Archive for January, 2010

My friend Inky has decided to give away some fabulous prize goodies via her very stylish blog.

Visit her site today and enter the contest. All you have to do is tell her your most romantic moment. I figured even if I didn’t win the prize, I still had the gift of running through all the amazing and romantic moments I’ve spent with Tom over the years….and now I’m all sentimental and mushy inside…


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In the pull of the moon
and the weight of the stars,
you anchor me with all that you are
Like the stemming of the tide,
the moon’s attraction to the sea,
you are, you are all these things.

~ Jodie Manross

Well, I can’t believe it’s the full moon again already. Is it me, or do they just come faster and faster as you get older? In my mind, they are becoming like the flighty images on a ‘View-Master’ I had as a kid – click – click – click.

Despite the feeling of being rushed through time, and no matter what’s happening in my life, I never fail to step outside and stand in the light of the full moon late at night when it’s high in the sky (unless it’s cloudy). Whatever the events of the day were, I stop on the full moon and take inventory. What have I accomplished since the New Moon? What’s coming full circle, or still unfinished? What’s different than it was the last full moon when I stood barefoot in the damp grass and held hands quietly with Tom in the moonlight? Sometimes I light a candle or burn some incense, throw some sage on the fire…whatever it takes to make me mindful of the issues that came and went and the milestones that I managed to pass, even if ‘passing’ was only a limp or a crawl.

The happiest additions to my growing jungle since the last full moon were both gifts from Tom (yes, he is wonderful):

The first one, a baby phalaenopsis, which can only be described as precious or dainty. It’s the cotton candy of orchids and it’s adorable!

phalaenopsis orchid

* Keep in mind that I’m five feet tall and have tiny little munchkin thumbs!

The other one is a new breed for me – cymbidium.

cymbidium orchid

When Tom brought it home, I set it in the living room with the other orchids. Late last night, I got an email from my local Walter Anderson Nursery about a free class on the care of cymbidium orchids. Serendipitous no? So off I went this morning and this is what I learned:

These orchids NEED SUNSHINE! It will be an outdoor orchid and prefers filtered sunlight. I may leave it under the lemon tree or the grape vines, or maybe on the patio…we’ll see what it likes. They don’t need as much water as the indoor relatives and like to be ‘slightly dry’ before you water again. Also, they like to be left alone. Maybe this is why I love orchids so much, they’re mildly anti-social and bloom best when not fussed with.

I learned more about the food thing too: In September or October you start feeding the next bloom. In spring, until fall, you feed to promote plant growth. Apparently, orchids have a pretty good appetite and need to be fed if you want them to bloom again – even though you sometimes have to wait a couple years between blooming cycles. This wait will be longer after you re-pot, which should happen every few years as your plant grows out of its home. Anyway, back to the food…

While feeding for plant growth (from spring through fall) use a 30-10-10 food, which is higher in nitrogen. When feeding for blooms (from fall to spring) use a 10-30-20 mix. The plant food number codes aren’t complicated…the first number is always the nitrogen content, the second – phosphorous, the third – potassium. Plants can produce their own food, but need these minerals in differing quantities to do so. This guy Jack explains it pretty well I think. If you have an orchid that has refused to re-bloom, try a food boost!

Of course they had some outrageously priced food for me to buy while I was there, but I’m waiting another couple weeks because of a vow I made with Inky, a blogging friend who seduced me into a “no spender bender” commitment. When I go back for the food or another freebie class, there’s a dark purple slipper orchid with my name on it! and some more seed starting mix, and perhaps a new…..

cymbidium orchid

Happy Full Moon everybody, and while you’re out there howling at it, don’t forget to say hello to Mars. It’s especially close to the earth now and right up there next to the moon, shining bright red in the silvery night.

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Of scenes of nature, fields and mountains;
Of skies, so beauteous after a storm—and at night the moon so unearthly bright,
Shining sweetly, shining down, where we dig the trenches and gather the heaps,
I dream, I dream, I dream.

from In Midnight Sleep – Walt Whitman

Sundays are my favorite day to garden. Lately, I haven’t been able to do much, what with being out of town and it raining so much, and another storm coming on Tuesday. Today was a sunny day and I ventured out to assess the storm damage and see what dirt I could manage to get under my fingernails.

