Friday, July 27, 2012

The Squirrel Ate My Picnic

Yes, it's true.  I was really surprised, in fact.  I mean, as far as I know, squirrels eat nuts.  I must admit that I have never actually spent any time studying the eating habits of squirrels much beyond how to prevent them from completely emptying the birdfeeders of seeds and nuts.  I have fed them corn in the past, you know, that hard, feed corn that stays on the cob that you place on a platform that presents you with a wonderful opportunity to watch the silly, entertaining critters. 

However, fried chicken?  Really?!  Well, I'm certainly no one to judge the eating habits of others, but I thought this guy must be really hungry to be attempting to steal our chicken!

We recently visited a new park with friends and enjoyed it sooo much that the kiddos have been begging to go back in the nearly 100 degree temps.  I finally gave in.  I packed a little picnic of fried chicken and fruit with lots of water.  Of course, upon arrival at this fun park, the kiddos had NO interest in food whatsoever.  I mean, there are swings and climbing things and slides!  And, did I mention the creek?  Yes!  A lovely, shallow, shaded creek that allows for lots of stomping and splashing and wading.  It has just enough big rocks to be a danger to Sweet P. and yet provide some sort of adventure for Young Man.  It's perfect. 

So as the kids ran off, I zipped our cooler shut (yes, zipped) and left it on the table in the pavilion.  Several minutes later, as we were returning for a water break I thought I was seeing something blurry in the pavilion, on our table maybe?  Yes, it was a blurry, fuzzy tail - coming out of our basket!  And he wasn't all that fussed about us approaching.  No, rather he just seemed annoyed and slowly hopped down and looked at us.  Nectarines still intact, bag full of chicken chewed through in various places.  That little critter!  Of course, I had to throw it all away for fear of the little people getting whatever squirrel-germs are going around.  And somehow it didn't seem fair to toss our chicken in a trash can with the fella watching me, but I can't really just throw fried chicken on the ground at a public park.  Well, with a little will and determination, which I'm sure he had, I'm sure he knows how to get to the bottom of that trash can...  If he's really that hungry.

Glad I had stashed a couple granola bars for the ride home.  I guess next time out I'll take some peanuts, too!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Baby Bluebirds

It's been soooo much fun watching these babies grow!  I have truly loved every minute of it.  I consider it a very special gift to be able to enjoy the wildlife up close.  I've especially been watching these past few days, as these little babies have been showing loads of interest in what's outside of their little home.  They have seemed very eager to explore, competing for space to pop their little heads out to look around.

But Mama and Daddy Blue have continued to feed them and clean up their little messes.  Since that terrible Derecho (wind storm) we had, I told Hubby I was naming the babies Derec, Windy and Bluster.  He just laughed.  Naming the wildlife...  Yeah.  But if you could have seen how this little box was swinging in the storm with Mama inside on her nest of eggs...  Amazing they survived unscrambled.

Mama Blue actually sat nearby and called and called to them yesterday and I think (in the only Human way that I can) that she was trying to persuade them to fledge. I wanted to witness this sooo badly! Camera at the ready!

But I think Mama Blue was just plain tired of me.  She was tired of sitting around with a fresh lunch in her mouth, wondering if it was safe to visit her young with me sitting foolishly by.  So I gave in and let them be last night.  This morning I watched with joy as she fed them breakfast and made a mental note to keep track of Baby Activity.  Then I got really busy cleaning the floors and ended up cleaning Young Man's room.  It was in desperate need of rearranging and a purge to the basement of excess Lego's.  And do you know what?  Hubby came home and said to me, "Have you checked the box today?" 

Noooooo!   It can't be!


The box is empty.  I checked all around and it seems no babies are on the ground and no Mama or Daddy Blue came and fussed at me, so it looks like they all made it to wherever Mama took them.  I will really miss watching them.  I hope we get another brood.  I really wasn't that invasive watching from the window.  I'm a little sad they're gone, but also very glad.  Now I can finally let my 'indoor' cats go 'outside' to plant their onions, so to speak.  They never stay out longer than that, really, but I couldn't take that chance while I was encouraging birdies to stay. 

