Lessons from the Garden

So I have been a bad blogger….again.  I am not going to bore everyone with details but May was probably the most stressful month for us in a long time.  Some of the stress was positive like seeing friends and family many times as a result of great baby showers.  And some of it not so positive.  But it all worked out in the end and we are ready for June and bringing the blog back to life as I have so many things to share.  Note to baby: you better stay put the next five weeks because I have a lot to catch up on.  Got it? Good.

The blog was not the only thing that was neglected….my garden was looking very…..well overgrown and unkempt.  And not planted.

I am normally the person that people are looking at funny because I am trying to buy plants before the last frost date.  And I am feeding and weeding and planting and giving all the plants tender loving care on a nightly basis.

This year I did not even step outside to look at the plants that were coming back until the end of May.  Major garden guilt.   Another thing I was sucking at this spring to add to the list.

When I finally got the nerve to wade through the weeds to see what I was working with however I was pleasantly surprised.  Here is my advanced visual representation of the state of the garden.  Green =weeds.  Very high and thick weeds.

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We had strawberries…without me doing anything.

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And roses with no pruning or feeding…

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And the beginnings of grapes and raspberries…

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A good lesson about things surviving in spite of you and a lack of control is sometimes a good thing. 

Another lesson in giving up control was that Derek planted the vegetable garden this year…while I was not home.  Gardening is not his thing at all and we agreed to scale it back this year with the upcoming arrival of the baby.  And I knew I needed his help lifting and tilling. But he surprised me with this….

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For a before picture, please refer to above.

Did he pick all the plants I would of?  No.  Or put them in the location determined by seasonally rotating varieties? No.  But it was weeded and composted and planted.  And done. And I learned another lesson about giving up control and things turning out OK. 

On a semi-related note of not doing things when I planned, I wanted to update you on my painted outdoor pots.  When I first posted the tutorial last year, someone wondered how they would last.

I had planned on moving them into the garage for the winter.  Really. But then the whole morning sickness thing happened and they sat outside all winter and I did nothing (see the theme of the post?) to prep them.

I think they held up incredibly well (the specks on the bottom are dirt).

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However in the interest of full disclosure we did have one crack/chip that I noticed.

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So if you are thinking or painting pots but are hesitant on their wear….don’t worry about it and you can even do nothing like me!

Has your garden taught any needed lessons this year?

Flower Power

In honor of our first frost, I did some last minute flower cutting from the garden before they get zapped.  Which is very sad.

But to help me not come to grips with the fact that winter is coming very quickly, I spread some vases of prettiness around the house to help me pretend it is still summer.  Or at least early fall.  Happy thoughts.

This is not usually something I would blog about, because really flowers in a vase is not riveting. 

Being the non-flower designer I am, I usually cut some flowers and stick them in vase and call it good. But since all my plants even the non-flowering ones are on borrowed time right now, I added them to the mix.

And I could not believe what a variety of leaves did for my scrawny flowers. Hence why it gets a blog post.

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They actually looked like I put some thought into it….

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So now I can think summery thoughts while I at the computer…

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Or washing dishes…..

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How are you hanging onto summer?  Or are you telling winter to bring it on?

Zesty Salsa

One of my garden resolutions this year was to have a better preservation plan so when we have piles of perishable produce (say that 5 times fast) that it would not go to waste.

So when the tomato plant started producing, I was ready with some salsa making activities.  Kim at Newly Woodwards almost convinced to start with pizza sauce with pictures of her canning yumminess, but since I also had tons of peppers, we decided salsa was the best bet.

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I went to the library and checked out some great canning books.  I find my salsa recipe in this one.

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Actually it had tons a great recipes (salsa and otherwise) and I picked out Zesty Salsa to start with.  No particular reason besides it sounded good and honestly it was the one that utilized the most of the types of pepper we had in the garden.

Here what went into it-

10 cups chopped cored peeled tomatoes

5 cups chopped seeded bell peppers

5 cups chopped onions

2 1/2 cups chopped seeded chili peppers (we used jalapeno)

1 1/4 cups cidar vinegar

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

Everything came from our garden except garlic, cidar vinegar, and cilantro that met an early end this year.

