Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Day

I don't know why it was such a tiring day.  Maybe because it was an extra one? Anywho... So I found myself at Starbucks after work... and since I was there, I figured I should at least get something... It would be rude not to, right?

Ahhh - venti latte.  Perfect thing for an afternoon pick me up on a cold wet extra February day.

This is one of the reasons I just love working in the city.  The luxury of lattes to go any time of day or night.

Yum.  Happy Leap Day!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Indigo Sky

The sky this morning was a perfect indigo.  Not too early that it was pure darkness and not too late that the sun starting washing away the deep blues.

I love the sky this time of year because it is the beginning of "the flip".  When spring starts, the morning sky is this perfect blue.  When spring ends, this will be the color at night.  It flips.

It was a quiet, perfect start to the day.

Monday, February 27, 2012

For the Birds

Whenever I see a pile of pigeons I always am amazed at the colors.  They are like little flying rainbows when you get to see them close-up. And they really are not shy at all.  I think they know we will move out of their way.

Pigeons are not really looked upon fondly most of the time.  Their nickname is "flying rats".  I'm not sure why, but that's what it is.  Even with that nickname I think there's something very "New York" about walking down the street and seeing a pile of pigeons going after a pile of birdseed that someone has tossed on the sidewalk.

The pigeons always get the main meal - even if the sparrows find it first, the pigeons come in and take over the pile - pushing the sparrows out to the edge.  The sparrows still get enough to eat because the pigeons are really messy eaters and never finish everything.

With all of their brightly colored feathers, I wonder if they could be called "city peacocks".  It sounds so much better.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Vitae Worries

Every year I worry about my little arborvitaes during the winter.  Okay, I obsess.  They turn bronze.

It gets dark, they get cold and they turn bronze.  And I panic.

Every year.

I ask my girlfriend gardening expert extraordinaire whatever shall I do!?!? My poor arborvitaes are turning bronze. I fear they won't last the winter!!!

And she goes through the same thing each and every time - which basically boils down to "they are what they are".

So today when I went out and looked at the arborvitae and saw just how bronze they were, I panicked.

I remembered that they are what they are. I took some deep breaths.  Then a few more.

Then I looked at how lovely the bronze looked as it contrasted with the bit of green in the center of the shrub.  And I noticed how it brought some life to the space especially when contrasted with the bit of snow on the ground.  Then I saw the contrast with the reddish bronze and the rhododendron's lime-green and I thought.

How lovely.

Then I came inside and googled why leaves turn bonze in winter.  But I didn't call my girlfriend this time!

Baby steps.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Evening Sky

Even though most of the day was spent indoors hiding from the bitterly cold winds, I made a quick trip over the mountain to the store.

The sun was just starting to think about setting.  The dark snow clouds were behind me.

It was just lovely to see the golds reflected in the fields and think about Spring.

Then a deer jumped out onto the road in front of me and I stopped taking pictures while driving.

No harm to the deer or me or the truck, but ... probably shouldn't take pictures when the sun is starting to think about setting.  That's the same time the deer are thinking about getting some dinner.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Snow Again

I learned something with this mornings not-so-little snowy surprise. Yes, the weatherman said there was no rain or snow by me, wrong again - thank you very much. But that wasn't what I learned.

I learned that when the schools are closed, they don't plow the roads.  It was a hard lesson!

I thought, maybe the plow would come any minute.  I saw headlights down the road "a piece". I waited, but no plow.  You couldn't see the surface of the road.  I just kind of guessed at where I thought a lane should go.  I figure I was only 10 or so feet off the mark!

Even with new tires and a heavy truck it was a slow and skidding drive to the train station.  

Only 2 of us made it there.  

Everyone else took the day off.


Thursday, February 23, 2012

It Pops!

I had heard about them, but until today, I had never encountered one in real life.  What is it? It's a cake pop!

You take some cake and mix it up with icing then form it into a ball, stick a lollypop stick in it and dip it in chocolate then decorate to your heart's content.  Sprinkles, swirls, anything goes.

