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.

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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?

 

Winter Storms & Prepping for Spring

The snow and rain this past month has brought its share of headaches. 

The MR spent a few days straightening posts and redoing the netting over the orchard. The weight of the snow had caused it to collapse. 


We got by with just a few broken branches. Taking a closer look, the MR noticed that the critters who tore up our grapes last fall had also damaged the vines. He took the opportunity to remove the bottom wire of the grape trellis, so the grapes wouldn’t hang on the ground. 

Although it snowed every day last week, it was sunny by afternoon. So the MR did some careful pruning to the fruit trees and bushes, fertilized the trees, and applied a dormant spray. The orchard is ready for spring. 

He also began work on a French drain for a low spot in the driveway which sports a puddle half the year. In his preliminary digging he came across a large rock just shy of 12-inches deep. After a lot of hard work, he decided a 10-inch drain would be the better choice; it’s on order. 

The big news isn’t on our property; it’s on the one road leading to the 60-plus homes on our hill. With the heavy rains this month, the road began collapsing into a deep ravine. I did mention that this is the ONE and only road leading up the hill, right?



The county has added some drainage, filled in, and paved over the uphill shoulder. During the week, they posted half hour waits, and this past weekend it was one hour waits to get through the construction zone. 


I’m hoping we’re safe for the moment and thankful that no one has been hurt. Over the weekend, the county was taking core samples. Maybe they’ll show that our hillside is going to stay put. 

Any storms headed your way? How are you preparing for spring?

The Flurries of January 2017

When I started this blog five years ago, I had two girls in high school busy with sports, friends, and activities. Sweet Miss was getting ready to graduate. Now the girls are in gone to school and jobs in Oregon, and the MR has started a consulting business where he can pick and choose his hours.

Suddenly, our ties to home are much fewer, and we’ve been totally taking advantage of it. Just look back at the month: On the Road AgainFirst Stop MiamiRelaxing on Turks and Caicos, and The Beauty of Zihuatanejo. The first three posts share highlights of our recent trip, and the the last shares our trip to Mexico with the girls just before Christmas.

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Each of these places had their own beauty and charm. I promised to share a photo of the stingrays we swam with. These were fun to watch from afar after I got over my initial fear.stingray

All this traveling means, I have to plan ahead to get the blog out, so I’ve been using the “Wordless Wednesday” model here and there. I shared Our Citrus Grove and Winter Blooms recently. The tiny calamondin lime, which isn’t even a lime, but a hybrid of a mandarin orange and the kumquat, and the lemon tree make up our stunted, indoor grove. I cut up one of the limes to add to a salad—it was way too tart. The three lemons on our “tree” are ripening and will soon be part of a lemon pie. It’s our little eating hyper-local experiment.

We’ve added another bloom to the winter beauty from a plant the MR’s grandmother grew. Does anyone know what this is? The branches hang down, and the clusters of white, star-shaped flowers face down as well.

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The blooms are even prettier when viewed from below. Maybe I showed move the plant to a bookcase, so we can see these sweet flowers at their best.

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When I am home, I have time to get involved in some local groups. The Knitters and Crocheters of Duvall meet Tuesdays at Quintessential Knits, and they’ve joined up with the Duvall Bag Ladies to make sleeping mats for the homeless. I hope they add some comfort to these people’s lives.

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And finally, I took time to Learn Something New. Brioche is a challenging knitting technique with very cool results. I hope Baby Girl is enjoying her cozy cowl. I hear snow and ice is headed towards Oregon again this week and alpaca is soft and warm.

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I have a few sewing projects, and we’re talking carpet again, so I may have some home-centered posts for February. We’ll just have to wait and see.

What’s been going on in your neck of the woods?

A Look Back at September & October 2016

Maybe it’s spending the first part of September in Italy, or moving Baby Girl back to Oregon, or the MR being home so much more, or turning 50, or teaching classes on skills I’m really still learning, or the record-breaking rains we’ve been getting, whatever it is, I’ve been falling short on the blog lately.

I had big plans to share the beauty of Florence and Rome, to deck out the house for fall, and tidy up all those cluttered spots. It hasn’t happened. I sent some photos to my aunt and dropped a bag of the girls clothes off at a collection box. We’re celebrating small victories here.

So here’s a recap of what I did manage to blog about for the last few months plus a little extra cause I’m just that kind of person.

