Finding Little Moments

To observe, enjoy and create in everyday life

Growing Day Neutral Strawberries

Are you considering adding strawberries to your garden? If so, you may want to head over to Suburban Garden Life and read about the day neutral strawberries I grow in our backyard. This variety of strawberries produces berries throughout the summer and until the first fall frost. They are great to have for picking the whole season long!
Happy Gardening!

Summer Garden Update

We have not had too many hot days so far this summer, and I am not complaining. I know it will be here soon enough. Over the last couple of weeks we even had some fantastic thunder and lightening storms that we don't typically see. Despite not roasting under the hot summer sun, our garden is doing quite well! Our blueberry patch is bursting and ready to be picked. It is a fight to get to them before the birds. Those rascals take one nip out of a berry and then move onto the next one. We still pick the bird eaten berries and feed those to the chickens. The girls LOVE blueberries! 

Our potted Baby Cakes Blackberry has set some really good fruit this year too. This was a birthday gift to myself last year. I love that we have a few blackberries to nibble on while hanging out in the backyard. Our two new trellising blackberry plants should be in full fruiting production next season, so that will be nice! 

This is a new veggie bed for us. Our raspberry patch had been in this spot for a number of years, but unfortunately they ended up with a virus that is spread by aphids and we had to remove them. So, we made use of the space and added a new vegetable bed. This one is four by twelve feet. Believe it or not, there are tomato plants behind those gigantic zucchini. I have never had zucchini grow so dang tall! I imagine they will actually shade out the tomatoes, but there is really nothing I can do about it at this point. There were some herbs in there as well...somewhere. I guess we will see if I can find them after zucchini season!

Our other vegetable beds are doing pretty well this year too. I gave up on growing green beans though. After three attempts at starting seeds and watching the birds swoop in and nibble them down, I gave up! The bed pictured above is one of four beds we added last year. This particular bed is full of lettuce, basil, beets, parsley, a few strawberry plants, and of course the zinnias. Next year, it will strictly be a strawberry bed as they will have sent out runners and filled up the bed. Yay for more strawberries! In our other raised beds we have pickling cucumbers, onions, potatoes, more beets, peppers, kale, broccoli and some brussel sprouts. I just pulled the last of the sugar snap peas (the ones that survived our dog eating them) to make room for the cucumbers to start climbing the trellis. And, once the rest of the onions are finished, I will throw in another crop of some sort. I just haven't decided yet.

The chickens love when I cut the grass. It's like a salad bar for lunch! They also are great for snacking on any of the slugs I gather from the garden. It is hilarious to toss a slug into their run and watch them chase each other around to see who gets to eat it. Lucky for them, finding slugs here in the Pacific Northwest is not so difficult, so they all end up with a treat!

I found one of our kitties, Bubs, hanging out between our grapes and apples this afternoon. He is looking quite perturbed at having to wear his collar. But, with all of the fledgling birds I have seen in the last few weeks, I don't want to risk him catching one of them. This silly collar has drastically reduced the number of 'gifts' he has left at our back door. If your kitty is a naughty bird catcher too, you can make a fabric collar for him in less than ten minutes!

Our summer garden has also been full of insects. Some of them are admittedly pests, but then others are beneficial. Like this beautiful Painted Lady Butterfly. I watched it flit from the rhubarb to the blueberries to the flowers while I watered the vegetable garden this afternoon. It finally stayed still long enough for me to snap a photo of it. 
On the whole, I think our summer garden is off to a great start. I  can't wait to start pulling in some of the beets and cucumbers to pickle them, and I need to start picking the blueberries and getting them into the freezer (or a dessert!). In a few short days we will be overrun by zucchini, and you may find me sneaking them onto my neighbor's doorstep in the middle of the night. I can't wait to see what the rest of the summer brings to the garden.
How is your garden doing this summer? Hopefully you have had more successes than complications! It seems that every year is a bit of an experiment. It's one of the things I love about gardening!

