Mom’s Birthday

I don’t entertain very often. Socializing takes a lot out of me and large scale parties scare the dickens out of me. While I’m good with the planning, organizing and most of the details, just the thought of doing all of that makes me twitchy sometimes.

But … Mom had a big birthday this year and Val and I decided that a party was in order. Since I’m on the same coast as Mom and Dad I got to do most of the planning (which I do like). We wanted something really nice, a little different and something that would be special for Mom. So … I went to my favorite cheese shop and talked to Louise about planning a party/dinner for the big day. I also made sure to send info to family as soon as mom gave the initial okay so she couldn’t back out.

It was a really lovely evening. I forgot to take pictures once people started arriving and went into hostess mode – not something that comes naturally, but I tried. Louise and her team did an incredible job and it seemed like everyone had a fantastic time. Good food, good company and good wine … its hard to go wrong.

To make myself even more out of my comfort zone, I hosted lunch the next day at home.

Again, once people began to arrive, I forgot to take any pictures. Arthas had a great time convincing everyone that he was starving and needed food. It was really nice to see everyone and spend time together. Mom’s birthday provided a great excuse to get everyone together and catch up. I can only do this once every ten years, but once a decade, it is kind of nice to stretch out of the comfort zone and play hostess.

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Well, Hello There

It has been a few weeks since I’ve posted not for any dire reason, but I just got busy and decided to prioritize work and things at home to updating the site. One of the nice things about doing this just for the fun of it is that I can take some time off from posting when needed and I feel no guilt.

So a general update: The furry creatures are doing well. (I think they all are … I’m a little worried about Tigger, but Bob keeps telling me he is fine so I’m hoping it is just the time of year that has me on edge.) The kittens are just about a year and a half, but they still play like they are babies. The couches are not going to survive this set of kitties, but it is nice to see them used as an obstacle course, a hideout and a lunching pad on a regular basis. Who knew couches were so versatile? Arthas is also doing well. He rarely cares if the kitties play near him, and every now and then tries to join in, which is amusing and slightly heart stopping given that he is five times their size.

img_20180923_142010I’m still knitting, surprisingly. It is something that is fairly relaxing and gives me a sense of accomplishment. It is also way cheaper than wine and something I can do Sunday mornings unlike my wine hobby. For the most part I stick to one project at a time, but given that I’m going to start a blanket for the spare room soon, I may need some smaller projects to do here and there while working on that. I need to look around at some of the charities again and find out which ones I can send scarfs to and which ones accept blankets or squares to make blankets. I did make Bob a scarf – yes, the Florida boy who has no interest in cold weather has his own scarf. It turned out pretty darn nice if I do say so myself.

Wine. I do love wine and I’ve been enjoying just enjoying a glass here and there instead of constantly taking notes and trying to discern flavors. Don’t get me wrong, I still like doing that too, but it is nice to just have the glass. With the weather so weird lately (we have the doors open and I’m tempted to put on shorts today) we’ve had an eclectic mix of wines. Some of them I will have individual posts about, but I’m considering revamping how I write them. My palate is not able to pick up some of those subtle flavors and I honestly have no idea what others taste like even though they are in tons of descriptions (cassis I’m looking at you).

img_20181016_170445Cooking has not been very interesting lately, although I did make a rather nice Thanksgiving Day dinner, but that gets it’s own post. I love the new job, but with the hour plus commute each way, I am not getting very creative in the kitchen. Either I’m too tired to read and comprehend a recipe, too tired to get creative or just not up to thinking that hard after a long day, but cooking has become a little more routine around here. It’s not a bad thing, and we still eat fairly well, but it just isn’t original. Although I will say, I am pretty happy with the 3 bean enchiladas that I came up with from the 3 bean chili.

Posts may be a little sparse in the next few weeks – I have some projects that I’m finishing up at work over the next few weeks and they are going to take a pretty good amount of time and energy. I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday and can enjoy the season over the next month or so. Happy holidays!

 

I knitted a cat blanket!

