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I'm never bored. If I'm not knitting or spinning, I'm gardening or reading. There's so much to learn and never enough time. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Tending Weeds - Sweet Annie

Image result for sweet annie plant

The definition of a weed:

A plant considered undesirable, unattractive, or troublesome, especially one that grows where it is
not wanted.

So, by definition, I've apparently been cultivating undesirable plants. Troublesome plants. Plants nobody wants. A couple of weeks ago, I was weeding a small area behind the pool filter that had become somewhat overgrown. As I yanked and pulled, I recognized a familiar fragrance. "Sweet Annie" - I'd been pulling out a patch of "Sweet Annie"! So I quickly dug a couple of holes in the back of my so-called vegetable patch, and dropped in a couple of handfuls of roots and stem. Last fall I bought some branches of "Sweet Annie", or Artimisia annua from a vendor at the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck, New York. I'd previously planted some seeds but never identified any seedlings. Anyway, I formed my "Annie" into a wreath with green florists' wire and added some dried Hydrangea blossoms to complete the piece. I know "Annie"  grows by the side of the road but I never found any I could cut without getting run over. Hopefully now, I'll have my own little crop of this fragrant herb. "Sweet Annie", according to Mother Earth News, is originally a native to Southeastern Europe, North Africa and Iran. It's known as "the Tomboy" of everlasting gardens due to it's plain and gawky appearance. It's a favorite of crafters for its versatility and sweet, lingering fragrance and been used medicinally since the 7th century as well. "Sweet Annie" will only become troublesome to me if I can't keep up with the harvesting.


Sunday, September 20, 2015

Euptoieta claudia & Indiecito

This beautiful thing is a Variegated Fritillary (or Euptoieta claudia). She didn't get into a face off with the large bee that shared the branch of butterfly bush with her. She just elegantly enjoyed sipping and flitting around on a warm September afternoon. It struck me that her wings backlit by the sun, matched the centers of the flowerettes perfectly. When looking for color combinations for yarn dying, fiber artists frequently take a cue from nature and this is a perfect example of colors that I would never have tried to combine.

I've barely started a new project - a Pebble Beach Shawl, designed by Helen Stewart in Malabrigo Arroyo in a variegated colorway called Indiecita (Little Indian). I wasn't sure if I'd like this pattern in this particular yarn. It reminds me of a beachy, summer sunset. Another inspiration from nature. Someone said that there's nothing new in the world. All we have to do is look around and appreciate what's here.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Before & After Kitchen

Here's where we started. I married a man with a son who were living in a home that had never been updated. Just a couple of bachelors (one big, one little) with a sad, yellow kitchen.
This is where we started. A small, square kitchen, portable dishwasher, wall between the kitchen and a dining area/family room. A very large coal stove and chimney that had to be removed. We kept the brick wall. 

Stove and chimney removed but hole still in ceiling. Built-in bar with mirror tiles over (apparently to nicely reflect liquor bottles?
We kept the existing window over the sink.
The wall between the kitchen and FR (with cook top and built-in oven came down.)

Stove & microhood are where the old fridge was. A door to the backyard was closed up and the fridge takes its place.

Maple glass door cabinets and built-in desk replaced a bare wall and portable dishwasher. The desk was created by using upper cabinets as lower to allow room for knee space under the countertop of the desk.

I'm linking back to the www.thededicatedhouse.com blog (Wednesday Before and After).

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Liquid Lunch


No, not that kind of liquid lunch. The yummy, healthy kind. Or it could be breakfast, instead. But I can't stand the roar of the Ninja blender too early (and I know it grates on my husband's nerves, too). It's quick and easy and just about all I want at 11:30 a.m. if I've skipped breakfast. Now, skipping breakfast is not a bad thing if you're like me and can't stand the smell of eggs cooking before noon and you're avoiding grains. A couple of  cups of coffee (half decaf) get me moving in the a.m. but by late morning I'm looking for something to fill me up and keep my tummy from growling. This blueberry smoothie made from 1 cup of unsweetened coconut milk, 1 scoop of vanilla brown rice protein powder, 1/2 cup frozen blueberries, 1 tablespoon of coconut oil, 2 tablespoons of flax seed meal and a couple of drops of liquid stevia. I whirl it in my Ninja with a little water and a few ice cubes until it's thick but not too thick to pour. It has 375 calories, 22 grams of healthy fat, 29 carbs (okay, a little high there but look a the fiber!), 21 grams of protein and 8 grams of fiber. I can't recommend a food, supplement or give any advice regarding nutrition. And nursing and pregnant women should not consume flax seeds, according to Web MD. But if you would like to add some healthy fiber and plant lignans to your diet from what some experts claim is the most powerful plant on the planet, you might want to research the possible benefits to adding dark colored berries, healthy fat and ground flax seeds to your already healthy diet.


