Archive for April, 2011

April 30, 2011

purple irises

my irises finally bloomed.  my front  yard faces north and is largely dominated by a magnolia tree so while it does get some sun,  many of my plants tend to bloom a little bit later than every one elses.  on the one hand, i start feeling left out when i see my neighbor’s irises in bloom; but on the other hand, it’s nice to have mine just coming out when theirs are starting to finish up.

i can’t remember when i planted these.   it has been a while and they were just a rhizome with tiny shoots when they went in so i’ve had to be content with just the growing foliage for a few seasons.  i have three others, also in shades of purple, but they are still quite young and will not be blooming for a while.  we have had some horribly strong winds this spring and yesterday i was sad to see they knocked one of the blooms down.  i decided to bring it inside where we could enjoy it on the kitchen window sill.  just one bloom and two buds looked very empty in the vase so i brought in some of the ballerina roses, some lamb’s ear, a little bit of salvia, and a few foxglove buds to keep them company.  please look at the flowers and disregard the dirty window.  thanks.

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April 26, 2011

favorite things

royal weddings

the first time i saw a photograph of princess diana, she was on the cover of newsweek magazine. i was nine years old and she was still the lady diana spencer.  her hair beautifully coiffed, she had her arms wrapped around the shoulders of the man who would one day break her heart; her hands carefully placed  to show off the famous sapphire ring.

when i learned then,  that this lovely lady was engaged to be married to a real-live prince; upon which she would become a real-live princess, i was enthralled.   some weeks later, on july 29, 1981 at about 3am, i sat with my mother in our living room and watched live, as a pre-school teacher became a princess.  i don’t remember much of the actual ceremony but i do vividly remember the moment that i, along with the rest of the world, caught the first glimpse of her exiting buckingham palace and stepping into the glass carriage that would take her to st. paul’s cathedral.  i remember her veil catching the breeze as she stepped forward, i remember her holding up her billowing skirt and the yards, and yards, and yards of train that were piled in after her.  i remember her gorgeous cascading bouquet.  i remember that for the next hour or so all my mother and i talked about was the beautiful bride in the gorgeous gown.

that introduction to princess diana marked the beginning of several years that i followed her devotedly while i grew up.  i collected magazine clippings and books.  i covered my bedroom bulletin board with princess diana images and paraphernalia.   it is no surprise then, that i well remember the day her first son, prince william was born.  i watched the news as she left the hospital with her little bundle in her arms.  my interest waned some as i became an adult but i caught most of her big moments here and there such as the famous interview where she discussed a crowded marriage.   i remember where i was when i learned that she had died, and then again early one morning, my mother and i sat glued to the tv and watched as she was laid to rest.

i continued to keep up some with the princes william and harry but not much.  by the time kate middleton was receiving significant attention as william’s girlfriend, i had met my own prince charming and was planning my own fairytale wedding (which, as far as i’m concerned, will always be the wedding of the century). now however, some thirty years after the wedding at st. paul’s, i find myself once again eagerly anticipating royal nuptials, this time at westiminster.

like any wedding whether it is one i actually attend, or one i plan to watch propped up in bed, i wonder most what the bride will be wearing.  even as a nine year old, i remember spending the week prior to lady diana’s wedding wondering what sort of a gown a princess would wear.  i was not disappointed.  every little girl loves puffy sleeves and lots of skirt.  while i haven’t had much time to read up on the speculations as to what kate has chosen, i do know that a few designers have been brought forward as possibilities and i even saw a rendition of what elizabeth emmanuel, the one who created diana’s gown, suggested for kate.  will she go with the current trend of a strapless gown?  is that even allowed in westminster abbey?  will she wear her hair up or down?  will she wear a tiara?  will she try to top the length of princess diana’s train? does she even have a choice in any of these details? as a commoner marrying into one of the most famous dysfunctional families in the world, how much say over “her day” does she actually have?

