Sunday, August 11, 2013

A Big Bloomin' Project

Every spring I get inspired to plant flowers. Georgia is breathtakingly beautiful in the spingtime. It starts in late February or early March. My sweet Georgia Blues burst forth and cover the ground with tiny purple flowers, the creeping flox appears on the side of the roads, the bright yellow forsythias start to show up -- and show off -- in people's yards, and you've forgotten how many Bradford pear trees there are until they are all covered with white blooms! That starts the cycle. Following these early bloomers in rapid succession are the cherry trees (Conyers, GA, has more than Washington, D.C.), jonquils, dianthis, clematis and all this builds to a crescendo with the grand finale being the dogwoods and azaleas. It's like a slow-motion fire works display in pastels.  And I want all of it. In my yard. 

This year I was especially excited after seeing Joy's garden in Eatonton and the Atlanta Botanical Gardens when we went with Bob and Joan. I also took the girls over to see my friend, Gail's, back yard which always makes my jaw drop. She and her husband have turned their sloping, woodsy back yard into a shade garden. That doesn't begin to describe it, though. It's more like a wonderful oasis of nature. In the summer you can forget the heat of the sun and all the time you can forget that you're in a neighborhood. It's a magical world of its own.  (Her hostas could be a little bigger, though, don't ya' think?)

 So after going to all these places...all of them in Georgia...I decided that we, too, could have a beautiful yard.  Only trouble with that is that we have TERRIBLE, AWFUL clay soil and lots of shade.  But I was determined.  Gail had said that after years of frustration facing similar obstacles, they have decided that raised bed gardening is the way to go and they are enjoying vegetable gardening again -- like they did at their home in the country in Illinois.  Following their advice, we put in a couple of raised bed boxes for tomatoes, peppers, etc. and they were looking good.  So I wondered why we couldn't do the same thing with a raised flower bed.  We chose a particularly ugly section in the back yard where nothing will grow and laid out a shape with garden hose and rope.  That looked like a plan, so we started digging.

And when I say "we" I mean it. I helped.  I just took time out to take pictures of the progress from time to time.  And progress was slow.  It's a good thing we had cool spring temps because we worked hard at it.  Sometimes Jerry would get the pointy shovel in there thinking we'd hit a rock...but it was just the "soil" we were dealing with.  Ugh!

But we kept at it and pretty soon it was time to lay the wall blocks.  The bottom tier had to be set into the ground to keep them from shifting, so that's why we needed to do all the digging.  But this part got a little exciting because it actually started to look like we were making progress.

At this point it was still mostly a dream in my head, but Jerry was starting to get the idea.  After all the stones were in place the next step was to bring in loads and loads of compost.  Hot, steamy, stinky compost.  After all, the whole idea is that this area of ground won't grow anything.  It was hot and smelly work.  I did NOT help with this part of it.  But I felt sorry for Jerry and the kid who was delivering and helping shovel out 4 dump-truck loads -- plus one last load in our pick-up the next day.  I kept bringing them cold water and telling them how great it was going to be.  But rest assured, I did not wear a cheerleader outfit.

So the final...and fun...part of the whole deal was putting in the plants.  I'd been buying plants and planning in my head where they were going to go.  There would be a spot for sun worshipers, and area for those shady characters and a middle section where the easy going bloomers would feel at home.  I had to keep pampering them in their pots longer than I had thought I would because we were having a lot of rain and the compost delivery date kept getting put back.  But finally it was time to plant!  What a joy to take a plant out of the pot and put it in some soil without the use of a jackhammer!  I told Jerry this was my new playground.  I will be able to add and move plants at will and the weeds will slip right out.  It was a very happy day.

I'm so thankful that Jerry is willing to follow me down these rabbit holes.  He can't really ever visualize what I'm talking about until it gets done.  So for him to put all that time, effort and sweat equity into something that he has no idea how it's going to turn out (and sometimes I'm not so sure when we're in the middle of it) is something I really appreciate.  And after all the hard work, we are both very pleased with how it looks.  And there were even enough blocks left over to make a much smaller raised bed around the mailbox down at the road.  Can you say, "curb appeal"?

