Sunday, June 9, 2019

My front yard changing, a baby brontosaurus and books

Here is a cute baby brontosaurus, or that is what I imagine him to be. He is in the playground at the community center where my once a month book discussion group meets. We meet in the building, not in the playground. I have attended three times, the group is open to anyone (they let me in, ha ha), and it has been led by the same lady for about 15 years.
This view shows the mural behind him.
The book we are reading in June in our discussion group is Moloka'i by Alan Brennert, which was written in 2004. I see he wrote a book Daughter of Moloka'i in 2014. A seven year old has a red sore on her face and is sent away from her family to the leper colony on Moloka'i in Hawaii. I have started reading it, the subject of a child taken from her home and enduring leprosy is a rough thing to read about. I don't know if I will finish it, I am trying to.

The book we read in May was Atonement by Ian McEwan. I loved this book and in the group discussion I said that the ending raised it to genius level, where the author through a character talks about the power of a novelist to give his readers a happy ending or a bitter ending, plus of course create an entire story and cast of people. Read the book to find out about the man unjustly imprisoned, the love of his life, and a troubled 13 year old who lied to convict him. How could she ever atone? Quite a few people in the discussion group liked the book but did NOT like the ending. It was not a simple or straight forward ending and was disturbing to me, but still, I thought it was genius for originality and writing skill.

My front yard has been a mess this past week as it is transformed into a thing of beauty, sort of like us sometimes, and like the Velveteen Rabbit. Everything is coming together.
This above photo is from June 6 2019. See all (some) of my new plants? About 50 actually.
The flagstone is Arizona Flagstone.
Above is me on June 5 2019 before the wood chips were added around the plants.
Below is photo I took on June 7 showing the trellis taking shape.

P.S. Work was completed on the trellis, flagstone patio and plantings on June 11, so I will post soon with photos of the completed work. Shall I leave the redwood trellis as is, or paint it or stain it? I am thinking of staining it a "faded barn red" to match the front of the house. What is best?

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Cat, dog, yellow roses and more

Here are some recent photos I took of things I like.
Fluffy resting in sun near patio doors. She shows up nicely on her red blanket.
Bounce in living room on sofa with pillow that says "The day that God created Chihuahuas He sat down and smiled." We think Bounce is half Chihuahua, and part Rat Terrier and part Corgi.
I always admire this lichen on a rock in a neighbor's front yard.
I didn't go any closer because I didn't want to step on their property.
This bouquet is fabulous and my younger son gave it to me for Mothers' Day.
I picked these roses from my yellow rose bush, so pretty.
Often for joy I find it is good to look at smaller things and nearby things since the big picture and the world situation can be so daunting.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Friends, Happiness, Cats and Violets

Here is a darling card I received from Diane, Diane Wants to Write a long time blog friend and penpal, it came all the way from the Philippines. The African violets are from Wei, a friend in town, and she moved here all the way from China when she was a college student.
The card says "Do one thing every day that makes you happy." I am always on the look out for those things. The card itself does that for me. I am going to buy a frame for it, it is 5 1/2 by 5 1/2 inches. Actually I might frame all 4 cards from Diane, they would look cheery hanging as a group on a wall.
Now I will look up how to care for African violets. I love that color! I think it will thrive with my orchids near my patio doors. The light is from the east, and I will set the pot in water for an hour once a week with a bit of plant food until the soil feels damp. If you have better African violet care tips let me know please.
Here are two more cheery cards from Diane:
The card with the bear says "Do small things with great love." I recall reading that Mother Theresa said this.
The following card from Diane arrived today, it is funny and I added it right now.

I like having fun reminders around my house that give me smiles. Violets and cards from friends, that will do it.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

My brilliant red Cantua flowers from Chile

This bush is my fifteen year old Cantua, which is a popular plant in Chile. My shrub is about 6 feet tall, and my friend who moved here from Chile told me that a Cantua at her home there reached her second story bedroom window. The flowers form only on the tips of the branches.
Like me, do you collect quotes? Garden quotes are favorites of mine and I have several books of them.
"Flowers are heaven's masterpieces." -- Dorothy Parker
"See nature, and through her, God.." -- Henry David Thoreau.  My dear uncle Leroy Pelkin introduced me to reading Thoreau and Emerson beginning when I was a child of perhaps ten.
I still have some old hardcover books by Thoreau and Emerson, printed about 1906, that Uncle Leroy gave me.

