Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Bird Watching

Summer vacation is finally officially here! I've already told the kids that if they tell me they're bored, I'll find chores for them to do. I'm not going to be their entertainment all summer. Fortunately, we'll be seeing family this weekend, and in a couple weeks the summer program through the school starts, and VBS in early August. They'll only have a few totally un-preplanned weeks to deal with before school starts again. We'll do a bunch of field trips, since there are places we like to go regularly, and some special places we haven't been to in a while or are new to us.

I refilled the bird feeder, after letting it lie empty for a week to discourage those dratted grackles. Now I've got my small songbirds back: gold finches, house and chipping sparrows, tufted titmice, the occasional cardinal. Last week I saw a red-winged blackbird - not our usual feeder guest. The bluebird pays an occasional visit too.

Our cats, especially Molly the tuxedo cat, love to watch the birds at the feeder. That's Molly above, riveted by the sight of hors d'ouvres, so close yet so far. She chatters and twitches as she stares, and the birds just ignore her.

More daylilies blooming here, including many of my seedlings. So far I've got 4 tagged to keep for another year, a bunch to give away, and a bunch that haven't bloomed yet. I'll have to learn to be ruthless, or I'll be overrun with seedlings in a couple years. Fortunately, I've got friends who like free plants and have lots of space to fill. I'm trying to get flowers with nice, clear colors, strong plant growth, and lots of buds. I've got a nice deep scarlet red, a lavender with an eye and edge (a little muddy, but fantastic plant habit, buds and branching), a soft yellow with a cinnamon overlay, and a soft pink-peach with a heavy gold edge. We'll see if they improve next year. It often takes a daylily several years to form a clump and show off its full potential, so I don't want to toss things too soon, but space constraints will keep me focused on keeping only the 4-5 best each year (I hope).

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

I'm looking forward to getting out of town soon, to visit family in North Carolina and West Virginia. It's been a while since we took any kind of vacation, since well before the move last year, and we're long overdue. Seeing new scenery, and seeing loved ones will make for a good (but very long in the car) trip. I've been really down this weekend and this week, with too many things coming to a close or coming to a head. Physical and mental space will be a welcome relief.

Traveling with the kids will be fun, really. They're good travelers, but that doesn't mean I'm not going with a few tricks up my sleeve. After all, a 12 hour day in the car would try anyone's patience. So I'm taking precautions. I've picked up a couple new CDs for our son, who loves 80s music - one compilation disc, and one Huey Lewis & The News greatest hits. I'll pick up some Puppy Place and Magic School Bus chapter books for our daughter, and probably a coloring book of some sort. I'll pack her bag of colored pencils, so she'll have hours of entertainment. I might pick up a new Mad Libs book, or a set of BrainQuest cards. If my friend Sharon still has them, I might borrow another set of Your Story Hour cassettes (she's been selling them on eBay and switching to CDs). I picked up a NetForce book for my husband (who likes cyber-thrillers), and a couple Terry Pratchett books for myself ('Monstrous Regiment,' which I've read but don't have, and 'The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents,' which I have not). Traveling on vacation without a new book is just WRONG - at least in my opinion.

I just borrowed 'Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling' by Ross King, from my sister-in-law Teresa. I don't want to take that on our trip, since it's borrowed, but I'll be enjoying it this week at bedtime. Reading for pleasure during the day is a lost cause in my house, unless everyone else LEAVES. And I do so love to read. I always have, and I'm very glad to see that our kids enjoy reading too.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Monday, Monday

"Can't trust that day. . . ." Seems to be that kind of Monday, you know?

Ups and downs, and I rode the wave pretty well for a while (last week was really rough), but this weekend I came down. I know it's temporary, so I'll ride through this trough and hope for the crest of the waves again soon.

I turned in the kids' end of year reports for home schooling. I am DONE. I am SO done. But I'm still not feeling any closure, since the kids won't make their transition until September. I'm really waiting for that, so I can move on. Once they're settled in their new routine, I think I'll finally relax. Until then, not much is changing for me.

