Sunday, August 10, 2014

A Little Rain...A Little Work

I'm sitting here, kicked back and watching the Braves playing the Nationals on TV. Nearly midnight and only top of the 4th. Game didn't even start until almost 11:00. For the second night in a row, they've had a rain delay in Atlanta, this one nearly three hours. And typically when it rains in ATL, it'll rain here in the next 4-6 hours. Just add it to the gauge. 

We actually started out the week, hot and dry. On Monday Mr. T headed his car to the DC area for the week, and I got caught up on some work-work. On Tuesday, I coached a group of volunteers at the Blandwood Mansion (historic home and property in downtown Greensboro), helping them learn how to care for their heritage rose garden. We were all exhausted by noon, but thrilled with the results. Here's a pic the Director snapped and posted on Facebook:

Wednesday was a Master Gardening day at the Extension Center, with a Board Meeting followed by a general membership meeting and speaker from the Piedmont Nature Conservancy, who talked about invasive plants. Interesting...thought-provoking...but I think I'll keep my mimosas and butterfly bushes.

I spent Thursday of this week in the garage, having moved my painting project inside for fear of storms (it didn't). The rains didn't arrive until later on Thursday...and they are still with us...and in our forecast for the next few days.

So, what was I painting? I had agreed to get trellises for three climbing roses in the Master Gardener Demo Garden. The original plan had been to build them, but I would be the wrong Adsit for that task. As I said in a Facebook post, I could probably knit a trellis quicker and better than I could build one. When, at a recent meeting of the DG committee, the chair gave the go-ahead to purchase them, I couldn't get to Home Depot fast enough. They had some redwood ones on sale, and I had a coupon! And that new lime green trim paint on the information kiosk was just perfect to add color to the spot, even in the dead of winter. Here are a few photos of the project for you:

As you can tell, I volunteered Mr. T to be an honorary Master Gardener for the day. Planting these trellises would have been near-impossible for me without his help, as he just knows how to do stuff like this. Plus he wagged the 50# bag of Quikrete across the garden and used the post hole digger to dig six perfect holes in some pretty awful soil. We worked in a bit of drizzle and finished just as the bottom dropped out of the sky. Actually, I had wanted to do a little touch up to the paint, but decided that task could be tabled until our Demo Garden Work Day scheduled on Wednesday.

All these activities have kept me out of my own garden, so I wound up having to harvest in a steady shower on Friday. I snapped beans for five innings of the Braves game on Friday, and then I put several bags of beans, tomatoes, and peppers in the freezer before I just had to stop. Here're a couple of shots of the haul:

And now? It's starting to rain again. And I think I hear the produce growing. Ah well, that's life in mid-Summer...a little rain, a little work. And a great feeling of accomplishment, when all is said and done.

For more on how our garden is growing, be sure to check out the latest post on our garden blog ( Click here to go there.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Wrapping Up Loose Threads

Let's see...where were we? Oh yes, there were a couple of threads I should really wrap up.

The secret I mentioned a post or two back? Ah well, time to share! You may remember that Missy M made a job change (and move) in May. She was recruited rather enthusiastically by a couple of companies, and she accepted the offer from Popeye's Louisiana Kitchen's corporate office in the Atlanta suburb of Dunwoody. From everything she had learned during the interviewing process, she thought her best chances for advancement might be in the Peach State.

She was right. After seven weeks with PLK, she was promoted to manager! Her new official title is Learning Development and Innovation Manager. Yes indeedy, proud as punch! On LinkedIn? Check it out: her profile. Anyway, she has hit the ground running...well, when she has actually been on the ground, that is. She's not really sure which time zone she's in most days. Atlanta to New Orleans to Atlanta to Chicago to Atlanta to Salt Lake City to...

In between her travels, she was home long enough for Mr. T to travel to Lawrenceville (at least for a few more days, I have to be specific with my L'ville references; when her house closes in Louisville next week, we can return to using the apostrophe) last weekend to install a doggie door in her new storm door. Getting ready for her babies to move in, don't you know? (But until her schedule can settle a bit, Dixie and ER will remain with us in NC.)

Funny aside...this funny picture (above) reminds us of a Nana/Momma/Edith memory. Once when we lived in Pickerington, OH, Momma returned home with a friend and realized she'd forgotten her house keys. Not wanting to "disturb us" at work, she decided the easiest way for her to get inside was to crawl through the doggie door. Remarkably, she made it! Never underestimate the power of determination, right?

And now, on to that other hanging thread. This one is going to be a rewind rather than a wrap. Remember my bike ride across the USA to Disneyland? It got stalled in March 526.4 miles from home, near Elkton, Todd County, KY.  Well, I realized in a brief moment of panic recently that I'm running out of year! I'd better get back in the saddle-seat again posthaste. 

