Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Back Again

It’s been a couple of weeks since my last post.  I know you’ve been busy—me too. 

Geez how time flies.  Just look outside and you can see that we are getting closer to spring here in New England. It’s Marching up the east coast though I heard it may take a detour over the next couple of days, weather-wise that is.  Last year at this time I was outside raking leaves and cleaning up the beds—not this year.  The snow has mostly melted in the backyard but the front still looks like the artic circle.

I’m in full swing to train for my Avon 2-day walk. The weather has been cool but dry and perfect for longer and longer walks.  I walk an average of two plus miles a day with a couple of extra long walks twice a week.  My goal this week is to work up to eight miles in one stretch.

Have you noticed the pink “Donate”  button in the upper left corner of my blog?   When you click on it, it will take you to my Avon Personal Page where you can read my story and make a donation and I hope you will help me to end this disease once and for all.  I want to see all of our daughters, granddaughters, nieces, sisters, cousins and friends have a future that isn’t touched by breast cancer.  

P.S.   EVERYONE who makes a donation, no matter what amount is entered into the FREE raffle for my Bonnie Hunter Roll, Roll, Cotton Boll Quilt, which is now finished!  Pictures to follow SOON!  I Promise!


I have some pictures to share with you today, since this will be a short post.  They were taken at the New England Flower Show when it was in full swing.   You can scroll down to an older post and see the “BEFORE” pictures taken on the day my daughter and I helped set up the flower show.  

Enjoy—there’s more to come!

Gail Smile

You can click on the pictures to enlarge them.

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Monday, March 14, 2011


I spent most of yesterday volunteering at the Seaport World Trade Center in Boston helping to set up for the 2011 spring flower show which is presented by the Massachusetts Horticultural Society.  This year’s theme is: “A Burst of Color: Celebrating the Container Garden”.

Volunteering meant getting up at 5:15 am (which was really 4:15 am EST) so that I could drive to Brookline and pick up Carolyn who signed us both up through “Boston Cares” a volunteer organization that matches volunteer needs in the Boston area with people who want to help. 

We had time for breakfast first and headed to “Zaftig’s” on Harvard Street.  Carolyn had a conservative and nourishing breakfast of poached eggs, toast and home fries.   Not me,  I went right for the carbs and ordered “granola pancakes” with date butter and strawberries! 

We got to the WTC a little after 9:30 am. NE Flower Show Sneak Peak 2011 016 On Sundays the metered parking on Seaport Blvd is free but we still had to ride around looking for a spot because of the flower show prep and a gaming convention. 

At 9:45 am we met up with our volunteer coordinator, Shelly, signed in with Mass. Hort and were told we could start by helping to unload the two large trucks that were crammed with plant stands, display cases, props and benches and everything in between.  NE Flower Show Sneak Peak 2011 023

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As we unloaded each truck, the aisles became more congested with exhibitors vehicles and plant materials that were being unloaded.  It was funny to see huge piles of mulch and stone in the middle of this convention center but it was also hard work navigating all these roadblocks with dollies and hand trucks while scissor-lift cranes were hanging signage at the same time.

After the largest items at the back of the trucks were unloaded and  moved to their areas, we were sent to the ballroom to help set up for the Opening Night Party on Tuesday for show sponsors and Mass.Hort’s VIP guests. 

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We did get a few behind the scenes glimpses too.  Like “The Orchid Room” where Mass. Orchid Society and Mass Hort Volunteers were primping orchids for the show. 

No show dog at Westminster got the care and attention that these plants got.  One particular orchid managed to fill the room with a scent I can only describe as “opium for the soul”.   It hit you even before you entered the room. 

NE Flower Show Sneak Peak 2011 045This is the orchid that was responsible for the perfume.

Do you remember when ladies wore orchid corsages like this flower at Easter or for weddings? 

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Here are some more sneak peeks of the show.  Before we left I got permission to walk around and take pictures of the exhibits as they were being built.  It was a long day on our feet but always fun to spend the day with Carolyn and interesting to see the displays being set up but the best part….A free show ticket as a thank you !

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More orchids, dancing ladies on the left.  The orchids on the top right are a hybrid cross of two different orchid species.  Not all of the orchids were labeled yet so I didn’t get names.

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One of the display gardens being set up for the show.  It’s amazing how fast the exhibitors got these major landscaping projects put together.

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Another shot from the back.  I’m not sure what this year’s show theme is but there seemed to be a lot of woodland type gardens being created for the show.

