Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Last summer I had grand plans for a garden. I was going to buy four by fours and build a raised garden. I would rotate crops and have so much produce that I wouldn't know what to do with it and would share my bounty with the women at work, who would gaze enviously upon my three foot zucchinis.

That never happened.

(besides, no one is ever envious of a three-foot zucchini. Usually it's more like "oh God, not ANOTHER zucchini")

 I did manage to get two tomato plants into the ground, and while they were abundant producers, they were not exactly the Hanging Gardens of Babylon I had envisioned. Then Hurricane Irene hit, and the saltwater sprayed on them from the James River pretty much put an end to 2011's garden. The hurricane also knocked off every dead and deadish limb off the trees in the yard, which we dealt with in a perfunctory manner by having a huge bonfire. The bonfire, in turn, resulted in a six foot burn hole in the yard. This is where part of this year's garden is.

 It started off when Jeff bought a pack of pea seeds and, in the best tradition of kindergarteners, stuck them in the ground. No preparation, just blind faith they would grow. I was skeptical, then one day I came home from work and tiny little green shoots were poking out of the ground. I strung up some branches and twine so they would have something to grow on, and thinned them out a little. Fearing bunnies, I bought some chicken wire and built a "pea pen." Then I went to the farmer's market and accidentally bought fourteen tomato plants. Jeff's mom brought over zucchini, patty pan squash, and cucumber seedlings. I found some basil and dill seeds at the grocery store marked down fifty percent. And so forth. Everything is in the ground and is coming up gangbusters, especially the peas, which are delicious right off the vine. The zucchini and patty pan squash, which looked especially shell shocked right after they were transplanted, are going crazy. And I haven't had to buy lettuce for salads or sandwiches for a couple weeks (sorry, did I forget to mention I also planted crinkle leaf lettuce and romaine lettuce?).

The tomatoes are my favourite though. In addition to another two Better Bush plants, which are the same crazy producers from last year, I have two Beefsteak tomatoes and six Roma tomatoes. I had to give the other four plants away to the neighbor though...who had room for fourteen tomato plants anyway? Not everything is in the pea pen, some things are planted along the side of the house, but they are all green and happy. The tomatoes were a little unsure at first, but last Saturday I noticed that they were starting to get the point where they needed caging. One of them even has a blossom on it already! I used my two cages from last year, and I also borrowed another six cages from my neighbor. They were stacked behind her shed, which backs onto our property, so I had to dig my way through some foliage and knock off some pine straw to get at them. Even though they are rusted, they are working though, and I'm so excited about the prospect of fresh and canned tomatoes this year.

There is something about planting things you plan to eat. A leap of faith. I've been paying a lot more attention to the weather. Deciding whether to tempt fate by buying a pressure canner now or waiting until I have something to can under pressure. Debating whether or not to snare and eat the rabbits that have suddenly appeared in our yard--the pea pen is holding, although I've noticed the top of the chicken wire is bending, possibly deer? And of course, deciding what to eat for dinner is out of your hands. Throwing away produce from the store is annoying, but watching something you've been cultivating start to rot is frustrating beyond belief.

 Of course, not everything about growing things is fun and games. It's already getting hot here in Virginia. And those tomato cages I dug out from behind the shed? Turns out there's poison ivy back there. Yeah, I got a few little spots on my arm and my leg. Nothing major, but it's definitely itchy and burny. Now I get to experience the not so fun side of gardening, when you have to go in and Round Up a plant out of existence. But, at least the tomatoes are safely staked, it's rained all day so I don't have to water, and I'm confident that we're in for a bountiful harvest.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Not posting

I know I haven't been posting recently. I've been depressed again. Not really sure how to go about getting it fixed this time. But everything I do seems too banal to write about, so I haven't been updating.

I did get to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in January with a couple of friends, and that was a highlight. So here is a picture of Alison and me on our first day, being crazy stupid thrilled to be in Hogsmeade.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Riding the Tide

The Tide in all its glory

Last Saturday Jeff and I had a totally frivolous day. Hampton Roads recently spent $338 million dollars on a brand new light rail, a commuter train to help alleviate some of the crazy car traffic. It came under a lot of flak because it was two years overdue and cost about double what it was originally supposed to, but now that it's up and running, the ridership is already twice what was projected. I love trains, I love mass-transit...it's so convenient not having to worry about parking your car, being able to read or eat or put on makeup or tweeze your eyebrows while you're driving. Yeah, sure, there's never a bus coming for twenty minutes and then there's three, but overall, I'm very pro mass transit. Right now the Tide, as the train in Norfolk is lovingly called, only has about ten miles of track, but there's already talk about extending it down to Virginia Beach...I hope they do. As nice as it is not to have to pay for parking in downtown Norfolk, it would be REALLY nice not to have to park a car in Virginia Beach.

