Monday, March 28, 2011

the weekend

I had a fairly busy weekend and most of it was enjoyable.  Saturday was the day I had designated for doing my income tax returns.  For some reason, the IRS did not send me the booklet and forms this year.  It's not
because I filed electronically last year, because I didn't.  Anyway, my first thing to do was find the instruction booklet and forms.  Lucky for me, the local library had them.  The next step, of course, was gathering all the data needed.  This involves my checkbook, mortgage statement about loan interest and property taxes, various bits of paper from the bank, and proofs of contributions to charities.  The actual computation and filling out the forms took a couple of hours. Somehow it seemed easier this year, so of course, I'm wondering what I have forgotten!  I did the first draft of both the federal and the state forms and the results seemed about what I expected.  I will be redoing the process tomorrow because often when I do them a second time I find a mistake.  Then I'll send them off.  A few years ago, I found a major mistake that I had made on several years of taxes.  I had actually overpaid!  Luckily, I was able to file amended forms, but what a bother that was!  I've tried to be very careful since then.

Saturday evening I met friends for dinner and attending a community theater play - "Reefer Madness" .  This is a musical based on a rather corny movie from some time ago.  I've never seen the movie, which I believe became something of a cult show, but I've heard that it was very poorly acted.  Anyway, this musical version was crazy - all about what happens when people smoke pot.  It was funny, loud, and somewhat suggestive (the dancing mostly).  A couple of the female dancers did things with their boobs that I didn't know were possible!  My boobs have never been big enough to twirl!  I would have enjoyed the show more if we had been closer to the stage.  We were late arriving and ended up toward the back with the row in front of us on the same riser as we were.  I spent the evening trying to see between a tall guy and his girlfriend who sat in front of me.  It was ok, as long as they didn't get chummy.  Whenever he leaned toward her, my view was completely blocked.  I thought that the 'orchestra' was too loud and overpowered the singers much of the time.  I've found this to be true even in much more professional theaters.  Anyway, it was an interesting way to spend an evening and an outing with friends is always fun.

Yesterday evening, I attended a book club meeting.  This is a group from my former church. I don't attend regularly, but try to get there once in a while, depending upon what they are reading.  This book was one I happened to see at my church library and figured it would be a quick read.  It was by Philip Yancey and I think the title is 'The Bible Jesus Knew'.   I'm not too keen on Yancey - he's a good writer, but I don't agree with his philosophy of religion.  However, he made some interesting points in the book.  It's been a very long time since I studied the Old Testament (since college) and I had forgotten a good deal about it.  At the meeting, I saw some 'old' friends and managed not to offend too many of them with my views on Christianity.  This group is much more traditional than I am when it comes to religion.  Anyway, it was good to see them and catch up on what they've been doing.

So that was my weekend.  I didn't mention going to church, singing in the choir, and helping with the coffee hour, since those are things I do almost every Sunday.  I also phone my daughter on Sunday evenings.  Last night's call was a short one, as I had to get to the book club meeting by 6 PM. 

Here we are - Monday morning.  Another week starting.  We never did get the snow they were predicting, although some places not far from me got flurries.  I'm just as glad it missed us.  I'm ready for spring - the warm sunny kind!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

nice day for a walk

Yesterday, I walked around Lake Elkhorn, after eating a bag lunch on the water's edge.  It was sunny and cool - perfect weather for walking.  As I usually do there, I counted the turtles I saw sunning themselves on logs in the lake.  I think it was a new record - 16!  One very little guy had trouble staying on his small stick.  He climbed up, the stick turned and back into the water he went.  However, he persevered and finally got up there to stay.  It's odd that all the turtles are only on one side of the lake.  I don't know if it's because at noon, that side has more sun or some other reason.  I've never seen any as I walk around the other side.

No 'signs of spring' photos to post today.  I need to remember to take my camera with me everywhere I go, so I can get some.  However, I do have a photo of four masks that were completed recently.  I have run out of places to hang them, so I guess they'll go into a box, downstairs.  I hope to sell some of them this year.  Gotta do that or stop making them!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

yard work

I did some yard work this week.  Trimmed all the dead stalks of perennials, so the new growth can start.  Of course, that's assuming they didn't die over the winter.  Can't tell yet about most of them.  I have two big bags of trimmings to go out next month when they start picking up yard trash again.  There is still more cleaning up to do out back, under the deck.  I should get out there today and do it.  Maybe I will - after lunch. 

This morning, I went to a mammoth yard sale held in a school.  They used several rooms, hallways and the library!  There was a lot of clothes and toys for sale, which I'm not in the market for.  Didn't find much in the way of knick-knacks, but did buy some CDs and paperback books.  Like I really need those!!   LOL.  I will donate most of the books after I read them.  I'm trying hard to get rid of 2 books for every one I buy.  By the time I'm 90, I might have a reasonable number of books left!

