Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Experimenting, Always Experimenting

You just cannot imagine how thrilled I am right about now. No, I didn't hear anything from Mt. Dora. I did, on the other hand, benefit from having Mr. Bruce working from home. For months and months, make that about eight, or ever since I moved my office, I've been having internet connection problems. Some days it worked just fine, however the majority of those days, it's been as slow as molasses. Of course some of you may have never poured molasses out of a jar. For you folks--trust me, it pours super, super slow.  I am typing my first blog post with the aid of a Netgear Universal WiFi Range Extender, purchased by none other than Mr. Bruce. Furthermore, he set it right up, so now I'm connecting like nobodies business. Hurray for the little things in life!

Sunday night I grilled lettuce for the first time. Grilled lettuce? Indeed. I first read a recipe for such in my Agnes & Muriel cookbook which we've discussed in the past. So, it's taken me what, maybe seven years to try it? I purchased these cute little heads of Romaine from Freshfield Farms last week with the grilling idea in mind. Guess what? I didn't like it. What we both loved was our grilled chicken made delicious with the Peri-Peri seasoning. Now you could order some from Amazon, but it is somewhat expensive, or if you live nearby, I may be able to convince Matt to bring lots home from England when he's visiting for Thanksgiving. What's so weird is that although items are expensive in London, the spice is cheaper there than we can buy it here. Go figure. Must be the importing.
The tomato was perfect as was the Mary B biscuit. That looks like a bunch of food doesn't it? It was. The lettuce, my friends, is charred on purpose. Following the recipe you know.

Monday night Bruce was all jazzed to try out a new place that has been months in the making. Called Sonoma, which to me makes no sense as it is mainly a fancy beer place, they opened only days ago.
The verdict? They carry Old Speckled Hen. Need I say more?

While we're on the subject of months and months ago, there's one more to discuss today. While chatting with Tom about all my crazy art projects, he mentioned that if you put dish soap in with the milk and food coloring exciting things can happen. Don't ask me why it's taken me so long to try this because I can't give you a good reason. Now that I have--I want to do it again ASAP!

Instead of milk, I used the last of Nancy's fat free half and half poured onto a yellow plastic plate. Dropping maroon, dark green and blue food coloring, I followed that with the dish soap. Here's what began happening. Very, very interesting.
Not content to leave things alone, I added yellow, and maybe orange? Here's the set up below:
As you can see, I was working on the front porch. Man, that porch needs some work! And the finished image:
Does this not look like so much fun??? I suggest you try it for yourself and get back with me. What I need is more milk to give it another go. I do have the benefit of having "fall" food coloring which may not be readily available, but any combination of the traditional red, blue, yellow and green will do just fine. I just love the crazy shapes and movement. Maybe the ocean floor is like this?

Big time thunder and lightening just now--let's hope it means something. Our rain fall has diminished greatly in August, making for some thirsty plants and grass. Speaking of August--who can believe this is the last day??? I certainly can't. Before we know it, 2011 will be in the past, which many people might welcome. Maybe, just maybe, 2012 will be a better year for our world and her people. Okay, enough of that. What I was going to say is that since we went on vacation I've turned our sprinkler system off the automatic, two times weekly setting. My goodness! Our water bill has gone from $80+ a month, to $23. Now, that's what I call terrific. Every now and again, I've had to turn it on, as in last Sunday, but for the most part I'm trying to use what falls from the sky. The black clouds out my window sure look like rain. A girl can hope can't she?


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

31 Nations

31 Nations is right. That's the number of places Angela's fellow immigrants came from. As the countries were called, people stood up to represent their native country with cheering for each one of them. Yes, on Friday, joined our American family after living here for 24 years. It all happened very quickly after what seemed like a very long wait.

She applied months and months ago.

  • Guess how much it cost? $650. 
  • Guess what you have to do? Study.
  • Out of the 100 questions an applicant is asked only 10.
  • You clearly have to know your stuff, unlike long time citizens.
  • Like who is your Congressman. Most folks barely know.
  • When was the Constitution ratified?
  • It is an oral test conducted by an interviewer.
  • It is given in English.
The interview was last Wednesday, the ceremony quickly following on Friday! Matt was traveling in Washington, DC, so Stephanie and I went in his stead, cheering when our dear friend finally received her certificate. I took loads of pictures to document her big day for Matt.
 The immigration center.
 The happy girl!
Singing and waving flags to Lee Greenwood's "I'm Proud to Be an American." 
 The woman pictured below was so full of enthusiasm. She's standing on the stage to meet up with Angela's height! I was so impressed because she posed with each and every person, sometimes multiple times for photographs.

Before the 10AM ceremony I was at Honda having a tire pressure light checked. More on that later.