Summer Knitting on the Back Deck

I hadn't thought I had made much progress on my sweater this month, until I looked at photos of where I was last month. I might just be wearing it this winter, if I keep working at this rate. That is an exciting thought, and it keeps me plugging along. I have found the perfect time for knitting this summer is in the afternoon on my back deck. 
If I am not sitting on the deck knitting, you will probably find me there reading. This month I re-read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. I read this years ago when it first came out, and I loved it then. Netflix released a movie based on this book last year, and it was beautifully filmed. Watching the movie made me want to read the book all over again. I happened to find a copy of it in our library's second hand book section, so I picked it up to read. I loved this book just as much the second time around!
One other book I have been enjoying this month is Anne of Green Gables. I had read it when I was younger, and it has been fun to come back to it as an adult. Instead of reading it though, I have been listening to an audio version of it presented on Craft Lit. I had never listened to any of the classic literature recorded on Craft Lit before, so this has been a treat! I love that Heather leads you into each chapter with information that might be helpful to know...defining no longer used terms, explaining social customs of the period, etc. And the woman who narrates each chapter has the perfect storytelling voice for Anne of Green Gables. This podcast is a perfect combination of an English class and book club. I am really enjoying it!

Here is where you will find me in the afternoons! Our back deck is covered, so I can sit in the shade and knit or read quite comfortably. I have a few potted plants set out on the deck this year, and they are filling in nicely. My husband had taken the time to refinish our deck furniture last month, so everything is looking really nice. 

This Astrantia flower (or Masterwort) came home with me one afternoon this month after I had a mammogram. It seemed appropriate that after a procedure like that, one should be rewarded. So I picked up a cappuccino and headed to the nursery. I bought three of these plants, one pink and two white. They are all planted near the back deck so that I can appreciate their beautiful flowers.

A few years ago, we shortened our deck which allowed me to increase this ornamental bed. I am loving all of the layers and different shades of green as the different flowers, shrubs and trees mature. Thankfully most of these plants have proven to be tolerant of our dog Sadie walking through them.

At the corner post of our deck is this Jasmine. My boys bought it for me as a Mother's Day gift seven or eight years ago. It started out as a small vine about two feet tall, and now it has grown to the top of the post and is inching it's way along both sides of the roof line. If you look at the top of the Jasmine, you will see a small, red birdhouse. This spring we had a pair of chickadees nesting in there. It was fun to watch the pair of birds flit back and forth, first building their next and then bringing food for their young. The three little chickadees fledged in June, and we were lucky enough to be home to watch it happen. What clumsy little fluffballs they were!
I am loving my afternoons on the back deck. It's a peaceful spot to hangout by myself or with family or friends. How about you? Do you have a favorite spot to sit and knit or read on a summer afternoon?
~ Linking up with Ginny's Yarn Along

Celebrating My Little Sister

Last weekend I went on an adventure with ten other girls to Venice Beach. We were all gathering together to celebrate my little sister's upcoming wedding. I must admit that I was a bit nervous about this weekend trip, well nervous may be an understatement. I honestly felt like an insecure 15 year old all over again. I didn't know which clothes to pack, I only knew a handful of the girls attending, and I didn't know if I would stand out as the older, married mom of the group. But I should have known better. My sister is an amazing person, so obviously her friends would all be amazing as well. The weekend ended up being a great time, and all of my worries were for nothing. Isn't that normally the way?

I am probably the only one on the trip whose pictures of the weekend included more plants than people! I was fascinated with all of the beautiful plants that I saw while walking around Venice. I often was lagging behind the group because I had stopped to take a photo of a flower. Or, I would make some of the other girls stop to look at a flower. They all humored me whenever I geeked out about a particular plant, like the Bird of Paradise above.

