Category Archives: homemaking

Spring Has Spring in the Circle Garden

The circle garden is blooming again and our plots are finally fully planted for the summer. It’s our second spring here, so it was fun to anticipate was going to return. Early spring, I was greeted by daffodils, hyacinths, Columbine, and hellebore.

Now my iris, clematis, and roses are in bloom with more things opening up every day! I am also happy to report that all of our hydrangeas, which we planted last spring, and then transplanted later in the summer because they were getting too much sun, are back and look like they’re going to be fine. Hopefully they will start blooming soon!

The spiderwort and foxglove just started opening this weekend. The spiderwort was here from the previous owners, but I added the foxglove last summer. The color was a total surprise since it wasn’t in bloom when I bought it. I think it goes nicely along that side of the garden though.

If you remember from last year, we have three raised beds along the south side of our house. Last year, this bed was full of garlic, so we didn’t really use it (except for the garlic.) This year, a couple of garlic came up, but I was able to fill the rest of it with seeds and tubers to make an edible flower and cutting garden. So far, there are dahlias, ranunculus, poppies, nasturtium, zinnias, borage, and calendula coming up. I also planted cockscomb but sadly, none of the seeds have germinated. I’m so bummed because I have wanted to grow giant cockscomb since high school. There was an older gentleman who used to bring his crop to the golf course where I worked and I just love those velvety blooms!

In the middle bed, we have basil, parsley, rosemary, thyme, and marigolds alongside cherry, Black Krim, Purple Cherokee, and Brandywine tomatoes. Naoto also tucked in some daikon radish.

In our third plot, we have another cherry tomato variety, some leftover potatoes from the previous homeowners (that are probably planted too close to the tomato,) cardinal basil, edamame, Japanese melon, and Japanese cucumbers. We are hoping that the bunnies leave this bed alone, but history tells us otherwise. Our friend gave us a trellis for the vining plants, so I hope we actually get something to vine this year before the rabbits have a snack!

Since I was planting a slew of things I’ve never grown before, I made some plant markers to keep track of everything. They aren’t the most aesthetically pleasing project, but they get the job done!

I always love the garden this time of the season, all tidy and full of possibilities! We all know our plots will be tomato and zinnia jungles soon enough!

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Finally! A New Mailbox

We’ve lived here just over a year and we finally put in a new mailbox! Isn’t she lovely?

When we removed the old box, we made a discovery–the house’s original mail slot! It literally goes nowhere! There isn’t a slot inside. It has all been insulated and dry walled over.

Our house was a flip in 2016. Apparently the flippers cared enough about the mail slot to cut the siding around it, but not enough to clear out the mail that was left inside!

We pulled out the mail and found it was from 2016!

Part of me is a tiny bit bummed not to have a mail slot in our home, but I did love choosing a mailbox and I found one big enough for small to medium sized packages so it’s nice to have a little bit of extra security to keep our mail hidden.

More projects for the front of the house are planned–chopping down a tree and adding different plantings, painting the porch, and more! Hopefully it won’t take all summer before we get it all done!

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New Vintage Linens

This winter I fell down the eBay rabbit hole and landed in the vintage linens. It started with a search for some dainty, plain cocktail napkins and then I quickly veered into the Vera options. Her designs are so bright and colorful and cheerful which is just what I needed in January when things were gloomy and the pandemic was raging again. The napkins gave me some hope that I’ll be able to host a spring garden party someday soon…

I ended up getting the cream linen napkins with the crocheted trim on eBay. I got the unbranded turquoise and the Vera strawberry ones on Etsy from a seller who specializes in vintage linens. (Those came in acid-free paper and really felt like a gift to myself.)

I wasn’t able to host a garden party, but I did host a small dinner party with a few friends last week. I used my turquoise napkins for our appetizers and the cream linen ones with dinner. It was fun to set the table again! I even starched the napkins because who doesn’t love crisp linen? (Plus I couldn’t get them smooth enough without a little starch!)

I asked Naoto to pick up some pink flowers and he chose these orangey carnations. (I know carnations get a terrible rap, but I really love them! Their fluttery petals are so pretty!) The color ended up working perfectly with these paper placemats from Japan. (I have a few different sets of these that I need to use up!) And the placemats worked with the vintage pink runner I had on the table. (The pink of the candles didn’t really work but hey, it was close enough for a Thursday night!)

For dinner, I made this Smitten Kitchen dish. It was so easy and really tasty! Plus it’s one of those dishes that takes little effort to prep and kind of does it’s thing until you take it out of the oven–low maintenance so you can enjoy your friends without being stuck in the kitchen. I haven’t cooked in so long and I was very nervous about it working out, but it all worked out. Whew!

It’s been so nice having people in our house! Last month we had our Olympics party, a little ramen dinner party, and this dinner party. It’s made us really want to get the kitchen remodeling done (hopefully this year!) but otherwise, we really like entertaining here. It’s nice to be fully living in our house after almost a year of being here!

