Thursday, December 31, 2015

7 Design Trends We Need to Leave Behind in 2015

Happy New Year everyone! If you've followed along for the past couple of months, you'll know that my husband and I are selling our home next year and moving back to the "burbs".

I'm looking forward to starting a fresh pallet, design-wise, but it got me thinking of some popular design trends I would love to see left behind in 2015:

1. Keep Calm

Stop telling me what to do!


2. Animal Heads Everywhere

I'm looking at you, Target.
It's time to retire the faux antlers.


3. Industrial Decor

Unless you live in an abandoned factory or in a Restoration Hardware catalog, large, rusty pieces of machinery parts don't belong in your home. 


4. Pallet Furniture

Just. Stop.


5. Tiny Houses

Aren't these essentially trailers or mobile homes? Why is this a thing?


6. Shabby Rustic Farmhouse Chic

We are not elderly women who live in vintage farmhouses.
(cough...Joanna Gaines)


7. Crazy Gallery Walls

Keep Calm and Dial It Down.


Are there any design trends you would like to see left behind in 2015?  

I hope that you, your families, and friends have a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2016; Happy New Year everyone!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

2015 Garden in Review

This past gardening season wasn’t as cohesive as I wanted it to be, but it was definitely a learning experience!

The kitchen upgrade earlier this year took a lot of the starch, time, and energy out of my sails, so I didn’t devote as much of myself to the garden later in the year.  I know hindsight is 20/20 and wished I knew we were getting ready to list the house this coming year, as I would have enjoyed the garden more.

Of the 2 or 3 things I am going to miss most about where we live now, the garden is one of them. It always is. Still, I am going to plan for a garden next year, as you never know how long your house will sit on the market, especially in a rural area.


This year’s winter sowing was a disappointment. I used a different approach and a different growing medium and both were a flop. Next year, it’s back to a soilless growing mix and I will try a combo of growing in cups and tubs.

Still, I had a ton of tomatoes come up and that’s what matters most, right? :-)


This year I tried a few new things and fava beans were one of them. What I DIDN’T know is that you really need to plant them very close together (at least with the Broad Windsor Fava Beans I grew), as what came up were lanky, vine-y things. I only got a handful of beans out of what I planted, as they were too far spaced out and not enough of them were planted.

I learned my greens DO NOT like the sunnier, front beds.  I grew 2 beds of greens and only got harvest really from one: the shadier back bed.

Late Spring/Early Summer

Lot’s of new things happened this spring! I grew and harvested a new favorite: Fingerling Potatoes! I am definitely growing those again next year.

The Bristow Black Raspberry gave me a nice harvest…about a pint or two. Still, none of them made it inside, as all berries were eaten on the spot!

The Mammoth Melting Sugar Peas were a good, solid stand-by.

My hollyhocks from the previous year finally bloomed! Heaven. Supposedly, they come back for a third year in milder areas. Here's hoping!


Last year, I grew a cover crop of hairy vetch to see how my tomatoes would do in the bed afterwards. It turns out pretty darn good! I planted my heirloom, winter sowed tomato plants in them and they did much better than my hybrids. The beds had less erosion afterwards as well.

I stuck to my word and only grew tomatoes I would eat. I didn’t have the 250 lb. haul from the previous year….maybe half of that, but it was still enough for me and my husband to enjoy and can/preserve.

Zucchini were new to me this year as well. I know…how have I gone this long and never grown zucchini? I liked them a lot, but was plagued by squash bugs and squash vine borers. Next year, I will use crop covers to keep the critters out!

I tried White Wonder cucumbers this year. They were a gift seed pack from one of the seed companies I ordered from. Check out these alien looking things!

I liked them though and think I will grow them again next year from some fun looking pickles. They didn’t do that great where they were planted this year. Too much shade.

My garlic did MUCH better than the previous year where it did not get as much sun. I have another batch growing in the front beds as we speak. I ordered some new cloves to plant and made a point to label them this time.

Late Summer/Early Fall

Heat and lack of rain were a big problem this year. We had a wet spring, but June-September was brutal. I learned how to pump water from my rain barrels with an electric pump, and my tomatoes were taken over early by blight.

It was strange this year. The crows that plagued me last year were scarce. They gave a weak attempt at stealing some green tomatoes early in the season, but after that they kept away. I think they figured out that a "mean garden witch" lives at this house and will run out and chase them away if they hang out in the yard or near the garden. I know that crows are very smart and can remember and even identify people, so I'm hoping this memory will carry over to next year and they will stay away!

My “mysterious monster vine” that volunteered and took over my cukes turned out to be boring, decorative gourds. Still, they were fun for Halloween and fall.

