gardening


Most of you know when I visit your blog, it is sporadic and I try to catch up what I have missed. This is not because I do not feel like blogging/visiting or because I am goofing off.  It is because I am busy. Granted, much of it is self-imposed busy, but busy I am.

Last week I looked at my life since Thanksgiving, and there have been THREE days since then in which I did not have a specific deadline of something that HAD to be done on a day. Now I do not have a “real job,” so my deadlines are not usually reports or presentations; they can be anything. (For my church treasurer job, I do have reports and presentations due at least monthly, however.) It may be a Friday, and those days always mean a ton of food has to be made because I cook for Friday and Saturday on Fridays.  My point is that the things I have to get done may not seem like deadline material, but for me there is always a reason something has to be done by a specific day.

So I thought I would show you some of what I have been doing for the past three months. (It is MARCH? Christmas is just around the corner!)

It started with Chic’s birthday. Since it was the Christmas season, she requested poinsettia cupcakes for school.

There are 13 children in Chic's classroom, but her teacher refuses to do cupcakes before school is out. (What's wrong with lunch?) This irritates me because when Chic gets cupcakes for a birthday, there is never one for her sister. I made sure every sibling of every classmate had a cupcake, too. (I wanted to leave out the teacher, but I was polite.)

Remember my Elf Escapades? Here are a few things I made for that.

Clockwise from top left: Napkin rings, box to hold napkin rings, "Merry" bag for the 12th night, tree bag. I made all the things shown. I loved it, but it does put a dent into one's time.

Clockwise from top left: 1) Napkin rings. 2) Box for napkin rings. 3) "Merry" gift bag for the last night. 4) Evergreen tree gift bag.

This was the best Elf Victim yet! On the 9th or 10th night, I was met at the door by this.

Sorry for the lousy picture, but I didn't want to get caught! This was the 12th night of Elf Delivery, and the front door and garage door of this house were OPEN! I took Chic with me for the experience, but it didn't help with the stealth. On the door are all the notes I left with gifts (the notes appeared on the 9th night), and there was a gift for me, too. I have never been so wonderfully welcomed!

Next is the Christmas ornaments and boxes. Since 1995 I have made a Christmas ornament yearly. It started as a gift to the infant daughters of very close friends and has grown to a few other girls (some now in high school) like my daughters and niece and some other special friends/family (aunts, etc.).

This year I made 36 "icicles" and boxes to hold them all.

For the staff Christmas party at school, there was an ornament exchange. This is the box I made, and inside was one of my annual ornaments, left over from about 3 years back.

This box was very last-minute, but I just loved how it turned out.

This is the holiday treat we give E.V.E.R.Y.O.N.E. They are called pizzelles and are Italian, waffle-like cookies made in a special iron.

I can't remember how many of these we made, but I know it was over 1000. I made the first 1/3 of them, then Prince Charming did the rest. (Bless him!)

Don’t forget the school treats. I made about 30 of the ones on the left for Chic’s classmates/friends plus the kids in my class at church. (She painted the sticks.) Chicklet’s class treats were on the right. I only had to make about 10 of those.

This is one of my favorite things–a gift for my nephew. When we visited Missouri in November I learned that he (who is Chic’s age, eight) is really into seeds. I was walking around my yard one day and noticed so many seeds. I started to gather them for him, then I thought I would just make that his Christmas gift. So I made seed packets (with pictures if I had them–stamped or drawn if I did not) for all of them and instructions for growing.

I never realized how many seeds I had in my own yard!

Next is the annual gift. Last year I made “winter” banners as holiday gifts for close friends/family. This year I did “spring.” (Can you guess what it will be next year?) I made 17 of these. Each one takes 2-1/2 – 3 hours. Call me an idiot!

Another rotten picture; I was pressed for time. But the good (?) news is that I have an extra of these. If you would like to be in a drawing for it, e-mail me at louisestamps at aol dot com to let me know. You have until Monday, March 8, to e-mail me.

Let’s move to Valentine’s  Day! (We left shortly after Christmas to drop off Chic in Tennessee. I was home one day before a business trip, then 1-1/2 weeks before visiting Chic. January was a blur.) These are the boxes I assembled for my Valentine’s for all the students in my art classes.

I made up about 55 of these boxes.

These are the cookies that went in the boxes above. VERY. BAD. to have these things in my house! Very bad!

