Tuesday, April 22, 2014

It Has Already Been a Busy Morning at Crest Avenue

A beautiful and glorious spring morning with temperatures in the fifties.  Who doesn't want to wake up to that?  So refreshing.  We have transplanted peony and taken a walk through the gardens already.  There is much to do this year.  Not only do we have the usual pruning and cleaning up to do, but there is some significant damage from the harsh winter that needs attention as you will see below.

The first project of the day was the transplantation of these peony.  We planted these two years ago in the ever expanding garden in the center of the back yard.  The problem was that they were planted near the large grouping of sweet gum trees and were deprived of enough sunlight to flourish.  Peony love full sun. So, they are now transplanted into this pot and in a sunny place.  I expect to see a full turnaround and hopefully some magnificent peony blooms this year.

We are streamlining things at Crest Avenue.  Inside and out.  This year on the deck I intend to only have these three planters of Boston ferns.  The deck is shaded in the morn.  It gets the afternoon sun, but only filtered sun.  The bamboo grove filters the sun and adds wonderful privacy to the deck.  Everything else will be removed and we will place comfortable outdoor chairs with seats and backs made of a breathable mesh. This will open the space for visitors and give us a nice soothing place to sit and have a bourbon and branch or a vodka and grapefruit juice (otherwise known as a "greyhound") or a robust glass of red wine.

On another corner of the deck, temporarily, is this pot of hosta and sedum which we have been watching over the past few weeks.  Since the last time we visited here, I have added an additional hosta.  It is the plant in the foreground with the small green leaves.  It is an Empress Wu hosta and is another of the giant hostas. You will remember the large hosta in the background with the large green leaves is called a Sum and Substance hosta.  These will both grow to probably 4 feet in diameter.  I cannot wait.  Where will you place them in the landscape you may be thinking.  Where the peony were removed this morning.  Those spots will be perfect for hosta.

In the front, on the southwest corner, we lost an arborvitae.  A full, mature arborvitae.  This saddens me. The damage was twofold.  First, there was a bagworm infestation in this tree last year.  I didn't realize it until late in the season.  Then the snow and ice came - repeatedly.  The tree was already stressed and with the severe winter, it just couldn't repair the damage.  This will be removed this week and replaced with another arborvitae.  I love them.  They are very sturdy trees.  This one was just a victim of circumstances.

On the opposite corner, we witness more snow and ice damage.  The snow and ice literally "snapped" these arborvitae.  They were healthy.  No bagworm infestation.  Do you know how severe the winter weather has to be to snap the trunks of arborvitae?  Pretty severe.  Again, these will be removed this week and replaced with new arborvitae.  Such a shame.

But, ... there is good news!  Look at all the beautiful green popping up in the center of the enormous hydrangea.

And here is more green spouting in a hydrangea that was planted last year.

And more in another hydrangea planted last year.  These are all in the same area.  I hope to eventually have an enormous hedge of beautiful purple hydrangea in this area.

So, we have some difficult things we need to fix, but we also have some things which only need our loving attention.  Things could be better, but they could also be worse.  So, we move on.

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Easter Pizza Kits Were a Hit

We talked about the Easter Pizza Kits on Thursday of last week.  I sent one to my BFF, Bev, and another to my niece, Sarah Paige.  Both of these gals are very creative, so I am excited to share with you how each Easter pizza turned out.

First up, Bev.  What a festive table!  She spent Easter with family and friends.  In addition to the pizza, she made quite a few other things.

Look at these beautiful colored eggs.  So vibrant.  I love everything about how these turned out.

Then there were these adorable little felt bunnies.  The cellophane paper was perfect as a wrap.

And finally, bunny bundles.  So cute.  I think I am going to Bev's next year for Easter.  Who's with me???

And now for the pizza from my darling Sarah Paige.  I was really quite impressed with how well she did for an 8 year old.  This is very beautiful.  I think one day Sarah Paige could take over writing Welcome to Crest Avenue once her Uncle John is no longer able to get around.  She is very artsy.  She likes to draw.  I have either two or three of her creations which are framed.  I see great promise in her.

A Festive Easter Basket

We had a lot to be thankful for this Easter.  It was one year ago on April 17 that the oral surgeon took the biopsy on the place in Steven's mouth.  Two weeks later we got the news that it was cancer.  And two weeks later on May 17 he was in the operating room.  That was the beginning of a year that seems now to have been one long, slow motion dream.  If you have not had cancer or cared for someone while they go through the treatment for cancer, you cannot know what it is like.  I had no idea.  It is difficult.  But, we made it through.  He has had two scans since the end of treatment and everything is fine.  We are pleased with this news.

So, this Easter had a much happier vibe than last Easter.

I found this beautiful David Austin White Rose at Whole Foods.  This was one of those finds that you don't go looking for.  They come to you.  I knew immediately that this would be part of his gift.

A basket full of goodies and the David Austin rose.  The basket contains Wolfgang Puck "Jamaica Me Crazy" coffee pods, a candle, two little Easter bunnies and a skincare product.  I made the bunny cards.