I’m rather excited about our dining room table and chairs that I talked about in An Upgraded Dining Experience. Do they look great? Are they perfect for the space? I’ll let you know when they arrive. It’s so hard to be patient. We also bought a recliner for my dad’s birthday. He’s still waiting, too. That’s what you get when it’s not mass produced.

A lot of fall seems to center around food. Waste Not those crabapples from our friends’ weekend place at the lake. I’d love to tell you how amazing that applesauce is, but when I pulled it out of the freezer, it was really sweet potato butter, which I’ve been enjoying in my yogurt, but I didn’t want to pull out another poorly labeled container before I finished the sweet potatoes. I really can’t eat that much yogurt.

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You’d think I’d be able to recognize the bright pink color. We did try the broccoli I mentioned in Saving the Harvest with mixed reviews. It tastes quite pickled as pickled broccoli ought to do, and we don’t like pickles. What was I thinking? I guess I was just tired of broccoli salad two or three times a week.

Grandma MeeMee was asking about the sage I used in the Onion Jam. It was just regular culinary sage, an herb that deer don’t like to nibble. We’ve had great luck with it here.

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I’m waiting for Sweet Miss to come home to try the beet and carrot slaw; cross your fingers that we’ll enjoy that more than the broccoli. I’ve been happy with our Fall Harvest. We still have broccoli, carrots, and some scraggly lettuce. I’m waiting for a hard freeze and the vines to die back before bringing up one really big pumpkin that has yet to turn orange. Then I can sow a cover crop of old seeds leftover from past years and let the garden be until spring.canned-goods

Our Trees with Attitude will probably have to wait for spring’s new growth before being pruned into shape. I’m hoping the months of ugly will pay off.

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I also shared in Inspiration and Disappointment how we were excited about making more wine from our grapes after visiting a vineyard in Tuscany.

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Well, it was probably raccoons that had a party with our grapes and tore up the vines by the time we got back from our trip. Me and the MR opened our bottle of homemade wine last weekend. After a sip apiece, we decided it was no great loss that we couldn’t make more wine, and the MR poured it down the drain. We need to refine our skills as winemakers or make grape jelly instead.

We saw tons of white houses on the cliffs of Capri in A Dime a Dozen.

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And then I shared a bird’s-eye-view or our home in The Colors of Fall.

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The drive home really is beautiful this time of year. Of course, the MR spends hours trying to keep the driveway clear, but it does give him something to do.

 

I’m just teasing; the MR is always a busy guy. He has been out making sure the blackberries don’t come back after hiring a brushcutter to Clear Out all the brambles.

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One happy surprise has been the reappearance of foxgloves. Perhaps they were being choked out by all the blackberries. I hope they’ll be putting on a show next spring, and I have seeds to sow from MeeMee and Papa.

The MR also bought new garage doors. I’m a girl. I’m not into garages. I don’t spend a lot of time there. They’re not really my thing, but these Garage Doors Have Style.

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It’s so nice to go out to the garage and not have to turn on the horrible, buzzing, overhead light. The new doors look great and make the whole space look so much larger.

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See, I pulled both cars out of the garage to take this picture just for your. The MR was suprised to come home and find cars everywhere. But that’s how much I care about you guys.

He also Finished Up the last of the guest bathroom remodel. Cocoa ran into a bit of problem in the woods yesterday, so I got to try out the shower, or she did, however you want to look at it. It really did turn out nice. The gray counters look much warmer in real life, and the whole feel of the room is much sleeker and more modern.

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Don’t look at the green carpet. It’s going away—I promise. Maybe I’ll make that a new year’s resolution. Baby Girl needs a chance to clean out her room, so we can replace all the bedroom carpets at the same time.

And last but not least that leaves us with the The Big, the Bad, the Broken where one broken window was replaced perfectly and the other was broken as it was being replaced. The new window has arrived, and the installers are on the calendar for next week. Then I’ll call the window film company; eventually it’ll all come together.

When I was crabby about the broken window, I did share some fancy socks I’d made for Sweet Miss. Since then I’ve been working on socks for Baby Girl. They’re in a bright green yarn with speckles of yellow for my favorite University of Oregon student. Maybe I should start calling her Duckling instead of BG?

Maybe the window, the window films, the new table, the new chairs, and my dad’s recliner will all magically arrive before Thanksgiving, but I’m not holding my breath. Perhaps it’s time to pull out the Thankfulness Tree. I think I need a little reminder these days.

