Whatcha’ Been Up To?

Its been a crazy spring. The weather has been cold and wet—even more than usual, and our extended family is experiencing a baby boom of sorts. Four babies in eight months is a lot for us, especially when one of them is our first grandchild.

So all things considered, I’ve been busy with projects for months. I’ve done a little sewing, a little knitting, and a little crocheting. I’ve also been trying to finish up projects. It hasn’t been a project a week like I was originally aiming for, but I’ve been making progress.

Now let’s see what’s been happening. First let’s start with a few of the non-baby focused projects. Sweet Miss and the Fella had a built-in cabinet and bench installed in their dining room. It looked great but needed a seat cushion for the bench.

I’ve made cushion covers in the past, but it’s been awhile. I have two home decorating books. One said to cut the fabric the exact size of the finished cushion, the other said to add 1/2-inch seam allowances. I worried about the cushion curling up, so I added the seam allowance and regret it. After sitting on the cushion, it starts to look sloppy.

I bought the material on Amazon along with the foam. The material raveled quite a bit making it difficult to work with. That’s one reason I prefer to see fabric in person before buying it. I bought a cut-to-measure zipper at Joann’s. After I had it cut I asked for the zipper part and the girl at the counter said they didn’t have that part and sold me a fix-a-zip kit for another $30. It didn’t work at all. One reason I tend not to shop at Joann’s.

The kids are happy, and the cushion looks nice. I just need to ask questions before I buy something.

Then the MR left for a week to help his parents move, but before he left he asked about all the stuff in the laundry room. He has issues with things piling up forever. I’d participated in Knitter Knotter’s 2021 Tunisian crochet-a-long and had learned so many new techniques and stitch patterns. I still had five blocks to go, and then the task of putting them together.

I didn’t have the blanket finished by the time he got home, but I was close.

Each of the blocks are created by a different designer. Knitter Knotter has put this TCAL together for a few years. The blocks are free, and it’s a great way to expand your Tunisian skills. She makes each of the squares and shows different ways of customizing them. I also found her tips on joining squares and borders quite helpful.

Perhaps I was on the high if completing a big project, but for whatever reason. I took it into my head to make an oversized version of a couple of the squares for baby blankets for two if my nieces who were pregnant.

The small squares were lovely and fun to make. The larger versions weren’t. Let’s start with the Offset Saloniki Square designed by Raffaella from Raffamusa Designs. It makes a wonderfully squishy fabric that I hoped would make a great blanket.

It did make a wonderful blanket; I just didn’t factor in how the wider width would require a longer cable needle that changes how I work the stitches. It was much harder on my hands. If I were to make a blanket in this stitch pattern again, I would make smaller squares and seam them together.

Back to our Tunisian squares, I knew La Quadrature du cercle (Squaring the circle) by Rachel Henri Crochet Designs is worked in the round, so it wouldn’t require a cabled hook. This time, I bought a ball of yarn marked “Dk” In ombré purples that ended with a pop of lime green. I thought it was only a little green and would work well with a raspberry contrast. It was awful.

I decided to pull some natural beige out of stash and then not use the lime pop and start the ombré yarn when I’d used up the beige. It was a good plan, but did I swatch? No. Did I pay attention to the fact that the ombré seemed really fine? No.

I just kept busily working along. I wound up needing another ball of raspberry. In the end, I think the ombré yarn was a fingering weight, and the raspberry yarn bled all over everything. While it’s not quite what I envisioned, it’s a pretty, lightweight blanket.

If only I’d quit making mistakes at that point. Sometimes when I’m in a hurry, I don’t stop and think things through.

I wanted to send my niece in Texas a vest for her baby boy. I thought a pair of khakis, a button-down, and a sweater vest would be perfect.

The vest knitted up in a jiffy, and then I thought about care. A new mom is tired. She doesn’t have time to hand wash. I threw the swatch in the washer and dryer. The wash gave it a bit of a halo and enhanced the color. It had also shrunk the swatch from 4 inches to 3.75 inches. Uh-oh.

