Purple Flowers and More Wallpaper

Posted by mrssmythe on May 23, 2018 in Garden, Renovations, Week in Review |

Wallpaper removal continues. I found another pattern this past week – this is the fourth I’ve seen.

As I work, I’m definitely getting faster. But, I’ve also sliced my hands twice with a putty knife. Surprising how sharp those things can be.

Outside, things are just glorious. And so green! All at once, we have leaves and flowers and loveliness…like this gorgeous shrub I pass each day as I walk the dogs.

It always makes me think of a brides and late spring weddings.

In the yard, things are mostly purple.

(This lilac smells amazing!)

And then there are the weeds in the lawn that I still haven’t been able to cut because they’re so pretty and serve as such a haven for the bees.

I’ve tried several times to positively identify this weed. I thought it was Ground Ivy or Creeping Charlie for a while, but the more I look at it, the more I think it’s something else. Any thoughts?

From the dining room table, with lawn mowing in today’s agenda,

Mrs. Smythe




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Peeling Wallpaper, Dragon Fruit, and Blooming Flowers

Posted by mrssmythe on May 14, 2018 in Garden, House, Seasons, Week in Review |

Things are hopping here on the home front. Inside, I’ve decided to (finally) tackle the kitchen walls. These should have been painted years ago, but I’ve put off the job because it wasn’t a matter of mere paint. There’s wallpaper under all that paint, and it needed to be stripped before any more paint was applied. Not an easy job. Last week I took a deep breath and got started. Here you see Ginger at work. (She’s a great helper with projects of this sort – and she was also thoroughly tired of that orange paint!)

The first layer of wallpaper came off relatively easily. The next layer has been harder to remove.

Judging from the colors and prints we’re seeing, I’d say both layers were applied sometime in the 80’s. I explained to Pepper (who was aghast at the prints we uncovered) that powder blue and dusty rose were popular colors in that decade.

I can’t imagine how long this project is going to take. I managed to get most of two walls done this past week, but what remains will be difficult to reach. I may have to slow down a bit as I negotiate corners and areas above and beneath cupboards. Meanwhile, I’m trying to decide which white paint to use when I finally get the walls clean. I had no idea white came in so many shades.

In other news, Ginger has been experimenting with unusual foods. In the last couple of weeks, she’s tried seaweed, sushi, and sugar cane. Most recently, she brought home a dragon fruit. It had a nice, mild, sweet taste, but the most impressive thing, I think, was the way it looked when we cut into it:

In the yard, things are finally in full swing. The violets are out in force, both on the front lawn…

…and the back.

Elsewhere in the yard, the ground ivy is out:

It’s tricky to mow around, but pretty and attracts a large number of bees.

Several of our shrubs are blooming: the lilac, the honeysuckle, and this flowering almond:

And we have trees in bloom, too, including this apple:

The Creeping Phlox is putting on a good show, blooming around the perimeter of the fish pond.

And the Bleeding Heart (really my favorite spring bloomer) is enormous and loaded with blossoms.

CPT A jokes that it must be eating small animals to have attained its massive size (waist high and five feet across), but I’m convinced it’s vigor is due more to the fact that the dogs relieve themselves nearby before we head off on our morning walks each day. Whatever the reason, it’s obviously very happy.

From the dining room table, with two trees to plant this afternoon,

Mrs. Smythe



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Happy May!

Posted by mrssmythe on May 6, 2018 in Garden, Seasons |

May began for us as it usually does – with a cheerful bouquet of flowers on the front step…

…compliments of a gardening neighbor who is as thoughtful as she is talented. I look forward to this treat every year.

These daffodils smelled so good!

Do you see the little visitor that came in with them? I didn’t notice him until after I’d taken the picture. He is now a resident of our front yard, as I’m not the sort that kills hitchhiking spiders.

The dog walks are getting more and more interesting these days as things continue to wake up in neighborhood yards. This shrub is one of my favorites, though I’m not sure what it is. Spiraea, I think.

And the Magnolia trees peaked this past week. They’re always such a treat to see, especially against a bright blue sky.

In our own yard, the radishes are up…

…and the dandelions have appeared in force.

I started to weed these the other afternoon, and then I saw a honeybee out and remembered a beekeeping friend told me once that in early spring dandelion flowers provide a much needed food for bees. So, I stopped my weeding and left the dandelions alone. It was hard to do – part of me really wants clean, tidy, “weed” free beds…but bees are important too. More important, I think, than clean, tidy, “weed” free beds.

