Friday, April 30, 2010

Derby Prep

Tomorrow is Kentucky's National Holiday: the 136th running of the Kentucky Derby. Since I am not in attendance at Churchill Downs, my friend and fellow Louisvillian have a Derby Party here in DC.

I am in full Derby-prep mode. I've made my Kentucky-shaped shortbread cookies... my bourbon out....

...made my simple syrup (might have even tasted it to make sure that it will work with the bourbon, pictured above).... my roses ready to run for...

...have my Derby Pie made and perfectly delicious looking...

...and have my tote board ready to accept bets on the winning horse.

My favorite: Dean's Kitten. Considering that the weather tomorrow for Derby is predicted at 2-5 inches of rain, long shots are in! A 50-1 horse winning? It could happen, people!

Go, baby, go!!

Non-edible garden additions

Many times Will and I scoff at the "garden art" we see in other people's gardens: the pink flamingos, the water features, the random sculpture that takes up the entire postage stamp size front garden....

Course, I am sure that these folks would laugh at what we have in ours-- which is why mainly the garden art stays in the backyard.

We have several new additions this year, and we are really quite pleased with the finds.

First up, a brass platypus from Australia that doubles as the hose knob:

It was just a little bit irresistible when we saw it at the botanical gardens in Melbourne. Facing up, the water is off, facing down, the water is on. He is surprisingly heavy even though he is only about 3 inches long.

Second up: a shoe-cleaning hedgehog from Birmingham, UK:
Another cutie, Will found this one in a garden shop near the hotel at which he stayed during his recent trip to England. This little guy is about a foot long and is saving me loads of time from cleaning up the mud that used to be tracked into my kitchen-- usually right after I had mopped the floor. Now, if I could get the dog to use it, I would be in business.

Third up: our mini Terra Cotta Warrior:
We had him in the bedroom, but his base broke. Instead of chucking out, we placed him in the garden to watch over it and us. Protection from the evil spirits, just what the bigger version was supposed to do...

4th: Our large, concrete snail:
This type of snail is the only type to have in a garden. We have had him a long time, but not in good places where we can enjoy him. We hope that its presence warns off other snails. A snail talus-man, if you will.

Finally, and my favorite, a birthday present from Will: Aunt Jemima Puddleduck:
Found at the same garden shop in Birmingham, UK, Will thought that with my love (bordering on an obsession?) of all things Beatrix Potter, that we needed something of hers in the garden. I quite agree. She is just lovely and the detailing of her shawl is exactly like the original drawings from Mrs. Potter. Seeing Mrs. Puddleduck makes me smile every time.

Now, you will have to visit and find these, and many more, treasures in our garden. Just no laughing at our "garden art."

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Starchy Progress

Down in the lower garden, we have the two types of potatoes up (Yukon Gold and a red type which name I can't remember at the moment)in our dirt troughs; the rows of onions are doing well (also two types: white and red pearl); and along the trellis, the beans & peas (peas & beans!) are winding their tendrils around the strings.

It is very exciting to look at the progress, but the weather has been a bit rough. We have had cooler, wet days--even this morning, we had a frost warning. So far, no damage to the crops. I am very glad that we have not yet put out most of our seedlings. They are still too busy being stimulated by the grow light indoors.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Logsdon Lettuce!

Dear Carol & Gene,

LOOK! Your red lettuce seeds are up and producing lovely looking leaves! We will wait a few more weeks and then transplant them to the garden proper. Though we are tempted, we haven't tasted it yet. I might have a nibble today. Unlike the strawberry, if I take a nibble, Will will never know....and I can blame Peter Rabbit (even if we don't have rabbits in the garden).

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Is It Ready Yet?

Stirling really wants to have a fig:

But, they aren't quite ready yet, unlike our first strawberry!

I am letting it ripen in the sun today, but I can't guarantee that it won't be consumed tonight as an appetizer. I just have to get home *before* Will.....

Monday, April 26, 2010

Yum! Bread!