The entire lawn is a swamp with water standing in puddles thanks to our California clay deep down keeping the rain from soaking in any further. The rain bucket (huge trash can) was entirely full and I managed to fill up two more buckets after emptying out all the vessels that were sprinkled around the yard. Next year, or when the budget allows, I’d like to have the whole rain chain/barrel set up…but it’s expensive, and for now I’m making due using the passion fruit vine as a rain chain.
a bucket, dear Liza, of rain
After I got my rainwater situation under control, I dumped the unused dirt out of the wine boxes I used last season for pumpkins. They need a good drying out and then I’ll oil them well with linseed oil and use them again this spring. When the boxes are finally unusable I take the ends off and nail them to the outside of the potting shed. I love wine boxes and can’t have enough of them scattered around being used for one thing or another…mostly books and plants.

Also needing attention was a sorely neglected Malabar Chestnut that I had set outside and forgotten. By the time I got back out there most of it was dead and the dirt had washed out of the pot. Poor Baby!

half dead 'money tree' or Malabar Chestnut
She got a good trimming off of the dead stuff, which left only one small stem with roots

After a gentle re-potting, she sits quietly in the infirmary window.

The broom corn has completely taken over the pot that held the juncus effusus spiralis which I bought on one of the many nursery visits with my friend Andrea, a fellow green thumb. It reminded me of my own hair…anyways, it needed help immediately

broom corn mess

I took the entire clump out of the pot and cut the grass away and divided the juncus into smaller pieces. This is a great way to propagate perennials. I use an old bread knife if I just cannot divide things with my hands or pull them apart with a garden fork. It seems aggressive but most plants will bounce back with a little love.

juncus effusus 'Spiralis'

Now, where there was one, I have five – fabulous!

Other exciting news from the garden today:
The first jasmine bloom of the season – right outside my bedroom window 🙂
The rosemary is blooming – one of my favorite shades of lavender:

rosemary blossoms

The swiss chard seems to be thriving in the stormy weather:

swiss chard

The lemons are squeaky clean. I never pass by my lemon tree without singing the Peter, Paul and Mary song…lemon tree very pretty and the lemon flower is sweet…

There wasn’t much in the way of storm damage, only a flooded potting shed, soggy broom, and a few decorations blown off the fence. Even the hail didn’t do a lot of damage. Color me thankful and impatient to plant in the soil while it’s still wet.

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Very little grows on jagged rock. Be grounded. Be crumbled so wildflowers will come up where you are. ~ Rumi

The first time I went to the Napa Valley, it was in the middle of summer. My husband and daughter, daughter-in-law and I went over for a few hours to have lunch and buy a little wine. It’s only about an hour and a half drive from Terri and Emily’s house in San Francisco. It was pretty hot and full of tourists, but it was beautiful (well, that, and I’m a total wino!) and I fell in love with a few restaurant kitchen gardens while we there. I decided I needed to do the restaurant kitchen garden thing some day, after I graduate with my botany degree…I’m gonna need a couple acres, at least! In the meantime, I’m practicing in my backyard. Also, I cut my toe wide open on a nail sticking out of a wooden sidewalk at one of the wineries. So much excitement! (and NO I was not drunk!)

This time, Tom and I decided to spend a couple days for our 15th wedding anniversary, after visiting the girls in the city for some walking and book shopping (our favorite!). We had received an offer from a winery that made our stay at the Villagio Inn & Spa cheaper than if we’d hidden out at a Motel 6. Virgin Airlines took us up there for $39, how can you beat that?! This is why we love traveling in the winter. Also, the rain and cold makes the scenery seem more brooding and Bronte-esque, which is ultimately better than perky bright sunshine, unless you’re in Hawaii.

Besides, it was certainly time to get out of the house for a little romance. When you work at home, leaving the “office” becomes difficult, “closing” the office is entirely impossible, and you eventually just have to run away – before you start decapitating innocent bystanders.

