Refreshed & Revived

Hello friends! It’s been a while. Sweet Miss and the Fella got married, family came to visit, the garden and orchard exploded with goodness, and Baby Girl, the MR, and I went off and explored the world. And now, I’m back revived, refreshed, and excited.

I know you want vacation photos, and pictures of BG’s tattoo, and all the news, but that’s kind of a lot to process. Sometimes you just go with simple and gradually it all comes out.

So let’s start with easy, and I’ll put photos and thoughts together on the rest. Sweet Miss was home awhile ago and offered  a suggestion on the great room—it’s OK, I’m a grown up, I can handle it. She said the cow hide rug didn’t make any sense, and that we needed more of it elsewhere to make it fit in—hmm.

We have cow hide coasters, but I guess that wasn’t enough. So when I saw a cow hide pillow on Joss & Main for a reasonable price, I ordered it. It was all beige with big brown spots and looked perfect. The great thing about ordering stuff online is that it’s so easy to find. Type a few words, click on a picture, and it’s yours. Unfortunately, sometimes there’s some variation from the photo and reality.

If I were picking out a pillow in person, I’d want big brown spots in the middle not just in the corners. It’s still cute; I’m not going to be too picky.

And now since you’ve been so patient, here are my sweet travel companions outside a Roman temple in Pula, Croatia. Bonus, you can just get a glimpse of BG’s tattoo.

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It was an amazing trip with two of my favorite people.

Hope you’re September started off just as good.

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That Time of Year

I love that time of year when dinner comes from the garden. Sweet Miss and the Fella are headed up for a visit, and we have blackberry cobbler, apple pie, apple cake, blueberry muffins, fresh green beans, and a giant salad on the menu. Don’t forget about the plums. I’m sure they’ll work their way in there, too.

Plus me and the MR are celebrating our 27th anniversary. It’s going to be a good weekend.

Hope you’re enjoying the fruit of your labors or supporting your local farmers.

Cooling Down

The last month has been crazy. Sweet Miss and the Fella got married, lots of family, the garden and orchard are on overload, and let’s add some construction for fun.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel like writing when someone is pounding around in my house. I also don’t feel like writing when I’m sweating to death in my home. Now, my midwestern friends and family, and the California cousins may be laughing, but it’s been in the 80’s and 90’s around here. Our grass is brown, and we are hot.

Me and the MR were thinking ahead. Back in the spring, we had a fellow come out and give us a bid on air conditioning. After six years of sweltering during the summer, we decided to splurge on AC.

A few visits and a few months went by before they gave us an estimate. Our great room is huge; and with the number of windows, the height of the ceiling, and size of the room, keeping it cool is a tricky proposition.

Late July, they had a plan and were ready to roll. The MR took pity on my sanity and said we were busy—weddings do take priority— and pushed them off till last week. So we had courteous, professional, friendly visitors every morning at 7:30 am. Have I mentioned that we’ve switched to decaf?

By Thursday afternoon when I arrived home from work, we had a new heat pump installed and four units blowing cool air. The MR was busy taping and mudding all the holes the workers had made in the walls.

That’s one of those things I never really thought about before having so much work done. The workers had to cut holes to run the wiring, but that doesn’t mean they’re going make it look good after they’re done. When we had the radiators pulled out of the upstairs, we were left with missing molding and holes in the carpet. I’m just lucky that the MR is so good at putting things back together.

Our excitement over AC lasted for maybe a minute. The MR texted me that it wasn’t working the very next day. One of the units was making a hissing noise and the temperature was steadily rising. The workers were out again on Monday morning and within a few hours had a broken coupling fixed and cool air blowing our way.

Me and the MR have been wondering how air conditioning will change our lives. When it was so desperately hot inside, we’d make our way out to the deck in the late afternoons searching for a breeze and watching the hummingbirds. Cocoa will be very unhappy if this impacts deck time.

OK, so now you’re wondering about all the important stuff.  Well, the wedding was amazing. Sweet Miss looked beautiful, the Fella came into the reception raising her hand in the air shouting “Yes.” Lots of joy, lots of love, lots of excitement. I’m just thankful for all the friends and family who came together to make it such a wonderful day.

The garden is off and running. We have tomatoes, beans, carrots, lettuce, blueberries, blackberries, plums, apples, and more to come. So I’ve made applesauce, and plum jam, and frozen apple pie filling. We even cooked green beans wrapped in bacon on the salt block. It was a little messy but oh so tasty. And we have salad almost every night.

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So what have you been up to lately? Any apple or plum recipes to share?

Shake, Shake, Shake…

If you grew up in the age of disco, that simple phrase ends in only one way. Long before Meghan Trainor was singing about bass and treble, KC & the Sunshine Band wanted you to shake your bootie.

While this post has nothing to do with booties, it’s all about shaking and changing the world bit by bit. Have I lost you? OK, let’s slow things down.

