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An autumn of change.

10 Oct

As the leaves change color, so does life.

This autumn in particular holds a couple of big shifts for us.

Cute news first. Emmett is getting a puppy brother – quite literally his half-brother as they have the same mom, Sadie. Einstein will come home with us in early November; we’ll do a quick road trip to MN to pick her up from Rose Creek, the same place we picked up Emmett three years ago. He’s pretty darn adorable and we certainly hope he’s as chill as Emmett. (Though part of me thinks we can’t get that lucky twice.)

In other news, my last day at Lincoln Elementary was Thursday. If it were a normal school year, I’d be more sad about it but in the time of covid, school was much more stressful and hard and uncertain. It was my last day because on Monday I begin a new adventure as a hospice chaplain. I’ll be part of a team, based within the Aurora hospital system, that serves patients in Racine, Kenosha, and northern Illinois. It’s full time and new and exciting and anxiety-producing and all sorts of things. There will be a couple weeks of orientation before I begin doing the actual work. I’m hopeful it will be a good fit.

Since I’ll be based out of home, I’ve set out to peel wallpaper in the guest room – the LAST ROOM in our house that still has it. (And, naturally, it has the wallpaper that seems to be the absolute hardest to remove. Sigh.) It will transition to a combo guest room/office for me. We picked up a cute secretary desk that will go perfectly in the corner. Always a project. Updates to come.

Sourdough update.

18 Sep

Back when we were stuck at home in the middle of winter, when flour was in short supply, when I was looking for projects, I began a sourdough starter. (Here.) I baked a loaf or three of sourdough bread, plus lots of goodies with the sourdough discard. Then summer arrived. I tucked the starter in the back of my fridge. Who wants to bake bread in a 450 degree oven when it’s 85 outside?

It was in the back of the fridge longer than it should have been. In everything I’ve read, a refrigerated starter should still be recharged every couple weeks. I didn’t for probably, oh, two and a half months. I pulled it out a week ago, as the weather begins to get cooler, and you know what? My starter is stronger than ever, baby.

A mark of a good starter is that it doubles in size after it’s fed. Mine never did that before; it would rise but never double. Now? It nearly triples in size. It’s an active little jar of delicious goop on the counter.

Last night I began prepping a deep dish foccacia bread to eat with pumpkin chili tonight. (Pumpkin chili: don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. I first had it with my Dawson-turned-Austin friends. It’s healthy and suuuuper filling and perfect for chilly nights. Tonight’s version features peppers and tomatoes from the garden.) Now, I’ve never made foccacia bread before. Dave doesn’t even know what focaccia bread is so this is new on lots of levels.

It’s a thing of beauty. And super delicious. Look at those glorious bubbles created by the wild yeast in the starter! Maybe tomorrow morning we’ll cut a piece in half to make egg sandwiches. (YUM.) Dave said it kind of tastes like pizza bread which means next time we really should smoosh chunks of mozzarella and pepperoni in it and dip it in marinara. (YUM.) This time around I added rosemary (my favorite from the garden) but cheese is always a good idea.

Sunroom reno.

1 Sep

This is it. The last project to share from my extended time at home.* I return to school on Tuesday to work four days a week as an instructional paraprofessional – the job I left last March when the stay-at-home order began. It’s hard to think about going back after six months at home but I’m kind of ready to not paint or garden. We accomplished MUCHO over this time.

The sunroom is the room that sold me on the house. Hexagon tile floor. Skylights with loads of windows. Love.

However, I didn’t love the brick walls. The brick was, eh, not pretty brick. Between the brick and the floor, there was a lot going on that didn’t really seem cohesive.

To the horror of some and the delight of others, we painted the brick. Primed and then painted. And it was not enjoyable. Ugh. Painting brick = not fun. However, the result? Totally worth it.

The trim was painted black. The doors a shade of teal – Sherwin Williams “Calypso” to be precise. (Our front door is now the same color.) The ceiling a light shade of blue. (I ordered the ceiling paint online to pick-up curbside at our local Sherwin Williams store. An employee called me to make sure I indeed wanted ceiling paint tinted blue. Yup. We’re painting our ceiling blue.)

