Friday, May 30, 2014

Urban Nature

Sunday, while talking to the gentleman with the sugar gliders, I asked him what would inspire someone to carry around a pouch with four tiny marsupials, name them, and in general, treat them as pets. He responded by saying that his children were now grown, and these were his "replacement children." Well, he didn't really call them that, I did, however, that was his implication.

No one would ever accuse me of not loving my children, in fact, in my younger days I was a real "mama bear!" Woe to anyone who thought ill of the Peck boys! Bruce was my tether, keeping me from both embarrassing the boys, and myself. But this mama bear knows that all good things must come to an end, and by the grace of God, all four of our sons have made their way into the world, leaving the nest as it were. So, there are no replacement children around, if you don't count Baxter, and I don't, instead, there are natural delights found just outside our window.

Earlier this year, I was bemoaning the fact that I saw no cardinal nests in our yard for the first time in many. Well, I was wrong. Apparently they fooled me this spring because Wednesday evening, while fixing dinner, look what I saw through the glass door!
Oh my gosh it was so cute watching them!!! She looks to be about teenager age by now. Where has she been hiding???

Sunday morning the lawn sprinklers run, and while looking out my same kitchen window, I saw a butterfly kind of scooting on the deck. It is hard to describe, but the water was sprinkling like mad, and I thought the butterfly was in some sort of trouble. Shows you what I know. After the water stopped I went outside to investigate, finding the butterfly attached to the bottom of a shrub.
What do you think this meant? I'm fairly confidant butterflies don't eat little worms, just as I'm pretty confidant they are not rescuers of the same. It was while I was getting ready for the market, or should have been, but I just couldn't resist going out multiple times to see what was happening. Probably about a half an hour later, the worm was gone.
This was very low to the ground, so you can imagine anyone watching me, practically on my belly taking these photographs, would think I'd gone plum crazy!

Birds have been plentiful of late, both in the trees and on the bird feeders. Regina loves the seed pods on a tabebuia tree which form after blooming, staying there for quite some time. This little Carolina Wren seemed to as well.
It is not often that I post photographs of Blue Jays because, frankly, they are sort of the bullies around here, and I've never been fond of bullies. That said, I've taken two pretty decent BJ photos of late, one sort of pretty, while the other is intriguing. You decide which is which! This big boy is just below the back yard feeder on a pot of marigolds planted by Mr. Peck.
He has convinced me to add more and more flowers, claiming my little garden was entirely too bare. I kept saying I didn't know where else to put anything, however, he proved to be right. The various flowers are growing all over each other.
The kind of flowers I'm most fond of re-seed themselves like this little pretty which arose from the dead. Aren't they sweet?
 Don't think I've forgotten the second blue jay--ta da!
The other evening we ate dinner in the sunroom because there were several colorful frames drying on the kitchen table where we normally sit. My chair faces the yard, and of course, one of the feeders. If you are squeamish you may want to close your eyes and scroll down quickly. In a post on urban nature I feel compelled to show both the good, and the bad!
Needless to say, this did not a thing for my appetite!! Plus another one showed up!!! E gad! Make them stop!!! And to that I will add Bruce is doing what he can.

All those flowers have been attracting butterflies as well--hurray!
More please--that's the kind of nature I prefer in our yard.

Speaking of pets, most mornings when I'm riding, I see cats out and about. It's not often though that I see one that is this shade.
Lots of mixed breeds out in the streets.
Speaking of which, it is time for me to get out on the street myself before the heat of the day becomes more than I can bear. I hope you've enjoyed the urban nature around us, and you can count on more in the future as it is ever changing. That said, let's hope I have no further rat photos to post!!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014


In spite of what it seems like from my blog, we have had a little fun here and there. Make that some entertaining, and some educational, which in my world is one and the same.

Before heading over to Bill's house one day last week, I made a visit to our local Orange County Extension Office, otherwise known to locals as the Ag Center. Several of my friends volunteer garden expertise there for homeowners like myself. They've gone through the Master Gardeners Volunteer Program which according to this link requires 70 hours of learning, followed by 75 additional hours of volunteer work. My friends weren't there that day, but there were two others who were more than happy to answer my plant questions. One was regarding Bruce's tomato plants. I learned it is too late in the season for them, however, since last week he does have one tiny tomato, and multiple flowers, so maybe we'll get lucky.