We went to the graduation party for our friends' eldest son over the weekend. It was so wonderful to see them and to get to hang out with other friends from our old home. I've missed them, a lot. I wish their son all the best. He's a nice young man, quite smart, a creative/dreamer kind of guy. I hope he appreciates his parents! I know he's at the age where his parents really don't know anything (and I'm getting dumber by the day in my own kids' eyes, lol, it'll be a long while before I look smart to them), but I hope he comes to that realization (that his parents are totally AWESOME!) without making too many young-adult blunders. Seeing this young man, I tried to imagine our own son setting out on his own. I just can't do it yet. I'm glad he has a number of years before he graduates.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Pretty babies

Pretty babies come in all species. Take guinea pigs - their babies are as cute as buttons. I've NEVER seen an ugly baby guinea pig, lol. Today, in an example of God's spectacularly good timing, a friend of ours had two baby guinea pigs born. I'm hoping they're healthy and strong, because she said we could have one for our son, now that Henry is gone. I'm sure Mary will post pictures on FB soon - she's been so excited that her guinea pig (adopted while pregnant) would have babies. I'm hoping one or both of them are boys, although getting a girl would simply mean we couldn't put our son's guinea pig with his sister's boy guinea pig, at all, ever.

I also have another plant baby - another daylily seedling. Well, actually two bloomed today, and one yesterday. One is pretty, the other two are not (to my eyes). And that's what's funny: I posted what I thought was a homely flower yesterday, and most of my daylily-loving friends LIKED it. I keep saying that my camera doesn't do a good job of capturing red-toned flowers (it often skews them toward the blue side of the spectrum), so the muddy, rusty, washed out bloom I saw in my garden looked a lot more fresh and pretty as a photo, in spite of my best attempt to finesse the image to show its true colors. And today another one bloomed and totally underwhelmed me. I'm sure it's also beautiful to someone else, just not to me. But, it has the most WONDERFUL fragrance! It's a good reminder to me that appearances aren't everything. It reminds me that being a "sweet fragrance" to someone, or to the Lord, is more important than just looking good.

Can you guess which flower I like the best, from these photos? Which do you like?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Sad day

Today was a very sad day: we had to have our son's beloved pet guinea pig, Henry, put to sleep. He developed a severe respiratory infection, and he was already a little old pig. It was very sudden, and very shocking for all of us. We'll really miss him. He was a great pet, and we all loved him. We buried him in the back yard, and I printed out a picture of him and framed it for our son to keep.

Today we also took our son for a new evaluation of his Asperger's Syndrome, from a clinical psychologist in Syracuse who specializes in autism spectrum disorders. He was recommended by the school, and he knows the psychologist at the school from conversations with her about other students. Hopefully he can help us with reintegrating our son back into public school, after so many years of home school. (Fortunately this appointment happened BEFORE we had to take Henry to the vet. . . .)

It seems like so much has been happening the past couple weeks: emotional upheavals of all kinds, house guests, field trips, sick pets, new flowers blooming, new art work completed, normal house-related upkeep. Circus life, under the big top world, as the song goes - I feel like our life has been a three-ring circus, or occasionally a strange side-show.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

My first seedling!

I've finally got my first daylily seedling blooming, one of the transplants from the old house. It's a BIG one, and deep scarlet red with a gold edge, with a nice form, so I'm quite pleased. Unique or not, it appeals to me, so for now I'm calling it a keeper. The cross is 'Mama's Cherry Pie' x 'Graham Memorial,' two southern intros from 1998 and 2002. It's acting like a semi-evergreen variety up here, but doesn't seem to mind the northern winters at all.

We had my husband's cousin and her partner visiting us from Ireland this week. It was good to see Vanessa again, and to meet John. We took them to Fort Stanwix a couple days ago, because we all like museums and historical sites. Fort Stanwix NHS is well worth visiting - I was quite impressed with their visitor's center's interpretive/historical videos. They were GOOD, and presented multiple sides of the conflicts between the various people fighting to control this part of the U.S. in the 1700s. The kids enjoyed the trip a lot too.