Bye-bye Bluebirds.  You have a beautiful family!
Clearly, Mama Bluebird is a lot smarter than I am when it comes to moving her babies.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Very Blue Yarn

Good morning!  As promised, a pile of blue yarn!  I had an idea for a craft swap I'm in.  A few years back that Good Granny of mine crocheted herself a FABulous pumpkiny orange, chunky sweater.  She had some of that yarn left over and asked if I could make her a purse to match.  Well, not one to let Granny down, I came across a sweet little pattern for a clutch, but it was made with much smaller yarn.  I decided to give it a try with the Chunky Pumpkin and altered the pattern as I went.  It turned out to be Amazing and we both loved it!  In fact, I have had that sweater and purse on my list of to-do's ever since.  I really, Really would love to wear that scrumptious, thick sweater.  Gee, maybe I'll fast track that one to get it done before fall....  Note to self:  Find the pattern.

Anyway, so here I am with my hook and yarn and the plan in my head and I'm trying to remember how I altered the pattern in the first place...  Do you ever do that?  I really should write things down.  So I will have some playing to do with this one, but it should be fun. 

First, since it's not supposed to rain until this afternoon, I think we'll make a trip out to the local zoo.  Everyone's ready to get out and play today.  Even the kitties are acting up.  But the with the bluebirds just about to leave the nest any day now, I can't take a chance on that just yet.  Only supervised walks to the garden, kitts...  Sorry.

Happy day, folks!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Partly Cloudy with a Chance of Sunflowers

Happy Monday, folks!  We've certainly had our share of thunder and rain lately.  I love it!  I truly do.  The kids love it, too, and I think that's just great.  It's true that we cannot play outside and do lots of outdoorsy kinds of things when there's boomin' going on out there, but we manage to fill our time nicely.  Books, yarn, cooking... Oh, and one of our favorite Rainy Day movies, Coraline.  It's all good with us.  Besides, with beauties like these flowers brightening up the Hearth Room (that came from our garden!!!) I am ecstatic whatever the weather!

So I've got a few cabbages quartered and cooking to freeze for wintertime soups.  I've got so much squash lined up on the kitchen counter to blanch for freezing that I think I'll be busy all night.  My sweet neighbor called a while ago to ask if I needed any squash or cucumbers!  Ha!  I told her I'm pushing those very things on anyone who walks in my door, lol.  I was hoping to get a zucchini out of her, but her plants died.  Phooey. 

With Sweet P. napping and Young Man playing a fierce game of 'fencing' on Wii (another reason he's all good with the rainy day thing), I will be making something nice out of a huge pile of blue yarn for a crafty swap I'm in.  Maybe I'll put in 27 Dresses for the 8th time and see if I can actually finish it. 

Better get going...  Naps don't last as long as they used to and I have a feeling I'll be needing to defend my pitiful Wii record soon.  I'll show you what happens to the pile of blue yarn later!

Friday, July 20, 2012

It's Summer

A single sunflower stands alone on our courtyard patio, deserted by the height of summer temperatures. We seem to have retreated indoors to delve into good books and be transported by old movies (I am always way behind everyone else).

The Thai Basil and Rosemary seem to be enjoying the warmth and solitude, as do the mints. No little hands have been present to experience their fragrances or flavors. The catnip has not returned. Too much presence by hefty felines have once again proven the need to have catnip grown in a top secret location, only to be witnessed by the fine felines in fresh snippets provided to them. As opposed to rolling, smashing and gnawing freely. 

As we support local farming, our CSA share of fruit has filled the Hearth Room with delightful aromas of apples and cinnamon.  Almost makes me long for fall.  When the rich colors and warm, spicy scents of the fruits and flavors are bubbling, waiting for family gatherings.  And the temperatures invite us back outdoors to play in crisper air and crunchier leaves. 

But it is definitely not time for that.  Not yet!  The garden is producing plenty of beautiful vegetables to share and prepare for winter meals. 

I offer squash and cukes to all who visit the Hearth Room. Soon I will be pushing tomatoes and onions, too.  Although, right now Hubby is still marveling at how well the onions have done, allowing them to continue to swell.  Well, except for a few....

Add to the mix these wonderful Romano Beans we were gifted by a fellow gardener.  I am learning to cook new things, as well as old favorites in different ways.  These meaty beans were prepared with a coating of EV olive oil and chopped garlic.  Dashed with sea salt and pepper and roasted on a baking sheet.  Summery goodness at it's finest!

