Fairy Garden

I can not resist messing with the kids.  When Francis told me she was making a fairy garden in the window well from the basement, I started looking around for things to put in it.  Now I just need to contain my desire to call attention to it and hope she notices on her own.


Summer Construction

Our construction is moving right along between our trips out of town and our action-packed kid schedules.  Dad and Uncle Rick hung the gorgeous doors on the art studio this last week.  You have to stand back to the curb to truly appreciate the beauty of the design and the wood.  They are striking!  I had joked that now I would need to improve our front door as anything looks shabby compared to the studio doors.  That is seeming less and less like a joke.IMG_0651
Dad also brought in the one-woman (or man I guess—-they can come in too), door for the studio.  This is the door coming off the back porch.  It is painstakingly carved by hand and includes a channel where I will mount my hand-built tiles.  It is going to look a little empty for awhile though.  I have no kiln as of yet and haven’t even made the tiles.IMG_0652

I am super excited about the” barn” fixtures for the studio.  Back in October, my mom bought two of these for me from our old high school.  Reproductions of this style are hot right now, so I was pretty stoked about getting a fixture that elsewhere would be $400.

IMG_0653Someone recently asked me how my yard looked….. sadly, it looks really atrocious.  It was not so long ago that I hosted a wedding shower tea party in my backyard.  It looked lovely then.  Now it is trampled and devoid of grass, full of building supplies and construction debris.  I haven’t spent much time trying to preserve it because I am afraid I might plant something only to have a pile of lumber put on top of it.  How about I put a tea table in the middle of that dirt pile?  Sigh.IMG_0654Things are moving right along.  Here’s hoping that I have some grass on my lawn by October!

Reading by Our Lake

lakereadingI think I have waxed poetic before about why I like backpacking.  It isn’t that I like doing a million miles of hiking.  I don’t like getting on top of things and looking out.  I certainly do not like living on dehydrated food for days on end!

I like it for these lovely moments where the whole world seems to drop into its correct place.  The day is long and quiet, or surprising in its simplicity.  Frogs in the pond.  Tadpoles getting ready to join the adult frog world.  Deer who are not afraid of us.

For the kids, it is magical too.  They accept the dirtiness with relish; (I try to follow along without too much complaint).  The entertainment is splashing in the lake, whittling sticks, catching frogs and listening to In a Glass Grimly by Adam Gidwitz each night.

By the way, if you have a child between about 5 and 13 in your family and like reading out loud to him or her (or them!), I HIGHLY recommend Gidwitz’s books.  Tale Dark and Grimm is good.  In a Glass Grimmly is better!  Can’t wait until The Grimm Conclusion is in paperback.  Gidwitz is the ultimate cheeky narrator, making jokes and raising his hand in faux horror over his mouth at the action in the story…..which is often gross and sort of bloody in a delightful way.  Really!

We’re back from our 5 nights in the Trinity Alps Wilderness of northern California.  It was wonderful.


Gotta Make It All Fit!

The kids and I take off tomorrow on a 5 day back-packing trip in the Trinity Alps area of Northern California.  I am working on the very daunting task of cramming days worth of food, clothing and supplies into our packs.  This follows the shopping frenzy of this last week—–what do we need and how much?  How could you have grown out of those Keens already?!

What with an extra human who can’t carry much (Inez) and not bringing along our pack horse (Brad), I am at a loss as to how to make it all go.  Luckily that Francis can really haul.  She isn’t here with us for me to test the weight she’s carrying though, so I am trying to err on the side of under-loading her.IMG_0464 It is always sort of confusing to do the multi-trip pack.  We have things for on the trail and then things for the 4 days off the trail afterwards, and needless to say, they are not the same things.  Once in civilization, you will not catch me dead wearing zip-off pants!  Now how do I make this beer fit?IMG_0465Wish us luck!


Newest Addition Pictures

Some people find this interesting, so I am going to keep on posting pictures of the (minuscule) work completed on the addition.


The front is looking pretty good. We’re waiting on two massive doors that my father is making. They look lovely so far, but won’t be installed until more of the messy work is done.


