Organize-A-Palooza!

I got bit by the organizing bug this weekend. Does that ever happen to you? My bathroom drawers have been driving me nuts for quite some time and I just finally decided I just couldn’t take them anymore and set out to get things in order. Things look nice on the outside, but inside they are kind of a hot mess, kind of like The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.

My side is the right side, Garrett’s is the left and we “share” the middle drawers. Wanna know a secret though? Nothing is really in the middle drawers, so obviously I decided that meant I could take at least one of those over too.

The reason I need to do some expanding is because my drawers just are not cutting it right now. I have three main ones and they are just overflowing with crap.

You see? Hot mess on the inside.

The first thing I decided was that my makeup is now going to have a permanent home. It’s been all crowded together in that pink stripey bag since Garrett and I started dating. Having to lug all of my crap back and forth between houses I just threw it all in a bag and never looked back. Well guess what: I LIVE HERE NOW AND HAVE FOR THREE YEARS. It’s time for my makeup to get a permanent home. And that home is the top middle drawer of our bathroom.

Bam!

I was going to by some cheap plastic-y containers at Target, but they were $12 each and I’d need at least two, which isn’t that cheap in my opinion. Then I came across this hot pink baby for $6.28. Now thaaaaaaaaaat’s more like it. In went the makeup, and all was right in the world.

Then I tackled the Everyday Drawer. You have this drawer, right? Where all of the stuff is that you use every day?

Well here is mine AFTER:

Lastly I straightened up my hair stuff, and what was left in the overflow drawer (which was not much) which included axing a flat iron that had been around since the early 90s and some other stuff that I just didn’t use EVER. And I was left with these two sparkly spaces:

And by then, all of my bathroom dreams had come true! But I wasn’t done yet. I wanted to tackle my junk drawer that hides out in the top dresser drawer in my closet. OHMAHGAWD, just look at it:

Let’s play a rousing game of What The EFF Is In Here?

Very important things, I’m sure.

Things like:

The valentine I bought to give to Garrett this year and then promptly forgot about. WHOOPS. (What DID I give him, then???)

Guess we know what he’s getting NEXT year.

Oh, or how about a cell phone charger for a phone I don’t even own anymore?

A Jefferson Starship cassette tape?

Or perhaps that reminder about my dental appointment.

FROM 2004!

Ummmmm, clearly it was time to get out the trash bags. So trash I did (for most of it) and in the end I have some useful things and of course some nostalgic things — like my container with every card and letter Garrett has ever written me. Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww.

In the end it looked a lot more manageable, and I felt about ten pounds lighter getting rid of all of that Very Important Stuff I had been saving.

******
Even though nothing in the bathroom looks different on the outside and my closet still looks exactly the same, at least *I* know it is cleaner on the inside. And sometimes that’s all you need to have a happy Sunday!

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2012 Summer Garden Notes

It’s about DAMN time.

I'll give you one guess as to what we'll be eating this week.

The garden this year has been…well, nothing to write home about. This is my 3rd year actively gardening and I can honestly say I have no idea what I am doing any more now than I did three years ago. That said, I have experienced three completely different summer yields, so I will just count that as experience and tell myself that true green thumbs don’t have all the answers, they have just seen many things in their years. Um…sure that sounds good.

It’s not like we went about it willy nilly this year. We had a plan:
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We knew what we wanted to grow and we stuck to it religiously. We decided early on that we were going to grow our tomatoes from seed this year instead of depending on Elizabeth to sprinkle her tomato fairy dust over our yard like she did last year. It seemed feasible, so we bought some seeds and planted them:
Day 17: green - late bloomers. Not sure about my tomato seedlings this year. #marchphotoaday #daylate

Somewhere along the line, they just…didn’t make it. They died a pretty spectacular death actually, ALL SEVENTY TWO OF THEM, despite many attempts at resuscitation. Elizabeth had been nice enough to offer us some seedlings again, but it was during one of the more promising phases of resuscitation so I declined. When it was clear that none of them were going to make it, I made a panicked run down to the hardware store and just bought up some random tomatoes.

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I had been looking forward to some fun heirloom varieties again, but Home Depot Romas were going to have to do.

And for a while this was fine. Things seemed to be alive. Nothing was OBVIOUSLY dying, but I just didn’t have a great feeling about the whole thing, despite doing a lot of soil testing and fertilizing and general tending. Finally at the end of June some things started to pop up, and I felt a glimmer of hope.

But then the squash started growing and being tough and bumpy on the outside and dry on the inside. It didn’t matter if we picked it early or late, it was gross and kind of inedible. Then the cucumber plants just died. Like, with no production at all really. Womp Womp.

The zucchini went through a phase where it was super prolific, but after producing about 24 squash it’s just sort of gone kaput.

