Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Many, many years ago, my mother's step-grandfather made this hutch (we called it a doll cupboard) for his daughter. When I was a child, she gave it to my mother for me to play with. It was originally a stained dark wood, which was covered over by my mom with the same pinkish-purple lead-based paint that she used on everything at that time (dressers, chairs, etc.).

After I had a daughter, my mom sent the doll cupboard to my house for my daughter to play with. Of course, the paint was slightly chipped, but I was unaware of the dangers of lead paint, so my daughter played with it while it was still the pinkish-purple color.

For Christmas last year, my daughter decided it was time for the doll cupboard to go to her home for her almost two-year-old daughter and her soon-to-be-arriving sister to play with. My daughter wanted to strip off the lead-based paint and repaint it. Obviously, she couldn't do that task while she was pregnant, so I volunteered to take care of it. And now, only two months and a week late, the cupboard is ready to go back to her house.

I took the almost two-year-old down to the shop while Jack was re-installing the last of the latches, and she was totally amazed at it, but she had to stand on a chair to play with it as it was still up on the work bench. When we brought it upstairs and set it down and she realized it was HER SIZE--well, all I can say is wow is she a girl.

I only wish I had used my video recorder instead of my still camera for these photos, because the cooing and ooh and ahh sounds coming out of this little girl--well, they were delightful...

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

official notice from the gardens

These gardens allow and even encourage the use of metaphors. Think about it. That's all.

Monday, February 25, 2008

kids--simple yet deep

I realized something yesterday.

I have these four amazing kids. They're all over 18, so most people don't see them as kids. Most people see them as bright, interesting, cute, nerdy, musical, capable, entertaining, happy, sensitive, kind and all-kinds-of-other-traits individuals. And while I see all of those things and more, and love all of those things and more, the feelings I have about these kids is much simpler, yet deeper, then that.

This is the thing I realized yesterday. The thing is, I love all of those things about these kids, but beyond all of that, I love them because they are. Not because of who they are, although I love who they are. Not for the things they do, although I do love all of the things they do. I've known them for longer than anybody else and I love them because they are of me. And simply because they are.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

what a guy

Today Jack and I decided to skip lunch as we needed to leave at 1:30 for a trip to that maniac dermatologist we see every year for the Annual Removal of our Youthful Memories (aka freezing of all of those odd little spots that show up as we age that crazyman refers to as 'precancerous'). The maniac is not such a bad guy and we're getting used to the glint in his eye when he enters the examining room with his thermos of liquid nitrogen and extra long q-tips. I think today I seriously had way more spots burned/frozen than Jack. But he's had more in the past, so it's all good.

Anyway, I was busily working away (okay, not really, I was making invitations for an eat and talk deal with my friends from high school), so I'm at my computer when I hear the office door open and in walks Jack with two styrofoam boxes of food from the cafeteria. In the two boxes are sandwiches that he ordered, along with tots for him and a big pickle spear for me. And on my sandwich is roast beef, cucumbers, black olives, lettuce, tomatoes, and mayo, just the way I like it.

I was so touched that not only did Jack realize we really couldn't wait from 7:00 am until 2:30 pm to eat, but he thoughtfully headed to the other side of the building to the cafeteria and ordered sandwiches with sides, and he remembered exactly what I like on my sandwich.

Gorsh I love that guy--definitely a keeper.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

look out--here comes another long post!!!

it's that time again

It's February and once we get past Valentine's Day, you know what time it is in the gardens--

Yes that's right, it's pruning time! Have you noticed all of the new growth on the trees and shrubbery--the red and orange hue at the ends of the branches that have endured winter's cold and are waiting for the earth to warm enough for their buds to open?

When it's still cold and nobody wants to think about being outside in the gardens, it is time for plant training. And that is what pruning is all about. It isn't discipline, it's guidance. If plants are properly pruned, they can reach their full potential. But a plant can be disfigured and ruined for life if it is pruned incorrectly.

Many flowers require pruning in the form of deadheading, which is the simple process of removing the spent blossoms so that the plant will form new blossoms. If deadheading isn't done, the spent blossoms might produce seeds that may grow during the next spring, but there will be fewer and fewer blooms this year.

