Sunday, June 28, 2009

We're Having a Heat Wave!

Man is it hot! As I write this, it's about 9:30 at night and it is 91° outside, same as our average high temperature this month. The temperature broke 100° 3 times last week, each day breaking the previously recorded high temperature, and one day tied the highest recorded temperature here ever. Last month we had 0.57 inches of rain, we normally average 5.22 inches. This month we've received only 0.27 inches of rain, we normally average 6.97 inches. Needless to say, it's dry.

The hardest hit thing around here lately, other than the wife's windshield, is our garden. Mainly, high 90s every day and 70s-80s at night start to take a toll on things. The squash is completely done for, we haven't seen a bloom in weeks. The beans are pretty much on their last legs, I pulled up half of them today, and I'll be surprised if the rest last another week. The tomatoes have set all the blooms they will for this summer, once the daytime temperatures get as high as they have been they stop setting fruit. Not only that, but the fruit we still have on the plants hasn't gotten as big as the first crop. They are still ripening and taste wonderful, just not getting as big as they had been. The worst problem we have had is blossom end rot on the tomatoes, most likely caused by me not ramping up my watering of the garden as quickly as I should have. Wide moisture swings cause a calcium deficiency in the tomatoes, which causes the rot. They are still good to eat, we just have to cut off the rotten end. To make matters worse, it seems either the squirrels or birds found the highest fruit this week as well. And to top it all of, we have a rampant infestation of poison ivy on our hands. It is popping up everywhere, the lawn, the garden, the flower beds, it's crazy! I keep spraying every sprig that pops up, but I swear that three shoot up in its place.

Our garden is doing it's best to hang on.

Empty spot from pulling up the dying beans.

What happens to beans in 100° heat.

End rot and squirrel damage.

Poison ivy invading the yard.

On the bright side, the fruit trees and herbs are doing great. The lemon tree is in the middle of flushing out another round of new leaves and blooms, and the avocado continues to sprout new branches. The blackberry bushes are looking strong and continue to grow and branch out. The basil has also shot up after we transplanted it into a bigger container. I don't think we will find ourselves short of that herb any time soon.

Our thriving citrus trees.

The avocado is starting to fill in.

At least the blackberries are loving the heat.

The basil is really taking off.

That pretty well takes care of things here. Next week, the 4th of July!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Hedda Lettuce

Week of June 14 through 20

Last season on Project Runway the designers were challenged to create fabulous outfits for some super awesome drag queens. One of those drag queens wore only green (and lots of ruffles) and went by "Hedda Lettuce". Apparently, she's my subconscious idol.

My most recent crafty creation is a completely accidental homage to Hedda's style. All of my own volition, I chose a green, nubby voile fabric and Simplicity pattern 2599, a pattern with lots of ruffle variations. How did I not foresee how this was going to turn out?

, I wanted to grab the pink version of this fabric for my top. But, If I bought every pink article of clothing that I gravitated towards, I would forever resemble the love child of Pepto-Bismol and The Pink Panther.

By purposely choosing something other than my signature color, I inadvertently turned myself into a garden vegetable. That's not going to stop me from showing my roots in this top every now and again, even if I'm pretty sure the Pepto-Panther would win in a fight.

I was very impressed with the detailing of this pattern. And the professional way with which the instructions directed the construction. I taught myself how to stitch a french seam this weekend, using this pattern as inspiration, because I really wanted my blouse to have that "off the rack" look. I would expect nothing less from a Cynthia Rowley design.

My top even has a fabulous silver metallic stripe. For that extra bit of show-stopping sparkle. I think Hedda would be proud.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


Week of June 14 through 20

Internet, this is what happens when you accidentally put the garage door down on your windshield.

I don't recommend it.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Buh-Bye Blinds

Week of June 7 through 13

I hate mini-blinds. I believe them to be the second most awful window covering (I say covering because blinds do not qualify as a treatment) ever employed by home builders. Mini-blinds are inferior in their ability to induce horrible-decor-seizures only to the dreaded vertical blinds. My aversion to blinds is not without cause. Blinds are always filthy. Over time, even the most fastidiously cared for blinds will get bent, and will then forever more resemble troll doll hair. Some blinds are even plastic. They sag. And somehow, cats know that the best way to get their people out of bed on a Saturday morning is to climb ever so noisily through the individual blind slats.

