Monday, December 19, 2011

visit to Kate's

Arrived safely last week and have been fairly busy ever since.  There is always a lot going on here, probably because the kids have so many activities outside of school.  There is Scouts (Alex), Guides (Sarah and Olivia), swimming (Olivia and Alex), flute lessons (Olivia) and probably a couple I've forgotten.  Also it's almost the last day of school, so there is an assembly today at Green Lane (Alex ) with singing and suchlike.  I'll go over there to hear it.  Tomorrow is a half day for all the kids, so they will come home having eaten their fill of Christmas goodies.

And, speaking of goodies, we baked yesterday.  Kate's family blog has a photo of the goodies - 10 different kinds of cookies!  Most of the baking was done by Sarah and Olivia, with Kate supervising.  Alex helped a bit, decorating and suchlike.  I washed dishes - LOTS OF DISHES!  I did make one batch of peanut butter/chocolate squares - a no bake cookie.  After the baking, we went to an Christmas party down the street.  The hosts were a couple of guy whom Kate and Geoff didn't know very well, but they were really nice and Kate knew many of the other folks who were there.  I hadn't realized how many old folks live on this street.  At our end, there are mostly younger families (like Kate's), but almost everyone at the party was my age or older.  I guess the younger folks were busy with other activities.  I chatted with an older guy originally from Australia (he's lived in England for 50 years) and then with a woman who teaches at one of the local schools.  (Not the school where Kate is  working).  It was a nice drop-in sort of party, but that many people talking in a small space is hard on my ears. 

Saturday night we had dinner with a family whose daughter went to nursery school with Sarah.  Because Kate and Carolyn became friends, the families get together every year at Christmas and sometimes in between, despite the fact that Sarah and Amelia went to different primary schools.  Now that they are both in secondary school, they are together again.  Anyway, I've also gotten to know Carolyn and Brian, and very much enjoy seeing them when I'm here.  Their neighborhood is one of the few that REALLY DECORATE for the Holidays.  Even by American standards, that neighborhood is over the top in lights and animated displays.  We went out for a walk to see all the decorations which were spectacular as usual.  After dinner, we had a bit of music.  Kate, Olivia and I brought our flutes and clarinet (Sarah also plays clarinet) and Amelia play piano.  Geoff once played piano, so he had a turn plunking away on a couple of carols.  Carolyn just sings, so we did some Christmas carols with just instruments and some with various combinations, including voice.  Kate has a book of Christmas songs with three parts - for flute  and the same parts for clarinet.  We've been playing them with two flutes and one clarinet and having a great time at home. 

We haven't done much serious shopping, as Kate tries to avoid the malls in the weeks before Christmas.  However, I've been checking out all the charity shops (thrift stores) in two nearby communities.  Haven't bought much, but I like poking around to see what English people donate.  The clothing seems nicer that what one finds in the US thrifts, but I think it's just that the stores here are all small and are more selective about what they put out.  We did go to Wimbledon on Saturday because Kate and Alex were packing groceries at one of the stores - an activity to benefit the Boy Scouts.  The girls and I wandered around the street and 'Centre Court' (shopping center). The girls had Christmas money to spend, so they enjoyed the shopping.  The stores weren't nearly as crowded as I expected, except for one store that had about 20 people in line.  Sarah was buying something so she cued up and Olivia and I surveyed and purchased pastries at a kiosk in the mall.  Mmmm, good.

The weather here has been cold and a bit drizzly.  One morning it snowed (sort of ) on and off.  The snow was more like falling slush, coming down in big gobs, not flakes and melting as soon as it hit the ground.  It rained several evenings, so there are lots of puddles, making walking not very enjoyable.  I suppose there is a chance of snow for Christms, but it's not very likely.  Last year they had a lot of snow in December, but that is unusual for this part of England.  Alex is keeping track of Christmas - he tells us each day how many days are left.  I think he would say it's now FIVE!  (Or maybe six, depending on how you count it.  Not long, any way you look at it.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

concerts

The Bain senior chorus sang twice recently.  First was on Sunday at HCC with one of the choruses at the college.  We sang in the Smith Theater, which has wonderful acoustics.  We really sounded good, I think.  The HCC chorus only sang with us for a couple of numbers, but it was great to have all those young voices joining us.   We sang again at Heartlands (assisted living place) yesterday.  The audience seemed to enjoy the music, although they would probably have enjoyed Christmas carols more.  We did sing one familiar Holiday song, but the others were not directly related to Christmas, except for a spoof song that starts:  I'm so baroque at Christmas.  It very funny, using tunes from the Messiah with amusing words about being broke at Christmas.

I'll pack this afternoon and be on my way tonight.  Can't wait to see the grandkids. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Another busy week

I've been fairly busy the last week or so.  Among others things, I wrote and mailed Christmas letters and cards to about 40 people; tried to sell my pottery at a the senior center; went to a craft show; had a doctor's appointment; and went to the theater; in addition to the usual music rehearsals and volunteer activities.

The pottery sale was a bust.  It was very poorly organized - no publicity.  The tables weren't set up before the doors opened.  Some people with tables were not selling, just showing off their wares. (I think that is just weird for a craft show!)  At least one person was selling used jewelry, not handmade stuff.  It wasn't supposed to be a yard sale!  The only people who came to the sale were the usual seniors who come to the center and they weren't buying.  None of us sold much.  Frankly, it was a big waste of time.  We won't do it again, that's for sure.

I have received my first Christmas card.  It's from my step-son and his family and is a collage of photos of him, his wife and the kids.  Even a photo of the baby who is due December 24!  My cards went into the mail today.  I'm glad to have that done.

The craft show I attended on Saturday was a pretty good one, not overwhelmingly large.  The place was mobbed!  Evidently it's a popular show.  There were about 140 crafters. The only thing I didn't like was that there were too many people selling jewelry.  This seems to be a problem at craft shows this year.  After the first 4 or 5 booths with jewelry, it gets a bit boring.  However, it was a pretty good show, all in all.  I didn't buy much - a pretty hand-painted ornament and a small ceramic face.  There were only two tables with ceramics.  Of course, I always look for that. 

The doctor's appointment is a rather humorous story.   I had called and asked for a prescription for getting the shingles vaccine.  However, when I went to pick it up, they said I had to come in to see the doctor because there was something on my records that needed to be followed up on.  So, I made an appointment and when  I came in for it, the doctor asked me why I was there!  I had to laugh.  (It's a practice with several doctors and I don't always see the same one.)  Luckily, I knew that the reason for the appointment was to discuss one of the findings from a physical exam I had months ago.  So we discussed my bone loss problem.  For various reasons, the only treatment that I can use involves hormones.  And here's the kicker - one of the possible reactions to this is -  HOT FLASHES!   Isn't that a hoot?  I'm 70 years old and I thought all that was in the past.  Life can be interesting.

 Sunday night I went with two friends to see 'The Sound of Music' at the Olney Theater.  It had not gotten good reviews in the Post, but I thought the cast did a good job.  The children were especially good, with wonderful voices.  Going places with elderly ladies is interesting.  Both of these women use canes and walk slowly, which is hard for me, as I always seem to be in a hurry.  There was some mix up with the seats, and we stood around and waited for the house manager to straighten it out.  Finally I made a bit of a fuss and insisted that we be seated, as one of my friends has trouble standing for any length of time and I was afraid she would collapse.  Sometimes you just have to be a bit pushy.  We were seated immediately, in better seats than our original ones.  The only thing I don't like about going to that theater is driving there in the dark.  The roads are full of curves and have no street lights, as it's in a rural area.  Still, I was the only one who could have driven there in the dark.  Anyway, we got there and back, safely.


