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Of Cobalt Blue Bottle Trees & Gardens During a Storm… plus fairy rock gardens

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the finished product, before the storm hit.

Observation from my soon-to-be graduating high school senior, quoting Parks & Recreation, when I told him I was thinking about getting the bottle tree the other day:

Connor: “We have the most colorful, eccentric, and eclectic yard in the neighborhood, with all the flowers and hammocks and art and stuff, Mom- I like it, ‘treat yo’ self'”

Maisie (poking her head out from around the corner and lisping in her toddler voice): “YEAH! TWEET YO’ SELF!”

(UPDATE: THE BOY HAS SINCE GRADUATED- STILL UGLY CRYING OVER IT, WILL POST ABOUT IT LATER)

treatyoself

Ironically, the comedian Retta, who played Donna on the show, said she was ‘so over’ people using the phrase this week. My kids didn’t get the memo. It’s become part of our culture, if a teen AND a three year old are using it.

So… my friend delivered the items. His mom passed away recently and he is rehoming her stuff. We also received some punched tin and steel stars, plus other gewgaws I will be redoing for outdoor art projects. He has river rock in her garden we will hopefully get for the new landscaping project we’re planning this summer.

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Steel star, punched tin star, and a cute birdhouse that we will repaint for the garden!

I LOVE outdoor projects! IDK why, but I enjoy them far more than indoor things. Gardening and hard work are so good for the soul and body.

A storm, the remnants of Tropical Storm Alberto, was positioned to hit our area of the Great Lakes yesterday, so we had to work fast before the storm blew in.

I had an old birch tree that we cut down years ago after it died. Later, we decorated the stump with shards of broken pottery, strawberry plants, succulents and used it as a planter for years. It finally rotted away totally, so this was where the new tree needed to live.

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my sad old stump, like the book The Giving Tree, she’s been repurposed many times since she died-with it’s shards of pottery crumbling away from it now, from the last incarnation as a planter- and the oregano, columbine, and lemon balm growing wild-

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R digging out the old stump. My garden’s been absolutely neglected due to health issues and is being re-landscaped this summer.

Once planted, we discovered that the tree was missing 6 blue wine bottles. A friend generously donated the remainder to me-. My dad and I finished the decorating of the tree… and we were very pleased with the results.

We didn’t get the labels off til the next day, as the storm blew in before that could happen.


SO, the next day, we put down a rock garden beneath the bottle tree, planted some flowers, and installed little plants and fairy things for a fairy garden. The rocks provided the tree with additional stability in case of a wind storm.

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Little fairy garden

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Fairy house and ‘tree’ nestled in the rocks

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after the rain

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so much more to do, but she’s in love with the whimsical garden and so are we!

Maisie was absolutely enchanted with it.

We also planted 2 types of heirloom tomatoes and some cucumbers in the purple ‘bunny bed’. My kid expects fresh cukes to be growing on the fence every year- they’re her favorite things to eat.

We have SO MANY more beds to clean and re-plant/landscape. Since we use a majority of reclaimed/recycled materials in our landscaping, things have to be updated or redone every year or so.

I am having health issues, so it is slow going. Hoping to get back outside tomorrow and start gardening again!

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Purple Hamsa DIY Birdhouse Art Project

I received a birdhouse from a friend this week and re-did it to live on the hammock post.

It was originally a plain wooden birdhouse, nothing particularly special about it.
Maisie and I spray painted it purple, painted the brackets a hot pink, then attached it to the top of the post.

I wasn’t happy with it, so I drew a Hamsa which is good luck against evil eye in many faiths and cultures, using sharpies. I did it freehand and it would have looked better, but Maisie insisted on swinging on the hammock, shaking the post as I drew.

I was perched precariously on a step stool at the time- and I have really bad vertigo lately from weird ear crystal issues- so I just wanted to get this done with.

I love the way it turned out! It’s looks pretty hippy dippy ūüôā

 

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Hot Pink Mr Bunny Garden Makeover and “Fairies Are Super Cool” vid

The garden/landscaping project continues!

We had a forlorn little terracotta garden rabbit that was hidden in the brush, unpainted, and I wanted to paint it and give the poor old thing a makeover.

he was originally something like the above- I didn’t take a before picture, though.

Maisie INSISTED on choosing the spray paint colors this go ’round, so he had to be hot pink. I didn’t do the greatest job with the spray painting, I honestly just wanted to get it over with. However, it looked really creepy without ‘real’ looking eyes, so the child insisted Mr. Bun get them.

 

I didn’t have any craft paint, so we used sharpies, which turned out to her satisfaction, as far as hot pink bunnies go.

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The made-over Mr Bun

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he also got a nose and mouth

He still looks a little sad and lonely, but at least he now has pizzazz and eyes.

Maisie was very pleased with this project, so all’s well that end’s well!

