Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Christmas at The Penthouse 2012 Sneak Peak

Although I've been unpacking Christmas boxes, decorating has been taking a bit of time as one thing after another pops up and slows me down. I thought having a long weekend would help, but I was busy imbibing in Holiday Cheer to get much accomplished. The tree did go up on Friday, everything else has been laying around for me to trip over.

Here is a little bit of what's been going up so far.

I've been using the abundance of glass ornaments to make some hanging clusters for the sconces and garland. 

Remember this guy from last year's Christmas teaser? He and his brothers are now a part of Christmas at the Penthouse.

Teeny church in a tiny ornament.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Replacing My Rosemary

A few weeks after bringing the my potted rosemary in for the winter, I discovered what I am pretty sure was  a scale infestation. Not a good thing, as scale is pretty hard to get rid of without removing the suckers one by one, and as they build up, it is a very time consuming process. Having them in such close proximity with all the other plants overwintering made me nervous, and so I had to get rid of them. The one was a purchase from earlier this year, but the big old rosemary plant has been around for at least 5 years, and it made me a little sad. Lesson learned-be more watchful of my rosemary.

The lucky thing is that now is the perfect time to buy rosemary, as most of the big box stores have them trimmed into Christmas tree shaped topiaries. My mistake was buying one before I shopped around, because then I found one that was much now I have two. 
A rather pot bound plant. 

Pulling out and loosening up roots helps the plant to settle in to its new environment. 

The less pretty of the two plants. This is what one of the stores were selling. Rather leggy and thin.
I gave him a bit of a hair cut in hopes of him filling out, or in, a bit more.

And now I have a lot of rosemary to dry!

On the right is the second purchase. Huge difference. However, after his trim, maybe the little guy on the left will surprise me. I've always had pretty good luck overwintering rosemary. The key is not to overwater. When in doubt, wait another day. Hopefully, by the end of next summer, I will have a pair of perfectly matched rosemary topiaries.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Easy, Orange-Scented Cranberry Sauce

Had a nice morning off at home today, so I decided to get a little prep done for Thanksgiving. Chief and J-Broww's flight was delayed, so I continued on into the afternoon before running down to the Theatre to finish decorating the tree. Brussels sprouts are prepped, ingredients are all together, and cranberry sauce is made. I'm not quite as far ahead as I had hoped (and we all know I will get nothing done tomorrow with all of the holiday cheer I will be participating in at the Night of Lights-they are expecting up to 20,000 people!) but I am more ahead than usual. The recipe was one pf Martha's, and my pal and fellow lover of dirt digging Anika is using the same one! Great minds...(as she said).

So the recipe is super easy (from Everyday Food) and pretty impossible to mess up. And you look way more talented than when you open a can (although I must admit I do love that perfectly round slice of canned cranberry sauce-shhhh).

I mean really, how much more "Holiday" can this look? I used a little more than 24oz, so added a tad more water to the half cup but left everything else the same (except I used a scant 1 1/2 cups sugar-not really filling the half cup measuring cup each time I measured).

Keep it on low and just watch it. I folded laundry, washed dishes, watered plants, stirring every once in a while.

Then it got nice a thick and would stay pulled away from the pan when you stirred.

I added the juice and continued to cook for a little while. I was afraid the juice would make it too runny.

All done and waiting in the fridge for turkey day...and turkey sandwiches on Friday! I pressed plastic wrap onto the surface to keep it from forming a skin. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Geraniums-Scented, Common, and Ivy

I am always afraid of overwintering geraniums. They get leggy, and drop leaves, and seem extremely unhappy. However, we had two loverly ivy geraniums rescued from the clearance rack this summer, and I am afraid of the age old trick of letting them go dormant and hanging them in a paper bag for the winter. I say every year I am going to try this with some of the seed geraniums, and every year I chicken out. We are, at last, making some major space in the garage at my parents house, so maybe next year. 

Here is a look at the geraniums living (hopefully) with me this winter. Most pictures were taken before I cleaned them up.

