November comes 
And November goes, 
With the last red berries 
And the first white snows.
With night coming early, 
And dawn coming late, 
And ice in the bucket 
And frost by the gate.
The fires burn 
And the kettles sing, 
And earth sinks to rest 
Until next spring.

  - Elizabeth Coatsworth


A place I know by heart

I walked today with my camera, on this trail I've walked and loved for almost 30 years, before there was even an official trail.

When we first bought our place, I'd ride my horse down the road to the trail crossing, where the county piled brush to block sight of the sturdy bridges they'd just finished building. There were no trail access parking lots, no signs, no official trail. In the early days, there was only a wide gravel easement that ran north, which the power company used to get to their power lines. It was a great place for a gallop, and it became our favorite place to ride.

It's such a familiar place now. In winter, there's the rare sight of ice fringing the creek, snow falling, and the herons returning to their nests. There are bitterly cold mornings where I bundle up in fleece and down, pull on a wool cap and warm gloves, and jog instead of walk. With spring comes skunk cabbage in the spring-fed creeks that run downhill to the big creek, and a carpet of snowdrops, legacy of an old homestead that once stood here, in the flood plain of the creek. The farm is long gone, but the flowers live on.

Summer's heat brings the chatter of young moms pushing baby strollers and the sight of berries bursting into bloom. The air is still, and the hillside springs dry up (and so does the horse trail, my favorite place to walk).

Autumn is my favorite time to walk, scuffing my feet through fallen maple leaves, looking for the rare salmon in the creek, listening to the wind in the trees and the rush of small spring-fed streams, tumbling down the hillsides to reclaim the horse trail.

It's a magical place. It's my place.


Hide and seek

Every afternoon a red-breasted sapsucker flies into the orchard and settles down to graze on my favorite apple tree.

He's quite the brave little bird, determined to stick around and do his job, even if someone was nearby. Saturday Dave was actually in the apple tree with the chain saw, cutting limbs, sawdust raining down, and the sapsucker stayed put.

Today he played a game of hide and seek with me, letting me get quite close before ducking back around the tree. I'd sit tight, and he'd scoot back around. He completely charmed me.


Texture Tuesday | Seabeck Heron

I've posted this photograph before, but when I saw this texture from Kim Klassen, I knew it was perfect for this favorite photograph. I love the Asian flavor of the texture, which pairs so beautifully with the heron.

   Textured with the Savor texture, 71% overlay



I spent a lot of time this past weekend sorting through the clothes I've set aside to donate, looking for ways to recycle fabrics for sewing projects. And since I tend to procrastinate when it comes to hauling stuff to Goodwill, there was a lot to choose from.

When dress standards at work changed to business casual, I packed away most of Dave's shirts, and all of his sports coats. I sorted through them and set aside my favorites of the sports coats, especially the tweeds and small checked fabrics. From the shirts I set aside the wool and flannel and corduroy; these heavy fabrics will be great for tote bags, and the cottons from his button-down shirts will be perfect for linings.

From my own discards I set aside the clothes made from really good fabrics, and saved the unique buttons and a lot of the zippers. I will still keep the clothes I really loved, the navy challis floral skirt and the autumn print jumper, the black polka dot dress with the inverted front pleat and white collar and wide red belt, the teal wrap-front dress, the Gunne Sax dresses.

I also saved all the fun and unique labels from our clothes. When I have enough, I'll arrange them in a sort of crazy quilt design, stitch them to a dark backing fabric, and use it for the front of a tote bag.

Early morning

This is my favorite time of day. The early morning hours, when the house is quiet and my time is my own for just a bit longer. When I worked, it was Friday morning that I looked forward to the most. Now that I'm retired (talk about calling time your own), it's every morning.

I put the kettle on as soon as I get up, and feed the cats. Once the sun comes up, I open the blinds and take a look at the day. I read while I sip my first cup of tea, then open up the laptop and write for a while, updating my journal from the day before, and maybe writing a blog post or two. Once Davey gets up, we make breakfast together while we plan our day.

