Friday, May 22, 2009

Decorating the Garden

It has been a very busy few weeks. The family and I took a trip over a weekend to Chicago for a memorial service for Tim's grandfather who recently died. I met a lot of Tim's extended family, who wre all wonderful people and ate a lot of saurkraut with polska keilbasa (upon seeing this dish at the post memorial service dinner, I yelled out "God bless Chicago!") and drank a few beers. We also took a trip into the city and spent a few hours at The Art Institute of Chicago, which I have had an ongoing love affair with since I was a child. We only got through the Impressionists and Architectural Fragments, but the kids were blown away, which was what I was going for.

Collin, William, and Kendall in front of one of the Art Institute's lions.

Eames & Young, Angel from the Cornice of the Title Guarantee Building (Chicago), 1898

Alfonso Ianelli, Architect Frank Lloyd Wright, Midway Gardens: Sprite Head Study for Exterior, 1912

So why, with all of the fantastic, famous works of art contained in the museum, would I choose these particular works with you? Because, as I was working about my garden, I got to thinking about how important ornamentation is in the garden. It can add so much and really showcase the gardener's personality and aesthetic. I also realized that I had a lot of stuff scattered around in my beds, and I thought "these would make good pictures," so there you go.

I've always tried to accomplish a few things with my garden ornamentation. First, I use arches, obelisks, etc, to add a vertical element to the garden. I love vines (what is a garden without a clematis?) and climbing and rambling roses. Instead of simply running these up a trellis (which I also do) I like to place vines in the middle or in odd places in the garden where I feel like more height is needed.

My porch - ignore the rusty ironwork - it's one of those things that I have meant to get around to forever. I used to grow sweet peas up it to hide it. I'm starting to digress (in a caption!) so let's get back to the body of the post!

I have two roses, one with a clematis and one with a perennial sweet pea, on obelisks in the garden in front of the porch. Without them, the garden would leave the porch too exposed. One is a pretty iron obelisk that I bought at a garden center, the other is made out of three pieces of bamboo that I joined like a teepee at the top. When I sit on the porch, I get this pretty view.


Height can be added with ornamentation, too. I used to have a birdbath in the garden, but I pushed down on it this spring and the bath part (it's got to have a better name than this, but I don't know it) broke off of the center. Dejected, I started carting it to the trash when I realized that if I put the pole behind something medium tallish, say some catmint, it would add more height and look awful pretty. I could be my small garden column. I had an area that needed some rehab, so that's exactly what I did.


A few years ago, our neighborhood was over run with chipmunks. I love the little guys, and I think everyone else did, but then we adopted Foxy the cat, who, as it turns out, liked to hunt chipmunks. There are no more chipmunks in the neighborhood. They all ended up as prizes on my front door mat. So I decided to add this little guy as a memorial where the chipmunks used to peek up their little heads.


Saturday, May 9, 2009

Motherly Love

Well, as usual, I was surfing the web, and I found this wonderful video.

I know a few people who could learn a thing or two from this video. I love my step children (who I don't call step children, they're just my kids) every bit as much as I love my birth child. They are all my children and I am mom and that's all there is to it. I just think it goes to show that motherly love knows no bounds and has no boundaries. Wouldn't be a wonderful world if we could all be like Smigel.

Have a Happy Mother's Day.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Fast and Easy = Grigsley Koogsley, aka Johnny Marzetti (and other stuff)

Fast and Easy

I had another migraine yesterday. I get them when the barometric pressure changes drastically, and it dropped lots yesterday. I had to survive it without brownies. My husband was in charge of dinner, which was Chef Boyardee ravioli. O.K. Chef Boyardee makes me feel younger, as it was a staple of my childhood. But it is also soft and a little flavorless. To say the least.

Where did this man get his culinary degree? I can tell you one thing - when Chef Gordon Ramsey found out his noodles weren't al dente he would have ground him into a soft roux and made an extremely tasty jambalaya out of him.

Remember, I am post-migraine. I am goofed up on pain medication. Continue this post at your own risk.

So getting back on topic, the mushy ravioli got me thinking: there have to be good tasting recipes out there that are super easy to make AND kid friendly. Easy enough to make when I am only partially with the earth. Or for my husband. I thought of one and I will share it with you.

Grigsley Koogsley (aka Johnny Marzetti)

My dad is from Youngstown, Ohio, very close to Pennsylvania Dutch country. Up there, Johnny Marzetti is Grigsley Koogsley. It's a better name, I think. So that's what I call it. My daughter has taken to calling it goulash and does not care that goulash is actually a Hungarian/German/etc stew. She likes that name. What I will tell you is that with the relative simplicity of this dish it is well loved by my family. The leftovers taste even better.

