Sunday, February 28, 2010

Guideposts--Week8

Reach for the heavens,
And hope for the future
And all that we can be,
Not what we are.
--John Denver

If tiny daffodil buds can do it, so can I.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Best-Laid Plans...

...are flexible!

Maybe I won't be taking photos of  Blondie-Pie (Kharma's newest nickname) against a dark background as part of my first tutorial (pet silhouettes) anytime soon.

Instead I'll be splicing video footage together for a SnowDogs movie and then uploading to YouTube. At least I will if the dogs cooperate and play while I'm looking instead of the minute I put the camera down.

Maybe I won't be painting my long-planned Meadowsweet Cottage sign just yet.  Getting across town to pick up a new printer cartridge can wait until the streets are free of snow. It'll look like this, more or less.  I just have to re-size the script to fit, print it out, transfer the outlines to the sign, paint, varnish and it'll be ready to hang.  I'm eager to finish!

Instead I'm finishing a new apron--Poulets des Provence.  If chickens are good, then hens living the good life en France are the best.  I don't need another apron for myself (duh!), but I fell in love with the fabric and knew it would make a perfect apron.  I have special plans for this apron so keep your fingers crossed!

Besides the snow, we are dog-sitting.  Zeke is much smaller than our dogs and he's a boy.  We survived his attempts to mark his territory inside our house (he's decided perhaps that's not popular) and he's survived playing with his two much larger "sisters".  He's part of our pack now--but we still watch over him carefully and that means less computer time for me.

 Believe it or not, I'm close to my 400th post.  I think that deserves a celebration so while I'm dog-sitting downstairs, I'm thinking of a fun giveaway. 

Perhaps a package of free snow?  Maybe not.  What about sunny skies?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Flowers and Flakes

Last week we happily said goodbye to cold temperatures and snow and hello to robins, blue skies and temperatures that were positively balmy at sixty degrees. The flowers were certainly ready for springtime. The race to be the first to bloom was on!

The pink primrose was a surprise entry:
The blue violets were small but colorful:
The yellow crocus are a perennial contender (forgive the pun):
The title of First Flower of the Year goes to...all of them! We had a three way tie.


Of course, anyone who's lived in the Truckee Meadows for any time at all knew we were going to pay a price for all that lovely spring-like warmth, knew that winter had not had his final say.  Sure enough--it began to snow late Saturday night.  It snowed all night long and we woke up to twelve inches of powdery delight (we expected maybe four inches) and it continued snowing all day Sunday. 

Result:  Winter wonderland.  It's beyond beautiful.  I guess we could think of it as a tribute to the Winter Olympics.  Seems a little unfair that we got Vancouver's snow though.

Not a flower in sight anymore, but Kharma got a new look--snowpants. 
To a gardener living in the High Desert the words "above-average snowpack" are music.  Spring can wait!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Guideposts--Week7


We take a risk when we open our hearts.  Love takes courage. Be courageous.
--Mary Manin Morrissey

(That's my son's hand holding a prickly pear leaf we found on our Valentine's Day hike last year I think he taught me more about unconditional love than anyone else, so it's an appropriate picture in more ways than one.)

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Sweet Delight

What's this?  A pink box--oooh, must be for me!

Look! A bike helmet with an ever-so-subtle flower pattern.
Sometimes a girl just has to take things into her own hands--especially when she's been wearing a hand-me-down helmet (it was better than nothing) previously owned by one of her kids. A helmet which developed severe strap failure due to old age. And if her hands just happen to hold a gift certificate, all the better.


REI Gift Certificate: Free (to me, anyway)
Giro Skyla "Ice Blue": $40
Peace of mind: Priceless

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Good, The Bad, The Just Plain Ugly

Good    Is there anything better than the twofer you get when you donate your giveaways?  I can see my workbench again, there are no more old computers decorating my garage, and two boxes of clothes are no longer stacked on top of the plastic bins holding my sweetie's rocks (don't ask). I had so much energy from not having to look at the clutter anymore that I also reorganized two storage areas.  And two local agencies benefitted from my donations!  I like to think that someone will appreciate getting our extra DVD player and barely-worn clothes at a bargain price.

