Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Gardening Year

Happy New Gardening Year

Wishing you a fun-filled year of
scrumptious home grown veggies,
zero dandelions,
& not a single encounter with a noxious weed.

~ from the eternal optimists at High Altitude Gardens

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

DIY Bonsai

Stocking Stuffer!

Bonsai, the hard way? I guess that depends upon what kind of gardener you are.

I never evolved past the mud pie stage of childhood. So, the idea of planting a Bonsai from seed sounds kind of fun. The ultimate challenge!

Especially since Bonsai seeds don't exist.

If ya think about that, it makes perfect sense. Bonsai seeds are tree seeds. Bonsai is the 'art' of pruning and sculpting a tree to become a perfect little miniature of it's own great self.

I soaked the seeds over night. Now we're pretending it's winter in the back of the refrigerator. In 6 weeks, the 'real' planting will begin.

Oh, I know what you're thinking... "In 5 or 10 years, you might have a Bonsai."

Well, my response to that is an emphatic: "You're wrong." It will probably take 15 years.

But, who's counting? And, who cares? It was a thoughtful little stocking stuffer and I'm excited to see what grows.

PS: My soon to be tree is an Acacia. Take a quick trip to Tasmania to learn more.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Tinsel Town

Winterberry shrubs add great color to a snowy garden. Birds love 'em.

I hauled the Christmas tree outdoors, giving it a second life, stuck in a snow drift where it shall rest quietly until spring. That is, if spring ever gets here. [I like to decorate it a second time with stuff for the birds who overwinter in the yard.]

This is much, much earlier than we usually take it down. But, I couldn't stand that tree a moment longer!

It was so pretty. Downright gorgeous. Dripping with tinsel, creating a magical, glittery effect with all those twinkly bulbs.

Little did I know! Tinsel travels.


Within just a couple days, tinsel was adding a glittery effect all over the house.

Then it was in the car. I even spotted a few strands on the horse the other day.

Raisin' a Ruckus: Bib & Tucker proudly displays the basket of bulbs he knocked off the tree. (Poor photo, but notice how he's sparkling?)

We have Bib to thank for this mess. He's big into shiny and just couldn't contain himself. When he starts raising a ruckus, Pete feels obliged to pitch in.

And, that was that. I know when I'm outnumbered.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Over the River & Through the Woods...

This teeny tiny house is not a house at all. It's the clever entry way to a hidden log cabin.

Our Christmas dinner destination took us over the river, through the deep woods, then high into the snowy mountains along a precarious path called Trapper's Loop.

Once you walk through the tiny house entry way, you discover the real mountain cabin, nestled in the trees.

Why go to such great lengths for Christmas Dinner? It's the annual reunion of good friends from near and far. Some are happy to drive half a day just to savor Beverly's amazing prime rib. (Bob cooked it one year and, well, we're not ever gonna let him do that again. :)

Standing room only at Bob & Bev's.

Their cozy log cabin is designed around an eclectic kitchen where talented friends [aka volunteer chefs] labor all day long on our behalf.

Glorious aromas wafting from the kitchen had us all a bit giddy with anticipation.

On top of being an incredible cook, Bev is also an extraordinary gardener. The big, green plant in the above photo is an Avocado tree.

Remember when it was a fun fad to stick toothpicks into an Avocado pit, set it in water to see if it would root? Well... her's grew plenty of roots. And, now it's about 20 feet tall!

Bev keeps African Violets alive and brightly blooming, year after year, too. Someday I shall corner this gal and discover all her secrets. In the meantime, we'll simply enjoy the fond memories of another great Christmas at - the closest thing any of us have to a - Grandma's House.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Window Shopping

4 days 'til Christmas and the only thing sitting under the tree is a cat. He's been weighing the pros and cons all month. Climb it? And, risk the wrath of the gal who's in charge of this joint? Or, be a well-behaved kitty in high hopes she'll come through with fresh Catnip on Christmas Eve.

We're not giving Christmas gifts this year. At least, not how we have in the past. We drew names. Limited the price on that one gift... Blah, blah, blah....

