Wednesday, December 19, 2007

merry xmas to us!

All that's missing is the bow on top of the damn car.

Honda Fit! Car of my dreams!

(and, just for Eliza, flower pics!)

Happy birthday to me!

They were so beautiful. This was a couple days after thanksgiving, so almost a full week after they arrived.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007



Swedish meatballs
Bacon wrapped dates with goat cheese
Salmon/cucumber squares
Beef/carrot ‘sushi’
Anchovy lemon dip with fingerling potatoes and green beans
Polenta squares with mushroom ragout
Manchego quince paste napoleon
Peking chicken summer rolls
Cayenne apple cake
Pistachio dark chocolate tuiles
Cranberry orange pistachio cookies
Asian pear 'sandwich' with praline mascarpone filling
Plum pudding tartlets
Kumquat, olive and other candied fruit tarts

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Tiling progress!

(Cheating. Adding pics after tub is in and plasterer Allan came by. And we still haven't cleaned up after the plastering ...).

But, here's more pics:

And these are the cabinets Steve will build. The sides are already panelled with zebrawood -- that's what the cabinet door and drawer fronts will be. And the vanity top will be a white silestone we think. And yes, there will be a sink, and faucet, and mirror.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Ok, here's what we're tiling

So here is Steve, after building tub surround, as we tested to make sure the bathtub will fit. It will! And that's our tub! This was the first time we got a sense of what the bathroom is going to be like. It's going to be nice. There will be a glass wall on the curb, between Steve and the shower. The wall to the right will not be tiled, it is where the sink and vanity will be, and a big kind of cabinet right when you walk into the bathroom.

And here is a view from Steve's position, sitting on the toilet. The wood soffit will be painted, not tiled. The column in the corner will now be the pretty glass tile, which will also be a 6 inch band going around the near-top of the room. The walls and top of the tub will be white. The floor, and sides of the tub, will be brown. We were putting up durock from 6pm until 10 pm Friday, 7am to 9pm Saturday (well, also doing other things like prying up the durock that we'd put on the floor since the tilers are going to mud in the floor tile), and Steve was working Sunday and I finished things off for three focussed hours on Sunday evening.

Here's the tile itself, and a closeup of the shower. That shower pan took 6 months to build. Six. It would take a professional half a day probably.

We were going to have the glass tile on the shower floor, but Tiler Charlie says that's not going to work, so now we're doing brown on the shower floor. Brown will also be the floor tile in general, and go up the sides of the tub. The top of the tub and walls are the white long tile, and then the glass tile will be an accent -- as mentioned, a band around the room and then a column.

It is already so much better than last week: Remember? Toilet in center of room. Temporary bathtub on left. Nasty rug only slightly better than nasty plywood subfloor, no sink. We really lived like that for, three years?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

toilet: the clock ticks for thee

This has nothing to do with a garden. Or Enzo. Or bicycles.

But this Saturday, we will be sealing up the walls and ceiling. And, presuming we get an early enough start, we're going to try to get the subfloor down. Which means, oh toilet in the middle of the room, you will have to come out.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Help! The lawn is balding

So the lawn is balding. It's coming out in clumps. All enzo has to do is roll around and it comes out. It must be sick. According to my research, it's probably because the roots didn't go deep enough, and that we've got nutrient poor soil. I'm not that surprised -- all I did was sprinkle a little grass seed over it, pull out the crabgrass, and hope for the best.

So I had this great plan. I'd till the ground, amending with nice rich compost from the nyc giveback. I'd smooth it out and reseed. And then sit back next spring as the lawn created itself lush, deeprooted, and carefree.

But alas, I've waited too long. Average first frost date in NYC is apparently October 27, and while global warming and this fall in particular has made things darn balmy, that's definitely less than the four to six week window recommended for little fresh grass seedlings to take root. So I guess I'm going to be watching the bald spots til spring. For the record, last frost date in NYC averages April 13.

Or maybe I'll find myself a tiller/cultivator (or convince a bunch of people that it won't be that much work if we all pitch in), and just do it anyway. Enzo and I did go out to Staten Island Saturday and got a big garbage can full of compost.... stay tuned for details.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

A Digression: NYC cycling love

Ahem. We pause from regularly scheduled garden-geeking for an important message about biking in New York City.

