Monday, August 9, 2010

Project Summer

In 2003, we bought an ugly, neglected-but-with-good-bones 'repo' in a nice cul-de-sac. We have been working on it ever since.

The first tasks included removing/replacing the constantly running shower, scrubbing out the neglected-and-rusty bathtub, removing/replacing the rusted out toilets, and stripping layers of ghastly wallpaper. Then we painted. Anne was five and she wanted her bedroom to be pink, while eight year old Daniel wanted his bedroom to be 'Buzz Lightyear Blue'. In 2010, and no longer five years old, Anne has been wishing for a lime green bedroom...
...and a departure from the bunkbed the kids shared in our old house.
Anne's birthday was in May, and for her birthday we gave her a 'room redo'. We sold the bunkbed on Craig's List and she hunted Craig's List for the wooden bed she had in her mind's eye.....she found it!
We have been cleaning, organizing, and painting all summer. Last summer, El Professor broke his ribs, and the summer before that he had to study for, and add, an endorsement to his teaching certification. Much has gone undone, so this has been Project Summer.

I painted both kids' closets shiny, 'Swiss Coffee' white. We never did get the closets painted before the 2003 move in, and the dull-sea-foam-green 'ick' has finally been cleaned and covered!
As a part of her room redo, Anne wanted to get a desk. We were at the recycling center one day, and she found a desk for $5. It was a ghastly, mustard yellow behemoth that looked like it was straight from an episode of The Brady Bunch. But for $5, I figured it was worth the risk.

We set up shop in the cleaned out garage and primed over the mustard yellow...
...and painted it 'Fairy Tale Blue'. (A friend of hers helped with the process.)
The next step was tricky. Anne had the idea that she wanted to cover the desk with shiny, white flowers, but there was no stencil that captured the flower she had in mind. A mural painter at Michael's Craft Store picked up on our dilemma, and explained the process of graphite paper tracing and hand painting.
Project Summer is still underway and there is still much to do, but among the finished projects is a 'Fairy Tale Blue with shiny white flowers' desk in a lime green bedroom.
Project Summer has included much more than room redos, and it has been wonderful to circle the wagons and get some things done. I don't think our repo house will ever be done, but I am thankful for the opportunity to chip away at it.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Using the Garden II

The plums are ripening....

...and the Gravenstein apples have been dropping.
Our last house was a rental and it was next door to the elderly owner/landlord. I learned a lot from her, including the fact that red-striped Gravensteins are wonderful, and that you should gather the funky windfalls and simply cut out the bad parts.
When we moved into our own house seven years ago, El Professor bought four apple trees at a local nursery. The tags had fallen off the trees and the trees could not be identified. The nursery sold them for $5/each. A few years later, as the trees began to produce, I was thrilled to find that two of them were red-striped Gravensteins! Yesterday, I filled a bowl with Gravenstein apple pieces mixed with plums. A bagful went into the freezer and the other portion became oatmeal apple-plum crisp.
The plethora of zucchini continues. Zucchini stir-fried in olive oil and garlic is good, and is even better topped with a little parmesan.
At the end of a day filled with garden bounty shredding/baking/cooking/drying , I baked chicken breasts in a baking dish with apple pieces, plum pieces, Walla Walla onion, and a drizzling of teriyaki sauce. Then, I served it over zucchini/pasta from lunch.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Using the Garden I

This morning I decided to take on the produce that has been piling up around here...

...Zucchini grated for the freezer to use in future zucchini bread or cake. Who knows??? Maybe I'll compost it next summer! :)
Low fat Weight Watcher's chocolate zucchini cake from a recipe I quadrupled and will freeze in pieces for the kids to have for quickie grab snacks....
If you're ever planning on being stranded on a desert island and can take a finite amount of survival things with you, consider zucchini or zucchini seeds. This 'caveman club' is from last summer!! A year later it is still hanging around our house.....
Zucchini thinly sliced and dehydrated with olive oil, glacial salt, garlic powder, and parmesan cheese.....
Zucchini bread from the Jane Brody cookbook.....
I also peeled and used up the windfall Gravenstein apples that were languishing in the backyard and some of the plums that are ripening daily. Now, what I really need to do is defrost the freezer to get ready for the bounty!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Ignoring the Garden.....

It's the first of August, and the garden is beginning to crank out some excellent bounty. It's been a weird summer....
-It rained incessantly throughout the month of June.
-We have been busy organizing/painting/living/hiking/etc. and have been, other than some weed-pulling frenzied touch-ups, ignoring the garden.

We bought landscape fabric for the vegetable area to avoid our usual weed-choked, high maintenance routine, as well as to avoid the incidence of 'cat visitations'. It started out like this....
....and it has filled in nicely. It has been a fairly successful Ignored Garden.
The landscape fabric has been great for keeping weeds and cats out of the vegetables, but it has been a bit difficult to water and, despite the five-year 'promise', the stuff is beginning to deteriorate. Still, it has kept the weeds at bay while we have been working on other things.

This summer we have enjoyed a decent raspberry harvest,
the Gravenstein apples are beginning to fall, and we've had a small but steady supply of blueberries. The yellow plums are on the cusp of ripeness, the basil is ready for a pesto-fest, the cucumber plants are offering a steady supply, and the zucchini is CRANKING it out.....
Annie made this:
And I sliced zucchini and dehydrated it with olive oil, garlic and salt. Mmmm.
I'm off now to fuss a bit in the Ignored Garden. The tomato plants are insanely tall/full/overgrown/unproductive, and I'm going to do some selective pruning. Maybe after a bit of pruning followed by ignoring, I'll get some tomatoes.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


High 70s, low 80s. My favorite summer weather has prevailed for several days now--coolish mornings and sunny, not-too-hot afternoons. The kids have been away for a few days with friends and El Professor and I have been enjoying a schedule-less, projecting frenzy. No specific mealtimes, no permission sought or given, just time, time, time to get some things done. We've been resting, really.

