Better In the End

Sometimes things have to get worse before they get better.

If you’ve been to my house, you know we don’t answer the phone. When it rings, 9 times out of 10 it’s for someone else. The caller wants to talk to people I’ve never heard of or has a remodeling job for me, and I don’t know anything about either.

After two years of this, when our phone company called offering faster internet without the home phone for less money, I jumped at the chance.

Originally, we’d had to keep both in order to get the best price. Now I could get rid of a nuisance and be able to speed up my photo editing and web surfing.

The phone company couldn’t get any technicians out here for a few weeks, but I’m a patient person, so that brings us up to yesterday.

The fellows showed up on time and got to work inside and out. It was all going swimmingly. A few hours later, one of them knocked on my door with this tale of woe.

We haven’t been hooked up to the proper phone line. Somehow, the last technician had jerry-rigged a connection to the neighbor’s line a mile down the road. This guy was surprised that we had any service at all.

Well, that explained a lot.

Apparently we don’t have a connection to the short green box with red lettering 1100 feet up the driveway.


By the way, that’s the technical description the phone guy gave me. And in order to have the high speed internet we’ve been promised it has to be there.

Since we’re an existing customer, not a new home just built, we won’t have to pay for the line, and they’ve put a rush on our order.

That being said, our internet is down for a few days, a week, maybe more.

Now you maybe asking why in the world the original workman didn’t just set us up properly. Roll time back a few years, when the house was empty, and the driveway was completely overgrown. I doubt the fellow had a chance of finding this little green box in amongst the brambles.

Even with MR’s constant efforts. The post would be hard to see if all the brush wasn’t cleared from in front of it.


Workers bringing you bad news? Do you have a home phone or have you switched exclusively to cell?


Windy Weather

I love the wind. On windy afternoons, the eagles catch the currents and drift over the valley, and I sit and watch in wonder. In January, the wind knocked over a huge evergreen widening our view of the valley. I was all for the wind; I love its power and strength.

The last few days as I lay in bed during the wee hours and listened to the wind and rain pummel our house, I’ve been less of a fan. Besides disturbing my sleep, the wind has been causing troubles around here. Baby Girl called from the top of the driveway Wednesday on her way to school. The MR was still home and was told in no uncertain terms to bring the chainsaw. Our chainsaw has a mind of its own and only works when it feels like it, so the MR had his hands full. Before he headed off to work, he warned my of our own personal driving hazard.

Driveway debris

It’s hard to capture the scope of how big this tree really is. Here’s where it came from.

Downed Tree

You can see the gash where it broke away from the stand of trees. I’m just glad the MR was home, otherwise BG and I would have had a day of rest trapped here.

Now, before he headed off, the MR did point out some problems in the back yard. The tunnel cloches had blown away, and when I let the dogs out I watched them run wildly through the orchard and realized the fence was down. So that afternoon, I walked the driveway to remove small branches and other debris. Then armed with zip ties and work gloves, I turned my attention to our other problems.

The fence around the orchard next to the woods was completely undone.

Fence is lost

I guess I should be thankful we have lots of brambles and trees to keep it from truly blowing away. It just made for a bit of challenge untangling the fencing and getting it back where it was supposed to be.

Caught in the trees

It was definitely more fun putting up the fence the first time with Sweet Miss’ help. Lest you’re worried that I had to do the work all by myself, the dogs were kind enough to keep me company.

Finished Line

I’d like to say Bogart is inspecting my work and giving it his stamp of approval, but we all know he just wants to play ball.

After taking care of the orchard, I moved on to the garden and my tunnel cloches.


The MR added some fertilizer a while ago and mentioned that everything is dead, but you never can tell. Plants will surprise you and come back, so I decided to put it to rights. This was a fairly simple job. Most of the clothes pins and earth staples were just strewn about. I did put the stone vegetable makers on the outside of the insulating fabric to help keep it down.

Tunnel Cloches

Feeling pleased with all my work and ready for a rest, I headed up the slope to get a glass of water and put my feet up for a bit. That’s when I happened to notice this.

Blowing in the Wind 2

The fence on the opposite side of the orchard was blowing in the wind. Now that’s not going to keep any critters out. So I put off relaxing and got busy with the zip ties.

All of the improvements have lasted through another night of wind and rain, bu it looks like this will be an ongoing project.

Surviving the winter weather?

Laying It Down

I could say the MR has been laying down the law, or laying down the winning hand, but even better, he’s been laying down tile upstairs in the girls’ bathroom.

We’re not professional remodelers around here, so sometimes it takes awhile. You may remember back in September, the MR started tearing up the girls’ bathroom. He removed a stacked washer and dryer and the surrounding closet freeing up a bunch of space. Then he tore out the old shower replacing it with a truly lovely specimen. We had the big reveal back in November.

shower doors

About that time, I mentioned how truly awful the floor was and then went silent on the topic of that bathroom for the next three months. Haven’t you ever heard that good things take time? The MR, ever the busy man, broke out the tile on his birthday. Baby Girl and I aren’t total slave drivers. We bought him knee pads and goggles and gave him the next day off to watch the  Super Bowl–go Seahawks!

