Thursday, May 20, 2010

Though I am Not Blogging, I've Been Playn in the Dirt

It's late, I am uploading photos from the Old Scratch Revival Singers show tonight and I was reminded that I have a blog. Oh, yeah!

So the spring has blessed me with awesome plants, of which there will be photos of later. The garden fence is up, though janky...and the plants are mostly in the ground.

The final cut
3 tomato plants
4 kinds of peppers; jalepeno, habanero, and green bell
5 pencil eggplant
3 green bean plants
8 bulbs of garlic
10 sets of green onions
3 cucumber vines
1 snap pea plant

There will be more....

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Mad for Veggies!

Leaves are popping up out of the ground so it's time to start prepping to fill in all this empty, ugly space. The front of the house needs cleanup so the perennials can come up without problems and the area around the front door looks really bare.

The fence around the garden plot has been ripped out and will be rebuilt. I did a pretty shoddy job of trying to revive it from the effects of the flood two years ago so it's best to just start over. It doesn't look like much right now.

Everything that I've started so far (from seeds) is growing inside these little pre-fabbed greenhouses. They have dirt pellets in them. Add water, they expand, and you have perfect little cocoons to nestle seeds into until they're ready to pot.

Once they've soaked up all the water, I used a pen to poke little holes in the center and dropped in a seed or two.

The mini-greenhouse that I started random herbs in was mysteriously knocked off the windowsill, likely by a feline, so now I have no idea what's what. It's the herb roulette greenhouse now. Soon I'll be able to tell which are which...of the basil, dill, chives, sage and cilantro.

The tomatoes, which were started in the green house have been added, still inside their dirt pellets, to bigger sectioned seedling trays. Most of them now have super-tiny, textured leaves. I am nervous about leaving them ouside overnight, but it's going to be in the mid-40s. I may do some last-minute internet research to find out how cold is too cold for baby t'mater plants. I am off to a good start with these, so I don't want to ruin it.

Also lined up along the western wall we have my first attempt at growing garlic. I love garlic and use it in almost everything I cook. I was excited to learn that I can just drop some cloves, pointy side up, into the dirt. I am curious to see how these grow.

I also sewed lettuce, green bean and onion seeds into some more pellets and lined those up with all the rest.

green bean seeds

I also potted some zinnea seeds and some midwest wildflower seeds.

I did this all under the devoted and watchful eyes of my two favorite canines, Chico and Brady.

Chico the Crazy Eyed Killa

Brady, the White Lightening Wonder Hound

My next step to keep watchful eyes over these babies and perhaps start my spinach and container cucumbers. I won't be starting my peppers from seeds. I think last year they took a long time to produce anything. They were still producing well into the cooler weeks at the beginning of autumn.

So it's getting chilly and the sun is going down. I am going to get cracking on researching temperature resistance for these little guys....

happy gardening!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Out of Hibernation

So my blog more than fizzled out last year and I am again prompted to start writing - by my garden. It's springtime in Iowa and I have begun to sprout seeds for the second season of my amazing vegetable and herb garden. Only this year I am doing many things differently to avoid last year's "disasters" in the garden. What disasters, you ask?

Let's review my mistakes:

1. I assumed I would unintentionally kill most of my tomato plants so I stuck far too many into the ground and I overfed them. I think a conservative estimate would be to say I put 15 plants in the garden. I both gave away some plants that I started from seeds and took on some plants from friends who didn't have space. Overall, it led to way too many tomatoes that ended up rotting before I could hack my way into the tomato jungle to harvest them. If only I could accurately portray, with words, the massive mess of tomatoes I made in the back yard. Let me just say I had to get on my hands and knees and crawl under the plants to get to the tomatoes in the middle. That was the sitch despite me leaving over a foot between the plants when I originally planted them. So the lesson: far fewer plants this year, and way more attention paid to each.

I came across a great beginngers tomato growing video:

2. I fried my lettuce last year. It started beautifully, in a long shallow window box, and grew heartily until I left it in full Iowa sun all day. In just one day it was all zapped. No matter what I did to it after that, it wouldn't perk up. It was really disappointing because it did look so full and healthy in the beginning. So for all you lettuce growers that may be reading -- partial sun, and keep it moist.

