planning the garden

planning the garden - mellieblossom.com

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 - mellieblossom.com

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 - mellieblossom.com

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 - mellieblossom.com

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 rareseeds.com 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 / rareseeds.com

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 - mellieblossom.com

Happy gardening dreams!

~mellie

Crochet Pumpkin Hat and Booties

Crochet Pumpkin Hat - mellieblossom.com

Happy Halloween!  This year has flown by far too quickly.  Halloween sets off the flurry of craziness that is the holiday season around here before we settle into a months-long cold and quiet winter, and with Clara being born just a month ago, even Halloween sneaked up on us this year.  But I did get in a little bit of crocheting in time to celebrate the season. 

Pumpkins - mellieblossom.com

All of these adorable crochet pumpkin accessories are so incredibly cute.  Right after her birth, we got this cute little knit pumpkin hat from a friend who volunteers for our local CSA pickup.  It was so perfectly fitting, considering all the squash and pumpkins we’ve been receiving in our shares for fall.  And she looked so sweet in it.  But it wasn’t long that Clara (who is nursing and gaining weight like crazy) grew right out of that hat.  And I decided to replace it with a crochet version of my own.

Knit Pumpkin Hat - mellieblossom.com

Crochet Pumpkin Hat - mellieblossom.com

So I went on Ravelry and found this crochet pumpkin hat and was able to whip it up in a single afternoon.  Of course, Miss Clara’s head seems to be growing exponentially, so I had to add a second round to the edging so that it would come down over her forehead (she has her daddy’s big head!) but it’s enough to get hopefully a few weeks of wear before she’s inundated with winter hats.  I did go down a hook size when making this, using an I instead of a J hook, as my gauge suggested. Next time I would stick with the J hook though.  It did fit her newborn head, but they just grow so quickly, don’t they?

Crochet Pumpkin Hat - mellieblossom.com
Daddy’s hat with baby’s crochet pumpkin hat

The crochet pumpkin hat that I chose was not a free pattern, but it was very well written with good photos, and even includes video links, so it would be great for a beginner crocheter. This Pumpkin Beanie is available on Ravelry for $4.95.  Another great feature about this pattern is that it goes from infant size up to adult size, so next fall I can make crochet pumpkin hats for everyone in the family!  Won’t they love that, haha. Fortunately, everyone here is very accommodating with my constant crocheting for them!

For the hat, I used Vanna’s Choice yarn in Terracotta and Kelly Green for the leaf and curl.  The flower was made with an E sized hook and Caron Simply Soft yarn in off-white.  I wanted the flower to be small enough not to overwhelm her head and the hat, but I would probably use a worsted weight yarn for the flower on an adult sized hat.

Crochet Halloween Booties - mellieblossom.com

After the hat was done, the only logical thing was to make a matching pair of baby booties to go along with them, right?  I had started this pattern for booties a couple of weeks before she was born, but because I became so ill, I didn’t finish them.  So they again took no time to finish making.  This pattern for Fairy Blossom Baby Booties is free and can be found here. These actually turned out a tad bit bigger than a newborn size, but that works, because she’ll have plenty of time over the cold winter to use these to keep her beautiful baby toes snuggly warm. 

Crochet Halloween Booties - mellieblossom.com

For all those of you who have been so kind to check up on me and send me messages and emails, thank you.  We’ve been recovering well from Clara’s birth.  Our whole family has fallen in love with her, and she’s proven to be my easiest newborn yet (knock on wood!) in terms of high needs.  Her big brothers have been a wonderful help in terms of watching over her while I get showers and a little bit of sanity in, so that’s been a blessing.  And Daddy just adores her; I love to watch his heart just melt when he holds her.  I can’t believe it’s already been a month, and yet I can’t imagine how life was without her.  This has truly been a magical fall. 

Pumpkins - mellieblossom.com

Happy Halloween,

Mellie

Homemade Halloween Makeup

Homemade Halloween Makeup

 Hooray for Halloween, one of our favorite holidays around here.  Not that we need a holiday for costumes in this house, as I have a natural costume designer.  My son will come to me with very detailed instructions on outfits that he wants to construct, items that he wants me to crochet, and very specific, down to the tiniest details.  So it goes without saying that we go through a lot of fabric, a lot of paper, markers, and masking tape (his backup for when I’m not able to sit down and sew up what he’s dreaming of), and a huge variety of creative energy.

Halloween makeup isn’t in the stores year round, but even when it is, I try to avoid it.  My son inherited my super-sensitive skin which breaks out in unpleasant rashes when it comes in contact with certain chemicals.  Instead, we make our own Halloween makeup with just a few items: cold cream, corn starch, and food coloring.  We haven’t had any reactions with regular food coloring, but if you’re looking to avoid all artificial coloring, India Tree makes an excellent alternative made from natural vegetable colorants.  I can vouch that it works well, as this was the coloring used on my wedding cake.  But we go through so much face paint here that it’s more cost efficient for us to use the cheap stuff. 