I ripped it out, did some math, decided to make it in one piece rather than three. Then I went on vacation, forgot what I had done and did my best to match up sides. Taking notes is a good idea.

I’m quite pleased with how it turned out, but I wish the journey had fewer hiccups. It’s the Seaside Vest by Sublime yarns knitted in United from Queensland Collection. I think my new great-nephew will look totally GQ in his duds next spring.

My crocheting for our granddaughter has gone more smoothly. I made a Baby Kate sundress (one of my designs) in the United as well, and a snug snack because the babies on the cover of Baby & Kids Crochet Style by Jennifer Dougherty we’re just so darn cute.

And then I decided to sew up an outfit with some great Bernese mountain dog fabric from Spoonflower. I bought snap tape online and found it difficult to work with, so I just wound up sewing up the crotch seam. To be fair, that’s what the pattern called for.

It’s Boho Romper #7 by Elemeno Patterns that comes in sizes premie to 6T. By the time she’s 6, I should have the pattern down pat.

I had a little fabric left and started making a sun hat, but our Little Lemon decided to come early. I’ll have it ready for our next visit.

Remember how I mentioned we went on vacation? Well, Tahiti is beautiful. Me and the Mr were in Mo’orea. I brought knitting for the plane and lazy afternoons on the deck after snorkeling and other adventures.

Our particular spot was quite windy. So windy in fact, it blew my yarn off my lap, under my chair and into the ocean. Me and the MR pulled it quickly out of the water and dried it off strung between two faucets.

I told my mother-in-law that her new hood is imbued with the spirit of the south seas and blessed by the fishes.

I was making her a Knight Hood by Erika Knight from MDK Field Guide 20—Atlas. MeeMee lives In a warm climate but has troubles with her ears getting cool. I thought a hood would be the perfect answer. And who wouldn’t feel brave and powerful facing the world wearing a Knight hood.

The yarn was some worsted I picked up at a store that was closing. It was leftover from the snug sack. Sadly I didn’t have enough of the gray sea-bathed yarn, so I added some vibrant magenta.

I think she looks great.

And now for a few more designs, I made a vest for Baby Girl and sent it to Belfast. It cost an arm and a leg to send and then Dublin wanted 30 £ to send it on. She looks great wearing it even if it cost more in shipping and customs than the Malabrigo Sock I used to crochet it.

Finally, our local yarn shop tour has come and gone, but I wanted to share the Firefly Cowl I designed this year. It features A Portland independent dyer—Knitted Wit.

I’m really drawn to hand-dyed yarns with bold and vivid colors. then when I start working with the yarn the colors blend together and become muddy. This cowl is my way to highlight colors in a joyful way.

Sweet Miss was kind enough to model for me on a visit home this winter. Doesn’t she just glow?

And now in honor of our Little Lemon, and the joy she brings. I’m offering the Firefly Cowl on Ravelry for free through 6/30/22.

Wishing joy, peace, and love to you and yours.

Feeling thankful, blessed, and all the good feels right now.

That Spiral

I’ve written before about how projects start out as one simple thing, and then another project is added on, and then another. And then another.

We’ve had a couple of those developments recently. Remember the new French doors we had installed last fall that led to repainting all of the trim downstairs? Well, while the painters were painting the trim in our bedroom, they covered our bed with plastic sheeting and somehow managed to knock one of the bedside sconces off the wall.

Since we weren’t happy with them and were planning to replace them, we didn’t make a fuss. So me and the MR started looking at sconces. There are a lot of sconces out there in a variety of price ranges. We had a whole list of features we were looking for. We wanted ambient as well as task lighting. They needed to have a modern but attractive look and a low profile.

The MR found sconces at Lamps Plus that we thought would fit the bill. They were on their way, they were on back order, one was coming in two weeks, the other would arrive in four months. Oh the joys of ordering online, during a pandemic, with supply chain disruptions.

