Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

wordless wednesday

Apple crates, Union Square Greenmarket, New York City

Monday, October 3, 2011

clear waters

Down a quiet Northwoods road... 

Not far from the Wisconsin River...

...An artesian well flows, where thirsty passersby fill as many milk jugs and Gatorade bottles as they can manage. My family has driven past it every time we visit my grandparents. But I never remember stopping -- until Sunday.

Ian and I drove up and had a very pleasant visit. As we headed home, there it was. The spring. I'd stashed a few water bottles in the car for the drive, and now they were empty, so Ian suggested we stop to see what all the fuss was about. He hopped out and filled them up. Even through the plastic, I could feel how cool the water was, and when I took a gulp, I tasted nothing. In my humble opinion, that's simple, sweet perfection. 

We're not sure when we'll visit Granny and Granddad next, but we're already stockpiling bottles.

Have you found a place like this?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

good news for waukesha

My salon, Moxie Beauty Lounge in Waukesha, is now carrying Bumble and bumble products!

You may now return to your regularly scheduled browsing.

wordless wednesday

An arbor of hops at Myrtle Edwards Park, overlooking Puget Sound, Seattle

Thursday, September 8, 2011

late-summer salad

I normally don't report on the meals I throw together when Ian is at work, but this one is too good to keep to myself. I've dubbed it Late-Summer Salad: It's chock-full of in-season produce and tossed in an Asian-inspired dressing to give it that exotic, vacation-y flair. Bonus: According to Lose It (my calorie-counting app), it has a mere 236 calories. It would be a terrific accompaniment to salmon, barbecue chicken or a pork chop.

Late-Summer Salad
(serves 1)

1/4 c. dry bulgur wheat
1/2 c. cold water
1 c. cucumber, peeled and chopped
1 medium peach, chopped
1 c. fresh spinach, roughly chopped
1 green onion, minced (white parts)
2 Tbl. Newman's Own Low-Fat Sesame Ginger dressing

1) Put bulgur and water in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil and allow to simmer for 12 minutes. Spoon into a salad bowl.
2) Add all other ingredients to the bowl and toss.
3) Eat!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

a vacationing container gardener's saving grace

Ian and I are recently back from a very refreshing, very lovely, very inspiring week in Washington State. The two of us have quite a bit of freedom because we don't have kids or pets, but as you've read, we are the proud caretakers of several potted plants. So, in order to keep them alive (without anyone's help) while we were gallivanting across Kitsap Peninsula, I set out to devise a fuss-free watering system for container gardens.

I ruled out two popular ideas right away: We don't have access to a spigot, so that nixes the drip system option suggested by many container gardening blogs. I also didn't want to lug all the containers inside and store them in the bathtub, as advised by others. I reasoned that the plants would have been shocked by the darkness, and some would likely have succumbed to root rot. Plus, some pots had been struggling with a bit of a Japanese beetle situation, and I refused to introduce those pretty but nasty bugs into our home. So, that left me to tap into my limited memory of high school physics. And dare I say, it turned out pretty well?

We rescued wine and beer bottles from the recycling -- one for each container, chosen according to pot size. The morning of our flight, I filled them up, tipped them over, and jammed them into the soil. The idea was that, as the soil around the bottle dried out, more water would drip down.

When we returned, I nervously checked the balcony. A few of the plants looked a little droopy, but nothing a hearty watering didn't fix. The tomato fared the worst with a few yellowed branches, but, oddly, some new and well-developed suckers replaced them.

Next time we go away for a week in the summer, I'll probably double up on bottles -- especially if scorching temps are predicted (we reached just 80 degrees). This amount of moisture would probably have been ideal for a five-day trip. But overall, our plants and I are quite pleased with this experiment.

Have you tried a container watering system like this? What did you think?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

"reminisce" with me

And now for a shameless request...

I'm working on a new book about America for Reminisce, a magazine full of memories from the good ol' days of the '20s through '60s. We want to share your memories and photos -- or those of your parents, grandparents, friends or neighbors! Write as much as you'd like, from a few sentences or a few pages.

