Wednesday, December 28, 2011

King of the Cats: Country

This is the week to relax. I have my house in order, though the Christmas decorations are still up. I started a sewing project today, a patchwork valance for the guest bedroom to match the lady bug quilt I made several years ago. This afternoon I dug out the left over squares and sewed them together. As with most spur of the moment projects, this one now requires a trip to JoAnn's tomorrow before I can finish it. So tonight I will introduce another pet child, Country.


Country learns to ride the EzGo golf cart 

We use the EzGo all the time around The Garden Spot to haul stuff, including any pet that will ride with us. Cats generally are not so adventurous, so we were quite surprised when Country sat proudly on hubby's lap as we rode around the yard one evening. He seemed to rather enjoy the ride. Unlike the grandchildren, he didn't beg to drive!

Most parents who have raised a daughter have had to endure the Horrible Boyfriend. Just as the youngest daughter was graduating from high school, that boyfriend sat in my living room and announced that I would love his graduation gift. I answered that as long as it didn't eat or poop, any gift would be fine. He just sat there grinning. A few days later, Jen brought home a very pathetic little gray kitten. She named him Country because she was into country western music. After graduation, the ugly boyfriend went away; Jen got a good job in Boulder, where she rented her first apartment, taking the young cat with her. The job in Boulder didn't work out, so she and Country moved home. She eventually moved out again, this time leaving behind the cat where he has happy lived for many years. In the spring he will be 16 years old. 

One of our concerns when we moved to The Garden Spot was how well the cats would adjust. Country made himself right at home. He discovered the neighbor's weed patch where he would sit for hours waiting for some little critter to emerge. He brought home two dead voles those first weeks at his new home. He is a lover and a cuddler, but he is also very demanding for food and affection. He sleeps with the head gardener most of the night. His favorite spot in the house is to stretch out in front to the flaming fireplace. I am sure that the heat feels good on his old bones. While he is not the only cat in the house, he is the King Cat, keeping the other two in their place. He welcomes visitors, granting them the honor of his presence in their  lap for some special attention whether they appreciate cats or not. The old adage that we don't own cats, cats own us, is quite true. Country has us well trained, especially hubby who spoils all the pet children. He is also hubby's little shadow out in the garden, tagging along when he goes out to weed in the evenings or feed the hens--who look at him with some suspicion. How does he get along with Stevie? Ignores him, thankfully. Stevie has been a part of the house for so long that the cats don't pay any attention to him. Country has been a gentle spirit in the house for years and I can't imagine the house without him. 


Monday, December 26, 2011

Meet the Pet Children: Stevie the Wonder Bird

With the holiday festivities not quite over (we will have friends in for dinner New Year's Eve), I am growing weary.  Are you warn out with holiday yet? I have reclaimed the kitchen after the big food blow-out Christmas Eve. The fridge is so packed with left-overs that  I finally called my sister-in-law to come get a few things since she has a house full of kids and grandkids who will eat up the goodies. Hubby and I don't need extra calories. So for a change of pace, I thought I would spend the next few days introducing you to our pet children. Each comes with his/her own little story.

Meet Stevie the Wonder Bird, named after Stevie Wonder simply because he used to dance on his perch bobbing his head up and down as he chattered, reminding me of the great singer.


Stevie's leg band dates 1987, indicating that he is 24 years old. I bought him some years ago from my sister-in-law because she needed money to take her cat to the vet. I never expected him to live so long.  When I was very young, a neighbor gave me a parakeet, and I have had birds ever since, mostly parakeets. I had a pair of canaries that hatched two little babies. I lost one and gave the other, a male, to my friend who sings his little heart out for her. So while other birds have come and gone, Stevie has thrived. Cockatiels are great mimics, much easier to teach then parakeets. He used to bark like a dog because our neighbors had a dog that barked constantly. We began hearing our microwave beeping at odd times and figured out that it was Stevie. He began laughing, too, mimicking the conversations we had when we had friends in. He even learned to repeat "Pretty Bird." These days, though, he is quiet. Occasionally he appears to have a convulsion and I am sure that he is done, but he rallies. Because we have 3 cats, Stevie is confined to his cage. I have always enjoyed the chatter and singing of little house birds.

