Monday, June 29, 2015

Summer Evening

 Oh gosh it feels great to be sitting outside after dinner tonight.
A light breeze is blowing and the sounds of summer are in the air.
I couldn't resist bringing my after dinner mint with me.  This mint is in the form of an iced beverage fresh from my herb garden.  I snipped a few sprigs this morning, brought a pan of water to a boil and dropped the mint in.  After letting it steep for a few hours I took the mint sprigs out and poured the tea into a pitcher to cool in the refrigerator all day.
Now that the dishes are done, I am enjoying the fruits of my labor.

 The recent heatwave here brought days upon days of temperatures near or at 100 degrees.  Coupled with our normal high humidity and lack of rain, the lawn was rapidly turning brown despite a regular watering schedule.  You may notice a series of green stripes across the back lawn.  Any guesses why that would be?

 Now that the weather has reached a more comfortable temperature, it is like being set free to venture outside once again.  So here I sit as darkness descends enjoying this beautiful summer evening.
I was hoping to see a hummingbird come to visit the Cannas.
So far, no luck, but I've got the camera ready just in case :).
 I wasn't sure if those Cannas would return this year.  They were newly planted at the top of the waterfall last summer.  When spring arrived there was no sign of them.  I was assured that they were perennials.  Sure enough they popped out of the ground and once they got going, they really shot up fast.

 I haven't featured the pond and waterfall on the blog this spring/summer as we are having an issue with algae.  The water is completely green.  Can't even see the goldfish.  We've been actively treating the water hoping it will clear up.  This is a learning experience for sure.  We did, however, add a water lily plant.  It only had two leaves when we planted it so I was a little leery about how it would do.  Apparently it isn't phased by the algae issues as it seems like every day when we look at it, it has formed more leaves and today we had the first flower open. 

 The timing on our most recent landscaping project wasn't the greatest.  The heatwave hit before the plants had a chance to get established and many of them are ailing or have already died.
There's nothing like a good rainfall.  My supplemental waterings helped, but sadly didn't go far enough to get things off on the right foot.
The hydrangeas above are a "new to me" variety called Pistachio.
I thought they were so pretty when they were first planted, now they are struggling to survive.  I hope with plenty of TLC they will be okay.

 On a happier note the newly planted purple coneflowers are thriving.  They seem to do well even in drought-like conditions.

I guess I must reluctantly head inside.
I was wondering why I was having such a hard time seeing the keyboard until I looked up and saw this.
Yes, a full moon.  Although in real life it's not nearly as blurry.
I hope you are enjoying your summer evenings too.
Happy Summer!!


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Just Do It... Darn It

 Those three little words seem to say it all when it comes to exercise.
As much as I believe this to be true, the fact is, if I am being honest with myself, I just wasn't doing it.  Well at least not as much as I know I should have.

I once heard a fitness trainer say that the best piece of equipment you can buy is the one that will get used.  After all, if it is going to sit and collect dust, it's about useless as far as furthering any fitness goals.
My own fitness goals have become sporadic (at best) these past few years.  I religiously do the core strength exercises recommended by my chiropractor five years ago.  They are easy to do while watching tv, don't require much effort and make me feel hopeful that I can keep my lower back issues in check.
If the weather conditions meet my approval, I take a walk around the neighborhood.  I park far from the door when I go shopping and use the stairs when possible.  I clean my own house and garden.  Other than that, I know that I spend far too much time being sedentary.
In the back of my mind I know I should be doing more, but yet I seem to find a million excuses not to Just Do It.
That is until two weeks ago when the results of my recent bone density test came back as ostopeniaWhile I wasn't totally surprised as my mom had osteoporosis and my sister has ostopenia, I set out to educate myself on what this all meant for me.  I was encouraged to learn that exercise can go a long way in helping to build bone mass.  This article explains it so well.
I knew in that moment that it was time to be honest with myself.
I thought through my sorry excuses and figured out a way to get out of my own way.
It started with the treadmill.
I knew that there was no way I wanted to walk outside in our current heatwave so I put on my tennis shoes and got on that treadmill with the goal of staying on there for 30 minutes walking at a brisk pace.  I lowered the thermostat, put on the ceiling fan and just did it.  
Once I was done, I found an old calendar and jotted down my accomplishment.  Honestly in the past I could have made the excuse that I would walk when the weather was cooler or when I had bought a journal to start keeping track of my goals in.  Not any more... the treadmill and old calendar get the job done.

