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Sunday, April 23, 2017

Beans, Bindweed and Burns' Bonie Bell

Yesterday Mr. G and I celebrated our  forty-fourth wedding anniversary. Actually, celebrated isn't the right word.  Mr. G worked on getting the drip pan off the car so he could see whether the leak that he discovered  the day before was coming from a hose or the radiator.   Unfortunately, it was coming from  the radiator.  At least now we know what  we'll be  getting each other as an anniversary gift.๐Ÿ˜ž

On a happier note,  the  eighteenth bean  seed  finally decided to show itself. We now have 100%  germination! The second piece of good news is that we got a nice soaking rain. You can almost hear the plants  breathing a sigh of relief.  They much prefer rain over tap water and seem to  perk up and stand straighter after a nice rain.  Of course, the weeds also love a  soaking rain- as evidenced by the growth spurt the nasty things put on  during the night.  My nemesis for the last few years  has been  bindweed. It is nigh on impossible to eradicate, and reading  that its roots can extend and run more than 20 feet below the soil and that its seeds can that remain viable for as long as 50 years is not very encouraging. I  avoid using herbicides so have been diligently hoeing and digging it out where I can and cutting  it off at ground level  when it's too close to other plants to cultivate. By cutting it off at soil level I'm hoping  to deprive it of the light necessary  for photosynthesis so it will  eventually weaken and die.  I'm pretty sure, though, that the stuff is so persistent that it will  outlive me by a decade or more!

I'm hoping that once the ground dries a little,  we'll be able to begin  working on the second  herb and flower bed on the  other side of the rose arbor. The plan is to relocate the wood hyacinths to the front yard and replace them with iris and shasta daisies from another section of the back yard, where  they'll be joined with some Mexican and Jerusalem sage and  other ornamental herbs and a few flowers. That's the plan, but it could get scrapped or changed like so many of my schemes and  best laid plans that  as Robert Burns wrote, "gang aft agley."

In homage  both to gardening through the seasons, and to  a relationship that has  endured and flourished for  forty four years, I'll leave you with Burns' poem/song,  Bonie Bell.  It seems appropriate, both for its recognition  of the changing seasons and the constancy of  love.

The smiling spring comes in rejoicing, 
And surly winter grimly flies; 
Now crystal clear are the falling waters, 
And bonny blue are the sunny skies. 
Fresh o'er the mountains breaks forth the morning, 
The ev'ning gilds the Ocean's swell; 
All Creatures joy in the sun's returning, 
And I rejoice in my Bonie Bell. 

The flowery Spring leads sunny Summer, 
The yellow Autumn presses near,
Then in his turn comes gloomy Winter, 
Till smiling Spring again appear. 
Thus seasons dancing, life advancing, 
Old Time and Nature their changes tell; 
But never ranging, still unchanging, 
I adore my Bonie Bell.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Back to Beans, Blooms and Blogging

Back  to blogging after a  ten day break. Yesterday was another chemo treatment day and today is the day  I begin to emerge, steroid flushed red face and all, from yesterday's  afternoon lethargy. I did try to get as much weeding done in the garden as I could before going for treatment, and while it's been very slow going, I may actually get things sorted and in shape before winter!

Today's post will be picture-heavy with some of the exciting developments in the garden. First- the Maxibel French filet bush beans.   I though they would NEVER pop their little heads up, but they finally did- at least seventeen of them did, which gave me a ninety-four percent germination rate. Not bad, but I had hoped for a hundred percent. Here is a pic of  a bean that  popped up and is just beginning to raise its head and look around.

Pretty soon, the others followed and  there were two squares of  beans showing their leaves.  Here are the beans in one square with their marigold next-door neighbors:

 Here's a pic of the three square foot beds so far with the beans, some peppers and tomatoes in the first bed,  Swiss chard, peppers and tomatoes in the middle bed, and  some leeks and herbs in the far bed.  There are a few blueberry  bushes, an asparagus bed and abundant  weeds just out of view. Eggplants,  a zucchini (just one-  I don't want to over-feed the squash bugs again this year) more tomatoes, peppers, parsley, and odds and ends are in containers on the deck along with some herbs, flowers and  tropicals from the greenhouse.  



One of the Tiny Tim tomatoes in one of the the Earthboxes  already has some yellow blooms forming! I always get so excited when seeds I've planted begin  to grow and blossom.
Here are  a few pics of  blooms and blooms-to-be  in the garden  and on the deck, plus a pic of the Danish pastries I  made to celebrate spring!

