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Spring Clearing and Planting

Last weekend was one of those idyllic spring weekends. Birds sang, temperatures soared, and the sun shone brightly on the green grass.

Saturday, the MR was on call, so me and Baby Girl headed off in the wee hours for a volleyball tournament an hour-and-a-half down the road. In the evening, when we returned home, the MR proudly asked if I saw what he’d done. I looked out on the meadow, but to be honest whatever it was totally escaped me.

Cleared Tree 2

 

Did you mow? I queried. No–I was at a loss. Now years ago, the MR and Sweet Miss took me out to the backyard after a weekend away to show me what the MR had done. It took me 15 minutes to stop wandering around the vegetable garden and realize that the swing set next to it was totally gone. I’m not always that observant.

Thankfully, the MR didn’t make me play 20 questions. He’d taken out the tree on the drain field as the serviceman had recommended back in March. I’d suggested that the tree was made up of a dozen trunks; I was sadly mistaken. The MR figured he cut down around 30. Let’s take a closer look.

Close Up of Clearing from the Deck

We don’t have too many blackberries on the drain field, after all, but we have a few more trees on the edges that should be removed. After wielding a chainsaw for a few hours, the MR didn’t have the energy to cut up all the tree trunks and dispose of them (i.e., throw them down the hill). That will be a job for another day.

The next afternoon, I did make it down across the meadow to check it out.

Pile of debris

I won’t have to go to the gym next week; I can just toss logs into the forest for a few hours. Just to give you some perspective, here’s the house from that part of the meadow.

House from Tree Clearing 1

Who needs to seek out exercise when you can walk up and down that hill a few times? Walk up and down we did, as me and the MR planted the garden on Sunday afternoon.

I had big plans to clear all the counters inside in preparation for the floor work. I was sure I’d have time to plant the garden when I was trying to entertain the dogs over the next few days. Unfortunately, the workers needed to open the doors, and one of the fellows had a fear of dogs, so we’ve spent a lot of this week cooped up in the garage.

Besides, who want to clean house when you can be outside working on a beautiful sunny day? The MR had bought some topsoil earlier in the week and added that to the garden beds along with some nitrogen. We’re hoping for better luck this year; I don’t think it can be much worse.

We planted peas, lettuce, beets, carrots, and spinach in the raised beds. I was excited to find most of my garden marker stones from last year. I think they look quite festive like colorful Easter eggs sprinkled throughout the garden.

Garden Bed 2

Then to try and ward off evil critters, we planted a row of scallions around the bed in the ground. Maybe the rabbits and squirrels will decide this stinky garden is not for them.

Onion border

We’ve talked about adding more area to the garden terracing down the slope, but that’s still in the future. I’ve read that potatoes are good for breaking up sod, so the MR dug a few holes and planted some fingerlings just outside the fence.

Outside potato hills

When it warms up a bit, I’ll be planting some of the heat loving space hogs next to the potatoes. I love the idea of pumpkins and zucchini trailing down the slope. We still have plans for beans and tomatoes, and the MR brought home some broccoli starts last night.

For now, it’s a waiting game. At least I have the perfect vantage point from which to watch.

Garden from Deck 2

Have you planted your garden? Any yard maintenance going on?

 

Chaos Reigns

 My mom was a force to be reckoned with. I remember when I was in college, my folks decided to have their kitchen and bathroom cabinets refaced.

That meant clearing everything out of all the drawers and cupboards. Our dining room was filled to overflowing with pots ands pans, boxes of food, dishes and small appliances.

When Monday morning rolled around, and the workers called to say they had a scheduling issue and wouldn’t be able to come until next week, my mom blew a gasket. There was no way on earth that was going to happen.

Sure enough, they had a fellow out there that same morning. Apparently, that company didn’t know who they were dealing with. You simply didn’t say no to Donna Fisher.

After all these years, you may be wondering why that incident came to mind. Well, we’re not redoing cabinets, but we are redoing floors. (Remember the samples I showed you a few weeks back?) That means we’ve moved tables and chairs, desks and carts, benches and rugs, plants, toilets, sinks, and the washer and dryer.

Tile Cleared Collage

Everything seems so wide open and clear. Baby Girl came home from school last week, and said that our house looked empty. Yes…and no. 

When you clear all those spaces, all that stuff has to go somewhere. We moved all the furniture in the great room closer together, filled the guest room to overflowing, and hauled the rest out to the garage.

Crowded Collage 2

In other words, chaos reigns. And now my mom’s angst all those years ago makes so much more sense. At the time, I thought it was no big deal; we’d just have to live with the mess until the company could take care of the job. Now that it’s my home, I’m going a little crazy with everything jumbled together and out of place.