Bad    Valentine candy in general and Lindor Truffles in particular.
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Did you know that each one of these little gems will add a half pound to your scale the next morning? I swear.  Apparently there is no way to enjoy their delectable chocolate goodness without paying for every single calorie consumed.  Believe me, I cut down on snacks and have been power walking four mornings a week (in cold temperatures which should account for an extra couple calories alone).  The truffles are winning. 

Ugly     The number of the bathroom scale after February 14th.  Very ugly indeed.  Each succeeding morning the number has looked a little worse than the day before.  I did briefly wonder if Mardi Gras (aka Fat Tuesday) was influencing my scale.  I feel like the Lenten season might have come along at the perfect time for me.  I could give up chocolate truffles for Lent and my waistline would benefit greatly.  It's lucky that there's only one truffle left--so it will be very easy to give them up right after I crack the chocolate shell, suck out the gooey truffle filling and let the chocolate remnants melt slowly in my mouth while I savor the silky texture.

Do you know if I can order some self-control on Amazon?  I wouldn't even insist on free shipping.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Bloggity Tweaks

A new point of view is always welcome, especially when it's for free (cheap, cheap) from an expert. I've gathered a few new blogger photo tips recently, thanks to Donna at Funky Junk Interiors and have been trying to put them into practice.

I possess a simple point-and-shoot Sony Cyber-shot which I love to pieces. I wouldn't trade it for the highest end film SLR and a lifetime supply of film (does film still exist?) with free processing. Digital photography has changed how I view the world. How did we function before we could take 100 photos to get just three keepers when rolls of 36 exposures were the biggies? Or preview our photos to see if we needed to shoot more before we left the family reunion?  I now take photos of little metal plaques showing the name of the rose...
before shooting the actual rose like this one at Portland's International Rose Garden, for example.  What a great memory and organizing tool that's been on so many trips and vacations.

I admit that my old Olympus SLR was better at freezing the action (which would have come in handy with the world's most active puppy four years ago)...
but that's only because I hadn't read the owner's manual thoroughly enough to realize I could take videos.  (That's one of my life's biggest regrets--owning the world's cutest puppy and not knowing how to video Criminal!) And yes, I'd love to own a digital SLR but that's not in the budgetary cards until our major breadwinner is winning some serious bread again.  Even if I did get so lucky, I know I'd still be packing my lightweight Sony instead of hauling a bulky SLR most of the time.  So improving what comes out of my point-and-shoot is a necessity.


So I downloaded Picasa as instructed and am experimenting with various effects to improve (or at least change) my photos. I'm no whiz. In fact, I'm pretty pathetic--among other things I have no idea even how to save the photo I've improved yet. But I'm having fun playing and that's a great way to learn. (Oh my gosh, does that sound like a kindergarten teacher's philosophy or not?!)

I am very good at playing with their little slide-y buttons (note to self: find out what the little slide-y buttons are actually called to minimize your dweebiness) to increase or diminish an effect. I  admire everything about Notes From A Cottage Industry including Tracey's photos which always have a wonderful dreamy mist around her carefully planned vignettes. Then it occurred to me that Picasa has an effect called Soft Focus which, although mistier than I'd use, was similar to Tracey's photos. 
 
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What if it had a button thing-y that could widen the area in focus and leave the edges soft and misty?  Picasa actually had two button thingies and I like the result:

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Isn't this so much more evocative of the fragrance and romance of the rose than the original photo below?  (Ummm, I might have changed the Color Temperature a mite too before I moved on to Soft Focus. I told you I was having fun.)
The experts were right: Picasa does make a difference in photo quality and that improves Meadowsweet Cottage.  Because only my best is good enough for my readers!  Thanks, Donna, for the encouragement.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Could It Be? Finally? Yes!!!

I think I may have set a record for fumbled attempts at adding LinkWithin to my blog. I don't even want to admit how many times I've tried and fail. This time it took Firefox open in three different windows as I toggled between instructions at Blogger Buster, my html code at LinkWithin and scrolling through the template in Blogger Dashboard.  When I finally saw those magic words "You might also like" appear in Preview mode, I did the happy dance. Thank you, Blogger Buster, you're my hero!