The far corner with comfy chairs is where Dave camps out to work from home each day. The table begs for family/friends to visit and dine. (Someday. Post-pandemic.) The dog crate on the far side is one of Emmett’s favorite spots to nap. We will hang out here and drink coffee on weekends; come fall, the cute electric fireplace in the corner will get much use.

The skylights still need a coat of paint. A couple new rugs are on the agenda. The ceiling fan begs for an update/replacement. But the improvement already is immense. IMMENSE. It’s a bright, delightful, classic room. Still sells me on the house.

 

*Unless I share our outdoor update. We made our way around the entire house, revamping the gardens, and spread 12 yards of mulch in the process.

 

A hoosier of my very own.

11 Aug

Maybe you remember way back when I dearly desired a hoosier cabinet for a coffee station in the kitchen. But they’re kind of hard to find and kind of expensive so I settled for a $30 hutch off of Facebook marketplace that I painted blue. (If you care to have a visual, click here.)

Wellllllllll, one of Dave’s best pinball buddies from Austin came to visit in early January. I think I was in the process of redoing the hutch at the time and mentioned that I dreamed of a hoosier but found this instead. He said something to tune of “My wife has a hoosier cabinet in her sewing room. You could have it.” (His wife was totally cool with it. She wanted shelves for storage instead.)

Oh, my. Oh, my. OH, MY!

The one condition was that Dave had to pick it up in Austin and do a little pinball work for his friend in exchange. Boom. Done. Well, almost done. Then Covid hit and visits to Austin were ill-advised until just a few weeks ago. Dave had fun with his pinball friends and brought back a hoosier, complete with flour sifter and metal pie drawer. Here is what it looked like upon arrival (minus enamel top  and a door I’d already taken off) – IMG_8580

I took it apart and sanded, sanded, sanded; cleaned and finally painted. Dave helped me fix the water damage that was at the bottom. I put it back together, fixed the roll top cover with my book arts skills, ordered a few new drawer pulls, and – wait for it – we have an office!

Yup. An office. Turns out it was too deep to replace our coffee hutch in the kitchen but no fear, it works *perfectly* as our office space. It’s soo much more functional than our “office” space was before. It’s quite perfect – a space for the printer, a counter to address envelopes, and plenty of “office” storage for stamps, cards, files, and the like.IMG_8625

About the color: I painted it white. I know. I really wanted to paint it bright kelly green or orange or something crazy but held back. It seemed to make most practical sense to be boring. And, yes, I admit, classic. I still plan to put colorful wallpaper of some sort behind the printer/roll top door. It needs some funk.

I want to show you something –

10 Aug

We are fresh off of a long weekend of camping, exploring a new-to-us part of Wisconsin. We left Thursday for three nights in Two Rivers. It was a chance to bike, explore a state park, and enjoy a new place.

Our campground had a short path that connected it to a longer bike path – one direction takes you to Point Beach State Forest. The other way leads you into town.  After we set up on Thursday, we set off for the forest. The big selling point here? They have a pet beach and we have a dog that suddenly this summer loves the water.

The bike trail was wonderful, if a bit challenging for people who don’t bike a whole lot these days. (Plus one of us had to pull the 60 lb. dog in his dog trailer. Not me.) The pet beach was lovely once we hauled our bikes/dog trailer through the sand. Woof. The ride back a bit buggy but scenery still enjoyable. Saturday we took off in the opposite direction, heading to town with the goal of ice cream.

On Friday, we drove north into Door County – a place neither of us have ever been. We stopped in Sturgeon Bay for lunch and a little exploring before heading to Whitefish Dunes State Park and Cave Point County Park. Again – a dog beach. It was a popular place to be on an August day.  We had to hike a mile each way to get the beach; after such a walk and swimming to retrieve his floating frisbee, we had one tired pup.

But that’s not what I want to show you.

