Browsing Archives for December 2009

As strange as it may seem, winter is one of my favorite seasons at work.  And it’s not just because there isn’t very much to do so I have more time to stare into space.  And it’s not just because Myra, Melissa, Darla, Cassie, and the other Cassie are always bringing in delicious homemade goodies.  And it’s not just because Jan and Erin bring up the poinsettias from the head house and fill up the vacant greenhouse that was so empty and sad.  But it’s also because we get to make real Christmas wreaths made from real evergreen boughs and we also we get to make winter pots!  I love winter pots.  The day that Dave and Carl and Chris deliver the freshly cut greens from the farm where all of the shrubs and trees are grown, I dance around like a cockeyed maniac who should be behind bars rather than behind a cash register at a Garden Center.

You might remember that last year I photographed Chris (pictured below who as you can see from the title of this post has a very difficult last name both to spell and pronounce and who is also the landscape architect at the garden center where I work) making a Christmas wreath with the fabulous wreath making machine.  This year, I asked him if I could photograph him assembling a few winter pots.  Chris said, ‘No, I could not’, but I did it anyway.  I tell you what – after I get a few Christmas cookies under my belt, I can be downright irascible!

First Chris starts with a little pot…

Har har har ho ho ho hee hee hee heh, heh ha, ha, hwah hwah, ho!

I think I may need to cut back on the Christmas cookies.

The ‘pot’ is lined with landscape fabric and then filled with sand.

Chris begins by filling the center of the pot with a particularly bushy and also prickly evergreen of which I can’t remember the name, but for the sake of confusing everyone, I hereby name it ‘bushprickle’ because that’s what it’s name should be.

As you can see, the ‘bushprickle’ stems are spiky and give height and fullness to the center of the pot.

Chris angles them in so that they sort of ‘shoot out’.

Oh dear – I am afraid that I can’t say the words ‘shoot out’ without launching into a wrestling cheer from my glory days of being a wrestling cheerleader so if you would please excuse me for a minute…


Shoot Out on the Whistle!  Shoot Out on the Whistle!  

There – feel much better – Now back to our regularly scheduled program…



He leaves some space in between the bushprickle stems so there is room for it’s close cousin - 




Old Paint. 

Of course, Old Paint is not the evergreen’s real name.  I have no idea what it’s real name is because hello – I run the cash register people!  I do not sit around memorizing plant names, or studying plantiology or knowing anything meaningful about the world of botany!  But I am good at making up plant names so I decided to call this evergreen Old Paint – because it’s painted.  It’s painted a forest green color and no – I have no idea why it’s painted, but it is.  Hence the name!




And yes – personally I find the painted evergreens to be kind of appalling and very unnatural, but that did not stop me from buying a painted green evergreen for my Christmas tree this year did it? 

No, it did not.



Next, Chris sticks in some White Pine which is the actual name of the evergreen that he is working with in the above pic.  The reason I know the actual name of the White Pine is because I have a lot in common with the White Pine.  You see, White Pine is a very limp and weak willed evergreen bough. It has a tendencly to slump down and also to slide to the floor.  It is often slippery and hard to get a hold of.  But!  White pine is very useful when you want to create a draping effect around the edges of a pot.




We are the drapers!

We drape!

And we create a very nice spilling effect over the edges of things!  We are also good for masking inadequacies because all that limp spilling covers a multitude of errors.  We are also good at resting and eating snacks and watching movies and forgetting what it was we were going to do just a few seconds ago.



Where am I?

What was I going to do?

And why do I have this blood covered hatchet in my hand?

Unlike the spiky thing in the middle who insists on being the center of attention, we spillers are quite content to just hang around – and check it out – we look very good while doing so.   So don’t be discounting the White Pine branches of this old world.  At first they may appear quite useless, but in truth they actually creating a striking effect.

Here you can see the bush prickle middles, the old paint fillers and the weak willed spillers all combine to make a glorious display.

See how they all work together to make the world… I mean the pot a beautiful thing!



Over the years, Chris has made a lot of winter pots. The pots that Chris makes are delivered to decorate some of the most beautiful homes in our area. 




Here he is adding Red Dogwood, and Curly Willow branches.




