Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Reading Record 2013

January: The Dirty Life (Kimball)

February: The Magician's Nephew (Lewis)
                The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (Lewis)

March: Heller with a Gun (L'Amour)
            The Horse and His Boy (Lewis)
            The Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization (Esolen)

April: Queen Without Crown (Polland)
           The Castle of Llyr (Alexander)
           When the Morning Came (Prins)
           In the Footsteps of Jesus (Marchiano)

May: The King's Daughter and Other Stories for Girls (White)



August: Web of Traitors (Trease)
              Ten Thousand Heroes (Barbary)
              The Stolen Oracle (Williams)
              Alexander's Horses (Powers)
              The Counterfeit African (Williams)
              Hannibal: Invader from Carthage (Webb)
              Julius Caesar (Buchan)
              The Golden Hawks of Genghis Khan (Ritchie)
              The Eagles Have Flown (Williamson)
              Message to Hadrian (Trease)
              The Eagle of the Ninth (Sutcliff)
              The Silver Branch (Sutcliff)
              The Lantern Bearers (Sutcliff)
              The Fifty-Six Who Signed (Fink)
              The Prairie Traveler (Marcy)

September: The First Book of Medieval Man (Sobol)
                   Attila: King of the Huns (Webb)
                   Age of Chivalry (Bulfinch)
                   The Horn of Roland (Williams)
                   Legends of Charlemagne (Bulfinch)
                   El Cid (McCaughrean)

October: Owen's Pretty Good Book (Blickensderfer)
               Hereward the Wake (Kingsley)
               Knight's Fee (Sutcliff)
               The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Hugo)
               Son of the Land (Bolton)
               Genghis Khan and the Mongol Horde (Lamb)
               Ironies of Faith (Esolen)
               Men of Iron (Pyle)
               The Brendan Voyage (Severin)

November: Miniatures and Morals (Leithart)
                   No Parachute (Lee)


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

I Blame My Sponges

I'm sorry to admit this, but blogging is not at the top of my priority list.  Sponges are.

I have four of them.

They soak up knowledge almost as fast as I can write out the lesson plans for the week.  They absorb food quicker than I can prepare it.  And they just will NOT quit getting bigger, so I am constantly on the lookout for bigger clothes and bigger shoes.

Yep.  The shortage of blog posts from me is entirely the fault of my sponges.

(Aaaaand now my kids think I'm nuts.)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Mt. Rainier...Again!

We couldn't help it.
We went back to Mt. Rainier again in August for the third time in four weeks.

This time we took Grandpa Pat and Grandma Suzie!

The kids were determined to climb even higher than they did the first time, 
and Mike and his parents were willing, so climb they did!

While my mountain goats family went up and around (the long way), 
I headed back down the path (the short way).

 They're on that path up there, on their way back down.

What do you mean you can't see them?
They're right there...that pink dot in the middle is Jaela.

Just take my word for it.
They're all there.

That was our last trip to Mt. Rainier for the summer.

I wonder what it's like up there in the fall...

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Four Days Later

Four days after our first visit to Mt. Rainier, the kids and I went back again,
but this time we took Grandma.

We took an easier one mile hike that had plenty of views like this one.

Our destination was Myrtle Falls,

and this was the view looking up from the top of the falls.

Half of the kids thought the bridge was great
(the other half weren't so sure it was engineered properly), 

and they were all delighted to make a new friend
(from a distance).

Too much fun and way too beautiful to only go twice...

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Mt. Rainier

On Sunday, we went up to Mt. Rainier on a four mile hike.

And when I say "we",

I mean we ALL went.


The hiking part was fun,

and the mountain was even more beautiful the closer we got,

but crossing the snow patches on the trail was the most fun.

(Especially when we got to slide down the snow-covered trail on the other side!)

We saw a buck, two does, a marmot, and a lot of wildflowers.

A lot of wildflowers.

(So many that I got overwhelmed trying to pick which pictures to post.
So you get to see two.
I'm sorry and you're welcome.)

Too much fun and way too beautiful to only go once...

Friday, August 2, 2013

In The Back Field

The Bookshelf Saga: Part 2

Once the bookshelves were finished, I started loading them with books, beginning with the shelves we bought.  Those shelves are at the end of my new shelving system, and I alphabetize our books by author, so I started with Z and worked my way backward until I filled the shelves...

...and ran out of room.

So I got creative!

