Monthly Archives: March 2009

Just Like When We Were Kids

Pookie and I took a trip into New York City last month on assignment for my job, and during our down time we had a very hurried lunch at Caffe Grazie on the Upper East Side. We really wished we’d had more time, because they had a really impressive assortment of drinks on the menu, but we ended up having to teetotal. What a waste! Anyway, we scrawled down a little note of the cocktail we most wanted to try, and for the last six weeks I’ve been contemplating the combination of “lemon sorbet, absolut citron and limoncello” that it promised. How best to turn this into something that would make a boon companion to an afternoon hockey game? I mulled it over, and finally decided today that I knew how to handle it.

1. Put 3 cups of ice cubes in a blender.
2. Add 3 oz. of limoncello and 3 oz. of Absolut Citron.
3. Blend until slushy.
4. Add 1 pint of lemon sorbet.
5. Blend until slushy.
6. Pour into 3 glasses and top each with a drizzle of limoncello.
7. Use the drink to take the edge off a lousy day for the Devils in Boston.

A Maple Hoo Lemon Italian Ice

The end result of this cocktail is something that tastes exactly like those little paper cups of Italian Ice we used to get at the end of the day at summer camp when we were kids, only with a boozy kick. In fact, it tastes so much like them that Pookie and I both wondered whether those childhood treats had alcohol in them too. I can’t wait to build on this foundation all summer long.

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Filed under Drinky-Drinky, Frozen!

Spring Has Sprung: A Photoessay

We have been starting to feel that “why isn’t it Spring yet?” antsiness lately, and discovered something terrible when we tried our usual cure for seasonlonging. It turns out we don’t have very many pictures in our flickr photostream of March, April, and May. We apparently didn’t catch the photography bug until our garden was in full summer swing last year. This is terrible! How are we supposed to wile away the hours at work staring longingly at happy pictures of springtime at Maple Hoo if we don’t have any pictures of it? How??? Well, thank heavens it was a glorious spring day today, and thank heavens we were feeling motivated to gallivant about the grounds here with our cameras.

Crocuses

Pine Cone Pair

Peach Branches

Crocus

Pine Cone Quartet

Daffodil Buds

Sunny Pine Needles

Crocus Trio

Magnolia buds

Sun Crocus

Sun Pinecone

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Filed under Pictures Worth A Thousand Words, Seasonal

Garden Wheels Are Turning

You can tell it’s the very start of the gardening season because we’re still excited enough about everything we’re doing that we’re taking tons of pictures and writing posts about all of it. By July, we’re going to be all, “Garden? Meh. Yeah. It’s such a burden.” But for now, we’re all updates and smiles. Heh.

So yesterday was the first day of Spring, which explains why our backyard was a snowy winter wonderland when we woke up in the morning. Seriously. Everything was covered with a thick, fluffy blanket of snow at 7:30 in the morning; by 9 it was all dripping heavily off the tree branches, and by noon there wasn’t a single snowflake to be found anywhere. Weird. Out like a schizoid lamb, I guess. Anyway, today will stand on the record as the first springtimey day of Spring, as it’s sunny, warm, gorgeous and very, very gardeny. In other words, a perfect day for the onion seedlings to move out of the seedling-starter window in the basement and into the cold frame in the garden.

Onions In Cold Frame

Aside from their unfortunate run-in with Matsui’s Jaws Of Death, the seedlings have been growing without incident, unlike last year, when one of the trays got completely flipped over during watering. No, this year our little baby onions are just growing like gangbusters, and today we thinned them and put them out for their first taste of garden air and full sun. Within a half an hour they were taller and sturdier-looking, clearly happy to have the wind blowing in their hair. It’s supposed to get down below freezing the next few nights, so we’ll still be bringing them inside after sundown, but we’re hopeful they’ll be living full-time in the coldframe within a week.

Garden Vista March 21

So now our garden has all kinds of activity going on in it. We’ve got our pea trellis eagerly awaiting the first little tendrils to start clinging to it, a couple of rows of radish seeds that are showing absolutely zero signs of life (since they were seeds we saved ourselves, we won’t be at all surprised if they turn out to be inert), the cold frame with its precious contents, and the garlic beds, which are but a week away from losing their straw covering. We peeked under the straw in the smaller bed today, and sure enough, we’ve got neat, happy rows of little garlic shoots.