i don’t know that kate’s wedding will spark a lifelong fascination on my part with her wardrobe and her offspring. i doubt that i will follow her with the same fascination as that of her late mother-in-law.    i’m no longer the impressionable nine year old.  life is busy with other things and there is no time for cutting photos out of a magazine. i do though plan to get up at 3am on friday morning in hopes of seeing her make the walk down the aisle at westminster abbey. my husband and i do not currently own a tv and except for special occasions like this one, we rarely miss it; so i am relying on the internet in the hope that i will still be able to watch live.  whether or not i will catch the moment with the rest of the world as before, or  will have to catch up after the moment has happened,  i do plan to catch every possible minute of it. and  i do hope for kate’s sake  that this fairy tale wedding will just be the start of a wonderful marriage where she and her real-live prince will live happily ever after.

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April 19, 2011

come visit my herb garden!

i’m not much of a monday person.

we enjoy our long, lovely weekends.  we kick them off with our date night on friday, work in the garden and grill out on saturday, and conclude them on sunday evening with a glass of wine on the back porch.

monday morning is an abrupt back to reality slap in the face, usually starting off with an early morning airport run where I kiss my sweetheart goodbye for the week.

i’m not much of a monday person.

yesterday, however, was something of an exception.

yesterday, my husband and i made a trip together out to the country dairy for our raw milk and cream.  the drive out and back gave us a chance to catch up after his trip last week.

yesterday i enjoyed the hum of my washing machine while i deboned a chicken making me feel all warm and housewifey inside.

yesterday, i planted my herb garden.

or rather, i finished planting my herb garden as i simply added some annual herbs, and other new things alongside the perennial herbs already growing.

this is my herb garden:

it is the result of about two years worth of work, much of that time spent shuffling things around trying to find the right place for my plants.  the garden is situated in a narrow, west facing bed up against the brick wall of the house where the mediterranean herbs such as rosemary and oregano can absorb the heat of the afternoon sun. i suppose it is rather odd that the herbs are not located with the rest of the kitchen garden but I like it here: it is just to the right of the kitchen doorstep for very easy access when i am cooking. i can pop out and grab what i need without having to take the pot off the stove.

my garden is not a showcase of every specimen of herb known to man.  there are several things you won’t find here.

i don’t grow cilantro.  cilantro prefers the cooler weather and about the only time i want to use it is when i am making my salsa with my homegrown tomatoes, which happen to be a warm weather crop.

i don’t grow dill.  i just don’t.

i don’t grow fennel because my husband doesn’t care for the taste.

i don’t grow parsley.  i don’t use it often enough to justify the use of limited space, and i prefer not to share it with the swallowtail caterpillars even though i really enjoy the butterflies.

i do grow….

a nice healthy patch of oregano, one of the perennial herbs that comes back year after year,

a brand new patch of variegated sage, chosen more for color and texture than anything else.

a certain variety of thyme.  at least that is what i think this is based on the scent.  this was given to me last fall as a cast-off from someone else’s garden.  i was thrilled that it took root and came back.  are you noticing my vintage table knife markers?  i found them at napa style and i. love. them.

and of course, here is common thyme.  i grew this little baby from seed under my grow-lights.

rosemary.  planted last year and protected from the blizzard under a garden cloche.

 and because i think every garden should have flowers, here is a rose.  i call it the grocery store rose because that is where it came from: one of those small pots wrapped up for valentine’s day in pink cellophane.  i tossed it in the garden and didn’t expect it to last this long.  it has been moved a few times which is probably why it isn’t blooming just yet.  i am also very aware that it needs to be shaped.

this is sorrel.  this is an experiment as i’ve never grown sorrel before, nor have i ever used it in my cooking.  i started this inside along with a few other things and have nursed it along.  it lopped over in the wind while i was taking this picture.  i planted it amongst the dutch iris, another flower i have in my herb garden.

