June in the Garden

Have you ever noticed how adding a few extra people can change things up? We’ve gone from a household of three to a party of six for the last three weeks.

While it’s wonderful having the MR’s folks visit and Sweet Miss home for a bit, I’ve noticed a lot more outings and a lot less work getting done around here. Playing cards, shopping, wine tasting, soccer games, and dinner parties have taken a precedent over weeding.

Thankfully, the garden doesn’t really need me to keep on growing—it just does its own thing. The string of unseasonably warm days hasn’t hurt either. The MR installed sprinklers when he built the raised beds; and with the party leftovers, the worms have been upping their output of fertilizer. Our garden is growing by leaps and bounds.

That pony-pack of lettuce from the FFA plant looked like this a few weeks ago.

lettuce then 2

 

We’ve been enjoying some gorgeous salads.

lettuce love

 

Just be careful to allow a little extra time when using garden lettuce. We’ve found bugs, and slugs, and ants in the past. So I usually let it soak for a bit before a thorough washing. Fresh cut lettuce will last for over a week in the crisper wrapped in a paper towel and stored in a plastic bag, and these enormous leaves are great for wraps.

With the 90+ temperatures over the weekend, some of the lettuce has started to bolt.

lettuce now

 

Perhaps we’ll have to step up the salad program and add a few green smoothies to our mornings. We’ll definitely eat the lettuce that’s about to bolt, but once it’s full-blown flowering, I cut it back and start over. A gardening book once likened bolting lettuce to teenagers with hormones running wild. The lettuce is no longer sweet and easy to eat; it’s bitter and a little wild tasting.

You’ll notice in the first photo that we put the beans under cover.

beans under cover

 

After another failure to grow peas this year, I decided we’d try protecting the beans before they even came up. The MR direct-seeded some bush beans, and the birds didn’t stand a chance against our fancy tunnel-of-protection. OK, maybe it’s just some tomato cages and bird netting, but it’s portable, effective, and free.

And now our beans are flourishing.

beans now

 

You’ll notice we have one lonely beet at the end. I’m hoping for more; one just won’t fulfill my beet addiction. I think we planted a few rows there, but with seeds not starting and multiple times replanting, my very detailed method of mapping out the garden has gone out the window.

The tunnel-of-protection worked so well for the beans, I decided to try it on the carrots that never seemed to sprout. The MR has a hankering for sweet, tender carrots from the garden. They’ve been a staple of our summer diet for years.

carrots now

Looky there, we have carrots and an errant rock marker. Uploading my pictures, I noticed I’ve done crazy things like taking photos before weeding. I guess that just let’s you know I’m a real person with weeds, and dust, and clutter who doesn’t always think first.

Let’s talk tomatoes for a minute. Remember our walls-o-water?

With Poles

You can barely see a tomato inside. Add a little time, and those plants were bursting from their protective homes.

walls o water

I drained off most of the remaining water and carefully lifted the walls-o-water away to reveal these luscious, healthy plants.

tying up the tomatoes

I was amazed at how upright they remained. Using the support poles, I directed the plants towards the chain-link fence, and they’ve just taken off with the recent heat wave.

tomatoes now

The broccoli is looking pretty good, too. We’ll be enjoying tomatoes and broccoli before much longer.

Next to them, the zucchini and the cucumber have also been enjoying the heat. A few weeks ago, they were doing fine.

zucchini and cucumber then

 

But now they’ve doubled in size.

zucchini and cucumber now

 

We bought a small zucchini at the farmer’s market last week. Rooting around amongst the leaves, I noticed that we won’t have to do that again.

Now I can’t leave this topic without heading over to the orchard. The MR surrounded our berry and currant bushes in netting this spring. It’s made a huge difference in the harvest—especially in the amount of blueberries.

Grandma MeeMee went out picking the other day and came back with a quart of currants.

