29 June 2010

Swirl Flowers Stamped Kit

I had the three big tasks I wanted to get done: clean the garden window in the kitchen, weed the garden and tidy the porch. Yeah. Mostly I just hunkered down in the air conditioning and watched the last season of Six Feet Under on dvd. I sobbed during the finale. Sobbed, I mean great big gushing weeping. I'm really glad I was home alone.

I got some laundry done and keep up with the dishes. I did manage to get the garden window cleaned. It is quite the acrobatic feat to get up there, perch on the counter and windowsill beside the sink and not go out onto the overhang. I'm sure it looked lovely from the street. But it needs to be done once or twice a year. Usually I give it a thorough cleaning in the spring when I take the plants out to the porch- you wouldn't believe all the dead leaves and plant litter that accumulates over the winter- and a quick wipe down before I bring all the plants back in late fall.

But I never got out to the garden, other than to water my plants. No weeding got done. And it really needs it. Nor did the porch get cleaned. I feel bad. I had such resolve; this was going to be the weekend I got that porch tidy. I kind of let things slip last July when I changed jobs. It looks awful. My ghetto porch. Okay, I'm trying to tell myself it has been bad for nearly a year, what is one more week?

So what did I do? Aside from the above mentioned general housekeeping, I started a new set of pillowcases. I'm really excited about this one. I don't usually show you stuff before it is finished, but I'm curious what you'll think.

I've had this kit for some time. It is Swirl Flowers from Bucilla. I like the design- it has lots of neat stitching, but I was never really wild about the color combination. I was flipping through google images the other day, looking for inspiration, and I saw a white skirt with a floral embroidery. Done in all black. And the design reminded me of this kit. Can you tell where I'm going with this?

I'm going to stitch the entire design in all black. I think that could be called blackwork. I've also seen whitework, redwork and bluework. I guess you could do any pattern all in one color and call it whatever that color is-work. Does anybody know?

25 June 2010

Overgrown Already!

Thanks to some volunteer tomato plants- around 15 I lost count- and some volunteer malva plants, my crescent bed is getting a bit unruly. I spent a few minutes yesterday pulling out some of the crabgrass and a few volunteer tomato plants that didn't yet have fruit. I'm hoping this picture is going to become a "before" and that I will have a nice looking "after" to show next week.

This bed is in the sun until around 7:00, so it is nice to work on in the evening. I'm thinking of getting a bag of mulch to cover some of the black landscape fabric. By this time last year you couldn't even see it, but the flowers I put out front haven't spread out as much as expected. Maybe I should get a flat each of yellow marigolds and purple petunias instead. Yeah, that would be prettier. Hmm, I see a trip to Noggle's nursery in my weekend plans...

23 June 2010

Quick Non-Progress Report

My little tomatoes still aren't ready. I was away again for a couple of days, and was hoping for a pleasant surprise when I got home. The tomato plants have gotten taller, some of the flowers have filled out a bit, but I still have nothing to harvest. I know, I'm being impatient.

The bell peppers have sprouted more peppers, but none of those are ready yet, either. I'm really looking forward to my green beans. Mmm, mmm! Lightly steamed, salted and buttered. Nothing better.

I really need to get out there and weed- the crabgrass is taking over. It is just entirely too hot during the day. I need to wait until at least 7:00 in the evening to go out. Luckily, that still gives me two hours of daylight at this time of year.

19 June 2010

Blue Daisies Embroidered Pillowcases

This is the Blue Daisies pattern from Tobin.
I think this pattern is just so lovely. I am mostly happy with it, but I don't care for the dark blue that I chose. Again, I was trying to use colors that I have on hand, but I think the dark blue called for in the pattern would have been better- more of a cornflower blue, not quite as dark. Oh, well. Next time.

I used DMC cotton perle #8 in these colors:
Royal Blue #797
Light Baby Blue #3325
Medium Yellow Green #3347
Light Topaz #726
and a white/cream that was probably bright white 60 years ago, but has aged to a soft, antique white by now

17 June 2010

Bell Pepper Crop for 2010

Our first pepper appeared this weekend: It will probably be several days before it is ready, but that's okay. Our pepper plants seem to be off to a good start.