It's a simple, peaceful routine. Boy, do I love my life.


Sunday brunch

This morning we joined a group of friends at Salty's Alki, our last gathering before the holiday season begins. For the past two years, we've met up each month to break bread together at one of the area's restaurants. We've sampled some pretty amazing food at places like the Melrose, Bistro Baffi, Purple, Elliott's, The Red House, Marche on Bainbridge Island, and The Grill from Ipanema. Plus we've all grown closer as friends... the best part.

We had a great downstairs corner where we all sat together, with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Elliott Bay and the Seattle skyline. In between bites and words, we watched the ferries go to and fro, container ships coming in and heading out, a large group of colorful kayakers passing by, and an equally large group of scuba divers heading out to explore.

I can't begin to list all the food that was spread out for us to choose from. But my favorites were the Dungeness crab legs, the mac & cheese with Kielbasa, the Eggs Benedict prepared two ways, the salmon with a Mediterranean sauce, and all the fresh fruit.

When the party broke up we spent another half hour talking, and watching this Thayer's Gull enjoying his own version of Sunday brunch: a starfish he pulled off the rocks just outside the windows. Our meal looked a lot more appetizing (and had more variety). He managed to eat half of it before another gull swooped in and stole his prize.

At least no one did this to us.


Farmhouse style

My love of farmhouses goes back to a very young age, when I was crazy in love with horses. Being only four or so, I was convinced that in order to have a horse, you needed to live in one of these houses, surrounded by acres of green pastures. I had yet to learn that people in cities had horses, too... they just kept them in other people's stables, and lived where they pleased.

Driving the back roads, looking for farmhouses, has always been one of my favorite things to do. And once I learned that Craftsman style houses are close relatives of the more humble country farmhouse, I started to explore the older neighborhoods of the towns and cities we visited, looking for perfect examples of the things I love in a house. Gables, dormers, double-hung windows, decorated eaves, stained glass, and shake siding.

They come in all shapes and sizes, one story or one-and-a-half story or two story. Some have simple entryway porches, and some have porches that wrap around the whole house, with room for wicker chairs or a porch swing. There are half-moon attic windows and leaded glass windows, double-hung windows or bay windows with window seats. Some have shingled exteriors, some have both shingles and narrow cedar siding. And there's even the occasional farmhouse rendered in brick.

My favorites are still those that are surrounded by pastures full of horses. Some things don't ever change. But I'm also glad to find farmhouses that have survived the loss of their acreage, houses that still shelter someone who loves farmhouse style.

I found my own farmhouse, too... but that's another story.


Header photograph | Textures

This is not your usual photograph of Glacier National Park, but I've been into textures and small details the past few months, and this is one of my favorites. Seed pods, flowers, tiny fallen leaves, bark and moss, even the gorgeous swirls of my blond cat.

This photograph was taken in Glacier last August, in an area known as the Sunrift Gorge. The light was perfect, the color of the rocks in the streambed was amazing, and the water was so clear, if it hadn't been moving, it would have been invisible. For scale, note the grey-blue bird at the top center. It's one reason my eye was drawn to the scene.


First freeze

This morning brought a reminder that winter is just around the corner: hoarfrost, thick and sparkly, brilliant in the early morning sunshine. It arrived late this year; usually we have heavy frost by mid-October, certainly by Halloween.

I wanted one more chance to photograph the smoke tree in the early morning light. The tree was brilliant with yellow leaves yesterday, but the hard frost overnight took the last of the leaves, and there they lay at the base of the tree, rimmed with white, all the beautiful autumn colors in a heap.

More beautiful still was the herb garden, where the carpet of thyme looked like it had been dipped in coarse sugar like some fanciful garnish for a dessert tray. It looked good enough to eat.


Orchard pruning

We waited a long time for fall to arrive, for the trees to go dormant. Impatiently, as we'd decided it was time to do some major pruning in the young orchard, and were anxious to start. This orchard always been the misfit, with trees planted too close together by a previous owner, then badly pruned so the trees never had the structure they needed to grow up straight and strong.