Yesterday I took the kids to see 'Toy Story 3' while John and Vanessa were out with my sister-in-law Teresa. We really enjoyed the movie, even if it is a tear-jerker at the end. Even our daughter said it almost made her cry. It's just as good as the first two, and I like how it ended. Yep, we'll definitely be getting it on DVD when it comes out.

I had a long conversation with my good friend Jeanne today. It's good to have a friend who knows you so well that you can be REAL with her, and share joys and burdens without any facade. I hope I can get down to see her soon.

Oh, and the most interesting event today: an earthquake in Upstate NY! We were in the car, and our son asked why the car was shaking. I thought it was just a rough place in the road, but when we got out at our destination, people asked us if we'd felt the quake. I guess we did!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

What a great day!

Today was a real winner, in every good sense of the word.

It started with Father's Day gifts for my husband: the kids made him a plaque and a bowl from air-dry clay, and filled the bowl with M&Ms. They also gave him a box of dark chocolate turtles, a Frisbee (so he could play with them outside), and a golf umbrella (which he'd asked for a while ago, because little umbrellas are just useless on a windy rainy day in Upstate NY). They also picked out a couple funny cards for him - one with a prerecorded funny message, one with Garfield.

After that we went to church, because my husband was playing keyboards and organ during the service. It was very nice, and afterward he headed home for a simple lunch. A round of concentrated housecleaning followed, getting ready for my husband's cousin and her husband to arrive. They're visiting from Ireland, and were coming up from my husband's parents today, and they'll be staying for a few nights. During this our daughter went to a friend's house to play and swim, and I baked another batch of "friendship bread."

Vanessa and John arrived, and we spent some time catching up. Our daughter came back from one friend's house, and promptly was invited out to another neighbor's to swim, so she did that before dinner. I made homemade meatballs and sauce, spaghetti, and salad. The grownups enjoyed all of it; the kids ate noodles and butter. Someday they'll appreciate good home-cooked food! Our son hinted that he might be up for trying the meatballs soon, but he wasn't ready tonight. Darn his tastebuds, they're so picky.

Dinner was delicious, with some wine Vanessa brought. Then they treated us to ice cream at Zem's, a local favorite. After that we drove up to Verona Beach State Park to watch the sunset. By then the temps had dropped a bit, and there was a stiff breeze coming off Oneida Lake. It was gorgeous, a totally perfect evening. The kids and I went wading while the little waves rolled in, the sky turned colors, and Sean and John and Vanessa talked.

Home finally, the kids shooed up to bed, and I could call my own Dad to wish him Happy Father's Day. He and I both love reading about history, and tonight he told me that he'd just finished a book about the history of the Mohawk Valley, and that where we'd just been wading was also the spot where a party of British soldiers had beached their boats on their way to raid Native American villages, and from which they had to beat a hasty retreat after their exploits. Now I've got to read that book; Dad had already set it aside for me to borrow. I love my Dad.

What a great day!

Friday, June 18, 2010

It's a girl thing

I'm enjoying my daughter having a sleepover with a friend, here at home. They started out with the hose outside (making mud puddles, spraying each other, then making the swing set slide into a water slide), then they had a quick rinse in the tub. Dinner was quick (grilled cheese and pickles), and they put in the animated horse movie 'Spirit' to enjoy while they ate. Then came the big entertainment: frosting and decorating angel food cakes! I bought a couple little angel food loaf cakes at Aldi, made some green and white frosting and put it in baggies with snipped corners, and set out candies and sprinkles and colored sugar. The girls had great fun doing their cakes (for tomorrow's enjoyment - one for us, one for her friend's family). Then they used more of the frosting and goodies to decorate graham crackers for snack. SUGAR BUZZ! The girls are all wound up and giggly, and are playing on the back porch now. I imagine it will take a while for them to fall asleep tonight.

