Thursday, September 22, 2016

A, B and C

A is for the Asters adding beauty to my garden on this first day of fall.

The bees seem to be enjoying them too.
Planted last summer, I had forgotten what they were.  Since most of the perennials are nearing the end of their blooming cycle, it was a pleasant surprise to see them covered in buds last week.  In all my years of gardening this is my first experience with growing them. 

B is for birthday.
Brett's birthday.
Brett's big birthday, to be exact. ;D.
Big birthdays are a lot more fun when shared with a 3 year old.

C is for Charlotte.
Charlotte, North Carolina.
The city where we celebrated the big birthday.
Dinner in a lovely uptown restaurant.
After dinner the pleasant weather beckoned.
An after dinner walk to the nearby Romare Bearden Park seemed like the best plan.  A time to walk off a bit of dinner before it was cake time.

Romare Bearden Park photo courtesy the internet.

We took turns racing across one of the grassy areas of the park with Jaxson.
He may have the shortest legs, but they are also the fastest legs.
About the time I thought hoped the game was done he was ready to go again and again and again.  I think it's safe to say the dinner calories were burned.
Once all of the adults were exhausted we sat on one of the park benches.  Darkness had set in yet few people seemed in a hurry to get home.
I watched a tiny little girl dressed in pink toddling around as her family took pictures.  She held a bouquet of pink balloons.  I imagined how sweet the pictures would be.
Our former racing area was now being used by a group of boys for a lively game of Frisbee.
Looking to my right it was apparent that the water feature held a strong appeal for those enjoying a date night.  Young love was in bloom.
Looking up I marveled at the skyscrapers in their nighttime beauty.
In this little park at the base of the skyscrapers, a diverse group of people were drawn together enjoying the evening.  People of all ages feeling safe on this late summer evening in the city. 
As we walked back to my son's home to have our cake, a sense of happiness settled over me.  For a few hours the craziness of our world seemed to have softened.  I would have never guessed that only a few short nights later I would be glued to the tv until midnight watching this wonderful city become a place filled with violence and hatred.

Peaceful protesting is one thing.
This has become something else entirely.

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Little Plant That Could... and Did!

Last year this section of the garden was totally re-done.
You may remember that happening here.
At that time, the entire garden bed was dug up, yanked out and hauled away.
Although it was clear the time had come, I was sorry to see some of the plants go.

Imagine my delight when one of those plants appeared in the new garden bed recently.
Despite all of the upheaval, this Cypress Vine must have dropped a seed that refused to be discarded along with the old tree and shrubs. 
Even more amazing to me was the fact that it decided to root itself right next to the one and only shepherd's hook I placed in this bed.
What are the chances of that?

Over the past few weeks I have been watching it wind it's way up the pole.  It is such a pretty plant with it's wispy delicate leaves.

Are you familiar with the Cypress Vine?
They are also known as the hummingbird vine because these guys love them:

The hummingbirds have been entertaining us at the feeders as they prepare for their fall migration.
As I've been watching the Cypress Vine grow, I've been keeping my fingers crossed that it would bloom before the hummingbirds had flown the coop.

Looks like Mother Nature had that base covered all along.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Floor Care

She still brought her lunch in Rosemary's old school lunch box, a thermos of hot tea (which she said kept her warm in winter and cool in summer), and her own table-model radio, which she carried under her arm and plugged into the wall sockets of the different upstairs rooms as she went about her work.  Starting with the kitchen, she did the downstairs rooms in the morning.  She didn't like to be talked to when she was scrubbing the kitchen floor because she said being on her knees and the rhythm of the arm motions made it the ideal time for going over her life.

(excerpt from "Flora" by Gail Godwin)

That idea of going over my life while scrubbing the floors on my hands and knees seemed like such a good one after reading about the sensible way Mrs. Jones tackled the housework in the book Flora (by Gail Godwin).
With Brett out of town and a good steady rain tapping on the windows, the atmosphere seemed just right for tackling the job.
Nobody would be trying to talk to me and the floors were in need of a good scrub.

What was I thinking?
A bad lower back and many rooms with hardwood flooring are not a match made in heaven.
The pain crème was soon called into action.

 However, I persevered and was pleased with the results.
I wouldn't even want to admit how many hours it took to get the job done or how long it took to straighten up again after standing :/.
The thing I like about washing the floors on my hands and knees is that when I'm down there I can see all of the dust on the baseboards and the drips on the white kitchen cupboards.  I wash them too as I make my way through the rooms.   It's a great sense of accomplishment once the job is done.
With that being said, I think I have just retired from the job.
Mrs. Jones is a bigger woman than I.
Either that or she hasn't got back problems.