And we added neglect to their lineage... waiting too long between pruning sessions, and allowing some suckers to grow too tall and too big.

Today we fired up the chain saw and hauled out the ladders, cut branches and suckers, stood back to contemplate how deeply to cut, what to leave, what to remove, then moving on to the next tree. There was damage to repair, too...  trees that bore the brunt of the ice storm in 2012.

While he cut, I hauled branches out to the yard. On another day soon, we'll cut the branches into firewood, and stack the small stuff to burn next spring. We've pruned so much this fall:  our burn pile has grown to three piles, and will soon be five. And we still have hand pruning to do, to thin out the branches for better air flow and light.

The mess is huge, but it's beginning to look more like a healthy orchard. That makes it worth the aches and pains. That and the good feeling that comes from a day of hard work, done together.


Cathedral Windows

One of my most prized possessions is a muslin apron that my sister made for me, with an inset of the quilting handwork known as Cathedral Windows. The bright reds and blues and yellows are perfect against the muslin, and I love the country look.

When we bought our 1923 farmhouse, I hung the apron on the bathroom door and it's been there ever since. I can see it every day as I walk up the stairs, and it's such a perfect welcome to our antique bathroom with claw-footed tub and pedestal sink. My sister also made me a quilted cozy for my Pfaltzgraf teapot, lined with dark blue calico and decorated with cathedral windows in the same reds, yellows, and blues.

If you want to try this technique for yourself, here is a very good tutorial (with lots of pictures) for making a pillow with a cathedral windows front.


New life for a metal child's tray

A book on country style gave me the idea for turning a kid's metal tray into a message board. And I knew it would be perfect for my country kitchen. Years ago I found three slightly dented metal trays at a yard sale. I wasn't sure what to do with them, but they were my favorite Nile green and figured I'd find a use for them eventually.

This was one of those projects that required no trips to the store... don't you love those? I had everything I needed:  metal trays, picture frame hangars, glue suitable for bonding materials to metal.

The whole project was super simple. Just clean the tray, mark the top center on the back of the tray, and glue on the picture frame hangar. Be sure to use glue that's designed for bonding to metal. You could also drill holes and use picture hanging wire, but I decided to keep the trays intact.

Making custom magnets was just as easy. Just collect a few favorite bits and pieces, and glue a magnet to the back of each. My favorites are poker chip tokens from geocaching, colored dice, tokens from games like Monopoly or Scrabble, foreign coins, and wine corks from favorite wineries.

There are a couple of good options for magnets. Round ceramic magnets are strong, but they're heavy, and I didn't like how these thick magnets looked on the back of small tokens. I recommend using rare earth magnets. They're super strong, lightweight, and thin, perfect for tokens of all sizes. I would recommend avoiding sheets of magnets; they're easy to cut and adhere, but aren't strong enough to hold tight on a painted tray. You can find both the ceramic and rare earth magnets at Harbor Freight for much less money than the craft stores.

I liked the first message board so much, I made a second one. One hangs near the phone, and it's used for invitations and reminders of local events. The other is near the pantry, and it holds my grocery list.

The extra magnets are stored across the bottom rim of the tray, ready to use.


I need more wild

There are places that make my heart sing, wild mountain places of color and texture that no man (or woman) can duplicate. Places that make me want to stay forever, just to watch the light change over the mountains, watch the snow fall, watch the eagles soar. What would it be like, to live in such a place?

   Alberta's Waterton Park Front, on an early August morning

   The Trail Creek Road north of Ketchum, Idaho in the transition between winter and spring

   The road to Redfish Lake, with valleys of fly fishing streams
   and layer upon layer of wild mountains


Apple Slices: the recipe

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about my husband's favorite dessert. You can read the story here.
I made a pan to take to our family weekend at the lake, and my niece said that while she enjoyed reading the story of the family recipe, she was hoping for more. Like maybe the recipe!

