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Archive for April, 2008

We’re putting in a vegetable garden. I’ve had tomatoes in amongst my flowers the past two years, which did little during last year’s drought. This year we’re going whole hog — aah, veggie.

I used to pooh-pooh the idea of raised beds as rather elitist, but not anymore. The flower bed Bruce built for my cutting garden three years ago converted me. My perennial beds do well and are easy to maintain, more significant the older and more arthritic I get. They also look defined with a walkway around all the beds. I have room to ease around them with my scissors and basket. My goal is to have lots of flowers for the house and also ones I can see from the kitchen window all summer long. I’ve always loved the wild English cottage flower garden look, but that is not practical here, too much shade and hillside. I also have my herbs out there in pots, although I realized the other day some thyme and Greek oregano have escaped. I need to get out there and recapture them.

Bruce built a 10 X 10 raised bed in the back yard. We’re using the Square Foot Gardening method. Some veggies are planted one per square, or two per square or some variation therein. The idea is to grow a variety of plants in a concentrated area. It is logical and simple. We’re excited. We have great hopes of delicious goodies from the garden. Considering the cost of food now, any way to help is rather appreciated. At our house our grocery bill has probably jumped 33% in the last year or so. My hope is that we have enough to freeze and can too. Green beans, tomatoes, summer squash, melons — yum, yum.

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A rose by any other name smells just as sweet, says Shakespeare. Names identify significant attributes we need to know. I suspect they may help shape character too.

Our tuxedo cat is named Booger. He has two black spots on his otherwise white nose. The name was an easy choice. However, I just couldn’t bear to put “Booger” on his vet records. So when we go to the vet, I have to remember to respond to “Buddy” when they call his name. I just couldn’t make some poor vet tech have to call “Booger” to a crowded waiting room. He is fourteen pounds worth of onery feline fur. A real Alpha Cat. At times he is sweet and cuddly and cute. He “talks” — grumps and growls with a cross between a meow and a throaty quasi-purr. In addition, he has a comment on everything. He sounds just like a grumpy old man, fussing under his breath about his daily annoyances, from his canned food being late to the other cats getting his favorite nap spot to rainy day door decisions. Although, education classes explain “self actualization” — the process of becoming what we’re told we are, I do wonder if that applies to animals. Booger was a feisty little runt of the litter from the beginning. I got him from a friend from church. All it took was “We might have to have him euthanized if we can’t find him a home” for me to scoop him up. He rode home that day in the car sitting on my shoulder, purring in my ear like a furry parrot. However, the older he gets, the more “boogerish” he becomes.

One of my favorite Monty Python skits is when they make fun of the pronunciation of names. John Cleese says, “My name is Throat Warbler Mangrove, but you can call me Luxury Yacht.” Our family thought that was hilarious, so whenever we were unsure of someone’s name he/she was referred to as “Luxury Yacht”.

The last year I taught I had a student named Thania. First day of school, I called her name. “No,” she said, “it’s pronounced ‘Tonya.'” “T-H-A-N-I-A?” I asked, looking at my list, thinking someone had misspelled it. “Yes, It’s pronounced Tonya.” “But T-H-A-N should rhyme with Stan,” I said, drawing on everything I ever knew about the phonology of the English language. “Well, my mother says it is pronounced “Tonya.” Well, I’m thinking, your mother needs a spelling lesson — “Tonya” or even “Tonia” would do. Why would any mother do that? I called her “Miss Jones” throughout the year. It had to be that or “Luxury Yacht.”

Years ago I found several bricks in the yard with the name “Stevens” imprinted on them. I used one as a door stop, even using others to lift up the grate in the fireplace. Little did I know, that years later, I would marry a “Stephens.” Prophetic, huh?

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Editor Kathy

When I first announced my plans to retire, some of my colleagues said to me, “What will you do? Or you going to substitute? Get another job?” I guess they didn’t understand the concept of retire. They just couldn’t yet imagine going day to day without a job. Truth is I have a job: living my life by doing what I want, not what I have to do. I worked for 40 years, 25 as a teacher, 15 doing a variety of other jobs, the most important one as a mother of two sons. What some don’t get is that retired people are busy and active still, just in a different way. When Bruce finished college his first instinct was to go get a job. He looked actively for some months, however, nothing really turned him on. We had both “punched the time clock” for many years. He didn’t need to do that anymore. Now he volunteers as a coach for soccer and baseball. This is important contribution. He has lots of experience and loves doing it. He also loves yard work. His riding lawn mower is his friend, and, indirectly, mine too. We help out down at our church in a variety of ways. My garden club volunteers to plant and care for the gardens at St. Helena’s Episcopal Convent. There is plenty of work to do in the community.

