Monday, May 28, 2012

Things I learn from the ugly side of the garden

I'm always posting the best pictures of my yard--the flowers in bloom, the successful combinations, extreme close-ups of sometimes unimpressive plants. Today I'm going to show you pictures of the ugly side of the yard. Yes, I have ugly gardens. This side yard in particular has languished for two years while I worked on the the front garden. The side is less visible, so I felt no urgency and I had no vision for it. Hence the overgrown grass, aggressive ivy, and weeds wildflowers. It was time to start weeding, at the very least. As I poured out my wrath on the cursed ivy, I pondered the deeper significance of ugly sides. I have a few in my personality--quick and ugly anger, self-righteousness, and pride to name a few. Many things that are true in the garden are also true in the soul:

I try to hide ugly. As a blogger I can show you what I want you to see. I tend to leave out the less-than-spectacular and really-just-ordinary pictures, not with the intention to deceive, but because I want to share and enjoy what is most beautiful. I really  don't want you to see the side yard, the back daylily garden, or (gasp!) behind the shed. The ugly and neglected spots are embarrassing and represent a failure of my own standards (perfectionist much?). Trying to hide the things I'm ashamed of builds walls. The ugly old couch I was ashamed of stopped me from inviting people over. After talking and praying about my anger with a good friend, I felt myself putting up walls again to keep things from getting too real. But I need to see and deal with the ugly parts because...

Ugly affects everything else. Those "wildflowers" today will be going to seed tomorrow. The dandelions blooming (in my driveway, no less), will be blown by wind and giddy little children to ever corner of the garden. Thistles, bindweed, creeping charlie, and untold more start sprouting up where they will choke out good flowers and get themselves in the pictures. (Rabbit trail: I don't use Preen because I'm an organic gardener and I want the flowers to self-seed.) "I should have pulled that weed before it flowered" is my ongoing lament. It is good when God starts working on a neglected area of my life. He will garden that space back into his beautiful design and it will benefit me and my relationships with others. The process is painful but I have to remember that...

Ugly is not my identity. When I've spent an hour ripping out ivy and I've only touched 0.1% of it, all I can see around me is ivy. Weeding is the same way. It fills my eyes and grates on my soul. There is so much to be done! I'm tired, filthy, soaked, and can barely unbend my back from looking at the ground. But the beautiful is still there, still true, still part of me. I stop and remember the successes, the stunning moments of grace, and I have hope that this ugly side I'm working on will be beautiful too.

Here are some verses from the Bible that guide and encourage me in this process:
John 10:10 (Jesus said) The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Philippians 2:13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.
1 Peter 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade--kept in heaven for you,

2 Peter 1:2 Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
3His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Friday Flowers: Columbine, Geum, Poppies.

 Oh May, how I love you! I would wax poetic if I could, but I'll just let the flowers do the talking.
Aquilegia, 'Christa Barlow'

Aquilegia 'Christa Barlow' and 'Nora Barlow'

I'm very happy with the purple, pink, and orange combination.

The columbine colors echo the Pulmonaria 'Mrs Moon'

Geum 'Totally Tangerine'

Long view with 'Coral Reef' Poppies and Dianthus 'Bath's Pink' in front

Linking up at the following spectacular sites:
Fertilizer Friday/ Flaunt Your Flowers
Creative Corner Hop

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Yarn Wishes--Noro Colors

Cabled Socks

Have you heard of Noro Yarn? I've been knitting for almost a year and from the beginning it was a name that kept popping up. The scarf pattern I've been using for a few Christmas gifts originally uses Noro Silk Garden. (I would link to it, but I don't want to spoil the surprise!) You have to see these colors! I love how rich they are and that they don't repeat in a predictable way. I haven't worked with it yet, since my yarn budget is nil. It is definitely a goal of mine! I really, really, really want to make socks with their sock yarn. Noro's new magazine is out with some great fun and even edgy patterns which you can preview at Knitting Fever's Yarnologue. Check it out and enter their giveaway (ends 5/25).