Tomorrow  the Bain chorus has a rehearsal at Howard Community College for a musical performance we will be doing on Sunday.  We will be singing with a small choir from the college.  We know the music pretty well, but I understand that the theater we will be in is not good for small groups.  We will be rehearsing tomorrow, so at least we'll get an idea of what the acoustics are like.  I have no idea if we'll get a large audience or not.  That doesn't really matter to me.  I just enjoy singing with a group.

We've had unseasonably warm weather recently, but it may be ending tomorrow.  I heard a weather report that we will get rain all day, with a chance of snow tomorrow evening.  I"m glad I don't have to go anywhere that night.   Perhaps winter is coming after all.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Now that Thanksgiving is over......Christmas is coming!

I shared Thanksgiving dinner with Patty and her mother.  It was at my house this year, so I actually had to dust and vacuum last week.  I have to clean again soon, as I have been taking down the fall decorations and putting up the Christmas ones, which means my floors are littered with dust, bits of artificial wreaths, flakes of tinsel and an occasional spider that rode up from the basement storage room with the ornaments!  We had fun on Thanksgiving, playing silly card games.  Of course, we ate too much and had lots of leftovers.  This year both Patty and I cooked turkeys, so there were plenty of leftovers.  Last year we did a 20 pound turkey and it took all day to cook.  Two small ones work better and allow us to have two different stuffings. 

I did get some decorations up, outside - colored lights draped over a bush near my front door and lots of artificial poinsettias edging the flower beds.  My immediate neighbor has outdone me by far this year.  She has three little spiral trees made of white lights as well as candy canes.  And Patty, down the other direction, has candy canes and poinsettias around the flower beds, as well as lights around her windows.  We really like to decorate for the holidays in our block.

This is a very busy week for me.  We have two daytime chorus rehearsals and I worked half a day in the gift shop.  Tomorrow is a afternoon lunch party for the volunteers at the hospital.  Thursday is a pottery sale at the senior center.  I doubt if I'll sell much, but I'm giving it a try. . Church choir rehearsal is Thursday night and Friday I have a doctor's appointment and lunch with friends.  The doctor appointment is rather amusing.  I called and asked them to write me a prescription for shingles vaccine, since my insurance will pay for the shot.  The doctor said that I had 'unfinished business' to take care of and have to make an appointment to come in before they will write the prescription.  I know what it's all about.  When I had my physical exam, months ago, one of the items was a request for me to come in to talk about my osteopenia (can't spell that work).  I never went in because I haven't decided what I want to do about it.  I guess now I will have to make up my mind.  I went online tonight and read all about the IV treatment that is only once a year or the shot that you get every 3 months.  Reading about all the possible side effects does NOT make me want to do either! 

I've been falling asleep every evening in my recliner and after napping for a couple of hours, having trouble falling asleep in my bed later.  So, I'm trying to develop a different habit.  Instead of reading all evening, I'm going on the computer for an hour or two.  At least when I"m typing I don't fall asleep, but as I get tired, I make a lot of typos. Hopefully, I have managed to catch and correct them all.



Here are some photos of the indoor decorations.
They are a bit dark, but if you click to enlarge them, they lighten up a bit.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Indian Summer

Yesterday was a real Indian Summer day.  (A really warm day that comes after several killing frosts.)  It was shirt-sleeve weather - sunny and mild.  I did some more clean up work involving the pots on the deck and sweeping dirt and leaves off the deck.  In the late afternoon, I stepped out front and saw a gorgeous sunset.  What a lovely day all around.  As we watched the sun set, I chatted with my neighbor, Patty.  We hadn't spent much time chatting lately, so it was nice to get caught up.  We usually do Thanksgiving together (and with her mother), so we started planning for that.  It will probably be at my house this year.  This is good, as it means that I will have an incentive to clean the house!  I am a lazy housekeeper and need an extra push to do anything other than straighten things up.  Last year we cooked a huge turkey (all of us want leftovers) and had trouble getting it done.  This year we will each do a smaller one.  This way, we can each do our own version of stuffing and no one will have to start cooking the turkeys at some horrible hour of the morning!  We'll decide who brings what in the way of side dishes and desserts.  I enjoy having friends to share the Holiday with.  My relatives live too far away for a family get-together to be practical. 

I will be seeing my brothers and sisters-in-law this coming weekend and also one of my nieces.  One couple is driving down to Florida and will stop for a short visit with the other couple.  I will drive over to see them.  We do this pretty much every year.  I really enjoy being with both my brothers at the same time.  And this year, my niece Terry's presence is a real bonus.


Today the Tuesday ceramics class had our fall pot-luck luncheon.  It was the last day of class this year.  As usual there was more food than we could eat.  This is a tradition with this class - one I truly enjoy.  I've only been in the class for a few years, but some members have been there for perhaps 20 years.  Playing with clay is addictive for some of us.  I brought home some finished products today.  A couple of these had been sitting on a high shelf in the kiln room for so long that I had forgotten about them. 

                                                                     Look carefully at this mug.  It has a smiling face on one side and  a scowling face on the other.  I call it "With Coffee" and "Without Coffee".


Friday, November 11, 2011

a foggy day; a lovely week

 My Japanese maple which has green, red and white leaves has turned a gorgeous red/orange this fall.  Here's a photo of it.  It was foggy the other day, so I took a photo of the trees out in back too.  See it below.  That one red tree sure stands out!

Now, what have I been doing this week?  Well, Tuesday I packed a lunch and stopped at Lake Elkhorn on my way home from pottery.  After lunch, I walked around the lake.  I saw 21 turtles sunning themselves on logs in the water!  They were all on one side of the lake - the sunny side.  Perhaps later in the day, they swim over to the other side.  I never walk in the late afternoon, so I don't know where they are then.  It was a lovely day for a walk - didn't even need my jacket.

Wednesday, the singers at the Bain Center were taped for a TV airing.  We practiced out Christmas music while the camera was running.  I won't get to see the video, unless it gets posted on Facebook, because I don't have cable TV.  Actually, my TV doesn't work at all, because it has no way to connect to the outside world.  That's fine with me, most of the time.  Anyway, we had to wear out concert clothes - the good old black and white - for the rehearsal and taping.  I like the Christmas music we are doing.  It's a bit harder than the songs we sang for the last concert.  The conductor told me not to hold out the long notes to their full length.  She said that I was doing it correctly, but since no one else in the soprano section was doing it, I stood out too much.  It was quite amusing, actually, but I
understood why she said it.  The group is mostly people who just like to sing.  A few are really good.  The group does a good job, although not as good as the church choir I sing with.  The music is fun and not too hard.  So I just relax and enjoy singing.

Thursday I volunteered at the hospital gift shop, as usual.  It was chilly and damp outside, so a good day to stay in.  The book sale is going well. (All our books are donations.)  I've reduced the prices on about half of our books to 3/$1.  We have way too many books, so I'm hoping to reduce our inventory.  The sale will run for another week or so.  Books that don't sell will probably be donated to a local charity shop.  These days, I'm rather heavily involved with the gift shop, being responsible for the books as well as the jewelry.   The manager and I went jewelry buying a couple of weeks ago.  I'm putting a few things out each week and will get all the new stuff out after Thanksgiving.  Our Christmas items go out then as well. 

Today I'll be lunching with long-time friends.  Tonight, I'm going to a Christmas sale at one of the local churches.  They always do an interesting sale.  Tomorrow there is another Christmas sale at a different church, plus something going on in Savage, which is just across the river from here.  I could walk there if I was energetic.  So this weekend will be a 'shopping for Christmas' one.  I probably won't buy much, as I already have far too much stuff for decorating the house.  Still, it's fun to go and browse.

