Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Mirror, Mirror, On The Wall

The old mirror from our dining room sat in the hall, propped against the wall, for a very long time.  We had bought it because a stager said we needed a mirror in the living room to sell our old house.  The house sold, but the mirror was a bit of an orphan; it never really fit in.  Cheesy plastic frame, fake - um, I mean faux - oak leaves.  You get the picture.  Not pretty.  

The mirror over the fireplace is our new house has always been too small. 
Ordered from a catalogue (in my more timid days) shipped from England in a huge wooden crate.  By the time I got the crate open I had destroyed the crate - no way to send it back.  Plus the shipping was almost the same as the cost of the mirror.  So we lived with it.   
But although it was beautiful, and beautifully made, it was never right.

Walking by the plastic mirror one day, I got an idea.  Always a dangerous thing.  
So I got out my tape and measured.  Then I got out the sizing and the gold leaf, and I went to work.
Our Italian class helped me turn it on its side so I could finish leafing all the the edges.  Image Framing came and hung it above the mantle on a French clip (look it up).  And...still not right.  
It needed to be taller, to have more of a finish at the top.

So I went on line.  Overdoors.  I ordered two.  One was cheesy gold plastic; I gold leafed it.  
One looked like wood.  With a chicken.  

Wally loves the chicken.  I love the swoopy gold crown, and the way the mirror now fills the space.   
And now, finally, it is right.  

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Spring Has Sprung

"Spring has sprung, the grass has riz
I wonder where the flowers is?"

It's a family tradition to recite that poem in spring, the origin of the tradition and the author of the poem lost in time.  And what a spring this is!  Cool overcast mornings, perfect for a cup of tea and a trip around the garden to collect a bouquet.  Warm afternoons when I swear you can actually see the flowers opening.  Cool evenings, the hummingbirds dive-bombing and the acorn woodpeckers squabbling on the feeders.

 So for my friends who are shivering under a blanket of snow, here's what's blooming in my garden now. 

Crabapples are at their peak, the hot pink buds opening into the most delicate white flowers,
 Elizabeth, the yellow magnolia, her flowers brilliant against the blue sky (unless you get up too early as I did and the sky is still grey ...)
Pink jasmine coats the fence, and perfumes my bedroom.
Lemons spill their sweet scent, the trees covered with fruit and flowers at the same time.  Go figure.
 The last of the narcissus are nodding near the birdbath,
their yellow made stronger by the contrast of the Spanish bluebells.

 Ian's peach tree is full of promise.  If we get any water, I predict a bumper crop.  Big if.
Chinodoxa have spread into a low blue carpet,
 Primrose and forget-me-nots have happily seeded together
 The white wisteria on the side of the garage smells like the Orient - sweet, sandalwoody, exotic.
Heuchera and forget-me-nots carpet the shade,
 and there are so many blooms on the loropetalum it's almost boring...almost.
And the weird red cones of the melianthus major stand out against its toothed grey leaves.  You would think something that looks this butch would be tough, and deer resistant.  

You would be wrong.

I know I'll be sad when it's baking hot and there is no water, and I will think with envy of those friends who garden where it rains in summer.   But right now?  Right now it's glorious, and I am so happy.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Fish Face

Whenever Wally takes my picture I look like a manatee.  Or as Marco said, ready for rehab.  It's been a little hard on my self esteem.  

So it was great to learn from Monika Olsen in our digital photography class (at Acalanes Adult Education) why I look like a manatee - and that it's an artifact of the camera, not a personal failing, or a reason to schedule plastic surgery.

This is Carolyn's deliciously steaming fish without the zoom, just getting close with the camera.
Note the fish-eye effect? (pun intended)
Here is the same shot but standing back a little and using the zoom: 
Magic!  And the manatee face explained.  

We learned a lot of other stuff too - mostly what I learned is except for the zoom there is nothing a point-and-shoot camera can do that the iphone can't do better. 

