Friday, August 31, 2012

This Moment

This Moment - A Friday ritual inspired by Soule Mama
A simple and special moment that I want to hold onto and cherish.

If you feel inspired to do the same, please 
leave a link to your moment in the comments.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Butterfly Bush Love and Good Clean Fun

 Mermaids plus dish soap equal hours of fun in shade.

 Cutting the hydrangeas back so that the oil (crikey, I almost typed "olive oil" I wish!) delivery person can actually make a delivery when they chose to.  Fall is in the air.  We generally try our darnedest not to use our heat until October (or was it November?).  We are of the put another sweater on, no shame in wearing a hat and scarf inside ilk.

This butterfly bush is so incredibly fragrant I could swoon!  I am hoping to save seeds to start more bushes in the spring.  Last fall I wasn't thinking far enough ahead, but this year I am.

 Lavender and Thyme looking good.  
Love to run my fingers through these on the way out the door.

Butterflies - this one in the lavender, but more are in the 
butterfly bush.  Sometimes 20 at a time!  

Today at Miss B's Pre-K orientation there was a huge billboard in the cafeteria covered with the loveliest butterfly fabric.  Actually two fabrics, each of which I had made dresses with as a teenager!  For a long while butterflies were a power animal of sorts for me.  Maybe power animal isn't quite the right phrase, but I had/have quite an affinity for them.  I saw this familiar fabric as a very good omen.  Which is good, it may be harder than I anticipated not to get teary over my little one heading off to school.

This article today in the NYTimes has me wanting to give figs a go.  Anyone with experience overwintering them in a cold climate?  We're zone 5.

I hope your day is a pleasantly fragrant one.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Dancing Around Dementia

This weekend was a bit of a blur really...though I will say it was a happy one.

Saturday Miss B, her little friend and her mum and I all went to check out the dance studio where the girls will be starting lessons in a couple weeks.  Our girls galloped around the room, flip flops slapping, and seemed a bit like little bulls in a closet (no china thank goodness).  We are so fortunate to have received as hand me downs a lovely pair of tap shoes (by the looks brand spanking new) in the required color and just the right size for Miss B so we have only a few things to pick up at the thrift shops...and some new ballet shoes.  Raiding the dress up box for tutus.

My dear Nana who has been suffering from dementia for quite some time was ill last week and had taken to bed, and it seemed her candle had blown out in some way, but she seems to have perked up a bit, and is drinking and eating more, and it was so, so nice to see her and to see her so excited to see us during a few moments of lucidity.  My sister and I spent most of Sunday rearranged their living room to try to make it more inviting and useful for she and Gramp, and so that it can accommodate the hospital bed that it now houses.  Now they can both see the television, and the lovely water view, and they can sit and hold hands as they tend to do (so sweet!).  Change can be hard, but after a bit of heckling (directed at us), even Gramp came up with some shocking suggestions (like moving his favorite recliner!).  Sometimes people surprise you.  There is much more I would like to say about dementia but I think for now I will let it simmer a bit.

I am loving, loving, loving these prints by Nikki McClure (and found on Momfilter) and am already asking for these for the holidays - I think 6 would be reasonable right?

Miss B has a little friend over for the day and they are making a circus, from a vintage magnuteer magnetic circus set I got while thrifting with my sister last week.  Our kitchen (where the circus is set up of course!) is a nice, nice place to be this rainy morning.

Hope your day is peaceful friends.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Summer Visit

Quite cousin time.
My sister, aka Auntie, and Cousin H came for a visit last week.  It's a rare treat to have them visit us and it was super fun.  We started with the Lantern Festival of course, and then had a day of good food, thrifting and pool time.  We wrapped the visit up with walking for takeout pizza...they live out in the woods basically, so being able to walk to pick up food or a book at the library or whatnot is a novelty.

We made sure to go the the Friendly Toast in Portsmouth, NH for breakfast.  I love this place so much I was actually thinking about it as I was drifting off to sleep the night before and planning to bring a cooler and gel packs so I could bring my leftovers home (their portions are HUGE)...and we were planning on some thrifting afterwards.  Of course I totally forgot about this plan, so we could only bring home our left over toast...which was still delicious.

This place is great for kids.  They can get a half portion of anything on the menu.  Miss B always gets the Flying Fish Scramble (smoked salmon with scrambled eggs).  It's nice and loud in there, and there's a ton of cool kitch with which to play "I spy."

