Sunday, September 27, 2009

Who can resist a sale?

Not me! A local nursery put its shrub roses on sale; $12 each, or, if you buy three or more, $10 each. Of course I bought more than three; I bought seven.

But the best part? Six out of my seven roses were David Austin roses. These aren't ordinary roses; they have the form and fragrance of the old roses that I adore, but they are remontant. That's a fancy word that means that they bloom again. And again. And again and again, all through spring, summer and fall in this part of the world.

I had old roses in my New York garden; they were the only roses that the deer didn't gobble up, and even the Japanese Beetles didn't find them attractive. They were glorious for a couple of weeks in June; they were worth it for that. But I missed having a long season of roses; they were finished far too quickly.

Now I've got the best of both worlds.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Sinfully good

I made the Pioneer Woman's Apple Dumplings today, and my oh my oh my. Dangerous stuff. Totally, completely, decadent. Evil, even.

We ate them before dinner.

We might eat them again after dinner.

Let me explain: I popped them in the oven, fully intending to start cooking dinner while they baked. But my hubby was in the middle of something, and wanted to postpone dinner for a little while. No problem, I thought. What I didn't reckon on, however, was the way those dumplings smelled as they cooked. My house started to fill with the scent of buttery, buttery, sweet caramel apples.

I could not make real food while they cooked; I just wanted to inhale that delicious scent.

And when they were done . . . we just wanted to inhale them. All of us. So we did. Dinner came afterward, and the dumplings just might have to make another appearance before we go to bed tonight.

Yup, they're that good.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Making a garden

This is the fastest garden I've ever made. It's also the first garden I've had help making. This is my fourth garden; the first one really doesn't count, because it was so tiny; it didn't take very long, either, but it was only about 2 feet by 12 feet. It wasn't expected to take very long.

My second and third gardens took about ten years each to make. The second one was a small city lot; less than a quarter acre, including the house. It took awhile because I didn't have much to spend; it was also fairly grown in, and I was a bit tentative about changing things for quite awhile.

My third garden evolved over time. It had once been a nice garden, but it had been allowed to run wild; I started at one end of the half acre lot and gradually went around in a large circle. Because of the heat, humidity, and voracious mosquitos in that part of New York, I really never quite kept up with that garden; every season I started with good intentions, but August did me in. By the time the ground froze I was ready to concede defeat. Every spring I started in again with renewed vigor and hope, but the weeds always won when the heat and humidity drove me indoors.

So now we come to my fourth garden. As I have previously mentioned, this one was a three-quarter acre field when we moved in, almost one year ago. Now it's a garden. I spent the first winter and spring digging out flower beds and planting fruit trees, and my husband built raised beds for our veggies. We hired a wonderful young man to install an irrigation system, then we had him build a retaining wall, and he's just finished putting in quite a lot of concrete, giving us room to barbeque, sit out, and eat out, once it has cured enough to use.

In the meantime, I'm still digging out flower beds; the concrete dictated a change in the shape of the lawn. It's a rather sad looking lawn, so it will have to be reseeded and babied a bit this fall. My husband is building a terraced planter on the hillside for our strawberries, and we're planning to put in more fruit and nut trees this winter.

Of course, there's more to do; gardens are never completely finished, but it's no longer a field. It's definitely a garden.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

A very nice day

We spent the afternoon today eating delicious food, drinking good wines that cost more than we usually spend on a bottle of wine, and looking at gemstones.

It just doesn't get much better than that!

Our town held a food and wine festival today; many of the restaurants and wineries around the park were participating. We were given a map, and a card with the participant's names on it, and we walked around downtown, stopping in at the places that appealed to us. Some were offering just a bite, others offered a good bit more. Some of the wineries offered a choice; others had a designated tasting wine. The participating restaurants and wineries were located in an area about eight block square; just enough space to spread things out and keep it from being crowded.

We arrived early, and walked about half of it, eating and drinking, until we'd had enough. Then we drove over to the gem and mineral show on the other side of town, and walked all over that. I fell in love with a 29.5 carat faceted ametrine; it was the deepest purple and yellow I've ever seen. The seller wanted $7/carat, a mere $204 . . . it was stunning, but SO not in my budget. He also had a gorgeous faceted black opal, with brilliant purple and orange fire. I did NOT even ASK the price on that one after he told me it was the best stone he had. Yup, I went right for it. I didn't buy anything, I have too many gems already, but it was fun to look, and it was a good way to walk off some of the food and wine.

By the time we'd cruised all the booths at the rock show, we were hungry again. So we drove back to the festival and hit the rest of the restaurants. We skipped most of the wineries; there were 16 of them participating!!!! I think we tasted at 4. That was plenty! We also tasted a guava mojito; now there's a drink that goes down easy. We agreed that it would be far too easy to drink too many of them without noticing.

