Cheryll's Writing Journal

Musings, rants and ravings, plus gems of insight nobody wants to hear now that I've finally got them. Also neat stuff I found on the 'Net when I should have been updating this blog....

Friday, September 22, 2006

Heaven's Sake Revisited...

Knitting innards not withstanding, you can't beat this project for time killing: An English Garden in stitches.

": Friends thought Jane Bolsover was spinning them a yarn when she unveiled her plan – to knit a life-sized English garden.

But here it is, accurate right down to the flowers and insects, even the worms and carrots in the vegetable patch.

The project has been painstakingly completed by more than 300 contributors, including a group of gay men knitting in Brighton, and a 12-year-old boy in Sussex, who spent six months making the pond and waterfall.

Ms Bolsover, 46, of Dorking, Surrey, estimates her team made 4million individual stitches, knitting together 80km (50 miles) of wool.

'I'm one of the world's worst knitters so it has been a strange project for me,' she admitted.

And the 4.5m by 3m (15ft by 10ft) garden, on display in Exeter, Devon, is not finished yet.

'Anyone can come along and add to it as long as what they do is hand-knitted,' she said."

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Oh, for heaven's sake!

These people have WAY too much time on their hands.... Or perhaps I should title this, "When Good Stitchers Go Wrong."
The site above claims this is a picture of a crocheted and anatomically correct human brain.

And they are not alone in their -- um -- artwork:
A fellow posting as Arrmatie did this one of the human digestive tract last year. It's pretty accurate, and the stitches are just amazing...but, really?

And then there is Patricia Waller, a german artist whose creations are just way beyond the medium...
Be sure to scroll all the way down the gallery page because it just gets weirder as you go. [Probably SFO, but not safe for kiddies, maybe...]

These folks fit my definition of true creativity as finding new ways to use familiar media -- and succeeding!

And to think: I just make hats and scarves and baby blankets....

Some quotes from recent reading...

From the little book, Today I will Nourish My Inner Martyr: Affirmations for Cynics, by Ann Thornhill & Sarah Wells........

"Regardless of what other people say, my tendency to overreact and lose all perspective makes me a theatrically interesting person."

"There is no room in my life for my inner child."

"My family, friends, and associates could save me a lot of precious time by accepting the reality that I'm always right."

To which my personal corollary is that we could all live and work in perfect unity if they'd all just do it my way!

From Laffirmations: 1001 ways to add humor to your life and work, by Joel Goodman......

"There ain't much fun in medicine, but there's a heck of a lot of medicine in fun." -- Josh Billings

"He deserves paradise who makes his companions laugh." -- The Qur'án

"A person without a sense of humor is like a wagon without springs -- jolted by every pebble in the road." -- Henry Ward Beecher

"Humor is the great thing, the saving thing, after all. The minute it crops up, all our hardnesses yield, all our irritations and resentments slip away, and a sunny spirit takes their place." -- Mark Twain

The Tao of Pooh, by Benjamin Hoff.......

"When you discard arrogance, complexity and a few other things that get in the way, sooner or later you will discover that simple, childlike and mysterious secret...Life is Fun."

Quick, did anybody notice that gaff?

In the area of 'things that would never happen to me' ....

Imagine: mother-in-law comes to dinner Monday night and brightly inquires as to what romantic things we did to celebrate our eleventh wedding anniversary the past Saturday.

Not only did we fail to have some neat answers ready...we had BOTH totally blipped the date!

I think I remember bringing up the subject several weeks before, when hubby was armpit deep in exams, term papers and project at work. He asked me to remind him in a couple days, when he was less distracted. Whole thing went completely out of my head!

It is VERY fortunate that both of us dropped this ball, of course, or it could have caused serious sitcom repercussions. To be honest, HE had a really good excuse, what with working full time and going to school to finish his Masters in public health...not to mention being daddy and husband and good neighbor, etc., etc.

