Tuesday, May 26, 2009

In praise of the peony

Indiana's state flower is the peony. OK, whatever. But I appreciate them so much more since our friend K brought a lovely bouquet of them into our house last week. Now I see them everywhere, in people's yards and all around town. The flowers are so delicate, so fine, so perfect. I love them! I told S that we must get a peony bush for our yard so that we can have our own flowers next May!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Birthday parties

We've been very busy celebrating birthdays! So I thought I'd just do a quick entry on that. The first family birthday was Sunday the 24th. My niece,  Jamie, turned 13. This is so hard for me to believe, because it seems like just a few months ago, she was a bouncy little four-year-old splashing about in the swimming pool. Now she's a lean, mean karate machine (green belt!), an avid golfer and a budding singer/actress. 

Sandy's b-day was Monday the 25th, and we celebrated all day long. First, I made her some homemade cinnamon rolls (as in from scratch, not from a box or tube) for breakfast . . . that wasn't the only thing I made but it was the hardest. :-) It was raining, so we lounged around on the back porch until the early afternoon, when we went to see "Angels and Demons" at the Greenwood Park mall. Later, we had a nice dinner at The Cheesecake Factory and she got her favorite dessert, the strawberry shortcake. If you haven't had Cheesecake Factory's strawberry shortcake, you simply haven't lived! It's amazing and so huge that two (or more) can share.

Tuesday the 26th is Cody's sixth birthday, which is something like 42 in dog years. He doesn't want to make a big deal of out it . . . just wants some extra quality time with his Mommies and Oma, and maybe a little extra meat at mealtime. 

Party on!

P.S. The cake in the above photo was actually MY birthday cake. My sister made it. It was an apple cinnamon cake and quite nice! (The cupcakes were lemon.)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Tea is winning me over

I know people who can't function without a morning cup of coffee (or two!) As for me, I didn't even start drinking coffee until I was 32 years old, and allowed myself to be influenced by a certain special person. It didn't take long before I was hooked. A short time later, my friend "A" (she knows who she is) introduced me to that nectar of the gods known as the Starbucks mocha, and the rest was history.

One of the most awesome things about living in Vienna last year was that I was living in the place where coffee rules. These people know their coffee. I mean, I've travelled the world several times over now, and I can tell you that the best coffee in the whole wide world is in Vienna, Austria. 

But . . . lately, I wonder if I'm losing my taste for coffee? I just can't seem to drink much "regular" coffee anymore (by this I really do mean regular coffee, not espresso. I could happily consume espresso drinks several times a day.) The fact is, I've started drinking more . . . tea. That's right, folks. I'm totally into black teas. And Rooibos, a red tea from southern Africa. I'm beginning to enjoy some types of green tea. I'm even making my own ginger tea, and herbal teas, such as peppermint and chamomile (which I grew!)

When I was in London about a year and a half ago, my friend/coworker "S" and I popped into Harrod's one afternoon for high tea. That was one of the most memorable things about that trip to the UK. Cute little teapots with really awesome tea, and cute little sandwiches and scones with jam and real butter. I love the whole tradition of taking some time in the afternoon just to chill and enjoy a nice cup of tea and some snacks. I know I could do this with coffee also (and I have done), but there's something about tea that's refreshing and invigorating. 

Come to think of it, there's something in the UK tea that's different, sort of like there's something about the Austrian coffee. I now recall this from other previous trips there, as well as the trip to Ireland several years ago. The tea smells so fresh. OK, now I have to find a place online to get some real English tea . . . PG? Typhoo? Suggestions, anyone?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Voice mail is so 20th century

Not long ago, I realized something about myself. I hate voice mail. Not just the voice mails you get at work, but voice mails at home and ESPECIALLY voice mails on my personal cell phone. I hate voice mails at home because they're not private: everyone in the room (or the whole house, for that matter) can hear your mammogram results, or that you have a doctor's appointment at 3:30pm on Tuesday. I hate voice mails at work because I want people to just email me if they need me - I have a Blackberry and am constantly checking my emails, so that is really the best way to reach me during the work day. And I hate voice mails on my personal cell phone because I can never remember my password, and because it always makes me listen to all the saved voice mail messages (all the way through) before I can listen to the new messages. Grr.

I've got caller ID on all three phones. I can tell when someone is trying to call me, and generally speaking, if I don't answer the first time, there's a good reason: 1) I'm asleep; 2) I'm in a meeting; 3) I'm out of range; 4) I'm someplace where I have to mute or turn off my phone, or 5) #4 happened and then I forgot to unmute or turn it back on.

