29 July 2011

party crafting!

elfling had a lovely day turning two. i could have done without the broken water heater, & the house filled with handymen, but the wee birthday boy thought that bit to be great fun. we wrapped up the day with a meal at a (new to us) favorite restaurant, & more playing with his (thrifted!!!) birthday prezzie.

my week has mostly been spent getting ready for his party. i am not nearly as far along as i'd like to be, but then again, i never am. here is a sneaky peek at some of the things i have been up to.

a page of stickers! i printed the many twos on a page of sticker paper (from one of cathe's give-aways). these stickers are to be put on bags of popcorn.

three lengths of bunting! red & orange are not colors i am drawn to. in fact, other than barn red, i don't care for either. when choosing fabric for the bunting, i found two shirts that thehobbit had long outgrown. i had saved them to use as pouch linings, but proclaimed them to be excellent bunting fabrics instead. & so they were.


each bunting alternates between the orange/blue/white stripes, & the orange/red/white check. i didn't hem the edges, so over time they'll develop a wonderful fray. & look! a perfectly dinky version for the cake! a la twirling betty.

swoony, isn't it? if i could, i would spend all my free (hahahaha) time making teensy bunting. this one is different from last year's. i opted not to print his name on the bunting, remembered to buy the longer skewers, & i stitched it with embroidery floss instead of using the machine.

that's it for photos i'm afraid. my camera's batteries had just enough life left in them for uploading. i promise there will be more to come though. the party is to be this sunday, so monday i'll have party photos to share with you. pinky swear!

until then...


28 July 2011


if you can keep your head when all about you 
are losing theirs and blaming it on you; 
if you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, 
but make allowance for their doubting too; 
if you can wait and not be tired by waiting, 
or being lied about, don't deal in lies, 
or being hated, don't give way to hating, 
and yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise: 
 if you can dream -- and not make dreams your master; 
if you can think -- and not make thoughts your aim; 
if you can meet with triumph and disaster 
and treat those two imposters just the same; 
if you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken 
twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools, 
or watch the things you gave your life to, broken, 
and stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools; 
 if you can make one heap of all your winnings 
and risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss, 
and lose, and start again at your beginnings 
and never breathe a word about your loss; 
if you can force your heart and nerve and sinew 
to serve your turn long after they are gone, 
and so hold on when there is nothing in you 
except the will which says to them: "hold on!" 
 if you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, 
or walk with kings -- nor lose the common touch,
 if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you, 
if all men count with you, but none too much; 
if you can fill the unforgiving minute 
with sixty seconds' worth of distance run 
yours is the earth and everything that's in it, 
and -- which is more -- you'll be a man, my son!
~ r. kipling
happy birthday sweet boy.

27 July 2011

nearly two


it has finally hit me. my wee boy is hours away from being a two year old. that isn't to say i am only now freaking. trust me, i have been easing into a freak for nearly a month now. it is just that now i am fully in the freak.

be warned,  i shall allow him to be referred to as two for one full day - after that we revert to months. to recap:

july 28th, he is a two year old.

july 29th, he is 24 months old.

got it?

(update :: head over to my facebook page, & share your memories with the rest of us.)
this photo (& yesterday's) were found via a google search. i cannot remember from which sites. if either image belongs to you, please let me know, so i can give you credit.  

26 July 2011

the birthday madness has begun!


this week my sweet elfling is turning two. (that thud you just now heard was me, hitting the floor in a faint.) we are deep in birthday party-prep mode, so i am not sure how much time i'll have for chatting. i do promise to get back to the usual babble next week - with loads of photos of the party, & perhaps a tutorial or two. two two two two... sigh.


22 July 2011

the stack of destruction


this is the ever-growing stack of books that elfling has destroyed. some have had their pages torn, others had their covers ripped completely off. you'll notice that most pictured are board books. board books, people! heavy cardboard books, created to withstand the abuse of curious toddlers. it would seem, however, not elflings. 


a blessed companion is a book, - a book that, fitly chosen, is a lifelong friend,... a book that, at a touch, pours its heart into our own.  ~douglas jerrold

update (july 26th) :: elfling has added another book to the stack.