A number of years ago they moved the center to a big parcel of land on South Conway Road, not too far from our home. I was stunned with what I saw behind the center. Driving by, which we've done countless times, you would never know there are beautiful gardens behind the buildings. The first thing I saw were gorgeous palm trees surrounded by gorgeous caladiums. You know what a sucker I am for both!
They divided this large area into gardens by type, including a fruit area with blackberries, or so I think that is what these are!
 I am no master gardener that's for sure! The whole area looks like this:
There is a shed, which I've yet to show Bruce, adjacent to the hydroponics garden. You know how he loves a good shed.
Not so far from the airport, it came as no surprise when a plane flew by..
Florida clouds for my dear friend Karen! So, not only did I get answers to my questions, but I had the privilege of seeing lovely gardens. That's a win/win in my book.

A visit to Renninger's in Mt. Dora was our Saturday fun, which was sorely needed after two retirees worked full time the previous week! A combination antique center, and flea market, housed in two separate buildings, there was so much to see you cannot take it all in. Not in a morning that's for sure!

Where shall I start? Perhaps where we did? The antique center houses indoor stalls, if you will, of more stuff than you can imagine. You know you are getting old when the things you have in your kitchen are called "antiques." I was particularly enamored of this display which is suspect antiquey!
Antiquey is my made up word for a great deal of what we saw. I was delighted, on the other hand, when I saw this Jordan Marsh hatbox, the store where I purchased my wedding gown among other things. Come to think of it, our wedding registry was at JM.
There is a tree lined street with little shops selling everything, sometimes the rustier the better, like this chair sporting a SOLD sign!
There are shops for gardeners, a particularly nice one shown here:
The flea market was even more incredible--words fail me. Some of it was indoors, some outdoors. Did I mention it was incredibly hot? Well, it was. You might be thinking to yourself, "didn't they get enough heat for the week?", and there is definitely some truth to your thinking. I was super glad when we made our way into the air conditioning, seeing shops so silly we mostly passed by them. Don't believe me?
Now you do!

As I said, you can find just about anything out there. Care for a pair of outdoor stuffed monkeys?
Now you know just where to find them.

Sunday was also brutally hot--the first day we brought the mega-fan which worked beautifully. Because it was both strikingly hot, and a holiday weekend, I figured sales would be abysmal, however, much to my delight, they were just fine. During the long hot afternoon, I still had folks coming in, both buying, and visiting. One man really took me by surprise when he began opening a red pouch attached to his belt. Here's what came out of it:
Know what these are? I certainly did not. When the first one popped it's head out, I told him, "wait, let me get my camera and take his picture---I write a blog, and this is most definitely blog worthy!" He responded, "which one?" Say what?
"There are more than one??" FOUR little sugar gliders  came crawling out of the pouch, which I'm linking to, in the event you want to know more about these "pets". In seven years, this, my friends, was a first! Have you seen one yourself? I've seen all manner of interesting things, but never a sugar glider.

Sunday night I switched the channel to PBS around 8PM, and am I ever glad I did. When the National Memorial Day Concert began, Bruce thought it would be merely symphonic music which is not at the top of his list of favorite types of music. It was much, much more. I'm pretty sure I cried through about 60 of the 90 minute broadcast. Featured were some stories about wounded, or killed young soldiers, one of whom is a man named Jon Peck. He not only lost his legs, but one entire arm, and about 1/3 of the other. Never have I been more grateful for my whole, healthy sons. God bless those families that have had to endure such pain.

After watching the program, going to bed with swollen eyes, we determined that we would not let another Memorial Day pass without actually participating in the true meaning of the national holiday. After all, Bruce's Dad served in WWII, as did his Uncle Rolla who was killed and buried at sea in the Pacific Ocean. It took this program to make me realize in a graphic way how horrible Hazel and Rolla Loveland must have felt when they received a telegram telling them their only son had been killed. I suppose it must be part of getting old; life becomes all the more precious. We saw in the paper that a ceremony was planned at Greenwood Cemetery where both of my parents are buried.
Tears were shed during the service, however, there was a lighter moment when this Color Guard
was a little late returning for the removal of the flag. So, at least there was that.

Later in the day we did the typical holiday thing--a cookout which was severely hampered by a two hour, three inch downpour!
We were over at Lake Pineloch which was almost sporting white caps in the wind and rain. Finally it stopped and the sun returned but only for a little while.
Nonetheless, we had a good time with Dave, Michelle, Bill, Burch, and the other folks down by the pool.

