Escape the Boredom!

Okay, so this post will be just a bit different.

Our friends are  opening a new business downtown and we’ve gotten to spend time with them as they’ve brought their creative vision to life.

Have you ever heard of an “Escape Room”?

The concept is simple: you and a small group of friends enter a room with a theme and are completely immersed in  a puzzle-solving adventure. The clues are not overly simple and you have to work as a team to achieve the final puzzle and “escape” whatever danger that room has lurking.

Timing-wise, it takes about an hour.

Although we had never tried it before, we had a blast finding all of the different clues and figuring out what they all meant. I loved that we got to have the kids spend time being entertained by using their brains! And working together!

I know I’m totally biased, because we got to spend the afternoon with some of our favorite people right on Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall, and then follow it up at the new  Mexican restaurant, The Bebedero. We don’t usually get to spend a day in town like that, and I’m hoping we’ll make time to do it more often.

If you’re local, you can check out the website for the Escape Room HERE.

Afterwards, you can checkout The Bebedero because HOLY COW it’s amazing.

 

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An Edinburgh State of Mind

Maybe it’s because at this time last year we were gearing up to go to Edinburgh. Maybe it’s because right now the weather is rainy and cool and it reminds me of our time there.

Either way, I’ve been missing Edinburgh a lot recently.

Since I can’t just hop on a plane and go back right now, I figured the next best thing would be eating like I’m there.

On our second full day we had lunch at The Edinburgh Larder Cafe, right off The Royal Mile.

It. Was. Amazing.

It had been on our itinerary thanks to Pinterest. I’d spent quite a lot of time pre-trip researching the best non-touristy places to visit and eat, and this place had come up as a local favorite while still being close enough to where we’d be that day. It was a rather bitter and windy day, and Neve was particularly grumpy about it. The Larder’s warm and cozy interior was such a welcome respite.

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Neve was so grateful for it she wanted to camp there all day.

I wish I could remember what Neve and Maddie ordered, because they were both very happy, but honestly I can only remember the deliciousness that was my order: Curried Potato and Pea Pasty.

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It came with a side salad and some red cabbage slaw. So good. With some HP Sauce and a Thistly Cross Cider, are you kidding me? Tastebud heaven.

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Since we’ve been back stateside, this has become a staple dinner item for us.

You don’t need a really specific recipe for it, since it’s so simple. But this basically nails it:

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To make a big batch for my family (and everyone here eats at least 4), I boil up a whole bag of potatoes and mash them with butter and cream.   Then I throw in salt and curry powder to taste. Then I throw in some frozen peas. They don’t need to be thawed, since the mixture will end up in the oven.

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I use two packages of Puff pastry.  You could make your own, but it’s an awful lot of effort.

I roll each sheet out so that I can cut 9 to 12 equal squares out.

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Each square gets a spoonful of the potato mix and some eggwash to seal it up.

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Fold it over, brush with more eggwash, and pop a cookie sheet of them in the oven at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until they are puffed and golden.

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Don’t forget the HP Sauce!

 

Almost Like I Know What I’m Doing

Now that it seems spring is finally here to stay and not just tease, I’m feeling a little more confident about this year’s garden. There have been a few setbacks: the frost that came through after several weeks of warm temperatures not only killed off the hydrangea’s new growth, but it did a number on the seedlings in the greenhouse on the deck as well. I had hoped they’d be well-protected, sitting as they are in a bright and sunny spot, completed covered in clear vinyl. Alas, not so much. So, seedlings take two are currently in their place, and -for the moment – thriving.

Several years worth of gains and losses in the gardening arena have given me a bit more patience and a bit more knowledge to rectify early mistakes.

Currently there are many, many tomato and herb seedlings growing steadily in their pots. They won’t go into the garden until they are quite a bit bigger, and until nighttime temperatures are a bit warmer.

The past two weeks have been spent getting the larger spaces ready for that, among other things.

I planted three blueberry bushes, two elderberry bushes, twenty crowns of asparagus, and three grape vines (the blueberries were exciting simply because I used our kitchen compost for the first time since starting it in the compost tumbler).

I deep-mulched the smaller back garden with waste hay and composted hay, and so far I’ve put cucumbers, zucchini, yellow squash, cantaloupe, and watermelon seeds in.

Out in the way-back, we are using a section of the pasture for corn and winter squash. That part of the field needs a fence overhaul if we are going to keep livestock and dogs in it, but it is just fine for gardening. When I took the tractor in to do some tilling, the soil nearly sang to me in its perfection. Three years of composted manure and hay have resulted in a beautiful, slippery, sweet-smelling, black dirt that I am very happy to have for planting.  Those seeds will go in either today or tomorrow. I’ve got a big bag of diatomaceous earth at the ready to hopefully avoid the squash bugs this year, and I’m hoping we finally have a good harvest year!

 

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In the front garden, I’ve carved out space for the ducks, who have made the transition out of the brooder.

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Eventually they’ll get free-range of the entire garden, but not until the chard and the peas are more than just little shoots that would be easily damaged.

The chicks are still in the brooder for now but are getting big and feathering out nicely. Within the next week or two I will put them out in the chicken tractor until they are old enough to hold their own with the general chicken population here.

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And this sweet guy was dropped off this morning with the vet to have his big boy parts removed.

Felted Fleece

When you raise sheep, inevitably, you have wool.  It used to be that all the wool from my sheep were sent in with the wool from the Juniper Moon Farm sheep for the fiber CSA.

Now that the CSA has been discontinued, that left the problem of what to do with my fleeces moving forward.

I’ve been learning to spin, but I haven’t gotten around to learning how to clean and card raw fleeces yet (and, um…I still need to actually BUY some carders).  Eventually I will get around to doing just that. Even so, I’ve got a few bags of fleeces sitting her that I’ve been dying to play with.

Then I came across the idea to make a felted fleece throw. Essentially, a sheepskin rug without having to skin a sheep.

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I placed a raw, unwashed  fleece from Piper shorn-side-up on the deck. Next, I drizzled some Dawn dish soap while waiting for a stockpot of water to boil.

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Just look at that lovely fleece, waiting to be worked on!

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Working in smaller portions, I poured a mason jar full of hot water over the fleece and gently worked up a lather (while wearing thick rubber gloves, of course!), attempting to felt the side I was working on without felting the locks on the underside.

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Once I felted the entire thing, I set it out to dry.

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This is the point where I was supposed to sew up any thin spots or holes that hadn’t fully felted the rug into one piece. This is also when I learned that in an attempt to not overfelt, I had in fact underfelted.

I had a lot of sewing up to do. I used a large darning needle and some scrap cormo/mohair yarn I had left from previous projects (always save your leftover yarn scraps!)

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Once the gaping spots were fixed, it was time to wash the whole thing. Once again, I was afraid to felt it, so I may have given it less of a washing than I could have. I simply made sure all the grossness was gone and the rinse water wasn’t running brown anymore.

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I’m pleased to say that most of the luscious locks are still just that. There’s certainly still some lanolin left, and plenty of vegetable matter. I pulled an awful lot of hay and twigs out during the washing process but there’s plenty of smaller matter stuck in there still that I couldn’t remove without doing damage. If I were to do this process regularly, I’d consider jacketing the sheep to avoid this.

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Either way, the cats are all insane for it.

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