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.

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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?

Letting Go

Way back when, I found myself working at JC Penny’s during the summer holidays before starting my junior year at the University of Washington. I began in the sporting goods department and then moved on to housewares to work around my school schedule.

I was surrounded by coffee makers, pots and pans, dishes, and table linens. So that fall when my mom asked me what dishes I liked, I was kind of surprised, but I knew exactly which ones I wanted. The Mikasa stoneware was so pretty, and while I loved the southwest look of one set, I thought the flowered set would be more lasting. I was 20; I went for pretty.

So under the tree that year, I received place settings of “Garden Poetry”. These were followed in later years with casseroles, platters, and salad bowls. I had salt and pepper shakers, a butter dish, and a gravy boat. My mom was filling up my hope chest.

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Fast forward a little further, and the MR came along. While he liked me, he wasn’t that excited about flowery dishes. But I had so many… When we registered for our wedding, it seemed wasteful to get rid of perfectly good dishes that could go in the microwave and in the oven. They were great, and have lasted more than 27 years. He could help me choose the china.

The MR is a good sport. I like color, and pattern, and texture; and he likes simple. For way too many years, we’ve been at a standstill. I was ready to replace what we have, but we couldn’t agree on anything, and so we’ve bought nothing. This Fourth of July, some dishes I’ve been eyeing and that the MR said looked interesting were on sale for 25-percent off.

Why not? Sometimes you have to say goodbye. I’ve packed them up, and they’re on their way to Goodwill. I miss my mom, I miss her generous gifts and her hopes for my future, but sometimes you have to let go. After all, she had corelle dishes with the green flower trim, heavy brown stoneware, and pastel floral dishes—and those are just those I can remember growing up.

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We will now be dining on two sets of Organic Shaped Dinnerware from West Elm plus a set of four dinner plates just in case we have a crowd over. They’re plain white with a little funk for interest. No flowers in sight, so the MR is happy.

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I’m hoping for happy times and celebrations in our future.

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My mom died over a dozen years ago, but I think she’d approve.

Do you have trouble letting go of gifts from loved ones? Do your dishes have a story?

 

Making It Inviting

The MR totally scored when he bought our new deck furniture. We wound up with two comfortable seating areas on both sides of the deck. But for a girl who loves color, brown-on-brown just wasn’t cutting it. So while the MR watched David Letterman interview Howard Stern on TV, I shopped for pillows online.

Joss & Main came through with some bright and colorful options. I went bold on the east side of the deck where we hang out when it’s really hot.

Check out the bird pillow; I thought it was totally in keeping with the area where we watch hummingbird wars. Those little birds are feisty.

Off the dining room, I went for a more subdued feel with beige solids and stripes and one punch of color.

The ikat print was brighter than I expected, and the beige was a little plain, but it hasn’t stopped people from using them.

The MR’s folks are in town, and Papa has found his spot.

This was meant to go out yesterday, but we’ve had a few crazy days full of excitement around here. Baby Girl and one of my good friends and her daughter through Sweet Miss a bridal shower over the weekend. So many lovely presents, so much laughter and silly games. We love having the girls home, but boy it wears me out.

On a less happy note, while we were doing girlie stuff, The Fella broke his shoulder blade mountain biking. So that put a damper on some of the festivities.  Monday brought a mini crisis that involved searching through a frosting filled trash bag and an impromptu crochet class. So count yourselves lucky to be hearing from me at all.

As the big day swiftly approaches, we are so happy for Sweet Miss and Her Fella. I’m thinking July is going to be some kind of wonderful.

Hope yours is filled with family, friends, laughter, and maybe a few bright, squishy pillows.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Together Time

It’s one of those days when you wake up and know it’s going to be good.

Me and the MR are spending the weekend with Baby Girl, Sweet Miss, and the Fella. We have wedding stuff, wine tasting, Mother’s Day, and together time on the schedule. Like I said, you just know it’s going to be good.

Baby Girl was home in March, but we haven’t seen Sweet Miss since February. So I’m a little excited.

