Saturday, December 20, 2008

O Christmas Tree

Our Christmas Tree stands in the dining room. I like placing the tree in a front window and incorporating it into the outdoor decorations. I've done this for a few years, and I love the way it looks. I finally got around to taking some photos of the dining room. I love our tree this year! I think it is our best yet. It's a Leyland cypress - not at all a traditional tree. The shape isn't the best, and there are some holes in it. And it is kinda crooked at the top and wide at the bottom. But, the very best thing about this tree is that we cut it at Kazery Tree Farm less than 10 miles from the house! It was a great little tree farm. Mr. Kazery helped us pick out the perfect tree, and his son loaded it on the truck.

I forgot to put gloves on when I wrapped the lights around the tree, so the needles really tore up my arms. But this year, I remembered to put the gold ribbon on! It's got to go on the tree before the ornaments, and I've forgotten it two years in a row. I really wanted this recycled oil drum angel for the top of the tree, but Viva Terra is all sold out now! Boo... Oh well, the ribbon will do. After we were all done with decorating, Chip said, "Wow. Everything is red, white, and gold, and we didn't even plan it like that!" I just had to laugh, because of course I planned for that! I mean don't most of you ladies come up with "tree theme" or at least a color scheme? These things don't just happen.

And what about the tree skirt and table runner!? Both are from Wisteria. Wool felt and embroidery. I love them! Christmas decorations are so fun.

We're off to one of our family Christmases today. I made Ina Garten's Macaroni and Cheese, and it looks fabulous. Can't wait to dig in. Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Blogger Book Boost: Christmas Gift Recommendations

Author Sarah Laurence has invited her reads to join a Blogger Book Boost, where bloggers write recommendations for books that would be perfect for holiday reading or holiday gifts. I've decided to join in. Of course, if you don't like my recommendations, you can always head on over to Square Books and read their Holiday Gift Guide.

Fabulous Fiction:

Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich
I loved this book. I read Love Medicine in college (Honors 201 maybe?), and I thought it was the kind of book I would enjoy if my professor had given me time to enjoy it. I picked up Plague of Doves from the "New" shelf at the library - I thought I'd give Erdrich another try. I'm so glad I did. Oh, and the linked title is to the New York Times Book Review because I'm not an English major and I just don't do book reviews.

Garden Writing:

Passalong Plants by Steve Bender and Felder Rushing
I received this book as a gift a few years ago, and finally read the whole thing cover to cover when it was a selection for the Garden Bloggers' Book Club. This book is a must have for any Southern gardener, and an excellent book for any garden-lover. Steve and Felder really know how to capture the spirit of a old-time passalong garden. The title links to the reviews by the Garden Bloggers' Book Club back in May 2007.


Macrina Bakery & Cafe Cookbook by Leslie Mackie
I picked this cookbook up after seeing Leslie Mackie on the Food Network. Some of my favorite recipes are in this book: Morning Glory Muffins, Cherry Almond Scones, Butternut Squash and Apple Galette, and Angel Thumbprint Cookies. Chip gets excited when I pull this book down from the shelf because he knows something wonderful will be coming from the oven.

For the Ole Miss fan:

The Blind Side by Michael Lewis
I don't generally read books about football - or any sport - but I liked this book. It tells the story of Micheal Oher, left tackle on the Ole Miss offensive line, and the evolution of the left tackle in the N.F.L. Lewis does a good job balancing football strategy with an excellent story about a lost kid from Memphis.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Winter Veggies

Right before Halloween I planted some veggie seedlings in my garden. This year is the first that I've tried to do any kind of fall and winter gardening. The low temeratures have stayed in the low 30s to upper 20s - not too bad. I've been covering the veggies with a couple of old, flannel bed sheets at night to keep the frost off of them. I probably got these seedlings in the ground a little late (story of my life). Combine that with the limited sun I get in this garden spot, and so far they are growing really slowly. I do have a few baby veggies to be proud of.

tiny Broccoli . . .
quarter-sized Cauliflower . . .

Leeks . . .
Swiss Chard . . .

and (my favorite) Fennel . . .

I think I'm supposed to mound soil at the base of the leeks so that the bottoms turn white. I probably need to do that today. The plants could probably use a dose of (organic) fertilizer. I need to get on that, too.

The weather is supposed to be nice this week - getting up to 70 on Tuesday. So far the cooler weather has been perfect. Just when we've thought it's been too cold for too long, the weather warms up and gives us a break. And we've had rainy days often enough that I haven't had to water much. Wonderful!

