Where The Lone Star State Meets The Puget Sound
A Fine Mesh Of Two Great Styles

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Man I Call Dad

OK so everyone thinks their dad is the best. Well I've got news for you... my dad really is. If the New York Times ran a Father of the Year Contest my Dad would win. And if you don't believe me, read on.

Today's musings are a tribute to my dad on his special day.

To begin with I would like to show you a picture of my dad, Roy Smalley. Isn't he handsome? Yes, I know this was taken just before I committed to going gray. But, more to the point,  no one can believe my dad is 80+. He and my mom both look amazingly younger than their ages. I think the only explanation for this is that they have always maintained a positive attitude; come what may. And they have worked at a healthy lifestyle. That's not to say that they haven't both taken some hits but what astounds me is that they never stay down for long. They are the most resilient twosome I have ever known. I also need to add that they have shared 61 years of deep devotion to their marriage. I know this has positively impacted their health and their pursuit of happiness.

I think most would agree that I look just like my dad. I think that is a genuine compliment and I am always happy to hear that. My mom is strikingly gorgeous so I would be equally happy to look like she, but God happened to use my dad's mold when he created me and this has always served me well.
Of course it is in the area of character that my dad especially excels. He is a man of such great integrity. I value truthfulness almost above all other qualities and I'm sure this is because integrity is what my dad has always modeled. And I know for a fact that he instilled in me a fine work ethic. He is such an affable man with a warm personality that naturally attracts others.  I cannot name one person that has ever said they don't like my dad. In fact, his friends never seem to tire of telling me what a great guy he is.

So perhaps you are wondering what kind of dad he was; like, how was he as a nurturer? Before I discuss that at length I must tell you that according to my mom he wasn't big on the diaper-change thing. I'm not sure he ever changed one (though he must have, right?). We should cut him some slack, in fairness, because we're talking 1955 after all. I'm not sure Ozzie Nelson or Ward Cleaver ever changed a prime-time diaper either.

When I think about my young life with my dad I think about two things. The first is that he was forced to be away from our family a lot. My dad was a professional baseball player and travel is just part of that game. After retiring from his professional sports career he began his own business. And although he was headquartered close to home, he was rarely at home; at least during those crucial start-up years. I missed him so much. I wonder now if he knew that then.

The second thing that I know is how loving he was; and is. I was never afraid of my dad--ever--not at any age. And there has never been any topic (even embarrassing girl stuff) that I couldn't talk to my dad about. Now truthfully, how many women can say that about their dad?

What I treasure the most about my dad and our relationship is that he has always validated me. According to things I've read, a father's validation is essential to a young woman's self esteem and success in her own marriage. My dad likes who I am and he has always expressed that. Do you know how huge that is? The fact that he tells me? Of equal significance is the fact that he never made me feel conditionally loved. I wasn't loved because I was academically successful or hardworking, or popular with my friends. And I wasn't unloved when I gained weight, made a bad choice, or was generally unlovable. I am not suggesting that he wasn't a disciplinarian. Although my mom was the 'enforcer' because she was at home, I knew my parents were a united team. I also knew that my mom sought and valued my dad's input in all areas of parenting. Both my parents are wise and they parented skillfully.

I will tell you that my dad and I are polarized, or close to it, in some pretty big areas; politics and spiritual orientation. Hey, we've mixed it up on more than one occasion and we both have to exercise an extra measure of self-control every four years. But doesn't the very fact that we can vehemently disagree at dinner and wake up the next morning happy to be having a cup of coffee together speak volumes about our father-daughter bond? Of course it does. And a bond it is.

Hey, speaking of Bond, my dad is also a martini drinker; and so suave. But unlike James Bond, my dad's martinis are stirred, not shaken. Hmmm...I'm not sure about onion vs. olive.

I have known my dad 56 years and  I know my dad can't be shaken. He is my rock and always will be. There is no luckier woman (although my brother's girls might argue with me). And at the risk of sounding boastful, I know that my dad feels proud to introduce me as his daughter.

I love you Dad. Happy Father's Day to you and to all dad's.

Enjoy your day and stop by again soon. At our house we feature good coffee and great conversation.


Friday, June 17, 2011

Project ! A Quick and Easy Gift Idea

This is Anacortes High School graduation party weekend for Larry and me. We have one party this evening and one tomorrow. Today is Ana's party. Ana is the youngest daughter of my friend Laurie (whom you've met here before). I was stressing about how to give her money... I don't like cash and I don't love the check option either. So I decided to make her a little picture frame and tuck a check and the frame into a gift bag.

