Monthly Archives: September 2015

It’s A Little Book

We just read Lane Smith’s picture book It’s A Book and the board book It’s A Little Book. The premise of these books is that the donkey (or jackass, depending which version you read) does not understand what a book is for, what it does, or how it works; the donkey tries a number of things until the monkey explains that it’s a book – for reading!

Sudo with It's A Little Book by Lane Smith on her head

“Is it for wearing?”

Sudo obliged us with a demo. (We figured “Is it for wearing?” was a less destructive option than “Is it for eating?” and would enable us to return the book to the library without the embarrassment of teethmarks.)


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The Twibbit on occasion knows a difficulty with its toes

Edward Gorey would have loved this dog.

Birds-eye view of Sudo the greyhound lying on the rug with a stuffed alligator between her front legs

Same pose, different angle

We often speculate which creature from The Utter Zoo Sudo most resembles. Lately the Twibbit seems to be winning, though sometimes she is the Mork (“The Mork proceeds with pensive grace / And no expression in its face”), sometimes the Limpflig (“The Limpflig finds it hard to keep / From spending all its life asleep”), and sometimes the Yawfle (“The Yawfle stares, and stares, and stares, / And stares, and stares, and stares, and stares”).

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, please avail yourself of the nearest copy of The Utter Zoo: An Alphabet by Edward Gorey. The Utter Zoo can also be found in the collection Amphigorey Also.

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Summer garden update

I wrote this part of the post in late July.

Right before we left for Oregon I noticed aphids on one of the calibrochoa plants and funny little black bugs on the nasturtiums. I didn’t have time to do a soapy water spray and rinse, so I just blasted both plants with the hose and moved them away from the other plants. This tactic worked on the calibrochoa, which continues to bloom happily on the front porch, and less well on the nasturtiums, which still have some bugs.

Orange and yellow nasturtiums

Other than that, everything is going pretty well! The herbs, as always, are growing healthily: the rosemary is glossy green, the mint is spilling out of its pots, and the chives, sage, thyme, parsley, and basil are all robust.

Parsley, mint, thyme, basil, more thyme

Rectangular planter with sage, rosemary, and chives

Most exciting of all, the tomatoes I started from seed are finally beginning to come in.

Tiny green tomato

I wrote this part of the post just now, in late September.

Fall is finally here, according to the calendar and the weather. I just harvested all of my basil plants and made a big batch of pesto using the America’s Test Kitchen recipe (basil, walnuts, olive oil, garlic, salt). Last year I did keep one basil plant alive indoors all winter, but it was pretty anemic by spring.

This year, once the nighttime temperature starts dropping into the 30s, I’ll bring in some of the mint, rosemary (one of which is large enough to serve as a small Hanukkah bush, if we did that sort of thing, and if we wanted to look at a bright orange Home Depot bucket all the time), roses, and thyme. This is the first year I’ve grown thyme – does anyone know how well it’s likely to do indoors?

Bunny tail grass

The bunny tails lived up to their name!

The herbs, calibrochoa, and nasturtiums all did well this summer (the nasturtiums recovered from the little black bugs in July). The sweet peas in the container did well, greenery-wise – the flowers never bloomed – until one of the heat waves fried them. I would try these again next year and give them a better lattice or frame to climb. The sweet peas in the ground mostly emerged, grew to about 3-5 inches, then stalled, probably due to the terrible soil. Containers are the way to go, it seems.

One yellow and one green cherry tomato

A cluster of cherry tomatoes ripening on the vine

The tomatoes were a bit of a disappointment. The chipmunks that live under the porch definitely stole some, but I think the main problem was not enough sun. Next year, I’m planning to try moving them to the front of the house instead, so they’ll be west-facing instead of east-facing. We probably only got two handfuls altogether; they were delicious, but everyone else I know who grew tomatoes here this year had much bigger yields.

