Oak Knot

I finished this hat when it was cold out last year, and it quickly became my favorite.

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Oak Knot, from the book Juju’s Loops (book available from Loop Knitting Shop in London). My hat is made up in Cascade 220 in shade 4006, Galaxy.  The fit is perfect: slouchy, but not so that I need to hold it on with pins, and it can cover my ears nicely. It is a functional hat and not just pretty, something more difficult to find than I would have thought. I can easily see knitting this hat again, and it would make a beautiful gift knitted in something soft and luxurious.

The little flower was a pattern from this book, which is full of tiny things that make great gift decorations, or ornaments, or brooches, for a start. They’re perfect patterns for using up scraps and snippets of leftover yarns. I hate to throw good yarn away.

I was experimenting with going light-weight on the pattern, so I used Madelinetosh  Prairie yarns in Opaline and Boxwood, Madelinetosh Lace (no longer available) in the shade Kale, and Fyberspates Scrumptious Lace yarn in the shade Oyster.

I hope you have a good weekend!

 

 

A Candle We Like at Our House

Voluspa make really great candles. This gorgeous specimen, for example. We’ve had a couple before this one, and they are consistently perfect. The scents are beautiful, they burn nicely, and the packaging…well, I’ve told you I have a thing for packaging. Isn’t it so pretty?

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I’ve had a hard time finding a candle scent to please all four of us in the house. My older son is bothered by certain fruity scents, and my younger son has the odd thing he dislikes, but those feel very random to me. I still haven’t quite gotten his number, and I have to take him with me when I shop so we can take it on a case by case basis. Thankfully, that’s an errand he enjoys. My husband isn’t very picky; I’m picky but I will tolerate many different categories of scent as long as they aren’t too strong and they have a certain something that pleases me, or maybe it’s the absence of a certain something that displeases me. I’m sorry I can’t define the certain something, but it’s different for each category. For instance, if it’s a yummy, vanilla-caramel sort of candle, there can be something in there that smells dirty to me. If it’s a floral candle, sometimes there’s a harsh note I hate. And on and on and ON.

But really, it’s only the presence of a certain good something which pleases that will make me part with cash. Plenty of things can smell fine, but I will only spend money if it smells really fine.

I’m no fun to shop with.

Anyway, we all like this one.

When I stick my nose into the candle (unlit) I get the feeling of fresh air. There’s a perfumed element to the scent, as well, a beachy sort of thing. Maybe a little of a rain scent, too. If you’re not a fan of fresh and beachy, this probably won’t convert you. If you are, you may really, really like this. It’s the one to which I compare all others, my favorite. The house looks brighter and crisper to me when we burn it.

 

It was medium-expensive as candles go, but it has lasted us about seven months so far. It’s the kind of thing we only burn at certain times, like when we’ve done a really, really thorough housecleaning, or when someone is coming over and we want to purge, PURGE the air. Oh, confessions: the air purge is necessary.

We’ve used almost the whole thing, and I plan to buy another one because it’s so good.

Something that Was Way More Fun than I Thought it Would Be

It’s a whole new reason to hoard food packaging, as if I needed one. Know what I did need? Something to hold my many, many copies of Foreign Affairs. You know, the ones I haven’t read. But I will!

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I really will.

That confetti-bedecked box up there has the ability to hold cereal and hold magazines. Not at the same time, unless it’s an emergency.

So! I’m using boxes to hold things, and that’s my big news. It took you 16 years of keeping a home to come up with that, did it? Yes, and you should have seen what things looked like before.

Some of us take to housekeeping a bit more quickly than others.

Anyway, I could have made that cereal box/magazine holder look a little nicer by doing the inside, too. Maybe I’ll go back and do that.

I did do the inside of the boxes I painted to use as school-supply caddies. These are the boxes Costco used to package a six-pack of Goya black beans in. I love this box size! A bright pink one for my oldest son:

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Pale blue for me, and this one holds boards and pieces for a game we use for grammar, and some foreign language flashcards and CDs:

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The inside of that one:

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Pale pink for my younger son:

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I love to reuse things. I have always had a fascination with packaging. In retrospect, that would have been a fun career for me, I think, working on packaging in some capacity. Often I buy things solely for what they come in, and it’s not just food, although with two teenage boys I think that’s what I buy most of. It’s all kinds of things: hand cream, tea, skin products, soap… and I’m always trying to think of a way I can put an empty container to use.