I think mom usually buys "gypsy" bell peppers for me. Mom and John plant tons of peppers, both bell and hot, but I'm not interested in messing with hot peppers. Besides, if I should need one for something, I know I can just get a pepper from their crop. We do eat quite a few bell peppers, though, and since our small crop didn't produce very well last year, I'm giving the peppers extra attention this year. That includes, a better location, some shelter between the tomato plants, plant supports and veggie food pellets mixed into the soil.

This year I selected these varieties:

Purple Bell Pepper
Golden Summer Bell Pepper
White Bell Pepper
Sweet Pickle Bell Pepper

I don't really know much about any of these varieties, but don't they sound pretty? I think they will be a nice colorful addition to the veggie tray at this summer's parties. I'm sure I can bum some regular green and red ones from mom to fill things out.

16 June 2010

Tomato Crop for 2010

Last year Lewis and I fell in love with heirloom tomatoes. Their smell and taste! Like tomatoes are supposed to be, like the tomatoes our grandparents grew up with. Not your grocery store variety, although we have seen a tiny selection of "ugly tomatoes" at our local Giant. And we were able to pick up some at a local roadside stand last summer.

The guy at my local nursery gave me a few sad tomato plants at the end of their selling season last summer. I nursed them and they produced a few fruits. They were amazing, and even planted beside my usual standby varieties like "better boy", the heirloom varieties did not suffer from the tomato blight like the hybrids. I think we had a "black heirloom", "green zebra", something small and yellow whose name I've forgotten (maybe lemon?) and a "Cherokee purple". I think we liked the flavor of the black tomato best (it isn't really black, just a dark purple) and it is a very meaty tomato. Maybe they aren't all heirlooms, but they are certainly flavorful and unusual.

There were so many varieties to choose from this year, and I kind of went overboard, buying 7 different kinds of tomatoes.

Burgess Stuffer
Cherokee Purple
Yellow Pear
Green Zebra
White Beauty
Black Heirloom

I'll post each one as we try them and note what we like about them. This will also help me make better (or more) selections next year.

One thing I skipped this year is my usual "sweet millions" which is a super sweet cherry tomato. I have several dozen volunteers coming up here and there and I'm sure at least one of them will turn out to be a "sweet millions". We usually have more fruit from them than we know what to do with anyway. I can always pop them into one of the large planters and keep them on the edge of the porch or beside Oli's door. I left room in each bed next to the door because Oli- and his rope- are usually pretty rough on the plants closest to the door!

I was extremely tempted by the Tomato Chocolate Cherry from the Park Seed catalog that arrived in late winter, but I knew I wouldn't be starting seeds this year, so I refrained. Maybe next year...

Here are my first two tomatoes, "tigerella":
I'm really looking forward to all the blt sandwiches we'll have for dinner this summer!

15 June 2010

Beans, Green and Yellow

My beans sprouted while I was away for a long weekend!

Those are volunteer marigolds or possibly cosmos growing behind the fence. Not sure how they will do. Then the row of beans in front of the fence, and nasturtium seeds were planted in the 4 circles in front of the beans. Volunteer cosmos to the left, at the end of this bed. Good to prevent soil erosion, bad because it may overshadow the beans on that end. I kind of figured things would spring up while I was gone. I was surprised to see just how big the beans had gotten. I started them from seed sometime last week, and when I watered them on Thursday, only a couple of them had sprouts just beginning to peep up out of the dirt. Now they already have their true leaves! It was a nice surprise to come home to.

I planted "tendergreen" and some kind of yellow bean, variety unknown. Mom gave me the seeds, she may or may not know.

I just hope I have planted enough beans to have more than one single serving every couple of days, like last year. It would be nice to be able to serve them at dinner. Ooh, that reminds me, I've been on the prowl for a new steamer...

14 June 2010

Eh, Sorry, Wrong Number

lime green, lime green and tangerine...

Eh, sorry. I've got The Cure stuck in my head.

Since we 've been on the topic of wrong numbers, I thought I'd share a couple of other frequent, but far less irritation wrong numbers we get calls for.

My home phone number is very similar to that of my grandparent's business, a number I've known my whole life. In fact, only the last digit is different. I figured I would get calls for them, but I never have. However, I have given the shop phone number out a few times and my grandmother just gives them the right number! I figure I may as well pass on the favor.