A few weeks ago, I signed up for the Toxic Home Transformation . They offered five or six speakers each day and talked about ways to detoxify your home.  While I couldn’t listen to all of them, I did manage a few interviews each day. The experts talked about getting rid of wifi, toxic cleaning supplies, chlorine, chemicals in your personal care items, scented candles. The topics ranged widely and were quite overwhelming.

One of the moderators suggested picking a few simple things and trying them out. So I’ve been opening the french doors in our bedroom to get a little fresh air each morning. Apparently, all that insulation is great for your fuel bill, but it can trap toxins and off-gassing inside. I like a daily dose of fresh air.

I ordered a sampler kit from Annemarie Skin Care to check out some natural alternatives. It smells heavenly and feels great on my skin, but I’ll have to try it a few more days before coming to any conclusion.

And now for the shaking bit, I joined the My Green Fills Family by ordering the Clean Conscience pack. I receive laundry soap, laundry rinse, and a stain remover in the mail every two months. With just me and the MR at home, this seemed a perfect fit.

I choose what I want, how often, and if it’s scented with essential oils or not. I’ve tried many natural  detergents and been unimpressed with the results, but I thought I’d give this a try.

One thing My Green Fills has over the others is its unique distribution method. My first order came with a container for each of my purchases and a small packet of product. I added water to each container up to the fill line, put in the packet, and–you guessed it–shook.  A little shaking and we were ready to roll.

It’s only been a week, but so far I’m liking how my wash is turning out. I gave up dryer sheet years ago, so the scented version was a little overwhelming for me. I also failed to notice that the cap had markings on the inside to show how much to use. The first few loads, I’d used too much and the scent was quite strong. Now I seem to have figured things out, but I’ve changed my next order to the unscented versions. And you know the really cool thing about the next order? It’s going to be a small envelope with a few small packets. I’ll get to shake, shake, shake and it’ll be good. No more plastic bottles.

I’m doing my part to make the world a little greener and using a little less plastic.

You can check out My Green Fills here and learn all about their commitment to a natural, healthy clean and a better world.

How are you changing the world?

Something Old, Something New

Remember when me and the MR went to Costa Rica? We were exploring a wondrous place, visiting waterfalls, mountains, jungles, and beaches. It was amazing, animals everywhere, and during the afternoon siestas, I was journaling about our adventures, doing yoga on the beach, writing a bestseller? No, I was crocheting. I was trying to get the pattern just perfect for the local yarn shop tour held in Northwest Washington each May.

Crocheting and designing at the pool isn’t a bad way to spend an afternoon. The MR is very tolerant, and the crochet pattern was a hit. We sold out of the yarn and handed out hundreds of copies.

And you’re saying what does this mean for you. Well, if you’re a crocheter, and you follow my blog, this is your lucky day. I’ve uploaded my pattern to Ravelry and added a code so you can get it for free. Just call it a little love from the Big White House on the Hill.

It’s the All Squared Up Scarf–LYS on Ravelry. Once upon a time, it was just the All Squared Up Scarf, but someone had the good sense to take that name before I did.

Oh well, we adjust. Here’s a peak at what you could be making.

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I’ve been super creative with the coupon code. It’s “Big White on the Hill”. I know, how do I think of these things?

One little trick or random side note, since you follow my blog, I can’t get the phrase “suck it in Fisher” out of my mind.  My mom was a wonderful lady, but when she’d take a picture, she’d say that to my dad. As a kid, it didn’t bother me; it was all in good fun. My dad was skin and bones when she married him. During middle age, they’d both gained a few pounds.

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As a grown up, I can’t imagine saying that to my husband. But this phrase echoes in my mind when I’m working this pattern. You totally have to see what you’re doing. Are the blocks falling into place? If not what do I have to do? Suck it in (tighten up the stitches) to make everything fall into place, or relax and be loose, so everthing falls into place? I’ve undone half a row, a whole row, 10 rows, more times than I’d like to get everything to magically fall in to place. Sometimes things are harder than they look.

Anyways, in other news, I’ve also been working on sharpening my skills with an interlocking crochet CAL. This requires a lot of thinking. Ilona Slow Life Creations on Facebook offers amazing tutorials. I really enjoyed this—sort of.

Interlocking crochet requires counting and attention. Sometimes I like to just sit on the deck and chat with the MR. Every week, Ilona released a new pattern, and I stumbled through the instructions. Unfortunately, some of my squares turned out larger, some smaller, but all were totally amazing. You be the judge.

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I worked the squares together in strips.

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And as you can see, they seemed to even out so much when joined. But after I sent the blanket through the wash, they were still a little wonky—that’s a technical term.

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So I folded my lap quilt neatly, and put it over the side of the daybed in the sewing room.