For the first round of salsa, the tomatoes were just beginning to ripen so I made a half batch which yielded 5 pint jars. IMG_2678

Well this picture shows 4 and a half but that was just because it was so good that we had to sample some.  Trust me there were five.

And being lazy I decided not to can them and just stick them in the freezer.  I had bought freezer safe glass jars and I figured that we could eat it by the time 6 months had passed.

Well  it was amazing, because three days later only two jars remained in the freezer.  But before you think we are total salsa pigs, let me tell you that I did give a jar to our neighbors.

Luckily we had a lot more tomatoes (and a random cantaloupe but ignore that part)….

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And plenty more peppers so we made a second full batch this time.  And since Derek was helping the jalapeno has a bit more kick. 

So we now have 9 pint jars in the freezer and giant tupperware of yumminess in the fridge.  Hopefully that will last much longer this time, because the next round of tomatoes is destined for pizza sauce.  But just writing this post has me crazing some more and heading to the fridge so that might still be up in the air……

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August=February?

It is that time of season where summer is starting to lose it’s charm in our neck of the woods.  It is hot.  And sticky.  And dry.  And no amount of watering keeps the plants from wilting and or the grass from turning brown. 

So I set my alarm early this weekend to get out in the garden before it was sweltering and the I admit I was a little grumbly about it.  Because I was sick of watering and weeding and feeding and fighting pests on the tomatoes and black spot on the roses.  So the entire time I was staking up the raspberries (which are being ravaged by some unknown disease or insect that no amount of googling has led me to a conclusion)  I was composing an open letter to August because my feelings for it were much like February.   I had all the details in my head. 

But then I saw this. 

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And after I wiped the condensation off my lens from the humidity I got to enjoy these.

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And suddenly my grumpy letter to August disappeared because how could February compete with fresh raspberries?

And peppers….

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And tomatoes…

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And if Iwas still not convinced just remember the having to dig out the door…..IMG_0097

Yep August has nothing on February.  Bring on the heat!

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Finally

I have been promising this for awhile, but the outdoor space it finally ready.  But next time I want to finally get an outdoor space together, I need to actually make progress before August when it is too hot to be outside even at night….. and when all the flowers and herbs are looking a little wilty….well because they are hot too.

Anyway it would not be an After without an Before. So he is the unofficial before (stolen from the raised beds how-to).  Basically when we moved in we plopped a table in the middle of the deck with cheap plastic chairs and hung lights very very straight on the pergola.  Oh and Derek  installed outdoors speakers as soon as the wire was discovered.  Priorities.

Here we are now:

Outdoor space 8/10

I swear I did not have Winter pose…that is where she was laying when I walked out with the camera.

The other side-

Outdoor space 8/10

My reading corner-Outdoor space 8/10

The umbrella gets moved frequently to shade the plant and the sectional.  I can’t decide if I like it better with or without….hmmmm.

Outdoor space 8/10

The long view.  Yes I am aware that it leans.  I swear this is the only angle you can tell.  A couple of people have given us ideas about how to fix it but frankly none of them sound that fun and we have not cared enough to pursue it yet.  10 points if you can spy the shell pink mini blinds in the ugly master bath in this picture.

Outdoor space 8/10

On a daily basis I use our rolling cart for gardening stuff, but it multi tasks for entertaining or BBQing-

Outdoor space 8/10

Some herbs and the grape trellis.  Hopefully the grapes will be higher than the first level and able to be seen next year.  Outdoor space 8/10

And at night (without a tripod obviously).  I like how the sectional area is less lit but still bright enough.

Outdoor space 8/10

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And to prove they were not nearly so cooperative the entire time….

Outdoor space 8/10

In case you are wondering, here is where I got stuff (on a budget of course):

Tile-Top table and umbrella- Lowe’s or Home Depot years ago on clearance

Sectional: Wal-Mart (blogged here)

Rocking Chair- Jo-ann’s (blogged here)

Outdoor Rug: Home Fabrics and Rugs (blogged here)

Garden Stool: Homegoods (here)

Blue side table- hand me down transformed with the power of spray paint

Outdoor Pilliows-made by me

Rolling Cart- made my Derek (tutorial here)

Painted Pots -another DIY project (tutorial here).  The non-painted pots are from Homegoods.

