Chatty on a Tuesday

scootie on her quilt

It’s a beautiful morning; a bit cooler, less humidity, sun shining, Scootie (one of my many nicknames for my girl) is tucked in under my legs. She’s waiting for Don to get up. She spends the first part of her morning with me and then when Don heads down the stairs, she moves into her second position of the morning. She splits her time between her parents. Like all dogs, she is happiest when she’s with her pack, preferably both of us.

Going up and down the steps is a little tricker for her these days, her joints ache, she often needs an assist from one of us and she sleeps more during the day. She seems to hit her stride in the late afternoon and evening. Her hours have changed. But goodness, when she is feisty and doing little pounces and that twinkle is in her eye – she’s right back to her younger self.

the garden

Lots of color in this end of the garden at the moment: rudbeckia, bee balm, phlox in white and purple. (It has reseeded and some of the newer growth is purple. Love that.)

monday - liatris & coneflowers

I’m taking pictures of the liatris while I can…it doesn’t last all that long and it’s so pretty.

liatris - bee1

Hello bumblebee.

Thanks for your input on the whole K-Cup thing the other day. We’ve now learned that many of the cups are biodegradable (good news) and that those of you who use them like the convenience of one cup at a time, all the different flavors available, and some of you think it’s the best coffee you’ve ever tasted. That’s why I love the dialogue that goes on in the comments section  - we learn from each other. Everyone has their own way of making coffee – it’s a very personal thing, don’t you think? And of course, since this is my personal blog, I’m always going to lead with my thoughts and opinion about a particular subject.

Some of us use a drip coffee maker, some use a French Press, some use individual cone filters, some use K-Cups, some use a percolator. I’ve sampled them all. Some of us make coffee at home, others buy it from Starbucks or some other establishment. We’re happy with our particular ritual of using freshly ground Peet’s. I brew my batch when I get up. Don brews his when he gets up. If we both happen to get up at the same time, we brew a bigger batch. And everyone is happy.

Remember the days when coffee was made in a percolator and if you happened to order coffee while dining out, it was just basic coffee? No flavors, no grandees, no coffee to go, no lattes…just a cup of Joe? A coffee culture has a boomed in the last fifteen or twenty years.

Even so, I rarely order coffee outside my home. I have my ritual. No coffee after 12 noon or it impacts my sleep that night. I make it as soon as I get up because I am not a morning person and I need a cup or two to get me going. I like the ritual of sipping it in my blogging chair, catching up on emails, reading the increasingly depressing headlines, starting to craft a blog post. I like strong, dark roasts – especially French Roast – but the roasts at Starbucks are too strong for me. My first thought when I’m on the road is: Is there a coffee maker? That used to be a real problem. Did the hotel room have a coffeemaker? Or did I have to pull on some clothes and go out to the nearest coffee shop? Did I have to order pricey room service in order to get some coffee? Now, most hotel rooms have a small coffee maker. And actor/artist housing always has a coffee maker. I’ve been known to measure out exactly how much coffee I will need for, say, three days on the road, and pack it in a tupperware-like container, along with some filters and a measuring spoon. Coffee, toothpaste and toothbrush. The essentials for travel.

If you drink coffee or tea, what is your daily ritual?

liatris - bee2

This bee knows what he prefers, doesn’t he? I wonder if bees have their individual preferences as to pollen? Hmmm.

Happy Tuesday.

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I’ll Take a Sense of Humor, Please.

Have you ever watched Jerry Seinfeld’s web series, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee? Each episode is framed around a specific car (often vintage) that Seinfeld is driving while spending time with a fellow comedian. They go out to eat and get coffee along the way. It’s a simple and wonderful premise. The episodes are short-ish – usually around 15 – 20 minutes.

They make me laugh out loud. I saw a link to the latest episode with Sarah Jessica Parker (who is very funny) and that led me to another and another. Then I got Don involved and he was watching episodes on his laptop. Picture both of us in front of our laptops wearing our earbuds, laughing out loud.

monday - purple phlox

In the list of qualities I feel are absolutely essential in a boyfriend, a husband, a colleague or a friend, a sense of humor is at the very top. If Don hadn’t had a sense of the absurd, a streak of funny coursing through his veins, that first meeting I told you about would have been the beginning and the end of our relationship.

