Wednesday, June 21, 2017

It's never too late to do something different.

One of the big things going on in our lives of late is a mid-life career change for my husband. He was deeply unhappy with his work in the corporate world, trying to juggle competing demands from the heads of the company and not finding much in the job that felt valuable. I hated knowing how much he hated it. When the company started struggling and layoffs ensued, I saw it as a wonderful opportunity. I offered to pick up the financial slack and take over kid duty when he needed to be in class or at a part-time job, and urged him to get trained in something he would feel good about doing. And so, he enrolled in a program to get certified as a Clinical Medical Assistant. With that certification, he could work as a phlebotomist or EKG tech or more generally in a hospital or physician's office. My only condition was that as a needlephobe, I could not let him practice on me! After months of evening and Saturday classes, and lots of studying in a field completely new to him, the course wrapped up with the national exam. We went out to celebrate!
Several days later, he got his results back and found out he didn't just pass the test, he aced it. I pulled out the bottle of bourbon I'd bought to mark the occasion. Because I never had a doubt he'd do well. And he posted this incredibly sweet thank-you: "When I told her we should bring back a couple of bottles of wine from Italy, she said "How about a couple of cases?" When I told her before cooking a fish and chips dinner that I was going inside to batter the cod, she raised an eyebrow and said "Is that what you boys are calling it these days?" And when she could tell I was tiring of a business world that was taking a very real physical and mental toll on me, she said "whatever you want to do we will make it happen"."
Ready for the 6-week externship, which he is now two days into. It was a scary move but, I feel certain, the right one. He's been happier and more relaxed even since just starting the program. And when he came back from the first day at the medical office where he's been placed, he was smiling and wanting to talk about it. That in itself makes it all worth it.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Other times, it's a run of funny things.

Like this sweet potato seal I found.
Or a cherry turkey.
Or maybe a place to stop for lunch when you're feeling blue.

And then I saw a joke on a friend's facebook timeline:

Dad: "What's a pirates favorite letter?
Kid: The letter Arrrrrgh?
Dad: You'd think it be the letter Arrrrgh, but they be enchanted by the C's!

I had to try it on my kids, leading to this exchange with my older son:
I walked right into that one!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

A run of odd things.

In the last few minutes of the last appointment of the day, I heard a loud thud and then spent too much time watching this scene out the window.
 And then I unwrapped a truffle only to find it was a chocolate Death Star.
Worse, I went into the fenced-in back yard to plant something and saw this on the ground. That's right, a severed duck foot. But why? And how? My theory is that it is the work of El Chupacabra.
But on the other hand, a little house finch landed on my husband's messenger bag when he was on his way to class. That makes up for the rest of it.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

My tiny war on weeds.

I said I'd follow up on this grassy weed that springs up all over the new clover lawn. Given the root structure, I didn't think it was an actual grass but couldn't find it online or in a weed identification book I'd checked out from the library. I did, however, find a website that lets you send in photos to ask a local expert.
Someone at the ag extension from a neighboring state provided the answer: Yellow nutsedge, "a troublesome, difficult-to-control weed." Apparently I am to be thankful it is not the even more aggressive purple nutsedge.  Sedges spread by underground tubers, so my plan is to just keep pulling them out as they pop up. Thank goodness it's a small area!
More of my attention of late has been here. I love working in the little oasis that is my backyard. And nothing is quite as mind-clearing for me after a long day at work as sitting on the ground and pulling out weeds I don't want.
This is a weed I think of as "popperweed." It's actually called hairy bittercress and when the tiny seed pods dry, bittercress will shoot those little fuckers everywhere. Often into your eyeballs if you are weeding. It's a diabolically clever means of spreading its offspring far and wide.
This is another weed I tried in vain to identify and then sent into the ag extension site. It starts out green and pales to yellow and has hard purplish seedpods and tiny white flowers. I was told this is burweed but when I looked it up, that doesn't quite fit. Particularly since this weed has no spines and that's one of burweed's chief characteristics. I do believe it's a broadleaf winter annual but its identity is still a mystery to me. I pulled out as much of it as I could find and now that it's dormant, I'll wait to see what emerges next winter and pull more.
I declared a fatwa on this weed a couple of years ago. Creeping charlie (aka ground ivy) is not an unattractive plant but it will absolutely take over and choke out everything else. I want room for weeds I do like - clover, wild violets, wood sorrel, henbit, deadnettle - to spread. I have completely eradicated it from my front yard and flower beds, and now I've turned my attention to the back yard. It's a sisyphian task and I suspect I'll never quite get it all. But that won't stop me from trying. And when an entire vine pulls out at once? It makes me absurdly happy.
This is the one weed I will actually use an herbicide on. Because I want the roots dead. I am wildly reactive to poison ivy and it has brought misery into my life on countless occasions. However, I read that the key is not just using soap or a specialty wash, but to take a wash cloth and scrub any exposed area to thoroughly remove the urushiol oil from your skin. I've been doing that and so far, so good.
When the city recently repaved our neighborhood roads, they did so without any sort of notification for not putting yard waste out for pick-up. Instead, they shoved it into my flower bed. On top of blooming flowers. Not knowing why, I pulled it back out and added more to the pile. Lather, rinse, repeat. The third time, I dragged it out onto the newly-paved road, cut back all the leatherleaf mahonia that was growing through my fence from a neighbors yard and added that to the pile. And waited. This time, the city carted it all away. I suspect I'm known as the crazy woman who puts out endless piles of weeds. But I can live with that.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Has it already been a year?

