planning the garden

planning the garden -

My family jokes that I’m always planning the garden.  And they’re right.  That’s me, above, a few years ago in my first community garden plot.  It wasn’t my first time gardening, though.  I grew up with a prolific gardener – my grandfather.  Every spring he would start planning the garden in late winter.  He had the greenest thumb, and it seemed to us that whatever he planted just grew brilliantly.  We had fresh tomatoes and cucumbers and carrots – straight from the garden – almost every day at dinnertime.  He had heritage raspberry bushes that took over an entire length of our yard.  I can never eat grocery store raspberries without comparing them to the juiciest, sweet raspberries that my sister and I used to eat like candy off of the bushes.  Marigolds, peach trees, rose bushes – he was a master gardener. 

After he passed away, I tried to take over the garden plot that he left behind, but it wasn’t long before the land was sold, and I had moved far enough away that visiting was only a weekly trip, if that.  And as times passes, weeds took over the garden, including the insidious and horrific bindweed, which ended up choking the raspberry bushes to death.  In the end, the garden died, it was eventually turned into a lawn, and the family that lives there now probably has no idea of the goodness that grew under their very feet for so many years.

planning the garden -

However, I inherited that love of earth, and the green thumb that goes along with it.  When I started my first garden, I pored over gardening books, learning everything I could about how different classes of vegetables grow; what flourishes when and in what kind of soil; and what I didn’t learn from the books, I learned from trial and error.  The community garden plot was a dream come true for me, until it was turned into a dog park, and I was left without a garden for yet another year. 

I never gave up, though.  Even after we moved into a little apartment, I was determined to make the best use of the small grassy area outside my patio doors.  I learned about raised beds, and the next year we had installed four little beds for me to work in.  This is when my boys were quite young, so I would enlist their help in carrying water from the kitchen sink through the living room and out the back door, since there were no hoses.  They loved it, though, and it was fun to watch them learn to eat their food straight off the plants.  And the carpet definitely got a watering, too!

planning the garden -

But time passed still, and I moved out of that apartment, and the beds were torn down before the next tenant moved in.  I spent a couple of years with a few potted plants here and there, but nothing truly exciting or elaborate.  Still, it never stopped me from dreaming every spring about planning the garden for the year to come.  I have lists of seeds and diagrams of what my ideal garden would look like one day, complete with a kitchen herb garden, aromatic flowers bounding a garden trail, and the most flavorful heritage seeds I could choose. 

The yard I have now is perfect for little children to run around and play in, but is almost completely shaded by a thick wall of trees.  And I can’t complain about that, really, because it’s so beautiful and peaceful to look out my window at trees, trees, trees.  But the lack of sunshine leaves me very little space to plant any summer crops.  Last year I resorted to miniature versions of tomatoes and cucumbers that could grow in pots, which I strategically placed after charting out which areas around the home got the most sunshine.  I had a lot of luck.  My plants grew and were prolific for the miniature versions that they were.

planning the garden -

So this year, I’m putting the Mr to work, with plans to build a handful of raised beds for me to plant in again.  I’m still charting the sun on the few clear days that we have, in order to see where to best place them to get the most sunlight, and I know at least a couple of them will be more for partial sun crops, rather than the full-on cucumbers and tomatoes I would grow and eat all year round if I could.  Kale, chard and lettuce greens are bursting with flavor when picked fresh, and they do well in partial sun.  I have plans, I tell you.  Big plans!  Plans that will be quickly covered in weeds when this new baby comes and I spend more time sleeping and nursing than I could out weeding the garden, but still.  Every garden is a good garden; if not crop-wise, then by the learning that comes with it.