Let's just forget about the fact that when I returned from this particular bike jaunt I was covered in hives. And it's not to say that I don't recognize that what cycling in NYC is really about is traffic: to traffic, in traffic, of traffic. This is merely for those of you who only see potholes, taxis, and red light obstacles or endless laps of a park as what it must be like to be a cyclist in New York. There is something else. On Sunday mornings, for me and Speedy B, its like this:

Starting off from Sunset Park it's down to the promenade bike path, recently redone. On the vista and looming closer and closer is the Great Verrezano, starting point of the NYC marathon.

The path goes under the derriere of Brooklyn, a bit through Coney Island and Brighton Beach. I'll admit, it's a pretty ugly urban stretch (cutting through the Home Depot parking lot, for example). But being Coney Island, there are sometimes surprises. Or pirates. These guys look like they're in lockup after a rowdy Saturday night, eh Captain?

Then suddenly the Sheepshead Bay marina. Turkish restaurants, seaside dining, the creaking of boats in the water, and in the morning, it often has the bright smell of grilled fish. I don't even like fish. But it smells festive.
Then it's out of traffic and onto the bike path, and just as frustration heightens at being so close to the water without seeing it, a bridge. On the left, inches and a very frail guardrail separating the mangled sidewalk "bike trail" from the Belt Parkway. On the right: Behold.

Yes people. We are still in New York City. At this point, I think we've passed into Queens. But New York City.

The biketrail veers off to the Rockaways. And here I can make a gardening related comment: I would love to have these big tall fountain grasses in the backyard to obscure the ugly chain link fence, but fear that they're some kind of invasive species that will take over the neighborhood. You can see why I fear. I think they're 10 feet tall.

And this is a bit of the bike path itself.

Eventually you get to the "Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge". Gil Hodges was a Brooklyn Dodger, I recently learned. It is a main route to the Rockaways. Cue the Ramones. Here's the view from the bridge. All water and waterscape. On the left is the view back towards the city (you can see a bit of the bridge). On the right, the destination: Breezy Point at the western tip of the Rockaways -- you can just make out the sandy tip, my turnaround point.

Out in the Rockaways, its a long stretch of open quiet road, bordered by sandy dunes and ending up in the beach town of Breezy Point. And yes, we are still in New York City.

That's the turnaround point. My Sunday loop is out and back, so it's more glory on the way back, hopefully with a tailwind. But at the end, coming back up the waterfront towards Sunset Park, a great view of the harbor, the bright orange ferries headed past the Statue of Liberty, and of course, the great island of Manhattan. Thirty-five miles round trip.

The poet wrote:

Just as you feel when you look on the river and sky, so I felt;
Just as any of you is one of a living crowd, I was one of a crowd;
Just as you are refresh’d by the gladness of the river and the bright flow, I was refresh’d;
Just as you stand and lean on the rail, yet hurry with the swift current, I stood, yet was hurried;
Just as you look on the numberless masts of ships, and the thick-stem’d pipes of steamboats, I look’d.
I too many and many a time cross’d the river, the sun half an hour high;
I watched the Twelfth-month sea-gulls—I saw them high in the air, floating with motionless wings, oscillating their bodies,
I saw how the glistening yellow lit up parts of their bodies, and left the rest in strong shadow,
I saw the slow-wheeling circles, and the gradual edging toward the south.

(from Crossing Brooklyn Ferry, Leaves of Grass, 1900)

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Punk Rock Pansy

All I know is, if you're going to plant a pansy, it might as well be a punk rock "atlas black" pansy.

This is part of stoop sprucification, October 2007. Those pots were mighty scraggly. Looked for things that would flower for a little while longer. Granted right now that pansy looks like he'd rather escape to the nearest mosh pit, but he'll settle in. Didn't want to go the kale/sedum/chrysanthemum route everyone else on the block is doing, so did this: in addition to the punk rock pansy, got some pretty pink Coral Belle (diascia hybrid) to make friends with the ailing but still blooming osteospermum, and then a perennial anenome in a pretty new pot, which is about to bloom.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Scarlet sunflower

Planted this guy late. Note to self. If planting seeds, read package. If it says it's going to be 2-3 feet tall, and it's a sunflower, don't plant it where there is nothing to lean against. These guys suffered in the peony bed, but I moved the survivors to the fence, and they're happier now. Well, at least as happy as a flower can be in what really is sunflower-hospice.

Monday, October 1, 2007

So what is this?

It made me feel a lot better about pulling weeds when I read somewhere that a weed is just the right plant in the wrong spot. Anyway. This guy has come up in a couple spots (here among what I assume is more coneflowers and the scarlet runner beans) and I wasn't sure if it might be one of those things I planted late fall last year. But looking through the old pics from the yard in 2005, I see those jagged edged leaves: hey, it was growing back then too. But now it's got those adorable white flowers. We like him. For now.

