Archive for June, 2011

June 29, 2011

african violets

no. this is not a post on how to grow them.

this is more of a confessional.

i am not much of a house plant sortofagal.  i don’t think it is lack of skill as much as it is the fact that most of my energy is directed outside.  when i come inside, i prefer to rest and just do with silk flower arrangements. from time to time though i like to give houseplants a try.

some years ago when we were in our other home i had a very nice north-facing window sill.  having been told that this is the perfect situation for growing african violets, i bought a small pot.  it flourished and when we moved, i bought another. i had them in lovely green and white toile pots sitting on our large kitchen table in (once again) a north facing window.  i wouldn’t say that they flourished but i did have blooms and they did alright.

then we got a smaller table and i had no room for potted plants.

then we started the kitchen remodel.

i have to confess that for months they sat in the dining room accumulating dust with all the rest of the rubble.  they were severely neglected.  it has been so long since they have bloomed i have forgotten what color the blooms are.

i have to confess that some of that neglect was done on purpose.  i just didn’t know what to do with these violets anymore.  however, when the kitchen was put back together, there they were.  struggling to survive but surviving nevertheless.

i felt they needed a chance. so i put them under my grow lights.

then yesterday, who should be our speaker at the garden club, but a member of the national violet society.  she has insipred me to *really* give these babies another chance.  much of what she said and demonstrated was a bit over my head but i know this: they need to be repotted in  a looser soil.  and they need to be fertilized.

ok i knew that bit about the fertilizer its just that i’m not sure where the bottle is… i am motivated to find it.

i also came home with these new additions:


i would tell you the names but the label are on the pots inside the foggy bag.  i can tell you this though: one is a pink semi-miniature, one has variegated leaves, and one is  standard size traditional blue.

they are happily percolating under my growlights and hopefully they will produce some baby leaves here in a few weeks.  we’ll also get to see how gifted i am at propagating violets which is supposed to be one of the easiest things in the world.  hahaha.

i can’t help but think that the semi-miniature would look darling potted in a tea-cup.

June 26, 2011

remembering seven years ago today…

*reader beware: long sentimental post*

someone once said that upon remembering  a significant event, if the tiny details were the things that stood out the most, then the event was a happy one.  my wedding was a very happy event – i have absolutely no recollection of taking my vows. i had put so much time into researching the wording before deciding on the very traditional: “i jennifer christen, take thee marco luigi…to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, to love and to cherish till death do us part.”  i thought the words were so beautiful just as they had been written hundreds of years ago, i didn’t see any need to update them.  then, reflecting upon my wedding a week afterward, i didn’t even remember having said them.  i did, and still do, remember many of the tiny seemingly insignificant details however, that made up that lovely june day.

~ i remember waking up around 2am and telling myself before going back to sleep “today is my wedding day…”

~ the weather was lovely.  the heat had broken just for the weekend and we had beautiful spring like weather for about 48 hours.

~ my mother insisted on one last family breakfast together before my dad drove me to the church.  i opened a wedding gift from my sister and took a phone call from a well-wishing family friend who also had a question about the finger sandwiches for the afternoon high-tea reception.

~ i remember the drive to the church.  it was just me and my dad.  i don’t remember what we talked about, i just remember the drive and the sunny morning.  i remember he pulled up to the main entrance of the church and helped unload my overnight case from the trunk.

~ one of the first things i saw upon arriving at the church: my childhood friend happily putting the finishing touches on the silk rose and stephanotis petals we had scattered down the aisle.

~ when i got my hair done, i realized i was wearing a t-shirt that i couldn’t change out of without messing the up-do.  my friend and i switched outfits in the church kitchen.  she wore my t-shirt and i wore her vintage dress with a spin out skirt.

~passing through the sanctuary for one reason or another, i recall hearing marco’s voice on the other side of a door.  he sounded happy.

~ i got dressed about three hours or so before walking down the aisle.  it was then i started to get very nervous.  as tradition dictated, i was helped into my dress by my brides maids, but i also wanted my mother there and my littlest sister. littlest sister could not be found.  i panicked.  interestingly enough, four years later at my sister’s wedding this same little sister went awol when it was time to dress the bride.