Monday, May 21, 2012

Green Living--My Best Advice

First I have to say that the overuse of the adjective green is is starting to get on my nerves. The problem is, most people know what you mean when you use it...and environmental stewardship has too many syllables. But I digress...

I entered a giveaway where the blogger asked for comments answering the question: What is your advice to someone who is just starting out trying to live green. I don't remember what I answered--something simple and practical I hope, but the question rumbled around in my brain until I realized what my best advice would be.
My compost pile

Know the Why.
Ouch, that hurts my grammar nerve. What I mean is, know the why behind aspects of the green lifestyle. For example, I was struggling with the question of why to compost. Clearly vegetable matter is biodegradable, how could there be any harm in throwing it in the garbage? The fact is, putting compostable materials in the garbage is a total waste of their potential. Instead of adding nutrients to my garden, I am sending it off to a landfill where it will join the milieu of dirty diapers, dog poop, and disposable razors, etc that will be good for nothing for untold centuries. Thinking about it that way makes the work of composting worth it to me. The same logic works for recycling too.

After turning every week for a few months: A wheelbarrow full of sifted homemade compost ready to nourish the garden!

Its always good to research the claims you hear about online. For both negative and positive claims, look for sources listed. Do you trust them? If all the author gives is their opinion, I usually keep looking until I find some original sources. Well, I'm geeky enough to search Pubmed for actual research articles, but that's not for everyone. Just be skeptical and research until you are satisfied.

Own Your Why.
Take steps that you are passionate about and it will be easier to stay faithful to your commitment. I don't know about you, but I am the conservation cheerleader, recycling coordinator, chief diaper washer, compost dumper/turner/sifter etc for my household. Sometimes that can wear me down, but these things are part of me and my deep desire to reject the throw-it-away mindset. What's your green living passion?

Friday, May 18, 2012

Friday Flowers--Color Combinations

  I planned the Pool Garden (it was the site of an above-ground pool) with a limited color scheme. I wanted it to be soothing and easy to look at through the kitchen windows. Whites predominate, with splashes of yellow and undertones of purple. Planted together here are white bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis alba), foam flower (Tiarella cordifolia), and lamium 'White Nancy'. I'm sure I got the idea from a picture in a gardening book. I find monochromatic color schemes easy to plan and soothing to the eyes, but over time it becomes a little boring. I still do look out the kitchen windows and sigh with contentment, though.

I added the vigorous groundcover ajuga to add dark foliage and flowers amid all the whites and greens. It really is more purple than the picture portrays. So far I haven't regretted it, especially since the solomon's seal is able to grow up through it.
Peachy-orange, purple and white combine for a more exciting combination in the Front Garden. Here the tiarella and ajuga are planted with one of my favorite coral bells, Heuchera 'Caramel'. I would be an obsessed collector of coral bells but for one thing--money. As it is, I have 4 kinds: Caramel, Georgia Peach, the ubiquitous Palace Purple, and one from the house's original owner. Do you have a favorite? I know they are a little over-exposed at present, but I still love them.

Make sure to stop by this week's Inspire Me Monday at Create With Joy and check out some great creative and encouraging posts!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Six-Ways-to-Win Giveaway at DesignerYarnSale!

I'm excited about the giveaway at Designeryarnsale because there will be six $25 winners! I'm in, are you?
Ends 5/25/12.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - May 2012

May Dreams Garden has a lovely linky for gardeners around the world in which she asks:
What's blooming in your garden this month of May? 

Since I love taking pictures of flowers just as much as I love gardening, I'm more than happy to answer that question! This is a bit of what's going on in my zone 6 Front Garden:

Two years ago I scattered seed from two columbines into the front garden. I have been impressed with how many germinated and have grown-- even in the packed, un-amended soil. It took two years for the plants to mature enough to bloom. Many columbines I've seen look best in close-up pictures, and while that's mostly true for these Barlow series flowers, I'm still happy with how they look in the garden as a whole. They definitely lend a cottage garden feeling.

