Saturday, October 18, 2014

Living Large In Small Spaces - Colorado Cottage - The Log Barn

Fifth post in the series

"Living Large in Small Spaces"

1880 Log Barn in Fall

Last week I gave a tour of the 640 sq ft Colorado cottage Dennis and I purchased, remodeled and sold within a 2-year span. 

Our Colorado Cottage

The 1926 cottage sits on 1/2 acre along with an 1880 log barn that we converted to Dennis' art studio.

The Homestead

The Art Studio

Today I'll show you the barn's transformation.

The barn when we purchased the property.

We know from the property's title work that our parcel was once part of an original homesteader's site claimed around 1880. The log barn probably started life as the family's cabin.

Primitive Cupboard Before
Among the junk and rubbish inside the barn stood this old primitive cupboard.

Repurposed primitive cupboard in the corner.
I cleaned it, sanded off most of the paint, and brought it into the cottage.  The cupboard occupied a corner of the living room until we moved it to the bathroom for a storage cabinet.

The barn conversion

The well-maintained barn was a big reason we bought the property; with a small home we needed a separate art studio. Having the barn meant we had a structure in place for that purpose.

Framing the store room. 
A loft above the storeroom, accessed by a pull-down ladder, provides secondary storage.
We built a storage room to hold art supplies, as well as give us space to store tools, seasonal clothing, and odds and ends. The existing concrete floor was a distinct advantage.

We found the window on clearance at a local hardware store.
We wanted to provide the natural light Dennis needed for painting without destroying the historical integrity of the barn.  Our solution was to replace the more recent barn doors with a large casement window.  

Mountain view reflected in the glass.

Professionals installed the window and repurposed salvaged wood from the barn doors for siding.

A new roof was the only exterior work the old barn needed.  The previous owner left the wagon wheel, ladder and other exterior adornments, and we, in turn, left them for the next owner.  

The art studio

It's said a horseshoe hanging on the door with the open end up
brings good luck.  We liked its whimsical look and left it there.

Let's go in and have a look at the artist's studio and work.

Old door repurposed for the storeroom entrance.

A carpenter who worked on the studio's window installation noticed an old door we had removed from the basement.  He offered to cut it down to fit the storeroom entry and we said, "Sure!"  It suited the barn's mood perfectly.

Dennis retired from architecture to become a full-time painter.

New wood stove in the studio.

Dennis likes to paint poppies. There's usually at least one in our home at all times.

Scenes of Rocky Mountain National Park
are another favorite subject.

The ceiling (loft floor) and beams are original to the barn.  

The common wall between the studio and storeroom made a nice gallery wall.

We added cedar trim on the wall between the top log and the loft floor beams.

Lots of natural light after the window installation.

The new window gave Dennis a beautiful view of the eastern mountains.

Inspired living

Our neighbors' corral.

Living in the beautiful Colorado Rockies was a time of personal discovery for me.

Dennis had given me one of his cameras and encouraged me to explore photography.

Frolicking twins on our homestead.

Finding interesting subject matter was never a problem. (FYI, if you're interested you can see more of my photos on my Estes Park, Colorado Pinterest board.)

Elk running through our backyard.

I began writing again and launched Joyful Altitude, a blog journaling my life in the Rockies.

Back door friends are the best.

People often ask me, "How could you bear to leave such a beautiful place?"  Honestly, sometimes I ask myself the same question.

Equine neighbors viewed from my kitchen window.

Still, I know it was the right move.   We lived in a resort area where the cost of living is high, and we worried about having a mortgage as we age. Once we put our house on the market it sold quickly, and we felt very relieved. That in itself is enough confirmation for me that we made the right decision.

Our lot with an existing shop.
Soon we hope to build a small cottage here in Oregon.  Very small. Even smaller than our last home, so that we can pay cash and not have a mortgage.  We already own the lot free and clear -- a good start toward our goal.  Without a mortgage we'll have money for other things, like travel.

And I'll have plenty of time to explore and photograph this magnificent region we now live in.  

Tips for Small Spaces.

I promised to share some small space living tips this week.  Here are some things I did to make the best use of available space in our small cottage.

Think vertically.

All my cookware was stored on a wall mounted pot rack.