Warning, I'm not a huge fan of their coffee, but they have a great tea menu.  Be sure to ask for it.  I generally get the Napoleon Dynamite tea.  I also always get the Mexican Mash, which is too spicy to share with Miss B, but a risk I am willing to take.  No trip is complete with out a trip to the loo.  I can't vouch for the men's room, but the ladies' room always has a unique toilet seat.  Generally it is clear plastic resin of some sort with either candy or rubber ducks within.  A huge hit with Miss B, and me too for that matter.

Cousin H engaging with sidewalk art.

Strong Auntie holding up Miss B.
 We've been talking all summer about taking Auntie and Cousin H to our friend's pool...which we use while he's at work and generally feels like our own private pool (complete with enchanted frog).  We spent the afternoon and it was soooo nice.

Our friend, eyeing us a bit warily.

Good summer fun, and such a treat to have the two of them here!!   

Friday, August 24, 2012

This Moment

This Moment - A Friday ritual inspired by Soule Mama
A simple and special moment that I want to hold onto and cherish.

If you feel inspired to do the same, please 
leave a link to your moment in the comments.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Lantern Festival 2012

This lovely creature welcomed one and all to the festival.

Lanterns, lanterns everywhere lighting up the night.

Once lit, the heat from the flames caused these paper
lanterns to take flight and soar off into the night.

So cool, and kind of dangerous seeming in a thrilling way.

Our homemade seltzer bottle lanterns.

Lighting the way home.
Such a lovely night!  Good music, good friends.  My sister and Cousin H made the trip down and were totally impressed by the festival.  Us too. Filled with happiness that this place is our home with all these wonderful people.  
We are blessed indeed.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Lead Contaminated Soil - A Hidden Danger

Miss B beneath a mammoth cucumber vine which was a "volunteer" this year.
A while back I shared that I had received the results of our soil lead scan and one of the garden beds I had tested came back highly contaminated, while the other two beds I had tested came back mildly contaminated. I gave up any hope of eating the cukes and squash from the highly contaminated bed, and have held off on consumption of the gorgeous patty pan squash from the third bed until I the quantitative results come back...while waiting I have done a fair amount of learning about lead contaminated soil.

Where does lead come from?

Paint - lead was in paint prior to 1978. So if your house is older than that you could expect to find lead around the house where paint was scraped off for repainting at some point.

Leaded gasoline - this was phased out in the starting in the 70's but if you are on an old main road (like we are) you could pretty much guarantee your soil is contaminated with lead along the road.

Old Orchards - lead arsenate was in heavy use until WWII

Scrap metal - discarded roof flashing, lead pipes etc.

Numbers what they mean
I've found differing breakdowns on the numbers but the consensus seems to be this.

Less than 50 ppm = Normal/Background
No steps needed

50-300 ppm = Slight Contamination
Wash all vegetables.  Wash and peel root crops.
Move play areas to an uncontaminated site.

300-500 ppm = Moderate Contamination
Grow fruiting vegetables only.  Avoid leafy vegetables. Avoid root crops. Wash vegetables thoroughly.  Keep soil pH 6.5-7.0 (this prevents the lead from being taken up by the plants).  Add manure/compost each year.
Move play areas to uncontaminated site.  Have blood lead level tested.

More than 500 ppm = Heavy Contamination
Avoid breathing dust during cultivation.  Mulch or maintain grass cover to keep down dust/rain spatter.  Move edible garden to uncontaminated are or bring in clean soil to build new garden.
Move play areas to uncontaminated site.  Have blood lead level tested.

Our soil results and what I will be doing now
Our front side garden (near the house and road) came in at 1000 ppm!  Yikes!  I had already torn up the squash and cukes I had growing there.  Most of this is lawn, and then some lovely giant snowball hydrangeas.  When I cut the hydrangeas back this fall I'll bag them and dispose of them at the transfer station (will check with the folks there to see if this is the proper way to handle).  The small strip of sod I'd torn up and thrashed to make a bed for the cukes and squash (the dust was flying - and of course I was inhaling it - agh...) I will heavily mulch and any weeds pulled from this bed will go to the transfer station as well (again with their permission).  No edibles in this bed unless I put down a membrane impermeable to roots and create a new raised bed there.  Hydrangeas for now!

