Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Week 21 - Maybe This Year?

Those who know me know I’m a big planner. I love the whole process – looking things up, evaluating options, buying supplies, etc. Then when it comes to the actual doing, I’m pretty good at starting but then not so good on follow through. This is most apparent in my garden. Love the seed selection, love the preparing and planting but maintenance during the season? Not so much. Part of that is the weather being so hot here in the summer but that’s not a good enough excuse and so every year is the year I’m going to keep up with things and have the best garden ever. EVERY YEAR! And yet it never happens. Well, I’m thinking this could be the year. Seriously.

Now in reality it probably won’t happen but here’s why I think it might work out. First off, I didn’t go to Europe in the middle of May so here it is May 22nd and I’m already done with all my planting. With storms forecast every day for the entire 10 day forecast and plans for Memorial Day weekend and the weekend after (both with out of town visitors – Connie and California cousins), I had a deadline to get it done. And we all know I’m better with a firm deadline. But I was still proud of myself after working all weekend.

I went outside Saturday and worked for hours on my containers. This may sound like too much time but I do have ~25 containers and mix my soil by hand with screened compost, potting soil and peat before I even touch a pot. By the end of the day, all my planters were planted and arranged around the yard. I had a few lantanas from the house yet to repot but those would wait for Sunday. 

I was outside before lunch prepping my last 2 raised veg beds, which again might sound like nothing but I till by hand with a garden weasel then break up all the clods by hand as I pull the weeds out so it’s a long process but results in gorgeous soil ready to plant. Check it out. By mid-afternoon I was planting the beds and then I repotted all the lantana. I was pretty beat but talked myself into acting like an adult and put everything away – the potting table, the pots, even the rest of the potting soil – then I raked the grass where I’d been standing for 2 days while potting. I hooked up a hose so I could water and everything was done. Like I said, I was pretty proud.

All this makes me wonder if this could indeed be the year when I have the time to get things in order before the heat sets in. Because it’s only May 22nd and I’ve got 3 weekends between now and Scotland. So, see? Possible. Very possible. Wish me luck.

On the non-gardening front, after skyping with Eileen Thursday night, I finally made hotel reservations for the night in York after the tour is over and the following night at Manchester Airport so we’ll be on site the morning our flight leaves. There was some misunderstanding between Eileen and me that lead to a flurry of emails on Friday afternoon but by the end of the day, Eileen and Gail had made reservations in York too so we’ll all be together after the trip for a couple of days. We even have tentative plans to go to Harlow Carr, the Royal Botanic Garden outside of Harrogate. If we can manage to see Jean and Philip too, which is hopefully going to work out, that’ll be the icing on the cake.

So all in all, it was a good week. Progress was made on many fronts and I ended the week hopeful. I’ll call it good and chalk it up to spring. Whatever works. : )

Monday, May 16, 2016

Week 20 - My Water-Logged Basement

It was a wild and stormy week. How’s that for drama? Seriously though, the week started with a tornado warning for Lincoln that had everyone in my building who works past 4:30 huddled in the basement hallway at the end of the day. The sirens were still going when I headed north out of the danger zone. When a tornado touched down south of Omaha, I turned full on weather weanie and skipped knitting. That’s saying a lot because I never miss knitting and it turned out to be unnecessary but who knew at the time? Little did I know, Wahoo would be getting our share the next day. 

Now when I got my new gutters and roof a few years ago after hail damage, for some reason they screwed on the downspout extenders in the back but not in the front. This has led to some issues so I am in the habit of checking both downspouts out front before storms, which I did Monday and both were attached. When I’m in bed and it’s raining, I can actually hear a drip on the more problematic one that’s right outside my bedroom. I woke up in the wee hours Wednesday morning and was aware of not hearing it but figured the slammin’ rain was drowning it out. Nope. 

It wasn’t until I was leaving for work Wednesday morning that I looked down the stairs to see water. I scoped it out to find standing water in every single room but I left for work anyway because I had a class scheduled that afternoon. Only when I got to work did I decide to reschedule the class and take half a vacation day to deal with the water. I stopped and borrowed Lorri’s shop vac on the way home and spent 4 hours moving boxes and totes and vacuuming up the water. My egg crate light covers that were supposed to keep the cardboard in the storage room from getting wet were a total failure so all of those boxes were wet plus some linens too, as usual. I did 2 loads of sheets and had them hanging on the line by the time I called it done. There was no more standing water and just a few dampish spots when I headed upstairs. Exhausted. I sat like a zombie and went to bed early, knowing I’d have to get up early to bake. 

