It’s just a rectangle

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My sister moved into a new house near us last spring, and her attention has been focused on fixing up the inside to make it not just a white box. But as summer arrived she started to take a look at the outside, specifically the little side yard that is her main outdoor space. When she bought the house, she paid for a fence to be put around the yard, and the builders spread bark there, but it was otherwise barren and ugly. And she complained of bark splinters in her bare feet.

She got some quotes on having a paving stone patio laid, but they were crazy expensive. And she started thinking about a deck, but she was a little intimidated about the building process. But it’s only a rectangle! How hard could that be?

So we made building her a deck a summer project.

She hired my boys one morning to scrape away most of the bark to use elsewhere, and then deck building commenced.

What we discovered early on is that apparently a lot of people in America right now have decided to do home building projects. And, with factories sometimes closed or shipments delayed due to Covid, the local stores were cleaned out of a lot of what we needed. It was a two state search to find 10 foot pressure treated joists. Luckily the 16 foot lengths for the beams on the long edges were easier to come by, and we needed fewer of those.  I have a battered but useful utility trailer that made it possible to haul in the 16 foot boards.  

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While the 10’ board search went on, we dug down and packed gravel for the cement blocks.  A friend helped her jackhammer away the cement steps in our way.

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(Let me tell you now that I don’t know most of the technical terms for any of the things we used. Pressure treated wood, joist, nail, that’s about the extent of my building vocabulary. The words “support thingy” were used a lot and about more than one part.)

My husband helped with delivery, and my sons helped with the hammering of two by eights together to make support beams for the long end. They also helped us get the first joists hung to create our rectangle.  We also made a lot of construction-question phone calls to my brother, who lives on the East Coast, and builds house additions in his spare time.

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At times my hammering skills were not up to par. But most of the nails went in all the way in and straight.  For a given definition of straight.

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We stretched it 16 feet along the side of her house, and then right up against the fence, just 10 feet out from the house. We made it a floating deck, using post blocks that could be leveled, because I was pretty sure the two of us wouldn’t be able to get posts in the ground and make them all the same height.  According to local codes, any deck less than 18 inches high doesn’t have to be permitted, and because it’s not attached to or touching the house, she didn’t have to go through the HOA approval process.

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Our proudest moment was when we successfully used my small and slightly wobbly portable table saw to rip a flexing, flopping 16 foot Trex board down to fit the final gap at the fence edge on our first try.

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Least proudest moment is the support brace between two joists that bent five nails and three screws before we gave up and figured there must be a hidden knot.  We were relieved when that one disappeared from sight as the top Trex boards went on.

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it isn’t perfect, but it’s level, sturdy, stable, and a great size. Now we’re starting to think about what kind of deck furniture we might build to add to it, and what the step up should be made of. It takes up about half the length of her side yard, so she also has another area that we can make into a patio at some future point.

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The happy new deck owner.

Life as a dog

Sometimes it is good to be a dog.  When you get to spend time exploring at the sea, for example.

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Sometimes, though, it is hard.  Like when you eat a bee, despite all the warnings.

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Or you try to take a nap and get stuck in the couch.

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Or someone you thought you could trust leaps on you from a height.

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But then it goes back to good times in the sunshine, and all is well.

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Sewing cute

My sister, who is one of the few people that I let inside of our isolation bubble, decided it would be a “fun project” to sew a baby quilt for one of her colleagues.  Actually, this time she turned out to be right. It really was fun.

Slightly to her dismay, she did most of the sewing. The baby decorating scheme is apparently forests and mountains.  I found examples of quilts with trees and mountains and she picked the birch tree look. Their school mascot is a hedgehog, so that definitely had to go into the forest.  Then we both cut and she sewed all the straight lines.  Fairly straight even!

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This quilt was our inspiration.  We went with raw edge appliqué for the hedge hog, and strip sewed a bunch of black, white, gray and cream to speed up the trees.  A little slicing, reversing, and occasionally seam ripping a slice to insert more to mix up the lines made the tree part go very quickly.  I sliced up the background to insert the trees and she sewed them in.

A few sloping forest floor lines later, and there was only the hedgehog left to make.

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That is just pure adorable in my opinion.

The sandwiching, quilting and binding were all my jobs, though she did come back and learn how to bury thread ends.  I will make a quilter out of her yet!

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It was pretty simple quilting.  Mostly stitching in the ditch around the trees and the bark stripes – I occasionally lost the ditch, but it went well overall.  I outlined the hedgehog and added some internal stitching to really anchor it – we know the raw edges will fray a little over time, but that is supposed to make it more like hedgehog — Fur? Hair? Spikes?  At least that’s how we are going to explain it.

Here it is pre-washing machine:

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And straight from the dryer in full crinkle. The hedgehog survived!

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It was off to the baby shower 5 minutes after it came out of the dryer.  Finished just in time.

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Approaching deadline

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It suddenly dawned on me that if it’s almost the end of May, then logically that means it’s almost June, which means I need to get cranking on this baby quilt all of a sudden. The baby is due in mid June.  I went from feeling like I had all the time in the world to wondering how I could’ve wasted so much time!

