Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Buckingham Palace-Self Portraits

While in London, we were able to get in one day of major sightseeing. In September, while the Queen is at Windsor Palace, the Brits open Buckingham Palace for one month to the tourists. Apparently, according to my parents who went through in the first year, this originally started as a way to make some funds to refurbish Windsor after its fire in the late 1990s. Apparently, according to my mother who is an A-1 Anglophile, Buckingham is amazing but not worth buying the dvd tour. Or, in her case, the VHS tour. I didn't, but I did buy a guide book-- now, that is totally worth it.

So it goes through the 19 state rooms, complete with audio headset (totally worth it). The most impressive room of course is the banqueting hall-- set for a royal state dinner. The amount of time and precision in laying out the silverware and glassware is amazing. And, to be honest, I wouldn't want the job of Royal Hand Washer. Everything on that table has to be washed & polished before it goes out and the same when it comes back in, only this time dirty.

You can't take photos inside, but you know that I would never pass up an opportunity to have a self-portrait in the gardens!

Can you tell how thrilled Will is?

Yeah, I knew he loved self-portraiture as much as me!


We have just returned from London, forgive my absence, and I have an exciting new game that is a part of Will's childhood and hopefully will catch on here.

Or, how to break your own knuckles.

The game requires conker seeds, what we would call horse chestnut seeds. The seeds really look like large buckeyes:

You drill a hole through the conker, force a bit of string through the hole, and now you have a conker on a string. The idea is that you dangle your stringed conker to be hit by another person's stringed conker. You take turns trying to break off the opponent's conker by hitting it with your conker. After each go, you examine your conker and access the damages, if there is any.

Should you be successful in smashing the other person's conker off the string, your conker becomes a "one-ey". If you smash yet another conker with the winning conker, you now have a "two-ey." Now, should someone else smash your conker, they get to claim your previous wins as well as their own, and so they become a "three-ey." Got that?

But in reality, it is all about the pain you inflict-- mainly on yourself on your knuckles, arms, thighs, etc. Here is a prime example: Will and Edward, Will's father, playing conkers:

So, who is up for a game of Conkers? We brought some back...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Sorry Charlie Brown, No Great Pumpkin this year

Here I was ALL excited because Will and I were going to be able to carve our very own-grown pumpkin. But the other day, in my daily routine of checking on the garden before heading off to work, I immediately noticed: our great pumpkin tragedy.

I picked up the pumpkin and it broke off the vine with such a sad and instant "snap". I rotated it in my hands to discover the huge gaping hole. I immediately dropped it when I saw the hungry ants crawling all over our potentially perfect Halloween work of art--which, needless to say, didn't help much in keeping the pumpkin intact.

No Will-created fantastic pumpkin montages with home-grown pumpkins this year. No jealous comments from neighbors about the carving of one's own orange gourd. Why, why it is almost as if there won't be any Great Pumpkin at all! I guess we go straight to Thanksgiving and working on a cornucopia of autumn veg instead. Sorry Charlie Brown. We were trying!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Just a little off the bottom...

A friend of mine has a great hair cut but she lives in Oxford, England. I was totally bummed because I coveted the style. I finally told her and she told me that Remi does it here in DC. She gave me his number. I called, made the appointment, and when I sat in his chair, I said that I was not afraid of short, funky hair. I said I wanted it shorter, maybe similar to my friends. Remi, a Frenchman, tossled my hair, thought about it, and then said "Okay, go get washed." I return with wet hair and as I remove my glasses, I say, "Once these are off, I can't see a thing." "AH! It will be a total surprise." Jes......

I watched the hair fell but I knew that he was putting in texture and layers and whatnot. I wasn't worried. I was finally able to put on my glasses and boy, was it a surprise!

Course, now it has been a few hours since it was cut, and I have run my fingers through it several times. I have been staring at the mirror saying to myself, woah that is short. I do like it and after all, hair will grow back.

The best part is that I made Remi's day. He said so. He said a whole day of boring haircuts, that he wishes for just one funky cut a day and I was his funky cut for the day. He was a bit discouraged at achieving this goal, my appointment being 5:00 and all. But his day turned out a-okay. Now for me to just get used to it...

