Friday, May 31, 2013

I Won't Be Saying, "Thank You."

If you've been with me since this blog began, and I realize I've been blogging for 5 years now, you are aware that, in October of 2009, 5th 3rd bank botched a major deposit which sent my finances into a tailspin. I lived off the kindness of friends for years and have, only this year, seen a glimmer of light at the end of a very long and very dark tunnel. I think, at times, I could be forgiven for thinking life was completely against me, that every time I thought I saw that glimmer of light, it turned out to be the reflection of the eyes of yet another of life's rats, there to gnaw on what little hope I had amassed. It is this reality, more than anything else, that caused me to make a conscious choice to, last year, embrace gratitude in whatever form it took, from sunlight in the morning to dinner with a friend to an unexpected Target gift card. I truly believe forcing myself to change my approach and outlook on life has eased my stress level.

Pam and Patt remind me, sometimes with every conversation, of how far I have come and how deep was the hole into which I fell. The recent car problems at the end of April would have been far, far more of an issue had they happened 3 years ago. I would probably be out of a job because I need a car to do my job and I wouldn't have had the funds to repair it 3 years ago. I felt snakebit, to be sure, but I could handle the stress and get back on my feet much faster now than I ever could have post-2009.

My mechanic informed me I needed four new tires. The travel for work that I had to do would pay for those until that had to go for car repairs. (sigh) I can save. I have trained myself to do it. I could buy 2 this month and then 2 next month. I think of my savings as my "water heater fund". If I have enough saved to pay cash for a new water heater, I am good. I changed "water heater" to "Jeep tires", but the idea was still the same.

In the middle of the month, I received quite a surprise from 5th 3rd. Without any word, I received a check from them. There was no note or memo or cover letter, just a line that said, "Send check to customer." Now, I have not been a customer of theirs since June of 2010 and I wouldn't recommend them under any circumstances, so this line caused me some puzzlement. I also refuse to talk to them anymore because the person I call never knows what anyone before him or her has said to me and I get promised things they never deliver. So, I was not about to call them and inquire after the reason I received this money.

I delved back into my folder of 5th 3rd's misdeeds and, to the penny, the check was exactly how much money they charged me in overdraft fees and which they removed from my savings account when they were told not to touch my savings at the time of the check deposit problem; to the penny. Is this an admission that they were wrong? I'm still waiting for an apology and I probably shouldn't hold my breath for one. Institutions such as these never admit wrong doing, even if someone, like me, has the paperwork to prove they were wrong.

I deposited the check and waited for it to bounce. It didn't. I saved 30% of it and then used part of it to pay off some bills, like the bills for my physical therapy. The big thing was that now I could get new tires, four of them.

The difference in the drive and the ride is palpable. I don't remember when I bought the four which were replaced. They provided me with great wear and I certainly got my money's worth from them. So, this unexpected infusion of cash was extremely welcome. I can look at taking a vacation this summer to visit Carole in Virginia.

While I am grateful for this, I won't be saying, "Thank you" to 5th 3rd, however. Maybe things would have fallen apart anyway. I discovered that I wasn't doing some financial things right, but the effect would have been less of a catastrophe than it was because they screwed up. I still can't say for sure that I see the end of the tunnel, but I have 4 new tires on the Jeep to move forward toward that light.

Beverage:  Seltzer Water


Thursday, May 30, 2013

An Unexpected Masterpiece

If you've read this blog for any length of time, you know about the boxes of awesome that Meredith periodically sends me. I'll get an email or a whisper where the sum total of the comment is, "Bwahahahahaha." I know, with that simple word, that she's been shopping again and there is a box winging its way to me.

So when I got a Facebook message from a member of my World of Warcraft guild with this image and a note, "Mystery envelope. What's in it and where is it going?", I knew Lisa was up to something.

The envelope arrived on Tuesday. To say it is a masterpiece is an understatement. Now, if you are unfamiliar with World of Warcraft, these images won't mean anything to you.

C'Thun, a murloc, a Anubishan warrior, a demon, an elemental, a firehawk, an imp, a pumpkin pet and Onyxia.