I, on the other hand, have long shouldered the names & dates details in this partnership (he has to do the hard stuff, like go to work for somebody else every day) -- plus I naturally pay attention to stuff like that, and I'm good at it.

Or so I have always flattered myself. My how the mighty have fallen!

We were both properly shocked about having missed such an opportunity to celebrate our marriage, so we set out a plan for the next weekend. This originally included Detroit Zoo, picnic, romantic getaway bed and breakfast, dinner and choir performance....

Not all of that happened, but we had a perfectly lovely time by ourselves, chatting, taking pictures, eating and napping. (Well, consider: us oldies doing 4+ miles of walking around a zoo! What would you expect?)

The chance to just enjoy each other's company, uninterrupted and guilt free, was wonderful! I just love it when I can have his attention focused on me.

And now we are all energized for the next time, because forgetting an anniversary was a real wake-up call that we hadn't been paying the needed attention to our marriage.

It is so easy to get busy and just take stuff for granted -- like each other, like the marriage relationship, like making specific times just for us to be a couple.

We can forget how much we like each other, how much fun it is to spend time together on something other than chores! And how very interesting a conversation can be when it doesn't have to be sandwiched between shower and commute, or consist entirely of responsiblities.

I mean, what's the point of being married, if all you ever do together is chores, and the only conversation is administrative (or annoyed)? Isn't that what happens when we over book everything except the most important parts of life?

One thing I have been forced to learn in the past year and a half of having to cut back just about everything I've always been busy doing: what counts is mostly spiritual, intangible and is often about communication. With each other. With our inner selves. With God.

What you say to each other first thing in the morning and last thing at night is way more important than checking off all the items on today's to do list. Especially if that's about the only time you see each other!

And given the unpredictable nature of menopausal emotions, (I just hate this never knowing what will bring on crabbiness or tears!) what I have found critical to how the rest of my day will go is this: 15-30 minutes of prayer, reading and meditation before I get out of bed in the morning.

At night, before bed, I spend some time going over how the day went, and reminding myself of both where I succeeded and where I didn't quite make it, with the resolve to make better efforts tomorrow. Some days do go better than others.......

I need this attitude adjustment in order to keep things in perspective. Maybe I always needed it, but never knew until the hormones started fluctuating wildly. Maybe it isn't such news to everyone else when I am out to lunch. (!!)

Or, maybe I really was much more perfect before the hair color went.

Whatever, I have certainly finally learned that orienting spiritually at the beginning and end of the day makes me a much happier person.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Garden Critters

Sometimes, I think gardening is basically a masochistic pursuit. This frame of mind typically occurs while dealing with the latest assault from Nature's battalions intent upon sharing the rewards of my labors.

I mean, some days I truly wonder what these animals did for a living before people came along and provided attics for starlings, bats and racoons. Or telephone poles for hawks to check out the roadside grasses for mice; or garbage dumpsters for just about everything! Not to mention nice neat rows of edibles -- flowers, fruits and veggies all in one convenient place...

Being from the West Coast, for instance, I had never seen a Japanese beetle except in pictures. So I was totally unprepared for the orgy of these creatures' lives.

Hibiscus flowered mallow before beetles

Same two days after beetles arrive, en masse

Thousands of beetles, crushed together like kids in a mosh pit, or puppies in a basket, were so heavy that the four and five foot stalks were bent double under the weight.

I looked closely, being over 21 and formerly a biologist, and let me tell you: it was just shocking! Shocking! For a total of 5 days, Ann Arbor was sin city for these creatures. It was eat, sleep and have sex. And maybe not much of the sleeping part.

Good news is: the carnage was short-lived and only certain kinds of flowers got eaten. Turns out Japanese beetles are picky eaters, not the insatiable monsters I had been lead to believe. They liked roses and mallows best, and a few dahlias, but not any of the native plants like foxglove, morning glory, Joe Pye weed, brown-eyed susans, echinacia, golden rod, ironweed, asters or sunflowers.

