Friday, December 28, 2012

Fleece Duster

I needed some Swiffer duster refill things, but I (sort of) hate the idea of disposable cleaning products. So I made one (so far) out of fleece scraps from my sewing bin! I hand sewed just a few stitches, and it literally took six minutes to complete. The most annoying thing about this project was that my hand got tired cutting all the little flappy things because my paper scissors are dull (big surprise) and I was too lazy to go downstairs to get my fabric scissors. These things don't work as well as the disposable dusters (maybe because I just used regular fleece and not micro-fleece?). However, they do work better than just looking at the dust wishing it wasn't there.

I mostly didn't follow the instructions found at little dear tracks

Monday, December 17, 2012

Homemade Blanket

This crocheted blanket is the only homemade Christmas gift I made this year. It's a good thing I didn't plan on other projects, because I kept messing this one up. The problem with making up my own pattern is fixing what doesn't work. I finally figured out the trick, but not until my fourth do-over. I love how it turned out, and hopefully the person receiving it loves it, too.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Feng and the Shui of It

So I've had the same book about feng shui from the library for almost a year. Autocorrect totally thinks it's fang shui, by the way. I initially skimmed the book to see if it was something I could absorb or if it was too far beyond my crazy. Kind of like a test drive. I finally read it, making notes about my house along the way. It had a pretty good questionnaire to help figure our which "houses" need the most work in your life.

It turns out that two of the houses (career and helpful friends) that need work for me fall within my living room. It's really not surprising that there is either negative energy or some sort of chi-suck in this room. Directly north is the back of a building located about 12 feet or so from the house. Across the street to the east is another large building which is painted white. On sunny afternoons there is a terrible glare which shines right into the living room.

The left photo faces north and looks upon the back of a 
neighboring building. The right photo faces east looking out 
the front of our house toward a large white wall.

I've got some ideas* on how to cut or change the negative chi from these two structures. Ideas include planting bamboo, hanging a wind chime, hanging a convex mirror-type thing and devising some sort of visual screen. I will choose only one "cure" and then give it some time. I don't want to go all nutty with the cures and end up with an even bigger problem...tackiness.

*UPDATE (even though I never published this post):
Having the curtains in the center of the front window seems to be enough of a barrier against the big white wall to the east. To the north I placed a small planter of bamboo within view of the side window and placed a convex mirror on the exterior of the house. I'm giving these things some time to work their "magic."

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


Not Christmas balls, not cheese balls, not basketballs or mothballs. I'm talking about those balls. Testicle balls. And avocados. I'm under the impression that when an avocado grows on a tree, it grows as a pair with one hanging slightly above or slightly below it's brother. I really, really believe that I learned that the word avocado means balls or testicles.

I believe I learned all this sometime between the years 2002 and 2005. I've narrowed it down to that time frame for two reasons: a) I know I was living in California at the time; and 2) I know I was living in California at the time, because I liked watching the PBS program called California's Gold.

I'm pretty sure it was Huell Howser who taught me the true meaning of avocado.

Why am I blogging about this? Well, because I've tried including this random piece of trivia in casual conversations...and NO ONE YET has believed me. Well, a quick google search confirmed that avocado is from "the language of the Aztecs," and it translates to testicle. So there. Also, guacamole translates to avocado sauce. Um...gross.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Silver Falls, Oregon

Northwest rainforest.

Yup, the path goes behind the waterfall. Yup, it was pretty cool.

 Tall trees.

The sun finally shined.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Back Hall Progress: Before and Now

The befores are on the left and the afters are on the right.

Here is a peek at the overall progress so far. I originally thought this was going to be a quick paint job. It didn't take long to figure out that we needed a complete repair. We are happy with the results so far, but this is definitely not an "after" post - yet.

The gutters no longer fit, so we will replace those soon - possibly this weekend. Everything needs another coat of paint once the weather is warmer and dryer. And the deck is just temporary to get us through the winter.

I love that the trim is period/house appropriate now (including the "look" of windowsills). I'm also happy that we were able to find a storm door, off the shelf...on clearance. Yup. We only spent $62 on what normally costs $249. So we can live with the brass handle and kick - for now.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Elephants in the Yard

From the book From Head to Toe by Eric Carle

Although we knew that some elephants had escaped from the zoo, it didn't really register with us. I mean, the zoo is on the other side of the river and about 20 minutes away by car. Well, it was just after dusk when I heard some noise in front of the house. I was surprised, and a little frightened, to see three elephants!