Nearby, the ferns are emerging.

These seem to pop up overnight and unfurl in a matter of hours. They’re such enthusiastic things! They fill a space that I haven’t been able to grow anything else in, so I’m grateful for their yearly appearance.

Indoors (at the time of this photo, but now on the front porch)…

…the Cactus. I continue to enjoy watching this latest “frond” emerge. It isn’t progressing as fast as the ferns, but it’s still fascinating to see. Also – it makes me think of the Southwest, which is a region very dear to my heart.

From the dining room table, with a candle lit, coffee brewing, and bossa nova playing in the background,

Mrs. Smythe




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At Last…Plus Some Artwork

Posted by mrssmythe on April 29, 2018 in Art, Baking, Garden, Week in Review |

At last, we are starting to see definite signs of Spring! So many, in fact, that I felt confident about planting spinach in the Hugelkultur beds on Saturday.

I also added some arugula and some cilantro – plus some seeds. I’m not sure how well the seeds will do. I planted them in roughly composted material as opposed to traditional soil. But, we’ll see. It never hurts to try.

Out front, I finally have some pansies set out – a welcome shot of color this time of year. These were flying off the shelves of the garden center this past weekend!

And, the Bleeding Heart is off to the races. It looked especially pretty after a rain storm earlier in the week. The flowers are just now starting to appear.

Inside the house, the cactus is putting out another shoot.

I can’t wait for the weather to be warm enough to get this guy back onto the porch. Also the geraniums. The geraniums have done remarkably well inside, though, and bloomed straight through winter! I think it was because Ginger was taking care of them. She has a way with plants.

Ginger also has a way with baked goods. Here you see her first ever batch of French Macarons.

I was hesitant to let her try these when she first showed me the recipe. The ingredients are spendy, and they looked difficult. But, in the end, they weren’t as hard as we expected, and they were delicious! Very worth the effort. If you’re interested, this is the recipe Ginger used: French Macarons

And, finally, in celebration of Earth Day, our church held an open art studio today in its fellowship hall. People were encouraged to stop by and spend time experimenting with paints and other art supplies to create artwork that centered on earth-related themes. I manned a poetry booth and Pepper helped with the painting. When she wasn’t coaching younger kids, Pepper was sketching and coloring, herself. Here’s one of several pieces she finished:

I love it! And, it was such a pleasure to have an entire afternoon set aside for drawing or writing or painting in the company of other people who also enjoy doing those things. The thing I kept hearing people say was, “I should do this more often!” I agree.

From the dining room table, hoping to fit in a bit of sketching this evening, myself,

Mrs. Smythe



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What We Do When It Snows

Posted by mrssmythe on April 19, 2018 in Art, Baking, Critters, Seasons |

Spring is certainly dragging its heels this year. I think it’s snowed three times since I last wrote at the beginning of April.

At this point, I have no patience for the cold. It makes me cranky. But, as there isn’t much point in complaining, and there certainly isn’t anything one can do about the weather, we have been trying to make the best of it – entertaining ourselves as best we can while we wait for warmer temperatures to arrive.

What do we do, you ask?

We dress up the dog.

Between snow storms, Ginger walks the rabbit.

As you can see, there’s very little green in the yard.

Ginger also designs houses on Minecraft. This one is my favorite.

We dash out to the barn (in the snow) to collect eggs.

The snow melts, then the next day, it snows some more….

I paint. If I can’t see blue skies, at least I can create them.

And, when all else fails, Pepper bakes us chocolate chip cookies.

Here is her no-fail recipe (similar to the Toll House recipe, but with less butter):

Pepper's Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
3/4 cup softened butter
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 large eggs
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl. Set aside. Beat butter, sugars, and vanilla. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture until well combined. Stir in chocolate chips. Drop by well-rounded tablespoons onto an ungreased baking sheet. Bake 9-11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheet for 2 minutes and then transfer to cooling rack until completely cool. Makes about 36 cookies.


My sincere hope is that you are seeing more of Spring than we are right now. If you aren’t, you have my deepest sympathy. In the meantime, I think I’ll dig out a couple of logs and have a fire this evening. It’s truly that cold.

From the dining room table, with more snow in the forecast,

Mrs. Smythe


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