I have no idea how many cookies I made, but it was about 8 or 9 batches. (I did double/triple batches in the mixer so I cannot remember.)

These are boxes I made for special people such as my friend in TN who is taking care of Chic and some special people at church. I made them from flat, chipboard hearts.

I made 8 of these boxes.

Something had to go in these boxes, so I made homemade truffles. It was a first for me. Slightly time-consuming, but really no more so than anything else I do.

The dark ones are Oreo truffles and the light ones are Italian truffles.

As I was making the heart boxes above, I kept thinking of other people for whom I would like to make some. The problem was that I only had chipboard hearts to make eight. But I had regular chipboard, so I die-cut square scallops to make four more boxes.

The left one was for someone VERY into brown, so it does not look much like Valentine's Day.

There were also quite a number of Valentine treats for classmates of which I forgot to take pictures.

The below items are also for special people for Valentine’s Day. They are super fuzzy socks wound to resemble ice cream. I made “cones” for them and packaged them. I also put chocolate oil on them. One recipient still has not opened hers because she thinks it is so cute. I made 18 of the bigger ones for adults and 6 of the smaller ones for children.

Clockwise from top left: 1) All of the socks put into their "cones." 2) The finished packages. 3) Notice the finished packages have "sprinkles on the cones. I made them by punching out holes. 4) This is some of the paper left over after the punching.

Being so industrious means that eventually the holidays will slow down and I can move on to other things. The next two are “name frames” I made for girls I visited a year ago. I took pictures of their rooms and just now got around to making the 8″ x 10″ art for them.

Clearly Kendra's mom is good at decorating!

Kayla is Kendra's older sister who had just redecorated her own room. (The decorating thing must be genetic.)

Just last weekend Chicklet was invited to a birthday party. She could not go because CHIC IS HOME FOR SPRING BREAK THIS WEEK!!!!!!! But I made a container quickly to take on Friday and filled it with craft items. I thought it turned out well.

This is a large canister that used to hold SlimFast. I love the size of these so I collect them to decorate at such times.

This week I am not doing anything of the sort because CHIC IS HOME FOR SPRING BREAK!!!! We have had several other activities already and have more on the agenda.

If you comment, be honest with me. Tell me if you love this or hate it. Tell me if you think I am insane. If you knew me in real life, would all of the above make you love me or love to hate me? (Your answers do not matter that much because I do these things because I love to do them, but I am interested in perceptions. I have all viewpoints in my “real life” acquaintances.)

Next projects? Easter!

I promised myself (and you) that I would not post anything but my two weekly memes until I got caught up. But I cannot help it. No, I am not caught up; not even close, but there is so much spinning around in my head that here I am, making a post rather than visiting you and answering e-mails.

And this one has very little to do with what has been going on in my head.  I have had a chaotic week filled with a sort of conflict.  No upfront, bold conflict, but mostly the backbiting/stabbing kind. Or the kind in which someone smiles and pretends to be in total agreement when I am present, but turns around and does the exact things as before, and maybe even in a harsher manner as if to punish me for even questioning something.

But today is not the day for those posts . (Though I fear I will not be able to keep quiet about it forever.)  This is a random post about some of the nice or funny things that have happened to me in the last couple of weeks.

First, to my Maine trip. I have more of that coming up by the way. I visited three states, all new  to me, on that excursion. While I was in Portland, O’Mama and Mrs. Chili were kind enough to cover considerable miles to meet me for lunch.  Do I have pictures? No,  not really. I must admit that except for my kids, I am really lousy at getting people pictures. I do not think of it, and it is not my forte anyway. So no pictures except for the lovely pizza I had for lunch at Flatbread Pizza. I had never heard of Flatbread Pizza. Generally I am mostly opposed to franchise food operations, but this was different. Maybe it was different because I had never been there before, but it was GOOD.  O’Mama and Mrs. Chili are willing to rack up some mileage for this food, and I completely understand why. There is one in Maui. I told them I would be happy to join them there for pizza as well. (In another state to which I have not been.)

2009-10-17_12-28-21

My pizza. I can't remember it all, but it had artichokes, yellow peppers and cream cheese for sure.

