Changing Perspective

Remember a few months ago when I shared an unexpected treasure of overwintered carrots in the garden? Cocoa was breathing deeply as we explored the mess, and sure enough, with a little weeding, I came across two sweet lines of carrots. Me and the MR would enjoy an early harvest. It would be wonderful.

Fast forward a few months, and nothing turned out the way I planned. I picked a few and added cooked carrots to the menu. That was a mistake. Some of the carrots had good flavor, but the cores were so tough, you couldn’t even cut through them with a knife. Others tasted like nothing at all, so it was a bit of a crap shoot deciding whether to eat them or toss them. I’m afraid the worms enjoyed more than we did.

But wouldn’t it be nice to free up some space in the garden? Maybe they just needed a little better weather to sweeten up. It was not meant to be. When I revisited the carrot patch recently, they’d gone to seed. The carrots were hairy and mangled. Perhaps I could add them to my next batch of chicken broth; the upstairs freezer is woefully empty. I put a fistful of vegetables in Cocoa’s outdoor water dish and took a second look at the tops.

These carrots are something. They’re architectural and graceful, swooping and swaying, feathery foliage topped with delicate domes. I think they deserve a little space in my home.

 

 

Sometimes you just have to shift your perspective. You see, I wasn’t trying to grow carrots—you can pick those up at the farmer’s market—I was growing lovely, one-of-a-kind bouquets.

In case you were wondering; those are kombucha bottles. My favorite comes in a plain old clear glass bottle, but when they’re out of it at the store, I pick up one of these (or a couple if Baby Girl is around). I peeled off the label, plopped in some carrot tops, and ta-da, doing dishes just got a lot more fun.

Hope you’re enjoying the first of July. 

Don’t worry, the June recap is on the way. With the girls home off-and-on, the MR’s parents visiting, trips to here and there, and all the other stuff that’s part of life, we’ve been busy. 

 

 

That Trickle Down Effect

The MR was telling me about some friends who are redoing their bedroom. It all started with new throw pillows that made the built-ins look too dark, and before you know it they were in full remodel mode.

I know the feeling. Sometimes one little change leads to another, and then another, and then another. You get the idea.

So I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when the new coverlet for the bed arrived. After five years of sunshine and dog drool, I thought something with pattern might hide fading and tufts of fur.


I didn’t factor in that little dog paws can snag a loosely-woven fabric. That my mild compulsiveness would make me very concerned about keeping all those stripes straight. And that the shams with all that texture—that I made using dinner plates and gathers—might look washed out against the new coverlet.

I get all foolish and sentimental. I made those silly shams, and Adding Some Softness was one of my top blog posts ever. Oh well, I have new decorative shams on order.

And now let’s move on to sheets. A new bedspread deserves nice sheets, but all our sets are tearing. Don’t sheets last forever? These are barely five years old; they should be fine. I still have sheets from our wedding…

I was in denial, and then another bottom sheet would rip. We’re clean, we bath, we stay well-groomed, we don’t sleep with knives. I was perplexed until I read up on hard water. All those minerals from our well can make fabric brittle and tear. A-ha, things are starting to fall into place. Maybe inexpensive cotton sheets from TJ Maax aren’t my best option.

So I started researching soft, sturdy sheets that will also keep you cool. Bamboo and linen were my top candidates, and I bought a set of each.

Cariloha bamboo sheets were the first to arrive. These sheets are silky smooth and actually slide around on the bed. While I like the feel, I also like my bed to look neat and tidy, so I’m not 100-percent sold on these. They are a lovely bright white, and feel cool against the skin, but I need to see how they hold up under normal wear-and-tear.

Next came a set of linen sheets from Pottery Barn. This set of bedding feels much more substantial—shall I say sturdy? The sheets just have a lot more body and weight. Pottery Barn made it easy to add an extra pair of king pillowcases, and I do like it when everything matches. While I was tempted to buy a linen set on Etsy, I decided to buy from a national chain in case I wanted to return them.

Both linen and bamboo are advertised as fibers that will keep you cool. With the summer months upon us that seemed like a bonus especially in the absence of air conditioning. I’ve been hesitant to write about the new sheets until we’ve had a little more time with them. I imagine the linen will get softer with each washing—like a favorite t-shirt—but we’ll have to wait and see.

With the holiday weekend just a few days out, I’ve been getting lots of sale emails. Who wouldn’t want to save 20-percent on new sheets? So I thought I’d go ahead and share some of my recent purchase with you just in case you’re in the market.

I’m curious. Where do you buy your sheets? Any favorite brands or fiber content? Inquiring minds want to know.

What’s That Smell

You’ve heard me complain about deer before. I can hear you saying, “Oh they’re so pretty. Look at that mother and baby. Wow.” You’re speaking in an awed, reverential tone, because nature is so cool.

