Climbing Roses

Aug5When we moved into this nondescript little grey house, the bushes hunkered down against the cold, the weeds spread their wings wide and water pooled in murky grass along the entire north side of the house.  We’ve since hand-dug trenches inside the foundation wall and installed sump pumps, laboriously machine dug a French drain, and laid drainage gravel to whisk away the rain. In the winter, it now flows away from the house and we watch the storm drain swallow the wetness that was our swamp filler.

Once the water was at bay, I turned to the weed bed. I pulled the noxious ones and over-wintered it with clover to enrich the depleted soil. I planted cast-offs from the end of season garden carts, not knowing what would survive this poor soil. The carnations died.  The salvia fed the saucy hummingbird and then didn’t make it to the spring. The hydrangeas pouted and dropped all their petals, scratching at the air with their exposed brown branches. But the lavender was happy. It took over the spaces left bare by the carnations and salvia and fed bees by the hundreds every day.  At peace for a moment with the weeding, I turned my attentions to the front bed.
The pitiful roses crawled along the ground, the petals crushed by rains, their branches many and wild, all vying for attention.  My vision is naturally a lush and heavy rose, one who is fragrant, heady, and carefree.  Ones just like the pin that inspires me for today. But the roses I’ve been given are of the roadside variety.  They grace the drab concrete Walgreens Pharmacy across the street, hardly the Palace at Versailles. They mass when they are hardily clipped and kept low.

When I visited my girlfriend Lori’s high maintenance rose garden, I saw how she’d trained her climbers.  She chose two main stalks and attached them to an arbor.  They grew straight and clean, flowering profusely up the side of the structure.  They have yet to cover the whole arbor, as she envisions, but I can see it.

I picked up two frames this week at an end of season sale and today I am planting them in front of the house. Next I’ll be choosing which stalks are going to be the lucky ones.  All the others will be trimmed back next winter with the tips listed at Fine Gardening.

First day of Summer

I know that the first day of summer is a little ways off on your calendar.

I know that the rain is coming down in torrents outside my door.

I know that most kids in the Northern Hemisphere are still in school.

However, I have no more classes to teach, no more papers to critique, no more carpools to drive. Therefore, I am out for the summer!

My own art began in earnest today.  I shoveled my way to the desk, cleared a space and began to draw.  I’m really quite pleased that it really was no harder than that.  We’ll see how the regimen goes for the next 100 days or so, but I’m hopeful, very hopeful, that pen and paint will be set to paper around here.

A lovely little something to jump start your summer, Small Magazine, an on-line children’s zine, arrived in my mailbox today. (Just click on the link and you can read it too!)  Australia is not heading into summer, but there is a lovely new issue of Papier Mache out.  They’ve also just increased their publishing times to four editions a year. Yeah! I miss

Cookie magazine, but these go a little ways toward replacing them. (At least in my mind…)

There are some darling raised beds at Little Cotton Rabbits I wonder if her contraption would have protected my tomatoes from the horrid batch of hail we got the day after I’d planted the garden. (My plants did survive, but they were not happy and now have yellow leaves all around the base.)

What triggers your sweet childhood memories? For me it was these leaves, spotted at the zoo. I had not seen leaves like this since I was five. We lived in Pennsylvania then, and there was a wood at the back of our property.  I wandered through the wood and came to a little glade.  The glade was full of nothing but these leaves.  I was tiny and they grew up around my waist. I reached down and picked one. It was a perfect parasol on a bright sunny afternoon…

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This is what I want my whiskey barrel herb garden to look like.  (Photo from B&B link below) Last year, it did not. Last year, it attempted to breed mosquitoes, until I found them and turned the whole mess over.  (Sounds familiar doesn’t it.)  It seems, according to this blog, Backyard Farming, that all I needed was a few good holes.  Hmm. I’ll be trying again, without drowning my plants.  I found a bunch of great instructions about pot gardening that I hope to try this year at Baking and Books.

