Friday, June 29, 2012

Philly Weekend Links

We're in Philly for the weekend. Our plans :: visit fam, soak up the urban heat, yarn shopping, bike race, and eat {Parc and Alma de Cuba are our favorites, but we may branch out this weekend}!

I called shotgun, leaving these two to battle it out in the back ::

Ca$h was pumped in that last shot when he realized that after 3.5 hours in the car we were approaching his BD's {BD = best dog-friend = Dutch} house.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Summer Winter Knitting

Between working on my hexes, I'm looking for other projects that use up the yarn I already have on hand. This project was instant gratification at it's finest. After just two evenings of knitting I have a hat that I can't wait to wear this winter {and that C can't wait to steal}.

I bought the yarn right before Christmas, thinking I would make a quick gift for someone, but I ran out of time. The yarn is a ball of bulky Bernat. I cast on 70 stitches on size 10.5 needles, knit for about 3 inches and then switched to size 11 needles for the stockinette portion. Knit ~6 inches in stockinette and then finished it with a knit two together round followed by a knit round (and repeat that two more times for a total of three decrease rounds).

So quick and easy, I might have to run out and buy more bulky yarn to knit a few more of these for gifts!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Wednesday Soundtrack!

Some music from Brandi Carlile's new album. Love

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

As I've mentioned {again and again}, last year I watched the garden grow. Other than keeping the weeds out, I just wanted to see what was here. While observing, I began to do some research ~ making lists of the plants that were out there and reading about their care. One of the things that became apparent to me was that I had to do some work in the spring to keep my fall flowers looking sharp. And that, my friends, is what this post is all about.

Let's take a step back and look at last fall's asters ::

That leggy aster is a mess, and it's the reason why I thought that I didn't like asters. It's spilling out into the grass, in other beds I had asters sprawling out over the flowers next to them, and in this state I feel that they look more like a weed than a flower.

As a result of the asters {and other flowers} overflowing their beds, I ended up with patches of dead grass that turned to dirt. To remedy the problem, I'm doing a couple of things, first, I bought a box of short, border fencing. Note ~ if you're like us and need a lot of fencing, you can find great deals ordering it by the case online rather than buying it by the piece in your local garden shop or hardware store.

After a couple of months of growth, the side beds are filled in, and the fences have done a great job maintaining order! You can also see that the brown edges have filled in and we have grass right up to the flower bed.

And a fun side-note, new flowers are popping up this year that definitely weren't present last year! Do you see the single pop of red that's halfway up the bed in the photo on the right? It's a new poppy! When the pods dry, I'm going to sprinkle more seeds throughout the beds to see if we can get them to spread beyond their bed in the front yard.

{Note :: Before you read any farther, let me apologize for the blur of green you're about to see.}

Putting up the fencing isn't the only measure I'm taking to get things in order. I've been pinching back my mums and sedums in order to create stockier, fuller plants this fall. I'm referring to what I've done as pinching back because I only removed the growing tip of the plant, and sometimes up to a couple of inches. This is less extreme than cutting back, which involves removing of a greater portion of the growing stems and can also be used to rein in the plants discussed below. In either case you want to do it early enough in the growing season so that you aren't removing their blooms and so that they have enough time to create the bud and bloom after they've been pinched. Of course, your timing will vary depending upon your local climate, but many of the sources I read suggested pinching back in May and June.

Here's an example of an aster before pinching {it's on the edge of a full bunch of asters}::

Pinching off the growing tip stalls the plant's growth, which will produce the stockier growth we want and it results in later blooms. It also encourages branching, and each of those branches will produce flowers, creating a fuller plant in the fall.

In the photo below you can see the white, dried end of the original stem that was pinched. Around it you can see the new growth that's occurred since the plants been pinched. In some cases, the new growth really took off, and I did a second round of pinching on that new growth.

The next photo provides an even more dramatic post-pinching shot. This is a grouping of asters that were pinched about 10 days before this photo was taken. You can see the stems that were pinched and the plethora of new growth that's occurred since then.

I'm using the same methods to encourage stockier, fuller Autumn Joy sedums. Here are the sedums before pinching::

Again, I just pinched off an inch or so from the tips of the growing stems. In the photo on the right below, you can see the plant immediately after pinching {the pinched tip is not even dry}. In the photo on the left, you can see the budding out that has occurred after a couple of weeks.

I've pinched back all of the asters I've come across in the garden, but I've been more selective with the sedums. Pinching back the plants that were taller and leaving some of the shorter ones alone. We already have flower buds forming on the plants that I didn't pinch, which will create a nice sequence of fall blooming.

Of course, pinching isn't the only thing going on out there. I've already harvested this spring's lavender. I've tied it in bunches and it's drying in the cool and dark craft room. I have plans to put some of it in sachets and some in herbal eye pillows.