My bush beans did great as usual and had enough from 2 beds to can about 10-12 quarts.

That’s it for this year! I didn’t plant beets and carrots like I wanted, but I still had a great season. I took some time to take notes of what I would and wouldn’t do for next year:
  • Remove as much of the yellow coneflower from the back bed – it’s a beast!
  • Put down row covers over zucchini – keep out squash vine borers and squash bugs
  • Put down Merit on irises in spring – keep out iris borers
  • Plant tomatoes in a single row instead of double row – I think my toms would do better this way with having more sunlight and airflow
  • Don’t use rabbit poop! – I did this this year and felt like my plants didn’t like it…they didn’t thrive like previous years, despite all the other things I do
  • Plant greens in back beds where they get more shade – they don’t like sun!
  • Protect zinnia sprouts from slugs – Every year I grow zinnias and every year the slugs eat most of them before they are big enough to fend them off
  • Watch for ants eating phlox sprouts – We do actually have fire ants up here and they LOVE newly tender phlox sprouts. They almost killed the one plant I have.
  • Plant fava beans close together – they don’t need much space at all
  • Don’t use Japanese Beetle trap – I tried this this year and felt like the damn thing BROUGHT more beetles to the yard than anything else
  • Add as much organic matter to back beds when planting – I don’t think this will matter much, as I won’t be planting new plants due to potential house selling
  • Add wood ashes to garden beds & compost – I didn’t do that this year and could see a difference
  • Start parsley seeds as early winter sowing, they don’t like direct seeding – And won’t sprout if planted later
  • Spray hollyhocks with fungicide early for rust – Get them early BEFORE you see rust

Monday, December 28, 2015

Gratuitous Kitteh Monday

Ever try to unwrap Christmas presents in a house with cats?

I'm convinced that all you need to get a cat for Christmas is an empty box and some tissue paper = Heaven.

We had a very low-key Christmas, which is exactly what I wanted. This past weekend was spent fixing my sagging floating shelves in the kitchen, which was a pain in the arse, but necessary.

Here's hoping next year is filled will fa-la-la-follies and holiday parties in either a new or rental home!

Friday, December 25, 2015

Bumbleberry Jam

Many people save their jam and jelly making for the winter time. When the weather is cold (well, usually), it is so much more pleasant and better for you and your electric bill to stand over a pot of boiling water than in the summer.

I'm one of those people. Canning jellies and jams in the winter not only helps heat up your house, it brings the added benefit of humidity through steam into your home. Having moved to the Northeast from Florida, I never thought I'd live to see the day where I'd want to BRING humidity into the house, but hubby and I sure found the benefits of it last winter.

I had started working from home full time earlier in the year and was running the heat and fire place all day long. It didn't take long for our skin and our hardwood floors to start showing evidence of a very dry and warm winter house. We brought in a humidifier and that helped our skin, but it took most of this past summer to bring our floors back to what they were before. You see, hardwood floors will shrink and gap in low humidity environments, which made me freak out last year. I actually thought our house foundation was moving or sinking! They gapped pretty large in some areas and never fully went back to normal, so we learned our lesson.

Humidity in the winter time is GOOD.

Anyway, back to making jams and jellies! I am one of those people who harvest and freeze all of the soft fruit I gather over the summer. Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, sour cherries, figs, and even peaches all are frozen for a later time. I do make a few batches of jam or jellies over the summer, but most are saved for colder days.

One of my favorite jam recipes is Bumbleberry Jam. This is a recipe where you get to use all the bits and bags of leftover fruit that aren't enough in themselves to make a batch of one flavor, so you combine them all in a "bumble jumble"!

It's never the same ratio, but I always use the total amount of fruit. One word of advice: go light on the raspberries, as they have a tendency to overpower any mixed fruit jam.

Kathy's Bumbleberry Jam
Makes: 6 pints

*8 cups mixed, soft fruit (strawberries, cherries, blueberries, raspberries, etc.)
7 cups sugar
4 tablespoons bottled lemon juice
1 1/2 boxes powdered pectin

*Note: If you are using frozen fruit, thaw first and then drain off liquid.

Mash fruit with a potato masher or pulse one or two times in a food processor. You don't want to puree the fruit, but leave a few large pieces here and there. Add fruit to a large pot with the pectin and lemon juice. Stir to combine. Bring fruit to a hard boil; stirring constantly, and boil for one minute. Add sugar all at once and bring back to a hard boil; stirring constantly, and boil for one minute. Remove from heat and skim off any foam if there is any.