The weather was beautiful while we were there. It was warm and sunny, but not too hot. Many of the neighborhood streets where we stayed were lined with trees. There were trees loaded with lemons and oranges in people's gardens, which was a sight for the PNW girl to see. The local Jacaranda trees were in bloom with their purple blossoms...somehow I did not manage to get a picture of them! They were the first tree I noticed when we landed in Los Angeles as they were in bloom everywhere.

I loved how people could fit so many plants with such vibrant colors on their tiny lots. The variety of succulents, cacti, flowering vines and other plants were amazing. I loved seeing plants that I can only grow indoors as a houseplant (like Jade plants) being grown outside in people's gardens. The jasmine was in bloom while we were visiting as well, so it made our walks to the grocery store or out to dinner smell divine!

And even though my weekend was filled with gorgeous plants and amazing murals and delicious food, the most important part of the weekend was why we were all there. We were there because of my beautiful sister, Jessica. She is someone who gives so much to others and rarely asks for anything for herself. So it was fun to be able to spoil her for a change!
Jessica is one of the most fun-loving, thoughtful and generous people I know. She is creative and adventurous. She knows how to love others deeply and show it. She fights strongly for what she believes in and doesn't give up...sometimes it's good to have a stubborn friend on your side! It's not often that one finds a best friend in her sister, and I am lucky it has happened to me! I wish her and her future husband Dave the best in these years to come. I know that she will pour all of the love and adventure and generosity...and stubbornness into their relationship to make a beautiful and strong marriage.
I love you sis!

Teens in the Kitchen

For about a year now, our oldest son has been gathering friends in our kitchen every other Tuesday night to cook a meal together. It began last summer with his friend Loryn (that's her in the photo above) and their common interest in cooking. She had wrapped up her first year of a high school culinary program, and Jackson had found that he really enjoyed cooking meals. So for the summer months, they decided that they would plan a meal, ride their bikes to the store to shop and then prepare the meal together. Once they had a rhythm down, they began to invite a friend or two over to join them for the meal. They had such fun that they carried this tradition through the school year. 

It's been great fun to watch all of these teens learn how to cook new foods. Some weeks are quite involved, like the night they decided to make pasta from scratch, and other nights are simple meals like tacos or breakfast for dinner. Either way, they always have fun and make a tasty dinner!
There are a few squabbles between Jackson and Loryn, but they are good natured about it. Loryn has been learning to prepare food in a commercial kitchen at her school and has been taught how to properly cut foods or set up stations. Jackson is a "home cook" as he will tell her, therefore he doesn't "have to follow all of those fussy rules." The two of them go back and forth like a pair of siblings, and it is humorous to witness.

I hope this is something they continue through high school. They are learning not only the skills it takes to prepare a meal from start to finish but also how to practice hospitality. It has also been a great way for me to get to know Jackson's friends better. The teens like to visit while they pull together that night's salad dressing or share about their school day when we sit down at the table to eat. 
I can't wait to see what they cook up next week!

Crafts & Pie

This month I hosted my second Ladies Craft Night. Remember my goal to host one of these every couple of months? Well, I put a second one on the calendar and sent out a bunch of invitations. 
Since strawberries have just come into season here in the Pacific Northwest, I thought the craft night would be the perfect opportunity to make the Strawberry Pie that was posted over at Chicken Librarian. This pie did not disappoint! It was perfectly easy, super delicious, and absolutely one I will make again! I cheated on the shell and bought one pre-prepared, but I made my own whipped cream. So, I figured that balanced things out. I also picked up the strawberries from a local farmer. They were so ripe and juicy, I couldn't have asked for a better berry to put in this pie!

This month's craft was beaded bracelets. I thought it would be a simple enough project to work on while we chatted. It was nice to sit with everyone and string beads while we caught up on everything going on in our lives.