Such a lovely, deep scarlet red. Ivy geraniums (Pelargonium peltatum) are sometimes called Swiss Balcony Geraniums, and imagining this guy cascading down from a balcony makes me want to consider him for the Penthouse window boxes next year.

The little pink lady is not nearly as large.

But still too pretty to let the frost take.

Speaking of my window boxes, I grabbed these guys(Pelargonium x hortorum)out of them the other day as an afterthought. I can't believe that it is almost Thanksgiving and the petunias are still blooming. And, it appears, one of the geraniums. I love how the one, with it's autumnal foliage, almost looks like a jumble of all the new types of heuchera. I went ahead and potted them up.

And here is my little collection of scented geraniums, and although I have identification on all of them, that's about all I know. I can find hardly any other info, especially on the one called 'Logee's', which I'm guessing is a hybrid created at their nursery. Grown with a passion in the Victorian era, leaves were used for perfume, potpourri, and sometimes cooking. Just a slight rub on the plant releases their sometimes delicate, sometimes strong, fragrance.

The fuzzy leaf of Pelargonium 'Logee's' scented geranium

The teeny leaf of 'Cook's Snowflake'. Slightly rose scented.

The deeply-cut leaves of 'Dr. Livingstone' (which is how mine is labeled-also found under 'Dr. Livingston'). A strong lemon-rose scent. Indeed, this is the most fragrant of the three.

These were all bought on a whim during a sale, but I must admit I'm now rather interested in them. 'Dr. Livinstone' is growing as almost a perfect topiary specimen. Do I cut him way back and hope he gets bushy? I think I'll wait until he goes back outside and has a better chance at normal (less struggled) growth. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

One Month Over!

Today I'm thankful for the first month of overwintering being well behind me. October 3 would have really been the close of the first month, but today I actually began giving everyone their one month "check ups". Each Winter it's the same story-many successes, and several disasters. Aside from leaf drop, the citrus trees are all doing well. Indeed, some are doing better than ever! And my greedy eyes have, of course, caused me to add new plants, both from Logee's as well as from that dear old clearance rack I can never turn away from. Those poor plants need me! I know I'm crazy, and running out of room, but I really cannot help it. 

Why oh why didn't I save my money to build a greenhouse at my parents' house?

I'm going to break this post down in the upcoming days, as my "Collections" have grown so much that it would be a rather long post. For now, here's a shot of a success! 
I'm afraid no fruit has set yet, but I'm still hopeful. The fragrance of the Meyer lemon blooms really is intoxicating.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Preparing for Winter Cheer

The amaryllis and paperwhite bulbs have begun to arrive, so I grabbed a few bulbs to get things started. I may go back to the Home Depot, as well, because someone planned poorly and they have a lot of amaryllis already budded out and almost blooming-some instant cheer. The paperwhites take about a month to bloom.
I like buying loose bulbs, rather than the kits (I really don't need any more containers-plastic or decorative). On the left is a white amaryllis, though I don't think I'll add too many more new ones this year. I have six paperwhite bulbs packed into the old Martha Stewart Everyday pot, as well as some singles growing in pebbles in low round glass containers. 
All of the other amaryllis that spent their summer in the White Garden are dying back pretty well. A few more weeks in the cabinet and I'll begin taking them out, cleaning them up, and giving them a first watering to begin their bloom cycle once again.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Crocus Sativus Project Update

Last week as bulb and perennial planting continued, I checked up on the Crocus sativus bulbs. To my surprise, they are up and growing! I'm not sure what the frost might have done to them, but I'm hoping not too much. This weekend is supposed to be in the 60's (!), and I'll be able to check up on them again. I hope they are alright. My Saffron Empire depends on it!
Pushing right up out of the ground only a month after planting. I will probably cover them with leaves, even though they are hardy to Zone 6 (which we now are). 

Each bulb usually gets four flowers, and each flower has three bright red stigmas that are harvested and dried. The dried stigmas are saffron, and saffron is pretty costly. I hope to be independently wealthy by the age of 75.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Fall Decorations From Halloween to Thanksgiving

I didn't really do as much Halloween decorating this year as I have in the past. Instead I just bought a bunch of gourds and squash that would see me through the week of Halloween until Thanksgiving. The best part is that I can use them for cooking! Aside from the gourds, of course. I've done a bit of research and it seems even the white pumpkins are edible, although I will probably cut one and roast it to taste test before I go crazy cutting them all up.
Some pumpkins shaded by, what else, a banana tree!