It’s that important to me. In all modesty, I’m a really funny person. I can make people laugh. It’s always been that way. And Don, oh my goodness, is he funny! He can make me laugh so hard and long that I end up gasping and begging for mercy, usually ending with “Stop! Stop! I’m going to pee in my pants!!”

And I make him laugh. There’s nothing better than making someone who has a fabulous sense of humor laugh out loud.

monday - white phlox

My sister and I have been known to laugh so hard that we literally – and I do mean literally – fall to the ground. One such situation comes to mind. I was living in Boston and Meredith was visiting with her boyfriend, who I was meeting for the very first time. We were in Fanueil Hall looking at a rack of cards and I said something that struck us both as funny. We started laughing and we couldn’t stop. This went on for several minutes with both of us eventually falling to the floor. John, the boyfriend who ended up being my future brother-in-law, took it in stride and quietly walked away from us while we were causing quite the scene.

Little did John know that was the first of many laugh fests. In fact, one of the first conversations John and I had was about Seinfeld episodes that we loved. We couldn’t stop laughing.

(It might be time to share the Henna from Hell story with you – yet another adventure with my sister. Maybe this week…we’ll see.)

I think you have to be able to filter life through a lens that sees the humor in things, that captures that sense of the absurd, the silly, the farcical, the satiric. Lord knows, it’s saved my sanity more times than I can count.

Is there anything better than laughing so hard you have tears rolling down your face? It’s cathartic. It cleanses. It releases.

I’m going to go watch some more episodes of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. There’s a few I haven’t seen yet.

New post today on Just Let Me Finish This Page. It’s a book review of Cop Town by Karin Slaughter. (Loved the book.)

Happy Monday.

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Flowers, Old Movies, Coffee & Books

You know I love my deer. They share this property with us and I do everything I can to protect them. But just like beloved children, sometimes their behavior makes me a bit unhappy.

Like when they chomp on my plants.

Part of that is my fault. I was away in Chautauqua and totally forgot about spraying the flowers with a natural deer repellent that I use. By the time I got home and realized that, it was too late. So, they dined on some day lilies and ate 99% of the leaves from the hostas that are planted in front of the shed.

But my hostas are sturdy little things and they had something up their sleeve.

take that

Take that, deer! They aren’t going to let a little de-leafing get them down. Not when they can deliver flowers like these.

We’ve been watching some old black and white films (my favorite.) Friday night was Random Harvest, starring Greer Garson and Ronald Colman - a great love story that takes place right after WWI. Colman’s character has amnesia, Greer helps him and the story goes on from there. Simply beautiful and, at times, heartbreaking. Then Don watched another movie, one of our favorites, Waterloo Bridge. (I’d seen it recently and it was late, so I went to bed.) But just as we did the first time we saw it, Don and I ended up talking about it for an hour the next day. It stars Robert Taylor and Vivien Leigh. Another love story with a WWI backdrop and a heartbreaking one, where you find yourself saying “If only she had said something,” or “If only she hadn’t let her pride get in the way.” It haunted me for days after I saw it for the first time. It’s a beautiful movie – I recommend it highly.

Then last night: the great 1927 classic, Metropolis. Simply stunning. A visual triumph with a powerful story. If you haven’t seen it, you should.

There’s nothing like a great old movie. We’ve hit the jackpot lately.

pink zinnia

I also just finished Cop Town by Karin Slaughter, which I’m going to review on Just Let Me Finish This Page tomorrow. Now I’m reading Deadly Assets by Wendy Tyson. I’ve reviewed some of Tyson’s books on this blog, so I’m looking forward to this one. It will be also be reviewed on the book blog

Today is rainy, which is just fine. The gardens need a little rain. Scoutie is in the tunnel, I’m sipping my Peet’s French Roast (no little K-Cups for me, thank you very much, I brew a pot of coffee.)