And then, nothing happened. Sure there were green tomatoes lurking in cages but literally for weeks, there was NOTHING. One little yellow watermelon out of the blue that was amazing, but then back to NOTHING.

Holy crap I grew a watermelon!

At the end of July the overall yield beyond what I’ve listed had been two tomatoes. They were delicious tomatoes, but still only two measly tomatoes:
FINALLY! Something delicious comes out of the garden!
And the irony of all ironies is that they came from a resurrected tomato plant that survived from last year because it was one of Elizabeth’s Original Seedlings from 2011. I mean FOR REAL?

I was starting to feel like the entire garden situation had been a waste this year. And then today, I just thought I saw a little bit of red out there in the garden beds and I came back inside with all this:

Despite the fact that we will be eating tomatoes until our mouths are raw this week (gladly, though!) my faith in gardening has been completely restored. This may be the only good thing to come out of the last week over 100+ degree temperatures.

I forgive you now, Mother Nature. But you are on notice.

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That Time Mark Wahlberg Kissed Me Goodnight

It was 106 degrees yesterday and Garrett was home covered up in blankets and piles of kleenex feeling sick as a dog. Super duper YUCK. Isn’t summer the worst time to have a bad cold? He was feeling pretty sorry for himself yesterday so I spent the afternoon manning the station at Man Cold Central, doing some work at home and finishing some organizing projects. While I was cleaning out the closet in our front bedroom I came across a giant tub of old photographs which led me to the realization that digital photography is the only reason I did not end up on Hoarders.

THANK YOU, DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY. I owe you one.

I have SO MANY old useless pictures. Would you like 100+ dark and blurry pictures of the Joey McIntyre concert I attended in 2002? No sweat, I gotcha covered! And don’t worry, I have THE NEGATIVES too in case we need to reprint the batch. I mean, I must have had to CHANGE THE FILM IN MY CAMERA MORE THAN ONCE. So glad I meticulously documented that night out! :)

In the end though, there were some hilarious old photos too, so I busted out a few so Garrett could have a laugh while feeling like death on the couch. His personal favorite of old dorky pictures of me is still this one that now hangs on our fridge:

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Yes, I do have a license for those finger guns, why do you ask?

Also, random aside, this was the era of my dance career where I was constantly being told how fat I was. This was the year when I first started Weight Watchers. Seriously? WHAT THE FUCK EVER.

Anyway, I posted that to Instagram ages ago and some of you got a chuckle over it, so why not post it here for more of you to point and laugh. Anything for you! I also posted this next photo to Instagram last night and a few of you asked for the story behind it so I’ll give ya the (long winded, apparently) cliffs notes.
Fun pic from the archives...and yes my tongue is pierced. It was the cool 1990s suburban girl thing to do. Haaaaaa!

First let’s talk about the obvious: my tongue is pierced in this picture and I look ridiculous. I pierced it when I was 18 and left it in on and off for about 5 years. My family hated it. I loved it. I guess I’m just glad I did that instead of getting that super meaningful tramp stamp of the Chinese Symbol for Whatever It Was That Was Cool in 1999. Bullet: Dodged.

Anyway, the other obvious thing: that’s Mark Wahlberg on the left. Maybe less obvious, for those who didn’t have a super psycho 90s obsession with Third Eye Blind, on the right that is Stephan Jenkins. Do you know why I loved him? (I mean, aside from the fact that moody looking dark haired gentleman are totally my type. duh.) Because he was a “smart” stoner (Valedictorian at UC Berkeley. And um, decidedly NOT sober in that picture.) Listen, I was 22. I was not the arbiter of good taste in men at the time. So.

It was 1999, I was living on the westside of Los Angeles, my life was kind of a mess and my roommate and I had gone out that night to The Key Club for some sort of benefit for Breast Cancer, I think. It had some kind of cheeky name involving boobs, but all we cared about was that Stephan Jenkins was headlining the event solo. My roommate at the time may have loved him just a smidge more than I did, if possible, so we showed up and decided that Operation: Get Backstage was in full effect.

Obviously we did what any self respecting determined young ladies do when they want to get backstage, and we chatted up the bouncer. Well, at least my roommate did. As you can see from the photo I was wearing a button up shirt. I mean…had I just come from my day job? (I was working as a PA at Extra at the time. Sadly it was Pre-Mario Lopez. But I was a career woman, nonetheless. HA!) WHAT WAS THE BUTTON UP SHIRT ABOUT? So yeah, I’ve just never been that girl who is oozing with sensuality and can sweet talk bouncers. I am more of a seducer with my awkward. I was the loud chick with her tongue pierced who sends her desperate-to-be-slutty roommate to do that. MUAHAHAHAHA.

ANYWAY.