I hope your spring and your gardens are filled with the promise and hope that exists in a garden.  And that the weeds and plant eating bugs are at a minimum.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Planting Time

The veggies are planted- well most of them, anyway!  We've had lovely weather for the past few days and I have  taken advantage of it by spending most of my time playing in the dirt.  I've  been really disappointed with my seeding this year- for some reason  several things  didn't germinate well at all, and  of the ones that did germinate, they  died  shortly thereafer.  I have no idea what  went wrong,  since I  used the same method that's been successful in past years, and  the tomatoes did do very well, but  everything else was a disappointment-  although  a few of the  Slim Jim eggplants  look pretty good, but none of the  white fingers eggplants   came up.  So yesterday we  drove  to  Julian's Hardware in Sylvan Springs and bought Swiss chard, some pepper plants and a few other odds and ends, including a bale of ProMix.Yesterday and today I've  planted bush beans, set out the chard,  tomatoes (three varieties),   peppers,  eggplant. a squash (again- I never learn-  this is probably yet another sacrifice to the   squash vine borer gods).  Only one squash, though- an heirloom zucchini. I also  set out  some thyme, Greek oregano, purple basil, sweet basil, dill, and weeded the  earthbox  filled with  weeds, sage and chives. Now all three little  square foot beds are planted and  I've used up almost all my containers.

We  brought all the plants out of the greenhouse today, which also involved weeding some pots, repotting  some plants and  some  doing drastic pruning on the  lemon verbena, pineapple sage and some of the   tropical ornamentals. I'm hoping to finish up with the potting and repotting tomorrow and getting the deck all  straightened and spiffed up. Mr. G   used the pressure washer on some sections of deck that had gotten   nasty looking over the winter- primarily from the  leaves that have fallen, leaving stains and debris.

 Maybe tomorrow I'll have some pics to post, but tonight I am happily exhausted and about to turn in for the night.



Thursday, April 06, 2017

Hail? No. To Chemo We Go

I am happy to report that we made it to my chemo treatment without running into any of the really nasty weather. It began thundering and lightning here in the wee hours of the morning followed by  a lot of rain, but thankfully, no hail, and  the rain actually slacked off a little as we drove to the  clinic. Other  places around us weren't so lucky. There was  quite a bit of hail damage, and some trees were blown down in the surrounding areas. Of course, Agatha and Victoria,  having the good sense to come in from the rain, wouldn't venture out into it either before we left.  I finally lifted Agatha  and put her out, but she refused to move  out from the eave of the house. We had visions of  coming home to a stinky mess, but  there was actually little evidence of accidents.

 We left a little early because of the weather and took the back route in case there was any construction or flooding going on  along our usual route. I signed in at the clinic ten minutes early and was called back to the lab almost immediately for my blood tests and vitals. My blood pressure was  a little high, but that's not unusual. My white blood cell count was a little better than it has been and I haven't needed any of the Neupogen shots this go round, maybe because of the shiitake mushrooms I ate Tuesday night. Some research studies have shown that  shiitake mushrooms do boost immunity and I would love to  have  more of those lovely white cells  coursing in my veins so I could  get out  and be around people more often without risking catching something.  I should keep shiitakes on my grocery list. Oh- and I've gained another pound- I now weight a whopping 93 pounds! Maybe it's actually muscle from the gardening I've been doing, and the yoga. I'd much rather think of it as muscle than flab, and I've read that even elderly people can actually  build muscle mass with the proper nutrition and exercise program.

From the lab I was sent over to the infusion room, which had fewer patients  than  normal, probably because of the weather. I took my usual seat near the restroom  and by 9:30 AM was hooked up to the bags hanging from my pole. I always make sure that I have a book or video ready on my Kindle Fire, but so far I've been unable to read or watch anything. I keep dozing off once they hook me up to the diphenhydramine and  don't get really active again until the last bag (the Camptosar/irinotecan), is hooked up a few hours later  when I'm  up and dragging my pole to the restroom every ten minutes it seems, to unload the fluids that have been pumped into me. I will say that   my speech wasn't quite as slurred  yesterday as it usually is.  I keep meaning to ask what the cause is, but I suspect it's a combination of  side-effects from the drugs and the  dry mouth resulting from the atropine injection.

I was finally unhooked around 1:45 PM and we headed home, with the sun brightly shining. I was glad to have my sunglasses with me, especially since it was so  dark and grey  when we left home that I questioned whether I would need them at all.

