Sep 8 2010

#1 Military Power; Not So High on Literacy


This, from the Writer’s Almanac:

“Today, the U.N. lists Cuba has as having the second-highest literacy rate in the world, after the country of Georgia. The United States ties for 21st place with Canada and several northern European countries.”


Aug 13 2010

Wedding Canopy Success


When we were planning our outdoor wedding, I looked for something appropriate as a backdrop for the ceremony.  The lattice canopy at the rental store fit the bill, but how to decorate it?

I looked online at images for a decorated canopy, but nothing seemed to fit.  Most were decorated for indoor weddings, had expensive flowers or were too frou frou.

Armed with about 150 yards of tulle, two decorative flower holders from Michael’s and an abundance of hydrangeas from the garden, my sisters and friends went to work a few hours before the wedding.  They created a beautiful setting for the ceremony, without making something that overwhelmed the yard.

I was very pleased with the result, and all of our wedding photos feature this canopy in the background.  I am posting photos to inspire some future DIY bride.Chuppah2


Aug 9 2010

Wedding Hairstyle


After the stylist I hired to do my hair had a scheduling complication (the frantic phone call the day before the wedding), Donna called Kim Moore, a stylist in Mt. Airy.  She agreed to make a house call on Sunday and transformed me from an ordinary woman of a “certain age” into a happy, radiant bride.  And she did this without practicing on me in advance!

Jul 11 2010

Our Southwestern Honeysun


Roger and I went on our “honeysun” to the Four Corners area for 16 days.  We traveled over 2000 miles in our rented Ford Edge, over paved and decidedly unpaved roads.  Every day brought amazing experiences hiking and camping in the breathtaking environment.  Some highlights include:  the light in Santa Fe, sunsets on Mesa Verde, Dead Horse Point State Park, camping on BLM land at Valley of the Gods, seeing a herd of bull elk and a kit fox, hiking Aztec Butte, the 16% grade switchback descent from the top of Black Canyon of the Gunnison to the bottom, the ruins at Hovenweep, and just about everything at Chaco Canyon.

We listened to an outstanding presentation on the night stars at national parks given by Dr. Tyler Nordgren and bought copies of his new book, Stars Above, Earth Below.  (Here is a link to his website which includes the Powerpoints and his blog:

Just about every photo we took (all 400+ of them) brings back a special memory.

Roger discovered “Trip Journal,” a great iPhone app (99 cents) that allows the user to set waypoints, organize and label photos, and take notes.  The output is a nifty map of the trip, including the photos and comments.  The entire trip can be exported to Facebook (yikes!  My friends would unfriend me.), Flickr, Google Earth and more.  I am especially thankful for the ability to take quick notes in my iPhone trip journal.  Next, I plan to put the whole honeysun into a Shutterfly book.  By the fall, I will be able to “thrill” any guest with a variety of media about our trip.

Every regular domestic day with Roger is terrific, but our honeysun is unforgettable.

Jun 7 2010

Flower Power


final bed june 2010The love of my life completed the last bed and tilled compost into it this evening.  Then, I began my flower planting adventure.  I started with a row of hollyhocks.  It would help if I knew what the flowers will look like when I plant the bulbs.  When Roger and I reviewed later, I learned that hollyhocks grow to about 8 ft., so they’ll have to be moved once they come up.  There were four calla lily bulbs, several white dahlias, some zinnias, marigolds.  I think I threw in a row of azure allium bulbs that I got from a school fundraiser, but Roger says they’re too old to germinate.  I also did a planter box of forget-me-nots and a planter box of “flower mix” that I received in the mail from an insurance agent (I do not remember the date).  I put in about three dozen more gladioli bulbs in several other places in the garden an a couple of rows of marigolds in the lettuce beds.  I planted some more lettuce in the holes where we’ve eaten our lettuce, and I stuck some radishes in a row near the turnips.  If it all grows, it will surely be by the hand of God alone because this green thumb is suspect.

May 25 2010

Lark’s Heel


What’s blooming today?  A white delphinium.

In my research, delphinium’s other name is larkspur.  I’m going to go with “lark’s heel,” Shakespeare’s name for it. The flower has five petal-like sepals which grow together to form a hollow pocket with a spur at the end, which gives the plant its name. The plants flower from late spring to late summer, and are pollinated by butterflies and bumble bees. (More butterflies, please!) The plant is toxic, so ranchers don’t allow cattle to graze on fields of larkspur until late in the summer cialis online india.  Also surprising to me, one ancient use of the seeds of larkspur was to kill lice and nits in the hair (we don’t have that problem here), and a tincture cures asthma (we won’t be making that home remedy).

