Saturday, August 20, 2016

2016 Garden


2016 was kind of a mad year for gardening for me. Work and life conspired to keep us from getting the garden in until late this year. As a result, when we went looking for plants the 2nd to last weekend of May, things were pretty well picked over. We had already decided to downsize the garden this year, eliminating the one long, skinny bed where we haven't had much luck of getting anything but weeds to grow. We also decided not to plant onions. We do love our home grown Candies, but onions are cheap and easy to get at the grocers so better to devote the space to other plants.

No pictures this time. I didn't get any when the garden was new and pretty and now it is sad and droopy.

We planted 2 cherry tomatoes and 4 basil plants in the small bed near the garage. My beloved SuperSweet 100s are loosing favor with me now. The tomatoes are consistently small and tend to fall off the vines before I can pick them, making for a lot of cleanup. I just pulled the SuperSweet to give the Sunsugar more room. As in years past, the yellow Sunsugar cherry tomatoes are magnificent. Lovely, large tomatoes that tend to stay put until you pick them. They are sweet and delicious in salads or just for snacking. One plant is PLENTY for us with some to share. Next year I think I will just put the one Sunsugar and basil plants in this bed.

In the long bed I planted 3 Early Girl, 1 Mountain Fresh and 1 Supersonic tomato. The Early Girl closest to the garage didn't produce much and has already died off. I don't think it got enough sun there. That is where we usually plant onions so may have to think of a more shade tolerant plant to go there. The other 2 Early Girls are still producing abundantly. The Mountain Fresh produced nice, flavorful tomatoes, just not many. It has already died off. The Supersonic is a new one to me. It produces fabulous beefsteak tomatoes. The biggest problem I'm having is the weight of the tomatoes breaking the stalks. Otherwise, loving this one and will look for it again.

The big bed had a zucchini and a yellow squash which produced adequately but not as abundant as some years. We didn't even get one monster zucchini this year!

I planted 2 rows of kohlrabi. I haven't planted kohlrabi in years and it is a pleasant addition that I intend to keep going forward. I need to thin the plants better next year since these seem crowded. I thinned them a week or two ago and the bulbs are finally starting to get bigger.

4 jalapeno peppers for C's hot tooth.

4 San Marzano tomatoes. These were a happy find that I had never seen before. While I should have only planted 3 (4 is too crowded and has effected production) the tomatoes I've gotten are wonder. Nice meaty plum tomatoes, perfect for drying. I'm sure they would also make fantastic sauce. Will look for these again next year.

I had to go with Black Beauty eggplant as we could not find my favorite Dusky's anywhere. They are not producing well, we've only gotten 3 or 4 so far. The round, deeply lobed eggplants they yield are difficult to peel and loaded with seeds. I may order Dusky seeds and start my own next year just to be sure we can get them!

And finally bell peppers. I couldn't find my favorite Red Knight and King Arthur peppers so we went with Flavorburst and Bell Boy. The Flavorburst are a medium sized, thin walled pepper that matures to yellow. They are pretty good, but nothing to write home about. The Bell Boys are just starting to come in. These are a nice, large size pepper, medium walled and that mature to red. The plants are quite full and loaded with blooms so I'm hoping for a decent crop yet.

The size and variety of plants in our downsized garden worked well. I was able to keep up with weeding (love my hula hoe!) and, except for the plum tomatoes, everything had the space it needs. And we still have plenty of veggies for us. Hopefully next year we'll be able to start earlier again.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Jawbone 6 month update

I've been wearing my Jawbone Up3 for about 6 months now and wanted to post an update. I went back and re-read my initial thoughts and much of my feeling remains the same.

I wear the tracker all the time, except when charging and showering. It does seem to be somewhat water resistant as the recent super hot weather have resulted in some pretty sweat-intensive workouts. I remember having some irritation from the band the first few weeks, particularly at the metal contact points. When that happened, I would switch to wearing the band on the other wrist until the irritation cleared up. This only lasted a short while and I've had no problems since. This tracker is so small and lightweight it is really easy to wear all the time.

