30 December 2010


2010 has been a big year for this household.  We've had lots of changes and exciting transitions--some bad, but mostly good.  And there was the matter of that little wedding back in June.  All in all, I'm content in calling it a good year.  At the same time, though, I'm ready--I think we're both ready--for a new year.

And just in time.

We'll be ringing in the New Year with a few family members in the coziness of our little apartment.  I predict that games will be played, mini-pizzas--homemade, of course--will be consumed, and if I can manage to actually stay awake until midnight, we'll even have a--slightly truncated--view of the big fireworks display at The Space Needle.

I'm all for celebrating New Year's Eve at home.  For one thing, it's a terrible night to be driving.  And for another, it isn't the New Year, in my book, until you've seen the ball drop in Times Square--even if you're watching it on television, with a three-hour delay because, for some reason, you find yourself living on the West Coast, where everything happens three hours later.

If you're still planning your party for tomorrow night, here are a few fun links to inspire you:

the cinnamon rolls I might be making for New Year's Day

No matter how you celebrate, I hope you have a safe and happy New Year's Eve!  Here's to 2011!

25 December 2010


A very Merry Christmas to you and yours!  I hope the day brings you joy, wonder, and maybe even a few moments of calm...

Thank you for counting down the days to Christmas with me.  I've enjoyed having you all along for the ride.  After twenty-five consecutive days of posting here (!), I'm planning to take a little time off from the Sparrow.  Check back next Thursday for a hello and some last-minute thoughts on New Year's parties.

Until then, enjoy every moment of your holiday!

24 December 2010


Every year on Christmas Eve, the church I grew up in ends the midnight service with "Silent Night."  It doesn't sound anything like this version, of course, but I still think John Denver's rendition is especially moving.  Maybe I'm just being a sap.  I hope you'll forgive me for mixing my secular nostalgia with my religious...

Peace to you and your family this Christmas Eve...

23 December 2010


So here we are.  Today, I am planning to:  finish a major knitting project (unlikely), bake a million cookies (more likely), find that last elusive gift for a special someone (50/50 odds), finish wrapping several things (entirely doable, assuming there's still time left at the end of the day) and generally put the finishing touches on Christmas preparations.

Maybe you are experiencing a last-minute crunch of your own.  If so, I wish you the best of holiday luck.  

I spent most of yesterday reminding myself that that I am only allowed to worry about the things that I can control.  It might sound like something out of a self-help book--and hey, it probably is--but if you're feeling stressed, try it out, just for fun.

And there comes a time--just like the time came during the last hours of our wedding planning last summer--that you simply need to stop doing and start enjoying the true purpose of the event.  Right?


22 December 2010


We just received a special delivery on our doorstep, a bag of cookies from a gaggle of our favorite neighborhood kids.  These are not Martha Stewart cookies, I'll be quick to point out, but that makes the little gift even more poignant.

And besides, these cookies taste great.  They will not last long in this house.

Tomorrow, I have every intention of making somewhere between five and eight dozen cookies.  I've got a head start, already, with the two batches of icebox cookie dough that are waiting in our freezer, and I'm not taking on anything that's especially complicated.  It's just that baking cookies has been a part of Christmas for me since I was small, and the holiday just wouldn't be the same without clouds of all-purpose flour, a pile of cookie cutters, and lots of colored sprinkles rolling across the floor.

If you still have a few free hours, here are some of the cookie recipes that caught my eye this season:

21 December 2010


As I've mentioned before, we're celebrating Christmas in Seattle this year.  One of the things I'm missing most about the holiday in Ohio is the time I usually spend with my brothers and sisters when everyone comes home for a few days.  Cookies tend to play a key role in our Christmas preparations.

Last year, though, my sister Meg decided that she wanted to build "a gingerbread house."  Plans were drawn up on my brother's laptop, templates were made, and when the design-build process was over, the end result was not, in fact, a house, but a gingerbread Space Needle, complete with cityscape backdrop.

There are rumors of a new gingerbread project for this year, but I'll have to be satisfied with looking at the photos, instead of "helping" by licking royal icing off of various kitchen utensils...

