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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.

Hosta frenzy.

6 May

When it’s lovely outside, like this past weekend, that’s where we are. Most lately, we’ve been attacking the hostas that threaten to take over.  This is serious, folks. They will take over if we don’t stop them. IMG_7813

(A photo from last June.) We have a crazy hosta yard. It’s totally beautiful … but also super weedy and a bit overgrown in spots. The long-time neighbor across the street estimates it’s been 8 – 10 years since these hostas have been split. They’re HUGE. One of our spring projects this year (with the gift of much more time at home) is to spruce up the beds. That means splitting, rearranging, landscape fabric, and mulch. As we go about this, we have hostas that need new homes – homes other than ours. A coworker came and took some but that wasn’t quite enough. So –

IMG_8434Last weekend, we began putting clumps of split hostas by the street and listed them on facebook marketplace. Dave built a little money drop box and attached it to our mailbox post. And, you know what, by the time our little roadside sale ended, we gather we sold approx. 77 clumps of hosta. And it’s just the beginning.  That’s from reworking maybe 1/4 of our hosta crop. Uffda. (The neighbor across the street – our insight to the past owners of the house – said that every couple years, this is exactly what the previous owner did. She split and she sold.)

Yesterday, we had six yards of mulch delivered. Yes. Six. Uffda again. I was outside this afternoon, putting down fabric and about to spread mulch when the seven year old from across the street rode his bike up our driveway. Can I see what you’re doing? Sure. I told him. He played frisbee with Emmett. And then he volunteered to help with the mulch. Free labor? Sure. Here’s a shovel, kid. I like gardening. Great. And while we worked he told me about how the world began and about the plant in his bedroom that he leaves a flashlight on for at night so it always has light.

We will keep plugging away, bit by bit. We do intend to add another small hosta garden, an orphanage if you will, for split plants that have no other home. And, in the meantime, if you need hostas, you know where to find them.

Social Distancing: Another Update

7 Apr

Blog posts may return in record number these days because, well, I have the time and it’s a sort of contact with the outside world. Hi, world! Here’s what’s been going on —

I made a pile of homemade masks. A coworker wanted them for her family and was unable to find another source. I was happy to help but goodness, making them stressed me out. Honestly, that’s why I haven’t been making them; the focus on such a project only increases my anxiety regarding the state of the world. I’m grateful for those people who are making tens and hundreds of masks, but, for now, I will stick to smaller quantities as needed by family and friends for my own mental health.

I left the house today. The first time in three weeks. The first time in three weeks I’ve driven past a gas station to see that gas (here) is $1.49. I went to the grocery store and wore my own homemade mask. For the most part, I was able to buy what I needed, including ingredients to make brandy old fashioneds.

I need something to drink because occasionally and randomly, some of the neighbors on our (short) street will gather outside for social distancing happy hour. We stand in a circle, six or more feet apart, and have a drink. We (our driveway, really) hosted last time and it was a lovely way to a spend a couple of hours in the company of others besides the people we live with every day.

IMG_8403My grow light arrived so now we have a mini greenhouse in our sunroom. We have no idea if we’re doing this right or if it’s too early or how it will all go down but it’s fun for the moment.  On a related note, Dave picked up straw bales for the garden today.  This may be the first time in all the years that I start the garden early-ish instead of late.

On another related note, everyday I investigate the rhubarb in the garden. That means I go outside, stoop, and stare at it. It’s popping and such a sight to see. I love how wrinkly the leaves emerge.IMG_8398

I “attended” church at my internship site last Sunday – Palm Sunday.  While church workers and pastors all over are scrambling to lead worship in new ways (and doing wonderfully with the resources they have, I might add), one perk of online church is the ability to worship – digitally – almost anywhere. I tuned into Grace in Dawson and was grateful to connect in that way.

Okay, guys. Here’s the real reason for this blog post. I made pizza for supper tonight. We somehow have declared Tuesday to be pizza night in this isolation period. With the gift of extra time and being at home, I can spend a bit more time on meals and, let’s be honest, we’re eating well. The crust I made for tonight was a bit tedious but oh, so worth it. It’s King Arthur Flour’s Recipe of the Year – Crispy Cheesy Pan Pizza.  Our cast iron skillet is a bit bigger than the recipe notes so our crust was not as thick but still super light and delicate. If you have the time, we highly recommend.

 

 

The things that keep us busy –

3 Apr

Redecorating the living room.

Growing the indoor garden. I ordered grow lights. It’s getting serious.

A quaran-tiny sourdough starter. I wanted to do a sourdough starter since this all began two weeks ago but flour was in short supply. How could I justify a starter now? So I didn’t start one while everyone else and their aunt did. Until I ran across the Cooks Illustrated quaran-tiny starterIt’s like a mini version that still does the good work of a larger starter. I’m on day nine. Hoping for some lovely sourdough English muffins soon …

I read a modern day adaptation of Beauty and the Beast – A Curse so Dark and Lonely – and now await Amazon to deliver the sequel.

