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29 July 2011

When a purchase pays you back...

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Sometimes I buy something and I am happy I bought the item.
Sometimes I regret buying something because I paid too much.
Sometimes I regret buying something because I just didn't need it.
Sometimes  I buy something on the spur of the moment and it turns out to be golden.


That golden something is a boring museum membership.  
WAIT!  Don't run away...this is countrywide!  

We've had museum memberships in the past and they were great because we went a fair amount and certainly used our pass many times over the amount we paid.  THIS membership though has a spectacular reciprocal agreement with 250 - TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY museums around the country.  Most of the museums have a complete reciprocal agreement and you get in free.  Just show your pass.  A few (we haven't found any yet) might charge a reduced rate.  The trick is to buy your membership at an inexpensive museum.  We live in Harrisburg, so we purchased our membership here.  It cost $100 for our family of five, grandparents and some free IMAX tickets.  With one visit and the IMAX tickets, it is almost already paid for. 


The bonus is the reciprocal museums though.  On our trip to the shore last weekend, we stopped at two museums and were able to run around free for a few hours to break up our driving.  We didn't feel like we had to spend all day because we didn't pay a dime.  (...and isn't that freedom to leave when you need to the best part about any membership??)  The second museum we went to was the famed Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.  Admission to the Franklin Institute alone would have cost $125 - MORE than the cost of our membership.  


HERE is the link to the Whitaker Center's Membership information.  (Harrisburg)
HERE is the incredible list of all of the other museums you can visit with your membership.


I dare say we will be stopping at at least one museum on every vacation from here on out.  
SO much better than a rest stop and free education and deliciously cold air conditioning.  You can't ask for more!


Coming up next...DC on a dime and the Eastern shore for kids!!!

28 July 2011

The Sands of Mommy Time...

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To every thing there is a season, 
and a time to every purpose under heaven:
Ecclesiastes 3:1


"Then what is good? The obsessive interest in human affairs, plus a certain amount of compassion and moral conviction, that first made the experience of living something that must be translated into pigment or music or bodily movement or poetry or prose or anything that's dynamic and expressive--that's what's good for you if you're at all serious in your aims. William Saroyan wrote a great play on this theme, that purity of heart is the one success worth having. "In the time of your life--live!" That time is short and it doesn't return again. It is slipping away while I write this and while you read it, the monosyllable of the clock is Loss, loss, loss, unless you devote your heart to its opposition."
                                                                                                                                                                                                   — Tennessee Williams
 

Do you ever wonder if pursuing art and pursuing your children are mutually exclusive?  It sometimes feels like trying to think creatively is impossible in a house full of babes.  It sometimes feels like the the need to create hinders the needs of nurture.  It must be possible to have both, but the balance is so difficult to find...everyone from every side is screaming to not miss a moment...to live in the now...to capture every fleeting second...but some are bound to be lost when you blink.  How can one breathe in every moment when you can't even breathe?   How is it possible to love fully and also create fully?  Career vs. family.  Needs vs. Time.  How do you fight the battle of balance?




Funny, you can hold it in your hand,
And never knew 'cause you're afraid to play  
And you can feel your dreams softly slipping through your fingers  
Till they're so far away



Sitting there surrounded by your many life's possessions 
Feeling so much more than all the load  
You realized you've learned one more of living's many lessons 
Love's worth more than all you'll ever own
Songwriters: Robert Morrison;Fred Aylor Mac Rae

Thoughts?

26 July 2011

Loving and Missing

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Lately I've been loving...

opening the windows and letting the fresh air wash through the screen,

over the bundles of flowers sitting hither and thon, making me drunk with calm. 



and lately I've actually been missing...

the mantle of bitter cold in the dead of winter that only lifts when you curl up 
with a too hot cup of broth in the afternoon post sledding adventures...


What about you??  What have you been missing lately?   
Do you like to miss things?  I kind of love the concept of loving and missing.  
Enjoying the present, but anticipating the future at the same time...like a double dose of joy capturing...does that make sense?  

Sometimes I have a rough time being joyful at all in the present, so the moments of loving AND missing are quite wonderful I think...
I guess I make up for the down times by the double happy times...balance, right? 

25 July 2011

How to Hide a Chain Link Fence

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Sometimes useful things are ugly.  I don't like ugly things.  The general rule for me is that things should be USEFUL or BEAUTIFUL and 90% should be BOTH.  In fact, I have gathered my DIY postings into those categories because that is truly how I think of things when I make or buy them.  Is it gorgeous?  Is it super useful?  Is it useful AND beautiful?  If the answer is yes, then it can stay.  If it is ugly, it goes (unless it is something super useful like a toothbrush or a bottle of mouthwash).  If it is useless it goes (unless it is beautiful like silly paper garlands).  If it isn't a strong collaboration of the two is goes.  For example, the skewer sticks are ugly in their packaging, but beautiful stored in a glass pitcher.  So, the pitcher and skewers stay, the packaging goes.   You get it, right??