The scientific name comes from the Latin for dolphin alluding to the shape of the opening flower.  This weekend,  Roger and I watched The Cove, the Academy-Award winning documentary about killing dolphins in Japan.  Strangely fitting?  Connected?  At any rate, there’s only ONE flower right now, so I am urging Roger to plant more! photoFunny how I never knew what the flower was before, and now I need a whole garden of them!

May 23 2010

Ravishing Radishes!


Roger spent hours in the garden yesterday, and a sumptuous meal that included radishes was the result.  Check out these beauties!radishes 5-22-2010

May 8 2010

The Audacity of Gardening

A long way to grow...

A long way to grow...

Hope:  At this point, that’s about all these tomato plants amount to. Truly, I’ve never put such a pathetic bunch of wannabes in the ground. But they are my babies, and I will stick by them. If past experience is an indication, they will stretch their roots out quickly and soon catch up to all those overachieving store-bought specimens. I found room to put 16 in, and lamented not being able to fit more. But it’s a good variety of varieties, including two from seeds Natalie brought from France.

What’s beautiful now, though, is that the paths are established. I’ve always held that a garden is its paths, which is certainly true in the overall landscape, and particularly true in ornamental plantings, and true enough in the vegetable or “production” garden. What’s worse than walking along the edge of a property’s “border” plantings, with no opportunity to interact or get in with the plants? It’s like driving down the highway watching the scenery go by and never getting out of the car. Anyway, the production garden is all right angles and perpendiculars, geared toward maximum production in the space, which makes it interesting to get around in.

In the order of paths in the garden, there is calm. Welcome, wonderful calm.

May 2 2010

Wool, Sheep Herding & A Hidden Cemetery


It was a busy day for country things here in greater Sykesville, where the weather felt more like mid-August than the second of May. We started the day at the annual Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival at the HoCo fairgrounds, billed as the nation’s largest. We saw every imaginable kind of raw wool, felt, and yarn in every imaginable form, including a number of beautiful finished products.

We browsed the livestock barns and watched part of the parade of breeds. The highlight, though, was the herding demonstration with border collies. Simply amazing beasts that were able to move a mini-herd of four sheep with precision wherever the handler directed. Great, smart, focused dogs. We’re thinking maybe we need to buy a sheep farm for our Blue.

I bought a super-duper tomato cage I couldn’t resist. It’s really heavy duty, an ingenious hinged design, and I got the “extender” so that it can be, like, 8’ tall. I love a challenge! Don’t dare ask me what I paid for it.

We had met some friends at the festival who stopped by the house for a quick cold drink. Then, after a brief nap, we kept a hiking date with some neighbors we had met at the Howard County Hospital emergency room (all ended well for all of us). They live directly adjacent to Patapsco State Park, and had promised to show us a small family graveyard they had found there.

Most of the hike was places we had already been, but we did go up to an old barn we had only seen from afar, which was an amazing log construction now frequented by teens who favor Budweiser. The graveyard was not far away, and had three impressive headstones, including one that was hand-chiseled.

Blue and our neighbors’ three dogs had a blast swimming in the river, chasing deer and generally romping in the woods. Blue was totally hot and tired. Near the end of the hike, he decided to lay down, yes, lay down in a little swamp pond. I thought we were going to be lucky and finish the hike with a relatively clean dog, but no luck. I had to give him a bottom wash when we got back.

Out in the garden, things are beginning to hop. We have peas, kale, spinach, lettuce, green beans, lima beans, turnips, beets, radishes, cucumbers, blue potatoes, hyacinth beans, zinnias, and gladiolus coming up. Tonight, we had our last salad with store-bought lettuce for a while. We have some beautiful Red Tiede, Cos, and Simpson Elite just about ready, and a bunch coming along behind them. I plan to put out tomatoes and peppers the second weekend of this month.

I have to admit, seed starting was a bust this year. I don’t think I’ve ever had poorer germination. Less than 50%, I dare say. Perhaps the basement was too cold, and I started too late in the greenhouse. In any event, the seedlings are small, but we should still have everything we need to plant.

Apr 11 2010

Annual Pilgrimage to Dana’s


This is our third annual trip to Dana’s in Littlestown, PA.  She was closed, but fortunately, she was watering plants, so she allowed us to shop–and shop we did.  No grocery money left for this week.  We’ve decided to expand into blueberry cultivation, picked up some varieties of coleus, and bought a few annuals for our pots and perennials for the garden outside the living room window.  All in all, very successful.  Next year, we’ll check her hours on her website!