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Hauntsegawa 2021

I’m a little bit late for a Halloween recap, and yet, here we are. My laptop died in October and it really threw me for a loop. I do so much on my phone, I didn’t think it would really matter. But writing blog posts and taking care of community garden stuff is much easier on a computer. So I finally gave in and bought one.

I’m still getting settled. Speaking of getting settled…

Decorating in the new house was fun! We still haven’t finished hanging all of our everyday art but I am committed to holiday decorations. I finally hung my tenugui (the “towel” on the left above.) I have a new one for most seasons, so I will change it out as needed. This is the Halloween one, but now the fall one is up. The skeleton is on the door to my office.

My usual TagTeamTompkins art went on the entry table this year, along with the glitter skull and some other tiny Halloween things. The picture is an old snapshot of a girl dressed as a witch.

The stair railings were a challenge. I didn’t love the group of garlands on them. The black cats and bats didn’t show up enough. But I also didn’t hate it enough to move anything. I figure I’ll try something else next year. (By the way, Presley doesn’t love these bat wings…but she tolerates them enough for a photo.)

These are old Martha Stewart crow cut-outs my parents found at a thrift shop. I love them!

The candy station which we filled with Take 5s, green tea Kit Kats, and Twix just for us. This was our first year of actual trick-or-treaters! We had 141 kids!

I was most excited to break out these mice. I cut them out soooo many years ago–an idea from an old Martha Stewart Living Magazine. (Martha went on to sell pre-cut ones like my crows.) I used to place them throughout our past apartments, but they really are so much cuter on stairs.

Now Halloween is all put away and there are a few fall/Thanksgiving things out, but in my mind, I’m already thinking about Christmas. It’s nice to have a little reprieve before that all has to begin.

Are you in Christmas mode, or enjoying the last of fall? This is a judgment-free zone!

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The Circle Garden

We are continuing the tomato jungle tradition at the house… Everything was fine at first. I was even removing lower branches and leaves and suckers and keeping the plants tidy. But then we got a ton of rain all at once and, well, the tomatoes have minds of their own.

The previous owners built these raised beds along the side yard, which faces south. The picture above is from when we first moved in. I call the side yard the working part of the yard–it’s where the garden is, and we placed our composting bin there, and it’s where the air conditioning unit is. It might look like the area gets much sun, but all three beds get a full day’s worth, even with the fence. The old owners left us a huge garlic crop in the bed on the far right and potatoes in the bed to the far left, so we decided to work around them this season, and hopefully we can come up with a better plan for ourselves next spring.

We sort of focused on the middle plot for all of our usual crops. Our tomato plants are doing well with no signs of whiteflies or blight, which is so exciting since the past few years have been pretty sad for our tomato crops. Our basil and thyme and lima beans are thriving too. And we planted a strawberry plant that seems to doing well, and it’s producing many teeny, tiny fruits.

In the potato bed, we planted edible flowers, cucumbers, edamame, and a brussel sprout. Then tragedy struck. I lost two cucumbers and Naoto lost his entire edamame crop to the rabbits. It was heartbreaking! So, in that bed, we still have our potatoes sprawling around the edible flowers and the brussel. We added a tomato (which isn’t doing well because potatoes and tomatoes don’t grow well together) later in the season just to see what would happen.

The borage is booming with blooms and the nasturtium is looking good, but there are no flowers yet. I’m excited to use them both for cocktail garnishes.

Naoto ended up finding some edamame seedlings at our favorite local garden center and we planted them in a hanging basket and so far, they have remained safe from the bunnies!

In the garlic bed, there is tons of garlic, and plenty of nightmare mint spreading all over. In that bed, we planted some zinnias for cutting and some lettuces that are long done. I dug up a few garlic heads last weekend and I’ll probably dig up the rest soon so we can plant some late-season crops and take advantage of the extra room.

We have two of these arches in our basement (one on each side of an arched doorway) with built-in hooks, so that’s where the garlic is curing for now. I’m so excited to have some space in the basement to start seeds and prep for the gardening season. (Some day I will show you the basement, but not until we finish getting the rest of our boxes unpacked and put away!)

It’s book club weekend so I will be finishing Double Indemnity and enjoying the garden walk so I will see you next week!

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It’s Been Awhile

Hello again! It’s been awhile! I can’t believe we are halfway through 2021! And a lot has happened since my last post on November 24th! The biggest news is–we bought a house! We closed out 2020 (literally, on December 31st) by putting an offer on a house we loved. We closed in February, sold our condo in March, and we moved in March. It was a whirlwind! Pictured above is what our back yard looked like when we closed in February with feet of snow on the ground. Thankfully, by the time we moved in, all of the snow had melted and there were signs on spring in the yard!

The month between closing and moving gave us time to have hardwood floors installed on our second floor (replacing the carpet) and to paint most of the first and second floor. It was nice to have a little cushion. We still want to remodel the kitchen and paint the bathrooms and basement, but all in good time!

