Monday, December 28, 2009

I Have Completely Changed!

I have officially changed my philosophy of gardening. It is already a challenge to have a vegetable garden in the desert of Arizona, but a year ago, I went to a gardening clinic that was taught by two Master Gardeners here in Maricopa County and they showed me a whole new way to garden.

It is called Square Foot gardening, and it was developed by an engineer named Mel Bartholomew. He has published several books and his official web-site is:

Anyway, the Master Gardeners were both AZ natives and had been gardening here for many years. They had learned about this new method a few years earlier and were sold on it and now I am also.

The theory of it is to use square foot sections and to use them efficiently and you will increase your harvest while using less space. Let me explain.

You start by leveling your area where you are going to put your square foot planting boxes. I (yes, ME!), built four 4x4 boxes and one 2x4 box using 2x6 pieces of lumber. I placed them in the area where my garden has been for the past 17 years. I put weed cloth under each box to prevent weeds from growing up into the boxes.

Next step is to mix the garden mix to fill the boxes. Mr. Bartholomew has a special recipe that he developed which is 1/3 vermiculite, 1/3 peat moss, and 1/3 compost. The initial cost of this is a bit, but it is the only time you will have to do it. From here on you just keep adding compost which is quite inexpensive or free if you make your own compost, which I do.

After mixing and filling the boxes you then need to make the square foot grid. I just bought inexpensive molding from the hardware store and we put it together one night for a family activity. Doesn’t Michael and Bruce (my husband) look like they are having more fun than they can handle?!?!?!

You can attach this to the garden boxes or just lay them on it which I did to make it easier when mixing in more compost in the future. Now you are ready to plant! I received a handout showing what and how many plants to plant in each square foot. Basically, you need to determine if it is a small (ex.-radishes, 16 plants per square-foot), medium (ex.-beets, 9 per square foot), large (ex.-leaf lettuce, 4 per sf), or extra large (peppers-1 per sf). Then you map out your garden and decide what you will plant.

Several of the large plants can be planted on a trellis so they take up even less room because they are growing up, this is called vertical planting. I was amazed at how much I was able to plant. More than I had ever fit into this same gardening space.

After planting, I put together a drip line with one head in each square and attached it to my faucet so I just turn on my hose for an hour and it drips onto each section to water it evenly. ***Note-I did use a sprinkler for the first 2 weeks until all the seeds had sprouted, then switched to the drip system.

Here are a few pictures as of today:

I have already harvested 1 batch of lettuce and radishes since I planted in September and as you can see, now in December it is going strong.

The selling points of using this method of gardening are: 1-I don’t need to solorize the soil in the summer, 2-the ease of weeding is tremendous, and 3-since you can garden in Maricopa county year-round, it means less time in the hot summer you need to spend maintaining the garden.

Now I admit, I have only been doing this for 4 months and I will let you know how I feel about it in July and August when it is 115-120 degrees out there, but since I usually didn’t garden in the summer, I will try it this year to see if I like it or not.

So, I recommend you check out this method. It does take some work to begin with but the time savings so far in the actual gardening has been less than the building of the garden so I have come out ahead time-wise.

That time savings means more time for other things I enjoy doing! Like playing with my train in the garden!  Mel Bartholomew teaches workshops all over and he insists this method can be adapted in any climate and location. Try it and let me know what you think!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Finally!!! After Nine Months of Waiting...It is HERE!!!

No it is NOT a baby!!!  It is the movie "The Young Victoria" starring Emily Blunt and Rupert Friend!

My friend Kim and I were given 2 passes (thank you Alicia!), to see the advanced screening of the new movie “The Young Victoria”. I have been waiting for 9 months to see this movie because when I was in London in March it had just been released and I wanted to see it but didn’t. It took forever to make it to Arizona but it was worth the wait!