What you need to be impressed with, even if you don't know what all these characters are is the quality of the art work. Lisa's husband, Chris, is an accomplished artist. I can't really afford his pieces so I have admired them from afar. To see all of these creatures, denizens I know so well, on a bag for me was astonishing, to say the least. I did the best I could to separate the bag into one piece so I have the whole thing. I have to frame this. I just don't know how. It's a truly amazing piece of work. Lisa said the gal at the post office was quite impressed too and put the postage stickers in the upper right so they didn't cover the art.

So, what, you are wondering, would be contained in such an envelope? Look!

I got a pair of chopsticks and a couple of gnomes. I have to have Asian food this weekend to use the chopsticks. And the gnomes? Well, I knew exactly where they had to go.

Talk about the perfect adornment. I'm going to enjoy having gnomes watch over the deck this summer. Thank you, Lisa and Chris. What a fun and totally unexpected gift.

Beverage:  English Breakfast tea


So You Don't Have To

Kettle-style potato chips are all the rage and have been for some time. I am a bit late to the dance of trying these, I admit. I tried them when they first came out and, perhaps it was the ones we tried first, but I wasn't real excited by them. I think they had a sugar/salt flavor to them.

Well, Arby's has decided to add kettle chips to their offerings. Usually, I get their small 4 pack of mozzarella sticks, but I thought these might be less calories and certainly less fat.

Blarg. Perhaps it's me. I did not like these at all. Usually, I'll finish something I'm not real fond of because I shelled out the money for it, but I couldn't. They were served hot and were still warm by the time I got them back to the office. That was a plus for flavor to start. When they cooled off to room temperature, I thought they were downright nasty. Again, this might be me.

The smaller ones were crisp, but the larger ones were soggy in the middle. There was a very distinctive vinegar taste to them. Vinegar has its place. I don't care for the mayonnaise covered cole slaw but the sugar vinegar kind, yes please. (My mom has a great recipe for that style. It does take 24 hours to make, however.) On my chips, I was not at all sold. I think I would have preferred the chips plain, with no additional flavor adornment than what I felt was the overpowering taste of vinegar.

You do get a lot for the price, much more than a comparably priced container of fries. That is a plus. But I think you really have to like this style of chip to find these attractive. I also do have to commend Arby's for looking at something different on their menu. Choice, in the fast food world, is a good thing.

Beverage:  English Breakfast tea


For Vacation

It was time to empty the Lucky Cat over the weekend. This is the change I was carrying around in the wallet. The quarters never go into the Lucky Cat because they can't get out the other end without major help. (Yes, I'm aware of the image I have just implanted in your mind. *snicker*) When the nickles, dimes and pennies one is trying to stick into the bank fall back out due to lack of space, it's time to empty the bank.

I last emptied the cat a little over a year ago. I don't carry much in the way of cash. Most every place takes debit cards now so it's easier to whip out the debit than to carry cash. This is particularly true when expense checks and my salary are automatically deposited into my account. I remember the days when dad would cash his check and bring home a wad of bills for mom. In fact, I can remember when dad would simply endorse the back of the check and mom would take it to the bank. Everyone knows everyone else in a small town so her depositing his check and getting cash back was nothing out of the ordinary. I wonder if you can still do that in a small town.

Mom would take the cash and pull out a bunch of envelopes. On these envelopes were written all of the items for which we would need money during the course of a month. She put a set amount into each envelope and that envelope went into a box. Then, when it came time for lunch money for school, for instance, she'd pull out the appropriate envelope and send the amount with us to school. If there was an emergency, she'd do some math and pull money out across the board, making notes on the front of the envelope. Once the envelope front was covered with notes, dates and amounts, a new envelope was procured and the old one was saved until taxes had been done. Perhaps there were easier ways of budgeting but this worked for mom.

I shook out all the change inside the Lucky Cat and dropped it into the larger bank where I save my coins.

A year ago, I mentioned how I was within an inch of the top and would, possibly, need to take this in for counting. I think this added another half inch of coinage to the bank. It's getting heavy. I'm tempted to see just how much I've managed to save. When you don't walk around with bills in your wallet, accumulating change is much harder to do.

