Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Color Cards

You know I just love these mitts.  And it's not just the mitts - it's the packaging for the pattern.  So I was wondering what it was about this particular package that really caught my eye - and I realized that it was the color palette.

But which colors?

So as I was going through some blogs that I visit, I found a post on The Mother Huddle that showed how to extract colors from a photo using PicMonkey.  I had to try it.

I took my little picture from Blue Sky Alpaca's pattern, trimmed it a bit, added arrows and picked the colors out of the photo that really caught my eye, then just put the color number in text on top of the arrow.

Pretty neat, huh!

Okay - maybe it's an acquired taste.  But I thought it was really fun!

I wonder how it would handle some of my daylily pictures?  (I see a fun snowy winter weekend project in my future!)

Monday, July 30, 2012

Horsing Around


I was playing with an online photo editor just to see what it would do.  I know, too much free time!

So the photo on the left is the original one from my camera - and the one on the right is what the online photo software thinks that the photo should be.

I think that the camera was closer to the color reality of the shot.  There was a bit more blue in the grass.  The dark brown horse had some lovely red highlights in its' mane and the dappled horses coat was more golden.

As far as the sharpening of the picture, the online photo editor did a better job.  The day was really clear and the details of the horses were very crisp.

I can see how folks would like playing around with the online photo editor - they had a few neat filters built in to the application, but I wasn't totally sold on it.

Maybe I just like doing things by hand - or I'm a bit of a control freak - but I prefer to just use Photoshop to get the pictures to reflect what I see.

I'll keep looking for an app that automatically makes my pictures look like what my eyes see, however. I'm not adverse to saving time!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Diggin' It

Today my DH and I went to our daylily and iris society's "dig".  That's when you prep all of the flowers for the the collector's sale - the major fundraiser for the society.

We loved it - and not just because we were the youngest folks there!  The members running the dig are so incredibly knowledgable about gardening, it's like getting a private lesson from a Master Gardener.  My DH was especially thrilled to see an actual iris borer worm.  I'm not so sure I would have been as thrilled - aside from it being a worm, it digs into the iris rhizome and eats it so the flower dies.  Nope, don't think I would like that at all.

Having not been on a dig for the society before, we thought that we would be, well, digging.  That's not what happens though.  It made sense to us.  What collector would want strangers in their gardens digging and stomping around the beds after they'd spent thousands of dollars on them?  I know we wouldn't!

We cleaned up the iris and daylilies that had been dug up by the garden owners, sorted them by size and cultivars (type), labeled them and bundled them up so they were all ready to be sold this coming week.

It takes many hands and quite a few hours to get everything in order for the collector's sale.  And since they have different flowers for sale each year, the displays for the tables have to be prepared as well.   Fortunately, the long-time members of the society have done this many times, so they were able to teach us the ropes - or in my case, put me on a task where I couldn't do too much damage.

I got to make labels and tear off strips of tape.  They said it was because I had really good handwriting. I'm going to have to think about that a little bit more before I believe them!

All in all, about 500 plants were prepped for the sale - and this is the small sale, the big one isn't for a few weeks.

Now all I have to do is get my wallet prepped, because I saw some beautiful irises and daylilies that need a good home...

Saturday, July 28, 2012

A Coke and a Smile

Today the nicest thing happened.  We save our bottles and cans from parties and dinners and us - just wash them and toss them in bags.

At first it was just because I was supposed to return them to the store, but  always forgot to take them with me when I went shopping.  Then, at some point it reached "critical mass" and even the thought of returning them was overwhelming.  But we kept adding to the store of bottles and cans.

Last week, though, I found a solution to my problem.  The volunteer fire department in our neighboring town was having a bottle drive.  It was my chance to give back to the guys who rescued my friend from her car when she really needed help *and* I could finally do something about all of those bottles.  A win-win!

So I loaded up the truck with as many bags as I could fit, even filled up the passenger seat, and I headed over to the fire station.

When I pulled in to the lot and took the lawn and leaf bag filled with bottles from the passenger seat, the ladies were so grateful for the donation.  They had collected a small box of bottles that they were washing.  They had no idea that everything in the pickup bed was for them also!  The women thanked me and asked if they were washed (yup - all washed).