Holy cow, I actually kitted a cat blanket. Mid July I needed a hobby (see post) and decided to try knitting. I found, once I got the basic hang of it, that I really like knitting. I like the routine of it, the visual progress and the vague sense of accomplishment. I worked a lot on the squares (I had the time) and I ended up actually making a little blanket for the kitties to lay on.

Little by little I managed to A. get a little better at knitting and B. get closer and closer to making a blanket. Once I had all the squares done, I re-visited You-tube and learned how to attach them. That took an entire day. About 5 hours to stitch together the squares and weave in the ends (there were a lot of squares). My shoulders HURT at the end, but I have a cat blanket!

I realized part way through that I stitched together a few squares backwards – as in the seaming is visible on those squares on the opposite side of the blanket from the other squares. I thought about going back, taking out all of those stitches and starting over, but I decided to embrace the mistake.

That is something knitting is helping me with. There are a lot of errors as I learn and sometimes those errors are huge and need to be corrected immediately (usually by ripping the knitting up and starting over) but sometimes I can let them go. Those mistakes, in the overall project, don’t detract from the finished item and they are a good reminder that mistakes, generally, aren’t fatal. And really, at the end of the day, it is about the project, learning something new and the kitties. The kitties are important and they are not complaining about the mistakes in their blanket.

Winter Park, Florida

With summer coming to an end, Bob and I decided to take a short weekend away just for a change of scenery. We didn’t plan a big trip this year since I was furiously looking for a new job (more on that later) and didn’t want to risk missing an interview if we were away. But Winter Park is only a few hours drive and it is a cute, quaint little town that has a lot of good restaurants, most with really good wine and beer lists.

We stayed right downtown – right in the heart of the old town which was both the best decision we made and the worst. The hotel was great – really awesome people, very convenient to everything and comfortable. The problem? Let’s see if you can spot it.

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That is the view from our room. Cute, right? Do you see the railroad crossing sign painted on the street? Yep. The railroad (which in most old towns is no longer running so no big deal) is still operational and frequently trains go by … including around 5:30 am one morning and 2:30 am another morning, Sigh. The price you pay for convince.

img_20180720_175317We really didn’t have an agenda with this trip. I know, no spreadsheet of places to go and restaurants to eat at, no pre-planned outings or specific exhibits to see. We wanted to relax, eat well and drink good drinks. The first night we were in Winter Park, we hit it out of the park (sorry, bad pun) with the restaurant we chose. The Parkview was a close walk and had some really interesting wines and beers. In my mind the food was secondary this evening, but it really impressed. I could not remember if I like artichoke or not – I don’t have it often enough to really think about it and I’m pretty sure it is one of those hit or miss vegetables – but I decided to go with the artichoke crostini and wow … just wow. The wine was also highly impressive and I again took a risk with Hanging Garden wine flight. These wines were from old and not as well know regions – Lebanon, Greece, Israel and Turkey – so not something I have every day. The Lebanese wine was my clear favorite from this bunch, but they were all really good.

On our only full day in Winter Park, we decided to walk to the botanic gardens. I love gardens and try to get to them in every city we visit. There is something particularly special about nature in the middle of a very developed area and this was no exception. It was hard to remember that we were just a few miles from Orlando proper.

img_20180722_090452_097As good as our first dinner was and as pretty as the gardens were, the highlight of the trip was the donuts. We happened by (on our way to the gardens, then stopped in on the way back) Little Blue Donut is this great place that does to-order donuts. Seriously. they make the general donuts, but they are super fresh and then they hand top them when you order. This was absolutely the best donut I’ve ever had, including Portland which is known for donuts. img_20180722_090452_093

For a really quick trip, this was just about perfect. I would have liked a little more sleep, but for the wine, food and scenery I’ll compromise. I was kind of glad we didn’t make it a full week, because that train would have driven me mad after about three days.

