Thursday, April 29, 2010

The demise of a tree

Planting a mimosa tree in the front yard seemed like a good idea at the time. After all, they grow quickly, have pretty pink, sweetly scented flowers, and would provide shade for the cars. However, after many years of exuberant growth and almost continual mess from flowers and leaves and seed pods, I finally convinced Jeff that its time was spent. Maybe the roots that had raised and cracked the driveway concrete were the deciding factor. Or maybe my nagging every year to trim the branches wore him down. We took down several branches early in the spring and I told him it was okay if it took all summer, I just wanted it gone by the end of it.
Then fate took a hand in the arrival of Charlie and Edwin.
Our soldier and marine decapitated the beast with a borrowed chain saw in one afternoon.
They were branch-lopping animals.

Edwin is a rigger and can work miracles with a rope and a few good knots. That chainsaw got hauled up and down the tree so many times I lost count.

The conquering heroes.

The only casualty of the endeavour was a glass bird feeder that I really liked but that didn't work too well anyway.
And we completely lost the goodwill of the resident goldfinches, who  spent the whole time dive-bombing the places where the branches used to be and chirping at the top of their little lungs.
Now. I'm thinking a nice, well-behaved deep pink dogwood would look very nice in that corner when the mimosa roots have rotted a bit.
Maybe tomorrow I will post a few nostalgic photos of the tree. It has, after all, been a signature sight in front of our house for a long time.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A good book...

...has no ending. R.D. Cumming.

One of my shameful little secrets is that I love to read books that are full of murder, manipulation, and mayhem. And, of course, you know those books usually come with a few other spicy and gruesome details. I've been known to go through 5 or 6 books in a good week. The other part of the equation is that after I am done with the book, its plot usually becomes unmemorable. More times than I care to remember, I will be half way through a book and be struck with random fits of deja vu.
 I'm sure I've read this before, I think to myself.
A few chapters later, I'm still wondering.
Sometimes, I will finish the book and still be unsure whether or not I have read it before.
This is in contrast to Jeff ( and Jon, who apparently inherited the trait) who reads slowly but retains everything.

The worth of a book is to be measured by what you can carry away from it.  James Bryce.

Several months ago, I joined the book club at our local library. Gone are my days of mindless reading. So far, every book has not only been one that I normally wouldn't have chosen to read, but also unforgettable. Maybe it's the process of reading, thinking , and then talking about it with like-minded people, but I find myself with new ideas circulating in my mind. Thoughts engendered by these books. So I am sharing the books with you, hoping that you will be as enlightened as was I.
Please note that un-dangled participle.
It was a tricky one.

The first book was So Brave, Young, and Handsome, by Leif Enger.
It's not a book I would have chosen at all, set back in the dying days of the Old West, but it was a quick and enjoyable read. Go here to read a better review than I could write. Leif Enger also wrote Peace Like a River, which is highly recommended by club members that have read it.

Then one of my favourite all-time books, The Widow's War, by Sally Gunning. Set in eighteenth century Cape Cod, it tells the riveting story of Lydia Berry, who is widowed after 20 years of marriage and finds herself subject to the laws of the time. She has no rights without a husband and the book tells of her rugged journey to establish her independence. Here is a good site for Sally Gunning and her books. It made me think about the rights and freedoms enjoyed by women in much, but not all, of the world. and about how many women in the world are still stuck in the mores of eighteenth century America, or worse.

The Geography of Bliss, of course, has already been covered here. I have probably spent more time contemplating this book than any other.

Last month we read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. Again, not a book that I would have chosen, consisting of fictional letters between an author and various residents of Guernsey Island after the Second World War, and I don't really "do" books made of letters. I was enthralled. Did you know that the Channel Islands, off the coast of France but belonging to England, were occupied by Germany for five years? My parents have vivid memories of growing up in wartime England, so I was fascinated to learn of another aspect of those years. I took Mum to the book club meeting and everyone loved hearing some of her experiences, being evacuated to "the country" for two years and also enduring the bombing of Birmingham. I love the way history comes alive when presented by a good author.

This month's book is Moloka'i. I was reluctant to begin, thinking the subject matter boring and depressing.  It follows the story of a young Hawaii'an  girl who is taken from her family at a young age because she has leprosy. My goodness, talk about opening my eyes to things that I never knew existed. Leprosy in Hawaii in the early 1900's. I spent about half an hour in tears this morning, lying in bed and finishing the book.
You should read it too.

Always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it. P.J. O'Rourke.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Happy Tuesday things

Waking up to see Charlie sleeping on the couch.
Three happy preschool groups this morning.
Finding tiny Lindt chocolate bunnies for cheap at Grocery Outlet.
And Yoplait blackberry custard yogurt.
Annie, Charlie, and Mum going out to lunch at Freddies.
And bringing home chicken strips so that I could eat some.
Little boys in the rain.

Finding an indoor space for our family photos next week.
Check out the cool sculptures.
Caramel bread pudding and vanilla icecream for dinner.
Um, dessert.
My aubretia in full bloom. Also called rock cress. I brought these seeds back from England about 15 years ago. I love how these plants grow through the lattice fence and spill out onto the driveway.