Anyway — one of the mental games I still play is — what would I do if I wanted to go back to work, i.e. get paid for a prescribed activity? I used to tell my students my dream job would be to write poetry, read poetry, and write about poetry. That always got some strange looks. (“I thought she was nuts, now I’m sure of it.”) And still, that is my dream job. The wave-the-magic-wand kind. However, lately I identified a need. One I could fill: menu editor.

Recently we were in North Carolina for a few days visiting my brother and sister-in-law. We ate in restaurants in small towns, the ones wth delicious and simple food. The down-home type, not the fancy uppy-yuppy type with cutesy names for their dishes. One morning “Famous Louise’s Rockhouse Restaurant”, located across the road from our lodge, was closed. This is the place that advertised “Homemade Pie’s” for sale. I would have preferred “Homemade Pies”. And, trust me, the Strawberry Rhubarb was delicious! Anyway, on that day, we headed off to the next town. In Newland we found “Fabio’s” — a mainstreet cafe run by — guess who? — Fabio! It was simple, with vinyl tablecloths and artificial flowers in the vases on the tables, grab your own menu and seat yourself. Fabio is owner, cook, waiter and cashier, and father to a darling 4 year old girl. The little one was at the computer working on her alphabet. She would yell, “Papa!” “Bella!” her father would reply. “What’s an up, down, up?” “That’s an N.” “Papa!” “Bella!” “What’s a up, down, up, down, up, down, up, down?” Mm, we thought. Papa had to go look at the screen. The next trip by our table, he said, “It was a W.”

This is a hard working man who had plenty of work ethic; however, he needed some serious menu help. I didn’t know whether to order “sagage”, “sasuage” or “sausage” with my eggs. Did I want “T’ony Pizza”? Or a “Rueben sandwitch”? He could pay me in meals to revise his menu. We’d both be happy.

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Spring is Official

We’ve taken our first trip and cleaned up the porch and are in the process of cleaning up the yard and garden. That means Spring has officially arrived on Sumac Drive. This date has nothing to do with the calendar.

This past week Bruce entered a new decade. He can now show his ID and not be rejected for the senior citizen discount. In England it’s called OAP for “old age pensioner.” I like our term better. We decided to show such an occasion its due reverence and we drove up to Asheville NC for a night in a fancy hotel and a visit to the Biltmore. A four hour drive in the rain on the Interstate with a jillion trucks and poor visibility is not fun. Checking into the hotel we realized that we spent three weeks in Europe last summer with a fraction of the luggage. Traveling by car is both good and bad. We had too much of everything we needed. Anyway, we had a lovely dinner in the hotel restaurant since it was cold and rainy and we were tired. It was quiet so we had lots of service from our friendly server. Very relaxing. The room had Internet service so Himself was happy. Add the fancy soft bedding and Kathy was happy. We left early for the Biltmore the next morning. We both had visited the house before, however, we were anxious to see the gardens. They were glorious. Lots of spring bulbs in dazzling colors and arrangements. A real photo op for Bruce and his handy dandy camera. Thank heavens for shuttle service. That place is huge!

Three days in Linville Falls, down the road from Hugh and Sylvia, was quite pleasant. The nights were cool and the air fresh. I guess it’s the altitude. Hugh played tour guide. Sylvia provided history and background. We all got great pictures of the mountains. Hugh’s birthday ended with a crispy fish camp supper.

Back home the cats complained at being left out on the porch with food, water and a day bed. Ginger dogged our steps after five days at the spa (aka — the kennel at the vet’s). With the pine pollen finally past we could clean up the porch. We almost live out there in the summer, usually taking two of our meals there. We can watch TV or the birds. Although I move house plants out there, but we can also see the flower garden.

Now the Masters is over. Trevor Immelman won. We can again drive on the side of town where the Augusta National is located. Spring has sprung.

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Dreams are funny things. Almost all my life I’ve had a rich dream life. Some are funny, some are sad, some are weird and some aren’t even worth remembering.

A couple of days ago I woke up laughing and had to tell Bruce about my silly dream. (A real treat for him first thing in the morning, I’m sure, while he was still pre-coffee . . . .) In the dream something had happened, like bad weather, which we had in the metro area several weeks ago. I was with a group of people and we were riding around together in a car surveying the damage. (In my dreams I’m usually a little younger and more agile and a lot stronger.) When we got to our house, which of course, looked different than our real house, however, we could see from the street through a picture window that some people were in the house in the kitchen messing about. In my righteous indignation — how could anyone be in my house fooling around in there? — I jumped out of the car and dashed inside to confront the intruders. Since the kitchen was the scene of the crime, spatulas and big spoons and kitchen utensils were lying on the floor. I grabbed a spatula from the floor and threatened the man and woman with it! Whoa – scary weapon there, huh? They cowered and made for the door while I headed for the broom. That was my next weapon of choice. I was really going to let them have it. Really make a clean sweep of it, I guess. Anyway, they left and I awoke feeling quite vindicated. I had protected hearth and home and all was well. Bruce and I had a good chuckle. In my real kitchen, I have two magnetic knife bars. One by the prep counter actually holds knives, but the other one, by the stove top, holds spatulas. Who would have thought that the brain would equate a mighty instrument like a knife with a equally mighty spatula? Crazy, huh?

