Garden Weather

grow up!

grow up!

The weather in Seattle has been A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. Also read: hot, sticky, hot, sweaty, sunny and otherwise meant for shorts and mai tai drinks. Certainly not working.

Garden Paradise

Garden Paradise

The sunshine has done wonders for my garden and it is growing like gangbusters! Everyday I am able to harvest a few little special somethings.

Lemon & Cute Cucumbers!

Since Gunnar Rabbit ate most of all the lettuce, I haven’t tried to replant any of that and have just let my little piece of dirt do its own thing.

Which means I have six foot tall tomato plants and ever creeping lemon cucumbers.

So special!

So special!

I’m working on something special for Shannon, at her request, and I hope to have it available to you soon. Hint: it’s for nerd gardeners like us!! But I think it will be a great tool for our future plans and plantings.

So Pretty!!

So Pretty!!

In the meantime, while trying to stay cool and out of the sun, I’ve been working on  few loose end Pin-jects (pinterest projects?? No?) and hope to have a few up and ready in a few days.

A REAL ROMA!!

A REAL ROMA!!

Something about summer weather just makes me want to drink and chill out… and watch my garden grow.

-jenn

on a roll

You guys, I am ready for tomatoes.

No, I mean it. I started plants indoors in February. I nurtured them carefully, hardened them slowly, and shook my fists at the sky when 3 of them got taken out by freak May hailstorms. I selected only the snobbiest, most pompous-yet-charming varieties, and when I started finding little baby fruits on my Bloody Butchers and San Marzanos last month, I literally called half the people I know to crow about it.

The tiny baby fruits of a month ago are fat and sassy and gloriously striped and whimsically shaped and all together just heirloom as fuck.

Was that the first fbomb we’ve dropped here? Sorry, but I don’t care. Tomatoes are serious business. THESE tomatoes are serious business.

heirloom

as

bomb!

I’m sure you see the other unifying feature of these tomatoes: they’re green. THEY ARE STILL GREEN. Here I am, absolutely perishing for the taste of garden-fresh perfectly sun-ripened tomatoes, and instead, I have a mini-farm chock full o’ things that are only barely edible if breaded and fried.

NOT COOL. I have done my time in the waiting room, and I am ready to see Doctor Tomato already. Not to mention, everything else in my garden is going gangbusters – I’m crawling in carrots, overwhelmed by onions, and let’s not even talk about the lettuce.

Yet here I remain, a few tomatoes short of a salad.

I cracked this week, and dove face first into the only cure I know: a $9 jar of spaghetti sauce.

Let me say this again: A NINE DOLLAR JAR OF SPAGHETTI SAUCE. Jar. Jarred sauce. for $9. That is ALMOST TEN DOLLARS.

This is why we can’t have nice things, or more accurately, why I flinch every time I open a bank statement. Because I budget and I plan and I scrimp and I save, and then I go $9-jar-of-spaghetti-sauce crazy. But you know what? Doesn’t matter. Tastes like tomatoes and sunshine. This is summer in a jar, and the closest I can get to tomato happiness until the lazy green jerks in my garden get their sunburn on.

To assuage my guilt over the sauce, I made garden meatballs, so that I had SOME fruits of my labors to chew on. What’s a garden meatball, you ask?

Well. It’s a meatball. With things from your garden. HELLO.

These aren’t pretty – as evidenced by the total lack of pictures! – but they’re yummy, and they’re flexible, and actually ridiculously healthy, especially if you, like me, eat your meatballs and sauce entirely sans-spaghetti.

What you need is:

20 oz of ground turkey – fat, lean, whatever. Sub non-turkey if you want. Use more or less if you prefer; 20oz is just how Jennie-O likes to pack her birds

1 egg, beaten

10 Tokyo White heirloom bunching onions, whites and tops OR 1 probably-too-small-to-pick-but-too-impatient-to-wait Walla Walla onion (or one small-ish standard issue grocery store onion) – minced as fine as you can manage. Go on, feel like you’re a chef!

1 grated Chantenay Red Core carrot (or about 1/2 cup grated grocery store carrot)

about 1T minced-up carrot tops (or about 1T fresh parsley, or 1/2t dried parsley)

about 1T each fresh oregano and thyme (or 1T dried oregano, and skip the thyme, because dried thyme feels like twigs. Unless you like eating twigs.)

