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

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Thanks for coming by.

Last Days of Summer.

Yep, I'm keeping busy.  THIS CLOSE to having my physical environment under control for the first time in forever, and I want to keep on top of it.  It's a great feeling.

Just a quick update so you know I am taking time to find things to be grateful for every day.

I did a lot of reading - and growing - this summer.  One of my favorites was Tom Shadyac's new book, Life's Operating Manual.  Although Shadyac is most well known for producing or directing hit comedies like Ace Ventura and Bruce Almighty (or for my personal favorite of his films, Patch Adams), I believe that his ultimate contribution to our culture (to our humanity) will be through his documentary, I AM, and this book.  I've attended Sunday Mornings Coffee Talks and Conversation gatherings each month since they started.  Organized by Nicolle Pritchett (one of the I AM producers), they've been thought-provoking insights into how we, as part of the earthly community, can uphold our responsiblity to each other in personally meaningful ways.  This book is helping me get my teaching on a new, positive path into the future. Not sure if it's out, yet, but I can't recommend it highly enough when it does come out.

I was able to get a lot of long-neglected chores done in my gardening and, in the process, re-confirmed that I am happiest when I am with the flowers.  There is something about sinking my hands into a tub of potting soil that is like nothing else for raising my spirits.  Some of the best accomplishments of the summer:

The hardenbergia that I hacked back to bare vines is coming back and will be a much healthier (and certainly more attractive) plant this season.

 Just a couple of weeks ago this brugmansia, "Creamsicle" was covered with blooms.  In the twilight, as I walked in this small garden, the "Arabian Nights" theme from the Disney movie "Aladdin" would go through my mind.  The aroma from the brugs filled this space and brought visions of the Taj Majal.  Of course, I've never been to the Taj Majal, and I don't imagine Arab countries actually smell like this plant's flowers, but the fragrance is exotic.

Speaking of brugs, every one of the cuttings I potted from the one brug that I have growing in the ground (the rest are in pots)  has taken root.  This week I plan to pot up another couple of dozen as I cut back the branches that are blocking the path in the Fairy Garden.  For such an elegant and fragile looking plant, brugs are remarkably cooperative when it comes to propagation.

This is one of the brugs from inside my room.  Two of the three potted plants have grown outward, but this one, "Equador Pink," is growing up.  I want her to teach the others to do that.  She's making such a nice frame for my window.

I don't know how long it's been - certainly over a year - since my front yard has been groomed and weed-free, at least for a few moments.  I can already see the seedlings coming up in the front planter, which is always a challenging area, but I'm confident that with a few minutes a day in the rest of this part of the property I'll be able to keep it looking nice.  My son and I are already planning the gradual elimination of the lawn.  My first step will be to carve a place for a new Cara-Cara orange tree somewhere out there.  Grass is pretty much an environmental waste of resources here.

To the top left of the photo above is a fence that forms a courtyard entry in the front yard.  I did a lot of work in the courtyard this summer, and it's just a pleasure to walk into.   It's going to be a nice way to come home after a day of teaching.  Some of the highlights now include the milkweed (aesclepias tuberosa) that has germinated everywhere.  I'm still picking Monarch butterfly caterpillars off them - two today.  I bring them in to pupate in the house, then release the butterflies to the outdoors.  I ordered a half-dozen packets of California native varieties (tuberosa is a Mexican variety) and look forward to their cultivation.  (Especially since most of them have pink flowers which will go well in the Fairy Garden.)

This whole bed was filled with spring grass when I started clearing it out.  I had planted this dahlia a couple of years ago and thought it had died, choked out by the grass.  But as I pulled the grass I found a two-inch sprig of maroon leaves struggling for space among the grass.  Here it is, just a few weeks later.  It's been blooming like this all summer.
You can kind of see the courtyard to the right of this picture.  The fence (which isn't really leaning over, just my weird camera angle) forms this space between the courtyard and the property line.  When I started this project, this space was pretty much filled with all kinds of grasses, including some ornamentals that required a significant effort and some real digging to get out.  Now it has become the Ugly Stuff storage space.  Potting soil, empty pots, garden tools.  All the stuff that is necessary for maintaining the gardens but looks like 'ick' sitting around it all stashed here, now.  Very convenient and you can't see it, even from the courtyard until you turn the corner. 