I raced home, threw on a dress, and once through the security line, looked for the tallest woman in the room. The first thing I asked her when I found her was, "Where's your dress?" All around us were families, the men in suits, the woman in heels and their Sunday best. Angela has on capris and Stephanie is wearing shorts! I chided her for not taking the whole thing seriously. Admitting it later, she said that once surrounded by others, the gravity of the occasion sunk in. United Kingdom was alphabetically at the bottom, so it took a while once the actual certificates were handed out. Stephanie kept complaining about the two hours it was taking. I did my best to hide my irritation, however, I finally snapped saying, "this is a once in a lifetime event, we can wait." I was absolutely delighted to witness Angela's big day.

Quickly recapping what else has been happening:

  • Dinner out on Friday night with Jeff and Connie in College Park after Bruce's hair appointment with Monica. We ate at a small Italian restaurant on Edgewater. The food was good, with all of us saying what a nice place it was upon leaving. And it was at that point. Not so much for Bruce in the middle of the night when he awoke with severe stomach cramps. Up for hours, he was the victim of food poisoning, his first ever episode. And thank God for that! Maybe it was the clams on his pasta? The rest of us were fine.
  • Saturday's market was sweltering--same sales as the first week. At least there are sales, right?
  • Sunday's market was sweltering! Decent sales. Later Sunday evening, Bruce did my monthly sales and they were pretty darn good. I sold 100 items in August, for which I'm not complaining.
  • Monday I spent much time at Costco over the tire pressure problem. I believe I'll save that story of how I was a victim of a comedy of errors for tomorrow. Perhaps, it will all be resolved by then.
Bruce is working at home this week, no traveling at all. As such, I'm thinking right about now--should I or shouldn't I head to the Polasek today? Hmmm......breakfast first.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Oh My Gosh!!!

I am so excited right about now, I can hardly stand it! Wouldn't you know it? When I received the email containing the news which has me so thrilled, no one was home to call. Isn't that always the way?

After bridge and a stop at the Audubon Bird of Prey Center in Maitland, I came home and checked my email. Well, before we get to that, let's look at a few birds, shall we?

The center is home to injured birds of prey. I've been there before and posted pictures, but I just felt like going again today as it is only a mile or so from where we meet for bridge. In case you are wondering, I'm improving at bridge, having played a 3 No Trump hand today successfully. So, the owls are in a gigantic aviary with wires keeping them safely inside. I used the manual focus to get behind the wires. These owls were way, way up high on a perch. Frankly, I'm surprised this one turned out fairly decently.
It appears that the one on the right must have a broken wing and maybe missing an eye? Poor thing. At least it's not left to fend for itself out in the wild.

There is an open garden where there are hawks, eagles, and owls tethered to stands. Just moments after I arrived, it got windy and rainy--evidence of Irene passing by the state. So, so glad "she" decided to stay out in the Atlantic! I'm not sure what type of hawk this is:
Notice those yellow eyes? We've talked before about how fascinating the color of birds eyes are. This hawk appears to have light blue eyes which is very unusual, or at least my observation of birds makes me think so.
Aren't those markings remarkable? There are three eagles in the garden area and I believe two in a separate aviary. I wish I could tell you I remember this one's name, but I don't.
Okay, now that we have that out of the way, let's get to the email.

In a quest to improve my organizational skills, I have been applying to shows for next year already, including ones I don't think I'll get into. One such show, Mount Dora Art Festival isn't until February. A little background here--when Bruce made the suggestion that we try and sell my photography, we went to this show to scope out the displays. At the time, I still couldn't imagine doing a show myself, however, Bruce was convinced we could make it work. It was icky weather, but he got some ideas. If you don't want to bother clicking on the link, I'll tell you it is a REALLY big show, as in hundreds of thousands of people attend.

A few weeks ago I sent in my online application with no expectations attached. In case you're wondering, you submit three images along with a shot of your booth. I'm such a scatter brain sometimes I pick three and hope for the best, usually forgetting what I've submitted soon thereafter. Today, much to my surprise and delight, I received an email from one of the directors of the art center in Mount Dora asking ME if I would consider entering one of the three I submitted for the poster!!! Now, if you've not been to many shows, this may not seem like such a big deal, however, believe me, IT IS! They print t-shirts and posters, advertise the heck out of you and the like. Before you get too excited, apparently there are others in the running. They will let me know by next Friday and to be frank with you, I'm sure I have no chance of winning. But if I did.........WooHoo!!!

So, now you know why I'm euphoric at the moment. I know, only too well, that you win some and you lose some. This year none of my submitted images won for the city calendar. Ironically, on the same day I got a thanks, but no thanks letter from the Historical Board, I got an invitation for a celebration at City Hall for the revived fountain. TWO years ago, when I had two images chosen, I donated the money back to help with the cost of fixing our iconic fountain at Lake Eola. I'm not all that happy with the results to be honest. The colors are weird. You be the judge:
It's about time it was fixed! I declined the invitation--it was yesterday afternoon, but an email today says they have some memento for me if I'd like to pick it up!