Other than buying a somewhat shabby white frame from Rite Aid, I had everything else on hand. Of course not much was needed for this project. By the way, I learned my lesson about buying inexpensive picture frames. It's imperative that you give them a close look before buying. I got home with this one and found a few cracks in the finish. Oh well, the look is supposed to be somewhat 'upcycled' so I'm not going to worry about it.
$5.99 Frame From Rite Aid

I wanted to embellish the frame with fabric roses, which are all the blog rage right now. I tried at least 4 different fabrics in search of the perfect neutral before I thought of using this twill tape. This tape actually came with a rug I ordered last fall from Pottery Barn. This twill was tied around the rolled up rug. I love Pottery Barn. Every detail is so well planned and quality.
I really enjoy working with Unique Stitch. It is a very fast drying, strong fabric glue that becomes transparent.

First I ironed the twill tape so that it was nice and flat. I then folded the tape in half lengthwise and twisted and rolled it in a circle, gluing here and there as I rolled. The first flowers I made were much too large. It's such a temptation to make them over sized because actually, the larger they get the prettier they look. I kept having to unroll my roses and start over. I played around with it until I had three roses, varying in size, that I was happy with.  I allowed the glue on the roses to dry for a few minutes and then I used my hot glue gun to affix the roses to the frame. I think this is a much nicer way to give a gift of money. What do you think?  I used the picture that came in Ana's graduation announcement, but she can just replace it with her favorite.
Voila! What an Adorable Graduate

If you would like to see a really good tutorial on making fabric roses there are probably 30 available online. Here is the link to my favorite tutorial: http://www.freckledlaundry.com/2010/07/fabric-rosette-tutorial.html.

Caution! Making rosettes can become addicting so proceed with caution and consider yourself forewarned. Just wait until you see my burlap pillow with a jumbo rosette! Hope you'll come back and check it out.

Tomorrow we are attending a party of a young man. I'm giving him money too but I think I'll skip the rosettes.

See you soon!


Monday, June 13, 2011

Never Return A Plate Empty

Look how much my garden has grown in the last month! Our raised beds are positively bursting with vitamins! We have so much more produce than we can possibly use because we are just a household of 2. So we have started sharing our bounty with friends.

Spinach and Broccoli

Cabbages Are Growing Nicely
Kale Cohabitating with Onions

Larry Made An Adorable Trellis for the Peas

A few weeks ago I gave my girlfriend a variety of beautiful greens in a vintage galvanized bucket. I love galvanized anything and I have a growing collection which includes buckets, wash tubs, and trays and trash barrels. I grow plants in many of them. I even have a six foot wide stock trough!

A Golden Privet Thriving in a Trash Can
Well, back to my story. My girlfriend and her husband came to dinner Friday night. We hang out at each others houses quite often and the unwritten rule is, "we're well beyond hostess gifts". However, here came Sharon, my bucket in hand, filled with the most beautiful Heuchera (Coral Bell) I've ever seen!
A Gorgeous Ginger Peach Heuchera
Her thoughtful gesture, though unnecessary, was so appreciated. I already love the way this looks in my garden and I haven't even taken it out of the bucket yet. It will need room to grow and I know just the spot. Good news by the way! The tag says, "sun or shade".

And now the finale.  Can you guess what Sharon said when she handed me this gracious gift? Yep, you got it!
Never return a plate empty.

Thanks dropping by. You never know what I might be chatting about so come back anytime. Oh and remember, we're well beyond hostess gifts.


Sunday, June 12, 2011

A Road Trip and a Recipe

Well I got up with the birds this morning and way up here at 48 N. Latitude our feathered friends are alive and singing at about 4:30 AM. I rolled out of bed to let our older dog Beanie outside and then allowed myself another hour's sleep. I didn't really mind the early get-up because today I needed to drive Larry, aka Captain Larry, to the Bellingham Marina. He is out for 4 days captaining a luxurious 50' motor yacht for one of his clients. Life is good!

I thoroughly enjoy outings and especially the drive to Bellingham. Even though it's a rather direct route up Interstate 5, it is so picturesque! The freeway is lined with dense evergreen forests and a beautiful view of Lake Samish.

