Jenyfer Matthews
Home Meet Jenyfer Blog Books Contact Small Text Large Text
September 12th, 2014
Shiver!

I’m pretty sure it was summer on Monday of this week, but it is definitely fall-going-on-winter today. Overnight lows were in the 40s and it was only 65F in the house this morning! Brrr!

I was doing a decent job of ignoring the maple leaves changing until the temperature dropped so much.

I have also been pretending that I don’t need to can tomatoes this year. I didn’t plant as many plants this year as last year so there haven’t been as many tomatoes but we still aren’t keeping up with eating them fresh. I have made a couple of large pots of tomato sauce for the freezer however there is only so much space in my freezer and I don’t want the tomatoes to go bad so I guess I have no other choice but to break out the canning equipment and get it done.

The apparent change of seasons will probably mean that the tomatoes will stop growing shortly anyway.

I also noticed that my raspberry bushes looked like as if they were planning on producing a second crop. Since there were also many dead canes in the beds I decided that I ought to clear those out while it was obvious which were ones were dead, and also to make it easier for me to get at the berries should they develop. In the process of pulling all the tangled dead canes free from the live ones I apparently disturbed a bees’ nest because I looked down and saw my legs were surrounded by bees/wasps – which miraculously did not sting me once. I retreated a short distance, cleaned up the dead canes I’d tossed in the grass, and left the bees to figure out what had happened to their home on their own.

Another benefit of colder weather – bees get slower and easier to eradicate. (Note: the honey bees and I get along fine)

So all in all I guess I can see some benefit to the cooler temperatures, even if I’m not really ready for them just yet.

September 8th, 2014
Driving My Life Away

People always make it sound like life gets so much easier when your children get older. Get a job when they go back to school, no problem.

Yeah, right.

Life is easier in a way – I don’t have to cut up their food and feed them, I don’t have to bathe them (though I do have to harass my son to bathe!), they can take themselves to the bathroom. However, both are very active and neither of them drive so here is where I am still very involved with them.

My car is in the body shop today to have some rust repaired and though I don’t have my own car, ironically I will be driving more today than probably any other day this week. My schedule today:

7:10am – drop husband at carpool meeting point so I can take his car
7:30am – drop daughter at the tennis center
7:45am – drive myself to work
4:00pm – pick daughter up at tennis center
5:50pm – drop son at soccer practice
6:00pm – pick husband up from carpool meeting point
7:00pm – drop daughter at soccer practice
7:50pm – drop husband at tennis center
8:00pm – pick son up from soccer practice
8:30pm – pick daughter up from soccer practice
9:00pm – pick husband up from tennis center

As much as I like to drive, I’m tired just looking at that schedule. Good thing we live in a relatively small town – I’m working from home tomorrow!

September 5th, 2014
I Give Up

Much like summer, this week has disappeared on me.

It’s been an odd week overall, for me anyway. It was a short week yet it felt incredibly long. There were long periods of waiting (and boredom) punctuated with intense moments of hurry-up-and-get-it-done.

For a while I tried to keep on top of everything but it quickly became clear that it wasn’t going to work so I just let go. My capitulation hasn’t changed anything much that I can tell.

It was the children’s first week of school. I can’t say I am particularly looking forward to the school year – yes, they will be occupied in the daytime but they will also demand more of my attention in the evening with their school work. As will all the on-going housework chores. I only managed to cook twice this week. I’m researching crock-pot recipes now.

Not only are the wooden deck chairs I started to strip a couple of months back still sitting in the garage only half way through the process, my stairs aren’t yet finished either. Actually – to be specific, the treads are more or less done but the landing is giving me problems now. The landing is parquet and the gel stain did not look good on the landing the way I applied it to the treads so I wiped it off – however, the stain left splotches on the parquet. Now I need to remove as much stain as I can and figure out how to go foward. I have the feeling that I’ll be using my sander and going back to using the original liquid stain I got. The landing doesn’t have to be exactly the same as the stairs but I certainly want it to look nice.

As tired as I am after I work all day, run the kids around to their activities, and do a few things around the house (laundry, cooking) I am motivated to get the stairs finished. That project has dragged on long enough.

Work is going to get super busy shortly as well. Though I am a planner by nature, I think I’m going to have to take things one-day-at-a-time in order to survive.

August 29th, 2014
Time Flies

Here we are at the end of August, Labor Day weekend and the end of summer for all practical purposes upon us. Where on earth did the summer go?

I don’t know about you, but it doesn’t really even feel like I had an actual summer. Part of it was the weather – summer starting a bit late and being cooler than normal – and part of it was my schedule. Seven nearly back-to-back tennis tournaments through June and July will do that to you. I enjoyed myself as much as you can while driving to and fro across states, getting up earlier than I’d like for early morning match times, and making new friends with other tennis parents, but there are times when I can’t quite recall where I was when a particular event happened. It was all a bit of a whirlwind.