21 July 2011

thursday things - kitchen love


a friend & i were chatting recently about kitchen gadgets that we simply could not live without. i thought i would share a few of the (thursday)things on my must-have-list with you. when possible, i've linked to the actual brand i use.

* (pictured above) i am absolutely in love with my apple peeler. my sweet friend soap turned me on to this wonder a few years ago, & i bought one as soon as i got home. you clamp it onto a counter, table, or some such, shove an apple onto the prongs, & turn the crank. that is really it! in seconds you have a peeled, cored, & spiraled apple. it takes mere minutes to crank out enough apples for a pie! by the way, if you don't want it peeled, you simply pull back the blade & flip the safety lock thing. kids love this peeler - both using it, & eating the spirals it creates. oh! it does the same with potatoes too. in all honesty, i have yet to try it on a potato, but that's what it said on the box, so i suppose it's true.

* a few times a week, at least, i use my japanese mandoline. this isn't the exact one i have. i bought mine about 4 years ago, at a shop in little tokyo. it didn't come in a package of any sort, & there isn't a label on it, so i have no brand to google for you. this is basically what mine looks like, though. it's a small thing, much smaller than my  full-sized mandoline. i like it for that reason. if i need to thinly (& we are talking see-through-thin) slice only a handful of veggies, i don't want to bother hauling out the full-sized contraption. this dinky guy works perfectly, most especially for making cucumber sammiches.

* how did i ever live without my rice cooker? ok, it isn't technically my rice cooker, my mother-in-law bought it for thehobbit, but he is sweet enough to let me pretend it's mine. i had always poo-pooed electronic kitchen gadgets, insisting they were more time-consuming than doing things the old-fashioned way. & in some cases this is true. not so the rice cooker. perfect rice every time, & as easy to clean as a pot & lid. one day i'll need to buy a larger cooker (elfling is as rice-crazy as the rest of us, it seems), but for now the small one suits perfectly.

* i am having an affair with my baker sheets. just before the holidays, i saw these recommended on america's test kitchen. as my sheets were utter crap, i added them to my wish list. manlyman made me swoony by giving me both the half & quarter sheets! this brand really is as marvelous as the people on a.s.t. claimed. things rarely stick, & i suspect that when they have, the fault has been mine. my favorite use is for baking marinated tofu. oh my. oh, oh my! one day soon i shall have to share my recipe with you. the sheet makes the tofu crispy, but not quickly enough to burn it, before the insides have firmed enough. now that is a baker sheet! fyi: i have a slightly smaller-than-average oven, & can fit one half, or two quarters on one rack. hey! i just realized! i have not seen the lids to my sheets in ages. hmm.

well, that's it for the list of biggies. there are many things i love too much to do without, but the above i love beyond what is seemly. here are some of the other things that i love:

* electric ice cream maker. my heart years for an old-fashioned crank machine, but in all honesty? my electric maker is quick & easy. those of you with wee ones understand why that trumps yearning. i don't know that i've ever made actual ice cream, come to think on it. when the machine was given to us, thehobbit was unable to eat dairy & soy. we have made various ice liquids, instead. i have tried most of the milks: rice, almond, oat, etc. he loved the creations fine. i, not so much. i am an ice cream purist. i want the real deal, please. over time i did discover the best substitute: coconut milk. not the watery stuff - the thick, white, creamy kind. i blend a can of coconut milk with fruit, & pour it into the machine. the kids go insane for the stuff.

* popsicle molds. a must-have if you are a mama. hmmm, perhaps this should have been included in the biggie list. ah well, too lazy to move it up & hunt for a photo. i don't think brand matters here. you find the one you like best, & keep it handy. i make pops out of left over juice, tea, smoothies, whatever. other great pop ingredients: pudding, blended melon, yogurt, you get the idea. OH! when thehobbit has been quite ill, i've frozen diluted herbal teas. sucking on those pops kept him hydrated, & brought his fever down. i'd keep a flat of that frozen at all times, just in case, if i didn't have the smallest freezer in all the land.

