Home renovation updates

Since it’s been a little while since I’ve showed any updates of our ongoing refurbishing project, I wanted to take some time to share the goings-on of the summer over at the house. We (and by we I mean mostly Robin and our neighbor, Steve) have been working hard throughout the summer and giving a lot of love to the place. Here’s a little summary of what all has been happening.


Our metal roof is all completed, except for the carport, which will be done later. I think the roof looks marvelous. Robin and Steve spent most of the summer on this project, and we had some much-appreciated help from family and friends as well. See this post: https://simplyactualized.wordpress.com/2014/06/13/354/ for an earlier look at the roofing project. It only took one day for me, watching from my perch on the top peak as my husband maneuvered his way across the roof clinging to the ridgeline, to decide that roofing is no fun at all. I have a new respect for those who do it for a living.

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These pictures give you a little bit of an idea of how the backyard looked earlier in the summer. Everything was/is very overgrown.


We cut down a lot of brush, which left the yard looking more like this:


We rented a brush chipper for a Saturday (you can see it in the left-hand picture above, and fed it all day. This is the current state of affairs, after clearing out most of the bigger piles. Goodbye secret garden; hello wasteland.


Here’s our ending pile of mulch:


Robin and friends also cut down 2 dead/unhealthy trees along the back alley. We had to fell them along the alley and into the street, but my husband is a talented tree-feller and all went well.


I guarded the street to make sure no cars came through…


2nd floor deck:

Here are the after shots of the deck I had promised in an earlier post, but this the 2nd floor view. Robin and Steve had to replace a lot of the wood in the kitchen underneath the deck, and all of the flooring. It looks great now.



The kitchen had to be gutted. I look on as something of a bystander and think it progressively looks worse and worse. That’s the way home renovation is. It gets worse before it gets better.

Here’s the original:

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And here it is now:


I am so excited to see the finished product. We did get to see the original house siding in the process, because the kitchen  was added on to where the original back porch used to be. I loved being able to have that small connection to the way the house used to be, back in the day.


I also got to see the old cistern under the house when we pulled up the kitchen flooring. I love it! How cool would it be to make this into a root cellar and have a dumbwaiter/trapdoor/elevator that goes from the kitchen down into it? My practical husband convinces me this is not a great idea and that I wouldn’t like it very much in the end. But still… pretty interesting concept, right? We may be able to use it as a root cellar and access it from the basement, however. I hope so.


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While Steve and Robin pulled down sheet rock and old siding, I took doors and hardware off cabinets to begin to prep them for painting. So fun!


Some kitchen inspiration: http://www.decorpad.com/photo.htm?photoId=90610

Sally Wheat Interiors - kitchens - brick, floors, seagrass, counter stools, light gray, kitchen cabinets, farmhouse sink, farmhouse, dining table, Windsor, chairs, seagrass barstools, seagrass counter stools, gray seagrass bar stools, gray seagrass barstools, gray seagrass counter stools, brick floor, brick kitchen floor, gray cabinets, gray kitchen cabinets,


We picked them up last weekend! 20 Simonton windows, made in Parkersburg, WV. Who knew there were so, so many types of windows to choose from? These seem like a good mix of quality/affordability, and we are happy with them. Getting them home from Hagerstown was a bit tricky…

IMG_20140912_162722648_HDR IMG_20140912_162749217 IMG_20140912_163336173 IMG_20140912_163427797        On the right-hand picture above you can see Robin’s arm through the back window steadying the load.

That’s all for now. We are doing a lot of kitchen planning/dreaming/drawing/testing right now, and I’ll try to share a post about that soon. Until then…

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Fundraiser Giveaways!

Hello all,

Today my post is going to be short and sweet.

This is happening:


It’s a state-wide hike to raise money for Safe Haven Child Advocacy Center, where I work, as well as other Child Advocacy Centers (CACs) around the state. You can get more information about what we do at Safe Haven here: http://www.childhswv.org/prog/cac.htm and more information about the state-wide CAC network at http://wvcan.org/.

