Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Sprouts and Thinning, Planting Petunias Week 4

I found this in our garden--Orchid/Iris Lady Beatrix Stanley.  They pop up early, even before crocuses but never this early.  And it is the beautiful blue in the photo.  I might not have blue petunias this year (they still aren't popping up), but these are such a dramatic harbinger of spring.

Our cat London is keeping me company while I plant.  Although she often gets into trouble, she doesn't dig in the dirt or bother seedlings I start in the kitchen.  Maybe that's because I plant grass for her and her sister Ebbie and it's all theirs.

This is thinning week.  I really hate pulling out those baby shoots.  I use a tweezers to facilitate the process.  In the peat pots I might leave two shoots for a little while if they're far enough a part.  As you can see, the root is already over an inch.  If I don't thin them, they will get tangled and stunt growth.

The first seeds I planted are growing much faster than last year.  I lowered the grow light and in only a month, a few have four leaves.  I water every 24-48 hours, adding water to the pan the peat pots sit in and then spritzing the top.  I'm thinking about planting a few more petunias since they are coming up this fast.  I'd like mature plants to add to patio containers in May.

Hopefully this week I will ready a second grow light in preparation for planting tomatoes.

Have a great week and happy planting!

Karen Rose Smith

2012 Karen Rose Smith


Thursday, February 23, 2012


Each week, my blogs will be about an experiment in gardening.  I'm just a writer who likes to watch plants grow into beautiful flowers and luscious vegetables.  My watering can can make me smile as does everything about this hobby.  That's why I do it, along with the reasons I mentioned last week.  Requirements for taking care of everything I grow will become more arduous as the season progresses.  For the next four-five months, the process will become more time-consuming.

Let's talk a little about soil.  When I plant seeds, I use a seed-starting mix and a Miracle-Gro potting mix.  I combine the two for non-edible plants in the bottom third of the pots or trays.  For the tomatoes and other vegetables, I use all organic.   Then I shovel in a layer of the seed-starting mix.  I moisten these two layers.  After I deposit one or two seeds in each pot or scatter them in the tray, I cover them with a thin layer of the fine soil.  Be careful when using any of these soils.  If they are dry, they puff up into your eyes.  I wear glasses or goggles to prevent that from happening.

In the past, I've planted in individual peat pots.  This year, in attempting to grow petunias, an article I read suggested I scatter seeds in a tray instead.  Since last year's process with 2 1/4 x 2 1/4 sized pots worked well, I wasn't ready to give them up.  And I'm glad I didn't.  When petunias start to sprout, they are very tender and minuscule.  They really have to be babied along.  I found setting peat pots in a tray, watering from the bottom and then spraying the top gently was the most effective growing method, so I didn't kill those tender shoots.  In a tray, that method isn't possible.  I plant one to two seeds per pot and then thin by leaving the heartiest sprout.  I can already tell I'm going to lose many more sprouts to thinning with the tray method.  I'd rather dump peat pots that don't produce into the fertilizer pile, rather than destroying all those young plants.  Just personal preference.  I can also see that watering those trays could be detrimental to the plants.  More on that as weeks progress.

As for watering...  My trays sit on a heated plant pad under grow lights.  I check them every morning.  If they need water for their ten-twelve hours under the light, I water.  But then I let the soil dry before the next watering.  This keeps down mold and fruit flies.

I mark my peat pots and trays with colorful hors d'oeuvres toothpicks.  That helps me sort colors.  This year I planted Double Purple Pirouette, Merlin Blue Moon Hybrid and Prism Sunshine petunias.  The purple and yellow varieties are popping up (pictures below).  Not one blue petunia has peeked out of the soil.  I have a blue garden and blue flowers can be difficult to grow!  Either that's also true with the blue petunias or...they just need more time.  I won't give up yet.  We'll see what happens until next week! Has anyone out there had luck growing blue petunias or petunias in general?

© 2012 Karen Rose Smith

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Sunday, February 12, 2012


Valentine's Day has always been special to me. When I was a pre-teen, my dad began remembering me as well as my mother on the hearts and flowers day. He would send her a Valentine's Day flower arrangement and send me a junior version. He remembered us both with cards. One year he gave us both gold heart pendants.

I'm not sure where my dad's appreciation of the holiday originated. He came from a family of ten children and extras were scarce. He was not an outwardly affectionate man or book-learning educated. He quit school after eighth grade to work. But he was a woodworking artist and later in life took up acrylic and watercolor painting. He was always thoughtful of my mother. He might bring home a piece of pottery she'd like or a swing for two for the patio for their anniversary. My dad was a generous man with a huge heart. He didn't express his feelings with words but he showed the people he loved that he cared with actions.

When I met my husband, I expected Valentine's Day to be special and it always has been. College sweethearts, we've been married for forty years. After our son was born, I suffered from post-partum depression, though then it wasn't recognized as such. My husband began a tradition then that has lasted to this day. The seven days before Valentine's Day he leaves me notes, cards or tokens of his love. After that first year, I did the same. Among those tokens this year--kitty-themed folders for my long-hand manuscript pages and notes, a solar hummingbird plant stick for my garden.

Like many women, I know Valentine's Day isn't about chocolates, flowers or jewelry. It's about an expression of love from father to daughter, mother to son, husband to wife. It's about realizing how precious each moment is with anyone you love and showing appreciation for them with an extra "I love you," a few more hugs, or a note left on a napkin with a "thinking of you" sentiment.