Now that the sedums have begun to bloom, we are seeing just swarms of honey bees, five or six kinds of bumble bees (well, the giant ones are carpenter bees, really) and untold numbers of bee flies. Watching them is just fascinating. They ignore me, but never bump into me, even when I'm crouched right over them trying to get a picture.

And then there are these guys:
I don't know what they were doing camped here on these milkweed pods. They weren't eating the plant that I could see, just hanging out.

Since the weather has cooled off (even without frost) all the biting bugs have disappeared early this year. Whee! Taking a walk at sunset is just lovely now that I don't have to give blood.

Here's one last critter observed on my walks:

My garden...

Okay, let's be honest, here: my garden consists of four self-watering planter boxes and assorted pots of house plants that are allowed out for the summer.

[Note: self-watering means that they flood the plants after a rain hereablouts, because rains are short but intense. Probably a better idea out there in semi-desert California.]

The houseplants LOVE being outside on my northfacing deck, three stories up. So much so, that they really seem to dislike having to come back indoors to fight for space in the northfacing window, or my west facing bedroom window that is blocked by the neighboring building. Just not enough light for the size those plants have attained living happily all summer outside.

For a few days right after I bring them in, I'll wake up each morning to one or more pots on the floor, obviously elbowed off the shelf by stronger ones...

Last year I discovered another spot that some of them really like: the top of the fire stairs on the south side of the building. Nobody much uses these stairs, which are fronted with a glass wall that looks out over the courtyard, because the north side stairs and doors face the parking lot. They get some light all day long because the stairwell lights come on at night, and the stairs have some heat to prevent freezing, and there are no bugs or critters. Houseplant heaven.

The fire marshall didn't like it, however, nor the chairs we put on the landings so that some of us old folks (not mentioning any names, but when we moved in here, we were the youngest people by 30 years) would have a rest stop when needed.

I don't know if I will be allowed to put plants there this winter, but I'm gonna go with the adage that it's easier to appologize if needed, than to risk an automatic "NO" that might not be necessary.

One thing I have learned is that there is just not enough to do in tending a garden this small. By that I mean: if one uses gardening to work off steam (and thus prevent even well-deserved homocide) one needs more than a total of 15 minutes of weed pulling or bug stomping. At least, I do, LOL.

But I'm not sure I could keep up with a whole yard right now, anyway, so I'm happy with my space. Being up three floors does cut down on the varmints...except for the occasional tree squirrel (but I trimmed the magnolia to make things more difficult for him).

The real annoyance is the chipmonk, who is very cute, but really a pain because he keeps trying to dig tunnels in the pots. This exposes the roots and spills potting soil. Even that would be tolerable, since it isn't every day. But the last straw was stealing my cherry tomatoes, just as they were ripening...and I had been waiting so eagerly for so long, too!

To add salt to my wounds, he often gets interrupted and leaves half eaten ones lying around, wasted. Plus, he PEELS them first, and leaves the skins!

One year I did try that snazzy sounding upside-down hanging basket, which did keep the varmints at bay. Alas, the tomatoes weren't all that happy about it either.

Really, it can be unwise to peruse garden catalogues in March... This year I ordered the varmint deterent sprays and bird mesh. I sprayed the tomato vines and the edges of the deck and the soil around my bulbs. The mesh went around the railing.

Right. They were just about as successful as the upside down tomato planter.

I have some hanging baskets each year, too. Begonias and some other flowering annuals, and the small vining petunias. Very pretty, once I get used to the idea that one buys in Spring and throws away in Fall.

You'd think such a basket would be entirely free of Nature's invaders (because I don't mind sharing with humming birds) but, no. House finches (what we called linnets in California) prize hanging baskets to build nests in, out of the rain and away from hawks and squirrels. Nothing deters crows or starlings, but that's another issue.

Want a heart stopping experience? Look up from the computer just as a huge black bird flaps onto the porch looking for eggs to steal. Crows up close are BIG!

