Monday, May 31, 2010

Phelted Clogs

Ta-da! George's Phelted Clogs are finished!  Okay, I finished knitting and sewing them. Now to felt them.  I'll do that today after I finish the rest of the laundry.

Scrapping a Life, Tea and Garden Updates

Okay, so why does every craft involve lots of supplies and a large mess? At least every craft I'm involved in seems to. And I'm involved in so many that the mess seems exponential. I decided a bare two weeks before my daughter's graduation that I'd make her a scrapbook. It started out as a scrapbook of her graduation, but wait!  I have lots of memorabilia from activities that aren't technically graduation, but could be considered part of it.  Okay, I'll scrap the last part of her senior year.  But wait! How about her acceptance letters to college?  How about the photos of prom and homecoming??? Okay, those will get scrapped as well. And how about pages devoted to her best friend since seventh grade??  And I'd love to make her a "Through the Years" page like the framed displays I have of her and her brother.  Hmm... You know, a High School Years page would work.  Then I could make her a Middle School Years page.  And then an Elementary School Years page. And you know her dance scrapbook from so long ago needs a severe overhaul.  For one thing, it's in a baby-themed book and neither of us like that book. For another, I put pressed flowers on one page and quite frankly, they look awful. As I was re-scrapping the flowers page and transferring the pages into a new book, I noticed that I'd made a mistake in one year and it will need to be redone as well. And there's no journaling on the pages.  Yikes!  Stories that she either never knew or doesn't remember will disappear if I don't remedy that.

The list goes on and on.  And well it should. Where there's life, there are memories. The challenge is how to preserve the memories. During a lull in my son's bout with a kidney stone this week, we had a wonderful reminiscence session. I was amazed at how much he remembers from childhood. And then, out of the clear blue, he tells me that he thinks it's important to have lots of photos because they help him remember. Such an obvious thing, but one I tend to forget. I never want to stop to photograph the moment because I want to live the moment, but the photographs are valuable. As always, it's a balance.

However, my dining room table is very unbalanced! There are piles of scrapbook paper I've collected over the years, piles of objects d'art to embellish the pages, glue dispensers, markers, paper cutters and scissors. Boxes of memorabilia.  Scrapbooking, like taxes, isn't so hard in itself. The challenge is collecting everything to get going. I lost a day searching for school photos.  Now if somebody can tell me why I put the eleventh grade school photos in the same envelope with the fourth grade school photos, I'll be grateful. I tore up the house several times looking for them. However, everything is more organized now.  Well... except that I left a stack of scrapbook paper on a chair instead of with the main stack. Arrgghhh!! And if I only had  New York themed paper for that jazz recital...

At least there's a scrapbook store within easy reach of the house. I walked over there yesterday and managed to walk home with all my purchases - a new college-themed book, pages and pages in all kinds of themes, and two new pairs of scissors! Maybe I'd better get myself one of those rolling baskets like they use in Europe!  But then I couldn't use it when I ride my bicycle over there. But the bike has a handlebar basket that can handle (no pun intended) many things, if not a full-sized scrapbook. Perhaps that might keep my purchases in check?  Probably not.

A Garden Update
I think I'm safe in saying that all the roses but one are coming back. A few days ago, I thought all the roses were coming back, but the leaf bud Penelope started was officially pronounced dead this morning when I tended the plants. I'm afraid she won't make it. There's strong growth on most of the others, so I think with babying this summer, they'll make it. I have to admit, I'll be more aggressive in pruning the roses back next winter. The sweetheart rose collection isn't as flush as it should be and I think it will benefit from severe cutting back (at the right time of year).

The weather is getting hotter, which is stressing the plants. I've officially decided to install a drip system at least in the herb and vegetable gardens. I had one years ago and they're a wonderful alternative to hand watering.  I need to be brave and clean out the garage until I find any remaining pieces of the drip system that I can reuse.

