When the cat's away, the mice further deconstruct the bathroom

October 27, 2008

Kevin's in LA all week for PDC (Professional Developers Conference), and about five minues after he got on the airport shuttle, I was full of project plans for the house. I write to-do lists constantly, and I've had "repair mbr, closet, BA walls" and "paint MBR, closet, bath" on every single list for at least eight months. I'm so ready to be done with those line items. The biggest problem, of course, is that we need to sleep somewhere else for two days while the room ventilates and the paint dries. So, when Kevin left I only needed to displace one sleeper, and the renovation plan was set for the week! (I should note: Kevin totally approves of this work, it's just that neither of us have started it yet.)

Of course, once I started with the joint compount, I found many other places to use it. The major one is the main bath, and while repairing the known wall damage is great, I was holding my breath about what we'd find under the big mirror. We were pretty lucky – four 1" wide holes, plus the holes from the wall anchors that held up the mirror, so all well within the realm of my new-found joint compounding skills.

I unscrewed the two wood backsplashes for the vanity, but they won't budge, so that will be a task for Kevin and his crowbar.

The thing of joint compound we had in the garage is amusing. The stuff is Barbie Pink (it dries to white – useful), and so slathering it on the walls doesn't really feel like a legit DIY project.

I'm finding that I like joint compounding WAY more than painting – it's fast, satisfying, and the cleanup is instantaneous. MUCH better than the priming/painting nonsense! Too bad that the whole edging/rollers stage is next in the process!!

For the next few days, the major potential blocking issues is figuring out how to move our bed (by myself??) in time for painting... hmmm?


Hidden Wells quilt

I finally finished the Daybed Quilt!!

I finished sewing the trim on Tuesday night, and then spent Wednesday night and the last few minutes before James and Thanh arrived on Thursday sewing in all of the thread ends from the quilting. I washed it (to removed all of the starch, and to give it that wrinkly look), and it was finished in time for their stay. Yay!

I'm very pleased with the way it turned out. The trim, especially, is gorgeous to me, and really frames the quilt well. Here's the top:

And here's the back:

You can see the quilting pretty well (especially if you click for big), and I got another closeup picture of the quilting in the sunshine:

The pattern for this was Hidden Wells. My full log of blog posts is here. It was a slightly unusual project because it reminds me of so many other people. I bought the fabric with a Christmas gift certificate from Kevin's sister, I started starching and piecing all of the fabric when Amanda, Brian and Lily were here, and the color combo now makes me think of Kevin's mom because she was so enthusiastic about it. It's neat to have all of those associations. :-)


More light!!

October 26, 2008

We'd been waiting for weeks for our permit to go through, and then early last week it finally did. On Thursday and Friday we had four trees taken out – yay! Kevin's Dad actually did the research and found the tree company for us. I loved that – between the scam artists and the specialized lingo, it was great to just be able to trust his recommendation.

Our town limits the number of trees you can remove per year, and generally they require that you replace each healthy removed tree with a new native species. At least the permits are free. (We've both heard horror stories of people fined thousands for removing trees without a permit, so the free route seemed optimal.)

When we moved in, our quarter-acre property had 17 trees. Three were fruit trees that we won't remove (especially after Kevin's dad did such an amazing job pruning them for us), and one was a little (5" at 4' off the ground) hemlock that I cut down myself with the handsaw. So that leaves 14 trees – we just removed four, and will probably do another 5-6 in the next 2 or so years. Major motivations are more light, saving the roof and gutters, and saving the cars (we park in the driveway, and are perpetually fighting pitch). Here's a very rough map of our property, with the trees we removed crossed out in blue, and the ones slated for the future crossed out in red.

This time, we removed two 65' hemlocks from the east side of the house. At four feet off the ground, they measured 20" and 22" in diameter. (Both qualified as dangerous, given how much they were leaning and how close to the house they were. One of them has been a woodpecker haven all summer, and when they cut it down the center was all rotten. Whew. Good timing, us!) On the west side, we took down a 65' fir tree that was 26" in diameter four feet off the ground, and was about seven feet from the house. Our neighbours also told us that the top snapped off in the last windstorm and fell on the cars in our house's driveway and the neighbours' – explains why it looks so huge and filled out for "merely" 65' of height. We also had the remains of the sweetgum removed. (Kevin's dad cut down about 2/3 of the tree over Christmas – we would have let him keep going except that it was big enough to require a permit.)