The food truck craze has struck Orlando. I, for one, am over crazes.
I mean what is Korean BBQ Taco Box anyway? The colors are nice though.

Talk about something crazy--I could not get over this guy's phone at the market Sunday:
How funny is this?

I'm writing this waiting for Mr. Bruce to return. He was not only about 150 miles from the earthquake this week, he's now flying home while a hurricane is nearby. Good grief! 

I'm heading to bed now with a really good book, In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larsen, the author of "Devil in the White City", another amazing book. This guy makes history so fascinating you don't want to put it down. That said, last night I had nightmares about the Nazis. Very unpleasant.

Finally, if you are a fashionista, you may want to check out  Fall Fashion from the New York Times.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Keeper

Pinterest looks like a very fun website--I don't exactly know how it works, but you might.

Neither Bruce nor I really need a thing, nor, for that matter, do we want much. Looking around at the mall for a little something to get Bruce for our anniversary I began looking at the books displayed for sale at Urban Outfitters. If you've been there you know they have a lot of funky things, including all these toy cameras.
I've forgotten already what one is meant to do with those skulls. If you haven't been there, now you know. Anyway, there were lots of books to learn things from, or at least the short version of things. Thinking about Bruce's schedule, I realized that with such limited time for leisure, that would only make him feel bad because he would have no time to read it. It was then that I came across a book that was only for fun. Maybe you've already heard of Awkward Family Photos. I had not but I recognized immediately that it would be good for some laughs, and I mean serious laughs. I've given you the link to their web page which is filled with both new photos and their Hall of Fame. I insist that you check it out! Not only are the photos hilarious, but the captions are great. I just saw one on their site with a woman in a bed having just given birth to her first child at a birthing center. Standing by her side is a couple from the room next door, both of whom are wearing only tops, as in no underwear. When you read her description, you will never believe it.

Included in the book is a photograph of a mother and her two daughters, all dressed in plaid shirts and jeans. The poor little girl in the middle has a gigantic wet spot on the front, evidence of having peed in her pants. Her mother, who must have a serious mean streak, sent it out as a New Year's card if you can imagine! As an adult, she still hears from people how they've never forgotten that card. For sure.

Which reminded me of a story. I'm pretty sure I've never shared this before. Talk about awkward.....

Some of you know that I was a bed wetter until what I thought was 13, however, discussing this story with Bruce, he seems to think I was EVEN OLDER! So, I think I was a high school student. My parents had tried everything with no success to get me to stop, including one summer when I had to measure my urine and write it in a steno book. That's another story. This effort included a trip to a urologist who performed a cystocopy on me in the office with no anesthesia. Don't know what a cystocopy is? Well, they put a metal tube into the urethra, looking around the bladder for abnormalities. Imagine being maybe 14 and having that done. Not much fun as I recall. What really scared me though was peeing after the procedure.

This was probably when I knew that I had a "keeper" in love with me. That night we met at the football game. What I remember is that I started getting edgy the longer I waited to pee. Finally, when I guess I was getting mean, I told Bruce what I'd been through. Furthermore, I told him I was so scared I was waiting until I fell asleep to pee, then I wouldn't know if it hurt. True story my friends. That darling boy was so kind to me, never even freaking out for a minute. I told you he was amazing. To think that we married only five years later, seems incredible to me now. My mother always said, no one wets the bed once they are married and she was right. Actually, I've no clue how or when I did finally quit.

At the market on Sunday, my friend, Dr. Denver Severt came to shop. Bless his heart, he bought 13 things from me! What pray tell is he going to do with them you ask? Lord only knows. He is a UCF professor, unlike probably any teacher you've ever seen or met. I found this video online:
I've Got a Feeling  I've tried everything to embed this with no success. PLEASE click on it and see him in action.

He talks a mile a minute, saying the craziest things, jumping from topic to topic. He came to the booth around 11 in the morning, staying until 2, talking to anyone who would listen. I like Denver a lot. The thing is, he seems like he's crazy, but he's brilliant and does a lot of public speaking. Apparently, he'd given the last of the prints he'd bought from me before away to the audience member who asked the best question.

One of many questions he asked me on Sunday was, "when did you know you were different from most folks?" Thinking for a few minutes (which is hard to do with Denver around), I realized how much wetting the bed, and at times, my pants, shaped me. I rarely got to spend the night with girls except for those whose mothers were kind enough to buy plastic sheets. I smelled. My poor mother, and by extension me and my sisters because we had to do laundry. I did not form really close friendships because I was embarrassed. And then along came Bruce....wonder boy!

