Saturday, October 30, 2010

Little did I know

That sunlight slanting in through the window took half the day to get here and maybe about an hour to retreat. As I sit down to write, it is with a little trepidation. You see, while I try to blog about pleasing things, what I'm about to present you is not so. Pleasant, that is....
WARNING: This blog post is not for the faint-hearted. Sensitive persons should consider carefully before reading any further.
Now, don't say I didn't warn you. Today I'm going to talk about:
Garden Pests
I do not like spiders and snakes. I do not like anything that celebrates evil and darkness. I do not crave blood and gore.
Little did I suspect that if I were to dabble in gardening that I would be tempting ugly and creepy-crawly critters to share my world with me. Let me explain:
Do you see this herb planter? This is the one I bought on Columbus Day, and gradually this week I noticed in a peripheral sort of way as I rushed by it, that it was beginning to look, well, consumed. And in retrospect, I think that the air was singed with the scent of sage, rather noticeably, more than it had been in the week or so after I put it in the sunny dining room window.
And on closer inspection, I saw a lot of dirt on the carpet. I blamed Tammy and Tucker, thinking they had been nosing around in the pot, maybe even stirring up that sage scent.

On even closer inspection, I thought that the distribution of the dirt on the carpet didn't really look the way the usual puppy messes do. A little too evenly scattered, not clumped together, etc. I felt like a CSI investigator, brought in to analyze blood spatter. (See, I warned you this post would be icky.)
And then there was this finding: not a good picture because it is filled in with fallen leaves, but there is a largish hole dug in the ground beside one of the new David Austin roses. I know this happened in the last week and I know it was perpetrated by a rather large Cocker Spaniel. I know this because a rather large Cocker Spaniel tracked mud into my home one day after it had been raining. He smelled suspiciously of RoseTone and required immediate bathing. (And the kitchen floor required immediate mopping.)
But while the canine(s) is (are) definitely to blame for the rose-bush vandalism, I discovered that the true culprits for the holes in the sage leaves and the dirt on the carpet were not he (they). It was something way more sinister, and definitely not for the squeamish.Eeeeeeeewwwwww!
These are just a few of the inchworms I pulled off the undersides of the sage leaves.
After I took this picture, I pulled off at least 6 more, and man, do I hope I found them all. One had encased itself in a bit of a woolly coccoon, and when I dropped it in with the others, they attacked it. I'm shuddering...
And I figured out that the dirt on the carpet? Worm Poop! Are you grossed out yet?

So now, this fuzzy little culprit doesn't seem so bad anymore. (She is actually the undersize Cocker Spaniel, who was not responsible for the rose bush fiasco, but is guilty enough of other things that it isn't completely inappropriate to characterize her as a culprit.)
But like children, she looks sweet and innocent when asleep.
So, I set about trimming away all the damaged leaves on the sage, harvested the most overgrown parsley for the rabbit, culled out the dead chives, did nothing to the thriving rosemary and turned the pathetic half-dead thyme into the sunshine, vacuumed up the worm poop and gave the planter a generous watering.
When I cleared away a good bit of the vegetation, I found the care tags pushed deep into the dirt, all clumped together, and almost buried in the dense foliage understory of sage and parsley.
I washed them up and now will be able to consult them to gain a little insight into what I should be doing to keep the herbs growing.
So, here it is, you can see the little bitty bit of thyme just above where the rosemary is in the left of the pot. Next to it is a heuchera (Coral Bells), called Key Lime Pie. I was so taken by the yellow/chartreuse of the foliage! There were 4 there and I bought all of them, and 3 are now around the lamp-post, but I'm not sure where to put this 4th one. I'm hoping it will winter over in the dining room, and by Spring I'll know where to put it. It may just end up being a replacement if one of the lamp-post ones doesn't make it through the winter.
So, all's well that ends well, right?
Not so fast..... you can only see it in the above picture in retrospect, but....
There was one more icky-yucky worm that had coccooned onto the chest of drawers! I nearly screamed. But I pulled myself together and got a tissue and plucked it off. It was so fat that even with my light touch, it burst and bled out its green lymph. I flushed it, shuddering all over.
Then I had to have a sit-down and a cup of tea.
And that, my friends, is my Halloween horror story.......
On a more pleasing note, here is the last of the white lobelia I had in my urns this summer. Should I pot it up and bring it in and see what it does in the coming months? We're supposed to have a hard frost tonight, so I filled in the rose-bush hole (with more Rose-Tone, I know, I know....) and put a lot of fallen leaves around the crowns of all three. I'll have to get more serious soon and really get them covered and protected. Stay cozy!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Will wonders never cease?

