Monday, July 28, 2014

Sunflowers as Privacy Wall

This is the year of the sunflower.

As in, since we had a beautiful border collie living in our backyard for three months, our garden has been totally rearranged and we have seeds of all sorts in brand new spaces, including but not limited to a crop of sunflowers you would not believe. Nor would you normally plant them where they are - eclipsing strawberries, tea roses, and assorted other plants residing in the kitchen garden.

But such is the exciting life in the garden when a four-legged furry canine youth conquers the great backyard.

At the beginning of spring, I mercilessly ripped sunflower seedlings from the strawberry patch/triangle herb garden. After days of this, I started wondering,

"What if I let them grow and they formed a privacy wall?"

Our backyard and sliding glass door in the family room peers directly into the backyard of the neighbor. I've had several great ideas for shielding and making a wall, all for the purpose of privacy, art, and garden decor. But nothing has come of those fabulous thoughts.

Sunflower wall blocking patio window and providing shade

Until the dog helped things along.

Now, in spite of losing several roof-height plants due to windstorms, we have a lovely, flower-ful bee-nectar-supplying private, natural, shade-providing wall. Finches and sparrows love it. Multiple varieties of bees work tirelessly from sun-up to sun-down, buzzing from flower to flower.

Sunflower wall from the inside, looking out

Shade wasn't a part of the original equation, but wow, what a perfect way to keep the sun at bay on hot summer afternoons!

Thanks, Magi, for the sowing of the seeds.

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Big M

It's official. The Big M has come to this body.

Big M? you ask.


One word that conjures up images of gray hair, sweating, flushed, emotional, sleep-deprived, hormonal women of a certain middle-aged category.

I can attest that those images are not without reason.

There are no less than three separate fans, four if you count the traveling one that goes on trips or moves to strategic areas as needed, in our home. And don't forget the three ceiling fans. And the huge cooking fan I found in Paris. Oh! And the folding purse fan for emergency cooling on-the-go.

No. I'm not obsessive. Well, maybe just a little. I do feel a bit panicked when I feel the wave of heat and lobster skin flush rushing through my system and there is no access to air movement.

Some tools I use to help:

~ In the bedroom: ceiling fan, box fan, and rotating fan - coming from three directions

~ In the office: small fan on the floor near my feet - turned on and off as needed

~ In the living room and family room: hand fans and ceiling fans

~ On the go: small travel fan (actually, it may be classified as a mid-size model that fits in the suitcase) and folding purse fan

Clothes to wear (or not wear) - Think LESS is MORE cooling:

~ Cotton seems to be much nicer on my internal heating system; thin and light weight items are best

~ Sleeveless or barely-there sleeves cool my arms

~ Shorts or skirts have the flexibility to be pulled up or flapped around, and allow large areas of skin to be exposed to any electrically induced breeze

~ Boxers and tank tops, my favorite sleep and working-at-home outfit

Must haves:

~ baby powder - I powder myself up each night before bed - to absorb sweat

~ handkerchiefs - something to wipe off sweat, much better than my shirt or hands

~ pony tail supplies - scrunchies, hair clips, headbands

"A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous." -Coco Chanel

C'mon, women! Let's make our own Big M Club. We already know we are fabulous, we with our hot flashes, sags, gray hair, and roller coasters of emotions. Let's embrace the changes our bodies are experiencing with class. Encourage each other to waltz gracefully through menopause. Cheer as we make it through. And share tips - lots of helpful tips - to ensure the survival of our species - WOMEN.

Any ideas? Please, I beg of you, please. Give us your helpful ideas.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

A New Look

It's time for a new look.

Spring flowers - a new beginning in the yard

My friends, you need to have some fresh views in your line of sight. Et voila!

Oh, and you also need an apology. It's time for the blogger to eat crow. I'm all over those funny Grammarly posts on FB. Especially the ones where the apostrophes are used incorrectly.