At the party, after the cake cutting, I asked if anyone had a toast for Beth and Ed. Getting no response, I gave an impromptu one. "Bruce and I just celebrated our 38th wedding anniversary, here's wishing one for Beth and Ed!" Cheers! Trish told me a month or so earlier that for their wedding gift they hoped I would photograph Doggy and Super Banana. Say what?
Childhood friends. Have you ever seen a stuffed banana before? Much less one with a cape! The canvas turned out pretty darn cute. Which makes me think that we're all kind of different in our own way.

What I'm really trying to say is that am I ever glad that Bruce thought I was a "keeper" too.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Kittens in the Shower

Lord knows, Bruce and I have hosted many parties, both big and small. Each one holds special memories, whether it was me getting crazy drunk one time or Bill's bloodied face at another. Now, that's not fair of me is it? Bill having a bloodied face--what in the world could have happened?

This story goes back quite a ways, in fact, all the way back to when Bill and Dave were in the 8th grade and having their first boy-girl party at our home. Bruce and I tried to stay in the background, however, when trouble arose, we were Johnny on the spot. You may find this hard to believe but, it's a true story! Back then Jolly Rancher candy was quite popular. As such, I placed some bowls strategically around the party area. Well.....the kids began throwing said Jolly Ranchers with one making an unfortunate landing on Bill's hairline. Someone came running saying Bill's face was covered in blood. Can you imagine his embarrassment? Because there are so many blood vessels on our faces, any cut tends to bleed profusely. Thank a razor nick gentleman. Poor Bill--I put him over the kitchen sink, eventually getting the small cut to stop. Now that's a party story for you! It still makes me laugh.

Saturday's party will be remembered as well. Friday afternoon I spent time organizing things inside after mowing the lawn in the early morning before the heat became unbearable. Where to put the plates? What about the food? Centerpiece? That sort of thing. Because Bruce was working from home, once the lawn was done, he put up my tent. One thing off the list.

Although I get most of the credit for hostessing, without Bruce there would be no party. He does all the behind the scene work such as putting out trash cans, filling torches, getting extra chairs out and the list goes on. In this case, while I was at the market on Saturday he put up Beth's tent, moved the tables, and got everything ready to go. Once I returned around 2, after a quick dip in the pool, I finished things off. Trish arrived around 3:30 with fruits and vegetables for trays.

Although the party was scheduled for a 5:00 start, some guests traveling from St. Pete couldn't wait, arriving at 4:30. I was still in my bathing suit! I threw on some clothes, no makeup, nothing done with my post swimming hair and it began.

Between replenishing the food and cutting the cake, I took a few pictures. Presenting the bride and groom:
I must say that we have an excellent layout for hosting parties, with guests having multiple choices of seating and in general moving around. This particular party, each and every room saw some action.
I was surprised at how many people went swimming:
It made us happy that so many folks were able to enjoy the water:
There were children:
 and old folks, or at least one of them. This is Mr. Roger's 82 year old mother:
This cute boy told me he wasn't allowed to swim because of bad ears, however that didn't seem to keep him from having fun.
Then there was this young girl who was too shy to have her picture made:
Although we had the tents set up in case of both rain or heat, the weather cooperated beautifully with only a very few sprinkles around 5, followed by clear skies and a drop in the temperature.
By now you must be wondering, if you pay attention to my titles, what could today's title possibly mean. Pretty much what is says.

As the party continued I saw quite a number of people heading into our bedroom which surprised me just a bit. If the guest bathroom is in use, by all means use ours, however that was not the case when I saw this happening. I discovered that a couple brought some very tiny kittens in a carrier to the party. Wondering where they would be safe, Bruce suggested they put them in our SHOWER! Count me flabbergasted on that one!

Soon thereafter, a couple asked if I would mind if they set up a portable crib in one of the bedrooms for this little guy who wore himself out:
That was fine by me, however, some of the guest had used that room for changing so before he could go to sleep I thought I'd moved all the clothing to my office.

A little later yet, I saw a young man heading to our bedroom while the hallway bathroom was vacant. I was, once again, flabbergasted when he said he was going in there to take a shower. Say what? A shower, he replied. All I could say was that he'd have a problem in my shower because there were kittens in there! Furthermore, I neglected to move his shirt from the room where the toddler was sleeping. Oh my! Opening the door I discovered he was lying there awake peacefully listening to the sound machine they brought. Fortunately I was able to grab the showering young man's shirt without incident. What next?

I'll tell you what was next--after cleaning up the kitchen, putting my counters aright, I went to bed!  Bruce, by this time, was dozing in his chair. I told Beth and Eddie to wake Bruce up when they were ready to leave so he could extinguish the candles, the torches and lock up. Because I was dead asleep I never heard a thing.