By the way, what is with the K-Cup craze? I know a lot of people use them, but they seem expensive to me and rather like a fad. Suddenly everyone is using K-Cups and buying a special coffee maker just so they can use them. If you limit yourself to one cup of coffee a day….maybe. Or if you and your mate have different tastes in coffee? But if I were going to go with one cup of coffee, I’d go with a filter cone. Much better result. We have one here and my roommate in Chautauqua had a collapsible filter cone made out of silicone that she used for traveling and she won me over. She spooned some of my coffee in the filter, boiled some water, poured it into the filter and oh my goodness! Was that coffee great! Much cheaper than K-Cups, obviously, and much, much better. I’m going to buy one for Don and one for me. We both have out-of-town gigs coming up.

Don’s late father, Lee, loved his K-Cups. He proudly showed them off to me when I visited him in San Diego. I think he liked having a variety of flavors on hand and would treat himself to a different one every day. That’s when I can understand the K-Cup thing. That’s when it makes sense. Anyway, just my opinion – I’m very serious about my coffee, as you know. If you love K-Cups, tell me why - I’d love to know.

There. I’ve gone off on a tangent. Don would tell you that kind of thing is rather routine around here.

The phlox have started blooming.

phlox

Oh, that scent is heavenly!

Happy Sunday.

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A Little Surprise

This is the little uphill path that opens into the dog corral:

saturday - path to corral

There’s Dame Scout, of course, walking around her domain.

saturday - a bit closer

But if you look in the foreground, you’ll see one of my favorite things - this lone coneflower. It first appeared last year. I was delighted to see that it had reseeded right along the edge of the chicken wire fence.

Just one flower.

And it came back this year, bringing a big old smile to my face.

saturday - little coneflower

Isn’t it the sweetest little surprise?

As far as the Chicken Wire Fence Garden, it’s slowly coming along. Some of the zinnias are starting to bloom. Some of them are still small, having been planted later in the season. The morning glories are starting to climb and attach themselves to the chicken wire. I sometimes think it should be further along at this point, but then I remember that it didn’t really take off until mid-August last year.

saturday - chicken wire fence garden

saturday - zinnia 2

This zinnia just opened. Gorgeous.

But the most gorgeous of all is this girl:

saturday - my girl

Happy Saturday.

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When A Movie is So Bad that it’s Good

It’s actually coolish this morning.

I turned off the air conditioner. I may have to turn it back on again later, but it’s so nice to have quiet and birdsong, instead of the constant whir of the A/C.

I ran some errands yesterday. I know, big deal. But it was the first day I felt good enough to venture out for longer than a few minutes here and there. (More about the trip on Just Let Me Finish This Page.) The trip tired me out but I revived enough to do some weed whacking later on in the afternoon, while Don did a little mowing. Baby steps.

friday - lantana&birdbath

There was nothing worth watching on television last night, so we watched TCM On Demand. Don’s choice? A movie called Tentacles, made in the seventies and so dreadfully bad that it was good. You know what I mean. Sometimes there is a movie that is so bad that it makes for the perfect viewing experience. (As long as you’re not spending any money.) Clearly trying to build on the success of Jaws, the plot revolved around a giant octopus who was attacking and killing people in a coastal beach town. The producers were Italian and parts of the film were obviously dubbed. I don’t know how they got them, but the cast included Shelley Winters, John Huston, and Henry Fonda. Henry had sort of a cameo role, most of his scenes took place on a terrace and were, I’m sure, filmed in one day. He was part of a subplot that involved the work his company was doing on an underwater tunnel and the frequent use of high frequencies of sound that presumably created this monster octopus. Shelley played John Huston’s sister. Huston was a reporter and Shelley, a bit long in the tooth at this point in her career, as was Huston, was the mother of a little boy of about 10 or 12. What?? The whole thing was cheaply done, with bad special effects and closeups of a regular old octopus that were supposed to be terrifying. The plot got more absurd as the film went on, eventually involving some Shamu-type killer whales from a place not unlike Sea World that had been trained by the guy (played by Bo Hopkins) who was hunting the octopus (and who, by the way, had lost his wife, sister-in-law, brother-in-law, and friend to the killer octopus, simply because they went out on a boat and used their radio to contact the Coast Guard – those sound frequencies again.) Bless them, those killer whales took on the octopus and killed him in a long scene that was so cheesy and blurry that I was unsure what I was seeing.