Once home, Mr G  scrambled an egg for me and brought me a cup of coffee. I went to sleep and slept almost all afternoon and into the evening, waking up to eat some chicken soup and toast. And then I went to bed for the night :-) Today I'm up  but not about much and am having the  red face, hot   steroid flush side effect. Actually the red face is an improvement over   yesterday's color, which was its usual post treatment zombie gray pallor. The wind  was blowing early this morning.  It was whistling around the corners of the house and sounded like a nor'easter. As I gazed out the front door this morning, I saw that the rain yesterday had washed  everything clean, revealing the  myriad shades of green on the  trees as they are donning their spring finery and swaying not so gently in the  wind.



Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Stormy Weather

This will be a short post tonight.  We are expecting some very nasty weather tomorrow with  thunderstorms, possible  baseball size hail, and the possibility of tornadoes. Schools all over the state have already announced that they'll be closed tomorrow, and the governor has declared a state of emergency in anticipation of storm damage. Of course,  Mr. G and I will be on the road  since I have a chemo treatment scheduled for tomorrow morning unless the   clinic decides to cancel, which isn't very likely. Wish us luck- the idea of  driving down the road in heavy rain with lightning flashing  while being pelted with humongous hailstones  is not exactly my idea of fun.  That's one of the things I like most about being retired- not having to drive out in all sorts of  horrid weather.  Well,   not having to drive in it most of the time, anyway, except for days like tomorrow. I'm glad our dogs aren't too terribly upset by storms, and usually hide out under the bed during the worst of them,  but I still hate  the thought of them being here alone for  six hours or so tomorrow, especially with the possibility of  tornadoes.

There are very few  flowers left on the dogwood.
Tomorrow's rough weather should   take care of the remaining few. I mentioned in yesterday's post that  the ground under the tree was  littered with petals.  here's  a pic of the  petal snowfall.
If you're in the path of the storms, stay safe and dry and   if you hear the sirens go off, get to your safe place  quickly.  I hope  things aren't as bad   as  predicted,  but  it's better to be prepared, or as I like to say,  it's a good idea to prepare for the worst but hope for the best. So here's hoping for the best for all of us.

Monday, April 03, 2017

Before the Rains Came

Since  my last post I finished weeding the veggie patch-  including the asparagus bed and   the  row of blueberry bushes. I left the  clump of  curly parsley that had run away from its mother and taken up residence between the blocks in the retaining wall. I also put up part of  the white fencing intended to keep the dogs from using the  area as a  doggie litter box. If only there were a fence to keep weeds out!

As I was weeding around the blueberry  bushes, I was about to   dig up one of the many clumps of wild garlic when I noticed something strange about it. Clinging to the leaves was a badly battered luna moth  with its wings in tatters. I   lifted the  clump of garlic and relocated it to what I thought was a  somewhat protected area, hoping for I don't know what. When it began to rain, I went to check on the moth and saw it trying to flap what was left of its wings. I moved it into  a pot of jasmine in the greenhouse and it began to climb on the  stems. When I went to check on it the next morning I couldn't find it. It may  be in one of the other plants or it may be  dead by now, poor thing. I have no idea how it ended p with its wings  torn, and even though they have a short life,  it seemed a cruel way for such a beautiful creature to  make an exit.

 The rain  has given me a chance to work inside, so I've  been vacuuming, mopping and  doing laundry, all of which has  made me even  more sore than the  weeding made me! My hip and shoulder have become completely discombobulated and some  movements send nasty little electrical  shocks down my leg. So in between that and the   dull toothache like pain  in my arm  when I  move my shoulder in a certain way, I decided to skip yoga class tonight and give  the joints and muscles another day or so to recuperate.

We had some torrential  rains  complete with  a  sound and light show and very high winds  in the early hours this morning. The ground under the dogwood tree is littered with  white petals and there are very few flowers left on the  branches. I took this pic  before the rains came.


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Weeding Saga Continues

The weeding continues.  I've been working on the square foot veggie beds for the last two days.  I got one and a half  done yesterday and  one and a half  done today, plus a few of the pathways between the beds. That leaves the asparagus bed and the blueberry bushes  that are being overtaken by weeds.  I'm getting there, slowly but surely. I have also discovered that every ant in Jefferson County, and maybe even  Walker County, just up the road, has taken up residence in my veggie beds and those nasty little  things bite. I did some unspeakable things to them today,  dousing them with boiling water.  I always  feel guilty about doing that, but   we just cannot coexist peacefully I'm afraid.



Now if only I could believe that  Mother Nature  isn't planning some nasty weather surprise, I  could begin planting. But I just don't trust the  fickle lady and fear that she had been sending us these  days  with temperatures in the 80s just to lull us into thinking it's safe to plant. And as soon as we do plant, she'll  zap us with a late frost. I hope I'm wrong, for the sake of all those folks I know who HAVE  gone ahead and planted. 

