Saturday, December 31, 2011

happy chocolaty new year

Hershey's Special Dark makes a superior s'more.  The new fire pit works great.  We spent hours last night talking, imbibing and making s'mores with our neighbors, Rick & Melinda.  In case you've never made s'mores, roast a couple of marshmallows to your preferred level of doneness.  We used some bamboo sticks cut to a point and soaked in water so they wouldn't catch on fire easily.  Take two halves of graham crackers and place a generous piece of dark chocolate on one.  For a special treat, use peanut butter to glue the chocolate onto the graham.  Smash the roasted marshmallow on top with the other graham cracker.  Enjoy.

We're going to do it all over again tonight.  The weather is calm and warm.  Happy New Year to you and yours.
fire good.

xmas tree parts make it sizzle.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

fire in the garden

Shopping list:
marshmallows (chocolate ones, too)
hershey bars
graham crackers
















There's nothing like a toasty fire on a cold Florida New Year's Eve.  Thanks, Dave and Kim, for the fire pit.  Purchased at Home Depot, this fire pit comes with a pivoting ceramic grill (not pictured).  We'll post pictures of the first good blaze.


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Tibetan singing bowl o'nuts

From Blogger Pictures
Things have been a bit hectic of late, what with baking and knitting and putting up the holiday bling.  I haven't had time to check in here.  I will have a new bookmark design up after the holiday.  In the meantime, here are pictures of what we've been doing around the homestead.

From Blogger Pictures


From Blogger Pictures

I found these beautiful little boxes at Pier1.  They're a perfect size for a gently rolled up bookmark.
From knitting
This fun dish or wash cloth is from KrisKnits.
From knitting
I baked six loaves of Zucchini Bread and six loaves of Cranberry Orange Nut Bread as well as dozens of Pistachio Pecan Cookies this weekend.  The breads are from Beard On Bread by James Beard.  They are delicious and make the house smell fantastic.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

holiday knitting delay

Cats and yarn.  I usually knit at my kitchen table.  My cats (we have 4), mostly do not bother me when I'm knitting.  Sasha, the youngest at five, has decided that evenings are best spent in my lap.  This never happens if I'm reading the paper.  Or if I'm eating dinner, or if I'm painting at that table.  It only happens if I have needles and yarn in my hands.  She then feels compelled to gradually get as close as she can.  She may try to go for the yarn, but mostly just wants to stop me from knitting.  Or so it seems.

Friday, November 11, 2011

It's alive!

Unseasonably cool weather has orchids popping in our back yard.  This cattleya hasn't had a bloom since we bought it at an orchid show 5 or 6 years ago.  What did we do right this year? 
From orchids
We're still learning.  Maybe it's the weather.  All of our orchids live outside.  We live in central Florida. It's a good place to grow orchids.  Lc. Evirett Dirkson is the name of this purple beauty and its scent is as beautiful as it's appearance.  We may have been a bit more steady with the fertilizer this year.  I try to remember the 'weakly/weekly' rule.  That means to dilute your orchid fertilizer by 1/4th and water once a week with it. 

Orchids can be found on every continent on Earth with the exception of Antarctica.  There is at least one that will thrive where you live.  Contact a local nursery/florist and ask for native orchids.  You just have to try not to kill it :-)  Generally, no direct sunlight, and don't overwater! Overwatering kills most gift orchid plants.  
From orchids
This is our ever-blooming valentine orchid.  I gave it to Wayne on 2/14/2011.  It looks like it will still be in bloom through Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Absinthe makes the heart grow fonder

Where the hell did the last month go?  I've been busy knitting 'stealth projects', as Wendy says on her blog.  I recently purchased Wendy Knits Lace and discovered that I don't yet have enough needles.  I have several sets of interchangeable circular needles, addi clicks and knitpicks options as well as dpns and straights.  I look to the interchangeables to do most everything, but there is a reason they are not normally used for small things like hats and cowls.  I think that needs a remedy.  The needles on interchangeable sets are longish to account for the joining hardware for the cables. When a 16 inch circular needle is called for, that includes the length of the needles, not just the cable.  I've got to purchase a 16 inch circular in every freaking size now, because I have Wendy's book.  And I want to knit everything in it, especially Elizabeth's Cowl.

Hey, KnitPicks, why don't you come up with a small interchangeable set?

