Friday, April 24, 2009

playing in the new yard

funny that it's been over two years,and i still think of this house in which we live as the "new house" and the yard as the "new yard." until this spring, my intentions for this yard have been mostly just intentions. my road to hell is well-paved. and i know, i know-i had a baby--yadda yadda yadda. but that baby is mostly an excuse for times when i just can't get my shit together. and gardening? well--it's hard! and i am ignorant about it, and digging holes sucks. and sweating. and when it's too hot, i tend to prefer sitting onthe porch with a big glass of iced tea to being out where the evil sun can smite me. but as always, i digress...

red bud tree, budding

dogwood buds 3

dogwood flower

shiny new leaves
this spring has been different. this spring, i have started to get my shit together. i have read books, researched, sketched things out in my head, and formed some long term plans. it's as though i am mentally accepting that we really do own this house and are allowed to do things like plant stuff in the actual ground instead of just in pots. oddly enough, our planting efforts seem to coincide with holidays. on valentines day, we bought two trees for the back yard: a red bud and a dogwood. old school, traditional trees i have loved since childhood. i learned that there are one million types of redbud and basically two types of dogwood, although the cherokee dogwood does come in two colors. i picked white, which is what i had growing up in the woods that surrounded my house. the redbud is a lovely lilac-y pink with these gorgeous shiny purple leaves. we got big-ass trees. the hippie dug big-ass holes. they bloomed a LOT, and are now leafy and thriving. one day, they will make a bower of shadiness between them, and i will put a garden bench there with a blueberry bush at either end. and there will be bulbs around the bases of the trees. and periwinkle. and stuff. but not yet. for now--they are just trees.



easter weekend we planted dirt. we dug out the from flower bed (if you can call it that), and replaced about a third of the existing dirt (by which i mean clay with rocks and construction debris in it), with a mixture of peat moss, fertilizer, soil conditionaer, limestone, and perlite. i have become a wheelbarrow chemist. we added a thick-ish layer of mulch on top. then on the following monday, i went to garden supply, which is AWESOME, and got two azeleas, two gerbera daisies, a dahlia, and a scabiosa plant. i had to dig my own holes this time, and i actually managed to get it all in the ground while the critter was a'napping--a miracle. so far, nothing has died and everything is blooming. yay!

this weekend, the hippie is going to help me make a box for a small raised vegetable garden in the back yard. and we are going to extend the from flower beds to accomodate some herbs. this part scares the beejeezus out of me. the herbs i think will be fine. the vegetable box could well be a huge unmitigated disaster. i have never grown a vegetable in my life. however, i am going to give it a shot at least. and if it works out, i will add a second box next year. and if THAT works out and i end up enjoying that part of it, i will add some raised beds to my long-term landscape architecting plan for the back yard. this plan is very long term, and involves things like retaining walls and screened in porches and how the neighbor's tree will grow to chade part of the yard, etc. there is much to consider.

there are days when i miss our old yard so much! it was insane, but it had once been heavily gardened and loved--there was ALWAYS something blooming, and things would come out of nowhere and surprise you. i miss walking through the yard and cutting little bouquets for my little bee bottle. but at the same time, i now get to create a whole little landscape, literally from scratch. it's kind of thrilling, but also intimidating.

so look people--help! if you have ideas or suggestions, or sources of information, or good gardening books to recommend, PLEASE share them! especially on gardening in the south, and vegetable and herb gardening in small spaces. i ahve been relying heavily on don hasting's book, month-by-month gardening in the south, which came highly recommended and has yet to fail me, but i know one resource isn't enough. so you know, help a sister out.

ps--i took all those flower pictures with my new camera, which is really not all that new at this point, but which i am finally starting to learn to use. the hippie gave it to me for my birthday last year, so he's been a little annoyed that i haven't used it more. again with the intimidation. however, so far, it's awesome! i think it will get even better if i get around to reading the book of instructions. hmmmm...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

used to be...

i used to design textiles. it was a lovely and rewarding and creative thing to be able to do for a living, an i am unbelievably glad for the experience of it. here's one of my designs:

last night, i had dinner with an old friend from the industry, one of only a tiny handful of people i know doing this now and possibly the best working relationship of my whole life. she's great, and seeing her was awesome--she is in NC for the high point furniture market, which is a shadow of its former self, but still important to the shreds of the american furniture world. but--we were talking about the state of the profession in the united states today, and friends--it is bleak. i know this, and have known since NAFTA passed that the textile industry in this country had numbered days. in fact, it's a huge part of why i left the industry when i did to go back to school. there were many reasons, but that was one of them. anyway. it's depressing as hell to me that this once great profession and industry, once something like the 3rd largest in our country, was basically handed over to other countries on a silver platter by our own government. where was the bailout money then? further, what are all those people i knew in the 6 years i spent in that industry now doing for work? i can count on one hand the ones still affiliated with textiles. there's no going back, i don't think, and it's woefully depressing.