I could not believe how incredibly overpoweringly sweet these were.  I am not shy when it comes to sweets - especially baked goods - but these were so totally over the top chokingly sweet I could not believe it.  It was like eating confectioner's sugar bombs.  I could not finish even one - shocking!

I think these make a wonderful presentation - so cute! But the balance of cake/icing has to be ever so carefully done or what could be a wonderful little cake bite becomes a gagging mouthful of sweet.

I took a survey from my friends - none of whom had had a cake pop before either.  They all loved them!

Could it be that my taste buds have finally had enough cake?

Nah! Never gonna happen.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Little Formal

A few tiny orange berries are still hanging on to this trellised vine.  Just enough for a sparrow or two to have an afternoon snack.

As the seasons warm up there will be fantastic blossoms all over the trellis.  I'll try to remember to catch a picture of them for you.  They really are quite beautiful.

This is one of my favorite sidewalk gardens near where I work.  I like the formality of the espaliered vine and the neatly trimmed boxwood sitting right in front of it.  It is like a miniature formal garden in a 3x3-foot space.  

I always smile when I see it.  I always think that the gardeners who take care of it pay attention to each tiny leaf and twig.  I think they spend a lot of time just contemplating the way their garden grows and watching which way nature wants to take it - then they make it seem so formal.  

But if you really look at the way the plants are growing in, you can see that there isn't a 'forced' formality to it.  It is really quite natural, just cleaned up a bit here and there.  

To me, that's a much more difficult, but much more correct way to garden.  

No matter how it got there, though, it is a sweet little spot of Spring.


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Grey Day

It was a chilly grey day with winds whipping down the streets.  Mind you, I am so not complaining.  There were no snow storms, blizzards or ice storms.  So not complaining.

But it was a chilly November February day.  And what could be better on a day like today than...

A double-shot espresso and fresh biscotti.  Pretty much nothing.


Monday, February 20, 2012

The Best Part

This is the best part about having a day at home.  From the start of the day (maybe a little earlier than I had hoped) until bedtime, my little pup is right there.  Playful, cute, attentive and smart.  

She's a good girl and I just love spending the day with her.

Happy President's Day!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Take That, Yarn Harlot!

I finished reading the Yarn Harlot blog today.  Well, actually do you ever finish reading a blog?  It keeps getting new posts.  So, I guess not.  I read all the posts up to today's on the Yarn Harlot blog and I have to say that after I was done, I felt that my fiber arts skills are really lame.

Let's set aside, for a moment, that she is a professional knitter/fiber artist/knitting author (NY Times Best Selling Author, no less) - she does it for a living.  Let's just put that all aside and focus on one little tiny thing.  I've been knitting for as long as she has and I have yet to make 1 single pair of socks!

Not only does she knit socks (pick any month, you'll find them), but in 2011she set up her own sock club and knit a pair a month from that in addition to the 8 other pairs she knit up - and those are just the ones she blogged about.  (I know, right? But we're setting aside the fact that she does a Sock Camp and a Sock Summit.)  Then she goes on her book tours and encourages sock knitting from coast to coast.

And to top it all off, she seems like an intelligent, hard working, loving and all around nice person.

But!  I still felt lame with a miserable case of sock envy.  She's the one who knit up a scarf in two days - I'm still working on mine (it's all those beads) and I don't see an end in sight.

So, what's a girl to do?  The only thing I could - the one thing that I knew for sure that Stephanie Pearl-McPhee would never be able to do better than me.

I roasted a turkey.

With stuffing.

That was almost making me feel better, but not all the way better.  So then...

I baked up a batch or 7 of Biscuit Fiend dog treats.

Now I feel much better because I know for sure that the Yarn Harlot can never ever do that.  

Why?  She's a vegetarian - who has a cat.  

So there!  Take that, Yarn Harlot!  You may be a phenomenal professional knitter and NY Times Best Selling Author and write really humorous and informative books and beautiful knitting patterns and encourage donations to a fantastic charity and be a good person, mother and wife - BUT! 

