Thursday, April 30, 2009

A few outdoor photos

Above is the railing on one side of my deck. You can see a few of the birdhouses I've been collecting and a planter with impatiens, just planted Sunday. They will fill the planter by summer's end. This spot never gets much sun, so it's ideal for impatiens.

The first photo below is of one of the dogwood trees down by the stream, behind and below my house. It's hard to see it from my house, except from upstairs. However, I love the glimpse of it I get from my kitchen window. If I can't have more flowering trees in my yard (thanks to the homeowners' association), at least I can enjoy the ones on common property.

The other photo is a couple of doves, not doing and 'billing and cooing', but just sitting there back to back. Doves are ground feeders and don't usually get up on the decks, so I was intrigued by them. I think they must have had a quarrel and each is waiting for the other to make the first apology! LOL They let me get quite close and just ignored me.

Monday, April 27, 2009

8 things.....

This blog comes courtesy of Pat, who nominated me to do it. Pat seems to really like these things and it's fun to read hers, but I'm not sure it's fun to be nominated to do one. Anyway, I won't be nominating anyone because I read very few blogs and I know of at least one person (my daughter) who does NOT want to be nominated. So you are all safe.

8 things I am looking forward to:
- visiting my grandkids (and daughter and son-in-law) in England this summer
- getting my GERD under control so that I can eat good tasting food again
- going to my 50th class reunion in October
- going to yard sales next weekend with Patty
- buying more plants to fill the pots on my deck
- summer time when church choir is over and I can skip church without feeling guilty
- going to the art show next weekend, where some of my friend Lynne's art is on display
- going to lunch with my friends on Friday

8 things I did yesterday:
- read my email
- went to church
- sang in the choir
- helped set up and clean up after the salad luncheon at church
- read the Sunday paper
- talked on the phone to Andy (my ex-husband)
- talked on the phone to Kate
- finished reading "the Dead Room" by Heather Graham (not recommended - unrealistic)

8 things I wish I could do
- dig up the grass and put flower beds and ground cover all over my front yard
- go on a cruise and land tour of Alaska
- put a greenhouse window in my kitchen
- find an Internet provider that offers inexpensive DSL
- buy a new computer (mine is old and sooo slow)
- expand my house so that I have more walls to display art and ceramic stuff
- eat pizza, chocolate and wine - and all those other forbidden foods
- draw and paint

8 TV shows - I never watch TV, so I will pass on this

8 blogs to tag - as explained above - will pass on this as well

Sunday, April 26, 2009

a taste of summer

We're having summer weather this weekend. It's in the 80s - sunny and hot. Quite lovely, actually, although almost too hot to work outside, at least in the sun. I really don't have much outdoor work to do so far this spring. I could buy some more summer plants and perhaps I will on my way home from church today. I have made a list of what colors and some plants that I want to put in various pots on the deck. The flower beds in my yard are so crowded already that they really can't absorb many more plants, so the pots are the only thing that change from year to year. Anyway, this bit of summer in April is delightful and not really unusual. I still remember a number of years ago when we were gone for a weekend in late April. Our lilac was still in bud when we left on Friday. When we got home on Sunday, it had bloomed and was finished! At first, I wondered what had happened, but then I realized that it had been in the high 80s all weekend and that compressed all the blooming into a few days. I don't have room for lilacs here in this tiny yard, but Patty (two doors down) has a dwarf one. It is just about to burst into bloom and will smell delightful. Many flowering trees are in bloom, so our entire neighborhood is very colorful and sweet smelling these days.

Today, we are having a "salad luncheon" after church. In the winter we have 'soup luncheons', and last year we tried a salad luncheon - it was a big hit. I've made a Greek salad with chicken, salad dressing on the side. It may be the only thing there that I can eat, as I am on a very restrictive diet until my acid reflux problem clears up. The list of things I cannot eat includes just about everything I enjoy. (no pizza, no chocolate, no wine, no citrus, no spices) Talk about bland diets! I am trying to keep my sense of humor about this diet - it is rather amusing - but it is also very frustrating. I've been carefully reading the labels on store bought baked goods, salad dressings and so forth. Probably a mistake, as when you see what is in all those products it makes you want to NEVER buy them ever again! Better not to know what we are eating.

