Tuesday, May 31, 2011

An interesting shopping trip

I went to Micheal's yesterday because I had a coupon and to look for a couple of specific items.  I didn't find one of the items, but not surprisingly, I came home with some other stuff.  While I was waiting in line to pay, the power went off.  I and others in the store waited maybe 5 minutes before deciding to leave.  Someone had come in to say that power was off at all stores in the plaza.  We put all our potential purchases in basket, put our names on a slip of paper and said we would be back.  I drove south on route 1 and discovered that the outage only covered a few blocks.  I had some other errands to run, so drove off to do them.  When I came back, the stores in the mall looked dark, but I pulled into the parking lot to take a closer look.  At that moment, the light came back on!  Talk about good timing!  Unfortunately, the computers were not yet up, but I wandered around the store and, of course, found a few more items to buy. (The coupon covered all purchases for that day.)    Soon the computers were up and running, so I paid and left.  Went down to the other end of the plaza to Lowe's and found a real bargain on zinnias - greatly reduced, but still looking in good shape.  When I took them inside, I discovered that their computers were not yet up, so we had to pay with cash.  This was no problem for me, but the store personnel had to find a certain number on each item so that they could record the sale and give out paper receipts.  Mine took a long time to identify, because the clerk had to go outside where the plants were to get the number.  Luckily, I was not in any hurry.  I did get my plants and came home, being thankful that in our neighborhood power was ON.

This experience brought home to me just how dependent we are upon our 'machines'.  Without computers, the stores could not do credit card sales; could not look up prices; and could barely function.  There should be backup plans, i.e., information on paper, in books, so that stores can still operate when the computers are out of order.  Now, I'm looking around my house, seeing how many things depend upon electricity:  A/C, heating system, fans, radio, computer, lights, microwave, stove, refrigerator, some clocks, washer and dryer, hot water heater.  I've probably missed a few.  I sure would hate to do without all those things, especially the heat/cooling system.  Luckily most of my power failures are short-lived.  (The lines in our development are underground, but they do connect to above ground lines somewhere).  It gives one pause for thought, doesn't it?

These two photos show the monstrous coleus I bought earlier  this spring.  I thought they were just ordinary plants.  They weren't very big.  However, they have grown and grown!  I realize now that they were the super-sized kind which I first discovered last year.  They are bullies that take over a pot and crowd out all the other plants.  They sure are beautiful, however, so I'll just give them more room to grow and enjoy the gigantic results.

Monday, May 30, 2011

A holiday weekend

I've been busy this weekend, hauling summer decorative items up from the basement and taking down the spring decor.  There is more summer stuff than spring things.  Lots of stones from various beaches here and abroad, seashells collected over many years in Florida, and the blue glass from my art glass collection.  At this point, the room is decorated with all the summer things, but the empty boxes are still piled up on the couch.  Amazingly, I didn't do any damage to my back.  I always try to be careful lifting boxes and evidently this time I was successful.  I'll take a few photos of the displays.  The displays change somewhat each year, although the items stay the same.

I also did a bit of gardening, clearing out more weeds in the back yard.  I need to pull up a few more violets and  cut down a nearly dead forsythia bush, but that's about all that's left to do back there.  I really enjoy gardening, but the nicest part is sitting outside admiring what I've created!  When it's beastly hot outside, as it will be later today (90s), I can sit below my deck, where there is always shade and the temperature is much cooler.  If only my neighbors' A/C units weren't so loud!  Mine is very quiet, thank goodness.

On Saturday, we had a farewell party for friends who are moving to North Carolina later this summer.  I see this couple almost every week, so we haven't said goodbye yet, but the party was for old friends who don't see them regularly.  It was a good party, with time for socializing.  I managed to get caught up with some folks whom I only see at weddings and funerals these days.  It's a sad fact of old age that we get together more at funerals than any other time!  I'm sure it only gets worse.  Ah, the joys of aging.

Today is a holiday for me, since the rec center where I teach ceramics is closed.  I really enjoy teaching that class, but still I enjoy an occasional break from it.  I have nothing planned for today, but I'm sure I'll find something that needs doing.  Checkbook reconciliation, perhaps?  Checking credit card statements?  Cleaning floors?  The house is full of things that need to be done.  Too bad that none of them is fun!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

more blooms

Not much happening here this week.  I did get in a walk yesterday, around Lake Elkhorn.  Not a turtle in sight, but did spot a swimming animal.  I think it was an otter, as it seemed too small for a beaver.  Most of the animal was in the water, which made identification pretty tough.  I keep forgetting to take my binoculars with me when I do that walk.