Birds make good company, adding color and a certainly liveliness to the house with their chattering and bird song. Birds are great pets for children too. While they do require cleaning, they are easy to keep. Taken care of properly, little birds can bring years of companionship and entertainment. However, they are not trouble free. They must be kept safe from other pets, especially cats. My cats learned as kittens to leave the bird alone and now they pretty much ignore Stevie. They do need to kept out of drafts and away from fumes, especially the fumes that teflon cookware gives off. If they are they only pet in the house, they might be let loose to fly about, just as long as there aren't any open doors or windows. My daughter 's husband caught small parrot in his backyard that had escaped. And I have seen a parakeet at my bird feeder hanging out with the sparrows, but generally these little birds won't last long in the wild. Now, if I could just teach Stevie to say "I tawt I taw a kitty cat."

Monday, December 19, 2011

Glad Tidings

The Christmas celebrations are in full swing. I would like to say that I have all of shopping done, but I don't. I would like to say that I have all the gifts thus far purchased wrapped, but I don't. I would like to say that I have all the baking done, but I don't.


But the tree is decorated and the house is in order.



Snow Man Pillows: Courtesy of Kohls. 


The Barbies have come out to dance the Nutcracker and show off their holiday fashions and give Santa a helping hand.


The children anxiously await a special visit.


 HO HO HO


Santa's Helpers. (always one has to make a make a goofy face)


Merry Christmas to One and to All.


Mo. One of my helpers.


 County. Helper # 2. Cats love boxes and containers, don't they.


Lucy is my little baker. She takes baking very seriously.


Perfect little Christmas Trees.



Part of the audience at the Christmas Program. Mom Jennifer chaperons.



Angels in the making: dip ice cream cones in melted white chocolate. Chips work great. Cool in fridge. Make heads out of almond marzipan.


 Halos: vanilla waffers dipped in white chocolate. A bit of white chocolate to glue on to the body. I let it dry a bit before glueing the halo in place. A bit tricky to get it stick, though.

  Wings: pretzels. I hand dipped these this year, but you get nicer ones if you buy them already dipped.


I am not an artist, but I used black icing gel to pain the faces.


Hair: dyed coconut. The silver dragees are edible, but not sold in California. You can find the complete instructions for these little angels by going to foodnetwork.com and searching cone angels on Sandra Lee's page. 

 Finally, the new oven. Bakes very evenly 

Little Angels ready to go.

With the Santa party over, the grandkids gone home, I am resting today. I will wrap packages and just hang out to gather speed for the next gathering Christmas Eve. The grandkids will return. It is Jen's birthday, too, so it is a big party.

A Merry Christmas to all.

May your holidays be blessed with good cheer, joy, and peace. 

NOEL NOEL

Monday, December 12, 2011

Let the Season Begin

Well, hello. I hope no has given up on me. The end of the semester is always crazy and stressful, but it is officially over. I ended this semester in very good shape. I had all of my grading done and grades uploaded to the system by Friday noon. Grades are not due until this Wednesday, so I feel like I have gained a few extra days. So now it is time to get ready for Christmas. Let the season begin.

We traveled to our friends out in Northeastern Colorado for their annual Christmas party over the week-end. We are not always able to go because I always have final essays to grade. Sherry had a lovely party with lots of good food, and her home was totally beautiful. She has The Touch--the decorating touch.

So here is my holiday To Do List:

Put up Christmas tree. The tree is finally up, but I had a rough beginning. The pink lights wouldn't work. Bummer. I called Target late Sunday night to see if they had pink lights, which they did, so today I made the trip to town to get the lights and a few other things. You just don't go to Target and come home with only what you needed. I did get more gift shopping done.

Look at the chaos. I wondered last night if I would ever get done.

I hate clutter.

Max was little help.

A few years ago I surrendered the live tree and bought pre-lit artificial tree. I do a pink tree with pink lights. Only this year not all of the pink lights lit. 



The village has been up for a couple of weeks. I love all of the little trees that I have added. The village grew this year from a 6 ft. table to 8 ft. I added a little train. More photos later.

The village across the way from us. All of the neighbors have decorated their homes. Quite a lovely sight from our side of the road.

Max must have moved. He loves the fireplace. Santa is a long time tradition. My mom made him in her ceramics glass for our daughter's first Christmas in 1976. For 37 years he has been under our tree. 

And Wahlah. The tree is finally done. The new pink lights are LED and I am not too sure that I really like them. They seem more purple. I shot the photo without the flash. The flash makes the photo too white. Does anyone have any suggestions on getting really great Christmas Tree pictures?
I still have chaos. Nor do I have my stove yet. Hopefully it will be installed by the end of the week. Sunday Santa Clause will come for the children. We will have about 11 children who will get a private sitting with Santa. Such fun, but I don't think I will be serving any baked treats.