And the final DIY project- the canvas panels on the pergola (here)

So what do you think?  Now I am starting to get the itch for fall and cooler weather so we can start spending time out there again.

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Loving the Mint

Hope everyone had a happy and relaxing Fourth of July and you are enjoying your long holiday weekend.  We have been enjoying mojitos and making good use of mint plant.  This drink is worth adding a mint plant to your garden.  It is easy to grow, but it can be invasive so you may want to think about using a pot to contain it. 
My favorite mojito recipe involves about 12 fresh mint leaves, 1/2 a lime, a shot of rum, agave nectar, ice and club soda.  Agave nectar is my new secret ingredient in the drink.  The recipes I found use simple syrup or sugar for added sweetness.  But sugar in a cold drink is gritty and frankly I was always too lazy to make simple syrup even though it is easy.  Obviously I am very lazy.  We had bough agave nectar because supposedly it is better for you than sugar and we wanted to try it out.  It worked perfectly and it keeps a whole lot longer than simple syrup.  Glad I was able to solve this pressing problem.

Which is a good thing because we still have half a summer (and a mint plant) left.....

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Summer Laziness aka I Hate Watering

Summer is officially in full swing.  Bringing with it lazy afternoons, lemonade, relaxation.  And a brand new air conditioner that stopped working, multiple service visits, four nights sleeping the basement, an electrician and a new hole in the basement ceiling.  But that is a story for another day.  This is a happy summer post.

Anyway one of the things I love about summer is enjoying the garden and landscaping on maintenance mode and not planting/tons of work mode.

Ahhhh….pretty flowers and delicious vegetables.   But for the past couple of years I have struggled with keeping all the potted plants hydrated.  Every afternoon when I come home they look wilted.  And so I then had to water them everyday.  This gets really old and honestly makes me wish for a hard freeze in the beginning of September.

If was really dedicated I could install a drip irrigation system for all the plants.  But that takes too much work and planning. Next idea please.

Mulch helps with water conservation….but- while perfect for all the landscaping,  a little boring for the pots.  Being on the deck they needed some pizzazz.  I thought about polished river rock you can buy in the mesh bags in the craft stores. But for a couple bucks for a small bag, it could get expensive. 

So we bought two bags of marble chips at Home Depot.  Under $7 total and I think they bring a modern aspect to all the potted plants while conserving water.  Observe-

Before:

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After:

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When we bought the rock, it was covered in dust and grit.  So I rinsed it in a shallow pot with drainage holes like I was panning for gold.  The rock looked so much better with a bath, and then I set it on the top of all the dirt.  Helpful hint- if you are going to work with landscape rock, wear gloves.  I did not and it really scratched up my natural nails.

Since adding the layer of rock, the soil has not been completely parched on a daily basis and I have been able to reduce my watering.  It was the a trifecta project of cheap, easy and quick but hopefully will have a positive impact on my plants and my sanity.  Unless someone wants to install drip irrigation on the deck.  Any takers?

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Berry Time

I have been patiently waiting a year and a half for the raspberries to do something other than hide the ugly electrical box in the backyard…. and this morning they made it worth every single day.

Raspberries first harvest

Not knowing anything about raspberry bushes I had no idea when they were ready to pick.  Do they start to fall off, or do you have to cut the thorny stems with clippers?  I had no idea and in the back corner of the yard I was without a google-enabled device to answer this pressing question.  So I took the plunge and pulled one off.

Raspberries first harvest

It felt like a raspberry should and I had been doing the organic thing with the bushes this year so I poped it in my mouth.

Wow.

I like raspberries from the grocery store and buy them whenever they are on sale, but this berry blew all of those out of the water.  It was so sweet. 

So I immediately got a basket to collect all the berries in and proceeded to eat one and then put one in the basket.  And then eat another two and then put one in the basket.

