Sunday, August 31, 2014

Summer Laughter

I’ve spent a great deal of my last month of summer taking JT back and forth to assorted cross country practices while keeping up with my own work and the garden.  It's an August that is a little busier than usual and likely a harbinger of the school year to come.  But at the end of most days, we sit down together to review our accomplishments and the to-do list that remains, laughing all the while.  More than anything else, it’s his sense of humor that indicates JT is my child.

That’s happy.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Hand in Hand

The school where JT has attended class for the last 11 years figures large in our world because of its daily presence in our lives.   Everywhere I look on the campus is a reflection of his past, his present, and his future.  And try as I might I cannot quite believe that he is a tall 14 year-old about to start the adventure that is high school.  College will shortly follow, a fact that looms large in my mind.  I was thinking of this on Thursday, as my boy strolled off to freshman orientation.  He walked through the doors of the Upper School on his own, the result of a confident independence grown in the halls and sidewalks of this campus.  

Once upon a time, we made those walks to school together.  I had a hand in walking him through the doors of the Lower School, from the pre-K classroom where we hung up his backpack, stowed his lunch, and made ready for the day.  The next year, he held my hand as we walked to the Junior Kindergarten room where I helped him set his things in a cubby while he walked confidently through the classroom door by himself.  By the next year, my independent 5 year old ordered me to watch him walk to the door of the building.  Then he took care of the rest, calling “I love you Mama,” as he pulled open the big door that led to the wonders and accomplishments of kindergarten.  He’s since been through plenty more classroom doors on his own, growing up so very quickly.

On Thursday as he set off to 9th grade orientation, my head reminded me that JT’s been walking himself to class for quite some time.  But my heart feels like it was just a few minutes ago that I walked an eager three year old to school for the first time.  And my heart and my head agree that the next four years will fly through my hands.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Big Dahlia

I’ve taken to calling my dahlias Big Dahlia.  The phrase is stolen from Big Oil, though why this strikes me as appropriate is anyone’s guess.  The dahlias are good for the environment and not evil, so, really, they’ve nothing in common.  Figuring out how my mind work is a task beyond the scope of this blog, so let's return to the point at hand:.  These dahlias are big.  This yellow flower is nearly as big as a dinner plate.

The large, impractical flowers are rather my favorites;  just so over-the-top that I find them terribly charming during my daily garden walk.

There are smaller dahlia flowers as well, equally lovely and much more suitable for a bouquet.

The shiny green buds suggest that I’ve many more flowers I will yet enjoy.  That's happy!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Hydrangea Envy

I failed to get my hydrangeas properly trimmed and so mine had plenty of foliage but no flowers.  At Colonial Park, the gardener was more careful and so I was treated to this lovely display when I took a walk there last week.


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Real Life Conversations with JT: Quality Parenting edition

The backstory:  Listening to NPR in the car, JT and I heard a story about sexual assault awareness training.  The upshot of the training was to remind young men that it’s not okay to get a woman drunk and then have sex with her.  When the story was over, I turned to JT and like th responsible parent I am, said, “It’s not okay to get a woman drunk and have sex with her.”

JT:  I know that.  There was also a story on DeGrassi which showed how bad an idea that is.

Mama:  Gotcha.

JT:  But I knew before the Degrassi show.  On account of the fact that I’m not stupid.

My work here is done.  Though DeGrassi?

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Ready for Their Close-Up

A few years ago, my friend C, who is an artist and photographer, taught me to make pictures of flowers from directly overhead.  I have since shot many a photo this way and it paid off on a recent trip to Somerset County’s rose garden at Colonial Park.  There were dozens and dozens of rose bushes in the garden and the flowers were truly spectacular.

The trip to the rose garden was a field trip with my summer office buddies and it was such a nice way for us to enjoy one another’s company, while also stopping to smell the roses.

We are planning a field trip to the Colonial Park perennial garden next week.  That’s happy!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Harvest Season

August is bringing me an abundance of tomatoes and the beginnings of my weekly flower bouquets.  

A walk in the garden features even more dahlias, zinnias, cucumbers and tomatoes to come.  That’s happy!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Tomato Competition

One of the best things about summer is homegrown tomatoes.  I wait all year for the pleasures of these tomatoes and when enough have accumulated, I make a batch of salsa fresco.  JT is a notoriously picky eater who enjoys tomatoes pureed into sauce or salsa but, to my knowledge, has never eaten a sliced tomato, let alone enjoyed one in a salad or sandwich.  This year, he was game to try his mama’s homemade salsa fresco and, after several bites, announced, “This is really good.”

I was excited that he even tried something new, let alone liked it.  But I am cautious about his sensitivity about being a picky eater, so I calmly allowed that yes, homegrown tomatoes in freshly chopped salsa was rather delicious.  And then he offered, “maybe a tomato would taste good on a sandwich.”

I nearly fell off my chair as I agreed that yes, homegrown tomatoes might be tasty on a sandwich.  It will serve me right if he becomes competition for the homegrown tomatoes in my garden.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Niagara Floral Showcase

I’ve already established that the Canadian side of Niagara Falls has a superior view of the water.  As it turns out, it also had a superior park, one that does credit to the province of Ontario, who runs the lovely Floral Showhouse in the park.  I’m completely unable to pass by such a prospect and so T and I took a tour. 

