Sunday, June 29, 2008

How Much More Will Change?

For many, many years I had beautifully manicured nails with dark red polish. As you can see that is not true now. I stopped having the polish added a few weeks ago as it was only covering up the dirt embedded in my nails. I'm all about "clean". So I tried a simple route of just gel and no polish. The dirt still found it's way into the edges of the gel. So this weekend the nails have come off and the dirt has been scrubbed out as best it can be on gardener's nails. Ugly is a pretty accurate descriptor.

How many more things will be changing? When I began the one year "healthy eating plan" I had no idea how it would affect so many other aspects of my life. 18 months later I am described as "fit". And that's when people hear my voice and realize the person they are talking to is "me". Unrecognizable.

I spent a few hours, yesterday, in my studio (I decided to stop calling it a workroom) and sewed seams in the two sleeveless cotton shirts I own (XL) to make them fit the new me. I then did some stitching on a piece I made months ago (it seems like years) and made a new small piece because I wanted to continue working. It felt good to be there, working, finally.

The booksale. Not as much "ZEN" for me this year. Has this also run it's course? I did the work and the tables looked exactly like they do every year. Neat, orderly and calm. I don't "need" it as much anymore. My life, itself, is neat, orderly, calm. I even spoke of wanting my greenhouse co workers to be working along side rather than the volunteers. On Friday, I was happy to be back to work even if it was humid, sun soaked and dirty.

My garden. To be perfectly honest, I write about my garden but I am rarely, if ever, actually in my own garden. I do weed, rearrange and plant. But the daily upkeep is left to G. And this week I brought home two new "crops", celery and lettuce. I hope we have room. The problem, for me, is mosquitos. We live on the edges of two swampy properties. Neither neighbor shows any inclination to remove 50% of the trees on their properties to increase wind flow and decrease mosquitos. So summer time living means staying in the house. Or being bitten. My B vitamins and Listerine spray have cut down on the number of bites per minute, but still, we have bites per minute. What would it be like to live somewhere else?

My home. I like it less and more. I wish it were clean, simple and calm. But it is messy, cluttered and busy. Dog hair and toys. Piles of books and papers. Laundry. Shirts to iron. Art supplies. Recycling in a big bucket. Compost in a bucket. Little heaps of things from my pockets at the end of each day. Little heaps from G's pockets. But I love my shower, my white towels, my cozy couches and my four poster bed and I love to sit on the back stoop and look at my garden (for a few minutes). I have been visualizing a smaller house. Less.

When we lived in St Charles, Il, I loved driving up to my house each day. I loved how it looked. That used to be true of this house but not anymore. Something is "off". The house color, lack of shutters, door color or garden beds. I don't quite know what it is but I know that no one would envy me this house today. They did in years past. What has changed? The house across from us was never anything to notice, but now it looks fantastic. Like a magazine layout. There's a little table (with potted flowers) and chairs out on a small stone terrace. So lovely. What went wrong here?

Have we stayed too long in one place?

Right now my life feels like a long string of dominos. Knock one over and the next one falls, then the next, until all the dominos have fallen. Each time I make a choice or a change, something falls away, giving me a fresh look at my self, my life, my home, my town, my world. Until the next "domino" falls. Today, clean, but ugly nails.

Monday, June 23, 2008

All My Yesterdays

So many days speeding by. Just getting the laundry done and food on the table is a BIG deal around here this summer. We had guacamole and chips for dinner one evening with native Maine strawberry shortcake for dessert. Hand whipped cream. Next time. The electric mixer. And then I crock potted some Southern pork butt ribs into Pulled Pork. So good. I had mine on top of a mixed green salad for my favorite Southern BBQ joint meal. Pulled Pork BBQ Salad.