And so I have. I rode 11.1 miles today, taking me from Elkton (Todd County) to the west side of Fairview (Christian County), KY. Was it easy to get started again? Actually, I was surprised at how easy it was...kinda like riding a bike...hahahahahaha. No was easy. But I do not remember sweating as much in March as I did today! Whew! I have a long way to go and a short time to get there...but there's no time like the present to get (re-) started.

I did a bit of research and learned that I am riding in a region of Kentucky called the Pennyroyal area. Or, as some are known to say, the Pennyrile. As settlers moved through this area, they noticed an abundance of the herb pennyroyal (, a member of the mint family which is touted to be a good mosquito and tick repellant. I don't have any pennyroyal but have heard the same about lemon balm, which I do have. I hope it served them better than my lemon balm serves me. Ahem. 

Fairview, the town where my ride ended today, is described as a census-designated location (no longer a real town?), known as the birthplace of Jefferson Davis. There is a "351-foot obelisk (which) marks the birth place of...the elected president of the Confederate States of America, the group of 11 southern states that seceded from the Union at the start of the Civil War." There are 19 acres, a museum, a gift shop, picnic shelters, playground, and an elevator to top of obelisk. I have arrived too late for the annual Jefferson Davis Birthday (June 3, 1808) Celebration. 

I'm not the first to remark on the fact that two of the major players in the American Civil War, Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis, were born in the same state: Lincoln in Hodgenville and Davis in Fairview, Christian (now Todd) County, Kentucky. Lincoln eventually settled in Illinois, becoming more connected with the Prairie state than the Bluegrass state. Likewise, Davis moved early in life to the Mississippi Delta, becoming thereafter linked to the Magnolia State. Still, they began their lives just 155 miles apart. Plus, a third member of the two couples at the head of states, Mary Todd...who would become Mrs. A. Lincoln...was born in Lexington, KY. (Varina Howell Davis was born in Natchez, MS.) Interesting, don't you think?

So, to wrap up this wrap up, as we head into the last full month of the Summer, Missy M is off and running. And I am off and riding. It's all good!


* Bike Ride Footnote: To bring you up-to-date, in case you are just joining me...

My plan to get/keep in shape for gardening this year is to ride my stationary bike. Because I always need a reason to do something...or at least to continue doing something, I have decided on a program based on a distance of 2600 miles...which is the distance from our house to Disneyland in Anaheim, CA, as Google-mapped using the (beta) Bike function. I started 1/3/2014...stopped for a 4-month extended break...and am continuing the saga today. 
BTW, I am tagging all the posts about my ride "Where in the USA is Patricia" on my blog, and #WhereintheUSAisPatricia on Twitter. While I won't be blogging about my ride on a daily basis, you can check my Twitter Feed over there in the right column for daily updates on my ride and location.

Happy pedaling!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Let Me Eat Cake

Every year on your birthday, you get a chance to start new.

– Sammy Hagar

For several years now, I have started each birthday off right by getting up to see the sun rise. Mr. T has also made my 'day special by taking a vacation calls, no email, no texts. Today, the traditions continued. 

We had registered an inch of rain in the gauge overnight, and the lingering, low-hanging clouds threatened to put a stop to my new start. Still, we got up at 5:00, brewed a pot of coffee, and headed to the park on Oak Hollow Lake near our house. Sunrise was posted as 6:16, and even if the sun was a bit tardy in breaking through the clouds, we were there on time. Here's what we saw when we arrived:

Oh my goodness! It was a gorgeous beginning for my "new" year. Fresh, clean, and even a tad on the cool side...well, as cool as one could hope for in mid-July. I probably took 50 or more photos. Gotta love digital photography, right? Here are just a few more for you:

The pic (above) is probably my favorite...even if I have to give credit to Bell's Palsy for that left eye wink...;-)

We followed up our early beginning with an early breakfast. This year, we chose the Moose Cafe at the Farmers Market. And, yes, before you ask, I most certainly did have country ham. The slab they served me was so huge that I brought half of it home...along with two of the bodacious biscuits they serve. I'll enjoy my birthday a couple of days.

Then, we dashed back home to feed the pups and get ready to head off in opposite directions for a bit: he had some errands to run, and I had a date with the DMV. My license that I got when we moved back to NC in 2009 was I needed to pass the road signs test as well as the eye exam. The first was a piece of cake (no pun intended); the second, a little more taxing. The signs are the same as they were five years ago; my eyesight? Hardly. The good news? I was able to pass with my glasses (although I had passed last time without the specs). So, yea! The temporary certificate (below) will hold me until my new license arrives in the mail.

I think I have shared this story in the past, so forgive me if I'm repeating myself. Know where I was exactly 45 years ago today? At the DMV! Actually, it was the Highway Patrol office (not the DMV), and it was in Tennessee (not NC). But it was my birthday, and it was a Wednesday. How could I possibly remember what day it was?! Well, I got my license on the first possible moment I could (16 was the age then), and the THP office in Lauderdale County was only open on Wednesdays. So, as I reported on Facebook, "the more things change, the more they stay the same."