When it comes to shrubbery, there are two schools of thought: gardeners who lop off the top of the shrub so it has the appearance of a nine-year-old boy with a flat top, and gardeners who remove 1/3 of the shrub each year, which allows the shrub to generate new growth each year. Wise gardeners will realize that lopping off the top of a shrub will cause it to become top heavy because for every branch that is removed, the shrub will produce at least two replacements. The joint caused by the loppers and the subsequent regrowth will produce weak wood and an unsightly plant, whereas removing 1/3 of the shrub each year eliminates dead wood and keeps the shrub healthier. One thing to keep in mind though is that spring flowering shrubs should not be pruned until after they blossom, or you may remove branches that would have provided blossoms.

There are several methods used to prune trees. Evergreens, including pines, firs, and spruces do not typically require any pruning. Removing the top of an evergreen will cause the tree to produce two leaders and will destroy the majesty of what would have been a tall straight tree. Sometimes a gardener will remove lower branches on evergreens. This is usually only necessary if a tree has been planted too close to a sidewalk or building; it too is a shame because it wouldn't have been necessary if the gardener had realized the potential in the tree, planted it in a more appropriate location, and allowed it to grow in its natural shape.

Fruit trees require severe pruning early every spring. The goal of growing fruit trees is to obtain good quantities of quality fruit. To accomplish this, immediately after planting the new fruit tree, the gardener must lop off the top of the tree about three feet above the ground. This will encourage the tree to branch out close to the ground so the gardener will be able to pick the fruit without a ladder. As the branches start to grow out from the lopped top of the tree, the gardener should select the healthiest branches , keeping in mind that the goal is to have a bowl-shaped tree so that all of the fruit will have maximum exposure to rain and sunlight.

Many roses are pruned in the same manner as fruit trees. While roses don't require the original lopping off, they do require that the gardener remove dead wood and cut back the canes to 18" off the ground. Then the gardener should remove the interior canes to form a bowl-shaped rose bush while allowing the remaining canes to grow and produce as many beautiful blossoms as possible.

Lastly, are the deciduous trees--the maples, oaks, willows, and their garden-mates. Except for removing dead or diseased branches, these trees will require no pruning unless they are planted in locations that do not allow them to grow in their native form. I can think of no sadder thing than a sycamore with its beautiful peeling bark, its dinner-plate sized green leaves, and its incredibly massive spreading canopy that has been planted in a three-foot wide parking strip, which means that in a few short years, it will have to be removed, because some gardener neglected to plant it in the right place, which would have allowed it to reach its full potential. When I see a tree planted in the wrong place, its roots raising the sidewalk, yearning for air and water, yet sending old men and young children to the ground because of the unlevel path they create, I weep. The only thing sadder than that sycamore begging for space are the trees I see whose gardeners have topped them, chopping them off at some arbitrarily-selected height so that through the winter and into the spring, the tree with its top cut off will attempt valiantly to restore its majesty, but will be unable to do anything more than to send multiple weak branches from each cut that will then need to be removed again next year. If a tree has branches that are growing in the wrong place--or a place that the gardener should have foreseen but didn't--the proper method of pruning is to observe the tree carefully, determining which branches, if kept, will help the tree to attain its natural shape and which branches can be removed. If the gardener removes those branches completely back to the joint from which they grew, it is likely that the one remaining branch at that joint will become a stronger, more natural looking branch.

Remember, give your plants the best opportunity to reach their full potential by planting them in the place that provides the correct amount of sunlight and space. Remember that plants have individual pruning needs depending on what type of plant they are. And remember, pruning isn't punishment, it's a vital part of growing and becoming the best plants they can be.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

this will be a good season in racing

Dale Jr. is back for the following reasons:

1. He isn't the son of the boss anymore.
2. He's driving for Hendrick, which means he'll have the equipment, backing, etc. that he's never had before.
3. He's driving for Hendrick, who is big on teamwork, which means he'll get all kinds of help from Gordon and Johnson.
4. He's driving for Hendrick, which means his team will learn to get as close to the edge of cheating as possible, which may mean occasional fines and suspensions, if they get caught.
5. He's driving for Hendrick, which means he will be driving like his daddy before we know it.

In the gardens, this method of winning is commonly referred to as, "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em."

Just watch and see what happens.

so, three cats walk into a bar

and, amazingly, not one was injured...

ps It only took 54 photos on three different days to get that shot. Talk about herding cats...sheesh.

Okay, talked me into it, these are some of my earlier attempts.

This photo is one of two that I've taken of Weezer since she was a baby cat where she has her eyes open. Usually, she looks like a big black shiny fluffball.

The ears are a definite indication of how much they enjoyed this activity. Even with tuna and kitty treats, they would not get along and sit still for two minutes.