I'm seeing an interesting phenomenon. Every morning when I go out to put peanuts in the platform feeder, I notice that the fountain fixture in the herb garden is floating in the water. I pick it out of the water, rinse off the BT granules (put there to discourage mosquitoes) and put it back. The next morning, it's in the water again. I think some creature is coming at night to drink from the fountain, although I've never seen said creature, nor does Ming ever indicate there's anything out there. Hmm... There are two new cats who seem to have taken up residence outside. One is an orange tabby and the other a black-and-tan. I think both are probably feral as they seem a bit scruffy. I saw the black-and-tan with a white wing dove in its mouth, carrying it back to the back yard. Apparently, they regard our yard as a diner. The white-wings can't easily eat from any of the feeders, but they congregate on the ground and pick up seed that the other birds drop. Oops!

Yet Another Version of Fruit-Mint Tea
This one can't legally be called fruit-mint tea since there's no mint. From the basic recipe, omit the mint and use jasmine tea instead of black tea. I love the Jasmine Pearl tea from Teavana. The green tea makes the entire drink much lighter and the jasmine scent and flavor is wonderful.  It reminds me of the iced tea from my favorite Vietnamese restaurant.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Buddha's Herb Garden, More Fruit-Mint Tea, and the Farmer's Market

Buddha's Herb Garden
It's funny what happens when you're looking the other way. In the aftermath of the GRM and the depression that followed, I moved several of the herbs around the fountain where the wall of roses had been. Mostly I moved them there as a temporary measure. They had been taken out of the greenhouse before our trip to Philadelphia, but just set where they'd get sun and rain. I was delighted that they made it through the winter so well, but didn't give them much more thought. One thing led to another - more peppermint in the peppermint pot, for example, and all of the sudden I looked out the French doors opening onto the deck and noticed that I had an herb garden! The last entry is the white bowl of catnip. I have a running battle with the neighborhood cats. It didn't take them long to discover the catnip when it lived on the front walkway.  The rather dilapidated plant got thrown out in the GRM, so I bought a new plant when I got the globe basil.  Sadly, Ming discovered it sitting on the counter and just about tore it up before I could get it planted. I got a second catnip plant from PetsMart yesterday and got both plants into the bowl this morning between rain showers. Hopefully, putting it in the herb garden will keep it from the notice of cats strolling by!
While writing this blog post, I got so excited about making an official herb garden that I moved one of the rosemary plants, the globe basil and garlic chives to the garden. Almost all of the herbs are there now. An Italian parsley is sharing space with an olive tree, but they're too big to move here. So... here is the final (for now) Buddha's Herb Garden!
Buddha's Herb Garden, Take 2 (left side)
And here's the herb list:
  • Spicy Globe Basil
  • Catnip
  • Lavender
  • Patchouli
  • Lemon Verbena
  • Curry Plant
  • Lemon Thyme
  • Rosemary
  • Ginger Mint
  • Peppermint
  • Garlic Chives

Fruit-Mint Tea Update
After writing my last post, I decided to try the tea with Lady Grey tea, a lighter version of Earl Grey and today was the day. I dashed out about noon to cut some peppermint - got totally soaked in the rain - and made up a batch with the Lady Grey, peppermint, lemon and lime. I also cut the sugar back to about 2/3 cup.  Okay, this is the best Fruit-Mint tea I've ever made. I'm going to try one batch with Earl Grey just to do it, but I think Lady Grey is the way to go. It reminds me of Earl's Grey Lemonade, but I think it's much better.
Farmer's Market
After over a month away, we got back to the Pearl Market on Saturday. Wow! The selection was amazing! We came home with eggplant, peppers, peaches, artichokes, onions, mushrooms, new potatoes, fresh garlic, green beans, and the prize of prizes... the first okra of the season!  Here's a sampler of what we came back with.
Farmer's Market produce
 And here's that okra!
First okra of the season
Guess who'll be making fried okra real quick??

