Friday, 24 December 2010

A Very Happy Christmas

from all of us, including the cat crew ...!

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Tuesday, 26 October 2010


I often think back fondly to a time when I visited my husband on one of his trips to LA, where occasionally he stays with an acquaintance of his.

A beautiful place in one of the LA canyons, with pool, and beautiful garden.

Didn't get to swim that time, as it was just a bit too early in the year and I wasn't up for a freezing dip.

This couple, a lovely English couple who have lived out in LA for quite a while now (didn't stop them requesting that I bring them a jar or two of Bovril, though), also have five cats.

What I remember best, is the evening I arrived, I watched as the woman lovingly prepared five separate bowls of cat food. She mixed some dry in with some wet, seemed to spend an awfully long time getting it just right, and I thought to myself, "is that how it is done, then?".

But what I found most gratifying, the recollection that pleases me most as I have been in the same situation almost nightly, is that once all the bowls had been carefully placed in the places that obviously each cat expected their food ... not one of them touched it. Turned their noses up, turned tail, and walked away.

Food that I gave Ginger the night before, that he scarfed down, is not to his taste the next day. The amount of cat food I scrape into the bin is shocking. After a bit you just have to give up on it, as it becomes inedible (even to a cat!).

The LA cats all seemed to like to drink from the pool, though ...

Saturday, 25 September 2010

This Piece of Music

In honour of the fact that I've been trying to switch the music around, or at least ensure that more than one song plays for the duration of your visit, I am sharing here the lyrics of this beautiful piece of music, which until I can figure out, might be the only piece of music you hear every time you visit. Until I work this out and actually have what they call a "playlist".

For the record, IMHO Leonard Bernstein was a true musical genius. Apart from everything else, this shows it, above all.


You've been a fool, and so have I,
But come and be my wife.
And let us try,
Before we die,
To make some sense of life.
We're neither pure, nor wise, nor good
We'll do the best we know.
We'll build our house and chop our wood
And make our garden grow...
And make our garden grow.


I thought the world
Was sugar cake
For so our master said.
But, now I'll teach
My hands to bake
Our loaf of daily bread.


We're neither pure, nor wise, nor good
We'll do the best we know.
We'll build our house and chop our wood
And make our garden grow...
And make our garden grow.

(ensemble enters in gardening gear and a cow walks on)

Let dreamers dream
What worlds they please
Those Edens can't be found.
The sweetest flowers,
The fairest trees
Are grown in solid ground.

ENSEMBLE (a cappella)
[which means the music stops, and normally here I catch my breath ... and get a bit choked up]

We're neither pure, nor wise, nor good
We'll do the best we know.
We'll build our house and chop our wood
And make our garden grow.
And make our garden grow!
(The cow dies)

That's life, hey?

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Double Cat Fun

This is my cat. Ginger. Aka Mr Whiskers. Aka Scoodgems. Still not sure how to spell that.

This is his brother, the occasional visitor. Big Brother, I call him. Or, Bro.

Can you tell the difference? Bro has a pointier tail, and is more upright, whereas Ginger is rounder, a little bit fluffier, and cuddly.

The big difference is, when you're outside and it's dark, if you pick up Ginger you get cuddles - he moulds himself into your arms, top feet on top arm, back feet on lower arm, and a purr to accompany that - a cuddly, scoodgy little boy.

Pick up Bro by mistake, and you get FLAIL. Arms and legs everywhere, nuh huh, what do you think you are doing??

Funny thing is, apart from the fact that sure, they come in for food (I'm feeding two cats here on a regular basis, chuh)

I know that Ginger missed me when I was away in France. He was all over me, and in my face, and wouldn't leave me alone when I got back. He was like velcro.

But Big Brother? Every time I open the door, there he is. Don't you have a home to go to, kitty, I ask? Don't they give you scratches like I do? Heck, he almost did that thing recently - the kneading thing. I thought he might crawl into my lap. And he's got a purr like a drill hammer. You could hear that purr two blocks away.

Hello? You're not my cat. I love you pussums, but you're not my cat ...

Can you tell the difference?

