Thursday, June 30, 2011

Returning to the Mother Ship

Home. Cake. Decorating. Supply.

We went yesterday.  I am pretty sure they thought I was crazy.  I really don't care as long as I still get to shop there.

Check it out.

Pans in every shape and size (these were just the square ones!) 

Candles and cupcake papers and cake toppers galore!

Sugar in every color of the rainbow!

Ribbons and bows and foil to match!

Round pans and dome pans and cupcake pans and more!
And that is just the "stuff" - there were ingredients, colorants, additives, and mixes too.  Fondant and gum paste and tools to use them.  Cutters and chocolate and molds and luster dust and not one, but TWO back rooms full of cake decorating supplies!  I didn't even know what half the stuff was, never mind how to use it!  And the owner is quite possibly one of the coolest people I have met in a long time.  She knows EVERYTHING about cakes.  I know it goes without saying, but I am going to say it anyway.

This place is balls out awesome.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Megan Posts

This is an introduction post. Annie said I have to have to post weekly, and I will try. I hope you guys like cheese. I am going to write a little bio type post for now, so at least I will have posted something and I can stop feeling like a jerk.

My family and I, a husband and daughter, live in the foot hills of the central Oregon Coast range. It's a rain forest! We have a little farm with Nubian dairy goats and chickens and a big black dog. We have a big garden and an old crookedey farm house. We bought this place almost exactly a year ago and are trying to bring it back to life as a sustainable family farm. We are super new at this venture so there is a lot to learn about animal care and husbandry, dairying, gardening, plumbing, composting, pasture management, forest management, butchery, water treatment, sustainable energy, and a thousand other things I can't think of right now.

Now I will brag. Just this once. This house and farm was originally part of a 500 acre plot that made up almost half of the "town" we live in. It's still insulated with Finnish newspapers and moss in some of the older rooms. We have the house and a chunk of pasture and hilly forest surrounding it. We have three naturally occurring springs that feed the house, animals, and garden by gravity. We have a barn with attached workshop, a huge greenhouse (which was installed by some creepers who intended to use it to grow the marijuana. For reals. It's a good story), and a creepy shack that was apparently, any will be again, a tractor shed. We have a sweet little meadow in the back with some tiny cabins that some other creepers built there to be a weird, militant church retreat for mean people (another good story). One of the springs runs through the meadow and then there are some old paths that lead to the river and up into the mountains. The place backs up against BLM property so you can hike for miles and miles, if you are not too scared of bears and cougars and asylum escapees. We got the deal of the century with this place and we feel unspeakably lucky every single day.

Our plan is to "update" the house, mostly with insulation and some more energy efficient options that they didn't have in 1908, while still maintaining the character of the house. We also plan to help this place feed us! We currently have the goats for dairy and meat, chickens for eggs and meat, and the vegetable garden and green house. Next year we plan to add pigs and ducks, to increase the garden by almost 100%, to add a pond for drainage, and to figure out where we would like to grow berries and fruit trees. And to continue the home re-model! Oh! And to start plotting out a rotational grazing plan for the goats. So, no big deal, really.

Sometimes I sit down at the end of the day and I have a glass of wine and snuggle in and I say "I have been so lazy today!" Because I feel like I just had a fun good time all day. Like you are tired and content after backpacking. And Mike says: "what did you do toady?" A typical day would go something like this: I milked goats, cleaned all the milking stuff and the rest of the kitchen, made bread, made something else baked, weeded in the garden, did some laundry, watered in the greenhouse, stared at the chickens and demanded that they lay eggs already, planted something, picked something out of the garden and made dinner, milked goats, made cheese, and then sat down with my wine. See, I am practically sedentary.

So that's me in a nutshell. What should I write about next? What would you all like to hear about?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Two blue toilets and one big problem

It might surprise you all to know that this isn't our first house with a blue toilet. Our old house, in California, also had a blue toilet in the master bath.  And a blue sink and a blue tub.  But not a blue bidet.  Check it out (pre-remodel):

Stunning eh?  No wonder the blue bidet didn't phase us.  We also had pink and brown tile. Which, when the walls were painted something other than yellow, actually looked kind of fun.  Well... even if we didn't get all the way to "fun" we at least moved off of "hideous" which is where we were when we bought the place.

No strangers to colored porcelain
Anyway, I am way off the point.  Back to the current bathroom.  We are building a custom shower!!!  And to do that you need expanded metal lath and concrete for the shower floor.  To find expanded metal lath in a hardware store, just look for a large sheet of something you would use to grate cheese.  Or your knuckles.  When you are bleeding, I am sure you have found it.  The cheese grater metal lath reinforces the mortar or concrete and makes it strong and crack-free.   We put a slip sheet (not exactly sure what that does, evidently something to do with slippage) down on the plywood floor, followed by our metal lath, and then mortar. 

