Garden Bugs

Sometimes when I walk around the yard and gardens, camera in hand, I will find myself seeking out insect life. I like to get pictures of bees and ants and unnamed bugs living in and among the flowers. That’s what happened the other day when I ventured out of my sick bed for a little exploration.

bee on coneflower1

bee on coneflower 2

bee on coneflower 3

tiny tiny bee

red bug

ant on coneflower

I’ve been observing the bumblebees, especially in terms of the coneflowers. I’ve got tons of coneflowers here. I’ll watch them land on the flower and leave in a split second if the flower isn’t ready for them. The available pollen has to be at a certain level, I think. And visually, their preferred coneflowers do seem to have a plusher-looking cone, which must mean the pollen is ripe for the picking. I could watch them for hours.

I’ve seen my friend, the Hummingbird Moth, flitting in and around all the flowers. Don, in fact, thought it was a hummingbird. I have a lot of flowers that attract hummingbirds here in the garden, but I can count on about 3 fingers the times I have seen one on the property. But I’m sure happy to see the Hummingbird Moth back again.

This particular bug, the one that I’ve got, keeps hanging on. I’m feeling better overall, but every morning I end up feeling clammy and sweaty. I also have a LOT of congestion. Whether the two things are related or not, I’m not sure. As the day goes on, I feel better, but I find myself taking a nap or two. Don tells me I have to patient and take it easy.

Do not like.

And my father, always a difficult man, has ratcheted things up in the ‘difficult department.’ He’s impossible at the moment. Mean emails, bad decisions, childish behavior, lies…you name it. I think that when Mom was alive, the daily schedule he had, the visits to Mom, all of that kept him in check and focused. And he was terrifically devoted to her – no one could have done better. Now that she’s gone and he no longer has that daily routine, he has reverted back to the kind of behavior that, sadly, we saw all the time when we were younger. It pushes every button I’ve got and then some. Trying to find compassion instead of anger at the moment.

It isn’t easy.

Send some good thoughts our way, will you?

Happy Tuesday.

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Real Life: The Un-Pin Worthy

Good news on the ‘feeling poorly” front: I am feeling much better today. Still a bit puny, but much better than earlier this weekend. Clearly, I had some sort of bug. Yesterday morning, I thought I’d never stop sweating…I had to throw my pajamas in the wash for the second day in a row. But by mid-afternoon, that had finally stopped. I managed to make mashed potatoes last night, but that finished off all my remaining energy for the day. Tired this morning, still a bit wimbly (Don’s favorite word for this kind of thing) but feeling like I’m slowly crawling out of the muck.

Don’t worry. I’ll take it easy today.

the anti pinterest

I have entitled this: The Un-Pin Worthy Photo.

But it’s real life. There are photos on this blog of my fabulous Vernor’s crate and Riley’s Dish Garden that are Pin Worthy. But this, my friends, this is the way this table is ninety percent of the time.

Likewise this:

house view 1

A picture of the house shot at an overly sunny moment in the day. But if we back up a bit, we get this:

house view 2

The chimney wrapped in a blue tarp, which has been there for several months and will continue to be there until we can save the money to get the masonry re-done. (That’s what was causing the leak in our bedroom.)

Un-Pin Worthy. And, often, Un-Blog Worthy. But you know what? The more I read blogs (and I’ve been reading them for about 7 or 8 years) the less interested I am in always seeing pretty pictures. Don’t get me wrong, I love a pretty picture as much as the next person and I like to take pretty pictures. But what draws me to a blog for the long run is substance. Stories. Real life. Adventures. Not just beautifully dressed children looking as if they popped out of a catalog. Or beautiful photos of the blog author looking like she stepped out of a catalog. Or, most often, beautiful photos of living spaces with nothing out of place that look like a magazine spread. Every once in a while? Sure! We all like to put on our best dress or show off our living spaces. I’ve done it here. Although, to be perfectly honest, every photo like that on this blog has something out of place. Or several things out of place. (I can’t help it.)

I just prefer the real. I like to know the person behind the blog. I like to see real life. That’s what keeps me coming back for more because pretty only does it for a short while. Then my eyes glaze over. You can show me pretty, but give me some substantive text and you’ve got me.