He let us back there for some reason and so we decided to hang out in the absolutely empty green room which was indeed green and filled with All Of The Heineken. Also some shitty cheese tray, and a Coscto sized box of altoids. I guess the condoms were hidden somewhere. It was skeezy. We immediately realized though that everyone who was wandering around backstage had these “All Access” Bracelets on. We had no bracelets. Hmmm…but we were smart girls so we got the bright idea that we would just sit on stools outside the green room and “check people’s bracelets” as they walked by and look very official until our boyfriend Stephan showed up. And dude it totally worked! Everyone seemed to think it was business as usual. Must have been my very official button up shirt.

Then we realized that the reason that it was empty in the green room was because there was a VIP bar down at the basement level. OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOH, ok. So we headed down there because we heard Stephan was “IN THE BUILDING.” Squeee! He totally was! And without Charlize, which you know, was essential. Because obviously it gave us waaaaaaaaaaaaaay better chances of all running away together if his OSCAR WINNING SUPERMODEL GIRLFRIEND wasn’t there. Makes sense. Out of sight out of mind, I’m sure. Whew!

So he’s down there, but we can’t *actually* talk to him because that requires using words and in that moment I think we could only just look at each other wide eyed and squealing under our breath. So we decided to head back upstairs to get it together. Back to the green room we go, where we have to put our Bracelet Checking Identities back on. As we’re sitting on our stools Duncan Sheik shows up (he was also performing that night) and immediately asks “Oh do you need to see my bracelet” Um…duh, Duncan. Get with the program. So he does and heads into the green room for some…altoids? Cheese? I don’t know. But since he is there all alone we decide to chat it up with him and crack open a beer.

“Are you allowed to drink while you are working?” he says, “That’s cool.”

So now that we are all 3 BFFs we confess to Duncan that we, in fact are dumb groupie chicks dying to meet Stephan and right as we do this Stephan comes in the green room for some…altoids? I don’t know. BUT THERE HE IS. And luckily my roommate has some sort of ability to talk normal to him. I think I was buttoning my shirt or adjusting my choker or something, but he tells us he’s about to perform and we should watch him from the side of the stage. We ask him to play our favorite song. HE TOTALLY OPENS THE SHOW WITH IT.

As we are sitting at the side of stage being absolute fucking idiots, we realize that the gentleman in front of us is MARK FUCKING WAHLBERG. And then I die, obviously, because I am one degree of separation from Donnie. He was rolling incognito that night with a hat and beard (later I’d find out he was filming The Perfect Storm at the time) and so it took a minute. But we ended up finding out that he had just finished making a movie with Charlize Theron and so obvs, they must all now be super Hollywood BFFs and we were going to find a way infiltrate this circle with our coolness, if only to wedge Charlize out of the picture. Duh. PIECE OF CAKE.

When the show finished, Stephan came off stage, hugged Mark and they both headed up the stairs, past the green room to a SECRET GREENROOM that was outside in some random refurbished bus situation with some bodyguard-esque dude. We totally followed. And spent the rest of the evening shooting the shit in a bus with Mark Wahlberg, Stephan Jenkins, and some bodyguard that totally thought we were sluts. Newsflash: WE WERE NOT. Again, I WAS WEARING A BUTTON UP SHIRT. I didn’t even know from slutty, sorry. Well, let’s be real, I’m not sorry. But the night wound down and they were going to go over The Viper Room and did we want to come along?

UM, DOES A BEAR SHIT IN THE WOODS?

But my roommate was only 20 at the time. The show was an 18 and over show. AN 18 AND OVER SHOW, YOU GUYS. THIS ENTIRE TIME. I mean, what?????????? We were so lame. So we had to say goodnight, and as such there were lots of hugs and goodnight kisses and photographs taken by bouncer dudes that thought we were sluts, and one of those kisses from MARKY-EFFING-MARK landed right around my lip area, mostly because he was wasted, not because he was trying to put the moves on me. Maybe he was actually just trying to get a better look at my awesome choker.

But from that point on it became That Time Mark Wahlberg Kissed Me Goodnight. That has such a better ring to it than dorky, desperate groupie chicks stalk Hollywood dudes and watch them smoke weed in a bus, right?

Better SEO too, I’m sure. :)

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Where Did You Go, Weekend??

How is it Monday already?

No seriously, which one of you is responsible for this giant hole in the space/time continuum. WHERE DID THE WEEKEND GO???

I was so happy to make it to Friday last week, but I ended up crapping out early on Friday night, which as it turns out was the theme of my whole weekend. :) It may have had something to do with the heat + some serious workouts!

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I’m so glad that it is going to to cool down this week…although luckily I get to workout 3 mornings this week, instead of in the afternoon.
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I know people think I am crazy for looking forward to 5 am workouts, but when those temps hit triple digits all summer long, I’m GRATEFUL when my alarm goes off at 3:45!