I’m not the only one who’s concerned about all the change.

 My Posse

Cocoa and Bogart haven’t a clue what’s going on, but they have been enjoying a lot of together time with me today. One of the workers (Kenji and his crew showed up right on time) is afraid of dogs, so we’ve been holed up in the sewing room together for most of the day.

The team is hoping to finish up our floors by the end of the week. We sure hope they’re right.

Any remodeling going on at your house? When things are out of place, do you get out of sorts?

Home Again

Did you know it’s National Poetry Writing Month–AKA NaPoWriMo? When I spieled that off, the MR just looked at me and shook his head. (After 26 years, I can still surprise that man.) So in my week of silence, I came up with a little something just for you.

The Big White House on the Hill
is a wonderful place and still,

We’ve the world to explore;
Our goal to see more.

‘Cross the sea in the sun we do roam.
In the end hearts kindle to home.

As you may have guessed, spring break involved a little travel. With Sweet Miss, we drove five hours east for Baby Girl’s volleyball tournament. Then she went back to school, and the rest of us flew five hours south and west to Kauai for a little sand and sun. After 12 days on the go, we were more than ready to be home.

Baby Girl’s birthday flowers didn’t fair well in our absence.

Dead Flowers

Back-to-back trips with just a few hours sleep in between are not my forte. I need to work on that organization thing.

We did come home to a few pleasant surprises. The amaryllis, which has a mind of its own, decided to bloom in our absence. And don’t tell the Christmas cactus that it’s almost Easter; I love its dangling pink flowers.

Amaryllis

And remember last year when I potted up a bunch of ranunculus to add color to the mantel? (Check out Springtime Charm.) It’s OK; I forgot about them too, until about a month ago. They were on the potting bench and all dried out, so I moved the planter to the garden next to the garage where they got totally flooded by all our March rain. I dumped out the inch of standing water, and then moved them to the garage to dry out. Finally, after trying to wither them and then drown them, I figured it was worth a shot to bring them inside and give them a little dose of heat and sun. It’s a good thing these guys are hardy, or they’d never get over all the neglect. So while they’re a little behind, they are coming up.

Ranunculus

I saw vibrant orange and yellow ranunculus in bloom at the grocery store yesterday, but I resisted. Next year, I’ll have to write myself a note, so I can force them to flower sooner.

I was concerned that a few weeks without dogs might encourage deer to visit the orchard. I’m thankful that I haven’t found any new nibblings. Maybe the deer have decided to leave our trees alone. The pear tree is covered in fluffy, white blooms.

Pear & House

And I’m excited (as are the dogs) to see all the blossoms on the blueberry and currant bushes.

Dogs

In all honesty, they don’t really care about the berries, the dogs were feeling quite needy after we abandoned them for 12 days. Bogart’s feet turned green from being outside so much, and Cocoa escaped from her pen and had a rather awful encounter with a chicken–awful for the chicken that is. I guess the MR wins, we won’t be getting hens any time soon.

And what was I doing while I was away–besides sunning by the pool, admiring the lush gardens, dining at fancy restaurants, catching up with friends, snorkeling and sailing, and being oh so lazy–I was shopping. It’s so fun to come home to packages.

Packages

Don’t worry, you’ll get to see what’s inside soon.

And just in case we miss Hawaii in all its beauty, our plumeria is still putting on a show.

Plumeria

And now, my cupboards are bare, the laundry is piled up, suitcases need to be put away, my garden is calling, and it might be time for breakfast, or lunch–with the three hour time change, it’s so hard to tell.

What have you been up to while I was away? What’s your favorite go to travel spot?

Time for a Break

My sweet girls have spring break off-set by a week. That means we have two weeks of fun-filled, jam-packed days.

We’ve shopped for spring, made new recipes, got a new hair color, had pedicures and facials, traveled to Spokane, and it’s only half-way over.

Me and the Girls

Oh, and we’ve watched a lot of volleyball. You may be under the impression this sport is all about amazing hits and incredible serves. I’m here to tell you it’s about hugs.

Hugging

And secret handshakes. I love the team spirit.

Secret Handshake

Some day we’ll get an amazing picture of Baby Girl with her super intense game face–have I told you I love that kid?

Anyways, this 40-plus woman is being run ragged trying to keep up with her girls, so I’m just going to sit back and enjoy life for a bit.  Don’t worry. I’ll be back in a week all rested and refreshed with all sorts of fun things to tell you about.

Maybe, we should have a stage coach with hollow horses in the meadow.