I'm going to post about tonight's supper. I don't think I've posted before about any kind of cooking. It seems that most of the blogs I go to have some cooking sooner or later. Sometimes, I don't even read those posts. Just not my thing. I wish it were. Because, no doubt my boys would love it if I were constantly in the kitchen turning out all manner of yummy meals, snacks, treats. Lord knows they get no thrill from my knitting, crocheting, embroidering.
I'm not saying they go hungry. There's usually a reasonable variety of food around, just not always hot, fresh, home-cooked and ready-to-eat. Drat.....
So, anyway tonight I am featuring a facsimile of my Grammie's soup. She just turned 90 and though getting quite frail, her days still include a bit of home-cooking. I think she's probably what is called a "foodie". The first time I saw magazines like Gourmet and Food&Wine was at her house. Her "Mountain Chili" had a following among certain skiers at Sugarloaf in the 1970's. It was not unusual for her to make donuts in the morning, shaking them in a brown paper bag with sugar in it. They were dark, but not chocolate. I think they were molasses, and I wonder if this is a regional thing, as I've only ever seen molasses donuts in boxes from local commercial bakeries at grocery stores here in Maine . Mmmm.... makes me smell burning leaves and want to dip my molasses donut in a cup of cider. I'd even be willing to rake some leaves for it.

Grammie's Jamaican Chicken SoupSo, today, I am featuring a soup I made when I wanted some of my Grammie's soup. I don't have a recipe. I just faked it. It tasted a little like hers. I could have tried to get her to tell me but phone calls are a huge challenge because she is so hard-of-hearing. I think I'll still try to get it and then I can see how close I got.
Here's my try...1 carton chicken broth
1 can pumpkin
1 can diced tomatoes
2 cups chopped/cubed cooked chicken
1 cup or so of chopped carrots
1/2 cup brown rice
1 can evaporated milk
1 leek
1 cup frozen peas
1-1/2 tsp allspice
1-1/2 tbsp chili powder
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp celery seed
salt and pepper to taste
In a pot over med-high heat, I put in the chicken broth and rice and let them come to a boil, while chopping the carrots (add) then the leek. I let it all simmer while I picked last night's lovely roast chicken. Then I added the canned pumpkin and diced tomatoes (without draining).
I turned the heat up a little to give the rice and carrots a good thorough cooking. I could have diced some potatoes and put those in first instead of the rice, but we had mashed potatoes and gravy with the chicken last night. I also let it cook because I wanted to reduce the liquid a little. If I had more motivation, now would be time to make biscuits, (or dumplings? I've never done that) or cornbread to go with it. I don't know if it matters when to add the spices. (BTW, it's called "Jamaican" because I think she got the spices in Jamaica, and I'm not sure what was in that little old crumpled paper bag.) Mine really wasn't as spicy as hers, so it probably needs more of the chili powder. And it definitely needs more of the allspice or something. I put Tabasco sauce on the table for my family who goes for that sort of thing. I did wait to put in the frozen peas until the last 5 or 10 minutes and the same with evap. milk. I have made cream soups before and you don't add the cream 'til the end. I admit that I only used the evap milk because I hadn't planned to make this soup, or I could have gotten some light cream. I wonder if it would taste better with parsnips in it (I love parsnips), or thyme, or nutmeg? What do you think? And I would have liked to put of dollop of sour cream on top, especially if it was really zingy-spicy.
I don't know why this pic is sideways, but I'm leaving it because this post really calls for a bit of fall color, and I love the way this tree shades from green to a rich orange. And then there's picture I tried taking of a summer planter that I brought indoors at the office. I don't know what kind of flower that is, I just wanted to get a vibrant close-up of the colors. Can anyone tell me what I did wrong photographically? I set it for close-up, and the camera focused down at the level of the dirt, instead of the flowers that I wanted. What's that you say, the camera came with a manual? That explains all this? Oh, yes I know but every time I sit down thinking I will read the whole thing once and for all so I can get the most out of my camera, I get bored or distracted or something, and now, Oh where, oh where did I leave that little booklet. Sigh.... well excuse me, I have to go program my VCR. It keeps flashing "12:00 -- 12:00 -- 12:00"............

