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?

 

A Chip Off the Old Block

When I had two little girls, I was sure at least one of them would grow up to be like me. They’d love to knit and crochet, we’d cook together and sew amazing outfits. They’d watch sappy, old movies with me, and tell me secrets as we worked in the garden.

Aww, but children have their own ideas. My girls have grown up strong and confident. They’re in to sports, and friends, and work, and parties. They haven’t discovered the joys of yarn or growing broccoli.

Last spring, I had a spark of hope. Sweet Miss told me this was going to be a majorly crafting kind of summer. She’s a room head in her sorority and is putting together a fabulous, retro-Hawaiian look for her space. And she has to make a scrapbook for her “Big”. It all sounded so promising. Have I mentioned how take-charge and independent she is? The silly girl has done it all on her own.

On a Sunday a few weeks back, when I was busy with my own to-do list, Sweet Miss informed me that she wanted to make a jewelry holder like mine. Wait honey; this requires preparation, sleepless nights, shopping trips, and lots of angst–at least that’s how it went the first time around. Nope, she was ready to do it right now.

OK, sometimes you just have to wing it. I sent SM to the sewing room where she picked out a frame with a solid back. I had ordered some drawer pulls online that turned out too big for my jewelry box revamp, so I handed them over. SM used a ruler to evenly space the pulls around the frame and marked the spots with a pencil.

Then it was off to the garage to use the handy-dandy drill.

SM Using the Drill

Don’t you love how she just gets busy in her fabulous maxi dress rather than changing into work clothes? What would your mother say?

The screws that came with the drawer pulls were too long for her project, so SM went through her father’s supplies and found some old, short, rusty ones that fit the bill perfectly.

Next, she checked out my fabric stash and chose a bright geometric print. Then it was as simple as cutting the fabric to the exact size of the backing, applying a little spray-mount adhesive to that backing, and then gluing down the fabric. If you’re trying to line up a print, you can always leave a little extra for wiggle room and then cut to size once it’s in place.

After that, SM used pointed snips to make a hole in the fabric and then added the drawer pulls. It’s important to make that hole first, otherwise when you start twisting the screw, you’ll also start twisting the fabric possibly causing puckering and distortion–this may drive your mother crazy.

So with a minimum of fuss, Sweet Miss wound up with her own jewelry holder.

Necklace holder

 

I was surprised later that afternoon when I came up to see how the project had all turned out. Did you see the other ones I made she asked me. Hmm, maybe this kid is a chip off the old block.

She had a couple small frames sitting around with cardboard backs. So with a smaller drill bit and opting not to use the fabric, she created two holders for her earrings.

Necklace and Earring holders

 

Nice job honey! They look great. Your mother needs to be a little more like you and not worry about planning how to make it perfect, and just do it.

I’m looking forward to sharing your Hawaiian room redo next month. I know it’s going to be great.

What have you been crafting lately? 

 

 

A Look Back at July ’14

It’s summertime, the weather has been gorgeous, and the blog has been totally focused on the outdoors.

It’s not yet noon, and the temp hovers just below 85–inside. No wonder my thoughts turn to the outside as much as possible.

So let’s get our two inside jobs out of the way, and we’ll move outside where we’ll try to find a shady spot or perhaps a breeze. The MR and his mom painted the upstairs bath, and I bought this and that to add The Finishing Touches to the girls’ bathroom remodel.

20140717-081101-29461383.jpg

I love the soothing, spa-like tones, and fluffy new towels add an extra bit of comfort.

While the two of them were able to paint the bathroom in just an afternoon, my stenciling project went on for days, but Showing Some Bookcase Love was totally worthwhile in the end.

Bookcase filled from the side

 

Remember that car load of books I took to the used bookstore? Well, I received a total of $8. Me and Sweet Miss had to wait around for a couple of hours for the workers to go through our boxes, and since we were leaving on vacation, we picked up a few paperbacks for our trip. I wound up $20 in the hole. At least we had fun reading for the beach, and I got all those boxes and bags of other people’s stuff out of my house.

Now it’s time to move outside. Most evenings, that’s where you’ll find us, out on the deck, watching the sunset, playing with the dogs, and enjoying a nice glass of wine. I won’t lie to you; The Livin’ is Easy.

Sunset 2

 

Until it’s not. This silly place comes with a lot of upkeep. The MR Pimped the Drive applying around 15 5-gallon buckets of sealer. While the dust from the miles of dirt road leading up to the house have muted the driveways finish, it still looks black and impressive.

Driveway leading to house

We checked out our local Garden Art In Bloom to see about adding some more curb appeal to our place. We saw lots of beautiful sculptures, big and small, in all sorts of price ranges, but I stuck with the metal flowers that caught my fancy last year and added two to the collection.

It was on our vacation, that we took the kids (I use the term loosely) blueberry-picking.  It may have helped that we’d already taken them white-water rafting, rented a lake house, and bought them a hearty breakfast before putting them to work in the hot morning sun.

20140714-143708-52628024.jpg

 

 

Most of the 20 pounds of berries never made it home from our trip. Who can say no to all that Blueberry Goodness? I love having fresh fruit to snack on this time of year.

