Heartwarming Hats

For the last week, I’ve been on a mission. When you knit or crochet, you wind up with baskets, boxes, bags, drawers, and trunks filled with yarn. Some of it’s beautiful, and you have the perfect pattern and plan for it.

And then, some of it makes you cringe. A friend of a friend tried knitting for a bit, it wasn’t for them, so they’re giving you all this yarn… It’s hard to say no to free yarn, but then what? It just sits there for years making you feel guilty and taking up space.

So I was ecstatic when I was flipping through the pages of the Fall Vogue Knitting and came across the Knit for Kids campaign. Knitters and crocheters can donate hats, sweaters, and blankets to children through World Vision. I’ve been knitting infant hats with all my leftover bits and pieces.

Cocoa and hats

I think they’re sweet, but Cocoa just wants breakfast.

It feels great to be able to get rid of yarn that has been languishing in a drawer for years and to know it’s actually going to something useful and good. I can just imagine some little baby in the far reaches of the world wearing a cozy cap.

You can check out the patterns and learn all the info about Knit for Kids here.

Do you have craft supplies wasting away in a box? What’s your favorite charity to support?

 

 

 

Lessons in Abundance

It’s been a banner summer weather wise–warm and dry. We’ve been enjoying many a lovely evening eating dinner and watching the sun set from the deck.

All that sunshine has been great for the garden, too. We’ve been eating a handful of cherry tomatoes everyday along with a cup of blueberries, and the green beans are just starting to produce.

Harvest

But as with anything, there are pluses and minuses to all that warm weather. Remember my plan to grow “hurking big tomatoes”? (You can check it out here.) Well, when it came time to stake them out, I was running low on materials and just left some of them be. The tomatoes never get that big anyways–until this year. I feel like I’m back in the ’80s with Welcome to the Jungle.

Tomato Jungle

 

A few months ago, that was three little tomato plants hibernating in their Walls O Water.

Walls of Water

 

I stopped at the hardware store and figured 10 bamboo stakes would be able to help me out. That was just the beginning. I’ve decided it’s much easier to stake out tomatoes when they’re small, before they have large fruit hanging off every branch tangled in leaves and vines. With a few supports I found around the house, I was able to contain a little of the chaos.

Tomato Jungle trussed

Now I just have to hope for all those tomatoes to ripen. September first, I’ll be out pinching off any blossoms, so the plants will divert their energy to ripening the fruit that is already set. And next year, remind me to stay on top of things. Sometimes I don’t learn the first time around.

Speaking of learning things the hard way, we’ve had an apple catastrophe. I was showing my brother our orchard a few weeks back, and he commented that the apples looked like they could use some support. I said they were fine, and they might have been if some critters (probably dogs) hadn’t tried to pick apples way too soon. One of the large branches was on the ground when I went to pick my daily dose of blueberries.

Have you heard that a roll of duct tape can fix anything? It came to the rescue of our little apple tree with the MR’s help.

Duct Taped Apple 1

 

I went to a fruit tree seminar last year where they suggested thinning back the apples to just two or three per cluster. Now, I understand why. We’ve just never had apples much bigger than a golf ball, so we were reveling in our success. You may be wondering why I don’t just pick them all now. Well, these are supposed to be red apples, not yellow ones with just a blush of red. I’m hoping the ones we’ve picked from the broken branch will ripen in the pantry.

With all the heat we’ve been enjoying, I figured slugs would be on the wane–not so much. They’ve been eating away at my attempts to direct seed broccoli, so I bought transplants of broccoli, beets, and lettuce. We still have a month and a half before we expect a frost, so I’m hoping for a nice fall crop.

transplanted broccoli

Success comes with its own set of challenges. I’ve been dreaming of beans climbing the chain link fence around the tennis court for two years. Now that I finally have them doing just that, I realize I need a ladder or step stool just to pick them. Somehow, I didn’t see that coming. Don’t those beans know I’m not that tall?

Beans on the FenceThe MR, as always, has been busy with many projects. He recently added a sprinkler line to the flowerbed next to the master suite. Now all those new trees and flowers can get a good start, and he doesn’t have to spend so much time watering them each evening.

Sprinklers

Growing up, the MR worked for his dad’s landscaping company, so this is far from the first system he’s designed and installed. I remember when we were dating, and he showed up with purple glue all over his hands from sprinkler work. Our inspectors gave it the thumbs/paws up.

Inspectors

 

Time to go water the plants on the deck, feed the dogs, do the laundry, but it’s always more fun to just talk to you guys.

How’s your garden growing?

 

To Carpet or Not To Carpet?

I left you a few weeks ago in the midst of our fireplace conversation pit remodel. We went from a useless hole, to framework, to a lovely, plywood-floored seating area.

