Thursday, April 28, 2011

Lilacs and Wisteria


When I was studying at Rutgers many years ago, I developed a deep appreciation for the writing of William Faulkner. His books, in particular, are so bound up in his own cultural influences that you cannot separate the South from the tales he tells. One of the leitmotifs woven throughout the fabric of his corpus is wisteria. It's heady perfume. It's graceful drape. It's southern ubiquity.


Imagine my complete delight when I discovered yesterday that along with the honeysuckle that blankets the fence between us and the corner neighbor is a new wisteria vine. I spotted three delicate purple flowers draped along the foliage, and I couldn't help but inhale the delicate fragrance, so like lilacs but without the overwhelming pungency that clings to the back of your nose after a whiff. Where it can from is anyone's guess. There's a beautiful wisteria vine creeping around a trellis at the opposite end of our street, but I don't know of another one that close. I can only imagine it is the work of the birds, bees, and the wind.


My lilac bush is in full bloom. The flowers are a soft shade of purple and the smell is simply divine.


I couldn't help myself. I immediately got out the scissors and took some clipping inside.


Now my whole kitchen has the faintest tinge of lilac perfume.



The peonies are about to open as well. I have at least 6 or 7 gorgeous buds about to burst open.


You can be sure some of them will also be coming inside. I think clipping flowers out of your own garden is one of the happiest things you can do.


Bringing the beauty indoors.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Ways to Cut Expenses - Lose the Landline

So if last week's encouragement to kill your TV was a little radical, so too is this week's. Lose your landline. I have a feeling that this is a generational thing. I hazard to suggest that if you were born in the '80s or later, you are far less likely to ever own a landline.

Again, this is a good example of how moving to Scotland forced us to change our habits around phones. In Scotland we opted just to have a landline. We spoke to family over Skype, which was free, and since we didn't have a car, the need for a cell phone seemed negligible. We adapted as necessary, and when we said we were going to be somewhere, we didn't change plans last minute via cell phone. If I were out and about shopping and needed to get hold of Trey at home, I used a pay phone. Remember those?

When we moved back, Trey and I both got cell phones. We spent the next 18 months establishing our phone identity on forms and applications using only the cell phones, which made the choice easy when we bought a house. The thought of getting a landline at that point seemed superfluous. Everyone already knew our cell numbers. We get free long distance with them. Why would we spend extra money just to get a landline that probably would only be called by stray telemarketers?

The flexibility, affordability, and portability of cell phone have made landlines seem obsolete.In fact, anymore I relate to landlines like I do to old ladies at the grocery store who insist on paying by check. Really? You know, they have a thing called an ATM card now that takes a fraction of the time. Like I said this is definitely a generational issue.

But for us a way to save some extra money too.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Goslings


Spotted at the train station.



The father goose was very protective and began hissing at passersby that got too near.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Tangled

It's not very often that I sit down to watch a full-length, feature film for children. Many of the movies my kids watch, I've only caught in the background while I'm working. I'm not sure I've ever actually seen Cars from start to finish but I can quote you just about every line.

Last week on a quick trip to the grocery store, Trey spontaneously, and for reasons I am still unclear about, decided to buy Davis and Genevie Tangled. I inwardly groaned when he told me. When I had first heard about the movie. A re-purposed Rapunzel story just to lure long-hair-star-struck little girls into the theaters. I groaned even louder when I saw the merchandise at Christmas. Tangled Barbie dolls and Tangled baby dolls. I admit. I'm turning into my mother a bit.

But after a first and second viewing, Davis was hooked, and so Saturday afternoon I sat down and watched the movie with him nestled in my lap. And I am here to admit that I was completely wrong. Tangled is a fantastic movie not just for kids but for adults as well. Don't let all the hair fool you, like it fooled me. It's not vapid or sexist. It's actually the thoughtful tale of a woman in search of something greater than herself, who is willing to sacrifice her own happiness for others. The heroine, Rapunzel, has a completely fresh perspective on life as a result of her sheltered upbringing and she is able to charm brute and beast alike with her childlike zest for life and acceptance of others. This movie is both funny and touching with memorable songs and incredible cinematography (if that's the right word for animation). Highly recommended.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

First Game

If anything can be said about t-ball, it is an exercise in patience. It's like a microcosm of parenting. You pour a lot of effort into teaching these youngsters the rules of the game. Most of it seems to go in one ear and out the next. Many times they run around the bases the wrong direction or simply aren't paying attention when a ground ball comes their way, but after a few years you begin to see the fruits of your labors with increased focus, skill, and rule following.

Addison had his first t-ball game on Monday. It was fairly uneventful. Ironically, it was Yankees vs. Red Sox.

Each side batted through the line-up so that every boy got a chance at bat regardless of whether he was tagged out or not. They played 3 innings total with the goal of getting the children accustomed to the rhythm of the game.

Addison often seemed more interested in chatting with the nearest fielder or base runner than on the game itself.

video

And then this happened. In fact, I didn't even catch this little nugget until after the game when I was going through all the footage we took. In this video you'll see Addison on the pitcher's mound go for the ground ball. While it does go through his legs, his form is good. He did everything he was taught -- glove down, knees bent, use free hand like an alligator's jaws. After the play, the coach gives him a high five and then he does a little, private fist pump. It did his mama's heart proud.


Goofing around with a teammate.

Genevie enjoyed climbing all over the bleachers and being chased by Davis.


Actually paying attention.

Getting batting instruction from Coach Mark.


Hitting the ball.

