Thursday, March 22, 2012

It's spring thyme!

How appropriate is it that my window garden herbs have just reached maturity the first week of spring?  I am hoping to transplant a majority of them to the garden when the danger of frosty nights has passed, but I am so happy that I finally have a place to grow them year 'round indoors.  Thanks to our new favorite room in the house, the breakfast room, which we still call the lesson room 9 out of 10 times, there is plenty of sunny window space for my herbs and seed sprouts.
Lots of fresh basil means lots of fresh pesto!

The summer squash and zucchini surprised me by flowering, though the plants are only just large enough for planting in the garden.

Campari salad tomatoes and slicing tomatoes are ready to go in the ground, too.  I think I will have to transplant them to larger pots while I wait for the official start to the growing season. 

My first successful rosemary shrub is doing well.  I usually kill my rosemary plants very quickly and never know what it is that I've done wrong.  When Christmas tree shaped bushes went on sale during the holidays for just a few dollars, I decided it was a good time to give rosemary another go.  I did lots of research and learned that a rosemary plant will go through "sudden death" from which it cannot recover.  Well, though mine began to die suddenly, I was able to save it.  This little guy has now been living in our home for four months.  He's hanging in there. 
I learned that because rosemary is a Mediterranean plant, it needs lots of sunlight.  Mine needs A LOT.  I have to rotate it, frequently, to keep it growing steadily.  Without proper rotation toward the window, it lags in growth and begins to brown again.  Watering it has been an ongoing experiment.  Most of what I read on the subject is information that suggests that a rosemary plant should be under watered and allowed to live in dry soil.  The little pamphlet that came attached to the boughs of the plant, however, stated that it needed to be kept moist.  I went with moist theory since I always followed the dry one in the past and killed my rosemary plants.  I know that because our temperatures get too low in the winter, I will never be able to plant this bush outside, unless I keep it in a container to bring back inside for the cool season, but I think I am happy with it right here, conveniently growing within a few feet of the stove for easy snipping and adding to dishes.  I'm hoping it grows large enough that we can use some of its branches for kebab skewers on the grill this summer.  Won't that be nice?!

My broccoli is ready to go in the ground, now.  It will thrive in the remaining cool days and hopefully, if I've timed it right, give us a freezer full of blanched stalks.  I have lots of seeds for more plant starts so am going to see if I can rotate my growing broccoli in different stages through the summer and fall.

Spring is in the air outside, as well. 

It may be hard to tell from these photos, but even near the city, spring is painting the landscape.
 The Grove Park Inn looks fabulous and inviting even when it's surrounded by leafless trees, but when we visited the other day, green was popping up all over.
 It was a misty morning overlooking Grove Park Inn's spa and grounds with the Asheville rooftops peaking through the clouds.  Such a relaxing spot to sit with a hot cup of coffee.
 The blazing fire pit on this still chilly morning made this view of GPI's spa.  It's a shame that no one was out to enjoy it.

Turkey Dance~Hilarious to watch the male turkeys that came out of the woods on the golf course fan their tales and parade around, slowly, in front of their potential mates.  I was a bit concerned that my children would get a first-hand lesson on the Birds and the Bees, but unfortunately for the dozens of male birds that were blustering about, the girls didn't even seem to notice that they were there, except to step around them to get to where they wanted to go.

As far as my birds on our little farm are doing, the duck is still producing an egg a day, even though she is far beyond the usual laying age.  Our little Bantam has begun laying again after months of sputtering to a stop, and she is a week older than Mrs. Bickerson, our laying duck!  So nice to get those cute little fresh eggs every day.  They are just right for breakfast when you want a little protein with your grains without eating a big meal.

So now that spring is officially here, after getting those broccoli sprouts tucked into my raised beds, I plan to finish making the patio in the area in which we were forced to jack hammer the old one up last summer to find our missing septic tank, weed and re-mulch the flower beds in the front yard, plant a new grape arbor to replace the old farm's original row that was removed when the septic system was put in, move my raspberry bushes to what will be the new orchard, build a berm and plant fast-growing trees atop it to give us more privacy from the rotten old, nosey couple we were stupid enough to buy property across the street and down the hill from (don't get me started), and whatever else I have time and energy to do over the next few months. 

It's so nice to look out the laundry room window and see the newly picket-fenced patio area that has gotten a big ol' check mark next to it on my mental To Do List and to look out back into the farmyard and realize that I've finally added enough compost to the raised beds over the years that they will not be requiring hoeing or weeding this spring.  I guess this small town hoe'r won't be doing as much hoeing in the warm season as usual.  Ah.  More star gazing and tea sippin' for me!

Happy Spring, everyone!!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Oh my!