I'm hoping to get   the weeding finished in the veggie area tomorrow before the rains come. That is, if I can actually move tomorrow-  every joint and muscle in my  body is voicing discontent in light of my recent activities. Doe this mean I'm getting old, or is it just that  I was too sedentary over the winter?

Monday, March 27, 2017

Gardening as a Sleep Aid

I made a discovery this week: playing in the dirt  is a very effective sleeping aid. For the past two nights I have fallen asleep between eight thirty and nine PM.  Hence the lack of blog posts. I worked outside weeding again this morning, but  maybe my body  has gotten used to the new exercises involved in gardening  by now and won't fall out from exhaustion at sundown from now on.

The gardening/weeding is coming along slowly but surely, and Mr. G has been  digging out some althea bushes that had gotten out of hand.  I manged to free  some daylilies from the clutches of weeds and  ripped out some Japanese honeysuckle that was   choking everything in its path. There's still lots to do, and  we haven't even begun on the veggie beds yet. Rain is predicted for tomorrow, so maybe  I'll get some of the much needed inside housework done, but I do hate to be inside when the weather is so lovely. Here are some pics of  our recent handiwork in the yard:
One of the althea  bushes  Mr. G dug out.  They are  beautiful flowering shrubs, but had  dropped seeds everywhere and were becoming a nuisance. We left a couple and will have to be more vigilant about   keeping the seedlings from becoming established.
 Hidden in this profusion of Bouncing Bet, dead nettle and henbit, were some daylilies that had  strayed from their parents somehow. They have now been freed.

   


Friday, March 24, 2017

Playing in the Dirt

I got to play in the dirt today!  Since  my oncologist warned me to  stay out of the sun and make sure to wear gloves when gardening to avoid picking up any pathogens,  I donned  my long sleeved, turtleneck shirt, my  wide brimmed hat, and  gardening gloves and went  out to battle  the weeds that took over our little garden patch this winter. It was a  lovely day, albeit a little breezy,  and not too hot since  the clouds kept the sun hidden  off and on  all morning.

Mr. G  trimmed some dead wood from the trees and shrubs,  whacked weeds with the weed whacker and mowed the back yard while I tackled the weeds in the   herb and flower bed.  I managed to reclaim   a portion of the bed and rescue the  echinacea, monarda, calendula, achillea, rosebush and some other odds and ends from the clutches of the the vines and weeds that were trying to choke the life out of them.Rhis is how it looked  when I began:

And this is how much I got done before running out of steam:

While  he was whacking weeds  Mr. G called me over to see something, and this is what  we found:  a clump of redleaf lettuce growing  just outside the  compost bin:
We dug it up and  put it in a pot.  I hope it survives- and we can make some delicious salads with it.  I also hope it inspires the slow-growing little lettuce seedlings to put on a growth spurt. 
There is still a lot of weeding that needs to be done so we're hoping the rain holds off long enough to make some more headway. I might even   get around to  cleaning up the veggie beds to get them ready for the eggplants, squash, tomatoes and  bush beans I  plan to set out after  the last frost date.   Spring is definitely in the air, and it's most welcome to stay around a while.  

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Pollen and Pot Pies

Spring is getting  much, much closer.  The trees are leafing out,  and the world is slowly getting covered in pollen.
Around here, that means pine pollen, a  yellow dust that covers cars, sidewalks, roads, and if you leave your windows open, all your furniture. Because it's so visible, people blame pine pollen for their spring  allergies, runny noses and watery eyes, but pine pollen is not the culprit. Ragweed, and other weeds and grasses as well as trees like oak, birch and hickories, pecans and such are the real culprits with their much smaller pollen grains that can work their  way into your respiratory system.

Since I'm in my post-chemo reaction stage with  hot red skin on my face, general fatigue and a low  immunity I didn't venture outside, although it would have been a lovely day for weeding and  getting the garden ready for planting. My most strenuous activities today were paying bills and cooking supper. I decided to   make a chicken pot pie from what was left of the  chicken I'd roasted on Tuesday but couldn't find my recipe.  I googled chicken pot pie and was surprised to find  one of my blog posts on the first page. The recipe called for  two sheets of packaged frozen puff pastry.  Of course, I had only one sheet in the freezer, so decided to make my own using my trusted Julia Child  recipe for pรขte brisรฉe fine. I made the pastry, lined a casserole dish, covered the pastry with aluminum  foil and pre-baked it.  While it was baking I chopped carrots and onions, sliced some mushrooms, defrosted some frozen peas and shredded the chicken.  Then they all got put in a skillet with some butter, flour, thyme, pepper, parsley and chicken broth. and  were left to bubble away for a bit.
When the  pastry-lined casserole came our of the oven, I removed the  foil, let the  crust cool a little, then spooned in the filling. I covered the top with   latticework using   strips cut from the second piece of pastry,  sprinkled some  chopped parsley on top
and popped it in the oven for about forty five minutes until the crust was golden and the filling was all bubbly. It came out  looking fairly decent and tasted good, too.
All in all it was a pretty nice day, with a delicious supper. I hope your day was as enjoyable.


