Sunday, March 29, 2015

Weekend Notes

We had possibly the most productive weekend ever. We managed to cram in our regular chores, yard work, carpentry, sewing, Ellen's birthday party invitations, errands and attendance at a party for one of Rosie school mates all in two days.

Kyle has been working on thinning out and redistributing all of the day lilies in our back yard. I dug up a few from in front of the house a few weeks ago and that started it. By the end of this weekend Kyle had three-quarters of the yard framed in lilies.
He spent Friday and Sunday working on this. They're a little floppy now, but in a few weeks they should perk up.

Saturday Kyle taught himself how to make stairs and added a step to the side of the front porch.
I'm super excited to have a step on this side. We've been using that side of the porch as an access point since it was re-built, but it was a bit of a stretch. This was good practice for building the front steps, which will be wider and most likely have two steps.

While Kyle was working on the step I worked on some landscaping, pulled a ton of weeds and just generally tried to clean up the front yard.

At dinner we were discussing our work and commented how frustrating I find a big shrub just to the left of the side porch. It doesn't bloom or bear fruit and every year it grows up and blocks the kitchen window forcing us to have to prune it back It gives us nothing but work. It is maddening. So after dinner Kyle took care of it.
I just thought he'd prune it back and we'd finish it off with the next stump grinder rental, Nope. He took that thing out roots and all! We are glad to be free of this ridiculous bush. We can now see it as damaging the siding by deflecting water on to the house. It was also blocking the exhaust vent for the furnace.Once we finish the landscaping I'll post some before and after shots.

On Sunday while Kyle was working on the back yard, I sewed Rosie a final piece of clothing, bringing my weekend total to three pieces and my total for the season to eight.
The pants are pajamas. The pattern called for them to be made from an old t-shirt. I had planned use some of my maternity shirts (they were too stained to pass on), but they were too small. Is it weird that I'm pleased my maternity shirts were "too small?" Anyway, I had this striped knit fabric from when I was in college and it worked perfectly.

The skirts are both from the same pattern. I made the green one first and pretty much followed the tutorial to the letter. It fits perfectly now, but one growth spurt and it will go in the Ellen box.

I deviated from the pattern a bit with the pink and black one. One of my goals with sewing Rosie's summer clothes is to use materials I already have, which meant I didn't run out and get more bias tape for the hem on the second skirt. I ended up adding more length than I needed for a blind hem and the skirt ended up with some room to grow.

So that's the weekend. I'm already excited for all the projects we can tackle next weekend.

Here's to a great weekend.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Photo a Day | Week 12

This week is Spring Break for Oregon schools. Rosie has the week off from her rigorous five hours of preschool, but otherwise it was an ordinary week for us. That is except for the latest cold having descended upon our house. Sigh. I did manage to find a few free moments to add to Rosie's summer wardrobe, bringing my grand total up to five handmade items.

Week twelve also marks the first week of the year where we missed a day. Not one photo was taken in the house with any of our various cameras yesterday. Here goes six days of week twelve:
Day 78. I spent all day in bed. Mostly I slept, but I did have a few visits from two of the cutest kids. Ellen declared Baby was sick too and tucked her into bed with me. Rosie upon learning I was sick said, "TV helps." When I let her know I was having a hard time watching TV, she suggested I "watch TV in my mind."
Day 79. I managed to work most of a day on Friday, but snuck out a few hours early to rest. Ellen was having a rough afternoon so she came to bed with me. She was so sweet I had to try to get a photo. It's selfie and not a good one, but it captures our great sick day cuddles.
Day 80. I worked Saturday, but had time afterward to make this reversible wrap shirt for Rosie. Normally patterns take me at least three tries before I get them down, but this one turned out well on the first try. It is fully reversible, so technically it is two shirts.
Day 81. We spend the day visiting family in Oregon City. Although I took the camera along I completley forgot to take any photos.

At sunset I tried somewhat unsuccessfully to capture the new leaves on the maple tree in our back yard.We actually plan to remove this tree as soon as we can, but the new leaves are so cheerful, I love them anyway. So what if this tree is totally destroying our shop, right?
Day 82. I made these pants while watching MASH. Rosie likes them and they fit okay, but there were a few funky things, that make me not so inclined to try the pattern again.