If you're thinking of adding gingerbread to your collection of holiday traditions, here are some resources for you:

a reliable gingerbread recipe

20 December 2010


I know that we're all excited about Christmas--those of us, at least, that are still making our way through this "Advent Calendar."  (To be honest, I have had a few people point out that Chanukah got short shrift in this space.  I've assured them that I'll try to do a better job next year...)

I do want to take a moment, though, to observe that today is Solstice Eve.  While that doesn't call for any sort of special ritual or tradition at our house, I've always loved the idea of "turning the page" from one season to the next.  Tomorrow night, the longest night of the year, will mark the end of autumn and the official beginning of winter.  Or, for those persistent optimists among us, it will mark the point at which the light begins returning--oh so slowly--to our days.

For those of us paying special attention, there's an added bonus this year, tonight's full lunar eclipse, the sort of event that never fails to make me feel especially small, in awe of the universe.

19 December 2010


It's funny to realize that our little household, as established as it is, is still relatively young.  During the holiday season, everything that we've done once or twice seems to be "a tradition."  For instance, spiced pecans.

To be fair, I grew up with spiced nuts at Christmas.  There's a passed-down recipe in the family recipe box at my parents' house and everything.  I don't particularly recall eating them during the holidays, though--cookies seem to play a bigger role in my childhood memories, for some reason.

In recent years, though, I've been experimenting with different spiced pecan recipes.  I don't think I've settled on one "traditional" recipe yet, but when I do, this one will definitely be in the running.

It's Martha's, of course, so there isn't a lot of explanation required.  I did use a locally-made honey chipotle chili sauce--which complemented the chipotle chili powder I tossed in, I think.  I'm also of the opinion that you could get away with less salt than the recipe calls for, but that's just me...

I made a few batches of these yesterday to share with some of our favorite neighbors, but now that I've given them all away, I'm realizing that I should probably make more, just because.

18 December 2010


Here's something small and pretty...

17 December 2010


A few years ago, my man's parents gave us a beautiful nativity scene.  The figures are all knitted and felted by a local woman, and the wool is from the artist's own sheep.  It's lovely, and I adore getting it out each year and setting it up under our tiny tree.  In seasons past, though, when I put it out, I couldn't help feeling that something was missing.

That "something" appeared yesterday, in a shipping box from Ohio.  Carefully wrapped in tissue paper and bubble wrap was the creche set that we put up every year when I was a  child.  I remember spending hours standing on a tall red stool so I could reach the mantel over our fireplace.  I would play with the figures, moving them around to tell stories that--looking back--probably had nothing to do with Bethlehem.  To be fair, I probably just treated the whole thing as a seasonal replacement for my Playmobil figures.  But that's not the point...

Now the set is at my house--my "grown-up" house--and each year, I'll be able to take the pieces out of the box and share them with whoever happens to be around as our family changes and grows.  Even thought they're no longer stored in newspaper scraps from 1982--I swear I still remember what it smelled like--these little figures will always have the power to transport me.

16 December 2010


Packages have begun materializing at our house.  Some of them have arrived by mail.  Others, I think, have been crafted by elves.  I've done my own share of crafting and packaging lately, and our first round of gifts have already safely arrived at a certain farmhouse in Ohio.

There's still plenty to do, though, and for the first time ever, it seems that I'm reaching the end of what seemed for years to be a limitless supply of reclaimed and repurposed wrapping materials.  Our piles of maps, calendar pages, colored tissue, and paper bags are dwindling.  I might have to get especially clever in these last few days of gift-assembling.  I've got this and this on my to-do list.

I've also found inspiration--yet again!--at SouleMama, Amanda Blake Soule's beautiful blog.  She has all kinds of handmade holiday photos and ideas this week, including a reusable gift bag how-to.  Scroll down here for more on the project.

We're in the end stretch now, my friends.  I don't know about you, but I've still got lots of work ahead of me!

15 December 2010


In case you missed the television broadcast this year...

14 December 2010


Ours is a very small tree.  It is small and fake, but still fairly adorable, and I think we'll have it until it falls apart someday.

I was talking yesterday with someone who buys a new ornament for her tree every year.  I thought this was a sweet idea that I might try, too, until I realized that I would probably have to stop the year after next because our little tree would be too full for me to add any more decorations.