My grandmother did it, too. When she passed away, I inherited some of her stuff and the most wonderful, evocative prizes were the ones stored away in packages she’d saved: her favorite peppermint tea in a peanut butter jar, tiny plastic animals squeezed into an old prescription pill bottle, sewing supplies in little de-labeled jars I haven’t yet identified. In a way, reused containers can be like time capsules, and that’s part of what keeps me doing it.

But not entirely, because as you see here, it’s not much of a time capsule when you’ve painted and confetti-ed over the whole thing.

So, what else, besides the fact I just like to do things this way? I enjoy the mental exercise of finding a new use for something, I like the feeling of remembering “I have just the thing for that,” I like not purchasing a thousand and one plastic bins and baskets and containers. I don’t have a problem with people buying uniform, plastic containers, I just don’t like to look at them, really. We all like things organized in different ways and looking different ways, and I genuinely appreciate an interesting mishmash. I know for certain, though, that some people would consider my house complete chaos.

All that said, if you like a little chaos too, or are thinking of a way you could make painted boxes that wouldn’t look chaotic, this was a very fun, satisfying project. I wasn’t expecting how relaxing it would be. I did a couple coats of that Martha Stewart supposedly-paints-everything craft paint, then stuck on some tissue paper confetti (I got the confetti idea–and the cereal box magazine holder idea–from Aunt Peaches), and put a couple layers of Mod Podge over it. I have more in the works. I’m trying to figure out how to make a couple that look a little more grown-up, so if I get that worked out, I’ll show you.

Since I started painting boxes, I notice boxes everywhere. You all, Costco. The boxes! So many possibilities.

 

Lazy Saturday

On Saturday, my son and I wanted to get out, so we visited the canal town nearby. It’s mostly quiet, and we went to see the water.

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But we hadn’t forgotten we could also find treats.

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Even at thirteen, he’s not too old to have one treat in each hand.

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The town’s garden was set up for a wedding, and there was a happening which required balloons at the restaurant behind. Like some other restaurants in the area, this is one where you can dock your boat on the water and head in to eat and drink.

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A gazebo that’s perfect for event photos, in all its summer glory.

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Here’s a view of the park from where the docks are. Can you tell from the photo how tall the bridge is? It’s pretty dramatic. That’s my word. My husband’s word is hair raising. I won’t drive on it, but he will. I used to drive over it with no thought at all, then one day I wouldn’t. I couldn’t. And that was that.

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My son and I got to watch the boats dock, listen to the water lapping, and looked in a couple shops.

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He’s made me realize living near the water is nice, and I’m finally coming to appreciate it.

In Which I Visit a Garden Someone Has Weeded

It’s not that I’m on a weeding strike, but really my garden needs attention every day or it starts to go kind of nuts, and that just feels like too much weeding to me, especially when I find it mostly nauseating in this heat. Much better to go look at someone else’s garden.

So, I paid a visit to Longwood Gardens, somewhere I go as often as I can. My favorite times to visit Longwood by myself are when it is cold and rainy or when the heat is so heavy it almost feels like it will crush you, because then I will find myself truly almost alone. It feels beautiful and secret, because the garden is not popular on those days.

Even though I went by myself, today was neither of those kinds of days, but a pretty and sunny summer day with a high temperature that felt surprisingly unoppressive considering the ridiculous weather we’ve had lately in the Mid-Atlantic. Almost as if it was a mistake. I expect tomorrow will be 200 degrees to make up for it.

Anyway, Longwood Gardens is grand. Breathtaking. Overwhelming. Gorgeous. It is a thing to see, and if you’re ever in the area I recommend you do. There are spectacular views everywhere you look, and I think it’s a great time.

Unfortunately, I’ve never in my life successfully captured a spectacular view, but that didn’t stop me trying and what the hell, let’s see what we’ve got:

This is the conservatory. This is one small piece of the conservatory. The website says it covers 4.5 acres. It is huge, and full of beautiful and amazing things. Maybe one day I’ll be able to show you them, but today I have only a teeny, tiny portion because, I don’t know, I didn’t want to overwhelm you, I guess.

