Monday, October 31, 2011

WARNING: Not about foliage!

Here we go, life full throttle... I've done it now!

I've accepted a new job.

A new, full-time, job.

And I'll still be doing work for my old one.


When we moved to NC, I had a plan.  Big boy is in second grade.  Little boy is in preschool.  I was going to stick it out as development director for my Michigan agency (delegating the face-to-face stuff to a newbie) for as long as they would have me (which I figured would be about a year).  I love my work for CTC and being able to pick up boys from school (the first at noon, the second at 3:30) and never have to worry about daycare or transportation or any of the unfortunate side effects of being a 9-5er.  I figured that even though my hours would drop, the increase in Matt's salary would make it up. 

First, we discovered that an extra ten grand for him didn't actually mean bigger paychecks.  Loss of teaching opportunities plus higher health care costs actually mean several hundred dollars a month LESS. Then, I got bored and lonely.  I started to make friends through fellow moms, but I was still stuck in my little apartment far too many hours of the day.  Even the delightful work I did for my agency lost its luster as the opressiveness of being stuck in isolation day after day worked its unhappy mojo on me.  I was bored, broke, and facing the prospect of not being able to go home for Christmas.

So, I started looking for a new job.  I wasn't really earnest about it.  I scanned craigslist, felt out the local nonprofit network, and updated my resume.  But when our savings ran out, we got in real trouble. Haven't-paid-my-student-loans-in-months, can't-replace-bald-tires-so-won't-pass-inspection, have-to-borrow-cash-from-mom sort of trouble.

I got really motivated:D

I applied to about 15 places which resulted in four outright rejections, three false "we'll get back to you"s, two pre-screens where I didn't make an interview, three actual interviews, and two second interviews.

Considering the economy, I considered this pretty good for a month's worth of effort.

Finally, an agonizing week after both second interviews, I got an offer!!!  (Frankly, I'm still expecting the other place to give me an offer, but I won't be sad to turn it away.)

The new place seems like my kind of environment.  I can't give details yet - I start Wednesday and I want to give the folks a chance to call the other candidates.  But it's flexible and fun and full of creative potential.  The pay is frankly kinda crappy, but I'll take crappy pay and high flexibility over awesome pay and long hours/zero flexibility any day.  Also, I'll still be able to work for CTC, so I'll supplement my income and keep the promise I made to myself to not leave them hanging.

But, now I have to work out the kinks. The transportation and child care and making sure all the little details come together.  Like, adding an extra day of preschool and making sure the mom who offered to watch him in the afternoons REALLY wants to do it.  But I imagine the sleep I'll lose over sorting out the details won't compare to the sleep I've lost over being negative in the budget every month.

Hurrah for progress!

Back to our regularly scheduled program next time, when I'll probably rip out most of my summer plants and pop in kale and spinach and daffodils:D

Monday, October 3, 2011

It's Cold!

I woke up yesterday, and suddenly my warm happy place had taken a turn for the chilly.  It was 60, and I wore a long black sweartshirty type skirt and a long-sleeve shirt - laughing at myself for adjusting too quickly to North Carolina's climate.  Christmas in Michigan, I thought, is going to suck!  We'll be those funny people dressed to the nines in sweaters, scarves, double layer socks.... oh wait, I was like that anyway as a native!

Then I woke up this morning, windows open, to a lovely 41 degree day. 

What the heck!  This is supposed to be the South!  The fact that it's supposed to hit 70 later today isn't much comfort.  It's autumn in the South.  The whole next week is supposed to be like this - 40s in the evenings/mornings and 70s in the day.  Once I dig out my wool socks, I'm sure I'll find it quite enjoyable;)

So, this means that I have to deal with the plants on the deck.  I have a number of semi-tropical plants out there, like Swedish Ivy and Kalanoche and Patchouli.  I suppose I should bring them all inside, but I already have lots of houseplants.  Guess I'll find room!

Another thing I'm not sure about is what plants are perennial in this climate.  I love my Datura plants, despite their toxicity.  (I keep them on the rail in the back, away from pets and kids.)  Are they perennial here?  Makes me not want to pull much out!  Guess some reasearch is in order:D

Anyway, off to do some work.  I have lots of photos from summer gardening adventures, but I haven't downloaded any since July.  Once I hunt down the SD cards, I'll upload and backdate them.  And for a parting shot - my lovely double-blossomed white Datura!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

It's Hot

My morning glories are wilting every afternoon like clockwork, no matter how much water they have.

I haven't visited either of the community gardens in days um, a week well, before hell came to visit Charlotte... wait, I when was the last time I watered Cook CG?  There has been some rain, but... shit.  I bet all my carefully cultivated stuff is dying. 

A craptastic side effect of being too much of a coward to leave the safety of air conditioning.  Even to save my tomatoes and pumpkins and beans and luffas.

I just can't go out there.

I haven't left the apartment in two days.

At least Assurance CG has automated sprinklers.  Now that's community for you!  Why doesn't Cook have them?!  Curse, mumble, groan, unfair rambling... (It's the heat.  I promise I don't mean it.)