So, I wanted to support the Tide. First, we had to drive for an hour. Then we parked (for free), bought our tickets from a machine (Jeff, who's a bit of a coin collector, was geeked out that the change came in dollar coins), and settled in for the ride. The Tide is brand spankin' new, shiny and clean. Cleaner even than the Waterloo line in London. The train is really only fifty feet long, with a bend in the middle to get around the curves...baby trains that remind one of caterpillars.

First we meandered through Norfolk suburbs, before sailing high over Norfolk State University. Then we gradually landed in downtown Norfolk itself, and disembarked near MacArthur Center. The Tide is small enough that it has to obey traffic signals and it even has an electronic trolley bell to warn pedestrians its near. Our tickets were also good for the ferry that goes across the Elizabeth River to Portsmouth, so we headed across for dinner at one of our favourite restaurants, the Biergarten. As the name suggests, it is a German restaurant, and yes, there is bier. 306 varieties at last check. Although we've had good meals there before, this time was a bit of a letdown. Too many kids in one warm room plus disappointing schwarzewälder kirschtorte made for a long meal. Still, bier. Also! I finally got to see inside a store called Skipjacks, which is nautical themed, with lots of antiques. If had several thousand dollars and several living rooms to decorate, I could have spent DAYS in that store. And they have a dog named Jack...I didn't ask, but I suspect that he may have been named after Jack Aubrey.

Here's a map in case you're getting confused. Click on it to make it bigger...we got on at Newtown Road and off at MacArthur Center. Not shown: the Bier Garten and Skipjacks, which is south of the Elizabeth River. It's important to be specific, because normally when you say "south of the river" you mean the James, which is where we live. There are a lot of rivers in Hampton Roads, hence the name "roads."

The weather was absolutely wonderful, warm and sunny, even when we were on the ferry, which is an adorable fake paddlewheel. Honestly, I would live in Portsmouth and work in Norfolk just so I could commute on the ferry every day. The best part about riding the Tide was not reliving the happy rides of time past, but of watching people who had never been on a train before enjoy it. You could see parents relaxing as they watched their kids frolic on the turntable bed in the train's floor...ladies of a certain age wearing hats, headed down to MacArthur Center for some shopping...a Navy guy in an Admiral's uniform (hockey, not dress blues) headed to a game. More than anything, this made me cheerful and happy too. I hope that everyone who was riding--especially people who ride every day--will see how great trains, buses and even ferries can be and then maybe we can saturate this country will mass-transit, like it is in Europe.

I'm definitely enjoying this whole not working in the evening thing...so far this week I've cooked dinner twice and reveled in dishes duty. Ah, domesticity! How I have missed thee.

Sunday, January 01, 2012


This is where the pretty pictures of a lovely Christmas at home are supposed to go, then a joke about how hard it is to update my blog when I'm typing on my new iPad (thank you so much, mom and dad!) and there's a beagle on my foot, but it's been a long couple of weeks. No, screw that, it's been a long couple of months.

Starting in August, I began working at the Busch Gardens costume shop, a local theme park. The job is more fun and less stressful than CW but those extra hours, combined with going home in September, continuing ghost storytelling tours and managing a Christmas program in December meant that I haven't worked less than 60 hours a week since then. The two weeks around Thanksgiving I worked so much that I doubled my paycheck from CW. The three remaining work days of the week afterwe got home from our Wisconsin Christmas I got six hours of sleep each night because I had to work at night.

Why am I saying these things? So all my loyal readers will understand exactly what I've been up against these past months and why I've neglected my blog. I know I'm supposed to feel grateful to have a job, much less three or four, depending on how you look at it, but I just can't do it any more. I twisted my shoulder in my sleep last month, and I'm convinced that overexertion due to my job contributed to it. I've gained 30 pounds in the past two years, but with limited time to eat right and exercise, my knees are starting to creak ominously. It's not that I am being whiny and saying I can't keep up this pace--clearly I can--but that I just can't physically or mentally do this anymore.

What the alternative is, I don't know. It seems like a good time to consider and calculate, since I have no evening jobs during the month of January. It's a new year, time to make a new start. I'd like to leave the dishes pile up because I'm busy writing, not because I'm working. I'd like to go see some movies, not just watch the trailers and miss the feature. And I really want to sit quietly by the window and read, with no other claims on my time. I've already made plans to go to Harry Potter world at Universal later this month...yay, a real vacation! Yet, I'm already living in dread of March, when hay making time comes again. I need to plan now to avoid that madness.

I hope everyone who reads this is happy and healthy and doing exactly what their hearts desire. I love you all and think about you all constantly, even if I don't call you and tell you enough. You are all so important to me...2012 is going to be good!