Liberal sprinklings of garlic powder, salt, and pepper

Preheat your oven to 350, and put the spaghetti sauce of your choice – $10 craziness or otherwise – in a large pan over low heat. Add all the herbs and vegetables to the meat, and stir-and-squish with a fork until well distributed. Pour over the eggs, and smash it all together with your hands, like you are some kind of deranged sculptor whose chosen medium is meat. Roll 2″-ish balls and bake on a cookie sheet for 20-25 minutes. You don’t need to worry about how well-done the meat is; they just need to be cooked well enough to hold their shape. Don’t worry if white goo escapes – it’s normal. Plop meatballs hot into the sauce – with or without the white goo, which may be egg but may also be magical meatparts, and honestly, I think I am better off if I don’t ask. Cook at a slow simmer for at least 30 minutes, and up to an hour. Stir occasionally – very occasionally, say every 10 minutes or so. Bask in your warm, rustic summer-scented kitchen for the intervals between stirring.

Serve over noodles, or better still, straight up in a bowl, with a side of spoon. Either way, best eaten in the sun on the back deck, while you gaze down magnanimously on the abundant green tomatoes you TOTALLY don’t need.

For now, anyway.

four-legged farming

It’s probably not surprising that right now, my favorite rabbit holes for inspiration are garden-related. I’m particularly, if mockingly, fond of the myriad delights the internet has to offer any time you do a quick search of “pet-friendly gardens.”

While I’m grateful for the lists of non-toxic plants this produces, it tickles me most of all to see the great lengths people go to when trying to design landscapes that will appeal to their furrier family members.

Maybe I’m a minimalist, and maybe my poor pets are woefully underpampered, but, honestly…it doesn’t seem that complicated to me. My three step plan for creating an irresistible dog oasis goes pretty much like this:

First, build some raised beds. We are trying out the ever-popular Square Foot Gardening concept this year, so 4×4 squares installed close to the house were the order of the day.

boxes

Feeling uncrafty, power-tool-pathetic, and all around lazy? These were no-tools-required kits from Home Depot for about $25 each. Small price to pay for a whole lot of easy, I say!

Next, add dirt to your newly built beds. Pretend the dog in the background is just hanging around, and not at all furtively watching your every move. If you do happen to make eye contact with the dog, you make sure and express, in word, gesture, and telepathy-suggestive brow-furrowing, that these? These newly-minted freshly-dirted garden beds? Are for VEGETABLES, not DOGS.

justadd

Notice I am saying nothing about digging down, or removing the grass. Because I didn’t. Because lazy. I did throw down some pretty spiffy weed cloth, which I plan on yanking out before next year’s planting. Because, if I haven’t mentioned, lazy.

Finally, turn your back. A second or two should do it.

garden

INSTANT DOG-FRIENDLY GARDEN, FOLKS. INSTANT. No lavish landscaping, palatial dog houses, or fancy fountains required.

Actually, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that for most of us, the trick is building a pet UN-friendly garden, at least if you want said garden to produce anything other than muddy footprints. I could tell you some stories about fishing Jasmine out of the zucchini bed, and how I finally gave up and accepted that the dog just Does Not Approve Of Courgettes. However, my trials and tribulations in the land of canine trespassers and trampling have NOTHING on the excitement Jenn has had this year, so I’ll leave it to her to share all the tips, tricks, and tragedies there.

Celebrating Independence Day!

Presently I’m itching to get back outside and putz around in my garden; I desperately need to water plants that have been neglected through the week and marvel at how nature knows exactly when to bloom and surprise.

The fireworks have already begun to explode in my neighborhood and we are in the early stages of dog freak outs. Should make for a great day!

In honor of Independence Day and to set the stage for this month, here are some great inspirations for how to show your Red, White and Blue around the garden, in the house, and not just on a single day each year.

Enjoy!!

 

Have  a Safe and Happy 4th of July

-Jenn

 

 

smarty no-pants

I’m pretty sure my dog reads our blog. I realize it sounds like crazy talk, but hear me out: ever since I mocked Finny’s pillow fetish yesterday, he’s developed a whole new way of showing the couch who’s boss.

ALLTHEPILLOW

Yeah, that’s Finnegan…with ALL THE PILLOWS. All of them at once. A cumulative 9 throw pillows (and 2 blankets!) dragged from various seats around the room, piled up, and defiantly nested upon.

I think it’s cute that I still even pretend this is actually MY house.

House Broken

My fondness for the four-legged creatures in my home has been severely tested the last few weeks. The short of it is, I started a crazy hobby…. gardening. Yup, I built boxes with my birthday drill, added dirt and seeds and just let nature do its thing. What I didn’t count on? Gunnar thinking he’s a rabbit and Ellie… well, I should have seen that coming to be honest.