Alas!  Although the words appeared, the thumbnails didn't.  I waited an hour (recommended), I checked back at odd times during the weekend, I double-checked my HTML.  Still no thumbnails.  I pondered the meaning of the universe and wondered what the LinkWithin techs would say when they saw my email begging for helpAGAIN!  I decided patience was a virtue and I should check my coding a third time.  Then life intervened and I got thoroughly sidetracked by a three-day weekend, Valentines Day, chocolate and a thawed-out garden filled with sunshine and fruit trees needed a good pruning.

What did I see today?  Oh frabjous day!  Callooh! Callay!  Thumbnails have begun to appear at last.  Was it my patient waiting?  Was it the chocolate truffles?  Did the stars suddenly align over my PC?  I don't know and I don't care.  Right now I'm doing the happy dance! I may be doing the happy dance all week long!

Not every post is showing the links (yet??).  But I'm still dancing around.


I suspect that my blog statistics will show a sudden spike.  That will be me checking out which posts LinkWithin recommends to my real readers.   And doing the happy dance.  Just be glad you aren't being subjected to actually watching me dance like the doggities.  They don't know what to think.

Happy dance.  Happy dance.  Happy dance.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Oh, Shoot!

Behold my rhubarb shoot!
I acquired two bareroot rhubarb plantlings recently as a gift and one of them surprised me with this energetic pink stem when I opened the bag.  I can almost taste rhubarb pie every time I look at it...yum!  I've tried, unsuccessfully, to grow rhubarb three times before (huge sigh) and swore I would never try again.  Never say never, I guess, I weakened last year when my neighbor showed me his huge first year plants and inspired me to try again.  This time I've done lots of research (acid soil, perfect sun, deep tilling, voodoo charms) and am keeping my fingers crossed that the fourth time is the charm.

I know our almost-sixty degree weather won't last. We are surrounded by snow-covered hills and mountains and little patches of snow still lurk in our yards.  I know that Old Man Winter still has at least one frigid storm up his sleeve before springtime weather arrives for good. But I'm determined to get a jump on my garden by planting in large pots that can be moved in and out of the garage depending on the weather.  Our growing season is so short here that a couple of weeks growth can make a big difference.

Behind the rhubarb are two smaller pots with five everbearing strawberry roots each. I've always grown the June berries and mostly made the robins happy with a free breakfast.  It's a running joke at our cottage that robins are red-breasted due to their diet--our strawberries, our cherries, our raspberries, our apples.  I thought maybe I'd have more of a chance with these everbearing Ft. Laramie plants.  If not, the leaves are still pretty and I do like feeding songbirds!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Oh! Canadaaaahhh!

Best Opening Ceremony. Ever.
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
So artistic--I loved the music (Allelujah is my latest earworm) and the visual effects were magical. I was willing to suspend belief and just roll with it.  The ice floes breaking up, the leaves falling, the wheatfields.  Yum.

And it had Mounties.


Ya did good, Canada! Here's wishing you lots and lots of gold medals (I love Oh, Canada and I'm happy to listen to it again and again!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Guideposts--Week6


Love all God's creation, the whole and every grain of sand in it.  Love every leaf, every ray of God's light.  Love the animals, love the plants, love everything.
  --Dostoyevsky

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Six is Sweet

I enjoy talking to five and six year olds. They're old enough to have ideas but young enough to have a warped world view that appeals to me. I love their honesty, their innocence and their enthusiasm.

Ask most six year olds what a ruffle is--they have no idea although they might make some interesting guesses. A ruffle could be a sock, for instance, or a type of tree. Plaid is another foreign concept. The words are familiar--they just don't have an image to hang on it yet. It's pretty cute.

Their little minds are kinda like Silly Putty--flexible and plastic and easy to mold. They make me realize how alike "b", "d", "p", and "q" are. And that numbers look pretty much the same whether you make them backwards or forwards. Six year olds don't think outside the box, they don't even know there is a box! If they accidentally start writing their name on the right side of the page they'll just write their whole name backwards, i.e., in mirror writing. If they begin their signature on the left, it'll be perfectly formed. Just try writing your name in mirror writing. (So sorry, but your brain is now hard-wired and you couldn't do it as fast as a kindergartner with a big pencil and his tongue out as he works on putting those lower case letters where they belong.)