So the MR spent this past Saturday and part of Sunday tiling most of the bathroom.


You may have noticed it doesn’t quite go around the toilet. You’re right, but this is by design. The toilet is beige and is on the chopping block. But having a working toilet upstairs for the meanwhile is important. So the MR is waiting to replace the toilet and tile around it all at the same time.

If you’re very observant, you may have noticed a strange grid next to the toilet. That would be the heated floor grid. The girls’ bathroom isn’t heated. We have heating units in both bedrooms and the main room upstairs,  but the heated towel rack has been the only source of warmth until now in the bathroom. It may be a little frosty in there, but at least your towel is warm when you get out of the shower. Heated floors should help warm things up a bit.

We haven’t quite figured out what to do for the vanity. We know we want a two-sink vanity to make better use of the space. That’s about all we know. We have considered a dark cabinet with a lighter counter, or perhaps just the opposite, a light cabinet with a darker counter… Then we started wondering about continuity. Would it be odd if this was the only room with non-white cabinetry in the whole house? And then Baby Girl pipes in that she’d like colored cabinets in smoky blue. Should they be solid-panel wood doors like all the other cabinets? We’re at a bit of a stand still.

We have decided to go with darker grout. It’s interesting how the grout on the lighter walls looks dark and then on the floor looks really light, and it’s all the same grout.

tile & shower close up

All in all, it’s been three months, but we are actually making progress. The tile floors are the same tile the MR used as an accent in the shower. Maybe by summer, the bathroom will be done and Sweet Miss will be convinced to move home. I’m not making any promises, but slowly but surely, it’s getting there.

What do you think? White cabinets? Solid wood doors? Does it matter? Any bathroom remodels going on at your house? Are you in love with large-scale dark brown tiles?

FYI: I’ve made a Facebook page for the blog so I no longer have to hound my friend to read it. You can join the fan page on Facebook at “The Big White House on the Hill” and get all the regular posts plus extra photos without all the editing and verbage. I would have been just “Big White House on the Hill”, but the Belfast, UK, City Council stole it from me. OK, so they picked it first. We can all still be friends. Like the Facebook page or just pop in when ever you feel like it. It’s all good.

Dream a Little Dream

Last week, I had the opportunity to chaperone a group of high schoolers on a field trip. Some of you might call that a nightmare rather than a dream, but it was truly a joy exploring the Northwest Flower and Garden Show with Baby Girl and her FFA club.

To be honest, the kids went off on a scavenger hunt searching for highlights their teacher picked out, while the chaperones were able to wander at their leisure. We did meet up in the middle, so BG could share her favorite finds including herbal tinctures, goat cheese, air plants, and wood inlay mirrors. We brought home a little of everything but the mirrors–those were out of my price range. It was fun to share in my daughter’s excitement.

Here are a few of my favorite things from the garden show, so you too can share in the excitement. I don’t know how many will find their way home, but a girl can dream.

Waiting for the show to open, I saw this lovely, organic arbor.

vine arbor

Just down the walkway, I found another arbor with a more modern feel. This might go better with our house; I like the simple clean lines.

zen arbor 2

Once we got inside, I saw this beauty. Maybe we could have an arbor that mimics the roof-line.

funky arbor

Do we need an arbor?
Not really.
Where would we put it?
Outside the boiler room, because everybody wants to sit by the boiler.

OK, maybe I haven’t thought this all through, but these are just pie in the sky dreams, right? I can daydream about a massive stone fountain…

massive rock fountain

Gorgeous garden art…

Copper wheel

giant vase

Glass art

And a beautiful tiered lawn with a lovely seating area.

terraced lawn 2

I truly am a practical person, and I did come away with a few doable ideas. While the fountain may be a dream, the MR’s folks bought us a bell they’re delivering this summer, and we can make sure it’s set out with the proper amount of pomp. While those lovely blown glass decorations would be demolished by the dogs if we put them out in the flowerbeds, they would fair better in large pots by the front door.

glass art in pots

We don’t need a water feature/dog bath, but terracing the lawn between the deck stairs and the vegetable garden would make it easier to navigate and could look amazing.  And I did see this sweet tower that would make a lovely bean trellis for my vegetable garden in lieu of a fancy arbor.

bean trellis

So while I can’t invest in all the art and arbors at the moment, I can bring some ideas home to ponder.

I loved the plants and textures shown in the display gardens. The contrast of the dogwood and heath was gorgeous.

Gorgeous Contrast

I took pictures of the plant tags, so I could try to replicate the look. A screen of bamboo between us and the neighbors would hide the wild blackberry vines.

bamboo screen

Baby Girl thought we could use a few of these colorful spinners in the meadow.

BG & art

If we add one here and there, maybe they’d keep the dear away, and this time of year, the meadow could stand a little color.

We woke to snow blanketing the valley yesterday, so I have a while before I need to get started on any of these ideas, but it’s fun to dream.

Where do you get your inspiration? 

A Romantic Mantel

For 20 years, I’ve wanted a mantel–a focal point where I could express myself. Now that I have one, it’s giving me fits.