Thankfully, both lights arrived in short order, and the MR had the joy of installing them. How did we do? They don’t light up the whole room, and they’re not as decorative as I might like, but we have serviceable, working lights that won’t get knocked off the wall by an errant pillow or paint tarp.

What other projects have turned into more than we bargained for? The soffit on the girl’s wing has turned into a lot more than we expected.

The flashing on the roof was installed incorrectly, so we’ve had issues ever since we moved in. The first summer after we bought this place, we had the crumbling soffit on the lower deck replaced. And then a few years ago, we had the soffit on the main level replaced.

We knew it was time to address the soffit on the three-story girls wing. We’d talked about it, but then Covid hit and everything was put on hold. Two years later, our workers are back, with a ton of scaffolding, ready to get the job done.

In the process, they noticed the outer section of siding was moving—if you didn’t know, that’s a bad idea. With a little investigating, they discovered that the styrofoam layer in our stucco-type construction was glued rather than mechanically attached (with screws or nails) to the underlying plywood. After more than 25 years of weather, the glue had failed causing the wall to move. Our contractor recommended using screws to attach the outer layer to the plywood on a large section of the wall and then patching that area.

Would it match the rest of the wall? No. Would it look a little odd? Probably. We told them to simply redo the whole top section and to add a piece of trim to cover the caulking as they had done years before when they repaired the lower section of the wall.

All that to say, a few days of work has turned into weeks.

Now we just have to hope for a few days of dry weather back-to-back in April. Call me a dreamer; it snowed over the weekend.

What home projects do you have on the agenda?

Planning It All Out

The other day I got an email about dirt–my test was ready–I was so excited.

Now you may be thinking dirt testing isn’t your cup of tea, but it’s another piece of the puzzle falling in to place.

Me and the MR have been meeting with a landscape designer and gardening coach to revamp some of our outdoor spaces. First we met with Kirsten for an introduction. Then we put together a site map for her and met again to discuss plants and options.

That may or may not be why I dragged Baby Girl, when she was home for the holidays, out in the front yard to measure and map all the plants in our front planting beds when the forecast was for several inches of snow. I thought it would be more fun to measure on a cold, slightly rainy day than in the snow, although the dogs might disagree.

Then our talented landscape designer put together a bunch of plants for us to choose from. Do we like asymmetry? How do we feel about the color yellow? We talked about likes and dislikes and came up with a bunch of trees and shrubs that fit the bill.

Along with the plants we like, we also discussed how much work we were ready to put in. The MR is definitely the one who keeps up are yard–mowing and pruning to his hearts content. But do we want to add on more maintenance? More pruning? How can we make it look great with less work?

Our designer takes into consideration the mature size of plants and chooses from “Great Plant Picks” (outstanding plants for the maritime Pacific Northwest).

While I love our front yard area and have spent many hours chatting and watching the hummingbirds from our deck, many of the plants we put in six years ago and others from when we first moved in have outgrown their space. The MR keeps them in check with careful pruning, but what if we’d planned ahead and could just let them grow without constant attention? That’s the key to the process we’ve been going through.

While we’re adding a few plants to the snowy front yard pictured above, the majority of plants will go in the far side of the driveway. We’ve mulched, and we’ve tried adding various plants without much luck. It looks less overgrown that when we moved in, but it’s still some scraggly candytuft and a long row of red barberry.

As you can see there’s a large distance between the tall trees and the low bushes. We’re going to change all that, so that the forest eases into some lovely plantings. And those barberry–that are in constant need of pruning to keep them off the driveway–can grow to be 8’x8′. A few of them are being moved back closer to the big trees.

Our site plan turned out like this.

It’s basically the same grouping of plants and trees copy and pasted down the length of the driveway. Of course, what’s easy on a computer is going to be a lost tougher in real life.

We have large rocks to select, and now that our soil test has been completed, our designer is putting together recommendations on soil amendments. She has also ordered our plants, and we’re looking forward to delivery in May.

