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November 2011

In the Off-Season

So.  What's a gardener to do. . . once the garden is put to bed for the season?  Why. . .


Bring it inside, of course!

I have some really great spots inside for growing plants all season.  An east-facing window in my kitchen. . .


is perfect for succlents and random cuttings and one Very Happy Christmas cactus!


(Looks like it'll be a Thanksgiving cactus this year.)

(By the way, That Brian made my lovely plant stand back in his woodworking phase; about 7th grade I believe.)

I also have south-facing windows in my living room for the real sun-seekers.


And an east-facing window seat perfect for houseplants.


Window seats are so charming (I actually have 4 of them in my house!) -- but not at comfortable for seating.  Even with cushions and pillows.  But they are perfect for plants!


I even have the shade-lovers tucked away in corners here and there.


No matter the season, there is always something . . . growing on!


Brian update:  It wasn't the tibia; it was the fibula he broke.  No surgery required.  And he has a "walking boot" rather than a cast.  He also has one of those nifty orthopedic scooters -- which will be perfect for getting him around on campus.  The thought of him ON the scooter, though, makes me shudder.  Just a little.  Imagine the fun he'll have, figuring out how to make it turn, pop, and spin. . .all the while setting orthopedic speed records!  (Oh, be still my heart.)

Cranberry Goodness: Five and Five


I had my list all thought out today . . . How To Use Cranberries.  Easy!  I love cranberries!  I use them all the time.  But then I re-read Carole's email, just to make sure I had the topic right, and . . . my heart sank.  Because the topic is actually How to Use FRESH Cranberries.  That's an important distinction; one that set me back a bit. 

Well, then. 

Let's see where we end up on this one.


It wouldn't be Thanksgiving without them -- but I like the way their tart, sour-ness adds a little punch and pop ANYtime.  And how to use them?  FRESH cranberries, that is?

1.  Cranberry-Cherry-Walnut Chutney.  This is on our Thanksgiving table every year.  It is wonderful.  I got the recipe in Cooking Light magazine many, many years ago and I've been making it ever since.

2.  Cranberry Cream Cheese Dip.  I just found this recipe (which includes a jalapeño, cilantro, and green onion -- in addition to the cranberries and the cream cheese) on Pinterest, and I plan to try it this year for a Thanksgiving appetizer.

3.  Warm Cranberry Walnut BrieThis is an appetizer I often make for pot lucks and parties.  Easy and very tasty!  (Also from Cooking Light.)

4.  String them as garlands for holiday decorations.  I've actually done this before (years ago).  Rather tedious, but very charming.

5.  Fill glass bowls or vases with fresh cranberries for colorful holiday decor.  I've never actually done this -- but I've recently seen it on Pinterest (yeah; I know), and it looks so festive.  I think I'll give it a try this year

And, with those five, I'm afraid . . . I've run out of ideas for FRESH cranberries.  Although I love 'em, I just don't use the fresh ones all that often, I guess.  So, to round things out, I'll fall back on DRIED Cranberries.

6.  Add them to your yogurt.  Dried cranberries add a nice, chewy, tart blast to yogurt.  My favorite?  Chobani Greek Yogurt . . . pineapple . . . with a bit of granola and some dried cranberries.

7.  Add them to your cereal.  I always throw a handful of dried cranberries (or dried cherries) into my morning flakes.  (I hear they're great in oatmeal, too.  But I don't eat oatmeal.)

8.  Mix them into roasted green beans. . . with a touch of olive oil and some sea salt.  Divine.

9.  Or try this recipeRoasted Acorn Squash with Walnuts and Cranberries.  (I'm planning to test this one out later this week.  Found it on Pinterest.  Natch.)

10.  Bake them into cookies or muffins or breads.  You can't go wrong with dried cranberries, substituting them anywhere you'd add raisins.  (They are fabulous in chocolate chip cookies.)

How do YOU use cranberries?  FRESH or DRIED?


 Join the fun!  Sign up for Ten on Tuesday here!



Just a Riff

Vicki did a little riffing last week. 