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This is a lighted tree-house that was being built while we were there.  During the five hours Carolyn and I were at the show they brought in the mature trees and had it almost completely landscaped.  We watched one of the carpenters put the finishing touches on  the stairs for the tree house.

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That’s a mature 8 foot orange tree in full bloom with oranges! 





After seeing this tropical patio garden I’m wondering if the theme isn’t outdoor living spaces.  If I lived in Hawaii, this is what I’d like to have in my backyard.

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This exhibitor was trimming and tweaking her trees so they’d look perfect for the judges.  You can’t believe the effort and care that goes into creating each of these exhibits.

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Another incredible display in the making. Can you believe this was built in ONE DAY!   We saw them putting together the wall on the right while we were there.

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More shots:

Crates and crates of flowers arrived and will all be planted before Tuesday.

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Look at this cherry tomatoe vine?  I wasn’t sure where it was headed, but thought it was pretty cool just standing on the side of the exhibition hall.  Here’s a close up too.!

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I hope you can make it to the New England Flower Show this year.   It runs from Wednesday, March 16th through Sunday, March 20th at the Seaport World Trade Center in Boston.  The info number is: 800-756-7606 or you can visit:   Update—this year’s theme is container gardening. 

Maybe I’ll see you there!

Gail Smile

Friday, March 11, 2011

Houseplant Fridays–More March Chores Part II

Garden Hoses

Now’s a good time  to think about buying new hoses.  Maybe last year you didn’t have enough length to reach all the areas you wanted to, or you have an old hose that’s so badly kinked it’s beyond aggravating whenever you have to use it.

I like to lay my hoses out on the driveway on a sunny day and let them warm up for an hour or two so that they’re supple and then rewind them onto my hose reel.  This also drains any water left in them.  I usually do this in the fall but if you hurriedly tossed yours in the garden shed before the first snow, spring is a good time to get it unkinked and coiled neatly ready for it’s first use.

While I’m rewinding, I’m looking for cracks or splits and I mark them with a sharpie so that I’ll notice if any leaks are coming from those areas and I can fix them.

Yes, I’ve been repairing my garden hoses for a few years now and you can easily repair yours too.  I plan to do a tutorial post on this as soon as my garage is dried out enough to work in. 

In the meantime you can make a list of how many hoses you already have and their lengths and diameters.  Garden hoses usually come in two diameters 1/2” and 3/4”. Figure out how many extra feet you need to reach from your water source to the furthest point on your property.  You should buy all of your hoses with the same diameter so that you can connect them if you need extra length.

For most suburban lots a fifty foot hose is plenty of length but if you live in the country like I do and have an acre or larger size lot, you would probably want to double that.

My advice is to buy the best quality hose that you can afford.  The gold standard for me has always been an all rubber hose with brass fittings because it’s so flexible, even when cold and lasts forever but these are getting harder to find and more expensive, when you can find them. 

I don’t really like the plastic reinforced hoses because they’re stiff when cold, they crack easily and worse, kink every time you use them.  They have fittings that leak after a few uses and they’re  hard to coil neatly or wind on a reel.  If you don’t mind wrestling with an unruly hose and/or throwing a hose away every other year, I guess these serve their purpose. 

Vinyl hoses that contain a percentage of rubber are an acceptable choice.  Look for a hose that’s flexible and has good quality fittings, not thin and tinny.  Ask the salesperson  to untie the hose package so you can check the flexibility. 

Oh, and while you’re shopping,  buy a package of o-rings or gaskets for your hoses.  These cost very little but should be replaced every year so your hose won’t leak where it’s connected to a faucet or another hose.

Lawn sprinklers

Every year, I’m puzzled why my sprinklers don’t “sprinkle” the first time I turn them on. 

I usually find some debris like grass clippings or dirt clogging the little sprinkle ports, but I’ve found spider webs and once an acorn in the base of one courtesy of a little field mouse.  Canned air works good to clear out the ports or you can use a metal skewer.  Anything that’s small enough to get into the tiny openings and ream them out.  

Always keep / read the instructions you get with your sprinkler.  Sometimes they’re written on the packaging and sometimes they come in a separate sheet.  They will help you set up your sprinkler so that you waste the least amount of water and get the best coverage.

Garden Tools

Are your garden tools where they should be or scattered in several places?  Collect them all up now—spades, hand tools, pruners, edgers and wipe off any dried dirt with a damp rag and look them over. 