How was your fall? Are you shocked that November is already upon us?

 

 

 

 

Inspiration and Disappointment

I wanted to call this post the Grapes of Wrath. Not because it has anything to do with the Dust Bowl, starving displaced families, or Steinbeck, but it does have something to do with grapes and wrath. Alas, I thought better of it.

Let’s start at the beginning. Earlier this month, me, and Baby Girl, and the MR traveled to Italy. We started in the beautiful city of Florence, a truly, lovely place we’d never been to before.

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After wandering the streets our first day and checking out the Uffuzi Gallery Museum, we had scheduled a Vespa ride in Tuscany beginning and ending at an ancient castle turned winery. This was the home of the Pazzis who tried to assassinate the Medicis in 1478 and were summarily executed.

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After a history of plotting and rebellion, it has turned into a family home and winery in recent years. Wandering through the barrel room and other areas of the production, we were reminded of our own wine-making efforts at home.

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Sure we only made one small bottle last year, but the MR said the grapes looked great. He thought we might be able to make up to three bottles with our banner harvest. After visiting the winery, it was time for some beautiful scenery.

Not everyone was born to drive a Vespa, so I became a passenger on the MR’s scooter. Just a short drive from an ancient and densely-populated city, we wound up in the rolling countryside the hills speckled with grape vines and olive trees.

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This was at the beginning of two weeks of adventures, and the ideas of wine-making were put on the back burner till we got home. Unfortunately, just because we’re away doesn’t mean the rest of the world stands still back home. We had visitors. The MR thinks it was probably raccoons who came, climbed under the netting, moved boards holding it in place, ate the grapes, and tore up the vines.

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Oh well, there’s always next year. Now you understand my grapes and wrath.

Any tips on getting rid of raccoons?

 

 

 

 

July Is Gone

I know you’ve heard that all it does is rain in Seattle, that the inhabitants are frightened when they see a yellow orb in the sky, that we have a dozen names for what most people just call rain. Well, there’s some truth to all of that, but that doesn’t cover July.

Sure summer doesn’t start till somewhere around the 8th of the month, but then we have warm, sunny days, with glorious sunshine. Mount Rainier is out in all its glory, and northwesterners are ready to play. But not this year. We’ve had a lot of gray days with just a few true summer days.

When you can’t frolic in the sun, you have a lot more time for projects. The MR, with his summer off, has been a busy guy. One Saturday, while I was working at the yarn shop, he was building the Garden Box Update. I’d love to tell you that the new addition is filled with dirt and overflowing with vegetables. We have a pumpkin doing well in the corner; we’ll wait for next year for the other.

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That same weekend, the MR took on Bambi. Remember Oh Deer when I found one of our plum trees ravaged?

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He’s zip-tied 10-foot lengths of pipe from our well redo to the posts and added taller netting. Friends commented on our fortress. Yes, we are doing battle, and with the number of apples and blueberries we’ve picked this week, we just might be winning.

And now for the truly beautiful, exciting project. It’s Started; we’re on to bathroom remodel number three in this house. All the green tile is gone, Marty the plumber came and dealt with replumbing the shower, the cement board is up, and just yesterday, the MR started tiling. It’s going to be beautiful.

I’m so glad my guy does his homework. When he takes on a project, he researches the heck out of it. He’s redone the showers in every home we’ve lived in and knows a thing or two by now. That’s why he was so surprised when he removed the tile and found dry wall. The experts say, you’re tile and grout will leak, use a protective barrier. What were they thinking?

The slogan on this cement board just makes me smile.

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Now while the MR is busy with all his stuff, what have I been doing? I’ve been enjoying the produce from our garden and the farmers market. There’s nothing like fresh ingredients to serve up Good Simple Food. Last night, it was onions and broccoli from the garden, carrots and beans from the farmer’s market, and some leftover BBQ’ed veggies sauteed together to round out burgers for dinner.

With people on vacation, I’ve been putting in extra hours at the yarn shop which leads to lots of knitting and crocheting. You can check out some of my projects On the Needles. (You really should just so you can see Baby Girl and Cocoa modeling my “shoulderette” pattern. I designed it to show off lovely collarbones and add just a layer of warm on a cool evening.)