this is a very young patch of lavender, planted last fall.  lavender doesn’t do well here in oklahoma as our springs are usually too wet. lavender doesn’t care to have wet feet.  i have a rule in my garden: i never give up on any one thing until i have tried it three times.  this is my third lavender plant.  if it doesn’t flourish, the space will be given to something else.  you can see that the leaves have a little bit of damage due to the hard winter but it is getting ready to bloom so there is hope.

this scraggly lookin’ thing is catmint.  this was another cast-off that i salvaged and brought home. it doesn’t look like much now, but when it gets going it will spread to 30″ and send out lavender colored spikes. very pretty.  although i would have done better to position it opposite the lavender for a balance of color, but oh. well. there it is.

and this is lemon balm,

and sweet marjoram which is new.  i planted this because i had a recipe a few weeks ago that called for marjoram.  i didn’t have any and it was difficult to find in the store so i thought i would try growing it.

and basil.  which i love.  if i had more space i would grow it in drifts of every color and texture available.

up front i have a sad little tomato.  i struggled with starting these under the grow lights.  more on that later, perhaps in the form of a tutorial entitled “how not to start tomatoes indoors”.  i think he’ll make it though.  as to whether or not he’ll produce….we’ll see.

i have mint in a pot on the doorstep.  mint tends to be invasive, so i’ve been told.  i have two other varieties: pineapple mint, and apple mint yet to be potted up, perhaps with some annual dianthus.

and while you’re here, please have a look at my dutch iris getting ready to bloom….

and my traditional iris, planted about eighteen months ago but getting ready to bloom for the first time.  i am stoked.

so that is my herb garden.  you’ll have to stop back later on this summer to see how it is progressing along.

anyone else growing herbs?  what kind are your favorites and why?

April 15, 2011

confessions for a friday morning

*last night was the first tornado warning of the year.  while the wind blew, the sky spit hail, and the sirens blared for approximately one hour, i, like any safe, responsible person should – cleaned the bathroom in full view of a glass window where i could watch the storm.

*my husband is out of town this week.  i can’t sleep when he is gone, so i have stayed up irresponsibly late every night watching  period flicks on my laptop.  now i feel i would like to own a corset.

*i am capable of appreciating other things: my husband has introduced me to the x-files.  i can’t watch them though when i am alone in the house and when there is a thunderstorm.

*the other night i awoke to find my bedroom door glowing.  it took me a while to realize my grow lights in the room across the hall had switched on over the tomatoes.  my first thought was that  it was some sort of paranormal something pottering about in the cluttered room across the hall, come to do whatever it is paranormal somethings do.  this is why  my husband made me promise i would never watch the x-files while home alone.

*last night i slept with the dog as protection against paranormal somethings.  i told myself though that it was for his benefit as he is scared of thunderstorms.

*i have celebrated  the launch of the planting season by buying all sorts of flowers.  i placed a huge order for perennials last week and yesterday i brought home the plants for my container garden.  i realized though, that my back porch will soon be covered with things needing to go in and was overwhelmed at the prospect.  so much so, that i have tagged on to my errands list today  another trip to lowe’s to pick up a few more dianthus while they still have the color i want.

*yes, sometimes i shop at lowe’s.  it is much closer to me  than any other nursery in town.

*my birthday is wednesday.  i am feeling very apprehensive about this.  i will be 39 29.  this is way too close to 40 30 for my comfort.  i still have within me an inner child about the age of seven.  in order to cope, i am allowing this inner child to focus on the important things about birthdays: cake and presents. (which btw will be chocolate ganache cupcakes with seven minute frosting; and another set of grow lights to both scare the liver out of me while home alone at night and to further nurture my obsession with growing things) focusing on these things crowds out the adult who tends to worry too much about things like gray hair, turkey neck, and someday maybe being mistaken for my child’s grandmother.