* pan scraper. i included a link to this, because i'm not sure how to describe it well enough. all i can tell you is that you must buy one today.

* prep bowls another link, for the same reason. my mother bought me this set, & i use the bowls all the time. more so since elfling began eating solids. i would love to say that i use them as prep bowls, but, sadly, i am not  as fancy in the kitchen as i'd like. mostly i keep meals for elfling in them. i'll make a double batch of something he can eat (we still have chewing issues), plop half into one of my bowls, snap the lid on, & pop the whole shebang in the fridge for the next day. the website says you can reheat them in the oven or microwave, but i have not tried either.

i do have a few other things i wanted to babble on about, but elfling decided to cut his nap short today. why don't you tell me what kitchen items you cannot live without? i'd love to know.


20 July 2011

the wings of change


elfling is unsure about butterflies, pah-ah-yohn (toddler-speak for papillon), he calls them. he does like butterflies, gasps when he spots one, & stares in wonder until it flits away. the thing is, he also is a bit afraid of them. i haven't figured out why yet.

personally, i am convinced they are faeries in disguise.

thehobbit is still, even at the great old age of 13, mad for butterflies. of course he no longer shows his feelings about them as openly as he once did. these days he will quietly stop what he's doing, stand still, never taking his eyes from the butterflies as they go about their business, then resume his activity.

i do miss the excitement he once exuded around them, but i accept that thehobbit is no longer that little boy. well, i don't quite yet accept it, but i know he has to change. i suppose my sweet little boy was a caterpillar, & now he's a butterfly, wings still damp. i hope he has to sit in the sun for a long time, waiting for those wings to dry.

i am not ready to watch him fly away.


19 July 2011

through the eyes of a hobbit

image :: aloe vera

after using thehobbit's photos for yesterday's post, i thought i'd show you some of the things he's photographed of late. enjoy!

image :: grass

image :: bark 1

image :: bark 2

image :: old pine needles

18 July 2011

a visitor

the title for this post was going to be ew! look what horridly disgusting thing is on my window! get it off now, or we are moving!, but was too long to fit the space. plus thehobbit (aka dr. doolittle) got quite angry when i said as much. he also refused to let me use the images ( he was the photographer) unless i went with something more kind. sigh.

what? you don't see anything dreadful in that photo? how about this one?

he's getting closer!

yes, please, go away.

now i love creatures, great & small, but i draw the line at creepy crawlies. especially those attempting to get into my house, & most likely kill me. or some other mischief. want to eat the nasty bugs in my garden? you are more than welcome! just please, not while i am actually in my garden.

ugh, i have to end this post now. it's giving me the heebie jeebies, just thinking about it.


all images in this post were taken by thehobbit, & used with his permission.

15 July 2011

tomatoes tend to babble


have you grown tired of my babbling on about plants yet? sorry. i am just so happy to have things growing after so long a break from my garden & farm. that, & the fact that i would much rather babble on about my plants, than about my frighteningly filthy home. not that i am admitting to the filth, mind you.

this babble is about my tomatoes. i love seeing tomatoes growing on their vines. it screams of summer. this year i am even more in love with the sight, as last summer i could not eat tomatoes. long story. i just wish i did not so dislike the smell of the plant's leaves. blech.

the above plant is a better boy. we have eaten these from friends' farms, but never have tried growing this variety ourselves. the plant is indeterminate, meaning it has the ability to get up to 10-feet tall. well, long, really. tomato plants don't grow thick trunks, so in nature would not get tall. they would grow across the ground. it raises the risk of disease & infestation to grow it that way, hence the tradition of growing tomatoes in cages, & up structures. this one is being trained up a tall shutter. i have it held up with twine, but need to replace it as soon as possible. the twine is too harsh for the vine. i like to use stocking, cut into rings, instead.

