Thursday, June 27, 2013

saving Blue

For the past week, I've been laboring over saving Blue, my new pet name for my neighbor Bea's hydrangea bush. The good news? The developer who bought her house said I could have it! The horrible news? I think I've killed it by trying to dig, split, and transfer it in late June. I keep telling myself that the developer was going to get rid of it anyway--I had nothing to lose. But sadly, I feel like I have lost. I had envisioned those perfect blue blossoms adorning my front and back yards and now there's nothing but dead blooms and decaying leaves everywhere.

Before I decided to take the hydrangea bush, I had to find a good home for the healthy Euonymus shrubs, the only remaining plants that were here when we bought our house.  I ended up with a long list of takers, so I felt no regret at giving them away--guess I wasn't at all attached to them!  

Bea's hydrangea bush was enormous, and did I mention that it's 35 years old?

I barely got it out of the ground. After about six hours over four days of digging alone with my spade (with the whole block cheering on my noble mission, mind you), borrowing my neighbor's pick and enlisting Brad's help made all the difference! (On a side note, I now have a new sympathy for grave diggers! I could barely dig a foot down in hard soil--I can't imagine ever digging a hole large and deep enough for a coffin.)

Once Brad got the bush out of the ground, we split it into three large pieces--two were planted in the front yard where the Euonymus shrubs were, and one piece went in the back yard. We planted the three new bushes immediately, and for about 15 minutes, my yard looked delightful.

And then things started to go downhill very quickly. I had consulted with an expert at a local nursery about the transfer and followed his instructions carefully. Brad tried to get as much of the root ball as he could. I planted immediately and watered like crazy. But alas, within a couple of days, this is what the two front bushes looked like.

Here's an even closer look of the mess that's currently in my front yard.

I am still watering and hoping. I don't dare plant anything else at this hot time of year, so I will leave the hydrangeas in the ground, dead or not, until spring. If those branches remain barren next spring, I will replace the bushes then.

It would have been much easier to just buy new hydrangeas for my front yard. But no, I simply had to have the mature 35-year-old bush with perfect hues. And even if I failed completely, it was still worth the blood, sweat, and tears I experienced last week. At least I gave it my best shot.

Friday, June 21, 2013

no Draino

Let me save you the $165 I just paid the plumber for this advice: no Draino, especially if you live in an old house with old pipes. Unless the directions are followed perfectly--and sometimes, not even then--it won't work and actually makes the problem worse because Draino (or other products like it) clump up and cake on pipes. The plumber's exact words were, "We (plumbers) love that stuff!" Of course they do--it keeps them in business!

Instead, pour two cups of straight bleach down your drain. Wait 30 minutes and flush thoroughly with hot water. I haven't tried this method yet, but the plumber swears by it.

Do you have a tried-and-true method for unclogging sink drains? Does the bleach method actually work?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

summer robe

I am a robe person. And I have a wonderfully comfy, fluffy, warm robe for  cold months, but have been on a mission for several years now to find a lightweight version with short sleeves for summer. I've used a cheapie from Target for about five years now that I've hated. Do you know how impossible it is to find a casual, short-sleeve robe that wears well for everyday use? Very few robes with short sleeves exist and those that do are more of the silky, satiny, sexy variety that grow smelly quickly when covered with long, wet hair. Ew.

But I finally found one! It's terry cloth, but super light weight. It's Ralph Lauren, but I found it on sale. And best of all?

It's raspberry, a perfect summer color. Bliss!

Are you a robe person? Where do you shop?

Monday, June 17, 2013

child labor

One positive aspect of having a busy bee child is that I can put Mason to work, and he loves it! He's too young to understand the difference between work and play--he just enjoys all activity and is eager to be right in the middle of it--and therefore responds cheerfully to nearly every request for help. I am taking advantage of his servant heart while I can!

To see what all he can do--at 21 months, mind you--amazes me! The broom, Swiffer, and feather duster cannot come out of storage without Mason insisting on cleaning the floors or dusting the furniture himself. If he spills a few drops of his milk, I hand him the rag and he wipes it up. Without being asked, he carries the empty reusable bags to the front door and lays them there (to be placed back in the car) as I unload the groceries--he knows that's his job. In the garden, I taught him how to pick peas and pull weeds. As I scoop buckets of water from his swimming pool to water the garden, he mimics me, filling up his little watering can and making trip after trip to water my herbs.

I emptied out the fridge the other day to clean it and Mason was underfoot, so I gave him a rag and asked him to wipe down the bottom shelves. I sprayed the (vinegar/water) cleaner and he scrubbed. Of course, I went over his sections with my own rag, but he did a decent job. (And on another note, isn't a freshly cleaned fridge just divine?)

What chores do your children enjoy? At what age do they stop wanting to help? Any tips on keeping this momentum going?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

bye bye blue

My next-door neighbor Bea has the most gorgeous, gargantuan, hydrangea bush in her front yard with blooms the perfect shade of blue. This bush is more than 35 years old and she does absolutely nothing to it--no water, no fertilizer, nothing. I fight envy as I labor to keep my fledgling pink hydrangeas alive in the back yard--three years in and I still haven't turned them blue! Oi vey.

Well, after growing up and living there for 35 years, Bea just sold her house--in a hot minute for a hefty sum-- to a developer, who will clean out, gut, renovate, and resell it ASAP. Let's be honest--this is a good thing for Brad's and my home's value. But Bea has been a kind neighbor, and I hate to see her move. I dread long days ahead of hammering, drilling, and other construction noises that will interrupt Mason's nap. And I fear for this beautiful bush's life. Will it survive a complete overhaul of the property? I doubt it. I would beg the developer to give it to me, but where on earth would I put it?