Then I went back to the truck and started unloading the rest of the bags.  I could hear the excitement as they got it - all of the bags were filled with bottles for their fundraising drive.

They came over to help and we started carrying the bags out of the truck.  Who was I?  Where did I come from?  How had I managed to collect so many bottles!?

I told them my name and that I lived in the next town over.   Then I told them how grateful I was for their volunteer fire department's help with my friend - and all the times that they would come to help our volunteer fire department out.

I sort of glossed over the fact that the reason my DH & I have so many bottles is because I consistently forgot to return them!  No need to go there, eh?

I wished them luck with their bottle drive and hopped back into the truck.  As I pulled out, I could still hear their excitement.  "We're going to have to get a bigger truck!"

It really made my day.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Ravellenic Games

The Opening Ceremonies for the Olympic Games in London are happening right now - which means that the cast-on for the Ravellenic Games is also happening right now.

The Ravellenic Games are, well, they're...  Okay, so a lot of the knitters who are on Ravelry start some type of knitting project tonight with the goal of completing the project by the Closing Ceremony of the Olympics.

They have many different categories that you can compete in - from Shawl Sailing to Colourwork Cross-Country (note the British spelling!).  I plan to compete with my new pattern for Windsor Mittens - they're so pretty.

The only problem is that I haven't completed my Citron shawl yet.  I still have about 50 very long rows to go - and then the blocking and finishing process.  I could have finished it already, but I decided to make it a little longer.  I really like a nice fluffy shawl that I can wrap around when it gets cold.  So I added 3 more segments to the pattern.

So while I watch the opening ceremony, I'm working on finishing my shawl instead of casting on my mittens.

But it's still all good - so long as some type of knitting is getting done!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

City Flower, Country Flower

This city "flower" blossomed with light.  Each one of the blossoms was sparkling!  Some of the patterns that I see each day in the city remind me of the patterns that I see in my gardens.  I guess it's a case of man imitating nature.

It reminded me of this country flower - bursting out all over with blossoms.

Maybe that's a bit too abstract?  That's okay - I found another one.

City flower.  It's even been painted over so often that the detail is starting to become filled in - very city.

Country flower.  Fresh little blossoms that the bees haven't even found yet - very country.

And just in case you were wondering, they are (in order of appearance!): a lamp, spearmint, an ornamental washer for a screw and a tomato.

City vs country.  Some days it's hard to decide.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Picture Day

Do you know how sometimes you just want to take a picture of your kid (or pup) and no matter how you try to convince them (or her) to just sit still in the perfect light - they won't?  No matter what I tried, our girl would only sit nicely in absolute shadow.

Then I thought - the heck with it! And I showed her how to work the camera.  (Tap nose here - it's within her skill set.)

So she did!

She thought it was really fun.  Just touch the screen and you get to see a pup that looks just like you do!

What a hoot!  I swear she's laughing.  After all, it's not everyday that she gets to play with electronics - especially after that unfortunate incident with the printer cable.  Let's just say it was not a chew toy.

Finally she settled down and took a nice self-portrait.

That's my girl!  Not bad for a budding photographer, don't you think?

(Disclaimer:  My DH thought this was a *really bad* idea to teach her how to play with my ipad.  Just thought you should know...)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Cheese Sticks

I really like to cook and especially love to bake - so when I realized that it has been almost 8 months since I baked anything, I decided that something had to be done about it.  Not actually baking, mind you, it's way too hot for that!  Just something I've had on file for awhile - cheese sticks.

They're super easy and quick - and they always are a big hit when I serve them.

You just need some puff pastry, cheese (I like Romano - it's cheesy and salty), egg, water, salt & pepper.

Beat the egg in a bowl and add the water.  This will make an egg wash that the cheese will stick to.

Spread out your thawed (really important that it's thawed!) puff pastry dough on a non-stick sheet pan.

Cover it lightly with the egg wash.  You're going for "sticky", not "scrambled eggy" here.

Salt and pepper the dough.  You choice on how much.  I use more pepper since the cheese is salty.

Sprinkle generously with cheese, but leave enough space on there so it's not overcoated - we're not talking grilled cheese puff pastry!

That's about the right amount of cheese.  Don't worry about the little bits on the sheet pan, they'll come right off.

