Friday, June 24, 2011


Book Club Centerpiece

Last night my book club met for our monthly meeting. The book we read was Stiff, the curious lives of human cadavers, by Mary Roach. I was the host, so I took the liberty of placing a book-themed centerpiece on the finger-food table.

The old gal had spent the past few years packed away in a closet.

We created her several years ago for a Halloween decoration, and she hasn't had many excuses to leave her closet since then.

I think she was glad to get out and about  for a night.

The book was extremely interesting, if a little nauseating at times, but I would recommend it to the curious.

And also for the curious, if you'd like instructions for creating your own mummy, visit this post.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Backyard garden

Here are a few pictures of what's happening in my backyard gardens.

My potato beds this year are a far cry from what they were last year. Last year my bed was full of potato plants along with a couple of weeds. This year the bed is full of weeds along with a few potatoes. They seem to still be coming up, but I don't have high hopes. I only have eight so far, three of which are from leftover spuds that I told my daughter to stick in the compost heap to see what came up. Last year at this time I had between 20 and 30 plants.

I have three small elderberry bushes that my daughter found in the wild, dug up, and transplanted into the yard a couple of years ago for my birthday. They're blooming right now. I use dried Elderberry blossoms in teas for colds, and I make jelly with the berries:

I have a myriad of heirloom tomatoes that I started from seed. Here's one of them. I think this one may be a 'Black From Tula', or possibly a 'Brandywine':

Most people get rid of plantain if it crops up my their yard. I have a nice big batch growing among my lavender. I use it to make poison ivy itch relief spray, and the seeds make a good laxative:

Here is a little bee on a yarrow blossom. I use yarrow in salves for stiff, achy muscles:

This is elecampane in its second year. For the first year, it stays closer to the ground, but in its second year, it shoots up and finally blooms later in the summer. I use the roots from second year plants in teas for colds:

I'll try to get some pictures of my far away garden in the community plots. I've meant to post some before this, but I always forget to bring my camera along when I go out there.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The hanging of lavender begins

My lavender has begun to bloom, which means I am harvesting everyday now as the blossoms become ready. They'll hang upside down in my warm, dark garage until they're dry. I have four different types of lavender and they each bloom at slightly different, yet overlapping, times.

The two that are blooming right now are the Hidcote and my mystery lavender. It's a mystery because it was labeled as Munstead, but when it bloomed it clearly was not. I have no idea what type of lavender it is, but it has a very pretty scent. Each of the different types has a slightly different color and scent. Some are heady and others are more delicate, both in color and in scent.

Here's a closer look at the mystery lavender. It has a small grouping of flowers instead of a longer, wand-like presentation:

The two that are not in bloom yet are the Munstead and the Provence lavenders. The Munstead will be opening any day now, but the Provence will be just a while longer.

I'm hanging my lavender to dry. Later, it will be turned into teas, sprays, sachets, and, possibly, ice cream.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Book signing this Saturday!

I'll be signing books in Cuyahoga Valley National Park this Saturday! How awesome is that?

Saturday, June 18th, 9:00 am to 12:00 pm

Countryside Conservancy Farmers' Market
Howe Meadow, Cuyahoga Valley National Park
4040 Riverview Road,
Peninsula, OH 44262

A book signing at the Farmers' Market!

If you're in the neighborhood, stop by to experience a great Farmers' Market, and come say 'hello' at the book signing tent! I'm so excited, I love farmers' markets!

Roller coaster weather

We've had roller coaster weather lately. A few days ago we were up into the 90's, and yesterday after weeding in the gardens, I came inside very chilled. It only got into the lower 60's. In the evening I threw on sweatpants and snuggled under a cozy comforter while hubby and I watched Star Wars (the original one - I can't bring myself to call it "A New Hope").

Today looks like a repeat of yesterday so far, weather-wise, but it's early yet...

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Difficult, and utterly beautiful things

Yesterday was a difficult day. We had to put two cats down. One was somewhere around 22 years old, and one was somewhere around 16. Both were much loved. Even though these things are done because you love them and don't want them to be uncomfortable, it's never easy.

And so the day was wrapped in grief and tears and recollections, and sometimes even laughter, but by the end of it, I was so incredibly tired. I went to bed with heavy eyes and a muddled head from all of the emotions and tears of the day. At a little after 11:00 my daughter came home from visiting her boyfriend (one of the cats had been his). She woke me up and said, "Come downstairs, I need to show you something." With my daughter, all bets are off when she makes these kinds of announcements. You never know what's in store.