I hope spring has arrived at your house too. Summer is on the way. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

electricity is strange

I think I might have blogged about this problem when it first occurred, several weeks ago, so I'll try to be brief. After a hard rain, the circuit that carries the outdoor and bathroom outlets went out. I tried everything, including carefully wiping the outside outlets dry. No luck. Then, after a few days, the circuit worked again. T'was a mystery. Well, a couple of days ago, we had another hard rain and wind and (you guessed it!) the circuit was off again. This time, I did NOT consider calling an electrician or asking my friendly handyman, Mike, to come by to take a look. I just waited and sure enough, last night, the circuit was working. Therefore, I have concluded that somehow when the wind blows just right (just wrong?) during a hard rain, water gets onto one of the outside outlets. This trips the GFI on the circuit. After it dries off, I can reset the circuit. Weird, but whatever works. At least I haven't yet needed an electrician.

Not much happening lately. One really big thing is that I finally (after 3 hours on the computer) found a reasonably priced ticket to England for my July trip. I've been searching for weeks - going on the Internet for hours at a time and not finding anything convenient. I'm trying to go as cheaply as possible, of course, but there are time constraints as to when I arrive in England, unless I want to pay a lot of money for a taxi. Anyway, I've booked a trip and that is DONE! It will not be a non-stop flight, unfortunately, so the trip will be longer. Going over, the stop is Newark, NJ, which is in the right direction and just a short layover. Coming back, the best I could get was through Cleveland, Ohio! Crazy, isn't it? At this point, I'm just glad I have it done. If anyone reading this knows of cheaper flights - DON'T TELL ME!

I cut my grass a few days ago - first time this spring. It was very long and shaggy. Now it is just shaggy. This is because I use one of those string trimmers to cut the grass. Did I ever say how small my front yard is? About 12x13 feet. I have a reel lawnmower - the kind that runs on people power. However, it needs sharpening and I just haven't found a place that will sharpen it. Maybe this summer, I will get it sharpened - or maybe not. It's almost more trouble to carry the mower through the house or push it around the end of the building (my place is in the middle of a row of eight townhomes) than it's worth. Anyway, I was the next-to-last household in our row to mow the grass this spring. We all have nice, trimmed grass now, although mine is not quite as even as some! "If I had my druthers," as my grandmother used to say, I would not have any grass out front (or anywhere else) and just put in ground cover and flower beds. Unfortunately, our homeowners' association, with whom I fight often, won't allow me to get rid of all the grass. I already have less than the approved amount. Yes, there is a rule about the percentage of one's yard that must be in grass! I'm hoping for approval this spring to enlarge a flower bed, but that will reduce even more my grass total, so I'm not optimistic about my chances.

After all our rain, today promises to stay sunny and will perhaps be warm. Unfortunately, I'll be inside all day at the hospital gift shop. Oh well, there will be other sunny days. By mid-summer, I'll be ready to go to England for some cool, cloudy weather!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

"That's the way the money goes"

Here are some photos of recent acquisitions. The plants aren't much to look at yet, but they will fill the pots in a few months. As you can see, I seem to be into purple and red this year.

I am working on an art quilt for the ALQS that Kate is hosting this summer. The process is rather new to me, but hopefully, I'll produce something interesting and someone will want it. I already have the fabric for this quilt and I went to JoAnn's just to get two clear plastic rulers and maybe some little things to use on that quilt and on future creations. Of course, there was a sale(JoAnn's has a sale nearly every week) - this time 40 percent off on most cotton fabric. As you can see, I just couldn't resist. I got one real bargain - the trees on the orange fabric - originally $11.60 a yard - on sale and then marked down again because it was the last of the
bolt. I got 3/4 yard for $2.10. Now that's a bargain! Here are the little things. Cute, aren't they?

Monday, April 20, 2009

rain, rain, go away

I know we can use the rain, but it's a rainy, bleak Monday and I find the rain depressing. It's also windy. A plastic chair I keep out front has blown over (this is not a really light-weight chair, either!). My little plum tree is blowing every which way. I may have to tie it again, using soft ties to anchor it to the four metal poles I have in the ground surrounding it. Last summer and fall, the tree tipped almost to the ground a couple of times. It must be really shallow rooted. During the winter, it's fine because there are no leaves, so the wind just blows right through the branches. Now that it's leafed out, the leaves catch the wind and the tree leans. If the ground gets thoroughly soaked, then over goes the tree! However, the rain is good for the plants I transplanted and potter on Saturday, so I don't really want it to stop.