Here is what made it back to the sink.  Where they were promptly eaten before their flavor had to spoiled with refrigeration.

Raspberries first harvest

I planted two different varieties of raspberries-the classic pink/red color and another variety that ripens to a peach color. 

Looking at the bush, I should be getting larger and larger harvests because there are so many on there that are not ripe yet.  So we will be trying to consume them as fast as we can as well as freeze the extras for future smoothie making.

If you are a beginner garden like me and thought about trying raspberries, I would say go for it .  The first year of no fruit stinks, but my four plants have taken off this year and other than having the painful task of tying the thorny branches to a trellis, I have pretty much left them alone.  They have been disease and pest free with no intervention and I am not nearly as diligent in watering them as I am the other veggies.  They spread and need full sun, so if you have those criteria I would plant some and start counting the days until your first berry crop.  They fruit on two year old canes, so after this years harvest is complete, I will cut back all those branches and let the new canes grow so that they are ready for fruit next year.

Unfortunately, there was one nuisance that I could foresee ruining my happy berry day. Raspberries first harvest

And I knew that as mad I have been at the rabbits for killing all the spinach and eating countless other plants, if birds got all the berries that I had waited two years for,….well I just might explode.

So now the berry bushes now look like this. 

Raspberries first harvest
Hopefully the birds and I can remain friends.  While I am enjoying every single berry.
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How-To: Outdoor Rolling Cart

In re-designing our outdoor space, I realized we were lacking some storage.  Sure there were tables, chairs and a sectional, but no place to just set stuff. And while the garage was just a few steps away through the interior of the house, I learned quickly that it was just too far in the summer and therefore I just plopped things on the ground.

So we needed a flat surface to set stuff.  And it as luck would have it, we had a perfect awkward space for this storage to fit into.

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It had to be pretty and look like furniture.  I was envisioning a simple slatted console-table like thingy.  That I could set stuff on. In a fun color. 

That was the very thorough description I gave to Derek.

He took it a couple of steps further and designed and made this-

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A double decker rolling cart.

Backing up……

After I explained my master vision we headed off to the hardware store for some lumber and outdoor stain.  After much debate and price comparison we decided to go with cedar because it was not that much more expensive than pressure treated wood and I could treat it with color right away.  And it smelled nice.

And by much debate, I mean we put wood on the cart and then exchanged it for a different kind three times.  The Home Depot guys would have thought we were crazy if they did not know us so well from our frequent visits.

Anyway, we spent about $60 on wood.

Now for the Jenny version of the how-to (with pictures of course):

We made the frames for the shelves-IMG_0926

Added the slats-IMG_0927

Screwed on the legs-IMG_0928

Assembled the layers and added the wheels-IMG_0929

Simple right?

Well for the more technically inclined here is the Derek version with fancy schmancy measurements-

The cart is three main pieces.

The upper shelf is made completely of 1 x 4 boards.  The slats are 1x4 of 16 ¾ in length.  There are 9 of them spaced approximately ½ inch apart.  The long sides are two 1x4 boards hooked together.  The outer board is 7 inches shorter than the inner board (29”).  The inner board is 36” long.  This allows 3 ½ inches on each end for the vertical 2x4.  The short sides are connected with a 1x4 that is 11 ¾ inches long.  When looking at it from the short side you would see the 1 ½ inch side of the 2x4, then the ¾ inch side of the inner 1x4, the 11 ¾ inch 1x4 and then a mirror of the other side.  This totals out to 16 ¾ (1 ½ + ¾ + 11 ¾ + ¾ +1 ½)

The lower shelf is made the same way except the two outer slats are cut shorter to fit within the vertical 2x4’s. 

The vertical 2x4’s are however tall you want to make them.  Our cart is 37” from the bottom of the vertical 2x4’s to the top of the upper shelf (not counting the wheels).

OK enough of that…back to the pictures.

After the cart was assembled, it was my turn to take over with filling the nail/screw holes and sanding-IMG_0933

But happily we were going for a rustic outdoor look so not that much sanding was required.

Which is good because sanding is not rated as one my favorite DIY tasks.