Despite my loathing of voice mail, I totally dig text messaging. If you want to reach me on my personal cell phone, and you really want a response fast, this is the way to do it. I LV TXT MSGNG!!! OMG!!! i don't even mind anymore when people don't start their sentences with capital letters or capitalize the "i" in i. 

When I was in North Carolina a few weekends ago, my nephew and I were talking about pet peeves, and he said: "I hate it when people leave voice mails." I was, like, "Me, too!" So it seems that I'm not the only one. Maybe hating voice mail has a genetic component? 

Perhaps he and I should create an outgoing message that says: "Please do not leave a message at the sound of the tone." :-)

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Big midwestern skies

This photo was taken last Saturday, somewhere along Interstate 70 west of Columbus, Ohio, in a moving vehicle going about 70 miles per hour. It was one of those days when the sky just looked so huge . . . what I like to call "Big Midwestern Skies." There's a different look to the sky here sometimes, or so it seems. This does not look like a North Carolina sky, or an Austria sky, or even a California sky. I can't explain it and I'm not sure if it really is the sky, or if it's just me. But it's nothing short of magnificent.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Misery loves company

The past few weeks have been kinda stressful. Just a few examples:
  • My herniated cervical disk (C5-6) has flared up big time. It's VERY painful in my neck and shoulders, and often difficult to hold my head up! I'm not sleeping well, I'm grumpy, and basically I feel lousy all the time! Yes, I have an appointment with a specialist - but not until early June. (I don't like talking about my health, so will leave it at that.)
  • Sandy's Aunt (her Mom's sister) passed away, and that has been very sad. Aunt Betty had recently been diagnosed with lung cancer, but she never smoked . . . she died from complications of pneumonia, rather unexpectedly.
  • My Dad is in the hospital in North Carolina. Not sure what's going on yet - awaiting test results. Hopefully it will be something easily treated and he can get back to the farm and I can stop worrying about him.
  • A couple of weeks ago we had some drama. One of our neighbors called Animal Control on one of our dogs, saying that he bit her granddaughter. Our dog (an eleven pound Maltese with no history of biting) was leashed at the time, and under the control of an adult. I wasn't there. However, I doubt he actually "bit" the kid. Regardless, Animal Control was called and our dog had to be quarantined for ten days and now our dog has a "criminal record" and we have to pay a big fine and blah blah blah. The whole experience has me wondering why we have to leash dogs, yet it's OK to let kids run wild. But that's another blog entry.
I know it can't always be good, but it has me wondering what phase the moon is in? And is it stuck or something?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Spring scenes

Spring has finally sprung here in Central Indiana, and I mean it this time. Practically overnight, the thin green veil became a curtain. It's rained nearly every day for the past two weeks, which sadly means that some of the early Spring flowers are gone now, such as the ones on our crabapple tree that we were only able to enjoy for a week:

The sun goes down later and later each day: 8:44PM tonight. In late April, I was sitting out on the back porch enjoying the pleasant weather, and caught site of this colorful sunset. I had to go find the camera:

The leaves have popped out on the trees now, so this view will not be possible again until approximately November. Glad I was able to capture it for you!

The vegetable garden

The vegetable garden was planted the last Sunday in April. Since we have such crappy soil here (it's all clay), we went with a raised bed. The frame is 6 feet by 4 feet, which I divided into 24 squares. I put dwarf bicolor marigolds around the corners and edges to attract pollinators and good bugs (good bugs are the ones that kill bad bugs - LOL!) I also planted some mature chamomile, spaghetti squash, and tomato (red and yellow heirloom varieties) seedlings.

Of the seedlings I grew indoors, I planted Buttercrunch and Romaine lettuce, leeks, and three varieties of pepper: red bell, yellow bell, and jalapeƱo. The pepper seedlings look very healthy, but the leeks and lettuce seem wimpy, so I'm not sure how they will turn out. Let's just say that I don't think Farm Fresh Delivery needs to worry about losing me as a customer anytime soon.

I planted fennel, scallions, rainbow Swiss chard, and raddichio from seeds. After just 10 days, everything is starting to come up except the fennel. Of course, it's rained here just about every bloomin' day since I planted the garden. Isn't that the way it goes? 

At least the garden has good drainage. For soil, we bought a truckload of organic compost topsoil from Dammann's (local nursery) and mixed that with a large bag of Monrovia organic sphagnum peat moss compost. It's all about good soil, I've heard.

I put some herbs in containers around the raised bed: marjoram, Greek oregano, French tarragon, stevia and a bay leaf tree. I also bought four cucumber plants, but haven't quite figured out what to do with them yet: they need a place to climb. 

