A-to-Z Challenge, Book Reviews

F is for . . . Finding time to read

Day 6 – A-to-Z Challenge – A few of my favorite things

I’ve never been an avid reader.  I always found it taxing – read three pages, realize I was actually daydreaming through the last two, reread the last two, move ahead three more, realize you were once again daydreaming through the last two.

I suppose they call it attention deficit disorder these days.  I’ve known about it long before it was an official diagnosis.

Most recently I decided to save a bit of money by riding a vanpool to work.  It’s great – I drive two miles to the meet-up, climb aboard and let someone else deal with all the traffic.  I can sit back and . . . do nothing.

Not really my style.

So I dug out the Kindle and started reading on my daily commute.  I can’t believe the difference this device has made.  I’m not sure why, but I find myself devouring books. Granted, the books I’ve read aren’t hard to concentrate on.  I’m really enjoying a few young adult novels, much to the dismay of my (then) teenage daughter.  But I think the action of clicking through the pages vs. turning the pages of a book might help keep me engaged.

The first books I read on the Kindle were the Twilight series.  Funny story, but I never realized how huge those books were until after I had read them.  My Kindle shows me % of book read, not the actual pages.  So I never knew these books hovered around 400 pages – gulp.

In my page turning days, I know I would have gotten half way through and gotten intimidated by the heft.  Or maybe holding all that weight just got to be too much for me to handle.

I don’t really know why, but I know I’m now loving my commute.  I do find it helpful to plug in to some white noise – you can only imagine the din with 12 women riding in close quarters.

But I’m reading more than ever.

The only problem is, I don’t retain much of what I’ve read.  So I’ve decided to open another vein on my blog.  Book reviews – who would have ever thought that I would find time for this!

A-to-Z Challenge, crochet

Ergonomic Crochet Hooks

Day 5 – A-to-Z Challenge – A few of my favorite things

I know, exciting stuff, right? But there’s a story behind it, really.

My grandma Alice (yes, another Alice in my life) taught me how to knit. I think I was 7 years old. My sister and I would get a week away every summer at grandma’s house. We did fun things with her. Puzzles, paint-by-numbers, embroidery, home-made ice cream and that year, she taught me how to knit.

How sad, the year we went to visit and I realized grandma was not working on any needlework projects. Her hands hurt and her eyes were no longer able to see the closeup range needed for such work. She had given it all up.

That was the moment I determined never to let my aging parts get in the way of my enjoyment. Easy for a teenager to say. Half a lifetime later, I understand grandma’s frustration.

I have to admit, the most frustrating part of aging is waning eyesight. I have been basically legally blind for most of my life, but was always able to see close up. Those days are gone. And now that the kids are grown, I have time to get back to the crafting that I have so missed along the years.

I’ve gotten back to crochet, and am finding wonderfully fun patterns to try (thanks Mr. Google). And I’ve also discovered these wonderful ergonomic crochet hooks, which help eliminate the cramping I’ve been experiencing while gripping my crochet hook.

So yes, indeed, ergonomic crochet hooks are one of my favorite things!

A-to-Z Challenge, Daylily

D is for Daffodils

Day 4 – A-to-Z Challenge – A few of my favorite things

My absolute favorite perennial D flower are day lilies, of just about any variety. I had 28 varieties in my former home’s garden, and honestly, the only thing I miss from that house is them. I did try to salvage a few, but I’m most likely going to have to start a fresh collection here at the new place.

In the meantime, my favorite bulb flower would have to be daffodils. Charming, cheerful, and simply the best introduction to spring! Deer won’t touch them, so they will survive if they happen to live nearby. So dependable. Here is my very first bloom in my new yard this year.

“Ice King” daffodil

I thought I wanted to “naturalize” them in the front yard, but I’m not sure that was such a great idea. As wonderful as they look coming up in the lawn, they will be a challenge when we have to cut the grass here shortly.

You really want to let the greens die back, at least until they turn yellow, as the greens will nourish the bulbs for next year’s blooms. I’m probably going to transplant them after this season.

A-to-Z Challenge, family

Cake – of the almond variety with raspberry filling

Day 3 – #A-to-ZChallenge – A few of my favorite things

For those of you who are hoping for a tried and true recipe for this cake, sorry to disappoint. My best recipes come from my trusty Betty Crocker cookbook (circa 1990), or more recently, a search on the All Recipes website. So I really can’t admit to EVER making this kind of cake, but I would love to try.

Actually, one of the things that I find interesting about this quarantine existence is my unexplained need to make food from scratch. (Note to the Instagram generation – “from scratch” means no mixes, every ingredient is added separately).

I had to call my mom last week for the recipe in HER Betty Crocker cookbook (circa 1970) for Pineapple Upside Down Cake. Turns out, it’s quite similar to the recipe in my book, but there is this Dinette Cake recipe in her much older version that is simply the bomb. I actually think they forgot to mention the vanilla extract in my recipe, and instead of all purpose flour, it calls for cake flour. Not sure what the difference is, but just those two small adjustments is the difference between pretty good and awesome! But I do digress . . .

