Season’s Greetings

The other day, an old photo popped up on my phone. It was from our first December in the house. While that year, we had a Christmas Eve celebration here, we didn’t officially move in until after Christmas. The girls wanted to celebrate the holiday in the home they’d grown up in.

It’s hard to believe, we’ve been calling this place home for nine years. Both girls have graduated from high school and college. Sweet Miss married the Fella, and the MR has retired. We’ve taken far flung trips around the world.

Little Buddy is buried near the orchard, and Sweet Cocoa has had to make room for the kids’ new puppy when they visit. Life marches on.

In the middle of a global pandemic, we’ve been enjoying sweet time together as a family. Baby Girl is headed to Belfast to get her masters in January, so this may be the last time we can play cards, exercise, and stay up late talking into the night for a while.

Sweet Miss has two weeks off from teaching kindergarten, and the Fella is working from home this year. My sewing room has morphed into an office, and we’ve crafted, cooked, and laughed our way through the last week.

Staying at home has given me lots of time to work on Christmas balls, pj’s and gnomes. The mantel looks so different from that first Christmas here. Life is full. Sweet Miss and the Fella came home with an Elvis nutcracker the other day. When we moved into this place, I never would have imagined I’d be so excited for such a thing. I also didn’t know we’d be rationing water, and all the other ups and downs of living here.

Me and the MR have toyed with the idea of moving closer to our Portland kids, but for now, we sit on the deck, watch the sunset, and reflect on all our blessings. Even in the midst of troubles, life is good.

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year.

Not In the Plans

Sometimes you expect things to go on and on forever–until they don’t. At the end of August, we were getting ready for our Portland kids to come for Labor Day weekend when the MR noticed the fridge wasn’t as cold as it should be. We called and had the Sub-Zero repairman out within a few days.

He saw rust under the condenser and with a 28-year-old refrigerator didn’t recommend trying to repair it. OK, it had a good run; it was time for a replacement. He was able to add some coolant to keep it working for a short time–no guarantee on how long–until we could get a another one. One nice thing about Sub-Zeroes, they have separate cooling systems for the refrigerator and the freezer. So while our fridge was having troubles, the freezer was just fine.

Since it’s a built-in refrigerator and the original worked well for us, we decided to buy another Sub-Zero to replace it. The salesperson showed us three that would work our particular dimensions (no need to complicate things with new cabinetry), and we went with the Pro Series. One of the really cool things about this fridge is that it doesn’t have shelves in the door so the main shelves are really deep. The bottom shelf is a drawer with short metal dividers that slides out–no more losing the black bean sauce in the back of the fridge.

It also has an air purifier to stop mold, and a dedicated produce drawer that you access from the outside of the fridge complete with moveable dividers.

All these changes are a lot to get used to. The old refrigerator had custom doors that matched the cabinetry; this one is sleek stainless steel and sticks out a few inches further than the other. While we’re still getting used to the outside, the inside is gorgeous. I love the produce drawer and being able to easily organize what I have, and corralling all the condiments on a sliding shelf is very handy.

The freezer is smaller than the old one, and came with an ice maker that we didn’t install (no plumbing coupled with heated floors would have made ice difficult). I’m glad I have an extra freezer upstairs and a small amount in the butler’s pantry.

OK, ok, after all my rambling, you want to see it. It really is a beauty.

While we started this year perfectly satisfied with our kitchen appliances, we’ve replaced everything but the dishwasher and the cooktop. (You can read about it in It’s a Waiting Game.) I’m hoping these last as long as the manufacturers claim they will.

My Wolf steam and wall ovens have been a lot of fun getting used to. I had a few scary moments of deja vu when the wall oven refused to leave daylight savings time.

No matter how many times we reset the time, it kept leaping forward an hour. Isn’t this how the last one broke? Then I remembered the app that likes to text me when I’m out on the deck, watching the sunset, and the timer’s going off. Sure enough, the app let us leave daylight savings behind.

And now my appliances are all set for some heavy cooking this holiday season. Baby Girl will be taking a graduate program abroad in the new year, so we’re planning on a festive season to send her off.


