What Happens in the Garden When You’re Gone?

Disappear for a few weeks at the end of summer, and your garden and orchard will go wild. The bean tower fell over, the broccoli and lettuce bolted, something ate the grapes and the last of the blueberries, the netting around the orchard was shredded, and the weeds went wild.

Ah, but all was not lost. Sometimes it pays to be bitter or buried. The Swiss chard, the carrots, and the beets all grew well in our absence.

While Swiss chard and beets aren’t the MR’s favorites, I’m certain he will help me with the carrots. I did manage to salvage a few stems of broccoli, so chicken and broccoli with black bean sauce is on the menu for tomorrow night. And I think I’ll have a beet smoothie for breakfast.

We’ve had a wetter than normal September and have already had snow in the mountains, so it may be a hard winter around here. Glad even in my absence we get to enjoy a little from the garden.

How was your harvest? Have you put your garden to bed for the winter? Any over winter crops in the works?


Learning From Others

Me and the MR spent a few weeks in Africa last month. We toured through Kenya and Tanzania with the goal of seeing animals and experiencing the great wildebeest migration, but along the way we learned a thing or two.

Landing in Nairobi, the flight attendant informed us that plastic bags are illegal, so just leave any bags on the plane. My sister-in-law has been working for years to get plastic bags banned in a few of the local cities; imagine if they were banned in the state or even the whole U.S. This is an emerging country that is taking the threat to our environment seriously.

That night as we were driven to our hotel, our car was stopped for a visual inspection. When we arrived, our bags were sent through a scanner, we entered through a metal detector. With unrest in nearby countries and targeting of westerners, this hotel took their security seriously.

The next morning, we left the big city in a small plane for Amboseli National Park. Flying in we naively pointed out what we thought could be zebras, or gazelles, or wildebeest. The park and the surrounding reserve were literally filled with animals. While both countries have huge national parks, the tribes surrounding them realized it just wasn’t enough land for the animals. They’ve worked out an agreement and turned their properties into reserves extending the grazing land for the herds and their predators.

One of our guides explained how the tribes stopped hunting game, so that the lions wouldn’t start hunting their goats and cattle. I was impressed by how they’ve changed some things in order to maintain their way of life.

On one of our early drives, we ended the morning with a trip to a local Masai village and school. The chief’s son took us around. We saw inside the houses, how they make fire, danced the welcome dance, and listened to their joyful song. The son had amazingly beautiful skin that was marred by two circles cut into his cheeks. Our guide later explained that childhood blindness had been common due to flies laying eggs in the children’s eyes. So parents carved a second set of eyes in the children’s cheeks to fool the flies and save their sight.

He then went on to ask if we’d noticed our waiter’s teeth–another Masai tribe member. Apparently tetanus, AKA lock jaw, is common and parents would routinely remove a tooth so that during this childhood illness medicine could be administered.

I look at these hard choices parents have made and wonder at parents in the U.S. who’ve decided against immunizations as schools were closed due to measles outbreaks last winter. A simple vaccine could save kids from severe illness and possible death, yet parents choose to forgo it.

I was pleasantly surprised when the camps we stayed at gave us metal water bottles. When we saw a baboon chewing on a plastic water bottle, it made perfect sense.

I’m not saying I agree with everything we saw in Africa. I haven’t started drinking blood or told the MR he could pick out another wife or two. And we were disheartened to see the poverty of the people and the enormous slums in Nairobi.

But their are times when being a privileged westerner with education and wealth is humbling. We certainly don’t have all the answers.

Our time in Africa was amazing. We saw animals at every turn and met very kind and welcoming people. It’s definitely somewhere we’ll go back to. And hopefully we’ve learned a little something from our new friends. Kariboo.

Neglected Abundance

Me and the MR just got back from an amazing trip to Africa. We came back with pictures, and stories, and wonderful memories. And we came home to an excited Cocoa, a welcoming Baby Girl, and an overgrown mess of a garden.

Baby Gurl assured us she’d eaten a ton of plums—our “beauty” tree had just started producing when we left. And she’d picked some lettuce, but I hadn’t asked for much more.

It gets overwhelming when all you see is weeds.

But with a little effort here and a little time there, it’s starting to resemble a garden again. I even found some tidy rows of carrots that I was certain never came up.

While I haven’t gotten all the weeds under control, our lettuce, Swiss chard, and beets are thriving. Something has been eating our romaine, so I made a party for the slugs and set out some plastic containers of beer.

