Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Volunteer Cheer

Volunteerism is good. Everybody says so!

Even the cats are infected with it. Tabitha has volunteered to keep our love seat nice and warm for us, in case we'd like to use it when she's done.

Bosewichte, similarly, has volunteered to share our bed to add some warmth and softness to our evenings. He doesn't seem to notice that it's still over 80 degrees at night!

These tomato plant volunteers are popping up everywhere in this hot weather. Even though I've pulled several from my zinnia beds, they keep coming up.

It seems like I find more of them every day! At the beginning of the wave, I plowed up a patch of ground in a dusty back corner and replanted 24 volunteers. But they keep coming!

I've got lettuce coming up everywhere, too!

Queen Anne's Lace is definitely a volunteer in the yard, but I let it grow in some places. I love how beautiful it is...

...and how it attracts all sorts of interesting butterflies and insects, like this small black beetle.

In particular I let them grow by my lilies and achillea. I think they all go together nicely!

I've got many other things growing in that same patch. Many years ago, a gardening acquaintance volunteered to give me several clippings from her yard. I planted all sorts of things and happily, they come back every year, like this nice patch of false dragonhead.

These double lilies are from her yard, which I love because they're beautiful...

...and because they shelter all sorts of interesting insects!

A small female squirrel volunteered her services while I was working at my outdoor potting bench.

She was very interested in my work.

She came closer and closer...

...and closer...

...until she touched my foot before darting away! It reminded me of the Native American custom of "counting coup", where a warrior comes up stealthily behind an enemy and touches him with a stick or his hand before fleeing without having inflicted injury. It was simply a show of bravery. And this was one brave squirrel!

Volunteerism isn't restricted to the garden (and my helpful cats). A month or so ago, I found an abandoned robin's nest in wonderful shape. To kill any mites or parasites, I placed it in a plastic bag and put it in the freezer for three weeks. Then, I thawed it out and doused it several times in Lysol.

Once it was definitely parasite-free, I filled it with hand-painted ceramic eggs...

...and placed it in a .99 candy dish from Goodwill. This normally isn't my style, but I needed another accent for the upstairs bedroom I was decorating and this fit in nicely. It sat in the darkened room for a week before I noticed...the volunteer.

Despite 3 weeks in the freezer and several Lysol baths, and a near-dark environment...my nest sprouted.

A tiny seedling grew out from between the twigs. It was unbelievable! It looked a bit like a morning glory seedling to me. It worked so hard to live that I almost dug out the root to replant it, but I'm forever pulling up morning glory seedlings and I'd never forgive myself for actually planting one in a moment of weakness. But it really was an amazing sight.

Besides knitting a few top-secret projects, I've been playing with my rubber stamps. Since Todd is nearing the end of his dissertation days, I made him an Advent-like calendar that counted down the days until the dissertation was done, complete with the silly, "The tassel is worth the hassle" slogan at the top.

Each day is a card that is opened...

...to reveal an inspirational quote.

Todd is working so hard and I'm incredibly proud of him!

I got in some new banner rubber stamps so I used one to make a card for my nephew's birthday. It was really fun! I am definitely a rubber stamp addict.

Yesterday was the Fourth of July, and we didn't have anything special planned because of Todd's dissertation push. I couldn't let it go by without some kind of culinary acknowledgement, though! I found a recipe that was just perfect for what I wanted - a little sweet treat that could easily be thrown together with things that were already in the pantry. Cupcakes for two! A sweet bite at the end of our all-American cheeseburger meal. :) Best of all...everything is made in one bowl.

Cupcakes For Two
From "How Sweet It Is"

1 egg white
2 tablespoons white sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup white flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
1 1/2 tablespoons milk

Frosting (my own basic recipe)
1 - 2 ounces of neufchatel cheese, softened
1 tablespoon butter, softened
3 - 4 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together egg white and sugar. Stir in your butter and vanilla and combine. Then add your flour, baking powder, and salt and mix together. Finally, add milk and stir until smooth. This mixture should fill 2 greased cupcake receptacles in your tin. Bake for 10 - 15 minutes. Cool.

This makes two delicious cupcakes!

To frost, beat all ingredients together. It's really simple! I made a mistake with yesterday's batch...I was in a hurry so I added some milk to speed up the process. Big mistake. It was definitely too runny. I didn't really mind, but when I tried adding food coloring (how much red do you have to add before your icing isn't pink?!?) and actually icing the cupcakes, I had to admit that it was a true decorating failure and not much like the red, white, and blue cupcakes I'd imagined.

It doesn't matter...they were still delicious!

In the name of...research...I made a second batch and gave the icing more time to come together without milk. It was perfect!

I hope you try it the next time you want a sweet nibble. Have a great week!


  1. It reminds me of cupcake wars - a show I love ;)

  2. They look like they've been in a war zone!!