I hope wherever you are that your day was just as fine.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Chili and Beads

It's been a busy day today. This morning I realized that I simply must pick my peppers; they were ready. And so I started picking; I went back in the house to dump my bucket, and then picked another bucket full. I ended up with a paper grocery sack filled with peppers.

Even for me, that's too many peppers.

But I've used a bunch today; I'm making a few gallons of chili sauce. Putting peppers through the juicer is exciting, let me tell you! Sort of like being sprayed with a low dose of pepper spray. I got rather choked up over it, to tell the truth. Luckily I could alternate peppers with tomatoes to clear the air.

I put the juice (less a liter of tomato juice that will be used for Bloody Marys tonight), the pulp, and some sliced peppers into a very large pot and it's simmering on the stove. While it's simmering, I'm beading. When I need a break from beading, I'll put the sauce in jars and seal them.

Chili and cornbread this winter!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Beading madly

I'm under a deadline, and I'm beading like a madwoman. I've entered the Use the Muse contest again; it's a great way to jump start creativity, and I felt like I needed a good jump start. One of my design teachers (back in the Stone Age, when I was in college) used to say that creativity thrives in a small box, and she was right. A contest like this, with specific parameters and an object that must be used, is an excellent way to rediscover creativity. The only part I don't like is the deadline.

You've got to understand something about me and deadlines; I must finish early. I'm no good under pressure. If things really come down to the wire, I'm just no fun to live with. We're talking major meltdown, here. So I put all my steam into the early days of a project; I will no doubt bead until my eyes cross for the next two to three weeks. My contest entry isn't due until October 19th, but I'll want to have it done by the 12th. A week early is my target; I'm comfortable when I'm done a week early. If I have to work on it during the last week, I'll get progressively nuttier.

This is a semi-realistic deadline; I'll have to bead for about six to eight hours a day to make it. I'm working on the structure of the piece right now; once that is done, I'll begin the embellishing. That's always negotiable; things can have more or less embellishments, depending on time. I don't get too crazy if I'm embellishing at the last minute, but the structure will have to be firmly in place by the end of next week.

Aren't you glad you're not me?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Hopes and expectations

We all have them; sometimes they are satisfied, and sometimes they aren't. Sometimes they are realistic, and sometimes we expect too much. Sometimes they blend together, and we begin to expect what we probably shouldn't even dare to hope.

I know, I know: you're waiting for me to get specific. Surely something must have prompted this burst of philosophy. Well, yes. Recently I had a bad experience with someone whose expectations I didn't meet. She bought my button clasp tutorial and was unhappy with it. She felt it wasn't innovative enough; she told me in no uncertain terms that she'd expected more from me.

It's a simple clasp; there isn't a lot to it. But it's one of my favorite go-to clasps when I want something decorative and easy. It always gets compliments. I can make it in about five or ten minutes, and I've made it many, many times. After getting this complaint, I thought long and hard about it; it really shook me up. Should I continue to offer a tutorial for such a simple clasp?

My first reaction was pretty extreme; I wanted to close up my shop, take my blogs down, and not offer tutorials anymore; to run away, hide and bead privately. It's my joy, and I don't want to lose that. Obviously, I reconsidered. Instead of quitting, I took a good hard look at the concept of expectations. I didn't measure up to hers, and I'm sorry that she was disappointed. But, even though I'm not as clever as she wanted me to be, I do still have things to offer.

Not everything I do is complex; not everything is innovative or new. But that doesn't mean it isn't worth doing. I'm sure that a great many people have looked at this particular clasp and figured out how to do it on their own. It's that easy. But, for those who want to know how I did it, it's there in my store. It's a little thing, but it's something I like, it's something I use a lot, and something that I will always use.

In fact, I like it so much that I'm using it for the clasp on my entry for Use the Muse III. I just got my kit yesterday, and the muse is ideal for my simple button clasp, even though it isn't technically a button. No, my piece isn't ready for a clasp yet, I've tons and tons of work to do before I attach the clasp; but I made it this morning, and it's there, waiting for me. I can't show it to you now; the muse must remain hidden until the big reveal, sometime in November.

It meets my expectations. I hope I continue to meet yours.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


We're having more work done; the hardscaping this time. We're putting concrete in two areas of the backyard so that we will have a place for grilling, eating, and general sitting about. In order to make the new patios slope properly for drainage they had to move quite a bit of dirt; they've used the excess to make the upper side of our yard a bit wider.