After a nice meal out at the Liberty Tavern near High Point University, we had one more birthday tradition to uphold: cake! One of Mr. T's errands had been to make sure a chocolate cake with white icing followed him home, as you can see in the picture. Unfortunately, the candles failed to make an appearance. Not to worry! We checked a kitchen drawer and found a suitable substitute. Hiding in the back was the chunky pair we used on Mom's 91st. Turn the 9 upside down, and what do you get? Why, a 6 of course!  Perfect...if you don't try to actually light the "wrong" end!

Light the fire! Sing the song! Blow out the candle! Pour the milk! Cut the cake! I don't care how old I get, I will NEVER tire of the traditions.

Nor of the cake, when you get right down to it. I will never tire of the cake.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Celebrate! Celebrate! Dance to the Music!

Yes, Three Dog Night had it right. Today is a day to celebrate! Here's a snap of the wallpaper border I am looking at while writing this post...and celebrating The Free Life! The flag is out on the pole on the porch, and I've got my red, white, and blue on...and my star-spangled earrings in. It's that kind of day.

Happy 238th birthday, USA! Even with all our issues, I wish only the best for this wonderful country of ours. Looking good, Lady Liberty! At a mere 138 years old, you are still a beautiful symbol of this experiment in "a democracy in a republic."

Years ago, when we moved to HPNC for the first time (1994-1997), we spent one of my favorite Fourth's at the National Park that commemorates the revolutionary battle fought at Guilford Courthouse, located in Greensboro, the city that was named for the hero of that battle, Nathaeniel  Greene. The Park Ranger read the entire Declaration of Independence, not just the part we typically memorized in civics class (you know..."We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.") Want to hear a moving version of the reading of the Declaration? Follow this link to NPR's traditional recording of a multitude of voices, reading one of our country's freedom documents in its entirety:

All those voices...all those accents! Only in America, right? Only in America. And whatever you feel about the man, I happen to agree with President Clinton: “There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America.”

And what is currently right in my own, personal America, you ask? Well, the weather for one thing. It took a hurricane named Arthur to blow through the Outer Banks to bring our Piedmont some gorgeous weather in his wake. Mid-80's, low humidity, Carolina blue skies. Couldn't script a better day for the local festivities called The Uncle Sam Jam. Bands, food, and fireworks at Festival Park on Oak Hollow Lake. Sounds great! Wish we were there...

Actually, there is no "we" here in HPNC. Only a "me." The Mr. T part of our "we" is spending this Holiday weekend in Louisville with Missy M, doing the few repairs required by her buyer's inspector; she's hoping to close on the KY house in three weeks. He planned his work-week to be in Roanoke, which is his closest dealership...still 7 hours away. He got there the day before M (who couldn't leave GA until Thursday...more on that in a sec) and was able to check-off all the indoor tasks while she was driving her own version of the day-long trip. They are spending their Independence Day cleaning up the yard and gardens, dividing some irises and daylilies (hey, it's genetic, right?), and packing up the remaining "stuff" (a friend of hers took most of the staging furniture, which leaves some pantry items, towels and linens, a blow-up bed or two, and the porch and patio furniture.) They are determined to get all the stuff in two cars...and have drafted Lillie Pearl PTC, who can be transformed into a cargo wagon by removing her back seats, to help accomplish their goal. We shall see...

They will head on down to Georgia tomorrow to unload at M's new house in Lawrenceville...from one L'ville to another L'ville. She closed on it last Monday and has been getting utils hooked up, garage door installed, shades put up on the windows, etc., in the few hours she has available in the evenings after work. Her furniture arrives on the fourteenth. Speaking of work...apparently, things have gotten interesting for her at Popeyes. Oops, I will have to save that until another post. I know a secret...I know a secret...


I'm here in HPNC, dog-sitting the Drool Gang. That means, among other things, Fourth of July or not, NO FIREWORKS! Dixie and Ella Rae are both terrified of loud noises, and the absolute LAST thing I need is for either (or both!) of them to make a mad dash down Wesseck. So, while my neighbors gather at the park on this side of the lake, I'll have "Yankee Doodle Dandy" and "Sergeant York" playing on TV (it's my Joan Leslie celebration, I suppose...since she is in both of these patriotic golden-oldies), probably way too loud, to cover any external noises. Not really a hardship...I would be watching regardless. And I can always turn on the Capitol Fourth...and mute the fireworks portion, I guess.

But, it is a birthday, after all. And I do love my traditions. Our traditional fare on the Fourth includes ribs, corn-on-the-cob, baked beans, potato salad, and usually watermelon. Just because it is a party of one,'s still the Fourth! So here's what was served (replacing the watermelon with blackberries, and adding some grilled zucchini...because that was what the garden was giving...:-)

Happy Independence Day, my fellow Americans. Celebrate!