I'm not completely anti-mini-blinds. While visiting Chicago last summer we saw a perfectly innovative use for the offensive window covering, one that didn't send me into a rant about creative-decorating. Two artists had cleverly re-purposed blinds into cute eco-friendly "dresses" along a landscape display walking tour.

Obviously, when we moved into our house and discovered not only bent and dirty mini-blinds but also horrible fabric covered vertical blinds, it didn't take me long to disassemble and pitch the blinds from every room in the house. Save for a select few. I wasn't about to let my aversion to blinds affect my beauty sleep (or that of our guests) so the blinds in the bedrooms stayed until I could find an appropriate alternative.

Through pure serendipity, I happened upon an auction on eBay for an entire bolt of decorator fabric in the colors of our bedroom. Twenty-three whole yards of fabric-y goodness for less than $100. Easy. Deciding on appropriate window treatments proved to be a bit more arduous. I knew that the treatments in the master bedroom and bathroom needed to be the same to tie the two rooms together. The five differently sized and configured windows in those two rooms made that conformity difficult. I finally settled on roman shades for their clean, classic look, and the ease with which we would be able to open and close them for privacy and, most importantly, sweet sweet sleep.

I found a great website that produces custom, made-to-order roman shade patterns and fabricates custom kits with cut-to-length mounting hardware and shade creation goods. Feeling lazy about all the "sewing math" and errand running that would be involved in making the patterns and gathering the supplies myself, I opted to leave the hard work to someone else and focus my energies on the actual sewing and construction of the shades.

And so, for three whole days I ventured from my craft room only for sustenance and sleep. It was awesome. I actually listened to my entire iTunes library twice. I'm sew happy with how the shades turned out. (It had to be said.)

Bathroom Before
(Notice the absence of blinds in the before picture? That's because I threw them away months ago.)

And After

The shades in our bedroom are lined with blackout material. The luxury of a completely darkened room on a Saturday morning is positively heavenly. The cats will have to find a new way to demand our attention. And I'm sure that they will.

Bedroom Before

And After

Of course, the fabric I bought on eBay was more than enough for the shades. I knew when I ordered it that I wanted to make coordinating accessories for our bed to bring the whole room together. We received all of our bedding as wonderfully generous wedding gifts. Knowing that we wanted an understated beach theme for our bedroom, to remind us of our wedding in Hawaii, we registered for taupe, brown and ocean blue linens and towels. I had been waiting to find the perfect striped fabric to bring the colors together when I came across my twenty-three yard bargain. After two years, I had finally found the uniting fabric for our mismatched bedding that I'd been picturing in my mind.

I made a bed skirt.

(What a beautiful quilt!)

And two euro shams.

And even used mother-of-pearl buttons for the sham closures. Because I'm just that dedicated to remembering our beach wedding. (And the buttons on our ready-made duvet are mother-of-pearl, and The Crazy in my head prefers for things to coordinate.)

If I'd had just a bit more moxie after all of this work, I would have turned our old, discarded mini-blinds into a cute dress. But The Husband said it just wouldn't work in our landscape.

Around Our House Next Week: The Husband says "Shelves!" I say, "I'll believe it when I see it!"

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Aggie Night @ The Astros

Week of June 7 through 13

Normally, I'm not one who enjoys entertainment of the sporting variety. Don't get me wrong, I respect athletic ability (as I certainly wasn't blessed with any) I just don't really like watching overpaid athletes compete for show. The Husband, however, loves him some baseball. Specifically, The Houston Astros.

Slowly but surely, The Husband is teaching me to appreciate the game and all of its statistics-driven, pitcher-vs.-batter, nine-tediously-long-inning glory. I especially like Milo Hamilton, the hall of fame announcer for The Astros, and Hunter Pence, the lanky right-fielder who made his major league debut a few days after The Husband and I got married.