I then finished it in an opaque stain in Shipmate Blue.IMG_0935

Ultimately I would have loved to do a semi-transparent stain in blue, but I could not buy it in a quart.  And I did not feel so strongly about it to justify the extra cash.

After two coats of stain we got this-IMG_0947

Or should I say this-IMG_0949

On a typical day I plan on housing most of my gardening supplies here so they are not just scattered around the deck. 

But it also can be used for this purpose-

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Or for sangria...or a bucket of beer…..or lemonade.  Or setting the mint plant on there and whip up some mojitos.   Or a serving table for food.

Or a fiesta…

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Confession- I was tempted to set up all of these those little vignettes and take pictures to illustrate the many uses of the outdoor cart.  But a) it would have been obvious that I had a little too much free time and b) my neighbors were in their backyard….they probably would not look at me the same after seeing me rearrange beverages on the cart six times and then snap pictures.  Especially at 8 on a weeknight when it was just the two of us outside. 

But I did capture the cart in all of it’s wheeling glory without causing neighborly concern.  It makes a perfect BBQing accessory-IMG_0954

It was super easy to construct (or so I am told) and cost less than $70 for all the materials.  And I love the pop of blue. 

It looks perfect in the completed outdoor space and I love the functionality.

Outdoor space 8/10

Outdoor space 8/10

 
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Flower Power

I may of mentioned it before, but I loooove spring and summer. 

It may have something to do with the flowers.  Doing dishes or responding to emails is suddenly more fun when there are bits of prettiness from your garden next to you.   Bonus points if they smell like roses.

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I used to try to make these elaborate arrangements and only buy plants that would be perfect for cut flowers.  But that took too long and I had lots of plants that did not fit that mold.   And let’s be honest, floral designing is not one of my gifts.

Now I just keep a cabinet full of random vases ready for the flowers of the season.   And a pair of clippers right by the back door so every afternoon I can see what is inspiring me to come inside.

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Votive holders and any old glass jar work just as well.  I have found that I use my shallower ones the most often as they do not require a long stem so any bloom can float.  Like simple shrub roses and marigolds-

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But I have to admit that in my opinion nothing can beat a red long stemmed rose.  And now that I have my new camera I can bore you to death with pictures of them.

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Bored yet? I will try to restrain myself in the future and keep the pictures to myself.

And for those in my neck of the woods that are wondering how I have a rose in full bloom already, I will admit that I cheated….slightly.  You see when I cut the flower the plant was firmly planted along side our deck.   However, it was bought from the store yesterday and that is why it is blooming.  We lost one rose last year and this is it’s replacement.   With the insanely cold winter we had, I am pleasantly surprised that a single rose was the only plant we lost. 

But I will just pretend that it all had to do with my amazing gardening skills and not the fact that I actually killed the plant. 

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Spring Steals

So I am taking a big step and taking a personal day today.  I have never taken one before, but I am so proud of myself for taking a day to myself and all the projects waiting to be completed. 

Well let’s be honest…..half a personal day.  I have things scheduled at work in the morning but I will get out of there by noon.  Promise. 

Small steps.

While I use my extra couple of hours to work on the ten different spring projects that are partially done, I wanted to share all my great spring buys that I have found recently.

First, has anyone else noticed how expensive outdoor furniture is?  Ouch….especially when you are looking at comfortable outdoor sectionals.  Even at all of our favorite cheap places were were looking at least $1000.  Sigh. I will admit I was frustrated and thought that our outdoor space would be bland and not as functional for another year.  And what fun is that?

But then Wal-Mart.com came to the rescue with this-

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Any guesses on how much?  Under $500.  Yeah, so it probably won’t last a million years and become a family heirloom but oh well.  A couple of summers of enjoyment is all we are asking for.  It was also free to ship to the store. 

The box barely wedged into my small SUV.  And by barely I mean we had to take out the carpet in the back for that last centimeter and actually take the sectional out of the box piece by piece while it was in the car because it was so snug in order to extract it.

I am in the process of buying fun fabric for pillows to make it more summery and bright.  Because the throw pillows it came with were pretty ugly. Add that to the project list.

