Thursday, August 30, 2012

{Spontaneous Gratitude for a very long week and a big bump on the head}

I think the paint fumes have finally gotten the better of me.  My throat hurts, my nose is sore, and I feel just kinda gross.  It doesn’t help that I have been painting, spray painting, or touching up painting for hours on end all week long.  I am excited to show you all how the fort is turning out, but I am waiting until it is completely done to unveil this project.  Cuz it’s that big of a project…  I has cause for ‘unveiling’!  Winking smile  However eager I am to finish, after a nasty bump on the head today I took it easy. It was time to slow down and stop making myself bleed.

I played blocks in the fort with the baby. 

I laid on the porch area and watched the sun through the trees as Luke sat with me and signed ‘plane!’ over and over again pointing at everything he could in the sky.

I watched episodes of British television after the kids went to bed.

I still feel like crud, but I am really hoping that will pass as I have help to finish up the stairs and the touch up paint tomorrow and I really want to be up for it!  So really, I am grateful… This life is feeling so abundant with friends and purpose I can’t even tell you.  It would be great, however, to feel a bit better physically when I wake up.

Today I am incredible grateful for:

A ripe garden tomato

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A beautiful place to hang out and watch the sunset

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These two little boys and the cats they feed bathwater (blech!)

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A peaceful 20 minutes to relax

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The history of Spontaneous Gratitude for all who are curious.  Blessings!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Sneak Peek - Handcrafted Hideaway

We still have a long way to go, but it’s coming along so lovely I just couldn’t wait to share!  So here’s a sneak peek of our fort that we are putting all our extra time into and hopefully you will see the finished version soon!

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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Playhouse dreams

Back in 2003 I made a playhouse for my (then) two children.  It was huge and lovely and took a ton of time… but heck, I was in the house I was going to live in forever, so it was well worth it. 

Old playhouse post from 2003

Fast forward 9 years, and we moved from that house soon after that playhouse was finished.  It wasn’t the plan, but it is what ended up happening, and for the next few years we were playhouseless. 

We have two kids that never even lived in that house we thought we would be in forever, and now we own a house that we have spent a lot of time these last three years making  our own.

This summer we decided to tackle making a fort for the kids in an unused corner or our 1/4 acre lot.  It required lots of inspiration.  I even made a Pinterest board for it.

We considered having someone from Seattle come in and build one for us like this:

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But it was super cost prohibitive and we were working with all cash.

I even spent a while wishing I had scrapped the fort for the kids and made myself a deck instead:

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Wouldn’t that be lovely?  One day… I even have Wisteria I can plant to come up and give that sweet dappled glow…..  *sigh*

But for now, our project is the playhouse in the far left corner of the yard.

We had some ideas… but first we needed to tackle the floor of the playhouse, which is basically a deck in a corner that is on a steep hill.   We tried to put in the posts and build the deck ourselves.  That didn’t workout so well… and then had to pull the whole thing out.  Yeah, cemented 4X4’s are not fun to pull out.  So we called in a professional friend to help us make it ‘plumb’ and ‘square’ and we were on our way. 

After we had the 8X8 ft deck, we had to decide on a design.  I was very torn between this:

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and this:

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(which we were very clear we didn’t know how to do, and I was tempted anyway, just cuz it’s awesome… however, I am married to “Mr. Nothandy” and although I am very handy, I am not skilled in this area at all. So I was really torn and I knew I was looking at some serious work if we I picked this one.)

I also wanted a slide for the kids as we don’t have a flat place for a play structure, and I really was unsure that we could pull off the second design without needing marital counseling afterwards.  Seriously.  The Man just about choked when I told him I may pick that one.

Until I saw this:

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It was the perfect mesh of the designs I loved most with a touch of whimsy AND a slide.  AWESOME!  And even better yet, she has step by step instructions right on her blog!  I don’t think I could have wished and prayed for a more perfect solution.  The only difference between ours and the one pictured is that the deck is 2 ft less in length (hers is 8x10ft) and the slide has to go in the front because the deck is surrounded by bushes on three sides.  Other than that, we are following the instructions step by step, and I even bought the same interior paint color. (cuz it’s that cool!) I can’t wait to share it!  So far it looks good and every time we pull of any piece of the project without a squabble I feel absolutely triumphant!  I can’t wait to show you what we have done.  The roof goes on this weekend!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Garden Soup

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This is a lovely soup!  It’s perfect for when those nights start getting cooler and you want something fallish but still have zucchini coming out your ears in your garden.  In this recipe I used a can of diced tomatoes, head of garlic, and some celery from the store.  Everything else came from my garden!  And it was so delish I think I will make it weekly this fall, much to my husband’s chagrin because as many men, he doesn’t think that soup is a real food.  (I have used three fresh tomatoes and a tsp salt in replacement for the can of tomatoes and it is just as good, but I happen to have used all my garden tomatoes in an antipasto salad yesterday… so from the can, it had to be.)

