29 May 2010

A few more layouts

Our show choir took a trip to Nashville in late March to compete at Show Choir Nationals at the Grand Ole Opry. It was a great time for the kids and parents alike.

I recently finished several pages to document the trip, six of which are shown here:

The long bus ride, followed by a few hours at the mall...

Sightseeing around Nashville...

and performing on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry.

As you can see, I used a few Picasa collages so that I could include lots of photos. My daughter did most of the journaling, some of which is on the back side of the layouts. Most of the pictures on the layout shown above are professional candid shots. Although somewhat pricey, I was very glad to have the option to buy some very nice performance photos.

Y'all know that my layouts are not elaborate, but they do take a bit more time because my daughter and I write a lot of journaling. It's worth the extra time because I believe the stories are every bit as important as the pictures.

28 May 2010

Feline Friday: The Well-Trained Cat

Let me preface this post by stating that this photo is NOT a reenactment of the story you are about to read.

Monday morning, Spouse and I were sitting at the kitchen table quietly reading the newspaper and enjoying our morning coffee when we heard this all-too-familiar sound:


"SOMEBODY'S PUKING!" Spouse bellowed. Not being a cat person, kitty hurling makes him a tiny bit crazy.

On the other hand, I'm so accustomed to it that I carry a bottle of carpet cleaner with me at all times. I hopped up from the table to determine which cat had just thrown up and where.

Dining room - clear!

Family room - clear!

Living room - clear!

At that moment, I saw Lily leaving the bathroom. Although it's not one bit ladylike, she routinely drinks from the commode.

I looked around the bathroom and, seeing no mess, happened to glance in the toilet.

There was Lily's food, floating in the water.

Lily had thrown up in the toilet.

In. The. Toilet.

Even Spouse was amazed. Too bad he flushed the evidence.

27 May 2010

Tabby Thursday

Lily is very happy that the ladder is temporarily back in the entryway!
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25 May 2010

Gardens in Late May: Not Bad

My flower gardens always look best in late spring and early summer. After that, they seem to go rapidly downhill, for a host of reasons. But right now, things are looking pretty good. My perennials coming along nicely and most of the annuals I've planted for color seem to be doing fairly well, with the exception of the begonias. We had a very rainy period a couple of weeks ago and I think they got a bit waterlogged. Hopefully they'll come out of their slump. I certainly know how they feel (the slump part, not the waterlogged part)!

I like to take pictures of my flower gardens in various stages over the summer so I can go back and assess what is working and not working, then make changes for the next year. I've found that unless I make the effort to take photos and write some notes, I forget the details. (Actually, I pretty much forget everything.)

Of special note is the bright pink hanging basket of purslane in the lower right corner of this collage. I had never seen this particular plant at the green house and to give it a try this year. Purslane is relative of moss rose with foliage that looks like a sedum, or succulent. Of course, this means that the plant can absorb a lot of water and prefers dryer conditions. Well, I didn't think about that during the recent rainy week. It got absolutely soaked...way too wet. The foliage started to yellow and the blooms disappeared. So I moved it to a full sun location and let it dry out. This morning, I was rewarded with a full basket of flowers. Success!

I'll continue to document my various garden successes (and failures) as the summer continues. Gardening is a trial and error process around here!

24 May 2010

End of the run

I've given this a lot of thought, and I've concluded that the hardest part of the senior year is the end of activities which have been significant in the life of your student. It's hard for both the student and the parent.

And of course, the year is full of endings. I thought that the end of marching band last fall might kill me (and it nearly did). Then came the end of mock trial, show choir, chamber choir, and wind symphony. I've learned to keep a supply of Kleenex with me at all times.

And now comes the end of jazz band. We were lucky because this year our band's season was more than a month longer than usual, so we had many more opportunities to listen to this exceptional group of kids.

This band has had an incredible year, capped by winning the Iowa Jazz Championships in April. This past week, the kids played at the inaugural Jazz Education Network conference in St. Louis, an international gathering of jazz educators and performers. It was a tremendous honor to be selected to play at this event from the hundreds of high school bands who applied. Several parents traveled with the band for one final performance. The band stacked up quite well against incredibly talented high school and college groups from around the country. We knew our kids were great, but their performance at this conference really confirmed it.