The Italian gave me "My Bread" by Jim Leahy as a birthday present-- and coincidentally it was named one of the best "must have" cook books for the year by the James Beard Foundation.

On Friday, I started the dough, let it rise for 18+ hours (as instructed), and baked in my Le Cruset 5 1/2 quart dish. And perfection was achieved: It tastes as pretty as it looks-- and it was super easy!

Thanks, Italian!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Tilden Reunion

Saturday night we had a bbq to celebrate the visit of a friend-- it was a mini reunion, and a glorious time was had by all! Yea for visiting friends!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Will "Cleans" His Office

We are having a BBQ tomorrow for a friend in town from Germany, where she and her husband live. She used to live here and so we are hosting the ol' gang, if you will. The weather is going to be kinda terrible tomorrow, so the gang and their kids will be in the house. This requires that Will's office be cleaned up, as it will be a major thoroughfare from the dining room (where I will no doubt display my lovely pound cake that I made just for the occasion) to the kitchen, where the drinks will be.

Will was making excellent progress on this task, until our neighbor popped by with her seedling plants that we are to watch/water while she is out of town for a week. Her seedlings are doing much better than ours: bigger, taller, stronger. She claims it because she sits them on a counter underneath a florescent light.

This jealousy all but consumed Will and he instantly forgot about cleaning his office and instead set about remedying the situation... running down to the hardware to get all the necessary supplies to make his own grow light.

Granted, I have been saying for a few years now that we should get a grow light, since we seem to do really well at germinating the seeds, but not so well as transplanting strong, tall, big seedlings to the garden. I do have to complain about it. Why?

This is where Will placed the grow light here:

Yeah, underneath the table in his office. *Sigh*

And no, the office still isn't clean...but our vegetables might have grown 0.01 cm overnight.


Dear Fiona & Charles & Iain,

Thank you for the roses from David Austin. We planted them and they are doing quite well. All three have new growth on them and we think that we planted them in really good spots.

Two are climbers, as you will recall. One, A Shropshire Lad, is going to climb on our neighbor's fence in the backyard, and the other one, Graham Thomas, will be trained to go around the columns on the front of the house. The third rose, Crown Princess Margareta, was planted beside the more established Mr. Lincoln--he needed the company.

Thank you again and we can't wait to show you the first blooms, when they finally appear!

Love, Miriam & Will

Garden Update!

Here is your April Garden Update.

Gladiolas are springing up:

Potatoes coming up:

Garlic abounds:
Indoors, the lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, sprouts, chard, peppers, and herbs are up:
and the peas & beans, beans & peas are way up!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Monday, April 19, 2010

Garden in Bloom!

Tulips, Orchids, and Violets, oh my!

Delicious Stilton

We had the Italian and her delightful husband B over for dinner over the weekend. We cracked open a lovely jar of Stilton that Will had brought back from England.

As our lovely model B shows, it is from Fortnum & Mason. This Nottinghamshire version of the ‘King of Cheeses’ is creamy and sweet with a heavily veined texture and predictably full flavor. From the last family-owned Stilton producer in the UK, this cheese can be made only with organic milk from the three counties where Stilton is made. As you can see, it is blue and veiny, and quite delicious.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Plan

Here is what Will and I have come up with for the attic plan. It is based on what an architect did for us a while back. Remember, this is on the roof line, so we have some funky ceiling angles, which are represented as the black dashed lines. There is only a small section that has proper 7 foot ceiling height: in the middle of the bedroom, and where the new dormer is (including the bathroom).

The blue dashed lines are the windows.

The dotted lines are doors--red for regular doors and brown for access panel doors (usually opening onto a yellow colored space).

In the bedroom: The storage trunk and storage drawers in the bedroom will be under shelves. The dashed-dot-dashed line coming off the stairs is a banister or half wall.

In the bathroom: The blue diagonal line in the shower is a bench. Also, in between the windows and vanity will be some shelves.