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I’m thinking of taking it a part and making it into pillow covers, but for now it’ll keep me warm. I have to decide how much I care. Sometimes, it’s about the finished project; other times, it’s about what you learn through the process.  Ilona Slow Creations on Facebook offers wonderful crochet-a-longs.

Other works in progress include a sample for the shop, a new pattern for the fall, and projects from the tour. Don’t worry; I’ll share before you know it.

What are you working on? Don’t forget to check out the All Squared Up pattern on Ravelry.

(I forgot to mention that the coupon code is only valid through the end of July. So as the saying goes: Get ’em while they’re hot.)

Home Brew

Now I’m not running a distillery or making up a batch of ‘shine, but somehow or ‘nother I’ve gotten myself into the brewing business. I know, I know, I have a ton of projects, always something new, but I’ve been assured this is easy, and it’s just for me, so it doesn’t really matter if it goes sideways.

So what is it I’m going on about? Kombucha. Say what? A few years ago, I’d never heard of it either. It’s fermented sweet tea. Supposedly, the sugar in the tea feeds the scoby, and you end up with tangy, fermented goodness.

I’ve always been a sucker for tart lemon squares and cold lemonade, but I’m not crazy about the ton of sugar that goes into these. So when I was attending a class on foods that reduce inflammation, I sat by a woman fighting breast cancer who was drinking lemonade kombucha, and she poured me a glass. It was tasty and only had 3 grams of sugar—much less than you’d expect.

Kombucha is fermented and full of good bacteria that’s healthy for your gut biome. People with MS have less diversity in their gut, so a little kombucha could help with that, too. Besides, it’s kind of fizzy, and while I gave up soda years ago, I do like a little fizz.

So after meeting the lady, I started treating myself to some kombucha when I went grocery shopping. It’s pricey, so I’d usually just pick up a bottle or two; and when Baby Girl was home, I’d buy one for her. It’s was kind of our little thing.

Guess who bought me a kombucha kit for Mother’s Day? That’s right, BG for the win. We live hundreds of miles apart, and met in the middle to celebrate with Sweet Miss, The Fella, his mom, and of course the MR.

With shipping, and school, and planning, BG had the kit sent to our house rather than bringing it to Hood River. Later that week, I received a starter kit from Joshua Tree Kombucha. It comes with a big, old jug, a rubber band, a project cover, a lid, instructions, and a scoby.

Let’s take a closer look at that scoby—pretty nasty-looking, huh?

Who ever thought to put that in their tea?

I simply brewed a gallon of Charleston Black Tea (a gift from a friend’s visit to that fair city) and a cup of sugar, let it cool, added the scoby, and then I waited. Waiting is the hard part. Add to my lack of patience a quick trip to Chelan, home for an evening, and then a weekend in Portland for a Hitchin’ the Happy Couple barbeque, moving Sweet Miss into her new apartment, previewing wedding hairstyles, and car shopping, I was on a deadline.

Right on the lake with a beautiful view.

For the first brew, you just cover the kombucha with a cloth, but for the second brewing (where you get the fizz), you put a lid on tight. You have to be careful and burp the bottles daily or you could wind up with a mess. I didn’t want to come home to exploded bottles and kombucha everywhere, so I only allowed it to sit on the counter overnight. Once you put it in the fridge, it gets less volatile. My quick and dirty process yielded a less than fizzy version, but there’s always the next batch.

I’m bottling it up this afternoon. Safeway had berries on sale last week, and the local fields have opened for picking, so I think I’ll try a strawberry-basil bottle for starters.

Cross your fingers and think fizzy thoughts for me. I’ll let you know how it all turns out.

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Count Your Chickens…

I was down in the orchard last week, and I know you’re not supposed to count on success before it happens, but we just may have pears.

We’ve been worrying about them; do Comice and Rescue really cross-pollinate? It seems like maybe the do.

Along with pears, we have apples, and plums, and even a few nectarines. I still remember walking into a fruit tent the summer I was pregnant with Sweet Miss and having someone offer me a slice of nectarine. With sweet juice covering my hands and dripping down my face, I left with a bag full of them. That’s the kind of fruit I want to grow.

I wasn’t simply admiring all the fruit we might enjoy if all goes well; I was upgrading the signage. If you’re a long time reader you’ll remember Rocking the Garden. Well my bright, lovely rocks have begun to peel, and letters are disappearing, so I’ve replaced them with copper markers I picked up at Target in late winter.

The little signs have been sitting on the counter for months. I just wasn’t sure how to use them. Was the copper soft enough to etch varietals into them? I decided to go the safe route and use a sharpie. If they start to fade, I can always write over and refresh the words. I have an orchard map in my gardening notebook that doesn’t have to withstand the elements and is tucked away safe and sound as a back up.

I’m thinking some worm castings spread around the trees and some judicious thinning are next in order for the orchard. The MR has already put out fruit tree fertilizer spikes. Then we get to sit back and wait. Harvest is just around the corner.

What’s growing at your house?