I used a piece of clip art I found online that I cut and pasted into a text box.  Then I added my own greeting at the bottom.  I printed them on cardstock, cut them out, used a one-hole punch to make a hole in the top to put ribbon through.  Then I tied them to each gift.  A really cute presentation.

I put the basket and the rosebush in a silver lacquered tray and that was how I presented the gifts to him.

Here he is reading all about the rose bush and figuring out exactly where he will place it in the yard.  I thought this was an especially appropriate gift this year.  New life being planted in the ground.  Easter is a celebration of new life and his coming through cancer and having clear scans so far is sort of a new life for him.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Tonight It's Dinner from Bangkok Joe's

This is one of my favorite restaurant's.

I love Thai food and Bangkok Joe's is one of the best.  I will be having the Pad Thai Chicken which is extraordinary.  If you are in Georgetown and you like Thai food, you must stop by.

A Closer Look at the Cookies

I thought these turned out very nicely.  Of course, as I am arranging them I end up sticking my finger on the icing and smudges one which made me mad.

But that little smudge did not alter the deliciousness.

Eggs and Cookies

In addition to dyeing Easter eggs, we couldn't let the holiday slip by without making sugar cookies too.  And in the shape of eggs.  Eggs symbolize the beginning of life and fertility and that is especially relevant at Easter.

This cute little glass basket full of eggs.

And another shot.

And another.

 I decided I wanted to carry through the green and pink theme, so I used both colors of crinkle cut Eco Shred to line the egg basket.

A little of each color in a bowl, in equal amounts.

Stir it together and then place it in the bowl.

Put in your eggs and you have a cute presentation.

I used an old sugar cookie recipe that is tried and true.  It takes a little longer to get it to the point of rolling and cutting, but it is well worth it.  You have never tasted a sugar cookie dough like this.

I did a tray in this pink color.

And I did another tray in these jewel tones.  The egg shaped cookies and the dyed eggs make for an inviting entry table.

We Dyed Easter Eggs

We couldn't very well let Easter come and go without dyeing a few Easter eggs.

This year we used this dye from Dudley's.  I don't think I had ever heard of Dudley's.  When I grew up it was Paas who had the market cornered with Easter egg dye.  I guess now it is Dudley's.

At least Dudley's has continued with the egg punchouts on the back of the package.  That brings back memories.  This dye was very different from any I have used in the past.  There were packets of food safe dye in different colors and several plastic bags.  You drop a hard boiled egg in one of the plastic bags.  Then you place 5-6 drops of the color of your choice directly on the eggshell and then rub the dye all over the shell in the plastic bag.  No little color tabs dissolving in cups of vinegar like we did years ago.

I decided to do a Beverly Hills Hotel basket of eggs this year and just used the green and pink dye packets. If you've never been to the Beverly Hills Hotel, it is done in green and pink which might initially sound awful. But it is stunningly beautiful.  So in their honor, I did green and pink eggs this year.

We ended up with a cute dish of green and pink Easter eggs to display.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

An Easter Present for Bev

I like to send Easter presents to my friends and family.  I enjoy sending presents at Easter as much as I do at Christmas.  Maybe it is something delicious I made in the kitchen.  Maybe something that I saw that was really cute and I thought would be enjoyed.  This year, it was the latter.  I found these cute Easter Bunny Pizza Kits which I thought were WAY cute.

From what I got of it on the label, the kit includes everything you need to make a "sweet" pizza with frosting and candy and all sorts of toppings on a cookie crust.  I was good and did not get one for myself. However, I could go back and pick up one more.  NO!  I won't.

Of course you need to enclose a card.  This one was for my friend Bev, or "Bevalicious", depending on the kind of day she is having!  Another of these went to my sister for her children and cards enclosed for each child with a little money tucked inside, a card to my sister and brother-in-law, one to my mother and one to my grandmother, who, unfortunately is suffering from a form of dementia.  But, she is still physically strong and she is still with us, so she gets a card like everyone else.

You do not need to spend a fortune on Easter gifts.  These little pizza kits were affordable on any salary and they are sure to bring a smile to anyone who is a recipient.

Entertain in Style and Sophistication With the King Cube Tray

I found these wonderful king sized ice cube trays.

These will be perfect when entertaining.

Each cube is 2 inches by 2 inches, which makes for a nice sized cube of ice.  They will make quite a statement in any type of cold drink.  These larger sized ice cubes melt slower which will keep drinks cold longer with less dilution.  If you want to add a little flair, you could add fruit, berries or mint leaves.

Clean with a mild solution of vinegar and water.  Oh!  They are BPA free.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Gaining Control Over the Ornamental Grasses

We are slowly making our way through the yard and gardens and getting cleaned up from winter.  We were fortunate last night that we did not receive snow.  There were areas around us that not only received snow, but they got sleet as well.  Very bizarre weather, indeed.  One of the things we have accomplished this week is to get the ornamental grasses in the large pots cut back.