 Leaving my tennis shoes next to the treadmill for convenience sake.

While on the treadmill I thought about other ways to exercise.  The treadmill is good for cardio and also weight bearing exercise which is so necessary in trying to increase bone mass.  I wanted to create an exercise program for myself that would target the areas I needed to work on while offering some variety as well.  I remembered a video series I had bought several years ago after seeing the host demonstrate it on QVC.  Mirabai Holland provides a thorough workout especially geared for women 50 and over. Just what this (well) over 50 woman needs.  She covers all of the areas that I want to work on in a gentle, yet thorough manner.
I made the decision to do the strength training video  the next day.
It uses light weights and resistance bands to work the muscles and bones.  I was getting on board now and looking forward to the next day's workout.

The large screen tv my son left behind would be perfect for my DVD workouts. 

The next day dawned and I headed up to the bonus exercise room raring to go.  That is until I remembered one of my other excuses for not exercising... figuring out which remote operates what and which setting the tv has to be on to make the DVD player work.  Brett... help!
I don't know about you, but I have little patience for all of this technological stuff.  I just want to pop the DVD in and get going.  
After much trial and error Brett got that mess straightened out for me.
Until I hit play on the DVD player remote and nothing happened.
Lucky for me Brett is a patient man.
He played around with the remote and advised me to operate it manually until he could figure out the problem.
I did and discovered that these old DVDs would work just fine for my new workout routine.

I was surprised to discover that a search of closets and drawers yielded all of the various weights and resistance bands that I would need.  I even pulled out the yoga mat I used in the yoga classes I occasionally took 20 or so years ago.  My new workout will include at least one session of yoga per week.  I am far from flexible, however my chiropractor has been recommending yoga for years.  My dedication to it has been very hit or miss lately.
I do find it calming and relaxing when I do it.  I guess it was just another thing that was lost in my excuses.  I'm too tired, maybe tomorrow, etc...
When I stopped to think about it, I realize that everything I needed has been here all along.  I'm also discovering that thrift shops are a great source for finding books and DVDs to add to my collection.
I know that in order to keep my interest level up I'll need to change things around from time to time.  

The only thing that had been standing in the way was me.
So, here I stand today sans make-up and "glistening" after my morning workout.  As Mirabai Holland says, it's never to late to start exercising.

I hope it doesn't sound to you like I think I'm an expert at all this in the few short weeks I've been back on board.  It's just that I've had every excuse in the book for not doing what I know I should be doing.  For me it took finding out that I have "significant bone loss" to make me mad enough to think No More Excuses...  Just Do It and Do It Now!!!
Only time will tell if my bones get stronger, but I also knew that I was getting winded too easily, my balance isn't as good as I'd like it to be and my energy is often lacking.  In just this short time I'm already feeling better in each of those areas.  Instead of feeling like the little old lady I am becoming, I feel slightly empowered and greatly inspired to get my workout in each day.  I've set my own goals and don't compare my accomplishments to others.  I look forward to jotting down the days exercise goal on the calendar.  I've never been the type to go to the gym, run in a marathon or play a competitive sport.  But, that's okay.  The important thing is deciding what works for you and then 

Just so you know, I'm not planning to take my blog in a new direction here.  I partially want to put it out there to help hold myself accountable.  By the same token if you care to comment on your own fitness routines or goals I think it would be wonderful to possibly inspire one another in that manner.  If not, the gardening and homemaking will continue as usual.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

A New Look in the Garden

I think we've all heard that old expression "looks can be deceiving".
That would most definitely hold true for this photo of the Kwanzan Cherry tree blooming away in the garden in April.

