Thursday, June 30, 2011

Herb Bouquets

Special Friends, Teachers, or Co-workers will be pleased to receive these pretty little bouquets and the wrapping is so simple to do.

Find small empty jars, perhaps jelly jars or infant juice jars.

Cut a 12 inch circle from a heavy brown paper bag, or brown packaging paper (available where mailing supplies are sold ). I used a large dinner plate for my template.

Thoroughly wet with water. You can use a spray bottle or just hold it under a trickle of water from the faucett.

Place the empty jar in the center of the wet paper; pull the paper up, and secure it around the neck of the jar with a rubber band or string until it thoroughly dries (several hours or overnight). Then replace the string or rubber band with raffia or pretty ribbon.

I just left the string in place.

Arrange pretty flowers or herbs in the jar, and fill with water. I used edible pansies, chive blossoms, mint, oregano, and thyme.

These would also be pretty on a buffet tabletop or an outdoor patio table and given away as favors after the party.

Rain, Rain Go Away!

It has remained cool and wet here in Washington State. Tomorrow will be July 1st! We have had precious few Sunny days and things are getting a little, shall we say, mossy. I have been reluctant to venture out to do much, as the grass is always a little too high and wet (Hubby can only mow when it is dry), and the slugs are everywhere, leaving their slimy trails. (I need to slug bait again: I use non-toxic bait to protect the pets and wildlife)

This was the temperature gage last evening after dinner. We are tromping around in boots and jackets!

Ninky is quite bored. He does brave the wet for a few hours every day, but then I will find him curled up on the bench underneath the canopy on the deck and I have to carry him inside, as he won't run through the rain to come to the door.

This is Ling Ling gazing forlornly out the upstairs window in my office.

Pretty soon they curl up in the softest place they can find...The pillows on the futon in my office (a former bedroom for the boys). Ling Ling sleeps in the sewing room across the hall (the girl's former bedroom). She is still treated as an outsider, but slowly that is changing. She has just recently started climbing in my lap for the first time. She still misses my Mom and will try to sleep on the desk that was in her living room. It must smell like home. Poor thing......

There is nothing to do but settle in and work on my crocheting. I am slowly but surely getting this project completed.

Would you like to see what came out of my work basket?

Someday it will be a little sweater. I have the back and one of the front panels completed. It is a sweet little design with a crocheted flower as the fastener and a loose open front. It also has 3/4 length loose sleeves. I am excited to get this far, I have never made myself a sweater before! Now that I have shown you all, I will have to finish it so you can see the end results!

After dinner I went out to snap a few pictures of the clouds turning a faint lavender. You would never know there was a mountain range there! You can see the mist rising from one of the little rivers that meander down from the hills. At the very bottom of the steep valley below, there is a glacial creek that originates from one of Mt. Rainier's many glaciers. When the children were small, we would walk down to it and swim in the little lagoon created by log-jams and debris. I can tell you, it was ice cold, but very refreshing on a hot August day.

And then, this beautiful hawk arrived. I watched as he floated in and landed on the very top of the Cedar tree in the center of the view. I have seen him before. He comes early in the morning and just before dusk. The tree overlooks the whole valley and a small clearing.

I believe he is a Red Tail Hawk. He has a lovely dark face. I think there is a nest nearby because I see him almost every day.

Well, I had better get back to my crocheting. I am hoping for some better weather for the 4th of July Holiday. I hope you are having sunny skies!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Getting Along

This morning I had taken out my gardening supplies and had planned on going out to tie some low branches on my apple trees. I had placed the ball of twine on the table, along with my clippers, ready to go outside, when the phone rang. While I was gone, 'Ling Ling', my Siamese mix decided to get up on the table (a 'no-no') and knocked the ball of twine onto the floor. By the time I came back, she had it mostly unwound and was having a great time with it, so I grabbed my camera. By then, Ninky, (rhimes with 'stinky'), had come over to investigate.

Ninky is my only male cat, and he can be unpredictable. (They say women are unpredictable, but in the cat world, it is the opposite) Mostly he is as loving as a kitten and climbs into my lap every evening and gives me great big hugs. But recently, a stray Tom cat had come around that I had been feeding, and before I realized it wasn't a good idea, the Tom cat had decided that Ninky was enemy number one. So every time poor Ninky went outside he was attacked viciously. (I eventually trapped Tommy Boy and gave him a new home, but we will leave that story for another time) This has left a little bit of an imprint on Ninky and so lately he has been even more 'unpredictable' than usual.

