Friday, May 28, 2010

in full bloom

There are only a couple of weeks before Ian and I move into our new apartment. One of the most exciting aspects of the space? A balcony! (Not a fire escape but an actual it's-legal-to-display-things-there balcony.) We've decided to do a little container garden featuring ornamentals, tomatoes, and herbs. My dad gave me three tomatoes he started from seed, and we also got one -- plus a baby rosemary plant -- in last week's CSA box.

Last night, we made a trip to Stein's to buy the flowers. I'm quite satisfied with the results (and am well aware that I've packed a lot in's worked in the past, so we'll see what happens!). Here's what we've ended up with:
  • Saffron Superbells Calibrachoa: A vine-y plant with little yellow trumpet-shaped flowers with a burgundy circle around the center 
  • Bloodleaf: A purplish-green plant sans blooms
  • White Geranium: A flowering plant with fuzzy, ruffly green leaves and groups of white flowers
  • White Madness Petunia: A plant with sticky, prickly leaves and white trumpet-shaped blooms (and don't ask me to give you seeds...the tag prohibits unauthorized propagation)
  • Magenta Madness Petunia: Same as above, except with (yep) magenta flowers
  • Tuscany Burgundy Verbena: Another vine-y plant with clumps of deep burgundy flowers with white centers
Can't wait for the plants to fill in! Have you planted anything this year? How's it doing?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

playing with dirt, part 2

I just came in from digging in the compost barrel. Its contents are hardly recognizable, warm and kind of slimy, but somehow not in a gross way. I even found a little worm (see the top left of the newspaper scrap)! The best part, though? The soil smells delicious -- it's rich and moist without the slightest hint of rotting produce. And now for the results you've all been waiting for: After a week and a half, the newspaper is still legible. Only a week and a half to go. Any predictions?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

a day in the windy city

On Friday, Ian and I found ourselves in Chicago and decided to stop in and see my cousin, Chelle, and her family. It's less than two hours from Waukesha, so we've had lots of opportunities to sightsee -- this time, we got a taste of local flavor just by wandering around their cute little neighborhood for the afternoon (we even got to catch up with some of my other cousins who live nearby). I was shocked to learn that our (quite pregnant) friend, Monika's shop is about a block from Chelle and Joe's home. I was relieved that she didn't go into labor when we walked in to say hi. Great day!

I wanted you to see Chelle and Joe's little guy, Colby. He's the one we got to babysit in New York last November. Hasn't he grown?! What a bug!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

playing with dirt

My mother-in-law, Kay, lover of the earth that she is, has a backyard compost barrel. It's a pretty amazing contraption. I like to volunteer to take out our food and yard scraps so I can observe the progress, which is fairly rapid for most materials. After a big discussion about decomposition rates in landfills, we were curious to see how quickly newspaper breaks down into compost. We're betting my father-in-law, John, that the newspaper will be illegible after three weeks. What do you think?

a profusion of color

If I haven't mentioned it, I've been hard at work on an article for Birds & Blooms magazine, which has kept birds top-of-mind for the last few weeks, and I seem to be noticing them more than ever. In the past 24 hours alone, I've spotted four new spring arrivals.

Yesterday afternoon, while I was sitting here at my desk, a red streak shot across my window. At first, I thought it was a cardinal (there are many in our neighborhood), but then I saw it perched in a nearby locust tree. It definitely wasn't a cardinal -- much too vivid. Ian suggested that it may be an escaped parrot. It turned out to be a male scarlet tanager. (His lady friend was here too, but she's almost exactly the same color as the leaves, so I couldn't find her in my photos.) The birds stayed for more than an hour, so I'm obsessively watching for them today. No luck yet.

And if that first-ever sighting wasn't enough, this morning, the first creature I saw outside was a male rose-breasted grosbeak, one of my all-time favorite birds because of its comic-book coloring. Soon after, a Baltimore oriole appeared at the little thimble of grape jelly John keeps outside for that very reason.

All this observing has led me to discover mystery birds that look quite a bit like Townsend's warblers, but if that's what they really are, they're about 1,000 miles off-course. Is anybody able to venture a guess?

Monday, May 3, 2010


I first visited Pilgrim Center in Green Lake, Wisconsin, at the tender age of five or six when my mom and I were campers in the aptly named "Mom & Me" program. For the rest of my childhood, I returned to this UCC-sponsored camp almost every year and still keep in touch with people I met there. On Friday, my mom and I stayed there for a women's retreat, and this time Granny joined us, along with Aunt Lonnie, our keynote speaker. Despite a tornado warning and one of the longest power outages in Pilgrim's history, I'm so glad we got to be there together. I hope we can make it a tradition.

If you haven't guessed, I feel a deep spiritual connection with nature. I was grateful to have time to wander around outside (after the storms passed). The grounds are gorgeous.

And if the cook is reading this, could you please, please send your artichoke-sesame tea sandwich recipe?