The mortar (sand mix, technically - did you know there were a million names/ingredient lists for a product that I would call mortar) has a slight slope to it so the water will drain out.  Next up, we will be putting down a PVC liner and more mortar.  Then we are approaching tile!  Wahoo!!

For those curious, we do have running water and appear to be leak free.  We also installed a pocket door and a false wall (just 3 inches to allow the door to slide) and did NOT choose to move the pipes.  Could it have been done?  Probably.  But given our luck with plumbing, we decided to fight another battle.

Look! It is a sideways mortar bed! (Sorry for the lack of rotation)
On to the big problem.  Nope, no leaks in sight.  It is worse.  I am having a little bit of trouble picking out colors.  Okay, I am having a lot of trouble.  Some people can look at a house or a room and just know what needs to happen.  I am not one of those people.  Rachel, Christy, Krysten... they are those people.  Megan is probably one of those people, but I haven't really seen her decor since college and it isn't fair to judge a person's interior design ability when they are poor and eating Top Romen every night.  Not that Meg ate Top Romen... I actually remember her eating pretty well... but you all know what I mean.  Moving on.

I am most definitely NOT one of those smart decor people.  It is evident that I was in the back of the line when style sense was being handed out.  Before you all rush to my defense... remember I wore gym shorts and birkenstocks (with socks) for four years of high school.  And two years of college.  I have low maintenance stamped all over me.  So picking out colors for a bathroom is hard.

It was easy in our old house.  The house was a ranch and it was retro.  So I just went with what was there.  But this new house isn't really a "style." I guess that means I have to find my own style - and that is the problem.

This bathroom remodel is testing my whole philosophy of being balls out and sinning boldly and trying new things.  Not the plumbing part or the electrical part or the concrete or tile parts - we have that down (now). Honestly, it is the decorating part that has me running scared.  How bizarre is that?   But what if I pick out tile that I end up hating in two months?  There is NO WAY Aaron is ever going to let me remodel this bathroom again.  This is a one shot deal.  And what if I pick out tile that looks dated?  Or is hard to clean?  Not that I clean all that much, but when I do, I want it to be easy.

The biggest barrier to the bathroom color scheme (other than me) is this honey gold pine trim.  It is all over the house and Aaron is 100% anti-trim painting. And as this is the man who just re-plumbed a bathroom, moved a door, relocated an a/c vent, rewired electrical switches and built me a shower pan... well, if he wants the trim to stay, it stays.  So.  Now I, the design-challenged one, am trying to figure out what looks good with golden pine trim.  Oddly enough, you don't see many modern houses with gold trim.  Kind of a Versailles thing.  Or a country thing.  And while I don't really know what I like, I do know I don't want to bathe in the Palace of Versailles or a scene out of Little House on the Prairie.  No offense to people who like country.  Or opulent palaces dripping with gilded mirrors.  Before you get offended, remember I admitted don't have any sense of style.

Anyway, these are the colors I am thinking about now. 

See?  They are all together on a factory sheet!  That is good, right?
What do you think?  Bad?  Good?  Hideous?  Yeah, I don't know either.  Maybe I should go with blue.  I hear that is nice.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Over the River and Through the Woods: Adventures of a Blue Bidet

I'm shaking her husband's and and accepting a blue bidet and Annie says to me, as I stuff the bidet in my car, "Are we still friends?" Apparently she thinks me volunteering to take the much publicized,web famous bidet as a sign of impending doom for our long-term friendship. But she has no idea.Yesterday I headed over the hills of the southern Cascades and across the Rogue River to the tiny picturesque town of Prospect, OR, where I began Phase I of operation "Bidet Phoenix".

I want to show everyone how lovely Prospect can be before I get to the meat of this post. Insert sounds of tweeting birds and babbling brooks...

Now lets get down to it. Prospect is the perfect place to engage in such redneck pursuits as growing weed, disposing of a dead body, back burning from your front porch, or bashing a blue bidet to bits without raising the ire of nearby neighbors or prompting a letter from the watchful eye of a homeowners association. Anyway I came here mostly because my wonderful boyfriend lives here but also to beat up the bidet. After I described Phase I to him, he was all in.

Here is his place, suitably flanked by a dilapidated but fully functional woodshed and a 28' trailer (inhabited by his neighbor).

When we're not bashing bidets, we do stuff like this in the backyard.

Some nice farewell shots of the lovely bidet.
A brief diversion for all the men folk out there. What's more Balls Out than ruining a bidet? Cool old trucks! Yes that is a 1964 FJ Cruiser. I call it "the other woman" Tom calls it awesome. If you are a fan of things like this you might visit Pirate 4x4. The site appears to be more addictive to men-types than Craigslist.