Leaving the baking led to stress dreams starring Gordon Ramsey, who was yelling at me because my lemon bars were cut too small. I got up at 5:30 and put the lemon bars in the oven then made cranberry walnut cole slaw, both for the water aerobics cookout after work, and was eating breakfast by 6:15. My arms and shoulders were sore but I’d lived to tell. Too bad it was going to be a LONG day. Long for fun reasons but still long. I did have fun thrifting at lunch with Dodie and then after work at the cookout. Then I had to go home and prep for the cleaning lady to come Friday. I didn’t finish until 10:15, at which point I took a shower and fell into bed. I was so excited that the next day was Friday.

My goal for Friday was to run absolutely every errand on my list so I could stay home all weekend and reclaim the basement. Because while it was pretty well dried out, I had moved everything to vacuum so it was even more of a shambles than before the water, which was saying something because it was none too tidy to start. After a quick stop to fill my tire, which was 90% flat and clearly had been for awhile, I hit Menard’s and HyVee so got home ~7:30 but with my car full of everything I’d need over the weekend. Well, I’d still have to run errands on Saturday in town but everything I needed from Lincoln. The fact that my lawn was cut and my house was clean was the icing on the cake. I went to bed with high hopes for a productive weekend. 

After hitting 2 banks, 2 markets and 2 friends’ houses, I was back home and ready for basement duty. I went down right after lunch on Saturday and worked for 4 hours straight. I dragged tons of wet boxes to the trash, rebuilt the ebay linen shelf with sturdier components (it had fallen down on me while I was vacuuming) and generally got most stuff put back where it belonged. The craft room was still a train wreck but dry so I called it good and went upstairs near dinner time. More exhaustion but also satisfaction. And Sunday was another day. 

My intent wasn’t to head downstairs first thing but since I’d gotten up at 5:30 and was done with my morning veg time by 9:30, I found myself staying down there after I put in the first load of laundry. Three hours and four loads of laundry later and I’d gone through most of the craft room. I’d found a basket of stuff that had gotten wet (hence the 2 extra loads) and had 4 huge bags of clothes for Goodwill that I’d pulled from various ironing and mending baskets. That felt good. 

After taking time for a cup of tea and some phone calls, I was back up and cooking. My rotation had gone off the rails earlier in the week but I had a fridge full of produce so got busy with that. By the time the night was done, I had a nice dinner (cheesy baked cauliflower with pork roast) and all kinds of food for the coming week. I also had 2 big bags for the chickens and the kitchen was pretty well cleaned up. I also interspersed hand scrubbing my kitchen floor a few feet at a time to try to remove the gunge that has built up on my laminate. If you’ve ever considered laminate, STOP. It’s a nightmare and always looks like crap. You’ve been warned. 

Anyway, it was a busy and exhausting week but after her storms, Mother Nature had cooperated with a cold weekend so I couldn’t garden anyway. And the water was the kick in the butt I needed to get going on my basement. Now it’s at the point where there are individual baskets and boxes to go through rather than a complete slog through. Nice. And let me just add that I went all Nebraska farmer on my errant downspout and it’s now duct taped so thoroughly that it’ll never come off. No more kicks in the butt for me, thank you very much. Now to get back outside. The to do list never ends but as I say – better busy than bored.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Week 19 - Flowers and Graduations

It was a really nice week that started with some really, really good news and was punctuated with gorgeous spring weather and lots of flower shopping. Lots.

The week started with Anne’s call to United. They had changed the first leg of our trip to Scotland by a few minutes, which meant that we could rebook without fees. Despite the fact that it only added 5 minutes to our newly shortened layover at O’Hare, they let us rebook to the princess flight. So now instead of Omaha > Chicago > Shannon > Edinburgh, which was our only choice so Anne could use her miles but left me dreading the final leg, which we’d be doing while exhausted and would make us miss our airport transfer that included a tour of Edinburgh, we were booked Omaha > Chicago > Edinburgh. Yay! Not only was a excited when I heard but the relief of not facing that awful itinerary seems to have opened the flood gates and pre-trip excitement is now in full swing. Just 6 more weeks to wait.

On Tuesday I moved cubies back to my original one. It was just one cubie away and Dawn’s cubie was pretty bare bones so the actual move didn’t take long. I’m happy to be back with the better airflow and closer to the door so hopefully I’ll hear people come in before they pop around my wall and scare the piss out of me. I also have a direct sightline to Cindy. And while I didn’t got through everything, I did slog through a big stack of paper later in the week so made some progress there.

