Saving the Planet

My sweet sister-in-law, who’s rather awesome, has been working for the last few years to raise awareness about plastic bags and their impact on our environment. She’s attended local city council meetings encouraging the banning of plastic bags. I’m not sure if the towns have followed her advice, but she’s certainly made me more mindful of how much plastic I use.

Along with remembering to bring my reusable bags to the grocery store, I’ve also tried to lessen the use of plastic in the kitchen. First I bought Bees Wrap which is basically organic cotton fabric covered in bees wax. You simply get it warm in your hands and use it like you would plastic wrap. While you can’t use it on meat, it works well on most other things. It’s not as tight a seal as plastic, but I’ve been happy with it.

So happy that I was surprised when I noticed that my set of three wraps has dwindled down to one. Baby Girl and the MR have both assured me that they would never throw these out, so it appears to be a mystery. Browsing Pinterest, I did find a tutorial on how to make your own Beeswax Cotton Wraps. And while I’ve bought the beeswax, I haven’t quite got to the making part. Perhaps now that I’ve mentioned it to you, I’ll be more motivated.

And last month while we were wandering around Sweet Miss’ downtown, we browsed the shelves of her favorite housewares store, and I noticed something else I’d been wanting to try. I find these silicone bowl covers intriguing.

Designed to look like flowers, they take the place of plastic when covering bowls and pans. I bought the large size, but a smaller one might have been a better choice. We don’t have leftovers in such large quantities any more with just the two of us.

Then on Facebook—I know I’m addicted—I saw an ad for huggable silicone vegetable covers. On Amazon I found out they even have them for avocados. I’ve ordered a variety set of these. I don’t know how many times, I’m left with half an avocado and don’t know the best way to store it.

With just a little soap and water, I’m going through a lot less plastic wrap. Maybe I won’t save the world, but each little step counts.

How are you reducing your environmental footprint?

In other news, Baby Girl—our sweet breath of spring—celebrated the big 2-0 yesterday. Knock out those finals; we can’t wait to celebrate with you in just a few days.

 

When you were 2, I wanted you to wear a party dress. After lots of fighting, Dad stepped and let you wear old hand-be-downs—the big softy. You had some attitude. 

 

Life Is Messy

Sweet Miss’ Fella shared an article on Facebook last week. While the source was a mountain biker, it promised to share general truths, so I figured I could relate. It was actually saying what I’ve been hearing from lots of sources recently. What you see online may be true, but there’s a lot of garbage stuff that happens in life that doesn’t make into the story. Sometimes, you just want to show the smiles and not the tears; the beauty and not the mess.

So, in an effort to embrace the messier parts of life, I’m going to share with you a little story I like to call “In Search of the Big Stink.” It all started last Thursday, when I noticed a certain odor in the entry near the powder room after I got up in the morning. Maybe we needed to have the septic tank drained, maybe Cocoa had been very naughty, or maybe something had died. I was leaning towards the last.

As the work week wrapped up and the evil scent remained, the MR got busy. First, he drilled holes, cut out sections of sheet rock, and removed the sink from the powder room. The smell seemed to be somewhere in the walls between the powder room, our bathroom, and the MR’s closet.

After talking to some local plumbers, he was fairly convinced it wasn’t a plumbing issue or a leaky pipe. Eventually, the MR drilled exploratory holes in the walls and found the section where the smell was coming from. Then it was just a matter of locating the source. Eventually, after crawling around under the house, he found a dead rodent, removed it, and we were expecting the smell to subside.

Sometimes things take time. Wednesday, I came home to find piles of insulation outside, and yesterday, the MR sprinkled the remaining insulation in that area with carpet fresh which should help with the lingering odor.

Meanwhile this week, I found mouse dropping on the dryer and upstairs. This has been an issue off and on since we moved in. We’ve decided it’s time to talk to a professional. While I was looking for recommendations, I noticed you can adopt feral cats to deal with mice. You just have to provide some type of shelter and food. It could be worth looking into, but I worry about coyotes, and Cocoa, and other critters. These would have to be really tough feral cats.

Now that the search is over, the MR is perfecting his texturing skills. I hope we have some touch up paint.

See it’s not all goodness and light around here. Sometimes it’s mouse poop and stink. It’s all good, as long as we keep our sense of humor.

I’d love to hear your stories of when life gets messy…we can’t be the only ones.

 

 

 

 

Spring Inspiration

I talked to Baby Girl today. She told me that while the rest of the US is experiencing a warmer than average winter, Oregon (her home) is simply average, and Washington (my home) is colder and wetter than normal? I’ve heard tell we’ve had more snow in Seattle than in Chicago this year. The MR noted that the river is flooding when he got home from work last night, and they’ve added a stoplight to where the road washed out a few weeks ago. It just doesn’t seem fair.

