Taking It Up a Notch

For years my craft organization has been hit-and-miss. I’d buy some shoes and notice that the box looked pretty cute and put it to use.

While that works fairly well, it’s not a perfect system. Boxes come in all different sizes; nothing matches; it can end up quite a jumble.

But the other day, I was doing a little “window shopping” on Joss & Main—dangerous, I know—and came across some lovely storage options. Artsy with a hit of color; I was smitten.

Maybe I’ll organize yarn in boxes in baskets. There are so many options.

I did hijack one for the French doors by the master bedroom. Sometimes Cocoa can’t be bothered to use the stairs and squeezes under the rails. This is her first stop, and it can take a bit of persuading to get her to the other doors.

When you have a dirty dog, a towel to wipe her off is so helpful.

Keeping dirt off the floors and looking chic—sounds like a win-win to me.

Any organizing tips you’d like to share?

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The Summer of the Deck

I’ve been MIA for a bit—you may have noticed. I’ve been pouting. Sometimes I wonder how I ever got so naive when it comes to construction projects.

Let’s call this the summer of the deck. Not the lovely summer where we host barbecues, enjoy new deck furniture, admire the view, and while away hours. This is the summer where month after month after month, we have guys working on the deck; doors and windows closed to keep out the dust, dirt, noise, and toxic fumes; plants and deck furniture littering the living room, so they can recoat.

Remember back in May when me and the MR went away with my brother and sister-in-law for a long weekend? I was hoping to myself that the deck guys would be done—nope. Then we visited Sweet Miss and moved Baby Girl home—still working. Next we went to eastern Washington to look at wedding venues—not done yet. After a few weeks in Europe they’d have to be finished—what were you thinking? Finally on our last trip to visit Sweet Miss and see the eclipse, the end was in sight.

What we thought was a fairly simple job of replacing the soffit exposed a lot of rot, poorly designed drainage for the railing posts, and extensive rot on the stairs. Sometimes one thing leads to another, and so on, and so on.

So here’s a few highlights from the summer of the deck. We removed the hot tub and now have a large space for plants, sunbathing, and a shower that we’d like to make into a dog washing station. (That’s for you Cocoa the mud hound.)

All the work on the lower deck revealed some major problems with the box supporting the landing between the two sets of stairs.

So that long run of stairs down to the meadow was held up with posts for a while. I don’t know about you, but I wasn’t feeling very safe.

Next they found problems with the stair risers, so we told Cocoa to stop using the stairs.

Cocoa, we said you can’t go down the stairs.

All of this in record-breaking temperatures with the heat radiating off the deck.

It looked like things were nearing completion.

And then they found more troubles with the lower stairs. When the stairs were reattached, the workers noticed that they were sagging and the railings where pulling away from the stairs. Guess what had to be replaced next?

All of that created a lot of dirt and disruption.

You may be asking yourself will this ever end. I’m right there with you. Currently, the box supporting the landing still needs to be textured to match the rest of the house, and there’s an issue with caulking on the soffit that started this whole mess.

The cost of the job more than doubled across the summer. Initially the work was to be completed in a few weeks, but with each new problem it was extended. Unfortunately, other jobs were also on the schedule, so the work was a bit hit-and-miss.

Is our deck safer? Yes. It’s a lot of time and money, but we’re hoping this will help keep it in good shape for many years to come. The MR laughed and joked that we paid a lot for our deck to look exactly the same minus the hot tub.

In all honesty, we did enjoy many afternoons and evenings on the deck when the workers weren’t around.

Me and Cocoa now feel safe walking down all those stairs.

Note: the skies are pink. It is not sunset; it is smoke from forest fires. We also have patches of red dotting the inside of the house from the sunlight. With forest fires and hurricane victims, our troubles are few.

Having a wrap-around deck in our climate comes at a price, but we do love it.

And just to prove it wasn’t all deck frustrations and duldrums this last month, we enjoyed dinners with friends, found Sweet Miss’ wedding dress, and had a great time in eclipse totality.

Best of all Baby Girl made it home safe and sound from her European adventure, and we’ll be all together next weekend. I do love my family.

Any construction horror stories you’d like to share?

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carrot Crazy

Me and Cocoa went out to check on the garden the other day. I had a bin full of warm castings and some onion sets demanding my attention.