To Carpet or Not to Carpet 001

 

We love it. I can dust the mantel without getting out a step stool. At night, I can sit by the fire if I need a little light to work on one of my projects. I no longer worry about tripping over the dogs in the wee hours of the morning when I go to get my coffee–well, I might still trip, but I won’t fall down stairs into a pit.

The birds are singing, all is goodness and light, and then we have to talk about floors. It was going to be so easy. We were just going to add some neutral gray carpet to match the concrete-coated floors. Then I started talking to the interior designers. They started using phrases like “better flow”, “makes more sense”, “continuity”.

Even with new carpet, we’d wind up with weird angles in the floor.

To Carpet or Not to Carpet 004

Making the whole great room floor the same gray, concrete-like material seemed to make sense. It’s easy to clean, conducts heat well, and hides all the dirt the dogs track in constantly.

So last week, I had Kenji, the local Semco contractor whom we had worked with in April, come out to make a bid for the rest of the floors downstairs (except the bedrooms) and the main area upstairs. That’s when things got tricky.

When we had him redo the entry, walkways, bathrooms, kitchen, and dining room last spring, he was adding a coating over tile. This time, we were removing the carpet and the pad, and suddenly we were dealing with a major height difference.

DiscrepancySomehow, that doesn’t sound like seamless. Now we’re discussing the insulation factor of hardiplank. And how to adhere said material to the floors without damaging our in-floor heating system. Perhaps a self-settling concrete would be a better option?

What about adding a few outlets? All the professionals just keep telling me how difficult it is to when you have heated tubing running through your floors.

Sometimes, I just want choices to be simple, straight-forward, and easy. Basically, all of the choices in this home have not been any of these.

So for now, I’m checking options and putting furniture purchasing on hold. Who wants beautiful new furniture covered in dust from new floors?

Now ;that I’ve had a week’s break from the blog to pout/regather my energy, let’s take a look at the positive. We suddenly have rooms upstairs that look finished.

Molding Collage

Bogart and I both approve. It’s fulfilling to see beautiful moldings instead of ugly, unfinished walls. Sweet Miss pointed out that we still have holes in the floors from where the radiator tubing was. You can see them in this photo of her room.

SWs Moldings

Don’t worry dearie, those will be taken care of when we recarpet the bedrooms and have the Semco flooring installed in the hangout room. Radiators will just be a bad memory.

OK, now I have emails to send and questions to ask, if these floors are ever going to get done.

Would you ever give up your wall-to-wall carpet? Do you have any tips on how to install floor outlets on heated floors?

 

 

 

 

A Little of This, a Little of That

It’s been one of those weeks. Workers, deliveries, meetings, noise, rain, crazy dogs, birthday celebrations, and all that comes with that. Let’s just say, I’m a little scattered.

I was hoping to have beautiful pictures of a newly installed floor framed by beautiful molding. Well, it’s installed, but it’ll look so much nicer when the baseboards are also painted, so you just have to wait on that. Upstairs, the molding looks great. It’s amazing how unfinished details can just drive you crazy.

In other news, I met with a senior designer yesterday to look at a plan and shop furniture. While I like the direction, I’m not totally sold on the use of the space. They had chosen some beautiful pieces at both Room & Board and Crate & Barrel. It was fun to walk through the stores and check out a new dining room table and some easy chairs with interesting details. We were also trying out sectionals for size.

I handed the blueprints off to the designers yesterday, so they could get a more accurate view of the room. With all the angles, it really is difficult to map out. I had a little fun sectioning off a photo of the prints, so you can get an idea of what we’re working with.

Main Floor Plan Delineated

The gray areas are the ones we’ve asked the designers to focus on. An angled sectional may be the answer to our furniture problems. We will wait and see.

During our meeting, the designer mentioned that both she and the principle designer who visited our house last week thought we should continue the concrete flooring throughout the great room. The four-foot walkway around the perimeter is awkward. One surface would give the room better flow and continuity. That’s what the MR said way back when… So I’ve emailed our friends at Semco to see if they can help us out. Kenji’s coming on Monday.

We can always add fun area rugs to soften the feel of the room. We’re still planning on new carpet but in just the bedrooms now.

And that brings us to air conditioning. It was almost 100-degrees here on Monday. I thought I was going to die. Our heating/cooling guy met with us on Tuesday. We have no duct work and no attic, so hidden units are hard to hide. He and the MR were wandering the house brainstorming ideas when the MR suggested the built-in platform bed could be the perfect place in the master bedroom for the air conditioner. And what do you know, there’s a 7-inch space behind the refrigerator and a weird angled wall next to it. We haven’t seen a plan yet, so who knows where we’ll end up.