Saturday I got together with my mama to celebrate Mother’s Day a bit early. She works on Sundays so we met up at the mall that is located halfway between our two houses for some lunch (Tri-Tip!) and some shopping on Saturday morning. I found this old pic of us this weekend while cleaning up some things in my office and I just LOVE it! But it totally blows my mind that my mom had a 2 year old when she was only 26…NUTS!!!

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We found some GREAT deals at the mall (probably because we looked inside every. single. store. HA!) but my favorite score was this cross-body bag I nabbed at H&M for $20. First off — OMG THERE IS FINALLY AN H&M in my area! Yessssssssssss! Second, Garrett has been hounding me about “the gym bag that I carry around and call a purse” and nudging me to find something smaller and less shoulder-pain inducing, so I finally took the plunge and bought something “practical.”

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But I still think it’s cute! Maybe it’s my impending middle age, but the practicality of it makes me so happy. I kept walking around this weekend and yelling “I have two hands to carry things with!” It’s really a game changer. :)

Ok ok, I also bought a couple pairs of new shoes including these babies. But they were $17 at the Gap, so how could I say no? They practically jumped on my feet in the store!
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And I’m totally wearing them today too…like a kid who walks out of the shoe store unwrapping their new toy! I have no patience when it comes to new things. Plus, I love them!

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Sunday I did my grocery shopping in the morning and hit up the Farmer’s Market. That was enough, frankly, but when I got home it was time to tackle the garden beds in the backyard. I have had Garden Drama this year, which I’ll probably tell you about in another post since it is gardening blog post season (ha!) but the short story is: we were SUPER behind on planting and it had to be taken care of on Sunday, or else. So I did just that.

Garden Intervention.

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And do you want to hear something silly? I totally gardened in my bathing suit! It felt really efficient, actually, since I wanted to get some sun. But it also felt COMPLETELY RIDICULOUS, but what the hell — it’s my backyard! I can do what I want! You’re not getting a picture of THAT though. :)

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Then I prepped some food for the week including breakfast packs and salads for our lunches. Is it just me or do salads get prettier in the summer?

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For dinner I grilled up a couple of pork loins as part of my “Clean Out All The Questionable Meat in My Freezer” project. I want to tell you they tasted bad, since this is totally not fancy-schmancy pork, but they were pretty bomb! I had marinated them with Olive Oil, Champagne Vinegar and tons of salt, pepper, onions and garlic and man did they come out RIGHT!

Dinner. Shortly.

Also I made what is sure to be my Favorite Summer Cocktail. Recipe coming to the blog this week. AH-MAZING!

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So refreshing, and so dangerously devoid of any indication that it is alcoholic! Is it any wonder I was crapped out on the couch by 8pm last night?

*****

How was your weekend, friends? Do you prefer a busy, activity filled weekend or a more restful relaxing one? For me it depends on the week!

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Alphabet: A History – (B) Brentwood

This is a series of autobiographical vignettes inspired by Dear Wendy’s series of the same name. The idea is loosely based on Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life.

All of my stories can be found here.
***

It’s 1995 and I am about to turn 17 years old. My parents have binders full of SAT information, transcripts and college brochures that they spend their evenings painstakingly organizing after putting in long days running their own business. We are about to embark on a week long trip to tour colleges in southern California. The thought of college paralyzes me.

I am mired in the day to day of my friends, of boys, of high school in general. All of that is already enough. I don’t do my own dishes or cook my own dinner. I have a job and a car payment but I am hardly independent. I avoid thinking about the next stage of my life at every opportunity. I want it all to stay the same so badly — I want to hit the pause button on my life. I want to scream, “WAIT! I’M NOT READY!” But the universe has other plans. The next three years of my life will be full of change. So much change, in fact, that the current life that I am dying to hold on to will almost become unrecognizable at the end. But I don’t know this, and I wait for the next step to unfold.

We pack up the family Suburban — The Urban Assault Vehicle, as my dad calls it — and we head down to Los Angeles. It is sprawling and I hate it. Too much traffic, too many people, too much asphalt. I feel a lump of panic bubble up in my throat just sitting on the 405. I don’t know where I want to end up but I know this isn’t it. Unsurprisingly, I hate UCLA. “It feels like a concrete jungle” I tell my parents. But before we leave Los Angeles we *HAVE* to drive through Brentwood. This is 1995 and my mom has spent the entire summer glued to the television watching every detail of the OJ Simpson trial unfold. She can map out all the streets and routes, she knows the time lines and the key players. She needs to see it in person instead of through the filter of Court TV.