The step and workout tracking works very well for me. The app provides good statistics and feedback on how I'm doing. Every Monday I get an email summary of the past week's activity and sleep records. I also discovered that by going to the Jawbone website I can download my statistics to a CSV file to see even more data. Year to date I've taken 1,644,937 steps (yay me!!) but I can see I am inactive far more than I am active (ugh). I love the inactivity reminder, especially on work days when I find I'm focused on projects for long periods of time and easily lose track of how long I've been sitting. It's a good reminder to get up and move a little. Now that we are walking most every day, I hit my 10,000 step goal at least a few times a week.

While I guess it's not super useful, I still dig the sleep tracker. It's interesting to see the statistical quality of my sleep compared to what my impression of the quality of my sleep is.

I've been most disappointed in the heart rate tracking. Jawbone has been saying since well before I bought my tracker that on demand heart rate tracking would be added in a future firmware update, but this still hasn't happened. The band is supposed to monitor your resting heart rate periodically throughout the day when you are still. Some days it takes many readings other days it takes very few, regardless of my activity. I find this annoying as it makes the statistics less accurate.

Battery life is also a bit disappointing. I get about 4 days on a charge before having to recharge which takes at least an hour. The app is also pretty draining on my phone's battery so I tend to only sync my band two or three times a day.

The final disappointment is the physical condition of the band after 6 months of use. The tracker unit is metal coated in black paint. The paint is wearing thin across the face making it look shabby. And then the band broke this week. The silicone split about half an inch from the head of the tracker. My guess is because my wrist is a little small there's probably a stress point there which resulted in the break. The band is not replaceable, the tracker is integrated into the silicone band and Jawbone won't replace it because I purchased on open box item. Fortunately I was able to glue it back together with super glue and it seems to be holding fine.

I will continue to use my Jawbone as long as it holds up, but I wouldn't buy another one. At least not of this model. I'm looking into a tracker with a replaceable band that would also have a display so I don't have to sync up to my phone to see updates. I've found one that looks promising and I'll be sure to post if I make the switch.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Flea Market finds June 2016

Warm weather is here again and flea market season is back in full swing. We've been down to Adamstown a couple of times this year but didn't find anything until today.
First is a cute "poison" bottle found for $15 at Renninger's. I'm pretty sure it's not old, but it is  cute and will be a nice addition to our Halloween collection. Disappointingly, the paint on the crossbones peeled when I was cleaning it. I can fix it easily but reinforces the notion it is probably a cheap piece.

At Shupp's Grove we scored this vintage milk glass egg nog set. It's missing one of it's cups but since it will be used mostly for display I'm not fussed over it. I'm not sure of the age or manufacturer of this piece. I believe it is either Anchor Hocking or Hazel Atlas from pictures I found online. We just liked it because of its adorable vintage look.



Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Spring/Summer 2016 scent lineup

For once, I've actually got a spring/summer fragrance library I'm excited about.
Normally the fresher lighter scents don't resonate with me like my rich, musky, boozy fall/winter scents. Summer tends to be a season of frustration for me when it comes to perfume. But this year, I am feeling the love for every scent on my shelf.

Returning favorites include Burberry Summer, Ed Hardy, Tommy Hilfiger Summer 2015 and Replica Lazy Sunday Morning.

Kiehl's Original Musk has become my year round, go to, comfort in a bottle scent. I anticipate this being a permanent fixture on the shelf.

At the risk of sounding like an Avon commercial, half of my line up is from their Today, Tomorrow, Always line. It started two years ago when I picked up Together. At the time I ordered it from Poland because I was impatient, but it never did hit America so I'm glad I did. It has been my most complimented scent and a firm favorite for warm weather. This year I decided to try a few more of the perfumes from the line. Amour, Tomorrow, Today and Daydream are all lovely. They are not overpowering but last for hours. Unlike some companies' flankers that all smell alike (I'm looking at you Thierry Mugler), these are all unique yet fit well together. I love the (mostly) consistent bottle design and how nice they look all lined up together. For inexpensive perfumes, Avon has always been a go to for me.

Missing from last year are Avon Pure O2. I bought bottles of this two years in a row and got tons of use from each bottle. But it has been the lone problem child from Avon perfumes for me in that it loses it's potency within only a few months. Fortunately, it is really inexpensive and still available so might pick up a bottle when summer heats up.

Also missing is Tommy Hilfiger Tommy Girl. This one has been a staple since I bought it about 4 years ago but the sprayer tanked on me a few weeks back. I salvaged as much as I could into a decant sprayer and will definitely pick up a new bottle when I run out.

