Saturday, November 17, 2012

Back on the grid & not quite so ready for the holidays.

This post doesn’t have anything to do with gardening or quilting today but you know sometimes there are other things in my life that I like to talk about.

I am truly sympathetic to the people of NY and NJ who still have no power or services.  As of yesterday I heard there were still about 33,000 people without power.  If the cold and the loss of possessions doesn’t make you crazy, the boredom will.   We are no longer a society capable of entertaining ourselves without electronics!   

A friend’s nephew who’s house was the only one not flooded on his street  is now housing two other families who’s houses were.  The nephews children are staying with grandparents because neighbors’ children are sleeping in their rooms.  

Fast forward two weeks and NEXT Thursday is Thanksgiving?  I have a house full of people coming this year, versus the usual core group of 5.   The big attraction is….shhhh,, my youngest daughter bringing her “beau” home to meet the family. She has never done this before so I’m thinking this is serious and we better all be on our best behavior.

I’m having the living room painted especially in his honor—well, not really.  It’s been on my to do list for over a year now.  I collected lots of paint chips and paint samples but none of them actually made it onto the walls.

Paying someone else to do it, and being pressured  to choose the paint NOW so it can be finished by T-day is what I needed to motivate me.   I brought the final four six paint chip selections to work and asked my co-workers to vote.  The tie breaker was a co-worker who had selected the same color for her walls that I was favoring—that validation cinched it for me and off  I trotted to  HD. 

I did find a wonderful paint blog this week while I was agonizing over paint colors.  Maybe you’ve visited there too?  It’s called "Favorite Paint Colors"  Kristin is the blog owner and she posts a different paint color everyday with beautiful room photos.   I found one post she did about paints to use with natural wood very helpful.  My house, especially dining room, has a lot of dark wood wainscoting and I’ve had difficulty choosing colors because of that.

So what colors did I finally choose for my living room?  After narrowing down the choices from brown and tan and taupe, I chose “Castle Path” by Behr which is a medium greige/taupe.  The ceilings will be  75% “White Clay” from Behr also and the trim and woodwork, which I’m going to have to sand and prime this weekend because that’s the deal I made with the painter to save some moolah,  will be “Simply White” by Benjamin Moore.   I really like the two coordinating colors for Castle Path and plan to use them in other rooms.  I chose the “Simply White” because it’s not a bright blue-based white that I can also use in other rooms.


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I have next week off—HOORAY!!   Today on the agenda is laundry, china washing, removing all removable items from the living room and going T-day shopping. 

I am planning to post more this week—hooray.  I’m working on some leader/ender blocks and two baby quilts for a friend’s new grandchildren. 



Monday, October 1, 2012

Fall Fairs

September and October are the months for the big agricultural fairs in the northeast.  There’s the Eastern States Exposition in Springfield, Massachusetts, The Topsfield Fair in Topsfield, Mass,  The Fryeburg Fair in Maine and here in New Hampshire the largest and best known is the Deerfield Fair

I haven’t gone to the Deerfield Fair since my kids lived at home but this year my daughter came up so that we could take Calvin, who at two years old is in love with anything on four legs or four very large tires.  On both counts he was not disappointed.DeerfieldFair2012wLauraandCalvin 004DeerfieldFair2012wLauraandCalvin 002

The Deerfield Fair covers acres.  The earlier you get there the closer you can get to one of the entry gates but we got there about one- o’clock so we hoofed it about a quarter of a mile before reaching the entrance.

There are dozens of events over the four days—tractor pulls, horse pulls, sheepdog herding and  4H events, plus all the usual fairway rides and food vendors. 

I like to visit the exhibit halls.  This is where the needlework and the flower arrangements and Grange displays are located. This year there seemed to be more empty display booths.  The Grange is another agricultural organization that is on a decline.

Of course there’s the contest for  the largest pumpkin—with entries coming from all of New England, New York and even Pennsylvania.  The winning pumpkin weighed 1,843.50 lbs.  I don’t remember which pumpkin was the winner—they were all enormous—I’m just wondering what the winner does with all that pumpkin after the fair.  Hope they like to bake!

