Monday, June 7, 2010

Early Summer Spoils: Kittens! Garden! Books! And a Contest!

This weekend really kicked off summer for me and I had a lot of fun, so I thought I'd share my adventures on the blog.

It started with a rare Thursday night off. (I usually work my night job, bartending at the Beacon Pub on Thursdays.) I went over to see my friend Amber who I haven't hung out with in wayyyyy too long and she was fostered 7 kittens for PAWS (an amazing animal shelter in Chicago). Yeah, um total adorableness. Here is Amber with four of the kittens:

And several other kitten shots (all from my phone so excuse the quality):

I really really want one. My husband and I decided the next cat we get will be pure black and named Danzig (to go in the tradition of naming cats after punk rock musicians, we have Sid named for Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols and Lars named for Lars Frederiksen of Rancid). And there was definitely a potential Danzig there, but with lots of kitty health problems lately, we can't afford to take on another cat. It was nice to spend a few hours playing with them though!

On Friday morning, I got up to work in my garden. My mom and I had done a lot of work in it last Sunday, but it was so hot, we needed to stop. I finished up the weeding, planted the cucumber seeds by the trellis my husband built, and planted a few more seeds. My garden is really starting to look gorgeous this year. Last year, it suffered from total neglect because I was juggling a book release and wedding plans. Though I plan to be very busy writing this summer, I also plan to pay much better attention to my garden and use it as stress relief. I'm not a natural green thumb by any means, but my mom, who no longer has a garden because she lives in a condo, comes to help me out and it's an activity we enjoy immensely. I'm trying to grow a lot more veggies this year.

Here is the front garden, AKA the troubled garden. It is completely overrun with weeds and the sun beats down on it so hard that it hard to grow anything there. My lilies are perennials that always look amazing, but when they die, things go downhill. We planted sunflower seeds this year in hopes that they will keep it looking pretty. An added bonus this year, my strawberry plant produced a handful of strawberries! Very exciting! (And just click on the photos to see them bigger.)

Here is one of two gardens on the side of my house. It's L-shaped and is split between vegetables and flowers (important for cross-pollination for the veggies I've learned). This used to be all grass, but I hate grass (completely unnatural in Illinois and a waste of resources to try to maintain) so I tore it out a couple years ago and have been slowly cultivating it.

This end of it has the cucumber trellis that my husband built and I’ve also planted green bean seeds back there behind all of the prairie plants. Also mixed in there is an eggplant plant. In the front left corner you can see where the Kale is beginning to sprout.

Here is the other half of the garden, where I’ve got tomatoes, bell peppers, broccoli, lettuce (which will soon be replaced with zucchini) and carrots planted, along with at the top, a Hosta that was transplanted from the house I grew up in.

My third garden is mainly an herb garden with a couple of lilies, Rue, some coneflowers and I keep planting a poppy but it never seems to work out. *sigh* I also grow hot peppers in this garden because hubby and I love spicy food. We’ve got jalapenos going this year. My mint and chives are going crazy and I’ve also got a good crop of thyme and parsley. I just planted basil and some dill, though I’m not sure that dill plant is going to survive, so I may need to get a new one. And I’m still planning to get oregano and rosemary. I’ve also got a row of Brussels sprouts going.

So as you can see, I cram as much as possible into my three little gardens. And, as much as I love my townhouse, I do dream of the day we can afford a house with a proper (large!) backyard so I can do more gardening.

In the meantime, I like to get the fresh produce I can’t grow from farmer’s markets in the summer. My town hasn’t had its own farmer’s market in a few years, but one finally opened on Friday afternoons this year. In fact, it kicked off this weekend and I went crazy buying stuff there. I got some fresh strawberries and a lot of cool specialty goods like locally made hot sauce and spicy organic Bloody Mary mix, which I already made good use of on Sunday afternoon.

Friday after I visited the farmer’s market, my husband and I headed over to SummerFest, which is a big street festival in the center of our town that falls on the first weekend in June. They block of the street, let local merchants sell their wares and let those of us over 21 drink in the street. There is something about drinking in the street that greatly appeals to me, so I enjoyed a glass (well, plastic cup) of wine in the street and my husband played carnival games and won me a stuffed turtle:

We didn’t stay out too late because the next day I planned to volunteer at the local library’s summer reading kick off event. I worked the sundae bar and I have to say, serving ice cream to kids, just as demanding though perhaps more fun than serving booze to grown-ups at my night job. I was so jealous of the kids signing up for their summer reading challenge though. I *loved* doing that as a kid. I did it every year through junior high. I miss having an entire summer off to do nothing but read books. My best friend and I were talking about it later that afternoon, saying how silly it was that half through the summer we’d always complain that we were bored. What I wouldn’t give to go back in time and have one of those summers this summer, just going to the pool and reading all day every day…. Especially seeing as I came home from the library to two boxes worth of books that I’d sent myself from BEA!