[...and to my UK friends...we will now return to our regular posting...;-)]

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Bell's Palsy Update: Day 730

Subtitle: Living With My New Normal

Two years ago today, my life took a sudden and irreversible left turn, veered off-course, and headed down a bumpy side road to my New Normal...which isn't a town in Illinois. The left side of my face appeared to be sliding off my skull, giving me the appearance of having suffered a stroke. I was diagnosed with a condition known as Bell's Palsy...and nothing has been the same since.

[If you need a refresher course, begin at this post and read forward: ]

You may recall the Urgent Care doctor said "this may last 15 days, a month, or the rest of your life." At the time, I chose the first I had a choice in the matter. Unfortunately, it seems I actually got dealt the latter. Looks like I got a modified version of a life sentence. Sigh

While the nerve (AKA: cranial nerve #7) has regenerated and the feeling and most functions have been adequately restored to the affected side of my face, I continue to deal daily with some lasting effects: jaw pain, spasms (especially when I am tired or stressed), involuntary/uncontrollable eye tearing and movements and sensitivity to light, and some lingering speech and vision problems. These can all be attributed to a condition called synkinesis, which you can read more about here, if you wish:

My own good doctor had encouraged me to take a longer view of the recovery period. He said that it can take "up to two years" for patients to recover from other neurological events (such as a stroke...which thankfully, I did NOT suffer), so why not give it the complete 24 months? Tink! Pop up timer is out, Doc. Recovery period is over. It's official: I'm no longer recovering from Bell's Palsy...I'm living with the effects.

Truthfully, it could be worse. Many who live with BP for life never get feeling and function back to the point that I have. And many who do get "feeling" back, get it in the form of constant and excruciating pain. I'm one of the lucky ones here. The pain and spasms I have seem to be well-managed by a daily dose of a nerve pain med called Neurontin (gabapentin). That, and a Biotin tablet, are the only meds I need, thankfully. I have ordered my new prescription lenses for my sunglasses (following the last cataract surgery), and those should help immensely.

But, that doesn't mean I am happy with this New Normal. I hate when my words (particularly those beginning with P, B, F, S, or a double-consonant sound) get trapped and then tumble out in a tangle. I hate that my left eye winks involuntarily when I eat, drink, or sip through a straw...and nothing I do can control it. I hate that my left eye is so sensitive to light and tears up with regularity. I hate the jaw spasms...which hurt, to put it plainly. I hate that I am so sensitive to medications that I just have to give into the effects of the gabapentin every night...and it takes a couple hours in the morning for me to "get going." 

People are trying to be kind when they say things like "oh, I wouldn't worry about can't really tell there's anything wrong." But I can. What I am experiencing feels wrong to doesn't feel normal to me. I remember Normal from two years ago...and this ain't it. My New Normal. Have I told you how very much I hate the term "New Normal?" 

Ah well, it is what it is, as Ziva, one of my favorite characters on NCIS, says. Meaning: just deal with it!

Or, in my case...just live with it.

Friday, June 20, 2014

All That...and a Bag of Chips

Feet up? Check. Iced tea in hand? Double check. Whew! Can I just say what a week this has been?!

It's been hot. Really hot. Hot, hot, hot! Mid-90's every day this week...and it doesn't turn Summer until Saturday. And humid...don't forget the humidity. It's the kind of week that you'd like to take up permanent residence over the air conditioner vents. But, there were too many places to go, things to do, and people to see.

First thing Monday morning, Mr. T and Missy M (who is spending her weekends with us) headed to Charlotte. She was flying out to New Orleans (via Detroit, if you can imagine!), for the week, and he was dropping her off at the airport on his way south to Greenville, SC.

Tending the gardens occupied the first couple of days for me. Much is required during this time of the year, as you can probably imagine, with all the warm season crops in. The difficult part is the constant and oppressive heat. We expect this in August, not June. (I've posted an update about the gardens over on our garden blog, Gardening with the Giants. Click here to go there.) I usually try to follow my maxim of "Noon or ninety, whichever comes first," but I'm afraid I couldn't tow that line this week. Too much to do to give up a half-day.

I headed out to the Extension Center on Wednesday for our Master Gardener annual picnic, taking along a pasta salad that I dubbed "Going to the Garden Party Pasta Salad.*"  The theme for the picnic this year was Eating Local, with NC BBQ and sweet potatoes taking center stage. Many of the ingredients in my pasta salad were about as local as you can get, since they had indeed come straight from our HPNC kitchen garden, harvested on Tuesday. Even the lemon that provided the juice (see recipe below) came from my Meyer Lemon tree on the deck! Here's a snap of the finished product...and yes, those are nasturtiums on top. Yes, they are edible. 