  • I'm going to follow her lead. . .because, frankly, that's all I can manage today.
  • I'm entering Week 2 of being On My Own.
  • Because Tom is in India.
  • Again.
  • I'm eating a lot of tuna casserole.
  • Yum.
  • One of my favorite comfort foods.
  • But it sure does last a long time when you're the only one eating it.
  • I always have such big plans for Getting Things Done. . .when I'm On My Own.
  • But, somehow, my plans don't always materialize.
  • I did remove the screens from all the windows.
  • I really need to clean all the windows, now.
  • But I hate that job.
  • I started to re-organize a closet.
  • I thought about trying to remove horrid wallpaper from the bathroom.
  • (Something I've been putting off for about 8 years now.)
  • But, gradually, I sunk into a pattern of knitting while watching tv programs on my iPad.
  • (iLove that thing.)
  • I re-watched Downton Abbey.
  • The entire first season.
  • (Season 2 airs in January.)
  • (Can't wait.)
  • Now I'm alternating Doc Martin episodes. . .
  • with Pride & Prejudice.
  • (The Colin Firth version, of course.)
  • Not a bad way to spend time, but . . . really.
  • It's been very windy here these last few days.
  • Which is fine with me, actually.
  • Because the remaining leaves are blowing right off my trees --- and drifting over to the neighbor's side of the fence!
  • Nice when it works that way.
  • (Especially because I have to deal with their English ivy, growing through the fence and into my yard, the rest of the year.)
  • Jenny is freaked out by the wind.
  • She is jumpy on our walks.
  • She thinks the wind is chasing her.
  • Or something.
  • And Brian? 
  • Oh, that Brian!
  • He broke something again.
  • This time. . . spiral fracture of the tibia.
  • Just above his ankle.
  • Longboarding race.
  • He placed 4th, which is exciting.
  • But still.
  • Luckily, he just got the cast off his hand.
  • (I'm sure you'll be impressed to know that he removed it himself.)
  • That kid.
  • Tom always misses out on the fun stuff!




Thankful Thursday: Let Me Give You a Hand

This week, I've been thinking about my hands . . . and how thankful I am to have them.


Holding.  Touching.  Reaching out.

My hands are expressive.  I talk with my hands; I can wave hello or call someone over.  I can show my appreciation by clapping my hands, or I can show my irritation with . . . well, you know, gestures.

My hands keep me in touch -- they type and write and dial.  They text and push buttons and snap photos.


I can reach out to people -- with a hug, a handshake, a tap on the shoulder.  I can give a massage or tickle someone.  I can push away or pull toward.  I can pet my pup!

When it comes to holding and carrying things, my hands are quite versatile!  I can lug in a week's worth of groceries or push a wheelbarrow full of compost . . . with the same hands that can cradle a fragile piece of china or pick up a tiny fragment of thread.

My hands take me through the chores of my day . . .


and help me settle with my hobbies.


I'm thankful for my hands.  They keep me busy and help me find my way in the world!



Dead Head

Remember this?


I loved this show when I was a kid.  It was just so . . . goofy.  As a 6-year-old, it made me laugh to see how abnormal the Addams Family was.  They weren't frightening to me . . . mysterious and spooky, maybe, but heavy on the "ooky" (which I took to mean . . . alternative!).  And that made me laugh.

I especially loved Morticia.  I remember thinking it was so funny that she cut OFF the flower blooms before putting the stems in a vase -- or that she preferred dead flowers to live flowers.  That was just so . . . silly . . . to me!

But now, as an adult and as a gardener, I see her point.

Although I prefer bursting blooms and gorgeous blossoms in my garden, at this time of year - when everything is dying back - I also find beauty in spent flowers.

Drooping blooms.


Frozen petals.


Shrivelled and shrinking.


Dull and dreary.




Altogether "ooky" . . . that's for sure.  But beautiful, in their own way.  Maybe Morticia was on to something there!

I Feel Terrific!


I hate getting a cold.  Hate. It.  (Colds make me Very Grumpy!)  This week, though, for Ten on Tuesday, we're talking about colds -- and what we can do to take care of ourselves when we've got one.

I tend to follow three "stages" when dealing with colds. . .

First, there is the Prevention Stage (and, because I hate colds so much, I'm in Prevention Stage most of the time):

1  -- Proper rest and general good nutrition with plenty of Vitamin C and Zinc
2  -- Frequent hand washing
3  -- Avoiding Germ Zones and people with obvious colds (if possible)

Next, there is the Denial Stage:

4  -- Positive thinking -- my mantra becomes "I feel terrific!  I feel terrific!"
5  -- Working out -- hard -- hoping to "sweat" it out
6  -- Raging -- refusing to ALLOW the cold germs to settle in my body (this is where I am Very Grumpy and it's not pretty)


And, if none of that works and it's clear I have a cold, I move into the Acceptance Stage:

7  --  Gargling with salt water; taking Tylenol -- and some extra Vitamin C (just in case)
8  --  Drinking hot tea and plenty of water and fruit juices; eating bowls of chicken noodle soup
9   -- Getting plenty of rest; sucking on Halls Mentho-Lyptus drops; and keeping soft tissues nearby
10 -- Whining to my mom

With that, let's all hope for a healthy fall and winter with minimal discomfort from colds and flu.  Get a flu shot!  Wash your hands!  DENY!  We feel TERRIFIC!


Join the fun!  Sign up for Ten on Tuesday here!

Back to Front

I just finished reading listening to a really great book. . . The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides.


But.  I need to come clean.  Something . . . really odd. . . happened to me while reading listening.