The lavender plants are still an area of uncertainty for me. I've done a lot of research and I feel like I"m on the right track as far as pruning and maintenance goes with the lavender plants that I added to the garden last year, but I'm at a loss for how to take care of some of the old, woody, and generally ugly looking lavender that's out there. I may just pull out some of the oldest/deadest looking plants and replace them with young lavender plants.

This year, even more than last, I've made it a priority to bring fresh flowers into the house. Right now we've been cutting hydrangea, butterfly weed, bee balm, and lilies. Next week we should have some coneflowers to add to the mix.

There you have it, a spring garden post all about how we're getting ready for the fall flowers. Let's hope we have a long, hot summer before then*

Friday, June 22, 2012

Link On

Seriously, we're loving summer around these parts.

I bought a gallon of lemon aid {how did that get in there?} lemonade for making my version of a Radler {half beer half lemonade, my version because in Germany they use lemon soda}. It's been my go-to drink after an evening of garden work and runs with the pooch. Although, in the afternoon when it's too early for a beer, I've been drinking Arnold Palmers after catching this post.

I love it when people put some effort into their Craigslist post, like this... and I now say things from Fixie's perspective.

Have I mentioned Tattly here? They are temporary tattoos with great designs. I think I need the vegetable set ASAP.

How great is this nasturtium fabric? I planted a pot of nasturtiums on the deck last summer and they flourished. It made me realize that I had to make them a staple of the summer deck. Now we have two pots.

Finally, how awesome are the hexagon pieces by Moonlight for Violet? I remember looking for simple hexagon pieces to give and wear for our wedding last year. These would have been perfect!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Happy Summer!

How are you spending your first day? Aside from pouting because the days are going to start getting shorter.

Here are my suggestions for a perfect summer meal ~

Mussels steamed in a broth of white wine, fresh tomatoes, herbs, and garlic::

A light salad of pea shoots, beets, raspberries, snap peas and sunflower seeds::

Don't forget to set the scene with a bouquet of flowers from the garden and a pooch lounging on the deck {waiting for your leftover bits}::

I would say to end it with a dish of fresh strawberry ice cream, but check your freezer, that may have been polished it off last night! So maybe you'll have to settle for some watermelon?

Happy Summer*

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A little water garden update! I thought I'd fill in some details and answer questions that came up after the last post. Generally the fish and plants are thriving. Whenever I part the fairy moss that's floating on top of the water, the fish scurry to the surface, like this little guy::

Since there's no filter or aerator in these gardens, you have to maintain a high water to fish ratio {about 10 gallons of water for every fish}. That's enough fresh water to keep their waste diluted and allow it to recharge at a fast enough rate for everything to stay healthy. The ammonia is broken down by bacteria and the nutrients in their waste act as a fertilizer for the plants. As I mentioned before, the fish will eat insect larva and I see them nibbling on some of the plant roots. Since they were so efficient at clearing out the insects that were in the water, I thought they might get a bit hungry, and so I bought some goldfish flakes and have decided to feed them once a week or so.

As for the plants, they are growing like gang-busters. I don't know if you can tell from the photo above, but this garden started with the three large water lettuce plants, and now we have five additional baby water lettuces! I didn't expect them to expand that quickly, but my plan is to harvest some and send them to my sister's in Philly ~ it's a water garden revolution!

As for algae in the pots, we've been slime-free so far. One of the sources I was reading said that you should expect to get some algae a couple of weeks after you set up your garden, but that would die down as the system itself settle {for example, if your water has a lot of nutrients, you may get an algal bloom, but as the nutrients are taken out of the water, it will die down}. We haven't seen anything yet, but I know that having all of the floating duckweed and fairy moss help to reduce algae because they shade the water, blocking sunlight necessary for the algae growth.

So there you have it! Now we're just waiting for the water lilly to bloom...

Monday, June 18, 2012

We've been eating our way through the strawberries from this post. It's been a funny year for strawberries in Central PA, the early hot spell, following by days of rain and cooler weather have caused some farms in our area to not even open for a you-pick seasons, others have opened with a short couple of weeks of picking. We were lucky to get in early, pick our share, and feast on them ever since.

Many berries were sliced and frozen ~ those we're nibbling straight from the freezer and blending in smoothies.

A few handfuls were sprinkled with sugar and frozen with their sweet juice ~ those will be thawed in the heat of summer for strawberry shortcakes.

Then there were the strawberries that were mixed with rhubarb for pie::

Weeks later and I'm still thinking about that pie. It was enjoyed as a dessert on the first evening, and then eaten with yogurt for breakfast the rest of the week! I followed this recipe, but added a bit of flax seed to the crumb crust ~ they add a bit of nutty flavor and a good dose of omega-3s. A healthy breakfast, no?

