18 August 2017

Feline Friday

First, let me say that Lily and I are both OK. But we had a Big Scare this week, and I learned an important lesson!

Here's what happened:
Early last evening, I took Lily out on her leash for a walk around the yard. She still won't walk much on the grass, so we ended up in the driveway which seems to be her favorite place. She was rolling around on the cool cement and generally enjoying herself so I sat down next to her. We were positioned near the closed garage door with our backs to the street and our view blocked by plants. I was enjoying the moment with Lily, oblivious to the world around us.

Then I heard voices of people walking in front of our house. Lots of people walk by our house and Lily ignores them. We live on a corner lot and often people pass by on their way to the park. 

But in an instant -- and I mean an instant -- everything changed.

I glanced around to see The Biggest Dog I've Ever Seen on the sidewalk at the base of our driveway. He was accompanied by The Smallest Dog I've Ever Seen. Both dogs were on leashes held by small children, with the father trailing along behind. 

For a split second, I thought Lily and I would remain very still (read: FREEZE) and let them pass. Her back was to them, and she seemed not to notice. Lily has encountered dogs before and doesn't seem to get rattled by them.

But then the little boy leading The Biggest Dog I've Ever Seen shouted, "Don't bark at the cat!" which unfortunately was a rallying cry. The dog began barking furiously and lunging up the driveway toward us, resulting in this:

Lily started to run and began jumping wildly, all claws extended and engaged. I was holding her leash, and somehow she dragged me across the cement before I could scramble to my feet. If startled, Lily can slip out of her collar so once I had her in my arms, I hung onto her for dear life.  Out of the corner of my eye, I could see the little boy and his dad struggling to hold onto the dog, still barking furiously. 

As soon as I had Lily in firm grasp, I ran around the corner and into the safety of the garage as the dad shouted an apology. My quick response was "Oh, no problem! I should have seen you coming!"

Lily ran into the house, collar and leash still attached, and hid under the bed until I offered her a handful of treats. I bandaged my knees and knuckles, scraped raw and bleeding from the cement.

Of course, "Oh, no problem!" was not quite accurate. I don't even want to think about what might have happened if Lily had slipped out of her collar and ran, or if the dog hadn't been restrained. I fear that the sight of a running cat would have been too much for the dog to resist.

I don't fault the people with the dog at all, although I wish the little boy hadn't drawn attention to Lily. I absolutely love dogs, and if Lily hadn't been with me, I very well could have ended up chatting with the them. I'm very grateful that they were successful in keeping the dog restrained.

The fault in this situation is mine. I'm always alert when I'm outside with Lily, watching for loud vehicles and keeping her close to the house. Had I paid attention when I initially heard those voices, I would have seen the dog rounding the corner, and could have immediately picked her up and shuttled her inside. But I let my guard down last night, and it could have ended very badly.  

In addition, I've been planning to buy Lily a new harness since she outgrew her old one, but I just haven't gotten around to it. She needs something she can't slip out of in the event of an emergency like this one. We won't be going outside again until she's properly secured.

Although we're both OK, I'm pretty sure both Lily and I lost one of our nine lives!

13 August 2017

Prairie in August


We are fortunate to have a few areas of prairie running through our neighborhood. The largest area features a path which makes it very nice for an evening walk or bike ride. Over the years, the prairie has undergone restoration by experts and finally the real native Iowa plants are beginning to thrive.

 Each time you walk through the prairie, different flowers are in bloom. You'll see bunnies darting in and out of the protective prairie cover, with birds and butterflies hopping from flower to flower. 

There are weekly prairie walks with a local expert who points out plants of interest, such as this milkweed. There are several species of milkweed thriving in the prairie now, which makes it a perfect stopover for monarch butterflies.

 The leaves on this large plant are cupped and hold water after a rain. You can see birds, bugs, and butterflies stopping by for a sip.

One of my favorite flowers is Queen Anne's lace. It looks delicate but is actually extremely hardy. 

 On our recent walk, I spotted this False Indigo. It was interesting to see it in bloom as I now have one in our garden, along with a few other native prairie plants.

I'll leave you with this thought for the day:

11 August 2017

Feline Friday: Baked Goods Shenanigans

Recently, Spouse and I picked up a raspberry strudel at the grocery store, something which we never do, but it was the weekend and we indulged our sweet tooth (teeth?) just a little bit. When we lived in Chicago, we used to buy strudels quite often. Of course we were younger and smaller then! :)

For some reason, we totally forgot to hide the raspberry strudel from Lily. Within minutes of its arrival, she was up on the counter inspecting it.