My parrot window thermometer says it's 99 degrees right now.  I think I'm being lied to, or the thermometer is in denial. Wunderground's "Most Cloudy" thumbnail mocks me with his false predictions of protection from the soul-sucking sun and his orgasmic pleasure at frying my kids like tiny pink shrimp on urban parking lots and sidewalks.  "Sorry kiddo, we can't practice rollerblading today.  Mr. Sun is in his happy place."

On top of a heat advisory, we have an "air quality" advisory.  The air is poisonous?!?!  Oh wait, that's nothing new either.  If that annoyingly cheerful yellow exclamation hadn't popped up on my weather advisory every day since the summer started, I might have started paying attention to it.


Break out the gas masks and arm yourselves with inhalers and ice cubes... we're going to visit a museum!

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Oasis (From the front and side, as of July 1st)

 Sometimes I see people stop and look gap-jawed upwards toward me.  The first time, I thought I'd accidentally wandered out into the sidewalk-line-of-sight part of the patio in my skanky summer night gown sans bra.  (I often hang out on my patio in skivvies, but usually am careful to stay out of random jogger's field of vision.)  But it didn't take me long to realize it wasn't me.  Or, perhaps, wasn't just my rolled-out-of-bed scariness.  Patio gardens like mine are actually pretty rare in this stark apartment community of mine.  Three floors up, The Oasis stands out as a lovely bit of greenery in a sea of white washed empty patios.  You'll occasionally see bikes hanging from racks, or an odd pot or two, but usually nary a vegetable or bird feeder is to be seen.

One day on my way back from somewhere, I decided to stop and gawk, putting myself in the shoes of tidy dog-walkers whose patios were are as barren as the Sahara.  (OK, so I was plotting exactly exactly where I could hang out less-than-kempt without being seen.)  I took some photos for good measure.  This was a couple weeks ago, and things have since grown and been moved, but you get the idea.

I wish more people would hop on the bandwagon.  That way I wouldn't risk getting gawked at in my garden-witch-just-rose skivvies, watering and drinking tea, when a random jogger happens by.

Or maybe they're just afraid of geting in trouble for putting holes in the wood.  Ooops.  I didn't think about that.  (No, really, I did.  I just don't care.  :D)

Monday, June 27, 2011

You know your neighbor is a witch when...

Thirty sure-fire ways to detect paganism without having to resort to a dunking stool or wart-inspection.
1) She never puts any trash out on collection day. I mean, re-cycling and composting is fine, but you can take it too far.
2) All the stray cats in the neighborhood tend to congregate in her garden (and use your own as their litter).
3) Doesn't cut down the weeds in her garden; in fact it looks more like she's cultivating them.
4) Footprints on the roof. And the trees in her flight-path have been pruned down. I swear it's true!
5) She can't even make a simple sandwich without adding fresh herbs to it. And don't ask her for a cup of tea unless you want something yellow colored and smelling of flowers.
6) When you pop next door for a chat, the kettle is always already on.
7) Has a pond full of frogs (and you haven't seen that bothersome double-glazing salesman around for a while).
8) She's always smiling, darn her!
9) Her house always smells of incense.
10) Frequently gets raided by the drug squad who confiscate large amounts of dried green leaves; they always return them with apologies after analysis.
11) Christmas, it seems like half the garden has been moved into the house.
12) You sometimes hear the sound of singing and dancing through the wall. If you look out of the window, it is usually a full moon.
13) She was given a bodhram drum for her birthday. And she plays it at midnight in the fields. And she's got a blasted tambourine.
14) You catch her washing a crystal ball along with the dishes.
15) Irritating tendency to hum a lot. What's she got to be so happy about, huh?
16) She has a tame robin that will eat from her hand in the garden. That can't be natural.
17) Never catches a cold, even though she walks barefoot most of the time. In the snow as well.
18) Doesn't kill spiders. Not even big hairy long-legged ones that suddenly appear from the waste-pipe whilst you're having a bath.
19) She listens to what you are saying like she really cares.
20) She has lots of female friends who come round every few months. When you ask what they get up to, she tells you that they just have cakes and ale and a good natter.
21) You catch her hugging a tree.
22) She has a mail-order account with a semi-precious gem wholesaler.
23) She makes jars of quince and mandrake relish for the Women's Institute coffee morning jumble sale.
24) You ask to borrow a pack of cards for an impromptu bridge evening, and there are 78 in the pack.
25) You ask her for suggestions for nice walks in the area, and they all go by way of stone circles and strange earth mounds.
26) There aren't any mirrors in her house. Or clocks.
27) The garden doesn't only bloom in daylight.
28) When she says her house is protected by fairies, you believe her.
29) The Jehovah's Witnesses never call (not anymore; not after the last time :-).
30) Keeps the local scented-candle shop solvent.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Sudden Charlotte Hail Storm

Charlotte rainstorms are quite different from what we're used to in Michigan.  

