Saturday, June 27, 2009

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I WAITED UNTIL THE BIG PAINTED RASPBERRY appeared, joining the sign with the big painted blueberry. I even waited until the sign with the big painted strawberry finished its long reign at the neighbors' berry farm and disappeared. After that, a few more days elapsed. Only then did I quit telling myself-- Okay, for sure I'm going to go today and get my jam-making strawberries. That's because by then I was telling myself--See, you procrastinating fool, you waited too long!

Ever since my good friend gave me a little jar of strawberry jam she'd made, and it was such a fabulous shade of red and tasted like a day in June and friendship and love and happiness and many other very good things I could think of if I needed to, I had determined to make some myself.

So I figured it was too late, but I stopped at the farm this afternoon to buy blueberries. Just for eating fresh. I supposed I could make jam with them; it would probably be good. But, hmm, I didn't think it would taste like friendship and love. And then! as it turned out, there were still some sweet little red gems basking in the sunshine. "Yes, you might still be able to find a few," the berry lady neighbor said, handing me a box. "Go all the way out to the rows beside the electric tower. There are some short rows there. Actually, just pick wherever you want, wherever you see any. This will be it for the strawberries."

And that's how, about a half-hour later, I found myself dashing to the store for a pack of Sure-Jell. And soon after that, I was doing this:

Lacking a potato masher, I was crushing the berries with a slotted spoon. And then, fortunately not lacking sugar, I added a small truckload of it to the berries.


Diligently reading the package directions, I stirred the sugar into the berries; then at the stove, I stirred the water into the Sure-jell.

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If you're actually watching this stuff, you'll see that I was watching it, too, as I dutifully stirred and timed a minute--Mississippi one, Mississipi two, Mississipi three---getting a little frantic as it threatened to slip the bonds of containment and have a run down the side of the pan.

So stirring--that's what it's all about. As if saying Mississipi sixty times is not enough to make you want to take the state off the map and re-name the river, two steps later you've got to count and stir another three minutes.


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Did I really have to do that? (I was feeling a bit rebellious) One glance at the directions, however, and I'm immediately put in my place. DISMAL FAILURE if one strays! Yes, throughout the nine "quick and easy" steps one is warned in no uncertain terms that one must follow each and every step to the letter or suffer dire consequences. Oh, alright, alright.

But then, suddenly I have other worries about the health and safety of my prospective jam. Along about Mississipi one-hundred-and-thirty-seven, a not-lovely creature buzzes by to check out the sticky sweet stuff--hot damn! (I'm sure I heard him say) I've gotta have me some of that! The nerve of him!

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I interrrupted my very stirring activity to show you how he actually--actually!--had the audacity to smack his lips and rub his hands, uh...legs? together in anticipation. (Of course, at the time I was forced to let him continue with his fantasies of death by strawberry jam).

So then all I had to do, besides keeping my eye on Freddy Fly (I'm just guessing at his name), was to fill the jars with the would-be jam and tidy up the messy paraphernalia.


Later, (there may be a moral here--be careful what you wish for) I did let Mr. F. Fly take a little sample of the jam that spilled on the counter before giving him my usual admonition in such cases--"breath your last!"--and employing the swatter. I hope he died satisfied, still savoring the taste of a June day and friendship and love and happiness.

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

I SET MY ALARM

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I SET MY ALARM SO that I could get up early this morning. I had a pretty important date with The Yard Man (doubles as The Handyman, when he can be coerced into it). The activity that kept us busy this morning involved a stepladder, a dining room chair, two buckets of water and a couple hours' worth of elbow grease. It also involved nearly getting my pinkie fingers pinched off and frequent exclamations of the following type--It's your side that has the smudges! And--I certainly did wash that pane! (which caused one to conjure up a few ways to put the homonym into a sentence!)

This is an old house that we live in, Reader Dear.  In the event you have not been around long enough to have acquired this knowledge, anything that has graced the earth for a century or more (as has our dwelling) takes heaps of maintenance. Old houses get creaky and leaky. They require special equipment to help them cope. Which is why we have to go through the agonies of washing rope-pulley windows and their custom-made leak-protectors (ahem...storm windows, that would be).

Our painstaking job this morning went something like this: Remove window screen; raise two storm window panels to expose the lower window sash on both sides; lower both panels and the lower sash, to expose upper window sash on both sides; lower upper storm panel, raise lower sash and raise lower storm panel to expose upper storm panel on both sides; leave lower sash raised and raise upper storm panel--lower lower storm panel to expose on both sides...yep, worse than you thought, eh?  Can you imagine the coordination all of this takes?


