Things have been really quiet here on the blog, because things in real life have been anything but. Life is full of seasons, and some are more challenging than others. I won't lie. It's been a cruel, cruel summer so far. (Hey. You might as well sing some 80's Bananarama in the midst of it all, right?!)
So for any friends and/or family interested in keeping up with all things "Us"...
The Roof - We knew when we bought our house three years ago that we would have repairs and work to do. The major-est of the majors? A roof replacement. We noticed leaks, disintegrating asphalt shingles, and got put on a one-year waiting list with a local company for a replacement. This past late spring our number came up. And it has been up ever since.
What should have taken 2-3 days to complete, is now at day 57. Eight weeks. And it is still not finished. I will try to take the high road here, but it has been eight weeks of misordered materials, damaged materials, miscut materials, leaks which have resulted in water coming into our attic and home (we found seven in all), lies from the contractor and crews, no shows from contractor and crews, more running out of materials, more incorrect materials ordered. It will be at least another week before they will be finished. (We were told today that our gutter materials won't arrive until Thursday afternoon, and they don't work on Fridays. They might be able to come out next Monday. Or Tuesday. Maybe.)
John has had to research so much in and through this process that he wishes he had installed the roof himself. And you know what? He could have. And he would have been finished long before now. He has had to get up on the roof (twice in the rain) to try to patch places were the water kept coming in. He has been up and down, in and out of our attic more times than I can count. Our neighbor, a long-time Steamboat resident, shook his head and confirmed: this is the trade off of living in a ski resort town in the middle of nowhere. His wife smiled sadly and said, "Welcome to Steamboat!" Once the roofing crew is done, John will then begin the task of repairing the water damage from the leaks.
I told John this is what the ninth month of pregnancy feels like. You stand there and think, "This is never. going. to. end." Good times!
The Penalty Points - So Emma has discovered Taylor Swift. She has about a dozen or so songs on her MP3 player that she brings with her whenever she and I get into the car to go somewhere. After hearing said songs about a million times, I know them pretty well myself. If anyone knows me well, they know that I sing. All the time. Anywhere. It's a stress reliever, a mood lifter, and it's just fun, okay?
Emma decided that she doesn't want me to sing along to Taylor Swift in the car anymore. I tried to be good, honest I did. But that kid has NO IDEA the massive amounts of self-control I must tap into to keep my mouth shut. I negotiated a compromise: I am allowed to sing one line from each song. Just one. That's it. Whenever I sing it, she invariably tells me, "That was your one line, Mom. That's it. No more."
This week I made the mistake of belting out a second line. (It was "Mean". I couldn't help it.) "GASP! Mom! You already sang your one line! Now I'm going to have to give you a Penalty Point!" Penalty Point??? When did Penalty Points become a part of this deal? I didn't agree to this.
I quit singing and started dancing from the waist up instead. (Because it was now "Shake It Off".) "Mom, no dancing!" "But it's THIS song!" I told her. She wouldn't budge. Then she took a preemptive strike. "And no lip syncing!" I racked up four Penalty Points by the time we got home.
Life is so unfair.
The Feels - Perimenopause is for the birds. And that's all I'm going to say about that. Otherwise, I might start crying. Again.
The Shower Stall - I meant to share pics and post about this last summer when John was working on it, but it didn't happen. My bad. You might remember from this older post that when we bought our house, our master bathroom was in need of repair. We haven't completed all of those projects yet, but last summer John completed a big one: the shower stall.
After doing the demo, he discovered that the shower had been leaking for a long time. (More leaks!) The floor joists and subfloor were rotted. After replacing those, he installed the Schluter-Kerdi shower system (which he highly recommends!), took a deep breath, and did his first tiling job ever. I think he knocked it out of the park! We chose large tiles set in a brick pattern for the walls, two white shelves for the corner, and flat stone mosaic for the floor. That stone floor is my favorite.
We priced a replacement glass door, but that was not jiving at all with our budget. I found an extra long shower curtain liner and a spa-like white extra long shower curtain on Amazon.com to use instead. They work wonderfully, and I actually like it just as is. The curtain softens up the hard lines of the tile, I think. The chrome shower curtain rod, shower head, and valve handle were all affordable options on Amazon, as well.
John picks apart the work he did, but can I brag on him? It is gorgeous. Just beautiful. He did a great job, and I think it is the best shower ever. He never ceases to amaze me.