The past two years, specifically summers, have been filled with urgencies that pushed nest cleaning off the schedule, while the detritus of life took over the garage/cupboards/every drawer/desktop. Two summers ago, El Professor was suddenly given the assignment of adding an endorsement to his teaching license with this alarming statement--'or we will most likely have to lay you off half time'. He had about six weeks to learn linguistics and to cram for one of the scheduled tests administered at the University. Last summer he fell and broke a few ribs which put a quick end to most of the summer 'honey do' list. In the midst of this, other life things were going on...good things, hard things, things. Two years ago we joined the Classical Conversations group that was being founded here and experienced a sudden (but wonderful, challenging) homeschool course change. The first months were like this. It was a great experience, so last year I agreed teach the grammar and writing course for 4th-6th graders. (Prior to this, I had never studied grammar.) I spent much of that spring/summer/fall/winter studying/cramming/thinking/planning lessons. I loved every minute of it, it was challenging, and it was worth the effort. Having said that, though, this summer we are resting. Resting from studying and cramming. Resting from a sense of urgency.

Life is good, but hard. My dad survived the septic crash his body experienced this spring and has been growing stronger. He spent seven weeks in the hospital. My dearest, loveliest aunt is fighting colon cancer. My sister's sweet mother-in-law is dying of a sudden, acute leukemia. Life is fragile and precious. In the midst of all of this, we are resting from the urgent push we have experienced over the past two years. We are continuing our course with Classical Conversations, knowing that the pace will be ramped up this year with both kids in the rigorous middle and high school programs. I will be teaching the same grammar and writing course this year, so I've been picking away at planning/thinking/studying, but I'm not cramming. Instead, we've been painting bedrooms, scrubbing mold, priming, trolling Craig's List, organizing, organizing, organizing, oiling the furniture, breathing deeply, and cleaning our nest. We have been helping the kids finish their math books and El Professor and I plan to study/review the Institute For Excellence In Writing seminar, and to help the kids do some preparation for the upcoming school year. Still, we are enjoying the break from urgency, the opportunity to take care of ourselves and our home, and are relishing falling-into-bed-exhausted from hard work.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Rainy Day....Hard Times.....

This morning there is a tingling energy outside. There is a cold front passing through and the energy is present in the sound, the light wagging of the twigs on the trees, the spin of the wind scupture outside my window. Yesterday the sun was out all day, and the golden warmth was such a needed thing for me. I sat by the window in the library, the kids quietly worked on their school work, and I read....and read....and read....and escaped. It was wonderful.

My dad is having a serious health crisis and I am wrestling with a terrible, pending sense of loss, despite the fact that we might not lose him. Dad is a retired physician, and around him is a swarm of doctors, some are friends and some are newer doctors, who are all on "It". "It" being a staph infection that has spread around his sacroiliac joint and lower back, setting up pockets of infection, destroying tissue, and making him horrifically ill. "It" has gone septic. The agonizing pain of the abscesses has been chased by powerful pain medications rendering him 'senseless', somewhat unresponsive. He has eaten so little in this long illness (over a month), that he is weak. He lays now, intubated, in ICU with more surgery to come. Among the Scary Things....will he emerge from the 'stupor' he is in? He has had a head to toe MRI, as his many doctors search for a possible stroke or brain bleed, while also searching for more of the rampant Staph Terrorist Cells that are setting up camp who knows where? The MRI showed no stroke, but what about the no speech situation? It's very distressing. There's a name for the issue of no speech/low responsiveness--'metabolic encephalopathy'. It's like a crowd of toxins/medications trying file out.....on a dirt trail.

The rain is beginning and it is cold outside. I know we need the rain. The lakes and reservoirs need to fill for the dry, summer months ahead. But I loved that sun yesterday. Still, I will try to embrace this rain, try to see the need for it, and will choose to move, hopeful, into another day.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

'Nordmann' is in the garage......

We have a living Christmas tree, a Nordmann Fir, fondly known as 'Nordmann', and he is back in the garage. You have to 'step' a living tree in out of the cold, keep it inside for only a week or so, and then 'step' it back out into the cold. Nordmann is in the garage acclimating to the great outdoors, and there are a lot of other fun things out there with Nordmann. Heaven help us, should the garage ever catch on fire! There are things drying out there. Fun things from the summer garden......

As Christmas went into boxes today, I couldn't resist playing with some of the fun stuff that was in the garage....

The fake, red berry wreath ended up here instead of in a box bound for the attic.....
A friend gave me an amaryllis, and it seems to be happy sitting on my grandmother's sewing machine. For years the sewing machine sat under the attic steps at my parent's house, and now it is our end table. (You should see all of the fun, old buttons I found in the drawers.)
The Advent candle shell tray has been rearranged a bit to hide all of the wax drips from those, eh-hem, 'no drip candles' I paid dearly for. (Remind me not to buy those candles next year.)

I really should have been working on lesson plans today since we resume homeschool tomorrow, and I have to teach at Classical Conversations on Tuesday. As Christmas went into the boxes in the garage, though, it was much more fun to fill in those empty, formerly-Christmas-spaces with fun things from my family. My birthday is the day after Christmas, so there are fun spoils this time of year. A canning jar lantern from an artisan up in the San Juan Islands.......
My favorite new thing from my sister--a French glove form.

OK-- Now I really have to work on lesson plans, laundry, lesson plans, dishes, lesson plans..............