Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Weekend Projects and Afternoon Thunderstorms

As has been the habit of late, Paul and I have been spending the weekends on projects (between the chores). Here he is working very hard on sawing curtain rods in half so we can maybe someday get started on getting curtains up in our bedroom (yes, we are still getting dressed in the dark).

This weekend I was blown away by how much our yard has changed since I was home last weekend. This was this past weekend:

... and this was the weekend before!
Our other major accomplishment this weekend was getting our furniture moved into the house with the help of two gardeners and our neighbors. This dining room table (without the leaf) took 4 men to carry it into the house. Plus, we then had to attach the 8 legs and then flip it over- quite an ordeal. Wish I had had the camera handy! It is starting to feel more like a home with each piece of furniture we set up.

Just as the furniture was moved in (more pictures later) a thunderstorm broke out and it felt like one of those great summer showers with warm temps. and high humidity, complete with thunder and lightening. We opened the windows that were sheltered and listened to the rain and thunder. It ended up raining all night long and into Monday, and the whole way up to Virginia.

The clouds broke as I got there and so we decided to try sampling a well. We were just setting up to start work when rain started coming down in buckets and an emergency broadcast came over the radio announcing a tornado alert in our town. We quickly packed up and left the site, ominous clouds in the rear-view mirror. I got back to my hotel 15 minutes later and saw on the hotel lobby TV that a tornado struck somewhere in the city where we were and ten miles down the road in the shopping center where we often go to eat dinner. Sadly, 200 people in the area were injured and the regions struck have been declared in a state of emergency. Repairs are underway, but I haven't heard any details this evening.

On a positive note, Mavis and Big Red are doing great with all the rain, and we have a new addition to the tree family: a Japanese maple seedling that I found growing in the grass of the site I've been working at in Virginia. It was about to be mowed with the grass, and I just had to save it to add to our growing forest. Japanese maples are gorgeous!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Hotel Gossip

Now that I've been staying at the Hampton Inn by the site in Virginia for 7 weeks now, I've gotten to know the staff on a first-name basis and I'm treated like a guest rather than a customer-- it's what makes me keep coming back to the same place- a home away from home.

When I was checking out a few weeks ago, the manager said, "ok, I've got to ask because I'm dying to know: what is that thing that you have set up in your hotel room each time you stay?" Of course I knew what she was referring to because my hatbox spinning wheel has come with me on each trip, is a conversation piece at every airport that I've been to with it, and I've gotten used to the curiosity it attracts. So I showed her what it was all about and she was fascinated, but I think more relieved than fascinated to have her curiosity satisfied.

Today I came in early to check in and a maid gave me a very strange look as she said, "hello." Odd reaction especially since my hatbox was still in the car. But I had a hunch she knew I belonged to it. Two minutes later the manager, upon greeting me, said that she had a very worried maid ask her last week what my contraption was, and why did I have "a dog" laying in a pile on the chair. Luckily the manager knew what it was all about by then and could explain to the poor woman that I didn't have a dead dog in my room, and that it was merely wool for spinning yarn on the contraption ( I hope she explained that no sheep were harmed in the gathering of the wool) :-)

Monday, April 21, 2008

Bathroom Decorating Again

When I think about it, the bathroom is a strange place to start decorating when considering all the rooms in a house. But for us, it all started with the necessity of window coverings so we didn't have to take our showers in the dark. Then once we had curtains, we had a color palette to work from and it's been easy from there. Now, if I could just get Paul to tie back the curtains every morning with the fabric bows while I'm gone...

But the urn water fountain has been both the biggest pleasure and the biggest headache. It ended up looking larger than life once we got it in the bathroom and so softening it up and toning it down has been tricky. But this weekend I went shopping and bought some plants and accessories to soften the edges of the base and it magically turned the bathroom into a garden theme! The mushrooms that I got at the Biltmore last weekend that I was home are my favorite. The trickling water from the urn is soothing to listen to as we fall asleep at night, and it's relaxing as we get ready for work in the morning.

I got some live aquarium plants for inside the urn base and some activated carbon in a filter bag to work on clearing up the water.
Speaking of gardens, our backyard is springing to life with the rain and warm weather. The greenery around charlotte has been breathtaking (probably is this way every spring, but this is our first spring here).
Our weekend was filled of having fun decorating the bathroom and getting new furniture unpacked from boxes (last weekend while I was here in Virginia working, Paul went and picked up furniture we ordered) and setting up what we had time to assemble. I'll post more pictures when we get everything moved into the proper rooms -- it was mostly all too heavy to move ourselves and so we need to round up some recruits.