In the meantime, I want to share my son David's new hobby.  He's been making pens with his lathe.  Most of these pictured are made from the little blocks of wood used as spacers in cigar boxes.  They have wonderful weight and balance.  I really like writing with them.
From Blogger Pictures

The Amazon Lily that my friend Tom gave me is blooming for the first time.
From Blogger Pictures
The bulbophyllum Marv Reagan is going nuts with blooms.
From Blogger Pictures
And...the Valentine's Day Phalaenopsis (Chlan Xen Lady) is still blooming with no sign of letting up. 
From Blogger Pictures
That's an orchid that has been blooming now for almost 9 months.  I'm thinking of contacting Guinness.  I could us a case of stout.

Friday, October 7, 2011

autumnal knitting

This time of year, I miss New England.  Though the weather has just turned to a slightly cooler shade of summer in central Florida, it's still subtropical.  There are no changing colors and falling leaves.  That happens here in the spring when the live oaks drop massive amounts of old brown leaves and bushels of acorns.

Since we don't have the brightly colored maple, birch and elm leaves I grew up with, I knitted some leaves.
From knitting
 These can be used as dish or wash cloths, trivets, doilies, potholders, bookmarks, legal tender or replacement leaves for a bare-ass tree.  I found two different pattern sets on Ravelry.  I'm disappointed that I didn't find a great (free) pattern for a maple leaf, so I'll just have to make my own.  These patterns are great for beginning knitters.  

The first leaves I knit were from a two pattern set by Tricksyknitter.
From knitting
I then found the Leaf Cloth Trio by Theresa Jones.
From knitting
These are made from Lion Cotton and Peaches and Creme yarns.  Small projects like these are perfect for someone with KADD (knitting attention deficit disorder).  Leslie Stanfield's book, 75 Birds, Butterflies & little beasts to knit and crochet contains many more wonderful tiny patterns taken from nature.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Plato the Play-Doh Dragon

Once upon a time, on a balmy Florida Christmas evening, after all of the guests had gone home except for my brother Paul and Patty, I got out the Play-Doh.  We turned into children, molding the colorful modeling clay.  A tiny dragon was born.  Plato is one inch tall.  She's about 15 human years old, which is 150 in Play-Doh Dragon years.
From Garden
Obviously stunned by being outside for the first time in her life, Plato contemplates the hand that made her. Before I put her back in the curio cabinet, she muttered, "the measure of a man is what he does with Play-doh".

Monday, September 5, 2011

knit a dragon

I've been in love with dragons since I was a little girl.  I collect them in all sizes, shapes and materials.  I draw, paint, knit, or make them with Play-Doh.  I just finished this washcloth, made out of my stash of original Peaches and Creme cotton yarn, bought when the company was still based in North Carolina.  A Canadian company now owns the brand.
From knitting
From knitting
I love knitting pictures!  This one was found on Ravelry.  You'll need to be a member to download it for free.  It's called Chinese Fireball Dragon by Michelle Wright.  The finished cloth is pictured with a dragon made from dyed hemp fiber.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

twilight garden part one

We spend much of our time at home outside in the back yard.  Evenings are my favorite time.  Sunset at Jimi and Leon's is spectacular.
From Garden
At my house, the water view is our little koi pond.  At night, red, blue and purple flowers in the garden disappear.  White flowers glow softly in moonlight.  I've been adding more and more white flowers and choosing many which will scent the evening garden.

Brugmansia, or Angel Trumpet not only have beautiful flowers but an intoxicating scent.
From Garden
Night blooming Jessamine isn't at all spectacular during the day, though it's a lovely shrub.  At night the tiny white flowers give off a powerful jasmine like scent.  Plant these at the periphery as they can be overpowering up close.
From Garden
Use white Vinca (periwinkle) for sunnier spots and impatiens for shade.  These annuals are perennials in Florida, self seeding.  They are super easy to root by cuttings.
From Garden
From Garden
Use white Caladiums and variegated spider plants to add sparkle with foliage.
From Garden
If you're in zone 9, night blooming cereus is a show stopper as is Moonflower vine (Ipomoea alba).
From Garden
 I made a little slide show of our moonflower opening at dusk.
These are just a few of many possible plant suggestions, and the ones I use in my Florida garden.  For many more, check out Lia Leendertz' book The Twilight Garden.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

plain vanilla

There is nothing plain about vanilla.  The history of this spice is chock full of intrigue and legend.