From the start, it offered a lovely prospect.

In addition to abundant displays in the greenhouse, there were lovely pots of flowers.  

Fuchsia displays were everywhere and all of them were beautiful.

The second greenhouse had some unusual succulents and normally I’m not a fan, but I liked this yellow flower amidst the collection. 

There are several pothos plants in my care, but none are quite this splendid.  

Outdoors were beds with canna bulb flowers and I especially liked this yellow display.  

We checked out the pond outside the greenhouses.

The lily pads were pretty.

As we were leaving, we sighted this little black squirrel in the high branches of a tree.

It was a all-together lovely display and yet another reason to admire Canada's Niagara's Park.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Real Life Conversations with Border Guards: Canada edition

The backstory:  T and I talk our fair share of smack but when it all shakes down, we’re the well-behaved, law-abiding type.  Given the trouble my mother had at the gates of Mother Russia, we planned to behave ourselves when it came time to enter Canada last week.  Passports in hand, we approached the border patrol gate at Niagara Falls. 

Canadian Border Patrol:  Do you have any personal protection with you?

S & T:  No, ma’am.

It took all of my self control to avoid blurting out, “I may have a tampon or two in my bag.”  Something told me she wasn’t talking about that kind of personal protection and so I kept my big mouth shut.

There’s a first for everything.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Niagara Falls

One of the side effects of growing up in California is disdain for the waterfalls on the east coast.  The fact is that my expectation of waterfalls is that they look like the amazing falls of Yosemite National Park.  At Yosemite, Bridalveil Falls descends more than 600 feet.  Yosemite Falls is even more splendid, falling over 2400 feet.   There are 8 other waterfalls in the park.  It is unreasonable to expect that other waterfalls compete with this splendor, but alas it is my expectation.

Niagara Falls upends that view because while it isn’t tall it really is quite beautiful thanks to its width and abundance.  The falls are exceptionally wide, with two falls and so much mist that it’s hard to see the larger horseshoe-shaped falls completely.  Suffice it to say that the falls are famous for good reason.  But the most surprising element is that the Americans (for once) didn’t take the best for themselves.  The Canadian side of the falls have the best views and the nicest parks.  Go Canada!

T insisted we see the American side first, mostly because it has a nice view, albeit one that would be completely uninteresting if I’d seen the Canada view first.   The American views, seen from the cliffs alongside the American falls, were lovely.

But the American falls when viewed from the Canadian side were amazing.

As for the horseshoe falls, the Canadian share of Niagara Falls, they are hard to make a picture of because of the sheer volume of mist generated by the falls.  They can only be fully viewed from the Canadian side, tricky given the mist.  But I gave it a go.  First, from the edge by the rapids that precede the falls.

And then in the midst of all the water blowing around.


Thursday, August 07, 2014

Make Way for Gosling

New Jersey abounds with Canadian Geese.  Thanks to global warming, they no longer seem intent to travel to Canada and instead live here year-round.  Their only predator seems to be cars.  The other day, on a very busy road along the banks of the Raritan River, a family of geese opted to cross the road.  I stopped and so did a chain of additional cars and we waited as they slowly made their way across the street.

It was a moment of New Jersey Zen.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

By Order of the Summer Authority

Some afternoons in the summer just beg for cold beer, guacamole, and queso.  Good thing I know how to get that done.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Real Life Conversations with JT: Family Dynamics edition

The backstory:  JT and I were having a conversation with a friend who has a difficult mother.  JT, who does not enjoy difficult, offered some advice.

JT:  If she’s such a pain, why do you even bother with her?

F:  Well, you only have one mother.  So I try.

JT: silence….and then a snarky grin and the showing of two fingers

Point made.  And you thought your life was difficult.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

First Harvest

I was away for the first two weeks of the summer and by all accounts things were quite hot and dry during that time.  Since I returned, the summer has been rather splendid, with patches of the usual warmth but also many temperate days and nights cool enough to sleep with open windows.  Despite the fact that it’s August, typically the point in the summer when things begin to look parched, my lawn is still green and lush and requires mowing once a week.  In the midst of all this green, my garden has begun to yield its harvest.

The first pickings of the summer are usually tantalizingly small, as was this collection of 3 flowers, 1 tomato, and a bunch of basil.  Small or not, it’s lovely that the garden payout season is upon me.  More bouquets and produce are just around the corner.  That’s happy!

Friday, August 01, 2014

August 1st: Front Yard Flowerbed

Though my teenage self would surely recoil in horror at the announcement, I love the early morning.  I feel a bit like I have the world to myself as I wait for the coffee pot to finish brewing and admire the eastern sky viewed from my kitchen window.  This summer, I’ve taken that first cup of coffee outside with a book.  I sit in the rocker and read and sip while the birds keep me company.   With my second cup of coffee, I step off my porch to check on my dahlias.  With the arrival of August, a profusion of flowers is tantalizingly close at hand.

I call this strip of flowers dahlia alley; the western sun and protection of the house seems to be a good fit for the plants.  

From the front of the house, the dark yellow rudbeckia peeks over the shrubs, offering a bit of color before the dahlias come to full bloom.  

There are at least a few more months of warm weather to soak up before seasonal change is upon us.  The dahlias and I are determined to enjoy every bit the summer has to offer.