Did I tell you it was hot this week? O. M. G. It was hot at the picnic, too. But we had a grand time together, topped off with the release of 50 monarch butterflies to mark the dedication of the Pollinators Garden and the new Monarch Waystation. More photos for you:

Thursday was all about catching up with paperwork, housework, and laundry. And on trying to reload my body with fluids...and salt. After sweating bullets at the picnic, I was craving salt, big time. I fairly attacked a bag of baked BBQ potato chips...even though they are not my faves. Did the best I could on all counts, since I had a fun day on the docket for Friday.

We had planned an EMGV Advanced Training trip to the J. C. Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh, and we weren't going to let a little ol' heat wave get in our way. We were participating in the Landscape Color Field Day, as guests of the Arboretum and the North Carolina Commercial Flower Growers Association. Oh yeah, Master Gardeners live for stuff like this! Still more photos for you, with a few of my personal favorite flowers:

Meanwhile, Mr. T had been to DC and back (I know...he started in SC...what can I say?), just in time to head back to Charlotte to pick up Missy M on Friday evening. What was she doing in NOLA, you ask? Well, she went with several new colleagues to do their in-store restaurant training at a Popeye's there. Of course, you can't go to The Big Easy without a few taste-tests of your own, can you? Here's a shot she sent of Bourbon Street from their restaurant and a pic of her last dessert at Cafe du Monde...the New Orleans Classic, beignets. 

All of that beings me back to another weekend...back in the gardens...and back to the reason I've got my feet up and my hand wrapped around a cold glass of iced tea. With another bag of salty chips in the other hand. What can I say? Gotta get ready for another hot week ahead, don't you know?


*Going to the Garden Party Pasta Salad Recipe

1 box Tri-Color Rotini pasta, prepared per box instructions
1 large bottle Creamy Italian Dressing
Fresh oregano
Fresh basil
Fresh chives
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup Dijon mustard, more or less (I like may prefer less...:)
1 cup green peas, blanched
1/2 large red onion, finely diced (save the rest to thinly slice for decoration)
1/2 large green pepper, finely diced
1 hot pepper, finely diced (opt.)
4-5 small carrots, finely diced
Fresh broccoli, trimmed and washed
1 cup cooked ham, cubed
4 oz. mozzarella cheese, small cubes
1 small jar pimiento pepper, drained and diced
Fresh ground pepper and seasoned salt to taste
Nasturtium flowers, onion rings, and more fresh herbs for decoration

1. Prepare pasta per package directions. Put prepared veggies in a colander, and pour hot pasta and water over top to "cook." Drain, then wash under cold water to cool.
2. Combine Italian dressing with fresh herbs, adding as much fresh oregano, chives, and basil as you like, lemon juice, and Dijon mustard. I even add a bit of Ranch Dressing, for added creaminess. Reserve 1/2 of this mixture for later.
3. In a large bowl, combine 1/2 of dressing mixture with other ingredients.
4. After mixing thoroughly, chill for several hours or overnight.
5. Since the pasta will absorb the dressing, add the reserved dressing and more seasonings to taste before serving. Top with edible decoration, such as nasturtium flowers, fresh herbs, and thinly-sliced red onion rings. Enjoy!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Glug, Glug, Glug

Let's begin this post with a picture, shall we?

OK, that...along with the title of the post...should give you a big clue where I'm going. We are treading water here in HPNC! If the present trend continues, I'm going to have to figure out just what a cubit is.

Since Sunday, we have logged nearly 4.5" of rain in the gauge. Read that again: 4.5 5 days. Plus we have had temps in th high 80's and at least one 90-degree day, with humidity levels that are oppressive at times. Makes me want to celebrate whoever invented air conditioning!

Now, several of those inches of rain arrived via severe thunderstorms. The one on Tuesday was a corker! As you can see from these pictures of the windmill in the Way Back...or as we call it, The Derrick, we were left leaning when the rising sun revealed all. Can you also see that the winds lifted the canopy on one of the swings, tipping it back and over (center, left of first pic). Thank goodness it missed the back "temporary" fence by several whole inches. Had it taken out the fence, I would have been rounding up pups for hours!

There were also small tree limbs and branches littering the landscape, like you see in this shot of the front walk. Don't know if you can make it out, but that limb has been long-dead and the object of a great deal of woodpecker attention. It has also survived many thunderstorms and high wind situations over the five years we have lived here...until this week. 

But the funniest photos are to follow. Have I shared with you how very much Winston loves water? Loves. It. In almost any form, apparently. He has no problem with a walk in the rain...none whatsoever. And whenever I have to water the garden? Well, he's there before you can say "Jack Splash!" He drinks straight from the hose, and he WANTS me to spray him. I call it "watering Winston." 