Day 83. Blank day.I remembered late in the day that I hadn't grabbed a photo yet, but then it went right out of my head. So it goes. I'll make it up with two Day 84 photos.
Day 84. I'll be out of town tomorrow so I came home early today to surprise the girls and spend a little extra time with them to offset missing out on their sweet selves tomorrow night. Rosie wanted to make confetti with punches and scissors. Ellen wanted to color with markers. I wanted to cut up old pajama pants to salvage for new pajamas for Rosie. Win. Win. Win.
Day 84 Take Two. Rosie's new pajama pants. I'm pleased these turned out. I made the pattern from a pair of her jeans that currently fit well. I should have looked up instructions for making a pattern from existing pants -- the internet abounds with them. Instead I decided to wing in. I ended up making them too narrow and had to add a strip of contrasting fabric down each leg. Adorable! Rosie told me she wants to wear them every night forever, so that's a good sign.

So that's week twelve. I'm looking forward to the weekend and hoping to squeeze in a few more new clothes for Rosie and maybe something for Ellen. Ellen has tons of clothes and more in waiting in the attic, but I think she's getting a little jealous of all the attention Rosie gets when we're trying on new items.

Here's to hand-me-downs. Particularly being able to hand down my torn pajamas to my kiddo.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Photo A Day | Week 11

Week eleven wrapped up with my coming down with terrible sickness. As I'm getting better it is feeling more like a cold, but the defining symptom was an incredible fever that put me in bed all day Thursday. This was such a surprise to Ellen that she actually told the other parents about it during Rosie's school drop off. "Mama. Home. Bed." Before I got sick we had many nice days in week eleven.
Day 71. I worked a 13 hour work day. What better day to wear my sassy heels, right? Or put another way, what better day to finish the day with an enormous blister?
Day 72. These blossoms were so pretty I actually doubled back to take a photo of them. (That's the point of this project! Hooray!) It was a gloomy day, which made it hard to capture just how pretty they were.
Day 73. We had a rare date night and Kyle made the girls a pot of chili before we left. I caught these veggies just before they went in the pot.
 Day 74. We made one of our regular trips to the recycling center to turn in our hard-to-recycle plastics. We had a lot of plastic take-out containers we theoretically planned to reuse. The problem with saving things to reuse is that you only need a few things to reuse. After you surpass that number you're just a hoarder.

We also had the winter's worth of plastic salad containers since we have to purchase lettuce to supplement the garden in the winter. We also had a good number of lids, which can't be recycled curbside and assorted broken plastic items.

Someday I'd love to be a zero-waste house, but for now we'll settle for regular trips to the recycle center to supplement our curbside pick up.
Day 75. I was late for a meeting when I caught sight of these blossoms, but how could I resist pink flowers against that gorgeous blue sky?
Day 76.  We have these cute blue blooms at home, but the girls keep ripping the flowers off so we only get to enjoy them for the briefest of moments. These guys are in the garden at my work, which so far seems immune to toddler charms.
Day 77. We transplanted our tulips from where they had been growing next to the side porch to the new bed on the front porch. The tulips declared this a great injustice. They're still blooming -- they just won't stand up. Our tulips are having a sit-in.

So that's week eleven. Technically the bulk of my being sick took place in week twelve, thus my late post.

Here's to healthier weeks to come.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Photo a Day | Week 10