Birdie heart attacks occur when a hawk hits the sliding glass door by accident when dive bombing one of the dove fledgelings... (My parakeets have their cage up against the glass doors to the deck, so they have a view. We're not spoiled, nosiree!)

The problem with choosing a nesting spot in a hanging basket is that the finches really don't like getting wet, and I won't let the plants die. They usually leave before any eggs get laid.

Not so the mourning doves. They didn't believe me when I told them there just wasn't enough space for two doves in the same pot with vigorous begonias. They kept coming back and breaking the plants.

So I went to the craft store and bought them a basket and decorated it with fake plants.

This basket is plenty big, and I even put in some shredded paper. They moved right in and raised two nests of babies this summer!

Although, going back over the cost, it probably would have been cheaper just to keep replacing the pots of begonias...

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Neat Stuff I Found on the Web Today

You know how long it used to take when using the dictionary, because you could get caught up in just perusing a bunch of other interesting words besides the one you started with?

Well, so can the Internet use up a LOT of my time in the same way!

Today I discovered a blog called Neatorama, kept by someone who wastes even more time than I surfing about for interesting things, and then helpfully posts them all in one place so the rest of us can save time by just spending an hour looking at these recommendations...

For instance: Chris Natrop, a cut paper artist who does WAY more than just make lace doilies...

Or how about Adam Stennett, who makes paintings so detailed that they look like photographs?

If you have ANY time left for chores after visiting these sites, then you are a much more disciplined person than I!

Sunday, September 03, 2006

How come there's never a hot flash around when you need one?

No, really.

The weather has abruptly cooled from our long hot summer...

Well, to be honest, it wasn't hot by Arizona standards, nor humid compared to Missouri. But it was much hotter for Ann Arbor than any summer since I've been here. We had a half dozen days over 90 degrees F, and several days when the humidity was also 90, but fortunately not at the same time!

70 degrees F and 93% humidity is a very strange state of affairs. Feels like it ought to be a hundred, for all the sweat it produces!

And this past year I have been enjoying the new experience (yeah, right) of breaking a sweat several times an hour, despite what the thermometer might read, courtesy of menopause. Or so my (young, male) physician tells me.

So, why don't I have a few today, when it's almost too cool to be out in shorts? I was actually looking forward to keeping my summer wardrobe a bit longer, even maybe saving on heating bills by leaving the furnace off for another month or two...

What kind of design is this, anyway?!

God and I are gonna have a talk...I gotta list!

Gasp!! Fall is coming....

I'm not ready.

I'm never ready to give up summer's lushness.

So sad, because things don't get good and green until mid-June.

But then, I'm new to this whole seasons thing, being from southern California.

Not that you should think the Golden State has no seasons. According to Phyllis Diller, I think, there are indeed four seasons there: fire, flood, earthquake, and drought!

Having a Fall season is pretty spectacular, if there is a long Indian Summer so all the leaves have time to change. Starts with yellow of aspens, cottenwoods and locusts; then reds of sumac, Virginia creeper and burning bush; the brilliant scarlet of maples (who are worse than Democrats when it comes to agreeing on when to turn); and last but not leat, the russets and deep, deep browns of the oaks.

Did you know that oak trees tend to panic if rushed into winter? Well, who doesn't? But it surely looks like that happens some years when the snow comes early. It's like they got caught by surprise before they had time to change color or drop leaves, and then they just freeze up and stay that way all winter long, all shaggy with pale brown dead leaves.

But all that comes later. Right now it is just gorgeous late summer weather, sunny and cooler, but still shorts and t-shirt fair. Lots of flowers, bees and busy squirrels. Birds are finishing up the last nest of fledgelings, molting to winter colors, and considering flying south.

Here's a nice Fall picture from a neighbor's garden...

There were several ragged looking goldfinches eating the sunflower seeds, but they didn't hang around long enough to be in the picture. I wouldn't want my picture taken, either, if I were half finished molting out of my bright summer yellow and looked all moth-eaten!