The irises and the maple tree

Wherein Life Happens

As I write this, I am thinking back on a pretty tough week. The struggles are ongoing. I keep thinking I’ll have a break, but it does not come. I will keep the nature of my challenges private for now, but it has not been easy. Add to that my husband being on call, having a mild but persistent cold, and my 1-year-old getting three bottom teeth at once, and I’m just about ready to throw in the towel. Continue reading Seasons

Gluten Free Dairy Free Lego Minifigure Cake Tutorial

Ta Da! All my hard work paid off!

Lego Lover Has Birthday, Requests Cake.

Even though the birthday boy in question doesn’t have food allergies, we have three people who are dairy intolerant or allergic and one person who is gluten intolerant, so as a general rule, I bake gluten-free, dairy-free. It keeps things from being complicated in the kitchen with making multiple versions of things, and it keeps anyone from feeling too deprived. So, lucky you, I will teach you to make this amazing creation. (Insider tip: Lego builders who make ‘creations’ that are not commercially sold sets refer to them at shows/competitions and online as MOCs or My Own Creations. So this was a MOC for me. 😉 ) Continue reading Gluten Free Dairy Free Lego Minifigure Cake Tutorial

Herb Spiral & Surprise

I have been trying to come up with non-garden posts to keep the blog content more diverse, but the weather and my own projects are conspiring against that idea, so, garden post it is. I hope it is worthwhile, I sure enjoyed the project! 🙂

I knew going into it that my husband wanted to build an herb spiral in our yard out of stones we had laying around (we live on a very rocky hill), but what I didn’t know was that when we went to Swanson’s to pick up the herbs he had something else up his sleeve. Continue reading Herb Spiral & Surprise

What comes after April showers?

On Thursday morning, the first irises opened up to the sky. Four, to be exact. Little Miss and I braved the damp overgrown grass to explore and photograph them. They are stunning to me, it never gets old. They feel like my secret allies, waiting in the wings to come out just on cue. And every year the rhizomes have grown and more majestically tall stems reach, reach, reach and put on their show. Continue reading What comes after April showers?

This space intentionally left blank.

White space is the term I use for the artistic & design principle of negative space, or the area in the piece not filled by the subject. In my life right now I am using this term with the living spaces in my home as the metaphorical canvases. The furnishings, decorations, and other objects are all “positive” space or subject matter. The blank walls, empty floor and air space are “white” space.

So with that vocabulary housekeeping out of the way (just so that you understand that the way I am using the term is not necessarily mainstream), let me dive right in to how this is helping me in my home.

I am a recovering clutter-collector. I’ve learned to clean out and then I just collected more again. It took me many years to realize that the problem was that stuff requires decisions. If there is a pile to be put away, each object in the pile requires the decision to keep or throw. Where to put it away? (Where is its home?) If it is to be thrown out; do I recycle, donate, or send to the landfill? Is it too big or otherwise not able to be picked up by city trash collectors? Where do I take it? If it is still useable, is it worth my time to sell it? Which consignment shop or website? What does that process entail? If it doesn’t sell, what do I do with it? If I don’t want to sell it, will anyone accept it for a donation? How can I rent or borrow a vehicle to deliver it to the donation drop off?

As you can see, I get pretty overwhelmed by details. They are my superpower and my kryptonite. But, back to space. When each object in my home provokes this much distress and energy consumption, I can understand why so many are advocating paring down. So I read Marie Kondo and I’ve worked on a capsule wardrobe, (and I’m still working on those things); but the real shift came for me when I realized that I needed a certain percentage of a room to be negative or white space in order to feel comfortable. In other words, I could continue to donate stuff, but if I was looking at the “empty” space in my room as empty, that just set me up to fill it. Because that’s what “empty” provokes. But when I changed the term to white space, I had a completely different set of associations. Most of them were related to the fact that the space had been consciously and intentionally left without an object in it, for the purpose of being open. So I didn’t think of those places as needing to be filled any more, but started imagining myself protecting them from intruding objects.

(I am the knight in shining armor, protecting innocent spaces from being overtaken by villainous objects!) 