And did anyone spy the other thrifty find I scored this past week?  I will give you a second to scroll up in case you missed it. 

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Yep a garden stool for 20 bucks at Homegoods.  I am thinking to use it as a little side table right now but as the outdoor space comes together we will see where it ends up.  Anyway I love it.  And the color.  And the price.

I can’t wait to put together all the details and make our deck an extension of our house.

But in the meantime I will pretend that I am going to spend my afternoon of freedom stopping and smelling these-

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(and because of my spring fever I not able to resist at least one flower pic in every post….it will pass soon I promise)

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A Different Type of Before/After

The vegetable garden is in full swing no thanks to the rabbits. Here it is the first weekend in May, right after it was planted.




And here is it is now. It is amazing how quickly it has grown. I took these same pictures a week or two ago and planned on posting those, but when I looked at them again I realized how different it already looked. So I had to go back outside and snap some more.
Beans, peas, jalapeno, and tomato plants

The Herbs (Basil, Parsley, Mint, Sage, Oregano)

Raspberries and Carrots

The Bounty-


In this pic yo can see the lettuce (the tall purpley stuff) before I had to pull it because it was "bolting" and starting to taste bitter. (Winter is enjoying what we like to call her "hot stone massage."

Enough with the pictures, here is what I have learned from my first vegetable garden.

1. I was not successful starting seeds indoors. They grew no problem but even in a sunny window I not think they got enough light and therefore got incredibly leggy. So even though I put them outside a week to harden them off, once I planted them in the ground they fried. So if I decide to start seed indoors next year I will need better light.

2. I need a plan for preserving food as it matures. We have so much more food than we know what to do with. We are making every jalapeno recipe possible but there are still 5 in our fridge and another 5 on the plant.

3. Eat lettuce early. I knew it was a cool season annual from my reading but I did not realize how quickly it would bolt and then become too bitter to eat. We did get a lot of good salads out of it but I was so worried about it eating it too quickly that a lot of it went to waste. I am also going to maybe find something to shade it next year so it hopefully will bolt later in the season.

4. Add tons of compost even in brand new enriched garden soil. Mid season I had to add a lot more for water retention than for any other reason. The soil on it own was requiring water everyday and was developing giant cracks.

5. Check the garden for ripe fruit and vegetables everyday just to make sure that birds or other animals do not get to them first.

I am sure that by the end of the growing season that I will have a lot more "learning experiences." Considering this is my first vegetable garden, I am very happy how it turned out. And there is nothing better than getting a large portion of your dinner from the backyard.
Awwwww summer.....

Reason # 28475008

In case you have not noticed, summer is my favorite season. One of the reasons is I have a lot of vacation (duh). But I also love being able to garden, eat outside, casual entertaining and summer drinks like margaritas. A margarita while you are wearing a sweatshirt and sitting under a blanket on the couch is just not the same as sipping one in a swimsuit on the lake or on the back deck.

Another reason I love summer is easy decorating. No need for expensive accessories or centerpieces. All you need is a cabinet full of various sized vases and your backyard garden. A couple of snips and you have an awesome centerpiece with no cost and minimal effort. I am not a flower-arranging pro but anyone can throw some flowers in vase and bring a natural element into the house.

For example here is one that took me three seconds to snip and throw in a bowl but I love it next to the lamp on our side table in the family room. And I only had to fight one bumblebee to get the flowers.


Obviously it is not the most creative since it involves only one type of flower but that is the point-it is supposed to be easy and not fussy. Ahhhh summer.

Good News/Bad News

I guess actually I should say Bad News/Good News since I am going to start with the Bad first. But it just does not have the same ring to it.

Anyway the bad news is that today was my first day back at work. In some ways I love the a new school year with all the excitement and resolutions that things are going to go differently this year. Everyone is in a great mood. I am thinking about posting my personal new school year resolutions but I don't think that they would mean anything to anyone but me. I will spare you the time it would take to read that pointless post.