So here is my slightly modified (and, I think improved) version of the family recipe. The recipe calls for a 9x13 cake pan, but my husband prefers a thinner version made in a jelly roll pan. And the original had a simple cinnamon-sugar mixture, but I prefer the more flavorful mixture from my favorite apple pie recipe, which comes from old Williamsburg, Virginia. I think it perfectly complements the apple flavor.

Next time I make a pan of these, I'll post a photograph. I hope you enjoy our favorite autumn dessert.

2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup shortening
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup water

5-6 tart apples, sliced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
¾ –1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon mace

1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons butter, softened
½ teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons milk


You'll need either a 9x13-in. cake pan, or a 10x15 in. cookie sheet with sides.

Sift flour and salt and cut in shortening. In a separate bowl, mix the egg yolks, lemon juice, and water. Add to the flour mixture and mix well. Divide the dough into two pieces, one slightly larger than the other; wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate while you slice the apples.

Slice apples into a 2-quart measuring pitcher or large bowl. If you're making the baking pan version, you'll need about 7 cups of sliced apples. If you're making the cookie sheet version, you'll need about 5 cups. I like this recipe with Honey Crisp apples, but you can also use any tart pie apple, such as Granny Smith or Macintosh.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Roll out the larger piece into a rectangle, then use it to line the bottom of the pan. Layer sliced apples over the dough.

In a small bowl, mix the sugar, flour, cinnamon, grated nutmeg, cloves, and mace. Sprinkle over the apple slices.

Roll out the second piece of dough and lay on top of the pan. Seal the edges to the bottom crust, then cut steam vents. Bake at 400°F for 30–40 minutes.

In the meantime, mix the frosting ingredients and set aside. Let the pastry cool slightly, then spread with the frosting. Let cool completely before cutting into bars. Store in the refrigerator.

I like to serve these with caramel or dolce de leche ice cream. Yummy!


September reads

Posting this book list is long overdue, but I finally finished it today. I abandoned photography in favor of basket making this month, thanks to my sister. I fell in love with the tiny, unique baskets she made, and was curious to learn more. I found some great YouTube videos, and collected Ponderosa pine needles to try my hand at pine needle baskets, and read through most of the books the library system had to offer. These are my favorites:

Judy Mallow | Pine Needle Basketry: From Forest Floor to Finished Project
Lyn Siler | The Ultimate Basket Book, and How to Make Baskets
Martha R. Lawrence | Lightship Baskets of Nantucket
B.J. Crawford | Basketry: 17 Great Weekend Projects

Reading a few country life books, full of beautiful rooms and decorating ideas, inspired me to spruce up a few rooms in my old country farmhouse. As I read, I marked pages with post-it notes and made notes in my journal. It's fun to see what other people do with antique linens and blue canning jars and quilts, even old wooden ladders. I found lots of ideas that we'll be able to use for our bathroom remodel project, and (fingers crossed) a long-overdue kitchen update.

500 Kitchen Ideas
750 Style & Design Ideas for Home & Garden
The Little Book of Big Decorating Ideas

And I managed to find time for a few novels:

Steve Hamilton | Let it Burn, The Hunting Wind, Misery Bay. Catching up on these Alex McKnight books that I somehow missed.

Mark Obmascik | The Big Year. The movie was great fun, so when I saw that it was based on a book, I had to read it. The book was so much more about the process and art and skill of birding, it was well worth the read. I learned things about migration habits (and miracles), about the different kinds of "Big Years," about the people who undertake the commitment.

Allegra Goodman | The Cookbook Collector. I realized when I starting reading, that I'd already read this book. My niece had been wanting to read it, so I sent the book home with her. I hope she enjoys it; I sure did.

October reads

Suzi Parron | Barn Quilts and the American Quilt Trail Movement. Seeing part of the Kittitas County barn quilt trail inspired me to dig into this folk art movement, and I bought the book on how it all began. It's wonderful, and highly recommended.