these are the container tomatoes i told you about not too long ago. sorry i don't have the link for that post handy. the variety is patio bush, i think. it is determinate, meaning its size is set, creating a shorter, bushy plant. this specific one is meant to grow in a large container, so will be smaller than the average determinate tomato. though the plant itself will stay small, the fruit is full-sized. & look how prolific it is! there are already more fruits on this than on the larger better boy. we have grown this one in past summers, & hope to do so in the future. i may save seeds from this plant, i love it so.

there is a third tomato growing, a cherry. i am not sure which kind of cherry tomato it is, because i lost the marker that came with it. i only purchased the plant last week, so there was no fruit to photograph. thehobbit loves the tiny tomatoes best. when we had a plot in a community garden it was the only tomato we grew. he would just sit (he was a little thing at the time) next to the plant, picking the fruit, & popping it into his mouth. i doubt either manlyman or i ever had more than a handful ourselves. he was not nicknamed thehobbit for nothing!

thank you for allowing me to babble on about my maters. do you have a favorite?


14 July 2011

thursday things - inexpensive frivolity


for the most part i buy only plants that will give us something we need: fruits, veggies, herbs. i love a pretty flower as much as the next guy or gal, but i always feel a bit like i am wasting water when i tend ornamental plants. i know, silly.

the flowers i have planted have all been drought-tolerant. i do live in los angeles, after all. i have the same feelings about having a green lawn, but that is a chat for another day. in the past week i surprised myself by purchasing not one, but two plants that will give me nothing but something pretty to look upon. hoorah, frivolity!

these mums were found at trader joe's. a 5-inch pot for only two dollars? are you kidding me? hell yes i bought one. thehobbit was shocked that i chose this color over the white, but there was just something special about them. i don't know how to describe it other than they made me smile.

he was right to be shocked. i love white flowers above all others. my dream flower garden is all whites & creams. the euryops that line the front of the house were for manlyman. when we moved in he asked if i would plant yellow flowers there, & so i did.

more shocking to thehobbit than the purpley-pink mums? i also bought these this week, at a local dollar store:

there, too, i chose this plant over the same in white. two plants for frivolity's sake, & neither white?! start hoarding coffee people, the world has turned upside down.

this week's thursday things - where to get flowers, inexpensively.

* grocery stores - i have found that large stores usually charge vastly too much for flowers, cut & potted. check smaller grocers in your town. the trader joe's by me had other potted plants at good prices, though none as good as the mums.

* farmers' markets - i have only ever bought potted veggies & herbs from my farmers' market, but have seen many flowers, priced well. if your plant seller only carries veg & herbs, ask. they just may not bring their flowers to your specific market.

* nurseries - yes, i know they are wont to charge a small fortune for flowers, but! they do have fabulous sales, so get on their e-mailing list. a few months back i scored two large tomato plants for only a dollar each. the next time i popped in, the same plants were priced at $5.00. now that is a sale. 

* loved ones - you can create whole new plants from taking a bit off an existing plant. here is the more detailed how-to. i have only done this once. i had success, but i am too much an instant-gratification-gal, so buy my flowers already started. the exception: succulents. thehobbit & i love popping off pieces of succulents & sticking them in pots of soil. it is propagating for the lazy set ;)

every flower is a soul blossoming in nature.  ~gerard de nerval


13 July 2011

thrifting show & tell - summer dishes


we have been on the hunt for summery dishes, my lads & i. our kitchen is freakysmall, so i have always used my regular dishes for everything. money-wise it's a good thing, but over time many of my favorite pieces have been broken, or used to the point of, well, unusableness (real word). i decided it was time to go thrifting.

high on my list of wants was a small bowl in which to store & serve fruit. i have many dinky bowls, a few large ones, but none that were just small. imagine my joy to find the absolute perfect bowl on my very first thrifting expedition! (much thanks to the stunt strawberries, for appearing in this photograph.)