~ i remember taking my ivory roses, stephanotis, and lily of the valley bouquet out of the florist’s box.

~ i remember standing in the three way mirror and thinking “this is exactly  how i always wanted to look on my wedding day.”

~ i remember holding my ear to the door to listen to “jerusalem” before the bridesmaids started down the aisle.

~ i remember a wedding coordinator who was a force to be reckoned with.  she had told me that i would have a moment before going down the aisle.  i would stand in the foyer, catch my breath, and she would fluff my dress.  then i would start my last walk as miss kuney.  i’m not sure why but this didn’t happen.  i don’t recall seeing the coordinator at all before starting down the aisle.  i do remember the door to the bride’s room opening and seeing a friend holding her little girl across the hall.  she saw me and began to cry.

~ the organ started mouret’s “rondeau” before i was quite ready but i went ahead anyway.  i stood at the door to the sanctuary, took my dad’s arm, and thought “this is it…..” i tried to take it all in.  then i started to cry.

~ i remember thinking i should have practiced walking in my dress at home because the train was. soooo. heavy.

~ i passed by a dear friend who was teary eyed.  i passed by another friend who mouthed “i love you”.  i remember seeing my mom.  the church suddenly felt very small.  i remember the tulle and the yellow light from all the candles.

~ i remember pulling back my veil to kiss my dad goodbye, then i took marco’s hand before going up to the altar.  i was shaking.  everything then became a blur.  my feet started to hurt and i realized i didn’t put two and two together when planning the ceremony: if one wants a long formal ceremony one is going to have to stand through it.  i was grateful i had the presence of mind to switch out my original high heels (which i never wear) for a pair of ballet flats (which i always wear).

~ i do recall the pastor’s charge and he told us to “pray the biggest prayers you can think of to pray….” throughout our marriage.  who knew that just eighteen months (or so) later we would begin our journey through long term primary infertility.  this and the verse read just before we were pronounced man and wife “now unto Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all we ask or think” were to become very significant over the next several years.

~ i remember being introduced as mr. and mrs. marco cazzola.  the organ began the “tocatta” and i cried again.  all the way back down the aisle.

~ one little flower girl fell asleep at the altar in a perfect ivory tulle poof.  she remained there after the recessional and had to be carried off.  it was priceless.

~ i don’t remember having much to eat at the reception but i remember cutting the cake with the same knife my grandmother used to cut her wedding cake, and that at some point someone handed me a much needed cup of hot tea.

~ we had ordered a horse drawn carriage to take us from the church reception to our car.  as we waited in the foyer to make our exit, my mom came back for a tearful goodbye.  it had just hit her she said, that i was married and actually leaving home.

~ as we left the church to get into the carriage we had doves released from wicker baskets on either side of the doorway.  it was a supremely perfect cinderella-fairytale-moment.


June 23, 2011

three things i want but don’t really need…

1. to organize my clutter:

i. can’t. stand. clutter.  clutter drives me crazy and i am forever looking for ways to either minimize it, or at least keep it organized and looking neat and tidy.  some places inevitably attract clutter like the little tea cart in my kitchen.  it draws pieces of mail, the latest issue of bon appetit, grocery lists and i don’t know what all, like some sort of powerful  magnet.   i feel that if i have this dandy citrus crate (with italian script on the side) the clutter will at the very least be attractive.

i love this thing.

it is in the colors of my kitchen, and the italian lettering matches my italian husband.

i need it.

it is also incredibly expensive.  at least for something that is just going to hold the junk mail until i get around to throwing it out; that is why i am still trying to decide if it is worth it or not.

2. for holding eggs:

yes i do buy my eggs in styrofoam cartons.  but i just thought it would be such a happy thing to open up the fridge and see them sitting upright in these pretty crates (which are also available in robin’s egg blue).  it reminds me of a refrigerator ad for a fridge with a glass door.  everything was in order and beautifully picturesque.  the carrots were even in a basket with the green tops on, the milk was stored in a glass bottle.   who does that, i  know, but still i want these crates all the same.