Garlic Under The Straw

Green garlic pesto is just around the corner!

And now that the onions have vacated the seedling window, we’ve been able to move the rapidly-sprouting tomatoes and peppers into the sun.

Jalapeno Seedlings

I smell bumper crop.

[Posted by Schnookie.]

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Filed under 3. March, Garden

Impulse Gardening

Spring must be in the air, because I spent all day yesterday looking at our pictures on flickr of last year’s garden, reading our archived posts about it, and basically just freaking out about how much I can’t wait for our plants to start growing. So imagine my delight when I got down to the nuts and bolts of wasting time on the interwebs at work this morning, only to discover that the New York Times had an article all about planting peas.

The gist of the article? PLANT PEAS RIGHT NOW!!!! If you don’t do it TODAY it’ll be too late!!! And more than that, peas will be harvestable BEFORE YOU’RE EVEN PLANNING TO PLANT MOST OF THE REST OF YOUR GARDEN!

I got on the horn with Pookie immediately, and before we knew it, our garden plans for 2009 suddenly included shell peas.

Sowing Peas

Most of our other crop selections involve careful research of heirloom varieties (and by “careful research” I mean poring over the Seed Savers Exchange and Seeds Of Change catalogs to find the coolest veggies they offer), but we didn’t have time to think about our peas. No, we’d read the article. The Paper Of Record said they had to be planted TODAY, so I just picked up a pack of whatever type of Burpee shell pea seeds they were selling in the section with the greeting cards at my grocery store.

March 16 2009

We put in two rows of peas, with a little fence of tomato ladders between them to work as the trellis. And then we bordered our new pea hedge with a couple of rows of Purple Globe radish seeds from the radish we were too lazy to pick last year, and left to go to seed.

Radish Blossom

Radish flowers are really, really pretty.

It was the most exciting day of the gardening year so far — we planted seeds in the ground! Woo hoo! Now grow, little garden, grow!

NOTE: It was also the most exciting day of the gardening year so far because it was the first day of 2009 where we decided not to water because it was supposed to rain. And it didn’t rain. Go us! The first of many such days, most likely.

NOTE: Also exciting? After ordering a whole new batch of pepper seeds in a complete state of panic yesterday, look what’s started sprouting:

Aci Sivri Seedling

That’s right, if you look really closely there you can see the first of our germinated peppers. If we’d known all it would take would be ordering more seeds, we’d have done it days ago.

[Posted by Schnookie]

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Filed under 3. March, Garden

Garden Fever

Garden Fever struck Maple Hoo hard today, getting us all in a tizzy to have green stuff to poke around at outside. Sadly, that’s still months off. However, we did take one exciting step today:

Starting Tomatoes

Those there are tomatoes. Sweet, heavenly, fabulous, wonderful, gorgeous Jersey tomatoes. We showed much better restraint than we did last year and waited until that magic 6-8 weeks before the last frost before starting them. Here’s hoping that restraint will pay off and we won’t spend all of May in a constant state of freaking out that a frost will kill our tomatoes any instant.

March 15 2009

This year we’re growing Ramapo and Moreton tomatoes, as developed by the Rutgers Extension. Our farm grew Ramapos last year and they were unbelievable. Simply without-a-doubt the best tomatoes ever. I cannot wait to have one fresh from the garden. The Moretons are new to us, but we couldn’t resist them after learning that their nickname is “The Fourth Of July Tomato” because they ripen so early. Sold! Rounding out the group are the black plum sauce tomatoes which made such delicious pasta sauce for freezing.

Meanwhile, the onions are growing happily down in the garden window, and the peppers… Well, the peppers look like they’re doing nothing. So we ordered another set of seeds. And then read our garden calendar from last year and realized it takes over two weeks for peppers to germinate. Oops.

On a happier note, the daffodils that always come up first in our yard are three times bigger today than they were on Wednesday. Spring is on its way!

Daffodils

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Filed under 3. March, Garden

Gifts From My Sister

It’s high time I cataloged here the fabulous stitching gifts my lovely sister, “KtG” (not her real name), has made for me over the years. KtG is an extraordinary needleworker who loves to make fancy, intricate stuff. She’s always picking out projects that call for tons of color-switching over one thread, or which call for specialty stitches, or which call for construction. I do not understand ever wanting to do these things, so I had pretty much resigned myself to a life without fabulous constructed etuis and scissor keeps and such. Little did I know that KtG would want to pick out projects with fussy stitches and construction to make for me! Who could ask for a better sister?