If your hand pruners get a lot of use, take them to be sharpened professionally.  A good pair of pruners are worth a small investment every couple of years to keep them in good working order and  will save your plants and shrubs from being mangled by dull blades.   Spades, shovels and lawn edgers should also be sharpened so that it’s easier to cut through tough sod or rocky soil.  You can do this yourself with a sharpening stone or file, then spray them with a small amount of WD-40 and wipe off the excess.  

If you tend to lose your hand tools when you lay them down on the grass or in your garden, spray the handles with a couple of coats of fluorescent spray paint in any color but green.

Garden Gloves

Did you toss your garden gloves on the potting bench last fall when you were finished with the last of your outdoor chores?  Are they still there?  This is a good time to collect all of your garden gloves and toss them in the washer.  If you need new gloves, add them to your gardening shopping list.

I have several pairs of gardening gloves.  My favorites are Atlas brand because you can literally pick up a dime wearing them.   I rotate my gloves so that I’m always putting on a dry pair and I wash them after I’ve worn them several times unless they’re really grimy or I’ve handled diseased plant material or chemicals.  This is both for my health as well as my plants health. 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Drying out….a little.

I thought I’d better make a post today and update you on the flood situation so you don’t think I’ve floated away down to the Atlantic, LOL.

After a futile attempt to  mop up the water in the Garage Flood 311 (1)basement and garage, Monday and  Tuesday, I finally engaged the thinking gears in my brain and called the equipment rental place and rented a small 1.6 hp. pump that drained out the garage and laundry room in a couple of hours.  Geez, why’d it take me so long to think of that?

Rental PumpTrouble is, as soon as I disconnected the pump for the night, the water came back up through the garage floor drains and flooded it again with another 1 1/2 inches of water.  And of course the garden hose I was using to pump the water out of the garage and into the drainage ditch, FROZE overnight!    

Garage Flood 311 (3)So I called the rental place and kept the pump for another day, then headed to HD and bought a similar pump but I think I’m going to bring it back, it just doesn’t keep up with the water as well as the rental pump does.  Why? I don’t know, it’s the same type pump and the same size motor.   I haven’t checked to see if it’s made in China, but my suspicions tell me it is.

Pump from HDSo against my dad’s advice, I kept the rental pump running all night and guess what---the garage floor is starting to dry out and the laundry room only has a small puddle in one corner now.  

The melt water though is still streaming off the hill in the back and I’m pretty sure there’s going to be a sump pump in my future, unless I want to have the

Drying Out Day 4 (3)new driveway dug up and drainage pipes installed and I guess that will depend on what is the cheaper alternative.  

So I’m looking online now for wet basement contractors but what I’ve been reading about correcting these situations, so far sounds “expensive” so keep your fingers crossed for me.   

There’s more rain and WET snow headed here this week (one of the reasons why March isn’t my favorite month) and that’s not going to make the situation any better.   We have had more power outages in March than in any other month.

BTW, Did you know that there are FIVE seasons in New Hampshire?  

Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter and “Mud”. 


So to keep myself from obsessing about the flood in my garage and wallowing in self-pity about the likelihood of having to spend more money on repairs and berating myself about not selling  years ago when the housing market peaked and I had a good job, I’ve been working on my Vintage Memories BOM and I’m now on Block #4, but I  had a slight “set back” and cut one of my 5 & 1/4” squares 5 & 1/4” x 4 & 1/2”!  Can you guess I was “distracted.”  LOL.


I was really anxious to get out from under of the house yesterday anyway, so I drove to Bits N Pieces in Pelham to buy another FQ and Liz, wonderful, generous shop owner that she is, gave me a piece of the fabric I needed.  She’s kept all of the Moda BOM fabric in back of  the shop, even the scraps from the shop sample, just in case one of us BOM-ers made a dumb mistake, like I did and needed extra fabric.  

Is she a great shop-owner who deserves undying loyalty or what? 

Gail Smile

Monday, March 7, 2011

Martinique Monday–Sort Of

Martinique is a beautiful island in the Caribbean Ocean.  I wish I was there.


The only thing, vaguely resembling Martinique here is that I am surrounded by water.  My basement (laundry room) and garage are flooded from the downpours and accompanying melting snow last night and early this morning.

I woke at 3:00 am, listening as the rain was coming down so heavily that it was hitting the windows sideways. It sounded more like the shower running full throttle than a rain storm.  You know that “intuitive” feeling we get—that something isn’t right??  Well, that’s what kept me from falling into a deep restful sleep last night until I finally got up and went downstairs.