An Aunt to a Nephew for the first time

I have a new nephew! Brando Coleman Taylor was born on September 16 at 10:10 am. 7 lb, 6 oz. and 19 inches long. Look at my proud sister! Who knew she just came out of surgery!! She looks beautiful and Brando looks perfect.

The Taylor family is now four! Chloe is a big sister-- what a birthday present for her!

As for me, I can't wait for both of them to get big enough to come visit... and pull some weeds in our garden.... I mean, spend some quality time with Auntie Miriam and Mr. Will. Yup, that's it.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Fiona's golden choice

Will and I can't thank Fiona & Charles enough for the birthday present of raspberry canes. They sent six for my birthday, a wide variety. Last year, the canes arrived, stick-like and straight. We planted them in the perfect place. Will stepped on two of canes while mowing. I knocked one over. And two simply didn't make it.

However, the one that did make it was the golden raspberry variety--should have known that Fiona would have picked the best kind of golden raspberry! We have picked about 40 this year and they are so delicious. There is no point in even trying to get pick them and get them into the house. You pick them, you eat them. Instantaneously. We have about 12 more on the bush and I guarantee that they will be eaten shortly. We put mesh over the bush to ensure that we get them and not the birds. Cuz we aren't going to share these. Unless you are Fiona, and you bought it for us. Otherwise, you can only look at the photo and be jealous...


Happy 2nd Birthday, Chloe-Belle! I hope you have a lovely day and enjoy your tome with FAB (Favorite Aunt Becca), but don't forget who really loves you more: FAM (Favorite Aunt Miriam)!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Continual surprise

We at first thought we had a watermelon--it started off green and stripey and we did plant watermelon. But now it is turning a nice orange color, all over. Now we are thinking that we have a pumpkin.

Only we didn't plant any pumpkins. We craved them for last year's Halloween and composted the inerds. Of course we then fertilized our garden this season with that compost, but that would be weird that we got only one pumpkin plant, considering how seedy all 5 of our craved pumpkins were.

So, the garden continue to surprise us, even at this late stage.

After Andrew's comment of how this part of the yard was called the "dead zone" by his parents and he when they were first living in the house, he was wholly impressed that we could get so much to grow in that section. Therefore, I guess that our abundance of tomatoes and viney things means that we have the green thumbs, even for stuff we didn't necessarily know we were planting.

We are that talented.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Red Face, Blue Fingers

When Will's brother's family was here for a marvelous visit, we took them to the National Zoo to see the kung fu pandas-- which were disappointingly not doing kung fu but munching like mad on bamboo.

No trip to the zoo is complete without one Popsicle, or lolly at the Brits would say. Note to everyone: everything is cuter in a British accent coming out a child's mouth, even the begging for a lolly. Lucas, who is 3 1/2, got one of the rocket ones and most of it ended up on his hands, face, clothes, his mother's clothes, the sidewalk...

But if you ask Lucas, it just tastes better when you spread it around like that. I agree.

For Richard

In May, Will and I were traveling back from our trip to Malta with a one-day layover in London. We went to Etchingham (south of London) to visit his aunt and uncle (who has been ill), who run a beautiful bed and breakfast there. We were thrilled to have a quiet visit with just them and us-- and watch a wedding taking place in such a gorgeous setting.

At one point, Richard went to feed his ducks, who came up close to the house for their daily ration of wet bread. I quickly took this photo of him walking out to feed them, clucking and quacking at them, encouraging them to come a bit closer.

He and his lovely wife Jill also took us around their gardens--the secret garden, the roses, the wildflowers. Everything was in bloom and just so wonderful. Will and I felt truly lucky to see King Johns Lodge in the summer-- for me, it was my first time to see everything in bloom and for Will, it had been over ten years. Absolutely amazing and fairy tale-like.

Richard, you will be missed.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Playing with our food

Will and I prepared dinner last night, which included a fresh garden salad. I pulled up carrots, among a harvest of other veg including a lovely green pepper. Just so you know, our five lovely orange carrots that have nothing on the tasteless carrots you get at the super markets.

