christmas tree.

i know it's a little late, but hey, i was still posting pictures with pumpkins in them three weeks ago. so you're all already aware that i'm a deliquent blogger. let's move on. to something much less guilt inducing...

like a christmas tree!

isn't she beautiful? (yes, i'm pretty sure our tree is a girl.) but she wasn't always this lovely. she started her life off looking more like this. ew.

jon and i bought her for cheaps at this semi-sketchy christmas tree lot that sets up in an empty lot next to the gas station at the end of our street every year. she certainly wasn't much to look at in the beginning. i actually had an 'oh crap what did we just buy' moment while i was taking this picture. for a brief second i was sure that she was a lost cause. then i got over it, and with a pair of pruning shears and some vague vision of a sparse, charlie-brown-esq tree, i went for it.

the whole process was a little bizarre and zen like. the whole time i felt like i had no idea what i was doing, but at the same time, i knew exactly what i was doing (i realize that sentance makes no sense, but it really is how i felt).

i think this pile of carnage was around the halfway point (hours later, as seen by the lack of daylight in this picture). by the end of it, i had a kitchen sized trashcan full of trimmings and sap on my hands, arms, face, hair for the next several days. but oh was it worth it.

for the decorations i went pretty simple. lots of lights (seven hundred i think. we had to go to the store to get more when i ran out), glass ornaments in a limited color scheme, an assortment of woodland bottle brush creatures, and some hand made paper decorations. we probably made a half dozen of these origami stars (i say we, because jon had the patience to contribute one. after that he was done).

i also made some simple white dot garlands, inspired by this lovely blog. i just used some opalescent white paper i had on hand (thanks to rach), punched out a ton of white dots, and passed them through my sewing machine.

and now, i don't really want to take her down. i think she'll stay awhile. maybe a long while, depending on how motivated i get to deconstruct all of the decorations and drag it out of the house. currently, my motivation level is at zero.


what fun.

i finallly figured out what to do with that wooden cassette tape holder. come to find out, each slot is approximately the same width as a one by two piece of wood. just a little sanding is required to make them all fit.

as it's christmas time, i decided to make a festive phrase, in a festive font. i tried using the modge podge and gel medium technique to transfer the image, and had only marginal success (i think i was too impatient and ended up rubbing off some of the image). i filled in the rest with a sharpie, and i think it turned out quite swell.

and i made plenty of more blocks, so that i can trade out the phrase when christmas decor is no longer appropriate (which, the way things go in my house, is round about february).


tea and coffee.

i love warm beverages. especially this time of year. the days are chilly and a hot drink has the ability to warm me up from the inside out (except for my feet, those are always disturbingly cold. ask jon. he knows).

and now i get to store my tea and coffee in these sweet canisters i got while becca and i were secondhand shopping in england. aren't they lovely?

(*please forgive the pumpkins in a december post. there are often long periods of time between me taking pictures and actually posting...)

they were made in england by the hornsea company, probably in the seventies. the shop owner gave me a deal on them because there was also supposed to be a sugar canister.

and of course the tea container is full of real yorkshire tea. which i think i shall now go make a cup of.




the evolution of a rosemary tree:
as purchased.




tis the season for glittered dinosaurs.


even more cider.

for the third year and a row now, we made cider. in case you're wondering (and really, who isn't) here's how it goes down...

step one: buy one hundred seventy pounds of apples. preferably from a curmudgeonly old farmer who gets suspicious of you wanting to buy his cider apples. every year the conversation goes something like this:

   jon: 'do you have any cider apples for sale'
   farmer, mumbly: 'i don't know if i want to sell those. i make cider myself, you know. why would i just sell you the apples.'
   jon: 'oh'
   farmer: 'how much do you want anyway?'
   jon: 'around four bushels'
   farmer: 'oh, that's all. ok. i don't have any boxes to give you though.' 

roughly the same conversation happens every year. his suspicion lessens when he realizes that we don't want to buy enough apples to put him out of the cider making business. the part about the boxes is why last year we ended up with a trunk full of apples. this year we got smart and brought our own container.

we got a bushel each of gala, rome, red delicious and granny smith.

step two: pre-smash the apples into submission. this is important, because step three involves a garbage disposal. we learned last year that a good pre-smashing with a four-by-four keeps the garbage disposal from overheating. evidently garbage disposals weren't made to smash a hundred and seventy pounds of apples. who knew?