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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Season of Change

As much as I hate to see summer end, it’s fun to change out the plantings and replace the summer annuals with fall plants like kale and sedums, grasses and mums add a few pumpkins, change the wreath on the door and  fall decorating is done.  

This will be the last weekend that my porch is set up.  It didn’t get much use this year due to a major repair but I’ve been enjoying it this last month on weekends and after work.  This porch started out as an open entry way and about five years after moving in we enclosed it but it was another 8 years before we furnished it or used it.  A friend suggested I was missing out on some prime living space and she was right. 

The porch is my summer go to spot after work and after yard work.  Candles only on the porch in summer—no electric lights allowed!   I have a ceiling fan (not shown ) but the porch is shaded by trees and cools off for most of the day.  It’s very pleasant to sit out here and watch the fireflies or read and put your feet up.  The awning windows make it possible to sit here even if there’s a sideways downpour because of the way they’re designed.

This weekend, I’ll put the cushions and some of the furniture away, wash the windows, sweep the floor and get ready for winter :(   Good-bye till next year porch.  I can’t wait.

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My front walk planter went from THIS…


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to THIS…


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Don’t you just love the combination of dark red purples and white pumpkins?   The sedum in this pot is called “Turkish Taffy”.  It will winter over in the pot and next spring when it starts to emerge I’ll take cuttings to root new plants and move it to the flower bed.   On the other side of this pot there is a black Thai pepper plant.  The cold snap very quickly ended the production of peppers but the foliage is still doing well and the color and texture contrasts nicely with the other foliage in the pot. 

One tip that I use in my planters is to add a light layer of bark mulch over the soil after installing the plants.   This prevents rain from spattering the plants and the pot with mud and helps to conserve moisture.

This is a picture of  my front door wreath—I’m not a big fan of bows—the one exception is Christmas and if you’ve read my Christmas wreath tutorial you know that I’m fairly traditional and stick with a simple red velvet bow. This fall wreath is made of two parts—a grapevine wreath and a garland of silk maple leaves.  I don’t even need to wire the garland onto the wreath.  I attach it at one end and just wind the vine around the wreath--front and back—it’s long enough to fill in most of the wreath area.

In spring I wrap a forsythia garland around this same wreath and for summer an ivy garland.  The grapevine wreath, itself is over 20 years old.  I can’t even remember what was originally on it. Now  I use it for every season, except Christmas.  I’ve even decorated it for Valentine’s Day.   If I notice any bare spots on the wood between seasons, I touch them up with walnut stain or dark brown acrylic paint. The silk garlands can be hosed off in the sink and hung up to dry if they get dusty.  I’ve even ironed some of the leaves with a cool iron! 

If you wanted to do a wreath like this, you could add fall berries, silk bittersweet or some foam gourds or even pine cones.  I tend to like simple but I know there are a lot of people who also like “glam”, lol.

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I bought this very cute shell planter at Wally world.  I liked the concrete look of it and bought it to gift a friend who’s beach house I was visiting.  I thought it had a “beachy” look to it with the thyme.   Unfortunately, when I drilled  a hole in the bottom for drainage, I cracked it, making it un-giftable but I wasn’t too disappointed I had to keep it, tee hee.sept. 25 2012 pics for blog 030

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Mum’s the Word

I didn’t go on the mushroom walk last weekend.  I’m having allergy issues for the first time in my life.  I’ve never had a problem but these last two weeks I’ve been coughing and sneezing enough to generate electrical power.  I read that fall allergies are triggered by spores and mold so I thought walking in the woods and poking around in leaf mold looking for mushrooms, might not  be the best way for ME to spend an afternoon.

It’s beginning to cool off fast here in the northeast, so I thought instead of sharing my mushroom adventure with you,  I’d talk about “mums” or I should say chrysanthemums because they’ve been out for a couple of weeks now in the garden centers and blog photos_sept 2012 009supermarkets and because they are the most popular fall flower purchased in the US. 