So, the conservatory was built in 1919. The window frames aren’t grey, they have this patina, can you see it? Beautiful. Today they were open to let in the air.

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Let’s go in, shall we? Perhaps via this doorway. (Can you believe the doorway?)

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Didn’t you say you needed to use the restroom? Heading in that direction, then.

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Here they are! Pick a door. They go waaay back, with a green wall on both sides extending the whole way, as well, walls of living plants around you as you choose which private room you’d like to use. And tiny lizards. They are in the wall. Please don’t say you’re afraid of lizards, because they’re very small and harmless and you probably won’t see one if you’re afraid of them; they can tell.

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Very good, moving right along. Can you see there are steps in the foreground of the photo, they’re covered in ivy. Then you have this flooded area which provides humidity to the tropical plants. At the far end of the shallow pool is a stage with more trailing things trailing down over it and into the water. For certain events, this pool is drained and seating is set up. This is where I sat when I saw the Venice Baroque Orchestra play a couple years ago. It was a perfect night.

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Here are grapefruit trees, growing the grapefruits Victory Brewing Co. used in the beer they made especially for Longwood this year. They called it Grapefruit Solstice and my husband and I thought it was delicious. It’s hard to go wrong with Victory.

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Here’s a view of the kind of front room of the conservatory. Those windows! The plantings in this room change seasonally, and I always like to take a look and see what’s changed.

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Here is the lily pad garden outside: (1) Men working on the lilies (2) Smallish variety (3) A quite large variety (4) A huge variety, with my toes for size reference.

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Leaving the conservatory, and taking to the outside pathways now.

I am such a dork–this is a double umbel (foreground and background). Ha ha ha.

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The water garden. I did it nothing like justice.

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In a pond, trees with nobbly knees. See them, down near the water?

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You all, see how beautifully this little brick outbuilding looks? Here is what’s inside: a water fountain. You can get a drink. Everything is like that; it’s all so lovely.

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A planting as you walk into one of the garden areas. These are all potted; they change seasonally. These pots, in particular, get me excited about what new things I’m going to find planted in the flower gardens for the season.

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All this walking brought to you by toes painted in Chanel Cinema. Lovely, milky red. Unavailable now, I’m sorry to say, but don’t be too sad: it was the old formulation, which means it’ll be chipping off momentarily. Still, so pretty. A very good red.

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That’s all for now. I’m sure I’ll do this again.

 

So Hot, So August

We’ve made it through weeks of very high heat–there were several days the heat indexes were between 100 and 113. Oh, and no appreciable rainfall for about two weeks. Let’s see who’s still blooming!

Flax. I love the blue. New flowers every morning and tiny seedpods not long after:

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My rose. It’s Ginger Syllabub, from here (click link). I won’t show the whole plant because I pruned it harshly and wow, it’s not pretty. But this flower!

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Lavender, such a trooper. Behind it is a little water I put for the frogs:

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Guara. I love this plant. It keeps making more of itself without needing any help from me. I started with two and now I have four:

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Those are my perennials, and they’ve given me way more than I’ve given them. I’ve neglected them horribly for a long time. Years.

At the start of July, I realized I missed working in the garden. The weeds made me sad, and I hadn’t bothered to plant any vegetables at all, despite the fact my son had dug a place for me to plant them. I don’t know, a switch flicked in my brain. I went to a stand and bought a bunch of things to plant. Did you know if you buy vegetables and herbs for the garden at the start of July they will be deeply discounted and also half-dead?

The thing about plants, though, is how desperately hard they try to live. Maybe that’s why I love them so much; they remind me more is possible than I thought. The withered, root-bound plants did what plants do, so anyway, I have beans. Beautiful herbs. And cucumbers that started from seeds that got lost in the ground last year. Those were a gift. I think I’ll plant some peas soon.

Plus I sneaked some flower seeds into the ground, planting them under my shadow because the sun was so hot. Here are the seedlings; they’ve been standing up to the heat so nicely, and I’m hoping to see blooms before things start to freeze.

Zinnias:

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Marigolds:

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Cosmos:

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Better late than never.