Road trip: Napa Valley

Last weekend my dad and stepmom were visiting from Denver, so we decided to meet one of Bonnie’s friends at a winery near Calistoga. It made for a lovely road trip passing through several Napa Valley wineries during harvest season.

The winery we toured, Castello di Amorosa, is pretty spectacular and a little quirky. Though it’s newly built, the castle looks like something you’d find touring ancient properties in Europe.

Outside we were surprised to find goats and sheep running loose among the guests.

Harper loved all the animals, especially the chickens.

We were just cracking up watching these goats munch on grape vines, but apparently the grapes had already been picked so it was OK.

We would have liked to tour the wine caves and other parts of the castle, but we were on toddler time, so we went straight to the tasting. Harper got to color and drink grape juice while the adults tasted wines. I highly recommend this place if you need a kid friendly winery.

After that, we went to a really good restaurant in St. Helena called Archetype. Since it was brunch time, I ordered an omelet and bloody Mary, and everything was fantastic. A little pricey, but I would definitely come back.

We’ve done this kind of trip before (to the Coppola winery), so I’m thinking this could become a fun tradition.

Pumpkin patchin’

We had so many good photos from our trip to the pumpkin patch, so I had to share.

It was a little strange to go on such a hot day (probably 80 degrees but felt like 90 in full sun), but we still had a lot of fun.


Mom: not in Kansas anymore.

Harper was determined to pick up pumpkins, throw them, or pull them in the wagon.

She really liked climbing this hay bale tower, which scared the bejeezus out of me.

She is so fearless. She went all the way to the top.

She also zipped through the hay maze.

They had this crazy pumpkin house that was basically a yurt that we used to get some shade.

Then Harper got to sit on the huge pumpkin.

We took a few pumpkins home for carving later. I might have gone a little pumpkin crazy this year, but I just love them so much!

Fall is really the time I miss the Midwest and the change of seasons. I’ll be going back to Kansas in November for my grandma’s funeral, so I guess I’ll get a taste of it then.

Running again

My last attempts at running never went anywhere, but I’m trying again. This time I’ve been doing a couch-to-5k app that has you do a run/walk program for about 30 minutes 3 times a week. It’s exactly what I need right now. I need someone to tell me what to do, and I love that I can listen to my playlists at the same time. I’m not actually training for a 5k, but I would like to be fit enough to do that distance if I felt like it. 

Sometimes the workouts are actually a little bit too easy, but that’s working for me too. If I feel like doing more I can always run during the walking parts. And it means I can always succeed at these workouts. So many times I’ve tried to do too much too fast and I end up hurting and feeling like I failed. 

So I’ve been doing this for two weeks and I’ve already had a sore knee, a broken toe and two days of headaches. Normally that would be enough to make me quit, but I can’t give up this time. I need to do something to give me my energy back and help me get back in shape. And after a year and a half with Harper I can handle a lot more than I used to!

Saying goodbye to grandma Mason

Earlier this week my beloved grandma, Mary Marie Mason, passed away. Obviously she meant a great deal to me. She was my inspiration as a crafter, wife, mother and overall person. I’m not sure I know a kinder person in this world. 

It was heartbreaking for my mom, who was planning to go visit grandma in just a few days, not to be there. One minute we heard that grandma had been taken to the hospital for something fairly minor and the next minute she was in critical condition with a blood clot. So there was no time for us to say our goodbyes. However, I’m sure she knew how much we loved her. And my uncle said that she seemed at peace knowing that she would probably not survive this ordeal. Perhaps realizing her body was failing her after a broken hip, she got to a place that none of us quite realized. So in a way I feel like she was spared a difficult road of transitions, loss of mobility and memory, and everything painful that comes with old age. 

It’s really easy for me to speak in glowing superlatives about my grandma because she really was that extraordinary of a person. She graduated high school early and went to college, eventually becoming a teacher. She was actually a pretty sweet, diminutive person who stayed home to raise her children and loved the traditionally female realm (cooking, sewing, decorating, church choir…). But she had an extraordinary heart. She never had much in the way of material things, but she would give you anything, anything you needed if she could. She gave up a lot to care for her mentally ill sister and later her husband. And she survived cancer. Twice.

Grandma was incredibly resourceful and thrifty. I don’t think she ever threw away a mayonnaise jar or a Cool Whip tub if she could reuse it. She put shower caps over her bowls to keep food fresh in the fridge. She was a dedicated letter writer and she always tucked a bunch of clipped coupons inside her letters. She sewed her own clothes and even doll clothes and little Barbie-sized pillows for us when we were little. She made the most intricate counted cross-stitch samplers, many of which we have framed and will cherish. Her baking was so comforting — pecan pie at Thanksgiving and lemon bars and frosted sugar cookies at Christmas. Her potato salad was legendary and she always had some in the fridge. 

But you know what I will never forget about grandma? Her hugs. When she saw you she would wrap her arms around you and squeeze you to your bones. And for a long time. It’s like she hugged you from her soul. It just felt good. 