there hasn't been much time for research, but based on a quick googling (oh please spell-check, get with the times!), i know it is a vintage mixer bowl, glasbake, by sunbeam. oh! & it is milk glass, which i love. i could not have found a more perfect (for me) bowl had i tried. seriously, our first outing for the purpose of summery dishes, & the first thing i saw on the shelf. meant. to. be. mine.

this stack of sweet little plates is the beginnings of a collection of dessert plates. actually the top 4 were meant to sit beneath a tea cup, & the bottom 4 for bread. that is what google tells me. they were made by kelston, & it would seem they no longer are made. i've searched all over the internet, but can only find a dinner plate or cereal bowl for sale, & those for too much money at that.

this makes me sad. worse? i saw these plates a few weeks ago, but decided they were too pricey. they weren't really, but i was trying to behave. i was thrilled to find them still there, but (here is where the worse comes in) originally there had been 8 of each. i know! i am kicking myself. so now the hunt for more of each size is on. should you happen upon some, please let me know right away.

oh gosh, they are sweet. 

now i have to find room for them, & for all the things i am hoping to find. this translates to purge. pout.

ok, my dearest one & only reader, i am off. see you tomorrow!


12 July 2011

punica granatum


the pomegranate we planted last year is fruiting! is it not the prettiest thing? if you live where a pomegranate will thrive, i highly recommend planting one. ours is a shrub, by the way. i love, love, love pomegranate trees, but this is what the nursery had when we needed something to bury thehobbit's beloved fish beneath. i am glad to have found our shrub, it is the most beautiful of plants. 

have a lovely one, do!

11 July 2011

in which i plant seeds & give you a quickie


not that kind of quickie - you have a naughty mind.

so, i am actually getting things done! the other day i managed (thank you not quite a water park!) to get some flowers re-potted, & 3 flats of seeds planted. we have a very long growing season here, so there is still plenty of time to grow & harvest. if you are in southern california, here is a great planting calendar.

i planted: lettuce, cucumbers, chard, pumpkins, parsley, 2 types of zucchini, & fennel. yum.

do you remember this seed box? i wish i could find the post in which i wrote about it, but i cannot. here is a quickie how-to:

* take an index card to your favorite container store. you want one as wide as the index card. wider is fine, but less is not. i only need one container for my seed collection, but i have a friend who could fill a few. buy what you need.

* label each index card with the seed packets that will be stored in front of it. how you categorize is up to you. some seeds in my box are grouped into one category (herbs), whilst others have each their own (zucchini, winter squash, etc).

* place your seed packets, on their sides, in front of the appropriate index card. pop on the lid, & do the happy dance!

note ::  i also keep small scissors (for opening new packets), a marker, & craft sticks (for labeling what seeds were planted) in this box.

now comes the hard part - the waiting. what about you? how does your garden grow?


08 July 2011

sweet is the shade ...


in the summer we are lucky to have mild weather. all around us the city bakes, yet it remains most of the time quite comfortable at ye olde belfry. it has to do with how far we are from the ocean, the valley that leads from the beach, to thebelfry, & the hill upon which it sits. that is about as much of an explanation i can offer. i am fine with not understanding completely, because i need not understand to be ever so happy that i am not sweltering. those new to kitb: i am a miserable wretch when it's hotter than 70f do not do so well in hot weather.

on monday we hosted a small birthday-party-masquerading-as-the-fourth-of-july bbq. manlyman, 2 friends, & 2 minis had either just had, or were this week having, birthdays. i am sure they would have all been happy in the sun, but elfling & i needed shade. no longer having a structure, we hastily rigged our own sanctuary. what you see in these photos is the result.

i had initially decided not to take photos to share with you, because of the hasty nature with which it was created. martha stewart would cringe. so i let the day pass. & yesterday as well. today though? today i decided to take photos. & yes, it is still up there. please don't tell me this surprises you. we both know what a lazy thing i am.

we have the type of garage that is set apart, & back, from the house. our neighbor does as well. strung between the garages are five clotheslines, hung not long after we moved in. i am embarrassed to say that i have not hung as much laundry as i should have. over these lines we laid 5 large cloths (tablecloth, bedding, fabric) from my collection. the outer edges were secured with clothespins, & the inner with safety pins. not the prettiest way, but we were short of on time.

it worked better than i'd imagined! the area was shady, & oh so comfortable. i wish i could leave it up always, but the elements would destroy the beautiful fabrics. perhaps manlyman will finally agree to buy a few roles of that mesh cloth, meant for this purpose. a gel can dream ;)

how do you create shade? i'd love to hear.

