Thursday, May 30, 2013

My Week as Nancy Drew

It was a dark and stormy really was, rain, rain, and more rain all week long.  Definite Pacific Northwest spring stormy weather.  I was unable to get out to my garden much at all, although, I will say I noticed yesterday tiny little spring onion shoots popping out of the soil as well as the radishes starting to pop up as well.  Since I was stuck inside, I got a bunch of organizing done, and found quite a few things to add to our summer garage sale pile, and some of the collectibles I have decided to thin out, I listed on eBay.

I have always enjoyed eBay-ing, it is a wonderful way to turn things you no longer want into cash, as well as  to find the occasional new additions to my various little collections or an out of print book I've been seeking.  All in all a fun little hobby of mine.  My son also found out his choir will be touring in Hawaii next spring, so I have been helping sell some of his old action figures to save up for the trip.  All was going along pretty well.

One of the items I had up for sale was a very pretty pair of earrings, I am not big on fancy jewelry, and it seemed pointless to have it sitting around not being used, so off it went to my sale.  All week I was excited watching it being bid on, many interested customers, how wonderful I thought.  The buyer who won promptly paid, and I sent the item off the next day.   A few days later the buyer informed me she wanted to return the item, knowing there are many scams of switching out gems for fakes, I sold this auction as no return, so I politely reminded her of our agreement, and at first I suspected it was a case of buyers remorse, and hoped it would blow over.

It didn't, the buyer continued to write mean-hearted e-mails with all sorts of threats, so I had to report her to eBay.  The lady at the call center seemed to be sure everything would be fine, but it is awfully hard to communicate with call center operators.  A few days later, and more harassing, I started to suspect something a bit more fishy than buyers remorse.  That's when I put on my sleuthing hat.  Hmm, what would Nancy Drew do, how about Miss Marple, or Jessica Fletcher?

Her feedback was marked private, but with the aid of various computer searches I found she had left multiple other negative feedback for other jewelry auctions.  I decided to write these other sellers and ask them their experience in dealing with this buyer, and started to put together quite a pattern of rather hinky looking behavior. Some  sellers were even from other countries, thanks to Google translator I was able to even hear from an Italian seller.  Very interesting.

Anyway, back to the call center with my new found info, they say they are "investigating" but I find it quite hard to believe they haven't shut down the buyer yet.  I have found that this is a pretty common scheme on eBay, where the scam artist either buys and pays for an item, then gets a refund then returns the wrong item or no item, or they get the item and ask for a partial refund under threat of charge backs etc. You can see many videos about this sort of thing on YouTube, where others have been similarly scammed.  Sigh.

I suspect I will have a long wait, and I have heard the reason this scam works is because eBay always sides with the buyer, I hope this isn't true with this particular buyer's record, but we'll see.  In the mean time it has been quite an interesting week as an internet gumshoe.  But I think I prefer to enjoy my mysteries in books, old re-runs of Murder She Wrote on Netflix, and PBS Mystery!

I am glad to hear sun is in the forecast for this weekend, my garden needs warming up so the seeds won't be so sluggish in sprouting.  And one more week until my daughter's graduation from high school, an exciting week ahead for sure!

Hope everyone has a nice weekend.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

May's Garden Update and Two Children's Books for Spring

Yesterday the sun came out, and was the perfect day for getting the majority of our seeds planted.  I am always excited to get the garden going every spring.  This year I am planting a few new varieties of plants that I am eager to watch grow, and with the addition of two new raised beds, I  have a lot more space to experiment with!

This year I planted a new variety of corn, called On Deck Hybrid, it is supposed to grow well in large containers, I planted two of my large tubs with this corn, it would be nice to have a tiny corn crop. I plant corn every year just for the fun of seeing the corn stalks, but the planting is always too small to really produce anything, so we'll see how well this new variety does.  

We added soil amendments, and got three of the beds planted, the peppers were already planted, we added a bed of summer squash, a yellow, and green variety of zucchini.  We planted a whole bed of blue lake bush green beans, and half a bed of Purple Queen "green" beans.  I also planted a small corner of leeks next to the garlic, I have never grown leeks, and apparently they take quite some time, so we'll see how they do.

I am planning on putting in acorn squash, sugar pumpkins, and mini white pumpkins to one of the new beds, and the other new bed I will be planting in mid July for a fall crop of various greens.

The lettuce I planted last month is doing well, now that the rain returned, and the weather has cooled a bit.  We are all excited to make a pretty salad from this as well as topping sandwiches!

The peppers are going along slowly, I am hoping they take off this next week.

The herb garden is looking beautiful, the sage and thyme are blooming and buzzing with bees.

I love purple sage flowers.

Here is our Rosemary, I replanted it last year, as the old rosemary bush had gotten unruly, I put in a tiny little new rosemary plant, and it has already gotten quite large.

The potato bags I have been growing are doing very well, we have been adding dirt all week as the plants keep growing taller.  By next week I think the bags will be filled to the top, and then it will be time to wait for blossoms to see if we have grown any potatoes.