Most of the gift shopping is done. The carpet cleaner is coming tomorrow to clean the furniture. I still have plenty to keep me busy, but not too busy to read your blogs.

Back in the garden, we have a new visitor, a wood pecker . Any ideas as to what it might be? He is about the size of flicker, but much different coloring.



We had fun watching him. He'd go to the bird feeder to get a sunflower seed then fly to the infamous Russian Olive where he would bang the seed on the tree trunk to open it.

I do hope that your holiday plans and preparations are going according to your plan. Stay calm and enjoy the season. We will be thankful and grateful for the wonderful blessings, for the good health of our family and friends, and we will try to share the joy of the season. Now I have to catch up on reading my blogs.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Sometimes Plans Just Don't Go as Planned.

One must have a sense of humor about life, nor must one take life too seriously, either. Case in point: Thanksgiving Dinner 2011

Plan A: Grandma's house.

Plan B: Daughter Jen decides that this year sister Heather (having never cooked a Thanksgiving Dinner before) should cook  dinner the Sunday before Thanksgiving because Jen decides to work Thanksgiving Day. We were all on board with Plan B, until Jen's husband and daughter get the flu.

Plan C: Hoping everyone would be over their flu and colds, we then decide to have dinner the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Nope, the second daughter gets sick; thus, Thanksgiving dinner is totally canceled.

Plan D: I cooked the fresh turkey that I bought last week in my roaster. You see, last week just before one of the biggest cooking weeks of the year my oven died.  So old that parts are no long available, the stove was hauled out; we have ordered a new microwave/oven combo that will be in place--soon, I hope.


Hubby and I had a very scaled back turkey dinner this afternoon: mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry relish, and turkey, probably half the calories, too. Jen did make us a lovely pumpkin pie that she brought over.

Sometimes plans just don't go the way we want, but I guess one of the perks of being well aged is that these bumps in the road don't bother me much anymore--there was a day if things didn't go as planned, I'd have been a raving idiot. Today, however, I am must more relaxed about life.

Any Black Friday adventure stories to share? None here, though we did venture out for a bit. Nothing exciting.

Next week is our last week of classes at the University followed by a week of final exams. I will have a stack of essays to grade and final grades at assign, which is always quite stressful, for while the majority of students work very hard, there are always a few who make the end of the semester very difficult for themselves, thus for me too. I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Have a great week.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Thanksgiving Blessings.

Read more about the Howlands at Ancestry. Com

Meet my distant relatives, John and Elizabeth Tilley Howland, the original Pilgrims who left England early in 1620 on the Mayflower to start a new life in the New World. John, a young lad probably in his early 20’s came as a manservant or indentured servant to John Carver. Elizabeth also booked passage on the Mayflower. According to Ancestry.com, Howland probably inherited Carver’s estate after the Carvers died the second year at The Colony of New Plymouth, having survived the first year when so many of the pilgrims died. Governor Carver had no children, so some believe that Howland as the oldest surviving male of the Carver household inherited Carver’s estate, which allowed him to buy his freedom, though no documentation has been found to prove that he did gain his wealth and freedom in that manner. He did, however, serve in a public capacity during his long life to shape a new America. He used his inheritance to help pay for the colony's debt to its London lender.

Despite that some historians write that the Pilgrims were criminals escaping from their crimes, the Pilgrims were religious activists, so some were jailed for their religious beliefs as they sought freedom to practice their own faith outside the Church of England.

I would like to think that because I am a direct descendant on my grandmother Duston’s side, I am unique or special, but I am not, for according to various genealogy web sites, the Howlands had ten children, leaving a legacy of millions of American descendants. None-the-less, I am proud of my colonial heritage.

William Bradford, also on the Mayflower and author of the Mayflower Compact, writes of John Howland in his journal where he describes how John comes on deck during a storm and is thrown overboard. Able to grasp hold of a broken halyard, he hangs on until he is rescued. As Bradford writes, the “lusty young lad” is saved because, as the Puritans believed, God felt him worthy enough to be saved.

Thanksgiving was first determined by executive order by President Lincoln in 1863; however, not until December 26, 1941 did Thanksgiving become an official holiday when President Roosevelt signed Congressional law making it an official holiday on the 4th Thursday of November. Though it seems that Thanksgiving these days is less about giving thanks for those hearty, brave Puritans who sought religious freedom and more about eating huge amounts of good food, watching football, and getting ready for Black Friday, the holiday remains one of our favorite holidays when we can sit back and just enjoy family and friends, reflect on how great America really is, and  give thanks for our abundant blessings. As we give those blessings, let us remember to pray for those brave men and women who have sacrificed their Thanksgiving celebrations to preserve American freedoms.