And I can totally agree with you up to a certain point. Nature in the forest, in the parks, in the preserves is amazing. Beautiful deer walking in the meadow are fun to see. Deer in my garden, tearing down my fruit trees, eating my vegetables, and nibbling on my flowers evoke a different sentiment.

So when a friend of mine gave me a printout on controlling pests with essential oils, I was eager to give it a try. Now, my friend sells high quality oils for human use; I decided not to be so picky when it came to keeping away the deer, slugs, ants, mice, and bugs of all kinds. Of course, the essential oils I had in my craft supplies were more about smelling good, so the only oil from the list I had on hand was patchouli.

Last Saturday, before I headed off to a day at the knit shop, I mixed up a bowl of water and several drops of patchouli oil, I added a length of garden twine, and merrily went off to work. When I walked in the back door that evening, I was certain we had a problem. Did the trash need to be taken out? Had someone forgotten to run the disposal? Did something get spilled under the sink? What was that horrible smell? Turns out it was my bowl of string which promptly found a home out on the deck away from my nose.

Yesterday morning broke bright and fair, so I grabbed my scissors and stinky string and visited some of the straggly plants that need protection. We have a delphinium that’s stripped bare and a red-twig dogwood that will never catch up with the rest of the row if it keeps getting nibbled.

Maybe a length of string will protect the geraniums the MR planted and keep my columbine blooming.

To be fair, patchouli is supposed to protect against slugs, aphids, and fleas, so I really don’t know if deer will mind it, but hey it’s free, so why not? I certainly wasn’t enamored with the smell.

Meanwhile this week, everyone is in town. Baby Girl came home from school last week, the MR’s parents arrived on Sunday, and Sweet Miss came home after her new job training on Monday. Papa Willy has been out twice, and Our house is full of people, laughter, and excitement.

So while us girls went wedding dress shopping on Wednesday, the MR  planted a dozen lavendar Papa Larry picked up for us. Over the wet winter, we lost some of our larger plants, but at least the deer don’t eat them. They’re a welcome addition to the steep slope below the well room. We’re always in search of that swath of purple.

At our last two homes, we’ve had rose campion growing in the untended areas. It can take over, but maybe it’s just what we need for the meadow and some of the slopes. We were rather pleased to see a pocket of it near the Russian sage and the retaining wall.

This week we’re welcoming summer, high temps, and new adventures.


Hoping your summer is eventful, too.

 

 

 

This Old Dog Part II

Along with pushing myself to learn new techniques in my hobbies, I’ve been pushing myself in other ways. Last weekend was all about stepping outside my comfort zone.

First off, I climbed a 30-foot rock wall, ziplined through giant evergreens, and crossed seemingly endless chasms. OK, maybe it wasn’t quite that death-defying, but it was pretty scary.

My sister-in-law—who is obviously way more adventuresome than I—wanted to do the Zip Wild Challenge Course at Northwest Trek for her birthday. And yes it’s just as terrifying as it sounds; it was also amazingly fun. I spent a few hours in the treetops, pushing myself beyond my capabilites, and laughing with a bunch of great women.

I believe I am the black spot in the very center. Thanks Holly for taking the photos.

That sounds like plenty for one weekend, but that was just the start. I bought the MR a glass blowing class for Valentine’s Day, and it was getting ready to expire. He suggested company would be nice, and I again faced my fears. You see, I’ve always been kind of klutzy. If an accident is going to happen, it’ll probably happen to me. I’ve been known to reach out and touch things without thinking. I came home from my one glass-fusing class with plenty of cuts and burns. But anything for my guy.

So Sunday found us at the Redmond School of Glass ready for our lesson.  We could make a glass float or a glass ornament in whatever color we chose. The instructors demonstrated the steps and then carefully walked each student through the process.

Working counter-clockwise from the top right, first we rolled the molten glass in colored glass, then heated it in the furnace, repeated the process, shaped and blew, and ta-da an ornament was born. The MR took a video of me, so you get his smiley face this time.

Hot? Yes. A little intense? Yes.  Very cool? Yes.

We had a great time. The MR’s first ornament broke as the instructor removed it from the tube, so he got twice the experience. It was a very fun afternoon. And yesterday on the way home from work, the MR picked up these beauties.

I’m not sure if they’ll make it on the tree—it’s always my favorite ones that get broken when it takes a tumble. For now, they’re at home on the dining room table.

What new adventures have you started on?

By the by, we also ran on down to Oregon this week to pick up Baby Girl. Year two of college is over, and she’s home for a minute before heading overseas to study this summer. Enough time to recover from finals, do a little shopping, take some photos for Mom, and laugh at Dad’s jokes. If a week’s all we’ve got, we’ll take it. Fun to have our baby home.

