enough space / kitchen reno

We have been living in a kitchen remodel since we moved into our home three years ago. Little by little, as we cam swing it (punny!), we have knocked out tile, a wall, another wall. We installed light fixtures, a dishwasher, a range, fridge, a sink. Currently, our counters and cabinets are cut up pieces of the original counter and cabinets screwed together. The counter we installed after taking out the south wall is our old bedroom closet door. We have several holes in the floor. It’s a mockup version of what we want. It functions great. Sure, I wish we could afford to just bang it all out in a month like all those homes my husband works on. But I’ve grown to really appreciate living with the mockup, living with the daydream of what it will someday be.

A few of the benefits of living with the mockup:

  1. We have changed our minds. We are testing it out and have found that things should move a bit from our original ideas.
  2. Waiting has allowed us to score some pretty awesome things. Like, last summer, we were given some leftover (gorgeous, designer, sea glass-looking) tile from a job my husband worked on. Enough to tile one entire wall and a backsplash. Like the range and sink (click links above).
  3. We are good daydreamers.
  4. We feel lucky now. When it is all done, we will value it more than ever.

I’ve not shared much of our progress here because I wanted to share it when there is the big, fancy before and after. Because who doesn’t love a good DIY before and after?! Truth is, our home renovations aren’t seamless and quick; they are not wave-a-wand-voila! There are a lot of guts between before and after. So, our before and during:

Looking south. Living room is back there.

Looking in from front door.

Looking north. The green door is our front door.

Sink.

Looking west.

We lost a quite a bit of storage when we took out the south wall. It was the greatest change for us; that dark corner is now a bar counter with two stools (our girls favorite spot) – it is where all the kitchen action happens. Having limited storage space has forced us to choose what we really need. Seven pie plates? Five mixing bowls? Four spatulas? Two salad serving sets? Don’t need them. We store a lot of bulk food and kitchen items (like pressure cooker, serving dishes, extra wine glasses) in our garage.

This isn’t to say that things don’t get bananas in those few cabinets. We aren’t the most organized bunch. Every so often – when things have felt crammed and messy for a few months – I get a wild hair to sort and purge. It usually happens when I have coffee in hand and several other very pressing things to do.

During this process I always re-remember that we have enough space. There is always more than enough space.

As I consolidated and organized our pantry (a slender freestanding cabinet in our living room) recently, I took this photo. I will reference it the next time I say we don’t have any food in the house.

One of most-used pantry items is pancake mix. Thought I’d share our go-to recipe.

Pancake Mix

4 cups flour
1/2 cup ground flax (optional)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

To make pancakes, use 1 cup mix, 1 egg and 1 cup milk (almond milk is our favorite; any milk will work). Even if I am using 1/2 cup mix and 1/2 cup milk I still use one whole egg.

These cakes can be altered in so many ways. A few of ideas:

* add 1/2 cup almond butter and one mashed banana
* add yesterday’s leftover oatmeal
* add 1/2 cup cottage cheese (might need to add a bit more flour)
* add a few spoonfuls of jam

This year in the kitchen we hope to replace the vinyl floor. (so wishing the original linoleum could be saved!)

Next will be cabinets. Counter. We took the doors off one our current cabinets to see if we’d like open shelving for the stuff we like to look at – mostly handmade mugs, colored glass and vintage lovelies. We like it and plan to install thick wood bracketless shelving there. But it could all change, by the time we get to it. I’ll continue to dream and pin and enjoy the enough-space we’ve got.

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hump day nuggets: 2015 will be awesome

hump day nuggets: bits of the season in photos and words

Q: If Nuggets are started on a hump day but finished days later can they still be considered Hump Day Nuggets?

A: Yes.

My 20 year high school reunion is next year. It feels unbelievable to me. That I have now spent more of my life after school than the 18 years before it. Those 18 years were broken up by school years so long that I grew feet taller, summer breaks so long we had time to get grounded forever and still have lots of time left. What happened to that wagon-train time? When did it evolve to light-rail time?

Time is what I think about when I turn the calendar to a new page. This time last year. This time five years ago. Or was that seven years ago? Time is naturally very organized and predictable, except it isn’t at all in my brain.

This quote:

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. ― Maya Angelou

I really love those words and it is what I am thinking on a lot right now in my life – both in those I choose to interact with and listen to and in the impact I hope to have during my lifetime.  It’s simple enough – like the golden rule with wings.

nuggets.

