Wednesday, July 30, 2008

End of Summer Semester...

But that doesn't mean I can goof off.  I have to get my fall courses up and running well before August 25th, so I'll be working steadily for the next couple of weeks.

Other than grading papers, averaging grades, and working on fall courses, I haven't been doing much.  My poor gardens are in dreadful shape because I was gone for six days, and, obviously, they didn't get much natural watering.  I'm trying to nurse them back, but I think some of the vegetable garden is unsalvageable.  I'll be ripping up a bunch of it and replanting for fall.

I've been using Windows Live Writer for my blog posts, and it works well.   It's good for writing offline for later posting and for typing a blog without getting online.  Uploading to a supported blog program is a snap.  And, if you have other blogs that this program supports, you can post to all of them (one blog at a time, but you don't have to type different posts).  It doesn't work with MySpace, though, and some other blog programs make posting pictures difficult.

Speaking of pictures, here are two pictures of my daughter's "Dollhouse."

austin 024 This is a front view.  The next view is of the interior.  Look at the paneling that Pete (her boyfriend) put around the lower half of the ground floor.

The picture is fuzzy because I took it through a closed window.

austin 025 The Dollhouse has two lofts for beds or storage and is quite roomy, really.  With the built-in shelves, Dorothy can get quite a bit in it.

Notice the Adirondack chairs on the "porch."  She rescued those from someone's trash pile (along with a matching table), refinished them, and repaired them.  They're comfortable, too.

With a space heater or a wood burning stove, she should be warm, and, with a fan and opened windows, she stays quite cool in the summer, even on the hottest days. 

We're trying to get Pete to help her build another one with air conditioning so my sister and I can extend our visits!

Oh, and let me say that the return trip went much better.  Springdale to 290 to 95 to 79 to 7/84.  Piece of cake!  And my house didn't suffer much damage at all from the four cats locked inside, so I guess they made their peace.  But, as soon as I opened the door, they all went out!

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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Beautiful Things...

Pete, my daughter's boyfriend, made a cutting board and a trivet for me today. The trivet could be used as a small cutting board, also. I didn't mean for him to do that. All I asked him to do was trim a couple of pieces of scrap wood so I could make a trivet when I got home.

Pete installs floors for a living. From what I've seen of his work, he's a fine craftsman. He installed a Brazilian mahogany floor in my daughter's kitchen--all "reclaimed" wood--and he put down a floor in her "dollhouse" and paneled the lower walls. He also built her a plant table for the kitchen (she's helped with all of this).

As part of his job, he has to take up the old floors before he puts in the new ones, and he tries to reclaim as much wood as possible. As a result, he's stockpiled enough lumber to build a small village. Most of it would have been burned or ended up in a landfill--what a waste. He's also reclaimed tile--enough to tile the bathroom floor at Dot and Dan's house with a surplus.

Here's the cutting board, waxed and ready to go (with a great view of my son's leg!):

Cutting Board 001

I have a close up, but it's kind of fuzzy and doesn't do justice to the piece. And the batteries in my camera have played out, so I'll take another close up when I get home and install fresh batteries. I'll take a picture of the trivet as soon as I wax it. The cutting board combines white oak, some Spanish wood I can't pronounce, mahogany, and purple heart wood. The trivet combines walnut and purple heart wood. I almost don't want to cut or put anything on them because they are too beautiful.

Here's another view:

Cutting Board 002

You can see the purple heart wood well in this picture.

I'm hauling a stack of things home. I brought a carload with me, but I didn't think I'd have so much going back. I have some sheetrock, drywall screws, a post for the garden my sister and I are building, some large coffee sacks, and assorted scraps of wood for other projects. I also have a lampshade, some fabric, seeds and compostable trash bags that I can't seem to find anywhere else. Seems silly to drive to Austin to haul stuff back, but, when the stuff is free, and I can have a good time while I'm getting it, why not?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Stuck Inside of Conroe with the Texas Blues Again...

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Sorry, Bob!  I had to use my version of your song title.

So, what should have been a nice, six-hour drive turned into a nerve-wracking adventure in navigation.  One wrong turn in Albuquerque (as Bugs Bunny would say...) and I almost ended up in Houston.  Thanks to some nice people, I managed to correct my course and get into Austin without driving on an Interstate.