So what happens when you need something that is very useful, but it is just hideous in your eyes?  

Enter a chain link fence.  Stage right.

In some cases, you can just remove the fence, and have a beautified space, but sometimes those fences are necessary.  Ours surrounds the pool and if I could put up barbed wire 6 foot fences around it to keep kiddies away, I just might.  For now, the chain link fence and a series of latches and locks keeps it safe, but oh how it still scares me...(the pool...not the fence...)...and don't even start telling me to get rid of the pool - it is the most wonderful thing all summer long and we spend half our days out there :)

Anyway, you have your ugly fence, and you need to keep it and appreciate its functionality, but hate the look.  
Here are a few tips for making it look a little less ugly.  

#1 GREEN IT

Buy a green fence, or paint it green.  If your fence is anywhere near lawn or plants, it is going to disappear a bit if it is green, right?  Right.  If your fence is in the middle of a bunch of pavement, then you have bigger problems than an ugly fence, and silver or grey will blend right in.


#2 USE IT

Chain Link fences are perfect for plants because a) they are absolutely perfect for climbing plants and b) they can help deliver nitrogen to your plants.  Climbing plants climb by twirling around supports or gripping onto them, and the size and design of a chain link fence is perfect for both.  I planted a clematis and have a climbing rose on my fence, but need many many many more!  The clematis is especially perfect because it weaves its way in and out of the links, blooms beautifully and then leaves these wonderful little poofy seed pods.


So what about the nitrogen?
Lightning fixes the nitrogen in the air making it available to plants as nitrogen oxides.  When your plants are hanging on and planted under a metal chain link fence, the chances of attracting lightning are quite high and while you don't want to be around if lightning is anywhere near your metal fence, the plants will love the extra nitrogen. They gobble it up and put on new growth the next day.  Gardeners are known to string copper wire around their tomato plants and cabbage patches to harness this benefit for their plants.  At the moment though, if we could get just a drop of rain, I believe the plants would be happy.  It is so blisteringly hot and humid, but without a hint of rain OR lightning.  Poor plants...

So what is the third thing you can do to hide your fence? 
well easy...you ummm...

#3 HIDE IT

Your fence is already green, so the next step is adding more beautiful green plants to help break up the prison look of mile after mile of metal links.  One of my favorites for a chain link fence is a hibiscus plant.  They are tough, they come cheap on clearance at any nursery or big box store, and they are easy to propagate.  ...AND they have GORGEOUS blooms.  GORGEOUS!

Of course mine have not bloomed quite yet, so I have nary a photo to show, but even the buds are quite nice...see?


 Hibiscus sends of new shoots every spring in a cluster straight up from the ground.  The stems are strong, yet flexible, so they are perfect for a chain link fence because they weave themselves on either side of the fence, camouflaging both sides from view.  They grow about 3-5 foot tall generally and are the perfect base plant for your fence.  To propagate the plants, simply chop off a cutting and root it or layer your plant. (Just click those green links for the how to articles!) I layer a stem or two each year to create a bank of them along one side of my fence.

After you have a climber and some base plants (like clematis and hibiscus), a few large, tall anchor plants give variety to your plantings.  My favorite is this old fashioned mallow.  I have no idea what variety it is, but it is a large, beautiful plant that is hardy as all get out.  It is a relative of the hibiscus, so the blooms are similar, but are only about 3"-5" wide as opposed to the huge dinner plate sized hibiscus.


As I mentioned, my fence is around a pool, so my plants are a bit more tropical by design.  Along with white clematis, hibiscus and mallow,  I also use large green and varigated grasses, red flowering cannas, various evergreen bushes and red climbing roses. If your fence serves a different purpose you could certainly substitute other plants such as these:

Climbers: rose, clematis, sweet peas, peas, ivy, cup and saucer vine, trumpet vine (be careful...this one is beautiful, but invasive)

Foundation: Hydrangea, various conifer shrubs in rounded habits, daylilies, peonies, Montauk daisies, holly

Tall Accents: annual sunflowers, hollyhock, cannas, grasses, various conifers with vertical habits...the list could go on and on and on...


Do you have any good tips for covering up an eyesore??

21 July 2011

Do you click on other people's ads?

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Hi blogger friends!

If you are like me, you avoid ads at all costs, right? You kind of appreciate beautiful advertising, but for the most part ignore it and run for the hills so it doesn't entice you to buy something. Right? If you are anything like me, they annoy you on TV and you were absolutely thrilled when DVR was invented.

