The Garden – end of July 2014

Such a lovely time in the garden. I’m staying up much too late writing this entry, but I have to, as everything will change tomorrow I’m sure! Things are growing so fast!

garden sunflowers-1


In the front yard the small amount of sunflowers that came up are looking great, but no where near the huge stand we had last year, I’m still not sure why. We do love these though. That bush in the front is dying, I have no idea why.

garden end of july-24

In the backyard the marigolds are taking over. I’ve never had them go nuts like this. Most were from a six pack of sad tiny starts I got for free outside a master garden sale. I love the cosmos, but next year I also want to plant zinnias, my mom has some that are amazing.

garden end of july-12

More flowers, with veggies tucked in and the bean teepee center of this area. The girls love it. I love that they come out here and snack. Cherry tomatoes, beans, apples, berries of all kinds. It makes me so happy that they love all the fresh food.

garden end of july-23

Opposite side of the yard a bit of a mess of things I squeezed too close together. After snapping this I decided to clear out a bit of the butternut squash vine, thinking it was doing nothing. The section I chose to cut out of course had a mini squash on it; the only one on this huge vine. ARGH. Hopefully happy bees will help me get at least one more. I’ve never succeeded in growing my own from seed before. The cucumbers have mildew, but that’s nothing around here. Pepper and tomatoes are good, I’ve brought in a few of each.

garden end of july-10

The opposite view, many more almost there.

garden end of july-9

I hope this nearly perfectly prepared bed will yield me some good late fall/winter veggies. I have been very carefully keeping it moist so that my seeds will germinate. The swiss chard came up great. I was surprised how well the carrots did, but I don’t see any onions. I’m going to order more seeds, as mine were pretty old.

garden end of july-22

Look an eggplant! No, I’ve never cooked an eggplant, but isn’t it pretty?

garden end of july-14

Down below pumpkins are coming along. Thank goodness! I’m counting on these for long storage food from my yard. I’d love to have stuffed pumpkins in the very deep of winter.


garden end of july-16

I made some melon hammocks. When do I know how to pick it?!? I must do some research. Same with these:

garden end of july-15

Should I pick and store my honeycrisps? I have been eating them fresh, and they are a bit tart, but overall so lovely. I dried all the ones from my under pruning accident. I talked last time about not pruning my apples as much as I was supposed to… and  a big branch cracked and broke off. HORRIBLE. The break was terrible and into the tiny four year old trunk. I so hope the tree survives, otherwise it’s at least three, probably four more years without apples. SAD FACE.

garden end of july-19

Which means I should probably take care of my asian pears before the same thing happens to them. I did some emergency picking today, but I have to get out there with a ladder (not so easy with the kids).

garden end of july-13

I’m including this so you can see our plum tree I mentioned in the last post. See how high up the ripe ones are? So close, and so far away. I did snag these from my mom’s:

garden plums-1

Her and my step dad don’t care for plums. I have heard this from quite a few people this last week. HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?!? These are little bits of heaven, truly! I think they are damson plums? I’ve been trying to figure out what these kind are, any one have ideas? These are similar to ours, but not exactly the same.

garden end of july-18

I am still chipping away at the chips in the driveway. I covered the back corner of the yard with cardboard and put a thick layer of chips here. It was getting a bit mucky. I’m still not sure exactly what we are going to do back here. It was supposed to be a play structure. I’ve been day dreaming about a pond and ducks. Or pretending my yard was bigger and somehow putting in a swimming pond. Ya, I’m obsessed with them, they looks so awesome. Always dreaming of the next thing.

What are you doing or dreaming about in your garden?



  • Julia - Okay, your front porch is just darling with all the lovely sunflowers! And the garland… I LOVE it! I planted my cosmos in a pot, and sadly they didn’t make it. They were taken over by ants and couldn’t be saved. I have a pot of zinnias that I love! I will definitely plant more next year. They are perfect cutting flowers. Eggplant is really yummy roasted in the oven with olive oil, salt and pepper. And I know it can be used in lasagna too, but I’ve never tried it. Your back garden is looking lovely as well. Those plums are amazing!August 1, 2014 – 5:22 amReplyCancel

    • Amber - Julia,
      Oh no on the ants, we had a lot this year too, I put out Terro a few times (I know, but they were so thick!). I have a post planned about the garland, it was so fun to make!
      AmberAugust 1, 2014 – 9:23 amReplyCancel

  • mary m - Everything in my yard died. I need to empty the potato bag to see if any grew, but I’m doubtful. The tomatoes are still chugging along, but I’ve gotten 2. Dexter keeps figuring out how to get at them and then he rips the plant and eats all of the tomatoes, ripe or green, he doesn’t care. Darn dog.August 1, 2014 – 8:35 amReplyCancel

