Friday, December 16, 2011


We've received 3 Christmas/holiday cards to-date from friends and family. Guess what: they are all had a picture of a kid named Henry.

Sunday, October 30, 2011


I picked my bumper crop of backyard apples last weekend. There were about 5 pounds and they were nearly perfect, nary a worm. I've been eating them all week and they have a delicious crunch and tart flavor. Can't wait for more next year!

Happy Halloween

We missed the costume parties this year but we didn't miss out on the pumpkin carving.

Our neighbors, Chelsy and Cyndi stopped by on Saturday night to share in carving up these jack-o-lanterns.


Well, it was a big weekend for our friends Michelle and Ryan...they moved into their new house. With that event, we moved out all of the odds and ends that we'd been storing for them for the last few months. We've got the real estate in our garage and NW corner of our basement back...and that means a project!

Lowes sent us a coupon this week--just what we'd been waiting for to buy a garage door opener. It was the perfect excuse for Justin to spend 10 hours in the garage alone. I helped with one step requiring two people but for the most part, this was a Justin project. His reward for his effort is the treat of parking in there. 

Too bad snapshots can't capture movement...the door was headed up for my first trial run of the new gadget.

Justin spend a few hours tidying up the garage so it would fit a car...he's got some new organization for ladders and sawhorses as well as his drill press.

Monday, September 26, 2011


There was a whole lot of hole digging going on this mid-September. Remember last year when we had some torrential rain and our basement sprung a leak? Well, we hope we have solved this problem by re-routing the downspout. Justin did most of the trenching but I covered about 5 feet while he rested up.
Just getting started, only 40 more feet to go!
The good news is that it's been raining quite a bit in the last 48 hours and our basement is dry as a bone. It's still to early to declare victory but this is definitely a good start.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


Well, it's that time again! Time to fill the larder and get ready for a long winter of soups and stews and the occasional pizza with homemade sauce.

My friend Jen and I invested in 75 pounds of tomatoes and put up 34 quarts for our respective pantries. And Jen couldn't get enough and canned another 9 quarts of dill pickles in the same afternoon. And then I couldn't get enough and picked a peck of wild blackberries--the kind that grow in ever neglected patch of land in the Northwest--and turned them into jam for my Sunday morning amusement.

Super-canners extraordinaire: Laura & Jen.

Another angle to get an idea of the magnitude.

I had to break out the bacon for my first BLT of the season. That tomato beauty is home-grown--weighing in around 2 pounds.

Five pints of blackberry jam. It's extra delicious because it is seedless.

So far this year, I've done peach, plum and blackberry jam, sliced peaches, dill and sweet pickles, sweet relish, dilly beans and tomatoes. I've nearly exhausted my supply of jars...although I think I have enough to make a batch of jelly from the grapes growing all over the foreclosed home next door. And, if I come upon a abundance of something, I might just have to locate some more jars.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Sneak peek

Justin has been hard at work sanding and cutting and nailing. So far, he's prepped 3 of 4 of the windows and he's nearly done with the 4th. It'll be my turn next to caulk the seams and touch up the paint.

A twilight shot: preppin' windows.

Stairs: The big reveal

And, the stairs are painted...

While this was not the most satisfying job we've ever hired out, due to a little sloppiness by the painters, we're pleased with the results. The painters had to come back a half dozen times to clean up and touch up and in the end, they still missed a few places. We think we can fix them though and it will be a lot less tedious than if we'd done the whole project ourselves.


I serendipitously came across a box of peaches on a return trip for work last Friday. Peaches weren't in the plans for canning this summer, especially the when the plan included leaving town for the weekend. But since it was the season and a box of juicy, ripe peaches can't call my name and not get my attention, I packed up 25 lbs of stone fruit and took them to the cabin with me for a canning extravaganza. It was a little more difficult working in a foreign kitchen without all of my gadgets or sharp knives but I managed. Justin helped by eating seven peaches in 2 days, a feat I didn't think he was up to. In the end there were 5 pints of spiced peach preserves and 8.5 quarts of sectioned peaches in light syrup....and an electric stove that about to cash in on its pension and retire.

Monday, August 15, 2011


 Isn't it wonderful to have abundant fruit trees everywhere you turn in this city? It's even better when there's a free-for-all pair of plum trees less than a mile away. On Sunday, Justin and I went to pillage the plum trees in preparation for the inaugural annual canning rituals. Someone had beat us to the low-hanging fruit so Justin, brave as he is, pulled himself up a small cliff holding onto ivy vines to get to the higher branches. Then he tossed each plum individually down to me to bag up. Truly a team effort!
Honey-ginger plum jam.
Today, I boiled and peeled and mashed and stirred those plums into a jammy slurry and canned my first* bounty of the season. Seven half-pints ain't too shabby.