We have a local bakery (which is found in a local grocery store) that makes the most excellent almond cake with raspberry filling. It just happens to be my favorite – I even had this as my wedding cake. Don’t particularly care for buttercream frosting, but another vintage recipe comes from my mom’s recipe card stash. My Aunt Enie’s “Good Icing” recipe. I will share this recipe with you, as I really have made this in the past. It is the best frosting I have ever tasted.

a truly vintage recipe

I always said, the best recipes look well worn. And this one truly is.

UPDATE: Simply writing this post inspired me! Why not try to make the very cake that my daughter and I agree to be the best combination of flavors in cake, EVER! I did cheat a bit by using a white cake mix, but I added 2 tablespoons of almond extract, and WALA! Almond cake. I found a super simple recipe for raspberry filling, made a batch of Aunt Enie’s “Good Icing”. I have to tell you, this is the best cake I have ever eaten. Even better than the store bought one.

best cake EVER
A-to-Z Challenge, family, garden

Life is a Beach

Day 2 / A-to-Z Challenge 2020 / A few of my favorite things

I’ve always envied the people I know who have friends at the beach. Friends who open their door to visitors from the North! How wonderful it would be to hop in the car and head to the shore, without the stress of picking a beach house. And paying for said beach house. Without the stress of not knowing exactly where you are going, and not truly knowing what to expect.

Well, dear readers, it finally happened for me! My wonderful dog, Willis, moved to the beach this past summer. Oh, and he took my son with him.

I’m starting to adjust to the new sounds of our new house without them. I can hear each creak (houses do so much settling), the ice maker in the fridge, each clock that ticks in the halls. I hear water running, I know that one of the toilets needs a handle jiggle.

I can hear myself think.

I think Parker misses them, too. He doesn’t bark at every passing walker anymore. He doesn’t have Willis to protect him! He loved getting Willis in trouble, as if I didn’t know who started it all. Just like brothers, those two.

One of the most wonderful things about my new neighborhood is that it is so quiet. I never did get used to living 50 feet from the turnpike. The old neighbors assured me that it would eventually become background noise. It did not. I will never miss the traffic noise.

But I do miss the sound of laughter and (occasional) barking.

I need to plan a trip to the beach!

A-to-Z Challenge, garden

Alice’s Arbor

Welcome to my first installment of the Blogging from A-to-Z Challenge 2020! First up – the letter A!

I’ve been doing quite a bit of online shopping these days. I really don’t care much for the in-person style of shopping, never have. But online shopping? Can’t get enough of it! I remember back when the kids were small, the idea of online shopping was pretty new. I felt like I was the only person who had ever heard of Cyber Monday. It was the best way to handle Christmas shopping – no crowds, comparisons were right at the click of a button, and if you played your cards right, shipping was free!

Fast forward about 15 years, and here we are. Online shopping to avoid human contact in the shadow of COVID19, even if we do enjoy that part of in-person shopping. If I’m quite honest, this social distancing that we are living now is heavenly.

Last summer was quite a blur, I really didn’t have the energy to start designing the yard-scape. A few stress items (that I will spare you) really sent me reeling down a bit of a depressive rabbit hole. Thankfully, I was able to recognize the problem, sought the advice of my doctor, and got the help I needed to get moving again.

And thankfully, I’ve rediscovered my best therapy – in the garden. It really is my salvation.

My garden mentor, Alice, stopped by last Thursday. She helped me get started on some borders on my new property. She has so many ideas for me, and really helps me focus on one idea at a time. We started on the front lawn where we dug out the old plastic edging, created a new expanded border, dug out a dying azelea. All in a matter of 3 hours.

I’m in a quandary about what to do with the NW facing side yard, where the sun does not hit at all. I’m thinking a rock garden will be the eventual solution. There is a perfect location for an arbor, which I had thought of when we first moved in last year. And Alice was thinking along the same lines, and reminded me of that thought.

Photo credit: Wayfair

I went online last night, found a perfect arbor on Wayfair, and rather than continue to think it over (and potentially lose out on this most perfect design) I placed the order.

Don’t you know, it’s on its way already and might even be here by tomorrow! Yikes!

Here we go!!

A-to-Z Challenge

Reflections

Well, I didn’t quite make it to the end of the A-to-Z Challenge, but there’s always next year!  Don’t I sound just like a gardener there!

This being my first attempt at the challenge, making it half-way really gives me a goal for next year.  Somehow, the challenge really ‘snuck’ up on me.  I think that if the reminders started coming sooner, I may have had more time to prepare.  I know for next year, I will be starting my posts well in advance of the start date.  Trying to keep up with posting daily, and still have time to hop around to other blogs in the challenge, is just a bit overwhelming.  And you really don’t realize how overwhelming it will get until you’re in the thick of it!