Well, I'm back in Virginia and it's time for bed. Good night!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Reflections on the Week

I got home from Virginia a day early! I think everyone was conspiring to get home early; the drillers, Nate and myself were working at top efficiency using ultimate teamwork skills to get all the new wells on site that we put in, in addition to the wells that have been there forever, up in working order. That included pumping out all the gunky dirt that settles in the bottom (me and Nate working on separate wells), building cement pads around the outside with posts to keep cars from running them over (two drillers did this), painting the posts yellow so they are visible (two drillers did this) and a few drillers to be errand boys, running supplies and equipment back and forth to all the different teams. Anyway, I'm sure this sounds uninteresting, but I thought it was pretty great work to see it all come together Monday night. All that was left was to face Dennis.

Tuesday morning the drillers came onto site to pack up their rigs and hit the road. Meanwhile I knew Nate was shaking in his boots because Dennis was back from vacation, as evidenced from the scurrying of mowers pulling their ride-on lawnmowers out of the garages and heading out en-mass to the fields.
Dennis, to give some background, is a very nice man but when it comes to the plant's grounds, he is a real tough sergeant. He prides himself on keeping the plant's lawns and fields looking tip-top shape, for when visitors and clients come for a site visit they like to see a pretty plant (that is a tall order for a manufacturing facility-all eggs have to be in one basket: landscaping). So, when we first started on this project in March, Dennis spoke volumes with his eyes as to what would happen if we messed up his grass with our drill rigs and paraphernalia, and he let us know in plain words too.
But a week into the project Dennis left for Hawaii and subsequently it rained on site, turning the grass to soft muck under the heavy rigs to the point where two of the rigs got stuck in the mud, having to be towed out with a backhoe. Then, there was the bobcats and my rig that run on tracks like tanks. These really just shear off the top layer of sod whenever they turn. Dennis' lawn turned to ruts and grooves and slop in just a few short days into his vacation.

Yesterday it was time to face him and own up to our doings. Poor Nate had to face Dennis alone because I had some last minute samples to collect. An hour or so later I found Nate loading up his truck and I asked, "Do we have some big-time yard work to do today?" He let out half a laugh and said, "Dennis just said, 'that's OK Lad, we'll talk about how we can get that patched up later.' so all I can say is it's a good thing Dennis went to Hawaii." I was thinking for a minute... "Why's that?" "Well because he got -- you know -- as in the flower necklace of course, well never mind, bad joke." I had to laugh.

A few hours later after a nice shower back at the hotel and good-bye partings to the hotel staff (now my second family) I was driving home yesterday, all geared up to surprise Paul with my early arrival. I had good music playing on my ipod and the scenery couldn't have been better out the window.
All the trees are spring green and there's still some flowering trees - I think it's dogwood blooming right now (big flowers). The pictures were taken while driving so they aren't so good and my windows were dirty.
Funniest thing was that I was cruising down lane 2 on the freeway, going towards Greensboro, NC when something caught my eye: a pigeon flying in lane 3 right next to me keeping with the flow of traffic. He was flying my speed, 60mph, when he decided to change lanes and take the next exit. How cute he was! Not a look in his eye indicated that he didn't do this every single day on the way back to the nest.

Shortly after I saw a sign "Dairy Queen exit 204" so because it was Mom's birthday and her scrapbooks have a fair spattering of Dairy Queen pictures from her many travels across the country, I thought I'd stop and grab a picture for her.
And while I was there thought might as well get a chocolate dipped ice cream cone in honor of her birthday. Here's a big happy birthday to you, Mom! No tripod available for this shot.
A few short hours later I was home and in Paul's arms- ah! How nice it is to be home!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Wisteria and Another Cemetery

Well, I've made it through day six in the ten day shift, just over halfway there and I'm beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Plus, yesterday was my birthday and I was treated to a birthday song serenade by the drillers and my fellow co-workers working in the field with me. It was kinda funny because everyone present were the rough and tough sort of gentlemen wearing hardhats and boots, and yet they brought in scones for my celebration pre-work treat rather than doughnuts. Who would have thought?