With all the rain, our Kitchen row garden resembles a rice paddy, as EMGV friend JA noted on Facebook. We have created these wide, raised rows, making the corresponding "aisles" wide...and deep. Whenever we get this much rain, the aisles fill up with the run off from the you can see. That's Dixie walking gingerly along the bean fence on Row 3.

So, Wednesday I got up to another clear, clean morning that followed a terrific downpour. I headed out to the Way Back to check on things, with four dogs in eager attendance. Before I could say "Jack Splash," Winston was through the knee-deep (to him) aisles. 

As I posted on Facebook, I'll let the pictures tell the story:

Good golly, Molly! So what to do? I turned on the faucet, because even though the last thing the garden needed was more water, I knew he would immediately stop playing in the mud baths and come to the sound of the sprayer.  He did. And I hosed him down in the Rondell, which is high-and-dry and covered in mud to be had. And he did what every wet dog has ever done: gave a great, big shake...slinging muddy water everywhere, including my glasses.

And then he ran back to the mud baths. 

OK, I got smart and did what I should have done in the first place: dragged the hose into the back yard (from the Way Back), lured him (and the others) to follow, and shut the gate behind them. Then I watered Winston once again. He loved it. And he shared his pleasure with another great, big shake.

Of course, when I tried to hose down Ella Rae, Abbie, and Dixie...who all had muddy paws...they immediately ran away...acccckkkk, water! We might melt!...right up the deck steps and into the house. Good golly, Molly...indeed.

Duche$$, who was observing all of this activity from her usual spot on the deck, gave me that look of "I told you not to get any more dogs. Can we take them back now?"

Gotta love'em!

Friday, May 30, 2014

Tempus Fugit, Y'all

I did the math, and I know my calculation is correct: 2014 - 1976 = 38. Can that be right? Seems impossible! 38 years?!? 

Yes, dear readers, we celebrated another anniversary this week...well, actually TWO anniversaries, if you want to get specific. We've been married 38 years, and we've been in this house 5 years. Wow...on both counts!

To honor our 5-year anniversary at Casa 3917, Mr. T took this week off, and we have made a big dent in the never-ending To Do List. The most visible of the accomplishments is our "new" red front door. And when I say red, I mean RED. Check it out:

Whenever we have visited England, I was struck by the glossy shine on most front doors. Gorgeous! I have wanted to recreate that look since my first trip in 1997. Yes, I can be a slow-starter sometimes, but truth-be-told, I simply didn't know how they did it. That was no latex paint there. I read what I could find on the internet, but we don't seem to have many sources for high-gloss, oil-based paints here in the States.

Then, when Missy M was prepping her house for sale, she decided to paint her front door (something she'd been meaning to do for the 8 years she lived there!). We found Glidden's Trim and Door paint at the Home Depot and we thought we had a winner: a thick, gel, oil-based, high-gloss paint product. She chose a traditional black, and several days later (it takes 3 days for the paint to fully "cure"), and her door looked fantastic! Winner, winner, chicken dinner!!!

Our door is wood and was finished in an oak stain. But it had faded badly on the exterior. Badly. When we first saw this house, I said: "we will have to do something about that door." Still, we lived with it for five years because I couldn't decide what to do about it. When I saw that the Glidden paint came in two colors of red (Classic Red and National Red), I knew I could get two wishes granted in one fell swoop: I could have a glossy, red front door. So guess what I asked for my anniversary gift?

I thought the National Red color would go better with the "tumbled" brick on our house, and Mr. T suggested that we paint the side-light surrounds black to match the shutters. We were right on both counts! 

And Mr. T's gift from me? Well, I checked to see what the "modern" gift for the 38th anniversary is (there is no "traditional" gift listed) and found what was suggested:

38th Wedding Anniversary Modern Gifts: Beryl or Tourmaline

Really? Beryl?!? I didn't even know what that meant! Looked it up and found that emerald is the green variety of beryl (seems there are many colors of the mineral), and I would love me some emerald...:-). But Mr. T? Hmmmm. Not really a gemstone kinda guy.

I was mindful that we were missing something we both love to hear when we enjoy our screen porch-..., or deck-...,  or patio-time: the sound of a fountain. Alas, the fountain that Mr. T had created using a large urn-styled planter had not survived the winter. So I began trolling various sites to find a suitable replacement. Voilá it is, looking right at home among the citrus trees:

The gifts are just tokens to mark the date...and truthfully, to underscore our profound amazement at this milestone. I mean:  T H I R T Y  –  E I G H T! It's not that we either thought our marriage was destined for the rocks...we were too much in love to think anything like that. It's just that neither of us, when we toasted our future at our wedding reception in Jackson, MS, envisioned that 38 years later, we would be celebrating our anniversary, living in High Point, NC!  Here we are, first at our wedding...followed by taking a selfie at Austin's, our go-to restaurant in HPNC, toasting our anniversary.

