PlazaJen: The Blog

Riding the Bike with One Pedal.

Category: gardening (page 2 of 3)

So it’s eleventy-billion degrees out…

…and I am very grateful to the person who invented air conditioning! Gah! We’re under an extreme heat warning now through Wednesday, as our mid-to-upper 90’s are combining with our excessive humidity and making it feel like, I don’t know, EXPLOSIVE, in both Celsius and Farenheit.

The heat also makes tempers a little shorter, I think. I just fired off an email to some feller over in Roeland Park KS who has used some service that keeps autodialing me with a recorded message pushing his city council campaign. First of all? I am at work and it’s not legal to telemarket or call people at their place of business. Two? I’m in freakin’ MISSOURI, so I can’t even vote for you. STOP IT.

Got through Father’s Day… we watched The Curious Case of Benjamin Button on Saturday night, and that made me teary, as did numerous other things all weekend long. Heightened sensitivities, to be expected, I guess. I’m irritated with social media turning into one giant playground, with people friending and unfriending and blocking and behaving like it’s high school. Oddly enough, they end up being the ones looking foolish, so there’s hope the universe isn’t devolving as quickly as it feels, sometimes. I’m irritated that my insurance company kicked back a bill for a mammogram because it had the layer of diagnostics attached to it. I see. Yes, Yes, I should have to pay out-of-pocket for more expensive x-rays and a sonogram, since we were checking a lump – if everything’s a-ok, then it’s covered. If you THINK you might have cancer, we don’t want to cover that, we’ll just pay for tests when you’re healthy. Logic. The insurance industry Does Not Have It. Actually, after a call to them this morning, and being put on hold a few times, resulted in a ‘re-evaluation’ and the conclusion that it was processed incorrectly. Ya think?

What’s to be cheerful about? Well, vacation is approaching, and the new pool is up, full, and not leaking. Thank heavens. And I’ll be turning the page on the ol’ Calendar of Life in a couple weeks – I do still enjoy the b’day celebrations. All the plants are bursting along in the garden – hubs started a gardening blog, you’ll have to check it out: The man knows a lot about gardening, that’s for sure!

We have an abundance of basil, so I made pesto yesterday, and then contemplated the abundance of Thai basil that we have. It all got whacked, so it will continue to thrive and grow and not put effort into creating seed, so everything got a healthy trim. There is one basil variety that has a strong licorice taste to it, so I got creative and boiled the leaves and stems with about three cups of sugar and three cups of water. Let it cool, strained it into a mason jar, and popped it in the fridge. Made a cocktail combining about 3 parts Basil Syrup to 2 parts Gin, and a squeeze of lime. Shake on ice, strain into a martini glass. It was sweet, but with enough tang and flavor to not be syrupy. I’m thinking about trying it in some pineapple juice next!

I need to decide what knitting project is going along to Mexico with me, and what the pattern should be. I want to do something lacey, maybe with some of the Handmaiden Sea Silk I have in my stash, and I want a pattern that’s visually entertaining but not mentally taxing, but not feather-and-fan, either. Hrmph. Suggestions?

Alrighty, that’s the report for today. Hope you’re staying cool, wherever you are, and your positives are greater than your irks!

Hello, I Must Be Going!

Well, I am heading out tomorrow to St. Louis, to attend The Loopy Ewe’s Spring Fling. Knitters (and spinners!) will be flying in from all over to attend, including three amazing teachers – Wendy, Cookie & Anne – and then the dyemaster herself, Claudia, of Wollmeise.   I’m also excited to finally meet Sheri herself!

But the excitement doesn’t stop – there are going to be sooo many people there to meet, greet, hang out with, knit with, laugh with, all of it. I’ve made so many ‘internet friends’ between Ravelry and Plurk, I know it’s going to be a bit of an overload to match everyone’s little avatar and personality up with their real-life selves. Plus you have the thin sheen of anxiety that goes along with travel and big groups – did I pack everything? How’m I going to carry all this stuff? What if everyone hates me and I spend the weekend in my car, weeping? You know. The basics.  There is also the chance I’ll be breaking bad news to my husband, because George Clooney is shooting a movie in St. Louis, and a group is already planning a sushi dinner on Friday night…at the location where Mr. Clooney has been spotted every Friday.  I’m just saying. George probably has had his fill of tall, willowy model-types, and he might just be looking for a rotund, short, brassy sort of  knitter to round out his experiences in life.

