Friday, September 25, 2009
I've been taking a course in basic floral design since the first of September. The floral design part hasn't been turning out half bad. I've been paying rapt attention to the lectures, reading the text book and studying review material. I've really been working hard! Through post-menopausal brain farts (combined with who knows how much ms-related mental fog) I've been keeping up fairly well. With one major exception - the damned florist bows. I couldn't get the simple concept through my brain. When it finally got through the brain, it wouldn't go to the hand. Then I'd make a perfect bow, then five minute later, I'd forget the entire process. It was gone like a puff of smoke. I felt like my brain was completely letting me down and I got mad about it. I came up with slogans - "Bows Blow" was my silent mantra as I quietly made loop after loop. I had a "bow support group" form around me as the teacher demonstrated the process... yet once more. I watched bow-making demonstrated time and time again on the internet. I gained new admiration for people who work with their brains as well as their hands. I felt inadequate for not being able to perform one of the most basic tasks of an entry level floral designer. Then I felt like an idiot for caring so much about something so insignificant in a world where there are so many truly important things to worry about. But...the ability to perform this task was important to me. It was important because I really wanted to pass the exam at the end of the course. And I really needed to pass this course for my own satisfaction. It was a personal challenge and I needed confirmation that I hadn't lost more than I'd feared. Since I was diagnosed with ms in 1986 I've lost mental and physical abilities, retrieved them and lost them again so many times that I can't really compare my disabled self with my original healthy self. I know that sometimes I have to stop and retreat when I'd rather push through - give in to the fatigue and rest when I'd rather keep going. Last night, not only did I produce an acceptable bow, but I also passed the written exam. My arrangements didn't appear to be any better or worse than my classmates'. I have 2 more arrangements to create next Tuesday night to finish my exam. It's been a huge challenge for me but also given me a wonderful sense of accomplishment - that I haven't completely lost the person I used to be.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
This was the second piece we arranged in my floral design course. Who knew you could actually make long stem roses look "bad"? After we constructed a grid on the top of the vase, greened it and arranged some very expensive long stemmed beauties, we were asked an important question by our instructor - "Would you pay $80 for these?" I think we all took them home, re-cut them and started over. I use a knife for my stems but I think I'm the only one in my class who still puts tape on her thumb. I may eventually get over pulling a sharp blade toward me but 30 hours of class time hasn't done it yet. I didn't think to take a picture of my hand-tied bouquet before it was torn apart and rearranged into a round-shaped centerpiece. I need to buy myself some flowers and re-try that one.
Friday, September 11, 2009
The mystery of the womb is a mystery no longer. My daughter is gestating a grandson. Due to the miracle of science, we can see the little guy and know that he's a boy with big feet who sucks on his hand. So I can't call him "my future grandchild" any longer. It's just that he's in his own little watery world for now, where he's warm and comfy and on schedule to join us in January. Grammy loves him already.
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
I cleaned off most of the tomatoes from the heirlooms last night and delivered some to my neighbor. They were coming on a couple a day but finally, it was harvest or lose. The largest "Radiator Charlie" I grew this summer was 1.7 pounds. A tangy slice of "Charlie" on a cheeseburger is a wonderful thing. The "Williams Striped" produced more tomatoes per plant but was bland in comparison. The German tomato (Granny Cantrell) was pink rather than "tomato" red. It was tasty but not noteworthy. "Radiator Charlie's" interesting history was not just a nice story. "Charlie" tomato sandwiches brought back summer memories from my childhood. "Beefsteak" got off to a slow start, having been attacked by aphids. I sprayed once, as soon as I discovered the invasion of small ants that followed the aphids. There are small tomatoes on the plant but I'm not counting on it producing much before it gets too cold. "Radiator Charlie" was the winner in my garden by far!
