Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Frame of reference

This is either an offer from an American landscaping company...

or a British pessimist's commentary.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Opening weekend

Memorial Day weekend at my parents' cottage:

After a rainy Saturday morning, my dad hangs the bird feeders (on the squirrel-proof line).

The pier was power washed by my brother on Friday,
and now my niece power washes the flagstone wall. 

What a difference.  

Rocking chairs dry in the sun 
after my sister-in-law gives them a good cleaning.

Garden beds weeded by my mom and multiple others.  

Native plants are nibbled by rabbits and deer... a new but unobtrusive barrier is erected.  
Fingers crossed it works.  
If not, hardware cloth is next.

A perfect bird's nest on the ground.  
Fallen from where, we wonder?

 And in between chores, lots of catching up, laughter, games of euchre, and great meals.

There was pier painting, too, but my brother took those pics.  
I'll share them later if I get them from him.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Home improvement

Our back door has a western exposure, as does one of our kitchen windows.  The big shade tree out back that helped keep the back of the house cool had to be taken down a few years ago.  Its replacement is years away from being ready to shade the back of the house, so the afternoon sun really warms up the place - and in hot weather, not in a good way.

I have toyed with the idea of a retractable awning across the back of the house, but it's costly, and I've seen lots of negative consumer reviews about durability and customer service problems.  Outside the western kitchen window, I installed a Coolaroo shade, which I lower on sunny afternoons when the temperature is high.  It works really well blocking the heat.

The window in our back door also needs shading, but I don't want to attach a curtain or shade to the door because I like having the view. And because the door swings out instead of in (we changed it to an outswing to give us more room on the small landing), we can't install a storm door to improve energy efficiency in winter or summer.

Step 1: install offset curtain rod.
(Step 1?!  More like steps 1 through 43, with all the pondering, price comparisons of curtain rods,
selection of style, color, and size of the rod, 
figuring out how to avoid covering up our Delft tiles,
finding the tools, deciding the height, 
hesitating over drilling the holes,
hesitating over drilling the holes,
hesitating over drilling the holes...
Step 1 was huge.)

Step 2: find a piece of material, preferably something already on hand, that will cover the window but not the Delft tiles and that will allow a test drive of having a curtain before investing $ and time in something more permanent.
(Step 2 wasn't quite as nerve racking as Step 1 but did involve going to a fabric store and trying to decide what color, style, and pattern of fabric to buy -- and not being able to commit -- then going to a thrift store to buy a sheet or something similar and finding nothing I liked, before deciding to just use an extra sheet from our linen closet, and then remembering this 1-yard piece of upholstery fabric I bought 15 years ago to make pillow covers. Which never got made.)

Step 3: Machine hem the fabric, attach the clip-on rings, thread onto the curtain rod, draw the curtain.
Joy of joys, this thing WORKS!  The heat is blocked!  And I realized that the neutral tones and simple pattern of the fabric are more pleasing to me than the multitude of colors and patterns I had seriously considered at the fabric store.  Next step may be to line this to improve the heat block.  And then to make a floor length version to draw on winter nights using Warm Window fabric as a liner.  
And then...doing the same treatment for winter on the front door, which has a large beveled glass panel and no storm door.

All of this because I saw this picture on blackbird's blog that she found somewhere, and it gave me a solution to provide heat & cold protection without permanently limiting the view.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

I spy

Now that G is attending a new adult day program (fingers crossed, it's still working) that picks him up and brings him home again, I need to be cognizant of the bus' arrival in the afternoons so I can go out to get G.  The arrival time can vary by as much as 40 minutes.  Some days I'm outside working in the yard with Oscar, who barks when he hears the bus coming.  (Don't give him too much credit - he barks when a UPS truck or school bus goes by, too.)

If it's an afternoon when I'm working in the kitchen, though, Oscar doesn't always let me know the bus has arrived.  And the kitchen is at the back of the house, so every few minutes I stop what I'm doing to look out the front windows to see if the bus has pulled up.

Then it dawned on me:  a spy mirror.

When I first met G (a real Dutchman who moved here from Holland when we married), he told me about spy mirrors.  In many old Dutch villages, homes were built right up to the sidewalks.  It wasn't uncommon to have a small mirror mounted outside the front window, so the home's inhabitant could sit inside, just out of sight of passersby, and see what was happening in the street via their spy mirrors.

So I took the small side view mirror off my bicycle, attached it outside the window over the kitchen sink, adjusted it so I can see the street, and voila.  We'll see how well it works tomorrow afternoon.

Monday, May 21, 2012

One less paper towel saves 571 millions lbs

After we remodeled our kitchen in 1993, I got out of the habit of using paper towels.  We hadn't thought about where a paper towel holder would go when G specified a tile backsplash in the new kitchen, so our wall-mounted towel holder from the old kitchen wasn't a good option.  For a while, I had a free-standing holder but got tired of one more thing on the counter, so I put it away.  I still have a roll of paper towels on hand for particularly icky cleanups, but it takes six months to a year these days for me to go through a roll.