My stats page proved that participating in this challenge brought traffic in numbers I have never seen before.  Over 120 visitors and over 350 views – quite significant for g4t! And for only a half month participation, that’s not bad!  I did get to meet a few other garden bloggers who I may never have met otherwise.  So all in all, it was worth the half month of stress!

I’m going to have to come up with a really good theme to tie in to my gardening blog, again, thoughts for next year! One thing is for certain, I have a new respect for the bloggers who do it every day, challenge or no!

A-to-Z Reflection [2018]

 

Whew! Time to breathe!  Now let’s get that weeding done!!

A-to-Z Challenge, flowers

Nostalgia to grow on

There are some flowers that really take me back.

Al’s wife, Pat, the neighbor on the other side, planted some 4 o’clocks a couple of years back.  Their daughter, Pamela, had found the plant at a small garden shop somewhere between her house and theirs.  Pat swore it was one plant that had miraculously bloomed in about 5 different colors.  I kept quiet, knowing full well the chances of that were slim at best.

multi four oclock

Orange, yellow, pink, pink striped yellow, and deep pink.

Pat insisted I take a bag of the black seeds she was saving for me.  A bag full that was enough seed to last for, well, a good number of years if not the rest of my life.  I have had that bag of seeds for about 3 years now.  Finally, last year, I planted a few seeds.  I was hoping for yellow.  But when it did bloom, it was the deep pink.

 

Deep pink.  The very color my dad used to have.

pink 4 oclock

Loved gathering the black seeds from his 4 o’clocks.  Never mind the daddy-long-legs that seemed to love the plants as much as we kids did.

 

Along with that bag of seeds, Pat also shared an equally large bag of marigold seed.  Not sure where she thought I was going to plant all of these seeds.  But last year, I also had marigolds growing along the sidewalk, between the liriope.

 

Orange and yellow they were.

marigold

I used to take marigolds over to grandma’s house to plant on her birthday.  May is such a super month for a birthday.  I only did this for about 4 years, before we had to sell the house and move her away.  She always said how much she loved the marigolds.

I really hope she did.

 

N

garden creatures

Ladybugs – One of the Good Guys

Think you know your ladybugs?  They are a welcome guest in the garden, and the reasons are many.  They are a friendly beetle and help battle the bad vermin who feast on the plants of our gardens.  Here are a few things you may not know about ladybugs.

ladybug-on-stem

What do the spots on a ladybug really mean?

Many people believe that the number of spots on a ladybug represents how many years the ladybug has lived.  The spots are actually a defense mechanism that warns its predators to “don’t eat me, I don’t taste very good”.  Ladybugs live through 2 or 3 summer seasons, so those spots really have nothing at all to do with their age.

They can’t all be girls, right?  So what’s with the name?

According to National Geographic – Kids, the name “ladybug” was coined by European farmers who prayed to the Virgin Mary when pests began eating their crops.  After ladybugs came and wiped out the invading insects, the farmers named them “beetle of Our Lady.”  This eventually was shortened to “lady beetle” and “ladybug.”

ladybug-on-daisy

What do ladybugs eat?

Most people like them because they are pretty, graceful, and harmless to humans. But farmers love them because they eat aphids and other plant-eating pests. One ladybug can eat up to 5,000 insects in its lifetime!

What’s that?  Did this bug just pee on me?

I remember capturing ladybugs when I was young, holding it gently in cupped hand, singing to it to fly away fly away home.  Then looking and realizing there was a yellow liquid on my hand.  When threatened, the bugs will secrete an oily, foul-tasting fluid from joints in their legs.

ladybug-on-dew

Do ladybugs have any natural enemies?

Birds are ladybugs’ main predators, but they also fall victim to frogs, wasps, spiders, and dragonflies. Ladybugs lay their eggs in clusters or rows on the underside of a leaf, usually where aphids have gathered.

L

 

L is for ladybugs . . . but don’t fly away yet!  This alphabet challenge is almost half over!

A-to-Z Challenge, garden, shade garden

Japanese Painted Fern – It’s the J Word

Like so many of the plants in my garden, the Japanese Painted Fern was a toss-off from Alice’s garden.

JapanesePaintedFernMetallicum-2

Before she moved away, I could count on receiving numerous buckets of plants each summer as she divided her plants and rearranged her gardens.  Her yard was no bigger than mine, but the variety of plants she cultivated was impressive.

japfern2

japnastilbe

The Japanese Painted Fern (athyrium) is a lovely, showy piece that loves shade.  It looks great with shade loving plants like hosta and astilbe (white flowers above).

It’s a small fern, so you will want to keep it closer to the front of your shade border.

Japanese Painted Fern at the Pond
photo by alamy.com

It is easily divided, so you can tuck it in numerous places for a showy touch of color.

J

 

Challenging time with this letter today.  Had to laugh when I googled “garden terms that start with J” and the returned search was “empty”