The 10 year old Urban Assault vehicle has no hope of being incognito next to the luxury cars parked in the garages of Rockingham Avenue, and my mom with her camcorder pointed out the front seat window does nothing to help detract from our tourist vibe. Even though I want to roll my eyes because I am 16 and I know it all, and I am OBVIOUSLY way too cool for this, I allow myself to share a giddy laugh with my tiny family, our mouths hanging in awe at all of this opulence and infamy in real life. Though the scenario itself is tragic, the place itself feels a bit magical.

My dad navigates all the streets and our final drive-by includes the last place Ron Goldman was seen alive — the restaurant Mezzaluna. If only he hadn’t left his job to return that pair of sunglasses his story may have had an entirely different ending. I’m struck by the amazing power of one small decision to change the entire course of your life. I wonder if any of my big life decisions even matter at this point, or whether it all just comes down to the ticking clock of fate. When we get home I don’t apply to UCLA.

I end up at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo the fall after I graduate. I take courses in Political Science and work at the Starbucks downtown but good friends are hard to come by and lack of interest in my course work causes my grades to suffer. I am so confused about what to do next but finally during the winter quarter of 1998 I realize I do not want to finish college here. I have no other plans but I just know this isn’t where I want to be anymore, so I tell my parents. You can imagine their delight. I move home in June despite repeated discussions of alternatives because I am stubborn and it just feels right. I’m sure I will convince them it is the right move once I’m back at home. Two months later, however, my dad is gone and no more convincing is needed. The move was a blessing.

I spend the year after his death living with my mom while we piece together a new existence. It never becomes comfortable or familiar, and it certainly no longer feels like home. I don’t know what I want to do but I know I can’t stay in that town and continue to live that life. I am 20 years old and a friend attending UCLA says I should move there and try something new. In August I pack up the pieces of my life and head into Los Angeles with no money, no job and no idea what the hell I’m doing with my life. One day on a long drive alone — something I will do often during my time here — I find myself in Brentwood again. I am suddenly and profoundly aware of the Before and After of my life — a palpable emotion that will become commonplace over the next few years. At the same time that I feel such a huge loss I also feel more at home than I have in a while.

There is a Peet’s Coffee & Tea opening there. It is minutes from my house, I am unemployed and I have experience working for Starbucks. Obviously, I apply. At the last minute I almost don’t go because I figure a job in coffee is not going to pay my bills. The interview goes well and they offer me the job on the spot. The store will open in two weeks and they are not fully staffed — can I start immediately? I drop the bomb about how much money I need to make per hour in order to stay afloat here in this big city and the interviewer actually laughs out loud.

Looking back I can’t blame her, but I am 20 years old and short on life experience, so I think I am doing her a favor. Part of my behavior is ballsy. Part of it comes from a sense of entitlement that I will later feel embarrassed by, but at that point I can’t tell the difference and so I play hard ball about salary. A few phone calls are made and they agree to my magic number. I will tell this story over and over later on in my life as an illustration of the simple magic that sometimes happens when you ask for what you need.

I walk out the door excited about my new job right as a tour bus goes by. Every seat is full and all heads are cranked looking inside of my new place of employment. My face must have had questions marks written all over it because a man walking by gives the store a little head nod.

“This is the old Mezzaluna. They go by at least 10 times a day.”

And in the end, they do.

Day in and day out people will drive by gawking so often that I eventually won’t even notice unless someone points it out. My life has changed so much between the day that I was doing the gawking and now. The novelty of this event and of this place where I work now — even of the famous people who patronize it — will eventually wear off. But in this city and at this job I will begin to build a home. It will be where I begin to build my own life. For so many reasons Brentwood will end up being full of magic. And no one will be more surprised by this than me.

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Staycation + Guest Bedroom Update

I took last week off because between the paid holiday, a previously scheduled day off and some extra vacation time itching to be used it just seemed like a good idea. 9 days of life uninterrupted by work was ridiculously awesome. I wish I could tell you I went some place exotic and did some amazing things, but I actually just went about my life without having to work in 9 hours of productivity based on someone else’s goals each day.

When I put it that way, it was bliss, actually.

I still woke up early but got to drink my coffee with a good book while I waited for my freshly baked muffins.

Prepping some food for the week

I still hit the gym, but did it in the morning instead of having to rally to get over there after a full day of work.

I still saw friends, but I didn’t have to worry about staying out too late, or whether I was drinking a little too much wine, or what time I would have to get up the next morning.

It was the rejuvenation equivalent of a fantastic voyage without the vacation hangover or the suitcase to unpack. And since I hate unpacking suitcases, it was kind of ideal.

The only downside was I didn’t plan meals because I thought, “Oh I’ll have all the time in the world to cook.” What this ended up looking like in real life was 3 nights of Happy Hour appetizers for dinner, a (very non-Paleo) evening at our favorite Mexican Restaurant and one evening I even had Nutella Cream Cheese Blondies for dinner. As you can imagine, my body is begging to get back to reality.