Monday, November 7, 2011

a golden fall

 Here are two photos of what I see when I look out my back door.  The colors are brighter than they appear in these photos.  These leaves are mostly golden now.  When the sun hits them, its a lovely sight.  One tree has already lost its leaves.  I think it was the very early red one. 
 I love this time of year, especially when we have sunshine and cool temperatures.  Still need to get the pots on the deck winterized.  Many contain plants that died in the recent frosty nights.  I have a few bushes and one tree in pots and those I will wrap and move near the house, hoping that will keep them from freezing come winter.  That's pretty much all the fall work I have to do.  Later, there will be leaves to rake, of course, but not that many, as most of the trees are in the back.

Looking at my calendar for November, I see that I have something going on every Tuesday- Saturday for the next couple of weeks.  Fall is a busy time for me this year.  Luckily most of these items are fun things.  This AM I'm going over to the hospital gift shop to get set up for a paperback book sale.  We sell donated books and recently sales have been down and donations up.  I am overwhelmed by paperbacks.  No place to keep them.  So a sale is in the works - 3/$100.  I hope that will get rid of many books.  If not, I will donate some to a local thrift store. 

I went to a craft show on Saturday.  Rather disappointing.  They had many vendors, but at least a third of them were selling jewelry.  Prices varied, but most were very reasonable.  However, I would have like to have seem more variety in the crafters.  I was hoping for some nice hand-made pottery, but none was there.  Yeah, that's right, I make pottery myself.  However, I love to see what others make.  On Dec. 1, a class I'm in will be selling our pottery at the local senior center.  Maybe I'll have better luck selling there than I did down in southern Maryland.  However, there are some excellent potters in this class, so the competition will be fierce! 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

fall around the neighborhood

I went out the other day for a walk, with camera, and took some snaps of colorful trees, bushes and houses decorated for Halloween.  It was sunny and pleasant - a great day to be outside.  The rain predicted for today, arrived a bit early, but didn't amount to much.  We got more rain last night and today will be chilly, but I'll be inside most of the day anyway.  I think I heard a weather report on the radio that said we''d get a frost either tonight or tomorrow.  Doesn't seem possible, but who knows?
 
I really liked these Halloween decorations, although the spider kinda grossed me out! 


  















Sumac leaves are gorgeous in the fall.  We don't have a lot of red leaves here in Maryland, so I really appreciate these.















These berries are on a tree next door to me.  The tree has a really ugly shape, but the spring blossoms are pink and lovely and the fall berries are great!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Finally finished! - a story about a quilt

A couple of years ago, when Kate was visiting the US, we went to my favorite fabric shop in Hammondsport, NY and I fell in love with some Japanese fabrics they had.  Kate, who is a fiber artist and wonderful quilter, encouraged me to buy fabric to make a quilt.  She figured out how much of each fabric to buy and then left it up to me to design and make the quilt.  I spent a good deal of time cutting out squares and arranging and re-arranging them several times to get a pattern I liked.  I then took the pieces to Kate and she helped me

cut them a little wonky, so that they weren't exactly square.  Quilt then went home with me, so that I could buy material for backing, border, binding and batting.  (lots of 'b's in that sentence!)   I'm not sure about all the traveling that quilt-in-progress did, but eventually it arrived back at Kate's ready to be quilted - or so I thought.  The first attempt at this failed as I had bought the wrong kind of batting.  It was very puffy and Kate couldn't quilt it on her machine.  I took the quilt back home and tried using pompoms on each square in lieu of all-over quilting.  Didn't like that effect, so took them off.  Kate said to bring it back to England and she would provide the proper backing and quilt it by machine.  This I did this past summer.  Kate put the binding on and quilted it all together.  I brought it back home in August.  And it has been sitting in my guest room (aka the craft room) until recently.  I finally started the hand sewing necessary to finish the binding.  Have I mentioned how much I hate hand sewing?  However, I finished the binding yesterday and voila!  I have a finished quilt!   This is, I'm sure, the only quilt I will ever make, but I'm glad I did it once.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Update on morning glories

In yesterday's post, I mentioned that my formerly blue morning glories were pink.  I still don't understand what's  going on with them.  By about noon, they were blue again.  I can't determine if the pink and the blue flowers are different buds opening and closing, but surely it must be that.  Petals on flowers can't change colors back and forth, can they?  Anyway, this morning, they are pink again.  'Tis a mystery.  Maybe it's the temperature - cooler in the morning?  I don't remember them doing this last year.  Anyway, it is kinda fun to watch them and speculate.

Yesterday I went to the library to get a book by Laurie King that I had read some time ago.  I already had checked out her latest and realized that I could not remember clearly the previous book.  These two books are closely connected, so I really needed to read "The Language of Bess" before I started "The God of the Hive".  Luckily the local library had a copy, so I started on it yesterday afternoon.  I not only finished that one, but also the second one, staying up until midnight to finish!  These books are part of a series she has been writing featuring Sherlock Holmes in 'old' age and a young woman he befriends (Mary Russell).  These books are very well written and provide a fascinating picture of England (and elsewhere) in the early 20th century as well as very complex mysteries.  If you've never read any of them, start with the first one - "The Beekeeper's Apprentice."

Today is supposed to be sunny and mild.  Perhaps I'll get some more trimming done out back.  I brought in the last of the house plants last night - a fern that has been hanging under the deck all summer.  I don't really like this plant - or rather I don't like it in the house.  It looks beautiful and full outside, but as soon as I bring it in, the fronds start dropping off.  It makes a mess on the floor and looks worse as each week goes by.  By June, when it can go back outside, the poor thing looks pitiful. 

I'd better get ready for Sunday School.  Our class is reading a book by James Carse - "The Religious Case Against Belief".  This class reads books by authors who are very far left when it comes to religion.  Just my cup of tea!  I've  read about 70 pages and so far the author has pretty much just defined 'religion' and 'belief' as two very different things.  It's interesting, but I"m not sure where he is going with this.  Anyway, gotta head out soon.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

This and that

In my last post, I was muttering about my cold and whether I'd be able to go to my friend's 90th birthday party.  I went and had a great time.  Hopefully I didn't give my cold to anyone who was there.  I did have a spot of trouble leaving the development where the party was held.  I kept going around in circles, however, I did finally manage to find my way, so all was well.  Actually, however, I am not yet well!  I'm out and about this week, but still using up a dozen or more tissues every AM.  This is ridiculous!

Yesterday I sang with the senior chorus at the 50+Expo in Columbia.  We were a bit short on sopranos, but the chorus sounded pretty good.  I was the only one brave enough to try the high G in one number.  I hit it, but it wasn't pretty!!  I like this group.  The music is fairly easy and fun to sing.  Guess I'll stick with them for a while.  Before we sang, I wandered around, looking at the many booths advertising services that seniors are supposedly interested in.  Didn't find much that interested me, but that's ok.  I did discover that there are a lot of communities for 50+ residents.  Didn't see any that I liked, except some that I can't afford.  Guess I'll be staying right here for the foreseeable future.

Today is sunny, but COLD!  I'm waiting for the sun to warm things up a bit before I go out to water the potted plants.  It's too chilly to be playing with the hose.  I also need to do a bit more trimming out back.  I can get down the stairs from the deck and move into the back yard, but there are some really overgrown bushes back there.  Most of my plants survived the summer, while I was away.  It did rain a lot, which I"m sure helped.  One clematis died.  I have no idea why, as the others located just a few feet away are doing fine.  Maybe the poor thing just got crowded out by all the other plants.  I might try again next spring.

Don't have any plans for this weekend.  I was hoping to find some yard sales to poke around in, but the local paper had none that looked interesting.  Guess I'll just stay home, except for a stroll over to the library later.  I have some hand sewing that I need to do - mostly binding on my quilt.  Kate quilted it and put the binding on, but I have to turn the binding and stitch it by hand.  I really hate sewing by hand.  Actually, I'm not terribly fond of sewing by machine either.  My mother was always sewing on something, as I remember.  She made many of my school clothes - skirts at least.  And Kate is really a fabric artist.  Somehow the 'sewing gene' skipped me.  I love fabric, but don't really like doing anything with it! 

