Monday, April 14, 2014

Getting 2014's Garden Started

This weekend was the first of warm spring (more like summer actually) weather and so we got all the gardening done.
I moved the Liatris forward next to the birdbath, and I move the Agastache to the front of the bed, next to the Azalea. I also moved a little sage that was smooshed against the border.
We double-teamed the mulching and got all beds around the whole house done in about an hour.
I also made a new wreath for the door. The insect one was driving me nuts with the bugs falling off all the time, and I didn't have a spring/summer backup... here is the 2014 spring/summer door decoration:

Here's a capture of the front beds:
The hosta is coming up in the side yard and the bleeding heart is growing well. Let's hope the weather stays cool enough for blooming.
I think that the urn is going to get completely replanted this year. Bye bye ivy!
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A view from the drive showing all the beds:
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Here is the front bed:
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and here is the side bed:
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Side bed by section (for future reference):
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Bed under the kitchen window...
The hosta is coming up under that mulch, and the Brunnera is looking good, but still not as good as THIS year!
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I guess I didn't actually cut the clematis to the ground!
It started blooming on old growth, and this is how high it has grown in about 3 days!
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I put some new parsley and a basil the hnerb bed, and I added another rosemary because I'm not sure the other one is coming back. This is a shame because I really want the rosemary to grow into a big bush.
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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Endless Winter, Spring Planning

No photos 'cause basically I'd be putting up pictures of white.

This has been a very snowy year.
I don't mind the snow. I like having a snow day.
What I don't like is when it's warm - teases - things start coming up, and then it snows.
I think my daffodils were about 3 inches above the ground, I think one is trying to bloom, and now they are all under white.

Can't wait for a warm day!
I am going to rake leaves out of the flower beds and put down a big bag of wildflower seeds my mom sent. I'm hoping the seeds sprout before the mulch arrives at the end of the month.

move some things
stake some things
take care of clematis
plant some pots!
and do I really want a hydrangea ?

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Unpredictable consistency

My sister-in-law is an anomaly. I don't think she intends to be, I think that in just being herself that's what happens.
She's a dichotomy between being the ultimate "girl" and the ultimate tomboy. She has no fear. When something interests her, she jumps in 100% and makes it happen. Over the years that I have known her, I've mostly watched her take on endeavors paired with my brother. But this year, she is taking on a solo mission that is blowing my mind.

In getting to know her first off as the family of her boyfriend, the conversation and discussion turned mostly to the story of her pre-natal and early childhood years. But once that has become mundane, and you talk to her about the things that she has done as an adult, you realize that the situation of her childhood is the boring part of her story. I could rattle off the list of things that she has done in her life, like that she went to college in Guam and worked for a glass-bottom-boat operation as the scuba-diving fish-wrangler, or that she modeled fashion in Asia; but those are just things that you do and anyone might end up doing were the circumstances right.
The things that amaze me about Mary are the stories like this:
She wanted something to do over a college break and decided to take an elephant (or was it camel, either way - not a car/train/plane) trip across Asia to India. And while on this journey, she volunteered at a leaper colony cleaning wounds.
After college she joined the Peace Corps and went to work in Zimbabwe before the Americans were evacuated.
I think about these things all the time because I have photos from her experiences on the walls of my living room.

Her uniqueness affects my family too. When we are together, she bridges the divide that sometimes comes up between the women who are interested in fashion, make-up, and accessories to those who are more interested in camping, being dirty, and going for a hike.
In fact, I think she is more brave than all of my brothers, and is always willing to jump in and take on any kind of challenge.

This year, she is embarking on a life-long goal - she is going to compete in the Mongol Derby.

This is a woman who has been living in Brookly/New York for the past 4 years, focusing her life on fashion and styling, and now she needs to get physically strong, and build up an athletic endurance.
She took our advice and is building up her strength to sit on the back of a horse and ride over 1,000 miles across Mongolia.
She found a horse facility near her home in Miami where she helps exercises horses every day, and she is making her way to being a contender.

As part of this initiative, the riders need to raise money for a charitable contribution to Mongolia.
Mary and my brother are very humble, and they don't like asking people for things; so they have been very quiet about this, relying on their good friends to add to the kitty.
But I think that Mary deserves more attention than that!
I think she should be helped to reach her goal and contribute to this life-changing event.