Monday, 6 September 2010

Clinging on to Summer

It's that changeable time here. Early September, you don't expect much weather-wise. But we had a rare glimpse of summer again last week, and it was meant to last into the weekend. It almost did. Being a complete weather junkie (in terms of weather reports), I'm watching every day now.

Still wearing sandals. Summer tops, with a cardigan on top, and a light mac (both, instead of one or the other. Or neither, in the heat of things). Topping up my French tan from a bottle. Rainy and grey threatened every day now, in fact we've had both today. But I'm hanging on. Just for another week or so. I see women dressed in autumnal jackets, boots, tights, on the train every morning. But for me, not yet.

Don't ever let me forget, Summer 2010 was awesome. July, uh, perfect. Hot, sunny, hot, sunny. August, well, okay. Not too bad. Even now, it's not cold, just not ... hot. That's okay.

But the nights seem to be drawing in. Maybe because it was so grey today, culminating in the promised rain. By the time I was coming home from work, it seemed so ... dreary. Dark. And Autumnal. Perhaps it's time ...

But there is still much to ripen, and to harvest!

Whatever I'm wearing, whatever the weather, I'll keep you posted!

The other good news is - and this is seriously good news ... the arachnid situation seems to be much, much better this year over last year, or even the previous. The good summer? Who knows. I'm touching wood here, but really it hasn't been a problem for me. Just as I geared myself up to deal with it ... (I know. I know. We need them. Ick). But phew ...

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Harvest Number One

Well, this time, to explain my further absence, I have been on holiday in the South of France with my sister and her family. Cannes, to be exact, and I got tan (for the first time in perhaps 4 years?).

It was beautiful, it was hot (I love the heat), it was bliss. Six days on a beach.

This beach, to be exact, the "Bijou Plage" directly across the street from the apartment. Huh. Was that only five days ago?

But to return to the subject at hand, I will start with the vegetable garden.

This year I am attempting courgette (zuchini for those Stateside), cucumber, tomatoes (of course!), beans, peas, and the usual lettuce, spinach, rocket. Potatoes in a bag (more on that later), beetroot, and radishes.

Nice buch of radishes, expecting to harvest another lot tomorrow (you can sow seeds every three weeks to get a succession of crops). Two lovely cucumber on the right, one nice and rather large courgette on the left. All well and good.

Ah, those courgettes. First of all, lesson one, the plant gets rather huge.

Secondly, you really have to look out for the vegetable appearing. I caught two in time. Next time, I was taken by surprise

Jamie Oliver says that when they get too big, they are rather wooly inside and not very edible. At this point, after I had put this on Facebook, an American friend kindly gave me a recipe for Zuchini Bread, which is just about all I could do with it. Which I intend to try.

And then today? Well, I thought I had checked before I left on the 18th August - but today ...

Oh Mama. How much Zuchini Bread am I going to end up with?

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

What's a girl to do?

When you have film premieres, theatre visits, after theatre drinks, red carpet events ...

Nah, there was just the one film premiere last night. A surreal experience. Thanks to the job that my lovely husband does, I went to a red carpet event. And managed not to trip up the carpet, or make a fool of myself - as they say here, I "scrub up" pretty well (that means, I can dress up without my wellies and jeans, my normal gardening attire).

I aqpologise for being absent, but believe me, I have been gardening. And I have lots to show you! Left border, vegetables, cleaning and clearing projects, all sorts. And I will be sharing with you soon! Not to mention the cats - oh the cats ...

Summer kitty. He loves the outdoors. Cats are wild.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

So in the end ...

I couldn't move it. By the time I came round to try and dig it out, the ground was very dry from the intense days of sunshine that graciously shone during my visit. I couldn't even get the fork in the ground, nor the spade.

So we trimmed it.

I mean, it's a little better, right? Not quite so monstrous. Okay, it's still pretty big

But it's not taking up a full third of the garden (and right in the middle, too). Sure, I'm a fan of hostas, always have been, but I've still never encountered one that grew quite this big.