:: Thank you so very much for your love and support always, but especially this last month since Alice died. I listened to your wisdom and felt your care. You all are the very best. Thank you.

:: Two little reindeer waited for our family to arrive on Christmas Eve.

:: We have a new puppy. I was certain we would get another adult dog. I never in a million years thought we’d get a puppy. But that is exactly what happened. Even when we went to look at the puppies I didn’t think we’d get a puppy. Andy was the most skeptical but then the ENTIRE litter crawled on him and only him. It worked! We fostered her (from the Humane Society) for two weeks – to make sure our brood of pets and people were a good fit for her and she for us. We finalized adoption last week. We named her Mabel.

:: Andy and I try to take two weeks off together every December-early January. We take it without pay so it requires some commitment, budgeting and planning. And every year we are so grateful we do it. After a few high-intensity months with both of our work lives, we settle into a staycation. I always think I will catch up…on laundry, photo organization, repotting plants, cleaning the spilled coffee grounds out of the tupperware drawer. But I never do get much of that done.

:: Ruby skied her first black diamond run at our ski hill. It was one of those moments – like buckling her own carseat, not needing a nap anymore or swimming without sinking – where Andy and I exchange a mental high five at this next phase of mobility and ability.

:: All I wanted for Christmas was snow, mostly so I could sled with my niece who was visiting from Portland. Christmas Eve delivered two tiny inches. Just enough to pull our snow pants over our pjs and head out in the morning. And then it continued to snow.

:: There was something especially wonderful about our holiday this year. Twenty two people came here, from near and far. Our home was overstuffed and loud. I didn’t take many photos. I did take it all in.

:: Margot made a prediction for you all this year. Let’s make it true. xo

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white space

I didn’t really get into tree skiing until I was 20 and my fear was firmly in tact. All I saw was trees. Lots of begging my quad muscles to stop my body to avoid the giant trees that were committed to my eventual concussion. I was arhythmic and awkward. And I wanted it. I watched my husband and our friends glide through woods, one hundred percent aware of their body width, speed, ability; giving in to pitch, sailing with the precision and confidence and grace of a low-flying bird.

I’m still not a great tree skier but the trees are a favorite place to be. It’s always quiet, with the occasional bright blur to the left or right – a vibrant, alive low-flying bird doing its thing. I like the challenge. The immobility of the trees – the invitation of the inconsistent, alluring space between them. The altitude, the puzzle, the dare. The commitment, the euphoria when turns match breath, the frustration when nothing aligns. The fun of it alone, the fun of it with friends shrieking a few trees away. Laughter echoing among trunks and roots and canopies older than we are.

There’s this philosophy about tree skiing: that if one focuses on the space between the trees, the body will go there; if one focuses on the trees, the body will go there. So the SECRET to smooth, confident, fluid tree skiing is peripherally, barely noticing what you don’t want (tree collision) and focusing your entire self on what you DO want (floating through wintery portals).

I want my daughters to ski trees. I want my daughters to see the white space between the trees.

I want them to know the adrenaline burst of standing before an unknown plot. I want them to begin by aiming their bodies toward the bright, inviting place. I want them to trust their choice. To push their shins against their boots. To aim their heart toward the next thing. To feel their very own earthly support. To know the support of their family. To lean into gravity, point toward fear and need and want and trust and thirst and naivety and importance and fallibility. To carve a turn through giant obstacles, like a swift thread through a needle. To follow another’s path. To forge their own. To bury their face in snow so bright they can’t breathe for the joy of it all. To fall gently. To fall hard. To feel what they feel. To hurry. To take their time. To do it again. To stop when they feel like it’s time to stop.

To begin again by aiming their bodies toward the bright, inviting, white space.

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Feel it. Love what you love. Trust. Be devoted. Give in.

Last Monday at noon I went to my first yoga class in several years. For whatever reason my yoga practice vaporized from my agenda when I had my second kid. It went from daily to nada. I’ve missed it and blabbed about missing it but didn’t do anything about it.

And then Alice died. I haven’t hiked or ran since. Well, I did once and felt like an anvil sat on my heart the entire time, pushing buckets of tears out of my body. I was not ready to be up in these hills without her.