Driving back to the hotel this afternoon, it was the first day that I wasn't rushing soil samples over to Fed-Ex to ship to the lab, and so I had a leisurely drive. For the first time I saw beautiful purple flowers hanging all over different types of trees. They must have just started blooming, or I've been too busy to notice, but they look like they are hanging from a vine growing over the trees. This must be Wisteria that my mom's friend Charlene was telling me about: a plain vine that doesn't have leaves when it is in bloom, and it has gorgeous hanging purple flowers. Picture below is from Wikipedia.
I wish I had my camera handy to photograph each day along the roads I drive because there are noticeable changes to the blooms and leaf growth each day! What a glorious season spring is out here!
Wisteria (?) on the roadside here in Virginia.
Oh, and another exciting thing some of us saw today at the plant- a very large cat off in the distance, walking next to the railroad tracks, along the treeline. It was about 100 yards away and looked blackish brown with a long tail, and it moved like a cat rather than a dog, but it was the size of a large dog. Hmmm... I looked up black panther on the internet but no scientific evidence has proved the existence of black panthers in North America. Is there such thing as a large black bobcat with a long tail? This mystery is going to bug me, but will not likely be solved as we couldn't get a picture.

By now you know my fascination with all the cemeteries out here, and this is a beautiful one on my drive to the plant. I love how folks out here take the time to keep flowers on the graves.

Good night, and sleep tight!
P.S. Trish, on Monday I sent a batch of spun cashmere/silk back to you via UPS. Should be there soon...

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Visiting the Biltmore

After touring the old historic mansion with the many bedrooms and countless bathrooms (no photography allowed), it was time for some refreshments by way of dessert. My chocolate and rainbow sprinkled waffle cone with mint chip ice cream was delicious despite the cold weather and Charlene couldn't decide between a cream puff and a raspberry-filled pastry... so she had both!

After the ice cream it was time to warm up with some afternoon tea at the Biltmore Inn. We came for the fingerfoods and pastries on the three-tiered china pastry plate, let's be honest.

We toured the gardens and greenhouses and dodged the rain when possible. Nevertheless we did have our raincoats and weren't afraid to use them! Luckily.

We ended up being there all day and were just dragging ourselves away from the gift shops when the storm really let loose. Mom was the brave soldier who drove us home admidst the lightning bolts and confusing road signs that were near impossible to read on a clear day, let alone a windshield berrated with water. We were convinced it was nothing short of a hurricane and the lightening and cracks of thunder didn't stop the whole 3 hour drive home in the dark (dark except when the sky was lit up by bolts). We made it home with a sigh of relief and Paul was just getting into bed. He asked, "Did you hear the thunder? It just started a minute ago."

Monday, April 7, 2008

Weekend with the Girls

My mom and her friend, Charlene, were coming back to my house after going to Charleston, SC and Savanna, GA for quick sight-seeing trips. I was coming back from my ten day shift in Virginia on Wednesday, so we all met back at about the same time. Then we had Thursday through Sunday afternoon to have fun, fun, fun!
We of course scrapbooked, as is tradition with my mom (and sister if she was there). Charlene is a big scrapbooking fiend as well, so we had so much fun all day on Thursday scrapbooking while watching great chic flicks such as "Sense and Sensibility" and "Return to Me".

The mess we have here progressed throughout the weekend as we worked on our projects over the course of Saturday and Sunday. Friday was reserved for a fine trip to the Biltmore Estate (pictures to be posted at a later time).

I'm now back up in Virginia. Sigh. The fun weekend is over, it is back to work again, and time for bed. Good night!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Osprey Sighting

I so badly wish I could bring my camera to the sites where I work! The wildlife is phenomenal as there are usually habitats set aside or produced for the animals around the facilities. At this location in Virginia, we are working right along the James River and so the birdwatching is fabulous. As I was waiting for a pump to purge out muddy water from a well, I noticed some unusual hawks circling around above the river. Some came quite close to where I was and I got a good look at them. They were a lot different than the hawks I'd seen around in California, so I described the bird to Steve (a co-worker) who seems to know everything about anything (in a humble way), and he thought it sounded like an osprey. I came back and googled it, and sure enough this is what I saw:

These birds are fisherbirds, catching fish with their scaly feet (and big talons too). No wonder they seemed to not stray from the river. At first I thought they were vultures because they were so big and were flying in circles. But then I noticed the bright white belly and stripe along their faces, and had to admit I'd never seen a vulture with those characteristics. This picture above is compliments of Wikipedia.