August hasn’t been much better with soccer getting started now. My daughter had her first game the week before the club’s annual end-of-summer tournament which normally kicks off the season. That tournament was this past weekend and the children played 8 games between them. Both their teams did very well (my son’s team won and my daughter’s team lost in the final) but it is surprising how exhausting it can be just to stand on the sidelines and watch. Maybe it isn’t so surprising when you have to be at the fields from 7am to 4pm each day.

Is it any wonder I’ve been a bit remiss in my blogging schedule lately?

Add into the mix my new job. Overall things have been going very well considering I haven’t worked regularly since 1997! Working has impacted my ability to work on projects at home – which I expected – but not necessarily as much as I expected. Just goes to show how much time I wasted when I had the full day at my disposal! I’m making progress on refinishing my stairs – which is taking longer than I expected though the drying time would have been a factor whether I was home or not. I’m also making progress on the quilt I started this summer, quilting one or two blocks an evening. Steady as she goes. Fancy cooking has gone out the window but I never much loved cooking anyway!

School starts next week which many parents look forward to, but I’m slightly ambivalent. Having the children back in some sort of daily routine is a good thing – adding in yet another layer of stuff that I need to stay on top of with regard to keeping them on track with their school work and activities, not so much. Have I ever mentioned that my daughter did a home-schooling tennis academy last year? She’s doing it again this year too…

This post is beginning to sound like a bit whiney, and it wasn’t meant to. I’m busy – everyone is busy. Life goes on. I’m trying to enjoy the journey each and every day because (other than death!) the destination point keeps changing.

Keep on keeping on… Maybe I’ll even get back to writing sometime too…

August 27th, 2014
Summer Garden

It has been a strange summer for growing things. Winter was so long and summer got a late start. Plants (mostly) came back and bloomed, but in sort of strange intervals. I thought my tulips were never going to come up and when they did it was starting to get seriously warm out. The peonies bloomed a bit late and still have some deadheads on them, late in August.

My hydrangea died back so far this winter that it still hasn’t bloomed and probably won’t this year.

The vegetable garden hasn’t done much better but much of that is on me for getting it put in late. The tomato plants once again sneer at their support cages and have grown into an nearly impenetrable jungle, however they haven’t actually produced very much. The strawberries seem to go in fits and starts – I think the chipmunks must have moved along because the berries that have been growing lately have mostly been attacked by slugs and ants before I notice them.

(Many of my garden’s shortcomings this year no doubt come down to my being a bit too busy to pay as much attention to it as I should be.)

Aside from the raspberries, I have had one bumper crop this year: society garlic.

society garlic

When we first bought this house, the entire yard was seriously overgrown. I spent my first summer mostly just digging things up and ripping them out. As I went around I kept finding these small, mystery bulbs. I had no idea what they were until some of them bloomed that first year. Since they were pretty, I decided to relocate them in a more orderly fashion when I ran across them. They seem to approve.

I don’t notice any scent from them, but they certainly are pretty.

society garlic2

August 21st, 2014
Ugh

Still working on the stairs – applying the sealant. Even though it is a “quick drying” water-based variety, it is hardly a quick process. If I weren’t working, I could apply a coat in the morning after everyone had left for the day, wait an hour, and then apply another coat. Since I am applying it in the evenings, I am only getting one coat on a day – which I am telling myself is just fine because it has time to thoroughly dry between coats but it certainly does extend the process.

And I still have five naked treads and the landing left to stain and seal. Not to mention painting all the risers and trim.

Ugh.

There are three steps near the bottom that have spindles as well. I had taped off the spindles when I was stripping the original finish and that tape was still on the spindles when I applied the stain – and the first few coats of finish. I decided last night that maybe it wasn’t such a great idea to leave that tape on while I was doing the sealant. I was right – the tape was difficult to peel off and it took a layer of sealant with it not to mention some of the stain.

Ugh.

Oh well – I guess I’ll get to do a bit of touching up on those spots when I do the next set of treads.

I’m hoping to get the last coat of sealant on tomorrow (I’m taking the evening off) and let it dry over the weekend to “cure”. Then I’ll start the process all over again with the remaining steps. I sure hope that it not only looks nice when I’m done but that it also holds up decently. If it doesn’t, I’m not too proud to admit I might cry.

Have to keep reminding myself how much I disliked the white carpet…

August 15th, 2014
One Step at a Time

My family was gone much of the week so I thought I would take advantage of both the weather – warm enough to open windows yet cool enough not to be uncomfortable – and their absence to finally finally finally get going on finishing my stairs. You know – from when I pulled up the carpet over a year ago and then stripped them down to the bare wood.

My plan was this: I would dust them off, apply wood conditioner, apply stain, then seal them. (I did every other step so that I could still get up and down the stairs in the meantime.) I wasn’t sure if I would be able to get *all* of the steps done while they were away but I had hopes.

HA!!

I applied the liquid stain according to the directions and was fairly disappointed with the results. Not only do the treads of the stairs themselves have different grain patterns but they were accepting the stain color differently as well. Some treats looked pretty good but others were blotchy. I can accept and embrace a “rustic” look but this just look flat out bad. I tried to work with it to get the coverage more even but the coverage wasn’t even and the color wasn’t what I wanted.

