Saturday, May 26, 2012

A rose by any other name

Why, oh why, do I end up on a weeding binge every Saturday evening, when I know it will hurt even worse tomorrow than it does tonight?
My fellow church-goers will think that I habitually hobble!
But I did find some serendipitous surprises as I made my way around the garden. These roses clamber towards the sky against the back fence. They have a sweet old-fashioned appearance and a subtle aroma.

We have a snowball bush in the side yard and during the storm yesterday it snowed blossoms all over the ground beneath.

Well, the garden has a few less weeds than it did this afternoon and, after the rain this week, my veggie garden is full of small seedlings and shows great promise for harvest-time. 

Speaking of roses, here are a couple more for your pleasure. These lovely red, almost thorn-less roses were planted in the flowerbeds at church after it was renovated a couple of years ago. 

And here is the sweetest flower of all, getting some Mommy time after that mommy finished her first 5K this morning.

Happy Sunday, lovely readers.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Just like Johnny and June

I sat in a room with a bunch of old fogies (of which I am not one) at the Senior Citizens' Centre for an hour this morning, stuck all over with acupuncture needles (trying to pretend I wasn't), listening to an eclectic mix of music on my shiny blue MP3 player, with my eyes shut and my mind unfettered. I tried to forget all of the ailments that brought me to that place and concentrate on the music.

The man next to me is almost always there at the same time as I am. He has a prosthetic leg and the skin on his other leg is tight and looks uncomfortable. I wonder if he has lost his leg to diabetes, like so many others, and if he worries about his remaining leg. I think how much more difficult life would be for him if he did.

After the acupuncturist takes the needles out of his leg, the man sits and talks to the other patients in the room but I can't hear what they are saying because music fills my head. His wife has been waiting patiently, having conversations of her own. They have a friendship of sorts, the people in this room who sit here, week after week, looking at each other's bare legs and feet and talking about everything in their lives.

The wife takes out a compression stocking and turns it inside out, rolls it up between her fingers the way our mothers used to roll their stockings to put them on their legs, and eases it onto his foot. I watch her as she lovingly pulls it up her husband's leg and then  manoeuvres his shoe onto his foot, smiling and talking to him all the while.

The Oakridge Boys start singing "Absence of Love". I adore The Oakridge Boys. They are not subtle but they sing with devotion unfeigned. 

As the man heaves himself out of his chair and, using a walker, slowly wends his way out of the room with his wife by his side, I think of some other examples of selfless devotion that I have witnessed recently.

One of my frequent joys is facilitating music therapy sessions with Alzheimer's groups. In one care home there was a woman in the late stages of Alzheimer's whom I shall call Sadie. She had been diagnosed over ten years ago and her husband, Charlie, came to the home every morning at 9 o'clock to sit with her and make sure she ate.  At lunchtime, he would go home. He was a lovely man and we often talked a little as I set up or packed up my instruments. His wife didn't know he was there and was unresponsive even to me, but still he showed up every day of the year. She has been absent for a few months and I haven't seen Charlie, but I think about him often.

In my group this morning, a man wheeled in behind everyone else, riding on an electric scooter, and insisted on sitting next to K. I didn't know the man, but K. has been in the group several times before. I want to sit next to my wife, he said, when I suggested he sit in a chair that was vacant. I apologized to him for not knowing they were together. As the hour progressed, he was attentive to his wife and held her hand. I noticed that he got teary during several songs, especially as K. responded to the music. His devotion to her was visibly apparent and very sweet. I don't know their situation, but, although he is physically ailing, he seems to be fully cognizant and may only have been visiting the facility to be with her.

I often ponder love. And the absence of love. What makes some couple stick together like glue and others fall apart on a whim? I don't have any profound answers, other than noticing that commitment and unselfishness play a big part in a long-term love affair. We have several friends that are going through tough times together right now, some of them terminal and others long-term. I have examples of unconditional love everywhere I turn.

I love to see my younger friends proclaiming their anniversaries of nine or ten or more years.
I think back on our thirty-two years and remember the times that I was ready to walk out of the door and never look back.
And Jeff threw things around a few times, but he never gave up on "us".
So here we are today, better than ever.
I really, really, hope that when things get tough, I can be the wife that is patient and kind, instead of sassy and independent, as I usually am.