Watching them take the trees down was simultaneously fascinating and terrifying. The drop zone was very small. They de-limbed the trees first, and dropped all of the big branches down with ropes.

(See the guy up there?) All of the small brush got chopped – they carted away two huge truck worths of it (I was so glad not to be stuffing it in the yard waste bins!). Once they had just the trunk left, they cut 16" sections off and let them fall to earth. The thuds were ground-shaking, and we have some impressive divots. The rounds (live wood that's 16" tall by 20"+ in diameter) is impressively heavy, and it was falling far enough that by the time it hit ground it was really flying.

Before on the east side of the house:

And after:

Before on the west side of the house:

And after:

And from the front, before (photo from June):

And after:

Pictures don't really do it, but I can't even tell you how much more sky there is.

And we're also delighted about all of our new space on the east side of the house (outside our bedroom window) – before it had really just been a forgotten area, but now it's really worth cultivating. (And it finally gets enough direct sunlight to be able to support bushes and plant life.) We're excited.

We still need to have three of the stumps ground, and have all of the wood removed. We have some friends who were excited about free firewood, so that should cut down our removal costs a bit. I'm also weighing the merits of just putting a few rounds a week in our yard waste bin. It will be about $150 to have it hauled away, so it's just on the cusp of being worth it for the time and effort...



Kevin's cousin James and his fiancee Thanh were in town for a wedding, so they stayed with us for three nights! They spent time touring around on Thursday and Friday while we were at work, and then we got to hang out in the evenings. Such fun.

Here's Thanh taking a picture of "these twelve year olds", as she termed it. :-) Kevin and James did a long tour of XBox games on Friday night.

We set up a jigsaw puzzle to do in the meantime – much more fun, in my book. :-)

And here's the group right before James and Thanh left for an overnight up in Vancouver.

(You can see the gorgeous farmers market flowers they brought from Pike Place Market on the right!)

I had the camera out for three days but somehow forgot to use it, so I'll have to get all of Thanh's photos to round out the record of their trip.


October 22, 2008

I had to bring a camera into work to take photos of the trees outside my building.

In the last week, they've suddenly become spectacular, and when the sun comes out, all I want to do is walk around outside and breathe in the color.

Guide to buying wine

October 21, 2008

Under $8: quite drinkable
Screwcap: fine
Label written in Spanish: frequently delicious

Comes with a plastic toy?! DON'T BUY.

Lesson learned.

Purple Circle Sweater

October 20, 2008

Before we left for Ohio, I finally cast on for the Sunrise Circle Jacket. (You can see it here if you're not on Ravelry and don't mind scrolling.) It's been sitting in my Ravelry queue for ages. I debated on the yarn – I had some Cascade 220 Superwash in my stash from Fall 2005. I'd bought it for a sweater in Vogue Knitting that ended up having too much errata, and the color didn't appeal to me for any other pattern. It's still not my favourite color, but I'm rather pleased about the idea of actually using it instead of leaving it in the closet to hang over my head. (I'm not a large-stash person, and the fun of buying new yarn is greatly diminished when I already have plenty at home.)

The back was awesome plane knitting, and the I've been working on it during Red Sox and football games. Nearly done and ready for the next piece!

(Sorry for the misshapen photo – it's curling like you wouldn't believe. Also, note fall leaves from the neighbours' birch tree!) My stitch gauge is perfect, but my row gauge is giving me trouble – I'm a bit worried how it's going to affect all of those short rows on the front...


Slow progress

October 19, 2008

We've been going out all week to watch the Red Sox games (we don't get TBS), and when we get home, I've been working on my quilt binding.