I can roast a turkey and make healthy organic dog biscuits.

(Okay, how hard can it be...where's that sock yarn?)

Saturday, February 18, 2012

It's Coming!

Today I went searching for signs of Spring.  At first I was worried that it would go as well as my search for livestock last weekend, but I am happy to report that Spring is on its' way!  Even though the sedum is still hanging on to the rusty reds of Winter, there was a definite sighting of Spring here in the gardens.

The daffodils are starting to poke through the remains of the leaves from last Fall.  Their tips are a bit yellowed from the cold temps we've been having at night, but they are really doing well - don't you think?  Soon they'll be popping up all over the place.  Spring is coming!

And as if to prove that nice weather is planned for the weekend...

The cows are out in the fields today - just strolling around, munching on grass, enjoying the sun.

Daffodils.  Cows.  What more could a girl ask for?

Friday, February 17, 2012


One of the best things about my office is that it looks out into one of the spruce trees in the yard.  These trees are huge.  Much taller than the house and if the pictures from the historical society are to be believed, much older than the house.

The thing I enjoy about these trees isn't the pinecones that fall like missiles from above (one managed to hit the ground and bury itself 1-foot down - glad it didn't hit anyone!).  It isn't the pollen that it sheds turning everything it touches yellow and dusty.

It's having that green during the winter - whenever I want it or just absolutely need a burst of deep evergreen green, I just look out the window and there it is.

It's like living in the tree canopy.  I like that - even though I frequently scare the heck out of the squirrels!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Snowy Surprise

I've never understood how it is even possible that weathermen get the weather wrong when they are reporting what is happening at that moment.  All they have to do is look out the window.

But day after day, I listen to the weather and (foolishly) I believe them.

Yesterday, I was watching the weather.  The man said it was currently raining outside.  The radar said there was rain outside.  I heard dripping from the eaves.  I heard cars passing by on a wet road.  I truly believed it was raining outside.

Until I walked outside and found almost 2-inches of snow on the ground.

Seriously.  How hard is it?

I really have to stop listening to the weatherman.  He's really never ever right.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go and find my umbrella.  It's supposed to rain like cats and dogs tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Flower Time in the City

Yesterday being Valentine's Day and all was *the* day for flower sales in Manhattan - and if there's one thing I love, it's flowers.  There are a few different levels of flowers I have gotten over the years.  There are the delivered FTD bouquets that come to the office, the custom florist bouquets for office or home and then the pre-packaged bouquets.

These are the florists prepackaged bouquets.  Very traditional roses with baby's breath.   These are the roses that the florist is trying to salvage from his flower order.  The good ones with lots of petals are inside in the refrigerator.  For these ones, he has stripped off the dying outer petals and added baby's breath.  They are quite lovely and have a lot of petals still left on them so you can get about 3-5 days worth of life out of them.  The problem is, they are sold in bunches of 6.  6 roses is not a dozen.  

These are the deli roses - the ones sold in the buckets outside of the corner deli.  Pick up a sandwich, 6-pack and a bunch of roses - perfect!  These are fun bouquets because they have a mix of flowers.  You get a few of your basic roses, but they also add in any other red or white flower.  You won't see much baby's breath here (it's actually kind of expensive), but you will see lilies, gerbera daisys and those red berries left over from the Christmas wreaths.  These bouquets usually will last 7-10 days because of the lilies and the berries and I actually like them a lot.  I would split up the bouquet and put little bud vases around the house with different flowers in them.

These are my personal favorites - the flower cart roses.  You will find this woman (or her sister) at each and every subway and train station entrance just as rush hour begins on Valentine's day.  She has standard carnation mixes, roses with baby's breath and single roses individually wrapped at a really good price.  It's perfect!  Her flower distributor gets whatever the other guys didn't get from the flower district and she cleans them up and wraps them up for sale.