I thought about mom's budget system. There's probably close to $100 in change here. I could use that to start my own envelope system. A bit here for the gas bill. A bit here for groceries. A bit in this envelope for gas. A year ago, I contemplated using the debit card just for gas and groceries. I don't remember how I did. Did I actually follow through with that?

I'm going to keep dropping change into the Lucky Cat and use all of this for a vacation to see Carole this year. Circumstances prevented me from going anywhere last year. I miss my daughter and I want to see how she's doing. I think this is a good use of a long saved amount.

Beverage:  English Breakfast tea


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Can We Go Out and Play?

I just don't remember a spring as weird as this one. It was 88 on the 22nd. In fact, it was so humid in the house, I put on the air conditioning unit for the first time, just to remove some of the humidity. On the 24th, it was 42 with freeze warnings for low lying areas away from Lake Michigan. Freeze warnings. I put the heat back on in the evening of the 24th because, when I came home from work, it was 65 in the house. That's chilly.

I remember the cold, rainy, gray day when my youngest brother married his first wife. It was a Memorial Day weekend many years ago. Carole and I were headed back to the hotel at 10 p.m. from the reception. "Look mom!" she pointed excitedly. "Is that snow?" We stopped the car and got out to look. Indeed it was. The drizzle of a 45 degree day had turned into the snow showers of a 30 degree night. Hence, there is precedence for snow this late in May. Heck you might have heard about northern New York State getting 3 feet of snow over this past Memorial Day.

Thirty-five degrees at night is not good for fledgling peppers, however.

I brought them in the house on Friday and they sat by the back door where they could get sunshine all weekend. They went back out on Monday, when it finally warmed up to the low 70's. I lost another one of my seedlings but the two from the nursery are fine. They probably would have weathered the lows in the thirties but why take the chance. I want fresh peppers this summer.

Still. I couldn't help anthropomorphize a bit about my peppers looking out the window at the other flowers on the deck. This might have been for their own good and survival, but it sure looked like they wanted to go back outside.

I noticed last night, the chocolate pepper has a blossom on it already.

Beverage:  Lady Gray tea



One thing about living alone, when something breaks, you can either fix it yourself or hire someone to fix it. I lack handy man skills, unlike my sister who can size up a repair, determine what's necessary and make that repair on her own. I think I have a fear of screwing up the repair worse than it is already so I don't bother. But there are times when the cost of having someone do the repair versus what it would cost you to do it, once you got over your fear, makes at least attempting it plausible.

Years ago, Carole gave me a new shower head. I don't even know how long ago it was, that's how long ago it was. I bought a very interesting over the shower caddy that was metal painted with an aqua color that matched the tiles of the shower. Over the years, the paint has cracked and flaked so the underlying metal had started to rust. In the past year, it also wouldn't stay on top of the shower head, sliding down at the most inopportune times. In the past 6 months, in fact, it was so wobbly, the only thing I kept on it was a wash cloth, the toilet brush and a bar of soap. Putting even a mostly consumed container of shampoo would cause the thing to slide forward.

A week ago, that sliding forward broke the ring that held the shower head onto the pipe. Water went everywhere. I managed to finish my shower and attempted to put the head back on but it was clear that the head was broken beyond repair. My fear of home repair rose. Can I do this? Can I not do this? Why spend $250 to have a plumber come out for a repair that will take me 15 minutes? Because I'm scared that I'll foul it up. No no. I can do this. (Yes, this is a legitimate conversation. The cats are quite used to me talking to myself.)

Off to Bed, Bath and Beyond to find a shower head and a new over the shower caddy. The choices were nearly endless. The shower head was the easiest to select. I chose the shower caddy because it has a rubber piece, not visible, that goes over the shower pipe and provides more stability to keep the caddy in place. It also comes with two suction cups to adhere the caddy to the wall. I've never, ever found those useful. They went in the drawer of "maybe useful later" items.

The thing that strikes me most about this is the amount of packaging I have. There were two, TWO, bags from BB&B; one for the shower head and one for the caddy. Why do I need two? I didn't see the gal bag the shower head in one bag and then put it in the bag with the caddy or I'd have said there was no need for two bags. The shower head was packaged in double plastic.

