Friday, May 30, 2014

Gardening by headlamp...

Yes, I caved.  I couldn't stand it.  I just had to get those bushes into the ground, tucked safely in with compost manure, peat, potting soil, and osmocote.  I thought that doing so at night would be okay.  I was wrong.

For one, wearing a headlamp whilst gardening late at night will frighten your neighbors.  So much so, you will find that the police come to visit you.  Huffing and puffing, red as a ripe tomato, I did not present as the most sane person in the world.  But the policemen did eventually take their leave.

For another, gardening by headlamp is still laborious.  So, I did not really cut down on the fainting or otherwise terrible strain on my failing body.  I should have found a way to get someone to put the bushes in the ground ... or found a way to remember that Firewood Man was going on vacation and would not be here to help me.

At least the bushes and moss rose are safely ensconced in their new homes.  The bed is not fully mulched.  I about died after the fourth bag and simply could not continue.  This required lugging two bags of potting soil, to bags of compost manure, one bag of peat, and four bags of mulch from the garage to the front of the house.  SIGH.

Third, well, gardening by headlamp can lead to dire consequences.  Literally, it can lead to having ants in your pants ... and socks ... and shirt ... and underclothing.  The stepping stone that Amos uses to protest the presence of people on the left side of the back yard is just out of position for proper protestation.  So, I took the time to move it.  I had four extra moss rose plants and thought to put them where the hyacinths bloomed near the gargoyle.

Moving things in the dark of night, using only a head lamp, means not being able to see what happens when you move.  Little bit by little bit, my legs started feeling as if they were on fire.  At first, I thought it was my nerves, then I realized the red stepping stone was no longer red.  It was swarming with ants.  Ants that were also swarming me!

I tried futilely to wipe them off my person before the horror of what was happening drove me to dire measures.  Everywhere I had wiped my gloves just transferred more ants to different parts of my body.  I had them biting my neck and moving southward whilst the main force was invading from the ground up.  So ... I ... Myrtle ... the one who remains clothed from ankle to wrist to neck ... striped completely naked in the back yard and grabbed the hose to get all of the ants off of my body.  Funny, no one called the police about an hysterical naked woman dancing about the back yard.

Leaving my clothes outside because I was certain that I would start an ant colony inside the house, I dashed upstairs and took a benedryl.  Since I didn't have the box anymore, I texted Celia to ask her how many were in a dose.  I jumped in the shower and scoured myself from head to toe in scalding hot water.  There were still ants on my body!  Who in the world remains sitting on an ant pile whilst trying to figure out what was wrong with her???

Celia texted me a photo of the box and told me the dose was 2 caplets.  I took a second.  Then, a short while later, I took a third.  Sadly, my anti-itch gel expired in 2006.  Just typing this, I am nearly certain that I am being bitten again!

When I finished my shower and got into my pajamas, I hastened to the basement and boldly grabbed my bottle of ant powder that has about 1,001 warnings on the label about how dangerous it is to use.  I then marched outside and very, very, very liberally doused the bed on both sides of the stone and then covered them up with mulch.  I put some more on the stepping stone (which I washed off early this morning before letting Amos out) and in the crack of the sidewalk where I had seen ants before.  Never in my life had I felt what vengeance was until that moment.  My entire being was screaming, "DIE ANTS!  DIE!!!"

Then, because I take my anxiety medication at night, which makes me sleepy at first, I came crashing down to earth as all that ant annihilation exile ration fled my being and the drugs I had swallowed took effect.  I zonked out.  And dreamed of being eaten alive all night.  SHUDDER.

I am very pleased to report that all the sedum cuttings appear to be rather happy in their new homes.  It warmed the cockles of my heart to have Marie notice the restoration of my porch plants when she came today.  I even think the pitiful baskets look slightly less pitiful.  Maybe, by summer's end, they will be decently full.  I do need to figure out a way to remember that if it is going to be near or below zero outside, I should take precautionary measures for the sedums.  They are quite hardy, but 14 below zero is asking a bit too much of them.  Of course, being my 4th winter, this one was inordinately severe.

Because I was trying to take a picture of the bushes and the ferns ...

... ah, look at them!  The center is still primarily empty, but the ones that survived the gutter extension project and the brutal winter are thriving! 

As I was saying, since I was trying to take photos of the front yard, I left Amos inside.

Have you ever seen a more forlorn puppy dog?  I can putter around the porch and have him sit/lie obediently on the bench, but if I step off the porch, he wants to join me.  I just don't know if he would stay by my side.  I do leave the door open, though, so he can still see me.  To him, that is not sufficient.

Anyway, despite my lingering exhaustion, the bites all over my person, and the lingering trauma (and shame over my response), I enjoyed having Marie come over to cook today.

Silly woman!  She read my blog entry yesterday and fetched a red velvet cake for us to eat!!  So, we had pre-brithday cake this week and will have post-birthday cake next week.  I had Marie carry it down to the basement refrigerator freezer so that I wouldn't see the cake and eat it.  Chances are, I shall forget and so we will have huge slabs of it again next week.

