End of Season Surprises

Earlier this week between rainstorms, I used a sunny afternoon to start putting the garden to bed.
It sounds like I shouldn’t cut back the asparagus until the “ferns” start dying. The tomatoes have already succumbed to late blight, so I pulled their vines and tossed them in the blackberry bushes.

If I’d been more diligent about staking them out, I’d have doubled my harvest. Next year, the chain link fence is going to come in handy with the tomatoes.

After pulling out the vines, I was amazed at how many onions were hidden beneath them. We’re set for quite awhile–Good thing Baby Girl has developed a taste for cooked onions.

Earlier this summer, when I was working really hard trying to keep cucumber plants alive, I was excited to see vines developing. A few weeks later, I decided these were the strangest looking cucumbers I’d ever seen.

Cantaloupe

Maybe they were supposed to be round like the eight-ball zucchini? As time went on, I realized my mistake. Those weren’t cucumbers; they were cantaloupe. But I didn’t plant any cantaloupe–these were volunteers from last year. Maybe worms don’t eat cantaloupe seeds?

Cantaloupe Multiply

So along with onions, I picked beans, carrots, cantaloupe, lettuce, a lone zucchini, and six pounds of giant beets.

End of season

Sadly, my fall broccoli never took off. If I’m lucky, it’ll overwinter and produce early in the spring. I haven’t dug up the potatoes; I hope all the rain hasn’t turned them into mush.

Remember that plum tree we planted to help with our pollination problems? Yeah, that little stick?

Weeping Santa Rosa Sprigs

Well, now it’s taken on the shape of an actual tree even if it’s still quite short.

Weeping Santa Rosa 2

Cross your fingers for a bunch of tasty plums next summer.

We’re not the only ones enjoying the harvest. Baby Girl’s FFA chapter was able to share some local produce with her elementary school a few weeks ago.

Taste of WA

Kale chips, colorful beans, and local cheese were all a hit with lunch kids.

What local fruits and vegetables are you enjoying?

 

Fall Favorites

Last week when we were shopping, Baby Girl told me, “I love fall; I can wear sweaters every day.”

Fall is a wonderful time of year, and here are a few of my favorite fall things.

I love misty mornings when the fog hovers over the valley.

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I love the sunshine glistening on spiderwebs.

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I love the fancy hairstyles and pretty party dresses for the big homecoming dance.

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And I love a good old-fashioned trip to the pumpkin patch. It’s been a few years since we’ve gone, but here’s a flashback to when the girls were younger.

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I also love to snuggle up with a cup of tea, a cozy blanket, and a good book especially on those stormy Northwest evenings when the rain is pounding and the wind is blowing.

What do you love about fall?

 

September–Taking It All In

October is swiftly passing by, and I haven’t even taken a look at September. I could say it’s just been so busy, and Baby Girl’s volleyball takes up so much time, and I just haven’t gotten back into the rhythm of the school year. But to be honest I’ve been pouting.

Redoing your floors is a major pain. Having everything out of place drives me crazy.

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I want my computer back on the desk not shoved into the corner of the kitchen. Let’s just say it’s tight quarters, and I’m not always a good sport.

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Add to that volleyball, homecoming, two weekends away, three birthdays, Sweet Miss moving back to school, 50 pounds of tomatoes and 80 pounds of apples, a head on collision, dealing with insurance and the auto body shop, a couple back-to-back major remodels, a golf-ball size lump appearing on the dog’s face, friends and family going through hard times, and I’ve just put the blog on hold for a bit.

I’d love to say I’ll be back three times a week, like usual, but for now I’m taking it day by day. Thanks for understanding.

So on that note, let’s take a look at September.

The first weekend of the month, me and the MR along with my dad, my little brother and my fabulous sister-in-law all flew back to Kansas to surprise my older brother on his 50th birthday. He thought he was just going out to dinner with his family when he stumbled across the five of us. His daughter is having a baby soon, so we also got to celebrate this new life at a shower for her, had the chance to meet my oldest nephews girl friend, and hung out with my brother’s passel of boys. It’s always good to catch up with family.

Kansas Collage

I did get one bit of clutter picked up in September. The print I ordered arrived and sat for ages in the entry. Sometimes when things don’t go we’ll, I freeze and do nothing. We have all this empty wall space in the bedroom, and I thought a large print would help obscure the fact that we have a giant TV hanging on the wall.

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You just have to imagine the home entertainment cabinet isn’t parked in the corner of the bedroom to make room for the floor remodel. However you look at it, a 4×4-foot print might have been a bit much. Instead of one big thing on the wall, I’d just multiplied it by two.