Do you change out your appliances when you want to or when your forced to?

A Bear Ate My Pears

This has been a good year for the garden and orchard. When you’re sheltering in place, there’s not a lot else to do. Finally, they’re getting the attention they deserve. First lets talk apples–it’s been a banner year. We have applesauce, apple butter, blueberry-apple jam, and frozen apple pies to prove it. We’ve processed over 40 pounds of apples and still have more in the fridge waiting to be cut up for snacks or made into cobbler and other treats.

The tomatoes have also been doing well. We have pasta sauce, jam, and stewed tomatoes. We had an early fall storm with heavy rains for several days last week, so I sent baby girl to pick all of the tomatoes with even a hint of color. Those have ripened on the counter, and if my circuit of the garden is right, we’re going to have a lot more tomatoes to deal with. Some of them have split, but many look really healthy. In the orchard, we were super excited to see that we were going to have a few pears this year–not a ton, maybe 10–but after eight years of waiting this was good news.

Sadly, the MR headed down to the orchard this morning and found trouble. Remember that buffalo fence I was bragging about earlier this summer? (Check out Bring on the Buffalo for details.) Well, apparently bears are more persistent than buffaloes when it comes tearing down fences and eating pears and grapes. We saw a bear checking it out a few months ago, and we figure he came back or told his friends about it. The fence was down and our fruit was gone. At least the trees appeared to be undamaged. I guess we’ll wait till next year for homegrown pears. The MR was able to fix the fence without too much trouble.

Remember all those tomatoes I was talking about? I prepared 10 pounds of stewed tomatoes this morning. One jar broke almost immediately after going into the canner and another popped as soon as I took it out of the water bath. It’s one of those years where it feels like you take 2 steps forward and one step back. The broken jar is a loss, I’m not willing to tempt having glass in my food, but the jar that popped will go into dinner later this week.

We’re currently enjoying lots of broccoli from the garden, and I’ve got cabbage, brussels sprouts, carrots, and onions planted for fall. I still have a few heads of lettuce, but even with Sluggo, I can’t seem to keep ahead of the slugs. Looking at my pantry, I feel like Laura Ingalls getting ready for the long winter. It does feel good knowing where my food comes from. Of course, I have the grocery store, local farm stands, and Amazon to help round things out.

How did your garden do this year? Is it all put to bed for winter or still going strong?

I Love It When…

I was going to write a post on how much I love it when the foxgloves are in bloom, and then I got to thinking.

I love it when the daffodils are in bloom, and let me know there is hope for spring in the dark days of winter. I love it when the red day lilies bloom, and remind me of when I was too lazy to plant them on a rainy Monday, and Cocoa dragged them all over the driveway.

I love it when the chives bloom, and I think of how we’ve outsmarted the deer by planting potent herbs. I love it when the daisies in the meadow bloom, and the MR mows around them, so we can enjoy their simple beauty.

I love it when the lavender blooms, and I can imagine that swath of purple. I love it when the apples bloom, and I can dream of a bountiful harvest.

I love it when the crocosmia blooms, and I remember the little clump from the old house that has spread across our acreage, and the joy it brings to the hummingbirds.

We have California poppies and foxgloves trying to take over the tennis court. We have butterfly bushes decked in beauty out in the meadow. We have yellow blossoms filling in the space that used to be covered in blackberry bushes.

In the midst of a lot of awful, there is still plenty of beauty.

What makes you smile? What flowers tell your story?

Catching Up

The other day, the morning started with a phone call from my aunt. She lives halfway cross the country, and it’s been ages since I heard from her.

She was calling to thank me for a cowl I sent. I made it for the shop, and when my boss returned it I immediately thought of her. With vibrant oranges and violets, it matches both her bubbly personality and her hair. It’s always fun when a gift is well-received.

One nice thing about staying home is getting a chance to catch up on all those projects that get put aside. I came across the cowl for my aunt when I was cleaning out the sewing room. I don’t care if it’s hotter than hot in Kansas in July—I sent her a chunky wool winter garment before it got lost again.