Homemade Halloween Makeup

Homemade Halloween Makeup

 So the process is relatively simple.  Take 1 part cold cream to 2 parts cornstarch and mix together (so, 1 T cold cream to 2 T cornstarch, or 1/8 c cold cream to 1/4 c cornstarch, depending on how much you want to make).  It will take a while for it to blend well, but just keep at it.  You want the texture to be watered down enough to paint with, but thick enough so that it isn’t runny when applied.  Aim for a toothpaste like consistency.  If you find you added too much cornstarch, you can thin the mixture with water.  Be sure to add only a few drops at a time, because it’s easy to thin it out.  If you do make it too watery, add a little cornstarch back in.  it’s not an exact science on precise amounts like when you bake, so no pressure if you mess it up.  Just get it to the consistency you’re happy with.  After that, add in a few drops of the color you want. 

Homemade Halloween Makeup

 Once you stir it up, it’s ready to be applied.  And if you’re making some in advance, store it covered in the refrigerator so it doesn’t dry out.  To apply, take a paintbrush and you’re set.  This isn’t the longest lasting makeup out there, but it does the job for a few hours, and comes off easily with water.  As with all food colorants, I would keep it away from anything that could be stained, but it’s perfect for kids clothes, costumes, and Halloween fun!

Homemade Halloween Makeup

Homemade Halloween Makeup
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Ingredients
  1. 1 T cold cream
  2. 2 T corn starch
  3. food coloring
Instructions
  1. Combine cold cream and cornstarch until blended into a toothpaste-like consistency. Add food coloring and stir until evenly blended. Apply to face and have fun! Store covered to keep from drying out.
mellie blossom http://www.mellieblossom.com/
~Mellie ★

 

 

Crochet Color Card – Halloween Colors

 

Halloween Colors

Every once in a while when starting a project, I get completely stumped on colors.  And other times I have a hundred projects going on and am inspired by new colors.  This is one of the latter times – I’m always inspired in the fall.  I love October, and we’re big on celebrating Halloween here.  This year, we all went to the pumpkin patch a little earlier as usual and my boys went to town designing their Jack o’ Lanterns (they design and we do the cutting). As the finished Jack o’ Lanterns glowed in the basement with my boys simultaneously glowing with pride, I thought of how beautifully these Halloween colors went together. 

Halloween Colors

Random color schemes jumping into my head is nothing new.  I have a notebook full of color ideas which are there with the intention of me putting together to see if they really work out as well as I envision them to.  However, I usually have so many other projects going on that I rarely get around to trying any of them out.  Or, I try one out, love it, and then start a whole new afghan with them – another project on the table!  So this time I thought to myself that I’d just make up a handful of squares and see how they go together with no commitment.  No pressure to make our family a Halloween colors afghan like the Thanksgiving one (though that is an neat idea now that I think about it…)j  This time, it was all about fun.  And it was fun putting these together.  in fact, I whipped up all these granny squares and the pumpkin square in one day.  Crocheting while inspired makes a world of difference in how long it takes to make, it seems.

Halloween Colors

Halloween Colors

 What I came up with was really fun.  I used the Vanna’s Colors line to put together these Halloween colors.  It’s one of my favorite yarns to use, especially for experimenting.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the gorgeous woolen yarns out there, and I do have nice yarns in my stash.  But they’re more like precious fibers to me, ones that are saved for special projects.  It’s not really in my budget to use fancy yarns that often, especially with how much I crochet.  Acrylics also won me over once I had babies.  There’s nothing easier than throwing an afghan in the washer when it’s been slobbered over, markered on, or otherwise mussed up by little children.  Plus, I just love the colors in the Vanna line.  So when I want to try something out, that’s often where I turn. 

Halloween Colors

 I gathered the colors easily enough, but I wanted to find a lovely centerpiece square that the grannies I started could surround.  So I started to look around in all my resources for different squares.  I finally found one of an Irish rose that I settled on and was all set to do, when at the top of the page I saw a link to this pattern.  A pumpkin.  Perfect!  It wasn’t until I opened the pattern that I realized that the pumpkin was actually made up of bullion rolls.  I haven’t made bullion rolls since my Kale Square a couple of years ago.  But I had just bought my kids a box of straws, and the square looked so lovely, I decided I’d give it a go.  It was definitely not an easy pattern for me!  I don’t know if it was just my lack of paying better attention or if the directions didn’t work themselves out in my head for some reason.  I got the pumpkin made easily enough, but the black ivy background I had to remake three or four times until it clicked in my head and I got it all made.  From there on, it was just adding a few borders around, showing off how the colors worked together.  Such fun, once that tricky round was done. 

Halloween Colors

And as you can see, it turned out wonderfully!  I felt a little odd pickup up all the squares when I was finished and just sort of placing them in my craft room with no real plan or end destination for them.  Maybe one day I’ll make it into a pillow or maybe even a trick-or-treat bag, but in the meantime, I reminded myself that I was crocheting without commitment.  And so it’s lying back there quietly and patiently.  And who knows, maybe some day it will be something more. 

Halloween Colors

Project Information

Pretty Pumpkin Crochet Square can be found free here.

My Ravelry page for this project can be found here.

Colors Used: from Vanna’s Colors line:

  • Radiant Orange
  • Radiant Yellow
  • Rust
  • Black
  • Honey

Halloween Colors

As always, these color cards are for sharing.  Feel free to use them for whatever projects you like or take whatever inspiration you can from them, or ignore them just the same.  I could sit and mix and match colors all day long (why isn’t there a job for this?  I would rock at a job like this!) and it would take me decades to put them all together in different projects.    You’ll likely see a lot more color cards like this as I practice my non-commitment crocheting!

~Mellie ★