Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

When I lived at my first ever grown up, on my own, no roommate apartment (which, after years of moving around, is only three doors down from the Penthouse) I had an encounter with a bat. I had come home after a late night at Henry's with my friend John Hartman (who, coincidentally, lives across the street from where he lived at this time, which is basically across the street from me...I guess we really like our streets). He continued home and I went upstairs to my apartment, walked in, poured a glass of water, and walked into the living room. There was an odd black smudge on the white woodwork, so I went in for a closer OMG IT'S A BAT!!!!

I grabbed the phone (you know, the kind with a cord to the wall and a twisty cord to the handset) and called John Hartman to say "There is a bat in the living room! I walked in and there is a bat here!" 
"GET OUT OF THERE!" he replied.
Huh? I mean, it's just a bat.
"Did someone break in?" 
Huh? No. A bat. The kind that flies around.
"Oh. I thought you meant a baseball bat. (?) Is there anything I can do to help that doesn't involve getting out of bed?"
No. I guess not. Jerk. (Just kidding. I really didn't call him a jerk). So for about twenty minutes I teetered, one foot on the coffee table, the other on the radiator, praying that when I grabbed the bat with the sheet (the fitted sheet...I'm an idiot) it wouldn't start screaming that bat scream. I survived. I sort of don't think the bat did since it was Winter, and when I was planting some flowers out front the following Spring I found a bat carcass under a bush. Oh well. It shouldn't have been breaking an entering.

Lucky I didn't have a baseball bat.

I thought these paper silhouettes were kind of cute.

This is exactly what the bat hanging from the woodwork looked like. Sort of.

I found these from Martha Stewart Crafts. Sort of like these...but I bought them at Meijer.

Happy Haunting!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Lazy Tortilla Soup

After a busy weekend of fun and frivolity (perhaps a bit too much frivolity...I had a touch of the Brown Bottle Flu on Sunday after a wonderful reception celebrating the marriage of two friends), followed by watching Sandy hit last night, I decided to do NOTHING today. Nothing at all. I have been looking at laundry that needs to be put away, magazines that could be tidied up, and gourds I wanted to use to decorate the Penthouse. 

Eh. I'll get to it tomorrow.

I was hungry, though, and ran across a souper (heh heh) easy recipe that you can tweak however you want. I used up some of the frozen corn from the summer, and only had a fresh tortilla (no chips) and veggie stock. However, it is pretty good. Especially on a cold, drizzly, bleak sort of day. Hey, it's better than just opening a can of soup (which I, of course, do not have in my pantry)!

Garlic and chili powder. 

Dump everything else in and stir really hard so the picture is blurry. Oh, I also didn't use any water, and probably used more than the called for 14oz of stock (as I just used up a container I had opened the other day).

Yum. Really. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

There Goes The (Trees in The) Neighborhood!

Wednesday after work I went over to my Mom and Dad's to continue planting bulbs (we planted about 200  tulips out front) and noticed something strange. The final results of the Emerald Ash Borer infestation were now apparent. Every single tree along the street I grew up on had been cut down. Even the ones they had left to "grow" (grow ugly, leafy, shrubby branches out of the stumps) are gone. All that remains now are dozens of stumps and a pretty clear look at the sky overhead. 

It looks so strange. 

When I was a kid, the street turned into a tunnel of golden-yellow leaves from the canopy overhead. It looked so beautiful.

There were two trees in front of every lot and a half. Now everything is bare. 50+ year old trees gone. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Fall is Falling

Another rainy, overcast Tuesday made me really want to stay in bed. It's been a busy five days, with another busy five to come. I'm exhaustified. I have bulbs to plant, ingredients going bad in the fridge for recipes still unmade, quickly ripening tomatoes to use up, and I sort of wanted to decorate for Halloween.

The view out the Penthouse window seems to say the trees are finally tired, too, and have decided to fall asleep for the winter and drop their leaves to the ground. 

I think I need a nap.

Last Tuesday many trees were still holding tight to their lovely Fall foliage.