                     
               

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Chemo Treatment Day with Mixed Emotions

Today was a mixed emotions kind of day. My visit with the oncologist went well; I've gained another  pound since the last chemo treatment.  Who knows, maybe at the rate I'm going  one day I'll actually hit the 100 pound mark ๐Ÿ˜„  We went over the scan results and the onc  says based on the good results from this one and the previous scan she's comfortable with changing my scan schedule to every four months  instead of every three months.  She also confirmed that we'll continue on the current regimen of  Camptosar and Erbitux as a maintenance therapy for as long as I can tolerate them well and they continue to be effective.

When I went to the lab to get  my vitals taken and have blood withdrawn for tests, I was beginning to get guilt pangs for feeling pretty good since everyone else  who came in while I was there when asked if they had any pain, replied "yes" and most rated the pain at  around  7 or 8 on the pain scale. I am   grateful that  my pain is infrequent and minimal, I hope those in pain  were able to get some relief at today's session.

Last year I met another patient in the  chemo treatment room.  We  usually  had chairs next to each other and became chair mates, in a sense. He was an upbeat  guy,  with a wonderful sense of humor. He began telling his wife that I was his chemo room girlfriend. She seemed to take it in good humor and reminded him I may not have wanted him as a boyfriend. If I had agreed to be his girlfriend, I might have been accused of cradle snatching since he was a decade  younger ๐Ÿ˜€.    He was  receiving chemo for inoperable pancreatic cancer, and realized the odds for long time survival  were not all that great.  He was still able to do things around the house and yard, and go fishing, which he enjoyed.  Over time, though, the cancer and the chemo took its toll, and he wasn't able to do  much at all except sit around.  A couple of months ago he told me he'd been hanging on for the sake of his family, but that he was tired and had decided to stop the treatment. Shortly after that I had my new port put in and that  messed up my treatment schedule so he and I were no longer  getting treatment on the same day and  didn't see each other.  I'd often wondered if he had followed through on his decision to stop treatment, but  knew better than to ask the nurses or doctor because of patient confidentiality rules under HIPPA. I'd tried googling his name but  nothing much turned up. Today, though, I decided to  google his name with the added  word "obituary". He had died early last month. I hope his family are doing OK, and understand why he decided to end treatment. I'm guessing that he probably  had hospice care near the end of his life- I hope he went peacefully and painlessly.

Getting to know  other  patients in treatment is both rewarding and  upsetting.  We are happy to learn that someone has left treatment because it has done its job and their cancer  has been effectively eradicated or sent into what  we hope is a long term remission.  We are saddened when others, like my friend, leave treatment because it's no longer working, their other options have been exhausted and they are  just  bone-tired and drained, physically and emotionally. But  we all learn from each other's experiences, and I am very grateful to all of them, and grateful too  for the medical staff who care for us all in a  caring manner, knowing that some of us will make it and some won't.


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

We Skipped Spring!

Yikes!  Mother Nature is up to her tricks again,  and  has decided we should skip spring for awhile. The temperature hit 89ยบF today.  I finally broke down and turned on the air conditioner when the inside temperature hit 84. I  don't do heat well.  Needless to say, I didn't get as much done outside as I'd hoped, either.

I did supervise Mr. G as he trimmed and thinned out some some shrubs in the back yard. He was  trimming the butterfly bush when he realized all the branches were  dead- they just broke off.  Like the poor rhododendron in the front yard,  the butterfly bush  is  another victim of last summer's drought and  the accompanying water restrictions we were under.

