A Shift to Beading, Afghan Update, and Flowers (of course)

Posted by mrssmythe on May 18, 2017 in Baking, Crafting, Critters, Garden, Week in Review |

This Mothers’ Day, I sat down at the dining room table and spent several hours playing with a beading kit I’d picked up some weeks back. It was at a bargain store and very inexpensive. One of the projects was this necklace.

I love it. It’s light, easy to wear, and goes with several things in my closet. However…

The string provided in the kit didn’t fit very easily through the holes in the beads, so the whole project took much longer than it should have, and I was reminded (again) that you often pay in other ways when you go the “cheap” route. In this case, I paid in time.

But, I’m still happy with the necklace, and I’ll be doing more beading, I’m sure, in the coming months.

In other news, we’ve been sweltering here in Western Massachusetts. The past two days have been 90 degrees +.

The animals just lay around and pant. Even the chickens.

The only pet loving the heat wave is the Beta, who perks up whenever the weather turns warmer.

He seems to be enjoying the new hydroponic habitat Ginger put together for him. She planted a coffee plant in the top portion, and so far, both the fish and the plant are doing well. I think the fish will like it even more when the plant’s roots grow a bit.

It’s been too hot, for sure, to work on my granny square afghan, but I thought I’d spread it out on the bed to show you how it’s progressing. I’m in the final stretch now and am rapidly running out of yarn – which was the whole point of the project, so that’s a good thing. It reminds me a bit of a braided rug.

Outside, the plants are responding positively to the warmer days. The giant allium have opened.

And the chives are on the verge of doing the same.

The strawberry plants haven’t minded the heat, and are much improved since we removed them from the chicken area to a more protected spot on the patio.

And, we discovered what that strange “growth” on the cactus was.

It’s an emerging “arm”. What a wild looking thing that is! It’s been fun watching it “open up”.

And, finally, despite the heat, Ginger and I, trying valiantly to keep up with the chickens’ enthusiastic egg production, made a Sunshine Cake from a recipe we found in the Fannie Farmer baking book. Eight eggs, a bit of flour, some sugar, and little else.

It was wonderfully light and fluffy but a bit bland. Next time, we’ll add some frosting.

From the dining room table, getting ready to head out to the porch with a book (where it’s cooler!),

Mrs. Smythe

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Animal Blessings and Angel Food Cake

Posted by mrssmythe on May 10, 2017 in Baking, Chickens, Critters, Garden, Seasons, Week in Review |

No, we haven’t decided to let the chickens come into the house – this is just Pepper, trying to lure them in with some scratch…which she should not be doing, but which I found funny enough to photograph. In the end, the chickens held to their good manners and did not come inside. Pepper gave them the scratch anyway.

In other news, our church had its annual Blessing of the Animals service last week. We had a fine afternoon for the event. Here’s Ginger, getting ready to get in line. Can you tell which pet she brought?

It was Opal, her rabbit – one of the few non-dogs in attendance.

And there is our pastor, giving the blessing.

He was really great and gave a lot of time and attention to each animal he saw that day.

Opal made the rounds afterward, meeting the other pet owners and allowing herself to be stroked and exclaimed over (she has a very soft coat). She got her start as a farm animal in a Girl Scout camp, so she’s pretty good around new people.

The only other pet we took was Ursa, and there’s no photo of her being blessed because when it was her turn, she slipped her collar and ran off rather than meet the pastor. Next year, we’ll leave Ursa at home. (So embarrassing!)

In the yard, we have all sorts of color right now. It’s such a beautiful time of year. Our most recent bloomers include the honeysuckle bush…

the lily of the valley…

the creeping phlox around the pond…

and these “weeds”.

They’re all over our lawn right now, and too pretty to mow, so right now the lawn looks more like a meadow than grass. I’ve seen them labelled lots of things, most recently “bugle”, an herb known to be good for healing wounds. Who knew?

The quest to knit/crochet my way through my excess yarn continues. Recent finished projects include these socks, knit from yarn my sister bought me when we visited Old Sturbridge Village together last October…

and this hat, knit from a WWII-era watch cap pattern and made with leftovers from a long-ago sweater vest project. (If you’re interested, you can get the pattern for the hat HERE).

And, finally, with all the extra daylight, the chickens have gone into overdrive in the egg department. In an attempt to keep up with the overflow, Ginger and I made an angel food cake from scratch, going through a dozen eggs in the process. Not a bad solution, eh?