Speaking of plants in pots. Pat suggested I post photos of my recent acquisitions. I will try to do so, but not today. It's just too wet to be out there taking pictures. Frankly, the pots don't look like much because the plants are small. I didn't try to do anything fancy, using a variety of plants (I will do a couple like that, come summer), but just put red and purple plants into medium sized pots.

Yesterday was an exhaustively busy day. I was at church from 8:30 until 2:00, working at the library book sale, singing in the choir, helping to set up and clean up for coffee hour, and, oh yes, attending the church service. Then in the evening, I went to a show at the Olney Theater. Friends of mine have season tickets there and whenever they have an extra ticket, they invite me to come along. We saw "The Call of the Wild". This play is a musical, based loosely (VERY LOOSELY) on Jack London's books. It was a rather odd musical. The music was great - not something that sticks in your head, but beautiful to listen to. Unfortunately, the story line was very confusing and, frankly, peculiar. The same actors played both dogs and wolves and people and sometimes it was hard to determine which part they were playing. The dancing and other movement on stage was lively and very acrobatic. However, we (three little old ladies) agreed that it probably won't make Broadway. Still I'm glad I went.

Here's another reason I'm unhappy about today's rain. I have a strange electrical problem at my house. It happened once a few weeks ago and then again today (or last night). I have three outdoor electric outlets and three in bathrooms, all of which are on one circuit. This circuit has a ground fault interrupter in the basement, near the breaker box. When one of the outlets gets wet, the circuit turns off automatically. This is good, of course, as it prevents electric shock from a wet outlet. The problem seems to be that one or more of the outdoor outlets gets water into it when we get just the right combination of wind and rain. I'm sure that this is the problem, because when it happened a few weeks ago, I tried everything and finally dried off the outside outlets. The next day, the circuit could be reset. However, knowing what is happening and fixing it is another story. I will try to see if I can determine which outlet is getting wet, but I'm not sure I will be able to do this. I really hate to pay for an electrician to come. He/she will have to test the outlets and may not be able to tell which ones are causing the problem. This will no doubt take time and time is money, especially when one is paying electricians! I imagine all three outdoor outlets will have to be replaced - more time and more money. I am NOT looking forward to having this done. It does seem as if my car and my house are conspiring against me this year!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

the temptations of lovely spring weather

Yesterday, Patty and I went to Home Depot. She wanted to 'look' at plants and I needed some potting soil and hummus. You will note that I did NOT say I was going to even 'look' at plants. I suspect you already know what happened. Yeah, the same thing that always happens when Patty and I go shopping - I bought my potting soil and hummus and 9 plants! Patty did about the same. I know that it's too early for summer annuals. We may still have a frost. Early May is safe, but April is always iffy. I even took a greater chance and put those plants into pots on my front steps and on the deck in the back. If frost is predicted, I will have to bring them all inside or cover them with newspapers. Luckily for me, the lows for the next 5 days are all in the 40s or higher. Still, I will check the weather each evening, just to be sure. I seem to be in a red and purple mood these days - at least I was yesterday. I bought red petunias, red geraniums, red begonias, and two shades of purple petunias. My newly planted pots look very cheerful.

Since I was in gardening mode, I also cleaned up some sticks, leaves, etc. that were littering the back yard and dug up some plants in the front that Patty wanted. She gave me some that she was getting rid of, too. A couple of years ago, I transplanted some Queen Anne's Lace from a vacant lot. This was probably a mistake. I am finding that wild flowers are very strong and aggressive, probably because they have to be to survive on their own. However, this means that they reproduce prolifically and are very hard to keep under control. I dug up about 10 of the QAL and still have some left. Somehow they ended up in the front of the flower bed, which is the wrong place for plants that grow to be 4 foot tall! I probably should move the remaining plants to the back of the border, but since that space is pretty well filled with lilies, I'm not sure what I'm going to do. Ah, the joys of gardening!

I have to leave for church in a few minutes, as our interfaith library is having it's semi-annual book sale. We ask people to donate books and then we sell them to back to some of the same people! Actually, it isn't quite that bad. Our small Methodist/Presbyterian congregations shares space in an Interfaith Center with a huge Catholic congregation and an Hispanic Catholic congregation. Most of our donated books come from our congregation, but people from the other congregations buy a lot of the books. S0, we get some money to buy new books, people get cheap books to read and everybody is happy. Anyway, we are putting books out on tables this morning, starting at 8:30, so I have to leave now.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

"flowers that boom in the spring, tra la"

If you are a fan of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, you will recognize my title as being from The Mikado. It seemed appropriate for the photos I'm posting here. My front flower bed is full of bulbs that bloom this time of year, as well as the pink and purple ground cover in front. Makes a nice show in March and April. Later this spring, the iris will be equally showy. I love bulbs because once they are in the ground, they just come up year after year with no fuss. I have to admit, however, that tulips are not among those bulbs. I've never had much luck with them. Seems as if they last a couple of years and then just die out.