3. and this:


this i bought. i need another tea cup like i need a hole in the head but i saw this at anthropologie and snatched it up before i could change my mind.  the floral print running around the side reminds me of a vintage hankie.

it even has another red flower where the handle meets the cup:

here is how it looks with the yellow teapot:

and here is how it looks with pg tips and a slice of lemon:

this has been my pick-me-up this week.

June 20, 2011

because yesterday was father’s day and today is his birthday….

ten random things about  my dad….

  1. favorite memory: when i was little we used to shop at a grocery store named sipes.  one day while shopping with my dad,  i noticed in their bakery display a cookie monster cupcake with a real chocolate chip cookie in his frosting mouth.   i coveted this cupcake – my love for cupcakes started very early.  for some reason, too close to dinner maybe?  we couldn’t get it at the time and i was crushed.  however, a few weeks later it was thanksgiving.  my dad has an annual tradition of cooking thanksgiving breakfast.  when i came out that morning to watch macy’s parade and have my breakfast, the cookie monster cupcake was on my plate.
  2. my dad always had time for us.  he came to every single school presentation and every single recital.  he tucked me in every  night with a bedtime story, sometimes read from the same book of 365 bedtime stories he had as a child. being the vintage freak that i am now, and the avid collector of children’s books i would give my right arm to know where that book is.*
  3. my dad was the one who introduced me to running.  for a few years in a row, he arranged for our family (of four at that time) to together run the 1 mi fun run; staged before the prestigious tulsa run.  we still have the official photos, t-shirts, and somewhere the numbers.
  4. i was not to really enjoy running until i became an adult; so during the hills of our practice runs my dad would come along beside me and literally pull me up the hill until the terrain was flat again.
  5. dad taught me how to ride a bike.  i don’t remember  a whole lot about it but i do know that dad was incredibly patient as it was a very very looooooong time before i was ready to rid myself of training wheels.  so long, that even the neighborhood kids were making comments.
  6. dad grew up in the michigan farm country where any temperature over 83 degrees is considered very hot.  he talked about getting up early in the morning to go pick peaches and how the peach fuzz would get on his arms and make him itch.  if i recall correctly, he still to this day doesn’t care for peach skin for that reason.  he doesn’t like sweetened ice tea either.  not that that has anything to do with peaches….
  7. when my dad was in jr. high his parents moved from the country to the “city”, a small resort town on lake michigan.  his birthday was always a beach party and it signaled the start of the summer.  as a child, we would vacation on this beach, sometimes watching the fourth of july fireworks laying  on a beach blanket.
  8. growing up, we always had a dog or a cat or both.  from time to time and for whatever the reason, they would die, as pets are often wont to do.  this is a very hard concept for a child to grasp.  my dad would always take the time to very gently explain to us what happened, often tearing up himself.  he would then shoulder the unpleasant task of burying the poor creature in the back  yard.
  9. when i was little, my nickname was “skipper”.  my dad didn’t travel for his job very often but when he did, he always brought a little something back.  after one trip, he brought back a pair of navy blue sneakers made by a brand called “skipper”.  i used these as my gym shoes.  sneakers were not the rage at the time, but i didn’t want to hurt his feelings so i wore them anyway.  in true sneaker fashion, they had long toes.  when i ran on the linoleum gym floor the toes would often hit last, making loud slapping noises as i trotted along.  later, when dad learned the truth, he cackled and we joked about it often.  as a preteen when colored sneakers *were* all the rage, i wished to heaven for those navy skippers.
  10. when i was 16 (or thereabouts) i was invited to my very first co-ed birthday party.  i was a shy kid, and very nervous about this party for two twin boys in my youth group.  i agonized about what i should wear, what gift i should take and who would be there.  my dad sensed my apprehension and took his lunch break to take me shopping for a gift.  banana republic had just come into town.  this was back in the day when they sold safari gear;  very different from the store they are now.  i wanted to buy those guys each a banana republic t-shirt.  dad drove me to the store, waited patiently while i picked out the shirts, and then paid for the gifts.   i took them home, wrapped them up in brown paper, and tied them with twine and a banana.  the gifts were a hit and the party was a blast.

happy birthday dad!  we love and appreciate you.

