Sunday, March 31, 2013

“‘Bye, Mom, see you later”!

I’ve said that thousands of times.  Whenever I left my mom, or before I  hung up the phone.  It was just a given, that we would see each other again.

My mom passed away this week.  She was a sweet little old lady of 86.  In the last few years her memory faded and she confused dates and places and sometimes got all of us mixed up but she knew our names and birthdays and sometimes would surprise us with a recollection of something we’d thought she couldn’t possibly remember.  She outlived most of her closest friends and family members and I know that made her very sad at times.

She loved her extended family of in-laws, great nieces nephews and cousins and second cousins and never saw her life as lacking.  She thought everyone was good, even if they were flawed, as long as they were nice to her.  She never judged or envied or wished for more than she had.  She was grateful for what she did have.

She thought every baby was the most beautiful baby in the world, every child the cutest and smartest.  She loved clothes shopping and bus trips to casinos.  She was a great bowler and a wonderful friend.  She doted on her grandchildren and  proudly recited their accomplishments to anyone that would listen, until her first great-grandson arrived and took center stage of every conversation.  Her highest ambition was always to be a wife and mother--a job that she excelled at. 

Her exit from life was not the way we hoped it would be, but it was fast and painless and and we were able to be there with her till she left us.

“Bye, Mom,  we’ll see you later!”

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Marion Ford Crowley

1926 to 2013

Monday, March 18, 2013

Happy St. Patrick’s Day

 My grandfather was born in Cork City, Ireland.  He gave me St. Patrick’s biography to read when I was twelve years old.  I remember that my grandfather loved gardening  and reading.  He read on average of five or six books per week.  He also taught me the name of almost every plant, that we passed when we went for our afternoon walks, in Latin!

The pictures below were taken at my parents’ house yesterday—they live about 50 miles south and east of me which puts them in USDA Zone 6.  They are also at sea level.  I live in a Zone5/6 micro-zone and my house is about 800 ft. above sea level Even though the distance between our houses is not significant, these location characteristics affect the bloom time and emergence of spring plants by almost a month.

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The pale lilac crocuses above are a very early Siberian species which bloom several weeks before the larger Dutch varieties do.  

I still have almost a foot of snow cover on my property but the south-facing hill is starting to show some patches of bare ground.

Finished Block #7 of my Vintage Memories BOM.

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  • You can start removing burlap wrappings from shrubs now. Look for snow load damage.  Trim broken branches.
  • If the ground is bare you can do a some early lawn patching by “frost seeding”.   This means on mornings when the ground is crystalline and crunchy you sprinkle grass seed on areas that have been damaged by winter plowing or snow removal.   As the ground warms the seeds will fall into cracks in the moist soil and be ready to germinate when the ground warms.
  • This is also a good time to inspect your garden tools again—Spades, rakes and forks, clippers and pruners should be ready to go if you cleaned and oiled them before retiring them last fall.  Decide what needs to be replaced or what new tools you’ll need for this year’s garden.  Do you need support stakes for foxgloves, delphiniums?  Bird netting?  Support rings for peonies. Do your pruners need sharpening?    Make a list now and take care of it so you’ll be ready when the time comes to start using them.
  • Scout out wet embankments along roadsides for wild pussy willows. I saw some today—the silver of the catkins glistened in the sun as I drove by.  Tomorrow I’ll cut a few branches to bring a bit of spring inside.
  • Make sure you are on public land before picking any plants and always cut branches at an angle with good pruners so that water does not sit on a flat cut and lead to disease or rot.  Nothing gets me angrier  than to find someone has broken off branches and stripped bark.  With a little consideration and respect for the plant we can all enjoy the beauty.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Gardening Chores This Week

I finished Block 6 of my “Vintage Memories” BOM and have started on Block 7.  The Block 6 kit makes four 6-inch blocks that become part of the center medallion.  The center of these blocks is comprised of one-inch and one and one-quarter inch finished squares and rectangles.

