Monday, May 25, 2015

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Fantasy vs. Reality, again

Here's how it works in my head.

Sometime in late April, after mowing the front yard and sweeping all the trimmings up and making everything all neat and tidy out front, I take all the plants I have nurtured through the winter - the geraniums, the begonias, the pretty bright raspberry-red-leaved things, the Swedish ivy, the Pothos that vines so nicely indoors - and arrange them all, biggest to smallest, in the garage after having made a temporary workbench out of the two barstools and a half-size plywood sheet - and gather all the outdoor pots. Gather the potting soil, the compost, the sand, gravel, and stones, the watering can and water...the hand tools...the 1970s-era macramé plant hangers for the two hooks on the front porch pillars. Then I serenely and cooly take the biggest plants (the geraniums) out of their pots and put them in their new ones.  I place them out front on the steps, one, two, three. I go back to the garage and take the Begonias, ivies, and raspberry-red things and put them in the hanging pots, and then hang the pots. The rest of the plants are indoor plants and each will go into the next-size-up pot. All go back into the house to their appointed places. I go out and clean up the garage, the few crumbs of soil and a dead leaf or two. Then I come indoors and have a tranquil cup of tea and read a mice mystery novel.

Here's the reality: It's May 21st. I did mow the front yard, once, a couple of weeks ago. Since then it's either been pouring down rain, or I've been sick, so the dandelions are now on their third generation. Today the mower won't start at all. (Makes me so glad I paid the people $180 for its annual spring makeover! He's supposedly coming this afternoon to figure out what's wrong. Any bets it'll turn out to be my fault?) It's now 4 p.m., and only the hanging pots have been planted and hung and it took me two hours and the garage looks like an entire kindergarten class was let loose in there with the open bags of dirt and the hose. I'm hot and sweaty, covered in dirt, and I'm not at all sure the plants in the one pot are going to survive, after I unceremoniously dumped it upside down when trying to insert it into the macramé hanger.  All of the macramé hangers are now in the trash can. Fortunately I had plenty of 16-gauge galvanized wire, and I cobbled together hangers for those pots. (One of which, it turned out, is broken. I'm hoping the double round of wire under the rim will keep it together.)

Also, so far this spring the back yard has never been mowed. Happily, the grass is on its second generation - free seed! But it's knee-high out there so the first mowing is going to be quite exhilarating.  I mean exhausting.

Also, the mowing front and back really really REALLY needs to be done by tomorrow night because my neighbor - the best neighbor in the world - is having his entire family over for BBQ this weekend. He has 9 siblings. I'm assuming they all have spouses, kids, maybe grandkids, and various others tagging along. I don't want my yard to look like the Neighborhood Crazy Lady's yard.

Hope I can get this done.

UPDATE: 5/21/15 5:25 pm: The lawn mower guy came. He pushed the red primer button 7 times (the manuals says 3, and no one ever told me any differently) and guess what happened.

Go on, guess.

Oh rats, you're right: the sucker started right up.

I'd like to know why he didn't suggest that red button thing over the phone.

At least he didn't charge me for the house call.

So, the front yard's mowed! Tomorrow, the back!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Thanks, Mom

My mom's been gone since January 1, 2004. I think about her every day.

Ours was far from a perfect relationship, with imperfections abounding on both sides. But I can tell you what I received from her:

A love of nature.

A love of words, and reading.

A love of humor.

And those three things almost define me. I cannot begin to express how important all three are to me. I cannot imagine what I would have been, what my life would have been, without them. It took me way too long to realize this but I did get the chance to write it down and give my thanks to her for them in a birthday card one year. It affected her deeply. She always said she wanted to be buried with that card. Unfortunately by the time it was needed, she had lost it so I couldn't, but I did certainly reiterate the fact and my thanks as appropriate, before the people who attended her memorial service and afterwards, between just her and me.

You gave me the world, Mom. Thank you.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Never was into history

I only took one history course in college, because I had to have one. Otherwise, it never interested me much.

However, as I approached retirement I started getting fascinated with old - as in, The Enlightenment-era - scientific instruments. They are beautiful. Such exquisite workmanship and details. I thought maybe I could center a post-retirement hobby around those. I started reading up on the history of science -- which almost immediately plunged me into the arts, religion, economy, social structures and politics of those times. It was all interwoven. Go figure. My personal non-fiction library started to grow, and I've checked many books on those topics out of the library (AND returned them, in case you were wondering!)

Following are many of my non-fiction books:

My bedside TBR. Only the Habit book is not related to my interests in history. (Note the four library books - not due yet!)

Only the Chesterton here isn't history, though this little bunch is surrounded with other fiction books. The Walkable City, surprisingly, fits right in with my general interest; the author refers often to European cities and how they've developed over the centuries.

I haven't read all the books in these pictures yet, but I aim to. (Side note: I liked that book The Swerve, but I actively loathe its title. Unfortunately it seems to have caught on in the history academic circles. Bleagh.) The one on the far left is Islam, Science, and the Challenge of History by Dr. Ahmad Dallal, of Yale. I tried to crack that one when I bought it but it turned out to be rather dry and dense. I'll have another go at it sooner or later; the incredibly rich scientific history of the Islamic world is (or should be) fascinating.

These aren't nearly my whole non-fiction collection. I have TONS of books on France, and the French language, and many many books in my favorite subject of biology and other sciences.  Every once in awhile I do a thorough comb-through and purge some but it's getting down to the ones I really want to keep now. Books comprise one of my two big vices. Not sure if that's grammatically correct...

I could never sit in a classroom and read this stuff and have to study it and take notes, pass tests, ugh ugh ugh. But very slowly, my reading is accruing layers. It's always fun when something in a book on astronomy clicks with one I read earlier about painting in 15th Century France, and like that.

Monday, May 04, 2015

Collecting a great gift bag for new homeowners

I have no idea why my brain decided to think about this today, but for some reason I was remembering when we first moved into this house in 1993, and how more than once as we were settling in, I found myself having to make unexpected store trips to get items that seemed SO OBVIOUS NOW but which we'd completely overlooked when planning for our move. So without further ado, here's my list. You may notice it's not full of things like $300 monogrammed bath towels, or solid gold lamp finials. This is down and dirty stuff you find really handy when you're getting settled in your new home.

Oh wait, there is one ado I want to further: My one big hint for making Moving Day less hellish:

When you're packing your furniture, put the beds in LAST, so they're the first things placed in your home. (Know where you want to put them before moving day, too). And take all the clean bedding you'll need in the car with you - don't for God's sake bury it in the middle of the moving van! Then, when the beds have been brought into the house, put them together FIRST THING, and make them up with the fresh bedding. Then proceed to move your stuff. At the end of that exceedingly long day, you will SO thank yourself for fixing up the beds first - they're ready to fall into when you most need them!

OK, stuff for a goody bag for new homeowners:
Masking tape, one or more widths

a box of adhesive bandages, various

microfiber cleaning cloths

a small calculator

rubber bands, various sizes and widths

tape measure and / or yardstick

pad(s) & pencil(s)

clothespins (honestly, these are CRAZY useful in all rooms of the house!)

two or three spray bottles (you can give them baking soda and vinegar, great less-polluting cleaning compounds, too)

used toothbrushes for cleaning grout and crevices

A box of sandwich-size sealable plastic bags, and / or one of big garbage bags,  will always be useful, too.  A few folds of clean newspaper, clean cotton rags, plastic cleaning bucket...use your imagination! You could also get gift cards at the closest pizza parlor for your exhausted and starving new homeowners. 

Now I have to go scrub off all the Martha cooties I feel like I've attracted...