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NOT a beach day, ballerina…

Uhoh-

R called:

Maisie informed him that she found her bathing suit upstairs and after ballet, it was going to be a beach day.

I’m sorry, but today is a fairy garden and blue bottle tree landscaping day, kid.

I may have to compromise and fill up one of those little blue kiddie pools while we work-

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Happy Happy Day! Blue Bottle Garden Trees

I’ve been wanting on of these things for years!

Now, the ones in the pics aren’t MY tree, I just found a smaller one that will fit a teeny hillock on the NW corner of my garden.

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I’m obsessed with blue bottle trees like these- and blue glass evil eye trees

My friend is delivering it in about 30 minutes. Granted, mine is much smaller- about 16″ at base and 5 feet tall, but it is the perfect size for where I want to place it.

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pic of the one I bought from my friend, minus the bottles

I plan on making a fairy garden for Maisie nearby.

I love lots of whimsy in my gardens and Maisie loves helping outside. We live in a very artsy, laid-back beach town- so growing food on your lawn and sculptures are pretty much the norm in my book.

 

My gnomes will appreciate this, too.
BTW, my mysterious gnome problem ceased about 2 yrs ago.

 

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Maisie’s 1st Chestnut Gathering Time At Papa’s Farm!

freshly gathered chestnuts!

I haven’t been posting much lately because Maisie’s going through major teething PLUS my iPhone app for WordPress had been on the fritz. I couldn’t post photos without having it crash- but I deleted the app and re-downloaded it and now I’m back in business!

my ‘chestnut can’, which is basically a tin can attached to a long stick, so that you don’t have to bend to pick them up. Next to it is the hedgehog porcupine chestnut burr filled with chestnuts

baskets filled with chestnuts

My dad has a farm about 14 miles away from our house. Every fall, the chestnut trees drop their prickly balls filled with nuts. Picking them from the ground has to happen DAILY for about 2 weeks, or the deer/dogs/other critters will eat them all up. It’s hell on the back, so we use these cans attached to long sticks to retrieve them.

My father is selling them this year for $4.00/lb. If anyone wants any, let me know. I can send them via USPS flat rate priority boxes.

Maisie exploring at my dad’s farm

Maisie had a fantastic time running after my dad’s Aussie, Trooper, and playing in the grass. I worried about her pricking her hands on the sharp chestnut burrs. By the end of the day, we were ALL exhausted from picking and chasing after this child.

my father’s dog, Trooper, running to greet Maisie.

Maisie following Trooper out to where the men are gathering chestnuts

she spots them and starts running toward the trees

  
  

  
  
  

  
  
  

  


22

Dumpster Diaries: More back room madness- and psychological self-realizations about my hoarding problem

I took a nap at 7:30 pm with baby. We woke at 10 and I decided to sneak a few more bags into the dumpster.

my nap partner

Filled an ENTIRE GARBAGE BAG with just BRAS-

How the HELL did I accumulate that many brassieres?!

I didn’t throw away this strange¬†one I bought in Amsterdam over a decade ago. There used to be a little handmade exotic undies shop in the same building as my apartment. It no longer fits me, but it’s a souvenir- of what, I don’t know.

Another bag was filled with flip flops and shoes from at least a decade ago… I still have tens of dozens of more pairs of shoes to weed through. Imelda Marcos doesn’t have anything on me- except that she was more organized and had HELP.

The third bag was just old blue jean mini skirts, probably circa 2008-2009. Some were so short I have no idea how I sat down without my bits and pieces poking out. NEVER wearing that again- some looked brand new- OUT they went.

I found silk duvets and beautiful cotton linens and duvet covers- that had been folded and put into boxes AND SHOVED INTO A CORNER in that back room sooo long ago that I’d forgotten I owned them.

I found over the knee boots, from France, Italy, Spain, Brazil- most of them leather, all of them designer. Circa 2007-2009.

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horrible fashion choices in Oslo, Norway 2003

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Oslo, Norway hotel room- notice my mess already accumulating on desk

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I’m not naturally tidy

I noticed that my expensive clothing collection stops around the same time that I acquired R. I guess having a boy toy vs having nice things isn’t mutually exclusive. After 2010, I started my “Earth Mama” phase. I wore less¬†makeup, became more nature girl.

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Garden and greenhouse 2013

He built all the raised veggie boxes in the yard and installed a small greenhouse for me. We acquired more dogs and I had a baby. I quit going out when I met him and my drinking (which wasn’t a lot before- I am not a big drinker) dwindled to nearly nothing. My house started to get renovated in earnest (he’s big about doing ‘projects’ with me).