My mind, on the other hand, not so much.

The only productive Project-Like-Things I accomplished were pulling up what wasn’t producing in my garden, a closet/attic purge that required car loads (CAR LOADS!) to Goodwill and then a little bit of furniture rearranging to create a little bit of crafty space in our guest room. Oh and some boring deep cleaning! No there are no pictures of that, but HOT Damn, if I don’t love a sparkling clean house!

I’ve long wanted to separate my office stuff from my crafty stuff and felt like the guest room was the perfect place to do that. It is sort of awkwardly shaped and large so it was my mission to squeeze as much furniture and storage in there as possible.

Here’s what it looked like before:

Guest Bedroom Reading Nook in the Guest Bedroom

And here are a few poorly lit and blurry pictures of what it looks like now:

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Attention AndreAnna and Liz, these beds have your names on them.

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Hey, that sounds creepy! šŸ˜‰

And yes, the purging did involve QUITE A FEW books. Though mostly just moving them around.

I’ve learned a lot in the last year about balance and managing stress in my life and what truly makes me happy. While I love travel and new experiences, it turns out taking 10 days off and squeezing in 900 different things DOESN’T make me feel better. I feel so grateful to have had this time off to decompress, rejuvenate, spend time with Garrett and get some things done around that house that had been on my To-Do List, all without adding extra stress to my life.

I’ve tried hard this year to create a life that I don’t want to escape from, which is a concept that I wasn’t always sure was possible, but so far I am enjoying getting there. It’s back to reality this week but I’m going to try and let the calm of last week inform the hustle and bustle of this week. Life is all about choices, and today I am feeling pretty happy with mine.

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2011 Summer Garden Notes

I have spent many hours over the last couple of days digging up my garden beds to get ready for fall. I can’t believe I’m trying it again either, but what the hell!?! This has meant lots of time to reflect on things I did well this summer and the things I did not so well.

My summer garden was, in some ways, so much more successful than I anticipated. It started as an experiment and there were lots of challenges, but in the end it was totally worth it. I wish I had kept a spreadsheet of all the produce harvested (Nerd Alert!) so I could give you the stats, but alas you will have to settle for these unofficial notes. I want to have something to look back on next year to help guide me.

Crookneck Squash Bonanza

What Worked

*Soil TestingI mentioned this back in May when I started getting everything ready and honestly, I think it was 100% the reason we had overflowing amounts of everything. Well that, and we planted A LOT. I hardly fertilized but I think because I started with soil that had all the correct amounts of pertinent things, it helped my otherwise novice skills.
Soil Testing...will it make a difference?

*Elizabeth’s Tomatoes
– I bought 4 tomato plants from Lowe’s and planted 12 little seedlings that Elizabeth gave me. The Lowe’s tomato plants? Were garbage. Only one produced regularly and the rest were just limp, lifeless and hardly had any fruit. Despite all that, we still produced over 220lbs of Tomatoes (OHMYGOD, I KNOW!) I stopped counting mid-August mostly because I forgot, and because at that point I started giving them away to people on the streets. Next year I will seed myself and put in the freakin’ effort. Totally worth it.

Thanks Elizabeth!
Eat me!

*Spaghetti Squash + Zucchini – These were amazing and awesome to have around all summer. No maintenance. I planted 2 spaghetti squash plants and 2 zucchini plants. I would definitely plant again. Maybe even MORE zucchini?

*Garrett’s Irrigation System – Despite the fact that we fought like crazy over this (also over staking tomatoes) — Gardening: Good for the Tummy, Bad for the Relationship? — having an irrigation system hooked up to timers that automatically watered was paramount to maintaining a garden this size. Everything would have died otherwise, I’m sure of it. Worth the time, money, effort and bickering.

What Didn’t Work

*Lemon Cucumbers – I actually enjoyed these in June and a bit in July but then they started getting REALLY seedy. Didn’t love that. Might just plant regular or burpless cucumbers next year. Oooh, or pickling cucumbers. Yes, those!

*Bell Peppers – After all damn summer, I got ONE pepper. One. And it wasn’t even very big. I think I’m either doing it wrong or they are a pain in the ass to grow. Either way, not worth it. Won’t plant again. Or mayby I’ll do jalapenos or something small??
Miniature Green Pepper

Seriously?????

*Crook Neck Squash (maybe) – This was delicious at the beginning of summer. Towards the end they started getting super bumpy and dry on the inside. I don’t know what causes this. Then they would grow and look normal on the vine, only to be discovered completely HOLLOW when I would pick them. Weird. I love squash, but I will pick a new kind next year and probably seed it myself.