Hmmm…

Then I decided that maybe what I needed to try was a gel stain. These sorts of stains work better on wood like pine (which I suspect many of my treads are made of) because they don’t really soak in – they pretty much just stay on top. The directions said to apply, wait a few minutes and then wipe off the excess.

The only problem with following the instructions in this case was that nothing seemed to be staying on the treads – it was all wiping off. I was getting no where in a hurry.

I was just about to resign myself to just painting the treads when I decided to give it one last try. I applied the gel stain to the look I wanted – fairly thick, but still thin enough to see some of the wood grain. I wiped it on and then lightly feathered it with a clean, dry stain pad to get off any excess and to blend any wiping marks. Then instead of wiping any of it off, I just left it there to dry.

I applied it on Tuesday night and hoped that it would be dry by the time the troops came home on Thursday afternoon. It was still sticky 24 hours later. I had opened the windows because of the fumes and it had been cool and rainy so the next day I turned on the heater while I was at work to try and encourage the drying process. Still a bit sticky. I then put a couple of fans in the stairwell to try and hurry things along.

It is Friday afternoon and they are finally *mostly* dry. The ones closest to the fans are the closest to being dry, the ones in the middle are still a titch sticky.

(I haven’t taken any pictures yet because I’m still not confident that I won’t end up stripping them and starting over with paint!)

But that isn’t the end of the story of course – not only do I have to apply the polyurethane sealant coating to these steps but I have to start the process over with the ones that I skipped.

Now that I have started I might perhaps maybe finish this before it is too cold to open the windows for ventilation but the way the weather is acting it will be a close thing!

A more successful project was fixing my garage door – my husband backed into it a couple of months ago and knocked one of the wheels off the track. I got it back on. Yay me :)

August 11th, 2014
Gotta Start Somewhere

I do believe this is the sum total of my blackberry crop this year:

blackberries

I already ate the ripe one. Tasted just like I expected it to :)

August 6th, 2014
Tasty Stop

The children really wanted to stop in the Upper Peninsula on the way home from our vacation in Minnesota, having had so many happy memories from there from our short stop a couple of years ago, but it was either cut time out of our vacation to make that happen or just skip it. No one wanted to cut our time short so we had to just pass through this time.

But I did make one stop.

The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is known for pasties. I’ve been through the UP several times and never had a pastie and the children rejected them on our last trip through. My son covered some Michigan history at school in the meantime however so was more than willing to stop and try a one.

We ended up stopping at Muldoon’s in Munising, which claims to have been voted the best pastie place in the UP. I can’t personally verify that but their chicken pastie was pretty darned tasty.

0804141728 (2)

I know, I know – I have nothing to compare it to since it was my first pastie but it did set the bar pretty high to start off.

I’m willing to go back sometime to do some blind taste testing as well. Anyone in?

August 2nd, 2014
Loon-y

It’s been a great week overall – the kind of vacation that may not be long in duration but has a sort of timeless quality about it that makes it feel as if we’ve been here a longer time that we have. I had all these great intentions about getting some writing done in the evenings after everyone settled down but that never happened. Instead I indulged myself in some great books and was pretty much the first one to crash every night about about 9:30pm. Pure indulgence.

On a normal, typical trip to Minnesota we’d have spent equal time hiking trails in the woods as we did splashing in a lake, but this year has been so wet that the bugs in the woods would likely eat us alive so we haven’t stepped one foot into the woods. Instead, we’ve spent most of our time near the water and I’ve been attempting to burn off all the calories from my step-mother’s excellent cooking and desserts by paddling my kayak around. We even got out on Lake Superior once. Paddling in the big lake is always a thrill even when the morning is so cool (only 42F!) that my fingers went numb!

The other day I was paddling around an inland lake when I noticed a couple of loons swimming around one edge. I decided to try and get a little closer to see if I could get a picture. That’s when I noticed they had a baby with them.

Tom Lake 2014 1

I had been hearing the loons calling to one another on and off all day but the thing that drew my attention to them in that moment was that an eagle had just swooped down very low near them and caught itself a fish. The loons may have been a bit uptight about that eagle swooping so low near them already and then here comes a dumb city girl with a camera.

It was quite windy out and and I was trying to get close enough to get a good picture as the parents swam around their baby, my kayak started drifting. You would think that perhaps I had learned my lesson about bird-parents when I tried to rescue that baby robin a few weeks ago – if you think robins get mad it you get too close to them try pissing off a couple of loons.

I was being quiet and just watching them, but my kayak drifted close enough that those loons weren’t having it. Before I knew it, both parents stood up on the water and started flapping their wings and calling quite loudly and then dove. One came up on the far side of my kayak so I had one large angry bird on either side of me. Then they started flapping and calling again. Both of them then started flying away from me thank goodness.

Tom Lake 2014 2

Loons are pretty large birds up close – had they taken the approach of the robins I’d likely have capsized my kayak and had a chunk taken out of me besides. When they tried to divert my attention by flying away I took that as my cue to vacate the area as quickly as possible.

Only a couple days left of our time there before we head back to Michigan. I’m going to spend it watching the wildlife from a safe and respectful distance!