A place for family and friends to see what I'm up to. Visitors welcome here.

Hail Guest, we ask not what thou art.
If Friend, we greet thee, hand and heart.
If Stranger, such no longer be.
If Foe, our love will conquer thee.
-Old Welsh Door Verse

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Summer Break Magic

I seem to have more and more of these special days.
I'm not complaining.  Am grateful, in fact.

Before I share about today, though, let me get caught up.

I finished teaching a Creative Writing Class for our school district summer creative arts academy.  25 kids entering fourth through eighth grade.  It was one of the best teaching experiences of my career, and I'm very grateful to have had the opportunity.  I  tried to teach a class Julia Cameron or Jack Grapes would be proud of.  No criticism, just time, ideas if they needed them (or write whatever you want) and for the one publication piece just focus on the ART (what came out of your heart) and a passing consideration of the CRAFT (yeah, some mis-spelled words but here's how to fix them, no big deal and so on).  Published a little book with a nice piece from each student.  Some were brilliant but nothing embarassing.  I was proud of them and I hope they were proud of themselves.

Some days after work I stopped on my way home at the nearest thing to a luxury resort I can afford: the public library.  Am currently finishing The Field by Lynne McTaggart.  I'm hopeful of spending an hour or so a few days each week for the remainder of the summer.  It's calm, clean and nontoxic.  Very restorative.

Also on my summer booklist:  The Bond, also by Lynne McTaggart; Life's Operating Manual by Tom Shadyac (which I should get at the coffee on Sunday); Outliers and Blink by Malcolm Gladwell; The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver (which I've had for a while; my SIL bought it today so I'm hoping to be able to read and discuss it with her at some point.)

Since finishing my class I've been focused on what I call the Chaos to Order Project.  So far I've partially cleaned out my crafts closet, purged some boxes in the garage in preparation for purging more of the boxes I brought home from a storage unit and that have been maturing in my family room.  I need to purge my quilt fabric collection, then dig into the boxes.  So far I have four flip-top plastic boxes full of stuff for a garage sale, including one with half my collection of Disney stuff.  Much more to go through, but I'm confident I will have order restored to that room by the time school starts.  My son and his GF want a real, big, traditional Christmas tree this year (we haven't had one for three years) and I admit to missing it, too.  Since everything is stored in the traditional Christmas tree spot, it has to be cleared.

I had completely forgotten this darling.  I think she needs to be finished. Another UFO onto the summer pile.
My higher priority this week, though, has been the garden.  This had brought me so much joy, so much SANITY this year.  It's moving into its summer doldrums, but is still stunning.

Passion Vine still growing a couple of feet a day.

I had to cut this Hardenbergia way back.  All I could see was a wad of sticks, and what vines were still growing were headed into the shingles.  It's always a joy - a message of hope - to see new growth after such a radical pruning.
Yesterday's project was to finish weeding the Fairy Garden all the way to the end.  It's at its best, now, and really lovely.  Toward the front yard, just outside the gate, is an area that has been a bit of an eyesore for years.  My son and I have agreed that it will be where we store the Ugly Garden Stuff like bags of compost and waiting pots and yard waste cans.  But first, it needs to be cleaned out.  I started Sunday and weeded under a huge yellow hibiscus and miniature yellow rose.  My plan for that space, which is visible from the courtyard, is to fill the planter under those two plants with Disneyland style pansies - a riot of velvet colors.  The plants will have to wait until the weather cools (which is when the nursery stock comes in) but now it looks SO much better with five years of grass and gunk cleared out.  Yesterday I cleaned out a stock tank (yes, a real stock watering tank) that I bought when our Akita - who has been gone six years, now - suffered a flea infestation and the stock tank was the only vessel big enough to dip a 110 pound dog).  It had old, useless compost in the bottom covered with a couple years worth of potting soil bags and a once-handsome but never planted grass plant (almost gave myself a hernia hauling that into the yard waste barrel).  Once I got the tank cleaned out I dragged it around to the back yard where it is now stored in the abandoned dog run.  Then I ran a sprinkler on that space for a couple of hours so that it will be good and wet for pulling some major grass and other weeds tomorrow.

Which brings me to today.

A perfect reward day for all that hard work.

My SIL arrived about 8:00 AM for one of our favorite activities - a day of nurseries and bookstores and a fabulous lunch.  We had a blast.