Maybe I like her best because she is out there "working it", really pushing (literally) her wares to the consumer.  I know that she's probably been up since well before dawn to get the flowers, prepare the flowers and then get her cart from all the way down in the flower district (28th Street) up to the station (125th Street).  And yet she's cheery and bright.  She must really love her family to be out here selling no matter what the weather.  

Some years her daughter sits with her.  During the summer she sells ices (rainbow, coconut, cherry and lemon-lime).  Her daughter is with her most of the time in the summer and her mom is teaching her business, encouraging her reading and summer studies.  They're pretty close.  For New Year's she sells funny glasses and noisemakers.  Whatever the holiday, she has the appropriate accessories for sale - and she loves to bargain the price.

To me, this woman really captured the heart of Valentine's Day with her steadfast, happy and hope-filled attitude.  It's not a flash-in-the-pan, it's her working and caring for family that matters.  It's what keeps her going.

I think that, more than anything, is a really good message for Valentine's Day.  (The love part - not the commerce!)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

It's An Honor Just To Be Nominated

My friend pointed out that I have been nominated for the Bloggers Choice Awards in the categories of Best Blog About Stuff, Best Food Blog (they must not have tried the chili!), Best Hobby Blog and Best Humor Blog.  I'd love for you to vote for my site - if you think it's worthy - if not, you can vote for other worthy sites!


My site was nominated for Best Hobby Blog! My site was nominated for Best Blog About Stuff! My site was nominated for Best Food Blog! My site was nominated for Best Humor Blog!

Thank you and Happy Valentine's Day!

Monday, February 13, 2012

This Time I WonÕt Panic

I am without the internet, but this time when faced with a computer crisis of the utmost magnitude, I am completely prepared. Well, sort of prepared. Well, a little prepared Ð at least I think this will work.

I have checked and rechecked everything I can check and I think that the problem (for once) is not me. It is my carrier! All of my house computers are talking and chatting o each other as if nothing strange is going on, they just won't talk to any strangers.

I've tried to convince them that you Ð my dears Ð are not strangers. Some of you have even met my computer! But still, after reboots and pushed buttons, nothing is convincing them.

I will resort to Ôplan BÕ. Posting by email. I looked into this when I first set up the bucolic manor. Knowing computers are the way they are Ð and knowing that one day (probably the most inconvenient of days) my access would be dropped Ð I planned in advance.

So really, this is more of a test (even though I am totally counting it as a post) to see if I can accomplish a technological feat of wonder and amazement!

First, I write the post (this) on my trusty steed (laptop).
Second, I will transfer the post via Bluetooth to my sidekick (handheld).
Third, I will import the post from my document reader into my email feed.
Fourth, I will send the email out to the destination address that I have handily set up in advance.

There's no guarantee, but at least it's a fun challenge!

Fingers crossedÉ

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Where Is Everybody?

I haven't had a chance to just get outside and enjoy one of the best parts about living in the country for a week or so now, so today when the opportunity came knocking, I grabbed my truck keys and headed out the door.  I had a mission already in mind.  I was going to go see the cows.

I love watching the cows out in the fields grazing and resting.  Just hanging out with their friends, chewing cud.  Nothing much going on.  All calm and relaxed.  I know just the spot to get a good view.

No cows.  Well, it is snowing a little bit, maybe the geese will be in the field down the road.  I've been watching them come back from their winter vacation down south.

No geese. Okay.  How about those chickens that are always out next to the old barn?

No chickens.  The wild turkeys next to the tree line?

No turkeys.  Okay, I guess that is to be expected.  There doesn't look like there's much in the way of leftovers in this field.  There's another dairy farm down the road though.  Their cows might be out.

No even a crow.  Perhaps in the south pasture?

I know!  They are probably all down by the pond.  I see them there all the time when storms are coming through.  They must be there.

Alright.  No cows.  What about the sheep then?  They're always out.  They have built-in sweaters.  A little flurry or two isn't going to drive them inside.