5:30 Sunday, there was my darling husband in the back yard taking down the tent to load it for market day. Once again, without Bruce, there would be no Gail, Out & About Photography. Instead, we might just be home on Sundays enjoying that pool together. Now, that's a thought!

I hear the garbage truck out there emptying the four giant cans, the last of the evidence of what I hoped, was a good time had by all.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Atypical

Just down the street and around the corner, off Holden Avenue, the Russell Home for Atypical Children has been caring for special needs children for more than 50 years without any governmental support. The story of this place is rich and I invite you to click on the link to learn more about the wonderful work they accomplish. When you do, you'll discover that the children they take in grow old there. You'll also discover that they can use all manner of financial support if you are so inclined.

So what does that have to do with Mrs. Camera Crazy you wonder? Well, I've mentioned before that I'm tiring of volunteering at the museum. I've felt for quite some time that what talent I have is not being utilized there. An easy fit would have been something at one of the area hospitals, however, I was hoping for something along those lines, but not having to be involved with all the red tape required. Anymore, they do drug testing, background checks, classes--you get my drift.

Once Corrine was released from the hospital the first time, they sent her to a rehab/nursing home on Annie Street called Delaney Park Health and Rehabilitation Center. Forgive me if I've mentioned this before but when we were young teenagers, our grandmother was in the very same place--something like 45 years ago. While visiting her, it occurred to me that maybe they used volunteers so I went about finding out the requirements. They aren't much. An application with a reference was pretty much it. Regina wrote that for me, saying I had common sense.

Annie Lee, the activities director I'll be working with, asked me via email if I would be available to come on Tuesday, when what she called, "the Russell Home girls", were coming to sing and dance for the residents. After three hours of sitting at the museum with no visitors last week, I jumped at the opportunity. Naturally, I let Trudy at the museum know I wouldn't be coming, and she was very understanding.

Arriving with my camera about 15 minutes before the girls, I watched as Annie assembled the wheelchair- bound residents around the dining room. I introduced myself to a number of them, some of whom were remarkably lucid, some not so much. And then there was Babe, or at least that's what she likes to be called. Although Annie warned me she could be very mean, when she looked like she needed some help I went over to her, getting an earful for my efforts! Not only did she tell me I was going to hell, she said the girls were as well. Hmmmm....
The moment arrived when the "girls" walked confidently into the dining room with Beverly, their driver and helper. She introduced each one, as well as letting us know they were all engaged! To whom you ask? The likes of Keith Urban, Brad Paisley, Billy Ray Cyrus, and one of the Jonas boys! Proudly they showed off their rings! A few of the residents visited with them beforehand.
And then the music began, with each one doing a solo, followed by a group song and dance. 
This one is my favorite of the bunch I think. Shooting into the bright window was a big challenge for me because I'm not skilled enough to know how to overcome the light. I did what I could. At any rate, all was going well until such time as a screeching fire alarm check went off for what seemed like forever! Although the singer was not fazed, you can see that the noise really hurt their ears, bringing two of them to tears. The girls, aged 22-43, sang along to one of their favorite country songs. Somehow, although one of them is nearly deaf they managed to make sounds and were so proud of themselves, you couldn't help but get into the spirit. This resident was tapping along to the beat:
They did their group song:
Followed by a synchronized dance routine:
It was really remarkable. I used my video function on the camera for the first time on purpose. That's one thing about the Olympus that is really frustrating--I'm always hitting it by mistake! I had no real idea how to do it, but I did get a few good seconds which shows off their skills--trouble is, I've no idea now what to do with it! After they concluded their act, I asked them if they'd like to have a portrait shot done with enthusiastic yeses all around. You should have seen them posing. Now this is what volunteering should be about!

Every other Tuesday afternoon there is a woman who brings her dog to visit with the residents, however, the dog was sick yesterday. I couldn't help myself--I told Annie that Baxter and I would return at 2:30 for the visitation. Baxter is a shaggy mess right now, which I can't do anything about, but after eating lunch, I did bathe him. As if they cared....

Walking in the front door with Baxie on his leash, there were immediate comments on what a cutie he is. Well, that doesn't surprise you does it? Of course not--he is the cutest dog in the world! He was nervous however, with his little tail tucked along with the shivers. I held him and sat with the residents outside the dining room before heading down the hallway into the rooms of the bedridden. He brought joy to many faces my friends. Trouble was that somehow, before we went room hopping, he began limping, keeping all his weight off his back left leg. What happened I can't tell you. Never once, in the five plus years we've had him, has he limped. So, I carried him. He let the blind man rub his whole head, smiled, or at least his version of a smile for others, and in general made folks happy to see his sweet little face. 