Currant harvest

I’ve made creamy popsicles and tasty braised chicken with currants, and the bushes are still loaded with tangy fruit.

currants close

 

Maybe I’ll have to make some tart jelly or try freezing them for some winter brightness.

Leaving the orchard, these lovely apples caught my eye.

apples

 

They still have a few months before harvest; I’m not sure our little tree will be sturdy enough. We’ll have to keep a better eye on them this year. Thinning the apples per cluster earlier this spring has definitely resulted in larger fruit.

Checking on the other trees, we have a few yellow plums and one red plum, plus a few plucots. The nectarine tree which has struggled from the start with disease is actually looking better, and the grape vines are loaded with immature clusters.

In a few years, our orchard will really be something. We’ll be living off the land. OK, in my dreams, but it’s fun to grow a little of this and a little of that.

What’s growing in your garden? Are you enjoying your local farmer’s market?

 

 

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Party Prep

Nothing like a momentous occasion to make you want to celebrate. Our sweet Baby Girl graduated from high school a few weeks ago.

FFA stuff 034We’ve been looking forward to this event for months, and what better way to mark this step into independence than with a party for family and friends? I was cleaning, and planning, and shopping. We decided to join forces with another family and host the open house here for BG and her best friend.

Sweet Miss was away at school studying for finals, writing papers, presenting group projects, and planning away for the party, too. She sent me a Pinterest board filled with ideas—I really should have paid more attention. When she came home four days before the party, we had a lot of shopping to do.

Many hands make the work light; thank goodness for MeeMee, Papa Larry, Sweet Miss, her fella, and the MR. It was wonderful.

grad party

BG, her best friend, and her mom enjoying the day.

Here’s some tips and tricks for your next party.

1. Gather your supplies and get your shopping done early. 

This banner never would have happened, if I’d waited till the last minute to purchase supplies. BG’s poster was as simple as uploading a few pictures to Costco and picking it up a day or two later.

balloon banner

 

Have all your decorating supplies together. If you’re setting up a table before the party, just do it. That’ll be one thing off your list.

Pull out your platters and serveware ahead of time, so while you’re in the midst of all those last minute kitchen chores, you won’t have to stop to find tape or platters or special spoons.

Supplies prepped

 

I did have a lot of decorations all set out on the buffet, but this is a live and learn thing. Next time we have a party, if I get out the platters, the MR is very helpful.

2.  If someone offers to help, just say “Yes!”  

I have trouble with perfectionism. If it’s not quite how I planned, I get a little crazy. Life’s a lot easier and more fun when you let others help. Learn to let go.

everyone working 2

 

Sweet Miss had visions of a pineapple tower but woodworking isn’t her forte, so we called Papa Larry into action.

Pineapple platform

The platform he built turned into this focal point.

Pineapple Tower

Way to go Sweet Miss and Papa! It was lovely.

It took many hands to put the balloon banner together. I’d seen the idea in an old issue of Real Simple (let’s just say that was a misnomer) and had bought the balloons and garland online. Grandma MeeMee and I cut up tissue paper into our own color-coordinated confetti.

confetti bowl

Then it was time to stuff the balloons. Can you say tricky? MeeMee and I came up with a plan. I stretched the neck of the balloons, and she stuffed in confetti.

stuffing the balloon

 

The balloons waited patiently the rest of the week on the buffet till game day. I didn’t want any to deflate ahead of time. The day of the party, we had Papa and the MR blowing up balloons, and Baby Girl adding the letters. Then Papa tied them to the garland, I hung them over the table, and we were set.

Papa Popped Smiling

Be careful not to overfill the balloons, or you’ll be covered in confetti.

By the end of the party, we’d lost a few letters, and it was difficult to get the balloons all facing one direction. While I still think it was a clever idea, and visually exciting, it may have been more trouble than it was worth.

3.  Check out your local rental store.

The MR was looking around online, and the rental store down the street had tables for $10, and tableclothes for $10. We were expecting around 75 people; a few tables just made sense. We were also able to pick up wine glasses. The best part—we just had to rinse, no washing involved.

bg & bud

 

The tables were well-used on that sunny afternoon.

