October: Remodeling, Gardening, Sewing, Decorating & Organizing

We did a little bit of everything this month at the Big White House on the Hill.

The most impressive or at least the most long-lasting has to be the MR’s ripping out the girls’ shower upstairs and starting the big bathroom remodel. After removing the washer and dryer last month, he tore out the old shower, added a new shelf and began hanging cement board. That brought us to the fun part–decision time. We had to figure out what tile we wanted and just how to hang it. The MR vetoed running the tile all the way to the ceiling (something about safety issues and a pile of work), and we settled on a lovely pattern. Since we chose ceramic tile, which is harder than stone, the MR went out and bought a new tile saw. This saw makes cleaner cuts, and doesn’t spray him with a ton of water, but it has left a dense layer of dust all over the upstairs. Good thing replacing the carpet was already in our plans.

So basically, the shower has gone through quite the change over the past few weeks.

Shower Collage

The MR is about half way done on the two side walls, but we’re loving the look so far. As you can see, the tile is much darker than my rendition. I don’t know if I just had the wrong color in my head or whether it looked a lot lighter in the bright light of downstairs than it does in the bathroom with just one small window. I promise you more photos when all the tile is up. Once the slanted section of wall behind the shower is freshly painted, it will look much more interesting than the drab white it is now. We still have a long way to go, but it’s coming along.

While the MR was making a mess and then rebuilding upstairs, I was adding a little fall spirit downstairs. While I don’t want to make the house really theme-y, I think it’s nice to add a touch of the season here and there, so I redid the mantel, made a fall table centerpiece, and added some cozy touches.

Fall Collage

I love the apples on the table and the gourds on the mantel. They add something real to the mix without having to be replaced constantly. It’s a good thing the dahlias have been prolific this fall; I’m on my fourth bouquet. Cocoa has taken a liking to the little plush pumpkin, so I had to move it up out of harms way.

I gave a shirt that I liked the looks of but hated on me a second chance at life by turning it into a cute pillow for the guest bedroom.

Pillow and Shams

The garden is winding down, but it still continues to produce. Every time I go out to pull the old vines, I find something new. We had our first hard frost on Monday, so we may be reaching the end, but I have hoops for a tunnel cloches on order. Maybe after six months the lettuce will get big enough to eat. (I did pick one head of lettuce, but I’m a little bitter and so was the lettuce.) While the cantaloupe were a success, the watermelon were a bit of a bust.

Melon Collage

The first cantaloupe was a bit underripe, so I let the rest sit on the counter for a bit and gave a bunch away. Somehow, they got lost among the 40 pounds of apples I was dealing with and two of them went bad, but the last one was tasty. The watermelon on the otherhand weren’t quite ripe. They were still sweet, just a little off colorwise. Maybe the smaller, icebox watermelons would be a better choice next year, or I could just be dreaming.

I do know next year will be a better year since it can’t be much worse. I sent off four small samples of dirt to the King Conservation District. In a few weeks, i should get an email detailing what ails my soil. We have differences of opinion on how helpful this will be, but I have faith it’ll at least point us in the right direction. And next year, our soil will be in much better shape.

Each season comes with its own challenges. Now that the sun is lower in the sky, on a sunny day, it beams in all day long. That means it’s around 85-degrees inside when it’s only 50-degrees outside. Apparently, ladybugs really like the sunshine and the heat. I bought a Ladybug Buster from Gardeners Supply, and the MR did some caulking around Sweet Miss’ heating unit. I’m hoping the march of the ladybugs will be a thing of the past in her room. I’ll just keep sweeping them up in the great room.

And finally, I spent some time in the kitchen and gave a few sack lunch tips and organizing ideas. I encouraged you to streamline your system, and make it as simple as possible. Baby Girl’s gluten-free bread was a headache to make when the special flours and supplies where in a jumble. Putting the flours in mason jars and clearly labeling everything keeps me organized and sane. I know if we’re out of garbanzo bean flour–the jar is empty. And I’m not buying bag after bag of white rice flour, because I think we’re out… Well, maybe I have to check the cupboard before I go shopping, but that’s another problem.

