Wednesday, September 30, 2009

a strong wind

Monday, we had a very gusty, strong wind almost all day. I went out at noon and discovered the flowering plum tree in the front yard had blown over. It was not uprooted or broken, but was leaning almost on the ground. While I was trying to pull it back up and get the wire that was supposed to be hold it up back around the tree, neighbors came to my rescue. It's too bad no one had a video camera. We must have looked hilarious - three women trying to keep one tree upright. Luckily, Harry, who lives a couple of doors down, came out to help. He brought a new stake which he pounded into the ground, further from the tree, and good strong rope. We managed to get the tree back up and secured. So far, it has stayed up. I've trimmed a lot off of branches over the summer, but obviously not enough. I swear the darn thing grew another 3 feet upwards after the last trimming! I'll cut it back some more this fall, but not until the leaves are off. You'd think that a tree that is at least 4 years old would manage to stay upright. I guess it has very shallow roots. One of these days, I fear it will just break off, or uproot completely. I'll probably have to replace it. The next tree will be something with good strong roots!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

remember the '60s?

This morning, our church celebrated its 40-year anniversary. I dressed for the occasion with my floppy suede hat, ragged jeans, tie-dyed t-shirt and long strings of beads. One of the necklaces is actually from the 60s, the rest of the outfit was the best approximation I could put together with minimal effort. I did not, as one friend suggested, go bra-less. As I told him, no one would want to see my boobs unsupported these days!! LOL As it turned out, I was one of a very few who wore anything that looked like the sixties. It was the hat that did it. It was fun - a bit like a Halloween costume. Maybe I'll wear it again next month. Our sixties lunch was pretty good, too. My cheese fondue was a big hit. We had several green bean casseroles and far too many little meatballs. Several jello salads. The interesting thing was that no one brought a green salad. I wonder if we did not eat salad greens during the 60s. I can't actually remember. I stayed to help clean up, since I'm on that committee and got home about 2 PM. I feel as if I've put in a full day already.

Book club is tonight, but I doubt if I'll go. I don't think I feel up to listening to a discussion of "Three Cups of Tea". All I want to do now is relax at home for the rest of the day.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

a blah week

This week has been a wasted one, I feel. Nothing much happened and I feel as if I was just killing time. I did the usual things - taught ceramics on Monday; went to ceramics classes on Tuesday and Wednesday; went to the church library on Wednesday; worked at the gift shop on Thursday; and went to lunch with friends on Friday. However, I really did not get anything done at home. I was so tired in the afternoons and evenings that I just sat around and re-read some of my old favorite novels or napped. Hopefully, whatever 'bug' that made me so tired and dispirited all week is gone now.

I expect a much more active week next week, as I will be going 'home' on Thursday to attend my 50 year high school reunion. I'm really looking forward to that. Seeing old friends and chatting with classmates I haven't seen in years is always interesting. I have to figure out what to wear and what ceramic object to take for the silent auction. I will also be seeing both of my brothers and sisters-in-law, since I'll be staying at Tom and Peggy's house and Jack and Kit will be driving up for the weekend. Lots of conversation and hopefully, no serious political discussions, since they are all rather conservative and I'm the flaming liberal (and black sheep) of the family! LOL We do have some rather heated discussions sometimes, but I will try to keep it polite and hope my brothers will do the same. We all love each other - just not each other's politics!

Tomorrow, our church is celebrating being in existence for 40 years. We will be parading around a bit and having a short service on the lawn where our new building will be - if we ever get the money and permits to build it. (If we get rain, that outside service will be VERY SHORT) We'll then go inside for a special service in our current sanctuary and then a pot luck luncheon featuring food from the 1960s. You can just imagine - remember green bean casserole and fondues? A gastronomical feast - or NOT! Some of us will also get into the spirit by wearing 60s clothes. I'm going with a tie-dyed tee shirt, beads, jeans and a floppy leather hat. Not bell bottom jeans, however. Too much effort to rip out seams and create those. Maybe I'll have a photo to put up next week.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Oh, my aching back!

