"I have always been delighted at the prospect of a new day, a fresh try, one more start, with perhaps a bit of magic waiting somewhere beyond the morning." - J.B. Priestly

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Holiday Bloomer

I tried planting mini-amaryllis bulbs last year.  Don't know if they were too old or I didn't plant them right or something, but they sprouted nicely but never bloomed.  A couple of weeks ago (November 10), I was at Menard's and they had boxed amaryllis with the bucket and soil for under $5.00 so I decided to try again.  I took it home and planted it that day, watered it regularly and put it in my front window so it would get plenty of sun.  Now, only two weeks later, this is my result and I'm pretty happy.

Another week or so and it should be a big beautiful red and white flower (a bit before Christmas but still within the Holiday period).  This time, I'll take care of it properly and store the bulbs like I'm supposed to and I'm hoping to get another beautiful bloom every year.

[Note the lovely English Ivy cascading next to it.  That's one of my real triumphs from the outdoor garden this year.  Since bringing it in, it has grown even more!


And another wonderful holiday with family -- something for which I'm eternally grateful.  I know there are families that drift apart and even those that just don't like to be together.  With that in mind, I'm continually grateful that my family (immediate and extended) live reasonably close together and enjoy being together.  I was blessed with two wonderful daughters-in-law that invite us to be part of their events and 'doings' so we get to spend a lot of time with our grown boys and with our grandchildren.  Really couldn't be better!

This Thanksgiving, we were invited to come down to Milwaukee to spend the day with Steve's family.  Scott's family was off to the Caribbean on a cruise ship and, unlike other years, Steve and Stacy had not gone to Oklahoma for Thanksgiving week.  It was such a great day.  Steve's dad and sister Julia were there, along with a couple of Stacy's friends:  Ken Keffer and Heather (a friend from Stacy's office).  Football was on TV (of course) and the kids played video games while the dinner was being prepared.  Then we had an awesome feast of turkey, stuffing, two kinds of potatoes, fresh rolls, cranberry sauce, salads, and pies.  Heather brought fresh-baked cookies for the kids to decorate after dinner and we played some board games.  Ken broke out his guitar and played music -- while the football continued to play on TV.

A few weeks ago, Steve bought the stuff to brew his own beer and had started the process.  After cleaning up the kitchen, he brought out a big jug of the brew and we got an assembly line going to bottle it up.  Smelled pretty good.  Now we have a few weeks to wait while it finishes doing whatever it needs to do once it's bottled.  Only one broken bottle mishap but no one was hurt.

The team consisted of Steve (sanitizing the bottles), me (doing bottle transfer), Stacy (taking the bottles from me, filling them, and giving them back), and Ken (taking the filled bottles and capping them).  We decided it might become a new family tradition. 

Thanksgiving was really early this year so Anna's birthday ended up being the day before Thanksgiving.  She had had a complete room makeover just a few weeks before so Grandpa and Grandma got her some sheets and a jewelry box and a nice owl nightlight to go with her new room.  Also included was a big owl picture to hang on the wall.  We didn't hang it up right away because it needed to be opened and centered on the wall.  However, Anna got a little tired of waiting for someone to come help her hang up her picture so she decided to take matters into her own hands!  Good thing she had her trusty steed to help her.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Warm Weather

It's truly unbelievable how warm the weather still is.  Yes, we've had a few cold days so far, but the last couple of weeks have been averaging 40s and 50s in the daytime with barely freezing temps at night.  As a result, the soil is not frozen (not even slightly) and I was able to plant more daffodil bulbs today.  Those that I planted a month ago may be casualties as a couple of them actually started to grow in the warm soil -- especially after we got a lot of rain.  I hope they all survive.

Given this warm weather (highs in the 50s all of this next week until Friday), I think I'll go get more bulbs and continue to put them in the ground.  I also have a big whiskey barrel planter in the back that could be planted with hyacinth and tulips (or something similar) -- up a bit to keep them away from the rabbits.

I have quite a lot of large containers that I'm overwintering in the garage, and I sure hope this warmer weather doesn't cause a problem there.  I'll need to make sure they stay watered until they can freeze solid.

I've been getting catalogs over the past couple of weeks and I think I'm going to buy a grow light for this next Spring.  I'm not going to start anywhere near as many from seed as I did last year so the light will make healthier seedlings (that I'll be able to start a bit later and, then, transfer to my greenhouses), and I can maybe continue to start seedlings throughout the growing season.  I've never done that before.  Generally, I do my seeds in the Spring, get the plants into the ground and don't start other plants.  However, I'm thinking that I might do a little more layering of my seed-starting next year.  Just some thoughts.  Can't believe I'm already well into planning for next year when it's only November!

Friday, November 2, 2012


Had a pretty good Halloween this week -- but a bit different.

Jeff is in South Dakota on a hunting trip so he missed out.  Stacy and the kids had gone to Oklahoma over the weekend and, because of the way Halloween fell this year, it wasn't possible for all of the kids to get together for Halloween this year.  That might be a first, actually.  I didn't even get to see Jack and Anna in costumes this year.  But, they had their own Halloween fun on the airplane when the flight steward made crowns for them out of peanut packets.

