Thursday, April 29, 2010

The continuing saga of an elderly car

As you can see from the photo, taken from my front steps, I have more iris coming into bloom. Last year, I dug up many iris and moved them and gave them away. As a result, I have no idea which ones I have left and where they are. The front flower bed is very crowded with iris and lilies and other perennials, so some of the iris are in the back. I hope I haven't lost any of my favorites, but will have to wait and see.

Yesterday, I took my car to the shop because I thought the coolant was leaking again. My mechanic couldn't find any evidence of that. He thinks I have been over-filling the system and when it heats up, the coolant is forced out the top of the overflow container. This is possible, but I still don't know why I found the container empty the other day. Anyway, he wants me to bring the car to them, if I think it needs more coolant and they will show me exactly how much should be in the overflow container. I'm sure he thinks I'm a real ditz now, but no one ever told me that when the engine is cold, the coolant should only reach the 'low' mark in the container!

So the news about the coolant is good, but it was still a costly trip because I have to take the car in for emission inspection soon and the 'check engine' light has been on for a long time. I told them to fix it yesterday so that I could pass the inspection. They had suggested that I not get it fixed until the inspection, and now I know why. It cost me $300, that's why!! A very expensive little part to keep my car from polluting the air. I feel as if I've now done my part for better air quality in Maryland!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

How my garden grows

The clematis is blooming in the back garden . I have two, but the blue/purple one isn't in bloom so far. They grow side by side and overlap, so I'm not sure where one ends and the other begins.
I did more clean-up out there over the weekend, and managed to pull a muscle in my back. I was just cutting up trimmings and putting them in plastic bags. You wouldn't think that would strain the back, but.....Anyway, I'm stuck at home today (car in the shop) and I can't even go out and do more yard work,because that would involve using my back muscles. Rats! I could clean my house, of course, but who wants to do that on a lovely cool, sunny day? Not me!
Last night, I went to a rehearsal for the MAD spring show. I had about decided not to participate in it this year. The new director didn't seem very competent; there were only 5 singers at the first rehearsal; and the music didn't have parts, only the melody line. However, that has changed with a different director and different music. Last night we had 14 people. We need more guys, but still it was a reasonable group. Rehearsal went well, I thought. The show is in June, so we have some time to learn the music.
I think I am going to get a dogwood tree to plant in the empty space in the back yard. I want a small tree, that will not produce heavy shade and a dogwood seems the best bet. I can't plant it until I amend the soil, however, as what is back there is horrible - clay and stones. I'm going to try to level it out some as well. Can't start any of that until my back is ok. Then I'll try not to pull any more muscles when I carry bags of compost and good soil to the back yard. There are times that I really wish I had an end unit townhouse, instead of a middle one.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

spring blooms

These are iris and columbine in the front yard.

Spring came early here in Maryland, due to the 90 degree weather we had for a few days.
Everything burst into bloom. Here are a few snaps of my early bloomers. The pale blue, almost white iris, is especially early. Ive also noticed that the azaleas around the neighborhood are in full bloom - several weeks ahead of schedule.

Today I have continued clearing out the back yard. I cut the forsythia down to the ground, knowing that it will come back before fall. I have many offspring from that one bush and wouldn't mind at all if it died, but I know it won't. Those bushes, once they are truly established are impossible to kill. Anyway, the back fence, most of which I haven't seen in many years, is now visible, which is too bad. It's a drab gray and needs to be covered up with vines or bushes. I haven't decided what to put back there. Probably a clematis on the trellis that is fastened to the remains of the evergreen. Then, perhaps another vine on the fence, or a tree or another bush. Lots of possibilities and not a whole lot of room. Shrubs and trees get big after a few years and I have to keep that in mind, or I will have another problem bush, like the forsythia! It's fun having possibilities and a new space to play with. I would never have cut that evergreen down, because the birds really liked it, but when mother nature ruined it, I was happy to have the excuse to get rid of it. Anyway, the back yard is a work in progress. I'll keep you posted.

You can see where the evergreen and the forsythia bush were. The dark red flower is a trillium that I brought down from my sister-in-law's garden in western New York.

A friend who understands computers dropped by yesterday. She played around with my computer and got rid of a few annoying things that kept popping up. I don't understand most of the messages that my computer sends me. "Such and such would like to add something or other to something I already have." It might as well be in Greek for all I can tell. I'm sure there will be more issues with Windows 7, but at least I understand a bit more about it. Thanks, Deb.