Bellingham is a really great city about 45 miles north of Anacortes. It is home to Western Washington University. Everybody loves Bellingham so it's always on my itinerary for my out of town guests. The city began along the waterfront in the late 1800's and has maintained it's distinct Victorian heritage. There are wonderful restaurants, pubs, shops and coffee houses and farmer's markets; in other words, something for everyone.

Look how pretty this shopping district is!

After I dropped Larry off I decided to stop at a coffee house which I had never seen before today. What a good decision that turned out to be! I had a great Americano and a gluten-free brownie. Yum! My coffee break gave me just enough time to text all of my out-of-state friends and say, "I'm sitting in Bellingham, wish you were here". You know, sometimes you just have to rub it in.

From here it was off to Trader Joe's to do my weekly grocery shopping. I love Trader Joe's and Bellingham is the closest location to us. My friend Sharon had asked me to get her a jar of almond butter with flax seeds so I decided to get one for myself as well~

I had forgotten how much I enjoy this on toast in the morning. But here I am stalled out in the gluten free (mostly grain free) world, with limited bread choices. To avoid feeling discouraged and deprived, I decided to craft a really great bread--something new-- upon which to slather the almond butter; because I love almond butter almost as much as I love bread.

A rather lengthy Google search led me to a really quality blog with a very straightforward and seemingly delicious recipe for gluten free soda bread. The name of the blog is The Urban Homestead Experiment (great name!) which is written by an adorable young woman named Jamie Milks. You can find Jamie at
http://urbanhomesteadx.com/wordpress/. This is a beautiful blog with such an abundance of fine information on healthy living and eating. I really hope you will find your way over there.

I happened to have almost all of the ingredients on hand. Despite a small shortage of gluten free all purpose flower, my bread turned out really well. I had to make up the deficit with an insignificant amount of sweet sorghum flour, but the bread still tastes superb!

Whether or not you are committed to a gluten free lifestyle, I believe that once in awhile we should give our bodies a break from wheat. Wheat gluten (a protein) is very hard on our digestive tracts and Jamie discusses this in greater length on her blog page. But her blog and recipes are not limited to gluten free. She has lots and lots of healthy whole grain ideas (including wheat). Her blog is a veritable treasure trove of great recipes and glorious photos for everything from appetizers to desserts. Again, I hope you will pay Jamie's blog a visit.

So I am including the recipe, along with my modifications, and if it interests you I hope you will give it a try~ and leave me a comment.

Oh I just got a call from Captain Larry (ship to shore) and his little group is well underway. Since I am on my own for most of the week I hope to get some sewing done. I have been refining an idea I have for a new throw pillow embellished with a chunky fabric rose. I hope to be sharing this with you in my next post! Until then, I wish you a good week and good eating!

Does this bread look boring? It may be short on gluten but it is long on taste!

Personal Notes: I used unsweetened coconut milk with 1 T of lemon juice. You cannot taste the coconut at all so don't be afraid to use it. I omitted the xanthan gum. This is seriously good bread!

Jamie's Gluten Free Oat Soda Bread
Scant 2 cups (7 ounces) oat flour or 2 cups (10 ounces) rolled oats
2 1/4 cup (10 ounces) all purpose gluten-free flour (I prefer Bob’s Red Mill)
1 teaspoon xantham gum (optional, see headnote)
1 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 3/4 cup plain almond milk (or dairy-free milk of choice)
juice of 1/2 a lemon
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine the flours, xantham gum, baking soda and sea salt in a large bowl. If you are not using oat flour, place your rolled oats in the bowl of a food processor. Turn on and process for 1-2 minutes or until the consistency is a fine powder.
Measure the milk into a separate cup and add the lemon juice. Allow it to sit for 10 minutes or so. Reserve about a tablespoon of the milk to brush before making. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour the rest of the milk into the center. Stir with a wooden spoon until just combined.
Pan version: Grease a 9x5x3 inch loaf pan. Spread the dough evenly into the pan.
Free-form version: Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and grease. Dump the dough onto the prepared pan. Wet your hands so you can form the dough into a ball (the dough is sticky). Once it formed into an even bowl, flatten slightly. Using a sharp knife, run it down the middle for a deep cut, but do not cut it all the way through. Turn it 90 degrees and make another cut perpendicular to the first one.
Brush the top and sides of the dough with reserved tablespoon of milk. Optional: Sprinkle a variety of seeds on top (sesame, caraway, fennel, etc.)
Bake in the center rack for 25 minutes. After 25 minutes, raise the rack up one notch and bake for an additional 20 minutes.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Garden Bliss

I am in the mood to share with you some pictures I took this evening of one of my favorite gardens. This particular planting area was created using recycled concrete--most of which came from an old driveway that we demolished some years ago. The idea to use the concrete was not mine but rather originated with my good friend Laurie. Laurie is a Master Gardener and a first-rate landscape designer. And she is the most creative and hardest working woman I have ever known.