I also always admired my grandparents’ marriage. They were happily married for more than 50 years. They seemed to have mutual interests and mutual respect for each other that you don’t often see. It slays me to think of them walking down a sidewalk holding hands or my grandma washing grandpa’s hair in the sink when he couldn’t anymore. 

My mom was saying how we carry on grandma’s legacy every day by raising Harper. My grandma loved children. She wanted several but was lucky just to be able to have two since she had endometriosis that was not easily treated at the time. I think she was probably most proud of her family — all smart, loving people doing interesting things. I’m only sorry that she couldn’t be here to see more of the next generation born. I guess that’s the hardest thing to accept — that the people you love most won’t live forever and that someday you will have to let them go. 

It’s a nice feeling to know that every time someone orders something with me they will get a little tribute to my grandma and her legacy of art, craft, thrift, and love. 

XO grandma. Miss you already. 

Beach day in Pescadero

Last weekend we really needed a break from all the projects around the house, so we decided to get out of town and take a hike. Except that when we arrived at our starting point, Bean Hollow beach in Pescadero, we realized our hike was going to turn into a day at the beach. So we went with it. 

I knew that Harper, being the adventurous soul that she is, would want to go in the water. But I didn’t realize just how much she would like it, or how eager she would be to walk into some pretty strong waves. 

So we took turns holding her while the waves splashed over her little legs. She kept signing “more” over and over. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen her do that for anything other than food. 

It’s a pretty long drive to Pescadero, but we really liked that beach. It seemed less crowded than most beaches around here, and it had lots of interesting rocks and birds. 

Mike even found a sea anemone. 

The people there seemed really friendly, too. One guy even came up and offered to take some pictures of Mike and Harper. He did a great job!

Afterward we drove to Santa Cruz and had dinner at Pizzeria Avanti. I was a little skeptical when we drove up to this worn strip mall, but the restaurant was nice inside and the food (artichokes, padron peppers, and a sausage pizza) were excellent. 

My sister is coming in less than two weeks and we’re already planning our next adventure to Big Sur!

Mom’s bathroom reveal

The bathroom is finally done!

We had some delayed gratification with it because just as we had all the pieces ready to install, we found a problem with the sink plumbing. We also decided to get help installing the toilet, so we had to have our contractor come by twice before it was all said and done. But it is done, and it is gorgeous!

Just so you can appreciate what an incredible transformation it was, here is what the bathroom looked like before (sorry for the bad photos).

The decor in there was probably as old as me, if not older. Plus, the floor around the toilet was rotted from a previous water leak, so that had to be fixed.

We started by having our contractor remove the ugly tiles and replace the wood subfloor. Then we stripped the dated wallpaper and painted it a lovely blue-gray color.

After having watched a LOT of home improvement shows and read plenty of home improvement blogs, we decided we could lay new tile ourselves. Mike watched some YouTube videos and asked our contractor a bunch of questions and he felt confident he could do the work. The tile turned out to be one of the easiest DIY projects we did, and I think it completely makes the room.

We wanted a kind of antique looking floor, and I love the way the hex tiles complement the more modern style of the other pieces in the room.

The medicine cabinet is from Lowe’s. The sink cabinet and faucet are from IKEA. I love that the cabinet has dividers inside the soft-close drawers.

Harper has already discovered all the goodies inside.

We went on a wild goose chase for a super low-flow toilet and ended up finding it at Lowe’s.

I know it’s a small thing, but it’s amazing how much new outlets and light switches can improve the look of a room.

We are so happy with how this bathroom turned out. We keep asking each other, “Have you looked at the bathroom today?” It’s like an instant stress reliever.

Our last two big projects are the garage organization and the main bathroom remodel. We were just going to redo the bathroom floor and replace the toilet and sink/medicine cabinets. But now we’re wondering if we shouldn’t just redo the whole thing while we’re at it. So we haven’t decided what to do yet, but at least we know we can do the tile ourselves and we’re confident we can improve the style about a thousand percent!

Oh, and if you’re wondering about the cost, it came in around $2,000 for the whole project. I don’t think there’s any question it will pay off in the long run. Here’s the breakdown:

subfloor replacement: $800
help with installation: $300
toilet: $150 (though we’re looking into a rebate that would make it almost free)
sink cabinet: $250
faucet: $70
medicine cabinet: $45
tile + supplies: approx. $250, can you believe that?
wallpaper removal: $20
paint and trim: $65
towel bar: $25
toilet roll holder: $21
outlet + light switch: $25
corner shelf: $35 (can’t find the link but it was Threshold at Target)
Total: $2056

Vintage costumes in mom’s shop

Just had to share some fun items my mom has in her Etsy shop right now. Great options for a Halloween costume party, perhaps?

This mid-century party dress is gorgeous. All you need is a pair of pumps and a highball glass to go with it.

This burlesque outfit is just so great. Not sure what occasion requires it, but someone has to have it.

This Victorian capelet is perfect for an 1800s costume or some kind of Tim Burton character.