I am both amazed and excited that All of the munchkins have decided that

they can share a theme for their birthday parties this year.  I can not tell you how pleased I am.  Of course, dh says “Why do you need a theme? Make a cake and buy food.”  He does not think like me at all.  The littlest munchkin is dreaming of candy, candy, and more candy, so I know that dh is not far off the mark.  However, this does not deter me. This is an oportunity to decorate!  Naturally, details to follow…

Patty brought me this darling miniature basket from Africa.  She was on a survey trip with her husband and ran across these in one of her girlfriend’s homes there.  It’s full of the deepest scented beans I’ve smelled in a long time.  It’s customary to share a bean when your friends come to visit.  They chew them up and then spit out the bean when they’re done.  I’m keeping mine for the scent as a reminder of friendship and travel.

We are on to our next city in the art history class I’m teaching on Fridays.  I chose China and showed the kids this very cool clip from a documentary on China. This week I found a straight forward guide to making simple paper for their first time.  It’s by Denise Fleming and will be easy enough for them to do.  I took a papermaking workshop years ago and loved it.  This particular class of kids is very inquisitive so I think they will enjoy it too.



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Night on the Town

Caprial's Bistro

I’ll post more tomorrow, but we’re off tonight for our fifteenth wedding anniversary!  We’re eating at Caprial’s.

I scoured the internet to find a recipe for you!  Here is the cake we had at Caprial and John’s kitchen.  It’s to die for!

The house will soon be quiet.  The munchkins and dh are off camping, and I’m going to art camp right here. Three

days of just creating.  I warned them not to expect a clean house when they came home.  (I could easily spend all weekend cleaning, scrubbing, organizing.) But sometimes you have to put your foot down, and just work on your passion.  My girlfriend Patty wrote about doing this same thing just a few weekends ago for her book. (I may call her if I need to escape tomorrow night.)

The weather is heating up around here and I’m having to water the flowers. I had a beautiful grass in the front planter, but it didn’t survive the winter. (Hmm, maybe it needed to be brought indoors.)  However, the succulents

have taken over and started throwing vines over the edge like I hoped they would.

Frankly, most of my interest in plants comes from my desire to cook or eat without cooking.  My cousin understands this and sent me a terribly tempting site called Eat-It.  I’d like one of everything that grows in zone 8, please.


We visited some friends for the fourth.  They like to put on a big show, and I played with the camera to catch a few shots for you.  All of the munchkins are finally old enough to light the fuses with punks.  They were thrilled, we were watchful.  A friend sent me a site that highlights artists every day called artist a day.  I’ve been enjoying it lately and thought you might as well.


The house across the street has been abandoned and the cherry trees that line the street seem lonely.  Littlest Munchkin and I picked them this week.  (Munchkin held the bowl while I bent the saplings down to pluck the fruit.)  We found that there are two kinds of pie cherries growing there.  We shared the pie with a neighbor, and felt a little better about lonely house.


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Seattle, Sara, & Hot Lips


We needed to do some PR work in Seattle, so I hand delivered the gift to Sara last weekend.  (She won the birthday blogging surprise a few posts back.)  Can you tell that she loved it?  She was so sweet, and thrilled about all the little details.  It makes me want to keep on creating…

I was driving in the rain, so the munchkins took the rainy Seattle photo for

me. While killing time in the library there, I found an adorable fish purse that was supposedly at, but it was not there any more, nor did it list the artist.  I think it’s ‘da bomb.’ If any of you happen to know where to lay your hands on one, I want it.

The garden experiment is doing great.  That is, the rabbits and deer are staying out.  However, I’m afraid that’s because they aren’t even being tempted because everything is staying rather um, short.

We have heavy clay and rocky soil, so we brought in 3-way to help it.  (3 way is 50% topsoil, 25% compost, and 25% sand.)  I’m thinking now that all we really needed was 100% manure, and lots of it. The strawberries love it the most and have produced some berries and are sending suckers out all over the place.  Although, the best strawberries are still the ones growing in a Lego container on the patio.  Hmm.


Dh is getting ready once again to do humanitarian aid work building houses in Mexico.  In preparation, a crew came over to build boxes to hold their tools. They wanted to color code the boxes, so the munchkins and the neighbor kids painted them and then cleaned off the rollers on the lawn. I’m enjoying the abstract quality of their work this week.

We also had to go visit a friend in the hospital who is recovering from cancer.  He’s doing well and we all enjoyed our visit.  As we left town, we stopped off for a quick bite at our absolutely favorite pizza shop. Well, okay, we have two favorites, but both have perfect crusts.



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