So I am back to jigsawing pieces of fabric together. It’s rainy and quiet and my family members are all cocooning  in their rooms, so it gives a lot of time to think about Memorial Day as I sew.

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There are a lot of veterans in my family, but we were lucky enough to not lose any during active duty. I’m so grateful for that, and I’m thinking a lot about people who weren’t so lucky today. It is a very grim situation that much of the country finds itself in this Memorial Day, which makes it hard for people who have to mourn alone.  And there is so much to mourn right now.

I hope everybody is staying safe, and healthy, and finding people who they can connect with.

 

Well, this changes things

Sometimes the world makes a sudden sharp turn and becomes very bewildering.

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Around here we are all feeling a little like our puppy Maxx right now.  Things are all upset.

I think I’ve mentioned before that I work for a school district. Work is apparently no longer the correct word. The governor of Washington has ordered all schools to be closed, and now we are awaiting guidance from admin about what that means for our students and ourselves.

My particular school is very online. The students all have Chromebooks, and are very used to using Google Classroom on a daily basis. However, that doesn’t mean everybody has access from home, and students who need special services to be academically successful also can’t just open their Chromebook and go for it.

A lot of students also rely on the schools for meals, but I’m happy to report that my district has a plan to continue availability of food. They’re going to run the buses on elementary school routes and at each bus stop people can wait and be handed their food.  They’re also going to have a couple of schools open where students can stop and pick up food.

While what I can only assume are fairly frantic administrative meetings are happening to decide how to deliver education as well as food if (when) this stretches out, the rest of us are at home waiting to hear the plan.  My teaching team and I have been having video meetings and brainstorming possibilities.

And as of now, I’m also self-isolating with two middle school sons, while my husband still has to go into work.

I want to say that I know we are very, very lucky. The state is going to continue to pay my salary while the schools are closed, and so far my husband’s company is not talking about layoffs. Compared to other people, we are going to be just fine. The hair salon my niece works at closed with just 20 minutes notice yesterday, my sister’s second job just laid her off, and with the new notice to close all restaurants and bars and allow only take out, a lot more people are going to suddenly lose their jobs.  So we are grateful for what we have and ready to offer help where we can to others in our community who are less fortunate.

My sister and I visited my mom today.  She lives in one of those active retirement community buildings, where they are highly discouraging visitors. Locked doors and signs everywhere levels of discouraging. So our visit looked like this:

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We’ve told her that we will get her a bucket on a rope so we can keep her supplies of coffee creamer and chocolate topped up.

Luckily, during this sudden downtime, crafters can always come up with things to do.

I’ve started sewing again for the first time in a long time.  Baby quilts must be made!

And then there is the high volume soup making.

And, as long as the sunshine holds out, garden improvements. My new raised bed arrived recently so we put it together today.  It is steel and designed to develop a rusty orange patina very soon.

I also have supplies to make a lot more panels like this wire one that will go up on posts around the yard for vines to grown along.  One down, six more to go.

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And then there is the new puppy.  She is thrilled to have us around all the time!

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So, keeping busy isn’t a real concern. Keeping healthy is, but we’ve got plenty of soap and social distancing.  I know the boys are going to get bored a lot faster than I will, but one likes to play basketball in the street, and the other one sees his friends just as much in video games as he ever did in person, and I’m letting them ride their bikes all around as long as they avoid people. Eventually they’ll get desperate enough to read books and remember they used to like those.

And, as I’ve explained to them, I am certified in this state to assign them homework!

Hoping you all stay safe and healthy out there.

Winter celebrations

The first day of Hanukkah and the Winter Solstice coincide this year, which means it was dark enough to light the candle very early this evening.

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My husband went all out on the latke making.

Meanwhile, my oldest son made his annual pretzel treats, this time with a new “recipe.”  (I’m not sure melting chocolate caramels and pretzels really counts as a recipe, but it’s tasty!)

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There were also mutant pink snowman that he made with the help of a silicone mold. I’m not sure anyone is going to be brave enough to eat them.

The kitchen may never recover, but we’re going to eat well for the next couple of days.

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Happy Hanukkah!  And bring on the longer days!

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A quick trip north

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I went up to Seattle recently to craft with my cousin, Patti.  She had an almost finished fused fabric project that needed a couple of sewing details, so I brought my machine along.

What I didn’t bring was the power cord.  Argh!  Luckily, Seattle Leslie (as distinguished from Oregon Leslie in our fiber group) was willing to text her husband from her trip to the Midwest and he got out her spare machine to lend us.  Sewing can be a complicated multi-state business.

My cousin is generally a paper crafter, but occasionally she gets the hankering for fabric and floss.  Along with (parts of) my sewing machine, I lugged up bags of floss and batiks and WonderUnder fusing.

 

I stitched around some fused pieces of her camping scene that were losing their stick, and she added embroidery details – little clumps of grass, chains to hold up the hammock, French knot sparks in the fire.  I would love to have that camping spot!

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I fused some small geometric shapes and started connecting them with stitching, when I wasn’t knitting or walking their labradoodle – a dog so laid back that when it slowly wags its tail everyone around him takes note of how excited Teddy is.  Teddy is the chilled out dude of the dog world.  Our dog is a neurotic hyper wired mess in comparison.