We've had several days of nice spring weather lately. A bit on the blustery side, but mostly sunshine and blue skies. I just wish we could have a month of temperatures between 60 and 70. I know we won't get that. May will arrive with a flourish of 80 plus temperatures. And summer will be upon us. I guess I'd better enjoy spring while it's here.

Next week I'm heading southwest into Virginia for a brief family visit. I'll probably drive over through northwestern Maryland and West Virginia and then come down into Virginia to reach Harrisonburg. It's not the shortest route, which would be going down around DC and west from there. However, the northern route is much more pleasant. It's scenic, rural, and has no traffic jams. I don't mind an extra half hour of driving, especially in the spring when the trees are in bloom.
We had a nice Easter service this morning. At the end of the service, the choir and congregation all sang part of Handel's Messiah. This is an Easter tradition at our church. It sounded surprisingly good, considering there were at least as many singing from the congregation as from the choir. It was my first time singing the alto part. (I sang soprano for most of my life, but lately those high notes just aren't in my range.) I really like the alto part - I could actually hit all the notes without straining!

Happy Easter everyone!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

lovely spring day

It was sunny today, with scattered clouds in a bright blue sky. I was inside most of the day because on Thursdays I work in the gift shop at the local hospital. Today I was working alone; usually two different ladies are working with me - one in the morning and another in the afternoon. It was fairly busy early, then very slow. My relief came in early, so I got to come home in time to sit outside in the sun. Unfortunately, it was rather windy this afternoon. The wind kept blowing my newspaper away, so I came in.

Still, it was much nicer than yesterday when I was waiting for a buses to get me from and to the car repair place. My neighbors who usually drop me off or pick me up are both out of town, so I was on my own for transportation. I'm really glad we have bus service and that it is cheap and more or less dependable. It requires some careful planning, however, because the local bus only runs every hour. Anyway, it was fine - got me where I wanted to go. That's the good news. The bad news is that my car isn't fixed yet. They did find the problem - a leak in the water pump. This means I have to take it back in next week and it will cost plenty to fix. (Not anywhere near as much as the last problem, however.) I do wonder if this car is wearing out. It's only 8 years old, so it shouldn't be falling apart. I just keep telling myself that having it repaired is MUCH cheaper than buying a new car!

When I finish this blog, I will go over to my neighbor's house and feed her cat. I'll sit there for a while and pet the cat, so she won't be too lonely while her owner is away. She's a sweet cat and this way I get the benefit of having a cat to enjoy, without actually owning one! Works for me.

Tonight the church choir is singing at our Maundy Thursday service. It's a lovely piece and I enjoy singing it, but I'm tired and it's hard to leave home after spending a day at the gift shop. I'm really spoiled now that I'm retired. I used to work 9-hour days and then go out and do things in the evenings. Perhaps I'm getting old? Nah! Life begins at 60, doesn't it?

Monday, April 6, 2009

things I love - music, fabric and plants

Saturday night, I went with a friend to hear a string quartet. (The Calder Quartet). I'm not really into strings, but the tickets were a gift from someone who was out of town and couldn't use hers. As you may be aware, music is one of my loves and I'm pretty eclectic in my taste. I'm so glad I went. The setting was at Howard CC, in a fairly small theater. I could actually see the expressions on the musicians' faces. They played two traditional pieces - Mozart and Mendelssohn. They were played beautifully and are lovely classical pieces. The other two numbers were by modern composers. One was variations on Amazing Grace - Ben Johnson, composer. He's in his 80s now. It was fascinating to listen for the tune, which we all know, and hear it vanish, come in again in a different key or on a different instrument. The other modern piece was by Christopher Rouse, who lives in Baltimore. It was, well....different and dissonant. I like some of it - the fast parts. Didn't like the slow movements. I have decided that I enjoy dissonance when it is played fast, but not when it is slow!