step three: smash the pre-smashed apples.this involves passing them through a garbage disposal. do so while wearing an absurd amount of clothing (it was cold that day, yo).

this step is essential to getting a good press later on. it makes a sort of apple mush that very readily gives up its delicious juices.

here's an action shot, because i like to share.

step four: take a break, you earned it. pre-smashing and then smashing that many apples is hard work. spend this time enjoying the last bottle of last year's cider. it's kind of poetic.

one hundred seventy pounds of apples equals four five gallon buckets (or twenty gallons...yay math!) full of apple mush. at this point you could still somewhat see the progression of the oxidation of the mush. the bucket on the left was the last one smashed, so it's still light in color. the apples quickly turn brown after being mushed, the same way an apple you've bitten into turns brown if you let it sit out. this oxidation of the apple solids is what gives cider its yummy color.

step five: place the apple mush in the press. to do this, we use large pieces of cotton cloth to wrap the apple mush in and create what are called 'cheeses' (i guess because of the similarity to the cheese making process). multiple cheeses are made and stacked on the press, with wooden frames between each cheese to try to minimize the slipping (this was only marginally successful).

* please forgive the blurry photos. at this point in the process it started raining and we had to move into the garage.

step six: press! we accomplish this with a bottle jack. below you can see the cheeses getting smashed between the wooden frames. they're already a little cattywampus in this picture. you really want things to be nice and even across the press for the best press. alas, something to be improved upon next year.

despite the imperfections, out flows delicious juice! the two step smashing process really makes the pressing forgiving.

after all is pressed this is what remains. less than ten gallons of fairly dry apple gunk. at this point, you'll be tempted to try some. it'll not be delicious. stick to drinking the cider.

step seven: drink up! in the end we got eleven gallons out of our apples. some of it we drank straight, the way it cames out of the press. some of it we gave away. what was left is currently being fermented into hard cider. of the hard cider, some of it will stay as dry cider and get bottled and some of it will get back sweetened and kegged (there are some perks to having a kegging system in the dining room).

saddly, while we were making the cider, i actually took no pictures of the finished product (bad blogger).

these pictures were actually taken maybe two weeks later. we were down to the last bit of our 'drinking cider', and i made jon wait to drink it until there was good light in the house.

i love how serious he looks in this one, with his glass of cider and his lumberjack shirt.

most of the pictures looked more like this. jon's a somewhat reluctant cider model.

so, that's how cider gets made (at least at the sharp house). a recap by the numbers--

one hundred seventy pounds of apples.
twenty gallons of apple mush.
less than ten gallons of appley by product.
eleven gallons of delicious cider.



last friday night jon and i stopped by our local thrift store, because we're cool like that, and thrifting on a friday night is kind of our idea of a date. i was pretty happy we decided to stop by, because we found this super sweet needlepoint.

how cool is it! i'm quite fond of it's seventies color scheme.and the sheer cheesiness of it. it even usurped the shark week painting for a coveted living room wall spot (don't worry, the sharks have been relocated to the bathroom, which it seems well suited for).

and it's in near perfect condition. only a single loose thread on the 'n' in kindness.

whoever made this definitely has a lot more crafting patience than i do. hats off to you, unknown embroiderer.



i was going to post about a thrift store find today, but alas, the pictures i took this morning didn't turn out too great and now the lighting is bad. so, in lieu of that, here's a gratuitous conan picture.

that is all.


england. and then some.

following our grand german adventure, jon and i headed off to jolly ole england to visit dan and becca (surprisingly, they let us come back!).

i really love england. it's a place that suites my personality well--the weather's chilly, so scarves and cardigans are a must, there are endless rolling pastures full of sheep, and the people have a deep appreciate for fresh produce, well made pastries and afternoon cups of tea. swoon.

and it's full of really old ruiny places, like rievaulx abbey. it was once one of the wealthiest abbeys in england, and it's still pretty spectacular. we spent the afternoon strolling abouts and having a picnic.

i'm not really sure what jon's doing here, but i think he's eating a reese's cup. and making some sort of a declaration. probably that there shalt be more reese's cups.

and here are some sheep! i got excited every time we saw sheep. which was a lot of times.

we also spent a day in knaresborough, which was a very cute and very english town on the river nidd.

it was clearly a very british day, as the picture above and the picture below were taken maybe fifteen minutes apart.