I need a hobby

Summer is great, especially as a teacher. A good amount of time off to get all those things done around the house that get put off throughout the school year, I know I’m incredibly lucky to have the time, but after a few weeks, I get bored. I need something to occupy my time and my mind. I’ve already done a few projects outdoors but it is now too hot to work on any more of those, even first thing in the morning. Okay, it’s not too hot, but it is way too humid. I’ve done most of the indoor projects and am not certain I want to tackle redoing the grout in the bathroom – that may be a step too far even for me.

Last year I had grad school and an internship and studying for my state exam. I did all of that and still ended up with two extra kittens by the end of summer. The year before, I had grad school and the Portland trip – and I ended up with a dog by mid summer. This year I don’t have grad school, don’t have a test to study for and really need something to do. I could go really deep into wine, but my liver (and budget) would not benefit from this option.

So I decided to teach myself knitting. Yep. Knitting. I’ve tried crocheting multiple times – Grandmom tried to teach me, Val tried to teach me and it has never worked for me. Someone told me to try knitting and I always thought they were nuts – I can’t do crafts with one needle, what makes anyone think I could do it with two? But … knitting needles are cheap and I have yarn so why not try. You-tube is a great invention and I watched a bunch of basic “how-to-knit” videos and tried it.

My first attempt – oh my gosh bad. This is not pretty, I don’t care who you are. the casting on was fine – I even learned two different ways to do that in less than an hour, and got pretty good at it. I thought I had the basic knit stitch down until I realized that I had 50% more stitches five rows in than I started with – this was a depressing revelation. Back to You-tube to figure out what I did wrong, try a different type of needle and be very patient and … I did it! I actually knit a square that looks like knitting. Yes, I know this isn’t earth-shattering, but it is the start of a mini project for myself – something to keep me occupied and busy before the school year starts again.

In just under a week, I’ve managed to create a few actual squares of knitting that look like knitting. There are issues and some mistakes, but I keep going. I’m not aiming for perfection with this project, just a good place to learn. I have to practice patience and be really aware of what I’m doing on each row, but so far, it isn’t bad. It’s not fantastic, but I’m pretty proud of myself for getting this far.

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Right now I’m still on the basic knit stitch, but I’m hoping to move to the purl stitch next week. Who knows, but the end of summer, I may have a little lap blanket. Whatever I end up with, I’m pretty happy with it – and the cats have something to try to play with as I knit. Just like when I do yoga, they are the obstacle to be worked around that makes it that much more fun. Frustrating, but fun.

 

Update

Mom said  I could write this month’s update. She says we kittens have grown so much but are still really cute. I think we are still little and like to run around and play, especially with the dog. He’s a little scary just because he is so big, but he’s really nice to us. He even let me play with his fur when mommy was brushing us all the other day. (I don’t like the brush, but I love the dog fur!) Mom said she could make a small dog with the fur she gets from brushing him, but I don’t want her to make a small dog, I like Arthas.

img_20180611_124455Tigger was a little grumpy the other day, he went to see the doctor. Mom said it was his “once a year” check-up, but he still was not happy. Tigger said he was fine and the doctor told him he was super cute and in purrfect health and mom said he did’t have to go back until next year. It’s a good thing too – he was really cranky when he came home.

Tigger is a lot larger than Alinea and I, but I’m getting to be bigger than her. Mom says Alinea is her little kitten even though we are the same age. We still play all over the house, but when she gets tired she either go to Tigger or climbs the tree in the backyard. Mom said she may have a heart attack one day because Alinea goes so high in the tree. I don’t like going up in the tree, but I do love playing with all the leaves. Mom said I’m a great leaf hunter!

Mommy says we are all good babies, but she tells Arthas he is a good boy a lot. He tries to help around the house but I don’t know that he is really helping – I think he makes a mess, but I’m just a cat so I’m not sure. He does guard the front door a lot and he barks when other dogs walk outside the house. I’m glad he does that because we don’t want another dog.

I’m going to go chase Alinea some more and maybe catch some leaves. Mom’s garden has a few fun ones to play with and it’s nice and warm out there.

