Thursday, December 21, 2017

Our Little Free Library, in the News

The story of the Little Free Library that my husband and I built is featured today in an article in the Potomac Local.

To read the article:  click HERE.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Little Free Library

Our neighbors, Jim and Beverly, next door at Hartwood Winery are very special to us.  I often say that they are family we were privileged to choose for ourselves.  Jim is a retired school librarian ... and I knew exactly what I could do for him as a big Christmas surprise.  A librarian needs to have a library, so we built him a Little Free Library of his very own!

The design of our little library is influenced by our red barn, which is clearly visible from almost everywhere on the winery property.  The actual plan is based on a Little Free Library at the police station in Fredericksburg.

I first found out about the Little Free Library program in this blog post by Karen at This Old House 2.  I instantly loved the idea ... to exchange books, take a book/return a book, as the sign says.

It took us about a week to build the library, and it cost very little because most of the materials we used were leftovers that we squirreled away after finishing other projects.  The body of the library is 3/4" plywood.

It's painted with the remnants of a can of Annie Sloan Chalk Paint.  (Primer Red, of course.)

The library needed doors and windows, to truly reflect the design of our barn.  It didn't take long to measure, tape, and paint them with acrylic paint.

The trim boards are cut out of scraps of 1x2 poplar from our front porch column project.  The little 'roof' over the door opening is a scrap of brick molding that we had lying around.

Couldn't resist adding this photo of our grandson, learning to use a brad nailer to attach the trim around the roof.

Roof shingles were leftover from one of our outbuildings.  We bought the white aluminum drip-edge.  (The biggest challenge in this project was to do everything possible to make sure that the inside of the library stayed dry.)

The door is made from 1x2 poplar, rabbeted to hold a piece of plexiglass (which is secured with glazing points and sealed with silicone).  We installed a piece of adhesive gasket inside the door opening, for further protection against the weather, and the door is held closed with a barrel bolt.

The library base is made from a scrap 2x4 and four shelf brackets, and it sits on a 4x4 post set in concrete.  Our neighbors were out of town last week, so we could work on this part of the project on their property without worrying about spoiling the surprise.

I see that I forgot to paint the bottom of the trim.  I'll fix that when the weather is favorable.

To make the library look extra festive, since it's Christmastime, I made this ornament for the door.  A $3 glitter deer head from Target, hot-glued to a $2 bell wreath from Michael's.  

To complete the set-up, I added a few books and a Christmas card.

All of our effort and sneakiness paid off, when Jim and Beverly came home the other day and saw their surprise!  Jim said that he is going to have a lot of fun with this ... and that was the whole reason behind doing this for him.  Those who have seen it have promised to support it by donating books and telling their friends.

Do you have a Little Free Library nearby?  You can check by searching the world map on their web site.  (BTW, this is the only one in zip code 22406.)   

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Nonnie's Pumpkin Pie

My pumpkin pie is based on the recipe that came from my paternal grandmother.  We called her Nonnie.  

Gotta have a generous helping of whipped cream with pumpkin pie.

Seems fitting, with pumpkin puree on hand (made with the instructions in THIS post) that we whip up a pumpkin pie using Nonnie's recipe (which is the best that I have ever tasted ... even folks who say that they don't like pumpkin pie have admitted that this one is delicious.)

Nonnie and me, in 2004, when she was 103.

Nonnie's Pumpkin Pie

1 lb. of fresh pumpkin puree (or one 15-oz. can of pumpkin)
3 eggs
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. allspice
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. salt (can reduce this, if you want, to as little as 1/2 tsp)
1/4 tsp. ginger
1-1/2 cups milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Whisk the pumpkin, eggs, sugar, and spices till blended.  Add the milk and stir.  Pour into a 10" pie shell.  Bake for 90 minutes or more, until center of pie is set.  I err on the side of allowing more oven time when I'm not sure if the pie is done.  

(Can also be baked in a 9" pie shell for about an hour, but you'll have a bit of leftover filling.)

Serve with whipped cream.  Refrigerate any leftovers.


Jessie Louise Toalson Stamp Stevens.  Born November 14, 1901.  Only child of Elmer Thomas and Pearl Mettie (Crowley) Toalson.

