finally

When we bought our house 4 years ago, there was a funny little section right in front of the living room window. It looked like this:

April 2007

It seemed like a real waste of space.  I always pictured it being a nice place to sit since it faces west and gets some good sun.  It has been a work in progress.  I pulled out those junipers pretty early on,  added a flower box to the wooden railing, and planted some brass buttons, irish moss and blue star creeper to fill in so that one day, it could be a nice little patio area.  And those $&!$ bluebells – I think I have FINALLY pulled most of those.  This is what it looked like this morning.

April 2011

I almost bought a little wicker patio set off Craigslist, but then saw some cushions at Home Depot that could work on our existing chairs. So I got with the program, bought some new plants to replace the tulips and daffodils in those boxes AND WENT TO TOWN.  Keeping it real, there was this.

crap

And THEN there was THIS.

ta dah!

In the railing flower box, there are some herbs.

herbage

Behind the chairs are a mix of things, but I especially love the pink of the geraniums.

love

And here we are enjoying the fruits of our labor with a little Mexican coke and the last of Mike’s brown liquor.  Finally.

not too shabby

Looking forward to weekend morning coffee and evening cocktails in our new cozy little spot.

san juan scones – kinda

Finally!  I made a recipe from the giant pile that is Recipalooza!  It’s one I cut out of the Pacific magazine that comes in the Seattle Times back in 1994 apparently.  The title makes me think the original article may have had something to do with a B&B or something up in the San Juans, but the recipe itself doesn’t say.

Now.  It is rare that I make something exactly as it is written, due to the fact that a) I am lazy, b) I usually am missing some ingredient and c) that would be boring.  This was no exception.  Instead of 3 cups flour, I used 2 cups flour and 1 cup cornmeal because I love the texture it gives baked goods.  I also did not have currants, so I subbed some chopped cranberries. Since I intended these to be my breakfast treats for the next week, I could have used oatmeal and chopped apples as well, with some cinnamon and nutmeg.  Maybe next time.

They came together easily in the food processor.

I will say that mine took 20 minutes to bake  – the 12 minutes in the recipe is optimistic.  And since I had planned to add some lemon to the dough and forgot, I decided to do a lemon icing to gild the lily.  I used the juice from one lemon, and started adding powder sugar to thicken and sweeten it.  Let me tell you, it takes A LOT more sugar than one would think.  Actually, I would bet I put every bit of 2 cups of powdered sugar in it and it was still pretty loose.  ALSO.  I began sifting the sugar, which made a big old mess (though Jack looks good with a coating of powdered sugar) and the sugar clumped anyway.  There was cursing.  So I kept dumping it in, and strained it AFTERWARD.  Since it was still pretty loose, it soaked in a bit when I put it on the scones, which was just fine with me.

I made these before dinner, which was a bit of a tactical error, since I then had to try a bite.  I ate the whole damn thing it was so freaking good. Seriously fantastic.  The texture was excellent and made me want to try this dough as a cobbler topping and shortcake base.  You could add any fruit or flavor, but I would be wary about taking out the cornmeal – it would alter the texture too much, I think.

I am looking forward to breakfast tomorrow.

better late than never

Ah, my poppets, I have been a bit out of pocket the last week, fighting some bug.  Got some good drugs now so I’m on the mend.  In between my getting sick and well, it seems spring has finally arrived in these parts!  So half the peas got their trellis today and the strawberries now live in their own pot. The 3-foot-tall grass got mowed. And then we have this…

almost-popped poppy

soon-to-be blueberries

spirea

euphorbia

getting-ready-to-bloom prehistoric 20 foot tall rhodie tree

forget-me-not, a weed I don't mind

wish this was scratch and sniff

viburnum

my camera couldn't handle the RED of this!

favorite of this batch

Today’s 70 degrees just leaves us wanting more and dreaming of summer nights and happy hour…Seattle in the summer is the best!

mail sackage

One week before Mom’s Day this year, I was struck by inspiration (or a brain fart, depending on how you look at it.)   I had plans to get together with some other moms on Mother’s Day for some crafting.  I know! I will make them bags! Who cares that I’ll have to cut out 48 pieces of fabric and interfacing!

4 bags – one week. Not out of the realm of possibility. The pattern I used is one that I had already made a few times – the Mail Sack by local designer Kathy Mack of  Pink Chalk Studio on Bainbridge Island.   I already had the bulk of the fabric, so I ran down to the fabric store to fill in some gaps and get more interfacing and buttons.