Pork Butt in the Crock Pot

3 to 5 pounds of pork butt or shoulder or southern style ribs sprinkled with some kind of rib rub
2 peeled large onions (add two cloves to each onion if you like the taste)
2 cups boiling water

I usually cook this overnight on Low but was in a hurry (forgot) to turn it from high to low: and it cooked on high for four hours before I cranked it down to low. I used ribs and the meat was falling off the bones in 8 hours. Sometimes with a big chunk of meat it takes awhile to get it to fall apart (12 hours). Help it with the "two fork shred".

Discard all the liquid and the onions. Shred the meat and discard all the fat and bones. Pour a whole bottle of your favorite BBQ sauce over all the meat. Add brown sugar and ketchup if you like it sweet (like me). Let the meat and sauce cook for a few hours. Serve on a bun, piled in the middle of a nice green mixed salad or next to some spicy, salty hot fries and cole slaw.

I plan to mix up a nice raspberry peach cobbler for dessert tonight because I don't want to fuss with making a pie crust for rhubarb custard pie. And we'll be having some pasta for dinner with homemade marinara. Or we could have pasta and BBQ pork.

I will be working three days a week for the rest of the summer. Not getting laid off. Wow.

The booksale set up is Wednesday and Thursday of this week. I have to remember to pack plenty of beverages, bananas and carrot sticks and hummus to keep me going. Last year I forgot food and drink and I wasn't feeling too good as we approached 12 noon. Of course, I'm in fantastic physical condition this summer. Did I mention the muscle definition in my arms? I'm making myself laugh! But I do have muscles.

I will try and post later this week. Always a great book sale disaster story to tell. Maybe more than one this year!!!!!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

And then I had a day off

The shorter work days just mean shoving 9 hours of work into 7. At 2:30 my boss reminds me of all the watering I need to get done, the order to make, the plants to be put away and of course, I have customers bringing me strange plants to identify. Plant or disease. Thirty minutes remain in my work day. I usually choose to get the watering done. No tomato or pepper seedlings will die of thirst. Today I also faxed an order asking for things the actual growing greenhouse isn't starting anymore. They are now into fall production of mums. Not pickling cucumbers, squash or bell peppers. Things the customers WANT.

In an amazing "slight of hand" I have gone, in two months of actual employment, from a total zero (no idea where or what anything was) to the "expert". I still have no idea what most things are called but I know there are actually only a few causes for problems with plants. Water, light, temperature, bacteria and insects. Pretty simple. Most of life is pretty simple.

People. Very tricky. Plants are simple because there is no thought process involved. Just the transfer of water between cells. People are all over the place with their thinking. And, of course, a lot of that thinking is really pointless as they "transfer" random thoughts to our employees. Today was a "full moon". Can we all say "CRAZY".

"What flower would you buy my aunt?"

Geez, I don't even know your aunt and you want me to buy her a flower?

"Do you know the name of this flower? It's dried up now but it used to be this tall and it had leaves and the flower is pink now, but it was blue".

It could be ______. "No". It could be ______. "No".

" I just got back from several weeks away and this leaf on my hosta looks bad. What do you think happened to it?"

It could be ________________________________. "Oh" "Will the other leaves get it?"

My new task, for the weekend, is a terrarium for a tarantula and a gecko. An odd couple if there ever was one. Also crickets. Their "food". Each year they get a new tank to live in and we "fit" it with new plants, dirt and interesting bits. This year, I was chosen to do the interior design. I think it will be fun.

Tomorrow I have eggplant, red Italian onions, beans and kohlrabi to plant, checks (four) to deposit (before I get another on Saturday), two dog walks with Riley, some art to make, a few books waiting to be read and laundry to wash and fold. Clean sheets would be nice. Dinner to cook.