This is at the end of that Ugly Stuff space and is the only part of it that is visible from the courtyard.  I think this may be my favorite accomplishment of the summer.  When I started it was filled with weeds and grass and empty pots and used bricks and old tools.  Really ugly.  Now when you see it from the courtyard (which I go through every time I come into the house) it beckons into the garden and leads the eye away from the Ugly Stuff space and into the Fairy Garden.  Once the pansies come into the nurseries I'm going to fill this space - Disneyland style - with traditional velvet pansies.
In the backyard my new lotus, Mrs. Percy Slocum, seems to be doing nicely.  She has LOVED the hot, humid weather of the last couple of weeks and now has three of these upright, out-of-the-water leaves.  I expect her go go dormant over the winter, but I'm hopeful that she'll come back, and maybe even bloom, next year.
My mom was asking me this week how I manage to stay to positive all the time.  Things can get really scary, that's for sure, especially with our governor threatening to cut yet another two weeks off my work year if his latest tax increase doesn't pass.  But I've lived in fear and anxiety and it doesn't help.  So, yeah, I choose to find things to smile over whenever possible.
The sky is always good.
I'm developing an obsession with clouds.  I've got mountains on two sides of me, and the other two sides lead to the sea, so I get a whole range of spectacular sky vistas through the course of the year.  Sunrises and sunsets are often stunning.
This made me smile one morning.  It's a tiny lavendar flower hanging from a tiny spider's web, but it looks like it's just hanging in mid-air.  Magical. 
A surprise clematis bloom.  It doesn't usually bloom this late in the summer.  I thought this variety was called Belle d'Lyon, but I looked for it online and there is no such plant so now I think it must be Ville De Lyon.  Which is making me feel rather like I'm torturing the poor thing because the images of this plant online show much more vigorous growth and many more flowers than I ever get.  I think next year she's going to get a a repotting and some serious feeding.  And maybe a buddy or two, as I love these plants.
 As the summer comes to a close, I look forward to meeting my 170 new best friends.  Our school is teaming this year, which will ensure that my students will all have the same English, Language Arts and Science teachers.  We will be able to collaborate and coordinate activities and lessons.  I'm hoping to encourage a group to walk the annual 5K that our district sponsors.  I'm also hoping to teach an afterschool enrichment class on popular dances through history (everything from the Virginia Reel through the Shim Sham Shimmy to the Fake ID country line dance).
I am especially excited to teach history by using Stanford's "Reading Like a Historian" program.  I learned about it last week.  Imagine!  Students start by analyzing their sources for prejudice and bias, then make their own conclusions about historical events based on evidence presented in primary documents.  No more academic bulimia where trivial information is binged and then regurgitated onto a test, providing absolutely no academic nutrients for future citizenship.  WOOHOO!
This is gonna be good.


Tuesday, August 21, 2012



How did I miss these "kids"?

Love the percussion, but mostly love the GMCLA backup.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Farewell Summer

It's been great knowing you.

I learned a long time ago that the true measure of a fantastic break for me is whether or not it seemed to race by, or flow on forever.  A break that raced by was usually one filled with wasted time and future regrets. 

But some, like this one, just seem to flow on endlessly and are filled with memory-building experiences and satisfying projects that create hope for the future.  This one measures up there as one of the best.

School starts in sixteen days, so I have about two weeks to squeeze in a few things I didn't quite get to  (like beach time).  But for now I'll reflect back before taking that deep breath and those first steps back into the new school year.

For now, I'll say...

So long for the summer, Disneyland.

Farewell, Wendell.  We will miss your slobbery Country Bear kisses at the Jamboree.  What a great venue that has been on our summer visits.

Farewell, Jamboree Donald.  We so rarely see you at the park at all, and to be able to spend such relaxed mornings with you ...

and the coloring chipmunks, Chip and Dale...

and BOTH Mickey and Minnie...

has been a YEEHAW treat.

We have loved the great sound of Billy Hill and the Hillbillies.

And wasn't it a blast to SCREAM at the train as it went by!?!  Great idea, Kirk!