 

 

 

Clean Up the Mess

I remember way back when, when the daffodils were in bloom. The profusion of yellow blossoms made me smile as I drove down the driveway. They were lovely…until they were not.

When I went to the garage to tie up the stems, I couldn’t find my garden twine. I did finally make it to the hardware store, but in the intervening weeks, they’ve turned brown, so all i had to do was cut them off.

Doesn’t this look much better?

 

I staked up on if the lilies that had been stepped on and took other broken flowering bits inside. I didn’t clean my up all the wood and debris; I figured I’d wait till the deck guys have finished up. 

Despite all, these are some beautiful flowers. 

And it took less than a half hour, three trips to the compost, and two dead slugs to get here. 

You can check out why I keep those silly daffodils here. 

https://bigwhitehouseonthehill.wordpress.com/2014/06/09/daffodil-detail/
 https://bigwhitehouseonthehill.wordpress.com/2014/03/13/spring-has-come/

Or maybe you’d like to remember with me how Sweet Cocoa helped me plant those lilies. 

https://bigwhitehouseonthehill.wordpress.com/2013/06/28/june-in-review/
What’s blooming in your garden? I’d love to see pictures. 

This Old Dog

We’ve all heard the saying:

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

But me and a friend of mine were chit-chatting the other day remembering just how good our little Cocoa-bean was for grumpy old Bogart. He’d never understood the pleasure of a good hello, ear rub, greeting. You could scratch his belly—sure—but he just wanted to play ball or frisbee. All this social stuff was beyond him, until that silly puppy came along and wanted to be petted all the time. In his old age, he decided a little attention could be nice.

All that is a long, round-about way of saying this old crafter can learn a thing or two. You see, I’ve been knitting and crocheting for close to 40 years or more. I’ve made sweaters and snowflakes, hats and mittens, socks and blankets. I’ve got this stuff down, right? But no, people are always coming up with new ideas, new designs, new stitches, new methods, and I don’t want to be left behind.

So I’ve been on a bit of a binge lately—a book buying binge, and I thought I’d share a few of my recent projects.

 

Let’s start with Blueprint Crochet Sweaters by Robyn Chachula. The book came out in 2013, so it’s not new, but I’d checked it out from the library on a whim and been blown away by the patterns. They were just so intriguing. At first glance, I had no idea how they were creating these stitches or how to replicate them.

To be honest, I’m not usually that keen on crochet for sweaters. They tend to be a bit bulkier than I like and just don’t have the drape of a knit garment. But these were very unusual. I loved the cranberry cardigan, and was surprised to learn a whole different type of stitch I’d never heard of. The linked double treble crochet is like the marriage of regular crochet and tunisian crochet. It creates a very nice band with beautiful texture. Coupled with open work crosses, I thought it would make a great summer cadigan for our chilly evenings.

I even had the yarn in my stash—or so I thought. I’d picked up some great bargains at Vogue Knitting Live in Seattle a few years back and lost the tag on some tencel/linen in a beautiful red. It was listed online as 1450 yards per skein, so I’d be set. Unfortunately, I somehow had purchased half a skein, so now I have the better part of the front and back of my cardigan done with no sleeves or button band and discontinued yarn.

I’ve been pouting/ I mean thinking about how to proceed, and so the partial sweater has sat on the dining room table for more than a week. We have company coming, so I’ll just have to rip it out. But next time I will weigh that random yarn from my stash to get a better idea of what I’m working with.

Key words, next time, sadly I had another stash issue all at the same time. The lovely cotton table runner I made up is about a foot too short to hang off the ends of the table. Queue more pouting and frustration. I came up with all sorts of ideas. I could buy contrasting yarn, rip out a yard, add a different color for interest, and then finish it off as planned. But my local shop didn’t have any that I thought would work in the right weight, and color, and twist, and material. I told the MR my woes, and he said just make it shorter.

I remember flying into a tizzy when we centered the guest bed under the windows and could no longer open the closet doors. I had visions of adding a panel to make it look like we have three windows over the bed, moving the wall sconces, and maybe adding a new window eventually. The MR suggested tilting the bed just a smidge away from the wall, so you can open the door. Sometimes he’s so smart, and the simple answer is the best.

Back around the holidays, I bought Knitting Fresh Brioche by Nancy Marchant. If you’re into two-color brioche and you love the idea of patterning with this technique, this is the book for you. Nancy Marchant is a master of this stitch, amazingly creative, and a great teacher. I knitted up a modified Ring of Fire cowl for the shop to show how marrying two very different colors can change the look of each. Using the stitch patterns, I’ve designed a sweater, and many of the people on my Christmas list received mug cozies. I’ll warn you, brioche can be addicting. This is another book that’s been out for awhile, but I think it’s great.