The Needs - I started this year with a business venture, and it has been an amazing experience so far. Difficult, but amazing in that I have learned so much about all things business and taxes and such, about myself, about my family, about my needs. I am challenged to really hone in on what my priorities need to be. I am challenged to take better care of myself.
I am lucky to have three amazing easygoing kids and a husband that encourages me to do things to treat myself. Trouble is, I usually don't. I am perfectly happy to take the backseat. John calls it the Chicken Neck Phenomenon. The mother takes the time to go to the store to pick out a whole chicken to feed her family. She lovingly seasons and trusses and roasts the chicken. When the family sits down to dinner, she sees to everyone else's needs. To make sure everyone gets what she thinks is enough, she looks at the chicken carcass left on the platter and says with a smile, "Oh, I'll just have the neck! I really wanted the neck anyway!" (Unless there's chocolate involved. I always take my fair share of chocolate!)
Am I alone in this? Self-care just doesn't come naturally to me. But I find myself in a season of life where I am seeing how important it is for me to be kind to myself. To give to myself, not just to others. Maybe it comes from my personality. Maybe it comes from being the firstborn child in a large family. Maybe it is, quite honestly, bad theology that teaches the sin of self. A teaching that ignores the importance of setting limits, or the importance of protecting oneself physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. (Just thinking out loud here.) I understand that in a narcissistic and selfish society such as ours, caring for others in so vitally important, it's just that I also understand that, for me, things can get out of balance.
I think I'll make myself a hair appointment and read a good long book. :)
The Little Things - The best things so far this summer have been the little unexpected gifts. A day full of tears (see The Feels above) is the same day that the first Rufus hummingbird of the season shows up hovering right outside my bedroom window. A little personal reminder that God sees me. I am known by Him. He keeps me in the palm of His hand. It will all be alright.
Because we can't mow a lawn piled up with metal panels and construction materials, daisies are allowed to grow wild all over the backyard. I never realized until this summer that they grow there.
John and I take a walk down one of the hiking trails, and with every step I take, little yellow butterflies flit and flutter up from the grass and fly all around me.
The foxes walk through the yard regularly and stop and stare while I try to engage them in conversation. (I have decided that if I ever go to a Native American naming ceremony, I will ask to be called Talks With Foxes.)
A bear (A BEAR!) hung around our yard for 24 hours last month. He brought with him respite from roof drama and excitement for weary souls. Oh, I wish I could've hugged him. I feel quite certain he would have welcomed it.
A deer eats sarvis berries from our bushes. When she sees me at the window taking pictures, she turns and faces me for a photo op. I talk to her through the window, and she steps closer to listen. (The animals around here make me feel like I am living in a classic Disney Princess movie!)
John calls us out to the deck to watch bats flying overhead, their wings flapping erratically against the dusky blue sky. Emma giggles as I squeal when one flies right in front of us.
The roses bloomed and bloomed this year after their pruning from last. I walked through the flower beds every day, noticing every new leaf, every new bud, touching every stem, pulling every new weed, feeding every plant. I practically hovered and mothered over it all. I was thinking as I walked through the roses one day that this is my Heavenly Father's way with me. "The Lord will perfect all that concerns me." Not perfect (the adjective), as in perfectionism, but perfect (the verb), as in complete. He notices every detail, every change in growth, every hurt, every joy. He feeds and waters. He gives wisdom. He comforts and heals. He sends a meteor to blaze across the midnight sky for me to see at the exact moment I look out the window one last time as I climb into bed.
The same God that hovers over me and my small concerns, hovers over all of creation and hears its cries for peace, for hope. Life is hard, but God is good. <3
Criss Cross - Criss Cross by Isabell Kraemer. This was my second Isabell-designed project. Another beautiful, clean-lined, and wearable pattern! I have worn this a few times already, and it is just the best go-to sweater to grab on the way out the door. I can see myself getting a lot of wear out of this. The colorway "Ireland" is the perfect green for spring. It was a simple cardigan to knit, but the little details throughout made it fun, especially the charted pattern on the back. Will definitely knit more Isabell!
So here's a question for fellow knitters...this was my first project using Cascade 220 Heathers (NOT Superwash). I wet blocked as usual, and oh my goodness...the stink. The entire room smelled like,...well, let's just say "sulfur", (shall we?), for 3 days. Now, I know that wet wool smells funky, but this was by far the worst ever. I googled the issue and found an actual scientific explanation for the offending odor that has to do with chemical bonds breaking during wet blocking. (Seriously, wet wool sweaters have gas!) But anyway, upon drying, the smell went COMPLETELY away, and I aired my room out. No harm, no foul (no pun intended), BUT I really don't want that to happen again if there is anything I can do to stop it.