Aquilegia 'Christa Barlow', Pulmonaria 'Mrs. Moon', Phlox divaricata 'Louisiana Blue'

Aquilegia 'Nora Barlow'

Geum 'Totally Tangerine' started blooming this week. I love the color and the textured. semi-evergreen leaves. This cultivar is sterile (doesn't produce seedlings). My only complaint is that the flowering stems get longer through the season and flop on their neighbors--good for suppressing weeds, not goof for the veronica I planted nearby.

Finally, my first attempt at a container of annuals! These were some of the plants I received on the Keuka in Bloom wine trail event. Without trying, I ended up with a great combination of red white and pink. I hope I take care of the container. Annuals are much needier than perennials and I am an infamous killer of plants in pots.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Summer Celebration Blog Hop is Coming!

Green Your Mom 

I love being part of the Green Moms Network! Along with being a supportive community of blogging environmentally conscious moms, its our pleasure to offer some great green giveaways! Coming Soon: Happy Mothering, Eco-Crazy Mom and Organic Mama are excited to bring you the Summer Celebration Giveaway Hop, which will run from June 21, 2012 12:01 AM EST to June 29, 2012 11:59 PM EST. The hosts are accepting blogger sign-ups right now! Click here for more information and to sign up!

Garden Me will be teaming up with Tropical Traditions again to offer a chance to win 1 GALLON of their Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil (retail value of $120)! Wow! 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Flourless Brownies...I Have No Words

To Cook With Love linked to these brownies at Tessa the Domestic Diva (I love how word gets around on the internet). I have been put off by box mix brownies lately--to sweet, or too gooey, or too dry, or too oily--they just weren't doing it for me. I felt like I needed to cover them with ice cream to disguise the fact that I wasn't enjoying them (what a shame, right?). These Dark Chocolate Flour-less Brownies looked so out-of-the-box (heh) that I had to try them. I am verklempt (Yiddish--speechless with emotion). Smooth. dark chocolate. honey. No. Words.

Tessa's recipe is a little lower in fat and sugar, but I used what I had on hand. Also, her comments section is a good resource, if your unsure how these will work out. This is how I made them, and its really easy:
Yield: 1 8 x 8 pan
  • 15 oz can black beans, rinsed and thoroughly drained
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 T granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a food processor bowl (a blender should work too), add all the ingredients through the egg.  Puree until smooth.
  3. With the motor running, add your other ingredients and mix well.
  4. Pour into a greased or parchment lined 8 x 8 pan.
  5. Bake in a preheated oven until 20-25 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (which means 30+ minutes in my finicky oven).
  6. Cool, cut into desired shape, and store in an airtight container.
So, so, good! I spread one with peanut butter! A glass of milk is a must. Thank you so much Tessa, you have a new fan! Next I want to try everything Char Sui Pork!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Inspire Me Monday

Inspire Me Monday is a meme from Create With Joy that really resonates with me. I have always felt the excitement of new beginnings when Monday comes back around. So here are a few things that are inspiring me today: 
 The Pandora station created when I simply typed in Rich Mullins. Relaxing, worshipful, and good.
I highly admire people who set goals and go after them. I usually float through daily life without any goals bigger than finishing the laundry and making dinner. While there is definite value in being faithful in the small things, big things usually don't happen without big dreams and goals. My sister's mother-in-law has lost 43 pounds in a year on WW and I admire her perseverance and commitment to her goal!
Sara blogs about spinning and dying by hand and makes really lovely yarn. I love reading about a craft I know nothing about! Not only that, but I recently won a skein of yarn from her blog giveaway--yay! And thank you :-)

Breathe...cherry blossoms.
Cocoa Cherry Energy Bites...time for another one!
The Word of God
2 Peter 1:2-4 (NKJ)
Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
All things that pertain to life and godliness...note to self, meditate on that.
I'd love to hear what inspires you today!