 The last week has been a bit of a blur. Our only excitement was our landscaping project over the weekend. With that exception the week has been filled with work, chores, MASH on Netflix.  Here are some ordinary moments in a fairly ordinary week.
Day 64. Kyle is pretty much obsessed with these yellow apples. He told me the variety, but I can't remember. They're a new variety. He likes them so much he actually looked in to how soon we could purchase a tree and grow our own.
 Day 65. My work day involved the distribution of 18 dozen doughnuts. That was fun.
Day 66. Our gravel arrived on a huge dump truck. I was so tickled by it I forgot to bring the girls over to watch the gravel spill out. They saw the truck from a distance and were duly impressed. Ellen gave the driver a heartfelt farewell as he drove away. Now when they hear big trucks around the neighborhood Rosie asks if we are getting more gravel.
Day 67. My day 67 photo was going to be of the sole flower on our heavily pruned camellia bush, but then I turned and saw this white fence, green grass, blue sky and I couldn't resist. We put this fence in almost exactly five years ago.
 Day 68. Sunset in the neighborhood. I love it when the sunset makes everything look gilded.
Day 69. This was almost the first day when I had no photos to show. I was debating what to do with the blank, when I remembered we recently gave Rosie an old camera to practice on. This was the sole photo taken in our house yesterday. She insisted on taking it before going to bed and was really, really proud of her chair photo. Incidentally she is also ridiculously proud of the mess she's made of her room.
Day 70. When I got home today the girls were in the back yard in the middle of a terrible fight. When I went out to check on them Ellen was sobbing and Rosie was frustrated. Apparently Rosie decided it was very important they fill this bowl. Ellen apparently had other ideas for either the bowl or the contents. After they realized I was home the feud shifted to who would get to climb on me. The bowl is still in the backyard, ready for tomorrow's round.

Here's to the joy found in photographing a chair and filling a bowl with ... it occurs to me I never found out what went in the bowl ...

Monday, March 9, 2015

Porch Project Progress

I've found our recent weather somewhat unsettling. I feel like it's probably bad luck to complain about good weather, but it's March! I actually found myself worrying about sunscreen  over the weekend while I was transplanting lilies that were growing in parched, cracked earth. It's March!

Anyway, we took advantage of the weather over the weekend to start tackling some deferred outdoor projects. Since last fall when we packed it in, our front porch has looked like this:
 The front porch has been primed, but not painted. It still needs new stairs and possibly rails.
The surrounding dirt is a big weed-infested mess. This is the area where we once had a bumper crop of bamboo in addition to grass. By the end of last year it was pretty much just bare dirt. According to my reading on tree of heaven, when threatened the tree emits a toxin that kills everything around it. We're not sure that's what happened, but it adds up. At the start of the weekend much of the three trunk was still piled where it fell.

The stumpy fella in the foreground is our camellia tree, which Kyle recently pruned back to nearly nothing.
The side porch also needs railings, assuming we want to add them back. The jury is still out on that. We made this one with pressure treated decking, so we didn't have to prime it before the rainy season. Little did we know there wouldn't be a rainy season. Once the temperature evens out we'll prime and paint.

The photo doesn't really show how uneven the ground is in this area. The tree roots and possibly added soil to what used to be a flower bed, had caused the dirt to slope toward the house. Bad news.
 This photo just shows general ugliness.
In addition to adding rails and steps we really needed to enclose the porch to prevent animals from burrowing under the house. Kyle is sure they've already started. I need only be reminded of the great skunk invasion of 2010 to start plotting solutions.

Although one of the major goals of the project was enclosing the porch, we also wanted to do something about the sad state of the landscaping and contribute some space for our flower garden. We seriously considered using lattice for the porch, since it's pretty common on our style of house, but we ended up deciding to build a flower box.

Of course deciding to do something and getting it done are two very different things -- contrary to what the home improvement shows lead one to believe. We spent most of Saturday leveling the ground, which involved some tilling, but also a lot of hand digging and hacking at remaining tree of heaven roots-- that monster had an incredible root structure! The home improvement shows never show anyone spending six hours digging.

Somewhere in there we had a truck load of gravel delivered, so when we went to bed Saturday the area looked like this:
It is amazing how much bigger this area looks level and cleared of weeds and debris.

One of our bigger goals has been to connect the front and side porches to make a wrap-around. Over the summer I realized the positioning of the windows makes the roof-line of a wrap-around impossible. One of the porches is lower than the other to accommodate the windows.We tossed around the idea of a patio between them, which would be awesome, but too expensive to hire our and too time-and-skill intensive to DIY.

We feel like the gravel does the trick. Late in the day Sunday Ellen realized she could use this area to get between the porches and started running in a continuous circle through both doors. I think we achieved our goal.