I had a lovely Skype date with Eileen on Thursday night then did a long overdue neatization of my house, which meant I would be going into the weekend with my house already picked up. I’d have laundry and dishes to do but otherwise would be free for something big. I had graduation parties both Saturday and Sunday nights so was hoping for productive days.

There was much purchasing of flowers this week, continuing a recent trend. On Thursday I went to one of my favorite local greenhouses – Urban Trails. I always find gorgeous heucheras (coral bells – my fave perennial) there and was hoping to replace one I’d bought 2 years ago but planted in the wrong spot so it didn’t live. The owner said he hadn’t grown that variety but I was thrilled to find just one and another I just had to have. Not to repeat my prior bad spot selection, I spent Saturday afternoon pulling self-seeded phlox out of my deck bed and replacing them with 3 new heucheras and a perennial geranium I’d bought at Spring Affair. But could I waste those phlox? Nope. So I dug a new bed around the corner of the deck and planted 3 big phlox there. Now my deck is completely surrounded with flowers. Nice.

I made my favorite rhubarb dessert (first rhubarb of the season) to take to Jessica’s party Saturday night and it was a big hit. (I've included the recipee below in case you want to try it. The mini marshmallows are the secret ingredient.) Jessica is our water zumba instructor who just got her PhD and is headed to St. Lawrence U in upstate New York to be a professor. I had fun making her socks that have both St. L's colors and UNL's. She'll look all legit above the shoe but be all husker inside. She seemed to like them and they were a fun knit, which I finished just hours before her party. You know me - I'm good with a deadline.

So, nice week, right? I could have been more productive on Sunday but did manage to get my laundry done and did a tiny bit of gardening so the rain coming late Sunday would water it all in. But I got sucked into streaming Catastrophe, which is so funny but also loaded with sex scenes (you've been warned!) It totally cut into my Sunday afternoon but I was busy enough Saturday to assuage my guilt. Because that's the other thing I'm good with - self-imposed guilt trips. But who cares. I've got a real trip coming up that I'm pretty excited about. : )

Rhubarb Upside Down Cake

4 c diced rhubarb
1 c miniature marshmallows
1-3/4 c sugar, divided
1-1/4 c flour
1-1/4 tsp baking powder
dash of salt
1/2 c milk
4 T butter, softened
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
Put rhubarb in bottom of 9x13 pan and sprinkle with marshmallows and 1 c sugar. Mix remaining ingredients until blended and put over rhubarb. Make 40-50 mins at 350. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Week 18 - Even More Plants

I was actually looking forward to a normal week with work, swimming and a weekend at home. Randy and Josh moved out on Monday and a new cubie mate arrived – Bethany, another accountant. I trained 2 afternoons and was busy so the week was flying by. Andrea called Wednesday night to remind me that I needed to feed her chickens while she was away for a long weekend. After some back and forth calls, we made plans to meet at lunch on Thursday so she could give me a key.

 Thursday was a stressful day with meetings and training stacked one after the other. I started the day popping over to East Campus for the Hort Club sale, where I bought round 2 of flowers for the year. Just before I was due to go into my first meeting of the day, I got something I’d been waiting for so slammed through 50 emails for my old boss in HR to send then ran off to the meeting, which luckily got out early. I then picked up Dodie and drove to the thrift store where we’d be meeting Andrea for the key exchange and shopping. Then it was back for an afternoon of training. I was spent by the time I was done.  Just one more day until the weekend.

Before I’d gotten Andrea’s reminder about feeding her chickens, I’d made plans to meet Darla for breakfast at Cook’s in Lincoln at 7:00 a.m. Friday morning. That meant I had to be feeding chickens at 6:00 and on the road by 6:15. I was actually ahead of schedule so food shopped before meeting Darla for a lovely breakfast. Darla’s the only person I’d meet so early and she’s totally worth it. I had a nice lunch with Layton at the Chinese buffet and swam after work. Finally it was the weekend. Unfortunately I had a Friends of the Library meeting at 9:30 Saturday so spent Friday night doing six months of treasurer’s reports since I hadn’t done one since September. Sheesh.

I was missing a bank statement, having been given the Foundation’s instead of Friends’ for one month, so called the bank first thing and ran down there to pick up the statement after feeding the chickens. I got 5 gorgeous, fresh eggs and ran home to finish my reports and be back at the library by 9:30. Once I got home from the library, I stayed home. It was a raw, rainy day and it was nice to be cozy inside. I started my chores and had them mostly done by the end of the day. I had Saturday snack supper and went to bed early.