So I am now the proud owner of a Nikon P530 with a 42x optical zoom.  Oh and I also learned to turn off the digital zoom.  It does nothing that you can't do better on your computer later.

I chose the Nikon because it's light and relatively small.  Will my photos improve?  Stay tuned.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

What To Do In March

Here, courtesy of the lovely folks at Sloat Garden Center, is what to do in your garden in March.  Don't forget to thank them, preferably by shopping there! 

What To Do In March

  • Wake up the garden by feeding it. We recommend:
    • Maxsea fertilizer is ideal for feeding container plants. Houseplants will enjoy a feeding with Maxsea 16-16-16 as will your over-wintered containers and baskets
    • E.B. Stone Sure Start fertilizer for new plantings to establish them quickly.
    • Fertilize your garden with E.B. Stone Organics All Purpose.
    • Stock up on top quality, plant-specific fertilizers like: E.B. Stone Organics Rose & Flower, Tomato & Vegetable, and Citrus & Fruit.  All E.B. Stone fertilizers promote healthy plants and the soil beneath them because of mycorrhizae.
    • Continue to prepare planting beds for spring. Test your soil for pH, nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium and add the appropriate fertilizer or supplement. We recommend amending your soil with Sloat Loam Builder, Sloat Forest Mulch Plus or Sloat Planting Mix. Also, add E.B Stone’s Agricultural Lime or Grow MoreMaxi-Cal to soil to provide needed calcium for vegetables & fruit to prevent blossom end rot.
    • Rhododendrons and azaleas are budding and blooming. Now is the best time to choose new plants.  Feed plants with EB Stone Organics Azalea Camellia and Gardenia Food after flowering
  • It’s Vegetable Planting Time! Organic vegetable starts & seeds are in our stores so you can grow your own food.
  • Water wise tip: For new plantings, consider using water holding polymers such as Soil Moist. The non-toxic granules hold water longer than soil alone, thus minimizing moisture loss due to evaporation.
  • Apply mulches such as Micro Bark or Forest Mulch Plus to established and new plantings.
  • Plant your favorite annuals for spring. Petunias, begonias, alyssum, marigolds, cosmos, and lobelia are budding and blooming.
  • Check out impatiens alternatives: We carry a vast array of shade plants that will provide flowers and foliage in shaded spaces: begonias, heucheras, bounce impatiens, and New Guinea impatiens.
  • Say yes to summer bulbs! Plant gladiolus and dahlias for summer color.
  • Prune freeze damaged plants now (if you haven’t already). But, wait to prune spring blooming shrubs until after flowering.
  • Snails and slugs are hatching in your garden right now. Non-toxic Sluggo can help keep them out. If earwigs, sowbugs, and cutworms are also a problem, use Sluggo Plus with spinosad. Edge containers and beds with copper tape.
  • Aphids are beginning to appear. Stop them early with Bonide Neem Oil, Bonide Rose Rx 3 in 1 or Monterey Take Down Spray — safe for organic gardening. The best time to spray is at the end of the day after the bees have stopped foraging. Use on roses and all your plants.
  • Consider planting companion plants such as Yarrow, Erigeron and Marigold to provide an environment that welcomes beneficial insects.
  • Use Serenade bacteria-based fungicide to prevent and cure spring rust and mildew. (OMRI listed)
  • Water early in the morning to prevent wet foliage at night. Wet foliage attracts snails and fungal diseases.
  • Don't forget to shop at Sloat!

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Food World Has Officially Gone Crazy

This just in from Eater:
"The world's number-one restaurant,  Noma, is now hosting a Club Monaco pop-up shop, finally answering the age-old question, 'What exactly does one wear when foraging for Danish hornet larvae?' The Wall Street Journal says in addition to selling clothing, the temporary boutique located inside Rene Redzepi's Copenhagen restaurant is also hawking 'a curated assortment of goods, including vintage books from New York's Strand bookstore, woven art installations, and handcrafted wooden yurts made in Brooklyn' (really though)."

Even for this food-crazed foam-infested sous-vide snobbery infused world, this seems a bit much.