 Ian and Alex (with Mom and Dad) came over, though.  Ian was an Army Ranger (suitably attired in camo) and Alex was Hawkeye (from The Avengers).  After doing some trick-or-treating of their own, they came back to get warm and have some pizza.  Then, they helped me distribute treats to all of the kids that came to the door.  There was a couple of baseball competitions on the Wii before they headed home with their candy.

We ended up having between 80 and 90 kids, which is pretty average I think.  Went through quite a lot of candy (Alex was giving it out by the handful), but there is still more left than I'd like.  Guess I'll be eating Halloween candy this week!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Bulb Planting Time

I admit it:  I'm not the most ambitious gardener.  I love the look and smell of a beautifully planted and tended flower bed, but I'm less keen on actually doing the work it takes to get it that way.  I always start out with pretty high goals in the Spring, but it tends to taper off as the season progresses.

Now it's Fall and I'm enjoying the beautiful trees and the crisp air and the fresh apples, etc, etc, etc.  Planting just doesn't grab my attention right now!

However, I'm always really irritated every Spring when I see the beautiful tulips and daffodils in the gardens of my neighbors -- and I have almost nothing.  Several years ago I did plant some tulip bulbs, and some miniature daffodils, and some hyacinth but the squirrels have dug up most of what was there.  When the few remaining flowers do appear, the rabbits eat them almost immediately.  It's very depressing!

Not one to give up, however, I purchased a bunch of bulbs and I've actually started putting them in the ground.  Huge allium 'gladiator' (the ones with the huge purple/pink heads), reblooming Iris (so they say), and narcissus 'Tahiti' went into the ground today.  I love the gadget that I bought for drilling holes in the ground; saves so much strain on my back and knees.  You just fit it into a drill and start making holes!  Today I was using a cordless drill so I wouldn't have to drag the cord all over the place, but the batteries run down pretty quickly with trying to dig in the clay soil that we have.  It has been raining for the past several days so the clay is compacted besides.  However, I managed to get 22 bulbs into the ground before losing power.

I have roughly 50 more daffodil bulbs to plant, and I decided to plant more tulips but I'm getting smarter and intend to plant them in one of my large outdoor planters.  With luck, they'll survive the winter and I'll have a pot of lovely tulips in the Spring that will be out of reach of the mangy critters.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Repurposing for the Garden

The summer is drawing to a close and, as I look back at what was accomplished this summer, I'm really pleased (despite the drought) with the results of lots of hard work.  All of that will be documented in a series of blogs. Today, though, I want to look at 'repurposing' -- a term that has become pretty fashionable and, frankly, sounds better than recycling.  Finding another use for things that we love is a wonderful way to make new memories (and save money).

I did some repurposing in my garden this year with varying degrees of success.

First, my new fence needed some color so I dug up an old plate hanger that my daughter-in-law had intended for a garage sale, and added three plates that I found in thrift shops.  Total cost of my art project:  $6.00 (for the plates).  I totally love it and the way it brings out the color of the flowers as well as drawing the eye up to make use of the whole space.  In the picture of the whole fence, there is also a Croton sitting in an old wicker wastebasket.

In the back corner of my yard (opposite this lovely fence) is an area that is shaded and has a full view of the entire garden.  For this corner, then, I wanted to arrange an area where I could sit and enjoy a book in the afternoon.  While arranging chairs and a table was easy enough, I also wanted to add some whimsy and saved a couple of things that I was about to take to the curb.

The first was an old wicker blanket chest that had lost a lot of the wicker from the top, but was still structurally sound with a metal frame and an ornamental front.  Really, too pretty to go to the dump!  The second item was a floor lamp that was sitting in my basement.  The lamp needed to have the base removed and the pole slid right into the ground!  The idea was to plant something with trailing stems and white flowers that would stand out in the shady area.

I put a plastic garbage bag into the chest first, and then a cardboard box to hold the soil.  Filled it with good potting soil (took more than I expected!), and added some shade-loving ferns, impatiens, and a sweet-potato vine, plus alyssum and petunias.  The lamp was planted with bacopa and euphorbia.

Turns out that the lamp (still a good idea, I think) was a bit shallow and maybe I need to drill a drainage hole.  The plants never really progressed and had to be replaced at least once.  I may just keep it and try again next year.

The chest, on the other hand, was awesome!  For a time, a colony of ants made it's home in with the plants but I eventually had to move them out as they were taking up all of the space.  With that good soil, though, the plants really thrived even with the drought that we had all summer.  I realize that the chest will eventually rot away completely but, until it does, this is going to just add beauty and whimsy to my favorite corner of the garden.

A couple of my other repurposed items:  a beautiful blue pitcher that I found at a thrift store in Florida which immediately became a favorite vase.  Also, a candle holder that struck me as something that would look beautiful with ivy trailing out of it.  So, I drilled holes in the bottom and planted an English Ivy that hung on a shepherd's hook in my garden all summer, and has now been moved inside where I can enjoy it all winter.

Finally, repurposing is something that is being done all over -- as I witnessed first hand during a trip to Alaska in August.  These 'plant hangers' were on the outside of a building that specialized in backpack adventures, but would look equally cute hanging on a tree in my garden.  I'll have to think about that!

Monday, October 8, 2012

New Florida Residence

Mom went to Florida last year for 3 months and really loved being out of the winter snows, and just liked the area in Lakeland.  While we were in Alaska, Dean discovered that a home in the park was going up for sale at an amazingly low price so Mom bought it.  Now she can come and go whenever she wants and doesn't have to worry about whether something is available to rent. Last week, Mom and I flew down to see the property and see what kind of decorating, etc needed to be done.