I woke up at the crack of dawn on Sunday so decided to get dressed and head out. I fed the chickens, picked up a newspaper and was home and back in my pajamas eating an omelet with one of Drae’s eggs by 6:30. I was gone and back so fast that it felt like it never happened so it finally had my morning in jammies until noon. After grabbing lunch, I cleaned out my car and picked up Lorri for yet another plant run, this time to From the Ground Up. It’s my fave greenhouse and we go every year. It’s not particularly cheap but it’s locally owned and all of the plants are in pristine condition. Two flats later and I was back home drinking tea because it was another raw day, although not raining as steadily. Then the cooking began. I made a big pot of beef barley soup for lunches and made sautéed pork and leeks over quinoa with goat cheese on top for suppers. Then I put salsa pork in the crockpot for my boss, whose husband trashed his leg in a biking accident and is completely disabled for 10 weeks so can’t cook. I was ready for the week. All good.

Week 17 - Back to Normal

We had arranged for late checkout so after breakfast headed to Arlington, which we could see from our hotel but it was 2 metro stops away. Having walked so much the previous 2 days, we opted to take the tram around the cemetery. The perfect weather was over, making it too hot to walk anyway. We didn’t time our first stop well and missed the tram so waited 20 minutes in the blazing sun at JFK’s memorial for the next one. Between that delay and one for a funeral, we only had time for one more stop but it was worth going. We got to see the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and enjoyed the views before heading back for a lunch of leftovers, checkout and a shuttle to the airport. It was another uneventful flight with Anne and I knitting and Rene napping across the aisle. Our flight even got in 39 minutes early so I was home and unpacked by 7:00. It was cold and rainy and since I’d left my windows open, my house was cold. I turned on the heat and headed to knitting while it warmed up. It had been a fabulous trip and I wanted to tell my friends all about it. I took a shower and went to bed when I got home, ready for the rest of my work week.

I spent the week trying to catch up – getting an oil change, grocery shopping to restock, swimming and work. Friday was Spring Affair and after missing the last 2 years, I had finally scored a plant informant volunteer spot on Friday night. I left work at 3:30 to hit the pre-sale for volunteers then went to HyVee for dinner with Lorri, which has been our tradition. We were back to start our shifts at 6:00 but got assigned to a skunk section – temperennials, which are perennials in more southern climes but not in Nebraska. So not only did I know nothing about them but spent the entire night telling people the plants wouldn’t survive our winters rather than sharing my plant knowledge. I had so looked forward to it but it was pretty much a bust. Then when I was 10 minutes from the end of my shift, the coordinator asked me to walk the entire sun section and note which plants were sold out. Now when I have 3 pages of 2 single spaced columns of botanical names, it’s not an easy task. It picked up a bit when Lorri came over to help but it was still holding me up from going home. I was exhausted.

My goal for Saturday was to stay in my PJ’s relaxing until noon. Well, that didn’t work. My neighbor was at my back door at 9:00 on Saturday asking if I’d be interested in hiring someone she knew from her volunteer work at the local halfway house. He was looking to mow lawns and so I told her I’d consider it and asked how to contact him. Not 10 minutes later, Denny was at my front door and I still wasn’t dressed. I asked him to wait on the deck and went in to get dressed and wash up. Grrrrrr… I talked to him and agreed to give him a try. He’d be coming back at 1:00 to mow so since I was dressed, I got busy with chores and eventually grabbed lunch. I showed him the ropes and puttered in the yard while he mowed then worked on my garden beds for another 2 hours while he did some clean up in the backyard. It was a long day and not relaxing but it was done and he’d be coming back on Fridays to mow for only $10 (my yard is small so takes less than half an hour to mow – lest you think I’m gypping him.)

It ended up being a good thing I’d been outside on Saturday because it was raining on Sunday. I spent the day inside doing more laundry, prepping tons of produce (it was day 1 of a new rotation) and getting caught up in the house. I also had plenty of time for knitting and catching up on television so got the recharge time I desperately needed. Good thing because I’d be facing a busy week at work and five full days. Yikes!

Week 16 - District of Columbia

The beginning of the week was a blur. I was busy at work with allocations, a professional development seminar on Gallup Strengths and doing my portal training session. It was a four day week for me so busy  was good. I was excited to head to DC on Friday with Anne and Rene.

