Sunday, November 30, 2014

Out With the Old, In With the Not So Old


The scent of Thanksgiving lingers in the air. I lit my pumpkin scented candle to freshen the house mostly because I cleaned the oven yesterday, filling the house with the odor of burnt-on drippings and splatters turning to ash.

Faded memories of our little Thanksgiving meal still linger, too, reduced to a pile of my special ingredients and a few secrets to make old, traditional family recipes new. Take for example an American Thanksgiving staple: pumpkin pie. My mom's big secret was using winter squash instead of pumpkin because that's what dad grew. No one knew the difference.

The Head Gardener's grandma made the best pumpkin pie, according to that side of the family, scoffing at the suggestion that we might try squash instead. After grandma Martha passed, I took up the challenge to bake the pies for the Thanksgiving feast.

They didn't get rave reviews. Instead: "Well, it is good, but not as good as grandma's. There's something missing." Funny because I used the same recipe, the one on the back of Libby's pumpkin can as grandma did. So I quit making pumpkin pie, opting for my own speciality, pecan pie from a recipe that my brother shared with me years ago. Now it is a tradition here.

I did make pumpkin pie for hubby Thursday, receiving the best compliment ever: "Now that is as good as my grandmother's," he raved.

 I have learned the hard way not to try to compete with the sacred recipes that our grandmothers used because we never can get them right. They had their secrets: a pinch of that, an extra dab that that, never use that.They used lard instead of butter for pie crust, and they made pie crust by using a fork to mix the ingredients instead of a Cuisinart.  My biggest modification to cut calories was the substation of sugar with Truvia baking blend--half sugar and half sugar substitute. I made a good pie.


 With the modernization of Christmas and the technical glitz and glamor, and the plastic decorations, those of us who have celebrated Christmas for decades, including the last century have the fondest memories of helping grandma decorate her fresh tree or the excitement of going to the mountains with the grandparents to hunt and cut the prefect tree. My grandparents had a cabin west of Denver tucked away in a little valley called Beaver Brook. Named Shangri La by my grandmother, the cabin property held special magic and offered the best, most perfect Christmas trees. We'd take dad's little gray Willie's jeep to forge through the deep snow inching our way into the valley. We always found the prefect tree. My birthday is December 20, so the tree went up on my birthday and come down New Year's.

I bought a new tree last week at Hobby Lobby and donated the old one to ARC. Out with the old, in with the new.

Jennifer invited me over last week to have a craft day with the girls, wanting to start a new tradition.  We made snow globes, used lots of glitter, and finally ran out of patience. Jen sent home this cute little snowman that she made for me and one for each of the girls. I put him in my jar that I use for refrigerator pickles. He tends to be a bit wobbly, but I wobble sometimes, too. He will be a part of my Christmas until I don't do Christmas anymore.



I really must learn to just stay out of the stores because I find stuff. The bargain of the week last week while the Head Gardener was off finishing up corn harvest was a crystal chandelier. The mosaic tells the story. Out with the old, ugly brassy thing that was original to the house and in with a not as old as I thought it was crystal chandelier.

Our old house had a gorgeous (some would call gaudy '70s) crystal chandelier that I cherished. As a young married couple, we would drive by that house saying to each other that we would never have a house that grand. We were poor as church mice living ironically in a church parsonage. Life does hold some surprises. Fifteen years later the house was on the market and we were able to buy it where we lived for 18 years. We sold the house to a lovely young couple with a new baby so that we could move here to the Garden Spot. The first thing the new owners did was to remove the beautiful crystal chandelier. I was heart broken, but I just had to realize that they owned the house and they could do whatever they wanted. Me too. Today hubby hung the chandelier that I found in one of our local antique stores. Not as old as I thought it was, it sparkles and glitters, giving the house much needed glitz.

Today's tips: Cleaning oven racks. With the interior of my oven nice and clean, I fumed over the badly crusted oven racks that should have been sparkling chrome. I googled how to clean them: soak them in hot water in the bathtub with dishwasher soap. I used Cascade. In an hour or so the racks were ready to be scrubbed, the caked-on grease and burned food feel off easily as I used a Scotch Brite to scrub.

To get the crystals sparkling, I used a bit of warm water with ammonia added, my go-to for washing glass.

