Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Crosswalks are for Everyone

I was driving to work a few days ago and was stopped at stop light in Charlotte when a whole flock of Canadian geese began crossing the road at the crosswalk. They seemed to wait until the light turned green and then the leader confidently stepped out. The rest of his flock were doubting Thomases, however, and lingered behind for a few minutes before crossing. This is a bad picture taken through my windshield, but you can see the brown blobs to the left and the one lone leader off to the right, nearly across the street.
They were waddling halfway across when their light turned red. Those of us going to work that were crossing their path started easing our way across. They weren't decisive about going forward at a good pace, so we went on and crossed ahead of them. But, as I looked into their faces as I went by to say "sorry", I felt real sheepish. For they seemed to say, "How dare you! We're in the crosswalk!"

Monday, July 28, 2008

Project Weekend

In October I will be taking the exam to become a licensed geologist, and have been dragging my feet about studying. This is really bad. So I thought if we got some things finished, I'd feel easier about taking the next few months off from house things to study geology. Paul was very helpful and jumped right in to hang the lace curtains that I sewed a weekend or so ago, and even went so far as to hang the drapery rods for future drapes that have not been made yet. These rods and parts have been sitting on our bedroom floor for almost as long as we've been in the house, so this was a good thing done.

Here's the front bedroom window with the curtain rod installed...

Here is the side bedroom window that will face our neighbor when their house is built. The lot sold, but no construction has begun. I think this was a contingency sale, so they had to sell their house before they could go forward with this one. For now we get to see trees but that will change.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Big Red on a Leash

The other day Paul was leaving for work and he said to Big Red, in passing, "No running away, now, you hear?" And I couldn't stop laughing because I didn't realize until then that it does look like he's on a leash!

Poor Big Red has grown so fast and so tall this spring that his bark hasn't caught up with his height. So everytime a storm comes through and bit of wind starts to blow, his trunk bends over and has a hard time springing back up. We have him tied up so that he doesn't get battered.

I don't know if you recall, but Big Red is our redwood tree we bought from California, and he was just 5-6" tall last year when we moved to North Carolina. Here he is with Mavis the Maple earlier this spring.

And now Mavis is huge too! Both these guys are going to be planted in the yard this fall.

We didn't used to give names to our plants, by the way, but it was getting difficult to expain which plants needed watering, who needed transplanting, etc. without giving them a simple name. Now when I travel, I just tell Paul to make sure Mavis, Big Red and Venus get plenty of water, and Sleeping Beauty and Fiona can do without. Easier for him to remember and it cuts down on spouting out long drawn out technical names that are hard to remember and have no personality. Plus, it's more fun!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Niche Gardens- NC Native Plants

Paul and I are planning on making a day trip to Niche Gardens in Chapel Hill to check out their native plant selection. I was hoping to go in the spring but missed that boat! Anyway, if you live in NC and want to plant some native, drought and disease-resistant plants, check it out. Their article in Our State magazine shows that they have some impressive garden displays to show how the plants can be arranged together, which should be helpful to those of us not familiar with the plants' characteristics. Their website is

Monday, July 21, 2008

Tough Drapery Decisions

Yep, we are still changing in the closet and turning out the lights before jumping into bed to ensure some privacy in our wide-open-to-the-world bedroom. Why? Because we are still catching up financially to our furniture we bought and also because we have had a hard time coming to agreement on fabric for the drapes. We like plenty of swatches at the fabric stores we've been to, we check them out for a week and bring them home and then they transform in the natural lighting into something at least one of us doesn't like. But we have come to agreement at last! Our favorite is the one on the left here:

Up close....

Versus a second runner up. This one ended up looking too dark when we put it up next to the window, especially because our furniture is dark. We want some dark brown, but not too much.

Now we are just holding out for a sale to go on, and then we'll buy the fabric. In the meantime, I've been sewing a lot this weekend. We got some inexpensive lace for the bedroom windows and two small windows by the front door. These aren't real private, but they will be put up in addition to the drapes to help filter the sun a bit for when the drapes are open during the daytime. They only had enough to do our four bedroom windows and the two downstairs, but I'm keeping my eye out for more of the same kind to put in the two living room windows, to give uniformity to our windows from the outside.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Vegetable Pasta Recipe

Trader Joe's has this great pesto tortellini pasta in their fridge section that you boil for 6 minutes and it's done. One of our favorite summer dishes is this pasta topped with fresh vegetables. Here's what we do: (serves 3)

Start boiling a big pot of water with a dash of salt. Meanwhile chop up a head of broccoli, a couple carrots, 5 or 6 mushrooms and a small onion. When the water reaches boiling, add the carrots. Let the carrots cook for about 2 minutes while adding 2 Tbs. of grapeseed oil to a frying pan and heat up. Begin sauteing the onions in the frying pan. Add the broccoli and Trader Joe's pesto tortellini pasta to the boiling water with carrots. When the onions are soft, add the mushrooms and continue sauteing. while things are cooking, chop up a few green onions and a few small tomatoes. Grate some parmesan cheese or cheat like us and use Trader Joe's pre-grated parm.

Everything should finish about the same time in about 6 or 7 minutes (theoretically). Drain the water from the pasta, broccoli and carrots and serve. Top with sauteed mushrooms and onions and chopped tomato and green onion. Toss with a Tbs. of grapeseed oil and sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese. Delicious, light and refreshing!
We also sometimes add frozen corn to the boiling pot of water, or frozen green beans if we are running low on fresh veggies. Zucchini would also be good-oh yeah!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Constant Companion

The Sweater II, my knitting project, has been my constant companion this week. We have argued ("I know I didn't purl those stitches a few rows back! Now you are making me pull out your last few rows!"), we have weathered the storm on the bike ride through the rain, we have waited out the storm in Caribou Coffee and today we were in the field together.