Marie cooked three freezer meals today, leaving my house smelling tantalizing from the roasted broccoli she used in her three-cheese basil pasta dish (the recipe is not posted yet on the recipe rememberer blog Marie made).  She also made Thai Honey Peanut Chicken and Spicy Dr Pepper Pulled Pork.  I whipped up a batch of Texas Flour Tortillas for her.  For our lunch, we had ginormous salads (wild leaf lettuce, slivered carrots, avocado, feta cheese, cucumber, and dried cranberries) with grilled chicken and the most summation (Oh, How We Have Miss It!!!) Grilled Corn on the Cob with Cheese and Lime. We are definitely having grilled corn again next week!

I will note that both the chicken and the corn grilled perfectly!  Truly, the investment in a new heat tent for the grill was a good decision.  We also used a more authentic-to-the-recipe cheese (queso fresco) for the corn, but I forgot to also get the crema.  So, we used half mayonnaise and half sour cream in the recipe.  I have no problem having the corn over and over and over again to get that recipe as-is.

After Marie left, I finished the dishes and cleaned the counters and the stove and took out the trash.  Then, I started thinking, which is never good these days.  So, I distracted myself by dropping off a return package at the UPS box.  And I called Mary.  Merciful woman.

We talked fears and food and writing.

Now, I am languishing in the GREEN chair, having doped myself up on benedryl again, since all the distractions of the day are gone and mind-over-matter in the itching department is no longer working.  I dared a look at my legs.  If you know the movie reference, my legs look like something that could be pictured in the book Diseases of the Skin.

But the bushes are planted.
And the sedums are settled.
And the grill is back up to snuff.

Would that it were that the fears consuming my soul were tended, too.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

What to eat...

Decisions ... decisions.

For a while now, I have been trying to figure out what treat I wanted to eat on my birthday ... to make it special.  But the truth is that I do not want to be alone on my birthday.  The isolation of my existence really bothers me at times.  Seriously, how pitiful is it that I have long conversations with the UPS man?  So, today, I abandoned plans to either cook a wicked meal or take myself out to a wicked (non-budgeted) restaurant dinner and casually asked my realtor if she and her husband wanted to come over for dinner that night.  She doesn't know it is my birthday and doesn't read my blog, so writing about this is not going to spoil the evening ... not going to make them feel pressured to celebrate or something like that.

Now, the problem is that I really was pleased with how miserly I was with the grocery shopping this month and so I want to figure out a way of cooking a real dinner for them—rather than serving the single dish freezer meals that I have been eating—without making too much of an inroad on my remaining grocery money (translate that milk money) for the rest of the month.

  • I could make the Lemon Chicken Gyros with Tzatziki and Feta, which I would probably serve Smoky Roasted Cauliflower as the side and, perhaps, the Grilled Nectarine Salad.  Doing so would mean buying cauliflower, Greek yogurt, an eggplant, and nectarines.  I would also use up almost all of my lemon supply.  Maybe I could go without the salad?
  • Another option would be to make my Roasted Butternut Squash and Goat Milk Cheese Pasta.  I have all the ingredients for that dish, but would need to have a salad and a vegetable ... most likely roasted broccoli.
  • I could wait and try the new recipe for pasta with vodka sauce that evening, but I do not think I have the courage to serve an untried dish to anyone but Marie or Becky (were she visiting again).  I would still need a side and a salad with that.  
  • I love grilling summer squash with mustard, ginger and butter marinade, but really I think that is best served with grilled chicken and I am not wanting grilled chicken as my birthday meal ... even knowing I make the most perfect of grilled chicken.
  • I haven't had Basil Burgers in forever, but that would mean buying ground beef, rolls, tomatoes and lettuce.  I could, however, serve Grilled Corn on the Cob with Lime and Feta as the side dish.  I have all the ingredients of for the latter, but I don't know how long you can keep corn on the cob in the refrigerator.
  • Another option would be the Red Lentil Dahl with Naan and serve it with Smoky Roasted Cauliflower as the side and the Grilled Nectarine Salad.  

I think that either the last option or the pasta with vodka sauce would be the most economical choice.  However, I feel rather cheap having economics being the main factor in choosing ingredients for a meal with guests.  Plus, I had wanted to buy myself one of my beloved Red Velvet Cakes from Wal-Mart as my birthday sweet treat, but having folk over to dinner would make that too expensive.  I had already planned to make Double Chocolate Dr Pepper Cake for Paul's graduation celebration the following Sunday, so I will make it early and have that as my birthday sweet treat.  How cheap is that??

I have a few days to decided what to pick, but I would like to know which ingredients I will need to purchase for the meal before I have to go out and fetch the next-to-last bottle of the erythromycin solution.

The one reason the grill comes to mind is that the replacement heat tent arrived.  Why replace your heat tent? you ask.

After 14 years, it is falling apart and no longer evenly distributes the heat (translate that my vegetable burn quite a bit and the meat has to be place in certain locations).

The underside is even worse!

If you look back at this first photo, you will see ... uhm ... stuff around the sides of the heat tent.  That heat tent is sitting above a deep well that contains the propane burner.  Now, do you think stuff should be peaking up over the edges???  Yeah, uhm, no!