I still have a long way to go before I finished clearing out all of the objects in my home that don’t belong, but I’m proud of how far I’ve come and how good the progress feels.

I have a friend who is a long way ahead of me in this process, and who inspires me so much. Several years ago I was visiting her in her apartment and I noticed something that made me smile. On a shelf lay a small piece of paper and nothing else. On the paper was printed the sentence: “This space intentionally left blank.” It was a reminder to her husband and herself to restrain themselves from the temptation to pile a stack of books, or mail and house keys, or any number of things on that lovely available spot.

As I ponder more on the white space in each room, I realize that this is my goal: to free up a certain percentage of the room. When I reach that ratio of stuff to space, then I start to feel good about the furnishings and the energy of the room as a whole. So therein lies my project: figure out how to clear more space and be mindful of how it feels as more space is available. I don’t suppose I’ll ever have actual numbers for the stuff to space ratio that is right for my home and me in it, but I can get to the point where I know, “This. This is the right amount. Anything new that comes in, something has to go or we are over-budget on space.”

I’d love to hear in the comments how you have found this principle at work in your own homes.



Where We Live – Part 1

So I’m the oldest sister and (for now) the most far-flung. I am married and live with my husband and four children in Seattle. We moved here in 2008 for a job with Amazon and have never left. We chose to live in the city limits to keep his commute as short as possible; however, having a yard was a non-negotiable, as I wasn’t willing to try condo life with kids. So we live in a less dense part of the city with a smaller, older house and yard that we would have in the suburbs. This has been a tricky choice at times because there are a lot of projects this house needs that I wouldn’t necessarily have chosen on their own. But I do enjoy a challenge, and making this house work for us has been a good one!

So far we have changed the yard the most by pulling down some rotting fence and putting in garden beds in the back (and removing lots of weeds, a very prickly tree, a wild juniper bush, and a bee’s nest). We planted an apple tree in back and decorative border beds and blueberry bushes in the front. I dug a fire pit last summer and found some logs to use as seating. There was a large group of flag irises that needed dividing under our large silver maple tree in the front yard  when we moved in, so I have spread them out over the whole border of the yard. They have been such a delight to me every year and require no care at all (or a small amount if you count planting them as care). They bloom at the end of spring/beginning of summer so as I see them coming up all spring I feel happy anticipation of their beauty even before blooming is upon us. One of the lovely things that living in the Seattle climate has done for me is to heighten my awareness of the plants that bloom in the various seasons. I have become a bit of an amateur botanist and I love noticing that it is ‘crocus season’ or ‘magnolia season’. Right now the dogwoods and lilacs are blooming—some of my favorites! It gives meaning and differentiation to some of the monotony of my chosen profession (homeschool mom).

On the house we have been a bit more practical with projects by getting a dishwaher & new faucet, a new roof and some custom black out shades in the upstairs bedrooms (a must for northern summer evenings that stay bright for so. long.)

On our list for this year is new decking for the existing deck because the boards have a significant amount of rot and are past re-painting. The boys are campaigning for a tree house, swing set, trampoline, or all three. It has yet to be determined if any of those are going to materialize. 😉 I also got myself into a kitchen remodel and bit off way more than I could chew. So this summer I want to either tie up loose ends and call it good, or just spend the time (and money) and be done with it. It will feel great to not be living in a half-done project. Eventually I would like to have the basement floor concrete polished as well, but that is a very big undertaking, so I am waiting for the timing to be right. My husband has a vision for a new (larger) dining table and chairs to accommodate the fact that we do almost everything at that table. (I homeschool our kids and it is the gathering place for everything from art to legos to games to laptop use to reading to actually eating.)

So as you can see the list is fairly endless. Part of the creative endeavor of ‘fixing up’ a house is lending the project enough energy to make decisions and say no to about 90% of the projects. Decisions take a lot of energy!

Many of my projects will not revolve around the house per se, but smaller decorating vignettes or learning-related ideas for the kids. I also take pictures of flowers and will update the blog about my garden adventures too.