Saturday, March 29, 2014

Signs of spring

We've had a weird spring here in Maryland.  For the past three weeks, temperatures have jumped around from the 20s to the high 60s.  We've had sunny days, windy days, rain, on and off, and snow a couple of times.  The latest snow was this week.  At one point I had icicles handing from the drain pipes and dripping down onto my front steps. Unfortunately, it then got below freezing so I had a coating of ice on the steps.  I don't have a railing out front so going down the steps was a bit iffy.  Luckily I made it without falling.  I then went to get some rock salt, but of course the store was sold out.  Instead I bought kitty litter and some salt that is used in water softeners.  The litter produced a crunchy surface over the ice, so I could safely go up and down.  The salt did help melt the ice, I think.  I've had to use the litter once since then, as we had another warm/cold spell.  Kitty litter is really messy when it is wet!  I sure hope we are done with winter now!

The birds that dine at my feeders seem to have decided it is now spring.  I haven't seen any courting so far, but the males are singing their spring songs.  The male goldfinches are all decked out in their courting colors.  When they share a feeder with the cardinals, it's very colorful.  I even had a pair of redwing blackbirds recently.  They don't nest around here and are seldom seen on my feeders.  They are voracious eaters, but not as bad as starlings.   I've been seeing flocks of robins all winter, so I don't consider them good predicters of spring, but now I'm seeing only one or two at a time.  I guess the migrants have passed through, leaving only the summer residents.  Interestingly, the juncos (a winter only bird) think it's still winter.  They usually fly north as the weather warms up, but they are still hanging around.  Juncos are ground feeders, but at least one of them has learned how to perch on a feeder.  I've never seen that behavior before, but I guess he was desperate, as there was no more food scattered on the deck floor.  I throw birdseed onto the deck only when it is snow-covered.  It's a mess to clean up the shells, not to mention the little white blobs the birds leave behind.

Here are a few signs of spring in my yard.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Trip to Florida

In late February, I flew to Vero Beach, Florida to visit my brother and sister-in-law who live down there during the winter.  I chose the cheapest flights I could find, but got a bit nervous after booking because the flight went from Baltimore to Rochester, NY  and then down to Orlando.  I used to live in western NY, so I know what the weather can be like up there.  Flying north in the winter is a bit of a risk.  As if turned out, Rochester was fine - a little snow on the ground, but none coming down.  However, we left Baltimore 45 mintues late because there was icy rain and the plane had to be de-ided.  We got to Rochester with no trouble and the plane emptied, leaving only 5 of us still aboard.  We quickly moved up to the front seats, before the folks in Rochester who were hoping to escape the winter, boarded for the trip to Orlando.  We made up a part of the time on the way south, but we were still later than scheduled arriving in Orlando.  I had booked a shuttle bus service to Vero and wasn't sure I would make the connection.  I called the company who said the bus would wait 10 minutes for me.  Boy was I lucky!  My bag came through among the first off and I hurried down to where the shuttel bus was waitaing.  Everything was fine from then on.  I arrived safely in Vero and my family picked me up.  This was much better than having my 86 year old brother drive to Orlando to pick me up.

The weather in Florida was delightful.  We had sunny days with temps in the 70s, although the last day I was there, it was going into the 80s.  My sister-in-law and I spent an afternoon going to all the thrift stores in town.  Vero Beach has many wealthy people, so the thrift stores have wonderful items for very little money.  I bought another bird house to add to my collection, but nothing else.  Of course, I had to leave 4 paperback books behind in order to fit the birdhouse into my suitcases!  No problem, as I had read the books by the time I left and was going to donate them anyway.

Another day we went over to the stores on the beach and wandered around a bit.  Went to a store that has all sorts of cooking things - pots and pans, gadgets to do just about anything in a kitchen, table linens and more.  I tried to buy my sister-in-law a couple of gadgets that I thought she would use, but she refused to take them.  She likes the things she already has and isn't interesting in anything new. Another store we visited is a wonderful store called the Laughing Dog.  It has fabulous creations of glass, ceramic, fabric or wood.  There was nothing I could afford, but I loved looking at all the beautiful objects of art.  We poked into some other stores as well, admiring all the birghtlyt colored Florida clothes.  Somehow I resisted them as well.  I was tempted just a little by the handmade baby dresses in one store, but as much as I love my 6 month old granddaughter, I just couldn't see spending $40 on a dress that had to be hand-washed and that she would out grow in a few months!  Sorry, Elise.  When you have stopped growing so fast, I'll see what I can find that you would like.

The day before I left, my brother took me out to dinner for my birthday - at my favorite restaurant.  I celebrated turning 73 by having a very good Margarita before a dinner of crab-stuffed flounder.  Yum!
The last day I was in Florida, we drove out to where the local water company has created ponds which attract many birds.  We watched flocks of small black and white ducks, and a few white herons, cormorants or anhingas (I can't remember how to tell them apart)and other birds we couldn't identify.

