Thursday, May 26, 2016

garden stroll ~ late may

Good thing we got a lot of gardening work done this week and that I took photos then, because now the rain (and heat and humidity) are here. 

This is the south side of my house with the path that leads to the patio. It's mostly shady due to the neighbor's overhanging trees, so perennials such as hostas, pachysandra and lilies do wonderfully as ground cover in this area with minimal work. We've never had to purchase hostas. They've all been divided transplants from neighbors and friends. I haven't spruced up the patio area yet except for some new cushions, so I'm not going to show you this area yet. I still need to re-spray paint the ottoman and side table and plant some more annuals in pots for the baker's rack.

Privacy fences are boring and ugly and I'm a bit limited in what I can do since it's our neighbor's fence, but I've hung a few things for visual interest. I found this planter at Home Depot and filled it with petunias, dianthus and ivy.

Parsley graces a tin butterfly planter.

On the north side of the house...remember this plain area that I was determined to spruce up this year? This is where Brian put a trellis and planted clematis for me for Mother's Day. Since this area gets a lot of sun, we decided to plant tomatoes and zinnias here, too. 

Brian dug out a rectangular area, we planted the tomatoes and zinnias, and then mulched. We obviously still have to add some kind of border. See the planter on the left with the bamboo in it? It's growing like a weed. I've read that people plant it as a "living fence" since it grows quickly and tall, but it's terribly invasive. It can take over an entire backyard! I'm glad we dug it out of the butterfly garden and put it in a container.

These weigela bushes have been on the north side of our house since we moved in 26 years ago - planted by the previous owners. They had a lot of dead area this spring so they needed pruning. Hopefully, they'll fill back in with new growth later this season. In the meantime, I'm loving the beautiful spring flowers on these bushes ~ and so are the bees! 

The flowers usually attract hummingbirds too, but I haven't seen any so far this spring.

Pots o' color in different areas around the yard...

I just made this planter yesterday. The big plant is a citronella plant, which is in the geranium family. I originally thought that it would help deter mosquitoes, but from what I've read, the plant itself does not deter the mosquitoes. You have to take some of the leaf, crush it and rub it on your skin. That's the deterrent. Oh well, I'm willing to try this because I don't want to use DEET on my skin unless absolutely necessary. (I've made homemade mosquitoes sprays from natural ingredients in the past and they haven't worked well.) Also, from reading about this plant, some web sites say it's a perennial and you can put it in the ground so that it will come back every year, and other places say you have to dig it up and bring it indoors for the winter. Maybe it matters what variety it is? Sheesh. I'll have to do more reading later.

I have my herbs in various places...
Basil - including a purple variety - went into this planter.

I'm keeping the salad greens, dill and cilantro in a more shady area on my front porch, though the heat is already taking a toll on the poor greens on the left.

A little herb garden in the back of the house has mint, lemon balm, chives, thyme and newly-planted tarragon.

Also, in the backyard, my lilac bush blooms are already dried up. They sure don't last long!

The only thing blooming in my butterfly garden right now is Columbine...

After last night's storm, the sun broke out for a few minutes and I immediately said to Brian, "I bet there's a rainbow." I went outside and sure enough, there it was. :-)

Have a wonderful weekend! 
For those of us in the US, it's Memorial Day weekend, with Monday being the actual holiday. We remember those men and women who died in active military service. 

Monday, May 23, 2016

spring weekends

 Spring weekends can't be all yard work, right? Time for another day trip! At first, we considered going to an antique and garden show in Wisconsin, but good thing I looked on Facebook beforehand: There were many posts about how crowded the place was. The police even shut down the main intersection near the farm and were turning people away. So, we chose to go to Evanston - one of our favorite day trip towns. 

We started out with a stop at Hewn. I got a strawberry muffin and Brian got a walnut scone. We sat outside in the sunshine and enjoyed our goodies while people-watching. We also bought a loaf of their homemade bread to bring home. I think it's a good thing we don't live close to this place. We could really get into trouble! 

From their web site..."Everything at Hewn is made in-house, from scratch daily. We source local and seasonal ingredients from small, local farmers when their flavors are at their peak. All of our breads are hand-mixed, hand-shaped and naturally fermented without commercial yeast. Allowing bread to ferment with wild yeast allows a richer, more complex flavor to develop. It also allows the gluten proteins to slowly and naturally break down over time. The starter (levain/sourdough) was initially created by Ellen (owner) several years ago. Our bakers all work to feed and maintain the starter every day.

