Spring Flowers!

I had hoped to post this some time last week, but alas, it was raining until pretty much today.  For the past two weekends, William and I have spent a ton of time in our yard, working in our flower beds and just generally getting everything cleaned up.  For the past couple of years, work travel has made it difficult to pay too much attention to our yard, but this year, we’ve doubled down on our efforts, and it really looks nice now.

Our activities involved: weeding, laying down weed mat, laying down 34 bags of mulch, mowing (of course!), weed-whacking, edging, trimming bushes (mercilessly, I might add), trimming around all of the iris, and planting new plants both in the ground and in pots.  It’s been work, but it’s just so nice to see the completed project, it was worth it 🙂

On top of all of that, this year, we bought our plants from a local greenhouse – Spring Creek Farm Market in Columbia City for those who are local.  If you’re friends with me on Facebook, you’ll remember that in one of the many bitterly cold days during the winter, we had a flat tire on our way home from work.  It just so happened that it popped right before Spring Creek Farm Market, which was very lucky for us.  We pulled in their drive – a nice flat place to change a tire on an otherwise very busy road with no shoulder because of all the snow.  While we were starting to change the tire, a nice man named Jim came out of the building and offered to help.  He made the whole process go so much faster, and we were so blessed that he was there.  As it turns out, he owns the Market, so we were just waiting for spring to pay back the favor by buying things from him.  The good news is that the plants were all super healthy and beautiful, and we were so excited to plant them in our yard this year.

And now for the part I’m sure you’ve all been waiting for – the pictures of our labor 🙂  Warning: there are a ton this time!

DSC_0026-EditView from the road of our front yard – those beds hadn’t been mulched in 2 years

DSC_0031Flower bed next to the driveway.  We added the orange coleus (from Spring Creek Farm Market) and the copper-colored pot at the top of the bed this year

DSC_0035Flower bed leading to our front door, under the dining room window.  Flowers in the pots were all from Spring Creek Farm Market

DSC_0033Flower bed under our bedroom window – I trimmed the boxwoods in this pic like a mad-woman

DSC_0040Our new copper pot with these cute little daisy-looking flowers with purple centers and underside (from Spring Creek, of course)

DSC_0007We added a birdbath to the bed under our dining room window.  As we learned from William’s Aunt Jean, planting flowers in the birdbath is an excellent way to add color and height to your flower beds – we love this idea!  The petunias are from Spring Creek.

DSC_0004Pansies in the pots on our front porch.  We can’t take credit for these – William’s parents planted them while they were here, and they are just growing gangbusters.  We love how happy and bright the pansies are.  And, it just so happens that they are my sorority’s flower too 🙂

DSC_0012Small pot of succulents on the plant stand on our front porch.  We got these at Meijer, and I just think they are so cute!

DSC_0017Geraniums and herbs on the back patio.  William’s dad and my mom and grandmother always loved geraniums.  We figured it would be nice to honor all of them with these beautiful salmon geraniums from Spring Creek 🙂

DSC_0046And finally, a house plant  that we bought at Spring Creek.  This is a jade plant.  Whenever we visit William’s Uncle Fred in Alaska, we are always so jealous of his jade plants and century plant.  As our homage to Fred, we had to get one of these 🙂

Yarn School!!

Another week, another late blog post. But, it’s for good reason! I was at Yarn School for a long weekend and just got home yesterday.

What is Yarn School you say? You can read all about it here, but basically, it’s a long weekend of learning how to spin yarn, dye wool, and prep wool for spinning. It’s very relaxing, and my friend, Erin and I go each spring. It’s set in an old rural high school in Harveyville, KS, where all the classrooms have been turned into bedrooms. It’s such an awesome retreat away from it all. Notwithstanding, Nikol also makes amazing food for everyone too.

Erin and I make a road trip of it and bring our spinning wheels as well as many comforts of home. It is blissfully quiet there, and it’s so nice to not have to worry about anything…just relaxing and working on the crafts we love.

Shockingly, I didn’t take many pictures this year (I know!), but you can see pics from years past:
Yarn School – Spring 2013
Yarn School – Spring 2012
Yarn School – Spring 2011
Yarn School – Fall 2010
Yarn School – Spring 2010

Here are a couple from this year:

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Dying wool; color inspiration was my Orla iPhone case. Photo credit: Adrian Bizilia

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Everyone’s dyed wool hanging from the balcony

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The wool I dyed

While we were there, we also decided to do some maternity pics of Erin. The school and surrounding property has some gorgeous light at certain times of the day. These were my favorite two shots:

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Just outside the elementary school building

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Shockingly, this was taken in the men’s bathroom in the school. Yarn School is primarily (if not always) all women. All restrooms are, therefore, unisex. The men’s room in the elementary school had frosted glass on the windows that diffused the light perfectly. Hey, if you’ve got great light, you’ve gotta go with it!