I actually was OK getting up this morning and work was a nice change of pace because it did not involve painting and I actually showered before six p.m. But it does not change the fact that I am back at work and do not have another day off until Labor Day (or maybe tomorrow and next Friday because we are still on summer schedule, but that does not sound as pathetic). I am sure all of you out there that work 12 months a year are really not feeling my pain (like my husband) but I can still call it bad news because it means slowing down on the ambitious projects. I keep arguing that since I worked summer school that I only had 2.5 weeks of vacation and in the education world that is nothing. But still no sympathy.

On to the good news- since I am back at work my blogging should return to its regular schedule. You would think that when I have all day to work on projects that I would be cranking out post after post. But I was surprised to learn that this was in fact the opposite. It is hard to blog when you are wearing paint clothes all day and cannot sit at a computer long enough to type. So stay tuned because I have a lot of material to cover in the next couple of weeks. I have been busy and all the projects are at about 90% now so I better get my butt in gear over the weekend to get them all finished for your reading enjoyment.

Stay tuned!

The Place to Be


In the summer heat and humidity Winter has found her perfect nap spot. She gets a little cranky in the summer and hopefully this will improve her mood. There is a reason we did not name her "Summer."

Multi-Functional Herb Garden

When I purchased my herb garden from Bluestone, I made a couple of additions. One of those was a mint plant.
Why a mint plant? To flavor tea? To use in cooking? Nope.....for Mojitos!

Sunday night was the first time we made this summery drink and they turned out perfectly. There are many recipes as well as how-to videos. Some of them differ from each other but overall they are similar. If you have a mint plant it is so quick and easy to make and so much cheaper than ordering one from a restaurant or bar. Here is the recipe I used.

I used 12 mint leaves (24 are in this picture for two drinks)
And half a lime cut into wedges...

Then I muddled it together. Since I did not have the proper tool I used the end of a wooden spoon but I am going to be on the hunt for this for the next time. Next, I added 4 tsp of sugar. I think when we have people over and making many drinks I think I will make simple syrup so it will dissolve better. But just for the two of us the sugar worked just fine.While I was muddling our house looked exactly like this...

And I had this guy's "flair" with the bottle....

Then I added ice, 1.5 ounces of rum (about the amount of a shot glass) and club soda. The recipe called for a "splash" of club soda, but I added more.
Voila....the finished product-
The mint plant is officially the first plant out of the herb garden to be put to use.....and in my opinion very good use.

Hellooo Summer

Again I have been a bad blogger....but I have an excuse. The last week was crazy at work and I was trying to make progress on the laundry room reno. But after taking the weekend to relax (and make more progress on projects) I am ready to go again.

One of the things I love the most about working in education? May. There is nothing more exciting than the last day of school and I am lucky enough to get to experience it over and over again. Take last Friday, the final bell rings and an euphoric yell rises into the hallways. You thought I was going to say June/July/August didn't you? Well I sadly do not have all that time off so I am going to stick to May. I also love that when everyone comes back (kids and staff) in August that things also look brighter and happier because it is a brand new year. It's like a new years resolution every August....with that new crayon smell to boot.

One of my summer resolutions is to get to the pool more often. When we bought the house last year, a neighborhood pool was on my must-haves list. I was not willing to compromise on it and was so excited when the pool opened last year. Know how many times I went? Zip. I blame it on the kitchen renovation. And the impact the kitchen renovation had on my waistline- too much eating out did not inspire me to want to put on a swimsuit. Since we are (unfortunately) not doing any big renovation this summer I am going to get to the pool....I hope.

Derek got a new smoker for his birthday and spent a large part of the weekend experimenting with it. So we were eating BBQ every day and I will say even though he is a newbie at the smoker thing it turned out quite good.

When we had friends over on Friday I found a new recipe that I wanted to share-Strawberry-Goat Cheese Bruschetta (from Better Homes and Gardens). It was delicious, easy, and the best part looked a lot more complicated than it was. I can't wait to make it again.

Here is the recipe (too lazy to re-copy it)

It is not the healthiest or most economical recipe but I think I will be making it many times this summer.

Hope your Memorial Day Weekend was great! Mine left me with the question of why all weekends can't last three days?