This performance marked the end of the run for our jazz band. It was also the last "ending" of the senior year and for that, I'm thankful.

These endings are tough. I'm ready for some beginnings.

21 May 2010

Feline Friday: Puffball Bonanza

In a recent post, I described Lily's obsession with small white puffballs. She had lost them for several months, and we recently found them under the refrigerator. Lily played feverishly with her beloved puffballs for a couple of days then lost them again. Since my last post, it's been a constant cycle of Find the Puffball/Lose the Puffball. I've taken to wielding a yardstick so that I can quickly fish out puffballs from under appliances.

But these days, I have more pressing matters to deal with than retrieving dusty puffballs to satisfy a desperately meowing kitty. So on a recent trip to Hobby Lobby, I made a purchase:

An entire bag of puffballs! Lily now has a huge supply at her disposal. I can dole them out at will and get back to my Pressing Matters.

You can see by the blissful look on her face that she is in Puffball Heaven!

Oops! A puffball went over the edge of the staircase!

Down she goes to retrieve it!

As you can see, the puffballs are having a very beneficial side effect: They are helping with Lily's weight loss program. She spends a lot of time each day chasing her puffballs. We toss them; she retrieves them. She bats them around and carries them up and down the stairs. Lily is moving around more than she has in months.

Just don't tell her that she's exercising. If she figures it out, I'm afraid she'll hide them all under the fridge!

20 May 2010

Call me compulsive...

...but YES, my plants are labeled.

(I can hear my friend Darci now..."Janet, ONLY YOU would label your plants." LOL)

Well, at least the plants in THIS bed are tagged. The other beds were labeled last year, but many of my tags were mangled by Spouse with his somewhat aggressive lawn mowing. I haven't had a chance to fix them yet. I know...I'm a slacker!

This little statue was given to me recently by the board of a parent group I'm involved with in our school district. I'm "retiring" from the group and they gave me some very thoughtful gifts, including this beautiful little statue. It reminds me of my daughter!

I planted this new bed a couple of weeks ago (see the original post here) and everything is doing very nicely. Note that there is a sidewalk between my plants and the yard, which should keep my beautiful labels safe from Spouse.

19 May 2010

My favorite flower

The lilac bush in our backyard smells so beautiful!

I cut a bouquet for the kitchen. The sweet scent permeates the entire house.

I only wish we could have lilacs all summer long!

18 May 2010

Senior year is fun, finally!

I will not lie...we have had a VERY stressful senior year. The college search, auditions, and then the subsequent decision process hung like a dark cloud over our house. My friends will tell you that I have been near my wit's end for most of the school year.

But now that the whole college thing has been decided, life is good! The Dark Cloud of Uncertainty About the Future lifted just in time for us to enjoy the last month of the senior year. Don't get me wrong -- things are certainly busy. There are projects to finish, finals to study for, and a couple more amazing jazz band gigs to play. And scrapbooking to do. And an open house to plan. But all of that is a different kind of stress: short-term busyness. We can deal with that.

Here's a layout I finished up recently about our Mock Trial team's first and only trip to state competition. You can see our team name, Team Tinselfrog, on the plaque. (Click on the picture to bigify.) Since the team is partly named after our cat, Tinsel, it's exciting for me to see her name engraved on something. :-)

My point being (and I can hear Daughter saying, "Mom, get to the point!") is that it's busy around here, but it's a FUN kind of busy, for the most part. Too much to do, not enough time to do it all, but it's OK.

Senior year is FINALLY fun. We're finally looking forward, not back.

17 May 2010

A few prom pages

I finished up a few (okay, ten) prom pages over the weekend. Last year, I made eight prom pages and I had promised myself that this year, I would try to cut back. Obviously, that didn't work well! Truth is, I could have made 20 pages, but I consolidated several photos into three Picasa collages. That helped a bit!