And oh my gosh doesn’t this crazy quilted pantsuit crack you up?

We think someone might have sewn it themselves from a ’70s pattern.

Anyway, lots of fun stuff to look at, and she’s adding more all the time.

A few more updates

The house is still a work in progress, but I realized I hadn’t shared some other projects we finished. First, Harper’s room. 

After we painted and replaced all the outlets and light switches, we did some decorating. We added a blackout roller shade from Ikea, which has been great for naps.

Then we put up all the artwork that had been in her room before, including the family photos above her crib. We had to downsize one shelf since her room is smaller than before, but I think everything fits in there perfectly now.

In the kitchen we had one small but very important project. There was a broom closet that randomly used to house a fuse box. The space was pretty much useless, so we painted the inside and added some homemade shelves. Now it’s a great pantry.

And then outside we added some furniture to our deck. Before it was pretty blah, though I loved the built-in bench.

We ended up getting a super bargain on a huge table, nice umbrella and two chairs at Target by purchasing floor models that were half price at the end of the season.

We also added a storage cabinet and a grill, so the deck is a great eating/entertaining space now.

Next up we’re finishing mom’s bathroom, which has been an absolutely incredible transformation. Can’t wait to show you pictures when it’s all done!

18 months

Harper is just about to be 19 months, but I can still get in under the wire!

She is really turning that corner from baby to kid lately. Thankfully she still has that delicious pudge and adorable toes, but in other ways she looks more grown up every day. 

She’s big on imitation. Loves to wear our clothes, which is so cute.

Her hair’s long enough to be pulled back, but whenever I try to do it she just pulls it out.

She’s gone through phases of wanting to sit in her car seat in the middle of the room or climbing up into her stroller just to hang out.

Her appetite is unbelievable. Sometimes it seems like she eats as much as we do.

But I guess you need a lot of calories to fuel toddler energy.

The best part about this age is watching her starting to form language. She has new words all the time: brush (for brushing her teeth), bubbles, duck and various other animals and animal sounds.

Hearing her teeny voice across the room just kills me.

Unfortunately it turned out that we could not escape the 18-month sleep regression. But I think we’re so used to sleeplessness now, it’s just part of the deal.

Harper has a doctor’s appointment soon so we’ll find out how much she’s grown. After several months of going down on the growth chart I think she’s catching up!

Workshop reveal

I can’t believe I can finally say this: The workshop is finished!

Well, nothing is ever truly finished around here. I still have a lot of smaller projects I’d like to do. But I can say I have a functional workspace and it looks amazing.

Here’s what the inside of the workshop looked like before.

Actually, when we first bought the house the workshop didn’t even have lights or electricity. It was basically a garage with a dirty cabinet and a partially finished closet.

It was never really meant to be a finished building, but that’s what I needed so we made do with what we had. Some of the wood in the ceiling looked like it had been salvaged from another building, so I think it was a DIY project from the start.

So, a few weeks ago, Mike and his dad started work on the drywall. It’s something we will probably never DIY again because it’s so much work, but it was a good thing for them to do together. I know Mike learned a lot about construction and got several new tools out of it.

After they sealed holes, patched uneven wood beams and put in insulation, they did the drywall, tape and mud.

That was about when my mom arrived, so we had to move everything that had been jammed in her room outside. What a mess!

Part of the problem (in addition to the workshop being smaller than my old workspace) was that I had never had a chance to go through all my stuff before we moved and get rid of things I didn’t need. I didn’t even know what I didn’t need until I tried to move into the new space.

In the meantime, Mike and I worked on painting the old cabinet and replacing the damaged wood on top. He cut the boards and stained them a nice color.


Check out that crazy old paper inside!

I painted the drawers white and replaced all the hardware.

And then everything was ready. The paint-stained cement floor needed something to make it look a little better, so I got an outdoor rug from Target.

So, drumroll please… here’s how it looks now.

I painted the peg boards lemongrass and then installed them on the back wall, which brings the whole room together. 

I was so excited to use my Pyrex bowls as useful displays. They’re holding all the ribbons, thread, buttons and other sewing supplies my mom and I have between us.

Another corner of the room is my shipping center. Shelves were key to getting the most out of the vertical space in the room.

Sadly my yarn display is almost totally empty! Time to reorder.

I’m glad I had plenty of wall space for artwork and photos, including one of my grandmother. She watches over the shop.

The back of the room is a bit messy, but my felt scraps and extra foam and stuffing have to go somewhere.

I originally thought I would leave the old gray paint on the closet door but now it looks so grungy I think I’m definitely going to paint it. Inside the closet we’re storing all of our signs and things for sales, plus some of mom’s items to sell on eBay. 

Sometime I’d like to paint my desk and the yarn display since nothing matches. Then I’d like to find a vintage wood file cabinet with 4 drawers so I don’t have to have two cabinets precariously stacked.

The final piece is painting the exterior and maybe getting a new light and a sign for the door. I’m picturing something cute that says “Mary Marie Knits world headquarters.”