And time always runs out. On this visit we acquired a Rhododenron, Clematis, Hydrangea (Endless Summer, allegedly hardy in Zone 5), Lantana, Pentas 'Grafitti Bright Red', Verbena (very pretty, pink and white), some Nicotiana. I managed to plant the first three, with help from the boys, during our Memorial Day barbeque (boy, that was good food).

I do hope the rest got in the ground safely. But you know what? To my mind, there is still more space to fill. But then a garden's never really "done", is it?

Monday, 24 May 2010

Greetings from the Midwest

Here I am, visiting my parents, in the small, delightful suburb of Chicago where I grew up. Where, 7 years ago (it doesn't seem that long!), I planted for them, or tried to, an English cottage-style garden. I get to revisit it from time to time, sometimes in inclement weather. But when the weather is like this, I make improvements. Or so I hope.

Like most American suburban homes, my parents' house has a lovely big backyard, mostly lawn, with a flower border. The man who lived in this house many years ago was a keen gardener, and his legacy remains in the beautiful lilacs by the side of the house, and the peonies and roses that grace the left border.

My task was to transform a small patch next to the house, into an English cottage garden. It all began in 2003, when my father sent me the dimensions, and my challenge was set.

Planting time was October, when I was here to run the Chicago Marathon. The grass of course had to be dug out, but eventually, we successfully cleared the patch, and the fun began - choosing plants, and planting them.

The initial palette was predictable: Lady's Mantle, Lambs Ears, Clematis, Cranesbill Geranium. Phlox, I believe, a Heuchara, Dianthus. I can hardly remember what all went in at the beginning. Lavender was attempted, twice, but didn't take.

Like most gardens, some things died, some things thrived. This is two years later.

Note the dainty Hosta in the centre, just behind the fountain. Every time I come and the weather is good (so, not at Christmas time!), I work.

I have an interesting challenge this year, to do with that Hosta.

It has grown rather larger than expected! Something must be right in that soil. Stay tuned as I mull over this situation ...

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Spring Cleaning

First things first.

I decided that my first task of the year must be to negate the need for unnecesssary and time consuming weeding of the ugly front, and anywhere else for that matter.

Weed control fabric, my saviour. Sure, I know there are most likely weeds growing under there; but I can't see them. So I won't waste precious time weeding the same patch over and over again.

For the vegetable patch, I used newspaper, as I expected to be planting there a month later (I'm still waiting for the opportunity to do that, being at the mercy of the changeable weather).

It's a very temporary measure but I am hoping that at least it will keep the worst of the weeds down until such time as I can till, and plant. Messy and not particularly attractive, but necessary.

Of course I should have done all this last autumn, but better late than never.

The Left Border was a godawful mess. Although my desire was to rip everything out and start again, I did find that there was much to keep.

Still, I was fairly ruthless. The pinks are gone, and the scrappy lavender. Clearing this out was a very satisfying job.

Room for planting, methinks!

The Delphinium and the Lupins are coming back nicely, along with the Poppy. and the Hellebore has been glorious.

And thanks to the man upstairs, No Man's Land

Is now Kiddieland

Sweet. Note the use of weed control fabric.

And for good measure, I worked on the front as well. Once more, negating the need to ever weed this again.

Weed control fabric is my favourite garden management tool at the moment, as you can see! More blue slate is required (I used everything we had collected when we had the roof redone last year), but a vast improvement already, no? The only things worth keeping there were the Buddleja and the Palm. The soil in the front is very, very poor.

A successful clean up job, hopefully never to be done again!

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Greetings, fellow gardeners

And, belatedly, a Happy New Year.

With greetings from the cat crew, too.

I must admit, I was rather despondant at the end of the season last year, with my lack of success in the garden overall. Oh, I harvested some fruits of my labour.

But the season ended with the garden in a terrible mess, with Mother Nature doing her best to reclaim it and turn it into a weed wilderness once more.

It's in a right state.

However, I have renewed vigour to get out there, and fight the good fight. And grow something worthwhile.

I took a turn out there this morning and perhaps it's not as bad as I thought. I actually found that the purple sprouting broccoli sprouted some purple broccoli.

Maybe there is hope for me after all.