The setting sun shining on newly leafed trees.

Happy trails to you!

No words needed


Monday, April 26, 2010

So much for a quiet house

Monday night.
Jon is getting ready for the boys' big paintball game on Saturday.
He is the mastermind, the organizer, the supplier of equipment.

Jeff feels right manly.

Mum is perusing old photo albums.

Annie playing solitaire on the laptop.

...and now watching a movie with her friend Jo.

Charlie tells me he'll be here at about 2:30 am.
Hope I don't forget to leave the door unlocked.

Jon, in all his glory.

Mum, in the kitchen.
Drowning out my PBS movie.


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sweet rewards

We visited Victoria on the beautiful Vancouver Island BC about twenty years ago. My memories of the trip are rather dim and consist mostly of food; we met some California friends up there and the wife generally plans her days around meals. I can reminisce fondly of afternoon teas consisting of dense scones, jam, and whipped cream. One of my lingering discoveries was Nanaimo Bars. Nanaimo is a town on the west coast of the island. The origin of the bars is a little fuzzy, with the first recorded recipe turning up in a church cookbook in Nanaimo in 1957, although some think it may date back to the 19th century. Some New Yorkers even tried to claim it as having New York origins. They call them New York slices. Darn those New Yorkers.

I haven't made these delectable little treats in probably fifteen years, but I had a hankering on Saturday. Ellen and Brenda were the recipients, being rewarded for their intimate knowledge of my flying proclivities.
And I ate a few.
Just a few.

Lately, I go to the web for recipes, ignoring my excellent selection of cookbooks. But for this, I went to my original hand-written collection, started by me when I was about eighteen. Here it is, in all its glory.

If you click on the photo, it will enlarge enough that you can read the recipe. I would advise no extra milk, 4oz of chocolate, and instant pudding powder, ignoring my notes to the contrary.
Today, I decided to not mess with the recipe.
It was a fortuitous decision.

I had one for breakfast.

Oh yeah.
The little check mark by the title of the recipe?
That means it has been tried and is good.

I love...

... a newly mowed lawn in spring.

Saturday, April 24, 2010


It seems that everywhere I go this spring I see dandelions.
Whole lawns full of evil puffballs.
I am about to go spray Roundup on the neighbours' crops.
I am tired of fighting them.

On a brighter note, I have just about eradicated my own taraxacum, and the rest of the garden is primed with possibilities.
Yesterday, Jeff donned his trusty toolbelt (don'tcha just love a man in a toolbelt?) and attempted to confine the raspberry vines. I have doubts about the long-term efficacy of that manoeuvre, but I wasn't about to dampen his enthusiasm.
The vines are covered in little buds.
Note the rather rampant, unconfined vines in the left of the picture.

Potatoes, promising better behaviour than last year.

Bright red stalks of rhubarb, so much prettier than the green ones.

A strawberry flower, full of sweet potential.

And the grapes.
Oh my, the grapes.
The vines are covered with these babies.
I am already salivating at the thought of gallons of grape juice in the autumn.
This year I will leave them until they are ready to burst with sweetness.
Memo to self:
Plan that England/Ireland trip around the grape harvest.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Family, friends, and a long drive

When our relatives are at home, we have to think of all their good points, or it would be impossible to endure them. George Bernard Shaw.

Just kidding.
Did you know that when I was in my teens I used to read GBS's plays. Just for fun. Oh, how my brain has deteriorated!

On Thursday morning, not as early as we would have liked (because we never do) we left for San Diego. In Charlie's little Chevy S10 pickup truck. Which used to be Jeff's truck.
Let me explain about Charlie's truck. He loves his truck. When he bought it from us, he spent about a week pimping it up. New gear knob, stereo, visor covers, fake bullet holes on the body. I, however, Do Not Like It. It is uncomfortable. The prospect of traveling for 1,200 miles in one day did not thrill me. So I offered to drive my car down and let him use it until he was ready to come home the next week.
He was offended at the very idea.
So we drove his truck. Eighteen hours. We listened to George Orwell's 1984. For eleven-and-a-half hours. I confess that I may have dozed for a couple of those hours. By the time we got to Murrietta, we were feeling quite depressed. For some reason.
We spent a couple of days with Charlie. Well, kind of. He was running around working on his "to do" list. Apparently, one of the things on his list was talking me into buying him a dresser for his bedroom at the Rodriguez's house, his home away from home.
Here he is, with Shelly and Adam. I call them his saving grace.

We flew home on Saturday night, on my favourite airline.
Pop Quiz.
What Is My Favourite Airline?

First one to answer correctly might get something yummy on their doorstep or in their mailbox.

On Sunday night, we went to pick Mum up at PDX. I decided to do it up large for a change. We created quite a ruckus at the security area. Luckily, the airport was almost empty.

Mission accomplished.

Annie arrived late last night, blissfully pregnant.
Charlie is driving up on Sunday.
All together again.
Time for family photos.

