Archive for April, 2012

Them ‘maters ain’t lookin’ too good

In fact, they’re looking pretty puny, but at least I’m sure there are no Japanese beetles eating any of their leaves!

In other news, we’ve actually been into the thick of May for WEEKS, even though it starts tomorrow.  Really, nobody should have to do a virtual May in April, right before the real May!  I dread May (it and August vie for “least favored month” status), simply because it involves lots of social activity things that, while experienced for good and noble reasons, leave me feeling stressed and drained.

Of course, we always have two birthdays and a piano recital, we frequently have a camping trip and a major cookout, and most years we have a graduation or two.  This year we have all the above, but with the gracious substitution of a vacation for the camping trip.  Well, maybe that’s in addition to, as Scott is planning to do a one-night, father-son backpack camping trip in late May.

All that follows hot on the heels of April, which has already featured Andrew’s piano festival event at C of O, a cookout for a mission trip group, two Home School Fridays presentations, a life group fellowship, and of course the usual four ball games, two life groups, and various and sundry meetings.

Now, to clarify, I do actually have fun at some of those events.  It’s just that during this two-month period, they are simply packed about three notches too tightly for the resident Pelican to enjoy.  This leaves her looking forward to June and some time to veg!

From April 25 to May 9 (a span of 15 days) we have something on 12 of those nights, and some nights have more than one thing.  We are off next Monday night, and as far as I’m concerned, NOTHING can be scheduled that night!  Actually, my monster grid calendar says that next Monday is “Early May Bank Holiday (UK),” but I don’t think that means we have to do anything that night.

Going screenless

Andrew made some choices that resulted in some consequences, one of which is that he is to have no screen time until May 10.  Translation:  he can’t play any computer games, and he can’t watch any TV.  Now, this shouldn’t directly affect me, but I confess that it does.

For years at lunch, we watched “The Andy Griffith Show.”  That was fun and made me smile and reinforced some good values.  However, more recently it’s often just Andrew and me home alone at lunch, and Andrew’s viewing choice is typically HGTV.  Loyal readers and/or those who have been in our home – well, probably all the former are also the latter – know that our home in no way approximates anything on HGTV (much to Andrew’s ongoing displeasure), but I have learned that I really do enjoy watching some of those shows.  Yes, they are really all the same, and yes, those designers tend to make everything look the same, and no, I’m not about to do any of it in our house, but 30 minutes of mindless HGTV in the middle of my day is actually kind of relaxing.

No more.  = (  At least not in the near future.

So, here it is – lunchtime – and Andrew and I will do something more productive while we eat. . . like maybe, talk to each other!

With friends like me. . .

. . . my tomato and pepper plants may not need enemies!

The deal is that I grow my “garden” in containers.  I’d prefer to have them in the ground, and I did have them in the ground years ago, but the place where there was sun relatively close to an outdoor faucet was back behind the the toyport and well house.  The tomatoes and peppers did pretty well, but the dear and armadillos and whatever else ate them all up.  This was VERY discouraging to me, especially since I had daily tended them with TLC for months.

Then there’s also the issue that tomatoes, especially, are subject to various fungal infections.  This stuff does great damage to your plants in the current year, then gets into the soil and dooms your plants the following year.  Again quite depressing, and the recommended solution is to NOT PLANT tomatoes in the same place year after year.  Well, shoot.  Not only do I need a sunny spot with access to water; I need a NEW sunny spot with access to water each year!  Have YOU ever tried to dig up part of a yard to make a garden?  Let me tell you that it is no small job.

Furthermore, there aren’t a lot of sunny spots in our yard.  Well, there is the far back (large grassy area in the middle of the back yard where we play kickball and various other yard games), but if you put a garden there, that kind of ruins the usefulness of the area for recreation.  In addition, trees tend to grow – except for the several that are dead and need to be removed – and when they grow, they make more branches with more leaves, and the end result of all that is that our yard is growing gradually shadier over time.

