Giving Back

Me and the MR have been traveling a bit. Earlier this month we moved Baby Girl into her townhouse down at school. We’re lucky that she’s only half a days drive from home but with 10 hours round trip, it still makes for a lot of driving.

Since the MR prefers to be behind the wheel, I try to make sure I have a project or two for our days on the road.This last trip to Oregon, I brought along purple yarn for baby hats.

Recently I’d heard about a program educating new parents about the fragile nature of infants. Click For Babies seeks to reduce shaken baby syndrome through awareness.

I love my girls, and I also know how hard it can be to deal with a crying baby when you’re sleep-deprived and haven’t had a minute to yourself in what seems like forever.

I made a hat, a sweater, and a blanket for the MR’s friend at work, and it gave me a great idea. The hat was super-simple to put together. I could take all the bits and pieces of purple yarn from home on our drive and still chit-chat with the MR over endless miles without missing a stitch.

By the time we got home (a short 606 miles back and forth), I had quite a collection going.

I do believe a few flowers are in order to spruce these up a bit. Then I need to figure out where to send them.

I’m finding ways to decrease my stash of yarn and maybe make the world a better place. Wish me luck.

What’s your favorite charity project (knitting or not)?

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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?

 

 

 

 

 

You Can’t Always Believe What You Read

Saturday, when I was doing dishes, I asked the MR if he thought those were apples on the ground out in the orchard. Neither of us were quite sure, and somehow I never made it down to check things out that day. By Sunday, it was clear I had apples everywhere.

But you say isn’t that kind of early? Well yes, yes it is. According to four out of five websites, Chehalis apples (a derivative of Golden Delicious) don’t ripen until mid-September or early fall. This is August. What’s going on? The one website that slated harvest for August was based on California’s climate. We never get that hot. Sometimes you have to embrace reality over what you read.

Now that I have about 15-20 pounds of slightly bruised apples, I decided it was time to make some applesauce.

I love homemade applesauce because it’s just apples pure and simple. First I washed and quartered the apples and cut out the bad parts. Then onto the stove they went with a cup of water.

After about an hour, with frequent stirring, the apples were cooked, and soft, and ready to be milled.  A friend of mine was talking about processing apples a few years ago and extolling the virtues of her Kitchen-Aid mixer’s food mill attachment. After peeling and coring apples for years, I thought I’d give it a try.

She let me borrow hers, and I wound up buying my own. Your applesauce won’t have the chunks that give it character, but the mill has cut down on so much of the prep work.

Once you’ve cooked your apples, you run them through the mill—seeds, peel, and all. Then your left with sauce.

Meanwhile, I had jars boiling in my water-bath canner ready and waiting. Fill jars, wipe rims, add flats and rings, and your set. Process for 15 minutes at a full boil (for pints), and enjoy.

The half-filled jar makes a lovely addition to lunch. I figured this is a good start at dealing with my glut of apples.

I’ve got quite a few blueberries down in the orchard, so I was eyeing a recipe for blueberry-apple jam, and I have an Italian inspired canning book that has a recipe for apple-pear paste. With a name like paste, it’s go to be good. Seriously, it’s more intriguing than it sounds.

We’ve eaten all the red beauty plums, but I still have a bowl of yellow ones to find a use for. They’ve been a great addition to fruit salads lately. And we’re at the tail end of both the currants and blueberries. You may have noticed the large zucchini in the photo of my jars. I think we’ll be having blueberry-zucchini bread before the week is  out.

I always get such a sense of accomplishment when we’ve had success in the garden or the orchard. We still don’t have any ripe tomatoes, but the farmer’s market and farmstands have come through while we wait.

Another week, and we’ll be enjoying green beans and lettuce from the garden. I do love our long growing season. We’ll be in harvest mode through October if all goes well.

How does your garden grow? Any favorite apple recipes?

We do love our Sweet Miss. And yes, I did make her pose like that.

In other news, Sweet Miss celebrated her birthday this week as did The Fella. Wishing both of them many happy returns.

 

 

 

 

And That Was July

Me and the MR have been playing hooky for the last few weeks. We’ve been in Europe with Sweet Miss seeing the sites and visiting Baby Girl, and it was wonderful.