One late night last week I got out of bed to look up yoga schedules in Missoula. I found a class time that worked for me and promised myself I’d go. And then I saw the teacher’s name. Marina. She’s my old teacher. In fact, the last time I went to this particular studio I was eight months pregnant with a breech Margot. Marina helped me through giant-bellied handstands and headstands until my bug swam herself 180. Marina!

People say dogs don’t live long enough. This statement is true in human brains. For dogs, I think they feel just right. Because they always do feel just right. Always.

Alice dies on Thursday night, November 20. It is a shock. We just – two days ago – ruled out the kidney failure diagnosis we had mourned. We have a new vet we love. We release ourselves into an ocean of relief and optimism.

She falls over in the living room. She recovers. My kids think she slipped on their paper snowflake scraps. A short while later, her back legs stop functioning. I am on and off the phone with vets, neighbors, my husband. She wants to drink endless water, she wants to lay in the snow. She is scared. She looks into me for answers. All I have is love.

The day before – the day of the glorious blood and urine work news – we ran together. She gained four pounds back in two weeks. Moments before the episode I took a picture of my new boots to send to a friend. She pushed her wet nose into my hand. I called her into the kitchen for a treat and she bounced into me to be sure I remembered.

Four bucks stand 15 feet away, staring at us. One is impossibly noble. I see his breath in the cold air. Alice lays in the snow and can’t get up.

Fuck. Is this happening?

I carry her back into the house. I feel calm and alert. My kids are playful and hungry. I manage it all and notice that I feel emotionless. Alice vomits everything she ate that day, undigested. I clean it up with a dust pan. I make dinner.

Andy walks in and says hey, girlie like he always does. Every day for 11 years. She softens. She wags her tail.

We have a few normal hours with her. We wonder if she ate something weird. We sit with her and it feels like it always does. There is a shift. It is subtle, calm, peaceful even. We feel it. We know. She leans into me and closes her eyes.

As she is dying in my arms in our bedroom, she tells me a few things.

Feel it.

Love what you love.

Trust.

Be devoted.

Give in.

My husband looks old when he wraps the brown fleece blanket around her body. I remember his smooth face. I remember 16 years old. I remember not a thought beyond that moment of our first kiss.

We hold her. Her breath changes. We FEEL her life leave. It is so visceral I may even see her life leave.

I remember roaring when in labor. It shocked me. Not because I am a quiet person but because I had no control over the noise bellowing from my guts. This is the same. I howl. I gag.

When I arrive to the yoga studio Marina lies flat on her back on a mat in the middle of the floor. She slowly rolls toward the entry and giggles. She tells me I look tall. We hug.

She asks for updates about my body that might help her during practice. I tell her about my knee injury last winter. I tell her I am really sad. I say I might burst into tears during practice. She says, well we all might do that dear.

It’s a hatha class but I expect options for movement and intensity. I think I want intense, that I will elect for the “if you want to take it one step further” options. We sit and breathe for many minutes. We lay down. Marina reminds us that the earth is entirely responsible for supporting our bodies and we can give in to it. With those words I feel a fracture into my sadness. I try to grab it. I can’t. We stretch our toes. I stretch through spiteful cobwebs in down dog. I feel my shallow, arthritic breath. I try to push it down into my belly. I remember that satisfying, oxygenating, alive feeling. I want it.

I can’t wait for the sun to rise. It rises. We tell the kids in our bed, when they join us as they do every morning. Margot arrives first.

Where is she? Margot asks.

On her bed right here, we say.

Can I go to her? Will you come with me?

Yes.

She is cautious. She places a flat palm on her body and feels the coolness, the bones.

Can I listen to her heart? she asks.

You can, I say. But it isn’t beating anymore.

Does her brain still work?

No. All her organs have stopped working.

Will she remember us?

Oh baby. Yes I believe so.

Ruby wakes. We are all crowded under the down and wool. Andy tells Ruby.

Where is she? Ruby asks.

On her bed right here, we say.

Can I go to her? Will you come with me?

Yes.

Ruby rolls into her. She stares into her open eyes. She lays on top of her and says what feels different, what feels the same. I am astonished at her inhibition.

She hugs her. She pushes her fur back and forth. She peeks under the blankets. She cries.

The morning is gray. It is the day before Ruby’s birthday party.

Margot asks where Alice is now. Can she feel? Does she know us?

We talk about spirit. We look at her body together and notice her spirit isn’t there. I wish for a tidy answer about god or heaven but I don’t have one. I ask what they think.