The home is located a couple of streets from Dean and farther from the clubhouse, but there's is less traffic than the one that she rented last year (both vehicles and foot traffic).  The home is a bit smaller than the one she rented last year and needed some cleaning and painting.  So, we spent the first three days cleaning and discovered lots of really great dishes, furniture, and appliances.  The floors are in great shape and the walls were all freshly painted in a nice creamy white so we had a clean palette to look at.

Then, we painted for the next two days.  The master bedroom ended up a beautiful shade of pink, with two shades of chocolate for the master bathroom.  Mom has a palm tree picture that became the inspiration for the master bathroom, and we found awesome palm tree towels and rug, and some cute monkey accessories (soap dish, toothbrush holder, etc.).  Everything turned out really cute.

There was a large oil painting of flowers that had the most beautiful colors in it, so we painted one panel of the bedroom wall a darker mauve color to accent the lighter pink of the walls -- both colors picking up shades in the painting.  Since the bed in the master bedroom had no headboard, the painted panel and the painting above ended up serving the purpose of a headboard.  These are great Florida colors!  Too bad I had to take this picture with only a lamp to provide the necessary light for the picture.

The hallway is a nice light blue and the dining room is a soft gray -- both of which were inspired by a print that Bill loaned to Grandma to hang in her hallway.  I'm nuts about the colors and by the print.  We all had different reactions to the print; it reminds me of Long Island and I'd love to have it myself.  I had part of the blue paint done and a bit of the gray, and Dean finished it up after we left.  Sure looks nice, but I wish the painting was hanging now.

When we first arrived at the home on the Saturday night we flew in, we had a welcome committee in the form of a great big frog stuck to the side of the home next to the door.  We had those suction cups on his toes and proceeded to walk up the side of the building.  It was pretty cool, really, and we found a metal frog to hang on the siding to remind Mom of her welcome to Florida!  Then, over the next couple of days we saw frogs that were smaller than a fingernail.  Dean said that he never sees frogs there, but they've had so much rain that it's like a swamp everywhere.  It rained pretty much every day we were there with high temps (90s) and humidity equally high. 

The plan now is to head back down in November so Mom can be moved before the snow starts, and she'll stay through the whole winter -- probably until April.  That's a lot of trips to Golden Corral!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Beautiful day for football

Jack is #58 (yellow sleeves and socks) in his first year playing tackle football.

Grandma Carter and I were on our way to Florida (flying out of Milwaukee) and got to catch Jack's football game on Saturday morning.  It was a beautiful Fall day with cool temperatures in the morning when he played, but warming up beautifully later.  Jack plays on both the offensive and defensive lines so he's getting a lot of good training.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Milwaukee County Fair

Mom and I are headed to Florida tomorrow so we came down to Milwaukee this afternoon as we're flying out of here and wanted some extra time with the kids before we leave. Earlier this week, Stacy and the kids had worked really hard on some photographs, plants, and baked goods to enter into the Milwaukee County Fair -- like people used to do in the old days.

One of the volunteers working at the fair gave them a hard time about whether the exhibits were really done entirely by Jack, and was actually quite rude about the whole thing. Unless you're in 4-H, you have to be entered in the 'Open' category where the minimum age is 8 so Anna, at 6, wasn't allowed to enter anything and there was a question as to whether she helped Jack. That turned into quite the difficulty, but it was eventually ironed out and the stuff Jack brought was entered.

This evening, we took a ride over to the fair held, not surprisingly, at the State Fair grounds. It's really disappointing to see the lack of entries. People just don't get involved like they used to.

Much of the judging was done and we were really thrilled to see that the kids had 6 blue ribbons in photography (one for each of their entries), a blue and two red for the 3 container plants they had entered, a red for Jack's cherry tomatoes, and it appeared that he was also going to get a blue ribbon for his peanut butter-Nutella cookies. I took a quick peek at the judge's sheet for his cookies, and can see why it took her 5 hours to judge what really were very few entries all-in-all. They have to judge size, color, taste, texture -- lots of different components.

In the end, though, the kids are really excited to have the ribbons and I hope they continue to get involved in this type of activity. One of my favorite movies has always been 'State Fair' and the judging of the pickle relish (with the inadvertent addition of too much booze) has always been a classic. Just seems like simpler times.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Master Gardener Work

In early 2011, I took the course and became a Master Gardener and a member of the Outagamie County Master Gardener's Association.  You kind of feel your way along as a new member of anything but, in 2012, the OCMGA needed someone to take over the management of the Facebook page so I took it on.  It has been fun, a good way to earn hours, and a way to get in touch with what's going on with the group.

In the last few months of 2012 I've started working to populate the new website that we've built, and will take on the management of the website going forward.  Now, this week, I've been asked to take over as Executive Secretary of the association and sit on the Board.

Guess I'll need to update my gardening blog with pictures from this past year, and take this whole thing a bit more seriously.

My Work as a Master Gardener

It's difficult to maintain separate blogs for the different aspects of my life.  I have one just for my traveling, one for gardening, and one for everyday journaling (my Pensieve).  I've thought of combining them but there are people that enjoy just reading one aspect of what I write -- and I also really like the lay-out of the travel and gardening blogs (more so than my Pensieve) so I hate to get rid of them.