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Local Tourists

We have taken some vacation trips over the past few years with our good friends from Streator, Bob and Joan Schmitt.  They have come down here and we've gone to the Georgia coast -- Jekyll and St. Simons' islands; and we went to North Carolina -- the Blowing Rock and Asheville areas as well as the Blue Ridge Parkway.  One year we went north and spent a few days in Chicago together doing all the "touristy" things.  They have also stopped to see us on their way home from Florida a time or two.  But in all the times they've been to our house, we've never done anything in Atlanta!  So this year we decided to make Atlanta our vacation destination.
     One of the fun things we've done is to find bed and breakfast places to stay when we travel.  Most have been very nice and made us feel pampered.  Some have been interesting and make for great stories.  So even though we had a place to stay for this "vacation" (our house), we planned to spend one night downtown and found a bed and breakfast that had a great location.  It was a combination of lovely and amusing.  I'm sure we'll laugh many times over the years about Jerry and I being Mr. and Mrs. Sinus...and about the plumbing in our bathroom.  It was the Shellmont Inn in midtown and I'm glad we stayed there. 
   Joan is a huge Gone With the Wind Fan.  So the very first thing on her bucket list was to see "The Dump"...the apartment where Margaret Mitchell wrote the book.  After touring there, we ate at Mary Mac's Tea Atlanta legend.  Very good!  That was only a few blocks from our B&B, so we got checked in and got comfortable.  Maybe a little too comfortable (is there such a thing?) because we spent the rest of the afternoon in rocking chairs on the back porch till it was time to go see a Braves game. 
    All that was on Monday.  On Tuesday, after checking out of the B&B, we went just a few miles up the road to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens.  Spent all morning walking around there.  It's a beautiful place and we got to watch them working on several new large topiaries.  The ones they're advertising a lot are the two cobras.  Amazing was the word that kept coming to mind.  I got inspired about gardening again (poor Jerry)!
     After the botanical gardens we went to check out Underground Atlanta and get some lunch.  Enjoyed fried pickles and other unhealthy
yummies at Johnny Rocket's.  Then got to Cyclorama just before they closed for the day.  The rush-hour traffice coming out of town wasn't as bad as we'd expected.
   On Wednesday we took a break from driving into Atlanta.  We took them to see the Monastery of the Holy Spirit here in Conyers.  It's a very pretty and informative place.  Again...I got inspired and got a plant to try my hand at making a bonsai.  We'll see how that goes.  From there we took the back roads to the town of Jonesboro, Georgia.  They have a Gone With the Wind museum there called Road to Tara.  Margaret Mitchell's family was from there and as a child she would go visit them and hear stories and that's what gave her inspiration for the book.  We missed the tours -- didn't know they were only in the morning :( -- but spent time going through the museum. 
     Thursday took us back to Atlanta...but this time we headed north of town for the day.  Our destination was the Atlanta History Museum.  But I told them that if I was going to that side of town, we had to eat at two of my favorite places.  So we had breakfast at the OK Cafe on the way to the museum and had an early dinner at Houston's on the way back home.  Good thing there is a lot of walking and it takes a lot of time to see the museum itself as well as the Swan House, the Tullie Smith farm and the nature walk that ties them all together. 
   We were going to use Friday to be lazy again and just relax at home.  But we'd been lucky with the weather all week despite threatening showers a few times.  When we checked the weather forecast for the next couple of days it looked like Friday would be cloudy and Saturday a total washout all the way from here to Illinois.  After having driven in some heavy rain coming down, they were not looking forward to doing that again on the way home.  So they left on Friday instead. 
   As usual, we had a good time.  We saw a lot and learned a lot and had some laughs.  We didn't do all the things on our list, so we may have to make Atlanta a vacation destination again some time.  And that sounds fine to me!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Taking Time to Smell the Flowers

   Our church friend, Evelyn Brown, got up during announcements one Sunday morning and said that she was going to have a House and Garden Tour and Bible Study at the home of a friend of hers on Saturday, April 27th.  My first thought was that sounded very interesting and something I might enjoy.  That thought was no sooner processed than the counterpart thought came rushing in.  The one that said, "The 27th?  That's not good.  We have company coming in on the 28th for a week.  I'll have too much to do!"

   So I sat on the garden fence for a few days.  Then I mentioned it to my friend, Pam.  If she had been unable to go, I probably would have talked myself out of going, too.  But she said she was available and it sounded good to her.  So I convinced myself that if I got my lazy butt in gear, I could get most everything done by Friday of that week except for a few last-minute fresh food things.  And we made plans to attend.

   Evelyn's friend, Joy, lives in Eatonton, Georgia.  That is at least an hour away from my house.  It was supposed to rain that Saturday, but it held off and we had a beautiful day.  And I'm soooo glad I made time to go.  If not to "smell the flowers" then certainly to drink them in and marvel at their beauty.  What Joy and her recently deceased husband have done with this house and yard is truly amazing.  They refurbished an old, 1920's house and landscaped the 3 acres or so surrounding it with delights for the senses. 