Today I am heading to the Mississippi Trade Mart for the Chimeyvillle Crafts Festival. I've been looking forward this for weeks now. Mississippi craftsmen and women have their works for sale, and I plan to get a good bit of my Christmas shopping done. For a few years now, Chip and I have gone to the Mississippi Crafts Center to purchase Christmas gifts for our families and friends. We've been able to find lovely gifts there: mugs and pottery made from Mississippi Delta clay for Chip's mom and stepdad, hand-crafted earrings for my best friend and my aunts. I've got a list of things I'm looking for, but I'm excited about being inspired by these artists' handmade things. And what gift could be better than one made right here in Mississippi by our local craftsmen? If you are in the area this weekend, check it out!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Six Interesting Things

Cool, Allie tagged me! I'm supposed to share six interesting things about myself and tag six other folks to do the same. Here goes nothin':

1. I am a strict recycler. I've been known to go back through the trash and pick out stuff that should have been put in the recycling bin. Somehow, this makes me a happier person.

2. I am a neat freak in the kitchen, but not really anywhere else. Just see what happens when you put a wine glass where the water glasses go. Or even worse, put the potatoes in the same cabinet as the onions. Or even WORSE, put the vegetable peeler in the baking drawer with the spoon and cup measures. Actually, I'm getting a little frustrated just THINKING about the vegetable peeler being in the baking drawer.

3. It is difficult for me to get out of bed in the morning. Especially if it is cold outside of the covers. I might lie there for 30 minutes or more to delay the shock of getting out of bed into the cold. Sometimes I imagine myself as an early riser. Getting up before the sun to do yoga, or pray, or to go for a walk. But that's just not me.

4. I don't really enjoy shopping for clothes and shoes. There are exceptions to this rule for certain clothing stores (Anthropologie, for example). As for shoes, it is always a fight. Stores don't generally carry my size. I'm constantly disappointed when I try on the smallest size of a shoe I really like, and it's too big.

5. I love to read. Right now I'm reading On Beauty by Zadie Smith. It is set in a fictitious college town outside of Boston with a few scenes in London.

6. I think I've run out of interesting things to say about myself. If you guys think of anything else, put it in the comments.

Who will I tag? How about...

Jenny - The Clems
Susan - SM Squared
Corinne - She Do Nothing All Day
Katie - Tall Katie Tells it All
Mara - Focus on Your Craft!
and Ginger - Do you have a blog?

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Pumpkin Waffles

It is a beautiful weekend here in Mississippi. I think fall weather is finally here to stay. Last week we had days where the high was in the 80s. This weekend has been milder - in the 60s and low 70s. I raked the backyard yesterday and added the leaves to my compost.

This morning I woke up and decided to make pumpkin waffles. I always use a waffle mix - Bob's Red Mill 10 Grain - when I make waffles. Today I added a few tablespoons of canned pumpkin puree and a teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice to the mix. Chip topped his with plain yogurt sweetened with honey and vanilla. I topped mine with butter and maple syrup.

We took a bike ride on the Natchez Trace back in September, and it was gorgeous. A rainy day was rolling in while we rode. We barely made it home before the rain started. Today I plan to go on the same ride. The leave are colorful now. Back in September everything was a luscious summer green.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

October is My Favorite

I've always loved October. Something about the arrival of cooler weather energizes me. I get a lot done in October.

This October I worked on a few projects. Project #1 at the beginning of the month was to bake the yummiest birthday cake for my husband Chip. I chose Macrina's Tuxedo Cake, and it was fabulous. This cake is huge. It goes something like this: chocolate cake topped with chocolate ganache, another layer of chocolate cake topped with raspberries and whipped cream, another layer of chocolate cake and ganache, then the top layer of chocolate cake. All frosted with the most delicious white chocolate cream cheese frosting. Wow. It took me about six hours to bake it and put it together. It was really good but RICH (obviously).

Project #2 was the fall/winter garden. My grandpa grows spinach, mustard greens, turnip greens, and broccoli in his fall/winter garden. Chip and I don't love greens, but we do like spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, and Swiss chard. I bought transplants (the ones I listed plus fennel and leeks) from Mountain Valley Growers. I love this website! I've purchased healthy herbs and perennials from them in the past: thyme, spice islands rosemary, all-purple mexican bush sage. All have performed excellently in my garden. My live transplants were sent via 2-day shipping. I ordered on a Sunday night and the plants arrived that Wednesday afternoon. The packaging is awesome.

I need to buy some fabric row covers. It doesn't get too terribly cold here in central Mississippi. We rarely see low temps drop below 20F, and we're still months away from weather that cold (think February). I am thinking about getting this GardenQuilt cover from Gardeners Supply Company. Anyone out there have experience with this fabric, or can recommend a different one?

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Ole Miss Presidential Debate 2008

The scene in Oxford last week was unbelieveable. So much excitement and fun!

Jenny Lewis on Wednesday night was AWESOME. Go out and buy her new album Acid Tounge today, because it rocks. And she rocked it. I'm not sure that I've ever seen anyone have that much fun on stage.

Neko Case on Thursday was fabulous. I've never heard a voice quite like hers. She has so much soul!

Neko Case at The Lyric Oxford

After the show, I saw the Red Bull bus outside of the Library Sports Bar. Ha!