Or, should I say Bah? As in Bah Humbug? I was the one lobbying to minimize gift giving.

Did I wreck Christmas? I know in my heart this is a grand idea. But, as I head into the final stretch I find myself secretly (selfishly?) parked in front of the computer drooling over all sorts of things I wouldn't mind opening on Christmas Eve.

Like this gorgeous book, Egg & Nest, by a favorite artist, Rosamond Purcell.

Or, this thing. A Garden of Wishes flower kit filled with seeds that have special meaning. Sunflower = joy, Calendula = energy, Cosmos = fun, Lavender = pleasure, Bellflower = relax, French Marigold = dream, Zinnia = hope, Snow in Summer = peace. How cool is that?

Everyone needs a Camellia Bonsai.

Camellias! So beautiful plus they bloom for months on end.

Repeat after me:
his is window shopping, only window shopping... Stop fondling that credit card!

Now here's one I can afford but I should probably just steal the idea and make my own:

A year-round windowsill garden. Isn't that darling?

It comes with seed packets for a dozen happy bloomers: Petunias, Marigolds, Pansies, Lobelia, Alyssum, Zinnias, Impatiens, Baby's Breath, Dianthus, Cosmos, Poppies and Sweet Peas.


What is missing from my greedy gotta have it gift list?

Ah, yes...

The pony.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

White Christmas

White Christmas Cactus

The snow keeps falling, every day this week. We're buried under a mountain of fluffy white. Should stay that way 'til early May.

I like the snow. Wouldn't know how to celebrate Christmas without it. Though, I suppose it's this realization of another long, white winter that causes me to ignore the white one, playing favorites with the Christmas Cactus.

Pink Christmas Cactus

That fave would be Edna, of course. Beauty queen, aging gracefully. I'll readily admit she's the ugliest houseplant you could own ~ 11 months out of the year.

Her 12th month makes up for everything. When she gets all spruced up for the holidays, laden with 100's of breathtaking fuchsia flowers.

Peach Christmas Cactus

Then there's my little Peaches & Cream girl. Not a prolific bloomer and far too fussy to be living with me. She needs extra water, fertilizer and more TLC than the other gals. She gets her way because apricot is a favorite color of mine.

Which brings me back to whitey. Unsung hero of the Miller household. She blooms every Christmas with such precision that she's the only cactus who deserves to be displayed, front and center.

So, I did just that. I moved her to a busy location in order for her to get the attention and kudos she well deserves. And, she practically had a heart attack, raining unopened flower buds all over the place.

Did you know? Christmas Cactus, in bud and bloom, are incredibly sensitive to their environment. Moving her from one spot to another during this hard working time can easily kill off half the flowers.

Yep. I knew that, too. But it didn't stop me from screwing things up...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christmas Azalea

Soul Sisters: Now I know I didn't confess this in my blog. Some plant mistakes are better left unsaid.

So, the Minnesota Gardener must have read my mind... How I was pining away for a pretty pink stimulus package to keep me occupied during this non-gardening season.

Azaleas and dry, desert climates don't get along very well. Not nearly as well as Jane and I do. My pink Azalea dried up and blew away when I forgot about her last summer.

What a lovely surprise to open the box and find a new willing victim begging for a drink of water!

Thanks, Jane. It really brightened my day! And, I promise faithfully to water her...

Kreativ Blogger

Kreativ Blogger
Hereby awarded to a few of the women who make me laugh & make me think...

Knit Nutt
Not Dead Yet

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Ooey Gooey Christmas Goodie

Finally! The much anticipated snow has arrived.

Wild winds and a heavy snowstorm kept us housebound most of the day. Finally. Snow. Winter. The kick in the pants I needed to admit that Christmas is just around the corner!

