Stranglehold Decision

This post is in response to the Weekly Photo Challenge, Resilient.

Here she is, my wisteria vine.  She’s a bit naked at this moment, but the absence of her abundant (read overwhelming) foliage really lets me see just how persistent and actually strangling she has become.  I’m really trying to decide if I should keep her or if I really need to just throw in the towel.


In my mind’s eye, she graces the stairway railing with flowing cascades of blossoms each spring.  Lovely lavender (I’m guessing) ponytails of fragrance dancing over the edge of the railing.

She has never, not even once, lived up to the floral expectations I so loftily placed on her.  I found her about 15 years ago, and knew it would take years before this young vine would be established enough to bloom.  After about 5 years of waiting, I decided to read up on the care of the wisteria vine.

The year after I realized that she needed to be pruned in order to bloom, she did produce what seemed to be the perfect amount of bloom buds.

I was so excited and could not wait for her to bloom that year.  It was pretty early in the season, and the baby buds perished when the weather turned frosty in April that year.  I was devastated for I simply forgot all about her as I scurried to save all the early bloomers with bedsheets that evening.  She really hasn’t produced any blooms since.

The vine is pretty overwhelming in the summer, and the vines are getting pretty hefty around the new posts of our two-year-old deck.  It’s true – I had to chop her completely to the ground the year we extended the deck.  But she came back, stronger than ever.

A truly resilient vine.

I do think she needs to go, though.  The shield of privacy she provides is simply not worth the apparent stress she is placing on the railing she is using for support.  Not only that, but she really leaves a mess along the stairwell.  And she’s minimizing the actual space we have to climb up and down the steps to the pool.

I’m thinking a lightweight clematis would most likely be a bit more fitting for this location.  I’m so sorry, Miss Wisteria, but I think this story is writing its final chapter.


Are New Year’s Holiday Cards a Thing?

Seems like no matter when I get started on the holiday prep, I’m never quite ready when they do roll around.  wp-1482939507460.jpgThe purchase of a new Christmas tree this year gave me a jump start.

My family was so impressed when the tree was up the day after Thanksgiving.  That truly NEVER happens in this house.  We are lucky to be decorating the tree sometime before Christmas Eve, and in fact, two years ago, the tree never did see an ornament.  Pretty sad tree that year.


This year, I tried to make an online joke of it.

But the fact of the matter is, I’m a procrastinator through and through.  Not sure how to correct this character flaw.  It has been part of my psyche for 50+ many years.  May take 50 many more to reverse!

That’s why I’m wondering if New Year’s greeting cards are an actual thing (and yes, of course they are!!)

The Christmas cards?  Never did make it out the door this year.  Truth be told, they never even made their way out of the box they came in.  Felt sort of Grinch-like, as each card arrived in the mail from all the usual suspects.  I didn’t stop Christmas cards from coming, they came all the same!

Decorating the house for the holidays?  Thank goodness for lazy lights!

Christmas cookies?  Let’s start a new tradition and make them during the week between Christmas and New Year. (Yea, how’s that new tradition going?)

We have the perfect surname (Auld) for the excuse that can be a New Year’s celebration.  So I’m gonna do it this year.  This will be the year of the New Year’s cards.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot, for auld lang syne.



Fuzzy Wuzzy

Out tidying up the gardens this past week.  Not sure when Mother Nature will pull the plug on this unseasonal warmth.  Even though I’m late, I’m getting the beds cleaned up.  I do try to keep up with the Fall list of garden things to do, and I have to give myself a pat on the back this year!

I overturned a random brick next to the fence, and woke these guys from a nap!


Haven’t seen one of these for so long.  Took me back to the days when a little girl used to follow me just about everywhere.  She loved to pick up worms (they soon became her friends) when I was out turning the soil over.  She was also fascinated with locust shells, collecting as many as she could find from the base of the crabapple tree.  Not sure why they are so drawn to that tree, but there are so many shells there, and she just loved collecting them.

She also loved finding fuzzy wuzzy caterpillars.  I’m not sure how true it is, but I’ve heard these guys can predict the weather.  Probably about as good as the local weather forecasters, but I won’t tell them that!

According to The Farmer’s Almanac this is the legend: The Woolly Bear caterpillar has 13 distinct segments of either rusty brown or black. The wider the rusty brown sections (or the more brown segments there are), the milder the coming winter will be. The more black there is, the more severe the winter.

They will freeze over the winter months, then in spring will evolve into the Isabella tiger moth, shown in the center photo above.

It looks like these guys have more brown than black, so I’m hopeful for a mild winter!

We’re Cool

We  don’t truly appreciate things in life until they’re gone.  How many times I’ve seen posts on Facebook, usually around Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, lamenting the times and people who are lost.

Certainly not on that level, but our air conditioning decided to take a break a few days ago.  How can you blame it, working basically non-stop through this searing heat of early summer.  My family has never known life with it.  I was not going to hear the end of the wailing until something was done to bring that A/C back to life.

The HVAC company I’ve always used (always being 20 years in this house now) told me it was time.  Time to put the A/C down, remove it from its years of service, replace it with a better unit.  Very well, I agreed.  It really wasn’t turning out the cool air like it used to.

