Music Events at Afton Area Wineries

IMG_4842Many area wineries host live music during the warmer months of the year and lucky us, those warmer months start now! Grab your picnic blanket or lawn chairs and get ready to enjoy some fun Saturday evenings with tunes and a glass of wine. Here’s a quick summary of three Afton wineries and their events. Please be sure to visit winery websites for updated schedules and details.

IMG_0678 After Hours at Afton Mountain Vineyards occurs every fourth Saturday from 6-8:30pm beginning May 23. There is a $5 cover charge and wine is available for purchase by the glass or bottle. Local food trucks offer delicious options for dinner or a snack, plus the view at this winery can’t be beat!

IMG_4837 Veritas Winery has Starry Nights, which starts June 13  and occurs every second Saturday from 7-11pm. General admission is $15 per person, or if you’d like prime seating, tables are available for purchase and include a buffet meal. Wine is sold by the glass or bottle. These events can get pretty busy, so arrive early to find a good spot to setup your blanket or chairs.

IMG_4898 Tins for Tunes Concert Series is hosted by Cardinal Point Winery every third Saturday from 5-9pm, starting May 16. Admission is $10 or if you bring at least one non-perishable food donation for the local food pantry, the cover charge is $5. It’s a win-win. You can purchase a glass or a bottle of wine, and food trucks offer great local fare.

Tulip Poplar Bathroom Renovations: Demo and Construction

We are currently converting two large closets into a bathroom for the Tulip Poplar Room so that each bedroom in the future B&B will have its own bathroom. We have chosen three trees that grow on the Ridgeside property to influence our design and decoration choices for the rooms and bathrooms. The Tulip Poplar Room and Bathroom will have cheerful yellow and green accents and offer a bit of whimsy to guests. It will be a warm, comfortable, and energetic space. I love the flowers and leaves of a tulip poplar!

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For the first stage of the Tulip Poplar Bathroom renovation, we demoed the two adjoining closets. This is always an enjoyable part of a project – hammering through walls! – but it is also very messy.

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After demoing the drywall, Josh carefully removed the insulation; we try to salvage materials when we can and plan to use them (including the insulation and beams) in other projects.

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Then he removed all the studs from the inner wall (these beams were not structural):

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Josh came up with a few different layout options for this bathroom. Here’s one of the earlier designs:

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Ultimately Josh created a very thoughtful and efficient layout for this bathroom and began construction by building the inner shower wall. The shower will run the length of one side of the bathroom, and the sink and toilette will occupy the other side of the space.

He re-attached drywall to the back wall and mapped out plumbing locations for the sink, toilette, and shower. He also established locations for all the electrical work including light fixtures, outlets, and light switches. Josh spent a lot of time reading construction code to make sure everything conformed – this research is important, and his work will be inspected and certified by the county.

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It’s really neat to see the transformation of this space – we’ve already picked out and purchased some of the fixtures and materials. The floor tile is a beautiful cream marble, and the sink and cabinet are crisp white. I can’t wait to see everything take shape. It’s construction magic! Please stay tuned for future updates on this renovation project – we’ll have a post about the plumbing and electrical work soon.

Tracking Animal Prints in the Snow

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Spring has officially arrived in the form of warmer temperatures, budding trees, and singing birds, but I wanted to give a last farewell to winter by sharing some animal tracks I spotted during the many snowfalls in February and early March. After a few of the snowfalls, I trekked through the snow at Ridgeside in search of animal prints, hoping their trails would be captured in the snow. Luckily, there was a lot of activity! Nothing too out of the ordinary but fun non-the-less.

I spotted lots of tiny and cute rabbit tracks.

IMG_6192 And plenty of deer tracks, too.

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I’m fairly certain that these tracks must be from a fox because of the size and shape.

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The snow was so deep it was hard to get a clean print, but the trail made a graceful curving line like how a fox might prance and dart. Plus, as extra confirmation, Josh spotted a bright red fox one afternoon skipping along the white covered field. I missed it, but it sounds like a pretty sight!

Winter’s snow sure was beautiful, and it enabled me to see the adventures of the local critters, but I’m happy that spring has started to fill the property with active birds and early flowering bulbs. Goodbye, winter!

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Turmeric Tea

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Turmeric tea, also known as Golden Milk tea, is a healthy and comforting hot drink. I make it with fresh turmeric root in the colder months when the root is available at our local market, but you can also make it anytime with ground turmeric. The root is an absolutely beautiful golden yellow color and will stain everything it touches (including your fingers!). It has a fresh, almost citrusy spicy taste, and it is thought to help the immune system and is anti-inflammatory. It’s also great to drink when the seasons are changing.

There are many recipes out there for turmeric tea, but this is the way I prefer to make it – with honey, cayenne, and a splash of milk. Some also include fresh ginger root, but I love the turmeric on its own. This recipe makes one cup.

Here’s the list of ingredients:

  • fresh turmeric root (about 1 – 1 ½ inches per cup of tea); peeled
  • pinch of ground cayenne
  • teaspoon of honey
  • splash of milk

IMG_5891And here’s the method of preparation:

  • Using the mug or cup you’ll be drinking from, fill with water and pour into small sauce pot. Fill mug or cup with 1/3 more water and pour into sauce pot. Using a little extra water will take care of the water that evaporates while the tea simmers.
  • Over medium-high heat, grate the turmeric root into water. Stir to distribute.
  • Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Add a pinch of cayenne (or to taste) and simmer for 5 more minutes.
  • Strain the tea, making sure to press all the remaining liquid out of the turmeric root. Pour into your cup with a spoonful of honey. Stir to melt the honey. Add in a splash of milk and stir to combine. The tea will change from deep red-orange to a milky golden color.