Friday, August 14, 2009
It's warm, humid and the flowers are blooming and busy with bees. Tomatoes are ripening, hopefully the melons, too, and my daughter's feeling lots of life inside. I'm knitting a baby sweater for the ripening grandchild. I have all the pieces of the sweater finished but it's going slowly because I'm learning to pick up stitches and I'm a bit unsure of what I'm doing. It's August - slow is good.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Decorative and edible. Some of my gardening has been reasonable this summer. Eggplants and strawberries in patio planters are reasonable. I can handle fruit and vegetables that are restricted to their own pots. The melons, however, are completely out of control. For the space they're taking, they'd better taste really good. I trimmed (hacked) them back today. We enjoyed our first ripe tomato last week. It weighed almost 2 lbs. The tomato vines were looking blighted but I trimmed the yellow leaves and the fruit looks fine. So does the basil I planted a few weeks ago and couldn't find between the tomato plants.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Monday, August 10, 2009
I've been too busy and distracted to post pictures to my blog. It's time to catch up. Victoria's bridal shower was July 12. We had a perfect (breezy) sunny day. It was difficult to keep my grandmother's silver from blowing off the tables. The flowers were arranged in vegetable cans scrapped with paper and embelishments. We served finger sandwiches, chocolate cupcakes with lavender sugar roses, quiche, teapot cookies and punch. The bride was pleased and received lots of lovely gifts. The punch was the hit of the party:
Bridal Shower Punch
2 qt. sherbet 1 - 12 oz can lemonate concentrate thawed
1 1/2 c cold water 2 ltr. bottle carbonated lemon/lime soda
fresh fruit cut up (strawberries)
Spoon sherbet into punch bowl. Add all ingredients except soda and fruit, Stir to mix, then add soda slowly and stir. Float fruit just before serving.
Monday, July 13, 2009
Here's a picture of the bathtowel wedding cake I made for my future daughter-in-law's bridal shower yesterday. I used the towels she registered for, some silk calla lillies (she's including some real ones in her bouquet), white seashells, topped by a pair of bride and groom rubber duckies. I saw them in a gift shop and just had to make one for the shower!
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Our family enjoyed a lovely week at the Jersey shore last week. I popped out of bed at dawn (or earlier) every morning so I wouldn't miss a second of the day. This week it's back to the rain, black spotted plants and my out-of-control garden. I wish I had time to pull more weeds but now I'm getting the house ready for my future daughter-in-law's bridal shower. I'm making goodies and decorations and trying not to panic. Everything's in the wrong order - the vacation should have been scheduled for the week after the shower. Poor planning...
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Saturday, June 20, 2009
If I'm quicker than the catbird I'll get my share. I'm growing a few baskets of Alpine Strawberries this year. They're no larger than the end of your finger but the I found the idea of prolific romantic blossoms, combined with the sweet allure of their tiny fruit, completely irresistible. So far, I've only eaten one berry. I know I should cover the plants with bird nets but can't stand the look of them. I'm thinking about stopping at the baby box store to see if they still sell carriage nets. I'll cover one plant for me and let my feathered friends have the rest!
Saturday, June 13, 2009
Sometimes it's difficult to believe that I'm the oldest woman in the family. How in the world did that happen? My grandmother and I still spend time together in the garden even though she's been gone for 10 years. She was right there watching me plant thornless blackberry canes this past spring. I hear her voice and feel the soft skin of her arms when I touch my own. My mom hangs over my shoulder as well. I see her every morning looking back at me as I put on my make-up. She recently helped me identify the butterfly weed seedling I planted in the vegetable garden last year. I almost pulled it, thinking it was just another stray weed. She's there too, though she passed away the day after Christmas. I wish they both had stayed long enough to teach me how to be a grandmother when my daughter gives birth in January. I guess I just have to call them in from the garden.
Friday, June 12, 2009
Sandy turned 4 years old today. We celebrated last night by watching a few scenes from "Lady and the Tramp" together. She apparently thinks the t.v. is a window. After running back and forth for a while, she settled down to watch the movie, cocking her head side to side, listening intently. It's a good thing she played last night since she had to work today. We had a contractor working in the house who needed to be kept in line...
Monday, May 25, 2009
I planted my tomato plants this afternoon. I used a totally unscientific method of selecting varieties to grow. I chose 'Granny Cantrell's German' tomato, 'Williams Striped' tomato, 'Radiator Charlie's Mortgage Lifter' and 'Burpee's Beefsteak' tomato. I chose the heirloom varieties simply because I thought the names were interesting. I chose the 'Beefsteak' because, tried and true, cut into half-inch delicious slices, it compliments a hamburger perfectly.
It turns out, the varieties I chose have interesting backgrounds as well as funny names. 'Granny Cantrell' was grown by and named for Lettie Cantrell of West Liberty, Kentucky. She had obtained the seeds to this particular tomato variety from a soldier returned from Germany after World War II in the 1940's. She liked this variety so much it was the only type of tomato she ever grew. Granny died in 2005 at the ripe old age of 96.
'Williams Striped Tomato', is a red and yellow variety striped inside and out. Georgia and Rene Emonds received some tomato seeds from an elderly neighbor who had saved them from a variety he had grown, having stashed the seeds in a pill bottle. The neighbor couldn't remember why or when he had saved the seeds. The Emonds started some seedlings, grew the plants and passed some seeds along to Merlyn Niedens. Niedens grew and submitted the variety to the 2005 Heirloom Garden show where it was named favorite of tomatoes that year. That's my motto - "Save Everything". You just never know.