Fine.  No sheep.  I'll just go see the horses.  They never go in before dark unless there's a lot of snow on the ground.

Maybe they went next door?

Am I the only one foolish enough to be outside today?

I guess so.  Time to go home for a nice cup of hot cocoa.  No cows, but the snow stopped and the sun is out.  Looks like it's going to be a good day to be outside after all - and they all missed it!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Quiet Panic

The garden tour is 22 weeks from today.  I have been sitting here all day contemplating that one little fact.  

In 22 weeks my Frans Hals daylilies will be in bloom and there will be hundreds of people traipsing around our gardens asking hundreds of questions.  We will serve them gallons of iced tea and lemonade, trays of fruit and cookies, and as much gardening knowledge as we can possible remember about our gardens.

In 21 weeks there will be printing deadlines and last minute decisions about table setups and posters.  Radio interviews, newspaper interviews and emails sent out all around.

In 20 weeks there will be press releases written and letters sent to media outlets, television ads and radio ads.

In 19 weeks there will be a big push for fundraising and thank you notes and follow-ups.  There will be handouts and flyers printed.

In 18 weeks the garden must be ready.

In 17 weeks the lawns must be mown and edged.

In 16 weeks the water features must be re-stoned.

In 15 weeks, all of the garden beds must be edged and mulched.

In 14 weeks all of the window boxes must be planted.

In 13 weeks all of the main annuals must be in the ground.

In 12 weeks, we can begin planting outdoors.

We have 12 weeks before we start planting outside and I haven't finished my winter gardening tasks - redoing the planting diagrams, updating the garden bed charts with anything that should/may come back again from this last year.  It's just not done.

This year will be our first year as president of the garden club.  It's a big deal to us - mostly because it acknowledges the huge amount of work we have done on the grounds since we bought our bucolic manor.  Mostly done by my Dear Honey.  Mostly done by hand.

Tomorrow we have our first meeting with the outgoing president of the garden club to talk about the tour.

I guess this marks the official start of summer.  I hope it doesn't snow.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Quit While You're Ahead

Basking in the glow of my disastrous marmalade escapade, I decided that nothing would help me lick my wounds better than a nice bowl of chili.  I should have known better.

I couldn't find my mom's recipe, but I had made it 100s of times.  I had to know the basics and since I wasn't going for anything fancy, I thought I'd just dive right in.  How hard could it be?

Just sauté up some chopped onions in a little olive oil.  Smells good.  I am on the right track.

Add in some spices.  Salt, pepper, chili powder, garlic.  I'm feeling the recipe coming back to me like it was yesterday.

Toss in the ground beef and brown it nicely.  That looks good!

Add in the tomato.  Lots of tomato makes for lots of chili.  2 big cans should do the trick.

And we can't forget the kidney beans.  It wouldn't be mom's chili without the kidney beans.  But it looks a little soupy.  I was holding back on this, but I think it needs one more thing...

Tomato paste.  A whole can of tomato paste should thicken it right up. (Where were you to stop me!?)

Left to simmer on the stove until it was nice and hot.  My version of chili.  Doesn't it look cute with its' little dollop of sour cream?  It must be good!

Nope! Nasty!!! I''ve done it again.  This time it is edible - just barely.  It tastes like tomato paste with meat and vegetables throw in for texture.  Even adding more spices doesn't make a dent in the thick tomato goo that I thought would be chili.

Kill me now, I've made enough for a week.  It's not nasty enough to throw away.  I can't feed tomato to my pup.  My Dear Honey won't eat it - he laughed so much he dropped his spoon.

It's awful.

I should have quit while I was ahead - or in this case, while I was behind.  2 recipes.  2 strikes.  I think I'll make oatmeal for awhile just until I get out of this slump.  It happens sometimes.  Must be the full moon or something.  I'll just have to wait it out.

In the meantime, I have some chili to "enjoy".