With that in mind, then, I guess all I can do is reference the other ones when something happens and create a link so it all makes sense.

I've been a member of the Outagamie County Master Gardeners Association since finishing my course in early 2011.  Now, in November, I'll be joining the Board and becoming the Executive Secretary of our chapter.  A better description is in the blog.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Packers Game

I'm not a real avid football fan...and maybe that's actually putting it mildly.  When I go to a Packers game or watch it on TV, I do cheer for our team.  But, otherwise, I don't know the names of players or coaches or anything about the rest of the NFL.  Now that I think about it, I don't even know if the Packers are part of the AFC or NFC.  Well, whatever.

For some unknown reason, I decided to watch the game on Monday Night Football last night.  Jeff is out of town so I had the entire house and every television to myself, but I still ended up turning on the game part way through the first quarter.  Initially, I was mostly interested in the fact that they were playing in Seattle in the stadium that I just saw a month ago when we were there prior to heading to Alaska.  From the top of the ferris wheel out on the pier in Seattle, you have a really good view of the stadium.

Anyway, the game wasn't particularly good and I was primarily interested in watching the actions of the replacement refs that are being used this season while the NFL and the official's union try to come to some sort of agreement on whatever it is they don't agree on.  As I keep hearing, the refs were quite bad and made unknown number of poor calls, in addition to the fact that the game goes on FOREVER because of the number of fouls that are called.  I think there really are a lot of fouls because the players are pretty much out of control with bad playing and fighting.  I imagine it's only a matter of time before someone is seriously injured.

The end of the game, though, will be talked about for the rest of the season.  Blogs and social media sites lit up with comments, and ESPN has been focusing almost exclusively on the game in general (with the multiple bad calls), the lack of credentials and experience of the refs being utilized, and the really, really bad call that cost the Packers the game.  Maybe Seattle deserved to win the game because their defense really did play well during the whole game.  But no one likes to lose like that!

On the plus side, the jokes and cartoons that have occurred are awesome.  They started to appear literally within minutes of the end of the game.

And one of my favorite Twitter posts:
"Mr. Tate please walk us through how you scored a touchdown by committing a penalty and not catching the football"

Monday, September 24, 2012

Awesome Concert!

Jeff's favorite musical group has always been Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons.  Every time one of their songs would come on the radio, he'd say "Best group in the world ever", and things like 'Frankie Valli is the only guy who made a million dollars out of a hockey injury'.  Earlier this year, we were lucky enough to see 'Jersey Boys', which is a Broadway Musical based on the creation and success for Frankie Valli and the original Four Seasons.  It was incredible and, because of the huge success of the musical, the group has gained a huge following again and have begun to tour the country.  Imagine how excited I was when I found that Frankie Valli was coming to Appleton!

It isn't often that we're the youngest people at an event, but last night was certainly one of those times.  This group actually became popular in early and mid-1960s which is, admittedly well before our time so the majority of the people in the theatre were at least 10 years older than we were.  I saw a couple of canes and maybe even an oxygen tank, but mostly vibrant and excited middle-aged people who really rocked the house!

For a guy who turned 78 this year, he can really put on a show!

The band is different now; Frankie has gone Vegas.  He has 4 back-up singers (young guys:  3 from California and 1 from Ohio) who were really, really good.  At one point in the show, the singers are introduced and get to sing separately.  Then, there's a full band with 5 horns, 3 guitars, a drummer, and a keyboard.

The show is organized really well with the more recent music first, and then some songs that were recently released on a new CD (covers of songs made famous by other artists in the 60s), and, finally, the big hits from the 60s.  Everyone in the audience was singing along and cheering loudly when each of the songs were done.

There were 2 standing ovations during the evening, and the final one lasted through the encore.  It was a 2-song encore (including my favorite:  'Rag Doll') during which time the audience continued to stand and dance along.

I can honestly say that this was one of the best evenings of entertainment that I've enjoyed in a long time.  Jeff was only sorry that he had waited so long to finally see him in concert!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The End of Another Cottage Summer

It's always sad when we have to close up the cottage for the winter (and it's a lot of work!), but that's how we spent this Saturday.  The boats and docks are out of the water, the deck furniture is all sorted out and the grill put away, the beds are stripped and covered, and the cabinets are emptied.  Just a couple smaller tasks remain:  winterizing the boats, turning off the water, and emptying the refrigerator.

It was really windy and chilly at the lake today, but sunny.  It's hard to believe how quickly the weather changes:  Labor Day weekend was so beautiful that the kids were swimming!  The leaves show very little progress since Labor Day, so we're going to go back up in a couple of weeks just for the day to finish the tasks we still need to do and see if we can catch some of that beautiful Autumn color.