Nonnie gave me this locket, with photos of her parents, and her mother's wedding ring.

Nonnie lived a very long life.  She married twice, had four children (my dad is the youngest).  She lived many places as a young girl, then as an Army wife, finally settling in California, where she died in 2007 at the age of 105.  She is buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery in Long Beach, California.

Nonnie as a young girl, with her mother and grandmother (Susan Todd Crowley)

The American celebration of Thanksgiving is upon us.  It is a time to be grateful for what we have, whether it's a bountiful harvest or the faces of our loved ones around the table sharing together as a family.  Let's all take a minute to reflect on our blessings ... and eat pie!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Homemade Pumpkin Puree

Last month, I bought a cool-looking pumpkin and plopped it into the center of our dining table to act as the only bit of fall decoration in our house.  (I don't do much to change up decor for the seasons or holidays other than Christmas.)  

The pumpkin spent a few weeks there on the table, and I even dusted it a couple of times.  Yesterday, I decided that I was tired of it and that it would be better as a batch of pumpkin puree.

Roasting a pumpkin and turning it into pumpkin puree for recipes is really easy!

Normally, I cut the pumpkin in half along its imaginary equator to roast it.  This was a really big pumpkin, though, so I cut it into quarters.

Scoop out the seeds and guts and place the pieces rind-side up on a baking dish.  

Bake at 350 degrees in the center of the oven ...

... till the pumpkin pieces are fork tender and begin to slump.  This took an hour and fifteen minutes with my pumpkin.

When the pumpkin is cool enough to handle, use a spoon to scoop the pulp from the rind.  I put the pulp into a large bowl and used my immersion blender to whirl it smooth.

I misjudged the amount of pulp at first, and put it into a bowl that was too small.

Extra dirty dishes aren't a problem with Ruby and Petal around.  Besides, pumpkin is good for them.

The results:  six one-pound containers of pumpkin puree.

Pumpkin pies for next week and afterward are a certainty ... and the other day I saw someone on TV making pumpkin bread pudding that sounded really good.  For now, these containers of puree are safely stored in the freezer till they're needed.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Flowers on Friday: Roses and Camellias, Straight Out of the Camera

I don't use my Nikon D70 DSLR very often anymore.  I like the in-the-moment convenience of my iPhone, which is always in my pocket when I'm outside.  Earlier this week, the light was lovely, and I took my trusty Nikon outside to see what I could capture.  Photos in this post are almost exactly as they were when they downloaded from the camera .... all I did to them was reduce the size, sharpen them a tad, and apply the watermark.  

'Paul Ecke, Jr.'  This color is SO difficult to photograph accurately.

'Tagalong'  Miniature rose.

Today is November 3, and most of the garden is feeling the autumn chill and preparing for its winter sleep.  Still, there are a LOT of flowers out there.  Many of the repeat-blooming roses have flowers.  Even a few of the spring-blooming roses have a produced surprise out-of-season flowers.  

'Morey's Pink'  Shrub rose.

'Perle d'Or'  Polyantha.  One of my favorites.

'Irish Elegance'  Three perfect flowers, all in a line.

As the roses put out their final flowers of the year, the Camellias are just getting started.

Camellia oliefera

'Winter's Star'

'Autumn Moon'

I love camellias!  They are a perfect evergreen transition from sunny to shady areas of the garden.  For me, the fall/winter blooming Sasanqua camellias perform better than the spring-blooming Japonicas, whose buds are eaten by squirrels and flowers are usually damaged by spring freezes. 

'Winter's Interlude'

Lost the tag on this one.


I found a wonderful surprise in the garden by the pavilion ... a little clump of Saffron Crocus flowers!

I brought these home from my 2015 visit to the Antique Rose Emporium in Texas.  The little bulbs grew leaves but didn't flower in 2016.  Last winter, voles tunneled through this garden and ate every single bulb in it, or so I thought.  This clump was spared ... probably because it is slightly away from where the others were and surrounded by Hellebores.

I had already harvested the Saffron threads from the flowers before I took these photos.  They're drying now.  There's not many of them, three threads per flower.  I will have to carefully decide what I want to cook to use them.

Today is a beautiful, sunny day here in Virginia, and I will be outside soon.  How is it where you are?

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