Maybe that’s why our visit to the Northwest Flower and Garden Show in February felt so right; we are longing for spring around here, and the smell of the flowers and beauty of the scenes took me to a happy place.

I loved the profusion of bulbs in front of this fountain. The delicate daffodils stood in sharp contrast to the square stone tower.

I don’t think we really have a good spot for a fountain, and I can imagine Cocoa frolicking in any water feature we might put in—every mudpuddle she meets calls her name—but it’s fun to dream.

Speaking of dreaming, do you think this statue would keep the deer out of the orchard?

It might be a little pricey for a few plums and apple. I did see a giant metal chicken that might scare the wildlife; it scared me.

I loved the tone-on-tone colors of many of the show gardens. hey make such a great impact when grouped together. I see a fall bulb-planting session in our future. I have a love-hate relationship with tulips. They’re beautiful and graceful, but so fragile. When me and the MR bought our first house, we watched with anticipation as the tulips came up that first spring. It took weeks, but the buds finally opened, they were beautiful. The next day we had a windstorm, and they were gone. Left with leaves and stems after all that waiting, I tend to go for heartier stuff.

The theme for this year’s show was “A Taste of Spring” so most of the gardens featured seating areas. I enjoyed the diversity of past years more when they showcased their takes on romance and America. With the beautiful view from our deck, we’re not often found in the yard. We’ve talked of a fire circle and benches down near the woods, but it’s hard to beat the sunset and view from above.

Perhaps I can gather a few ideas for the deck from this modern patio with chairs and stools and all that vibrant orange. I wouldn’t mind a little girl talk seated on those pillows.

These carvings and outdoor fireplace where stunning. It feels like they grew up out of the forest.

Between the show gardens and the plant marketplace, I was amazed to discover these beautiful cakes— skill, beauty, and imagination.

Sadly, we came home with few in the way of purchases. I was looking for kiwiberry vines to climb the chain link on the tennis court. Apparently, they grow well in Russia, so I’m figuring they’ll thrive here. I found more varieties online, so I decided to place an order.

We did find plastic risers to place under the pots on the deck. They say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Spring is just around the corner. I hope until then these pictures bring you a little sunshine.

What says spring to you?

(By the by, today would have been my parents 55th wedding anniversary—oops I was off by one. Make that 54—if my mom were still living. Don’t worry; we’re still keeping on eye on Dad. I hear tell he just got back from a road trip around the midwest in a camaro. Miss you mom.)

 

February Flew By

Last month started with the MR’s birthday, and a visit from our sweet girls and ended with a quick trip to Oregon to see them in turn. Two visits with our kids in a month is rather delightful.

Sandwiched between those was a lot of rain, a lot of snow, and a lot of crazy. In Winter Wonderland I shared the joys of snow outside and a cozy fire inside which led to questions and a whole blog on the History of Our Fireplace. It’s gone through a lot of changes over the past five years. Remember the conversation pit and the green carpet?

img_7967

When a Tree Falls in the Woods, I asked that it stay off our driveway. Me and the MR worked up a sweat clearing branches, small trees, limbs, and debris from our only way out.

img_7976

Of course that wasn’t the end of travel woes. All the snow and rain—it’s been the wettest February on record in Seattle since 1961—caused part of the road up our hill to collapse into a steep ravine. (Check out Winter Storms & Prepping for Spring.) They are working on it, but for now we have another one lane road to navigate on the way home.

With the power out, no TV, trapped at home, that gave me lots of time to knit, right? What should have been a good thing turned into trouble when hand-dyed shade variations showed up in a big way on my fingering-weight cardigan edged in lace. I’m still mourning the loss or maybe pouting is a better word for it. This is one time when Following the Rules would have paid off in a big way.

lot-matters

On the positive side, How’s That for Color? featured our picks for new carpet in three of the bedrooms. Baby Girl has a ton of stuff, so her bedroom will have to wait until she totally moves out. One of our color choices is in production and should be available in mid-March, so we’ve had the rooms measured, made a down payment, and are just waiting a few weeks to schedule installation.

For me, The Best Part of Winter is getting up before the sun. I could probably do it during the summer, but 4 am comes awfully early. I love watching the everchanging sky in the mornings.

img_7957

With more snow this week, enough to delay schools but not enough to keep us trapped at home, I did notice how pretty the front doors are with their mountains backlit with real snow.

cocoa-snowy-doors

Cocoa agrees with me, of course.

For March, I’m hoping for fewer storms and a better attitude. While there’s nothing I can do about the first, I’m working on the second.

How was your February?

 

Winter Storms & Prepping for Spring

The snow and rain this past month has brought its share of headaches. 

The MR spent a few days straightening posts and redoing the netting over the orchard. The weight of the snow had caused it to collapse. 