In the closet: "Shoes" is on a section that is slanted, so we can build shelves on that angle--where the stairs leading to nowhere once were. We will also have to cover the front windows and use that space for hanging clothes. It is a shame to block the windows, but that is the only way to maximize the space with such awkward ceiling angles.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Attic Demo: Before and After

Today, a merry band of workers came to our house and demolished the attic. They took down the old walls, the nasty old insulation, removed the doors, and made a mess of things. But we are thrilled with the results!

Before we had a tragically painted office (yes that is my fault!) and storage space, enlarged by the beautiful 12 foot dormer:

click to see image bigger

And after a 7 am wake up call this morning and three guys working solid until 3:00 pm (hauling away so much more bags of trash than I thought possible), we have this result:

click to see image bigger

Will and I amazed and super-excited. Measured from the widest points, the attic is 27 feet wide (front of house to back) and 21 feet across (existing knee wall on the north side of the house to the new air duct in the new dormer in the south side of the house). So many possibilities!

We did discover that there are lots of planks on the underside of the roof with mold and we will have to get it cleaned before we get insulation in (and framing). In the meantime, we are just ecstatic: the dream of having a master suite is starting to come true.

Friday, April 16, 2010


I got my hair cut yesterday because, frankly, I really can't deal with long hair. Chin length is really all I can cope with. What I wasn't prepared for was this morning, when all the weight of the hair was gone, the curls appeared! Okay, more like waves, but still not the pin straight, stringy hair of my childhood. Kinda exciting!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Catch! or Roll!

We discovered that when playing with Stirling and her ball, she doesn't retrieve the ball.
She spends most of the time, on her back, wiggling.
Course, Will's commentary is less than thrilling.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


"DEER! But, D'oh! The VP is protecting them by hiding them behind this large fence, through which I can only stick my head....but maybe....if I push a little bit more, I can get them....," Stirling seemed to say.

Sunday, April 11, 2010


Skirting the arena where I've been based for the last few days is the end of the Worcester and Birmingham Canal. Dating from around 1800 it was a major commercial artery in its time.

It brought back fond memories of a family holiday we went on back in the day. The four of us rented one and spent a good 10 days traversing the canals of the midlands. I'm now going to look into doing it again, any takers?

Had a couple of lovely days in London visiting Andrew and family - work went swimmingly. All in all a solid trip, but back to the States tomorrow and the next stage of the attic.

The Bullring

It's what they call the central area of Birmingham. Traditionally known for its excessive use of concrete on a sunny day it's not too bad, buskers, shops and lots of people.

Selfridges looking like an Amoeba

not overly thrilling to be honest

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Loo Has Arrived

Yes, we got a square loo for the bathroom upstairs. As the description says, it adds contemporary flair to our bathroom. Some other descriptors:
  • Toilet set includes seat
  • Bowl type: elongated
  • Trap distance: 12-inches
  • Center push button flush
  • Finish: high quality polish, resists stains
  • Exhaust pipe: fully glazed inner part
  • Dual flush
  • Flushing volume: 6L/3L (alternative volume)
  • and it's square.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Airduct vs. Vanity

We are in about to start renovating the attic in the house and turning it into a master suite. We moved the air duct close against the new dormer's wall, and eventually will move the stacks to vent outside and not be in the middle of the floor. The holes in the floor show where the duct was before (running in a straight line) and those are vent openings into the rooms on the 2nd floor. Those will be fixed when the area is redone. This photo will be in the bedroom area, with the duct work being formed into a window seat:

And this next photo is the where the bathroom will be. You can see that the bend coming from behind the knee wall to the new dormer wall was a space hog and challenged us to come up with some that would not cause the bathroom to be extended (thereby eating into the closet).

So, we hit upon a floating vanity that will be on the wall where the blue strip is in the photo above. This is what we have ordered and will arrive in time for our awesome contractor to attach it:

The contractor may even be able to work out something fancy that disguises the duct work completely. Work is supposed to start end of April/beginning of May. I'll keep you posted.