Thursday, August 28, 2014

Sleeping in a Tree House, Living in Small Spaces

I will never:

     go to Antarctica
     sail around the world
     climb a mountain
     go hang-gliding.

I like my adventures to include electricity, a bed, and minimal exertion. 

This is as close as I could get to my old fantasy of living like Swiss Family Robinson. I slept in a tree house!

the info is found in the link above

 I was in the trees as tall pines surrounded us and one ran through the middle of the house.  

It had almost all of the comforts of home--a mini fridge to chill our wine, a coffee maker for the morning, and continental breakfast provided by our hosts. 

This was like having a sleep-over in a play house.

Two hundred snug feet in this octagonal "room" included a sleeping nook,  round table with two chairs, a love seat and recliner, desk, and mini entertainment center. It had almost everything a person would need.

Skylights above the bed gave a good view of stars peeking through the foliage. 

The shower and toilet were in a cute little cabin at the bottom of the stairs, which was fine for one night. 

I tried out all of the space in the tree house. Whether I read in the recliner, or sat at the table, I loved seeing waving tree limbs. The light filtered through them which would have made the space dim but for the large windows.

imagined living in it. decided I could do without a desk, but would need a small stove and mini-sink in place of the buffet.  I'd have to cut my wardrobe by two-thirds and stash it in roll out drawers under the bed. Could I make do with just curio shelves for books?  Which twelve books would I choose?

I've always loved small cozy spaces. Maybe that comes from having three sisters and little privacy. In the house I lived in on Whidbey Island, I took over a large closet as my retreat. In another, I turned the old coal room into my sewing cubby.

When we first moved to Dobson we rented a small home, and for the first two weeks survived with 2 pots, 2 plates, etc, a pair of air mattresses for beds, camping chairs and TV trays. It was so simple!

As I contemplate down-sizing through my "golden" years, I imagine a smaller town home next. If I can avoid the old folks home, I fantasize building a tiny house attached to one of my daughters' homes. 

I'd like to talk to some folks who have downsized from the 2011 average US home size of 2,480 square feet to about 300 square feet. Minimalistic spaces preclude abundant goods, but not beauty.  Would I be just as happy with one decorative teapot instead of four? 

I want to feel cozy, but not confined. The apartment above might be just a bit too small, but isn't it cool? Watch the video, everything is hidden behind the wooden wall.  

The tree house gave me a sense of what living small would be like. As an experiment, I'd give it a try. Would you? 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Sprigs: No Sour Grapes

Because Bill captured the squirrel king and banished him, we get to enjoy the grapes this year.

So I take a grape break every time I'm in the yard. I stand at the bush and pick just one at a time, the fattest, south facing ones, because they've soaked up the most sun.  The skin is dusky, the flesh golden. 

It's warm in my mouth. I savor the smell and intense flavor. 

They're old fashioned Concords, with big seeds and tough, bitter skin. So I have to concentrate while eating them, straining the sweet pulp through my teeth, spitting out what's not edible. 

The first bite transported me more than half a century to southern Missouri.   

As children, my sister and I spent a week with  my great Uncle Elmer and Aunt Jesse. He was a tall thin man. It seemed to me he never changed his clothes, although the short sleeve button-down shirt was always sharply pressed, with a cigar sticking out of the pocket. The brown trousers had one knife pleat and were cinched with a brown leather belt.  Whenever he walked out the door, he grabbed his woven straw fedora hat. 

When my great aunt got tired of us, she sent us outside with Elmer. He took us to the garden. We picked a few beans, tucked a couple of tomatoes into the sack we made with the hems of our blouses. The concord grape arbor was my favorite spot, because the vines grew up and over the grassy walk. The clusters hung down, but too high for us, so Uncle Elmer would reach up and cut off a bunch with his pocket knife. 

The current grapes bring twice the pleasure because of the memory.

What produce from summer whisks you away to another time and place?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Memory Lane

I just returned from a trip down memory lane. 

I revisited Whidbey Island where I lived briefly in 1968. I was pleased to see that most of the changes were for the better. 

 The waterfront town of Langley is lively and lovely. We enjoyed a rooftop lunch and did a little shopping. 

