We’ve had some challenges decorating the front of the house this season – namely, our Great Pyrenees farm dog keeps chewing on all of the gourds and pumpkins. I finally figured the secret: pumpkins too large and heavy for her to pick up and carry off. Still, because I could never be completely sure what would end up secreted away or chewed on, I kept it simple.
I used existing galvanized metal buckets and bought six mums in golden hues, and paired those with six round, white pumpkins. I harvested all of the various sized and colored pumpkins from our garden, and grouped them around the front door, along with an old lantern I found.
Finally, I bought a gorgeous fresh fall foliage wreath at the Portland Farmers Market for the front door. Perfect!
We loved our trip to Hualalai on the Kona side of the Big Island so much last year that we returned same place, same time this year – and Hawaii didn’t disappoint! Gorgeous weather – perfect temperature, no rain, light winds. Many afternoons, the rest of the island would have big clouds hanging over it, but the thin strip of coastline stayed clear and blue all the way up and down the beach.
My routine each day was to get up at sunrise and either run a five-mile loop on the coastal trail, or swim laps in the oceanside pool. By then, the girls would be up and we’d all walk over to the coffee bar by the fitness center to get smoothies for breakfast.
By 9am, we’d head out, either to our “secret” beach at Kue Bay, or for a boat dive / snorkeling trip. Back by noon, we’d grab lunch at the oceanside restaurant only steps from our rooms, and then I’d nap or read on the chaise lounges around the pool or oceanside, while the girls swam in the pool or snorkeled in the ocean right in front of the resort. We’d take a mid-afternoon “break” for a frozen yogurt treat at the Surf Snack oceanside. Clean up, a dinner outside on the restaurant deck at sunset, and then off to bed early to do it all over again the next day! This is a routine I could definitely stick to for a LONG time without getting tired of it.
I can’t recommend Four Seasons Hualili highly enough – the resort grounds are beautiful, our rooms were wonderfully appointed and just steps from the pool and beach, there were no crowds, and the staff is so kind and helpful, it really helps you relax and enjoy your vacation. I also loved diving with Lobo Del Mar – a family-operated charter boat company that took us on a night dive last year to see the manta rays, and this year took us out to dive while the girls snorkeled. On the first day, we ended up diving (and snorkeling) right in the middle of a pod of dolphins, who kept circling around that playing near us the entire time we were in the water. Lots of baby dolphins, too . . . there’s really nothing more amazing than being underwater and literally having a pod of dolphins swim above and around you! I’ve found that diving is like that – you can never predict what you’ll see, and sometimes you get lucky!
We saw lots of other wildlife, as well, including the giant sea turtles that pull up on the beaches every afternoon to rest – we saw the turtles while out swimming, too, in fact there was one cruising through the breakers at Kue Bay and we followed him the entire length of the beach. We also liked the geckos – wicked fast, and check out the greens, blues and reds on these guys!
My sister got married yesterday in an evening garden ceremony; for the occasion, my mom and I sewed flower girl dresses for my two youngest daughters, and a junior bridesmaid dress for my oldest daughter. I used the opportunity to experiment with different embellishment techniques I learned from this class – it was fun to make each of the dresses complementary, but with different features and flair. I think that they all looked beautiful!
I was also in charge of all of the flowers at the wedding, including the ceremony, table centerpieces, and all the bouquets, corsages, and boutonnieres. With the exception of some of the blue hydrangeas (from friends’ bushes at the coast – mine were too far gone already) and some supplemental green Annebelle hydrangea blooms from another friend, all of the plant material was cut from my garden. I couldn’t have done it without the help and artistic expertise of my friends Genevieve and Carolyn – girls, you could do this professionally!
Bella took a sewing class this summer at Modern Domestic – all the projects were based around sleepovers, which I think is a great theme. They sewed pillowcases, bags, jammy shorts, and started on a softie. Bella picked the fabric out herself and did all her own sewing – although she’s already proficient with machine sewing basics, I think this was a great way to build her independence and confidence. One of the great things about the class was that there were only four girls, and the teacher had her older daughter as a helper, so most times, there was one person for every two students. I’ve found that, in these types of classes, if there isn’t enough opportunity for assistance, there ends up being a lot of down time and sitting around, waiting to be helped.