There you have it--we do know how to have fun every now and again!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Precision and Production

Well now, that was some kind of week.

Working on a house requires two kinds of workers, those who deliver precision, and those who deliver production. In this case, Bruce, and me to a lesser degree, delivered the precision while Bill kicked it in gear and painted like there was no tomorrow. Yes, the house is finally being transformed, not just on the inside but the outside as well.
I should just stop writing about the weather entirely because my last post said the weather was lovely; Thursday and Friday, it was anything but! My goodness it got hot! There were times when I thought I just could not go on, and in fact, after I did the courtyard, I had to clean my roller, and give in, not only because of the heat, but that stucco is mighty hard to paint, especially when you use paint that is like thick mud! That would be a product called something like, elastimerit, designed to fill cracks. After drying the little hairline cracks in the stucco were all but invisible.

But, I'm getting ahead of myself. Before any painting could commence, Bruce had to build something to straddle the front steps, as well as take down a crassly made rafter cover.
The previous owners nailed that wood on the right to hold it up but it is now a thing of the past. Not only did he take it down but he carefully cut pieces to fit the openings. This was no easy task, well let's face it, none of this has been easy, but anyway, in this instance that metal was very, very sharp.

Starting early, but not nearly early enough on Thursday, Bill said he was going to get a lot of the painting done and did he ever deliver. Meanwhile Bruce was in the kitchen with the cabinets which looked like this when he started on Thursday.
Unless you've been through something like this you would never notice all the precision that goes into making a kitchen work. Bruce drew the range hood on the wall to make sure of the spacing. The cabinets have to be level, there are electrical boxes to be cut into the back, spacing has to be perfect, and adding to all that, these all wood cabinets are heavy. Then on the other side of the kitchen there is more of the same, as well as the plumbing to think about. Let's put it this way, it has been both frustrating, and a learning experience! If memory serves me, Bill was just a baby when Bruce last built and hung cabinets. My sister Carol, built a house in Melbourne when she was very young.Those cabinets were made of Formica and yellow? Seems like a lifetime ago...

There is still plastic covering the pass through to minimize the dust, however, it won't be long before it comes down, the walls get finished, the granite countertop is made and installed...
The open spaces are for the dishwasher, and the refrigerator which these days has it's own little house. No on will ever know that this kitchen was once the biggest eyesore in the house with weird duct work coming down very low which is now raised and part of it is housed in the back of that over the fridge cabinet, another project requiring precision to the max!
Herbert has been the man to install both the plumbing and the electrical work, doing a fantastic job with everything. I can't imagine where this project would be without his hard work!

As a reminder, here's the front of the house after the window was taped, the box to straddle the steps was in place and we were ready to paint.
After much trial and error, Bill picked a Sherwin Williams color called latte for the body, a sand color for the trip and dark brown for the balcony deck and the fence. Here is the transformation.
He has some lovely light fixtures ready to hang when Herbert gets to it. The travertine steps, which were a hard fought battle done months ago look really great with the color. Needless to say we are very pleased with how things are shaping up both inside and out. Barely waiting for the paint to dry, I hung the little birdhouse back up.
By Friday afternoon, when the temperature reached about 95 degrees we called it a day and Bill's promise to produce was for real. Here's how far he got.
I should have gone down to the street to get the full effect, however, I think I was just plain too hot and tired by then. Earlier in the week Bruce removed the existing mailbox, placing it on a 2x4 he buried in the ground until such time as a replacement is found. Herbert, the wizard will paint the parts we cannot reach, as well as spray the trim, because in spite of our enthusiasm, we do not have the necessary tools to accomplish these tasks. He not only has a sprayer, but scaffolding as well. In the very first photo you see Bill using an extending pole which was both a blessing, and a curse. When it worked it was fantastic, but the slightest pressure caused the end to break off in the roller--the impetus for some words better left off this blog!

The pool is still sea foam green...
Not very attractive, that chair is one of four which, before the furniture was here, made having lunch a little more relaxing than having to sit on the floor.

Yesterday, after doing a little maintenance on our pool, I had Bruce photograph me diving in for the first time this season. Ahhhh....
did it ever feel good and why wouldn't it when the temperature is 96 degrees!

