Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Home Again Home Again Jiggety Jig

I'm just back from what I call The Western Loop - my yearly visit to Denver to see my mother and brother combined with a visit to Oklahoma City to visit my younger children, my granddaughter and my best friend. It was quite a good visit in both places this year but I am glad to be home. It involves a fair amount of travel time and this trip ran me through Cleveland and Newark to get the lowest fare. I do not recommend the Newark airport, but on the whole I prefer it to O'Hare. In the past  it's been really awkward to schedule my flights, but Expedia has finally made it easy to  book a trip with several legs and it saves me a fair amount. I generally go in January or early spring, but this year I am so glad I waited until later because the winter was tough and there were so many cancellations I would probably have spent my vacation in some airport.

I had two (!) birthday cakes, and lots cool gifts and fun visiting with everyone.  I wish I either lived closer or airfares were a lot cheaper so I could come around more often. We manage to pack a lot into a few days, but I think I would enjoy a more casual pace just as much. Unscheduled time to just hang out doing nothing would be a treat.

Mom and I spent my first afternoon there in the parking lot at K Mart having locked her keys in the car. Not as bad as you might think, as the weather was good and the passing parade of people was a lot like going to the fair. We spent a fair amount of our waiting time laughing. A very nice lady helped us out after our first locksmith came along asking for much more than the advertised price and entertaining us with a fascinating stream of conversation that had us mesmerized while we waited for her AAA road service. Mom and I proceeded on to our planned dinner at Village Inn in high spirits. This time we did not go on a yarn store field trip because my visit was a little short and we had a lot of projects to do, not the least of which was to do battle with huge and ugly weeds which had taken over her flower beds. It felt good to be outside gardening in shorts without a giant sweatshirt - it's still too cold here in Massachusetts to do a lot. Richard and I had a good visit too. He's turned into quite the container gardener and has much better results than I do with cacti.

This time in Oklahoma City I got to stay with Alex, which was a big improvement over staying in a crummy motel. Much cozier, much cheaper and much more to my taste. I could spend my hotel money on treats for the kids instead of on a room whose safety I have reason to doubt. Sami lives just across the back yard and Vivian was there all weekend, so I was able to spend the most time possible with family. We mostly ate, hung out, and shopped. I swear in three days I drove across NW Oklahoma City fifty times.  After significant driving confusion Alex had to ask if there were traffic lights on Cape Cod - I had to admit there are hardly any. Traffic problem on the Cape are almost all the result of millions of tourists cramming themselves onto roads designed for a much slower pace of life. Weather in Oklahoma was windy, but the trees are in full leaf there and I loved being outside in temperatures above 50 degrees (the wind was high the whole time I was there, but the promised bad weather went east of Oklahoma into Arkansas). I actually wore flip flops and shorts!

 After an inspiring visit to Gourmet Yarn  and its wonderful selection of beautiful yarn Sami thought she might like to learn to knit, so next time I will see how much I can teach her, maybe supplemented by a gift of lessons. Gourmet opened its doors while I was living in Oklahoma City and it was grown into a wonderful shop. Sami and I spent quite a while there poking around molesting yarn. I purchased a few items, mostly for holiday knitting and Sami bought me a beautiful skein of Opal sock yarn for my birthday.

I got to attend services at Epworth United Methodist with my friend Sharon Sunday and visited  Jimmy's Egg for lunch. We had a leisurely breakfast with good conversation and delicious food. It was a special treat to have a nice visit with Sharon and the raisin toast and "garbage breakfast" at Jimmy's Egg is something I dream about all year. The only thing wrong with our visit is that it was just TOO SHORT. Sharon came to see us on the Cape last year and a week was not quite long enough either. One meal's worth of conversation or a week once in a while does not compare with the conversations we would have while riding our bicycles 40 miles together and having breakfast afterwards every week.