Amongst my blogger friends the consensus of Black Friday seemed to be "I avoided it." Yeah. Me, too. I did go to town to run a few errands, but escaped the foray of crazed bargain hunters. This week I will work on decorating and hopefully get my gift sewing started. 

Thanks so much for taking time to visit. I hope you have a great week. You will find my chandelier mosaic over at Judith's Lavender Cottage along with other wonderful mosaics.


Friday, November 28, 2014

The Day After

Good Morning, Friends. With Thanksgiving under our belts--I hope not literally--, we can now begin the Christmas frenzy. We had a very quiet Thanksgiving, just the Head Gardener, Boone and me. I roasted a chicken, made dressing, mashed potatoes, cranberry relish, and pumpkin pie. I have to tell you the dressing so good. I cheated by using Pepperidge Farms seasoned dressing bread crumbs. Best dressing ever. I wanted plain dressing bread cubes, but couldn't find them; however, this dressing was so good.

The Head Gardener has left me again to finish up corn harvest. The crew will work today and tomorrow, then I will have back to myself again. Boone has gone to Doggie Day care for a sleep over. I promised him that he could play with other dogs.

Raise your hand if you are opting out of Black Friday. Yes, me, too. I will probably do most of my shopping on line this year. I am not a crowd person, so the pushing and shoving just do not appeal to me. I will also make some gifts, too. Like these fingerless mittens.


Instead of navigating the herds of shoppers, I will sit by the fireplace and crochet these fingerless mittens that I found on Pinterest. I made these in a couple of evenings for the girls. 


Wednesday was craft day at Jen's. After crafting and lunch, the girls wanted to play school. I wasn't a very good student, I guess. Nor do I think that Lucy has taken off her fingerless mittens. What a character. And yes, she was good teacher. (You can tell what sort of teachers and classroom setting the children are in if you do take time to play school with them because they tend to role play what they know. I was threatened with pink slips and the principals office a couple of times).

Earlier in the week, wanting to find a box of the HG's old toy tractors and trucks that I thought I would use to decorate for Christmas this year, I tore apart my storage closet downstairs. You know how that sort of project goes. You rediscover all of the junk that you have been storing for years and the boxes that were never unpacked from the last move. So I set out to sort through stuff into piles yesterday morning: donate, give away, save, trash. I had high hopes that the trash pile would be the biggest, and I think it was.

While I sorted, the HG worked on his marine aquarium. Boone was allowed downstairs now that he is fully house trained. It is a very big room that he turned into a playground until then he discovered the fish.


We wouldn't normally let him put his feet on the glass, but for the sake of a quick iPad photo, we let him look at the puffer. I don't think they will become friends.


I am headed to town today to run a couple of errands, but I promise not to enter any big box stores, factory outlets, department stores, or craft stores, but I won't promise not to hit the thrift store. 

What was your favorite Thanksgiving dish? And with this awful weather, what is your favorite indoor activity to pass the time? 

Have a wonderful weekend. Thanks for taking the time to visit. Love hearing from you.


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Convention Season

With the countdown to Thanksgiving Thursday, I would imagine that your households here in the US anyway are busy getting ready for the best dinner of the year. Here not so much. Hubby is still in corn harvest, which they hope to finish up tomorrow. Hopefully he will be home by tomorrow night. While the girls go to their in-laws for dinner, we will have a very quiet Thanksgiving. I did buy a turkey the other day because it was so cheap, so I may thaw it out and roast it.

I have grown tired of my fall decor that I have had out since September, but I am holding off on putting up the Christmas decorations until after Thanksgiving. I have to decide what to do about a tree since I donated mine last year. I am thinking of an un-pre-lite tree.  I do have some fun Christmas projects that I want to share with you, but I am going to wait. Let's savor the moments and rush not the season.

When I went out to feed yesterday morning, I heard the roar of the squawking Canada geese as they were coming for a landing to the east just outside of town where they were gathering by the thousands. From the Garden Spot, I could see them circling above the convention site, turning the sky black, the conventioneers filling the early morning sky. Later in the day I drove out to see them in the fields.




I used my 75-300 mm Canon lens and still didn't close enough. I didn't walk out into the field for fear of scaring them way, nor did I want to be a trespasser. So I parked the SUV on the side of the road to get these shots.





They arrive in small groups, a few families at a time busy chattering to each other, calling to those below announcing they arrival.