I ran home Thursday to do a quick load of laundry, prep the cats and throw some clothes in a suitcase. I could get used to these quick trips that don’t require much prep. We were also leaving late enough that I didn’t have to rush on Friday morning – added bonus. I had made sammies and cookies for us to eat on the plane and the flight attendant showered us with snacks when I shared a cookie with her so we had plenty of walking around treats for DC.

I was impressed while we were still in the air, seeing the monuments from the plane window. We had free shuttle service to the hotel then took the metro to King Street in Alexandria in search of a yarn shop, of course, and dinner. Fiber Space was a lovely yarn shop and I bought 2 pretty skeins of sock yarn. Aren’t you proud that I only bought 2? I was. We walked the full length of King Street and had a delicious dinner at an Irish pub. It was a nice start and was only going to get better.

My intent was to get up early and see if we could get tickets to the Holocaust Memorial but Anne beat me to it, scoring us tickets for 11:00. Rene didn’t want to go so after a hearty (free) breakfast at the hotel, we took the metro to the mall and split up. Rene headed to Air & Space and with an hour to kill, Anne and I watched the Cherry Blossom Festival Parade then headed to the holocaust museum. It was sobering for sure and I’m glad we went but I was ready for something lighter. We hadn’t intended to go to the actual festival but two girls on the metro had sung its praises so we headed there. We should have given it more thought but didn’t, paying $10 each to get in only to be faced with a mob scene. After snaking our way between throngs of people, passing booths with 40-50 people in line for food we couldn’t even see, we made a beeline to the closest exit and got out of dodge. Big relief! We were starving so asked a local where to eat and enjoyed a late lunch of yummy food in a brew pub.

Now what to do? It was almost 4:00 so we decided to head to the National Botanic Garden’s conservatory next to the capital. We grabbed a bus that was headed right there, passing by the Supreme Court, Library of Congress and the Capital on the way. We did a quick walk through before the glass houses closed and then relaxed on benches out front. Anne and I were knitting, of course. After half an hour or so, Anne mentioned that there was a ranger tour starting at 6:00 at the Lincoln Memorial so we grabbed a cab and headed right over, arriving right on time. It was a small group of 8-10 including us and we had a wonderful ranger who took us from memorial to memorial – Lincoln to Korean War to Vietnam. He was a font of information and when we were done at Vietnam (my favorite), he asked if anyone wanted to do an extra – World War II. We were in so walked there as the sun was setting. It was a wonderful tour and we got so much more out of it having an expert to explain everything and answer questions. If you ever got to DC, check out the ranger lead tours for sure.

Rene realized half way through the tour that she’d left her jacket on the bench at the botanic garden so despite it being hours ago, we detoured that way on the way to the hotel. What do you know – the jacket was still there and someone had even draped it over the back of the bench. I know there are some gnarly parts of DC but the area around the mall is pristine with secret service patrolling so I guess we shouldn’t have been surprised. But we were none the less. The cab dropped us back at the hotel and we bought pints of ice cream in the hotel lobby for dinner. We’d walked 19,700 steps that day, which equated to 7.5 miles. We were beat and slept like rocks.

Our plan for Sunday  was the American History Museum, which was the one we all wanted to see. We went there right after breakfast and spent all morning there, grabbing lunch in the cafeteria when we were done. The museums are all free but the food costs a fortune. $17 for a hotdog, collards and dessert. Oh well. Our next mission was the ranger tour of the rest of the monuments – MLK, FDR and Jefferson but that wasn’t until 4:00 so we walked toward The White House and then grabbed a cab to Dupont Circle for another yarn shop – Looped. Just 2 more skeins of sock yarn and another for mittens. Not bad for vacation yarn shopping. We grabbed another cab and got to Martin Luther King right on time. There was only 1 other man besides us so we had the ranger practically to ourselves. Did I mention the weather was absolute perfection for the 2nd day in a row? We finished the tour after 6:00 and grabbed yet another cab back to the hotel, having him drop us at the mall by our hotel. We had hoped to grab a burger to go at Shake Shack but it and everything else in the mall was closed so we got take out from Chevy’s across the street. Our plan was to be back at the hotel by 8:00 to watch Sunday night PBS – Call the Midwife and Grantchester. We were so disappointed to find Austin City Limits so steamed something on Shelter (a Jennifer Connelly movie about a homeless addict in NYC) on Netflix. It was a full and satisfying day. 17,000+ steps so we were ready for bed. We’d be leaving the next day but had made the most of our time, don’t you think?