    • Amber - Mary don’t worry so much about the potatoes, you should dig them up and see what is there. I believe they grow the tuber part we eat after the plant flowers and dies, so it may not be a sign that all is unwell. Even though mine looked absolutely horrible I still got 4 potatoes, and my plants never even really grew.
      AmberAugust 1, 2014 – 9:21 amReplyCancel

Plum good – my favorite plum canning recipes

Our lovely plum tree is in full production! This is the biggest bunch of plums we’ve picked from it so far; two five gallon buckets almost full. Everything lined up perfectly this year. One big problem we have in the pacific northwest with growing stone fruits is the bloom time. They bloom when it’s raining! And bees don’t like that, so things don’t get pollinated. I love to see the soft white blooms of this tree, and I knew when I saw them FOR WEEKS that we would have lots of plums. It was a weird streak of sunny in the spring. These are Bj’s favorite edible from our yard, for sure. He went so far as to rig up a “plum catcher 9000″ before we had the shed, to catch our precious few. The shed helped us this year, as it gave us a place to stand and pick from. We took turns on it’s roof gathering from the lowest branches, a full 15 feet up. There are still LOTS for the birds.

april 15-1

This picture of our messy yard is from April 15. The tree has already bloomed out and is in full leaf, you can see the trunk coming up behind the shed and a little bit of the canopy. I don’t have many pictures of it because it’s so high up! When I first moved in the backyard was so overgrown towards the fence I didn’t even know I had a plum tree (until my creepy neighbor showed up IN MY DINING ROOM while I was working on the restorations saying, “Did you know you had a plum tree?” and handing me a plum. I called about a fence the next day!).

plum canning-2

So yes, we had lots of plums. And I think the reason I never see these small plums in stores is because they go bad quickly. We picked them on Sunday night and when I got to the bottom of the buckets Tuesday already some were spoiled beyond using (it has been very warm, so I’m sure that didn’t help). The other reason may be that they are clingstone plums. Oh bother, a bit of a pain. For part of the recipes I squeezed out the pits before hand and for the other I got them out after (using a food mill like this – but mine is from an estate sale). I am super happy with all of these (from left):

1. Asian Plum Sauce. This recipe is from the Ball Complete Book of Canning (affiliate link). I’ve linked to the hardcover version of this book because I think it is an absolute essential. It has hundreds of recipes, great tips and general guidelines. I write in mine noting the years I’ve tried various recipes, how I tweaked them, and the results. I really chose this recipe because I was at a loss at what to make with all the plums! And I’m so pleased with it. Sweet, but not overly so, and so good on pork. I think this will make a great stir fry sauce as well.

2. Plum Lemonade Concentrate. OH MY GOODNESS! This one is a bit over the top! I needed an easy sanity saver plum recipe and this was one. Hardly hands on. Cook plums for a bit, then hang in cheesecloth overnight to extract the juice, combine with other ingredients in the morning and bring to 190 degrees then can. Done! I use this amazing stockpot from All Clad (wedding present!). I love the steaming baskets. I just line the small one with cheese cloth and put in the fruit; making juice is so simple this way (works for any fruit), and completely covered, so no bugs get in there.  The recipe notes to make this 1:1 with water. It is still so intensely sweet. I mixed a pint with a full 2 liter of non flavored seltzer water plus a bunch of ice and it made a very refreshing punch type drink. At home I just make up fizzy water in the soda stream I got Bj a few years ago and then add a dash of this to a glass (plus ice), instead of their syrups. I love it. In fact I think I’m going to make more concentrates in little bottles. I need to do some research on canning in bottles to see if that is possible because I think these would make fun gifts.

3. Plum BBQ sauce. The recipe calls for peaches, but I think plums and peaches can be pretty well interchanged. This is also in the Ball book, but they have some of the recipes on their site as well. Also good. A tangy not spicy sauce that would make a good marinade. I had some pork loin dipped in here and it was great.

4. Plum butter. Oh baby is this stuff rich. I think some of this is going to be presents for holiday time. Mmmm in the winter on warm toast? Yes! And I am sold on this style of cooking preserves! Another time saver. You mix up with fruit, spices, and sugar. Mash it together and let it sit overnight. Then you pop it in the oven and cook it way, way down. Mine never boiled, nor scorched in any way, so it was a simple way to cook without having to be hands on (I was actually baby sitting a friend’s kids at the time so I was really hands off!). Now getting the pits out of this was a bit of a trick as I didn’t squeeze them out before hand. The foodmill helped, but I wanted all the yummy chunky bits of skin in there so I had to hand squeeze them out of the sticky buttery mess. If you click on the link you should know I used an asian plum (I’m not sure what variety I have) not a prune plum.

plum canning-1

Here is Tuesday being a goofy model. I told her to have a sip of the drink and a bite of the muffin, but she wouldn’t do it! The drink yes, but the muffin for some reason she just didn’t want any so she did this nice pose:)


I wish I had a better picture, but this phone snap from last year is the best I could find (I guess we eat them pretty quick!). I wanted to show them so you could see what type I used.

