29 June 2011


Lifetime learning. Do it. On a regular basis I try to learn something new, try something different, go somewhere far.

Today a long-time friend and I took the digital photography class in Chicago. We learned about f-stops, apertures, ISO, light metering, boca, and more. We listened; we observed; we took fledgling steps.

Obviously, I need to improve my photography. I love illustrating blog entries with personal photos. I've got the camera; I need the skills.

I can't say I walked away from today as a better photographer, but I now understand the terminology. I've repeatedly found my way to the settings and controls on my Canon EOS T3. I'm going to practice and then I'm going to read over my notes and practice some more. I'm going to read other sources and practice some more.

Practice. And, I'm going to have to make a personal commitment to avoid point-and-shoot, taking the time to prepare and experiment.


25 June 2011


Just when I begin to get tired of Groupon in my in-box, I get a fantastic offer for a 4-hour photography class and 2-hour photo safari at Capturing True Emotion next week in Chicago. WOW! Just what I need to get fully on-board with our new camera. We've been mostly pointing and shooting, but I've been wanting to know more and to get better with my photo shots.

So, next Wednesday I spend the day in Chicago expecting to come home psyched and much more proficient than now. Can't believe the great deal.

24 June 2011


current great room

current dining area, soon-to-be morning room

Today is the first day I've actually begun to enjoy the redecorating process. Yep! Something I've dreamed of doing for years, scouring design books, magazines, furniture and decorator's stores, design blogs, etc. Now we've decided to go the whole nine-yards with our great room, bedroom, and study-dining room and I haven't been enjoying the process. Duh!

I started small, hiring a decorator for a consult on what to keep and what to ditch; what to reupholster and refinish; where to place things. We quickly progressed to my paying a retainer, and beginning the process of adding and refinishing all our hardwood floors (something I'd never come close to imagining) and reupholstering all the furniture pieces we're keeping (ditching 2 sofas and a 60" round dining table from the mix). That's seven, no 8 or 9 pieces. And, we're going to repaint the base of our 6-1/2 ft. harvest table (which becomes my new desk) and also (don't tell CA yet, 'cuz he'll freak) our 3-piece shelving-media unit that lives in the study-dining room.

20 June 2011


What do you do at 9:00am on a bright and sunny summer day? Well, today we went to Stinson Park where JA and LE played in the water and ran in the grass while JE supervised and I took photos. JA was quick to remind me that we were here, doing this very same thing last summer. He's 4-years old and like a small encyclopedia...

JE decided that we'd get our ice cream at Mid-Town Crossing before lunch, for convenience, rather than after for proper nutrition. No complaints from the peanut gallery. Both kids opted for cotton candy, which shares the color blue with the Smurf kingdom. I had a lick, and while not tempted to indulge in a full scoop, I can definitely see the attraction if you're two-years old or even four-years old.

The good news is that we're home in time to Skype with MK and the little girls in Bratislava. It's been weeks since we've seen the girls in action. Photos are great, but there's nothing like a little electronic interaction to appease the pangs of longing. LG and KF frolic and dance for us, while NJ squeals as loudly as she can while sticking her face as close to the camera as possible. It's abundantly clear, that she will never be over-shadowed by her older sisters. She will be noticed! She already knows how to demand attention. So, so cute, too.

DM's family is just days from moving from their lovely home in Chorvatsky Grob, Slovakia. Today is the last day we benefit from the Vonage phone line. Having the ability to call freely for a minimum cost has been such a blessing. Between Skype (or Face Time) and the Internet phone lines, we've managed to keep a much closer family connection than any of us could have imagined even 10 years ago. When DM first went to live in Europe, we were just thankful for phone calling cards and the discounted rates they afforded us.

The afternoon glides by. While CA takes in a College World Series baseball game at the T.D. Ameritrade stadium in Omaha and MA is at work, LE and I nap. JE tries unsuccessfully to nap because JA fights back against his rest time. Everyone is tired, but not everyone is ready to give up!