I can’t let a growing season go by without putting in at least a small order of seeds though.  I have a plethora of seeds leftover from last year, many of them picked up on sale for a few pennies at the end of the season.  Between what I have and the fact that my new little one will take up a good deal of time, I can’t really justify a huge order, but I do have a couple of special seeds selected for fun.  For example, these atomic grape tomatoes from are so beautiful.  Even though I’ve grown and love heirloom seeds, every year I am tempted by the amazing hybrids that gardeners more talented than I create, and I like to have a good mixture of both. 

planning the garden - atomic grape tomatoes
atomic grape tomatoes /

So while the sky is gray and the forecast is calling for yet another round of snow, I’m sitting inside, making yet another list of what to plant, and when; and getting my little growing lights out, and counting back the days from when the last frost will (hopefully) be, so that by the time the earth is ready, I’ll have some healthy little seedlings ready to go.  And with a little luck and cooperation from the weather, my children will be out picking the beans and cherry tomatoes off the plants again this summer. 

planning the garden -

Happy gardening dreams!


2018 Crochet Along

So here we are at the end of February, and I’m only just recently starting to pull myself together for the 2018 Block-a-Month Crochet Along (or bamcal for short) group on Ravelry.  These past couple of years have found me so busy that I’ve barely done any crochet at all (well, from what I’m used to).  But I’m really hoping that will change.  I’ve been in nesting mode – it’s true, we’re expecting another sweet little one at the end of spring.  My heart is swelling with joy, and we’re all so happy.  And chances are that this will likely be my last little one, so I really want to take all the time in the world to enjoy every last minute of being a mother to an infant. 

felted pregnancy -

Clara has been a dream of a baby – easy going, a good sleeper, calm.  I’ve really been blessed with her, and she just bubbles over with happiness and love for life.  I’m hoping that she will embrace being a big sister just as much as she embraces everything else.  My older boys, too, have stepped up to the plate so much to help – watching Clara when I need to nap, helping with feeding when necessary, and entertaining her when I need a few minutes to myself.  That’s one of the reasons why I have had a bit of extra time to myself.  Although I’ve spent more time than necessary on cooking and cleaning, I’m making sure lately to see that I am also getting time to create, even if it’s just a round here and there of crochet, or doodle on the sofa while I’m nursing.  And so, I’ve fortunately been able to start catching up with the 2018 crochet along. 

2018 Crochet Along - Grumpy Grandad crochet -
Grumpy Grandad Square – January 2018 Crochet Along

So here I’m sharing the first three January squares for the 2018 crochet along.  The first one here is called Grumpy Grandad square by Sadie Cuming, found for free (as of this writing) here as a Ravelry download.  I added a little bit of decorative embroidery in the center, just because, and went a little crazy with the blocking, because the lines of this are so striking. 

I’m using my new colors for this year’s bamcal, which are from the Caron Simply Soft line.  The colors are white, soft green, blue mint (from the brite line, as the deepest blue), and robin’s egg blue for the midtone blue; the lighter pinkish color is the same light country peach that I’ve used in previous bamcals (and which I stocked up on when I thought they discontinued the color, but now it’s available everywhere again, so who knows!?);  and the deeper pink is plum wine.  I was a little hesitant when selecting these colors because there’s such a huge trend right now in crochet with the turquoise/pink thing, but I think the contrast works well with the addition of the green and peach. The color flow is so soft and pretty. 

2018 Crochet Along - Sunrise Beach -
2018 Crochet Along – Sunrise Beach

Sunrise Beach by Jen Tyler was the group’s choice for the filler square for February.  The pattern is available as a free Ravelry download here. I love this square.  Especially with the colors; it goes so well with the femininity of the ruffles, the floral theme, the embellishments and puffs.  I really had a lot of fun designing the color layout and then making the square. 

Both the squares are made for worsted weight yarn and come out to 12″ in the pattern.  But since I’m using a sport weight yarn, I also use a smaller hook than is usually recommended as well.  These were both made with a 4.00mm / G hook.  Because of this, they don’t come anywhere near to 12″.  In fact, I usually need to add a few rounds to get them up to 9″.  But 9″ is perfect, because, as with my 2015 bamcal blanket, the squares are all in multiples of 3″, so I can mix and match them at the end of the year into a pleasing pattern. 

