Monday, April 26, 2010

Cabin, part two

Part one - big news!

There's such a fun element of playing house on the first few days in a new home. Using the first dishes, cleaning up in the kitchen after meals, making the beds in the morning -- it all feels like play. I suppose that wears off quickly but it's really enjoyable while it lasts!

First meal at the new place

Daddy and Sofie at the table


Let's talk about omens a little bit. I'm not terribly superstitious, but I've had some moments in my life where I believe a meaningful omen appeared:
  • When I graduated from my high school after a long, miserable struggle with small-town gossip and a teacher who meant me harm, I was standing outside and a butterfly landed on my shoulder. I took it as a very meaningful sign that things were about to improve, and they did, of course. But I've never forgotten that small moment of hope.

  • When I moved to Seattle, on my very first day here, I was on the ferry from Bremerton (where the person I drove west with lived) to Seattle and there were dolphins leaping out of the water in front of the boat. I've never seen dolphins here since, but that day they seemed like an omen that my life here was going to be good.

  • On our first weekend at our cabin, we walked down to the meadow at the end of the entrance road and saw a flock of these frolicking in the tall grass and watching us from fence-posts:

Mountain bluebirds, more blue than the sky, an amazing sight. I've never seen a bluebird of any kind, although I know the western bluebird lives in Seattle and is fairly common. Blue jays I've seen, but they're nowhere near as brilliantly colored. And of course, the phrase "the bluebird of happiness" kept flitting through my brain as we watched them play. The neighbors said they'd only seen them once before in several years. It seemed like a good start to our new endeavor.

Bluebird meadow, as we now call it


Mountains across the street, from the entrance to our road

Saturday morning we got up and drove to Omak, the nearest big town and about 55 miles away, to get lamps and tools and a bunch of miscellaneous stuff at Home Depot. Among the goods we came home with were two adirondack chairs in a bright apple green, which are totally cute and turn the deck into a lovely place to lounge.

We also got a small table and chairs for Sofie, and she set right to work having a tea party on the deck for all of her cat friends.


"What time is checkout tomorrow?" I asked Brett on Saturday afternoon during the long drive home from Omak.

It takes me a minute to realize why he's laughing.

Walking with Sofie in the backyard


Saturday night we opened a bottle of champagne I'd brought along and had both sets of our immediate neighbors over for a drink. The young couple next door has been living here for a few years now, and the two ladies across the street just became full-time residents this weekend after being weekend visitors for almost a decade - their moving truck was here as we arrived. So we toasted two move-ins and enjoyed talking with everyone for a while.

We certainly feel like we're welcome and welcomed here and are enjoying the fact that we're getting to know the neighbors!

One of the neighboring houses

You may be wondering if it's good or bad to have close-by neighbors when you're buying a cabin in the woods. Actually, we really like having a house or two in sight-range of our place, and it's also nice that both of them are fulltimers so that there are people around most of the time. The houses are far enough apart to be private but close enough that if you really had a problem or needed help someone would be there.

Each of the houses backs up onto common land filled with trees where nothing will be built, and this forms a great buffer zone that keeps things natural and private. There are a fair number of undeveloped lots that could eventually be built up, but we think it's going to be quite a while before more than a few of those are built upon. A good deal of them are for sale, and have been for some time. One small cabin that sits caddycorner behind us has been for sale since it was built. There's not a huge run on these houses and lots just yet. Which is just fine.


On Sunday morning we sleep late and then drowsily drink coffee on the back deck, staring off into the trees. This is exactly how I pictured mornings out in the woods. The tall pines sway just slightly and the clouds drifting by their tops seem so tiny in comparison. Small, dark birds dig around in the brush and the rising sun makes changing shadow paths on Lucky Jim peak. Aside from birdchirps it is totally quiet and utterly peaceful.

We're already talking about going back again next weekend.

Little house in the big woods, taken from the neighbors' porch

Big News!

Delay posted - I wrote this on Saturday but we were without internet all weekend... see part two with more pictures here

Here’s something I’ve neglected to mention lately. We've been all wrapped up the last two months buying the beautiful vacation cabin you see at left. And as of last week, it was officially ours!

We’ve been going up to the Methow Valley in the Eastern Cascades for years now, usually renting a cabin and spending as much time there as we can. It’s the most gorgeous place, and the pace and the people really suit us. Usually we either stay in Winthrop – a really fun small town complete with a fantastic bookstore -- or in the much smaller village of Mazama – a tiny little burg with one big country store, an inn, and an assortment of cottages and small houses scattered around the woods nearby.

