Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Checking in.

I was feeling bad about not updating my blog, but I've been making the rounds of some of the other blogs I read semi-regularly, and I see that there are many other people who are otherwise occupied, too! Is it something about spring? Are we all too busy planting flowers, buying capris and flip-flops, and driving around with the windows down?

The only one of the above things I've been doing is planting flowers. I hate capris, although I need some, and I have enough flip-flops. (Well, maybe.) And I'm not driving around with the windows down this week because Todd's car died while he was en route to the big air show at Langley on Sunday, so it's in the shop and Todd is taking my car to work this week.

I could haul myself out of bed at 5:15 AM and drive him to work so I can have the car, but frankly, nothing I need to do is urgent enough to warrant getting out of bed at 5:15 AM. And it's been kind of nice to be at home, not having to run errands. I'm getting some spring cleaning done, and it's quite relaxing. Better than sitting in traffic on scruffy Warwick Boulevard.

It was also in the mid-90s here for a few days, and I'm not going out in that mess unless it's truly necessary. So it hasn't been a hardship staying inside where it's cool. Tomorrow we're supposed to get weather that's a little more seasonal--quite a relief, as I am not remotely prepared for the summer hibernation to start yet.
Every summer I feel less able to cope mentally with the heat and humidity. I wish it didn't bother me so much.

Anyway, I'll be back soon. Hope everybody's enjoying springtime.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The birds are back in town.

I've been anxious to get some hanging pots up on the front porch, because it's that time of year, when the mourning doves come and nest in the pot of their choice, so when we found some lovely red petunias at the grocery store Saturday, we brought them home and hung them up.

Not a moment too soon, either--look who I found when I peeked out the front door just now:

Meanwhile, daddy bird is fluttering about with bits and pieces to help he sits on the front steps checking me out to make sure I'm not going to interfere:

I can hear them out there right now, clucking and chattering to each other and scolding all the other birds who get in their way. We've had doves nesting on the porch every year--for all I know, it's the same parents every year--and it makes me so happy to see them getting their spot all ready again.

The only problem is that it makes it impossible to do any dead-heading, and virtually impossible to do any watering, so the plant usually dies. I'm going to try to at least keep it watered this time--but I have an extreme aversion to baby birds, so it's a very shuddery experience, because I'm so afraid of tipping out a creepy, slimy baby bird if I get too close. Maybe I'll make Todd do it.

We had an extremely productive weekend--got our taxes filed, got some financial stuff taken care of at the bank, bought a carload of plants, totally re-vamped the corner flower bed and built two low rock walls across it, filled the bed with plants...that's all I can remember, but I'm sure there was more.

This year I've decided to go for it with the gardens and landscaping--that is, fill up those beds with plants and hang the expense. (Within reason, of course.) I'm going to pull out every single one of my flowerpots and fill all those up, too. By July, I want this house to look like a freaking flower festival.

One good thing is that after three years, I have a good idea of what will grow well in our dry and sunny and hot conditions, so I can make more informed purchases. Another good thing is that I have a lot of established perennials, so I can concentrate on filling in the gaps with lots of colorful annuals.

When I get a minute, I'll try and find some "before"pics of the corner bed, so the new-and-improved version can be fully appreciated. But believe me, it's MUCH better!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Just some stuff.

Todd got his 15 minutes of fame this week. He spent several days e-mailing people about this issue--it's crazy that we live on a peninsula almost entirely surrounded by water, and yet there are only a couple of places where you can actually get to the water. And then the bad seeds have to ruin it for everybody. Sheesh.

I realized what a mistake I made, not having labor! First my e-mail friend Bonnie told me that her 23-year-old son loves to tackle all her home improvement projects, and then I had to go and hire a kid (my friends' son Matthew) to help me weed the front flowerbeds yesterday. If I'd had my own kid when we first got married, I'd be reaping the benefits right about now.

Nah...still not worth it! Besides, Matthew is a delightful yard work companion. And if he was my kid, I'd go broke just trying to keep him clothed, the way he's growing.

Um...what else? I bought a cool black globe at the thrift store--it's about 60 years old, I think.

We're going to watch "30 Rock" on DVD tonight. I love Tina Fey. Todd hates her glasses.

I'm planning my big projects to do when Todd goes to the Outer Banks next weekend: washing windows and planting flowers are the two biggest.

This weekend is tax weekend--we can't put it off any longer. Sigh.

My gosh, we are living some dull lives right now! Not that I mind, necessarily, but it doesn't make for scintillating blog reading. I can't even comment on current events because I am keeping the news resolutely off. "The Daily Show" doesn't count as news, right?

I really dislike holidays and holiday weekends, so this time around I'm pretending there's no holiday at all. It's worked well so far. I may make some deviled eggs, though.

Back later.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Small pleasures.

I finally got my car cleaned out, and it gave me an know how people nowadays are taking "staycations" where they stay home and do fun things instead of taking expensive vacations. My idea is called "New Old Car," because I couldn't think of a clever name like "staycation."

You just take your old dirty car, scrub it up, polish the windows, spring for some new floor mats, and maybe run it through a car wash and voila! All the benefits of a new car without the costs.

It works best if you really let the car get filthy before you clean it up, so the contrast is even better. Like to the point where you feel like you should be wearing rubber gloves to touch the gearshift. Where the dead leaves, bits of gravel, and nameless crud on the floor are at least 1/4" thick. Where you can't push your seat back because of all the empty plastic water bottles crushed underneath it.