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The Fairy Gardener’s Chores for the week:  Daylight Savings

1) This is a good week to prune fruit trees and blueberry bushes if you can get to them and if weather permits—some places still have deep snow on the ground as we do in NH.   Remove the old canes from raspberry and blackberry bushes, that bore fruit last year.  These are usually very thorny, woody and brown, new canes that will fruit this year are still green.  

2) Prune fruit trees and ornamentals so that branches do not cross or rub against each other and air can circulate.  You can also apply a first application of dormant oil spray to fruit trees this month on a day with no wind.   Burn any branches that have egg cases of tent caterpillars attached to the bark.

3)  This is also a good week to repot houseplants, if they need it.  Look for roots coming out of drainage holes.  You can also resume fertilizing houseplants on a monthly schedule now that the days are getting longer.   For indoor plants I use Neptune's Harvest mixed half-strength or Miracle Gro.   I water plants well before the first application of fertilizer after winter.   I also hose down hanging houseplants in my kitchen sink or bathtub to remove dust and give them a boost of humidity, ferns and spider plants especially love this hosing.  

I will set aside a half-day just for “plant housekeeping” this month.   I repot, clean, prune,  fertilize and divide all plants that have outgrown their pots or their designated spot.  If a plant is not doing well for me, I discard it.  Sick and dying plants aren’t a good decorating strategy for me and according to Thalassa Cruso, there’s no shame in this.

This is a good time to take cuttings of houseplants like Xmas cactus and root in time to give as gifts next Christmas. 

4) Look for the earliest spring bulbs starting to peak out of bare ground in sunny areas.  These include snowdrops, winter aconites, crocus and the beautiful scilla siberica.   You might also see the tips of tulips and daffs just starting to poke through.  Isn’t it a great spiritual inspiration to see this renewal of life?

5)  I’m starting a few seeds indoors now but because I don’t have a lot of natural light and I don’t want them to get leggy I’m only starting seeds that can go outdoors early.  These include snapdragons and ageratums.  I won’t start my zinnias till late April.  Now is also a good time to start a few perennial seeds indoors too (more on this in a later post).  If you are a veggie gardener and don’t have a greenhouse,  now is the best time to start your tomato seeds and cruciferous veggies, i.e. broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts.  For better and quicker germination place seed trays on a heating pad. 

Please get your kids involved with growing a few seeds indoors from an early age.  Watching a tiny green plant emerge from a tiny seed is the most basic life lesson you can teach them. 

Think Green!


Monday, March 11, 2013

Scrap Booking for Sewing Projects

A long time ago, before digital cameras and the internet,  I started very casually documenting the sewing and cross-stich projects that I made.  That amounted to me taking pictures (with an instamatic camera) and if I remembered to get them developed, putting them in a “brag book”.   That’s all I did.  There were no notes or swatches and no dates started and completed.    I wish now that I had been more OCD about documenting those early projects, because sadly, a lot of them are now living somewhere else—I hope. 

I donated a lot of my projects to charity, though a few ended up in the trash—which now makes me cringe.  There were times, I just felt  an urge to purge or was not happy with my workmanship, and discarded a quilt top or set of blocks.  And then, eventually, little girls grow up and no longer want to decorate their rooms with  hearts, teddy bears and unicorns.

Fast forward to 2008, when I was laid off, and rummaging through my UFO’s that I couldn’t bear to part with during those previous purges.  I decided that if I was going to finish these projects, that I would do a better job of recording the process than just taking a photo. 

I purchased on an 8 1/2 x 11 inch spiral bound  Mead sketchbook for this  because  I wanted pages that were sturdy enough to glue pictures and fabric to.  My notes and diagrams are handwritten and the  pictures are printed on regular paper and glued onto the pages with a craft glue stick.  There’s a pocket in the front of the sketchbook that I can use for coupons or patterns.  Sometimes I take my Sketchbook with me to the fabric store, if I need to match fabric or thread.

I use scraps from my projects to cut swatches that I mount on a a separate project page along with a photo or two.   I add notes, such as the date started, date completed, measurements, who it was made for, etc.   Sometimes,  I will note the pattern or the fabric designer and anything else that might be nice to look back on and remember someday.