I used this tutorial (this one had prettier formatting, but I prefered the way the first one handled the starting edge.) Both of these were recommended by Crazy Mom Quilts, who's been churning out tutorials of her own all year. Creating the binding and machine sewing it went quite quickly, but handsewing the back edge is massively time consuming. I'm gradually getting faster, and I'm about 75% of the way around, but it's already been an eight hour project. Whew! It's so incredibly crisp and pretty, and I can finally see the light/finished quilt at the end of the very long tunnel, so it feels worth the effort.


October in Seattle

October 18, 2008

The roses are still blooming:

Our neighbours' tree is glowing:

And the flourescent green moss is rapidly taking over the patio...

I kind of like that it coordinates so nicely with the flowerpot on the table. But seriously, we need a plan and quickly.

Secret knitting

October 15, 2008

Knitting content on the blog has been fairly sparse mostly because August and September were devoted to finishing a sweater for a friend's daughter's 2nd birthday.

I don't know if you remember the nearly–finished lace twist front top that I'd decided to rip a few months ago? I'd started it back in June 2006, and it was a ton of fun to knit. Later that summer, I used the lace from the twist front top to knit a sweater for the same friend's daughter-to-be.

And then I returned to the original top, knitting away, and in fierce denial about how narrow it was.

I finally ripped it this August. Since it was actually the correct width for the 2-3 year sweater patterns I was finding, I decided to refashion the back and then knit a new front and sleeves. It turned into quite the long project (so much bigger than the baby sweaters I've worked on recently! Crazy how much they grow!), and I had several attempts at the correct amount to increase for the sleeves. They look incredibly long to me, though the measurements matched the patterns I was basing the dimensions on.

I love the buttons – they are simple, but an exact color match. I debated on the number, but three seemed good to me.

And one last photo on the counter – this one is harder to see, but it's a much better catch of the color. The light blue is hard to catch in the grey fall light!

Details about the pattern and dimensions on my Ravelry site!


Sunday Night Football

October 14, 2008

Shawn, Sanna, and William came over to watch the Patriots game. (Larry just got back from a recruiting trip to Boston and was feeling too hectic to swing by. We missed him.) We had a yummy dinner – fajitas with all sorts of CSA veggies, plus spaghetti squash, and a warm nectarine sauce served over ice cream. Kevin and William played in the yard, I made progress on my new sweater, and the Patriots lost impressively. Ouch. At least we had great conversation and company in the meantime.

(Isn’t that the worst photo ever? I think I had it on the wrong setting. Also note that the room is still a construction zone. Soon, soon, we may someday finish it.)

Bowing to Reality

October 12, 2008

I spent about five hours on Saturday pulling weeds (especially the healthy amount of blackberry and ivy starts), which means that our gardens are lovely and that I finally got a good look at our roof from the back side of our house. Wow.

Note especially the red-from-pine-needles roof, and the trees sprouting in the gutter at lower right. Hmmm. Apparently we need to run a tighter ship in September – none of this was there four weeks ago!

Between the sight of the roof, and watching our neighbour and his electric blower, I finally caved and gave my blessing to buying a needle-blowing noise-machine. I’m still not proud that we have it in our garage, but realistically, you just can’t do that many square feet of roof with a push broom (and we’re allegedly 10 years into a 30 year roof, so I’m sure that every acidic pine needle that’s blown off is a blessing). Kevin was thrilled – he knew exactly the model he wanted. We still had a $50 gift card from Sears due to the water heater fiasco last fall, and so it was free. Nice! Here he is, blowing the last few needles from the roof.

It seems to work on gutters, too, or at least the top portion of them! We’ll do a more thorough pass of them in a week or two once the tree guys come to take out the four trees. We’re taking out two on each side of the house – 3 80-100+ foot pines and one sweetgum. We’re planning to get the stumps ground on the west side of the house and ignore the eastside for now. But I’m sure the tree-removing will produce more pine needles than we’ve seen so far, so the new blower will get quite the work out. :-)

One last question – does anyone in the Pacific Northwest have suggestions for removing moss from a roof?? The internet says a lot about vinegar (bonus points for being cheap), but I’m all ears if you have better suggestions. It’s only October and we already have a bumper crop.