A whole pile of berries went into Nigella Lawson's strawberry ice cream. You can find the recipe by clicking on that link, and it's published in Forever Summer. I highly recommend the cookbook ~ it's couldn't be more perfect, being full of all sorts of dishes and drinks to inspire your summer eating.

But back to the ice cream, it's make using a custard base that's cooked on the stove top. It takes a bit more time and energy than some of the quicker, more basic ice cream recipes, but when you have strawberries this sweet and fresh, I think they are worthy of your effort!

And finally, we made some mighty fine strawberry sauce. Our intention was to make a small batch of this strawberry vanilla jam, but we didn't cook quite it long enough to reach the jell stage.

Unfortunate? Just for our hips, because we've been eating this sauce at a faster rate than we would have any jar of jam. The sauce has gone into morning cups of yogurt {as pictured}, it's gone on the strawberry ice cream {with some fluff and nutella if you're C}, and it's been added to seltzer water and Rhuby for a fine summer drink.

As strawberry season comes to an end, we're dreaming up recipes for the green huckleberries along our hiking route as we wait for them to ripen.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Sunshine Day

What a fun surprise ~ Lynn at Fidlstix nominated me for the Sunshine Award!

I still remember when I came across my first blog seven or eight years ago ~ I was exploring the {new to me} world of online knitting patterns and magazines. I found Knitty, and the now infamous Clapotis, and from there I found Kate Gilbert's blog Needles on Fire. I was hooked from the beginning ~ I loved being introduced to new projects in real time, seeing how they would modify patterns, and learning new techniques from their tutorials. From knitting blogs I branched out and found blogs that fit my other interests ~ gardening, cooking, home design, and when it was time to get married, wedding blogs.  I love that there's a medium for anyone to share their skills and interests, and I really love that there are so many people doing it!

For all of the reasons that pulled me in to reading other people's blogs, I realized that I wanted one for myself. While I'm good at making things, I've never been good at journaling, but I wanted a space to document the projects I worked on, the recipes I baked, and the places I went. I take more pictures than I know what to do with, and with a blog, I finally had a space to share them. The funny thing is, I've always been slightly self conscious about my blogging when I'm explaining blogs to people who don't read them. Beyond that I'm often a one-way participant in the blogging community ~ there are a number blogs that I check in with on a daily basis, yet I rarely leave comments. So when I get an award like this I blush ~ it makes me happy to know that other people like what I'm sharing, and it reminds me that I should spend a little bit more time each week telling people that I like what they're doing too! Thanks Lynn {and I love how you eat your watermelon!}.

Here are the rules of the game:

1. Thank the person that nominated you.
2. Answer the 10 questions on your favorite things.
3. Nominate 10 blogs to receive the Sunshine Award and let them know they've been nominated.

My favorite things...

1. Favorite animal : there are so many! but our pup Ca$h is my favorite of the moment.
2. Favorite number : 5
3. Favorite non-alcoholic drink : Morning Thunder tea with brown sugar and milk
4. Facebook or Twitter : Facebook
5. My passion : fruit, get it? haha I would have to say gardening and eating huge piles of watermelon in the summer and knitting in the winter.
6. Getting or giving : getting! I love to think up presents and surprises, particularly ones I can make.
7. Favorite Pattern : Since I'm now working on my sixth pair, I'd have to say Jaywalkers.
8. Favorite day of the week : Saturday
9. Favorite flower : it's a tie between peonies and hydrangeas
10. Favorite country : This is hard, I love road-tripping around the US with C, there's so much to see! But beyond our borders, like any good beer, pretzel, kraut-loving girl, I would have to say Germany.

My nominations span the variety of blogs I love to wake up and read :


Food in Jars
Apt. 2b Baking Co. 

Little bit of everything:
Jeremy & Kathleen
Bower Power
Posie Gets Cozy

My Fam <3 :

So there you have it! A little about me, blogging and the blogs I like. Happy Friday*

Thursday, June 14, 2012

How do you eat your watermelon? I take mine with a spoon.

Monday, June 11, 2012

I meant to write a post journaling the current state of the flower gardens this year {the flowers that are going strong, the flowers that weren't there last year ?where'd they come from?, the things I'm doing differently, etc.}, but I have something much more exciting to share. The water gardens are in! I was inspired by my trip to Thailand to put in a water garden. As you can see in that post, the water gardens in Thailand are simple, they use a small contain with a few plants, and some goldfish.

A couple of weeks ago, I placed an order for a white water lilly, water lettuce, duck weed and fairy moss from Catfish Logic. For large plants like the water lettuce and the lilly, you order the number of plants you would like, for smaller ones like the duck weed and fairy moss, you order by weight. The plants arrive wrapped in plastic with an ice pack in the box to keep everything cool. When I unpacked the box, the plants in great shape, and I was really happy with the combination ordered.