Today is another lovely day.  It's sunny, with a bit of wind, but very pleasant outside.  I do love spring here in Maryland.  All I have in bloom so far are daffodils and the Mahonia (grape holly) bush by the front door.  (Photo on left) The bees love that bush.  And next month, when the berries mature (they do look like little grapes) the birds will love it.  Last year I had robins and catbirds fighting over those berries.  I need to put in my request for permission to buy a new tree to replace the one that fell last year.  I really hate the fact that living here, I have to ask the Homeowners' Board for permission to plant trees or bushes.  I'm pretty sure they will say yes, but it's an irritation to have to put in a written request.  I'm still trying to decide what tree to buy.  I think maybe a dogwood.  We have two already here in the neighborhood, but they do look pretty in the spring and have red berries in the fall.

I'm getting eager to start buying spring plants, but of course, it's much too early.  Frost free date here is around May 1.  I'll have to wait until after Easter, at least.  I enjoy the break from gardening during the winter, but with the arrival of warm weather, I'm ready to start in again.

Monday, March 14, 2011

spring, beautiful, wonderful spring!

The sun is shining.  It's warm outside (sweater weather).  I have flowers in bloom.  I'm feeling full of energy and read for this week.

I was very tired last week and pretty much slept all afternoon, evening, and night on Thursday.  Stayed home Friday and just rested.  I'm pretty much over the cold now and completely over the jet lag.  I've taken down my winter decorations around the house, and put up spring ones.  So it's spring both inside and out!

I"m hoping to get to pottery class early today so that I can walk the trail through the woods.  It's about a mile, round trip, and completely level, so an easy walk.  I need to walk every day here at home if I'm going to keep from regaining those 5 pounds I lost in England.  My neighborhood is somewhat hilly, which makes walking more strenuous.  The biggest problem is that it's boring to walk around here.  I like having a destination or at least having a scenic trail to walk on.  I could walk to the grocery store, but that's almost 3 miles round trip and not really interesting.  Also, I have to use the wheeled grocery cart which is a nuisance.  But, I may try to do it once a week.  The library is too close - doesn't give me much exercise, but I guess I could do it once a week.  I think I should go back to walking around Lake Elkhorn on Tuesdays or Wednesdays when I'm in Columbia.  I KNOW I need the exercise.  So far today, all the exercise I've gotten is going down to the basement with the laundry, up two flights of stairs to put the dry clothes away, and repeat for the next load.  Too bad I can't hang the clothes out - today would be a good day for that.  However, my backyard is too small, too crowded with plants and too shady for a clothesline.  Guess I'll have to stick to using the dryer.

Here are some photos of spring flowers - real and artificial.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

adventures by bus

It really wasn't too bad, yesterday, using the local bus system.  It was cold waiting for the bus and I'm always nervous about missing it, so I go out about 10 minutes before the bus is due.  Since it seems to be often late, that means I may wait up to  20 minutes on the corner.  That's not fun, this time of year!  Anyway, I was able to get to Columbia Mall, but the bus I wanted wasn't there.  Rather than wait, I decided to try another line and walk from one of the stops.  This worked fine and I got some exercise.  I arrived at the senior center in plenty of time for my class.  Getting back after class took a bit longer.  The bus stops at the senior center twice along the route.  I caught the first one, which then went all around Robin Hood's Barn  (old expression from childhood) before it finally reached the mall.  No problem getting the bus to return to my neighborhood.

However, later in the afternoon, I had to use the local bus to get from my house to the garage to pick up the car.  The place closes at 6 PM, but I figured catching the 5:20 bus from my corner would get me there in plenty of time. It's only about 15 minutes away by bus, but too far to walk.   All would have been fine if the bus had not been 20 minutes late!!  I was very cold by the time I got on that bus.  Furthermore, when I reached the garage, my car was sitting in the lot, but the garage had a closed sign on the door.  I did not have my spare keys with me, either.  I banged on the door and window and, thank goodness, the owner was still there.  He said he knew I was coming for the car and stayed a bit late for me.  So, the brakes are in good shape now, but my bank account is not feeling so good.  And, there are more repairs necessary.  I'll get those done in a week or two, I guess.  They aren't urgent. 