This summer was Mom's first visit to the Golden Horseshoe to see the hilarious Laughing Stock.  We both really enjoyed the shows.  (BTW, I learned this year that the plans for this theater were the same ones - by the same designer - as the saloon in one of my favorite movies, Calamity Jane with Doris Day and -sigh- Howard Keel.  It's always a little special delight to recognize it on each visit now.)

Farewell, summer Chimney Sweeps.  I have loved your energy and sense of humor this season.  I hope to see you again before the holiday parade moves in, but if not, thanks for a great summer.

A sad but grateful farewell to the 2012 All American College Band, the best I've seen in the 5+ years that I've been following you.  You have been so awesome!  Thanks for all your hard work and fun and energy.

Keep on movin'

Keep on groovin'

Keep on lovin'
Farewell, Robby.  You're amazing.  I predict, though, that I will see you again next year.

And wasn't it a treat to end the summer season with our own limotram ride.  A rare but delightful experience.  Happened twice when I was with my Dad, then again on Thursday with my Mom.  Yep, we had the whole tram to ourselves.  Definitely feels special.
Farewell, summer reading.  I still have a few more pages to finish some of you, but you have all enriched my life and helped me be even more optimistic about the future.

Farewell, summer garden.  Wow, we had a great time, didn't we?

The hardenbergia that I pruned back to the bare vine is coming back with enthusiasm.  (Did I mention how it freaked me out that this plant has RED sap.

The Stephanotis is loving its new pot and the begonias are in their usual August show-off mode.

New and old begonia friends.  'Eunice Gray' with the white flowers is older than my kids.

Farewell, former blue hydrangea.  My, you were a glorious thing this year!  Time to deadhead you and prune you back a little.  Looking forward to seeing you in your finery again next summer.

Happy to see the gardenia 'First Love' recovered from her near-death experience.  Nothing like a repotting and some plant food (the gardenia's version of Godiva chocolates) to give a flower girl a new perspective on life.

Front flower bed is filling in nicely.  The new lisianthus along the fence are starting to bloom.  I'm hopeful that they will survive and - with decent watering and feeding next spring - thrive and bloom next summer.

Farewell, garden projects.  This space was filled with grass and weeds taller than I am.  Now it's a hidden, function garden central for front yard projects.  All the ugly stuff of gardening is hidden here and out of the fairy garden, which means space for MORE HYDRANGEAS AND BRUGMANSIAS!

Speaking of brugs, a grateful farewell to the brugmansia forest and your delectable
night fragrance.  I've never been to the Middle East, but at night when I move through that aroma, the song "Arabian Nights" from Aladdin also wafts through my senses.

In a few weeks I'll have to start the pruning and clean-up for the winter season.  I'm betting on getting at least two dozen brugs started from cuttings. 

The hydrangea wall is still lovely, at least to those of us who like the old Victorian feel that comes with these older blooms.

'Creamsicle' is a mass of blooms right now (I stopped counting at twenty).  Mom and I noticed the peach-colored one at Disneyland (at the entrance to Adventureland, across from the Jolly Holiday bakery).  It must have HUNDREDS, if not into the thousands of blooms.  It is, I believe, in the ground, though, while my babies are in pots, so I"m very satisfied with what I have.  Feed them today, which should get them through the fall just fine.

The nursery is filling up.  Mostly begonias and peach-colored  brugs now.

A clean slate.  DS2 asked to plant some banana trees here, but I said no.  I'd prefer rotating vegetables and butterfly nectar plants through here.  The currant is looking fried, but this is what happens to my hydrangeas, and they usually come back with leaves more appropriate to their new home.  The currant does have new, smaller, tougher leaves so I'm not going to panic just yet.  (But I am going to follow Plan A with the second currant plant and put it in a large pot at the end of the Fairy Garden where it won't get quite this much sun.

'Mrs. Percy Slocum' ("changeable" lotus) is settling in quite nicely.  TWELVE new leaves since I put her in here less than a month ago.

Native hummingbird sage.  Did NOT like the hot sun.  I brought her back and she really seems to like this part of the garden, so I decided she will live in a large pot right here.

My first crop of cultured milkweed seedlings.  DS2 and I are going to try to grow enough milkweed to have one morning at the farmer's market next summer.  This is the first batch of Aesclepias tuberosa.  I have five more packets of milkweed seed (different - mostly native - varieties).  Will also order some  nectar seeds from some of the heirloom seed companies to see if I can get them going, at least for our yard, if not for the market.