Wonderful store, quality instruction, inspired class themes – I highly recommend Modern Domestic if you’re in the Portland area. Put it this way – we drove in from Oregon City, an hour each way, for an entire week so that Bella could be in the class, and we’re looking forward to more this fall! Here are Bella’s finished products:
Every summer, we visit the San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington State. The islands are bucolic and, I think, one of the most beautiful places in the world. As usual, we started our trip in Roche Harbor, on San Juan Island. This haborside resort is reminiscent of the 1920s, when President Teddy Roosevelt stayed at the Hotel de Haro. I love the old-fashioned feel here, including the tradition of colors every evening at sunset, when the flags are lowered with great ceremony while their anthems are being played, and then the “salute” (a cannon blast).
Rich and I were married here 14 years ago in this church:
Every year, without fail, we boat to Stuart Island – no ferry service here, which makes the island feel remote and quiet, with only a very few residents and visitors. We hike the seven-mile round trip to Turnpoint Light House, which is the westernmost point of land in the U.S. – you look across the water and see Canada. I love this tradition – the markers along our hike (the rope swing, the schoolhouse, the 1940s car slowly rusting away at the bottom of a steep slope), the feeling of standing at the end of the world, the almost overwhelming peace and beauty of the place.
This time, we extended our trip by taking the ferry from Friday Harbor on San Juan Island to Victoria, B.C. on Vancouver Island. We spent the afternoon in Victoria, which frankly I found to be crowded, touristy, and ugly with the exception of the historic buildings along the harbor.
We then drove north to Swartz Bay and caught the ferry to Pender Island – one of the Gulf Islands, which is the Canadian version of the San Juan Islands. This turned out to be my favorite part of the trip this year – the Gulf Islands are like the San Juans were 20-30 years ago, uncrowded, peaceful, an opportunity to really experience island life and get to know the locals. Pender Island is actually two islands, North Pender and South Pender, connected by a little one-lane bridge – we stayed at Poets Cove on South Pender, a beautiful resort built into the side of a cliff. Here’s what it looks like from the water:
Every evening, we watched the sun set on the harbor – so stunning, I failed utterly to capture it on film:
We stayed in one of the Pender cottages, perched on the hillside above the main hotel. Our cottage had a large deck out back with this view:
We had only one full day on Pender, but we packed a lot in. We started our day at the Pender Island Bakery – all I can say is WOW! I couldn’t decide what was best – the big-as-your-head blueberry muffins, the fruit smoothies, or the giant chocolate cookies and homemade pies:
We took our goodies to the local bookstore, which had a surprising big selection and a beautiful display of local art. From there, we went to the Saturday farmers market, which featured exclusively Pender artists and growers – it was hard not to buy everything in sight! Then it was on to a local art show, where the girls got to create and display their own art.
At lunchtime, we drove to the other side of the island (only 15 minutes or so away!) and ate lunch at this waterside cafe on Hope Bay:
In the afternoon, we returned to Poets Cove and rented kayaks. Luckily, they had a two-seater kayak with a little mini seat in the middle, so we could split up into groups of three and two. The girls did a great job paddling, but even so, there were places where the current was so strong it felt like I was paddling and paddling, with no forward movement!
The next morning, we caught the early ferry back to Swartz Bay, then drove south to Victoria and caught the ferry back to the U.S., to Port Angeles, Washington. On the way, we caught our only glimpse of a whale – not sure what kind, as all we could see was its fluke high up in the air before it dove down deep. Such an indescribable sight!
We drove home down the Olympic Peninsula, which was itself spectacularly beautiful and deserved its own trip to appreciate its beauty. Next year, I think we’ll spend the majority of our vacation in the Gulf Islands – I’d like to visit the artists and artisans on Saltspring Island, the wineries on Saturna, and try biking on Galiano. We are very lucky to live relatively close to some of the most beautiful places in the world!
For years now, our play area has looked like this:
But as the girls have gotten older, I’ve thought about what type of “older kid” play area would get the most use. In the end, I decided on a “beach area,” next to our pool – a sand pit and net for volleyball and badminton, a fire pit for marshmallow roasts and warming up following after-dark swims, and swings.
Inspired by a pin on Pinterest, I conceptualized stand-up swings made from skateboards (without the wheels, of course!) Actually, one is a long board, closely resembling a surfboard, so the girls call them the “surfboard swing” and “skateboard swing.”
We got rid of the play structure easily enough – a “come get it for free” posting on Craigs List resulted in over a dozen requests in just 15 minutes! My friend Casey did all of the heavy lifting for the construction project, bringing in his excavation equipment to dig out the cedar chips, then building the stone wall around the site and filling it in with four dump truck loads of beach sand. We used the same stone to hollow out and build the fire pit, and set the net poles in cement in tires, so that the next could be moved around if we wanted.