I wonder if we'll have the same situation this summer.  It makes me wonder whether it's wise to  plant a garden. But since I've already started seeds,  I may as well plant and hope for the best. To that end I did manage to get some more seedlings  potted up into individual containers as they wait for  time to be planted out permanently in the garden or in earth boxes.
The lettuce is slowly  beginning to look like lettuce, or  miniature lettuce- this time last year I was already harvesting some leaves, so I'm hoping it goes into a growth spurt before hot weather sets in permanently.
Tomorrow is chemo treatment day so I won't be doing any gardening, or much else, actually,   for the next day or so.  I've been on the irinotecan/cetuximab regimen for almost a year now; this will be my  nineteenth  treatment, and despite the  dry, flaky, itchy skin, the cracks that develop on my fingertips and feet, the fingernails  that tear, the   swollen  toenail beds and ingrown toenails, I've actually tolerated  it  pretty well so far. I'm fortunate not  to have suffered some of the really nasty, pustular  skin eruptions that  many  patients get.  I had the  acne like rash  at the beginning of treatment, but   that subsided after a few treatments, thank goodness.  At least I now have  very long, luxurious eyelashes-they are so long that I have to use eyelash curlers to keep them from  brushing against my glasses. And the hair on my head- that's strange.   It has grown in  all straight and coarse in the front and wavy in the back.  I have no idea   what do do with wavy hair- it seems to have a mind of its own and does what it pleases regardless of what I want it to do.  Sort of like Mother Nature  and  Mr. G ๐Ÿ˜‰

Monday, March 20, 2017

Blue Skies and Blossoms

Today was an absolutely beautiful day!  After getting some laundry and housework done I went outside to enjoy the sunshine and to see how everything was doing.

Sadly, the  white azaleas didn't fare too well in the  freezing temperatures we had.  What were once lovely white blossoms now hang limp and brown  and much of the new growth was  also damaged and is now wilted.


 But all is not lost-  the blooms that were hidden at the bottom of the  bushes and closer to the protection of the wall survived without  damage and  there are plenty of new buds that somehow managed to escape the freeze.
Some of the dogwood blossoms are fully open now and the branches are filled with buds and blossoms in various stages, from closed up tight to nearly fully open. A few more days  like today and the tree should be in all its glory, filled with  a bounty of  delicate white blossoms glistening against a  clear blue sky.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Sam the Second Is In the House

Our daughter-in-law, Sharil, celebrated her  birthday today. She and granddaughter Abby  celebrated another holiday today, albeit a little late: Chinese New Year, which began on  January 28 this year and  is designated  the Year of the Rooster.  Abby decided that since last year was the Year of the Monkey, she should  have a monkey and I should have a Rooster.  So they went to  the Build A Bear Workshop and  built a monkey for Abby and a rooster for me.  She delivered   him this afternoon- and a lovely rooster he is, too. He even brought his  birth certificate with him, showing that his name is Sam. He crows just like  the old Sam, although I'm not sure how Sam the First would have  liked    having a competitor, especially one more colorful than he was! As you can see,  Sam II is  quite a handsome fellow, although he lacks the long spurs that Sam I  sported, so he would be wise  not to antagonize any real roosters since he's at a definite disadvantage in the self-defense department.
Abby also gave me a  picture of herself with the Easter Bunny. Maybe it's just me, but that bunny looks as though it ate a few too many Easter eggs. I haven't figured out what the eyes remind me of- but that chubby rabbit has some seriously long eyelashes!  None of that seems to be bothering Abby, though, and she looks  quite pleased to be sitting on the critter's lap.
 Tomorrow is the first day of spring and our temperatures are predicted to be in the high 70s tomorrow and 80 on Tuesday, which makes me wonder if  Mother Nature  is planning to skip spring and go directly to summer.  I certainly hope not! But I do plan to get outside and transplant  some of my seedlings into  bigger pots and window boxes.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Blossoms, Butterflies and Baked Goods

Today was another day that began  cloudy and gray but the sun emerged victorious and broke through the clouds once more.

There is a peach tree growing in the woods behind the house, just over the fence.  It had begun blooming last week and I wondered how the  blossoms had fared in the   freezing temperatures we had earlier this week. They  seemed to have come through   unscathed. The peaches are this tree produces are very small and quite hard.  By the time they get soft enough to pick and eat they  have usually been pecked at by birds and invaded by ants, so the blossoms are all we  really get to enjoy, but they are a lovely sight.


When I went out with my camera to take a picture of the blossoms I was  surprised to see an eastern tiger swallowtail  flitting about. I followed me back to the deck and  swooped about the roses on the arbor before settling down on the mulch just off the deck.  It stayed still for quite a while as though anxious for me to  take its picture. I was only too happy to oblige.
With blossoms and butterflies, I decided  we needed another "B"  to round out the day's activities so I decided to bake something.  These chocolate chip oatmeal cookies are quite delicious.