All in all, an awesome weekend, and there is a big part of me that’s suffering from post-Yarn School withdrawal. Oh well….there’s always next year!

Easter Weekend = A Stroll Down Memory Lane

Things have been a tad crazy in the last couple of weeks, which is why this blog post is a little late.  No need for details, but it involved a minor medical procedure (no worries, I’m ok!) among other things.  Anyhoo…

We spent Easter weekend with at my mom’s house this year.  For Christmas, I bought her a high quality photo scanner for the sheer purpose of scanning in old family photos.  This weekend, we started sorting through the photos and making piles of scan-worthy and not-scan-worthy pics.  Among the boxes of photos, we found some other family treasures, which my mom sent home with me.

Case in point, this poem that my grandmother wrote about me when I turned 1 year old.  This would be the same grandmother that called me “Doodlebug” 🙂

DSC_0556It says:

Melinda is one!
What a glorious day.
She doesn’t do much yet
But please us and play.

Melinda is one!
With those bright blue eyes
She’s an armful of joy
With her half-whispered “hi’s.”

Melinda is one!
What a sight to behold.
Standing on tiptoe
And growing so bold.

Melinda is one!
With her ways so winning,
Before she is grown
She’ll have many hearts spinning.

Melinda is one!
Our pride & our pleasure.
She’s God’s special child
And our little treasure.

This last bit (pictured below) made me tear up.  Finding things like this makes me miss my grandmother (Dodo, as we called her) so much.  She was a treasure!

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In one of the other boxes, we also found these amazing pictures of Dodo’s parents and grandmother.  I suspect that these images were taken in the early 1900s, based on how young they look in the photos.  These are oval, convex photos, which mean they require a special frame with convex glass.  Fortunately, I found a place online that sells frames/glass such as this in a ton of different sizes.  I learned from that website that the most popular size for photos such as this is 13.5″ x 19.6″ (odd, I know), and these are just that size.  I am definitely planning on ordering some frames/glass to help preserve them.  And, I think I can find a suitable place in our house to hang them.  To me, photographs like this are fascinating, and even better, the people in them are my relatives.  Too cool!!

DSC_0550Henrik Berg, my great grandfather

DSC_0552Johanna Berg, my great grandmother

DSC_0554My great great grandmother – not sure of her name, but I’m trying to find out. After some further checking with family members, this is Henrik’s mother – Johanne Marie Berg (nee Hansen).

Family Weekend + A Book Review

Last weekend, we had the pleasure of visiting my brother, sister-in-law, and niece (and for those following along, yes, we made good on our promise to spend the night 🙂 ).

Kim, my sister-in-law, is getting ready to have our nephew any day now. We thought it would be nice to make a bunch of freezer meals for them for after the baby is born. That way, they don’t have to worry about cooking while taking care of a toddler and new baby all at the same time. We had fun making the meals and even more fun delivering them last weekend.

There was a daddy-daughter dance for Celia and Michael, and Kim and I even took Celia to have her hair done for the occasion:
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We laughed at their cats, especially the mountain lion that is Grayson:

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And Celia was willing to model the Burton Bear Cowl I made for her:

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We even went to Lego Brickland and saw some pretty amazing Lego creations, which I forgot to take pictures of. All-in-all, it was a fantastic weekend, and secretly, neither William nor I wanted to go home. We will have to make a habit of visiting, and next time, there will be a little nephew to spoil too 🙂

And, now totally unrelated, I have started reading again. Honestly, I don’t know why I ever quit, but reading seems to go in fits and spurts for me, despite the fact that I love it and tend to get lost in books. I mostly love mysteries and thrillers, especially if they have a bit of history mixed in as well. Recently, I devoured a new book called The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe.

The story is set in two different time periods – 1991 and the late 1600s, and it goes back and forth between the stories. The heroine, Connie, is a grad student of Colonial studies at Harvard. She finds out that she needs to clean out her grandmother’s house, who has been gone for 20 years. In the house, she finds a scrap of paper in an old family Bible, with “Deliverance Dane” written on it. It turns out Deliverance Dane is a person from the 1600s…a woman convicted of being a witch during the Salem witch trials. The book goes back and forth between her story and Connie’s as well as Connie’s quest to learn more about Deliverance. There’s a bit of mystery, some history, a bit of romance, and a tiny splash of evil. It was kind of a predictable story/outcome, but I still couldn’t put it down. I would definitely recommend it.