Our son, meanwhile, is TOTALLY DISGUSTED with all the noisy girly stuff going on. I have to laugh (but not in front of him). It's a girl thing; he wouldn't understand.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Artists are weird people

I suppose saying that artists are weird could be debatable, or it could just be stating the blindingly obvious. When you get down to it, as people we're all weird, but artists (in all media) have the reputation for being the strangest people on the whole continuum of human weirdness. I wonder why we're like that? I have to include myself on that bell curve, somewhere on the downhill right side, but nowhere near the extreme end. Why else would I create what I create, and think the way I think, and see things the way I do? It would be a totally boring world if we were all well-balanced and similar in how we saw and experienced life. So here's to weirdness - which I've decided should just be the new normal, instead of any reason to give labels or call names.

What brings this reflective mood on? A long, strange week; emotional ups and downs; spiritual upheaval; a forced good close look at my inner self (not a pretty picture at the moment); and the urge to create to work out some of this turmoil on paper or canvas. All of that resulted in a couple long evenings spent drawing while listening to music on YouTube, and ended with the finished picture above. I've called it "Journey," which relates to the mental traveling I've been doing, to the process of making it, and to the music I was listening to for most of the time I was drawing. I like this drawing; it's been quite a while since I've done a larger abstract (this one is 8x10, and reflects about 6 hours of work).

Art can be SO pretentious! I've been looking at various art-related articles online, and pictures of auctions and exhibits upcoming. Some of the commentary is so much poof and blather. So much of the art business is based on egos and marketing. Yes, I'd like to sell my work, but I hope I don't become a caricature of myself in the process.

I think that this applies to Christians as artists just as much as anyone. If someone's faith influences their art, I enjoy knowing that. It informs my appreciation of their work. But I don't want to label myself as a Christian artist. To some people that means that I should only create art with specific Biblical themes or references. That's too narrow and too self-limiting for me to be comfortable with. It's like when I see grand topiary gardens: I feel uptight and stressed contemplating creating it myself. It's not going to work for me. My faith should be obvious in my life, but that doesn't mean that EVERYTHING I create will concentrate solely on that aspect of my life.

I'd prefer to stay simple. I like to create. My vision is my own, influenced by my faith. If others enjoy what I've made, that's great.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Small town America

We had a pleasant afternoon, going to a parade in Canastota, NY. It's the International Boxing Hall of Fame's yearly induction weekend and parade. It makes no sense at all to me that the International Boxing Hall of Fame is in the middle of Central NY. (Some locals hint at mob connections - mafia rumors are rife around here - but my husband told me a couple local people became boxing pros and collected memorabilia and all sorts of boxing-related items, and decided to lobby for the Hall to be here with their collection as a centerpiece.) But it was a fun afternoon nonetheless: marching bands, fire trucks, homemade floats, Shriners clowns, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, church groups, local celebrities and politicians, boxing greats and inductees, classic cars, and bagpipe corps were fun to see and hear, and our daughter was delighted to collect candy and goodies thrown by the various groups. Our son marched with the Boy Scouts, and lived to tell about it (he was nervous about participating, but he did very well). The weather cooperated too: overcast and moderate temps, but no rain.

I like living in small town America. For the most part, it's friendly and unpretentious. There's space to walk, space to drive, space to think and play and create. I guess everyone has their own idea of "personal space." I'd be desperately unhappy in a large metro area, and I was hoping and praying we wouldn't live in one when we had to move after a layoff last year.

I'm working on some more small paintings. The creative juices are slowly starting to flow again. I think I'll work on some more tonight, since I already did the groceries and don't have too much house cleaning looming over my shoulder right now.
We'll see how much art time I can make for myself after dinner.

Speaking of dinner, I'd better get to it. The troops will be hungry after such a busy afternoon. Nothing fancy on the menu, just tuna melts for the grownups, and Kraft mac for the kids. That even sounds like a small-town meal, now that I think of it, lol. Oh well, here's to the simple things.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Looking for peace

What a strange week. Too many ups, too many downs, and not enough mental or emotional space to deal with it all properly.

