Friday, September 17, 2010

She's baaaaack.

Well hello interwebz. Long time, no see.

How's everyone doing? LOVE the new hair. Have you lost weight?

Things with me are good. There has been a lot of change in the last few months, but change is good. I have found out that I am the type of person who needs radical change in their life on a semi-regular basis to keep sane. Is anyone else like this?

I'm flying solo these days and my hosta garden, actually a portion of it, is now in residence at CrabbyC's place. She's graciously made room in her already overflowing garden beds for some of my favorites. They'll lounge around her digs until I've got an appropriate location for them.

Do not fret, though, as I do have several specimen (is that already plural? like deer or fish?) potted up on the balcony of my 'much-less-maintenance-and-I'm-kind-of-digging-it' new(ish) apartment. Couldn't imagine not having hostas in my eyeline, no matter where I'm at.

The weather is changing though, and leaves are going to have to start being trimmed off as they yellow and droop. I can say, that though I miss the trees, I do NOT miss cleaning up 10 million leaves once they've fallen.

But, the change in weather also ushers in football season. Woot! I've got my FF team in place and I even won my first matchup, despite the freaking Bengals shitty defense garnering me a -1. A MINUS 1. I didn't even know that FF points went into the negative. I've switched it up this week, as I've also got the defense for Philly in my back pocket. They are playing Detroit this coming Sunday and apparently Detroit is none too good, so there is hope for me to get out of owing points this go-round. Keep your fingers crossed for me. kthx.

In addition to the NFL, it seems that rugby season has also kicked off. The Rocket Scientist plays for a local club and yours truly found out a couple of months ago that one CrabbyC actually digs rugby. (Who knew?) So, she and I will be taking in a match tomorrow afternoon. I have to say that I am quite looking forward to big, strong guys in tiny little shorts bashing up against each other and not stopping the action every 60 seconds for a commercial break. I haven't been to a match since high school (and even then it was more for the guy watching), so I am not entirely sure how the game works.

However, I do know that there is beer for everyone afterward. If my reward is beer, I'll learn the rules.

So, there you have it. I have made my triumphant return. (cue the trumpeters)

It's good to be back.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Not dead yet - just in a holding pattern

Hey there.

Just wanted to let you know that I've not dropped off of the face of the earth or been waffled by an 18-wheeler. I'm still around, but am dealing with some pretty big life changes round these parts right now. They'll affect this place a bit, once I get back to posting. Which, at this point, I can't say when that will be. Hopefully sooner rather than later.

I'm still keeping up with everyone else's blogs, and I'll try to comment when I can. You know, to quell the rumors that I died while drinking a soda and eating Pop Rocks at the same time. Just like Mikey.

Ms. Deb

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Agony of Defeat

There used to be a show on ABC (on the weekends, I think) when I was a kid called The Wide World of Sports. The opening footage rolled though 'the thrill of victory' - with an athlete winning something big, and then switched to this ski jumper wiping out horrifically and the voiceover moving to 'the agony of defeat'. Every week I (and countless others) watched as that poor guy's (who's name is Vinko Bogataj) worst moment, probably ever, was replayed over and over and over again.

I've found the video on You Tube, in case you're interested, it's below.

Last Sunday, I got to experience my very own 'agony of defeat' moment.

28 miles in to a 35 mile bike ride, I wiped out going around a downhill curve at about 30 mph. There was no video, unfortunately. I did have a witness, however; the IT Guy from work that I was riding with. He advises that I flipped over a few times landing on my head and right side, and eventually coming to rest on my back.

Quite impressive, apparently.

Before I went down, when I knew I was going to eat it; I managed to get myself over to the grass on the side of the road and as such, avoided any sort of road rash or nasty cuts. I did manage to acquire a black(-ish) eye and nose as well as assorted bumps and bruises on my person and a (I think) dislocated shoulder (when I was being examined in the ER - I should sue that ER doc! But he WAS very cute). I cracked my helmet and broke my sunglasses (heartbreak!).

The bike is OK - it's currently at my LBS* getting checked out, but upon a cursory inspection by one of their guys, seems to be fine. I chalk this up to my having had a number of nasty crashes before, and learning the hard way how to fall off of a bike (let go of the bike, do not put your hands or arms out to brace yourself, and go limp). But, because I was primarily a mountain biker, I never fell at that speed. Let me tell you something - it HURTS, a LOT. I don't know how the Tour de France riders get back up and keep riding after those pile-ups they get into - dude, they're going 60 miles and hour and they rack out onto asphalt. THE HORROR.