Back to our story. We drove the bidet out to the burn pile, a hodge-podge of strange and unidentifiable items collected from decades of habitation. After a single-wide trailer was burned on this site it became a regular burnpile/shooting gallery. Layered on top of the remains of the single-wide are great finds like the remnants of an old shed, shotgun shells, 55-gallon barrels, and some half burnt, moldy insulation. I have fond memories of this sketchy dead end spot as the first time I visited we took all Tom's heavy-duty moving boxes out here and burned them with a rather excessive amount of gas to kick things off. It was kind of our first date and actually a great time. I don't have any pictures from that day but it looked a little like this.

So here we are again, PBRs in hand, which apparently are retro-chic as noted by this memorably recession-era assessment...

The brand has also cultivated a reputation as a hipster offbeat beer or what the president of the National Beer Wholesaler's Association, Craig Purser, likes to call -retro chic" - positioning itself as an alternative to big, mainstream brands.

**warning parents**

if you are reading this post with children this section is rated PG-13 for violence, drinking, bloodshed, and nudity.

Once you get the large pieces beat up, gather any small segments and stick them in a 5-gallon plastic bucket. Save large relatively flat pieces for later smashing (you'll see why in the next post). Leave anything that isn't relatively flat behind. You may want to break up some pieces more gently any small hammer will work for this.

Just kidding about the nudity we didn't post those pictures.
In an effort to provide a teachable moment, I thought I would summarize what we learned.

Bashing implements.
An 8lb maul and a very strong boyfriend are more than capable of smashing the crap out of a bidet on the first swing. I think even a big hammer would do the trick. Don't get sucked into buying a sledge hammer like this as it's overkill. Watch for flying chunks on that first swing. Safety glasses and a hood for your camera lens are not bad ideas. (I was standing a generous 15 feet away and still got hit by blasted bits of bidet). Gloves are definitely a good idea as the two of us left the scene with only minor injuries but still things could have gone terribly wrong. Yep that is blood.

Anywhere far away from houses, already occupied with trash and not frequented by foot traffic would qualify. A back woods burn pile, graced by the remains of a cremated single-wide was a perfect location.

Hardware removal?
I thought about delicately removing all the Moen faucet parts before our destruction session but was convinced we didn't need to bother by my accomplice.

What to drink.
Beachside PBRs
2 16 oz (tall boys) PBRs
2 lime slices
Open the beer, squeeze as much lime in as possible.
Rub the top rim with lime and stuff the spent wedge into the can.
Shake salt across the top of the can, let some fall into the beverage.

What to wear.
Sturdy shoes, long pants and as mentioned before, gloves & safety glasses.
Flannel, Carharts, any type of steel toe work boots, T-shirts with lewd phrases, trucker "foam dome" hats and mismatched socks will get you in the mood.

Things not to bash.
refrigerator, TV, computer all have toxic stuff you may not want to be exposed to or leave on the ground, even the Prospect burn pile. I did talk to one guy at an auction last month that mentioned his son melted down a bunch of laptops to extract a gold nugget worth about $25 from each. And with the price of gold near... this might be a great second job for those folks who are not afraid to work with hydrochloric acid, this guy has a nice summary of the process.

I will be working on "Bidet Phoenix: Phase II" and can't wait to share the elegant & beautiful final creation. Until then, happy smashing!

Let Them Eat Cake!

On second thought, that might not be such a great post title.  Didn't the first lady who said that ended up beheaded by her subjects?  Hmm... as I am referencing 3-5 year-olds at a birthday party (all sugared up and "fun")... definitely a possibility.

Anyway.  I like cake.  Eating cake.  Making cake.  Decorating cake.  Cake, in general, is good.  And hey, it has eggs in it.  Eggs and butter and sugar and flour... what is not to like? 

So, every year since Ava was born, I have made her birthday cake.  The first one was completely from scratch.  No box ingredients for my baby (yeah, we all know how long that "new parent" phase lasts).  Anyway, she hated it.  Tried to shake my completely from scratch cake and buttercream frosting right off her tongue.  No baby-in-the-cake pictures for me.  It was a cute cake though. I used everything I learned in the Wilton 1 class I took when Aaron was in Iraq (bored Navy wife = dangerous domestic).

Note the look of distaste. Time to up my game...
On Ava's second birthday, she was all about the wheels on the bus.  We sang that song and read that book over and over and over and over.  And now I can hear that song in my head.  Awesome.  So I found a picture of a bus cake and set out to make it.  I didn't really plan ahead... or have the right cake... or, well, do anything right.  So my three-dimensional straight-out-of-the-cake-mix-box bus cake fell over transitioned into a two-dimensional bus cake.  The yellow frosting was more taupe then school bus yellow... but Ava liked it (and actually ate it that year) so it was a success.