*Technically the refrigerator pickle and dilly beans were the first but I forwent the water bath canning and opted for a simpler approach.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

A Class Reunion

The class of '98 met up again for another summer picnic. This time the babies weren't quite so docile...2 of 3 are walking and the youngest pipsqueak is just about ready to launch. That's tough on a group of parents in a house with flights of stairs and not a single cabinet latch. Now that the kiddos are a little older, bedtimes are more important so the whole crowd was gone by 8 o'clock. 

L-R: Andy, Megan, Justin, Henry, Scott, Tory, Colin, Elizabeth, Jay, Esme. Foreground: Pongo's rear.

Flowers: A Montage

 Just a few shots from my garden on the last day of July.

Echinacea and Russian Sage

Bluebeard and Monarda

My favorite vignette: Penstemon, Daphne and Dusty Miller

Paintin' and Preppin'

Most of this month we've been lolly-gagging around, taking in the summery weather (Yes! I'm the only one in Seattle who thinks we were dealt a decent summer) and taking a break from the DIY projects. But, we've managed to cram in a few projects, specifically the prepping of the stairs for their big makeover (coming soon) and this weekend, a start on replacing the trim around the windows on the south side of the house.

Justin spent a few hours on Saturday digging out all of the wood from the garage that we've been storing since about this time two summers ago. On Sunday morning, I primed all of the pieces and by Sunday afternoon, Justin was into the blue paint, laying down the first finish coat.

Meticulously applying a coat to the trim boards.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Summer Scrapin'

Stairs. This is one of our last interior projects; one that I have been really successful in procrastinating. (there are a few more that I'm earning gold stars in the procrastination category too but those are for another blog post) Sometime last summer, I thought, why don't I hire someone to deal with the stairs and painting them? But then we looked at them a little closer and figured we needed to do some work like attach some trim, fill in some holes and gaps before we could have someone paint things. We didn't (don't) want to get carried away and pay someone to caulk. The only reason I'm entertaining the idea of hiring a painter at all is that this is really detailed work and I don't think I have the patience nor tenacity to do this project.

So, that brings us to today-well--really this past weekend. Justin got super into the idea of scraping off old paint from the stringers on Saturday morning. I could have helped but I didn't. On Sunday, he picked up where he left off and then sanded down the stringers and risers to prep for paint. I did my part by contacting a painter for an estimate. We still have a few more things to sand down and are waiting for a new tool that Justin procured from the internet to help him get into the corners. Once the wood is prepped, we have to add some new trim to some areas and caulk and fill all of the holes (my job).

Here are the stairs with the stringers scraped of paint:

Justin sands the risers:

Oh, and another project that we did about a month ago that I never reported on: tool organization in the garage. In the spirit of reorganization and making more room for an automobile to fit in this garage, we abandoned the can-o-tools for this homemade hanging rack.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Gardening News

Justin and I have been busy in the garden, taking advantage of our warm summery weekends and not-so-warm, dreary weekdays. We've nearly planted all of our crops and have been harvesting assorted greens (chard, spinach & lettuce) and radishes for about a month now. This is the first year I've successfully planted multiple rotations of radishes. We're on our third rotation and I'm out of seeds so I guess that's all until fall.

Peas, tomatoes and peppers (and some sad looking garlic that wintered over). We each ate a single pea pod this evening--they are just coming in. These babies aren't very tall but they have quite a batch of incoming pods.

My grove of greens: spinach and lettuce. Behind are the sprouts of pickling cukes and squash. In between is the third crop of radishes, just peaking through.

Here's the health-food section: chard, kale, beets and parsnips. Only the parsnips have a ways to go. Everything else is ready to go. Believe it or not, we've probably had a half-dozen salads with the chard already. The beans in the background are just getting their second leaves.

Here's a sweet little pocket of the garden: poppy and lupine

Lots of stuff is in bloom and we're starting to get little vignettes of plants and flowers coming in. It's fun to watch and rearrange certain items in my head (and some day in the yard as well).

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

First Harvest

We have some crisp and spicy red radishes, fresh from the garden!

A finished project!

 Finally a weekend with two healthy DIYers and 10 hours of dry daylight! Justin and I got our jig on carving up umpteen 2x3s with a fanciful curve and mounting them on the top of the trellis. I sawed, Justin sanded and then we finished the project off with a little edge-easing with the router. All in a day's work.

Around this time last year, we had barely more than a pile of rubble and a big vision for the backyard. But this year, the yard is filling in with fresh flowers and new greenery including some promising looking salad greens in the raised bed. Our apple trees have blossomed and our maples are just leafing out. I can't wait to fill in the bare spots with some new shrubs and perennials.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Spring has sprung!