And Presley has adjusted like a little champion. We were very nervous since she’s older and deaf, but she is loving sneaking upstairs when she’s had enough of us and having afternoon sun naps (something that wasn’t possible in our condo since we faced east.)

We are still settling in–hanging art is so stressful and figuring out how to use all of our extra storage space is more challenging than I anticipated!–but we’re finding our house groove. Naoto has really embraced mowing the lawn (with our reel lawn mower!) and we have three little garden plots along the side of the house to tend. It was sad giving up our Plot 6 at the community garden but we love just popping out the door to tend to our tomatoes.

That’s the news for today–I hope to come back Thursday and share a little more about the house or the garden. And, now we have a larger lanai (really, a back deck) for happy hours and gatherings which is a total dream come true.

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The Garden is Still Growing

I haven’t been to the garden as much as I’d like lately. Naoto has been running down to harvest tomatoes and basil and herbs on an as-needed basis, but yesterday, we were both home and free to go together. As usual, our plot is a jungle of tomato vines, but this year, it’s also a jungle of overgrown herbs and nasturtium! Look at that nasturtium!! I just can’t believe how the plant took off. It seemed like it wasn’t going to do much but now it’s huge and it has lots of flowers inside the big poof a leaves. I just found a recipe for nasturtium pesto, so I think we might experiment with that soon…which is good timing because our basil is done. Some of our tomatoes were slow to produce this summer thanks to the white fly infestation that plagued the garden. But we’ve gotten a decent harvest from our Juliet and a few other heirlooms. We haven’t been overloaded with tomatoes like we have in the past, but it’s definitely enough for us to feel good about plot 6 this summer. I picked a bunch of zinnias, nasturtiums, and marigolds to make a little bouquet for my desk. The zinnias are as tall as me and still going strong. And in other happy garden news, my tiny carrots are coming in! I planted them kind of late in the spring and they were quickly overshadowed by the tomato plants, so I didn’t have very much hope for a harvest, but I think it’s going to be decent! I’m not quite ready to pick them all, but I wanted to do a little test. This variety is supposed to be only 2-3 inches big. We’ve never had luck with root vegetables, so I decided to try a tiny kind and I think it worked!

How is your garden growing? Any other ideas for my nasturtium bounty?

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The Lanai, 2019

Hello from freezing Forest Park! It has been so cold! This weekend it got down to the low 50s and, while it’s great sleeping weather, it’s not great weather for sitting outside. It’s also been rainy, so at least my plants are happy and everything is still alive as of this week. Our lanai furniture set-up is the same as last year, but we have lots of different flowers and I decided not to make any rainbows this year. It didn’t translate well from the sidewalk below, anyway. Oh, and last summer, Naoto painted the floor so it’s a steel grey now instead of that weird pale green. We really like it. We’ve barely been able to have dinner outside because of the cold weather, but we’ve enjoyed plenty of mornings out there reading in the sunshine and cool breeze.

I got this fantastic almost-neon begonia at Empowering Gardens and it’s so bright and full, it even pops from the street below.

Last year, I mentioned that I can never find good yellow and orange flowers. This year, I have plenty of orange and orangey-red flowers, but still no yellow. I’d love to add some yellow in with those bright pink petunias. Hopefully I can find something good while I’m out later today.

We also have some climbers and radish sprouts growing from seed and I transplanted some mint from the community garden, so hopefully we’ll have enough mint for cocktails soon since it tends to spread like wildfire…

That’s all from the 2019 lanai…it’s supposed to warm up eventually so I’m looking forward to spending some days and evenings outside. Naoto and I are already planning our Tanabata celebration in a few weeks and I’m sure it will be blazing hot by then!

 

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My Tidied Letter Writing Spot

It’s Monday and I’m finally feeling human again! It feels so good to be able to breathe out of both nostrils again and to be free from the amped up feeling I get from being on cold medicine. I spent some time recovering on Saturday by clearing off the sunny side of my desk so it would be ready for writing this month.

(Please note that I have only shown you the tidy third of my desk…the rest is still a work in progress. Always…) I made a little shelf of mail knick knacks. They won’t live here forever because they are taking up too much desk real estate, but I like them here for Letter Writing Month. For now, I have plenty of space for writing letters, but when I’m making cards, I need a clear deck for production. Eventually I’ll probably hang a shelf for my mail toy collection. And I switched out my supplies in my Classiky box…I went with a mail theme for now, but I also have all my spring and Easter things waiting in the wings…so many choices for April! I wrote three whole thank you notes on Saturday before I had to take a rest. It feels good to be participating in life again!

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Hasegawa Happy Hour Cocktail Napkins

Hasegawa Happy Hour custom napkins

Hasegawa Happy Hour got an upgrade this Christmas! My incredibly talented coworker, Alicia, designed these mid-century style cocktail napkins for us. Aren’t they fantastic? We kind of fell off the Hasegawa Happy Hour wagon last year and didn’t invite as many people over to drink with us, but we’d like to start things up again this year. I think we need to menu plan and jump right in for January. (Because I love a good theme party!) Who’s in?

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