What does this little rant have to do with blogging?

Well, here is the thing...we are all trying to make a little money off of our blogs to "support our habit", yes? OK, forgive me, MOST of us would like to make a little money off of our blogs, yes? I know there are some purists who would say they ONLY blog for social reasons, but if given the choice, I bet most of you would take a few bucks in the pocket at the same time...

Anyway...all this leads me to my question...
Do you click on other people's ads within their blogs? 

We all know that clicks count for more money than impressions, so lately I started realizing I could help my blogger friends out a bit by clicking on an ad or two when I am on their site.  It is an easy way to support each other...just click every once in awhile and send a buck your friend's way.  Makes sense, yes?? 

...but on a cautionary note...click on your bloggy FRIENDS ads that you TRUST.   They will be set up with legitimate companies and will not lead you to spam and viruses and all that yicky stuff...

...much love from the beach y'all...CLICK SOME ADS on your way out ;)

Progression of a Sunflower: Seedling to Bloom

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You know what sunflower seeds look like, don't you?  The classic yellow sunflowers have black and white seeds that look like the classic sunflower seeds you snack on at ballgames.  Different varieties like this 'Bashful' look more like sweet pea seeds. 


Sunflower seedlings are strong compared to other seedlings (look at the end product...those big huge fuzzy strong stalks have to start somewhere!) and have 4 leaves perpendicular to each other stretching out as far as they can to reach the light.  Remember sunflower heads literally follow the sun from rising in the east to setting in the west, so make sure the heads will be facing outwards and not away from you or backed into a building when you want to see them!  This stand of sunflowers is planted along the side of a shed with their backs to the east and facing the west.   When the sun comes over the side of the shed (around noon), the sunflowers are facing straight up and then slowly move their heads to face out at the setting sun in the west.


The reward of sunflowers come in July and August when they burst into bloom.  
They make me all kinds of happy.

Uh-oh...this bloom looks like it might be starting to get a bit saggy.  
See HERE for tips on keeping sunflowers standing tall!


People are not the only creatures that like sunflowers.
Check out that hunk of flower eaten by something naughty...


You can do a few things about your sunflower leaves and blooms being eaten.
1. Spray (NO!  Are you crazy!?  Spray sunflowers?!)
2. Cut the ugly flowers and leaves off the plant.
3.  My solution...look the other way at the sunflowers that are still intact and let the creatures eat!


When the sunflower petals start to fade, the seeds are starting to form in the "head" of the flower.  You have to be patient and wait until the whole plant turns yellow and "shrively" and then you can pull up the head of the flower and like magic, little black seeds will have formed to start the cycle all over again.  Miraculous, isn't it?


On a side note...there have been lots and lots of gardening posts recently...can you tell where I've been spending my time lately??  I tend to dive into the seasons headfirst and do one activity at the exclusion of others...and it extends to my reading too...it has been gardening book after gardening book after gardening book with nary a DIY project in sight!  If you miss them, join me in the winter when a soul would be crazy to head outdoors...THAT is when the IKEA projects start up again :)  ...but back to the books...I found a keeper at a thrift store down here on the shore for a quarter...."Talk to your Plant" by Jerry Baker.  Published in 1973, it is a hilarious look back to the 70's, an interesting look at the author's grandmother's "old" methods of gardening and inspiration for a few new ideas....there will be more copper added to my veggie beds when we get home...yes, I will tell you all about it!! :)

17 July 2011

Growing Today: Jarrahdale Pumpkins

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SO you might think that this is a photo of some gorgeous flower like the MORNING GLORY that closes up in the afternoon.  Perhaps you think it is a hibiscus blossom getting ready to open up into dinner-plate sized glory.  Maybe you know that this is just a humble pumpkin flower...

and THIS is a humble pumpkin.  A tiny little pumpkin growing and growing at warp speed.


That little pumpkin might not look like much right now, but if the growth of the pumpkin PLANT says anything about the growth of the pumpkins that will develop along that plant, it is going to be sublime.  Check out this pumpkin plant that was planted first.  See those arrows??  ALL of that foliage is from ONE plant.  To put it in perspective, see that clump of about 15 pumpkin plants?  They were planted just a few weeks after that first massive plant.  In any case, we will have quite the harvest this fall...anybody need a few pumpkins??


Here are a few of the pumpkins planted 4 weeks after the first...

...and the bombastic yellow blooms...
By the way, if you don't see bees buzzing around in your pumpkins, just use a little paintbrush and transfer pollen to make sure fruit develops...

