Saturday, September 30, 2017


September kicks off a month of seasons-- football season, hunting season, and the obvious fall weather season. For me, September brings the opening of birthday season. Three of our children were born in the last half of September. On top of that, six aunts, uncles, and cousins have birthdays that require phone calls or cards.

But one birthday we’d been looking forward to will be bittersweet. Our friend Dottie was to turn 99 this week, but instead of eating a little cake with me and the kids, she’ll be partying at the greatest feast ever. You see, Dottie died last week, and while she’s in a better place, I’m still sad.

Dottie made me feel good about myself. Every time I visited, she told me repeatedly how much she loved me, how wonderful I was, how good my husband was, and how beautiful my children were. It didn’t matter that her eyes couldn’t see so well or that she never saw me at my worst; Dottle repeated those words of love so many times, I couldn’t help but believe them a little bit.

Dottie stroked my ego, but that’s not why I’ll miss her so much. When I visited with Dottie, she out-talked me. “You’ll have to forgive me,” she’d say, “but I am a talker, and I just love people. I can’t help it; that’s the way I am.” I didn’t need to forgive her because I adored her for it; I understood her because that’s exactly the way I am, too. I think we must have been kindred spirits.

Every time we left Dottie’s house, she’d stand on her front porch or, when she became too unsteady on her feet, just inside her front door and wave and throw kisses until we were out of sight. That’s special.

Visiting Dottie

I might not be able to throw her a birthday party this year, but I can celebrate her life. I can celebrate by throwing kisses and hugs and loving words of every kind all over the place. Who knows? Maybe it’ll make somebody around me feel half as warm and fuzzy as Dottie made me feel. 

In our house, September is also applesauce season. My husband makes quarts and quarts of it. Dottie ate applesauce nearly every day, so we usually took some to her when we visited. I’ll miss that.

While applesauce is good on its own, it’s also delicious in baked goods. These applesauce muffins are just the thing to pair with your favorite coffee or hot tea on a chilly September morning.

Applesauce Oatmeal Muffins

1 1/2 cups oats, uncooked
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 cup applesauce
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3 Tbsp. oil
1 egg

1/4 cups oats, uncooked
1 Tbsp. firmly packed brown sugar
1 Tbsp. butter, melted
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon

Heat oven to 400℉. Prepare muffins pans (enough for 12 muffins) by lining with paper cups or by greasing pan. In a small bowl combine topping ingredients, mix well, and set aside. 

For muffins, combine oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon in a large bowl; mix well. In another bowl, combine applesauce, milk, sugar, oil, and egg; blend well. Add to dry ingredients and stir just until dry ingredients are moistened.  (Do not over-mix.) Fill muffin cups almost full. Sprinkle with reserved topping, patting gently. Bake 20-22 minutes or until deep golden brown. Cool muffins in pan on wire rack 5 minutes. Remove from pan and serve warm.

*This column ran in the Hancock News September 20, 2017. 

Friday, September 29, 2017

Building Project-- Days 79-82

This week has been busy! The first two days, the masons were here. This is their handiwork.

The north side is almost finished.

The "dog box" is bricked up.

The east side is complete!

For those of you who have never seen brick work in progress and who may be worried that this side looks a little two-tone, as the mortar dries, it evens out. I learned that.

On Wednesday, a big delivery came. Dry wall plus lots of other needful things.

So for the last two days, dry wall has been going up.

It's starting to feel like real rooms. I'm starting to imagine a bed here, a couch there. It is so cool!

Today both the carpenters and the masons are here, so there's a whole lot of work going on today.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Building Project-- Days 69-78

Wow! I've really dropped the ball again with posting building updates. I'm sorry. Silly me was trying to educate my children :)

After The Inspector showed up, insulation ensued. (Thank you to my daughter for taking pictures of the insulation.)

Delivery truck

In the new bedroom

In the living room

Unrolling insulation for the crawlspace

Insulation was not the only thing done last week. So many things are difficult to photograph. For example, I didn't get the shot where the electricians brought the heating/air conditioning wall units and realized the dimensions they'd been told were incorrect. That meant the holes previously made would need to be enlarged. They're waiting on that until they receive all the parts to the units to have correct measurements. 

A few minor corrections needed to be made for the framing inspection. For example, the word "radon" had to be written on the PVC pipe in the crawlspace. Speaking of the crawlspace, did you know not everybody has to crawl in a crawlspace?

It took a couple of tries, but I managed to fit through the entrance to the crawlspace so I could take pictures of my son helping with spreading and sealing plastic down there. I think this is what's done to pass the required radon inspection.

And speaking of inspection, The Inspector was out again on Friday. 

Framing, insulation, and radon passed!

That permit is racking up the stickers, isn't it?

The masons were also around a few days last week. Here is their handiwork.

And on Saturday we had a visit from a plumber who removed the radiator from our living room under the window that had been removed. He also had to cap off the pipes to it down in the basement. The kids like looking down into the basement through the two little holes in the floor. Now the opening from the existing house to the addition can be cut.

Looking ahead, I guess the masons are doing something today because one of them just showed up. I think those heating/air conditioning units will be going in, too. A big delivery is coming on Wednesday-- dry wall. 

Friday, September 22, 2017

First Day of Autumn

I think it fitting that we greet the first day of fall with pictures of our pumpkin/squash harvested yesterday.

The whole 50+ beauties!

I love the curlicue vine on this one.

The white ones are new this year.

I love my our pumpkins. I think they are so beautiful. I am not sure how many we grew total, but there are more than 50 (I had the kindergartner and preschooler count). Yesterday we had to throw a few out because there were nibbles or rotten spots. We also gave one away before the picture. 