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Luck of the Irish

St Patrick's Day today.  It would have been my dad's 109th birthday. His name, oddly enough ๐Ÿ˜‰, was Patrick. He was born to Irish Catholic parents in Philadelphia.  I know his mother emigrated to the States when she was about  20.  I know little about her, other than  that I was named for her, and that she is said to have put an Irish hex on my mother. I know even less about my paternal grandfather. Despite  my father being one of  seven children, I had only five cousins. One uncle died as a child, one became a priest, another had no children,  and one had one son and one daughter. One of my aunts had two daughters and the other had one daughter.  Only one cousin, the only  male in the group, was close to my age, and we   didn't get along well at all.  The rest were much older.  My dad died at the age of  fifty-four when I was sixteen. The family wrote me off when I left the Catholic church a year or two  later and there has been no contact with them for over  fifty years. Anyway, I feel Irish enough that I don't need to prove it, so I don't wear green and   don't  cook Irish food.  In fact, we had fish curry tonight- definitely NOT Irish fare! I do admit to listening to an old LP of an Irish tenor singing Danny Boy every once in a while, though.

It was much warmer today, but   cloudy and dull until late in the afternoon, when the sun as it set, cast a lovely golden glow on the trees.
The late afternoon sky was a brilliant blue, as a  plane streaked by  leaving a wispy white vapor trail. In the western sky, contrails resembling cirrus clouds had formed a cross.

I am happy to report that the rosebuds survived the two nights of temperatures that dropped into the  20s.  The blossoms, as they open,  are a little damaged around the edges but not enough to mar their beauty.   They must have had the luck of the Irish protecting them from the frigid weather. ☘☘☘

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Look Ma- No Scanxiety

Yesterday was CT scan day. The scan was scheduled for 8:30 AM but since I have to drink the contrast material before the scan I was supposed to be at the Diagnostic Center  at 7:45. Of course, it was another cold, cold day.  The temperature was around 25 degrees when we left home and the sun  was in the process of getting up.  In fact, the moon hadn't yet gone to bed and was hanging like a big silver  balloon in the western sky as we crested the hill  on our way to the back road. We had decided to go the back way  because bridge construction/road widening on our usual route had slowed traffic to a crawl last time we took that route. So off we drove, heading east into the rising sun.  It's lucky we made it safely, since the sun was blindingly bright and   the bare trees on the side of the road did little to block its glare.

But we arrived safely, with a few minutes to spare. While Mr. G went to park the car I headed to the  lab in the oncology clinic so they could access my port. I discovered last time I had a scan in the diagnostic center that they were not able to access the port,  so I had to have the contrast dye injected via an IV in my arm. With my rolling veins and the multiple jabs it takes to  get an IV needle placed I end up with some nasty looking bruises. Once  I had the port accessed I headed  across the hall  to  sign in for the scan. The barium contract material that  they give you to drink at home doesn't agree with me so I  get an  iodinated radiopaque contrast medium once I arrive at the clinic. They brought me   a big bottle of the stuff to drink and told me they would call me back in about thirty minutes. One of the unfortunate possibilities with the contrast medium is that it can have a laxative effect, so I had to make several  quick trips to the  restroom. They finally called me back,  took a blood test to check my kidney function, told me to wait, and brought me yet another  cup of the contrast medium to drink.  I couldn't get all of it down, but  the tech told me I had gotten enough down. Then I was called in to the  lovely machine, positioned on the table,  hooked up to  an IV for the final contrast and slid in and out of the  doughnut hole while a stern male voice  bellowed,  "BREATHE IN" "HOLD YOUR BREATH" and finally, "BREATHE." Then they   began the IV and my mouth was filled with a metallic taste,  I felt  warm all over and  had the sensation of wetting myself as the contrast   solution  made its way through my veins. A  couple more  times of sliding in and out of the  hole and we were finished. I  went back to the lab to have them flush my port and remove the needle and we headed home.
 Once at home, thanks to the previously mentioned laxative effect, which may have been enhanced by my having eaten  lobster and shrimp  on the two previous  days, I spent a  large part of the afternoon in the bathroom, which was a shame since it was one of those lovely, sunshiny days that are so rare lately.

 Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, the scan results were posted on my doctor's patient portal site late yesterday evening and I was able to see that everything was stable and there was "No evidence of new or worsening metastatic disease." It is indeed very nice to be spared  the scanxiety that  creeps in while you're waiting to learn the results of scans and tests.

Today was another cold, gray day. I thought such a day called for a nice warming meal, so prepared roasted chicken with  root vegetables. I tried a new method of roasting the chicken, which was a big disappointment and has convinced me to  stick with my old tried and true method in the future. I also must confess that until tonight I had never cooked and eaten a rutabaga. And I probably won't  cook and eat another. All in all, it was a disappointing  meal, but you win some and lose some.

