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March 26, 2006

Are You Worthy?

I recently completed a long-overdue project: transferring all the names from my address book into a new one. The one old was papered with a mosaic of yellow Post-it notes – new names to add but there was no room and updates on current place holders. I couldn’t open it without a little paper fluttering out like a wounded butterfly.

I started at the very beginning and made my way from A to Z, meticulously copying names, addresses and telephone numbers. Technology crept in with the addition cell phone numbers and email addresses, when available.

I noted all the changes that had happened to my friends and family through the years. There were a lot of physical shifts as people moved up and on from apartment dwellers to homeowners. I must have worn an eraser clear through with some of the more transient folks who have moved from state to state. Some people’s addresses I transferred even though I knew they will have another new one in the next couple of months.

The life changes were more bittersweet with the inevitable deaths. I’ve lost several aunts and uncles in the past few years, and it was sad to have to eliminate an entire couple from my permanent record. Even though my grandfather has been dead since 1985 or 86, I kept his address. For some reason it’s important to me to remember the street number in the tiny town where he lived.

There were heartbreaking divorces to note, proud transitions from children to young adults with addresses of their own, and lots of joyful additions as friend added babies to their families.

My biggest concern was that, with all the Post-it note updates, I wouldn’t have enough room in the new address book. I somehow have lots of friends with last names beginning with M and N and who had to spill over into P in the old book.

So I tried to be ruthless. If someone wasn’t on my Christmas mailing list or I hadn’t been in contact in at least five years, he or she was gone. It was surprisingly easy. It made my mindful of the old Seinfeld episode when Elaine only had a small supply of contraceptive sponges, and each new man she met was judged “sponge-worthy? or not.

Was the woman I knew from community summer theatre back when I was a teenager address-book worthy? No. Was the acquaintance with whom I had lunch once or twice eight years ago worthy? No. And so on and so on.

When I was finished, my address book held only the names of the people with whom I want to remain in touch. It may not be frequently but if I want to call or drop a note, I can.

So if you receive my 2006 Christmas card or I call you out of the blue in a few weeks, consider yourself worthy.

I do.

More Signs of Spring

The redwing blackbirds are calling in the marshy places.

Pussy willows have appeared again along the path by the stream where I walk the dogs.

So has the goose poop. Bleh!

Easy Appetizers

I attended a gardening lunch this weekend – a great idea by the way and thanks for the invite, Rebecca – to which I brought the easiest of appetizers. The recipe came from the Desperation Dinners section of the Strib:

Just microwave 4 oz of cream cheese for 7 to 10 seconds and then stir in something to give it some taste. Serve with crackers or French bread slices. For savory spreads use two tablespoons of pesto, salsa, artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers or blue cheese. For a sweet spread for fruit or graham crackers, add ¼ cup crushed pineapple, fruit preserves or whole cranberry sauce. I used pesto and dried tomato pesto for two savory spreads and chutney for a sweet spread.

They tasted great and were incredibly easy to mix up. Give them a try. I recommend using whipped cream cheese over the brick, if possible.

What I’m Reading

In the middle of: “John William Waterhouse? by Aubrey Noakes. A look at the Pre-Raphaelite painter and his work.

Listening to: “Outlander – Part 2? by Diana Gabaldon. Continuing the tale of romantic Scottish current favorite: “The Box Car Children? by Gertrude Chandler Warner. A children’s classic.

Today’s Grahamisms

“Mom, you need hearing lessons. I never have to tell Dad something."

“I know how you hate slugs, Mom. When summer comes, you should spray them with soapy water. Dad and me, we hate boxelder bugs. They always come in the house. So this spring and fall, we’re going to spray them with soapy water and kill them. That’ll teach them a lesson.?

“Today we had a real weatherman from Channel 4 talk to us about weather and tornados. He said that we should think about being a weatherman some day but I’m going to be just like my father.?

“I know what to do when there’s a tornado. You go into the basement or the bathroom and you always stay away from the windows. The best place to go is the bathroom because there are pipes under the bathtubs that go way underground so if a tornado comes your house could blow away but the bathroom will stay.?

Posted by maasx003 at 5:11 PM

March 18, 2006

Winter Wonderland? Enough Already!

Such are the vagaries of gardening in the Upper Midwest: last Sunday morning, March 12, I spent a delightful time in the early spring garden.

I counted the blooming snowdrops under the front maple. They had arrived a week earlier than usual.