We initially thought that we’d set the trampoline in the grass that bordered the sand pit, but when we decided to locate the swings there, we moved it behind the sand pit, off to the side of the new gravel parking area we put in for easier access to the swimming pool when we had groups come to swim or hosted parties.
Casey engineered the entire skateboard swing structure, beginning with 3-foot holes, filled with tubing and rebar and then 6″ square posts set in concrete. Next, he used a man-lift to set a HUGE glue-lam as the top cross-bar, and had iron brackets fabricated for the post tops and corners. Finally, he wrapped the 6″ posts in cedar for a finished look. The structure sways a little when adults use the swings (not that it’s going anywhere, but it still makes me nervous!) but it’s rock-solid when the kids are swinging.
Next, Casey found skateboard tops and drilled holes in them, then ran through climbers’ rope, up through two wooden dowels for handles, and up to climbing carabiners that attached to the cross-bar.
I’ve found that adults have a little trouble getting the swings going, but the kids can get them flying . . . not to mention all of their amazing tricks!
We added another seven miles to our summer “hike-o-meter” (we’re keeping track of our hiking miles this summer, trying to reach our goal of a total of 50 miles!) with our hikes at Smith Rock and Sparks Lake during our visit to Central Oregon last week:
When our one-year-old Great Pyrenees couldn’t be broken of the habit of chewing up all the packages that are delivered to the front porch,Emmersen built a “packages mailbox.” With the help of an adult friend (and a lot of hands-on math!), she cut, hammered/screwed, and painted the entire project. Now if only the delivery folks will actually use it . . .
For Mother’s Day, our family did the 4-T hike in downtown Portland – trail, tram, trolley, and train. You start out at the Oregon Zoo and hike the Marquam Trail to Council Crest – beautiful views and a lovely (albeit sometimes steep) hike through the woods.
Next, you reach Oregon Health Sciences University and take the tram down to the South Waterfront along the Willamette River. From there, you catch the streetcar trolley up to SW Portland and hop off at any of the stops (we got off around 11th Avenue, near the Multnomah County Library and, not so coincidentally, St. Cupcake!)
Finally, you take the MAX train headed west, through a 3-mile tunnel and to the underground Oregon Zoo station, which is the deepest underground station in North America.
We loved trying all of the modes of transportation, the girls were sufficiently motivated with the promise of a stop at St. Cupcake, and we got in about four miles of hiking during the 3-4 hour duration.
I would highly recommend this hike to anyone who lives – or visits – the Portland area. And to top it all off, it was a beautiful day, in the mid-80s with sun and blue skies!
At age 11, my oldest daughter is a published author – thanks to the ease of self-publishing through Lulu. Her first book – a work of fiction starring Pokemon characters (sigh) – is 115 pages long, and the culmination of months of work on her part. I was impressed that she stuck with it, as well as the fact that it’s well-written, with some witty and interesting turns of phrase, and has a really good flow to the story line and plot.
Lulu is an amazing online program, which lets you scan in illustrations with your story, and design your own front and back covers. It even lets you offer your book for sale on its website. Emmersen wants to “shop” her book around to local bookstores – I think we’ll start with a few craft fairs and the classroom libraries at her school, and see where it goes from there. She’s already hard at work on a sequel . . .
My middle daughter, Bella, has just turned nine, but she’s well ahead of her years when it comes to her skill – and drive! – as an artist. She has always loved to draw, and recently has begun writing and illustrating short stories, but her real love is sewing and knitting. The two Rebecca Danger patterns shown here (monster and cat) were among her first knitting projects – I mean, what person in their right mind knits toys (often among the hardest knitting patterns), on double-pointed needles, no less (difficult to master, especially for little hands) as beginner projects?! But toys was what she was interested in knitting, so toys it was. I give her a hand with casting on and binding off, and some of the more difficult in the round sections, but by and large, these projects are all hers.
Bella also finished her first full-size quilt – all the more impressive because it is made up of twenty-six hand embroidered panels! She did all the embroidering and all the piecing for the quilt top; I was going to have her machine quilt it, but there were some difficulties, so instead she hand-tied the quilt, then sewed the binding. I think the finished project is beautiful, and the perfect size for a twin bed.
The Penguin & Fish embroidery patterns are so cute, Bella’s moved on to making them into wall hangings, t-shirts, and pillows . . . she recently finished sewing a skirt to match a purple embroidered cat t-shirt, and is hoping to sell it at an upcoming craft fair.
It’s so nice to have a daughter who loves handcrafts as much as I do!