Yesterday, I helped a friend who is painting sets for a production of "Bus Stop". I think I've mentioned in previous blogs how we went around to local thrift shops and bought props. Also, how we've been painting sets. Yesterday, it was the floor. The theater has chairs on three sides and the 'stage' is just a section (a large section) of the floor. My job was to spong paint the first color onto the floor. We are making it look like linoleum from the 1950s. There were three options for doing this, I found. I could (1) crawl around on my knees, (2) duck walk along the floor, or (3) bend from the waist and reach down with the sponge to touch the floor. None of these options were easy or comfortable - I tried them all! However, only the third one was hard on my back. I was rather sore and tired last night. Seem to be ok, today. The floor looked pretty good, although it will look better when the other two colors are added. I didn't have my camera with me yesterday, so can't include a photo of my 'great art project'! LOL

My front yard looks pretty good this fall, so I am including a couple of photos of it.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

pottery and books

Here are photos of two pieces I have made as a wedding present for a friend's daughter. Elise - don't look at these! They came out pretty good. I'm hoping to have some others in the same two colors ready by the end of the month, but it will be a near thing. I'm feeling refreshed and energetic - ready to do lots of clay work. That's good, because I have more clay opportunities this fall than usual.

Nothing else happening around here. The grass still needs cutting. Probably won't get done today, as it is supposed to rain. That was my excuse for not doing it yesterday evening as well! Guess I'll have to find a new excuse or actually cut the grass! LOL

I'm heading off to the church library. We have a book sale coming up on Sunday. People in the congregations (we share space in an Interfaith Center) donate books and then buy them back, so to speak. We usually make about $400, which we use to buy more books for the library. The only problem is that none of us library volunteers are very young and sorting and arranging books is somewhat tiring. Today, we'll sort all that have arrived and hope that no more come in on Sunday. On Sunday, I'll be at church from about 8 AM until 2 PM, setting up for the sale and cleaning up afterwards. I used to put all the leftover books in my van and haul them to a local thrift store. However, lifting all those boxes of books was too hard on my back. We now get a charity to pick them up. Let someone else ruin their back!

Monday, September 14, 2009

back to my fall routine

What a tiring weekend! I don't know why I was so tired. Maybe it was the emotional stresses. And, frankly, as I get older, I find that even having company for a few days is tiring. Andy, bless him, decided to leave yesterday AM. This was a good thing, as I was exhausted by noon and would not have had the energy to go any place or do anything the rest of the day. I had various committments at church (coffee hour, Sunday School, choir) and when I finished the coffee hour cleanup, I just came home and crashed. I even took a nap, which I rarely do. Didn't try to accomplish anything with the rest of the afternoon, except putting the basement room back in order. (The basement rec room/library is my guest room for people who are too large to sleep on the 3/4 bed in the upstairs guest room. Andy is 6'3" and weighs over 200 pounds, so he always sleeps on the queen sized futon down in the basement.) Luckily, he helped me put the futon back into a couch before he left. It's heavy and I have great difficulty opening it or closing it by myself.

We had a beautiful day yesterday. It was sunny but not too hot - just right for sitting out on my deck. I ate dinner out there. Today will be hotter, I think. This week promises to be the kind of weather I would like to have all summer. Of course, here in the 'upper South' we don't get that kind of summer. Our summers are very hot and humid. We are grateful for a taste of really nice weather each fall.

My 'Jack and the beanstalk' gourd vine has now reached the landing on the deck stairs. Obviously, it loves the hot weather! I think it's debating whether or not to come on up to the deck itself. I will have to stop it. I don't want to be able to smell that vine when I sit outside on the deck. I never realized that gourd vines (probably squash and pumpkin too) have a very distinctive, unpleasant odor. Of course, I never grew anything as large as this one before! I have picked one gourd off it, so far. There are several others not quite ready for picking. It's fun having my own source of gourds, even if they all look very much alike! I like the morning glories better.

