Wednesday, May 30, 2012

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday

I felt like a big failure.

 I'd just wanted a quick, before-bedtime snack.

"Haste makes waste."  My mom told me that many times throughout the years, so I sure should have known my hurrying wouldn't help.

But I think this task was just over my head.

A bit beyond my skill set.

WHO came up with this idea?!!!!!!


Natural peanut butter... with an ocean of oil on top that needs to be stirred in.  

There is certainly no room in the jar to accomplish this feat.  We figured out long ago that it needs to be completely emptied into a bowl, painstakingly blended by stirring with a big spoon, some of the peanut butter the consistency of partially dried modeling clay.  Then it needs to be returned to the jar.  --Each step an oily, slippery, sticky mess.  And with the jar opening smaller than the bowl, and the mass of peanut butter moving more quickly than I'd intended... The peanut butter beat me.  

This time.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Small and Basic Steps into the Outdoors

My proposed hardscape-landscape design for
areas close to the house... Now for the rest of the
2 1/4 acres!
We have big plans for our yard... We like to say that, like our last home, it has "potential."  That is a nicer and shorter way of saying, "It looks like crud at the moment, but we HOPE it won't when we do some things we have in mind... Some day."  

Meanwhile, Hubby likes to quote our former neighbor, who said, "My dad always said it doesn't take money to keep things clean."  But from the looks of the clutter around here, I'm not sure anyone's listening, and I also suspect a "Do as I say, not as I do" vibe from him at times, also.  This is due, largely, to his tiny amounts of spare time spent building the garage addition, so I can't really blame him.

The yard plans include major excavation and dirt work to redirect our driveway and redesign the gardens, both vegetable and ornamental.  It makes no sense to begin that until we're further along with the garage, so I'd given up on this year's veggie garden, and closed my eyes to the embarrassment that is our yard right now.... And then the Mission Possible crew, the space betweenThistlewoodfarmit all started with paintEclectically Vintage, and The Cottage Marketannounced their next challenge: "The Great Outdoors."

I can't seem to pass up their challenges, but was at a loss for ideas to share, and have, honestly, remained so, wondering what might come up to suffice. 

You see, part of the problem is that we seem to kill weed trimmers and mowers.  We fix or replace one part, only to have another go.  Each of our dads gave us mowers that, for them, worked wonderfully for years.  For us, less than a season.  We've especially struggled the last 3 years.  Last year, we seemed to be able to get one mower at a time to limp along enough to almost keep up with the lawn growth, but this spring, none would volunteer.  The yard was becoming a shambles of overgrown grass and weeds, and I was supposed to share photos of something?

Never thought I could love a string trimmer, but this one is
also my mower, brush cutter, and skinny limb trimmer! This
Echo SRM-225 is super easy to string, besides being tough.
We replaced the weedeater, and that's been our edger and mower over the last couple of weeks.  Let me tell you, 'mowing' 2 acres with a weed trimmer is not the way to go.  Between the 3 of us who use it, we were able to make improvement on about 1/3 of our yard (that most visible from the house), but the rest continued growing into jungle.  So this weekend, after looking at new mowers, I realized I'd rather spend the money to fix what we have than add to our mower fleet, and had Hubby visit the local rental shop to help us in the short run.

So a big accomplishment I have to share with you is.... Tah-Dah!!!... 

We mowed the lawn!  I know-- you're all amazed you hadn't thought of doing that in your own yards ever before... How clever... how ingenious... not.  But it does look better.  WAY better.

And I am excited about two other projects that are underway.  Princess Sassy and I, inspired by the beautiful blooms surrounding us when we entered Lowes to buy a toilet seat (another story for another time), dreamed of brightening up our front entry with overflowing pots of floral color.  
We have the pots, and the baby plants, but the princess ran out of time.  I could've planted them all myself, just to have them photo-ready for this post, but I'd rather wait and share the experience with my daughter.  So I can show you the ingredients to our project only.  I will link the results to this post later.

The bird feeders on view from our largest window

My other project is with Prince CuddleBunny.  He has gotten interested in the birds that visit our yard, and, knowing I share that interest, gave me a hummingbird feeder for my birthday.  Hoping to see more types of birds, Princess Sassy and I purchased 2 suet feeders (with 4 types of suet blocks), and a thistle sock on our outing, and the youngest prince helped me put up the stands to hang them.  
We're not finished, as we just ordered a Bronze Hourglass Bird Feeder, that with all metal construction, and good reviews, will hopefully attract more songbirds.

I am, of course, linking this to The Great Outdoors – A Link Party, which I will be oh-so-glad to visit, because I could use some clever and attractive ideas, and I'm sure there'll be many.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Honor, Thanks, Praise. What Today is About

Remembering those who gave everything for our country...  For you and me.