One thing I really like about calling in an expert is simply having a new set of eyes look at a problem. The lovely hedge of camellias by the house are never going to bloom, because we have to keep them too small in order to keep the driveway useable. I need to just accept it.

If you don’t like something, give yourself the freedom to change it or learn to deal.

What’s going on in your yard? Any big changes?

Heavy on the Veg

When Baby Girl was home over the holidays, she mentioned her ambition to go vegan.

Me and the MR love cheese. I’m not sure we can do that. She also told us about an article she’d read recommending that people should try to eat 20 different fruits and vegetables each week.

I found that more intriguing. We’ve been eating less meat for the past few years. But let’s be honest, I do tend to serve the tried and true favorites rather than something that makes my family react negatively.

Making a list is a simple way to get started. I was pleasantly surprised at how it all added up.

Weekly vegetables and fruits:

  • 1. Mushrooms
  • 2. Red cabbage
  • 3. Red onion
  • 4. Celery
  • 5. Green apple
  • 6. Dill
  • 7. Shallots
  • 8. Bananas
  • 9. Blueberries
  • 10. Dried greens
  • 11. Carrots
  • 12. Pumpkin
  • 13. Oranges
  • 14. Garlic
  • 15. Radishes
  • 16. Lettuce
  • 17. Grapes
  • 18. Potatoes
  • 19. Zucchini
  • 20. Chickpeas
  • 21. Green beans
  • 22. Green onions
  • 23. Minneola

I was surprised to see that we managed to eat over 20 different varieties with ease. I didn’t even have to start listing apples and onions by color. Looking at the list, I realized that while we don’t gravitate toward cabbage and zucchini, adding them in now and then is a great choice.

I was surprised that corn and sweet potatoes weren’t on the list. They are two of my go-to veggies. We don’t eat a lot of dill, but when a recipe calls for a whole bunch, I figured it should count.

I think simply the act of keeping a list makes me more conscientious and actively trying to eat a wider variety.

I’ve ordered seeds and am looking forward to working in my garden. And I do love visiting the farmers market come summer. The produce, with all it’s beautiful colors, just seems to call to you. But even as winter edges out and spring starts to peak in, we have so many wonderful options.

And so begins this week’s list from last night’s Pad Thai and this morning’s smoothie:

  • 1. Broccoli
  • 2. Currants
  • 3. A banana
  • 4. Broccoli sprouts
  • 5. Currants
  • 6. Blueberries
  • 7. An apple

We’re a third of the way there and this week is still young.

How are you eating healthier? Maybe it’s time to start a list.

Finishing

I love the thrill of starting a new project, the fun of planning, the joy of something new, and then… Oh Kim, what comes next? Finishing. Or in a lot of cases–Languishing.

My projects simply get left in the land of limbo. They are almost done with not enough work left to take them on a trip to see the kids or even an afternoon at knit group, and so they sit. Why does this happen? Sometimes, I’ve moved on; the project just doesn’t capture my fancy anymore. Other times, I’ve read the directions and am sure it’s going to be trouble. Then there are the times, I know the project is wrong–the color, the fit, the style–they’re going to be awful. And so all these projects are orphaned in favor of something shiny, new, and fun.

Well, I decided this is the year I’m going to finish things. I have knitting projects, crochet designs, sewing projects, organizing, and more that are all in need of finishing. So my goal is to complete a project a week all year long, and I’m going to try to make one of them a sewing project to help get things moving in that area.

The first month is up, and how have I been doing? So far so good. Two knits, a crochet, a hit and miss with the sewing, and a little organizing.

First off, I finished the Alaska Hat. Hadn’t you already knitted a couple of them? Well, yes, but… There’s always a “but”. I gave one to Baby Girl to wear in Belfast–with all those trees, I thought it would remind her of home. I didn’t like the amount of contrast, but she likes her wardrobe more on the subtle side. So I went on to make one for me, switching the trees from black to dark gray and using yarn that reminded me of Van Gogh’s Starry Night. It was a bust–still not enough contrast. So I ripped it back to where the colorwork started and put it in a bag, and pouted.