(Probably not.)

(But when my co-workers asked if I’d knit him socks, the answer was an unequivocal, bellowed, “HELLZ YEAH!”)

Meanwhile, work crazes on, and it’s whack-a-mole times.  Partly because of the vacation time I’m taking (all whopping 2.5 days of it, whoa nelly!) and partly because the demands are there – this business has a crazy broken roller-coaster-ness to it, where things are slow and plodding and then suddenly you’re hurtling along at 100 mph and hoping your cart doesn’t go off the rails when you crest the top.

I’ll also be going to Trader Joe’s while I’m in STL – I can only hope that they ask for our zip codes when we checkout, as I know the Kansas City contingency plans to hit their store close to our hotel pretty hard before we drive home on Sunday. Listen up, TJ! Kansas City wants/needs a store (more than one would be awesome!) and we want it NOOOOW! (I’m bringing a cooler. And shopping for co-workers –  Three Buck Chuck, of course.  Perfect for the aforementioned roller coaster!)

James will be selling more tomato and pepper plants this weekend – a couple varieties have sold out already, but he’s got loads of great plants left. Cherokee Purple seems to be the hot tomato this year (yes, Virginia, there is a cutting-edge even in the gardening world!) and he has oodles of those.  It will keep him busy & off the streets while I’m gone, I know that much. EMAIL  him at jworley1@ HOTMAIL [dot] com if you have questions or want to place an order! Yes, you have to type out his  email, but it’s faster than leaving a comment – my computer access will be very limited.

So I’m off – I’ll be Plurking from my Blackberry, certainly, and then I’ll report back next week with pictures & stories! See you then!

Snowflakes? Whatever.

I’m thinking about these:
Got 'Maters?
Want a table-full yourself? It could be yours! This is a huge year for gardening – I read that the interest in putting in a garden has jumped 19% this year. Growing your own food has come back into fashion. We started a couple months ago, as the garden porn catalogs began rolling in….. which brings me to our own plant sale!

Hubs started selling plants yesterday. He’ll be selling them again the weekends after Easter (April 18th and April 25th),  so take a look at the list & figure out what you want to grow – he’s put tons of time into researching the varieties (and of course, growing the little buggers), and he’s got one helluva lineup of tomatoes, peppers, basil & eggplant this year. Of the tomatoes, 21 of the 22 varieties are American-grown, certified organic; all of the seedlings have been grown 100% organically with his own homemade potting soil with fish emulsion fertilizer (way better for your plants and soil!)   I know the tomatoes, eggplant and peppers are ready to go to good homes, and he needs the room in his greenhouse! (Basil will be ready in two weeks. I can attest to the fantastic-ness of the stuff, especially if you like to cook Thai food!)

If you’d like to pre-build an order, or you have any questions, just shoot him an email at:  jworley1 (at!) hotmail (dot!) com – put “plants” in the subject line so he can rescue you from any spam filters. Plants are $1.50/each, or 4 for $5 – the exception are the eggplants, which are $2.50 each. (He’s got 4 Thai eggplant and one Italian variety.) If you want a “garden-full” of plants, he’s always willing to make a deal!

And if you need to come back to visit the plant list page, just look over there on the sidebar, I added a “pages” widget so you can shoot straight to the NuWo Nursery list.  When I read the tomato descriptions, I almost forget that it’s going to be 20 degrees tomorrow night. WTH?!

I’m already dreaming about that first BLT…. mmmm….

Bustle, bustle!