Somehow we managed to skip planting zucchini here, but it seems to always be one of the first things folks share.  This year has been no exception! 

As soon as a zucchini comes through the door, it ends up here in a rich, sweet batter.

My young apprentice has found cooking to be a wonderful world of exploration lately.  From how sticky your hands and face can get to how exceptionally good things taste.

Oh, my little zucchini breads...  You didn't last long enough.  I do hope another large squash makes it through our door soon.

And absolutely worthy of mentioning is the very delicious and necessary corn fritters that are a tribute to everything good Granny taught me.  Every summer for as long as I live there will be corn, fresh from the cob, mixed with milk, flour, eggs, salt and pepper, with a little dash of sugar.  I wrote of them last year and I probably will again.  That Granny, she's  a good one.

Fresh, hot, corn fritters, cukes and red onions (don't tell Hubby), and beet greens from the garden.

I'm not sure I ever shared with you my unconventional corn and potato patch.  Yet another space in need of landscaping, that once the potato bags called it home I found the need to fill in around them with corn and sunflowers.  Just another moment of whimsey. 

Speaking of whimsy along with the joys of summer, I have to show you one of my most favorite-ist things ever.  In this very unexpected place, a little couple of bluebirds have decided to make a home.  This birdhouse was made by Young Man a few years ago and as you can see, it hangs and is not stationary.  No matter to the little bluebirds in love that desperately sought out this place as their home.  The place to raise their little family. 

One tiny orange mouth, ready to be fed, competing with two others.  I can see this box just outside the Hearth Room door.  I have had the most heart squeezing fun seeing these 3 blue eggs hatch into the tiny balls of fluff they are now.  Mama and Daddy are the best birdie parents, watching over them constantly and taking turns feeding those hungry mouths.  I'm waiting for the chance to get a really good picture of them, but Daddy Blue has been on to me lately...  I thought I'd give him a rest from worry for a bit.

As our retreat indoors continues, I am constantly reminded of my need to visit the great outdoors by happy, energetic children, immense plants climbing out of the garden, and by little feathered friends who are holding me to my promise of filling the feeders that I so lovingly hung for their benefit.  Yep, they just lie down and wait right in the dish until I come and provide.  We all seem to get a little stuck in our ways here at the Hearth Room.  Even the outdoors is spoiled .

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Crochet Top for Girl

I call it Ice Cream Social.  It's the perfect shade of the Neapolitan ice cream that we often settle on here at the Hearth Room because none of us can agree on the over-the-top specific flavors that each of us desires and I will not cannot buy us all separate flavors each time I go to the store.

Social:  Because she is. 

Yes, Ice Cream Social.

This is the 'summer crochet' I mentioned in an earlier post.  I was working on this very light, little thing while we were having our power outage. 

The yarn is Paton's Grace which was found in my stash.  It has desperately been waiting to be used.
I used a G /6 hook.  (4.25mm). 

I started by making a basic granny square. 

For those that don't know how to make a granny, please try one!  Even if you don't want to make a top, just make a little square!

ch 4, slip st to form ring.
ch 3, 2 dc in ring, ch 2, then (3 dc, ch 2) - three more times. 
Slip st in top of ch3 to join.

Ch 3, 2dc in the ch2 space you just joined, ch 2, 3 dc in same space.
((You are making your first corner))

[Ch 1, and in next ch 2 space make 3 dc, ch 2, 3 dc.]
Repeat from [ to] 2 more times to make your last 2 corners.
Ch 1 and join to top of first ch 3. 

You should now have a completed little square!
But you can go on:

Slip st in next dc, slip st in the first ch 2 space.  This is where you will start on each additional round.

Ch 3, 2 dc in the ch 2 space, ch 2, 3 dc.
Ch 1, 3 dc in next ch 2 space.
[Ch 1, and in next ch 2 space make 3 dc, ch 2, 3 dc.]  Corner made.
Ch 1, 3 dc in next ch 2 space, ch 1.

Continue around using from [ to  ] to make your corners and the simple
(ch 1, 3 dc in next ch 2 space, ch 1) for each ch 2 space in between your corners. 
Join each row with a slip stitch to the top of the first ch 3.