So, if you follow her TwistedLamb blog, if you know her through MartyParty, or just know her through me, please consider visiting her fund-raising page and making a contribution.

(A photo by her friend Elliott)

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Making a Mom Feel Special

This year my mom turned 70.

I really wanted her to feel special and loved.
I wanted the memory of the celebration to meaningful as well.
I didn't want us all to be somewhere so that the memory was "remember that time we all went to X?"
So, I figured that doing something in her new home town would be the best way to accomplish all goals.
At first I thought a dance party would be fun. My mom loves to dance. After consulting with her partner, we decided that had too much risk of failure.
We figured that a visit from her favorite kids doing her favorite activities would be the best celebration ever.

My mom spent most of her life teaching and mentoring people. She always talks fondly of the memories of people who have come through her life when they get in touch with her many years later and talk about the affect she had. I have always wanted to collect those memories for her, and I figured 70 was a good birthday to target. Early in the summer, she came to visit me, and was having a hard time with all of her online passwords. We sorted it out, and in the process I got access to her email address. I exported all of her contact's email addresses as part of the plan.
I sent an email to everyone on the list saying "you may be her doctor, or the bank, but if you are not, please would you send me a note about how you remember my mother."
I figured that in this busy life, if people forgot, I would just not talk about this "present".
I got SO many notes, that I had to go back to the craft store 3 times to get more pages and parts for the book.

This surprise was actually spoiled, because one of my mom's cousins forwarded my email to her saying "how exciting, happy birthday!"
- sigh.

The surprise visit celebration was nearly spoiled too.
A couple months before her birthday, my mom started talking to me and my brother about how much she wanted to spend her birthday with us.
Neither of us really knew how to lie to her, so I decided to throw her off by sending her a card inviting her to a surprise. I used an online card company, and made up a return address.

This didn't work either because my mom saw the black card cover, and threw it away... twice...
both times her partner fished it out of the trash. The second time, he told her to read it!
now she wanted to know if I sent it... I said: if someone sends you an invite to a surprise celebration, there kinda isn't any surprise if they admit to it!
she read this as - it wasn't me.
- sigh.

Then, my brother blew the surprise. He told her we were going to visit.
But he didn't tell her when.
She spent the weekend before her birthday expecting us to show up everywhere she went.
We didn't. She must have forgotten that the card included dates.

The plan was for me and my partner, my brother, and a very close friend of my mom's and her partner to all show up at the house at 5pm on Sunday.
Our flights from VA were scheduled to get us to AZ by 11am.
I figured this was time for my brother and I to do some last minute present shopping, check in to the hotel, and show up at her door.

Well - United Airlines was against this plan, and at 11pm the night before our (6am flight) we got a phone call telling us that our connection from Houston to Tucson was canceled. We'd been rescheduled on a flight to Phoenix with a connection to Tucson that got us in at 5:30pm.
All day we worked our way across the country (after getting up at 3pm, mind you), to finally arrive in Phoenix to the news that our flight was delayed an hour. Our new Tucson arrival time was 6:30pm.
Now I know what it means when people say "It's not a problem if it can be solved by money".
A trip to National and we were driving ourselves to my mom's.
Scheduled arrival time 4:30pm.

We all congregated outside of the house, my mom's partner going in and out to try and wake her up from a nap. We rang the doorbell, waiting, heard her telling him to get the door. So we just went into the bedroom!

This was the best way to make this surprise happen because she was not expecting it at all!

We all went into the living room and had tea and chats.

Since my mom knew we were coming, she had cooked up a storm! We ate every meal at the house because there was so much delicious food. The first night was meat and chicken Cornish Pasties, the second was curry and rice, and we all loved the Pasties so much we made them again on the last night with the lamb stew as filling.

During the first day we went up to Madera Canyon for a BBQ.
After buying a bunch of meat and some eggplant at the store, we caravaned to a cool high-altitude picnic spot.

The spread.


Celebrating with Family

The next day, I gave my mom the book. She was very moved. I think she has been collecting more memories since I gave it to her.

On the last day, we went to Tubac and had lunch, walked around, and acted silly.