I thought this guy had an interesting idea for lettuce.

3. Parsley takes over. While having herb medley pots looks lovely, the oregano was doomed from the start since it got no sun hiding beneath the super-fast growing parsley. I don't even really use parsley. So the plan of herb attack this year is separate, but equal pots for the herbs - and no parsley (unless last year's monster plant revives well). It's not looking so hot now.

1. One of the best things I learned and did last year was make homemade organic pesticide. In a spray bottle, combine a couple cups of water with a half a cup of castille soap and a few peeled garlic cloves. Spray it on veggies and leaves every couple days or after heavy rain and not worry about bugs eating your leaves. Do this either very early in the morning or in the evening so the pesticide doesn't burn the leaves in the hot sun.

2. White pencil eggplant is delicious. I had a few plants to my disposal and they grew really well in tomato cages to keep them off the ground. I learned to be careful of the giant spikes that grow under the large, velvety, floppy leaves.

The next step is to get my tomato seedlings out into the sun tomorrow. I started them in little plastic greenhouses about a week ago and now they are each about an inch tall.

I bought a basil plant at New Pi Co-Op and that needs sun as well. The rest of the herbs are still seeds in the other plastic greenhouse. So far I've got more basil, cilantro, dill, sage and chives. I intend to add thyme and oregano. I want to have a huge amount of oregano this summer so I can dry it and have it in the winter.

I wish it would just get warm and stay warm already. I am not entirely sure how cold it needs to get in the evening before I need to bring them inside. Any answers for me out there?

crazily anticipating the summer,


Sunday, October 4, 2009

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What do you say, when you know there's nothing you can say to ease the pain?

What do you do, when you know all your efforts can not cause any difference for good?

You fall down on your knees and pray.

My heart aches for this family, so I pray for peace, love and resolution to prevail among them.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

My Gratitude List

It's September and I've already had to bust out a sweater a few times while driving in the early morning hours. While I am about to be excited about fall fashion, crafts and bonfires...I'm not quite there yet. I am still in denial that summer is winding down because I feel I have not had my fill of fun in the sun yet. It began when I noticed that it was dark by 8:30, not 9:15 like it is in the middle of June. Doug no longer insists on constant air conditioning and the best thing about that is listening to the summer sounds in my quite little Iowa City bungalow by the river. There is little traffic, so the only noises are a din of crickets, frogs. owls and bats. I thought I just heard something hit the drainpipe outside my window. It's either a zombie or a raccoon. So, I sit and enjoy it while I can. It will soon be to chilly to sit barefoot in a tanktop with my bedroom window wide open. Either that, or the zombie will get me.

August was kinda rough for those in my little world, but now that September has snuck up on us, it's time to rehash the good parts of the summer. I have decided to leave the summer behind with gratitude for the great things that happened that I will talk about when I am old. I am going to go backwards until I get too tired to continue. I'll follow with July's list another night as my eyelids are growing heavy already.


Doug, myself and most of our close friends are live music junkies. We watch for shows within a reasonable (?) driving distance, pile in the car and go. The most recent trip to see WEW was not one of the long-night, long-hauls since we were fortunate to crash with good friends. Thanks to the U family. You guys are great friends. If only they could have come to the show. The Vaudeville Mews is small, but great. I love that the ceiling in the front half of the bar is low and then it opens up to the high-ceiling stage area. It was like passing through a tunnel into a cave. By the time Will came on stage, the house was packed. He got loud as he stomped his rhythms on the floor and the feet of the crowd echoed back. He talked to people in the crowd he knew, since he is from the Iowa City area a couple hours away, that was many people. He noticed on of his friends walking past the stage on the way to the bathroom and shouted out a hello. He was charming, and funny, and relevant as he told stories between belting lyrics glorifying the great state of Iowa. Though I am not an Iowa native, I felt some significant Iowa pride at that show. He played for almost two hours as he threw back drinks handed to him from the front rows. I, being very short, couldn't see a thin from where my super-tall friends were standing, so I snuck up to the back corner of the stage where I could see everything...well, except his face. Sure beats looking at the back of the heads of the audience.

I took a few videos, but they are over ten minutes long and youtube won't accept them. Where do I go to share these great vids?