Then Friday brought the big "Rock the Vote" celebration in the Grove at Ole Miss. Chip and I went back and forth from the Oxford Square to the Grove a few times, enjoying every minute of it. Some of the things we saw:

The back of Andrea Miller of MSNBC. Sorry I couldn't get a better angle... Hardball with Chris Matthews was recording live from the Ole Miss Student Union all afternoon. I was seriously hoping Rachel Maddow would be there, too. She wasn't!

Then I saw Howard Dean! Here he is taking a photo with Dr. Conlon. She is a MIS professor at Ole Miss. Dr. Conlon taught me everything I know about SQL. I loved her class! She was super excited to meet Dr. Dean. Her husband, an economics professor, spoke with Dr. Dean for quite a while.

And here I am with Howard Dean. His tie was really cool. It said Obama'08 very tiny across the whole thing.

We toured the Grove and saw all sorts of people wearing buttons, stickers, signs, hats, and costumes professing their love for their candidate of choice. These rednecks are for Obama. In the background are mini-wind turbines set up by Power Vote.

Before we left, I took a photo in front of the Obama tent.

We went up to the Square at about 5:30 PM to set up our chairs for the debate. The city of Oxford blocked off one side of the Square and set up two large screens for the community to watch the debate. The crowd was great. Excited. Polite. I didn't get any photos, though. I was dog-tired from walking all over town and just collapsed in my lawn chair until the debate started. The debate was great. I loved watching it in a mixed crowd like that. From the sound of folks' clapping or cheering, I could tell the debate was pretty much a draw. Maybe the Obama voters were a tiny bit louder. Just a tiny bit.

Most of my readers could care less about what happened on Saturday, but I have to mention it. Chip and I went to the sports bar at 11:00 AM to watch the Rebels take on the #4 Florida Gators in Gainsville. Kick off was at 11:30 AM, and what a game! You can read the highlights here. Rebels beat the Gators 31-30. Who-hoo! What a great weekend to be a Rebel fan!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

What's Blooming at a Shower Fresh Garden?

Fall is in the air this week at a Shower Fresh Garden. I can hardly believe it! Monday and Tuesday the high was in the mid 70s. Low was in the low 60s. Isn't that wonderful? Here in Mississippi, we've had summers where September was still in the high 90s. Even on my wedding day in late September 2004 we had hot, muggy weather.

My anniversary is coming up soon. Chip and I are planning to go to Oxford to celebrate the beginning of our fifth year of marriage. Oxford is where we spent our first years together and where we got married. We're planning a dinner for two at City Grocery, then meeting up with friends at the Neko Case show at Oxford's new Lyric theather. Then Friday is the day of the big debate. Yes, the really, really big Presidential Debate. I'm beyond excited that we get to be in town on such a historic day for Ole Miss, Oxford, and the USA! I'll try to take good photos to share with all of you. I might see some TV news reporters. Maybe I'll even get to shake the hand of future President Obama!

I am ready for fall gardening. I'm making a list of perennials I want to try. My veronicas turned black (disease?), so I want to replace them with something new. Maybe liatris (aka gayfeather or blazing star)? Photo from White Flower Farm (not my yard)... Many of my flowers are still blooming their hearts out. The new hydrangeas look really pretty. I am beyond happy about these shrubs. Next year I want to try to get the blooms to stay purple because I love purple.
Purple heart is blooming its heart out, and the bumblebees are happy. This guy gathered all the pollen he could carry.

Catmint and liriope (monkey grass to us Southerners) are also blooming this time of year.

Coleus and dwarf orange zinnias complement the Ole Miss "M" flag in the backyard. Mexican purple sage opened its blooms last week as the verbena winds down.

Mexican petunia continues to put on a show.
I have put out a few mums, as the geraniums I bought back in March for the front door were looking a little worse for wear. Pink mums for me.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

A Brand New Fence

Weeks ago I promised photos of the fabulous fence Chip built around our pool pump. Just to recap, this is what the bed looked like back in September 2007.
Yeah, BAD. Overgrown with weeds -- I think there were a couple of gumtrees growing in there. Hard to maintain. Ugly.

We started on this project last fall. To give more background, this bed gets maybe 2 hours of midday sun. The previous owners had planted beautiful purple irises, pretty autumn ferns, purple heart, Stella d'Oro daylilies, monkey grass, and a few azaleas. I'd already moved the azaleas to another bed where they were doing great. The irises and daylilies just did not belong in this bed - not enough sun! I had other plans for the ferns. First I moved the ferns to the porch swing bed. Then I divided and moved the daylilies. Then I divided and moved the irises. The only plants that I left were the monkey grass and the purple heart. After the bed was cleared out, I began executing my new plan: Endless Summer Hydrangeas.

And Chip started the fence:

When the fence was done we added a few vines - star jasmine and clematis - and mulched the finished bed. Look at her now!

Such an improvement! This really took us months to complete. I started moving plants in November 2007. The fence was started in April 2008. And the whole project was completed in August. I say three cheers for Chip on this awesome fence! When he started this I had no idea he could build the whole thing from scratch - he even built the gate! Whoo-hoo!