Returning home, I examined Baxter at length; he showed no signs of pain, nor did I find anything to explain the limping. This morning I discovered that Yorkies oftentimes have a slipping knee joint which may explain the problem. He's resting comfortably now with only occasional limping. I'm going to give it another day to see if he improves without medical intervention.

Despite the tongue lashing I received from "Babe", I'll go back. It was indeed an atypical day for me.


Monday, August 15, 2011

Nervous Habits of a Thin Person

Although I've never been described quite like the title suggests, once Nancy said it about me, I realized she may indeed be right. I have trouble sitting still.

Early this morning, after making blueberry pancakes for breakfast, I went out back to do one thing, which led to another and another...Before long I'd filled four gigantic trash cans with trimmings! Bruce had both a dentist appointment (for a crown), and a doctor's appointment (for a checkup) this morning before leaving on a four day business trip. Departing for the airport he cautioned me "not to get too carried away!" As if  I would...

This week is our 38th wedding anniversary, a very important occasion indeed. Mostly we see things eye to eye, however, in regards to our yard, Bruce is of the jungle mindset, whereas I like it as neat as possible. So, it is somewhere in the middle--parts are neat, parts are jungly. When asked by folks "what is your secret?", I often say that marriage is a balancing act. Sometimes you get your way, sometimes you don't. Just be happy and don't sweat little things like always having it your way; before long, 38 happy years will have passed! And, if you're really lucky, you'll have a bunch of children as well.

This has been a super busy weekend, with me trying a new market on Saturday. Winter Garden, a small town 20+ miles from our home, is Dana's latest venture. City officials asked her if she could work a little of her magic on their market ; after seeing the lovely location, along with their willingness to accept her recommendations, she took it over. She asked if I would try it. I agreed. Heading out of the driveway at 6:30ish to make the drive and set up before 8, my expectations for sales were low. Good thing because sales were hard to come by, however, I see potential. Most people who stopped by were unprepared for what I had to sell, because either they were on their bicycle, or were there only to buy vegetables. I can understand that perfectly well. That said, most seemed excited at the prospect of their market growing beyond that. Here's the beautiful pavilion the city built just for the market:
I took this before many of the tents were set up, thus the empty look. Because I don't bring a tent, Dana positioned me perfectly under the pavilion and facing the produce, giving me excellent exposure. As you can see I brought a small easel, setting "Lazy Daisy" on it to grab folks attention which it did.
There's just something about blue. My neighbor was a delightful young woman, same age as the twins, who makes purses that were quite good. All in all, I'm delighted I did it, if only for a change of pace.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the air conditioner repair folks were working on our unit. You may recall in an earlier post that we were having some problems, which, despite Bruce's best efforts, were better left to the professionals. Friday night we woke up multiple times because the air conditioner kept shutting off, as well as another problem surfaced during the night. Both Bruce and I heard some weird thumping noise, which we thought was outside our bedroom windows. If you can imagine, it was not only not outside, nor anywhere near our bedroom, but out in the living room. The cable box was going crazy. So, although I was looking forward to getting out of the heat and watching the golf tournament when I got home Saturday afternoon, the cable box was kaput. So...Sunday, after setting me up at the market, Bruce came home to await the cable guy, who not only came on time but was pleasant. You should see our sleek new box! What's more, during Nancy's visit she noticed, as we had for along time, that the audio and video were not synchronized. Well, now they are.

It is no secret that we are having a rat problem in the backyard. Just ask Nancy or Lisa. As such, Bruce has tried valiantly to eradicate the pesky rodents. While I was doing my trimming, AND, more importantly before Bruce left, I was pulling and cutting ferns, when I saw some black thing with what I thought was a rat in it. I went running for Bruce--honey, honey, I think I see a rat! Apparently, he got caught in the trap behind the shed and dragged it some feet before I discovered him. He is buried now.


Let's take a look at how the yard looks, only five days pre-party:
See those cute colorful glass mushrooms? Solar powered, they light up for a few hours at night. While Nancy was here she put them together for me. I almost returned them before opening the box because I couldn't think of a place to use them, however, I love how they match the color of the crotons. If you're wondering what that box with the holes in it is, I'll tell you. It's a rat killer, or at least it is supposed to be. Bruce puts a dab of peanut butter inside luring the rat to his death by electrocution. I know this sounds really cruel, but apparently, it is one of the more humane ways to deal with rats. In the past, this worked like a charm, however, this season, ants have been eating the peanut butter before the rats have a chance. Oh, the joys of having a big yard!
As you can plainly see, the grass in the foreground is still struggling. Imagine how it's going to look after ninety guests are here on Saturday! We've tried everything with very limited success. More importantly, let's all pray for no rain!