When I look at this photo, I ask myself Why did Jeff not take his wallet out of his pocket?
And Why is my face so round?
But I know the answer to both questions.
Jeff is a creature of habit.
And I never saw a chocolate that didn't end up in my mouth!

We had time for some quick family photos when everyone was here.
Here they are, our pride and joy. 
They are a little rag-tag.
Just like us.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Swopping with purpose

Adam Smith, the oft-debated Father of Capitalism, once wrote that "The propensity to truck, barter and exchange one thing for another is common to all men, and can be found in no other race of animals."

Well, I have embraced my inner propensity with gusto these last few weeks. A couple of local young mothers set up a "handmade and homegrown barter" group on facebook and I have had tons of fun trading and chatting with the group. I love that these younger ladies are so interested in growing their own food and developing traditional skills, like soap-making and food preservation. They outshine me by far in their commitment to the lifestyle, but I am inspired to up my game.

This afternoon, I exchanged a bag of fresh rhubarb, half a pound of chia seed, and a little pink Himalayan sea salt for a marionberry start,

and nine adorable, squatty Ball canning jars with lids and rings.

I just finished boiling up some beautiful multi-hued home-grown eggs for Jeff's lunches that I exchanged for rhubarb starts.

Look at these little beauties. Don't you want to just EAT them up? After you get done admiring them, of course!

I've also exchanged fresh rhubarb for homemade soap.

Tomorrow, on my way to a music therapy group, I am meeting another lady to swop some tomato starts (mine) for some pint canning jars (hers). 

While I realize that it would be impractical to acquire everything I need by bartering, I think it's a good mind-set to develop. We're accustomed to running to the store every time we need something, which is a pretty commerce-dependent way of running our lives. I have watched members of the bartering group exchange, not only goods, but advice, support, and information as well. I suggested that we add a tool-and-equipment swopping element to the group and the administrators approved. 

But the best thing, the very best thing, about bartering is that two people give up something they don't need and, in return, acquire something they really want. Without any money changing hands. And there is something infinitely satisfying about that. 

P.S. And no, I didn't misspell "swop". It's the Queen's English.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Speaking of crafts... about these babies?

I am slightly addicted to Pick Your Plum lately. 
Their daily offerings tempt the latent crafter in my soul.
In my younger mommy days I sewed and crafted up a storm, but I tend more to stalking old boyfriends on facebook in my spare time these days. However, PYP is inspiring me to indulge in a little creating of over-the-top frou-frou.

So how about these lovely little resin flowers?

I just realized that they're perched on a box of chocolates!

And these trendy and adorable ribbons?

And this assortment of buttons that are not plastic but made of some kind of nut?

I have earring backs that I think I'm going to use for some of the flowers and Bethany and I have been looking at hairclip ideas and such, but I'm open to suggestions.
Fire away, my friends.

P.S. You knew I was joking about the old boyfriends thing, right?
P.P.S. Well, kind-a.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Bin feelin' a little buggy lately...

Yes I have.

Thanks Lori.
You are the Queen of Crafts.
There would be no craftiness without you.

I think there's a song in there somewhere.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Ain't Nobody Here but Us Chickens: The Story of the Bad Egg

I recently joined a swap group on facebook and have been enjoying trading some garden goodies for homemade soap and homegrown chicken eggs. They are happy blue and brown eggs with deep yellow yolks and I love them. Jeff is very partial to a hard-boiled egg in his lunch. So partial, in fact, that I have to ration him to one a day. Not that he pays much attention to my rules!

I arrived home this afternoon after a busy day of leading music therapy groups, hanging with grandkids, and teaching piano lessons. I walked through the door and my nose was assaulted with a peculiar stench. I followed the afore-mentioned olfactory organ around the kitchen, searching for the source of the putridity. Neither the rubbish bin nor the compost bucket yielded any clues, so I hastened out to the music room to teach the last lesson of the day.

When all was done, I returned to the kitchen and immediately noticed a strange-looking egg sitting on the counter. I fear this egg may have been hiding in the chicken coop for a few days before it was found. 
I called out to Jeff, who was hiding in the back of the house, to ask why there was a half-peeled rotten egg sitting on my counter.
I wasn't sure if it was okay to eat, he replied.
I whisked it out to the compost bin before you could say sunny side up and there it sits.