My garden is winding down. This past week we’ had one or two nights that dipped into the 30’s—and many of my annuals and perennials have halted blooming.  They survived the dip in temp but got the message that it’s time to ripen seeds! The morning glories are still trying to make up for lost time but, if you live south of the Mason/Dixon line, you’ve got another 4 to 6 weeks of summer—lucky you!

Mum’s poSept_16_2012 005pularity is due partly because they come in colors useful for fall decorating and not found in many other late blooming flowers--bronze, gold, mahogany, maroon and brown.  Other than mildew, they seem to be immune to bugs and diseases.  The reason for this being that they contain pyrethrum in their cells which give them that somewhat pleasant/unpleasant citronella like scent when crushed. Pyrethrum  is a natural and organic insecticide and an ingredient in some commercial repellants.   


If you decide to plant your potted fall mums in the garden, make sure you do it as soon as possible after they’ve finished blooming.  Mums need about 6 weeks to get established  and for roots to adjust before the ground freezes, but if you can’t give them 6 weeks, then heavy mulching around the roots might help buy some time.  The further south you live, the less this is a problem.

Sometimes gardeners are disappointed when their wintered over mums  grow tall and lanky and don’t have as many buds as the previous year.  Ask me how I know this?  

A chrysanthemum’s  natural form is tall and lanky like their daisy 2nd cousins, so in order to keep them compact and well budded, they need to be pinched back on new growth before their stems get woody.   The rule of thumb is to pinch them back 3 times before the 4th of July or 100 days before blooming.  Translated to lay gardener terms that means when plants are approximately about 4 inches,  again at  6 inches, and the last time at 12 inches tall.   After July, it’s too late for pinching and you’ll do more harm than good because the stems get woody and buds have already started developing.   Ask me how I know this too?

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One disease that mums are susceptible to is mildew, a fungal disease that looks like the leaves have been dusted with flour.  To prevent mildew, mums need to be spaced far enough apart to allow good air flow around the plants.  Mulching helps to control moisture around the plants and also fungal spores.  Soil should be kept barely moist—overwatering is a quick kill.  Mums should be planted where they receive 4 to 6 hours of sunlight a day for best flowering. 


You can take cuttings of mums in spring or early summer and root them.  I worked in a garden center years ago and we grew all of our mums for cuttings.  The best way to do this is to cut the parent plant back about half-way in the late fall or early winter.  This encourages strong spring shoots that make good cuttings.  sept. 25 2012 pics for blog 029Cuttings should be taken from this new growth, not the woody stems.  They should be about 4 to 6 inches long.   The best time to take cuttings in in the morning.   Pick off all the lower leaves, leaving about three near the tip of the cutting.  Dip the lower end in rooting hormone (you can buy a jar of rooting hormone at most garden centers).  Use a pencil or tongue depressor to make a hole in the wet potting soil and stick the cutting in so that only an inch of stem below the leaves is showing.  Put the cutting in six-pack  filled with moist potting soil and seal in a plastic bag.  Place the cuttings in a well lit area but not in direct sunlight.  It takes about three to eight weeks for them to develop roots.  When they do they can be planted in a slightly larger pot size and placed outdoors to harden off before planting in the garden.More Sept. Pics 2012 for blog 022

Established chrysanthemums planted in the garden can also be divided in early spring.  Dig up a large clump and carefully separate it.   Because they’re kind of brittle, you might be better off using a knife to cut a clump rather than breaking it apart with your hands.   Discard old woody and dead sections and replant what’s left.  An addition of fertilizer and  compost will encourage vigorous regrowth.  Clumps should be divided every 3 to five years. 

Some interesting facts about “mums” (Chrysanthemums)

1.  Chrysanthemums were cultivated in the orient for more than 2,000 years before reaching Europe in the 1700’s.  European botanists gave this flower the name “chrysanthemum” meaning “golden flower”

2) The Japanese venerated the chrysanthemum as Ki-Ku (The Queen of the East).  It became the perennial emblem of the emperor.  Long before reaching Europe they had cultivated most of the flower forms we see today such as the spider mum, anemone flower and double.

