Thursday, December 30, 2021

The End of Pandemic Year 2

Nearly two years in, and we find ourselves in the worst of the pandemic. No one is unaware of this news, so I will just move on to my obligatory reflective last post of the year. It's a blogger tradition!

This picture was taken before the plague struck the house. Oh no, not Covid, something better: Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease. Covid was out there taking up the spotlight, but old HFMD was like, "Hey guys, guess what? I'm still around too! Don't forget about meeeeeeee!" Everyone is now better, but not without fever and throwing up all over everything. Happy holidays!

Meanwhile, "The Crows Have Eyes III: The Crowening"

The girls and I made cookies which were... maximalist. Besides cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning, this was the only holiday baking I did. Usually I can pawn this stuff off on my coworkers, but for the second year in a row we haven't had our cookie exchange. 

I finally got plastic down to kill the grass where the new garden will go - this is a continued expansion in preparation of opening the flower farm in just a few months! It looks foreshortened in the picture, but the area is 18' by 25' and should give me at least 75 linear feet of growing space.

Another great winter sunset

Mary and Jason went to the Natural History Museum and saw the dinosaur bones.

The last two photos are from my parents' neighborhood in Williamsburg, Virginia. Again the weather continues to be oddly warm, and it hit 70 degrees several days. The camellias in the south are always beautiful; I haven't been able to keep one alive here in our colder microclimate. 

At the beginning of the year I wrote out "Things I Started in 2020 That I Want To Continue." Here's the update:

  1. Walking: My walking time was drastically lowered once I started taking Cora to daycare in the mornings starting in April. I did spend a lot of time on trails this summer, however, training for the half marathon I ran in September. 
  2. Audiobooks: I listened to 26 audiobooks this year, which contributed to my highest reading total ever. I'll have a reading post coming up soon.
  3. Minimizing ongoing projects: Does starting a flower farm count as minimizing projects? Even so, I consider this goal a success. I didn't start any large crafting projects, and refrained from buying patterns, yarn, or craft supplies for projects I wasn't ready to start and finish right away. 
  4. Separation between work and home chores: I mostly kept to this. I still do laundry mostly on the weekend, and kept cleaning the kitchen to the morning and after work. I do mostly vacuum during the work day though, since my kids overdramatically freak out if I vacuum with them in the house. 
  5. Reduce/eliminate social media scrolling and choose inputs intentionally: While I still have a way to go with this, I am getting better. I deleted my art Instagram account, leaving just my personal account where I only follow people I know in real life. I also unfollowed all my Facebook groups and moved the app to a hidden part of my phone (I still need to keep it to give away and sell items, and to manage my flower account.) I subscribed to blogs and mailing lists of artists I like.
Setting goals and reading about others' goals is one of my favorite parts of the new year, so that post is upcoming. There is so much potential, and it's fun to dream. The year rarely works out how we imagined, but there's no reason not to enjoy the feeling of a fresh new year!

Thursday, December 16, 2021

The Danger Section

Hey guess what, it's still December! Hard to tell because it was nearly 70 degrees today, but that's the world we live in. Today I had my work holiday party, which was the first time since the pandemic started that I've been around so many people at one time. It was a little unnerving, but the location was open to the outdoors and it was so, so NORMAL to see people. Do you watch TV shows or movies where people just walk around with no masks on, packed close to each other, and it's just... fine? It's hard to imagine that world, but I hope we can go back there some day.

Last week on a walk I discovered a curious sight. Do you see it? The pan of bread, casually hanging out on top of this stone column? Now, I do frequently encounter abandoned food on this particular route: a stray mandarin on the sidewalk, or an intact egg in the grass. This pan implies intent, however, and I can't figure it out. Perhaps someone is trying to feed the local wildlife, and if so, it's remarkable that bread was still there. Our neighborhood is full of skunks, foxes, racoons, groundhogs, squirrels, and the occasional bald eagle. This sort of thing shouldn't last an hour. Mystery.