Here's Reminisce's official request:

Celebrate America! The land we love will be featured in a brand-new book, and we want YOU to be part of it.

Share your life experiences in the USA. Send us your stories, photos and slides, too! Here are some topics to get you started:
  • Living the American dream and hometown memories
  • Patriotism: Fourth of July and other patriotic occasions
  • American heroes: favorite icons from American sports, movies and music
  • Land of opportunity: mom-and-pop businesses, great schools and other success stories
  • America's can-do spirit: overcoming adversity, the Great Depression, World Wars, etc.
  • American inventions and innovations
  • US destinations: vacations and road trips
Please submit your stories and photos by August 1, 2011, to the attention of America Book. Click this link for Reminisce's mailing address and email. You can also deliver your story to me. Just respond in the comments and I'll send you my contact info.

Please share with any great storytellers you know. I look forward to reading everybody's memories -- thanks for your help!

Monday, June 27, 2011

my view, june

As the leaves filled in on the tree right outside my office window (above), things got a lot shadier! Now I never have to pull down my shade during the afternoons, when the sun is especially bright here.

Does anyone recognize the tree in the closeup? It has little white flowers and lots of purplish-red berries in the fall and winter. We have looked in every resource we can think of and have had no leads.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

this year's garden

It is already the first official weekend of summer, and I realized that I never told you about this year's container garden. Well, there is one. And it's my best yet, if I do say so myself. 

Things started out a little rough. You may recall my post about starting seeds. Well, of all those dozens of little sprouts, two have survived. They're some variety of pepper, but in all the insanity and disorganization (I do not recommend labeling your seeds with generic non-sticky Post-its), I'm not sure which. Maybe we'll get lucky and they won't be the same. Nevertheless, I learned a few things in the process -- most importantly, I think, is that when the editor of Birds & Blooms offers you her spare grow lights, you should take them even if you have a south-facing window. Anyway, I humbly accepted a very robust tomato plant from my dad and purchased two other peppers from the garden center, so we won't go salsa-less this summer (perish the thought).

Once my ego recovered and my thumb started to regain a little tinge of green (and it finally warmed up), I made a few more trips to the garden center. Now we have three herb planters (with a few flowers mixed in), two hanging flower baskets (with a few herbs mixed in) and one pot designed to attract butterflies (no luck so far). Here they are:

Herb planters, clockwise from top left: cilantro,
Tuscan Blue rosemary, chives, Opal Innocence nemesia, mint,
sage, purple viola, Lanai Royal Purple verbena, Italian parsley,
Greek oregano and Angelface Purple angelonia

Butterfly planter, clockwise from top left: Graffiti Purple
pentas, Bandana Pink lantana, fuchsia portulaca, yellow viola
and portulaca foliage

Hanging basket no. 1, clockwise from top left:
Aromatica White nemesia (yeah, really a dud so far),
Supertunia Citrus petunia, Electric Lime coleus, Landmark
Yellow lantana, lemon thyme and Bandana White lantana

Hanging basket no. 2, clockwise from left:
Superbells Saffron calibrachoa, Dark Opal basil,
Superbells Coralberry Punch calibrachoa, Sweet Georgia
Deep Purple sweet potato vine and fuchsia portulaca

Looks like the colors of the year are yellow, purple and pink. Wonder what that means? And what have you planted this year?

PS: I got the idea for these photos from a spectacular book about container gardening, Continuous Container Gardens by Sara Begg Townsend and Roanne Robbins. I've been working with Roanne for an article I'm doing about winter containers...she's fantastic.

Friday, May 20, 2011

my view, may

Well, my wish for it to warm up came true, but only barely. We're finally enjoying occasionally sunny weather in the 50s and 60s (and today maybe even 70!), and the leaves have popped.

Yesterday, Raeann and I traipsed through the dewy grass to take these photos of the crabapple trees. Their cheerful springtime scent was worth the wet socks. A day later, they're twice as floriferous (I love that word!).