Day is done... gone the sun
From the hills, from the lake, from the skies.
All is well, safely rest, God is nigh.

Go to sleep... peaceful sleep,
May the soldier or sailor, God keep.
On the land, or the deep, safe in sleep.

Love, good night... must thou go,
When the day, and the night, need thee so?
All is well, speedeth all, to their rest.

Fades the light; and afar
Goeth day, and the stars shineth bright, 
Fare thee well, day is gone, night is on.

Thanks and praise... for our days,
'Neath the sun, 'neath the stars, 'neath the sky,
As we go, this we know, God is nigh.

Happy Memorial Day!


...I thought this was today!  And I'm not quite ready, so it was a relief to realize I still have time.  If you have an outdoor project you'd like to share, be sure to come party by visiting any of the Mission Possible hostesses:

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Thank You, Thank You, Thank You!!!

I have been greatly blessed by the bloggy world this year.  By commenting on posts on other blogs, some with give-away possibilities, I have won 3 amazing gifts.

The first was a My Memories Suite through Beauty 4 Ashes.  This is a fun software for creating digital scrapbooks.  If you have millions of pics in computer files like I do, impossible to sort through, and not being enjoyed, this could be for you.  It's affordable and with so many options, it's worth a look.

My Memories Suite - Fun!  Creativity!  Organization!

More recently, I added a comment to a helpful post by The Happiest Mom, entitled 3 Tips for Surviving Sickness as a Mom.  Meagan offered some wonderful advice for dealing with our own sicknesses.  I was the lucky recipient of a fantastic box of products.  Unfortunately for us, we have 3 kiddos with bad colds this week, needing comfort and care...  Fortunately, though, my gift box included the following goodies to help out:

- Vicks Snuggie
- TempurPedic all-purpose pillow 
- Slippers (Prince CuddleBunny says, "They're like walking on a trampoline!")
- Chicken noodle soup mix
- Teas
- Eucalyptus candle
and a sweet LED Automatic Folding Book Light (which I've had to protect from being whisked away to parts unknown several times already!)

My 3rd, and very cherished gift came from Tsh of Simple Mom due to my participation in Project Simplify (my reports from the 4 weeks of those organizational, de-cluttering tasks are here)... I was one of 10 recipients of an autographed copy of her popular book, Organized Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living.   I was thrilled to be notified of my winning, as I'd just returned a borrowed copy to the public library, knowing I just had to have one for my personal library.  I hadn't had time to finish it, but already knew it would be an invaluable resource for occasional consultation and reminders in the near future and over years to come.  Tsh's suggestions will be a great help in trying to simplify and declutter our lives and home.  Read it... It's really wonderful, doable, I think, and so practical for real-life moms.

3 unique presents, all of which I am enjoying.  I, additionally and especially, can highly recommend the blogs from whence they came... 3 of my favorites.  If you don't know these wonderful women and writers already, I hope you stop by some time and give them a read.

I also have to tell you about a different type of special gift that came my way from One Project Closer: The Better Half, via a wonderful program conceived by Karah of The Space Between.  --But on another day... Hopefully, soon!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

An Alternative Fitness Routine

I've said many times here that I need to add exercise to my routine.  I've said almost as many times that I don't like to exercise for exercise sake, but to accomplish something, like a competitive game or a task requiring physical strength... Like I used to move full tables or haul around multiple bolts of fabric when rearranging the fabric stores I used to manage.  I felt tired, but good, after a day of such physically demanding work... A much better kind of tired than that from a day of dealing with people problems and bookwork.

In that vein, I've decided just to try to keep moving and be more active in my regular life.  After all, there is plenty to get up and do around here.  I thought I'd share my last week's 'fitness routine.'

First, I decided to try running in place while folding clothes and watching TV.  The folding and TV distraction helped me not notice that I 'jogged' for 20 minutes.  I was surprised I didn't run out of energy and breath long before.  It sounds a little nuts, but why not move a little when I have the chance?  I felt so good, I followed that up with some core work on my new mat.

Heading more toward the real-work type of exercise on another day, I got down on hands and knees to scrub the kitchen floor.  The kids are supposed to steam the floor twice a week, but it often happens only once. With the speed of impatient youngsters, a lot of the dirt gets swished over, rather than scrubbed away... So I thought I'd take the opportunity to start back at a clean Square 1.  
Stretching and crawling, I honestly hadn't considered that it might work out my body, as well as cleaning the floor.  I was surprised to feel the next day just how many muscles that chore used!

A couple days later, I spent about an hour weed-whacking the perimeter of the yard (using the string trimmer), trying to keep the woods from overtaking the lawn areas.  It definitely required physical strength (my arms felt like jelly), and my chiropractor suggested I do it in shorter time increments.  

It was good for my mental well-being, also, as it was nice to see the yard improvement...which has lasted a little longer than the floor-cleaning. 