For dinner we go to Blanc Burgers + Bottles for the first time. The food is yummy. JE and I share a BLT salad and a turkey burger, LE gets her favorite mac and cheese, JA asks for his cheese grilled, MA gets a bleu cheese-stuffed burger, and CA opts for one topped with a fried egg. We share some French fries and sweet potato fries dipped in a homemade ketchup and chipotle dipping sauce. When it's time to wait for the check, JA, LE, and I walk up the block to Delice to peruse the cookies. After quite a bit of discussion, JA chooses a white-chocolate dipped cinnamon-almond cookie and LE points to what turns out to be a very large Italian butter cookie, filled with nutty cream and then dipped in chocolate. JA ends up sharing his small cookie with LE because she abandons her selection after just a few licks. The real pleasure here, obviously, was in the selecting rather than the actual imbibing...

18 June 2011


The days are too long and the distance too great to wait a whole month (when the new baby boy is due) to see JA and LE, oh, and our darling daughter and handsome son-in-law. So, we'll enrich the vaults of the oil barons as we fill and refill our gas tank with this summer's black gold...

The road is long, but worth the trip. We look forward to lots of giggles, silliness, and delight; hugs and love, and even some College World Series baseball.

It's time to pack up the suitcases, gather the gifts and treats, and after a night's rest, we'll be off on our trek west over miles of asphalt, oceans of satellite radio, rivers of caffeine, and too much road food. The way west is fraught... In the spirit of our pioneer ancestors,wagons ho! (Actually none of our ancestors ever made it west of the Mississippi.)

13 June 2011


We're getting a kick out of seeing Noël (in Bratislava) wearing the same sun dresses that LE wore last summer in Omaha. Soon we'll have LE wearing the inimitable Sophie's 2010 summer wardrobe.

The little girls in Bratislava are enjoying the last few weeks in their lovely home. The big move takes place the last week of June. They'll get to spend some time in Dovalovo before moving to Orlando in early August. Needless to say, CA and I will be driving to Orlando at the earliest possible moment.

08 June 2011


Frustratingly, my photo card was compromised in some way and it had become virtually impossible to upload photos. Erratic at best. I finally uploaded the  reno photos to the iPad and then struggled with not being able to upload them through Blogger. The buzz in blogger-world is that's an ongoing problem causing some to migrate to a different blog platform. I'm holding fast, assuming Blogger will soon publish an iPad app that actually makes iPad blogging a viable option.

My frustrations were accentuated by attempts to find apps that would host my photos and allow the editing/upload/availability that I've become accustomed to from my laptop. The end result was a frozen iPad.

So... After too many late night hours of frustration and a brief conversation with Apple Care, I synced my iPad with the laptop and voilà the photos are uploadable. Still, it should not be that complicated, I've been blogging with photos for years. For sure, most of the trouble was with the photocard (which I've re-formatted so it seems to work as it should), but the iPad and Blogger were neither performing up to the levels I'd expected.

For now, the photos have been added to the landscape post.

06 June 2011


We had friends for dinner on the porch last night.

Ah-h-h... Routine. I love it. And then, I don't.

This week I'm craving routine--morning walks, some yoga, some shopping, lots of reading, some repair guys... A week at home when I'd not planned to be home. Lovely.

CA is in Central Illinois with his mom. She was discharged from the nursing home today to continue her shoulder replacement rehab at home. Unlike her (2) hip replacements, the physical therapy part of the rehab doesn't start until the arm has been immobilized for five weeks. So, he'll get her re-settled at home, do the grocery shopping and errands--including picking LFW up at the airport tomorrow when she arrives for a 5 day visit. He'll come home on Thursday.

Until then, I'm on my own and planning to get stuff done and also do a lot of lingering.

The HUGE PROJECT will move forward soon. The new beds arrive on Friday, and on Wednesday the hardwood floor guy comes for an estimate. Until we see how the new wood floor(s) open things up, we can't quite imagine how the furniture arrangement will truly work. The plan is to have two seating areas in the great room--open, yet somewhat defined by the placement of wooden borders. There will eventually be a rug in one or both of the seating areas. I've been doing some legwork looking at upholstery fabrics, but am anxious to see what DV has chosen for my perusal. She comes on Thursday.

Tomorrow I take the BMW to the repair shop for a look at the damages from a Starbucks drive-through incident last week. Nice lady and nice insurance company. So far we're expecting it to cost at least $2800. Glad it's her deductible and not mine. Third time I've been hit in a year. Give me a break!