I frequently get calls for a local independent auto parts store, whose last digit is the only difference. When we first got voicemail I got several increasingly frantic phone calls from some poor woman who was desperately trying to get in contact with them. Mom called back and spoke to her sister, explaining that she had mis-dialed (8 times) and wished her luck in getting her car fixed. The sister was very nice and apologised. I have now memorized the auto parts store's number so I can tell people where they meant to call.

More recently, I have received a few calls for one of our local banks, who I also have accounts with. That one is more of a curiosity because the 4th and 7th digits are off from mine. I don't have that one memorized yet.

I've saved the best one for last. The first time I gave my now dear friend Heather my phone number, she paused while writing and gave me a quizzical look. I repeated it. She started laughing and told me that number was a reverse of her grandparent's phone number!

I get a lot of wrong calls, so it is hard to say how many I've gotten for Heather's grandparents over the years, but since I've become aware of it, I know of at least three. The first one really caught me by surprise. The caller id showed a local number and a name that seemed familiar, but I couldn't figure out why. When I answered the woman asked for Jack. I was confused, not putting the pieces together until several minutes later. The night before we all had attended an event held by the local historical society. Heather's grandfather was involved in planting heirloom varieties of apple trees on the property of a building they are restoring. The woman's name from the caller id had also spoken during the informal ceremony, and I recalled hearing her tell Heather's grandfather that she would call him to discuss another upcoming event.

Sometimes I marvel at what a small town I live in.

11 June 2010

Just Because

Gratuitous Oliver picture.
This was taken early one morning last week. I don't think Oli was quite awake yet.

10 June 2010

Malva Zebrina

I started several malva seeds in pots last year, then planted them in the yard when they were ready. They didn't seem to do much, so I gave up on them. They are a perennial, but I figured if they didn't do anything the first year, they wouldn't be back. I was wrong.

It seems they self-seeded and I now have a ton of them coming up along the back of the crescent bed. That is good, right where I want them to be. They will look so pretty mingling with the cucumber plant. It will be this mass of vining green leaves and then here and there, surprise! A little pop of color from those pinky-purple petals.

I've recently read that when they self-seed the flowers may not be true to the variety you originally planted. I say, who cares when they are this pretty?

09 June 2010

Oliver and Thunder and Lightning

Incidentally, before the storm Friday night I tried to take Oli for a walk and it didn't go so well. I knew he was bored and I knew it might rain in a little while, so I saddled him up with the Easy Walk Harness- which works great, but he doesn't really like it. Turns him into stiff doggie. I think it is because he knows that he can't pull when he's wearing it. He also knows that harness = walks.
Anyway, he usually loves going for walks, but that night he kept stopping, like something was bothering him. He stopped first in front of our next door neighbor's house and refused to move. I thought maybe something was hurting him. I checked the harness, making sure it wasn't twisted, the clips hadn't caught his hair, then I checked all four paws. Nothing amiss. Patted him down and gave him a little rub of encouragement then tried to get him to walk again.

We passed two more houses and he stopped again. He hadn't been walking with his normal gusto and wasn't even interested in the other dog a block away, walking toward us. Something was up. I got down to his level, petting, soothing, trying to figure out what was up with my guy. The the heat lightning flashed a bit stronger than it had been and he stiffened up even more. Hmm. Storms don't generally bother him, but it seemed he didn't like being outside during the thunder and lightning. I didn't think much of it because the heat lightning and rumbles of thunder had been going on for several hours by then.

I asked him if he just wanted to go back home, and he was more than ready. We trotted back to the house at a clipping pace. I made him sit on the porch steps with me for a few minutes before we went in. I wanted him to get comfortable being outside, with mommy's protection, while the sky flashed and rumbled. I did my best to make him feel safe and not make a huge deal over it. We did this with him for the first couple of storms when he was a puppy, and we thought they didn't bother him. I guess that only did part of the job.

So now we know. Oliver is fine with storms from the safety of the house, but he doesn't want to be outside when there is thunder and lightning.

08 June 2010

Why the Painted Plywood?