Saturday's exercise was much more fun that all of those previous 'workouts.'  As a belated Mother's Day gift, the newlyweds took me (and Hubby) to the Big City to kayak on Lake Union.  
We have wanted to try kayaking for our whole married lives, but have awaited Hubby's intention to build the kayaks.  ;-)   

Princess Sassy and Prince Steadfast bought their own single kayaks this week, so it was a good tryout for those, and they rented Hubby and I a double-hulled craft.

We enjoyed paddling around the lake for about an hour and a half, looking at the amazing houseboats along the shore (way more house than boat), and also the bigger boats and yachts.  

It was a beautiful day and we also viewed the skyline of the Big City, the take-offs and landings of several float planes, and parks and other scenes along the lake. My shoulders and upper back did the most work, and I'm sure whatever muscles utilized will let me know in the next couple days.  

I look forward to more local jaunts, since Princess Sassy has let me know she wants to take me out in their boats on her days off while her prince is busy with his college work.  It's wonderful to live within a couple miles of Puget Sound, and now be able to take advantage of it in this way.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

How the fruit situation looks in our house...

Tuesday afternoon, just after a trip to Costco

Wednesday afternoon

Thursday afternoon

Friday afternoon

Saturday afternoon...time to reload!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

TKO Tuesday: Jazzing Up a Stock Plan

A bit of a back story... Years ago, Hubby was able to realize a long-time dream and developed a home construction program for his school.  With him at the helm, they (he and his construction classes of students as carpenters, plus volunteer subs to do specialty things like electrical and plumbing, with the kids learning by working alongside) built 13 houses in 14 years.  

Prince Inventive helping Dad,
& Sassy ready to help out, too.
She's standing on the tile entry
Stoic installed as a member of
that year's building class

It was a great program for the kids, well-regarded in the community, and he loved it.  He learned a lot... We all did, as the family seemed to take some part in every year's house, whether we wanted to or not.  ;-)  
But it was very time consuming, greatly infringed on family time, and he had new program ideas to pursue, so he turned over the reins.  

2006/07's kitchen.  Princess Eager is in the background,
cleaning window trim/
With the market as it's been, the program has moved along slowly since, and is just now finishing the first house since his last one in 2007.  As the instructor of the cabinet-building class, he still takes part with his cabinetry class building the kitchen and any other cabinetry for the house.  So when it comes to planning the kitchen layout and details, I get to help.

There is a local organization of area businessmen that funds each house-building project, and one of their members, a professional builder (and quality person extraordinaire), voluntarily GCs the project.  The group members help in locating and buying property, and in the latter years, the architectural drafting class at school would work on the house plan.  But this time, the lot the club bought was the last lot in a builder's development, for which there was already a county approved houseplan. 

I was a bit surprised, even aghast, at some of the features of the stock plan for this modest, 2-story house.  The first thing that jumped out at me was the fact that the powder room opens into the living room.  The kitchen was, in my opinion, not going to be comfortable or attractive, and in some aspects, even functional.  

I forgot to note on the plan, also, that the base corner to the left of the dishwasher was completely
inaccessible... A dead corner.  OK in a kitchen the size of mine, but not here.
Just because someone is buying a lower end, smallish home, they don't have to be stuck with an awful kitchen, so feeling for the future buyers, I gladly set to work.

First, I tried to reorient the powder room door toward the entry, and work with the peninsula plan.

The powers-that-be overruled the configuration change for the powder room, as it narrowed the living room (would have been worth it if it were my home), and didn't want to deal with filing a plan change with the county, as it would've required some changes in the understructure of the house.

Even though expanded as much as I dare, the peninsula plan was still tight inside.  Any bar overhang, especially with seating, infringed too far on the dining space.  In this plan the open dishwasher blocked access to the peninsula cabinets.  I could have moved the dishwasher around the corner into the peninsula, but when it was open, it would have obstructed a lot of the floorspace in the room.  So onto the next idea...

The aisles are tighter than optimum, but decent, as long as the fridge is counter-depth.  The aisles are 36"+ and about 42", respectively... and clear, not box to box, but counter edge to counter edge.  

Standard kitchen wisdom would say there isn't room for an island in this space.  Not optimally, no, but with the negatives of the peninsula plan, I thought the compromises might be reasonable.

I think an island, especially with the hefty butcher block top, adds some pizazz as a selling feature.  It helps the kitchen feel more stylish and upscale, which could appeal to a buyer looking at other economical housing.  --But it's not to the detriment of function, as it adds a bit of workspace, separation of zones with room and traffic flow for multiple workers, and storage.  Of course, Hubby always makes sure the cabinetry has full-extension drawer glides and high-quality construction.  This year, because of the better pricing than in previous years, the drawers and doors will even have soft-close hinges and glides.