Sometime this summer, I came across a ball of Malabrigo in Arco de Iris that I thought would be perfect. It had lots of medium-intense pastels. This was going to be great. So when I ran across the ball of yarn and my half-hat-in-a-bag back in December, I knew this would be my first finisher of the year.

While the contrast is better, I think I’d be better served with a yarn that is dyed in long colorways. Is it warm? Yes. Is it pretty? Yes. I’ve decided this one isn’t perfect, but it’s a keeper. As Voltaire said, “Don’t make perfect the enemy of good.”

And now on to week two. I’ve been trying to work through all the projects and patterns I picked up on the Local Yarn Shop Tour back in August. One of them was what I like to call the “fudge-ripple scarf.” I finished it back in early December and then just let it sit. You see it was finished except for the fringe. I’d read the directions, and they were as clear as mud. This was an example of my “it’s never going to work” mindset.

So, I set myself down. Read the directions, and tried doing what it said. Me and the MR were enjoying a sunny afternoon on the deck, and the lounge chairs gave me a perfect flat spot to work on. I made fringe, chatted with my guy, and watched people glide over the valley. Project two was in the bag. Things are going so well.

Just because I was working on finishing projects didn’t mean I couldn’t start anything new. That might be more than I can handle. Baby Girl was home over Christmas and gave me some beautiful yarn she’d bought at a yarn shop in Dublin and a pattern from an Irish designer–so thoughtful, so kind, so appreciated. I finished my Carol Feller Dacite last week. It’s in Studio Donegal Irish Heather in a lovely hunter green. I’m quite happy with it.

Selfies make me look crazy.

And now on to sewing. I had cut out a pair of jogger pants with lots of pieces, lots of pockets, and lots of top-stitching. I sewed the seams a little narrow, because I didn’t want the pants to be too small, and I had trouble with the fly zipper, and now the pants are totally off. I think we need a little break, so I can be civil when I get back to them.

Instead, I pieced a few fronts for my Christmas bags, and I’m going to work on sewing them up. I wrote all about my Christmas bags in Wrapping it up in Style, but a computer crash deleted all the pictures sometime in the last 10 years, but you can see some at the bottom of the post about BG graduating from college via YouTube in our living room along with Christmas bags in Something Light.)

For my fourth, first month finish, I put all our Christmas card photos in an album. The idea hit me years ago, and I left stacks of pictures here and there and completely forgot about them. So last year, I put together not one, not two, but three albums of photo cards. These aren’t fancy. The acid is probably damaging them forever, but it’s done.

I like to page through the years and see families change and grow. I also took the time to update my contact list, so next year, when I’m totally organized and on task, I will send my Christmas cards to the right addresses. I may or may not have found another batch of Christmas cards from 2019 in a basket in the back of the guest closet.
Why? Don’t ask; I have no idea. But these too have found a home in our albums.

And now, because I like you, I’m sharing some of our January scenes from the deck. Sunsets this time of year are spectacular as are those misty mornings when the fog lifts and the sun peaks through. The MR has been putting his camera to good use.

Do you have trouble with “start-itis”? How do you ever stay on task? How has January been treating you?

Just Too Easy

Sometimes–not often–but sometimes life is just too easy.

We had a plumber scheduled to visit this morning.

Over Christmas when all the kids were home, and we were getting ready to host the family gathering, the MR noticed a leak in the powder room/the one all the visitors use. I was thankful that he was able to get it working for the moment and made an appointment with a plumber for the beginning of the month. But at that time, we had almost a foot of snow on the ground. We decided, since the problem was contained, we could wait until the snow was gone, and the plumber could fit us in.