This side of the studio is really going to need some serious landscaping. Ideas? I am picturing some big fern and shade-loving blue-green hostas.


Here is the view from the back yard. Sauna is on the right and our kitchen is on the left. That back door will go into the art studio space. No deck yet, but that is coming soon!


I have had a week completely free of children…. at least my children.  It has been incredibly freeing.  The days have seemed longer, I have gotten more done and yet felt more relaxed.  It has been a truly wonderful time.  If only the house was empty of PEOPLE, then it would be perfect.  Anyone who knows anything about our lives right now knows that tale though, so I will skip the whining.  Focusing on the positive—- I have been free of my children for the longest stretch in 11 years.  Awesome.

I had two goals for this time:

One was to refinish a crappy bench that I dragged home from the street corner a couple blocks away.  I realize that dragging free furniture home sort of went out of style as bedbugs became more common, but this seemed like a pretty marginal risk.  The bench had a fake leather cushion and a tacky stain job.  A couple days of very boring sanding and $12 in fabric later, I have this sweet addition:


It looks pretty good in our house… not bad for a free bench made of sort of low-quality wood.  Of course, no amount of sanding and attention was going to make that wood beautiful, but it is passable.


Second goal was to watch World Cup in the middle of the day.  Devra popped in to join me during her lunch time.  It was pretty awesome to hang out in the German pub and watch England play Uraguay.  Poor England though.

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It is not so much that I am a huge soccer fan, but the World Cup inspires something in me.  I feel like it is time to be a global citizen or something, and I want to go out and be around people who are excited about something.  And I guess it seems very crazy and free to go drink beer in the middle of the day.  The only bad thing about that is that you need a big nap afterwards.  Life is so hard, but I AM on vacation, right?  And it all ends Sunday.

Best Birthday Ever Walks all over Busy Month

The end of April and all of May kicked our asses in about 12 different ways.  We had three birthdays in our house, one First Communion, a myriad of final projects for both kids and me, dance recitals, violin recitals, volunteer events, extra classes to teach and one funeral thrown in for good measure.  May was crazy and I was happy to see it go.

One thing that was sort of sweet to see go was another year for my eldest.  Francis turned 11 in May and had (in her words) “the best birthday ever!”.  Brad and I agreed that “the best birthday ever” seems to be something that has not much to do with being around adults.  In addition, her friends are getting more emotionally mature too, so there was less drama and more fun, which is always a good thing.  “Best birthday ever” involved having three friends over to our house to meet up, drinking fancy pomegranate juice with orange wedges and sparkling water.  They tried to play the My Little Pony game that Francis invented.  I don’t know how successful they were, but her friends were impressed that she invented a game and gave her all sorts of compliments for her efforts.IMG_0326 Next stop, pedicures.  These girls are all WONDERFUL people, but a couple of them are way high-energy, so I worried about them being too crazy for the salon.  I needn’t have worried.  They were nearly silent in the salon—-wowed by the experience I think!IMG_0332 IMG_0329

At the end, the girls all had pretty, super-bright toes.IMG_0335

I took their cute toes and dropped them off on North Mississippi where they got ice cream and walked around looking at the shops.  I had a few moments of worry, not that they would be unsafe on their own, but that they might be obnoxious.  Then it occurred to me that it is a big world out there, full of lots of people; some far more obnoxious than four 11 year olds “out on the town”.  A little obnoxiousness will serve these girls well in this world where you sometimes have to yell a little to not get stepped on.  And so, on Francis’ 11th birthday, I say, “Go forth and be obnoxious my dear child!”


“Okay, Mom!”

Phew! That’s Better!

So, I do learn things in my life (every now and then), and I am capable of admitting that I was wrong (sometimes).  This week I learned that I really need to trust my dad a whole lot more.  As the eyebrow roof went on and the back walkway was framed with lovely beams, it became apparent that our remodel is going to look AWESOME.  How could I have worried that my dad would make my house ugly?  Sheesh!

The front of the house looks a lot more in scale with the eyebrow roof.  It is funny how it looks a bit wonky to the eye because the weather sheathing isn’t straight.  Don’t worry folks!  The roof is straight.  The big opening will have two huge carved doors.  Can’t wait for that!