But pretty soon, he was feeling the playful spirit and decided to join in the fun.

This attracted Maggie, my older female, and after a curious look at what all the fuss was about, she decided to sit on the sidelines. Maggie is not the playful type. She is serious. She is my huntress, and keeps the mouse population in check. But if one of her companions is in trouble, Maggie will run over and jump in to defend. She regularly goes after Whitey, the dog. Not that Whitey chases the cats, but once in a while Maggie gets suspicious of his motives. It's not unusual to have Whitey running towards me to hide behind me with Maggie hot on his tail.

Soon, Ninky was claiming the twine all to himself. After all, he is the dominate male, don't you know? So while he was having a jolly good time, Maggie and Ling Ling were watching very curiously. This was not like Ninky at all.

Pretty soon, Ling Ling decided to join in. She was my Mom's pampered little companion. She is very sweet and innocent. She has never had to deal with unpredictable Tom's. The very next instant, Ninky went over and scratched her. He has been a little jealous lately since Ling Ling has joined the family. He has also been through the ordeal of being bullied. He was acting out.

Sweet little Ling Ling retreated, hurt and confused. Ninky was ushered outside with a reprimand.

At which point, Maggie rushed after Ninky, swatted his backside, and then came back to console Ling Ling.

The moral of the story is that bullies are products of their experiences. If you see someone being bullied, stand up for them. Let the victim know you are going to stand by their side.

I gave Ling Ling lots of sympathy. After all, she is just the new kid. I also praised Maggie for defending her new friend. And later, when Ninky climbs in my lap like he always does, I will be sure to give him an extra dose of loving, just to let him know that I understand where he is coming from and that I still love him just as much, but that two wrongs don't make a right.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Blackberry Cobbler

It is almost Blackberry Season. Here in the Pacific Northwest we have an abundance of Blackberries free for the picking. Every year I pick about 10 gallons to freeze and we enjoy them all year round. I experiment with recipes and Hubby gives me the thumbs up or down. This one got an enthusiastic thumbs up. It is easy to make and well worth the effort. But remember, Blackberries stain everything they come into contact with, so wear an old shirt, be mindful of spills, and be prepared to scour out the sink afterwards if you have white porcelain like I do.

Blackberry Cobbler


5 cups fresh or frozen blackberries
1 cup plus 1 Tbsp sugar
1 cup plus 3 Tbsp flour
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp butter (and more for greasing pan)
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp Cream of Tartar
1/3 cup milk

Butter an 8" square (or equivalent) baking dish and fill it 2/3 full with blackberries sweetened with 1 cup sugar.

Sprinkle 3 Tbsp flour over sweetened berries and dot with 2 Tbsp butter.

Sift 1 cup flour, baking powder, salt, cream of tartar, and  1 Tbsp sugar in a bowl.

Cut in 1/4 cup butter with a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. With fork, stir in  milk to form a ball.

Turn out onto a floured pastry board (or waxed paper covered counter) and roll to 1/4 " thickness or to fit baking dish.

Cover Blackberries with dough and cut slits in crust to vent.

Bake at 400 degrees for 40-45 minutes.

Let cool 30 minutes.

Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream if desired.

Keep leftovers covered in refrigerator. Will keep for 2-3 days.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Carnival Days

Aaaaaah! Summer Days!

Saturday, the little town we live by had it's annual Carnival. Every year since I can remember, this little travelling Carnival sets up in the little strip of land that runs along the two lane Mountain Highway that bisects the town. I just happened upon it this year, when I was on my weekly shopping and errand trip.

I had to drive right past to check my mail at the Post Office. So I parked and started walking. I had to take a look. I had such strong feelings of nostalgia.

It was like walking back in time. I used to take my own children to this Carnival every year. We would eat Cotton Candy and Elephant Ears, Hot Dogs and Nachos. Ice cream would drip down our faces. Someone would always drop their cones. Hubby always ended up holding several wands of Cotton Candy. It would end up in our hair.

I remember my own childhood Carnival Days. There was an ocean Beach along the Massachusetts' Coast within an hour's drive from our home. There was a long stretch of white sandy beach on one side of the road, and on the other an amusement park. It contained one of the world's largest wooden Roller Coasters. I went on it once. That was enough for me.

 My favorite ride was the Ferris Wheel. I loved being so high in the salty air that I could see all the little people down below, the long white beach, the ships out to sea. I loved the rush you would feel in the pit of your stomach on the way down! It was that same feeling you would get on the first day of summer, the first day home after school let out for the year. Waking up with that exciting feeling, knowing you had the whole summer stretched out before you!