So. . . in the past eight or so years, I have grown tomatoes and peppers in tomatoes, primarily on the front walk.  Not too aesthetically pleasing, but functional, and as most of you know, I am totally into function.

Well, beginning three years ago, someone let a couple of Japanese beetles loose in Taney County.  These guys reproduced and now the Japanese beetles are rampant and causing destruction of ornamentals on a scale I’ve got to believe is comparable to the locusts in the Bible!  They decimate leaves, rendering them lacy and ugly, and I hate it.  Also, my tomatoes have for years been attacked by various “wilts” (fungal infections), and I have tried to find a product that will strengthen them against that.

At Lowe’s I found NEEM oil.  It’s supposed to repel various insect pests and be fungicidal.  Perfect!  It’s a nasty, foul-smelling liquid that you pour into a spray bottle, attach your hose and it mixes it in the proper proportions and you spray it on your plants.  For the past two years, I’ve sprayed ’em once a week on Saturdays.  Since I do it every week, I just leave the NEEM oil in the spray bottle.  It comes in a very expensive 8-ounce bottle and I just dump it all in my sprayer and use it each week.  Except that it often seems not to come out.  As in, the stuff stinks, so after you spray it on your plants, they should stink too, right? But they don’t.  As if the only thing coming out of the sprayer is water.  And the level of NEEM oil in the sprayer never seems to go down.

But I bought three bottles of this stuff last year – because as we all know, once you find a product you like and want to use on-going, when you go back to buy more, they will no longer carry it.

Last year, I waited till the plants had beetles attacking them to start spraying, but this year I decided that I should be more proactive.  Two weeks ago, with the plants less than a foot tall, I went after them with the NEEM oil.  I went and got the spray bottle and shook it up well, but noticed that it seemed like there was some solid stuff in the bottom of the bottle that wasn’t mixing up.  So I opened the spray bottle and pulled out the tube, and it was completely gummed up with solid stuff!  I cleaned out the tube, reassembled everything, shook the bottle well, and sprayed the plants, but when I finished, I took the bottle apart again, and in those few minutes, it was again completely gummed up.  Like the walls of Jericho, nothing went in that tube and nothing came out.  GRRRRRR!

I cleaned it all up again and stored the bottle without the tube in it.

This week, when I examined my precious plants, they had already been attacked by the Japanese beetles (or something similar).  Sad and discouraging.  Actually, infuriating.  I angrily pulled out the spray bottle, but this time, I decided that it was time to be done with being too cheap to start the next bottle.  If this stuff had all congealed in the bottle and wasn’t useful, I would throw it out!!!  Well, I reasoned, that would be wasteful and this stuff does cost a small fortune.  Instead, I would stir it up till the solids were liquid add water, and POUR the result directly on the plants.  Then, NEXT week, I’d start with a fresh bottle.

And that is exactly what I did, only the solid stuff wouldn’t dissolve.  It was still all lumpy and nasty.  I shoved my hand in there and mixed with my fingers.  I added water till the bottle was full to the brim.  That’s probably a ratio of something like one cup of NEEM oil to one cup of water.  The ratio delivered by the sprayer is supposed to be two to four TABLESPOONS of NEEM oil to one GALLON of water, but I was mad and I didn’t care.  I wanted those stupid Japanese beetles to take one lick of my tomato and pepper plants and NEVER COME BACK!!!

So I hand dipped this super concentrated, very messy stuff all over my plants, rubbing it on the leaves.  This morning, I went out to walk, and my tomato and pepper plants’ leaves are all shiny and turning black.  I think I may have killed them all, and that after I started them from seeds two months ago.  Sigh.

I did pray about it, as there is really nothing else to do.  I decided that if God spares my plants and they live, I will take care of them and be thankful.  If they all die, I will throw them out and we just won’t have any homegrown tomatoes or peppers this year.

I simply don’t have the emotional margin to stress over it any more!