Today's photos show some new blooms - the dark red/purple clematis, some yellow yarrow and a bush that has lovely white blossoms and a wonderful scent.  I think the bush is Mock Orange.  (I knew its name when I bought it!)  It's in a pot on the deck and seems happy there.  I can smell the lovely scent when the sliding door is open.  (Note for fellow gardeners:  the big leaves you see near the Mock Orange are from a rhododendron in a nearby pot). 

I did a bit more yard work yesterday.  Mostly it was pulling out wild violets from flower beds - front and back.  They are very difficult to uproot, due to underground tuber-like roots.  I really like the violets, but they have taken over the flower beds this year.  Must be all that rain we've been getting.  Anyway, I'm sure I left plenty to bloom next spring! 

This weekend, I plan to take down the spring pictures and knick-knacks and put out my summer display of shells and blue glass.  Probably won't get to that until Sunday afternoon or Monday, as Saturday is filled with a farewell luncheon for friends.  They are moving to North Carolina.  I'm really going to miss them!

Today I woke up at 5:30 and not being sleepy, just got up.  I don't usually rise quite that early - thank goodness!  However, it does mean I can get quite a bit done this morning before I have to leave.  Of course, I should stop messing around on the computer and do some 'work'.  Bye.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

stuff (which I certainly don't need!)

 I realized this AM that I had not taken photos of some stuff I bought on Saturday while shopping for antiques.  Nor had I taken photos of the latest pottery items, from the Raku firing and from the Tuesday class. So here are a bunch of photos.

These first items are from the Raku firing.  The monster is supposed to be Nessie.  I plan to make a lake for her to sit on.  The mask is not quite as dark as the photo shows.  

 This vase has a beautiful inside and a duller outside.  I should have switched the glazes.  I like it anyway, but if I put anything in it, the inside won't show.  Can't use it for real flowers anyway, as Raku is not water-tight.
 These little glass items are from the antique store we visited on Saturday.  I just couldn't resist that squirrel! 
Finally, here is a little lizard.  I had planned to put him outside, but he has a mended leg, so can't 'live' outside.  Instead he'll have a home near a potted plant in the house.  I have another one in the making and will probably make several more.  They are fun to decorate!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Boy, did that tree grow!

Here's the story.  Last week, I went to Benke's (local garden shop) and bought a Japanese maple.  It's a lovely tree, although very small. The leaves are red when they are new, then green and red and then green with white veins.  When I got it planted, it looked even smaller and just didn't look right in the front yard.  It only grows a few inches a year.  I figured I'd be dead and gone before it got to be 6 foot tall.  Because it is so small, with leaves near the ground, I was afraid our resident ground hog would eat it.  I put a decorative 'fence' around it, hoping that would keep critter out.

Fast forward to Saturday.  Patty and I had a fun day - went to a yard sale, an antique store, and on the way home, stopped at a garden center.  They had lovely Japanese maples - really tall ones - for very reasonable prices.  I just couldn't resist.  I bought one that is almost feet tall!  Patty helped me plant it.  It looks so much better in the yard than the first one did.  The leaves are green with pink and white edges.  And that first tree is now in a pot on the deck.  Since it only grows a few inches a year, it should be fine in the pot for many years to come.  I'm really happy with the larger tree out front, but am probably confusing my neighbors as to just what I planted!

This was a busy weekend for me.  Yesterday, we had another book sale at church.  We usually don't have them close together, but we were culling out old books from the library and voted to try to sell them, rather than just donate them to a thrift shop.  I had to leave before the sale was over, so don't know how many sold.  I doubt if we did as well as we usually do, but every dollar we make goes toward buying new books.

I left the book sale right after church because we were doing a Raku firing at Montpelier Arts Center.  I got there about 1 PM and did manage to get three of my pieces fired. (I'll post photos in tomorrow's blog.)  I had one more to fire, but I was meeting my friend Deb for dinner, so had to head home around 5:30 PM.

Deb and I went to a fondue restaurant in Columbia.  I think it's called The Melting Pot.  I'd never eaten there and didn't realize that it was a bit on the fancy/expensive side.  However, we didn't spend all that much.  We ate traditional cheese fondue, salad and chocolate fondue for dessert.  All the food was very good!  We even had a glass of wine each.  I just hope Deb didn't fall asleep on the way home!  She lives in southern Maryland, so had a somewhat long drive.

