Thursday
Sep112014

time on waldron

A few months ago, some good friends of ours decided to pack up their farm in Wisconsin and move back to the Northwest for a taste of life in the San Juan Islands of Washington.  Looking for a place where they could have a simple and sustainable lifestyle, they discovered Waldron Island, a small island north of Orcas Island.   Waldron isn't accessable by ferry and the community living on the island has eschewed opening the island to the type of tourism rife on the larger San Juan Islands.   Our friends visited Waldron mid-winter of this year and by April were living in a small cabin with no running water or electricity.  They people they had met on the island (some with young kids similar in age to their girls) were living the way they had envisioned, so they decided to give Waldron a try for a year.   Personally, we were excited to have them living back on the West coast and to get to visit them in their new home.  

We were fortunate enough to get a ride out to Waldron from the Orcas Island ferry dock from a neighbor of theirs who was making a run on his boat to Orcas to deliver some freshly pressed apple cider.   Soon after we delivered the cargo (and tangled with the marina owner who was unhappy about deliveries being made on his dock without permission) we were stepping out onto a sandy beach and being greeted by our friends.   This was the beach and house of the neighbor and we took a short trip down the dirt road to our friend's home.  

On the way, we dropped our things at our lodging -- a one room cabin that our friend Eric was the caretaker of.

The cabin was filled with light and looked out on the water and was a magical place to spend our evenings.  The owner of the cabin had been a woman named Bitte Baer who was a longtime resident of Waldron.  The families that inherited the cabin don't live on the island so we were lucky enough to inhabit it for our visit.

We spent most of our time at the other cabin our friends were renting.  Jamie cooked all of our meals on a wood burning stove, occasionally lamenting how difficult it was to cook certain items like rice.  I gained a serious appreciation for our electric stove at home, especially when craving a cup of tea.  The cabin was airy and cozy and you didn't really miss the electricity so much until the dark rolled in at night and it felt easier just to go to bed than to stay up and read by candlelight.

Our first full day on the island was spent helping another neighbor press apples into cider on his farm.  Many people on the island grow apples, some for export to other islands and famer's markets, others just for their own use.  The family we were helping used their orchard for their own use and canned the cider to drink all year long.  They were growing dozens of varieties of apples and pears and had some stories to tell about certain ones that grew well and others that didn't.  The kids enjoyed washing the fruit before the pressing and getting to have mugs of cider fresh off of the press.  

As for getting around on the island, we all biked and carried the kids in bike trailers.  This allowed us to navigate the island pretty well.  Waldron is about 4 miles across and has about 500 feet elevation gain on the Mountain road, so bikes are ideal modes of travel.  The roads are all dirt and not frequented by very many vehicles.  After the cider pressing we hopped on bikes and had a picnic at the schoolhouse.   The school on Waldron runs through 8th grade then graduates either move to a more populated island or to the mainland.  One of the familes we met was preparing to leave with their kids and move to Seattle so the girls could start high school.  I could only imagine the culture shock of starting high school in Seattle when one is accustomed to a small, island school.  

 We quietly passed the rest of our visit exploring the beaches and meeting residents of Waldron.  We were invited to dinner at the beach with Jamie and Eric's neighbor and their family.  Jonas and the other kids played "otter family" with some of the friends while we enjoyed visiting with locals and hearing about their experiences on Waldron and what brought them out to live on the island.  The weather was perfect and I could see the draw of wanting to live in a beautiful and remote place. 


The day before we left, we biked up to a Nature Conservancy trail that runs out to the bluff at Point Disney.  The bluff offers a great view of the islands and a chance to look down a very steep cliff.  

Our time on Waldron seemed special since we watched Jonas change into a more social and interactive kid during our visit.  He enjoyed creative play with the girls and talking with the adults.   He also overcame his adversity to beach sand and walked all morning barefoot on a rocky and sandy beach.   He climbed, biked, ran and hiked with joy and enthusiasm.   It is exciting to watch this area of his development.  

