Friday, October 17, 2014

Sage Garden Advice

If you are looking for a low maintenance bang for your buck in your garden and need something that will thrive in full sun, then look no further than pineapple sage (Salvia elegans). I got mine at Home Depot in a herb sale in mid-July (when people are apparently not buying a lot of herbs). The plant started small, the same size as most other herbs, but has grown in my front yard to nearly five feet! And the leaves really do smell like pineapple, which is really nice when you walk past it or when there is a breeze. But the biggest payoff are the beautiful scarlet blooms, which started opening up about the same time as my chrysanthemums.

Pineapple sage bloom, detail
Pineapple sage with golden and silver sage
It's stunning. I am sorry that these photos don't do it the justice it deserves. And I love having something so dramatic in my yard this time of year now that the daisies and coneflowers are cut back for the winter. (That area of the yard looks so BARREN now.)

Last year, I started planting both golden (Salvia officinalis ‘Aurea’) and purple (Salvia officinalis ‘Purpurascens’) sage as a border around my front walkway. I had gotten the idea from the kitchen gardens at Kew Palace, which I thought were even more amazing than the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew (probably because the kitchen gardens were more achievable at home than the rest of the place). I hadn't realized that the pineapple sage was going to get so big until I got home and read about it, but I really think it is a nice addition to the walk up to the front door. (And planting it allowed me to pull out this really awful shrub that grew over the walk and was full of aphids and that I just HATED.)

I really hope it survives the winter.  It's so hard to know with herbs in New England. The fact that it will get sun all winter has got to help. Next year, I think that I am going to get a couple more and plant them in the front circle with the echinacea and daisies so that part of the yard will also look nice next fall. Even if they don't make it through the winter, I think something like this is worth replacing.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Casual Observation: The Whole Package?

I will be honest, I am a complete sucker for cute packaging, and I have been totally known to buy products I didn't need simply because they came in a cute container. (Mints or candy in vintage-looking metal boxes tend to be the most appealing. Especially while standing in the checkout line at Trader Joe's.)

But I am also a committed recycler and environmentalist so when I recently opened up a new container of a product I actually do need, I was horrified to see the following (shown here both with and without a penny so you can get an ideal of the scale you are seeing):

That huge wad of cotton is needed to fill up the bottle because the actual pills don't even cover the whole bottom of the bottle, let alone fill the bottle to the top.  Additionally, there is the wasted cardboard box, which is slightly more than twice the size of the actual bottle it is holding (presumably to accommodate the security device?).

So who is the guilty culprit? Well, I hate to admit it because I love this product, but the guilty party is:

Now I am all for getting 60 pills for the price of 45 (especially during the late summer and autumn), but I would love even more for these guys to come up with some product packaging that would make more sense size-wise for what they are selling. If they don't want to sell the pills in a pop-through wrapper, why not try selling them in a smaller tube bottle, like the one used on the product below?
Dramamine Motion Sickness Relief, Original Formula, Tablets- 12 ea
image from
The good thing is that I can (and will) put the plastic bottle and cardboard out for collection in the recycling bucket, but wouldn't it be better if someone at the company was thinking proactively and could come up with a more environmental way to sell this product? They spend loads on advertising; why not spend some on reinventing the packaging for long term impact?

It would make me an even bigger fan than I already am.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Hard at Work

Sometimes it is really fun to work at a family business. (I currently work with my dad, my sisters, two of my aunts, and one brother in law.)

Not "Nana".
A true story: yesterday: Sister B popped into my office with my 2.5 year old nephew, Codename: Sweetpea. 

He saw a picture of Queen Elizabeth II that I keep at my desk as inspiration for getting through tough times with class and a stiff upper lip, pointed to it, and said "Nana". It was hilarious. I thought Sister B was going to bust a gut. 

Fortunately,  Sweetpea didn't point to the picture of good old Winston Churchill and call him "Grandpa".

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Casual Observation: Music Collections

Yes, you read correctly: 17,003 items in the music category
As far as I am concerned, the one real drawback to having your entire music collection in MP3 format on your computer rather than cd or vinyl is that when you meet someone new and go to hang out at their home, you can't peruse their music collection. And based on the music you find there (or that you don't find there), make a decision about whether you and the other person were meant to be friends. (Or whatever.)  Because despite the advice I gave to a friend long ago, you might not need to have identical music collections to be an ideal pairing, but having similar musical taste will at least make long car trips with that other person bearable.