Besides, I don't like buying ornaments.  I'd much rather make them.  While I don't know that I'll have time to make anything new this year--eleven days!--maybe you're feeling crafty.  If so, here are a few ornament-making projects that have caught my eye:

13 December 2010


Today, against my better judgement, I'm sharing what seems to be my husband's favorite Christmas song.  He specifically requested that I do so.  Personally, I'm a bit more taken with traditional carols, but whether I like it or not, this is now part of our little family's holiday playlist.  By all means, enjoy...

12 December 2010


Here's something sweet for you today...

...a friendly reminder to get those cards and packages in the mail!

11 December 2010


Here's the third and final gift guide post for this week.  These are a few of my picks for kids of all ages.  Some things are more expensive than others, but I really do believe in investing in a handful of great toys rather than stockpiling boxes and bins full of things that are less than awesome.  If you're on the lookout for something fun, I hope you find it here...

Stubborn Sparrow's 2010 Gift Guide: For the Kid

10 December 2010


Here's the second in this week's series of gift guides.  As always, please feel free to add your additions or comments below...

Stubborn Sparrow's 2010 Gift Guide: For the Crafter

yarn of the month club
a tour of lotta's life
the gift of color
a worthwhile investment
an engrossing television series
another lovely quilting book--or maybe just a pattern and some fabric
for the book-lover
for the beginning spinner
to play with

09 December 2010


As promised, here's the first of a few holiday gift guide posts.  Please note that while I've linked to some national retailers--and one international mega-retailer--it was merely my intention to give you the best representation of the item.  Please support your local merchants and booksellers whenever possible.

Stubborn Sparrow's 2010 Gift Guide: For the Cook

"gourmet" recipe box (Okay, not really.  But still.)
a cook book like this or this or this
something to hang on the kitchen wall
one of a kind rolling pin
something to put on the ipod
food lit like this or this
salt sampler
a sweet ending

If you have other gift suggestions for cooks or bakers--or anyone else for that matter--don't hesitate to share in the comments below...

08 December 2010


If it hasn't been obvious already, I love the holiday season and nearly everything associated with it.  The only two things I don't like: Christmas decorations that go up before Thanksgiving and the retail industry's endless attempts to convince us that mindless, mechanical spending translates to holiday joy for all.

Please don't misunderstand me.  I love presents.  Seriously.  Feel free to send me one.  It's just that I prefer giving--and receiving--gifts that are well-made and well-suited to the lucky recipient.  (I'm not saying I've perfected this art, by any means.  I'm just saying that it's how I like to do business...)

I also like the idea of giving just a few fantastic gifts, rather than a whole pile of miscellany.  If I ever have kids, I'd like to think I'd stick to the popular adage and give everyone four gifts.   Something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read.

Giving something handmade is always my first choice, of course.  Even so, a girl can only do so much knitting (or sewing, printing, crocheting, soapmaking, baking, building, etc.) in one holiday season.  Sometimes, you just need to buy something.

With that in mind, this week, I'll be posting a few Stubborn Sparrow gift guides.  Before I do, though, here are a few other lists for you to wander through:

Do you have other gift guide suggestions?  Or maybe some great gift ideas?  Share with the rest of us by commenting below...

07 December 2010


Last night, as I unpacked our meager little collection of Christmas ornaments, I came across what has become one of my favorite holiday photos.  The sad little elf on Santa's lap is now much older--seven last week!--and I'm sure he doesn't remember this moment at all, but every year at Christmas, the photo comes out of storage and features prominently in our holiday decorating.

Does that make us terrible people?  I don't think so...

06 December 2010


When I was a kid, there was one house in town that was famous for its super-elaborate holiday light display.  After church on Christmas Eve, we would do a drive-by--along with lots of other families--to see the moving reindeer covered in tiny white lights, the red and white flashing candy canes, and the giant sleigh that sat--mysteriously unoccupied--in the middle of the front yard.  For the under-ten set, it was absolute magic.

Now that I'm older, it takes a little more to amaze me, but I'm still ridiculously taken with over-the-top holiday lights.  In December, I plan my walk home from work according to which street has the best lights.  It's probably for the best that our building doesn't seem to have any exterior power outlets.  Who knows what kind of electrical kitsch I'd be indulging in?