Whether our friends will settle on Waldron remains to be seen. We have a feeling that the first winter on the island will be a test of sorts.  They are moving into a more modern house, with a propane stove and solar power, which will be nice in the dark winter.   Nick and I agree that we are not island people ourselves and like the ability to roam and explore a greater geographic area.   Still, we were charmed by the beauty of Waldron and the simple pace of life that exisits there.  If Jamie and Eric do stay, we will certainly be back to visit.  Maybe this time with our Kayak in tow.  

Friday
Aug292014

wild horse geranium

There are few people I enjoy sewing more for than the people in my family, especially the kids.  And although there are more and more patterns being published with boys in mind, the most lovely patterns are the ones for girls.   So I am always inspired when my niece's birthday rolls around in August to sew up something for her.   She is spirited and imaginative, but not traditionally girly.  She lives on a farm and loves horses and other animals.   For her ninth birthday I wanted to make her something fun and feminine, since she still loves wearing dresses.  But I also wanted it to be the type of dress that would look good over a pair of jeans with her cowboy boots.  

When I was browsing the new line of fabric from Cotton + Steel, I saw the Mustang print and knew it would make a great dress for her.  I went with the aqua horses instead of pink -- giving the dress a bit of a tomboy look.

 The dress is the Geranium Dress from Made By Rae, which comes with several variations and is partially lined.  I've made the dress twice before for smaller babies, and was glad to see that it comes out just as nicely for older girls.   For the lining I picked a coordinating Cotton + Steel print.  

My niece loved the dress, especially the flutter sleeve sewn with a raw edge -- another detail that makes the dress cute yet slightly rugged.  It is one of my favorite completed projects and I hope she will be able to wear it for her return to school next month and throughout the year.  

Monday
Aug182014

glory

 

We are having a lovely summer, in every way.  Hot sunny days with afternoons spent in wading pools.  Long hikes with snowballs and streams.  Backyard barbeques and homemade ice cream.  As many berries as one can possibly eat.  So when the clouds roll in and stay for good, I can think back to these long bright days and remember how we savored summer this year.  

What I hope to forget is the constant noise and dust from the major construction project going on behind our house.  The city is re-designing a stream confluence and the crash of rocks dumped from large trucks starts almost every morning at 7 am.  Sharp.  Soon, even our own yard will be involved in the remodel and our shed will be re-located.  Currently, the shed lies mostly on city property and must be moved to accomodate the new property-line fence being installed. The shed is not in a convenient location for us to access anyway, so we decided to embrace the change and get going on plans to expand our garden area in the upper yard.  By next summer we hope to have a whole new look, more edibles and a lot more quietude. 

Our garden this year was plentiful and gave us several pounds of snap peas, green beans, and shelling beans.   We also had a good crop of radishes, lovely oak leaf lettuce that has yet to bolt and a few small carrots for nibbling (my favorite seed source for PNW people).  Two potatoes from our weekly produce delivery had sprouted over the winter, so we cut them up and planted them as well.  From those two we harvested about 5 pounds of new potatoes including this guy, who we named potato bear.  Grrrr!

I've also been devoting some time to making levain bread at home, following the method from Tartine bakery.  My friend Deb gave me their bread book shortly before Jonas was born and it took me about 3 years to actually try making the bread.  The loaves are made from 100% natural yeast starter  and I have had some issues trying to culture my own bread starters in the past.  This time around, things went better and I patiently waited for a nice mature starter to form.  The first loaf I baked was a dud, but I read up on the method and subsequently had some tasty success.  The book itself is lovely and has a few variations on the classic loaf, plus a brioche recipe and other savory and sweet dishes that can be made from leftover bread.  Here is a loaf (50% whole wheat) that I baked last week. 

It smelled amazing too.  

 

Tuesday
Jul222014

multisport

Back in 2011, I decided that I should start doing triathlons.  Nevermind that I had just had a baby in February and was slowly adjusting to that new reality.  I had to add in even more challenge and signed up for my first sprint distance event for that July.  I chose the SeaFair triathlon since a co-worker at the time said it was a good course and pretty friendly atmosphere.  The sprint course is a half mile swim, 12 mile bike and 5K (3.1 mile) run.  I worked in some training in the evenings (timing my workouts in between nursing sessions) and my main goal was to simply finish the event.  It felt good to have a goal and to get some time back to myself back in the days when my baby had constant needs.  I still remember the first time I went swimming while Nick carried Jonas around the neighborhood in a carrier -- I would look up after every lap just to make sure that Nick hadn't brought a screaming baby back to me.  