So today was the day. We were up by 7 am. The MR hit the shower, and I made sure my water bottle was full, and the pitcher in the fridge was full, and my glass in the bathroom was full. We’ve been without water a time or two. The MR turned off the water at 7:45, and we were ready.

The fellow showed up right on time. Came in to take a look and had the MR turn the water back on. Hmm? This was different. Apparently, the valve had a nut that gets loose over time. The guy tightened it and was on his way with no charge. Wow! Now that service. You better believe the MR asked for that fellow’s card, and we have a new favorite plumber.

In other less impressive too easy moments, I have saved an African violet. How you may ask? It was easy; super easy.

You see, the MR’s grandmother died back in ’04, and we were lucky enough to receive some of her plants. One of them was an African violet that started to look iffy a few years ago. The MR repotted it, and we continued to watch it carefully. It just wasn’t happy.

I knew it was time for desperate measures. I’d read that you can just cut off a leaf, stick it in soil, and it’ll create a whole new plant. This too seemed to easy to actually work. But I could see the signs; this plant was doomed after brightening our home for many years. I went out and bought some special African violet potting soil and decided to give it a try.

Baby Girl made me a pot for Mother’s Day ages ago, and I figured it was the appropriate container for the job. I won’t lie to you. I felt a little silly watching what I knew was a single leaf stuck in the soil doing a whole lot of nothing. It wasn’t quick. The leaf looked really healthy but nothing was happening. I threw away the old plant and decided to ride it out.

And this last week, my patience paid off. I saw new leaves–not just one set of leaves, but two. OK, so it’s far from beautiful. I don’t see it blooming any time soon. But it has new life, and Granny’s plant lives on.

Like I said before, some things are just too easy.

Have you ever had a tradeperson come to your house for free? Propagated any plants lately? Enquiring minds want to know.

Cooking Up a Storm

What do you do when you’re snowed in? And then flooded in? And then your daughter gets COVID over new years and you’re in quarantine?

I don’t even know why you’d ask me such crazy questions. Maybe your life looks a lot like mine.

Anyways, I know I’ve mentioned before that I’m madly in love with Yotam Ottolenghi. OK, so maybe not in love with him, but I love his cooking and his beautiful cookbooks. Me and Baby Girl were cooking up his Masterclass course last December. And it was seven years ago now, when I was helping plan an FFA Plant Sale opening night party, that I found his cookbook Plenty More at a local nursery and fell hard. It featured beautiful produce, lovely pictures, and amazing recipes with a bazillion ingredients.

A few years later, I added Simple to my cookbook stash. BG and I love his Bridget Jones salmon recipe. Suffice it to say, Yotam, BG and I, we have history. So when BG asked for a cookbook for Christmas, I turned to Ottolenghi Test Kitchen, and she presented me with Flavor.

With lots of time at home, I’ve been trying out my new cookbook with great results. BG said the “Iceberg Wedges with Smoky Eggplant Cream” may be the best salad she’s ever eaten. The “Radish and Cucumber Salad with Chipotle Peanuts” was also quite good, and the “Spicy Mushroom Lasagne” was tasty but could use some tweaking.

For her last evening at home, yes BG is headed back to Belfast for another year, we made “Saffron Tagliatelle with Ricotta and Crispy Chipotle Shallots.” Was it a lot of work? Yes. BG isn’t a fan of coriander, so next time, I’d skip them in the crispy shallots. But this was amazing. We had a lot of fun making it together, and it made a memorable going away dinner.

If you’ve ever made homemade pasta, regular pasta is much easier to work with than gluten-free. And two people working together can pump out a batch of pasta in no time.

One of the great things about the recipes in Flavor is that they can be broken down into smaller pieces. For instance, once we’d made the “Smoky Eggplant Cream”, we had dressing for a few days of salads. And I used the “crunchy bits” on multiple days as well.

So while the original meal may take some prep, if your lucky, you’ll have extra to spice up meals for multiple days.

Do you have a favorite chef? What’s your go-to cookbook?