Another flower I’d like to try next year is cosmos – I’ve been admiring their wild, tangly, airy look in other people’s gardens all summer. I’m assuming the plants in the pots by the front stairs won’t come back on their own next spring, so maybe I’ll try a wildflower mix there. I really liked the dusty miller with the little orange and white flowers, though – they did very well.

So that’s the fall wrap-up for the garden. Did you garden this summer? What grew well, and what didn’t take?

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A unique card

Cleaning out my drafts folder…been meaning to post this one since June.

For our second anniversary, my mom sent us a card that had seeds embedded in the paper. You tear the paper, soak it in water, then place it in a pot of dirt and cover it with another quarter-inch or so of dirt. Add sunlight, water, and time, and…sprouts!

First step: planting the seed paper.

Birds-eye view of a terra cotta pot filled with dirt, purple paperBirds-eye view of a white wire basket lined with fiber, filled with soil, purple paperBirds-eye view of green plastic pot filled with soil, purple paper
Next: wait for seedlings!

Close-up of dirt with little green shoots peeking through

I threw in the rest of the bunny tail seeds, too. You can see them poking up if you look closely at the photo above.

And below, the results (photos from today, i.e. late September):

Wildflower mix in pots

Tiny white wildflowers

Tangle of grasses and greenery in wire basketThe tiny white flowers (in the top and middle photos) were the only flowers to emerge. The bunny tail grasses and wildflower mix in the basket (bottom photo) looked better a week or two ago. Maybe given a little more time they would have bloomed, but I’m happy anything grew at all. Perhaps more wildflower mixes next year – does anyone have any tips for these? Probably larger containers would be better, and maybe more sun. Oh, for a south-facing garden!

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Edward Gorey House

My friend Rachel happened to write a blog post/travel guide to Cape Cod just about a week before our annual visit. We don’t tend to do very much on the Cape, other than eat (mostly ice cream), sleep, walk, and swim, but as soon as I saw that the Edward Gorey House was only five minutes away from where we’d be, I was set on going. And it was delightfully odd.

I dragged half the family with me and we arrived just as a tour was starting. It was surprisingly well-attended by people of all ages; kids had received little paper handouts where they could check off sightings of the Gashlycrumb Tinies. Here are a few we noticed:

A doll placed head-down halfway down a staircase

“A” is for Amy who fell down the stairs…

Doll feet sticking out from under a leopard pattern rug

Doll on windowsill, head crushed by rectangular stone


The fireplace in one of the front rooms of the Edward Gorey House is designed to look like the fireplace in The Doubtful Guest. There are also cabinets and shelves full of things Gorey collected, from books to rings to other assorted oddities.

The fireplace in the Edward Gorey House


Old-fashioned telephone and typewriter

Large stuffed bear wearing a striped scarf

Old wooden chair with books on the seat. Sign reads "This Chair will NOT support you in any way"

In addition to writing and illustrating many of his own books, Gorey designed covers, illustrations, and endpapers for several other authors, including John Ciardi, Edward Lear, T.S. Eliot, H.G. Wells, and Henry James.

What Maisie Knew by Henry James cover design by Edward Gorey

“I hate Henry James more than anybody else in the world except for Picasso.”

I must find out the context for this quote.


Quoted text

“Life is intrinsically, well, boring and dangerous at the same time. At any given moment the floor may open up. Of course, it almost never does; that’s what makes it so boring.”

In the backyard of the house, there’s a taller-than-the-average-human metal sculpture of The Doubtful Guest, filled with ivy, complete with scarf and canvas shoes. (Also discovered via Rachel: “How to Tell if You’re in an Edward Gorey Book.” One indicator: “All your sneakers are high-tops. All your coats are fur.”)

Outdoor metal sculpture of The Doubtful Guest, filled with ivy, with red and white striped scarf and canvas shoes

The Edward Gorey House is definitely worth a visit if you happen to be in the area. Before we left, I bought a book of Gorey postcards, which I’ve been sending to friends and family. Let me know if you’d like one!


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