Apr 11 2010

iPad for Breakfast


For Sunday breakfast, we were pleased to host our good friend Gini and her new iPad.  She demonstrated all of its various capabilities, and we showed her that Blue’s ability to do a Figure 8.  So we’re about equal in the “amazing” category.IMG_0262

Apr 9 2010

J & Y Shushi


Friday night.  The great debate.  Do we go to the mall and check out the iPad or stay home and eat hard boiled eggs.  Mmmm.  Compromise.  We went to our favorite local restaurant, J & Y Tokyo Market, Inc. on Liberty Road in Sykesville.   At dinner time, the parking lot is full, but many people are getting carryout, so there’s never a long wait.   It’s a plain white cinder block building in front of the beautiful storefront of the Knitter’s Nest.  The food, though, is spectacular.  Every time we eat there, we say, “What did we like last time?”  I’ve got the list:  Dragon Roll, Volcano Roll and Firecracker Roll.  The gyoza is amazing.  In the back of the restaurant, there’s a makeshift market with very unusual items including sushi ingredients, toys and mops.  However, in the frozen food case the pork gyoza comes in a family-sized package–great for parties or guests.

We’ve never ordered without the very cheerful chefs bringing us something extra to try.  Today it was the Green Bay roll.

Suggestion:  Order two rolls at a time until you’re full.  We tend to order all at once and then argue over who is FORCED to eat the last few rolls because we are so full.

Apr 9 2010

Swimming in the Patuxent


We have discovered that Blue LOVES to swim!  Good thing we live near the Patuxent River and a big chunk of the state park.   He becomes a maniac dog.   Only, we have to train him to agree to be recaptured when the fun is over.  Does he look muddy?  You should have seen his owner.  Blue River 2

Apr 2 2010

Branchwater Training Center


Last night, Roger and I went to Branchwater Training Center in Reisterstown ( to see what agility dogs do and how to get Blue started.  The dogs were organized by size, and each had two minutes to run either a pink or green numbered course.  While we were there, we met our hostess, Doreen Suchting, and we saw a little of her large operation.  All sorts of dogs were enjoying the course, from some larger Swedish Mountain dogs, to some very tiny Boarder Collies.  There were experts and novices.  It was fascinating.  One woman asked us where we purchased our perfect dog, and we told her Penn Oak Aussies( Small world!  We were talking to Rick Ziesing’s sister, Amy!  We talked about dog training, the new puppies at Penn Oak (that we wish we could have!), and dogs, dogs, dogs.

OK.  We’re on our way–first more obedience training.  Another new friend, Jan Collins, recommended that we play more training games with Blue.  This morning, I woke up with new resolve to work with Blue.  Well, we’ll see if it lasts beyond noon.  Thank goodness Roger is consistent.

Mar 28 2010

Signs of Spring


I finally feel like things are under control a bit in the getting-started-on-the-garden department. I have three flats of seed started in the basement under lights; planted them about two weeks ago, and have germination from a number of the tomatoes, Brussels sprouts, and Hollyhocks. This weekend, I planted three more flats and put them in the greenhouse. We’ll see how the two compare. Also planted four types of lettuce in four window box planters in the greenhouse.

I did some cleanup in the garden proper today, pulling up the remaining dead plants, and stirrup-hoeing the raised beds. We have kale, a couple heads of cabbage, a few lettuce plants, and a few stalks of Brussels sprouts that overwintered and are starting to grow. The perennial herbs look to be in good shape, and the fennel may have even over-wintered. I wonder if the snow helped with that? Aside from the snow, it was a pretty mild winter.

And the weeds have started already. I mowed the tall ones down. I have to get the tiller in good working order — it was stalling out on me a lot at the end of the season, which is why the garden didn’t get its Fall tilling — and hope for some dry weather.

Natalie and I, with some help from CJ, have been working like fools on the yard. The annual Easter egg hunt is next Saturday. We’ve been weeding (mostly Natalie), pruning , cleaning, and have spread almost all of seven yards of mulch. It’s been nice that we’ve had such a mild Spring, to help us get a jump start.

I’ve started some perennials, and hope to get some more flowers into these beds by the house this year. Now if the tractor would just get back from the shop this week, I could mow before the big hunt. Well, I’ll mow anyway, but it will be a heck of a lot easier with the tractor!

Stay tuned for the seedling reports…