Friday, December 18, 2020

What is Your Favorite Destination?

Like many, we sit at home dreaming of places we have been and places yet to explore. But with the world seemingly at a standstill, that is all we can do. Dream. So as the temperatures drop and snow covers the landscape we find ourselves thinking of some of our favorite places. The top of that list for us is Alaska. The scenery and sense of adventure is second to none. It has been 4 years since we have been there and as many of you know that was to be our destination last summer but sadly that was not to be.

The start of our Alaskan adventure in 2016

I would classify each of our favorite destinations into three categories; the scenery, the people and the adventure. Alaska checked all three boxes. We were expecting the scenery and the adventure, what we were not expecting is to make friends that we hope will last a lifetime. We knew and were looking forward to seeing Barb’s cousin Lori and her husband Jim in Fairbanks. Barb does not have many blood relations left and Lori is very special to us. Our two unexpected encounters and people we consider special friends include Rich & Susan and Rod & Denise. Both encounters were totally random which made them that much more magical. You can read about both here.

Our favorite scenery is hard to pin down to one location. The numerous glaciers were breathtaking and the drive to Skagway will forever be etched into our memories.

Daisy overlooking one of the many glaciers

A sample of the landscape on our drive to Skagway

As will our glacier cruise in Valdez...

But as I think of these I cannot help but think of our Root Glacier walk in McCarthy and another chance encounter when we crossed paths with one of Barb’s former co-workers Melinda while on a walk way there. What are the odds of that?!?!?!
Barb and I on the Root Glacier
The more I think about it there are too many scenery thoughts flowing back to mention so I will just leave it with these first few that came to me.

The adventure category is easy, it has to be the fishing. Having never been to the area, we had no idea where or what to fish with but we figured it out catching countless salmon, Dolly Varden, halibut, rainbow trout and grayling.  The grayling have almost been a mythical fish to me with their long sweeping dorsal fins and I could not wait to try and catch one. Little did I know that this species would be the easiest and most abundant. 

The grayling were plentiful and fairly easy to catch
Barb releasing one of many Dolly's we caught in Haines

Our favorite has to be the salmon. There is nothing like hooking into one of these silver bullets with a flyrod!

Fishing the Kenai 

But for now, all we can do is think back to the past and look forward to the future. We have dreams of pointing our truck to the northwest again this summer but only time will tell if we will be able to make that journey.

In the meantime we have plenty to do to keep us busy right here in South Dakota. The fireplace is now grouted, cleaned and ready for the hearthstone.

But the big news of the week are the kitchen cabinets. We had them designed and the order placed with Don’s Custom Cabinets in Rapid City back in September. We were nowhere ready for them at the time but we were anticipating that we would be ready sometime in December when the cabinets were scheduled to be done. Then a couple of weeks ago we received word that they would not be done until January. Imagine our surprise when we received a call late last week saying they were ready for pickup!

Kevin and I spent one day on the kitchen and another day on the laundry room. Barb is like a little kid in the kitchen, putting things away, organizing and reorganizing. I suspect that she is nowhere close to done but she is having fun! (Update...I went in there while she was putting her spices away and she was putting them in the spice cabinet in alphabetical order!)

Still waiting on the new appliances

Kitchen Island

The laundry room
Friday the countertop people came out to measure the kitchen for the countertops. That process was pretty interesting. They put labels with different sized dots on the wall throughout the kitchen then put another sheet with dots on the surface of the base cabinets and took about 50 pictures. The guys said he inputs all the pictures into his software and it designs the cabinets to 1/16th of an inch. Beats measuring by hand! It will be a week or two before they are ready.
I spent some time over at Kevin and Cheryl’s working on their fireplace. It too is now all done! They have made some great progress as well which Cheryl has been documenting on their 7 Bulls Facebook page.

Speaking of Kevin, he and I went on of an adventure of our own this week when we went pheasant hunting about 3 hours east of here on the Rosebud. Some friends of his from Wisconsin met us out there. I would love to say that the birds were plentiful and we never missed a shot but both would be lies. We did see some beautiful country and had a good time taking a break from our projects though!

The landscape seemed to go on forever

One of our many pheasant drives

With less than a week until Christmas, our goal is to finish trimming the upper windows and get that scaffolding down in the next few days. Once that is done we can start to take a serious look at flooring!

Next week I will reveal more of our favorite destinations as we look outside at the snowy landscape at our furry friends and think of adventures past and future. In the meantime, we will carry on here day by day, project to project and dream to dream.

A foggy gray day had the several new bucks exploring our property

This little guy came to the window to see what we were doing

Sunday, December 6, 2020

What a difference a year makes!