I have decided that spending $200 a week for groceries is ridiculous so now I am reading the grocery ads. Pork chops are on sale so we will be buying $1.79 a pound pork chops and they will join last week's $1.99 chicken breasts in the freezer. Chicken thighs are only 79 cents a pound. G likes them in chicken soup. Into the freezer they go. Sugar is $1.99 for 5 pounds. Bananas are cheap and so are canned tomatoes. I may even wash, dry and plug in the freezer in the garage. Of course, when stuff goes into THAT freezer--- it never actually comes out. I forget it's out there. I forgot about five 12 pound turkeys. For several years. And about five pounds of frozen peaches. At the end, the freezer was half filled with gallon jugs of frozen water (to keep the freezer cold) and food way past edible. Does this happen to everyone with a freezer?

I have slipped into "non-productive" thinking so I will now go quietly to bed. Good night.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

One Day, Late

I took my camera to work today to take a picture of the amazing blue and white Passion flower on a plant in the walkway. No plant. Some thoughtless (smile) customer had the nerve to BUY it yesterday and RUIN my artistic plans. Geez!

G has gone back to work and my hours have been shortened. I'm now back on "dog duty" and Riley and I walked together for the first time in more than a month. He hated riding in my car. We drive him across the Invisible Fence line. I had a light lunch at work--it seems goofy to eat lunch at 1 and go home at 3 --- and then I had a cup of coffee while sitting on the stoop watching Riley hunt for and chew wood. Maybe it was the coffee, maybe it was not walking for a month; but 2/3rds of the way I got dizzy and hoped I wouldn't pass out. I have a real problem with getting faint. Low blood pressure. We made it home. And I immediately prepared myself a nice, hearty dinner. And some chocolate. Feeling 100% now.

I got to plant up two huge planters today. Bright colors, full sun. I centered the pots with magenta dahlias circled with golden coreopsis "Sunray", burgundy Verbena and some magenta and golden eye superbells. I filled in with lime green coleus. Hope they liked them. $190.

I'm happy today because:
-- there was leftover eggplant and pasta for my dinner
-- I can make people laugh
-- I realized I talk too much and am trying to not talk so much
-- I planted my sky blue cheap (cheerful) petunias in my little skimpy planter boxes. But I envy the people who can afford the $95 each planters.
-- the repairs on my thumb and index fingernails are holding
-- I paid the bills. On time.
-- the lawn looks so great this year; sort of golf course-ish
-- a nice, hot shower is the best part of my day
-- I had time today to think about things. Very important.

I want to make bead mosaics with all the Mardi Gra beads I have saved in the attic. Glue them into flowers shapes inside a square frame. I saw a bead framed mirror on a blog a year or more ago and wanted to make one. Big magenta petals, aqua centers, golden accents and green leaves. I'd like to add black accents. What sort of glue do you think would be best to hold plastic beads to plywood?

No mirror. Strange but true, I want to hang the finished mosaic on the front porch and I don't want any feng shui "voodoo" sending bad vibes across the street via the mirror. I have experience with this sort of "voodoo" and the plague of squirrels that still visit the home across the street. Never have a mirror reflect back onto a neighbor's house. Never.

Did you know that people born and educated in Cleveland, Ohio pronounce "zinnias" in a certain way? I'm meeting more and more Clevelanders at work due to my way of saying "zinnias". And the really weird part---- we all lived within a 20 block area. What are the statistical odds of meeting people from the 20 block area around your childhood home, 50 plus years later, and 1300 miles away? Really. Is Maine the alternate universe for people from Cleveland?

My new neighbor across the street was raised on 137th Street. Me? 135th. Her uncle worked in the Cleveland police with my dad. Two of my former library co-workers are Cleveland girls. The former library director's father played baseball for the Cleveland Indians. Cleveland. I'm surprised this many locals actually wandered away.

So, any blog readers alumni of Charles Dickens Elementary School on East 131st?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Shed Happens

Here's a picture of our little yard shed with it's new green door. Lovely green. I matched it to the leaves on our rhododendron. Tones down the tan/yellow of the house paint (which is also on the shed).

My stoop planter with verbena and blue slippers. I walked out into the early evening, rainy light to take pictures for the blog. Now my slippers are damp and my feet are cold.