I was truly horrified when I pulled up the heat tent and found the well FULL of 14 years worth of crumbs, ash, rust, and falling bits of metal.  I suddenly realized why it was my igniter had been finicky of late.  I removed an entire plastic grocery bag of stuff from the grill well in preparation for installing the new heat tent.  So ashamed of such clear and abject neglect of my beloved grill I chose not to capture it on film.  The photo above is bad enough.

In my defense, no one taught me that I needed to regularly clean out the well of my grill.  Just like, I would note, no one taught me that I needed to change the oil in my car when I bought my first vehicle.  I learned that three years after that first vehicle purchase ... the hard way.

Amazingly, when I tested out the new heat tent, the igniter worked perfectly once more.  Something about not being buried in stuff  improves its efficacy!

When I went to buy a grill, I asked my father to go with me.  I knew nothing about grills.  Of course, I was shopping amongst a class of grills (and in a store) he would not have shopped himself, but he did help me.  After much prowling about the selection at Wal-Mart, my father chose this Brinkmann grill.

Fourteen years ago, I paid $119 for the grill.  This past week, I paid $19.84 (the shipping was as much as the part) to restore its performance to full surface use.  To me, I think this was a most stellar purchase and has been a perfect grill for a single person.  It was a mercy of my father to help me with this purchase that has multiplied over the years.

Two other times, I would note, my father really stepped up for me.  One was when I bought the house in Alexandria.  It was a 872-square foot duplex and had over a dozen immigrants living in it without running water (translate that it was in wretched condition).  I had bid and lost on many homes prior to that one because the housing market in the DC Metropolitan area was brutal.  As I have noted before, I now have a house that is nearly four times as large as that tiny duplex and yet that mortgage payment was four times as much as the one here was.  Said purchase was the best I could do in such a crazy market, where renting was often even more than buying.

Well, when my one local friend came to see the house, she blurted out, "What have you done?!?"  I was crushed.  But when my father came to see it, he was pleased with the purchase.  He could see what the house could be, rather than what it was.  I very much appreciated that moment with him.

I had an overlap of rent and home ownership (that first month where you don't have to pay the mortgage because it is in the closing costs) that lasted six weeks and worked like a dog to get the place ready to live.  My mother visited for two of those weeks and painted along side me.  I took two weeks of vacation and worked every evening and all weekend long to be able to move in there.  The kitchen had to be gutted down to the studs and was so disgusted that the men I hired to do the demo vomited.  I really wish I had been brave enough to demo myself back then.  Demolition is very cathartic.  I also learned a lot of very hard lessons about contractors and inspections and sellers lying about the condition of a home.

Just writing about that reminds me how very blessed I have been with this home, especially buying it unseen.  Yes, the flipper made some poor decisions.  Yes, as an old house, there were far more electrical needs than even I anticipated.  But it is in extremely good shape and has excellent bones.  The owner prior to the flipper spent her entire life here, I suppose inheriting it from her parents.  You can tell that she and her husband cherished the place as do I.

Sweet Emily emailed me after my porch floor post about a show on cable entitled "Rehab Addict." I thought the title a bit off-putting, but I love how Emily described it: "...where this lady and her crew restore old homes in Minneapolis. What she does is a gift to her community and humanity."  Oh, how warm the cockles of my heart became at reading those words.  Emily understands what I am trying to do with my house!!

I was able to watch four episodes on the show's website and thoroughly enjoyed them.  That woman would totally understand why I: 1) moved the vanity in here and 2) replaced it with something more in keeping with the house even though the one there was in usable condition.

Such a bad decision it was to add these to the parlor in this fashion.  My realtor said that the reason the house was on the market so long was because people would walk into the parlor, see the toilet and vanity, and not be able to also see a solution for the problem.  Move the vanity across from the toilet and put up a room divider and already the space seems more usable. 

Of course the Rehab Addict woman would also agree that a wall was needed.

And she would rejoice in the fact that I used (non-economical) reclaimed wood and the repurposed-bookcase-doors-turned-transom-windows on the wall in the parlor to separate the added bath from the rest of the room.  I used wood that was pulled out of a home just like mine.  The result looks as if the wall has always been there.  [Note: the bathroom wall color is the same ... the light from the window is throwing it off in the photo.]

But I digressed.

The other time that comes to mind was one day when my father came over to watch movies and brought with him a box of four place settings of my dishes.  He had spotted the box on a clearance shelf and thought it was my dishes.  The box was a mere $4.98!!  Anyway, that means I have 16 place settings instead of 12.  The extra place settings have come in handy—even though I am introverted social oaf wallflower hermit and have no need of extra dishes for company—because it means that I can go at least a week, if not longer, before running the dishwasher.  The miser in me wants the dishwasher completely full before I run it.

Anyway, the grill is now ready for more grilling ... more successful grilling.  And I have a few days to  figure out what will be the most economical way of not being alone on my birthday.

What to eat...

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Same song, different verse...