Now I don’t usually let the dog in the garden. She’s been known to dig big holes in the dirt and roll around. But I figured it was cool enough that she wouldn’t be tempted and besides, the garden was just full of debris from last year—tomato vines and broccoli skeletons.


The two of us were in for a bit of a surprise. The carrots I’d tried to coax into sprouting last summer made a come back over the winter.


It took a little weeding, but before long we’re going to have a harvest.

 

I wasn’t the only one to notice our bounty. One of Cocoa’s favorite foods is carrots. When she hears me peeling vegetables, she comes a running looking for a hand out certain it’s carrots. She’d eat the whole pile of peels if I let her.

So when she came upon that line of carrots, Cocoa lowered her nose and started sniffing. I shewed her away before she could do any damage. The gate is securely fastened to keep the harvest safe. When she looks at me with those big brown eyes, I’m sure she’ll get her share eventually.

What’s in your garden?

 

Chaos in the Name of Progress

Remember way back when in February when I told you we were getting carpet? Well this was the week it finally arrived. But why make it simple with just one event? Let’s add spring break for the girls, shopping trips, denist/doctor visits, dinners out with friends, dinners in with family, game night, trips to the train station, the exterminator visit, sinks in the entry, pumping the septic tank, and moving all of the furniture out of three of the bedrooms.

Now that’s a crazy kind of week.

We were lucky in that the master bedroom has a built-in platform bed, so all we had to move was a chair, the hope chest, and some clothes from the closets. The rest of the rooms were a little more intense. I, fortunately, had a meeting at work, and the MR and the girls took care of all the heavy lifting while I was gone. When I went to start a load of laundry, I was surprised to find an antique ice box blocking the way—oh well. And let’s just say the sewing room is filled to the brim with creative endeavors.

Enough of chaos. Don’t you want to see our beautiful new carpet? The sewing room looks so inviting when it’s empty.

Cocoa, I said the room was empty.

I’ve decided not to bring the broken dresser back in, and the MR talked me out of the bed. Now I have to make some decisions about storage. I spent a few hours yesterday, finishing up some projects. Baby Girl is headed back to school this weekend, so it’s less imperative that the upstairs is all back in order. I’m hoping to show you a new and improved creative space in a few weeks.

Our room is basically back together, and I’m rather in love with this new carpet. It is so soft. Even the little step up to the bed is soft.

The gray of the carpet matches the gray of the flooring wonderfully. We’ve finally irradicated the baby blue and emerald green carpets of the past.

The guest bedroom probably has the biggest transformation going from emerald to beige carpet. It’s amazing how much it’s lightened things up in there. But since the MR had to put the queen-sized bed back together after a long day at work, and I’m off this morning to more shopping, Baby Girl’s hair appointment, and “girl time”, you’re just going to have to wait.

Now for those of you who like details, we had Haight Carpet in Woodinville install Mohawk Natural Splendor II in Stormwatch in the master bedroom. In the guest room and sewing room, it was the same carpet in Morning Mist. Since we have radiant heat on the main floor, they recommended the “Victorious” 10-pound pad. With our oddly-shaped rooms, funky closets, and built-in steps around the bed, the installation took most of a day. They arrived at 8:30 am and were gone by 4 pm. It’s only been a day, but so far so good.

Some of you may be wondering about that big list of things that I glossed over at the beginning. The septic tank was simply maintenance. It’d been three years, so we figured it was time. They did encourage me to switch to a liquid dishwasher soap and spread out the loads of laundry. Old habits are hard to break.

The good news from the exterminator was that it was just mice. The bad news was that it’s mice. We live in the middle of 30 acres; it’s a problem we’ll have to deal with. After some of the horror stories he shared, I’m feeling rather thankful. We had Ben from ProTech Pest Control come out to assess our home and install a trapping system. With a few repairs, the situation should be under control.

On a happy note, the MR reinstalled the powder room sink, while I took Sweet Miss to the train station. I didn’t get any pictures, but I can assure you that the drywall behind the sink surrounds the pipes perfectly. The MR did a great job.

So what’s new at your house? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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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?

 

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.

master-carpet-samples

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.

cocoa-photobomb

She hates to be left out of anything.

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