Back to me. I'm doing pretty good. My face is healing and the bruises are fading. I'm still a little sore, but nothing I can't handle. My only ongoing problem is my right arm. I've got an appt. with my Dr. this afternoon to see if I need an MRI on it or what. Keeping my fingers crossed that it doesn't need anything major. Do me a favor and keep yours crossed for me too.

A couple of photos for your viewing pleasure:

The IT Guy and I at the start of the ride.

And me, right after the crash, once he'd made sure I wasn't in any imminent danger and had called for a SAG wagon to come pick up my sorry ass.

Note where my bike landed in relation to where I eventually came to rest - letting go of the bike when you're going down is so important. You do not want to fall onto your bike, if you can at all help it. They are hard and sharp and pointy. These attributes do not mix well with fleshy people bits.

Also - helmet, helmet, HELMET. This I can not stress enough. It doesn't matter if you are just going for a spin around the block or on a full blown century ride. I don't care how dorky you think they are or how they make you look. You will look a whole lot more dorky in the coffin after the mortician has done his best at putting your head back together, if he even can. This is the second time that a bike helmet has saved my noggin in a crash. My helmet cracked the entire way through this time - and I landed on GRASS, not the road. You do not want to experience your skull slamming, unprotected, onto any surface, trust me. You know what a watermelon does when it's thrown on the ground? That's exactly what a human head will do.

Not a pretty picture, huh?

I was very, very lucky - this could have been a lot worse.

So there you have it. I'm just bummed that I don't have the video - if I did, I would submit it to one of these weekend sports-type shows to use for their 'agony of defeat' segment.

And then I could be famous.

*LBS - Local Bike Shop. Do these guys a solid and throw them your bike business. You will have a much better experience with them than at the big-box bike stores.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A lone PSA and a bit of groveling.


While I haven't been here, I've been indulging myself in a bit of a liquid diet and a looky-loo up the old pooper, with pictures and everything. Faboo. You're so jealous.

For those of you not in the know (and those who haven't had the pleasure), yes; I had a COLONOSCOPY on Friday.

And I highly recommend.

Why? Well not only is the anaesthesia fantastic, but hey, I'm OK. Completely normal and nothing to worry about. I was in and out in just about 2 hours and back to wandering the house, bothering the kittehs pretty much as soon as I got home.

A COLONOSCOPY is NO BIG DEAL. And I am living proof of that.

I don't have too much to report on the procedure itself, because I was out for it. This is the beauty of it - you don't even know what's happening. What could be nicer? I felt fine after - just a little crampy, but that went away in a few hours. Other than the cramps - nothing. Not. A. Thing.

Aside from the non-red/purple liquid diet I suffered through on Thursday (all the lemon Jell-o and chicken broth I could choke down) and the kind of yucky-tasting prep stuff and associated bathroom activity, it just wasn't that bad. Really, the worst part is the prep.

You have to take 2 pills and then 2 hours later you start drinking the roto-rooter concoction. Hey it looks just like water! Because you've mixed a gallon of water into the powder in the container. But it's not water, not even close. It's weird and kind of salty and thick and the flavor packets don't do shit to improve upon it much, even though I mixed in both the cherry and the lime ones. Truthfully, even the disgusting prep liquid isn't that awful - except for the fact that you have to drink the gallon in 8 ounce increments over the course of 2 hours. You get full, fast. Really, strangely full. It was a weird feeling, and the paper they gave me was right - keep moving around and it won't be so bad. (I did laundry and walked around the house grouching, while GeekBoy had a massage - he has it so tough)

However, once the 'activity' starts, it's constant. But you do feel a lot better. And bonus - I lost 3 pounds from Wednesday to Friday morning*. Of course I gained it all back over the weekend when I felt that since I'd subjected myself to this perceived atrocity, that I was on the all-I-could-eat meal plan. We'll see tomorrow when it's my official WW weigh-in day.

Anyway - what I'm trying to say is that if you've got some issues and you're afraid or you're of the age and you haven't had one of these (yes mom, I am looking right at YOU) - just do it. Please. As the commercial says, it's a lot easier to have the procedure than it is to have to tell your family and friends that you have terminal colon cancer and it all could have been avoided if you'd only had the freaking colonoscopy. An old boss of mine, his mother-in-law died (on Christmas Day) of ovarian and uterine cancer. Because she NEVER had a pap smear or gyno check, she felt it was too invasive. I wonder how much MORE invasive the unsuccesful treatment for the cancer wound up being.

Don't be like her. Get your works inspected. Be on the safe side. JUST DO IT.