I just have to say something more about the two women I met. The reason I read them is because they are honestly two of the most sensible (albeit, honest) women I know.  They each have two daughters with similar age differences as mine, but slightly older and a little older than that, and they are amazing parents. They are both teachers, and what a different place our educational system would be if all teachers had their values and principles.  I am not slamming teachers in general, and I know there are a LOT of good ones out there and even some good ones who read this blog. I am just saying that I appreciate their points of view, and they are vocal about them.

Last week was Chicklet’s half-birthday. We usually do not celebrate it because her birthday is in April, so we do not need to celebrate it. (Chic’s is at Thanksgiving, so we just do a small family party then and her friend party at her half-birthday.) But the girls are getting older and notice the disparity, so we had to have some acknowledgment of Chicklet’s half-birthday. We actually forgot, but had a dessert last weekend and remembered to put candles on it. She was elated.

Double Chocolate Cherry Dessert Pizza with 5-1/2 Candles

Double Chocolate Cherry Dessert Pizza with 5-1/2 candles.

Last Sunday morning I checked the weather and there was frost in the forecast. After returning from New England, it had been pretty much beastly hot, so it was a bit of a surprise. I always work in my garden early Sunday morning. Well last Sunday I spent 4 hours picking all the green tomatoes and peppers of any size worth picking and finding places for them to ripen. I have them on every inch of counter space and in three produce bins in two  refrigerators. I am hoping to be able to make fresh salsa with some of the tomatoes for Christmas. (Stranger things have happened.) By the way, it did  not frost that night, but it did later in the week, and Sunday is the only day I would have had enough time to take care of that, so I guess it was not a wasted effort.

Tomatoes

Cleaning out the garden before a potential frost

When I woke up yesterday morning, the thermometer said it was 19 degrees. OK, it gets cold in New Mexico, even colder than that. But NOT IN OCTOBER! One of my posts one day will be about one of my eccentricities which involves a cold house, so I was not amused by the temperature.

Then later in the day it warmed up… enough to snow. And not just a little, but coming down harder than it did when I was in Vermont a couple of weeks ago. Clearly still October. It was even sticking to the ground. Had it not been so hot a few days before, we probably would have had more than two inches sticking. The good news is that we are already returning to regular October weather.

2009-Oct-29. Seriously?

29-Oct-09 in Albuquerque. Not amusing. And the center of the picture is the cosmos bed where the picture from the last post was taken.

This week I have spent some part of every day except today making Halloween costumes for my girls. Below is what they chose. Chic is an Indian Princess and Chicklet vacillates between Laura and Mary Ingalls. Today we got a surprise bonus when Prince Charming called to say there was Trick-or-Treating at his work after lunch. I dressed up Chicklet, and she has already made a haul. We think the weather is improving enough that they will not get frostbite tomorrow night.

I have always liked Halloween, but I love it more since I moved here. Our neighborhood is quite festive, and we usually get about 200 Trick-or-Treaters. The streets are full of  parents and children, and it is wonderful.

2009-10-30_17-59-32

Chic and Chicklet in their Halloween costumes. They picked out the fabrics themselves, so don't judge me for Chicklet's apron that doesn't really match the dress.

I hope you have a fantastic weekend and a Happy and Safe Halloween if you celebrate the holiday.

I know, I know. This is the last weekend of summer. But at least for me, our produce (tomatoes) are right now in their fullest production mode, so we can have these things for a while yet.

My tiny garden which is almost entirely tomatoes this year.

My tiny garden which is almost entirely tomatoes this year.

Maybe I have mentioned before that we eat most things a maximum of once each year. My menu planning involves looking at what we ate this time last year and eating it again if we liked it or trying something else if we did not. I only tell you this because these two recipes are things we eat more often. They are not main dishes which partially accounts for that, but we love them so much that we crave them several times during the summer.

(My apologies that I have no idea where either recipe originated. If you saw my stashes of untried recipe clippings, you would understand. Both appear to be from magazines, but there is no indication which magazines.)

First, a salad:

Tomato-and-Cucumber Salad with Dill

Tomato-and-Cucumber Salad with Dill

Tomato-and-Cucumber Salad with Dill
-2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
-2 Tablespoons olive oil
-1 garlic clove, pressed or minced
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-2 large tomatoes, chopped into bite-size cubes (I sometimes substitute or add cherry tomatoes when I do not have enough large tomatoes)
-2 small cucumbers, peeled, seeded and chopped
-2 scallions (green onions), sliced (I did not know what scallions were until I was out of college, but my mother was not a cook.)
-4 radishes, sliced
-1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
-1/4 cup chopped fresh dill

Whisk together first 5 ingredients in a small bowl; set aside. Place all vegetables in serving bowl. Pour dressing over vegetables. Toss gently to coat. Yield: 4-6 servings.

