Saturday, February 26, 2011

Climbing Out of Dormancy

I don't know what to write about this week.  Life goes on, and sometimes it seems so obvious or repetitive that there's no apparent sense in documenting it.

Or, on the other hand, I have great ideas, no time to write them down, and then forget them.


Apparently, it's spring.

After over a decade living below the Mason-Dixon line, I still am not ready to accept spring when it arrives.  I always wait for one last March storm to blast through.  Here, we've had a freeze every Easter weekend but one.  So it may be another month before I believe the daffodils' promise.

Still, I'm not above taking advantage of every lovely day that's offered!

We've left Rosie's old (pre-fence) dog trolley up for just this purpose.  How fun to see these sheets rippling in the perfect breeze.  I was suddenly transformed back to the countryside where I grew up, driving by long lines of clean white sheets, pastel shirts and even the occasional bonnet hanging behind the Amish houses.

I, however, hung my underwear inside to dry.

Another blessing of these early warm days is for Rosie.  The mosquitos and other irritating bugs have not yet emerged, so we often leave the back door open for her to wander freely in and out.  Her preferred state of affairs is for both her pack members to be home, and outside in the yard.  That way she can keep her eye on us, and still enjoy all the entertaining sights, sounds and smells of the world at large.

This is not an exciting post.  That seems only natural; now is a time for preparation.  I've been cleaning parts of  the yard bit by bit; weeding, pruning, even dragging the mower around to trim the weeds.  The grass is still dormant; every bit of green you see is weed.  As usual, there is more to be done than time or energy to do it.  This week Miss Chef and I had a lovely convergence; we both took Friday off.  And spent half the day running errands, the other half working at home.

In preparation.

Tomorrow, we're going back out to the US National Whitewater Center.  It's supposed to be 74 degrees and sunny, and not only are we going kayaking, but we're planning on buying annual passes.  Besides kayaking, there is of course the rafting (starting in March...brrr!), trail bike rentals, two zip lines, climbing walls, and plenty of other stuff I'll probably never try!  There's also apparently a great 4th of July weekend, though we'll probably be too jet-lagged to do more than stare blearily at the fireworks before heading home to bed.

Speaking of jet-lag, our trip makes this spring a different season of preparation.  The garden will be minimal--last time we left in the summer, it was ravaged by rabbits and drought in our and Rosie's absence.  Plus, much of my time and attention will be turned toward things like buying good walking shoes (thanks for the recommendations!) and researching the difference between Oyster Cards and Travel Cards.  I just checked out some guidebooks from the library and am surprised at how long and intently I find myself reading nonfiction.

I suffer from an odd spring fever.  As soon as the temperature climbs much above 70 for the first time, I droop.  So it will be a while before I'm truly possessed by the season, ready to tackle the outside chores with unexpected fervor through the last of the sunlight.  Simple steps; I must be patient with myself.

In the meantime, I planted coreopsis seeds among the daffodils.

For you Smoky fans, here's an updated photo, from our friend's camera phone:

Omigosh, she's turned into a CAT!  How unexpected!  (Oh, and she's "manning the printer," being as helpful as ever.)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Friday Fragments*

When life's hectic, every day seems full of fragments!  Why not celebrate it?  As I've been known  to say during ongoing crises, "Well, at least it's not boring."  (*Mrs. 4444's post isn't up at "press time," but go here to see what Friday Fragments is all about.)

~ € ~

Morning: a Winter Harvest

I believe I planted this box with a mesclun mix in October.  I got one really good harvest in December, and then it sat there (under cover) sort of in suspended animation through the coldest part of winter.  As the evening draws later and the nights linger above freezing, I've been able to uncover our lettuce and it's starting to grow again.

Actually, the arugula's growing like crazy.  The other ones are just...stretching, checking things out.  Still, it's green.  I reseeded a couple of weeks ago, but nothing's come up yet.  That's ok, I've got more seed, and more time.

~ € ~

I believe I've discovered a new tongue twister.  Say this five times fast: "An '04 Ford F-150."

