Finding summer.

I’d entirely forgotten these things.

Hammocks. Popsicle-sticky wrists. Sun hats and the red, sweaty band across your forehead, later.

Watermelon. Lemonade with crushed ice. Nothing but cheese and crackers for dinner.

Grasshopper chirring and the hiss of a breeze in high branches, teasing. Somnolent wind chimes in the neighbor’s yard.

The smell of wet pavement in the sun. The rippled edge of book pages turned by soggy fingertips.

Struggling and twisting into damp swimsuit straps. Cherry pits in the grass.

Singing into the electric fan – every word vibrato (Mister Roboto).

Flipping the pillow to the cool side. Again. Citronella candles. Night noises through window screens.

~

It’s been a long time since I stepped both feet into summer. So glad to be here.

20130703-153304.jpg

A month. Then two.

Hi, you. It’s been awhile.

In a month, seventeen boxes of books get unpacked.

A room filled to the ceiling with boxes and furniture is transformed into a home office/guest space.

A yard pushes up surprises: columbine, lily of the valley, forget-me-not, day lilies, painted daisies, hosta, daphne. Wild roses and strawberries.

The eight-months-missed touchstones of home emerge from boxes and find new nooks. Our artifacts. Our us, in objects. The small stone jaguar from the Yucatan. The sonogram. The flower pot decorated with buttons and crayon scrawls. Grammy’s desk.

The typewriter collection comes out of storage for the very first time. (Platen count: nine.)
20130625-221215.jpg

Paid work gets tackled every day. Kindergarten races toward the finish line. We meet the sweet neighbors who live with their 90-year-old mother named Violet. The first water bill arrives (xeriscaping and water barrels are in our future). I cut an inch off of my own hair. Mainly to avoid auditioning curly-hair stylists. Two bummers about moving: new dentists and new stylists.

The kid writes a song about fleas on a dog’s knees that get blown away by a breeze onto the trees–and sings it to me whilst strumming our out-of-tune ukulele on Mother’s Day.
~~
In two months, a fence gets half built. There are 260 linear feet to cover, in total. Half is good.

I realize it’s my first summer without a daily office job since the kid was born. Longer than that. I buy a wading pool and a stack of bubble wands and make a huge list of fun-but-educational games and at-home science experiments for an enriched summer experience and … yeah. I know. It will be popsicles and mayhem.

I help launch a family dream.

Our coffee ritual transitions from warm to iced–we unpack the espresso machine and the cold brew kit. The fence continues; the neighbor offers beer and sends her kid out to help.

We take our picnicking skills for a test run, sandwiches and potato salad and gritty sand in the wrong places. Crawdads. Lifejackets. Sunscreen protests. Aloe vera. Inexplicably, my head is too big for my old sunhat. Can an adult outgrow a sunhat? The lake’s water is rimmed in a wide band of bright yellow, rocking in the small, lapping waves. It’s pollen from the pines, blown across the water and pooling at the edges. I don’t realize how vibrant and beautiful and strange it is until I look at the photos, later.
20130625-221507.jpg

We glance at the boxes still stacked against the dining room wall. We studiously ignore the Chaos Pit otherwise known as our garage. The (now gutted) second bathroom fades to a vague future dream and we forget what it’s like to have a bathtub. Almost.

The kid’s kindergarten graduation ceremony happens. I don’t cry.

The next morning, I drop her off for the last day. Through the classroom window, I see her toeing off her velcro sneakers and sliding on her indoor slippers–a preschool routine for four whole years. Goodbye, soft-footed mornings. I cry in the parking lot.
20130626-161117.jpg

We think about adopting a kitten. We discuss our chicken coop dreams, sketch plans for a treehouse, talk greenhouse strategies. We stare at the mistletoe infection in our junipers and mumble hopeful predictions and go inside.

I finally have lunch with a new friend.

We welcome a hamster into the mix.
20130626-160652.jpg

A 34-year friendship is shored up with a visit. I make her look at mountains every single day. I make her break her cleanse with beer and a cheese plate. (I once force-fed her an olive. We were eight. A story for another time.)

Dance recital rehearsals are incessant. They are a flock of little girls, skinny and pudgy, knock-kneed and swaybacked, awkward and graceful. They match only by merit of their identical pink leotards and ballet slippers, gauzy skirts above playground-bruised shins. They are certain of their own beauty.