One was really large, maybe a male, and the other two were much smaller. They were acting like teenagers and messing around with the yard debris and recycling bins that I had set out for trash day. As they pawed at the ground, the lawn became a bunch of rolled up sod, bare earth and mud (it was raining, of course). That's ok, because I actually hate the lawn anyway. Then the big elephant took a hold of our still-baby birch tree and with a big yank completely uprooted the thing. Then he left it laying against our car.

While all this was happening I called the police. Why I chose to dial non-emergency rather than regular emergency...well that's a good question. I suppose it didn't occur to me that three wild (zoo) elephants in my front yard is an urgent situation. Anyway, it took nearly forever (like usual) to get through to an actual person, and it turns out that he didn't believe me anyway. So the elephants took off heading south and that was the last I saw of them.

A police (I've been watching The Wire and that's how they say it so that's how I say it now) came by about 20 minutes later asking about my phone call. I showed him the mess in the yard trying to convince him that I wasn't crazy. He wanted to know where the elephants were now. I told him I had no idea.

Then I woke up.

In other news, blog motivation has been low around here lately. The kid and I have been sharing a cold, and she's rejecting the idea of napping. So I haven't had much time to write my thoughts down. I do have about 10 posts started with four of them almost completely written, but I still have to take pictures to finish them up. We haven't been walking so I have no new Wednesday Walks to share. And the other things we've been working on the past two weeks aren't really post-worthy.

Let's see what other randomness is floating around the old grey-matter...
•I cleaned out a couple of kitchen cupboards, though they all need to be cleaned.
•I straightened up the basement. Aaaah-gain. It really needs a purge session and a mini-low-to-no-budget makeover.
•My FIL did some electrical work for us. Lights, switches and an outlet-oh my!
•We bought a storm door that will be installed this weekend.
•We are expecting some dry-ish weather this weekend so I hope to get the yard in shape for the winter.
•I want to put up holiday lights on the front porch. Whhhat? It is November 2nd, and I want to put up holiday lights already? Who am I?

I confess I've listened to The Barenaked Holidays already. And I still love that album. The holiday bug has hit me early this year. Usually it doesn't happen until December 23rd or so. I'm not sure what's going on...probably some need for comfort. It's out of the ordinary for me, but I'm sensing that I need to listen to myself on this one.

So maybe we'll get our Christmas tree this weekend!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

New England Adventure

We've done lots of traveling this year. Amsterdam was one of those once-a-decade sort of trips, Spokane was work related and most recently we tackled New England to visit family. One set of grandparents lives on Cape Cod, MA and the other set lives in Maine. So we went to see both, which involved a long airplane ride and lots of time in the car. The kid will hopefully (probably only through photos) remember the trip. Here are a couple of my favorite scenic photos. Sorry folks, but the people photos are private.

Sunset at the beach is somehow always the same yet always different.

A mill where the herring run. Lots of baby fish this time of year.

 We were the only people playing on the beach.

Playing in the field.

Fall color and lots of water thanks to the beavers.

Monday, August 20, 2012

When in Portland...

Saturday started off to be a can-do type of weekend with a seemingly weekly trip to Mr. Plywood. The kid fell asleep for her nap and we were ready to start working on the house. But I'm suffering from being a big baby about my annual summer cold, and Deadwood was calling. We answered the call, and several profanities later we realized we didn't have the energy to do anything other than watch tv.

So, in fine parenting form, we took the kid to her first movie theater movie. Next stop on the lazy train: the playground. Although I try to avoid Portland's Derby Day, it didn't occur to me that the playground we frequent was right in the middle of all the hoopla. Luckily the event was dying down and we weren't stampeded by hipsters. Though there were some, ahem, impeccably styled parents (and their children) at the playground who were ironically talking about how many hipsters were present at the soapbox derby that day. Gah.

Tied fabric banner at the Portland Flea.

I still was not feeling energetic on Sunday. So, just for fun, we went to the Portland Flea. I saw Chris and Heather, but luckily they were both engaged in conversation with other folks. Turns out I was too shy to introduce myself. While at The Flea, the kid enjoyed some ice cream at (10:45am-more fine parenting), and then we went to OMSI. On the ride home from the science museum the kid fell asleep. Obviously we had no choice other than to watch more Deadwood.

At around 3:30pm we finally took a look at the exterior of the back hall. We have all the material for siding, trim, water table and drip cap; but figuring out all the pieces turns out to be a bit of a brain teaser. Before making any cuts we've decided to sketch out our overall idea rather than just winging it. After all, we don't want to mess this up any more than it may or may not already be messed up.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Bowl and Pitcher, Spokane River

These photos are from a hike along the Spokane River in Riverside State Park. We parked near the Bowl and Pitcher basalt formation where you can cross the river on a swinging footbridge. It was a perfect hike with a toddler and temperatures in the mid-90's.