Last night I attended my first Council meeting at church. Years ago, I was on the Session at a previous church, so I had a rough idea of what this would involve. I think it won't be too time consuming, once I get a handle on what my committee is responsible for. The worst things will be calling people to serve Communion every month. I really hate phoning people whom I don't know very well and asking them to do something. But if that's the worst thing I have to do, I won't complain - at least not too much! LOL

I have an evening activity 4 nights this week. That is much busier than I want to be. I guess it's my age, but by dinner time, I am tired and don't want to get out and go anywhere. At least, two of the activities are things I enjoy - a pottery class on Wednesday and choir on Thursday. I'll still have to push myself to go, but I'll enjoy it once I'm there.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

a day of Raku

Today, I spent the whole day at Montpelier Arts Center, doing a Raku firing. This is done outside, because when the ceramic piece reaches red hot, molten temperatures, we remove it from the kiln, using asbestos gloves and tongs, and place it into a garbage can filled with flammable materials. The very hot piece, ignites the material; we put the lid on and let it sit while the smoke roils around inside. After about 45 minutes, it's cool enough to remove. The smoke makes interesting patterns on the object and the glazes mature in sometimes unexpected ways. I love Raku precisely because the end result is always a surprise. There is a lot of waiting around during this process and the Raku kiln only holds a few pieces, so the process takes all day, even though this time there were only two of us firing. Saturdays are open studio days, so other students came and went. Those of us staying all day brought food and there was continuous snacking. Today we had lots of donuts (3 people brought them), but some healthy food as well. No one went away hungry!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A good week

Here are some photos of the dogwood trees blooming down by the stream. You can see that the trees are leafing out. Soon I won't be able to see the stream at all. Already, the houses on the other side are hidden by leaves. Spring has been accelerated this year, due to the very HOT weather we had last week. Lilacs are in bloom (none in my yard) and iris are budded. Dandelions are still blooming in my yard, but not nearly as many since I dug up a bunch. I sure wish I could be outside today, but it's my day to work in the hospital gift shop. I hate being inside when the weather is gorgeous.

Monday night the Worship Committee (I'm the new chairperson) met at church. The meeting went well and was short, which I love! Also, I found out that we only meet every other month, another good thing! Hopefully, this will continue NOT to be a burden. I swore when I retired that I would not go to any more meetings, but now I have Council once a month and the Worship Committee. I guess I'll survive! LOL

I am back doing something with ceramics three times a week now. Teaching on Monday afternoon and taking classes on Tuesday AM and Wednesday evening. Last night was the first class at Montpelier Arts Center. This is a class for advanced students. We just come in and do our own things. The instructor is available if we need help or encouragement, but he doesn't really teach, since we don't need that. I worked all evening on a mask of a lion - using a photo a friend took. I think my lion looks pretty much like the photo (it was of a lion statue). Time will tell whether it works out or not. There are any number of things that can go wrong in the process of making something from clay. First rule is: "Don't get attached to your piece until after the final firing." We will be doing a Raku firing on Saturday. I have several pieces from the last session that can be glazed and fired. I'm looking forward to that.

Yesterday, I expected to have oral surgery to clear up the infection beneath the tooth that had the root canal last month. When I got there, the dentist checked it and said that it looks like the infection is clearing up on its own, so no surgery at this point. I'll go back in May for another check on it. It would be nice not to have surgery. I can easily find more pleasurable uses for the $500 it would cost!

Anyway, this feels like a very positive week for me. Of course, it's partly the weather and the time of year. I always feel good in the spring. Something about all those flowers popping up and trees leafing out, I guess. Happy Spring!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Holy Humor Sunday

At my church (Protestant), we have a tradition (just a few years old) of doing a very different worship service on the Sunday after Easter. We didn't start this tradition; our minister read about it and our Council decided we should try it. Everyone is supposed to dress up in a funny costume and hat - most people do that. And the congregation is encouraged to bring in jokes and read/tell them at one point in the service. The choir will sing a less serious anthem than the usual. Choir is supposed to be wearing Hawaiian shirts and funny hats. Most of us will, although someone always forgets. I'm not keen on this service, because many of the jokes aren't that funny and some people just can't tell a joke properly. Stand-up comedians, we are NOT!