This week I will be back into my regular fall routine. I've signed up for a ceramics class at the Montpelier Art Center - Raku fire. This is really fun. We made whatever we want and at the end of the class, we fire everything. I usually make masks, but perhaps I will try a pot or two this year. I also signed up for a one-day class in making collages. I've never actually done that kind of art, but it looks interesting. It's a bit like doing ATCs (Artist Trading Cards) or fabric postcards, but on a larger scale. That class isn't until November. And, of course, I'm also back to the ceramics class at the senior center in Columbia. I've been in that class for a couple of years now. It's good for me because I can learn new and better techniques of handbuilding from the teacher and then turn around and teach them to the ceramics class I lead at another senior center. As you can see, I'm up to my elbows in clay this fall! You can tell that I enjoy getting my hands into dirt.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

"Its' so nice to have a man around the house"

Andy, my former husband, is staying at my house for a few days. He came up from Hampton, VA to attend the memorial service for our friend Linda. The service was today. It was not an emotional service and there was very little crying. There was a lovely rendition of 'Amazing Grace' by a young flute player. (I used to play flute, so am partial to that instrument.) A close friend of Linda and Rob read his own and Rob's memories of Linda. I think the two readings touched on most aspects of Linda's life. The stories told made me think, "Oh, yes, that's just like Linda". After the service, there was a reception with finger food. Many friends from my former church were there, some whom I had not seen since the funeral of another friend, two years ago. It's sad to think that I only see some of these folks when someone we know dies. We stayed until nearly everyone had left and then went out to wander around Annapolis for a while. Lots of new stores since we last shopped there. A big football game was scheduled for mid-afternoon at the Naval Academy and the streets were full of Midshipmen in their whites. Andy and I enjoyed the art galleries and shops, but didn't buy anything. After an hour or so, we headed for home.

When Andy said he'd like to stay here for the weekend, I warned him that I had a few home repair items that I wanted him to help me with. When we got home, he had a cigarette (I do wish he didn't smoke.) and a cup of coffee and started in. The first thing was for him to instruct me in replacing some electrical outlets. When I moved in, almost all the outlets needed to be replaced because the plugs were loose in them and would fall part way out. Andy replaced about a dozen outlets, however, there were a couple that I wasn't using, so didn't replace. Since then, I've started using those outlets, so they needed to be replaced. Andy told me what to do and I did the work on the first outlet. On the second one, I told him not to say anything unless I did something wrong. He had a lot of trouble with that, as I am slower than he and he kept wanting to help. However, I did both outlets and they now work as they should.

Next, he took a look at a problem with one of the sliding screen doors in the basement. This door has been damaged for some time. (My son-in-law ran into it, not realizing there was a screen. In England, they don't use screens in the doors or windows because there aren't many insects trying to get in.) For about a year now, I have been unable to move the screen at all. It was out of the track, and I could not get it back on or do anything else with it. Andy tinkered around with it and managed to get it back onto the track. It is still a bit bent, but it does open and shut now, which is all that is important. You will note that I did not suggest that he should tell me what to do and just let me do the work on this!

The last thing he did was to sand and scrape the edge of the door to the powder room., Since I painted the door the other day, it has been sticking if closed all the way. Unfortunately, Andy had to remove several layers of paint before the door would close easily. Now, I will have to repaint the door and the frame. Hopefully, when I do this, the door will still close! I certainly could have sanded and scraped the paint off the door myself. However, Andy wanted to do something for me, so I let him! Too bad I don't have a whole bunch of projects for him to do. He'll be here all day tomorrow. We'll have to find something to do to keep him busy, so that I don't have to chat with him all the time. He is VERY DEAF now, and I am shouting in order to have him hear me. As a result I am losing my voice.

I think we are going out to dinner soon, so I will end this. I'm thinking maybe Chinese tonight.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

heeee's back

Ground hog returned last night. Didn't damage my plants, but ate all the blooms and most of the leaves of two of my neighbor's mums. She had just planted them a few days ago, so she is really MAD! I'll be mad too, when he/she eats more of mine, which is very likely to happen. Most of mine are not in the ground, but in pots, but if the critter is willing to climb up my steps, then there really isn't any safe place.

Speaking of critters - the beavers struck again this week. This time they took down a good-sized tree. It's lying across the sidewalk and into the road. Of course, the stupid animal can't get it down to the creek. He doesn't seem to be learning from experience. The only 'good' aspect of this is that the trees are on county property, not our homeowners' association responsibility. Of course, the county probably won't replace the decorative trees along the road - at least not any time soon. Oh well, it's not my worry. I just hope the critters don't swim on down the stream and end up in the pond below my property!

