Apr 27, 2010

His fingerprints are everywhere...

Chalk it up to overdosing on VBS stuff over the past ten days, but I woke up this morning with a line from the "Hip-Hip-Hooray Hippopotamus" song running through my head, like a record with a deep scratch. Over and over and over. I could even see little hands moving and creating handprints all over the walls of my mind.

It's annoying to have a children's song scratching across your psyche like nails on a chalkboard, but if it had to happen, at least it was a true line: His fingerprints ARE everywhere.

I watched two storms roll through the midstate today. Both times, sunny skies darkened, the wind blew, the rain lashed against my windows, and then it receded just as quickly as it came, leaving everything clean and sparkly and sunny once again. We are no match for nature's fury, but we can take comfort that we are nestled in the shelter of our creator's arms.

It made me think of a recent lesson on the providence of God. Although I am a bit of word geek, that lesson struck me because I had never really thought about the root and obvious meaning of the word providence: to provide. He provides us with a habitable planet to sojourn on, air to breath, light to grow plants which feed us and the animals, which in turn feed us. Our bodies and brains are beyond comprehension in their complexity and perfectly elegant functionality to do everything we require. He sends rain on the just and the unjust, and he makes the sun to shine on us all, too.

The children's education program this summer is going to be an amazing (and wild) adventure. Thirteen weeks, six classroom rotations, and four lessons for grades K-5. All pointing out how we can know God's plans and promises for us, which He made at the beginning and He will keep to the very end.

Indeed, His fingerprints are everywhere, just to show how much He cares. That's a lot to hip-hip-hooray about, isn't it?

Apr 20, 2010

Room for rent

Darling toad abode, perfect for a single renter or couple. Cool, shady, damp and adjacent to a pond, via protected crosswalk. Available for immediate occupancy. Must be willing to eat your weight in mosquitoes and other flying and hopping critters every day. Serious inquiries only, please.

We spent the weekend in the backyard, finishing out last year's pond project, when we tore out the large, free-form pond and replaced it with a smaller pre-formed pond. The extraneous area was filled in with dirt and we got some basic landscaping done before fall and winter set in. This allowed us to widen the path around the pond and add a paved area behind the pond, where we'll move a concrete bench for sitting (that's next weekend's to-do.) My sweet husband finished the gravel and rock paths this time - he did a great job!

Flashback - here's the pond back in 2001, after we installed paths and plants (before that it was a pond in a sea of mulch.)

The pond evolved over time - we added a bog filter/garden to the backside and then streamlined the filter to operate more efficiently. But the silver maple, which does give a lot of shade to the area, has a nasty habit of aggressively rooting and the roots buckled the pond liner twice. The final straw was when a large branch fell into the pond a couple winters ago, and punctured the liner - again. There are only so many times you want to empty a pond, tear out the liner and replace it, or even patch it.

Here's the landscape you see as you come through the arbor. It's going to take it a while to fill in, but I think it will be pretty when it does.

Now to get some big, bold-leaved cannas or bananas going in those containers, a few ferns to fill in, and an experiment with some turquoise-y spray paint to see if I can achieve a verdigris finish on a couple black plastic chairs. Oh, and a new wrought-iron hose holder. It's back to a serviceable, hose holder for me...no more hose carts (self-winding or otherwise). Too many broken handles, wimpy cranking mechanisms, and abuse from mother nature each winter.

Then it's on to power-washing and staining/sealing the deck, getting the deck containers planted, getting the veggie garden in...I think the to-do list grows longer and longer every day!

The hurrier I go, the behinder I get!

Apr 16, 2010

Who decided landscape was a verb?

land - a noun, referring to an area of ground.
scape - also a noun. Meaning a view or scene.

Someone put those two words together and suddenly it's a verb, with or without adding "-ing" to the end. And it's not just a verb, it's an action verb, generally requiring a lot of grunting, sweating and sore muscles. Who got to make that call? I want to know if they do their own landscape work.

This time of year, the task of maintaining our landscape (aha, there it is - as a noun again), is daunting. The weeds grow before my very eyes, despite the horrible soil (which we like to call "insta-brick"), tree roots that snake their way into every crevice, and bermudagrass, which I firmly believe is one of Satan's tools to cause us to sin, whether by cursing it, harboring hatred and malice in our heart toward it, or even attempting to kill it. Repeatedly.

Today I helped oldest son with his landscaping (see, it's morphed back into a verb) today. Fortunately, he's young and has a strong back, so my role consisted mainly of advising when his stone blocks were drifting one direction or another. It's a tough job being a garden coach, but somebody had to do it. And yes, that's my website, and yes, I do actually garden coach.

Good news: his stacked stone wall looks awesome, his new and replanted shrubs look orderly and should soon fill in the space without getting overgrown like the old stuff), and the only thing he lacks is a couple more shrubs. Better news - he used up the stacked stone blocks we had languishing after we dismantled the big pond last year.