Herbs — dude, this was another pain in the ass. I planted Dill, Lemon Thyme, Basil and Rosemary. The dill died, I never used the lemon thyme and then IT died, the rosemary just become a fort for spider webs, and the basil, while that did well, I forgot to pinch off the flowers so it ultimately stopped growing Herbs are drama. May or may not attempt again next year.

Miscellaneous Notes

*Just Wear Gloves– Yes you will probably only be out there for a minute but just do it, ok.

*See Also: Sunscreen.– Nuff said.

*Cage your freaking tomatoes.
– Don’t be a dummy again next year.

*Keep a Spreadsheet – acknowledge your nerdiness. Delegate to Garrett, the spreadsheet nerd of the house.

*Pick tomatoes more often – also can them. You will miss fresh tomatoes this winter. FIGURE IT OUT.

****************************

All in all this was a totally fun experiment and I can’t wait to track fall progress!

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Gardening Tips From Dummies…er, For Dummies?

Well I’m pretty sure there is more action happening in the garden this week than in all of the combined dressing rooms of New Kids on the Block circa 1989.  By the way, I have a strong memory of once watching an interview with NKOTB only to hear Joey McIntyre say he was “saving himself” for the right girl.  I also have a strong memory of wondering what exactly he was “saving”, but feeling like this obviously meant THERE MIGHT BE A CHANCE FOR ME!  Oh Joey, my 12 year old self could have been the right girl for you!  Ah, youthful naivete. 

You know what, upon re-reading that it sounds kind of creepy, but fret not you guys – it is sooooo the opposite of creepy.  I HAD NO IDEA WHAT HE WAS SAVING, for the love of God. Sheltered, suburban upbringing folks.    

(Oh man this post has already devolved so quickly.)

Well as you can imagine, that naivete still exists in my world — though it goes without saying it is no longer youthful.  Now instead of hoping that some pop star will carry me away on a white horse, I have other ridiculous, Not-Based-In-Fact hopes.  Hopes like:  My tomatoes will totally grow if I don’t cage them.  Why does the world need cages anyway?  Cages are just so…cage-y! 

The lesson in all of this (that all of YOU probably saw coming a mile away) is that messing with Mother Nature is just never the best course of action.  Screwing with “The Right Way” to do things just because you have an overinflated ego or are lazy is a seriously lame thing to do.  Don’t be lame, yo.  You would think this would have been ingrained in my head considering the number of surfing documentaries I have watched in the last few weeks — which clearly ALL have a thematic don’tf*ckwithmothernature kind of undertone — but unfortunately you would be wrong.  This blog is nothing if not a documentary of my shortcomings. 


You see, I did a lot of research on caging tomatoes (read: I googled it once or twice) and couldn’t really figure out why I HAD to do it.  It looked like a pain, tomato cages are expensive, and so I just kept avoiding it in hopes that it would go away.  Who said I HAD to do anything.  I will show you, Mother Nature and Garden Gods all over the world.  Uh, yeah, so that didn’t work out.  Last weekend it became clear to me why caging is necessary — tomatoes are HEAVY, y’all.  And those poor little branches need some help.  Why I insist on always doing things the hard way is still a mystery to me.  

So I finally accepted the need for cages, only to realize that at this point all of our plants were so overgrown that caging them was not even an option.  Elizabeth warned me about this, and yet I still persisted in my laziness.  What can I tell you, I’m an idiot.  

So what were we to do? Well, we came up with an Emergency DIY Solution, obviously.  We decided to craft a makeshift trellis for each plant since that seemed to at least be somewhat feasible.  We headed to Home Depot, scratched our foreheads a great deal, turned down the help of more than 5 earnest employees who were clearly responding to the forehead scratching, and then came home and made this with some pieces of bamboo and some tape.

Why yes I do feel like a White Trash Gardening MacGuyver, thanks for asking!  But hey, the tomatoes are supported!  And look,  they are actually growing instead of sitting on the ground waiting to rot or be eaten by bugs!  It’s amazing how an afternoon of hard work and a vicious sunburn can change your perspective.  Wait, that’s not the most ringing endorsement.  But  I was happy!  I promise!

It’s not the prettiest or most long-lasting solution,  but last night we ate the most delicious Caprese Salad (White Balsamic Vinegar is a game changer) using our tomatoes and our Resurrected Basil (you guys, it didn’t die after all!) and I felt a little ray of hope that maybe our garden really will make it this year.



So shall we recap these helpful DIY Tips:

*Don’t mess with Mother Nature and be lame
*Do what gardening websites (and Elizabeth) tell you to do
*Herbs like to play dead, don’t fret


I know you come here for my highly educational commentary, so I didn’t want to deny you. 