Welcome to the Bright Starts Ultimate Baby Shower Giveaway!

Bright Starts and Mom to Bed by 8, the Iowa-Mom have teamed to offer an amazing Bright Starts Sunnyside Safari Collection giveaway to one lucky reader!
This includes the Sunnyside Safari™ Chair Top High Chair, Playard, Plug in Sway & Swing, Portable Swing and Saucer making this truly the Ultimate Baby Shower Gift.
Special thank you to the wonderful bloggers who made this possible including our co-hosts: To Sew with Love, The Lucky Ladybug and Mom Blog Society.
Garden Me is happy to team up with these great blogs to bring you this giveaway. You will find the entry form after all of the lovely product descriptions :-)

Big smiles and bright adventures go hand in hand in this exciting, fun-filled collection!
Take a walk on the sunny side-where baby gear goes together in delightful new ways. It's a win for infants and parents alike, with irresistible jungle characters adorning an array of fun coordinated products you'll use every day. Each piece of the collection does its job charmingly, with non-stop fun at an unbeatable value.
The Bright Starts Sunnyside Collection is available at Wal-Mart!

Sunnyside Safari™ Chair Top High Chair
A good high chair is a must for moms, and Bright Starts™ Sunnyside Safari™ Chair Top High Chair is as good as they come! It does what a full-sized model does and more, adjusting to four different heights (and nearly any table), reclining to three positions, and converting to a booster seat for smooth transition to the toddler years.
The reversible seat pad is made of stain-resistant fabric you can wipe clean or machine-wash. The removable Stay Level Tray™ remains flat even when the seat is reclining. All this, plus the friendly characters of the Sunnyside Safari™ Collection. Make mealtime and snack time more enjoyable for baby and you. Start the fun with Bright Starts!™

Product Features:
  • Convenient 2 piece reversible seat pad is made of stain resistant fabric that is wipeable and machine washable
  • 4 height positions to fit most table sizes
  • 3 position recline
  • Removable Stay Level Tray™ remains level even when seat is reclined
  • 3 locking positions to grow with baby
  • Built-in holders are convenient for drinks or snacks
  • Converts to booster for easy toddler transition
  • 5 point convertible safety harness

Sunnyside Safari™ Playard
A bright, sunny place for baby to rest, play, get a quick diaper change and spend a few moments with some friendly jungle pals! That's the Bright Starts™ Sunnyside Safari™ Playard. This playard includes a removable bassinet with our time-saving One Less Step™ feature for easy fold-and-go mobility.
There's a convenient changing table, a handy side storage pocket, easy-roll wheels, a travel bag, plus a colorful toy bar to delight baby. And like all Bright Starts™ products, this playard is an unbeatable value. Part of our coordinated Sunnyside Safari™ Collection. Start the fun with Bright Starts!™

Product Features:
  • Removable bassinet with One Less Step™ to quickly fold and go
  • Convenient changing table
  • Toy bar with 2 fun toys
  • Side storage pocket
  • Wheels for easy portability
  • Includes travel bag

Sunnyside Safari™ Plug in Sway & Swing™
Some swings go back and forth. Some go side to side. This one does both—and does it with music, toys, and delightful jungle style. With a seat designed for 180° rotation, allowing three swing directions, the Bright Starts™ Sunnyside Safari™ Plug in Sway & Swing™ uses our unique TrueSpeed™ technology to sense baby's weight and adjust for consistent speed—so it grows along with baby.
The swing also boasts a volume-adjustable 20 minutes of melodies and nature sounds, an overhead mobile—even an AC adaptor to save on battery expense. And it features the fun and engaging characters of the Sunnyside Safari™ Collection. Start the fun with Bright Starts!™