Some whiteware pumpkins.
I thought these little guys looked kind of funny on the metal vases. A bit like some sort of scarecrow soldier or robot. Something you might see in Oz.

Some delicate, dried 'Limelight' hydrangeas in a faux bois planter and more whiteware pumpkins.

A little Sugar Pie Pumpkin and some leaf dishes on the brass tray table.

The awesome wreaths Junior and I made on Sunday.

I love how the sun shines through them.

A Turk's Cap squash surrounded by gourds. I can't wait to cook the Turk's Cap (or Turban) squash. I've found some recipes you bake right in the shell.

In the kitchen I usually bring out my small collection of yelloware in the fall. This year, however, I was happy to just keep it simple (all of the summer's jadeite has been put away and replaced with the "everyday" Wedgwood Queen's Ware and Drabware) and brought out some of the Wedgwood Williamsburg Aviary plates I rescued from the prop room at the Theatre. They had been purchased for a show where pieces were broken each and every night. Makes me quite grateful that I found these when I did.

I have dinner and salad plates, one complete cup and saucer, and quite a few bread and butter plates. I love the brown print and rather Native American-inspired border.

And of course some turkeys have begun to appear. I hate to say it, but I'm already beginning to look forward to decorating for Christmas. There are so many after Christmas sale purchases I can't wait to use this year!

Monday, November 5, 2012

My Day With Junior

A few weeks ago my sister, Carrie, called to see if I could watch Junior while she and my brother-in-law (Big Chad) took my parents to a Colts game. I said "Sure!" Last week I started planning all sorts of projects in case boredom set in ("Uncle Matt, why don't you have any toys?"), although all he really wanted to do was play with the Legos we brought over. It was a bit chilly out, so we didn't stray too far from the Penthouse when we went on our walk, but had a lot of fun anyhow. 

I have to admit, I was exhausted. He must have had fun, however, since he asked Carrie this morning if he could spend the day with me again today.

This kid can really put away some fruit. Everything he found out on the table he asked if he could eat. Bananas, clementines, apples, you name it (although he turned down the strawberries I actually bought for him, since normally they are his favorite).

There was plenty of room to play with the new Thomas the Tank Engine Legos.

"Uncle Matt, are we going to make something?" Yes indeed. We made a bunch of crepe paper leaf wreaths. All you need is a cardboard round, crepe paper leaves ($2 for a pack of 24 at All Occasion!) and a glue stick.

All Done!

You can also use it to be "like a lion!"

It's pretty hard to find the perfect rock to throw into the river.

The toss...

It actually made it beyond the riverbank, which he could not see (and where most of the rocks landed).

Celebrating his victory. This is what this kid does when he finds a pile of leaves of any size. No prompting from the photographer.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

175 More Bulbs

Despite the weather throwing a wrench or two in the plans (two weeks of my days off being rainy) we have, bit by bit, continued planting bulbs in preparation for Spring. Last week, late in the day, we managed to get another 175 mixed tulip bulbs planted all around the front beds. 

And I had a great helper.

The mixed bags were all basically the same colors, so we dumped them all together and mixed them even more.

Hammin' it up. I really should have separated that mass of muscari. I probably could have bordered the entire bed beneath the magnolia.

Whenever I'm not watching, Junior peels the skin off the bulbs. Then he laughs uncontrollably.

We went all around beneath the magnolia in groups of three or five.

I would dig a hole, and Junior would toss in the bulbs. As the sun was going down I quickly dug about five holes over in the big bed where we planted larger numbers of tulips (they didn't all go under the magnolia). Now I really just have a few daffodils to plant, maybe 30 tulips, and a LOT of hyacinths. I'm just not sure where. Thankfully it is not raining tomorrow, so after work I just might be able to get almost everything else planted.