I found this set of retro mustard yellow suitcases at Goodwill earlier that week, and I still hadn't figured out exactly what I was going to do with them.  So I used the smaller one as a bookshelf at the east end of the lighted bookshelves!
(I filled the big one on the bottom with denim I'm saving to make quilts for my kids some day.  
Storage in plain sight; I love that!)
This is my Desert/Cowboy Corner:  a rubbing of a Native American petroglyph (my step-grandma made it along the Columbia River in the 60s for an art class, before the dam flooded the area), a paint-by-number my grandpa did, jars of jawbones my kids collected in Nevada, a too-small cowboy hat and too-big cowboy boots, and a desert-scape picture my brother-in-law took in South America (the frame belonged to my great-grandma and is made out of cactus).

On the wall facing that, at the west end of the lighted bookshelves, I stacked up a few old wooden crates from my mother-in-law and filled them with books (because I knew by the time I got to the M's that I was going to run out of room), and I used a horseshoe-shaped book holder turned on end to take part of my Louis L'Amour collection vertical.  To continue my cowboy theme, I filled some too-small cowboy boots with coins to use as bookends and added a red bandanna and my father-in-law's moose jawbones.

I'm happy with my little extra shelving solutions, and the bookshelves we bought and assembled are very nice, but my hands-down favorite are the lighted bookshelves!

I love how easy it is to read the titles, even on the oldest and most worn spines,

and really I love the soft glow that showcases my beloved friends books;

especially at night!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Bookshelf Saga: Part 1

When we moved from Tennessee to Washington, we had 33 boxes of books, and by the time we moved into this log house, I had collected just a few more.
(Boxes?  Or books?  I'm not telling!  My husband's reading this!)

That collection has grown even more during the years we've lived here, but they're (mostly) for school, and I like to plan ahead, so...

We want to put in some really cool built-in shelves along these walls on the upstairs landing, but in the meantime, my shelves were cardboard boxes, stacked up on top of each other and reinforced with boards between layers.

The shelves along this adjacent wall were even worse:

and there was no improving them.  In the last configuration the box-shelves were five rows tall instead of the three in this picture, with no wooden bookcase and with less uniformly sized boxes.
And the top two rows were starting to lean forward away from the wall.


To save our children's skulls and their mother's sanity, we bought some "temporary" bookshelves for the larger wall,

and Mike built "rustic" temporary bookshelves for me along the short wall.

But my husband doesn't do things half way.

He built "rustic" temporary bookshelves for me...
...with built-in lighting on each shelf!

The rest of the story (or at least more pictures) is coming soon!

Moving In

We played our cards just right and got my mom to move up to Washington, where she is renting a duplex 15 minutes away from us!
(Those G-R-A-N-D-K-I-D-S cards are amazing things!)

The kids and I worked on cleaning her new place while she finished up the packing at her house in Oregon, and then towards the end of June my cousin drove a moving truck up to Washington with all of her household stuff in it.  (She stayed behind in Oregon for another week to finish up some work and house sale details.)

More of my cousins met us at my mom's new place and we unloaded the truck.
There were five adults and four kids - and when we were done, the duplex looked...
um, not empty.

Then, because my mom knows how much fun I have doing it, she let us rearrange furniture, unpack some stuff, and set up enough things to make the place livable as soon as she walked in the door.
She's been here a few weeks now, and we're still helping her rearrange and get things set up how she wants them.

I'm not sure we'll ever really be done, but it's so much fun, why would we quit?!?

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Another Laundry Room Make-Over

After my last laundry room makeover, the laundry room was organized and functional, but of course it never stayed this neat.

And these ugly (albeit functional) brown shelves,

 well, I just couldn't handle looking at them any more.


So one evening, while the kids had cereal for dinner, I painted them white.
(Editor's Note:  The shelves, Aunt Shirley, NOT the kids!  It's safe to eat cereal at my house again!)

A few weeks later, I inherited the crib that my grandpa built in the 40s.
It was the excuse I'd been waiting for...I tore out the cheap cabinets in the laundry room to create a space for the crib, and I only lost two inches of walkway.

(If it's quiet, and I can't find my girls, I look here.  They've been known to curl up in the crib together to read - all three of them!)

The laundry room is still not my favorite room in the house, but at least the new look makes me smile when I walk in there instead of cringing!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Our Piano

Shortly after we moved to Washington from Tennessee, we inherited my grandparents' piano.  Its move from my cousin's house in Oregon to ours in Washington was not its first, nor its last.

When we moved from our rental two years ago, we just couldn't figure out how to make it fit in our log house, so we tried to give it away to any family member willing to pick it up.

Heavy, old, well-loved...no one wanted it.

So it moved with us to the log house, and went straight into the garage.

It was slightly out of tune, but not too bad, so when the girls started piano lessons last fall they went out to the garage to practice.  They practiced all winter out there, too, in coats, hats, and fingerless gloves...brrr.

