Front yard solution!

Was bothered by the ugly house-front dilemma last night and resolved to fix it somewhat today. Mission accomplished!

Here is the nice little corner wild-flower garden. Penstemon, feather-flowers, succulents. I added a couple pots of leftover petunias, and an aloe vera in the back.IMG_1357 This was my big project. Attaching the trellis to the barrel. It took some problem-solving ingenuity, that’s for sure. Involving multiple random pieces of wood, a stepladder, wood screws, nails, a bunch of swearing and starting over at least once. But, I think this works! I also added a pot of lavender that I already had. IMG_1358 In the planter is a pink-and-white clematis and a bunch of petunias, which may or may not appreciate the part-sun this spot gets. If they perish, I can put something else in there. But I think this fills the blank spot nicely. I added some more succulents in front. IMG_1359 Ahhhh. So much better.IMG_1360Now I can just see how it goes, what grows well, what else is needed. But for now, this works for me and I can quit fretting over it!



More gardening. I worked really hard this weekend, despite waking up yesterday morning in terrible pain from a stupid neck/shoulder cramp/knot/horrible THING. Ugh. Anyway, thankfully I was still able to get a lot done. Yay for ibuprofen and those stick-on heat thingies!

Here’s the area under the lilacs. It’s filling in well with the lambs ear my dad gave me from his garden last year. I also planted an oregano here, in hopes that it will sort of spread and fill in the bare ground with yummy-smelling herbs. That little dish of water is for the raccoons, in the hopes that they’ll leave the birdbath alone.


The planter for my sweet Cleo girl. The gray-green plant loves it, but I haven’t been able to get anything else to grow in the planter. So now I’m trying a native drought-resistant geranium. This is supposed to have violet-blue flowers. Crossing fingers…



I weeded this whole strip (and took out, um, TWO YEARS worth of fallen leaves. Yeah, I didn’t do much in the yard last year, and it was time to clean it all out). It looks so much better. It was easier than I’d expected to rip out all the weeds and the leaves were very easy to pick up as well. I think this year I’ll concentrate on getting some bark mulch for this part of the yard and do a couple of potted things. It’s extremely rocky and difficult to get anything into the ground. I think it only needs one or two large pots of something hardy and it’ll be “done.”IMG_1346

The fun stuff: planted the veggies this weekend! There’s a cherry tomato in the blue container, then herbs, cucumbers, kale and chard in the front bed. Peppers in the black pots along the back, and then a bed full of tomatoes. IMG_1347


Pepper pots! One jalapeno (giant variety for stuffing!) and three bells. And my lemon verbena, just starting to sprout new growth for the year. And a really really messy area behind it all… oy. IMG_1348


Can’t wait to sit out in the shade of the plum tree and read..IMG_1350


This area is doing well too — I’ve got catmint and a couple of butterfly bushes, and some salvia. And a big bunch of iris and some lavender. It’s all doing well. And, duh, ORANGES.IMG_1351


Patio, newly swept and ready for morning coffee and evening grilling! Maybe this year I can finally figure out what to do with that back wall. It needs something. Wall planters with succulents? I don’t really want hanging baskets — it gets so hot here, I would have to water them all the time and I don’t want to mess with that. I don’t know. It needs something. Maybe just paint. Mediterranean blue? Orange? Fuschia? IMG_1352


The very sad front of the house. I got the junipers ripped out last year, which is great. But now it’s so bare. I have an idea for it — it’s full of rocks but hopefully some areas can be dug where the junipers were taken out. I’m thinking…


Lavender! This is along the sidewalk in front of the house and is doing really well. Ignore the clover/groundcover… I’ve decided to accept that as part of the slightly-wild look I’m going for. The green stuff is dying (it dies back in the late spring) tand the rest is brown and looks like it’s supposed to be there, so let’s just pretend that’s exactly what I meant. However, the lavender is doing really well here and I think it would look nice in front of the hosue too, especially a taller variety. I would love for the house to have a sort of (low-water) cottage garden/wildflower look.IMG_1353The other plant I’m thinking of pairing with the lavender is penstemon (beard-tongue). I’ve got some growing in the front, on the corner, already, and I’m thinking even if I have to put some things in pots (there is seriously like six inches of landscape rock in front, it’s so awful), having some lavender and penstemon would look nice. I think something tall would be nice as well, but I don’t know what.

(this is penstemon — would look good with lavender, yes?)