And then there are these guys. Morning glory, I'm assuming because they've got those flowers and heart shaped leaves. Suddenly appeared a week or so ago -- who knew they were even growing. A surprise. They're helping cover the ugly fence, so I don't mind at all.

Made for shade

New additions! Thanks again to Gowanus for great advice on filling up the shade garden.

New friends for the Guacamole Hosta are the shield fern (dryopteris ‘crispa cristata’), and some blue sedge (carex laxiculmis ‘hobb’).

And on the other side, we've got hardy begonia (begonia grandis ‘alba’); which reportedly will emerge late (note to self: don’t mistake it for weeds!). It has pretty white/orange flowers. And a late bloomer from august to october.

And there's a christmas rose (Helleborus niger “Josef lemper’) shade. Not sure why xmas, or rose. It will apparantly come forth with large white flowers in mar/apr. Light to moderate shade. Hope it does ok back there! And more blue sedge. The sorrel is still in there, although looking kind of sparse. Are the stray cats eating it? I moved the heuchera to the peony bed, but I think it might be too late.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

welcome dogwood!

Pretty dogwood (Cornus sericea 'Hedgerows Gold', aka Red Osier Dogwood, to be exact). You and the hydrangea are going to be really great friends, I know it. And Micheal's coolio juniper, well, he's just a hipster. Seems prickly, but already he's leaning your way. You guys make a great party.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

the tour: out front

The stoop! We've got a few things growing here. On the bottom step is Bunny Grass. It was always kind of ratty, but it's true, those little plumes were very fluffy and cute once they came out.
Moving up, there's the Osteospermum. It was a star all up until late July -- all flower flower flower and more flower. Deadheading just made it come back. It started getting scraggly in August, so I added a Bright Carmine, (Argranthemum frutescens), which I thought was going to make big red flowers, but they never bloomed. Sad.
Next is the Nemesia -- kind of like tiny snapdragons or something. It also got kind of dried out and sad in August, so I added a "rescue dahlia" from Lowes. The dahlia was another little failure. Cutting back the Nemesia worked, however. Try that again earlier next year!
And, then moving up there is the Gazania. I have come to hate the Gazania. The damn flowers bloom for a day and then you have to deadhead. Holy pain in the ass. It basically ends up looking like crap 75% of the time. Just say no to Gazania.

Just ignore the ratty scarlet runner bean that I half-hoped might succeed in a pot, and go straight up to the top: Pentas. Star of the show, if you will. It is in the pot that used to have the avocado that Thammie and Frangos gave to us to rescue, which well, I killed. And then most of this summer had weeds. But attractive weeds. Some of which were the quinata from Debbie up the block. I kept the quinata to wind in the railing, and of course the Pentas. Deadheading works on the Pentas, by the way. Next year I won't wait to do it.
And then there's the flowerbox, hanging off the fence by Taylor's house. In it we've got a couple little amaranth that I grew in pots because there were just so damn many of them, and also a borage, of similar provenance. And then the more successful plants, Callie Deep Yellow (Calibrachoa), and more osteospermum “vanilla symphony” (because it worked so fabulously on the stoop), and another Gazania -- this one is more colorful, not nearly as needy. I like it better.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The "shady bed" in the back

Not so much here. Originally, it was dug out for wedding hydrangeas, but they all died; just didn't come back in 2006. It's the shadiest part of the yard. I planted this year with Guacamole Hostas (late June), some Heuchura ("Coral Bells"), and then a wood sorrel that reminds me of the redwood forest in california (oxalis crassipes ‘blush’). We also moved a planter back here with Astilbe) after it was getting totally fried on the patio by the house.

Of course, a couple weeks later and nobody back there is very happy. I think the heuchura is dead, and the sorrel looks very unhappy. The hosta is limp, but then again, how much do I care about it? Not that much. Not that in love with the Hosta.

The border, by the way, is leftover slate floor tile from the house. I'm not in love with it, but it helps keep Enzo from peeing back there. Can't speak for the stray cats tho.

And in the back

The border in front of the patio. For this, one goal was to cover up the ugly cement block. Also to create more of a division between the brick area and the rest of the yard -- also for Enzo, so he doesn't trample stuff.