The trip home was uneventful - my favorite kind of trip.  I had lots of time at the Orlando airport, so I ate a nice dinner in a real restaurant and had no problem getting through the very long lines at the security checkpoint.  Of course I have a lot to do now that I am home.  The house needs cleaning, or at least dusting.  I still haven't done my income taxes, which I started before my vacation.  I am trying to finish reading a book before tonight's book club meeting.  We are reading "The Aviator's Wife" a fictionalized story about Anne Morrow Lindberg's life.  It's interesting and well-written, but I am a bit uncomfortable about this kind of book.  I prefer my books to be either fictional or true.  As  I read this book, it's impossible to know what is real and what the author has made up.  It will be interesting to see if the other members of the book club feel the same way.  I'm going to quit now and see how far I can get in the book before the meeting tonight.


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Procrastination Post

I am home today with a cold and am supposed to be doing my income taxes.  I think I have all the information that I need, although inevitably there will be at least one missing piece.  The paperwork is sitting on the table, nothing filled out so far, although I did do some calculations the other day, adding up things that are additions or will be subtractions.  That's really the hard part.  Today all I need to do is put the info into the right place on the forms.

Meanwhile, I am sitting here at the computer rather that getting to work on the taxes.  Yesterday I had no internet connection and no phone service, as they are all on my wireless connection.  That went kaput, so I was stuck.  Comcast did send a tech out, after several conversations convinced them that the problem could not be solved over the phone.  The tech fixed the system temporarily, but said that when the weather warms up, they will have to come out and put in a new cable.  Evidently they can do this whether I am home or not. I just hope that the temporary cable lasts until they can come out to put in the new one.  It could be a month or more, considering the weather we've been having this winter.

Today the sun is shining and melting the ice on my car's windshield.  Always nice to have Mother Nature working in my favor for a change.  The dusting of snow we got last night just covered up the ice.  And out front, the ice seems to have melted.  I just hope it doesn't rain today and freeze up tonight.  Don't think rain is predicted, so perhpas we will be ok for a while.  I've really had all the winter I want this year.

My deck, in back of the house, doesn't get any sun in the winter, so it is still snow-covered. I've been throwing seed for the birds out onto a semi-cleared path from my doorway.  The birds must be really hungry becasuse they have been coming right up to the door to get the seeds I spilled on the door mat.  I should get my boots on and go out and fill the feeders.  Maybe I"ll do that later.  This morning I'm being lazy.

In the living room, I have an amarilys (how is that work spelled?) starting to bloom.  This plant was given to me a number of years ago and it faithfully blooms every winter.  I put it outside for the summer, bring it inside in the fall, leave it alone for several months and then start watering it again.  Voila!  It blooms!  In full bloom, it will have 4 blooms coming from the single stalk.  Very impressive.

Thursday, February 13, 2014


Since I am snowbound today, it seems like a good time to put up another post on my blog.  We got about a foot of snow last night and a bit more this morning, but nothing coming down just now.  What I worry about is freezing rain, which is still a possibiity today and tonight.  That is what brings down tree limbs and power lines.  As long as I have electricity, I am fine, but if the power goes off it will be darn cold in my house!

At this moment, I am watching birds and a squirrel argue over the bird seed that I have thrown on my deck.  There are cardinals,bluejays, juncos, starlings and sparrows out there just now.  I also have the occassional titmouse and chickadee.  Haven't seen the woodpecker today, but I put a suet cake out yesterday, so perhaps he (she?) will arrive later.  Birds are very entertaining, but it's not cheap entertainment.  I spend a fair amount on seed for the birds, especially in the winter.  There is a sale at the bird store on Saturday, so I hope to stock up then.  That's assuming I won't be still snowed in, of course.

I just looked out front and two of my neighbors' teenagers are shoveling my sidewalk.  I had planned to shovel later, so now I feel guilty that I didn't get out there sooner.  I actually enjoy shoveling snow - at least in small doses.   I told the boys that they could stop and I would do the rest, but they seem to be persistent.  I don't know these neighbors very well.  They are renters who moved less than a year ago and I seldom see them.  I think they are from Africa or the West Indies because their English has a definite accent.  I have a little trouble understanding them.  I'll have to bake something and take it over to them - brownies maybe.

My computer is giving me problems.  Recently, I actually took it to Best Buys where a Geek Squad member tested it and found nothing wrong.  He said the trouble is with Comcast and perhaps I need a new router.  He suggested that if I wanted a really good router, I could buy one at Best Buys, but he wasn't pushy about it.  I will call Comcast soon - after the snow goes away.  The only current probem is that loading anything is slow and I can't watch youtube or suchlike because they load up very slowly.  It's like the way my computer worked before I got wifi.  I think we don't realize how dependent we are on our computers until they aren't working properly.  Of course today, with no newspaper, I am especially dependent upon the computer for my news.