Friday, continuing my cleaning ways, I finally put a little sparkle back into our bedroom, actually using furniture polish! I've always loved this picture of the Peck men:
Last Tuesday, I finally took my Nikon camera for a cleaning. The above photo shows me once again practicing the manual focus. On the right is a little green notebook I carried to London to write in. Aside from maybe two pages, it went unused. Formally, that's the way I've kept track of a trip, however, on this one, we were just plain too busy for me to write. Horror of horrors, I had to rely on my memory once we returned, explaining my long posts about the trip.

Completely unrelated but, sometimes I like flowers even more when they are past their prime. How about you?
Even more unrelated, Thursday evening I grilled corn for the first time ever. Man, was it tasty, even more so because I used that terrific Peri-Peri seasoning rather than salt.
I'm looking forward to making this for Matthew when he comes home for Thanksgiving. I have a feeling he might like it very much.

Beth just left. We talked over some of the details--seating, decorations, food placement. That kind of stuff. I need to bring in Angela for a decorating consultation because, I for one, am not so good at that, and for two, neither is Beth. Call in the British!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Sparkling Clean

At the outset, let's get this straight, I'll be the first to admit to undervaluing the allure of sparkle and shine. Who knew my things could look so nice without a layer of grease and grime? Deep down, I'm sure I did, however, making the effort to get there has not been my strong suit. Yesterday, I made that effort.

The morning began gray and gloomy. In fact, not long after getting up, the rain began falling. That ruled out going swimming.
Unlike our typical rainstorms, this one was nice and easy--no thunder or lightening--just soft rain. Before it came on in earnest, I spent about an hour and a half, working in the yard, weeding and trimming. Although I got slightly wet before I quit, it was preferable to baking in the sun. While outside, I looked diligently for our babies with no success.

As well, we have a slight problem with the pool finish; some dark spots are appearing on the bottom. The company has been responsive, sending out a fellow yesterday morning. I don't know about you, but it is VERY hard for me to look someone in the eye who has a tattooed bald head, scraggly beard, and lisps because of something embedded in their tongue. I did my best. He may look kinda scary, but he seems to be knowledgable and that's what we need. Worst case scenario is draining the pool and treating the shell with acid. Let's hope it doesn't come to that!

In homage to Nancy, I decided to seriously clean the kitchen. If you can imagine it took me hours and hours. We now have a perfect toaster, shiny kettle, impeccable stove, and more. I emptied the canisters and washed them as well.
You might notice the 409 on the windowsill--Nancy has definitely convinced me of it's usefulness. I washed all the cupboards, polished the dishwasher and take a look at this stove:
Sparkle! That backsplash and granite around the stove were pretty gross, covered with spattered grease that has been on there for who knows how long!

I had the weirdest experience while this was going on. My doorbell rang and it was an elderly woman looking for my neighbor Marion who lives across the street on the front side of our home. She explained that she was there for a visit and despite having scheduled it, Marion wasn't home. Marion is another of my neighbors in her 80's. After her heart attack a few years ago, she's had a helper who comes several times a week, driving her places, and I suspect keeping her company more than anything. I related this to the woman whose name I'm not sure I ever got. Anyway, I told her they most likely would be returning soon and did she want to wait inside. She did.

Although I suggested she sit in the living room, she couldn't hear me. I wasn't about to quit my cleaning for a stranger. No telling if I would have finished had I done so. In the 45 minutes she was there in the kitchen with me,  I discovered that she also is in her 80's, and despite having three daughters in town, they are mostly too busy for her. In other words, another lonely soul. I learned more, but all the while she talked, I scrubbed and scrubbed on that stove.

Then it was time to tackle the stuff above the cupboards. That's one thing about having lots of decorative items. Lots to collect dust. I got the ladder out and started bringing things down. It was pretty darn icky I'll tell you that much. Not everything was as gross as this soup tureen which was stationed above the stove:
Outrageous the amount of grime!!! You see that white middle? That's what the whole thing looks like if there were an excellent housekeeper around here. While cleaning it I kept puzzling about who gave me this. How long ago? That sort of thing. Well, take a look at what a bit of 409, red scrubby thing and dishwashing soap will do:
Much better indeed. One by one I washed everything and there is a lot. The photo below is less than stellar, however, for those of you who've not been in my kitchen before, it gives you an idea about what one side looks like:
By the way, the top of that fridge was pretty nasty as well! See how everything sparkles in the sunlight? Tremendous! Luckily, last night, I had some leftovers to eat for dinner, because after doing the whole kitchen, including washing the fan and floor, I mowed the lawn. Hey, it was cool from the rainy day. Why not?

After bridge today, I came home to my sparkling clean kitchen, to cook. Rhubarb is hard to find in the South and when you are married to a Northern boy like I am, you buy it when it comes to market. This year I'm making a rhubarb crisp recipe from the  New York Times which I'm hoping Bruce will enjoy.
Those canisters are blinding they are so clean! Bruce has been in Casper, Wyoming all week, however, not long ago he called once he landed in Orlando. As such, I expect I best get in that sparkling kitchen to rustle up a little something more than a dessert!