 I've added a few more fall decorations to my steps.

These morning glories were blue a couple of days ago.  It's weird.  I knew that new blossoms open up every day, but what makes the plant change from blue blossoms to pink ones?  I'll have to watch and see if they go back to being blue in a few days.  Stay tuned.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

I've been a bit under the weather this week, picked up a cold and seem to be keeping it.  I'd be glad to send it to anyone who would like it!!  Anyway, I think it's on the wane - about time.  Because I was tired and had to camp near a tissue box, I stayed home the past 3 days.  Not feeling up to doing any of the chores that needed doing, I have done a fair amount of reading instead.  I've re-read two of the series about Monk by Anne Perry.  I had to re-read these two because I have from the library the next in the series.  (I started re-reading all of them at Kate's and only had those two to go when I returned home.)  Now I'm looking forward to this latest - Acceptable Loss.  I also re-read several other books from my favorite authors - Nora Roberts and Jayne Krentz.

This afternoon I am supposed to go to a birthday party for a friend who is 90!  If I'm not sneezing and wheezing too much, I will at least put in an appearance.  I'm going stir crazy sitting at home. 

 Here are some more photos of fall around my neighborhood.  The trees out back are coloring up quite a bit now, although they are mostly yellow.  Maryland doesn't have many of the wonderful maples that turn bright red in the fall.  Fall in western PA and NY is always so colorful.  Usually I schedule a trip up that way this time of year, but October is just too busy this year.  I'll have to settle for Maryland's trees.
 My neighbor's and my flower beds - first photo.

These trees at end of row aren't very colorful this year.  Lots of leaves on the ground, but not very pretty.












This tree (photo below) grows along the stream that runs through our development.  I see it when I walk to the library.



This is the view from the deck.  The color isn't quite right in the photo.  The red tree is much brighter than it shows here.

Monday, October 10, 2011

What a lovely weekend!

This has been a very nice weekend.  On Saturday, a friend and I went into Baltimore to visit the Visionary Art Museum.  We had been there before and found it easily.  This time, however, there was a glitch in the directions and we ended up going back towards home on I-95.  We managed to do this not once, but twice, with quite a bit of driving around in the city, unable to find Key Highway.  Finally, we plugged in the GPS and followed its directions.  We also discovered what was wrong with our original directions - they took us off I95 one exit too soon!  Anyway, we did find the museum and had a great time looking at all the very unusual art on display, inside and out.  It's such a fun place!  I highly recommend it for anyone who has a chance to see it, especially if you have children.  Kids love the place!  However, do not expect traditional art.  Notice the word - visionary' in the name?  They mean it.  Deb and I create some unusual ceramic stuff ourselves, so we are exactly the right kind of people to enjoy the museum.  A friend of Deb's had things on display - really fascinating things made of metal objects and other 'found' stuff. 

Later Deb and I walked around the end of the harbor and strolled around on the promenade at Harbor Place.  Lots of folks taking advantage of the beautiful weather.  Everybody seemed happy and carefree.  The only disappointment was that Rita's ran out of everything except Italian Ice.  We were all set for custard.  So sad.

We left Baltimore without further problems.  I can get out of Baltimore, it was just the getting in that was a problem.  Anyway, we decided to go to Columbia and eat at the Cheesecake Factory.  (Deb and I both LOVE cheesecake.)  Unfortunately hundreds of other folks in Columbia on a lovely weekend also wanted cheesecake.  The place was a mob scene and the wait was more than half an hour.  We then tried  P.F.Chang, which is next door.  There the wait was over an hour!  Uno's was next and there we got lucky.  The seated us immediately outside, which is what we wanted.  We practically had the little patio to ourselves and it was blessed quiet.  I had only eaten lunches at Uno's so did not realize how interesting their dinner menu is.  We shared a glass of wine, a couple of appetizers and each had one of their mini desserts.  It was a delightful ending to a great day.  Only problem, once we got home, was to stay awake until a reasonable bedtime!

Deb left for home Sunday AM and I went to church, as usual.  When I got home at noon, I decided to work outside for a few hours.   It was just too nice to stay inside.  My back yard was a jungle!  Really.  I wish I had taken a photo of it as it was then.  Our very wet summer made everything grow like crazy.  The path through the back yard (covered with wood chips) looked like part of the flower beds on either side.  The chips have been deteriorating over the years and plants have grown up in the path.  It was a mass (or mess?) of violets and unidentified weeds.  After I trimmed a few bushes, so that I could actually walk down my steps and into the back yard, I started pulling weeds from the path.  I also did just a bit of weeding and trimming in the flower beds.  After a couple of hours, I had filled two large yard trash bags and was ready to stop.  It does look much better, so I guess it is worth the sore back I have today.  I'll post some photos of the back yard now and the monster coleus on the deck.  It's just amazing how big some plants get when they have unlimited water.

 This is the path and corner of the backyard.  There are still green bits on the path, but they are not growing there - just pieces of plants that didn't get picked up.
 Here are the monster coleus plants, along with a lovely orange mum.  I really love that dark red coleus.  The variety is supposed to get big, but this year it is exceptional.
This tree is actually down the street from my house, but it's the first one on the street to show fall color, so I included it anyway.  It's a Bradford Pear tree - they are always the first to get fall color. The tree in front of my house is just beginning to turn.  Both will be more colorful in a week or so.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Changes

This week has gone by so quickly!  I think it's a result of aging.  The older I get, the faster time flies.  If one lives to be 100, does each day fly by in 10 minutes?  Anyway, I made one positive change in my life this past week.  On Wednesday, when I stopped by the Bain Senior Center, I noticed a flyer about a vocal group that meets on Wednesday mornings.  On an impulse, I decided to try it.  The group is fairly small and mostly women, but the sound is pretty good.  Probably a bit better when the men are in attendance.  The music was easy (I could sight-read it), but tuneful and a nice mix of popular and sacred.  In order to join this group, I had to give up the weekly work day at the church library.  That's ok, as I was getting bored with that anyway.   I will stay with the group until after Christmas and then make a decision if I really like it or not.  The big advantage is that they meet in daytime.  I know of several other choruses, but they meet at night and I'm too tired in the evening to enjoy going out, even when it's to do something I love. 

Yesterday, I stopped by the music store to get some more flute music.  I left the book of duets and a book of music from films, etc. with Olivia when I was in England.  She will enjoy them more than I.  I found them too easy to play - rather boring.  Olivia and I will play some more of the duets, I hope, when I next go to England.  Anyway, I purchased a book of classical flute solos.  It has a CD which provides the piano part.  When I get really good at the solos, I will try that.  My only accompanist is my sister-in-law, who lives in Florida and NY State.  Obviously, I don't get to play with her very often!  I am hoping to find a concert band somewhere in my area that I could join.  I'm probably not ready for that step yet, as I've only had my flute for a few months, but I'd really like to play with a group when I get a bit better.  It's been about 50 years since I played flute in college, so I am just a bit rusty!! 

Also yesterday, there was a 'yard sale' at Mother Nature's (formerly Wild Bird Center).  They had great prices on their stuff!  Earrings that were originally $20 for just $3!  I bought some more yard ornaments - bugs, etc. bobbing on top of a metal stick.  A couple of Xmas things - a birdhouse and a tree ornament.  I love those yard sales!

And yesterday,  I learned that the ceramics class I have been teaching at Beltsville will not be held this fall.  There needs to be a minimum of 6 students, although we have been going with only 4.  None of the previous members signed up.  Maybe that says something about the teacher!   I think part of the problem is that we've had a lot of trouble with pieces not surviving the firing.  Our kilns are old and don't work too well.  I can't blame the folks for being unhappy when they work for weeks on a piece only to have it explode when fired.  Also there is a new senior center opening in Laurel which will offer ceramics.  Probably some of my former students will go there.  I'll miss seeing those folks and also will miss the money, but that's life.  It frees up my Mondays, but so far I haven't found anything I want to do on that day.  It's possible, but unlikely that the class in Beltsville will start up again in January.  I doubt it, but we'll see.