Once I cut the main package, the head was nestled inside another plastic sandwich. I can recycle the whole thing but why? American packaging choices make no sense from an environmental point of view. I don't need all this for a shower head.

But, once liberated and with pipe wrench in hand, I attempted to remove what was left of the old shower head. It would not turn. Try as I might, I could not get the piece to budge. Then I thought of something that a former co-worker, Wendy, told me. "Lefty loosy. Righty tighty." I was turning the wrench the wrong way. Off came the piece and the new shower head screwed on easily. It's supposed to concentrate flow so you use 10% less water in the shower. It has 5 settings, which I probably won't ever use. It was inexpensive and easy to install. Success!

The shower caddy fits nicely over the shower and my shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, wash cloth and toilet brush fit nicely on it. The soap will too except what I'm using right now is a sliver and it keeps falling through the openings.

I'm proud of myself for fixing this on my own. It might seem obvious that this is an easy repair, but when you doubt yourself, even easy repairs can seem like climbing Mt. Rainer. Once I completed this, I had to take a shower. Ahhhhh.

Beverage:  Lady Gray tea


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

And All I Got Was This Tee Shirt.

For all intents and purposes, physical therapy is over. My last appointment was last week wherein Carrie beat up my knees. Of all the things she's done, which included make me walk in bondage, hold a ball between my knees (You are free to word associate here. I don't mind. It took us 5 minutes after she told me what I was going to do for us to stop laughing.) and then her working the knots out of my shoulder muscles, this was excruciatingly painful. I actually had her stop at one point because whatever she was doing hurt and sent shooting pain into my shins and my upper thigh. "Hmmmmm," she said. "It really shouldn't hurt that much." Ya think? But, redirected pressure and massage and then she could go back to the original pressure points. Something was awry and she fixed it.

It is now up to me to continue with the "fixing".

The thing is, even with pages and I do mean pages of exercises, nothing replaces or regrows cartilage lost due to injury or age. The best I can hope for is that the RA is sufficiently under control to stop or reduce joint damage and that the exercises I do strengthen the surrounding muscles to ease the pressure on the actual joints. Part of that exercise is to resume walking and, in order to do that, I'm buying actual walking shoes this weekend. The shoes I have don't provide enough support for my toes for steady walking. I can't be a mile from home and hobbling like an unshod mule because my toes have cramped something fierce. Shoes designed for walkers are the way to go, more expensive, to be sure, but they are what I need if I'm going to get back into this.

So, I said goodbye to Carrie's House of Torture. As a parting gift, I received the above tee shirt. I know. I know. I need another tee shirt like I need a Charly Horse at 2:30 a.m. (I've had those. They are such fun.) It's a nice, heavy weight tee and I know the stack I saw in the closet is factored into the cost of my therapy. Still, all my doctors are through this health service so, unless other doctors have these in other colors, one is all I need.

I have mixed feelings. I don't want to rack up more medical bills, but it is absolutely undeniable that physical therapy combined with the other changes to lifestyle and the diligence of my rheumatologist have made my life head and shoulders better than a year ago at this time. I never dreamed, even as far back as May of 2011, that I could feel this good. I need to build up my stamina and continue to strengthen my knees. Walking will do that.

I'm also going to miss Carrie and how she made this fun. As an example of her enthusiasm, when Flat Stanley was here, she jumped into the idea of making Stanley do some physical therapy. He waited patiently for our appointment.

Then she put him on the bike.

Once he was warmed up, she had him balance on an exercise ball while holding a weight.

After this, she had to check his balance. Stanley did so much better than I can ever do on the balance board.

When this was done, we tried to get Stanley to pull weights but he kept getting tangled up in the straps.

I'm told Dillon's classmates thought this whole thing was hilarious. What really got the laughs was when we weighed Stanley.

We really needed a baby scale or just a bathroom digital scale, neither of which they had. So we had to improvise. He stood on the scale part and then we moved the weights all the way to the right.

The kids recognized the scale and knew what moving the weights to the right meant. I guess Dillon got a big laugh out of his class when he read my comment that Carrie thought Stanley needed to lose a little weight.

I'm to check in next week for an update but I can be officially discharged. I'm sad but I'm happy too. Time to get out and explore the world, something back in January I never thought possible.