I would love to know what you do with plums! There are still trees around loaded with fruit, and prune plums (the dark purple kind) are not quite ripe. With those I make a straight up plum jam.  If you’d like a general post about canning from me I’d be happy to write one. I do have a few tips and tricks. Happy canning!

  • Julia - How lucky you are to have a plum tree in your backyard! The plum butter sounds absolutely amazing! Feel free to send a jar my way :) July 30, 2014 – 5:58 pmReplyCancel

Backyard fun and fun with toys

I think the best thing about working like crazy out in the yard is when I get to enjoy it with friends! When I was in high school my best friend Carmen went to Japan for a year on an exchange, I was heartbroken! While she was gone a super sweet girl came to live with her parents. And this last week she came back to visit, so Carmen came to visit too – as her and Tomoko had never actually met!

backyard fun-1

Look at all our cute girls! The big girls are all with in six months of each other, and the little ones all within a year of each other. Such sweetness.

Last night I had an all girl party of a different sort. My friend Tracy is a Discovery Toys consultant and since I’ve wanted to have a Discovery Toys party since I was a kid (really!) I asked to host her first party!

discovery party-1

It was awesome! I made my easy bean salad, cut up some veggies, got some fun vintage type sodas and we sat and ate and chit chatted and looked at toys for a few hours. With a few cute little babies.

Here is a link to my party in case you are interested in any toys. I love these things so much. When I was younger my mom had a Discovery Toys party and got a few things for us. She got us something they don’t sell any more, a Think it Through. Did any one else play with one of these? It’s a self correcting puzzle of sorts. There is something similar and I already have it for Tuesday, the It’s a Match. I picked up the level three set at my party. I love that she can play with this thing for hours by herself, and check herself to see if she is correct. It is fabulous for the car.

They have a bunch of other fun stuff, for older and younger kids, and family games, so fun! Tracy doesn’t know I’m doing this, but if you’re in my area and want to have a party she is really good and it was so fun. I’ve never done a “party” for anything else (candles, kitchen stuff, etc.), even though I worked for a (now defunct) consultant scrapbooking company out of college. I was the warehouse manager and purchaser so I didn’t actually do parties. This was super laid back, gabbing about kids and looking at toys. The only problem was that Tuesday was pretty jealous!

  • Julia - Those are some really cute little girls!! It sounds like you are having lots of fun with friends this summer!July 18, 2014 – 1:40 pmReplyCancel

  • mary m - It was lots of fun–your backyard is so versatile!July 22, 2014 – 8:14 amReplyCancel

  • carmen - Cute photo! We had so much fun with you guys! Actually Tomoko was with us our Sophomore year so I got a whole year with her before I went to Japan my Junior year!July 25, 2014 – 9:36 amReplyCancel

The garden – mid July 2014

Ah the garden, such goodness. BUT SO HOT! I’m having a trouble finding time to work out there. The girls are not able to spend long periods of time out in the heat and it makes it hard for me to weed and stuff, I don’t really want to go out in the heat of the day when they are resting. So a few things have gotten out of control, you’ve been warned.

july garden-1

I think I know what is going on with some of my plants, like my super small beets. Turns out you have to fertilize stuff. I’ve never really done that before, just bits of organic stuff when I put in transplants. I went to a Master Gardener’s Mini Collage this last weekend and learned so much! Also I read my seed packets while organizing (I need to get my stuff together to plant the winter garden – hence the empty bed) and I planted over wintering 220 day carrots, oops. Well you live and learn. We’ve harvested lots of raspberries and marionberries. We ate a lot of snap peas before I pulled them, and the celery was an interesting experiment, I chopped most and saved for winter soups. The herbs in the back I’m letting go to seed (some) to see if they’ll re-seed themselves next year.

july garden-2

The new bed to the left has five tomato plants, a butternut squash, four peppers and some basil crammed in it. So far it’s working. The cucumbers to the left are coming on, and very yummy.

july garden-5

To the left scarlet runner beans are blooming, and so pretty. The little potato bin maybe has potatoes in it, we’ll see in a few weeks. The other new box Bj built is growing melons and peppers. I put too many in, and we’ll see what happens. Once the fruit set is a little better I think I’ll start pinching off new blossoms. Speaking of thinning fruit… I swear I did thin my apples! But I guess not as much as I was supposed to. So propping up these honey crisps is a must!