I didn't have any say in the materials or colors so far, and I've heard the flooring, tile, and countertops are all ordered.  I know the cabinets will be fir, and since I have an "in" with the cabinet-maker, I can probably choose the island color.  I'll show finished pics when they're available.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

For Mothers' Day...

I have a wonderful mom of the sweetest, most nurturing character, who taught me the basis of everything I know about cooking, baking, sewing... and all the best things I know about mothering and keeping a home.  --A wonderful woman who, thankfully, is doing much better after her heart-valve replacement, even though she seemed to encounter every possible complication after, resulting in a hospital stay about 3 times longer than expected.  

Sis, Mom, Me... 1976
That wasn't the end of difficulties, which then included her catching a nasty intestinal virus while in the rehab center that sent her back to the hospital...after which that illness was shared with my already-health-compromised dad, and my sister, who gives her all (and then some) to care for them.  It's been a mess, but hopefully, all are on the uphill climb.  It will be my honor, a great blessing, and the very least I could do in the scope of things to make and share brunch with my parents on Sunday, while my sister enjoys time at home, being properly loved and honored by her sweeties.

That's all I have to write, because what I really want to do is share 2 other Mother's Day related blog posts that I found incredibly moving, and thought you'd like to read.
The first reminds me how blessed I am, and what other people and things I should think about this Mother's Day: 

What I Wish I Could Write: For You Mama at (In)Courage

Image created by Lara at
Less Cake {more frosting} 

The second is the story of a woman who truly gave her life for her children.  --Not how this Mother's Day was expected to turn out for this family:

The Alice Hansen Family Fund at Honeybear Lane

Happy Mother's Day to all!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Stepping Out of the (Pizza) Box

Motivated yet again to add more variety, especially in veggies, to my diet, I got a little creative with last week's Pizza Night.  Might not be too adventurous for some of my readers who are into more interesting foods, but for us it was different.

Not wanting to alienate the less culinarily courageous folks in the family (here that means any boy under 19), I still made some more standard pies with tomato paste-based sauce, sausage, onions, and Mozzarella cheese.  The new one was topped with 

  • balsamic vinegar and olive oil dressing
  • Browned, crumbled Italian sausage
  • mixed kale leaves
  • baby spinach
  • onions
  • sliced portabella mushroom caps
  • Roma tomato
  • a bit of crumbled Feta
  • a bit of shredded Mozzarella

It didn't taste anything like what we're used to when we hear "Pizza," but it was a fun change.  Next time I might not use both the vinegar and the Feta, as together they were a bit sour.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Movie Night with Princess Sassy

Princess Sassy is a major, self-professed movie-holic.  Because of that, she watches, and then we watch, based on her recommendation, movies we might not otherwise choose.  

The latest was Warrior.  When she first mentioned it was about "MMA," I was very disinterested.   

Many of you might be asking "What's MMA?"  It is the abbreviation for Mixed Martial Arts, and Wikipedia's entry describes it this way:
"...full contact combat sport that allows the use of both striking and grappling techniques, both standing and on the ground, including boxingwrestlingBrazilian jiu-jitsumuay Thaikickboxingtaekwondokaratejudo and other styles."

Not being a comedy or heart-warming true story, and brutal, to boot, this subject matter seemed far removed from my choice of entertainment genre. But I was interested in hanging out with the Princess and Hubby, so I watched, too.

I was quickly drawn in.  Heart-warming it was, and maybe it wasn't so opposite my usual movie preferences, anyway.  I do prefer to be entertained by comedy, but I also seem to love emotional, touching sports stories told in movies like The ExpressThe Blind SideWe Are MarshallPrefontaine... and Rocky.   When Rocky came out, I happily saw it in the theater 3 times and at the drive-in for a 4th.  Most of these movies are based on true stories, but Rocky and Warrior include family relationships and the dynamics of everyone's personal baggage, including the results and consequences for bad choices, that certainly seem realistic.  

The competitive fighting is brutal, and the emotion (and language) are at times raw... But my heartstrings were tugged, and I connected to the people, even though, thankfully, I have a life very unlike most of them.  I would LOVE to tell you more about the story itself, but I don't want to ruin it for anyone.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday

Today I'm just being a proud mama.  

I wanted to show you Princess Artiste's cool mug, made in her high school ceramics class... Obviously, she had a theme going here:                                                                                                                        

Prince Inventive, about to finish his high school career, accepting his Careers and Technology Student of the Year Award for Wood Technology because of his leadership and willingness to go "above and beyond" in projects helpful to others around the school and district.                                                                                   

...And Prince Go-for-It set a new school record for the javelin throw this week!  He also bettered his time by 5 seconds from last week's run in the 1600 meter race.  If he cuts 3 more seconds, he earns a spot at the district meet.

Thanks for indulging me.  :-)
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