I took the kids to Verona Beach State Park yesterday. It was a lovely day, and I couldn't face staying home. Math be d***ed, we had to get outside, and I needed to be as alone as possible. The kids and I took a picnic lunch, then they enjoyed the sun, sand and water for several hours. I spent a lot of time staring at Oneida Lake, watching the boats go round, the clouds go by, the waves lap the shore, the seagulls soar. It was very peaceful, and probably the best thing I could have done for all of us.

I even worked in a little art time - drawing a new ACEO. I just needed to keep my hands busy. But it took me almost two hours to get to a place where I could focus on drawing. Sometimes the inspiration comes easily. Sometimes it's hard work. Admittedly, the work is better (in my experience of my creativity) if it's spontaneous. Sometimes it just flows, but yesterday wasn't one of those days. Still, the little mini artwork I finished is nice enough, and it helped me to feel productive on a day when my heart just wasn't in anything.

I have some canvases staring accusingly at me - blank ones, begging for color. Maybe later today, when I have the house to myself, I'll see if playing with color results in anything worth elaborating on. My small abstract mixed-media pieces may not rise to the level of "great art," but when they turn out well, they're interesting and peaceful at the same time. Creating them brings me peace and pleasure, and I'm not looking for any deeper meaning than that. If others enjoy what I've done, I'm happy enough.

It occurred to me, after I posted the first draft of this, that I have totally failed to mention my faith's place in this. As a Christian, the hard times still come, and so do the emotional struggles - to pretend anything else would be stupid, and deceiving to those around me who may not know the Lord Jesus. The Christian life, in my experience, is not one long victory. I wouldn't have to look for peace if I didn't keep losing it. Sometimes prayer is strong and insistent, boldly approaching the Lord for some aid desperately needed. Sometimes, like this week, it is quiet and sad, looking for mercy and healing, and most of all, hope. He is still God, and I am not forgotten.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

It's the little things.

It's the little things that matter so much, isn't it? It doesn't take much to make me happy: some blue sky and a pleasant breeze, flower buds opening up, one of my cats coming to sit in my lap, the kids being polite, a hug from my husband. I love the small blessings.

Today I'm thrilled that our son filled in his multiplication table CORRECTLY, FROM MEMORY. You don't know HOW HAPPY that makes me! I was starting to wonder if he'd EVER memorize those facts. He's figured out the pattern to count up for each square. He doesn't have them stone-cold (if you just ask him what 7 x 9 is, you may or may not get the right answer), but we're making significant progress. Happy happy joy joy!!

Today was the last day of home school Gym & Swim at the Y. I'll really miss doing that with the kids, and they'll miss that regular activity too. They had such wonderful teachers, and made huge progress in swimming and gym skills. Joining the Y has been the best money we've spent all year.

The home school year is almost done. It's bittersweet, since this has been my last year to do it (barring huge problems for the kids in public school). In a way, the home schooling season won't be truly OVER for me until the first day of public school, when the kids get on the buses for the first time. My life won't change much until that new fall routine begins, since I'll still be 24/7 with the kids through the summer. I think I'll miss co-op the most, since I've made some wonderful friends through that group, and the kids have too. Maybe I'll hang out with them a bit, even after the kids are in school. That would feel weird (to go to co-op without the kids), but those friendships are important to me.

I got to spend some time this afternoon working on my Etsy shop. I rephotographed some paintings, and redid some listings, added some new ACEOs (mini art works, like trading cards for art lovers), and removed some others. Housekeeping, essentially. I also finished a new pair of paintings to send down to The Lemon Tree in Wake Forest, NY. They offered to try to sell some of my small paintings along side my ceramics they already have on display. Nothing ventured, nothing gained!

A second photo today: my cat Sophia helping me with my ACEOs.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Bird feeders in the garden

I love having birds visit my garden, and a number of years ago my MIL gave me a nice bird feeder - the kind that prevents squirrels from raiding it by having the perches on a wire spring that closes the access to the seed when a heavier bird/animal tries to lean or perch on it. Right now I've got a male/female pair of goldfinches and a chipping sparrow at the feeder.