In public restrooms, though, there often isn't an alternative to paper towels, short of leaving with dripping hands or wiping my hands on my clothes, so I use the paper towels without thinking about it.

Here's an ingenious method to reduce the number of towels you need to dry your hands when out.  Evidently, 13 billion pounds of paper towels are used each year in the U.S.  And using one less per day would save more than 571 million pounds of paper towels in a year. Most of us take multiple sheets of towels because one doesn't do the job well enough.  But there is a way to make just one towel work.

All this comes from an e-newsletter, and their source is a TEDx talk by an Oregonian named Joe Smith.

I'm hoping that the next time I reach for a paper towel to dry my hands, I remember this simple technique:

Sunday, May 20, 2012

I was virtually there!

Just before 9:00am yesterday morning, the thought came to me:

Might Tulane stream the graduation ceremony?


So I sat at our dining room table, tears streaming down my face,
watching it all.

And thank you for your kind comments about my nephew!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Pardon, your pride is showing.

 I know it's not nice to brag, but since I had nothing to do with his intellect, drive, or charming personality, can you make an exception for me here?

One of my nephews (I have nine of them - this one's about in the middle of the pack) is graduating from Tulane University tomorrow and has won a Fulbright grant to conduct research in China. He spent his junior year in Taiwan and China, becoming fluent in Mandarin and Cantonese and then taking courses at Chinese universities.  He'll leave in September to begin his research on Chinese ethnic minorities' romance, dating, marriage, and child-rearing traditions.

(The Fulbright program was founded in 1945/46 by the U.S. Congress for the "promotion of international good will through the exchange of students in the fields of education, culture, and science."  There's more here.)

When one of my other nephews graduated from Tulane a few years ago (hmmm...7 years ago!), G was still well enough for us to travel the 1,000 miles to New Orleans to be there for his graduation.  It was a wonderful occasion and felt so good to be part of a celebration for such a milestone.

For so many reasons, I wish we were going to be there tomorrow for this milestone.  My heart will be there!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

For your viewing pleasure

Got 45 seconds?  No?  Then start your viewing at the 15 second mark and watch through to the end.

Then just try to tell me that isn't the most adorable thing you've seen today.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Cautiously optimistic

 It's been just over a month 
since G started at the new adult day program, 
and so far it seems to be a good fit.  

He didn't have the same three-month adjustment period as when he started the first program last June, thank God.  
And this place picks him up and brings him home again 
the three days a week that he attends. 

Last Thursday I overslept, so we weren't ready in time for the bus.  That turned out to be a good thing, as when I took him to the location, I had a chance to see two of the staff greet him warmly when we arrived.  And he responded just as warmly.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Inspired by Ali

One of my geographically-distant friends has been keeping a group of us posted by email since December on her progress through breast cancer surgery, then chemo.  She just finished her last chemo session and will begin a series of 33 radiation treatments later this month.

She said in her latest message, "I need to find a way to count down these treatments in a way that doesn't discourage me. Somehow I think seeing 33 days on the calendar will be too depressing."

Behold the 33 day herbal tea garland (inspired by Ali at Domesticali):  an assortment of teas fastened to a pink cord with tiny wooden clothes pins, now winging its garishly-colored way to my friend via the United States Post Office.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Sent from heaven

Happy Mother's Day, Mom.  

I'm the luckiest daughter on earth.

Edited to add: I just re-read this and thought it might sound like my mom's in heaven.  
She's not; she's at home, and she and my dad are too busy to come to our house for dinner tonight!

Friday, May 11, 2012


My friend and neighbor J hailed me as Oscar and I walked past her house.

"When you're done with your walk and have returned Oscar home, come meet our new cat."

This is Bitty, a seven year old Siberian, which is one of the few (only?) breeds of cat that people with cat allergies have a chance of tolerating.  She is soft and cuddly and loves to be petted.  J is in heaven, because she wanted a cat but has allergies to most cats and dogs.

Next stop, after cat admiration, was my friend's garden.  Some of the kale overwintered (I didn't know it could do that) and has gone to flower.  The flowers are delicious - like very mild kale or broccoli.  J also invited me to cut arugula, leaf lettuce, and spinach to take home.  And she pulled some bunching onions, which overrun her garden, and handed them to me.

It all made a delicious salad.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Over the top

 As I stood next to the garage looking at our climbing rose, 
I noticed some plant debris adorning the flowers and leaves:

 Grass gone to seed.
Dead leaves.

So I looked up.
I see, among other things:

Creeping Charlie
Last year's daylily leaves
A few still-green leaves of creeping bellflower
A dried sedum flower

In short, 
much of the garden cleanup I've done over the last weeks
is on display here.

It's a decorating extravaganza.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Little gems

 Wintered-over geranium 
German ivy

 Pink columbine
Lily of the valley
They are fragrant only at night
but are worth the wait.
Lily of the valley

For my niece, whose birthday is today
and who is, herself, one of our gems.
Happy, happy birthday, K! 

Updated to add this picture
taken with Raggedy Ann
(made for her by Aunt Ginnie).
She's even cuter now.