Upon closer inspection it would be easy to see a trunk that was diseased and beginning to decay.

It would also be evident that the root system was heading for the nearby cement sidewalk.  In truth, the tree had outgrown it's home.

In fact the entire bed had become overgrown.
It's funny how you can live somewhere for years and know that the landscaping has grown through the years, but then one day it really hits you how out of control it has become.  These camellias used to be a nice tidy row under the kitchen windows.  Suddenly no amount of pruning could keep them below the windows and it was gradually obstructing the view as well as making the kitchen feel a bit closed in.  Call me strange, but when I look out the window I like to see the view and not feel like the view is overtaking the house.

Along with the overgrown vegetation, the lighting was in a sorry state.  We talked a bit about spray painting them all until we discovered that several of them were rusted right through.  Believe it or not, this is one of the better looking ones :/.
Clearly action needed to be taken.
 Lacking the proper equipment for the job, we called in the experts.

In under an hour my beautiful Kwanzan Cherry was no longer with us.

One day's work was all it took to totally eliminate sixteen years of growth.  I wouldn't even want to guess how long it would have taken Brett and I to do that.  Maybe another sixteen years :D.

On a side note,
see that little hole between the bricks?
One of the workers rang the doorbell to let us know he had watched a five foot long black snake slither in there.  He wondered if that might lead into the house.  Yikes!!  Thankfully it is an air vent into the crawl space.  I guess that's something to be thankful for although it still gives me the creeps to think of him slithering about under my house.  I'm hoping that the removal of the tall shrubbery will make him feel more vulnerable and perhaps he will mosey on out of here.

Although we will miss the week in April when that Kwanzan Cherry put on her show, we now look forward to getting to know this new garden space.  Much less to keep pruned and hopefully less to camouflage that unwanted visitor.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Dear John

Dear John,
I'm sure you don't remember me, but boy do I ever remember you.
Long, long before there were blogs, there was you.
You with your special way of adding joy and beauty to each season of my life.
The way you shared the highlights of each season through recipes, photos and lists was something that I will never forget.
Lists like this:

  Thinking back to when I first met you there on the library shelf, I realize what a different world it is today.
Back then as a young mother I found a sense of peace among those library shelves.  Although I relished my role as a stay at home mom, the demands of child rearing, cooking, cleaning, carpooling, etc. sometimes found me needing a break from it all.
That's where you came in.  Although I'm sure you never knew that.
In those days there were times when an evening trip to the library was an especially indulgent time to find a little "me time".  I'd leave  bathtime to dad and recharge my parenting battery perusing the library shelves.  

Before there was Amazon I found a way to own a copy of Down Home.  Most likely it required a trip to the local book store.  I loved you so much I introduced you to my sister and she, too, came to love you.  Something about your Ohio farmboy roots and your love of life endeared you to us so much that we often talked about you and consulted your book for inspiration and advice.  
As the years went on, I added a few more of your books to my library.  Some purchased used from the internet.
Last week "The Holidays" appeared on the thrift store shelf.  Just seeing your name brought about the fluttering of my heart.
Glancing through the pages I realized the photos were really quite dated.  The copyright of 1986 (gulp)... the year my first baby was born, reminded me of how far we go back.  It made me a bit sad that someone had discarded you like that.  Fear not, you have a new home and a place of honor on my cookbook shelf.