Our home projects are proceeding slower than we would  like due to rain every other day. It's great for the landscaping projects but less so for fence building and painting the outside of the house. Today some guys are delivering out fencing, which outrages the dogs even though they will benefit from it the most. Ingrates! I am thrilled with the quality and scope of our projects and I was pleasantly surprised to hear that Shana has decided to replace our bulkhead doors as well. Our current ratty rusty doors would not compare well with the cleaned shingles and freshly painted trim on the house.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Ten Movies I have Seen 10 or More Times

A meme caught my eye (a rare thing). I suspect most people who are listing ten movies they have seen ten or more times are listing what they believe to be the finest examples of the American Cinema. I know most of the movies I am listing are no such thing. They are things I turn to when I am knitting and prefer something familiar that I can enjoy without looking at the screen, or they are movies which are comforting when I am tired or overwhelmed. Except for LOTR they do not involve a lot of violence or conflict and the interpersonal relationships may be fraught but they are controlled. I love beautiful costumes and scenery above all things. A good score is a nice plus. I tend to repeat fairly undemanding movies often while more complicated ones I watch more seldom and with more consistent attention.

1.     Lord of the Rings Trilogy - The scenery, the costumes, the literal interpretation of a literary favorite. I know it is not for everyone, but I never tire of it.

2.      Out of Africa - The scenery, the costumes, those flying flamingos! Meryl Streep is mesmerizing.

3.     Sense and Sensibility - Emma Thompson's screenplay captures the heart of the story, and again the scenery, the costumes!

4.      Bleak House - the BBC production with Gillian Anderson. Such a great cast, and such beautiful costumes.

5.     Pride and Prejudice - another BBC production with Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy. The scenery, the costumes, and it all comes right in the end.

6.     The Jerk - Whimsical and charming, low humor. My favorite comedy, and it includes Bernadette Peters playing a trumpet!

7.     Independence Day - Love the blockbuster destruction, the humor, and the happy ending.

8.     The Day After Tomorrow - I can't resist a disaster movie and this one has it all. Every disaster must destroy the Statue of Liberty, include an instance of Young Love, and it doesn't hurt to have a shot of climate change. I'll really go for any kind of natural disaster movie - volcanoes are especially compelling, but the earth crust disappearing in 2012 was a nice effect.

9.     Men In Black - Funny, fun music, and the idea of aliens among us is curiously entertaining.

10.    Auntie Mame - I've loved this one since I was a child. If you can't quote it you might think I have lost my mind when I do.

11.    The Harry Potter series - Classic private school orphan story with the charming addition of magic. What could be better? Cute stars, great actors in the smaller parts.

Honorable mentions for Twister, Forest Gump (which Shana and I watched three times in a row yesterday), A Christmas Story, and Little Dorrit (yet another BBC production).

I purchase few movies on DVD, but On Demand is a great resource. There is usually one of my old favorites available along with a lot of new favorites to be discovered. It's funny how quickly we have become accustomed to seeing whatever we want to see at any hour of the day or night.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

It's All Happening in the Yard

After loads of calls, discussions, deposits, and scheduling conflicts our major outdoor projects for the yard are actually happening. The landscaping project happened this week. In the conception and realization it is so much like my fantasy for the space it's amazing. It's beautiful now and will be stunning when the plants mature.

I had thought only some of the shrubs were going in the front yard and that some were destined for a backyard privacy screen. That proved not to be the case, so I will be purchasing smaller shrubs to become my backyard screen. They will have to be much smaller because of the cost, but also because I do not feel capable of digging huge holes for big shrubs, not having access to the giant auger the guys used to install these large shrubs. Once they got going planting the shrubs it really did not take long at all to get them in. They were careful to place the shrubs evenly across the bed and to be sure they were all upright. The guys even straightened up my suffering mailbox so it would not make their pretty bed look bad. It still looks pitiful. Maybe next year I will upgrade it to something more attractive. They had not started on my shrub border, so I was thrilled when I came home to see the delightful wavy edge. My little shrubs still look like sticks, but by the end of the summer I hope they will  have a little more presence. I'll still have to wade in and clean out the brambles closer to the fence line, which is not a fun job. Today I will probably try to cruise on over to the dump to get some mulch for the shady bed to get it mulched in before the weeds start up for the season. If anyone wonders who did this work for us, it was Maffei Landscaping. I found them to be efficient, respectful of my property and efficient. They did not make fun of my pitiful sticks! I know our job was small and not especially challenging, so YMMV if your job requires more detailed plans than mine did. I was able to specify a particular species and variety of shrub, and that was the only specific requirement I had. Pretty easy to accommodate, I think, as it is one that is used quite commonly here and I know they do well.