 I shamelessly allowed this naughty behavior to continue for a bit because I wanted to see just how far Lily would go. Answer: ALL THE WAY, if allowed!

I watched as she pawed at the plastic cover.....

...and even bit it!

Over the years, she has perfected her arsenal of techniques, allowing her to access most any type of baked goods!

Had I given her enough time, she would have knocked it to the floor in hopes that the lid would pop open to expose all that raspberry goodness. :) As reference, I will point you to the Cornbread Muffins Incident.

After watching for a few seconds, I reminded Lily that she was engaging in naughty behavior and gently removed her from the counter. 

And yes, I did give her just a tiny taste of raspberry strudel, for all of her trouble. :)

04 August 2017

Feline Friday: Yoga with Lily

We miss Tinsel every day. Tinsel had a whole set of little routines, one of which was doing yoga with me. She would weave in and out around my legs while I was on the mat, sometimes even standing under me (brave girl!) during a Downward Dog. After a bit of yoga, she'd move to the chair to supervise the rest of my practice.

Recently, Lily has started coming to the yoga mat with me. This was totally unexpected, as she has never shown an interest in yoga before! Now she weaves in and around my legs, just like Tinsel.

Sometimes she observes from across the room.

 And I often see her practicing her Reclined Twist pose on her own time. Good job, Lily!

29 July 2017

Scrapbooking: Wizarding World of Harry Potter Album Done!

Over the years, I've done several personality assessments, and one of my most-often reported traits is how much I love finishing projects. People with this personality trait are sometimes called "Concluder-Producers" in corporate jargon. We're the people who like to get stuff done! 

Because I value FINISHING STUFF, it drives me absolutely nuts having incomplete projects lying about. 

Case in point: All The Unfinished Scrapbooking. 

So I'm on a mission to finish stuff up around here, and I'm happy to report that the Florida album project I recently started is DONE. It sure felt good to put those spine labels in the albums!

Once I carved out some time to do it, it only took a few days of work. Not bad at all, and it was really enjoyable, too. 

Here are a few of the very simple pages. I like simple. Simple = done.

It feels great to have finished a project like this, and now we can enjoy looking back at this trip and remembering the stories...at least as much as I could remember them after waiting seven years to scrapbook it! 
 So now I'm starting another project and I'm hoping to knock it out within just a few days' time. In addition, I've finally extracted all of my photos from my phone, and now I can start assessing exactly how much scrapbooking still needs done. (Answer: A LOT)  
The key to getting stuff done: Just get started, and seeing progress will compel you to keep going!

28 July 2017

Feline Friday

I SPY...

Lily's ears! :)

I hope I haven't already shared this photo. I didn't take the time to check because even if I did, it's so adorable that I couldn't resist sharing it again!

A side note: I came across this photo because I'm in the midst of a massive (no exaggeration) photo dump from my phone to Google Photos. 

We're talking about 8,000+ photos and quite a number of videos. 

Yep, you read that right. 8,000+. 

I'm quite sure that most are of cats. 

There's no shame in that!** Plenty of blog material!:)

Happy Feline Friday, friends!

** However...DO back up your photos from your phone more frequently than I have!

24 July 2017

Scrapbooking: Wizarding World of Harry Potter Album

I've been on a mission to make some big progress on the extreme backlog of scrapbooking around here. You'd think that since I work for a scrapbooking store, I'd be totally "caught up", but that is FAR from the truth! In fact, I'm one of the most "behind" people I know!

The reason for this backlog is that I simply haven't carved out time for it. But I'm pleased to report that I have been doing much better about that lately, and seeing progress motivates me to keep going. 

I've been working on my chronological family and genealogy albums and making some progress, but this week I stepped away from those projects to finish up one that has been languishing on my work table for far too long -- my Wizarding World of Harry Potter album.

When we went to Florida in 2010, I planned to make two albums. I finished the first album (Disney and Universal) but hadn't started the second, even though I had printed the photos and bought the supplies. Go figure! So I decided that I'd try to knock that project out in a few days.

The first step was to organize and sort the photos and figure out the general order of the album. In this process, I discarded a lot of blurry or repetitive prints. I've decided that I've got to be much better about photo selection (read: ruthless editing!) going forward to keep my scrapbooking backlog more manageable!