I've tried to plant things around the yard to attract birds - a dogwood tree near the feeder for perching and shelter, seed-bearing plants like amaranth, sunflowers, and coneflowers for later in the year. I have a couple more feeders I need to put up - my finch feeder for niger seed, and a peanut feeder, and a suet feeder. I'll get those up when I decide how I want to mount them. I have the main feeder right outside our "office" window, where I can see it from the computer, and I want the others there too. I hesitate to bung another pole into the yard there, but I don't think I want a many-armed feeder-go-round swiss-army-knife-of-feeder-stations thing either. I'll probably wind up with two poles, but I want to make them look nice, because I only want to put them in ONCE. The big feeder right now is on a single (ugly) metal pole, but I'd like to put in a nice, finished post for it this fall.

Our bluebird house appears to have bluebirds in it finally. It had a sparrow nest, which I removed a couple times, then the sparrows laid a clutch of eggs. I figured I leave them to it, if they were that determined, but a short time later the eggs were gone. Now there are four light blue eggs in the nest, and I've seen bluebirds there. The hole in the nest box is too small for robins, so I'm hoping I've got bluebirds at last. I might put up a second nest box at the other corner of the yard next year, and mount a robin nest shelf on the shed.

Did I mention I'd love to put a bat box on the house? My husband isn't convinced about that one yet. I'll keep working on him, nicely.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

New garden beds

Black nursery pots aren't exactly a brilliant design statement, but they're what I have to work with at the moment. I'm hoping the plants will fill in and cascade enough to draw attention away from the less-than-lovely pots underneath them.

It's divine gardening weather right now, at least as far as I'm concerned. It's clear, with low humidity, about 68 degrees F, with a light breeze - PERFECT. I grabbed some garden time while the kids did their math on the swing set. (Yes, really, they did - one in the "tower" with worksheets on a clipboard, one under the "tower" with a workbook.)

Since moving to the new house, I've been creating garden beds from scratch. I haven't had any soil brought in; I've just been outlining beds by digging in the turf, then smothering the grass in the middle with a layer of heavy cardboard under a couple inches of shredded pine bark mulch. In some cases (esp. the veggie beds) I turned over the turf, let it sit and sprout a little through the fall, turned it again in the fall, let it lie fallow all winter, then turned it again this spring and mixed in some composted horse manure before turning them again. That's hard work; smothering is much easier, and works fine as long as you don't want to plant a bazillion little annuals in that spot your first year. It takes a year or so for the cardboard to decompose. I can't stand landscape fabric - it's evil, lol. I WANT things to self-sow. I WANT the mulch to decompose into the soil and enrich it. I WANT plants to spread.

Today's project was putting cardboard and mulch around my little blueberry plants. Last year I dug a long, narrow bed along the back of the yard, just shy of the drainage swale. I didn't get around to doing the cardboard/mulch thing early this year like I'd hoped, and a lot of grass resprouted in the dug-over area. A LOT. It's ugly! The blueberries came a few weeks ago, so I had to plant them, with a little ring of mulch around each one so I wouldn't lose it in the grass. Today I made a start on doing the whole bed. I redug the edges, and arranged the cardboard so that each plant was surrounded out to the edge of the bed before I started mulching. I ran out of cardboard, so I need to find some more, and I'll need a lot more mulch. I'm hoping to score some boxes from some friends, but there's always begging at the local grocery store. I miss the Giant grocery stores we had in Binghamton - they had a "box corral" at the front of every store where anyone could take as many boxes as they wanted, free, every day. I practically LIVED there while packing to move. I don't know how many dozens of boxes I got from them. If I go down to Binghamton next week, I'll probably stop at a Giant and stock up, if I don't get any boxes locally.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Where's the floor? And where's my INCH?

Today we're cleaning - my wonderful husband is cleaning bathrooms, while I help the kids find their floors and clean their bedrooms. Our daughter's room is done; it wasn't too bad, all things considered, and she was helpful. Our son's room looks like all the closets and drawers barfed onto the floor. I convinced him to let me put some of his older stuff down in the basement (he hates letting things go from "his space," and the things we cleaned out have to go into "his area" around his model trains). That will give me some room to help him redistribute where his books and toys are. Maybe we'll even find the floor by the end of the afternoon.

