Thursday, September 29, 2011

Making Grape Juice

One of the most interesting pieces of advice I've gleaned from the internet is to never turn down something free.  If you want to be on the receiving end of free stuff you need to accept it when it comes along.  Apparently that makes you more likely to be offered goodies in the future since the giver already knows you're interested.

While I do a lot of giving away for free, I haven't had much opportunity to be on the say yes end until recently.  When we were in Ohio a couple weeks ago, we volunteered to pick grapes from my grandmother's bountiful supply of concord grapes so that she could make jam.  Since we were already out there she let us pick a box for us and my mom too.  My first thought was what are we going to do with all of these grapes.  I knew eating them as is was out of the question because after a year of eating seeded grapes in Saudi it is just a pain.  I didn't think jam or jelly was really a feasibly option because we don't have any of the basic start up gear.  Then my mom suggested just making grape juice and that seemed totally doable.

I spent time taking off all the stems and picking out all of the bad grapes and then we were ready to go.  I didn't weigh the grapes before cooking them, but based on the amount of juice we got we probably had about 4 1/2 pounds of grapes.

I followed the recipe for grape juice from Simply Recipes which was quick, easy, and spot on.  The only thing I didn't have was a colander so I borrowed my mom's old cone colander.  Using this worked really well because the wooden pestle was great for squeezing out the juice and it was much quicker than if we had let it sit and drip via gravity.

In the end we had about 3 1/2 of these jars of undiluted juice.

This doesn't seem like much juice for the effort, but it was really potent and we ended up diluting it with water by about half giving us about 72 ounces of fresh grape juice.

It only took us a couple of days to drink it all but it starts to ferment if it's sealed air tight for several days anyway, so using it quickly is recommended.

Out of the whole process, the only thing I would have done differently is to use old towels to protect the counters.  Grape stains almost everything metal and glass excluded and I ended up having to use baking soda and vinegar per advice found on Associated Content to get out the stains on the counter tops.  Grape season is almost over, but if we get more grapes in the next week or so we might get one more batch of juice this year.

Having grown up with this small grape arbor it astounds me that it has taken this long to pick grapes and you can bet we'll be back next year for more.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Labor Day Travels Part Deux

The inside spaces at the House on the Rock were filled with room after room of awesome, and the outside was no exception.  This huge cannon and chain was on display and it really looked like it could have been used at one point, although I don't know if it was.

There was a lot of wood supports and framing outside and it made the whole place feel warm and charming.

An overhead shot of the outside garden paths and ponds.  Everything was lush and green; even though it was a dreary rainy day, it was still delightful.

There were bridges across the pond connecting the paths, and some kind of koi/huge goldfish in the pond.

More bridges.  I feel like this would be a great place for family pictures; a great outdoorsy feeling without getting too far into nature.

There were also a couple of pretty little waterfalls.

Another little waterfall.

We had a couple other adventures in Illinois including a trip to UIUC to visit the infamous underground library and the cornfield that caused it.

Performing Arts theater building on campus

We also spent an afternoon at a nearby orchard enjoying the best hot apple cider and apple cider doughnuts. They really were the best doughnuts I've ever had.  They also had a little farm museum with all sorts of old farm equipment and memorabilia from life in the early 1900s.

They even had a 48 star flag on display.

I really loved the look of this old fashioned stove/oven.

They had a few animals too including this baby cow, some goats, and chickens.  It stank to high heaven inside the barn, but the animals were pretty cute.

Cool old truck sitting outside the orchard.

The worst part about our trip was that it couldn't last longer! We had a great time visiting and really recommend going to the House on the Rock!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

House on the Rock Rocks!

Over labor day we drove to Illinois to visit my best friend and her family for a few days, and while we were there we drove up to Wisconsin to visit the House on the Rock.  If you've never been, it's what is sounds like, but the house and surrounding buildings have turned into museums full of a bit of everything from anywhere.

Outside there was an ornamental garden with some pretty adorable plants.  These are a type of ornamental pepper that are so small they can grow up instead of down.

These pumpkin on a stick were probably my favorite because they are just too cute.  In reality, they aren't pumpkins at all but actually eggplants.

More eggplants, this time white eggplant which look like little eggs growing on a plant until they turn yellow.

Stained glass inside the house.

Asian themed statues.

This was the ceiling in one section of the house and I really liked the way it looked.

Since the house stands on the edge of a rock, this infinity room lends a great view to the surrounding area, if you can stand the bounciness of the walkway.  The whole structure was cantilevered and so it would sway up and down as people walked the length of the room.

This was my favorite gun from the very large collection.  I can't imagine it would have worked well or been very accurate, but it was probably comical if it was ever used.

One of the best parts was all of the player instrument exhibits.  Each one played a different song, and this one played Octopus's Garden.  It played near continuously while we walked around the giant whale and looked at the model ships.

Teeth from the giant whale.

Giant indeed.  This took up the entire middle section of what was a very large warehouse type building.  The whale is in battle with the giant kraken.

Tons of model ships lined the walls on several levels around the whale.  There were a lot of recognizable boats too like the Titanic, Mayflower, and Columbus's three boats.  