 I'm going with Bill and Priscilla to see a play this afternoon.  Can't remember the name of the play, but it's supposed to be a comedy.  I will probably know some of the actors, although I can't recall now who is in it.  During the years I spent singing with the MAD (music and drama) folks I got to know a number of local actors.  We have several community theaters around here, which is great because the prices are reasonable and the acting very good.  I don't enjoy going by myself, so I was glad Bill and Priscilla asked me to go with them.  Tomorrow, I will be going to see another play.  This one is at a semi-professional theater.  Anything I have seen there is very well done - both acting and staging.  I guess this is theater weekend for me!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Today, it's officially fall

Despite it being the autumnal equinox, the weather outside feels more like summer. It's warm and muggy - actually raining just now.  I much prefer the cool weather we had a few days ago.  Today is too wet to work outside.  I'll have to run the A/C in the house to do anything active inside - or maybe just change into shorts, T-shirt and bare feet!!  My house needs cleaning - maybe tomorrow?

I have started counting calories this week.  I'm trying to lose 10 pounds before the Christmas holidays.  I'll be happy if I manage to lose 5, but I figured I should aim high.  All I try to do is keep my daily intake of calories below 1200.  I'd like to get it to 1100 or less, but that may be impossible for me.  Anyway, I have always lost weight on 1200, so I'm hoping it still holds true.  So many things that used to be true of my body and the way it works are no longer true now that I am 70.  Bah!  Aging is such a nuisance!  I blew the diet yesterday because I ate macaroni and cheese in the cafeteria at Laurel Hospital, where I volunteer.  Usually, I don't eat their hot food because it seldom appeals to me, but the macaroni was really good. Way too many calories. Guess I'm going to eat salads at lunch on Thursdays from now on.

I was going to take some early fall photos outside today, but with the rain that is not practical.  There actually isn't much color in my neighborhood so far, but there is one tree near the library that is already turning red.  It is always the first to color up around here.  So if we get a non-rainy day soon and I walk to the library with my camera, I will snap a photo.  Speaking of the library: I'm trying to use the library more often and buy books less often.  Now that Borders is closed and there are no other bookstores in areas where I am frequently found, I find it's easier to resist book-buying.  Of course the library doesn't always have my favorite authors, or rather it does, but they are in high demand when a new book comes out.  I really am trying to only buy books by my favorite authors and just read all the rest from the library. 

And, who are my favorite authors, you ask?  In no particular order they are:  Mary Jo Putney, Nora Roberts (aka: J D Robb), Mary Balogh, Sandra Brown, Jan Burke, Robin Carr, Catherine Coulter, Justine Davis, Barbara Delinsky, Kathleen Eagle, Jane Feather, Laurie King, Jane Ann Krentz (aka: Amanda Quick) Rachel Lee, Debbie Macomber, Jill Patton Walsh, Dorothy Sayers, Judith Michael, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Karen Robards, Laverle Spencer, Patricia Veryan, Susan Wiggs, Gina Wilkens, Ruth Wind, Sherryl Woods.  Most of these authors are still writing, although Dorothy Sayers is dead and Laverle Spencer has stopped writing. 

You may notice that most of these authors write romances, with a few mystery writers thrown in.  Sadly, I have found that some of my favorite authors wrote better books when they were starting out than they do now.  I think it has to do with being pushed (by their publishers?)  to write more quickly.  The plots become less original and the main characters seem to be modeled on those from previous stories.  I still read their books, because I like their writing style and I keep hoping to find a really good one.  I am well aware that I mostly read 'junk books' which are entertaining, but have no literary value.  When I read, I want to be entertained and I want the books to have 'happy endings'.  I have to like the main characters too.  If I want tragedy and unpleasant characters, I just read the newspaper!  I don't watch TV at all, so I figure my reading uses the time that other people spend watching TV shows. 

I'm always open to try new authors and have recently started reading books by Jeffery Deaver. I'm not sure if I like his books or not.  I'm happy to have anyone recommend books to me, but I won't promise to read them all the way through, just to try them.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

It's fall, really.

I suppose we will have some further HOT days, but for a couple of days now, it has felt like fall.  Of course, fall here in Maryland is nothing like fall in western NY where I grew up.  The cool weather came early and by Halloween, it was really cold.  I particularly remember having to wear coats over Halloween costumes - that spoiled the fun!  I think we had a Halloween parade in which the school band marched.  I can't remember details, except that despite our uniforms it was often very cold.  It's hard to play an instrument when your fingers are cold.  Here, of course, we often have warm weather in October.  Some years, my neighbors and I have sat outside to watch the 'trick or treaters' and enjoy an adult treat - a glass of wine. 

Anyway, I think fall is here, whether it stays cool or not.  Last weekend, I hauled boxes up from the basement storage room and switched my summer decorations (seashells, beach scenes, ceramic fish, etc.) for fall items - dried flowers and (artificial) colored leaves and berries.  I haven't put out the Halloween stuff yet - will wait a few weeks for that.  Most of that goes outside anyway.  I really enjoy changing my decor seasonally.  There is a down side, however, which is having to lift and carry boxes up and down the stairs.  Inevitably, no matter how carefully I lift, I end up straining my back.  This time, it wasn't serious - just a bit sore for a few days - thank goodness.  I may have to find smaller boxes, as the big ones are getting too heavy for me to life.  Actually, of course, the boxes are the same weight they have always been, it's my age that makes them feel heavier!  Getting old is such an annoyance! Here are some photos of my fall decor in the house.

I need to do some outdoor work this weekend, if it doesn't rain.  I'm almost afraid to tackle the back yard where all the plants grew profusely during all that rain we had.  I actually can't get down from my deck without breaking some branches of the beauty bush, the butterfly bush and the hydrangea.  I cut them back every year, but evidently not enough!  Still haven't edged the front lawn, either.  And now it needs to be cut again.  At least there aren't any leaves to rake so far.  We have only one small tree close by, but the leaves from other trees somehow find their way into my yard.  Still, there never very many leaves to rake.  I really don't mind that chore.

I've been home only 9 days, but already have a busy schedule for Sept. and Oct.  Weekends are filling up with a visit to a local museum in early Oct. and a craft show at the end of the month.  My weekday schedule is about the same as usual, although at the moment, I'm not teaching the ceramics class in Beltsville.  We don't have enough students to justify holding the class.  We need at least six.  I think we have six people who plan to come, but they have not signed up so far and we can't start the class until they do.



Sunday, September 11, 2011

Home at last

I haven't been blogging for the last few weeks because I was in England, visiting my daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren.  The weather was cool and damp for the first two weeks, but turned very nice the last week I was there.  We managed to do some outdoor stuff, including two different trips to places where we could climb a hill and enjoy a lovely view.  Kate and I had a chance to visit an historic home without the kids and also into London to the Tate Modern, with only Sarah accompanying us.  Sarah and I didn't care much for Miro, but we all enjoyed the rest of the museum.  Olivia and I toured the Victoria and Albert Museum, looking at glass, jewelry and home furnishings.  One day Geoff's brother John met us in London and we all went to Greenwich by boat.  Despite the rain, we enjoyed a lovely lunch and toured the Observatory. John is a lot like Geoff and it was such a treat to see the two brothers together. Kate and Alex and I went to Kew on a lovely sunny day. We went up into the treetops walk.  I wasn't sure I could manage the height, but it didn't bother me and it was fun being up above the trees.

All in all, it was a good visit.  I got home just in time for a week of rain - which I sincerely hope is over as of yesterday!