Not long after the great floor wash, my son came over with his new Roomba.  It was great entertainment to watch it move from room to room picking up the dust and dog hair as it went. 

Although the dog wasn't too sure about it.
I was especially pleased to hear it humming away under my bed as I laid there watching tv and relaxing.
Too bad I can't figure out a way to attach a mop to the thing.

If you have a good method for floor washing that doesn't require being on your hands and knees, would you care to share?
I was told to only use vinegar and water on the hardwoods.
In the past I've tried the following methods:

1)  I originally used a sponge mop like my mom always did.
But, it seemed like no matter how well I wrung out the sponge, there were water marks unless I followed along with a towel.

2)  I reluctantly joined the Swiffer Wet Jet craze.  I say reluctantly because I dislike all of the waste they create, not to mention the expense of keeping stocked up on pads and solutions.

3)  I most recently was going to try a steamer that my in-laws gave to us.  I really liked the idea that it had washable pads and required no chemicals.  When I plugged it in it was soon evident that it no longer created steam.  Seems it was one of those "as seen on tv" products that has since been recalled.

If you have any recommendations, my back and I will thank you.


Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Small Changes in the Kitchen

I was digging through the archives to find a photo featuring the valances in my kitchen.  I had to go back to May 2011 when the hydrangeas and daisies were just coming into bloom and all was looking lovely.
While I have loved those valances for the sixteen years they have been hanging there, it was becoming clear that they had served their purpose.  Why is it that after awhile things in my home are no longer noticed the way they were when they were new?  
I'm not one for changing up the window treatments just to keep up with the latest trends.  However, I had begun to notice that the strong southern sun had been slowly fading them and, perhaps, it was the southern humidity that had begun to make them look  droopy.  Kind of like they needed a dose of starch.

Without any idea what would replace them, I took them down.
Instantly the view into the garden became greater and the amount of light in the room did too.  The valances hung just below the transoms and tended to cut off the view one would see from a standing position.
Privacy isn't an issue due to the wooden blinds.

So, I've decided to forego new window treatments altogether.
Instead I'm filling the transoms with colorful glass.
We do get a lot of sunlight through these windows which looks so pretty when it hits the glass.

Now I can change the look with the seasons by snipping things from the garden and popping them into the vases.
The hanging piece in the center above is a blown glass vase that I have had for years and never known what to do with.

The vases here are thrift shop finds.
The piece in the center was purchased on our recent trip to California.  When I look at it I am reminded of our time in the charming town of Capitola.  The conversation with the gallery owner is now woven into the memory.  Her suggestions for displaying it safely up there on a narrow window ledge (Museum Wax and a clear easel), her sharing how the artist would bring them into the gallery with her pretty little daughters in tow and the way she shared how she is working two jobs to make ends meet while caring for her aging parents. 
Although it was only a small purchase, I treasure the connections made and the sense of supporting a small local business.


Monday, August 29, 2016

Over the Weekend

Sometimes it's the simple things that make a weekend pleasant.

Things like sitting on the patio with a front row seat to the hummingbird activity.

Which, in turn, prompted a little activity on my part.
Cleaning & filling the feeder to insure future visits from these sweet little garden friends.

I continue to water the flower pots daily.  Sometimes twice a day.
They are looking a bit like I feel... ready for a breath of cooler air.
Going out to water them at times feels like drudgery.

While performing this drudgery on Saturday morning I was delighted to be joined by this butterfly fluttering around me.  It kept landing on the table and the chairs as if to say "go get the camera lady".  So, I did.

I chased it around the patio for awhile trying to get it to pose for me.  Once it did I went inside to consult my butterfly identification book as I'm not familiar with this one.  The book didn't provide the answer I was looking for. 
I know I'm not alone in the butterfly chasing.  I'm seeing a lot of butterfly posts popping up in blogland.  Maybe one of my fellow butterfly chasers can identify this one for me.

It seems as though Brett has now joined the ranks of the butterfly chasers.
He was out de-cobwebbing the house and came in to fetch the camera.  I was pleased to see that he was photographing butterflies and not cobweb makers.
He asked me to check out his first time efforts.  I gave him bonus points for capturing a bee along with his butterfly.

This weekend one of my favorite shops in the area had a "tailgating tasting event."  While I haven't tailgated in years, I am often making meals for my football loving family to eat during the game.  So, it was fun to get some new ideas.  I like the idea of having this chili starter on hand and the football shaped cheeseball made with this Roasted Garlic Onion Jam was very tasty.  Nice that they provided the recipe too.