Catching some sun... in the dirt

Catching some sun… in the dirt

Gunnar is not a destructive dog by nature. He’s more of a lazy, ambling type of guy. Unless you mention the P-A-R-K, in which case he tilts his head, perks up his ears and looks at you like “is this a trick? Did you say PARK!?”. It’s really cute. He learned that water is fun at the park, and the Mister even had to wade out and force Gunnar back to shore he was having so much fun.

Ready to go back in!!!

Ready to go back in!!!

Gunnar has been Mr. Plaid’s since he was 10 months old and I came into his world in the last few years. Now at seven, Gunnar is slowing down a bit. He used to run for miles with us, but we don’t take him more than a couple of miles a few times a week now. We got lost near Cougar Mountain in Issaquah, WA  once and ended up going nearly 18 miles. Gunnar? Took it like a champ. He would chase bunnies if given the chance, but probably to only love and snuggle them. He’s a gentle dog and was a great mommy to little Ellie when she first arrived. He really is one of a kind, and despite his recent foraging for greens in my garden, I couldn’t imagine a day without him.

All you need is a few treats and he won't move!

All you need is a few treats and he won’t move!

Gunnar and Ellie roam about the house together, she being his shadow and he probably trying to have some alone time and nap. But every now and again you’ll see them outside playing chase and wrestling.

SNOW!!!!!!

SNOW!!!!!!

Ellie antagonizing Gunnar into play by running full steam into him with a toy. Ya, I don’t think he enjoys that. Ellie doesn’t seem to care.

Gunnar put up with a lot when Ellie first came home

Gunnar put up with a lot when Ellie first came home

Best of Friends?

So many moments for these two

So many moments for these two

Ellie. What is there to say about her. She is…. unique. Ellie holds a special place in my heart, but that girl is Cray-Cray!!! I don’t even know how to explain it. I can’t really. Come spend a day with her. Well, you’d know what I mean in your first five minutes of her barking a greeting at you to know what I mean. Oh, Ellie. Chews on everything and destroyed, to some variable degree, every throw rug and runner in the house. Every single one has her mark. Why? What did they do to her?? No clue.

She is leary of me and the camera sometimes...

She is leery of me and the camera sometimes…

As I demonstrated earlier, sometimes a little crafting goes a long way. As I was trying to force positive feelings towards my animals the last few weeks, I decided what better way than with art, right?

Since Ellie and Gunnar are the closest things to children in our home I thought I would do something you see parents do all the time.

Final Look, Framed and ready

Final Look, Framed and ready

Commemorative hand/foot prints!!! This was actually the most simple thing to do, I have a mini arsenal of empty frames on hand as well as several canvas and heavy-duty paper stock. All that was missing was the paints and the paws.

Supplies:
– Water-based paint (I used something non-toxic… think “could this go in a toddler’s mouth??)
– Art Boards or Heavy Paper (like seen HERE or HERE)
– Baby Wipes (for quick clean-up)
– Willing dog paws (this was the trickiest – bring treats!)

It really is a quick process, I only used one paw and made the print in four places, giving the  impression of all four paws. Set everything up before allowing your first subject to come into the room, being careful they don’t walk through the paint before you’re ready.

Supplies

Supplies

I simply brushed a quick thick coat of the paint on the paw while the dogs were enjoying a few long-chew treats (dried mango or sweet potato are favorites in my house). I then did a quick dab on a scrap piece of paper to remove any blobs or uneven paint areas. I found it easiest working with a harder surface (like the art board) since I had Gunnar and Ellie lay on their sides and I pressed their paw against the surface rather than have them step on it. This way I also had better control of the pressure, making sure they didn’t smoosh or smudge their print. Trial and Error. Have that extra paper on hand and test it out.

Then press. Re-apply the paint after the second impression, blot again, give another treat, and press. Ta-Da!! Seriously, it took longer to set up and pick colors for each then it was to actually do the prints.

Wipe off their paws with baby wipes and then dry them with a clean paper towel. This is the best measure to ensure they won’t track paint elsewhere in the house on accident.

Prep is Key

Prep is Key

I thought Ellie would be the toughest to work with, but she actually was easy. She just let whatever happen as long as she had a treat. Gunnar was a bit squirmy and you can see his prints aren’t as clean.

DSC02667

Gunnar 2014

 

Ellie 2014

Ellie 2014

 

They now have a place of honor on my semi-accomplished “gallery wall” on our stair landing.