I've been painting doors the last couple of days. Not very exciting, but I'm happy with the results. I made a mistake, however, and painted barefoot. (No, I did not use my feet to paint with!) LOL Usually I wear some very old shoes. Anyway, the bottoms of my feet were black from walking on newspaper, with some bright green spots where I had stepped in paint drips. Thank goodness for latex paint that washes off. I remember when I was a kid, helping my dad paint. It was oil-based paint, of course, and we had to use turpentine to clean the brushes and our hands. I've always liked the smell of turpentine, but not as a cologne!

Monday, September 7, 2009

in memorium

My friend Linda died early this morning. She has been unable to tolerate the chemo necessary to reduce the cancer, and last week she stopped all chemo and started Hospice care. She was having great difficulty breathing, even with extra oxygen. I guess it's a good thing that she went quickly, although it's hard to see anything good about her illness and death.

Linda was a quiet person and it took me many years to get to know her. She was very active - played tennis and did aerobics. She volunteered as a docent (I forget where). She and Rob went on vacation to many wild and unusual places and always came back with souvenirs and stories to share. Linda and Rob were part of the Friday lunch group, although they haven't been at lunch with us since she was diagnosed with cancer. I did visit them a couple of times this summer. It seems hard to realize that she will never come to lunch again; never have a story about an exciting trip; never tell us how Rob defended her from a pickpocket, or what weird food they ate in some exotic land.

I never heard her complain about how unfair it is that she should be dying; never saw her cry about fate (although surely she did). Linda died quietly and bravely. We should all do that well when our time comes. Goodbye, Linda, you are missed.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

technologically challenged?

I've been having telephone and computer problems for several days. The phone problems came to light when I tried to make a long distance phone call to a friend in New York State. I got a recording that gave me a customer service number to call. I thought that her phone was having problems, but it turned out to be mine. I called the number and went through the usual robot questions and answers for quite a while before I finally got a live person. She said she could not help me because the number I was calling was out of her area. (At this point, I thought the problem was on my friend's phone). The person I was talking to gave me another number to call.

When I reached a person at that number, he was only working on wireless and sent me back to the original number. When I reached a live person again at that number, she checked my phone and determined that they had no information of any account at that number. However, the company (Qwest) allowed another company (Primus?) to use their lines. That company was the one I had been using as my long distance carrier. I called their number, only to hear a recording that said I could contact them via fax, or email, or US mail or go onto their website. NO PHONE NUMBER! Imagine that - a phone company that won't talk on the phone!

I tried the website and they also had no records of any account in my name or number. I think I know what happened. A couple of months ago, I cancelled a credit card. I believe that card had the automatic payment to the phone company on it. Now, I would have thought that when the payment didn't reach the company, they would have tried to contact me about it. Seems logical to me - but evidently not to Primus. They never contacted me about missing payments or to say they were cancelling my account. A very strange way to do business.

The upshot is that I contact Verizon. They DO talk on the phone and are very helpful. I looked on line to see what their prices were, and then called them to get the new account set up. This seemed to work very well, although, of course, I had to go through the automatic stuff for a bit before I could reach a person. She took all the information and then said that she would transfer the call to an independent verifier to double check the information. The verifier started reading off the information and oops! the phone number was incorrect. So, he sent me back to the Verizon automatic number. As you can imagine, I was getting very frustrated. However, at this point, I got lucky and reached a live person quickly. All the information was there, including the correct phone number, so back I went to another verifier. This time everything was ok. Of course, I haven't tried using my long distance, so I am not sure that it is working. Guess I'll find out today. So much for the phone problems.