DSC_0047So that’s the spring garden update! I’ll post some more later when things are blooming and filling in. I’m hopeful about my lavender/penstemon idea. It takes awhile to make a garden so I’m not worried — I just don’t want it to look *too* bare in the meantime…



a catch-up post in photos

This year I finally got a white Christmas tree. I’ve wanted a white or silver tree for many many years, and this year I finally found one for the right price, that was the right size (6.5 ft) and it’s perfect. I love it. IMG_1128IMG_1126
IMG_1130 IMG_1132I’m actually excited about Christmas this year. I felt inspired to decorate a little. We have some fun plans involving San Francisco light-display touring and a dinner out and going to see the lights at the zoo. Everything feels celebratory and happy, not obligatory and stressful. This is pretty nice, I have to say.

Some other photos to catch you up on where I’ve been… This takes us from Muir Woods and the Pelican Inn when Tammie came to visit at the start of November, to San Francisco (Sutro Baths and an otter spotting! with Tammie as well), to driving home from Oregon, to the Santa Monica trip, to autumn in the backyard, finally wrapping up with some cute Thomas shots.

It’s been so busy, but good. I continue to be so grateful for my current life. Next post: Books!

Muir Woods with Tammie The Pelican Inn Perfect lunch by the fire at the Pelican Sutro Bath ruins, Cliff House OTTER!! Driving home from Oregon Santa Monica PIer Santa Monica Amazing breakfast: bread pudding with baked apples Santa Monica Autumn backyard Thomas exploring the wet yard More gratuitous kitty photos Hiding!!

things happening

Among which the most awesome is the fact that I finally got those awful junipers pulled from the front of the house. This is about half-way through. It’s so much better. My mom is coming this weekend and we’ll get some new things to plant, something more modern. Goodbye horrible prickly ugly 60-year-old junipers!

Another thing happening is that somehow I managed to turn 38 . I mean, seriously. How does this happen?! There ought to be a law. Celebrated with a special someone, and had amazing chocolate-hazelnut mousse cake for dessert. Nothing wrong with that, my friends. Nothing at all. 

(Being silly, contemplating the amazing cake)

Lots happening here at home, which I probably will eventually talk about here. However, in the meantime, all is well. I’m pretty busy right now but it’s all good.

I did manage to finish The Nasty Bits (Anthony Bourdain) and am currently working on Miss Peregrine’s Home For Unusual Children. I like it, but the links to the photos are always completely obvious/overworked and a little unnecessary. I think it would have worked just as well without the photos. I’m only about halfway through, so maybe it becomes a little less labored (photo-wise). Still, enjoying it.

It’s almost autumn, my favorite time of year. Lots more posts to come, about books and gardens and cooking and so forth; just wanted to pop in with a quick update!


weekend update

After a long week (why are some weeks so much longer than others?), it’s finally the weekend! Sir Thomas Tigger Tiger Tikky is feeling much better these days. He had some problems with anxiety and some bizarre symptoms related to that, but I’ve been doing “play therapy” with him every day (10 minutes with the Da Bird feather flyer seems to do it!) and that seems to be making a difference. He LOVES that thing. He is also a big fan of paper bags.

He gets to go outside with me (supervised) and ever since his late-night adventure, he’s shown much less interest in whatever is over the fence. Sometimes he races around the yard at full-tilt speed, tail straight up, leaping and bounding over the grass. He looks so happy. I’m so glad he is here with me.

My garden is doing well although I’m puzzled by some things. The lemon cucumbers did not do well at all. I think I started them too late. I have ONE lemon cuke (one cucumber… three plants! So sad!). I’m glad the others that I had (which I planted from starts, not seeds) did well. The zucchini continue to do well (of course) and my chili peppers did quite well too. Not sure what I am going to do with them. We’ll see how the tomatoes continue to do — I might do a batch of salsa and use up some peppers, or I might get crazy and make up a batch of homemade hot sauce! I decided to plant a winter garden: kale, chard, some lettuce and some Napa cabbage. I’m not sure how it will go — I think I need to do some soil fortifying before I plant the seeds. The beans are about ready to come down and I have half a garden plot ready to be planted as well. The rest of the garden is still growing well enough so I’ll leave it. I am not sure — do I plant starts in little seedling cups now, since I have to wait for the rest of the garden to finish before replanting it? Time to do a little garden research.