As any scrapbooker knows, it is a real treat to work with beautiful photos! Many of these photos were taken by our daughter's boyfriend's dad. He uses the Kodak metallic finish, which has a stunning effect in real life. Of course, I had to mix his gorgeous pictures with my "pretty good" pictures and a few "barely acceptable" ones from Facebook. But I don't mind. Collectively, they tell the story of this big event!

Crazed Scrapbooking Mom went along to the girls' hair appointments to grab a few "before" and "after" pictures. Of course, we also documented the nail and make-up transformations...all part of the story!

We had so many beautiful pictures from our group photo shoot that it took six pages to display them all. The girls looked gorgeous and their dresses fit perfectly with the prom theme, "An Evening in Paris".

15 May 2010

(A little) More garden progress

Yesterday I weeded, planted annuals, and mulched two or three (depending on how you count) large perennial garden areas. Quite a task. In spite of my claims to being in relatively good shape, I had to consume a few Advil after I finished.

I spent quite a bit of time last summer on the above flower bed. It appears to be in fairly decent shape so far this season. It looks like everything I planted made it through the very hard winter. We'll see how things shape up in the next few weeks.

This next bed has been a real problem since I planted it. I have serious spacing issues which I tried to rectify last summer by moving some plants out and adding new ones. Some overwintered, but others did not. The far end of the bed isn't looking too bad, but the rest of the bed still has issues. Nevertheless, a fresh coat of mulch made it look somewhat better than it did before I started.

Depending on how this bed shapes up, I may need to hire a professional to help me figure out what's wrong. I have a lot of good stuff in this garden, but I can't seem to get the spacing right.

This narrow side bed runs along the back of the house and around the corner. It should be next on my list to overhaul. I thinned out the iris a bit last year and they're blooming better this season, but the spiderwort is overtaking the area and I don't like how it flops down when it's done blooming. I may take part of it out and replace it with something else.

Gardening around here is very much a trial and error thing. I enjoy it, but I know just enough to get myself in way over my head.

Of course, that's half the fun. :-)

14 May 2010

Feline Friday: Well Placed

Serves me right for leaving that stack of clean placemats on the dining room table. :-)

13 May 2010

Tabby Thursday: Send halp! im starveen...

Halp me! im starveen! as u can see, i hav kollapst frum hunger, next 2 mi bag of bells an conveenientlie close 2 tinsels fud dish.

Send fuds nao!

luv, lily

11 May 2010

Some Garden Success!

Those of you who read my blog may remember that last spring, I completely replanted the garden in front of our house. This is what it looked like shortly after installation. (You can see the whole ugly story here.) The plants did well over the summer but then in August, we had our house painted and many of them got stepped on repeatedly. I didn't know how many would survive.

But I'm happy to report that virtually everything I planted has done well! I'm going for a cottagey/woodland type look, and the garden is coming along just as I hoped it would at this point. The dwarf Chinese astilbe ground cover is slowly filling in the openings between plants. This ground cover needs a lot of water but is beautiful when in bloom. This week, I added a few begonias to fill in some of the remaining gaps. Begonias are far from my favorite annual, but they seem to do well in this garden.

The one problem is the Japanese maple tree, which is actually our second such specimen. In spite of the pampering I've provided, only the bottom half is leafed out. But since the tree appears otherwise healthy, we've decided to leave it in place for now and see what happens this summer.

I tried a few new plants in this garden, including these foam flowers. They look a lot like astilbes.

Another plant new to me is cranesbill. This particular one has deep purple accents on the leaves and dainty flowers of a similar color.

And the best part of this garden project isn't even in the garden. It's the new paint color on the house: No More Pink!

Here's to a bit of garden success!

10 May 2010

My Mom's Amaryllis

I have all three of my mom's amaryllis bulbs at my house. Since she's been gone, I've become the keeper of many of her plants, including these very special ones. Mom's plants always looked lush and full, and she knew the secret to having the amaryllis bulbs bloom each year around Christmas time. I vaguely remember that it involves some complicated procedure of withholding water and putting them in a dark closet for a few weeks, but frankly that seems like a lot of work to me and I've been too distracted to look it up. Plus, I know that if I put plants in the closet, I wouldn't find them until years later, and I'm pretty sure that isn't right.