Today we are also having a farewell coffee hour/luncheon for the Hispanic Pastor of the Roman Catholic Church that shares our worship space. The pastor is a really nice guy and always comes to Holy Humor Sunday and tells a funny joke. He has been reassigned and will be leaving very soon. I'm sure his congregation will truly miss him and so will those of us who have gotten to know him.

Looks like it will be another lovely day here. Sunshine and not too hot. Yesterday was windy and just a bit chilly. I dug up dandelions that were blooming profusely in the front lawn. I'm sure when I check this AM, I will find a few I missed. A gardener's work is never done, but that's ok, as I really enjoy it.

Tonight, I'm hoping to meet my Pittsburgh friends for dinner at a restaurant famed for its crab cakes. I'm not crazy about crab cakes, maybe because I didn't grow up in Maryland, but it will be great to see my friends. And, I don't have to order crab cakes!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

a hot day for hard work

Yesterday, a day when the temperature reached 90 degrees Fahrenheit, I decided to haul the branches of the juniper tree to the landfill. Since my townhouse is a middle unit, my choices were to carry the branches through the house - not possible, as they were wider than my doors and would have dropped needles along the way - or drag them around the other units, up a slope and out to the front. I hauled them out and around, two or three at a time. Many of them were as big around as my wrist and about 5-6 foot in length. Somehow, I managed to stuff all of them into the back of my van. (There are a couple of small branches left, but I can easily cut those up and put out for the recycle pickup on Friday.) The trip to the landfill was uneventful, except that the entrance is not well marked, so I overshot and had to turn around. It took about 25 minutes to get there and another 25, waiting in line to get into the place where wood is dumped. The landfill is a huge area, with different places for different materials. There is no charge for county residents bringing in yard waste. I unloaded my branches and drove home, tired but delighted to be rid of them. Yesterday, my car had a lovely smell of juniper. I suppose today it will just smell like dirty car again!

I still have some more trimming to do out back. Gonna cut that forsythia back to the ground (again!). Also will dig up various small volunteer forsythia bushes. Wherever a branch touches the ground, it roots and voila! a new plant. My advice to other gardeners, is don't put in forsythia unless you have a huge area that you want covered with bushes! The fun part will come later this spring, when I figure out what I can put in the space where the juniper tree was. It will get much more sunlight than before, so I have more options. A vine will go on the stumps of the tree, but there will be room for flowers that like sun. The rest of the backyard is a shade garden, which I love, but it will be nice to have more room for sun-loving plants. Of course, it is way too soon to plant summer flowers. I'll just dream and plan for a while.

Monday, April 5, 2010

tree is down

No more juniper tree in the backyard. After I cut all the branches off, I decided not to try to cut the trunk off at the ground. Instead, I have left upright two trunks, one about 3 foot tall and the other maybe 5 foot. They will serve as the base of a trellis for a vine to be planted later this summer. I'm not sure what vine - maybe another clementis. I have white and blue, so pink would be nice. I have managed to pull out and cut off the wild honeysuckle that was growing amidst the clementis on the fence. This is an ongoing chore, as I cannot get at the roots of the honeysuckle, so it keeps growing back. The leaves are similar to the clementis, so I have to look closely to ensure that I am cutting off the correct stems. While I was cutting up trimmings, I discovered that the old buddelia (butterfly bush) had finally died. It mostly died last year, but yesterday, I realized the main trunk was rotted at the base. So, out it came. I think I will put another one there, as I really like them. Maybe a white one. I don't have many white flowering plants and white would look good against the fence.

The backyard has been almost covered by the branches of the juniper and clippings from forsythia and beauty bush. Yesterday, I cut up the smaller branches of the two bushes and bagged them for recycle pickup. I have decided to just load the juniper branches into my van and haul them to the dump. There is a small fee, but it will be worth it because I won't have to cut them up into 4 foot lengths and bundle them, as I would for recycle pickup. I'll get that done this week, before the needles dry and start dropping off the branches. There was, however, a cost to the cutting I did yesterday. Today my shoulder and arm are sore. This should not have been unexpected, as I was using muscles that weren't used all winter. Those muscles will get more use this spring, because I need to do more clipping. I want to try once again to get the forsythia under control. This is an ongoing battle and one I am destined to lose. However, I'll cut it all the way back again this spring and at least get a year's break. I will also lose next year's blossoms, but that can't be helped.