Three and-a-half hours later

I went out for lunch with a friend from church today.  I have been wanting to get to know her, so I thought a little lunch meeting would be fun.  We met at Panera at 12 noon.  We started eating and talking, and she talked a lot, and I talked a LOT more, and eventually we started laughing uncontrollably.  I think the Panera staff was wondering what on earth our deal was.  We occupied that booth for an extended period of time, and when we left and I got in my car, it was THREE THIRTY PM!

I was actually starting to get hungry again!

For that wind-blown look. . .

Try the Toyota!

Our van is in the shop.  We could call it the vehicular hospital.  It has issues, and informal counseling won’t solve its problems.  It’s running very rough and jerky, the check engine light (which lives “on,” and about which we don’t concern ourselves) is flashing, the headlights don’t let me see at night, and it needs an oil change and tire rotation.  Those last two are simply routine preventative maintenance items, and the headlights probably just need some type of lens cleaning and/or beam adjustment.  However, whatever is causing the rapid flashing of the check engine light may or may not be a terminal illness.  Actually, it’s probably not terminal, as most anything can be fixed for a fee, but I’m guessing it may involve a repair on a a magnitude of investment that we simply won’t want to make in this vehicle.

In any case, I was driving the Toyota today. That would be the Toyota sans A/C, so I had all four windows down all the way to generate as much breeze as possible.  I had a number of errands to do, and every time I arrived back home I re-sprayed my hair for the next jaunt.  I managed to look okay most of the time, but I’m sure that there’s enough hairspray in my locks to make them crunch.

I don’t like my hair to be mobile, so that windblown look is actually not me.  = )

Survey says: food prep vastly overrated

I surveyed myself and came to the conclusion that I spend way too many brain cycles on food, particularly on food for other people.  There!  I got that one off my chest.

I have a family and I love my family and I know they need to eat three times a day and I know it’s my responsibility to provide meals for them (or stuff for them to make their own meals).  I am the mom and that’s part of what moms do.  However, if I lived alone – and I’m very glad I don’t – I could spend a total of about 30 minutes a day preparing and eating my own food.

Instead, I need to:

~ think about who wants or needs what to eat when through out the week

~ plan suppers (including one or two crockpot meals) each week

~ inventory what’s on hand and make grocery lists

~ buy the stuff – from one, two, or very rarely three stores

~ help Andrew put the stuff away

~ pre-prep whatever it takes to have crockpot meals ready

~ cook meals in quantity and freeze them

~ (on days when I don’t want to be doing major cooking in the late afternoon) thaw and prep whatever needs to be ready for that night

~ keep three kinds of bread on hand, including making homemade bread once or twice a week

~ keep all the stuff available that everyone wants for breakfasts and lunches (none of which is the same for any two family members)

~ do breakfast (a meal which I don’t eat) clean up five days a week

~ do supper clean up two or three days a week

For a person who is quite content to eat a banana and a sausage biscuit standing at the kitchen counter for brunch, and some chips and salsa and fruit with a half sandwich for lunch, and isn’t really hungry at supper (and could be thrilled with a bag of popcorn and some lemonade at 8 PM), it just seems like a heck of a lot of thought and work.

I will keep doing it, and most days I will smile while I do it because I am so glad I have a family that needs to eat, but I am quite sure that food prep is vastly overrated.

P.S.  In my section of heaven, there will be no cooking!

Heard at supper

Us four and no more sat down to a supper of Malisa’s Chicken Enchiladas, cheese dip and chips, and sliced pears.  Scott prayed, we dug in, and the conversation began.  Josiah and Scott were talking, while Andrew and I listened and looked quizzically at each other.  I’m fairly facile with the English language, but their heavy usage of acronyms rendered the whole thing all Greek to me.

In the space of five minutes, I heard – but did not comprehend – the following:




jpeg  (I know that one! It’s a file extension for photos.  Pretty saavy, that Walnut Shade Mom, huh?)


aspect ratio  (This is bound to be a fraction of some kind.)

artifacts  (These are evidently undesirable, as opposed to the kind that archaeologists unearth.)

png  (I thought that stood for Papua New Guinea, but instead, it’s something that always looks great.)

bit depth  (I’m fairly sure this is a condition that is corrected with orthodontics.)