Cut the pastry into 1-inch strips.  I used a pizza cutter which makes it really easy, but a knife or kitchen shears work well also. (Notice that I'm not cutting on the sheet pan!)

Twist the cheese encrusted puff pastry and put it on the sheet pan.  (Notice how I've cleaned off all that excess cheese?)

Leave about an inch of space between the strips on the sheet pan - they do "puff" up a bit when you cook them.

Preheat the oven to 450-degrees and pop the pan in.  They only take about 10-15 minutes to bake. You might want to keep an eye on them because they go from done and delicious to burnt and blech in a heartbeat.

Ta-da! Cheese sticks - they're crisp, cheesy with a bit of a pepper kick to them.  Give it a try - if you have central air conditioning, that is.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Wall Flowers

With all of the daylilies and brightly colored annuals getting all of the attention in the garden these past few weeks, some of the other flowers seemed a bit neglected.

Take this little cone flower, for example.  It works hard at blossoming every year - being a full sun flower in a part shade area is not an easy thing to be.  But each year it pops up and surprises me with a lovely burst of color.

No one notices it on the tours - no pictures are snapped by newspaper reporters, no film crews focus their equipment in its' direction.

And yet it seems happy, even joyful, just being.

These are the best flowers.  The ones that quietly bloom, feed the bees, butterflies and other little creatures.  They give cuttings for the dinner table without a second thought.  They don't need extra --- anything.

After the past few weeks, I find them refreshing.

So here's to the other flowers in the garden - all of the lamiums, black-eyed susans, corel bells - and everyone else whose blossoms act as background for the garden divas.

Good job!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Tour 2

Today was the 2nd garden tour of the season.  This one is specifically to feature our daylilies.  In a way it's a harder tour than the 1st one which featured the entire gardens, because these people know their hemerocallis!

When we prepared for this tour, we ignored the weeds and "fluffy" hedges.  We focused solely on the daylilies themselves.

Each individual plant was deadheaded and trimmed neatly.  Any yellowed leaves were inspected for bugs and disease - their yearly plant "physical".

I gave a sincere talk to each one of the flowers, encouraging them to bloom brightly and look really happy.  I think it worked.

Since the season is running about 7 days ahead of schedule this year, our visitors were able to see some of the later blooming daylilies that normally aren't out during the tours.

And since most of my daylilies are historic plants, which most people don't collect in this area, they were able to see blossoms that they had never seen before in person.

And, of course, this particular daylily is only in our garden (and 2 of our friends - it was their wedding gift).  This is the one that my DH and I registered.  That makes it pretty special.

Since we plant several new cultivars of daylily each year, some of them are blooming for us for the first time this year.  It's always exciting to see them popping up in the gardens - adding their splash of color to the rest of the blooms.

Some of the colors are quite vibrant - they look as they are swallowing the sunshine.

We had some wonderful folks stop by to view the gardens and had some serious talks about our hemerocallis collection.  (Yes, some people take this quite seriously!)  But we also had a lot of fun meeting people that we only email during the course of the year.

My DH and I love our garden tours - and there were hundreds of flowers putting on a great show today - but I'm glad we're done with them for the season.  They are a lot of work, preparing the gardens and all.

I think that next weekend we're going to do something a bit simpler - like maybe just mow the lawn.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Bath Time!

Our pup is a very smart girl.  So when it's time to give her a bath, we have to be even smarter than her.  And it's not as easy as you might think.  Any change in tone or body language is a dead give-away to her that something's not quite right.  We set up everything in the back way in advance so now she thinks we're just going for a little walk.  Right...

The first phase of bath time is a good brushing.  Since our pup is an australian shepherd, she has an undercoat.  She also has extra fluff on her thighs that protects her legs from burrs - which means it is often full of burrs.  The feathering on her forearms is a great place for sticky pinecone scales to attach.  Her fur is very fine here and we have to be careful not to yank when we hit a bit of pine sap.  She's not too terribly fond of the whole brushing routine even though we've regularly brushed her since she was a baby.  She'll tolerate it though, and we'll get enough loose fur off of her to turn a chihuahua into a pomeranian.