GF Clean Up Collage

A little organization can go a long ways to making your life easier.

Contrary to popular belief, not everything makes it into the blog. We had one sleepless night due to mice marching in the support beam over our bed. Since then, the MR has caught seven mice trying to make a home with us and added foam to all the cracks and crevices around the foundation. We’ve attended seven of the nine volleyball matches this month, and found a chiropractor in Oregon when Sweet Miss threw out her back. Our three fragile outdoor plants have come inside and promptly lost most of their leaves. We’ve tried our hand at homemade, gluten-free ravioli twice, and chased four deer up the driveway on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

I’ve taken photos of 25 potholders made out of old t-shirts that I’m toying with the idea of selling on Etsy. I spend Wednesday mornings with a great group of women at Bible study, and Thursdays, I get to pray with other moms for our high school and its students and teachers. Tuesdays I’ve been making new friends at knitting group and enjoying learning about all that’s going on in our town. It’s been a good fall full of ups and downs and little trials. But God is good, and I have a good life.

Hoping October sunshine smiled on you.

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The Headaches of Gluten-Free

We’ve been on this gluten-free journey with Baby Girl since June. And while the rest of us haven’t sworn off it, most of my baking is gluten-free. Who’s going to eat a cookie in front of her kid and tell her she can’t have one? I’m just not that heartless.

That means, I’ve been trying out a lot of new recipes. Did you know you can make flour out of just about anything? We have almond flour, garbanzo bean flour, tapioca flour, three kinds of rice flour, and the list goes on and on. I’m a fairly creative cook, but my pantry used to just hold white flour, wheat flour, and maybe some cake flour if I’m being fancy. This means things have gotten a little messy in my baking cupboard over the last few months. One book recommends a certain flour, a friend suggests something else, and before you know it I have bags of flours all over the place.

Gluten Free Flours

So over the weekend, I washed a few Mason jars, pulled out my funnel, and a labeler, and straightened things up all to the beautiful background music of a tile saw. I tried to put the flours in wide mouth jars and items that were more granular in narrow mouth. I didn’t want to go out and spend a lot of money on new containers. I’m sure after we’ve been doing this for a while, we’ll come up with our own flours that we prefer and be able to cut back on the number of things we buy. All these fancy flours have their own characteristics, and most need to be blended together to replace wheat flour.

So this is what I ended up with.

Cs Stamp of Approval

Here’s another before and after just so you can really ooo-and-aaah at the difference.

GF Clean Up Collage

I do love a dose of neat and tidy. In my pantry, I used chalkboard labels that are simple to erase. While it’s easy to discriminate between lentils and split peas, all these flours are harder to distinguish. Most of them I’d never heard of before June. I hope this will keep me organized, and I won’t be buying so many duplicates. Apparently, I have a hankering for white rice flour and tapioca flour–who knew?

Several of the flours wouldn’t fit into a quart jar, so I bagged up the extras and stuck them in the freezer. But the unopened doubles, I left in the drawer so that I wouldn’t end up buying even more of them.

This is a still life of carefully placed items, not to be confused with a real life kitchen. I would never be so messy as to leave my keys, towels, and potholders on the counter.

This is a still life of carefully placed items, not to be confused with a real life kitchen. I would never be so messy as to leave my keys, towels, junk mail, and potholders on the counter.

I did see some 2-quart jars at the hardware store where I bought more of the white lids–I like everything to match. When I come across the perfect flour mix, or if I decide I love the taste of oat flour, I may have to pick up a few.

Now lest you think all we do is work around here, I did try to get Baby Girl to take her dog to the craft store with me for pet photos. BG had other plans, so we did an impromptu photo shoot at home. While Cocoa is a social butterfly–I mean lobster–Bogart doesn’t do well around strangers, so this way we got both dogs in the pictures.