It’s Always Darkest Before the Dawn

Do you remember after Labor Day when we got new doors, and the workers put down paper paths to the doors in the dining room? And the office area? And our bedroom?

Cocoa would get up at night and I would hear paper shuffling. I thought it was so awful. Then the weather turned, they had scheduling issues, and we went on vacation, but the paper remained.

I’d almost forgotten till we came home and were greeted by paper and nocturnal shuffles. It was no big deal. The MR had heard from the painters; they’d be at our house November 3. Soon it would all be over…until it’s not.

The painters were all ready to start brushing on paint when the MR put his foot down. All our doors, all our trim work has been sprayed. These doors needed to match everything else–it was part of the contract.

The owner of the company came out. He and the MR had a consultation, and sure enough those doors were going to be sprayed, and why not spray all the trim, too? When we had the floors redone years ago (you can read about it here and here), the flooring company hadn’t been as careful with the edges as we’d liked.

Remember those paper paths? They expanded in all directions, and lets add in plastic, too.

Can you say chaos? I was losing it. It seemed like the perfect time to go visit a friend, but the MR was called up for jury duty (didn’t have to serve), and then, Sweet Miss said she wanted to come visit.

I told her it was chaos. I told her we had plastic and paper everywhere. She thought it sounded great—OK.

Some news is too good to keep secret.

When they arrived at dinner time, the MR offered her a glass of wine, that’s when she presented him with a bottle of champagne. Come June, our family is expanding.

We’re so happy for Sweet Miss and The Fella.

And if you’re wondering, the doors and trim look pretty good, too.

How do you deal with construction chaos?

Happy 2022

Happy New Year one and all!

It’s hard to believe we’ve been living in this crazy place for 10 years.

I seriously considered signing off for good before re-upping the blog for one more year. This started off as a way to catalogue and share all the remodeling and updates. But for the last few years, we haven’t done a lot. It’s comfortable; we’re happy; what’s there to write about?

Well, here I am forging on. While I’ve talked about the house, and the garden, and the joy of crafting, I’ve also talked about my family, and the changes we’ve gone through. The girls are both grown and moved away. Baby Girl has just signed a lease on another year in Belfast, and Sweet Miss and the Fella are expecting their first child in June.

While I’ll continue to tell tales of our silly house, I’ll also share the joy of crafting, and the love our family shares. Thank you to all of you who have joined my on this journey.

Wishing you love, joy, and health in the New Year.

Traveling during COVID

While our wander lust has been on hold for the last few years with many trips canceled or postponed, me and the MR just got back from our second international trip during COVID and have learned a thing or two.

Do your research ahead of time. Get informed and be prepared. While we had planned a lovely trip to Belfast with Sweet Miss to visit Baby Girl (BG), our time frame was just a little too early. We were meant to visit in July, when the UK was still closed to Americans. Two weeks later, when the regulations changed, me and the MR hopped on a plane for a revised and abbreviated trip.

At that time, you needed a COVID test before flying, a COVID test two days after arrival, and a COVID test before returning home. While we scheduled the day two test at one of the designated test sites, we had not specified the correct type of test, and so it did not have the proper codes that needed to be entered for our flight to the UK. Instead, in a last-minute scramble, we had tests sent to BG’s townhome that came with the codes and were self-administered.

All that to say, be careful, double-check, and do your best to understand the regulations.

While our original trip had included a few days in Belfast moving on to a tour of Scotland, our last-minute trip kept us safely in one country–Northern Ireland–with Baby Girl as our tour guide.

We visited both the Titanic Museum and the Ulster Museum. At the Titanic museum, tickets were sold by time to help alleviate crowding. The Ulster Museum is free, but required tickets to be ordered in advance, also by time, to again help space people out. Many attractions have new regulations to help meet the challenges of the pandemic.