Fifteen years or so after the fact, I’m finally watching the tv series Lost. I watch too many episodes each day.

But while I do, I’ve been binding a quilt. This time handed me the opportunity to complete a quilt I first bought supplies for, oh, three years ago. And the colors make for cheering up on these dreary days. (Here I am attempting to baste it on the sunroom floor; Emmett has other ideas.)IMG_8386

Our weather has been dreary. But yesterday – an afternoon of sunshine. I washed windows outside without a coat. It was lovely.

Puzzles. A super hard, slow-going puzzle.

Dave and I have entered into an isolation pinball challenge. We play one game each night. The person who wins two out of three games on that machine earns a hashmark on the chalk door. This photo is from a couple nights ago; guess who is now solidly in the lead? Not me. If Dave wins, I have to wash his motorcycle. If I win, he cooks supper five nights in a row. I never should have agreed to such a thing …IMG_8387

What’s been keeping you grounded/busy/sane these days?

Living room update.

3 Apr

As we live in crazy times, it felt healthy to have a project to dive into. It helped me not check Facebook as often, to not read articles that only make me more anxious, to clear my head. Last we spoke, Dave was sanding away at the texture on the walls. After he finished that chore, we cleaned up the plaster dust. About a week after that, we had finished painting and it was, hands down, the most lovely improvement.

The trim was painted white (two coats of primer and three coats of paint, uffda), the (dark) wood paneling received a gray makeover, and the walls/ceiling got a dose of white. (Frost, to be exact. It’s the same Behr color that’s painted through the rest of the house.)

 

IMG_8391In this photo, the walls have been painted and you can see how dark the ceiling color was in comparison. (You can also see the texture that used to occupy the walls.) Putting a coat of white on the walls and ceiling made all the difference.

Onto the wet bar. When we first moved in, we weren’t sure about the wet bar. Do we keep it? What do we use it for? It’s not like we’re mixing drinks with – let’s face it – any frequency.  The sink is convenient for Emmett’s water bowl; the extra storage is nice. With this living room reboot, we decided to fully embrace the wet bar … and replaced the wine rack with a beverage fridge (which will get much more use).

The bookshelf and wet bar were painted and the improvement already felt. We ordered a new faucet and Dave made (yup – made) a new countertop. (If you can believe it, it’s plywood underneath.) It still needed a backspash and the bookshelf begged for a splash of color but, self distancing and all, we couldn’t hardly wander around Home Depot for options. We decided that we would use what we have on hand and, if we want, switch it up later.

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And, you know, it works. The “backsplash” is the same removable wallpaper I used in the kitchen; we had some leftover. As for the bookshelf background, I had exactly three cuts of fabric that were large enough to be starched to the wall and the funky colorful one was the winner.

As a fun reminder, remember this is where we started –IMG_7785

We’ve moved the furniture back in and are happily enjoying the new brighter space. There is one question that still remains: to whitewash the (gigantic) stone fireplace or not?

Crazy times & finding sunshine.

16 Mar

You certainly don’t need me to name it for you – these times are crazy and strange and completely unprecedented in the years I’ve been roaming the world.

On Friday, before the governor announced a state-wide closure, the superintendent of the district I work in declared our schools closed until (at least) April 14. (This was after, that same day in the morning, he sent out an email to all staff saying that the rumor going around about closing school was just that. A rumor. An example of  how quickly things change these days.) The email came to staff at about 2:30 and for the last half hour of the day, teachers walked around in shock, speaking their surprise in code so the kids wouldn’t catch on. It was crazy.

Things have grown crazier since. I was supposed to report to work this morning for more details but that was canceled so as not to gather in a group of 50. I still wait for email details regarding pay and hours and all that adult stuff.  My poor brother and sister-in-law have had to postpone the great party that was to be their wedding in early April. Dave and I now have four weeks to eat out of the chest freezer, play board games, walk the dog, and – wait for it –

And so, all of a sudden, I have four weeks on my hands. You maybe do too. For me, it becomes a question of what can I accomplish in four weeks when I’m basically going to stay put and not leave the house? Because I have to accomplish things. It’s who I am. First answer: the living room remodel.

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Since we moved in, the living room has been a project on the list. But it was a big one. There is lovely wood paneling that will need scuffing, priming and painting. There is window trim to paint. There is a wet bar and book shelf to address. The fireplace – well, the fireplace update will wait. There are also these s-u-p-e-r textured walls that we don’t love but also weren’t sure we wanted to tackle.

Until the other night, Dave suggested he could sand the texture down.

Like, he volunteered to do it.

How could I say no?

