Saturday, December 31, 2011

Shut the front door!

We celebrated the holidays with Chris' parents the weekend before Christmas (more on that later).  The Saturday they were here was a busy one.  See what was happening at Casa Gibson??  Brr...

We've needed a new front door for a very long time.  The door itself was in decent shape, but the trim around the door was rotting.  I should have taken a macro picture of it so you could really see.  Chris is pretty handy, but decided that installing a front door was beyond even his skill level.  So we asked our realtor to recommend a good carpenter and Fran came through.

Inside of the house with the OLD door...

 and with the NEW door!

Outside of the house with the OLD door and rotting trim...

And the NEW door!  Doesn't it look sharp?  We haven't decided on a color yet and won't worry about it until spring; it's primed so it's weather resistant.  And it's just too cold to paint right now.  We actually kind of like the white...what do you think?

We decided to skip the storm door this time.  I'm glad we did.  I think it looks nicer and I have to say, it's REALLY nice not to have a door smack me in the hip whenever I'm unlocking the front door!

We totally love the look of the new front door.  Plus, Chris made a new Porsche friend!  The carpenter, Mike, is actually quite the Porsche enthusiast and had done lots of work on his.  Now maybe with Mike's help Chris can tackle that engine drop this winter... :)

So warm and cozy.

Our house was built in 1890.  Needless to say, our home is not well insulated.  In the winter it gets COLD.  We don't have a fireplace to add extra warmth and the furnace runs on heating oil ($$$), so we keep the temp around 65.  It's super drafty and very rarely feels warm.

The past few years we used a kerosene heater to heat the living room.  Have you seen a kerosene heater?  They are ugly and smelly and meant for garages.  Or when the power goes out.  Not for heating a living area day in and day out.

So a few months ago we ordered a Harman pellet stove (click on the link to see them, Dad).  The savings we'll get in oil means the stove will essentially have paid for itself within a year or two.  Plus, Chris saved us about $650 by building the hearth himself.

We only had two corners in the living room that worked for stove placement and the corner to the left of the TV won.

We picked out a box of 12x12" tiles that we liked.  Chris cut a large piece of plywood to fit the space, then cut the tiles as needed to fit on top.


Then finally came installation day!  The pellet stove was installed on December 14 and I have been completely smitten with it ever since.  Doesn't it look warm??  It's amazing!  Which means the 2nd floor is pretty cold, but I've got an electric blanket for that.  :)

This week Chris added trim to the edge of the plywood and the hearth is officially complete.  As soon as the Christmas tree gets taken down (it's on the opposite side of the room) we'll move all the furniture so we can pull the rug away from the hearth. 

The stove is awesome.  It takes a bag or a bag and a half of pellets each day, and will automatically turn off and on as needed to keep the room at a consistent temperature.  I love it!

Happy Thanksgiving

So...this post is a bit belated.  As in, over a month after the fact.  Since today is New Year's Eve!  But still, there is lots to recount about Thanksgiving 2011 so I better get it done before I forget.  :)

One of the more initially entertaining, but quickly turned annoying, incidents this autumn was Bailey discovering our pear tree in the backyard.  Took him four years at the house to realize there was fruit lying on the ground, just there for the taking.  (We actually thought it was a crabapple tree for years until Chris' mom pointed out they were pears.)

Once Bailey realized they were out there, nothing could stop him from eating them.  If we'd take them away, he'd just eat them secretly on the side deck before coming back to the glass door.  Or he'd quietly bring them in the house and we'd find pear stems on the rug a bit later.  Thankfully, winter is finally here and all the pears are gone.  But it was pretty funny while it lasted!

On Thanksgiving day, we decided to head into the city to watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade again, just like we did in 2009.  Our front row spot for watching the parade was amazing two years ago, so we we drove in with realistic expectations that the view would not be as great.  And it wasn't, but we still had a good time.  We watched from the far side of Columbus Circle.  Our view looked a little like this:

There's a mall at Columbus Circle, and the view from inside (this was on the 2nd or 3rd floor) was actually pretty good too.  And as an added was warm.  :)

Back in CT we enjoyed a delicious Thanksgiving dinner with our friends, Paul and Elizabeth, and Elizabeth's parents.  Elizabeth and her mom are gluten-free, which I found fairly stressful at first since I was supposed to bring dessert.  But I made Ina's pear-apple-cranberry crisp in individual ramekins, and just used gluten-free flour to make the crisp for theirs.  And it was delicious!!  I hope the gluten-free ones were too.  I am a big fan of gluten and ate the ones with regular flour.

