Friday, February 28, 2014

Friday Five, Pre-Spring

You all are aware of my feelings about February. And today is the last day of the month-that-shall-not-be-named (except, of course, in my previous sentence). And because I live in the South, it’s pre-spring here.

Pre-spring is really cold days, i.e. 20s interspersed with days in the 60s and 70s. (Why can’t every day be 70 degrees all year round?)

Here are my five favorite things about pre-spring.

1. Daffodils and crocuses. They are blooming! Nothing is happier than purple and yellow against the gray of dead leaves.

2. I get my hands dirty in the soil. Yes, I’m weeding in 30 degree weather. And I hate weeding, but the smell of life is intoxicating. (BTW, why don’t the freezing nights kill the early weeds?)

3. The trees are starting to bud. Yesterday, I saw a cherry tree in a swathe of
burgundy—the buds had just broken open, but not yet unfurled.

4. The birds are coming back. I’ve seen bluebirds. No one can be glum when bluebirds are around.

5. Seed catalogs. I’m getting several seed/plant catalogs a week. (Seeds are cheaper than buying plants. And you can start perennials from seed. But it takes the patience of a saint.) I love looking through the pages and imagining the flowers and the vegetables on my table. Pre-spring bliss…

Here are some photos of my flowers.

The crocuses. Coming up in and around them are hyacinths.
As soon as the crocuses are spent, the hyacinths will be blooming.
Best decision I ever made was planting a gunney sack's worth of daffodils bulbs. They come back every year and in greater numbers. Now they are everywhere.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Downton Abbey Predictions

Last night was the season finale of Downton Abbey. And I am a fan of the show. Sometimes it verges on soap opera, but I’m so fully vested in the characters I don’t care. At least, not much.

Earlier in the week, I’d thought through the plot threads, wondering what kind of cliff hanger the writers might chose to end the season with. But instead of leaving a character in the lurch, the writers gave almost everyone a happy ending. Mary has her desire of suitors. Mrs. Crawley has her lord. Edith has her baby nearby, though this bodes oh-so-badly. (How long before Thomas figures that one out?) The Dowager Countess has Mrs. Levinson leaving. Lady Rose (my least favorite character) had a lovely coming out and seems to have grown up a little—punishing Mama is not a great life plan. Mr. Bates seems to have gotten away with murder. (Good for him.) Baxter stood up to Thomas (You go, girl!) and has an admirer in Mosley. And Mrs. Hughes and Carson held hands.

It was a lovely ending to the season and no real cliffhanger, though Tom is in a bit of a bind with the school teacher. And we the viewers are left with a happy ending. We get to imagine that everyone is happy at least until next January when things begin to unravel...because without conflict, there is no story.

So here are my predictions for next season.

1. Mary will continue to lead her suitors down the primrose path. Don’t look for her to marry anyone soon.

2. Things will progress between Baxter and Mosely (at least for a while). They bring out the best in each other. And Mosely was getting a bit whiney and grating.

3. Mrs. Crawley will not marry her lord because marriage would take her from her grandbaby, her last remaining tie to Matthew.

4. Someone will figure out that the new baby at the cottage looks remarkably like Edith. And sooner or later, Thomas will hear of it and the knowledge will allow him to keep his job when they try to fire him.

5. Carson and Mrs. Hughes will continue to love each other, and drive each other crazy, just like a real brother and sister.

So these are my predictions, and I really hope they’re wrong. I love being surprised.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Five Good Things About February

Let me start this by saying that February is my least favorite month. (Sorry, to all my friends who have birthdays this month—you all are the exceptions to the rule.) So instead of feeling glum, I’m going to list my favorite things about of February.

Gray skies. (Okay, I prefer either bright blue or the deep black of storms.) But gray skies exercise my synonym finder. The sky today is ironwood, gunmetal, the color of cold, dead ash.

Green shoots. I love gardening and in February I begin to see new growth. Sadly, it’s the growth of weeds not crocuses. Boo.

No oily skin. This would be great except my skin isn’t oily to start with. It’s dry. By February my skin is so dry, the outside air makes it hurt. So when I remember I slather it in cream…except, it makes my skin feel oily. Hiss.

Winter sickness is almost over. All the colds, flus, and stomach bugs are over. (I hope.) All that remains is the dust that’s crept into the bones of the house. I’m severely allergic to dust. I’m tempted to open all the windows and air out the house, but the boys think that 30 degrees Fahrenheit is not optimal air out the house weather.

Ladybugs. I like ladybugs. They’re brightly colored—cheerful even. They go to town on aphids—I hate aphids. All in all, when I see a lady bug, I smile. Until this winter. Somewhere they found a chink in our house and invaded to survive the winter. If they hid in the walls, that would be great. But they like our ceilings. I don’t like crawly lines of red with back spots meandering the ceiling. But our ceilings are ridiculously high, so I have to balance precariously on pieces of furniture holding a vacuum in one hand and the suction hose in the other (because the hose is too short to reach from the floor to the ceiling) and vacuum ladybugs off the ceiling…you know, I hate ladybugs.