I managed to open my eyes enough to maneuver unsteadily out of bed and down the stairs. My daughter stood by the door and said, "You have to get in the car. I have to drive you someplace." When I began to protest, she added, "You'll love it, I promise."

And so I climbed into the car in my jammies, still half asleep, and my daughter drove me down little back roads while I kept mumbling things like, "I think this must be a dream. I'm pretty sure this is just a dream." My daughter only said, "You'll love it, I promise." Finally, when we were on a small, forested road, she said, "Close your eyes."

That wasn't hard, they were mostly closed with sleep as it was. I dutifully closed my eyes and had the sensation of a small child, mostly asleep, being carried to bed, as the car slowed, made a turn, and stopped. "Okay, open your eyes and look."

I opened my eyes and said, "Ohhh..."

We were on the edge of a field of tall grasses, surrounded by forest, with a million fireflies blinking everywhere, all around. I stepped out of the car, amazed. It was like standing in the middle of a blinking, starry sky. We found a couple of large boulders to stand on so that we could look far out into the field and see how the fireflies continued on into the distance. They were everywhere, in the grasses, above the grasses, filling the air, up in the trees, and right next to us. Flashing and blinking and twinkling. We stood there for I don't know how long, mesmerized, watching a million tiny lights, glowing in quick flashes above the nighttime meadow and within the even darker night among the trees. I whispered, "Thank you, Jessica, for bringing me here." She gave me a hug. 

My daughter was right. I did love it. It was an utterly beautiful ending to an enormously difficult day. 

 And I'm still not sure it wasn't a dream. 

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Last garden planted - finally

My daughter and I spent the day planting the far away garden. That's what I call my plot in the community gardens. It's really only about a 5 minute walk from my house, but as my other gardens are in my yard, this one has been dubbed the far away garden. It's been so rainy here that planting was delayed for weeks. The community plots were very swampy until midway through this past week. They finally opened the gardens up for planting last night. It was a busy place all day today with people coming and going, putting their precious seeds and plants into the ground, and hoping that they grow quickly to make up for the late start.

By 10:00 AM I was ready to call it a day, and I hadn't even gotten out to the far away garden yet. I'd only gotten as far as watering the herb and vegetable gardens in the yard and filling my wheelbarrow with compost intended for the community plot. We're close enough to the community plot that I can wheel the barrow over there, so I filled it with compost from my 'compost heap' to wheel over there. That's what wore me out. You see, the good stuff, the stuff that's ready for the garden, is all at the bottom of the heap. It takes a lot to move the not-quite-ready stuff out of the way and then get down in there to all of that dark, soil-like richness.

And a barrow full of compost is heavy. Did I mention that? And I had to navigate it along the path in the park next door, full of throngs of people there for a huge softball tournament being played on the four fields. I looked a tad out of place, and in front of all of those people I didn't want to put the barrow down to rest - come on, I have some pride. So by the time I got to the far away garden, my arms were cramping up, my shoulders were burning, I was pouring sweat, and I had to rest for a good 10 minutes before I could pick up the shovel and start loading the compost into the garden. And I'd only just begun.

My daughter joined me halfway through, so I had some much appreciated help just when I was actually beginning to peter out. We got the whole thing planted, a few sore muscles, and a bit of a sunburn despite the applications of sunblock.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed. My experience with the community gardens last year was pretty disastrous due to flooding. I have a different plot this year and, I've heard, out of the garden flood plane. We'll see how it all goes.

I'll get some pictures up when I can move my arms enough lift the camera ; )

Friday, June 3, 2011

The best ever poison ivy itch relief

I've finally done it:

I've figured out how to translate fresh plantain smooshed up and rubbed on poison ivy into a spray that really, really works!

When you have a poison ivy rash, there is no better relief than smooshing up fresh plantain leaves and rubbing the juice onto your skin. It stops the itch and soothes the rash with its cool, astringent goodness.

I've tried translating that relief into salves and creams, but they didn't work. I've finally made a spray using fresh plantain leaves that works. It's the best ever itch relief for poison ivy that I have found - and I've tried them all.

I'll be introducing Best Ever Poison Ivy Itch Relief Spray on June 11th at my vendor booth for the Avant-Garde Art and Crafts Show in Middleburg Heights, OH. After that it will be available for purchase through my Etsy shop.