I told him I'd visit some local nurseries and be his personal shopper tomorrow while he and his daddy are out on the lake fishing. It's a sacrifice, but I'll make myself go.

It's their first time to take the new (to us) boat out. Here's hoping the weather is kind to them - I think it's supposed to be a little cooler over the next week, which is fine by me.

Apr 14, 2010

Welcome Victim #4!

The poor Alberta Spruce. If only it knew its fate before I placed it in my cart at The Home Depot today. It probably would have toppled itself over, broken off the main stem and gotten it over with right then and there. Instead, it's now home, planted and facing the distinct possibility of a slow, torturous death.

But let's back up to the beginning. Two years ago, I cajoled my dad, my mom, my husband and one of my sons into creating a new sidewalk, down the side of our just-finished garage (no more carport - yay!) and also extending out to encircle our big honkin' Magnolia tree. It isn't quite a perfect axis from tree trunk to my kitchen window overlooking the backyard, but the tree is 40 feet tall and the window isn't going anywhere. It's close enough.

We just about killed ourselves creating the sidewalk, but in the final analysis, it's been a really nice addition to the landscaping. As soon as the sidewalk was done, we eagerly put in landscape edging and created symmetrical rose beds to flank this walk. Knockout roses in red and pink create perfect formal symmetry along this walk...at least in my mind's eye. I also bought two Alberta Spruce to set at the entrance to this walk. One has survived nicely, while the other one died, and was replaced, and replaced again...and now again.

Truth be told, the left side of the bed gets a bit soggy if we get a lot of rain - the ground slopes that direction and the sidewalk creates a barrier, so it pools and puddles. And we are prone to get monsoon-esque rains every now and again here in the south. If not in the spring, then in the fall when hurricanes rip up the coastline, they also move in enough to bring us a deluge...sometimes they last for days.

So the plants on the left side of the bed have suffered a bit: the roses are not quite as big as half the size of their counterparts across the sidewalk. And the righthand side Alberta Spruce has had three (now four) mates in two years.

Lesser mortals would give up. But I have decided I can outwit and overcome nature. Sheer force of will and all that. I spent time mounding up the soil under the roses on that side, so they are held a little higher. Fresh soil and lots of soil conditioner is now holding this Alberta Spruce aloft. And if all else fails, I'm saving the tag and receipt - I can always try with a fifth one.

When I finished planting the poor new spruce, I adapted this Flylady recipe for garlic lime chicken to make butterflied pork cutlets - yummy. (Yes, they were on the weekly menu for yesterday, but my family went AWOL at dinner time last night. Husband went to an investors meeting in Brentwood, daughter attended an Anatomy & Physiology class at MTSU with a friend (her first exposure to college life); and half my male progeny wanted to take advantage of cheap eats night at Kirkenburt's Smokehouse Grill. I wasn't about to cast pearls before absent swine, so the other son and I rustled up some burgers and I saved the dish for tonight - it got rave reviews. Thanks to the Recipes forum at Dave's Garden for turning me onto this awesome, fast recipe.

Apr 11, 2010

Even the weeds look good this time of year

Everything is so green and spring-y (yes, I could use my big-girl words like "verdant" but somehow "spring-y" fits.)

With youngest child off at a weekend youth retreat, we spent a gorgeous Saturday tending to our property. While Tony ran his new pull-behind sprayer (wayyyy better than a pump sprayer), I hand-weeded the daylily/daffodil bed - all 70-some feet of it. Then pruned the crepe myrtle - with a little help. Once the day's toils were wrapping up, I stopped to look down the street and I was reminded of why we chose this house (aside from its location.) Here's what we see from our front porch, and why we put up with neighbors who apparently self-medicate, and others who probably should be on meds ;o) It really is a pretty neighborhood and it typifies traditional southern neighborhoods, with graceful, mature trees and carefully tended homes and yards.

Once we got the front yard looking good, we turned our attention to the backyard today, where the rose bushes got pruned and weeded, the golf bench was properly situated between some azaleas, and the golf man and sundial were positioned just-so.

Another contorted filbert (they say third time's the charm) was promptly planted after being carried home last night. I do hope this one survives...they're kind of pricey to keep buying, planting and killing.

This week, I'll replace (also for the third time) an Alberta spruce that flanks the sidewalk out back. Hopefully I can find one approximately the same size as the surviving "mate." Then it's on to power-washing the deck, sidewalk and anything else that doesn't move out of my way, and getting mulch in place.

Apr 5, 2010

Just for today...

I will honor God by spending time in prayer and meditation today, and encouraging our youth at the Bible Bowl season finale tonight.

I will honor my employer by taking care of those things entrusted to me to oversee, and take care of the paperwork stacking up on my desk.

I will honor my body by eating healthy and working out. (A few weeks of slipshod eating habits have taken their toll. The scale and my clothes do not lie. But it was back on the wagon and treadmill as of today.)