"Flowers are our greatest silent friends." -- Jim G. Brown
"The man who has planted a garden feels that he has done something for the good of the whole world." -- Charles Dudley Warner. I agree, she or he has done something good to benefit all of us.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Thank you friends and family for my birthday celebrations

Here is a photo of me on the patio of a favorite restaurant on April 23. Notice the two gifts of purple plants, my hat and the purple bag, I do love that color. My birthday was on April 25 and friends and family near and far have helped me celebrate. On the day of the photo we went to a restaurant that serves Mediterranean food with an Afghan twist. I had my usual spinach bolani and Maush awa soup with lamb. Sunday (today) my sons treated me to wonderful grilled seafood in a restaurant on the wharf.
Because there was a free jazz concert on the wharf we knew parking would be limited/impossible so I tried Uber for the first time and it worked very well. They picked us up at my house and delivered us back home.
My sons gave me the 23andme Ancestry package, a complete surprise. What secrets will it reveal? I will let you in on the results in future.I hear it take two weeks to get the results after I send in the sample.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

The Ravenmaster: My Life with the Ravens at the Tower of London

This is the book to read if you like ravens, birds in general, English history, memoirs by people who live interesting lives, London or the Tower of London. Skaife makes the ravens sound fascinating, they have strong personalities, each one different, and his job as official Ravenmaster is rather all consuming.
Skaife and his wife and daughter live on the Tower grounds. His title is Yeoman Warder of Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress the Tower of London. The hardcover edition has lots of color photographs.
Legend has it that if all the ravens leave the Tower of London, England will fall. Seven ravens live in the Tower today, and they could fly away so Skaife designs their lives so that they want to stay.
He weaves in a few ghost stories and history. Quite a few famous people were executed there including King Henry VIII's wife, Queen Anne Boleyn.
I enjoyed reading this book, and then found a TV documentary series called The Tower, and Christopher Skaife is in the series, which I also recommend.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Spring Flowers and Book Discussion Group I Joined

Above is a close up of my Apple Blossom Clematis, an evergreen type that I planted as a 2 foot tall sprig two years ago. It has quickly grown to  6 feet tall and then over the fence, plus about 8 feet wide along the fence and has a delicate apple scent. The white flowers are the clematis, and the yellow flowers are Yellow Clock Vine. I ordered the clematis from a catalog, they are more rare than the clematis that lose their leaves, which I also have.
Above is my Red Star Magnolia, also about 2 years old. It was about seven feet tall when planted. I think red magnolias are found a little less often than white. Star Magnolias are noted to be smaller than other magnolias, and often reach only 12 to 15 feet tall so are a great size tree when you don't want it to dominate your garden, size wise. I am thinking perhaps this is NOT a star magnolia because of the flower shape. The trees I had planted by a landscaper had ID tags on them, and when I went out to write down the details, a worker had taken off the tags and thrown them out, which irked me!
Above is a handsome red camellia in bloom at my church. We have many of these growing there, maybe fifty. Maybe I will count them someday. I am having a landscaper plant 3 camellias in my back yard, in 3 half oak barrels. I don't know when yet, we have to choose a schedule. He is also going to create a 100 square foot flagstone patio in my front yard for a sitting area that faces west, a nice place to sit in the afternoon or evening, and has a view of the sunset.
Above is a bouquet of orange tulips I bought, they sing of spring to me.
Do you sometimes want to do something different, to add something to your activities?
I heard about a Book Discussion Group held in a city recreation center, all are welcome and it is for people age 45 plus. That is me! Sorry for those younger folks, maybe you could sneak in, ha ha.
I went for the first time this week and the next book we are reading is "Daughter of Fortune" by Isabelle Allende. I started reading it right away and like it thus far.
At each meeting we vote on the next book to read, and choose books available as book kits from the library, so we don't need to buy the books. Nineteen ladies and one man attended, and each person has about two minutes to say what they like or dislike about the book.
Earlier they read two books I love: "Bel Canto" by Ann Patchett and "The Year of Magical Thinking" by Joan Didion.
To answer two questions left in comments, we meet in a building owned by the city, not in people's homes, and no refreshments are served. Since the meeting was only for one hour, the time flew by.
Happy reading and gardening this spring to you all.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Cypress tree, bay, antique mail box, cactus I saw on my walk