Ladle jam into prepared jars, add prepared lids, and boil in a BWB for 10 minutes.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Gratuitous Kitteh Monday

I know it's not Monday, but tis' the season to be busy!

Chaz may not like his Christmas sweater, but he is excited for Santa to come!

Friday, December 18, 2015

How to Glam Up Your LED Lightbulbs - Part 2

I really wish there were more decorative options for light bulbs. I mean, I KNOW there are more options out there, but they are super expensive.

So you all remember my Phase I, glammed up bulbs right? I took regular LED bulbs and removed all the warning and product information using nail polish remover.

They looked fine, but I decided to step it up a notch and introduce some more bling with gold, metallic spray paint.

First, I grabbed some painter's tape, Glad Press-n-Seal, and my LED bulbs:

I used the painter's tape to cover the plug end of each bulb and used the Press-n-Seal to cover the glass portion, leaving the base exposed like this:

I used Press-n-Seal to cover the bulbs versus the painter's tape, as it was more flexible and able to mold to the bulb's shape better. 

I then took the bulb's outside and gave them some love with a metallic spray paint. Don't they look like Christmas ornaments? So pretty!

I let them dry for about an hour and then removed the tape and Press-n-Seal. Depending on how well of a job you do with preparation, you will most likely have some touch-up work to do afterwards like I did.

I used some paint thinner and a q-tip to remove any over spray on the glass portion, and used a small paintbrush to touch up any portions of the base that didn't get covered. To do this, take a plastic, disposable cup and spray the spray paint into the bottom of the cup until you have a little puddle of paint. I used this to dip my paintbrush into for touch-up.

After the touch-ups are dry, screw those babies back in, step back and enjoy!

I think they turned out fabulous, don't you? The only irony to all of this is when I have the fixture turned on without the dimmer on, you really can't see the gold at all, it comes across as black. They really look their best without the light on, which suites me fine, as we rarely use this fixture.

Another way to add an extra little bit of glamour to an otherwise boring light fixture. You're welcome!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Garden in...December?!!

I shouldn't even be writing this post, as the garden is usually under either ice, snow, or both right about this time of year, but WTH is going on with the weather this winter?

Today, when Christmas is next week, I am outside taking pictures of things GROWING in my garden while I stroll around in a short-sleeved shirt. Last night, we slept with the windows open and the ceiling fan on! I could have stayed down in Florida for this! :-)

But, I know I shouldn't speak too soon, as this weekend is bringing us temperatures in the 20's, which is more like it. Anyway, I thought I'd take advantage of this odd phenomenon to post some pics about the garden:

The back beds are growing cover crops of hairy vetch. I grew it in a bed reserved for tomatoes last year, as hairy vetch and tomatoes are supposed to be the ultimate BFFs. The tomatoes that came out of that bed afterwards were amazing! When it is done growing, you hack it down and compost on top of it, then plant your tomatoes. Besides healthier plants, I noticed MUCH less soil erosion in the beds that had hairy vetch versus the ones that didn't.

The garlic is doing great. I have Inechelium Red, Italian Softneck, Red Toch, and Lorz Italian growing in two beds. The sad thing is I might not be here to harvest this garlic if we sell the house and move before late June/early July next year. 

More hairy vetch. Ugh, that wild Japanese honeysuckle on the fence in the background HAS to be pulled off and hacked down this winter. It is HUGELY invasive and aggressive, and I swear it even grows when it is snowing!

It's funny, I was going to dig up, pot, and bring that rosemary inside for the winter. My plants from last year didn't make it, but so far they are loving the mild temps.

Well, that's it for the garden in December. Hopefully, I won't be writing a garden post for January or February, unless it's for winter sowing!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Gratuitous Kitteh Monday

Chaz is such a mellow, laid-back kitteh, but is especially stoic and easily offended. We often joke that when he disappears down to the basement for hours at a time, he is actually writing poetry, smoking hand-rolled cigarettes, and listening to Dylan or Ginsberg.

We are convinced that he is such a Dylan fan, that I (badly) Photoshopped these images as a joke. See if you can spot Chaz!

Monday, December 07, 2015

Gratuitous Kitteh Monday

This is why we are not putting up a Christmas tree this year...

Although our other kittehs were pretty well behaved with the Christmas trees we've had in the past, Leo the Kitten is the exception. I just KNOW he'd climb right to the top with ornaments flying and breaking everywhere! 

I'm sure there'd be tinsel we'd have to pull out of his butt at SOME point as well.

Tinsel Butt

So, we've decided to skip the mess until next year when he will "hopefully" be more grown-up and well behaved. 


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