31 October 2007

Candy & Flaming Pumpkins

I took today off to carve pumpkins and tart the house out for the trick-or-treaters. I'm still new enough to this whole "paid time off" swindle that, well, the idea of getting paid while I gut pumpkins or play Guitar Hero really amuses me.

Mind you, the Young Adult Librarian gets paid to play Guitar Hero and DDR at work ... now she's the one who know how to game the system.

Anyway, thanks to the new patio/sidewalk area, we had plenty of space to display jack-o-lanterns this year without racking them all up on the steps ala ("Flaming Stairs of Death"). I only carved up six pumpkins this year which is one less than last year, but two more than the year before. I stuck with fairly traditional faces -- none of that fancy plastic saw fretwork -- but made sure they leaned more toward friendly than frightening. I arranged a couple on the stairs and then the rest around edge of the patio area and on the air conditioner.

It's quite nice having this new area and garden to decorate. I stuck a bunch of small foam headstones in amongst the new flowers I'd planted and propped a big cracked foam tombstone against the wall between the rose bushes. I sprinkle some of the foam (god bless Styrofoam) bones around them and put a pumpkin or the orange lantern at the foot of the big stone and the whole thing should look appropriately Crypt Keeper-ish and yet should also take all of five minutes to put away. No more running about the yard, trying not to forget someone's feet. No, everything is spread out in one area and, yet, it doesn't look like Halloween Town exploded on my front porch, either. It looks cohesive and ... tasteful.


The last pumpkin was quite tiny -- more like an acorn squash in size -- and I was getting tired, so I cut little round holes all the way around it using an apple corer and put it on the mailbox with a plastic skeleton I'd jammed into a sitting position using wooden kitchen skewers. Hopefully, it will function as a glowing orange candy beacon and bring some trick-or-treaters. Today is, obviously, the middle of a school week and, thanks to the government's dickering with the calender, still full light at six o'clock. Who goes candy hunting before full dark? Nobody. Yet, the kidlets have to be in bed fairly early for school on Thursday. There's really only a few short hours they can set aside for trick-or-treating. No matter how tastefully I tart up my house, they may never make it here.

Oh well, more candy for us.

14 October 2007

Call Me Wemberly

The roses I planted earlier this month are covered in buds and it looks like the middle bush ('Voluptuous' hybrid tea) will burst into bloom any day now. I'm quite excited by this, because I reckoned I'd have to wait until June to see what they'd look like "in life" (versus what the catalogs show) and here I am with an early display.

Of course, I also worry this means the roses are terribly confused by our extremely warm New England autumn and snuff it at the first sign of a proper cold snap. Various gardener type people have assured me the shrubs with winter over just fine, but I worry they are just humoring me.

Basically, I worry. I am a worrying person.

08 October 2007

I Promised Myself a Rose Garden

When the stonework guys came and laid our front path/patio area, we asked they not seed the L-shaped area formed by the steps, path/patio, and edge of the driveway -- leaving me a nice sized possibility of a flower bed to play with.

I've spent the better part of the last couple months planning out how I wanted the bed to look and the plan went through many iterations before I reached my final design. In the end, I went for stuff that would smell good, look pretty from our bench (10' away) and as well as right up close, attract hummingbirds/butterflies/bees, come up every year, and be largely self-maintaining.

I think I've got what I wanted, but there's always a difference between what the plant books say and what the plants actually do, isn't there? Only time will tell me whether I've planted the right stuff or not.
What I've planted in the new L-shaped flower bed (back to front of the large rectangle):
(and back to front of the smaller rectangle)
  • Agastache 'blue fortune' (aka Hyssop)
  • Assorted coneflower seedlings from my mother's garden
  • Achillea 'paprika'
  • More of mom's dwarf irises
  • Daffodils 'tête à tête' and anemone blanda 'blue shades'
(and at the 'pivot' where the two rectangles come together):
  • Assorted tall purple irises from mom's garden
  • Assorted black-eyed susan (we think) seedlings from mom's garden
I also planted some of my mother's dwarf irises in the other front bed and will plant daffodils 'tête à tête' and anemone blanda 'blue shades' along its edge to tie the two beds together a bit better.

Now, I just have to cross my fingers and hope everything will come up again next spring (and pretty much where I planted it -- damned cats are very good at rearranging flower beds to suit their napping needs).

07 October 2007

Soup, Glorious Soup

When we were at the grocery store last weekend, The Husband nearly gave himself the fits reading the nutritional values on the back of the soup cans. Even the "Progresso Light" soups we have been buying are not very good for you. Sure, they are lower calorie & higher fiber soup than other kinds of soup, but they are still full of sodium.

Perhaps I am more cynical than The Husband, but I was not at all surprised by this. The flavor has to come from somewhere and, in my experience, salt is usually the source. Especially when you're talking about a light or reduced-fat product -- salt or sugar has been increased to make up for the lack of fat flavor.

He was so (adorably) outraged that I made the, perhaps, impetuous promise to not buy the canned stuff, anymore, but to make more soups from scratch. And now that I have made that promise, I must act on it, because I love soup and need to eat lots of it this time of year. The pantry is pretty bare of soup tins, but the fridge is full of ingredients. Time to haul out the really big stock pot and dice some vegetables ...

The first soup I made was from the New American Heart Association Cookbook: 25th Anniversary Edition (Clarkson Potter, 2001) for "Vegetable Soup." This was an excellent soup to start with as it was a pretty straight forward recipe which required no extra grocery trips -- I owned everything I needed. I must admit I tweaked the recipe a little by substituting vegetable broth for beef and frozen green beans for fresh, and also by omitting the ¼ teaspoon of salt and using a tablespoon of McCormick Salt Free Garlic & Herb Seasoning, instead. However, I don't think those changes negatively effected the recipe and I ended up with a nice tomato-y soup with excellent aroma and lots of mouth-pleasing texture.