They set down right in the middle of the flock. Are they meeting up with friends from the North? Do they reunite with family? Do they make plans and business deals? Do they arrange marriages for their eligible children? Or do they just land, hoping to find a good dining spot?



The convention began at daybreak with the arrivals flying in from all parts all day.



Many of the fields have been plowed for the winter, while other fields still have corn stubble, making good feed for the thousands of Canada geese that congregate along the Front Range all winter long.


Often the snow geese follow along. While not rare in these parts, we do not always see the snow geese.


From our backyard, I often get photos of the abandoned grain elevator on the main highway; now you can see it from the other view, east of town.


How many geese? Thousands. They will not return to this field either.

At the end of the day as I drove home from an open house in Greeley. The geese blackened the sky again as they had ended their convention, flying over the highway headed west, craws and bellies full, all partied out, looking for the lakes where they would spend the night. Tomorrow another convention in another field.


A bit behind, I finally made my dish flowers. I like the way they turned out. I have more dishes to work with. I think these will make either nice table center pieces or plate flowers in the garden next spring; although, they are very heavy.

 I will give these away as gifts. I especially like the Anchor Hocking white egg plate laced in gold. The amber glass are Tiaraware saucers. Remember Tiara glass sold through home parties? I bought a few pieces then. The amber candle holder comes from Home Interiors and Gifts, another home party company that sold decorating accessories. (I sold Home Interiors for years before I went back to graduate school). Both companies had beautiful, quality products. Home Interiors went bankrupt and another company bought it out, so it is still in business with it's Homco line still in production. I don't know about Tiaraware. These independent direct sales companies that were family owned companies gave so many woman careers. I hate that these beautiful pieces end up at thrift stores, but still it is wonderful to seem them re-purposed. 

I will be sharing this mosaic with Judith at Lavender Cottage, so drop by to see all of the other beautiful and interesting mosaics.

Will anyone be participating in their local Turkey Trot before they eat dinner? Jen has asked me join her in the 5K Trot. What is that girl thinking? She is a runner; I am not. I'll see. 

Thanks for stopping by. Have a wonderful week.

Happy Thanksgiving.






Sunday, November 16, 2014

Frozen: The Garden Spot Saga

-2 and warming.

Perhaps Elsa the Snow Queen from the Disney movie does rule winter, for it is apparent that perhaps she has cast her spell over the Garden Spot. You know her, especially if you have any little girls in your family. Just take a look around to see Elsa's magic:


While we haven't had much snow, as I posted Thursday it has been bitterly cold. In 2007, I slipped on a patch of ice going out to get the Sunday paper. I broke my ankle so badly that it required surgery to put it back together, requiring six screws and a plate. Needless to say, today I am ever so cautious in the winter as I navigate myself through snow and ice. Still, I willing accept the challenges that Garden Spot offers up. Even venturing out in the snow.

It's 8:00 AM; time to do the morning chores. If you want to join me, put on your warmest coat, your heaviest gloves, a good pair of snow boots, and follow along while I do the Head Gardener's chores. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.


Instead of going out the back door across the slick Trex Decking patio and down the frost covered stairs, we will take the long way out the front door and around the side of the house. Let's stop by the pond, lingering to listen to the water cascading from the filter underneath the ice. The fish have probably gone into dormant mode or at least slowed down in the icey water below the surface of the ice. The water lilies are winter hardy, so we don't worry about them.

Listen: Do you hear the little birds rustling in the lilac bushes? We wonder how they stay warm.


Frozen solid, the waterfall no longer provides easy drinking for the birds, so I have the heated birdbath. Even that has frozen this week.




With Boone safely bordered at the kennel, we will head straight to the barn. The boys see us coming and greet us with their soft whinnies.


You can tell how cold it is with Sundance snorting steam.


Pop has grown quite a winter coat. We have to give him a hard time for having rolled in the mud.


Pop will be 26 after the first of the year, the official birth date for horses. He gets Senior Glow, a low carb, high protein pellet because he is inclined to gain weight fast and carry too much weight for his pony size. 


I have my own routine. I don't know what the HG does, but I always feed Sundance first. Then Pop. After I pour Pop's pellets, I put on his sun screen.


Sundance will be 19. Still spry and silly, he gets a combo of Show Flake, a mixture of corn, oats, other grains with molasses. Yum. He also gets Senior Glow along with his grain.



We grow our own hay, selling the excess. While the bales are compressed and tied with string, they break apart in flakes.


