Garden improvements


The mission to eliminate the front lawn continues. The path to the front door replaced some of it a couple summers ago. We put in a burgundy bunny grass edge on one side of the front path a few weeks ago which eliminated another strip, and we bought more grasses for the opposite side so it will match.

And this weekend we dug up some more lawn (if you can call the dry desiccated remains at the end of this hot, dry summer a lawn) and put in a small paver area where I want to put a bench under the shade of the dogwood tree.

The pavers we chose were kind of an impulse buy. I had another more ordinary square paver in mind at first, but when I saw these I really liked them. They don’t match the pavers we used on the path, but I wanted the uneven edge and hope to coax creeping thyme and moss into the cracks. I also thought it would be better for us, as amateurs, to use larger pieces. Easier to get level and less likely to shift around later. Fingers crossed.

It took some effort to figure out how to lay them out correctly. When we bought them they were just kind of stacked, and it was a bit of a jigsaw to get them all in the right order. It took my youngest child who is good at puzzles to get it right when we laid it out on the lawn before we put it in place.

The older son was also roped in to be muscle. He has a lot more endurance than I do! With our heavy clay soil, it took a pickax to work a lot of that ground out.

And of course, because it’s us, it also took an extra trip back to the place where we bought them to get a few more when I realized it was going to be too short for the size bench I want. It was hard to calculate how much space they would really cover when they were such uneven shapes just stacked on a pallet. For future reference, 16 of them used in total. There are two left over. Stepping stones, maybe?

It’s even level, despite the fact that the lawn is not. This was our stopping point on Saturday.

Sunday we filled in dirt back around the pavers and I planted upright and trailing heathers as well as some lavender and a few other transplants around the edge.

While I put plants in the ground, my husband dug out another strip of lawn on the opposite side of the walkway and we planted another row of the burgundy bunny grasses to match the other side. Some landscaping fabric and some bark and the edges are finished.

I still need to rake up some of the rocks and clay clods left on the dying lawn, and there are more plants to get into the ground, but we called it good for the weekend.

Next up for improvements will be making a bench.

The hottest day

The darkest purple, which will appear only once.

I’ve made it through June with the calendar cross stitch, which had the hottest day of the year – 115 degrees on June 28th, with a “low” of 77 degrees. (Why can’t I find a degree symbol on the iPad keyboard?) It was ridiculous how happy it made me each time I got to use a new color, and there were a lot of them in June as the heat just kept rising.

Two other purples and a hot red.

I try to make a month’s worth of diamonds before starting each month. It is also my away from home stitching as I can keep going without needing the chart for colors.

This is right side up, but I actually hold it upside down to stitch.

I actually like the diamond pattern on the back as much as the front. It gets less pretty as the colors fill it up and threads start and stop and travel across, but when the diamonds are empty the stitches form interesting angles.

At this point, I’m half way through the year. Two and a half months to go to catch up with the actual calendar.

I’ve made more progress than I expected to once school restarted as my husband and I have been watching a lot of back episodes of The Great British Baking Show in the evenings. Lots of stitching time as they fret through the technicals and showstoppers.

A little paint makes a difference


I was too lazy to put the top drawers back in when I realized I hadn’t taken a before picture.

I’ve owned the same solid wood dresser for decades now, and it’s held up amazingly well. It’s sturdy, holds a lot, and doesn’t dominate the room. However it’s pretty boring – just basic brown everything, from drawer knobs to body – and lately I’ve been eyeing it and wondering how I could spiff it up. I thought about replacing the drawer pulls, but I need 16 of them and anything that’s very unique ends up costing quite a bit.

Pinterest to the rescue! I saw some dressers where the body was painted but the drawer fronts were left stained, and I decided that was just perfect for our room. We have a black and white duvet cover and ombre gray curtains, so I decided to paint the body of the dresser black.

My sister came over to help me, which basically meant motivating me to actually do it. I got a small can of cabinet paint from the hardware store and we used the orbital sander to get off the wax finish that I used when I originally stained it 20 some years ago.

The pulls got a paint coat as well.

After two coats of paint, I let it sit for a couple of days and then put on the topcoat of the same polyurethane I used on my family room tables. Unfortunately I didn’t think about the effect of doing that on a day when it was 88° and the top of the dresser dried too quickly and the polyurethane didn’t completely level out. I’m going to have to get some very fine sandpaper and smooth it and then put on one final coat. The sides and the front were all fine and don’t need to be redone. I think the combination of the heat and maybe putting it on a little too thickly was the problem on top.

The almost finished dresser, with matching dog.

While we were at the hardware store buying the paint, we wandered by a barn door kit that was the perfect solution to my sister’s bathroom door issue. The door swung into the small master bathroom in her house, and took up so much room. She was constantly having to maneuver around it.

The box was an all in one kit with everything that she needed, so after we finished painting the dresser, it was her turn. My husband and I went over and three of us got the door up and working in just an hour or so, if you don’t count the time that it took to drive back to our house to get the ratchet set that we forgot to bring the first time.

I guarantee that door will not stay white and plain very long.