Now that it's actually being played again, we made a space for it inside so the kids' fingers won't turn purple when they practice this winter, and we enlisted four strong young men to help move it in.
And then I made an appointment for a piano tuner to come out.

He wanted to know about its history, so I told him how my great-great-uncle (an organist who believed in quality instruments) picked it out for my grandparents when they wanted to buy a piano for my aunt to use.  It has a mid-1960s date written inside the lid next to the store's stamp, so I wondered aloud if that's how old it is, or if maybe it had some work done on it then.

He looked around a little and decided that some of the pins had been replaced sometime after World War II, so he guessed the date was written in at that point.

I asked him how he knew the pins had been replaced after World War II.  He admitted that he was just guessing, since they looked so much newer than everything else, but he was pretty sure that the piano itself was made post-World War I.

Of course I had to ask how he knew that!

Before World War I the coils and strings for the lower registers were made out of copper, but as part of the war effort, piano manufacturers switched to steel.  Mine were steel...
...wait a minute...
He took a tool out of his bag and scratched a spot on one of the strings.  Nope, they were copper!

So we decided that beyond a doubt, my piano was made before World War I, and we joked that it couldn't be older than 1895 because that was the most recent patent date stamped inside the piano.

And then, just as he was finishing the fine tuning, he found it.  Tucked away in a little corner, like an artist would sign a painting, he found a barely legible name and date.  The last name matched a signature that is scrawled elsewhere inside the piano, (along with a P.O. Box address in Chicago) and the only part of the date that we could read with any certainty was 1903.

It's still heavy, it's still well-loved and missing most of the ivories, and it's still old.
But it's really, really old.

And the offer to give it away to any relative who would come pick it up...
...is most definitely expired.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Chicken Feathers

We lost a chicken.

No one saw it happen, so at first we weren't sure exactly what got it; we just knew that at 5:00 in the afternoon there were two big piles of feathers and only 12 chickens cowering in the chicken run.

Our German Shepherd tracked whatever-the-culprit-was until it crossed the creek, and we were impressed that he found three more piles of feathers along the way.  He had been with us in the garage while we worked that day, so we didn't blame him for not scaring off the predator, but we were very impressed with his previously undemonstrated skill of tracking on command!

The next afternoon around 3:00, I took a break from our garage work because a chicken was making a strange noise out behind the barn.  I walked out to where they were, and found ten chickens huddled together next to the barn, and the remaining two squawking noisily next to the elderberry tree halfway between the house and the creek.  I couldn't see anything wrong, so I walked past them toward the creek, and when I turned my head there was a big coyote just standing there by the creek looking at me.

Wait, did I say a big coyote?
I was wrong.
It was a REALLY big coyote.

So of course I did what any self-respecting country girl would do.

I shouted for Mike.

And threw a stick at it.

It ran away, and when Mike didn't come (because he couldn't hear me over his music), I shouted some more and threw a few more sticks for good measure.  Shouting at an invisible coyote while throwing sticks at said invisible coyote is extremely therapeutic.

The next morning, after many cups of coffee, Mike was upstairs in our bathroom when the dog started barking his special just-let-me-out-of-this-fence-and-I'll-tear-you-apart bark, and two of our girls (upstairs in their bedroom) starting screaming, "Coyote!  Daddy, there's a coyote!"

By the time Mike got to the window, the dog was trying to climb the fence, and the coyote had almost disappeared back into the tall grass along the creek.  There just happened to be an antique Russian sniper rifle loaded and sitting next to the bathroom window, and the screen from the window just happened to have been removed the day before, so Mike squeezed off two quick shots at the disappearing coyote.

He missed.

But that coyote hasn't been back (in the daylight hours) since.

The Pile

The pile of debris out behind the barn was here when we moved in, and it only grew bigger as we worked on improvements around the property.

 In May, after almost two years of seeing that unsightly pile every day, we finally rented a dumpster.
 A really big one.

And the girls and I got to work filling it.

It was like an archaeological dig - layer after layer marked the changes this property has seen.
First there was the old rotten round-pen we tore down last year, followed by all the debris we removed from next to the pumphouse the year before.  Underneath that was trash from the new appliances they installed right before we bought the place, then old suitcases and tires they must have added to the pile before they put the property on the market.  Then came the layer of pieces of electrical wiring and construction trash from when they built the garage.  Under that there were giant roots and branches left over from the tree they took out to build the garage, all mixed in with random household trash...old pictures, a toilet seat, clothing and plastic bags.

Gloves.  Good thick gloves, long sleeves, and boots.  And a sense of humor.
That's the only way we could have gotten the job done.

 But we did it!  All we've got left are some giant rotten stumps and logs,
which we'll burn once they're dry enough...
and when the yearly burn ban is over!