Rainy Tuesday

It feels like a Monday, though, thanks to the long weekend.  It’s raining, it’s dark, it’s gray, and I’m achey all over.  Feels like a good day for sweatpants and a book.  Thank goodness it was such a long and productive weekend!

It started (and actually pretty much ended) with the back garden.  If you’ll recall, I had asked for a large patch out back to be tilled up so I could plant all of the large squashes in a place where they’d have room to spread.  Then I thought maybe some humble chicken wire could be placed around it a bit to delineate it and keep it free from four wheelin’ kids (hey, we live in teh country….it happens now and again).  You know, nothing fancy.  Most of you will know better than that, though – my husband cannot ever do anything simply and easily.  Not that I am complaining this time.

The problems with my simple garden patch started when we began clearing out the land and getting ready to till the earth.  Paul had assured me it would be a “piece of cake” getting it all turned up and he could haul down the remains of the giant dirt/compost pile from out front all with the Bobcat.   Then the Bobcat broke.  We looked into buying a tiller outright to hook onto the non – operational gravely we have (and then we’d have to buy another gravely for parts…..starting to get the picture of how things work around here? ).  That turned all of one weekend into a total bust.  Then we rented a tiller from the local hardware store and spent the weekend trying to make it work like it was supposed to.  No such luck.  The earth still needed a serious amount of work before any planting could be done, and as it was nearing the end of May, I was beginning to panic, especially when Paul informed me that the leftover dirt and compost mix pile was not going to be enough for this project.  So on Saturday I placed a call and ordered 6 yards of compost to be delivered.  In the midst of that phone call Paul up and left for his friend’s place – to borrow his tractor.

Now I know what y’all are thinkin’.  (Notice the “southern” I threw in there?).  Most men’ll lend out their wives sooner than they’ll lend out their tractors (at least, that is what my husband tells me.  Hmmmm.  Maybe I best not let him buy his own tractor……..).  But anyway, Mike is a really good friend.  We’ve known him and his family since we moved to Virginia in ’97.  So Paul borrowed his tractor, and voila!  Tilling done!


Now that my simple garden project had run into weeks and weeks of “how do we get this all tilled up?”, all that remained was for the compost to be delivered and a makeshift boundary to be put around it.


Makeshift is forbidden in these parts.  I would’ve gone totally rustic (bordering on ghetto, I’d say) if left to my own devices.  Paul had other ideas.


Heavy duty wire, heavy duty posts, majorly heavy duty dog – pen gate (I won out on one piece – I secured them all together with nylon wire ties rather than bailing wire.  It was easier).

The resulting garden spot is much more “high – tech” than I originally envisioned, and Paul claims I seriously owe him one for all of the work he put in.  But, you have to admit it came out really great.  An added bonus is we’re able to let the chickens roam freely in there and they’re relatively safe.  Call it a chicken playpen if you will.  Once the veggies have come in the chickens will be my natural pesticide.  They are quite efficient bug vacuums.


The compost came yesterday and I spent the later part of the afternoon raking it and getting my seeds planted.  Back – breaking, but rewarding, work.  There’s sugar snap peas, green beans, sugar baby watermelons, butternut squash, cucumbers, petit pickling cucumbers, sugar pie pumpkins, lumina pumpkins,  regular pumpkins, and birdhouse gourds.  The chickens followed me the whole time.  Maybe they like me after all.


Check out that black dirt!  Decomposed plant matter never looked so good.

Amazingly I still made time to turn out several loaves of sandwich bread, dinner, and a lemon tart.


I know it’s an awful picture, but I had to share.  I am in love with this burger and I may have to run away with it.  It’s smothered in barbeque sauce and cole slaw and topped with chopped dill pickles.  Mmmmmmmm.

For dessert:


A lovely lemon tart.  Actually it was very bitter.  I couldn’t find any Meyer lemons locally, and clearly the ones at Food Lion are inferior (as is just about everything one gets from Food Lion).  Otherwise it was a complete success texture – wise and crust – wise.