About 4 years ago Laurie began the process of laying out the structure of the garden, which at the time was just a large expanse of grass under a huge old oak tree. I envisioned a lush shade garden densely planted with hostas and Laurie with the help of my husband Larry set about making this a reality. Over the course of 2 summers, they took up the sod, graded, installed French drain, moved wheelbarrows full of broken concrete and set the pieces in place.

Are you laughing at this moment because I told you it took 2 summers? Well let's just say we operate on island time up here.

Anyway, as I've said before, gardening is a process of 'trowel and error'. This garden has presented so many challenges that a few times I was ready to abandon my plan in favor of something less stressful.

I won't go on and on about all of the mistakes I've made, but I do need to tell you that this spring I had to dig up all of my hostas and move them to a new location. You see, last fall we severely pruned the oak tree and my full shade garden became a mostly sunny spot. I know that now there are hosta varieties that will tolerate sun but mine will not; they began to turn yellow. I was really, really upset and disappointed. I so wanted a huge hosta garden beneath the tree. I had envisioned it and it had happened--almost. And then once again I had to rethink and rework.

As is often the case, great things grew from my little calamity. Out of necessity I moved the hostas to the only truly shady spot available--a previously neglected and unsightly slope which I had dreaded tackling. They are now happily thriving beneath a canopy of juniper and a once eyesore is now quite an eye catcher. I had expected this slope to be very hard to work and I had for the most part just stopped looking at it. Now I feel rather silly considering that Larry and I had it plant-ready in fairly short order.

So you're probably asking, "why is there no picture of the hostas?" The answer is, I don't have the mulch spread around them yet and I want the garden to look just right before you see it.

The best was yet to come! Now the mostly-sunny-garden-beneath-the-oak looks even better. I have an array of astilbe that have grown by leaps and bounds this year and a wide variety of amazing volunteers-such as coral bells lady's mantle and lacy Scotch moss-which truly delight me. I installed some stepping stones and a little ornamentation and I feel a sense of joy every time I pass by.

I plan to position a chair someplace in the garden, and maybe even a footrest. One of these days, when the weather warms, I will dust off my copy of The Secret Garden and head for this happy place of repose. I'll let you know when... maybe you can meet me there.

Astilbes and Coral Bells

I love to plant between the steps!

Turning Over A New Leaf

Wild Ginger--Isn't this pretty?

A volunteer lady's mantle in such a perfect spot!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

A Post Script Regarding Beige

It's the end of a lovely weekend for us. The weather has been spectacularly gorgeous; lots and lots of sun, clear skies and shimmering blue water. Yesterday afternoon we attended the wedding of a young couple from our church. The bride was radiant and love was in the air. We were in the company of our closest friends and we shared lots of laughter and great food.

I just had to share this photo with you because I think it's amazing. This was taken in our sun room last weekend by our friend Eric and he emailed it to me this afternoon. I feel as if the photo belongs on a page in Veranda magazine! He did such a great job of capturing the beauty of the shells and sugar stars that I've mounded in a bowl atop our dining table. The stars are truly pristine and remind me of bridal white.

Eric entitled this photo, Beautifully Beige. He has an artful eye for detail and his mind captures great photos even before he lifts his camera. I am honored that Eric spent some time with his wife Dorothy and son Patrick, wandering our property with his camera in hand. I will look forward to sharing more of his work in future posts.

I hope you appreciate as much as I do the subtle elegance and sophistication of neutrals such as we see in the shells. Nature inspires great interiors. Upon close inspection you could find a half a dozen paint shades on a single shell, in absolute harmony; like a perfect paint chip from a decorating store.

To see more of Eric's work I encourage you to visit his photo stream. Here's the link to his site:

Enjoy your week and thanks for stopping by!

One last comment~ I think maybe I will approach Eric with the idea of a collaborative book effort. We will entitle it, "Beautifully Beige".