We need to get him a new bed. He's a big, tall kid, and his old mattress is seriously in need of replacement. Every time he moves in the night, it creaks, and squeaks, twangs and pings, groans and pops. We'll replace his double (which was our guest bed before he came along) with an extra-long twin. We'll raise that on blocks and put rolling totes underneath for storage. He's going to be somewhere well north of 6' eventually, so there's no point in getting him a regular twin mattress. Good grief, the kid's 5' 8" at 11 1/2 years old! When did I get so SHORT??

(Speaking of getting short, I WANT MY INCH BACK! Once upon a time I was taller, really, I swear. This losing height with age thing stinks!)

This weekend I'm cleaning out my home schooling books, and marking the end of an era. There are some things we just won't need to use any more, so why keep them? I've sent a list 'round to my friends in the co-op, giving them first dibs before I sell any stuff on eBay. I'm going to use the money I raise to finish planting the large raised bed at the front of the house. It's got a huge bald spot in the middle, just an expanse of mulch, and I'd love to fill it in with mixed perennials and daylilies, plus some low/groundcover evergreens on one side.

My 'Peace' roses bloomed today! I planted that bush just this spring, a bargain from Aldi's of all places. It was a huge, robust plant, and it seems to like where I've put it. I'm glad to see it thriving, and the blooms are like an old friend - my mother grew them when I was a kid.

A few of my much-abused peonies bloomed this year. So far I can identify 'Amalia Olson' for sure, and another which I think is 'Plainsman.' A light pink single might be 'Mischief,' but it's an anemic bloom, and could be 'Bo Peep' sulking instead. I hope they all bloom next year, so I can identify them. I'm just happy they all survived the move.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Weekend wanderings

The weekend at last! Somehow this week seemed to take forever, but I'm hoping for a pleasant weekend. It's started out well: the guys are out at a Boy Scout activity, so I took our daughter and went garage-saling. We do that every couple months or so, just us girls, just for fun. We're not "on the hunt" for anything in particular, and it's unusual for us to spend more than $5 or so altogether. It's just fun to look for little treasures. Today our daughter got a new Beanie Baby hedgehog, and a book. I picked up a few small things, like a brand new tabletop display stand for a large plate, and a brand new large Yankee jar candle for $3. Ah, small pleasures. The small 'Far Side' book is a bonus we'll all enjoy.

No gardening today. We had some rain last night, and a spectacular lightning storm. Mostly I want a break; I almost made myself sick by mowing yesterday evening, and not taking a break when I should have. Live and learn, I hope - that wasn't pleasant at all.

Today we're going out for our anniversary - with the kids, since we couldn't find a sitter. We're going to the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, to see their Fantasies and Fairy-Tales:
Maxfield Parrish and the Art of the Print
exhibit. Afterward, there's a pizza place we've been wanting to try, so we'll go there. They do all sorts of fancy pies, so I'll be sure to try something unusual.

Tonight I can't decide if I want to work on my quilt (a project that's 1 1/2 years old now; I'm down to the hand-quilting part), or on another art project. It was my turn for a Netflix video this week, so I've got "Journey: Live In Houston 1981" to enjoy. I don't know if anyone else will like it, but *I* will, lol. Maybe I'll be a rebel and turn it up loud. I like to do that, when I go for a drive by myself, for some mental space (and to listen to a whole song without any interruptions is a real luxury - I can't seem to impress on my kids that once in a while I like to LISTEN to the MUSIC). I like lots of styles of music, so you never know what will be streaming out behind me in the sonic wind: Journey, Ella Fitzgerald, White Heart, The Doobies, The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Petra, Glad, Big Band swing, Genesis/Phil Collins - it's enough to give most people musical whiplash if they're around me long enough.