2018 Crochet Along - Knotted Puffs
2018 Crochet Along – Knotted Puffs –

And finally, the 6″ square for January is Knotted Puffs by Amber Schaaf.  This is another Ravelry download (also free) that can be found following the link here. These came out smaller than 6″ for all the reasons I mentioned above.  Usually I just add a few extra rounds onto the squares to bring them up to 6″, but instead I did something a little different by putting them together into a 4-square and then adding the borders around that to bring it up to 9″.  I’m sure I’ll have plenty of 6″ squares by the end of the year that a few of them can be pieced together like this just fine. 

Anyway, friends, thank you for all the comments and emails.  Like I’ve been promising (and promising, I know), I will eventually get back to you and answer some of the questions that you’ve left.  Thanks for all your support and patience, I truly do appreciate it!


New Crochet Projects

Wow, this year really flew by!  I have been so busy working on home projects, taking care of the little ones (and not-so-little ones), and learning some new skills, that I have crocheted less this year than any other year in the past decade. Honestly, I don’t even know where the time goes anymore!  But I do know that over the past week or two, I’ve had such a longing to just sit and crochet for a while. Now that the weather is starting to get colder, I just want to wrap myself up in a warm blanket and crochet for a good long bit. 

It’s pretty obvious to me that I won’t be getting too many projects done in time for the holidays this year, so I’m giving myself a pass and taking off the stress that I usually start to feel around this time of the year.  The 2017 BAMCAL blanket won’t be completed.  Neither will the one from 2016, for that matter.  And the plethora of other projects that I have can wait their turn in line while I slowly but surely catch up on all the little things I need to catch up on.  But I’m doing it with no pressure right now. 

So here are the new crochet projects that I have managed to complete in the past… what has it been, 2 1/2 months since my last post?  Sheesh.  The first is from the 2017 bamcal, this Moon Blossom square.  This was the filler (voted for) square for July (which feels like it was last week).  I have to say I’m in love with the outer stripe effect.  I think if I make this again, black and white stripes would be absolutely striking as well.  The pattern is free at the time of this post and can be found on Cuppa Crochet

Moon Blossom Square -New Crochet Projects -
Moon Blossom Square

The next project that I’ve just been casually working on here and there is a new hoodie sweater for Clara.  I found some discontinued yarn in my yarn closet and was trying to figure out what I could use it for, seeing that I only had three skeins of it.  Well, it turns out that this hoodie was exactly the project for it.  The yarn is Bernat Mosaic in the color Optimistic.  Such a bummer that these yarn companies keep discontinuing such gorgeous colored yarns, but I’m glad I had these on hand and found a good use for them.  I still have the hood and the front of the sweater to finish, but we have nice long winters here, so I’m certain that Clara will have the opportunity to wear it several times at least before the spring thaw.  The pattern is free and can be found here, but I wouldn’t recommend it for a new crocheter.  The instructions are not really clear and there are a lot of reviews on Ravelry that said that sizing was way off, even with gauge.  I’ve used the pattern as a basic outline and am kind of just holding it up to Clara and seeing how it fits her shape (she’s got a super huge head, so the hood would have had to have been adjusted regardless).  But still, fun to make with the yarn.  I love seeing how the color all comes together. 

Sweet Baby Hoodie - New Crochet Projects -
Sweet Baby Hoodie

Finally, as promised two months ago, I’m just now getting around to getting Zoë uploaded.  This was part of Polly Plum’s Firefly series, and I just love her work.  As expected, this pattern did not disappoint.  I love the colors too.  The yarn is Vanna’s Choice, but I’m still getting used to the new colors that they started carrying, such as the lilac and the peacock.  I know it’s been a while since they were released, but since this has been an off-year for me, they’re still new!  and exciting!  and I have so many color combinations that I want to play around with in my nonexistent free time!  Oh well, in the meantime, if you’re looking for the Zoë pattern, you can find the individual pattern on Ravelry for $2.49, or you can download the entire ebook, which includes the patterns I made of the other Firefly women.  The ebook is $9.99 and can be found on Ravelry as well

Zoe Crochet Square - New Crochet Projects -
Zoë Crochet Square

I’m still working my way through comments, emails and such, so if you’ve written to me and haven’t heard back from me yet, hang in there.  I’m slowly, slowly working my way through this beautiful mess!