In the meantime, though, looking back at this summer:  hot and humid come to mind.  Like the rest of the country, it was extremely hot and humid up north (especially those first couple of weeks in July).  We didn't have a lot of campfires this summer and, due to rain late in the summer up north, we ended up with a lot of mosquitoes in August.  Still, we had a good time over the July 4th holiday (including some delicious Booyah), FishORee weekend, and Labor Day weekend, as well as the quieter weekends in between.  Got in some boating, and swimming, and exploring, and 4-wheeling, and we're looking forward to doing all of that again next summer!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Florida Residency

So my Mom spent 3 months in Florida last year and really, really loved it.  The weather was nice so she didn't have to deal with the snow and cold, and it got her out of that house where she had to deal with memories of my Dad and where she'd go days and days without seeing anyone else.  In Florida, she saw Dean or Carol every single day and there were always things going on.  Going back this year was an easy decision, but then Dean found a place for sale in that same gated park where she stayed last year.  It's smaller, but the same general lay-out, furnished, and a really good deal -- so she bought it!  We're going down to Florida at the end of September for a week to give her a chance to see the place she bought and make plans for decorating or whatever.

In August, we finally got the house in Rice Lake completely cleaned up and ready for sale, and it went on the market.  While we were in Alaska, I was communicating with the realtor and we decided that it was priced too high for the market (side note:  we had told him he was pricing it to high to begin with, but he wanted to try for the high sale).  Anyway, we got the price down to a more affordable range for young couples and she has had a little interest since then.  Now, this week, there was an offer on the house.

This is a really bad economy and depressed market.  In this instance, we have a potential buyer who goes around snapping up properties for considerably less than they're worth and renting them out.  When the market turns, he'll probably sell some of them.  Anyway, he offered Mom $20,000 less than the listing price on the house.  She wants to sell the house, but no one wants to lose that much money.  So, she countered with a price right in the middle (which is still $10,000 less than the listing) and they had wanted her out by the end of the month, but the counter-offer gives the middle of next month as the vacate date.  They have 'til Thursday to accept or decline.  Mom is really torn because she doesn't want to have an empty house sitting in Wisconsin where she'd have to keep up the utilities, insurance, etc while she's gone, but selling too low isn't a good option either.  Well, we'll see.

The next step, then, will be to figure out when we can get her to Florida for the winter and how that will be done.  Originally, we would have planned to just throw her things in the van and go.  Now, we might have to factor in getting a truck or trailer to take her things to Florida.  That would be a good problem to have!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Badger Weekend

This past weekend we were lucky enough to have the most beautiful end-of-summer weather!  It was in the 80s on both Saturday and Sunday with temps staying in the 60s in the evening until pretty late.  That was especially nice because we spent the weekend in Madison.

Mike, Debbie and Ben flew in from Salt Lake City on Friday afternoon and we went to The Old-Fashioned in downtown Madison right by the capitol.  The place was absolutely packed and we had to wait for over an hour just to be seated.  But we had some great cheese curds and the guys tried interesting beers while we waited.  Then, we went back to our hotel (Hampton Inn & Suites) for some drinks and snacks in our room.

On Saturday, Peg, Len, Tim and Tracy and Scott, Maggie, and Scott all drove down and we had a really fun day hitting various hot spots near Camp Randall, and generally getting in the mood for a Badger game.  Debbie met a 'real' Badger fan, and the Utah State fans got some generally good-natured ribbing from the Badger fans.

Alex was decked out in his Badger shirt, plus his soccer gear because he had played soccer that morning before coming down to Madison (and he scored 4 goals in a row).  As we were walking around the area near Camp Randall before the game, Alex was thrilled to meet the real Bucky Badger and show him the smaller version that Alex had brought along.

 My favorite part of the evening was the Wisconsin Band, which entertained at half-time and during the fifth quarter.  Earlier in the day, though, while we were enjoying the afternoon at one of the pre-game party areas, the Drum Corps came through and entertained the crowd.  (Note:  while we were in that party area, Alex also caught some beads that were thrown out into the crowd from the stage so he was pretty excited).

On Sunday, we headed back downtown to the State Street area just to enjoy the beautiful Sunday morning weather, and we found a Mexican restaurant that also had big screen TVs everywhere, which was the best part for the guys who were dying to see what was happening with their Fantasy teams.

All-in-all, a really fun weekend with beautiful weather and a pretty exciting end to the Badger game (which they ended up winning when Utah State missed the field goal with seconds to go).

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Get in Line!

Yes, I need to lose weight.  Since I stopped working full-time, I find that I'm enjoying my leisure pursuits:  reading and watching movies/TV.  Both of those involve a good deal of sitting so my backside has gotten to be the size of a battleship.  So, I'm working on it -- sort of.

The past week, I've been watching old episodes of 'Burn Notice' and the good part of that is that I've now developed the need to have yogurt every day -- into which I usually slice some fresh fruit.  So the show is actually helping me eat healthy!

I'm continually struck by how much I love Bruce Campbell who, no matter what role he has, always plays Bruce Campbell.  Today, he accomplished some wonderful thing and Michael says "I could kiss you", to which Sam (Bruce Campbell) replies, "Get in line."  He's just so understatedly awesome!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Anniversary Party

This past Saturday night was part of a totally awesome weekend!  Mom, Susie, Doug, Shi and the boys all came over, joined by Steve, Stacy & the kids.  We did a little shopping on Saturday at Goodwill and St. Vinnie's, followed by a really fun anniversary party.

Stacy did all of the leg-work in finding a good spot for us to have a party, and we kept the guest list down to just family and very close friends -- and everybody came!  There were 32 adults and 12 kids packed into a private room at Stone Cellar Pub where we had our own private bar, music on Scott's playlist entertaining us all night, good food (with really great pizza), and a lot of laughs.  The kids were running around all night (supervised mainly by Maggie and Stacy), and the memories just kept flowing.