Which is about what is facing me once I get to the market for the day. Bruce mentioned last night that if ever there were a day to skip it, this might be it, however, I've got a woman driving over from Lakeland to pick up a print. So, off I go to get ready, with thoughts of this inviting pool to keep me going throughout the long, hot afternoon...

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Work Week

Talking to Nancy this morning, she mentioned that I've not posted lately about our work over at Bill's place. Believe me, we are still at it. Bruce, more so than me, but I'm pitching in where I can. Mostly, I'm the pool girl, and the painter, however, on Monday, I wielded the pressure washer on the house before....drum roll please...the exterior paint is applied!! Bill and Fallon chose some colors over the weekend, buying samples and painting various places on the outside to make sure. Sure, they are, and later this week, Lord willing and the creek don't rise, the painting will begin. So long pink, move over for taupe!!

Bill has chosen a super week to take off as the weather has been lovely for working. Remember last week when I said it hadn't rained much. Well, that was premature. The very next day, the sky looked like this,
with those storm clouds producing a bunch of rain, and I mean a bunch. It kept up for several days, but then, those stormy skies turned to this,
and pretty much have stayed like that for the past week! The market on Sunday was beautiful. Here's a little shot taken to show off my NEW FRAMED CANVASES!! I am so thrilled with them and am getting loads of compliments that I've passed on to the framer.
I'm going crazy picking out colors for the frames--so much fun!

The big news around these parts, the reason Bill took a week of vacation is that the cabinets were ready for pick up on Monday afternoon. While I painted crown molding, Bruce and Bill rented a truck, drove to the warehouse in Longwood, returning with twelve cabinets and trim boxed securely.
Once they were open, Bruce dreamed up a way to store them before installation day.
It's a good thing it's a big house! So yesterday was the beginning, which went very well. I was kind of a third wheel for most of the day, leaving early, so I only have photographic evidence of the first cabinet to go up, but not before a method had to be dreamed up by the carpenter in the family to attach the crown molding. Bill is using Herbert's nail gun for the top wood.
Herbert used the nail gun later to install crown molding throughout the house. What a big job, and that's what my agenda looks like for today. Re-painting all that molding, except this time on a ladder. One thing I did do yesterday was arrange to have a pool guy come out for a diagnosis.
In spite of all my efforts, I have NOT been able to maintain blue water. Well, now my earlier suspicions have been proven correct--the previous owner installed a woefully under-sized filter. The pool is gigantic, and the filter just cannot keep up. $500 will fix it, making the pool useable, which would be nice this weekend as the temperature is predicted to soar to 99!! This seems impossible, but I suppose time will tell.

After doing some surgery, or that's what I'm calling it, on the wall behind this, the first cabinet went up,
with the door removed for the install. It has been 30 years since Mr. Bruce hung cabinets, but once a cabinet maker, always a cabinet maker. He'd tell you differently, it was not without some pain involved, but he made it happen, and that is what counts. Adjacent to this cabinet is where the stove and big range hood will be. It is all such a process--don't believe those shows on HGTV--this is hard work and takes more time than you think!

In my last post, I mentioned that I'd gone to Winter Garden to meet up with Bev and Bonnie, but what I didn't tell you was why, aside from friendship. Miss Bonnie, now that she is retired, is exploring her love of art, painting in various mediums. Here she is in front of her very first piece in a gallery!!!!
Bev, a life-long friend, is understandably proud of her, and is capturing the moment. Her piece is just above her head. It was an exciting moment to say the least. Beforehand, I roamed down the main drag, seeing these in the window of the History Museum.
The original juice box--or orange, as it were. Winter Garden, before becoming the trendy little city it now is, was a mecca of orange production, as well as cattle. How times change...

Indeed they have at the market. Our long time afternoon performer, Joseph Martens, has moved away, and Dana is hiring various new folks, including this terrific duo who performed on a glorious Sunday afternoon.
Called Lucy Iris, this girl is terrific--wow, were we excited! When she sang Patsy Cline's "Crazy," I just about went crazy! Here's a video of her performing "Walking After Midnight," which is pretty darn great. Booked for every other week, I can't wait to hear her again--it sure made the day more fun.

So, it's back to work for me, or at least at Bill's place. Aside from writing this morning, I've gotten our place in shape, and the laundry done. Time to pick up the paint brush.


p.s. For those who've been wondering, Angela's husband Matt has done so well during his chemo therapy--things are looking good.

You Just Never Know