So, I’m looking forward to participating in our local hike on Sept. 6th, at Cacapon State Park, and I’d love to see a bunch of local people come out and participate. It’s going to be a lot of fun. I’m also hoping to raise some funds for my hiking team. So, here’s the plan. I’m going to host a drawing and give away several knitted items to hikers/fundraisers over the next week and a half leading up to the hike. Here they are:

Option 1: Blue honeycomb hat


Option 2: Purple woodcutter fingerless gloves (unisex)


Option 3: Brown cabled hat (unisex)


Option 4:  a custom-made knitted accessory (hat, gloves, scarf, cowl) 

All you have to do to enter the drawing is leave me a message here on the blog or on facebook letting me know 1) that you have registered as a hiker or donated to my hiking team (Team Safe Haven) and 2) which of the options you are interested in. I’ll pick a name for each option by Sept. 4th and let you know who the winners are!

Most importantly, here’s the website to register: http://www.wvcanclimb.org/3/register.htm. And here’s the site to donate to me and my team: http://www.wvcanclimb.org/participant/102927.

Thanks to all! It’s been such a fun, crazy, busy summer… I’ll try to post again soon with house updates. There’s certainly a lot happening.

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Roofing, vegetables, and gut bacteria

It’s officially summer in my book, even though the calendar hasn’t declared it yet. This is how I know:



Those are cauliflower heads on the right. I know they don’t look like the ones I buy at Aldi, but I am proud of them nonetheless. I’m not sure why, but I’ve always been determined to try growing cauliflower. It’s not easy to grow, I’m learning, they are super finicky. But this year I got them out early and we have had a decent amount of rain and cooler weather, so they did produce heads. Although they aren’t perfect, they are a start and I will try them and hopefully improve my technique next year. I have one more in the garden and it looks delightfully happy right now.

This is another reason I know summer is here…. fresh herbs on salad. Yum.IMG_20140606_203148140

Reason number 3:



We rode the bike up to my parent’s house for my friend Sandra’s wedding last weekend. It was great fun, and 4 hours is the perfect long-distance ride in my opinion. The tailbone gets a little sore but it’s manageable. The weather was perfect and Sandra had a lovely wedding. It was strange but quite fun to have lots of Canadian friends in my parents’ backyard (the wedding was held there – it’s the property of Bald Eagle Camp where the groom worked).

The big project in these parts right now is putting the new roof on our new house. It’s forest green standing seam metal roofing. It’s beautiful. But roofing is not easy. Thankfully, we are blessed with wonderful friends, neighbors, and family who congregated over several days to help us. Here’s the first day: The shingles are coming off.

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Everyone helped in a variety of ways….

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On Wed. we shoveled all the old shingles into a trailer and our new neighbor took them to the dump for us:


Two weeks later, the first strip of metal goes up:


The project is still ongoing, but the roof looks wonderful so far….


Meanwhile in the backyard….



For those of you who saw my inquiry on facebook about a brush chipper, this is why. And this is an old photo. Since then we’ve done some chainsaw work back there and the whole yard is full of brush piles. But that’s a good thing.

Also Steve and Robin have been working on the upstairs patio and have replaced all the rotted wood (the kitchen roof/patio floor) with new wood. It looks great. I’ll try to post an after pic soon.

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Random wild rose bush among all the grown up honeysuckle and shrubs.


And the garden is so gorgeous right now I can’t help posting more pictures of it.

The tomatoes on the left actually grew there of their own accord. We grew several kinds of heirlooms last year and some of the tomatoes got blight and rotted in the garden. This year there were little tomato plants everywhere. It’ll be fun to see what varieties end up bearing fruit.

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A lot of my peas got eaten by little Peter Rabbits. Who deserve to be shot. I have no compassion for garden foragers. But look at the cabbages! I’ve never grown cabbages that have been this happy.


I see some good homemade sauerkraut in  our future. So good for the gut microbiome. That’s my new health word lately. Google it. It’s interesting. 🙂 A local school social worker in Morgan County has a sardines club where students, teachers, and school staff get together to eat sardines. I think they should add sauerkraut to the club menu as well. I think it’s a great way to encourage awareness of how food can effect our physical health and, as a result, our mental health.

And this is just a photo of my latest knitting project. Another shawl in the works. No, it’s not WV colors; I’m not that big of a football fan. The light is a little off. It’s actually purple.


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When it’s not “Happy Mother’s Day”

I was planning to write a post for Mother’s Day, but wasn’t able to complete it that day. Mother’s Day was not easy for me this year and in writing a post I guess I wanted to commemorate my own, very short, experience of motherhood, and to recognize the many, many layers of emotion that this day can bring to women in all sorts of different circumstances.