Hence, my goal has been to keep them alive. At one point, I thought I'd failed at even that and started to toss one of the bulbs, but I thought better of it. A few weeks later, green foliage appeared.

So I've just been watering these bulbs like I do my other houseplants: When I think of it. Imagine my surprise this past week when a bud shot up from the largest plant. In spite of my best efforts to mess things up, this beautiful flower appeared. And one of the smaller bulbs will soon be blooming, too.

Maybe this beautiful bloom is in honor of Mother's Day. Maybe it is just happenstance. Whatever the reason, I'm enjoying the show.

07 May 2010

Plant List

Here's a list of the plants I put in the "new" bed next to the garage (see yesterday's post). These are mainly "full sun" perennials that can handle afternoon heat:

Back of the garden:
Phlox - Already in garden from last year
Shasta Daisy - I've had success with this variety in the past
Beardstongue - Beautiful foliage with dainty flowers
Coreopsis (tickseed) - Saved from the old garden
Bee Balm - An Iowa native

Middle of the garden:
Coneflower - Another Iowa native, although this particular one is a hybrid
Catananche - New plant for me with interesting foliage
Meadow Sage - I've had good luck with this
Cranesbill - Planted this in the front garden last year -- beautiful!
Anise Hyssop - New plant for me

Front of the garden:
Liriope (Lily Turf) - Planted this in the front garden and it's doing well
Hardy Geranium - I have another variety of this in a different bed
Dianthus - Not my favorite flower but it does well for me
Moss Phlox - Another new plant for me

Feline Friday: And then trouble ensued...

It was just an ordinary evening, nothing special going on, when all of a sudden, Lily spied the dollhouse. After months of disinterest, this miniature house captured her curiosity.

Move over, stove! Out of the way, refrigerator! Get lost, kitchen window! Here comes Lily!

I imagine that Lily feels very powerful inside the dollhouse. For once, she is bigger than everything around her. She waves a furry arm to her adoring public...

...then steps back inside, queen of her castle, at least for a few minutes.

06 May 2010

Long Overdue Garden Project

For a few years now, I've wanted to do something with the flower bed that runs the length of our garage. When we first moved into the house, we had it planted by a garden center but I was never happy with the mix of plants. Over time, most everything either died off or had to be moved elsewhere in the yard. The one plant remaining from the original installation was coreopsis (the tickseed variety). If you've ever had any of this, you know it has a tendency to spread and take over large parts of sunny spaces. I don't mind it, but we've got way too much of it in this bed and several other places around the yard now.

As you can see, the other issue with the coreopsis was its location along the front edge of the bed. This particular variety grows to about 24 inches high, making it more suitable for the middle or back of the bed.

Because I have been dealing with other flower bed issues and basically ignoring this one for the past few years, I've been planting super-tall zinnias or rocket snapdragons behind the row of coreopsis. But I'm tired of tending to annuals and much prefer perennials anyway.

So the coreopsis had to go! I kept some of it for this bed and moved other clumps elsewhere in the yard. It was pretty difficult digging to get it all out of the bed. I THINK I got it all but only time will tell!

While I was digging (feeling like the main character in Holes, by the way), I went ahead and dug up the entire bed and broke up all the clumps. (Does this count for exercise today?)

Next I set out my new perennials, determining placement by height. This bed gets morning shade and strong afternoon sun, making it basically a "full sun" bed. I chose perennials of three different heights which can tolerate afternoon heat.

I have a tendency to over-plant beds because my success rate isn't always the best. Plus I don't have the patience to wait years for beds to fill in. I'd rather move extra plants out of the bed than wait for tiny plants to grow. I'm sure this approach violates some garden rule but that's OK with me. Remember, I know only enough about gardening to be dangerous.

And here is the finished project! I am so happy to have a new look in this bed. We'll see how this garden grows in the coming weeks. I'll update as the summer goes along.