Now we are home playing catch up with laundry, and gardening, and grocer shopping, and dead mice, and harvesting. And finally, I’m getting to my blog. So while it’s a little late, here’s what July brought to the Big White House on the Hill.

  1. The MR’s folks were in town, and Papa Larry (aka the Handyman) needs projects to keep him busy. The Handyman Can get the job done…hanging shelves, servicing the lawnmower, replacing a sink. You name it; he’s done it, and we are so grateful.
  2. While the Handyman started this project, the part for our leaky shower didn’t arrive until after he left. Isn’t it amazing The Power of Technology? You can take a photo on your phone of a 20-year-old, leaky valve, send an email to the manufacturer, and someone thousands of miles away knows exactly what you need and mails it off. It’s a crazy world we live in.
  3. Currant Events featured some of our red gems and some of the delicious recipes I want to try this year. Since I’m feeling generous, I thought I’d share one of the new app’s I downloaded recently.  It’s Yummly. One of the great features of this app is the filter system. Since me and the MR can’t eat constant cake and sweets, it’s really nice to be able to select main dish or sides when I’m searching for currant, or plum, or blueberry recipes.
  4. I’m really liking the laid-back vibe of our new linen shams featuring A Little Contrast Please. And the cute bag they came in was the perfect way to wrap up my sandals before putting them in my suitcase. Those ancient cobblestones get pretty dusty.
  5. Now before we left, the garden was looking good. I was like, The Garden Fortress Has Come to Fruition copping attitude and all. Then we came home. Gardens do need a little attention. The lettuce is up, the beans are up, the peas are toast, and the broccoli has bolted. At least nothing seems to be messing with my vegies. And me and the MR enjoyed a lovely zucchini orzo dish our first night back. I predict that this baby is going to make some fabulous vegetable fritters with smoky tomato sauce.
  6. In the Orchard life is good. I’ve been enjoying blueberries and plums in my breakfast yogurt, and we had chicken salad with plums and blueberries for dinner last night. Remember my fears? Remember the stinky string? I was sure I’d find a demolished tree or two, but so far so good. In another year, most of the trees will be big enough to withstand some major deer attack. I’m glad we’re finally getting to that point, and even happier to be enjoying some tasty fruit.
  7. And that brings us to The Mystery Unwrapped, my own personal journey towards using less plastic and making my own waxed fabric alternatives. They are still in the drawer. Apparently after starting with Czech meat-and-potatoes,  enjoying Viennese cake for breakfast, and healthy doses of Italian pasta, we don’t have much in the way of leftovers. The homemade wraps do seem a little stiff, but I’m sure they’ll work out. I’ll keep you posted.

Castles, churches, and museums are great, but the best part of our trip was being together.

I love this bunch. Hope you had a wonderful July. Good luck with all the back-to-school stuff; fall’s just around the corner.

In a side note, my friend’s dad was a farmer and grew carrots. She remembers planting season, and she knew exactly what my green, lacy bouquets were. Check out Changing Perspective to see how pretty carrots can be.

 

 

The Handyman Can…

That silly old song from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has been running through my head.

Who can take a sunrise
Sprinkle it with dew
Cover it with choc’late and a miracle or two
The Candy Man can…

I’ve changed the words a little:

Who can fix a broken faucet
Hang up all the shelves
Grab a few tools and make everything look swell
The Handyman can.

You see, the MR’s folks have been visiting, and we’ve been keeping Papa Larry busy. The MR has been hogging his services this year with dripping faucets, broken vacuum cleaners, and riding lawn mower maintenance. Doesn’t he know I have little jobs that need done, too?

So the other day, I was happy to see Papa with time on his hands, the MR at work, and me with a list of thing to keep him occupied. When I shuffle the trays on the worm bin,  I always hose out the base in the flower beds to remove the sludge and fertilize the plants. Well, the spicket I use is near the ground under some bushes, and the valve always falls off, so when I’m done, you’ll find me crawling on the ground looking for it. All it needs is a screw.  All it’s needed for the last five-and-a-half years is a screw, but somehow I’ve never gotten around to it. But the Handyman can.