Today it seems they have given up. Getting ready for a nice long nap under (hopefully) a nice duvet of snow. It's supposed to be almost 80 tomorrow, but this weekend things really get chilly. The Juncos have been spotted at my Mom's feeders, so that means snow cannot be too far behind.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Last Shipment (for this year) From Logee's

This morning at work the last box for 2012 arrived safe and sound from Logee's. I've decided this is the last box because of space at the Penthouse (I'll update you on the "greenhouse" next week) as well as increasingly low overnight temperatures. Logee's will only ship if the temperatures in both Connecticut and wherever they are shipping to are high enough not to harm the plants.

My plants arrived safe and sound this morning.
Perfectly packed.

A second 'Ponderosa' lemon. He was on sale and I couldn't resist.

And my new Tacca integrifolia, or White Bat Flower. I am so excited for this guy!
The White Bat Flower needs conditions close to the same as a Peace Lily, so I think I should be able to do well with him NOT in the "greenhouse". The blooms are rather creepily exotic. I am so excited. Ms. Martha also just showed her Tacca off on her blog. It will get pretty big, but should stay manageable. And with that I am done buying plants for the year! I swear! I am!

I mean, from online ordering at least.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Planting Bulbs in the Shade Garden

Tuesday was one of those perfect Fall days. The sky was blue, the sun was shining on every changing leaf, the wind was still calm (before the wind really hits Wednesday!), and it was WARM. It was a perfect day to clean up the Shade Garden and start planting bulbs. I think I planted 119 (start the 2012 Bulb tally), and still want to put in some allium. And maybe some hyacinths. Somehow we have purchased a lot of hyacinth bulbs. Oh, I also need (as always) more muscari bulbs to finish the edges. And maybe a few yellow daffodils to balance out the ones on the "old" side...

I also did a lot of weeding. Thistles have been a rather major issue this year, and they are stubborn. Just when you pull five, root and all, ten more pop up. I've left the frost stricken skeletons of the impatiens in place because they mark the curving path so well. That is where I want to plant a LOT of muscari and really edge the path.
For today, however, I was happy to plant some along the Eastern edge where the Hydrangea Border meets the Shade Garden.

I believe there is a picture of little muscari Armeniacum (or grape hyacinth) bulbs like this every year on the blog. They are just so perfect for edging! And multiply so happily and reliably. And I LOVE them!
All the grass-like leaves on the left are the muscari I planted just last year along the Western edge of the Shade Garden. They have multiplied so much over the summer, and I love that they shoot up leaves in the fall-it really helps one see where they are planted. The Lady's Mantle (Alchemilla) has also filled in quite nicely!
The two little boxwood from my friends the Duke and Duchess of Staipple's Summer wedding have at long last found a home on either side of the path leading into the Shade Garden from the patio. Close to the rest of the boxwood, I cannot wait to watch them grow.

Did I ever mention we planted a Japanese Maple? Well, it was $10 on clearance, so I snatched it up. Even though the ancient locust tree that casts the (high) shade over the Shade Garden is the healthier of the two trees in the backyard, I always have a fear of another ice storm ripping limbs off and then what? The Shade Garden would suffer for a lack of, well, shade! So I thought some slow growing trees might do the trick. I've also considered adding a dogwood or an Eastern redbud. Both trees that will grow slow and not too imposingly, but will be a sort of back up in case anything happened to the big guy.

The tree I bought is an Acer palmatum 'Inaba Shidare'. It grows well in a woodland setting, so high shade should be perfect. It has a cascading nature, so as it grows it may need to be pruned up a bit, but we can wait to worry about that once it actually starts growing. Fingers crossed.
This section is where the majority of the bulbs went. About forty pink-cupped daffodils (to grow in harmony with the pink-cupped daffodils on the opposite side of the path planted two years ago) as well as apricot and deep reddish-magenta tulips. I tucked a few frittilaria 'Uva-vulpis' in a few spots, as well. I still have about twenty four (or more) allium to plant randomly in both beds, but I need to get more tulips for the other side of the path. Oh, and LOTS of muscari. Have I mentioned muscari?
A look over the White Garden at the old section of the Shade Garden at the back of the house. Everything forward from about four feet out from the back of the house is new. The trellis at the corner held a beautiful clematis that suddenly got clematis wilt and died this summer. Not sure what I want to plant there in the Spring. 
I forgot to take pictures of these outside (with better light), so snapped a few pics at home. The daffodils...