Some of my dreams through the years have recurring themes. One of the most common started in college. I would oversleep and miss an important exam. Because I’d come in late, I flunked the test. Finally, one day when I attended Fort Hays it actually happened — kind of. Because of a very early exam time, I had stayed in a guest room at the dorm, on the other side of campus from the English building. I’d brought with me David’s digital alarm clock. However, I forgot you had to set the AM or PM for the alarm. I woke up at 7.15 for a 7.30 exam. I pulled on clothes, splashed water on my face, grabbed my purse, and started running. I was only a few minutes late, but it took me 15 minutes to catch my breath. I huffed and puffed through the first essay question. For a long time, I didn’t have that particular dream. I had lived it, so I no longer had to fear it. Eventually that wore off and the dream came back during grad school.

Another one was what I call my standard “frustration” dream. In the dream someone is about to “get me.” I need to yell but I can’t. I would wake up frustrated and mad at myself. Finally, one night, I had had enough, I actually yelled — and scared the you-know-what out of my husband. That one disappeared for awhile too.

A variation on the above involved preparing for the first day of school. In the dream I would have everything organized and something awful would happen. Once, I left my classroom and the custodians came in, removed the desks and poured wax on the floor. First day of school! I couldn’t walk on the wet floor even to retrieve my handouts. A real nightmare for a teacher!

One of my favorite dreams involved being late for work — on the first day of school — for a very strict principal, not that that would make any difference. In the dream, I was late because I was shopping at the mall. My subconscious didn’t deal with the fact that I’d had to have been shopping at 7 and 8 o’clock in the morning. ? ? Anyway, I realized I needed a good lie. What could I possibly say that Mrs. Strict Principal might actually believe? Yes — I had it. I would tell her my dog had diarrhea on the living room carpet and I had to stop and clean it before it stained. Would she come over to sniff the rug? Naah. Was there a sympathy factor at work there? Yeah. No one ever wants to deal with a mess like that! I woke up laughing. Remember that — just in case you ever need a really good lie for being very late to work. Just be sure you actually own a dog, okay?

Speaking of dogs. One summer when I was studying at Southern Miss in Hattiesburg, I really got homesick, not for my family, but for BJ, our Doberman. I could pick up the phone and talk to the humans when I missed them, but I couldn’t talk to BJ. Dale once held the phone to her ear and she proceeded to wander the house looking for me. Aaah. So I started dreaming about her. We were always out in a big field and with her long legs, she could run like the wind. That is truly doggie heaven. So now when I remember her, I think of her that way, not old and sick, blind with cataracts and diabetic, but young and well. Running like the wind, in a big field, romping and playing like happy dogs should. As Hamlet says — “To sleep — perchance to dream.”

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I love British TV. On NetFlix I’m able to order lots of their series. We’ve been watching a lot of murder mysteries lately. Hetty Wainthrop, Detective is a series about an older British housewife turned detective who gets help from her young assistant, Geoffrey and her husband, Robert. Patricia Routledge, from Keeping Up Appearances, plays the title role. Although she says, “I don’t investigate murders, that’s police business” there still seems to be a dead body lying around and an ancillary mystery she is able to solve.  Hetty reminds me of a British friend, very matter of fact and practical.

We’ve also rented Rosemary and Thyme. They are two ladies who are horticulturists (how could you not be, given those names?) and again, dead bodies pop up in the gardens. Needless to say, the photography is glorious, showing beautiful houses and gardens. They drive an old beaten-up Land Rover with a grinding transmission. One of the actresses, whose name escapes me at the moment, played the wife on Good Neighbors years ago.

Bruce particularly likes Brother Cadfael. Set in medieval England, the monk is a former soldier, and a current herbalist. Again, lots of dead bodies pile up around the monastery, in between matins and vespers and compline.

We found a new one called Eleventh Hour in which a scientist for government research tracks down issues that are scientifically based. The main character is played by Patrick Stewart, Captain Picard to some of you. His sidekick is a female bodyguard. The first episode dealt with cloning and why it is not good even though it’s possible to do.

Lined up for later are Rumpole of the Bailey, and Ruth Rendell Mysteries and The Last Detective.  Rumpole and She Who Must Be Obeyed, are in several series not shown here in the USA.  So it looks like we’ll be stepping around corpses (metaphorically speaking, of course) for some time.

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