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Saturday, July 28, 2012

Door no more

So this would technically be my very first home-related DIY post. It certainly wasn't a difficult or lengthy project by any means. All we did was take a door off its hinges and replace it with a curtain that I made out of some fabric from JoAnn's. BUT IT'S STILL DIY, so I'm blogging about it :)

Ev and I have been living in my grandfather's house for just over a year, so what we've been able to do in terms of spiffing the place up is pretty limited since 1. it's not ours and 2. this place is old. Like storm windows with rope and pulley old. Don't get me wrong, I love this house, but if it were mine the list of improvements that need to be made is pretty outstanding I'm not even sure I could handle it.

This is one of those moments where I wish I had taken photos of the room we've been occupying before we actually moved in. Let's see how good I am at painting a picture with words... ahem... the big room on the top floor once belonged to my dad and uncle when they were kids. It still looked that way with two antique wooden twin beds, a dresser that belonged to my great-great grandmother, dusty books on built-in shelving, and an area rug nearly the size of the whole room. All of which had not been touched in... many years.

One redeeming feature of this room is the walk-in closet. It's a beaut.

This is after we removed the door. Just to give you an idea as to why it had to go:

The door leading into the bedroom (with the mirror) swings inward, and the closet door swings outward. In mine and Ev's dash to get ready for work in the morning, we're constantly going in and out of the closet and the room and the doors just get in the way. Ev did the hard part ;)

After removing the door and the hinges, we took a curtain rod from one of the windows we weren't using (since we replaced the blinds when we moved in) and screwed it in place. Then we hung the three yards of cool green and white damask fabric that I bought.

I don't sew, so fabric tape and an iron was all it took to hem the too-long bottom.

Ta da! I had some scrap fabric left over, so I used it to make a band to cinch the curtain or tie it to the side.

It's one of the only improvements we've been able to make in this old house aside from ridding this room of all the old furniture and nasty area rug (it was so old that it basically disintegrated before we could get it to the trash outside). We cleaned the walls, shined the wooden floors, and brought in some of our own stuff to update it and make it ours. And now that we're moving out in four weeks, I wish we had a chance to do more, like paint. Oh well!

So there's the super exciting story of how we upgraded our closet. The end.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Quinoa Bowl For the Win

I have a new obsession with quinoa. I vaguely remember the days when I referred it as kin-oh-ah, not knowing that the correct pronunciation was so much cooler than that (it's keen-wah for those who aren't sure). Not to mention, this incredible edible seed is so versatile you can't go wrong.

I've had a bag of uncooked quinoa sitting in the pantry for quite some time now. I made about 2 cups of it once, not realizing that much would yield enough quinoa to feed a small village. So the leftovers sat in the fridge until I decided no one was going to eat it and thew it away. And I HATE throwing away food, just ask Ev. I yell at him for leaving a few extra corn flakes in the cereal bowl or for not scraping his plate clean at dinner.

Another thing you'll learn about me... I don't cook. I mean, I do cook--not that I do it well--but it's a very rare occasion that I'll prepare a meal that has multiple steps to it besides remove from box, place in microwave, don't burn tongue. I've made up plenty of excuses over the years for why I don't cook more often, but I've come to realize that it's quite simple: I'm lazy. There are SO MANY easy recipes out there that even a caveman could do it, and this is one of them.

I present to you, the delicious and nutritious Quinoa Bowl!

Look how yummy and colorful it is! Here's how you make it:

Step 1: Gather ingredients

The package instructed me to use 2 cups of water for every 1 cup of quinoa. Based on my first quinoa-making attempt, 1 cup of the edible seed was PLENTY for two people. In fact, this actually made three meals. But the great thing about quinoa is even if you have leftovers, it stays good in the fridge for at least another week. All you need to do is splash some water on it and pop it in the microwave so it won't be so dry.

I found this guy sitting in the cupboard and decided it would be a good addition. Love me some Trader Joes.

Ev works at a vegetarian cafe called Sol Bean, which actually just added Quinoa Bowls to their menu, hence the inspiration to make this dish. You can pretty much mix in whatever you want... we just used what we had: chili, spinach, carrots (shredded), beets (shredded), onion (diced), and veggie cheese.

Step 2: Pour quinoa and water into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Once it boils reduce heat and let simmer for 15 minutes.

Step 3: Pour chili into a smaller saucepan and heat to a simmer.

Step 4: Make self drink.

Step 5: Wash and prepare your veggies.