Last, but not least of my heirloom varieties, is 'Radiator Charlie's Mortgage Lifter'. This tomato was developed in the early 1930's in Logan, West Virginia, by a (car) radiator repairman, M.C. 'Radiator Charlie' Byles. Charlie had no experience breeding tomatoes, yet he made a successful cross of the four largest tomatoes he could find. Byles sold his seedlings for $1 each in the 1940's to gardeners who would drive up to 200 miles just to buy his famous plants. No wonder. This variety is reputed to bear tasty fruit that averages 2 1/2 lbs. each. Charlie was able to pay off his $6,000 mortgage in 6 years by selling his plants.
Monday, May 18, 2009
It's time to plan a bridal shower for my son's fiancee. We're thinking finger food like quiches, chicken salad in tiny croissants, baked Brie en croute with raspberry jam, raspberry iced tea. Maybe a pitcher of beautiful fruit water as shown on the Vegetable Gardener website this week. I think cupcakes, too. I can start baking and freezing as long as I don't try to ice them until just before the party.
Saturday, May 16, 2009
I have unlimited enthusiasm for gardening. I try not to let my physical limitations get in my way. I'm not adverse to taking credit when something beautiful happens accidentally. These Aquilegias are native American wildflowers and were apparently the offspring of plants that were here when my husband bought the property in 1999. Aquilegias are normally short-lived and only transplant well when they are very small. I'm leaving these alone and planting some vegetables around them. I hope to end up with some seedlings that I can move in the future.
Friday, May 15, 2009
I received a chain letter today from a beloved friend. It had been a forward to her from her daughter-in-law. My friend's daughter-in-law prefaced the mail by stating (in essence) that she doesn't usually pass these things along but that this one was worthy of a chain because of the positive message it carried. The message requests that I make a wish or say a prayer before I read the quotation and that I pass it along to twelve women who are important to me because (effectively) through a group like-minded women, all things are possible. After passing the message along, chain, unbroken, something good will happen on the fourth day. Okay, I admit it. I'm dying to know what's not going to happen to me on the fourth day. I have the e-mail addresses of twelve women, but I know, without a doubt, that most (if not all) of these women do not want a chain letter from me. Chain letters carry a certain burden of responsiblity that most of us simply do not want to shoulder. I don't know what happens when I break a chain because I always break the chain. I've been chain-breaking since I was a kid and got a "snail mail" chain letter in my mailbox. I thought it was a burden then but I was afraid not to break the chain as there was a veiled threat implied. So I fearfully wrote and mailed all those letters. Then I was told by my mother that chain letters were against the law. (I guess it was the threatening component since was there was no cash involved.) So I was between a rock and a hard place. Either way I was screwed. Bad things (whatever they were) would happen to me if I broke the chain (which had been unbroken by everyone in the world). If I didn't, well, actually, nothing happened. But technically, I had broken the chain-letter law. I guess that was bad. Truthfully, I didn't need to add one more thing to the OCD tendencies I was dealing with at the time. For heaven's sake, I was already maneuvering sidewalk cracks to avoid breaking my mother's back. So, this chain and every other after it will be broken and I'm at peace with that. I know my friend only sent the chain letter because 1) she had to keep the chain in one piece and 2) she was sending me love and good wishes and I wish (and pray) the same for her.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
It's not a nice day...again. Rainy and cold and I don't feel that well so I'm staying in. It's a good time to sort through paperwork, throw away the old and file the rest. I found some bills from the kitchen renovation while I was filing. Sometimes I forget what a change we made until I pull out the before pictures. The plumbing under the sink was leaking and the oven was too small for a turkey. The update took 40 years off her looks.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
I bought two Black Beauty eggplant seedlings and then decided to investigate their "care and feeding". It really sounds like they're more trouble than they're worth. I think it's going to be a case of the $1,000 eggplant. Barbara Damrosch writes in The Garden Primer, "eggplant is tough to grow in any climate" and "a certain amount of eggplant-growing is sheer luck". Basically, get them started as early as possible, watch for bugs, worms, wilt and blight. Don't let their roots touch the ground, don't pull weeds around them because they don't like it. Harvest your little, tiny eggplants as quickly as possible before something attacks them. Baby eggplants are very "au courant" so nobody will know you're coming home from work on your lunch hour to catch them at the peak of their perfection. In other words, snatching them from the mouths of bugs and disease that are waiting patiently for you to turn your back. I couldn't resist planting my eggplants in the classy urns they so richly deserve. The Alyssum was also Barbara's idea. I think it adds that little something...
