Halloween is here!  It is hard to believe that we are going through fall so fast.  We have just finished harvesting the garden and now we are thinking about the upcoming holidays.  As we prepare for the holidays don’t forget about getting your home ready as well.  We have a great story on weatherizing your home as well as one on preparing your home for parents and grandparents who may need some help getting around the house.  We even get a little jump on Christmas by talking about collectables.

Terra Casa Christmas Collectables

The upcoming holidays can evoke strong memories and emotions because of the shared history and traditions in most families.  One of the traditions that a lot of families share is the collecting of holiday figurines and ornaments.  Kathii from Terra Casa (503-577-8242) in Damascus joined Robin at the store to talk about the 3 main collectable styles they carry.  We started with the Jim Shore collection. Jim incorporates an old world style into his creations.  You will always see a quilt type pattern in all his work.  That inspiration came from his great grandmother who was a quilter.  Another great artist they carry is Patience Brewster (yes that is her real name).  She is known for her whacky and whimsical creations.  She also draws her inspiration from the past.  Her eleventh great grandfather was on the Mayflower.  Her creations are a combination of weird fashions and farm/animal themes.  You can often find her subjects as animals dressed in hats and cool shoes.  Once you’ve seen one they’re hard to forget.  Finally we looked at the Williraye Studio collection.  The name is the combination of the names of the husband and wife designers of the collection.  They combine French and American influences to make a woodsier feel to their ornaments and figurines.   If you would like to start a holiday tradition of collecting ornaments and figurines stop by Terra Casa and see their inventory of great Christmas and other holiday items.

Fall Pumpkin Decorations

We found a quick craft that can really add a festive touch to your holiday table.  We took one small pumpkin gourd and cut a hole in the center.  We then dropped a small tealight candle in the center.  Or you can use some hot glue and secured a tall candle in the middle of it.  It was a great little project that will add a fall/harvest flavor to your dinner table.  We also found a pumpkin topiary that you can make yourself.  We took a clay pot, some floral foam, some silk leaves and a handful of small gourds and pumpkins from the local garden center and built one that looked great.  All you do is drill a hole in the middle of some small pumpkins and use a small dowel or chop-stick to hold them upright.  Glue the silk leaves around the pumpkins and it is done.  There is nothing like this wonderful centerpiece to add that fall flair to your holiday table.  Click here to download the directions.

Stuffed Grape Leaves

We have found a new favorite restaurant in Portland and it is called Ya Hala (503-256-4484).  In Lebanon, Ya Hala means ‘welcome’ and we certainly felt that when we visited.  This wonderful Lebanese Restaurant is located at 80th and Stark in SE Portland near 205.  Chef Mirna Attar is a great cook and she offered to share a couple of her recipes with us.  The one she shared with us today was ‘Stuffed Grape Leaves’.  It really is a simple Lebanese appetizer that anyone can make at home!  The hardest part is the wrapping of the grape leaves, but we will get to that later.  First you mix the filling together.  The filling includes parsley, onion, tomatoes, short grain rice, lemon juice, olive oil, allspice, dried mint, and black pepper, and then stir it all together.  This is the vegetarian recipe, but we also have one that includes meat.  Next you stuff the grape leaves.  You can get grape leaves by the jar at specialty grocery stores like Barber World Foods (503-244-0670).  Place the shiny side down and spoon about a tablespoon of the mixture in the middle of the leaf.  Start to roll from the bottom of the leaf and fold the sides in when you are about half way up the leaf.  It is similar to rolling a tiny burrito!  It will take you a couple of times before you get the hang of it.  Once it is rolled up place it in a sauce pan.  Mirna lines the bottom of her pan with sliced onions to add more flavor and also to keep the leaves from sticking to the bottom of the pan.  Once the pan is filled, add water to cover them.  Add lemon juice, olive oil to the water and then cover with a plate.  The plate will ensure that the stuffed grape leaves stay submerged in the broth while they cook.  After an hour on the stove they are ready to eat.  Serve them with yogurt on the side and enjoy this tasty treat! 

We have had most of the items on the menu at Ya Hala and everything has been tasty and delicious. If you want to try this recipe at home, you will find a link here, then stop by the restaurant and see if yours is as good as Chef Mirna’s! 