I know I'm not the only person in the world that's sickly fascinated by this subject, so I hope you'll forgive me for the following links...

05 December 2010


In spite of the crafting, recipe-surfing, and gift planning, I've realized that I'm still not quite in the holiday mood yet.  This helped me out a little bit, and I thought you might enjoy it, too...

04 December 2010


If you aren't already familiar with it, habit is an ever-changing collection of photography and reflections from women across the country.  This month, habit is featuring posts from all of this year's guest contributors.  If you'd like to get a taste of the joy, frustration, and silliness that seem to be universal to our December celebrations, try visiting habit every once in awhile--or maybe just every day...

03 December 2010


We actually received our first Christmas card before Thanksgiving this year.  I think this was a first for us, and while it was kind of exciting, it also made me feel like a slacker.  I absolutely refuse to send holiday cards before December has begun.  (I feel the same way about putting up the tree, but I know we all have different opinions on that one, so I'll leave it alone for now...)

I don't think we've ever made our own Christmas cards.  We started to, one year, but then we stumbled across something else that was well-designed and affordable, and we did that, instead.  This year, our cards are a cobbled together collection of things from a variety of places, including Hello Lucky! and one of my very favorites, Egg Press.

After a year chock-full of mailing things--invitations, thank you notes, and more thank you notes--part of me feels a little stamp-and-enveloped out.  But then I remember how much I love sending--and getting--mail and I get excited all over again...

If you're planning on making your own holiday cards, but haven't started yet, here are a few ideas for inspiration:

Are you sending out incredibly charming cards this year?  Do you have any other tips or links to share?  Just post in the comments below!

02 December 2010


Everyone knows a good fruitcake takes time--those of us that know that fruitcake can be "good," that is.  I know it's a dessert with a bad reputation, but as far as I'm concerned, combining baked goods and booze is never a bad idea.

If you're up for a challenge that will last 'til Christmas--and beyond, if you want it to--here are some fruit cake recipes for you.  The first one is actually pretty straight-forward, but the next three definitely offer a twist on tradition.

Fruitcake with Chocolate and Cider--and confusing metric measurements...
A last-minute Fruitcake with Olives

Oh, and thanks for sharing those advent calendar links!  It's always fun to see what other people are doing--or at least, are dreaming about doing.  Keep the fresh ideas coming!

01 December 2010


First off, my parents would be quick to point out that Advent this year does not begin today.  It actually started last Sunday, the 28th.  If my father were feeling especially Scrooge-ish, he might also mention that "Advent Calendars" as we now know them have very little to do with observing Advent, and much more to do with counting down the days until Santa Claus shows up.

All of which is true.

We didn't really have lots of Advent calendars when I was growing up, not because my da was a Scrooge--which, sometimes, he is--but more because we were busy with other things in December.  There were a few years that we had the little cardboard calendars with tiny chocolates behind each door.  And of course, we made a couple of those kindergarten-style paper chains that spanned the living room, cutting off one of the links every day until just one remained.

Really, though, my interest in Advent calendars has been fairly recent.  Last year, my man got us a Playmobil calendar, which, while full of forestland goodies, was a little hard to come by.  This year, you might be able to find it on Amazon, but you'll be paying forty or fifty dollars for it.

This year, I'm much more taken with handmade calendars.  If all this talk is putting you in the mood to make a calendar for your house, there are some cute ideas here, and here, and here.  This one might be hard to throw together at the last minute, but I thought it was charming, too.

As for me, I'm doing my counting down right here.  Each day, from now 'til Christmas, I'll be posting a little something-or-other to share with you.  I hope you'll check back regularly for recipes, projects, gift ideas, and a few other surprises.

I'd also like to invite you to share your holiday ideas with us.  In the comments for each day's post, feel free to add your thoughts or link to something you think other Sparrow readers would enjoy.

And with that, let Advent not-so-officially begin...

And speaking of calendars, some of you probably recognize the one at the top of this post.  If you haven't ordered your 2011 Nikki McClure calendar yet, there's still time...  