Maybe I am the only person who ever took the creation of a family for granted, as in: you decide to have babies, you get pregnant, then you have a family. It’s easy, for most people. Well, the last year has taught me how ignorant I was about this whole process.  This journey of creating a family is a sacred, painful, minefield of emotion. It is beautiful and terrifying all at the same time. It is not for the faint of heart.

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I think it’s only the grace of God that helps those of us who have experienced loss along the way, whether through the death of a child, infertility, or another set of difficult circumstances, to keep going. It takes so much courage to stay in this place of vulnerability, to keep going, to try again. It’s an emotional roller-coaster where sometimes the presence and peace of God is so near and sometimes the anger and fear surge up in waves.


This is where I commemorated Mother’s Day. I miss Joseph so much, but I’m glad to have a place where I can come, sit, and remember him. Tending a grave is a poor substitute for holding a baby in your arms, but it is a way to pour out a little bit of the love and care we have for him.

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And to the women for whom Mother’s Day, for whatever reason, carries pain and heartache – I pray that the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts.

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Plant Babies Season 3, and other Signs of Summer

I’m having some frustrations with WordPress right now, which is why the sunset Serengeti picture is on my heading instead of the cherry tree that I wanted to post. Are there any WordPress bloggers out there (free version) with tips on how to work the logistics of the blog layout? It’s not very user-friendly, or maybe I am just blog-design challenged.

Anyway, I have some photos and happenings that I want to share with you.



This is a shawl in the blocking process, made of natural-colored alpaca from a lovely alpaca-farm lady we met at the Waterford craft fair several years ago. I wanted her yarn so badly but couldn’t afford it, and when she learned we were both students she gave me two skeins for the price of one, plus the shawl pattern, saying “I have kids in college too.” It was so sweet of her and I want to go back this year and wear the shawl and tell her thank you for her investment in young, poor knitters.

This picture also demonstrates the knitter hell known as blocking lace, for non-knitters that means washing a shawl/other lace piece and pinning it down into the shape you want it to be. It involves lots of stretching and measuring and in my case, lots and lots of pins (I don’t have blocking wires). It also requires a large blocking surface. I bought a foam Cars puzzle at Walmart that works wonderfully. But blocking is still one of my least favorite things to do. The shawl is beautiful, though. If you go to my last post you can see a photo of me wearing it, hunched over the log cabin quilt.


There are also a lot of exciting spring things happening around here. We planted our seedlings (plant babies) a few weeks ago. We got a bit of a late start on them and they aren’t really doing as well as I hoped. But they are holding on. Here’s Robin demonstrating our technique of planting seedlings – using scrap paper rolled and stapled into pots.



All their lovely little labels….


Also, I got out in the garden finally this week and planted the early stuff – cabbage, cauliflower, greens (spinach, chard, kale, collards, pak choy), broccoli, and onions.


The poor shade cover looks a little beat up from last winter…


Here are the plant babies now. Image


And a picture of the backyard cherry tree just because (this is the one I kept trying to add to my header). I think the house looks romantic through the cherry blossoms… 


And speaking of houses, this blog might just become about renovation along with knitting and gardens and such. Because, through a series of amazing circumstances that confirms God’s provision all over again, we now own this: Image

Yes, that is a blue tarp under the snow on that addition roof, and yes, the right-hand porch pillar is shorter than the left. It’s “a bit of a fixer-upper” – to quote Frozen – but it’s beautiful and we feel up to the challenge. Here’s some of the work so far:



New floor joists and new beam and flashing under the window in the family room to replace the areas damaged by water from the leaking addition roof. Robin and our neighbor Steve have been doing everything themselves and they are doing a really nice job.




I’m going to have to learn to take better before and after pictures. They also did a lot of work in the kitchen but I don’t have photos of that yet. We are really, really excited about this house and it’s large backyard. I’ll post some pics of that soon, too. Our community group came over a few nights ago and helped clear some of the brush, cut down a tree, and take down the arbor. Then we ate dinner and roasted smore’s over the brush fire. I see a wonderful summer ahead…

Robin and I are heading up to Camden, NJ tomorrow with a group from our church to do some renovation projects for a partner church up there. I’m excited, but feeling apprehensive because it’s the first time I’ve been on the going end of a short-term mission trip. They make me feel a little queasy. I think the apprehension comes from not knowing whether or not there will be anything for me to do that is actually helpful. But… I’m going to put aside this crazy need to be considered valuable and just go and do what I can and enjoy it. That’s much more healthy anyway.