  • When I do the shopping, I should not fetch prescriptions, run errands, do laundry, putter in the soil, refill the hummingbird feeders, or bathe Amos.
  • When I fetch prescriptions, I should not run errands, do laundry, putter in the soil, refill the hummingbird feeders, bathe Amos, or do the shopping.
  • When I run errands, I should not do laundry, putter in the soil, refill the hummingbird feeders, bathe Amos, do the shopping, or fetch prescriptions.
  • When I putter in the soil, I should not refill the hummingbird feeders, bathe Amos, do the shopping, fetch prescriptions, run errands, or do laundry.
  • When I refill the hummingbird feeders, I should not bathe Amos, do the shopping, fetch prescriptions, run errands, do laundry, or putter in the soil.
  • When I bathe Amos, I should not do the shopping, fetch prescriptions, run errands, do laundry, or putter in the soil, or refill the hummingbird feeders.

I did all those yesterday and am exhausted, in pain, and rather weak.  I'm so stupid at times ... thinking I can still ... be some semblance of me.  To make matters worse, I forgot to take the erythromycin all day.  So, I awoke with violent waves of nausea and have endured innards writhing all day.

If you know me, you will understand when I say that I headed up to bed both without finishing folding the laundry and without doing dishes from yesterday.  All I could manage was to pile them in the sink.  Today was not much better.

I finished the dishes and I folded the laundry.
I moaned and groaned.
And I took photos.

I know it doesn't look like much, but I am so very happy that the two empty spots are filled and I love, love, love the alternate coloring.

This is the last (and best) of the cuttings I rooted from the giant spotted begonia.  I am still sad that I killed the original, old, beautiful plant.  Well, the gust of wind that blew open the airing porch door this winter killed it.  But I made that possible by forgetting to turn the lock on the door the last time I opened it.

Happiness is having all my porch pots filled again.  Lets hope all the sedum cuttings settle in and enjoy their new home.

I have six of this size of these GREEN pots and two larger ones.  Happiness is sedums in GREEN pots.

The pot in the middle is the one with all the leftover bits, so we don't want a closeup of that.  But you can see the three plants I moved from the solarium last week (was it??) are most happy outside.

I love that bird.  Yes, I love rocks and turtles and frogs and such in my pots and outside of them.  I also like glazed pottery pots.  I used to have a rather incredible glazed pottery basin to the fountain before someone broke it.  But lets not think of that right now.

Rocks.  Have I mentioned rocks?  I adore rocks.  My very most favorite museum of the Smithsonian was the Natural History Museum.

Okay, I know.  The pot on the left is rather pitiful.  But that is a tiny cutting of the string of pearl plant that I am hoping will root and take over this pot.  I whisper sweet nothings to it every day.  Remember the glorious string of pearls??

Happiness is a thriving string of pearls right by your front door!

Sadly, it is too stinking hot for me to sit out on the porch and enjoy all the sedum cuttings (hopefully) enjoying their new homes.  It's going to be too stinking hot for eons.

Tell me, how in the world are my boxwoods going to get into the front bed????

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Escape through exhaustion...

I sleep about 12 hours a day, in two to three hour segments.  These days, I have been awaking from each segment in the throes of the wretchedness my sleeping mind creates.   Oft I am screaming and spent a long while shaking and terrified even after I awake.  Sometimes I am weeping with a sorrow so deep it is unspeakable.

Since starting on my back porch project, I have spent my days sleeping for 12 hours, working for two hours, and resting/recovering/napping/moaning and groaning for 10 hours.  Two burned finger tips, two burned knuckles, and one blister later, I finished the scraping of paint from the floor.

I moved the lounge chairs to the garage, since they get a bit dirty hanging out on the porch during the winter.  I would like to figure out a way to hang them both up off the floor.  Yes, I cleaned the grill.  Yes, I very much would like to figure out a way to really clean the recycling bin.  And that clay duck watering pot is my grandmother's, from when she was living in Guatemala during World War II, whilst her husband worked on engineering projects for the service.  

Isn't it interesting how, from one direction, the door mat looks almost black and the other direction it is its true color?

In both pictures, you can see the worst spot is the section between the doors.  I could possible work a bit more with the heat gun, but the wood is so rough there that I end up splintering it.  Really, the floor needs to be sanded.

You can see the threshold back in place, but I removed it to scrape the paint all the way to the edge.  The wood is thick and rather beautiful, so I am utterly loathe to paint it again. I really, really, really want to use the deck sealer.  However, I just do not see how I am going to be able to sand this myself.  I could rent a drum sander, which would probably do this small porch in a very short time, but it is 105 pounds and, thus, impossible for me to get in and out of the car.  I can rent a handheld belt sander, which is only 12 pounds, but I am not sure that would work.  I would very much like to know if it would before I tried to rent one.

So, I am at a stopping point.

Because the paint was so heavy, I weighed all the bags.  Twenty-seven pounds.  Yes, I scraped off 27 pounds of paint from that floor!  I also removed the quarter round, because it was not worth trying to salvage by scraping paint off of it.  For a quarter-round-loving-gal, I very much prefer the porch without it.

Being at the start of the new budget cycle, I am throwing most of my grocery and household money into replacing the boxwoods that died and filling all the pots on the front porch that I should have known to bring inside once Indiana started copying Alaskan weather.  I also got most of the herbs I wanted for the raised bed.  I could not find oregano and, since the middle rosemary perished, I would like to buy another one.  Given that I was shy on plants, I decided to plant from the edges to the center.