The temperatures are supposed to be warmer tonight- in the 40s instead of the 20s, and  the  daytime temps tomorrow will be  warmer.  I am definitely ready for some spring weather so I can get out and dig in the dirt, move the plants out of the greenhouse and get the garden planted. But not yet. I just don't trust Mother Nature anymore and  wouldn't be  at all surprised if she pulled another of her  sneaky tricks with an April snow or some such  thing. 

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Fickle Mother Nature

Fickle Mother Nature was at it again today.  Yesterday's lovely blue skies  were replaced by  gray skies that wept off and on  most of the day leaving us all shivering in the cold. And she's not finished yet, by all accounts. We could get temperatures in the twenties for the next few nights.  I hope  the cold weather doesn't  kill off all the lovely rosebuds.

As  cold and unpleasant as the weather was today, Mother Nature  didn't  pull the same nasty trick she pulled in 1993 when the  13th of March saw us buried under snow.  It's rare for the entire state of Alabama to be covered in snow, but all  sixty-seven counties reported snowfall.  Here in the Birmingham area  the official measurement was  thirteen inches but high winds caused  five foot drifts in some areas of the city.   I know some people love snow, but I'm not one of them. It's nice to look at but very hazardous to drive in, especially when it's such a rare occurrence that nobody seems  quite sure how to drive in it, and we invariably lose power as  trees and limbs  fall, taking  power lines down with them.


 It looks as though the Northeast will be hit by a huge blizzard in the next day or so. I hope it doesn't cause  too much damage, that all those who need shelter are able to find it, that everyone  stays warm and safe and that neighbors keep an eye out for each other. And I hope that that spring will soon  arrive and chase winter weather away once and for all this year.


The pic on the left is  one I took yesterday.  The one on the right was taken this morning. The  sky was so gray that the pic looks as though it was taken in black and white rather than color.  


Sunday, March 12, 2017

Reluctantly Springing Forward

We have survived the first day of Daylight Saving Time! I really don't know why we have to go through this ritual twice a year, and most of the reasons  given to support  DST turn out to be not convincing at all. For instance, it doesn't really save energy  or  electricity usage.   A study published by the United States Department of Energy on the "Impact of Extended Daylight SavingTime on National Energy Consumption" in 2008  noted that, "The total electricity savings of Extended Daylight Saving Time were about 1.3 Tera Watt-hour (TWh). This corresponds to 0.5 percent per each day of Extended Daylight Saving Time, or 0.03 percent of electricity consumption over the year." 

What's worse,  it's probably not good for our health, either.  In fact, a  2012 study published by the University of Alabama at Birmingham reported that “The Monday and Tuesday after moving the clocks ahead one hour in March is associated with a 10 percent increase in the risk of having a heart attack.” The fact that the same study mentioned that “The opposite is true when falling back in October. This risk decreases by about 10 percent.” is little consolation. There have also been reports of an increase in  traffic accidents on the Monday  following the time change as sleep deprived people climb behind the wheel to drive to work. I'm fortunate in  not having to get up and drive to work  on roads  crowded with  sleep-deprived people, thank goodness.  Those of you who do have to drive to work on Monday morning, please be very careful out there.

One of the suggestions for  coping with the time change is  to go outside in the sunshine in the early morning. Thank goodness that although we had rain overnight the skies cleared this morning  and we had a lovely sunny day.  I  didn't take any pics this morning- we headed out grocery shopping.  Publix had  lobster tails on sale,  so we had  lobster risotto for supper tonight,  with strawberry shortcake for dessert.  The risotto was a little disappointing- sort of bland.  I haven't quite figured out what was missing, but something was.  Maybe  sleep-deprived people shouldn't cook, either!๐Ÿ˜‰  I'm looking forward to being able to buy local sweet, juicy strawberries at the farmers market later- grocery store strawberries and tomatoes may look delicious, but  they leave a lot to be  desired in the taste department. 

 Tomorrow's weather forecast calls for more rain, then nighttime  temperatures  will plunge into the  20s for a couple of days. But  today was  a gift.  Blue skies,  a little nip in the air, and a sunset that while not spectacular, cast a golden glow on the  bare tree limbs making them glow. Here are some of the pics  from  earlier this evening. 

 The  dogwood blossoms are  opening a little more each day:
We were afraid that the redbud tree was completely dead after it suffered some  blows and fallen limbs during a winter storm, and Mr. G was saying  we should probably cut it down, but it  voiced its objection to that idea by  putting out some pink  flowers on its few intact  branches:

 The mystery  pink climbing rose on the arbor is loaded with  pink buds and one   fully open rose, with many more to follow, we hope.

We have an abundance  of cheerful dandelions  in the front yard.  A bee is enjoying  this one: