Monday, March 28, 2011

Mountain Visitors

Funny, when we lived in Wisconsin we rarely had visitors who stayed a week with us.  Now that we are in these wonderful mountains, we often have visitors for a night or two or even a week.  This week we are having guests so I will not be posting although I will try to drop by your blogs.

The guests are good friends who are looking at potential retirement locations.  When they last visited us they fell in love with the western NC mountains (well, who wouldn't?) so they are checking out communities around here.  They are low maintenance guests and we will enjoy having them.

The Golden Girls will be especially happy.  The visitors have owned Golden Retrievers for many years.  They lost their beloved Maggie last year and when they visit they shower attention on Ellie and Lucy.  The dogs just love it when the humans outnumber the canines.  There's always someone interested in petting a dog.

While we will definitely be touring the mountains, we will also spend some time right here at home.  Weather permitting we will sit on the deck and porch or just wander the woods behind our house.  We have cleared a trail for the dogs and have benches and tables made from fallen trees.  The girls love the opportunity to be off-leash and ramble through the woods.

Ellie perches on one of the benches, smiling in the sunshine.

Princess Lucy simply poses.

Late Entry:  (because I just read the newspaper)
So our 'Heels lost and won't be going to the Final Four.  [No, that's not what I read in the newpaper.  You know I watched the game.]  No surprise...they went further than we expected them to go.  BTW:  If you picked Virginia Commonwealth to go to the Final Four you have probably won your bracket pool.  ESPN sponsors a bracket tournament.  This year they received 5.9 MILLION entries.  And how many of those entries correctly predicted the Final Four teams this year?  TWO!!!  Yep, that's two, the number following one.  Not two million...two.  How cool is that?

Here's hoping all of you have a good week.  We might have more rain than we would like, but we will have a great time anyway.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Fridays are Golden

Well, folks.  College hoops just doesn't get much better than it was yesterday.  I had little interest in the outcomes of the first two games but they were so well-played and evenly matched teams the games were fun to watch.  I had tremendous interest in the last two games.  They were not close games at all.  My son and his wife are Butler University grads so I was delighted to see the team handily defeat Wisconsin.  (Not everyone who lived in Wisconsin is a Badger fan.)  And we are definitely in the ABD (Anybody But Dook) group so we were equally pleased to see them pack it up and go home.  I don't have a lot of hope that the UNC 'Heels will go past their game today but you never know.  In March we schedule our lives around the games.  It truly is "March Madness" around here.

But I digress from the Golden Girls.  They love the milder weather when they can spend more time on the deck and the porch.  They especially love the upper deck because it isn't screened and is very high, affording them a large amount of woods to look at.  They watch the squirrels, the chipmunks, the deer and the birds.  You never know what will catch their eyes and noses.

Lucy is fascinated by something below the deck.

Ellie looks down as well.

They move to another corner of the deck to get a better view.

They move back again.  What can be so interesting this time?

It's the formerly injured player.  Our birdfeeders hang on hooks over the deck railing and he's using the leaf blower to scatter the leftover seeds into the woods.  And he didn't take the Golden Girls with him this time.  So they can only watch.

Exhausted from all that observation they settle in for a nap.

It's hard to believe that the days of March are dwindling.  How does the time go by so fast?  Whatever your plans for the weekend, I hope you have a good one.  For us?  We're expecting rain and more basketball.


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

This Year They Made It

Almost all our plants are native to the area.  There are several reasons for that.  The obvious one is that native plants are more likely to thrive with less intensive care.  Another is that we want to maintain a natural look to our yards.

We made an exception for one of my very favorite plants.  I love camellias.  We planted two of them knowing full well that we are on the border of their preferred regions.  Both plants have done well, despite the occasional pruning by the deer.  (BTW:  Deer do not know they don't eat certain plants.  Sometimes they come in large numbers.  One deer will take a bite and decide the plant is not good.  But do they communicate that to the other deer?  NO...every single deer has to take a bite as well.  Six deer can do a lot of damage to a plant they don't really like.)

The camellias have beautiful green foliage and that should be enough.  But occasionally there is more.  Every year, the camellias are loaded with huge buds promising beautiful blossoms to come.  And almost every year the weather decides otherwise.  Too often we see the lovely buds turn brown and fall off.  We know that is always fact likely.  Yet we remain hopeful that this may be the year.

Well, this is in fact the year.  The camellias, so filled with promising buds are now in glorious bloom.

I stop every time I pull into the driveway and admire the camellias.  What a wonderful bonus.  One of my favorite plants tells me spring is definitely here.  Oh, I know I will have to pull out the sweatshirts again.  I'll have to close the windows and turn on the heat again.  I know the weather we are enjoying is quite unseasonable.  But you know what?  I'm going to enjoy every single blessed day.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Hang'em Up and Start Watching

The are already on the move and will soon be in an area near you.  The Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are migrating!!!  I love the anticipation and follow the map report regularly.  Perhaps because we are so near an escarpment, the hummingbirds are reported to our north, to our east, and to our west before we see them here.  I mix the nectar and put out the feeders weeks before I actually see a hummingbird, but I don't want to miss that first one.