Addison' fan club.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Baseball Miracle

Imagine my sheer delight at discovering this photo on the Stratford Athletic Organization website following Opening Day on Saturday. I knew the picture was taken, but didn't really think much of it afterwards. Then yesterday at Addison's first t-ball game (yes, more on that to come soon) we ran into one of the moms whose son goes to Davis's preschool and she told us there was a great shot of us on the website. Here it is in all its glory. I can't believe we're all (minus Addison, of course, who was on the field with his team) looking AND smiling. It's a baseball miracle.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Ways to Cut Expenses - Kill Your TV

Following my Yard Saling post, I thought it apropos to do a series on some of my household-expense-cutting techniques. Even though we have more income today than ever before, as new home owners we are what might be fondly referred to as "house poor". I know this to be a common plight for those in our situation and one which, hopefully, will not persist for too long. In the meantime, we have continued to cut our expenses as much as we can, sometimes in new and creative ways to improve our bottom line, and I am going to share them with you over the next 12 weeks. Yes, I have 12 cost-cutting measure queued up.

I'm going to start off with perhaps the most radical, at least for Americans, television. Yes, that's right. We don't have one. While TVs in and of themselves are not that expensive (remember when that $500 flat screen used to cost $10K?), the ongoing cost of cable adds up considerably. Before we moved to Scotland, we were paying about $80/month for basic cable. We had no fancy extra channels, and in reality we only watched a small fraction of those channels we actually got. What a waste of money! Furthermore, we watched way too much television. I would come home from work, eat dinner, and lie down on the couch to watch TV for the rest of the evening.

When we moved to Scotland, we opted not to buy a TV. We didn't really have the extra cash to get one and we were principally opposed to paying for an annual "license" to watch television. It all felt too Big Brother for us Yanks. Living without TV for two years in a more or less "forced" context taught us that we could do it voluntarily. When we moved back to the US, my parents had a TV but it was in their bedroom, so we didn't get to watch it very often. We had given our TV away before we had moved and when we bought the house last March, it was such a low priority to replace compared with everything else that needed to be attended to.

I don't know what cable costs today, but assuming the price has stayed exactly the same, that's $80/month I get to keep for other things. The television shows I really want to see, I can watch online, most of them just one day after they've aired. Movies I want to watch, I can get through our Netflix subscription for a fraction of what cable costs, and all in all, not having the television has forced to find other and more beneficial ways of spending my free time.

You may not be ready to make such a radical leap and dispense with your television altogether. In fact, I can't promise that we will always be TV free. I am by no means opposed to owning one. But from a cost-savings perspective, it's a great choice for us. And as a way to get your feet wet, consider at least skipping cable and only getting the antenna adjustment for a clear, rabbit-ears-free picture without the extra cable cost.

What do you think? Could you live without it?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Opening Day

Saturday was Opening Day, and it was nothing like you would expect an Opening Day to be. Instead of warm breezes and sunshine, we battled 40 degree weather, rain, and wind. I'm pretty much ready to send this April packing. It's been sub-par.

Even so, Addison enjoyed himself.

And so did Davis.

The jury's still out on this one.




The teams went out on the field, received some awards and words of encouragement for the upcoming season, and it all concluded with the announcement of the raffle winners.

I departed early with the other two. Cold weather and hungry tummies were not compatible.

Addison out on the field with his team. He's the hooded child facing the camera front and center.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

New Life

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you know just what a nut I am for flowers and springtime. Now that we have our own little piece of earth to do with as we please, I actually get to grow flowers and shrubs outside and not just in pots inside. Last year with just moving, I could only really lay a foundation for some of the beautiful plants I wanted to add to our garden. This year, I feel like I've really made progress, and it has been a thrill to watch the bulbs and other living things that I planted last year, spring to new life.

This is our next door neighbor's cherry tree, which sits right along our property line. In fact, more of it hangs over into our yard than hers. I never knew until this past Saturday that cherry blossoms are deliciously, delicately fragrant. As I was weeding and working in my flower beds, I kept getting a whiff of the most sweetly soft perfume. Further inspection revealed it was the cherry tree.

Last year I put a peony plant into the ground. I cut it back rather severely this fall and you can hardly imagine my delight as I have watched it send up multiple healthy shoots. I can't wait to cut them and bring them indoors in a vase. Peonies are one of my favorite flowers.

Peonies run a close second to lilacs. I have always wanted a lilac bush and last year I plunked down a bigger chunk of cash than I care to admit for a gorgeous one. At the top of each stem you can see where I will be getting flowers this year. Worth every penny in my book.

I got two bags of bulbs last fall at our discount grocery store for something like $3 or $4. One was daffodils, the other tulips. The tulips have all just opened in the past few days and they are the most delicious shade of candy apple red with a couple of orange and yellow variegated ones thrown in for good measure.

Every time Trey sees the bulbs he says, we need to plant more. I definitely will. I would love both front beds to just be awash in tulips next spring.

And if peonies and lilacs are favorites, hyacinths are right up there with them. In case you hadn't guessed, I'm partial to highly perfumed flowers. Every year I get some for Easter, and last year I had the good sense to actually put them in the ground. 3 whites and 3 purples. They came up this year so beautiful and fragrant. I will definitely be adding more.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Insult and the Injury

Wait...what?

Are you kidding me?

No way!

Yes, Genevie, your brother is a Yankee. It's a comedy of errors really. The coach went to the shop to pick up his team's uniforms. They were supposed to the Arizona Diamondbacks, but through some snafu, the shop only had Yankee jerseys and hats left.

I know, Addison. Me too. I'm laughing on the outside but crying on the inside.

I'm not sure how to adequately explain the total insult and injury involved in rooting for your son...in a Yankee's jersey. You just can't understand...unless you're a Boston Red Sox fan.

Then you get it.