It's quiet in the house - the guys are still out, and our daughter is at a friend's. I don't normally get this much uninterrupted space - what a treat! Thank you, Lord, for the small blessings.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Fifteen years.

Hard to believe, but today is our fifteenth wedding anniversary. (I almost typed 'weeding' - freudian slip?) In some ways our wedding seems like just last year, and in some ways I can feel every day of those 15 years. I can't say we've had an easy marriage, but I love my husband and he loves me, and we're still together by God's grace and Christ's mercy. Thank you, Lord, for 15 years; may we have many more.

I'm having one of those days I'd love to be shipped to Timbuktu - at least I'd get some alone time and not have to worry about parenting. Can you tell my kids are making me a bit crazy today? Our topics of conversation and discipline ran the gamut from, "Stop whining!" to, "If you hit your brother first, don't tattle when he hits you back," to, "Mood swings are a normal part of growing up, but they don't excuse the name calling and nasty behavior, so STOP IT." Somewhere in there we had gym and swim at the Y, and both kids did their math and their chores. I don't know about them, but I'm tired.

(As I type this, they've come in for another he-said-she-said whine-fest. I'm done for the day, and so are they. BEDTIME!!)

Happy anniversary - maybe we'll go out this weekend, WITHOUT THE KIDS.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Small chores

(Border bearded iris 'Jazz Echo,' from the old yard)

Yesterday was spent in a flurry of chores - groceries, laundry, dusting, vacuuming, tidying. It felt good to catch up on some stuff, and the kids needed some space after a very busy weekend.

Still, I made some time to wander the garden too. I planted bush cucumbers, and a couple kinds of cosmos. I hope the cosmos take off - they're in the back corner bed of the back yard, where the drainage runoff goes through a rocky/sunny area. The soil is so-so, and it can get very dry on the surface, which is what cosmos prefers. Rich soil will cause cosmos to make lush foliage, but few flowers. I'm hoping for the reverse - modest foliage, lots of flowers. And if they self-seed there, they're welcome to go wild.

That back bed belongs to our neighbors as well - it's right on the property line - but we have their blessing to do what we want with it, since it's mostly castaways from another neighbor's job at a garden center, and no one pays much attention to it. It's a total mishmash of plants, so I can hardly make it more eclectic. It's a real weed-fest, too, and I cut out a bunch of stuff last year, and have been madly pulling stuff this year to get the upper hand on it. I'm not so sure I'm winning, either! So I'm content to let some things just go wild there. It will never be a manicured "border." It even has some milkweed, which I'm happy to encourage in modest amounts to attract butterflies. Less appealing is some nightshade-relative with nasty thorns - I'm ruthlessly eradicating that, since two of our neighbors have little kids who might be tempted to try the pretty "berries."

Oh, some bluebirds chased the sparrows from the nest box, and there are now two bluebird eggs in the nest! I'm really excited about that. I think I might put up a second nest box next year.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Gentle rain

It's amazing what going a way for a few days does to my vision of the garden. I come home with fresh eyes, and changes seem to really jump out at me. This morning, I went out back, and was amazed at how much some things had grown or changed over the long weekend. My squash have sprouted, my first peony is blooming, the sweet annie has grown 6" at least, the nicotiana have doubled in size, the sunflowers have some big, sturdy leaves on them now, the tomatoes have grown a bit - it's exciting to see the garden change and grow before my eyes.

Today we FINALLY have some gentle, soaking rain falling. It's been a very dry spring here in Upstate NY. I had to water all my new seedlings over the past couple weeks, because we had high temps and no precipitation at all. Last night the hot streak finally broke, with some small but intense thunderstorms, and overnight and this AM we've finally got some steadier rain falling. It feels so good! I expect when the temps warm up again and its sunny, the garden will practically explode with foliage and color.

Some of my daylilies are starting to put up their first scapes (blooming stalks) - more excitement! I'm especially excited to see some of the transplanted seedlings (2nd and 3rd year plants) getting ready to bloom. At last, I'll get to see their "faces." It's worse than waiting to meet my own children, lol!