Now, I’m reading The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, set in World War II, my favorite historical time period. So far, I like it. Will report back when I’m done!

Radioactive Kitty

So this blog post is a couple of days late, but it’s for good reason (see title).

What is “radioactive kitty,” you might ask? Is it a band name? No (but it would be a good one). Some crazy new kids’ game? Nope (but, oh the possibilities!).

Here is a radioactive kitty:

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Yes, that’s Moose, our big, lovable tomcat (an old pic but my favorite one). And, yes, he really is radioactive. Here’s why:

In the past year and a half or so, Moose has started becoming less and less Moose-like in terms of size. He was never overweight, but he’s a big guy. A few weeks ago, we noticed that he was looking pretty thin. We took him to the vet, and he’d lost almost 4 lbs. 😕 They ran some tests, and it turns out Moose has hyperthyroidism (i.e. overactive thyroid). This is actually a fairly common occurrence in cats his age.

There are a few options for treatment:
1. Special food, and he could eat nothing but that.
2. Pills twice a day (no, thank you)
3. Radioactive iodine treatment

1 & 2 don’t actually fix the issue. They just keep him from losing weight. 3 actually takes care of the overactive tissue without harming the parathyroid tissue, which controls his metabolism. Basically, a one and done treatment. He can eat normally and shouldn’t have any more issues. The best part is that the treatment itself is non-invasive – it’s either a shot or a pill that they administer once, and that’s it. That being said, it’s not for every cat, but because Moose is so healthy otherwise, it’s the best option for him.

Sigh….here’s the not-so-awesome part. After the treatment, they kept him a couple days, but when he came home, there’s an isolation period for 2 weeks from the treatment date. We can only pet him at arm’s length and only 20 min/day 😢 All of this is actually precautionary for us because he’s still a bit radioactive. It is torture, though, for both us and him, since he’s little Mr. Socialpants.

We currently have him in our upstairs bathroom with all of the conveniences he’s used to, including toys. But, it’s obvious he just wants to be with us. A friend recommended putting clothes in there that smell like us, and that has helped tremendously.

Despite all of our best efforts, poor Moose-man had a small setback on Sunday (which is why I haven’t posted). He had some gastrointestinal issues and then stopped eating. So we took him to the emergency vet. They were WONDERFUL, by the way…so caring, calm, and gentle. They gave him some subcutaneous fluids, an antibiotic, and something to calm his tummy, and then sent him home to see how he responded. (P.S. if you’ve never had an animal that needed subcutaneous fluids, it’s weird…he looked like he had a lopsided camel hump on his back, which they warned us about). Anyway, the emergency vet thought that it was probably a combination of the treatment and just the stress of it all. Well, let me tell you…the things they did worked almost instantly. When we got home, I couldn’t get his food open fast enough. And, he’s been back to normal ever since. He’s still hating being locked up, but at least he’s all better otherwise.

And, now we are at T minus 5 days until he’s out of isolation, and I can hold him again.

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He will still be a bit of a radioactive kitty, but he will be safe for us to be around. William and I just look at it as Moose is finally getting the superpowers he was always meant to have 😉

Favorite Things

Wow!  Things have been SO. BUSY. this month at work.  I’ve hardly had time to sleep or eat!  It’s included a trip where I had to talk in front of 1,000 people (yikes!).  It was stressful leading up to it, but it went very well and was an amazing opportunity.  Looking back now, I can hardly believe that I did it now…almost seems like a dream.

At any rate, I thought I would write a post about some new (or not so new) favorite things.  First, I’ll start with something that relates to my recent business trip…luggage!  There are actually two favorite things associated with packing that I used on my trip, where were amazing.  First of all, I bought this set of hard-sided rolling luggage, and it worked amazingly well.  It’s cute, easy to spot at baggage claim, tons of space, and kept things secure.  Also, it’s lightweight….MUCH lighter than you would think.  Can we talk about the 4 spinner wheels?  I’ve not owned luggage with more than 2 wheels before, and holy crapoly, these things are easy to maneuver through the airport.  Fantastic!