Now I am sore and lazy and tired and I am going to spend the rest of this dreary day with some coffee, a book, and, if he’ll let me, this guy:


I Said I Would, So I Did


I bought it.  It came today.  I have yet to crack it open, due to the absolute insanity that is my life the last few days, but I am looking forward to learning how to make my camera would like it is supposed to.  Maybe when Oona’s 30.

Yesterday was spent returning the craptacular tiller we rented from the local hardware store (I had to drive the box truck.  It was not a picnic.  Paul’s lucky I used to be a bus driver or there’s just no way I could have managed it. It was like driving a giant rattling metal lunch box that’s loose at all joints.  But I digress).  The tiller barely scratched the surface of what I really need done, even with the wet and soggy ground.  We pulled up some massive roots, though.

After the tiller return I spent a  good chunk of the afternoon at the doctor’s office having a biopsy done (don’t worry, it should be fine.  Oh, and Oona stayed here with my mother, who did my dishes for me!!!  Thank you!!!).   Then I had to fly back home for Neve’s Brownie ceremony.  She bridged from being a Daisy Scout and is now officially a Brownie Scout.


Look at that wild hair.  She won’t let me near it.  She also insists on wearing the most outlandish creations to school.  I fought her all year, determined to make sure she dressed in an appropriate manner, both for the weather and the day’s activities.  Last week I gave up, since their last day is Friday.  Plus I talked to her teacher, and she knows I am not dressing Neve in the pink Hawaiian print cargo capris with green striped top, purple socks, fuschia crocs and cheetah print fur coat.  Apparently she’s seen much worse.

Today I eeked out a finished object – a handbag from the Oh Fransson! blog.


This, my friends, is my one small victory for today.  Oona has been particularly out of sorts lately, and today was no exception.  She was so testy I put her in her car seat and drove around aimlessly for 45 minutes so she’d take a nap.  Even now she is wrapped around my ankles screaming.  I don’t know why – nothing I’ve tried makes her happy.  I think it’s just a case of the “WAY over – tireds” and she refuses to concede.  Mighty frustrating to watch.  Especially in light of the newest drama unfolding here in the house of woe.


I took this picture an hour ago in my closet.  Looks like hamster poop – except both our hamsters are serving their time in their luxury condos in Emily and Neve’s room.  So why is there all this rodent poop all around the empty suitcases in my closet?  I tore through all the suitcases, shoes, and other miscellaneous junk all over the closet and found exactly zilch.  The cats have not seemed particularly interested in the closet, which is a good sign.  Last year for about 2 weeks before we discovered we had mice upstairs Sushi sat guard in the hallway, all day and all night.  And just this weekend Jasper alerted me to Sherbert the hamster’s escape by standing guard outside the girls’ bedroom closet all day.  Sure enough, there was a hamster roaming around the shoes in there.  It does then both comfort and confuse me that despite the presence of a fairly large quantity of droppings in my closet none of the cats has been poking around in there.  It does serve to remind me how incredibly badly I need to clean out the dark corners of this house.   Every free corner  has been stacked with stuff that needs to be put into storage and  I simply have not had a free hand to put any of it away.  Good thing I had my moment of baking Zen this weekend while making a strawberry – rhubarb pie.  It was yummy and gone (sorry Rachel!)!!


Cheep Chicks At My Place

Today’s Thursday, so it’s time for the chicken update!

It’s been one week since we brought the chickies home.  Already they have grown considerably and their feathers are beginning to fill out.  We have yet to identify which one is the male (if any) but they girls are enjoying watching their funny little antics as they run about and try to establish their pecking order.  They have also taken quite well to eating those huge mosquito – hawk things that have been hanging around in massive numbers the past few weeks.


Clementine here is the only one left that’s mostly fuzzy instead of feathers.  She’s also a different breed, though.


Ruby (in front), Clementine, and HenRietta.