PS: Let's not forget that our Canadian neighbors also celebrate their Thanksgiving, too.

Happy Thanksgiving to all. Happy Eating. God Bless America and God Bless our Military.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

It has been a busy week, and when I am not busy I am tired. And grading. Always grading. We have only 3 weeks of fall semester left: this coming week, Thanksgiving week, and last week of classes followed by finals week, then a nice winter's break. I will be ready.

Both the girls spent the night last Saturday with the 4 grandchildren (8, 5, 3, 2) and one rather large young pup Bruno, a doberman pincher. For a youngster, he is rather well behaved. Our old dog Max gets along well with other dogs and likes to play, but at 13 he has bad hips and while he can roam the yard and make an effort at chasing the cotton tails, he just isn't up to playing with a big pup, so Bruno spend some time in his crate, whining about it all the while.

Jen's Barbie Doll house was retrieved from storage. The little girls had fun cleaning it up and then it made its way to the basement. I went through a phase as a doll collector rescuing Barbies from Good Will so there is a tub full of old Barbies and all of the doll house accessories that they had fun playing with. Actually, I don't know who had more fun, mom or the girls.



Heather, a certified arborist, brought her chain saw to help dad trim up our broken Russian Olive tree that was badly damaged during our first winter storm. The trained professional gave her father strict instructions on how to handle the chain saw. 


 Safety classes, waders, and chain saw: a dangerous combo?


The trained professional, by the looks on her face, has some concern that dad isn't doing things the way that she recommends.




We were laughing. Who wears waders to climb a tree? 


 The broken branches were finally trimmed away. No accidents. It is doubtful that we will save the tree. 


One  foggy morning I took a picture of the grain elevator across the way. It is on the main highway at the corner of the highways 85 and 14. Virtually abandoned, the ailing building really is an eye sore, but on this morning obscured by the by the fog and with the sun shining through the fog reflecting on the old metal the elevator took on a more ethereal image. I took a dozen photos trying to get just the right image as the fog moved about, and finally cleared away.

Once brimming with agricultural business, the Farr elevator was the center of activity in our small town on the cross roads of a busy intersection, now it is home for too many pigeons and an occasional horned owl.

Finally, several days ago, I noticed that I had lost a follower. It took me several days to figure out who it was. I am sad. I will miss her. She lives in England, so her blog was full of beautiful photos that she took as she and her husband traveled about their home land. She always left the nicest comments. She had hinted at shutting down her blog, which I completely understand how the charm and excitement can wear off and how something that was once fun becomes tedious and burdensome. Blogging requires a lot of to work to cultivate a following and to keep the blog lively and interesting. I know with my own group of followers, several don't post much or at all and some have never commented, but I like my little group of friends who entertain, encourage, and inspire me. I hope that you all hang around for good while longer. I rather like your company. Have a good week.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Thoughts

I am rather tired tonight. Relaxing to Dancing With the Stars. Should be grading, yet here I am blogging. I can grade tomorrow. Halloween must be nearing an end. At the old house located on a city street with lots of children, we had would have a hundred trick or treaters. The Garden Spot is off the beaten path with a long drive-way, so we don't get any little goblins. Hubby brought home a grocery bag of candy--good stuff, lots of chocolate. The kids just missed out. I will just have to hide it way so that I will forget that the candy is in the house.

I played with my camera last week trying to get a photo that I could use to make my little Ellie's birthday card. So here are some Happy Thoughts. No talk of snow and cold and broken down trees.


Do you remember my post on African Violets?  Here she is, all grown up now, nicely rooted and blooming.


She has a perfect symmetrical shape. No broken leaves.


Of the dozens of photos I took, I chose this little bear for the birthday card. The roses were the last of the season. 


In addition to gardening, I collect dolls. These little dolls were Happy Meal toys. 


Nicely draped, one would never know that this vintage doll's head is hiding a secret, a broken shoulder.

Leaving you with Happy Thoughts tonight. Have a wonderful week.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Trees


I wanted to write about the tress where I work at the University of Northern Colorado while they were in full color.   With two new residence halls that have been built, the new landscape around the halls shouts wonderful fall colors. So Sunday I had to run back to the university library to check out a video on Emily Dickinson that I had forgotten on Friday. I had been wanting to photograph the campus in its fall colors, but the trees in Greeley were slow to turn. Once, however, the colors began to come, the drive through town was just so beautiful. Sunday beautifully sunny  and not a cloud in the blue sky was golden yellow with splashes of red and burgundy, accented with the olive, sage, and pine greens of the evergreens. It was the best day to photograph the campus.