"Gallery Wall"

“Gallery Wall”

Everything is in a various form of progress, and I’m ok with it. This was such a success I’m considering using this technique for Christmas Cards this year. How cute would little red and green paw prints be?

Either way, these pups have stolen my heart and I would do anything for them. Even build a higher fence so they can’t ruin my garden. Yes, I did that… for them!

-Jenn

 

#tbt, dog edition

A few hours ago, Jenn was skittering around our workplace with a wild-eyed, shell-shocked look in her eyes that I well and truly recognized – that, I thought to myself, is the face of someone who REALLY JUST CAN’T EVEN.

So I asked if maybe she wanted me to take on her scheduled post for this week.  I want to say that she said yes, and thanked me for my thoughtfulness, and honestly she probably did, but in my recollection, it came out more like a slow headnod which dislodged one pristine tear of relief.

My memory is such a drama queen.

Anyway, with my encouragement, Jenn invoked her Bathroom Pass – aka, The Sovereign Right To Just Be Wound Up And Functionally Incapacitated.  You may recall that I had to do the same back in April.  Over bathroom redesign.  Hence Bathroom Pass, because here in the Whimsyverse, we don’t let little things like total nervous breakdowns get in the way of cleverness, no sir.

I’m not telling this story so that I can be a smug git who stands back and polishes my Badge Of Awesome Friendship And CoBlogging.  No, I’m telling this story so that I can come clean about what a profoundly self-serving jerk I am.

Because we’re having our dog days.  And it’s Thursday, and even though I am probably too old to even know how those newfangled hashtags work, oh, I am ALL OVER this Throwback Thursday thing.

So what I’m saying is – yeah, I basically gave Jenn the day off as a thinly veiled excuse to post pictures of one of my dogs.  What can I say – that’s just the kind of friend I am.

First, though, the actual #tbt portion of these proceedings:

 

bebefinner

This is the first picture I ever took of Finnegan, on the day I brought him home.  He’d had an exhausting day – first day away from his siblings, first car ride, first puke in a car, first pet store visit, first encounter with cats, and hey, also, first time he’d been left in the care of someone whose entire understanding of puppies to date was compiled from books, the internet, and crying through movies about dogs.

He had a right to crash out.  Bonus, it meant he was finally still long enough to catch him on camera, and really, how precious did was he, all fuzzy puppy-flop on his fuzzy puppy bed?

Proud puppy parent that I was, naturally, I uploaded and emailed that photo to everyone I had ever met.  The first response I got back?

“OMG PUPPY PEEN!”

Yeah.  Oops.  So fine, I just accidentally puppy-flashed everyone ever.  No big, right?  I’ll be more careful where I point the camera next time, and besides, he’s a puppy, he’ll grow some dignity soon enough, right?

finngrin

Finny, at about a year old.  Look at that smile!  Look at those ears!  Look at the full version of the photo!

 

fullfinny

Dude.  Seriously.  There go all the family albums.  Because let me tell you, some dogs that are food motivated, other dogs that are praise-driven, and some dogs that will do anything for a good cuddle.  Finny is only invested in three things:  his profound yet destructive love of couches, his utter loathing of throw pillows being on couches, and making sure that his junk remains on permanent display while he sleeps like a total weirdo.

 

bellycollage

My other dog, Jasmine, takes lovely, elegant photos and awes everyone she meets with her quiet grace and calm demeanor.  She is also the one who, left unattended, eats door frames and digs holes in walls.  Even when carefully monitored, she still sheds approximately enough long, floaty white dog hair to build a whole extra jumbo-sized dog per week.  You would think, then, that if either dog were the big stumbling block between me and a permanently-guest-ready home, it would be her.

 

AU CONTRAIRE.  Finnegan is a working dog, and let me tell you, he has this job covered.  The show doesn’t wrap up when guests are expected, and it sure as heck doesn’t go on hiatus when visitors are present.  It doesn’t even stop when he’s just out of surgery, wearing an inflatable cone for 3 straight months – no, sir, that just became the ultimate doggie neck pillow!

bellypostop

 

HE EVEN TAKES THE ACT OUTSIDE.

 

bellyplay

 

And let’s be clear:  I’m willing to write him a pass on that first puppy picture – clearly he was asleep, and that flash was an accident.  But don’t tell me this is the face of someone who doesn’t know EXACTLY what he’s doing:

 

finnjunk

 

This month, I’m working on making him a throw pillow of his very, very own – the most appropriate throw pillow there ever could be for a house with a couch-dog, I say.  But honestly, looking at these photos, maybe the first sewing project I should tackle is making this dude a pair of boxers.