Yep, it’s bizzy ’round here. Big client meeting yesterday. Off to NYC tomorrow, back home on Thursday, then keep dog-paddling because there’s a big meeting/presentation next week to boot. woo-hoo! In the midst of all that, got to keep getting the ‘regular’ work done, and then handle the curve balls on top of it all. Because boy howdy, there was a curve ball, and I seriously wanted to remove heads from bodies with a croquet mallet. Yes, I was channeling my inner Red Queen, and all I can say is, good thing I read the emails at  home so I had time to explode and then calm the hell down by the time I could actually address it. GAH! Life is hard enough, when things are going well, it’s in everyone’s interests to make! things! work!

OMG Tripper is going to start marketing his weapons-grade gas to the government. That’ll help pay the dog food bills ’round here. He is seriously, seriously toxic with his farts. I keep a bottle of Febreze ‘Air Effects’ right by my chair, and it’s almost comical – he gets royally offended when I counter-attack with one puff of “Linens-n-Sky”. Sometimes he even gets up and moves. It’s the only weapon I have, and I have to use it!

Speaking of crazy dog stories – last Saturday night I met up with some of the LSG folks on Ravelry, which was great fun – and when James got home from his banquet duties (MWA banquet in Oregon, MO), I headed for bed & left him to take care of the dogs for the night. Good thing. Polly apparently dashed in the door, and he only caught a glimpse out of the corner of his eye, and knew she had something in her mouth. Uh, yeah. “Something” turned out to be an enormous full-grown rabbit that was in dire straits. At least I have a husband who can calmly handle these things, humanely. I’d just shriek and run into doors.  Just a regular Mutual of Omaha around here, I tell ya…..

Speaking of wild kingdoms, the seed-planting is well underway, as the gardener of the house starts getting excited for planting and gardens and spring. Since he’d gotten me a Christmas present when we’d agreed not to exchange gifts, I decided Valentine’s Day would be my turn to surprise-treat. I took the rest of the money I’d left in my PayPal account from my Loopy Ewe DPN holders, and with just a smidge extra, I bought him a set of Texas Tomato Cages. After all, tomatoes are the “Love Apple”….and he grows them so extraordinarily well, with all kinds of fantastic varieties, knowing how much I love love love fresh tomatoes. Apparently these things are THE support system for growing tomatoes, so we’re just going to start investing in them and add to the pile as we go.

Let’s see… working furiously on some more knits, including a couple of fun projects for classes I’ll be teaching, and really, just trying to not let too much slip through the cracks.  It feels kind of crazy that tomorrow is already Ash Wednesday, that next week is -yikes- March! and pretty soon we’ll see Spring really settling in, bursting through the ground and in the trees, welcoming us to a new season and another chapter. Despite being agitated about dunderheads, and feeling like I’m burning the candle at both ends, I’m really excited about what’s on the horizon this year – both with work and my life outside of work. (For instance? The Wo and I are going to take a vacation! YES! Where? Dunno! But it’s going to happen, and that’s all there is to it. The pool will be there for later in the summer, yes, but staycation be damned!)  And yes, eventually I’ll be able to throw all the nice facts up about the zombie, proving once and for all, the dead truly can live comfortably in California.

Pick A Pecka Purple Peppahs?

As promised, here’s the photo of all the peppers I procured last Saturday.
(Grown by JWo, of course.) (I’m going to label the individual pepper varieties on Flickr.)
Bountiful Peppers from the Garden

And here’s the scarf I started over the weekend – Gigi, with Tilli Thomas Disco Lights.


Tomato Surpise & Habanero Eyelids

I did some garden harvesting yesterday; we’re on the backside of the bounty, with much smaller loads of produce. I did get a small bucket of tomatoes, though picking them has become what I like to call, “Tomato Surprise”.  Because we’re now in the stage where some tomatoes are rotten (but still on the vine), and some have been gnawed upon (and still on the vine) – so the firm grip I had several weeks ago has been replaced with a more gingerly touch.  When you can see the blemish, or rotting part, or bug hole, well, you know, and it influences how you pick it, if you pick it at all. But then you have the duplicitous tomatoes, the ones that look firm and ripe and wonderful, and as your hand closes around it, your nerve endings in your fingers immediately alert you to the fact it is NOT that way on the backside. That’s a Tomato Surprise. Bleah.