*edited to add: my husband and i did a google search last night and found an exact copy on etsy for $16.  we snatched it right up.

June 17, 2011

oh the joys of summer gardening in oklahoma….

yes, far too numerous even to count.

first we have thrips,

it's hard to see, but these leaves are covered with the brown polka dot damage of thrips.

then we have the heat,

note the sun scorch. and this is in the shade bed

then we have aphids,

"crinkled" leaves of my pepper plant where the aphids have helped themselves

the we have curling tomato leaves,

lettuce that bolts before it can be eaten

and did i mention heat?

my poor little squash

there are a few things though that seem to thrive in spite of all of the above. such as:

the lamb’s ear…

these get a little too happy and need to be cut back.

old fashioned day lilies…

nnnot my favorite but they do tolerate the heat

our very special pixie rose…

aka cecil brunner


may night


more salvia…

salvia greggii

and alice.  alice loves the heat.  we’ll talk more about alice later.

now things like sun scorch and curling tomato leaves, i have no real solution for.  but here is what i have found to help with some of the other things:

thrips and aphidspyola spray found through garden’s alive.  this is made from a pyrethrin, a naturally occurring substance in a daisy that can be used as a natural insecticide.  i don’t seem to ever get 100% control, but it does help some.  i spray every other week according to the directions on the label.

aphids can also be controlled by a gentle spray of water from the hose.  once they become dislodged from the plant, they can’t climb back up.  or so i’ve been told.

ladybugs also love aphids.  i have a nursery close by that sells them in mesh bags to be released in the garden where they will feast on those nasty little buggars.  if you decide to go the ladybug (more properly called ladybeetle) route, be very careful using insecticides.

the heat, obviously, is uncontrollable.  plants can be protected though by using lots of mulch and checking the soil every day to make sure that it is  kept moist to the touch. plants in containers need to be watered every day, and sometimes even twice a day.   another preventive method: use plants that are well adapted to the area, and pay close attention to the sun/light requirements.

June 15, 2011

mocha chip ice cream

i absolutely love ice cream.  it is my all time favorite comfort food right up there with meat loaf and macaroni and cheese.  until i started making my own, i would buy it in the tiny lidded containers and keep them in the door of my freezer.  by taking just a spoonful here and there (rather than eating it by the bowlful) i could make it last forever, and somehow a bite didn’t seem to really count for calories, even if i had several bites in one day as i was want to do.

when we got married, one of the first things i registered for was an ice cream maker.  i don’t recall the brand or the make; probably because it didn’t work.  even after following the recipe and manufacturer’s instructions to a “t”, we just ended up with an inedible soupy mess: a mess that didn’t even remotely resemble ice cream.

a few years ago though, i invested in a cuisinart maker and have used it often it ever since.  not only does it do a fantastic job, but the little recipe booklet that came with it is amazing.

however, last week i decided to venture from the tried and true recipes in the little book and attempt something different.  i added my own twist to a recipe from the all new ultimate southern living cookbook and fell in love with mocha chip ice cream.  now, this stuff, obviously, has coffee in it.  somehow though, i thought that after it had been combined with other things, put through an ice cream freezer, and then frozen for a few days the caffeine would lose its power.  not so.  i indulged in a bowlful the other night and within half an hour i was quite chatty and went on gabbing for the rest of the evening.  this is what caffeine does to me.  that may not sound like much but one of my husband’s many nick names for me is “quietness”.  i say all that to say that if you are like myself and particularly sensitive to caffeine, you may not want to indulge before bedtime.  and if you choose to treat your kidlets, serve with extreme caution.

mocha chip ice cream

(adapted from the all new ultimate southern living cookbook)