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Ah, here we are...

Re-booting righted whatever was going wrong. So here are a few of the limited photos I took when Ian moved into his dorm at UMO. In the weeks before it was time to go, he worked a lot of hours, and when he wasn't working, he was playing golf or hanging out with friends. I would try to talk with him about shopping for his dorm room, or making lists of what to pack, and he would have none of it. We were able to fit everything he was taking into the back of the Explorer and we still had room for the 5 of us. His college is only 3 hours away, and so there isn't really the feeling of moving out of our home. It was really just taking the bare necessities, knowing full well he would come home very soon for Labor Day weekend, and here and there to go out with Sheldon on the lobster boat to bring in traps for the winter. And he could get things from home that he had found he was wanting.

It was very clear that he wanted no help from Mum to "decorate" his dorm room and was not open to my furnishing the place with any comforts. This was going to be his declaration of independence. We went up as a family, which was not what Ian had in mind. But I stood my ground for a couple of reasons. While by and large, this day was about him, in other ways it wasn't. This wasn't just Ian venturing forth to a new experience for him; this represented a transition for all of us. Also, Jeff and I both feel it is a valuable experience for our younger boys to get a glimpse into the new and exciting world of Going To College. I wanted to use Ian's day as an opportunity to demystify it for them. Being the firstborn, Ian didn't have that, and while he has always been intrepid about plunging into new things, he certainly did seem to harbor some apprehension about this new step.
We dumped everything in his room, and Ian barely tolerated my putting sheets on the bed, and TADA! the brand new quilt made by my Mum, Grammie H. (with some quilting help from Aunt Anne). She was inspired a quilt she saw for sale in the Orvis catalog.
If you know the one I mean, I'm sure you'll agree that this one is made even more attractive by the addition of the reds to the more subtle blues and greens. He's a big tall drink of water (as my great Uncle John once said of my 6'4"+ tall husband), and at about 6'3" only just fits on his bed. His room-mate is a friend from high school and is just about the same height. They make a handsome pair!

What you can see under the bed are the wheels of his long board (skate board). What you can't see is his humongous hockey bag with all the equipment. If you aren't up on these things, the University of Maine is big on hockey. Ian doesn't play on the team, but he does play recreationally, and if you ask me, he's really quite good. (Maybe because I'm his Mum?)
He really couldn't wait for us to leave, and was trying very hard to be patient. He expressed his anxieties by being antagonized by every breath his brother Evan (16yo) took. He was impatient with everything Evan did or said. I think this is because of all of us, he'll probably miss Evan the most. They do a lot together. Now Sean (13yo), on the other hand is probably the least distressed by Ian's absence. Now Evan will have more time (and hopefully more patience) for him. (Has anyone noticed that in naming our sons, we have named all of them forms of the name "John"? We didn't set out that way, and discovered it after we had named Evan, and an Irish friend declared that naturally, saving the best for last, we would certainly have another boy and name him Sean! Well, once that I learned that John means "gift from God", I couldn't very well not name my next sweet baby boy Sean, now could I?) I'll have to figure out how to let you see this picture enlarged by clicking on it. I don't know how yet. I'll just tell you generally what it says. This was a bulletin board in the hallway of Ian's freshman dorm. At the top, it says: "Laundry Tips & Tricks: Because Mom isn't Here Anymore....." It gave me a chuckle anyway. One of the tips is for putting your teddy bear in a pillowcase if a visitor to your rooms spills, er, something on it. Hmmm..... the valuable things you learn in college.

Such as it is......

This was going to be a hit-and-run post about taking my son to college. The topic itself is too big for me to wrap my brain around -- waaaay too painful, and so I was just going to skim the subject. My chosen focus was going to be a quilt. I have an ongoing joke with myself about quilting. How I'm not going to get involved in quilting because it is a black hole unto itself, sucking money, time and NRG that I don't have to spare. Too bad I love the finished products sooooo much. Did you see the quilts on Caroline's blog: Knot Garden? And have you been to Don't Look Now? And those are just 2 of the quilters' blogs that come immediately to mind.