Speaking of yarn shops, Quintessential Knits moved one block over the weekend. I’ve seen some of the lovely new yarn, and the owner says we have lots of specials and surprises coming out this month. I was rather pleased with this Viroqua Cowl I knitted as a sample.

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And what about A Lovely Jumble of flowers on the hillside or our crazy 5th of July parties? Alas, the poppy seeds are still on my desk, but the Russian sage the MR planted last year is nearly knee-high. If we’re lucky, some day it may look like this—giant, frangrant, gorgeous, filled with bees making honey.

Russian Sage

OK, so that was eastern Washington, which is a much dryer and warmer climate, but I can dream. The MR says if it gets that big, it’ll cover up the retaining wall. Maybe mounds of Russian sage would make a pretty barrier around the orchard—deer don’t like sage you know.

Me and the MR spent a few days wine tasting in Chelan last week. Good wine, good food, nice people, and a few days away with Baby Girl in charge. It was delightful.

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And finally, I just have to show this picture of Sweet Miss.

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She’ll be 22 in just over a week. (That’s years, not months.) I shared with you our deck woes in Not Those Kind of Bubbles. The deck looks great; our deck guy, Isidro, does a great job. Now if the sun will cooperate, I’d like to spend a little time out there.

How was your July? Any big plans for August?

 

 

 

 

 

Oh, Deer!

Yesterday as the afternoon was winding down, I ventured out to the garden to pick broccoli for dinner. Pleased with the sideshoot production and laughing at Cocoa as she raced wildly about the meadow, I wandered over to the orchard.

It’s been raining off and on all weekend, but I figured we’d had a few hours of sunshine, so I’d pick some currants for a friend who mentioned how much she liked them at a party over the weekend. The season is winding down for these tart berries, but I was still able to pick over a pint in a matter of minutes.

I moved on to the blueberries. We have three different types that each ripen at a different time. I picked a handful and figured I’d add them to the broccoli salad for this evening. Then since I was already close, I decided to see if the remaining beauty plums were ready for picking.

That’s when tragedy struck. Apparently, the deer enjoy our plums as much as we do. One slightly squished fruit dangled from a branch, but half the tree lay on the ground.

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After we’ve been celebrating our first year of success with plums here, I was hit hard by this new challenge. It took the pear tree three years to begin to recover from similar treatment by the local wildlife. I worry that the raw tear will get diseased.

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Cocoa is quite happy to bark wildly from the deck when she sees deer in the meadow or muching on our landscaping. We miss our little buddy who even with foggy vision would heroicly chase away all invaders—man or beast.

After seeing the sad shape of the beauty plum, I turned to the Shiro tree which is due to ripen soon. After watching the tree set a nice show of fruit with anticipation, I sadly saw just one lonely plum dangling out of my reach. Perhaps the deer can’t stretch any higher than I can.

In anger, I picked an apple on my back up the hill. Both trees are weighted down with a heavy harvest, and I wasn’t going to let the deer get them, too. The apple was quite tart. I’ll have to keep my eye on them to make sure we enjoy their bounty.

The MR is headed to the hardware store to investigate other possible fencing solutions this week.

On a happy note, my mom’s broccoli salad recipe tasted fabulous with broccoli, blueberries, and one squished plum from our garden.

OD Broccoli Salad

Any tips on keeping out the deer? 

Grandma Donna’s Broccoli Salad

Salad:
4 cups broccoli flowerettes
1 cup raisins
1 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup purple onion
8-10 slices bacon, crisply cooked and crumbled

Dressing:
1/2 cup mayonaisse
3 T sugar
1 T raspberry vinegar

Mix  salad ingredients in a large bowl. Combine dressing ingredients and toss with salad. Let the broccoli soften a little and serve. Enjoy!

Note:  My kids have grown up on this salad. They have an aversion to raisins, so we use grapes in the winter, and lately, I’ve substituted currants, blueberries, and a squished plum on occasion. I’ve never used 8 slices of bacon; two or three is plenty for the four of us. Last night I used toasted pumpkin seeds instead of sunflower seeds, since I like them better. I usually opt ought of the onion, because it makes me burp. And if you’re trying to cut back on sugar, go down a tablespoon or too, but taste it first. The vinegar can be a little bite-y. Let’s just say, these are guidelines for a salad, that your mom probably brought to a potluck or two in the 80’s or 90’s, and we still enjoy it today.