I saw this antique mailbox in my neighbor's yard today, as I walked to see the bay with Bounce.

Looking to the left I see these cypress trees, above.
To my right when facing the bay I see these powerful waves and the cliffs. I love these clouds.
Above is a succulent sitting on top of a pot which reminds me of a barrel cactus, so the succulent looks like it is growing out of a huge stem. There are lots of cactus in this neighbor's garden.

Friday, March 15, 2019

I baked scones, yes, I really did

I made delicious lemon ginger scones. I baked scones. Me! Why is this noteworthy? Well, I have pretty much stopped baking since our sons became adults and moved out,  since recipes are always for large amounts, like for a whole cake, pie or a dozen cookies. That adds up to too much temptation and too many calories. Also for years I have cut way back on eating white flour and sugar. But I got inspired by my friend who bakes scones and I found this mix at a local coffee shop and bakery.
The second photo shows the scones before I baked them. I like the brand Iveta because they have a dozen or more flavors and their scones only have 4 g of sugar per scone. I was recently given scone mix of a different brand that has 8 g of sugar per serving. So I prefer 4 g to 8. Next baking for me will be the blueberry scone mix I was given. Recommended guidelines for amount of sugar per day for women vary, but the average recommended amount is 36 g. Some yogurt has 30 g for one serving, so it adds up quickly. It turns out that scones freeze nicely so I can invite a friend for coffee and scones, send one or two scones home with her, and freeze any left over. Do you like my plan?

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Dust off that library card for a longer life

The above photo is taken by Nightsabre at Morguefile. That dog looks like a thoughtful guy and a reader!

I read a notice about a health study recently: "Dust off that library card."
Studies show that readers live longer than non-readers. If you already love to read, like
me, that is good news, and more good news is that you non-readers can start reading books at any time.
My current AARP news letter includes this in a list of 99 health ideas.
In their tip 98 I quote "Dust off that library card. A study of 3,635 older adults found that book readers had a 23 month survival advantage and 20 percent lower mortality risk compared with non-readers. Reading was protective regardless of gender, education or health."
This next photo is taken by DianneHope at Morguefile.

I chose the profession of librarian so you can see this tip about how healthy readers are is music to my ears. Plus I am a writer with thousands of articles and two books published so you can imagine that I like to read.
So in addition to an apple a day keeps the doctor away the study concludes that we can live longer by reading books.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Ruth my Roomba

One of my sons surprised me with a robot vacuum cleaner for Christmas. I hadn't thought I wanted one, but I find it is fabulous. How happy I am when I am sitting on the sofa reading and my little robot is vacuuming the rug. I named her Ruth.
She is a Roomba. I clean the tray every time Ruth my Roomba vacuums for me. I am amazed to see how much dog hair she vacuums up. It takes her about half an hour to vacuum the large living room, and the same amount of time to vacuum the wooden floors in the back of the house.
One time she got stuck under my bed so firmly that my younger son had to lift the bed to free her. She is rather strong.
Before I have her begin I police the floors for pet toys, my socks, electrical appliance cords, etc.Big cords are ok and she bumps them and leaves them alone but little ones like for head phones she will try to vacuum up.
My cell phone tells me when Ruth has completed a job and when she is done she goes right to her charging station and charges her battery. You can set it up to use your phone to tell her when to clean; I don't care to do that. I think I need to keep an eye on her, she gets stuck once in a while.
If she gets stuck she sends a message to my cell phone app and also speaks out loud explaining her problem, like "Roomba's left wheel is stuck". My favorite message from her thus far is "Roomba is stuck on the edge of a cliff."
Great gift though!
Do you have a house cleaning tip or useful appliance?
One blog friend asked if a Roomba would fall down stairs; I have a one story house so haven't checked on that, but I read that it will stop if it encounters a drop in height. Thus her message to me about being on the edge of a cliff. But I haven't tested her on stairs.
Another friend asked if Ruth my Roomba goes around chair legs and under tables, yes she does.
Also my dog Bounce does not mind Ruth in the least, he is not frightened or interested. Of course he is not frightened, he is my 14 pound watch dog with a fearless heart!