This is the last photo of this pot that I took, because yes – weak willed and sliding to the floor and needing a snack – but Chris’ dresses them up quite a bit more with berries, pinecones and a few other more exotic varieties of evergreens that we order in, like incense cypress and noble fir.





After having a private lesson with the master of winter pots, I decided to work on filling up my own pots.






I stocked up on a variety of the greens and the branches that we sell at the Garden Center.






I hauled it all in and with Bridget Jones’s Diary playing on the computer, I went to pot.

Har, har, hee ho, hee, har, ho, ho hee, hee, hwah, hwar, hee, hee, ho, HA!

Get it!

I went to POT!

Someone please hide the rest of the sugar cookies from me!





Note the gloves.

They come in quite HANDY!

Har har har ha ho har har ho ho hee, hee (etc etc)


I placed the Bushprickle in middle just like Chris did and then I got involved in Bridget and especially in Hugh and Colin and I forget to photograph the rest of the process….

So this is my winter pot!




And this is my other other winter pot!

You know what these pots need?

A light dusting of snow….











I think we may have been watching an episode of The Office online via Hulu when suddenly the large furry head of Bill Clinton began to speak to us from the computer and the world came to a stand still.  The ad caught my attention because one – Bill Clinton and two – large furry head and three – the organization which Bill was talking about and four – is it okay if I call him Bill?  And can I just say that I am not a Bill Clinton groupie nor am I a Bill Clinton non-groupie.  I am pretty much a Bill Clinton neutral groupie which means that I can look at the man without any type of emotional surge whatsoever.  Well… except for the emotion of ‘question mark’ meaning I respond to him talking to me from my computer with a sort of ‘what the heck is going on?’   And as a result, when he appeared on my computer, I focused with a strange intensity on what he was saying.  I am not used to seeing him around much anymore plus the whole former world leader thing.  As a result,  I eventually made a loan to a woman named Phea Nop in Cambodia so that she could buy a buffalo to breed  and I am not even making that last part up.  

The organization of which I speak (and of which former President Bill Clinton speaks) is called Kiva.   Perhaps you have heard of it?  Well, I had not heard of it and after reading a few articles and watching a few PBS videos about Kiva, I thought what the heck?  And I threw my hat in the ring as well.  Basically Kiva exists to make loans to a group that Kiva terms ‘the working poor’ or ‘low income entrepeneurs’ across the globe which enable these people to start and grow small businesses. Traditionally, these loans would be impossible for people to get in their own countries due to exorbitant interest rates that can be as high as 300%.  Rarely do these emerging entrepreneurs have much collateral with which to qualify for a loan nor do they feel that they can risk losing what little they may have.  Kiva levels the playing field by providing affordable loans without the terrifying risk.  Kiva loans start as small as $25.00 and more than 98% of the loans that Kiva makes are re-paid in full within six to twelve months.  The loans are generally used to buy small pieces of equipment, farm animals, grain, produce, or other basic materials to enable a business person from a poor country to take the next step in a small business endeavor.

When I visited Kiva’s site, I read through many different entrepreneur’s profiles until I found Phea Nop in Cambodia.  She struck a chord with me as she is not only hoping to buy a buffalo (and hello I just happen to hail from a home where the buffalo roam!) but Phea also sells flowers!  Yes!  She sells water lilies in a market and she also has – get this – FOUR KIDS!  It’s like she is my twin on the other side of the world!  Except that she also cultivates rice, is a widow and probably works harder in one day than I have in my entire life put together.  Oh well…. I still like the part about helping her out.  And I really like the part about getting paid back at which point I can choose to re-invest my money in someone else’s business or pay myself back via Pay Pal.  Kiva also offers gift certificates, which allow the recipient to choose their own entrepreneur and follow the subsequent progress.  



I am excited to see what happens with Phea and her buffalo.  I have a pretty good feeling about this woman since we have so much in common (har, har) and I have a great feeling about Kiva.  I see one side of the world shaking hands with the other side of the world.  I see people giving and sharing and dancing and singing and eating spicy rice balls flavored with the milk of a buffalo heifer.  (Okay, maybe not the buffalo heifer milk part as I really don’t think buffalo heifers are gonna let anyone milk them) but I think this is a great thing and I thought I would help Bill spread the word.   You know – ‘neutral groupie’ me and ‘former world leader’ Bill Clinton – side by side – just making the world a better place…

except my beard is not really quite that full.