When we rang in the new year, I packed up my festive Christmas silver and red ornaments and my collection of nutcrackers. But what next? Maybe, I could keep a little of the silver and add some white and blue for a frosty wintry look. I didn’t want to be too glitzy, so I thought some branches would tone down the silver and crystal. That became a bit of a stumbling block.

I went shopping and found ugly and expensive branches that were heavily scented and gave me a headache. I made a wise choice and decided to check out what was available in my own backyard.

Branches in My Backyard

I thought I hit the jackpot with these mossy gems. I cut off a few, trimmed them back, stuck them in a vase, and left for the weekend. They were perfect, right? Not so much. The MR aptly called them “creepy”.

painting 016

Branches reaching out to grab you with their mossy tendrils wasn’t really the look I was going for. I thought a quick trim might do the trick.

painting 018

Not so much… Now the branches just looked stumpy and twisted in odd ways. Maybe this was all just a bad idea. I was ready to give up, but last week as I left my knitting circle, I saw stacks of silvery branches on the ground. My friends said they’d been thrown out after the holiday fair weeks ago. Well, I’m not too proud to pick up someone else’s trash for my mantel.

But since Valentine’s Day and the season of romance is just around the corner, I tweaked my original plan to include a little red, a little lace, and a little jewelry. And yesterday, I ended up here.

Photo (131)

I was pleased, but I thought it could use a touch more color. Don’t you love the shadows of the branches stretching across the mantel? They add such a fanciful touch. After I finished taking hoards of gorgeous photos, my camera and my computer got into a fight. They’re refusing to talk to each other. The MR was home early and needed the computer for work. Basically, blogging went by the wayside.

Lucky for you, I chaperoned a field trip for Baby Girl’s FFA club today. While I was out and about, I found the perfect punch of color to finish my romantic vignette. Who doesn’t need a red wood shaving heart?

Photo (130)

I’ll take a step back, so you can see the full effect.

Photo (137)

Sadly, the beautiful sunshine of yesterday has disappeared, but I’ll try to capture a picture on our next sunny day. Maybe then my camera will have gotten over its tiff with the computer, and I won’t be using Iphone photos.

While lace-edged linen napkins and old strands of pearls aren’t usually my thing, it’s fun to step out of the box sometimes. The pearls are necklaces of my grandmother’s that I found in my beading supplies. Here’s a closer look at her champagne flutes and cordial glasses. Some of the glasses I inherited were chipped along the rim. Rather than throwing them out, I turned them into candles with wicks and gel candle makings from the craft store. To bump up the glamour, I dumped in some glitter. I made them for New Year’s Eve ages ago, and they usually add a little glitz to the master bath.

Photo (133)

So for the price of a wooden heart, I added a little romance to my life. Maybe the feeling will spread.

What’s decorating your mantel? Adding any romance?

Cooking From the Heart

So much of life becomes better simply by changing your perspective.

In his book Yes, Chef, Marcus Samuelsson explains how the flavors of his childhood influence the way he cooks in his restaurant now. His Swedish grandmother’s roast chicken and potatoes shape the style of food he serves today.

That got me thinking. What are the foods that influenced my childhood? Was it my dad’s boxed mac-and-cheese with hot dogs? Or perhaps the “scrambled” eggs me and my brothers cooked in the microwave for Sunday lunch? While they are both memorable staples of my early years, those are not tastes I’d choose to recreate.

We fared a lot better when my mom was cooking. I remember being greeted after school with the smell of baking on my mom’s day off; she always seemed to be making a loaf of banana bread. We loved her chicken Oriental salad, her  turkey stuffing, and her chimichangas. My dad was in the army when they were newlyweds, and they made their first home in Texas. When his two years were up, they headed home to Seattle with a baby boy, an old car, and a new-found love for Mexican food.

While my mom’s take on chimichangas was far from authentic–I doubt that most cooks south of the border add frozen peas–it was a special meal we always looked forward to. So last week, I shared a little of my childhood, the flavors I love, and the love I felt when I made some for my family.

Cooking becomes less of a chore when I look at it as a way to share with those I love. Maybe you’d like to share a little with your family.


Grandma Donna’s Chimichangas

Meat filling:

1 1/2 pounds hamburger
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup water
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 package frozen peas

Add all ingredients (except peas). Cover and bring to a boil. Break up meat.
Add peas. Turn heat to medium, and leave for 15 minutes.
Simmer and stir a bit. Drain meat.

Heat oil in a large skillet. 
Put 2 tablespoons of meat in the center of a flour tortilla. Fold like an envelope, and place in oil.
Fry until golden on each side.

Serve with chopped lettuce, guacamole, sour cream, and salsa.

I did tweak this a little by substituting homemade, gluten-free tortillas for the flour ones, adding a chipotle chile packed en adobo to the meat mixture for a little heat, and skipping the peas since we were out. Instead of frying, you can bake the chimichangas in an oven at 350-degrees for 10 minutes–flipping them after 5 minutes. 

Perhaps I need to pull out a few more old recipes that speak to my soul.

What food says home to you?

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