I can’t say I was “surprised”  but I was hopeful that what I suspected wouldn’t bear out.  I should explain…

Just a few months ago, I noticed that the drains in the garage were full of water after a half day of rain and then I remembered the plastic drain pipes that were removed last fall when the new driveway was installed.  They were broken and were the cause of the sinkhole in the middle of the old driveway but evidently they were working well enough to drain the water from the hill behind the house under the garage and out to the drainage ditch.  As we all know, water takes the path of least resistance and since the pipes are gone—it’s flowing through the garage instead of underneath it.

I’m grateful that I moved everything out of the laundry room that could be moved the last time that the furnace flooded the basement but that stuff IS in the garage-my skis, bike, the recycle containers for my dump runs, wood for the fireplace,  my lawn tractor, car and garden equipment, bags of mulch and top soil.  I’ve been bailing out the laundry room but I think a sump pump is needed.

My sewing machines, fabric and craft supplies are on high ground so I guess it could be worse—nothing is “floating” and the water level is only about 1 to 1 &1/2 inches.  Just enough to cause a big mess and ruin a lot of “stuff”.  So maybe the point is to not have a lot of “STUFF” in the future.

Before all this came about, I spent sometime last night working  on my “Vintage Memories” BOM’s from last summer and finished Block #3 which for me was the hardest (dang hst’s) so far and I did end up taking one block apart and reassembling it.


I now have six of the eighteen blocks completed and I’m starting on Block #4.  Each block is duplicated twice in the finished quilt.  Ironically, the fabric is called “Martinique” by 3 Sisters for Moda Fabrics.   I love the color palette of this fabric line—taupe, tile red, pale salmon, aqua. 


Saturday morning I brought my Avon Walk for Breast Cancer raffle quilt “Hopes Garden” to Bits N Pieces and used their automated HQ 18 to quilt it.  I chose a pattern called “Fern” and a variegated thread in wheat, tan and buff.  It was quite an  experience.  It took 45 minutes just to load the quilt, backing and batting into the machine.   Then Liz the owner programmed the pattern and adjusted the size for me.   I wanted it about 65% larger so it coverered more of the string-pieced areas and looked less busy.  Even though the machine is automated, I still had to stand nearby and monitor the bobbin and thread.






Liz and Ellen (in the picture right) were wonderfully patient and generous with their time even though they were super busy with shop customers and traffic and had a backlog of custom quilting orders to do.  Liz’s daughter is getting married this weekend and even though she had a lot of details to see to, she kept the shop open later than normal  so that I could finish “Hopes Garden”. 

It took over 7 hours to quilt.  You can see the detail of the quilting in the close up shot.   After we got the quilt loaded, Liz showed me how to baste the quilt,  run the program, roll the quilt and start a new row---It was info overload and my head was spinning, but Liz was very reassuring and said that with such a large quilt I’d be an expert by the time it was done. 

I wasn’t convinced, especially after I had to ask for help several times because I replaced the bobbin wrong and it got stuck, but by the time Hopes Garden was halfway quilted, I did feel more confident that I could do this again--as long I don’t wait too long!


If you’d like to win “Hopes Garden” you can enter my FREE raffle by making a donation to my Avon Walk for Breast Cancer Fundraising Page .   I hope you’ll visit anyway to find out more about me, why I ‘m doing this grueling 40 miles walk over two days to fight breast cancer. You can also see some updated pics each week.

All of the proceeds from this raffle will go to the Avon Foundation to fund research into breast cancer treatments and a cure.  Some of it will be used for funding screening programs for women who do not have health insurance and to fund programs that provide meals and care to breast cancer patients undergoing treatment. 

If you make a donation using the link above you will  automatically be entered into the raffle for “Hops Garden”.  Donations can be made by credit card or check.   If you’d like to make a donation other than by credit card, please email me and I will send you an official donation coupon.   All donations are tax deductible.  Donations over $25.00 can be made in monthly installments for up to five (5) months. 

The drawing will be held on May 16th, 2011 which is the day following my Avon 2-day walk.   The winner will be notified via email and the quilt will be shipped via priority mail. 

Even if you don’t want to enter the raffle, I hope you will consider making a donation. 

I’m sorry but after writing this post I was informed that raffles, even for charity, cannot be conducted across international borders.  That said, the raffle is only open to US citizens.  My sincerest apologies to anyone who was affected by this sudden change.

Thank you,

Gail Smile