Homer (the one who may be the boy…we’re not sure), Penelope, Prudence and HenRietta.

Other than keeping the chickens fed, watered and clean I have accomplished pretty much zero since Monday.  This is due to the granddaddy of all colds that has settled into my sinuses and staked out the territory seemingly for keeps.  I’ve been pretty miserable and the more days that go by the more frustrated I am with my lack of ability to do anything other than the bare minimum to keep my kids and pets alive.  Today has been slightly better, so I am hoping for that break in the clouds  (rather than that break in sanity that may be coming if I don’t get well soon!).

See you then.

It’s the Little (or BIG) Things

So I had this idea that this post would be about appreciating the little things, like the funny little chickens in our garage at the moment, or the pretty little primroses that just bloomed in the front garden.  But I realized that someone around these parts (who may or may not have fallen asleep on the window bed with Jasper and then fell victim to a drive – by picture taking) would not agree with me that these are little things. Not because I have in some way underestimated their size or importance in the scheme of day to day life, but because how much work and money it cost to get to these little things. Of course, my take on this is that if you look at things that way all the time then pretty much nothing is a little thing.

I had to stop working, birth a baby, wait for her to be old enough to reasonably manage and do a bunch of research before I could get my little chickens.

We had to save up a bunch of money, buy a Bobcat, wood, a bunch of dirt, stone garden edging, pea gravel and lava rocks (and other various and sundry supplies)  to get those little primroses.

Still, I like to think I am all about the little things. Maybe it is more appropriate to call them simpler things. I don’t know, but  I can’t even tell you how excited I am to have basil and tomatoes growing right now, because it means PESTO!  Those 6 little chicks?  Four of them are going to grow up to  reliable egg-layers!  And that makes me happier than any new shoes or cars, let me tell you (don’t tell Paul that last bit about cars…..I’m still waiting for my poor deer – smashed sedan to be up and running so I can be at least occasionally rid of the van).

You know what else?  I am smitten with Smitten Kitchen. If you haven’t checked out her blog, it’s rather stellar, as far as I am concerned, and I am happily in the midst of trying out her chocolate babka recipe.  I cannot wait to see how it turns out.  I’ll let you know…..but I love babka, so I can’t promise I’ll be saving any to share!

Adding to my list of simple pleasures:  I finished the Yard Sale Skirt from Weekend Sewing.  I am really liking the Heather Ross fabric I used (which is sadly out of production now) and though in the picture I look a bit Oompa-loopa-ish (blame the photographer) it is very comfy.

05.10.09a copy

Okay so I cropped most of myself out of it.  Call it blogger prerogative.  Maybe when I order my copy of Digital Photography for Dummies I’ll pick Paul up a copy of Photographing Your Wife And Not Making Her Look Huge and Lumpy in the Process for Dummies. I’m sure they stock at least one copy of it at Amazon.

Anyhoo…..the spot in which I am standing in this photo (not like you can really tell, actually) is where we have staked out the veggie garden.  We have all the chicken wire, a new spigot post and hose,  and stakes, all ready to go.  We would’ve had it all complete and planted this weekend except that with all of the rain we got the darn ignition got shorted out on the Bobcat, and well…….you can’t till up huge square footage of earth like that without equipment.  Well, you can, technically speaking, but we’re not gonna. Instead we’ll be renting a nice big tiller Saturday and getting it done.  Finally.  Before it gets too darn late in the season to get my squash, peas, beans and watermelons into the earth.

And as for that person who thinks that my little, simple  things are actually large, complicated things ?


He’ll be needing a nap first.

For the Mamas

I had hoped to have this up before the day was over……but I think all the other mamas out there know how it is with little ones.

So, without further ado, Happy Mother’s Day to:

My mother:


My mother as a baby with her mother and my uncle Eric.  My biological grandmother died when my mother was 12, so I don’t really think of her as my “real” grandmother since I never knew her.

And to my Grandmother:


I love this picture!