Well, so anyway, I was going to blog just a little about the quilt my mother gave my son for going away to college. Only I ran into a problem after loading just one picture I took on the move-in day. For some reason, my computer opens my Pictures file and then doesn't load what's in all the folders. So I can't select them to upload. And I thought my only obstacle to having more pics for my posts was keeping my camera ready to go and remembering to take pics while the light is good!
And now the one picture I loaded, I promise it was here, has disappeared of its own accord!
I'll work on these technical issues (meaning I'll re-boot my laptop - my panacea for all computer problems), and try again later. And in the meantime, it is a beautiful, bright sunny day, maybe I'll style some pics for future use.

Monday, October 18, 2010

What I did for Columbus Day, or How NOT to Waste a Day Off on Housework...

Last Monday was Columbus Day and I had the day off from work. The kids were home from school. And if you read my last post, you know that the nursery near the office was closing for the season and I had to get over there to get the bargains. Last day.
I wish I were a good housekeeper. If I were, I would have the skill to map out a good day off. I would balance work(household chores) and play(shopping, gardening, crafty stuff, and blogging), and by supper, have a nutritious, delicious home-cooked meal on the table. But unfortunately, I lack the self-discipline to make a day like that happen. At least, I did last Monday. I still aspire to such a day. The next day off is Thanksgiving and that's always mayhem, so my model day-off will have to wait until, oh, I dunno, MLK Day? So, instead of indulging in any more self-loathing because of the dust, the clutter, and the mediocre menu around here, I'll share with you the fruits of the shopping I did last Monday. You've already seen my nursery visit bounty, but what I didn't tell you was I also thrifted at Goodwill, and went to Michael's and A.C. Moore, both of which are nearer to the office than home, so I justified it with the old tried-and-true "Weellll, since I was in the neighborhood....."
I went into Goodwill first. I usually don't find much to interest me in our Goodwill. I visit blogs where I see really great stuff people bring home from their thrifting trips and wonder why my local GW has so little to offer. And sometimes I think maybe I would have passed up the very treasures featured on others' blogs, and only now find them interesting because of the blogger's vision of how they can be restored, or re-purposed or creatively displayed with what they already have (and which I don't). But this time was different... I had spent the weekend crawling through every post in the archives of a blogger new to me, and whose creativity and photographs had me mesmerized. This dear lady is a quilter, and her quilts are so attractive because of the eye she has for mixing colors, choosing just the right mix of hues of the right shade and value. I fell in love with her palette. She also puts a new twist on old-fashioned, like yo-yo patchwork, applique, and her latest, a crochet pillow. She makes me want to crochet little floral vignettes for pincushions. Take a look: Her blog is Knot Garden, click on the link on my blog list, it's post after post of some serious eye candy.
I especially love the way she styles her photos, and inspired me with her button collections displayed in lovely little pin dishes, or sandwich plates, or what have you. In my first picture above, you can see what I found with that inspiration in mind.
In the second photo, I show you what I found among the yarns. There were quite a few more there than the last time. And among the usual synthetics, I found the (vintage?) small skeins of fingering weight Bear Brand wool, some crochet cottons, and two synthetics I could acept. One is the white baby yarn by Sindar, and the other is a current yarn (that I have had trouble finding to finish a pair of socks! More on that later...), Caron Simply Soft Tweed in Med. (or Dark?) Sage. Now the 3rd picture is the loot I brought from Michael's. All those colors of crochet cotton are so I can try making the little crocheted pansy doily edging I've looked at a million times and the daisy insertions, and whatever other colorful little clever flower-y stuff I can find. Oh yeah, and I needed to fill out my choices for lavenders and greens for embroidering (and pinks and yellows too). The last two pictures are just some of my favorite colors in a lighter wt. yarn than I usually use. I really do prefer the wools, alpacas, silks, bamboos, etc., but for now, these synth. yarns are the compromise I make for my budget's sake. I will continue to knit and crochet with these while I get to know which patterns I want to make with an "investment fiber". At least that's what I tell myself.
The last pic is not just because that baby is so cute I can hardly stand it. A few years ago I knit that little jacket. In the yellow just like the picture. And I still haven't sewn it together! I even bought adorable little white ducky buttons for it. So I posted the pic and made this confession to shame myself into moving forward with it... After all, I know of two babies on the way!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Can I grow David Austin roses?