It was a productive weekend and a lot of fun, but I was very tired by the time I got home from dinner.   And here we are, beginning another week. Most of my plants are in pots or in the ground now, but there are a few still waiting.  It's supposed to rain for the next 6 days!  Lucky us!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

where have all the turtles gone?

Yesterday, I walked around Lake Eklhorn.  There was not a single turtle sitting on a log!  Not one!!  I don't understand it.  The day was warm and sunny, just the kind of day they are usually out sunning themselves.  Very odd.  However, there were other wildlife to see.  The Canada Geese have their goslings out and about.  I saw three family groups.  Goslings are covered with soft gray down.  None of them were in the water.  I think they are perhaps too young for swimming lessons.  Maybe next week they will be swimming.  The parents are very protective, so I stayed away from them.  Anyway, I was busy looking at where my feet were and thus avoiding stepping on the gobs of shit the geese leave on the sidewalks.  They are incredibly messy birds! 

I bought a few more plants yesterday.  Didn't intend to.  I went to Home Depot to get mulch and top soil.  Unfortunately, those items are in the garden center, which is filled with plants.  They had a better selection than last week.  I only picked up a few new ones.  The strangest thing I did was to buy a hanging basket filled with wax begonias.  Wax begonias don't belong in hanging baskets - they don't hang over the edges; they just sit upright.  Furthermore, I never buy hanging baskets that are already filled. However, I needed just one more basket to put out front.  I already have the plants to go in it.   HD had no empty hanging baskets.  So, I bought the one with the begonias (it was pretty cheap) and will empty it, planting the begonias somewhere and using it for my hanging plants!  As my grandmother used to say, "There's more than one way to skin a cat".  Actually, I can't imagine anyone skinning a cat.  That's a very strange saying, isn't it? 

Today, I plan to walk again after lunch.  I'll try a different lake for my stroll.  

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

a walk in the woods

I finally remembered to take my camera with me yesterday when I went to Beltsville.  The trail through the woods has been very scenic these last few weeks.  Many wild flowers blooming.  Of course, I missed the weeks when the woods was covered with tiny pink blossoms. There is a photo of a few remaining.  Also missed getting a photo of the 'woods lily' -but I have two of those at home and have posted a photo recently.  Yesterday, a whole new batch of flowers were in bloom.  The lovely little white flower in the first photo might surprise you.  It's poison ivy!!  The woods are full of it.  I carefully stay on the trail and away from the trees.  Poison ivy climbs right up the trees.  I don't know the names of most of these plants and don't have a wildflower book in which to look them up.  The names aren't really important, except for the poison ivy!  The yellow ones are what I know as buttercups. 

Sunday, May 8, 2011

another gardening day

Yesterday AM I went on a buying spree at my favorite nursery.  They were having a Mothers' Day sale.  The gardens weren't crowded, but the check-out lines were rather long.  Still I don't suppose I waited more than 10 minutes.  I bought mostly annuals to finish filling the pots on the deck.  They all look a little empty still because all the plants are small, but I know from experience that in a month or so, they will be overflowing.  Gardening in pots isn't very strenuous, except for lifting bags of potting soil and moving the large (and heavy) pots around to get them where I want them.  Basically, this year, I have orange, red and yellow flowers on one side of the deck and pink and purple on the other - mostly.  I noticed that I have only two blue flowers.  I just didn't find any blue ones that I wanted.

I think today I will return to the garden shop and buy a tree!  I need to replace the flowering plum tree that came down last year due to wind and rain.  I saw some very nice Japanese maples yesterday, for reasonable prices.  A Japanese maple won't provide much shade, unlike the plum, as they are slow growers, but it isn't likely to blow over in a wind storm either!  Of course, it's crazy to go on Mothers' Day, but I don't suppose it will be worse than yesterday and I know what I want, so I won't be there long.  If I didn't have to go to church, I would go now and beat the rush.  Maybe it will rain this afternoon, which should discourage some buyers and make the lines shorter!

Here is a photo of the purple clematis that is finally blooming.  The white one always blooms first, but the purple one seems to be catching up.  I have a third one, further along the fence, but I don't remember what color it is.  It was new last year, but has some buds.  I think it might be dark red.  Guess I'll have to wait and see.  I'm also posting more iris photos.  (These are also on FaceBook) 
The yellow and lavender iris is one of my favorites. 