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I lifted bags of leaves from the hellebores and took a peak. Imagine my surprise to find so many blossoms here as well. I keep forgetting that in warmer climes they bloom in December.

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And I took a quick inventory of all the other bulbs that were starting to poke their way through the soil, including these early crocus and daffodils.

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That was about 10 a.m. By 4:30 p.m. when I could finally get back in the garden and do some work, in this case cutting back some shaggy-looking grasses, the first little snowflakes appeared. And then there were more snowflakes and more snowflakes and more and more.

Monday morning brought our first and only true winter storm of the season. Then we had another big dump on Thursday. All my pretty little blooms and bulbs are now covered by two feet of snow.

The good news is that these early emergers are tough, and the snow will keep them well-insulated. Actually, the snow is starting to melt already.

We may receive more snow in March than in any other month, but at least you know that it won’t last. Soon these same plants will be uncovered again and they’ll be here to stay.

At last!

What I’m Reading

In the middle of: “Succession Planting for Year-Round Pleasure? by Christopher Lloyd. Just started: “Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell? by Susanna Clarke, at Brian’s recommendation. And “Julie and Julia : 365 days, 524 recipes, 1 tiny apartment kitchen : how one girl risked her marriage, her job and her sanity to master the art of living? by Julie Powell. It’s a hoot!

Listening to: “The Secret History of the Pink Carnation? by Lauren Willig. The tales of a female spy in the vein of the Scarlet Pimpernell.

Graham’s current favorite: “No Flying in the House? by Betty Brock.

Today’s Grahamisms

After his St. Patrick’s Day Irish dance performance, Graham said, “When I was dancing, I felt like I had to scratch my hair but I knew I couldn’t do it on stage so I just kept on dancing.?

“I miss Sister Olivia (our dear, departed Dalamatian). I wonder where she is in heaven. Maybe if we threw water up in the air, we could see her.?

“Maybe I can get married when I’m 17.? (Mom says, Maybe not!)

Posted by maasx003 at 5:01 PM

March 15, 2006

All Irish Dance, All the Time

There is an amazing feeling when you watch your child perform on stage in front of hundreds of people, with apparently no fear in his or her body, just the joy of movement to music.

You look at that child and think, “Where did you get that poise, that comfort in your own self?? and hope that it will last through the inevitable gawky and uncomfortable years ahead.

We’ve had that pleasure twice in the past week and will have it a third time when Graham performs again with Rince na Chroi, his Irish dance school, as part of St. Patrick’s Day activities in St. Paul.

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This is Graham’s second year of Irish dance, and he has performed in two major recitals and an Irish Fair. He has improved tremendously in the past year at this school. The teaching staff is excellent, and he is surrounded by young women who watch out for him during performances.

And these girls also know how to have fun.

He hasn’t quite figured out that he is only one of two boys in the entire school, and I hope he never does. On Sunday a boy of about 10 or 12 years performed with another school, and he was fantastic.

Together we watched the boy dance, and I told Graham that he could dance that well some day if he stuck with it. I think he was just relieved that he didn’t have to wear a kilt like a boy from a third school.

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On Sunday, several of the girls from Graham’s school were honored for having spent more than 10 years in Irish dance class. Dance doesn’t have a specific season like soccer or basketball. These girls are committed every week, practicing and performing year-round.

I hope Graham will continue to enjoy Irish dance so he can be that committed 10 years down the road.

Audio and Video Recaps of Recent Performances

March 13, 2006
March 12, 2005 Landmark Performance

Video Description: A video taken from the March 12, 2005 performance at the Landmark in St.Paul

Duration: 35 seconds

Date Last Updated: Feb 27, 2006

File Size: 1.62KB

Embedded Player: Use the player below to view!

Audio Description: The Rince na Chroi Irish Dancers rehearse for their March 5 performance at EM Pearson Theater, Concordia University, St. Paul. Music by Five Mile Chase & the Minnesota Police Pipe Band.

Duration: 10 minutes, 52 seconds

Date Last Updated: Friday 03 Mar 2006 09:29:44 PM CST

File Size: 2.55 MB

Embedded Player: Use the player below to listen in!

Daffodil Addendum

When I wrote about daffodils last week, I forgot to mention that you should keep daffodils separate in bouquets, not mixing them with any other kind of bloom, unless you give them special treatment.

Daffodils are toxic to deer, rabbits and squirrels. But they are also toxic to other cut flowers without special treatment. Place your cut daffodils in a separate water container for several hours or overnight. Recut their stems and add to your mixed floral vase using clean water.