Teddy in his usual mood:

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Now Patti is moving on to little houses.  She got a few embroidery books and websites to learn new stitches and at this rate She’s going to be stashing fabric soon I’m sure.  Fiber hobbies are addictive.

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Neck cloud

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I am knitting the softest imaginable scarf/shawl thingie. (The official term for this type of neck knitting.)

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Malabrigo silkpaca lace yarn.  Wonderful stuff.

It is just row after row of garter stitch, increasing one at the start of each row – a truncated triangle because I started with 75 stitches.

I worked on it during our weekend camping trip, the last before work and school officially start next week.

Yarn and dog both spent a lot of time at the river.  I was the Official Photographer for Teens Jumping Into Glacially Cold Rivers. Theo was Official Barker at Boys Jumping Into Freezing Water.

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Of course, they didn’t always jump voluntarily.

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While they swam and splashed, I knit rows and rows of cloud-light alpaca and silk.  I’ve 800 yards of the yarn, so it is going to go on for a while.

I did stop for hikes and s’mores, but then was back at it.

This is actually replacement knitting as I’ve ransacked my house several times and can’t find my other on-the-go knitting project.  It has to be somewhere, but it continues to elude me.

I did unearth other neglected knitting projects and pulled one out to be the home knitting project.  My purple sweater now has a sleeve. So close to done!

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I’m sad to be nearing the end of camping season, but so glad that we bought the little pop-up trailer last spring.  We haven’t traveled far and wide, but we’ve discovered and revisited some great corners of Washington and Oregon nearby.  The boys complain a little bit before hand (generally due to the lack of WiFi) but they mostly have a great time once we are out there.

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Even when it is really, really, really cold.

 

Hats on

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My library recently added Creative Bug access to our library accounts, which gave me the chance to make versions of a sun hat that my friend showed me last weekend.  This one, specifically.

My mom and sister were over on the 4th of July and pulled some fabrics so I could make them hats as well.

It’s just a three piece pattern, reversible and floppy.  I used a sew-in medium weight interfacing — iron-on would have been easier when sewing the curves but I didn’t have any in the right weight.

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My only complaint about the Creative Big presentation is that the directions are video only.  It assumes that you’ve never sewn anything like this before, so the process is shown step by step, slowly.  I would have appreciated written directions as well so I could just quickly skim to see if there were any special steps I wouldn’t have expected.  There really weren’t.  If you’ve sewn anything with an attached lining and you’ve done curves, you can sew this hat without the videos.

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Except, you do need to make sure the lines of communication are working.  I made my sister’s first.  That is her modeling it up in the top picture.  The hat comes in wide and short brim options and  she chose wide.  My mom and I have shorter hair and decided the shorter brims would suit us better.  While I was working on mine, my sister cut out Mom’s fabric.  Only when I told her the smaller brim, she just heard small, and cut the whole thing out in the small size.  Which I didn’t know until I’d finished it and we tried it on.

The people in my family have really big heads – to the point that we can almost never buy hats.  Size small just perched on top of Mom’s head, more comic decoration than head gear.

So I made a fourth hat and we’ll find some small child in the family to give the other to.

The three that fit us:

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And reversed:

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It is great to have a hat that really fits.  I’m already planning more.  I need a black and white one to go with my swimming suit, and a wide brimmed one in a sturdy fabric for maximum sun protection during yard work.  Maybe denim?

 

 

On vacation

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Summer vacation finally got here, and I’ve been spending a lot of time trying to arrange camping trips.  We recently bought a little tent trailer, and I’m discovering that it is very difficult to just spontaneously go camping on a weekend.  People apparently start booking the reservable camp spots months in advance, way before we realized we were going to be able to get a trailer.  My husband, sadly, doesn’t get summer off, so if we want him to come along, it has to be on the weekend.

But I’ve cobbled together a few reservations for various locations over the next couple months.  We may have to switch spots every night – and we will know better for next year to plan way in advance.  But we will be camping!

We did a couple of test runs in nearby parks to make sure we knew how everything works.  We’ve learned how to turn on the propane heater, attach the side mounted camp stove, and made lists of things we need to organize the very minimal storage.

And saw some pretty beautiful scenery.

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Our dog, Theo, who is rather a neurotic and barky mess, has proven better at camping than we thought he’d be.  He hates strangers and cars and bikes, but it turns out he is a big fan of woods and nature walks, and he’s been willing to keep a little quieter so other campers aren’t bothered.

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So I think this camping experiment is going to be a success once we work out all the kinks.

When not endlessly searching through the Washington and Oregon state park reservation systems, I’ve been sitting down at the sewing machine and am making more X and 16 patch blocks.  Nights in the forests get chilly – we are going to need a bunch of quilts!  It is motivating to get back to the fabric.

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(P.S.  That is Mt. St. Helens in the mountain photos above, our local volcano.  The visitors’ center at Johnston Ridge is wonderful – we’ve been going for years to see the recovery proceeding since the eruption. But it turns out no dogs are allowed in the national monument. Yet another thing we’ve newly learned about camping – check ahead where and when pets are allowed.)