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At the back of my book, I list my UFO’s and cross them off when completed with the date finished.   If I make a test block or a test embroidery, I’ll glue that in the book too.  

I hope this has given you some useful ideas about documenting your projects, if you aren’t already doing so.  We all know, as quilters   how important it is to label our quilts for posterity, as they will most likely outlive us and hopefully pass into the hands of others who will cherish them but just as important is recording the creative process that originates within each of us. 


Sunday, March 10, 2013


Cyclamens are one of my favorite winter houseplants and every year I purchase a few pots just after Thanksgiving and enjoy them well past Valentine’s day.   I like the miniature varieties over the larger ones because I can place them in my kitchen window.  I add a few bottle brush tress and mercury glass votive holders.

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Cyclamen Persicum (florist’s cyclamen) bloom nonstop with butterfly-like blossoms on wiry stems that rise above the heart-shaped leaves.  They come in many colors ranging from snow white to deep red.  They’re a better choice than poinsettias,  if you need a houseplant that can tolerate cooler room temps and they do well between 45F and 65F.  Anything warmer and the leaf edges tend to curl and get crispy. 

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When it comes to watering I would compare them to African violets.  They like to be consistently moist and they don’t like to dry out between waterings.  Watering from the bottom works much better than watering from the top because cyclamens grow from a “corm” which is a type of bulb that is concave in the center and sits just below the soil level so watering from the top can cause water to puddle in the center of the corm and rot it. 

I fertilize mine once a week with a few drops of liquid plant food.   I like to put about a 1/2 inch of water in each plant’s saucer and put them in a sunny window for a few minutes.  This helps wick the water up to the plants roots a little quicker. 

As for light requirements, Cyclamens do not like hot sun, but morning sun in an east window or light from a north or west window is OK.   That’s another point in their favor, as far as I’m concerned, because most other flowering plants need high levels of sunlight to bloom which isn’t easy to provide in my house during winter months.

Cyclamens need to go dormant after blooming, so once the leaves begin to turn yellow and the flowering slows down, cut back on watering and plant food.   You’ll see a gradual decrease in leaf production until it stops altogether.  I discard mine—they’re relatively inexpensive to buy and not worth my time to summer over but if you decide you’d like to try it, this is the time to move them out of the window into a cool dry spot.  You’ll still have to check them weekly to make sure that there is a small amount of moisture in the soil; otherwise the corm will dry out and die.

If you put them outside in summer, make sure to put them in a shady area  that has some overhead shelter from hard rain or lay the pot on it’s side.  Check them every week till you start to see tiny new growth sometime in early fall.   You can repot them in fresh soil at this time and increase watering but make sure that you plant them at the same depth in the pot and bring them inside before the temps start to drop below 50F at night.

Saturday, March 9, 2013


Thanks in part to all the snowstorms we’ve had this winter,  I’ve had a lot of time to make progress on some of my BOM quilt blocks and projects.

I’m now working on Block 6 of my “Vintage Memories” BOM quilt from This ‘N That.   Pictured below are Blocks #4 and  #5.  Woohoo!  Ten blocks made and only 3 to go!    I was so excited to see that I was more than 2/3’s finished with this project until I reviewed the finishing instructions and saw the amount of piecing left for borders and sashing.

I just love the 3 Sisters fabrics in this BOM!  Yummy taupe, salmon, coral and aqua.

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Doing this BOM has taught me to take my time, measure accurately and cut carefully! 

The second project that I finished was the doll quilt sew along from Lori of "Humble Quilts".  I started this project in January. Never having made a small quilt before I  thought it would be a good opportunity to do some hand quilting but on a small scale.  I don’t have a lot of 19th century repro fabrics in my stash  that are anything like the original,  so I purchased some fat quarters in colors I liked that had a vintage feel. 

Now that this is finished I’ll be sending it to  my quilting pen pal, Denise, who lives in England.  There are some blatant mistakes and it’s definitely “humble” but it comes from my heart and my hand and  I know she will appreciate that.   I decided to name my quilt “Abundance” which is the same name that Lori also chose for hers because I feel so abundantly blessed by my family and friends.

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