While I am more able to appreciate and understand the game, thanks to constant education from The Husband, and to Milo Hamilton's radio commentary (which we listen to endlessly while doing projects around the house), I am still hesitant to spend an evening at the ball park watching a game. When The Husband learned that The Astros would be hosting an "Aggie Night" at Minute Maid Park, he saw it as the perfect impetus to get me to a game. With promises of hot dogs, beer and ice cream served in tiny Astros helmets, The Husband convinced me to accompany him to watch The Astros take on my other favorite team, The Chicago Cubs.

Now internet, I am aware that this baseball game did not actually occur "all around our house" and therefore has no place on a blog about our domestic endeavors. And to that I reply: you didn't really think I would go to a baseball game without clothing that properly displayed my preference for sporting victory, did you?!

Of course not.

I seized upon the opportunity presented by this baseball showdown to spend some time in my craft room making an Astros t-shirt dress. Comfy, cute and full of team spirit. I used McCall's pattern M5423, a screen printed Astros t-shirt and gray jersey knit. I really wanted to use a Pence jersey for the bodice of my dress, but couldn't find one in red.



The dress itself only took a few hours, but then I had the inspired idea to embroider the front of my dress with the Astros' team patch. Pre-sewn, official team patch: $20. Opportunity to pull my hair out while trying to replicate said patch with less than stellar digitizing software: priceless. I spent longer working on the emblem than I did on the dress itself. And then my final stitchout got a little wonky. The practice stitchout was perfect, go figure. Still, I think my makeshift, copyright-infringing, bootleg version of an Astros patch came out pretty well.

Needless to say, we were the best dressed couple at the game.

Turns out, Aggie Night wasn't much more than a half-hearted singing of The War Hymn before the game by a few Aggies scattered through the crowd, and a first pitch thrown out by Texas A&M's quarterback.

Aggie Night or not, we had a great time. (I really did!) We ate hot dogs. We listened to Milo Hamilton on our tiny radio. We drank beer. We ate chocolate ice cream from a tiny retro-orange Astros helmet. And we got to see Hunter Pence.

And the Astros won.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Herb Blurb Two

Week of May 31 through June 6

The Husband transplanted our herbs this week. The first transplant gave the little seedlings soft, nutritious soil so that they could put down roots. Since their roots are now well established, we knew it was time to give the plants room to grow up and out.

The rosemary is new. Sadly, our first batch was murdered.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Dressmaking Delay

Week of May 31 through June 6

I finally finished the dress I started working on before Easter. It had been draped across the ironing board in my craft room, un-hemmed, for over a month. Every time I ventured upstairs to grab a roll of tape or a tube of glue from my craft closet, the dress mocked me with its raw, ragged hem. I finished every other sewing step, including what seemed like miles of tedious hand stitching on the lining, back in April. But the hem remained untouched.

The Husband frequently had to remove the dress from the ironing board so that he could press his pants for work in the morning, and I unrelentingly returning it to its spot on the board so that it could continue to taunt me with its incomplete state. I must be a glutton for punishment.

Finally, this weekend, after purchasing the materials to make another dress, I decided that I had to end the battle of wills with my Easter dress once and for all. I had to hem it. It took me all of fifteen minutes.

I found myself wondering why it had taken me so long to complete this final, menial step. It wasn't difficult by any stretch of the imagination; there had been steps far more complicated involving lining and under stitching and zippers that had caused me much more aggravation. It certainly wasn't time consuming.

I think the lack of a firm deadline slowed my progress to a halt. After we learned that The Husband would be traveling to Mexico on Easter Sunday, and we determined that our original plan to attend church Easter morning wouldn't be feasible with his flight schedule, it just wasn't important to finish my new Easter dress in time for an event we wouldn't be attending. And so on the ironing board, almost-finished, my dress hung for nearly two months.