All these years later I still find myself reaching for "Down Home".  Your lists and photos never fail to bring about an excitement for the current season.
Now that summer is near, I am reminded of the way you lit your gazebo with oil lamps on that sweltering evening so long ago.  There amongst the pretty garden flowers you served your guests a seasonal and refreshing menu.  You provided the recipes and tips needed to allow me to do the same thing should I choose to.
So much about this book reminds me of the way we share on our blogs.  I feel like you would be a great addition to blogland.
Yet, when doing a search for you now, I only find links to your books and a few old articles.  It's then that I have to remind myself how long it's been , how many years have past since I first became acquainted with you.  Perhaps now you are retired from writing cookbooks.  I really don't know.  But one thing I do know is that you will always hold a special place in my heart and your approach to enjoying the best of each season will continue to inspire me. 

 As a matter of fact, seeing your oil lamps lighting the summer night has once again reminded me to retrieve mine from storage and put them to good use this summer.  I do believe they add a touch of magic to those summer evenings.

In conclusion, I realize that it may seem a bit one sided this relationship we share.  But, truly that's alright with me because without ever meeting you face to face, you have added so much joy to my life.  Mostly in the small, day to day ways... you know the ones that matter most.

With warmest regards,

This week marked my seventh anniversary in the blog world.
As I look back over the years, I think that, just like my memories of John Hadamuscin, so much has changed with blogging since the early days.   Once in a while I stumble across an old post and see a comment from an old "friend" that at one time was such a vital part of my day to day blogging.  I wonder how they are now... I hope all is well with them and, to be honest, I miss them.  On the other hand, I accept that time marches on and things are constantly changing.  There seems to be a lot of discussion about just how much blogging has changed in the past few years.  While I can't speak for anyone else, I can say that it has been and continues to be an inspiring and enjoyable place to hang out.
Much like my "relationship" with John, I have never met any of you face to face either, but yet, I feel like I know many of you better than I know some of my face to face friends.  
You all have inspired me in more ways than I can count and I thank you for it.
Now, on to year 8!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Welcoming the Rain

 When rain has been in scarce supply, waking up to dark, moody skies is cause for celebration.  Candlelight on the kitchen island before the coffee is even brewed.

 The breaks between showers were ideal for gathering a few hydrangeas for the table.  Last night after dinner I was blasting them with the hose hoping to revive them a bit from their droopy plea for moisture.  Nothing like a good rainfall to put the pep back in their step.

 I was momentarily irritated with Peanut for making me chase her all over the yard... that was until I wound up on the far side of the magnolias and discovered the beautiful blossoms that always stop me right in my tracks.  I never would have noticed them from the inside of the house.  They are a flower worthy of up close appreciation.  While out running a few errands today I noticed several blooming in the median of a local road.  Pretty, yes, but nothing like standing before them inhaling their delicate scent while gazing at their elegant beauty.  I imagine each year I have done at least one post raving about this amazing plant.  I just can't help myself.  They may be one of my top favorite things about living in the south.

 Sorry, Peanut.
Are we still friends?

 Rainy afternoons and reading just seem to go together in my book (pun somewhat intended :).
It's rather common for me to have a book in my lap, a pile next to me, a pile across from me and even...

 a stack on the table next to me.
In this case a stack of old children's books.
I'm almost afraid to read that precious edition of Honey Bunch's first trip to camp.  It's a 1925 edition and in great shape.  My sister-in-law and I share a love of these old books.  She let me borrow it and as she handed it to me she jokingly said " I wouldn't let just anybody borrow it."  I would hate to be the one to cause any damage after it hanging around so nicely all these years.  So, I plan to refrain from eating or drinking anything while reading this one.  Ha!

Now, as I sit here typing this, the rain has stopped.
Evening is moving in.  The skies are still cloudy.
I'm watching a variety of bird friends checking on the (now empty) feeder.  Male and female cardinals, chickadees, goldfinches and the always amusing tufted titmouse seem to be asking "where's dinner?"  So, I am off to fill the feeder.  It's the least I can do for them.  They who add so much joy and beauty to my days.
Then, I guess I'd better feed the hubby too as he also adds joy to my days.  Come to think of it I'd better tend to Peanut first.  I may already be on her bad side :D.