Book Love

What do you do when you find yourself alone on a rainy evening in Portland’s Pearl District? Why go to the biggest independent bookstore in the world, of course.

After a fun weekend with Baby Girl and her sorority sisters, I was to meet up with Sweet Miss in Portland. She was flying back from a quick visit with high school friends, and so I had a few hours to kill on my own.

After wandering a bit, I looked up through the rain to see the big Powell’s sign just down the street. I was in luck, I’d visit the City of Books. After browsing awhile, I found the travel section and picked up a few pocket guides for our summer trip and then hiked up the stairs in search of a crochet dictionary—no luck. But I did find a copy of Blueprint Crochet Sweaters by Robyn Chachula; I’ve only checked it out from the library half a dozen times.

Over dinner, I read about Vienna and then noticed a text from Sweet Miss. She was still waiting for her flight out of Denver but suggested picking up a few bridal magazines. So I paid the bill and headed the two blocks back to Powell’s. Wouldn’t you know? The bridal magazines were back up by the knitting and crochet section adjacent to a wonderful author talk that had just started. Magazines in tow, I sat down in one of the chairs and listened to author Jess Thomson talk about her food adventures in the Pacific Northwest, in the midst of dealing with her son’s health concerns, while her marine biologist husband traveled to distant shores. It’s all part of her touching book, A Year Right Here. Book talks like these are one reason I hope local bookstores never disappear.

Sweet Miss did finally arrive late that evening, and we talked weddings, and moving, and jobs before collapsing into bed. Hanging out with the kids is exhausting albeit wonderful.

How was your weekend?




The Tale of a Blanket and the Books that Got Me There

When your youngest is graduating from high school, it can get a person to thinking.

Baby Girl loves wrapping up in a blanket, settling down with a good book or watching a show. Wouldn’t it be special if I made her a blanket in her school colors? Every time she snuggled down in it, she’d think of home and feel loved.

I’ve been knitting hex-puffs for Tiny Owl Knits “The Beekeeper’s Quilt” for a couple years now. Some of them are yellow and green, I could toss in some beige or white, I must be half way done with a blanket already. Then I pulled out my stash of puffs—they were all wrong. The greens were muddy, the variegated yarn just looked off.

So back in April, I got busy. Remember my trip to Oregon State for Mom’s Weekend with Sweet Miss? Well, I knitted four hours up, and four hours down. I knitted while I caught up on shows, I knitted out on the deck, I knitted on car rides—it was non-stop.

BG’s graduation party came and went. The MR came through with a laptop for BG, and still I pressed on making hex-puffs. It was another road-trip to Oregon with the MR, helping Sweet Miss set up her place, that finally put me over the 200 mark.

I wasn’t sure how many I needed, but I knew I was done making green, yellow, and white hex-puffs. The coffee table was the perfect place to lay out my lovelies, and make sure all those random puffs made a pleasing whole.

piecing the blanket


Then it was just a matter of tying all those corners together and weaving in the ends. I’m rather pleased with how it all turned out.



Our little duck looks happy, too.

BG & Blanket


Next time, I’ll arrange the puffs on the dining room table, so I don’t have to bend over quite so much. And I’ll give myself plenty of time, so I don’t grow weary or resentful from making puff, after puff, after puff.

What keeps me sane making all those little hexagons? I’ve been enjoying some great audiobooks. I download them from the library, and listen as I knit.

So far this summer, I’ve listened to:

Cherries in Winter: My Family’s Recipe for Hope in Hard Times by Suzan Colon
The Forgotten Seamstress by Liz Trenow
The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy by Rachel Joyce

Add in a few self-help books and silly mysteries, and I finished a lot of knitting.

Lately, I’ve gotten excited about cookbooks. Baby Girl has been gluten-free/gluten-light for a few years now. I totally hate buying a loaf of bread for over $6 and having it taste just OK. During the brown bag, school lunch season, I was making bread on a regular basis. Some of it was good, some-pretty good, some of it was just plain weird.

Good bread is an issue when you’re gluten-free. Perhaps it’s best to just give it up all together. That’s why I was so intrigued by Gluten-Free on a Shoestring Bakes Bread by Nicole Hunn. She uses whey protein isolate to replace the structure gluten usually gives. I’ve only made one loaf, but it was amazing.

(Actually, I was making one loaf, was called away to dinner with friends, forgot the whey protein powder when I came back the next day, and the first loaf was a hard as a rock lump; but the next one was amazing. You know what I mean.)

Then this last weekend, I headed over to Molbak’s (a local nursery) for a talk on using herbs in your cooking. Our herb garden has been doing so well, it seemed like I should be amping up the herbs in my recipes.