Thursday, February 9, 2012

When Good Jam Goes Bad

For me, there's nothing as wonderful as homemade marmalade at the end of winter.  It has all of the sweet tanginess of Spring, and the rich syrupy sweetness of winter.  All canned up in a tiny jar of happiness.  I had to make some.  

It looks so delicious.  The sweet tangy goodness of orange marmalade made with blood oranges for an extra tang.  This time, though, I wanted to take grandmother's recipe into this century.  I wanted something faster, easier, but just as tasty.  So I went online for some help - and I found it!  This was going to be a breeze.

The ingredients are the same, I even added candied ginger for a little extra zip.

Blood oranges, sugar, vanilla and candied ginger.  I can taste the goodness already.

Now comes the easy, modern part.  You just chop up the oranges - rind, pith and pulp - by tossing them into a food processor.

There's no separating out the pith, carefully chopping the rind and cleaning each and every segment for the pulp.  How cool is that?

Looks tasty!  All those bits of orange that will turn into little sweet tangy bits of goodness with pieces of candied ginger.  I can't wait!

Put all of the chopped up orange into a bowl and measure it out a cup at a time.

Just use 1-1/2 cups of sugar for every 1 cup of orange goodness.  Easy!  So far it's only taken about 5 minutes.

Now we make it into marmalade.

Put a plate in the freezer. (We'll get back to that later.) And pour the fruit and sugar mixture into a non-reactive deep pan on the stove.  Turn on the heat and start stirring.  Keep at it until the temperature reaches 222-F.

This will take awhile to come up to temperature.  Now is a good time to brag to your Dear Honey about how this is not a waste of perfectly good oranges and what cute gifts the extra jars will make and finally how clever you are for finding this faster, easier way to make marmalade.  Yup.  Make sure you brag a lot.

When the temperature reaches 222-F, take the plate out of the freezer and pour a small amount onto it.  Give it a minute to set.  (Keep stirring the pot, or take it off the burner for a minute at this point.) And then push your finger into the marmalade.  It should wrinkle a little bit.  This means that it will set when you can it up.

Using your perfectly sterilized jars, lids, rings and funnel, pour your delicious batch of homemade quick marmalade into the jars.

Yum - oh - yum!  Leave about 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch of empty space at the top of the jars.  Since this will go into the refrigerator once it is cooled, you don't have to be exact.  We won't be boiling them to vacuum seal them.  Just pop on the sterilized lids and rings then tighten to finger-snug.

There you have it!  6 jars of homemade marmalade.  And so quick and easy.  Let them sit on the counter to cool overnight while you go and explain to your Dear Honey just how clever you are at making this with your new time-saving ways.

The next morning, get up, toast an English muffin and spread a nice thick coating of the marmalade on it.  Sit down with your coffee and prepare to be amazed.

Amazed indeed!  Once the first bite of this vile concoction hits your taste buds, you too will be running for the garbage can!  Oh my goodness!!! This was the most horrible food product that my kitchen has ever produced.

There is a product called "Bitter Yuck!" that we sprayed on furniture legs when our pup was teething.  It was so awful that after spraying, we would have to leave the room until the vapors subsided.  It just burned our eyes, noses and throats.

This version of marmalade was essentially homemade "Bitter Yuck!"

My Dear Honey would not eat it.  I could not eat it.  Even our sweet pup ran away when presented with a taste!


There was nothing to be done with it.  No saving or converting it into something resembling anything at all edible.

I tossed the whole batch.  Emptied and washed every jar and ring.  Threw out every lid.

In a few weeks I will take the 3 days to make some marmalade the way my grandmother did.  I will honor the ways of my family and trust them to know what is best for my marmalade needs.  But first I need to erase that putrid taste out of my mouth and out of my mind.

If you ever see a recipe for marmalade that recommends the method above, run, don't look back, run fast and far.  It is the worst thing I have ever tasted.

And that's saying a lot because I ended up with an earthworm in my mouth when I was gardening this past year.  This marmalade tastes worse then earthworms covered in compost.

Think about it.