Yet, not once, not ONCE, did I notice that I had misused apostrophes twice in my blog title! Ouch. Double ouch. My most sincere apologies to you, the readers. Please! Pretty please with sugar on top. If you see that again, let me know. I shall hire you as my editors.

The sisters, Monet and Mabel, can't believe I misused apostrophes!

New Things ~

~ This refreshed blog template. Love the blue skies and the feeling of being outside on a beautiful day. Nature rocks!

~ A new photo of yours truly. I'm going for a new look as I grow out the dye and let gray rule the day.

~ A new career. This hopeful wordsmith is following her dream of writing.

~ A fresh start. Everyone needs something new. My brain cells are very unsettled and excited about the changed appearance of the blog and the possibilities unfolding as each new day dawns.

~ New helpers. See below. I can't help how adorable they are. Still figuring out how to channel their assistance.

Monet, on my work notebook

Mabel, hogging my chair

What do you think?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Lavender Love

Lavender Days at the Selah Ridge Lavender Farm

I adore lavender. In fact, I dream about growing my own fields of lavender and distilling it for essential oils.

Last weekend we had the grands. Despite the zesty heat, we popped them into the air-conditioned car and headed to the lavender farm. It was HOT.

In fact, our fashion of the day shows the weather-dictated reason for wardrobe choices.
Spiderman jammy top, swim trunks, Minnie Mouse swimsuit, and sandals. All set.

The lavender was beautiful and fragrant, as usual. Samples of lavender lemonade chilled our throats. We found a lavender-walled grassy garden spot that was perfect for pretending it was our house. And the AC filled car was our favorite part of the trip. Too hot!

Feeling the heat!

This dirt is wayyyyyy more interesting than lavender.

To the car, Papa!

Lavender days.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Peas, You Gotta Love 'Em

I love peas!

Especially fresh from the garden, raw peas. They are little green globes of crunch, sweetness, and green.

Yes. Green is a flavor.

Today I fought slugs, bees, sow bugs, daddy long legs, and wasps to dig for ripe pods. Taunt, miniature sleeping bags of garden delight abounded for this harvester.

Shelled. Washed. Blanched. Cooled. Bagged. Frozen.

Now there is a veggie to look forward to!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Picture Blocks - A Gift for Dad (or Anyone Else)

Check out this easy and super adorable picture block craft. It is so cute I am making one for my son (his first father's day) and my son-in-law. My kindergartners made them, with a little help, to give to their fathers at our Donuts with Dad. But they could easily be made for any occasion.

1. Cut 4x4 posts into 4-5 inch length pieces. Use sandpaper and smooth the edges. Kinders loved this step.

2. Make chalk paint by adding Plaster of Paris to your favorite paint. I used to worry about following a recipe, but now I just add until it has the consistency I want. Stir until smooth.

3. Paint wood block and let dry. I like to use 2 coats of paint. It is fun to use sandpaper along the edges to rough up and age the painted wood block.

4. Use four pictures for the sides. Trim to fit. Make sure there is at least 1/4 inch of space around all sides of the photos. Paint each side of block with Modge Podge or any decoupage glue. Stick on photo and cover with another layer of decoupage glue. Let dry. Add another coat if needed.

5. Use the same decoupage glue method to add a bottom label (with a personal message) and a top label. I like using pieces of scrapping paper. Cover all edges with decoupage glue. Dry. I put pieces on wax paper or up on pieces of straws for best drying. Don't stick wet blocks down on anything.

6. Give as a gift!

Use Those Sunflowers!

I do not feel guilty for chopping off sunflowers and putting them in the house. For several reasons:

1. There are close to a thousand sunflowers growing in my kitchen garden, compliments of the dog who tilled and sowed all she could find.

2. They are beautiful!

3. Sunflowers normally attract birds. But since the same sparrow hawks have nested and successfully raised offspring right next to our fence as last year, I have no small birds to eat said seeds.