Steve built that planter out of teak. We saw some strawberries last year and got them, and although they go through ups and downs, they bounce back. We planted some berries in a pot for neighbor Elia, and they're starting to sprout now. The big planter of Lavender on the patio was fountain grass last year, but it didn't make it through the winter. Beware the end of season sale!

In front of the planter is poppies (planted in late April, didn't bloom until July). I don't know why they're white, they were supposed to be multicolored. Next to them is Bee Balm (Monarda “coral reef”), a late addition which adds much needed color. Other stuff planted there failed and failed and failed. To the rear you can see a Mole plant. I got it less for the moles than because it was vertical and fun and I thought would also make a good deterrent to Enzo. You can also see the red guys I can't remember the names of, and then peeking over some of the fun yellow balls (maybe a gaillardia variety?) that did so well in the other part of the garden, but suffered in the cement block for lack of soil.

You know what did really, really well in the cement block? Cosmos. They died back in August, but they were so much fun. The Cleome was very similarly tall and spiky, and survived a bit better in the cement block. But so similar to the Cosmos.

There are also a lot of bulbs planted in this bed but obviously they're gone by late September. You can see some of the leftover foliage. It's fun for texture.

Here's another view of the area, including some of the bed by the fence (see the peas and how they cover the fence? You can also see the Clematis, which is sparse but getting bolder; it blooms in late June)) You can also see the birdfeeder our friend Amy Adams of Perch made. It looks so great in the yard! You can also see the windowbox planter. It is perched on a little table that just consists of four supports from our staircase (now gone) and a tin tray. It's been there since 2006 -- even survived the winter! In it are flowering chives, which came back. They bloomed late -- July. Peeking behind you can see a bit of the grass and stuff growing in what will next year be referred to as the "sunny raised bed".

Here is the view from the back side. You can see the Lavender, and the strawberries. Also some Pampas grass -- pretty much the only perennial planted in the "raised bed"; I rescued from the Home Depot clearance section and is so far pretty much the only ornamental grass that's doing ok. Enzo likes to snack on it.

And last but not least, in this area is the tomatoes. These are in a bamboo planter, another Steve original. It's doing great. Not so much for the tomators. Last year the squirrels ate them. This year I don't think I watered enough. Next year they either need to go in the ground, or maybe out front where I can see them and water more often.

Tour: the right

And on the right. This side has fence issues -- it would be great to cover it. But more on that later. In the very foreground is a new ornamental grass. At the very bottom are bleeding hearts, that Betsy planted last spring and which came back this year and are really happy. You can't see them, but in the very beginning of this section is one of the two remaining wedding hydrangeas -- more on them later. Then is an area where I accidentally painted a bunch of purple stuff this year: a creeping hardy geranium which is really happy, and a plant I don't remember the exact title of: a balloon flower. Sprinkled in there is also the ever present amaranth (Amaranthus hypochondriacus). One thing you can just get a glimpse of is a fun orange flower (Butterfly Weed, asclepias tuberose). It was a bit pesky, but worth it for the brightness of its colors. It responded well to being deadheaded and cut back.

The spiky iris bulbs form a natural separation between that area of the bed and the next spot. I've tried planting a bunch of stuff here, some has stuck, some hasn't. In the rear of this one you see the flowering quince bush, one of the very first plants to go into the garden in spring 2006. It has pretty peach flowers that last about a week in early spring. In front of that I have tried a bunch, what's blooming now is Rudebekia (the yellow ones in back), from Maine this year. Behind them is Salvia. And in the foreground is the oh-so-terribly-successful Lantana ("silver mound"). It says it's perennial! As you can see, the theme here this season was yellow. That's partly the reason for putting the salvia here, a bit of variety.
Speaking of fence cover? Here is what is working to some extent: climbing peas. They needed a lot of support to get going (and wound their way around some plants that then got a little strangled), but eventually did well when they found the fence and climbed. Very late in the season they put forth pretty red flowers (here wound in with the honeysuckle on the other fence), that then turned into giant pods.

Tour: on the left

So here you can see what I call "the peony bed" and a bit of the bionic bed, along the left of the grass looking from the house. The big stuff is Joe Pye weed, which was a small little two foot plant last year, and grew fence-high this year. I'm happy about that, although I'm a little bit concerned about a Joe Pye invasion. Also growing tall on that side this year was coneflowers (peaked in late July, got scorched-looking in August), and a plant we picked up in Maine in 2006, Liatris (also a July peaker). And then I planted some other stuff that didn't turn out as well...
Some Phlox went in late July, past its prime, and some other stuff too. The biggest challenge on this side of the garden is that there is all that big tall stuff, and although there is some stuff lower down, it tends to get lost in the melee.