Beverage:  Irish Breakfast tea


If the Water Runs Black, Day 2

After all the work done on Saturday, my lower back and hips protested quite a bit as Saturday worked its way to a close. I wound up taking an aspirin to sleep. It wasn't pain so much as muscle aches from muscles that don't get used all that often. And these ridiculous knees that sometimes hurt and sometimes don't. I have to be careful in taking aspirin for pain but one and I slept soundly. Of course, it helps tremendously to have the window open, a delicate breeze and a purring cat next to you.

Here it is, Sunday, late morning. I lingered over peanut butter toast and yogurt and finished another magazine off the stack, which isn't that much of a stack anymore. It's rather a group. At the rate I'm reading these, it will be gone by the end of the year and I'll be down to just the magazines I read every month or quarter when they arrive. I put on a clean tee shirt and ambled out the door. Time to finish this up.

After filling the green and the white pots with marigolds, I still had zinnias, salvia, nicotania and some cosmos left to plant. Trundle out to the shed and decide that the shed really, really should be cleaned out. Well, I'll do that when I'm finally done.

One of the things I got this year is cat grass.

If you have cats that are outdoors or spend time outdoors, you know that they will run outside, roll in the yard and then eat some grass. Experts are unclear what role grass plays in a cats digestion because they don't really digest it. They vomit it back up, I've found, usually, on the rug that is the cleanest. There is a school of thought that they eat this to calm an upset stomach but even healthy cats with no known problems will eat grass.

The girls are welcome to come onto the deck while I am outside. They come out for a bit but don't stay out. While I don't mind that they are skittish and prefer the inside to the outside, being outside can provide some benefits, fresh air and sunshine being the primary one. I figure with the extra chair, that will help and I thought maybe the addition of something to chew would be another incentive to be outside with me. Now, I could be creating more problems than I'd like since I could find cat grass on the cleanest rug but having grass available has been shown, anecdotally, to be a calming effect. Heaven knows, with it being the seasons of thunder and lightning, I can use some calming. We'll see. If nothing else, it makes an interesting plant amongst the pots.

So here's the north side of the deck with everything planted.

I don't necessarily like this arrangement of pots. I'm going to give it a week and the move things around a bit. With the chairs, the birdbath and the flowers, this is a very inviting space. What time are you showing up?

Beverage:  Dr Pepper


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

If the Water Runs Black, Day 1

It took two days to get everything planted. This was, clearly, an eyes bigger than stamina situation. I managed to get one of the flats planted but I just grew too tired to finish.

This is the pot at the southwest corner of the deck. This is the one where the dianthus, much to my surprise, overwintered. I added one of the sweet potato vines which will spill over the side during the course of the summer, and 3 dark purple alyssum plants. The dianthus is red so this will be a nice contrast of colors.

Begonias were potted. I remembered buying these matching containers specifically for the front steps. Matching! Usually, nothing matches, not that I worry about that at all. An assortment of different pots adds interest, but I thought, years ago, having them all match on the front steps would look better.

When I was at mom's in May, she mentioned an article in the paper about impatiens having a blight this year. The article said these flowers, heavily used in shady spots, would be in short supply as the main growers of impatiens had been hard hit. "Begonias," I said to mom. "Just go to begonias this year. There isn't the wide variety of color as there are in impatiens, but they work just as well in shady areas."

Aren't they nice?

The front steps get sunshine in the morning and that's it. My problem will be remembering to water these throughout the summer. (This weekend's task is to repaint the top of the front steps, all of it. That should use up the rest of the paint leftover from this project.)

All the geraniums were repotted in fresh soil.

One of the things I bought in the winter was a large bag of container potting soil. Supposedly formulated specifically for containers, we'll see how it compares to the pots that have the last of the Miracle Gro potting soil in them. I put all the geraniums in the container soil, removed the old leaves, cut them back a bit and they are ready for summer on the deck. I got a new geranium.

This is called "Melody", something I didn't realize until I was repotting it. It has multi-pink flowers. I'm still thinking of going to get one of those dark purple pink geraniums, too. I'm all out of these green pots so, gasp, I'd have to use a different one.