But, of course, there are all sorts of blogs out there and some of them are meant to be full of pretty pictures, are meant to look like magazine spreads, and more power to them. I’ve been known to while away 3 or 4 hours gazing at those photos. Those blogs are a nice little escape from real life and we all need that. They are the equivalent of what a magazine used to be for all of us.

‘Pinterest Worthy’ is nice, but it isn’t always real. And it’s easy to fall into that trap and feel less than worthy yourself because your table is piled high with mail and your garden has weeds and your bed is unmade and there is laundry to be done and no one has cleaned up the kitchen yet.

Hey, I’m not about to show you all the ‘real’ in my house…you don’t need to be privy to everything that goes on here! But I will try to show you as much of it as I can. Just so you know that all the pretty flower pictures (and that’s Mother Nature’s doing, not mine) are well and good, but we have a big old tree that fell in the back forty and we have poison ivy growing up several trees and there is a dead tree in the front yard and I’m overdue on weeding again and the Japanese Beetles decimated my roses. And the shot of the Vernor’s crate that was momentarily styled and free of clutter is a rarity. And the paint on my kitchen cupboards is chipping and they need cleaning and there is dog hair everywhere and every wall in this house needs painting.

That’s my real and imperfect life here at the cottage.

(New post up on Just Let Me Finish This Page.)

Happy Monday.

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First Zinnia

It’s Sunday.

And I’m still not feeling well. Friday night I felt feverish and I rarely get a fever. During that night I woke up shivering, and Don said my skin felt very warm. Yesterday, when I got up, I got a dizzy, clammy feeling and felt like I was going to pass out. (That’s something that has happened periodically to me over the years – it always has to do with sinus congestion.) So I took it easy all day yesterday – didn’t have a choice, really. Last night, I woke up bathed in sweat. Obviously, my body is trying to get rid of something – a virus? Anyway, I feel yucky yet again this morning.

I don’t like being sick.

Don had to mow the front lawn yesterday. We usually split that job and I like mowing. I couldn’t go to the CD release party last night. (Don brought me a cupcake.) I watched several episodes of Fixer Upper. I went to bed early.

Waaaah.

I managed to get outside yesterday to take a photo of the first zinnia to bloom here. They’re all planted from seed and are scattered around the property: in the Chicken Wire Fence Garden, the white barrels, and the kitchen garden.

Here it is yesterday:

first zinnia

And today:

first zinnia 2

It’s getting there. Hello first zinnia!

We watched Lawrence of Arabia the other night. That has to be one of the best films ever made. Simply stunning. Well, I should amend my previous statement. I watched half of it, then retired to bed with a fever. Don watched it all.

I miss Peter O’Toole.

Well, my friends, that’s about all I can come up with today.

Happy Sunday.

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Sigh of Relief

The last three days? Insane.

The attack started on Wednesday and continued through yesterday. The techs at my host assured me that kind of attack isn’t personal – it’s done by a bot with some sort of script and they just keep at it. And at it. Anyone with a blog has been on the receiving end of a hacking attempt – they might not know it’s going on, but it is. Usually, they are a few hours long. But this one was a whole new thing. By Thursday, I decided to add another level of security, even though I really didn’t want to spend the money.

My blogs mean a lot to me and feeling peace of mind about any future attacks makes the expense worth it. Unfortunately, these DDoS  attacks and Brute Force attacks are becoming more and more common. You’d think these idiots could find something better to do with their time.

roadside lilies

When I was on Blogger, my blog was hacked four times. That’s why I moved to WordPress. On Blogger, getting any tech help is next to impossible and after the first hacking attempt, no one answered my questions. Not one person. I felt helpless. And as I scrolled through the Blogger Help Forums, I saw lots and lots of unanswered pleas for help. Some people had lost their blogs, some were hacked, sometimes Blogger just deleted a blog for some reason or another. Very disheartening. At least with WordPress, I can get help. I can add security. I have a host that will answer my questions and solve the problem. I have my security company that, I have to say, worked overtime yesterday to get everything in working order. But there were lots of hiccups on the way, which is why you saw 403 and 404 errors.

My body was so tense from hours of sitting hunched over my laptop that I went outside and mowed part of the lawn just to get some sort of physical release.

Anyway, all is well.

And, once again, I am reminded that I have the best readers in the world. The best friends in the world. Thank you for your support and for the emails alerting me to problems. Thank you for responding to my test posts. Bless your hearts. I am so, so grateful for your presence in my life.