The next project to get underway is out new fencing. Actually it has been underway for some time. When I talked to our "fence guy" this morning he said our fence was built and ready to install. This will happen next week, while I am away visiting family. Shana will be here to appreciate its beauty, and to see the dogs reaction to having unfettered access to part of the yard. I have my doubts about whether they will return to the house when called! I think we will still  have to tether them to the front porch when we have winter storms because the kitchen slider drifts in. Until we get out and clear the deck there is no way the dogs could plow through all the snow that piles up there.

You'd think all of these big projects would satisfy my desire to tear things up around the yard, but no such luck. Probably I will be satisfied when things are in full swing out there and I am barely keeping up with weeding and mowing. That little bit of realism should calm me down!

I'm setting big knitting projects aside in favor of travel knitting for a little bit. I'll have loads of travel time and my family visits will not be much fun if I am counting and ripping back. Socks it is - or maybe plain mittens for the winter I know will be back.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Endless, But Losing the War

Yes, we had snow again today. Fortunately we had lots of rain overnight and I don't think anything but a few leaves of evening primrose was damaged. Since the evening primrose is a relentless spreader in my yard and turns up in places where I never planted it and may not want it I don't think a few damaged leaves will be anything to mope about. We didn't get past the slushy mess phase this morning, and the sun has been out all day even though temperatures are still quite low.

I've been out to the garden centers examining a few shrubs for future notice. It's helpful to see  what a plant will look like when out of leaf because that is what you will be looking at half the year. I have a fondness, some might say and obsession with shrubs and I always have a spot in mind that needs one (or more more more). I have heard that more mature (ahem) gardeners like shrubs borders better than perennials because they take less effort. That may be true, but not universally. I was looking at some Knockout Roses because they are less susceptible to blackspot, but apparently there is a new virus by the name of Rose Rosette Disease that will be a threat to all kinds of roses. I was staying away from most roses because it's harder to grow them with success without poison but was considering the comparatively easy care knockouts; this gives me another reason to rethink my choices. Luckily the very native shrubs that birds love are the ones least susceptible to all kinds of diseases. So I guess I will be going back to the lists of natives for my next shrubs.

Later this week when the privacy shrubs go in and the front portion of my yard is mulched and grass free I will have some openings. Because my front shrub bed is not absolutely symmetrical I think I can go with a group of Miscanthus sinensis at either end of the bed. There are a lot of varieties to choose from, they are not expensive, and they are beautiful. Maybe next year! As long as my miscanthus selection is not noxious or invasive I should be a happy gardener.

I haunt the craft section of used book stores around here and got a nice haul today. Apparently someone was clearing out an estate because there was a gob of knitting books at my closest used book store. Happy days! I picked up three, and when I have a dollar or two to spare again I know where to go.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Taxes, Shmaxes

It's officially Tax Day and I just right this minute completed our filing. This counts as the latest I have ever filed, and I think very nearly the latest for Shana! E-filing makes things so easy when your taxes are not complicated. I may need to make a few adjustments to the way I am paid because we did owe a bit, but no serious issues. We are now filing everything jointly and it is much easier and cheaper.

I am assuming spring is continuing here. Although there is snow in part of the country today and we are meant to have a freeze tonight I think we are safe. Our low temperature tonight should be no less than 30 and with the rain we're having this evening I think we will be safe. Nothing much is up and we are not foolish enough to buy any super tender annuals so early. I have planted peas, lettuce, kale, parsnips and radishes, but they are all seed and tough enough for these conditions. I have things blooming but they are small enough that you just about have to crawl on the ground to see them: some spring ephemerals whose name I do not know, hyacinth, and pulmonaria. Grape hyacinth is near to blooming, and the forsythia while very late promises to be spectacular.

Our major spring projects are nearly all scheduled and ready to go. We'll have our new privacy shrubs before the end of the week and the house and deck washed shortly after. Next up fencing and house painting and then all the uproar will be done and we will be ready for summer. The dogs have hovered between joy and hysteria with visiting workmen and deliveries of outdoor furniture. UPS put an outdoor rug rolled up on the front porch and Mitzi was ready to lose her mind barking at it until I took it around to the deck where she could not see it. Roxy is not nearly so excitable as she has seen everything. She has just been enjoying seeing new people, and many more men than she usually encounters.