we also went to scotland for a couple of days. we went there by train, which, in my opinion, is the best way to travel. the views were spectacular. and look, more sheep!

in scotland, we spent a day in edinburgh, which was great, but it was a little big city for my love. i get easily overwhelmed. my favorite part of scotland was the day we spent out by the sea, in north berwick. while we were there, we went to the law. this is the law.

law is the lowland scots word for a hill that rises incongruously from its surroundings. i would say that this one was quite incongruous. and we climbed it.

the views during the climb were spectacular. there was the sea, dotted with islands and the tiny town with the red roofs and farms as far as you could see.

while we were in north berwick, we also walked along the beach. in the opposite direction from this photo, there was a golf course. which seemed very scottish.

this puppy was enjoying the beach and didn't seem to mind that it was in the forties outside. i didn't mind either. i'd take a chilly day on a scottish beach any day.

that's about all i have. it was an amazing trip. a refreshing trip. a trip i won't soon forget.



the past two weeks jon and i were greatly privileged to take an extraordinary vacation, traveling to both germany and the united kingdom. it was an overwhelmingly fantastic trip, full of seeing great sights, eating good food, and most awesomely, visiting some of the greatest friends that we have.

we spent the first week in germany visiting rachel and adam. they live in eralangen, which is in bavaria. on the plane trip over there i realized the only thing i knew how to say in german was danke schön, which i of course, thanks to mr. wayne newton, thought was pronounced 'dank-a shane'. i'm still not one hundred percent sure, but i now think it's closer to 'dank-e shoen'. umlauts are weird. i mostly mumbled my way through it.

by the end i could also say please, order two coffees, and knew the words for train station and airport. not much progress, i know, but i blame adam for being way too good at german after only five months of studying.

germany was surprisingly cute. i'm not sure why it was surprising, i guess i had just never thought much about it. all of the buildings had red roofs, all the houses had flowers and well maintained gardens, and people traveled everywhere by bicycle (my favorite was the cute old lady on the vintage bicycle with a basket full of potted plants).

see, so cute!

this was in bamburg. evidently it's a thing for people to put locks on bridges as a sign of love, true love. i think we should start this in cincinnati. it definitely has enough bridges.

one day, the four of got a rental car and drove to the edge of the black forest. luckily rach likes driving. the autobahn scares me. i think we hit one hundred twenty miles per hour, and in a ford no less. rach was quite disappointed when we didn't get a sweet european rental car.

this was the view from the inn we stayed in just outside of baden-baden. why yes, those are vineyards in the back ground. and yes, that is the black forest further on.

the next day we went for a lovely jaunt through the vineyards and then up through the black forest to the yburg castle. it was a bit rainy, but oh so scenic. a couple of grapes may have been eaten along the way. shhhh.

you just can't beat those views. we were pretty certain you could see france in the distance.

on the way back down through town, we saw a couple of katzes (yes, i know katzen is the proper plural, but it's not nearly as fun of a word). this made jon and adam super happy. they attempted petting but were unsuccessful.

the two pictures above kind of show one of my favorite things about germany--the vegetable gardens in everyone's yards and all of the colorful flowers.

when we got into town there was a guy with a giant vacuum sucking grapes into a building. we like to think these were from the vineyards we trekked through.

our trip through the black forest ended with a visit to burg hohenbaden. it was a great castle--crumbly, overgrown and completely left to the imagination to recreate its former glory. and while we were there an impromptu a cappella concert broke out in this main room (german flash mob?). the open space had incredible acoustics and, even though it was a german group, all of the songs they sang were in english, which was pretty great.

there was so much more awesomeness in germany, but there's only so much i can subject you people to in one blog post, and i haven't even gotten to week two of the vacation yet. i'll save our united kingdom adventures for a later post.

auf wiedersehen! or, for those who never watched the sound of music with closed captioning on, al veed-isane. (yeah, i had no idea it was spelled that way until i saw it on a sign. german is crazy.)


spices two.

the second post i ever made on this blog was about making my spice rack. three years later, it was in need of a little bit of love. we had mounted it over the only counter in our kitchen, where it was subjected day after day to the turmoils of food prep.

so, since the labels needed to be replaced anyway, i figured a change in design was in order.

much more subdued this time around. and more chevron-y.

i'm quite a fan of their new look. and, while i was at it, they got a new home. they no longer live over the counter, so mayhaps these labels will last more than a few years. granted, i'll probably get tired of this look in three more years and want another change.