Farewell, summer craft projects.  I didn't get as many done as I'd hoped, but it is difficult here between the lack of space and the crazy dog.  Am happy, though, with my Christmas jacket, especially with this new addition.

ALWAYS LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER!  I told my mom that my jacket needed a little bling and that I was going to look for a zipper pull.  She said, "We should get something at Disneyland." I immediately flashed on the wonderfully gaudy ones I have with my pin non-collection and said, "Ummm... nnooo... I don't think so."  When we got there Thursday, she said, "Don't forget the zipper pull for your jacket!" So, to humor her, I went over to the zipper pull wall and - as I expected - there was nothing appropriate.  I returned to her and said, "No, nothing, but we'll go check out the jewelry store to put your mind at ease before we give up."

And found the perfect zipper pull.  Christmas red, hearts for love, hidden Mickeys - couldn't have been more perfect.  Thanks, Mom!

Sixteen days.  Still stuff to do.  Dentist on Wednesday.  Education training Thursday morning.  Still have to finish the massive organization project (hard stuff is done) in the family room.  Want to finish three of the books I started to read before getting distracted by another.  Next weekend will be a final three-day with my Mom:  Dinner at Red's, Saturday with her and Sis, then Sunday Sis and I will go to see Nic Vujicic (Life Without Limits).  The next week will include that trip to the beach but will mostly be moving into my classroom, writing lesson plans, and getting caught up on everyone's summer adventures.

I'm so lucky to teach with people I actually look forward to seeing every day.

A couple of years ago I was lucky enough to cross paths with someone who set me on a path of personal growth that blossomed - much like my garden - into physical and spiritual growth as well.  At one point he teased me about how much time I spent on facebook, and commented that he knew how powerful a program it was, but that he hadn't explored it.  I remarked back, "You have a great big life," and he responded, "Do you imagine that you don't?"

That questioned proved to be a life-changer.  If I did, whose fault was it? 

I was reminded then of a dream I'd had twenty years earlier.  I was in my eighties, in bed, not quite ready to fall asleep but was comfortable, relaxed.  Somehow the dream me knew that I would not awaken the next morning, and I smiled and settled in peacefully to look back over my life.  At that point I woke up in my real time, but the dream made me think.  When my time on Earth is over and I look back, don't I want to look back with joy and satisfaction?  Don't I want to look back at a great big life?

Absolutely!  And happily, this summer - with its trips with Mom to Disneyland, garden and household projects, the great summer session teaching creative writing, the stitchery and quilted jacket projects, the trips to the I AM Sunday Mornings Coffee Talks and Connections meetings with Tom Shadyac and Nicolle Pritchett (and David DeRothschild and IN-Q and Roko Belic and Seane Corn), the summer writing and reading - all adds up to a GREAT BIG LIFE kind of summer.

Definitely worth repeating.  In fact, worth maintaining.  Toward that end, I've got a date in about an hour with DS2 for a nursery run so I'd better get moving.

Enjoy your great big life.  Be back soon.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Happy Dance!

Long time coming.

Front. Pattern shown with collar up.

I love the lining.

Had to create the quilt on the back.  The designs that came with the pattern were too abstract for me.

And the back showing off sleeves.
My Christmas jacket is finally finished.

The pattern is The Oregon Trail.  I bought it - and most of the fabrics - about 25 years ago.  The sizes on the pattern only went up to extra-large but I went up considerably past that, so I put the stuff in storage.  Last summer it dawned on me that I was probably down far enough to finally wear this, so I worked on it through the summer when I could.  Got all the patchwork and the outer shell done.  Something came up at the end of the summer and I decided to shelve it again until this summer.

And - voila - I put the last hand stitches in today.

I made it slightly small.  I still have a about 35 pounds to lose to reach goal, and so I made this to fit a little big when I get there.

Gives me incentive to gut out these last 35 pounds.  I should be able to shed enough of them to wear the jacket this year, although it may not be as blousy as I want it.

Yes.  I'm pleased.  It was an odd construction and I can't really claim it was fun to make, but I sure am happy with how it turned out.

Now I need to find a way cool zipper pull with some bling.