If you’ve never made an angel food cake from scratch, you should give it a try. They aren’t nearly as difficult as you’d think. Just a lot of flour-sifting and gentle folding of the ingredients. The egg whites do all of the real work. (The recipe we used can be found HERE.)

From the dining room table, pretty sure that all of that cake is gone by now (it went quick!),

Mrs. Smythe

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Lots of Flowers, Lots of Bubbles

Posted by mrssmythe on May 2, 2017 in Critters, Garden, Seasons, Week in Review |

This week, CPT A set up a bird feeder in the back yard for any birds that might prefer a more secluded setting than our driveway dogwood affords.

(Actually, he put it up because he found it in the garage and thought it looked cute).

Anyway. It’s been very popular with all of the wildlife – turkeys and squirrels included.

The feed does go fast from this new feeder, though. (I blame the squirrels).  I’m not sure we’ll keep maintaining it. It gets expensive. But, it has been fun to watch the visiting wildlife.

We’ll keep up the front feeder for sure, though that one remains popular with the squirrels as well – and with Manny, who watches the squirrels secretly from behind the fern.

Actually, not so secretly. Manny lets them get close and then woofs loudly at them, startling the squirrels and sending them flying. They return, and, after a while, realize Manny can’t get to them for all his barking.

The plants are changing almost daily here – both inside and out. Below, you see a cactus that was part of another cactus I bought last summer.

Ginger knocked off one of the original plant’s “arms” one day while hopping from rock to rock in the rock garden. We potted the broken bit (after a bit of drying time), and it miraculously sprouted roots and lived, which is a good thing, because the original plant didn’t survive the winter.

Anyway – this week, Ginger noticed the cactus arm was growing a “thing”.

What is this “thing”? We’re not sure.

Another arm? A flower?

Whatever it is, it reminds me of a sea anemone.

Meanwhile, work on the giant granny square blanket continues.

Interesting how the colors echo the colors I’m seeing in the yard.

The bleeding hearts…

The flowering quince…

The lilac…

and the flowering almond…

Also the colors in a May Day bouquet a neighbor surprised us with yesterday.

Even the colors of the bubbles Ginger has been making in the backyard with her new “Bubble Thing“.

We’ve had so much fun making these amazing, gorgeous bubbles. Honestly, I could watch them all day. Ginger is practicing to surprise the kids at a church event we have coming up in a couple of weeks. I think she’s going to be a big hit, don’t you?

From the dining room table, with an eager Ginger already clamoring to make more bubbles (rather than work on her math),

Mrs. Smythe


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Tiny Sequoias, Pond Cleaning, and a New Afghan Project

Posted by mrssmythe on April 25, 2017 in Chickens, Crafting, Critters, Garden, Seasons, Week in Review |

CPT A brought his sequoias home from the office this past week.

He has two now (from an original batch of eight) that he’s nurtured from seed.

They’re two years old, and it was time for them to be repotted…a nerve-wracking procedure as CPT A has grown rather fond to them.

But, here we are, two days later, and they’re doing just fine – sitting out on the front porch, enjoying a gentle spring rain, in fact. So – huge sigh of relief and high hopes for another year of continued sequoia growth.

Outdoors, the garden is progressing at a fast clip. This is the season where there always seems to be more to do than time available. Over the weekend, CPT A cleared a winter’s worth of leaves out the back pond.

Things are looking much better now, and we’ve even spotted a pair of frogs.

They’re so large, we think they must have holed up for the winter somewhere nearby. The pond fish survived the winter, so now we have a busy little pond community to watch.

The lawn is going to need attention soon, too, but for now, I’m leaving it alone because the violets are out.

And the morning dog walks are getting prettier and prettier with all of the neighborhood shrubs and trees coming to life – among them, spirea…

and magnolias.

In critter news, CPT A clipped Kipper, who was getting decidedly matted. CPT A took about a plastic grocery bag’s worth of fur off of of him, and I’m using it to stuff a suet feeder, thinking maybe the birds will like to line their nests with something warm and soft. (I’ve seen this done before with alpaca wool).

If the birds don’t seem interested, though, I’ll swap the fur out for yarn clippings. This neighborhood is going to have some posh nests this year!

And, in chicken news, the girls got their first taste of watermelon when a kind neighbor dropped some leftover rinds by for them.

The chickens love watermelon – they even drink the juice! – so this was a real treat, and much appreciated.

As for crafting, I finally finished the baby blanket I started in February.