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

What I Won't Miss

This is the companion piece to my previous post. I got the idea from Nora Ephron's book of essays titled "I Remember Nothing." Nora and I share two things on our lists, Illness and Funerals.
What I Won't Miss
Root canals.  I had one today.
Senior moments.
Impossible to open packaging. When it says "tear here" I often can't.
Being called "a deplorable" by a certain politician.
Paying taxes.
Teeny tiny print.
Household chores.
Paying bills.
Many of the above are boring repetitive chores. Wash dishes and they will soon need to be washed again, that sort of thing.
Seeing suffering.
Waiting in lines.
This list is kind of a downer ! In heaven I won't be missing anything, but in this life it would be sweet if these things didn't occur.
For a more upbeat post, read my previous post on "Things I Will Miss".

Monday, February 11, 2019

What I Will Miss

What I will miss.
I got this idea from Nora Ephron's book of essays titled "I Remember Nothing".
 Nora and I share a couple of things on our lists, namely Kids and Paris.
What I Will Miss
My kids.
Candle light.
Lunch with family and friends.
Women's Bible study.
All wild animals from elephants to coyotes.
 IPA beer.
Pretty shadows.
Paris. Lived there for 5 months.
Istanbul. Lived there for a year.
The Pacific Ocean which I see every day.
Fresh fruit every day.
Ice cream bars and ice cream sandwiches.

OK, today is January 31, 2019 and I see the date this post appeared says February 11, 2019. Spooky right? Or some sort of time travel into the future.
I was attempting to schedule it to have it post on that day of Feb. 11 in future, but hey ho, blogger has a mind of its own sometimes.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Cheerful Red E-Bikes in My Town

These red e-bikes look cheerful to me and people who ride them are being kind to the environment and to their wallets. They are electric bikes that are available on demand. The bicycles are power assist so you do need to pedal. The company is called Jump and charges one dollar for fifteen minutes. So you can ride one to a nearby restaurant or wherever and leave it there. To get a ride home you look on your phone app and see where the nearest one is, walk over to it, and you can leave it outside your house for the next person. So two fifteen minute rides would cost two dollars. These in my photo are in a row at a charging station outside the neighborhood library near my house.
No, I haven't tried them but lots of people are using them and I see riders around town with smiles on their faces.
Do you have these or anything similar where you live? Are they popular in Europe, the U.K., Kuwait, the Philippines, South Korea, Turkey, India and Australia? I have blog friends in those areas so thought I'd ask.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Scottish and French TV Shows I Recommend

I love this French TV series "Call My Agent" about the talent agents at the fictional biggest movie star talent agency in France. The main character is Mathias, played by the incredibly handsome and debonair Thibault de Montalembert and Camille Cottin plays his main rival in the agency. On a fun note his daughter joins the agency against Mathias' wishes and they need to keep her identity secret. A big plus is that world famous actual French actors play fictionalized versions of themselves, a different actor in each episode. The client actors are needy, demanding, gifted and need careful handling. In one episode the client actor gets so far into character of a crazed loner that he can not leave the character and begin his next acting job, so the agents have to help him in a clever way return to the real world. This show has 4 seasons, 2015-2018 and I hope for more. I am watching it on Netflix.