This week has been full of "Oh my!" moments, epiphanies and new beginnings.  I guess the fact that yesterday was "Spring the 1st", as I have been calling it, may have something to do with it.  I don't know. 
The weather has been so unusually warm that on the last day of winter we actually had to sleep with the windows open.  Had to.  The night before was miserably sticky.  The first day of spring was so still and sunny that the house had already heated so much by nitghtfall that we had to use a window fan just to cool the bedroom off well enough for sleeping. 

It's very strange to have the daffodils and our nectarine tree, as well as they yellow bells, already finished with their annual show, and to see dandelion puff balls all over the place.  I love it.  Love the racket of song birds waking me up in the morning, green popping up everywhere, the flowering pears exploding with blossoms.  We turned a corner in a turn of the previous century neighborhood the other day and found ourselves driving through a cherry blossom covered lane through old winter!  Beautiful, like a fairy land.

Spring also brought a few exclamations of Oh my when we were enjoying a quiet moment in the deserted wing of one of our local old hotels where my boys and I had passed the time while Hubby was downstairs at a business conference.  It took us a minute to realize what we were seeing, but there on the golf course below us appeared dozens of male wild turkeys struttin' their stuff before maybe a half dozen females.  What should have been a magical witness to one of nature's rare moments, not usually glimpsed by human eyes was one of the dorkiest displays we had ever seen.  And I know from their behavior that that's exactly what the female turkeys were thinking as they totally ignored the puffed up, fan tailed idiotic looking males and casually walked across the green patches of course.  Where's Gary Larson when you need him?  I can imagine that he would have come up with several good cartoon drawings from that fifteen minute event. 

Another Oh my experience occurred when I visited my anonymous blog on a site that is focused on health.  My goals are centered around being "Fabulous at Forty" or as darn close to that as I can get.  I set up my profile over three years ago, and though I have only a few weeks left, I am no closer to being "fabulous" than I was then.  Well, a little closer, but my initial goals are not even close to being met.  I did realize, however, that the last time I posted or visited the site was when I had just started my cooking blog and was very nervous about how I was going to survive cooking and eating "real" food again rather than grilled chicken, fish, and grains.  Then I looked back over my year of food blogging and saw that I have done everything but subsist on grilled chicken, fish, and grains.  I did it.  I made it through with very few bumps in the road. Strange to be on the other side and see that I can cook, eat, and work very hard to keep myself from blimping up like the Hindenburg, though I still have a lot of work to do. 

Another thing I noticed was the regular progress reports about my sudden back problems and how it was affecting my workouts and yoga practice.  I am such a glass is half empty type person that I didn't even realize that my back is perfectly fine now and I never even feel the slightest kink anymore thanks to a great chiropractor.  So nice to realize that I am on the other side of that too.

I was even more surprised to find myself in my blog post committing to my old 6 p.m. yoga session when I hadn't done a full session since November.  And, though I was two hours late fulfilling my commitment, I did it.  I really did it...and cried the first dadgum five minutes of it.  I kept thinking that it was how coming into your mother's arms should feel, or slipping into a hot bath, diving into a cold, natural Florida spring.  Why, why, HOW could I ever let that slip away from me?  I won't let it again.  Not ever.  That is an Oh my that I need every day, twice a day if I can manage, as I was doing regularly the year before my back went on the fritz.

There were a few more Oh my moments to my day yesterday, but one of the biggest was the fact that my husband's business got a big jump start.  Our future looks even more interesting than it did last week with many possibilities that can help get him working from home, permanently.  This is our ultimate life goal and he is a good three or four steps closer to getting there.  Oh my, am I proud of him! 

But before half the day was even over and I knew of the developments with my husband's business I posted this as my sign off for my anonymous blog post, "Two years ago, if I had reached my goal weight, I might as well have had an additional 75lbs. to lose, there was still so much work to do on me. I think I'm going to be fine. I think I have worked on EVERYTHING else first and now...I'm HAPPY!!"

I didn't know I even felt that way until it streamed out onto my computer screen.  Mission accomplished.  Oh MY! 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Prettiest Shirt In The Whole Wide World Jackpot

I am not a big shopper.  Having to find a use for gift cards given to me for Christmas or my birthday, not that I don't appreciate them, bathing suit shopping (UGH!  Nightmare all around.  I've had the same dadgum suit for four seasons!), or having to find an outfit for a special event, etc. nearly drives me out of my mind.  I avoid malls except for our annual Christmas run to buy things we can't find in our small, mountain town, and every few years we "do it right" and go to the Mall of Georgia, making a day of it, like you would a trip to Disney or Universal Studios. 

The one time I turn into shopping dawdler is when I am in a kitchen store or specialty food store, I must shamefully admit.  And I love quant little towns with little shops and antique stores but still I use my knack for scanning to get myself through each store quickly.  I figure that if I have any interest in anything it will pop out at me and it always does.