Now you can get a yurt alongside your Beef Tartare and Ants, or your Cucumber and Scallop Fudge.  As if a restaurant that features all these, along with Reindeer Moss and mushrooms isn't weird enough. 

Enough, already.


Artillery Punch

Some years ago we were giving a birthday party for Susan, a proper Southern birthday party in honor of her family's somewhat distant southern roots, complete with fried chicken and biscuits, cole slaw and potato salad.  Sweet tea, unsweetened tea.  If you don't know what these are, ask a friend from the south.

And Ann insisted we had to serve Artillery Punch.  "It's a southern tradition - and it's so delicious!" 

I asked her "What's in it?" and she said "Everything." 

So we called her mother.   "Mother," (girls from the south call their mothers mother, no mom or mommy here.  And no matter their age they are girls until their mothers die), "Do you have a recipe for Artillery Punch?  We're giving a party at Jill's."

There was a very long pause, and then Ann's mother asked, "Missy?  How large an umbrella policy does this young lady have?"

We didn't serve Artillery Punch.  We live in California, we mostly drink wine and Margaritas.  But we are still laughing over Ann's mother's response.

Here, then, are several recipes: for Chatham Artillery Punch, for Chatham Artillery Punch from Garden And Gun, and a completely different one from Epicurious: all claiming to be the original, all different.  Like that never happens anywhere else in real life.

Disclaimer:  I have never tried any of these.   Ann said delicious; I say looks like a recipe for a massive hangover.

Let me know what you think - but make sure you have plenty of insurance.  Better yet be sure that your friends are Not Driving! They should be walking home, or spending the night.  No driving allowed.  And after some of this stuff, even walking may be a bad idea... 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Homework with Sam

How long since you've done long division?  Me too.  I usually just pull out my iphone.  Or guess.  And so far, it's worked pretty well for me.

I often found math in school boring - I mean, once you've grasped the concept why keep droning on?  Let's move on, people.  There's lots more interesting stuff out there.

One evening not long ago, my friend Sam rang the doorbell.  He is in fourth grade.  His mom and sister were doing mom and sistery things, and they were taking too long, so he brought his long division to me.

It was an act of faith.  I have not done long division since the invention of the calculator, that thing we used before phones became so smart.  But I was not going to let my friend down, so I had him explain it to me (we did not have all those little boxes for placeholders; we did not have to be so obsessive anal precise in just exactly how we showed our work.)  (And by the way, "showing our work" is a euphemism for "let's make it easier for the teacher to figure out I probably didn't cheat".) 

But I digress.  Surprise.

So Sam and I got some scratch paper (remember paper?) 
and worked things out, and it came back surprisingly fast, along with the smell of floor wax and stale lunchroom sandwiches.  

We used scratch paper so we could figure out how to:
1. solve the problem, and
2. put it in the teacher-approved format.

Do I sound snarky?  I had a very lazy middle school math teacher who gave us a box of cards and told us to work at our own pace.  From addition to algebra.  I could do the last cards, the really hard ones, and they were interesting.  But you had to do the first cards first, and I was not interested in doing first grade addition.   Or subtraction.  I already know how to do it, all he had to do was look at my grades to see that.  I didn't see the point.   So I went to the library and read instead.  

I learned a great deal about early American history, and the Curies, Pierre and Marie.  About how if you read several biographies of the same person they often contradict each other. And about lazy teachers.  

The next year the principal intervened, and I got to write complicated schedules for school-wide events, and I learned a lot more math doing that than I had the year before.

Sam caught on really fast - he is a whiz at math.  And he also didn't understand why he had to do dozens of long division problems when he's got it.

I wonder what's next.  I wonder if he will love algebra as much as I did - and do.  I wonder if he will zone out - as I did - because he can tune back in and catch up and not stick around for the droning on bits.  I wonder what will catch his interest, what he will study in college.  

But right now?  I am happy to have some time with Sam.  Even if it means doing long division again.