29 November 2010

and yet

I know, I know.  I was just going on about savoring these last days of November, not being ready for Christmas-related kookiness, etc.  But the truth is undeniable:

The holiday knitting must get done.

I'm being slightly less ambitious than in years past, but working against tighter deadlines, too.  For the First Time Ever--sniff!--I won't be traveling to the great state of Ohio to celebrate the holidays with my family.  Instead, we'll be staying put in the PacNW and enjoying Christmas with my husband's family.  Which I'm sure will be lovely.  I really mean that.

The end result of all this, though, is that I'll be shipping gifts to Ohio this year and won't be able to do any of my last-minute knitting on the plane, needle-felting while hidden in my little brother's bedroom, or just generally working up to the last minute, which tends to be my procrastinating modus operandi.

Instead, everything needs to be finished, wrapped, packed away and shipped by--when?--maybe the twenty-first of December.  At the absolute latest.  And as someone pre-programmed to worry about these things, let's say the nineteenth, just to be safe.

So, knitting.  Of course, I can't tell you what I'm working on, because one never knows who might be reading.  But here's a clue: Manos del Uruguay's Wool Clasica.  It's one of my all-time favorites...

I'm off to get some work done, but do check back on Wednesday.  I'll be posting the first of what I'm planning to be a twenty-four--or is it twenty-five?--part Christmas countdown series.  Sort of an on-line advent calendar?  Whatever you want to call it, I'm excited about it.  I hope you'll join the fun!

26 November 2010

the day after

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving.  Ours was full of family and food, as the best holidays are.   Along with all the catching up and cooing over babies, there was also lots of talk about Christmas.  With the snow outside and the warmth inside, it was easy to imagine that Christmas was, as we said to one another, 'just around the corner.'

Which, I suppose it it.  With Thanksgiving behind us and November soon coming to an end, it's definitely time to start worrying about wreaths and Christmas presents.  Of course, I'm excited for it.  You know me, I love a good party.  In the next few weeks, I'm hoping to share the details of Christmas at our house and maybe hear, too, about the traditions at yours.  I'm also planning a special series of December posts, which you'll be able to read all about when December first comes around.

For now, though, I'm still enjoying the last days of November.  I'm going to try not to get too consumed, yet, by the holiday hoopla of Christmas, at least for a little while longer.

After the Thanksgiving excitement, I'll be laying low for the rest of the weekend, fighting off a cold and celebrating the completion of the month-long novel--hurray!  If you're looking for some quiet fun this weekend, here's a to-do list for you:

Bring a different sort of tree inside.
Make your pancakes special.
Find your favorites.
Sew your own shoes.
Think about trying out for a scholarship.
Start planning for the next big snow.

Happy weekend, everyone!

22 November 2010


The calendar can say whatever it wants to.  It is officially winter at our house now.  It's been snowing on and off all day today, and except for the part where I wasn't sure I was going to make it home from work, I've been enjoying every moment of it.

Maybe it's snowing where you are now.  Maybe it's not.  To my surprise, this is apparently what it looks like in Maine right now...

Hopefully, the weather won't make our Thanksgiving too complicated.  Or yours, either, for that matter.

If you're still looking for dinner ideas for Thursday, there's this and this and this.

And here's a sweet Thanksgiving tradition.  It's a little Christmasy, but still.  I like it.

Warmest wishes to you and yours this Thanksgiving, friends.  Enjoy the weather, wherever you are...

19 November 2010

balancing act

Sincere apologies for my time away, dear readers.  I found myself being a little swept away by my life this past week, chipping away at 'the novel,' spending quality time at work, and visiting with my father--the first family member to visit me in the Emerald City in years.  A lot of years.

Now that he's gone back home to the midwest, and I have a few days off of work, I'm trying to get a foothold on other, less important things.  Like laundry.  And, yes, the novel.

Isn't it funny how, when we have things we should be doing, we always find ways of distracting ourselves with pointless, time-consuming projects?  Yesterday, I took a "twenty minute" break from the novel to stretch my legs and ended up spending four hours sifting through my (embarrassingly large) collection of children's books.  First, I needed to look through all of them, to see whether or not there were any duplicates. There were.  Then, I had to move them all from one shelf to another, trying to find the right system for ordering them.  By author?  By illustrator?  By year?

