Tuesday, February 16, 2016

It's Maple Sugaring Season!

The forecast for the coming weeks in our area of the country predicts temps in the upper 30's-40's during the day and 20's-low 30's at night... which means that Maple Sugaring Season has begun! These are the perfect weather conditions for the maple sap to flow... above-freezing temps during the day, with below-freezing temps at night.

This has been the week of Maple Sugaring Preparations for us... we cleaned and sterilized our equipment, bought a couple of new buckets and spiles, tapped the trees and started gathering up piles and piles of kindling and wood for our first boil (hopefully!) next weekend.

This is our second year of sugaring. Last year, we had four taps in two big maple trees. We ended up with about 35 gallons of sap, which boiled down to about 2 quarts of syrup (you can read all about last year's sugaring here) This year, we've stepped it up to nine taps in 7 trees! I can't wait to see how much sap we end up with.
All ready to tap!

drilling holes for the spiles

We use plastic spiles with plastic tubing that
 that goes into 5 gallon buckets for most of
our trees... it's a little cleaner and more efficient
than the old fashioned metal spiles and pails. 

However... a couple of the trees are on a big
slope, so we had a hard time keeping the plastic
buckets from tipping over. On those trees, we're
trying the old-fashioned buckets that hang
right up on the tree. I think they're quite charming.

Big ol' maple with two taps.

We've started collecting kindling, for when it's time to boil.

If all goes as planned, I'll be reporting back next week with how our first boil of the season went! Until then... stay warm... less than 6 weeks till the first day of Spring!

Friday, February 5, 2016

Room Reveal... New Bathroom!

 One of our big projects this winter has been to give our main bathroom a much-needed face lift. I've hated this bathroom since I bought this house nearly 9 years ago, but since it was mainly a cosmetic issue, it ended up pretty low on the priority list.

When I first moved in, the bathroom had 1960's aqua-blue tiles on the lower half of the walls, with hideous pink and blue sponge painting on the upper half of the walls. Really. Ugly. To make it tolerable while we waited to fully renovate, I painted over the tile and sponge painting, which was definitely an improvement. But in my desire to escape the onslaught of pink and blue, I went a little ~too~ neutral, so for 8 years we've lived with this very bland and boring bathroom. We definitely needed to do something with this space. Here are some "Before" pics...
Before. ~yawn~

Before, with the aqua tile painted beige

Before. Note the broken drawer in the vanity, and the sink that
is off-center from the mirror. This off-center sink drove
me MAD for almost 9 years. Seriously. Who does that!? 

This project was finally kick-started due to a plumbing problem we had in the fall, which required our plumber to cut a big hole in the wall. We figured since the demolition was already started, we might as well go all the way. 
So it begins... 

We pried all the old tiles off the walls, and pulled out the old vanity and mirror...

Next, we had a carpenter come in to install bead board, trim and baseboards. We thought about doing this ourselves, but worried it was beyond our skill set, so we decided it was best to call in a professional. We're very glad we did. Nothing in our old home is square, so we'd have probably made a mess of things.

Once the carpenter finished, we painted the walls green and the bead board and trim a creamy white. After years of boring beige, it was fun to get a little color in here.

After we put in new light fixtures and the plumber installed the new sink, we were ready for the final touches on our new bathroom!

(**Drumroll.... **)


Shower curtain, from Target,
which inspired our color scheme. 

Found this fun reproduction antique TP holder
on Ebay... it says "London Paper Co"

Old ladder to hold towels, and a cute little
sign I found in a clearance bin. I think
"I will be Grateful for this day" is a great
message for us all to look at as we wash
up each morning and prepare for our day 

Shelves made from a stack of old crates to
hold necessities like wash cloths, Qtips,
cotton balls, epsom salts, etc.

The wood boxes under the sink hold
cleaning supplies, while the big jar
 holds assorted handmade soaps.

I'm really happy with how this room turned out. It suits our casual style, and feels like it "fits" much better in our 1890's house. Since we reused much of what was there already (tub, toilet and tile floor were all left as-is) we were able to get this done pretty cheap.

So here's something... this renovation is a milestone of sorts. It took nearly 9 years, but we've finally redone every room in the house... this bathroom was the last one. But now, some of the rooms we did early on are starting to look a bit ragged again... nothing too major, but definitely needing a little patching and repainting. When I bought my first house, someone told me that your home is never really "done"... there is always something else that comes up. They weren't kidding!

But all that can wait for the time being. We're taking a little breather on home projects, now that the bathroom is finished. We're enjoying a nice "snow day" today, and after the weekend we'll be getting ready for Maple Sugaring Season! I can't wait!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

January Highlights, "Sneak Peaks" and Big Plans...

I remember writing up my New Year's Intentions post, on New Year's Eve, just so excited to see what January 1 would have in store for us. Well, turns out January had SO much in store, I was far too busy living my life to write about it! Here were some highlights:

1. We finished up a deeee-lightful Winter Break, and got back into our full roster of activities, classes, etc. Homeschooling four active kids between the ages of 11 and 17 is always an adventure ;)

2. We've been getting my middle boy ready for SCHOOL! Yup, after homeschooling for his whole life, he's decided he wants to try high school next year... so, we've been spending lots of time perusing literature, attending orientations, parent nights and info sessions and meeting with guidance counselors. Exciting stuff! I think this will be a positive experience for him.
"Sneak Peak" at my
new bathroom! Full
reveal coming soon!

3. We've been renovating the bathroom. It's nearly finished, and there will be a "Room Reveal" post coming soon, with Before and After pics!

Meanwhile... we've also been enjoying some other nice winter-time diversions, such as cookie-baking, winter walks, hot chocolate and lattes, reading, crafting, ice-skating... typical January-type stuff.

But now... it's FEBRUARY... which means it's time to start thinking ahead to What's Next. In our case, that means we're going to start preparing to tap the trees for Maple Sugaring, and we're going to start planning this year's garden and ordering seeds.

The First Day of SPRING is less than 7 weeks away!