I have never had that happen before, and I knit another project (see below) without the odor, so I am left wondering, was it the specific yarn? Have any of you ever noticed the Cascade 220 yarns behaving this way? Or is this knitting's dirty smelly little secret???
Enough unpleasantries. Now on to pretty fringe.
Farmhouse - Farmhouse by cabinfour. I am not a shawl person, really. But I do have a childhood memory of someone (I can't remember who) owning a shawl. I thought is was so cool. No one in my family had one, so it was such a novelty to me. So many knitters like to knit shawls, but I love sweaters and didn't ever see myself using a shawl. But then I stumbled upon a fellow Raveler's Farmhouse. It was love at first sight. I was so drawn to it, but that didn't make any sense to me, because...I am not a shawl person. I looked and looked at pictures of Farmhouse for months and months. Why did I want that shawl so much???
Christmas was coming, and my kids asked me what I wanted as a gift from them. I asked for yarn. Which one, how much...they needed details. I chose 3 projects from my Favorites list on Ravelry. I showed them to my kids and told them that I wanted THEM to choose which project they wanted to give me. They held secret yarn meetings. I had no idea what they wanted me to have, but on Christmas morning I opened a gift of Brooklyn Tweed Shelter, and I realized in that moment that I had been hoping it would be their choice all along. They wanted to give me Farmhouse.
This pattern was so simple to knit. Quiet, peaceful, television knitting. I learned a couple of new skills and linked to instruction videos in my Ravelry notes found here.
This was my first project to use Shelter. I love it, love it. Watching the fabric change during wet blocking was like magic! So fluffy and light and, oh I love it. (Sorry. I already said that.) My favorite is the fringe. Drippy, drapey, flowy, dreamy. I think this might be my favorite knit.
And I use it! Right now, it is the perfect layer to ward off the chill of early morning in the mountains. I really don't see myself knitting a lot of shawls, (I have another sweater on the needles now.) but I am so very glad I knit this one. Thank you, Babies! Your mama feels loved!
Joining in with the beautiful knitters over at Ginny's Yarn Along!
Ah, spring. Freezing temperatures and lots of snow. The kids keep forgetting that this is normal, living in the Rockies. I keep hearing, "More snow?!" "It's snowing again?!" "But it's spring!" Yes, spring in Steamboat.
We experienced the snowiest March that Steamboat Springs had seen in the last five years. Some days have felt like a winter wonderland. While parts of the country are getting wildflowers, we are getting icicles. If Hobbits in the Shire can have Second Breakfast, then I think it is safe to say that we in the Rockies have Second Winter.
I do love spring snows. They are noisy, unlike the still and silent snows of winter. The returning magpies and robins and woodpeckers chatter and sing and fill the valley with promises of warmth and nesting and flowers and green.
The ski mountain has closed for the season, even though there are feet and feet of snow everywhere. John took pictures of his last trip with Austin for me. (That's my Austin snowboarding a black run in the second picture.) I missed the end of the season. Quilt orders. The flu. Pneumonia. Antibiotics and inhalers. Fits of coughing and one million cups of tea. It's been an eventful month around here. It all makes me anticipate the warmth of May even more.
The foxes continue to come around every couple of days. John captured a dark red one outside of my sewing room window with his cell phone. Yes, I purposely set out some little bits of food there. Foxes, I have discovered, like apples!
Twice now I have walked outside onto the back deck to discover a light red fox standing in our yard. The first time, he looked at me curiously and sat still while I spoke to him. He marked all of the Aspen trees before he trotted away.
The second time, he stayed awhile. I told him that I had decided to name him "Foxy". John quietly slipped me some apple pieces, and I gently tossed them out onto the snow. The fox looked up at me and cocked his head to the side, just like a puppy. I told him how beautiful he was and that I was happy to see him. I tossed another piece of apple, and he ran straight to it, ate it, and then sat looking up at me, waiting for another piece. Of course, I obliged him. I told him he was welcome to come and visit any time he wanted, and I would give him a treat. Every once in a while a noise from inside the house startled him, and he darted away from the house. I called to him, and back he came, ready for more apple.
John went down to the basement where Emma was squealing over something, and said quietly, "You guys keep it down in here. Your mother is outside talking to a fox." They looked at him puzzled. What???! Ha! I wish I could have seen that!