I am planning several trips this spring - to Florida in March and Arizona in April.  I spent hours on the computer recently trying to find a 'cheap' fare to Florida and coordinate that with a shuttle bus service that runs from Orlando to several cities on the East Coast (including Vero Beach, where I want to go).  I finally did get it all worked out and all will be well as long as we don't get another snow storm on the day I'll be leaving.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed - or at least I would be, but I can't type that way!!

This past weekend, my former husband, Andy, was a guest at my house.  His brother has cancer, so Andy and Robert (Andy's son) drove up from Hampton, VA to see him.  Andy and I are still friends, so it wasn't a problem having him stay here.  He took me out to dinner at a local steak house on Saturday night.  We are both showing our age - neither of us could finish our dinners.  And, by 10 PM, we were each ready for bed. The only problem for me with having company is that I get very tired of talking.  I'm not used to having someone around for a day and a half.  My house is quiet most of the time and it's really odd for me to be sitting there making conversation.

Monday night, I went to a book club meeting.  I have just joined this club and only know two of the members.  They are all women about my age and very friendly.  The book we discussed was TransAtlantic by Colum McCollough (I can't spell his name).  It was a very interesting book and we all liked it.  This book club will be good for me, as it will force me to do some semi-serious reading instead of the mysteries and romances I read all the time.  I'm having trouble getting a copy of the next book.  It's "Boys in a Boat"  and is connected to past Olympics.  Perhaps that is why all the copies are reserved.  I'm 17th on the list at the Howard County Libraries and 3rd in the Laurel Library (PG County).  Hopefully, I'll get a copy from one of these lists before March 10, which is the next meeting.

Monday, January 20, 2014

What I did over the Holidays

I haven't been doing much Blogging lately, but I will try to do it more frequently.  Today I'll write about my 3 weeks in England and post a few photos.  (There are some on Facebook already.) Eventually I will have all my photos on Flickr, but they aren't up there yet.  There are far too many to try to put them all on this blog.

Christmas this year was at Kate's in England.  My grandchildren are growing up so fast!  Both Sarah and Olivia are taller than I now.  I can still look down on Alex, but then he is only 11 (almost).  I'm sure his day to be taller than Grandma will come soon.  The girls are very much teenagers, but still very sweet.  There are few issues between the girls or between Alex and Olivia these days.  This makes for a more peaceful household than it was sometimes in the past.

I arrived before Christmas, although not early enough to help decorate the tree.  I did get to attend a holiday 'concert' at the secondary school.  This was remarkable in that kids as young as 12 acted or sang solos or played instruments.  Some of them were very good and all did very well without any symptoms of stage fright.  Sarah did not participate, but Olivia played flute in the 'band' which accompanied some of the acts.

Christmas Eve we attended the traditional neighborhood party with Lana and her family.  Lana is Kate's close friend who lives two doors away.  Her son's birthday is December 24, and every year they have a birthday party for him, inviting the neighbors as well as his friends.  I know most of the people, as I have been there many times, so it's a party I really enjoy. Oh yes, I almost forgot that before Christmas we went into London to look at the displays in the store windows.  More photos from that trip have been posted on Facebook, but here is one.  

 Christmas morning was less hectic than it was a few years ago.  Still we all had fun unwrapping gifts, some of which were surprises.  As usual, I gave the kids cash and/or took them shopping.  Even though they knew what they were getting, they insisted that I wrap the gifts and put them under the tree, so that they would have things to unwrap.  I received a few gifts, including a school photo of Alex and a pair or earrings (from Olivia) in my favorite color (turquoise).

The weather during my visit was rather typical for England - chilly and drippy.  No downpours, but enough drizzle to make outdoor activities somewhat iffy.  We did go to an historic house (one we had been to before), but just wandered around the grounds, rather than paying extra to tour the house.  We were supposed to go to another garden (Wistley) but got rained out on that one. Here are Olivia, Alex and Sarah on an outdoor stage.

Still there was plenty to do.  Kate and the kids and I went to the Warner Brothers' 'exhibit' where they have many of the items used in making the Harry Potter movies.  This was an amazing place with all sorts of props - large and small.  We all had a great time. This is just one of the many amazing displays.

Kate and the kids and I also went to a Panto (pantomime) one evening.  I'd never been to one and it was quite an experience.  It was a bit like a musical, with singers and dancers, but the difference is that the actors and the audience talk to each other.  The villain was greeted with boos and hisses from the audience.  Often a character would say "I'm going to do something" and the audience would shout
"Oh, no you're not!"  It was great fun and the dancers were very good.  There was a team of about 8 Black guys who did the most astonishing athletic dancing I've ever seen!

I think I've covered the highlights of my visit.  As usual it was wonderful seeing Kate and her family, even though the kids talk so fast that I often can't figure out what they are saying.  Even with my hearing aids, I have trouble hearing Kate, who is rather soft-spoken.  My son-in-law, bless him, has a loud voice, so I can always hear what he is saying.  The same is true of Alex.  So, even though I miss some conversations and often don't hear clearly what is being said, I love being with them.  Kate says that my responses to comments are often not germane, but they do provide unexpected humor!