See the shiny spots at the top of the roller? Yeah, that'd be rainwater! It seems to be coming in from the top of the window and running down between the frame and the header trim. Seems we may be missing some flashing or caulking or both.
At least we finally know where the water is coming from. When I bought the house we soon discovered that there was a sheet of plywood under this set of windows (as well as under the set in the front bedroom) indicating that some sort of damage had occurred and someone was too lazy to do anything about it. Aside from the natty painted plywood quick fix. You can see in this picture that was taken before we did any work to the house that their paint-over-plywood trick wasn't holding up too well either.

We discovered that there wasn't the appropriate flashing, etc. around the bottom of this set of windows and remedied that. Then we re-plastered. Imagine our dismay when the new plaster in this area began to effloresce. We were at a complete loss. No idea where the problem lie. Then it seemed to stop, so we forgot about it. Until the rocking rainstorm Friday night.

I really figured we would lose power, so I cleared the kitchen table and set lit a candle in the center. Then I headed upstairs for the small flashlights we keep in the night stand. I usually have one under the kitchen sink, too, but couldn't find that one. Must remember to track that down.

As I was going up the stairs it occurred to me that I should shut the air conditioner off, as it was cooling outside, and if the power did go off, I didn't want any problems if we had a surge when it came back on. I was about halfway into the room when my bare feet encountered a huge puddle. Rain was coming in through the air conditioner! The wind was blowing the rain horizontal and so hard that it was coming in through the vents.

I was momentarily stunned. I just stood there, taking it all in. All this water. And you know how these floors are- water runs straight through and next thing you know you have wet plaster on the dining room ceiling. So don't need that. I grabbed some towels and started mopping things up. It soon dawned on me that not all the water was coming in through the air conditioner. The curtains were soaked, I pulled them off. That's when I saw what you see in the pictures above. I couldn't understand it. I thought maybe the top sash had come down a bit, allowing water in, but that seemed unlikely since most of them are still painted shut (one of these years we'll get around to that).

I mopped up all the water the best I could, having to move furniture out of the way. Of course most of the clothes piled on the desk in front of the windows had gotten wet. Then I discovered that the quilt on the bed was wet. I started peeling back layers when I stepped in more water. Under the bed! Of course the puddle under the bed had golden retriever dust bunnies to add to the fun.

Eventually I got it all mopped up, moved all the wet clothes and bed linens out of the room and set up a fan to dry the wall. The storm had died off by then and thankfully the electricity never did go out. I put fresh linens on the bed and called it a night.

07 June 2010

Vintage Deco Flowers

I'm a sucker for cotton muslin.I ordered this set of antique pillowcases from ebay. One was completed, the other barely started. The finished case is much whiter than the unfinished one, but I had no way of knowing if the unfinished case would wash up after it was stitched. It didn't. Actually, it is a bit better, but not much. I don't think I'll ever do this again. The fabric is far better than anything I could buy today in a kit, but the whole time I was working this pillowcase, I kept thinking, I don't know where this has been, who handled it over the past several decades. And of course, you can't wash it before you finish stitching because the stamped pattern is water soluble. It made me want to wash my hands repeatedly.Also, my stitching is very different from the original stitcher's. I connect my cross stitches, but the other pillowcase is stitched with each X independent. That is why my case looks darker.

I'll be keeping this set for myself, but I hope to do the pattern again on a clean, new set of pillowcases.See, the real draw was the original pattern included. I fell in love with those deco flowers. Next time I'll use deco colors!I painstakingly matched up the wild colors chosen by some unknown person long ago.

DMC rose #335
DMC aquamarine #3814
DMC medium tangerine #741

06 June 2010

Squash Sautee

This is one of our favourite side dishes. So simple. A little dash of olive oil or a pat of butter, bit of diced onions, a sprinkling of Mrs. Dash, and a bag of squash. Saute until the squash reaches the tenderness you prefer, and done! So hopefully next winter we will not need to buy any squash from good 'ole Hanover Foods (don't worry, we still buy lots of other frozen veggies from you, Hanover) because we'll have our own garden-grow, home-frozen squash blend.