Here are four little pots, this year I have planted one with basil, one with purple basil, one with Black Spanish Radishes, and one with spring onions, in the center is a little pot of chives hanging on, it was blasted in our last little heat wave, but I think it is coming back nicely.

The blueberries are well underway, we had to replace a couple of our bushes this year, so we will have a slightly smaller crop as we wait for the new bushes to mature, but they are all doing well.

Here is a picture of the end of our Vegetable side garden, you can see we have a pine tree that is growing along side the gate.  It planted itself a few years back and we have always just let it grow because we thought it was pretty and also cool that it grew up from seed.  It is now quite large, and at some point we will have to do some vigorous pruning if we want to keep this beauty in our garden.

Some other self plated plants in the garden are these ferns that have grown in the vent wells at the base of the house, hubby doesn't like things growing too close to the house like this, and possibly damaging the siding, but since I love ferns so much, and missed them from my old forest garden, he has let them stay. :)

Look at the pretty fiddleheads growing, with the self planted pine tree and these ferns, I think a tiny bit of my old forest garden has followed me here, which makes me very happy!

The spring weather has been beautiful, I thought these wind wisped clouds looked very pretty.

Other springy blooms have popped up in the moss garden, all the Irish and Scottish Moss are blooming with their pretty little white flowers.

I love the vibrant colors of moss in the spring.

The birds have also been visiting the feeders non stop, it is mostly finch, goldfinch, and sparrows.  Yesterday I put out two suet cakes and today I heard quite a ruckus in the garden.  A whole band of starlings had decided to visit the feeders.

They were so noisy I had to go see what was up, they are a bit like a roving gang, all the little birds have decided to wait out their visit.  A flock of starlings is called a murmuration I just learned, and although they can seem a bit pesty at times, I still enjoy their visits.

There were quite a number of younger starling in the bunch, it was very interesting to listen to their different calls, and watch their behavior.  I took a short little video so you could hear their chatter a bit.  I have a feeling they will eat through the suet in one day, this year we have large groups of all the birds, I will definitely need to stock up on bird seed this year!

 Lastly I though I would share two of my favorite children's books, perfect for spring and inspiring one to garden.

The first book is The Happy Hedgehog by Marcus Pfister.  This is a story about a little hedgehog who loves his garden, and knows all the plants and their uses.  He spends his days minding his garden and relaxing in his garden.  One day his cranky old Grandpa Hedgehog visits and tells him that he should be out accomplishing more, so the little hedgehog, who thought he was happy, decides to go out and see what everyone else is doing.  Will he decide to change, or will he find out that he was happy in his own garden, and that his garden knowledge might be very useful after all.  This is a wonderful happy little story, and definitely speaks to the quiet gardener in me!  

The Happy Hedgehog seems to be out of print, but there are plenty of copies still available, you can read more about it through my Amazon link below.

The second book I would recommend for a little gardening inspiration is called Weslandia by Paul Fleischman.  Weslandia is about a boy named Wesley that just doesn't fit in with the other people in his town, he is picked on quite a bit, even his parents think he is a little weird!  Wesley likes to study, and was learning quite a bit about how each civilization in history had its own staple food crop.  He then is inspired to make a summer project of creating his own staple food crop, and founding his own civilization!  The book is full of beautiful illustrations that follow Wesley's summer project of creating his own garden, with his own amazing staple food crop, and forming his own civilization, and in the process making friends and changing his town.  I love this story every time I read it.  Perfect for this time of year, and very inspirational to start ones own summer gardening project!

Here is a link to Weslandia at Amazon.

I am looking forward to a nice summer in my garden!

Last night I read about the horrible devastation from the tornado in Oklahoma, the pictures have brought me to tears.  My heart and prayers sincerely go out to all of you who have been affected by this tragedy!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

My Rose Bush and an Easy Mother's Day Card Craft

Happy Mother's Day!

Due to a touch of a stomach bug, I had to miss church this morning, I always enjoy Mother's Day service, the little children always pass out pretty flowers to all the mom's and I enjoy doing a fun Mother's Day craft with my Sunday school class.  The family has gone on to church this morning to teach my Sunday school class, as well as deliver gifts to my Mom this afternoon for me, so while I have some free time, I thought I would share the very easy Mother's Day card craft that I had planned for my class today.

I love activities that only require simple supplies, all you will need is assorted pretty colored cardstock, blank cards if you have them (otherwise just make them out of folded cardstock), scotch tape, scissors, glue stick, and some Hershey's Kisses.

First get your blank card and write the message on the inside, it will be harder to do after the card has already been made.

Then trace a circle for each card in a matching color and in a size that would fit nicely in the middle of the front of your card.  Cut the circle out.

Then make roughly one inch cuts all around the circle like this below, not going all the way into the center.

Here is the circle with all of it's cuts, you can see the center of the circle is still intact, I find that younger children really love simple crafts like this, were they can do there own scissor work, but you may have to demonstrate how to not cut too far into the circle.

Adhere a Hershey's Kiss to the center of the circle by looping up a piece of tape so it sticks to the Hershey's Kiss and then to the center of the circle.  Then carefully holding the Kiss attached to the circle, turn the circle over and apply glue stick glue to the center back of the circle and stick it down to the front center of the card.  Then carefully lift up the cut "petals" to turn the paper circle into a flower, just bend them up, some more than others, so it pops off the front of the card a bit.