Love, Ella

 

Gardening

Look at that catnip! I don’t think I’ve ever had a catnip plant look so big and healthy. This is due in large part to Miss Leia sleeping in the catnip frequently, but the current crop of cats are fairly uninterested in it. Tigger occasionally sniffs it and may chew a leaf here and there, but for the most part, he leaves it alone. Alinea likes to chew the cat grass near the cat nip, but that is mostly because she is imitating Arthas.

IMG_20180211_090751.jpgThese two are pretty funny, but Arthas is mostly fascinated with Ella. He follows her around and doesn’t seem to mind when she lays next to him on the couch.

The “garden” is doing well. My tomato plants are still going strong and the basil is even alive – pretty impressive for me since I generally kill basil inside of week or so. Right now the kale is the only thing that looks a little sad, and it isn’t really sad, just not growing as quickly as it did last year. I’m hoping when the weather warms up (I know we don’t have snow, but 40s at night and 60s during the days is cold for south Florida in the spring) it does better, but who knows.

IMG_20180322_152550.jpgThis week I decided to do some more planting. I didn’t have any more vegetables I really wanted to grow, so I found more herbs! Little more basil (since it is somehow growing now), thyme, lemon balm, cilantro and sage. I don’t expect everything to grow and survive, but I’m hoping. The lemon balm smells fantastic – like lemonade – so I’m hoping that grows. No idea what I’ll do with it, but I’ll figure something out.

And just because … pet pictures!

Gardening

I wasn’t going to do any gardening this year. In Florida we plant in the fall – October-ish and this past fall I was a little busy. However, after school finished, I decided to clean up the garden a little and plant a few things. You can plant into December and maybe even into January, so I did.

The tomatoes, jalapeño and kale are all doing well. I started with everything in pots and was pretty glad I had when the cold snaps hit in January. It is way easier to cover plants in pots near the house than it is to cover the garden. I ended up moving the kale to where the garden should be because it needed more space, more light and more air circulation. To prevent Arthas from eating said kale (yes, he eats kale), I used a bit of gardening fence we had. So far everything is looking really good.

IMG_20180211_105705.jpgWhen I moved the kale, I also cleaned up the herbs and I ended up with a bunch of oregano. I have plenty left in the garden, but I didn’t want to waste what I cut so I decided to dry them. Finding a place to hand the oregano where the pets would not get to it, I wouldn’t forget about it and they would get plenty of air was a little tricky, but I just attached them to the window in the kitchen and two weeks late – fresh dried oregano! It isn’t as pretty as the cat grass and catnip that I have planted, but it is pretty all the same. Arthas and Alinea really like the cat grass.

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I was pretty proud of my little efforts and I think they are starting to pay off. We’ve used a few jalapeño and some herbs in some dishes recently and I even had a kale salad with kale from the garden. The tomatoes look fantastic – I’ve cut them back once, but the plant just seems to keep growing, so I’m going to just let it be. I counted four clusters of tomatoes right now, and there are a bunch of flower clusters that give me hope for lots and lots of tomatoes until summer.

The plant that would not die

I can’t remember when I got the Bougainvillea but it was a while ago – either right before or right after Bob and I got married. In the years since I got this plant I have pretty much neglected it, especially in the last few years. It has sat on the back patio and pretty much been ignored and it just hung on barely alive. Before Irma came through we moved it to the corner between the house and the fence – it is a REALLY heavy pot and we figured that it would be safe there. I never moved it back to its spot after Irma, so it sat in that corner, unattended for the last few months. This week, I finally got around to moving it into the sun again, watering it and cutting the dead branches off. I’m hoping that if I actually pay some attention to it, I might be rewarded with pretty peach flowers.

I also moved the mini garden to a spot where it would get a little more sun, and planted some cat grass and catnip for the kitties. I don’t know if they will play in them or not, but they are kind of pretty.

I’m hoping to get the actual garden back in the fall, but for now, I think the pots will work. The pets seem to enjoy the back yard and it is a nice place for Bob and I to have a glass of wine in the evening (weather and bugs permitting).