In knitting news I have finished the Clapotis I was knitting from my Christmas yarn, and have already worn it. The yarn did pool as much as I expected, but it is working well with the diagonal nature of Clapotis and I am satisfied with it. There is enough yarn left over for a pair of mitts which will be an easy project. I've got a shawl on the needles right now, and my Lovebird Mittens which at the moment need a lot of concentration. I think if I add a stitch marker where I change from back to front it will make it easier to tell where I am by counting fewer stitches.

Next week I fly out to visit my family. I hope they will be as happy to see me as I am to see them!

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

From the Other Side of the World

Fascinated by meerkats? Me too!

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Springing into Action

Historic Plymouth Harbor, low tide
I am convinced spring is really here. The temperatures seem to be stabilizing plants that have been hiding underground have been poking out of the soil.

Mayflower II at anchor
Shana and I are starting to make our plans for summer activities. We've got a few landscaping projects scheduled - a fence and the installation of some privacy screening evergreens, some grading and additional gravel for the driveway to alleviate the low spots that get us wet feet in the spring and treacherous icy pools in the winter. We are replacing some worn out fencing and adding some fencing to allow the dogs to run freely in the back yard. This should be quite amusing when we try to call Mitzi inside as she is militantly resistant to coming when called! We've started looking at kayaks and will probably pick them up this weekend. We've got a few summer visitors planned too.

It was a trip to look at some kayaks at Dick's Sporting Goods that took us to Plymouth last weekend. Shana goes there for business fairly often but I have never been there. It looks really nice, and I look forward to going back to visit again.

April 7 garden
I already had a spring cleanup which left most of my yard and all of the beds pretty much bald as an egg. Not quite to my taste, but just how Shana likes to see it. She prefers a more formal look, I like the overgrown jungly effect. No accounting for taste, I guess. The project today was to be power washing the house to keep the mold and moss from taking over on the shingles. We don't have much trim to paint, but the shingles last longer if they are cleaned from time to time. In order to do this we must have water available on the premises. Last night I turned the well pump on for the first time this season and NOTHING, so no washing. We called my well service, which was closed due to a death in the family (which turns out to be my well guy). Another recommended company came out and said I had lost my priming, and gave me the number of another well service to call to help be as they had two larger jobs waiting. This guy was to come either today or tomorrow. Since he did not come today I will assume tomorrow. Home service providers of all kinds on Cape Cod hew to a few kinds of scheduling. Some will never return your call. Since they all know each other it is very helpful to have another name you can use when you try to arrange service. When they do call they will schedule for some convenient time and will almost never show up the first time. They will either call (several days later) to make another appointment  or wait for your call. They will generally show up for the second appointment. The other popular option is if they have assured themselves it will be a small job they will tell you they will call to set  up a time, then they will spontaneously appear whenever they happen to drive by. Yesterday I had the cable guy show up a week early. This morning I had two guys appear at the door as I was emerging from the shower. They looked at the problem and recommended the other guy. During the winter there is little business, and all the guys clear driveways and drink. In the summer they pick up as many jobs as possible but will stand your little job up for a bigger job, or one that promises to be recurring.  Cape Cod Time, I call it. Sometimes they require a down payment on the job if they don't know you well, but it might take a month or more for them to send the bill for the balance. The whole procedure is like nothing I have ever experienced.
Plain socks, Zauberball

I thought this winter had us behind on spring, but comparing this week's pictures with last year's it looks OK. Time to plant peas, and I am going to see if I can get collards and parsnips off to an early start. I just lack a bag of manure to get going!

I have finished a pair of socks and my alpaca Clapotis. I have not blocked or photographed the Clapotis yet, but I will probably block tonight and take pictures tomorrow. There is enough yarn left over for a pair of wrist warmers, and it's somewhere between a scarf and a shawl. I will be able to use it for either. Today, as part of the Game of Thrones marathon I plan to cast on for a pair of mittens for me for next year.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Unimaginable Excitement

Not. I had a landscaping crew cleaning up the yard this morning, so the dogs had about as much excitement as they could take today. They are now taking advantage of my sitting at the kitchen table on the laptop to sprawl over every available space on the couch.