The computer problems started, I think, after I did one of those suggested clean-ups to make my computer run better. I don't know what all was eliminated, but bad things began to happen. First I couldn't get back on the internet. This, as it turned out, was because the phone jack had been disconnected when something fell behind a cabinet and hit the device that splits the connection between the phone and the computer. I got that fixed, but then my keyboard stopped working. This was caused by another loose connection, that probably happened when I was moving the CPU out to reach the back of it. I reconnected the keyboard, but then the mouse stopped working and my screen froze up. Only the screen saver was working. I eventually had to turn the computer off and let it rest. When I turned it back on, everything seemed to be ok, but I had a message from McAfee saying that my virus protection was not on. Although they told me it was off, I could not find any way to turn it on. At some point (I'm not sure exactly where) in this mess, I had reset my computer for the way it was at the beginning of the week before all went haywire. Evidently this did something to the virus protection - or maybe not. Anyway, I quit for the day and the next time I used the computer, everything worked ok and the virus protection was back on. I am beginning to become techno-phobic! I would keep my fingers crossed that everything continues to work, but it's really hard to type that way!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

to paint or not to paint

I bought paint yesterday - for the powder room and for living room doors and outside of front door. All the doors will be green, although the outside door will be a lighter color. Dark colors absorb way too much heat in Maryland summers, so I try to keep that door a pale color. The powder room will be a nice golden yellow. That will be quite a contrast from the present very colorful wallpaper. I have received conflicting advice about whether to remove the wallpaper or not. My friends say that removal is messy and unnecessary. The paint store guy says that the wallpaper may peel off, if I paint over it. Decisions, decisions. I think this is why I have put up with wallpaper I don't really like for 8 years now!

I'm still fighting with the ground hog, who I think is NOT in residence under my steps or bay window at the moment. Last night, I filled the holes back in, after saturating them with water. I thought the water would bring him/her out, but it didn't, so I'm thinking that the hole was empty. Anyway, I have added some concrete blocks to the stones blocking the hole and pounded metal poles into the ground in an attempt to keep the stones and blocks in front of the holes. Also used mothballs, as the critters seem to find them offensive. We'll see what happens next. I think that groundhogs dig several holes to use as emergency escapes. Probably there are other in the neighborhood with holes under their steps. This fall, I may mix up some concrete and fill the holes rather more permanently!

This has been a lovely week, weather-wise. Cool nights and sunny, warm (not hot) days. Temperatures are creeping up, but still pleasant. I should be outside doing some major trimming this weekend. My backyard is truly turning into a jungle this summer, thanks to the gourd and grape vines. It's going to require my tallest ladder to get those vines down. I can hardly wait - NOT! Photos show the vine coming up the steps (it has almost reached the landing); the vine growing atop bushes; and the other vine (wild grapevine?) taking over the top of an evergreen tree.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

critter problems

Our not-welcome resident woodchuck/groundhog is back - possibly burrowing under my front steps. I have found several holes, but not seen the critter recently. However, one of the mums on my steps was pruned rather severely, not by human hands (or teeth). Yesterday, I used the hose to flood both of the places where he had dug holes. They filled up with water and no angry, wet animal came out, so I guess he/she wasn't at home. I put more rocks down the latest hole, but now I've run out of rocks. I will have to go down to the creek and see if I can find more that are small enough for me to lug back up the hill, but large enough to discourage digging. This is an ongoing battle and even it I make my front yard less hospitable, there are 7 others front yards with nice digging areas in my row of townhouses. All the animal has to do is keep moving around. It's very frustrating.

Last night, Patty and I went for a walk and discovered that the development has another animal problem - this one more serious. We saw a number of small trees that had been cut down and several larger ones that were badly chewed low on the trunk. We knew it was beavers!! This was confirmed when we met another walker who told us there had been a dead beaver along Route 1, which is near us. The stream that meanders through our development goes over toward route 1. I think we have to call the Maryland Dept. of Natural Resources, as they have jurisdiction over the stream. Patty is going to talk to the management company and the homeowner's board members. We hope the DNR will come out and trap any remaining beavers. Meanwhile, our association will have to pay for tree replacement. I fear that the damaged trees will die, as several inches of bark and trunk were chewed off. We won't replace the trees from the wooded areas, but several trees were along a road where we are responsible for maintenance. At least the beavers haven't gotten as far as the stream behind my house. There is a natural pond there, where the stream has changed flow from storms over the past couple of years. So far, no beavers there.