All of these maneuverings allowed the one on the stepladder and the one on the dining room chair to each employ his or her own unique window-washing style--the one who whips out the washing cloth and wipes down the window with dispatch, then grabs the drying cloth and before you can say "fly-dirt on the window" is finished; and the finicky one who is laboriously scrubbing each little corner of the pane and before you can say "you missed a spot there," hears the sound of the ladder rattly-rattling off to the next window.



About mid-morning it felt as though we were scrubbing windows on the Empire State building!Window after window, there were always more. Eventually, however, we wrapped up the job, just in time for what remained of the morning sun to come sparkling through the old wavy glass with the assorted cracks and bubbles. It made me want to dance a jig. Of course, I estimated about fifteen minutes before the little critters that help to undo our work would start moving back into their favorite haunts, and the nitty-gritty of ordinary life would start sticking again. But...hey, Reader Dear, I had a brighter world for at least fifteen minutes...that's still something about which to kick up my heels!


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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

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A BLURB FROM MY SUMMER SOLSTICE
(sorry, you know I do procrastinate)...



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As I'm returning home from a most delightful cookout and evening concert at the park, a neighbor's windmill is spinning and the DJ on the car radio is spinning Vivaldi's "Summer." Here's three-quarters of my very first 9:08 pm of the season, which I spent pulled over onto the shoulder of the road with my camera poked out of the open window.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

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IF YOU THOUGHT ABOUT IT at all, you must have assumed that I got to the end of that rabbit trail and fell down the rabbit hole. Since I'm so tardy coming back to my story of the Garden Tour, I'll just say yes--of course that's what happened. I chatted with the Cottontails a while, got them to teach me the hippity-hop, then looked around for Alice (she wasn't there).





Fuzzy tales aside, I'm back in the garden--the one at the historical estate where a gentleman bobbing a bonsai was the one who set me off on the trail.






Ohio sis-in-law and I have wandered off to another part of the grounds and this following photo was taken expressly for her--she wondered about the identification of these blue flowers blooming profusely on the arbor. Of course, she had a camera of her own, and so she got a shot of her own, as well. And I took a shot of her taking a shot of me taking a shot of her taking...ah, the day was getting long and hot. But we had one more garden to see.


You won't see this one, though. I took no photos here; there was simply nothing unique that I wished to remember. The homeowners had torn down an old stone mansion (and old shade, I'm quite convinced) to build their new mansion. The pool was newly installed. The pool house was newly built and equipped with all the amenities for entertaining. The gardens were newly landscaped. But, oh, ho-hum, I needed shade and I lost interest early. Wandering out the elegant and newly paved-with-pebbles driveway to the road, where there remained one towering leafy tree, I slipped off my sandals.

Soon enough, exceedingly warm and ready to call it a day, my three sibs-in-law joined me. So I slipped my sandals on and we crossed the street to the car. But my goodness, my feet had grown so hot and sweaty. So...very...hot and sweaty. They were causing my sandals to cling like a desperate lover. What on earth had happened to my feet?! Egads, I yanked off my sandals to see a sticky mess of tar. It oozed between my toes. It blotched the soles of my feet.

I had one positive thought: thank goodness this was our final garden stop, and not our first. In case you've never encountered this situation, let me tell you there is no quick and ready clean-up for tar-besmirched feet and sandals. One cannot remove the sandals without sullying each spot where one rests one's feet. Goo-gone, the supposed solution to all goopy, gooey problems, does not touch it (I soon learned when, back at local sis-in-law's house, I put it to the test).

Okay, well, there was nothing that I had to do on my way home, other than stopping at the grocery store. I did have to pick up my salad ingredients now--time was of the essence if I wanted to get to the family cook-out (at the home of yet another sis-in-law--[I've got an abundance]). I thwack-thwacked my way through the store, being grateful for the occasional step in which my sandals stuck soundlessly to my feet. I then rushed home, used up my entire supply of nail polish remover, thereby making my feet passably fit to walk a mile in my own shoes (a clean pair, of course). I tossed a salad and tossed out my tar-mucked sandals and headed out the door.

A word of advice: No one's going to get through life without walking through a little...uh...stuff that happens. You should also watch out for tar.

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Saturday, June 13, 2009

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SPEAKING OF GARDENS. And speaking of a day spent in gardens. Well, actually...speaking of an official Garden Tour and traipsing around with three sisses-in-law to a dozen homes and gardens: that's what I did today. And since, as you know, a picture substitutes for boocoodles of words, I'll offer you this eclectic mix that I garnered while on the expedition (and add a few words, in the bargain):


I wasn't just randomly snapping pictures, though it may appear that way. No, I had my specific reason for each unzipping of the camera pouch (you'll hear them all, of course...did you think not?) Above--the photo of the lovely pink-flowered plant in the bowl--that was taken so as to later investigate what it's called. And now that you have seen it, I wonder what my chances are that you, dear reader, will recognize and tell me of it's name?