Hey, speaking of Not Dead…I think my Meyer lemon and lime tree are back from the dead as well!  They were crusty and brown and well…dead-looking for months.  Then the other day, I saw this:



Signs of Life, people.  Blurry, off-center signs of life…but who cares!?!?  I thought it was a weed at first but it is totally a new branch of the tree.  What do you know about pruning lemon trees, internet?  I know you have mad skillz!

Everything else is chugging away producing fruit at a pace faster than we can eat (more fun garden photos here), so we have even started giving stuff away.  If you can think of any creative things to do with zucchini, squash, cucumbers, basil, or tomatoes especially, I’d love your input.  I’d like to do a bit more research on creative ways to Can My Harvest (bahahaha), but well…I think we all know how I do research.

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Oh. Right. The Garden.

So the garden has been humming along quite nicely with nothing wilting or turning brown or dying a violent death.  We have very low standards, so we’ve been pretty pleased with this development.  It has made a much lovelier back drop lately for our dinner picnics than four empty boxes ever would have, so we have been puffing up our chests around here and high fiving each other like we are certified organic farmers.

I know, I know…our levels of coolness are intimidating. 

On Friday I peeked in to see how everything was doing.  There are cute little spaghetti squashys.  Yes, squashys.  They’re so cute, I just kind of have to call them that.  Also I caught myself pinching them and talking in baby talk, but let’s just keep that last part between you and me. 



The tomatoes FINALLY have a little bit of fruit!  It’s green fruit, but it is fruit nonetheless.  I was getting nervous that I planted some fruitless tomato plants.  Tomato bushes?  I don’t know, but I just felt like every time I looked at the tomatoes there was a big sign above them that said YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG!    Seeing this made me do a little BOO YAH! dance.  Y’all we are going to have A LOT of tomatoes.



And finally when I looked in at the zucchini I was excited to finally see some minis.  So small, and so cute!   

Of course if you have ever been a rookie gardener, you know how this zucchini story ends, right?  This morning I went out to see how those little baby zucchinis were doing and…well, would you look at that.  

Now Playing:  ATTACK OF THE GIANT ZUCCHINI

That guy on the bottom?  No biggie, he’s just FIFTEEN INCHES LONG.

So, lesson learned.  Once you see them, check more frequently.  I imagine I will be out there a little more often in the coming weeks.  In the meantime though, I have a very important question for you.   

Who’s got zucchini recipes? Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand go!

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I Never Promised You An Herb Garden

Well my herb garden is pretty much looking like a disaster, friends.  This feels sort of like a betrayal because you always hear that herbs are the gateway garden, right?   A full fledged garden sounds sort of overwhelming, but anyone can grow herbs, right?  You don’t need garden beds, or rich soil, or mad skillz.  Everything I’ve read tells me I can them on a ledge in my kitchen, on a balcony, in little pots.  Herbs! You can grow them ANYWHERE!  

But I’m finding out the hard way that this is shameful propaganda.  Unless I am totally doing it wrong (and I just may be) the rest of my garden is thriving but most of my herbs are dead or wishing they were.  

Exhibit A:  The Dill

Y’all, this dill is either dead, or in hospice.  I won’t be sprinkling this on my salmon anytime soon!  (Good thing Garrett hates salmon.)

Exhibit B:  The Basil


While this isn’t quite as brown and dead looking as the dill, it is definitely looking far more like swiss cheese than I think it should.  Ina Garten’s basil in her backyard garden doesn’t have holes in it, WHY DOES MINE? 

Garrett calls Ina Garten “I’m a Gardener” in a snooty little Southampton voice whenever I make one of her recipes just to be obnoxious, but I feel like it is extra salt in the wounds lately because it is another reminder that I am completely NOT A GARDENER, INA — what is your secret???

He also calls Alton Brown “Alton Bunghole.”  I don’t know why I’m telling you this.  Dinner conversation around our house is lively, I promise you.

Maybe I just need to come to terms with the fact that the rest of my life will be full of store bought basil.  But you guys, I can hardly keep store bought basil alive.  I AM DOOMED.
  

Luckily, some of my tomato plants are looking pretty good.  

Actually they all look pretty good, but these are the only ones that I have responsibly put tomato cages around so these are the ones I’m going to show you.  Elizabeth came by this weekend (who you know, is my garden fairy) and I thought to myself “The Horror! She will see my uncaged tomatoes AND ALL OF MY FAILURES WILL BE EXPOSED”  and she totally didn’t judge me.  But I’m not sure I can trust the entire internet to do the same, so you only get that one picture.  It’s neat to see them grow though, they have all these cute little flowers on them which I am taking as signs that I’m NOT a totally lame gardener!  

So take THAT, Ina!

But the herbs, well, they continue to disappoint!  Have you encountered this before?  Am I doing something wrong?  Enlighten me, internet.  I know you are full of advice.  

Have you had success growing herbs?  TELL ME YOUR SECRETS…

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