table, sipping my coffee, reading through emails, checking my Facebook page, reading my favorite blogs and watching the bird and squirrel activity outside. I love my quiet time.  Those mornings when I don't have to be in a hurry to get going, to get dressed, to be ready for the day. 

Those days are far and few in between though since I babysit grandbabies many days of the week which does not allow for any morning loafing on my part.  And now I'm trying to squeeze in a 30 minute walk before the kids arrive, which gives me hardly any "me" time.  Well, I suppose it's all "me" time, but it's "me being busy" time, not the quiet time I love in the mornings. 

But I cherish those quiet mornings when I have nothing pressing to do but sit and enjoy the morning. 

I have a wonderful recipe for granola, and a perfect breakfast is a little granola with a little yogurt on top and some blueberries and/or bananas on top of that.  With my cup of coffee.  And my quiet time.  The only detail I'm missing is the tropical breeze and early morning balmy weather of Hawaii.  But THAT'S my ideal morning. 
If you like granola, try this recipe that I got from my sister, who got it from our cousin.  It's fantastic. 


In large bow, combine: 
6 cups regular rolled oats
2 cups almond (or pecans)
1 tsp cinnamon

In smaller bowl, whisk together:
1 cup honey
3/4 cup canola oil
1 TBS vanilla

Stir honey mixture into oat mixture.  Spread on lightly oiled cookie sheet.  Bake 350 until brown, about 20-25  minutes.  Stir, scraping sides and bottom.  Reduce heat to 225 and continue baking about 1 hour, stirring occasionally.  Let cool completely in pan, then scrape into air tight container or Ziploc bag.

In smaller airtight container, combine:
2/3 cup dried cherries
2/3 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup slivered almonds

You can mix or match this dried fruit to whatever you like.  When ready to serve, just add the dried fruit. 

This is so yummy.  I don't usually add the dried fruit, though, but opt for fresh fruit instead.  Enjoy! 

Later!  Nancy
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Friday, August 26, 2011

Six Weeks to Winter

Summers come and go quickly here in Juneau.  It just seems that we're at the height of it, enjoying it, having a great time, and next thing it's over.  We're in pure joy when the firewood looks like this: 

It's beautiful, isn't it?  It means we're in the middle of summer, we're having a good time, days are joyous, and life is good.... 

But when it looks like this.... not so much.... 

As legend has it..... when fireweed reaches its full splendor, the six-week count down to winter begins....

Start counting! 

Cheers or Jeers....? Nancy

Thursday, August 25, 2011


It's been raining here for what seems like forever.  Course, I know we had some sunny days earlier, but how quickly we forget.  It has been raining for about 10 days, I think. Maybe more.  Nonstop.  Constant.  Heavy rain and lots of wind.  This is our August.  It's always the worst month of the year. 

All this rain is certainly taking its toll on my gardens.  My annuals have been subjected to so much rain, they're just mush.  A slimy mush.

My violas and pansies... done.  That's what's left of them in middle of the zinnias.

My nasturtiums... done... except for a few diehard blossoms.  The rain just pounded them.

My peas and lettuce, done.

My rhubarb has seen its last day and leaves are starting to droop to the ground and turn colors.  Oh, well, it was a nice run of wonderful rhubarb while it lasted.  There's always next year.
We're always good about sharing our garden beauty but today I thought I'd show you what it REALLY looks like this time of year! 

Enjoy!  Nancy

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

some of my best babysitting

Have you ever kept a journal?  If so, then you understand when I say I go back and re-read my own writing.  I'll find myself laughing out loud and snickering at some of the silliness I write about especially stories about the grandkids.

high class maid service
And I certainly have the hours invested to get some good ones.  When my hubby and I first agreed to babysit, we had no idea what we were getting into.  Back then, there was just one grandchild so, sure, why not..... How difficult can it be?  Afterall, I've raised two kids already..... when I was much, much younger.... But I distinctly remember the conversation:  "Okay, we'll babysit just until Hunter gets out of that Newborn stage and day care becomes cheaper."  THAT'S what I said. 

This is what my son heard:  "Sure, we would LOVE to babysit for the next upteen years!" 

Shortly after we committed to babysitting one grandchild.... a second one arrived.  Of course we had to babysit both now otherwise we would be accused of favoritism! 

Then a year came and a year went and a second year....  Then a third grandchild.... Yes, now we're up to three grandchildren.  That was three years ago we agreed to help get the grandkids out of the Newborn stage.... 
looking for a good home
Here we are, seniors, in our late 50s/early 60s watching three babies 40 hours a week. We gave up our retired life, our weekly lunch with friends, our freedom to come and go and do as we pleased.  I no longer stay in my jammies and sip coffee in the morning as have to be ready for the first to arrive.  My entire day is chaos with little concentrated time for myself.  Try going to the bathroom with three little ones wanting to know your every move! 

Those first two years were spent in a tired daze.  There were days I just wanted to cry.  There were days when I DID cry.  I remember a few days stumbling as I would be walking back and forth trying to get my grandaughter to sleep I was so exhausted.  I remember being so tired I couldn't function.  So tired I wanted to throw up.  So tired, I felt sick.  But we kept babysitting because we made a commitment to our kids. 

The other reason we kept babysitting is because I simply could not imagine any other person taking care of these precious little people.  It was that simple.  Would someone else give them the attention and love my grandbabies deserved?   
she certainly has the moves!
We've passed our three year mark for babysitting and I have to say, it's gotten easier.  At least I'm not so tired.  The days are still extremely long and there isn't a day that I don't watch the clock as it moves backwards in time....  Or at least it feels that way.  And then I wonder if the day will ever end.  But it does.  The kids eventually go home, my husband and I look at each other and give a tired nod and smile.  Yes, we made it through another day.  Then the next morning, we get up and do it all over again. 

But every morning, it's a joy to see them again.  Their happy little faces.  We laugh all day at their silliness.  We do crafts, bake, cook, do chores.  We read, watch movies, have quiet time.  We give love and we get love.  And, yes, there is yelling, screaming, crying, fighting, pinching, pushing, hitting, biting, and all that, but the good moments generally outweigh the bad. 
asleep in the chair
Two of our grandkids will start pre-school in a couple weeks.  I've been waiting for this day for a long time.  It's going to free our week up considerably and will give us some of our freedom back.  But then there's that part of me..... the heart part..... that is starting to tug at me..... My little grandbabies are growing up.  They're starting school.  They're being put out there in the big world of craziness.  How will they do?  Will they be scared?  Will they make friends?  Will the teacher like them best?  And then there's the, have we given them life skills to cope?  This IS a full-service day care, and we've been diligent about teaching them all the skills they will need in the real world.... But are my little grandbabies ready.....?  They seem excited when we talk about it, but today my little Sweet Pea started tearing up and her lip quivering as we talked.  She wanted to know if her mommy would stay with her.  "How long will she stay with me?" she asked....  Maybe they're not ready yet....

I know pre-school is the next step.  I understand that.  And I've been waiting for it.  But now.... can't they just be silly little kids for a little longer before they have to grow up? 

Here's some stories you might enjoy.  Yes, it's been a journey, these past three years and I have to say, we have three of the most incredible grandbabies ever.  Would I do it all over again if given the opportunity....?  You know, I think I would.....

Blueberry Boy
Out of the Mouths of Babes
Day Care Fun
No Babies Were Hurt

I hope you enjoyed getting a little glimpse of what really goes on here! 

Later!  Nancy

Monday, August 22, 2011

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