Seven years ago, right after the park opened, I purchased a good supply of Harry Potter papers. I'm so glad I did, because much of it has been discontinued. In surveying my box of supplies, I was happy to discover that I had plenty of paper to complete this project. (I used every single piece, and even all of the stickers. YAY!) 

I almost never use themed paper, but I really like this set. The paper designs made it easy to put together the pages with minimal embellishments needed.

 I started by laying out the pictures that corresponded to a certain paper.

Since I didn't have enough paper for every single page, I used matching cardstock to fill in the gaps.

I decided that for efficiency's sake, I'd assemble all the pages first, then go back and write the journaling. This part of the process took only about 1.5 days' time -- quite enjoyable whilst listening to the HP movie soundtracks on repeat. I'm always surprised at how much I still enjoy scrapbooking -- when I make time for it!

 After putting the pages in sleeves with notes for journaling, I started working on the titles and journaling blocks. I got some assistance from my daughter, a rabid Harry Potter fan, for details on some photos. I also used the Universal Studios website to supplement my own information. Of course, it would have been easier if I hadn't waited SEVEN YEARS to make this album! :)

I've found that the most efficient way to do my journaling is to create text boxes in Word for all the pieces that need to be printed on the same color.

These pieces were all printed on kraft cardstock. I cut them out, inked them, and adhered them to the pages.

I'm using just a few smaller or pocket pages in this album, such as this 6x12 sleeve. The back side is a great spot for the park maps, making them easy to remove.

As it turned out, we visited the park on opening day! We had not planned this at all, but the opening date was moved back several times and happened to coincide with the day we planned to go. It was incredibly fun being there on the first day! I hope to go back when it's not quite so crowded and see the original attractions again -- plus all the new ones!

It was really fun to "re-live" the excitement of the big day!

I'm in the process of adding in a few supplemental pieces, such as this map...

...and this article I found online which describes the crowds and media frenzy surrounding the opening of the park. I always like to add a little context to my albums, often from articles I find online.

I'm pretty excited about the progress I've made in just a couple of days' work! I have finished about 1/4 of the journaling, which makes the end of this big project within striking distance! Hope to finish it up soon and will share photos of the completed album.
Yay for FINALLY getting some stuff done! 

When finishing projects feels so great, I have to ask myself: Why haven't I made time for this before???

23 July 2017

Garden Update: Late July

Now that my gardens have been planted for a few weeks, I wanted to share an update about how they're doing. It's been a challenging time in the past couple of weeks with very high temperatures, necessitating daily watering. I've recently cut back on watering to every two-three days. Eventually they won't need much (if any) watering at all but since we're dealing with new plants and transplants, I want to give them a good start! Overall verdict: So far, so good! :)

In addition to the extreme heat, our area has also been hit very hard by Japanese beetles. These pests are covering the linden trees along our street, eating the leaves from the top down. We've elected not to treat the trees with pesticide because of the number of trees affected. The good thing is that the pesky beetles are so interested in the trees that they're leaving the rest of my plants alone!

 So far, everything in this bed is still alive and doing well. I'm concerned about the spacing of a few plants, but we'll see how they do going forward. 

I'm thankful that we have a very long hose on each side of the house so I can water all the flowers without dragging the hoses through the beds. There are only a few new plants that have to be watered with a watering can.

 The area on the side of the house was not part of this project and needs some work. I had a couple of transplants added to the bare spots but next spring it will need some tending. One bright spot: My grandma's tiger lilies. After last winter, I lost a few but those that remain are blooming well.

   This second bed is doing really well, but the new rose that had bloomed profusely no longer has buds. I have a second rose bush with no blooms so after researching online and talking with the Earl May guy, I think it must be a soil nutrient issue. I'm deadheading and just started feeding them so we'll see if that helps!

 Here's the other side of that same bed. I'm really happy with the variety of plants and textures here. My liatris, which were split and transplanted, are finally standing up and starting to bloom.

 This skinny bed along the garage is finally starting to show signs of life. The geraniums at the front all have leaves now (instead of brown stems!) and the lilies are almost all emerging. The peony at the right end is doing well and I'm anxious to see it bloom next spring.

The small hydrangea bush at the other end of this bed has just bloomed! We planted it last fall and for quite some time this spring, it appeared almost dead. It was very slow to leaf out but once it got started, it really took off!

 Although I haven't had a huge amount of blooms yet, I have had enough to make several small bouquets like this one I recently gave to a friend -- zinnia, coneflowers, daisies, and lavender, with mint and oregano to fill in around the edges. As long as I have flowers to cut, I'm happy!