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Garden Updates, Fruit-Mint Iced Tea, and Finishing Sweaters

It's been a week and I think I'm pretty much over the worst of the Great Rose Massacre.  George sweetly bought me a second Katy Road (Carefree Beauty) in case the original one doesn't come back and a Perle d'Or to add to the collection of small sweetheart-type roses. Thus far, two of three miniature roses have leaf buds. I'm pretty sure I'm seeing leaf buds starting on the Graham Thomas yellow rose and the Maggie red rose. Still to go are the original Katy Road, Penelope (if what I think is her is really her), the Climbing American Beauty, and the Tuscan Sun.

On the up side, we added two bougainvillas to the front wall. The last ones never did all that well, and they didn't make it through the freeze. One of these is an Afterglow, which has become my favorite variety. It changes colors from a coral red to the standard bougainvilla magenta. Since we couldn't find a second Afterglow, the second bougainvilla is a Johnson - also pretty, but not quite as nice as the Afterglow, although in the photos, it's hard to tell the difference.

Afterglow Bougainvilla

Johnson Bougainvilla

My goal is to keep both going through the winter. Now that the greenhouse is an  option, I think it can be done. On the herb front, I replaced the garlic chives that met their demise in the GRM and added a spicy globe basil to the mix. The peppermint survived the GRM, but was looking kind of tired out. It would probably have come back on its own, but I added another plant to the pot. Peppermint is my favorite of all the mints and I like having it around for iced tea. My fave iced tea recipe goes something like this:

Fruit-Mint Iced Tea
2 quarts water
5 tsp or 5 teabags of black tea
1 cup sugar
1 lemon
1 lime
4 sprigs mint
Bring the water to a boil and while doing so, put the tea, sugar, and mint into a heat-proof bowl. Juice the lemon and lime into the bowl and put the rinds in as well. Mash everything together with the bottom of a heavy glass.  Pour the boiling water over the mixture and leave to steep for 5 minutes. Strain the tea into a pitcher and chill. This is open to all kinds of variations. I normally use Taylor and Harrowgate's Scottish Breakfast Tea, but after trying the Earl of Sandwich's Earl's Grey Lemonade, I want to try it with Earl Grey or Lady Grey tea. I usually use whatever citrus fuit I have around. Probably ripe peaches could be substituted. I prefer peppermint, but will use whatever mint I have available. Anyway, it's very nice and refreshing on a hot day - and we're getting them now!

The Aran Cardigan

The Summer 2010 edition of Interweave Knits has a pattern for a gorgeous cardigan made of cotton-bamboo yarn.  I adore that cardigan. I want to make it. I almost ordered the yarn for it. And then I stopped... How about the gorgeous Aran Shirttail Cardigan I've had in the basket for years?  I'm finished with the body. I just need to do the sleeves. Why am I putting it off? I'm making it in Cascade's Ecological Wool yarn and either it was attacked by bugs, or had some other accident, but the reamining skeins have lots of breaks in them. The yarn spit-tricks back quite well, but I get tired of doing it all the time. I feel like I'm pasting the yarn back together. But let's face it, that's no excuse. So... I've finished both cuffs and am maybe a quarter of the way up both sleeves. (Working both sleeves at the same time helps ensure they're made the same.)

The Sleeves
(No, Ming didn't break the yarn!)

When I finally finish this sweater, I'll order the yarn for the new one!  I'm having a battle with my conscience about what kind of yarn to use anyway. The cotton-bamboo that's called for is really pretty, but there's another DK yarn in a color I prefer. But it might not hang right... Hmmm.... Or... I usually choose neutral colors for sweaters, and that soft rose is calling to me. Why not, this once, make a sweater in a soft rose? I have a beautiful shrug I hardly wear in a lovely rose shade. Why not a sweater??  But I might not like it... Is it better to play it safe and go with a neutral cream??  I think if the color is calling, maybe I'd better answer.  But for now, I'm going to finish the Aran cardigan!

Monday, May 17, 2010

'Tis The Last Rose of Summer...