About a week ago, I received a copy of the book, How To Sew A Button in the mail.  The author, Erin Bried is a friend of Jean Martha who thought that I might like to blog about the book, so Erin had her publisher send a copy to me.  This very sweet, very witty, very useful book is a collection of recipes, how to’s, instructions and advice on how to do many of the tasks that recent generations have lost both the ability and the will to do. To gather the information for her book Erin, who is a senior writer for SELF Magazine interviewed ten grandmothers from across the country.  The grandmothers she interviewed are from very different backgrounds – one grandmother grew up on a farm in Iowa with no electricity or indoor plumbing, while another grandmother was raised one of four children in a two bedroom apartment behind the family barbershop in Brooklyn. The wonderful women that Erin talked to survived the Great Depression, the 1918 flu epidemic and and along the way they figured out a few secrets to a happy life.  Strangely, none of the secrets seem to involve elaborate weekends at a spa, expensive vacations, or designer handbags.  Instead, these women focused on what they could make out of their lives with what they had on hand.  If they had dirt, they made a garden.  If they had a tight budget, they made an elaborate meal chart with a fabulous matching grocery list.  If they had a sink, they made their own cleaning supplies.  If they had clothes, they learned how to patch, darn and sew up a hem.  If they had feet, they learned how to give themselves a pedicure and if they had a face – they made homemade facials.  They were clubby – meeting with friends over bridge and books and they reveled in the details of each other’s lives.  If they had a husband, they learned how to keep their marriages exciting and fun and if they had kids – they learned how to read a good bedtime story.  All of these skills as well as their stories are in How To Sew a Button.  I spent part of yesterday working through a few of the chapters.  Let’s see if I managed to learn anything….  




How To Make Blueberry Pancakes….


Assemble ingredients and falter…

That is a lot of ingredients.

Perhaps a bowl of cereal instead?


Soldier on! 




Turn over a new leaf!  





Can I even begin to tell you how much better these pancakes were than a bowl of cereal?

No, I can’t.

There really are no words to describe it.

Other than maybe….

pure ecstasy.




How To Fold a Fitted Sheet

And since I was now properly fortified with a indescribably great breakfast, I moved on to perhaps the most difficult task in the book.  

Folding a fitted sheet.  


Except that I had to fold a fitted sheet while photographing myself folding a fitted sheet and that my friends, is even harder.

I am not even sure that the Great Depression could prepare you for just how difficult it is to fold a fitted sheet while photographing yourself folding a fitted sheet.





It borders on the impossible.






You can’t even see where to point the camera.






But I thought about those grandmothers and I persevered. 







Folded fitted sheet!  

Now who needs a drink?



How to Make a Martini

I turned to the chapters on how to make a Manhattan and how to make a martini.  

Sadly – even though I had a startling variety of booze on hand, I did not have the required bourbon for the Manhattan and I didn’t really feel like drinking a martini alone.  It just doesn’t seem right to drink a martini alone. Even if I photographed myself drinking the martini, I would still have felt pretty pathetic, so since the back of my throat was a bit scratchy and I had a stuffy head, I moved on to….



How to Make a Hot Toddy


Still – I didn’t have the right booze as Erin’s recipe calls for bourbon as well, but I just substituted brandy.  

Somehow, I don’t think the grandmothers would mind.


This little medicinal concoction was very good and my throat felt instantly better.  

Thank you grandmothers!



Initially, I thought I would give away my copy of this book – but clearly – it is far too valuable to me and I am not going to be able to let it go.

Sorry dears.  

You will have to buy your own copy or several copies as it would make an excellent Christmas present.

Now I am off to make another batch of blueberry pancakes, followed by a homemade facial and then I am going to do some Christmas shopping and see if I can summon the courage to put into practice the chapter on ‘how to drive a bargain’.  I may need to take a batch of martinis along with me if I am going to attempt to do that.

Tra la la.