Later that night, Doug, Scott and I went to the Hessen Haus ( where they each drank a litre of beer from giant glass steins. They had no trouble. I barely finished my 2 Cokes.


Ah, my second annual (and consecutive) trip to the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines. The best part was watching an almost-two Katie see everything - really see everything - for the first time. Last year she couldn't even walk. This time she wouldn't take no for an answer.

There are few joys greater than watching this beautiful little girl moo at the giant cows.

In addition to the traditional butter cow, there was also a butter sculpture of the moon landing and a television to watch it on. The class encasing it was covered with the smudgy fingerprints of a million kids, so these shots are iffy.




I prefer to photograph Doug when he has no idea I am watching.

...but not always.

This little guy was really cute....for a pig.

....and just to prove I was Here I am being pushy with Katie.


Emily, threw a very charming vintage garden party, complete with a gorgeous, healthy feast of goodies prepared with the help of her very hip mom. (Any lady that listens to Tom Waits is all right in my book.)While I played my all-to-typical role as wallflower among some unfamiliar faces, I had a lovely time. And who doesn't love an excuse to dress up.
Here are some shots from the event.

Lovely ladies lighting candles.

Starry night.

the spread

Vintage vin⋅tage/ [vin-tij] noun, adjective, verb, -taged, -tag⋅ing. adj. 1. being the best of its kind.

Okay, this was one of those long-distance, long-haul trips. Doug drove the way to Omaha with me, Scott and Shawn in tow, which took about four hours. After the show I was the sober driver back...four hours. We left at 5pm and rolled in after 4am. The show was well worth the effort.

Many people recognize Daniel Johnston's name from a popular documentary about his life called The Devil and Daniel Johnston. This trailer is for your viewing convenience. I urge you to find out who he is and find his music. It is both rudimentary and beautifully complex.

He played for about an hour, first alone with his guitar, then with an accompanying guitarist, and finally, with a band backing him up. He brought out with him four bottles of Mt. Dew and a three-ring binder with all his lyrics in sheet protectors. He was genuine in his performance, and did wonderfully, with the audience gently encouraging him on. It was well worth the eight hour drive to see a musical legend in all his vulnerable might.

MY OTHER PASSION, Photography.

This was my first taste at pet photography (besides the masses of shots of my own pets) and it made me want to do other people's pet portraits. Anyone interested in commissioning me to make your furry or feathered friend look great in a frame?

Here are my favorites.

HONORABLE MENTIONS....while I am remembering them........

TOGA PARTY. I did not sport a toga, but guess who did...

Hopefully this posting won't get me in trouble. Let's see how long before my toga man reads this.

Though, in all fairness, he didn't give in right away. I wish I had not been holding a cig and an alcoholic beverage. Oh, what kind of role model will I be now?

I'll close with the joy of my toddler photo shoot with Katie. These are some of my favorites shots of Katie so far.


I think I got (un)intentionally smacked right after this. *sigh* kids.

She likes to feed Chico one morsel at a time, with a giggle in between.

A pretty good month to remember. Stay tuned for July. I've got to go to bed.
p.s forgive my mistakes; I am too tired to proofread. ha


Monday, August 10, 2009

Wonderbread Facial: Horror and Comedy

I was having a pretty good Sunday, complete with a nice harvest of tomatoes and peppers in tow. I had a dish with about 50 cherry and grape tomatoes, 2 jalapenos, 2 serranos and 4 habaneros (which I actually picked too early...they're not orange yet.) Anyways, I was looking at this bowl of veggies and all I could see was salsa.

I tossed the tomatoes in the food processor to be diced, cut some corn off the cob from the previous night's dinner-for-one, and moved onto the peppers. I halved two jalepenos and two serranos. I took one of the halves into my hand, and began seeding it over the trash can by running my thumb under the seeds.

What happened next happened in a fury, so let's see if I can keep it straight...
As I was watching the seeds fall into the trash, it happened, almost in slow motion; two beads of juice shot up and nailed me directly in both eyes. Before my brain could form the thought that this was very, very not good, the fire engulfed my face.
In the next few seconds, moments, what felt like days, I began splashing water into my face from the kitchen sink, uttering a series of pained curse words, my thoughts racing over what to do to make it stop.