I've been actively trying to scale down my collection after it ballooned to ridiculous proportions. I'm to the point now where everything on the shelf is a winner for me. It's a great feeling to (finally) have a carefully curated perfume library.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Beauteque Mask Maven subscription box

The last year I have really upped my skin care game. For the first time in years I have my dry skin relatively under control. There are lots of things playing into this but one of the significant factors in my opinion is the regular use of sheet masks. I had a hard time getting on the sheet mask band wagon. But after a few tries I got the hang of how to apply them use them to their full potential and now I'm hooked. There are many many many brands of sheet masks out there of varying quality and efficacy. Fortunately, most are great and quite affordable ($1 to $3 is the average I pay).

I was excited to find a subscription box that offers a monthly selection of sheet masks. The Beauteque Mask Maven subscription box starts at $15/month (plus shipping) and gives you 9 to 11 masks to try each month. I had a coupon code when I signed up so I went with the 3 month option (ALWAYS search for coupon codes before you buy anything on the internet, you'll be surprised how many you'll find).

My first box arrived this week. The masks come packaged in a drawstring bag along with a card that details everything you receive. Be sure to hold on to the card as most masks are written in Korean with little or no English information.

This month's bag included 9 masks. From most of the reviews I've seen online it seems 9 is the norm, even though the company says you could get more. I received 8 sheet masks and one "mask pack" which is basically a cream type wash off mask. Since I generally only find time to mask on the weekends, 9 will keep me stocked for a full month.
 
Beauteque also offers a Korean skincare subscription box comprised of 6 to 8 full size products each month. This didn't appeal to me as much since skin care is so varied based on skin type and concern. Masks are fairly generic in that most can be used on any skin type.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Jawbone Up-3 - initial thoughts

I've been toying with the idea of a fitness tracker for over a year now. I like statistics and thought that the information a tracker would give would be interesting and maybe help me stay motivated. But the cost and my inability to make a decision on which one to buy kept getting in the way.

I picked up a clip-on pedometer last year and used it for maybe a month or two. I liked the information it provided. But I had to remember to clip it on my clothes and not forget to take it off when I put my clothes in the laundry. It had a tendency to catch on things which I found annoying. Plus I had to manually track my steps. So now it's collecting dust on a shelf.

Then this month I saw the Jawbone Up3 pop up on Amazon's Deal of the Day (UP3 by Jawbone Heart Rate, Activity + Sleep Tracker, Black Twist). It was still almost $100 and the reviews were iffy. Then I noticed you could get an "open box" item in very good condition for $40 so I jumped on it. Still had a 30 day guarantee so I figured I could send it back if I changed my mind.

It arrived quickly and although the box was opened, the contents were all there and in like new condition. I got it charged up and have been wearing it ever since.

I'm not a fan of the charger. It's a short USB cable that attaches magnetically to the band. There are 4 pins that have to line up with a port on the band and I find it fiddly to get the pins lined up. You know it's right when the band sits flush on the charger. However, charging is fast. The first charge took about an hour. I've recharged it once since then and that took maybe half an hour. A charge will last about a week.
The band itself is very light and comfortable to wear. There were a lot of complaints online about the band coming loose. My guess is they didn't have the size adjusted properly. I've had no problems whatsoever. I must have a small wrist because I had to adjust the clasp all the way up to the sensor (as short as it will go) but it fits securely. I went with plain black, although they have a lot of nice color choices. The black blends in nicely with the bracelets I wear so it is unobtrusive. They say it is water resistant (can be worn in the shower, but not swimming). I err on the side of caution and take it off before showering. I have gotten it wet washing my hands with no problems.

The Up3 tracks 3 things: steps, sleep and resting heart rate. You need a bluetooth enabled device with the Up app in order to see the readings. The app keeps your historical data and gives you feedback on how you are doing and what you can do better, encouraging you to meet your goals. Thanks to firmware upgrades since it was first released, you don't have to tap to move the device from active to sleep mode, it now happens automatically or you can control it manually through the app.