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The couch arrived. It’s been ours for just over a week. It’s a bit monstrous but it’s what the room needs. It’s comfy and yellow and worth the 20-week wait. On one end is a chaise; that’s Dave’s preferred spot. I hang out on the other end – on the “cuddler.” We wave and talk loudly so the other can hear across across the space in the middle (where sometimes the dog hangs out but he mostly prefers the floor). Someday I’ll tell you about that bright room through the windows … but it needs a little more painting before it’s revealed.

Absolutely splendidly brilliant.

18 Jun

I ran a couple errands today and – as always – NPR was on my car radio. It usually is. (I’m not much of a music person these days.  People are often horrified when I say that but I have learned I’m not alone. Gretchen Rubin confesses a similar thing in her book about habits, Better than Before. I digress.)

So NPR was on. And I wasn’t really listening to it. There was an interview on about the postponement of fashion week; not something super high on my radar. But then, I was sitting at a four-way stop when the gal being interviewed, in her British accent, called something absolutely, splendidly brilliant. 

And I thought to myself, my. What a positively awesome way to describe something.

And then I wondered – what would I describe as absolutely, splendidly brilliant?

What would you describe as absolutely, splendidly brilliant?

The first thing that came to my mind was my garden. This year I’d call it absolutely, splendidly brilliant. I started my plants from seed and – miraculously – all but one poor zucchini plant have survived the transfer to straw bales and outdoor living. I’ve had a bit more time at home this planting season and so been able to focus on making the garden less of an eyesore from the street. It brings me a lot of joy to check on it every day. It’s absolutely, splendidly brilliant to me at this particular moment in time.

So what’s absolutely splendidly brilliant to you? Many things, I hope.

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A little NC adventure.

17 Jun

We skipped town a couple weeks ago and drove to North Carolina to visit Dave’s brother and family. We left in the wee hours of the morning and drove the 12.5 hours straight through. The goal was to get out of the house (where we’ve been since mid-March) and relax a bit before Dave (inevitably) gets called back to the office. Dave was able to work from a different home while we were there (His brother was working from home too.) and we could all relax at night and on the weekends together.

One of the pulls to visit was seeing family but … they also have a pool. We could feel a bit like we were on vacation at a fancy resort while floating in the salt water. Some days there were even poolside margaritas. Another day there was a movie outside while we lounged by the side of the pool. We grilled a bunch and ordered take out a couple times.

We didn’t go much of anywhere; no day trip adventures like we normally do when we visit them. We stuck to the house and learned that Emmett is a water dog. He’s never been one to willingly get into water until this trip. He figured out there are steps so he can go easily in and out; after that, he was in and out and in and out and loved it. We would throw his frisbee into the water and he’d swim to retrieve it. Other times he just chilled on the raft. It was great because it kept him cool in the heat. (Though one day the pool water registered a balmy 88 degrees.)

hGeogYRNR0e8jqeLaHT3GwIMG_8510Just over a week after we arrived we drove straight home. While our little step away was nice, it was great to come home too.  It always is, isn’t it? (I immediately walked to the garden to check the state of things; my veggies survived, in case you were wondering. Phew. More of a garden update to come.)

It’s a small sort of accomplishment, I suppose.

15 May

That, my friends, is a random quote from the most recent cinematic version of Pride and Prejudice. I don’t have it nearly as memorized as Lord of the Rings but it’s close.

It’s good to have accomplishments, even of the small sort. Here are mine of late:

I did it. I baked a loaf of sourdough bread with the starter I began at the end of March. I had hidden the starter away in the fridge, frustrated with its lack of growth. Encouraged by a friend, I pulled it back out and began feeding again. Sure enough, now it was growing in size after feeding AND it passed the float test. (The what? The float test. The dough should float in water when ready to be baked, a sign that the yeast is doing its thing.)  It’s pretty much a two day process to prep a loaf to be baked and I followed the steps apprehensively. It’s not the prettiest loaf in all the land but it was tasty. We just ate the last bit of it as garlic toast to accompany our zucchini noodle spaghetti last night.