...and the tulips. We have some hyacinths that are close in color to the 'Ronaldo' tulips, so maybe they will go in somewhere. It really doesn't matter, I guess, since Spring bulbs look lovely with other Spring bulbs no matter how they are planted. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

My New Stephanotis Plants (I Decided to Call One George)

About a week and a half ago another box from Logee's arrived, and of course I was excited. I had wanted to buy a Stephanotis plant, and when I saw special pricing for two, I decided I wanted two even more than I wanted one. They were out of stock. For about three weeks. I blame Martha, since she had posted about the stephanotis she grows at her farm in Katonah. 

I checked several times a week, and finally they were available and I snatched them up. Or, rather, ordered them up. They arrived from Connecticut looking great, as usual, and I potted them up a few days ago. I cannot wait for them to flower!

My two little Madagascar Jasmine (Stephanotis Floribunda) plants.

New little leaves growing out of the shorter plant.

And more sprouting from the taller plant. Stephanotis can handle iffy light, dry conditions and neglectful watering, so hopefully they will thrive in the Penthouse.

I put a piece of bamboo in each pot to get them started. I can always switch them out for taller ones as they vine upward. These seemed pretty tall, though, and I'm not sure how fast they grow. Have you guessed which one is called George? The short one, of course! George Stephanotis! Now I am patiently awaiting my last shipment from Logee's for the Season. Hopefully it comes soon!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

How Could I Resist?

I made a very quick stop at the Concordia Thrift Store after work today, and found a bunch of milk glass. After spending some time online looking up prices (so I have an idea of replacement costs), I think I may seriously take some in as samples at work for all of the brides on this "vintage" kick to rent for their receptions. Until then, it still looks wonderful on my bedroom shelves.
The "swirl" vase in the center is a new find, while the shorter "tear drop" vase on the left is now one of nine. The creamer is Fire King and in excellent shape, and the clear vase (actually a parfait glass, but sort of like a celery vase) matches one I already have (and you know I like pairs!). Not bad for five minutes!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Fall Cleaning (and Editing) Begins

 The Penthouse had gone to hell. 

I don't know if it was a mix of Summer (more time spent gardening and Decking than cleaning and homekeeping) or being tired after work and not wanting to do anything except watch trashy TV and, well, go to the Deck. Maybe it was just the HEAT! All Summer was so hot and awful I NEVER wanted to be at home, inside, sweating and least of all cleaning when I could be at a ball game, some sort of "fest" (there seemed to be more than usual this year), or, well, at the Deck (or, to be fair, the Rail). Whatever it was, suddenly I noticed some thrift store finds piling up on the dining room table, stacks stacked upon stacks of magazines next to my desk, produce from the farmer's market wasting away in the refrigerator, and clothes (oh, the clothes) piling up in my bedroom. Glass was less glittery. Mirrors were streaked. And the pantry was a DISASTER! I kept up on vacuuming the floors, dusting the furniture, and washing dishes, of course, but the rest of the Penthouse was looking downright dingy. 
The most annoying to me? The bookcases in my bedroom. They were dusty (despite half-ass Swiffering), and had suddenly become a catch-all for everything that I had no other place to put. Therefore, they were the jumping off point. I started last Friday around 11 o'clock at night, and finished the entire thing today. I was filthy, but I am much happier with how everything looks and cannot wait to go to sleep. 

Editing is exhaustifying! Now for the kitchen...

I had already started removing things, but you see the general mess. I had liked the two shelves of milk glass and whiteware, but constantly finding new milk glass (I swear I'm going to start renting it at work for weddings) and just setting vases or, uh, mercury glass reindeer willy nilly was really getting on my nerves.

Look! Books! They were being buried by crap! Alright, not crap. But they were being buried by things that were not where they belonged. I'm also glad I filled the top shelves with books so that you can't tell there are no backs to them.
The majority of the milk glass is now gathered across the top and I love it. Now other pieces just sort of punctuate the books enough to sort of carry the white throughout. Plus, every shelf, book, and vase is CLEAN! Like, washed in the sink and each spine dusted with a damp cloth clean. 