Doggie Costume Collage

Bogart is a pumpkin, and Cocoa is a lobster intent on eating her own eyeball. Maybe she’s a zombie lobster.

Notice how mesmerizing dog treats can be. They can even make you forget how ridiculous you look for a few minutes.

Upstairs, the MR has the floor and the back wall of the shower tiled. I’m hoping to share updates later this week. For those of you wondering, Cocoa simply shows up almost every time I pull the camera out. If I’m sitting on the floor, it’s even more exciting.

Making any changes at your house? Having any costume fun?

A New Toy

Half the fun of a project is making sure you have all the right tools.  With the big remodel under way in the girls’ bathroom, and another on the horizon for the guest bedroom’s attached bath, the MR has been shopping and came home with a new tile saw.

Saw 4

Ain’t it pretty? It’s big, shiny, and smells like grease–just perfect for the girls’ kitchen. OK, so it’s just temporary, but you know what that means. The tile has arrived, and the MR will be busy all weekend turning the girls’ shower into something beautiful.

This is not his first tiling job, and he already had a saw, but apparently ceramic tile is harder than stone. I was surprised that he bought it at Harbor Freight Tools instead of at a big box hardware store. They had great reviews and good prices. While the reviews on saws were good, the reviews of saw blades weren’t, so he purchased a diamond-edged one online that arrived this week. It pays to do a little research.

When I posted options for the shower, I was so excited by the number of responses. A lot of people liked the drama of the dark back wall, and everyone wanted tile to the ceiling. Then reality hit. The MR didn’t like the dark wall, and my mother-in-law brought up the hard water issue. Would that wall stay beautiful and rich in color or soon be covered in a haze? All I had to do was look at my soap dispensers to figure that one out.

Soap Dispensers

I’ve opted to use the cheap dollar store plastic dispenser rather than the dark brown ceramic one that’s covered in water spots and always looks dirty. I would hate for the MR to do all this work, and have a beautiful shower looking cloudy and spotty.

But we can still put tile to the ceiling right? It would take a lot of splashing for the water to get that high on the walls. I was sure the MR could just tile over the sheet rock up there with minimal fuss. That’s when he asked me if I wanted to glue heavy tile to paper and hang it over my head. I guess there’s a reason he’s the one who does the remodeling. So it meant replacing all the walls with cement board and redoing around the window–basically it was a lot more work and the guy who’s doing the work gets the final say. So no tile to the ceiling.

But we have 500 pounds of tile upstairs and a free weekend, so I’m hoping to post pictures next week of tile on the walls rather than my simple renderings.

I’m also hoping for a bit of sunshine, or a bit of rain, or maybe just a hint of sky. We’ve been in the soup for a week or so.

Fog

It’s depressing to be surrounded in this veil of white. I was so excited when the sun broke through for a few hours on Wednesday.

The Sun

Me and the MR sat on the deck and watched the sun set and the fog seep back in to the valley.

Sunset 4

I’m hoping to see a little sky this weekend and maybe to accomplish a few outside chores.

What are your weekend plans? Does the fog dampen your spirits? Any tiling going on at your house? Bought any new toys?

Second Chances

Do you have anything hanging in your closet that never sees the light of day? Around here we have plenty.

A few years back Baby Girl saw this lacy, openwork, crocheted tunic in a magazine and asked me if I could make it. Well, that was an exciting day. You see, I can make lots of things but most times my girls have no interest in wearing something Mom made. So I had her look at patterns, we discussed styles and colors, and finally I decided to create my own modification of a few designs. I finished it up, it was beautiful, her friends were amazed, and her lovely sweater hung in the closet for the next two years.

I was disappointed; she said it didn’t fit right. Well, everyone deserves a second chance, even a silly, old sweater. So last winter, I took out all those stitches and started anew. And lo and behold, this time I came up with a winner.

BG & SW

Baby Girl wearing her new “Mom” made sweater with Sweet Miss on vacation in Chelan.