I will post a few photos of my trip.  If you want more, they are on flickr.  at  www.flickr.com/photos/kathydillard

 Olivia is flying the kite on Juniper Top, one of the hills we climbed.  The path up is not difficult, even Grandmas like me can get up easily.  Geoff spent his time on the top looking for wild orchids, which he found.  They aren't much to look at, but still fun to search for and find.  I took lots of photos of wildflowers on our various excursions.
 Here's another climb we made.  This is the view from a hill in an area called the South Downs.  We met up with a friend of Geoff's from work and hiked up a rather steep hill.  The view was definitely worth it.  Lots of wildflowers growing along the trail.  As you can see, it was a beautiful day.  After the climb, we ate dinner in a local pub.  I had a very English meal - drank cider and ate fish and chips. 
 This is one of the interesting glass objects we saw at the V & A.  I took many photos, but won't bore you with more.  I realize not everyone is crazy about glass and pottery!  There are MANY more on my flickr pages.
 At the V&A there is a long gallery which one must walk along to access the other galleries.  We were in it several times, as we tried to get to where we wanted to be.  Olivia is better than I at navigating inside the museum, but we still had some trouble finding our way around.  This is one of the sculptures in the long gallery.  I really like this face, so gentle and lovely.
 This is one of the buildings at Kew.  I think they are called conservatories.  Basically, huge greenhouses.  Some have tropical plants, some desert plants, some have orchids.  Whatever won't survive the English climate outside is grown inside.  Kew has acres of gardens, some areas just natural, others landscaped with flowers, etc.  It's a great place for picnics.  We ate lunch under a tree near the playground, but Alex didn't want to play, so we just got our ice cream cones and headed off to climb up into the trees.  I don't have photos from the treetops.  The trees were in the way!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Long hot slow summer

I'm not posting much this summer mostly because nothing of interest is happening to me.  Also, I tend to put new information up on FaceBook and not on this blog.  If you've kept up with me on FaceBook, you may not want to bother to read this entry, because I"m going to write about "Wicked".

Last week, a friend and I went to see 'wicked' at the Kennedy Center.  The Kennedy Center is located in Washington, DC, along the river.  It's a beautiful setting and a magnificent building.  The problem was that neither my friend nor I had ever actually driven to the center.  I used to know DC pretty well, at least the area around the Mall, but I've only driven in DC once since I retired.  I thought we could use my GPS and find our way easilly.  We also had printed directions, but they were complicated, so we preferred not to use them. We were on NY Avenue entering the city.  After that I can't begin to say what streets we were on, except that the GPS thought we were somewhere and where we actually were was different.  Also, it was rush hour and we got stuck behind a bus for many blocks.  I missed a turn that the GPS wanted me to make and it was all downhill from then on.  It kept telling me to make a left turn, which was forbidden during rush hour.  We wandered around the city for what felt like hours, although it was only perhaps 20 minutes.  Finally, we got close to the Kennedy Center on 25th street - something like that.  Unfortunately the GPS insisted we were on New Hampshire, near 1st street!  We shut the damn thing off and just drove.  Somehow we found a sign to the Center and followed that to the parking garage.  Got there in plenty of time to eat a bite and wander around a bit.  The snack bar serves the most expensive sandwiches I've ever eaten.  $10 for a fairly large cold cut sandwich!  Water was $2.50.  The cookie that I bought for only $2.50 was the most reasonably priced part of the meal! 

After we ate, we went out on the terrace.  From there the views of the city are wonderful.  I wish I had taken my camera.  It was a clear afternoon with a slight breeze, so being outside was pleasant.  Eventually we drifted back in and lined up to enter the theater.  Our seats were great.  We were in the next to the highest tier, right in the middle of the back row.  I had brought binoculars which I used once in a while to see what the faces of the actors looked like.  Mostly we just enjoyed watching the entire stage.  It's a great show!  The sets, which moved around a bit, were very modern - looked like metal - very open and airy.  The only set piece that looked like one would expect was the huge head of the Wizard of Oz.  Sound system was great!  The orchestra did not overwhelm the singers, a problem I often encounter at musical shows.  That night the principal parts were sung by swing members, rather than the 'stars', but these gals had fabulous voices.  Although I would not normally pay $100 to see a show, this was worth it.

Now, having raved about the show, let me say that the Kennedy Center has some problems.  Of course it was built some time ago - before the idea of 'potty parity' was heard of.  What I mean is that there were two ladies restrooms open to the general public each of which had only 4 or 5 stalls.  There were long lines at both. One of the rooms was running out of toilet paper.  No one around to tell about the problem.  When we got into the theater, there was another restroom, but that one was only available to ticket holders. 

The other problem that we noticed was that in the snack bar, there seemed to be no one clearing the tables after people ate.  Some folks tried to take their dirty dishes back to the food area.  I don't know if they were able to leave the trays there or not.  We saw no place to put trays in our dining room.  An employee came along and said that due to budget problems, there weren't enough people to clear tables efficiently.  She told us to just leave our trays, which we did.  However, this meant that people entering with full trays had to sit at tables with the residue of previous eaters!  Considering the cost of the tickets, I find it hard to believe that they cannot afford to hire enough employees to clear tables or keep restrooms supplied.

Our trip home was similar to the one going to the Center.  The GPS kept telling us to get onto New Hampshire Ave, which actually is near the center, although we never found it.  GPS still thought we were near 1st street.  We finally turned it off!  Luckily my friend has a fairly good sense of direction.  (My sense of direction hardly exists!)  We managed to get into central DC and stopped to look at a map.  We knew where we were, so with my friend navigating, we set off for NY Ave.  And, amazingly enough, we found it!!  It was smooth sailing from then on. 

And that's my big adventure for this summer!


Sunday, August 7, 2011

not yet ready for retirement community

Last week, I met with a rep from a not-yet-built retirement community, planned for just up the road from where I live.  It really interesting and I picked up a lot of info.  The biggest problem for me would be the floor plans.  The only ones I could possibly afford are quite small and have very little storage space.  My basement here has one small room entirely devoted to storing my seasonal decorations and pottery.  So, storage space is a must for me.  The other problem with this community is that they want 10% of the buy-in fee as a down payment.  I just don't happen to have $26,000 dollars available for that purpose!  It would sit there until I bought in or opted out, in which case I would get the money back, but since I can't spare that kind of money, the whole question is moot.  I may check out some other retirement communities, just to see what is available, but I think I probably cannot afford any of them.  That is, any of them that I would like!  I guess I'll just have to stay in my current house and hope I never reach the point where I cannot manage the stairs.  Since I am in good health, I'm not really worried about staying here, I just like to explore my options. 

Not much happening in my life at the moment.  Today I'm going into Alexandria to spend some time with my niece and her husband.  They are in the area for a wedding in his family.  They live in Wisconsin, so it's great to have an opportunity to see them without traveling a long distance.  I can't imagine how they are dealing with the heat here. I suspect that a 'hot' summer in Wisconsin, isn't nearly as hot and humid as it is in Maryland!

We had a thunderstorm and downpour yesterday afternoon/evening.  I'm delighted for the sake of my flowers and bushes, but was not thrilled to find that the drainpipe in back is blocked.  The rain was cascading down near the basement wall, which could be a problem.  I will have to get the drainpipes cleaned.  I was hoping to wait until fall, after the leaves are down.  They will need cleaning again then.  Oh well, just another 'joy' of home-ownership. 

Next week, a friend and I are going to the Kennedy Center to see 'Wicked'.  I'm really looking forward to seeing this show, but not looking forward to getting there.  My friend doesn't want to be the driver, but also doesn't want to take the Metro.  I really don't want to drive either!  It will be rush hour getting there and I've never driven there, although I do know the general area from having worked downtown some years ago.  I'm hoping I can convince my friend to use Metro. 