Before we begin, I have to give a diclaimer. I learned this recipe from my grandmother who had been cooking it since the Depression. It has no spaghetti sauce in it. You don't bake it. It is most likely very different than you are used to. But it is so good. So good.

You will need:

Macaroni noodles
1 lb. of ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
1 or 2 cans of diced tomatoes
garlic salt
Italian seasons of your choosing

Prepare the macaroni noodles as directed. Make as much as you think your family will eat.

Add the ground beef and onion to a large skillet and thoroughly cook the ground beef.

I usually add the seasonings here. This is all highly subjective and can be done according to your family's tastes. If you like things bland, don't add a lot of seasoning. If you like things very savory, add to your taste. You could add an Italian seasoning mix, or just oregeno or basil. Just remember that this is the step that takes the dish from ho-hum to delish.

Add tomatoes to the meat mixture. let he mixture come to a boil to cook off some of the liquid. My grandfather liked his grigsley koogsley juicy so there wasn't a lot of boiling to be done. I like it drier, so I boil until it gets a little thicker.

Add noodles to the sauce. Mix well. Eat up!

With summer approaching, one could certainly use fresh tomatoes. Just remember to par boil them and remove the skin.

Fa, Fa, Fa, Fa Fashion!

Regular readers know that I love fashion. When I am wearing my perfectly respectable Target maxi dress, I make believe that I am wearing Etro in Capri and that my 32 oz. mug from Riverside Hospital is actually the most glorious sangria I've ever tasted. I also pretend that I am a Food Network star when I am cooking. Yes, I have an active alternate imaginary world. And I am a little insane.

But I digress. The process of designing clothes is fascinating to me. I came upon this wonderful site by Kathryn Elyse Rodgers who is an apparel design apprentice in Boston, MA. She does the most amazing fashion illustrations and publishes them on her blog paper fashion.


Also in the fashion realm is Tokyo Street Style which features the amazing, sometimes outlandish, and always inventive underground street fashions in Tokyo. FYI - the site is in Japanese, but if you click on the pics, you can get better looks at the outfits. Check out the various "cliques" in the fashion culture of Tokyo.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Spring has Sprung!

Spring has sprung here in fair Ohio. Typically, Ohio takes us from 40 degree weather directly to the 80s and above for the duration of spring, summer, and fall, but this year we are being blessed with a true spring.

My meighbor's red bud. I love its sculptural quality and those purple buds have always been my sign that spring has finally arrived.

I spent most of the day yesterday cleaning out the bed in front of my living room. The amount of weeding that I have to do it tremendous with a capital T. One year with a newborn and another year of general apathy about life have led to weed patches that would make my green thumbed ancestors roll in their graves. Did you know that vinegar was a great weed killer? I've always tried to maintain as organic a garden as possible, and here is a great article on on how to use vinegar effectively.

A helebore peeking out from behind a bush honeysuckle, one of the noxious weeds I have to remove all over the garden.

A word about my caption. In case you are agast that I am destroying honeysuckle bushes all over my property, just know that bush honeysuckle is classified as an invasive weed in the state of Ohio. It is not the yummy, float to heaven smelling honeysuckle that you are thinking of. It is an evil, evil, no-smell monster weed.

So all the weeding led to a trip to Dutch Mill Greenhouse, a wonderful place that offers bareroot perennials starting at 99 cents a piece. I was able to pick up specialty perennial geraniums, siberian iris, and bugbane (which I have been looking everywhere for) - plus a few other plants - for next to nothing.

The Gertrude Jekyll is probably my favorite rose in my garden. It has a heady, rosy-myrrh smell, gorgeous blooms, and requires very little care. Gertrude Jekyll is just one of the many beautiful English Hybrids by David Austin.

In the past, I have ordered all of my roses from David Austin Roses who hybiridze the most beautiful roses in the entire world. Check out the web page. Unfortunately, they aren't cheap, so this year I bought a mystery tea rose at Wal-Mart for $4. Another site I love is Crocus, an English garden supplier with every plant and garden accessory that you could possibly think of. I go to it and dream.

So I think I'm getting a little rambly and wistful (David Austin roses do that to me - really - a happy day is when the annual catalogue arrives in the mail). Today will include more weeding, transplanting, and garden recovery. My ultimate goal is to have the most beautiful cottage garden in Ohio (o.k., maybe Marysville).