Monday, May 11, 2009
There was a lot of chatter this week-end about "lingerie". My soon-to-be married son wanted to know what the big deal was about bridal showers. I answered him with three words: Pots, pans and lingerie. I visited a lingerie shop on Saturday. There were lots of frilly underthings in tiny sizes (appropriately) and some body armor of the more basic design. Now here's where I can make the gardening connection. Last week I hammered some heavy-duty stakes into the ground and erected a nylon trellis to support some sugar snap peas I had planted. I hope I sewed the peas on the right (correct) side of the trellis. When the seeds sprout, I expect them to reach out toward the direction of the sun so I planted them on the north side of the trellis. Anyway, the pea trellis is "basic support" to say it in the kindest way. It really is ugly and utilitarian. I don't know what the trellis company was thinking by manufacturing it in white instead of green. Now the garden totem I stuck in behind the Annabelle hydrangea is what I call "sexy support". Annabelle will never really need much in the way of support. She's young and perky and will still be lovely at the end of her blooming days in the fall. We all should be so lucky...
Sunday, May 10, 2009
Last month I planted a few lettuce seeds in a container before it was too early and too cold to play in the garden. Each tiny head of buttercrunch lettuce is supposed to mature to the size of a soft ball. This variety was developed for the "Japanese luxury market". I planted according to the directions on the packet. Five to seven of these little babies are supposed to fit comfortably within a 12 to 15 inch pot. Somebody's going to get transplanted. They remind me of little birds in a nest. All this coddling and each little head will barely make a salad for one.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Robert Lewis Stevenson said, "A friend is a gift you give yourself". I gave myself a gift yesterday in the form of a four hour lunch with my friend, Kathy. If a whole afternoon at Rainbow Gardens restaurant weren't enough, we topped off the day by going shopping at Coldwater Creek. To make that even better, Kathy gave me a $25 coupon to use at CC. Every girl needs a friend like Kathy.
Monday, May 4, 2009
I continued my autumn ritual last November. For the last few years, I've delayed my puchase of fall bulbs to take advantage of clearance sales. I've had to check the display a couple of times to get the best deal, but I've never paid more than half price for my bulbs.
Of course, this results in a very limited selection. Basically, I end up with what nobody else wanted.
So far, the tactic has worked just fine. The result of my thriftiness is that I buy twice as many bulbs as I would have purchased at the full price. I throw the bulbs in a pile and mix them up. Then I dig large holes and plant five or seven bulbs in each hole.
Last year I planted red triumph tulips, yellow darwin hybrid tulips and mixed lily flowering tulips.
I treat them as annuals and never expect them to flower a second year and they usually don't. Popping up around the highlighter-yellow spurge (inherited from the previous owner), dutchmen's britches (also inherited), and lion's bane (my addition from Walmart last year), I think the results were well-worth the $15 I spent last fall.
Sunday, May 3, 2009
Our little Cocker Spaniel is 99% heart - not much in the brains department - but Cocker Spaniel love is enthusiastic and unconditional. You can always tell where you stand with my puppy girl. The only time the tail stops wagging is when she's asleep or involved in one of her favorite pastimes - people-watching...
Saturday, May 2, 2009
I finally got to read the Home section of the New York Times with my morning coffee. Sometimes I'm right on the cutting edge - who'd have guessed? According to an article by Anne Raver in this past Thursday's edition, ecologists are beginning to link the decline in bee population with the eradication of native plants. In research performed by Professor Gordon Frankie, an entomologist at the University of California, Berkeley, bees prefer to eat locally grown! Who knew? According to Professor Frankie, out of 1,000 plants surveyed, 50 were native plants. 80 percent of the bees counted were attracted to those native plants as opposed to only 10 percent of the bees who buzzed around the 950 non-natives.
The author's advice? "Don't be so quick to mow." Right on, sister. I don't have to be embarassed any more because I choose to relinquish my picture-perfect spring lawn to masses of life enhancing dandelions and wild violets. I'll have more cucumbers and tomatoes than my neighbors with their putting-green turf. I'll be harvesting baskets of green beans and salad vegetables while they're standing in line at the grocery store.
Okay, seriously. Tomatoes, peas and beans don't rely on bees for pollination but other crops like my cucumbers do. I don't use anything on my lawn and garden but organic products and the organic weed control hasn't been very effective. Maybe that's not so bad. The plan for this year is to add more native plants to my landscape. I have plenty of blackeyed susans because they self-sew. Other native plants suggested by the author are Joe-pye weed, coreopsis, penstemon, salvia, milkweed, spider flower, verbena lavender, basil, rosemary and borage. They're all going in the ground this year. Hopefully they're good companion plants to the dandelions and violets.