Last week I had to go into work, and I took the chance to visit the huge Friends of the Library bookstore close to the office. Although this place is amazing, I have fantasies of volunteering here so I can clean and organize it. There is so much empty shelf space and bins full of uncategorized books. Ahhhh! 

My favorite section is labeled "DANGER". I have struggled in past to name this genre, which includes anyone stranded in the ocean, missions to climb mountains, feats of endurance, and heaps of natural disasters. I love this stuff. Now if someone asks what my favorite types of books are, I will just reply, "Danger."

In my mission to appreciate winter instead of just being annoyed by it, I have been loving the sunsets and dried, seedy grasses. I ran this weekend for the first time since my half marathon, which was 2 months ago. I definitely needed the break. It was freeing to not time myself or care about my pace. I can safely say that despite my love of the concept of ultrarunning (another topic for the Danger section), I will never be an ultrarunner. Mostly because it takes up way too much time. Maybe someday I'll walk really far, and that will be enough.

One morning this week it was below freezing, and I couldn't bring myself to go outside. I know that in Scandinavia or Canada they would laugh at me, but I hate being cold. The problem is my face. My face gets too cold, tenses up, and I have a headache for the rest of the day. Is there a solution to this? Anyway, it worked out because I decided to spend the time painting instead. I have been struggling to fit painting into my days, so it was great to have this option. It seems a little weird to be doing something creative first thing in the morning, but that's a mental block I have to get over.

Excuse the blurry cell phone photo, but lately we have been plagued by crows. A murder, if you will. There are frequently hundreds of them across the street and in the yard, I suspect drawn by the sunflower seeds in the field. While fascinating to watch, they do tend to poop all over everything. Thanks for nothing, crows!

Saturday, December 4, 2021

It's Weird That December Is Technically Fall

Isn't it weird that December is still fall? It looks like winter, it feels like winter... let's just call it winter. I try to get out for a walk at least twice a week (Monday and Tuesday mornings, since I don't have to take Cora to school), and although there are a few scenic parts of my walk, it's mostly McMansions. I don't photograph them because who wants to look at those architectural follies? I dream for a beautiful walking route right outside my door, but that is for a future house. Until then, I will continue to fool you.

This post is just a jumble of random photos. They can't all be Pulitzer Prize winners, right? First, see Cora in the backyard doing something, probably thinking about what she is going to whine about next.

Next up are photos of the upstairs, where I have my office and library/quiet hiding room. Because I work from home now, I see an awful lot of these spaces. I'm always tweaking but I have gotten them to the point where I really like them, and don't mind staring at the walls 8 hours a day. It helps that I have wonderful light and greenery. The plant below is less than a year old and has grown several feet. Gotta love a pothos, they really are indestructible. 

I am 94 books into my 100 in 2021 goal, which means that I've started thinking about my 2022 reading goals. I won't do 100 again - it really takes quite a lot of time (surprise!) and there are podcasts I've been putting off in favor of audiobooks. I've also been skewing the odds in my favorite by choosing short books. Next year I am going to focus on reading books that I have been wanting to read for a while. This includes books that I own but haven't read; I counted them up and have 44, which actually isn't too bad.

OC is always in the window, waiting for his children to get home. We really lucked out when he showed up, because he's the perfect cat for kids. Eternally patient, loyal, and maybe a little bit dumb. If you look closely you can see me taking the photo in the window.

A couple of weeks ago I helped out on a local flower farm in exchange for dahlia tubers! I helped them dig up tubers and clean them for storage. With 10 people helping it went pretty quickly, and I even came home with fresh eucalyptus, a variety of dried seed heads, and a dozen fresh eggs.

Finally, because it can't all be aesthetic and cozy, here is the recycled fire station and fire truck (Pontypandy from Fireman Sam, for those in the know) currently occupying the kitchen floor. I will likely not be able to remove this until my children go to college, because they hoard everything, including actual trash.