~ € ~

I thought I'd share with you a game I've developed to make the rush-hour commute a little more enjoyable for myself.  I call it the Red Light Game.  You have to have another driver to play it with, and it has to be a particular kind...the kind who tailgates you in stop-and-go streetlight traffic, as if you could control the unending line of cars and red lights ahead of you.

Once you have this kind of driver positioned behind you on the road, approach the next stoplight slowly.  Stop at least one car length back from the car in front of you.  The anxious driver behind you will most likely park so close to your back bumper that you won't be able to see his headlights (or hers).  Then you'll know you've got a live one!

Take your foot off the break and roll forward two or three feet, then stop again.  The car behind you should roll up to nearly kiss your bumper again.  Continue, using the remaining space judiciously enough to last through the stoplight.  See how many times you can make the other driver move!

I've never yet had a driver realize I was playing with them, and I find it delicious that I'm usually laughing aloud while they're probably gripping their steering wheel with white knuckles, as their blood pressure rises and their car jerks repeatedly to a stop.  If they manage to go around me once traffic starts to move, I like to smile and wave, as a way to thank them for playing.

It's lovely to start the day with a laugh, don't you think?

~ € ~

I'm still going ga-ga over our upcoming trip to Europe this summer.  We still have four months to go, but as a friend pointed out, the anticipation lasts much longer than the trip, so I'm enjoying it to the hilt!  I realized the other day that I'm pretty familiar with Paris, having lived there for a year, but I know next to nothing about London.  So I'm filling my not-really-spare time at work with web searches like "St Paul's Cathedral" and "Portobello Market."  Fun!

I've also realized that I'm going to have to invest in some shoes.  Some seriously good walking shoes.  Preferably ones that don't scream "SNEAKER!"  I'm not sure of the best place to find them, but I'm willing to sink a fair amount of overtime earnings into a good pair.  Any suggestions for sources or brands?

~ € ~

Thanks for reading and commenting.  Hope everyone has a great weekend!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Paris on My Mind

Just a drive-by, because I feel like I've been pulled in several directions, and have lost my habits of checking in and commenting on other blogs.

So here's what I've been up, for starters.  First, Miss Chef is teaching 5 days a week and working three nights a week at the restaurant.  Then there was Restaurant Week at the end of January, when she was working...I dunno, more nights at the restaurant.  As I result, I was pulling more KP and laundry duty (not to mention a night at the restaurant, too!)  At my job, we've hit our busy season (I process car loans, and now is when people start using their tax refunds as down payments), and we're in the process of training a new, er, processor, which means the rest of us get a heavier load.  So, back to our 50-hour weeks.  I don't mind the extra hours right now, partly because I'm not teaching this quarter, but mostly because each and every hour of overtime means more money for our big trip this summer!

Speaking of which, I'm getting obsessively excited about it, because (dramatic pause...) I've just put a deposit down to confirm our reservation for a small apartment in Paris!  It's tiny (of course), but newly remodeled and has a very generous kitchen for Paris.  My SiL and kids will be coming with us for the week, and I just happened to find a great apartment for them in the same building.  Don't know if that will pan out, but how perfectly is this working out for us?

Internet, I love you!

I just spent almost an hour on Google's street view, checking out the neighborhood where we're staying.  We've already spotted a bakery/pastry shop that was recommended online, and it's right outside the metro stop.  Along the main street we saw two specialty shops to buy foie gras, an artisanal butcher, a national-chain wine shop I used to patronize when I lived in France, and a branch of a French bank I've just learned has agreements with my American bank, so I don't have to pay ATM fees!  *Phew*  And that's just in one direction!