Each of my daughters insists that every birthday have a “theme” – a trend a started when they were babies that I am now stuck with! This year’s theme for my oldest daughter’s 11th birthday was puppies, both in recognition of her love for dogs, and in celebration of her birthday present: A nine-week-old Great Pyrenees puppy. Through attrition we’ve moved from three dogs down to just one, a 13-year-old golden retriever who doesn’t move around a lot anymore. We wanted a family dog who would be good with kids, cats, chickens, and other small animals, but who would also function well as an outdoor dog and help keep the coyotes away from the alpacas and chickens, and hopefully at least scare away (if not actually catch) the roughly one million ground squirrels and rabbits that eat everything I try to plant.
After a lot of research, I determined that Great Pyrenees was the perfect breed for what we needed – kind and gentle with kids and smaller animals, loving but more independent than retrievers or labs, a true working dog that would love living and working on a farm.
My daughter named her Maizy and she’s very mellow for a puppy, anxious to please and so smart that she’s already leash-trained, all without much effort or expertise on our part. My daughter has slept on the kitchen floor next to her crate for the past week – we’re hoping she’s acclimated enough now that she can sleep on her own (since my daughter is getting really tired of her sleeping bag!)
You forget how much work a puppy is, but an outdoors puppy is a much better way to go – no stress with housebreaking, not as many worries about what’s being chewed, and she sleeps in her dog bed on our back porch, by the kitchen sliding door, so that she’s there waiting for us when we come out to play, or garden, or take her for a walk. Now if the sun would ever shine here, we might be more inclined to spend time outdoors . . .
I couldn’t resist this non-craft related posting . . . this is our banana puffer fish (okay, that’s not what it’s really called, but that’s my name for it) on the first day we actually saw it “puff.” I couldn’t tell if it was actually frightened by something, or just felt like stretching its skin . . . below is what it looks like when it’s not puffing. Talk about bloat and water retention!
As a Mother’s Day present, my eight-year-old daughter Bella made spring place mats and fringed napkins – the most recent in our series of projects for the sewing club she and I started together. Perfect spring colors!
As a result of the extremely cold and wet spring break we’ve had, my daughters and I have spent a lot of time indoors. Luckily, they all love to draw, write, and sew (along with a lot of other creative – and very messy! – crafting projects) so we kept busy (there was a fair amount of chocolate chip cookie baking going on, too). Alia, my six-year-old completed her first sewing project, a “snuggle bunny” made out of soft, fuzzy fabric that she begged me to buy during a foray to the fabric store. It was the perfect first project for her – I saw the pattern in the store and knew that even I could do this one without a store-bought pattern, so she and I drew out the bunny shape, then she cut out the pattern. I showed her how to pin the pattern onto the fabric, and how to cut out the fabric pieces. From there, it was a simple project on the sewing machine, and she learned how to turn the pieces, stuff and slip-stitch closed the opening, sew on the ears, and add the final touches of tail and ribbon. She kept the pattern pieces and took the whole shebang to 4-H to show.
Bella, my eight-year-old daughter has taken up embroidery with a vengence, and is doing amazingly well – I was somewhat reluctant to get her going, because I feared she wouldn’t have the manual dexterity to make the tiny little stitches, and I would constantly need to assist her, pull out mistakes, do the embroidery myself in difficult areas, etc. Not so – her stitching was near-perfect from the get-go and, what was even more impressive, she demonstrated a real stick-to-it-ness that I value even more than her technical skill. She taught herself to tie off when she ran out of thread, to re-thread the needle and tie a knot at the end, to back-stitch and satin stitch, and to keep the fabric taut in the embroidery hoop.
We’ve purchased the animal patterns (Penguin and Fish Alphabet Embroidery) one by one off of the Purl Soho website, and so far she’s completed the yak (Y), alligator (A), hedgehog (H), cat (C), and pig (P). She’s almost finished with the koala (K) and has the lion (L) and viper (V) queued up next. One key has been using better quality embroidery thread than the stuff I usually buy at Joanns – she’s sewn them all in Valdani Pearl Cotton Embroidery Thread, and the thread is so much nicer, higher quality, and easier to work with (doesn’t break, tangle, etc), that I’m really sold on it. When she’s done all 26 letters, she plans to sew them together to make a quilt.
My oldest, ten-year-old Emmersen, leans toward a little more creative and esoteric projects – her latest is a creation of an entire “zoo” of animals made entirely of aluminum foil. How these even occurred to her is beyond me, but I’m amazed by the ideas she comes up with and executes, without any directions or patterns.