Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Mis-Spent Vacation

Here it is hump day of my week's vacation and I haven't crossed anything from my "to do" list.  I had such plans - to work in the garden, to do a few projects around the house, to do a bit of shopping - you know, all those things that busy women push aside for "later", but later never comes.
It has been nice to sleep a little later in the mornings, not to rush home from jazzercize, and I have managed to not check my business email or return business phone calls.  (The down side of working from home, is that you are always "on duty" and too easy to reach.) But, so far, no garden time, no shopping and until this afternoon no projects.
Today I made Tomato Jam!  I've been using the abundance of stone fruits and berries this summer for jams and decided to try something a little different today - a jam of Roma tomatoes with sugar, spices, line juice and red pepper flakes.  Easy to make (no peeling of the tomatoes) but my first real canning in a water bath in years.  I found the recipe at a fun blog called Food in Jars
The cooking was a snap.  I just stirred it occasionally while it simmered down to about one third of the original volume.  It took about two hours, but I think I could have simmered hotter and faster.  Then into jars, twenty minutes in the water bath and voila!  
So, all's well now at our house.  Mitchell is home from his little overnight at the hospital and feeling a little punk.  About three weeks and he should be back to normal.  Guess he will be my project for the next couple of days and I'll worry about shopping next week.  

But we do have jam.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

For Better or for Not-so-Good

Marriage is a wonderful state.  That feeling of belonging wholeheartedly to another.  The sense of completeness that being together brings.  The safety of being part of a whole.  The joy of celebrating the other's birthday and enjoying it more than your own.
But the Not-so-Good days come, too.  The morning spent waiting to hear that the cancer has not spread.  The hours spent working on a seed order for the garden, while waiting for the surgery to be done.  The upbeat emails sent to friends, all the while worried that it is taking longer than they said.  [Turns out they were an hour late starting, but no one thought to mention that.]

Yes, marriage is definitely worth all the time and effort we put into it, but when the other half if "in sickness" it's not quite as nice.


I love it when a plan comes together - especially when it brings friends and family together to celebrate a significant birthday.  Elizabeth and CJ arrived Friday afternoon to help with final set up and logistics, while Abby and her husband came early to deliver folding chairs.  (It is a huge help to have a friend who throws big parties and who owns 40+ chairs!)
The carport makes a nice shaded space to eat, while the deck and yard are good for congregating.  The weather mostly cooperated.  We set up early in the morning, only to have rain roll thru at 11:00.  Quick, bring everything inside.  Rain again at 2:00 and back inside.  Finally at 4:00 when we had to make a go-or-no-go decision the skies cleared and we moved outside for good.  The rest of the evening was warm and lovely - perfect for an outside gathering.
Tables covered in bright colors - turquoise, yellow and green with orange napkins, yellow cups and Gerbera daisies in hot colors. 
Games in the yard for young and old. 
I love the way that a game can provide the common denominator that helps bring people together.  My college friend re-discovering that she knows a former co-worker of Mitchell's.  Or, our Hispanic neighbors patiently letting my boss practice his college Spanish on them.  Sadly, his joke didn't make it in translation.  Mitchell's tennis partner and his friend from South Africa discovering a common interest, and extended family meeting a wide variety of our friends, two children and a puppy.
Dinner of pulled pork (from his favorite BBQ restaurant), baked beans (my step-mom's best recipe) and coleslaw followed by a homemade pineapple upside down cake for the birthday boy.  All favorites chosen by the honoree. 
Apparently our guests cannot read, tho.  He had eschewed gifts, [Don't you love that word.  I think I have never used it before!] but many came anyway - mostly drinkable and readable - so he will have many reminders of a fun day and evening.
The youngest helped to feed the fish in the pond and played corn toss, but ended up - as kids do these days - with the electronics they brought along, playing until bed time while the adults talked.
Overall, a great day for everyone - even the cook!  Wish you could have been with us, too.
Sunday was a bit on the rainy side, but a delicious and easy breakfast of Jane's Boozy Baked French Toast got us off to a good start and all remnants of the festivities soon disappeared.  

Monday, August 15, 2011

August Flowers in the Garden

When I saw Belinda's post earlier this morning and realized that today is the day to take a serious look at what's blooming, my immediate thought was, "Oh no!"  I consider this the Norma Desmond time of the summer, and my garden definitely does not seem to be ready for any close-ups.   In looking a littler harder, tho, I realized that close-ups are just what the doctor (or director?) ordered.  There's actually a lot to love today, if you look closely.
Purslane - an impulse buy this spring, but I have liked it a lot.

Ceratostigma plumbaginoides (Hardy Plumbago) - Not the prettier, tall, phlox-like plumbago, but this one makes a nice ground cover that blooms late into the fall.  It has dark blue flowers and needs little water.

The last of the phlox.  Don't know which one this one is, but it is very resistant to mildew and has bloomed for several months now.
Alstroemeria 'Sweet Laura' PP # 10030 - A native of hot southern hemisphere climates, this little beauty is starting her second season.  She went dormant for six weeks in June and July now is coming back.  Wish I could get a pink one to grow half as well as this tiny yellow one.
 Nymphaea hybrid yellow 'Nenufar' - Mother bought this at Wal-Mart five or more years ago for my birthday.  It thrives in a pond liner with virtually no food and no care.  There is a resident family of camera-shy frogs, too. 
Sedum spurium 'Dragon's Blood' - a lovely small sedum in the most wonderful coral color.
Mystery plant - I think it's a catmint, but cannot find any record of it.  Horrors!
Rosa 'Radsunny' PP 18562 (shrub) - The new Knock Out rose has bloomed and bloomed and bloomed.  The plant has nearly doubled in size, as well.  If it can make it thru the winter, I think I have a winner for the future. 
Mandevilla - a lovely red one that is digging this heat.

Another mystery plant - The foliage looks iris-like, but I failed to keep the tag - egads!

And no summer day would be complete without a bit of buddleia davidii - this one is 'Black Knight'. 

If haven't already visited with Carol and the other gardeners, be sure to stop by here.

PS:  If you know either of my mystery plants, please let me know.
PPS: Birthday party tomorrow.