Like this guy. A favorite. A bit overshadowed by the puffy yellow balls of his cousin, that I planted behind him (I had just cut them back when this pic was shot, Maybe coreopsis? Or Gallardia maybe)? I gotta find the tag. Not sure. I loved him. Also tucked in there is a hydrangea that was in the store's window, and which I took home to plant and hope for the best. It looks to be surviving ok.

The amaranth was one of the things that took off in the garden. I planted these from seeds. It took a while for them to grow tall, but they're all over, providing nice bright red plants. I have to say, maybe a bit overkill this year, but they did do well without much attention, that's for sure. If I do it again, the message is thin those buggers out! They do much better when not competing against each other.
And here is the "Peony bed", although the peonies aren't that visible. You can see a couple things that just did really great this year, and some stuff that did nothing. First, the good. There's those little white flowers. They're Alyssum, planted from seed. They had a really unpromising start, and really only took off in August. Also in the cement block is Lantana. That was the winner of the year. It just spread out all over those blocks, and bloomed and bloomed and bloomed with no care. Next to the Lantana, also in the cement block, I planted Celosia, some of which did well, others which just got soggy and died. Sun seemed to be a factor -- it likes it. And there were those weird little red flowers, also good for color. Not sure what those were called -- I lost the tag for those. But more on the cement block stuff later ...
What didn't do so well were the Stokes aster (stokesia laevis ‘peachies pick’) , they went in on July 21 and never looked happy. Not sure if I was supposed to dead head or what. Next to them is the Anenome. It was planted July 16, and was doing fine, then just as it looked like it was going to bloom started to really fade. Why? What did I do wrong! Another failed experiment was the borage. It came up everywhere, but just kind of snaked around in a kind of pain in the ass way. Really big stems. Ho hum.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

... and here it is today.

And the garden as it is now, same view. Other than just the cleanup, you can see the two main beds. The one on the left I refer to as the "bionic bed." I went and took advantage of the city compost in spring '06 and dug it in. Everything that grows there gets huge. On the right, I had already planted stuff, so wasn't able to dig in the same way.

In the back, we cleaned up the brick raised patio area a bit. Steve hates it, mostly because it is uneven, and on the right bricks are missing and it is very sloped. We're eventually going to put a deck back there, at an angle.

One of the first things I did was dig out some of the concrete block on the left, under the tree. That was really hard work. Now it's what I refer to as the "shade plot." Not so successful. On the right, I created something of a raised bed, but haven't done anything with it yet.

Here's another view (if you click it gets big and you can see lots more detail):

Now I can start to talk about what I've planted!

Monday, September 17, 2007

In the beginning there was a backyard

In October 2004, my (now) husband and I and dog (Enzo) moved into our Brooklyn row house. I'm looking for pictures from that era, but so far, the earliest I can find of the yard is from February 2005 -- a shot from the second floor rear of house.

The green thing was sort of a ramshackle shelter, on a patio, in the rear of the house. In the back, there were two poles in there sticking up, maybe for a laundry line? In the rear, there is a bricked over patio, it's raised up about a foot. The pile of stuff that looks like old plumbing? That's the old plumbing.

A friend, who gardens well, told me to watch the yard -- you never know if there are some perennials that are going to come back and be beautiful. So in the summer of 2005 all that happened in the backyard is that I watched weeds grow. Here's some of them, from June 2005:

Eventually they overtook the backyard, we got a weed whacker, and whacked. And then discovered that pulling was just as fast, less messy, and more effective. Whatever.

Of course, the garden was really about Enzo. It's his outdoor space. He's an anxiety-ridden mutt rescued from the streets of Red Hook, and well, however sweet to us and great with kids, he's pretty dog aggressive. He doesn't get to go play in dog runs. So the backyard is really about him. It's his yard. Luckily, he likes to garden. Here he is, helping out with a little digging:

It's all about dog butt for the canines -- but you probably want to see his mug: therefore...
Born: Red Hook, Brooklyn. February 1999.
Kicked out of pack and rescued from the trash, aka the feed trough.
Enzo's favorite things:
- Steve
- Everyone being home at the same time
- Human food (not allowed)
- Sleeping on the bed (not allowed)
- Squeaky toys
- Lunch delivery
- Rolling in the grass
- Scavanging for garbage.
Enzo's least favorite things:
- Being left home alone
- Mango (arch enemy dog).