Miss B's flower garden came in at 130 ppm.  Not too bad.  Fortunately, I did most of the planting while she has done most of the cutting.  Long term I would like to build an arbor over this area with grapes and wisteria, and a little cobblestone patio of I'm not going to take action, just continue to limit Miss B's "helping" to cutting, and add compost and whatnot.

The back garden where I have strawberries, elderberries, blueberries (planted by the previous owners), squash, black beans, and tomatoes is 100 ppm.  Again, not too bad.  My plan for this bed is to add compost and manure to increase the organic matter,  continue to wash everything from this bed thoroughly and to abstain from planting leafy greens, or tubers.

All in all I breathe a sigh of relief.  As I continue to develop a plan for our yard, with heavy emphasis on the edibles, I will definitely be doing additional soil testing.  Our composting program will also be going ahead full throttle.  Must make more new "clean" soil.

I also found some research is being done on growing specific plants to take up the lead and then when the plants are removed the lead (or some of it the hope is) is taken too.  Will be doing more research this winter.  Who knows, maybe I'll get involved in such a study : )

I feel there is so much interest in urban gardening right now, and I've seen very little information outlining the importance of testing for lead in the soil.  I hate to be a negative nelly, but won't you please help me spread the word?  Maybe I/we can come up with a striking poster or button or something and place it on the side of this blog, or around town next spring.  If you know of anyone gardening nearby an old home, or along an old heavily trafficked road, please ask them if they've tested for lead.  It's terrible to find out you have lead contaminated soil, but would be so much worse not to ever find out and be breathing the dust and eating contaminated food.

Not contaminated.  These beauties are heading to the freezer!
So the verdict is in on the Patty Pans and now I can blanch and freeze, and feel good about it.  These sure will make lovely soups and stir fries this winter.  With a bit of coconut milk, onion and curry powder - delicious.  And I will rest easy knowing for a fact they are safe.  One of the big benefits of a home garden is increased health right?

Won't you please help me spread the word?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Let's Eat Cake

Working on a lead soil post...but it's not going to be ready today, so in the's a picture of the cake I made for Mr. B's Birthday, Nigella's Chocolate Guinness Cake.  Any recipe where the first step involves melting butter (a whole stick mind you) in stout is pretty impressive.  Thank you Lily for the recommendation!

The result was delicious.  A bit like a wacky cake (an old family favorite) but richer with a hint of bitterness from the Guinness.  I am currently without a mixer so everything was creamed and whipped by hand.  Miss B and I kept thanking our arm muscles!

Mr. B was pleased as punch and we got up early before Miss B to indulge in cake for breakfast.  Isn't nice to be a grownup?

Monday, August 20, 2012


Ahh, aren't hotel sheets luxurious?
We spent the weekend in Boston for Mr B's early birthday.

We took the train from Woburn, which is only about 20 minutes out from North Station. $7 a day for parking and $12 round trip on the train - this may be our new favorite way to get in to Boston!

The view from our hotel room.  We were endlessly enthralled with the comings
and goings at the City of Boston Fire Department directly across the street.

Room service - Bubbe and Miss B ate in while Mr B and I ate out.  Well not out actually, we went for a stroll along the waterfront and then thoroughly enjoyed dinner at the hotel's French restaurant.  Such a treat, and I think I may have fallen in love with polenta!

Out and about.  The city felt so festive.

The water side of our hotel.  
The water front was fairly quiet in the rain.

Contemporary art at the MFA.

Are these chairs fun or what?

Love this chandelier!

This woman looks so capable and self assured.

There was a crack at the base of this by the feet and Miss B was convinced she could see something inside.  She was beside herself with excitement.

Loving these colors.

Water play at The Boston Children's Museum 
There was an absolutely amazing collection of dollhouses on display.
  As we kept discovering more rooms we kept shrieking
 "Shrink me, oh, please shrink me!"

A fantastic trip!  Super spur of the moment (we decided the day before), and not all that expensive.  We Hotwired the hotel, and borrowed a pass from one of our libraries for discount admission to the MFA, and then we went one hour before closing for half price admission to The Children's Museum (which was perfect).  It was not nearly as crowded as it has been other times we've gone, and they periodically announced how much time was left so you could be sure to see what you wanted to.

Mr. B seems pleased too, having gotten his city fix for a bit.
Cake tonight!