So they are coming.  Follow the map and get your feeders out as they approach your area.  The map is a self-reporting one, so if you are the first in your area to see a Ruby-throated Hummingbird, you can click on the map and report the sighting.  Now that's something to brag to the neighbors about!

You can find the map here

And before too long, this is what you will see as your reward.  I can't wait!

Oh, don't you just love spring?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Fridays are Golden

Lucy has her own interpretation of sharing.  It means taking whatever she wants.  As is often the case, Ellie was lying comfortably on the bed by herself.  Lucy plopped down and gradually "scootched" and "wormed" her way so that Ellie is pretty much off the bed while Lucy has room to spare.

Lucy, I know you often use Ellie for a pillow, but this is carrying it a bit too far!

Gee, Mom.  Ellie's not complaining, now is she?

Spring officially arrives this weekend and not a day too soon!  And as a special treat, we will enjoy a "Supermoon."  If the weather is clear, we will see a very large moon Saturday night.  It will be the biggest full moon we will see for some time and the moon will be closer to the earth than it has been in 18 years.  Here's hoping the skies will be clear and we can all share the experience.

We are still concerned about the disasters all over our planet.  As there is increased talk of our country's involvement in Libya and a "no-fly" zone, I have been reflecting on some wise words of Anne Morrow Lindbergh:
If we do not better our civilization, our way of life, and our democracy, there will be no use trying to "save" them by fighting;  they will crumble away under the very feet of our armies.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

But You Don't Ever Show It!

It's Pledge Week at our favorite Public Broadcasting Station.  Well, we no longer call it "Pledge Week."  It's now called "Festival" as if that changes the intent of the entire week which is to get viewers to donate money.

We donate to PBS, not because of the special Festival programming, but because The Newshour with Jim Lehrer is the only fair and balanced news that we can find.  On all controversial topics, they present opposing views and both sides are presented in an articulate and reasonable manner.  There is no shouting, rarely any interruptions.  There are no cutesy young females with skirts as short as their knowledge of the subject at hand.  There is no silly chit-chat.  There is no better explanation of Supreme Court activity than that provided by Marcia Coyle (sorry Nina).  And you'll have to get your celebrity news about Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohen elsewhere.

So Festival comes around and the programming is clearly geared to entice viewers.  Last night I watched a retrospective of folk music.  The Limelighers, The Brothers Four, Joan Baez, Judy Collins, The Kingston Trio, Peter Paul and Mary, and oh so many others. I make my contribution during these shows because they will send me a bunch of CDs and a DVD of the program (absent the interruptions).  Last year I got a comprehensive DVD/CD collection of one of my very favorite people...Pete Seeger.

So what's my complaint?  They lie.  A bold-faced lie every Festival.  They would have you believe (because they tell you it is true) that your contribution will enable the station to bring you more shows like these.  But do you ever see those shows except during Festival?  Do you ever see one performance of Andre Rieu? The Celtic Women? The Three Tenors (choose your country)?  Pete Seeger?

So I give my money, knowing that I won't ever see the program that interested me except during Festival.  On the other hand, I will have a DVD and CDs to enjoy.  Most of all, I will help keep PBS alive so they can continue to bring me The Newshour and the many other shows I truly enjoy.  Where else can I get my fix of British comedy?  Great mystery series?  Nature?  Frontline?  And so much more.

In truth, I would not like to see PBS do the shows they promote during Festival Week on a regular basis.  Twice a year is fine, thank you very much.  But will you please quit saying my money will allow you continue to broadcast such shows?  We both know it's not true.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Rainy Day Birds

After a marvelous respite over the weekend, we are back with clouds and drizzle.  I'm always amazed at the birds.  They don't seem to be concerned about the weather and come to the feeders in large numbers rain or shine.

Isn't it wonderful that spring is almost here?  Our birds are singing their little hearts out and making all sorts of courting movements.  Soon we will glimpse some of our favorite migrating birds and then we will be thrilled to see all the fledglings.  Just looking forward to it brings me joy.

A Tufted Titmouse holds a seed.

Topknotch plastered down by the rain.

A Red-bellied Woodpecker waits in queue for the suet feeder.

The White-breasted Nuthatch is already checking out the nesting boxes.

I have to comment about how much I detest changing from standard to daylight time and back again.  Why can't we simply take what the sun gives us and let things change gradually?  Of course, the dogs were very excited Sunday when they thought we fed them early.  Next fall they will drive us crazy for an hour, thinking we forgot about feeding them.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Fridays are Golden

I've been complaining about the dog beds in the great room.  Impossible to keep clean and sliding all over the floor.  Well, we have fixed that problem.

Lucy checks out the package from LL Bean.

I just know it's something for us!  Come check it out Ellie!

Um...I'll just watch from a careful distance if you don't mind.

Uh, says no sharp objects.

Oh, I knew it was something for me!  Blue is a good color for me.

Yep...I like it.

Maybe I'll check it out after all.

Oh, I like it too!

So how long will it take before Lucy plops down and crowds Ellie?
Not long at all.

The new beds are a bit hit with the dogs and with me.  The covers are denim, very easy to vacuum.  They don't slide all over the place and they make nice little nests.  The girls love them.