Each day our bakers mix the dough by hand, turning it every 30 minutes over a four hour period. The dough is then shaped and placed into bannetons, where it rests overnight to rise naturally. In the morning, the bakers fire up the oven and bake the bread. From the start of the mix to the bake, the bread is fermented approximately 20 hours."

We walked around the neighborhood, popping into different shops and stopping to listen to a street band. I loved this planter I saw in front of one of the stores.

Cool street art...

We also visited a farmer's market. Not much going on just yet at farmer's markets here...mostly a lot of plants and spring veggies such as rhubarb and kale. At one booth, I pointed to the rhubarb and mentioned to Brian that "my rhubarb isn't this big and beautiful." The lady in the booth overheard me and remarked, "That's because you don't know what you're doing, my dear." Quite presumptuous, don't you think? Needless to say, I didn't buy anything from Rude Rhubarb Lady. ;-) I did buy a pound of fingerling potatoes from another vendor, which I roasted with olive oil, salt and pepper last night. Then I tossed them with some of my fresh herbs. We agreed that they were the best potatoes we'd ever had. Garden-fresh makes all the difference. I also bought beef bones from another organic farmer so that I can make bone broth. 

We saw this sign on the side of the library and loved it. We talked about how kids merely go through Google and click on links to do research nowadays. And how we used to have to go to the library, use the card catalog (remember those?) to look for appropriate books and periodicals, then look through and read said material. This banner is part of a project from Libraries Transform if you're interested in reading more about the Libraries Transform campaign.

I've mentioned before about Evanston that one of the many things I love about this town is the gorgeous houses. This one is the Oscar Mayer mansion - currently undergoing renovation.

Our last stop of the day was the lakefront. This has always been one of my favorite views looking toward Chicago. See the tiny building on the far right? That's the John Hancock Center

We spread out a blanket in the grass area of the park in front of the lake. We brought our books with us, too ~ after all, our intention was to relax and read. Well, intentions are just that. I think my body wanted to nap off the Indian cuisine we had for lunch. ;-)

It was back to the yard work and gardening on Sunday and most of the day today, too. We've been blessed with beautiful weather, but looks like rain is moving in for the rest of the week. Catch you later with some garden updates! 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

sunshine thursday

 Today was one of those perfect spring days that you wish would last forever: brilliant sunshine, nary a cloud in the sky, and topping 70 degrees F. I made another trip to the garden center, this time picking up herbs (two varieties of basil, tarragon, parsley, dill and lavender), zinnias, petunias and dianthus. I got everything planted in pots except the lavender and tarragon - those will go in the backyard herb garden - and the zinnias. Not sure where I want them yet. There is still so much gardening and yard work to do! I don't mind though - I love working outside in the nice weather. I've waited all winter for this.

I cut some lilacs off my lilac bush and brought them inside to put in little vases. I didn't do so earlier because their intense fragrance makes my allergies go insane. Now that they're fading (makes me sad that they don't last long), they're not as fragrant.

 I had a bouquet of yellow flowers from Trader Joes, so I divided them up and used some on top of the secretary desk in the living room...

and in a little blue bottle of top of a stack of books.

More yellow flowers went on the kitchen table...

and on top of a cake plate near the kitchen window.

The cats were in all their glory this morning with the sunbeam and catnip.

 Even as the sun sets, my gardening chores are done, and the catnip is put away, Zippo finds the sliver of the setting sun on my desk that faces the backyard.

Hope you're enjoying flowers and sunbeams, too!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

he did it!

This past Saturday was the big day: Tim's graduation from college!

It was so exciting to be sitting in this stadium, anticipating all the graduates soon to be marching in and filling those empty seats. It seemed not too long ago that I was sitting in the bleachers of Tim's high school, heart thumping with excitement and pride that my youngest son was graduating and would be going on to college. 

In my post on May 9th, I had said that Tim overcame some major life obstacles in pursuing his degree and that I would talk about it after his graduation ceremony. First and foremost was his brother's death in September 2009. Tim was in community college when Phil passed away. Tim wanted to quit school. He didn't know how he was going to go on. After a lot of discussion and Tim's own perseverance, he stayed in school. It took him four years to complete community college due to a host of factors, but he never gave up.

During the few years Tim was away at university, he experienced job loss; major car troubles; spraining his ankle twice - the second time so severe that he ended up in a "boot"; a severe case of tinnitus; and...a burglary! I don't want to give too many personal details on that, but long story short, the front door on his rental house was not locked, Tim was not home, and the burglar broke into his bedroom (his bedroom door was locked) and stole his TV, his PS3 game station (which wasn't worth much but was very sentimental - it had been Phil's), and worst of all, his beautiful camera and all the contents in his camera bag: lenses, memory cards, hard drive with all his photos, and some other very expensive photography equipment. We are very thankful Tim was not hurt and that his professor was understanding and worked with him so that he could finish his projects and graduate on time.