For years, Brett’s wanted to own a place here, and we both want to semi-retire up here someday. So when we got a chance to buy a place this spring, we had to jump on it.

I’m mentioning it now because we’re in the midst of our first weekend living in our own house up here. And it is FREAKING AWESOME.

At right, the road leading to our cabin. The speed limit is TEN. Ah, peaceful...

It’s more of a small house than a cabin, really. A big great room, a master bedroom downstairs, one bedroom and a loft space that will be an office upstairs, and a really nice kitchen. Nice deck in the back. It’s part of a small community (about six or eight houses right now) two miles outside of Mazama and just a half mile or so down the road from the place we used to rent every summer.

Right now it’s six a.m. and everyone but me is asleep. I’m sitting at our dining room table (the only furniture, so far, in the great room) looking out the massive back windows at the woods behind the house, and, just behind them, the slopes of a mountain called Lucky Jim that shoots up incredibly steeply a few hundred yards back.

Lucky Jim still has a little snow on the top, although the temperature down here in the valley is close to 60 during the day. I was slightly disappointed not to see hoardes of woodland creatures frolicking in the backyard this morning when I got up early but I’m sure we’ll see deer and maybe some other animals eventually.

Last night at bedtime I laid with Sofie on her big, new bed upstairs and we watched the huge pine trees sway and dance in the wind while she tried to fall asleep. There’s something so beautiful about the way big trees move. I used to watch that dance when we were camping here, and now my daughter can watch it from her bed.

Our goal, of course, is to never, ever sell this place, to maybe live here full time ourselves someday, and for Sofie to grow up with wonderful memories of time spent “at the cabin” and someday for it to become hers. It’s a great place to ensure that she is connected to nature and to a quieter pace of life while still getting all the benefits of growing up in a wonderful and vibrant city like Seattle. This place and the things it stands for are a huge part of her legacy.

When we got here yesterday, we were welcomed with open arms. The lady across the street, a long-time vacation owner, was moving in fulltime that day with her partner and came right over to visit with us for a while. They’re former Seattle-ites and seem quite interesting!

Later, our next door neighbors, a young couple who are the owners of the previously-mentioned Trail’s End Bookstore in Winthrop, stopped by to say hello too. Those two houses and one other represent the full-time residents of this little community, and there are a small number of other houses like ours that will be vacation properties. Most of them are on the nightly rental market through a local inn, so families come and go.

It’s peaceful here and quiet and friendly and waking up to the dappled sun in the woods is a wonderful treat and we’re so thrilled with the realization of this long-time dream and looking forward to becoming part of the community...

Taken from the car on the way through Washington Pass, on the drive out to Mazama

Friday, April 16, 2010


Suddenly it's 60+ and sunny here in Seattle, which feels glorious. Yesterday was the first day in which I ran in short sleeves. It was almost too hot for me - I'm a true PNW wimp who doesn't like the heat all that much and must admit to some mixed feelings about the sun, truth be told. Not in the spring, mind you - I'm quite glad to see the sun now. But by August, I'm ready for it to go away again for a while, what with all its beating down relentlessly on us.

Sofie seems to feel the same. This morning, during a long walk, she kept making me close the window on the top of the jogging stroller and saying, "Go away, sun!"

So, as I mentioned, we've been running again after my four week bronchial-plague break, and after about a week and a half it's starting to feel really good again. My lungs are weaker than they were but I'm back to running consistent thirty minutes with just one walking break around the 20 minute mark, and I'm hoping to jettison that within a week or so.

Then we'll start working on running longer and farther.

And what's more encouraging, I'm starting to regain that endorphin thing. Today was officially a "take a walk" day instead of a running day, but I'm absolutely ITCHING to get out there and run some more. I've been planning all day for how I'm going out on Saturday morning, early, by myself, for a good long run out to the overlook at the west end of our neighborhood.

I can hardly stop myself from going out right now. The only thing that really is stopping me is that I really want to run without the jogging stroller for once, and if I go this afternoon I have to push 40+ pounds of kid and metal contraption.

So tomorrow it is. We'll see if I can actually roll out of bed and hit the road. It's been a while since I've done that and I'm a notoriously slow-painful-wakeup person, but I'm going to have to get good at this early morning running before summer given my aforementioned love-hate relationship with heat.