Somehow I ended up with two new books highlighting herbs and fresh vegetables. I picked up the speaker, Willi Galloway’s, cookbook/gardening guide Grow Cook Eat, and another book she recommended Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi.



I have wonderful plans for a zucchini blossom tart. Who knew vegetables could look so beautiful? Meatless Mondays are getting a major boost.

What have you been crafting lately? What’s on your summer reading list?




Let’s Get Busy

Sometimes simple changes can make such a big difference.

Sweet Miss came home for Thanksgiving on Wednesday night and brought with her a huge helping of energy and excitement.

She always said Baby Girl was the messy one. I don’t know about that, but Sweet Miss wasn’t home five minutes before she had us cleaning and rearranging the upstairs hangout room. We were expecting a houseful of company the next day, and all the cousins would probably be lounging around upstairs. She envisioned people rather than blankets and pillows sitting around on the couches. So we got busy and put away the junk.

Then it was time to do a little rearranging. I’ve envisioned the two bookcases flanking the TV stand, since we moved in. Unfortunately, the baseboard radiators nixed that idea. So they got shoved into the corner.

I would love to see that bookcases painted black and the backs covered in graphic fabric or paper, but for now, I’ll settle for them flanking the entertainment unit and the the whole silly thing shoved up against the wall. Since the radiators were removed this summer, the TV has been floating in the middle of the room. We need to repair the baseboards, but that hasn’t happened. With strong, healthy girls and a set of slides, we are able to push everything back up against the wall.

We’ve had a ton of paintings the girls made once upon a time just leaning against the wall since we moved in.

The girls threw dixie cups of diluted watercolor paint onto a pair of  canvases for the Mr’s birthday ages ago. Sweet Miss’ painting is now hanging over the TV, and Baby Girl’s painting greets you on your way upstairs.

The girls created the spatter paintings when we added a bonus room to our old house. They wanted to spatter paint the whole room; that did not go over big with the rest of the family. So we negotiated by agreeing to let them paint a few canvases in the backyard and hanging those instead. This homemade art got set in the corner, when Baby Girl painted the chalk wall, but they still hadn’t found a home.

I had a turkey dinner to be making, so I gave them the hammer and a pack of nails and let them go to town. While it’s part of our house, and we have final say, I like the girls to have ownership and take part in decorating their rooms. The crowded bookcase corner now sports lovely paintings, book art, and family photos.

Sweet Miss decided to put up some old plates and masks above the kitchen cabinets.

It might be fun to add some ethnic knick-knacks, too. A nice blue wall will set off the woodwork and bring a little color to this space. The rest of the room is quite vibrant, but the kitchen looks rather drab.

The plan is to bring our old dining room table upstairs, once we get a new one downstairs. Then at least, a table and chairs (maybe painted bright red) would add some color.

Now I know you’re dying to find out how the chalkboard wall fared with a bunch of teenage girls in the same room. Well, I’ve smudged the names to protect the innocent, but let’s just say, the whole wall is covered–just the way it was meant to be.

I’m really happy with how this room is coming together. It’s warm and inviting, young without being too young. I hope the girls feel comfortable here for years to come.

As I was leaving the girls’ wing, I was surprised by a view of Mt. Rainier.

The original owner, who designed this place, took a lot of care to maximize the view. It still causes me to pause and smile at the beauty.

Have you stopped to enjoy some beauty today? Did you have an infusion of youth and energy over Thanksgiving?

Back to the Books

Book “art” has become this recurring theme in my life. Back in March, I tried to get rid of stacks of Reader’s Digest Condensed books at the used book store. They politely explained how to recycle them which seemed like a huge waste.

So for the last six months, I’ve been ripping, folding, gluing and wiring my bevvy of books into beauteous art. Art may be a bit strong, but my projects are pretty cute.

The Repurposed Library by Lisa Occipinti was a fabulous source of inspiration. And I shared with you my first foray into folding books into structural pieces back in August. After my first two I decided to branch out and try new shapes. It’s just folding paper after all, you can be as creative as your little heart desires. Along with the structural designs, I finally had enough folded paper roses to finish my rose wreath I’d been working on since forever.

The wreath is straight from Lisa’s book. Each flower is one page, wrapped around two fingers, and fastened at the bottom with wire. Just like the book suggested, I taped the flowers together in pairs, and then fastened them to the wreath with tape. This got a little cumbersome, so I used some hot glue. Earlier this week, I shared just how well that was working out with huge clumps of flowers falling off.

I got rid of the tape and used some craft pins I had on hand to affix the flowers to the foam base.

So far so good–none off the flowers have fallen off. I like the mix of hard and soft in my little display. The wreath took the better part of two books to make, but I still had a few pages left, and I couldn’t  just throw them away. Back in August, my first book art post brought me all kinds of suggestions from some of my readers–thanks guys! And I checked out this great post featuring all kinds of book crafts. Some homey flowers would round out my display nicely, check out the link for the directions.

