Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Wondrous Thing Happened This Wednesday

Look what the wind blew in this afternoon!

A mid week trip home because he couldn't wait 'til the weekend to see his birthday present......And no classes 'til the afternoon tomorrow.

El PussyGato was extremely pleased to see him ......

.....but didn't seem to notice anything different.

I did.

I'm still smiling.....

Because this is how he looked last month!

The OC is wondering what we've done with his "daughter!"

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Lessons In Green Thumb-ery

I went on the internet the night before for directions, so I wouldn't be all in a dither the morning of the first class. Do the people at Mapquest subscribe to the notion that we are descended from apes? Their instructions are idiotically detailed! They map every quarter inch of the way, which serves to confuse rather than clarify.....But, if I take their fifty lines of instructions for getting from A to B, and eliminate 47 of them, I am left with the three that matter. Which I did, and arrived early for the first day of the master gardener course, which is being held, on alternate Fridays, in our county and the county south of us. Necessitating driving to an unknown location early in the morning before the coffee had it's full impact.

The trip was about 35 miles, through lovely rolling hills [a rare treat in flat Florida,] idyllic pastures with cattle grazing contentedly under spreading oaks, white-fenced horse farms, orange groves, and fields of blueberries. There was wisteria tumbling over walls, and blazing bushes of azaleas in full flower. From recent rains and warmer temperatures, trees and fields alike had burst out in green. Lakes sparkled through the hedgerows, and stands of wild flowers, in unexpected ditches, took my breath away......

And me without my camera!

My simplified directions brought me to my destination with fifteen minutes to spare only because I'd forgotten the camera.

Filing in, registering, pinning on name tags, everyone was quiet and nervous like the first day at a new school. Each one of us had to say a few words about who we were, where we were from, and why we were there. Then we played People Bingo, just to check that we hadn't been snoozing during the intros! After that the room started to hum.

The nicest surprise of the day was that there was such a great group of people taking the course; people from all over the U.S. and a few from overseas; people who love plants and trees and flowers; who care about the environment and conserving natural resources; people interested in growing their own vegetables and saving water and energy; people who want to educate children about where our food comes from. That apples, for instance, don't grow on the supermarket shelf....The children I know are aware of these things but, from what I hear, many children today have no idea.

There were a few farmers there; people who've raised cattle and chickens, rabbits and roses, horses and children; an entomologist; a dietitian; a retired teacher or two; a burly, bearded fellow whose hobby is fixing old tractors, a director of a wildlife preserve......and these are just the ones I remember. And of course there's me, and the Bean, who was late due to the pesky requirement that he attend his only Friday class first!

The course is run by the Extension Service of the State University. Each county has an extension office to provide scientifically sound information to residents on how to grow things in Florida, how to can and preserve the things you have managed to grow, how to raise chickens or cows or goats or pigs or pigeons; how to landscape your property with drought tolerant plants; not,for instance, growing acres of thirsty grass when water is scarce.

Master Gardeners help to get gardening info out by volunteering in demo gardens; in the Extension offices, answering phones; manning booths at plant shows, etc. Aiiiieeee! There goes my quilting time! I guess I'll just have to get up earlier.

That was last week. And already, today, it was time for class #2! Fortunately closer to home. My head is spinning with lists of invasive species, diseases that attack plants in this place and this climate, and plant taxonomy---fancy Latin names for plants and all the parts thereof. Amo,amas,amat was a very long time ago and did not prepare me for this! And quizzes too.... And homework....... We need to slow the days down so Fridays don't come hurtling at me quite so fast!

The instructors are friendly and knowledgeable, with fully functioning senses of humour; the material is interesting to anyone with a pulse: and taking the class would be worthwhile if for no other reason than to meet such a diverse group of people.

Meanwhile, quilt projects languish; laundry piles up; as fast as vegetables grow, weeds grow faster; Penelope Lively is calling to me from the night table, even though my eyelids are drooping---maybe just one wee chapter, to see what happens---and before I know it, it will be next Friday.......and my brother should be here, Icelandic volcanoes permitting......but that's a whole 'nother post!

Note: That picture at the top is of Cross Vine. It was growing in an arbor at the demo garden at the first class. Since I didn't have my camera, tyhis photo is courtesy of the internet!