Another favorite thing?  The packing cubes from eBags.  I was skeptical at first because I like being able to tuck small items into the nooks and crannies of my suitcases, but these things hold SO MUCH stuff and easily fit into my new suitcases.  I bought the Value Pack (linked above), and it had a small, medium, and large square-ish cubes, plus 3 slim cubes.  In the large, I got a track suit, 2 pairs of jeans, dress pants, and at least 5 tops to go with the dress pants.  Everything was folded neatly and didn’t wrinkle in the suitcase.  The medium had jammies, 2 pairs of workout pants, and 6 t-shirts.  The small contained my delicates with room to spare.  One slim one held scarves and shells with tons of extra space, one had socks (10 pairs) with room to spare, and the 3rd went into my laptop bag and served as my “activities” bag.  I had my NOOK and a knitting project plus notions and a pattern.  These things are awesome!  I was able to get all of them (except for the activities bag) plus 4 pairs of shoes and my oversized toiletries bag into the medium suitcase above with no issue.  Best part is that in the hotel, all I had to do was pull out the cubes and put them into the drawers to unpack. Everything was kept neat and tidy without wrinkles there too.

And finally, a third favorite thing for right now is something that I’ve been using for a few months.  For the last several years, I’ve struggled with acne.  I’ve tried just about everything:  Proactiv, Noxema, Clean & Clear, etc.  All have worked a little bit, but they’ve all had bad side effects.  Proactiv made my skin dry and gave me a very ruddy appearance…almost like I had rosacea, and some just plain didn’t work.  Several months ago, an online friend suggested using Cerave and said that it had even cleared up some of the little bumps that show up under the skin but don’t actually turn into whiteheads.  I was skeptical, but I thought…what the heck?  It’s a relatively cheap solution to try, and if it doesn’t work, I’ll just move to something else.  I tried it, and it was ok but still not exactly the results I was looking for…let’s face it…I wanted instant gratification.   About that same time, someone I follow on twitter suggested following the guideline outlined on acne.org.  After reading through it, I decided that the Cerave Foaming Facial Cleanser fit the bill for the cleansing that they suggest on there, and I didn’t need to buy yet another treatment solution from them.  I then bought the Neutrogena On-the-Spot Acne Treatment as suggested on acne.org.  I continued to use my moisturizer:  Lush Enzymion Moisturizer, which gives me a nice matte look and moisturizes without making me oily…again, though not suggested, it seemed to fit the recommendations from acne.org.  They recommend doing the 3 step treatment twice a day, which I don’t always follow.  I wear mineral make-up that doesn’t clog my pores, so I get away with doing it once per day.  At any rate, in less than a week, I started seeing results, and I’ve been enjoying clear skin ever since!!  Occasionally, I still get a couple of small pimples around that time of the month, but it’s so much better than it once was!  I remember distinctly one morning thinking…wow, I’m only using concealer under my eyes!  When has that ever happened?!  On top of that, my husband has had trouble with acne as well.  He started following the program too, and his acne has cleared up as well.  We are both very amazed and are loving these products and the system.

Out with the old, In with the new

Well, 2011 was really a trying year for us, so I’m pretty happy to see it kicked to the curb.  We’ve had a host of medical problems in our family right up to the bitter end of the year, some of which are still unresolved but are hopefully on their way to being resolved soon.  Work was busy and stressful.  There were rivers of tears.  And, there has been some family drama that I don’t really care to repeat again.

Of course, there were plenty of good things throughout the year as well.  We had a ton of fun and took some really amazing vacations.  I think I’ve learned a lot about myself as well as new crafty things to do, new things in the kitchen, new things with photography, and definitely new things at work.  I think I’ve grown a ton with all of these new learnings.

Here’s hoping that 2012 won’t be quite as trying and that we are on to bigger and better things!  In the mean time, here are a couple of pretty pictures of some fun remaining things for 2011.

First up, my Hansen miniSpinner, a super generous Christmas gift from my husband.  I’ve had a ton of fun playing around with this, and I think I’m starting to understand the adjustments I need to get the yarn I want.  This is so different from my wheel but good all at the same time.  I love the portability and ease.

Next up:  I’m kind of obsessed with making this Orange Chocolate Chunk Cake (recipe here), which I got via Angry Chicken’s blog (if you don’t read it, you should…link to the right on here).  I’ve made this cake 3 times since Thanksgiving.  Most recently, I made it for my husband’s birthday at the end of December and finally got a decent picture of it.  It is a bit labor intensive as far as cakes go, but it is so so so tasty!  The recipe is definitely a keeper.  This last round of making it, I made one minor modification to the recipe, which I think I’m going to do from now on.  That is that instead of taking the cake out of the pan before putting the syrup on it, I left it in the pan and drizzled the syrup on the bottom.  I found that putting syrup on the top of the cake after removing it from the pan, you lose a lot of the syrup.  This way, it all goes into the cake to help keep it moist.

That’s it for now!  Here’s wishing you and yours a happy and healthy 2012 and a better year than 2011! 😉