Since requirements are in constant flux dependent on current conditions, a phone call may be the best bet for a successful visit with fewer headaches. Our trip to the Ulster was originally scheduled for Monday, when they are closed, and then rescheduled for Tuesday. As we lunched at a nearby cafe, I overheard another patron lamenting the fact that the Ulster was booked for the day. A quick online search verified the fact. Again, these are not normal times. Make sure to check things out thoroughly.

We also scheduled a tour that advertised stops at the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, Old Bushmills Distillery, Giant’s Causeway, Carrickfergus Castle, and the Dark Hedges from Game of Thrones. While technically, we did stop with views of the rope bridge and the castle, and we did get out at the Bushmills parking lot, all three of these sights were closed due to COVID. So if there’s something you’re really excited about seeing, be sure to ask ahead of time whether it’s open. It was still a great tour— just a little different than we expected.

While me and the MR are fully-vaccinated, our vaccination cards were not needed in Belfast. BG did have to download a QR code at most restaurants to aid in case/exposure tracking. And most restaurants used online menus rather than paper. In Northern Ireland, we did not have to wear masks outside just in all indoor activities.

As for our recent trip to South America, this was planned during COVID. Other trips were being postponed or canceled, and the MR thought a visit to Manchu Picchu would cheer us up. A year and a half after the pandemic started, we naively thought all would be back to normal. So in October, we were off on another adventure.

Our travel agent sent us a detailed itinerary and highlighted different sections to read carefully. Travel has become more complex and having a travel agent to guide us was definitely beneficial for this type of trip. While our vaccination cards were all we needed to travel to Ecuador, to go to the Galapagos Islands, we had to have a negative antigen test that had been completed less than 72 hours before arrival. That was a little tricky in that we needed results before we got on the plane, but were traveling and in airports overnight and then late into the next day just to get to Quito with a flight to the Galapagos the next morning.

With that kind of tight schedule, I would recommend paying for a test with guaranteed results rather than hoping a free test will get you results in time. We used Carbon Health for these two trips and for a trip to Hawaii last spring. I’m certain other companies offer this service as well.

In the Galapagos, we were on a five-day cruise visiting islands, and watching the wildlife. Since this was a fairly contained group with only 11 passengers on board, after the first few days, masks were optional.

From the Galapagos, we flew to Guayaquil for a COVID test to enter Peru on our way to Cusco, the Sacred Valley, and Machu Picchu. Our travel agent had a company send a technician to our hotel for a quick swab with results before our flight to Lima the next morning. While this worked great for our situation, the added time lost to wait for test results meant some of our activities in Peru had to be canceled. Next time, fiber arts will receive priority.

Along with testing, Peru requires double masking at all times plus a face shield on trains and buses. Add to this the fact that Machu Picchu is at 7,972 feet and Cusco is at over 11,000 feet, this coastal girl was breathing hard. Our guides were very kind and suggested one mask would be fine under these conditions.

They were quite willing to take photos, so we quickly posed, whisked off our masks, and then quickly put them back on again. Cloth masks, which are widely used at home, were not acceptable in Peru or Ecuador. We wore N-95s and disposable surgical masks. When we were hiking Machu Picchu Mountain with very few other hikers, we didn’t wear our masks unless others were near.

In some ways, I was surprised at their vigilance, but after talking with our guide in Lima, it made more sense. Many areas of the city do not have running water. How do you wash your hands when a truck brings in water twice a week? Others lack refrigeration, making frequent trips to the market a necessity. When only 60 percent of the adult population is vaccinated, you have to be cautious.

While you may not be headed to South America for a few weeks, many people are planning to visit family over Thanksgiving and during the Christmas holidays. We were surprised when we visited Sweet Miss for my birthday and had to present a vaccination card to enter the restaurant–even though we were eating outside.

This has now become a requirement in King County, were we live, the most densely populated county in Washington state. Other states and locals have specific COVID requirements. It doesn’t hurt to check things out before you hit the road.

Be safe, pack your patience, do your research, and enjoy your next trip.

Pack your patience, along with your masks.