I decorated the house, then I decorated the blog. After I got everything looking as holiday as humanly possible, I decided to whip up an extra rich and incredibly bad for you Ooey Gooey Christmas Goodie.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Walnut Fudge Recipe

Combine these goodies in a large mixing bowl:
  • 1 1/2 cups semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 cups peanut butter chips
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 1 cup chunky peanut butter
  • 2 cups marshmallow cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
Bring these goodies (below) to a boil, then pour over the marvelous mess up above. Stir like crazy! Once everything is melted nicely, pour into a glass baking dish.
  • 4 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 can (12 oz.) evaporated milk
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
Try to show some discipline. Wait until it cools before diving in head first...

This recipe is adapted from one my Mother and Grandmother used to make every Christmas. Baking was lots more fun back then because people only counted calories during that first week in January ~ a half-hearted attempt to repent the gobbling of the Christmas Goodie sins.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Friday Afternoon Club

Watercress growing in a cool, still pond.

Are you tired? Broke? Bored? Depressed? Yeah, me, too. Holiday pressures and politics can really get me down. Seems there's always somebody stirring up trouble though I had to laugh when I saw today's Wiki: How to Find Christmas Gifts for People Who Bug You.

Sometimes it's hard to get into the holiday spirit. Particularly hard for me this year, since we have no snow.

I'm thinking about that today because I got a note from a fellow blogger wishing she could just call off Christmas altogether. Can't be done. I know that for certain sure because I've tried (and failed!) many times.

Though I do know a great way to get out of your holiday funk:
Tear up the Christmas lists greedy family members have handed you. And, then? Take a walk.

Because, sometimes, the comfort of your own quiet thoughts is enough to convert a raving lunatic back into the mild, mannered woman you used to be. (Talkin' about myself here, not you.)

This week's installment of the Friday Afternoon [Hiking] Club took us along the dirt paths rising above Memory Grove. A bit ironic since Memory Grove is a park honoring the dead.

If I were a bird, I would make this my home.

Seems pretty ideal. A dense, protective forest, plentiful berries, even some ripe, wild apples hanging heavy from a tree.

It was up along this trail that KC found the Racing Pigeon, who must have died just minutes before we arrived on the scene.

My bleeding heart friend conducted an impromptu burial for the pretty bird and I did not take this picture of her foot because I'm weird. I took it so I could track the tag and tell the owner we found her. Turns out she flew the coop in 1999...

Perhaps she decided to skip out of town to avoid Christmas headaches, too.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Mineral Baths for You & Your Flowers

Next up on my Scrooge Budget Strategy for Christmas gifts: Homemade Mineral Baths.

This one is so easy it's almost a little embarrassing.

Friends will call after they've soaked in the tub gushing with gratitude. Kindly accept those compliments and tell no one this recipe takes 3 minutes and costs about a nickel. Okay, maybe 50 cents.

Homemade Mineral Bath Recipe
  • 1 cup Epsom Salts*
  • 4 - 6 drops of your favorite essential oil
Yup. It's just that easy.

Not familiar with Epsom Salts? It's basically magnesium, which softens the skin, soothes sore muscles, and brings a tired soul back to life. 64 oz of Epsom Salts should set you back about $5 dollars.

Magnesium is equally loved by your blooming buddies. Sprinkle some in the garden and see, first hand, where the term Flower Power originated.

Essential oils are liquids extracted from plants. Highly concentrated and very aromatic ~ so watch out ~ a little goes a long way.

Every gal deserves a beautiful essential oil bottle. If for no other reason than to look at it and smile.

This green one is mine so don't get any big ideas. :) I bought it from a glass blower eons ago.

Men and women (especially athletes) love this bath soak, though I doubt the guys would be too crazy with lavender. Visit a bath/craft supply store to find just the right fragrances for people on your list.

Oh! And, while you're at it? Add a blown-glass perfume bottle to your own gotta have it list. Then you can be just like me. Isn't that a scary thought?

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Christmas Cactus Tradition

Yay, Edna! She's at it again!

Every year I think I'll muster up the discipline to 'manage' Edna's glorious holiday blooms. You know the drill... make her suffer a bit by strictly managing hours of sunlight and total darkness so she'll look like the Christmas Cactus perennials you see in the stores.