If you listen to audiobooks, you know that they are divided into parts (typically 8 hours or less) for downloading onto your iPod.  Most books I read have multiple parts -- usually 2, but sometimes more . . . sometimes less.  So all of the "parts" are listed separately on your iPod playlist.

From time to time, I have mistakenly chosen the wrong part to listen to.  It's a quick fix, though.  You realize. . . HEY!  This isn't quite making sense!  And you switch over to the correct part.

I usually blame my iPod.  It's one of those teeny-tiny Nano models.  (Really.  What WERE they thinking when they designed this?  As a touch screen no less!!!!)  It's a challenge to read ANYthing on this teeny-weeny screen -- and it's easy to select the wrong item.

(Notice:  The chapter listings on an iPod download do NOT correspond to the chapters in the actual book.)

Anyway.  I started reading listening to The Marriage Plot.  Like usual, it took me a little bit of time to get into the flow of the story -- who was who, what they were doing, why, etc.  But within a chapter or two, I was totally THERE.  The characters were compelling, the language and dialogue crisp.  I love Eugenides' style of writing, and find his novels just . . . captivating.

So.  Imagine my surprise when I got to the end of the first "part" I was listening to . . . and realized that it was the END OF THE BOOK!!!!

Yes.  I listened to the second half BEFORE listening to the first half.


Rather than think it's an indication of my own idiocy, I think this is a testament to Jeffrey Eugenides . . . that a reader can jump in at the midpoint of his novel and STILL be completely captivated by his writing . . . and, in fact, will feel satisfied to the point of being stunned (STUNNED) to have missed the first 8 hours of the book!

How does this even happen?

I went back and listened to the first half.  And while it deepened my understanding of the characters, setting, and plot, I do not feel that I had missed any of the cogent elements of the novel by reading it out of order.  (WAY out of order.)

I think Eugenides must be a bit of a genious. 

And what this says about me?  I'm not really sure.  But there you have it.  The ultimate case of my reading the ending. . . before the beginning!




The end of Project Spectrum is near!  November is the last month of our color journey, and we wrap up with the neutrals:  black, grey, white, beige, taupe.


Last month, I struggled to find teal in my landscape.  In my neck of the woods, teal is not a naturally-occurring color.


But neutrals?  Yeah.  Got 'em!  Especially when we hit late fall.  Then, the neutrals will take us straight through til spring!


Seems that everywhere I look. . .


there's a lot of neutral going on!


I don't mind, though.  The neutrals have a certain stark beauty all their own.  Because there is no color exciting your eyes, you tend to notice other things more.  Like . . . texture.


And shading.


And movement.


There's a lot to like about . . . neutrality.


Which is a good thing!  Because it's what we've got for the next several months!


MANY THANKS to all of you who volunteered to help Erin with her survey.  She was overwhelmed by the response, and I am so grateful for your support.  Hugs to all of you!

Thankful Thursday: Happy Feet

November already!  You know what that means? 


Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  I love the gathering of Thanksgiving: The food, the family, the being together -- warm and happy inside, against an increasingly chilly exterior.  I love the colors of Thanksgiving.  I love the traditions of Thanksgiving.  I love the overall ease of Thanksgiving; that it is a holiday without much expectation, pressure, or fanfare.  I love that there is a day . . . devoted to being thankful.

In November, I start thinking about what I'm particularly thankful for. . . in my life.  I'm a thankful, grateful person, in general.  Always have been.  But I think that I became Even More Thankful . . . after the whole cancer thing.

So, during November, on Thursdays, I'll be writing about what I'm thankful for. . . right now.


I am thankful . . . for my feet!

That may sound a bit silly.  But, my feet . . .

Get me where I want to go.  They allow me free movement.  They open up a world of possibilities.  They keep me fit.  They keep me connected.  They keep me moving forward.

They jump and kick and spin. 

They pedal.

They drive. 

They walk.  Just around the corner with Jenny.  Or down the Champs-Élysées with my sister.


They move uphill and down. 

Sometimes they move me forward quickly, with excitement; sometimes they move me forward slowly, with dread.

But they keep me moving.

And sometimes, they just . . . hang around.


I'm thankful for my feet.  For movement in my life.  For the ability to . . . go where I want to go.


Calling all willing participants!!!!!

Erin has put together a short survey (unscientific) for one of her papers in literary & cultural studies.  (Hint:  It's about reading habits and whether or not you use an e-reader.)  If you're willing to spend about 4-5 minutes with this survey TODAY (because, of course, she's on a tight deadline), send me an email or comment and I'll have her send you the survey.  Many thanks!



Autumn Mosaic

Winter is an etching, Spring a watercolor, Summer an oil painting, and Autumn a mosaic of them all.            ----- Stanley Horowitz

It's been a lovely fall here in Michigan. 


Pleasant weather.  Nice weekends.  Blue skies.


I love the colors and textures of the season.


A true mosaic!