I ripped the dishtowel from the pocket it was tucked into, soaked it with water and began to run to the bathroom. (Mind you, this running includes stumbling blind, tripping over 2 cats and a dog who want to know what's wrong, cursing, and an intense burning, scalding sensation beneath my eyelids.)I would uncover and attempt to open my eyes every few feet as i ran the 15 feet to the bathroom, each time, I'd see a blurred view of the next few feet before howling again and shoving the wet towel into my eyes.

Once in the bathroom, I stuck my face under the pouring faucet of the tub, trying to blast out the irritant, but instead, i felt the burning spreading to my eyelids, the skin under my eyes and even my forehead! My thoughts screamed, "Doug! I'll call Doug, but oh sh**, I have no idea where my phone is and i am blind!" So I make the same flailing, fumbling, moaning journey back to the kitchen, stepping on a cat, and nearly falling on my burning face....feeling around for my phone. "Oh, God, save me, I am going to be blind and buried in a mess!"

I call Doug, who answers after the 5 thousandth ring, or the third, but who can tell when your eyes are melting? "I need your help....i shot myself in the eyes with jalepeno juice and now i am dying"....or something to the effect. I went on, panicked, "I need help, look up what to do....." I hear pity in his laughter, but no mind now, I'll deal with him later.

In the eternity it took for him to call back (again, likely less than a minute), I remembered that my dad always told us kids to eat bread when our mouths were on fire from his cooking. So I fumbled towards the white bread I had been saving for my ducks (a whole other story) and smashed two full slices of white bread against my closed, trembling eyelids. God bless my dad, because this actually brought me some relief almost instantly. As I was making this discovery, Doug called back and told me to get some milk to neutralize the burning. By then I was giving myself a Wonderbread facial, and actually got to the point of opening my eyes without wishing them removed. I babbled at him for a minute, and then went back to absorbing my pain with the slices of now-squished bread. All this had occured in what felt like 10 minutes, but it was more like 5 in real, non-pain time.

The animals sat around me in amazed horror. I can only imagine what two cats and a Boston terrier might've thought about my little freak out. By the time I was actually able to look in the mirror, I saw that my eyes and the skin around them were a hot pink, a little swollen, definately traumatized, with breadcrumbs speckling the area. It wasn't until that moment, when I knew I hadn't fried my eyeballs, that I could laugh about it. I was reluctant to finish making the salsa, but I did what any grown woman would do....I put on sunglasses while I finished chopping the peppers.

You know something, that's damn good salsa. Just learn from my mistakes, kids.


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Hours Passed with My Grands: A Photo Journal

My grandparents live in the West Chicago suburbs and will drive to Iowa City to visit every few months. They came out this week and I spent time with them yesterday and today. Here's how it went.

Mom announced a "corn boil" which is exactly what it sounds like...she boiled a ton of sweet corn and we sat around and ate corn. I felt like a native Iowan for a few minutes as I scarf down my aslty, buttery, crunchy sweet corn.

Grampa suspenders.

My 83-year-old grampa, who has been a housepainter his whole life, insisted on painting my mom's living room on the day they arrived. And he painted all of it except the few spots my mom touched up. I took a photo of her standing on the step ladder, streeeeeetching....

Today, Gramma and Grampa came over to Doug's and my place (unfortunately, Doug is in Des Moines for a spell) and sat around for a bit and messed with the critters. I also crawled into the tomato jungle as they stood outside the fence and directed me to bright red tomatoes. As I got handfuls, I would hand them over the fence to mom and gramma. We collected 40 tomatoes total. I've been snacking on them all day.

To make the grands happy, we went to IHOP for lunch. We sat in a booth and talked and joked and i listened to my grands bicker and joke intermittently. Every time the waitress asked if we needed anything else, my grampa would reply "A stack of twentys this high" gesturing a stack on the table with his hand. Each time the waitress didn't get it. "Uh, what? Twenty pancakes?"

We went to Hobby Lobby, which is on the way back from IHOP, and Gramma and Grampa sat on a bench near the main entrance and insisted that we go shop for a few minutes. Mom and I ran around looking for elastic and felt for my sewing endeavors.
My goodies are at the bottom.