It was my method of scanning that led me to my quest for the "Prettiest Shirt in the Whole Wide World".  It is a running joke in our family that when I spot a blouse or shirt that is just my style I'll say, "Oh look!  It's the prettiest shirt in the whole wide world!"  If it is of a reasonable price I will buy it to add to the collection of lacy, flowery, crocheted items that fill my closet which I love to layer together over jeans or jeans skirts because it's easy and I don't like to mess around.  My wardrobe grows very slowly this way. I don't do seasonal shopping or go on weekend shopping expeditions, just buy a couple of new pieces a year.  I have clothes that I still wear from purchases I made ten years ago when, fortunately, the whole Eddie Bauer style started to fade away and you could once again find something slightly decorative in a clothing store.  Yes, it's a little fuddy duddy but it's me.  :P

Well, this Steampunk convention we just went to had me surrounded by the prettiest things in the whole wide world.  Gorgeous handmade, even leather, corsets, flouncy skirts, vests, beautiful layered things, all my style just multiplied in substance and frivolities.  Expensive, expensive lavishly decorated pieces of clothing for sale to use as Steampunk costume wear not everyday wear.  Still, I was inspired. 

Since our hotel was near the Mall of Georgia, we voted as a family to make an afternoon of it on our way out of Atlanta, probably the only trip we would make there for a few years, since it had already been three or four since we had been there as a family. 

We totally whimped out, and as always happens when we visit the MOG, we entered the crowded, ridiculously expansive space and remembered that city life and malls just aren't our thing.  Give my little family trees, trails, parks, beaches, natural springs and streams, movie theaters even, but you can keep the MOG.  It didn't help that since we had just, minutes before, left the hotel filled with "our people" -- fellow Steampunkers, creative thinkers, nerds, astronomy buffs, and sci-fi geeks -- where we had felt very at home in Steampunk and geek clothing and among others dressed the same way, the MOG felt like a foreign country if  not the surface of another planet.

Our feet hurt so badly from running around, at least mine did, in Steampunk costumes all weekend that we could barely make it through one tiny section of the mall.  I couldn't even do Williams- Sonoma properly, which is usually a rare and appreciated treat for me.  We finally went looking for a mall directory so we could stumble to our favorite stores, stop for dinner somewhere, and get our butts back to the mountains where we belonged.  We all took what was left of our personal weekend spending allowances and went our seperate ways, me to two stores I like that were blessedly adjacent to each other where I am always able to find "me", and the fellas to GameStop to buy games and gaming equipment, of course. 

My goal was to find the Prettiest Shirt in the Whole Wide World like the ones that I had admired for sale at the convention but at a reasonable price, preferably dirt cheap clearance price, in a style I could wear every day.  One store had possiblilities but was so crowded with people swarming around that I hobbled out.  Another of my favorites was nearby. 


Half an hour later, clearance racks scanned through, "me" shirts selected, tried on and laying on the counter in front of the teenaged sales clerk and I was ready to go.  A call from my husband let me know that they were finished too.  The shirts were so "me" that I had taken a picture in the dressing room of the row of Prettiest Shirts in the Whole Wide World.  And aren't they just...the Prettiest Shirts in the Whole Wide World?  I thought so.  And all for a fraction of just what just one of the Steampunky shirts I loved for sale at the convention would cost, all but one pulled from two ridiculously low priced clearance racks.  Woo hoo! 
Yes, those are black skeleton keys on a pale, pale pink shirt.  Couldn't believe my eyes when I saw it.  Of course it was the only one in the store.  Of course it was in my size.  Of course it perfectly matched the black skeleton key earings I had made that were at that moment dangling from my very own ear lobes.  Does fate apply to shopping expeditions?

Oh, and the concho belt in the photo was handmade by the partner of my now favorite jeweler, the owner of Throne Jewelry.  He made it from old clock parts. I had been wearing it but draped it over the dressing room bar to try on the clothes.  I think it looks beautiful with the other, soon to be mine, items on the rack.  When I spied it in Throne Jewelry's convention booth, I thought the tag on the belt said, $120 dollars, which to me is a typical boutique, handmade artistic item price, but it was $20.  I snagged it and I really love it.  This is exactly along the lines of what I used to do, repurposing antique and used items.  The fact that she said her partner had been a little disappointed that no one had purchased his belt through the weekend and it still hung beautifully on a towel bar in her booth at the end of the convention, made me even happier to help the local artist. It now hangs in our black and white Steampunky bathroom looking prettier than it ever will tied around my waist.

And this is the silliest, frilliest blog post you will ever read, I guarantee.  Giggle.