The MR bought some really nice bean towers this spring, but I’m not sure they will support our wild profusion of stalks.

While we’ve struggled to grow broccoli the last few years, this year it’s thriving. I’m always happy to celebrate success. While many have begun to flower while we were gone, I was able to cut them back and enjoy some vigorous side shoots.

By the by, the broccoli starts I’d bought this spring didn’t all survive. When I was wondering what to do, I noticed a bunch of volunteer broccoli plants around the garden. Now the MR had classified last year’s broccoli as “weird”, but I took my chances and filled out the bed with the random starts. They’ve grown bigger and produced more broccoli than the seedlings I bought, and they seem perfectly normal.

We’ve been eating plums, broccoli, Swiss chard, lettuce, blueberries, and beets from the garden and orchard.

I’m anxious for the beans to start. They’re currently flowering, so it won’t be long.

What’s growing in your garden?

The Master Bath Makeover

We have a lot of unusual angles in this house. They add drama and excitment, but they also make laying out a floor plan tricky.

Our master bathroom has always been a little weird. A long double sink vanity with only one drawer, a strangely shaped shower clad in dark tile, a narrow bookcase to store all your bits and bobs, and the piece de la resistance, a Japanese soaking tub. It was something, but it was ours, it worked fine, we just lived with it until our designer came along with a plan.

She had a big plan that involved extensive changes, tearing down walls, moving plumbing, frosting windows; it was big. We weren’t ready for that and went with a simpler version that simply swapped the vanity to the outer wall, replaced the soaking tub with a more normal freestanding tub, and the dark ominous tile for a lighter, glass version.

I know you can’t wait to see it all in place. So let’s take a look at the updated shower.

We replaced the wall with frosted glass, took out all the dark tile, and the heavy header and replaced it with a glass wall and door. It’s not a fancy steam or multi-jet shower. We kept it pretty simple but totally functional. While it’s lost a little in the footprint (no hexagon bump out), it feels much larger and brighter.

Next, where do you turn to freshen up? To the floating vanity with five functioning drawers and two end cupboards. The drawers under the sink are false, but the lower drawer has a cut-out for the plumbing and still holds quite a lot.

Moving along, bathrooms require storage, and sometimes you don’t want to see toilet paper and towels, soap and razors, bandaids and brushes. A little mystery can be nice. A heated towel is also a treat.

After a long day, maybe a relaxing soak in the tub is just your thing. Well, we now have a tub that we can relax in. Who knows? Maybe I’ll even watch the hummingbirds while I soak. I have a front row seat.

With the angles, and the room size, I’ve been struggling to do this reveal justice. If I turn on the lights, I have glare, if I open the shades, I have reflections, if I just use natural light it’s dark and gloomy. Trust me it’s nice.

Hope you’re remodeling journies are going well.

What Do You Do with an Extra Bathroom?

When we moved in one of the quirks of the house was a three-quarters bath in the laundry room. It wasn’t like we didn’t have a powder room, two en suite bathrooms, and a full bath upstairs. You could even shower out on the deck if you wanted to. It seemed like overkill. It became the dining room for the dogs.

So when me and the MR started thinking about remodeling the laundry room last year, we decided to turn its en suite bathroom into a butler’s pantry. It’s just around the corner from the kitchen, and when you have 70-plus guests, it’s nice to have extra room for food. The full kitchen upstairs comes in handy, but negotiating stairs with platters is tricky for me.

Enough with all the talk, let’s take a look at where we started.

It was amazing how big the space became once the wall came down. The hole you see in the first set of photos was made when the contractors were measuring for the cabinetry. With all the angles, it took over two hours for them to mark down the proper dimensions.

They did a great job. Where the shower and comode once stood, we now have a wall of cabinetry, a wine fridge, and an extra fridge for all those big gatherings.

With lights, and the size of the room, and glare, and my photography skills, you’re not getting quite the beauty of it all, but trust me it’s lovely.

And then where Cocoa’s food was stored, and where I checked my hair before leaving, we have a prep sink and more gorgeous cabinetry.

This can be the fancy bar area when we’re entertaining. It’s also great for all those extra wine glasses. For the moment, it’s hiding my next trip to the second hand store.

While we went with a cheery blue in the laundry room, we kept the Tony Taupe we have throughout the rest of the main floor in the pantry area for a more seamless transition.