I will honor my family with a cleaner home to enjoy this evening.

I cannot ruminate enough to undue the things of the past, and I cannot worry about tomorrow, or put things off, because it may be too late.

I will not attain perfection today. But I can use today perfectly, to the degree that I make full and complete use of it. I can live in the present, and do my best to be a good steward of the time, talents, and money I have been blessed with. Just for today.

So I will try to live out Matthew 6:34: "Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble."

Just for today.

Apr 4, 2010

A day for bunnies, baskets and babka

Recently, I stumbled over a scrumptious-looking photo of some sweet bread. Upon further investigation, I found it was called "babka," - a polish sweet cake made with yeast. Traditionally filled with cinnamon or chocolate and a favorite Easter treat. Talk about serendipity.

The babka in the photo was filled with a chocolate and hazelnut filling. Yum. I quickly found numerous recipes for babka, and settled on this one from Cooking Light.

I baked it last night, using chocolate-hazelnut spread (World Market's version of nutella) in lieu of the dark chocolate filling in the recipe. It was delicious with coffee this morning. I'm still wondering how I missed the babka episode of Seinfeld, but it's clear that babka should become part of my sweet roll repertoire.

In other news, the Easter bunny still delivers to our house. Three baskets, each filled with identical chocolate bunnies, peanut butter eggs and malted milk "robin eggs" were lined up on the table this morning. Pretty much exactly like when the kids were little. Although now, the chocolate isn't devoured or hoarded immediately - they're actually pretty laid-back about checking their baskets on Easter morning. I guess one of these days, we'll be done with this aspect of Easter, but for now the bunny still hops here.

After morning worship services, four of us (middle child had to work - bummer) snapped a few photos before we changed into casual clothes.

Then we headed to Lebanon to enjoy a delicious Easter dinner courtesy of my sister-in-law, with the Lea family and some friends. Wonderful food, even better fellowship was had on this gorgeous spring day.

Apr 3, 2010

It's not the same color

Yesterday I made good on my commitment to paint the hall and den this month.

Today my neck and legs are paying penance for the painting marathon. Here's the "before" shot of the den.

You can see the drywall patchwork on the ceiling (if I had a nickel for every drywall patch I've made in this house, I'd have a lot of nickels.) You can also see the mantel. In case you can't guess, winter mantels are a struggle for me in my annual post-holiday funk. Anyhoo, the wall color is called "dried grass" and it's decidedly in the green family, although it leans toward khaki.

The new color is called "winter garden" and I used it to great effect (IMHO) in the formal living/dining room. It's a mustard-y color, or so I thought. You can judge for yourself. After I got the walls painted, the men-folk in our family strolled in and both said "it's the same color as before." I harrumphed them out and insisted they were dead wrong. And they were...but if I were under oath, I'd have to confess the two colors are...well...similar. At least the mantel has been made over, thanks to some sepia-toned prints of photos my better half snapped while we were enjoying the beach in South Carolina. The biggest print is a rowboat in a marsh, a la Sparks' "The Notebook" and was spotted by DD when I was getting the photos framed today. Good eye, that one. Takes after her mama.

Of course, now that I've painted the den, the adjacent kitchen and breakfast nook are suddenly looking a little shabby. Sigh...this is how I have managed to paint every room of this house 3 times over in less than a decade.

Apr 1, 2010

Straight from winter to summer - no foolin!

Wow. It got up to mid-80s today and the forecast is for 86 tomorrow. No April Fool's Joke - this is a good 20 degrees above normal for us. Unfortunately, halcyon years like this stick in my husband's memory, and each spring he grumbles about getting the tomatoes out in the garden by the end of March. He conveniently forgets that just as frequently, our daily highs are in the 40s and 50s until after we get the all-clear in mid-April. And even in years like this, the weather can be capricious: just a few years ago we experienced 3 nights of freezing temps after the magical 4/15 date, stunting and killing a lot of shrubs and trees.

But given the extended forecast, it does look like I can get the containers planted sooner than later. So I just *had* to slip over to Martin's and pick up some plants - orangey geraniums, plum-colored Dracaena spikes, surrounded by golden Lysimachia 'Goldilocks' and a new gorgeous-smelling baby blue Lobelia. I was literally snatching them off the carts before the could put them on the sale benches.

Next up is a foray over to Valley Growers (especially since they opened VG Too over at the Co-op) and see what they're putting out this year. And I'm sure we'll be buying azaleas on Saturday.

So much for getting the car washed and vacuumed today. But the front porch looks great, and thanks to middle child wielding the mattock, the small bed where the sidewalk intersects the driveway is now cleared of weeds and tree roots, and planted with dark-leaved 'Blackbird' spurge surrounded by golden 'Angelina' sedum groundcover. I'll probably plant some blue daze evolvulus and something orange - vinca or celosia, or something else that can take the heat and sun, just to make it pop a little more.