So they spoke in this foreign language for quite a while, and even though I did earn a college degree and I listened very carefully, I couldn’t even figure out if they were talking about something for the Rendezvous or something for ANPAC or something for some aspect of ministry!  It turns out it was ANPAC (work-related), but that was not at all obvious to us non-geeks.

Perhaps I should keep a small glossary in my lap with my napkin.

It’s been a long day

I was up at 5:45 AM to get in my morning walk and cover a few details before leaving at 8:15 AM for a pilot group training meeting.  We prayed at 9:45 AM, and church started at 10:30 AM.  It was GREAT!  Afterwards, Andrew went home to spend the afternoon at the Balls’ house, and we three came home.  I did the lunch clean up, made Scott’s Monday lunch, cut stale bread for croutons, folded a couple loads of laundry, started a third load, and swept the dining room and kitchen.  I called my friends, Chantsee (long conversation), Susan (left a message), and Kathy (left a message).  Leaving at 4:55 PM, I drove the 30-mile circuit to pick up Andrew.  Back home, I called Katie (always a high point!), tackled some desk work, we ate leftovers for supper, and I did the supper clean up. I had a long discussion with Scott – well, it was actually more of a monologue – about my involvement in some church responsibilities, and we had a family meeting concerning a character issue with Andrew.  Now it’s 9:45 PM, and I’m off to bed.

Lovely weather we’re having

When I get to writing about the weather, it’s kind of sad, because it means I can’t think of anything more interesting to say.  However, I am trying to post something each day, so my readers will have to be content with what they get.

It was in the mid-sixties today and sunny, with only a gentle breeze.  I spent some time this morning watering plants, weeding flower beds, and spraying neem oil.  Last year, those vicious Japanese beetles did in almost everything, so I am determined to fight them off from the get-go this year.  Once all was sprayed, I worked in the kitchen for a while.  I have kitchen issues that maybe I will blog about some day and maybe not, but I did totally clean off the top shelf of the pantry.  Cleaning the pantry is really a task that must be done with Jessica, but she is not here, has not been here for a while, and won’t be here for a while, and I decided it couldn’t wait.  I figure if I do one shelf at a time, it won’t be too overwhelming.

After preparing and sending a Jessica update, and printing copies in one format for church ladies who don’t have email, and printing, stuffing, labeling, stamping, and mailing copies in a different format for various ministry partners who don’t have email, I went down to the creek to spend some quality time with God.  That was wonderful and I managed to get fully sunburned on my right shoulder.  This is a bit of a problem.  The place where I sit faces a certain direction, and there’s no way to sit facing the opposite direction.  I always go down there in the afternoon, because of my personal conviction about working before I play.  Therefore, the sun is always blazing down on my right shoulder and not my left.  Now my tan, such as it is, looks lopsided, and I’m not sure what to do about that.

In any case, the weather is just perfect, and O, how I wish it would continue this way for a few months!


Two rubbers won!

Tonight we played bridge with our friends, Ron and Terryl.  They have only played three times, but they are serious card players and picked it up very quickly.  In fact, Terryl is clearly a better player than I am.  We played the girls against the boys and the girls won both rubbers handily!  Actually, we won by large margins, partly because the guys just didn’t get any cards, and partly because Scott got greedy and doubled us into game – twice, I think.

I ended up playing a whole bunch of hands – maybe five or six – including a three no trump.  I told Scott I wanted to call Katie and have her play it for me!  However, Terryl watched over my shoulder and and we kind of played that hand together.

There were some challenging decisions to make.  For example, how do you respond to your partner’s one no trump opener, when you have a decent five card club suit, two puny doubletons, and four mediocre hearts, with a total of eight points including distribution, after your opponent bids two clubs?

I did make a number of bidding and playing errors, but I think overall I did pretty well.  Sometimes it’s nice to play cards and just not think about everything else in life!

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