My little corner is getting dimmer by the day, because the tree started to leaf out. I'm hoping it will continue to be a haven for birds, especially our hermit thrush, Flash (an ironic name for a bird who refuses to pose for photos).

Happy May!

PS: See our office bird count in the sidebar on the right. Each species is linked, so you can see photos and read more about them.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

my view, april

Many of my colleagues here in the Home & Garden department joined me in enjoying the great view from my office window. There's a shade tree right outside, along with rows and rows of barberry bushes, making it a natural birdwatching spot. Once in awhile, a passing bird will catch my eye, and soon a crowd of people will form at my window.
Raeann, my designer counterpart who also happens to love photography, suggested that I share the view with you, too, so each month I'll post a few of her shots. 
For those of you who don't live around here, April has been extraordinarily cool and wet, which I think has stunted the growth of many of our plants. Sadly, the migrating birds don't know a detour is in order. They certainly seemed surprised by our latest snowstorm: I think there were probably 20 robins huddled in the tree preparing to be buried by snow. It was funny, but I empathized too. 
Here's hoping for sunnier, greener days in May!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

nesting know-how

Since we've been having such great bird activity here, I thought I'd treat our visitors to a spring treat: nesting materials. The great thing about a project like this is that it takes next to no time, plus it's free. Just gather a few spare household and garden items and secure them outside for your feathered friends to discover (read more details here). Our neighborhood birds have their choice of cotton yarn and some dried-up strawflowers from last year's containers -- I cut both into 4- to 8-inch pieces. Then, I piled it all in a clean wire suet feeder and hung it on the balcony. So easy.

Come and get it, birdies!

Friday, March 18, 2011

spring fever, part 2

Ladies and gentlemen, I'm happy to announce our newest development: Five days after being planted, the tomatoes and tomatillos have sprouted! Can you believe they grew this much overnight? I checked at about 11:30 p.m. and nobody was poking out of the soil yet.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

spring fever, part 1

This morning, I woke up and immediately I knew: It was time to defy my winter blahs and do something springy. Today I would plant my tomato and pepper seeds for our container garden. Ian and I had already saved seeds from a bell pepper and a hot chili we cooked with, so I ran out to Stein's (a local garden center chain) and bought container-friendly tomato seeds, plus some tomatillo ones (right...not official tomatoes, but something that's easy to start from seed that we want to make room for on the balcony). Here's how I did it.

These are the supplies I used...pretty self-explanatory except maybe the aluminum sheet cake pan (with a cover) and the circular brown things. Those are cut-up toilet paper tubes that I've been saving for this very purpose. Though peppers and tomatoes transplant pretty well, one can always use an extra safeguard. When the seedlings are ready to be moved into larger containers, I can just plop each tube in the soil without disturbing the root system, and the cardboard will decompose over time. 

First, I spread a thin layer of soil in the tin.

Then, I nestled the TP tubes in the soil and arranged them in six rows -- one for each variety: Containers Choice Red tomatoes, Oregon Spring tomatoes, tomatillos, bell peppers, poblano peppers, and chili peppers.

Next, I filled the tubes with soil using the cute little hand trowel Ian bought me for my birthday.

These are the bell pepper seeds we so lovingly cleaned and dried. My dad taught me this trick. I loved that we could taste what we'd be growing -- no guesswork required.

The seeds need to be 1/8 to 1/4 inch deep, so I just sprinkled a few into each tube, poked them in a tiny bit, and added a thin layer of soil from the tin.

Last step: watering. A slow, steady stream into each tube does the trick. I'll check them daily to be sure the moisture level is good. The soil should be damp, but not soaked.

I covered the tin to keep the moisture in and to reduce the draft. There's a hole on one edge of the cover, so the air should circulate sufficiently. I'll keep an eye on this, too. The tin is in the sunniest window, right next to Sprout. Some of the seeds may germinate in just three days, according to their packets. I'll update you soon!

Have you ever started seeds? What were your tricks?