We’ve also been enjoying broccoli, onions, carrots, beets, and two plums from our own garden. After I pulled the broccoli last week (check out How Does Your Garden Grow), I was excited to see seedlings emerging. Unfortunately, I also noticed a few bites out of those tender leaves. That gave me the perfect opportunity to try out my friend Judi’s Homemade Insecticide. If you’re having bug, bird, or slug troubles, Gardeners Say the Darndest Things has got you covered with this great recipe.

apples and valleyOK, I have a confession to make. I’m not really a Crazy Bird Woman, but I do really like to watch the birds over the valley. I just wish I could capture their majesty in a photo.

Another Eagle in the Storm

 

You can imagine how excited I was when I was out weeding and found a feather by the barberry. Finally, I’d be able to discover whether these were eagles or turkey vultures. I went to the internet only to figure out I still couldn’t tell what kind of bird it came from. The truly scary part was that web sites started talking about a $100,000 fine, and a year in jail for possession of a feather. Since that doesn’t sound like fun to me, the feather just went back out in the yard, and I’ll continue to call them eagles.

Finally, I was totally disappointed when the Victorian meanings of some of my favorite flowers were just awful, so I made up my own Flower TalesCrocosmia

 

Sunflowers and zinnias remind me of my sweet girls. And crocosmia and hydrangeas remind me of the happy homes me and the MR have shared. I’m thinking all the ferns (sincerity) surrounding our house cancel out all the foxgloves with their lies (insincerity).

What’s been going on in July at your house? Are you enjoying summer in all it’s richness?

How Does Your Garden Grow–July ’14

It’s summer, and we’ve had blue skies and warm temps–totally shocking for our neck of the woods. That means the garden is growing extremely well.

At least the vegetables that survived the spring deluge of slugs, rain, and birds are growing really well. The broccoli was huge, but we had enjoyed first, second, and third pickings.  I figured it was time to pull it out.

broccoli row

 

But as I was cutting away at it, I noticed some little florets scattered here and there.

broccoli plants

 

So I cut back leaves, and looked for broccoli, and cut back leaves, and looked for broccoli. Let’s be honest, I didn’t harvest a huge amount, but it was nice to take a little bit more off those big plants.

Broccoli harvest

 

While I was in the garden in the midst of a heat wave, I picked a few carrots, too. And took a look at how the rest of the garden was fairing.

The asparagus (both old and newly planted) look awesome.

asparagus

 

The red romaine was bolting in the background, but I pulled it all and made some wonderful summer salads.

Remember the hurking big tomatoes I planned to grow with the help of the walls ‘o water? It seems like I’ve done the trick. The plants themselves are huge, out-of-bounds, crazy. I’m hoping the harvest keeps pace. The beans haven’t kept up, but I have faith.

tomatoes and beans

 

I’ve struggled with the squash this year. Apparently birds are rather indiscriminating. They hope for sunflowers and pull up new plants at random. Coupled with a wet spring and an infestation of slugs, my squash and cucumbers have been pulled up and eaten. So when I found this random plant at the end of the carrot row, I just left it.

random squash

 

Some might call it a weed, but I’m calling it a blessing. With pulling out the broccoli, I was left with a huge amount of clippings. Maybe it’s time for a compost pile?

compost pile

 

Before we leave the backyard, let’s mosey on over to the orchard. I’ve picked a few bowls of blueberries so far, and if this bush is any indication, I have a few more to go.

blueberries

 

An evil bird ate half of one of the two plums we grew this year. When I noticed we’d been giving out free samples, I figured it was time to pick them. Let’s just say the Shiro plums were delicious, and next year we won’t have to share two plums between five people and a bird.

Just take a look at the weeping plum we planted earlier this spring that will cross-polinate with Shiro and Beauty. Next year is going to be a good year.

weeping plum

 

While we’re still looking towards the future in most of the orchard, the grapes are growing like gang-busters.

grapes

 

And don’t get me talking about apples. In the last dozen years, we’ve never had any luck with apples. These fruit look amazing. Two last year has turned into buckets this year.

apples and valley

 

As I hike up the hill from the orchard to put my tools away, I see a strange sight. Do we have moles or gophers? Thankfully, the answer is no. lavenderThe MR and I spent an hour or so digging holes and planting lavender–I’ll let you guess who did the hardcore digging. Looking at the plants, I’m not sure how it will all turn out.

lavender close up

 

The green arrows are planting to the dried twigs that are hoping to some day be beautiful lavender plants. It was a mail order company. We’re experimenting with getting a large number of plants at a reasonable price. It may be a bust; we’ll just have to wait and see. The evil dogs have a thing for the fish meal in my organic fertilizer and have been checking on the plants regularly.

While I was pulling out plants in the vegetable garden, I was also planting some carrot, lettuce, and broccoli seeds. In the Pacific Northwest, we have a really long growing season with long days stretching through the summer. I’m not expecting a frost until late October, so I have two-and-a half months to see what we’ll be able to harvest.

Cross your fingers. I have faith in the lettuce and carrots; it’s the broccoli I have qualms about.

What’s growing in your garden? Enjoying a lovely harvest?

(I’m sorry my posts have been a bit sporadic. We were gone for a week on vacation, and I managed to keep up without wi-fi. But now that we’re home if I don’t abandon my family in the evenings to write a post, I find myself staring into the sun in the early mornings editing photos and writing as I squint. I guess a little grace is needed during the lazy summer months. Here’s the view from my office in the mornings, just so you can feel my pain.)

Sun in your eyes

It’s a hard life I lead. :)