I simply continued to make the granny square, changing colors as I felt and kept going until I felt the square was wide enough that when I joined 2 together it would fit one little Sweet P.  That ended up being 14 rounds with this particular yarn and hook.  She normally wears a 4T.

I slip stitched the front and back together and then added a few rows of single crochet border around the top and bottom to add length and contrasting color. 

I then added a little scalloped edging to both top and bottom edges. 

For the straps, I made a chain until I felt it was long enough and then went back with a row of dc and finished them off.  I again added scalloped edges to both sides in a contrast color and stitched them into the top. 

No real magic, nothing too fancy, just on a whim.

Another good use for yarn.


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Thank You for You!

I thought these bright, sunshine-y faces were perfect for celebrating YOU dear ifriends.

It seems recently there have been a number of things that have been hard emotionally.  Family and friends are a tremendous blessing, but those relationships can also hurt the most because they are the closest to you.  And then there are the acquaintances, you know...  The folks you're really not close to, but end up in close proximity with. 

 I could say I've been learning a lot about myself recently, but in truth, it's not that I've learned anything new, but how much I have confirmed about myself.  Yep, even at this 'I-ought-to-know-better-age' of 40-something, the things that I have always found to be hurtful and have gone through life self-protecting from haven't changed. 

I must say that I have a few dear friends that I treasure and I look forward to taking on with me through life's adventures.  You know who you are!   I have known you for years now through work and play and even through our internet connections.  Yep, I said it:  Internet.  I have met some of the most genuine and caring friends online.  Also, some of my internet 'acquaintances' have been so very kind and supportive and these are folks I really don't 'know' at all. 

I really, truly appreciate genuine people, courtesy for others, the value of a kind word, the act of taking just a minute to respond to someone you may barely know... Folks who are connected to life deeply enough to recognize that people need community and that the minute you take to smile or just say hi may change someone's day.  I hope I can always include myself in that category.

In contrast, there are people you may see face to face each day that you cannot connect with, some of the most insincere people.  No matter what dose of courtesy you pour out to them, it goes unrecognized or unappreciated.  It's not my intention to dwell on the negative, but to show the contrast between the two.  My Dear Readers and Friends, YOU SHINE! 

Providing common courtesy and reaching out in friendship to those that don't want it has made me tremendously sad recently, (just ask Hubby).  So I will continue on with protecting myself from some situations.  I will continue to look forward to making new genuine friends, both in person and online.  And I will continue to appreciate the kindness I have found in you, my reader friends, the bloggers I visit often, and so many of the creative and inspirational folks whose paths I cross. 

You Rock! 
And you are always welcome to come here and chat and know that I appreciate you.


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Crocheted Apron!

Hello Friends!  I had to give you a little update.  Were you here to read about my Crocheted Valance?  Do you remember that I was thinking it wasn't going to make such a good valance after all?

And right then and there I decided it might have to be an apron...

Surprise!!!  Of course it won't always be worn by the mantel...

(Photo taken by Young Man)

I love it actually!  It just turned out that the loose nature of the pattern and the weight of the yarn allowed too much light through as a valance.  Not that a valance is supposed to block light necessarily, but with so much light behind the valance it just didn't look right.  So now I have a new apron and it has been perfect for wiping my constantly wet hands with all this produce washing that's been going on here at the Hearth Room. 

Some notes:  I used Knit Picks Cotlin which is a great sturdy yarn and seems to just keep getting better with washing.

I used the Nordic Star square pattern.  I made three of them and stitched them together, then bordered all around them in single crochet.

Next, I added rows of granny stripes in different colors, (which were chosen to match Young Man's room, as per the plan...).

When it became obvious this was NOT going to be a valance, I made two long ties of granny stripes, I think 3 rows each.  Stitched them on and:  Ta-Da! 

I'm thinking about making some more retro, farm-girl types of aprons now.  Hey, this one is a curtain after all...  Lol.  Now let's see if I can make a real Apron!

Note to self:  I still need to make some curtains.

Have a blessed day!

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Hearth Room Unplugged

Derecho:  Wind Storm.

