Monday, November 30, 2009

My curtains only took me three days to finish. I worked about an hour or so each day; it took me longer to measure and plan them than it did to sew them. I had to take very precise measurements to ensure they were exactly the same. Nonetheless, I'm pleased with them, especially since I didn't have to rip out any seams (I do with most projects).

Though the weather, and especially the wind, has turned quite cold we still haven't had a frost in our garden. Therefore, I can't possibly justify the clearing away of plants just yet. However, I'm now looking forward to the first frost, just so I can tidy everything up. Partner's broken up all the concrete in the vegetable bed, and has dug out more than half the grass. I can't wait to plant things in it next spring: potatoes for one. This year, we decided that the chard was a success (it's still producing, actually) and we will plant it again next year. The runner beans are an old favorite, along with carrots and beets. I think we will definitely do cabbage again, and while the broccoli was hit and miss, I think if I had caught the caterpillars sooner it would have been a winner. There were two others we planted that I probably wouldn't go for unless the seeds were free: lettuce and squash. The lettuce was all right, but the squash never had a chance--too rainy. The only one which was a disappointment was the tomatoes. But then again I knew they would be and if it were up to me, we wouldn't have even bothered.

We took our dog and Partner's parents' dog out walking together last week; it was obvious who gets taken out more often. Our dog was streaking around like a greyhound and their poor doggie was waddling and puffing behind. He's such a funny little dog and loves it when Beauty bosses him around, but he doesn't have any manners--he doesn't even sit unless he's offered a treat he likes. Still, at our house, he quickly learned he wasn't allowed to beg at the table and to (very reluctantly) sit at street corners before crossing. In this picture our dog is in the background, theirs, Dudley, is in the puddle, and my baby bump pokes out a little through my baggy jacket.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The past few weeks we've been teaching our dog the command "hush" for barking. She responds well when it's someone at the door, but when we take her walking, she doesn't want to hush. I understand this particular training can take a month or even more. It's rather embarrassing to be walking along and for her to see a bicyclist or another dog on a leash and for her to yap and howl and try to bolt off after it. She also has another embarrassing trick to run all the way across the football field just to bark at some random walker and then run all the way back. In that case, however, I pretend she doesn't belong to me.

I bought some material at Ikea today to make drapes for my big sliding door. I've never exactly made curtains, but I figure it's just some really long seams and hems. I'm not having anything fancy. Now that it's winter, we notice the sliding door lets a lot of cold in. We did have some other drapes up for a while, but the curtain pole was quite flimsy, and then the drapes themselves weren't made to those measurements so they didn't quite cover it all. At the moment I have a very simple gingham valance up. These drapes will fit in behind it.

I'm slowly working my way through tidying the front garden. It's not big at all: maybe 15'x10', and a good portion of it is grass (and moss--the lawn doesn't get much sun), but it has borders on all four sides and all of them are choked with grass and brambles. During the summer it wasn't that noticeable because of the wildflowers, but now it just looks very unkempt. I've done two of the narrow-sided borders, though I haven't made much of an effort to dig up all the grass roots; there are a lot of established bulbs I don't want to disturb. In the spring, I get multitudes of daffodils, then tulips in those narrow beds. This picture of the narrow bed next to the drive was taken three years ago in April.

Monday, November 16, 2009

While we still haven't had a frost at our house, growth has for the most part stopped in the garden. My vegetables are still alive (well, not the tomatoes), as are most of my flowers, though the only ones still flowering are the carnations and dahlias. I think I have one pink rose which has had the same bloom on it for about two weeks: it's too chilly for it to change. I've pulled up all the obvious weeds from the bare patches: now I just have to wait for a frost to kill everything off so I can tidy the garden.

I'm starting to get big enough around the middle to stop me bending much. I'm working on making maternity clothing: both altering existing clothing and making new. I have made two items to date, with a third in the works: I'm altering a nonmaternity shirt pattern (or trying to). I've got some old worn-out shirts of Partner's to make mock-ups with. I've done some research online; if it works out I'll no doubt make several.

And lastly, poor old Jack was consigned to the compost bin when his tenure was up. Still, he found it in himself to give one last leer.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Bonfire night

Last night we celebrated a tradition here called Bonfire Night. The neighbors mostly set off loud fireworks (in bad taste, I think) but our bonfire was better than anything on our street. Though it's been mostly a miserable rainy week, we still braved the weather and burnt our moldy old shed. Partner tore it down last weekend in preparation, and I sorted the wood into kindling, small pieces, and big bits. We decided to burn it in the greenhouse foundation which Partner is currently breaking up.

Though it was difficult to get going--I think we used up five newspapers (that's whole papers, not sheets) in order to get the kindling dry enough to burn--once it started, it simply ate up the wood, wet or not. And the wood was indeed wet. We were out there about three hours or so before we finally put on the floor and the roof; both were very big and dripping, but at this point, going within four feet of it singed our eyebrows. Nothing was stopping it.

When we finally were down to coals, they filled the entire pit: three feet wide, six feet long, and about ten inches deep. And still incredibly hot. This morning they are covered in ashes, but still very warm. We burned every single plank, completely blackened the metal tub of compost next to it, and scorched my poor broccoli. It was really great.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Halloween in England

On Friday (the 30th), we made a German chocolate cake from the Joy of Cooking recipe; it takes a lot of bowls/measuring implements/mixing utensils, but dang! it's tasty. For the two of us, I've found that the cake recipes in that book are just too big, both for our baking tins and our appetites, so I generally make 3/4 of a recipe. I had a tub of frosting in my cupboard from our last visit to the US--they don't sell it here. Cake mixes too are not common here, but who doesn't prefer a home-made cake anyhow? It's the lightest, fluffiest, chocolatiest cake ever. Two days later we still have half a cake left.

It's difficult to get big pumpkins here (the weather doesn't really support pumpkin growth), so when Partner decided to bring home one for carving, it was the "medium" size--about the size of a volleyball. We carved our jack-o'lantern while waiting for our cake to bake. I think it's been about ten years since I last carved one. We gave him fangs, a unibrow, and a leer.

It's not such a big holiday here, though I believe Halloween originated in the Celtic tradition. But all the modern celebrations are new to this country I think. Still, kids do dress up, and go trick or treating. I had to work Halloween (not really a big deal now that I'm an adult, to tell the truth) but Partner swears we had more than five kids show up this year. We live in a cul-de-sac, and not a lot of kids live on our very short street, so we haven't had many trick or treaters since I've lived here. That could also be due to the way Partner puts on a scary mask and leaps out at the children when they knock on the door. He says he scared one kid so badly she wouldn't take candy from him even with the mask off.