We are so, so behind.

October 08, 2008

We've been loving our CSA bag this year – it's been quite a success, although we've completely, consistently lost the battle in keeping up with the plums and cucumbers. We still have a few more weeks, which is awesome, but we were gone Wednesday through Sunday last week. So, I picked up the bag today and washed not only this week's fruit but last week's as well.

I'll make a big batch of stuffed peppers and freeze them (always a favourite last-minute dinner) but the fruit situation is now alarming. We need to start each eating an apple, a peach, a plum, and a pluot a day if we have any hope of making it out alive. Do any of you have any good plum recipes (desserts are fine)?? We need help. I'm trying to avoid jam (since we barely use it), but anything else would be wonderful.
PS, tomatoes and squash:


Ohio: Brandy & Chris’s Wedding

October 06, 2008

Aside from all of the birthday-celebrating and canal-viewing, the major purpose of the trip was to attend Kevin’s cousin’s wedding. Chris is about half a year older than Kevin and there are all sorts of childhood cousin stories (sliding down the stairs head-first at their grandparents house, etc), plus Chris and Brandy red-eyed out all the way from California to come to our wedding, so I was so happy to get to fly out to celebrate with them. Kevin was asked to be an usher and walk his grandmother down the aisle. :-) The church was so pretty (lots of stained glass and a pretty organ), and the wedding party was lovely – girls in dark blue, most of the guys in Marines uniforms, and bright autumn colors for the flowers. Chris and Brandy both looked so happy. We didn’t bring cameras to the church, so I don’t have any photos, unfortunately.

The reception was a few hours later, and closer to the hotel. Chris’ parents made wine, with labels that had the same photo and color theme as the save-the-dates. None of my photos came out, but I was so impressed. The cake was lovely, and they cut it with a Marines sword – wow.

It took people a little while after dinner to get excited about dancing, but once they started it was hard to tear people away. Here’s a partial family portrait – bunny ears courtesy of Kevin’s uncle Dan.

The room layout was quite clever – space for lots of tables and the a bar in the middle of the room (which you can see in the background ) that divided the entry from the dance floor. It was a pretty chilly night, but there were several french doors that led to patios, which would be lovely in the summer.

A great photo of Kevin’s parents:

Chris and Brandy did an amazing job of getting around the room to talk to everyone. I was so impressed. We meant to at our wedding and completely misjudged the time and only did a third of the room. Oops. Also in the category of things they did masterfully, their first dance:

So happy. :-) (In the photos of ours, I do think that you can see the clock ticking in my head – is 20 seconds enough first-dancing??) It’s so interesting to attend a wedding with still relatively recent experience in the whole thing – so many choices and it’s fun to see what other people decide to do. I’d only been to three weddings before ours (one when I was 6, one when I was eight, and one a month after we got engaged, so I think that total unfamiliarity was probably a large factor for me in our planning process. I was not necessarily the most opinionated bride out there, flowers and invitations aside (and I was frequently sort of horrified by the constant wedding buzz and all of the expectations around being a bride). And yet, I do love seeing other people’s weddings especially now that ours is past, and I can’t tell you how much I enjoy remembering “our way” of doing things. It’s such fun. I loved our wedding, our vows, and all of the people who came to celebrate it with us. Yay for such memorable occasions, and the family and friends that make them matter. :-)

Ohio Trip: Cuyahoga Valley National Park

October 05, 2008

Once we’d booked tickets for the wedding and I was mapping routes from the airport to the hotel, I was startled to find that the route passed a national park (?!). Huh. (Looking at this map, you can see why I think of them as a Western phenomenon).

I don’t think that Kevin and I have too many stated joint life goals, but visiting all of the national parks is one of them. So what a fun surprise to get one for free on this trip!! The more I read, the more excited I got about it. The park is essentially a wilderness area that surrounds the Cuyahoga River, which is gorgeous in of itself but particularly interesting as the river was diverted in the 1820s and 30s to create the Erie canal. (Upon further research, it’s not the Erie canal of fame and the kid’s song, which was built in New York, but the Ohio & Erie canal. Same concept and still cool.)