It stormed the entire time we were there, which may ruin a trip for some but we LOVE stormy weather. Terri and Emily’s cats were very entertaining during one particularly CLOSE lightning storm. I never even saw them run and hide – they were just there one second and the next they were gone – POOF! Poor kitties!


The added bonus was a near empty Yountville. We practically had the entire village to ourselves and walked right in to all the restaurants we wanted to sample. It was so empty, that when we stopped at Carneros to buy the girls some bubbles, we were the only visitors – the parking lot was empty. Perfect for my misanthropic travel-tude!

One of my favorites parts of the trip was discovering that the yellow wildflowers growing under all the nekkid grape vines was wild mustard, which is a member of the brassica family and some consider it a noxious weed. I’ve read that letting different types of brassicas grow on fallow land, then grinding them up into the dirt, is really great way to condition the soil and put nutrients back in. Unfortunately, I was unable to corner any of the growers to find out if that’s what they were up to here.

Yellow mustard blooms were everywhere and added such a beautiful contrast to the neon-green grass and the dark, wet vines…well, I just couldn’t stop taking pictures! They even have a Napa Valley Mustard Festival and all the shops had tiny paintings of vineyards with yellow flowers. (maybe I’ll even attempt a sketch or watercolor one of these days)

Other nature highlights from the weekend:

Everything with a surface was covered with moss or lichen, or both.

We found these tiny red and white flowers while on a walk in the city with Terri and Emily…I’m still trying to find out what they are:

and this crazy looking snake tree, also a species unknown to me, in a canyon park near T and E’s house:

Food and wine favorites:

Stepped in to Hurley’s for lunch on a whim and had the best risotto of my life with an equally amazing 2007 Pinot from ZD Vineyards. Also at ZD was “Pearl’s Garden”, planted in honor of somebody’s Grandma, where I snapped a pic of this rain-soaked pyracantha.

Got to eat at Bottega, celebrity chef Michael Chiarello’s restaurant a block away from our hotel. Even better, his bolognese sauce wasn’t so much better than mine that I felt bad 🙂 and Tom makes a much better steak! (sorry Mr C.)

Also ate at Bistro Jeanty, which was warm and welcoming and served the best beef stew – perfect on a rainy night! We sat at the community table since we didn’t have reservations, but I think it was even homier that way. If I ever own a restaurant, Bistro Jeanty will by my model. Yumm.

All in all, one of our most successful anniversary weekends away, and after more than 15 years of wandering the globe together that’s really something! Being able to visit our daughter and her wife while we’re in our favorite city makes the journey even more wonderful. I’m so proud of both of them, and they are totally kick-ass hostesses! Tom and I have decided to make an annual Napa-versary out of it. We used to go to Vegas, but for some reason Vegas has lost its appeal. Maybe it’s the newly discovered wild mustard blooms beckoning from a far away misty valley…

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How can one help shivering with delight when one’s hot fingers close around the stem of a live flower, cool from the shade and stiff with newborn vigor! ~Colette

Orchids (Orchidaceae)…you see them in garden centers and gourmet restaurants, pissy spas and hotels, preening fancy in the limelight

long elegant necks arched out for attention more gracefully than Audrey Hepburn.

Yes, you say to yourself, yes i want to take one home and call it mine and it will flourish in shiny perfection for ever and ever. Then you get it home and your dreams are soon shattered as your orchid collapses and dies like a leggy runway model who has fallen off her shoes.

Until recently, this was my story. Then, something mysterious happened to changed my abysmal orchid juju. My husband brought me an orchid plant early last year – and it’s still alive! I didn’t do anything differently than before but, there it is, a lone survivor in a long line of phalaenopsis failures.

So, in honor of the new year and all the automatic optimism that comes with it, I’ve decided to take a leap of horticultural faith and ride the trend. There are five to the family now, holding steady in all their glossy seductive glory, and my green fingers are crossed! Today, while a winter storm rages outside, I’m even more grateful to have a bit of rainforest in my living room!