Next, a side dish:

Yellow Squash and Tomatoes
-2 medium yellow summer squash, cut in half lengthwise, then into 1/2″ slices. (For the fat part of the squash, I cut the semi-circles into wedges.)

ChoppedSquash
-olive oil (no more than 2 Tablespoons)
-16 cherry tomatoes, halved

HalvedTomatoes
-2 Tablespoons minced, fresh basil

ChoppedBasil
-1/4 teaspoon salt

In a large skillet, saute squash in oil until tender.

SquashSaute

Add the tomatoes, basil and salt. Reduce heat to medium; cook 1-2 minutes longer or until heated through. Yield: 4 servings.

Yellow Squash and Tomatoes

Yellow Squash and Tomatoes

I usually make 1-1/2 recipes of this because 1 is just not enough. One time we made it with something that had couscous. I ate the leftovers for lunch the next day over the couscous. Delightful.

Happy 3-Day Weekend to you who live in the U.S. I’ll be back on Monday.

This was my Weeping Cherry Tree. Somewhere in my 20’s I decided I wanted a Weeping Cherry Tree. When I moved into the first house I owned (with my husband) when I was 28, I knew I would have one. But I did not. That was Missouri, and landscaping is somewhat optional there. Most people have bushes and maybe a focal garden, but it is not required. If desired (or if it is all that one can afford), home owners just throw out some grass seeds and let that be their landscaping. I wanted my cherry tree in the back yard, and the entire time I lived there, I never landscaped the back other than herb and rose gardens against the house (and grass seeds everywhere else).

click photo to enlarge

click photo to enlarge

So we moved to New Mexico.  Landscaping in New Mexico does not involve throwing out grass seed. In fact, that would not grow. If one wants grass, s/he gets sod. And waters it… a lot. And one does not get that MUCH sod, because a lot of grass is not looked upon favorably in these parts due to the lack-of-water problem that living in a desert presents.  This means that people actually have to think about landscaping. But in new housing, although the front yards are usually done very nicely (with no grass a lot of the time), the back yards are left as sand pits. (Which is great for cats and kids.)

So when we moved here, I immediately decided it was time for the cherry tree. I had seen them dozens of feet tall in the East, and I needed one more than ever. I knew mine would  not get that big, but I needed it anyway. So when I saw it at the nursery, it was a necessity. (An expensive necessity.)

2008-04-06close-goldenlightSo I planted it, and put root stimulator on it, and watered it. I thought I would lose it the first year, but I did not. It always had pretty blooms, but it was never spectacular. Often it bloomed at exactly the time of year I went to Missouri, so I missed the best shows. But last year, my daughter was in school, so we decided to wait until summer to go to Missouri, and WHAT a show we got! It was the best of blooming I had seen (its 5th year with me). I took pictures of it, made cards from pictures, sent pictures to my friends and family in Missouri. It was so beautiful I could hardly stand it.

2008-04-06close-endofbranchThen the blooms faded and the leaves started to come out. But they never came out all the way. My beautiful tree died. After its most spectacular blooming season ever, it died before the leaves fully came on. It was a quick death, but how unhappy it made me. I have no idea what happened, but a honeysuckle on the other side of the wall that separates my yard from my neighbor’s yard (about 6 feet away) seemed to die as well. (It has come back pretty strong, and it never lost all of its foliage, but it had a rough summer last year.)

So this year there is no cherry tree, and as I see the pictures from last year, it makes me very sad.  Because they are so difficult to grow here (I have known others that lost theirs the first year), I am not sure I should make another (expensive) attempt at growing one. So for now, there is nothing there.

The stones are where the tree used to be.

The stones are where the tree used to be.

This summer, the flower bed will be bursting with sunflowers and cosmos, but right now, I wish for that Weeping Cherry!

My World is a weekly meme in which participants are virtual tour guides. Go check it out and see the worlds of others. Or better yet, take a look at the guidelines, and do your own My World Post!