Finally, from what I'm hearing, the riots have quieted somewhat in London. Truth be told, one of the reasons I did all that yesterday was to distract me from worrying about our man in London. Mostly I'm not a worrier--something about this situation though was getting to me. Busy hands help.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Breathing A Little Easier

So, I just got off a little Face Time chat with Matthew who assures me I need not worry. Easy for him to say! Actually, he did ease my mind just a bit. For those who've not been following the news, there is widespread mayhem in London with violence, burning of buildings, and looting. When I read that there were riots in Hackney, I nearly panicked. Remember I said I'd roamed on Hackney Road one morning?
Sadly, there are other cities in England experiencing violence as I type. We discussed that most British policeman do not carry guns,  mostly clubs (?), which must be very frightening indeed. God bless those brave souls. I felt so darn safe in London, and ordinarily I believe that is the case. Darn those bad boys!

Oddly enough, while reading a short story called Neighbour Rosicky, by Willa Cather, at the museum this morning, it contained these few lines:

"In the country, if you had a mean neighbour, you could keep off his land and make him keep off yours. But in the city, all the foulness and misery and brutality of your neighbors was part of your life"

Yesterday was not such a great day for me. Every now and then, my old illness rises to the surface, draining me of all energy. Although I slept for ten hours Saturday night, nearly that on Sunday night, I still couldn't manage to do much at all on Monday. Waking up this morning after yet another marathon sleeping session, I knew right away, that for the moment, the lethargy is gone. I was up and at 'em bright and early, as in 5:45, accomplishing more in the hours before I left for the museum than all of yesterday put together. Hurray!

I did manage yesterday, after writing my blog, to jot down notes about what I really meant to say if I'd been thinking clearly. Let's go over that list right now.

  • This sort of thing makes me crazy. No wonder EVERYONE feels less attractive. The images presented in the media are all a result of using PHOTOSHOP excessively!
  • My friend Robin posted this and I couldn't agree more: "When gifts are given to me through my camera, I accept them graciously. (Minor White)
  • There are not one, but two, baby cardinals in the nest. I went to check on Momma Cardinal and lo and behold what I saw through the branches was a little mouth peeking out of the nest! I ran to tell Bruce who suggested I get the ladder to try to see from above. I couldn't see a thing. He, on the other hand, saw the two of them. I'll soon be looking all over the yard, or really, listening for their little cheeps, and hopefully, we all will be seeing their development soon. I needn't tell you that I'm hoping they both survive.
  • For months now I've been looking for my previous wallet because I knew it contained my SS card. During all our cleaning I kept hoping we would come across the darn thing. We didn't. From the time I was 12, I've had that card in my wallet, so don't go thinking I'm a loser or anything. And why, pray tell did I want to find it? These days, when renewing one's drivers license, one needs not one, not two, not three, but FOUR pieces of identification. What a stupid pain. Post 9/11 hysteria in action.
  • I found it! While retrieving some blank music CDs to use for Bill's iPod, I merely wondered what was in a box. Yup! Just when I was NOT looking, I found it. Happy Days.
For four years plus I've been taking photographs nearly every single day. While Nancy was here, mostly I didn't have the time, so once she left. I got busy. I got out my Nikon to practice, using the manual focus with the results below:
There's our little watch dog on the front path, ready to bark his little head off if a stranger appears.

By now you're sick to death of my bird bath, but I'm not:
You know I have caladiums, but did you know Angela has them as well? She bought the only one of this kind while we were together. I'd have fought her for it but she's way younger and taller.
Isn't the color terrific? Next year...

One of the things I kept from Bill and Dave's treasures was this signed, Major League baseball:
I can't read the signatures or anything but it makes for good photography practice.

Just before we went to England I finally had to give up on my beloved petunias. The English folks knew this and were kind enough to have planted oodles of them in all the gorgeous hanging baskets I saw. Nice folks, those Brits.  Replacing them with periwinkles, I expected upon our return to find them nicely settled in their new pots. They were not. Actually, to be more specific, one of them looked very shabby indeed, caused by the excessive rain from not only the sky, but the overflowing gutter above it. Because they'd not been there too long, my attachment was not great. Once again, I was on the hunt for something to make it through the summer. I found these wonderful plants at none other than our market. 
Mostly I bought them for their colorful foliage, not even realizing until I took this photograph that there are tiny little purple flowers as a bonus. Plus, apparently, lizards like them too!

Allrighty now. I've covered my notes, I've covered that both Matt and Tom are safely eating dinner at home, and I've covered my little down time. I'm breathing much easier now.

Limping Along