The old wooden-floor grocery has been remodeled, upscaled, and expanded. 

While walking around town I remembered the milestone that took place there. Twice, not just once, I flunked the road portion of my test for a driver's license.

as it looks today

While parallel parking in front of the Star Store, I miraculously managed to get into a space. But when I needed to leave the spot I bumped the car behind me: immediate end of test, and no license. 

The second time, I was driving my dad's old green Chevy truck with the transmission on the steering column.  Going up this hill in second instead of first gear I stalled. Stopping dead in (potential) traffic forced the examiner to frown, fret, and flunk me. 

Oh well, there wasn't anywhere on Whidbey I wanted to go back then anyway. And I wouldn't need (and couldn't have) a car when I went to college that fall.

In the intervening forty-six years I eventually earned a driver's license, and Langley transformed itself into a charming village.  Some things improve with time!


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Sprigs: Thriving City Gardens

Last fall we visited Chicago. Our friends live in a neighborhood that could be described as failing to thrive.  A majority of the inhabitants struggle with high drop-out rates, low employment, and higher crime than the city as a whole. 

However, there are some real bright spots there, one being the Windy City Green Youth Farm sponsored by the Chicago Botanic Garden and 35 community partners. 

    "Since 2003, the Youth Farm program has achieved the following:
Windy City Harvest Youth Farm
  • Provided after-school and summer jobs for more than 600 youth
  • Harvested and sold more than 100,000 pounds of freshly grown produce at farm stands and in neighborhoods identified as food deserts..."
The students also sell their produce to the Garden View Cafe. When we ate there we enjoyed fresh, healthy food at very reasonable prices. 

Unfortunately, it wasn't open but through the fence we could see how lush raised beds and planters. 

The colorful mosaics provided beauty on an otherwise blighted block.  Art can inspire hope as well as success does.

Similarly, Birmingham, Alabama's Jones Valley Teaching Farm is a win-win for the community. They raise 200 kind of vegetables, fruits, flowers and herbs on 1.7 acres. 

Gardening teaches planning, simple biology, persistence, and the pay-off for hard work. Participants learn business basics, nutrition, and cooking skills. 

Many cities have unused land. Can you think of a better use for it? 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Reciprocal Impact of Grandparents and Grandchildren

This absentee grandma doesn't have as much influence on her grandchildren as she would like. So for this summer's visit I planned a few activities that I hoped would develop character, strengthen core values, and make a lasting impression. 

One was a minor success. 

The children occasionally learn Bible verses in their Sunday School classes at home. To encourage the habit I gave each of the kids a small leather card holder and blank cards on which they could write a Bible verse. They wrote the verse on the card first and repeated it a few times. Then, word by word, they wrote each word on a colored shot glass. We scrambled the cups, then raced to see how quickly they could reassemble the sentence correctly. 

"That went well" I told myself. 
tough FBI man

Some days later they invented a cops and criminals game.  Sam created an FBI badge on the reverse side of his memory card, and folded the holder so that he could flip it open. I suspect he will remember the FBI badge longer than the spiritual lesson I envisioned. I reminded myself that creativity is an important trait too. 

More satisfying for us all, we made a list of blessings during the trip. It's a chronicle of the fun we enjoyed (and a record of the kids' spelling development.)  I've hung it near my desk where I can savor it often.  

#3  grandparents that love me
#15 making "carmel" corn with grandma
#30 jumping off the diving board with Sam

Sometimes I don't clearly see how I affect the grandkids, but their impact on me shines from every line. I'll cherish this list of memories until it's too faded to read. 

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Sprigs: Flowers Make a Town

I'm raving about Langley, Washington, a little town on Whidbey Island. 

Granted, it is in Puget Sound and overlooks the Cascade Mountains, so it has sensational views on a clear  day. 

But even without those two geographic gems, it is enchanting because of the flowers. Why can't our town do the same?

I was first captivated by these tall Queen Charlotte anemones spilling over the sidewalk.

Look at these alluring window boxes, 

the delectable planter filled with plants and decorative

The Inn at Langley
and the captivating landscaping.

shopping area
alley between First and Second Streets

front of town hall

It just goes to show that flowers can shape the personality of a place.