We'll see how it goes! I'll keep you posted periodically.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The short but meaningful life of Baby Bird

I was at the family farm in North Carolina this weekend - just a quick trip down to check on the parental units. My nephew drove up from college (the other Carolina) and early Friday evening, we set out for a walk around the perimeter of the huge yard. We hadn't gone far when I saw something on the ground ahead of me. Drawing closer, I realized it was a baby bird. 

My first thought was that it had fallen out of its nest. But there weren't any trees nearby. I bent down to study the poor creature, noticing that it was kind of funny looking. I've heard that sometimes animals will discard offspring that have any sort of defect, and as I studied the little bird (whose gender I don't know, but for some reason I thought he was a He), I noticed that his beak looked really strange. It was like he had a fake beak around his real beak. The fake beak was yellow, with a rubbery consistency. He also had really, really, REALLY long legs, but he couldn't quite stand on them. Whenever he did try to stand, he quickly fell over. 

Have you ever seen a baby bird? It's not always possible, if ever, to identify what type of bird a baby is. This one was really young, too. We called Mom (ever the wise one) over, and she said it probably hatched within the last few days. I looked around again, and seeing no sign of a bird parent, I decided to pick up the little fellow and check him out.

And then he did it. He opened up his eyes, looked me straight in my eye, and asked: "Are you my Mommy?" OK. And I thought I had no maternal instincts. I guess I was wrong. The mother in me kicked into action, especially after the little fellow leaned its head back and opened its little flip-top head while chirping a really cute chirp. "I'M HUNGRY," it seemed to be saying. "FEED ME!" That's when the real fun began.

We all sprung into action. OK, so really it was my nephew and my Dad who sprang into action. I was busy holding Baby Bird in my hand (it fit just perfectly in my palm, but it wanted my other hand over it, too, as if drawn by the warmth). My Dad ran to his storage building looking for his cricket container, which he said was the perfect size to put Baby Bird in. My nephew ran off to find a shovel, then ran through the very dry garden turning up stones and bricks, looking for worms. He found three earthworms, which I dusted off and offered to Baby Bird. "I'm sorry but I won't regurgitate it for you," I told him (while my parents and nephew laughed their butts off).

Baby Bird hungrily swallowed the worms, then "drank" a couple of drops of water. In the meantime, my Dad went inside to shred some paper to use in the cricket box as nesting material for his new Grandson. Then both my parents got out their bird books and tried to identify Baby Bird's species. We all agreed that he had to be some type of seabird, with legs that long. In the end, we agreed that he must be a Blue Heron or at least a member of the heron family.

We had planned to go out to dinner that night, and as the time drew nearer for us to depart, Dad helped me find a place to hang the cricket box. Baby Bird was exhausted by then and needed to rest. He lay down in the shredded paper and closed his eyes. I watched him breathing, up and down, as if he were my child.

I checked on him as soon as he returned, and he spoke to me, once again opening his flip-top head. Once again, my nephew went worm-hunting. This time he wasn't as successful, only finding three baby earthworms to offer. Still, Baby Bird was happy to get whatever we gave him.

As we started to bed Friday night, Dad said to me: "You know the chances are slim of Baby Bird making it through the night. He's just too young, and that's just how nature is." Yeah, I knew that. On Saturday morning, the first thing I did was go out to the garage to check on Baby Bird. He made it through the night! But as I gently lifted him into my hands, I could tell that his breathing was more shallow. He didn't seem hungry or thirsty. But . . . OK, maybe it's my imagination, but . . . he did seem happy to see me.

I knew that Baby Bird was going to die, and that there wasn't anything I could do about it. So for the next hour or so, I held him in my hands, sent him Reiki energy and images of him flying, and talked to him. You probably think I went off the deep end or something, but as strange as it sounds, I had a connection with this glorious creature. When he died I cried a little. It was the first time in a very long time that I've cried over anything. I cried because I was sad, but also because sometimes life just sucks and there's nothing we can do about it. We'll never know the reason Baby Bird appeared on the ground in the yard, or why its parents dumped it (if that's really what happened). But I have to think there was a reason that I came across him, and I feel special that I was the one who spent his last hours with him.  

How many people can say they've fed a worm to a baby bird with a flip-top head? Not many, I'm sure. My Mom wonders if perhaps this is what killed him (thank you, Mom) . . . she says that the worms should have been - I don't know - put through the food processor or something. But I don't think that's why Baby Bird died. I think it was just his time. Even though the timing sucked. 

Still, I wouldn't have missed it for the world.