And then I had some great honeycomb-shaped shelves that I oohed and aahed over for ages. And then they were on sale, and I bought them. And then they just sat around for a couple of years. Uggh, I don’t know why I’m so indecisive. They needed to be in a place where we wouldn’t bump into them. Did we really have anything decorative to showcase? Would they look good next to the art we bought or just weird? Would the screws and fasteners they came with really work? Sometimes I am filled with angst over nothing.

I remember when I told Baby Girl that I’d bought three different bedspreads and returned them all, because they just were’nt the right color of gray. She honestly told me that was ridiculous. At first I thought yeah, why don’t manufacturers make a better shade of gray? And then I realized she was talking about me. Hmm, sometimes you just have to go for it.

So I said Papa, we have these shelves, and the handyman took it from there.

Once they were up, I shopped my house and found bits and pieces to add here and there. A book art flower, some shell balls from Hawaii, vases from my mom. It all just seems to work.

With the change of seasons, I can swap out shells for more fall or wintery decor. And this will be a great place to display Christmas goodies.

With the MR busy spraying blackberries, mowing meadows, maintaining the driveway, and keeping the house in one piece, it’s nice to have the handyman visit.

Thanks Papa Larry!

We have a few other posts featuring Papa Larry for your reading pleasure: The Handyman Is Back and My Own Personal Handyman.

 

 

 

 

A Look Back at June 2017

I’ve been doing these monthly blog posts forever—or five years, whichever comes first—and I decided it was time to shake things up a little. Sometimes you gotta add a little spice to keep things new and fresh.

OK, so it’s just a collage and numbers, not that exciting, but it’s what we’ve got, so enjoy.

  1. It Doesn’t Look Like Much started the month off with a look at our new kiwi vines. Sadly one has died, but the other two are plugging along—make that one, the other is in dire straights. Remind me not to go out of town when it’s hot, and I’m babying plants. It’s going to be a while before we have vines covering the fence but we have time.
  2. This Old Dog is a sucker for an interesting book. So while I’ve been trying out some new techniques, Interweave had a sale, and I’ve stocked up on a few more. I even shortened the table runner just like the MR suggested.
  3. Clean Up the Mess is never a bad idea—even when it comes to the outdoors. While yes, we did have bits of construction debris, the now-spent lilies looked lovely after I cleaned away the daffodil leaves.
  4. This Old Dog Part II (because once is never enough) had me climbing through the treetops and blowing glass with the MR. Our ornaments turned out wonderfully well. We may have discovered a new pasttime.
  5. What’s That Smell? Why it’s your experiment with patchouli and string, you silly woman. While the delphinium still looks pathetic, our columbine looks much better. A couple flowers can make anything look better, right? And after a week or two outside, it still smells.
  6. That Trickle Down Effect talked about how once you’ve started making changes things just keep going. First I changed the coverlet, then I couldn’t ignore the fact that our sheets were tearing, and so it was new sheets, and then new shams. I’m still waiting for the shams…they’re in the mail. You’ve heard that line. And for inquiring minds, Papa Larry bought his sheets at Lake Havasu Linen Company which is now London Bridge Linen Company. They offer custom sheets. He says they’re pricey but worth it. So now we’ve all weighed in on the matter.
  7. Changing Perspective highlighted carrot leaf bouquets. Yes, you read that right. So much of life is about perspective. You can grumble about the overwintered carrots that are too tough to cut with a knife, or you can decorate your house with them. Your friends will never guess what they are.

And now for all the news that didn’t make it into the blog. We had everyone home along with the MR’s folks for a bit this month.  Baby Girl is off to Europe to study wonderful things till September. And Sweet MIss is starting a new job, moving to a new city, marrying a great guy, and searching for the perfect dress and ceremony site. Lucky us; we get to be part of it all.

MeeMee and Papa are visiting, so we’ve had lazy evenings on the deck playing cards and discussing the mysteries of life, relaxing sunset walks, quick trips across the state, and crazy owl fights. And yes, the deck guys are still working—don’t ask. It’s just another day in the life.

Hope June left you feeling happy and blessed just like us.

 

 

 

 

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.