Archives for March 2016

Easter Vacation

We had a lovely escape to the ocean this past week.  Usually we go expecting lots of rain, because that’s how the Oregon beaches are, especially in the springtime.  But this week we had tons of sun mixed in with just a little rain.  It was gorgeous.  We even had a lovely Easter morning rainbow– a perfect reminder of God’s promises of provision and protection and salvation.  The tomb is empty! (more on that here)

EasterRainbow

Our youngest two outside the house.
EmJul

Little Meg enjoying her great-grandma, John’s mom.
GreatGrandma

John’s happy place is definitely the ocean.
HappyPlace
The house where we stayed had wonderful, huge public gathering areas, as well as 7 bedrooms and a theater room that slept 4 more kids.  We had 18-22 people in the house each and every night and were well and truly spoiled.
House
The little ones had fun hunting for Easter eggs on Easter, and on the next day, and the next, and the next.  We may even have left a few eggs there for the next renters to find.
Hunting

My sweet grandbabies came shouting up to the stairs to greet me each time I came out of my room and down the stairs each morning. Talk about feeling like a VIP!
Kiddos

Lidya and Ben clowning around
LidyaBen

John enjoying sweet Meg
MissMeg

Ranger admiring the fish at the aquarium.
Ranger

Wilona showing off her treasure trove of eggs.
Wilona

My parents and John’s mom were able to be there for part of the time, along with a few other members of our extended family, and 9 out of our 10 kids and their families.  It was a great joy and a true highlight of the year.  For a few of the days we had 8 kids in the house ages 4 and under, with half of them being under the age of one.

Little Cousins

Little Cousins

(Yes, it was loud!)  But, oh, the cuteness!  And there were lots of babies to share around.

The first few years that we did a big gathering on the beach like this, I planned the food like crazy.  This year we just made sure there was easy breakfast food for breakfast, and lots of sandwich fixings for lunch, and really only fussed over dinner each evening.  It worked beautifully– I think we hit just the right mix of structure and relaxation.

One day we took the kiddos to the aquarium, and another day John and I went house hunting.  (We are still trying to decide whether to build on the lot we bought or possibly buy something already built.)  But most of the rest of the days were filled simply with walks on the beach, pinochle and Up The River and other games in the house, and just hanging out, eating snacks and being together.

It was very good.

This afternoon I’m off to the store to reprovision the food in the house here, then (ready or not) tomorrow it’s back to work.  I am also thinking about what I want to do next in the back yard.  I have a few pictures that I hope to show you soon!

 

Starting on the back yard

I’ve been derailed for the past few days by the dreaded puking bug.  Today I’m feeling better though I still have not gone beyond toast and Sprite and cold cereal in the food department.  And sadly, now Julianna is sick.  Bah, humbug.  Hoping everyone else will continue to feel healthy.

I wanted to tell you about the beginnings of our back yard project, at least the part that I began last week before illness struck. Our back yard at our new house is incredibly small.  It’s 30 feet from the back door to the back fence, and that includes about 10 feet of concrete patio.  Our living room is deeper than our back yard.

One of the reasons we moved was to have less yard work and upkeep, so that’s good. But this box of grass edged with fence and concrete is pretty boring.  I am eager to transform it into something that would be a fun place for entertaining, despite its small size.  So I’ve been doing a bit of scheming.

Here are some of the ideas I have so far, drawn up with a cool program that I looooove called Chief Architect.

Yard Ideas

The grey in the drawing is the already existing concrete. The patio cover doesn’t exist yet, and we may actually do a pergola instead of a fully covered patio—still thinking through that.

In the left lower corner of the drawing I’m planning a lawn swing under some kind of a trellis draped with creeping vines.  Or possibly we’d even set up the trellis as a swing set, like the photo below, with a swing or two for bigger kids alongside one for little ones.  We won’t have space for something that big, but you get the idea.

Photocredit: BHG.com

Photocredit: BHG.com

Against the house to the left of the patio is a narrow flowerbed where we will try a tomato plant or two.  John isn’t sure how tomatoes will do there though, with only east and south sun.  The bed is shaded in the afternoon.

Here’s a view of the yard in that direction, which shows the space where I was imagining a trellis swing, as well as the little flowerbed against the house, which you can’t actually see because of the grandkids’ bikes. The bikes are strategically placed to block the cats from going  to the bathroom there, and will be moved at tomato-planting time.

Yard towar the south

Side note:  all four of our cats successfully made the move from the farm to the subdivision- a major miracle since two of them are rather wild barn cats who don’t like each other a bit, and we weren’t at all sure that they’d stay put. They did, but boy, do they look bored these days!

The above picture also gives you and idea of how small the yard is.  🙂  But there’s lots of concrete to set tables on, so that’s good.  We can feed a crowd!