Toppled school bus
 Yeah, it was supposed to look like this:

I would use pound cake in a loaf pan.  Just sayin.

When Ava turned three, I was determined not to repeat my past mistakes.  This year, she was all about princesses.  And I found this picture.

Cake by SeeChicletRun at
As I was oohhing and ahhing... Ava came and looked at the computer screen.  "A coach cake!  A coach!  Look Mama! That is Cinderella's COACH!  And it is a cake!  And I can eat it allllll uppp!"  And I was sunk.  One look at that hopeful, innocent, beautiful little face and I was lost.  I asked her if that was the cake she wanted for her birthday and she danced off the couch with a joyful YES! So the studying began.  The school bus crumpling incident was still somewhat fresh.  Visions of a carriage accident rippled through my mind - and the mind of anyone I showed the picture to!

The caption talked about MMF (which resulted in a WTF? and Google search from me).  Okay.  MMF = Marshmallow fondant.   Gum Paste.  Round cake pan.  I ordered this cake pan from Amazon and tossed in an order for gum paste mix too (the scratch days from Ava's first birthday?  Yeah, long gone).  I checked out the original inspiration cake (holy bat $#!*;!  800 BUCKS?!?!?  Makes the round cake pan look like a solid investment) and Googled more.  I figured it would be good to know how to glue fondant to fondant (water)... or how to cover a cake with fondant (buttercream icing first, then fondant)... or how to attach gum paste to fondant (gum paste glue, which is basically watered down gum paste). 

I went to this cake decorating store.  Which is pretty much the coolest, most amazing hardware store for baking ever.  I mean ever.  If you know Seattle, and you know Hardwick's Hardware, then just imagine a Hardwick's for CAKE and you have got it.  Seriously, GO THERE.  You can thank me later.

I will admit to making a coach cake schedule (nerd, remember?).  I read ALL of the instructions that I could find for MMF (look at me using the acronym like a pro), gum paste etc. to determine when I had to start.  I started on Tuesday for a Saturday cake.  Yup, Tuesday.  Did I mention the part about how when I would be working on the computer, Ava would come sit on my lap and ask to see her coach cake?  Uh huh.  No pressure there. Besides, balls out, right? So Tuesday it was.

I make extra pieces, particularly of the wheels, because I figured I would break some.  I broke them ALL.  So then I had to Google things like "drying gum paste fast" and "food dehydrator gum paste").  But it all came together in the end.  And it pretty much rocked.  I know, I am so modest.

Ava's Coach
So when my friend Malia mentioned her daughter was going to have a tea party for her birthday, well, I begged her to let me make a teapot cake.  I had the round pans, all the recipes... access to a Safeway for the cake mix... why not?

This time I started on Friday for a Sunday cake.  I made the MMF and sculpted the sugar paste handle and spout on Friday and baked the cake on Saturday.  Interestingly enough, sculpting the spout made me remember Megan's bachelorette party... remember the play dough Meg? ;)  I stuck the skewers into wine bottles while the sugar past dried (who wouldn't?) and went to bed (you can put the skewers into either open or unopened wine corks). :)

And here is the finished product... which was pretty darn cute.  The mouse was completed on request and appears to be a "cakes by annie" tradition now.

All those cute vines cover serious fondant tears!

I learned a few things and thought I would share. 

1. The powdered gum paste is easier to work with than pre-mixed gum paste.
2. Adding a little shortening to the MMF makes it easier to work with (it tears less).
2 1/2.  Make your MMF in a mixer.  Kneading is for bread.  And grease EVERYTHING.
3. Covering round cakes with fondant is not easy.
4. Selecting designs that camouflage the difficulties of round cakes + fondant is good (i.e. pumpkins are supposed to be bumpy and teapots with vines cover-up the fondant tears)
5. Kids love cake and could care less if your school bus is upside down or not.
6. Make LOTS of extra gum paste pieces.  Lots. 
7. Stick bamboo skewers into gum paste before it dries to help you attach things to the cake.
8. Let your gum paste figures/pieces dry for a long time.  Think 2 days. Or you will be Googling things like "dry gum paste fast."
9. When all else fails, see #5.


What removes the smell of scotch from a wooden tea set?

A.  Baking Soda
B.  White Vinegar
C.  Lemon and Kosher Salt
D. Baking Soda, followed by White Vinegar, with a Lemon and Kosher Salt chaser
E.  Nothing, it will smell boozy forever

Note:  No small childern were harmed during the production of this post. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Leak-A-Thon Part Duex

Words seem... inadequate.