The movie covers the time period of when Queen Victoria was a young girl up through the birth of hers and Prince Albert’s first child. The main focus of the film was the romance between Victoria and Prince Albert, but it also included the politics behind the crown which was very fascinating.

I had always known her relationship with her mother was not good but in this movie they showed why. Now, I know that you can’t judge history by a movie, but I do trust an English movie to get English history right far more than Hollywood to get ANY history correct in a movie. But it has made me want to study more about Queen Victoria’s life.

It was sad in the sense that you know that she and Albert only had 20 years together before he died, but they were very much in love throughout that 20 years.

The costuming was phenomenal! Emily Blunt is luminescent in every scene. She is such a great actress; I especially loved her in “The Jane Austen Book Club”. Rupert Friend was also excellent and it was nice to see him in this “happy” movie since that last movie I saw him in was “The Boy in the Stripped Pajamas”, and he was a very mean Nazi. He played it well but it was disturbing. He also is an excellent actor.

I highly recommend this movie. You don’t have to be an anglophile or history junkie to enjoy it. Just go for the romantic story! And in case you are wondering, it is not a chick flick! I think men will enjoy the politics and drama also! It open this week but since it is an independent film it may not be in too many theaters so try to find it!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Happy Birthday To Jane Austen!

Jane Austen was born on December 16th 1775. 

For the past few years I have had a tea party to celebrate with other friends who are Austen fans and a couple of friends I would like to convert to be Austen fans...Tammy and Marie...I'm still hoping for you!

For the tea, I have a menu that I use every year.  For the luncheon we have Sweet onion tart, cucumber sandwiches, and crumpets with cloted cream.

Sweet Onion Tart

Then for the desserts (the most important part next to the tea), we had 3 flavors of scones, cream wafers, strawberry tarts, and lemon cake cookies. 

I made 4 flavors of tea and also, since it is almost Christmas, I made some Wassail, for our drinks.  The most popular flavor of tea for the past 2 years has been the dessert tea, "Almond Sunset" (YUM, the best with cream and sugar).

I usually set the tables with placemats of pictures from different Austen books, miniture tea pots and my favorite flower, and English primrose that I plant into teacups and run down the center of the table. 

I also have stacks of Jane Austen trivia questions on each table for my friends to try to see how much they know about Jane Austen  and her books. 

Then we are ready for the party to begin!

Here is (l to r) Diana, my daughter, Marie, Anita is hiding but you can see her sleeve, Kim (who studied Austen at Oxford University), Tammy, Lori, Sheli, Jennifer, Susan (also hiding), and Megan (yes we have the next generation that likes to come also!)

Then we have (l to r) Carrie, Joan, Dorothy(mother of the soon to be bride, keep reading and you will understand), Charlotte, Leslie, Tiffany, Linndsy (who is getting married next week and she still had time to join us!), and Alicia. 

Yes, that is me in the costume...any excuse right, here with Lori, Sheli, Jennifer, and Susan

Me again with Charlotte and Carrie

I had a quiz that some of the ladies took to see which female Austen character they are most like and which male character they would be the most compatible with.  I am the most like Anne Elliot from Persuasion and my "guy" is Captain Wentworth also from Persuasion.  Maybe that is why it is my favorite book!  It is nice to have friends that humor me with my crazy party ideas.   It was also fun and we had a great time taking a break from the Christmas rush for some great conversation about Jane Austen. 

Celebrate the day with all the Austen fans out there!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Warning: Major Spoiler Alert!

Well, it's over!

I knew this was the last season, and it was a very good season.  Who knew a woman Sheriff of Nottingham could have been more evil than the original Sheriff!  Isabella Gisborne was ruthless!  But it was great to see my 2 favorite characters that were enemies throughout the entire series finally work together in the past few episodes for the defeat of the Sheriffs!  And man, when the castle few on them...relief!!!