There are two each of basil and sage and one larger thyme on each end.  Being exhausted, I only mulched the parts of the bed that are planted.  I am rather sad to report that whilst planting, I only came across two red wigglers (out of the 250 I purchased), and both of them appear not to have grown much at all.  I am wondering if there is a way to buy worms that are not microscopic.  Had I known I was getting babies, instead of the fat ones pictured, I would have chosen the much, much, much larger quantity available.

Notice the utter lack of ground cover peaking up from the ground between the bed and the sidewalk? Firewood Man soaked that area with his super secret killer formula.  I almost slugged him when he pointed out the weeds already growing in my raised bed whilst he was mowing last week.  My neighbor got a bird feeder, and the birds like to perch on my fence after swooping over to get some food.  The seeds that don't make down avian gullets are sprouting in my bed.  SIGH.  Hopefully the mulch will help.

The other two plants are birthday presents from someone.  I have two (I believe) georgia plum coral bells.  The other two Amos watered to death.  I got two more to fill in the gaps of the row beneath the magnolia tree ... blondies.  So, now I have two deep purples and two muted pink/orange ones (something akin to fall foliage), and alternating bit of beauty beneath the magnolia tree in my shade bed.  The great thing about coral bells are that they can take temperatures well below freezing.  So, they fit my criteria of planting once and never having to do anything but fertilize and mulch again.  Whilst the blooms are not all that impressive, the bulbs I chose for the front of that bed came up larger and more bloomy than the first year.  Again, plan achieved.  Plant-it-and-forget-it.  Annuals must no longer be a part of my yard.

Below is how I decided to refill all my pots on my porch:

A 10" X 20" palette of sedum gloriousness!

Now, I was not so much interested in having to figure out how to divide this into 14 pots, only six of which being the same size, nor was I keen on having to cut it apart.  But this was the only sedum option I could find.  The part of me that finds this most awesome, would like to figure out how to get a feeding trough for my yard someplace and just fill it up with a few palettes of gloriousness.  However, finding a perennial replacement for my porch pot debacle is the only authorized sedum purchase.  This ended up being $1 per pot, though, clearly, the larger pots got larger sections.  The last pot (a 15th one) I filled with all the broken pieces and am hoping fervently they will take root and grow.  Because I finished at midnight, I have no photos of that work.

I finished at midnight because we went from the winter-that-never-ends straight into steamy, stinking hot, sweltering weather.  Even working in full dark, I was sweating profusely and fainted more times that I care to document.  I worked in segments of misery broken up by sessions of lying across the floor grate in the kitchen trying to recover enough to venture on.

The real problem I face is the boxwoods. I have four boxwoods that need planting.  I have three very dead boxwoods that need digging up.  I have four boxwoods for which I need to dig four holes and drag compost manure, peat, and potting soil from the garage up to the front of the house.  I have four boxwoods for which, after having been planted, I need to lay out and stake a soaker hose (so as never to have a water issue again) and then I need to drag at least four bags of mulch from the same origin point to the same destination.  I honestly thought that I might be able to do this, but with the weather forecast being nothing but Myrtle-Danger-Weather, I am not sure how the four bushes, watered twice now, sitting on the back sidewalk are going to make it into the ground.

I am worried about this problem.

Amos got rather dirty lying amongst all the paint chips and dust and such.  He also go rather stinky from keeping me company as I tried to do my small soil puttering chores.  So, I ended my late day bathing both myself and my puppy dog.

Before setting out on my errands, I put the line-dry load into the washing machine.  Once home, I hung it before tackling any soil puttering and started the next load of laundry, which included my sheets.

I mailed the 5 packages I had prepared during the last budget cycle ... at the post office that is too cheap for air-conditioning and to staff all the available windows.  I nearly fainted there.

I went to Target and fetched some of my prescriptions, battling a bit of sticker shock because I have entered the donut hole.  That was hard to swallow.  I got a slew of samples and so have not had to pay for Celebrex (and a few others) for three months.  That means when I pick it up on June 27th, I will probably need some nitroglycerin to survived the check out.  I will also ... I think ... be picking up the first round of erythromycin pills.  I am still not 100% certain—after working so very hard to find a way to live solely on the disability—that I am willing to start dipping into the now-almost-gone retirement money to pay for that medication.  However, I really don't think I can go back to a life of constant innards misery.  If the pills work, I believe I will take them.   At least for a while.  Starting June 27th, life is going to get really, really, really miserly.  Certainly no more Taco Bell now that the gift cards have run out.

From Target, I had to go to three places to find the variegated boxwoods.  Apparently, a lot of boxwoods in Fort Wayne ... even very old ones ... did not make it through our wild winter.

After my car had the authorized plant purchases safely secured in the back (the seats having been folded down ever since fetching the soil, mulch, peat, and compost manure), I headed to Walmart to get a few household items and some grocery items.  Sadly, the cut of pork I used for my beloved Dr Pepper pulled pork was not there.  However, I got the things on my list and some fresh vegetables.  I did a very good job of shopping, even though I saw a MUST-HAVE second birthday present for myself that somehow wound up in my cart.  My new insane household and grocery budget goal is a mere $150 a month.  We shall see if it is doable.  I will mostly have dairy and a bit of meat left to buy for the rest of the month.