I was pleased that I was able to sink a glazed tile in the entryway before the concrete dried.  It was a small victory that made the slab more mine.

This is a view looking into the studio (standing in the front door opening).  From here you can see storage under our stair and where we intend to hang bikes.  The kiln will go in the left hand corner (not visible).  The back door is going to the back deck and the kitchen entrance to our house.IMG_0312

Here is the view back from the backyard.  You can see the stairs up to the sun deck and the sauna off to the right.  I am really looking forward to the back covered deck area.  It is sort of a pass-through area, but I imagine that I will spend a lot of time there during the rainy weather.  I have to put myself in time-out sometimes, so it will be excellent to be able to still the rage within without being rained on.

Yes, the stairs do look like a massive slide right now.  I assure you that they will eventually be stairs.  Right now we just have the water-proofing membrane.

Funny story— last weekend I climbed up here barefoot (using chimney rock-climbing techniques).  Once on top, I saw some small pools of water and started pushing them around to see if the deck really would drain down the “slide”.  Only then I realized that I had made my surface completely impassable, and to try to go back down the slide would mean a broken neck.  I was trapped upstairs and had to knock on the upstairs window to get back in the house.IMG_0317

This area looks sooooooo pretty!  I am going to find some pretty lights for it too.IMG_0318

But back upstairs—here is the view towards the front street.IMG_0320

And here is the view back towards our house.  Just think, I will be able to clean that sky light now!IMG_0322

Things are moving right along around here.  Round about July or August, we expect to have a giant party to celebrate our new addition…..not so ugly after all!


We’ve been joking a bit around here about our construction being really quite ugly.  We know it will be lovely eventually, but as it is two stories (and yet not OBVIOUSLY two stories), it looks over-sized and sort of terrible right now.  You see, the top is actually a deck and you are seeing the railing on top.  Right now it just looks like a big box store though….sort of like a COSTCO or something.  My architect (yeah, my Dad!), laughed about how homely his child was too.  I appreciated how he said that we have to believe in the design and wait and see.  The drawings look great, so we have to trust that it will all work out in the end.  For now, it is ugly though.

IMG_0188A whole lot has gotten done this week.  The good weather brought action!

Here is the inside of the studio area, looking towards the door that will lead to our back deck.  I think my kiln will go in the left hand corner; a big work table in the middle, and bike storage under the stairs (the ladder right now) to the right.

IMG_0189 From this view, you are looking up the soon-to-be stairs.  It’s pretty fun being up on top of the sun deck looking out at the neighborhood!

IMG_0190 And what is this?  It’s the sauna!  Yes indeed, Brad and I figured that we are bound to be Oregonians for life, and that means coming up with a suitable way to cope with the ages-long winter.  You can’t run off to Mexico constantly, so you need to come up with a way to warm your bones.   This deck off the kitchen is going to be super nice too.  I imagine sitting here meditating when it rains…. which you know, it sometimes does.IMG_0191I’ll be sure to post new pictures this week, because truth-be-told, these are old already.  Onward!

DIY Ziplines

It was suggested that we might have a zip line running from the top floor of our studio to our yard (eeeek!).  It’s an easy thing to contemplate when you don’t have to make good on the construction.  I can imagine a line from the lower deck to the yard where there won’t be as far to drop, but from the upper deck….. oh Lord.

The kids couldn’t wait though, and Francis had an idea and the motivation to walk 4 blocks to the hardware store to buy a pulley to make a zip line from one tree to another in a neighbor’s yard.  It was an impressive effort, although the actual “ride” looked terrifying and disappointingly short.  The kids seem happy with it though.  Inez had the bright idea that everyone should wear helmets, which I liked.


The brave engineer gives it a first ride.


Kale (the neighbor kid with crazy motor skills) hops on from the branch and zooms on down. All the kids in the ‘hood are in line to ride.


Lily prefers the “towel method”, which is what the kids used before Francis took off for the hardware store.


It is sort of scary to make the first launch.


Just like in Costa Rica!


Inez is too freaked to do it. Just after this picture, she falls right out of the tree.