Of course, being obsessed with apartment hunting and trip details while putting in 9 and 10-hour days at work has made it hard for me to focus on much else.  I did, however, manage to get Miss Chef a great Valentine's day gift:

Only a northerner living in the south can appreciate the importance of locating a stash of Vernor's ginger ale.  Suffice it to say Miss Chef's reaction was just what I'd hoped for.  We don't usually do much for Valentine's day, because we both work at the restaurant.  I just did Saturday night, because I knew I couldn't work overtime and stand at the door of the restaurant at the same time (and the OT pays better--sorry Chef).  Miss Chef will be working Monday from 6:30 am (teaching) until probably 11 pm (cooking).  I will be home Monday night, ironing her pants for Tuesday.  Ah, the glamorous life of the chef's wife!

So, anyway, maybe in the coming weeks I'll calm down enough to stop surfing the web for Paris restaurants, and find some time for my other usual pursuits.  But if I don't seem to be reading your blog as often, I do apologize; I'm still stopping by now and then, even if I don't comment.  Because, you know, I've got important things like croissants au beurre on my mind. 

Hmm...maybe I should be out walking the dog an extra mile instead of reading blogs.  I'm gonna need to trim down to handle all the eating we're planning.

Addendum: To answer the question asked by a couple of people after my previous post about our trip--Rosie will be staying with the friend who adopted Smoky, who loves Rosie and has Rosie-sat several times.  She lives in a guest house way out in the country, and Rosie loves staying there.  So everyone will have a fun time this summer!  Even Smoky!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Positive Things for January

Yipes, it's almost halfway through February!  Well, I was all excited about Rosie's DNA test, and then things got busy, and here we are...  So, not many pictures with this one; though I'll still add a Mr. Linky at the end if anyone else is ready to play along.

I have no idea how many positive things I'll end up with.  Let's find out together, shall we?

1. January 1st--I found out that one of my dear friends from college gave birth to her first baby girl!  My friend's been wanting to have children since I met her *koff* years ago, so this one of the most exciting birth announcements I've gotten in a while.

2. The first weekend of the year we had freakishly warm weather in the 60s.  So I was able to open the windows, air the place out, and even get in a little pre-spring yardwork.

3. We received Christmas thank you notes, handwritten, from our two young nephews in London.  So charming!

4. Of course, there was my dad's blog post on his heart transplant experience.  Beyond getting to share his story with you all, the post opened up a chance to talk to him in some more detail about his mindset, memories and feelings.  And I continue to get positive feedback from friends.  Thanks to you all for your comments!

5. I finally cleaned up my ever-growing pile of "to be filed/sorted/dealt with" papers on the desk.  You know the one I mean...the "someday" pile!

6. Snow day!  I already shared stories and photos of our fun time here.

7. I made bread for the first time in my life, thanks to Linda at the 7MSN RanchHer super-easy recipe was so easy I was inspired to try a more traditional one...which failed miserably.  But that's ok, I went back to Linda's recipe and it came out even better the second time.

8. A friend and  co-worker in my department was promoted.  While this wasn't totally easy for me to take, she was very careful to let me know the background before it was announced, and we've made it a point to try to do lunch together when we can.  It took a few days for us to be able to talk freely after she was promoted, but I'm glad that we're both making a point to maintain our friendship in spite of these changes.  (I've seen other colleagues promoted who leapt whole-heartedly into their new positions, abandoning any pretense at personable collegiality with former peers.)

9. Miss Chef ordered oranges direct from a grower--citrus is one of her seasons (after apple, and before asparagus).  She tried something new, called Honeybells, and they are AMAZING.  In fact, they're not oranges at all, but a mix of grapefruit and tangerine (I think).  They're only ripe for a few weeks in January; they're also known as Minneola tangelos and can be found in grocery stores by that name.  I'm sorry I didn't tell you all about them earlier, because I'd have told you to rush out to the grocery store and buy some!

10.  Although it was the middle of January before we seriously got down to de-Christmasing the living room, Miss Chef finally was ready to part with some off our holiday junk decor.  Which meant we are a few boxes lighter in the storage closet now.

11. On a Wednesday evening, I didn't get out the door to walk Rosie until after dark.  There was a full moon and a clear sky, so I went ahead into our little, unlighted park area to walk around the pond.  The moon was like a floodlight, the pond and surrounding woods were quiet, and Rosie and I had a beautiful, peaceful walk in the dark.