And after all that, there was the matter of dealing with my sad dolls.

A few years ago, I started collecting sad dolls, especially down-trodden, forgotten playthings that I felt compelled to rescue from thrift stores and garage sales.  I tucked them all away, up on a shelf, and then promptly forgot about them myself.

Yesterday, I decided that the shelf would be better suited for my vast library of Little Golden Books, and so I began sorting through the dolls, too.  I haven't decided yet what to do with all of them, but I think they deserve better than I've been giving them.

For starters, most of them are, um, naked.  Which is the way that I found them, I swear.

And even the ones that have clothes need some serious attention, like having their hair glued back on to their little heads.  My favorite of the little orphans is this gal.  According to the stamp on her back, she's an original "Lingerie Lou."

I love her hand-beaded little tutu, but I'll admit, I have no idea what to do with her hair.  If anyone out there has any DIY doll repair suggestions, please let me know...

I seem to be more than capable of finding silly things to do with my time this weekend.  If you're in need of some suggestions, though, here's a to-do list for you:

Fancy up the pumpkin.
Keep your hands busy.
Promote yourself.
Have fun with felt.
Read more fairytales.
Do some nesting.

Happy weekend, everyone!  
I promise I'll be back to regular posting next week.
(And I've got some extra holiday fun in mind.  I'll share my plans with you soon!)

08 November 2010


The novel is coming along, in a manner of speaking.  I'm 18, 411 words closer to my goal of writing 50,000 words by the end of the month.  The rough draft is pretty, um, rough, but hey, that's part of the fun, right?

Nearly everything else on my list of extracurriculars, though, has come to a screeching halt.  Including my first-ever doll-making attempt, inspired by Hillary Lang's Wee Wonderfuls.  (For those of you with the book at home, my little doll is going to be a slightly dumbed-down version of The Tag-A-Long Doll.)

But not anytime, soon, apparently.  Because now there's that pesky novel to write.

I've only just started worrying about when my Christmas knitting is going to get done...

05 November 2010


I filled the bird feeder a few hours ago.  In the time since, there's been a crazy dinner party going on, with finches, flickers, chickadees, and two obnoxious blue jays.  Of course, they're all smarter than I am and much faster than my camera, but they've been a good show.  Even if I don't have the evidence to prove it.

Mostly, I've been birdwatching as an excuse to take a break from the novel-writing.  Since I last posted here, I've eked out over 11,000 words towards my 50,000 word goal.  On the fifth day of the month, I'm already over a fifth of the way through the thing.  It's kind of a rush, but I think it might be a little early to start celebrating.

So, I'll be spending my weekend writing, which is, in fact, probably what I should be doing right now.  If you're not facing a ridiculous novel-writing challenge, here's a weekend to-do list for you:

Get rid of the Halloween candy.  That is, if there's any left.  Ahem.
Start planning your Thanksgiving menu.
Get creeped out by something beautiful.
Find some new ideas.

Have a wonderful weekend, all!

01 November 2010


Perhaps you've already heard, but if not, it's important that you know:  November is National Novel Writing Month.  I'm choosing to celebrate by participating in the twelfth year of an annual competition to write a 50,000 word novel.  I'll start tonight, and hopefully, if Thanksgiving doesn't trip me up, be penning the final words on the last day of the month.

And I won't be alone.  Would-be novelists from all over the world are participating in this harebrained scheme.  At the time of this writing, NaNoWriMo writers have already generated over 800,000 words!  And I haven't even had my morning coffee yet...

I am not a novelist.  If you don't count the posts that I share here on the Sparrow, I'm not even a writer, really.  This year, though, I've decided that fact is not enough to stop me.

I'm not expecting to generate a great work of fiction.  At best, I'm hoping for an extremely rough draft that will inspire me to start picking up a pen a bit more often.  Mostly, I'm just hoping to survive.  Sixteen hundred words a day is a lot.

I'm worried that this writing thing might eat up some of the time that I usually spend crafting or goofing around in the kitchen.  I'm determined, though, to keep posting here.  I hope you'll be patient with me, especially if my posts start turning into short, desperate paragraphs whining about writer's block and caffeine withdrawal.