I didn’t know about this special treatment until I took a gander at the website of the Daffodil Society of Minnesota. Check it out.

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The Little Pumpkin that Could

Somehow Graham’s little pumpkin plant that he potted up last Halloween is still hanging in, even setting blooms. Who knew?

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What I’m Reading

In the middle of: “Success Planting for Year-Round Pleasure? by Christopher Lloyd. Just started: “Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell? by Susanna Clarke, at Brian’s recommendation. And “Julie and Julia : 365 days, 524 recipes, 1 tiny apartment kitchen : how one girl risked her marriage, her job and her sanity to master the art of living? by Julie Powell. It’s a hoot!

Listening to: “The Secret History of the Pink Carnation? by Lauren Willig. The tales of a female spy in the vein of the Scarlet Pimpernell.

Graham’s current favorite: “No Flying in the House? by Betty Brock.

Today’s Grahamisms

Brian and Graham had a snow day on Monday, courtesy of this season’s only blizzard. By the afternoon the weather had settled down enough for them to run errands. They stopped at Caribou Coffee for refreshments. While Graham was sipping his hot chocolate, he said, “This is what I call a relaxing day.? Indeed.

Graham is learning about the rainforest in school. “There are two kinds of snakes: stricting ones and poisonous ones. The stricting ones squeeze you ‘til you’re dead.?

Posted by maasx003 at 5:59 PM

March 5, 2006

Signs of Spring

In the Upper Midwest, there’s something about making it to March that makes you feel like you’ve turned a corner to Spring. The days are longer and warmer, and if the air feels moist, there’s as much a chance of rain as snow.

In the last few days I’ve noticed a number of signs of Spring:

Sights

• For me, the most welcome and reliable sign of Spring is the seeing the first robin of the season. I first heard him, then saw him, in a flowering crab tree next to the garage, feasting on last year’s fruit. I usually see the first robin around my birthday, March 15, so this guy is almost two weeks early. A good omen?

• The trees are budding. Our “Merrill? magnolias have enormous furry buds, like a pussy willow on steroids, and the lilacs are plumping out as well.

• When I was delivering Meals on Wheels in St. Paul last week, the tulips in front of one client’s home were already peeking two inches out of the ground.

• One of the neighborhood kids was out on his bicycle yesterday, his winter cap tucked underneath his safety helmet.

Sounds

• The cardinals and other birds are putting on dramatic choral performances every morning, the avian version of “Hey, baby,? as they try to impress their womenfolk.

• As I took the pups for a walk yesterday, we were accompanied by the sounds of melting water rushing into the drains.

Smells

• There is an unmistakable whiff of thawing earth in the air, rich and moist and delicious. The flip of that is the unmistakable whiff of thawing dog poop that irresponsible dog owners left behind on their walks.

• The thyme that grows in the chinks of our stone garden walls has greened up. Crushing a few sprigs between my fingers brings the promise of summer.

Tastes

• During my walk yesterday, I was struck with an unexpected craving for radishes, one of the first spring vegetables. Bite into one and your mouth explodes with hot and peppery flavor. What a change from heavy winter food.

• The pumpkin soup I had planned to serve as a first course for a few girlfriends next weekend suddenly seems wrong. Wrong taste, wrong season, wrong, wrong, wrong. I might have to rethink that soup or find a way to brighten it up for spring.

These are simple little observations and totally subjective but for me they add up to the impending arrival of Spring. And not a moment too soon.

More Floral Value for Your Money

If any of you have been reading the blog for a while, you know I’m mad for daffodils. I love March because you can purchase inexpensive bunches of these cheery flowers to brighten up your world.

But even I was surprised at the deals this week at our local Cub grocery store. Five stems of daffodils were being sold at 10 for $10. Amazing! I purchased five bunches earlier in the week and went back on Saturday for 10 more.

Now I have a bouquet of 50 daffodils in one earthen jug on my dining room table – for only $10!

I’m not sure how long this offer will go on, but check it out!

What I’m Reading

In the middle of: “Success Planting for Year-Round Pleasure? by Christopher Lloyd. Just started: “Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell? by Susanna Clarke, at Brian’s recommendation.

Listening to: “Outlander? by Diana Gabaldon. Romantic time travel in Scotland. What a combo!

Graham’s current favorite: “The Cricket in Times Square? by George Selden.

Posted by maasx003 at 8:04 AM