It's made a huge difference. The proportions are so much better; I feel like Capability Brown on a very small scale. Earth sculpting is magical! We now have a sensed of journey to the back and left of the property. I want to plant the edge of our new ridge with a curving line of small trees, perhaps pistachios. I just have to check where the shade will lie; it wouldn't do to shade the vegetable beds. They've been magnificent producers, and I think being in full sun is one of the reasons why they've done so well.

Of course, this means that the irrigation system will have to be expanded.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Beading again

Whew. It's been awhile since I felt up to committing to a really big beading project; I've been starting and abandoning things, and making quick little things, but I just haven't been able to sustain anything.

I don't know why, but this start feels different. The other projects felt forced; I was working just to work. I'm excited about this project.

It feels so good to be back.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

One more hurdle

If you've been reading my blog, you know I have teenagers. If you have your own teenagers, you know that things don't always run smoothly. Things have not been running smoothly around here for quite awhile; sometimes I'm not sure I remember what smooth sailing feels like.

Today was another rough one, but we made it through. One more hurdle passed, and with luck, it will be a growth experience for all of us. Or some of us. But it has passed, and that has to count for something.

Growing up isn't easy; being responsible parents is hard. But I'm banking on my belief that it is worth the work and the pain; that, as Henry David Thoreau said, it is true that if you "Live your beliefs, and you can turn the world around."

Monday, September 7, 2009

I get by . . .

. . . with a little help from my friends.

I have some really, really great friends. Y'all know who you are; I love you guys! Recently, I had a very upsetting experience; it wasn't life-shattering, but it was a blow that could have really done some damage to my trust in human nature and my self-esteem.

I am not a very self-confident person; it takes very little to rattle my cage and make me doubt myself. That's a trait I've been working on for most of my 51 years; the only subject I ever failed was, "Meets new situations with confidence," in kindergarten. It's a family joke, but it's still true; although I am now able to force myself to meet new situations, I continue to do it without any confidence whatsoever.

I met this particular situation in my now-usual way: with a strong face in public, and many tears in private. But the tears didn't last long; my friends rallied around me and made me feel whole again.

I am truly blessed.

Friday, September 4, 2009


The Tree Man in Paso Robles is one of my favorite places to shop.

It's a huge nursery and garden center run by people who love plants and gardens; they stock all sorts of things, so much, in fact, that it is often nearly impossible for me to make up my mind when I'm there.

I just keep looking, and looking, knowing that there is no way that I will actually see everything. It covers four acres of ground, and I doubt I've seen more than one acre of it so far.

But I digress.

Today I found what I wanted nearly immediately; I fell in love with a birdbath. Yes, I actually went there wanting a birdbath, and I walked out with one. That doesn't usually happen; quite often I go in there with one thing in mind, and wind up with something totally different. Of course, it's actually best to go there with nothing in mind; it's the perfect place to bring an open mind and a charge card.

This is a photo of my garden; on the right you can see my new birdbath. Yes, it's a bunch of giant mushrooms. Crazy, eh? But there is something so whimsical and magical about it; I dutifully wandered around and looked at many other birdbaths, but I somehow knew I was meant to have this one.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


My arms hurt. We had five cubic yards of mulch delivered this morning, and my son and I moved most of it. On the plus side, our yard looks wonderful; we covered up the areas the gophers had disturbed, mulched around the trees, finished off the much-maligned side yard, and refreshed the mulch in the front yard.

I used the wheelbarrow to get to the hard to get places, and my son filled up the tractor cart and went wherever the tractor fit. Fortunately, most of our paths are very wide, and the tractor fits nicely almost everywhere. I had to repair the gopher damage in the flower beds, of course, and I was the good mulch fairy in the front yard, dancing around, sprinkling a thin layer on top of the existing mulch.

Well, okay, I wasn't really dancing.

It was hot, and for this area, fairly humid. Nothing by New York standards, of course, but even we had to admit, yup, it's hot and humid today. I think we've got just enough mulch remaining to fill in the areas that haven't been finished yet.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A quiet day

I took a mental health day today; no canning, no weeding, no blanching and freezing. I did a little beading, a lot of reading, and some shopping. It was nice.

Tomorrow, though, I'll need to get back at it; we're having 5 yards of mulch delivered.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Branching out

The freezer, which once seemed so large, is getting full. I'm not going to be able to get very many more bags of veggies in there.

So I'm branching out, and taking up dehydrating and canning. Canning isn't new to me, I've done it before. But this time around, I'm using a pressure cooker. I've got a pot of tomato basil spaghetti sauce simmering on the stove right now, and the jars are being sterilized in the dishwasher while the sauce boils down and thickens. It smells so good, I think I'm going to have to save some out for dinner tonight.

My next canning project is a two-fer. I'm drying yellow and red tomatoes in the dehydrator, and I'm going to layer them with basil in olive oil.

Won't that be pretty?