I intend to enjoy these idyllic blooms this summer and pick them to my heart's content. (Bea gave me permission to take as many as I'd like!) This poor bush may not live to see another blooming season!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

vertical gardens: the challenges

Gentle Readers, here is a picture of my dream

but here is what my reality looks like.

Darn you, Pinterest, for making rain gutter gardening look so easy!

I have planted loads of seeds in these gutters, way more than I ever expected. But the birds and squirrels have eaten some and spread much of the seeds all over my yard, which is why there are so many bare patches in the troughs. The real challenge, though, is that I can't keep these gutters wet enough. They dry out in a hot minute, even during a cool spring season, which does not bode well for the coming months. Even if I remembered to do it, there's no way that I have time to water them twice a day.

Has anyone ever had a project turn out as well as it looks on Pinterest?

Friday, June 7, 2013


Another Capitol Hill institution has been decimated by fire: Frager's.

I am in shock, much like I was six years ago when Eastern Market burned.

Why do our hearts grow attached to brick and mortar? The employees and patrons escaped without harm. Granted, the employees are without jobs for now, but still, they are alive and safe. But the loss of the three buildings and everything they involved--the wide range of inventory, the convenience of an all-inclusive hardware store on the Hill, the charm of the narrow, packed, floor-to-ceiling aisles--is devastating.

The General Manager claims the store will be rebuilt, and if this occurrence is anything like what happened with Eastern Market, the community will rally behind him and support this endeavor. But Hill residents are already bemoaning that Frager's won't be the same. Will they really rebuild the same floor plan, with aisles too narrow for a stroller to fit? Won't it take decades to find all the little gadgets they sold, let alone to restock the crammed shelves? What about the friendly and helpful staff--how long can they wait without a paycheck for their employer to return?

I must admit, I disliked going inside Frager's with Mason--too crowded and crazy with a toddler. But now that it's gone, I long for those confined spaces and overflowing shelves. I, too, fear that Frager's will lose its old school charm during its rebuilding.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

neighborly competition continues

Last year, one neighbor copied my flower bed design and another neighbor beautified his yard. This year, the latter neighbor has built his own flower bed--does it look familiar?

My bed is on the left, my neighbor's bed is on the right.
He measured my flower bed and built his to match mine, which I take as a compliment, so I gave him some hostas to get his bed started.

The block is sprucing up!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

too much texting

As usual, I am slow to embrace this trend, but now that I've started texting, I just can't stop.

Who knew that text messages are stay-at-home-moms' primary means of communicating with each other? I sure didn't! I rarely texted for business purposes with my colleagues at UMD. But text messaging is how I conduct my business as a stay-at-home-mom. Every afternoon while I am doing chores during Mason's nap time, my phone blows up with texts from friends about how naps are going, which park sounds most desirable that day, and where and when we should meet. It takes no fewer than six text messages back and forth to coordinate a single play date. Make it a group text between several moms, and you've just racked up at least 15 messages on your statement. Texting is the only way that I can secure a babysitter these days--these potential sitters take too long to respond to email inquiries, if they respond at all.

Pretty much all of Cooking Thyme's business is conducted via texting: ingredient drop-off logistics, recipe modifications, and childcare arrangements. What's the common denominator between my "business" as a stay-at-home-mom and my "business" as a cooking teacher? I don't share physical space with my colleagues. We need to communicate, usually last minute and on the go, and texting is the perfect method, as not everyone has easy access to email via the phone.

So what's the problem? When I got my first iPhone in 2009, I signed up for 200 texts per month for $5. For three years, this plan was perfect as I never got close to hitting my text limit, but now, I exceed it every month and end up paying $.10 per text over 200. I'm not quite at the point to purchase the unlimited texting plan for an additional $15 per month because it's still cheaper for me to pay the overage charge per text. It's only a matter of time, though. Brad, who used to text me each night as he left work, now calls and lets it ring once to signal that he's leaving.

Are you a text-a-holic? What kind of business do you perform via text messaging?

Saturday, June 1, 2013

11 trumps 7

For the past few years, I've been on a roll with cutesy titles for my wedding anniversary post: eight is great; nine is divine; ten's a win. And now I'm stumped with 11. Of course, the first phrase that pops into most people's minds is "11 is Heaven", but can anything really compare to Heaven? Not that I know personally--Lord willing, I will one day--but I don't want to make that comparison.

So I settled on "11 trumps 7" because literally, it does. Praise God for 11 years of marriage today. On Brad's and my seventh anniversary, we were recovering from running 26.2 miles the day before, a blessing in and of itself that we made it! Today, we are taking a more restful approach by enjoying the morning alone while Mason plays at a friend's house, and tonight we're celebrating at one of our favorite DC restaurants.

This anniversary finds us at a different, but better, place in our marriage than four years ago. We've soldiered through disappointments, losses, and heartaches that we never expected, but thankfully, the Lord has used these trials to grow us in faith and to strengthen our marriage. Yes, we still argue. Yes, we still let each other down. Yes, we each remain selfish. No marriage is or will ever be perfect. But by God's grace, we're better together today than we were four years ago. Eleven indeed trumps seven.

(If you're interested, here's the story behind the picture.)