Orchid Care: The orchids I have so far are all phalaenopsis. They are easy to find, inexpensive, and require little maintenance. They live in the front room of the house which gets plenty of light and no direct sun. They are kept moist but not soaked and I never let them dry out, which pretty much kills em. Don’t re-pot them while they’re blooming – just leave them alone. When the bloom dies, you can re-pot using orchid bark and then you’ll have a juicy green plant
until it blooms again

On my wish list for new additions:

a slipper orchid

and a spider orchid

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SONNET 60 – William Shakespeare

Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore,
So do our minutes hasten to their end;
Each changing place with that which goes before,
In sequent toil all forwards do contend.
Nativity, once in the main of light,
Crawls to maturity, wherewith being crown’d,
Crooked elipses ‘gainst his glory fight,
And Time that gave doth now his gift confound.
Time doth transfix the flourish set on youth
And delves the parallels in beauty’s brow,
Feeds on the rarities of nature’s truth,
And nothing stands but for his scythe to mow:
And yet to times in hope my verse shall stand,
Praising thy worth, despite his cruel hand.

When you live in California, people tend to assume you spend a lot of time at the beach or have an ‘ocean view’. Actually, a very small percentage of Californians have an ocean view (we don’t feel every earthquake either) and to most of us, it’s damned hard to find time to drive over to see it. I live only about 10 minutes from the beach, but I haven’t actually BEEN in almost six months. Usually, it takes an out of town visitor to get me to spend an afternoon on the sand. This isn’t because I don’t love it or enjoy being there…I really do like the ocean and the beach. But, like anything else, a million things come along to distract me or take priority, then it’s too late or, worse, tourist season! I do not go to the beach during tourist season if I can avoid it – eek! Having a husband who survived skin cancer is also on the list of reasons why going to the beach is not a constant habit. I do, however, long for it on occasion – usually when I know I can’t get there.

If I were being truly honest, I would say I prefer the mountains. That’s where the trees are! As a kid, one of my favorite things to do was hike through the aspen groves in Colorado.
There is absolutely nothing more peaceful than standing in a silent damp forest waiting for the slightest breeze to make the tops of the trees whisper at you. The ocean roars with aggression and there are always other people there. In the forest, you can feel truly alone with yourself and your thoughts, and nature seems to respect your privacy.

Today, Tom and I had some errands to run in Ocean Beach, so we decided to include lunch and a quick drive by the sea.

There are some storm fronts heading our way so the news has been announcing larger than normal waves.

This always piques my interest in going so off we went. It really was beautiful and, although we were only there for like 3 minutes, I got lungs full of fresh clean air and remembered that life isn’t all paperwork. It’s sand and sun, dogs and hippies, pelicans and taking a break for lunch with your man. While there, I vowed to get down to the water more often this year, to remember that experiencing nature is a necessity and maybe not a luxury after all. We’ll see how that works out, but today was beautiful and I was grateful for the encounter, however brief.

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And if you go chasing rabbits
And you know you’re going to fall
Tell ’em a hookah smoking caterpillar
Has given you the call
Call Alice
When she was just small
(from White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane – one of my favorites!)

“Just living is not enough,” said the butterfly, “one must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower.” ~Hans Christian Anderson

Today, I’m finally going in to have a troublesome tooth removed and a bone graft to get ready for a fabulous shiny new implant. Most people don’t look forward to dental work, but I haven’t been getting along with this stupid thing in my head for over two years so I’m practically jumping up and down with wild abandon (well I’m shuffling around miserably but INSIDE there’s jumping). We’re ‘over’ each other and it’s time to part ways. So, between that and work and getting ready for a weekend in San Francisco with Tom for our wedding anniversary (15 years and not a single dull moment!), I may not post for a few days but wanted to share some critters found in the garden last summer.

Other info about the day:

it’s raining!
it’s 67 degrees
the moon is waning in Capricorn
it’s Andrea’s Birthday!! Happy Birthday Andrea!

OK…now I’m off to the surgeon and then home to rest, or read another chapter in the Sookie Stackhouse books…mmmm vampires on a rainy day! Fabulous!

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