4. I do not. Repeat, DO NOT, want as many sunflowers in my garden next year.

5. The bees have plenty of other sunflowers to visit.

6. The sunflower screening wall is complete. I can no longer see through into the neighbors' backyard. Privacy adequate for occasional race out in my boxers.

7. Grandchildren are impressed with sunflowers, but not accompanying insects.

8. Large variety available - a giant sunflower (have not planted those in years. YEARS.); sunset burgundy sunflowers (my favorite); small yellow sunflowers; medium yellow sunflowers; plus many others I can not identify with ever having planted.

9. I pulled out hundreds of babies in the spring. Why not enjoy the surviving flowers?

10. The garden shed bed does not need reseeding this year. Or ever.

Enjoy those sunflowers!

Tip: Use those pretty old blue brew bottles for vases. Each thick sunflower stem fits perfectly in one bottle.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Help is Never Far Away

What is it that Dumbledore says to Harry in the second movie featuring the Chamber of Secrets? Something like "Help will never be far from those who need it" or "Help will always be given to those who deserve it."

I'm finding that very true in my house.

Help comes in small packages! And it is always, always available, needed or not.

And look! The kitties are ever so generous. I came back into the room, and I found a prize. Mr. Mousey would like to help me read the Bible.

Anyone need extra help? I've got plenty to spare.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Rustic Blueberry Galette

Oh, Papa, you are busted!

Last week, the neighbor was out of town and invited us to pick blueberries from his laden bushes. Joy! I took the two grands who were with me for the day over and we picked a full colander. I had plans to make a rustic blueberry pie, based on a photo and recipe I found in Relish, a newspaper insert which is always full of yummy recipes and enticing photos.

We made it! The grands helped pick, wash, mix, and dump ingredients onto the crooked-edged crust. We baked it, and oh, it smelled fantastic.

And then it was time to go home. Hayden, mastermind of chocolate, was enthralled with the pie and couldn't wait to taste it. But daddy came to pick them up first.

Fast forward a week (the pie had long been gone, mostly into Papa's tummy). I again had the two older grands at my house. As we went to the counter, Hayden spied the recipe still stuck in a clip to the side of the fridge.

"Nana," he accused, "did papa eat all that pie?"

Oh. BUSTED. "Yes, honey, he did."

"Aw. We wanted to eat some!" replied a crestfallen young boy.

I think we will need to make another rustic blueberry pie. Especially for a certain boy who loves to help Nana bake and eat. None for Papa.

Oh, and the pie really was not for blueberries, which is what I thought the entire time I read it, baked it, and ate it. One day, I realized the words said (and the picture showed) blackberry.

I loved it as blueberry.

Rustic Blueberry Galette (totally adjusted as follows, which is the only way I cook)

1 whole wheat pie crust (I simply followed a pie crust recipe but switched out half the flour for whole wheat)
5 cups blueberries
1/2 cup sugar, plus a little for sprinkling on the top
3 T. cornstarch
3 T. orange marmalade (recipe calls for berry jam, but all I had was marmalade)

Gently mix all ingredients until blueberries are covered. Roll pie crust out, leaving edges uneven. Fold into pie pan. Do not trim off extra. Pour blueberry mix into pie dish. Gently fold crust over top, leaving middle exposed. Wash crust with a dab of water and sprinkle on sugar.

Bake at 375 about 45-50 minutes, until berries are bubbling and crust is golden. Cool and serve. I think ice cream would be a wonderful addition, but certainly this galette stands on its own!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

New Decorating Trend

Decor by Khloe'

Need something new? Want a fresh look in your living areas? Tired of the same old same old?

Check out this new, just discovered young decorator. Known for effortless ease of mixing and matching, curating and combining, Khloe' aspires to be and do all things with the exuberance and energy of an explosive personality.

Be watching the headlines. This is not all you will hear about the cutting edge style of Khloe'.

~What my house looks like after Khloe' has left with mommy or daddy. Notice the use of international intrigue (pashmina), love of travel and adventure (airplane pillow), multi-cultural adoration (dolls), and friendship (two best buddies).