*i am seriously considering skipping my run today (much needed in anticipation of cupcakes with seven minute frosting) in lieu of potting up some of those plants…

April 14, 2011

my cecil brunner rose

is blooming!

this is a very special rose from a very special friend, given to us on a very special (and very bittersweet) occasion.  it is perfectly situated in our fairy garden and before long it will be covered with these miniature pink blossoms.  i stop to admire it every time i pass by.  this was the first of our rose bushes to bloom this season.

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April 13, 2011

favorite things

lily of the valley

the first time i wandered through what is now our backyard and discovered lily of the valley growing on the east side, i knew we had found our home.  for years i had tried in vain to get these lovely flowers to grow only to lose them  due either to my inexperience, or the zeal of the neighbor’s lawnmower when he decided to mow for us while we were on vacation one year.  after a few growing seasons i had finally managed to get them started, waiting patiently for those tiny white blooms that do not make their appearance until the second year.  just as they were finally becoming established, we were getting ready to move. i was so disappointed that i would not have the privilege of  finally enjoying those chubby white blossoms.  and then, here they were, a beautiful patch fully established and just beginning to bloom.  it was a signal that life here would pick up just where it had left off.

i have often wondered who started those first few plants.  she knew more than i did when i started mine; that they need some shelter from the afternoon sun.  sadly enough though, the “gardeners”  who proceeded her did not have the same appreciation for them,  as the bed had been invaded by bermuda grass (the curse of the oklahoma gardener).  they needed to be moved before the grass completely choked them out, and they deserved a more prominent location where they could be fully appreciated.   that fall then, i carefully uprooted a few and moved them to the flower bed on the front, east side of the house.

the following spring i hounded the bed for the little green cones poking up through the soil.  i was disappointed to find very few, and disappointed still to find that they really performed very little.  by the end of the season i had let them go, dismissing them as a lost cause.

the other day, as we were leaving for our almost-daily-run, i stopped by this bed as i always do this time of year, just to see how things were coming along.  i cannot tell you how thrilled i was to discover not just the tiny points of the leaves poking through the soil, but the promise of some blossoms as well.  a few days later the number of sprouts had doubled and it looks like we will have lily of the valley after all.  i am tickled.

these flowers  hold great sentimental value to me.  not only do they bloom every year around the time of my birthday, but i carried lily of the valley in my bridal bouquet, numerous little white sprays hovering over my round bunch of ivory roses.  if i recall correctly the florist told me they would be difficult to obtain in june, but somehow she managed to find them.   they were so delicate that by they time we left the church, they had already started to wilt.

someone once pooh-poohed perennials like lily of the valley that bloom for just a time before they are done.  i think their brief appearance though is what makes them so special.  like a dear long-distance friend who comes for an annual visit, they can never be taken for granted.

April 6, 2011

mrs. beeton’s words of wisdom

on daily attire

the dress of the mistress should always be adapted to her circumstances, and be varied with different occasions.  thus at breakfast she should be attired in a very neat and simple manner, wearing no ornaments.  if this dress should decidedly pertain only to the breakfast hour, and be specially suited for such domestic occupations as usually follow that meal, then it would be well to exchange it before the time for receiving visitors if the mistress is in the habit of doing so.  it is still to be remembered, however, that, in changing the dress, jewelry, and ornaments are not to be worn until the full dress for dinner is assumed. further information and hints on the subject of this toilet will appear under the department of the “lady’s maid”.

hope ya’ll are appearing ornament free this morning…

mrs. isabella mary beeton (1836-1865) was one of the first domestic divas; the victorian answer to martha stewart.  she was the author of mrs. beeton’s book of household management published in 1861.  the volume’s 1,112 pages  contain over 900 recipes and numerous hints and bits of advice on running the proper victorian household.  a wife, and mother of four children, she died at the age of 28 following the birth of her fourth child.  to learn more,  i highly recommend the secret life of mrs. beeton.   a tad bit dark, i suggest off-setting it with a cup of tea and a package of milano cookies.