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?

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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.

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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.

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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?

 

How’s That for Color?

Me & the MR went shopping for carpet last weekend.  We went to Haight Carpet in Woodinville where we’ve had good service in the past.

We’re not looking for anything fancy, since it’s just for the master bedroom, the guest room, and the sewing room. We made the big commitment to the faux concrete floors a few years ago, so we really don’t have much in the way of wall-to-wall carpeting.

We’re looking at a medium-gray tone for the master. We’ve chosen the top sample from below—Stormwatch.

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And then for the guest room, which is really dark, we’ve chosen a gray-beige (Morning Mist) that matches the floor color well. We’re hoping it will lighten the room up a bit. It’s the sample on the far right.

guest-room-carpet-samples

That’s the same color we’ll use for the sewing room. I’ve been in a bit of a quandary as to whether to go light or dark up there. The room gets plenty of light, so we could choose the darker gray, but darker carpet shows lint. I always have strings and threads, bits of fabric and yarn scattered on the floor. I’m not sure which would hide that the best. We’ll go with the light and pledge to vacuum more often.

Our sweet dog followed the man from the carpet store around as he measured the rooms yesterday. We could have it installed and looking bright and new in just two weeks. I haven’t made the call yet. I was hoping for a sunny day to check the colors one last time.

Cocoa also tried to help me photograph the samples. Sitting on the floor is an open invitation to dogs.

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She hates to be left out of anything.

What are your carpet buying tips and tricks? Light or dark?

 

The History of a Fireplace Big, White House Style

I received a great email this weekend from my mother-in-law. It read:

This is our friend, the cocktail waitress in LV where you both and Baby Girl stayed one time with us, and she LOVES you blog and I thought you better than I could tell her where to best look for info on the fireplace.  I told her, but she wants pictures.  MK

 

PLEASE tell that WONDERFUL daughter in law there is a story about that fireplace. I bet it was not that nice until they improved it. Worthy of blog info.—-tell her I want to hear about IT    !!!!!!     FFQ

So this one is for MeeMee’s friend Linda. Honey, all you have to do is ask…

I was kind of surprised, because after a few years you get used to things. You forget how they were. They’ve always been this way, right? So for those of you who haven’t been with us from the beginning, we’re going to go back, back to the time when the Big White House on the Hill looked more like something out of Miami Vice, back when everything was white except for the carpet. I still can’t believe the MR talked me into moving here with the bugs, and the mice, in the middle of nowhere.

In those days, it wasn’t just a fireplace. It was a fireplace and conversation pit because everyone has to have one. A friend suggested we should turn it into a ball pit.  Our kids were 17 and 13, otherwise we might have seriously considered it.

Conversation pit or ball pit which would you prefer?

Conversation pit or ball pit which would you prefer?

It took me months to wrap my head around this space. We’ve had fireplaces in all our homes, and I’d always wanted a mantel, but now I had 10-feet of space to decorate. And with the three-foot drop, I needed a step stool to put anything on it. When you don’t know what to do—do nothing. That’s always been my MO.

A few books, a few flowers, a 2-foot-tall candle can all do wonders.

Fireplace

And while white on white was where we started, me and the MR where intent on adding color. The walls in Sherwin Williams Accessible Beige and Tony Taupe where a fairly simple choice, but what could we do with the fireplace? Would a little paint help hide the speakers and the dumb-waiter for the wood? Could we make this more of a focal point?

I did a little brainstorming in Let’s Talk Color and came up with this color scheme.

Fireplace

Adding some dark gray would help blend in the granite, and painting the stair step walls gray would set them off from the background taupe.

I was surprised to see how closely my color overlays matched the final outcome. The major difference was that we decided to have the mantel and the hearth painted in the darker color as well.

Fireplace plus background

Check out “The Big Reveal” for all the freshly painted pictures. While this picture looks green, it’s actually gray with greenish undertones.

Sadly, we still had the very uncomfortable conversation pit, but look at how beautiful the molding looks set off by the gray paint. It took another year-and-a-half for us to get Out of the Pit or at least to save enough money to fill in the pit, but we did it.

Pit Construction

Once the trusses where in and the subfloor was in, we had the carpet removed, weird orange underlay put down, and the whole thing covered with a faux-concrete flooring.

Orange floor at sunset

Yes, we have lived through a whole lot of crazy putting this house together.

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You can see how our fireplace changed from year-to-year.

Over the Years Fall Fireplace Collage

And now we where just waiting for new chairs to cozy up to the fireplace.

Fireplace seating

Sadly, chairs where not enough. It was looking a little sterile. We needed pillows, throws, and a rug. Can we add a little softness and color?

fireplace chairs with new throw 2

We’ve moved around the plants, and the mantel itself is in constant flux with the seasons, but it still looks very similar to Baby Girl’s rendering for one of her first college classes.

BGs Sketch

In the last year, I’ve swapped out the hexagon tables for a footstool. This made for a very cozy place for our feet while the fireplace was in constant use during the recent power outages.

It’s fun to look back and see all that we’ve done over the past five years. I’d forgotten about the old boiler failing to turn on and heat the house that first winter after installing the heat pump. I guess that was the year we were in Mexico and Sweet Miss texted that it was 40-degrees—inside. I did feel a little guilty that she came home to a cold house.

If this doesn’t fulfill your hankering for info on the fireplace, you can always go to the blog and search for fireplace or mantel in the search engine. You’ll get to see all the fun fall and Christmas mantels plus a few spring and Valentine’s ones. Maybe I should get busy with a new one for the coming holiday.

What’s on your mantel? Does it change with the seasons?

P.S. I am not perfect. I have been known to spell “mantel” mantle upon occasion—I know, I know, it’s an article of clothing not an architectural feature. I think I’ve got it down now.

P.P.S. Thanks Linda for subimitting your request. I’d never have found this great picture of the girls if you hadn’t had me looking for fireplace stories. Strangely enough, the post with this picture had nothing about fireplaces or mantels, but I sure do love my sweet girls.

The girls