Yes, I secured the final item for the vodka sauce recipe.
Yes, I resisted buying the funky, cool pasta Pioneer Woman used since I have plenty at home.
No, I have not yet made it.

The one errand that I forgot was to take the two bags of donation items that I managed to cull from my home.  I dug deep within and decided that all the CDs that I thought I still liked but do not actually listen to, two microphones, and many books on cassette tapes are sitting in the front seat of my car for drop-off.  Seriously, don't you think having them there should have been enough of a reminder to swing by the donation center??  I have to fetch the second-to-last bottle of the erythromycin solution in a few days, so I hope to take care of that last errand then.

Only ... what next?  I am at a standstill with the porch and a standstill with my soil puttering, I cleaned the grill (that story is awaiting the arrival of the replacement heat tent).  I have a sufficiency in my larder (so as to not need to cook any time soon).   And I finished the final version of the review draft of the booklet (the author of which is booked up until the middle of July so I will not have feedback anytime soon).  What next?  What can I do next to distract myself from the spiritual terror and the now deep, abiding spiritual grief?  I thought I could not long for the Lord's Supper anymore than I did, but I do.  The longing has sunk so deep within me that I no longer have words to explain, to describe.  It is as if my soul is weeping and yet silent.

But nothing has changed.

I have tried to explain to Celia and to Mary, who have asked.  The words that I use frustrate me because I do not believe I am communicating a fraction of what I think ... and fear.  Those two women are silly and sweet and refuse to consider me Saul.

But I do.
I am.
Who else could I be?

Friday, May 23, 2014

Tending more neglected wood...

I panicked today, once I started to think about where Paul's graduation was and the people who would be there.  I talked with Becky and Marie about my panic and worries and asked for advice.  Marie said she understood and that neither of us had really thought about that part of the graduation.  She said Paul would understand if we celebrated his graduation another time.  I asked if we could work on girding my loins so that I might be able to go to his call service.  I do so want to support his studies, his passion.

After struggling with the failure of not being able to cheer my friend's beloved, I went searching for something to distract me.  I finally decided that I would tackle the back porch, something I've wanted to do since I moved in here three and a half years ago.

The floor is in horrid shape.  When I moved here, there was an ancient refrigerator left in the corner of the porch.  I put it on Freecycle immediately.  Plus, this is where I keep my firewood, so this end is in the worst shape.  However, the entire porch floor has been painted over and over and over again, without proper prep work.  Sadly, the flipper painted the garage, the back porch floor, and the garage, but did not prep or use bonding primer.  She also used interior latex paint to cover exterior oil-based paint.  Hence, all three are covered in extremely thick layers of cracked and peeling paint and need attention.

Much of what I have been doing since I moved into my beloved and beautiful 1920 home is to update it for the next buyer, so that it will not be gutted and modernized like so many of these houses have been.  I have worked to restore rather than renovate, making choices on what fits the house best.  I want folk to find it a beautiful, functional home, so that it might be loved and lived in for another century ... or two ... as it was built.  The electrical work has been the lion share of the expense, save for the kitchen, but so much was not proper or balanced.  Plus, there simply were not enough outlets to support a modern lifestyle.  The rest has been lots and lots and lots of elbow grease, with judicious purchases here and there.   

[It frustrates and frightens me that at almost 47, I've nearly come to the end of my elbow grease.]

When I look at the back porch, I see something that is old and tired and a mess. I also see what might look like a "problem" to others.  The wood on the front porch was merely grossly neglected.  Power-washing and sealing it two years in a row made the front porch a prime feature of the home ... that and creating an outdoor living space with a wonderful ceiling fan for hot days.

The back porch is a problem.  My goal is to strip the paint and get it to a point where I can seal it like the front porch.  Some of the wood is in poor shape, so I have to watch for splintering as I scrape.

These are my tools.  I'm in love with the heat gun, having already used it to restore and repair the garage entrance door.  My second favorite tool is the broken paint brush that someone left behind when I was renovating my house in Alexandria. It makes the perfect whisk broom.  The black and red handled scraper is what I use once the paint is heated up, but I use the small spackling knife to clear off the melted paint when it builds up on my paint scraper.

Here is all the paint I scraped off tonight.  It is surprisingly heavy.

Here are the 12 boards that I completed.  I think the red stains are where newer paint was applied to bare spots in the wood.  I am hoping that once I am done, I can get Firewood Man to power wash the last bit and thus be able to seal it without sanding it.  I wouldn't mind some of the coloring remaining, as long as the sealant took.

Here are the other 44 boards that I still need to do.  If you notice a bit of a blackened spot on the edge of my doormat, that might possibly be where I was not quite as careful as need be whilst aiming the heat gun.

I sat on the floor, listened to my most soothing play list, and scraped.  Those 12 boards took three hours.  I think, perhaps, that 12 might be too much for a session.  Perhaps just eight next time.