12. Paris rental apartment hunting on the internet!

13. Miss Chef dragged me to the mall because she needed more pants to get through her 6-day, two-job work week.  I needed pants, too, but absolutely hate buying them--read this to see how much.  However, between the fabulous sales and Miss Chef's excellent hunting skills, I came away with SIX new pairs of pants for very little money.  My mornings in the closet are suddenly much less stressful.

14. I made turkey burritos--with powdered taco seasoning--that Miss Chef loved.  I spent a Sunday evening chopping tomatoes, tearing lettuce, making beans and rice while Miss Chef graded and did lesson plans.  Not only was she grateful for my taking care of her, but she was quite happy to eat leftovers for several days.

15. I met a new neighbor.  One of my secret identities is as a member of the 5-person board of our homeowners' association.  This, my third (and FINAL) year, I was pushed into named as President.  Well, when I saw a woman taking the trash out at a house I knew had recently sold, I felt it was my duty to introduce myself and answer any of her questions.  And you know, it felt really good to welcome her to the neighborhood!

16.  Charlotte's restaurant week brought lots of business into the restaurant, and Chef Adam asked me to come work the last Saturday night as hostess.  (I do this 3 or 4 times a year on big restaurant holidays.)  While it wasn't my best night juggling diners, tables, servers and owners, Miss Chef told me later the servers were grateful I was there, and truly happy with the way I did my job.  That makes it much easier to go back and do it again this Saturday!  (Valentine's Day weekend--be patient with your hostess, and reasonable with your server, folks!  They're working their tails off all weekend for you.)

17. Of course, finding out Rosie's DNA results and having a giveaway was fun, too!

Do you still have your positive things from January, written on the back of that junk mail?  Share 'em with us; we could all use more positivity in a cold, bleak February. 

Saturday, February 5, 2011

How to Make a Rosie: the Recipe & Winner

Normally I like to write all kinds of "drumroll please" distraction before revealing winners of my giveaways, but Flartus has a ton of housework to do, so let's get to it!

First, the recipe to make a Rosie, as determined by BioPet Vet Lab:

I may have Photoshopped my name just a little...

I'm assuming "collie" means "border collie," pretty much because I want to, because it makes sense, and because it makes more of your guesses right!  So I feel that all my guesses over the past four years were correct...with a little Siberian Husky thrown in for a surprise.  ("Level 5" means she's less than 10% golden; a little dash of golden makes every mutt better, right?  Oh, and I'm not shilling for BioPet, that just happens to be what Miss Chef got me, and in case anyone's interested, I think it cost about $60.  Which is why I waited four years before deciding I really wanted to know!)

I have to mention that I had to google "flat coated retriever," and for all those who guessed that breed, I'd like to say, "Holy cow, my Rosie's a purebred!"  Lol!  In fact, Rosie's a bit stockier, with a shorter nose, and parts of her coat are a bit fluffier and coarser, but in general her coat, appearance and temperament are amazingly similar.  Well done, dog lovers!  Unfortunately, BioPet doesn't include that breed in their testing, and since they're so rare, I have serious doubts that Rosie can claim any as parents.

So that leaves me with three people who named three breeds correctly (according to BioPet, anyway): Joanna of BooneDocksWilcox, Dillypoo of Dillypoo Chatter, and Claire the Sheperdess of Whispering Acres.  How to choose?  Of course, I had to involve Dame Rosie somehow.  And why not make it fun, eh?

A little cardstock rolled around a bit of liver I got to test out Rosie's "sit" and "stay."  Which she performed admirably, thank you very much.  And then the release!

Actually, she only sniffed this one as she walked toward me.  It was only after I toppled the tubes and lay them next to the treats that she finally went after them...but she went after the same one, so it looks like Claire's definitely the winner!

Congratulations, Claire, and let's see if I can get this book to you in time to enjoy while you're snowed in!