Margot says I am pretty sure I get it. It looks like she’s somewhere else. It feels like she isn’t loving us right now even though she is right here. But, like, she’s not really right here. She’s out there.

Andy calls me outside to choose a place. He uses a jackhammer to break the first foot of frozen earth. The sound pierces the silence in our home. Then he digs. We stay inside. Soon he is shoulder deep in earth, in a t shirt. His breath, tears remind me of the bucks in the field the night before, of Alice in our room, of funerals and birthday parties.

The kids write words, draw pictures, gather things for our ceremony. They seem so content and I feel like enforcing how sad it is. I feel like telling them to stop laughing. I don’t. I appreciate how nothing is off limits to them. Nothing is inappropriate.

We wrap her in a white piece of fabric. My husband carries her from our bedroom to her grave. She looks small.

We cut rope and tie it around her body so we can lower her the six feet. The kids weep. Margot climbs the garden fence in protest. Ruby sits on the frozen mud. Andy and I stand opposite each other, across from the cold hole, our eyes heavy and swollen.

It is messy and the air is so saturated with every bit of our selves – physical and spiritual – that I feel like we could manifest our own storm.

We lower her onto a bed of pine boughs. We place our objects in with her, each dropped a few seconds after the last item. It seems foggy but it isn’t. It seems warm but it isn’t.

Margot wrote a letter that reads My dog died and we don’t know why. I love her. Ruby brought the magnet from her chore chart, the one that means she gave Alice snuggles. She holds that magnet until the end. I didn’t know she had grabbed it. She throws it up in the air like confetti and sobs I love you Alice.

The kids also add her favorite peanut butter treats, her collar. I read a letter I wrote. I toss in my running shoes. We couldn’t find her leash and Andy rightly points out how appropriate that is. We could never find her leash. He curls toward the grave and drops a bunch of dried lavender. Three earth worms emerge from the walls of the grave and fall in.

He asks to bury her by himself. Margot cries and grabs at my pants. Ruby panics, tells us she doesn’t want to leave Alice outside all alone because she never did like being all alone. I sit on the snow with my daughters and we settle into it. Ruby’s wet face pushes into my sternum. She says At least Alice has the wormies with her now.

Margot runs upstairs and into the house. I follow and find her on Alice’s bed. She rolls dog hair between her fingers and moves it around on her leggings. Ruby joins her. Together they sit there for hours.

At the end of yoga, we do this slow series of rolling across a pillow on the floor, first lengthening our side, our back, our other side. It sounds easy and relaxing, like a cooked buttery noodle draped over a fork. Marina asks us to take our time, to move when it feels good. I start on my right side. I am awkward and sticky. Al dente. My breath weak.

I wiggle and adjust. I breathe. I roll. I curl my spine up and then down. I broaden my shoulders. I breathe. I breathe a little deeper. I stiffen and squirm. I wish I was open and willing. I fill hollow, painful places with breath. I grow. I try.

Ruby turns five. She asks for her cake to look like Alice. Margot gets up early, gets dressed in her snow gear and goes outside. Later, I find her footprints lead to Alice’s grave. And there is a snow angel on top.

Feel it.

Love what you love.

Trust.

Be devoted.

Give in.

 

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nuggets: how bout we do some seasonal bits

I keep coming here trying to decide what to publish. I’ve been writing. About the confusion and truth of life and death — the dance of a life ending the day before a fifth birthday. About grieving with my husband and kids and without our dog. A friend pointed this out to me: the most unfair and painful part is that I want my dog’s love, cuddles and walks to get over her own death.

I will share more here about Alice’s passing. Today I share seasonal bits that make me happy. It’s complicated because the joy of cutting a tree is sad without our girl running up the hillside and the fun in the advent scavenger hunt is unbelievably quieter without our girl wagging and hopping beside the kids as they hunt. I’ve noticed that with every painful moment there is something beautiful to witness, that even the pain can be beautiful in its authenticity. And I’ve noticed laughter. Man I love to laugh.

It snowed a few days ago. The big, meandering quiet kind. Margot said:

Wow. I like, FEEL Alice. It’s like she is in the snow or something. Is that what you mean by her spirit? I really think her spirit is in that falling snow.

Yes, that.

:: I do so enjoy decorating and arranging our home this time of year. It’s a solid shot of brightness and levity. Plus we will have a huge houseful this year, making the jolliness extra amplified.