Wayne and I have three vanilla orchid plants.  None of them are marked, so I don't know their species names.  We bought them at various plant sales in hope that one day we might have flowers and our own little vanilla plantation, not having to pay exorbitant prices for my favorite flavor.  We have our plants in hanging pots.  One of them is in orchid bark, which I now know is the wrong medium for this plant.

While shelving new nonfiction books at my library, I came across Vanilla Orchids: Natural History and Cultivation by Ken Cameron.  I have a new understanding of this amazing plant after reading the book.  First, we need to repot them in compost.  Vanilla is a terrestrial orchid. Planting in rich soil or compost is best.  Vanilla is also a vining orchid.  It needs support on which to grow.  It wants shade.

There are about 100 or so wild vanilla species known.  The fruit, which is commonly called 'vanilla bean' is not a bean, or legume.  It takes an extraordinary amount of time and work to produce the seed pod we find in the grocery store labeled Vanilla Bean.  We bought some vanilla 'beans' at the last Orchid Society Show.  You can make vanilla extract out of them.  We also bought a  Vanilla orchid.

Flowers are only born on mature vines.  The flower lasts only a couple of days.  It must be hand pollinated in order to produce a fruit, at least here in central Florida.  According to the book, this is best done very early in the morning within 8 hours of the flower opening.  One needs small tools and fingers to do this.  After pollination, a fruit may be born.  They can take nine months to ripen.  It can take another six months of harvesting, curing, and drying to produce the aromatic spice we know as vanilla.

I look forward to posting about our vanilla bean harvest sometime in 2015.  I'll be happy if I just see a flower.  In the meantime, we have these orchids blooming now...
From orchids
From orchids
From orchids



Tuesday, August 9, 2011

laidback knitting

I had a rare Tuesday off today.  With five inches of rain in the rain gauge, it was not a day to spend pulling weeds, though they will certainly need pulling once the rain stops...sometime on Thursday according to weather reports.  It was a great day to knit.  Happily, I have at hand 10 Secrets of the Laidback Knitters by Vicki Stiefel and Lisa Souza.  I checked it out from my library.  Twice.  I've now ordered a copy, even though I had put a moratorium on buying more knitting books.  This one made me feel okay about the way I approach my knitting.  For me, it is the comfort of having needles and yarn in my hands, gradually seeing a finished object emerge.  I love the finished objects, which are almost always gifts for someone special, but it's the act of knitting that makes me feel good.

In their book, Vicki and Lisa lay out chapter by chapter what it is that makes knitting joyful.  From learning to knit, to spinning your own yarn, every step of the process is written with patterns and inspiring stories of knitters.  Links to knitterly websites are abundant.  I've definitely enriched my Safari bookmarks.  10 Secrets... even inspired me to look at my yarn stash.  Not do anything about it mind you, but look at least.  This is a tiny bit of it.  There's no rhyme or reason.
From knitting
I have a lot more yarn in plastic tubs.  Once I tried sorting it by colors, but felt it really needed to be by fiber content, then quickly gave up.   My books and tools are in better order.  
From knitting
From knitting
So thank you, Vicki and Lisa for breaking my knitting book buying fast, and for the validation.  Looking at my WIPs though, I think my laidbackness may be bordering on world-class procrastination (see sweater I started on circulars about four months ago which is now about 10 rows along).
From knitting

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

never ending phaleonopsis bloom

I bought an orchid for my honey on Valentine's Day.  This is August 3rd and it's still blooming, almost six months later.  Not the same blooms, but the bloom spike keeps growing and adding on new buds.  What's interesting is that the color has changed over the months.  It started out marled with purple, but the new blooms are whiter.  Here are pictures from February 14th.  The white one on the right is the one Wayne bought me.
From orchids
From orchids
Here is a picture now.  The bloom spike curls around and makes almost a circle.  It's still growing and has new unopened buds.
From orchids
I haven't even repotted it from the plastic pot.  I don't like to disturb them while they're blooming.  This is the energizer bunny of the orchid world!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

build a dining room in the garden

Saturday, Wayne built a little dining room in the back yard.  It's a cheap room add on at about $130 dollars and some definite sweat equity.  The temps were in the mid 90's with humidity at about 80%.  We'd had the table/umbrella/chairs sitting on the lawn, but wanted to define a space for them.  Eventually, there will be a deck, but that's expensive...not in the budget right now.