Unfortunately, I ended up the day feeling feverish and achy. I’m not feeling much better today. I have a lot of congestion – maybe a sinus infection? I’m not sure. So I’m going to be laying low for the rest of the day.

the cupcakes

These ladies are The Cupcakes. They are extremely talented and I really love their work. They are based out of Woodstock, NY. The area I live in is full of musicians. Somehow, the Hudson Valley, including Woodstock, attracts musicians and there’s always lots of music going on. This is their new CD. The title song? A song written by my husband.

I’m busting my buttons with pride. Don is a very talented songwriter and musician. The Cupcakes have been singing their version of Trouble and Joy for a couple of years now and they decided to use it as the title song. Isn’t that neat?

You can go to their site on ReverbNation to hear Trouble and Joy.

Tonight is their CD Release Party. I hope I’m feeling better so I can go!

Oh, and in case you missed it, there was a new post on Just Let Me Finish This Page yesterday.

Oh and Bloglovin’ is somehow showing that I have a new post up, but when you click on it the text is blank. Don’t know why that is happening and, frankly, I find it sort of a pain in the tush. So do me a favor: if you see I have a new post up, just come on over directly to the blog. That’s the way I’d like you to read the posts anyway…I work hard at my blog design and the look of a post and readers don’t really show any of that. I’ll try to figure it all out at some point, but now? I’m tired.

Happy Saturday.

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Yikes

hosta bloom with ant

You might have noticed that my blog was a little screwy yesterday. And it was when I woke up today.

It was a long day yesterday, full of phone calls to my host and emails to my security company. Yikes. I’m not sure if it’s fixed yet.

Long story short: every moment out there in the blogiverse someone or something is trying to hack into a blog. Whether it is through what are called bad bots or through any one of what seems like an endless array of nefarious schemes, it’s constantly happening. Over the past 36+ hours, my blog was hit by hundreds of hacking attempts. So I decided to opt into another layer of security through the ‘cloud.’

But there are some problems, which I hope get ironed out. Sometimes the blog is unavailable for my readers and for me and if you click on the blog, you get a ’403 Permission Denied’ message. Every time we think we’ve fixed it, it happens again. Somehow, at times, the settings are locking everyone out.

If you’ve encountered this little message, you have my apologies. I’m doing my best to get it back to normal.

Do me a favor, please? Let me know of any problems you’re having accessing the blog. You can email me and, if you can’t get on MHC, you can find the email address on Just Let Me Finish This Page.

Updated: apparently, if you try to leave a comment, you are taken to a 404 page. Working on it. So if you want to leave a comment, you can leave it on the book blog. Thanks so much.

Hang in there.

I’m saying that to myself, as well.

Happy Friday.

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What’s Blooming?

Sleep deprivation continues. I’m sleeping, but not enough, and the cumulative effects are making me very tired and slightly snarly. When I am suffering from a lack of sleep, every worry and care seems heavier and more ominous. But I’m learning to not take my thoughts too seriously on days such as these because I seem to lose all sense of perspective. So, my friends, much to your relief I’m sure, I will not be listing all my worries for you today. No, I will post some pretty pictures instead!

blooms by the porch

Daylilies are fleeting, but I must say this year’s crop (the ones that haven’t been eaten by the deer) are more abundant than ever. This bed is right next to the entrance to the porch and is full of sedum, hostas, coneflowers and daylilies.

view of the porch entrance bed

The sedum Autumn Joy was here when we moved in, as was the giant hosta that is just outside of this view. Everything else, I added. This particular bed is one of my favorites because it looks so cottage garden-like. It’s densely planted – more so every year, as the coneflowers keep reseeding and multiplying.

A few years ago, I tucked a Hens and Chicks under one of the boxwoods in front of the house. At the end of our very tough winter, it looked pretty awful. I thought I just might lose it.

hens and chicks

But there it is, with little babies.

hens and chicks flowers

This one has bloomed for two years now. Aren’t the little flowers beautiful?

Some of you are suffering in a drought, some are dealing with high temperatures, and others, like me, are dealing with a lot of rain and humidity….so tell me, what’s blooming in your garden now? How does it look at mid-summer? Or, if you don’t have a garden, what’s blooming in the gardens around you?