Families are like fudge...mostly sweet, with a few nuts.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Sunday bookay

My friend Julie is a flower girl. She does the flowers for most of the weddings in our crowd. She did Bethany's and Jon's wedding flowers, but not Annie's because she was busy that day. She also does a unique and astounding flower display every Sunday for church. It's a rare Sunday when our podium is unastounding. When I remember, I am going to document these arrangements and show them to you. I might even do an interview with Julie, just so that you can see how amazing she is.
By the time this bevy of tulips got to the third hour of church, the tulips had opened up a little too far, but I still love the colours.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Swingin' spring

The tree blossoms and bulb flowers have disintegrated early this spring, with all the early warmth and then the cold and rain. This flowering cherry tree is always the last gasp of spring in my garden. We got it a couple of years ago when I fell in love with the trunk, of all things! I think the branches were grafted onto some sort of a beech trunk and you can see the gorgeous coppery burnish that it holds all year long. It grows slowly, but the blossoms are also quite spectacular this year.

My asparagus is sending forth shoots, the roses are covered in aphids, grape vines are bursting into leaf, and Harvey and the Toadstools seem pretty content in their new spot. Spring is in full swing at the O house.

Tomorrow we are off to drive Charlie's truck to Southern California. I am dreading the drive. Seventeen hours on a bench seat. Maybe we will have some hopefully not-too-exciting adventures that will be blog fodder.
Sometimes I wonder if I had as much fun before I blogged. I certainly don't remember it. Now, I find myself going over old posts and reliving every detail.
I think it will be a good remedy for the memory loss of old age.

Monday, April 12, 2010

How about this?

A little Picasa to go with that yellow head.

Now what?

The shoo-fly quilt top is finished.
My stitching creativity seems to be depleted.

Failing to see...

...the beauty in a dandy-lion.

Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them. A.A.Milne.

When weeding, the best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it. If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant. Author unknown.

Sweet flowers are slow and weeds make haste. William Shakespeare.

If dandelions were hard to grow, they would be most welcome on any lawn
. Andrew V. Mason.

The miracles of nature do not seem miracles because they are so common. If no one had ever seen a flower, even a dandelion would be the most startling event in the world. Author unknown.

Sunday, April 11, 2010


I love Portland, even though it embraces the whacky side of liberal. It has a gay mayor who admitted (finally) to seducing a minor youth and no one has bothered to kick him out. It proudly hosts an annual naked midnight bike ride. Its large homeless population seems to have more political pull than your average conservative. The bumper stickers that say "Keep Portland Weird" aren't kidding.
But it has an active art and music scene and seems to attract innovative do-gooders of all kinds. And that I like.
After our painfully expensive dinner, we arrived plenty early for the Mark Knopfler concert, so we took another stroll.
Me, I had my trusty camera at the ready.
I am trying to look at objects with a more innovative eye.
What do you think?

Our very own Portlandia, who sits atop the Portland Building, of course!

I liked the tile work and light fixtures in the entryway of this building.

Jeff is always treading close to the line of civil disobedience.

And finally, the concert for which we had been waiting for two years. Because you know, we forgot to go to the last concert, even though we had tickets.
Mark Knopfler.
Named 27th greatest guitarist of all time by Rolling Stone.
Driving force behind the group Dire Straits.
Score writer for The Princess Bride.
Owner of about 70 guitars.
Father to twin sons with his second wife and twin daughters with his third.
Plays his guitar right-handed even though he is left-handed.
Fingerpicks his electric guitar.

He and his band of seven gave a rocking, most awesome concert.
Here is one of my favourite Dire Straits songs.

Mark doesn't seem to enunciate as well as he did when he was younger. Jeff and I often looked at each other last night and asked, Do you know what he's singing about?
It might have been the sound system, because I can understand him well enough on the videos.
But the performance was stupendous anyway. He has such a tremendous energy and is definitely the Leader of the Band. His band members all play multiple instruments, including percussion, flute, banjo, piano accordian, violin, double bass, keyboards, synthesizer, mandolin, various guitars, ukelele, and probably some others that I missed. They played a lot of instrumental back-and-forth, which was fun to watch and to listen to.
Watch this closely and be awed by his guitar playing. He makes it look easy, but trust me, it's not!

He didn't make much of an effort to connect with the audience, although I'm not sure I would want to connect with women who were shouting "I want to have your baby" either. I'd rather have more music, less talking anyway. It was a tight show, no down time at all, and they played for two hours. Special effects were minimal.
It was all about the music, baby!

I talked a friend into listening to Leonard Cohen a couple of weeks ago. This friend said to me, you always did like those husky-voiced, studly guys.
Guess I do!

Crikey, look at the time. If I told you how many hours I spent on these two posts you would think I had an inflated view of my importance to the blogging world.

I almost forgot. The opening act, which started 15 minutes early and only went for 35 minutes (more time for Mark) was Pieta Brown, with Bo Ramsey on guitar. Now, here's a guy who can make his guitar sing! and Pieta's rather easy on the ears too. Give it a's short! Like me.