Here we are approaching another weekend.  We will set the clocks for Daylight Savings Time and lose an hour's sleep.  College basketball tournaments will be on constantly and the remote will be busy switching from game to game.  Well, except when the TarHeels are playing.  There will be shouting and excitement and a great time will be had by all, win or lose.  It ain't called "March Madness" for nothing.  We definitely go mad around here.

And this weekend we will keep our thoughts on those affected by tragedy...natural disasters and man-made disasters.  We count our many blessings and reflect on those less fortunate.


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Dog Paintings

Several readers commented on the banner that I recently placed on my blog.  It is a painting of Lucy and I promised to provide more information.

Our children (our daughter, our son, and our daughter-in-law) gave us a surprise Christmas gift this year.  Two paintings; one of Ellie and one of Lucy.  They are amusing and whimsical and particularly the one of Lucy captures her spirit.  As an added bonus, the paintings were framed beautifully and now hang in our den.

Lucy's impish nature shines through.

Ellie looks a bit more serious than she is in reality, but this is definitely Ellie.

The artist is Rachael Rossman and she has painted the animals of such celebrities as Martha Stewart, Neil Gaiman, and The Pioneer Woman.  We are in good company, not that we are name-droppers.  You can link to Rachel's blog here and take a look at more of her work.

Our children are surprisingly good at selecting gifts that we love.  And we especially love this one.  Thanks, kids.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Showers in March

Forget about April showers.  We got plenty of March showers Saturday and Sunday.  Like most of western NC, our county got continuous rainfall all day Saturday and most of the day on Sunday.  Our rain guage measured 7.5 inches over a 48-hour period.

The French Broad River Basin is far above flood level and the fields near the river are completely underwater as are some of the roads.  We've been asking for rain, and we surely got our share of it.

While the trails are far too muddy to travel, there is one beautiful waterfall in our county that is accessible from the road.  Here is Looking Glass Falls, overflowing with much more water than usual.  The water spans the entire top of the falls, roaring as it crashed into the pool below.

It's a lovely sight to behold.  Today the fields remain flooded but most of the roads are clear.  The ground is soaked and the dog towels are in the wash.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Fridays are Golden

Several readers asked about the new painting on my banner.  Our children gave us two paintings for Christmas; one of Lucy and one of Ellie.  Next week I will post the painting of Ellie and give you the link to the artist.  The paintings were framed beautifully and are perfect for our den.

As you have seen from numerous photographs in the past, Lucy loves to have a pillow.  She rests on our feet or shoes if all else fails.  Most often she rests on Ellie.  I never imagined that the very hard hearth would serve as an acceptable pillow but apparently it does.

If she were not sound asleep, I would swear that couldn't be comfortable.

With all the beds around, it seems strange that the girls would lie underneath the kitchen table.

Now I get it.  The bed has slid from its original space.  I think Ellie was lying there and Lucy squeezed in beside her.

We bought these beds some months ago after a visitor's dog peed on one of the old beds.  We thought the beds would be just right.  They are waffle foam and not too large.  They have vinyl bottoms and nothing we could do (not even the man with the duct tape) seemed to prevent them from sliding.  The much bigger problem is that the beds are impossible to clean unless I take off the covers and wash them.  The dog hairs simply stick like glue and no amount of vacuuming will remove them.  I even tried a roll of sticky tape especially designed to remove dog hairs.  Needless to say, we will have to replace them.  I cannot stand all the dog hairs.

I'm not sure whether Lucy is giving Ellie a little kiss, or telling her a secret under the table.  More likely she is nudging her to take more room.

If you have watched any news (real or fake) you must have noticed a marked lack of courtesy in our elected officials.  This lack of courtesy tends to work its way down and I've noticed it in stores, physician offices, and almost anywhere I go.  Simply put...people are rude.  And I do think the rudeness is worse than it has ever been.  This week, let's all focus on being more courteous and understanding.

Next time you disagree with someone, remember these words from Ralph Waldo Emerson:
"We should be as courteous to a man as we are to a picture, which we are willing to give the advantage of the best light."

Yes, it's difficult to find the "best light" in some folks.  But we can only try.


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Different March

We awakened March 1, 2010 to yet another deep snow!  I wanted to stay in bed all day, but dragged myself from under the covers and put out the feeders and water for the birds.  Oh, and then I shoveled and shoveled and shoveled.  The shoveling didn't break my back, but it almost broke my spirit.  Afterwards, I relaxed and watched the birds.

I don't think this cardinal liked the snow any more than I did.

The goldfinch has a mouthful of snow along with the sunflower seed.

The snow was heavy on the branches.

How much more of this stuff were we going to see?

Fast forward to yesterday...March 1, 2011.  Now this is the weather we moved here to enjoy.  Sunny and mild with temperatures in the mid-fifties!

A very different kind of bird soaking up the sunshine.

What a gorgeous day!

We will no doubt have some cold days ahead of us, perhaps even more snow.  But this March weather is more typical and we can expect more and more of these days.  We look outside at 6:00 pm and there is still daylight.  Oh, how I love it.