04 June 2010

Getting Back in the Garden

I got a gorgeous black and blue salvia at Noggle's Nursery yesterday. It is now the centerpiece of the crescent bed. I also got a couple of smaller blue and white ones to put around it. Someone had been letting their dog pee on the one Swiss chard plant that sort of made it from last summer. It had been intensely interesting to Oli for several weeks, but I eventually pulled it out. It was stunted and didn't really look nice. Besides, Oliver really enjoyed tearing up the root. That boy does love roots! Anyway, if some rude person is going to let their dog do that, I don't want any food plants that close to the sidewalk. So where I was going to plant peas, I've just put in that row of salvia. Just as well, because it is a little late for peas, and that spot may be too hot and dry for them.

The white cucumber seeds that I planted on Saturday already have their first leaves. They should be ready to plant in just a few more days. When I get the cucumbers planted, then the crescent bed should be finished.
I mostly finished planting the tomato bed last night. I added the four celeriac plants I bought. We are going to give that a try this year. I need to track down some Swiss chard plants. It is so pretty, and I am determined to figure out how to eat it this year. I promised myself that if we don't eat it this year, I won't plant it again. It is too pretty not to plant, so I'll figure out how to prepare and serve Swiss chard.I got one each of blanketflower and melampodium, but I still have room for one more of each. I need something tough right by the door, so if Oli's rope catches it, the plant will still be okay. I think the dwarf melampodium can handle that. I'd like a red blanketflower, but she only had yellow at Noggle's.

I'm hoping Lewis puts my squash fence in today- he said he would, but he may run out of time. The plumber is coming again today to fix the hot water heater. Luckily, the whole shebang did not need replaced. It was something to do with a valve, which became blocked. The plumber thinks he can fix it, but if he can't, they only need to replace this $50 valve. That plus labor, of course. But still way better that a whole new hot water heater.

Anyway, if Lewis gets the squash fence in, then I can plant my yellow squash and zucchini tonight. I didn't use mom's seeds. Noggle's had peat pots for $.99, so I just bought 3 zucchini plants. I know buying plants isn't as economical as starting seeds, and I feel badly about that this year, but I knew I just didn't have the ambition and energy to get them started when they needed to be. Next year. I also plan to plant beans from seed and hopefully I can just get them in the ground tonight. Then I'll pretty much be done. That will feel good.

I've given up on planting on the fence line this year, too. I adjusted my carefully thought out plans and cut back a bit. I don't want to plant more than I can handle. Also, just walking around that side is treacherous. The bed is full of weeds and it stresses Oli out when he can't see me. Maybe we can get that strip under control this summer, and I won't have to worry about damaging my veggies. We'll see.

03 June 2010

Garden Update

Way back in March I had big dreams and a carefully thought out garden plan. And for the most part, I've stuck to that list. Pared down a little here, got a few unplanned purchases, but that is to be expected. I'm glad I went into the nursery with a plan. Sometimes I get in those greenhouses and, I don't know if it is the heat or the riot of color, or both, but I just get impulsive.

That is one of the things I was really worried about this year. I knew early in the spring I didn't have quite the gusto I usually do, so managing my energy was really key. I didn't want to overdo it and plant more than I can care for. That happened last year, but I think that was mainly do to the major life change of starting a new job in July. I was busy and my garden suffered. Most of what we harvested we gave away. I want to avoid that this year. Not the sharing part, but I plan to use as much of what we grow as possible. Plan meals around what will be ripe that night.

I gave away so much zucchini last year. Nearly all of it, and I love zucchini. I have so many great recipes. Not this year. We are planting fewer zucchini plants, but adding a couple of yellow summer squash. And I plan to slice and freeze it.Sometime this winter it occurred to me that I've been buying this bag of mixed squash- paying for something that I grew the previous summer and gave away. We love to saute this stuff, it makes a great side dish. I've even been known to make a whole bag as a meal for myself.

So, I'm standing there in the grocery store, irritated with myself. And I made this decision. I was going to get a crinkle cutter and freeze my own bags of squash. I scouted the kitchen shops and specialty stores and finally found what I wanted from Oxo Good Grips, and ordered it from Amazon, who else? My only worry is that the squash will freeze together in a big lump. I don't have room in my freezer to lay the slices out on a cookie sheet for flash freezing. I'll have to experiment this summer.