A few days ago, Kate posted on her fabric blog the start of Another Little Quilt Swap. If you are interested, it's I'm very tempted to participate in this one. It isn't traditional quilting, which is good for me, since I'm not real interested in traditional patterns. I'm not sure that I am ready to make even a small, wall-hanging quilt, but I think I will try. Kate says that I can try to make the quilt and commit to the swap only if I am successful. Perhaps being part of a swap will push me hard enough to actually start a quilt. We'll see.

Another of my passions is gardening. We had a couple of decent days over the weekend - windy, but warm and sunny - so I did a bit of yard work. It was mostly just an excuse to be outside, however, I moved some pots from their shelter under the deck up onto the deck, so that the lilies and iris coming up in them can get some sunshine. I also moved some pots that are filled with dirt, but have no plants in them, from the deck where they sat all winter, to under the deck and out of sight. I am trying this year NOT to buy too many plants for my deck pots. Last year I had pots three rows deep on two sides of the deck. This summer, I will be in England for three weeks, so I am trying to only use low-care plants in those pots. My neighbors will have the burden of watering my plants - front and back - that's a lot of effort to expect from friends.

It's just so tempting when I visit garden centers to buy more and more. I have very low resistance when it comes to plants.

Saturday, April 4, 2009


I've been raving about the beauty of the spring flowering trees. And they are beautiful, however, I seem to have forgotten that they are spreading all their pollen around, especially with all the wind we have had the last few days. The rain yesterday, should have reduced the pollen count, but I guess it didn't. I had the windows open yesterday, after the rain, as it was very warm - in the 70s. This morning I was reminded of why I do NOT enjoy spring. I am sneezing and using tissues every few minutes. I bought a good supply of tissues a few days ago - good thing I did. Allergies are such fun - NOT! I never used to have pollen allergies. In fact, the house my kids grew up in had a yard with many oak and maple trees. In the spring, if we opened the windows, the furniture was covered with green dust. My son had allergies, but it never bothered me. That changed after Andy and I moved to a house with a half-acre yard and 40 pine trees (many of them were small). The second year we lived there, Andy decided that he should 'feed' the trees, so he carefully poured fertilizer pellets into holes made at the drip lines of each tree. The next spring, the trees bloomed - pollen everywhere. And guess what - yep, I started sneezing. At first, it was just pine pollen that bothered me, but over the next few years, I developed sensitivity to all spring pollen. Anyway, I blame the whole thing on Andy! (He has broad shoulders and he'll never read this post).

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

flowering trees and frustration

As I drive on Interstate 95, I am delighted to see the pear trees all in bloom. Now, I know that these trees are considered invasive because they are hybrids formed in nature by combining the Bradford Pear trees found in so many developments with wild pear trees. The hybrids are everywhere and have nasty thorns, as well as being very aggressive spreaders. However, this time of year, they create clouds of white blossoms for miles along I95. It's an awesome sight! Even bad things can be beautiful.

My own flowering tree - a plum - is in full bloom. Because of its location, it's hard to get a good photo of it. (Either house or cars are in the pictures.) The blossoms only lasts a few days, but that's ok because I know that other spring beauty is just around the corner. More daffodils have opened up this week, too. You can just barely see them in the photo.

I am so frustrated and annoyed with the IRS! I had a question about filling out my tax forms (I itemize) and I found the instructions for what I needed to do very confusing. So I called the number provided by IRS for assistance. I talked to four different persons. These people are not full-time IRS employees, but folks who have been trained to help others on taxes. All I can say is - their training lacks a great deal! One of them spoke so softly that I had to ask her to repeat everything several times. As each realized that they could not help me, they passed me on to someone else. The last one said she could not help me and would write up a ticket for someone (presumably a true expert) to call me withing 15 days. Now if you start counting, you will realize that it's only 15 days until the tax forms are due, I indicated that I did not find that an acceptable answer. I asked for a number where I could reach a full-time IRS employee. At this she got really huffy and insisted that she knew as much as anyone. (obviously this is untrue) She was rude and insisted that I had told her something which was the opposite of what I had said. Finally she told me she was terminating the call and hung up on me. I was about ready to hang up on her, anyway. I think I was on the phone more than an hour. None of these so-called helpers really knew what I was talking about. I would mention an instruction form that I had found on the website and they had no idea what I was talking about. I know more about the issue than they did. So I will just do what I originally thought to do - put the items where I think they belong and hope no one audits me!