july garden-7

Another view of the bed, so that you can see my pumpkin vines! I pulled out half my strawberry patch and I’m so glad I’m giving these things some room. My goal is three big Jarrandales pumpkins and some little pie pumpkins.

july garden-6

This back bed, still hoping some of those beans will come on and a few poppies, but we’ll see, all were planted late and in partial shade.

july garden-4

These little bush beans (planted only slight before and in full shade) are doing great. I’ll wait until I taste them but I love that I can stick these beans in anywhere. Cosmos are great, I love the pops of color, I’m going to try them from seed next year I think.

july garden-3

More tomatoes tucked in above the rock wall, and the little ground cover I planted blooming (wish I could figure out what it is!).  Here you can see some of my clover problem. It. Is. EVERYWHERE. Not quite sure what to do about it.

july garden-13

The front yard is looking better. I’m still so sad we only got these piddly little sunflowers after about a hundred seeds!

july garden-12

Remember the trellis we had built a few years ago? Well the jasmine we planted (one of them a day after Bennie was born, thanks to my man), is loving it. Oh these smell so good.

july garden-17

So good!

july garden-16

And underfoot, besides these weeds, I have this sweet ground cover growing between the stepping stones.

july garden-15

And in the, we can do better area, is this section. I have to chop my clematis down to the ground because of a persistent fungus. The willow is CA-RAZY! It’s on the chopping block this fall. If I learned one thing at the mini-college it’s “right plant, right place” and this is the wrong place for this gigantic thing.

july garden-8

The big news is that our arbor is done! I LOVE it! I can’t wait until grapes are growing all over it!

july garden-19

The Asian pears are growing, though scabby, but I think they’ll still be edible. My bean tee pee is growing and I love it.

july garden-18

Yes the summer garden is a good place to be, especially with friends!

  • Amanda - What a great idea – I’d like to attend a gardening workshop! I’ll have to google that and see if anyone around here offers one. I love how colorful your garden is :) July 15, 2014 – 8:06 amReplyCancel

  • Julia - I can’t say enough about your lovely garden. Well, it’s just AMAZING!!! The new arbor is gorgeous! I can’t wait to see a photo with grapes growing all over it.July 15, 2014 – 10:20 amReplyCancel

  • karen - please don’t do anything to kill your clover. I read an article that said part of the reason bees are vanishing is because everyone is killing the clover.July 15, 2014 – 1:15 pmReplyCancel

    • Amber - Oh I should have been more clear. It looks like clover, but is actually oxalis, a type of wood sorrel. We have clover in our grass, the bees love it! But they don’t come to this stuff, it’s just a bad weed!
      AmberJuly 15, 2014 – 3:00 pmReplyCancel

      • karen - Oh sorry – I shouldn’t have assumed. I have loved your garden blog posts this summer. Based on some of your ideas I am planning on incorporating more veggies into my small gardens next year. Keep the great pictures and ideas coming!July 15, 2014 – 4:05 pmReplyCancel

Moda Splash Quilt

I found a picture of this quilt through a quilting newsletter and shared it with my friend Carmen. When she exclaimed over how much she liked it I knew I had to make her one. She had the idea of changing out some of the solids for prints, which I liked. So I bought the pre-cut set and switched out a few of the triangles for prints.

moda splash quilt-1

The pictures are not the best, it was snowy as you can see! But I wanted to get it in the mail, so I just had Bj hold it up in the cloudy weather (obviously I finished this a while ago, but am just now getting around to blogging it).

moda splash quilt-2

My mother in law had the idea to use this sweet ombre fabric for the anchor.

moda splash quilt-4

It’s been a while since I did all over quilting on my home machine, so I was a little rusty. But I really like how it looks. I used a green binding, with this little bit of plaid thrown in.

moda splash quilt-3

The back is all this material (sorry I don’t remember what it is).

All in all a fun easy quilt, that I was happy to gift to my friend. I have a goal of finishing up more quilts and randomly gifting them. Maybe with this hot weather I should just hid out in my basement and sew!


  • emily (justem) - AHHHH. This is incredible!!! Lucky friend! :) July 14, 2014 – 8:56 amReplyCancel

  • mary m - That’s really cute–I love the colorsJuly 14, 2014 – 9:50 amReplyCancel

  • Julia - So pretty! I know your friend is going to love it!!July 14, 2014 – 1:09 pmReplyCancel

  • Julie - Love the colors! The anchor is fabulous! Who is receiving this wonderful quilt?July 17, 2014 – 11:30 amReplyCancel