G wanted "Thanksgiving dinner" today for Father's Day so I had to go to the grocery store AGAIN to get a rotisserie turkey, sweet potatoes to bake, cranberry sauce, white potatoes to mash and broccoli to steam. I mixed Knorr brown and roast turkey gravy mixes together and that was tasty. We also had Stove Top dressing. It was cold and rainy today so having the oven on wasn't too bad. Our daughter treated her dad to a Blizzard at DQ.

Work tomorrow and G says it will be raining all week. Ugh! I signed up as the volunteer "bus guide" for the Master Gardener's Garden Tour this Saturday. I'll be on the bus with 6 to 12 seniors from a very nice assisted living place nearby. I'm supposed to chat during the 30 to 40 minute ride to the gardens (12) and answer any questions they ask me. There will be additional Master Gardeners in each garden so they can answer questions also. The garden owners are supposed to have identifying plant markers. I get a bus ride, free admission to the garden tour, tea at one stop and a snack at another. Pretty decent exchange. Let's hope the day is sunny but cool.

Book Sale is Wednesday the 25th. My moment of Zen. Recessions would seem to be a good time to sell used books, but not so. In a recession there is NO extra money for anything but food, gas and utilities. I was sort of hoping old Dubya would pull a Gas Rabbit out of his cowboy hat and lower oil prices as a farewell gesture. Not happening. He's taking a European Vacation instead.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Summer Ideas

Today I will continue to "do battle" with weeds and grass in my perennial beds. Yesterday I dug everything I could manage by myself out of the garden next to the south side of the house. Ajuga. Grass. Plants with no identity. Now I have bare, brown dirt, a few worms and a lopsided grouping of false indigo, in bloom. I will be planting five single hollyhocks which are supposed to grow to 6 feet (and peek into the kitchen by the bay window) and one Nikko hydrangea which, at some point in it's lifespan, is supposed to be 6 feet wide and 6 feet high. While I wait, the space will be filled with the dahlias I have stored in the bulkhead every winter.

The bed across the grass path is finished and the deer have eaten all the rose blossoms off the new rose. I have peonies ready to bloom, cheddar pinks, astilbe, yarrow, one surviving Lady's Mantle (all the others got dug up and dumped), cranesbill Brookside in bloom, and species yellow foxglove coming on. That bed has it's chopped leaf mulch in place.

Still to do, the front garden bed. G painted the shed door with my selected (years ago) house shutter paint. Gorgeous green. I had forgotten what a pretty color I had chosen. It makes the house color look so much nicer and less pedestrian. So I should take the hint and get the shutters painted after all these years and back onto the house. I probably should take the second hint -- he painted some of the shed trim in linen white instead of the bright white I had the painters use. Looks creamy and not so "strident". I had the painters cover all the house trim detail in the body house color to make the trim disappear. Not my best idea. The house needs it's decorative trim detail like a dress needs a collar and buttons.

For an artist, painter and quilt maker to make these errors in color is just pitiful. I have disliked the look of the house since the moment the painters drove away four years ago. And it's because the shutters aren't up in their gorgeous green and because I blanked out the trim. I wanted a simpler look but that could be achieved with softer colors not by painting everything one uniform shortbread tan. And the front door needs new paint.

Good thing my temporary full time status at work is coming to an end. Instead of being "laid off" for the next few months, I have been offered 2 or 3 short days a week for the months of July and August which suits me just fine. No weekend work. I have things to paint, books to read, gardens to weed and water, puppy to walk and summer to enjoy.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Creative Play

I'm finding less time for my creative fabric and paper play but more time for other creative pursuits like arranging flowers in pretty color combinations, cooking and visiting with dear friends. Yesterday, after work, G & I took the dog and prepared breaded eggplant and the remainder of the peach and raspberry cobbler over to P's house. We were there to see her new pergola. A very nice pergola. P and I had gin and tonics while I fried the eggplant and she heated up sauce and cooked pasta. We had cut up fruit and a nice cheese with spelt crackers while we cooked. We ended the evening with coffee and dessert by candlelight. A lovely summer evening full of laughter and friendship.

