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Friday, 22 March, 2013 Brief Quick Takes


1. Doing these QT’s in a state of mild shock, so they’re going to be short. My garden is being mulched & pruned. The snowdrops and crocuses have come and are on the way out; the daffodils are beginning. (Pictures added a little later.)

2.  I went to Florida (Ft. Lauderdale-ish)  in Feb. It was warm and lovely. Can’t get over that turquoise water.


tree orchids

Orchids growing in the trees! At the Miami Zoo.

3. I do and will miss Pope Benedict very much.


4. Holy Week next week. Not ready. I am still “a long way off.” Lent this year was not my finest.

5. Pope Francis! My reactions are all a jumble, so it is too early to have much to say. I don’t know, really, if there is much benefit to opining on the Pope anyway.


6. But I love, love, love St. Francis of Assisi. St. Francis, the straightforward. St. Francis, the literal. St. Francis, the sincere. St. Francis, filled with holy zeal. St. Francis, the undetered. St. Francis, the wonder-worker.

7. Way back when I made myself accountable to get back to teaching. Yesterday I was offered a fellowship spot.

That’s it. I hope everyone has profoundly blessed Holy Week.

More Quick Takes at Conversion Diary.


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Friday, 14 September, 2012 Go West Quick Takes

Better Coast Quick Takes

1. Recently I seem to have caught a raging case of “West is best,” a weird form of homesickness, if that’s what it is. I am pretty darn acclimated to the East Coast and my life is here now. I don’t feel driven to buy plane tickets and head back, but I would like to point out all the superior things about California and specifically the Bay Area that I currently miss:

Picking blackberries

2. The wild amaryllis (or “naked ladies”) that bloom every year around the time when school begins again:

3. Real hills. Everywhere.

Crockett, CA photo taken yesterday. (See, the sky is often clear in CA.)

Above the color late summer; below the color of late spring.

Walnut Creek/Lafayette, CA taken from Mt. Diablo.

Suddenly when I look at the CA pictures that pop up in my facebook feed, I am really struck by the hills for the first time in my life. When I lived in the Bay Area, the hills were beautiful, but unremarkable.

4. Redwoods

5. And manzanita

6. Fog that pools like the sea between the hills



7. Superior drivers’ education. No, really. After having my life repeatedly threatened this week, both behind the wheel and on my bike, here are 4 items taken from the CA drivers’ handbook (DC doesn’t put out a drivers’ handbook, so that explains a lot) that based on my observations, DC drivers are unclear on:

-Obey all traffic signals

-Yield to traffic and pedestrians already in the intersection or just entering the intersection. Also, yield to the vehicle or bicycle that arrives first, or to the vehicle or bicycle on your right if it reaches the intersection at the same time as you.

-Pass traffic on the left. You may pass on the right only when:
• An open highway is clearly marked for two or more lanes of travel in your direction.
• The driver ahead of you is turning left and you do not drive off the roadway to pass.

-Treat a bicycle lane the same as other traffic lanes.
• Do not turn into the lane if there is a bicyclist in the bike lane.

Right                                  Wrong
Vehicle properly passing a bicyclist.                  Vehicle improperly passing a bicyclist.

Just saying.

Read more Quick Takes at Camp Patton this week!

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Monday, 27 August, 2012 The Garden After – part one

I think I’ve delayed long enough, it’s high time I started posting “after” pictures of the garden.

So, here we go:

Here’s the herb/flower patch “before”

March 2012

In this case, I feel the “before” pictures are a little unfair. There’s just not much that’s planted in this bed that comes up in the spring or is evergreen. And everything I’ve added will be gone next spring too.

Nonetheless here are some current shots of that same area.

August 2012

In pots: tomatoes, alyssum (not currently blooming), a 3 plant mixture at the top of the stairs and the purple flowers by the railing (lower pic only) purchased at the hardware store – names not known, purple basil (!) and there’s lemonbalm (lower pic only) hiding off in the upper left corner. In the ground, from left to right: basil (x 3) and some pathetic parsley (not the spot for it), oregano #1, green onions, in the back zinnias, more oregano with some spearmint pushing through, a marigold, another zinnia, rosemary and over by the gate some bachelor buttons (also not blooming and apparently not very happy.)

From a different angle

This bed is in a happy stage of growth. Because I started everything late this year, it seems many of my plants are at a late-June stage of growth here in late August. I don’t mind so much, except it means I may not see more than the two tomatoes pictured ripen all the way.

I’m really liking the pairing of the zinnias with the onion flowers. Something to do again next year.

I’m still very proud of getting rid of the trash can that used to stand back there.

Way before

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Holy Thursday 2012 Iced Green Tea

An attempt to recreate commercially bought iced green tea. I used a Real Simple Magazine recipe for the rough proportions.

Fresh mint. The recipe called for 1 cup (!) of mint leaves, so good thing I had a lot.

De-stemmed mint leaves.

Plus just a little lemon balm. I only used 1 sprig.

Mint & lemon balm roughly chopped.

This bowl was the only vessel in the kitchen large enough to hold 4 cups of water (and 6 bags of green tea, mint & lemon balm.)