Anyway, without more chatter, here are the after photos:
The flower box still needs dirt (and flowers). The porch still needs rails, assuming we decide to add them back, and new stairs and paint, but we've come a long way.
The stepping stones were borrowed from the back yard. They're pretty cracked and they crumble pretty easily, but they look nice. We were considering 12-inch squares, which cost just over $1 each, but I thought they'd be too linear for the space. I didn't want to buy new rocks like these because the way these hold up doesn't justify spending $6 each on new ones.
 Kyle built the planter box while I was at work -- with help from the girls.
This view sure beats the mess it replaced!

For comparison, here's the before shot of my final angle again.
And the after:
We still need to add steps, which may happen sooner rather than later since we now have momentum. More to come ...

Here's to a satisfying weekend project.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Rosie Chatter

Rosie and I had a very nice chat over dinner last night about how I could be a better mother. I can't remember exactly how it got started, but I mentioned something about worrying, which lead to some questioning about why I worry, etc.
Me: I worry because I'm a good mama.

Rosie: Are mamas who don't worry bad mamas?

Me: Wow, Rosie, that's a good question. You really thought about that.

Rosie: I think about lots of things. I think about how much I'd like a saw that cuts real wood.

Me: Hmm, maybe next year. After serious thinking. No, you don't have to worry to be a good mama. You're not a bad mama if you don't worry.

Rosie: Okay.

Me: What do you think Rosie? Am I doing a good job?

Rosie: Yeah.

Me: Is there anything I can do to be a better mama?

Rosie: Yes, you can make me some more knives.

After we stopped laughing we managed to discern that she would like a knife that will cut through play dough. There was also a whole conversation where she compared her single wooden knife to Kyle's whole collection of real knives and declared that she needed lots of knives because Daddy has lots of knives. We agreed she could borrow a bench knife or a butter knife for her play dough needs.

Me: Okay, is there anything else I can do to be a better mama?

Rosie: Yes, you can get me a drill. A real one, not a toy.

So, there you have it. All it takes to be a good mama is to buy your kids saws, knives and a a real drill ... and worrying is totally optional.

Here's to preschool wisdom.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Photo a Day | Week Nine

So, March happened this week. Crazy. Sometimes I feel like this project is absolutely successful in fostering the "stop and smell the roses" effect. Other times I think it highlights how beautifully uneventful our lives are and how quickly time manages to race past.

Here's week nine:
 Day 57. I took this one with my phone while walking back to the office after a meeting. There's a garden along the way and I stepped into the garden -- heels, briefcase and all -- and knelt in the dirt to catch this one. Talk about smelling the flowers!
 Day 58. I recently read an piece online about women who "go on vacation" at Target. I can't say I've never done that, but our new-found super frugality sure takes the fun out of it. I had to run to Target Friday night for a work errand and I tried my hardest to just meander. I did enjoy the sheer quantity of candy in this display. And of course I bought a bag, which last a few hours.
Day 59. Sunset through the plum tree. I also got some great photos of the sun coming up through the cherry blossoms across the street so Day 59 was a tough decision.
Day 60. Rosie's new shirts. This was step one in my 2015 resolution to sew more. It took me three tries before I was relatively happy with the product and the collar is still wonky, but not noticeably so. Ellen , who needs no new clothes, is wearing version two as a dress. It's a versatile pattern!
 Day 61. Photo credit to Kyle for this sweet shot of Rosie and her good friend plunking out a tinny duet at the Children's Museum
Day 62. When I was in Hawaii I visited a coffee farm owned by two alumni who let me interview them and write a story. I write for print so rarely -- a byline is still a big thrill.
Day 63. Our little car had the first major repair since we bought it eight years ago. It was making a very concerning noise and I took it in for a check up and walked away just a bit poorer than when the day started. Thankfully we've been saving up in our "rainy day" car fund so the jolt was much less than it would have been before we had total control over our money. Hooray! I can't say I enjoy parting with that much money, but it was nice to realize we didn't need to stress about it. And now the car is running great.

So, here's to week nine and all the ordinary glorious moments that make up a good week.