Happy Thursday.

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Scrambling

Today might be the last day of several days of rain. Fingers crossed. I’m really tired of it, though I know there are those of you out there that would give anything for some rain at this point. And I would gladly send it to you if I could. Everything is soggy. It’s humid. It’s dark. It’s depressing.

Again, when I ventured outside yesterday for a few short minutes…bam! Another mosquito bite. In the same place on my arm. The other day, I was bit on my eyelid. Lovely. I don’t really miss living in California, but I do miss the lack of mosquitoes there. For eight years, I was mosquito-free. Sigh.

new dawn bud

The Japanese Beetles have chewed on most of my New Dawn roses, save this bud. I’m pulling for it. A quick examination  yesterday of the roses that border the porch revealed no beetles. Dare I hope that they have left the premises?

One of my day lilies had exactly two blooms on it, ready to open. Had is the operative word here, as they are no more. My friends, the deer, decided to dine on them.

moth on coneflower

These coneflowers really are this color. No adjustments to the saturation of the photo. This is how they look. Hello, little moth.

The other day, when I mentioned my few kitchen accomplishments, one of them being fluffy scrambled eggs, Kathleen asked if I would pass along my secret. So yesterday, when Don requested scrambled eggs and I immediately responded with “No. I have a headache,”  I reconsidered my response, thinking that it might be a blogging opportunity. Don got his scrambled eggs, thanks to you  guys. I hope he appreciates you.

By the way, I really did have a headache.

I read this tip years ago and I couldn’t tell you where at this point. Here’s the tip:

Mix together your eggs and milk, whipping them with a fork. Pour the mixture into a frying pan.

scrambled eggs1

And here’s the trick: as the edges start to solidify, push the solid eggs toward the middle of the pan. Constantly.

This means, my friends, that you really can’t leave the eggs to attend to other kitchen duties, like making toast. Assign that to someone else. Because the eggs cook quickly, you need to use that spatula to push the eggs toward the center.

scrambled eggs2

See? More of the solidified eggs have been moved to the center. Keep doing this, never letting the eggs stick to the pan, occasionally flipping them to ensure even cooking. I don’t flip them until the end of the process. If you leave the pan unattended, you risk scrambled eggs that have browned, which is okay if you like that, but not as pretty. Or fluffy.

scrambled eggs3

Here they are, just about done. Don’t overcook them. Trust me, they are light as a feather. Don loves them. Add some salt and pepper, have your child or husband or partner or niece or nephew or dog butter the toast, and you’re all set.

What the heck am I doing giving cooking advice?

The winner of a copy of Elizabeth is Missing is Shirley Elliott. Congratulations, Shirley! I’m sending you an email as soon as I publish this post. (And I love your name. That was my mom’s name.)

And there’s a new post up at Just Let Me Finish This Page. It’s a book review.

Happy Wednesday.

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Why Decorating a Home is Like Planting a Perennial Garden

Greetings from the tropical rain forest that is my neck of the woods.

Horrible humidity, lots of rain, intense thunderstorms, and mosquito bites if you dare to stay outside longer than three minutes.

We’ve been inside with the air conditioner whirring away in the background. I’m grateful for A/C, but I really don’t like being stuck indoors at this time of year.

One good thing has come of it. I actually cleaned a bit yesterday. Do any of you find that you are far less inclined to do the normal dusting, swiffering, vacuuming, and cleaning in summer? It’s just not on my radar. I’m outside a lot of the time. I do it, but my daily schedule becomes pretty flexible, which is putting it kindly.

living room july 2014

We don’t mind a little cozy clutter around here, but we’re basically neat. This is the way the living room looks on pretty much any given day. Don has stacks of books and his Kindle and his iPhone and guitar picks on the coffee table. I like that. I will sometimes straighten up the stacks and dust the table, but otherwise….that’s his particular space. He sits in that yellow chair and plays his guitar, reads, or goes online. There is a quilt on the floor in front of the sofa. That’s for Scout, who has achy joints most of the time these days.

living room4 in July 2014

There’s also a quilt on the floor in front of my blogging chair in the den. Little Miss Scout likes to hunker down there when I’m working. The quilts on the floor might not make for a fabulous ‘decorating magazine photo op,’ but they are real life. And real life is about comfort, for Scout and for us.