Sundance gets two flakes and Pop gets one flake and some extra. With the cold temps, the boys need a little more feed--I think.



Next, we have to check the horse's water; while the tank is heated with a light bulb, it can still freeze over. 


Look, Hubby left us hammer to break the ice. Fortunately this morning we don't have to use it.



The hens are last on the list to be fed. One of the old ladies greets us as we approach the hen house, not too sure that she wants to come out.


They will get a scoop of scratch sprinkled out on the ground. 


Inside they are kept toasty warm with a heat bulb; not a light, this bulb radiates a soft heat to take the chill off.


The young couple are experiencing their first winter and are reluctant to go in the snow. 


One old hen ventures out after we spread the scratch.


We linger for a moment in the garden, listening the silence of the cold air. We ponder the quietness of a snowy morning, the stillness and serenity that brings a certain satisfaction about life. We take a deep breath, filling our lungs with that cold, crisp fresh country air. We can see the mountains in the distance, now snow capped. We are thankful the grace and beauty in our life.


Back at the house, the sun has warmed the patio enough that the frosty covering has melted way. We take one last look at the frozen pond, knowing that it may well stay frozen for the rest of the winter. We'll go inside. . .


 . . . and fix a cup of hot tea, read some blogs, and enjoy a hot fire.

The Snow Queen's spell will be undone by Madame Sun this week, so the Head Gardener will go back to Haxtun early tomorrow morning, hoping that corn harvest will be finished by week's end. We are supposed to have good weather all week.

Thanks so much for helping with chores. We bundled up and it felt good to get out in the fresh air. You can join me at 4:30 when I go out again to feed at day's end.

Be sure to stop by Lavender Cottage where I am linking for Mosaic Monday. 

I hope you have a great week. 






Thursday, November 13, 2014

BRRRRR: It's Cold Out There

Our Colorado weather is breaking all sorts of records. Norm for yesterday for that day of the year is around 53-58 degrees'. Yesterday it was 3. Of course I stayed in.


The heated birdbath gets lots of activity when it is so cold. Sometimes steam rises from the surface.


I'd say Veteran's Honor has said her final farewell to fall. She won't be back until spring.


She does look rather regal draped in her white hood.


We kept Boone inside all day, too. He has spent a lot of time in his outdoor run, but the Head Gardener  was supposed to head out east for the last of corn harvest. With the weather so cold, he stayed home and played with his dog.


Boone now 1 loves to play. He has an assortment of toys, everything from the expensive Kong toy which he destroys, to bones both real and fabricated, and a tree branch that he drug in, and old socks knotted, but his favorite is a balloon. He gets a good 15 minutes out of chasing it around.


He learned very quickly not to bite down on the balloon or it would pop.



So now he carries it by the stem, running around with it in his mouth. Such a character. 

The HG left this morning for Haxtun, where he has been for weeks, coming home on weekends; I am on chore duty feeding Boone, the horses, chickens, cats, birds. Boone stays in his run which while the weather is warm where he is okay, but now that it has turned cold, he will spend time at the boarding kennel down the road. They will take good care of him, he will be inside, warm, and will have other dogs to play with. So glad that we found the place. He is big, 62 pounds, very strong, and typical bird dog, hyper to the hilt, and while he does come when he is called, he is easily distracted. In short, I cannot handle him. He is half Weimaraner and half German Short Haired Pointer, making him a big, strong, smart dog--a man's dog for sure.

I hope he does not feel abandoned because that's where we found him when he was 4 months old in a kennel in Grant, Nebraska at a vet clinic. He and his litter mates had been surrendered, so I hope he doesn't feel abandoned. Without a fenced yard to run in and to be contained, he takes a firm hand and constant attention to keep him close. So he is safe and warm and the HG won't have to worry about him and I won't have to feel guilty leaving him outside.

At last check it was -6. I am headed to town in a few minutes. I thought about staying home, then I remembered that I while I was working, I'd be out in the weather. So off I will go to do my errands.

I sincerely hope that you are warm and cozy wherever you are, for this blast of cold has covered most of the continent. 

Thanks for stopping by. Love hearing from you.