Monday, November 15, 2021

A Few Days Away From Home

This week Jason and I had the rare opportunity to get away for a few days sans offspring. We traveled south to the Shenandoah and stayed in a little cabin (without wifi!) tucked in the woods. A lot of our time was spent lounging about, reading and playing with the various ways to make coffee and tea in our rental house. We discovered that we really do need an automatic milk frother, but definitely do not need an espresso machine. Also, these mugs from Ikea are stupid and no one should buy them. Thankfully, Jason went out to the dollar store to buy us some actual mugs that didn't burn our hands off, because there was no way I was spending two days in a mountain cabin without a proper mug.

This gas stove proved quite useful for holding a coffee pot and teapot at the proper temperature.

We spent the afternoon at Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's home. I love a good historic home, but this one was a tad small. The gardens though, oh, the gardens! It was fun to pick out the fellow plant people: you could recognize us crouched down, smelling a plant or cradling tiny produce in our hands. Imagine my joy when I found out that the gardeners here had fallen prey to snake gourds as well. Oh, you think they will be a novelty to amuse and delight your friends, but then they take over like the vegetable reptiles they truly are! Watch out. 

Jason has taken up photography in the past few years, which has made my job easier since I can just steal his photos upon occasion. The below are all his.

We had the most gorgeous fall day in the history of gorgeous fall days. The air was the perfect temperature, the sky blue, the leaves in all shades of yellow, orange, and red, and just but a subtle breeze. The ride back home the next day was magical, and makes me want to return to the mountains every fall from here on out. 

Back home, the neighboring field has been mowed, cover crop planted, and the leaves have started falling from the trees. I went for a walk this morning and wished I had brought a hat. I put the last of the spring bulbs in this weekend (90 daffodils to add to about 450 tulips), and the fall gardening is nearly done. It's only 2-3 months before I have to start seeds, not leaving too much time for rest before the next flower season is upon us. In the meantime, I will be huddled under my blanket on the couch, reading, watching literally anything (I am not picky about my TV) on Netflix or YouTube, thinking about painting but not actually doing it, and drinking any dessert-flavored tea I can find.

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

On Blogging, and Some Flowers

Hello hello! Recently I've been seeing many posts on Instagram about how the video-centric changes and algorithm have changed what used to be a fun place into a stressful, ad-riddled experience. I couldn't agree more. I'm not sure when Instagram decided I only wanted to see videos of people making weird faces and pointing at words, but I certainly don't. What I do want to do is spy on people - yep, I want to see pictures of the inside of your house, what you're knitting and making, and what sorts of tea you are drinking. I use Feedly to read blogs, but I wish there was a better platform where it was easier to interact (many sites require special log-ins to comment). Tech person, invent this please! I recently put 20-minute-per-day timers on Instagram and Facebook, and it has been marvelous. If you have a blog, please let me know so I can read your lovely words.

I remember the days when I used to post a lot of knitting projects, and while I'm still knitting, I don't take the time to actually go outside and take photos of my WIPs. Most of the time I'm huddled into my cozy, dark couch-cave, and everything looks like a grainy blob. Perhaps now that flower season has come to an end, I will endeavor to actually photograph my knitting. Stay tuned, on the edges of your seats, to see if that will happen!

I don't get to walk every single morning these days, since I have the daycare run once again. After that apparently I am expected to be at work (how annoying). The light and the colors are beautiful these days, however, and I'm always happy to get outside. 

Cora has been wanting to go to Sugarloaf Mountain for several weeks, after the day she looked out the car window and noticed there was a mountain hanging out in the distance. She had many questions about how one climbs a mountain (I think she expected ropes) and asked every day when she could go. I finally took her and Mary and let them "climb" (walk up) the mountain which is technically a monadnock. Us and about 1000 other people. Despite the fact that she fell down many times, she cheerfully chattered the entire way, informing every person we passed that "I AM CLIMBING A MOUNTAIN!" (She is 3, for new readers.)