The shoelace is not to stop the leak... that appears to need divine intervention.  The shoelace is to stop the Plop. Plop. Plop. sound the water makes while dripping into a bucket.  Who knew?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Late Night Leak-A-Thon

So remember the blue bidet?  This one? Yeah, we are in full swing on that remodel project.  Bidet out.  Blue out.  Bathtub out.  It is a do-it-yourself orgasma.  And last night?  I plumbed until 3 AM.  Sounds dirty, doesn't it?  A late night sweating copper pipes with the lusty red-hot flames of a blow torch...  I know you wish you were there. 

Leaky pipes
 Why were we up until 3 AM? Well, my husband was determined to get the water restored so we could have showers.  It was a stupid manly idea.  Did I mention the part about having to turn off the water to the house in order to re-plumb the bathroom?  Oh yeah, no running water.  With a potty-training toddler.  Why would a potty-training toddler mean you need water?  The following statements actually came out of my mouth in the past 24 hours:

"Ava.  We do NOT use toothbrushes and toothbrush holders to bail water out of the toilet."

"Good job telling Mommy you need to use the potty!  Do you need help getting on the potty?  No? Okay.... Ava, take your foot out of the toilet please."

See?  Water (and antibacterial soap) is a necessity.

We did our first leak test around 9 PM (after I returned from drinking wine bathing Ava at Rachel's house).  And discovered that we had a lot of leaks.  Irritating, plop plop plop leaks.  Leaks that meant no water to the house.  After midnight, I wished Aaron a happy Father's Day and offered to buy him a plumber as a present.  He didn't think it was funny (who was joking?) At 2:30 AM, when we were down to two leaks, we through in the towel.  Not literally, as throwing in the towel does imply bathing, and there was none of that. 

The only way these leaks would have been fun was if it were a drinking game.  Every time you hear or see a leak, take a shot!  Not good.  I have high hopes we will have water again momentarily.  Just in time for us to consider the next "oh &^%$" moment.

While Aaron was plumbing away (you didn't think it was me sweating pipes with the blow torch did you?), I was happily ripping out sheet rock.  I went witching for screws with a magnet and started the demo.  The first side came off great - no problem.  The second wall, where we are going to put a pocket door (replacing the hinge door that cut into half of the vanity), well... that was where we hit a pipe problem.   One sewer pipe and one drain pipe.  Who knew?

Problem (but not leaky) Pipes (note blue carpet in background)
So now we have a problem.  Well, depending on your perspective and your affection for running water, we have lots of problems.  The problem I am referring to is that *#$(^ door.  Hey, I am remodeling on four hours of sleep.  It is a *#$(^ door. 

Do we:

A) put the old door back (losing 4-6 inches of valuable vanity space)
B) put in a smaller pocket door (24-25 inches, depending on the estimate)
C) build a false wall (losing 3ish inches of bathroom width, but not having to move pipes, and getting a full size pocket door)
D) put in an exterior "barn door" type door (and lose wall space for towel racks etc)
E) hang a bead curtain

Wait!  I have to go!  I hear water!  Wish me luck!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Rogue Cheese

How things change!  Remember this post written oh so long ago?  You know, the one where I confess to being totally afraid of all illnesses, pathogens and poisons food-borne?  Yeah.  I am still afraid.  But I am working on overcoming my fears.  Why?  I suppose it is the carrot-and-the-stick mentality.  Or, in this case, the cheese-and-the-stick mentality.

Homemade cheese is GOOD people.  I mean, really, REALLY, really good.  And I pretty much stink at it.  Not like Megan, who more or less has a dairy farm.  But still.  Even without a dairy farm, you can make some amazing homemade cheese.  Even if you are curd-challenged like me. 

In the world of mozzarella (acknowledged by most pros as easy for beginners), I am 1 for 5.  One.  One time I have had my cheese set up into beautiful curds that could be cut and stretched.  Not such a good record.  I (together with Dr. Google & the great Ricki Carroll) diagnosed my problem as crappy milk.  No, not milk that is unfit to drink. Just unfit to make cheese with.  I could go into temperatures and pasteurization and all that jazz... but I figure Meg will set us all straight one of these days.  The bottom line: supermarket milk = sucky cheese.

So, I set off on a quest to find good milk.  Specifically, good goat milk.  More on how much I want a goat later.  My quest for good milk hit PAY DIRT the other day.  I was buying a yogurt maker at a yard sale (LOVE yard sales) a few weeks ago and struck up a conversation with a very nice lady.  It went like this:

Yard Sale Lady: "Oooh, a yogurt maker!  I used to have one of those.  I bet you will love it!"

Me: (clutching my find a little tighter and moving away)  "Yeah, I am pretty excited about it." (yard sale translation: It is MINE, @&$*#.  Back away slowly if you know what is good for you.)