I did have a bunch of tomatoes today and although I’ve been eating caprese salads almost every night for a few weeks now, I wasn’t making a big enough dent. So it was time to can tomatoes! I canned salsa last year but this was my first attempt at just tomatoes. I opted for a hot-pack, with crushed tomatoes. I got six pints this time around but there are plenty of tomatoes on the vine, so hopefully I’ll have lots more to can. I’m tempted to go up to Brentwood and get some more tomatoes just to can to have on-hand over the winter, but the pioneer in me wants to just can only what I grow myself. We’ll see. Maybe a late-season harvest, when they want to get rid of al the tomatoes and are selling them cheap. If I don’t have enough. Last year I was still gathering tomatoes well into October, so we’ll see.

Not as hot lately, which is nice. It’s been 95-100 degrees for a few weeks and today it was around 80 — so pleasant. I got my copy of Gone Girl from the library and I am SO EXCITED. I think I need to stop writing now and go read. It’s a 7-day loan so that’s my excuse to pause my other reading and dive right in.

homemade/grown projects

First, the garden (not the greatest photo, sorry):

That there (on the right) is my tomato patch. Six plants, all going wild. They are producing like mad (this is the harvest just from tonight):

You can see some of my peppers behind the giant bowl of tomatoes (5 varieties of regular-size tomatoes and a yellow cherry tomato that is really yummy, SunSweet I think it is). I’m also getting a fairly steady supply of zucchini and cucumbers, and my green beans did well although I didn’t really eat any, I just admired the vines (which you can see on the left of the photo). For some reason I didn’t feel like harvesting them. I still have some going, I should get a bowlful this weekend and have some while they’re still available. Potatoes are still growing; hopefully they’ll start to die back soon and I can see what’s been growing. I keep feeling around for “new” potatoes but haven’t found any, which worries, me, but the plants on top are really big and green, so… Anyway. Also doing well is the basil, and my other herbs. And I stil have some oranges.

I have to get a photo of the grapes that are coming over the fence from my neighbors. There are quite a few bunches over on my side of the fence, so I picked some, and they are quite good. The grapes that are accessible to squirrels have been totally stripped clean, which is pretty cute if you think about it. “Grapes! Yes, please!”

(especially since, for whatever reason, they leave my garden alone, so they can be cute again, not nuisances)

Other homemade projects underway:

  • Kombucha: my brother and his wife make batches of this all the time, and got my mom to make some too, and it’s really good homemade. So I decided to try it. Right now my scoby is growing and doing well. I think I’m going to let it get a little thicker before I try making a batch. I can’t wait! I think my favorite part is going to be going to the homebrew store to get flip-top bottles.
  • Plum liqueur: I made a big giant batch of plum liqueur during the Plum Crazy Days. It’s doing really well, and looks beautiful. Tastes yummy too.
  • Oranges: I still have some on the tree and I think I might make a batch of Orangecello this weekend, since I can. I feel bad that I’m not using my oranges as much as I could, although I did make almost 30 jars of marmalade, so I guess that’s something…
  • Vinegar drink: My BFF Erin turned me on to Bragg’s vinegar drink (sold in glass bottles in health food stores). It’s of course, well, vinegary, but I kind of liked it. A few weeks ago I bought another bottle and liked it even more than the first time, so I looked at the ingredients. It’s just Bragg’s vinegar, water, stevia and (in this case) ginger. So I figured it could be made at home pretty easily. Erin tried it and said it was good. I happened to have a Snapple bottle today, and it’s about the size of the Bragg’s bottle, so I thought I’d give it a try. Success! Two tablespoons Bragg’s, two little scoops of Trader Joe’s stevia, and fill it up with water and shake. Ta-da! Vinegar drink. I made one tonight to take to work tomorrow. Might have to do that regularly.
  • Painting: well, not really homemade, but I finally painted the ugly office. Now, instead of boring white with a bizarre tan stripe around the room, it is a lovely creamy light yellow (Windham Cream, from Benjamin Moore, color-matched in Valspar paint). I’ll try to get a photo of that. It took me a few days to get used to it and now I really like it, and am considering painting the third bedroom that color as well.

I think that’s it. I have really not kept up with the yard all that much — it’s doing okay, but it’s really overgrown in areas and I have a lot of work to do. I think it will be cooling down over the next few weeks so I can get some work done — it’s hard to muster up energy to cut branches and trim back trees and brush and do weeding when it’s over 100 degrees out there. That seems like autumn work anyway, right?