Left blooming alone
All her lovely companions
Are faded and gone.
-- Thomas Moore

Well, that might be a bit melodramatic, but the remaining climbing American Beauty rose threw out one bud after the Massacre, which bloomed yesterday. This variety isn't even a sport of the long-stemmed American Beauty red rose that so many people know, so the name tends to confuse people. This is a fantastic rose, however. It's an aggressive climber, tough as nails (with thorns that resemble them) and a bloom cycle at maturity that will cause traffic accidents.  It only blooms once a year, but it puts so much energy into that one flush that it puts repeat bloomers to shame. It's a healthy rose when it's not blooming and is perfectly capable of providing quite a bit of shade in an arbor.  That, of course, is what I was trying to accomplish.  This morning, I fed and re-trellised the remaining rose.  It's still coming over the the swing, doing its best to provide shade and doing a good job. So I got a photo of this remaining bloom. In my experience, it won't bloom again this year, but I could always be surprised.

Huge thanks to the staff at the Antique Rose Emporium for their wonderful sympathy and advice. I really didn't know what to do next - whether to "hoik" the roses (thank-you, Gertrude Jekyll), or to try and bring them back. The folks at the Emporium provided both psychological comfort and horticultural advice - feed 'em a little and pray a lot - they may well come back. The two roses I'm the most concerned about, Katy Road (Carefree Beauty) and the climbing American Beauty, are both strong roses and have a good chance of survival. So I fed 'em a little yesterday and am praying a lot.  We'll see.

Speaking of Gertrude Jekyll, I found a beautiful quote of hers:
In garden arrangement, as in all other kinds of decorative work, one has not only to acquire a knowledge of what to do, but also to gain some wisdom in perceiving what it is well to let alone.

-- Gertrude Jekyll

Felted Slippers
When the going gets tough, the tough knit... Slippers! I finished these for me and felted them. They're so thick, they're taking an age to dry, but they are so pretty! I started a set for George on Saturday. I'm getting the first one about done and will hopefully get 'em completed this week. It's awfully toasty now for felted slippers, but they'll be really nice come cold weather. 

At least it's pleasant now in the mornings to sit in the swing and watch the blue jays come for their peanuts.  They seem to have no fear of me as long as I just gently swing and don't move too much. They are the most incredible precision pilots! I do look forward to watching the young ones come with their parents a little later. The young ones won't do a fast approach and precision landing in the feeder. They'll land in the branches above the feeder and then drop down to it. I'm also looking forward to the young house finches coming to the smaller tube feeder. I've noticed that the male parent brings them. He'll feed them seeds at first and then teach them to get their own seeds from the feeder. I'm not sure why that's not Mom's job, but it isn't in that bird world.

Speaking of dinner, I'd probably better go start ours before too long.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Grieving for Things Lost

This has been an awfully difficult week. Of course, compared to many people, I have so much to be grateful for, and I am.  It's just that we've lost things and I feel like I need to grieve for them and then let go. Joseph got in an accident last Friday.  Thank God, he's okay and noone else was involved. He kept a worse accident from happening, and I'm proud of him for that.  However, the truck is totaled. It was 14 years old and gave 14 years of wonderful service. It was hard saying good-bye to it this afternoon.

And then the roses.  In fact, all my plants. My new neighbor who fancies herself a master gardener cut my roses down to the ground without even asking. Climbing American Beauty roses that took me four years to bring to their first year of blooming with the potential they have. Four years gone.  And worse, the roses may not live. This climate is far too hot to completely cut back roses now. It has to be done in February, if done at all, which climbing roses don't need. She cut off healthy growth.  I'm so angry and feel so violated.

Good-bye, beautiful rose! Right now, I just don't feel like even trying again. And yes, that's a statue of the Buddha beside the blue pot, which is a fountain in the summer. We were just about to start the fountains going again. Sigh. I'm trying to cling to the thought of the Buddha. I have so far to go!