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Standing At The Kitchen Sink, Dreaming

Long ago, in the last century, when I was up to my oxthers in raising children, I used to stand at the kitchen sink and dream. My hands were busy, scrubbing pots and pans, or peeling carrots, but my thoughts were off in the clouds. Blogs were not even a twinkle in the eye of the genius who invented them, but I was writing, in my head. I wrote in notebooks too, of which I still have a motley and highly disorganized collection. Some day, when I'm whiling the hours away, and dozing in my rocking chair, I'll pile them up by my side and try to make sense of them.

The trouble is, that by the time the rug rats were tucked into bed, and I had a few minutes to write, I was only semi conscious. But standing at the kitchen sink? That's where I "wrote" the blockbusters, in my head. As anyone knows who writes, or tries to, ideas are like quicksilver; if you don't grab them and nail them into a notebook with a pencil, they flutter out the window and are gone, never to be recaptured with the clarity and perfection of the original thought.

Today the youngest of my rug rats has a birthday. Yesterday I made Irish Stew [by special request!] for his birthday dinner tonight,and right now I have Lily's Apple Cake, his favourite, in the oven. Which means that, in the last twenty four hours, I've spent a lot of time at the kitchen sink, peeling potatoes, chopping carrots, onions and celery, breaking eggs, slicing apples....and dreaming.

Dreaming of the long ago, when the house was full of energetic children, and barking, dancing dogs, furry chinchillas and scaly lizards; when, as far as the children were concerned, I knew everything; when I was the best reader and weaver of stories the world had ever known, and a champion maker of cookies to boot; when extra sandwiches I'd made [because growing boys have hollow legs and entrepreneurial ways] were auctioned off at the school lunch table to the highest bidder; when there wasn't a problem in their world that I couldn't solve with a hug and a smooch, and maybe a back rub; when the days flew by in a happy, busy blur and I thought it would always be so.

Occasionally, I would long for quiet; for less frenetic comings and goings; for time alone; but, for the most part, I loved my life and was content. Time is a sneak though. While I wasn't looking, the rug rats grew up, and, ever so slowly, so I hardly even noticed, drifted off to their own lives. Which is the way of things,I know. And I'm fine with that.

I really am. But, if I had it to do again, I would sit in the sand box more often and make "cakes" with them [no apple]; I'd read that "one more story" before turning out the light; I would go and bring "one more drink of water" to reluctant sleepers without a sigh of exasperation; I'd get a sitter for the baby and go help in the classroom; I'd get on an airplane and go hold her hand when life was overwhelming and she was all alone and lonely; I'd get in the car and drive to the other side of the country when the bottom fell out of his world.

Can you make up with the youngest for your shortfalls with the others?

My eyes were stinging at the kitchen sink today. And it wasn't all because of the onions.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

There Was A Little Girl With A Curl In Her Hair.......

Seven year old grand daughter, the Divine Miss S, has been taking music lessons. They are coming to an end soon, and there is to be a recital, which is generating a lot of excitement under those golden curls, and, naturally, necessitating a new dress. I volunteered to make it. It's been a while since I last made her a dress. It gets complicated, what with her being a few thousand miles away, and growing constantly, not to mention that young ladies of seven, these days, have very specific opinions on the subject of dresses. The grown-ups and the Divine Miss S do not necessarily have the same taste, so I decided it was wisest to get suggestions from Herself.

She picked four patterns.

Dress # 1: her favourite, had a skirt made of tiered flounces, which initially made me flinch. On closer inspection, I saw that it was classified as "Easy." If I decided on dress #1 she would like it, if possible, in ocean blue with a dark lavender ribbon around the waist and a bow/flower of the same colour.

Dress #2:If dress #1 made me flinch, dress #2 made me cower in terror. It was a frothy little number that looked like a miniature wedding dress! It had short sleeves and ruffles, and Miss S fancied it in pink and green polka dots, if possible.

Dress #3: To my delight, this was a dress I would have chosen for her if left to my own devices! It was a classic shape, with short sleeves and a gathered skirt, a sash around the waist with an optional flower pinned to the bow. If I chose this option Miss S would like it to be white with red polka dots, a dark pink ribbon at the waist. And a red rose. She would like the length of this dress to be mid-calf.