Here are some of the projects she’s made for me:

Acorn Scissors Keep and Fob

Scissor keep and fob; matching needle book not pictured.

Corner Finder Keep

Corner-finder keep; note that it’s personalized “Pookie”!

Corner Finders

Inside of corner-finder keep. I adore these little things; in fact, I think they’re my favorite non-scissor stitching tool.

Needle and Tread Keep

Needle book and thread keeper. One felt flap is for 26s and one for 28s!

Stumpwork Scissor Keep 2

I mentioned I had a new set of scissors without a keep, and then voila! This was under the Christmas tree for me this year!

Stumpwork Scissor Keep

So cute! So, so cute!

In short, KtG’s the best! And because she’s made such beautiful gifts for me, this year, Schnookie and I have presented her with the birthday gift of a quilt. We just need her to pick the fabric and pattern and then away we’ll go!

Posted by Pookie

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Filed under Pins and Needles, Stitching

We’re Hammering ‘Em Out Here At Maple Hoo

WOOO HOOOO!!! Another finished quilt!

Jellygirl Finis

This one is my Jellygirl quilt, made with Tanya Whelan fabrics (mostly Ava Rose), and I’m excited to report that it took me something like a total of seven weeks to finish. I can’t believe how awesome and quick this craft is! Quilting RAWKS!

Jellygirl Quilted

I am so thrilled with how the finished quilt turned out; when I dropped it off with our long-arm quilter, she immediately exclaimed that she was going to use a rose pattern with pink thread for the quilting. Three weeks later, when she produced the completed product, I nearly died with how perfect it is. And once it had been washed and dried and got all soft and crinkly and delicious? It’s heavenly. I’m happy to report that I think I’m going to need stacks and stacks of quilts now, which means I’ve got my work cut out for me.

So where do I go now that Jellygirl is done? Why, Squaresville, of course!

Squaresville March 7

This is an American Jane pattern that I’m working in primarily prints from the Recess line. I’m cuckoo for giant patterns made out of little squares (our friend Sarah might call this “seedy ducky”), so this was one of the very first patterns I fell in love with when we went on our initial quilting swoon.

Squaresville Patches

The pattern is written out for machine quilters, with all this “sew long strips together and then cut them up into other strips and blah blah blah” gobbledygook. I can’t be bothered with machine quilting because I can’t really do it while sitting on the couch in front of the TV, so I’m going with the “cut a million squares and then sew them together by hand in the pattern” approach. (Or rather, “have Pookie cut a millions squares”.)

Squaresville Neighborhoods

It’s amazing to me how fast the going is on this. It looks all fussy and labor-intensive and impressive, but really, it’s super easy and quick. But, uh… don’t say I told you that. The only part that looks like it might be a drag is the blue and white checkerboard border, but I’ll just keep puttering away on that. As our dad used to say, “Inch by inch, life’s a cinch. Yard by yard, life is hard.”

Squaresville Rainbow

[Posted by Schnookie]

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Filed under Pins and Needles, Pommerdoodling, Progress Reports, Quilting

Quilting Update

My first ever quilt is completely finished!

Nest

I could not be happier with the end result. I love the pattern I chose (“Nest” by Tula Pink), and the fabrics (“Flutterby” also by Tula Pink), and the quilting (done by a local quilter), and the binding (I used leftover strips). From start to finish it took roughly two months. How crazy is that?! Who knew quilting was a) this much fun, b) this fast, and c) this cool? I mean, I’ve gone from having a lame old plain yellow fleece blanket to having this!

Nest with Backing and Binding

Nest Quilting

When I picked up “Nest” from the quilter, I dropped off “Merry Go Round”, my first bed-sized quilt. I’m pretty thrilled with that one, too, although there were lots of first-timer lessons learned (for example, eyeballing equilateral triangles is a bad idea). So what’s next? When I was reading up doing the binding (which turned out to not be as terrible as I was expecting) I encountered this advice: “When preparing the binding, it’s time to start thinking about your next quilt”. Boomer and I had a good laugh over that, saying instead “when cutting out the beginnings of your quilt, it’s time to start thinking about your next quilt.” Heh.