Second opinions are always a good idea.  I know this is good advice.  Not that I always abide by it, but the cost of that new unit made me take note.  I’d be calling for quotes the next day.

We couldn’t bear to sweat through another dinner at home, so we went out to our favorite the local restaurant that night.  We ran into a friend, who we never see out.  She listened to my hot tale, and recommended a guy who had replaced their unit not long ago.  Get a quote.

I called her guy the next day.  Some service guys really mean service.  This one called me back after he had completed his service calls for the day.  It was already 6:30 in the evening.  He would grab a bite to eat and come take a look at the old unit.  He wasn’t going to replace anything he hadn’t tried to fix.

And fix it he did!  He was at the house for 3 hours that night, flashlights aglow, umbrellas overhead during the torrential downpour, he ignored the lightning in the distance.  He wasn’t going to let us go through another night in that heat.  Listen to the master – his quote, not mine!  And mark my word, when that A/C unit breaths its final breath, the master will get my business for the replacement.

The following morning, I went out to check the area he had been working in.  The outside unit sits right in the middle of one of my borders.  A neglected border.  (How do you control thistles?  I need to find out.)  But one of the plants he had trampled (not judging, as he did fix the unit) was blooming – a tall phlox I have not seen for a couple of years.


I’ve missed this plant so.  It hadn’t bloomed in years, I thought it was gone.  These tall flowers are great for the rear of this border, as the bright pink flowers show up so nice next to the dark brown brick of the house.

However, it’s always a good idea to place plants in locations where they will thrive, for optimal growth.  A quick check in my trusted flower book tells me this tall phlox is not in its optimal location.  It’s not a shade loving variety.  Most likely the reason I hadn’t seen it bloom for so long.  It needs a sunny location, protected from the wind.

There’s a challenge for me.  Most of my sunny beds are smack dab in the middle of the yard – no protection from wind.  There’s a new bed along the fence, and yes, it gets sun, so I’ll most likely put it there.

Occasionally, we get a second chance.  A/C units can be fixed, plants can be relocated.  Not always with people, though, so make an effort today to appreciate those who you know you will miss.

Daylily Faves

June, aka Daylily Premier month, pretty much escaped me this year as I was so busy preparing for B’s graduation party.  I took a few pictures here and there as I noticed the blooms.  I usually take note of the order of blooms – yellows, then oranges, then reds.  They are all in bloom today!  But I’m sure they did it all in order.  Great thing about perennials – they grow without any help from me!

Every year, I seem to have a new favorite.  As they emerge, I try to remember which was the favorite last year.  I think it was this one.


2015 Best of Show


But this year, I’m not sure which to choose.  These dark red ones are really captivating.


2016 Fave Contender


I wish I could remember where I got each of them.  I do know that these lemon yellow ones came from Elaine, and of course, the original Stella D’oros came from Alice.

I bought a few from Shady Rest Gardens last year, and the blooms are truly spectacular.  I tried keeping the name tags close to the spots where they would be coming up this year, but the weather was not kind to said tags.  They were blank this spring!!  There were a number of new-to-me varieties like Coach’s Fast Break, Jewel in a Crown, Monkey Giggles.  I wish I knew which was which, but they are great additions to the Daylily Collection.


Move over Winter

It’s here!  The first day of Spring!  I’ve been waiting all winter for her!  (Spring IS a female, right?)


Of course, I woke up this morning to a light covering of snow out on the deck, but it didn’t “stick to the grass”.  Ha – the ground is too warm!  My crocuses heralded Spring a little too early this year, thanks to the extremely warm temperatures we had in February.  I’m not complaining!  This photo was taken back on February 20.

And the Snowdrops bloomed for the first time this year, I was so excited!  While I was out filling the bird feeder, this little guy shyly said “Hello!”.


I planted these bulbs 2 years ago, and have been waiting patiently for their arrival.  These guys showed up on March 8.  It’s so wonderful to have some color poking through.  This winter was one of the warmest on record here in the Pittsburgh suburbs, so it will be interesting to note the arrival of these early bloomers in the years to come.

So, this weekend is my annual seed starting weekend.  Along with the marigolds, I’m planning to start my Salsa Garden – Roma tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, garlic, and cilantro.



The fading rainbow

I can hardly believe that it’s 2016.  In a blink of an eye, it’s here.  I remember when Brittany was born.  In fact, with the birth of each of my children, I played the same game.  This little baby will graduate high school in 2009 (that was Ryan), 2014 (that was Sean), and 2016 (that was Brittany).  It seemed so far away, unimaginable really.  And the older moms all said the same thing.  It will go faster than you can believe.  Don’t blink.  And they were right.

Ryan’s graduation, I thought I would be a blubbery mess.  My first little bird, leaving the nest.  But I guess I had the other two to deal with, and I was so surprised that I shed not one tear as “Pomp and Circumstance” challenged me to lose it.  Distractions are a blessing.