We have really awesome friends and family!

End of Summer Update

It would be nice to think that I would contribute to my own blog more regularly going forward but, of course, that won't really happen.  In lieu of that, though, will be occasional updates.  This has been an unusual summer due to the fact that it wasn't a very long or hard winter, and there has been almost no rain all summer.  Combined with the really high temps, it hasn't been all that great! 

We had a lovely and long summer vacation up north the first week of July.  Stacy's writing buddy, Ken Keffer, came up for several days and there were lots of discussions of nature-related things, plus some kayaking.  The kids caught a lot of fish and did a lot of swimming.  Jeff put the slide off the side of the dock this year and it has gotten a lot of use!

Alex played T-Ball again this summer and he was so amazingly improved in confidence and in ability.  As a result, of course, he loved it.  I was able to get to Milwaukee to see Jack play a couple of times as well.

In early July, Dean & Carol were up from Florida for several weeks and we all gathered in Rice Lake for a weekend to work at getting Mom's house ready for sale.  The amount of work done that weekend was amazing!  New carpeting went down, the windows were all washed and cabinets cleaned, boxes and boxes of stuff was hauled away along with excess furniture, new landscaping was put in the front with lava rock and timbers, the deck and front retaining wall were all painted -- and all during 90+ degree weather.  I went back a couple of weeks later, then, to finish getting the rooms organized and ready and it went up for sale in early August.  Now we're all keeping our fingers crossed that it's priced appropriately and will get some interest.

Second weekend in August was FishORee weekend up at the lake.  We really lucked out with good weather so the kids could enjoy swimming, and we had fun at the event itself.  Peg & Len plus some of their family were there and, then, came back to the cottage so the kids could fish off our dock.  Kevin & Andrea came later that evening to have some fun around the fire.

During the latter part of August, Mom, Susie and I went to Seattle and onto a Carnival cruise ship to Alaska where we celebrated Mom's birthday on the day we set said (See http://castleswavesandvolcanoes.blogspot.com/ for complete details), after which Jack & Anna came back to Appleton to stay with us for a couple of days prior to Labor Day.  The Labor Day weekend was up north, of course, and the weather could not have been more beautiful.  Draft day was Sunday with everyone in attendance and some good food and fun.  Jack & Anna didn't bring bathing suits but managed to be in the water anyway!

Everyone hates to see the end of summer.  I'm hoping now for some cooler days and nights before we actually head into Fall.  The trees are already changing up north so I imagine it won't be long here.  We have lots of things planned though for the next few weeks so I think we'll be really busy right through the end of the year.  With that in mind, then, I need to stay on top of these blogs!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Well into Summer

I hang my head in shame as I realize how badly my blogs have been neglected through Spring and, now, into Summer.

It is really summer in Wisconsin -- and a beautiful summer it is.  The season began extremely early with lovely temperatures in March and April, so everything began blooming a bit sooner than it probably should have.  After heavy rains early on, we've had very dry weather coupled with extremely hot and humid one week, then cool (almost cold) the next week.  Now, finally, it seems to have leveled off with lovely days (high 70s/low 80s) with low humidity, light breezes, and cold nights for sleeping.  I love this kind of summer!

Also neglected these past months have been friends and former colleagues.  In an effort to remedy that situation, 3 of my former office mates and friends (Dennis, Sherry, and Char) and I got together for lunch the Tuesday after Memorial Day and had a lovely time catching up.  Unfortunately, 2 of our regulars (Chuck and Harvey) couldn't join us so I still needed to catch up with them.  Today, I was able to have lunch with Chuck at one of our favorite places (Atlas Coffee Mill) at a table on the terrace overlooking the Fox River and the dam.  With today's lovely weather, it was a really fun time.

Mike Schilleman has been in Canada all week fishing and returned to Peg's yesterday so the guys all went golfing today before he heads home tomorrow.  Peg had us all to dinner this evening and we had a really good time catching up with what's going on in Utah, as well as planning our Badger/Utah State outing coming up in September.  We managed to solve all of the problems in America (if someone would just ask our opinion), and congratulated Mike on having not only the new baby grandson, but also the three new ones due right after the first of the year (Brooke and Ashley (twins for Matt and Ash)).  We all agreed that we're glad it's not us getting all of the new babies.

Other updates:

The week of June 11, Jack and Anna came to stay before their summer school programs kicked in.  We had a really busy week!  On Monday, I took the kids swimming at Plamann Beach and out for ice cream afterward.  Upon trying to pay for the ice cream, I realized that my wallet was missing and searched everywhere for it without success.  Tuesday morning was spent making phone calls to cancel credit cards, library card, etc. and, when we piled into the car to go to the DMV to get a new driver's license, my brain started working again and I distinctly remembered tucking my wallet down into the little waste bin in my car -- where it still sat!  Sigh!  What a pain!  Then I had to wait for all of those credit cards to come in again, and I had to go online (or make phone calls) to change the card numbers for all of the bills that are handled automatically by credit card each month.

Tuesday night, we went to see Alex play t-ball and Wednesday morning we went to the park where the Park & Rec people were organizing games for the kids.  We managed to squeeze in about an hour of swimming on Wednesday before all piling into the car and heading to Milwaukee for Jack's baseball game.  Played a ton of music in the car and we all sang along as I introduced the kids to Queen and 'We Will Rock You'/'We Are the Champions'. 