The table was filled with cups of coffee and tea and dishes upon dishes of different colored beads. I was amazed at how even though we all had the same colors of beads to choose from...we each ended up with very different patterns and styles. It was a great night! Unfortunately I did not get a picture of our completed projects. I will have to set that as a goal for our next craft night!
I definitely would encourage you to gather some friends and neighbors for a night of crafting. It really is an enjoyable way to spend an evening.

The Seventeenth Try

This sweater project is really shining a light on just how stubborn I can be. This is the same Weekender Sweater that I was working on last month, only now I am working it in a different yarn. Two skeins in, I gave up on the green yarn deciding that I ultimately would not like that particular shade of green on me. So I splurged with some birthday money I had and bought new yarn to remake the sweater. But, new yarn means knitting a new gauge swatch to make sure I would use the right needles. Which I did, and then I proceeded to follow the pattern directions and picked up the wrong needles to start the ribbed band. After tearing out the band and starting over, I accidentally knit a size too small. These two mistakes on top of a few other restarts, and I think I have quite literally started this sweater about seventeen times. I better love it when I am finished!

I have read a few books this month, all of which I have enjoyed. I am roughly 20 pages from finishing Two Steps Forward. This book follows a man and a woman who because of unexpected life situations find themselves walking from France to Spain following the Camino de Santiago. This path is a centuries old route pilgrims would travel for religious purposes. The chapters hop back and forth between  the two characters, so you get to see both perspectives. It is a light read, and it seems like a book that would make a perfect movie. It's part romance and part travel book...a good summer read to pick up from your library.
I finished Tish Harrison Warren's Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life this month as well. This book takes readers through a typical day and looks at how God is present in all of what we may consider mundane tasks. Simple tasks such as brushing your teeth, making a meal or answering emails are all looked at through the lens of spiritual practices we may typically associate with Sunday morning worship services, such as communion. It was an interesting read, and I will more than likely check it out from the library again to reread it. 
The last book I read was Francis O'Roark Dowell's Birds in the Air. This story follows a woman who has moved to a small town with her family and the adjustments that come with living in a small town. Discovering an antique quilt in the attic of her new home leads Emma to pick up the hobby of quilting. This newfound hobby brings about new friends and community connections. The book is described as "a warm, funny novel about fitting in, falling out and mending frayed relationships one stitch at a time" and that is exactly how I would describe it as well. 

How about you? What creative projects have you been working on lately? Do you have any good summer reads to recommend?

Weekend Adventures

This weekend my son Alexander and I took on a baking adventure. Both of our boys enjoy spending time cooking things, and it has been fun to see their different personalities come out in the kitchen. Alexander is my boy who will pull out all the things and make the best sandwiches. He takes sandwiches way beyond a simple PB&J. He will take the time to create layers of meats, cheeses, thinly sliced tomatoes, lettuce, and who knows what else! He also makes fantastic omelettes because he doesn't skimp on the fillings. So it didn't surprise me when he told me a few months back that he wanted to attempt to bake macaroons.

I told him we could give it a go sometime when we had a free Saturday. This past Memorial Day weekend, our family had a bit of a stay-cation, so it was the perfect time for Alexander and I to try to bake macaroons. We followed the recipe in Jane Brocket's book, Vintage Cakes

I played the role of assistant, and let Alexander do all of the work. I simply read the recipe aloud, handed him ingredients and gave a few pointers here and there. The steps to the recipe where pretty simple to follow. The only change we decided we would make, if we were to bake these again, would be in the choice of almonds. The recipe called for finely ground almonds. I picked up a bag of Bob's Red Mill Natural Almond Flour to use for the cookies. I think I should have purchased almond flour that had been made from skinned almonds. The cookies ended up having little brown flecks in them. While the flecks may have caused the cookies to not quite give us the look we were going for, they did not keep the cookies from tasting delicious!

Alexander chose to keep these pretty simple. He tinted the batter with purple food coloring and filled the cookies with a vanilla and chocolate buttercream frosting. Next time he wants us to have lemon curd on hand to fill the cookies with. I think that would be the perfect summer cookie!