1 1/2 cups of ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips, divided

1/2 cup of strong brewed coffee

2 c whipping cream

1 c  half and half

3/4 c sugar, divided

3 T instant coffee granules

4 egg yolks

in a double boiler or saucepan over very low heat, melt 1 c of the chocolate chips.  stir in brewed coffee and set aside.

bring whipping cream, half and half, 1/2 cup of sugar, and the coffee granules to a boil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar and coffee dissolve.

beat egg yolks and remaining sugar with electric mixer on high speed until thick and pale; similar in consistency to  mayonnaise.  adjust speed to low and very slowly add the hot cream mixture to the yolk mixture.  return to saucepan.

cook over medium heat stirring constantly for about 6-8 minutes or until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon.  remove from heat, stir in chocolate mixture. cover and chill overnight.

pour into ice cream freezer and freeze according to manufacturer’s directions, adding the remaining 1/2 cup of chocolate chips.

yield: 5 cups

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June 13, 2011

the project of the two rooms

last week i mentioned here a project that i would like to work on over the summer now that we have completed our kitchen.  i set aside one full day to conquer the scary closet and within two hours, i had most things cleared out, and sorted through.  i was too busy (ok i admit the truth: i was too ashamed) to take any before pictures but here are some after shots.

i still have some clothing that needs to be sorted but the shelf above is organized and here is the other half:

entirely empty, rid of the holiday decorations that were taken upstairs to the attic, and ready to house my craft and sewing supplies.  this was quite an accomplishment.

the next step is to begin de cluttering and decide what will occupy this empty space.  if you recall from the story of our house, the room off of our kitchen was divided in two to make space for a separate laundry room.

so here is the laundry room:

and we pass through the doorway

into this little room (moving around in a clockwise direction):

east wall with the desk and art cart,

south facing window,

doggie beds on the west side,

and on the north wall, a very old dresser i spray painted, but painted horribly.  i don’t paint furniture anymore.

this is what needs to be decluttered.  this little room is in limbo right now.  it was to have been the nursery when we were planning to adopt.  should things work out the way we hope this fall or thereabouts (ish) we may still be on for a nursery.  if it becomes a nursery the walls will be painted bunny rabbit brown and hung with beatrix potter wallpaper.  if things do not work out as we hope jenny will toss back a few pomegranate martinis, take a deep breath, pull it together,  and this will become a very nice office for the lady of the house (me).  if it becomes an office, the walls will be painted crimson.  either way the popcorn ceiling needs to be removed and the light fixture needs to be replaced and centered properly, something the former homeowner failed to do when splitting the room in two.

it also needs new drapes.  even though this little room is in a state of limbo i have decided to go ahead and bring in/rearrange the furniture for the office scenario.  the rocking chair obviously was for the nursery scenario and given to us specifically for that purpose.  i’m not sure what to do with it.  it…..sort of bothers me but it has sentimental value so i don’t want to put it away.

this room, much like the den closet has scared me because of the debris that accumulated with the kitchen remodel.  debris that includes a lone stock pot that i need but have no place to put.  the desk will stay in this room, as well as the doggie gear.  in will come a white shabby chic mirrored dresser to hold gardening supplies.

  i am also toying with the idea of bringing the grow lights in here as well.

the contents of the dresser will be downsized, and the dresser will be given away.

the messy craft cart will also be downsized and moved to occupy part of the blank space in the newly cleaned out closet.

moved to the den closet because this room…….has no closet.  well not much of one as you can see.

someone at some point thought it would be a grand idea to house the furnace and hot water heater in here.  so here it is.   there is small space however to convert this into a “broom closet” of sorts so that is the plan.  that is the plan even if this becomes a nursery because i’ve nowhere else to store the broom and mop bucket.  yes, that is odd to have in a nursery but we plan to keep the door closed. no one will ever know.

because this project is so big (in my opinion) and this room is such a mess (i’m sure you share my opinion there) i’ve decided to break it down into baby steps.

step 1: downsize the art cart.

now, my husband is home this week so my priorities are a little different and i may or may  not be able get it done, but i will keep you posted.