She’s worn it more than once, and I feel vindicated. All that trouble was worth the effort.

Unfortunately, I have a few clunkers hanging in my closet. This tunic for instance has some lovely detail, it matches my coloring perfectly, and I loved the artsy vibe.

Top 2

With all that going for it, it looked truly horrendous on me. Even if you’re in a hurry, it’s a good idea to try something on before you buy it. So I parked it in my closet and admired the embroidery and pleating from time to time.

Top Detail

Maybe all that fancywork would look better on a pillow than it did on me? It was a great idea, and I’ve been stalled there for months. Did I make a tiny pillow because my shirt really wasn’t that wide? Did I make something lovely and symmetrical with lots of ruffles? I’m not a ruffly girl. Hmm, I decided a little free-form was my best bet.

I had an old pillow that measured 12 x 16-inches in need of recovering. So I cut out my center motif and added a plain piece of fabric to the bottom. I figured a couple of ruffles would add interest, sewed two rectangles together on three-and-a-half sides, stuffed in the old pillow, and sewed up the side by hand.

Before you know it, I had a decorative pillow that adds interest to the guest bed.

Guest Bed Collage

This pillow looks better on the bed than it ever did on me, and I still get to enjoy all the pretty detail.

Have you ever bought something that looked great on the hanger and just horrible on you? Made anything wonderful from clothes you rescued from the Goodwill bag?

March of the Lady Bugs

Things they are a changing. Just a few weeks ago, the bougainvillea looked gorgeous covered in blooms, and now it’s leafless branches are pathetic.

BG Collage

It’s all just a part of the change of seasons. Our blue skies have been traded in for a hazy gray, and the temperatures just like the leaves are dropping.

We’re not the only ones to notice that fall is here. The wasps have continued to try to build nests in the top of the windows, and the ladybugs are back. I hadn’t thought we had a real problem. Sure, I’ve been sweeping them up daily, but a couple dozen isn’t too bad compared to last year. Then the boiler serviceman asked as he was leaving if we’re breeding ladybugs. Granted, he was down in the boiler room on the sunny southern wall of the house–maybe he’s just not used to these things. Then I went upstairs to Sweet Miss’ room. With her new sorority requirements, she needed all her black dresses sent to school. That’s when I realized she at least had a problem.

So I decided to take the vacuum to this mess.

The baseboards need dusting as well. I always notice these things after the photo.

The baseboards need dusting as well. I always notice these things after the photo.

Here’s a look at the broader scope of things in high def, just in case you’re doubting the seriousness.

Ladybugs HDR

A quick vacuum did the trick. Cocoa was shocked that we had a big mess she knew nothing about for once.

All Clear

The baseboards look lovely, if only that stack of clothes would disappear as easily.

Cleaned Up

As with my past tales of woe about the ladybugs (here and here), we have no idea how the silly creatures are getting in. Sweet Miss’ room is two-stories above the boiler room and that whole wall of the house was covered with ladybugs the other day. I’m seriously considering buying a “Ladybug Buster” from Gardener’s Supply Company. These little boxes containing eggshell quicksand and a nontoxic lure simply attach to a window and can hold up to 2,000 ladybugs. Maybe one for Sweet Miss’ Room and one for the great room would do the trick.

Does anyone have any experience with these? Ever been inundated with a “beneficial insect”?

Decision Time

It’s exciting times around here. The MR came home with presents yesterday. Now these weren’t your normal, everyday presents, but they did receive plenty of oohs and aahs.

My guy is a busy guy. The shower pan went in over the weekend and the walls went up a short 24-hours later.

Walls Up 2

While this shows major progress, it’s still a totally useless box at the end of the bathroom. So the MR came home with these gorgeous tile samples.

Tile 004

Let’s get a little up close and personal.