Now that I'm finished, and I have worn the dress for longer than a two minute try on, there are some things that I know I would change should I decide to make this pattern again. For one, the pattern measurements lead me to believe that I needed to build in two sizes worth of ease in order for the dress to fit my curvy hind-end. This caused the proportions of the skirt and midriff to look "off" in comparison with the bodice. Additionally, the bodice itself is a bit large (even though I made the size that my measurements dictated), which causes the sleeves to droop on my shoulders. I spent most of the day hitching up my shoulders and tucking in my bra straps. Annoying.

For my first real go at intensive apparel construction as an adult, I think my dress turned out pretty well. Even if it did give me a serious case of hem guilt. I'm going to be talking to my therapist about this for years.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Pick a Peck

Week of May 31 through June 6

Our tomatoes have outgrown their cages, our beans are producing so many pods that they are bending from the weight and our peppers are growing so quickly that we have had to stake their stalks. Basically, we are too good at gardening. Mad fertilizing skillz such as ours should be respected.

Creatures of all shapes and sizes have been known to appreciate our gardening efforts, and now we have a new visitor to add to our list of admirers. Throughout the week, we noticed that the cats seemed unusually interested in our bean plants. The cats have been known to lay in the garden, and even occasionally use it as their own personal perfectly-manicured bathroom, but beyond seeing it as a big square of dirt in which to roll around, they haven't taken much interest in the garden goings-on. So, when Gidget continually chose to sit near the back corner of the garden and stare at the fence, and when we noticed that she was trampling our bean plants on her quests to investigate said back corner, we took an interest of our own. While watering one day, The Husband determined that our garden was now home to a gopher. He determined this by using his highly honed visual prowess to spot a gopher track and then a gopher hole. Plus, he had the internet. I said "Welcome gophers!" but The Husband had a different point of view. After I made my much practiced "Please-Hubby?" face The Husband opted for a humane bait that is supposed to make the gopher's hidey-hole stink to high heaven. I surely wouldn't want to live in a smelly house, so here's hoping that our gopher guest is equally offended by olfactory assualts.

We picked more tomatoes this week, and there are more on the vine that are almost ripe. We are diligently weighing each tomato as we pick it, and cataloging our data in our garden journal. We haven't been as industrious about photographing our crop. But an awesome, ripe homegrown tomato looks like an awesome, ripe homegrown tomato, right?

The adorable baby pepper I mentioned here, grew to be almost three inches long. And then it rained. A huge thunderstorm (so strong that we could feel the thunder) blew through our area this week and dropped three quarters of an inch of rain in under fifteen minutes. The little pepper couldn't take the deluge, and it snapped off at the stem. Our pepper plants are making up for lost time, though, and the fruit that survived the storm are now almost ready for harvest.

Around Our House Next Week: It's curtains for our blinds

Monday, June 1, 2009

Yum Yum

Week of May 24 through 30

We picked our first tomato this week! When we returned home from our four-day Memorial Day weekend vacation (and birthday celebration) we discovered that one of the largest tomatoes on the vine had ripened while we were away. Ripe homegrown tomatoes are a much more pleasant to come upon than some of the other things we've found after a being away from the house for a few days. Namely, cat vomit.

Our first tomato was huge! Just as big as those one might purchase in the grocery store. We had been anxiously anticipating this moment since we first planted our tiny tomato plants in the ground, and it required a tremendous amount of restraint not to bite into the red, warm, firm, fleshy tomato as soon as we pulled it off of the plant. It was all we could do to take commemorative pictures and weigh the fruit for our bloggy documentation. (Over a pound, for those of us keeping score.)

As soon as I snapped the last photo, The Husband sliced into our garden fresh produce and took a huge bite. Delicious. Nothing compares to home grown tomatoes. The first delectable dish made with ingredients from our garden was a crisp, fresh caprese salad. And it was the best we'd ever eaten.

We also harvested more green beans, and another yellow squash. We steamed the green beans, then mixed them with sauteed mushrooms and diced tomatoes (from the garden!). We steamed the squash, then added melted butter, salt and pepper. Both homegrown dishes were so yummy, and left us eagerly awaiting more harvests from our garden.

Around Our House Next Week: Bring on the vegetables!