A couple of evenings ago, Austin noticed two foxes bounding and chasing and playing in the land behind our house. Of course, I couldn't resist! I quickly grabbed and chopped an apple and went out on the back deck. I called and kissed to the foxes, and the instant I did, one of them trotted straight to the deck! (EEEEeeeeeeep!!!!) I gently tossed the apple pieces out into the yard and had a conversation with the fox, and once the second one saw that I was safe, it slowly joined the first one. It was a wee little one, and it was so curious! It looked up at me and just stared as I talked to it. Oh, I can't even tell you...SO cool!!! I want to keep them all!
The foxes come back every couple of days, usually in the wee hours of the morning while I am sleeping. I wake up to fresh tracks in the snow and the treat that I left them the night before gone. I will have to stop this once the bears wake up.
We all celebrated 14-year old Joel (14!) with a day off from school, his favorite red velvet cake and candy and presents and dinner out (his choice of The Rusted Porch) and a late night viewing of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. My sweet boy. What a gift he is! He just keeps getting taller and taller. He makes me proud.
We tried a new bacon appetizer at Joel's birthday dinner that we loved, loved. John came home from the grocery store that next week with ingredients and a request: couldn't we make that bacon appetizer at home? We did our best to recreate it, and then topped it with some added grilled chicken and had it for lunch. It's becoming a habit...
BACON JALAPENO NAAN
4 pieces of naan
Cream cheese, soft
Dried oregano leaves
4-oz. Monterey Jack cheese, grated
3 small tomatoes, thinly sliced
6 slices cooked bacon, crumbled
Sliced pickled jalapenos
Grilled chicken, diced (optional)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Spread soft cream cheese on the top of each piece of naan; sprinkle each with dried oregano. Divide grated cheese evenly among the pieces of naan. Top with diced chicken, sliced tomatoes, crumbled bacon, and pickled jalapeno slices.
Bake directly on oven rack in the lower third of oven for 10-12 minutes, or until desired doneness.
Cut each naan into 6 wedge-shaped appetizer portions and serve immediately.
For appetizers, serves 6-8. For lunch, serves 3-4.
I cannot thank you enough for your kind encouragements, your shared excitement, and your pattern and quilt orders after my last post. Thank you! I am feeling overwhelmed, both in a good way and in a "Did-I-really-just-set-this-in-motion?" way. So excited to move forward! Truly, thank you!!!
It has been such a beautiful winter here in Steamboat this season. So much snow! The most we have seen in a winter since moving here. We are happy to see another snow storm move in, because snow means powder, and powder means skiing. We are going every week, sometimes all of us, sometimes a few of us. After not getting on the mountain much last season, I am now getting comfortable enough to ski the blue runs again, and being 45 years old, I am super happy with this. We are learning our way around the 2,965 acres of ski runs at Steamboat Ski Resort. (2,965 acres!) We are learning which chairlifts take you where. We are discovering which runs are our favorites.
We are making memories. Like the one where someone misses the chairlift that the rest of the family gets on and has to ride alone on the one behind. (See photo #7 above. See the lone skier in the red jacket? She's me.)
Like the one where John accidentally takes us all down a steep run that most of us aren't ready for. Terror ensues. Joel skis backwards. Emma snowplows all the way down. I'm so scared my heart is pounding, and I'm ready for a panic attack. (I've finally forgiven him.)
Like the one where Austin snowboards through the terrain park, doing tricks. (Show off.)
Like the day that it was so cold on the mountain that John's beard was caked with snow and ice.
Like the one where Joel goes to the clinic because he skis downhill so fast that when he falls, he cracks a rib. (He's fully mended now.)
Like every time we forego our usual ski snacks of Clif Bars and go instead to a lodge to warm up and eat a hot meal. (There are always French fries involved. At Gondola Pub & Grill, you can get them topped with cheese, bacon, and sour cream. Add Coca-Cola, and I am in a state of bliss!)
Like the soundtrack of music that plays in my head down every run. It is fun, but the very best part of it all to me is being together.
Outside it may be cold, but inside it stays warm and cozy and busy. Fabric is being cut. Quilt patterns are in my head and being put on graph paper. Tea is made. Taxes and laws and new business things are being learned. Homeschooling carries on. Popcorn is popped and movies are watched. Puppy is loved. Sweater is knit. A new normal is being eased into...if Mommy is to make quilts, her schedule has change. This will take a little time, but the kids have been so great and encouraging and supportive.