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Garden Soup

  • Olive oil
  • 6 cups chicken stock (recipe here)
  • salt
  • 1 14oz can diced tomatoes
  • 4 smallish zucchini (about 4-5 cups diced)
  • 1 head of kale
  • diced basil/sage/thyme to taste (I like about 2-3 Tbs of each thyme and sage, then 1/4 cup of chopped basil.)
  • 1 lg onion
  • 4 carrots
  • 3 stalks celery
  • 3 cloves garlic

Dice onion, garlic, carrots, celery and sauté in olive oil until carrots start to go soft. 

Add in zucchini, kale, herbs, and mix. 

When zucchini starts to go soft, add in chicken stock and tomatoes and boil for 5 minutes. 

Turn down to low and salt to taste. 

Allow flavors to mingle for at least 5 more minutes. 

I serve with rosemary diamante bread from Essential Baking or a fresh baked loaf of my own artisan bread right out of the oven!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Summer summer summer

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Hot days.  Warm nights.  Camping.  Field trips.  Yard work.  Gardening.  Legos in the lawn.  Blueberries.  Trimming bushes.  90*. Shorts and tanks. No shoes.  Pulling up spent peas.  Browning grass.  Building forts.  Learning to use a miter saw.  Planning for classes.  Iced coffee.  More camping.  Cut flowers.  Summer colds.  Farmers market.  Summer.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Drying and curing my onion harvest

I harvested my onions this week!

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As the tops started to droop, I pushed over the rest of the tops and let them sit in the ground for 3 days in the hot sun.  Then I moved them to an old screen door I laid between two saw horses and set them to cure.  Generally curing takes a week or more.  They must be out until all the green in the stems is gone, the roots are dry and brittle, and the onion skin is good and papery. 

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At that point you can store them in a cool place as a braid or in a mesh bag or basket.  I choose to keep them next to my panty shelf in the garage in a mesh basket.  I do not store onions with potatoes or squash due to the fact that they give off a gas that causes them to rot faster.  I just consider onions not to play well with others.  ;)

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They are fine to use while waiting for them to cure, but until they are cured, they do not store well at all.  In my case, I will go out and get one off the curing screen when I need one. 

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I turn them every few days to make sure all sides dry evenly and when the tops are brown and dry I will braid some to give as gifts to neighbors and friends.

Happy harvesting!

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

For the love of Wildflowers…

WILLOUGHBY “I am afraid I obtained these from an obliging field.”

MARIANNE “But I have always preferred wild flowers!

Even though Marianne never actually praises wildflowers in the pages of the Jane Austin novel, any romantic will remember the line in the movie as Marianne tries to sooth Willoughy’s bruised ego with his wildflower bouquet next to the beautiful ‘hothouse’ flowers from the Cornel.  And to be quite honest, I agree with her! 

Queen Anne’s Lace, Sweet Peas, Tansy, and a few others beckoned me from the side of the road today on my way home from a coffee shop.  I wished I had my camera at the time to truly capture these beauties in their fields along side the grasses that have all gone to seed and set my allergies to fits.  I collected handfuls of them with thousands to spare.  They sure are lovely!

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Some wild and a few from the garden make this beautiful bouquet for the mantel. 

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Nature sure does know how to make a beautiful centerpiece! 

Here is a few more that I collected from between the roadside and my garden beds that I have just loved decorating my tables and mantel with.  Volunteer sunflowers that are producing like mad were the main face of this bouquet with Queen Anne’s Lace and Tansy along side.

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This was a birthday bouquet for my friend and neighbor.  I added “Orange Devil” Crocosmia that just started blooming in my front flower beds.  It was a lovely addition!  

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I have a Blue Angel Salvia that is close to bloom too and I can’t wait until I can add that to my bouquets!

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I highly encourage anyone who may see Daisies, Queen Anne’s Lace, Tansy, or any other local wildflower on the roadside to at least stop and take a look.  I love to use wildflowers for any of my bouquets.  There is SO much beauty to be had by what Mother Nature has already put in her vast gardens! 

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Luke’s pastimes - 17 months old

See me?  I am awesome.

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I am also super big.  I serve my own meals.  But only when my parents are too slow.