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Dave, who has kinda sorta been scoffing at the whole process and didn’t understand the big deal, made a grilled cheese with a couple slices. He then asked me when I would make the next loaf.  Husband convinced. Check. The answer to his question? As soon as I can find bread flour again. The grocery store has been out the last three trips.

We have continued to plug along outside with every nice day and have something to show for it. We completed one bed, complete with fabric and mulch. It’s lovely. It doesn’t make me anxious looking at it anymore because it’s not filled with weeds and there is some structure to it. I’ve now moved onto another section and sold another 35 clumps of hosta yesterday (to one woman who was tickled to stumble across such a treasure as she installs her own hosta garden).  Before and after —

Goodbye to the school year.

8 May

Today was my assigned day to head to Lincoln Elementary and pack up my things. There cannot be more than six people in the building at a time so everyone was given a day on a schedule. Today was my day.

I drove to school and parked closer than I ever have before.  I typically was one of the last to arrive at school on a given day since I didn’t start until 9:15; today I was one of three vehicles. I emptied the table of things I kept in the classroom I shared and, honestly, it was sad.IMG_8444

Truth be told, the week before schools were closed, I was waiting for spring break. My new position was good but the kiddos were challenging. I was more tired at night and the days were more stressful than before. I was oh-so-ready for spring break. But then we got the longest spring break ever – aka the end of the school year months early.  And it makes me sad that we’re not going back.

I don’t know what fall with hold for me or for education in general. Maybe I’ll be back. Maybe not.  We’ll see what summer brings.

In other news –

6 May

I keep plugging away at that darn sourdough starter. I baked one loaf of bread and it was delicious but the rise wasn’t there. So I keep feeding and hoping a beautiful loaf of bread is in my future. In the meantime, the discard (the starter left after you give a portion of it a feeding; basically flour and water) has made for some wonderful treats. Crackers, soft pretzels, and, most recently, English muffins. My favorite.

When we’re not outside, we’re painting. (Or I’m painting. Dave is actually still working too.) With this extra time at home, we decided to attack our sunroom. Like a painting ninja. Part of the walls are brick and just not a brick I love so we’re painting it white. It’s all primed and paint has begun but with the lovely weather lately, it’s been on the back burner. Perhaps this Friday – when the HIGH is 39 – gross – I’ll pick the paintbrush up again.

Emmett had to go to the vet for his annual shots. But of course it was a new vet. During social distancing. So we sat in the car while a tech nearly dragged him into the building, holding the baggie of cut-up string cheese as a bribing tool. Supposedly he was fine and sweet once inside. (I don’t entirely believe it.)

The rhubarb is ready! The rhubarb is ready! Before I came inside for the evening, I picked some, not knowing what I would make with it. I landed on this – baked rhubarb sticky pudding. It just came out of the oven and smells delish. I also plan on making this – rhubarb slush – when I can get to the store for the missing ingredients.

I’ve been having two weekly Zoom dates – one with the Dancing Bananas (my high school besties) and one with family on my mom’s side. We catch up on life and then we play games. We’ve played dice games and Jackbox Games. (Drawful and Quiplash are favorites.) Last week, with family, we tried bingo and this week, it will be Scattergories. (I just discovered this super awesome list generator in a school newsletter. I think it will be super fun!) This week, with the Dancing Bananas, it’s also costume night. I have 24 hours to figure that out …

We’re continuing to make friends with our neighbors, which truly is great. We’ve been hosting/attending driveway happy hours once or twice a week.  The newest neighbors just got engaged, heard I was a pastor, and asked me if I’d do the ceremony. (Not sure yet.) I delivered May Day baskets to everyone on the street (It’s short – only six houses including us.) with Smitten Kitchen’s confetti cookies inside. One neighbor went turkey hunting and delivered fresh turkey breasts. Another neighbor shared soup with homemade noodles. Dave set up a pinball machine in the garage so neighbors can play at a safe distance. (Hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes nearby.)

And that, my friends, was the longest update ever. Hope you’re all staying healthy and sane.

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