According to the David Austin website, I should be able to....
I found this very cool website, which explained to me the definition of plant hardiness zones, and how to use it to predict what will successfully winter over. Now, mind you, I have already killed 5 rosebushes in a little bed I planted a few years ago. I didn't protect them through the winter, and I lost 2 (3?) the first winter, and the rest the next winter. Now, even if you have never been to Maine, perhaps you've heard that we have pretty cold, snowy winters?
Take a look at this post.
According to the David Austin information, I coulda' shoulda' woulda' done more to protect them from extreme temps. Ugh. I wish I had, especially the one of the 5 that was a DA rose, one of their oldest and most fragrant ones, the Abraham Darby. I also was guilty of neglecting their feeding and watering. Oh yeah, that and I had planted them in an area where they probably didn't get enough sunshine.
So, I'm trying again.
On Monday, Columbus Day, a nursery was closing for the season and selling off their stock at 50% off. Well, I'm a sucker for a bargain. They had some of 3 DA roses left (among other brands), and I bought and planted 1 of each. I made sure that the plants I chose had at least a bloom on them. I needed the fragrance for inspiration.
I also bought violas and coral bells and a large potted herb garden with parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. And chives.The herb garden will remain in my dining room in front of a low-silled southwest facing window. Trixie, our rabbit has already been a happy beneficiary of the parsley! (I really must take more pics to post!)
So I brought my lovely greenery home and determined that I needed 3 rose holes dug, and 6 little holes around my lamp post to alternate the 3 coral bells and 3 violas. How convenient to have 3 sons. Can you see where I am going with this?

Yep! I got all 9 holes dug for me. I tried a little harder this time with the roses. I bought Rose-Tone and put it in the holes, with some old dead leaves (organic matter) that had come down from the trees in the yard. I should have a composter and feed the roses from that, and with future feedings I can use contributions from Trixie, if you know what I mean. The spot I chose probably doesn't get enough sun, but I have all winter long to campaign to take down a few critical tree limbs to greatly increase the amount of sun each day.And of course, any time there is outdoor activity, the dogs have to be a part of it. I'm surprised they didn't get into the spirit of digging holes! The funniest part was when Tammy, who is half the size of her brother and (thinks she) controls all of his access to food, water and affection, was drawn to the biological/organic aroma of the Rose-Tone and posted herself as sentry, growling if Tucker transgressed any closer than about 8 feet in any direction.We have the safest Rose-Tone in Maine.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

David Austin Roses

A quick teaser! William Shakespeare 2000
Sir John Betjeman

Golden Celebration
Now, why might I be teasing you with lovely David Austin roses?

Sunday, October 10, 2010


We need new sheets. I am so inspired by these from Victorian Trading Company.

These are the Thistledown Cottage Flannel Bedclothes.
I can't bring myself to buy new sheets when I have several unfinished sheets that I bought dirt cheap at the Pepperell Mill factory store (which closed in fall of 2008, a victim of the economy). These are the Sweetmilk Manor Cotton Bedclothes.
So maybe I'm stalling, as it is boring and cumbersome to measure out and hem long expanses of fabric. But I have been so inspired to edge my household linens. I have several old instruction booklets for all manner of edgings. Knitted, tatted and crocheted. Household, handkerchiefs, collars and cuffs. Soooooo many, and I want to make them all!

But of course, having all these lovely patterns in hand hasn't stopped me from exhaustively searching the web for any and all free crochet edging patterns.
And then I have the difficult task of narrowing it down and choosing just one.
Last night I eliminated one because I couldn't quite follow the instructions (I'm sure it was I and not the instructions that were addled). That and I decided I wasn't sure I loved the pattern so much anyway. Hard to tell, because the photo didn't show me enough detail, and obviously working up a sample didn't happen.
So, now I 'm trying to decide which looks best with my sheeting, which is a print, after Jacobean crewel embroidery in fact. Doesn't really need any trimming to look pretty, but I want to trim it anyway. Kind of a way of putting my own stamp on it.
And I'm not really sure what style goes with Jacobean.
What do you think?
Need to see the fabric? I know what you mean. Working on it. Meaning I'm charging the battery on my camera and hoping the afternoon sun holds out.
ETA: Here are the pics I promised. I love the colors, soft and pleasing.

And the thread I will use.

Any votes for edging?