We count nine months since we hightailed it to our new life. It is vibrant and beautiful and strange. Knock-kneed and soft-footed. Awkward and certain. Stories unpacked. Pushing up surprises. Wide open.
20130626-161148.jpg

Kitchen follow-up: the pantry

It’s been a little over a month of living with our kitchen, up and running — hard — in our daily lives.

We use our kitchen, and I was curious to see where the clutter would gather. How the surfaces would hold up. If the gooseneck faucet would have splashback issues. Whether one of our new drawers could withstand the weight of a dozen vintage Pyrex bowls, two waffle irons, and five serving trays.

So far, so good. Last night, we rolled out fresh tortilla dough on the laminate countertop–and it performed beautifully. The stainless appliances aren’t streaking or smudging (relief!). The evenness with which the electric stove bakes a cake is a thing of beauty, and the continuous grill across the gas range is soooo helpful when you’re playing musical pots and pans for a dinner for eight. And if I ever questioned a single vs double-bowl sink, I never will again.

In the Big Reveal post, we skipped over the pantry. And this pantry deserves some attention, because I swear it’s got magical properties. It never seems to fill up. We reduced the pantry size by more than half, and I can still store all of my staples plus weekly dry goods in here, and feel no clutter.

Remember, we started with this:
1965 accordion door pantry

After removing the horrid accordion doors, we ripped out the shelves, knocked out the back wall, and pushed the whole space back about a foot. This meant losing closet inches in the adjacent bedroom. (We then restored those bedroom closet inches with new framing, sacrificing some bed space — gain a foot here, lose a foot there). It also meant the pantry would have an odd L-shape, because the furnace is located directly behind the back left corner, but it would increase the overall depth of the shelves — and it would let the fridge nook hold a standard-depth fridge, if necessary. Mid-stream, it looked like this:
pantry phase 2

On our first attempt at building pantry shelves, we went with plywood — inexpensive, large enough sheets to cut out the odd shape we needed. But we cut exactly one sheet before I confessed how much I would hate returning to painted shelves. I lived with painted shelves for seven years. Everything sticks to them, no matter how long the paint cures. They chip, get gooey, and suck to clean. Back to Home Depot went the spouse, for sheets of white MDF.

We made an L-shaped template, decided on shelf heights, attached the support ledgers, cut the shelves, and installed. There was some caulking and possibly a few curse words. We built and hung the over-fridge cabinet (aka, The Liquor Library).

And then, oh wouldn’t it be nice to have the microwave hidden? Wiring an outlet inside the pantry, no big deal, you go ahead honey, I’m just going to make an iced coffee …

Of course, he totally did it. And then it looked like this:

Pantry phase 3

One of these days, we’ll paint the unfinished door. Voila!

Friday Sky Day no. 13

Did you miss me? Coming up for a breath. I’ve barely left the house in a month, which is pretty much a crime against my own humanity when it’s sunny 80% of the time. Sometimes still brrrr cold – but sunny. Oh hey! There’s a sky out there!

More soon. Big stuff in the works, people.

Don’t forget to look up. Even if it’s just your own roofline.

20130524-171625.jpg

Discovering the yard

The previous owner so obviously loved this yard. Beneath recent neglect, I can see years of investment and work. Besides what’s pictured here, there are tulips, narcissus, daffodils, and hyacinth blooming now. I think a bush in the back corner is a spirea, in terrible need of pruning. The lavender needs attention. I’m impressed that a robust hen-and-chicks is sprawling along underneath a row of Mediterranean Cypress(?). There are tons of daisies, just shooting up leaves. Volunteer holly needs to be ripped out, and a few dead yew hedges must go.

After a bunch of research, I think our 14 juniper trees are Western Juniper. They’ve got moderate cases of mistletoe infection. I read that removing it can mess up your micro ecosystem. But leaving it can mean a slow death for the trees.

A round-up of what’s springing up. I know some of these. A few are little mysteries.

Gardeners, tell me — what are these? Common names? Bonus points for the Latin.

20130418-213018.jpg
Above: (left middle) strawberries; (left bottom) wild rose?

20130418-213028.jpg
Above: (top left) hardy geranium?; (left middle) poppy?; (top right) flax?

20130418-213036.jpg
Above: (top left) daisy; (right) wheat