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my preferred footwear went from Gucci and Louboutin to grubby macintosh boots

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garden glamma 2013

I remember one year, early in our relationship, when I took him to NYC to meet my ‘famous’ friends. He was not impressed. In fact, he was kind of like the little kid from the story “The Emperor’s New Clothes”. He found them shallow and strange and unreal- totally turned him off. They, on the other hand, LOVED him because he was so ‘strong and silent’- which meant, he didn’t fall for their bullshit.

That opened my eyes, too… in a very good way. I am glad I am throwing most of my past away. There are plenty of good memories, but a lot of them are also painful ones. There’s something really awful about living a life/working in the public eye and around people who only value a person for their body of work and/or BODY/FACE/BEAUTY. It’s an empty existence- like chasing a ghost. It’s only fun until the next party, next show, next role, next next next…

See this book? I'm one of the contributors and have a whole page dedicated to me lol

See this book? I’m one of the contributors and have a whole page dedicated to me lol

Someone wrote to me and wanted to help me eBay my stuff- Nope, no, noooo. If I need, I will do it myself. (I actually was one of the first ambassadors for eBay, many years ago when it first began. I helped write the first how-to use eBay book).

People can dumpster dive my dumpster if they want. They can pick my trash. I’m focused on THROWING THINGS AWAY… nothing else. Holding ONTO stuff, with the intention of selling it later, is one of the reasons why I am IN the situation that I am in now.

Time to feng shui my life. NOW.

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Serious Weirdness: GNOMES keep showing up out of NOWHERE in my yard!!!

The newest batch of mystery gnomes- even Maisie doesn't know what to make of them!

The latest¬†batch of mystery gnomes- even Maisie doesn’t know what to make of them!

This has been an on-going problem for about a year now.

I bought a funny gnome last year and placed it in my yard. I KNOW where that one came from…

this was my first gnome.  I bought him and I know where he comes from.

this was my first gnome. I bought him and I know where he comes from. The writing beneath his feet says “Say Hello to my Little Friend”

Suddenly, another appeared. ¬†I didn’t think too much of it- and I asked everyone in the house, no¬†one¬†here purchased any additional gnomes.

this was the first

this was the first “mystery” gnome to show up. He is unassuming and I didn’t find him for quite some time…

Not long after THAT, I found ANOTHER one that looked like it was smoking weed in my garden- I KNEW that couldn’t be a fluke. ¬†I don’t even know where to buy a marijuana smoking gnome, for god sakes!

Again, I question the people in my house, folks on Facebook, family members- no one ‘fesses up.

the weed smoking gnome that really started to get me rather freaked out- he showed up this year, earlier in the spring

this is the weed smoking gnome that really started to get me rather freaked out- he showed up this year, earlier in the spring

Months went by and I forgot about the¬†previous gnome¬†incidents until this evening, when I¬†discovered not ONE, but THREE little gnomes sitting in a messy garden bed near my steps. ¬†They are “Hear No Evil, See no Evil, Speak no Evil” gnomes. I was told by the manny that they’d been there for about a week- I didn’t even NOTICE THEM (as usual) til today. ¬†I’ve not been very vigilant about weeding my garden beds this year, so I have no idea whether there may be more of them in the underbrush or what…

the three little gnomes that appeared today

the three little gnomes that appeared today

People have suggested that I ‘take them on adventures’- but I don’t have just ONE gnome, I have an ENTIRE FREAKING COLONY FORMING!! ¬†If I took them anywhere, it would look like the gnome version of Jim Jones’ colony in Guyana.

I might as well make gnome-sized grape kool-aid and resign myself to this every-growing invasion of gnome-titude.

Whoever my gnome benefactor(s) is/are, thank you. ¬†You’re twisted people who obviously delight in driving me crazy.

I am officially perplexed.  This is one of the funniest, weirdest, longest running mysteries to ever happen to me.

5

White Truffle Stracotto (Italian Beef Pot Roast) with Fresh Sage, Mushrooms, Fig Balsamic, and Brandy

Truffled Stracatto with fresh sage, mushrooms, fig balsamic

Truffled Stracotto with fresh sage, mushrooms, fig balsamic, and brandy

I was fascinated by this recipe by Giada De Laurentiis, but did not have everything on hand, so I improvised (recipe provided after the history lesson):

I am OBSESSED with food history. ¬†I have to search for the history of every bit of food that I eat. ¬†I don’t know if there is a name for this particular oddity, but I am sure there is one somewhere.

Per this page I learned the following: http://www.inparma.it/english/parma-food/traditional-products/who-invented-stracotto-pot-roast.aspx

History of Parma Cuisine
Footnotes to Parmesan Gastronomy
“Who invented Stracotto pot roast?”

That braised beef or Stracotto (pot roast) is a typically Italian dish, savory and worthy of the best in our culinary tradition, goes without saying. One might debate its origins, if it comes from Piedmont and the way they prepare it in Saluzzo with Barolo, or from Tuscany, in which case it is called “stufato”, or whether it is from Parma. Obviously, because the famous anolini of Parma require Stracotto in their preparation, it could be solemnly stated, once and for all, that Parma is the home of this dish. In any case, among collections of old recipes, I found one that is also listed by Cougnet and which, perhaps to make everyone happy, is simple called “Stracotto all’Italiana”.