A Little Color over the bath tub was just the thing.

Flower Print over Tub

By the by, the MR was talking to the Fed Ex guy who has delivered out here for more than 20 years, and he was glad we put up blinds in the master suite. With the previous owners, he never knew what he’d see when he rounded the corner. I guess you could watch for people coming while soaking in the tub. I’m just not that free and easy.

Upstairs, we did a little Problem Solving and revamped the layout of the room by using one floor covering throughout. My plan was to show lovely afters with all the furniture and artwork back in place looking amazing. Well, as you’ve noticed, I’ve been falling behind. So here’s the finished floors with the room reloaded–just not perfect.

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We have no break between carpet and tile; the whole floor is seamless. And yes, I do think a laundry basket can be used as a table decoration.

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The dogs seem to approve. Since I spent so much time upstairs with them during the floor work downstairs, Bogart has started wandering off on his own, so he can sleep on the furniture. You gotta watch these dogs.

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Do you remember those three tomato plants out in the garden? Well, two of them were paste tomatoes and they produced over 50 pounds. Crazy, huh? In Harvest Time I’d just begun putting up tomatoes and apples. I canned pasta sauce, tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes, tomato jam–what I like to call grown up ketchup, and applesauce from our very own tree. Next year, I plan on growing the tomato plants next to the chain link around the tennis court, so I don’t have to worry about a strong enough cage or trellis. I can’t imagine that they will be like the beans and climb 10 feet high, but we’ll wait and see.

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I’ve been using recipes from my old and new canning books, but the tomato jam recipe I found at Putting Up with Erin. If you have gobs of tomatoes, it is definitely worth a try.

Finally Orange is the New Green showcased our glowing orange floors. It’s hard to believe anything can be worse than the emerald fading to teal floors we’ve been living with.

Carpet East

Oh, but we found it.

Orange floor at sunset

Baby Girl said the whole house glowed when she came home from school. You can see the ceiling is reflecting orange everywhere. The project manager thought I had all the lights in the house on… If you want more light in your house, the answer is simple. Paint the floors orange. I do believe you’ll go insane in short order, but you’ll do it in a well lit space.

Thankfully, I was out our women’s retreat that weekend and only had to live with it for a few days. The first layer of scratch coat was a vast improvement.

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We lived with dust, noise and crazy for a week. Unfortunately the Semco flooring over the Schluter-Ditra is quite wavy while the flooring over the former tile walkways is smooth. We are not happy, and Kenji will be back at the end of the month to make things right. Until then, we’re still in flux.

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You can see how at the edge of the photo, the floor is flat, while in the middle it’s wavy. Here’s a closer look.

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That brings us up-to-date. If you’re worried about the car crash, it was on the blind corner of our driveway at very low speed. My car and the workers SUV did get stuck together; maybe that’s why there was so much damage. I’m hoping to get my car back at the end of the week. Thankfully, no one was hurt.

Bogart looked pretty awful for a while, but two pills twice a day for three weeks has him back to normal. I was totally impressed when the new vet took the time to make friends with him.

We were also able to celebrate my dad’s 75th birthday with old friends and family. The biggest laugh of the night was when my dad told the story of the time his buddy couldn’t disengage the emergency brake, so he drove his family to church backwards. The MR didn’t believe it, but I’ve known that guy my whole life. This was gospel truth; they only lived a mile from church.

Dealing with tomatoes and keeping dogs away from workers has kept me from putting the garden to bed and harvesting the last of the vegetables. That’s on the agenda for this week. We also have two volleyball matches, a corn maze with FFA, a trip to the dentist, Bible study, student store, maybe some golf, and I hope a little time for the Big White House on the Hill.

Thank you to those who have messaged and emailed to say they were missing the blog. And thanks also to those who’ve gone out of their way to say how much they’ve enjoyed our journey and the stories I share. You keep me going.

How has fall been treating you?

Orange Is the New Green

If last week’s chaos wasn’t enough, we decided to bring it downstairs.

All the furniture has been shoved into random corners, so we can have the sea of green carpet removed.

Carpet East

 

It’s crazy how even the subflooring looks better than that carpet.

Carpet Gone 2

After removal came the tricky part–the electrical portion. We turned off the heat and opened all the windows overnight to cool off the floors. The next morning, we turned on the heat and a fellow with a very expensive thermal camera came and took pictures mapping out the tubing that runs through our floors and heats our home. He left behind markings to show where we could add some electrical outlets for the computer and possible floor lamps.