We only had a few hours so we went to the Brandywine Falls. It’s apparently a “bridal veil” falls – appropriate since there was a (huge) wedding party taking photos when we arrived.

Fun to see all of their dresses and flowers. :-) The walk around the falls was very national parks, with wooden trails to different scenic areas. Here’s Kevin’s family with the falls:

And Neen with some of the neat, neat rocks that lined the trail:

The path led up next to and then over the top of the falls. It’s such a pretty, relatively tiny creek compared to all of that water. The leaves were still almost all green – I imagine that they will be flaming and gorgeous in a few weeks. We’d see a branch here and there that was scarlet or yellow in the sun, but the real color was still a ways out. There was an inn on the opposite back -- looks like a pretty gorgeous place to come spend a weekend. I would have loved more time to explore.

Kevin zoomed back to the rehearsal, and the rest of us drove north through the park to the Canal Visitor Center (sadly, closed, though we got to see one of the locks and there were lots of educational signs). The crickets when we got out were something else. Each step would send about twenty leaping to safety. I’ve never seen anything like them – crazy Ohio Cuyahoga Valley crickets. :-)

Some stats: The Cleveland to Akron canal rose 395 feet over 309 miles and 44 locks. It was completed in 1832. The lock we saw could raise a boat nine feet. Apparently, Akron had 21 locks over two miles, and it took boats 6 hours to get through them. It took 80-90 hours to cross the entire state.

My overwhelming impression of the whole thing was how tiny it was. The lock we were standing at looked about 12’ in width. The fact that something like that could alter the entire economy of a region is mind bending. And you picture the animals pulling the barges across the state in from the great lakes, and it’s a very powerful image. But then, you think how long it would take to dig those trenches by hand (can you imagine?) over so many miles, and the project seems huge. And, on top of all of that, it was only a few decades before the railroads put the canals out of business and you realize how fast our country was changing. I thought the whole thing was terribly interesting.

Ohio Trip

October 04, 2008

We left on Wednesday evening for a trip to Ohio to celebrate Kevin's cousin's wedding. The timing was pretty awesome, because we also got to be there for Kevin's Dad's 50th birthday. Given that we generally have to celebrate all of the family milestones at a distance, it was a treat to get to be there for the real day (though I suspect we've set a high travel bar for Kevin's mom's 50th next fall...).

We red-eyed to the tiny (10 gate) Canton Akron Airport on Wednesday, via O'Hare. The early part of the trip was interesting, since we found an entirely new wing of the SeaTac airport – I didn't realize that we still had any unexplored corners of it, by this point. It was sort of surreal to uncover new territory. Our O'Hare connecting flight kept being pushed back by 40 min for assorted reasons (no plane, no crew x2, and then some sort of mechanical failure), so it was about three hours after scheduled departure that we finally took off. I finally bought a neck pillow in the Seattle airport, which turned out to be one of the best purchases ever, and stole a pillow from United (I would have felt more guilt if they didn't charge $15 to check a single suitcase), and so I think I managed almost 6 hours of sleep between the flights and the airport floor in Chicago. Not terrible, as these things go, though landing in the middle of the country at 2:45 am PST/4:45 am “real” time is still one of those out-of-body experiences to me.

We beat Kevin's parents to the hotel by about 20 minutes – time for one and a half showers. We were planning to get there about 3-4 hours early and nap. Oops. At least we made it, and happily our luggage arrived as expected. We went out to a seafood and steak place for Kevin's Dad's birthday – delicious. It ended up being quite the group, with Kevin’s grandmother, Marge and Norm (the groom’s parents), and Kevin’s cousins Jackie and Joanna, plus her boyfriend Dana. Kevin Sr. and Neen at the restaurant:


Debbie and Marge:

A few cocktails in, everyone had a great time with Kevin’s camera. :-) (We may have had to delete some of these gems to make room for the photos for the rest of the trip…)

And wishing on the fiftieth birthday candle… (note reading glasses on head :-) )