This project seemed to take a long time. I worked on it consistently over two months – for at least an hour a day – knitting while Pepper watched her course lectures. Don’t get me wrong, it was very pleasant knitting – soothing, even – it just took a long time. The yarn was very thin and the needles were thin too.

That said, if you don’t mind a longer project and want something simple and elegant for a baby, you might really like this pattern. (You can find it HERE.) I’m sure I’ll make another at some point – I was really pleased with the result.

Now, I’m switching back to crochet, digging (once again) into my leftover stash to put together a giant granny square afghan.

I’m following instructions I found on Katie’s Kitchen Blog, but, really, it’s very simple – just a granny square that gets bigger and bigger until you finally decide that it’s done. My goal is to produce something bed-sized, and I’m betting I can manage it in less time than it took to knit that baby blanket. We’ll see. I’ll keep you posted.

So, that brings you up-to-date. We’re in for a wet week here in Western Massachusetts, but you know what they say about April showers. It’s all good. From the front porch, where I’m gathering in a dose of nice, fresh air (honk if you drive by and see me),

Mrs. Smythe

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Easter, a Downed Tree, and a Whole Lot of “God’s Eyes”

Posted by mrssmythe on April 19, 2017 in Celebrations, Chickens, Crafting, Critters, Garden, Ginger's Snaps, Seasons, Week in Review |

The daffodils are out at Springfield College! The girls and I noticed them (and whole-heartedly approved) when we were on campus last Friday.

Other welcome spring color…

Glory-of-the-Snow. Isn’t that a wonderful name for a plant? These are popping up in unexpected spots in the yard. I love them.

The Flowering Quinces are getting ready to bloom. I mulched them last year with layers of pine needles and grass clippings to give them a good start, and that nice organic matter draws the chickens continually to that area. It looked so tidy in the fall. Now, it’s a mess!

I’m consoled by the fact that the chickens will probably do more to enrich the soil than my mulch would have. But, as far as aesthetics go….Well, I’m having to relax my standards for the backyard. I’ve basically turned it over to the animals. It’s a messy, yet happy, place.

The azaleas are blooming in the side yard. These were put in by a former resident. Hot pink against a red house? Sometimes I wonder. It says “tropical farmhouse” to me. But, they’re pretty, so we leave them in.

We did not, however, leave in the lightning struck tree that was splitting down its trunk. The gap had been widening with each passing storm, and a couple of weeks ago, CPT A heard it creaking ominously. So, Easter weekend it went.

This was a little trickier than the last tree he felled – mainly because two fences, a deck, and a clump of raspberry bushes lay in the tree’s track. Also, it was still alive, so more difficult to saw through…but, CPT A managed it nicely. No damage to any of the above things (though he hates the raspberry bushes, and so wouldn’t have minded “accidentally” taking those out). Now, it’s my turn. I’m in clean-up mode, stacking wood and raking the grass so that it will be ready to mow in the next couple of weeks. The grass seems to be waking up as quickly as everything else.

In crafting news, I finished a hat I started last year with yarn I had leftover from a sweater. I found the abandoned project while spring cleaning the hall closet. The hat was nearly finished, so it felt like a small amount of work for a completed project. Kind of the knitting equivalent of planting bulbs. Maybe I should do it more often?

Meanwhile, Ginger has discovered “God’s Eyes” – those yarn and stick creations that almost everyone makes at some point in their adolescence. She learned how to make them at church. Now, she’s making them non-stop.

She makes tiny ones (using toothpicks).

And enormous ones (using dowels).

They’re all over her room. And, when she ran out of places to display them, she started hanging them outside. Here’s one she made for our front porch – I love the bells.

When she hasn’t been playing with yarn, she’s been messing around with the Prisma App. Here are some photos she took while we were at the local high school. I swore there was nothing to photograph, but Ginger proved me wrong. (I’m going to include both the “before” and “after” photos here because there’s such a surprising difference in the two images.)

Who’d have thought rocks could be so photogenic?

And, finally, this year’s Easter Egg hunt – themed as always, thanks to CPT A’s creative mind.

The girls are really into Marvel this year (last year, it was Lord of the Rings), so they were thrilled. Each of the eggs CPT A hid contained a little superhero bobble-head.

I’m not sure how many more years the girls will want to continue this tradition, but for now, it seems, they have no interest in giving it up. (And, do you blame them? When they move out, I’m going to make CPT A set up a hunts for me…maybe with jewelry?)

From the dining room table, with the kids still asleep (it’s school break week here) and the house pleasantly quiet,

Mrs. Smythe

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