We are both really happy with the changes to our rooms. It feels good to actually get something crossed off the to-do list. All this Covid time has made me fairly apathetic, and I feel like I’m wasting a lot of my days watching the world go by from my couch. So this was satisfying.

Although all that sitting on the couch left a lot of time to watch past seasons of the Great British Bake Off. Which inspired my husband to make these:

Back when I could see without glasses . . .

Since I wrote about my new attempts at cross stitch yesterday, I thought today I’d share some of my previous work, back when I could see better and without glasses and could use much finer woven cloth.

I know these aren’t my earliest work. I have memories of burnt orange bargello mushrooms hanging in my mom’s kitchen from a needlepoint effort, but these are the ones hanging on the walls in my house.

I was ambitious in 1992, and made this vase of chrysanthemums and cherry blossoms:

This was the spring pattern. There were four seasons to make, but my attention span was attracted to some other sparkly project and I never made the others. Lots of outlining and details that I really enjoyed at the time. I miss the days of 20/20 vision!

This bowl of summer fruit from 1996 that hangs in our hallway also never got its seasonal siblings. Probably because of how long it took to finish this one!

Yesterday I showed you these patterns:

I’ve actually made some of this designer’s pattern from another leaflet. They have hung in four different kitchens I’ve owned (I didn’t take them overseas so they missed some rental locations). They are smaller and more manageable, so it is possible that more of them will get made someday, though maybe on a larger grid. When I catch up on the calendar?

Maybe if I make more of the vegetable designs, I’ll have more luck with the raised beds next year.

Counting crosses

It has really been a horrendously hot summer.

During a long, hot summer of doing not much more than complaining about the heat and watering my vegetable beds twice a day (the peas still died), the extreme weather inspired me to make a temperature chart. When we hit 115 (115! in western Washington! In June!) I knew this was going to be a summer to remember and record.

I went pouring through Google images, looking for inspiration for a crafty temperature calendar. I looked at quilts first, as my usual course of action, but I have several unfinished ideas and unquilted tops already and didn’t want to add to that pile. Plus, sewing at night at the end of the day never really appeals to me. It is more a morning-to-all-day kind of activity for me. I wanted something I could do in the evenings as school was going to be starting up again, and we’re back in the building full time this year (fingers crossed). I also considered knitting a scarf or blanket but didn’t want to lay out that much cash on all the yarn colors right now.

I used to do a lot of cross stitch, back in the days before I became a trifocal kind of woman. And cross stitch is more of an evening in front of the TV activity for me. And I do have those trifocals now, so as long as I didn’t get too fine a cloth . . . I started a deep dive in Google images. There are some amazingly creative patterns out there for this kind of floss calendar! Trees with rainbow leaves, flowers or little houses lined up in rows, butterflies even.

I was really drawn to one of a book case (my librarian heart), and then, even simpler, a half square triangle design. The triangles made me I decide I wanted something geometric and to include both high and low temps for each day. Then I came across one with a grid of little filled diamonds that really appealed. I simplified it even more by not having so many patterns – just an outer color and an inner color for each diamond, representing the highest (outer) and lowest (inner) temperature for each day.

It was July when I decided to do it and found the design, and then made a spreadsheet of the temperatures going back to January 1st with the help of Weather Underground. Then, with some trips to the craft store to get just the right colors, then back to get more needles, and when January turned out to be too green back once more for a couple more colors of floss, I was off and running.

I’ve caught up to nearly the end of May already, and really like how it is turning out. The colors are a little brighter than in this picture – the close up further above is more accurate – but not in-your-face bright. Empty white (cream) blocks mark the beginning of each month, and I’m trialing various designs to fill those with the same charcoal gray I used in the outlining. I get ridiculously excited when I get to use a color for the first time. 88 degrees at the end of May! (Seriously, this heat has been insane. Those poor firefighters and evacuees. . . and this is just the beginning of a new normal.)

I was using a paper with a temp scale and color ID to store the pre-filled needles, but today it dawned on me that they’d slide out a lot less if I used a strip of the same cloth. (I’m slow, but I do get there in the end.)

I pick it up a couple of times a week and add more grid blocks and fill in more days. I’m almost done with May, so there is plenty of time to catch up and then wait while the rest of the year actually happens. In the meantime, I’m looking into more cross stitch patterns to work.

Maybe these, to make up for the vegetables I was so unsuccessful with this year.

Operation Comfort

Two years ago we bought a little tent trailer. It is perfect for our weekend camping trips in state parks. Last year though, with the shutdown, we didn’t get to use it at all. So this year, we got the camping bug early and went last weekend.

We had a great time. Even the teenagers, who are always reluctant to leave their electronics, seemed to have some fun. Fire always helps with that.

Our youngest dog has never been around people or other dogs much as we got her just a couple months before the first lockdown – she rather resented other people sharing the campground, but she loved the woods. Theo, our anxiety ridden other dog, actually thrives on camping and loves walking in the woods.

But . . . this shakedown trip to remind ourselves how to camp did highlight a few flaws in our set up. An 8 foot trailer base means there is almost no storage. Even on a weekend trip, we are people of stuff. So much stuff.