4. If you forgot something—improvise. Can’t find what you’re looking for? Improvise.

I woke up the day of the graduation ceremony realizing I hadn’t ordered a lei for Baby Girl. Now she’s been an officer in FFA for the last two years, she’s made dozens of leis for graduates, this is a big part of graduation. How could I forget? The FFA advisor decided not to make them this year, so the local florist was taking orders, and I’d simply let it go.

It doesn’t hurt to have two former FFA members with plenty of lei-making experience in my house. BG bought carnations, and Sweet Miss got busy with a needle and some dental floss. A little later, we were set, and I was over the bad-mom moment.

flower lei 2

 

 

I had wanted to decorate the top of the buffet with Gerbera daisies—BG’s favorite—but we ran out of time. When the MR and SM went to the store the day of the party, they picked up more carnations and some unusual black flowers instead.

Sweet Miss used her crafting experience to glitter empty jars and “2015”‘s that BG had cut out of card stock With the flowers, they made lovely centerpieces and the buffet just had to go bare.

SM making flower arrangements

 

5. Embrace input.

Sweet Miss wasn’t getting home until a few days before the party. I figured we didn’t have time for her Pinterest board. Well, life would have been a lot easier if I’d taken a good look at her ideas and done a little prep ahead of her arrival.

She printed pictures to line the driveway, made a garland of baby faces, and painted advice boards.

baby face swag

 

If someone has the enthusiasm and the drive, let ’em go for it.

Advice boards

 

By the end of the party, both boards were filled with helpful tips on how to succeed. Some talked about forgiveness, positivity, finding your passion, and putting family first. Others focused on using the restroom regularly. What does that say about our diverse group of partygoers?

keys to success 2

 

6.  Stop stressing and just enjoy.

This is a hard one for me. I freak out a little—OK, maybe a lot—when I’m planning these kind of events. But me and the MR are blessed to be surrounded by family and to have many wonderful friends in our lives.

Family on the deck

 

 

We are proud of the class of 2015, of BG and her buddy, and the new adventures in life they’re about embark on.

Girls on the deck

 

A little bird told me that one of my readers wanted to see graduation photos. So glad to have my dad, brother, sister-in-law, niece, and the MR’s folks here to celebrate with us.

Grad Collage 2

What are you celebrating this month? 

 

 


 

Sprucing Things Up

Summer time is a great time to add a little lightness and color to your living space. The rusts and dark grays that said cozy this winter were looking dark and heavy.

So a few weeks ago when we were getting ready for Baby Girl’s graduation open house, I went shopping. I’d tried using some things we already had, but tan, on cream, on beige, on more tan wasn’t working for me.

beige chair 2

This little reading area needed some color. A throw from Pottery Barn and a pillow from Crate & Barrel came to the rescue.

beige chair with new throw

Then I moved over to the leather chair. The rust, textured pillows were fine, if a little scratchy, but just didn’t read summer, and lightness, and fun.

leather chair with rustSo I chose a floral, embroidered pillow that picked up the same tone as the leather chair. I was happy to see Room & Board featured this chair with a similar pillow in their latest catalog; we are on the same wave-length.

leather chair with newNow what about the chaise? It had the matching rust pillow and a green pillow that sprouts feathers all the time. I could swap the furry, gray throw for the beige, crochet blanket, but my family would revolt. They really like wrapping up in the furry throw, so it’s staying for the moment.

chaise with rust

This Pottery Barn pillow adds some brightness to what could be a dark spot.

chaise with new 2

I wound up keeping the feather-sprouting pillow because it was too big for the other spot I tried it. Size and scale can be tricky. Something that looks great at the store can be all wrong when you get it home.

Oh and if you were wondering, the window guys were back last Thursday to replace the window decorated with a spider web of duct tape plus a few more—in plenty of time for the big party.