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I find things that have been put up.  They must have been saved just for me.  My parents are so nice!

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Yum!

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I love to just chill with my snack and watch the people around me work.  I am a great observer.

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Out in the yard by myself.  I go to daring heights to show people my skillz.

I am super good at playing with marbles. 

I don’t even put them in my mouth, except that one time.

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I am also the best foreman in town.  I told mom how to build that whole playhouse from my fort.  The saw was scary, but the drill was fun!  Mama wouldn’t let me have it though.  She gets so touchy sometimes.

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Sometimes people in my house decide to go somewhere else without me.  I let them know that is not ok.

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This is my hangout.  You can only come in if I say you can.

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When I am on the job, I’m the best there is.  “Out with an unoccupied suspicious.”

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I was gonna get a K9 but mom made me put him back.

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Yeah.  My groove is all that.  I run this joint.

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Could you say no to this?

Yeah.  I didn’t think so.  *Mwah!!*

Monday, August 06, 2012

Somewhere over the rainbow - Cyan turns 11!!

Some highlights from Cyan’s Sky & Rainbow party. 

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This party was simple and lovely.  The decorations were fresh flowers and cardstock  fan rounds put up behind the dinner table.  Dinner was ‘make your own’ kebabs, rainbow fruit kebabs, and burgers from the grill.

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I made a rainbow punch from sprite and fresh fruit.

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The make-your-own kebab station was also a rainbow of wonderful fruits and veggies to grill up with the burgers!

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The fruit kebabs, inspired by Pinterest, were a must,

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…and the kids absolutely loved them!

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Even Luke!

The flowers were the main décor.  I bought a few colors I didn’t have (orange and purple mostly), but much of these beautiful bouquets were from my own flower beds!

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Next up we had a big, fat, backyard dance party.  Cyan picked all the tunes and the girls danced, then ate, then danced some more.  They are now in the stage where they teach each other dance routines to their favorite songs and it was so fun to watch!  No ends of giggles for the mamas that hung around.  We all remember being 11.  Winking smile

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And just look at Luke!  In the middle of the party, dancing his little heart out.  So cute!

Cake Time!

I actually made the cake this year!  It took some doing and a whole day, but this 6 layer rainbow cake was all me me me!  And MAN was I proud of this cake!  (For those of you that don’t know, I don’t really like baking and I don’t like eating cake, so this was a huge deal for me.)

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And just look at the inside!  Didn’t it turn out lovely?!?  (Seriously… so proud!)

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All of the colors were from natural food coloring except the blue.  I loosely used this guide for my colors and added a bit of my own flare to it as well.  I also changed the cake batter I used for each layer to help the colors be stronger.  How I did it is as follows:

Each layer was a 1/2 of a cake batter recipe.

  • Red = Egg white, white cake with 1/4 cup smashed raspberries and 2 Tbs beet juice
  • Orange = Egg yolk yellow cake with 2 1/2 Tbs carrot juice
  • Yellow = Egg yolk yellow cake, plain
  • Green = Egg white white cake with 2 Tbs spinach juice
  • Blue = Egg white white cake with 1/4 cup smashed blueberries with a bit of blue dye because the batter looked grey.  (There is nothing appealing about grey cake batter.  Especially to those of us who do not like cake.  So I added a tiny bit of blue frosting dye to this batter and it worked out perfectly!)
  • Purple = Egg white white cake with 1/4 cup smashed blackberries and 1 Tbs beet juice

(Notes: I used my juicer for the juices, so they are all raw and freshly made in these recipes.)

I covered the whole thing in real buttercream icing from this recipe and put it in the fridge for a day and a half until the party.  The layers were also buttercream.  The day of the party was not super warm, so the cake was safe to sit out on the table during the festivities.  However, just in case you want to make your own, I have heard that real buttercream doesn’t like to sit in the hot hot sun so I would keep it in the fridge until just before cutting.

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The craft was making rainbow makers to hang in the girls windows.  I had gotten each girl a rainbow maker crystal, a sucker hook, and a crystal bead and placed them inside rainbow colored silk bags.  However, this is where Cyan started to feel ill.  So we rushed through this part of the party and went quickly to cake and gifts so the girls could all go home.

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Poor sweet girly… she felt so awful at this point.  She didn’t even have a bite of the beautiful cake I made.  Everyone else went home just after cake time, and Cyan went to bed.  Sad smile

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A birthday party funny.

In going along with this ‘sky’ party theme, I thought it would be fun to have these from Pinterest.  However, I couldn’t make 15 of those in cups so I thought one big one in a  trifle bowl would be just as pretty.

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Nailed it.