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Drought in Massachusetts

Posted by mrssmythe on July 26, 2016 in Garden, Musings, Seasons |

We’re currently in the midst of a drought here in Western Massachusetts – the first we’ve seen since moving here. And, I’ll admit, one aspect of it has me baffled. The lawns. Very few people are watering their lawns.

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Which, of course, makes sense. But, it does surprise me. I grew up in the arid West where, even in drought, most people watered their lawns – at least as much as they were able, given water bans, etc. In fact, lawn watering was a huge part of summer there. If you didn’t have a sprinkler system, your days were divided by trips outdoors to move the sprinkler. I earned spending money as a teen watering the lawns of people on vacation. I put out food for their pets, too, but watering the lawn was the important thing!

With that in mind, a sprinkler system was high on my list of “desirables” when we moved East. I didn’t want to be tied to a hose all summer. Imagine my surprise when none of the homes we looked at had anything of the sort installed. It seemed in this part of the country, there was enough rain to take care of lawns and gardens in the summer. Nobody watered. Amazing! For nine lovely years, I enjoyed a lush, green lawn without ever having to set out a sprinkler.

But, now, here we are in year ten, and everything has changed. The papers tell us we are at least six inches behind what we ought to be in rainfall. A “moderate drought” they have labelled it. And still, very few people are watering. The prevailing attitude seems to be, if there isn’t going to be any rain, there isn’t going to be any grass. Businesses and homes, alike, have yellow lawns. Behold, Town Hall:

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It makes sense – it just takes a bit of getting use to.

Meanwhile, at the pond, the “deep” end reaches just over my knees. There is Ginger, at center, standing in a spot that, in years past, reached over her head.
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When the girls took their swim tests this year, they had a heck of a time not scraping bottom. A friend of mine, whose family frequents another pond, says they can practically walk out to their docks.

So, at this point you’re wondering about our multiple ponds and all of those green trees in the picture, and you’re thinking the drought can’t be that serious after all. And, I can understand that. By Western standards, we are still lush. There is green to spare. But, by Massachusetts standards, we’re pretty parched.

From the dining room table, admitting that one benefit of the drought has been a lower mosquito population this summer,

Mrs. Smythe

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Turkish Delight

Posted by mrssmythe on July 22, 2016 in Celebrations |

Have you ever tasted Turkish Delight?

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I hadn’t until about a year ago when I spotted a box of the stuff at Marshall’s of all places.

I’d only ever heard of Turkish Delight once before – when I read The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. It’s the sweet the White Witch uses to corrupt young Edmund. At the time I read the book, the movie hadn’t been produced, so I didn’t even know what Turkish Delight looked like, but, it sounded exotic and delicious, and I decided then and there that if I ever came across it, I’d give it a try. When I saw the box at Marshall’s, I scooped it up. I’ve been hooked ever since.

Now, how can I describe Turkish Delight to someone who’s never tasted it? Let’s see. I’d say it’s like a sophisticated gumdrop.

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It has the same gelatinous texture, but it isn’t as sticky. And, the flavors are more subtle. Often, you find Turkish Delight that contains nuts. So – a subtle,nutty gumdrop? Does that sound tasty?

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I think it’s delicious. But – it isn’t for everyone. No one else in my family likes it. The kids do, however, know that I’m a fan of the stuff, and Ginger bought me a box for my birthday this past week (again, she had to go to Marshall’s. That’s the only place we’ve ever seen it for sale). I thought it was very sweet of her. And, since I’m the only one in the family tempted by it, I haven’t had to share. Even better.

From the dining room table, having watered the garden and seen the chickens safely to bed,

Mrs. Smythe

P.S. – I know there are recipes for Turkish Delight. Has anyone ever made it?

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10

Youth Classes at the Springfield Museums

Posted by mrssmythe on July 17, 2016 in Art, Museums |

The kids each got to select a week-long day camp to attend this summer. Pepper chose “Painting in Oils”, one of several teen art classes offered by the Springfield Museums. (For a complete listing of current classes, click HERE).

Before taking this class, Pepper had never had any sort of formal art instruction. She does like to sketch, though, and has spent a lot of time drawing over the years.  She’s also tinkered a bit with watercolors. Oils, though, were new to her.