The sunny weather in April and May gave me plenty of time to put in my garden. Rainy days, new dirt, and lots of slugs have given me mixed success. My spinach stagnated until a few sunny days sent it bolting. The carrots have been spotty at best, but the lettuce has finally (with the aid of Sluggo) outpaced the slugs and started to produce.

On a super-positive note, the tomato starts I got from a local farm and the FFA are doing great. They’ve been enjoying a pampered life in their walls-of-water for the last few months, and I finally released them and staked them out. I have two in the fenced garden area and one in the overflow. I thought the one outside the walls would be fine, since tomato leaves are poisonous, right? Wrong, something bit it off down to the plastic. With some extra netting, I hope it’ll be safe.

In the orchard, it’s a mixed bag as well. We replaced the area where the currant bush died last year with some strawberry plants from a friend. We haven’t had tons of strawberries, but they are incredibly sweet. I hope these are everybearing so we get another crop.

The other two current bushes are doing pretty well. One has some black branches like the one that died, but the other is healthy and green. We are coming to the end of that season just in time for the blueberries to really get going. We have three different plants, three different kinds that all harvest at a slightly different rate. I picked a quart of each this afternoon and am looking forward to some currant/raspberry popsicles this week.

The two apple trees and the yellow plum are both loaded with fruit, and we have a few pears coming on for the first time. The pears look awful. I may have to let the MR have his way and tear them out. I keep thinking this will be the year they start producing. A few cracked and scaly-looking fruit wasn’t what I had in mind.

While my projects here and there are pretty much the same as every other spring, the MR has been busy with something amazing. I’ve talked about paths for years. My January posts predicting what was going to happen would mention paths…

I’m finally done talking. The MR did it in an amazing way.

First we have stairs down from the garage to end of the house by the well-room. I tried to get Cocoa to show you how great they are, but I guess if you have four-legs, you don’t need stairs. I need stairs. I may have bounced off people more than once trying to negotiate that hill.

But that’s not all. Now, we have stairs from the bottom of the deck up to the well room and down toward the garden. Me and the MR have both fallen on that slope down to the meadow after a bit of rain or on a dewy morning. While I’m a fan of using a hoe in the garden, it also comes in really handy as a walking stick. And in the middle of winter when there’s a problem with the well, or there’s a problem with the boiler, and believe me there’s always some problem, it’ll be nice to have an easy step up to the well room.

I’ve been trying to wait till he had them all done, but he ran out of materials and good weather. He doesn’t like to work in the rain, but he also doesn’t want to be out when it’s 80-plus. New brick arrived today, and pavers are on back order. Soon I’ll be heading down to the garden in style.

What kind of projects have you been working on while sheltering in place? Caught up with any of your favorite people lately?

The MR has his work cut out for him. It’s going to be wonderful when it’s all done.

Something Light

My heart has been heavy these last few weeks. We’re in the midst of a global pandemic, millions are out of work, and systemic racism and bias has come to the forefront once again. How can I make the world a better, safer place?

In the midst of all this, who cares about what’s going on at my house?

And then a few days ago, a friend posted on Facebook asking for some good news. Life is hard; maybe a little light reading offers a needed distraction.

So in the midst of chaos; there is hope, there is love, there is peace, and faith, and joy.

Baby Girl graduated from the University of Oregon on Saturday via YouTube. We did our own mock ceremony. Unfortunately, I videotaped the floor the first time around, so she had to go through it all again.

UO Graduation 2020

We are super pleased and proud and know she will do amazing things.

Earlier this spring when the MR, BG, and I were sniffling and sneezing, I bought an Air Doctor air purifier. I thought maybe we had a problem with indoor air. It turns out the purifier is in low mode except for when I’m cooking. I guess that means we should eat out more often.

We’ve also purchased a spotting scope and a new table for the deck. We’ve always loved watching large birds circle the valley, but this year, we’ve been seeing them close by much more often. Along with juvenile bald eagles, we saw this red-tailed hawk that the MR captured on camera.

The table (from Pottery Barn) has lived in the garage for a few months. It’s simply been too rainy to be of much use. But with a string of sunny days in the forecast, the MR decided it was time. Good thing BG was at home to help move the top. It was definitely a three-man job.