After the tailgating tasting event we stopped into Kohl's.
While in the store there was a huge thunderstorm.  The rain pounded on the roof as we did our shopping.  Looking out the doors it seemed to have changed from summer to fall.  It was dark and a bit eerie looking.  Once the rain stopped we headed for the car.  As we were pulling out I was amazed to see this tree in all it's fall finery.  I thought maybe the scents of chili cooking and dark, eerie thunderstorms had confused me into thinking fall was already here.  So, I told Brett to stop the car so I could photograph the tree.
It is, in fact, sporting it's fall colors.  Not quite sure why, but I must admit it looked beautiful to me.

All of this got me thinking that no matter what story the thermometer or the trees are telling, the truth is the summer is winding down. 
On Sunday we decided that it was time to get out on the boat and enjoy the water .  It's been so hot this summer that we've only been out once. 
After baking my weekly bread, we packed a small picnic and headed out.  The only photo I took was of this passing sailboat.  They are always such a pretty sight gliding through the water.

Although it was early (even for me),
I did a wee bit of fall decorating before the weekend was over.
The shop that hosts the tailgating event has the most beautiful inspiration for the seasons.  After sampling the food, I wandered through there gathering ideas for fall.  I liked the way that they adorned the tops of their cabinets and hutches with greenery mixed with fall leaves and berries.  One, in particular, caught my eye.  Realizing that I already had the garland of ferns, I learned from one of the sale's associates that they had stuck some fall picks into it.  She led me to the picks, which were on sale that day.
Once home I felt it pertinent that I copy the display before I forgot how they had done it.  As the season progresses, I plan to change out the white platter with pumpkins or turkeys.  The greenery will be a base to highlight the display.
In the meantime, I don't think it's too obvious that I'm rushing the season a bit.

Each season has it's own unique beauty.
Although it's no secret that I'm looking forward to cooler weather, I will miss many things about the summer.  Things like:
Bare Feet
Corn on the Cob
Crunchy Cucumbers
Garden Grown Tomatoes
Butterflies, Hummingbirds, Flowers
Fresh from the Garden Herbs
Iced Tea on the Patio

I hope you all had a good weekend.
As empty nesters moving close to retirement age, we seem to be finding ourselves with more free time on the weekends.  There was a time when we would have been thrilled to have this much free time on our hands.  Now, we are working toward a balance.  Some work, some relaxing and getting out and about at least one of the days. 
What is your idea of an ideal weekend?

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Parsley Aplenty

When I first see these guys munching away on the parsley plants, there's always that moment of wondering whether to let them remain where they are or... well, that's just the question. Or, what?
I know if I let them stay they will happily have a feast until my parsley plants are soon nothing but bare stalks.  Most likely they will even invite their friends and family and make a party of it.
Squishing them is out of the question and I think if I carried them to a new home they would soon find their way back. 
What to do, what to do?
What would you do?

As much as I dislike losing much of my parsley crop, I dislike the thoughts of disrupting the life cycle of these guys even more.

Can't even imagine a garden without butterflies.


It seems the best solution is to plant plenty.
Some for them and some for us.
We like parsley, but we have our limits.
So, each summer we are happy to share with any caterpillars that happen by.

Today's caterpillars ~ Tomorrow's butterflies.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

In the Kitchen on a Summer Saturday

I'm toying with the idea of making all of our bread.
While I do make bread on occasion, we mostly buy it at the supermarket.
The pros to this idea:
~ knowing exactly what ingredients are going into each loaf
~ using up the yeast before it expires
~ the scent of bread baking
~ saving money on the grocery bill

The cons:
~ hmmm
~ ummm
~ gee, I can't think of any except that I might lose interest in the whole idea and go back to the convenience of buying it at the store.
But, for today, I am motivated and inspired to give it a try so I began my day in the kitchen baking bread.  A basic whole wheat loaf.  I let the bread machine whip up the dough and then baked it in the oven.

The kitchen was my happy place today.
Once the bread was baked, it was time to replenish the granola supply.

While the oats were out I decided it was also time to replenish the frozen fruit crisp crumbs.  Seems I first did this around this time last year after reading the recipe in the Mennonite Girls Can Cook Celebrations cookbook.  I believe the recipe can also be found here.
I love fruit crisps and I especially like the idea to keep the crumbs in the freezer.  It makes it so easy & convenient to take out just the amount needed to put a delicious fruit crisp on the table any time the craving strikes.

The inspiration for today's kitchen time.

My Double Delight roses are having a bit of a comeback.
When I noticed a bunch of buds forming earlier this week, I braved the oppressive humidity and treated them to a dose of Rose Tone.  I then gave them a long, slow drink from the garden hose.  They are now thanking me with beautiful flowers.  I feel a tad guilty for accepting them as most of the summer I have been neglecting them terribly.

At day's end there is a sense of satisfaction in surveying the fruits of one's labor. 
Looking forward to breakfast tomorrow.