So, yes, I have my concerns, but mostly I'm excited.  This is a big endeavor, and I'm eager to get started. If your interest is piqued, it's not too late to join in.  You can learn more at nanowrimo.org.  If you are participating in NaNoWriMo, by all means let me know!  And to the rest of you, watching from the stands, I will, no doubt, be in need of some cheerleaders, probably sometime early next week.  I'll let you know...

Wish me luck, dear readers.  Oh, and happy November!

29 October 2010

to bed

This will be my last season at our community garden.  While it's hard to give up the little plot that I've kept for the past five years, anyone who's grown food at a community garden knows that the experience comes with some unique challenges.  After plenty of ups and downs, I've decided to focus my attention on container gardening here at home, which will make my tiny allotment available for some other eager gardener next spring.

This morning, I went to do the last of my gardening, tucking the plot in for the winter.   I didn't want to leave a big, weedy mess for the lucky soul that inherits my little chunk of real estate.  And honestly, I haven't been a very active gardener this summer, so I definitely had some work to do.

In the course of an hour and a half, the plot went from this:

To this:

I know, I know.  It just looks--sad.

Usually, this time of year, I clear out what's left of all the summer crops, put in my garlic, and scatter cover crop seed everywhere else.  I decided not to plant cover crop this year, partially because I didn't want to make a bunch of work for some new gardener next season.

Instead, I did some lazy "sheet mulching"--layering greens and browns and then covering it all with cardboard.  The organic material will break down over the winter, feeding the soil a bit.  The cardboard helps keep everything in place and will also, hopefully, keep the weeds down during this "off" season.  Again, it's lazy, but it should do the trick.

I had a good time in the garden.  I collected seeds from the calendula and nigella, so I'll have some souvenirs to sow in the spring.

And I spent some quality time with the last of the summer's pollinators.  A male Rufous Hummingbird came and went all morning, zipping past me to get to the tangerine sage.  Of course, I couldn't snap a photo; hummingbirds are much faster than I am, especially now that I've cut my coffee consumption to half a cup a day.

This little lady, though, wasn't in any hurry to move on.

I left the garden with a little bag of seeds and a clump of wild onions descended from some that my cousin smuggled off a Canadian campsite a few years ago.  I'll take a few months off from gardening, but at the tail end of winter, when the seed catalogs show up in the mailbox, I'll start scheming again, building a little garden--this time a container garden--in my imagination.

I'm trying to spend this weekend getting things done.  I've got some plans for November that might take up quite a bit of my time--I'll let you in on the excitement next week, I promise.

We're also planning on attending the annual neighborhood pumpkin carving party tomorrow night.  And of course, the trick-or-treaters will be here on Sunday.  Which means that I might have to buy some more candy for them.  I'm not sure what happened to the last two bags I picked up...

Maybe Halloween chaos is enough to fill your weekend.  If not, here's a to-do list for you:

Put vanilla in your soup.
Download some wrapping paper.

Have a lovely--and spooky--weekend!

25 October 2010


So we had a party last weekend and it was pretty great.  A little tame, really, but that's what you get with a house full of family.  And sometimes tame is good.  There were streamers and music.  We ate "tacos." which is what my man's family calls something that I would be more inclined to term "make your own burritos."

And we ate cake.  Specifically, Sour Cream-Chocolate Cake With Peanut Butter-Cream Cheese Frosting and Chocolate-Peanut Butter Ganache.  So, a really healthy cake.  It was my man's birthday party, though, and he should have nice things--at least once a year.

The recipe took awhile but was pretty dang easy.

All the pieces fit together nicely, and the end result was killer.  Even if you're a layer cake novice, like me, you can bake this cake.  Just don't come crying to me when you then proceed to eat the entire thing in one sitting.  On Smitten Kitchen, Deb cautions that this super-rich cake should be served in extra-thin slices.  For whatever it's worth, the "normal" size pieces I served seemed to go over just fine.

Of course, I don't have a gorgeous "after" picture to share.  We went from candles to cutting pretty quickly.  After a few minutes, things looked a bit like this.

You get the idea, though, right?