I like sharing simple ideas with them. Other grownups don't care to have conversations about vegetables, SpongeBob or princesses. Last week I told a little girl that I thought broccoli looked like trees and that I called them broccoli trees. She first thought I was teasing her, then decided that maybe broccoli did grow on trees (city kids)! I couldn't let my silliness continue to confuse her so I told her that broccoli didn't grow on trees, it just looked kinda like a tree. She seriously told me that "yeah, broccoli doesn't grow on trees...money does." I laughed and whole-heartedly told her that it certainly did!

I'm  hoping to put one in my backyard this Spring.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Insulated

Shhhh! I know it's winter and you know it's winter but my baby lettuce plants don't know. And that's the way I like it.
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I ran into a friend at a Christmas party when we had three feet of snow on the ground. He's passionate about his vegetables; his Victory garden outgrew his side yard several years ago, then consumed the sports court that the kids used and now occupies the front yard too. And he regularly dines at the best restaurant in town--because he supplies them with his gourmet greens. (His pampered lettuce plants reside in hot frames with soil heating pads and produce in abundance. Did I mention that he has his own tractor?) We fell into conversation about the kids and moved on to gardening. He laughed politely when I told him that I was growing lettuce (remember those three feet of snow). I'm not sure if he thought I had a poor sense of humor or was suffering from a mental breakdown. It's tempting to email him my photo right about now.

Truth is, I accidentally discovered that if I sow my lettuce seeds in the fall, they'll sprout, somehow magically survive the killing frosts and then grow happily under their cozy blanket of snow before providing an early harvest of delectable leaves in the springtime. These little guys easily doubled in size under the snow despite the sub-zero temperatures in December and January!

Easy-peasy gardening, gotta love it.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Loving Bright Star

I love romances and biographies and movies.  Combine them and you get Bright Star.  (Think Twilight--but with better couture, set in England and one of the lovers dies.)

If you like Jane Austen novels, views of the English countryside, period costumes and evocative music, I think you'll enjoy this movie about John Keats.  Even if you're not a poetry lover.  Although after hearing Keats tell Fanny that poetry is like being in a lake (a leisurely experience rather than a race to your destination) I think I may grab a book of poetry the next time grey clouds gather.  Hearing his poetry spoken is sensual overload.  (That would be me swooning.)



Two trailers.  Sigh, I am enamored of this film.

A thing of beauty is a joy forever--and so is Bright Star.  I think this is one I'm going to put on my wishlist so I can watch it over and over.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Catch Up-Catsup-Ketchup

Someone (who shall remain nameless but who does share my bed each night) spent the past three days hogging using my computer rather than his laptop to upload photos.  It slightly cramped my style and caused me severe withdrawal pangs, but he's forgiven since I'm sure he had his reasons.

Thanks to everyone who put their two cents in to help me decide on which font for my Meadowsweet Cottage sign.  Chopin--my favorite too--was the overwhelming choice followed by Brock with scattered applause for Handscript.

My sister Pooh (aka Always Humming) helped in two ways.   Her how-to on s-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g the text were easy-peasy which is exactly the way I like.  She wasn't quite satisfied with any of the fonts.  That made me take a second look and while I liked Chopin a whole lot, I realized I wasn't nuts about the "M".  So I substituted the Brock "M" which I did like and kept the rest Chopin. 

It's perfect, people!  Now to transfer it to the cabinet door sign (which you can see is painted) and also get the decorative oval designed and basecoated.  The front porch is going to look so welcoming with it up this Spring!


^^^
While I'm enjoying Google Reader, it wasn't keeping Amberism's posts updated.  I think I've got that worked out but now I'm realizing her new posts aren't showing up here on Meadowsweet.  Ack!  I'm troubleshooting that now but it means she'll be temporarily absent from my sidebar.  I hope to get her back before her new bundle of joy arrives!  She's been busy recently so you can click on her link here while I play Mrs. Fix-It.