Dress #4: A simple sundress style with spaghetti straps and a long skirt. If I decided on this one she would like it in yellow with an orange belt...

I hied me to the fabric store.

The pattern for dress #2 was out of stock. Whew! Sigh of relief. Likewise for dress #4. Patterns for #1 and #3 were available. Now for the fabric. As much as Miss S seemed enamored of polka dots, there were none in evidence, so I crossed my fingers and bought white cotton with little red cherries.

The Divine Miss S is very particular and knows what she likes. But she assured me on the telephone that she would understand if I couldn't find exactly these fabrics. I just hope visions of frothy wedding gowns are not dancing in her cute, curly head. I mailed it yesterday. She should have it tomorrow, several days before the big day. Time enough to rush to the after-Easter sales if it's not up to expectations. But, with luck, it won't come to that!

Now if I could devise a method of wiggling my nose and magically arriving at that recital.....

Thursday, April 01, 2010

A Person Of Suspicion.....

This picture has nothing to do with this post. But the azaleas are beautiful right now!

Hidden in among the bank statements and umpteenth notices for magazine subscription renewals we're no longer interested in, [have you noticed how, even after your "last chance" notice, they just keep on coming?] was something official-looking.....for me.

At long last! My shiny new Alien Registration Card, along with a leaflet welcoming me to the United States.

"Well," I said to the world at large, "Isn't that special."

I've only lived here since 1970 and now they want to welcome me? These would be the fine folks at Homeland Security, beloved of airline travelers throughout the land, and an even more recent addition to the US than myself.

Alien resident cards are issued for ten years at a time. Mine expired last summer and I applied for a renewal, the first time I've had to renew since Homeland Security took over the job of keeping us safe.

And, in case you had any doubts, they are working very conscientiously towards that end. They left no stone unturned to make sure I was not a menace to society, so that the good citizens of this country would not be at risk of their lives by having the likes of me living and breathing among them. After all, just because a person marries an American citizen and spends the best years of her life raising other American citizens, is no reason to assume she will not get a wild hair, one of these days, and embark on a life of crime. And the fact that one's husband was a career military man and served his country with distinction should in no way raise one above suspicion.

A terrorist until proven otherwise.

No exceptions. In the interests of national security, you understand.

I sent in the [considerable] fee, along with my renewal application. In due time I was told to report to an office in a distant city, so that immigration experts [the implication being that such specialized work was beyond the capabilities of the local sheriff's office] could take my fingerprints and my picture.

And when the powers that be deemed my fingerprints "unreadable," I was required to motor once again to the same distant city, so that the same [not so expert] people and their fancy-ass fingerprinting machines could do it all again.

And when they were once again deemed "unreadable," I was told to contact the law enforcement offices of each place I had lived in the past ten years, and obtain from them a copy of my criminal history record, which I should then mail to them within 87 days.....#$%@! What's with that magic number? And exactly what criminal history were they talking about, I wondered? A case, once again, of being a criminal 'til proven otherwise. Oh, and don't forget to include a check for the fee to each law enforcement office involved.

Insinuations to the contrary aside, I am a law abiding person, though it tries my patience when the law is implemented idiotically, so I sent off requests to the law enforcement offices of two states in which I have lived in the past ten years, complete with requisite fees.

Now, I understand red tape. I understand bureaucracy. But I was beginning to feel insulted. Beginning to feel I might be better off packing my bags and relieving the U S of A of the apparent hazard of having me at large. I could go home to Ireland. I'm sure the Little Blister would not leave me out in the cold and the rain...I would survive just fine there, as long as I was armed [or maybe that should be footed?] with a good supply of thick, woollie socks. At least there I wouldn't be viewed with such suspicion!

In the fullness of time I received reports in the mail from the investigative agencies of the States of Florida and Minnesota. They had snooped and pried and uncovered my dastardly secret...........

I had never been in trouble with the law!

Didn't I assure you that these folks are toiling, day and night, sparing no expense [on my part!] to keep you safe from the dodgy ones among us?

I now have in my possession, a shiny, new Alien Registration card, complete with its very own protective sleeve.

Which means they won't be looking to deport me for at least the next ten years....

And what else does it mean? The rest of the country can sleep easy tonight, in the knowledge that the chances of being knifed in their beds by Molly Bawn, are slim to none.