As hard as it might be to get dogs to pose, cats are not dogs. Dogs are easy--cardboard cutout easy. But, cats are not dogs. Not at all. Not even for treats.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

for my valentine


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

for today, these are enough

1. The January thaw has arrived, a couple of weeks late, but it's here. I know it will be gone tomorrow, but for today and yesterday, it has felt lovely to be outside without a coat.
2. The firstborn had another scope today, a scope appropriately named spyglass, to check out his bile ducts, those little things that in his body are increasingly inflamed. Inflammation sounds like a bad thing, but really, inflammation is far better than cancer. And today, spyglass concluded that there is only inflammation, no cancer.
3. The amazing girl is more and more ready to deliver the next grandbabygirl, who isn't due for a month and a day, but she is making lists and nesting like crazy, while the wee one continuously kicks and leaps in her womb.
4. Jack Jr is, even as I type, making his first shepherd's pie for our dinner tonight.
5. And these are enough--no, not enough, these are bounteous, fill-me-up-to-the-top good.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

may I just point out

That as much as I love my cats for their independence, they still need me. They need their food dish filled at least once a day, and usually, it's twice a day. And they need humans to turn on the faucet or leave up the lid for water. (Sick, I know, but they refuse to drink water out of a bowl on the floor.)

More than that, when we first moved here, we had an old, sickly, sweetheart of a cat, named Lucky. In her last years, she was unable to eat cat food, so I would boil hamburger for her and freeze it in flat slabs in ziplock bags so I could break off pieces and reheat them every morning in the microwave. But she was worth it and it was a sad, sad day when she left us. Jack made a wooden box and carved LUCKY into the lid for her final resting place.

I hadn't realized how little Lucky ate and pooped until we got Millie. All of a sudden I was filling the food dish daily and don't even get me started about how often I now needed to clean out the catbox. Lucky had been sicker than I'd realized. Then Weezie joined Millie at the food dish and in the catbox. While Weezer doesn't eat as much as Millie (aka, fatcat), the amount of catbox cleanup was much more with two cats than with one. Now with Oscar joining the bunch, it astounds me how much more crap (literally) there is to clean up in the catbox.

All I'm saying is that even though I didn't finish a physics class, I'm certain there must be some equation that defines the ratio of cats:food:poop that will clearly show that it is not a lineal line, but rather some quantum leap chaos theory thing. While I don't know how it works, I'm sure that three cats make way more poop than one cat times three.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

who'da thought?

When Jack and I bought this garden place, it needed some work. A lot of work. Like anything that could be crooked, leaky, broken, or worn, was crooked, leaky, broken, or worn. We had the place inspected before we bought it, so we were aware of the seven pages of items the inspector said would need to be fixed. And he didn't include anything about remodeling. But as you may have noticed, Jack and I love projects. So we bought the place and moved our stuff in. The first thing we did was to tear out the kitchen pantry and replace it. Then, we remodeled the hallway bathroom, eliminating the chocolate brown toilet and tub, replacing the rusted plumbing, installing new lights and faucets, and painting.

When we first looked at the place, I thought that after replacing the pantry and remodeling the brown bathroom, the next thing on the list had to be remodeling the master bathroom. The house was built in the 70's and all of the appliances and bathroom fixtures were original to the house. That explains the brown bathroom, the peach bathroom, and the odd little brown bathroom downstairs.

The master bath was in the ever-popular 70's powder blue. Not the dusty blue of the 80's or the dark blue of the 90's, but that sky blue of the 70's. That blue is not in the decorating color palette in this century. I was certain that we should tear out that walk-in shower with the powder blue tile and the occasional shiny star tile. I couldn't wait to get rid of the bright gold shower door and the ceiling of light. And after using a rag to wipe out the medicine cabinet the first night we slept here and finding somebody's molars in my rag, I knew those medicine cabinets had to go.

But, we needed other things done in the place before we could get to the blue bathroom. We needed a work shop to work on our projects in, we needed to redo our bedroom, the kids all needed bedroom remodels, the kitchen and dining room need to be remodeled, and the livingroom and entry way needed major help. And lest we forget, we also needed to redo the front and back yard and build a shed and a deck. The house needed some serious help.

A couple of summers ago, we were working on the front yard and installing the hot tub and the deck in the back yard, when we decided to work on the master bath. We had already taken down the ceiling of light, so we discarded the gold shower door and replaced it with a door with a brushed nickel finish. We bought lights, towel racks, and faucets in that same finish. Somewhere along the way, I got this great idea to buy sage colored towels, which, amazingly enough, looked pretty good with the blue speckled tile and the brushed metal surfaces.