But, after I cleaned them up, and cut off their tops, I noticed the unusual shape and similarities to, well, take a look:

Now, the head is obviously not a carrot... that is a yellow pear tomato I harvested along with the carrots. It was such a perfect neck and head! How could I resist not making a veg voo doo doll?

Let me tell you, though, this carrot doll was just absolutely yummy.

Deliciousness in halves

We cut the cantaloupe open for breakfast yesterday morning. We saved some seeds first so we can plant more next year. And then we dived in....

It was so delicious! Sweet, fresh, tasty, glorious, perfect. And homegrown. We had one half and it was down our hatches within 3 minutes of sitting at the table.

The sad thing now is that there is only one more half... and Will went to Vegas today. Isn't it then so sad that I will have to eat the other half all by my lonesome? Yeah, I know. The troubles I have....

Friday, September 5, 2008


Will and I have picked our first (ripe) cantaloupe! We had picked one earlier in the month and when I cut it open (after sitting it on our counter for two weeks), it wasn't even close to being ripe.

This one we know is ripe-- the lovely seductive cantaloupe smell! The rind is just soft enough. And the smell--it's so.... cantaloupey!

Will and I plan on cutting this open for breakfast tomorrow.... if you come over, we *might* give you a sliver.

The best part, too, is that there are two more still growing in the garden. One is hiding behind the air conditioning unit, but we found it and can't wait to eat it.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Autumnal Table Art

Last night I did a big harvest in the garden. And by big, I am mean two buckets full of stuff and handing over veg to the neighbor who *happened* to also be out in her yard. Uh-huh...

Anyway, in case you don't know the story, we started from seeds a variety of vines: zucchini, summer squash, zephyr squash, and some melons (honeydew, cantaloupe, water). Now, the seeds didn't take in our seed incubators. But, not wanting to waste to the soil in the starter pots, I spread the soil out through the garden, thinking when I came across a seed that it was a dud packet, so I didn't bother to remove it. I just let it drop to the ground with the rest of the soil I was spreading. Um, yeah.

Turns out that vine seeds really like warm soil. And I mean warm. So, not February indoor soil but late March outdoor soil. We had more vines than we knew what to do with! They kept coming and growing and spreading and taking over. I was so happy! I love zucchini! I can make my father's zucchini bread!

And then I learned another thing about squashes: They mutate. Very easily. They cross pollinate, they transform, they change.

So, none of the varieties we planted we got. We got instead some green microphone-looking squash. We got bumpy and smooth ones. We got mini pumpkins, some striped, some yellow or orange, or my favorite: the green and white striped one. We got them dangling up through the tomato plants and the butterfly bush.

I attempted baking them, sauteing them, roasting them. But in the end, they didn't taste all that great and they really are more decorative squash. Now, when I go to the store I won't have decorative fall gourd envy for my autumnal center piece on my table. Now, I am wondering if Will can't use his magically craving powers and make a fun scene with the gourds for the Halloween jack-o-lanterns. Now, I am wondering, how many more of these gourds am I going to get (cuz there are more! I didn't pick the baby beginning gourds on the vine), because I am in need of only one table centerpiece. Do any of you need some lovely organic table decorations? I know where you can get some cheap...

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Golden Celebrations

The Golden Celebration rose we planted this year has bloomed again. It has had a crazy growth spurt, along with the other three new roses from David Austin. And the smell is delightful.

Will and I now have to decide how to trellis this suckers since we can make them into an archway into the lower garden. Wouldn't that be lovely? An archway of Mr. Lincoln, Golden Celebration, Honor, and Evelyn? Basically an archway of red, yellow, white, and apricot roses. How pretty would that be?

We talk about it, and instead we stake 'em up and watch 'em grow, and every once in a while, cut them to bring inside.

New look, same great taste

I have decided to move the blog (<--Click to view) to less unwieldy, faster loading page-- not to mention one that the address isn't all crazy with % and _ in the title. So, Welcome to the new looking blog about gardening in DC, with a bit of extra stuff thrown in. And I promise that the photos of the veg will still look as good as they taste.