And who doesn't love the Merry-Go-Round? My sisters and I would try to be the first to rush on, so we could pick out the prettiest horse! In those days, you could reach for the Brass Ring hanging alongside and get a free ride. I reached out and grabbed that Brass Ring once. I never forgot the lesson!

My Parents always bought a huge bag of Salt Water Taffy. They made it right there in one of the street side Kiosks. We watched, fascinated as the large hunks of sticky candy was pulled and stretched on this moving machine that looked like a yarn winder. The different flavors were all wrapped in waxed paper and displayed individually in bins. We would each pick our favorite flavor and the man would scoop it into red and white striped paper bags. I always chose the nougat. Soft white candy with little jellied polka dots. Mom would ask for a second scoop of each choice to put into the communal bag to take home.

We so loved taking our own little children to the annual Carnival. Hubby was very good at winning prizes at the gaming booths. He wouldn't give up until each child had a toy. I loved that about him. Once when we were dating, he took me to the Amusement Park by the Sea and won me an enormous Orange Teddy Bear. You see, my bedroom was yellow and Orange, (it being the 70's), and this Teddy Bear was the perfect addition. He was so big, he had to sit on the floor.

As I walked along through the little Carnival, I thought of all these things. That Happy feeling you get when you wake up at the start of summer vacation. The wonderful memories of fun as a child and with my own children.

And I realized.....I really did grab the brass ring. I have been on the ride of my life. And I still get that wonderful feeling in the pit of my stomach every time I realize how lucky I am.

Friday, June 24, 2011


My Columbine wants to say hello! Don't they remind you of Chinese lanterns or petticoats? I thought I would share them with you before they go into their long slumber until next Spring. This variety is growing along side Hubby's tool shed. Years ago I spread a can of wildflower mix in the garden there, and these have survived. They are starting to spread, too. They must be at least 10 years old. I admit that I don't take very good care of them, I fertilize about once a year with Fish Fertilizer and I keep them watered in the dry summer months.

These pretty little pinwheels are a different variety. I planted them in my Mom's Commemorative Garden this Spring. The only problem I have with Columbine are 'Leaf Miner's'. They haven't attacked the Columbine by the shed, but they 'did in' one I had by the house a couple years ago. I hope they leave these alone. For all of you that don't know what leaf miner's are, they leave little trails inside the leaves where they burrow. If the plant can't fight them off, it will eventually die. I am against using pesticides, so anything that doesn't survive, gets thrown in the compost pile.

Here is a view of the Commemorative Garden before the second columbine started blooming. The white flowers in front are 'Candy tuft'. They are a creeping perennial sub shrub with the most amazingly sweet scented flowers. Mine like it here and are spreading. The gray plants are called 'Snow in Summer' and they stay small with little white flowers that bloom all summer.

Here is a close-up view of the Candy Tuft. They bloom at the same time as the Forget-me-nots and Columbine.

I brought in a little bunch of Forget-me-nots to enjoy. They are such a sweet shade of blue. Soon they will be going to seed. They look scraggly at that point, but I let them stay until they are all covered in seed and then I cut the long seed stems and save them to spread around here and there. They need very little care and will grow just about anywhere, shade or sun. (Although, they like a moist soil) They are a biennial and will flower the second year. But if you plant the seeds as soon as they ripen, the little plants will grow over the summer and winter and flower in the Spring. But you must keep them watered.

Of course I let the dandelions grow, too. I think they are much discriminated against. They are actually a beneficial herb and all parts of the plant can be utilized. You can eat the young tender sprouts in salads in the Spring before the leaves get bitter. They cleanse the liver. The flowers can be made into Dandelion Wine. Because they have such a long taproot, they bring beneficial minerals up from the deep soil to the surface to aid in the growth of other plants nearby. Aren't they so bright and cheery?

This is my invader. It is a tall spreading grass that has invaded a lot of my gardens. I made the mistake of letting it grow because of the large plumes of seed heads in the fall. But it doesn't look pretty after a heavy rain in the late summer and all the tall stems flop every which way. So I have been pulling it and smothering it everywhere but in this one little barrel. Isn't it pretty with the late afternoon sun shining through? Don't let it fool you!!!

Well, I must leave you now. Whitey is waiting for me. I hope you have a lovely weekend and don't forget to stop and smell the flowers.
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