Here, a scraggly mess from the winter months.

And here, cut back to a height to let new growth make its way up./ I also cleaned out around the grass and laid down a fresh layer of cyprus mulch.  It won't be long now until we have beautiful ornamental grasses in all three pots.  If you look closely, you can see new shoots of green sprouting.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

New Gardening Tools From My Friend, Bev

Now that the weather is improving, we are venturing outside to spend some time in the yard.  There are many projects which need our attention.  And if we are to do a good job of maintaining the grounds, we must have the right tools.

Thank goodness for my friend Memrie, ... er, I mean, Bev.

For Christmas last year, she gave me these much needed items.  It is always recommended to wear gloves when working in the garden.  I must admit I do not adhere to this advice.  Most times I work barehanded.  I think it is because I have never found a pair of gloves that felt good on my hands and allowed me the flexibility to do what I needed to do.  These gloves do just that.  The two loppers were especially nice to receive.  The pair on the left for light pruning and on the right for heavier duty pruning.  Thank you dear Bev. Over the coming days you will see some of what has been accomplished in cleaning up the yard with these new tools.

Following Up on Our Hosta Planting Last Week

It was just last week that I shared with you that my two new hostas arrived.  

First was the White Feather, seen above.

And the giant Sum and Substance.

We planted these rootings straight away into a pot because the ground was still too wet for them to be planted in the permanent location.

Look how sad they both look in this pot.

But no more!!!  Amazing.  Just amazing how much they have both grown in the past week.  I am hoping for and expecting both of these to be magnificent later this year.  You will also notice there is something else in this pot that wasn't there before.  Those spiny little plants between the two hostas are Mixed Carpet Sedum. They arrived over the weekend as a "freebie" from Gurney's.

I forgot I was due a free plant from my previous order.  Let's hope they take off like the hostas.  Sedum is a ground cover and is drought tolerant.  Given the past few summers, they should thrive quite nicely here.

Monday, April 14, 2014

A Spa Day for Baxter

Baxter had a spa day yesterday at Paws of Enchantment.  He was a very tired little boy when we picked him up.

Look at those heavy eyes and that expression.  Baxter is the only dog I've ever had who has facial expressions.  I just wait for him any day to say to me, "That's enough pictures for right now."  

Moving Outdoor Plants Outdoors

We have a lot to talk about this week at Crest Avenue, so here goes with the second post for the day.

Spring cannot get here soon enough for nearly everyone in the country.  This has been a long and arduous winter for most.  I decided this past weekend that it was time to put the potted plants which were brought in for the winter back outside so they could adjust to being outdoors again.  As is the case, the plants were a bit winter-weary.  The conditions inside the home are never suited to vibrant life in many of these plants.  If we were in a more temperate zone, there would be no need to bring them in for the winter months.  But that is not the case, so we are forced to bring in those plants which will not make it through freezing weather and do the best we can to keep them going until the spring.

The boxwood on the far left and the cyprus on the far right are both healthy.  They stayed out during the winter and managed to remain in good shape.  The diamond grasses in the large pot in front on the left stayed out during the winter and are coming back in full force.  The little brown pot in front has freesia.  I am uncertain at this point whether they will come back.  I hope so because I absolutely love freesia.  The succulent in the center of the table with the light colored foliage was inside for the winter and suffered.  I am hopeful that once it has been in the sunshine and fresh air for a few days it will revive.  In the back, at the top of the picture is a peace lily and hellebores. Peace lillies are hardy.  They can survice in the harshest environments.  So while it looks a bit sickly right now, I expect a full recovery.  And the hellebores actually look dead.  But there are tiny growths appearing, so they will be vibrant again in a few weeks.  In other areas around the house we have some severe damage from the winter weather.  We will address those areas in the coming weeks.

#outdoor plants

We Sprouted Sprouts

Last Wednesday we talked about growing alfalfa sprouts in the new Sprouter we got at Williams Sonoma. We followed the instructions that came with it and were told in those instructions that within 2 - 4 days we would have a fresh supply of sprouts to use on our salads and sandwiches.  Well, guess what.  We do!!!  It took a little longer than 2 - 4 days, but we do, indeed, have fresh alfalfa sprouts to enjoy.

Here is the top level, or level 1.

Middle level, or level 2.

Bottom level, or level 3.

Just so you don't think I'm pulling your leg and photographing the same container 3 times, here are all three containers full of alfalfa sprouts.

And here they are atop my lunch salad for today.

Today's salad consists of yellow grape tomatoes, sliced pepperoni, hearts of palm, a fresh garden mix of greens and fresh alfalfa sprouts.  What a spectacular looking salad.  I cannot wait until lunch.  In a separate container I brought a quarter cup of 2% cottage cheese with diced pineapple and a wedge of cheese.  Now, will I have a piece of chocolate this afternoon?  Probably.  I may even have two pieces or three.  But I can do so because I had this for lunch.  And that's how I roll.

#alfalfa sprouts