See that plant above??  The picture below was taken 2 weeks earlier...
The lesson?  You need lots and lots of space to grow pumpkins! 


I'm actually using these crazy growers to held shade out weeds as I wrestle my garden back under control.  Besides these plantings in the veggie garden, there are about 10 more pumpkin, watermelon, cantaloupe and zucchini plants among all the flowers because the big broad leaves shade the ground so well and as I've learned...one little seed can cause quite a ruckus in the garden with its growth...

In case you are wondering...that first lighter, almost peachy colored flower and that humongous plant is a Jarrahdale Pumpkin.  The gorgeous blue/grey Jarrahdale pumpkins.  I have about 5 plants which should yield a good harvest.  The rest of the pumpkin plants are literally from a pumpkin that fell off the front porch and landed in a pile of leaves.  It rotted and this spring I had about 30 little plants.  I just pulled them up and transplanted them when they were about 2-3 inches tall.  The plan next year?  Toss one of the Jarrahdale pumpkins in the pile of leaves and hope for baby Jarrahdale's next year!   They are the beautiful blue/grey pumpkins.  I can't wait to show off the decorating this fall...and if my plan works, NEXT fall should be killer!


Are you growing pumpkins for this fall???

15 July 2011

Growing today...and who would like some free seeds?

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Notice:  Hey look up!  If you are lucky you will see a 40% off coupon for hobby lobby on that ad bar up there...print it out when you see it because it might be awhile for it cycles through again!

Now back to the regularly schedule program :)

We've been in our house almost a year now. A few more weeks will be the anniversary of our move-in date, so my discoveries in the garden are coming to an end. It has been so much fun to watch new things bloom that I didn't know existed...hello weigela! Anyway, after this week, it will be normal garden surprises and I will know basically what will be coming and going through the seasons, but the garden gave me one last thrill this week when this butterfly bush sprung into full bloom.


There are 3 huge beautiful dark purple varieties that are mature and spectacular.
...but then there are also a few little varieties that have just a few blooms in a brighter, more in your face purple.

These bushes a blousy and untidy, but absolutely stunning in full bloom. Catmint at their feet covers up bare legs, gives a little structure, but also compliments the loose nature of the buddeleia. I planted a river of sedum on the other side to give even more separation and definition.


Now for the fun part...I have lots and lots of seed from this beautiful bush. You need a little space to grow one (each is about 6-9 foot tall and 4-6 foot wide) and be willing to let it grow a little crazy. It will look horrible if you shear it with hedge cutters. This plant has also shown a slight tendency to be invasive along the coasts. If you would like to try giving buddleia a try, just email me your address and I'll send you some seed!!

14 July 2011

Buy Potato. Grow Potato. Eat Potato. Plant. Eat Potato. Plant.

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SO...it has been said that you can't plant potatoes from the grocery store because they are treated to stop them from sprouting. Well, perhaps you didn't believe me when I SHOWED YOU IN THIS POST how to plant potatoes from your pantry...


Well, today I am proud to report that these 7 cuts of a couple old sprouting pantry potatoes from the grocery store have turned into...

26 delicious yellow, thin skinned potatoes :)

 Don't they look yummy?

Don't they look free?

Speaking of free, this wonderful little pot was free along with a vintage french fry cutter 
and a bunch of other stuff that now lives in the mud kitchen with the boys :)

 Harvesting these potatoes was a weird sort of fun.  It was almost like treasure hunting, and if anyone ever tells you to use a shovel when harvesting root veggies, don't listen to them.  Use your hands, dig in the dirt and giggle with delight when you find a bunch of potatoes hiding in the dirt.  I know...weird...but seriously fun...

The potatoes form on the roots of the plant like this...
 
I found 1-3 potatoes under each plant ranging in size from tiny new potatoes to nice large potatoes.  They all tasted wonderful!  Just make sure to cook same sized potatoes together or cut down the larger pieces so they cook evenly.  Here is an example of the smallest and largest that I harvested.


How do I know when to harvest my potatoes???
It is easy!!  When they get brown and start shriveling up, they are ready to go!  
 See those brown edges?
Some plants will be even further gone like this:
If you wait any longer, they will shrivel into the ground and it will be harder to find the potatoes.  Of course, you can leave the potatoes in the ground and save them for a rainy day...ala Scarlett O Hara...remember when she was starving and went out back and found that one potato that someone missed while harvesting and she sat out in the field eating it raw???  Am I the only one that vividly remembers that?

Anyway...you only need a very small space to grow potatoes, but you DO need soft, light soil.  Don't waste your pantry potatoes - multiply them!!!  1 or 2 of these potatoes will get cut and placed right back in the ground to multiply themselves again - YAY!

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