What I've learned:  the bus system works fine, if you have plenty of time.  Not so good if you have a deadline to meet.  Next time, I'll allow an extra hour and just carry a book to read when I arrive way early.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

back to normal

I'm not sure what normal is, but having to put my car in the shop seems to be normal these days.  The car is 10 years old and it's showing its age.  I'm 70 years old and I frequently show my age too!  This time it's the brakes on the car.  They are making a thumping noise when applied.  I think that indicates worn brake pads or something like that.  Anyway, I'll be trying to local bus system to get to my ceramics class in Columbia.  It should be easy:  I catch the bus on the corner and ride to Columbia Mall.  There I get a bus that takes me to the Senior Center where the class is held.  After class, I'll reverse the process and head home.  The only problem may be that I will have to use the bus to go pick up my car this afternoon/evening.  If it's raining, as predicted, it won't be pleasant waiting for the bus.  Also, crossing a busy highway at rush hour, to get from the bus stop to the garage is never much fun.  But that's life - into which a little rain must fall!  LOL

I think spring is here in Maryland.  (Of course, by saying this, I'm probably jinxing it and we'll get snow next week!)  I have crocus and mini-daffodils in bloom.  I guess I need to remove the leaves from the flower bed, so that I can actually see the blooms!  What is really had to believe is that we go to daylight savings time this coming weekend!  Surely it's a bit early for that?  Oh well, it will be nice to have more daylight in the evenings.  That is what happens with daylight savings time, isn't it?  I always have to stop and figure out how this affects us. 

The ceramics class I teach started up again yesterday.  I have two new students, which is wonderful!  One of them has never done anything with clay.  The other has worked with molded ceramics.  Both of them took to 'playing with clay' with great enthusiasm and talent.  I just hope their first pieces come out ok.  There are so many opportunities for things to go wrong between creation and finish of ceramics.  And one of them wanted to try a somewhat difficult piece.  She says she likes a challenge.  It's fun to be able to teach, rather than just being there as a resource person.  My other three students are long-time students and rarely need my assistance. 

I'd better get ready to catch the bus. 

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Home again

Had an uneventful trip home.  The plane was crowded, which surprised me, but of course it was a Saturday.  I find the trip back to the US feels very long and boring, so this time I decided to watch some of the films that are available.  The main problem with these films (other than my having to figure out just how to get the one I wanted) is that the screens are very small and it's hard to see what is going on in night scenes.  I had trouble that way with "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows".  Luckily I've read the book, although I was several years ago, so I was able to follow the action.  The other film I watched was "Unstoppable' (I think that is the right name)  It's about a runaway train and is a real action flick.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.  While I was watching the speeding trains, the airplane ran into some turbulence, which fit perfectly into the scenes on the screen!  There isn't much to the plot, but there are lots of trains (for railroad buffs) and emergency equipment with sirens blaring. A couple of car chasing train scenes.  The perfect action film!

I got home around 5 and managed to get unpacked and stuff put away before I collapsed into my recliner.  I managed to stay up, more or less, until 10 PM.  However, I think I was asleep in the chair for the last hour.  Of course, this AM I woke up early - VERY EARLY - 3:30 AM.  I tried to get back to sleep, but finally at 5 I gave up and got up.  I will be very tired tonight.  It was odd coming back to warm weather here in Maryland.  When I left England, the spring flowers and trees were in bloom, but it was COLD.  Here, it is warm, but the the daffodils aren't in bloom, nor are the flowering trees.  I think I have a couple of photos of flowers and trees on Kate's street.  If I can find them,  I'll post them here.

Friday, March 4, 2011

next-to-last day in England

Tomorrow I will be flying home to Maryland.  This has been a good visit, except for my catching a cold a few days ago.  Actually, I think I caught the cold from airplane travel, but it only developed this week.  I still managed to get in some sight-seeing and shopping.  As you know, if you read this blog, I love poking around in thrift stores (called charity shops over here).  Worcester Park (pronounced woster park) has a wonderful selection of charity shops.  I've also visited those in New Malden and Wimbledon.  I've picked up a few books, some jewelry, a couple of silly ceramic animals and those sweaters I mentioned in a previous blog.

Yesterday I found a wonderful book called 'A Good Old Laugh'.  Here's what Dave Barry says about one of the problems of growing old:. 'I've gained a few pounds around the middle. The only lower-body garments I own that still fit me comfortably are towels.'  I don't think I'm quite that bad with flab around the middle.  I'm hoping that all the walking I've done over here will have kept me from gaining any weight, despite having eaten more food and drunk more wine that I would have done during three weeks at home.

My grandchildren are becoming so grown-up!  Sarah is taller than I and looks very mature.  Olivia will catch up to her in height within the next year, I think.  Alex seems much older than he did last summer when they visited me.  This morning, both Alex and Olivia got out books of poetry and were sharing their favorite poems with me.  Alex's choice was the William Wordsworth poem about daffodils.  It seemed an unusual choice for an 8 year old boy.  I cannot remember being interested in poetry when I was 8, except for A. A. Milne.

Here's another quote from the book - this one appropriate because I've turned 70 today. 'Birthdays are nature's way of telling us to eat more cake'. (Jo Brand)  Taking this advice,  I'm going out soon with Kate's friend Lana (my friend too) and having tea and cake.