The second adventure of our weekend was a trip to an area where we had not ever really explored. We drove about an hour and a half northeast of our home to a section of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Gifford Pinchot National Forest is home to Mt St Helens and Mount Adams as well as a million other beautiful spots. The idea behind our day was to have more of a road trip to explore the area. We wanted to stop at a couple spots but knew we would not have time for a full blown hike.
We did discover this quiet little trail just northwest of the town of Trout Lake called Langfield Falls. The elevation was high enough that there were still patches of snow on the ground. I also found some beautiful trillium still in bloom. Down closer to home, the trillium is well past it's bloom time.

You can hear the falls from the trailhead...that's how short of a 'hike' this is. I don't think you can really classify this as a hike. But, it is beautiful, it allowed us to stretch our legs, and we saw a few other trails along the way that we will want to come back to and hike some day. Finding little falls like this always make me wonder how many waterfalls are in our state. There are dozens upon dozens just in the Columbia Gorge.

On our way back from the falls, we stopped in a little market in Trout Lake to pick up something to drink. Alexander spied this sweet kitty asleep on a shelf. It looked like he was keeping the bananas company.
We took a different route home and headed through the Conboy Lake National Wildlife Refuge. We had never heard of this area and thought it would be worth exploring. We drove through beautiful farmland and traveled along gravel forest service roads to get there. While we did not see the elk, sandhill cranes, or other wildlife that migrate through this area, it was a gorgeous drive on a beautiful spring day.
All in all, I think our family had a great stay-cation of a weekend. We puttered around the garden, nibbled on homemade macaroons and explored new areas. We spent the whole weekend together, just the four of us. It made me look forward to our family trip later this summer!
I hope you had a fun weekend as well building memories and taking on some adventures of your own!

Jelly-Roll Rug

Once a month I head to my friend Heather's house for a sewing day. She owns a small quilting business out of her home where she provides longarm quilting services, sells fabrics and also makes some beautiful embroidered projects. I always enjoy our afternoons together because we get to catch up, and I have three or four hours of uninterrupted sewing time. 
Over the last two months, I have been working on this Jelly-Roll Rug by RJ Designs. Heather had picked up the supplies and pattern for each of us to make a rug last year. I was the guinea pig in the process, as I was the first one of us to attempt to make it. I used a jelly roll cut from flannel and two packages of pre-cut strips of cotton batting. For non-quilters, a jelly roll consists of a pre-cut strips of fabric from a line of fabric. To make the rug, I began by sewing the strips end-to-end.

Once I had one, very long, continuous strip of flannel, I layered the flannel and batting and then folded them to be sewn together.

It resulted in quite the pile on the floor of Heather's shop!

I took all that I had sewn and wound it up into a ball. By the time I hit this stage of the project, I was a few hours in and ready to stop for the day. The large fabric ball would need to be put away until next month.

When I arrived at Heather's this week for our monthly sewing day, I was ready to see the rug come together. I was thankful to use her machine! It is set flush into her sewing table so it made it so easy to maneuver the rug around and around and around.

Turning the coiled strips into a rug took another few hours of sewing, and many bobbins. I now see why the directions recommended pre-winding four or five bobbins and having a new spool of thread ready. Heather was laughing at me as I worked, because I would hold my breath around every turn and let out a big sigh when I made it to a straight away. 

Here it is! The last step to making the rug was to spray it with starch and press both sides of it. It really helped to make the rug lie nice and flat. I am so happy with how the rug turned out! I have always loved the look of braided rugs and other rag rugs, but I have not ever had enough fabric scraps to pull one together. So this was a great way to make a coiled rug without spending years of saving strips of fabric.
Now to decide on what next month's project will be! What projects have you been working on?