To end the long Thanksgiving weekend, Chris tackled a big project in the backyard.  The shed that he reroofed this spring/summer had a huge window in the back of it.  Not sure why you'd need a window in a shed, but there are many things about this house still a mystery to us.  A few of the panes were broken which allowed leaves, animals, dust, rain, etc. to get into the shed.  Chris took out the whole window and replaced it with plywood and siding.  Much better!

The next day, he left for Taiwan.  Nothing like a 20 hour plane ride for sore muscles, right?  Here are some pics from his fancy hotel.  He can't blog about it himself because he is down in the basement tinkering with the Porsche.  Seriously, what did he do in his spare time before he bought this car??  :)

It took Chris awhile to figure out that he had to insert his key card to adjust the lights in the room.

View from his room.  He said he saw so many almost accidents on the street below.  Apparently there are no stop signs at intersections in Taiwan!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Happy Birthday, Mary Pat!

Last week the Gibsons (the other Gibsons) came to CT to celebrate Mary Pat's birthday!  It was wonderful to have them in town for the weekend for such a special event.  My fabulous mother-in-law's wish was to see a Broadway show and the winner was...

The show was great!  We had lunch beforehand, at the same place Chris and I tried after we saw American Idiot: Room Service.  It's Thai food, and it's fantasticIt was sort of a last minute decision (we hadn't planned on getting food since their puppy Poppy can't hold her business too long yet) but we were all glad we stopped for food before the show.

Great pic of the birthday girl!

On Sunday we took the puppies for a walk at Fairfield Hills.  The Fairfield Hills campus, now abandoned, was a psychiatric hospital for CT from 1931 until 1995.  There are a ton of buildings to walk around and no traffic- a great place to take the dogs for a walk.  Bailey and I go all the time.

From wikipedia- an aerial pic of Fairfield Hills.

Poppy, MPG, and Jay!
Thanks for spending your birthday with us Mary Pat!  We had a wonderful weekend!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

CT Wine and Cheese Festival...would have been fun!

There's a store that we love in Southbury called the Artisan Food Store.  They carry the most amazing selection of New England cheese!  And there's a winery that we love in New Preston called Hopkins Vineyard.  As soon as I learned they were co-hosting a wine and cheese festival on October 22, I penciled it in on the calendar!

The vineyard is near Kent, which is famous for beautiful fall foliage, about 40 minutes from Newtown.  I thought it would be fun to take the Porsche to the festival.  We could enjoy it one last time before it really gets too cold to drive it, and see the leaves too.  It was going to be the perfect day!

Cue the wop-wop sound effect here.  :)

The weather was supposed to be beautiful and sunny...and ended up cold and cloudy.  Luckily I could sit on my hands in the car to keep them warm.  Poor Chris had to use his hands for steering and shifting...they were freezing!  Once we got there, the festival was so packed with people that we decided not to go in.  We did stop at the lake for a quick walk to appreciate the foliage.  Chris was rather cold and unhappy by this point.  :)

But, we salvaged the day by going home via Washington Depot so we could stop at Marty's Cafe.  I just love that place.  We ordered two cappucinos to warm up, plus I can't go there without getting a chocolate croissant.  Chris decided to try their pumpkin soup, a daily special, and I was so glad he did!  We loved it so much we decided to make our own version a few nights later.  You can get the recipe we used right here.  We didn't use cardamom or curry leaves, but we did add the mustard seeds.  It was fantastic!  I can't get enough pumpkin this year.  I also made the most delicious pumpkin chocolate chip cookies.  You've got to make them!

Columbus Day Weekend in the White Mountains

I'm making progress in the blog catch-up!  We are up to Columbus Day weekend.  (The blog is a huge help when I'm scrapbooking or making a photobook months and months later, so I try not to miss things...even if I have to write about them weeks after they actually happened!)