   We began with a tour of the house that was jaw-dropping.  Meticulous attention to details are the trademark of these two talented and visionary people.

   Then, since the weather was nice, we took our bibles to the deck at the side of the yard and began our study.  After a bit we took a break and walked around the yard and gardens.  Not a moment too soon, because we were all anxious to get out among the flowers and check them out more closely.  Being springtime, the bloomers were beautiful.  And everywhere you looked there were little pieces of yard art, statuary, pots, welcoming paths and arches to walk through. 

   After another short study session, we broke for lunch.  Pam and I joined the few ladies that had settled in on the screened-in porch at the side of the house.  During the house tour I had said that's where I'd be spending most of my time if I lived there.  The afternoon session followed pretty much the morning schedule.  Two lesson sessions with another walk-around-the-yard break in the middle. 

   It was a nice group of 9 ladies...most of whom I knew to some degree.  But as usually happens in this type of environment we relaxed, shared and enjoyed together and made new friends and forged closer bonds.  All in all it was a wonderful day and I can't remember anything that I've enjoyed more in a long time. 
    I think that when I was fence sitting for those couple of days, God gave me the little push I needed to make the decision I made.  Thank you, Father, for leading me to this wonderful opportunity for inspiration, fellowship and blessing.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

A Spring Tradition

Springtime brings many traditions and expectations.  I wrote last time about the tradition of new clothes for Easter.  The approach of spring brings anticipation, too...especially here in Georgia...of sunny, warm days and beautiful trees and flowers bursting forth to show their splendor.

Another thing I look forward to in the springtime is our annual quilters' and scrapbookers' retreat.  I line up some of my quilting friends and Jodi gathers a few of her scrapbooking buddies and we retreat for the weekend to the Charlie Elliott State Park for a couple of wonderful days of fellowship and creativity.

The facility is perfect for our needs.  There is a large conference room where we can work with plenty of room.  One wall of the room is all windows and looks out onto the wooded acres beyond.  The other wall is carpeted (really) and we can pin our finished quilt tops on it so that by the end of the weekend we have our own little quilt show.  There is a large porch on the window/woods side that is perfect for gathering for meals or a quiet time in the morning. 

There are motel-style sleeping rooms in attached buildings to the left and right of this workroom.  Our weekend starts at 8:00 a.m. on Friday and ends at 6:00 p.m. on Sunday.  Allowing for individual schedules, we gather as soon as we're able and stay as long as we can.  I won't dwell on the year that Jodi had to turn around and go back home because her house was on fire...or the year she had to make a stop at the emergency room on her way because Savannah broke her arm.  I'll just focus on the good stuff.

Within our group there are, besides friends, usually one or more sets of mothers and daughters.  This year was especially fun for me because Savannah (no broken arm this time!) came, too.  So we had three generations attending. She brought her scrapbooks and was tickled to be part of the group and be able to spend the night.  On Saturday, one of her friends came with her mother for the day and that was fun for her, too.  I told Jodi she would probably never be able to go to retreat again for many years without Savannah coming along.  She said that was fine with her. It's fine with me, too. :) 

This is a great group of ladies.  Most of us have been doing this for many years, but we seem to add a few "newbies" now and then.  That's always fun, too.  This year, as with all the other years, was not a disappointment.  We had fun, ate well, enjoyed each other and our surroundings and got a lot accomplished.  And I've already made our reservations for next year.  So the week after Easter 2014, we'll be back at Charlie Elliott enjoying springtime in the woods and getting lots of inspiration and finishing up our projects.  Want to join us?  There's always room for one more. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

"Happy Easter, Egg!"