Our old set had served us well, but the mesh seat was beginning to fray, and the square shape fought with the angles of the railing. We christened it with an evening of dinner and games. Since the table is round, and the chairs don’t have armrests, we can easily add a few more seats when visitors come to call.

While I haven’t seen any kiwi berries just yet (cross your fingers); I did see a whole lot of blooms. The apple tree is less of a tease. These blossoms have turned into a bumper crop of apples. I’ve thinned them twice already and am looking forward to a banner harvest this fall.

On cool, rainy days, I’ve been knitting, crocheting, and sewing. I’ve made six sweaters, two pairs of socks (one of which I’ve already felted), two pairs of mitts, and a baker’s dozen of Christmas gift bags. I started making sourdough bread and have been trying new recipes highlighting vegetables. I’m reading up on racial injustice, and have listened to summits on healthy eating, growing your own food, healthy living, and sewing.

Using leftover scraps from Christmas pjs, I’m crafting gift bags.

Our state issued a stay at home order in March. We have celebrated BG’s birthday, Easter, Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, and Father’s Day at home. Most of our interactions with others are still online or via FaceTime. While businesses are beginning to open up, the yarn shop is still closed, and we haven’t eaten in a restaurant in months.

Tomorrow, our state will enact mandatory masks outdoors and in, in response to an increase in Covid-19 cases.

Stay safe; stay healthy.

It’s a Waiting Game

I like pictures of before and after–especially the after. I want everything to be done, together, perfect. But that’s not reality, is it?

Projects don’t go according to plan, deliveries are delayed, things take longer than expected. I am learning to wait, at home, with the MR.

So here is picture of our not quite perfect new set of wall ovens.

Didn’t you just buy new wall ovens? While it seems like it was just yesterday, the old wall oven gave out within a few months of moving in. We had bought a 5,000-square-foot house with an apartment-size oven. After removing all but the bottom racks, the Christmas ham brushed the roof.

We decided on a larger model, which meant we had to have a new cabinet made and replace the microwave to match. (To read more about our past oven woes, check out It Felt Like Christmas.) All was well and good until “Spring Ahead” this year.

Sunday morning, the MR noticed that the time on the microwave didn’t match the time on the oven. Did you just change one? Yep, that way we’d never be certain of the time… New electronics usually update themselves. So while I was making lunch, he started the factory reset. Apparently, that’s how you take anything electronic back to ground zero; I’ll trust the electrical engineer on that one.

Anyways, instead of ground zero, the oven went totally kaput. So in early March, me and the MR headed off to the appliance store. We decided on a Wolf M Series oven, and then we talked with the salesman about a matching microwave. We haven’t used a microwave for anything but the MR’s popcorn in years, so I was hesitant to buy a new one, but the guy began talking about a steam oven. What?

You can reheat, bake, steam, all sorts of things, and it’s a microwave size. This sounded intriguing; I was hooked. He also mentioned classes at the Seattle location to help learn how to use it. Hmm, what was I getting myself in to?

Well, we’ve had them for about a month, and I’m really liking our new pair of ovens. The main oven has easy-glide racks, a beautiful blue interior, and fairly simple user interface. It’s great for regular everyday use and large meals.

The steam oven is a little clunky with the interface, but the results have been great from reheating leftovers to making a perfect batch of rice. I’m still learning, but it works like a regular oven plus so much more. The MR has turned to using the microwave upstairs for his popcorn. We’re all happy.

So now, you’re asking yourself why it took me so long to tell you about all this. Well, remember my need for perfection? I want everything to look sleek, shiny, perfect.

We’ve been waiting since the install for a small strip of sheet metal. In the age of Covid-19, only one person at a time is allowed in the machine shop. Our order is taking awhile. Then the install guys have to come back out. Patience, Kim, it’s all going to happen in time.

Until then, I can still make brownies, bake a pie, cook up some chicken, or steam some rice. Life is good; I just have to let go of perfect.

In the midst of writing this, I received a beautiful bouquet of orchids from Sweet Miss and the Fella. Me and the MR were supposed to be enjoying the last two weeks in Tahiti, snorkeling, sunbathing, hiking, and eating out. These ocean blue flowers were to add a little tropical excitement to our everyday. Thank you dears.