I grew some red sunflowers, aren't they cool? I planted them at the last minute toward the end of August, and I wasn't sure if they would bloom. Most of them did, but several fell victim to a windy storm. I definitely won't plant that late next year, but it was a fun experiment.


Once I came to accept that I wasn't really going to go back to the office (apparently it is opening in January, but R.I.P. my personal cubicle), I re-arranged my office. I have a spiffy standing desk and a shelf with some stuff on it. Stuff! There are plenty of plants, art books, Frieda Kahlo, and a notable absence of coworkers who do annoying things like talk. I particularly enjoy turning off my camera during meetings and rolling my eyes dramatically. 

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

And Just Like That

And just like that, it's fall. Last year this blog was instrumental in getting me through those crazy days of everyone in the house 24-7, online schooling and going nowhere. While things are certainly not back to normal, they are normal-ish. The kids have gone back to school and daycare full-time (albeit with masks), birthday parties are back on, and I continue to work from home. 

If you scroll down to the previous post, you can read about the mystery of the turnip. That mystery has been solved! The turnips were part of a cover crop that the farmer across the street sowed in his field over the winter. That field eventually turned into a sunflower field, where I sold some flower arrangements over the summer. That led to the creation of my new flower farm, Gemini Flower Farm! This endeavor should be taking up most of my "free" time next summer, and a lot of the fall and winter while I prepare, seed, and buy a bunch of stuff.

Not just a ton of crafting has been going on, since I've spent a lot of time outside gardening, and for a while, trail running (since I completed a half marathon this past weekend.) I also have a goal to read 100 books this year, so I've been sneaking in paragraphs whenever I can. I'm currently at 75 and I think I can make it! There are definitely times I don't want to read or want to give up on a book, but I'm so close I can't give up now; I'd have to start all over again next year.

There has been a trip to the Chesapeake Bay, visiting the cousins in Williamsburg (and a trip to Busch Gardens), a solo 40th-birthday trip to Washington, DC, a girls trip to a lake house, and many library trips since it finally reopened. Now it's autumn, so the requisite pumpkin acquisition, leaf peeping, and pumpkin spicing of everything can commence. I want to start an unpredictable fall tradition. Maybe we can construct a tree-like structure out of sticks and decorate it with cured meats?

Friday, February 19, 2021

What's On In February

As the masters of off-season travel, we went to the beach in February. Isn't it gloriously deserted? We stayed in Ocean City, but drove up to Henlopen State Park in Delaware to walk around. It turned out to be a nice as it could be in February, nearly 50 degrees and sunny. There were some brave souls in the water in wetsuits, but I'm not sure why anyone would want to torture themselves like that. I would would be reluctant to get in the water even on the warmest of days. Bad things happen in the ocean. That much is evident by the terrifying things that wash up on the beach. Also I just read a book about a man who survived 438 days adrift in the Pacific ocean.

Back on home turf, there has been snow on the ground for nearly 3 weeks. The previous winters have been fairly mild, but not this one, which out of spite decided to keep us even more locked up in our houses because a full year of that hasn't been enough. Even the kids are tired of it. 

I finally finished my needlepoint, which I thought "wouldn't take all that long", but ended up being over a year in the making. It's from a kit I found unopened in a thrift store, dated 1977. That should explain all the orange.

After a several-months-long slump, I started making art again. It's been so cold and dark that I couldn't make myself go upstairs to my art desk, which is somewhat necessary for more messier paints. Recently I've been interested in learning about urban sketching, but lacking an urban place to go sketch, have mostly been copying photos from magazines. This would horrify urban sketching purists, I'm sure. I have never liked drawing or been happy with the results, but after watching several videos and online classes, I have an idea of the process which has made drawing much less stressful. I can also draw from the couch which is a huge bonus! I'm going to keep at it and with time ideally I'll see improvement. 

Once a month I have a Zoom call with my creative friends, which is always a good kick to get working on something. Below are two watercolor pages I did during January's call. 

I am literally counting down the days until Spring. I need the ground to unfreeze so I can start digging my garden expansion!