But it didn't seem quite finished. One day I found a couple of pictures at Kohl's that had the same blue and green as my bathroom. I also found a couple of towels at Costco that are that crazy powder blue. This week, I realized that the thing the room needs is a third color. And the third color is in the pictures from Kohl's. And that is the color of the rugs. And I also realized I have a picture that was my BaumBaum gramma's when I was a kid. I really like how the room turned out. Five years ago, I was ready to tear out that blue speckled tile to replace it with something more current. I am so glad we didn't do that. Even though the tile is old and has some issues, it has really started to grow on me, and it feels like a real part of the house's character. All of the remodels we've completed feel so right in this house.

I'm thinking that if we ever redo this bathroom, we're gonna have to look for some more of that retro blue speckled tile. Like so many things in this house that I wanted to get rid of at first, I've come to appreciate it. I love this place.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

the other day in the waiting room

While waiting to see my therapist, I noticed a very young couple, he sitting near her while she completed the forms. This is the conversation overheard:

She: What does this mean?
He: Mmmm, I don't think that...
She: What about this, do you think this is me???
He: I dunno know, uh...
She: Of course not, what a surprise.

Don't know what it all meant, but it left me feeling somewhat bewildered and a bit melancholy. Clearly, they weren't at the therapist because everything is swell, but they were so young to have everything not swell.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

okay just one more

It appears that we in the gardens are in the mood to post today.

We were organizing the photo files the other day and came across the photos of the polar bear experience with Jack Jr.

Just know that the polar bear experience included a freshly scrubbed hot tub, with fresh, clean water from the hose (i.e., about 58 degrees farenheit), a chilly evening in November, and Jack Jr.

It might seem bizarre to those who don't have a garden full of males, but in our gardens, it was nothing short of superb. Way to go Jack Jr.

just my thoughts about it, that's all

Last week, I saw a story on the news about lots of school kids who wore their church clothes to school the day after the death of their prophet. I thought it was nice that all of those kids wanted to show respect for a good man, and I'm sure that if he was around to notice the church clothes, he would have appreciated the effort.

However, I can help but wonder if he wouldn't have appreciated it more if instead of wearing church clothes to school, those kids had been kind to everybody they saw that day--their families, friends, strangers, and every person they came in contact with that day.

From what I know about him, I think he would have really liked that.


Now this one is a real woman. She has the tools in her tool belt and she also knows how to host a tea party.All she needs is a man to clean up after her while she naps.

Long post alert!!!

Time to introduce the pets in the gardens to whoever hasn't met them yet.

In the gardens, we are serious pet people. At least most of us are. Some of us came to our serious animal people nature after living with some pretty great pets and some of us were born with our serious animal people nature. We are all touched deeply by these great creatures in the gardens. Read on if you're so inclined, have some time, care about animals...

Friday, February 1, 2008

there's nothing worse than a pooh-eatin' dog unless it's a purrin'-devil cat

Meet Gingerbitus Chewbarker, a rough coat collie, mother of countless puppies, long ago spayed, whose name was a combination of her activities as a puppy. We call her Ginger. She can (or could when she was younger) sit, shake, gimme 5, speak, and rollover (if she was in a big enough space so she didn't knock over a kid or a table). She's a big old girl who can't see well anymore, but still comes when called, especially if you use that googly-sweet high-pitched babytalk ("Ohhh Ginger, come on girl, yeah, that's a good girldog"--stuff like that). Until we got Ginger, I had no idea that collies are such total dogs. They love to eat everything that has a scent. Really. Their roles in the gardens are to eat, put their big noses in the trash to find stuff to eat, shed their long hair, and communicate by barking, moaning, groaning, sighing, and howling. When Ginger was younger, her favorite thing to do to visitors in the gardens was to walk up to them and put her long collie nose between their legs and lift them up. Her other favorite thing was and is spending time with kids--she has always been patient and tolerant of kids laying on her and pulling at her. When we had a trampoline, anytime the kids got on the tramp, Ginger would bark and carry on until they either got down or lifted her up on the tramp with them. Not that she could have jumped without breaking a skinny collie leg. But she does love being with the kids. And eating.