Marked Areas

I came home from a walk, to find the MR and our project manager talking about how slick the camera was. They were a little surprised that the tubing was set four inches apart in one area of the room and eight inches in another. It was a little odd, but who knows why people do these things? We do now. Part of our system may be clogged, or that camera wasn’t quite as good as we’d hoped. On the final outlet, after chipping carefully away all day, the electrician spouted off a few choice words. You know it’s gotta be trouble.

The nick 2

He’d nicked the tubing with his screwdriver. A nick is better than a cut. I was certain this was gloom and doom–destruction of floors and heating. I can get a little fatalistic.

Apparently, it’s a simple fix.They talked about using plumbers tape to fix it, but since soon it will be covered by an under-layer and flooring material, that didn’t seem prudent. The project manager went on to explain about shark teeth clamps. Let’s just say we called in a professional and have documentation to explain the repair.

The Fix 2

And now a few rainy days later, we even have heat again. You may be wondering what’s with the orange. Don’t worry; I’m getting to that.

So are our floors in? Not even close. We had the concrete flooring installed over our tile floors. Now that we’ve removed the carpet and pad, they weren’t even. So we couldn’t simply have the Semco flooring put in over the that; we needed to add half an inch. Hardyboard needs to be nailed down. With the tubing in the floors, that’s not going to happen.

The next idea was a half inch layer of gypcrete. Of course, that needs to cure for 30 days. Sorry, I’m not living like this for a month.

How we're living

So Schluter-Ditra to the rescue. I know. Who makes up these names? You can find out all about it here, or just picture the great room floor covered in bright orange honeycomb. I do believe the ceilings glowed at one point last night; it was like living in an orange.

Orange floor at sunset

It will keep our floor from cracking, raises it to the proper level (cross you fingers), and will work with the Semco coating.

It doesn’t look quite as bad by the light of morning.

Orange floor at sunrise

Who am I kidding? It’s awful. In another week or so, life will get back to normal. I can deal with anything for a week.

Until then, we’ve traded faded green in for bright orange–awesome!

Ever been in the midst of a project and think wow this was a bad idea? Any remodeling at your house? Share your fiascoes please. It’s been one of those weeks, and this is only the half of it.

 

Harvest Time

What happens when you leave town in the middle of harvest season? Things go a little crazy.

My dad visits my aunt and uncle in Missouri annually and always comes home with lots of stories.  He likes to say how come July or August, you don’t dare leave your car unlocked when you park it in the square cause when you come back it’ll be filled with bags of tomatoes and squash.

We’ve always just smiled and nodded–we try to humor the guy. But this year, we had a real summer in Washington with warm weather and sunshine; it’s been crazy. That giant mound of tomato plants I’ve been watching for months has started producing. Maybe that story about the square isn’t too far-fetched.

Now that we have all these silly tomatoes, I can’t just do a happy dance and beam at my gardening prowess. Perhaps I should actually make something with my unexpected bounty.

So I made roasted vege pasta sauce and stuck it in the freezer, then I canned tomato basil pasta sauce, and then I canned some more. Maybe it was time to try something that wouldn’t use just a piddly four or five pounds. I saw a simple recipe that said to drizzle baking sheets with olive oil, add halved tomatoes cut-side down, sprinkle on some salt and pepper and a few herbs, stick them in the oven for 10 hours at 200-degrees, and call it good. That’s my kind of recipe.

Roasted Tomato Collage

After they’d cooled a bit, I pulled off the skins, stuck the tomatoes in bags, and popped them in the freezer. This winter I can add them to pizza, pasta, sandwiches, soups, and casseroles for a bit of intense tomato flavor.

As you can see in the photos above, I grew two different types of paste tomato–different in size, shape, color, and density. I randomly picked up two generic “paste” tomatoes at the super market. You never know what you’ll wind up with. I’m really liking the larger, meatier variety.

Since then I’ve turned 12 pounds into tomato sauce. I’ve learned that removing skins is one thing but removing skins and seeds is a whole other ball game. Let’s just say, my family is going to learn to deal with seeds.

When I came home a few weeks ago, I was surprised to find a giant zucchini hidden behind the tomatoes wedged in next to the fence. This fellow had grown way out of control. While he was too big for a stir-fry, he’d be great for some zucchini bread.

Zucchini Collage

 

Normally I wouldn’t have peeled zucchini before grating, but this one was just too tough. So I sliced off the edges, and still had plenty left for baking.

Meanwhile the apples are ripe, and all this produce is attracting fruit flies. Seems like a bit of applesauce was in order. I didn’t bother to core or peel the apples, and just ran them through the food mill before processing.

Applesauce Collage

I was pleasantly surprised by the lovely golden color of the sauce. Our last apple tree was a Granny Smith variety, and my homemade sauce was always tinged a sickly green. Baby Girl is selling apples through FFA, so I see more applesauce and apple chips in our future. I think apple pie might also be in order. I really like pie.