So after picking the good tomatoes, I moved on to the pepper bed. I got some absolutely gorgeous peppers – I’ll take pictures tomorrow – we have banana, jalapeno, bell (some have gone red), serrano, purple (stunning!) and habanero.  I pick most of the peppers with shears, snipping the stalk that tethers them to the plant. Peppers are curious, strong where you think they’d be weak, but it’s also easy to pull chunks of living plant away with the pepper. Snipping them is easiest, and doesn’t risk destroying the plant. For whatever reason, I also picked some of the habaneros with my hands (the stems are so tiny!) and a couple popped off at the stem cap, and my brain even thought, “Best be careful, getting that capsaicin on your hands” …and then, par for my life, promptly forgot.

It was warm yesterday, and I was sweating in the midday sun. I came in, took a shower, and proceeded to hang out, surfing on the computer. Wondering why I was SO CRANKY. Turns out, I used my capsaicin-laced fingers to wipe some sweat from my brow, rubbing just under my eyebrows and causing a very uncomfortable rash on my eyelids. Yep. Habanero juice. Lovely.  The red finally had faded by this morning, but the skin is still sensitive. I’m not even sure what we’re going to do with these habaneros, but I can attest to one thing – they’re spicy!

Keep enjoyin’ the weekend – I am!

Whoah Nelly.

Today has begun at a full-on gallop, and I don’t expect it to subside any time soon.

I would be remiss if I didn’t start at the beginning, though – JWo’s birthday was on Saturday. We made plans to go down to Truman Lake, and do some fishing. We planned to find a motel or cabin, spend the night, fish Sunday morning, and then get home mid-afternoon. Didn’t quite work out that way, but we still had an enjoyable day. It was more…boating. And trolling, and attempting to catch fish, and bait, but really, all we ended up catching was a drum and two channel catfish. Over 8 hours. Lemme tell you, my butt was SORE. We did go ashore around lunch, and just anchored the boat while we fixed sandwiches & ate Twizzlers – in the water, mind you. Swimming was lovely, the day was bright & there was a breeze. I have the faintest of pink on me, because I slathered myself in 50 SPF sunscreen and wore a hat (hey! Check out the big brain on Jen!). But we just could not succeed in the fishing department. (Many fisherman blame the full moon, fwiw.)

We did, however, see some really awesome wildlife, since there’s a state park on the water; we saw oodles of deer, and lots of wild turkeys, and loads of buzzards. (I was not enamored with the buzzards, as I associate buzzards with death, they’re hideous, and in general, they just kinda freak me out.) At one point, I looked at the bank and squinted, asking James, “What IS that over there?” He looked (in a different direction) and said “Buzzards.” I said, “With a WHITE HEAD?” Nope! Turned out to be a bald eagle with an immature bald eagle, most likely a momma guiding her baby around the coves and teaching the finer points of fishing. So that was really nifty, and I must say, bald eagles walking are about the same height as small children. They’re huge!  I definitely would not want one diving in at me every day & ripping out my liver.

I like to work in my highly under-utilized knowledge of Greek Mythology whenever I can. It’s really a service we provide here at PlazaJen Enterprises.

In other news, I’m jetting back to NYC to meet with the folks at CR, and I am finally, really, truly, bona-fide excited about it. I realized last week that I was caught in the undertow of grief, all of which can be intellectually understood, but, unfortunately, not reasoned out of by logic. Because winning the Consumer Reports account is a huge, huge personal and professional accomplishment – and the one person whose approval I worked for all my life, the one person who would have been really impressed, would finally have something awesome to tell people about his kid who works in advertising – well, that person is gone. Broke my fucking heart. Brings tears to my eyes now just to acknowledge it so openly. But hey. I imagine parents who have kids and watch the milestones pass after their parents are gone have a similar row to hoe.  I’m not special or alone in this quagmire, and the mantra of time always comes back around to haunt. At least enough time has passed already.