Hope each of you has a special Mother’s Day celebrating the moms in your life and remembering those who helped make you who you are.

Don’t Get Cocky

Shelter in place has given me lots of time to knit, read, garden, and do a little self-reflection.

I’ve been knitting and crocheting for a day or two, I have years of experience, I design patterns. Let’s be honest–I’m pretty good. It’s times like these I need to remind myself not to get cocky.

Advice, suggestions, rules, they are all there for a reason. Yeah, but I want to get to the fun stuff. Yeah but, how much trouble can it be? Yeah, but I’m really good; it won’t be a problem.

My dad warned me long ago about the “yeah, buts…”

So let me get you caught up. It’s springtime in the Northwest. That means we have a few days of sun and a lot of days of rain. I’ve put in the garden, I walk to the mailboxes with the MR, I exercise via FaceTime with the girls, which leaves me a lot of time for my favorite fiber crafts.

When this first started, I had this genius idea of finishing up all my old projects. Using up a ton of stash, and maybe designing a few new things.

Let’s go to failure one. I started this vest design. I’d use up some leftovers from a hat I’d made. Marrying the bright blues with a subtle background would be just perfect.

While this design was inspired by a boxy vest I had when I was 20, now that I’m in my middle years, I figured a vest that glided over my curves would be just the thing. I made a swatch, I did the math–I love me a little algebra–and I started off.

Now, there’s this little bit of wisdom that says swatching in the round can be different than swatching flat. Well, I’m really good at crocheting. How different can it be? I’ll just wing it, I’m sure it will be fine–not so much.

My pattern had changed from a gauge of 17 stitches to four inches when worked flat to a gauge of 19 stitches to four inches in the round. Suddenly, I’d lost four inches.

My lovely vest went from gliding over my curves to hugging my belly–not the look I was going for. I had to rip it all out, rework the math, and start over. If only I’d swatched in the round.

When I was planning this project, I originally planned to use a mixture of blues and brights. Later, I settled on using the blues. The brights may accent a summer cardigan.

This project has been in time out waiting for another skein of the background color. Sometimes I need a little break to pout when things go wrong.

That’s OK. Remember, I’m going to work on all that yarn I have in stash.

So I started on a great crochet pattern (The Elara Pullover by Whitney Hayward ) with no idea how much yarn I had or even what the yarn was. Of course, Ravelry has a great way to document stash, but that takes too much time, I’ll remember what it is–in my dreams.

I used some other stash yarn to finish it off, but I haven’t worn a bellybutton shirt since my teen years. I decided to order some more to finish it in a better manner. Then PayPal sent me this helpful email that they’d sent my yarn to my address eight years ago. This sweater is in timeout, too.

Nobody wants to see that much of my stomach. It’s back to the drawing board.

That’s when I grabbed some great yarn from stash. I had big cones that wouldn’t run out. I decided on the Salzer Pouf by Katy Peterson. I planned on following the pattern as is. This would be my easy, low-stress project.

The yarn I had on hand wasn’t thick enough, so I had the bright idea of holding two of the three colors double. That meant instead of carrying three skeins of yarn, I would be carrying five. What a nightmare. And then in the midst of all that, I changed the plan. Instead of a square pouf with seaming, I would just cover an old ottoman. It would be great.

Then after an evening of work, I measured to see how far I’d come. What was I doing with the sides? They were all wonky; this would never do. I was going to rip it all out.

At least, I made one good decision. I decided to wait and revisit the problem in the morning with a clear head. It turned out I still had the same number of stitches I started with, the ottoman would hide any wobbly edges, I just needed to relax and let go of perfection.

It does make a really lovely fabric–almost like a tweed–and the ottoman looks oh-so cheerful And nobody can tell whether it’s uneven or not when it’s folded to the inside.

Of course, all is not amiss. Sometimes projects actually go well. I’m quite pleased with the mitts I made for my sister-in-law, and my two new pairs of socks are quite fun. Plus, I have a poncho/sweater that’s quite cozy. (OK, the sleeves give me penguin arms, but I’m going to embrace it.)