Hmm, this is not cheering me up. Isn’t February over yet?

File:(Coccinella algerica) Kovar-Mariquita Sarantotón.jpg
This ladybug is where they should be, outside eating aphids. Sigh.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Snow, Blitz and Masks

Today's post is a mish-mash, but be patient there are lots of good things.

We've had a crazy week. A snowstorm hit and we got about 7 inches. Now if you live up north, seven inches is a yawn. But down South, we stay home, drink hot chocolate, and pray we don't lose power. And if you're my sons, you woot and cheer that classes have been cancelled for three days--especially since they were just asked to beta test some fancy computer game.

During the non-beta testing time, we went sledding at night, made a snow elf, and only lost power during one night. On the other hand, during the storm, a loud crack woke me up at 3 am. It turned out that a massive limb broke off our magnolia tree narrowly missing our house and the neighbor's car. (Sooo thankful for that.)

Here are some photos. (Keep scrolling past the photos to learn about D.L. Hammon's Blog Blitz and Melissa Pearl's True Color's Masquerade Ball.)

Me sledding at night.

Jezebel standing guard.

We live in a very old neighborhood, and we call this The Gingerbread House.

On a walk, the day after the storm.

D.L. Hammons (click here to visit his blog) has been running a “blog blitz” for quite a while. The point of it is to encourage other bloggers. If you’ve been blogging for a while, you know how easy it can be to get burned out. So D.L. put together a posse of bloggers and usually once a week, he chooses two “victims” to be blitzed.

Then, he send out two emails, including hot links, to the posse and we stop by, comment, and encourage. It’s a great way to meet other bloggers and writers. If you’d like to join up, click this link and add your name. It’s as simple as that.

To launch her new novel, Melissa Pearl is hosting a True Colors Masquerade Ball on February 16. There will be prizes, secrets, and games. Two of the games are Guess the Author and the Best Mask Competition. I'll be participating in those. So check it out.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Snow and Leopard Print

This week my blog posting days got switched—I was helping Crystal celebrate the release of her novel Moonless by writing a list of my top ten literary crushes at my Screwing Up Time blog. So if you want to read Monday’s post, clickhere.

This morning I’m watching snow fall. To me there is nothing more peaceful. (Even after living in New England for seven years, my heart still stops when I see snowflakes in the air.)

Maybe it’s the utter silence that comes with snow, as if the world is holding its breath. Or maybe it’s the way white covers everything, and I can pretend that the dirt and filth of the world are gone. (Yeah, those Dutch genes surface at the most unlikely of times.) Or maybe it’s getting a day off—long walks, junk food, and uninterrupted reading/writing time!

So I’m sitting on the couch, wearing my leopard-spot pajamas (my kids were appalled when they first saw the animal print, but, hey, I’m closer to 50 than 40 and if I want to wear leopard-spot pajamas, I’m going to do it), and drinking hot coffee. And my plan for the day is to be sitting here in four hours drinking hot chocolate made with heavy cream and watching the snow fall, although I plan to be wearing jeans and a wool sweater. (On day, I’ve got to find a leopard spot sweatshirt to annoy my children.)

Monday, February 3, 2014

Welcome to the Jungle

This fall, I had an idea. I thought it was a great idea. So I went with it. Big mistake.

My idea was to save money. Usually, a good idea. Except when it’s not. And I’ve been there, done that before. There was the year when my kids were little and I made baby wipes. Imagine me with a huge knife sawing a roll of Bounty paper towels in half. After a year, I had a completely ruined knife. And I’m not sure how much money I actually saved.

But I didn’t learn my lesson that a penny saved is not necessarily a penny earned. This year I decided to save money by bringing all my annuals into the house and over-wintering them. It seemed like a good idea at the time. I could save money and have lush plants come spring. So I dug the plants, potted them and placed them all over the house.

Now it’s the beginning of February and I wish they would just die.


They’re too big. One plant has massive twining tendrils that cling to the doors of my armoire, so I have to hold them back every time I open the armoire.

They have high water demands. One of them has to be watered twice a day! Ridiculous. I got my dog a massive water bowl so I only have to fill it once a day—and I love my dog.

They are clutter. I hate clutter (unless it’s book clutter). And plants are clutter. They destroy the soul-calming effect of clean, flat surfaces. (Caveat, all indoor plants are clutter, except orchids. Orchids are experiments in elegance and grace. And more importantly, they only need to be watered once a week.)

I used cheap pots. Instead of buying good pots, I used what I had so I could save even more money. And I didn’t realize that some of my cheap pots had leak issues. What a mess.

I realize there’s an easy solution to my problem. Toss the plants. But here’s the thing, I put up with these plants through Thanksgiving when the house was packed with people. I put up with these plants during Christmas when I was fighting with the tree that liked to fall over. And I cared for these plants through colds and sickness—yes, I should be making myself hot tea and running a vaporizer, but instead, I’m watering plants. And if I tossed the plants, then my sacrifices would all be for nothing.

So I can do this for two more months. But never again. 

Although maybe if I put them in the basement next year…