We got by with just a few broken branches. Taking a closer look, the MR noticed that the critters who tore up our grapes last fall had also damaged the vines. He took the opportunity to remove the bottom wire of the grape trellis, so the grapes wouldn’t hang on the ground. 

Although it snowed every day last week, it was sunny by afternoon. So the MR did some careful pruning to the fruit trees and bushes, fertilized the trees, and applied a dormant spray. The orchard is ready for spring. 

He also began work on a French drain for a low spot in the driveway which sports a puddle half the year. In his preliminary digging he came across a large rock just shy of 12-inches deep. After a lot of hard work, he decided a 10-inch drain would be the better choice; it’s on order. 

The big news isn’t on our property; it’s on the one road leading to the 60-plus homes on our hill. With the heavy rains this month, the road began collapsing into a deep ravine. I did mention that this is the ONE and only road leading up the hill, right?



The county has added some drainage, filled in, and paved over the uphill shoulder. During the week, they posted half hour waits, and this past weekend it was one hour waits to get through the construction zone. 


I’m hoping we’re safe for the moment and thankful that no one has been hurt. Over the weekend, the county was taking core samples. Maybe they’ll show that our hillside is going to stay put. 

Any storms headed your way? How are you preparing for spring?

Following the Rules

When you start a game, you’re given a set of rules to follow. They help play go smoothly, so no one runs away screaming.

Knitting is a lot like a game with rules to keep, and if you don’t follow them, you’ll run away screaming.

I had one of those moments recently with the Brooklyn Bridge Cardigan I’m knitting from the book Metropolitan Knits. I’ve got the back done, the left side done, and am half-way through the right. Before I started increasing I laid them all out to see if my shaping matched up, and that’s when I saw it.

lot-matters

The shaping was great; it was the color that was off. The back is medium, the right front has a brownish tint, and the left is bright orange. How did this happen?

I bought a bag of yarn years ago. They’re all the same kind and color—Araucania Nuble. It’s a lovely wool-silk blend that makes up beautifully. Perhaps I never looked at the dye lots, perhaps I thought since they were hand dyed it didn’t matter. All but one of the hanks I’d rolled into balls for a project that didn’t materialize at the time, so I don’t have labels to check.

There are rules that I blithely ignored. Dye lot as you can see is greatly important. And when you are using hand dyes for a large project, you should knit two rows with one ball, and then two rows with another ball to help obfiscate any discrepancies in color. That sounds like a lot of work and bother, but it would save me a lot of work.

Ugg, now what? I’m going to look for the darkest balls of yarn and restart the left side. I’m hoping the disparity between the back and the front won’t be as apparent once I have the sleeves done and am wearing the silly thing.

Another good rule of thumb when you’re knitting: Don’t frog or “rippit” out late at night when you find a mistake. Wait till the next day when you’re not tired and frustrated. I’ve ripped out shoulder shaping, redone it, and gone back the next day only to realize I had it right in the first place. A tired mind can play tricks on you.

While I’m offering tidbits of advice, let’s go ahead and talk about gauge. It makes me cringe when someone says “I never swatch” or “I hate to block”. OK, that’s all well and good, but I guarantee swatching will save you from heartache and blocking will make your finished project look so much better. Believe it or not, while I enjoy the process of knitting, I also want to enjoy the end project. If my sweater is two sizes too large, or worse yet two sizes too small, I’m not going to be happy with it.

By swatching, you also get a sneak peek at the fabric you’re making. Is it going to drape nicely? Does the yarn have good stitch definition so you’ll be able to see those great cables? Does the yarn’s color pattern hide or enhance the design?

I’ve been trying to use up my stash recently; I have a lot of yarn that’s causing me guilt. So when I purchased Self-Striping Yarn Studio recently and saw the Hexagon Sweater, I had an a-ha moment. I have Sweet Georgia’s Tough Love Sock yarn just waiting to be used. It would be great for that sweater. Unfortunately, the yarn is more of a variegated rather than a self-striping. Thankfully, I had some other yarn that would work. But if I hadn’t swatched, I’d have been disappointed.

I’ve also been trying to find the perfect project for some chunky gray yarn and some cotton-bamboo in army green. While I was able to get the crocheted green to proper gauge, I didn’t like the density of the swatch. I’m not going to wear something that feels stiff and awkward. I tried the pattern in a lace-weight which has a much nicer feel, but is way too fine for the pattern.

The gray swatches are the same yarn, just different needle sizes. I’ve made guage and think I’ve found the perfect pattern. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

swatching

I know, I know, you just want to get started on your project. You don’t feel liking making some silly swatch and the idea of blocking it is ridiculous. If you want to be pleased with the end results, that bit of extra effort really makes a difference.

And now I have to carefully select the darkest balls of orangey-brown yarn, and hope for the best. Wish me luck, and happy knitting!

What are you making at your house during the rainy days of winter?