To observe, enjoy and create in everyday life

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.

A Spring Woodland Walk

In the last couple of weeks, I have managed to head to these trails twice. Once on a walk with my friend and once for an evening stroll on my birthday. These trails are only 15 minutes from our home, and they are always beautiful to walk through no matter the time of year.

The trail systems here loops around and crisscross each other many times, which means that I have yet to walk these trails the same way twice. But that doesn't matter. It is always a pleasant walk regardless of which trail I land on. This time of year the Trillium where all in bloom. There were many white blooms and a few pink ones as well. Trillium are part of the Lily family and are pollinated by ants. Did you know that there are 38 different Trillium species in the United States? However, most are found in the eastern states. To read more about Trillium, the US Forest Service has some great information.

Of course one would find slugs and snails on a spring walk in the Pacific Northwest! We saw many, many of our native Banana slugs, which are the largest slug in North America. But, we also saw some large snails along the trail.

The woodland floor was covered with a variety of greenery. It was so lush and beautiful to look at. The Trillium, Fringecup, Ferns, and other Saxifrage family plants carpeted the ground alongside the trails. Mixed in with all of these plants were the soft green leaves of the Inside-Out Flower, whose leaves resemble those of a duck's foot.  

When my husband and I walked through these woods on the evening of my birthday, the setting sun was shining through the fern fronds. 

What a special place just minutes from our house. When you are on these trails, you forget that you are a short drive back to the noise of the city and its neighborhoods. It is so quiet and peaceful here.
How about you? Do you have a little escape just minutes from your home?

Knitting Undone - Yarn Along

Have you ever been working on a project and knew something was off? That was the case with this sweater I began a couple months ago. Every time I picked it up to work on it, it felt like it was going to be too large. Even though I had made a swatch and adjusted my needle size accordingly. So this week I took what I had made of the sweater and 'tried it on'. I could see that it had far more than the 10" of positive ease that the pattern said it would have and something would have to be done to correct it. If I kept working on it, the finished product would have been a tent on me!

I knew the project would need to be pulled apart and reworked, but I wasn't sure what corrections needed to be made. Did I need to knit the smaller size? Or, did I need to go down a size or two in needles? I took a trip down to our local yarn shop, Blizzard Yarn and Fiber to ask for help. I am so glad I did. The women there were able to look at the work I had began, look at the pattern, take some measurements and point me in the direction. Yes, it involved pulling out all of the work I had begun. But that's how we learn sometimes, right? It was recommended that I move down a size in the pattern as well as trying a new swatch on a smaller needle. It turns out I keep a pretty loose tension when I knit.  

It took less than ten minutes to unknit my sweater, and now I am back at square one. So this month's post of my knitting shows me no closer to finishing a project. It is actually quite the opposite. 

I did however finish a couple of good books this month!

I listened to the book "Sold on a Monday" by Kristina McMorris. It was an interesting listen. The story is set in the early 1930s and follows a newspaper reporter who takes a photo of two children sitting next to a sign stating that the children are for sale. The photo gets published and brings attention to the reporter. When the reporter finds out what happened to the children after the picture was published, he ultimately feels responsible and sets out to make things right. The novel, which is entirely fictional, is based on a similar photo taken in the 1940s. 

The second book I read was a memoir written by an Oregon author. The book "Cabin Fever: Notes from a Part-Time Pioneer" follows author William Sullivan and his family as they build a rustic cabin using no power tools in the late 1970s. They then proceed to spend the next twenty five summers at the cabin. This cabin has no running water, no electricity, and no roads heading in to it. Along with living at the cabin each summer, the Sullivans attempt to find out what happened to the old homesteader who had previously owned the land. Local legend was that he had been murdered. I loved reading this book, and it is one that I would pick up and read again. I had stumbled across it when our family was visiting a small historical museum on a road trip a few years back. I enjoy finding new, local authors to read by looking through the books offered for sale at historical museums. I have yet to be disappointed. 

Linking up with Ginny's Yarn Along for May!