Firefly Crochet – the Polly Plum Files

Hooray for Firefly crochet!

Count me along the Browncoats – like so many others, I loved Firefly and was crushed when the series ended with the story only half told (and was grateful for Serenity  for later existing to correct that).  I used to sit and watch the show while crocheting away – I don’t think I’ve watched a movie or TV show over the past decade without some sort of project in my hands.  So what a fitting surprise when one of my favorite crochet designers – Polly Plum from Every Trick on the Hook – put out her eBook of Firefly crochet patterns named after the women of the series.  The collection, called “Shiny” features 4 patterns named after each of the awesome female characters – Zoë, Inara, Kaylee, and River, and Serenity (the ship), who I suppose is technically female as well. 

I had so much fun making these  I’d been waiting to find the perfect color combination before starting this series, and I ended up with a variation of a swap scheme from the VCFC group on Ravelry.  The swap, from last fall was the “Retro Doodles” colors, originally: Magenta, Lilac, Brick, Peacock, Lime, and Fisherman from the Vanna’s Choice yarn line.  I modified this somewhat, bringing in Big Twist yarn in two colors – Sprout, which replaced the Lime color – which I can’t find anywhere anyway, and is also much brighter and more saturated than Lime; and Cinnamon, the brownish color, which I purchased a whole bunch of when it was on clearance some months back.  I also replaced Fisherman with Beige, which I felt has a more retro-ish feel to it, kind of like weathered white does when it’s 50 years old. 

Anyway, after finally settling on the colors, and being so uninspired for the past few months with the current projects I’ve been working on, I pushed everything else aside and whipped up all the squares from Shiny in a matter of only a couple of days.  And I’m so in love with the results!

The Patterns:

The Shiny e-book is a Ravelry download.  At the time of this post, the cost is $9.99, which comes out to about $2 a pattern.  I would say it’s definitely worth it.  However, each pattern is also available individually for $2.49.

  • E-book download: Shiny
  • Inara only download: Inara
  • River only download: River
  • Kaylee only download: Kaylee
  • Zoë only download: Zoë
  • Serenity only download: Serenity

You need a Ravelry account (free) to download the patterns.

My Firefly Crochet Squares:


Firefly Crochet -

This was the first of the bunch that I made.  I wanted something that was challenging and absolutely gorgeous, and River did not fail to deliver.  I’m a big fan of the hdc in 3rd stitch, which was utilized heavily in this pattern.  And I think the end result is just lovely. 

Firefly Crochet -

I wasn’t expecting Kaylee to be as much fun as it was.  The ruffles are so satisfying.  I sometimes get a little bored with center floral motifs, because so many of them are only slight variations on the same thing over and over.  But this was definitely not one of those.  And the leafy edge ruffles were a nice touch.

Firefly Crochet -

Inara turned out to be my favorite of the bunch.  In order to place the colors in the pattern method that I had in mind, I ended up using tapestry crochet with two colors in order to get the center cross the way I wanted it.  It was a bit of extra worth, but the end result was worth it.

So, you may be wondering, where are the Zoë and Serenity Firefly crochet squares in all this?  And the answer is that Zoë is completed, but I had a lazy weekend, and honestly haven’t gotten around to photographing it.  But that’s on the list of the (many) things I hope to accomplish today and will hopefully be up tomorrow.  The Serenity square, on the other hand, is on the list of squares to make.  But because I wanted some more complicated crochet to work on, I ended up setting that one aside for later. 

I have big plans for this series of squares, though – and it includes continuing this color scheme through plenty more Polly Plum squares.  Stay tuned!