Onto the semi-related groveling portion. The Cancer Ride (technically the ACS Bike-A-Thon Philadelphia) is coming up in July and I'm all registered and whatnot. So, good people, if you are able, consider making a donation to the ACS in support of my pedaling 66.1 miles in the sweltering July heat. We all know someone who currently suffers from or has passed away from this terrible disease. If you are so inclined, the link to my page is here. Anything is appreciated, and as I've stated before, the donations are what keeps me going once I'm out there. It would be way easy to stop after 20 miles and hop on one of the sag wagons, but when people put up their hard earned coin in support of me and my bike - I gotta finish. For them, and for those folks who are sick and would give ANYTHING to be able to just hop on a bike and go. How lucky am I that I don't have limitations like that right now? So, please, every little bit helps.

Of course I will be bringing my tale of this year's ride back to you in picture format. I may even have a couple of new faces to add to mine and the Rocket Scientist's. Currently I am recruiting the IT Guy and the BeanCounter to join us this year. Keep your fingers crossed for me. The more people I can get to suffer alongside me, the merrier.

So there you have it. Shit talk and begging all in one convenient, easy to swallow post. I'm nothing if not efficient.

And I thank you for your support.

*This is why they make the prep gross. People would be using it as a quick weight-loss tonic if it were actually pleasant.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Here's where I've been

I haven't fallen off the face of the earth or anything. I'm just completely engrossed in this.

Oh my god, there's babies! (baby animals of any type are enough to reduce me to a puddle of warm goo.)

Well, just one right now, but 4 eggs left to hatch.

It's Arbor Day - go hug a tree. I'll be hugging a few of mine when I get home.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Maple Sugar Festival

Last month, GeekBoy and I ventured out into the world to attend the Maple Sugar Festival at the John James Audubon Center at Mill Grove. Turns out that Audubon, PA is kind of named after him, because he lived there. Who knew? And I grew up and spent the majority of my adult life in this area. Impressive, huh?

Back to the sweets.

Turns out, there are a bunch of Sugar Maple trees on the grounds of Mr. Audubon's estate. (his dad owned the place and sent the younger Mr. Audubon there to oversee it at age 18) They tap them once a year, when the weather is just about right - cool overnight and into the early morning, warming up through the mid morning and day. It gets the sap flowing, as it were.

We wandered around for a few hours and were quite pleasantly surprised by the place.

The main drive is lined with the Sugar Maple trees. Most of them had these galvanized steel buckets hanging from them, collecting the sap.

I tried to get a shot of the sap dripping off of the little spout in the tree. You can kind of see it.

We were allowed to stick our fingers under the spout and taste the sap as it came out - it's really not very sweet. Kind of like a sugar water.

Because you are dying to see in the bucket, I took a picture of that too. You're welcome.

There were a few working exhibits that demonstrated how maple sap was collected and used different times throughout history. At the Native American sugaring spot, it showed that they used wooden troughs and straws to collect the sap and then hot stones in the trough to evaporate out the water, leaving the maple sugar.

In the 18th century, they boiled the sap in big metal pots and moved it to higher or lower temperatures depending on at what point in the process it was.
Did you know that it takes 40 gallons of sap to make a gallon of maple syrup?
I didn't either, but I do now.

Moving right along.....
On our way to the big house, we passed this guy. He was taste testing real maple syrup against that 'pancake syrup' stuff. It was pretty easy to tell the difference, at least for me. Some people seemed to be having a bit of a hard time, I'm not sure if they really were confused, or if they were putting a show on for their kids. Because, yeah, kids love it when you act a fool for their benefit. So do I.

From the tasting station, we moseyed on down the path to see what was happening over that way.
There was another demonstration going on, this one more akin to the modern day making of maple syrup.
Seems there's really only one way to do it - evaporate out the water to leave the maple sugar.

The different grades of the syrup were also explained to us. It seems that the fancy syrup is the lightest. I had no idea. Learn something new every day.
The Center at Mill Grove also has CRITTERS! (owls, actually)

Look at him! Isn't he cute? And very well behaved. I want one.
The owls have their own building on the grounds where they are kept. Each one of them has been rescued and wouldn't make it out in the wild on their own. If I remember correctly, they all have vision problems.

One of the volunteers talked to the group of us that had been milling about around the owl house about them for a little while. She was going in to put one of the owls out into the screened enclosure so he could get some fresh air. Of course we had to go around to the enclosure to see.

