a cat speaks

This is how I deal with the heat...


By sleeping. Of course, that's how I deal with most things, but the screened porch is especially nice for a nap when it's hot. You can't see it in this picture but there's a ceiling fan right above me to keep the air moving. And I love this pillow cover that my mom got at the flea market. She says it's not bark cloth but I wouldn't know anything about that. Bark makes me think of dogs and I'm not so fond of dogs.

I didn't know blogging was so much work. Yawn. Time to go back to sleep...

~ Amaya

what to eat when it's too hot to eat

It's been unbelievably hot here the past few days—in the 90s! Thankfully it does cool off a little at night and stays cool for a few hours in the morning so I can get some work done early. After that it's too hot to move. Eating is always a problem when it's really hot. Who wants to add more heat to the air by using the stove or oven? And who want to eat something heavy? I've been turning lately to salads.

Over the weekend I made a nicoise salad with baby green beans from the garden. I've been making this salad for years and have lost track of where I got the recipe, so apologies to whoever the original belongs to. There's some prep work and use of the stove involved but you can do that ahead of time.

Salad Nicoise

3/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil (1 tsp. dried)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 large head Boston lettuce
1 pound small new potatoes
1 pound fresh green beans
3 hard-cooked eggs
1 medium red onion
2 medium tomatoes
1 red bell pepper
Two 7-ounce cans water-pack tuna
1/2 cup pitted ripe olives

1) In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine the oil, vinegar, garlic, basil, salt, mustard, and pepper. Shake vigorously and refrigerate.
2) Wash lettuce; remove core and drain well. Separate into leaves.
3) Scrub unpared potatoes. Place in a medium saucepan, add boiling water to cover and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to boiling and boil gently, covered, for 20 minutes. Drain, cool and peel, then slice 1/4-inch thick. Turn into shallow dish.
4) Trim ends and wash beans. Cook whole in boiling water with 1 teaspoon salt, covered, for 5 to 10 minutes. Drain and cool 10 minutes. Turn into dish with potatoes. Add 1/2 cup dressing and toss until well coated. Refrigerate, covered.
5) Peel and quarter eggs. Slice onion thinly. Wash and cut each tomato into six wedges. Wash pepper, halve and remove seeds, and cut into 1-inch strips. Drain tuna; with fork break into chunks.
6) Arrange lettuce in a shallow bowl. Arrange eggs, onion, tomato, pepper, and tuna over lettuce and chill until ready to serve. (I hate really cold salads so I let it warm up a bit on the counter). Just before serving, spoon on the beans and sliced potatoes and drizzle the whole thing with the remaining dressing. (6)

If you want something easier (and quicker), throw together an asian noodle salad with some shredded leftover chicken, chopped veggies (I like carrot, red pepper, scallions, and cucumber), chopped herbs (Thai basil and cilantro—also from my garden), some noodles (linguine fini is good), and some bottled Thai peanut sauce. Mix it all together in a bowl and chill for a little bit in the fridge. Easy peasy! This would be fine without chicken or with the addition of some tofu for a vegetarian version.

So, what do you like to eat when it's too hot to eat?


rickrack + embroidery

I promised to show you another apron that uses rickrack creatively and here it is. The technique for attaching the rickrack can be used on anything—not just gingham—but this example shows a nice use of cross stitches in between the rows. And it's another idea for trimming your gingham apron if you're doing one for the challenge.

green gingham apron
Use colored embroidery floss (same color as the gingham) across the dips in the "waves" to attach your rickrack to the fabric. Running your stitches all in the same direction gives you a striped effect; alternating direction forms a v-shaped design.

rickrack trim closeup

The apron shown here has the rickrack along the waistband and pocket tops—one row of the larger size in the center surrounded by two rows of the smaller size. Along the bottom are two rows of this same arrangement with the addition of cross stitches on the white squares in between. Looks pretty fancy but isn't quite as much work as chicken scratch!

rickrack trim


Stitch School: Chicken Scratch

Stitch School has moved to it's very own space on the web! You'll now find the Chicken Scratch post here. Comments are now closed on this post; if you'd like to leave a comment please do so on the new one.


in case you haven't heard enough about gardening

This really isn't a gardening blog but it's hard to tell lately since that's all I've talked about. It's certainly more interesting than talking about my business accounting or cleaning my house, which are the other things I've focused on this week. So, to continue the theme for one more day, let's talk about gardening books.

I actually read quite a bit of non-fiction and gardening books are something I've been turning to lately. Not so much the how-to books but the ones that read like fiction, the personal accounts of people's attempts to garden for the first time or to live closer to the land. I'm reading Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle right now (from the library) and picked up several interesting-sounding books on my recent trip to the used book store:
Letters from the Hive: An Intimate History of Bees, Honey, and Humankind by Stephen Buchman
Two Gardeners (Katharine S. White and Elizabeth Lawrence): A Friendship in Letters edited by Emily Herring Wilson

I'll probably save them to read this winter when there's snow on the ground and the garden seems like a distant memory.

If gardening books interest you, too, you might want to check out Barnes and Noble's weekly roundup of five themed books. This week's theme is gardening and a few of their featured books are going on my must-read list.