Sadly, the even greater problem are the walls of the back porch.  The paint is peeling off something fierce.  I cannot even fathom how one would prep the lattice.  My one thought would be to try to knock as much loose and then first paint a layer of bonding primer, before finishing with a coat of premium outdoor paint.  It would still be all lumpy, but the paint shouldn't flake off.

The problem with this home improvement task is that, from the outside, the entire job would be on a ladder.  And I could not just sit my way through it.  It is both too much work for me and would be wildly expensive to have someone do a proper job.  So, I don't know what to do about it, even though every day brings more falling white paint chips.  A perpetual snowfall.

But at least the floor will no longer be a mess.

Perhaps, too, in working I will forget some of my terror ... the part of my life I want to fade away will.  Sooner rather than later.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

It's Wednesday...

Marie called to talk with me about her beloved's graduation.

"Paul's graduating tomorrow, so I thought I would call to talk about you're going."
"No, he's not.  He's graduating on Friday.  Today's Wednesday."
"It's Thursday."
"No, I know what today is.  I worked to know it.  It's Wednesday."
"It's Thursday."
"I know it's Wednesday.  Seriously. You're wrong."
"What does your phone say?"

I wanted to scream, though not at the gentle and thoughtful Marie, "I DON'T BLOODY CARE WHAT MY PHONE OR COMPUTER SAY.  IT'S WEDNESDAY.  FOR ONCE I KNOW WHAT BLOODY DAY IT IS!"

Sweet Marie, she was calling to actually tell me that our plan for me to come meet her at her house and ride over to the seminary would no longer work because she would be tutoring right up until it was time to leave.  But she already had a solution.  Two, really.  She sent me very, very, very specific directions for a place for me to park and wait for her to join me there.  Marie sent two places, just in case the best one was full by the time I got there.

After I hung up the phone, I felt so defeated.  "It is Wednesday," I told Amos, with whom I had been arguing about tending to major business outside since last night.  After seven time outs, I gave in around 9:30 this evening because I was missing my puppy dog.  Just as we headed up to bed, he snuck in the servants' quarters room and used the brown grass he prefers.  Rat Bastard.

A failure at knowing the day.
A failure at my puppy dog's serious digression in potty training.

It didn't help matters that I spent two hours trying to figure out how to print a booklet I am working on of a paper that would be a good resource for pastors.  I know that I have changed to MAC and I know that I also changed to inDesign CS6 in that same process.  But I spent years doing almost every bit of collateral for the non-profits where I worked and printing the majority of it in house because we had not the funds for professions, teaching myself first PageMaker and then inDesign.  And I was a stinking genius when it came to printing and printer settings and whatnot.  Not anymore.

First, the booklet was coming out scaled down, so the fold was off.  Then, after switching to a postscript file (not that I know that what in the world a postscript file is, it was printing every other page in the opposite orientation.  The rub of it was that I knew what setting needed to be changed for the latter, but I could no longer find where to change it.  A tree died in vain today whilst I attempted to get a sample print of the booklet draft.

When I went to put the day's medication container back in its slot, the Wednesday slot was full.  Apparently, this morning, I was certain it was Saturday.  SIGH.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

the days passed...

I called Becky today, thinking I had given her lots of family time and asked how the week's sales when at her new spice shop.  It was then I learned today was Tuesday and, for her, the week had just started.  Really?  I thought it was Friday.  Or Thursday.  Or something other than Tuesday.

Mostly, I have not noticed the passing days.  And I have not tried, again, to know which they were. I have done some puttering about the yard.  Spring still has not fully come ... or perhaps Winter has not yet fully gone.  When Firewood Man came to mow the other day, it was 42 and far too cold for me to be outside.  His mowing was done in record time.

One day, I saw my neighbor outside weeding, so I joined her for a short while.  At the end of the raised bed, there was still a bit of ground cover growing.  I could not simply dig it out with a shovel because this stray tulip was there, too.

Whilst pink is not my most favorite color, I adore these tulips because of their fringed edges.  I have six strays, altogether, to relocate to the bulb bed once they are finished blooming.

Several of the tulips have been knocked over, so they are not easy to see.  My sheepgoatratbastardpuppydog has taken to tromping through the tulips and alum in order to avoid the GREEN grass.

I still think these look like something from Dr. Seuss.

Sitting there weeding my one foot square patch of soil, I chuckled at the constant buzzing of the bumble bees and honey bees arguing over the flowering thyme.  I couldn't capture any of them or even figure out a way to focus my phone on the flowers, but you get the point.  Two long swaths of pink flowing from end to end on the side beds.  Lots and lots and lots of buzzing.

I napped for a while and then went back outside again.  This time, I worked on the rose of sharon bushes, which have already leafed so beautifully despite the harsh winter.  Since the weeping cherry failed to really bloom, I was worried about the rose of sharon bushes.  Last summer, they still had not really recovered from the drought the year before.

During the drought, the buds on the bushes never opened.  That fall and even throughout the winter, I thought I should cut them off. Most were brown, but all still had some bit of GREEN to them.  I never did.  So, last summer, the bushes barely bloomed.  The other day, I noticed something (also not in focus).

[Phone cameras need a macro setting.]