Thursday was a quiet morning (I think everyone was pretty exhausted), but we decided to go to the movie theatre to see 'The Avengers' (second time for Alex and I).

Friday morning, Ian and Alex came over again to get in as much playing as possible before Jack and Anna had to head home.  We ended up at McDonald's for lunch where, after eating and spending about an hour in the play area, I realized that I was missing my keys.  Turned out they were in the car still in the ignition and the car was unlocked!  I think I was so worried about the kids jumping out of the car and maybe into the path of cars coming out of the drive-thru that I wasn't paying a lot of attention!  My brain needs an overhaul!

So that was a fun week.

Last week, I went to see 'Billy Elliot' at the PAC (by myself) and I'm really glad Jeff didn't go along.  It was seriously bloated and came in at 3 hours long.  Dancing was good, but the movie was actually a lot better.  This was a disappointing season at the PAC.  'Million Dollar Quartet' was awesome, but we walked out of 'West Side Story' and the long-awaited 'Billy Elliot' was really a disappointment.  I had seen 'Mary Poppins' in NY and enjoyed it again.  The reworked 'Les Miz' was as disappointing this time as it was when I saw it in Milwaukee last year.  Not sure why they keep messing with shows that work great.  The heavy Spanish accents in this version of 'West Side Story' and when I last saw 'Evita' make it impossible to understand the actors and really detract from enjoying the music and dancing -- which is what a musical is, after all.  The sets on 'Les Miz' were redesigned and I think the show is less powerful as a result.  And 'Billy Elliot' suffers from the same problem as 'Wicked' -- way too long.  Can't believe I'm saying this but I'm actually considering relinquishing my Season Tickets.  We'll see.  Next year's lineup really doesn't give me much hope either:  Elf, The Addams Family, Catch Me if You Can, War Horse, and Blue Man Group.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Greenhouses are getting a workout!

Last year, I bought a 4-shelf stand with a zippered plastic cover:  a small greenhouse to use once my seedlings become plants.  This year, I had to buy another one because I have so many plants that I now need two of them.

I'll be leaving for 10 days later this week so I really had to hustle to get all of my plants in order so, I now have a greenhouse in our hot tub room that contains seedlings that need lots of light and still need to be kept warm.  Outside (out of the wind where it will get the morning sun) is another greenhouse filled with the ones that I'm now classifying as plants.  Despite the mild weather, I think I'm still quite a while from putting things in the ground so I'll need to nurse them along.  The way the sunflowers are growing, though, they may need to go into the ground with some kind of sheeting or other protection at night.  Not sure the greenhouse will hold them for two more months!

The current count (indoor greenhouse holding seedlings):

40 poppies
8 snapdragons
8 hollyhocks
8 ponytail grass
8 pumpkin-on-a-stick
16 flowering tobacco
2 stevia
9 zinnia
2 peppers
32 marigolds

Outdoor greenhouse holding those that are now classified as plants:

17 sunflowers
2 ground cherries (gooseberries)
2 yellow pear tomatoes
3 cherry tomatoes
2 heirloom tomatoes
1 Big Boy tomato
5 lupine
1 cilantro (brought back from Florida)
1 Salsa tomato (brought back from Florida)

That's a total of 167 plants and I have 15 ordered from the Master Gardener plant sale that will take place in May, plus 6 ordered from Gurney and another 19 ordered from Springhill.  I bought a whole bunch of plants at our Master Gardener sale last year (from other Master Gardener's instead of a nursery) and I'm guessing that I will again this year.  Additionally, I brought back violas and ferns from up north last year and they're doing well so I'll probably want to get a few more of those.  All told then, I'll probably plant between 200 and 300 plants this year (and my myriad of containers).

My gardens are becoming more lush and beautiful every year.  I've really felt the downside this past week, though, as I've cleared out the debris, leaves, sticks, etc from last Fall.  We've re-mulched the front garden and some of the back, but there is a lot more mulch that needs to be put into the back gardens.  Lots of work!  Glad that I'm no longer working full-time and can devote long hours every day to getting everything ready.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The South is in Bloom

I took a spur-of-the-moment trip to Florida to visit my Mom and was captivated by all of the lovely
Beautiful bougainvillea home of little birds
Spring growth that I saw along the way and while there.  The trees are starting to bud here, but much further along the more I drove.  Once in Florida, I had to capture the beauty of this gorgeous bougainvillea growing next to the home that Mom rented.  The bush is full of little birds just twittering away every morning; they were probably talking about how lucky they were to have such a beautiful home!

New Guinea Impatiens growing as perennial

Also growing everywhere were huge mounds of New Guinea Impatiens, which we can only grow as annuals in Wisconsin but grow in Florida as perennials.  I was jealous!  It was also funny to see poinsettias growing along the side of the homes -- sometimes next to homes that were growing a lot of palm trees and cactus.  It seems that almost anything grows in that hot and often humid environment!

Wisteria blossoms

Beautiful patch of wisteria growing over everything in it's path!

The drive home was almost unsafe while going through Georgia and Tennessee as a result of the stunningly beautiful wisteria growing along the roads.  When I attended the Philadelphia Flower Show, one of the lectures that I attended cautioned the planting of wisteria because it can "come in through your windows and choke you in your bed."  As I saw the huge areas of wisteria growing wild over trees, bushes, light poles, etc., it was easy to see why the speaker had cautioned about making sure to keep it pruned or it would literally take over everything.  That said, though, I thought it was really beautiful and took lots of pictures!