After the heat, it’s been unusually wet for the last few days, so I’ve been neglecting the garden and the orchard. Last week, I was out regularly picking blueberries and blackberries and browsing in the garden. Despite it being a touch early, I also picked our Chehalis apples. I’d found one or two fruit on the ground for four days running. I don’t know if they were dropping naturally or if the dogs were giving them a hand. I’ll have to admit, these greenish-yellow beauties do resemble a tennis ball in size and color.

Now they’re safe and sound inside filling the pantry with their sweet smell.

Apples harvest

 

Last year I made apple chips in the dehydrator–maybe it’s time to pull it out again. We still have a whole other tree waiting to be picked, but I’m going to give it a little time.

So basically, we’ve had a hodgepodge of things happening around here, but we’re making decisions and seeing progress. It’s a good feeling in the midst of bare subfloor, strangers wandering your home, and constant noise.

What’s been going on at your house? Do you have a favorite apple recipe to share?

 

Out of the Pit

Have you ever walked through a pitch black room at 6 am with dogs swarming around your feet hoping against hope not to fall into a pit? Welcome to my life six months out of the year.

Wait, I mean welcome to my old life. In the mid-70’s, my aunt and uncle built a house on a lake with a fireplace and a conversation pit; it was so cool. Fast forward 40 years and conversation pits are not longer cool–they’re a tripping hazard.

After two years, we’re finally making some changes to the inside. OK, so we maybe we’ve done a few things to the inside, but this is a huge change. We’re filling in the pit.

Pit Construction

It wasn’t just the tripping hazard thing that had me frustrated. The actual dimensions of the conversation pit were all wrong. If you were three, the seat was totally meant for you. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you look at it, we’ve all grown a lot since we were three. The carpeted steps were uncomfortable for a grown up, and adding pillows just made everything worse.

So soon, we will have an even, level floor. I will be able to reach the mantel without using a step stool. One of the weird quirks of our house will have gone by the wayside. Let’s be honest, with all its corners and angles, this place has enough character to spare. I can adapt to a “normal” fireplace.

One of the great benefits of getting rid of the pit is that we’ll be able to get new carpet. I see some shopping in my future.

Are you making changes? Are conversation pits super cool or just plain strange?

By the by, this post went live at 2:49 am on August 13th, because 20 years ago one of my favorite people was born at just that time. We love you Sweet Miss. Thank you for 20 years of joy, excitement, and love. Thank you for the lessons you’ve taught us and for helping us to be better people. We heart you baby.

Baby SW

Here’s a picture of the “pit” before, just in case you’ve forgotten where we started.

Conversation pit or ball pit which would you prefer?

Conversation pit or ball pit which would you prefer?

 

 

 

Trapped By What You Have

Sometimes you just need a new way of thinking. How many times are people trapped by what they have? or what has always been?

Last week, I had a wonderful interior designer and her colleague over for an hour. I gave them the tour, and they took pictures and measurements and gave me some great ideas. By the time they left, we’d already made some changes.

When we moved in, the front doors were flanked by two benches filled with slippers

Should I get rid of the benches? Should I get rid of the slippers? Replace one with a console table?

Should I get rid of the benches? Should I get rid of the slippers? Replace one with a console table?

At first, I was asking questions as we figured out the flow of the space, but eventually I got used to things and just left them sitting by the front door. We had benches, they’d always been there, and that’s the way it was.

I planned to recover the box cushions, and they’d live by the front door happily ever after. I wound up with this lovely geometric print–gifted from a friend and promptly did nothing.

Bench It was only when I asked what the designer thought that she said hold everything. Do these benches really work for you? Hmm, no, but we have them, and we don’t know what else to do with them. I was a little embarrassed when she mentioned the MR had a lot of shoes. Oh no, those are just the slippers the last folks left behind. Goodness Kim, why are you keeping these things?

Next thing I knew, I had ladies in high heels moving furniture. One bench went to the laundry room, the little cart where the MR puts his keys came out to the entry. Add some plants and a footstool, and suddenly this area makes more sense.

Corn Plants Gramps Cart

The designer suggested larger pots in a blue or purple tone to add color and bring out the hues in the painting. After the ladies left, I found a pinch pot one of the girls made and a beautiful plate from Sweet Miss’ Fella featuring vibrant red and orange tones. Somehow our little corner is taking shape without spending a cent.

Plate

We invited Sweet Miss’ Fella to go on our family vacation this year, and he gave us this lovely plate as a thank you gift–what a nice guy. You may be wondering about the Snoopy Christmas mug. Well, Baby Girl gave her dad a mug filled with memories for Christmas. Now he can read a slip of paper and smile throughout the year. So I know it’s August, but we’re making allowances for remembrances of sweet times.

Our designer suggested a round table with flowers and another ottoman for the other side, but for now we’re waiting on a design plan. I think something with a little height might bridge the gap between the cart and the print. I like how the intricate trim on the placemats mimics the gold swirls of the frame.