These cute little flowers are so light-weight, I simply put a pin in the wall, and stuck them  on that–easy as pie. Now you may have noticed the book sculptures aren’t mounted and framed like the first ones I made. I decided to simply cut some scrap boards to size, drill holes in the corners of the book cover, and screw the books to the wood.

It’s a less fussy look, and I think it works better in mass. I like the way the book sculptures seem to hover on the walls and how the bright fly leaves pop against the white.

If you’re keeping count, I now have created “art” from seven books. I still have a couple dozen left. I decided I needed to step it up a little and make something that’s really going to use the books.

The next week, Time-Warp Wife (a blog I follow) highlighted old book upcycling–go figure–it must have been in the air. So I of course had to check it out and found these beautiful mobiles.

anthropologie book display

Call me crazy, but these look like a whole lot of books. Well, I was disappointed that this picture is simply an Anthropolgie display and didn’t come with any directions on how to recreate these pendants. Sometimes, you just have to wing it. They looked very similar to the sculptures I’d been making sans the book cover–I could do this.

So first I folded a pair of books. Then I removed the covers, and glued the spines to a long dowel.

Then I took another matched, folded pair of books and glued it on. I finished it off with another pair of books that just didn’t want to stay on, so I used a few nails to tack them to the dowel. They were also a bit too large with two full books, so I cut off the excess folds to make them fit the diameter of the dowel better.

The top tier is a little wonky at eye level, but you won’t notice once it’s in the air. I screwed an eye on top and a hook in the ceiling and with a little twine hung it in place.

I triple-folded the small pendant which created a lot of volume. It’s just one book with the end pages glued together strung on some twine. Boy howdy, that used up another seven books–things are taking off. So here’s the beginning of my book display.

Here’s another look.

Since my whole life isn’t consumed with folding books, I’m excited to have this start and plan on adding pendants and sculptures as I have time. It’s totally free art made with things from around the house, so I won’t feel too bad, when the light fades my creations. My upcycled books add some cheer and whimsy to my sewing room–which in all honesty is just a storage room between the garage and wine cellar (picture cobwebs and dingy stairs not gleaming cedar).

How have you added charm to your world lately? Do you have an upcycle project to share?

I just added this to the 5 Days…5 Ways Friday free-for-all. Abby is so sweet and expecting precious twin girls any minute now.

August at the Big White House

Happy Labor Day everyone. Today is the official end of summer around here. Tomorrow it’s back to school and schedules for me and mine.

In all honesty, it hasn’t been the relaxing summer of past years. Between the well, the deck, the siding, and the heating, we’ve had workers showing up anywhere from 6:55-10 am every day with a few random no-shows thrown in. I’ve never been a morning person, and I enjoy drinking my coffee wrapped in my fuzzy pink bathrobe. Somehow, I don’t think that’s the most appropriate thing to wear when I greet workers, so my relaxing mornings have been few.

Of course tomorrow will bring a whole new meaning to the phrase getting up early. Baby Girl has to be at school around 7, that means I have to be up and at am around 6:45 am. My pink bathrobe my go in to permanent retirement. Just one more reason I will miss summer.

Let’s take a look back and see what happened in August around here.

First of all, I shared what we’ll loosely call Book Art.

I’ve been experimenting by folding other shapes with mixed results, and I’ve even made a few new and exciting book projects–maybe I’ll share a few later this week. For anyone who didn’t read Breakin’ Out the Books, I am a reader, I do love and respect books. That being said, the former owners left behind stacks of Reader’s Digest Condensed Books. I have a long history with these kind of books.

When I was a little kid, my family would pile into a too small vehicle and spend three very long days in the car travelling back to Kansas. I’d usually spend hours in the car reading–when me and my brothers weren’t poking each other or begging to stop at the world’s largest prairie dog. You may not have guessed, but it was a long, hot drive and by the time we reached my grandparents, I was all out of good reading material. So I scavenged in their book shelves and ended up reading more than my fair share of Reader’s Digest Condensed books. The problem with these books is when they remove the author’s words, they steal some of the book’s soul. I later read some of the unabridged versions and was half-way through before I realized it was the same book. So I have no qualms using these books for my silly projects.

My Garden In the Sky is small, but  we’ve been enjoying the sweet cherry tomatoes as we watch the sun set each night. It still brings plenty of pleasure. I transplanted my lovely seedlings at just the wrong time. We were all headed out of town, and we have stacks of small plants needing watering. Some got watered, some did not. My seedlings were toast by the time we got home. Oh well, live and learn. We also had a surprise with the lavender–a lot of it is totally not lavender. It reminds me of gallardia, but the color seems off. Any ideas on what this is?