My experience was also greatly improved by removing the cloth covers from the leather seats (we covered the seats a couple of summers ago so our thighs wouldn't pan fry when we sat down)--I had planned to take the covers off and wash them, but they disintegrated as I pulled them off, so now I'm sliding across luxurious leather again, which feels ever so new and nice. (I'll have to put new covers on in a couple of months because of the pan-fried thighs issue.)

If the car is paid off, the satisfaction is even sweeter--a new car with no car payments!

It's all about the small pleasures, isn't it?

A couple other small pleasures:

My phlox is phlourishing: (I had to say it, I had to!)

Note the careful cropping of weeds from the viewfinder. The weeds are BAD. I'm at my wits' end with this garden, I have no idea what to do with it this year. I need some classes, or an intervention, or something. Maybe if I go out and weed, some kind of inspiration will come to me. It's the arranging that I just can't figure out--how to make a ton of disparate elements all flow together. Should I hire somebody to draw me up a plan? Maybe it would be worth the money...

That's all I've got today. Just busy with the regular boring stuff: laundry, groceries, looking at weeds. I've gotta get out there and start yanking and digging and moving stuff around, I've just got to. Somebody give me a push!

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Afternoon mumblings.

Do you get grumpy in the afternoons? From about 3:00 till about 6:00, I just feel dreadful most days. I know part of it is a blood sugar problem, but even with a snack, I still feel so out-of-sorts. Even when I start out the day in a fabulous mood, by 3:00 life looks ever so bleak.

I LOVE the picture on this blog today. I wish I could go back in time and take a road trip in a big old car and stay in little tourist camps and get an ice-cold Coke at a gas station like that. The photo makes me think of a fave childhood book called Judy's Journey by Lois Lenski, written in that same era. Judy's family were migrant farm workers that traveled all over the southern U.S.--not a luxury road trip, but it was fun to read about all the different places they stayed. I love books and movies that deal with road trips..."National Lampoon's Vacation," "Harold and Kumar," Blue Highways...I know I'm forgetting lots.

I baked my first successful loaves of wheat bread yesterday and I'm still basking in the glow of achievement. I am so sick of nasty store-bought bread that tastes like chemicals. I tried a recipe from my King Arthur Flour baking book last week, but I think the yeast was too old--it rose, but not a lot. It was also sweetened with molasses, which was too overpowering. And it weighed about ten pounds.

I will try that recipe again with fresher yeast and maybe some honey instead of molasses, but for my second attempt I tried this recipe: Kid-Friendly Wheat Bread. That worked much better. I'm mostly looking for a bread that will serve as a good delivery vehicle for homemade lemon curd, and this fits the bill admirably.

Next I think I'll take on my mom's wheat crescent/cinnamon roll recipe--you can use the dough for either crescents or cinnamons, and it tastes awesome either way. Can't wait to try!

I'm starting to think the sun has gone away forever. It's absolutely bizarre to have so many cloudy days here. I went out to clean out the car this afternoon and ran the battery down listening to the radio while I cleaned. I thought a car battery had more juice than that--I barely got started! And oh, is it a sty. I am embarrassed to have people travel in it with me. So I'll tackle the rest tomorrow and maybe (fingers crossed) there will be a little sunlight to clean by?

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

The crack of dawn.

I don't usually get up at 5:15 with Todd, but I was inexplicably tired last night and went to bed early, so I am up early, too. Usually I wait till the sun has peeked out before I wake up. But it's very peaceful, getting an early jump on the day, taking time for more of a breakfast than a granola bar, sipping some tea, getting the first load of laundry started, surveying the "to do" list, and listening to the birds chattering outside in the dark.

One of the benefits of reading a lot of history is that it makes you more grateful for the peacefulness you live in and more aware of what a rarity it is, in the course of time, that you get to get up each morning, go about your business, think what you want and do what you want (mostly) and not be quite so buffeted about by forces beyond your control. Of course, we are
buffeted about by forces beyond our control, but not quite to the extent of someone living in say, Tudor England or Poland in the 1940's, to name two tumultuous times I've read about recently.

So things are quiet here, which is the way we like them...I have painted most of the master bathroom and we've hung a new shower curtain rod and window curtain rod in there. Todd has ripped off the countertop and today I'll be sanding the vanity and hopefully putting on a coat of primer, at least.

The guest bath is still awaiting a medicine cabinet, but it's done apart from that, and we've been using that bath while the master bath is torn up. So glad we have two bathrooms upstairs!

The paint in the master bath looks awesome (Benjamin Moore, Woodlawn Blue), and I'd take a picture if it wasn't dark right now. The only bit left is behind the toilet, where you practically have to stand on your head to get back there, and when we replace the floor and the toilet comes out, I'll be able to get that bit done. I think I'll be needing a new shower curtain in there, too, as we've mounted the new rod higher than the old one, so I guess I need to start looking for fabric.
No hurry on that, though.

Now my attention is turning to the front flower beds and yet again trying to figure out what to plant, what will survive the heat and sun and benign neglect of summertime. I wish I liked to garden more than I do. I thought I did, but I guess I don't!

And we're making plans for putting in new porch rails and painting all the trim on the front of the house. It has that dingy, wintertime look, and now that the weather's getting warm, it's time to bump up our curb appeal, especially since our next-door neighbors are selling their home and have really spruced it up. We're coming off badly in comparison!

I'll be back with more interesting stuff later, promise.