Sean’s graduation was a bit different.  While growing up, he was more involved in sports.  I had a chance to know a few of his many friends.  It was actually exciting to see so many faces and recognize so many names as they marched across the stage to accept their diplomas, their pages of proof that they survived the turmoil that is high school.

Brittany is my baby.  And I can’t believe it’s time for her to graduate.  Here it is, 2016.  Just the thought of her leaving the nest brings tears to my eyes.  She’s kept me very busy – dance lessons and recitals, piano lessons and recitals, softball practices and games, basketball practices and tournaments.  She’s going to college, not very far away, but she won’t be here.  I won’t know what she is doing, where she is.  But I raised her to be herself, to be independent, to fly.  And she will.

I’m not sure what I will do with myself.  Those older moms assure me that I will actually find myself again.  That my husband and I will be best friends again.  The past 25 years have been all about running the kids to all their activities.  Stocking the shelves with all the food they like to eat.  Preparing the meals they love to eat.

The calendar that I had to color code so that I could keep life straight is now a fading rainbow.

The problem is, I can’t remember my life before I had kids.  I’m sure gardening will be a very big part of what I do.  I have neglected the gardens the past few summers.  Thank goodness for perennials!  They have survived even when I wasn’t looking.

For now, I’m helping with the events of her senior year.  It’s flying, though.  The older moms warned me about that!  Helping plan the senior banquet for her Lacrosse team, shopping for gowns and shoes for her senior prom, planning the graduation party.  So much to think about, so much to do.  It’s probably a good thing.

Keeps me from thinking about what I really don’t know.  What is next?

Happy 2016

Took a tour of the gardens today, just to see if this mild weather yielded any surprises.  I keep waiting for the hellebores, and was really hoping for that surprise.


The greens are looking good, but no blooms yet.  That’s good.  I will wait until Easter and take another garden walk!  Hopefully they will be sporting more color then – guess they call it Lenten Rose for a very good reason!


The cockleburs are very abundant in one neglected corner of the yard.  I can’t remember what the blooms looked like, but I think they were purple.  The seed pockets are very interesting, and very sticky.  Glad that most are too tall to be attached to Willis as he runs past.

Just as I was about to give up, I couldn’t believe what I saw just under the deck.


Little viola volunteers!  What a really lovely surprise.

I hope your new year is full of wonder and surprise!  Happy 2016!

Black Bean Soup

My dad loved to make soup.  Seemed like every weekend he would start chopping vegetables, soaking beans, and making stock for one of his famous and delicious creations.  He made fantastic beef barley, unbelievable chicken noodle, and he taught my mom how to make out-of-this-world chili.

One of my absolute least favorite soups that he made, and one of his absolute favorites, was bean soup.  He made it with ham stock and lima beans.  I’m not sure if my tastes ever matured enough to stomach it, as I was never able to consider eating it as an adult.

Who would ever believe that one of my favorite soups as a newbie vegetarian would be black bean soup.  I love my weekly visits to Panera Bread with Brittany, and enjoy their Black Bean Soup with a Classic Salad.  So one of my latest attempts at creating a “let’s eat out” experience at home is this Black Bean Soup recipe.


Converting recipes into vegetarian-friendly dishes is one of the challenges I’m learning to embrace.  I’ve substituted vegetable broth for the beef broth, and simply eliminated the chopped ham in the original recipe.

With garlic from the garden and home grown roma tomatoes if the recipe is made in season, this recipe passes as one I can post here on G4T.  My promise to myself that this new category will remain true to the theme of gardening – using home grown ingredients with delicious and beautiful results.

And it gets a thumbs up from Sean!

Lazy Lights

My neighbor always shares such interesting news with me.

Have you heard the news about those lazer lights you have shining there on your house?

I always think he’s about to compliment my latest decoration, but no, and woe, he is about to cut them down to size.

They are blinding pilots.

Really?  I try to laugh off the news.  But of course, I had to go search the internet for stories about pilots being blinded by my lights.  I did find one story out of Los Angeles, but it mostly reminded the owners of these star shower lights to be careful where you aim them.

My son rates the neighborhood attempts at decorating for Christmas.  It takes an extra special amount of effort to rate with him.  I got a C+ on my yard this year.  I try, I really try.

Wreaths on all the windows, gold trim on the wreaths to match the gold bows on the evergreens and lamp post.  Green lights enhance the evergreens, lighted packages decorate the spot in front of the tree.  And of course, my “lazy lights” as Sean loves to call them.

I believe the lazy lights are where I went wrong.  He expects some effort in trimming the entire house in lights.  Oh well.

This is my brother’s old sled.  I found this exciting pair of antique ice skates while browsing through a local “repurpose” shop, and decorated them all up for my display.


My brother and I used to ride down the backyard hill in the snow on sleds like this.  We had a great hill that leveled off before it went further down, sort of a double dip hill.  We would gather with the neighborhood kids on that hill – until the day that he and I rode down together.

I was on the back of a plastic toboggan, he was “driving”.  Right into the telephone pole at the bottom.  He yelled “ROLL”, which he did.

I did not hear him.

Christmas Memories – some of them good.  Some not so much.

Here’s hoping your home is filled with good ones this year.