I totally associate music collections with going back to school, college in particular. Perhaps it was because I had two heavy huge cases of cds that I just HAD to have with me every year. God forbid I left something at home. When my brother had to carry one of them up to the furthest reaches of the third floor of my dormitory sophomore year, I knew that I was going to be on my own for junior and senior year, which I was. And junior year, I lived at the far end of the fourth floor. It wasn't pretty.

There was so much music sharing going on in college. Even though I had a huge music collection and went through the college student rite of passage known as the Columbia House CD Club (what a mistake), I definitely was introduced to a lot of new music through friends from classical music and show tunes to alternative rockers to ska, ska, and more ska senior year.

And, of course, there was the ever classic mix tape, which now in the 21st century is known as a "playlist" and is shared on websites. (Remember handwriting all of the songs on the liner and patiently lining up the tape with the track so you had just the right amount of filler between the songs? I used to also make collages for the covers of the mix tapes.) If you ever want to clearly understand what the mix tape means to my generation, I highly recommend watching The Perks of Being a Wallflower. It pretty much says it all.

I have been taking my old mix tapes (both ones I made and ones made for me, which I saved in a very large Tupperware in my basement along with the cds I just couldn't get rid of when I left Boston) and been turning the track lists into playlists. This has meant buying songs on line that I haven't thought of in YEARS. It's actually been pretty cool. And, it's gotten me putting together new playlists. (I actually just put together a new/old one together for JR, which I burned to an MP3 disc, but I still need to mail it. It seemed appropriate to make her something concrete, as she has been the custodian of my vinyl for the last 2.5 years.)

Hmmmm, vinyl.... Remember how you had to flip the record over to hear the other side?

Monday, August 18, 2014

"Man is in the forest."*

You are clearly a native New Englander when you see a fawn in your yard, and instead of thinking it is so cute and loving the little Bambi-ness of it, you yell and chase it out of the yard because of the ticks. AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!! (And the eating of the flowers. And the vegetable patch.)

Seriously, Lyme disease is no joke. My doctor even said that Connecticut is known for two things: allergies and Lyme disease. And I already have the first one.

Don't be fooled; this little guy is just WAITING to pounce!

* Walt Disney's Bambi

Friday, August 15, 2014

Casual Observation: Girl Power Apparel?

from Tumblr
I realize that I am totally late to the party in terms of seeing Disney's "Frozen". I liked it. (Although I actually preferred the song "Would You Like to Build a Snowman?" to "Let It Go", so please don't beat me with a stick.)

I did raise an eyebrow though when Queen Elsa finally embraced her magical snowy powers and became "empowered" (a concept I find debatable as she becomes empowered in order to run away and become a hermit in the mountains, which to me is totally the opposite of being empowered.) She also ditched her warm clothes and became all sexy. Like "slit up the clingy dress, kitten heels, and wiggling like Marilyn Monroe" sexy. Actually, I may have raised both eyebrows.

Was there a problem with the cold weather gear? Can you not be empowered in a cardigan? (I am frequently empowered in a cardigan, Disney.)

When I started looking for images to illustrate this blog post, I found out that I was not the only person who was talking about this very subject on the internet (not a shocker, as I acknowledged, seriously late to the party on this film.) I totally understand and support Elsa's ditching of the gloves; they were symbols of her repression and denial of her magical talent. But the rest? I suppose that since she can control ice and snow, the implication is that she doesn't get cold, but the radical change of "costume" for this character was a deliberate choice on the behalf of the film's directors. And I was disappointed. Because, like it or not, Elsa is also one of the film's antagonists. So we are back to the trope of the sexy bad girl. (Jessica Rabbit said it best: "I'm not bad, I'm just drawn that way.")

Princess Anna
Meanwhile, Princess Anna, clearly the protagonist/hero of the story, has a costume which is extremely modest (granted, that's because she is cold, but still...)- the opposite of her sister. But wait! She is empowered to try to save the day in boots, a cape, and tights!  Maybe she's a superhero? Do we have some unintentional genre mixing here?
< /sarcasm> (BTW, I am also frequently empowered in tights, Disney.)

(Sorry, I just need to say this: kitten heels, on ICE!?! Clearly, the animators all live in California and have not been to northern climes in February. And slipped and fallen on their butts. Which HURTS!)