So today, on this first day of staying home, I cleared the living room space of all the things I could carry myself. After Dave was done with work (which he will now do from home), we moved our furniture and television to the front room, our temporary living space. We taped off the doorway to the kitchen, put down floor cover, and now Dave – lovely, wonderful, smartly-wearing-his-respirator Dave – is in the dust, sanding the horrid, 70s texture off the walls.  (You can catch a glimpse of the texture in the previous photo. Look at the ceiling – it’s the same on the walls. This is emphasized, thick texture that you cut yourself on if your hand moves too quickly along the wall.)IMG_8367

In addition to the dirty job of sanding, cleaning after sanding, and what will be the finicky job of painting, we’re ordering a yellow couch. You read that right. Yellow. I’ll prove it to you in 12-14 weeks when it arrives.

So there is the sunshine in the midst of a crazy, shitty situation. I figure we’re all going to need to find our own sunshine in the weeks to come. Mine is the dream of a yellow couch, a project with the husband, and walks with the dog. And finding whatever has been hiding in the bottom of the chest freezer as we avoid future trips to the store. That will be an adventure in itself.

This is what I’ve been up to …

9 Mar

I still owe you a post on HIS space – also known as the basement pinball lair. Soon.

In the meantime, here’s what’s new —

Dave loves a good bagel. A good NEW YORK style bagel. He used to live in NJ and I suppose became spoiled by the good stuff. Last weekend, we attempted to make our own bagels. Our own GOOD bagels – according to Dave’s standards. Thanks to the water bagel recipe from King Arthur Flour, I dare say we did it. Dave’s pleased as punch to have a stockpile of bagels in the freezer.IMG_8339

I have a new job. A new job at the same place. Back in January, the principal of the elementary school sent me an email and this is all it said: Please stop by my office when you can. Uhhh. CUE PANIC! I stopped by and that’s when he told me that they were hiring a new instructional paraprofessional to close out the school year and he thought I should apply. What’s the difference from my former position as a special education para? As an instructional para, I basically teach small groups as opposed to being in the classroom assisting a specific student(s). I pull groups of kiddos (mostly first graders) and we do math/writing learning for a half hour to 45 minutes. It’s definitely different and more difficult but I’m finding the groove.

February was a bit of a whirlwind with trips back home. First, to celebrate a cousin’s baby shower and then, the next weekend, a bridal shower for my soon-to-be (but-really-now-since-they-are-already-legally-married) sister. Now that I live close enough, a.) I could actually attend (Not to mention they were both held on Sundays.) and b.) I could help.

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I made scones, meringue mushrooms, and Hershey kiss acorns for the baby shower’s woodland theme. (Meringue mushrooms = so fun. Let me know if you need any. I’d love a reason to make them again.) For the bridal shower, my cooking ability was challenged with lobster-stuffed mushrooms and curry chicken salad sandwiches – both the bride-to-be requests. Thankfully, Dave tackled the raw lobster tails for me. (green sick-looking emoji inserted here)

I made this soup for supper (with added/extra veggies). Five stars. Would recommend.

We’re currently casually couch shopping for our living room. Shall we talk about how absolutely overwhelming that venture is? Oy. We’re also planning a vacation to the Smokey Mountains in April with Dave’s brother & co. Let’s talk about how exciting that is instead.

 

 

His and HERS.

12 Feb

This is the HERS post. HIS will come shortly.

His and hers what?

This is the tale of a sewing room and a pinball lair.

The sewing room received a major overhaul a couple weeks ago and I am absolutely pleased as punch about it. Here is the before realtor photo –

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Wallpaper – yuck. Wallpaper border – double yuck. Blue blinds – ick. Light fixture – eh. Boring.

I stripped the wallpaper over the course of a messy, sticky weekend and continued with primer and paint. Dave removed the trim which then also got a coat of paint. (Or many coats of paint.) With Dave’s help, the trim was put back and a new BRIGHT light fixture installed. (We’re talking SIX lightbulbs. Perfect for sewing.)

With the room back in order and furniture in place, it was time to measure and create a quilt design wall. My dream. In the parsonage, I had a sort-of design wall; a place where I could lay out and arrange the pieces in a quilt. My sewing room now has a legit design wall, one which has already helped me put together a baby quilt. (In reality, it’s super simple. Pieces of Styrofoam insulation covered in a flannel sheet, screwed to the wall. Viola.)

A few fun furniture facts:
+ The table in the middle of the room? The one on which the sewing machine sits? It sat on the porch of the farm when I was growing up. It’s where we would eat during tobacco harvest when we were too dirty to go inside the house. It was a table originally purchased by my grandparents. (I have the chairs too.)
+ The blue dresser on which sits my ironing table? Dave and I picked it up at Goodwill for $10. Dave shaped it up with sanding and paint; it’s perfect. (Maybe a change of pulls is in its future.)
+ The stained wood cabinet? It’s a gun cabinet my dad built when he was in high school. We added shelves for my fabric stash (which is stored in metal bins from my dad’s shop).
+ The vintage green ironing board on the wall? It was my grandma’s.
+ The blue cubby piece? Originally my mom’s and perfect for all sorts of sewing storage.

With the wallpaper gone and white walls, it feels like a completely different room.  It’s now a lovely bright space with yellow – YELLOW – window trim. I couldn’t help myself.

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