Planes, boats, and even cars were in the museum.  This car had been entirely covered in a tile mosaic, which was pretty cool looking but I would imagine made the car incredibly heavy.

Another schmancy car unfortunately type unknown.

Even the bathrooms were decorated with all sorts of stuff.  This bathroom had an entire winter scene populated by penguins while some of the other bathrooms had planes suspended from the ceiling and glassware in display cases.

Back outside they had wagons, carriages, and this funeral carriage as well.

House on the Rock is filled with lots of crazy weird stuff, but as far as museums go, it was probably one of my favorites and well worth the drive!

Monday, September 26, 2011

New (to us) Car

Well I honestly thought it was going to be a bit longer before we'd get to write about buying a new (to us) car.  We knew when we got home finding a car was going to be a priority especially after Steve got a job quickly; so we did what was natural, we procrastinated.  About two weeks ago we finally decided to get serious and try and find something so we could return the car we're currently borrowing.

We started with the local papers and some car websites like and even checked out craigslist in hopes of finding a good deal.  I hoped we would be able to skip the dealership because it sounded quite intimidating and like any new thing, a bit scary, but after viewing four or five cars from private sellers that weren't up to the quality we wanted I gave in and decided to give it a go at a nearby dealership.  And by nearby, I'm really quite serious; the dealership was right beside our apartment complex.  That's not saying too much because we seem to live right in middle of a the dealership district with no less than eight nearby.

Last Wednesday we browsed the dealership websites near us and found a Focus that would be worth perusing.  Thursday we went to the dealership to do a test drive and see if it was worth buying.  In the end it was much easier and less stressful than I thought it was going to be, and after a few rounds of negotiation we settled on a price that Steve and I both felt comfortable with.  After all the work of finding and buying a car, we still couldn't take it home because we needed to line up car insurance first.

Our new car sitting in our parking lot!

Friday morning I spent a big chunk of time talking to insurance agents trying to find car insurance that wasn't going to break the bank.  It turns out that having an insurance policy in the previous six months makes it much more affordable to get new insurance.  At this point, I thought we were a bit screwed but after some digging, it turns out my parents never took me off their policy, so in the end we did have proof of prior insurance.  This is one of the few times I'm completely grateful about slacking off on updating policies.

To top it off, we're getting a discount on our rental insurance also because we decided to stick with the same company for both policies.

Now I can officially add buying insurance and a car to the list of things that no longer seem quite as scary as they did before, and will hopefully be less stressful when we need to buy a second car.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Life Update

I was hoping to have an awesome post about our recent trip to Illinois, but instead I'm up to my eyeballs dealing with insurance and cashier's checks because we bought a new (to us) car last night!

It's exciting and a relief to be done car hunting, but I know that we'll have to do it again soon to get a second vehicle once I get a job.

Tune in Monday for more exciting blog action!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Cabin Part Deux

After a fun filled and slightly disappointing morning at the cabin, we moved on to bigger and better projects.

Like holding up posts!  I'm not really holding it up, these are the posts for the new deck.  So far there isn't anything beyond the posts, but with winter approaching a real roof has higher priority.
(Photo by Allie, who's got a lovely little blog with a great name, if only she updated more!) 

Allie went all artsy and took pictures of powertools, and dang she makes powertools look pretty.

This is mom's new (to her) cast iron claw foot bathtub.  It's sitting in the back yard until the bathroom extension is done, which makes sense right tubs in the yard in southeastern Ohio.

Relaxing in the hammock left by the last owners.  Great for one person, a hazard for two let me tell you! 

And look, Allie back to sleep in the car. 

Mom sitting and lamenting her broken generator.  She really wanted to get the roof up.

When you've got a meadow the size of a football field (or bigger) you need some serious power to get it mowed, especially when it's approaching three feet high.  Mom's tractor is just the tool, although it was a bit funny to watch her learn how to drive it!

Having the tractor sit open in the field is what inspired the afternoon part of the project, a Garage in a box.  She needed a decent way to store it so that it was better covered and less visible to someone wandering through.

So we worked and worked on getting all the pieces together in almost the right places. (Photo by Allie)

About 2/3 through I just had to lay down and lounge in the sun.  It had finally warmed up in the afternoon, and after a morning of three layers, being warm was glorious.  This winter is positively going to freeze me; there's no way I'm going to get used to being so cold here. (Photo by Allie)

Progress the roof frame is getting higher off the ground. (Photo by Allie)

And there was plenty of time for goofing around. 

And funny faces. 

It took a lot longer than expected, nearly 3 or 4 hours to get the whole thing together, but that's mostly because there was a lot of putting together to take apart, and we weren't even making mistakes!  There's still one more to put up but there just wasn't enough daylight to get them both done in one day. 

This was my trip down.  A great book, and some serious heartburn.  Lisa See has written a bunch of other books that I look forward to exploring in the future.

By 7pm it was time for dinner, which closely resembled lunch but with more chicken (not for me).

Steve likes chicken.

And Allie does too, at least she did before she started working at Chick-fil-a.

After dinner we packed everything up, including the generator and drove back home.  Thankfully, I didn't ride with the generator, but I heard that it was gaseous.  They drove with the windows down the entire way home.

So that was our weekend at the cabin.  It looks like we'll have several more before it gets too cold to work.