First up the 101 to Carpenteria to an incredible nursery called the Seaside Gardens.  It was about a   45-minute drive and we jabbered the whole way.  She had been to this nursery before, but I had not and was giddy when I realized what I was about to explore.

The highest quality retail plants.  Friendly, knowledgeable and happily helpful staff.  And - the ultimate treasure - not one, but several demonstration gardens showing what those plants in the retail section would look like when fully grown.  I can't number the plants I've had to dig out and dispose of because I bought something too big for the space I had.

I've always wanted one of these.  The leaves are over two feet across.  Sadly, I have no space for one, but it's nice to know there is a place where I can go visit one when I want to.
Lovely designs.
The Cottage Garden.
It's just great when a nursery will label their displays.

But the highlight of the visit came when we turned the corner and met this...


Neither of us had seen one of these in person.  We'd only seen pictures and had in mind that they were maybe a little bigger than a water lily.

What a shock!

The flowers on this beauty are the size of soccer balls.  The leaves are over a foot across, and they stood 3-4 feet above the water's surface.  Simply breathtaking.

Of course, I had to ask.

This particular plant is scheduled for its first divisions in about two years.  Yes, they had other lotus.  Yes, the ones they had were comparable to this one, only more dwarf.  Obviously, they grow OK in Carpenteria, but actually like it hotter than this nursery gets along the coast.

I can do this.  With my SIL doing her cheerleader act behind me (yes, I will blame her for my weakness) I made arrangements to bring one to a new home in my somewhat little pond.  I'll see how it does.  Fortunately, they weren't hideously expensive.

SIL and I were ready to grab some sleeping bags and camp out to watch these buds open.

When we couldn't make any excuse to linger longer we settled up and headed back down the coast.  When we had driven up, it had been cloudy.  By the time we headed south, the sun was out and the sea was brilliantly clear, so clear that we could see the Channel Islands as we had never been able to see them before.  We detoured off the freeway and onto the coast road to try to get some pictures.  Pretty, but it's hard for me to see what I'm getting when I'm photographing the Islands.

Yeah, you can sorta see the islands out there.
We could have stayed there all day, smelling the sea and listening to its music.

If we hadn't been in a "No Parking Any Time" area.

Once back in Ventura we headed to my favorite restaurant - Cafe Nouveau - for lunch.  Sad to say, they still have not recovered from a kitchen fire in February.  I've had a mighty craving for their pecan pancakes with vanilla caramel syrup (which my family calls the Disneyland syrup because something that good could only have been made by faeries.)

Disappointed, we consoled ourselves with a trip to Green Thumb in Ventura.  I got some compost (I have the sandiest, most nutrient-deficient soil...) and a 6-pack of prairie flowers, which I've not yet been successful at growing but I am hopeful of a better outcome this time.

From there we came back to Camarillo to have lunch at Lure.  Lobster Spinach dip and Linguine with Clam Sauce.  Sigh. 

Coming into Lure was good for my ego.  The young woman who held the door and welcomed us recognized me as her 8th grade history teacher (she is now a junior in college) and we had a happy reunion.  Then as my SIL and I sat in the lobby and waited for our table, a young man came to the hostess station who had also been my student and we had a nice visit.  My SIL was impressed (so was I) and asked if that happened often.  I boasted, "This is MY town," and then laughed.  I do run into  ex-students from time to time, but this restaurant seems to be a magnet ("lure?" yuk yuk) for former students and I run into them working there more often than anywhere else in town.

After our delicious lunch I took my SIL to our local bookstore.  There are so few indie bookstores left, and we are very lucky to have this one special one to claim as "ours."  Mrs. Figs' Bookworm is a magical place thanks to its delightful owner, Connie.  Another nice visit (and books purchased - it's a given) and then we headed back to my house. 

As if that all wasn't wonderful enough, when I got home I discovered that it's Monarch season!  Yesterday I found a tiny hatchling on the ground where I had been weeding.  I brought it in and put it in a cup with a branch of aesclepias (milkweed, the host plant of the Monarch butterfly).  Tonight I realized that the milkweed had dried out and the little caterpillar was clinging to the side of the cup.  So I prepared my large glass bowl for the baby by filling a plastic cup with oasis, wetting it and then heading out to collect a full branch for the baby.  As I started to cut the first branch I noticed an inch-long cat chomping away.  Then another on a second plant, and a third on another.

I hope they don't mind sharing with a little cousin.
A perfectly perfect day, delightful in every way.

I am well cared for.

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