Aw. Owlie. He's actually missing an eye, which sucks. What does not suck is that he gets to live at Mill Grove and is well looked after. That cord hanging down from his bottom is a tether that's tied to his leg. It was actually kind of funny to watch him try to get away from the caretaker while she held on to it, when she was putting him out. Poor guy.

The grounds of the Center are beautiful. I imagine that it was a wonderful place to live. There is something about having a body of water on your house property that I really like - I'm not sure why.

More owl pictures.

I couldn't get enough of these little guys. We have some owls in our woods, but we never see them, we just hear the hoot-owl once in a while.

We finally made it into the actual house. John James Audubon was REALLY into birds. On a bit of an esoteric level. I like them too - we have an assload of feeders set up and I'm forever whipping out my bird book to see what each one is. Sometimes I take pictures of them. Maybe I will show them to you at some point.

His house was filled with paintings and drawings of birds, his journals, and many different stuffed and mounted specimens. (is that right? it doesn't look right)

Here we have a display of duck-like birds that are native to the property. Mr. Audubon most likely wrung their little necks himself. I can't remember if it told us that or not. I'm making a guess.

The walls of the main hallway and up the stairs were covered in this kind of cool mural that depicted all sorts of winged things.

A bat! I LOVE bats - they eat bugs. We installed a bat house last year on the side of our house. No residents yet, but I keep checking. They say it can take a while for them to move in - something about the smell needing to wear off of the cedar. Whatever, all I know is that I want me some bat residents. Please.

More drawn and stuffed (and sculpted) birds.

We got to peek in his boudoir as well. Canopy bed and everything. With macrame trim.

And bird stuff. Everywhere.

The man himself. This room had a lot of kids in it so we left pretty much as quickly as we could.

Lots of stuffed birdies in this room.

I'm not familiar with what it feels like to have an all-consuming hobby or career, so the level of effort that Audubon put into this stuff is a bit foreign to me. I can't imagine what his days were like. Although, if I was being basically supported by his dad, who knows what kind of trouble I could get into with my Hostas.

My favorite - the bald eagle. They just look so freaking badass. And they're HUGE. You can't tell it from this picture, but trust me. Big bird.

That's it for the house. On our way to the all-you-can-eat pancake deal, we passed one of these birdhouses with the 'Bird Habitat' sign on it.

Turns out that you can register your property with the PA Audubon Society as a Bird Habitat, if you've got the right plants (which you can always install) and cover and food for them and available water and you're not using pesticides or anything else detrimental to the feathered folks. Well, shit. I think we might just qualify. Just in case though, I've got a spot out back that I plan to rip the ivy out of (removing invasive non-native plants - WIN!) and replant with native plants that birds and the insects that birds like, like. (vocabulary FAIL)

Then there's a test I have to take to see if we've got what it takes to get one of them there cool signs. I'll let you know how it goes.

Finally, we found our way to the pancakes. Yum. And they served them with the real maple syrup - which we then bought some of. Of course. And maple sugar candy. Mmmmmmm.

I just ate lunch, but now I'm hungry again.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Cocktail Hour - J. Lohr 7 Oaks Cabernet (Paso Robles 2007)

As a self-proclaimed wine weenie, I am forever on the hunt for reasonably priced everyday drinking wines. Once in a while, I find something worth buying a case of and shouting about from the rooftops. This wine is one of those somethings.

I first tasted it at Chima, a Brazilian steakhouse downtown, during Phila. Restaurant Week this past January. At $13/glass*, it was one of the most expensive, if not THE most expensive cabernet on their menu. I figured we would be eating a lot of red meat - I should get a big red wine to go with it. It was love at first sip. (and Chima ain't so bad, either)

The 7 Oaks is not a huge wine, but it is round and fruity and a little weighty. It's not terribly tannic, which makes it perfect for drinking right now (yay!), but according to J Lohr's website, it can be kept for up to 5 years. This is great. I am interested in trying this again, and again, and again to see how it's aging and progressing. Good thing that we bought a case of it. At $12.99/bottle, it's a freaking bargain.

Run, don't walk, to your closest wine emporium and ask for this stuff. I don't think you will be disappointed.


*A bit of wine geekery for you - generally the price charged per glass is the price that the restaurant paid for the entire bottle. That way, if they only sell one glass of it before it turns, they've at least made their money back. This is useful in determining if a particular wine is something that you might want to pick up a bottle or 3 of the next time you're at the local (or not so local) wine and spirits shop.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Everything's coming up.....Hostas and such

This is one of my most favorite times of the year around our yard. I'm always pleasantly surprised to see that my perennials return after winter. Not sure why they wouldn't, but it makes me feel like more of a real gardener when they do.