Yes, time flies, y'all. We're older...grayer...and hopefully wiser. And we're still "much in love." Happy 38!

Monday, May 12, 2014

I ❤️ a Picnic, Part 2

I wasn't kidding in my last post about loving a picnic...or about picnicking on Mother's Day. We did both yesterday, and I loved every minute!

As you can see by the above photo, we enjoyed "Mother's Day at the Garden*" at the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden near Belmont, NC. I have wanted to go to DSBG for years, since I see their brown 'points of interest' sign on I-85S every time I drive to/from Atlanta. So, I got to check off one of my "Places I Want to Visit" and celebrate in style! 

We got up early...not by necessity, but by practice: with five dogs in residence, we almost always see the sun rise around here. Getting on the road (I-85 South toward Charlotte), we decided to take advantage of another freebie we garnered at the Grasshoppers game last Friday: the so-called Strikeout Victim (AKA: the designated hitter) did just what we wanted him to do...he swung and missed three times while we Hopper fans were yelling "biscuit, biscuit, biscuit!" That bit of silliness is sponsored by Biscuitville...naturally...and when it happens, everyone in attendance gets a coupon for a free sausage and biscuit. Yippee! Make that two, please! [Added to the 50% off our Saturday pizza order fom Papa John's...given when the Hoppers struck out five batters in a row...and vouchers for a free basket of Buffalo chicken tenders from Stumblestiltskins (given out to those sitting in our section when the other team made an error...or the "Stumble" of the Night!), we really hit a home run!]

We got to the Garden just before 11:00. All moms got free admission...hooray...and the first 250 got a free plant. I didn't think we would make that second list, but we did...and I got a pot of peppermint for my herb garden. We picked up our preordered picnic basket and drinks and headed to find a nice location on the grounds. We were fortunate to find a cool, shaded area, just beyond one of the walled gardens ...where we could hear the fountain on the other side of the hedge! We had taken our collapsible "shade" chairs, which have attached awnings that can provide shade if needed...but the maple overhead did a fine job of that. Such a pleasant day...the only things missing were Missy M (who started her new job in ATL today) and maybe a nice bottle of wine (which you aren't allowed to bring onto the grounds).

Never fear: we had registered for the Wine Walk! Beginning at 1:00, we strolled the grounds, past wine "stations" which were serving six varieties of NC wines, starting with a Chardonay (white) all the way through a Merlot (red). Our surprise here: the Riesling. The stations were set up to draw the Wine Walkers through the gardens and allow us to drink in their beauty...pun intended. Here's the long view of the Fountain Alley, looking from the Riesling station toward the Cabernet station. 

We passed on the carriage ride (too warm by this time) in favor of finishing our day and chilling out with mango gelato. The drive home gave us plenty of time to worry about whether we would still have a home...since we had experienced Doggie Wars between Abbie and Ella Rae on 5:45 a.m.  After that, ER had begun staying under the deck...and inaccessible. Sigh. Guess it was inevitable. But I was sad nonetheless.

Thankfully, when we returned to HPNC all was well. Well...sorta. Apparently the Fab Five had banded  together in common pursuit of disturbing the peace in our neighborhood. Our neighbors had just returned from the beach, with their arrival revving up the dulcet tones of the protective beasties...including Dixie, Missy M's beautiful Basset, who carries on when barking 'enthusiastically' as if someone were removing her toenails without anesthesia. Double sigh. At least the pups were getting along again. Reasonably well enough.

Life might not be a picnic yet, but we are on the right track.

* Speaking of gardens...we were, weren't we? Check out the latest post to our gardening blog, Gardening with the Giants here:

Friday, May 2, 2014

I Love a Picnic

Look at that: just flipped over another month on the calendars. Goodbye April, you with your wild ride of weather. The merrie old month of May has arrived! And we welcome thee!

May usually means the first iris blooms, the first flush of roses, and pollen. Lots and lots of pollen. Ah choo! No disappointment on any of those counts around here. The rain this past week helped wash away the top layer, but everything still has a fine yellow dusting. Allegra-D anyone? 

I took this picture of the purple irises (names unknown) along the front walk (with the last of the flowers on the dogwood in the background), and both the Beverly Sills and the Rock Star iris are in bloom at the mailbox. The heirloom bronze iris (the ones I treasure because my cousin Betty Jean gave us the original rhizomes, years ago) have started to put on a show in the Way Back, and we had our first rose to bloom in the Rose Garden this morning: one of the white 'Susan Ellis-Williams' English shrub roses from David Austin...which, according to my Garden Journal, was the first to bloom last year, too.

May is also the month of picnics, in my mind. While we have enjoyed our share of lavish Mother's Day feasts, my fondest memories are of the picnics in the park: fried chicken, cole slaw, potato salad, rolls, deviled eggs (ok, so I'm the only family member left to like that last one...;-)...all served on a red-checked tablecloth. 

