Wednesday, June 10, 2015

"Look, look, look to the rainbow. Follow it over the hill and the stream"*

Yesterday, I drove home from work through intermittent showers and sun and must have seen four separate rainbows. But this one made me stop, turn the car around, and drive back so that I could get out of the car and snap the following photos.

It was like something you'd see in Ireland. Stunning! (Although there didn't seem to be a pot of gold lying about.)

* lyric from "Look to the Rainbow" from the musical Finian's Rainbow

Monday, May 18, 2015

I have "Spring Fever"...

Spring Fever
Hay fever, that is.  And a case of poison ivy. So this is pretty much an everyday thing. Who knew there was clear Calyadryl? (Not me! Sooo nice.)

I can't believe I got the poison ivy, which, despite being a rather small patch, itches like NOBODY'S BUSINESS. Urgh.  I made the mistake of pulling what I thought was a small tree out of my holly bush and found myself with shiny leaves of three in my right hand.  I washed up right away with Dawn, but I used hot water instead of cold, and the oil from the poison ivy got into the pores on my forearm all the same.

Since then I have noticed a LOT of poison ivy around the edges of my yard as well as the patch growing in the holly and even in the front island. It wasn't there last year, so I have been spraying pretty much everything with three leaves with weed killer, EXCEPT anything with three leaves and thorns because those are wild black raspberries!!!  YAY!! Now I just need a PI-free path to get to them.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Another "Masterpiece" on the Way!!

image from the BBC
I am SOOO excited for the upcoming broadcast of "Wolf Hall" on Masterpiece!!! What's Wolf Hall you might ask? It is the six-part miniseries adaptation of Hilary Mantel's Man Booker prize-winning novel of the same name and its Man Booker prize-winning sequel, Bring Up the Bodies (the final novel in the series, The Mirror and the Light, is eagerly awaited), starring Damian Lewis ("Homeland", "The Forsyte Saga") and Mark Rylance (The Other Boleyn Girl). Wolf Hall tells the story of Thomas Cromwell, the lawyer who helped King Henry VIII annul his marriage to Queen Katherine of Aragon so that he could marry Anne Boleyn, while separating England from the Roman Catholic Church.

[It's also a two-part play on Broadway by the Royal Shakespeare Company, starring Nathaniel Parker ("Inspector Lynley") and Ben Miles ("Larkrise to Candleford", "Coupling"). I am going to see Part 1 in two weeks!!! SOOOO EXCITED!!!!]

image from The Guardian
The miniseries has already aired in England and garnered lots of praise. It is going to be a "Name That Brit" affair: Claire Foy ("Little Dorrit") as Anne Boleyn, Jonathan Pryce (Pirates of the Caribbean) as Cardinal Wolsey, Bernard Hill (Lord of the Rings) as the Duke of Norfolk, Anton Lesser (Game of Thrones) as Sir Thomas More, Mark Gatiss ("Sherlock") as Cromwell’s rival Stephen Gardiner, Joanne Whalley ("The Virgin Queen") as Queen Katherine, and Thomas Brodie-Sangster ("Game of Thrones") as Cromwell's assistant Rafe Sadler. Plus Ed Speelers ("Downton Abbey"), Harry Lloyd ("Game of Thrones"), Charity Wakefield ("Sense and Sensibility"), Jessica Raine ("Call the Midwife"), David Robb ("Downton Abbey") and Saskia Reeves ("Wallender"), just for starters.

I have just started reading the novel that all this is based on, and while I have found the writing style to be confusing and the rhythm of the writing difficult (this apparently is a common complaint), it is really interesting reading a book where Thomas Cromwell is not portrayed as an absolute villain. Because usually he is, seeing as *NEARLY 500 YEAR OLD HISTORICAL SPOILER ALERT* he is the one "held responsible" for the executions of both Sir Thomas More and Anne Boleyn. (I haven't gotten very far in the novel yet, so I cannot comment on the overall historical accuracy in this piece of historical fiction.) PS. *NEARLY 500 YEAR OLD HISTORICAL SPOILER ALERT*, he isn't going to make a good end of things either. (Was poor Anne of Cleves really THAT BAD?) But it is still a good story....