After a few minutes of treats and play, it's time for her bath.  At first she doesn't think we're really serious about it - that we're joking around.  But soon she realizes that we are quite serious and there will be actual water and ... s-o-a-p involved!  She has to take drastic action.

Please! Let's go inside!!! I'll be the best puppy in the world, if we can just go inside.  Right now.  Come on!  It'll be fun, I promise!

Her pleas fell on deaf ears - it was time for the bath and that's what was going to happen.  20 minutes of cajoling, praising and being firm but kind, finally resulted in one very clean, very angry pup.  Even liver treats and hot dogs couldn't console her.  We had done the unforgivable - we made her smell good.  Well, good to us that is.  Her fur is so soft and fluffy and she smells like an orange!

She needed some alone time to get over this great offense and decide if she would ever ever forgive us for this violation of her trust and breach of the Use of Water Treaty of 2010 - which, if we would have just recalled 20 minutes earlier, clearly states that water is to be used only for drinking and at no time should water EVER be used for cleaning purposes.  Never ever ever.  Ever.

It was a rough day for our pup, but she survived and soon bounced back enough to eat all of her treats, and her dinner, and some frozen peanut butter yogurt.  Then with her new bouncy ball toy firmly grasped in her mouth, she made her way to her hidey-hole where she would be safe from baths forever.

Poor pup.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Some Days You Just Have To

Blue Sky Alpaca Royal Petites Patterns
I wasn't going to, but when my day started with an announcement from the train conductor, "Okay folks, the engine is on fire - so here's what we're going to do.  We're pulling into the next station and you are going to CALMLY get up and exit the train..."

So I just had to give myself a little reward for not freaking out.  Don't you think so?

I saw these knitting patterns on Knitty Blog 2 days ago and I had all but convinced myself that I wouldn't get one.  Their cute little packages called out to me from the computer screen.  Retro drawings, clean designs, cheery little balls of the softest alpaca you've ever held.  I would be strong and not get any of them.  Certainly not the charming Windsor Mitts.  Nope.  I would be good, stay on budget and just knit up the projects that I already have here at home.  I wouldn't go shopping for yarn or needles and certainly definitely not buy anything new.

So when I casually walked by the yarn shop during lunch and it was closed, I took it as a sign that I was doing the right thing by not buying anything.

And when I called the yarn shop later in the afternoon to see if it was open yet, but no one answered, I took it as a sign that the universe had not changed its' mind - I should not buy anything.

Then when I went online to see if I could get overnight shipping of the pattern and yarn, but couldn't find the color I wanted, I felt that I should just give it up and stick to the plan of using what I had before I bought anything else.

So I picked up my Citron that had been languishing in its' zip-top bag while I spent my time working on the garden tour and I tossed it in my bag and headed off to work this morning.  I was convinced I wouldn't do it.

But then my train caught on fire.

So I thought to myself that I should probably live life to the fullest, grab the yarn by the tail and knit whatever I wanted.  Heck - I deserved it, right?

So I looked again for the yarn online - and I found it downtown, but the shop wouldn't be open until late afternoon.  Then I tried my local yarn shop in the city again, but they were still closed. (And what's up with that - the posted hours said they'd be open! Who does that? Who runs a business that way!?)

But then my fingers wandered over to the Blue Sky Alpacas website and what did I find?  An online, download it now, link to the pattern.

So I got it.

Maybe I shouldn't have, but when your day starts with your train catching fire, really you must do something to make it better.

You just have to!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Chain Yankers

Today was a chain yankin' kind of day.  At every turn, something happened to yank my chain.  Coffee spills, crazy drivers, loud talkers on the train, bag bumpers on the bus.  And it didn't stop there!

All morning everyone was snappy and snarky and downright looking to yank someone else's chain.

By the time I called my DH, I had counted over 25 instances of chain yankin'.  I had to warn him!  Caution - make every effort to be happy!  The world is conspiring against you!!!

Fortunately he didn't think I was crazy.

My next stop was the yarn shop to pick up my yarn, needles and pattern for tonight's "start of a new season of Project Runway" project.  The yarn shop was closed.  The yarn shop was closed all afternoon.  I couldn't get the new yarn.  The universe was directly trying to mess with me.  I had to be on my guard.