Still Game is a very funny Scottish TV show, set in the fictional Craiglang area of Glasgow. Two life long friends are played by Fred Kiernan and Greg Hemphill. They are pensioners who live on tight budgets in a stark high rise building. The guys and their friends get in to trouble with their mad cap plans and escapades. In one they visit one of the newfangled warehouse stores and get locked in at night. They set up tents and a grill and forage for food and beer in the store. The bartender, Boaby, at  the Clansman (their local pub) and Isa, a kind hearted gossipy lady who earns a bit of money cleaning at the local convenience store are two of the great characters. I watch this on Netflix. It has about nine seasons, beginning in 2002 and they made a final season in 2018. I  am happy to see there are 56 episodes. When my oldest son comes over to visit and hang out we watch an episode of Still Game, he loves it too. My youngest son and I like the comedy Corner Gas, a Canadian show.
I chose these two shows for my post because I think they are not as well known in the USA as I think they deserve. Are there any shows you have discovered and want to share in the comments?
To clarify, I am in the USA and watch both of these shows on Netflix. One blog friend says she wishes these shows would run in the USA and the good news is, they do if you subscribe to Netflix.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Frugal Ideas, A Good Way to Start This New Year

A fresh new year, a clean slate. I thought it would be fun to share a couple frugal things I do and to ask for your favorite frugal tips in comments.
Heating the House
I turn down the heat to 61 degrees F (16 C) at night (from about 8 p.m. to 8 a.m.); the living room heats up quickly to 73 degrees F (22 C) in the morning which I like. My dog Bounce sits right in front of the new wall heater in the morning. I am out and about for several hours each day and turn the temp down to 68 then. Since my house is well insulated it holds the heat. We had insulation put in in the attic, a new front door that doesn't leak air, and a newer living room window.
Is that frugal? Everyone has their own ideas on favorite temperatures. I don't heat my bedroom or the house at night, I like it cool for sleeping.

Growing Vegetables
Come spring I plant vegetables and I read that a square foot of garden can produce a dollar's worth of vegetables. For a 10 by 12 foot garden that could be $120 you won't spend at the grocery store. Seeds are a cheap way to go. I like to plant Chinese sugar pea seeds, edible pea pods are so good fresh from the garden. I always plant tomatoes and zucchini, two zucchini plants are plenty for one person and I plant one green and one yellow zucchini. I plant cilantro, green onions and greens like rainbow chard, kale, or lettuce.
I think my three blueberry plants count as a frugal garden choice since they have provided me with blueberries for eight years. I planted 3 different blueberry varieties, just for fun. They each have a slightly different flavor and berry size and are ripe a few weeks apart which lengthens the blueberry season.
Re-use Egg Cartons
For good drainage for flower pots, I tear up cardboard egg cartons and put them in the bottom of the pots. That is free since you will likely buy eggs anyway.
Doing Laundry
To save water, cost of heating water and to use less laundry detergent I have a front loading clothes washer. I got an energy rebate from our city water department when I bought it several years ago. Also it does not have that central post or agitator so is more gentle on clothes.
Flower Vases
New flower vases can be expensive so I buy them from shops like Goodwill and yard sales. It is useful when I give a friend a bouquet and they can keep the vase.
Lin mentioned saving money by stopping cable TV, which I forgot to include here. My cable bill was getting up to about $90 a month, awful, and I didn't find much to watch. So I cut the cable about 4 years ago, and already had Amazon Prime so I get those TV shows, a family member gets me Netflix, and I pay a total of $20 a month for Britbox, Acorn TV (two sources of British and some Australian and Canadian shows), and Hulu. I am pleased to save $70 a month which adds up to $840 a year. Over 10 years that is $8,400, a huge amount of money saved. One of my sons bought me an Amazon Firestick so I use that to turn to the show I want to watch. The Firestick has the neat feature where I hold down the search button and say the name of a movie or TV show and it looks for it and shows viewing options. Thanks for the reminder Lin.
What are some of your best frugal ideas? I like to get new ideas to try.