Me and the MR spend a lot of time on the deck. We start on the shady side when it’s hot and move around to the west side to watch the sun set as it cools off. Last spring I recovered the seat cushions for our arm chairs. I reused the old cushions, so while they were colorful, they were lacking in the “cush” department.

outdoor seating

With Baby Girl working two to four evenings a week, we spend many evenings on the deck, and I figured we could splurge on some fluffier seats. Apple green seems to be the color for our summer pillows.

outdoor seating lime

We’ve definitely noticed a boost in comfort.

Finally, I turned to the fireplace seating area. It’s really quite sterile without any added softness.

fireplace chairs

 

A knitted green pillow backed with gray fleece felt too heavy for summer, so I sewed up a geometric pillow.

geometric pillow 2

For the other chair, I found a striped orange throw at Crate and Barrel.

fireplace chairs with new throw 2

That was better, but I decided it needed a little more. I’d picked up some interesting yarn in Lynden while I was on the local yarn shop tour, and I have a seed stitch pattern that crochets up really quickly.

seed stitch and yarn

Unfortunately, I ran out of yarn way too soon and didn’t want to make the two-hour drive to the border. I decided a two-tone taupe and white would be the perfect mix. I finished the front, sewed on the back, and sighed. It looked awful, the sides were warped, this was never going to work. Designing your own pillow can be a lot of trial and error.

I pulled out everything and started over again. Crocheting uses a lot more yarn than knitting, so I pulled out my Vogue Knitting Book (I have the 1989 edition, but I’m sure this book would be similar) that features page after page of interesting stitch patterns.

I settled on the brick stitch, grabbed a pair of size 10.5 kneedles and got busy. Ariana yarn showed the pattern beautifully.

white and beige pillow up close

I really love the little raised bumps switching from taupe to white leaves.

 

 

This time I wound up with enough yarn for taupe on one side and white on the other. Here’s the finished product.

new throw and pillow

 

I’m not 100% satisfied with the color mix and scale; but a couple years ago, when I was looking for the perfect gray coverlet for our bedroom and had bought and returned three of them, BG told me I was being ridiculous. That’s the nice thing about pillows, they’re easy to move around and less confronting.

For now, it’s found it’s home. Maybe it’ll make it’s way to the chairs by the TV, and I’ll buy the perfect pillow to go with the striped throw… It’s summer, my house was all spruced up for the party, maybe I’ll just relax and let it be for awhile.

How do you get ready for summer?

If you want to try your hand at the brick stitch, you can find the pattern here. Happy knitting!

 

 

 

Making a Statement

Remember way back in March when I talked about things Piling Up? That’s when our landscaping project began.

Pallet Piles & House 3And a month or so went by and I told you about The Wall that was in progress and I knew one day it was going to happen. Well, for quite a while, our view was blocks and some piles of dirt.

Yes, I am up at the crack of dawn to take pictures for you guys--be thankful.

We had part of a wall and some nice steps, but progress was at a standstill.

StepsThen the MR reminded his buddy about Baby Girl’s graduation party and that June deadline, and everyone got busy. The guys had talked about rocks, but I had no idea they’d be giant, craggy rocks that look amazing.

rocks

Or that they had plans for beautiful plants along the edge along with really good sod from Oregon.

sod

Maybe it was the time passing or it could have been a couple men getting their wires crossed, but our extra parking area turned into a green and lovely oasis.

yard & house

I can’t say I’m disappointed; it’s a beautiful sight as you turn the corner and drive up to our home. Lillies, maples, a beech, and some rhodies fill out the planting beds.

yard & house 3

 

I thought the steps would be simple and utilitarian, but they’re lined by smoke trees and other decorative plants.

steps 2

 

Cocoa is trying to hide your view or maybe just trying to figure out what I find so interesting. Here’s a better look at the steps.

steps from below

 

We had cannas like this at our last house with vibrant, yellow flowers. I can’t wait to see what they look like in bloom.