I bought stacking drawer units the first year, which handle all the dishes and pots and much of the food, but the clothes and shoes are everywhere.

The other issue is the beds. The mattresses are just thin foam, which we stuff camping pads under, but it doesn’t cut it for me. I’m not young and flexible anymore. I need real padding!

So, when we got home, Operation Comfort began. I researched, and read pop-up trailer discussion boards, and poured thru Pinterest, and made some decisions.

First, I ordered some foam floor mats from Costco. Those came today and we immediately started cutting them and putting them in place.

That should add insulation from cold underneath and get us off the boards.

Next I did the tissue box test, where you put an empty tissue box in the trailer and close it up and then measure how much it is crushed to know how much space there is between the mattress and ceiling – that tells you how much height you can add to the mattress. I was able to order a dense three inch thick bed foam that we can add under the original mattresses. The two changes are going to make a huge difference to our sleeping!

A lot more measuring and figuring and it turns out I can fit also another couple of storage drawers in when the trailer is closed, so I can go higher with our drawer stacks.

I also did some sewing this week, since we were off for spring break. I bought this pattern to make hanging bags.

It was very clearly written and simple to sew. (Just don’t look too closely at my top stitching – not one of my strengths.) I made the large size, with a modified loop with Velcro. I used a sheet and a curtain, both Goodwill fabric finds. It was a decent size – enough space for my pajamas and wool socks. But I needed more room if we are going to do away with the duffles. So I had the pattern pieces blown up 150% at a copy place. I used a Goodwill tablecloth the second time, flattened out the bottom a bit to make it wide but not too long, added a second tab, and it was just right!


And we hung them in the trailer today while working on the beds, and they are going to work just as I envisioned.

So now I need to make lots more. . . At least four for each end.

And I have ideas for hanging shoe storage that will fit on the sides of the stacking drawers. Some more mulling needed there, but I think there are possibilities.

Spring green


The official name for this yarn color is 111. Not a lot of poetry there! But a perfect color, despite the name, for this time in spring when all the new leaf buds are coming forth.


Almost the color of the fresh vinca minor leaves. . .

Or the newly emerging irises, at the base. . .

Or the almost blooming tulip flowers. . .


The yarn is Huasco sock yarn from Araucania, and I’m knitting an Arrowhead Lace scarf for my sister. She asked for a bright green and this yarn had arrived in the mail the day before. It was fate!

I added an extra repeat for more width, and I think I will add an edging to the ends when it is long enough. A very quick 4 row pattern that I memorized by row 8.

Though it hasn’t all been easy. The young-and-dumb dog dragged the new skein off the table and turned it into a jumble. Luckily she didn’t have too long with it and it only took an hour+ to get it untangled.

That dog has been through more yarn. I’ve fished skeins out of bushes and from under beds. She can’t help herself, and apparently I don’t learn. It only takes dropping my vigilance once and the yarn is doomed.

March is all about the linen stitch

The bright scarf continues to grow. More autumnal than spring colors, really. The next one needs to be leafy greens, I guess.


March’s knitting has been all linen stitch. My previous project was also a scarf, made with a bunch of yarn spun by a friend from fiber I sent to her and some sock and sweater yarn remnants. I haven’t been spinning at all, but the stash is still slowly going down thanks to her work at the wheel.

There were a lot of different colors in the yarns that went into it, but the overall impression is very brown toned.


With these linen stitch scarves I always knit them wider than the final version I want because the long rows stretch a lot when blocked, making the scarf narrower and longer. I dry them over the shower curtain rod and while they hang there I also cut the fringe. They need to be dry for that so the yarn has sprung back into its natural state. I cut one once when the fridge was wet and it was very uneven when it dried.

I used Zimmerman’s sewn bind off, which took a long time with almost 400 stitches! It is supposed to closely resemble a long tail cast on, which it might have, but because I was using a different color than the previous row, it doesn’t really. Having the row before the bind off as a slipped stitch row probably messed with the tension as well. Something to play with on the next scarf.

The brown edge on the left is the cast on. The orange and brown on the right is the sewn bind off.

Overall, I learned some lessons and the finished scarf is just the right length and weight. Drapey and soft and warm.

I’m going to give it to my co-teacher tomorrow. He’s been an absolute saint the last couple of weeks when the whole school went back to the classrooms in hybrid mode, except for me. I’ve been a talking head on a giant TV, zooming in to teach the history half of humanities until my first vaccine shot kicked in. He rigged up the set up and even a camera and microphone so I could see and hear the class. The set up looks like this:

We do have more than one student – this was before class started.

It is a ridiculous way to teach, but I wasn’t able to go back until I had at least partial immunity from the first shot. Almost half our students are staying remote, so we’ll still be teaching one humanities class over Zoom and some electives with mixed in person and remote. School is weird these days.

Tomorrow will be my first day teaching since March 2020. A whole year! I hope it lasts. The bigger high school in our district had to go back to remote temporarily after only a couple of days in person due to a big COVID spreading party some of the high schoolers threw. Fingers are crossed. . .