Sunday, November 9, 2014

A Family Affair

It used to be that the old timers checked the Farmer's Almanac for weather reports. Way back in the '50s of my early childhood, I vividly remember listening to Weatherman Bowman giving the day's weather report on the radio. Sometime over the years, he morphed into a scientist who explained to the television audience what Doppler weather was, then the weather person became a meteorologist  wearing a fashionable dress, tall, slim, blond, with graceful fingers pointing out weather patterns on a huge map, explaining and demonstrating the current and future weather patterns that just might have a major impact on the viewers' day, week, or month as tracked by satellite .  Today Colorado TV viewers can see the storm brewing far off the coast of California with its projected path animated showing where the storm will hit. Sometimes despite the marvels of technology, they still get it wrong.

So freezing cold temperatures and snow are predicted for this week; with those predictions come the warnings, the cautions, the "to do" lists: winterize the cars, winterized the campers, remove the hoses from the hydrants, etc. Well DAH! It is Colorado. It is November and while it is still Fall, yeah it gets cold and ugly. Some years. 

For those of us who garden, we also want to winterize our gardens, usually by fall feeding and mulching followed by some dead heading and pruning of perennials. I usually leave the seed heads on so that plants can reseed and as food for the birds.

This year, our tree hugger daughter insisted on winterizing the young trees that we have planted over the last few years. 

Come. Talk a walk around the Garden Spot one last time to see the trees now put to bed for a long winter's nap.

Even the kids got in on the work: Jacob and little Lily at least lent support.

While most of the family were out working, I was inside preparing lunch for the work crew, I missed out on part of the process:
  • First Heather had her dad removed sod from around the bottoms the trees. As a horticulturist who works for a tree care company, she does her research, now indicating that trees don't really like grass covering their root systems.
  • Next they added about 2 inches of shredded mulch.
  • She also mixed up an iron rich fertilizer for the tree to snack on over the winter.
  • Each tree truck was also wrapped with a layer of tree wrap, a heavy paper material.



Each tree tree was then wrapped with a protective covering of burlap. Three steel posts were pounded in to support the chicken wire that will cage the tree for the burlap blanket.


The tree circle around the baby apricot lots so neat.



The job really was a family affair.


Jennifer, thinking that she would cruse the antique stores in town, got put to work as this little cherry tree is ready for a warm blanket.


Zip ties secure both the chicken wire and the burlap.


At the end of the day, all of the little fruit tress were fed, mulched, and wrapped.


Now I know where my flannel sheet went. The peach should sleep snugly all winter.




 

Seems like a lot of work to go to; however, even though we bargain shop for trees, that purpose seems defeated if they winter kill. The Ash in the middle received new mulch and trunk wrap.



 


The Ash in back will need mulch, but the crew ran out-- someone didn't guesstimate accurately.



Baby Eastern Red Bud got a nice warm blanket, but no mulch. Heather noted that she recognized the blue blanket as the one she got as a child when I bought her new bedding.



Part of the winterizing process included a good dose of food. For her work blog, Heather writes that trees, while it looks like they are dormant through the winter, the roots are actually taking in food and storing carbohydrates for new leaf production and spring growth.


 

I said "Smile" and this is what I got. You can view this mosaic and many others (probably more artistic than this one) @Lavender Cottage for Mosaic Monday hosted by Judith. (I was also threatened not put these photos on the blog. HA.)

A big thank you, Heather. We do appreciate your hard work.
She did score a handful of allium bulbs for her hard work when we had to head to the garden center for more supplies. 

With the trees now properly winterized, the work is not done. Depending on how dry our winter is, they will need to be watered over the winter. If we get good amounts of wet snow, then they should winter over nicely without extra water. 



John and Elizabeth Howland have come to visit during November. They were on the Mayflower along with the other 100 original pilgrims. I am 13th (?) generation, so I am thankful for their bravery and strong will, giving our Thanksgiving special meaning.


I love my little turkeys. They are pompoms and felt. You can find the instructions on Martha Stewart's web site. Really fun to make with or for the grand kids.


I have to thank all of my new visitors for leaving kind comments who hopefully are finding me by way of Mosaic Monday. I have wanted to grow my blog some and I have picked up two new followers who I welcome to the Garden Spot. I always look for my old friends, appreciating their kindness as well.  I am not particularly good at answering back in email; instead, spending more time to leave good comments, which sometimes aren't so good because I do most of my commenting from the iPad. It has issues. 

Everyone has been kind in expressing condolences and sympathies with the passing of our family members. Thank you. 

Until next time, have a wonderful week. I hope your meteorologist predicts good weather for you.