Robin and his men (from season 1)

I just really wish they had carried the story line to when King Richard did get back to England, not to when he had be captured by the Austrians.  But the ending was great!!!  Yes, even though both Guy of Gisborne and Robin Hood die, what a great scene when Marian comes backs to take Robin as he dies.  She was beautiful! 

Best of all is now I can see Richard Armitage in season 7 of MI5!!!!  Can't wait for him to join the team.  I know you followers in the UK have already seen it, but we in the USA have to wait until January when it is released on DVD.  Will he be as good of a spy as "Tom Quinn or Adam Carter" or better???  Any hints from our friends who have already watched him in action???  PLEASE!!!

Friday, December 4, 2009

One Christmas Song That Should be Banned!

I love Christmas and everything about the Season! 

However, there is one Christmas Song that in my opinion shoudl be banned from the Season completely.  I blogged about this last year and I will continue to every year until it is gone!  That song is, 'I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause". 

Let me explain.  When I was in first grade, our class sang this song at the Christmas concert.  I remember thinking how terrible it would be to see my mom kissing anyone else but my father, even if it was Santa! I knew it wasn't right for a mom to be kissing anyone she wasn't married to.  Kids who still believe in Santa, could have the same tramatic experience that I did in hearing or singing this song! 

Am I alone here??!!??!!??!!

Anyway, Merry Christmas to you all and thanks for visiting my blog!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

May I Brag a Bit???

My Son, Michael, is an Eagle Scout!!!  FINALLY!!!!

He did a food drive for his Eagle project and did a really great job of coordinating all his friends and fellow scouts for the drive. 

The hardest part was getting all the paper work done after the project was over. But after several months of "movtivating" him, he finally got it all turned in and it was all approved.  He had a joint Eagle Court with his friend Chris.

Here is his dad pinning on his Eagle award. 

After the ceremony,  it was fun to see all his friends who came to celebrate with him. 

Thanks for humoring a proud mom!  Congratulations Michael!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Finally!!!! Now Which Class Should I Take???

Oxford University has a wonderful program each summer for anyone who lives outside of Great Britain.  For the month of July they open the campus of Christ Church College, one of Oxford's oldest college's, for Angolphiles, knowledge seekers and anyone who wants to have a great experience, to come and take a class, live in the dorms and pretend you are really a studuent there. 

My friend Kim and I have gone twice (we try to go every 3 years), and each time we have a great experience.  The classes Kim has taken in the past are a creative writing, and a Jane Austen class.  My interests are more in history and I have taken the War of the Roses, and Life in Roman Britain classes. 

Dorms at Christ Church College

Two and a half years ago when we were there, England was experienceing a MAJOR flood and the Thames had over flowed and come almost up to our dorm building (our room was the fruthest right gable on the top floor). 

Great Hall dining room

We eat all our meals in the Great Hall together or you can choose to eat off campus.  The price of the week includes rooms, food, class and excursions for your class.  They also offer additional excursions that you can sign up for and pay if you so choose. 

Tom Quad in Christ Church

Christ Church College is so beautiful and it is such a wonderful experience to be able to hae "free reign" of the campus.  We even got a key to the front gate!  The teachers have been outstanding and very knowledgeable in their fields. 


Well, they have finally put up the schedule for next summer's courses, and as usual, there are at least 3-4 classes in each session that I want to take!  Unfortunately, there is no CS Lewis class, but here are a few that I am interested in:  Castles in Britain, Jewish Life in Medieval England, Elizabeth I, The Romance of the Railways, King Alfred and the Vikings, Shakespeare in Oxford, Alice's Adventures in Oxford, and many more! 
If you love to travel, learn, want to really feel like you belong to a place, and meet friends from all over the world, I highly recommend you think about checking out this program.  Here is a link to their site:

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Hooray for Bollywood!!! Watch "Jab We Met"

Some of my favorite types of movies to watch are Bollywood movies. These are movies made in India. My neighbor Usha, first introduced me to them when she learned I liked foreign movies and she brought over a couple of her favorites. Then came Bride and Prejudice, which was an Indian version of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and I became completely hooked.