 View of Bowl and Pitcher from suspension bridge.

Looking back after crossing the bridge. To give you an 
idea of scale, there are several people on the small beach area. 

Pine needles. 

Tree and sky. 

Surprise kayakers.

Monday, August 6, 2012

A Fancy Hotel and Science

The Davenport Hotel lobby.

We were lucky enough to enjoy The Davenport Hotel for a couple of nights recently. It is Fancy (with a capital F)!

We were in Spokane celebrating the opening of Mobius Science Center. Yay science! Nate has been working on the museum exhibits for almost two years, so it was rewarding to see everything in place. 

I'll post a few outdoorsy pictures on Wednesday, and we'll get back to work on the house next weekend.

Mobius Science Center

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Windows Loaded

Not a computer operating system, actual windows!

The install was easy. The windows are straight-forward vinyl flanged, and since they are pretty small they weren't heavy. We used adhesive flashing membrane which was very easy to work with, no special tools required. Everything went so smoothly. Honestly, I am wondering what we forgot to do or did wrong. To quiet the self doubt, I keep repeating our mantra: "It's better than it was. It's better than it was. It's better than it was."

There are lots of tutorials online, but we ended up following a step-by-step guide in a book. At the library I happened upon Taunton's Carpentry Complete: Expert Advice from Start to Finish. It's easy to follow, has lots of tips and doesn't have too much information to wade through. It has both pictures and a narrative, which is perfect for my learning style.

We were able to install all three windows over the weekend, because of some perfectly timed visitors. Some helped out with the install (thanks TF and DD!) and some helped out with baby sitting (thanks Gramma and CD!).

Next up on this learning adventure, the door.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Garden Zucchini Muffins

I don't bake very often, because I am a baked goods hound. But, these muffins are somewhat healthy, and since I made them as mini-muffins the guilt factor is even lower (as long as I don't eat twice as many). I have found that most zucchini bread recipes have way too much oil and sugar for my liking. I do like this recipe, though, so I thought I'd share. You'll notice that there are a lot of ingredients that can be rough measured or adjusted based on what you like, but I would keep the egg/flour/baking powder/baking soda amounts pretty exact to the recipe. 

Garden Zucchini Muffins
• 3 eggs
• a little less than a 1/2 cup of oil (I used only about 1/3 cup of melted coconut oil)
• a little more than 1/4 cup of yogurt (I had low fat vanilla in the house at the time)
• 1 cupish of sugar (I used a combination of brown and raw along with some agave, and I did not use a full cup)
• 1 tsp salt
• lots of shredded zucchini (I used three large handfuls and next time I would use a little more)
• 2 tsp vanilla (I never measure vanilla, I just pour)
• 3 cups flour (I mixed whole wheat with unbleached white)
• 3 tsp cinnamon (I used more than that and I added some ginger and nutmeg, too)
• 1-1/2 tsp baking powder
• 1 tsp baking soda

Mix dry ingredients, except sugar.
In large bowl mix eggs, oil, sugar, and vanilla. Add zucchini.
Add dry ingredients to the wet and mix.
Grease mini-muffin pan and cook at 325 for about 12 minutes.

Fresh zucchini picked 5 minutes ago.

The lazy way to grate zucchini.

I will use more zucchini next time.

Awww...they are so cute.

Monday, July 23, 2012

How to Not Build a Wall Into a Door

When the back hall was originally built, probably around 90 years ago, it was standard practice to build the floor larger than the roof so that the walls tilted in at the top. No, no, no. That's not true. But, it happens to be the way our back hall was built. 

We, of course, weren't aware of the problem until after demo. Our contractor poured the new concrete foundation wall to be both square and within the outline of the roof. As you can see in the first photo below, that means that the new construction at the east wall will have to be built into the kitchen door. The plywood is the subfloor and the darker siding to the left of the door is where the original wall was.

Here are the steps that we took in order to Not Build a Wall Into a Door:
1. Remove door.
2. Remove affected flooring.
3. Remove door jamb and adjacent trim.
4. Narrow the doorway by filling in some 2x4's (we were able to do this from just one side).
5. Reattach door jamb to the new studs (we took the easy way out and left the header as is).
6. Build wall.
7. Cut down the door (we took off 4").
8. Re-hang the door.

The kitchen door prior to building the 
east wall (which will be on the left).

The kitchen door and new east 
wall at the end of the day.

Removing the one tile involved.

After the doorway was narrowed by 4".

The trim, door jamb and one tile have been removed.