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Popeye Better Stay Off Our Street for A While….

…James pulled all the spinach last week & cleaned it, giving us about 4 gallon bags of fresh, home-grown spinach. So delish. We were having MommaLinda over for dinner on Saturday night, and he asked if I’d make homemade pasta.

I didn’t get any pics of the fettucine drying, but man, it’s pretty stuff. The spinach adds so much – flavor, color, and homemade pasta is -to borrow from original Iron Chef- like butterflies on your tongue. So light!
Steaming  Homemade Spinach Noodles
I made a very simple sauce – not even that saucy, per se, but it contained sauteed onions, rough-chopped garlic, italian sausage, baby portobella mushrooms and more spinach. I added some of the pasta water to the pan to give it a little more sauciness; other than that, it stood on its own.
Sausage, Spinach, Mushroom, Onion, Garlic saute
Topped with fresh parmesan, it made for a lovely, rustic dish, replete with fresh garden goodness.
Giant Dish of Pasta

Then, last night, I tried another recipe, involving spinach and ricotta and sauteed onions & garlic – and it completely sucked! Ah well. Can’t win ’em all, I guess. I’m able to salvage the mixture to repurpose into lasagne at some point, so at least it wasn’t a complete bomb. In any event, we are Vitamin-K,-A, and iron-rich after this past weekend!

It’s Old Timey Fun, All The Time!

So I married a man with a wide skill set. A veritable homesteader, worthy of competing in Ye Olde Pioneer Dayz. Yesterday evening was pretty atypical, even for us.

Let me back up. Sunday? We bought a chain saw. As we are each prone to do, the Wo gravitated towards the smaller, lower-priced saws first. Me? I look at the price range and determine what I think we should spend to get a “good one”. If life has taught either of us something, spending a bit extra at the git-go is usually worth it in the long run.

Let me back up some more. About a month ago, we discovered a greenhouse on craigslist. And while it wasn’t cheap, it was still a steal. Buying the same model today would have cost three times as much. And, have you met my husband? Each year brings us more home-grown plants, started from seed, and it’s fair to say he’s a little bit into gardening. So we took the plunge & bought the thing, and then we had to figure out where to put it. (The woman selling it had bought it, put the panels together, then they moved, she started to put it up & her new homeowner association told her she couldn’t do that. We don’t have any of those fetters, fortunately!)

So we finally determined that the patio space between JWo’s shop & the garage, at the back of the house, was the best place for it. It’s a 9 x 12 redwood/glass greenhouse, and it will be gorgeous, and we wanted it in a spot we’d be able to see from the dining room. And two trees needed to come out, because they would greatly affect the sunshine levels, and the one tree was already leaning a lot, so blah-de-blah, his grandfather didn’t want to lend him a chainsaw and so we found ourselves at Home Depot, in a post-Thai-food stupor, comparing models. Brought home what he’d later declare was “GREAT”.

On Monday, James took down the “easy” tree. The non-leaning tree. Then last night, he went to backgammon, I got takeout (after being sucked in by this game, the biggest time waster yet entertaining game in my life right now), and then suddenly, the Wo was back home. And as soon as I was done eating, we went outside to tackle the problematic tree.

Ropes were employed. A winch (my favorite!) was installed. (This took at least half an hour, as we both poured sweat in the humidity. I was doing nothing but dousing myself in bug spray and walking around, “supervisin'”) Then we went through the plan. He would cut a wedge, and then when he started cutting on the other side of the tree, I would start winching like a madwoman. (Oh, and don’t think I don’t have a history with a winch. I do. That’s another day.) I LOVE me the winches and the ratchet straps. Can’t explain it. Anyway, I reminded my husband that despite my deep dislike of cutting wood every winter, I did grow up spending my winters outside, watching my father cut down trees, hauling brush, loading firewood, and I understood which direction to RUN, especially because our mechanical setup was going to hopefully pull the tree straight in my direction. I pondered my ability to run, once or twice, but remained confident that even a fat girl can pull out the stops when adrenaline’s involved.