"Wolf Hall" will be on Masterpiece on PBS, starting Sundays, April 5 (that's Easter Sunday) through May 10, 2015 at 10pm.  (I haven't decided if I am staying awake to live Tweet it or going to DVR to watch on Mondays. Who am I kidding? I am going stay up late to watch it.)

ETA: You can read more about Wolf Hall in today's New York Times on-line. (Coincidentally, they published their article the same day I am publishing this post. Great minds...)

Thursday, March 5, 2015

"Call Mr. Plow, That's My Name. That Name Again is Mr. Plow."*

The first winter I lived in my house, I shoveled after every snowstorm. It wasn't my favorite thing to do, but it was good exercise and I enjoyed being out in the cold air.

Until this happened:
February 2013 Blizzard Dig Out
Opening the Garage February 9, 2013
February 2013 Blizzard Dig Out
Excavating the Walk February 9, 2013
Let me tell you, four foot drifts are KILLER to shovel through. It took me the ENTIRE DAY to get shoveled out, and a kind neighbor ended up snowblowing a path between our houses because we couldn't find the sidewalk.

So after that debacle exciting adventure, the second winter I lived in my house, I hired a service to snow plow my driveway and to snow blow my front walk and sidewalk. But as I was a new customer, despite the fact they were based just around the corner from me, I was on the bottom of the list, and they sometimes ended up coming HOURS after a storm would end. A lot of the time, I would end up shoveling myself out, because the waiting was driving me nuts. And then the city plow dumped a mountain of snow on the sidewalk in front of my house (a side effect of living in a cul de sac that no one mentions when you are buying the house.) The service wouldn't touch the mountain so I had to chip away at it day after day until I reached the sidewalk. Time for a Plan C.

February 9, 2015
So this winter, I sucked it up and bought myself a snow blower, and it was one of the best investments I have ever made. I have been clearing my driveway, my front walk and the sidewalks in storm after storm after storm.

February 15, 2015

It's actually been really empowering to take on the snow this year.  It's me out there after every storm with all the husbands on the block.  A bonus is that I have been able to do the sidewalk and the apron at the end of the driveway for my fabulous neighbor MJ, who only has a shovel.

But I honestly won't mind when it is time to put this fun new household toy away. Until next winter.

*from The Simpsons.  A work colleague has taken to calling me "Mr. Plow".

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Subtle Changes

Since becoming a house owner in 2012, I have worked on a lot of projects at my house. It's a lot more responsibility than condo living in Boston. Most of the projects involve painting walls, but I also had the wall to wall carpet upstairs replaced, had repairs made to the screen porch, installed central cooling, had the roof repaired where ice dams had caused damage and had heat tape installed so that ice dams can be prevented.  I have planted (and then moved and replanted in better spots in the yard) plants, vegetables, herbs, and flowers (including the previously non-existent spring bulbs).  I have relearned how to mow the lawn and learned how to use a snow blower!   

My next big repair is getting all of the windows on the house replaced. (Not one of them is well sealed, and none of the upper panes stay in place without the help of dowels. This problem was identified on the home inspection, but carpeting and air conditioning took priority. And then the roof pulled a whammy on me.)

There is one project that I had been bumping down in priority on my "Things To Do" list and that is window treatments. Based on my extensive watching of HGTV, I know what an impact they can have on a room, but I never made it a priority, neither in Boston, nor here, AS YET. (Friends can attest that in Boston, I had one room where the "curtains" consisted of a tension rod, a folded flat bed sheet, and those little clips for curtain rods.)

But I wanted to remedy that so this weekend, I bought some simple, neutral color curtain rods at BB+B and VOILA! HUGE improvement!! 

This photo shows the newly installed curtain rod on the left, while the old curtain rod carried over from what the previous owners had is on the right. While the old rod may have worked with their sheers, it just made my curtains look like they had been slapped up on the wall (they were, so I deserve that criticism). The new rod looks so much cleaner and installing them above the window frame makes the windows look bigger too.

Check out how the new rod improves the way the curtains over the slider look. My mom HATED these curtains because they were all puddled on the floor. (She mentioned it every time she came over for dinner.) Well, Mom, you can't complain any more!! (They *just* clear the floor.)

I honestly don't know why I waited so long to hang new rods, but I am glad that I had thought through what I wanted and didn't just buy something to have new rods. Even though I had seen this on TV many times, it still surprised me how much more sophisticated the living/dining room looked once I made this small change. Every time I go in there, I smile at the improvement.