My poor spindly peppers were potted with the hardy, robust peppers I purchased. The orange pepper just isn't going to make it. Overnight, last night, we got heavy rains and this morning, all I could see was this sad, thin plant tipped over in the pot. The other peppers, the chocolate and the lilac (turns red when ripe) were fine and seemed to have adapted very well to being outside and in sunshine. I really like orange peppers so I'm rather sad about the loss of that plant. If I do some running around this weekend, perhaps I can swing by another nursery to see if they have orange peppers and purple geraniums.

At the end of the day, this is what was left. I decided to turn the hanging pots to the inside this year. Usually, I put them on the opposite side, but then I don't see them when I'm sitting on the deck.

I came inside and washed up. The water ran black from the dirt of potting soil. That's a good feeling. You know you've accomplished something when you're washing your elbows. I sat down to rest before starting the next project, dishes. The next thing I knew, it was 2 hours later and I had Mija in my lap and Pilchard sleeping next to me. Flowers. Cats. Life is good.

Beverage:  English Breakfast tea



This is not a good thing.

I don't think this tree, at the northwest corner of the house, made it through the winter. There are some spots of green, but the bulk of it appears lifeless.

I am quite surprised, shocked actually. This tree was vibrant and alive last year, covered in green. To see it's bare limbs this year makes me very sad. It's at least 40 years old. I can't image what could have killed it so quickly. Now, it's not completely dead, but 90% of it is.

If it were located toward the back of the yard, I could possibly just leave it. But it's off the northwest corner of the house and, if we get a fierce storm this summer, the potential exists that it could come down. If it goes southwest, it will hit my house.

So, next week, I will have to call a bunch of tree services and get estimates for its removal. Dead trees provide a wonderful habitat for woodpeckers and nuthatches due to the insects they attract. But this is just in the wrong spot. I'm bracing for this to be a huge sum that I can't possibly afford and then I will worry that it will come down during a storm but without an estimate, I can't know that for sure.

While this tree never provided shade for the deck, it was beautiful to look at. I'm going to miss that.

Beverage:  English Breakfast tea



The primary weekend activity was to get flowers and peppers onto the deck. Now that the last day that we could, in theory, have frost is passed, it was time to make that space more inviting. On Saturday, I hauled flower pots and deck chairs out of the storage shed. When it became clear, during the potting, that I'd bought more flowers than I had originally brought pots for, I had to rummage through the stacked pots for the ones most likely to handle the overflow. That's when I decided the shed needed to be cleaned.

I didn't take a photo of the before state of the shed. Heavens no. There are some things I don't wish to share. The floor of this Rubbermaid storage shed was covered in about an inch of potting soil, spilled, over the years from shifting stacks of flower pots. I have a lot. This is another place I could, conceivably, pare. I don't think I'd ever fill all the pots I have with flowers. My deck isn't that big. But, until I'm motivated to cull, I'll just clean this shed out, sweeping all the potting soil onto the ground and maybe the new chair will fit in here come October. That's when I noticed them.

Wasps. There was one, at first, but he was followed by two more and then another one after that. They flew around me and I know to stand still and let them pass. But where were they going? Aha! They were going inside the wall of the shed where the metal stake is for holding up the roof. Opportunistic buggers.

Now, in theory, I won't get into the shed very much until October and putting things away. But, in practice, wasps could build a hive that encompasses the entire wall of the shed. This would not be a good thing. So, I got out the wasp killer and hosed the area down, spraying inside as best as I could see. Then I finished the cleaning of the interior, replaced everything neatly and put the top back on. As I was putting the top on; it snaps on very nicely which is one of the reasons I bought this; I found a small nest. It was located on the top over the area where the rod is in the wall. They were covering all the bases I guess.

So, the storage shed is good for the time being. I probably should open it up in June just to make sure they didn't decide to take over a corner.

Beverage:  English Breakfast tea


Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Things I Do

If you recall last summer, I finally got the deck chairs out, scrubbed off and on the deck. This was a major accomplishment. Double that accomplishment was having the girls come out and join me.

First Pilchard.

Then Mija.

The problem was, if I was outside sitting, that left just one chair for them and that did not go well at all. I sort of joked that I'd need to get another chair so they could both be outside with me.