Tile 002

I’ve been waiting all day for the sun to break through and the fog to disappear so our tiles could glisten in the light. It’s 2 o’clock, and fog still shrouds the far slope of the valley. This may be the best we’re going to get today, so I’ll do my best to describe them. First for the walls, we have 11.5 x 24-inch tiles in a warm milk chocolate and a beige with a hint of green and lots of movement. Then for the shower floor, we have a dark gray-brown in a 2 x 2-inch tile.

“What’s the plan?” you may ask.

Well, that’s still up for discussion. This afternoon, I’ve been mocking up a few options. We’ve been trying to decide whether to run the tile to the former height or to the ceiling, and if we should wrap the edges with the dark or light color. Here’s a few side by side renderings.

If we go just to the top of the shower, it might look something like this.

Low Collage

But if we run the tile all the way to the ceiling, it could look like this.

High Collage

Then if we went totally crazy and added a lot of the dark “accent” tile, it could look like this.

Dark Back and Wrap Tile

I think the dark tile surrounding the shower breaks up the continuity. I like the flow of wrapping the light color around the edges and running the tile to the ceiling. Of course that means more tile and working around the window. Having a dark wall along the back adds a lot of drama. The plan is to place the spa shower column over the dark accent tile along the left side. What if we used the accent color behind the column and tiled the bathroom floor in that warm chocolate brown? I just don’t know where we’ll end up.

But I do know the MR will do a great job no matter what we decide.

Any tile going down or up at your house? Adding anything new to your bathroom?

(To read more about the MR’s efforts upstairs you can read about him tearing things up here.)

Garden Update 10.14.13–The Harvest Continues

I keep thinking that it’s time to put the garden to bed for winter, and then I look outside. We haven’t had that first freeze and many of the vines are still thriving.

I was planning on pulling out the cucumbers, so I could put away the trellis and start working on a hoop house or cloche of some sort for this bed. But the the vines look great, and when I picked a large cucumber, I found two smaller ones just needing a little sunshine to make it to size.

cucumbers

The zucchini plant is also growing and putting on fruit, but the watermelon, now that plant was cooperating. I had my chance to get rid of some frustration and rip and tear and throw. It was that kind of day.

wilted vines in garden

Of course, I made sure to pick three beauties before tearing up those vines. I’m impressed with their size and their lovely yellow speckles. Along with the melons, I picked another handful of beans, a few carrots, a cucumber, and a measly pot full of potatoes. I’m thinking the grow bags may be a bust.

Watermelon Cucumbers Beans and Potatoes

As you can see in the background, after months of waiting, the lettuce is finally starting to grow. I also have a few carrots that are starting to take off.

With 11 days of sunshine in the forecast, I’m going to get some soil samples while the ground isn’t saturated and see what’s wrong with that dirt we bought.

On a totally different note, we had ravioli for dinner last night. Now, in the past, that would have been nothing to write about. Pasta is one of Baby Girl’s favorites, and we’d stop on the way home from church, pick up a package of tortellini or ravioli and whip it up for lunch. That was in the days before she went gluten-free. While the rest of us still eat gluten on the side, it seemed cruel to eat one of her favorite foods in front of her. That means we’ve gone without since the end of May, except for that one time when she was away for the weekend and we treated ourselves.

So I was more than excited when I saw a pasta machine at Ross for $20 and picked it up last week. While it wasn’t as easy as at looks on the box, we did end up with these sweet little treasures filled with a blend of cheese.

Ravioli

I’m totally grateful for the MR’s help. He turned the crank, while I fed the dough through the machine and caught it as it came out. Gluten helps things hold together, so you can imagine this dough was pretty fragile. While it was a lot of work, it was also fun to work as a team and to bring a smile to BG’s face.

BG & R 4

As I’ve said before, I just shouldn’t take photos when it’s dark outside. The flash wouldn’t work, we don’t have a tripod, I couldn’t find my phone, the poor kid just wanted to eat her dinner… That’s how we ended up with this gem.

The end

It’s always a good meal when it’s filled with laughter and food made with love.

Surprised by any garden finds lately? Tried anything new?