We've been waiting for the first weekend of the year where the sun shines and air is crisp and almost warm. And it came this weekend. Both cats were out and about, eating blades of grass and romping through the neighborhood. We spent Saturday exhausting ourselves moving boxes and furniture for friends Ryan and Michelle. They're spending the summer in an apartment while they search for a new house. And today, even with a few sore muscles from yesterday, we made some progress on the arbor and some other outdoor projects. I'm pretty proud of our accomplishments.

We hung a bunch of lattice on the trellis, filling it in. We under-ordered on a few dimensions of wood so we couldn't get much further than this today.

After a trip to the home improvement store, we came home with some hooks for improving our storage arrangement for our garden tools. I installed the hooks and hung all of the tools while Justin worked on the arbor/trellis.

When we bought our house, it had bars on the basement windows. But, last year before we had the windows replaced, Justin and I removed all of the bars, opting for an unobstructed view. Thinking ahead to a day like today, I saved the decorative ironwork with the future hope of making a trellis or garden art. With our sugar snap peas planted and sprouted, these re-purposed window grates should provide a nice support for our incoming crop.

A perfect width!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Another weekend

 This weekend has been jam-packed! On Friday night, Justin and I went to the opening night of Paul Simon's tour for his new album. I'm a huge Paul Simon fan so this was a special night. Justin was really amused to be sitting amongst a sing-along-er in every direction. He had no idea that there were so many people cut from the same cloth as me! This may be the last time ol' Rhymin' Simon tours; he's going to be 70 this year. I'm super happy that I got the chance to see him one more time.

On Saturday, we had a birthday party for Justin which entailed spending the day sprucing up the house and cooking up a birthday feast. We made banh mi sandwiches for the party and they were a big hit. These are Vietnamese-style sandwiches: marinated meat on a crusty french roll with pickled veggies, jalapeno, cilantro and spicy mayo. If you haven't had one, your most exciting discovery will be the price: usually < $3 for an 8" sandwich that is truly delish. We made ours using a great recipe from last year's Bon Appetit magazine.

And on Sunday, we were planning a day of rest but I had ants in my pants and couldn't help digging into a timely project. I've been planning to re-purpose the security grates that we pulled off the windows when we moved into the house as a trellis. I've planted sugar snap peas along the garage and now that they are poking out of the ground, I need a trellis for them to climb up and flourish. I spent the afternoon scraping rusted metal off the old grates, washing off the dirt and spray painting. We ran out of spray paint so I'll need to pick up tomorrow where I left off but I'm hoping to have a homemade pea trellis on the side of our garage before my little pea vines grow another inch.

Scraping off the rust:

Saturday, April 2, 2011


Justin dug in with enthusiasm to this trellis project. The wood has been sitting in our garage for over a week and I know he has been getting anxious to saw it all up and build something. Justin loves getting the drills out. 

Here's an action shot:

The skeleton of the trellis, all up:

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Farmer Laura

Did the groundhog see his shadow this year? I think so and now six weeks later, Seattle is enjoying temperatures that are pretty ideal for kicking off the planting season. I should mention that I kicked off the planting season over a month ago indoors with grow light and heating pad and today, the seedlings are all of an inch tall and really spindly. Something is not right with my indoor garden. Let's hope the seeds I planted yesterday fair a little better. If so, I'll have baby lettuce, spinach, radishes, beets, kale, chard, peas and parsnips poking out in another week or so.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

On to the fun part

Our heavily unused second bedroom on the second floor has undergone a bit of a makeover over the last few weeks. It started out as a playroom for the cats, complete with a shredded cat tree. Then, when Justin and I put the king-sized bed in our bedroom, we relocated our queen bed into this room and got rid of the mishmash of cat and craft and couch. But the room lacked trim and the closet was missing doors and an organization scheme. Now it has trim, new paint and a snazzy closet. We put the finishing touches on the paint this weekend and moved all of the furnishings back into the room today, freeing the hallway from the jumble.

Here is the closet, complete with our bargain bi-folds and a homemade closet system.
We have a table for sewing and crafts on the left side of the closet that I'm hoping to put to use soon for curtain and pillow making.

Here's a rare shot of me working. Seriously, I do stuff but I'm also the historian so I'm usually the one behind the camera capturing the moment.

I didn't get any action shots of us painting the walls but the room is small enough that the paint went on pretty quickly and we were done in a day. We've switched to Rodda paint from Valspar, mostly because I had a 2-for-1 coupon at Rodda. But after using it in the master bedroom, I was pleased enough with the coverage to go back. It's a little spendy (~$45/gal) without the coupon but very affordable at 1/2 price.

Here's the room all painted out and put back together:
From a different angle:

So, now we are onto the fun part of picking out some curtains and a duvet and some colorful accents. I think I am going to go with a dark blue and purple. The walls are a light gray that leans to the blue side of the spectrum. I had thought the walls would dry a little lighter but you get what you get. I like it though. I think it will make the room look brighter which is important since that window faces north. We're unlikely to have the blinds open much since the view is the house next door with its peeling paint and other maintenance issues.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Just for fun...