Here is that early version of this dish: “Lard a nice fillet of beef, marinate it in a dish with marsala, salt, pepper, fines herbes and truffle trimmings for at least four hours. An hour and a half before serving, in a casserole with butter and lard, brown thinly-sliced onion, carrot, celery and bouquet garni, add the fillet, moisten with the marinade garnish, add rich meat stock, cover with greased paper and simmer, basting occasionally. Remove the fillet, place in a oven-proof dish and pour the braising juices, pour over the meat and add two cups of velout? sauce, place in the front of the oven and moisten to reduce the temperature.

“Prepare a long elegant bed of rice, artfully sculpted and place on a long serving plate. Cut the center piece from the fillet, leaving a base one centimeter high, return the cut piece to its original place, place the fillet on the rice, edged Italian-style with spinach, celery and carrot, alternating the colors. Toss with Madeira sauce, white truffles and serve with the rest of the sauce on the side.”

It goes without saying that Moreau de Saint Mary, Napoleon’s governor of the Parma States from 1802 to 1806, also found it difficult to resist the joys of Parmesan cooking and its stracotto and anolini “dont on est tr√®s friend dans les Etats de Parme” and of which he was very fond. He certainly was not the first Frenchman to be won over by the delicacies of Parma.

From G. Gonizzi, Le memorie del Ciambellano. Storie di cucina nel Ducato. I, in Parma Capitale Alimentare, 43, 2000, pp 45-61.

Although I had red wine on hand, I ALSO had a 10 month old child pulling all the pans out of the cupboards as I tried to cook. I *did* have an open bottle of brandy and some truffle oil and balsamic fig vinegar in my ‘vinegar, cooking booze, and fancy schmancy oils’ cupboard, so I improvised. ¬†I also have fresh sage, chives, thyme, and other herbs growing outside in my garden. ¬†I opted for sage today, because it’s delicious paired with fig and truffles… and the sage in my garden looks beautiful right now.

sage

fresh sage from my garden, growing in a wild tangle of arugula- my mom smuggled the arugula seeds back from Italy in her underwear some years ago and now it’s a delicious weed.

The result was a delicious, savory, melt-in-your-mouth/knock-yer-socks-off pot roast that I served over basmati rice.

  • White Truffle Stracotto (Italian Beef Pot Roast) with Fresh Sage, Mushrooms, Fig Balsamic, and Brandy
    adapted from Giada De Laurentiis
  • 4-5 lb. beef chuck roast
  • Pink Himalayan sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper (mine was brought back from the pepper farms in the Philippines by my mom)
  • 1/3 c olive oil
  • 3 onions, chopped
  • 8 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 16 ounces of low sodium beef broth
  • 3/4 c. brandy
  • 1/4 c. fig balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha
  • 1 package of sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh sage or 1 tsp dried sage
  • 4 tablespoons white truffle oil

Preheat oven to 350¬įF.

Generously season the beef on both sides with salt and pepper. In a heavy 6-quart pot or Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add the beef and cook until browned on all sides, about 12 minutes. Remove the beef and set aside.

Reduce the heat to medium. Add the onions. Cook, stirring frequently, until tender, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute until aromatic. Add the brandy and balsamic fig vinegar and scrape up the brown bits that cling to the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Stir in the broth and sriracha. Return the beef to the pot and bring the liquid to a boil. Cover the pot and transfer to the oven. Add mushrooms about 2 hours into cooking time- Cook until the beef is fork-tender, about 3 hours, turning the beef over halfway through and adding more beef broth, as needed.

ready to come out of the oven

ready to come out of the oven

Transfer the beef to a cutting board. Tent with foil and let stand for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, spoon any excess fat off the top of the pan juices. Using an immersion blender, place about 1/2 of the pan veggies and juices into another bowl and blend the remaining pan juices and vegetables until pureed but with a good texture. Add the sage and truffle oil and the reserved whole veggies and juices. Bring to sauce to a simmer and simmer for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Additionally, you can drizzle more fig balsamic on as well…

the pan veggies and juices all whizzed together with the stick blender

the pan veggies and juices all whizzed together with the stick blender

Cut the beef into 1-inch pieces and place on a platter. Spoon some of the sauce over the meat and serve the remaining sauce on the side.

ready to be cut in 1

ready to be cut in 1″ pieces and drenched in the sauce

I served this over basmati rice, with a wild arugula salad on the side (I needed to weed the beds and wild arugula is my primary ‘weed’).

this arugula became the accompanying salad...

this arugula became the accompanying salad…