Now, I was surprised to find myself buying A Garden of Shawls by Karen Whooley. But I’d been listening to a podcast (The Yarniacs) and the host told how she’d used a shawl as a blanket when traveling on an airplane. The shawl fit into a sandwich bag and was at the ready in her purse in any situation. A had some laceweight yarn I’d been holding on to, and me and the MR are always on a plane somewhere. Then I listened to another great podcast (Yarn Thing with Marly Bird) interview with Karen Whooley about her new book. She was from the Seattle-area, maybe she’d want to come out to our shop, maybe her shawls were just what I needed.

This is not an amazing technique book; it’s not teaching you a slew of new stitches; it’s a collection of very pretty shawls. I made the Ecliptic in Juniper Moon Farms Findley Dapple (a yarn from my stash that actually had enough yardage). The directions are great and the chart was easy to follow. Now, on my travels, I have a lovely, lightweight shawl to throw on over my sundress to make me church appropriate.

There are at least two other patterns—Enchantment and Briar—that are totally calling my name. How many cathedrals are we going to visit this summer? I’ll need something to cover my shoulders during those starlight dinners.

The last book I’m going talk about today is Self-Striping Yarn Studio by Carol J. Sulcoski. This book is less about new stitches and more about using some of the amazing new yarns to their best advantage. Sulcoski talks about the different types of self-striping yarns and what they mean for you. She discusses common problems, how to solve them, and then offers an array of patterns to showcase these beautiful yarns. Thumbing through the book just now, I saw a sweet baby sweater that I need to make.

I’ve been working on the Hexagon Sweater off-and-on for a bit. I started with some yarn where the repeat was too short and I ended up with hexagons all looking a bit muddled and much the same. Then I moved on to a longer run yarn where the motifs where brown, brown, brown, red, green, green, green, blue… Let’s just say not that appealing.

So when I was visiting Baby Girl back in April, I picked up a skein of Cascade sock yarn at Cozy a new yarn shop in Eugene. This yarn is (like Goldilocks would say) just right. In a variety of colors, each motif is turning out a little different. I decided an allover pattern might be a little much, so I’m using Cedar House sock yarn in a lovely muted rust for the back and sleeves (from Quintessential Knits). Maybe I’ll have this done by the end of the month to show you. I just need to be a little more monogamous in my crafting.

While maybe you don’t have an incredible urge to buy a bunch of knitting or crochet books, I do hope you’ll try something new today. You can listen to a new podcast, read a new blog, try a new recipe, walk a new path, shake things up a little.

Tried anything new lately?

For the local yarn shop tour, I added something new to my resume and designed a shawlette. I was rather pleased with the results. The Shoulder Stripe Shawlette pattern is available on Ravelry or at Quintessential Knits here in little old Duvall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It Doesn’t Look Like Much

I had this vision, this plan, this wonderful idea. We’d cover the tennis court in vines, and I’d no longer feel guilty for never using it.

Not only would we cover all that chain-link fence in vines, we’d make them edible, so they’d be beautiful and beneficial. That’s where kiwis come in. I get all these seed catalogs in the mail and read about fabulous fruit trees and berries that will make my heart sing.

Raintree Nursery boasted a variety of kiwi vines. They grow in Russia, our little valley is a little more hospitable than Siberia. We should be good. Now these are not the fuzzy kiwis you buy at the grocery store; these are what they’ve coined “kiwi berries”. They’re smaller, and you don’t have to peel them. If you believe everything you read, they’re going to be the next big thing at all the farmer’s markets.

I’m not that gullible, but they did sound intriguing, and they could cover a lot of fence. Of course, you do need a boy and a girl, and I decided to add another variety of female just to mix things up. My idea was to cover the fence facing the house.

The MR, always logical, pointed out that the soil was bad, with the retaining wall the vines are quite far from the fence, there’s no irrigation, and the last thing we planted there died. With the recent fence issues, animals eating my onions and ripping up carrots, I decided maybe there’s room in the garden after all.

So here’s the start of my kiwi empire: one male…

And two females.

I’m hopiing the male revives after his time on the deck, otherwise we’re in trouble. But in happier news just look at the honeysuckle. It’s been awhile, but it’s finally taking off.

By the end of summer, the fence will be covered in vines, and the sweet scent of honeysuckle will fill the air as I weed my little garden.

Until then, I’ll leave you with a little found beauty. Remember when the MR had the guy come and rip out all most of the blackberries last fall? Well, around all the dead brambles, foxgloves have begun to sprout up, and you know how I feel about foxgloves.

Wildflowers make me smile.

What makes you smile?