My mother and me.  Check out how young she looks!


All of us together last summer.

Hope all of you had a great weekend!

What I’m Like

With all of the changes and new developments around here I was feeling like I need to take some time to “shore up” my inner reserves, to reaffirm “me” as a person.  I”m not usually inclined to ask for help even when I am sorely in need, and I was feeling pretty down about things the last few weeks (and lonely, to be honest) when help found me in a few different forms.  New friends, new pets, new tasks and I am feeling more like myself again.  And it’s a great time for it – SPRING!  I couldn’t be more pleased with where I am right now, which is this:


I am a gardener!

This is a new one for me, actually.  I’ve never had much of a green thumb, and over the years I am sure I’ve killed WAY more plants than I’ve grown.  The older I get the more I realize I should’ve been a farmer.  I’ve heard a lot of negative talk from people when I’ve said this before, along the lines of “That’s really hard work – it’d be way too much to handle!” or my favorite, “YOU?  Are you kidding??” Well, heck.  Do I really come off that lazy and incapable?  Just because I am no good at handling a typical office type 9 – 5 doesn’t mean I couldn’t hack farm life.  It has to do with what you find rewarding in life and what makes you happy.  Of course, I am not a farmer, and we have no plans to buy a farm anytime soon (I kind of married the wrong guy for that, I think – I doubt Paul would be too interested in owning a farm!) for now I am a gardener.

These front beds have been planted with several types of tomato and pepper, and basil.  I’m absolutely dying to get out back and get the squashes and beans planted.

The other front garden has plenty of flowers and herbs, including 2 types of thyme, rosemary, pineapple sage, cilantro, oregano, tarragon and lavender.  There’s going to be an abundance of fresh salsas and pestos this year!  Hooray!


I forgot to mention the massive amounts of lemon balm, too.  It’s taking over.  Anyone want any?  Please?

Somewhere down the road a bit we’ll be putting in a small-ish greenhouse and I’d like to put one of those neat strawberry pyramids next to it.  That, however, will have to wait until the greenhouse goes in (for landscape planning purposes), and the greenhouse, well, that ain’t cheap, and as it happens, we’ll need a chicken tractor first, because guess what?  We have these:


Need a closer look?




There are 6 of them, 5 girls and one boy, and we are smitten.


I am a chicken lady!

I got these babies from a local chicken farmer who helped me pick out the friendliest, most docile breeds.  In chicken speak, we have 3 Gold – Laced Wyandottes (1 of these is the roo), 1 blue Cochin, 1 gold Cochin, and 1 black Cochin.  I can’t even tell you how happy I am with them!  Which reminds me, I am also

A Bad Influence!

My friend and neighbor got some as well.  I think she couldn’t take listening to me go on and on about the impending chicken arrival any longer!  All of our kids are just over the moon with their new pets, and Emily has plans to keep a “chicken journal” to document their growth and development.  Insert wide smile here.

Really, for me, this is the life.  I love being domestic.  I love growing things and caring for creatures and my kids (even though certain days I might not say that – like when Oona decides she cannot be any more than 2 milimeters away from me).  I love old fashioned and vintage farm things – if I had the money and the space I’d collect antique tractors.  I love wearing dresses and skirts with giant rubber wellies to work in the garden, and I don’t care if it all gets dirty.  I love cooking and baking, especially giant fruit pies that are way too fattening but it doesn’t matter because they are yummy and good for your soul. (you know, until your soul starts gaining too much weight…..then it’s time to cut down on the pie)

I love sheep and their wool and knitting it.  I will knit just about anything given the time to do so, but my favorite thing to knit is socks, because let’s face it, sock yarn is way cool.

I love to sew clothes for my kids on my 2 vintage Singer sewing machines.

I love to paint with oils.  I also love taking pictures but I am still learning how to do that.  I need to get a copy of Digital Photography for Dummies. I was pretty good with my trusty old Canon A-1, but film cameras seems to have gone the way of the dodo, and it is so much easier to unload your instantly viewable digital photos.