Emma came into the sewing room yesterday as I pulled fabrics for a Texas Flag, holding back a sob and sniffling. I asked her what was wrong. (Did she need something, and I wasn't there to help her???) She told me that she had been doing her Charlotte's Web reading assignment. Tears spilled out of her eyes as she told me, "Charlotte died." She buried her face in my chest and cried. Seeing her cry made me cry, and there we stood, the two of us, crying over that dear spider. I am so grateful that I get to be here with her each day. Little Dorrit comes next. There will be a happy ending to enjoy.
While we work inside, the animals work outside. The birds are starting to move around a little more. (See the midnight blue Steller's Jay through the deck railing in photo #19, third from the end?) There is a fox that walks through our yard every day, leaving tracks in the snow. I throw pieces of apple out for him to find, and he comes and digs up his buried treasure of squirrels and voles that he has hidden for himself. Molly smells him, but she doesn't see him. He is sly and only comes in the wee hours of the morning.
We are due for warmer temps this week, but I don't want them to come. Not yet. Please, Winter. Stay a little longer.
John came home from grocery shopping (and stocking stuffer hunting) yesterday and recounted a conversation that he overheard down the canned goods aisle. He noticed a family of four, a couple with two young children. While the wife studied the shelves of condiments, the husband leisurely strolled on ahead down the aisle with his son.
The man said smiling to his son, "We are standing in a grocery store...in Colorado."
And then, "We are shopping for pickles...in Colorado."
His son smiled back up at him and said in response, "And we are watching it snow right now...in Colorado."
I know that feeling. The I-can't-believe-I'm-really-here feeling. I still feel it. I told John that I hope it never ever goes away. I am so thankful that I could burst.
December has been a blur. The snow has fallen. The ski mountain has opened. (We have been skiing!) The vacationers have returned. After two and half years it has gotten easier to identify them. Of course, there are the out-of-state license plates. There are all the selfies. There is the wide-eyed staring at the falling snow. (Oh, I understand!) You can also usually tell a visitor by the contents of his or her grocery cart. The groups of college-aged guys always have steaks and brats and beer. The young families always have chicken and burgers and peanut butter and jelly and fruit and cookies. Tourists always look much more "put together" than the locals. (Local gals don't wear make-up or jewelry when they ski, for example.) Vacationing girls look like ski bunnies in their beautiful, shiny, brand-new ski clothes. Everyone is smiling. I love it.
Apparently, the other way to spot a tourist is by the multiple ski rental stickers attached to every single piece of their ski gear. Many locals own their own skis, boots, polls, and snowboards. We are in the minority on this one. We made the decision to hold off purchasing any gear. Our kids are still growing (and at a rapid rate), and John and I are still getting our legs under us. (Well, I am anyway.) Anyway, our rental stickers tell everyone, "We're on vacation!" This doesn't really concern me, but it gets John's goat. He frequently hears, "Where are you visiting from?", "How long are you in town for?", "On vacation, huh?". He told me one day after skiing, "I think it's my stickers." Whatever. Nobody's looking at your stickers. They just assume you're a vacationer because there are so many of them here now. Well, it bothered John enough that he decided to peel the rental stickers off of his ski poles. Y'all, he hasn't been mistaken for a tourist since. Who knew?!
I have been Christmas-ing since the end of October. Cutting and crafting, stitching and sewing, knitting and purling, always with a Christmas movie or Downton Abbey on in the background. Emma has a little tabletop real live tree in the room this year. I figured on buying her a star for her treetop, but she went straight to her room and made herself a yellow star made of paper. Her way is better. We strung popcorn together and had planned on making handmade ornaments, but when she saw the simple strands of popcorn on the tree branches, she said, "It's perfect." Simple and beautiful. I learn so much from her. I am especially contemplative this year. I decorated the tree, decked the halls, and played Bing Crosby before Thanksgiving, and I never do that. This year I needed it. My heart has been so hurt over the events of the world. Perhaps with the madness out there, I needed the peace and rest of traditions. Those traditions remind me that God is in control. I do not realize all that He is doing now, but one day I will understand. (John 13:7) I sit in quietness with a cup of tea on the side table, knitting and needles in my hands, love and hope in my heart, and prayers on my lips. The prayers mingle with the plies of yarn, and my heart becomes entangled in the fabric of the sweater I am knitting.
Gifts have been wrapped. Packages have been posted. Cards have been received. Now it is time for baking and cooking, for giving and receiving, for loving and giving thanks...in Colorado.