Validation - I gots it.

What's happening in my garden you ask?

Grape Hyacinths. For the most part, these were here when we bought the house. I've added a few, but I can't take credit for the majority of them. Around the other side of the tree, I'm trying to create a 'river' of them, but it's not coming about as quickly as I'd like. Not sure if these little guys naturalize or not - I think I'm just going to have to plant a whole bunch more and then over plant with some sweet woodruff (or as we call them - daisylooking plants), as grape hyacinths don't last for too long, in fact, their 'leaves' emerge full force in the Fall, get all shitty over the winter, then the flowers show up in the Spring. Then they die back. Such is the cycle of life.

Below are some Stars of Bethlehem. I love how they burst out of the leaves (see all the leaves? they're part of my weekend plans, yay me.). They'll get a bunch of little white star shaped flowers on them after a while. The flowers close up at night and open up again in the morning. These were already here too. We've got loads of them. A bunch of them are growing in the dirt patch between the front beds and the street. I'm slowly digging them up and moving them into the beds, so they don't get trampled.
More bursting. More leaves. Jesus, that's a lot of leaves. Luckily, they all sort of fuse together and peel up off the ground in these big leafy sheets. Which exposes all the worm poop below. Our earthworms are PROLIFIC. They have been hard at work over the winter, and they make the best dirt. Luckily, CrabbyC and Tex are coming over on Sunday and I'll have some help getting the leaves up. I'd love to leave them on the ground, but they are a tough barrier for a lot of plants to get through - it's sad to uncover anemic looking sprouts, and sometimes the leaves get caught around my tulips and create a kind of choke-hold on them.

Vicious bastards, those leaves. So, we have bursting and choking. FUN.

The hosta beds have been cleared out, but so far, not too much action going on in them. And I have to put my sign out.
This is our corner. It's another work in progress. I've got some hostas in here, along with a couple of ferns, a grassy plant, vinca, and a chrysanthemum. It gets a fair amount of morning light, so I may, at some point, try a few things that like a little AM sun out here - just to see how they do.
What absolutely loves this bed is the daisylooking plants. They spread out and create a lush groundcover that other plants poke up through. I highly recommend. All of my woodruff came from CrabbyC's garden. The stuff below was one or two stems that went in the ground 2-3 years ago. And this is March/April. I can't wait to see it in May.
Hostas are slowly starting to peek out of the ground. I'm a nut and spend at least 30 minutes after work, almost every day, wandering around our property, staring at the ground and futzing with the soil.
These are from the terraces.

Here we have Red October:

And Guacamole. I hate avacados though. But Guacamole hosta is pretty cool.
That's all from the terraces, because right after I took the picture of the guac, I stepped right on another emerging hosta and freaked out. So much for the up close and personal approach to the terraces. At least until these things come up a little further and I can spot them more easily. Easier? Whatever.

The success I've had with this guy (one of CrabbyC's legacy hostas) in a container has got me considering potting up some more this year. This one has come back for the last 2 years.
A source of frustration for me in our peninsula garden is that emerging lily-of-the-valley and hostas look damn near the same. Since I can't remember from year to year where I've planted what hostas, and the peninsula is completely filled with lily-of-the-valley, I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to tell them apart.

This is a hosta.
These are lily-of-the-valley.

You see the problem.

Because of my addiction, I regularly scour the racks at our local nursery for new babies. I picked up a few items on our last trip. We went in for praying mantis egg-things and came out with more hostas, and no eggs. Story of my life.

This guy is 'So Sweet'. Aw.

And this is 'Regal Splendor'. I have this guy already - maybe even 2 of them. One isn't looking so good out back, so I may be doing some replacement work.

I take chances on sale items. This is 'Hosta Assorted' - so it's anybody's guess what's in the pot. He's got lots of noses popping, which is a good sign. For $2, I'll stick it in the ground (or maybe a container!) and see what comes up. I have another one of these guys on the deck from last Fall, waiting to be planted. I should start another bed and just plant it full of the $2 international hostas of mystery and see what I get.
It's supposed to be 80 today and close to 80 over the weekend. I plan to spend most of my time outside, cleaning up the gardens and getting a bike ride or 2 in. I've got to get some miles under my belt before the Cancer Ride in July. Especially if I'd like to shave another hour off my time and finish before they start dismantling the end point this year.

If I don't have a chance to post again before Sunday, everyone have a happy Easter or Passover or whatever you happen to celebrate.

I celebrate chocolate and champagne. And hostas.