Two new studs serve to extend the 
wall and provide structure for the 
door jamb to be reattached.

The door still needs some encouragement to close properly, and we also have to put the hardware back on. It's possible that the hinges need to be replaced. We will cover the mess on the kitchen side with trim. It will look a little wacky, but not out of place for this house. We may also remove the remaining tiles beneath the door and replace the threshold with wood. All in good time.

This process took many hours, it wasn't super easy and there were many curse words involved. However, since we have a functioning door and a wall under the roof we'll go ahead and consider this one a success.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Not From the Farmers Market Strawberry Scones

On my walk to the farmers market yesterday I was narrating to myself what I would write for today's post:

You may have seen me yesterday at the farmers market. I was the mom wearing black yoga pants, rocking some badass bed-head and pushing a BOB stroller while her cranky toddler insisted on walking. Oh, you didn't notice me? Because EVERYONE at the farmers market looks like that? Well, just look at the produce I bought. It is so pretty I don't even want to eat it [insert photo].

Reality check. I was just a frumpy mom with messy hair and a kid who didn't let me shop for one single thing. And the farmers market has evolved. We've been regulars since it began a few years ago, but there was a different group of shoppers this weekend. Not as many strollers as I remember and lots more fresh cool-cats who are newish to the neighborhood. My gut says "gah," but my mind says "well, this is actually a good thing."

It's a good thing because, the market is bigger than ever and some of the best vegan fare in the city is back! Yippee! No, I'm not vegan - it's just really delicious food. My mouth is watering right now. Sadly, due to previously mentioned cranky toddler, this mama did not have a chance to purchase said deliciousness. Boo.

But we did have fresh strawberries this weekend. My sister-in-law let us pick a bunch of berries from her yard. I picked a lot more than I had motivation to deal with. I'm too scared of killing someone to try jamming, and I was too lazy to get the berries into the freezer. So I gave some to our neighbors, we've been eating them with practically every meal, I made sangria and I made strawberry scones with a lemon glaze. Yum!

Friday, June 1, 2012

$93 Cedar Planter for Bamboo

Besides being a very physical task, this was a pretty easy project. We used premium cedar fencing rather than lumber or lower grade fencing (we've used both of those for other planters in the yard). Nate used his new, handy-dandy nail gun. And voila, a beautiful cedar planter!



Mostly removed.


Using the fill from the stair demo.

 Fill all gone.

- more of the neighboring building will be masked because the bamboo is now 30" taller
- it's nice to look at from any angle - from the yard, driveway or house
- the bamboo is contained and cannot go wild
- there's a comfortable place to put a table/bench/chairs
- we were able to use almost ALL of the fill and small concrete bits from the stair demo (we still have a small amount of gravel and lots of larger concrete pieces, but I've got plans for those)
- materials cost: $93 (not including nails)

- it's not all that removable

In renovation news, the concrete has been placed and the floor should be framed on Monday. We still need to find a door and three windows before we begin the wall framing (hopefully next weekend). We are wishy-washy on what we are willing to purchase for the door and windows. Initially I was thinking about going the less expensive route in order to splurge on the front door and windows when we get there (in about a year). I don't love the idea of having a mullet-house, but I don't think we can afford the windows we like everywhere. Concessions, concessions.

Monday, May 28, 2012

We Are Big Dummies

Our driveway is bordered by the back of a bunch of buildings. It's private but ugly. Luckily there were hops and an unknown bush that I call the Dr. Seuss plant already growing in the small dirt pits available. I moved some roses near the end of the driveway at the gate, but next the garage there is a white vinyl wall that is so intrusive it needed something larger. So we bought some bamboo to fill in the space.

We did some research and decided that we wanted running bamboo. We figured it would take years for the bamboo to send out runners, so we had time to put in a sheet metal barrier later. Well it only took four years. Today we had a runner extending almost eight feet away from the clump. Ugh. We should never have planted the bamboo directly into the ground. We are big dummies.

Meet the bamboo.

Considering our recent destruction of concrete steps and the resulting piles and piles of rubble, we decided to dig out the bamboo and build a planter. The planter should hold lots of the debris leftover from jackhammering AND the bamboo will now be contained. Although I would never purposely kill a bird, I think we killed two today. With one stone.

Nate cut all the cedar to size yesterday and built three of the four sides. Today we got a lot done, but it's still not quite finished. We dug up the bamboo, put the planter together, and started filling it with debris. Just to see how it would look, we tossed the bamboo back in. It looks great. However, it needs to be arranged and topped off with dirt. So I will finish up this week and post before and after photos on Friday!

The plan.

The goods.