Did I like this film? Yes. Did I love it? No. (It was no Little Mermaid or Aladdin.) But I know lots of people who did love it and whose kids loved it. And if the friends complaining on Facebook about the long wait times to meet Elsa & Anna at the Disney parks are any indication, LOTS of kids love Elsa & Anna. Which is great. I grew up on a steady diet of Disney films, and imagination is an awesome thing that should be encouraged.

It's a film; I get it. You certainly aren't going to make everyone happy every time. Just for a film that has all this buzz about the power of sisterhood and not having a (male) hero save the day, I still think that Disney has a way to go. Some people will agree; some people won't. And that's okay; you don't have to agree with me. The important part is thinking about it and making a decision for yourself.

Disney and princesses, man, it is SUCH a double edged sword for them. Guess I am glad that growing up my three favorite Disney women were a magical English nanny, a Cocker Spaniel pup, and an evil fairy with horns growing out of her head.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

"Till we have built Jerusalem, In England's green & pleasant Land"*

Things like this happen when you watch too many British mystery tv shows on public television (thank you, CPTV, for showing all the British mystery shows, BTW.):

So I was watching my DVRed copy of last Thursday's installment of the "Father Brown Mysteries" the other night, and I was completed befuddled. I couldn't figure out why the episode started with people singing the Anglican hymn "Jerusalem" when Father Brown is Roman Catholic. 

But then I realized it must be because they were at a WI (Women's Institute) event. And the next thing you know, scene opens at a WI meeting. 

Yeah. These are things that worry me. Can it be possible that I am over-Britified?   NAH!

Although sometimes I wonder if I am a reincarnation of some little old lady from the Cotswolds, circa 1953. It would explain A LOT about me....

*lyric from Jerusalem, by William Blake

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Casual Observations: Peter Pan Syndrome

In a conversation today about technology, I happened to mention that the internet didn't exist when I was in college. (Well, it did, but only sort of. There was the start of the web, but this is definitely the pre-Hotmail/commercial search engine era. We had the VAX, and one girl on my hall junior year was talking to people on the IRC. The rest of us were terrified that she was chatting with serial killers. But I digress.)

Anyhow, I got funny looks from the people I was talking to; they thought I was kidding. I had to tell them that I recently turned 40, and both of these people looked as stunned as if I had told them I was from another planet. It was really amusing and flattering at the same time. (Turning 40 hasn't been easy for me, especially since within the last year I have turned into "Everyone's Sickliest Friend", which sucks, BTW.)

Hearing that they each thought I was in the start of my 30s made my month. Hearing that one of them thought I was younger than my younger sister (younger by 4 years) made my year.

Maybe I am doing something right after all!

Friday, June 27, 2014

"Ripe strawberries, Ripe"*

Sister B and the Sweetpea went strawberry picking recently, and I was gifted with some of the "fruits" of their labors. (HA HA HA!) This was my first time eating native strawberries, but it is not going to be my last!  (I know, I don't know how that has happened; I have never been apple picking either which is downright scandalous. )

I have pretty much been eating them on their own, but I include some of them in scones I baked the other night...yummy!

*lyric from "Who Will Buy?" from the musical, Oliver

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

"Inch by inch, row by row Gonna make this garden grow"*

The volunteers have been hard at work to get the Walnut Hill Rose Garden ready for the Rose Garden Festival, which was this past Saturday. I have been logging hours up there weeding and pruning (although not as many as Sister K), but I didn't make it to the party because I was too busy working in my own yard. (I seriously need a grounds team.) But the hard work paid off and the roses looked amazing for the event. Here are some snaps I took on Thursday evening, just before the drizzle turned into proper rain.

* lyrics from "The Garden Song" by David Mallett

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

One Month Into Springtime Round Up

The snow has melted. Finally! Unfortunately, it has left behind some unpleasantness ::shakes fist at damage caused by ice dams:: but that is going to get fixed in the coming month or so. Hopefully before June because I would like to be able to use my guest bedroom and right now I can't because the carpet is all pulled up. (If you look at the photo to the left, that was the ice that was flowing down the exterior walls of my house like a glacier. I had no idea that was possible.)

The bulbs I planted this fall are in bloom and seeing the bright pinks, purples, and yellows when I pull into the driveway at the end of the day makes me ridiculously smiley. (It's also a surprise to see where everything ended up because I started late and by the time I was done, I was throwing bulbs hodgepodgedly into whatever holes I could make in the ground.) Ocean State Job Lot, FTW!