One thing I learned from my first forays into quilting is that the process of making a quilt has a bunch of really distinct steps — cutting, marking, piecing small pieces in short seams, connecting pieces together in long seams, pressing, waiting for the quilter, and binding. In cross stitch, it’s always the same — thread the needle, count, stitch, repeat. Sure you can change things up by using different colors or fibers or a drastically different design, but in the end, the process always feels the same. In quilting I’ve discovered it’s nice to be able to pick and choose what part of the process to be working on. Cutting pieces is no good on a night when I want to be watching hockey, but on a weekend morning it’s a blast. Sewing long seams can get boring, but shorter ones need pressing more often. It’s a fun juggling act to fit what you want to be doing in while still making progress.

With this in mind, I decided I needed to build up a quilt pipeline. I need to be sure that I had quilts going in varying stages, so I’d always have something to be working on. Now that I have “Nest” done and “Merry Go Round” in the shop, as it were, I’m sitting pretty with four projects lined up.

The one getting the most action right now is “Darla”. Technically, the pattern, designed by American Jane, is titled “Criss Cross” but for some reason, I’ve been referring to it by the name of the fabric line I’m using, “Darla” by Tanya Whelan. I fell head over heels in love with Darla, which is a little bizarre. Based on “Flutterby” and “Look and Learn” (the fabric I used for “Merry Go Round”) you’d think soft florals in pinks and greens and blues really wouldn’t blow my skirt up, but they did. I think it’s the gingham. I’m a total sucker for gingham.

Darla Square In Progress

“Darla” is turning out to be very, very involved, and somewhat fraught. I chose to do the chain part of the Irish chain using pink gingham and plain white, only the first 6 yards of white I bought turned out nasty. I didn’t really think at the store (I’m new at this) but when I got it home, I realized the fabric was disgusting. It felt fake. Like polyester. I think it was just high-sheen cotton or something, but whatever it was, I hated it. I replaced it with some Kaufmann Kona Snow and am much happier. Then I discovered that I had made a really stupid rookie mistake and thought I could use fat quarters instead of quarter yards. Not in this pattern, I can’t! I had to order a whole other set of fat quaters, making this the $80,000 Quilt. Not cool! I guess that’s a mistake you only make once. I think I’m on track now, though (keep your fingers crossed). All I have to do is cut out 1,200 1 inch white squares, 600 1 inch red squares, and a billion 1 inch strips in varying colors! Then I just have to sew them all together! No problem!

When I started it really seemed like something I’d never really get going it was so complicated, but I think it’s going to turn out great. I do, however, foresee reaching a point where I want something far simpler to play around with. Enter “Prairie Gothic”.

Prairie Gothic Fabrics

This was done up as a sample at the quilt store and it was just too charming to pass up. It came all kitted up and ready to go, which is awesome. The fabrics are bold and fun and remind me of summer nights in NJ. It’s funny to look at the spider and think, “yay for gardening” and not “ick, a gross bug!”; I guess I’ve come a long way in the last four years!

Prairie Gothic Fabrics 2

The pattern seems ridiculously straight-forward, but allows me to practice “fussy cutting”. I’m thinking I don’t want to race through that project, though, so it will be reserved for cutting and piecing in leisurely breaks between the madness that is “Darla”.

If those two get to points where I’m doing stuff I don’t want to, I have “Magic Carpet” waiting in the wings, too. It’s another American Jane pattern, but I’m going to work it up in “Midwest Modern 2”, my first of what will probably be many Amy Butler fabrics. This pattern calls for pretty simple piecing, and I’m going for a pretty scrappy look — in short, it’s the anti-“Darla”. The fabrics were on display at the cutting table at the store and I just finally reached the point where I knew I’d kick myself forever if I didn’t get around to using them. (I’m most looking forward to binding it in that hot pink stuff. That’s going to rawk.)

Midwest Modern Fabrics

And proving that the pipeline will be an ever-growing entity, I just ordered a jelly roll of “Neptune”, Tula Pink’s newest line. I only have half an idea what to do with it, but hey, I just finished a quilt! I’m pretty sure that book meant to read: “when you finish the binding on your quilt, it’s time to be thinking four or five quilts down the pipeline”. Good advice, quilting book, good advice.

Posted by Pookie

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Filed under Pins and Needles, Quilting