Michigan thunderstorms are lovely things, usually coming at dusk with sudden spikes of impressive lightening and loud clashes of thunder that never fails to shake windows and scare small children and cats.  They come in the summer, not overly frequent, but usually impressive and longish lasting.

Here in Charlotte, they seem to slink towards us, either battered and beaten by the might of the mountains, or having already taken all their rage out on the wide open ocean.

They show up with thunder and darkness and sparks in the sky, rage for a few minutes to a half hour, and go away as quickly as they show up.

They're  also frequent visitors.  We have storms every couple of days, keeping the hot days from turning into hot nights, and keeping the Piedmont clay from getting too crispy.

So far, we enjoy the hail storms the best.  The boys love hanging off the patio trying to catch the hail.  Plus, it's fun catching ice on what was a formerly 80 degree day.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Back From a Chilly, Rainy Week in Michigan

The boys and I went back to Michigan last week to hang out with my brother while he was home on leave from Afghanistan.  It was a lot of fun, chillin out in my old hometown with the fam, cooking out and drinking.  Of course there were other activities thrown in as well - I went to work, hung out with a couple other relatives, etc.

One of the things I wanted to accomplish was moving some of my more meaningful Michigan plants from the old house to my boss/friend's yard, where they could flourish until I have a place for them.

There are a lot of plants in here, including several roses, a big mountain daisy bush in the middle, chives and mint that are a couple generations old, winter and summer savory, lemon balm, lillies that my mom planted decades ago - representing a bouquet of flowers my dad bought her when he was deployed over seas, borage, and a few more meaningful plants.

I didn't have a camera, so I used the crappy one on my phone to take some shots.

I bet this spot will be gorgeous in a few years.  *sigh*

I miss my garden!  But I'm determined to get over it and move on.  What else can you do?  

I was out digging in pouring rain in a blue and gold dress, surrounded by poppies and roses and flowering sage and irises and so much more flora that I had spent hundreds of dollars and hours coaxing out of cold Michigan mud, feeling sorry for myself, when my neighbor friend came over.  She told me I looked like a garden fairy.  We chatted and laughed in the rain, and I offered plants like I have for years.

At least my mark on Grand Rapids isn't doomed to degenerate into wildness forever, given that at least half a dozen yards in the place have blooms originating from my tangled collection.  That makes me feel a little better:)

A few last shots from my former Leonard St. garden.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

How to Make Perfect Patio Bird Bath

I'm not a famously patient person when it comes to getting things done.  When I decide that I want something, I either buy it (not very often) or make it (my preferred approach if I have the ability, tools, and parts).  So last week, when I decided I needed a birdbath, I did some quick research to see what was out there for patio birdbaths.  There were some I liked, but I could only laugh at the cost. So I set about to make my own.

And it turned out to be incredibly easy!  And cheap!  So in case you're so inclined, here was my process.

Disclaimer: I'm a jewelry maker, so I have tools and decorative chain on hand.  But if you don't, don't let that stop you.  Use whatever you have in tool boxes, junk drawers, and n the back of the closet!

What you need:

Two pairs of pliers. I have jeweler's tools, but any pair will do just fine.

About 4 feet of small but sturdy chain.  This will be what wraps the bowl.  I used some ugly cheap stuff I've had for years.  You can use any kind of chain you have, including an old dog chain.

A foot or two of sturdy chain.  This is the piece you are going to use to hang the bath.

An old bowl.  The shallower the better.  I also like the clear bowl so I can see when its empty or dinner without having to climb on a chair.

Preparing the Chain

Separate the chain into four separate chains. You do this by opening the last link of the chain. Grip the link with one set in your not-dominate hand. In the other hand, slightly bend the ring to the right. NEVER pull the two ends apart unless you plan on throwing the ring away. If you have never done this before, here are some excellent step-by-step directions.

Using the same method as above, unhook a link from the big chain.

Slide the ends of all four small chains on the link.

Close the big link and spread out the chains like an X.

Making the Base

Set the bowl on top.

Open the bottom link of the big chain and slide the other end of the four small chains through it.  Close the loop.

Straighten it all out and give it a few light yanks to make sure all the links are properly tightened.  Better to have it fall and crash on your patio than fall several stories on some poor soul's head.

Step back and admire your handiwork!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Assurance Community Garden

Quinn's Tasty TreatsThree Sisters: Scarlet Runner BeansThree Sisters: PumpkinsCheese PumpkinSunflower BudA Tiny Fuzzy Cucumber
Green TomatoesAnother Crayfish HoleSunflower BudThree SistersSummer SquashTorin's Tasty Treats.
Picking SquashThe whole view.A Basil ForestNorthern Corner

Assurance Community Garden, a set on Flickr.

Cook Community Garden

MeThe Man of the CoopBarred RocksSilkiesMagnoliaStanding-on-the-Table View
Potato BinsMagnolia TreeMagnolia BudQuinn with a MagnoliaEntering the GadenChicken Coop on Wheels
A Reason for RowsWatermelon on a TrellisTiny TomatoesQuinn WateringA Side ViewMy Plot
Cook Community Garden, a set on Flickr.