Yesterday, I dug up a few clumps of iris to give away to neighbors.  Those plants grow very close together and have roots connecting one plant to the next.  It's very hard to get into the bed and cut some out.  I have far too many of one color.  They seem to multiply faster than any of the other more desirable ones!  The ones I really like don't seem to multiply at all, of course.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Yard work is play for me

Yesterday was such a beautiful day for being outside.  I got the front yard edged.  Of course the grass is growing like weeds (maybe because there are a lot of them in among the grass), so it will need to be mowed soon and then I'll have to do the edging again!  Sometimes I pray for a dry summer, so the grass will stop growing. 

Anyway, after lunch I went shopping for flowers.  I tried several of the local discount stores, hoping to find some bargains.  Walmart was a real disappointment.  Their plants were not in good shape, although I got some marigolds and petunias.  Home Depot wasn't much better.  I find that if I get to those stores on the day a new shipment of plants arrives, there is a reasonably good selection.  The rest of the time, not so good.  Anyway, I had quite a few plants purchased last week from a local fruit, vegetable and plant stand, so I had plenty to do.  I still have a few pots to fill and need some more annuals for the back yard flower bed.  Maybe I'll go to Benke's on Friday.  They are the local nursery with the best selection, but they are also the most expensive.  I always find more than I intend to buy when I go there.  Here are some photos of the pots on the deck.  And I have another iris blooming out front - a pink one.  Spring is such fun with new flowers opening up every few days. 

Today I went out again to see if I could find a few more plants - specifically sweet potato vines and some spiky plants.  This time I tried the Home Depot in Columbia. They are usually much better supplied than the store in Laurel.  They did have more plants, but not as good a selection as I remember from last year.  I think it's a bit early.  They will get more later this month.  I found most of the items I wanted, so I'm in pretty good shape.  It was cool and wet today, so I didn't get these plants into pots.  I'll wait for another warm day when it's comfortable to work outside.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

More spring flowers

Another iris is in full bloom.  Also aquilegia aka. Columbine.  The clematis is on the fence in the back yard.  There is supposed to be a purple one out there too.  Hopefully, it's just a late bloomer.  At this point it looks as if the white one has take over the space.

I'll be working outside today, since the weather is so lovely.  First thing is to get the edging done out front.  This is the first house where I have sidewalks to edge.  What a nuisance!  I'll get out back a bit later and plant some annuals in the new (as of last year) flower bed out there.  I just hope it doesn't rain before I finish.  Maybe I'll even get out to Lowe's or Home Depot and check out their annuals. 

Here is a closeup of the clematis blooming on the fence.   And a shot of the 'woods lily' (not sure of its name).  I've seen these in the woods when I'm walking the trail at the rec center where I teach ceramics.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Raku firing

Saturday, I spent all day at the Montpelier Arts and Crafts center.  It was their annual tea and herb festival.  The ceramics department demonstrated Raku firing all day.  I managed to get three of my pieces fired.  I'm sure I've explained Raku firing previously.  Pieces are fired in a small kiln with a removable lid. Using tongs, we transfer our pieces into garbage cans partly filled with straw, dry grass, leaves, etc.  The red hot piece ignites the straw and we put the lid on.  The straw uses up all the oxygen in the can, creating reduction firing.  We get really interesting effects with this process.  The fun part for me is that we can't predict exactly what the finished piece will look like.  I'm happy with two of my pieces, but the large mask doesn't thrill me.  I like the guy's beard and hair, but his skin color isn't what I wanted.  It's too dark and dull looking.  Maybe I'll refire the piece next time.  I really like the fanged rabbit - the orange color was a surprise, but a nice one.  And the little pinch pot (bowl) has lovely swirls of color on the outside, which can't be seen in the photo.  The black loops on it are where there was no glaze.  In Raku, all unglazed surfaces turn black.

 Yesterday was a busy day for me at church.  I had to set up the coffee hour stuff mostly by myself, as the other person on the committee was away.  It was complicated by the fact that we were not in the usual room, but in a smaller space.  Luckily I had a couple of the kids to help me.  These girls are very efficient, so we got everything done in time, thank goodness.  We wouldn't have made it, except that our service ran late.  It was our annual 'Holy Humor' Sunday.  We dress in silly clothes and hats, some of which rivaled the recent Royal Wedding display.  The minister and congregation tell funny stories.  It's a fun way to celebrate the Sunday after Easter.