05 May 2010

Gotta love old pictures

As much as I like working with photos of current events, I'll admit that it is pretty fun scrapbooking photos from past events. And we all know I have PLENTY of past events to scrapbook! This is one of several older layouts I've made recently, many of band or vocal activities.

I love looking at these old photos. It's fun to see how much our daughter has changed over the years. In addition, I'm enjoying working with 3.5x5 photos. Back when I used a film camera, I had most of my photos developed in that size. While the smaller photos don't fill the page like 4x6 prints, the fact remains that you can fit more pictures on a page. This is a good thing, people!

The other thing I've noticed is that my 3.5x5 event photos are generally terrible -- blurry, dark, unrecognizable, or all of the above. With film cameras, we couldn't check the quality like we do with digital cameras. Nowadays I have lots of good digital photos to work with -- often, TOO MANY. But my old distance shots are often so poor that I don't need to scrapbook very many of them. Ironically, this is also a good thing!

04 May 2010

Muguet des Bois

While living in Paris during my junior year in college, I discovered a wonderful springtime tradition: small bouquets of muguet des bois wrapped in paper cones and tied with string, sold by vendors on street corners. It was hard for me to believe that such dainty little flowers could produce such a powerful scent. I bought bouquets as long as they were in season, taking them upstairs to bring a bit of spring to my stark dorm room.

Lily of the Valley or LOTV (as we call it around here) has such a strong and distinct fragrance that to this day, it still reminds me of my year abroad.

When we moved into our first home, a 1923 Tudor, I was delighted to find muguet des bois growing with abandon in the shady gardens around the house. When we left that house and moved to our current one 16 years ago, we brought along some hostas and iris, but somehow neglected to transplant any LOTV.

Fortunately, my disappointment was short-lived: The spring following our move, a small but hardy patch of LOTV magically appeared in front of our house. It seems that some LOTV spores rode along on the hostas we transplanted and took root at our new house as if to welcome me. Now we have huge patches of muguet des bois in the shady areas in front of the house. The scent is strong and distinct.

It's a tiny bit of Paris, right in our front yard.

03 May 2010

Glad I bought that IU paper!

There are some topics which are hard to scrapbook. For us, one of those subjects has been the college selection process. Fraught with emotion, it started last summer and just recently ended. The prospect of finding the "right" college -- then auditioning AND being accepted there -- was daunting, to say the least. And then there was the part about actually making a decision...

Over the past few months, I had printed photos from our college visits, but the emotion associated with them was such that our daughter didn't want me to scrapbook them until she had made a decision. Truth be told, I could barely look at them either.

But now that a decision has been made, I'm tackling the photos of all the colleges we visited. The college selection process has been such a significant part of our life this year that it really needs to be documented -- the good, the bad, and the ugly! :-) It feels good to finally document this important stage in our lives.

I started with several pages (two of which are shown here) about the Summer Percussion Academy she attended last year at Indiana University, the school she'll be attending in the fall. This is a good example of how Bailey and I have worked together on some layouts. I started the journaling block with my thoughts, then she added her own. I made three additional pages for this camp with many photos of the percussion performance and friends, and she wrote extensive photo captions for all of them. Writing about the camp almost a year later -- after she had been accepted as a student at IU -- gave her an interesting perspective.

I also made a layout about the IU audition weekend in February. Of course, auditions were the main part of the college selection process. Thanks to Spouse (I've trained him well!), I had several camera and cell phone photos of the weekend, so I was able to make two pages about it. I'm planning to make an additional layout about the final part of the decision making process when she chose IU.

While we were in Bloomington picking her up from the camp last summer, I stopped at a scrapbook store and bought one sheet of IU paper. Now that we're Hoosiers, it looks like I'll be needing a few more sheets! :-)

02 May 2010

Purple Iris

The purple iris are in bloom! We brought them from our first house (the one I consider our REAL home) 16 years ago and they are still doing well.

We have a few patches of these iris. I had planned to divide them this spring, but that didn't seem to happen. For now, I'm just enjoying their beautiful color.