So tell me.
Would you entertain, even for a second, the thought of eating this egg?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Circus of the Sun: Ovo!

While I have loved Cirque Du Soleil for decades (ever since first watching it on VHS tapes we rented from the library) I had almost decided not to attend another performance. Familiarity breeds...not contempt, perhaps, but lack of enthusiasm. Two years ago, we took my Mum and Annie to see Kooza. See the account   here. But I happened upon some seats to see Ovo for a ridiculously low price and had the brilliant idea of taking the two oldest grandkids to their first Cirque show.
They were a pain in the neck all the way to Portland, giggling and wrestling in the back seat, and I finally had to tell them to Cool it! 

Although Ovo wasn't as death-defying as some of Cirque's past shows, I thoroughly enjoyed it. We had pretty good seats, although they were towards the side so we missed a little bit of the action. I had my eye on the V.I.P. front-and-middle seats all through the first hour and as soon as half-time started we hopped on over and got some fantastic seats. My best strategy ever. You're welcome. 
Kenzie and Daniel were quite impressed with the stage and the performers who were roaming around the grande chapiteau as we sat and waited for the show to start, but my favourite moment was when the first acrobats made their moves. I heard Kenzie whisper Wow and both of their little faces were raptly intent on the stage. 
I loved the butterflies best of all. You can see a few seconds of their act in this trailer (the couple in white on the ropes) but it doesn't do justice to the beauty of their moves and the way it fitted the music so perfectly.

This video will give you a taste of the ants' juggling act. 
I like ants. 
I am an ant, as you know.
It was fantabulous.

This act with the trampolines and wall was the climax of the show and was very fun to watch. There were many performers involved and it was difficult to keep track of everything that was going on.

The show ended late and these two young souls slept all the way home.
It was heavenly.

Ovo is still in town for another week.
Here's what I think you should do.
Buy the cheapest seats you can find. Just make sure they're not behind a post.
Then make a move on the VIP seats at half-time.
You won't be sorry!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Happy Mother's Day

I did not do it perfectly, but it is, possibly, the best thing I ever did.

Jeff and I are spending the weekend in the lovely town of Tillamook, where the best cheese in the world is made. Only in Tillamook can you smell dairy farms through the open window of your slightly upscale hotel room!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Asparagus adventures

Three years ago, fulfilling a long-time hankering, I planted ten asparagus plants. It was a serendipitous trade with a friend for all the rhubarb she could eat that first summer.
I felt adventurous. Not many people grow asparagus and it was a bit of mystery to me. I did my usual in-depth Google session and instructed Jeff as he dug the trenches. 
I was very diligent about not picking too much for the first two years as the plants established themselves. This year, anything that pokes above ground before the middle of June is fair game.
Jeff raved about the perfectly cooked, green and tender shoots that were piled on his plate the first few times I served them.
Three weeks into the harvest, not so much.
Did I mention that I don't particularly care for asparagus?

But I sure do love messing around with it!
I discovered these a few days ago.

I left the ferns to winter over in the raised bed and, apparently, conditions were ideal for the sprouting of the seeds that nestled into those lovely red seed pods.
Being in a meddling mood yesterday, and also a sowing-of-seeds mood, I dug a bunch of them out of the ground and re-potted them in my milk-jug greenhouses.
Asparagus has interesting roots. They grow horizontally rather than vertically. Look closely at this tiny root and you can see the exact point at which it turns horizontal.

Isn't it adorable?
Not, like, grand-baby adorable, but cute in an asparagus-y kind of way.

There were more little ferny seedlings than I had the patience to dig, but I have about twenty of them in three milk jugs. We shall see how they fare.

I also planted some cosmos, marigold, and impatiens seeds in the remaining jugs, and carrots, parsnips, lettuce, radishes, New Zealand spinach, and cucumbers in the raised beds. And I re-potted the former residents of the milk jugs, tomato seedlings, into their own tiny pots.

Bring on summer, I say.
And if you want some asparagus plants in a few months, you know where they'll be.