I have always been fascinated by both the power and the beauty of weather.  I grew up on the Eastern Shore so I've experienced some very mild hurricanes, but somehow I had not even heard of a Derecho until now.

I have a new appreciation for the power of wind.  I also feel so much for the folks who live in areas that fall victim to tornadoes and other violent storms.  The fear can be gripping to hear something powerful coming towards you.  Yet you must maintain composure enough to protect your family in a state of unpreparedness.

We were very fortunate to have only some tree damage that requires lots of elbow grease to remedy.  I know many others were not as fortunate.  The wind was  powerful and made quite a mess, but we can clean it up.   Most of the corn is standing up again now.

Roads were blocked. 

Lots of power lines were down and damaged. 

They said it could take a week to restore power to everyone, but we were only 5 days without.

That was our biggest challenge, being without power, especially while it  also happened to be 102 degrees most days that week... But we were able to keep cool in our old house and slept in the unfinished basement.


Since we are on a well, that also meant no water for us.  Thankfully, I had a few gallons stored up for such an occasion, but it wasn't enough by any means!  We were able to go fill up our water supplies every day, but what a chore that is!  The things we take for granted really came to light that week.  Doing dishes was something that required planning and preparation.  As I was talking to my mother on the phone I had to tell her, "Mom, I have to go...  I have to wash dishes before it gets dark."  What a funny statement that was!

Because this was our new "kitchen" during the outage.  I had to boil water here to bring in to do the washing.  And it was quite dark, too!  So it was pretty important to get everything done before dark.  With that said, it was very cozy brushing our teeth and cuddling up at night by the light of a lantern.  There were definitely moments that were startlingly comfortable and made great lessons for the kids. 

Now, we did have our frustrations such as a hot toddler needing naps.  Hot babies don't sleep well.  And hot Young Man simply did not take the heat well. 

Yet the time spent sitting quietly, getting them to rest comfortably ended up being well spent.  For as much work that was involved in the extra chores and preparations, there was equally as much down time.  REAL down time, lol. 

We did spend a good bit of time in the mornings outdoors on our patio when it was shaded and cool.  Coloring and drawing and most meals took place here.  Tapping into that unplugged opportunity to be creative and use our hands. 

Something I have always done and have taught my son to do over recent years is to draw a random design with a black pen or crayon or marker.  Sometimes you just end up with a cool, random design, but often we color it in using one color per open space.  Sometimes a really neat image emerges, which is so fun because the point is to be completely random, unplanned....  So I recently was reading somewhere about Zentangles which I had not heard of before and was totally surprised to find.  It seems that this random drawing has become a therapy of sorts...  A way to relax the mind.  Apparently you can purchase books and patterns and everything!  I guess that really takes away the 'randomness' in the drawing process, but I can see where you still get the creative/relaxation benefits.  There are tons of pics of the tiles folks have drawn all over the web.  Very cool, but I think I like my random, whimsical scribbles.  They are free!

The kids also found lots of things to do around the house that would not normally get their attention with the electric  on!  Instead of asking to play video games or watch a cartoon, they decided to visit with a huge stuffed animal collection that ended up becoming a sea of critters to play in.  At this point, we were fortunate enough to have found a generator, so were able to run a fan and save the contents of our freezer, so things were a 'tad' easier to manage around  here. 

In the end as we look back it was a sweet time.  We were unplugged.  It was quiet and that was nice.  We cuddled and read books out loud.  We cooked outdoors and percolated our coffee on the camp stove.  We took it easy so as not to get overheated or over dirtied (due to lack of water!).  We played with toys long forgotten and used our imaginations.  I worked in some cool, summery crochet time while the kids played and I read while they napped.  I can't say it was easy without power and water, but I can say I was almost saddened by the power surprisingly popping back on.  Our sweet, quiet times were abruptly brought to an end.  Within 2 minutes the windows were closed and the air conditioning was on.  And probably the tv, too.  There were good lessons this week.  For me and the kids.  Everything in moderation, I know...  I always limit the amount of tv and screen time in the Hearth Room.  But it's different when it's just not an option.  I liked it.
I hope all of you are safe and sound where you are!  Now turn your computer off and unplug yourself for a few!  You'll surprise yourself with what you can do with the extra few minutes of quiet.


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