I know where I went wrong.  Nacogdoches, Texas.  The sign for Highways 7 and 59 are together.  Hwy 7 goes straight while Hwy 59 goes left.  I turned left.

If I can prevent it, I will NEVER drive in Conroe, Texas, again!  Sure, it's seven lanes of perfect highway with a speed limit of 60mph.  But every 1/2 mile is a traffic signal.  Can't use the cruise control, can't get momentum.  Just start, stop, start, stop.  And that town goes on FOREVER, straight into some little burb named Montgomery. 

But, once I got to Elgin, all was well.  Hwy 290 takes me straight to Springdale, which is the street I need to turn on to get to my kids' house.  Only took me an hour-and-a-half extra and used about the same amount of gas.  But I've never been so happy to reach my destination in my life!  And I managed to circumnavigate Hutto, Round Rock, and I-35--a plus in my book. 

And, while I plan to enjoy myself while I'm here, I can't wait to see the damage my cats do to the house while I'm gone.  I locked all of them inside--don't want any of them to disappear while I'm gone.  I figured out how to leave them enough food and water for at least five days, and I cleaned out the litter boxes before I left.  Unfortunately, my cats don't like one another much, so territory will be an issue.  I expect that they'll pull down half the curtains, at least.  I tried to move all breakable objects, but, with cats, that's an impossibility.  They'll find something to break.  And one of them may figure out how to open a door.  Yikes!  I'll have dreams about this until I get home.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A Lazy Morning

I've been trying to change my "wake-up" habits this summer.  I used to get up, turn on the news, start the coffee, and feed the cats.  Then I'd watch the news and become thoroughly disgusted with the state of the world.

I've begun a new routine.  I still start the coffee and feed the cats--but these days, I take my coffee out to the back yard and sit in one of my Adirondack chairs.  I watch the birds, visit the gardens, and just "wake up" for about an hour before I try to do anything productive.  It's my meditation time.

I feel better.  I'm not as wrought up with what's going on, though I don't ignore the world.  I just delay its impact on me by spending some time observing my small corner of it.

This morning, I took some (fuzzy) pictures of the sunflowers, zinnias, bougainvillea and the one eggplant that's growing.  The sunflowers haven't developed seeds yet, but those are coming, I'm sure.  The zinnias are pretty, too.

garden july 08 011 I have a whole row of sunflowers along this fence piece, and I'll take another picture as soon as the rest of them begin to bloom.

I noticed, too, this morning that the hummingbirds chase the other birds as well as each other.  One hummingbird chased a cardinal up a tree.  That's tenacity. 

The zinnias are about the same color--a kind of pinkish-purple, very much like the bougainvillea, so they complement each other.

I've never been very good with flowers--well, to be truthful, I'm a neglectful gardener.  I like to plant things and leave them alone, so no-fuss plants are best for me. garden july 08 013 I probably shouldn't try to grow vegetables, but I can't help myself.  I just love vegetable gardens and the "fruits" of my labor.

Oh, and no peaches from my tree this year.  I went to pick the three I had, and the ants came streaming out.  I think I'll have to treat the bark in the spring to keep the ants off the tree.

garden july 08 018 And here is my lone eggplant.  I do have a few more about to open, but this one is well on its way to harvest.  And I noticed that the okra is finally producing.  It's been just standing there all summer.  I guess it just had to hit its stride.

The tomatoes are finally producing, but I'll have to wait until I come back from Austin to pick any of them.  By the end of August, I might actually have some vegetables!  I won't wait so late to plant next spring.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Trying a New Program for Writing on My Blog

I'm writing this with Windows Live Writer, which you can download free.  This program allows you to write your blog while you are offline and will upload it to your blog.

It also helps with uploading pictures, maps, video, tables and hyperlinks.  I'll experiment with it and let you know what I 005

A garden picture.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Garden Update

I went out this morning to take a look at the back yard gardens (haven't made it to the front yet). Some of the tomatoes needed staking. I hate pounding stakes in--I've done two like that, but I decided to try to make tomato cages out of some of the tree limbs I've been stacking up. I have an abundance of those. The best part is I don't have to hammer them into the ground! So, here's a picture.