Product Features:
  • Seat rotates 180° for 3 swing directions
  • TrueSpeed™ technology maintains 6 speeds as baby grows
  • Mobiles with 2 playtime toys easily pivots out of the way
  • 20 minutes of melodies and nature sounds with volume control and auto shut-off
  • AC adaptor saves money on batteries
  • Swing time with 3 settings: 30, 45 and 60 minutes
  • Whisper Quiet™ operation
  • 5 point harness
  • Machine washable seat pad
  • Non-slip feet

Sunnyside Safari™ Portable Swing
Find baby's favorite speed with this innovative portable swing. The Bright Starts™ Sunnyside Safari™ Portable Swing is a win for parents and babies—from its machine-washable padded seat right down to its bright yellow, non-slip feet. With six distinct speeds to choose from, you'll find it easy to suit your little one's mood—and our patented TrueSpeed™ technology keeps those speeds consistent even as baby grows.
The Comfort Recline™ seat gives you a choice of two positions, and WhisperQuiet™ operation makes this swing silent in use. Wrap it all up in the super-fun animal decor and you've got a perfect travel companion. Part of Bright Starts™’ Sunnyside Safari™ Collection. Start the fun with Bright Starts!™

  • TrueSpeed™ Technology maintains 6 speeds as baby grows
  • Comfort Recline™ seat with 2 positions
  • Whisper Quiet™ operation
  • Easily folds for storage or travel
  • 5 point harness
  • Machine washable seat pad
  • Non-slip feet

Sunnyside Safari™ Saucer
This is where babies go for serious fun. A Walmart exclusive, the 7-activity Bright Starts™ Sunnyside Safari™ Saucer offers entertainment options galore—and a lighthearted jungle theme with fun characters you'll adore.
The seat rotates a full 360° for endless interaction with the activity stations. Twin overhead toy arms provide even more entertainment options. And the three different height positions make this one saucer your baby won't soon outgrow. Four link loops mean still more toys can be attached. Part of the Sunnyside Safari™ Collection, this saucer will quickly become a family favorite. Start the fun with Bright Starts!™

Product Features:
  • 3 adjustable height positions allows entertainer to grow with baby
  • Seat rotates 360° for nonstop interaction with 7 activity stations
  • 2 overhead toy bar arms with mirror, hanging toy and fabric crinkle leaves
  • Hanging elephant toy
  • Bendy giraffe teething stalk
  • Bead chaser with easy to grip textured beads
  • Lion popper with spiraling beads
  • Rotating ladybug barrels with fun textures and beads
  • Rocking toucan on leaf stalk
  • 4 link loops for attaching more toys
  • Lays flat for storage
  • Built-in toy tray is easy to clean
Giveaway starts on May 7 at 12:01AM and ends May 28 at 11:59PM. Open to the US residents only; must be 18 years of age or older to enter.
Enter to win the Bright Starts Ultimate Baby Shower Giveaway including the Sunnyside Safari Collection on the rafflecopter form below.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Cherry blossoms take my breath away

When I went to D.C. over Easter, most of the cherry blossoms were past their peak. Like here in Western NY, they also had an early Spring warm-up. The average peak bloom date is April 4th and this year's date was March 20th. Since I was there the first week of April, I resigned myself to not seeing the thousands of blooming cherry trees. Well, we were walking from the Metro to the zoo in an endless parade of families with strollers, when I stopped and caught my breath. I immediately exited the parade and meandered about the grounds of the Marriott, taking pictures, while bbC patiently waited in his stroller and was rained on by cherry blossom petals. How very nice of the Marriott to invest in and share a beautiful landscape!

All good things must come to an, um, end. These type of seasonal displays are all ripped out and re-done with the next season's bedding plant. I wonder what they put in next? If I lived nearby, I would be tempted to ask them for the bulbs. On  the other hand, I don't care for the way tulips decline each year. That's why they make good bedding plants.