On the first day, Piper did this:

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It’s a “value study” of the still life the kids worked on throughout the week. This gave them an idea of the color values and shading they would be using in the painting. They started by painting the canvas red (to give it a warm glow), and then used browns for the rest.

For the next three days, the teens worked on their actual painting, Recreating on a larger canvas the study in browns, then going over it with colors. Afterward, they added shading and highlights.

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They spent their final day of class working on something completely different – Japanese Brush Painting.

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This actually turned out to be Pepper’s favorite part of the class. It wasn’t as complicated as the oil painting, and the brush and ink were very versatile. She liked that you could do a lot with just a few tools. Plus, Pepper really likes the “look” of this type of art.

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As to working with oils, Pepper liked how those paints were very forgiving. Mistakes were very easily fixed. She did not, however, like how much care had to be taken with them – things like wearing gloves, the laborious cleaning of the brushes, and the smell. She probably won’t spend a lot of time in the future working with oils, but she’s glad she had a chance to learn about them.

When the teens weren’t painting, they were studying exhibits in the museum, getting insight into things like lighting and painting styles. Pepper says that having worked with oils, she now has all new appreciation for paintings done in that medium. The class also attended a marionette show, a planetarium show, and spent their lunch hours together eating on the Smith Museum veranda. Pepper says her teacher was really nice and that she knew a lot about the art in the museums. It was a really great week for Pepper, and she highly recommends similar museum classes to any kids interested in art. She’s looking forward to taking more museum art classes in the future.

From the dining room table, with CPT A upstairs doing yoga (are you surprised?),

Mrs. Smythe

 

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A Birthday “Blarf”

Posted by mrssmythe on July 15, 2016 in Crafting |

While at the Springfield Museums this past week, I decided to use one of the statues in the Dr. Seuss Memorial Sculpture Garden to help showcase my latest Stashbuster Blarf – modeled here by Thing 1 (or is it Thing 2? I forgot to check).

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Here’s a closer look:

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Rather than go the multi-colored route, this time I confined my yarns to pinks and purples.

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I alternated between merino wool (fingering weight) and mohair (lace weight). The resulting scarf is very light and almost “cloud-like”.

It’s not as long as many of my scarves end up being. This is a birthday gift and the recipient is smaller in stature than I am. But, should she wish a longer scarf, this can definitely be stretched out with a good blocking.

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The colors remind me of all sorts of lovely summery things – raspberries and watermelon come to mind, as well as hollyhocks…

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And phlox.

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(These are currently outside the Smith museum).

Right now, I’m seeing these colors are everywhere!

So, in some ways, it was a very timely project. But – because it was a gift, I had to bid the scarf goodbye (sniff) and send it off. As I write, it’s making its way to Washington State where it will hopefully brighten the day of a certain birthday girl. I hope she likes it!

From the dining room table, admitting these “blarfs” are addicting – they’re so fun to crochet,

Mrs. Smythe

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Museum-Grade Hydrangeas

Posted by mrssmythe on July 13, 2016 in Garden, Museums |

We stopped in at the Springfield Museums earlier this week and took a look at the gardens. As usual, the hydrangeas are enormous.

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These have got to be the biggest hydrangea blooms I’ve ever seen. (That’s Ginger’s hand in the photo, by the way. I thought it would help you get an idea of the scale of these behemoths). Gardeners were working near them at the time, and I asked one of them what her secret was. She said that, first of all, the soil was “good soil” when the hydrangeas went in, but that the real secret was probably the Miracle Grow she uses to fertilize them now that they’re established.

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Everything else was awash with color. The cone flowers dominate around the Yertle statue. They draw plenty of bees.

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And there is a patch of sunflowers that have yet to bloom – I’m sure they’ll be impressive when they do. The butterfly garden in front of the science museum has taken off nicely, and the art museum has new and attractive plantings, as well as some fun, interactive sculpture. Really, if you have a few moments and find yourself in the downtown Springfield area, the museums grounds are a lovely place to spend a few quiet moments – maybe even a lunch hour. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

From the dining room table, wondering how long it will be before my coneflowers are as large as the museum’s,

Mrs. Smythe

 

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