We've been working on finished the trim in the guest bedroom upstairs. We are rounding 3rd on that project. I don't have any photos for you of the trim, but I have been hard a work figuring out what the third bedroom should look like when we're finished with it. I've been playing around with Olioboard and here's what I've come up with (and don't worry, I don't love that curtain's just all I could find in the approximately correct color) :

I'm really only set on the shag purple rug since I already own it. The bed, which I didn't feature in the montage is black and a bit contemporary. Everything else would be need to be acquired. I'm kind of excited about the plum-turquoise-lime green combination but I have some other ideas up my sleeve: red-pink-plum, orange-lime green-plum, and plum-navy. I'm thinking all of these would have a backdrop of white walls...and I'm leaning toward a white that has a drop of gray in it.

Anyway, let me know if you think this is too much or if you have any other great ideas for incorporating a purple shag rug into my decor.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Mr. P

It's been about 6 weeks now since P-Kitty moved in and he's starting to make himself at home. And Tink is starting to tolerate him. We've even seen them chase each other around a few time for play. Pongo doesn't like to be picked up or petted much but he's frequently up for chasing round and rolly objects from one end of the house to the other.

Here are our two cutie-pies almost snuggled up together. This is actually a huge improvement from the first three weeks of cohabitation.

In the Nook

Every time we get ready to wrap up a project, Justin and I love to indulge each other with our mental "to-do" list to try and come to an agreement on the next project. For the past 5 or 6 months, I've been saying my preferred next project is the shelving in the office. And, for the past 5 or 6 months, we've worked on something else. But this month, my project prevailed. I think 2011 is going to be a good year.

There were a few hitches to this seemingly simple project. First off, we had some dimensioning issues but those were luckily solved with 5'x5' pieces of plywood. Second off, our oven broke in the middle of this project. You don't need to use your oven for any part of this project, other than for fixing dinner. But, that is exactly what we were doing the evening that I applied the first coat of stain to the shelves. We didn't realize this at the time, but the petroleum fumes from the oil-based stain dispersed throughout the house and our gas range started combusting them. It didn't cause a fire or anything other than a noxious smell, but we did have to finish cooking our dinner in the microwave and we spent the next day puzzling over what went wrong with our oven. It wasn't until two days later when we called the appliance repairman that we got our first clue about the paint fumes. So, bottom line, don't use oil-based paints inside unless you can open all of the windows and ventilate the space well.

Okay, onto the shelves.

Here's an action shot of Justin installing the cleats.

I've been checking out office organizing systems here and there for the past few months, anticipating we'd be doing the project. It's really fun to get a bunch of boxes and move all of your disorganized stuff into its new home. The last time I got an organizational bee in my bonnet, it was 15 months ago so I haven't had this kind of fun for a while.

Here's the view of the new shelves holding up our important (and not so important) stuff.

We were able to get the printer off the counter and the bulletin board hung and all of the cords tacked up neatly under the counter. I'm going to keep my eye out for a nice large colorful print to frame and hang on the wall adjacent to these shelves...there's a nice big open wall to fill.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

And a belated happy New Year!

We rang in 2011 with barely a jingle, sorry to say. I was laid up on the couch with a truly unpleasant cold. But, our 2011 has been pretty productive nonetheless. We have been working on a bunch of odds and ends. Starting off the new year, we got back into our painting clothes and finished installing and painting all of the trim in our master bedroom. Now our closet is really complete, with a door and molding and everything. This weekend I worked on a chore that I have been postponing for more than a year: touching up the wall paint. When we installed the new baseboards and door frames, we ended up with caulk and white paint on the walls. I pulled out 3 different colors of paint today and touched it all up. Sad to say, but I think the upstairs hallway is going to need a total repaint since the touch-ups seem to dry just a smidgen off the color on the walls. We'll probably save that project for another year.

The other super exciting thing that we worked on was building shelves for the office nook. We had some really unfortunate dimensions to work with: 49" x 13.5". Every commercially available shelf was 48" so just a bit short of the full span and when you look at making shelves out of sheet goods, you get really annoyed because everything is just a little too small to get an optimal cut from a 4'x8' piece of plywood. Lucky for us, our trusty lumberyard, Compton's, happened to sell 5'x5' pieces of 1/2" plywood. Eureka! We needed 4 pieces of 49"x12.75" plywood cuts and this did the trick with hardly any waste which made it a cheaper project in the end. Justin fabricated the shelves on Saturday afternoon and I stained them up. I'll get some polyurethane on them over the next week and then hopefully we'll get them hung before next weekend. The true fun starts when I can start filling them up with all of the office supplies and storage.