The very first 'second Sunday in May' that I spent as a mother included a picnic at Shelby Farms in Cordova, TN; and, if being a first-time Mom wasn't memorable enough, that was the very same day that Baby M...all of 7 months old at the time...took her very first steps! And she hasn't stopped moving yet...pah-dum-pum...;-)

So, I have this image of love and warmth and good vibes when I think of picnics...and I try to plan one at every opportunity. Like, when we were driving back to NC from (no longer 'Baby') M's house in Louisville. It was a clean-out-the-refrigerator-before-the-movers-come mentality that prompted me to make thick ham-and-cheese sandwiches on honey-wheat bread and to pack chilled, diced pear fruit cups. Wouldn't this be the ideal time to have a picnic? Stopped at a rest area, while the dogs rested in the shade of a nearby tree?

The dogs. The five dogs. Sometimes I can be so silly. 

Stopping at a rest area with five dogs was difficult in the best of circumstances. They all wanted to vault out of the vehicle at the same time...kind of like circus clowns from a VW..., and we learned the hard way that we had to leave them leashed together to keep them from making a mad dash when the door was opened. Of course, the tangle of tethers was worse than when some of my knitting projects get jumbled in their pouches. Good grief!

Once released, none wanted to TCB when they were supposed to. Way too many new and intriguing smells to be investigated. So each 15-minute break turned into a half-hour (minimum) halt.  And my idyllic idea of a refreshing and relaxing picnic along the way? Pish tosh! We were otherwise occupied in trying to cajole the canines to p-o-t-t-y. Found ourselves fortunate if we could eat & drive...making those delightful pear cups totally impractical, since you need a spoon to consume. Forget the tablecloth!

Ah well, we made it. Arrived alive, although it took 10.5 hours for the 8-hour drive. All are in residence at Casa 3917, and after an initial digestive woe or two, settling in for the duration. And how long might that be, several have asked?

Who knows? As then-candidate Clinton said: "it's the economy..." Missy M is working hard to get her house and property in perfect order to sell quickly, but there is only so much that is within her control. She cannot control the economy. She has to be in ATL to start her new job a week from Monday, so she made her lists and checked them twice. Interviewed candidates for realtors, moving companies, and service providers over the past week, while divvying up her possessions into To Move To GA, To Donate, To Keep To Stage This House (putting blue painters' tape Xs on the stuff that was staying off the truck — as you can see in the bottom picture below), To Send To NC, and To Toss. She's had the movers in yesterday and today (see photo below); carpet cleaners, painter, and Merry Maids are coming in early next week; and she will stage her house and make her decision about realtors, so they can plant a For Sale sign in her yard...and she can bury St. Joseph under the sign*...before she heads her Honda toward the highway.

Meanwhile, we will keep her fur-babies happy here. Just as a reminder, she provided a refuge to our three Bassets (as well as Nana) during our last move from MO to NC: from Thanksgiving to July 4th. We owe her big-time, and it's our pleasure to take this worry off her mind. That's what families do, right?

Since May is such a busy month here at home, we probably won't feel too tied down. We have a lengthy To Do List for our own property, including some catch-up gardening chores. Our first Grasshopper game is tonight, and we will enjoy the nice weather (for a welcome change), the fireworks, and our time together. Next, I am attending the NC State Master Gardeners Conference in Winston-Salem next week, serving as a Tour Guide on Monday, and will then be helping get ready for the annual Guilford County EMGV Passalong Plant Sale next weekend. 

I'm looking forward to my return to business-as-usual in the Land of the Sighted after my one-month follow up with my eye surgeon. He is pleased with his work, has taken me off all eye drops, and wants to see me in six months. I, while also being pleased with his work, still await seeing clearly. I am happy to report that the headaches have stopped (thank heaven), the floaters have either reabsorbed or been assimilated by my brain (either way, result is the same: I don't notice them much anymore), and my depth perception is slowly returning to normal (although you might not know that by watching me walk). My left pupil still appears to have "a sluggish response," to quote the Dr. (who continues to quote the four-to-SIX week recovery timeframe.) I should see (pun intended) some more improvement in the pupil (and consequently, in vision clarity) after stopping the steroid drops...and when my new lenses come in next week. 

I think I'll begin planning our Memorial Day picnic. Missy M will be here then (unless her house sells in the interim, and she has to hot-foot it back to KY...oh, wouldn't that be wonderful?!). To simplify it, we will probably picnic in our own back yard, with dogs as guests instead of ants. Still I think I'll pull out that red-checked tablecloth. 

Another fine memory in the making.


*About "Burying St. Joseph": chuckle if you will, but many realtors swear by St. Joseph's ability to help sell your house. Read more about it here:

Did make me wonder, though, if the Realtor shares commission with St. J? Just sayin'...