When I talked to SM last week, she mentioned she’d been dreaming about my beef jerky. I made it regularly back when the girls were playing volleyball, but it’s been years. Well, if my girl wants beef jerky, this mom’s going to make beef jerky.

I bought a roast and started looking through my recipes. Aunt Linda’s marinate was nowhere to be found. Lucky me, I’d posted it on the blog once upon a time.

So I printed off a copy and pulled out the slicer. Let’s hope it’s just like she remembered it.

If your hungry for jerky, you can check out It’s Jerky Time.

Hope you have a wonderful weekend. With these sweet darlings, I know we will.

It’s Just What You Do

The other day, I was chit-chatting with Sweet Miss. She’d been at a baby shower and was surprised that the only handmade present was the blanket I’d made for her friends. Then we went on to discuss whether it simply that fewer people are making things these days, or whether her expectations are skewed by having me as her mother.

When I hear someone is expecting, I start planning a blanket, or a sweater, or maybe a special hat for the baby. You present this precious new life a gift made with love–it’s just what you do.

In the last year, our friends have had a lot of good news in the baby department. I’ve made a hat, sweater and blanket for a new mom on her own, a hat and sweater for friends who adopted, a balnket for Sweet Miss’ friends, a hat and sweater for a sweet baby I get to hold at MOPS, and I’ve just finished a blanket for the MR’s cousin’s daughter’s baby boy who’s expected soon. All these babies have been keeping me busy, but this last project has been something special.

When me and the MR were first married, we celebrated his grandparents’ 60th wedding anniversary with all his family down in California. His cousin’s daughter was seven and immediately adopted us. At the party, she told everyone we were her parents.So of course I knew I had to make something special for her when we found out she was expecting.

Her nickname is Desert Barbie, and her family likes playing at their property in the desert, so when I saw the Sleep Tight Teddy Bear Blanket on Ravelry, I knew I had a winner. This baby will be camping and enjoying the outdoors while still in diapers. The blanket features a row of teddy bears sleeping in faux sleeping bags; it looked simple enough.

The first hiccup was the stitch pattern that delineates each bear’s sleeping bag. It requires you to flip the blanket back-and-forth, back-and-forth over and over again. Don’t get me wrong, the pattern is simple, beautiful, and quite effective, but flipping a big blanket multiple times in a row gets tiresome.

Then came the color change from blue to white. I’d had a ton of Twize yarn from South West Trading Company, a variegated bamboo, on hand and thought it would make the perfect blanket for a baby boy. I wasn’t that worried about finding some 100% bamboo for the top and teddies; I guess I just didn’t think it through. I went shopping with Baby Girl, and we bought some acrylic at the craft store when bamboo was nowhere in sight–it would be fine. I was so wrong. I was going from drapey, marled bamboo to stark white, stiff acrylic. It looked awful.

With three-quarters of a blanket done–remember all that flipping?–I knew I needed some bamboo yarn. The due date is just around the corner. Well, while the Twize yarn is discontinued, I was able to find it for sale in a number of other people’s stashes on Ravelry. I really wanted a white as a backdrop for the sleeping bears, but Twize was all a brightly twisted jumble, maybe a solid would like strange? The pale gray had a pink tinge to it on the screen. So I went with the yellow/blue twist. It was a little bright, but it’d do.

The yarn arrived, and I forged on with the teddy bears. I made heads, and muzzles, and ears, and paws.  I took a look, and just said, huh? This doesn’t look anything like a teddy bear. It looked more like a sock monkey to me.

In for a penny, in for a pound. I just had to trust the process and keep going. I’m so glad I did.

 

I just needed to add a little embroidery and put all the pieces together.

And look what I ended up with? Sweet little teddy bears with lots of personality to match the rest of the family.

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It’s bright, it’s crazy, it’s fun. Perfect for them.

Here are a few of my other gifts and recipients just to bump the cuteness factor.

Do you have a go to gift you like to present to new babies? Any handmade specialties?