Wild Horses

It’s amazing the things you see when you stop for dinner on the way home. Have a great week.

What’s keeping you busy these days?

 

March in Review

Another month of 2014 has gone whizzing past with all the usual ups and downs. In some areas we’ve made wonderful progress and in others nothing has happened at all… I guess that’s all just part of life.

I started the month off asking Why Bother to blog? Why bother to read them? What’s the big deal? For me it’s the wonderful collaboration and sense of community. There are some amazing people out there with fabulous ideas that they freely offer to me and to you. I love that. And if you haven’t downloaded the watercolor app, you’re missing out.

Painted in Waterlogue

I’m also thinking an Easter egg or flower with all her favorite words would make such a cute hall hanging for Baby Girl. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you need to check out the link above.

Oh, and as you may have notice Spring Has Come inside with the blooming of the plumeria, and outside with the beautiful daffodils.

Daffodils

And we can’t forget Signs of Spring in the orchard.

Blooms frame house

Since last year, we harvested all of two apples–I know it was the first year, be patient Kim–this year I’m hoping for a bigger harvest. Since one more fruit of any kind would mean a 50 percent boost in production, I’m fairly confident it’s going to happen. The deer fencing has been doing the trick so far, so knock on wood, cause I’d love a few plums from the orchard this year.

I shared Progress of a Sort which meant ripping out the old sink and vanity and tiling the rest of the floor. While technically it was progress, BG might have called it a major pain. A sink and a mirror are an important part of a bathroom. Thankfully, the new vanity arrived, and while it spent a week or so in the foyer, we finally had two strong boys carry it upstairs, so the MR could install it.

We’re loving the look.

Vanity from the door

Now we just have paint and a few other necessities on the list and that project will be done. Snaps for the MR–he’s awesome.

Sometimes things don’t turn out the way you’ve planned. In Be Prepared, I suggested measuring your pots before buying new ones. By the by, I have new pots, but the plants are still waiting to be transplanted.

Plants & Pot

And in Gauging for Success I shared tips and tricks I learned in a recent class for making your knitting and crochet projects go more smoothly. Whether you’re into fiber arts or not, I highly recommend taking a course on your favorite hobby–you’re bound to learn something new.

In Forwarned, I talked about the septic tank–everyone’s favorite topic. But I did learn some important things. If an alarm is going off, you have really big trouble. With Sweet Miss away at school, we can push out our pumping schedule. Our filter was having issues, so the nice man replaced it for us, cause I don’t want to deal with that. And finally, we have some trees to take out and some brambles to remove to keep things running smoothly.

DBox in the Brambles

Just in case you’re having trouble seeing it, the D-box is right here. Just look at the arrow.

DBox up close

I’d prefer to remove some brambles in the hopes of retaining a happy, functioning drain field.

And now for the biggest news of all. I mentioned we went shopping for carpet in Down the Rabbit Hole. Well, we’re no closer to getting carpet than we were a few months ago. That’s because the nice owner of the carpet store told us not to get carpet before we took care of our tile issue; we have a mauve border tile that’s all kinds of ugly. She had a contractor that does good work–unfortunately, he wanted nothing to do with removing 104 linear feet of ugly tile installed over radiant heat floors. Damaging our only means of heat downstairs frankly frightens me, so we looked at some other options. We have a very modern style of home, so maybe concrete, or the look of concrete would work for us. That’s were Semcore came in. Since that post, we’ve been to the showroom, Kenji made us sample, and we wrote a check. Holy Cow! Can you believe it? We’ve actually made a decision–sometimes our lack of decisiveness drives me crazy. I’m a Libra; I can see the ups and downs of every situation.

After the showroom, which was in the basement of a rundown hotel on the Seattle waterfront (Can you say sketchy?), the MR had a few reservations. But the samples Kenji brought last week did the trick.

By the molding

The samples are only slightly darker than the tile itself, but they set off the baseboards so nicely. And just look at the difference next to the mauve.

In contrast to the mauve

We’ll still have a walkway encircling the main floor, but it will all be one color. We’ve talked about having more movement or color in the kitchen and dining area, and today the MR was looking at adding something interesting to the entry. The coating is 1/8-inch thick and will not impact the heating system. It expands and contracts and totally solves our grout issue (which varies from very clean to very dirty), and requires no demo. Some of the tile isn’t level which will require a little sanding, but about 90 percent is quite flat. Yeah for a 20-year-old house built on a hill with steel girders. The owner wants buy in at every point in the process, so if we want more color, he’ll add it, or if we want it smoother, he’ll sand it down.