I am all of these things and far more, and I am always adding and subtracting as I grow and change and age.  I think we should all strive to be like a good wine – getting better and more nuanced as we age.  Don’t you?


This, That, and The Other

First let me start by wishing Maddie a Happy 14th Birthday today!!!!!!  Time flies, my little spud baby!  Next year she starts high school, and I feel old.

We got word that our trip to Mexico will be happening November 12 now, so I have 6 more months to make sure I can pull off a bikini.  Whew! Seriously, I am still rather mushy in the middle, and I was really just going to be “winging it” this week.

We managed a day out in Williamsburg without the kiddos (and Oona did fabulously with her grandma – she barely noticed we were gone).  There are some great outlet stores out that way – some are still way over priced, but we had fun looking around and having the luxury to be all casual and mosey about with no screeching and emergency potty trips.  For dinner we went to PF Chang’s, which is just this side of heaven, let me tell you.  I could eat their Mu Shu every day for the rest of my life and never complain (though my blood pressure might – it’s pretty sodium heavy).  The great thing is that the restaurant is at a really pretty outdoor style mall in Richmond and we spent some time after dinner at the Starbucks there watching people and their dogs go by (it’s a very dog friendly mall, despite -or maybe because – all of the very upscale stores there, like Louis Vuitton).  They had Louis Armstrong playing, it was overcast, the flowers were blooming, there were white lights strung in the trees,  I had my triple grande black and white mocha………..it was lovely and relaxing.

Now we are back to reality, however.  We’ve had rain for ages now, whch was great at first because the pollen has such a heavy presence on everything you could swear the world was going to be a gnarly greenish – yellow from now on.  Now that it has been raining for what seems like an eternity (actually I think it’s been like 4 days) it’s getting a bit tiresome, and this is coming from soemone who enjoys a good rainy jag.  I just want to get the kids outside and do some gardening without getting drenched.  And speaking of kids – they are done with school on May 22!  Time to get down to some serious mapping out of vacation plans and activities to keep them busy through the hot months!

I myself have been quite busy, though I do not have many pictures to show for it yet.  I finished the Summer Blouse from Weekend Sewing for myself yesterday, and since Paul cannot take a good picture of me to save his life (seriously – how do you make someone who’s a size 4 look obese?  Just ask Paul!) I had to take it myself.  So excuse the craptastic-ness.


The photo might be awful, but I love the blouse.  I had to add some length and take it in on the sides to make it fit right – the pattern has it rather short and boxy – but I am happy with the results.

I also finished the Everything Tote from the same book.  It’s HUGE.  I knew it owuld be a rather “roomy” bag, but I didn’t realize it would be HUGE.  I also had a bit of trouble getting the binding strips and handles to turn out the way they are written in the book so I had to improvise a bit.  Either way I am still rather pleased.  It’s always good to have a nice tote when you need it, and I love the Joel Dewberry fabric I used.


Other projects from the weekend include:

– dress and skirt for Oona

-dress for Emily

-strawberry layer cake from scratch.  The recipe is in this month’s Cooking Light.  It’s kind of old fashioned and perfect,  with pureed berries and a cream cheese frosting.

– got 2 new Japanese sewing books to drool over!

And finally, while Paul and I were relaxing at Starbucks we thought up a lovely plan for Neve’s birthday (which is at the end of this month) so as to avoid having to throw a big party again this year.  We thought it would be perfect to take her and Emily along with their best buds across the way (and their parents) out to Build A Bear Workshop for a bear – building party and then over to Cold Stone Creamery across the way and cap off the day at PF Chang’s for dinner.  But you know what?  That little booger said “no”.  She wants a big party at the house with the water slide set up.  And when Maddie chimed in that she couldn’t believe Neve wouldn’t want a day at Build A Bear and Cold Stone you know what Neve said?

If you like it so much you can have YOUR birthday there.