I have no desire to be strangled in my bed, but would be truly delighted to have some portion of this beauty added to my butterfly garden where I planted a wisteria last year.  It's at the base of the arbor so it's feet will be shaded from the strong afternoon sun by my Joe Pye Weed, and I'm looking forward to it covering the arbor with the lovely purple blooms.

Pink flowering dogwood in Tennessee
I've planted a climbing rose bush on the other side of the arbor (which is really coming along already this Spring), and I'm looking forward to seeing the rose bush filling out the left side of the arbor (and along the wooden fence), and the wisteria climbing up and over the right side of the fence and complementing the purple of the Joe Pye Weed and the bright yellow black-eyed Susans.

The pink flowering dogwood was another beautiful spot of color along the sides of the road during this past trip.  We'll be driving back from Florida again mid-April and I'm really looking forward to seeing if things have changed or whether they'll still be as lovely as this past trip.


What an interesting winter we...didn't have!  Very little snow and only a few days of deep cold during the entire winter.  I was in Florida a couple of weeks ago to visit Mom (we went down together in mid-January and she stayed down there), and the weather was averaging high-60s here when I left!  It has gotten a bit colder lately (40s), but everything is turning green and the flowers are coming up a full six weeks earlier than last year.

I've begun the process of cleaning out the flower beds and the front has been re-mulched.  I'm a little nervous about uncovering everything too much in case we get one more big snow storm.  On the other hand, it's hard not to want to get everything going and, it's important to get the new mulch down before the weeds start!

My unemployment has continued all this time since leaving HNI -- that's about 1 1/2 years now!  I've gotten word that it may be discontinued the second week in April though and, if that's the case, I may also stop working at Kohl's.  Like the unemployment, it has also continued all this time even though I'm averaging maybe one or two nights per week (a bit more during the Holidays).  I don't want more hours than that -- I really only want the job so I can continue to collect the unemployment without having to do the search for employment each week.  [As I re-read that sentence it makes me wince a bit; sounds like I'm quite the parasite.  Not unlike mistletoe -- see photographs above that I took in Florida.  I love the look of mistletoe growing up in the trees.  It was my Dad who pointed it out to me the first time I was visiting with them during one of their trips to Florida.]  Anyway, if the unemployment comes to an end, I may stop the job at Kohl's.  I do ok with the work out on the floor, but I really struggle when I have to work the unloading of the truck.  Heaving boxes all night is more than my poor back can take any more!  I also hate to lose whole days to sleep when I could be out in my gardens!

Ian and Alex will be out of school next week for the Spring break and I'm hoping they can come over for some of the time on Tuesday and Wednesday.  Not sure what we'll do, but just being here and playing is always a good time.  Then, we're headed to Milwaukee on Thursday for Grandparent's Day with Jack and Anna at their school.  Jeff will leave me in Milwaukee because I'm flying to Florida on Friday with Steve and his family for a little time at Disney, and then I'll be going to Lakeland to help Mom close up the house she has been renting and we'll drive back to Wisconsin together.  All-in-all, a pretty busy non-winter!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Busy Gardening Month

This has been quite the busy month for gardening and love of plants.  In early March, Stacy and I went to the Philadelphia Flower Show -- a huge exhibition with speakers, people marketing products, and a free wine tasting!  I was able to log 3 educational hours for my Master Gardener qualification by attending 3 lectures, where I also took extensive notes for this summer!

Beautiful white orchids
Spring in the Midwest!
The show has a theme each year, and this year's theme was Hawaii.  I've never seen so many orchids and anthureums all in one place!

In addition to the Hawaii-based flowers, decorations, and exhibits, there were also huge plots of flowers, trees, and shrubs from the Midwest and it really makes me want to plant those forsythias this year so I can have the beautiful yellow blooms greeting me next Spring!

Another exhibit falls right in line with a trip that I've been wanting to take to Colonial Williamsburg.  It shows up in all of the travel magazines, but I've never moved it too near the top of the list -- but I will now.  There is a best seller book out right now about Colonial Williamsburg-style vegetable gardening -- and there was an entire garden planted and set up as an exhibit at the show.  The entire plot couldn't have been more than 30 feet square but was planted with tons of vegetables and herbs.

There was a picket fence around the plot and paths made from crushed shells.  The cages for the tomatoes were made from branches.  The whole thing was just really cool and I want to go to Colonial Williamsburg now to see the gardens there as they're being worked and see what other colonial style things take place.  It's not unlike New Salem when there are people there enacting life during Lincoln's time.

We bought some silicone beads in the vendors area.  They aren't much larger than the head of a pin when dry but, mixed with water, get large and beautiful and colorful and you can put them in a vase to hold cut flowers.  Or, as I've done, put them into a bowl with water and a plant.  The water is for the root system, obviously, and the beads hold in the moisture as well as keeping the plant upright.  I may get more of these!

I'm planning to plant mine with succulents.  Here's a display of tiered succulents that I'd love to be able to copy.  Mine will only have three layers, but I think I'll be able to match some of it.

At the end of the evening, we had dinner at The Melting Pot with Melinda Myers and had a really fun time.