A chorus line of color down 11th Avenue



The long walk I take to get from my office to my 8 AM literature class


My favorite little tree on campus


Harrison Hall, one of the older residence halls


From James A. Michener Library 2nd floor: 
Bishop Hankcock home of Athletics, Sports Sciences and Medicine, the Rec Center, and gym.


The red maple are so brilliant. Most red maples in the area are small because they are fairly new to Colorado landscape design.


 Residence Halls in the distance and Ross Hall in the foreground where my office is located. No. I do not have a window.


From the University Center second level: The Rocky Mountains with new snow.



"Home of UNC Bears." "Beware the the Claw"--university tee shirts read. Our mascot has always been the bear. Since I was an undergrad in the late '60s, an Alaskan bear totem was always in the center of the student center. It was a part of campus landscape for as long as any alum could remember. A few years ago some one doing research on the totem discovered that it was stolen from a museum in Alaska and some how ended up at the then Colorado State College, so the university righted the wrong, the totem has been returned to its rightful home and now the giant bronze grizzly stands sentinel over the campus.






Our campus is lovely. The grounds are well kept since a horticulturist was hired a few years ago. I stopped one day between classes to compliment one of the yard crew telling him how beautiful the campus was looking. He seemed to appreciate that someone was noticing his and his crews hard work. UNC is a small liberal arts school with and enrollment of about 12,000. Best known as a teacher's college, the university is also know for other academic programs: an outstanding school of music and performing arts, business, psychology, to name a couple.

And then this is what we awoke to this morning. 

The weather reports had been predicting snow for this week. Usually they are wrong or the storm misses our part of the state, but it started snowing before we went to bed. The power went out about 11 PM. We knew that the storm leave about 8-10 inches, but we were caught off guard with the severity of this storm. By 6 AM this morning, I knew that the university was closed due to damaged trees and downed power lines. The university Never shuts down for any reason. The noon news showed pictures of the campus. The destruction and loss of trees will be immense. The snow this time of year is wet and heavy and clings to the leaves still on the branches. The weight of the snow breaks even the strongest branches. The trees here at the Garden Spot are badly damaged, too.


I have had a love/hate relationship with this Russian Olive that grows at the edge of the patio. Its redeeming qualities: provides shelter and cover for birds, has a lovely scent in the spring, and shades the patio. On the down side, it is a very dirty tree, dropping flowers in the spring, seeds in the late summer, and leaves in the fall. I have wavered back and forth on whether or not the tree should come down. Well, the tree has lost by default. Mom Nature had her way, I guess. I am thinking a red maple as a replacement.


Branches hang low, low, low over the patio barely missing the living room window.



Using a broom to shake off some of the snow, hubby soon gives up.

 A main branch broken down to the ground


The front court yard a blanket of snow. Sleep well little daffies.






My beautiful apple tree that I had such great plans for next year. Hopefully the branches will bounce back once the snow melts.





The broken branches of one tree through the broken branches of another tree. Once a thick, full pine tree, this tree will have broken limbs for sure.


Flash back to the week-end (and previous post) we planted daffodil bulbs and 3 peonies.


Tool of the month: an auger that attaches to the battery operated drill. This tool really reduced the amount of time that it took plant the bulbs. A must have for all gardeners. This one is a 24 inch augur purchased at Ace Hardware for $25.


An action shot.



The bulbs are now blanketed in a moisture rich bed hopefully absorbing food and water to grow into the most beautiful display of daffodils that the Garden Spot has ever seen.

The snow will melt only to reveal just how much damage has been done to the trees not only at the university and in the all the cities of Northern Colorado, but here at the Garden Spot as well. There is little that we can do except to clean up the mess and prune the trees so that they will fill in as they continue to grown. Our daughter's works for a tree service in Denver where is trained to evaluate damaged trees and recommend treatment, so she can help us assess the damage. We will lose two for sure, the Russian Olive and the weeping willow out by the garden that struggles to hang on. From the golden glow a warm fall days to the cold grip of winter, I love the changes of the season, but today's storm was a little much. By the noon, over a 100,000 homes were without power, though ours came on about 10:30 in the morning. While not anything near the damage that Irene did, this one will be a costly one. Let the winter weather begin. Here's wishing you all sunny days with or without bad weather.