Now I am going to get new rods and curtains for the rest of the house (definitely need new curtains in the guest room and office - the ones currently there are leftover from my bedroom growing up!). Hanging the new rods has been a great wintertime home improvement project.

Monday, January 5, 2015

On the Eve of Epiphany...

So here we are in 2015. ::looks around:: Seems okay thus far.  2014 left something to be desired for me, which is definitely reflected in my lack of blog entries for the year. My plan for 2015 is to get back into blogging so I am setting a personal goal of 30 posts for the year, a little over 2 posts a month. That isn't a lot. (Actually, it's a little lame, but the frequency of my posts for last year was so pathetic that 30 actually is a reach target.)

2014 in Review: 
On the downside, my health was pretty rotten. My friend MEM had made up this joke about me being her "Sickliest Friend" (which sounds like the title of a song written by either The Smiths or They Might Be Giants), because I kept getting colds, which turned out to be an allergic reaction to winter! But this year, starting just before Memorial Day, I came out with an (as yet) unidentified serious digestive ailment. It ruined my vacation planned in June and spoiled my summer. [I have had a string of tests with no conclusive results, although the big diseases have been ruled out, which is good.](Sorry if that was a bit of an over share. It does explain A LOT about last year though.)

On the upside, I made a new friend (which seems sort of silly to get excited about, but it's difficult making friends outside of work when you are over 35, single, and childless - this isn't just my opinion; it was in the New York Times), and not one, but two, new nephews joined my extended family. [Both boys are cute, but only one is smooshy. The other is a solid little nugget. Henceforth, he will be know as the "Nugget". I don't know what I will call the smooshy one yet; he is the younger brother of the "Sweetpea" so maybe he could be the "Sprout". Need to think on that.]

Big Purchase:
I bought a snow blower, which is new for me as a relatively new house owner. Back in Boston, the condo association handled the snow removal. My first year in Connecticut, I shoveled my own drive and walk. Then we had 4' of snow dumped on us in one storm; if I hadn't laughed about it, I would have cried. Last year, I hired a service plow my driveway and snow blow the walk, but I'd find myself waiting quite a while for them to get to my house and would end up shoveling a lot of the time anyway. So now I have an Ariens' snow blower for this year. I was given a demo by the man who delivered it, but probably should read the manual before the Alberta Clipper scheduled for tonight and tomorrow comes through.

Luckily, the snow we have had up until now hasn't really amounted to much. But it was still pretty to look at.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Sage Garden Advice

If you are looking for a low maintenance bang for your buck in your garden and need something that will thrive in full sun, then look no further than pineapple sage (Salvia elegans). I got mine at Home Depot in a herb sale in mid-July (when people are apparently not buying a lot of herbs). The plant started small, the same size as most other herbs, but has grown in my front yard to nearly five feet! And the leaves really do smell like pineapple, which is really nice when you walk past it or when there is a breeze. But the biggest payoff are the beautiful scarlet blooms, which started opening up about the same time as my chrysanthemums.

Pineapple sage bloom, detail
Pineapple sage with golden and silver sage
It's stunning. I am sorry that these photos don't do it the justice it deserves. And I love having something so dramatic in my yard this time of year now that the daisies and coneflowers are cut back for the winter. (That area of the yard looks so BARREN now.)

Last year, I started planting both golden (Salvia officinalis ‘Aurea’) and purple (Salvia officinalis ‘Purpurascens’) sage as a border around my front walkway. I had gotten the idea from the kitchen gardens at Kew Palace, which I thought were even more amazing than the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew (probably because the kitchen gardens were more achievable at home than the rest of the place). I hadn't realized that the pineapple sage was going to get so big until I got home and read about it, but I really think it is a nice addition to the walk up to the front door. (And planting it allowed me to pull out this really awful shrub that grew over the walk and was full of aphids and that I just HATED.)

I really hope it survives the winter.  It's so hard to know with herbs in New England. The fact that it will get sun all winter has got to help. Next year, I think that I am going to get a couple more and plant them in the front circle with the echinacea and daisies so that part of the yard will also look nice next fall. Even if they don't make it through the winter, I think something like this is worth replacing.


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