I’m not someone who needs to change things up constantly. I’m careful about what I add to a space. I think long and hard about furniture placement. The color scheme comes from the colors I love – it evolves naturally. I never buy accessories just to add something to the room and I shy away from mass marketed pieces, especially wall art. I want our personalities to be reflected in our space. I’ve collected pottery for years. It naturally follows that it is a key element in every room of the house. The paintings by the front door were painted by my father and great-aunt. The vintage lithograph above the piano was a major find for us and we got it in a local antique shop. The coffee table was refinished by a close friend of ours. The chair with the red cushions reminded me of a chair in my grandmother’s house. The dollhouse is a major project and passion of mine and it has become a decorative element in the living room. The piano was my grandmother’s and is a family heirloom.

Since most of the pieces of furniture were chosen one-at-a-time over the years, the living room and den have evolved into a space that makes us happy every day. I may tweak a thing or two, of course. But neither of us needs or wants to change things up all the time. I’d like a new sofa in the den someday. And a new blogging chair. And by ‘new,’ I mean, in better shape. I want to build bookshelves in the den.

Other than that, we like it the way it is. It reflects our personalities, our likes, our quirkiness. Everything in that space is something we’ve chosen together, as time and funds have allowed. You know that I’m big on the stories behind things. I think everything in a room should have a story – where we found it, when we found it, did we inherit it, was it a gift…that kind of thing. For me, there’s not really any story in something found in a chain store.

But that’s just my particular take on decorating. I’m sentimental. If something is in my house, I want to look at it and immediately be taken back in time to the point it came into my life. The ‘how’ of it. The ‘when’ of it. The ‘discovery’ of it. The ‘joy’ of it.

new lamp on desk

Speaking of stories, there’s my vintage lamp (a Country Living Fair find) on my desk. There’s a story behind that piece. That shade is only temporary, by the way, I had it stashed in a closet. I’m looking for the perfect shade and I’ll find it. But that takes patience.

I liken decorating my home to planting and tending a perennial garden. It takes patience. It’s easy to fill up every available space with something you can grab off the shelf in a store. And that’s fine, if that makes you happy. But I’ve developed patience about this sort of thing. The perennial garden is the way it is because I let it slowly take shape over eight years. I added to it a little at a time. And now it’s lush and beautiful. It may need tweaking at times. It may need some cleaning up and clearing out. A few plants may need to be moved.

Same thing with a very personal living space. Patience. Slowly adding pieces that have meaning. Letting it evolve over time. We live in a world of instant gratification. But some things take time. Slow and steady wins the race.

I’ll announce the winner of a copy of Elizabeth is Missing tomorrow.

Happy Tuesday.

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The Garden & A Walk in the Woods

white coneflowers plus a purple one

Gosh, I love coneflowers. I deliberately planted white ones in the big garden bed, but as you can see a purple coneflower snuck in there this year. The more the merrier, I say. This is the part of the bed that was impacted by the falling of a huge limb from our maple tree, so I am very grateful that these beauties came back. I was sweating that one.

purple coneflower & hydrangea

There are lots more in the garden beds at the side of the house.

annabelle hydrangea

I took this photo of the Annabelle Hydrangea yesterday afternoon. We had a severe thunderstorm last night, so these beauties are drooping from the barrage of water. Same thing with some of the milkweed. I ran out and tried to straighten them, but I couldn’t get some of them upright again. Makes me sad.

Yesterday, Nancy said in a comment that the photo of Don next to the mullein had a timeless quality. That got me thinking. Here it is in black and white:

don and mullein b & W

What do you think?

Continuing in my current video vein, I managed (after three tries) to film a little video of our woods. I kept having to delete some photos and old videos in order for there to be enough storage to film the new video. Again, some jerkiness to the film quality. It isn’t easy to keep an iPhone still while you walk, especially in the woods.

As you watch, keep your eyes open toward the end for the bunny rabbit that I didn’t even see when I was filming! He’s to the right of the mullein. I was so busy trying to get everything in that I didn’t notice him until I played the darned thing back. Life in the country.

Enjoy.

A Walk in the Woods from Claudia Hill on Vimeo.

There’s a new post up on the book blog, Just Let Me Finish This Page. Stop on by!

Happy Monday.

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