We bought four twelve foot 4x4s, some weed block cloth ($19 for 120x4' at Sam's Club), and 10 bags of eucalyptus mulch.  We had some extra 4x4's, shorter ones, left over from other projects.  Wayne decided to use those for a small graduated wall on one corner of the 'room'.  We use eucalyptus mulch because it is made from an invasive species, it repels bugs, it smells nice, and it stays in place better than other types of wood mulch.  It costs a little more.  I also really hate that red dyed stuff everyone seems to be using these days.  Am I the only one?

First, mow the lawn.  Then, Wayne half-lapped the ends of the 4x4's, laying them out on the newly cut grass.  Half-lap is where you cut half the thickness of the wood on both ends, just as deep as the 4x4.  Here's a picture of the half-lap join on the corner.
From Garden
Next he used the weed whacker to cut the grass in the square as close to the ground as possible.  He laid the weed block cloth on top and secured it.
From Garden
Using 3-1/2" stainless steel exterior screws, he fastened the corners together.  On the far corner of the room, he built a pyramid-like wall with the old 4x4s, alternating the ends and securing those with ceramic coated 8' timber screws.  This way, it can easily be deconstructed when we eventually build that dining room deck.
From Garden
Next add mulch, furniture, a few plants and Chopper, the watch dog.
From Garden
That's 144 square feet less grass to mow.  The area is right next to the pond, so it's another nice little sitting area where you can hear the water.  There are great books on making outdoor living spaces like Sunset's Complete Deck Book.  In that book, you can read how to properly lay out a patio or deck.  We, however, make up our own rules.  We are rebels.  We do not follow the rules. 
From Garden

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

gardening down under

For my birthday, the love of my life found a most unique present.  He went out searching...the "I'll know it when I see it" method of gift shopping...and stopped by an itinerant garden shop.  The proprietress had a healthy display of Florida hardy plants and gifts.  He came home with two beautiful purple fountain grass plants, a plumbago and a terracotta Down Under Pot.  Skeptical at first, because I'd seen the silly looking 'topsy-turvy-as-seen-on-tv' method of planting, I liked the look of this clay pot.  It was already planted with coleus.
From Garden
Wayne made the mistake of mentioning that she had a cobalt blue glazed Down Under Pot.  It was more expensive, so he got the terracotta one.  Cobalt blue is my favorite color.  I may have said that out loud.  Later in the day, he went back and bought the blue one.
From Garden
I took cuttings from coleus in my garden and augmented the planting of the blue pot with white vinca.  I did have to add a bit more coconut husk to the top so that the potting mix didn't fall through when planting.  A US 15 knitting needle helped tamp down the potting mix as I added it to the top (soon to be bottom) of the pot.  I used rooting hormone for the coleus and carefully tapped off the soil from the vinca before potting.  Once everything is thoroughly rooted, in two to three weeks, I'll upend the pot and hang it.
From Garden

R&J Plants sell at the corner of Lake Magdalene Blvd. and Florida Avenue in the parking lot of Sunset Market on Saturdays.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

so long, Orenji, and thanks for all the fish

With apologies to Douglas Adams, the last title in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy came to mind when we found Orenji floating in the pond.  I imagine poor bereft Moby swimming around alone looking for his companion.
From pond
Actually, Moby seems quite okay, though every time he makes a circuit of the pond I can't help but anthropomorphize his feelings (too many readings of Charlotte's Web as a child).  Do fish have thoughts?

Coincidentally, the day he found Orenji deceased, Wayne went to our local Wild Birds Unlimited store to pick up bird seed.  Amy said they needed to thin out the goldfish in the store pond.  They are really pretty goldfish with really long fins and tails.  She said to come and take some of them for our pond.   I don't think Moby minds the goldfish, but I wonder what they think of this white whale.
From pond
Moby gets to know his new pond-mates.
From pond
From pond
I made a little slide show of our pond which started out on a small patch of the back yard where the grass would not grow.  We're thinking about a bigger one soon.  If Moby keeps growing, we'll need one.