This time of year I am particularly sedentary. Long hours at work, glued to my desk and cold dark nights making it hard to get out and walk. So I'm not stressing too much about my low step counts. I love that you can set an inactivity alert which will cause the band to vibrate if you've been sitting longer than the designated time. Mine is set to thirty minutes. Its is an odd feeling when it buzzes you but definitely encourages me to get up and move. Since it only tracks your steps, I love that the app allows you to manually add workout statistics. So on days when I ride the exercise bike I can add the workout and the app will figure the activity into my daily fitness goals.
Resting heartbeat is pretty cool. I had originally wanted a band that gave on demand heart rate but I'm finding this method of tracking works great. The band randomly checks your heart rate throughout the day and night and provides graphical data so it's easy to see how stress, activity and inactivity are affecting your heart rate. The app also provides feedback on your readings to help you understand what it means and how to improve.
The sleep feature is also really neat. Mostly from the interesting perspective, seeing how you move in and out of the different stages of sleep. I am generally a pretty good sleeper (thanks to a bout of mono when I was in high school) but it's fun to see the graphical interpretation of sleep.
So these are my initial thoughts on the Jawbone. It's still early days. We'll see how long I stick with it and how it plays out for the long haul. I'm not very fitness conscious. I just want to be healthy and not a total lump.

Pros:
Lightweight, comfortable and attractive design
Long lasting charge
Easy to use
Great statistics via the app
Feedback/encouragement based on your numbers

Cons:
Have to use the app. I wish there was a PC interface for viewing statistics and manually adding data.
Difficult to attach the charger

If you are looking for an entry level fitness tracker, this might be one to look at. I know I'm enjoying it so far.








Friday, December 04, 2015

New Christmas decorations

C and I got the Christmas decorations up this week and I wanted to share our new additions for this year.

A little while back I posted about finding a bunch of old putz/glitter houses at the flea market. I got them cleaned up and re-glittered and they turned out fabulous.

I love the way they sparkle under the tree lights.

A few weeks ago we were shopping at Olde Factory Antiques in Hummelstown and scored a really lovely nativity set.

The picture is crap because it's in a niche in our stairwell, but hopefully you can get the idea. The creche has a wooden stable and eleven ceramic figures. I attached the little LED light to illuminate it. Hoping to find a better light for it since that looks pretty tacky.

I love all the vintage holiday decorations we've collected over the years and hope to add more each year.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Flea market finds - Aug 16, 2015

Yet another beautiful summer Sunday. Temps were in the upper 60s when we headed out to Adamstown this morning and we had a nice time walking through the markets. It is predicted to be hot today and it seemed to have deterred a lot of vendors from showing up. But I did find two treasures.

First was a box of random Christmas decorations for $10. I looked through it a bit at the stand and saw at least 6 decent looking Putz houses so I bought it. When I got home and sorted the junk from the good stuff I was delighted to find I had 11 nice condition houses. The church has it's steeple and the factory has it's stack. Seeing how I just paid $3 each for the others I bought earlier this summer I think I got a great deal. I found a site with helpful information on restoring these houses and I'm very much looking forward to getting these cleaned up and under the tree this year.
 At Shupp's Grove we were passing a stand that we walk by every week and a display of Halloween die cuts caught my eye. She had a large bin of die cuts in plastic sleeves and the first was a common skeleton. On a whim I just started flipping through the stack. I spotted the cat first. Further back I found the witch head and finally the pirate skeleton. The prices were marked between $20 - $28 each but owner of the stand said she'd knock around 30% off if we were interested. I knew I HAD to have that skeleton. I made a low offer on the set of three hoping for some room to negotiate and to my surprise so took it and sold the lot for to us for $40. When I got home I looked them up in my favorite reference book (Time For Halloween Decorations). All are from the late 50s to 60s. The cat is valued around $35 in good condition. The skeleton is embossed and is part of a larger set but each piece is valued between $55 - $75. The witch is known as "Creepy Alice" and features crepe paper hair (which is surprisingly intact), valued around $65. We definitely did good price wise, but I'm more thrilled to have this neat vintage pieces for our collection.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Flea market finds 07-12-15

C and I haven't been hitting the flea markets much lately but it is a beautiful day in PA today so we hopped in the Jeep and headed to Adamstown.