Valentine's Day is a day to celebrate the best part of ourselves we can give to those we love.

What did you appreciate most as an expression of love?

Do you have a special Valentine's Day tradition?

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Karen Rose Smith copyright 2012

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


Do you like winter?

Living in Pennsylvania I'm used to four seasons. There are plenty of reasons to like them all. As a writer, I take photographs as well as notes on each one--the lilacs in spring, the zinnias in summer, the orange maple leaves in the fall, the blue of the spruce in winter. I don't just take notes where I live but where I visit, too.  Great research. On my IPAD I list the location of the book I'm working on so I can follow the weather there while I write. That gives a feeling of accuracy as well as immediacy.

When people say they miss the seasons when they visit California or Florida, I think what they might miss most is the extremes of winter.  It's the most dramatic season. This year in my area we had snow on Halloween and haven't had a measurable downfall since! This is so unusual, we are ready for snow.

I was with friends when we started the discussion on why we like to get snowed in.

We light the fireplace.
We talk to each other.
Schools are closed. (Teachers as well as students voted for this one!)
We can go sledding.
We can go into work later.
We do crafts.
We read.
There is silence outside.
We watch the birds at the feeders.
We get out grandma's afghans.
We bake bread.
We cook favorite food.
We have pancakes for supper.
We listen to music.
We're together.

I think that last reason says it all. What do you like most about being snowed in?

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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Karen Rose Smith Writes Mysteries, too!

Bringing a unique spark to every book I write has been my goal since I penned my first novel.  I do that by exploring emotional issues, occupations and settings that I love the most.  The many facets of relationships fascinate me.  Of course, in a romance the main focus is on the couple.  Yet I usually include family and friend subplots in my books because they are part of everyday life.  Now I'm going to be focusing on family and friend relationships and how they mix with...murder!

I'm terrifically pleased to announce that I've sold a three-book cozy mystery series to Kensington Books.  The series idea came to me more easily than anything I've written in a long while.  I wrote up a blurb first, then an outline and finally chapters.  Writing was such fun as I used favorite elements from my personal background.  My maternal grandparents were immigrants from Italy and came to the United States in their late teens.  My grandmother was sixteen and my grandfather eighteen when they married in Pennsylvania.  My paternal grandparents emigrated, too.  So it was only natural for me to create a sleuth (Caprice De Luca) with a large Italian family, including a Nana who gives her advice.  And they all live in a fictional town between York and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

I'll be keeping most of the elements of the series under my proverbial writer's hat until closer to release time.  But I know my readers will be interested in the theme of the series.  My sleuth is a home-stager and the first book title--KNIFE-EDGED.

Writing a mystery is very different from writing a romance.  I practiced with a novella and with elements I inserted into the backlist books that I indie-published last year.  I think my subconscious knew I was headed this way.  The process of plotting a mystery came so naturally there was no doubt in my mind as I began writing the book.

I'm so excited about this new road I'm taking.  I consider it diversification.  I'm not leaving behind romance or women's fiction to write mysteries.  I'm writing all.  A friend asked me how this will affect my "brand."  Romance and women's fiction readers will hear my voice in my cozies.  Family relationships as well as a little romance will still be the focus of my novels.  We're living in a new publishing world and I hope my readers will gather 'round to enjoy more than one genre.

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Monday, February 6, 2012

Yorkshire Pudding from Guest Blogger Catherine Johnson

From blogging friend Catherine Johnson

Yorkshire puddings were a huge Sunday lunch tradition when I was growing up in Yorkshire. Gravy from the stock of the beef mixed with good old Bisto granules. Most of the time we had the Yorkshire puddings first like a starter and then the main, but the odd time we'd have one of two small ones mixed on the dinner plate. The point back after the wary was to fill you up on Yorkshire puddings first because there wasn't much of anything else after. They are cheap to make and absolutely delicious. I'd love to say easy to make but you have to make sure the old is SO hot when you pour the batter in the trays. I've seen/made bad Yorkshire puddings. (not nice.)  Anyway here's a website I found with the recipe and all about Yorkshire puds. From one pud to another.;)
Yorkshire Pudding

Sunday, February 5, 2012


I love the holidays. Over Christmas we see our son who lives across the country more than at any other time during the year.  In those days between Christmas and New Year's Day, we also visit with family and entertain friends who we don't see often enough. But as soon as the holidays are a warm memory, the idea of tax preparation rears its head.  That memory isn't warm--it's tedious!  January is that month of the year when the previous year has to be studied, analyzed, and broken down into manageable bits. Each number has to make sense and match another in a checkbook, on a payment stub or on a charge statement.

I could dread tax preparation.  Let's skip over the obvious. We have to pay in money we don't want to pay.  (Though I do think of everything our taxes go to pay and try to keep an elevated opinion of those on better days.) During this January excavation into receipts, there are so many other things I'd rather be doing--writing, blogging, tweeting! However, over the years I've come to accept the fact that tax preparation is a chore like raking leaves, cutting the grass, preparing a meal, doing car maintenance.  I've found if I approach it with a positive attitude, I can learn from it. I can see patterns and trends in my expenses and spending.  If  I look hard enough and think the scope of the whole procedure through, I definitely see changes I need to make.  Most of all, I can let everything I've learned lead to me choose a course that will take me forward instead of backward.

If I haven't made financial new year's resolutions before gathering all the paperwork, I will after it's compiled.

So tell me.  How do you approach doing taxes? Do you consider the experience positive or negative?

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