You can make the cards in all different colors, and I imagine kids may want to add detail to the front as well, such as a stem, or other design, it is always fun to see what they come up with. :)  I think these cards would also be pretty as an invitation to a garden themed party.

My garden delivered me a beautiful Mother's Day bouquet this week.  I let the pruning get away from me this past year, and my rose bush has gone a bit wild, it has been to hot to do anything about it, so I just decided to let it go for now, and I am glad I did, it has put on quite a show for us this week!  This morning I took the dog out for a walk and decided to get some pictures of the blooms.

You can see that we finally had some much needed rain this morning, my poor little Oregon garden is not used to so much heat this early in the year!  I love the rain drops on the rose petals. :)

The bush is covered in buds, time to head into Portland and visit the Rose Gardens.

Here you can see how rambling this rose has gotten, I love the color of this rose, and I have forgotten its name, it transforms from an orange to a beautiful bright pink and orange.

I hope everyone is having a nice Mother's Day, and I look forward to hopefully feeling better this evening so I can enjoy the bacon sandwiches and lemon cupcakes we have planned. :)

Thanks for reading. :)

Monday, May 6, 2013

Sausage Mushroom Pie and a Garden Update

We have been experiencing summer weather around here for the past few days, lots of sunshine and temperatures up into the 80's!  The garden has needed extra attention so all the new flowers and veggies don't wilt in all this heat.

These are snapdragons that I planted last year, I love this hot pink color and they are doing very well, I love snapdragons and try to plant a few every year.

The potatoes that I am growing in potato planting bags are doing very well.  The plants have come up, and I have covered them with more soil, this first picture is of the smaller purple variety that I am growing, they are doing very well.

These are my red potatoes, not as big as the purple variety, but I am happy to see them coming up. You can read about how I planted these potatoes in my post from last month.

Along with the purple potatoes I have growing, I also planted some purple colored bell peppers.  I am growing quite a few purple veggies this year, last year I had great luck with my purple variety of green beans.  This year I am growing the purple beans again, as well as purple peppers, purple potatoes, and purple basil. I guess I just find purple veggies pretty fun, next year I may add purple carrots and radishes as well. :)

I have also finally found a spot for a hydrangea.  I have had mature hydrangea in all of my past gardens, and I have really missed having them.  The tree in my front yard has finally grown tall enough that it has made a nice semi shady spot in my side yard.  I was trying to grow a blueberry in this spot, but it wasn't getting enough sun anymore, so I decided to splurge on a hydrangea, and I am glad I did, it looks very pretty in the corner of my side garden.

I absolutely love the big blue flowers!

We have also had the California Poppies coming up, there are a bunch on the sides of the road in town, and a few in my garden, I look forward to these every year.

I would love to get the rest of my veggies in, with all this hot weather it is very tempting, but I am holding off for a week, last year I planted too early, and the weather went back to cold and none of my green beans or summer squash would germinate, so I had to replant them.  I am eager to get more flowers in this Mother's Day weekend, we have been making great progress weeding and cleaning out the garden beds, I hope to have the garden in good order by the end of next week.  How's your garden coming along?

Last week, before the really hot weather set in, I baked a delicious sausage mushroom pie for dinner.  I love meat pies, and think they are tasty any time of year.  This pie would be great with a salad during the summer.  Here is my simple recipe for Sausage Mushroom Pie.

Sausage Mushroom Pie
1 large onion chopped
2 cans sliced mushrooms or a package of sliced fresh mushrooms
a little olive oil for the pan
salt, pepper, Italian herb blend
1 pound of regular ground sausage
4 large cooked potatoes- peeled and chopped
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1/3 cup milk
1 double pie crust (homemade or store bought)

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Add a little olive oil to a pan, and saute mushrooms and onions over medium high heat until they are mostly cooked through and tender.  Then add Salt and Pepper and Italian herb blend to taste.

When onions and mushrooms have gotten a good start cooking, add the sausage to the pan, and scramble it with the mushrooms and onions until it is cook through and lightly browned.  Then add chopped pre-cooked potatoes (whenever I cook potatoes I cook extra to keep in the fridge for adding to recipes like this or for making breakfast potatoes).  Stir mixture until potatoes are heated through, check seasoning, add more salt, pepper, and herbs if needed)

To the mixture add a can of cream of mushroom soup and about a third of a cup of milk, just enough the help the soup mix through the sausage mixture.  Put pie crust into a deep pie pan, then fill with sausage mixture, then add top crust, and seal edge.  Cut a few slits in the top of pie crust to vent the pie.

Bake pie at 400 F. until golden brown, about 25 minutes.

Let the pie cool for about 10 minutes so it will be easier to cut. A very delicious savory meat pie!  I have also made a similar simple individual sausage pie without the soup mixture that is also very tasty.  If you prefer a vegetarian rustic savory pie you might like my mushroom pot pie recipe which is also a family favorite.

I hope everyone has had a nice start to the week, thanks for reading!