Our pantry growing is growing bit by bit.
Jars

 
My jars have been around for years, and a few chips have stopped a good seal. I think I’ll pick up a few more pint jars, so the tomatoes and the fruit flies don’t get the best of me.

How’s harvest time at your house? Any favorite tomato recipes to share?

Problem Solving

What do you do when you inherit some really awful carpet with stains? Or when your kids have their own “hangout” room and they spill tea, or hot chocolate, or just a little Gatorade? And Mom are you crazy do we really need to clean it up? Or carpeted stairs that are stained and covered in dog hair?

stairs

Or maybe you have a tiled kitchen area next to that stained carpet that’s just awkward? You can’t open the dishwasher without hitting the table; and if you move the table the other way, you can’t open the fridge.

Table

If you have any of these problems, I feel your pain; if you have all of these problems, welcome home. After a lot of back and forth, me and the MR decided to minimize upkeep and improve the flow of the upstairs area by adding the Semco flooring we had installed last spring in the same lovely gray color. While this probably wouldn’t be the best choice in a more traditional home; it definitely works with our space and needs.

The first step was emptying out the hangout room. Lucky for us Sweet Miss headed back to college last week. If we advertised a studio apartment for rent, totally furnished with two dressers, a twin bed, a futon, a loveseat, a desk, a stove, a refrigerator, and a dishwasher, someone might get really excited, until they saw the place.

SM Room Wider View

OK, so you can’t get past the door. Sweet Miss, your room is still yours–don’t worry. We also have a storage area off the hangout room that came in handy.

storage room

Then came the fun part, I say facetiously. I guess the nicest way to put it is that the dogs had some house training issues before we started locking them up in the laundry room. So the MR tore up some of the carpet and painted on a layer of Kilz to keep the smell from leeching through. Knock on wood, it’s going to work. Have I mentioned that my guy is a hard-working machine? He’s pretty amazing.

hangout room 3

He left the tile and the rest of the removal to Kenji and his crew. It was a little noisy, but they got rid of the tile and carpet, and had the room prepped by Monday afternoon.

kitchen area prepped

By making the whole floor one material, we’ve opened up a lot of options for furniture placement. We no longer have a strange square corner of carpet next to the storage area and the table has breathing room.

While we decided to keep carpet in the girls rooms, we are having the stairs and hall coated.

stairway to bedrooms

It’s surprising, but I think the stairs look better already even with overspray, tape and plastic.

stairs without carpet 2

I can’t wait till it’s all over. Baby Girl is going to find out that it’s a lot easier to dust mop rather than vacuum, and simple to wipe up a spill rather than steam clean spots. My child is on her way to loving neat and tidy if it kills her.

It’s going to be fun to put the hangout room back together after all this craziness. We’ve been furniture shopping, and I think it’s time to move some of our old furniture upstairs–maybe we’ll be getting ready to redo the rest of the great room floors by then.

Progress is messy, chaotic, and kinda wonderful.

What’s going on at your house? Making any changes?

 

 

 

A Little Color

I love our windows–the sunshine, the heat, the view that they allow. Fading and glare are another not so nice byproduct.

It’s one reason we’ve been leery of putting up artwork in the great room. But what’s the story in our room? We have a TV and a mirror and then nothing. I have visions of me and the MR going on an art walk, meeting interesting people, buying beautiful pieces, and supporting young artists. That pretty much never happens–probably never will.

So when I came across a modern, abstract floral on HauteLook in all the right colors, I ran it by the MR, and went ahead and ordered it. After a month or so, it finally arrived, and it was big. A 4-foot by 4-foot square would certainly fit next to the TV, but then we’d have two large pieces on the same wall.

So instead, we decided the area over the bath tub needed a little excitement.

Flower Print over Tub

I like that it’s not just gray and navy but has some yellow and a hint of the green I’ve used in other areas in the room.You might be worried about water-damage with it being so close to the bath. Well, this is a Japaneses soaking tub, and it just doesn’t see much action. I can’t seem to get used to sitting bolt upright when I’m relaxing in the tub.

And what about sun damage? During the summer, we keep the blinds down to keep our room cool, and since this window opens up on the side yard and the driveway and offers a clear view of the shower from the outside, we pretty much keep the blinds down all winter, too.

Print and Window

It’s fun to add a little personality to our bathroom. Now, I just need to keep my eyes open for some smaller pieces for the bedroom area and maybe keep my ears open for an art walk. I think it could be fun.

How do you decorate your bathroom? Any art over the bathtub?