Here, if you squint and use your imagination, you can see the buds opened last summer. But they clearly were dead.  All the buds had split open into four sections, but never flowered.  Whilst they are all dried and no longer GREEN in any fashion, I still thought it would be best for the bushes if I removed them all.  I did so over a couple of days.

The smoke tree clearly survived the winter!  The last to see is the butterfly bush, which looks dead as dead can be, but two of my neighbors have them, too, and their's also look rather dead.  At the base of my smoke tree is this really cool plant—the name of which I can neither type nor pronounce—which is the sole survivor of Amos' watering attempts.  I wish the other two would have made it, for the curve of the bed.  However, this is almost triple in size, going into its second year.

[Ignore the fact that I need to mulch again, please.]

At night, Amos likes to sneak into the forbidden bedrooms to lounge atop the beds.  The other night, I found him in the solarium and snuggled with him for a while, looking at the night clouds through all the windows.  I noticed, then, that all my wintering plants were starting to look beleaguered.  Whilst they all thrive in the solarium in the winter, it was as if every single one of them decided they were starving for fresh air.  So, yesterday, in brief spates of work, I moved them all to the front porch and puttered about in the soil where needed.

Sitting on the bench is ever so much nicer when the table center piece is in place.

My string of pearls were so happy in the solarium, they doubled in size over the winter.  So, I very carefully repotted them and then relocated the plant from the porch capstone ledge to the stand by the door for proper string draping.  I've always killed my string of pearl plants before, so I am thrilled this one is happy in my home here in Indiana.

I don't know what this thing is, but my mother brought it to me the summer before last.  Then, it was a mere three strands of green succulent.  Now, after a second winter in the solarium, it is bursting at the seams.  I cut the roots, but left it in the pot.

I have always killed any jade plant I thought to have.  This one was a small, single branch, about the side of the one sticking up in back. It had languished for three years in Alexandria never growing at all.  My mother, when I moved here, put it in this corner, where it has sun, but also shade.  Two winters in the solarium and two summers in this location and the jade has greatly increased in measure.  I took it out of the pot, cut the roots, replaced the soil, and repositioned it, since the jade plant is so bent over. I also tucked in a different rock for support.

The other two pots are ones I created from cuttings from my giant spotted begonia.  The past two summers, all I have done is killed any plant in the shade, in these pots and two others.  It struck me, this winter, that the begonia requires shade, so I started rooting pieces.  I now have these two small starts and a fuller pot (that I forgot to photograph).  Sadly, the door to the airing porch blew open this winter and fried the original ginormous plant that I have had for some 15 years.  SIGH.

I also decided, this winter, to try and root more of the Wandering Jew plant that has been languishing in my kitchen. It started from a single stem broken off of Becky's plant when she was putting it in her car August before last.  These are my dinky hanging baskets that I hope will make the transition from glass jar of water in a window sill to soil and become baskets I can keep all year round.

Pitiful, I know.  Each basket has three roots strands.  If they take, I thought to keep snipping and rooting until I can fill up the baskets a bit more.  Then, I shall have free hanging baskets and ones that I will not have to replace.  I just love having a pair of hanging baskets flanking the large pipe wind chimes on the front porch.

I have 14 empty pots from all the year-round sedums I've had for eons.  I killed them all by not thinking to bring them inside once the temperatures fell near and then below zero.  I just wasn't thinking.  So, the last task I did was to empty them all.  That way, the dead plants would no longer mock me in my failure as I sit out on the front porch.  Once I am most certain that we will not have any colder weather (and, hopefully, I get some birthday money), I plan to fill them all back up with six pack sedums and just wait on the babies to grow over the next couple of years.

All the puttering came after I had already tried (and not all that successfully) scrubbed the winter dirt and yellow pollen off the front porch.  And I achieved a goal I have had since I moved in December 2010:  I took off the storm windows from the large window so that I could clean the outside of the window and the inside of the storm windows.  Yes, I should have tried to get help.

The hard part of the disassembling was that the top pane was screwed into the bottom pane and thus both had to be taken apart together.  Carefully.

I just love  the beveled glass.  But this was one dirty window.  All parts of it.

The big part.

The small part.

Really, really, really dirty parts.  This was on the third round of Windex!

But, oh, my!  Even on an overcast day, the living room became immensely brighter once I was done!

When I took down the lace shear curtains to clean the inside, I was appalled at how dirty they were.  Filthy despite the fact that I have cleaned them at least once since moving.  Maybe twice.  Down came all the first floor lace curtains and into the washing machine they went.  With them down, I decided I must clean the inside of all the first floor windows.  One task all too often leads to at least one more ... if not others.

I would really like to tend to all the windows on the first floor, which I think can be done with a ladder.  However, it would be more work than I could do myself.  Even with a solid surface upon which to stand, I was struggling to get this one window cleaned.

So, this afternoon, Amos and I spent a few hours on the front porch—fan on high—admiring the few plants that are back outside and watching a gazillion children ride their bikes up and down the street.  The baskets still look pitiful, but everything I put outside already looks so much healthier.  I worked hard to ignore all the empty pots.

Days passing.

Not thinking about who am ... and who I no longer am.