 These photos are of plants in pots on my deck.  These are all on the shady side of the deck and the coleus are especially doing well there.  Of course it's been too hot most days to sit out there and enjoy the plants!  Today is hot and muggy, despite the rain yesterday.  Summer in Maryland - what can I say?

Sunday, July 31, 2011

a bit of excitement - unwanted!

Yesterday my neighbor, Patty, phoned me in a panic asking me to come over at once.  She had gotten into a nest of bees/wasps and got stung in several places.  When I got to her house, she was inside, battling two wasps that had come in with her.  I killed one and chased the other outside.  Patty had some welts where she was stung and was in some pain, but did not have an allergic reaction, thank goodness.  She had been trimming a bush in her front yard, when the bees flew out by the hundreds.  Very scary and unpleasant for her.  I saw the swarm buzzing around the bush and around a plastic bag containing trimmings from the bush.  We think the bees must have had a nest in the ground under the bush.  The bees were very small, so I think they were sweat bees, except that they usually don't sting.  Patty was ok later, but not sure what to do about the 'nest' that she had disturbed.  I think she will buy some wasp spray (the kind you can use at a distance) and try to kill the bees.  She certainly can't go back to working in her flower bed while the bees are in occupation.  Now, I have to worry about what I might have among my flowers!  Makes gardening much less pleasurable, if one has to worry about bees.

Nothing exciting has been happening in MY life, recently.  Not that I'm complaining.  Excitement isn't as much fun as it used to be.  Today I am suffering from a sore back.  Evidently I pulled a muscle while vacuuming yesterday.  I don't know exactly what happened, but my back started hurting shortly after I finished the cleaning.  The same thing happened the last time I used the vacuum.  However, this time is much worse.  I can barely get up from a chair.  So much for attending church this AM or going anywhere in the car.  Hopefully, it will be much better by tomorrow.  I'm too busy to be stuck at home for more than one day!  I'm considering not using the vacuum again, but I need it to do the rugs.  I"m really not much for house cleaning, anyway, but once in a while I have to get the dust up.  Oh well, the house is clean for now.  I'll just have to be very careful next time I clean.

It's only 8:30 AM and I'm already bored with being 'trapped' at home.  Don't know how I'll manage to get through the day just sitting or standing around.  It's going to be hot today, so I wouldn't be working outside, but I could have gone out and done something!  It's funny how being at home for a day is fine when you can go out, but chose not to.  It's being stuck at home that sucks!  At least I have my computer to connect me to the world.  How did we ever live without the Internet?


 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A good trip

I spent most of last week in western NY.  The town I grew up in, Bath New York, is located in the Finger Lake region.  It's wine country, with rolling hills covered with vineyards and deep valleys, often containing a lake.  Keuka is the closest lake to Bath - it's only a few miles away.  The town at the southern end of the Lake, Hammondsport, has some nice shops, including a great fabric store and several antique shops.  My brother and sister-in-law, Tom and Peggy, live in Bath.  I drive up through central Pennsylvania every summer to visit them and get together with some of my high school friends.

It's about a 6 hour drive from Laurel to Bath, but I stop at at least one antique store along the way, so it takes me a bit longer.  The drive is beautiful, up and down hills, with small towns and farm fields along the wayside.  Harrisburg, PA is the only large city along the route.  I've been making this trip for over 40 years, and I still enjoy the scenery.  It's even better in the fall when the trees show off their red and gold colors.  Fall is also the time of year when the Concord grapes are picked.  Concords aren't used to make wine, but they are wonderful for eating.  If I'm up in NY in the fall, I always bring some home with me. 

I had a good visit with Tom and Peggy, as usual.  Tom plays clarinet and he, like me on flute, is trying to regain his skill on the instrument.  Peggy is a former music teacher and still plays piano very well.  She was kind enough to play accompaniments for us, as we struggled through some classical music.  Neither Tom nor I can keep our high notes in tune, so some of the notes were an assault on the ear, but Peggy was kind enough not to fuss about it.  Maybe Tom and I will practice more now and be much better the next time we get together.


I actually didn't buy many antiques on this trip.  One of my favorite stores has closed, which was a disappointment, but I found a new one to substitute.  Truthfully, I have a small house, crowded with antiquities already.  I can hardly fit anything else in.  So I am trying to limit my buying to small items and not too many of them.  I found one great item - an old postage scale.  It is painted red, so of course I had to have it to display in the kitchen/dining room.  I also brought back with me my old bicycle.  Peggy has been using it for many years, but she has recently given up riding it.  It's rusty and doesn't shift properly, but I have no intention of riding it.  It will go somewhere in the back yard as a piece of 'art'.  After all, 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder'.  I would love to leave it in the front yard, where it is parked just now, but the Homeowners' Assoc. would not let me do that.  I'm thinking of hanging some potted plants on the bike, but may not do that until next year.  I also bought an old print of a winter scene.  Don't know where I will hang it, come winter, but I'll find a place for it.  I love the old colored prints.

Here are photos of the red postage scale and the print, but not of the bike. When I figure out where it best fits into the landscape, I'll photograph it in place.

FYI:  I was hoping for cooler weather up in NY State, but one day the temps hit 100 degrees on the screened porch!  Needless-to-say, we stayed inside mostly.  No hikes or outdoor activities on this visit!  Peggy and I did some browsing in Hammondsport, but didn't spend much time outside, between stores!  Most stores, but not all, were air-conditioned.  Folks up there didn't used to have air-conditioning in their homes or stores, but many of them now do.  (Even my brother and sister-in-law.)  Blame global warming!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Not much to say

I'm trying to post once a week, or so. However, lately it seems as if my life has not been very interesting. I mean, it's interesting to me, but 'nothing to write home about.' I wonder who originated that phrase. Maybe a military guy in some faraway place? I probably could Google it and find out the answer. Well, I did that and found out that it became popular during WWI, but originated earlier.

This AM was lovely and cool, but it's fast heating up. I read the newspaper outside and watched the finches devour the sunflower chips in my new squirrel proof feeder. It does seem to be squirrel and large-bird proof, which is good. However, the house finches who are larger and somewhat aggressive are there more than the goldfinches. I still see some goldfinches, but those house finches are big eaters and they are going through the entire feeder in just 2 days. I'm not sure I can afford to keep feeding them!

I just took a couple of pictures of my backyard and of a hibiscus blooming out front. Some photos are posted on Facebook, but I'll post them here as well - just to take up space! I am supposed to be cleaning my floors today. They do need it. Maybe after lunch? I slept in today - until 7:30 - so am behind on today's chores. Luckily, nobody else is around to fuss about housework not done. It's just me and my conscience.

Got my hair cut this week - VERY SHORT! I think it's what is called a pixie cut. Perhaps not as attractive as my usual cut, but it doesn't need gel or a hair dryer after shampooing. I HATE using the dryer in the summer. I'll let it grow out a bit this fall. Sorry, no photo of the haircut. (Maybe just as well!)

This gorgeous dark red flower is on a hibiscus bush growing out front. It's stuck in a very full flower bed, so isn't as large as it could be, but the blooms are spectacular.  The hibiscus dies down each winter (actually I cut it down in the fall) and comes back in the spring. 
The red blooms are on the crape myrtle in the corner.  It's not yet in full bloom.  There are some tall plants with pink/purple flowers - cleome.  They self-seed - EVERYWHERE!  I pulled up hundreds of little plants this spring, but left enough for some color this summer.  This year, I need to get rid of most of them BEFORE they release their seeds.  Otherwise, I'll be pulling up little plants again next spring.  As you can see, the backyard flowers are mostly pink and purple.   I enjoy looking down on them from my deck. 