So what have I learned? First, the rules apply to you whether you’ve been knitting or crocheting for a few weeks or a few decades. Next, documentation is a good thing. Remembering that it’s some kind of bamboo yarn isn’t going to get you far. And lastly, don’t make hasty decisions after you’ve had a glass of wine. A good nights sleep can make everything look better.

While plenty of my projects go a little sideways, in the end, they bring me a lot of joy. If the shelter in place order gets extended, everyone in my family may get a hat for Christmas, make that everyone I know…

Wishing you peace, health, and safety.

Bring on the Buffalo

So what do you do when your home for weeks on end? When all your travel plans disappear? When your weekly outings are cancelled?

The MR ordered new fencing and piles of dirt and bark. Have I mentioned that new tractor he bought back in January? Well, he’s been putting it to good use.

The fenced in kitchen garden was totally topped off, and the outside garden has been filled for the first time. He was also kind enough to order weed barrier. My paths are covered along with the areas waiting for beans, tomatoes, and squash–heat-lovers that can’t withstand our cool springs.

While I usually plant seeds, there’s something totally fulfilling when you transplant a few peas and onions and have an instant garden. I’ve also planted parsley, beets, broccoli, four kinds of lettuce, and potatoes. You’ll just have to trust me; there’s no proof at the moment.

And now I know you’re wondering what all that talk about buffalo was. Well, the orchard has been fenced in almost from the get-go due to predators. You may call them deer, I know they’re evil incarnate. They’ve torn down more than one fruit tree and eaten all my harvest.

After some heavy snowstorms, our orchard fencing was looking pretty rough. The fence posts were bent, the netting was torn and haggard. So the MR ordered some heavy-duty posts and some new fencing. The fencing has pictures of buffalo on it, so maybe we’ll be able to keep out deer and bears. I know there are elk near here, but I don’t think we have any buffalo.

Along with the new fencing, the MR ordered two gates. Can I you see how glorious they are? I used to pull up some netting held down with an old board to get from the tree to the berry side of the orchard. This is amazing. He also stole a foot or two from the tree side, and added a foot on the perimeter to make more room for our berry bushes.

Now we just have to be patient and wait for seeds to do what seeds are supposed to do in the garden. I have faith. The tomato seeds I planted a month ago are finally starting to grow. Faith is a good thing.

We have lots of beautiful blossoms in the orchard, and this fall we’re hoping for luscious fruit.

So in the midst of the Covid-19 outbreak, what does this picture say to you?

Is it trash or a nose piece for your newest mask?

Stay well. Stay Safe. See you on the other side.

You Have Such Great Light or the Plant that Ate the Fireplace

The light in the great room is one of the first things people comment on. Sure they notice the view, but with 36 windows, they can’t help but notice the light as well.

All that light means our houseplants thrive. The plumeria we brought back from Hawaii was just a short stick with a few leaves until we moved here. Now it’s taller than I am.

As I was scanning through old photos for a recent post, I came across a picture of a fern that took me by surprise. It was so small I almost didn’t recognize it.

Back in the day, before we filled in the conversation pit, when everything was still white, and I had to use a step stool to arrange things on the mantel, the fern was a manageable size.

Fast forward a few years, and I asked for a “mod” planter for Christmas to replace the marred plastic. This sleek white planter on a stand made me oh-so happy.

That was just four years ago, and now with all that good light, can you imagine what has happened? It doesn’t look bad from the front, but move around to the side, and you can see the monster within.

I was done wondering whether it was plant or ladybug tickling my neck when I sat by the fireplace. With a little rearranging, this crazy plant got its own new space, and I don’t have to worry about being attacked.

Now it has a corner all to itself next to the MR’s photos from Africa,
and a smaller, more well-behaved plant now sits behind my chair.

With sheltering in place, you can let all the little things drive you crazy, or you can do something about it. A little rearranging is a small price to pay for my sanity.

Remember the neighbors I told you about? They’re visiting quite a lot. I think the light on the camera tipped them off to look my way. They’re a daily highlight.

Take joy in the little things.