If you love musicals with amazing costumes then you will love Bollywood movies. I recently found out that on IFC channel, every Sunday morning they show a Bollywood movie. The few I have been able to watch have been entertaining. It is so funny that even in a violent, bloody movie they can break into a musical number. I usually fast forward through the movies just to get to the music if I am not interested in the story, and then maybe I will go back and watch the movie. It takes more time since they are sub-titled. I usually watch movies when I am working, cleaning, cooking or ironing, but that is not possible with sub-titles.

Anyway, 3-4 weeks ago I DVR-ed one and I just got around to watching it this week and it was WONDERFUL. It is almost blasphemous to say I loved it more that Bride… , but I did. It is called Jab We Met (2007). Now since I don’t speak Indian, or Punjabi, or whatever dialect the movie was in, I don’t know what “Jab” means but the movie was so much fun! What was really funny is the sub-titles because sometimes they make no sense and you wonder who was the translator.

It is a romantic comedy about an adventurous, bubbly, crazy (in a fun way), girl (Geet), who is running away to elope with the love of her life (Anshuman), and on the train she runs into a rich young business man (Aditya), that is completely despondent and just wandering not knowing where he is going. Through misadventures, missing trains, “borrowing cars” to catch missed trains etc., she gets him out of the depression he is in and he learns a new “philosophy” to life. He eventually gets her to the man she is trying to elope with and by now, he is in love with her and being very scatter brained she doesn’t realize it. That is only the first half of the movie so there are other twists and turns and about every 20 minutes is a colorful, and great musical number.

Kareena Kapoor ... Geet Dhillon

I don’t do Net Flix but if they have Bollywood movies and you have time to sit and watch a movie I highly recommend this one for a fun time. I rated it a 9 out 10 on IMDB when I rated it, that is how much I loved it. Now I just re-watch the musical numbers because they are so fun!

Shahid Kapur ... Aditya Kashyap

The actor that played Aditya was handsome and the Actor that played Geet was stunningly beautiful. She won multiple “best actor” awards for this role. Both could sing and dance really well. Let me know if you have seen it and if you know what “Jab” means.

Here is my favorite musical number in the movie for you to get a taste of the fun.  ENJOY!!!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

It's Like Being Read To By Mr. Darcy or John Thronton!

My friend Susan found an amazing web-site and she shared it with me.  As you probably know I love English Literature.  On this site you have the treat of having 3 actors read excerpts from books, some familiar and some not (at least there were some I hadn't heard of).  The first I listened to was Greg Wise reading the section of Persuasion where Captain Wentworth writes the letter to Anne heart skips a beat just thinking about it.  He reads it beautifully and I was in heaven for 15 minutes as he read.  Then I went to his reading of Elizabeth Gaskell's  North and South where John Thornton is proposing marriage to Margaret Hale...sigh...again, I am transported to Milton for 15 or so minutes. 

The other 2 readers on the site are Dominic West (A Midsummer Night's Dream), and Dan Stevens,  (Edward Ferrars in Sense and Sensibility). 

Dominic West chose Pride and Prejudice as one of his selections that he reads from.  It is the part where Mr. Darcy visits Elizabeth Bennet at the Collin's cottage in know the part I mean...Sigh, swoon...and sigh again.  Most of his selections were from books I was not familiar with. 

Now Dan Stevens, I had to watch his eyes as he read his selection from Great Expectations.  Again, beautifully read, but that is the only book in his selections that I had already read and most of them I was not familiar with, but, my dad has warned me about Madame Bovary. 

If you have a few minutes here and there to indulge in hearing really good actors reading, I recommend you check out this site:

It is so good you may want a cup of coffee with you as you listen, since that is what the site is really selling... or be prepared with a cup of hot cocoa, if you prefer while you listen.  Be prepared to sigh and swoon of you are of the female persuasion!