In preparation for the plants, I put my contains outside a few weeks ago, letting them fill up with water from all of these spring rains {I wanted to minimize the amount of chlorinated/treated water that I would have to add from my tap}. I had to top both containers off, so I did that with filtered water from the tap and let it sit for a few days to let some of the chlorine evaporate. I wasn't concerned about the chlorine's impact on the plants, but I was concerned about the fish I wanted to add.

I separated my plants among the two containers, the white, smaller container sits on our front porch, and the red, larger container sits on our deck. At first I was going to put the water gardens in the yard, but I realized that for maximum fun/entertainment {who's up for a wild night of watching the water garden?} that I wanted them in areas where we would hang out most often. In the photos below, the plants haven't been added to the red pot yet.

Since we had two gardens, I wanted them to be, as the Thai people say : "same same, but different". So in the white container I put duckweed and three water lettuce plants. In the red container I put three water lettuces, fairy moss, and the water lilly. Again, after adding the plants, I let the containers sit for a couple of days before adding the fish. My plan was to add about five fish to the larger container and two to the smaller one. Unfortunately, the pet store was sold of your basic run-of-the-mill goldfish! So for the moment my plan was thwarted, and I came home with just two fancy goldfish. I added them to the the red container Saturday morning, and I'm happy to report that as of Monday morning they're still alive! They seem to be happy in there, and we haven't peaked the interest on the cat yet... although, I think that the larger container is deep enough and there are plenty of hiding spaces to keep the fish free from harm. Already the fish are doing their job ~ they've cleaned up the few mosquito larvae that were wriggling around in the water.

This project is fun because creating the little water ecosystem is a big experiment for me. I'd like to keep it simple and healthy, so I'm watching everything closely and will adjust my care if I see the water getting murky or mucky.

My other weekend project? Painting the master bath! This little project doesn't really need its own post. I was just happy to put some white paint over the lavender walls. Once the paint was dry I traded the old white blind for a bamboo one, put up a hook for our hand towels, and traded out the plastic switch plates for wood. But I still can't decided what to do over the toilet? A couple of glass shelves with plants? a piece of art?

Friday, June 08, 2012

Link On

How great is this screen door? It reminds me of our wedding {almost a year ago now!}, and it makes me want an old farm house with an embroidered screen door.

I'm thinking about the freshly painted white walls in our bathroom, maybe it's a place for this print?

I think the bathroom also needs a plant, something hanging. And maybe I'll add a pop of color with a plant hanger similar to these.

Now that it's flower season in the garden, I'm searching for fun vases, like this!

Isn't this story amazing? 

Did you see the transit of Venus? We picked up our fancy  viewing glasses, and gave it a shot, but thought our viewing was going to be thwarted by the thick blanket of clouds. So we headed home, and decided to sit in a nearby field just in case the sun peaked out, and it did! Around 7:30 on Tuesday, we had a perfect view. 

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Wednesday Soundtrack

We're going to see some of this in concert tonight! ::

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Food! What do you think of the little post header? I've been playing around, and wanted to find a fun way to highlight a post's topic. This post? It's about food.

We signed up for a half share of produce from a local farm, and let me tell you, picking the farm was hard in a fun way. We're lucky enough to have about a dozen different local farms the offer CSA programs. We ended up going with a young couple with a farm that's only a few years old, not because old farmers aren't really awesome, but because it's also fun to support people our age following their dreams ~ I'm sure jumping into this was scary and exciting for them. Anyhoo, they lease the some their land from a sheep farmer, so we'll also be able to buy lambs and other meats from them too. And they partner with a chicken farmer who supplies us with a dozen eggs in our box.

This week we received a whole pile of greens {kale, lettuce, bok choy}, some radishes, turnips, dill, and kohlrabi. Using the eggs, radishes and dill, I put together a great egg salad. I just mix those ingredients with some mayo, salt, and Dijon mustard.

We use a few more eggs to whip up a quiche. This was an experiment for us, in that we used grated potatoes for the crust. The end result was delicious, and I have a feeling this will become the standard since C's a wheat-free eater. The quiche's filling was a combination of mushrooms and onions sauteed in butter, steamed asparagus {from another local farm}, and cheddar cheese.

And last, but not least, we used the rest of the dill to make this fresh beet salad. We picked up the beets when we went strawberry picking, but hopefully we'll get some in our box next week! The beets were grated and mixed with the chopped dill. We drizzled it with the juice of one lemon, a few tablespoons of olive oil, and then tossed in some toasted mustard seeds.

After this first veggie-filled week, we're excited for a whole season of fresh foods! Along with the eating, I'm hoping to improve my food-photography skills...