I’ve made 3 of the large size of this pattern and now 6 of the smaller version. I’ve also made several other purse/bag type patterns I got online, and let me tell you, this one is by far the most straightforward.   I love how you can mix and match fabric to get a really unique look.  Plus it’s comfortable to wear and good-looking!

pieces

Honestly, I only did a couple small things differently than the pattern.  One involves sewing the pocket on – I think it tells you to sew the dividing line down the middle of the pocket and THEN to sew the pocket onto the lining.  I just sewed the dividing line at the same time I sewed the pocket onto the lining. That way you don’t have to sew on top of another line.  I also added a big button accent onto the side I liked the best, and I did that before I assembled the bag, so the sewing is hidden inside the lining.  And a tip when it comes to sewing the strap pieces together and doing the final strap top-stitching – reverse your sewing direction when you do the other side.  It seems to make the strap lay flatter.  Otherwise, it really is super easy!

ta da!

One last thing to consider: strap length.  I like my bag long enough to cross over and still get a hand in, so I made my straps a good 3-4 inches longer than the pattern, except for Ms. Professor Lady, who is more of a shoulder bag gal – hers is the one in front. I made hers 3-4 SHORTER than the pattern.  So think about that when cutting your pieces.

ladies and their bags

I like how each of these has a piece from a bag I have.  And the one on the right has the last pieces of the Godzilla fabric from this project.  Don’t they pose pretty!

dry

I started getting migraines in my mid-twenties.  The first one I remember most vividly – it hit just as I was taking off for a knitting retreat at Fort Warden.  I spent most of that weekend in bed, trying to get up and knit in spurts. The headache finally broke on the third day, just as we were leaving.  That was the pattern, pre-drugs.  It would last for two and a half days, a burning poker in my left eye.  And I mean burning.  I’d have to walk around holding my head up. No regular drugs did anything, and I had no idea what triggered them.

I can recall enduring specific events while I had a headache – a bar Christmas party at the EMP, a 4th of July in Chelan, and even worse, Yinnie’s wedding.  Those are times lost that I am really sad about missing.  I knew that if I could make it until the 3rd day, I’d get to enjoy feeling SO great the next day. It was almost like a high – though my head would feel bruised for a day or two.

Then about 4 years ago, (and I don’t know why this didn’t happen sooner) my doctor precscribed Imitrex.  That stuff is sent straight from heaven.  Although now I am on the generic stuff and sometimes have to take another one the next day, it does work most of the time, and I don’t have to miss 3 days of my life.

The problem now, however, is booze.  That is my most common trigger. Given that I enjoy cocktails and wine and the occasional beer with pizza, it is rather a big problem.  Not only do I enjoy said beverages, in social situations, I admit to using them as a means to get by.  Don’t get me wrong, I love going to and hosting parties, in theory, but they do cause me some anxiety.  A nice little cocktail takes the edge off.  But then I have another, and instead of stopping at two, the two cocktails become three, and then it’s too late.  The chain of events has been set in motion.  If I’m lucky, the pain won’t hit til I am home and have slept for a few hours, or even the next day. But sometimes, it starts during the party.  At which point, I become stressed and can no longer enjoy the people and end up leaving early and feeling lame.

Hence, an experiment.  I’m going off the sauce.  Which brings its own set of problems.  People feel weird when you say you aren’t drinking, like it’s a judgment on the fact that they are.  I have no issue at all with most other people drinking, and usually seem to be the one shoving the drinks in their faces.  But now I will have to figure out some other way to get by at parties.  Maybe the fact that I won’t be worrying about getting a headache will help (though sometimes the stress of being social can also lead down that path.  I am suddenly very high-maintenance, it seems).

Maybe at some point I will allow myself ONE drink – because I do like the taste and things seem so much more festive with a pretty drink.  Also, camping season is upon us.  Mornings in the woods without a greyhound or mimosa do not bear thinking about. Not to mention happy hour.  Or beachy afternoons.

Guess I better find some pretty non-boozy drinks.  Sigh.

oh gimlet, i will miss you so

camporama

About this time of year, me and some like-minded others start having camping withdrawal.  The others would not include the Professors or Lefty, nor, truth be told, my own family.  But I ignore them and forge ahead with the stalking of prime spots beginning in October the year BEFORE the summer we want to go.  I am mocked in some circles for this anal planning.  Til they pull up to the best sites in the place.