I am frustrated with my iPhone since the iOS update. I have a 4, and I really wish that I hadn't installed the new software. The phone hasn't been really right since. (I JUST WANT TO SYNC MY PLAYLISTS AND PODCASTS!!!)

Shakespeare's birthplace
Shakespeare's birthplace
Happy birthday to William Shakespeare, who was born 450 years ago today in this house in Stratford upon Avon, which I was lucky to visit 5 years ago! I love that people find value in saving the houses of famous writers. I really want to go visit Mark Twain's house in Hartford this summer; I haven't been to the house since junior high school!

The grass at my house may need to be mowed in the next few weeks, which I am not looking forward to because of my allergies, but there is something really satisfying about how the lawn looks when you finish.

I promised Sister B that I wouldn't post any photos of my nephew on the internet. So I won't. But trust me when I say he is really cute, like blonde with dimples cute. Which is a good thing (for him) because he is about to enter the Terrible Twos. On Easter, he pushed me and told me to "Go away, Amennie!" (which is how he says "Aunt Melanie".) Of course, he changed his tune when he realized I had chocolate. Two can play at that game, SweetPea.

And because it wouldn't be a post from me without a Brit telly roundup: lots of good programming on PBS recently. I am hooked on both "Call the Midwife" and "The Bletchley Circle". I don't think that it is possible to watch an episode of Call the Midwife without reaching for a Kleenex, and I love the smarts and camaraderie of the ladies of Bletchley Park. Not loving this series of "Mr. Selfridge" as much as I did last season; the characters are far less likeable. Even the charming Henri has lost his allure, and Agnes needs a boost to her confidence and creativity. I hope it will rally in coming weeks, but I am not watching it real time any longer, watching "Game of Thrones" instead.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Seven Things Making Me Smile

It is hard to believe it, but it has been nearly two years since I did a Seven Things Making Me Smile update! And, honestly, there have been more things of late that I have caused me to frown instead of smile  (ice dams wreck havoc inside my house, basically having a severe allergic reaction to winter...I kid you not), but I still have a lot to be grateful for, and it is always good to make a list of the positives when feeling overwhelmed by the negatives.$478$1. Breville Smart Oven Convection Toaster Oven: This was one of the best purchases I made since moving into my house. America's Test Kitchen voted this the best toaster oven you could buy; that was good enough endorsement for me. And, boy, were they right. Not only does this make perfect toast, but it is great for baking, broiling, and reheating meals. In the past, I have complained about how annoying it can be cooking for one, but this makes it less of a drama. (I have been making delicious, crispy meatloaf in this little guy.) And it made hosting Christmas easy too, because I was able to roast the root vegetables in the toaster oven while the roast beef cooked in the main oven. It isn't cheap (retailing around $250), but I got mine at Bed Bath and Beyond and was able to use a coupon towards it. I found out my friend MEM had one too, and she loves hers just as much as I love mine.  (I have had only one disappointment with the oven. I baked a cake in it because I didn't want to heat up my whole kitchen, and the cake was harder than I would have liked. The cake wasn't dry, just the top was hard, making it difficult to cut. Next time, I would wait and bake the cake in the full size oven. But that's my only complaint.)

2. Ticonderoga #2 pencils: I don't know what it is about a pencil, but nine times out of ten you will catch me writing with one of these instead of a pen. It isn't to say that I don't have nice pens or that I am not a fan of pens (shout out to the Sharpie pen), but there is something about a Ticonderoga #2 pencil that makes it my "go to" writing implement, especially at the office.  (One thing I am not a fan of though is those clicky refillable mechanical pencils. The nib is too thin, and the point breaks WAY too easily for my liking. They do have pretty good erasers though, but the eraser is only part of the pencil.)
A Dance With Dragons US.jpg
image from
3. Game of Thrones: the books AND the show. Dracarys!! It was so exciting to have the show start up again, which is perfect timing for me because I *just* finished reading A Dance with Dragons, which means that I am completely caught up with all the books. And the tv show has just gotten to the really good part of A Storm of Swords, and I can't wait to see how they interpret it all for the show! Of course, now this means that I am in the same boat as all the old school fans; we have to wait for the release of the next 2015. GAH! I am seriously NOT GOOD at waiting. I have a hard enough time waiting until next Sunday for a new episode of the show. Until then I guess I am just going to have to read fan speculation on how things are going to turn out. (And I totally have a theory about Jon Snow's mother...)