As you can tell from the above, the weekend was spent on yard work. There is more to do, of course. The deck really needs to be cleaned. It's littered with shells from bird seed. I must get remember to bring the hose down from the upstairs bath tub, where it sat all winter, and re-attach it to the outdoor faucet. Yeah, I know the bathtub is a weird place to store a hose, but I don't use that bathroom and if the hose still has water in it, at least it won't drip on the floor! There is another hose somewhere in the basement. When I find it, it will go out front. I know it's down there, but my basement storage room is so full of boxes and bags of decorative stuff that it's hard to find anything. I really need to get in there and get rid of some stuff. I've been saying that for at least a year and made no progress. Maybe Kate will help me this summer. She is the world's expert at throwing stuff away!

Yesterday was such a lovely day and we have more to come. I hope everyone is enjoying this gorgeous weather. I'm sure the cold, rainy weather will return, but not for a few more days.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

another little quilt swap

My daughter, Kate North, is setting up another little quilt swap. I participated in the last one and it was great fun. If you are interested, go to for all the details.

Yesterday evening, as Patty and I walked around the neighborhood, we were surprised and unhappy at how much trash has accumulated on the slopes and in the woods of our development. This time of year, before all the bushes put on leaves, trash really shows up. We are hoping to have a neighborhood "trash pick-up day" this spring. People who don't walk around the area are probably unaware of the accumulation. We have such a beautiful development. It's a shame to find it messy.

Today is supposed to be partly sunny and actually HOT - up to 80F. However, so far it is neither sunny nor particularly hot. I supposed I should be glad, as I need to go out and saw some more of the broken evergreen in the back yard. I have decided to try to get it down myself. I have already cut off most of the branches, but the trunk will be a real problem, as it runs parallel to the ground for a foot before it goes up. I don't think I will even try to get the roots out, but will just leave a low stump in the ground and plant something in front of it. With the tree gone, I will have much less shade in the backyard, which will be fine. I actually not too worried about getting the tree down. The real effort will be in cutting up the branches small enough for the recycle pickup. They can be no longer than 4 foot and no more than 4 inches in diameter. Lots of sawing will be needed. I figure I can do about 30 minutes at a time, so this will be an ongoing project. Still, it will be fun to see the flower bed change, after the tree is gone.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Above are photos showing spring in my front yard and a ceramic bowl that was fired last week.

I haven't blogged lately, mostly because nothing much has been happening around here. The flowering plum tree out front is blooming - very lovely - covered with pink blossoms. Out back the forsythia is blooming, but not much of it. I cut it way back last year and evidently cut off most of the stems that would have had blossoms this spring. That darn bush grows 4 foot a year and just takes over the flower bed. I have several other bushes along the fence line and they also are vigorous growers. The place is a jungle come summer. However, there will be on radical change this year. I have/had a large juniper growing along the fence. The heavy snows in February ruined that evergreen. Five or six major branches split from the weight of the snow. I went out yesterday and sawed off those broken branches. What is left is not worth keeping. I'm going to cut the entire tree down - or perhaps pay someone to do that. The yard will look rather different back there, but the change will be interesting. The birds will be unhappy, as they would fly into that tree and perch there waiting for the feeders. Oh well, that's the breaks - literally in this case!

Yesterday afternoon, Patty invited me to accompany her to a new (to me) craft store - A.C.Moore. We went to the one in Glen Burnie, near where I lived before I moved to Laurel. We had an 'interesting' drive getting there. I actually could have directed Patty to the street where the store was, but she has a new GPS, so we used that. It's a great little device, as it not only gives directions, but also checks for road hazards, traffic jams and suchlike. As a result, we followed a somewhat convoluted path, but didn't get stuck in rush hour traffic. The store is quite an experience. It's bigger and better than JoAnn's or Michael's with a huge selection of craft, art, and scrapbook supplies. The kind of place where you always end up buying something.
When we left there, we decided to go out to dinner. We ended up on the outskirts of Columbia at a place called Mimi's. I think it is aiming toward French cuisine, although it's hard to tell. My food was adequate, not great, but the service was fast and the prices reasonable. They offer mini desserts, an idea which I love. Unfortunately, they were out of bread pudding, which Patty tells me is delicious, but my dessert (apple crisp) was very good and just the right size.