We’ve been camping as a family for about 7 years now, starting when the Boy Child was about 3.  We’ve gone with the same core group – Frantzes Senior and Junior – with a few stragglers and school families added to the mix from time to time. One of the best things about this continuity and camping with a group is the kid entertainment factor.  They pretty much show up when they want food and go about their merry way otherwise, especially now that they are older.  Certainly back in the younger days, we paid a bit more attention to their general well-being and safety.

We have a routine within this core group.  I pretty much choose sites and dates and nag them until they make reservations.  We plan meals as a group – each family signs up for a few meals.  Including Happy Hour.   That way you aren’t stuck cooking the entire time.  Frantz Senior brings his kick-ass grill/stove combo.  Frantz-Senior-Wife and The Geek are in charge of dishes – though now the kids are old enough to take that on and perhaps a new system will develop this season.

We eat well. Very, very well. Some hits and/or traditions are corned beef hash, Roanoke Bloody Marys, bacon, blueberry pancakes, Frantz fajitas, anything Frantz Junior makes (including but not limited to Chicago dogs and gumbo, sausage for which he mail orders), flank steak (at least once we will have a “flank off” contest), margaritas, bacon, morning greyhounds and mimosas, and cake.  Yes, we make cake in a dutch oven.  And fruit crisp.

Each year we return to our favorite places and try a new one.  The one must-do trip for the last several years has been Spencer Spit State Park on Lopez Island.  It is quite a production to get there – you MUST get in line for the 10 AM ferry NO later than 9 am and even that is pushing it – last year we were the only ones in our group to make the ferry and the rest didn’t arrive for HOURS.  Once safely in line, cocktail hour begins.  Smart ferry campers pack the necessary items in an easily accessible place. It makes the time fly by. Some year we are hoping to make it to one of the other San Juan islands, but we missed the prime spot at Moran this year.  I also just read about Lakedale Resort and will be checking that out.  The Geek’s favorite thing about Lopez – drivers wave at you. Two fingers, off the steering wheel.

Spencer Spit

Other past favorites being revisited this year are Steamboat Rock State Park and Grayland Beach State Park.  We went to Steamboat for the first time last year, in June, thinking it’d be nice there since it’s in eastern Washington. It was, for maybe 6 hours.  Poured the rest of the time.  We were damp.  Very, very damp. The landscape is spectacular though.  We’re hoping the weather is better this year.  We’ve visited Grayland many times over the years.  We reserve all four “walk-in” sites, so we have our own little compound. The berry fritters in Westport are not to be missed.  Also, the crazy Star Wars store in Aberdeen.

Steamboat Rock

Other favorites worth a trip:  Deception Pass State Park, Scenic Beach State Park, Cape Disappointment, Pearrygin Lake, Lake Mayfield and Fort Flagler.  You can check all these out at the State Parks website, including maps and reservations.  We have also stayed at Kalaloch, which is a National Forest park, and I have to say I was not that impressed.  People doing dishes in the bathroom for crying out loud.

Let’s get one thing straight – we are car campers. I do not backpack, or camp without flush toilets at least somewhere nearby.  A pit toilet down on the beach is one thing, but unacceptable if it’s the ONLY toilet.  Showers I can do without, though they are nice. We bring so much stuff, we took possession of my father-in-law’s cargo trailer a few years back.  The Geek isn’t keen on driving it, but it does take the stress out of packing the car, especially since we now have Jack to cram in there too.

We have a big-ass tent.  And a folding table.  Two coolers. Pads. Sleeping bags. Chairs. Boxes of stuff. Food.  Little but important things like the camera and trashy magazines for fireside reading. Password.  If I had enough money and a proper towing vehicle, we’d have a pop-up or even better an Airstream.  (Who am I kidding – if we had enough money, we’d have a vacation house).

Camping is a lot of work.  But when you pull into your site and start unloading (after a cocktail is made, of course), you can feel yourself adjusting to camping time.  The Geek cursing as he sets up the tent is music to my ears (after said cocktail).  Even he relaxes at some point. Phones and other time-sucking devices are ignored.  There is Password in the ferry line and around the fire.  Horror at the skanky outfits in the trashy magazines.  You make your second little home in the woods and strip it down to quality time with friends and family.

the camping life - fort flagler

Our first trip out is in 5 weeks. I wonder if it’s too soon to start meal-planning….