image from
4. Neko Case:  Have you ever been totally into something (in my case, music) and then not been really interested in it for a while (or at least you haven't liked anyone new in the last ten years) and then something happens and you are totally into it again? I heard one of Neko Case's songs ("I Wish I Was the Moon") in an episode of "True Blood" (I have spent the last two years watching all the HBO shows I didn't watch because I didn't have HBO when I lived in Boston), downloaded the album the song was on, and was immediately hooked. I have pretty much worn out her newest album, The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You, listening to it in the car.  Her music is totally a "sitting on the porch after work, drinking a beer, having a smoke (if you do that anymore), watching as the sun go down and the light fades away while debating to have another beer or actually make dinner" kind of sound. It's also pretty good soundtrack for Friday nights after work drinking cocktails and eating cheese in front of the fireplace.
image from
5. Infinity scarves: My sisters gave me two of these for my recent birthday and I love them. They bought them from Charming Charlie, which is COMPLETELY different from This Charming Charlie. (Initially I was VERY confused about that.) One of them is red with a pink paisley pattern while the other is covered in little blue whales! (I love whales!! They are so very preppy. And Hartford Whalers-y.) ANYHOO, these scarves are great because you can just throw one over your head, loop it around once, and take your outfit from "meh" to "looking good!" (This is a true story BTW - happened last week at work. Took an outfit from being really plain and simple to professional. And I got LOADS of compliments on the scarf.)
image from

6. New slippers: I had my old pair of slippers for a ridiculously long time and had pretty much worn (and washed) them into a state of "who are we really kidding anymore?" So I junked them around MLK day, and I picked up a new pair of Isotoner microterry/satin slippers on sale at Lord & Taylor (although next time, I am just going to try Kohl's - looks like they have better selection.) They are really soft and warm without being too hot and even give your foot a bit of support. They are super comfortable, which is a good thing when you are barely awake, staggering around your kitchen trying to make coffee or if you decide to spent the whole day in your pajamas, as you do sometimes. Comfy slippers are hard to come by, and I really like these.

image from
7.  Fannie Flagg books: I love Fannie Flagg's books. All of them. From Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe to Standing in the Rainbow to her newest The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion. I can't decide if it is because her characters tend to be genuinely nice people, or the fact that the stories are all set in the South and I really love reading about the South, or the fact that she can have you laughing, then crying, and then laughing again all in one page. It might also be the nostalgia for a simpler/better time: when communities were close knit and everyone knew their neighbors, when they sat on the front porch listening to the radio and drinking lemonade on a summer night, when kids could ride their bicycles all over town without having to worry about getting hurt or kidnapped or worse. Not saying that the books don't have conflict, because a good book needs conflict, but these novels make you feel really good. Sometimes I really need to take a break from the mysteries, 19th century novels, and fantasy that fills up a large portion of my "to read" pile and just read a simple, feel-good book. And when I do, I read Fannie Flagg.

Speaking of knowing your neighbors, I just want to give a shout out to my next door neighbor: MJB. She will never read this and even if she did, I don't think she'd know I was speaking about her, but honest to God, I don't think that I could have asked for a nicer next-door neighbor if I tried. So despite the ice dams and the other unexpected home-ownership related drama, I really lucked out in the neighbor department, and that totally makes me smile!!!!

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Sisters Cooking Show, Episode 3

I was invited to Sister B's house yesterday because she was baking "macaroons". Delicious! However, when I got there, I learned that Sisters K & B were actually doing some collaborative "macaron" baking. Even better!!

There were some initial disagreements about which recipe to use, but I think that the one that seems to be the final winner was Martha Stewart's, with a butter cream filling from a different cookbook.

While I was not actually involved in the making of these macarons, I was a taste tester and a member of the clean up crew. And while the sisters baked, I hung out with the "Sweetpea" (Sister B's nearly 2 year old son), who really liked watching the blender and the mixer. He doesn't discriminate: if it has a button to push, he likes it. (Although he was not interested in the macarons, which just meant more for the grownups. Yum!)

I hope that I will be invited back when they make the next round.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Holmes on the Brain

Okay, so it is entirely possible that I am seeing things, as I totally have had the newest series of "Sherlock" on the brain (it starts up again this Sunday after "Downton Abbey"!!), but doesn't

Fred McMurray (seen here with Joan Crawford in Above Suspicion) look an awful lot like...

...Benedict Cumberbatch as the world's greatest consulting detective?!?!

It isn't just me, right?



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...