Swoon quilt

Have I said our house has a funny layout? Our house has a funny layout, but only if you use it the way it was “meant” to be used. If you use it that way, it has three bedrooms and three large living areas.

This is not the way we use it.


We use the big, airy, vaulted “front” room–the one with the old front door in it, and the old coat closet, and three enormous picture windows and a fireplace–as our master bedroom. Which turns it into a four- (or five, if you count the pantry, but we don’t) bedroom house with two large living areas. Much better, don’t you think?

There is space to add a master bathroom, and one day we will, but for now we just have an ENORMOUS master bedroom. Which is pretty cool, to tell the truth.


We have an enormous king size bed to match, now, and my mother made a quilt to go on it. Thanks, mom!


The fabric collection is called Silk Road. I originally bought it intending to use it myself–don’t I buy all fabric with pristine intentions?–but then we were moving and I was getting rid of fabric willy-nilly and I don’t have a way to quilt a king-size quilt or even, really, to sew together a king-size top, and my mother was visiting, and I said mom … do me a solid?


And she did. Thanks, mom.





We go to a pub. It is our local pub. It has a classy tap room. The tap room sits on a hillside overlooking Puget Sound. The tap room is often filled with lots of people, including families with children. The tap room serves the place’s own beer (because this is the microbrewing revolution, after all), and the beers are named after nearby places.

We are insufferably smug about all this. (And going there while we can. Beer isn’t Atkins-friendly.)




Sparks especially.

The leaves



Malus fusca, a native apple






It is not–you’ll hear me say this a lot–the forest I’m used to. Mostly, it’s much, much better. Only the autumn color falls short. Until I take some pictures, and photoshop them, and you can hear the *snap* as my heart breaks when I look at them all at once. Beautiful.

The season


It’s coming, darlings.

What do I mean “it’s coming”? It’s here. The Pacific Northwest’s most beautiful season: mist and frost and the ghostly outlines of treetops. I am totally and completely in love with this time of year here.

Fall food scramble

I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna do Atkins. I’ve never done Atkins. But all my health problems indicate it, so I’m going to try it.

I have a date to begin: Friday, October 21. That’s the day I’m having a blood draw that might have been affected had I begun Atkins earlier, so I am waiting, to get a good baseline.

Anyway: in the meantime I am dealing with my Fall Food Scramble, which is the almost overwhelming desire to stock my pantry and feed everyone in the county before winter sets in. And now, if it’s going to include many of the things I want to cook and serve and eat, they need to be cooked and served and eaten before October 21.


A pork loin. Sparks’ best buddy once said it’s the most underestimate cut of meat in the butcher’s case, and he might be right. I sliced this one into sixteen chops, and used about half to do this:


Layer in the crock pot with diced apples and onions and fresh sage leaves, pour hot chicken broth over, and leave to cook on high for about six hours.

The result is falling-apart tender pork, perfectly seasoned and full of mooshy, yummy cooked apples and onions in a LOT of flavorful broth. It’s sort of like soup. In fact, let’s just call it soup. Ladle up a bowlful and put a little of this alongside:


Cornbread dressing, flavored with more sage and onion. I baked the cornbread and made this from scratch, but can I tell you something? Stovetop’s cornbread dressing is really good. Like, 95% as good. Like, worth it to cancel out the work and take that 5% hit good. Shh. Don’t tell my mom.

Garden gone

Our first summer of vegetable gardening in the Pacific Northwest has come to a close, and it has been instructive.

The winter is milder and the spring is earlier, here, but the summer isn’t as hot and is devilishly dry. And then it starts to rain. But I’m getting ahead of myself.



I took these pictures on October 1. My sauce tomatoes (Juliets) were in full flourish. I was sick of picking and dealing with tomatoes. I turned a goodly lot of them into tomato sauce this way: by halving them, piling them in baking dishes with basil, garlic, olive oil, and salt, and baking at 300F for about 90 minutes, then pressing the result through a sieve to remove the skins and seeds, and salting it until it tasted good.

Tomato sauce made this way tastes damn good, by the way.

Anyway: the small Juliets were profuse, and my big slicers were turning orange.



It started to rain. I hope you can see in this photograph that the vines are dead and the half-ripened fruit is covered in mold. Now: I didn’t stake my plants this year, because I didn’t have two brain cells to rub together, and that certainly made things worse. Still. Mold. All over my slicing tomatoes. Bollocks.


So I turned back to my Juliet plants, saw that their vines were dying too, and Leapt Into Action. I picked everything: green, red, it didn’t matter. The red ones were set aside as the Last Fruit of the Season, and I turned the green ones into pickles. And, because I still have those two jars of refrigerator pickles in my refrigerator (though one is nearly gone, and is tasty, btw), I decided to do something drastic.

To process my green tomato pickle.


I think it worked. At least, all six jars sealed, so I assume they’re safe. The low pH will save me, in any case.


I still had an irritating pile of garden zucchini on my counter (I lose the will to eat it the moment the summer heat goes away), and half a dozen more jars, so I made zucchini dill pickle and processed it, too. And all those jars sealed.


So there it is. My pantry pickles for the year. I’m awfully proud of myself. And next year, I’m staking my tomatoes.


The day we arrived at The Brambles, fourteen months ago, I pronounced that our kitchen had been designed and assembled by drunken monkeys.


It was illuminated by two single-bulb light fixtures set with woefully underpowered fluorescent bulbs (Sparks fixed that almost first thing–he can’t stand a dim kitchen). The laminate floors buckle and warp if a single drop of water falls on them. The cabinets have been re-configured so the sink faces a wall instead of the window, where it used to be … you can tell by the scars on the ceiling. There are gaps between the new cabinets. Their hinges constantly fail, sending doors hanging at wonky angles. The ancient dishwasher wasn’t mounted–and opens flush with the island–and is right beneath the big dish cabinet, so you can’t reach the cabinet to put things away while it’s open. There was a hood over the stove, but it had no filter in it and didn’t vent to the outside, so it was literally useless. It was not combined with a microwave, so the microwave had to sit on the counter, taking up a ton of precious space. The island doesn’t go all the way to the wall, and WHY NOT I’d like to know because nobody ever walks around it in that direction.


And the countertop. Granite tile. I can just hear the previous owner telling his wife: “You want granite counters? I GOT YOUR GRANITE COUNTERS RIGHT HERE!”

I know. I’m snotty and ungrateful. It’s a perfectly okay kitchen, in the grand scheme of things … but remember that our kitchen at Low House was designed by us, exactly the way we wanted it. The whiplash was hard to take.

Sparks’ father installed a new dishwasher–it’s in the same place, but at least this one is quiet and at least the dishes come out cleaner than they went in–and a micro-hood, complete with vent to the outside, so maybe the greasy-dust issues will be ameliorated in future.


The ceilings will probably always be 7.5′ tall, though, and this is the only dining area in the house. No formal dining room (which is fine; I don’t care for them). The yellow paint isn’t my choice, but after repainting literally every other room in the house last summer, I just couldn’t. Not with all those cabinets to work around. So yellow it is, for now … until some day in the future when we rip this monstrosity of a kitchen out and turn it into something sensible. Until then, I guess it looks nice with the winter squash.


And my kitchen towel drawer is a thing of joy and beauty for ever. Amen.