Until next time…


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Traditions Worth Keeping

Robin and I help out with the 2-3 year old class at church. It’s really, really fun. Their chatter and their ideas about life make me laugh many times. Today the story was about how Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, and how Jesus tells us to serve (help) others. I asked how they help their moms at home and one little guy says, “I build Lego houses.” I’m not sure he gets the concept yet.

Then the message was about service as well. The pastor spoke about washing feet as a symbol of how we are to sacrificially serve the church. I sat there in my theater seat remembering those years of growing up when foot washing was not a symbolic rendering of Biblical truth, but a very real and literal practice. More literal than I wanted it to be most of the time. Growing up in the Mennonite church/community that I did meant that foot washing was a regular part of communion. Every quarter or so, we would break the bread, drink the juice, and then split up by gender with a few basins of warm water to take turns washing the feet of others. As a teenager, this was not something I looked forward to or appreciated. Most of the time I had forgotten to take off the nail polish and was afraid I would end up paired with the pastor’s wife. It always felt awkward to kneel in front of someone and bath their feet. How do I manage the towel? What if I’m too fast or too slow? And when you are symbolically washing someone’s feet, do you dry between their toes? I would breathe a sigh of relief when it was over.

Looking back on it now, however, I feel steeped in a sense of nostalgia and the recognition that this was/is a valuable part of my heritage. I miss it. I remember the women lined up, barefoot and singing, waiting their turn at the basin. I remember the soft conversation, the post foot-washing hugs, and the gentle reassurances of love and prayers. I think it is valuable to re-enact Christ’s example of service. It’s a good reminder again to treasure those things about my growing-up experience of church and culture that are beautiful and valuable.

Here’s another one: quilting.


Robin and I went up to Lancaster a few weeks ago to see my aunt Ada, and mom came too with a quilt – my Christmas present – in tow. It was amazing to me how that quilt was like a magnet for female family members: aunts, grandmas, and even distant cousins. They all appeared, bearing thimbles, needles, scissors, and a hunger for the latest updates on everyone’s lives. We worked on it for two days.


By the time we left it was almost done:


Even Robin got it on it briefly, substituting his Leatherman for a thimble: IMG_20140305_093025IMG_20140305_093122

I remember as a little girl, going to sewing circle with Mom or Grandma, and running around the quilts and sewing machines with the other little kiddos. I never really thought about why “sewing circle” happened or why women would come together around the quilt frame. Looking at it now I think that it’s probably because someone realized that young stay-at-home mothers need to get out of the house. It’s brilliant, really.

I marveled to be part of a quilting party again. This is community in its purest sense. In the midst of listening to an audiobook of Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Grandma’s persistent chime of “Let’s vickle” (roll the quilt frame), we can find ourselves a part of the project, a part of the work of art, a part of the conversation.

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We all need that, don’t we? Watch out Eastern Panhandle women, because I want to do this here. It’s a tradition worth holding on to.

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Some catching up to do….

A year and a half. That’s how long it’s been since I’ve posted anything to this blog. I have great excuses, though. Full-time work, full-time graduate school, and just full-time life in general. There have been lots of twists and turns throughout the last year and a half. Since I started working only 24 hours a week as of January 1st, I have been hoping to blog again. When you wait a year and a half between posts, though, where do you start up again? I feel like I have so much material, so many projects, and so many pictures to share. I guess I will just start with… today.




Here I’m attempting to dig us out. I think we had about 14-16 inches.


The dogs had mixed ideas about all the powdery stuff. Penny ran back to the house as fast as she could…

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Buddy thought it was a new playground.


As for the humans, we mostly sequestered ourselves indoors, although we did make a quick trip out for a few supplies. Walmart is actually a relatively calm place in the midst of a blizzard. We got stuck on the way back and got to experience the best and the worst of Martinsburg, as one man climbed out of his Subaru to help us push and another man swore at him for stopping in the intersection. When the first man replied, “If you would have come and helped us push we would have been out of here five minutes ago,” the second man swore some more, backed his Jetta with chains into a nearby parking lot, and sped away.

I finished painting some child-sized blocks today. Robin made them out of some wood he had on hand and I think they are adorable. Going to add a coat of shellac and then add them to our slowly-accumulating stash of kiddo toys.

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I also have done quite a lot of knitting in the last year and half (no surprise there) and will try to slowly add photos of some of my favorite projects as time allows. This is Array, knit in bulky yarn (Bernat wool I think), and it’s been a really great cowl for the winter we have had so far. It’s toasty.

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