Renninger's was packed so we were excited for potential treasures. As usual, most of the stuff there was overpriced. We did see alot of beautiful carnival glass that was fairly priced but not in my budget!
These three ceramic pieces came from a nice old man who was selling everything for $3 or 2 for $5 or 5 for $10. I've been looking for a pheasant planter so I knew right away that was coming home with me. C liked the turkey candle holders for Thanksgiving. I had just picked up the middle one but the man insisted these were a pair (they don't even match!!) but since he was selling them as a pair I took them both. The one on the right has a chip on the tail, but it's in the back so you don't really see it.

After Renninger's we headed over to Shupp's Grove. We didn't find anything at the regular stands, but lucked out at the few new vendors that were there.
I spotted some carnival glass and knew I wanted the little blue footed dish. The lady running the stand was only asking $8 and said she'd make me a good deal if I bought more than one piece. I picked up the other piece of blue carnival glass and the little green container hoping she'd bundle them for $20. When she said $15 for the 3 I was delighted. They are smallish pieces (maybe 5-6 inches) and the glaze on the footed dish isn't real good so I'm guessing they aren't really valuable pieces, but they are beautiful and will look great on my kitchen window.
We found this Halloween die cut for $12. It's in excellent condition. It's unpunched with only some tape damage on the back. Wonderful addition to our collection. We saw a lot of neat Halloween pieces today but prices were outrageous. I'm a cheapskate with loads of patience when it comes to this stuff. If you look long enough, you generally find something worthwhile at a decent price.
 And finally we scored some vintage Christmas decorations. I've been on the hunt for the little cardboard houses forever. Dad still puts his under his Christmas tree and I've longed to have a set of my own. But they are delicate little things and difficult to find in decent condition. Even hard to find at reasonable prices. Today we managed both. The guy we bought them from actually had a bunch of pretty good pieces. These were probably the nicest of the bunch. All but the blue one still have their cellophane windows intact. The glitter is excellent on the pink house and fair on the rest. I plan to reglitter them and get cellophane for the blue house and will love putting these out this Christmas. I also picked up the glass skater ornament since I've been wanting to start a collection of glass ornaments. The whole lot only cost $15.



Sunday, May 17, 2015

2015 Garden

The garden is in and looking good. I'm approaching it a bit differently this year. Fewer plants, wider spacing. I think the last few years we've tried to cram too much in and ended up disappointed.

The long bed has onions again and tomatoes. I read an article in the local paper this week that suggested not suckering your tomatoes to increase yield and prevent sunburn. I was always taught to remove suckers and generally try to follow that practice. But I'm all about getting more tomatoes, so I'm going to give it a try. My mother in law has never suckered her plants and has HUGE yields (she also has soil to die for, but I can't really replicate that!) Excited to try the Black Krim. Everyone raves about heirloom tomatoes but I don't think I've had much luck in the past. Hope springs eternal.

The big bed is really quite spread out. The Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes are prolific growers so I'm hoping I've left them enough room. Eggplant and peppers up the middle should be fine. And 3 squash plants to dominate the other third. Some people might be terrified at 3 squash plants since they tend to produce a ton. But C and I love zucchini and we've got a lot of neighbors to share with.

I decided not to put flowers in the little bed this year. The blueberries are still limping along. I put a Mountain Fresh and 2 Plum Crimson tomatoes and 4 North Star peppers. These are all kind of extras for sharing so we'll see how they make out over there.

The lilac we put in last year is getting ready to bloom. Our neighbor's lilac didn't bloom this year and I really miss the smell. Hopefully ours will be well scented.
The little bed at the end of our deck is looking so nice this year too. The burning bush is gorgeous. The bleeding hearts and columbines are really filling in too. I put a Golden Treasure Barberry in to try to fill up that last space.

Here's just a quick look at the flowerbeds at the front of our house. I have no rhyme or reason to what I plant there, just whatever looks pretty when we are looking at flowers. The mums didn't fair too well after our winter...only a few little stalks left. I'm hoping to baby them through but will replace them this fall if need be.
 We put down cocoa shell mulch this year. It is by far my favorite mulch but not always easy to come by. I love how easy it is to get in around the flowers. It smells heavenly. That does fade after awhile, but right now our house smells like Willy Wanka's chocolate factory! It is a light mulch so wind is not its friend and it can get a little moldy looking in a wet summer. Still, it is my go to when I can get it.