I’ll post updates of the kombucha — it’s almost ready for a photo (the scoby is kind of gross!). And what I decide to do with all the tomatoes.. probably at least some plain canned tomatoes and maybe a batch or two of salsa. After all, I have the peppers…

I like making stuff. It makes me happy. For the last few nights, my dinner has been a variation of Tomato Plus. Tomato Plus Hard Boiled Egg. Tomato Plus Cucumber Salad. Tomato Plus Basil and Buffalo Mozzarella. I’m still not tired of them (as opposed to the plums… oh, the plums… I still have nightmares about the plums…)




garden update

Thomas is back inside where he belongs. He does not agree with me on this point.

Yesterday I went to the nursery and had some fun. Salvias, geraniums, so many pretty things. I had to really think hard about each plant or I would have gotten far too many.

Geraniums under the bedroom window. I’d like to do something climbing here eventually, but not sure what. In the meantime, geraniums are pretty and easy. They join the volunteer alyssum patch, nasturtiums and pots of mint.

Under the lilacs: hot pink and blue salvia, lamb’s ear, and some tall apricot-flowered thing that I forgot the name of.

More of the pretty pink salvia to join the hummingbird plant, which is huge and leggy and needs to be trimmed back.

Catmint, which I may or may not regret planting (we’ll see how many of the neighborhood kitties show up…)

The vegetable garden. The lettuce (blank patch in front on the left) was a total failure this year, but everything else is doing well. The right raised bed is all tomatoes, which are doing fantastic and I’m soooo excited about them. Zucchini is doing wel, cucumbers are starting to produce, potatoes seem to be okay, beans are climbing, peppers are going gangbusters.

Not sure what I am going to do with all these peppers… (ancho, and something called “Inferno.” Can you dry peppers? Would I want to?)

Of course, with tomatoes like these, the obvious answer is salsa!

Not forgetting beloved kitties at rest, I put this pretty coleus in Cleo’s wine-barrel grave planter. Miss my sweet kitty girls so much.

Thomas watches all of this, giving me his opinion about staying inside more now. He got to come out for a bit earlier. He was very good, just stayed in the yard, and then went back in the house on his own. I don’t think he’s very eager to explore outside the yard for awhile.

a few photos from the day

Watered the garden. Grow little tomatoes, grow!

Finn watching through the window. 

Puppy love.

Such a good, sweet, adorable, gentle, best girl ever puppydog.

Back home to enjoy those orange blossoms some more. Amazing scent.

Kitty who won’t stay still long enough for me to get a photo.

Russian fur boots. So cute.

Sorry, no Thomas pictures today.

It was good to see the doggie. What a good girl. I’m glad she’s with T. — she is obviously very well cared-for and loved. We had a nice walk at the dog park, driving around town, having some ice cream, laying around in the shade. I didn’t cry, although it wasn’t real fun driving her back and giving her a goodbye smooch on that cute blonde head.

I’m supposed to go out in about an hour to a music show. Really? At 9:30? I am getting old.

more beauty

The orange tree burst into flower yesterday. It was over 90 degrees and the heat brought out the perfume. It smelled absolutely heavenly. 

Yesterday was a perfect day. Friday was a total crap day. But yesterday? Perfect.

My aunt came to visit and we had a lovely time. We sat and talked and talked, and then had lunch outside at the table on the patio. Then we decided to go to the library and spent over an hour there, looking at books and talking about our favorite ones (see? perfect!). The rest of the visit was just as wonderful.

Today I am going to try and extend this wonderfulness. The last few weeks have felt icky in lots of ways. I’m going to make a concerted effort to combat it and see if this week can’t be a really good week. Starting with yesterday, continuing today. I resolved this morning not to do any chores today. Instead, I’m going to spend as much of today as I can right here with a stack of books and magazines:

Tomorrow I’ll do a little work in the garden, but that won’t count as chores because it’s so fun to get it all put together right now. A few more photos from the yard:

I had forgotten how lovely the yard is this time of year. My potatoes (in the blue buckets) are going great. I’ve got the tomatoes planted (bed on the right), and cucumbers and squash and lettuce seeds going (bed on the left). Beans and peas on the trellises in the back. Everything looks vaguely overgrown and lush — my favorite.

But those orange blossoms… Perhaps my new favorite scent of all time.