With all of this good stuff to read plus six books I’ve recently checked out of the library, I need an entire summer to read!

Of course, I don’t have that. Not at all. In fact this is probably going to be my hardest working writing summer since I finished the first draft of I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone back in 2005.

My weekend--and potentially the most carefree time of my summer--wound down yesterday, which I spent at Constructor, a local arts and crafts fair that I love to hit every year in search of funky clothes, accessories, and other things for my home (I held back and just got one necklace and one t-shirt this year). Then it was a very personal afternoon with friends, remembering another friend who passed away two years ago, as yesterday was his birthday. We paid fitting tribute. He continues to inspire me every day even though he is gone.

I also had a fun night actually getting to watch the Blackhawks game in the Beacon beer garden instead of having to bartend inside, which I will be doing on Wednesday, when hopefully we will get to see them win the Stanley Cup!

This morning started out with a jog through Forest Home Cemetery near my house. I know it's a strange place to go jogging, but it is peaceful and it's an old cemetery full of so many interesting things to look at, so it inspires me... and I needed inspiration because now it's time to get back to work.

I’m working on two projects this summer, a YA Urban Fantasy, which I talked a bit about (along with my take on paranormals in general) on the MTV Books blog last week here, and a women's fiction novel (the bartender book you may have heard me reference here and on twitter). The bartender book is my main focus this month. My agent read and loved the first hundred pages of it, but of course she had suggestions (and very wise ones) and my critique partner Vanessa had good notes. So, I'll be revising that over the next couple of weeks before I head to ALA.

I may not be blogging very often and I apologize for that but it is a *good* thing. I'm writing books, which is the main part of my job and will hopefully be much more fun to read than my blogs... even when I post kitten pictures. I promise to update when I can though and at least share garden pictures and any small summer adventures I do have. And I do plan to keep the Women Who Rock Wednesday interviews going. (Be sure to check out Tara Kelly's. That contest will be running until 6/15).

Speaking of contests, I now have an extra copy of Melissa Marr's Radiant Shadows (because I had a copy, but wanted a *signed* copy at BEA, so now my original unsigned copy is just laying around), so I'm going to give that to one lucky commentor along with some other swag and a signed copy of your choice of one of my books (IWBYJR or Ballads).

To enter, just leave a comment, but to gain bonus entries, let's help out a good cause, okay?

Venus Zine (one of my favorite magazines ever) is selling this hot poster of Jack White to benefit victims of the Nashville flooding.
So tweet the link to that and you'll get an extra entry.
Buy the poster and you'll get +5.
Do any other blogging/tweeting/linking to benefits for Nashville or for the Gulf Coast's struggle with that horrific oil spill and you'll get an extra entry.
+5 for proof of donation or purchases that benefit either Nashville or the Gulf Coast.

Due to shipping costs, this is going to have to be for US shipping addresses only. And be sure to leave a way that I can contact you if you win.

This contest will run until June 15 as well and I will announce the winner on June 16th. So yeah, help Nashville and the Gulf and get some summer reading. Sound like fun? Go to it.

And let me know how your weekend was and what you are looking forward to this summer!


Anonymous said...

My husband and I always wanted to get cats named after each of The Ramones! Haha!


throuthehaze said...

Cute kittens!!

BrittLit said...

ooooo YA Urban Fantasy from Stephanie Kuehnert.. now I'm intrigued. Yes please! I love that second gravestone picture.

Erika Lynn said...

Very cute kittens and congrats on your Blackhawks!

I also tweeted about the poster


Stephanie Kuehnert said...

Marie-- love the Ramones kitty idea! throuthehaze, aren't they? don't know how she'll give them up.

BrittLit- Glad you are intrigued. That one has been put on the side right now, but I'll be back to it in July. And I love that gravestone too!

Erika, thanks for entering the contest and the congrats on my Hawks!

Jane said...

The kittens are adorable. :) So are your gardens... I wish I had the willpower to garden!

Stephanie Kuehnert said...

Thanks Jane. My garden is often a mess bc I barely have time for it but I love doing it, so I force myself to do as much as I can.