07 July 2011

not quite a water park


this week's thursday things will not take place. sorry, my swiss cheese brain is in full bloom.

a galvanized basin, a green metal bucket, & a chipped enamel mug do not a water park make. this, i know. be that as it may, ever since chatting with you about it the other day (here), i've been poking around thebelfry, looking for items that would get us a bit closer to having our own toddler-sized water park.

manlyman would be quick to mention that i do indeed own quite a few metal & enameled containers that would suit. but he does not understand the difference between dear items in a much-loved collection, & a bunch of stuff gathering dust all over thebelfry.

when next we hit the thrift shops, i'll pick up a few enameled roasters & stockpots. they are always on the shelves, but i pass them by because of chips inside, where the food goes. for water play i don't think i need worry about the rusty spots. do i???

so there you have it - our not quite a water park. see you tomorrow!


06 July 2011

of sunlight & weathered wood

edge of potting table :: came with house
i went out to water thefarm, & quickly became distracted by how beautiful the early morning light played upon the weathered wood. the poor plants shall have to be seen to later, as i never made it as far as the hose. instead, i grabbed my camera & took photos. here are some i thought you might like. the captions tell what you're looking at, & from where things came. enjoy!

legs of  dining chairs (replete with cobwebs) :: friend was getting rid of them

seat of victorianesque park bench :: free, from a closed school

back of a wood & iron bench :: another from the closed school
back of old chair :: found curbside 

side of a wine barrel :: neighbors left behind when moving

back of an adirondack bench :: found curbside

seat of a child's picnic table :: found in bushes

top of a make-shift table :: found curbside

back of the same make-shift table (1 of 2 chairs) :: thrift store

i know i should protect wooden things with sealant before setting them out of doors, but a) i am too lazy, & 2) i find weathered wood to be so rich & beautiful. there is something about the graying wood, the chips of paint left behind, the slight warping, & the occasional moss... sigh.

i do have to paint those dining chairs, however. the seats have split, making them quite unusable. remember those dining chairs on the series friends? they were each a different color. perhaps that's what i'll do. i have cans of paint with only a bit left, so wouldn't need to purchase any. that would make my chairs: white, sage, barn red, & buttery yellow. of course, this means i need to find the time to glue the seats first. oh the ever-growing to-do list.

thanks for visiting. i hope you enjoyed my babbling the photos. don't you wish early morning sunlight lasted all day?


05 July 2011

swoony old buckets


no, that is not my pirate name, though it would be a good & appropriate one. thehobbit & i were poking through my photo archives, & found this photo of gorgeous old buckets. swoon! they aren't mine, sadly. they were for sale at a plant show we attended a few years ago. i could not afford even the smallest, so snapped a photo instead.

the large basin would be perfect right about now. the weather has finally turned summery, & elfling is mad for playing with water. we have a galvanized basin he fits in, but only just. plus, it is elongated, so not as much room on either side of him as a proper basin would have. wouldn't it be fun to have basins of all sizes filled with water, & set about the yard? he could have his very own water park!

i have been peeking in on craigslist daily, in hopes of finding some basins, or large buckets, but so far not a one. no worries though, i shan't give up the quest. arrrrggggghhhh. sorry. couldn't be helped. all i need do is write the word pirate, & i start thinking all piratey. perhaps i am swoony old buckets, after all.

ok, i'm off in search of more ideas for my imagined water park. have a lovely one, do!

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