That's what Aunt Leona used to say to us every year.  How corny.  But that was Aunt Leona.  I always think of her at Easter well as many other times throughout the year.  When I think about Easter I also think of new clothes.  I've never been a big shopper, but my mother was and always liked to dress us very well.  But Easter was something special.  New dresses, hats and maybe even gloves or a new purse...and always new shoes. 
     I think it's a little sad that we don't dress up much any more for anything.  I know it's not about appearances, but still -- it was nice. 
     I do love springtime and so it seems fitting to deck ourselves out in something bright, fresh and new and join nature in celebrating new birth.  The earth with it's showing off -- especially here in Georgia -- seems to welcome us to join in the festive spirit of the season of resurrection and joy. 
   So it is in that spirit that I have taken the grand kids shopping for new Easter clothes the last few years.  Jodi and I find a time when we can get together and I take us all for lunch and then a little shopping.  In 2010, I bought Emery his first tie...and he LOVED it!  Girls are many pretty dresses to chose from and Savannah is good to go. 
    I was surprised and tickled when in 2011, Emery was more excited to get a new outfit than Savannah was.  She was looking at the dresses and he dragged mom and me over to the boys' department.  "This is what I want!", he said triumphantly as he pointed to a 4-piece outfit.  Jodi said, "Oh.  You want that color shirt and a new tie?"  But he said, "No.  I want all this." and indicated with his hand the whole outfit.  It was a shirt, tie, pants and sport coat and he was quite excited.  So that's what he got.  He told me one time later that he looked like a "newscaster" when he put that coat on.  He wore it every chance he got.  Savannah settled on a pretty little sundress in coral colors with a matching jacket.  

 By 2012, Savannah was getting more into the new dress idea.  She was trying on a number of pretty spring dresses and Emery just decided he wanted a new shirt and tie and some nice shorts for wearing to church all summer long.  Savannah had picked a very pretty and "flowy" pink dress.  But by the time Easter came, she was also sporting a bright green cast on her broken arm!  But she looked lovely just the same. 

   So this year we did it again.  After lunch at Rafferty's -- one of my favorite places -- we went to the Athens Mall.  Emery didn't seem all that interested this year.  I asked if he wanted a new tie again this year and he said he didn't think so.  But while Savannah was trying on quite a few pretty dresses he was getting bored.  So I suggested we go over and look at something for him.  His mom said he could use a nice pair of khaki shorts for church and maybe something to go with them.  So I asked if that was what he wanted to go look at.  He said, "No.  Come here, I'll show you" and he took me by the hand.  Again...he spotted what he wanted and was quite sure about it.  For a boy that has trouble sometimes making a decision, he doesn't hesitate when he decides on fashion.  He took me right to the suits, again, and said, "Here.  This is what I want."  And it's a good thing they had it in his size, because he was adamant.  He wanted the red shirt, black pin-stripe vest, black pants and matching tie.  Savannah chose another pink dress this year.  A very pretty springtime pink -- the color of azaleas.  It had pretty ruffles down the front and the look wasn't spoiled by a cast on her arm. :)

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Road Trip 2013

Last year when we got together with our good friends the Thompsons and McNelises from Sheridan we went back to Paris Landing State Park in Tennessee, which has been our favorite place for many years.  We discovered a new winery in the town of Paris and enjoyed lunch at the Bistro there out in the beautiful, warm spring sunshine.  And, as always, we enjoyed our time together.  But the cabins at the state park have aged a bit (good thing we haven't!!) in the 13 years since we've "discovered" it and, sadly, many of the antique stores that we loved browsing in have either gone out of business or are much smaller.

     So this year we decided to mix it up a bit and go to Nashville for our get-away time together.  We rented a house together in Gallatin, Tennessee, which is about 30 minutes northeast of Nashville.  It wasn't available on the first night of our trip, so we met in Clarksville, TN, for the first night.  After checking in and visiting for a while, we went to the Beachaven Winery to sample some of their wares...and then for a nice dinner at Rafferty's.  After that we had to make a brief stop at the pharmacy department at Target.  Don needed some cough meds, Ken needed bandages for his thumb and I needed a bottle of Metamucil.  (Like I's a good thing we're not getting older!)  Then we went back to our respective motel rooms and enjoyed the whirlpool tubs.  Ahhhh...   Especially relaxing because Jerry and I had driven in heavy rain and traffic most of the way.

The next day we set out to find the house and check out that area.  We were all very happy with the place we'd rented.  It was very nicely furnished and was warm and cozy.  Warm and cozy was great because we had horrible weather the whole time.  It was cold and windy and snow was flitting around ... but not sticking ...for the whole 3 days.  I took this picture of the place the morning we had to leave.  The sun was shining brightly. :(

On our first full day there, we went into Nashville to see the sights.  We started out by going just a little out of the way to the Long Hollow winery in Goodlettsville to sample their wares.  Then we had to go check out the American Pickers' store downtown.  From there we went down to "lower Broad" just around the corner from the Reiman Auditorium.  The weather was too miserable to walk around that area, but we drove around a little and then went to have lunch at the Big River Brewery and Restaurant.  After that we went in search of the Bluebird Cafe.  We've been watching the show "Nashville" and it's a place where they go to play their songs.  We wanted to see if it was a real place.  It is... and it is VERY small...and these fools were standing out in the cold waiting for it to open -- in 2 HOURS!!