YSL: "I used to make yogurt from goat milk."

Me: (abandoning my quest to protect my yard sale booty for sheer excitement): "Really!?!??!  I want to do that!  Actually, I really want a goat, but my husband says we have to move first and even then he is pretty skeptical... but I really really want to make cheese and yogurt from goat milk....."

YSL: (after her ears stop ringing from my glee and verbal diarrhea) "I know some people who have goats and goat milk.  They are really..."

Me: "OH!  Seriously?  Can I give you my number?  Will you give it to them?  Will you call me with their number? Soon?"

YSL: (gazing at me as if to determine my sanity or my stalker potential) "Uh, ok.  Write your number on this scrap of paper."

So I did.  And I never thought I would hear from her again.  I was a little, uhm... enthusiastic when we talked. BUT.  SHE CALLED ME!  And I called the Goat People.  And they have milk!  And it is awesome.  And it makes awesome cheese (after you call your friend Megan and beg for instructions that you can't screw up). 

I know this is a boring, picture-less post.  But you see, I can't post pictures of the Goat People.  Or their cool and note-worthy operation.  Why?  Because of rules like these.  I didn't ask if their milk is Grade A.  I assume that it is, of course - and that they have complied with all of the necessary requirements.  The Goat People and I had a long chat about how they collect their milk etc. and I am more than satisfied with their operation.  And, due to my aforementioned food fears, I pasteurize it anyway (at a reasonable temperature that doesn't wreck all of the good milk parts).

Besides, I actually believe the cheese tastes better when you pick your milk up in outhouse-like shed complete with refrigerator and thermometer.  It makes you feel like you went rogue.  Rogue cheese.  Maybe next time I will pick it up wearing Aaron's old camo gear.  That might make the cheese taste even better.  Hmm....

Friday, June 17, 2011

Hello BODC, I'd like to introduce...

I must confess. I took possession of the blue (albeit slightly purple) bidet to crack the nut of the BODC. No pun intended. Yes, fellow readers, I, Christy McDevitt now own the bidet complete with Ava nail paint detail. It will likely be the main character in an upcoming post but for now I'll stick to my introduction.

As I mentioned, I live and play in Bend, Oregon. Which is a place generally cooler than most vacation destinations. I enjoy biking, hiking, running, collage work, home repair, volunteering at Antioch Church. Where they are decidedly balls out with messages of worship like this.

Micah just released his first CD Falling In Love. And was an intern here at Antioch. Last year was pretty crazy as I had three interns from the program living with me! They are all now living, playing and working in Bend. Totally amazing women.




I work for the United States Forest Service here as the Staff Officer for the timber program. In summer sometimes I fight fires. On really good days I get to fly in a helicopter and look down on the Deschutes River.

And some amazing aerial views of Paulina Falls. A great hike if you're visiting or live here!

The Forest Service here is super engaged with the community. One of the cool things my co-workers are proud of is a recent grant to establish a Children's Forest here on the Deschutes. See the video for amazing pictures of doe-eyed children looking well-behaved and panoramic shots of a meadow (Ryan Ranch) we'll soon be reclaiming as a wetland!

As far as domestic abilities go I enjoy cooking, baking, yard work (although that's been a steep learning curve), interior design, art, building things from wood which ranges from children's stools to a chariot I once fabricated for a drama production. Ah, but that's another story for another time.

Lately I've been enjoying baking some wonderfully sensuous vanilla scones. I admit the motivation was provided after I realized I was spending nearly $10 a week on the tasty version from Starbucks. Hmm.. need to pay more attention in the Dave Ramsey classes! I found this recipe at Restless Chipotle and made a few revisions.

One of my difficulties with anything vanilla, is that I get tired of buying expensive vanilla bean pods. Predictably I only use a small portion and the remainder turns into a crusty edifice to dreamt-about-but-not-baked recipes. Much to my relief I have discovered vanilla bean powder. Composed of ground up pods and seeds the stuff is relatively cheaper than fresh beans, tastes excellent and keeps much longer.

I would recommend the Madecasse brand. Recently named as one of the "50 Most Innovative Companies in the World" for building a chocolate company in one of the poorest countries in the world. According to the company their aim is to:

Make fine chocolate [and vanilla] in Africa. It's a revolutionary idea in the chocolate world (some would say even a bit crazy): And there are a thousand reasons why it isn't usually done. But, it's an idea that can make the world a better place, generating 4x more income than fair trade cocoa alone. Even Madecasse product you savor starts the change in one, small corner: Madagascar.

Jaovavy (farmer) with freshly harvested cocoa

Vanilla orchids are meticulously pollinated by hand, no wonder this stuff is pricey.