Spring is here! Happy gardening!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

More Columbus Love: The Arena District

This time last week I was in Columbus just having attended The Women of Faith Conference. It was excellent and I highly highly recommend it if you have an opportunity to attend. It was held at Nationwide arena. The Arena District is one of the newest and hottest areas in Columbus. I hadn't been to the arena district since I attended one Blue Jackets game in their first season, and I felt like a tourist in my own hometown.


The Arena District is built on the site of The Old Ohio Penitentiary. The Old Ohio Penn was a foreboding and extremely cool building at the same time. It was closed to prisoners in 1979 and stood vacant until the early 90's when it was demolished. It was quite controversial when it fell to the wrecking ball, as it is a building with an amazing amount of history. It housed O. Henry (he wrote "Gift of the Magi" there) and Sam Sheppard, upon whom the series "The Fugitive" was based. The link above will take you to a page with more info.

In addition to Nationwide Arena, which houses the Columbus Blue Jackets, a new stadium (Huntington Park) was built and debuted this year for the Columbus Clippers. I was sad for me when the Clippers moved from their old stadium as my parents live and I grew up very near to it. The area is undergoing a slight case of urban blight, and an empty baseball stadium is the last thing that it needs. But the new stadium is supposed to be rockin' with better views, better seats, the whole nine.

I know I keep mentioning the Blue Jackets, but the conference was held smack dab in the middle of the NHL play-offs that pitted The Blue Jackets against the Detroit Red Wings. Hockey fans were pretty psyched as this is the first time that The Blue Jackets have made it to the playoffs. They didn't have a great record in their first few seasons, so this season was major.


You won't go hungry during your visit (but that's a given anywhere in Columbus - we like to eat)!

Gastropub that has entertainment like the Reaganomics, a local band that plays '80s hits

There are a number of popular chain resteraunts (and a Starbucks, which should just be a given) in the area. Buca di Beppo, Boston's, and Ted's Montana Grill are all within walking distance. I also noticed a few cool mom and pop eateries on my walk from the parking garage to the arena.


Lest you think that all we do is eat and go to sporting events in Columbus, there are quite a few entertainment options near the arena. The Lifestyle Communities Pavilion hosts band like Toad the Wet Sprocket (love them!), The Killers (love them, too!) and Third Eye Blind (ditto). The Arena Grand Theater is pretty cool according to my parents (they validate your parking, too, which is good, because you will likely pay $10 to park anywhere).


Probably my favorite feature of the Arena District is the original doorway to Columbus Union Station, which existed on the site from 1897-1976. It resembles a mini (and not so lavish) Arc du Triomphe, and I can remember being fascinated as a child that this beautiful archway existed by the Old Ohio Penn (the area around the Penn resembled a jungle in those days). Now, it is shown off in its full glory and is the entrance to a pretty park.

Seen from afar, surrounded by the official flower of Ohio, the orange barrel.

Check out the angels, the marble. So cool.

Here's a close up of one corner with a very patriotic eagle seal. Isn't the stonework at the top of the capital beautiful?

Columbus is cool.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Thrilled with my knitting

So I am thrilled with my knitting prowess as I have finished the back of the Michael Kors cardigan. Here's a picture.


I've started the left front and I think that it will be quicker than the back - not quite so wide, you see, and with that huge shawl collar much more decreasing. I'd show you a picture of what I've done, but it's not all that exciting, just a 2x2 rib with a small length of 1x1 rib where the buttons will be sewn on. Also, I am loving knitting with this Caron Simply Soft. I've had very few problems with it and it really is soft and cuddly.

Speaking of decreases, I found a great reference on when I was trying to figure out which stitches to use when I worked my armhole decreases. On the Decreases page not only do you get to see what the decrease looks like, but you can watch videos on how to stitch them using both English and Continental stitch. There is a similar page for increases. I can't say enough about this site. Whenever I'm unsure of a direction or how to work a certain stitch I can invariably find the answer here. Bookmark this site. It's a keeper.

Also in the great website category is, "the guide to the best free knitting patterns on the web." Most free pattern sites aren't much to look at, just lists of pattern names. This site has 15 colorful pictures of really lovely knitting projects like the popular Odessa hat found on Ravelry and a Basic Sock Recipe by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee. Really cool.


This picture shows the fallen petals from my neighbor's flowering plum and cherry trees. The alleyway has been a riot of purple and white. When you walk down it, you get the sensation of walking down the aisle in a very lavish wedding. Summer is here!
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