Friday, August 28, 2015

Getting Happy in my Fall Garden

I really thought a vegetable garden this year was hopeless. We've been having a heat wave with virtually no rain all summer. I can only think of two rainy days since last Spring. One will be burned into my memory forever. Looking out my kitchen window at our local wild bunny hunkering down under a patio table that had been left out on the lawn. I don't know if she had ever seen the rain. (Okay, now that song's in my head...) It's been that bad.
I'm still taking strong medication for the colitis but I've felt good enough to put in some young veg plants and protect them with my life. The bunny got one young broccoli plant but it seems to be recovering. She also got one of the little kale plants. I've tented the baby lettuce with lawn chairs and beach towels to keep it from burning in the hot sun. I've covered the broccoli with laundry baskets at night protect it from marauding bunnies. Nobody seems interested in the swiss chard. Probably not even my family but that's another story.
Little sprouts of sugar snap peas are wending their way toward the tee pee left over from the pole beans last year. They don't like the heat so that's probably all I'll get - sprouts. But the figs are getting larger, the parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme are singing along. The cherry tomatoes are offering enough for a salad every night. Butterfly weed started from last year's pods are big enough to transplant but we're expecting another few days of intense heat next week so they'll have to wait a bit.. I was pulling weeds and recognized the lovely fragrance of Sweet Annie herself, so I plunked a couple in the back of the patch. Yes, I'm getting pretty happy in my fall garden. What's making you happy? Leave a comment - I'd love to know!

Butterfly Weed in the Spring

Butterfly Weed ready for planting
Shading the lettuce on a hot day
My wee garden - mostly blackberries

Sugar Snap Peas really trying to grow

Okay, even that crazy rabbit makes me happy....

Monday, August 10, 2015

Getting Happy in My Garden


I didn't get my garden cleaned up enough to plant this year. I missed spring planting time because I was dealing with a very nasty case of colitis. Without details, I couldn't get far enough from the house to do much of anything - my MS makes running out of the question. I'm now on some strong prescriptions to keep everything under control, hoping I can eventually taper off and use natural anti-inflammatory supplements in the future. So, I was listing to Margaret Roach's podcast "Away to Garden" and the topic was vegetable planting in the fall - starting now! And "Natureworks" just blogged about having fresh veggie seedlings on their benches. Maybe it's not too late for me, after all. With a lot of help from #2 son, the garden is mulched with straw and getting drenched with the sprinkler to cool down the soil for planting. As I was working this morning and pulling a few stray weeds out from under the bean teepee, who should land right at eye level but this guy? I said hello and started talking to him. I'm not crazy, he was looking right at me. As I talked to him he tilted his head back and forth as if he was listening. After a while, I left him to get the camera. When I returned, he came right back as if to pose for pictures. My camera battery was half dead or I would have taken more pictures of this beautiful blue-eyed visitor. Wait - dragonflies are territorial. Maybe I was the visitor!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Get Happy Eating Healthy

I was just thinking about happiness. Whether young or old(er), working, disabled or retired, one of the things that has always made me happy was knowing I was feeding myself and my family as well as I could. The largest portion of our monthly budget is food. It's not easy to prepare healthy meals when you're working full-time or not feeling especially well.  And eating well is expensive. Eating well should include wild-caught fish as part of a good diet. Especially for those of us struggling with poor health or age-related issues and the little ones in our lives that are growing healthy bodies. I've always been aware that I should eat fish but I really have never enjoyed it - until recently. I buy only wild-caught- in- the- U.S. salmon. There are many reasons not to eat farm-raised fish and I'll let you google that. Wild-caught Alaskan salmon is expensive. My local supermarket frequently has specials on frozen Alaskan salmon so that's when I buy it. If I grill it and serve it with a side of rice, vegetable and salad, I prepare it this way:  I put defrosted fillets in a shallow dish with even amounts of soy sauce, brown sugar, water, and olive oil (I use about a half cup of everything except the oil for which I use 1/4 cup.  Shake on some lemon pepper. Leave this overnight or all day. When you're ready to grill (or broil), discard the marinade and grill or broil in the oven, skin side down until it flakes easily with a fork and has lost its raw appearance. It completely loses its fish taste and my family loves it. Now if you're looking to use wild-caught salmon and want to stretch it for a larger family (or just save some money), poach the defrosted salmon in a shallow pan in an inch of water which you've salted lightly and added some cut-up onion to flavor the fish. Again, when it's fork-flaky, remove the fish and cool it covered in the fridge. Boil up some pasta (I like elbows), gluten-free or not and chill those also. Make this part the night before and dinner is easy-peasy. Shred the salmon, removing any little pin bones. Add the fish to the pasta with whatever mayo you use. Cut up some celery, a bit of onion or scallions, salt and pepper. Now you can get creative with whatever you have in the fridge. You can add sweet pickle relish if you like that, a little mustard if you want some kick. Get creative and serve it on a bed of lettuce and other veggies with a bit of oil and vinegar or your favorite dressing on the greens. I hope you try these recipes and they make you feel happy about eating healthy.