IMG_5892Hope you enjoy it!

Adventures in Making Cold Process Soap

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Cold process soap making uses fats, butters, a lye and water solution, and essential oils to create natural soap via saponification. I have to admit that I LOVE soap, and I’m a soap snob. Once you use natural soap you won’t want to use the commercially produced bars that are dry and full of unnatural ingredients. Cold process soap is moisturizing, smells great, and lathers beautifully. It’s such a nice way to treat yourself. Ok, I’ll get off my soapbox. Soap joke! Couldn’t help myself.

Soap making is a fun and creative activity but can also be dangerous. Whenever working with lye, make sure to always protect yourself by wearing rubber gloves, eye goggles, and a mask.

IMG_5792I read a couple soap making books, lots of articles, and watched a few online tutorials. It took a while to accumulate all the necessary tools, but most of the gadgets are easily found at the grocery store. Some of the ingredients I ordered online – these included the lye, essential oils, and some of the oils. I had way too much fun researching and thinking about the essential oil combinations I’d use.

For specific directions and steps, please refer to The Soapmaker’s Companion or Natural Soap Making. I’m just going to provide a quick summary here. When making cold process soap, you combine a lye and water solution to melted fats and butters. Then you blend (I used an electric immersion blender) until you reach trace (the mixture begins to thicken, and the oils and lye water have emulsified). Lastly you can add essential oils and exfoliating ingredients like dried herbs, seeds, etc.

IMG_5794The soap mixture is poured into a mold (Josh built me mine) and covered for 24 hours.

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After 24 hours, you can remove your soap, but you may have to wait a little bit longer to slice. I’ve waited about 48 hours to cut my bars. The soap can be used at this point but will melt away quickly. It’s best to let the bars harden for about 4 weeks. This way they will last longer.

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So far, I’ve made one batch of lavender soap with dried sage and one batch of rosemary mint soap with dried mint. For the lavender soap, I used olive oil, coconut oil, and safflower oil, and for the rosemary mint soap, I used olive oil, coconut oil, and castor oil. Both lather up great, so I’m not sure which combination I like best. The dried sage pieces were a little large and next time I’d put in less.

In the future, I plan to make a batch of cedar and pine soap with maybe some juniper and a batch of orange and petigrain (has a woody citrus scent) soap. These additions would complete my seasonal collection: lavender sage for spring, rosemary mint for summer, cedar and pine for fall, and citrus for winter.

Have any favorite scent combinations for soap? Let me know!

Basement Renovations: Walls

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Over the past few weeks, we’ve been busy renovating the walk-out basement. This space was mostly unfinished when we purchased the home, and we are turning it into our innkeeper’s quarters. Once complete, it will be a finished suite with a kitchen and bathroom. To start the renovations, Josh gave the walls a new look by applying a stucco finish. Well – actually, before he could start updating the walls there was a bit of demoing to do.

For the demoing phase, Josh took out the existing cabinets, shelves, floating floor, and miscellaneous items in the basement and demoed the bathroom, which included removing the interior bathroom walls, toilette, sink, and tub. We then prepared the basement walls by scrapping off any old glue and paint. Next we applied a primer so that the stucco would adhere well to the walls.

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The existing walls are cinder block and didn’t have too welcoming of a feel for a living space. To update the look and feel, Josh mixed the mortar (used for the stucco finish) and applied it to the walls in a sweeping motion with a metal pool trowel, creating a beautifully textured surface.

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The finished look is classic and also kind of contemporary at the same time. It’s classic like old Italian and Spanish stucco and contemporary like modern urban and industrial spaces. We plan to leave it unpainted for now, but we have the option of painting it in the future if we feel inclined. To soften the space, I’m going to make curtains for the windows, use lots of area rugs, and populate the space with other textiles or wall hangings.

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Updating the walls made a really big difference in renovating the basement into our living quarters. Next steps include re-plumbing the bathroom and pouring new concrete floors with an in-floor heating system! Check back soon for more posts about these renovations.

Skillet Potatoes and Eggs

I’ve started to make breakfast for dinner once a week so that I can test lots of recipes and perfect my breakfast making skills. I’m keeping track of the successful recipes and noting changes I’ve made to each dish. This week I made skillet potatoes and eggs, a recipe I adapted from Taste of Home. The recipe is fun because of it’s versatility – you could use kale, sweet potatoes, yellow squash, or you could add in breakfast sausage or bacon, and you can include any cheese you like!

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Serves 2.

Here’s the list of ingredients:

  • 2 tblsp butter
  • half of 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 3 red potatoes, chopped
  • 4-5 stalks broccolini, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • minced fresh parsley, rosemary, and sage (1 mixed bunch)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3-4 eggs
  • 1/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar
  • 1/4 cup shredded parmesan

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And here’s the method of preparation:

  • Preheat oven to 400F.
  • In a 10-inch ovenproof skillet (I used my cast iron), melt butter over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook until translucent. Add potatoes and cook until golden brown, adding broccolini to the skillet just before the potatoes have browned.
  • Stir in garlic, herbs, salt, and pepper. Break eggs directly over potatoes and broccolini.
  • Bake 9-11 minutes or until egg whites are set. Sprinkle with cheeses and bake until melted (about 1-2 minutes).

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This dish turned out really great and is so easy to make. The potato portion can definitely be made in a skillet and then transfered to individual baking dishes for personal-sized meals. I love the idea of a personal baked veggie and egg dish. It would go great with some fresh fruit and a slice of banana bread. Let me know what you think and what ideas you have for breakfast!

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