A magnetic holder below the pot rack kept my knives organized. 

Multi-task furniture.

I used the top portion of the armoire to store serving pieces, glassware and other items that didn't get daily use; bottom drawers held tablecloths, games and random items.  DVD's and CD's were stored in the blue chest.  The console under the double windows stored office supplies - some in the drawers and the rest in baskets. We used the antique trunk as an end table and storage for luggage.

Hidden Places.

Of course there's the obvious under-the-bed space for storage, but what about room for a pantry?

Dennis built a pantry in unused space at the end of a wall.  Though only 12" deep, it held a lot of dry goods.  I also used a very large basket atop the refrigerator to store stock-up items out of sight.

Living in a small home means less maintenance and more time to enjoy doing the things that bring pleasure.  I can't wait to leave this 1,300 sq ft apartment and get back to living large in a small space.

Join me next Saturday when I welcome another  guest blogger in the special series

 Living Large in Small Spaces

Would you like to share your small space story
 or have your small home
featured in this special series?
Or perhaps you'd like to participate as a
guest blogger.
Send me an email and let's collaborate.
(See the "Contact Me" page for email address.)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Hearty Slow Cooker Beef Stew

October gave a party;
The leaves by hundreds came -
The Chestnuts, Oaks, and Maples,
And leaves of every name.
The Sunshine spread a carpet,
And everything was grand,
Miss Weather led the dancing,
Professor Wind the band. 
― George Cooper 
(Excerpt from his poem "October Party")

I like the idea of regarding autumn as October's party.  Instead of bemoaning the summer's passing, I'm determined to appreciate God's beautiful palette, the aroma of hot apple cider, and the joy of bountiful harvests. I smile at the sight of pumpkins and corn shocks decorating fence posts and porches, and I'm grateful for the comfort of a warm sweater to fend off the morning chill. Perhaps most of all I relish the return of soups and stews to our menu.  

Last week I saw stew meat in the clearance section of our supermarket meat department (50% off I tell you!), so I snatched it up and hurried home with my prize.  I say "prize" because beef prices have skyrocketed. (Or have you noticed?) 

The next day I made my Hearty Slow Cooker Beef Stew and it was everything I had hoped for. . .tender meat and earthy vegetables in a savory sauce.

Comfort food.  Autumn's reward.

My Hearty Slow Cooker Beef Stew

I took the stew to our Tuesday night Bible study potluck and our group devoured it.  

The trick to making really good beef stew in a slow cooker is to brown the meat first.  Dredge it in flour and sear it in a little oil. This is a must. It just is.

In case you want to make your own yummy bound-to-be-devoured beef stew, I'm sharing my recipe.  You can substitute or add any veggies you want. I use Mrs. Dash instead of salt just to keep our salt intake down.  Use whatever you like in yours.

Hearty Slow Cooker Beef Stew

1-1/4 lb stew meat, cut in 1” pieces
1 – 2 heaping Tbsp flour
Olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced
3 large carrots, cut in 1” pieces
1 large onion, roughly chopped
8 large mushrooms, quartered
3 large potatoes, cut in 1” pieces
3 fresh tomatoes diced, or 8 oz diced canned tomatoes with juice
1 can beef broth
1 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
Mrs. Dash Table Seasoning
Ground Pepper
Dried Thyme
1 Bay Leaf

(1 Tbsp cornstarch whisked with 1 Tbsp cold water for thickening juices at the end of cooking time.)

Heat olive oil in heavy skillet, add minced garlic and saute slightly.
Add stew meat dredged in flour, season with Mrs. Dash, ground pepper and thyme.
Sear meat and transfer it to the slow cooker.
Add all the cut-up veggies to the meat.

Deglaze skillet with beef broth.
Add Worchestershire Sauce to broth and stir to blend.
Pour broth mixture over meat and veggies in slow cooker and stir just enough to combine.
Add bay leaf.

Cover and cook for 1-1/2 hour on High, then finish cooking on low until meat is tender.
(8 hours total works well in my 6 qt. slow cooker.)

Drain juices into a saucepan, thicken, and stir back into the stew before serving.

Homemade beef stew simmering in the slow cooker.  I can't think of a better way to party with October.

How do you party with October?