What color would I like?

I pulled into the Ace Hardware lot and was rather floored by the color selection.

I could even get one in, what's that material on the left there, wood? 

I love color. This much choice in plastic Adirondack-style chairs filled me with happiness until I went to get out of the aqua chair I sat in. Oh dear. I don't get up fast anymore. Although my RA isn't giving me problems, the osteoarthritis in my knees is. I don't know if anyone was watching but there was this gray-haired old lady struggling to get out of one of those chairs. She did it, but she knew this was not something she wanted to sit in on her deck. So, I looked at the tan and forest green basic plastic deck chairs. 

Again, I was drawn to color. The forest green chair would look sharp, sitting between my white deck chairs. But the deck gets sunshine for 75% of the day. About 2 p.m., that thing is going to be hot. I wouldn't sit in it. Why expect the girls to? Tan it was.

Actually, it doesn't look too bad.

I no longer see the bird bath from the office window to monitor who is using it. But now we can ALL be on the deck, sitting in chairs. We'll give these a test run next weekend.

Beverage:  Water


Only What You Can Carry

I decided to buy plants this weekend and get them in pots. The last frost free date is, technically, tomorrow, but there's slim chance we're going to have frost again until October. Time to hit the nursery.

Normally, when I want to buy quality plants, I head west to Planter's Palette. An area staple for upwards of 20 years, they have acres of plants which give you more ideas than sense sometimes; not that I'm speaking from experience, mind you. That was the plan. I got myself up early, showered, had breakfast and went outside to start pulling pots out of the shed.

The overwintered geraniums were slated to be repotted. My spindly little peppers and sunflower plants could come outside now. I think I might even put plants on the front steps, something I haven't done in years. This looks about right. Fill these and I'll be good.

With it slated to be a glorious weekend, I knew there would be dozens, scores, maybe even hundreds of people browsing the too narrow aisles and taking the too few carts. Carole's friend, Phillip, worked at PP for years, starting at age 16 and continuing through college. I've spent a lot of money there.

As I headed west, I drove right by Wheaton Nursery and Garden Center. They have, at best, a fifth of the area PP has. I've driven by them for all of the 31 years I've lived in Wheaton, but never stopped. I thought of the battle to find a parking place at PP, the quest to find a cart for the few things I wanted to buy and the wait time for checking out and I decided it was time to stop at Wheaton Nursery.

I was their first customer of the day and I got the most personal service I think I've had in years. I pulled out my list and the gal watering flowers pointed to places where I'd find things. She got me a red wagon and a couple of cardboard containers for the plants I was buying. Yes, I went with a list. I could go nuts at a nursery and I really didn't want to come home with three times more plants than I had room for or ambition to plant.

I wanted another geranium. I have white, red, light pink and salmon. What would go good with those colors? Sometimes choice is NOT a good thing.

I wanted to get more peppers to make sure I get something this year. They didn't have the orange peppers that I really want since I only got one plant to sprout. I did find a couple to bring home.

They have plants to encourage kids to garden.

I was sorely tempted to buy a couple pots of corn. I might still do that. I'm not sure how corn would do in a deck pot, but it's tempting. These pumpkin vines were also tempting. I could make a trellis off one corner of the deck and grow the pumpkin that way. Reality smacked me upside the head and wondered exactly where I thought I'd put this. The pumpkins stayed at the nursery.

Here's what came home with me.

3 sweet potato vines.
3 four packs of begonias
1 four pack of zinnias
2 four packs of alyssum
1 geranium
6 four packs of marigolds
1 four pack of salvia
1 four pack of nicotania
1 four pack of cosmos
1 four pack of snapdragons
2 pepper plants

Not bad. I did a fairly good job of resisting the siren song of a lot of different flowers. There's a nice variety this year with a wide spectrum of colors. That's all I want, really, variety. I still may go back for corn.

Beverage:  Water


Friday, May 17, 2013

Images of Spring

A collection of photos showing off spring.


Just now the lilac is in bloom,
All before my little room;
And in my flower-beds, I think,
Smile the carnation and the pink...

(Rupert Brooke

 Beverage:  Darjeeling Tea