I made a few paper things for the party, too.  If you squint at the corner of the cake picture above, you can see one of them, a badge I made for the birthday boy.  I started out with some directions from Jessica at How About Orange but ended up making something significantly bigger than the "mini medallion" she gives the dimensions for.

I did struggle a little bit getting the whole thing glued together.  I ended up using a combination of rubber cement, tacky glue, and packing tape.  If I had it to over again, though, I'd probably just use some good double-sided tape.  Although, I don't think even that would overcome what I found to be the only real design flaw of the thing, a funny little seam in the paper.

And, no, that's not such a big deal.  I just don't like it when seams show.  I thought the thing turned out well enough in the end.  Our six-year-old nephew agreed.  "Hey," he said to his uncle, "nice badge."

And my partner-in-crime rocked it all night, which is way longer than he would've worn the tin foil crown I really wanted to make for him...

22 October 2010


I've been busy these past few days.  Although my man's official birthday was a few days ago--an event that we commemorated with a dinner out and some present-opening--we're celebrating in a bigger way tomorrow, when his family will be coming to the big city for as much of a party as we can cram into our little apartment.

So I've been cleaning a bit.  And decorating.  And grocery shopping.  There's a cake in the oven right now--or rather, two-thirds of a cake, because I'm baking something so ambitious that it won't all fit in the oven at the same time.  I really want to tell you about the cake, but since I'm still trying to keep a few secrets from the birthday boy, I'll have to save the details for next week.

Hopefully, it turns out.  I'm still a bit of a layer-cake novice.  Happily, though, this will be the first of my layer cakes that I won't have to transport any farther than the ten feet from the kitchen to the dining table.  That's in my favor, I think.  I'll let you know how it goes...

If you can't tell from this post, I've got my hands kind of full this weekend.  If you aren't planning a birthday bonanza tomorrow and are looking for some fun, here's a to-do list for you:

Eat more smores.
Put your kids in danger.
Plan for the future.

Enjoy your weekend!

18 October 2010


No real post tonight, folks.  I'm going to spend the evening eating these pancakes, finishing this book, and trying incredibly hard to avoid eating all the Halloween candy I bought for those sweet little trick-or-treaters.

Thank you for your patience with my laziness.  It's been a very long day.  I'll be back on Friday, of course, with a to-do list for the weekend and maybe a little gossip about my partner-in-crime's birthday...

15 October 2010


I went to the Children's Garden today, just like I have nearly every Friday for the past five years.  You can learn a lot by gardening with kids.  And a little bit of what you learn is actually about gardening.

Today, I learned--or, at least, was reminded--that the harvest is the most exciting part of the garden year. There were shrieks, giggles, oohs, and ahhs for each radish that was yanked from the ground and every squash that was wrestled off the vine.  A good time was had by all, and I was lucky enough to be there to join in.

Hopefully, the rest of my weekend will involve a little knitting, a little cooking, and some top secret maneuvers that involve my man's quickly approaching birthday.  If I have any extra time, here's what I'd like the rest of my to-do list to look like:

Make a moose.  Or, okay, a deer.
Trick you-know-who into eating eggplant.  
Dream of cheese.
Repaint the bedroom.
Start  a new collection.
Buy another sewing book.  And also, learn to sew.

Here's hoping you all have a lovely weekend.  See you next week!

11 October 2010


Since I started writing here last February, I've been using a mitten for a camera case.  While unconventional, perhaps, this arrangement has been working out wonderfully.  My little camera has traveled safely on city buses, in gardens, through crowded farmers markets, and to Ohio last June for the big-deal wedding.

Yesterday, though, I decided that my camera deserved something better.
Also, it's getting cold out and I want my mitten back.

So I cut off a chunk of a felted sweater sleeve, dug out a scrap of leftover "Key Tree," and spent a few minutes making this little camera cozy.  It's not fancy, and it's probably not going to last all that long, but that's okay.  It'll give me an excuse to make another one.  Maybe next time, I'll do something more exciting, with a zipper or something.

For now, though, this will do just fine.  The wool is nice and soft, and I stuffed a little bit of roving under the fabric to make things extra-cushy.  My little Canon PowerShot is officially ready for cold weather.  Now I'll have to move on to winterizing the laptop...