Later on I spied this little arbor, which caught my fancy as it held out possibilities of creating one of my own (I don't have to ponder those chances very long).

Ditto for this adorable little green-house/potting shed. Oh, I truly drooled over this one. Does that up the odds, do you suppose?




Now this garden on the left, hmm...I can't exactly recall my intention for wishing to remember it, although it is a right nice little representation of neighborly collaboration. From this spot, I also managed to capture a view of the white-house neighbor's backyard garden--the edible sort. It wasn't on the official tour, but I thought it should have been.




















Confessions are in order for this next one: Sis-in-law from Ohio and I agreed that we definitely
did not appreciate this homeowner's ostentatious display of potted plants. They were straight from a large private greenhouse (at another location) and lined the driveway in their plain black pots that looked like plastic ones,


crowded every open space, and hung in multiples on limbs and lamp-posts--why, stick on a few price tags, and we would think this was a nursery, for heaven's sake. But please don't make me eat humble pie--I know with the gorgeous red hibiscus blossoms in the foreground, this wasn't the best shot to prove my point.

Below, the little plant growing right out of the stone wall--well, it pleased me. Hence this photo.

(The busload of women arriving at this garden just ahead of us was not so pleasing--we scurried out of there).















Did I mention this was a Home and Garden tour? We trotted through the nicely appointed homes (carefully designated areas) and murmured our appraisals to one another.






You should have seen the little powder room...and the Mexican tile in the kitchen.
Oh, wait...
How lucky for you--I snapped a shot or two!)




Moving on, we're in another home. Amazingly, I find an indoor garden here--one made of glass. I thought I'd take a shot.


Whew. It's time to see some green-and-sunshine nature once again.


Next on our tour: historical house and grounds--an old estate. A Bonsai-lover's Bunch (okay, that's just my name for them--I'm sure they call themselves "society" or "club"or some such proper-sounding name) had set up a display. We even met a bonsai barber:


And just as I was determining how absolutely I was going to get myself a bonsai tree... (Haven't I always delighted at the sight of these miniatures? Thirty-eight years ago, didn't I stop and buy my dad a bonafide bonsai evergreen from a vendor who was selling them alongside the highway? Didn't I insist, after he had let it sit outside with no TLC for seven years, that he take it to someone who knew a thing or two about bonsai and get it a good root-trimming?*)... well, then the barber mentioned their enormous thirst. "Yessir," he said, "they must be watered every day." I even asked him, "Every single day?!" just to make sure, you know. And he said, "yes." That's when the absolutely part of my determination faded right away.

So, anyway, here we are-- still on the garden tour (or at least, I am still telling you about it)--but now that I have ventured down a rabbit trail, it will take some time to find my way back. I fear this will have to be continued another day. If you will just be patient, however, I promise you a sticky ending...oops, I mean a surprise ending to the garden tour. (Although, if you, dear reader, happen to be a sis-in-law of mine, you may not be surprised at all.)

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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

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THE GARDEN THAT MY DAUGHTER planted here has been diligently attended to. Unwelcome long-eared visitors that had been steathily helping themselves to the smorgasbord of delectables were rather abruptly deprived access to the gourmet fare (except for those members of the Cottontail World-Class Jumpers Association).

Weeds have been denied settlement (though negotiations seem to be continually underway). Bugs have been frequently interrupted in their frenzy of leaf-chewing and hastened on their way to insect heaven.



Consequently, the vegetables are thriving in their extra-large bed, drinks and sunshine provided. And they are possibly becoming aware of their entire raison d'etre. We've started eating the spinach, swiss chard, lettuce...(compliments of my daughter, of course, who continues to tuck in more plants, and is their assiduous protector and nursemaid), and look forward to a most pleasing array of other gleanings bringing delight to the dinner table.

As if this were not enough, it appears we will soon have twenty-eight more food-providers striving to gladden our breakfast table as well. Even now they are settling into their own little beds, and helping to transport the bugs to that big veggie leaf in the sky.




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Saturday, June 6, 2009

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I WENT SHOPPING TODAY AND returned home with these purchases:



It was the best kind of spring shopping. Yes, indeed, I shopped 'til I dropped!
(Right down on my knees to pick the succulent red berries. Oo-la-la, like the perfect pair of shoes, they go with everything!)




























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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

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IT WAS A DARK AND RAINY NIGHT...


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I've often blogged about cloud-nine days--about days that are gloriously sunny and perfectly pleasant. It's the kind of weather that gives me the weird illusion I could happily live in a tent or a treehouse. And then along comes a rainy night, which dissolves that little whimsy, but causes me to rhapsodize about the perfectly enchanting melody of rain when it is dark outside. It's one of my top ten musical compositions, and ideal accompaniment for drifting into the land of dreams.



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