Avenue of the Baobabs near Morondova in Western Madagascar

Tim, co-founder chats with members of the Ezaka co-operative Ambanja,Madagascar

Go in with your friends and order several jars, save on shipping, or they make great gifts! Along with the recipe!

Madecasse Vanilla Bean Scones

2 c. flour
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1/2 c. sugar
7 T cold butter, cut into 1/2" cubes

1 c. sour cream (full fat is best)
1 t. vanilla flavoring
(you can substitute 1 t. of vanilla flavoring if you don't want to help save the world with the other stuff)
1 t. madecasse pure vanilla powder
1 egg yolk

for glaze
1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
1 t. vanilla flavoring
enough cream to make a thick glaze (only a small amount)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar in a large bowl.
Add butter chunks to the flour mixture. With hands, pinch butter chunks against bottom of bowl and squish with your fingers until they are all mixed into smaller bits (pea-sized or smaller).

In another bowl, mix sour cream, egg yolk, vanilla flavoring and vanilla powder in another bowl. Pour sour cream mixture into flour mixture. Stir gently with spatula until mostly mixed.

Using additional flour as needed, form batter into 3-4 fist sized balls. Place on cookie sheet. Pat balls into small rounds roughly 2" thick. Using clean, wet knife, slice rounds into six scones each. Gently separate scones by 1" or so. It's okay if they rise and touch each other during baking you can cut them apart later.

Secret Step: Let them rest for 15 minutes. That's right, you heard me. Before they go in the oven. Let them rest. Your scones will be amazingly soft, fluffy and dreamy. Your guests/husband will say things like, "MgHTh.. vis is vee beft fcone eeve eeveer thad MgthbBTh!"

Once they've rested bake for 15 minutes or until slightly golden on top.
Cool completely. Mix ingredients for glaze. Roll scones top side down in the glaze and place back on cookie sheet. It may take a couple hours for the glaze to firm up. Getting the right thickness of glaze is a bit of a tricky process. Too thick and it breaks the scones, too thick and it all runs off. Either way they are delicious.

Great this time of year to use for Strawberry Shortcakes!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Rachel is the newest member of the BODC.  And trust me folks, she is balls out awesome.  You don't have to spend much time with her at all to realize exactly how awesome.  She has an amazing sense of style- which extends to her house, her wardrobe, her cooking, her wine... yeah, if she wasn't so funny and cool, I would hate her.  (Said with love Rach, said with love!)

When I asked her if she wanted to write here, at this fabulous blog which nobody reads (except my Dad - Hi Dad), she was super excited and that makes us even more super excited to have her.   

So stick around and meet Rachel!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

I [Still] Own A Powder Blue Bidet

You know how when you see something every day for, say... 3+ years... you stop seeing it? Until, one day, you wake up and say "wow, I had forgotten how weird/odd/ugly that is?" And no, I am not talking about my husband!

When we bought our non-farm house, it had been on the market for a little while because it was ugly and weird it had some interesting design touches. Things like decorative stencils, haunted house chandeliers, an indoor hot tub, photographic tile of river rock... seriously, that tile reminded me of those 3D Magic Eye puzzles (stare at it long enough and an image pops out at you).

Anyway, the house had "character." Oh, did I mention the blue? Yeah. Everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) was blue. Carpet, counter tops, tile, linoleum, blinds, toilet, tub, hot tub, roof, bidet...

"Yah, we get it Annie, it was all blue. Move this story... wait. Did you say 'bidet'? What the hell is a bidet? Isn't that one of those fake half toilet things that squirt water up your...?!?" So glad you asked.

Bidet [Bid-A] (from Wikipedia): "Bidet is a French word for pony (and in Old French, bider meant to trot). This etymology comes from the notion that one rides a bidet much like a pony is ridden. In addition, the bidet is also referred to as the 'garden hose.'"

Seriously. You can't make that stuff up. Now, before all you bidet riders out there get your panties in a twist, I am not going to denigrate your beloved bidet. In fact, you are more than welcome to your beloved bidet... and mine, for that matter. See, we aren't really bidet riders here. Chalk it up to our un-cultured American-ness if you must. I am sure our bidet is a very nice bidet, as bidets go. I mean, in powder blue, it obviously didn't come off the shelf. Definitely a custom order.

But in a small-ish bathroom, already overloaded with dark blue marmoleum, blue counter top, blue sink, blue toilet, and blue bathtub... well, the blue bidet is just a little much. It was a little much 3 years ago when we bought the house... and we just sort of stopped seeing it. As it now doubles as a bowl shaped magazine stand, it is hard to actually see. I know, we have CLASS stamped all over us. And just for the record, as soon as my friend Christy saw it, and she said "Look! A water fountain for Ava!" we turned the water off.