And while for everyday we keep the doors opened between the two, when we’re entertaining and being all fancy, we upgraded to a door with a frosted panel to keep dirty clothes out of sight.

We’re very happy with how it all turned out. Next week, I’ll be back with all the changes to the master bathroom. You’re going to be amazed.

Have a wonderful weekend.

The Transformation of a Laundry Room

Over the years, the laundry room hasn’t received a lot of attention.

We moved in and moved out the tanning bed. I tried a few different organizers for the laundry and called it good.

A few years passed by, we updated the floors, and then we went all crazy and bought a new washer and dryer.

Things were getting better, but we still had strangely placed cabinetry and a lot of unused space.

Sometimes you just live with things. The dogs slept in the laundry room and were fed in the adjacent bathroom space. I did my washing and the space pretty much looked like this–an uninspiring catch-all.

Then last year, the MR got an idea. A friend of his at work was in the midst of a remodel. He was working with this great designer, and we decided to book an appointment.

Kristi came with enthusiasm and a ton of ideas. She showed us pictures of gorgeous cabinetry, hanging racks, dog feeding stations, and pretty sinks and counters. We were so excited and said let’s get started after the wedding. As you all remember, last summer’s big excitement was Sweet Miss and the Fella’s nuptials.

The plans were in place, and we’d started picking out sinks and faucets, cabinets and lights. This was going to be great–until we had a contractor back out and others refuse the job. Perhaps it would be harder than we thought.

Finally, we went with a contractor who had done work for us in the past. Yes, there were delays and hiccups along the way, but it’s over, and we are oh-so happy.

Before you can start fixing things up, you have to do some demo. Here’s a look at where we started. Think five weeks of visiting the laundrymat.

And here’s where we wound up.

We still have plans to add a drying rack over the sink area and some lights. It does get rather dark when you’re trying to treat stains.

And on the other side, we have this transformation.

We now have a great space to hide away the vacuums, brooms, and mops. And the three lower cabinets are sorting hampers for the laundry. A laundry basket fits easily on the counter, or a sweater in need of drying.

One of the best things about the new laundry room, I haven’t even shown you. You can’t imagine how much light can change a space. One year, after finals, when the house was full to overflowing, the Fella spent the night on a futon set up in the laundry room. He slept till almost 11 am, the room was so dark and quiet–well not any more. We have light.

This new door makes such a difference. We not only had the door to the driveway replaced, we had the door between the laundry room and the adjacent bathroom replaced. So now when we have guests, and this room isn’t quite presentable, we can just close the door on the mess and still enjoy the sunshine.

Of course with such a pretty space, I’m doing my best to keep it clean. You may be thinking that I’ve only shown you a bit of the remodel. What about the adjacent bathroom? What about the master bathroom?

I’m sorry my friends, this blog is getting long enough. You’ll just have to come back later this week for more updates. Until then, let me tell you it’s smashing.

Any remodeling going on at your house? Doesn’t a little sunshine just make you smile?

It’s Feels Good To Be Known

For Mother’s Day this year, Sweet Miss and the Fella journeyed up from Portland bearing gifts.

Sweet Miss had ordered socks with my face on them over and over again. They were a little crazy, a little weird, and totally me.

She also regifted a book that a friend had picked up at a local roadside library. It was “29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change Your Life” by Cami Walker. Her friend had loved it, passed it on to Sweet Miss, who said in turn my mom is going to love this. She was so right. Nearly 10 years ago, I read it and encouraged a group of women I was meeting with to embrace the giving example.

We’re headed out of town, and I’ve packed it in my bag for a refresher course. So much of life is about giving to others.

In the midst of school and busyness, I didn’t catch up with Baby Girl till the week after Mother’s Day. Along with dinners, and painting, and brunches, and fun, she gave me bath salts (for my still to be used new bathtub), and a lovely hummingbird she’d crafted for me. She knows I love hummingbirds. She may have witnessed some talking going on–when they start ticking at me, it’d rude not to respond.

Then last week, when we were helping Sweet Miss and Her Fella move into their first home, she gave me a crocheted hedgehog. She’d picked it up for me ages ago and ran across it while packing.

It feels good to be known.

And here’s a gratuitous picture of the newlyweds, cause you know you want to see them.

This is after a few very long days of moving, and yes, the Fella had just come back from Home Depot with a new lawnmower. They’re both much cuter in real life, and I’m quite jealous of the daphne in the corner that smells like heaven.

Who are the people who know you?