3. Mums are a botanical cousin to the common daisy.

4.  The Japanese have a national Chrysanthemum Festival every year on September 9th.  It is also called “The Happy Festival”


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Saturday, September 8, 2012

My Summer In Pictures…Part II

It’s Saturday and I’m out doing errands today and catching up. Here are some more pics of my 2012 summer activities and below that a list of labels—see if you can match them up!

Birthday No. 2; lunch with Mom, mealy worms for less at WM; seaside garden tour 2012;  herbs and transplants; repainting 80’s patio furniture; a plant sale treasures; summer fabric inspiration; farmer’s market, Lowell Quilt Festival, frozen margaritas to go; summer reads, television at the gas pump;  funny patio lights; pick’n strawberries; pretty mosses; “Ernie of the Serengeti” :)

Friday, September 7, 2012

I love punch needle embroidery but…

Back in the mid-‘80s it was called “Rush’n Punch”.  Do you remember?   Boye Needle manufactured the special needle/ tool and sold kits and books. They also heavily advertised it on television which was rather unusual.  Remember those were the days BEFORE infomercials.

The way Rush’n Punch was done is that the design was transferred onto the back of the fabric and worked from the back.  By plunging the needle up and down you created little loops of thread on the front. 

I can only remember making one item and that was a Santa Claus face that I appliqued onto my daughter’s Christmas stocking. Labor Day Wknd_2012 005 I punched the beard and facial hair with white embroidery floss and used fabric paints for the rest of the features. The stocking was my attempt to make my youngest daughter see that Santa was really a very sweet, kindly little old man who loved children and not the fat creepy guy at the mall.  Eventually she outgrew her fear but I have no pictures of her with Santa before the age of 8!  I still have the stocking but it hasn’t fared well.   I packed it away in the attic one year with a beautiful snow globe for protection—you can guess what happened over the winter in a frigid attic.

So when I  was at Mancuso World Quilt Show a couple of weeks ago and saw several vendors selling patterns, needles and kits for punch needle embroidery.  I sort of got bitten by the bug, again.  BTW,  it’s now called “punch needle embroidery” all references to the Russians have been dropped.

I wasn’t planning on buying a kit, especially since it didn’t relate to any of my other unfinished projects but DANG, I saw this adorable little snowman pillow designed by Brenda Gervais and even though I walked away and tried very hard to not make a circle and come back past that vendor’s booth, I did and I bought the kit too. 

The nice vendor, who took my money,  tried to give me some pointers but I felt like if I’d done it with the Boye needle 30+ years ago, I should be an expert, right?   NOT.   It took me a couple of hours just to get the first stitch in because I wasn’t holding the needle correctly.  Once I got that fixed, then it was quite a bit of time to get consistent stitches and  some of that is because of the weaver’s cloth which is more loosely woven than the cotton muslin I used on my first project.  I did find some great videos on YouTube that were really helpful.

Boye (pun intended) punch needle costs a lot more than the old “rush’n punch” did in 1986!  Geez, the needle is now $18.00 (I think I paid $2.99 for the Boye needle), the pattern and pre-marked fabric cost $13.95, I needed to buy an embroidery hoop but I got 090708 003one at Jo-Ann’s for $2.99 and the thread was $3.45 per ball.

I can’t wait to get this pillow done.  It’s not large—most of the punch needle embroidery designs are under 12 inches so they’re very portable.  I take mine to work and spend some of my lunch hour working on it and I like to sit on the porch in the afternoon and stitch.  I hope to have it done by October.  I’m trying to keep up with Bonnie Hunter’s hour a day of hand stitching.  I hope this counts.

Well T.G.I.F. Everyone….Tomorrow I’m sleeping in till 8:00 am and then the Garden Club is hosting a mushroom walk with a mushroom specialist.  I’m hoping to be able to share some of that with you as well. 


Thursday, September 6, 2012

My Summer in Pictures–Part I

I thought I’d share some projects that I did and some places that I went to this summer, in pictures without a lot of writing to describe them.  I think you’ll get the idea of how my summer went. 

As the saying goes—“A picture is worth a thousand words.”  Enjoy!