Making more Pasties:

All in all, the whole surprise was a success! I'm grateful to the peeps who helped me make it happen, and give my mom some great memories in celebration of her 70th Birthday!

Cookies 2013

Since January of last year, I have been eating according to the principles of the primal/paleo way... it seemed hypocritical to bake my usual repertoire of cookie recipes this year.
So I skipped the cookie deluge and made some paleo treats.

I did break the dietary restrictions by baking an AMAZING fruitcake with a fellow ex-pat.

I got a tiny cake to taste the fruits of our labor.

so yummy!!

Cookies of the Past


2007, a catch-up retrospective






Monday, December 09, 2013

Winter Garden

We had a lot of fluffy snow and then freezing rain yesterday and last night. Here is the result...

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Saturday, October 12, 2013

Little Bits of Color

I love putting a little vase of whatever's blooming on the kitchen windowsill.

I can't believe I got this much color from the garden in the cold rainy October fall.

(Zinnia, lavender, chrysanthemums)

First Fall Cleanup

I took out some of the really dead plants last week, and the garden looks much "cleaner".
I rearranged the porch pots so that they will all get the fall rains.

I am hesitant to cut down the zinnia as I want them to self-seed for next year!
Also waiting for the buddleia to stop growing new shoots.
I think I've missed the window for fall transplanting - it went from 80 to 50 overnight; so I will move the liatris and agastache in the spring.

Mom, please note that the Mums came back!



Clematis is doing fine; Medusa is gone.

LOVE my kitchen-garden-herb-bed!!
(thanks Mom)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Travel no no!

Day of departure home from NY, the reality of the NY late night hits in that I wake up at 8:00. This puts my time consciousness off two hours.
My plan is to leave for JFK at noon, so that I have plenty of time for my 2:55 flight.
Didn't think anything of it when my brother suggested we go get breakfast. I thought it was 11:00.

We walked about 15 (NY) blocks to Bedford neighborhood and sat down to eat. I looked at the time:

We'd just ordered, the place was slow...
We calculated that I'd be ok.
Paid when the food came, ate fast, walked briskly back to the loft for my bags.
I decided to take the "45" minute subway to Airtrain because it's more predictable than traffic.
I was standing on the platform as a train pulled up at

OMG! This train has a kazillion stops, and it's so slow! My brother lets me know that there is no Pre at T2, and the shuttle between Pre at T4 and T2 is 15 mins.
I watch the stops between me and the train, and they go by slowly.
Eric looks up seat availability for alternate flights so I know I can get on the next one standby.

When we arrive at Jamaica, I get stuck trying to navigate me and my bag through the exit turnstile and get to the elevator as the doors close.
Breathe... Escalator or wait?
I wait... Good thing cause the Airtrain is 4 floors up.
I decide its time to run, and as I go, I'm praying that I have enough money on my metro card.
Make it through the turnstile and am waiting for train 2 at

While waiting, I figure I have no time for Pre, so I take out my 3-1-1 and pack away my belt. Everything is ready for security. I'm at the mercy of TSA, and the people in the line!

2:35 exit the train, run to the terminal, sprint up the stairs and to the security line.
I figure "preferred" is my best bet and I'm standing behind 10 people ... I don't know what I look like, but the guy in front of me says "are you ok?" I realize I'm shaking. I tell him my flight is at 2:55, he says go ahead. I express doubt, and he starts telling everyone in front of me that I need to go!
They let me through, the nice people in the scanner line let me through, it's a small terminal and I figure I'm going to the same gate I used at arrival, and I get there at

The gate team is having some issues getting it straight with issuing standby tix, boarding multiple planes through the same point, and I just cut through and say "where are you for boarding Dulles?" More confusion and someone says "we close the gate 10mins before departure time"; I say "just let me through!"
I run down the jetway, to the covered walkway that has signs and separate tunnels for each of the CJ's, and of course, Dulles is the last one!
There is a rope across. I see the plane stairs still down, I wave at the ground crew, and they let me come by. I give them my bag, board, and am seated at

There were two ladies boarding behind me complaining that they had been waiting at the gate for 2 hours and had not heard the boarding announcement. 

So, 1 hour for the train from stepping on to stepping off.
10 mins to get from train to gate!

I've never cut it that close before, and if I'd missed the plane - it would have been 100% my fault.