I ran back to the office to find a new pile of work on my desk and a piece of computer equipment that seemed custom programmed to defeat any ounce of cheer I might have left.

Suffice it to say that I made it through to the end of the day - home in time to watch Project Runway (yes, I am a runway junkie) - but it was a real challenge.

And it didn't stop all day long.  Please note the lack of pictures of various types of chains featured in this post.

Yes, even my camera conspired against me and yanked my chain - making me think that there were photos saved to the card, but then wiping them as I went to upload.

I'm so happy that I back it up every night and only lost todays photos.  (I'd insert some bragging here, but I'm afraid the universe will take retribution out on me.)

(Okay - so even the thought of bragging brought about interruptions in my Project Runway watching.  So no more even thinking about bragging!!!)

Here's hoping that you are not being affected by the universal snark that is on the loose today.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Rainbow's Song

The promised front finally came through this evening on my way home.  Naturally I ended up soaked through and through.  Riding up in the air conditioned train felt really cold since every stitch of clothing that I was wearing was sopping wet.

Cold and tired, I got off the train and looked up through the driving rain to see a lovely little rainbow.

It put a smile on my face and a song in my head - of course, I couldn't decide whether to hum "Over the Rainbow" or "Rainbow Connection", so I kind of merged them together.

Judy Garland meets Kermit the Frog with Iz Kamakawiwo'ole's ukulele accompanying.

Want to smile?  Try it!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Summer Sun

All of the humidity we've been having gave a bit of a strange start to the day.  There was mist, there was brilliant sun, there was heat.

Then within a few minutes, the sky burst out into all sorts of colors of pink.  Of course, my camera died at that point, so I only got the first few seconds - but I thought it was worthy of sharing.

I'm still so interested in any and every thing that has me getting down to the city to go to work, but again, I forgot to wear my work shoes!  Fortunately, no one noticed at the office and I managed to hide my feet for the better part of the day.

Tomorrow I am - for sure - going to remember to put the proper shoes on.  If I dont' stop this trend now, the next thing you know I'll be weeding Central Park.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Back to the City

After two weeks of flowers, shrubs, grasses - and let's not forget the weeds! - I'm finally back to work in the city.

For all of my wanting to be at home, out in the gardens, hanging with my DH and pup, I must say it was actually relaxing to get back to the office and sit in air conditioning.

The train was crowded - I rejoiced!  The bus was late - I cheered!  The weather was hazy hot and humid - I embraced it's sweltering heat!

I sat at my desk, sipping tea and working on the computer.  At lunch time, I went out for a long walk.

It was at this point that I realized that I was not wearing my work shoes.  Nope.  I wore my gardening clogs to the office.

I guess a little part of me still wanted to stay home.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

A Different Perspective

We got a professional photographer to take pictures of all of the gardens for our tour this year - so sweet of him to donate his time and photographs (Daniel MacDougal - great photographer!).  So I thought I'd share this photo of our carriage house.

It was converted from a carriage house in 1942, but over the years the major repairs were put on hold.  My DH has taken it under his wing and it's slowly being restored.  We've found little surprises along the way - carpenter ant damage so severe that one of the corners of the house had to be completely rebuilt, waterfalls in the upstairs led to a new roof, a complete failure of the plumbing system led to a new manifold system.

Of course, I love doing the window boxes!  It's the one part of the garden that I can completely change every year and just have fun with!  This year I really wanted to bring out the reds in the stonework - so I used coleus to make a splash.

It's strange to look at pictures of our gardens that were taken by someone else.  It feels almost voyeuristic in a way.  He saw things in a way that I hadn't, finding interest even in an old bird house that I find as ugly as sin, but haven't had the heart to toss - so I just put it in one of the garden beds to get it out of the way.

From his perspective it looks charming!  I would have never noticed that aspect of it.

I can't wait to see the rest of the pictures, though.  If this is how he saw our gardens, the rest must be amazing.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Touring Seeds

The seeds on these grasses are the reason I weeded so long this week.  But the grass is mowed and the tour is over.

My DH & I hosted the dinner party for the gardeners and we raised a lot of money for our little charity.

I think I should be happy, but I'm really too tired to think, let alone feel anything right now.

I am happy about 1 thing, however, I'm so happy this tour is over.