One difference we saw this year was that when we picked them, we had to brush slugs off the bottom. We've never had slugs! This year, with all the moisture from the summer, we've even seen slugs on our driveway in the morning. 

It makes me think fondly of my slug-hunting days in Olalla, salt-shaker in hand and salt water sandals on foot, surrounding by my little cousins outfitted in a like manner. I guess that's what kids do when there aren't any lightning bugs to catch.

But I digress. Happy autumn!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Cakes-- Impressive and Not

It's fall birthday season again around these parts. Last week we celebrated the first two birthdays. The new 10-year-old wanted a volcano cake, and we also happened to be studying volcanoes in school. Therefore, I decided to make his party "explosive" by having the children build their own "exploding" volcanoes during the week. Right after the fiery campfire lunch of hot dogs and just before the cake eating, the kids "set off" their creations.

And here is the volcano cake.

Molten sweetness

When he saw it, my birthday boy's eyes lit up. That made all the effort worth it. But really, it wasn't a hard cake to make, so it was really worth it. Plus all those dirty crumbles are no-bake cookie crumbles, and that makes any effort super-duper really, really worth it. All 10 candles went right in the crater and made a huge flame that looked cool spewing out of the volcano.

The 2-year-old's cake is a little under-whelming. I originally had plans to make two bundt cakes, stack them with one upside down, and frost it orange to make a pumpkin. Life got in the way, and I was too tired to stay up and make another cake. Instead, the morning of the birthday, I was struck by inspiration: my daughter's favorite thing is blueberries. She wants to eat them all the time. Also, I was really tired of frosting already. That could only mean one thing-- blueberry filling.

Pumpkin pound cake with blueberry filling
It's not creative or beautiful, but the birthday girl's eyes lit up as she realized those were blueberries. And that's what it's all about. 

And those are the first two cakes of fall birthday season.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Building Project-- Days 67 & 68

Let's work backwards. First, Day 68 (Thursday) saw no work. The kids told me it was because the carpenter didn't want to schedule an insulation delivery during the funeral we had at church. (I know it sounds crazy, but because sometimes our driveway can be blocked by funeral traffic, it's actually quite smart. )

Now. Something big happened on Day 67 (Wednesday). The Inspector came while I was here. I was a little nervous because I'm not brave when it comes to authority figures, but I grabbed the camera anyway and headed outside.

The Inspector's official county vehicle

And just so you know, the plans are no longer taped to the well cover; they are now inside the addition. That was news to me, but The Inspector must be super-smart because he had no problem finding them.

The plans in their new home

After looking at the framing and crawling around in the crawl space for a while, The Inspector signed off on the framing inspection. That's the good news.

The bad news? Well, I'm not sure he was amused by my picture-taking. I did ask first, but I did not ask him to smile. That seemed pushing it a little bit.

So, without further ado, I present to you, The Inspector.

Do you see that there are now 4 inspection stickers on the permit?

He wasn't what I was expecting, to be honest. No horn-rimmed glasses or pocket protector. Don't ask me why I was expecting that. No clipboard. Nothing official looking except a badge and the county vehicle. He just looked like a regular guy wearing a Pittsburgh Steelers hat and shirt. Ain't nothin' wrong with that!

Now, as a bonus, here's a picture of the brick work on the north side (since I didn't have the picture last time).

Pretty, isn't it?

Stay tuned for insulation (which I think is coming up next) AND a round of birthday cake pictures. I've got lots of opportunity for epic cake failure since I'm trying to make a volcano one day and a pumpkin the next.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Building Project-- Days 61-66

All kinds of crazy has been happening at our house lately. We've had company: my "baby" cousin bicycled all the way across the United States and came here before she returned home to Idaho. It was such a nice visit-- especially since I hadn't seen her in fifteen years! My parents came, too.

School has started and been interrupted by doctor's visits. 

And there is construction! I wish I had posted the pictures each day because so many things have been accomplished.

First, the electrical work was done. It was inspected yesterday.

Sometimes being grounded is a good thing :)

All done and ready for inspection

More carpentry work was done. The doors and windows finally came.

From the outside looking in

From the inside looking out

Holes were cut for heaters/air conditioners.

I guess a hole in the wall could be considered air conditioning, right?

And my beloved living room window came out.

Bye, bye dear window.

And plywood went up in its place-- temporarily, of course.

From the outside looking in

Other random construction work was accomplished.

The "dog box" all trimmed-up

And the masons are back at work with the exterior brick. That's noticeable.

First, the delivery. The son who loves things with wheels took the delivery pictures. 

Truck with bricks and necessary forklift

It's a Mack truck.

Forklift in action

Do you think it's a literal ton of bricks?

The bricks were all in place.

Now it was time for the masons to set up and get to work.

Tools of the trade. . . I don't know the name of this nifty brick picker-upper.

End of the first day of laying brick.

This last picture shows the east side. Yesterday was day 66, but I didn't get pictures. Now the north side is just as finished as the east side.

I'm not sure what's in store for today, but I'll bet the masons will be back, and perhaps an inspector will be checking out the framing.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Building Project-- Days 54-60 (and a sneak peak)

This past week was really slow again. We're still waiting for doors and windows. However, the electrical work started.

We'll have electricity!

And that's all I have to show you for the addition building project. BUT. . . 

I have lots of garden pictures--pretty sunflowers, a sneak peak at the fall pumpkin and squash harvest, and a cool bug.

I love the color of this one.

Our sunflower sentinels

Not yet orange. . .but a big one

Hidden away

Not sure what kind of hybrid this one is

I call this my perfect ugly green squash because its flesh is perfect and creamy.

Huge white pumpkin protected from deer by netting

This one looks like a butternut?