^^^
Ma cousine liked the friend post and sent along a link to this wonderful YouTube video.  This goes in the "I wish I'd said that" category.  Warning: tearjerker of the best kind! Have your Puffs Plus ready.




^^^
I've been craving the LinkWithin widget for months.  It's fun to bounce around related posts on the blogs that have it.  I've learned about furniture, flowers, cloches, chandeliers, chickens, potatoes, and faux mercury glass.  I've tried to install it numerous times and failed every time.  Other bloggers seems to have no problem with it.  They make it look easy.  I've even looked at their source code for inspiration--no luck, although my posts did briefly link to Cindy's at My Romantic Home which was interesting in an unusual way.

I finally gave up yesterday and dumped the whole mess in the laps of the good technowizards at LinkWithin.  With their help and the creek don't rise, maybe Meadowsweet Cottage will finally show you some related links.  I'm reallyreallyreally looking forward to it.  Is it just me or does it make a blog more interesting?  (Yes, yes, my name is pogonip and I'm a websurfing addict, I know.)

  ^^^
I'm so glad I rolled out of bed even though it was cloudy and raining because by the time I got to my Walking Partner's house it was just fresh and the shower had ended.  My cheeks are glowing and my oatmeal is cooking!   Whether you're shoveling snow or mowing the grass, putting on sunglasses or a raincoat, dreaming of flowers or a good night's sleep, wishing the week would be over or happy to be working--have a wonderful week filled with wonderment, surprise and laughter!

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Guideposts - Week Five


I like a bit of a mongrel myself, whether it’s a man or a dog; they’re the best for every day.
--George Bernard Shaw



Four years ago, a little border collie whelped ten little puppies east of the Marysville Buttes in California. While seven of the puppies were black and white like their mother, three of them were inexplicably golden. The rancher was not pleased to see that his little helper had been secretly courted by the neighboring lab/golden/aussie mongrel and decreed that the entire litter would be taken to the pound as soon as they were weaned. So at seven weeks of age, they were placed in a large cardboard box and surrendered to the Yuba County Animal Care facility.  The folks there were nice, but the clock was ticking and a week later the unadopted puppies found a temporary harbor in the kennels at Sutter Buttes Canine Rescue.

Meanwhile, I'd been haunting Petfinder on a daily basis for over four months, Spring Break had just started and I was checking the Petfinder site one last time before we left on a dog-finding trip in the Sacramento area.  I discovered a new litter of puppies had been listed in the Gridley area and told my husband that I was positive there was some Golden Retriever blood in these little border collie x aussies (besides the typical border collie pup there was a stocky golden male puppy shown) and that they might be worth a look.

Nine hours and seven shelters later, we were sadly empty-handed.  Should we head towards the Bay Area, stay with family and continue our search there?  Or should we call the Gridley rescue people and see if they still had the tan puppies?  Well, we chose the second option and headed two hours north.  It may have been the best decision we ever made or it may have been destiny guiding us.  The little gold and white puppy I'd been dreaming about was there waiting to fill our lives with joy and laughter. Now we always have good Kharma as our house.

Happy Birthday, Kharma/FreckleFace/Pookie/Chica/GirlyGirl!

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

With A Little Help From My Friends

Aren't friends one of life's great blessings? Whatever would we do without them! (Well, in my case I sleep in late and don't exercise and bottle up evil thoughts. I really am a much nicer and healthier person when I'm with my friends.)

Exercise and girl talk is such a rewarding way to begin the day that the heat of summer, nippy autumn winds and frozen chins couldn't deter us.  Treacherously icy winter weather put an end to the daily morning walk-and-talks--friendship is one thing, risking broken bones another.  The Christmas holidays turned my focus to getting presents finished on time.  January came and we got in two pathetic morning walks during which I discovered that I needed to rebuild my hill-climbing muscles and that I no longer really wanted to get up early and walk.  My bad, big time.