Along with all the added plants, I set out one of the MR’s Christmas presents from his folks. They show at art exhibitions and meet the most interesting people. A friend of theirs made this wrought iron hummingbird feeder.

new hummingbird feeder

I have it on good authority that the birds have already found it.

The old and new retaining walls look quite impressive from below.

both retaining walls

Living on a steep slope comes with built-in problems, but we’re very excited about the presence the new landscaping gives to our home.

Yard Collage  

It took awhile, and now with the heat of summer upon us, the new grass is struggling to get established, but we’re happy to be looking at beautiful plants and a peaceful setting instead of piles of dirt.

yard from driveway

Little Buddy is checking the grass for rollability.

We’ve always had a lovely view; now the foreground matches the background. Maybe we’ll be moving over to the meadow next.

How’s your yard looking? Any projects this summer?

Where’d the Time Go?

Time seems to be whirling past. Hours fly by when I’m caught up in projects, weeks have flown by as we’ve watched the landscaping take shape, and years have flown by as we’ve watched our children grow up. Baby Girl is graduating from high school on Friday.

View More: http://cassiepeppercassiepepperphotography.pass.us/alyssa

We still remember when she was tiny, and she counted on me and the MR and her big sister to take care of her.

Me and the MR and BG 2

Sweet Girlies 2

We’ve all gotten older, and soon she’ll be headed off into the world. We’re immensely proud of and excited for her. But just typing this up brings me to tears. We will miss her.

Last night, the MR ran into town to fill up the propane tank and came home with a pizza. We dined on the deck and watched a little TV before bed. That’s the last quiet night I see for a while.

This is a banquet, breakfast, family, slide show, baccalaureate, commencement, kids home from college, party planning, decorating, shopping, cooking, cupcake baking, party hosting kind of week. Throw in landscapers and window installers finishing up, plus a few projects of my own, and I’m tired just thinking about it.

That being said, we have lots going on around here, but I’m not sure how chatty I’ll be. It’ll be hit and miss for the blog for a few weeks. Thanks for being patient.

Did you know we’re in the midst of a heat wave? The MR made sure our nights would be a little more comfortable over the weekend.

Screen Mess

 

He wasn’t just messing up my little bench seating area, he was putting up screens for the French doors. A few years ago, he installed them on the doors in the great room, and they’ve really helped. So he ordered another set online and had them working after a few glitches. Now we can sleep with the doors open and enjoy a nice breeze.

Screens Up

If he could only do something about the noisy birds at 4 am, we’d be golden.

How’s your week shaping up? What do you do when your babies all grow up? Should I just buy more tissues?

(By the way, as I was sitting down at 7:15 am, to write this blog, the power went out for two hours. I wonder if that was a sign?)

It’s Begun

Checking on the garden the other day, yes the slugs have decimated three out of the six new broccoli plants, I noticed the tell-tale sign that berries are ripening—berry seeds in bird poop.

Now, I was hoping that meant the birds have been eating wild berries and not ours, so of course I wandered over to the orchard to check out the situation. I was rewarded with a handful of currants and three fat juicy blueberries.

Currants and Blueberries

All the bushes are loaded with fruit; it’s going to be a good year for berries. Checking on the plumcot, many of the undersized fruit that had started ripening has now fallen to the ground.

Plumcots

Last week, it was so strange to see tiny fruit turning red while much larger fruit were quite green. I guess I have to place my faith in the greenies. A few more weeks, and we shall see.

Researching “fruit drop” it appears that early on (just after fruit set) some loss of fruit is normal. Later it can be attributed to poor weather, disease, or insects. The tree may have a little disease or insect action going on. I’m pretty sure a bird took a bite out of one of those plumcots.

I applied more slug bait to the broccoli plants; it may just not be the year for broccoli. Maybe we should place bets on whether we’ll have a plumcot harvest.

What’s growing in your yard? Any advice on combating fruit drop?