:: My favorite new addition is the tiny, sparkly peacock that I attached to our bird feeder. I wondered if it would detract the droves of finches, nuthatches et al that feed here but on the contrary, they are unaffected. I like to think they enjoy their new always-gazing-over-shoulder pal.

:: We always cut our tree on our friend’s property the weekend after Ruby’s birthday. This year we went on Thanksgiving day because we had our big feast with friends on Wednesday. Honestly, it was a hard day: the big exhale after birthday party, company, Thanksgiving. We settled into the distraction-free realization that Alice wasn’t there. We all kept seeing her, looking for her, hearing her. On the drive home the strap that held the tree to the car whipped in the wind against the window. Margot pointed out that it sounded exactly like Alice’s wagging tail against the inside of the car when she heard us approaching. It did. We drove under a giant full rainbow set against graphite sky. We saw mountain lion tracks and bushes that looked like dogs.

:: Remember the advent calendar I made and posted about and then one reader gently pointed out that 6 rows x 3 pockets = 18, not 24? Ahem. It was a challenge to keep the goodies hidden anyway so we switched to notes with clues that lead the kids to a treasure (special bonus: I can squeeze two notes into the middle pocket because 6×4=24 you know). A daily scavenger hunt! I like to make it an activity: carousel tokens and then we go; a game (that we already own) that we immediately play; our sled and we layer up and head out. This Friday they will open Nutcracker tickets, a particularly special treat this year as our dear friend and neighbor is Clara! Do you have advent activity ideas for me? I’ll take them. I am usually figuring it out about five minutes before the kids pull the clue, nonchalantly fast-walking ahead of them to hide the {mugs of hot cocoa on their desks}.

:: And the holiday stick! It’s a legitimate pain in the ass to hang this thing but totally worth it.

:: The stick’s BFF: the cocksucker. Who has earned year round placement by the front door.

:: Ruby again plans to ask Santa for a glittery watermelon with the addition of a pot of gold. Margot plans to ask for a stuffed kitten the size of her palm. I sincerely adore our Santa photos:

:: Margot jumps rope. Before breakfast, after dinner. She is on a jump roping team and has her first performance this week. Homegirls has been PRACTICING and it’s always awesome except when one of us takes a rope to the face. Before bed:

:: The first advent gift of the season is always a new holiday book. The books are out for the month of December only and are my kids favorite thing to unpack every year. This year I bought The Tomtes’ Christmas Porridge. And a second that I couldn’t resist will be a Christmas gift: Peter and Lotta’s Christmas: A Story.

Other books in our collection:
The Tomten
The Little Christmas Tree
Little Fairy’s Christmas
The Story of the Snow Children
The Bear Who Slept Through Christmas

:: Haaaaaaang a shining star atop the highest booooooooow…

Ruby: Mama? Why does that man saw moooooooooow instead of just saying ‘the highest mountain’? It’s frustrating.

:: Sledding hill bling.

:: Two gifts already under the tree. And Alice, where she liked to lay.

:: Our ski hill opened. It was raining at the base but once we got past the miserable lower lift ride, the top was a wintery wonder. Like so many things in life: there is great reward if you push through shitty weather.

Also: we are lucky to almost always receive handed-down gear for our kids. And we happen to have several skis and ski boots that are now too little for Margot and Ruby. Are you interested? If you pay for shipping, you can have it. Email me at hello @ digthischick . net  <– everything has been claimed! xoxo

:: Wrapping paper making.

:: My kids play the HOW BOUT game every day. This is one example:

How bout I’m a mom and you my kid but you’re a teenager and you have red hair like Ariel.
OK and how bout I’m like really cranky because I want to eat cottage cheese.
Yeah and how bout I don’t like cottage cheese and I want noodles instead.
And how bout we both love to read books.
And so how bout we read books while eating noodles.
Awesome.

This photo’s real life caption: Hey Ruby. How bout we have a dance contest and I’m the judge and I decide who wins are I always pick you.

A few details:

* Holiday stick: ponderosa pinecones, pom poms attached with glue gun. Strung to a found stick with fishing line. Attached to ceiling with fishing line and thumbtacks (this stick is super light, like dry driftwood; a heavier stick would require hooks)

* Tree bling: colored popsicle sticks glued together with regular ol’ white glue. Drilled tiny holes in each and attached to tree branches with embroidery thread.

 

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