But, I just can't bring myself to pick on the old gal like that. She should not have to compete with those young whipper snappers.

Edna was a cutting off of my Mother's Christmas Cactus ~ she gave that cutting to me back when I was in college. Mom started her cactus from a cutting off my Grandma's cactus. Suffice to say Edna is pretty damn old.

Throughout my life, E has been a constant companion. When I was 19, I tossed her into the back of my VW bug and took her to Memphis, where I was doing my student teaching. When we drove home for Christmas, she rode shotgun* all the way, in full bloom.

Edna is particularly happy in Utah where she gifts me, every Christmas, with hundreds of bright, fuchsia flowers. Timing-wise, some years she's spot on. Other years, she jumps the gun. When you get to be this old, you should be allowed to call the shots.

Once I see her laden with buds, I give her a weekly dose of fertilizer. It's hard work producing this many blooms.

  1. Weekly watering is best. She's called a cactus but she doesn't love dry soil.
  2. Indirect light and cool temperatures generally encourages her to bloom.
  3. Be nice to your cactus and she could very well accompany you to the old folks home. They live for hundreds of years.
* Riding shotgun means riding in the front passenger's seat of a car.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Eggnog Spritz Christmas Cookies

My own personal pastry chef, aka daughter who loves to bake. She does all the work. I eat all the cookie dough. It's workin' out great for me...

The tree is up and we're ready rumble.
It's cookie baking time!

Eggnog Glaze for Spritz Cookies
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon rum extract
  • 1-2 tablespoons water
  • Brush your cookies, lightly, right after you pull them from the oven.

Spritz Christmas Cookie Recipe
Click here for this recipe, from previous post. Or, use your own. It's the glaze that makes this holiday favorite extra special.

I might really enjoy Christmas, this year, though I suppose that needs a little clarification.

I always enjoy Christmas. What's not to love? People invite me to parties. It's a great excuse to wear tacky earrings. Bonus: that cute UPS guy is forever knocking on my door.

I think I'll enjoy the holidays more this year because people are finally exploring simpler ways to celebrate the season.

All of a sudden, homemade is taking on a whole new meaning ~ something I have wanted for a long, long time.

This has nothing to do with the fact that I'm cheap, selfish and broke. I'd just like to see us calm down and put some thought into this season. Give gifts because we want to, not because we feel like we have to.

Because, honestly, if you think fed ex-ing a gift card makes people think you're thinking of them? Well, don't even get me started....

Special moment. Sitting on the couch, admiring the tree, we noticed a smiling half moon peeking in at us through the living room window:

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Riding Up a Storm

M & Woodstock (left) - Me & Snoopy (right)

I hardly ever travel for Thanksgiving. Mostly because everybody else in the world is traveling so, first of all, I can't stand the crowds. And, secondly, I can't afford it! This year, airline discounts were desperate to send me somewhere and I was more than happy to oblige.

The pawns in this chess set are two feet tall. Which is perfect! If I'm to lose at chess, I would like to lose BIG.

I'm an orphan. Well, I guess I'm an orphan. Since I'm an adult I don't know if those rules apply. My parents have passed away. Same thing for M. [No sadness. All 4 lived great lives.]

However! When M asked what was cooking for Thanksgiving I knew exactly what she meant...

Aerial view of Mt. Hood. It's December! Where's the snow?

We met up in Oregon to ride Wendy's horses at Nehalem Bay. [Oregon Coast.]

Jimmy to the rescue. I think he had a crush on my friend, M.

Water taxi! Riding horses works up a powerful appetite. So, Jimmy boated us across the bay where we could enjoy a beer and an oyster.

Bad Dog is seriously considering a lawsuit. "What do you mean No Dogs on the Dock? This is an outrage!"

One oyster is plenty at the Jetty Fishery since they are often the size of your head (not kidding.) Yummy crab, too.

Oysters roasting an open fire... (Is that how that song goes?)

After all our Big Fun there was only one logical thing left to do. We got back on our marvelous horses and rode off into the sunset.
Sunset on Nehalem Bay