April has a lot of exciting things in store. Can’t wait to share them with you.

What have you been up to this month? Remodeling bathrooms? Changing floors? Taking classes? Routine maintenance? Getting into the season?

 

 

 

Gauging Success

A few weeks back, I volunteered at Vogue Knitting Live Seattle and spent two days at this yarn extravaganza.

I decided to volunteer so that I wouldn’t be able to talk myself out of going. I knew if something came up for BG or the MR or I was invited to something with friends, I’d be tempted to blow it off–even though I really wanted to go. Volunteering forced me to commit, and I had a great time putting together gift bags, checking badges, dressing models, and winding yarn into balls for a random bunch of wonderful ladies who just happened to stop by.

As a thank you for giving of my time, I received $25 off the class of my choice, free entrance, plus some gift cards that should be arriving soon. Well, I’ve been knitting for over 30 years and crocheting for over 40 years; I figured I pretty much had this thing down. Then I saw a class entitled “The Secrets to Solving Mistakes, Mishaps, and the Disappointing Project.” OK, maybe I could use a little help after all, so I signed up.

Leslye Solomon of Woolstock Yarn Shop, just 20 miles outside Baltimore and 2,700 miles from my house, dropped pearls of wisdom throughout the class, and I do believe my knitting will never be the same. I guess it goes to show you that you can always learn something new.

Here’s just a few gems for you:

  • Your stitches should fit the shape of the needle. You don’t want to be all loosey-goosey or so tight you have to fight to get the stitch off.
  • Make sure you cast on and bind off loose enough to match your knitting. If it’s curling, it’s too tight, and you’re going to have to take it out.
    (The lady next to me had a lovely shawl with a curling point that just needed a looser bind off.)
  • As a rule of thumb, use a two-needle cast-on for a lengthwise scarf or a blanket.
  • Use Dawn to wash your sweaters
    Isn’t that harsh? Why would I use that? That’s what the the spinners use to get the oil out of the wool–hhm I’ll think about it.
  • Put knots in your yarn tail to mark the needle size. That way you won’t have to remember if you used size 7 or size 8 needles for the front of that sweater that you got sick of and put away for the last six months. I totally loved that idea. It spoke to my unorganized heart.
  • The needles you use for ribbing should always be smaller than the needles you use for the main body. If the pattern calls for the same size; it’s wrong. Be brave and do the right thing–it’s going to look better I promise.
  • When you’re knitting lace, add a “life line” after a row where everything matches up perfectly–the purl return row if you’re lucky enough to have one.
    (Simply run a tapestry needle with contrasting thread through all the loops. That way when you have too many yarn overs and something’s gone horribly wrong with your count, you’ve got a do-over without dropping any stitches.)
  • If your sweater is too big and you never wear it after all that work, pull out your serger or sewing machine. An overlock stitch or a zig-zag can give you a new edge, be brave, cut it up, and stitch it all back together. You won’t win a prize at the county fair, but at least you’ll get to wear it.

Finally, the biggest “Ah-ha!” moment came when we started talking about swatches and gauge. When you’re starting a sweater, you’re supposed to make a small swatch to check your gauge, so you can make sure that the sweater will end up the same size as the pattern. When our trusty teacher asked us how many stitches to cast on for this, the answers ran the gamut from the exact amount of the gauge plus a couple for a border, the exact amount called for, round the gauge amount up to the nearest round number, cast on the amount needed for the sleeve and start on that, cast on and use a garter stitch along the edge to keep it flat. Basically, no one new the “right” answer. Leslye suggested casting on the exact amount called for; otherwise how are you going to keep the stitch count with some of the bulky and fuzzy yarns out there. She uses blocking wires to keep the swatch flat.This all seemed to make sense.

Then she asked the craziest question ever, “Do you wash your swatch?” Well, I’ve already gone to the bother of checking the gauge, why would I do that? If you’re going to wash your sweater, you need to see what happens when you wash your gauge swatch. Maybe the yarn will loosen up and flatten out, or maybe it will shrink–you just don’t know. Perhaps that’s why Baby Girl’s Christmas sweater has rather long sleeves. Our teacher was kind enough to show us samples and share stories of past mistakes. As she pulled out a beautiful red and white striped swatch, the room let out an audible “aww”. When the two vibrant yarns were washed the stripes bled together. So much better to learn that lesson on a small sample rather than on the finished sweater.