The MR was a little surprised when he came home and couldn’t find the little cart his grandpa had made for us years ago, but I do think he’s getting used to the new set up.

Once the designer receives the floorplan for  our home, she’s going to help us with space planning and give us some ideas for furniture. It was very empowering to meet with an expert who could answer questions and give advice. She loved our floors, and thought adding them to the upstairs hangout room was a good idea. With all our corners and angles, continuity of materials will give better flow.

She also suggested changing the carpet throughout the downstairs when we replace the great room carpet. Getting rid of the green all at once just makes sense. The carpet in the guest room is in great condition, if you like forest green carpet…

We’ve spent a lot of money having the downstairs painted, the floors redone, and remodeling the powder room. It was comforting to hear that she liked all our choices and thought we’d done well in the powder room, which is a tricky space with all its angles.

So just because something has always been there doesn’t mean it’s the right answer. Go ahead and shake things up. I can’t wait to hear the rest of her ideas.

Are you rearranging at home? Where do you get your inspiration?

 

 

 

Do You Really Need More Trees?

When you’re surrounded by 30 acres of forest, do you really want to plant more trees?

The emphatic answer is yes. Some landscaping can soften angles, break up expansive walls, and give your home that finished look.

When you’re busy with major renovations, it’s easy to forget about the outdoors. We’ve added a few plantings here and there along with a few trees on a small scale, but last week we had a chance to go shopping at a local nursery.

With the well room, the garage, and the girls’ wing, we have three-stories of wall with just a few windows. In order to break up that side of the house, the MR planted a pair of weeping Alaskan-cedars.

Trees in Back

They look a little small now; but don’t worry, these babies get big. They can grow to 90 feet in the wild and about half that in cultivation. The MR left room for a path around the side of the house to the well room, so we won’t have to fight through those branches in coming years.  I love their droopy Dr. Seuss-ish look.

Perhaps that why we also picked up a pair of Weeping Norway Spruce to flank the front door.

Schleppy little trees

 

Can’t you imagine these schleppy little trees decked out with lights and ornaments for Christmas? The white box planters were a gift from the MR’s grandfather over 20 years ago. Gramps made them for the sun room in our first house. They had gotten quite shabby over the years, but Papa Larry gave them a fresh coat of paint, and I think they look great on the porch.

Now that we’ve moved around to the front yard, it’s not just plants the MR has been adding. With a couple of clear cedar 4×4’s, the MR constructed a hangar for the bell.

Bell Hangar 2

 

 

 

With just a small push, the bell rings for about 9 1/2 minutes. I’m hoping it doesn’t keep us up on stormy nights this coming winter.

While the bell adds interest and style, this poodle pine caught the MR’s eye.

Bell Hangar at an Angle

I think this planting bed is shaping up nicely. We also added a Japanese, variegated willow. We had one at our old house, and I just loved it.

New Willow 2

 

The new growth in the spring looks like fabulous pink feathers. While it’s hidden in a corner now, it has plenty of room for growth in the future.

You know I’m a sucker for nostalgia and plants that remind me of the past and good times. Well, I couldn’t pass up this honeysuckle. We had a beautiful vine that covered the front porch at our last home. The MR planted it in the corner of the garden next to the tennis court.

Honeysuckle

It pays to know the owners of a nursery. They gifted us four large plants covered in yellow-plum tomatoes. I put them in the planting bags I used last year. Let’s hope they do better than the potatoes did.

 

We have visions of the honeysuckle covering the chain link fence and lending its sweet scent to the evening air.

Finally, we purchased a few red-twig, variegated dogwoods to plant above the barberry lining the driveway. They looked amazing last winter at the Northwest Flower and Garden show. We only bought six as a trial. If they thrive, we can buy more; if not, we’re not out too much money.

Red Twig DW Circled

 

I circled them, so you can actually see them against the backdrop of grass and berry vines. It would be nice to have a hedge hiding the wild that’s always creeping up on us. Those black lines are, drum roll please, you guessed it–sprinkler lines.

Along with planting giant trees, the MR has been putting in a sprinkler system for the far side of the driveway and the slope above the tennis court. The hillside is so steep, the water just runs off it. With a slow drip line, the plants will have a better chance of doing well.

These bee balm have been struggling for a few years now. We’re hoping the sprinklers will help them flourish.

sprinklers around bee balm

No the sprinkler lines won’t just lay on top of the ground forever. The MR is making sure the system works before burying them–a smart and cautious way to go.

And finally, while you and I thought this post was all about landscaping, the dogs were certain it was about them. I mean obviously I took the camera outside and wandered around all morning so I could capture them in the best light. You already saw Bogart in the background of the honeysuckle. Here are a few more dog photo bombs for your viewing pleasure.

Dog Flower Collage

 

What have you been adding to your landscape?