We do have two plants that at this moment strongly resemble lavender, so there’s still hope for adding some purple to the landscape.

The Mr’s folks came back from visiting friends with some bee balm, so instead of swaths of purple, maybe we’ll have rosy-hued hills. They’re looking a little scraggly at the moment, but it’s September. It’s going to have to rain soon then they’ll perk up.

Everything In Its Place lasted for about a minute–OK maybe a week. It wasn’t the Mr, it wasn’t the kids, it was the electrician. We had to run power to the outside heating units, and the bikes and camping gear were in the way. Since I’d already figured out a way to arrange them neatly, it was much easier the second time around. A little tidying is catching. I noticed the Mr out there the other day organizing some of his tools.

I tried my hand at getting some conversation going on paint colors. It’s pretty doggone white in here. Well it wasn’t an epic fail, but it was close. I had 10 fabulous people vote on Fireplace Sizzle, and 50%, that would 5, voted for Calming Blue.

I wanted to open it up to all those creative thinkers out there, so I had an option where they could choose their own color scheme. Lo and behold, two people did just that. Unfortunately, they failed to mention what colors those might be…maybe ESP will come to the rescue. I’m just not that gifted.

Back to This & That, Baby Girl won 3 out of 6 matches at her first beach volleyball tournament down in Seaside, OR. It was a lot of fun and a good show for her first time playing doubles. In other volleyball news, our Baby Girl was voted captain of the JV squad this year. We are looking forward to a great season.

Meanwhile, Sweet Miss and I enjoyed a few days at Western Washington University. She’s all registered for classes and looking forward to moving in later this month.

Now for the crucial question, did Mary Kay (aka Theo) witch a well? No, but she avoided spots with brush and stickers, so that’s about 90% of our property, so there’s still hope. And the old well is chugging along just fine.

We did some major and some minor Freshening Up all in the name of keeping the walls standing and making it look cared for.

The Mr has also been working on some other areas where the siding failed. I believe it’s a bit of a stop gap measure but will keep things safe for now. You also might notice the sweet little sequoia near the french doors. I know it looks tiny now, but some day is will Soften the Angles of our funky home.

In Changing My Mind, I talked about the many reincarnations of the laundry room. It’s funny how one thing leads to another. With a little tidying up, I’ve been encouraged to do a little more. I’ve hung up the brooms and brought in another rug. This’ll be the spiffiest laundry room ever.

Now that the Mr has the windows caulked and the weep holes replaced, I’m thinking the screens and windows need a good washing. Like I said, it starts looking good and you’re encouraged to do even more.

That brings us to the end of the month, to the approach of fall, to The Harvest. Blackberries are far and above our largest crop this year and the blackberry BBQ sauce I made last week was wonderful.

Yesterday, we hiked the backyard, down to the valley, followed the river trail north to the roundabout and headed up the hill and home. It was a long, sweaty, sticker-strewn hike. The girls stopped along the way to pick blackberries. I don’t think they’ve picked at home at all. Don’t worry; there’s time.

Along with house stuff, we’ve celebrated Sweet Miss’ 18th birthday, and me and my sweet, handsome man’ 21st wedding anniversary. We’ve enjoyed bon fires, back-to-school shopping, volleyball try-outs, and college registration. It’s been a good month, and I’m looking forward to fall. I think I’ll take the rest of this holiday to throw the ball to the dog, spend some time with my man, check out the girls’ shopping finds, and enjoy some good BBQ. Tomorrow morning is going to come bright and early.

Get on With It Already

Sometimes I can’t seem to move beyond thinking about doing something. I can always find reasons it won’t work out.

Sherry of Young House Love has inspired me with her “Dude, Get On That Already” challenge. All those great ideas that she comes up with or projects that she starts that get set aside, she is finishing them up. You are my hero.

I too have a wide variety of projects in various stages of completion. Some would be so easy to finish.

I boxed up books that the former owners left behind and planned to take them to the used bookstore. They sat in the guest room for weeks.

I had a million excuses. They wouldn’t take reader’s digest books, I didn’t want them to think I read such low brow stuff, I really couldn’t carry three boxes of books on my own, it’s raining, I’ll never find parking, the list goes on and on.

Sometimes I need a kick in the pants and willing helpers. My youngest and one of her buddies helped me drop off those boxes of books at the local used bookstore.


No, the bookstore won’t take reader’s digest condensed books and neither will the library, but they told me how to recycle them.

I got three big boxes of books out of my guest room and two wound up back in my storage room. Pinterest has some amazing ideas on how to turn old books into art.

Maybe one project has just turned into another one. At least I’m in motion.