Yep, I'm down in Florence, SC working for a few days, and my job is to make sure two samplers keep their gloves and safety glasses on. So, while I'm keeping a close watch, I get a few rows in here and there. Now, me and my knitting are in the lobby of the hotel getting ready to pay some bills on the laptop. For some reason, wireless does not reach the 7th floor, so I've parked it in here in the lobby.

In a nutshell, my knitting has given me some strange looks, has inspired some conversation at the coffee shop and at the office (I'm in the process of giving knitting lessons to a guy in our office), and even though me and my knitting don't always get along, we are connected at the moment. With a good project, it's just plain hard to put it down!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Weathering the Storm

Today was another bike riding adventure to work and back. It was a great day for a ride until 5:00. I was wheeling my bike outside when a passerby, glancing up at the sky, advised me to peddle fast. Sure enough, ominous clouds, complete with lightening and thunder, were moving in the direction I was heading. So I rode as fast as I could to try to beat the storm. It didn't work, but luckily I had a plastic bag in my backpack to wrap up my computer in, so I quickly stopped, covered my computer and put it back in my backpack and rode as fast as I could through the rain. It wasn't the safest thing I had done, but already committed to the task, there was no good place to stop because there were no shops until I got to where my car was parked. I made it pretty quickly actually, but awaited another big problem: once I got to the car, I realized I couldn't put the roof down on the convertible to get the bike home, or I'd end up with worse issues at home with a disgruntled husband upset over a wet car interior.

So, the best solution: wait out the storm in Caribou Coffee. I am happily enjoying the largest hot chocolate possible, doing some knitting on The Sweater II which I so happened to have in my backpack, and decided to take advantage of the free wireless internet here! No better way to have an unexpected delay.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Summer Storm

There's the saying, "If you don't like the weather, wait a few minutes..." that seems to fit aptly on the east coast, and I love it! The summer is not my favorite season because I'm not a big fan of the heat, and so I think it's fantastic how much the weather can change here from hour to hour. There are still plenty of hot days, but the days are often punctuated with afternoon thunderstorms, moments of lower humidity with a cooling breeze, or maybe a foggy morning or two.

Yesterday I left for church in the sun, wearing a sunny yellow skirt. During the service it sounded like kids playing on the roof, and then someone announced that there was a thunderstorm going on outside and everyone that has their windows rolled down might want to take a break to roll them up.

I was pretty surprised when I was driving home to find the streets partially flooded and have my way lit up by the lightening. I got home and had to prop up Big Red and Mavis who were sadly leaning to one side from the wind. Paul and I spent the rest of the afternoon with the front porch windows and back door open to listen to the thunder and rain, and we drank hot chocolate. Paul and the birds, who don't mind the thunder, took a nap and I sat by the window spinning.

While enjoying the weather for what it was, I still couldn't help but think how sad it is that so many people's lives are changed by weather disasters at the moment, such as the flooding in Iowa, the fires in California and the drought that we in the south are trying to get over. The unpredictability can be exciting, but can also bring disaster. I guess we just have to appreciate the good days.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Oh it's the Weekend!

Here is my bike in the back of the car in the parkinglot a few miles from work (last Tuesday). I never did the bike ride again last week as I ended up working from home on Thursday. I'll be trying the ride again on Monday.

I finished my first skein of yarn! Notice how different it looks in different lighting.
This was our 4th of July morning- staining/sealing the deck. No rain was in the forecast for the day so we needed to seize the day. Plus, our barbeque is on 5th rather than the 4th so we wanted it looking nice for Saturday.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Bike Ride Commute-- Season II

I gave up bike riding to work when we moved out of our apartment 10 minutes from work into a house 40 minutes from work (that's drive time, not bike time). But with the increase in gas prices that nobody is enjoying, I figured I can surely come up with a way to cut down on gas expenses and get exercise at the same time. I also like the idea of taking a bus and using the time to read a good book or knit, but haven't taken the time to figure out the bus routes and logistics. So bike riding it is for now!

I chose yesterday as my start day since I needed the weekend to pump up my tires and do a little fixing up my bike. There's no physical way in the shape I'm in to do the whole trip to work, so I drove through all the narrow country roads and up the long hill to a shopping center 2/3 of the way to work, parked the car and unloaded the bike. Luckily, the car is a convertible, or we wouldn't be able to get the bike in it. The scenic ride along one of the only bike lanes in Charlotte was accomplished with much hard work going up and down hills, and I felt proud that I made it! I was sure the ride was about 6 or 7 miles but was kinda disappointed to find out today when I drove the route that it was only barely 4 miles each way. I was too "worked" to do it again today and will try again tomorrow. A few times a week is probably all I'll do, but it is better than nothing.

When I got to work after the ride, I did a quick sponge cleanup in the restroom, washed my hair in the sink and put my makeup on. I was a bit embarrassed when people came into the restroom. I felt compelled to explain the circumstances that led to me washing my hair in the bathroom sink, but oh well.

Today on my drive in, I noticed for the first time that all the bus stops had people waiting: men and women in suits and briefcases and students and people of all walks of life. People are making a change for the better I think. We need to find ways to switch to alternative fuel/energy sources and the rising gas prices is the thing to spur the changes.