Books are a wee bit better organized again, too. Biographies above Edith Wharton...

...Fiction, World History (mostly British, French, and Russian) and Classics...

And the MSLO section. I think I've said before that the old drop-front writing desk is the most moved piece of furniture in the Penthouse. Well, it has moved again (and hides all that stuff that was cluttering the shelves, but that I still use, behind it). It also helped raise the lamp (that I sort of want to swap out) so it actually casts light to read by. Plus, all of the back issues of Martha Stewart Living are at my fingertips, rather than behind the old nightstand where they had been languishing because of my poor organizing. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

Beat the Freeze

We knew it was going to happen, and last night it did. Temperatures dipped down to 28 degrees, and this morning I saw frost still in shady areas up until about 9 a.m. I didn't get to the Garden today, but was busy yesterday both planting (suddenly there are a lot of bulbs to plant) and picking. We picked every single tomato, ripe or not, as well as the last of the okra, a lot of parsley to freeze (although the parsley will be fine after a frost or two), and my poor little watermelons. 

At least now I can get busy with cleaning up the Kitchen Garden and putting it to bed for the year (and maybe try planting my carrots early, again).

The last of the Summer's bounty.

Most of these will ripen fully. Fried green tomatoes, however, will definitely be on the menu this week. The okra will get tossed into some soup. I used up the bell peppers tonight before I took this picture.

As well as some more roasted heirloom tomato sauce (and a few grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches). Thank goodness I picked all the basil!
How did your garden fair in the freeze?

Friday, October 5, 2012

"It Makes a Cacocoon!"

Junior likes nothing more than to collect things. It all began with his "piltch" bug collection (now more correctly referred to as his "pill" bugs). Then it was the worm collection-"Look at the wormies! They are just so cute!" He hates slugs (Thank God), and there was an unlucky Katydid that didn't make it too long and was buried beneath the impatiens in the Shade Garden, but now it's all about the swallowtail butterfly caterpillars. We found a few last week, but had to search some more the other day.
I used to find them all over the dill. This year they are all over the parsley.

Look closely and carefully and you just might find one.
He's rather small for this time of year, but the little one from last week also was rather small, and he has grown quite a bit while the other one has "made a cacocoon! He did!!!"

A happy, grubby, face. God I hope he doesn't become fascinated with grubs...

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Everyone Home, Safe and Sound

It has been a busy week, but at last all of the tender plants (except the big and little rosemary, which will be OK until Friday) have come home to the Penthouse to settle in for the Winter. I only hope they settle in alright.

The Upright Elephant Ear I managed to smuggle back from Charleston only grew two pretty large leaves.
And now he is potted up and warm in the Penthouse. The grow lights make him look yellower than he actually is.
With everyone having grown so much over the Summer, space is at a premium this year. I decided to bring up the old "green house" from a few years ago (though I would have preferred using the matching Metro shelves on loan to my sister) and purchased a few more grow lights. I still need to get at least two more, but so far so good.

My oldest, and smallest, Meyer lemon is going crazy with blooms! I really hope I get some fruit this year!

And I cannot wait to smell the blossoms!
Here's what I was afraid of-the 'Desert King' fig was out too long in the cooler nights and has begun to go dormant. I'll keep a close eye on him, as this has happened to almost all of my figs, both "hardy" and non before. I'm not worried at this point.

Smaller plants are in the top of the old shelves. I definitely need a few more grow lights.

My banana tree seems alright living in the front windows right now. He continues to put out about one leaf a week, and his pup is growing right along with him.

I'm really nervous about facing a long Winter with this guy, but so far so good. I fill his pie plate with water daily, and he continues to put out more leaves. I really love this 'Mojito' elephant ear!
And my newest (and last for the year) additions to the tropical plants are these two Stephanotis vines I bought from Logee's. I need to get them potted up! They can tolerate moderate light and dry conditions, so they should do just fine in the Penthouse.