To the right of the patio (in the yard plan) is another narrow flowerbed against the house that is already in existence.  It already contains a couple of rose bushes and I am thinking it might fit some cucumbers on a narrow trellis.  Are there any shade-loving cucumbers?  I need to ask John…

On the right side of my yard plan is a seating area around a fire pit, with a narrow space between the seating area and the fence where I would like to have some plantings.  This is not yet in existence, but it will be our first yard project. I am picturing a dwarf butterfly bush and maybe a couple small evergreens in that space, along with a few tomato plants and peppers.

The other day Julianna and I went to Lowe’s and found some nice rough-top landscape blocks.  My son in law who does landscaping suggest that this type of landscape block is easier to set as flowerbed edging than blocks of a more uniform shape, since they are more forgiving of slightly uneven placement.  I wasn’t sure how many we’d need, but I started with 40, which fit in the back of my little car quite nicely.

blocks

The next day I spread landscape fabric across the living room floor and figured out about how big an area we’d need to fit several chairs and benches, as well as a fire pit space.

Then it was time to stake down the landscape fabric in that corner of the yard and edge it with blocks to try out the design.

Here’s how it looked from the patio after I got done playing with the design.

Firepit area

And here’s the view from an upstairs window.

Firepit area

Looking at it from above, I can tell that I’d like the space to be just a little broader and more rounded. So I am going to get more blocks (yup, I used all 40) and pull the space just a bit more out from the corner.  While I am rearranging the space, I’ll weed-kill the lawn area that will be covered by the landscape fabric, and add another layer of landscape fabric for more weed protecting.  Then it’ll be time to bring in some flat blocks for the front edge of the space, and add gravel in the center.

Still lots to do, but I am excited to see the beginnings of the space laid out.  And oddly enough, having something laid out in that corner of the yard makes it look bigger than it did with just grass in the corner, something I didn’t actually expect.

I’ll keep you posted!

 

Simplicity

I enjoyed reading these pieces and thought you might also

On Living Set Apart

Simple (and small) Living

Ready or Not

 

Then there’s this brilliant pine cone idea from A Fanciful Twist

Now we’re cooking with gas

I think I told you that just before we moved out of the old house, in the midst of repainting and recarpeting and replacing the whole kitchen,  our oven broke, forcing us to buy brand a brand new range also—a mite frustrating after all the money we’d already poured into the house, especially given the fact that we wouldn’t even get to enjoy it ourselves.   When we moved, after all that work, I was set to be content with the new house as it was for awhile, including the old(ish) white appliances. No sense fixing them til they broke, we figured.

Sure, the dishwasher was rusty, but it worked.

We couldn’t quite figure out why the ice maker in the fridge didn’t work, but I figured an ice maker wasn’t essential.  John and Z sure missed it though.

Then the biggest burner on the stove broke.  I definitely missed that. Grr.

Then the rusty dishwasher stopped draining, and it became impossible to tell if the dishwasher had run or not. Hmm.  Maybe it was time to think about new appliances for this house after all.

When one of our grown kids mentioned they were looking for a range-hood microwave (white to match their other appliances) we decided to give that to them since it was the only thing that still worked perfectly here.  And then we steeled ourselves for the budget bite and went hunting for kitchen appliances.

After hunting around, we found a nice big discontinued-model fridge for $899 at Lowe’s–not bad at all for a stainless fridge of that size.  And lo and behold, Lowe’s also had decent prices on the other appliances too.

I’ve been longing for a gas range for quite some time, so we decided to investigate that option. I discovered, much to my surprise, that a gas range isn’t any spendier than an electric range.  In fact, the mid-level one that I picked was $400 LESS than the flat-top range we bought for the old house and (sob) left behind.

We still had to get the kitchen plumbed for gas, and once we’d added in that cost, the gas range was a *tetch* spendier than the range at the old house.   Darn. But the plumber, who turns out to be a neighbor of ours, very kindly plumbed the back patio for gas while he was at it, which gave us a lot more bang for the buck.  Now we can hook our barbecue up, and never fill a propane tank again. Woohoo!

Here’s the kitchen with the old appliances, when the previous owner still lived here.

KitchenDining

Here’s the gas range installed– I’m completely delighted with my new toy tool.  You might be able to see that it has a center griddle element– haven’t tried that out yet, but it looks like fun, doesn’t it?

Range

And here’s the whole kitchen with its new shinies.

IMG_5109

I am going to be a bit fussy cleaning them to keep them looking nice – and I very much hope we are done with appliance purchases for a long time!

Last night after cooking dinner on my awesome new stove, we sat down to eat and I said jubilantly, “ALL our appliances work now!”

“Shhh!!” John said. “The washer and dryer will hear you!”

Let’s hope not.