To say that I'm proud of my son for what he has achieved - a BFA in Photography - is an understatement. I know that he can accomplish anything he puts his mind to, even in the face of adversity. As I have said to Tim since he was little, "The world is your oyster and you are the pearl."

I know that Phil would've been very proud of his brother, too.

Friday, May 13, 2016

food with friends: the art of simple gatherings ~ a review

This cookbook has a lovely premise: celebrating life with friends and/or family around your table and not expecting perfection, just love and fun. 

The author, Leela Cyd is a photographer for Food and Wine, Sweet Paul, The New York Times and Kinfolk, and a contributor to the kitchn

While the book is well-written and filled with beautiful photography, most of the recipes are a little obscure for the average home cook.

 I love to cook and am not a stranger to trying new recipes and even using new-to-me ingredients, but recipes with ingredients such as bee pollen, matcha powder, fresh curry leaves, chickpea flour, oat groats and edible flowers make me quickly turn the page, looking for a recipe with ingredients that I know are easily found. Thus said, there are some doable recipes in this book. Steel-Cut Oats With Toppings sounds simple; so does Sweet and Salty Pumpkin Seed Clusters, Assorted Spa Waters, Black and White Cookies, Spice-Roasted Chickpeas and Toasted Nuts with Lemon, Thyme and Chili.

I received Food With Friends - That Art of Simple Gatherings from Blogging for Books for my honest, personal opinion review.

Monday, May 9, 2016

joy, pride, sorrow ~ all part of weekend celebrations

What a joyous occasion we celebrated Saturday evening: Tim's BFA Art Show!

Tim had three of his photography pieces in the show. Here's his artist statement.

Tim had framed his work with glass, so I apologize for the glare. I wish you could see these pieces in person. My phone camera doesn't even begin to capture the beauty in his amazing work.

To say that I am proud of my son is an understatement. He is talented, smart, hard-working, and most of all, a truly genuine, loving young man. He has overcome some major life obstacles in pursuing his degree. I'll talk more about that next week after his graduation ceremony.

And then Sunday was Mother's Day. I have mixed emotions about this day. While I am grateful to still have my mother on this earth, and I'm a mother myself, Mother's Day is always hard for those of us who have lost a child.

I'm not a big fan of these kinds of holidays anyway. I think they put a lot of pressure and expectation on both sides. 

Yesterday afternoon, out of the blue, I received a private message from a friend in Canada whom I rarely speak to. She's had a messy life and isn't online much. But somehow - on Mother's Day - she thought of me. And took the time to send me a private message to tell me so. I was so touched. She was the only one - besides one of my best friends - that took the time and effort to contact me yesterday.

Backing up a little, on Friday Brian had said that he wanted to go out and pick up a little something for me for Mother's Day. Knowing the chain stores in this area, I told him to please not waste his money on some last-minute piece of cheap jewelry from one of those places. He asked why not and I told him things like that don't mean anything to me. (There's the expectations thing on the other know that their wife and/or mother expect a gift, so they think going out at the last minute and buying something frivolous gives them brownie points.) I hinted that I liked plants and flowers. We'd been talking about sprucing up the area in front of our neighbor's fence - as talked about in my May 2nd post, in case you missed it. A couple of you had suggested a trellis and I had nixed that idea at first because I thought a trellis would have to lean against our neighbor's fence. 

Brian called me from the garden center and asked how I'd like a trellis for the fence area! I laughed and told him a couple of my blogger friends had suggested that. He said he found a metal trellis that was curved. It wouldn't have to lean against the fence. He also picked out a couple of clematis plants. 

I hope these plants do well. I tried growing clematis years ago and it died. This area gets at least six hours of sun every day, plus I've been watering. Rain is moving in tonight and into tomorrow, so no watering from me will be needed.

On Saturday evening before Tim's art show, the three of us met up for dinner with my mom, sister and brother-in-law. I gave my mom her Mother's Day gift then, since I wasn't seeing her on Sunday. Like me, Mom loves succulents and pretty dishes and pottery for use as planters. So I made her a pretty arrangement.

 I lucked out in finding the vintage planter in my newest favorite shop. 

A weekend full of emotions, high and low. Today's a new day and I'm taking time to breathe and find peace in the stillness after the flurry of weekend activity. How about you?