Sarah Phillips | Quilt Block Leftovers: Clever Uses for Spare Squares. A fun book, full of great ideas and good tutorials for making all sorts of things from those quilt blocks that don't make it into a quilt.

Bryan Peterson | Exposure Solutions. He's become one of my favorite photography authors. This is the second time I've worked my way through this one; it's excellent. I have two others to read; hope to get to them next month.

I've been sewing and quilting this month, but couldn't resist reading a few new books by favorite authors.

Donna Andrews | Duck the Halls. One of my favorite series when I need a lighthearted break from research or projects

C.J. Box | The Highway. I'm a huge fan of the Joe Pickett series, but I think "The Highway" is one of his best. It's already won the Edgar Award for Best Novel; I just know I couldn't put it down, and stayed up way too late one night to finish it, and didn't regret a minute of lost sleep.

Michael Connelly | The Reversal. Fourth in the Mickey Haller series.

Elizabeth George | Believing the Lie. I believe I'm done with the Inspector Langley series. The author just about lost me when she killed off one of the main characters, then wrote an overly lengthy justification called "What Came Before He Shot Her." Really? I was ready to dive back in again when I checked the latest out, only to find a 600+ page novel that was mostly about other characters. The lead-up to the crime to be solved and bringing in the main characters? More than 100 pages into the book.


Header photograph | Mount Holly

This week's header photograph was taken on the grounds of an antebellum plantation house in Mississippi. the house is on the historic register, and there are signs that it's been occupied in modern times (electric ceiling fans on the outside terrace). There were still floor-to-ceiling drapes in some of the windows. A few feet out from the foundation, all around the house, were beautiful brick walkways that led into wider terraces. The bricks were softened by moss and algae, and dead leaves had blown across the terrace. In the early morning light, the colors were beautiful.

By one account, Mount Holly was built in 1859, just two years before the first southern states voted to secede from the Union, and the beginning of the Civil War in April 1861.

If houses could talk... imagine the tales this one could tell of the days leading up to war.

More information on Mount Holly can be found here and additional photographs here.



Texture Tuesday... Clinging to spring

One of the pleasures of fall and winter is planning the garden for next spring. Photographs taken of my garden borders is one great reminder of what worked (and what didn't). Removing the huge fir tree that shaded much of the perennial garden made all the flowers much happier, especially the poppies. I found volunteer plants all over the gardens last spring... in places they've never grown before.

Bright orange papery thin petals, deep purple centers, feathery stems. They brighten up every corner of the garden, and contrast perfectly with my favorite blues and purples. Even better, they often bloom again in the fall, one last show before winter.

    Textured with Mary from the Downton Abbey collection. Linked to Texture Tuesday.


Maple leaf roses

My sister showed me (and Ella) how to make roses from colorful maple leaves. So simple, so gorgeous. From a pile of leaves on my old formica table to finished rose took just a couple of minutes. Ella chose each leaf with care, and helped wrap them with my sister's help. She did a great job! The prettiest leaves were from sugar maples, with deep russet and rose and brown coloring.

The change in weather mean's it's probably too late for this year, but I know where to pick leaves next autumn. There are sugar maples nearby, and there are many different types of ornamental maples along the roads in town. My favorite type grows near my old job. When the leaves start to turn yellow, orange, rust, and red, there is still bright green. It's kind of like having summer and autumn colors all wrapped up into one beautiful package.


Fruit-loving coyote

We saw a small coyote a few weeks back, limping across our lawn and disappearing into the pasture. And lately we've found doggie (or coyote) gifts on the patio and driveway. This morning Dave glanced out the kitchen window and spotted a coyote in the orchard. I grabbed my camera, and we watched the coyote calmly devour a pear, standing just a few feet from the house. We tapped on the window to get his attention while I took pictures, but he didn't leave until his food was gone. And he didn't go far... a while later I saw him curl up into a depression between some tree roots and go to sleep.

It seems that fruit is a staple of the coyote diet, so our two orchards are going to be a big draw until all the fruit has fallen. I hope that also means that once the fruit is gone, the coyote will also leave. Dave chased him away from his nap, and he will ran off toward the county park.