Step 6: When the quinoa is done (after ~15 minutes), it should look something like this:

Fluffy and moist. Yay! Next step is to prepare your bowls. We started with spinach:

Added a few scoops of quinoa:

Ladled on some chili:

Threw on the cheese and shredded carrots and beets:

Mix together and enjoy!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The house my grandparents built

My grandparents, Lyman and Barbara Fancy, were married October 4, 1953. Similar to the story of many new homeowners, they quickly grew tired of throwing $40 away on rent each month and decided to look for their own place to call home. In this small rural Massachusetts town where my grandfather grew up, they purchased a .59 acre lot and got to work building their dream home. My very pregnant grandmother helped out where she could, but this was a job for my grandfather, the union plumber.

The Fancy House officially came to be in 1954. I've heard stories of that first winter and the lack of water. My grandfather, having known just about every soul in town, made friends with their next door neighbor who was generous enough to let the new homeowners run a hose from their well. Living was tough that first year, especially with their first child on the way, but they persevered.

As time went on, more children came into the picture, my dad being the fourth and final child. To accommodate a growing family, my grandfather was constantly renovating and adding on to the modest Cape style home. The photo you see above is a reflection of those add-ons: an extended living room with bay window, a screened porch, and what you can't see is the opposite side where the kitchen was extended and a new eating area added on. 

Eventually the garage was built with the assistance of my uncle and my dad. The area to the left of the garage use to be all woods, and there was a pathway between some trees and the 4 cords of wood that would lead out into a large clearing. An area that was virtually untouched by the time I was a toddler became the spot for a large house and even larger paved driveway. My grandparents witnessed much more extreme changes throughout their time in this town... just a reminder that nothing remains as it is. Except for this house. I have no idea what the future will bring when my grandfather passes on. All we can take with us are the memories it helped us create.

My grandfather is a farmer. He started working the land at the age of 9 and never really stopped. Despite his occupation as a plumper and his moonlighting gigs as a teacher for union apprentices, he always had a relationship with the Earth. After retirement he devoted his time to farming acres of land at Turner Farm, just up the road, where he grew sweet corn (his specialty), tomatoes, zucchini, summer squash, butternut squash, eggplant, green peppers, green beans, pumpkins... you name it. While he no longer grows at the farm, he continues to garden in his yard and other friends' properties across town. Did I mention he's 83?

This house was my home for the first two years of my life. It's where my parents lived to save up money for their own house. Even after moving into their first house, my grandmother continued to take care of me while my parents worked. She and my grandfather kept traditions alive with weekly family dinners that we still have, even as the number of people sitting around the dinner table continues to decrease. My dad passed away in December 2008 and my grandmother passed away in August 2010. Despite losing his youngest son and his partner of more than 50 years, my grandfather keeps on truckin'. And so we keep our family tradition alive.

I grew up in this house. I know every nook and cranny of not only the house, but the entire property.

The backyard in Autumn. Notice my grandfather's 1986 Ford. Still runs to this day.
The large (and likely dying) maple tree use to have a limb which a swing hung from -- my swing. The inclined driveway was the perfect hill to go sledding down in the winter. This yard hosted many barbeques and gatherings. I even had my 1st birthday party inside the garage because it rained like crazy.

In May 2011, Evan and I found ourselves needing to move out of our current apartment and fast. The reason why is a story for another day. My grandfather opened his home to us and we moved in to the bedroom on the top floor -- the room that my dad and uncle shared as boys. This is where we have resided, and this is what we are leaving behind.

Ev and Gramps stomping leaves.
My grandfather is the definition of hard work. He comes from a very special generation of people and he always has a story to tell and a lesson to teach. He has taught us all in so many ways. Evan and I agree that we've been blessed to share this home with him for the past year. Although we are leaving it behind, there is so much that we are taking with us.

My aunt, Gramps, me and Ev selling the day's harvest.

This is my original home. My roots are here, and they're deeply embedded in the soil, in the fabric that makes this family what it is. I didn't always see it, understand it or appreciate it growing up. But I do now. I listen intently to my grandfather's stories that I've heard many times before. I wake up in the morning and stare out at the yard, the mature trees, the paint-chipped garage. I see the 4 cords of wood that I helped stack. I see the rows of tomatoes that I planted. I see the land that was covered with leaves that we spent weeks clearing. And I also see the past (because honestly this house hasn't changed a bit since I was born), and not just the past but the link between then and now.

This is my grandparent's home just as much as it is my dad's home and my aunt's and uncle's home. Just as much as it is my home and Evan's home. It has been the place where three generations have grown, and thrived. Although that cycle is about to be broken, it's not lost because this is the place where Evan and I grew together, acknowledged our values and learned what it is that we really needed: our family.

Gramps and his long stemmed Dahlia, the flower he grows year after year because it was my grandmother's favorite.
 Thanks Gramps.

Photos of Home

 All photos taken by me... from outside my front door and around the region that I refer to as home.