So we began. And this tree? This tree was REALLY leaning towards the house/garage/shop. Winch, winch, winch. He cut a notch on the other side of the tree, instead of cutting it through, just to help get us going on re-directing that tree. He took some turns at the winch. (I should point out that through all of this, I am being swarmed by mosquitoes. JWo? Didn’t even come near him.) Then, we were suddenly out of cable. We could winch no more.

Much more puzzling & solving took place. James got out a ratchet strap. Then a knife. I was told to clear out. (I didn’t argue) Re-attached the winch, and we were back in business. Then, it seemed, in the gathering dusk, we were finally at the moment. I was winching with all my might, and James yelled, “THERE it goes, now it’s moving” and then in an instant, KERPLOOEY, the rope broke, the taughtness released, um, in that microsecond, I though I was going to have a cable whipping into my face, and I was pleased (much, much later, upon reflection) to discover my basic instincts when a sharp clang and things go flying is, indeed, to cover my face. It shook me, I’ll admit. I took the long walk around to regain my composure, and then the reality of the tree took over. We were going to have to drop it towards the house.

I moved the pot of rosemary, took all my decorative garden things out of the way, and then got the hell out of the path. James began sawing. Then stopping, then sawing some more. Then stepped back and said, “That’s as slow as I can drop it.”

I’ve never seen a tree fall more slowly. Ever. A true blogger would have videotaped this, except my hands would have been a bit shaky, and once again, I wanted to cover my face. It could not have landed better. There was a chance some windows might get broken, the gutters could be torn off – nothing. None of it happened. And the Wo has his work cut out for him today, because we have tree outside the back door, and while Polly thinks maybe it would be a great squirrel dispenser for her right at the back steps, it has to go.


Oh, and how did James spend his day yesterday? Canning all those tomatoes. Seven more jars of confit, and a bunch of chopped tomatoes and sauce.

He would have survived in the wagon trail era, quite handily. Me? I’d have been killed by some mosquito-borne illness.

Time Shifting

I’ve noticed that I’ve had absolutely no time for my usual mid-morning/noon blogging. Damn work! Gettin’ in the way and all! My pre-work mornings have been spent plodding on the treadmill, watching the back episodes of The Office. It’s the perfect 20-minute walk, and I usually bark-laugh at least twice per episode. I think the big reason I couldn’t find it funny when it started was because I was still so uber-bitter about the Previous Employer, and nothing related to Previous Employer was entertaining, it only served to give me something to sharpen my teeth & claws on. Like little shots of vitriol, or um, bamboo shoots under the fingernails. Plus, the Wo doesn’t find it very funny – probably because he doesn’t work in an office? Or it’s just that one little pie-shaped area where our humors don’t mesh. I Can Has Cheezburger is a perfect example of another resident on that pie slice. Not all of those posts make me laugh, but some? Crack my shiznit UP, and he just throws his hands up in the air at me, befuddled. Or else he tries to imitate it, hoping for a laugh, and he only succeeds in sounding like Jar-Jar Binks. We-sa no-sa needs-a thatsa! (Which also sounds like something Michael from the Office might try to say, in an attempt at humorous leadership!)

So the knitting: A finished Bathtime Blossom washcloth!
Bathtime Blossoms

The start of the Monkey Socks!
Monkey Socks!!!

Monkey Pants?
Gnome Thinks They're Groovy Pantaloons.
Edward thinks they’d be groovy.

And a shot of the Sea Silk – oooooooh, droolness. I had to rip it out b/c I goofed on the pattern, and I also had to switch needles. The first set of needles were way too blunt.
Sea Silk - sooooooo soft & gorgeous.

Lest you think the garden somehow went on hold – oh no! We have tomatoes! First ones of the season. I expect these represent the tip of the iceberg….
First Tomatoes of the Season

That’s it! I gotta go make up for frogged knitting now. And finish cleaning up the guest bedroom! Aunt Karen arrives tomorrow!

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