today a friend from my current job, which is not at all creative, sent me a link to the website and blog of a wonderful woman in australia, and she said to me--i think this woman has your dream job. and she does. it's bittersweet to find things like this. on one hand, i LOVE her work, and i find her life inspiring. on te other, i am just not sure that kind of thing is even possible right now in the united states. i know people do it, but the ones who do always seem to have some other means of financial support and an etsy shop on the side instead of making a living designing beautiful things.

*sigh* i am not looking for a solution or huge insight here. i am just feeling a little melancholy today for the career that was and can never be again. i'll get over it.

Monday, April 20, 2009


this weekend, the hippie was out of town, and my good friend meredith was in town. i helped throw a baby shower for another good friend, and meredith and i had other friends over for brunch on sunday. there was much running around. the critter came to the baby shower with me, and was quite a hit. he provided much entertainment. i also made red velvet cupcakes, a cheese plate, and lemonade for said shower. and i decided you people need to know about this lemonade, as it's easy, fabulous, and excellent if you want to bring an easy-to carry beverage to a party. kids and adults both love it.

here's what you do. in a 1-quart container (i use old chinese soup take out containers for this, but a mayonaise jar or mason jar would also work well), combine the following to make lemonade concentrate:
  • 1 cup of fresh lemon juice (about 5 large lemons worth)
  • about a teaspoon and a half of lemon zest (from about half a lemon)
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 cup of hot water
now, shake it up. put this in the fridge until you need it--you can make it anywhere from 5 minutes to 2 weeks ahead. when you get ready to use it, just pour the concentrate into a pitcher and add about 8 cups of cold water (or seltzer, if you want some bubbly)--that's two quarts, so you can just fill up the container it's already in twice to get the right amount of water. it looks lovely if you top it with a few thin slices of lemon. pour over ice to serve, and add lemon slices, mint, or you know, vodka, if you want a little something extra.


Thursday, April 02, 2009

mama's potato salad

ok. i know. by tomorrow, what i meant was THURSDAY. and i know. there's no picture. this is because i can't remember shit anymore. but anyway--here's the cookbook entry all the same, and i promise it's tasty and pretty even though you can't see a picture of it! :)

my mama is famous for this potato salad. i can't tell you how many times i have eaten it at barbeques, cook-outs, pot-luck lunches, picnics, and holidays, and i still love it every time. of all us kids, my brother doug is really the only one who can make it like mama. i still try, and other people always seem to like it, but to me, it is just never quite the same. maybe it's because there are no measurements to speak of in mama's kitchen...the measurements are usually things like "some" and "a little."

  • potatoes (idaho, peeled, or red skinned, not peeled)
  • eggs
  • sweet pickle relish or salad cubes
  • onion
  • mayonnaise, or Miracle whip, if you want to be authentic
  • mustard
  • salt and pepper to taste
so this is a dynamic sort of recipe based on how big your bowl is and how many people you are going to feed. let's assume a pretty big bowl, and that this is a side for a cook-out with like 10 people. i would start with one medium potato per person plus a couple of extras, so let's say 10-12 med. potatoes. peel and cube these, and then boil them until soft, about 20 minutes. drain well when done. at the same time, put 8-ish eggs in a pot of cold water and bring to a boil. boil 10 minutes. cool and peel the eggs, then chop and add to the drained potatoes.

ok--this next part is where you get to use your zen. for this amount of potatoes and eggs, i would start with a big heaping tablespoon of relish, and about 1 and a half medium yellow onions, chopped. add these to the potatoes. next, add about a teaspoon of mustard, and about 2 heaping tablespoons of mayo. stir it up, and add mayo a little at a time until you get the right texture. taste often, and do not hesitate to add a little mustard or relish if you think it needs it. salt and pepper to taste--it takes more salt than you think it will, and don't be shy with that pepper!

this is a GREAT recipe to make a day ahead, as the onion flavor sort of makes it, and that takes at least a few hours to steep through the whole salad.