So the bidet has to go. It is time. We have tile samples and floor samples and I am ready to remodel. The first thing to go? Gonna be the blue bidet. And before the bidet people get offended because this poor, beautiful, blue bidet will ride (be ridden?) off into the sunset... we are going to give you a chance to purchase rescue it. Craigslist, here our bidet comes... but first, may I suggest you get in the mood by reading Young House Love?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


Well kids, here it is. The story that brought the blog back from the dead. Or the vast void of cyperspace. I have been reading this blog lately, and dying of home improvement lust. I REALLY want a farm. But since I can't have a farm at the moment (more on that in the coming weeks), I am nesting like crazy in my non-farm. Hence the home improvement lust. Anyway...

The folks over at Young House Love are young, hip, totally balls out home improvers. They also like a good deal. And they scored some totally rad dining chairs on Craigslist for an amazing price. And then shrunk and dyed cheap slipcovers to look amazing, but I am letting my lust get ahead of me. Again.

So. We need chairs. And a table. Desperately. We have a pub table that seats four that my fantastic hubby Aaron built (he is pretty balls out too). It is a great pub bachelor table, but it is small. We can have exactly 1 person over before we have to start nervously shifting from one foot to the other while trying not to spill wine and drop food standing and eating. It has been like this for ages and now, thanks to the damn talented Young House Lust people, I get the FEVER for chairs.

You know the FEVER don't you? The "have to have it now or I will just DIE" fever? Yeah, I had that. So I have been haunting Craigslist for cool chairs just like my new internet idols. The only problem is that our local Craigslist is small town pond and the chairs are pretty... uhm... well... bad (no offense Wenatchee). So I was trolling the big town Craigslist (Seattle) looking for better chairs when I saw a random ad and clicked on it.

Words like "mid-century" and "modern" and "available TODAY" danced in front of my eyes. Oh! And the price! Perfect! I called at 4:00 PM on a Sunday. A very nice lady answered and explained that she was going back to Portland the next day and we had to pick up the items that night if we wanted them. I asked her "are they solid wood?" and she said "yes" so we were sold. This was the kind of Craigslist deal I had been dreaming about. Nevermind the fact that we had to drive 3 HOURS each way to pick them up... and it was already 4:15 PM... and the fact that we had a roast on the grill at that very instant... and the fact that Aaron had to work the next day... nope, we both had the FEVER now and the only cure is PURCHASE.

So off we went. Roast into the crock-pot, kid into the car, and we began our adventure. Since this is already embarassingly long, I will skip past the part where we got lost in Cle Elum (no, I don't know how that happens either) and straight to the part where we arrived and laid eyes on our treasures.

"WTF?!?" you say? "Those aren't chairs!? That ad lady LIED to you." Well... yes and no. See, we knew they weren't chairs. We just liked the look and it seemed like a fun, spontaneous adventure. And a good deal. Which it was, until we layed eyes on our charming, veneer-over-particle board sideboard and cabinet. In hindsight, the ad said something about "walnut" and the picture was clearly teak... which makes sense now that I know the top of both pieces is veneered with walnut laminate and the rest is covered in teak veneer. Shudder.

"Hey Annie, that photo looks like it was taken in your living room. How weird that someone else would have ugly blue carpet too." Uhmm... yeah. We bought them. Hey! Don't judge. It was 8:00PM, we were 3 hours from home and we already had the $80 in our pocket. Driving an empty trailer home really didn't seem like fun...

... but neither was a 3 hour return trip without the "cool purchase" high that accompanies a good bargain. We had 3 hours to marvel at our particle board disaster. Then we got home (at 11:30), where the delicious smell of roast mocked us as we came in the door. Since they were already here, in our garage no less, we figured we might as well haul them into our living room. No, I really don't know what we were thinking. I don't have any good excuses. All I can say is that we were sick. Really ill, running a FEVER and not thinking clearly. And for the sake of your home decor, do not ingest Craigslist immediately after devouring Young House Love.

Monday, June 6, 2011

We're Ba-ack!

The Balls Out Domestic Club is BACK! And better than ever! With a bonafide farm (Megan), a house remodel (Krysten), and ... well, more disasters (Annie)... the BODC has lots to talk about. We may even have some new club members to show off! Please excuse the bloggy construction as we sort out the old blog, the old new blog, and the new new blog.

If you remember when we made the switch to wordpress, that was when things really picked up around here. Megan's Mike made us a sassy new logo/header and we were off and running. As has been the trend, when winter comes, we posted less... and then less... and then not at all for a bit. Then the domain expired, and here we are. Back to the free host, but without a year of ballsy goodness.

There will be spectacular old posts that are missing (Annie's Grandma Hooch and her limoncello, Krysten's compound butter, Megan's kale noodle recipe) - but we are still here! So if you don't find something you want, just ask!