Plugging Along

I am about to wrap up my fifth month of piano lessons. I am still finding it enjoyable and certainly challenging to learn piano. There is so much to learn! When I began, I could not have told you where Middle C sat among all of the keys. I didn't know anything really. Now I have been slowly learning terms like forte and staccato and so many more. I have been working on tempo and learning what all of the different symbols mean. The whole process has felt a bit like learning a new language. It is like a workout for my brain each evening when I practice.

Learning piano has also been a very humbling experience. As an adult, there are very few things that I go into without having some basic knowledge of how to perform a given task. If I were to learn a new cooking technique, I would at least understand the basics of cooking. When I work to learn a new sewing skill, I understand how to operate a sewing machine. With piano, I had absolutely no foundation to draw from. I have had to accept that I would need to take my time and practice, practice, practice. I can not whiz through this process of learning. It would be too evident if I didn't practice. And I have to learn that it may take weeks or months to play a song passably. I have been working on "Ode to Joy" for three months. I still cannot play through those two sheets of music without making a mistake. But I keep at it. I refuse to admit defeat!

A friend of mine began to learn the violin at about the same time I began piano lessons. It's been fun to commiserate with her about the difficulties and joys of learning to play an instrument as an adult. We get excited over little accomplishments that feel so big to us. We've talked about learning a piece together and playing a duet later this fall. When tickets are released, I will be sure to post!
An added bonus to this process is that our dog Sadie comes in to the front room most nights to listen to me play. I call it her "evening concert." She either sits on the floor by the piano or lounges on the sofa. I think she might be one of my biggest cheerleaders. 

Have you learned an entirely new skill recently? What has your experience been like?

A Mother's Day Hike

Each year my guys ask me how I would like to spend Mother's Day. This year my one request was to go on a hike. A hike at a very specific spot. I wanted to head up to Columbia Hills State Park. This state park is located in the east end of the Columbia Gorge on the Washington side. I had seen pictures from other friends' visits to this area, and it had been on my list of hikes I wanted to go on for a few years now.

These blooms are why you go on this hike! The bulk of this state park is a historic ranch that is covered with miles of trails. Along the trails you will find a multitude of wildflowers. Spring is the best time to visit, mid to late April may be ideal. Here you will find thousands of Balsamroot flowers and Lupine in bloom! There are of course many other wildflowers in bloom or near bloom, but the fields of yellow and purple flowers are spectacular.

The majority of the trails are through the open range land, but there is a section that is under the shade of these oak trees. Portions of the trail follow Eight-Mile Creek, which cuts through the state park. 

Whenever I see Balsamroot flowers, I am reminded of our years spent in Spokane, Washington. When we moved to Spokane, these wildflowers could be found all over the area, and I had never seen them before. They are a welcome burst of color after a snowy winter. For me thoughts of Spokane also remind me of when our boys were babies. Both boys were born while we lived in Spokane. We really enjoyed the years spent there.

What these pictures cannot express to you is how incredibly windy this area was! The wind was blowing so strongly that you could hardly speak to the person walking right alongside you. However, the wind was welcome as it kept us cooled off from the hot sun.

We saw many clumps of this flower, which I believe is Hood's Phlox. I had brought along Wildflowers of the Columbia Gorge by Russ Jolley to help me identify various wildflowers we saw. We saw vines of Manroot, marah oreganus, along the hillsides, as well as flowers from the Buckwheat family. There were four or five other flowers we saw that had not bloomed out yet. I bet if you were to go back in a week or so, they would be in bloom. 

You'll notice that there is not a single picture of my boys on these trails. They were there, I promise. They were just far ahead of my husband and I. They have become great hikers over the years. When they were younger, we had nicknamed them "Wait up Jack" and "Hurry up Alex" as one was always too far ahead and the other too far behind. Now I am the one always behind. Stopping to admire the view or take a picture of a flower to identify later. It's bittersweet to see how quickly they have each grown up and yet exciting at the same time. It's been a wonderful gift to be the mother of our two amazing boys. 

Happy Mother's Day.