Aging in Place

As the holiday season approaches we start to think about getting together with family.  It also creates concerns as we have to think about our older relatives and making sure they are comfortable and safe in our houses.  As we age we don’t think about how we need to change our surroundings to accommodate our limited mobility or other physical needs.  Neil Kelly (866-691-2719) has a program for remodeling homes called ‘Aging in Place’, which was developed with the Home Builders Association and the AARP.  We met with designer Barbara Murphy who works with people to help make these important modifications to their homes for themselves or for other family members.  We toured on of the kitchens and looked at some of the modifications that they can install.  The first one was a dishwasher that wasn’t as deep as a normal one.  This allows you to load and unload the dishwasher without bending.  Another modification was a cutting board that pulls out to become a table so you can actually sit down when using it, plus it was built to hold the weight of a person in case they need to lean on it.  Finally we looked at a spice rack that was located near the stove so you don’t have to reach up or move around the kitchen to find your common spices.  We even saw how they can place dishes and glasses in specially designed drawers to make them more accessible.

We then move to a demonstration bathroom to see what you can do there to make things safe.  The first thing to think about is the shower.  Neil Kelly can install a shower with no threshold so there is nothing to trip over when you step in.  She also mentioned the adjustable shower heads that can be moved up and down in case you are seated in the shower.  There are also push button temperature controls so the water will not get too hot or too cold for the person using it.   You will also need to consider the installation of grab bars and other tools for assisting with balance.  The good thing is that most of these improvements will help increase the resale value of your home.

The reasons for hiring a designer are many.  The Neil Kelly design staff is up to date with some of the newest innovations and has constant training in the newest ideas for ‘Aging in Place’.  They also work with many vendors so you can often see significant savings in products.  Plus they do this everyday and so they know all of the common mistakes that the do-it-yourselfer would make and help you avoid them!  It also doesn’t have to be expensive and they can walk you through the budget process so you are comfortable with the overall cost.  And since this is a safety issue you want to make sure it is done right, and Neil Kelly can make sure that happens. 

Parr Lumber Winterization

The change in the weather means a change in your projects too.  It is time to think about saving money and energy when you are working around the house.  We met with Amber at Parr Lumber (866-214-7277) to get some tips on what we need to tackle these winterization projects.  Amber first corrected us; these are more than just projects for the upcoming winter, these tips can save us money all year long.  We started from the ground up.  When you are thinking about saving energy you will want to make sure that your foundation vents are closed for the winter.  This will keep the cold air from robbing you of the heat under your home.  If your vents don’t have installed covers, you can pick up some foam covers that will do the trick.  You will also want to look for cracks in your foundation and look at sealing those as well.  You can also get covers for your hose bibs.  Take off the hoses and drain them and then install the cover over that outdoor faucet.  Speaking of faucets you may also want to make sure that the pipes under your house are protected as well.  Parr carries a full line of foam pipe insulation that you can use.  Just wrap it around the pipe and use the self sealing tape to secure it.  Once you are done below the house you will want to check the siding and other exposed areas for cracks and seal those up as well.  You may also want to wrap your water heater to make sure that it doesn’t lose too much heat, especially if it is in your garage or another exposed area.  Don’t forget to weather strip your doors and windows as well.  Those small leaks around doors and windows can cost you a lot in lost heat.  We can now move up to the attic.  Make sure that your insulation is complete and covers your entire attic.  If you have less than a couple of inches of insulation you may want to add more.  Finally we moved up to the roof.  Up there you will want to seal any cracks around your vents and make sure the shingles are not cracked or worn.  You will want to deal with this now instead of waiting for those heavy rains to start!  Also, apply a moss removal product so the moss won’t undermine the integrity of your shingles. 

Amber also brought out a basket of all the small things you will need to do all this work.  Dust masks, gloves and a flashlight are all necessary if you are working in a crawl space.  You will also need a caulking gun to apply all the caulk.  For more tips and pointers on weatherizing your home, stop by any of the Parr Lumber locations for a little help.


Website design and content ©2009-2011 Gustin Creative Group.  Please send website inquiries to gustingroup@comcast.net
This page last modified
November 04, 2011.