Tips for scaring them off:  yell loudly, wave your arms, reinforce the coyote's natural fear of people. Yeah... worked really well. Until he came back to finish his nap.

This time we tried pounding on the dining room window, which seemed to be much scarier... he ran away and hasn't come back.


Basket handle for a walking stick

Laurie brought a basket-making project with her last weekend:  a woven handle for a beautiful polished walking stick.

So I read my book and listened to the girls, and watched how she got it started. Essentially the cap section is like the bottom of a basket, with the spokes folded down over the end of the walking stick.

She used natural yellow cedar bark, and added one more piece after she molded it to the head (you need an odd number of spokes). Then she started weaving, using more yellow cedar bark, natural as well as dyed black and russet. Yellow cedar bark is beautiful stuff, soft and flexible with the feel of leather.

Three rows of round material lock the weaving in place, the ends tied in a bow. Last, she trimmed the ends of the cedar spokes to make a fringe.

My sister carried the finished walking stick outdoors to take a few pictures, then walked back inside and handed it to me as she said, "Happy 60th birthday."

I love my present. Every time I use it, I will think of my sister and how much joy she brings to my life.

You can see more of my sister's basketry skills here.


Fall colors

When we bought our place in 1985, there were no maple trees there, in spite of being surrounded by huge maples on the hillsides of our little valley. They were so beautiful mixed in with the evergreens. I patiently waited, and a few years ago, when I was ready to give up and plant my own, one finally volunteered. It grows in the front pasture near an old farm cistern, where it has all the room it needs to grow tall and spread its branches wide.

The maple is dark yellow and gold right now, and holding fast to its leaves in spite of the rain. We haven't had a bad storm yet; as soon as we do, the leaves will come down whether they've turned color or not. The remaining birch trees near the house are bright yellow, beautiful against the white trunks. Pasture trees are the way to go: we get to enjoy them as they turn color, and no one will ever need to rake the leaves.


Barn quilts

Barn quilts are quilt blocks painted onto plywood and hung on barns, and in the past decade, it's become a folk art movement that's spread across the country. It's a way to highlight both the textile art of quilting (and the farm women who made them), and the barns that dot the countryside.

Suzi Parron writes about the woman credited with starting the movement, and the barns and families from some of the first states with official barn quilt trails. The book is a wonderful read.

Washington has a heritage barn project, but only Kittitas county has an official barn quilt trail. There's a published map and route you can follow, with information about each family. You'll find more information here. (Rumor has it Parron is working on a second edition, which will include the Kittitas quilt trail.)

We saw several of the decorated barns near Ellensburg a couple of weeks ago; several of them are right down the hill from our good friends' house. I came home from that visit determined to add quilt blocks to some of our outbuildings. We don't have a big barn; it was torn down decades before we bought our farmhouse. But we have a cute old well house, chicken coop, and machinery shed.

So how to choose the perfect blocks to use? I love the traditional blocks... Wedding Ring, Ohio Star, Flying Geese. I especially like the Churn Dash variations like Quail's Nest, Monkey Wrench, and Hole in the Barn Door. My favorite is a flying geese block that forms a 4-pointed star in the center. It's completely perfect for our barn quilt. A strip-pieced Flying Geese quilt is the first one I ever made. But even better, it will remind me of the flock of Sebastopol geese we inherited when we bought our little farm.

It's getting too cold for painting out of doors, so while I wait for spring, perhaps I'll make a sampler quilt from my favorite barn quilt blocks. It will keep my interest alive while I wait for spring. And I'll get a beautiful quilt to hang in the farmhouse.


The little things

Sometimes it's the small things that make the most impact. Some look at fall as the death of summer, but it has its own beauty. I look around my small bit of paradise and see rose hips and beautiful seed pods, yellow maple leaves carpeting the trails. The grassy strips along the road are full of mushrooms, and the trees are dressed in autumn colors.