 As I was thinking about this Thanksgiving I was wondering where we were last year at this time. Well, I remember where we were, I was wondering where we were in terms of the house.

I don’t think I will get much of an argument that this has been one of the strangest and longest years on record and one no one is going to forget in their lifetime. But here in the rural lands of South Dakota it is not nearly as weird as other places in the country. To be honest you would hardly know anything is different out here. The fact that we never go anywhere plays a big role in this perspective however.

This Thanksgiving found us celebrating with our good friends Kevin, Cheryl, Dan and Bonnie. The exact same group we spent the holiday with last year. Besides the obvious, the other biggest difference is where we are at with the house. No, we are not done, in fact we are far from it but we are sure a heck of a lot further along than we were last year at this time!

This is a picture taken last year at Thanksgiving.

A house of poly and insulation
That same week last year the fireplace and hearth was put in. At that time we thought that was a big accomplishment and it was, but as we look back at these pictures only a year ago, we are amazed at what we have done!  

And here is the same shot of where we are at this year.

For those of you who have been closely following our blog you will notice one big change this week. Yup, it is the stone on the fireplace! Earlier this week Kevin said that if I got the lath and scratch coat up he would come over and put the stone up over the weekend. I could not pass up an opportunity like that and to work I went!

The first step was to staple metal lath on any surface the stone was to go on. A fairly easy process but that metal lath will cut the heck out of your hands! The next step is to put on the scratch coat. This is basically a thin layer of concrete (mortar) over the metal lath. This provides the surface to which the stone and mortar will adhere to in the next step.  

That step took two full days and is one I was glad to have done!

The next day Kevin came over and we started putting stone up! Stone by stone we fitted and put them into place like a huge jig saw puzzle. 8 hours later we were done with our first day and about 1/2 done. We got the entire wood storage area done and about 3' above the fireplace.

The next day we were back at it again and 6 hours later Kevin was putting the last stone in!

Last stone being put into place!

It looks awesome and we are so glad to have that project behind us. Another one that we could not have done without Kevin's help.

The next steps are to grout between each of the stones and clean it up. We also need to get our hearth stone and mantle into place, but we are close! Until then it looks like we are going to have scaffolding in our living room again....

Barb has been staining and varnishing the handrails for our stairs...

...and also paid a visit to the cabinetmaker where she received some good news and some bad news. The good news is that all the doors and some of the cabinets are done. We are going with rustic hickory. 

The rest of our doors
One of our doors

The bad news is that they will not be done until late December or even into next year.

But back to Thanksgiving itself....Like many, we cannot wait for 2020 to fade into the past and are looking forward to 2021. But in the meantime we are fully embracing this holiday season starting with Thanksgiving. Barb cooked a wonderful turkey, stuffing, potatoes. Bonnie and Cheryl brought other sides and desserts. But I think the highlight of the evening were Barb's White Russian and Buttershots &Baileys pudding shots. We lost track of how many we had but by the end of the evening we were full in several ways!

You will notice two people missing from this picture. The picture taker, (me) and Kevin who after supper went to the couch and assumed this position.....

He even has his stabilizers out

Thanksgiving behind us, we are looking forward to Christmas. So much so we got our tree the day after Thanksgiving and have been watching a Christmas movie on the Hallmark channel almost every evening. This is a first for me and I have learned a couple things; The first is that there is only about 6 actors that play the main characters in about every movie on the Hallmark channel. They will mix up who is the boss, mom, dad, sister, brother, whatever but they are the same actors. It can get kind of confusing. The second thing I learned is the plot is the same in every one. Pay close attention and I can save you countless hours of movie watching and tell you the plot so you won't miss anything. 

Every one of them go something like this... The main character is a woman (often the same woman in the last movie you watched) who is in a relationship with a horrible boyfriend. About 15 minutes into each movie she runs into a handsome stranger but they don't get along (for now) but she is in a relationship anyway right? Wait another 15 minutes and she breaks up with her horrible boyfriend and is going to be alone for Christmas. (oh no!) But happenstance brings her back together with the handsome stranger and they slowly become closer and closer. Then you need to throw in a spontaneous snowball fight, an interrupted first kiss, a reappearance of the old boyfriend trying to patch things up and drama with the new boyfriend through a misunderstanding. Fear not, they make up, have their first kiss and live happily ever after! You can thank me later but now you do not need to watch any movie ever put out on the Hallmark channel.

The weather here in South Dakota has been great in the past two week. 40's and 50's everyday which has allowed us to get out and cut some firewood in our spare time. Barb has taken over the tractor is becoming a regular farm girl!

But we know winter is coming and we will be cooped up inside. Warm or cold, we have plenty to do to keep us busy for there is still a lot to be done to finish the inside by spring!