In a few days Prince Charming, Chic, Chicklet and I will head out for our annual family vacation.  (The picture here is from last year’s vacation, not long after getting on the road.)  When I was a kid, we did not take annual family vacations.  My first out-of-state trip that could be labeled a vacation (not visiting close friends or relatives) happened when I was in seventh grade.  After that there were several, but certainly not every year.  They were worth the wait, however, as my dad did nothing in half-measures, and we got to see a lot of the United  States plus a few other countries.

 

Back to now.  We take a vacation annually because I go to a convention every summer for my business.  I used to fly there, but as Chic got older, and we moved closer to the Convention location, it just worked better to make a vacation out of it.  (I do not have to find childcare for my absence, and an annual vacation would never happen without the stimulus of Convention.)

 

Now of course I know you are wondering to yourself, “What am I going to do if Louise is gone and not posting???  What am I going to do with all that extra time that I usually spend reading her monstrously long terribly entertaining posts?”  Never fear, I am working on posts to go up while I am gone, but while we are en route (3 days) we might have sketchy internet.  And while I am at the actual Convention, I will have limited time.  Probably I will use my free time (if I find any) to check my Google reader, but probably not respond to comments on my site.  Of course that could all change once I am actually there looking at Prince Charming’s laptop at 1 a.m. (Rest assured I realize the above questions were not really running through your head, and that more than likely, you might have been a bit relieved to not see these lengthy posts, often about little that is important, regularly.   I cannot seem to accommodate you there, but the posts will likely be less frequent.)

 

One of the posts I plan while I am gone is about gardening.  I think it will compare what I do now to what I used to do in Missouri, or could do if I still lived there.  But today, I want to show you just a few things from my garden this summer.

 

My tomato plants are more than six feet tall.  They are loaded with tomatoes.  They have tomatoes from top to bottom, but so far, I am barely harvesting fruit.  I have gotten a couple of handfuls of cherry tomatoes, and that is it.  I have two early-bearing plants which I think will start being ripe while we are gone (but should have produced red tomatoes a month ago).  It is frustrating.  I’m DYING for homemade salsa, but I would never dream of making it with store tomatoes.  I have heard this is the case all over our area.  Maybe it has to do with how cloudy and rainy it has been.  What makes me the most frustrated is that I am a very good tomato gardener.  But this year it is not helping me.

 

 

The peppers are doing better this year than last year.  I have jalepenos ready to pick.  Nothing else is ready, but they will be soon.

 

 

 

The cucumbers are just now setting fruit.  They will probably be loaded by the time we get back.

 

 

Sunday I found my first tomato worm of the year.  I looked it up in Bug Guide (inspired by Marvin’s blog), and it is a California Tomato Worm, Manduca Sexta.  (I have never before used scientific names for bugs, or probably anything except possibly a flower or two, so I am feeling quite accomplished right now.)  I despise these worms.  I despise most types of worms (good or bad), but these top the list.  Before I moved to New Mexico, I had never seen such a giant, fat, wormlike creature.  Last summer I fed one to a black widow. It was gratifying to watch her wrap it up.  I tried to feed another to the same black widow a couple of days later, but she seemed to be too full to care.   Two summers ago I watched for 2-1/2 hours as a preying mantis killed a tomato worm.  (Sorry no pictures.  I hope against hope I someday have another opportunity to get some pictures.  It was one of the most disgusting, yet wonderfully intriguing things I think I have ever seen.)  Below is a picture of some of the damage the above-pictured worm did to one of my tomato plants.

 

 

So when I get back, in AUGUST, I will have lots of tomatoes.  But for now, no salsa.  No anything with tomatoes in it.  It is kind of like the Rainier cherries, I guess.  At least I have something I can anticipate.

 

And for now, I am contenting myself with this weed I allow to grow every year in my yard.  I love these flowers.  It is a Small Flower Globe Mallow, sphaeralcea parvifolia.  They are quite common, but I love the color and the delicacy of the flower so let two or three plants grow in my yard each year.  The one in the picture is over seven feet tall.

 

 

By Louise Cannon

 

Note:  I feel compelled to point out that I just previewed this post and saw no glaring spacing issues.  I totally do not understand why sometimes I have problems and sometimes I do not.  I guess I should just be happy when I don’t.