All this with a cheap sounding musical score created on a synthesizer.

I can’t make these things up.

friday - spirea

It’s Friday. We have no plans for the weekend but Don does have a gig on Sunday. I have to catch up on my reading. I have books to read and review and I didn’t much feel like reading when I was sick.

Happy Friday.

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Life at the Cottage: Birds, Bees, Critters & Flowers

The neighborhood pool was open for business yesterday. It was so dang hot and humid! I managed to catch this particular fellow in the midst of a refreshing dip.

wednesday neighborhood pool 2

wednesday neighborhood pool 5

He was in and out of the water several times. I was a wee bit envious.

rudbeckia

The rudbeckia have opened.

liatris2

The liatris are filling out. I love these flowers which are tall and spiky and exotic looking.

liatris

Amazing.

I’ll try to get some shots of the garden in the next few days – we’re approaching that time when the tall David’s Phlox will be in bloom, along with all the coneflowers and the rudbeckia. It looks awfully pretty. It’s what I call the July Peak.

I just caught a glimpse of one of our bunnies through the den window. I wonder if it’s one of this summer’s babies? The other day I saw our groundhog chomping on some grass. Groundhogs are shy, timid, gentle creatures, and vegetarians to boot. They run and hide under the shed when they’re scared, which is quite often!

Oh, and I saw a hummingbird yesterday! I walked out onto the porch and there, staring at me, was a hummingbird  who was hovering over the coneflowers. Turns out the coneflowers weren’t what she was looking for, but she hovered and darted and looked absolutely beautiful.

Did I have my camera? No.

dramatic coneflower

This might be one of my favorite photos ever. I was using the macro setting, trying to capture that tiny little bee who is on the edge of the cone. I love the highlights and shadows and the texture of the cone.

Sometimes you get lucky.

Happy Thursday.

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It’s Personal

I’d like an order of hot and humid, please.

Oh, wait, what was I thinking? Please cancel that order!

It’s too late?

Drat.

Yep. We’re in the middle of a hot and humid stretch that is causing this girl who hates humidity to stay inside. The activity level in the birdbath was at an all time high yesterday, which necessitated several trips to replenish the water supply.

The birds are feeling it, too.

rudbeckia beginning

The rudbeckia is just about to open.

coneflower beginning

And so are more coneflowers.

I edited a few of my comments on yesterday’s post. I did it simply because I feel protective about my father’s issues and don’t want to discuss too much in this very public place. He’s confused and scared and, yes, extremely difficult to deal with lately, but I want to make sure I draw the line at how much I reveal. I’ve said before that maybe someday I’ll speak in more depth about those issues in terms of how they have impacted me, but I won’t do it until he’s gone.

He’s my dad and I love him, and he’s troubled and complicated and insecure and lots of other things that make dealing with him very hard indeed. But he’s also a good man who is devoted to his family and kind to others. He has a big heart.

So, there you have it. Writing a personal blog involves constant decisions as to just what I choose to reveal and what I choose to keep private. I know you understand.

maroon & yellow daylilies

Did you notice those four words in the sentence I just wrote? “Writing a personal blog…?”

There are times when I have to tick a box as to what kind of blog I write. Often those choices include Decorating and DIY or Lifestyle or Food – that kind of thing. I’ve never felt comfortable choosing “Lifestyle” which is often the only option that might fit. Here’s why: I don’t prescribe any sort of Lifestyle for my readers. I’m not Martha Stewart. I don’t write about how you should do things or what you should do. There’s an occasional tutorial, though come to think of it, I can’t remember the last time I wrote a tutorial.

So the other day I was reading about something, somewhere, and saw the term Personal Blog.

And I smacked myself upside the head.

I know this might very well seem like a “Duh!” moment to you, but I, on the other hand, said “Of course! I have a Personal Blog.” I write about my life and my adventures and my cottage and…my lifestyle. But not your lifestyle or what I think you might want your lifestyle to be.

I know. Seems obvious, doesn’t it? But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wrestled with how to describe this blog when pursuing advertising opportunities or filling out surveys.

I have a personal blog. And a book blog, which has new post up today, by the way. It’s all about one of my favorite authors. Stop by.

Happy Wednesday.

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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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