I've made three of them. The one in the foreground is really for the butternut squash. They seem to be vining squash, not bush squash as the yellow squash are. But I tied a tomato plant to that tripod, too, so it's serving double duty.

I also had this great limb that I tied to the cucumber trellis to give the vines more to cling to. I wrapped some of the tendrils around it to give it a nudge. I've included a picture of that, too.

I checked on the "fence" garden. The sunflowers are about to bloom, and I'll post a picture when those are ready. I took a picture of them today, but it's hard to see the flower heads. The zinnas open striped, but turn into a beautiful light purple with a red and yellow center. The purslane is spreading all over, which I want. And I've been able to dig it up and plant it in other gardens.

I have cucumbers, eggplant, yellow squash, bell pepper and tomato fruits coming out. I probably won't be able to pick any of it until the end of July, but at least it's growing. The okra just seems to be hanging around; the watermelon, corn and cantaloupe seem to be doing something, but I only have one tiny ear of corn and a host of flowers on the melons. Probably too early, really, to expect anything.

I'm having some difficulty regulating the watering. I haven't hit on a good schedule yet, but I think I'm going to a Monday-Wednesday-Friday scheme, and maybe Saturday or Sunday if the weather stays dry. The weather psychics have predicted rain at least two days every week this summer, but we haven't seen it for a while. I think being a weather forecaster is one of the few jobs where you get paid even if you're wrong.

This is the cucumber/tomato pot in the herb garden. I'm training the vine to wrap around the ramp going up to my back door.

And I'm including a picture of my puny peach tree and two of the three peaches.

I'll keep you posted on the sunflowers and any other interesting developments. And, trust me, when I manage to harvest something, you'll see pictures of that, too!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Company's Gone...All is Silent Again

I'm constantly begging my family to come visit, and I'm usually pleased when they do. I enjoy company, but I'm equally happy being home alone.

And, I have to say that, sometimes, I'm slightly reticent about what I write on this blog. I don't really know who reads it (meaning, I don't know if my family reads it), so I mostly stick to the gardens, the cats, and the weather. Probably for the best...

I'm not fond of people who talk just to talk. I think that, when you talk, you should have something to say that's worth saying. I'm not a "small-talker." I hate "chit-chat." I like to get to the point, don't necessarily want to state the obvious; I like meaningful conversation.

I also don't like to hear other people say bad things about members of my family. And I don't want people to air their dirty laundry--arguments, trust issues, etc.--especially with regards to my family members. So, after a few days of that, I'm ready for these types of guests to go.

I don't share too much of my private life, even with members of my family. If I have money problems, or children problems, or work problems, I'm likely to spend time writing in my journal or doodling on a piece of paper to try to work those out for myself. If I need to, I'll talk to my mom or dad. When I was married, I talked to a therapist. In marriage, at least, I think it's best to talk to a "neutral" party. Spilling your guts to your spouse's family members doesn't help your case. If you're trying to win them over, that's not the way to do it. My response is, "I haven't heard his/her side of this. I think you should go to a marriage counselor." That usually shuts off the commentary, but not always. Sometimes, I just can't get people to shut up without saying, "I don't want to hear this. It's none of my business." But some people don't get the hint, even when I'm direct about it. I try to look like I'm listening--but I send my mind out for a walk so it doesn't hear what they are saying.

I love to play "If" games--"If you were stranded on a desert island..." My favorite is the "Plum Island" game. You are being sent to Plum Island for the rest of your life. You will have adequate food, water, housing. You may bring three CDs, three movies, three books, and one personal item (no animals--dogs, cats, gerbils, etc., and no people). List what you would take and explain why.

Well, my brother determined that three CDs would be about 42 songs, so now we have a new game: which 42 songs would you choose?

I've already made two "42 Songs" lists on my iPod; I'm working on categories now--"42 Dance Songs," "42 Love Songs," "42 Revenge Songs," "42 Angry Songs."

I've challenged my brother to come up with his "42 Songs" list and email it to me. Feel free to play the game!