Might as well start working on that now.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Sunny Lanes, Center Finished

Ok, the center of Sunny Lanes is all put together. Now I just need to iron and iron and iron and iron some more, then put on two plain borders. All of which I think I'll be able to get done by the end of the week. Then off to the long armer on the 19th!

It's supposedly full sized but it seems so big to me that I wonder if it's not more towards queen. Although it might just seem like that because I can't find anywhere to lay it out in my house to get a good shot of it. We're low on open floor space.

I'm relieved to be wrapping this one up. I realized today what the problem is with my older blocks - my seam allowances are for crap in the old ones. Since I started this quilt, I opened Bellflower Textiles and spent almost two years sewing really heavily - hours and hours and hours every week, nearly every day -- and as a result, sewing a steady quarter-inch seam allowance is now second nature to me.

As a result, my recent blocks are all really uniform and predictable, but my older blocks are all over the place - sometimes the seam is off by as much as a quarter inch! Every now and then there's a spot in the quilt where the edges of little pieces just don't meet up because of it. Oh well. I fixed what I could as I went along but there are still some gotchas in it.

Step back, though, and it looks really nice.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Geez louise, this quilt is driving me nuts

Ever have a quilt that just Drove You Crazy?

Sunny Lanes. Seen here, among other places. For an easy pattern, the final steps are making me unreasonably nuts.

As you can see in the picture of it laid out on the floor, the quilt really consists of six large "X" shapes, which I'm putting together now. Each of those consists of four quarter blocks, each of which consist of sixteen mini blocks, so you're looking at something like 64 mini blocks or maybe 250ish total pieces per "X".

I made eight of the quarter blocks two years ago and twenty two of them in the last few weeks. And the problem is that I clearly had no freaking idea what I was doing three years ago. I've become a way better quilter since then, since I discovered a lot of the time-saving and accuracy-ensuring methods of Bonnie Hunter from Quiltville, who basically revolutionized my approach to a lot of piecing.

So now, as I sit here putting four quarter squares together to make my big "X"s, I keep doing so and then finding ONE little half square triangle that's turned the wrong way. Maybe two. In one case, four. And sure enough, it's always in one of the early blocks. (I can tell because for some reason I used light blue thread on a bunch of those, which I'd never do now.)

Picking apart a block when you're working in a really large block with 256 individual pieces and a bazillion seams, turning one little piece of it around, and stitching it all up again, IS A MAJOR PAIN IN THE ASS.

That's all I'm saying. I just spent the last hour correcting the one that had four -- FOUR! -- problems in it. It's fixed now. I have one other from the other day that has one more that has to be flipped. And then my six "X" squares are done and I only need to make three more half-Xs and then the whole top is finished and ready for borders.

I will survive. But this is making me not want to let anything sit for a few years untouched ever, ever again.


Someone else mentioned that I never said anything more about my saga of losing my voice for the entire month of March. Yes, I did indeed get my voice back, right around April 1st. It's still healing -- I can't quite hit the high notes when I sing to Sofie and I still cough when I run -- but I've been able to talk for almost two weeks now and am beginning to take it for granted again. Which is a nice feeling.

After a month-long, unexpected break from running due to the afore-mentioned plague, I've started up again, just last week. It's taken me longer to get going again than I thought, partly because I still can feel some residual weakness in my bronchii when I run now.

But this morning Sofie and I ran almost 2.25 miles with just a short, one block walking break, and I didn't cough hardly at all, so that's an improvement for sure. I've found a new route that I like and that's challenging but not overwhelming, and I think we're going to keep working on that one for a while. I'm trying to decide whether to sign up for the April 5k (which must be either this weekend or next weekend) while I'm still finding it hard to breathe well, or whether to wait until May when this whole bronchial issue will be a distant memory.

Probably May.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Sunny Lanes, Almost Done!

Remember Sunny Lanes, the quilt I started for my nephew something like two years ago?

I finished all the blocks for it today! Here are most of them laid out on the floor to give me a quick peek at what it would look like - however, there's a whole vertical row missing because I just don't have enough floorspace to lay the whole thing out. It's a full size quilt, although I'm only three squares shy of enough to make it queen sized. But enough is enough!

Now I have thirty large blocks and all that's left to do is figure out which one goes where, sew them all together, and add the borders. Woo hoo!

To be very honest, this is a terribly easy quilt pattern, and the reason it took me two plus years is only because it sat untouched for probably 22 months of that time.


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