In some ways it seems to have passed in a flash, in others it seems like we've been married a lot longer than that. I got a Groupon deal for photos printed on metal for five bucks each and had two from our wedding made. I braided the silk ribbons we'd used in our hand-fasting and framed the photos with them to hang on our bedroom wall.
Our anniversary was Sunday, so we decided to dress up and go out for dinner. It had rained most of the day but cleared up in the late afternoon and was very pleasant out.
We headed downtown to the restaurant that had catered our wedding night family dinner. My husband had called ahead and asked if they could re-create the dessert I'd requested a year ago. Not on the menu, but I'd remembered this restaurant used to serve a really delicious chocolate mousse. After the meal, they brought this out - on the house!
Of course, we'd also put back some wedding cake, per tradition, and I had taken it out of the freezer that morning. That and a bottle of our wedding champagne, and roses my husband had brought home that matched the ones I'd carried. We slipped our rings onto each other's fingers to repeat our vow - "Leis an fáinne mé pósadh tú agus geallaim mo ghrá" (With this ring I marry you and promise my love). I admit, we're sentimental fools.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

It's getting there. I think.

I had promised an update on my experimental clover yard. This is the side yard. It is shaded by enormous hemlocks and smaller dogwoods, and is shadier. It's patchy still, but the clover is spreading.
And this is the main part of the front yard. There are parts where the clover is thick and other areas that are essentially barren. With highs approaching the 90's lately, it's really too hot to plant more clover.  I'm going to just watch though the summer and then see what needs re-seeding when the weather cools in the fall.
The only weeds I've had trouble with in the front yard are these little grass-like things. They just pop up everywhere and a couple of times a week I pull out the new ones. I don't believe they are actually grass - they grow from a single root and generally pull out of the ground cleanly. They also pop up in my mulched beds.
Eventually I hope the whole lawn will be covered thickly like this patch. Then my front yard will be a bee and bunny heaven.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Mother's Day weekend.

I keep thinking I'll have more time to blog, but life keeps happening and I stay busy. Mostly happily so. I've been baking sourdough bread fairly often and made this loaf of Simon & Garfunkel bread last week when my son and his girlfriend came over for dinner. I made it up - it's a spiraled butter and herb loaf with parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. I asked the kids and was surprised to hear they both knew the song Scarborough Fair. We just had the bread and a big pot of stout and chicken stew.
Sometimes the busy is just hanging out in the hammock with my younger stepdaughter. She has recently become a voracious reader and we go to the library most weekends to stock up. She and I celebrated mother's day a day early, when she made me a card and brought chocolates. We have a tight bond and I think of her as my daughter now.
I'd heard cheeps coming from one of the bird houses so she and I opened it to check. Baby black-capped chickadees! I took a quick photo and shut the box back up because one of the parents was watching from a nearby branch, waiting to bring food to the chicks.
My older son made a rare visit home and spent both weekend nights at my house. I can't tell you how happy this made me. Mother's Day morning, he, my younger son and my younger son's girlfriend (these two are joined at the hip, so I'm thankful that I really like her!) joined us for brunch. I'm trying to be mindful of their privacy, so this is a before photo. We had spinach quiches, a hearty chicken salad, roasted potatoes and berries with coeur a la crème. We talked and laughed for quite a while and I hated to see them go.
The next day, I was carrying out some recycling and was started by a squawk and flutter of wings in the giant rhododendron by the driveway. The little stubby-tailed blue jay fledgling hopped further into the interior of the shrub and watched me anxiously. I, of course, ran for my camera. But I didn't linger because I was being chided by an adult perched in the hemlock tree above us. I gave it some space until the little bird was coaxed by its parent back to the safety of the nest. I could relate - as a prent, I just want the safety and happiness of my kids.
A belated happy Mother's Day to all the moms (in whatever form that takes) out there.