The last photo shows the two painted 'poles' that are remainders of the evergreen tree I had out there.  It died one winter, and I cut most of the branches off.  Couldn't get my saw through these two , so I just painted them as a decoration.  There are more purple cleome in this photo as well as some yellow lilies.  I think the blue flowers at the bottom are balloon flower aka Chinese bell-flower.  Never mind the Latin name.  They are flopping all over the place because I didn't get the supports around them early enough.  And all the green leaves below the lilies and around the tree stumps are - you guessed it - more cleome!  I guess I need to pull up a few more.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

this and that

Today I had to get two new tires for my car.  That kind of 'shopping' isn't the fun kind, but it had to be done.  I'm hard on tires.  I keep running over the edges of curbs when I go around corners.  I've owned this car for 10 years and you would think that I would know where the wheels are in relation to curbs.  Unfortunately, I don't and I guess I never will.   Anyway, the new tires are on and the realignment is done and my bank account is significantly lower than it was this AM!

We are into another spell of extremely HOT weather.  Actually, I"m not sure this is a new spell or just a continuation of the one we've been suffering from for over a month.  We did get some rain a few days ago and had one cool morning from that.  Mostly, it's just too hot to be comfortable outside at any hour, day or night.  Most of my potted plants are happy with the weather, as long as I water then every day. The ones planted in the ground seem to be doing fine without additional watering.  The butterfly bushes are blooming - one purple and one dark pink - and the pink crape myrtle is starting to bloom as well.  I'll try to take a photo tomorrow; it's too dark to take one tonight.  The grass is green due to last night's rain.  Hopefully, it won't grow enough to need mowing this week!  As you might be able to tell, I'm not enthusiastic about grass.  I have to have some out front (homeowners' assoc. rules), but I refuse to fertilize it or use weed killer on it.  My excuse for that is that those products are harmful to the Chesapeake Bay, which they are.  Our water all ends up in the Bay.  However, the truth is that I would neglect my grass anyway.  I like plants, but if I could, I would have ground cover and flower beds and stone paths with no grass at all.  So my 'lawn' consists of a good deal of clover,some crabgrass, a few dandelions (I do dig them up each year), miscellaneous other weeds and at least three kinds of grass, most of which are currently brown from lack of rain.  The lawn greens up every time we have a  rain and then goes dormant again until more rain or cooler weather. 

Lately,I've been having a battle with the squirrels.  They have eaten holes in two bird feeders in recent weeks.  The feeders are the ones that contained thistle seed for the goldfinches.  The squirrels don't actually like the thistle seed, but they cannot seem to resist enlarging the slits in the feeders just to see what is in them.  I finally bought a feeder with an outer metal mesh.  It also has a weight triggering aspect that closes up the feeder when a squirrel (or a large bird) puts his weight on it.  It holds shelled sunflower seeds, which the goldfinches like.  So far it seems to be working.  I haven't seen a squirrel on it, so I don't know for sure.  Squirrels sure are cute, but they are a real nuisance.  They also bury food in the pots on the deck and then uproot the plants digging the food back up.  I have put small 'river rocks' on the surface of the pots, hoping that will keep the squirrels from digging.  I think it's working and the rocks do look nice.

I'm trying to get rid of some of the MANY books I own. I printed off my book list recently.  It contains both the books I own and the ones I have read from the library or read and discarded.  (so that I won't buy the same books again).  It contains 5400 listings!  Even if half of those are discards, that means I own about 2700 books!  That's really scary.  Luckily most of them are paperbacks.  Otherwise, there would be no space in my house for furniture!  I do not have piles of books on the floor or on tables, but I do have a lot of book cases.  I can actually remember a time when I didn't buy books.  I just used the library a lot.  This was about 20 years ago.  I blame my daughter for getting me started buying books.  She bought books - really just a few - and somehow that got me going.  Of course, she culls her bookshelves every so often and limits herself to just as many as she can fit on a few bookcases.  I am much more addicted to buying than she ever was!  When I run out of room, I just buy more bookcases!!  Now, having no space for more bookcases, I am trying to get my book buying habit under control.  It would be easier if Borders didn't send me a coupon every week!  I am actually donating more books to charity than I am buying, but I have a LONG way to go.  At least I am getting rid of more than I am buying!  Since the beginning of June, I have donated 45 books and only bought about 10 new ones.  For me that's really a good record.

Friday, July 8, 2011

projects

 Here are a few of the projects I've been working on this summer.  I made the mask at one of my ceramics classes.  Unfortunately, it did something weird in the firing and pieces of the red glaze flaked off and the rest didn't turn very bright red.  Anyway, I pulled off the loose pieces of glaze and painted it bright red with acrylics, then sprayed sealer on it.  It'll hang inside, so it doesn't need to be waterproof, but I wanted it shiny.  If you look closely, you can see that he has some sort of skin disease.  Maybe that's why he is scowling!  LOL

The lighthouse bird houses are some I bought unfinished at a craft store.  I don't know where I will put them.  I'm considering using the tree out front, but it's on common property, not my yard.  Not that the bird houses would hurt the tree, but the home owners' assoc. might be upset.  I really don't have any more room for birdhouses on my deck or hanging from the soffit out back.  (How is that word spelled?  I know what it is, but not how it's spelled!)

 Our weather has been incredibly HOT for several weeks now.  About once a week, it's cool enough in the evening for sitting outside.  The rest of the time, I try to stay in the house.  I do have to be outside briefly every evening to water my plants.  Thunderstorms are predicted every day, but we don't get any rain.   At this rate, it's gonna be a hot, dry summer.

I have to get two new tires on my van next week.  It's going to be very expensive.  I keep telling myself that it's cheaper to keep this car going than to buy a new one, but if I continue to spend hundreds every month, I might as well be spending it on a new car.  I'm trying to get one more year out of this one.  It's 10 years old, but only has a bit over 100,000 miles on it.  I keep wondering what will go next.  My mechanic says it's in good shape for its age.  Of course, he's making money on servicing it, so his opinion isn't exactly unbiased. 


The fire truck is another unfinished birdhouse from Michael's.  I wish my grandson could have painted it, but it wasn't worth hauling it to England just for that.  Anyway, Alex would probably have wanted to keep it, and I rather imagine his mother thinks he has enough junk like that.  So it stays here, if I can just find a place to put it!  I have far more junk that all the grandchildren put together!

Monday, July 4, 2011

photos from out front

 I haven't much to say today, but here are some pictures.  It's going to be hot all this week with thunderstorms predicted.  We had the thunder last night, along with some fireworks, but very little rain.  I'll have to water later today, as usual.  If we continue to have dry summers, I'll have to think about planting some cactus!


This was an unusually lovely sunset.  The sun sets behind trees in the back yard, but this time we got a reflection off clouds visible from the front yard.   I love sky pictures  and especially if there is a pink sky.


These flowers are some that I had forgotten I purchased last year.  They came up and I had no idea if they were flowers or weeds!  Luckily I let them grow and got these beautiful blooms.  There is a name tag tucked somewhere near the base of the plant, but it's hard to find with all the other stuff growing nearby.  Yes, I know that my front flower bed looks like an English garden that has run wild!


 These are the phlox that the rabbit has not nibbled on.  I had some in a lavender color, but that pesky wabbit ate them!  I hate having my flowers destroyed, although the rabbit is very cute.  More to the point, he/she is much less destructive than the neighborhood ground hog.  My neighbor, Patty feeds the squirrels on the ground (corn) and yesterday evening, we saw the ground hog eating the corn, back behind the fence.  I hope he stays out there!
Luckily, the rabbit doesn't like cone flowers.  I think the ground hog doesn't like them either.  They are a wonderful perennial.  They come up every year, don't seem to care where they grow (pots or flower bed) and are not eaten by the critters.  Definitely, my kind of flower.  They also spread profusely, which is becoming a problem.  My space is limited and already full of plants.  If only I could tear up the front yard's grass and just have flower beds!