P has a very bountiful property. The soil is so rich that everything she plants grows in enormous size and health. I envied her clematis and the red wiegelia Red Prince. Both of us had purchased and planted elderberry (two) in our gardens in the past week. We didn't know the other had done so until yesterday. P's rhubarb was the size of a volkswagon and I should have pulled some stalks for a rhubarb pie. But I was busy drinking gin and tonic.

G goes back to work on Monday after 4 weeks of leave of absence and vacation. He was feeling very fatigued and less than cheerful about his employment. The rest period (time out) helped we hope. He has weeded garden beds, built the new stoop step, and dug out and built steps where the lawn slopes down to the vegetable garden. He used big timbers for the steps and filled in with bricks. It's very nice and easy for me to walk down into the garden without slipping on the grassy slope. He also put in a nice brick floor in the tiny greenhouse which holds heat from the sun. We have the air conditioner in the window so we can remove humidity from the house. Ready for summer.

We planted some of the squash seedlings, carrots and radishes. I still have beans, soybeans butternut squash seedlings, Delicata squash seedlings, cucumber seedlings,beets, lettuce and red italian onions to plant. I also have leeks which I have never tried before. G planted the savoy cabbages. I need to buy more soiless mix and get my peppers and eggplant into the big black plastic tubs I saved. Quite a FULL garden this year. The raspberry bushes are going strong and the blueberries have blossoms and berries. Next year I will have some elderberries for a small jar of jam, I hope.

I work two more days and then have three days off. The temporary work period is coming to an end and some workers have been given their two week notice that they won't be needed after the 28th of June. I haven't been notified. Yet. There haven't been any real surprises in who he is letting go. There are people who WORK and people who work. I can see the process he uses: giving everyone a chance to show what they can do, how much responsibility they can accept and how they follow through. The ones who do, are staying. The ones who walk around with a cup of coffee? Not.

Saturday, June 07, 2008


Still here. Been working. Also been working in the garden here at home. I planted my boxes out front and the ones on the garden shed. Also turned all the dirt over in the raised beds. Still dry even though it's been raining. In fact, it was raining and 51 degrees yesterday and I was wet and cold. So I took a warm shower (the hot water hurt my fingers which I had frostbite on as a kid), got dressed and went out to lunch. I was hoping for a nice black bean bisque. Nope. All gone. so I consoled myself at the end of the meal with warm berry pie and a huge pile of homemade whipped cream. Butter fat.

Today I got to do something I would have sworn I would never do in a million years. I don't even recognize myself some days. The water plant ponds had to be drained. With a hose. In order to get the water moving from the pond, over the side of the wall and out onto the ground, lips must be pressed to the hose and suction applied to bring the water forward. Not too far forward or you end up with a mouthful of water. Pond water. With mosquito larva. Two ponds. Double the chances of a mouthful of pond water. Oh, you don't want to know what that is like.

I'm beginning to feel like an expert at something. This garden work is wonderful stuff. And I remember so many things and learn so many things and just feel so darn "smart" so often in one day. And my coworkers are the nicest people I have EVER met or worked with. Amazing stuff. Life is REAL GOOD.

What's Good: I purchased new walking shoes and some fantastic socks. Soft. Really good socks. Made a peach and raspberry cobbler for dessert tonight. I bought the peaches at the roadside stand. Georgia peaches and they are juicy and sweet. Y'all.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008


When I purchased this at a half price, end of season, plant sale in September I had no idea it was called Pigsqueak. A Bergenia. Big leaves and a pink spring flower. The leaves age into brilliant fall colors like red. This pigsqueak is actually a pipsqueak. Not much leg on it. Hope it grows.