The SeaFair Triathlon was indeed a great event (mostly flat with a few killer hills for good measure, an opportunity to bike across the I-90 bridge in the express lanes, mostly friendly group of people getting up very early to push their bodies a little) and this year was my fourth year participating.  Except this year I decided to step it up a little and do the Olympic Challenge course, which is almost double the Sprint course (1 mile swim, 20 mile bike, 10K run). 

For some people, I'm sure the idea of swimming then biking then running sounds like too much to tackle at once, but here is why I really like doing multisport events. 

  • Just as you're getting bored/fatigued/tired of drinking lake water, you find yourself finishing one sport and on the next.
  • People of all shapes/ages/abilities do triathlons.  I fancy myself pretty fit until I get out there and get smoked by a muscular 65 year-old lady.  It makes me strive to be stronger and work harder. 
  • It gets me out of the winter doldrums and into training mode around March and motivates me to exercise as much as I can fit in to my day.
  • I like that Jonas gets to see me work hard for something and challenge myself physically. 

Now for a little recap of the past 4 years:

2011 -- Sprint

Six month old baby, not yet sleeping through the night and nursing almost exclusively -- what was I thinking? Excited to survive my first event and not have my boobs explode from being engorged. 

Finished in 1 hour 55 minutes. 541 overall place. 

2012 -- Sprint

No longer nursing and closer to my pre-partum self.  Jonas is wondering why mommy has a strange cap on her head.

Finished in 1 hour 44 minues.  526 overall place.

2013 - Sprint

Lighter, stronger, more rested. Jonas gets a kick out of my wetsuit. 

Finished in 1 hour 41 minutes -- 487 overall. 

2014 - Olympic

Not quite sure if I was in over my head or not.  Jonas didn't make it out to the course this year and I missed seeing him and having him cheer me on.  But I was happy to have him away for the rest of the day so I could rest and recuperate. 

Finished in 3 hours 20 minutes -- 346 of 401 finishers. 

This year the swim felt the hardest for me as I struggled to get into a good rhythm.  I trained the most on the running, since 6 miles is a long distance for me.  Overall I felt pretty well prepared (although the morning of, I'm sure everyone feels like they could have trained more) for the day. 

I would encourage anyone I know to try out a triathlon at least once in their life.  My goal for next year is to do the Olympic in under 3 hours.  I own a wetsuit now, so I'm into this triathlon thing for the next five years, at least.

 

Monday
Jun302014

a little green: my favorite quilt

I made this quilt in the months before I gave birth to my son, Jonas in 2011.  It is a variation of the (Sort of) Crazy Quilt from Joelle Hoverson's book Last Minute Patchwork Gifts.   Although I love the glow of the pink and yellow of the original quilt, I wanted to create something cool and relaxing instead -- a veritable ocean to calm and soothe a child.  As I took my leave from work a week before his due date, I sat and hand-quilted the top of the quilt until my fingers could no longer stand it.  He was born in winter and every day I spent a little time under the warmth of the quilt, slowing quilting all of the squares and thinking about giving birth and what having a child would be like.  Lucky for me, he was nearly 2 weeks past his due date, so I was actually able to finish most of the stitching before he arrived. My quilt is not nearly as stunning as the original, but my Jonas and I love to lie in his room and gaze up at it, letting our eye wander through the colors and shapes.  Certainly not your traditional baby quilt, it was a labor of love not unlike the daily labor in raising a child. 

The quilt was made mostly with Kona cotton solids and a few scraps from other projects.  If I were to make a similar quilt, I would take more care with the stitching and try to achieve a tighter look in the squares.  I definitely became more skilled as a quilter while finishing this quilt, although I think I will stick to machine quilting for now, as life is too busy to afford the luxury of hand quilting these days. 

The name of the quilt, A Little Green, refers to one of my favorite Joni Mitchell songs and for me speaks to the joyous heartache of parenthood.