     After that we went to the Opryland Hotel and walked around enjoying the beauty of that place.  This was the 3rd trip there for Jerry and me and I am always in awe of it.  Ken and Shirley had been there many, many years ago and Don and Jean had never been.  We walked around enjoying the plants, etc...Shirley used pretty much every bathroom they have...and then we took the riverboat ride in the Delta.  I was disappointed that because of a private party we couldn't walk around the Delta riverwalk and go into the shops.  (Stupid Aaron's.)

   Tuesday was Shirley's birthday, so we had to do whatever she wanted all day.  Sheesh.  You'd think that after as many of them as she has had, they wouldn't be that big of a deal.  We went into a couple of antique shops and then drove from Gallatin to nearby Hendersonville and had a nice lunch at Calhoun's.  Also checked out a Goodwill store and scored a couple of bargains.  Then we went back to the house to make a fire in the fireplace to take the chill off and watch a movie.  Later we had birthday cake.  That warmed us, too. :) 

   Wednesday was time to head home already.  The time always goes too fast and I miss these precious people as soon as we all drive away in our separate directions.  But to numb the pain, Jerry and I stopped at the Beans Creek Winery in Mansfield, Tennessee, on the way home to, you know...sample their wares.  You can't say there wasn't a lot of "wining" on this trip! :) 

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Back to Guntersville

In the fall of 2011, the family went to Guntersville, Alabama, for a week while Jeremy was fishing a tournament.  This year, Grandpa and I went back again with the Yorks...for the same reason.  Jess had to work and we missed having her along.  The first day or two the weather was on the very cool side, but the sun came out long enough for Grandpa and the kids to go out for a while to shoot hoops on the basketball court or take "rides" in the hammock.  Then each day became colder and windier. 

  One day wasn't quite as bad, so we ventured out for some fresh air in the afternoon.  We checked out beautiful downtown Guntersville.  It really is a nice city.  It is spread out over quite a large area with the lake in, out and all around it.  It has some beautiful public buildings.  But the "downtown" area didn't take long to cover.  We went into an antique store.  The grandkids had never been in one, so they were kind of interested in all the "weird" old stuff.  "Old" to them is anything from the '80s.  (The 1980s that is...not the 1880s!)  Savannah fell in love with a couple of old teddy bears she saw.   After looking around downtown for a little while, we went out to the Walmart shopping center.  They have some other stores in that area and one that we went into was Claire's Boutique.  Savannah didn't remember ever being in one and I told her how her mom and aunt Jessica used to love to go in there.  She did, too!  She was trying on hats, glasses and all kinds of glam and striking a pose in the mirrors with each one.  Emery even got into the act with the glasses.  Especially those that were a little "different" with attached moustaches. 
   We passed the time for most of the week with school work (like studying the phases of the moon with Oreo cookies), craft projects (the girls made hand "painted" silk scarves), games like Pick up Sticks, Dominoes and Mancala during the day...and Rummikub at night and home-cooked meals for the cold and hungry fishermen.  And watching the new season premier of Duck Dynasty was a shared experience.  :)

 Papa Jim came up to watch the weigh-in on Thursday and Friday afternoons.  When we were there last time, we went about 45 miles northwest to Huntsville to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center.  Since there wasn't anything much to do while waiting for the weigh-in on Friday afternoon, we decided to go back up there and let Papa see it and see how much the kids remembered.  We were very surprised at how different it was.  Last time there was a lot of construction going on  and all that was open now.  The kids spent a lot of time in the area about black holes.  They could get "passport cards" and record their experiences in each interactive exhibit and they can check them on the computer when they get home.  Emery scaled the rock wall all the way to the top 3 times and after he and Savannah went into the "Mission to Mars" simulator, they both came out beaming and made Papa go in with them a second time (Grandpa chickened out).  We left there and got to the lake just as Jeremy was about to weigh in.  The timing was perfect because they got to go up on stage with him again, but we didn't stand around in the cold wind for more than a couple of minutes.  After that, we ate at Wentzell's Oyster Bar, which is a York family tradition.
    Friday night and Saturday morning we saw just enough snow flakes to make everyone very excited.  Jeremy cam
e in 37th place and got a check, so everybody was happy, happy, happy.