Another light bulb moment was when she asked the class how we block our knits. A volunteer began laying a sweater piece out flat–just like we all would have done. Unfortunately, this doesn’t take into account gravity, so Leslye recommends giving your swatch a little stretch to see how it’s really going to hang and then counting the rows (on the purl side). Then if the gauge is supposed to be 10 rows to four inches but your is only 8 rows to four inches, you use that ratio to figure out number of rows rather than by measuring. It requires a little math and a little thinking, but at least your sleeves will both be the same length.

So has this really made a difference in my knitting? Yes, I came home and unraveled a sweater that seemed way too big before it was even blocked. I’ve washed my swatches and checked my gauge. Now let’s hope my math is right and it turns out beautiful–or at least wearable.

Gauge Collage

Now if you get a chance to go to Vogue Knitting Live, I’d say grab it. It was wonderful to be surrounded by other people all passionate about something you love. Leslye Solomon was an amazing teacher; I highly recommend one of her classes. I’m sure it would be much more organized than my ramblings. I do hope you’ve picked up a few tips and trick to try.

What are you knitting or crocheting? Any hobby have you hooked?

 

 

 

 

Coming Together

It’s only been six short months since we started the remodel of the upstairs bathroom, but we are finally coming to the end. By the time we’re finished, the only thing left will be the heated towel rack.

Earlier this month, I left you with beautiful images of a sink-less, dare I say largely unusable, bathroom in Progress of a Sort. The shower was done, the new floor was in, the old sink and vanity were out, and thus began the waiting game. We’d placed the order on Sunday and were just waiting for it to arrive. Arrive it did.

Did you know some delivery services won’t travel down narrow, one-lane, gravel roads. The semi with our sink arrived at the cemetery and gave us a call. Thankfully, the MR was working at home that day just in case our delivery was in a big truck, so with his little truck, he set off. Then when Baby Girl came home after school, we had the joy of moving it from the pallet on point out of the truck and inside.

vanity and truck

BG has a big smile on her face, but I can promise you it wasn’t there when we were trying to make sure we didn’t ruin our new vanity or the MR’s vehicle. From here, we managed to move it up a few steps, through the front doors, and into the entry.

Out of place Vanity

Nowhere in the literature did they mention that the stone top comes fastened securely to the cabinet, so you, your wife, and daughter will have to wrangle an over 300-pound monstrosity into your home.

A better look at the vanity in the entry

 

Isn’t it lovely? Here it sat for over a week while we waited for some manpower. Sweet Miss made it home for spring break last Friday, and she brought with her, her Fellow. BG had a friend in need of some cash, so suddenly we had a pair of young, athletic men instead of the MR with a bum shoulder, and three women. I’m sure we could have done it, but it would have been a lot more stressful. Let’s be honest it was more fun to watch these guys maneuver the vanity through the living room, dining room, kitchen, around the corner, down the hall, up the stairs, sharp right, sharp left, and hard right into the bathroom. There were a few tense moments on the stairs, but these guys were awesome–best $20 bucks ever.

Let’s pause for a moment. While the vanity was sitting in the entry for a week, the MR was still busily working upstairs. You see, when you remove a washer and dryer and want to add another sink to a room, you’re going to run into some plumbing changes and drywall needs. But the MR had all the prep work done and was just waiting for the vanity to make it upstairs.

Redone Plumbing

 

Over the weekend, the MR worked his plumbing magic, coupled with a few trips to the hardware store since it never goes right on the first try, and drum roll please…

Vanity

Yes I’m standing in the shower to take this picture for you. Bathrooms tend to be way to small to get good photos, and where’s the natural light?

It’s in place, it looks lovely, and it’s totally functional. BG finally has a place to brush her teeth.

Take a look at all that storage. You can’t tell from the picture put they are auto-close drawers and cabinets–so much fun to play with.

Shelves

 

Here’s an up-close view of one of the sinks.

Sink

It’s fun the way they’re angled opposite away from each other.

Sinks

When we were planning this stage of the remodel, a little corner had us in a quandary. What should we do with this angle? Would it be weird to move the vanity out a little? What should we do with the space?

Empty Corner

We’ve decided a towel hook on that side will take up the empty space. And one on the other end will balance things out.

Let’s take a look from the doorway, so you can see it all together.

Vanity from the door

It’s looking really quite lovely. So what’s left? Well, we have molding, lighting, paint, towel racks, toilet paper holder, new art over the commode, new linens, and that should about cover it. Like I said earlier the only thing staying is the towel rack.

Heated Towel Bar

 

We bought our new vanity/sink/mirror combo from Overstock and were a little worried that the quality would be off, but we’re quite pleased with it so far.

Any major bathroom overhauls going on at your house? Does plumbing give you nightmares?

 

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