D and M, in Bratislava, will be moving out of their lovely home in a couple of weeks. After a summer in the mountains for M and girls, while D is coaching the Slovak National Baseball team, they'll relocate to Orlando, FL for a year. So, we get to meet them in Orlando in August--just after the new baby boy is born in Omaha. He and his mama take precedence, but there's plenty of love and attention for all of them.

CA has reneged on his agreement to cut back on his coaching... A month or so ago he said he'd be willing to cut out the Fall coaching, but when we were discussing renting a house in France in 2012, he said it'd have to be after mid-October... The money is a nice benefit, but I really, really want to be in France in September and October rather than November and December. We shall see. We shall negotiate.

It is suddenly summer, with no spring to reflect back on. Oh, right. We had a day or two scattered amongst the lingering winter.

02 June 2011

THE REVEAL: TMI (too much information)

So... Our two front landscape beds are complete--we've planted for shade and for part sun. It will be interesting to see what thrives and survives. So far, the three varieties of Hosta that were already on-site have been divided and re-grouped into several clusters, by texture and color between the two beds, and we've added two additional hybrids to the left bed--Blue Mouse Ears and Paul's Glory. Already all varieties of the Hosta have taken root and are perky.

Mouse Ears

bright green are Paul's Glory

We've had great success at Home Depot this year--two different locations. I have gone to a couple of local nurseries and the two we visited in Michigan last weekend, but Home Depot has been reasonably priced with good quality.

So, this is what we've been up to:



Jacob's Ladder

In the deep corner where the front of the house meets the side of the garage, we've planted three varieties of fern--Victoria Lady, Cinnamon, and Ghost Lady. We split the two varieties of Brunnera that we've had for two years, and added a third--Looking Glass. We also planted some Lungwort--Raspberry Splash--which looks a bit like Hosta but adds another combination of color and texture. And, we planted a variegated version of a plant that was familiar--Polemonium, Jacob's Ladder.Two reasons I was happy to plant this one: we had a healthy cluster at our former home and my maiden name is Jacobs.

Foxglove on left

Three varieties of Caladium


Tonight we added a Foxglove, Camelot Cream, to the front of the left bed, and planted a second and third variety of the annual, Caladium, in the center near the big rock. And, we found a gorgeous green and purple-leaved violet--Heartthrob--which we've located along the garage wall. Next year I'll add another variety or two of violets if these thrive.


I'd found a fantastic annual, Black and Blue Salvia, at Key Blooms in Portage, MI last weekend which we feature just in front of our porch post in the right bed, and then planted a healthy hunk of the more common Salvia Nemorosa near the front. I stumbled across some particularly healthy blue Forget-Me-Nots at Home Depot which we planted amongst and between the pink ones we've had for two years that are spreading nicely.


I thought I needed one more plant for the right bed, forgetting that we'd filled the spot with a healthy hunk of Salvia Nemorosa. So, the Stonecrop (another plant we had at our former home bordering one of our flagstone-lined flower beds) was placed between two deer-food Hosta at the extreme right side of the right bed . It looks like the deer have maybe moved onto greener pastures as the Hosta is beginning to leaf-out again.

A couple days ago we planted six white New Zealand Impatiens amongst the perennials in the front of the right bed, which I'm hoping will mound up. I've never had that kind of luck with Impatiens planted in flower beds, but I've seen huge almost-bushes at other peoples houses.

I love Peonies, and the right bed had three existing bushes--a single red, a double pink, and a white. I found a deep purple-red double bloom last night at Home Depot--Felix Supreme.

I think that's it for this year. The wire window boxes are still in the garage. Maybe the handyman will work here next week and we'll ask him to drill the fasteners into the brick facade. If that gets done, I'll probably stick with Impatiens this year, keeping it simple.

Our grass is looking better, but we're still dealing with some damage the landscape crew did with a grass cutter almost three years ago. We need to follow-up with the Association Landscape Committee. I doubt they're planning to aerate and over-seed, so we'll probably bite the bullet and get the Mexicans who removed the Lilac bushes and spread the topsoil to come back and take care of it. They really do nice work.

This renovation has cost us something around $600, an amazingly low price that includes about $250 of paid labor and a few yards of topsoil. We'll see how our perennials do this year and deal with whatever next Spring. Not dreading any of it!