The foliage up in the White Mountains was truly spectacular this year.  And, as we expected, there were a ton of "leaf peepers" in the mountains to enjoy said incredible foliage!  Since we went up on Thursday morning for an extra-long weekend, we decided to do our "big" hike on Friday when the trails wouldn't be too crowded.

I can't remember our exact route.  I know we did parts of the Avalon trail, Ethan Pond trail, and Willey Range trail.  Along the way we stopped at the summits of Mt. Willey and Mt. Field (both four-thousand-footers!) with a final stop to enjoy the view from Mt. Avalon as well.  Round trip we covered about eight miles.  Despite the fact that it was unseasonably chilly, it was a beautiful day.  Perfect for hiking!

Quick walk by the falls with Bailey on Thursday afternoon.

Glad Bailey's on the leash here!

Almost to the top of Mt. Willey!

These little birds (Canadian jays, I think?) are NOT shy!  They ate breadcrumbs right out of my hand!

Can you see the pops of orange and yellow?

Mt. Field

Mt. Avalon!  Starting to get tired!

This was Chris' first chance to meet Poppy!  She's adorable.
Both she and Bailey had a great time digging (and digging and digging...) in the sand by the river.

At the red bench after a walk around Ammonoosuc Lake.
Bailey's actually looking at the camera!  That rarely happens.  :)

Great picture.  :)

Meg and Scott visit CT!

Wow!  So I'm super behind.  Meg and Scott came to visit us a month ago!  Although I apologized for the recent lack of blogging in my last post, I owe an extra special apology to Meg because she's one of the four people who actually reads the blog.  And we had a great time with them, so I definitely wanted to blog about it!

Chris' Aunt Meg and her boyfriend Scott drove down to Connecticut on Saturday morning (the first weekend in October).  We took them to McLaughlin Vineyards for a walk by the river and a wine tasting.  We drove by Blue Jay Orchards to pick up delicious apple cider and apple cider donuts.  After dinner, we took them to Ferris Acres Creamery for ice cream.  Even though it was forty degrees outside and we were all shivering, they loved the ice cream!  Which makes me happy, since Ferris Acres is one of my favorite places ever.  They enjoyed it so much, in fact, that we went there again on Sunday before they drove back to Maine!  :)

Meg and Scott, thanks for driving all the way here to visit.  We loved having you and hope y'all get to come again soon!

At McLaughlin Vineyards

McLaughlin is are Meg and Scott enjoying the view!

At Ferris Acres on Sunday...much better weather for eating ice cream!

Snow in October?

Wow! So it's been two months since I've posted on this blog?! My apologies to the four people who actually read it. :) No major reason for the lack of posts, the new school year has just been keeping me busy.

Case in point: on the Friday before the snowstorm hit a week ago, I managed to go to five schools before I realized I was wearing my sweater backwards. Whoops! I guess it wasn't a bad time to get a week off from school. That’s right…a week off from school. Combine that with the three days we lost due to Tropical Storm Irene, and we already have eight days to make up in June. And winter hasn’t even begun!

Througout the night last Saturday, you could hear trees cracking under the weight of leaves piled with heavy, wet snow. It was downright eerie. Trees fell across the road on either side of our house, including one that smashed a section of our new fence. We lost several trees in the backyard as well. I think Chris is planning to purchase a chain saw to tackle the downed soon as stores have them back in stock!

We lost power on Sunday morning but had it back by Tuesday night. On Monday I waited for almost two hours to take a hot shower at the middle school. Long line, quick shower, but totally worth it! As of this evening, 90,000 homes in Connecticut are still without power.  Complete restoration isn't expected until Wednesday at midnight.  And it's coooooold outside!  Internet, phone, and cable went out during the snowstorm and only came back yesterday. So, all things considered, I'm feeling very well rested and ready to go back to work tomorrow!

A big branch that fell on the OLD fence.

The tree that fell on the NEW fence.  :(

View of the fence from the road.

This was the culprit: heavy snow.  We got about 10 inches overall, and not enough wind to knock it off the trees.

This huge tree limb came down Sunday morning when we were cleaning up the yard.  I heard it from the other side of the backyard, but Chris actually saw it fall from the driveway.  Yikes!

The little tree on the left was sagging, but after digging the limbs out of the snow it looks good as new.

Snow in October...still can't believe it!