Brewing vessel.

Brewing time (per the recipe.)

Brewing complete, ready to filter out leaves. AKA What's wrong with this picture?

Then I poured hot tea all over the table, myself, and the floor.

Problem solved.

Last ingredient. About 4 heaping tablespoons worth.

The final product. Paper towel under the lid because I was worried the lid still smelled of lavender.

That jar was the only *lidded vessel I could find large enough to hold the tea. I had been using it to store lavender bath salts. Don’t worry, I washed out thoroughly, but between the lavender, tea, mint & lemon balm, the kitchen smelled really good!

A taste test revealed pretty tasty tea concentrate. I think the mint could be a little stronger, but that can be remedied by adding a few leaves along with ice and water prior to serving.


Friday, 2 March, 2012 Garden Quick Takes

7 Quick Takes Friday – Finally! Garden time

1.  Living on West Coast I never experienced the disconnect between the discipline of Lent and the change of seasons. (March in CA is historically wet. Endless rain, and the hills get so saturated that they start weeping mud. Pretty penitential.) I will admit that it does seem a little odd to enter into penance surrounded by spring bulbs. However, it also time to start serious work in the garden, which is hard labor, not always pleasant, and sometimes involves manure – but all that is aimed at blooms and fruit later on, so there’s a trite comparison to Lent for you.  How is your Lent going?

2.  I am so proud of myself for executing the world’s crudest (yet apparently effective) fix to the formatting on my garden brainstorming page! And so excited to be able to start garden blogging.  Although – the weather here has been so strange, so unseasonably mild, that it’s hard not to regard it with suspicion and the superstitious fear that the minute I put out vulnerable little seedlings, all the winter we’ve missed will come crashing down on us.

3. First, here’s what’s blooming already:

Purple crocuses (I always want to say "croci") in the front yard

White crocus bud

The camellias are still at it.

Snowdrops (?) and unidentified bulb foliage

I don’t really know what the white flowers are, but I presume that they are snowdrops.  They just look that way. And I don’t know what the other bulb foliage (behind them) will produce. (It looks to me like wild amaryllis or agapanthus, but both those flowers are seemingly unknown on the East Coast. It cracks me up to see agapanthus, that standard of bland suburban city-scaping in the Bay Area, used as an exotic addition to floral arrangements here.) We will see.

4.  And now: here is the backyard in all its “‘before’ pictures” glory:

Fallen tree obscuring the right hand corner of the yard

Lefthand corner of the yard (and fallen tree)

Against the fence. There are crocuses (not in bloom) back here too.

Opposite side (behind garage)

Enemies in chief: bamboo & ivy. That downed tree is going to be a problem, too.  It’s my intention to avoid, as far as possible, digging up the crocuses (I always want to say “croci”) and snowdrops, and instead plan beds around them.  I’m going to try and encourage the roses (totally invisible because of the tree, I just realized), too. What to do with the center space, I’m not yet sure.

5. I need to spend this weekend checking which parts of the yard get sun when, but I have a  fantasy of using the garage roof here for more flowers in pots.

You get to the very back via a pathway behind the garage

Not pictured are the stairs up to this level of the yard and the little area just in front of the garage and this path. (But that’s where the camellia tree is.)

6.  This little bed is all of the backyard that is already confirmed to be in the sun. (Although the very back patch looks fairly sunny, the leaves are still off the trees, so that will change soon.) All the dead foliage is crabgrass. (Aside: is it really crabgrass if it is on the East Coast?  Crabgrass in CA is impossible to get rid of. I’ve cut my hands trying to pull it out. This looks like the same plant, but it’s so much easier to remove, I have to wonder.)  I am debating whether to mulch between the existing plants as I have plans to put as many sun-loving flowers here (zinnias, mostly, I think) as will fit.

Shown here with the back porch and an abandoned garbage can

Daffodils and oregano under there somewhere

Rosemary ❤

7. Speaking of weeds, I found this story whilst googling to identify some of the plants pictured above.  Very interesting, but I’m not sure I’m ready to follow in this fellow’s footsteps.

(Aaack! I forgot!) More Quick Takes at Conversion Diary!

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Tuesday, 24 January 2012 Snowy Takes

Middle of the week “takes” because I just didn’t get it together on Friday.

This past weekend it finally snowed here. After 6 weeks of yo-yo weather- cold and dry, warm and rainy, cold and rainy, by turns- we got a very little snow. Therefore, I had to rush around with the iToy and document it.

1.  At my house we neglected to do the final lawn mow before the snow.

Snowy grass

2. I took most of these pictures on Sunday, ‘though the snow/ice arrived Friday night.

Icicles on the azaleas

3. Snow on the blooming camellias

4. Too bad the camera on the iToy can’t zoom.

Snow on the dome of the Shrine

5. The iToy camera still impresses, even without zoom.

A better shot of the Shrine

Kudos to everyone who came out for the March for Life and stood out in this weather for hours!

6. Obligatory winter scene

7. On winter days, it is nice to admire the snow from inside.

The view from my window. Hoping those street signs are illegible.