June 10, 2011

confessions for a friday morning…

* yesterday i hurried up to finish the housework so i could sit down and finish a  movie.  the movie was a historical drama so of course, i knew the end (anne boleyn was beheaded) but i had to see the end all the same.

*the fact that poor anne lost her head because she could not produce an heir is very unsettling. it makes me grateful not to be a queen during the tudor era.

*today there was only a 20% chance of rain.  but it rained.  this little something, coming on the heels of a long awaited phone call that brought some good news has given me a peace that i have not felt in a long time.

*being the super wife that i am who is always fully aware of her husband’s schedule and all his busy comings and goings was totally unaware that he will not be traveling next week.  i have not stocked up on groceries and i have not planned any meals.

*i am a plant junkie.  i needed just one little plant to replace a penta that did not make it through our crazy weather transition from cold to very hot in less than a week. when i went shopping for the one replacement  i came home with three.  in addition to the replacement penta the other two were lantanas.  i bought a red one at a little nursery down the street.  then i went to lowe’s and saw a white one.  i decided i needed that one too.

*yesterday i made mocha chip ice cream from scratch.  having tasted the homemade i don’t think i can ever go back to the other stuff.

*tonight is date night.  we’re having a lovely mushroom risotto.

June 9, 2011

mrs. beeton’s words of wisdom

on the morning duties of the mistress of the house

after breakfast is over, it will be well for the mistress to make a round of the kitchen and other offices, to see that all are in order, and that the  morning’s work  has been properly performed by the various domestics. the orders for the day should then be given, and any questions which the domestics desire to ask, respecting their several departments, should be answered, and any special articles they may require, handed to them from the store-closet.

checking up on my busy little domestics…

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.

June 7, 2011

so what’s next?

now that we have finished the kitchen, i am ready to move onto another project.  the question is which project.  there are several things that i would like to see done.  after we started to paint the kitchen, it felt so good to have fresh paint on the walls and trim.  so good, that i decided i would like to just paint the rest of the rooms downstairs. now, i am not a plain white walls sortofagal, no siree.  i like color. lots of it.  so i’ve been tossing around visions of  a crimson entry, flanked by a gold dining room and a williamsburg blue living room. (don’t say “ew” it will work, i promise) then i decided i want to rearrange and reupholster the living room furniture in white chino and blue toile (or have slipcovers made).  marco and i are still debating as to whether or not white furniture is a wise idea at this point in our lives. we also need to redo our master bath.

in light of those being such behemoth projects, i have decided to tackle the smaller, more manageable area of the two back rooms which also needs serious attention.   now these little rooms are a bit odd as they adjoin; and the room off the kitchen was divided into two to make space for a laundry room.  normally i don’t care for rooms that adjoin, and in house shopping i tended to promptly cross off the list any home that had an addition, that led to another addition, that led to another addition, and so on.  the one redeeming factor for this house was that the connected rooms were the original intent of the architect.  these rooms need to be decluttered, re-organized, and painted.  one room needs some new furniture, the existing furniture recovered, and another room needs new drapes.  (did i say this was a smaller, more manageable project?)

i have christened this The Project of the Two Rooms.  a little later on i will give a tour of these rooms as well as their frightful cluttered contents, further ideas of what i hope to do with them, and detailed updates on our progress.

this morning though, i leave you with a shot of the closet door in the room we call the den.

the closet here will be a craft closet and desperately needs to be cleaned out and reorganized.  behind that door are all of my holiday decorations, a set of knives i no longer use, seasonal wreathes for the front door, my wedding gown still needing to be cleaned (we’ve been married nearly seven years), my mother’s wedding gown that i was holding for her until she moved (they settled into their new home a year and a half ago), a dress i wore to one of my bridal showers, a broken child’s table, and bingley’s propeller beanie.

this door stays closed.

i do not have the emotional stamina to confront what lies behind it.  but this morning i am going to summon that stamina and begin chipping away at this project while my husband is out of town. this is the week to begin The Project of the Two Rooms, and it all begins here.

wish me luck…