Next is Dollatolla Toobarky. We call her Dolly. Yes, she is Dolly the collie. She is a couple of years younger than Ginger but she is every bit as much a doggie dog as Ginger and more. When we went to the breeder to pick out a collie pup, Dolly was the one who kinda hung back from the others. They were all puppy-wrestling, a mass of many different pups, but Dolly was the one who poked her long nose out of the door of their dog house and watched everything going on while staying five feet away. Jessie spotted her immediately and knew that the bright-eyed curious shy dog was the one she wanted. She is still the dog that cautiously watches before proceeding. Dolly loves kids just like Ginger does. She rubs up against them with her great collie nose and almost pushes them over because she wants them to pet her and it's a way to show her affection for them. Dolly eats everything Ginger does and dog pooh as well. I never once saw Lassie do that, but after we got Dollie I learned that it took nine collies to make the Lassie tv shows--apparently each one knew just one trick. Dollie's trick is to look sweet. And have truly bad dog breath, which is understandable. Dollie doesn't bark unless she hears a dog walking past the gardens on a leash. Actually, she isn't barking, it's more like she's anxiously screaming. Something like, "Who do you think you are, you dog on a leash out in the road. Don't you know I've got it so much better back here in my big yard with no leash?" Well, I'd like to think she is saying that but it's more likely something like, "People in the gardens, you know I get all excited whenever I hear the sound of a leash or dog tags. How come I never get to go for walks out front?" And the reason is because she will only walk half a block and then I have to carry her home. All 95 lbs of her. She could not have been the Lassie whose trick was to walk with Timmy.

Next is Edna St. Vincent Millet II, aka Millie. She is a tabby fraidy-cat who loves to be brushed with my Tupperware potato scrubber. I do not use it on potatoes anymore. She has huge green eyes and the tiniest high-pitched squeaky voice. She likes to drink out of the faucet in the bathroom sink, but only if the bathroom light is on. She lives to eat. Whenever anyone in the gardens pours cereal into a bowl, Millie comes running and follows the cereal bowl, sitting as close as she can so she can remind the cereal eater that she really, really, really wants some of the milk. She also comes running when you turn on the can opener. Millie is excellent for sleeping with because she likes to snuggle up close and purr by my ear. She also fetches rubberbands and those rings from milk jug lids. When the firstborn was recovering from surgery, Millie spent a great deal of time purring on the bed with him. She also started bringing the milk rings downstairs so he would toss them around the room and she would find them and bring them back to him in her mouth. Who knew a fraidy-cat could be trained to fetch?

Middle in the cat family is Little Cat Louise, aka Weezer, LC, Lilcat, and Louise. She doesn't really answer to anything but kittykitty. Okay, she doesn't really come at all when you call her unless she wants to because, hello, she is a cat and she does what she wants to do. Weez has big yellow eyes and long soft black hair with just a few stray white hairs and a little tiny white patch on her chest. When she was a tiny kitty, she didn't know how to purr so she would make this wheezing sound, hence the name Weezer. After several reassuring visits to the vet, she finally figured out how to purr and stopped the wheezing. Her wheezing was way louder than her purring is, and usually I'm the only one knows she is purring because you have to be really close to feel it in her throat. Shortly after we brought home that teensy little black puffball, I realized that she must have been my chow dog, Scout, in a previous life, because she loves me just like he did. Like him, she waits for me to get home so she can always be right where I am. She jumps up on my lap and climbs up on my chest and rubs up under my chin with her paws tucked up around my neck. Okay, Scout did not jump up on my chest, but he was always right where I was. Also like Scout, she has a low quiet voice. Almost a moan usually. So different from the other voices in the gardens.

And finally, there is the newest member of the family, Oscar--Oscar Wilde. He came to the gardens for Jack Jr for Christmas 2007. Oscar is a siamese mix who is a strong, lean male beauty. I'm starting to think that Oscar is actually two cats. There is the sweetheart who purrs louder than any cat I've ever been around. And he does it whenever you start to rub his ears or head. Except when the devil cat appears. Devil cat Oscar looks like Loud Purrer Oscar, but he does.not.purr. He usually gives you one meow that turns into a threatening moan and then into a growl with hissing, biting, scratching, and escaping to quickly follow. Devil cat Oscar is also trying to establish his male, head-of-the-cat-gardens with the girls, but sometimes they just don't feel like being wild animals, and so they make sure that Oscar understands that, dude, we've lived here a lot longer than you and we don't bite the humans, so just get over yourself. Or we'll tag team you. We can do this however you want.

Weez requested this picture of Oscar in the Gardens blog because she and Millie think Oscar looks dopey with his tongue hanging out.