I started cleaning out my computer files last month (to avoid the wintery outdoors I can be fairly creative) and discovered a file I'd forgotten marked Wish List.  Gotta say that the power of the written word is truly impressive because I was able to cross off most of the items on the list.  I was surprised to find that I'd wished for an exercise partner who could hold me accountable--and of course now I have my young friend who walks with me all summer and her mom who walks with me the rest of the year!

Maybe because of that, or maybe because of better weather I've found myself waking up early.  Each morning this week I've woken up at what would be my usual time if I was walking and felt increasingly guilty at lying there warm and cozy when the weather isn't really all that cold.   And wondering if my friend had given up on me or was still hoping that I might show up sometime soon.  I know the universe doesn't believe in coincidence and I don't think it likes procrastination either--I crossed paths with BOTH my walking partners as I made my way home!

Turns out my patient walking partner has opened the storm door every morning this week just hoping that I'll knock.  And even though she's kick-ass fit, she's happy to take a shorter hill-less walk with me.  I feel so lucky to have her for a friend, sounding board, walking partner and an exercise conscience!  I feel healthier and happier already because we have a date to resume our morning walks starting Friday morning.  Why Friday and not Thursday morning?  Well, Thursday is her day to sleep in.  Gotta laugh!  Our loose, roll-with-it approach is perfect for both of us. 

I have so many wonderful friends.  Friends who helped me survive toddlers and teenagers; friends who allow me to nudge them into craft projects they'd never take on themselves; friends who love games and potlucks and chocolate and laughter; friends who let me vent and who share their frustrations with me.  Friends I've shared a bathroom with and friends I've "only" met online.

Dear friends, I don't "heart" you.  I don't "luv ya."  I simply want to say that I love you ('cause you can't commit just a little bit).  I've discovered that friendship is just another big long fancy way of saying love.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

From Scratch

Nothing says loving like something from the oven (or any part of the kitchen)! 

My sweetie makes crackers--actually makes them from scratch!--with whole grains and lots of seeds and spices.  Just thinking about them makes my taste buds stand up and holler!  He's made cheese crackers and sesame rice crackers and an unusual soft rye cracker, but my favorite are the whole wheat/caraway  concoction that I dubbed Comstock Crackers.  Oh.  My.  Goodness!

Our son craves humus but it's a little expensive on a college student's frugal budget.  He found a tasty recipe on allrecipes dot com (our favorite cooking site for everything from baked ziti to roast asparagus) and now regularly whips up a batch for work as well as an occasional bowl for his two doting parents who provide garbanzo beans a la Costco.  Put some of his spicy humus on his dad's Comstock Cracker and you've got a gourmet treat that's impossible to beat.

I just make bread.  No breadmaking machines to come between me and the kneading process, thank-you-very-much.  I enjoy feeling the gluten strands gradually taking hold until the dough reaches the perfect consistency as I knead it on my dad's old pastry canvas.  I can feel that the loaf will rise perfectly with great texture. With lots of whole wheat flour and some molasses and good-for-us oat bran we've got a winner.

Here it is fresh and steaming hot out of the oven--ready for a bit of jam or butter...love in every bite.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Silly Love Songs

February!  Why celebrate love just on the fourteenth when there's a whole long month to cozy up?   I'm spending the next weeks concentrating on the people, places and things that make my life truly love-ly.

I might as well start by planning the perfect romantic evening.  Of course we'll need music--heartfelt lyrics, lilting vocals and lush arrangements.   Nothing else is so evocative of new love, courtship and long lazy kisses.  Nothing else can make me melt so quickly in my sweetheart's arms as a song that I associate with our carefree days.  Nothing else could contribute more to the perfect mood for a romantic tete a tete.

Putting my Playlist together was pure delight.  Remembering those songs that perfectly expressed our love was easy.  Music, not fragrance, evokes the strongest, clearest and most emotional  memories for me.  The melodies that we knew word for word and chord for chord on the guitar.  The ones we carefully chose for our wedding.  We don't have an "our song"--we have a whole selection of favorites that make us smile at each other.

I love "silly love songs."  They're only silly if you are being cynical and skeptical.  And you can't be either of those things if you're loved or in love.

What's your Playlist like? Does it have music that's classical, folk, rock'n'roll, pop, big band, or new age?  Do you and your sweetie have a special song?