Today I will be making my first set of "book sale phone calls" to volunteers for set up. Yes, I'm still helping the library. Don't comment. I have been going to bed early and waking on my own at around 5:30 in the morning. Feels good to not be tired. G and the Pupster wake up an hour later. So anyway, here I am at 8 am, waiting for people to be awake and ready to answer the phone. Blogging while I wait.

I had a wonderful breakfast of vanilla yogurt, Grape Nuts, thawed raspberries (from my garden) and a sliced, fresh, juicy peach. The peach was a thank you gift from a customer. Peaches for a peach. See, I AM good at customer service. The peaches are amazing. I think she purchased them at the roadside vegetable stand I pass on the way to work. They have hand painted signs (which I adore) that advertise fresh peaches and cherries right now. I think the owner drives to and from Florida with the produce.

Studio in the Woods posted pictures of a field trip to Natasha Kemper-Cullen's studio in Maine. Oh, I loved the garden art! I took a workshop with Natasha and loved the three long tables in the middle of the light filled space. I liked the tiny 3 CD player in the corner which filled the space with soft, dreamy music which helped us be creative. Natasha begins each day in her studio in the early morning; walking in and just drifting along until something engages her and she starts working. I can just see her walking along the tables, looking at projects, baskets of materials, her paints and dyes etc. before choosing what suits her mood. With three long tables, she can work on several things at once and leave them in progress. Wouldn't that be wonderful?

I have piles. And in order to switch from one thing to another I have to rearrange, unpile, pile, hunt for supplies--- and by then I'm tired and frustrated. No wonder I don't produce a quality product. I appreciate "Order & Space". Why don't I have any?

Yesterday I got to plant up 6 or 7 planters with any materials I wanted. Cost was no consideration. No dirt was to be left visible. This is such a departure from the usual, that I had trouble dealing with it at first. I could be creative, indulgent and extravagant. Wow. We have one more huge order of 82 boxes of plants for a restaurant and June wedding flowers to compose. The bride wants planted containers which she will give as gifts to her wedding guests after the reception. No cut flowers. I have also helped several customers find materials they had on written lists or clipped magazine pictures. Perennials. I enjoy being able to recognize and find the stuff all on my own. I certainly have learned alot in the 6 weeks I've been working. Amazing. Of course, I study reference books in the evenings.

What's Good Today: Raining. G completed weeding the perennial bed we see when we look out the kitchen and dining room windows. It was overrun with grass and weeds. G planted the new "Bowl of Beauty" peony in the newly weeded bed and the citrus mix Gazania (prehistoric looking daisies) by the mailbox. The label says they like it "hot" and that's what they will be getting. I want to mix soil and plant the window boxes on the shed. Sky blue petunias, rose Nicotiana and upright Verbena in a grape color. I had G save a prehistoric daisy for the center of each box to keep the arrangement from being "too sweet".

What's Fantastic Today: Just killed a mosquito. I am doing a science experiment on myself. Taking large doses of B vitamins to see if I can repel mosquitoes. I have always "attracted" the biting monsters and usually have blood dripping off my ankles all summer. If this doesn't work then I will be showering with Fels Naptha soap. An old Girl Scout trick.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Friend of Twelve by Twelve

I had such high hopes for this but perhaps I didn't think it through enough. The quilted image seemed to be the harder to achieve and in the end was easy. I painted the earth in acrylics on canvas then added the quilting of DaVinci's image. The Earth is made up of 70 % water (including the North and South polar icecaps). Man is 60 to 80 % water. Or as they so wonderfully described us on a Star Trek episode "bags of mostly water".

I layered the painted canvas with batting and commercial cotton and quilted in a concentric circle over the entire surface. Then stamped with paint the letters and numbers. If I did this again, and I might, just to see if I can make it more elegant and less clumsy, I would use a fabric color copy of earth and a finer stitch on the the man. I didn't have the time necessary to do either.

My point here was that we are linked to the Earth in our need for water. When scientists go looking for life on other planets, they look first for evidence of water (frozen, liquid or dried up). When the water is missing, so is life.