Old Herbaceous by Reginald Arkell
Arkell’s 1950 tale chronicles Bert Pinnegar’s eight decades in an English manor house garden.

Down the Garden Path by Beverley Nichols
Nichols’ 1932 memoir of a cottage in the British countryside and its attendant flora.

The Education of a Gardener by Russell Page
One of the most famous garden architects of his time, Page (1906 – 1985) designed the gardens at Leeds castle and the grounds of PepsiCo headquarters in Purchase, NY.

Gardening for Love by Elizabeth Lawrence (yes, the same woman in the Two Gardeners book mentioned above)
This book, by an American original once called “the Jane Austen of the gardening literary world,” chronicles the author’s long correspondence with a circle of Southern women who traded seeds and bulbs through agricultural market bulletins.

Back to stitchery and needlework next week- I promise :)


a favorite garden center

Greystone GardensI'm not sure I've mentioned exactly where I buy all the lovely plants for my garden. I'm blessed to have two great places within ten miles of my house. One of them is Greystone Gardens and it's an irresistible place. More than a garden center, the property is laid out with walking paths and stone walls, arbors and bridges, and water features. Perfect for finding inspiration in their careful juxtapositions of plantings. Very English garden. And that's not surprising because the owners—Paul and Susan Epsom—are from England and the gardens themselves feature an English cottage garden theme.

Greystone Gardens I love to go early on Sunday mornings when it's cool and less crowded. The birds are singing in the woods, the sun is just hitting some of the more wooded sections, and I'm free to wander around. I usually start in the shade garden area in the back where the plants are grouped together under a black-tented arbor. If it's rained recently, the air will be misty and you'll hear the sound of the water tumbling over the rocks in the waterfall and creek that run behind this area.

Greystone Gardens At the center is a section for vines (clematis and honeysuckles) and then rows and rows of perennials on tables. I love that they have unusual things and unusual varieties of more common things. Like that Verbascum chaxii I showed in one of my previous posts. There are sections of roses and herbs, shrubs and trees, and water plants around a lily pond that is filled with frogs.

Inside there's a gift shop that's open year-round and that's stocked full of interesting bird houses and feeders, pottery containers, garden ornaments, and lovely garden-themed gifts. I often Christmas shop here. And, if all this wandering around leaves you hungry or craving tea and scones, you can have lunch or afternoon tea in the Garden Cafe. There's an outdoor patio if the weather is nice.

Greystone Gardens Paul is the gardening correspondent for PBS' Victory Garden and has won Garden Globe awards in 2003, 2004 and 2005 for his on-air work as a garden correspondent . Both he and Susan really know their stuff when it comes to plants and gardening and are always available to chat, answer questions, and give advice.

I don't think many of my blog readers live near enough to visit but it's worth checking out your own local garden centers. You never now what treasures you'll find.

Greystone Gardens, 829 Old State Road, Clarks Summit, PA 18411


what a difference a day makes

Not quite an "after" picture yet but we're making progress. The stone walkway is in...

garden walk

A few plants have been added. And a bench.

garden walk

I bought the bench for half price at a fancy garden center north of Indianapolis years ago and have been lugging it around ever since. It's been used on the porch of every apartment I've lived in that had a porch. It was in storage for a while. And I think I may have used it as a couch (a very hard one) at one point. It's been in several locations since we bought this house but never one where it "fit" so perfectly.

Next up is a trip to the English garden center in a town nearby. We still have lots of holes to fill!


in the garden

Unbelievable that it's July already - where does the time go? My absence from blogging this past week might lead you to think that I'm adjusting to my state of unemployment by sleeping late and generally goofing off. Not so. I'm up with the birds and at my computer most mornings, working on my website and getting Primrose orders ready to ship. I'm also taking the time to clean my hard drive of old unused files and archiving everything. One of those things I've never had time to do before.

And I've been working in the garden a lot. Last weekend we ripped out a large, very ugly, bayberry bush and some ivy (you can see some of the dead vines on the chimney that need to be removed) on the driveway side of the house. This involved a chain attached to our truck and lots of cursing but you don't need to hear about that part. Now there are two new blank canvases to fill - so exciting!


Brian set two long flat stones for steps at one end and will be making a stone path through the center that will lead out to the herb garden in front. Sort of where the footprints are in the first picture. The stones you can just see at the left in the second picture are part of the wall that surrounds the steps that lead down to the basement and their tops will be a great place for those creeping plants that I love so much.


We came home from a trip to the garden center yesterday with the trunk full of plants. It looked like so much in the car but barely made a dent in the space we have to fill. As with most gardens it will evolve over time and I don't expect this to be fully filled in until next year. I like to see what survives over the winter and will probably move some things from elsewhere in the spring when the plants are small and easier to dig up.

I'm taking a break today to get my hair cut, pick up the DVD of the first season of Mad Men that releases today (yay - finally!), return some library books, and have lunch with my friend Jenny who's a teacher and has the summer off. I've been working on a post about some great vintage embroidery books I found last week at a used book store (one from 1890!) and a Stitch School about chicken scratch embroidery. So, look for them soon!