What Month/Season is This???

Folks – it’s November 6. In Central NJ. This is NOT the tropics. Yet my tropical flowers – canna lilies and hibiscus – are in bloom. Gorgeous blooms.

I discovered that I have a volunteer tomato plant. There are TWO huge tomatoes on the plant, and 2 smaller ones near the bottom. Either these came from my mulch that I put on the plants in the garden back in May or they came from seeds dropped by birds.

I mentioned previously that the dahlias and cosmos are in glorious bloom, and the Mexican Sunflower is doing its part as well (orange flowers on the left).

The snap dragons figured if everyone else was blooming, they wanted to join the party.

And of course the grape tomatoes needed to prove that they were as capable as everyone else of flowering and fruiting even though we have had several nights down in the 40s.

Yep, I am enjoying it all immensely. But I’m a little afraid that we’re going to pay for this weather in January/February.

Things That Make Me Smile

My dahlias and cosmos refuse to quit even though it’s November –

Lately there is a lot that I find very stressful, both in my personal life and in the world outside my front door. But there are still things and moments that bring joy to my heart and a smile to my lips. So until I find the internal energy to blog about all that’s been happening, here are some snippets of joy. 🙂

The LAST thing I need is another pair of socks but I could not resist these. 🙂

I owe this blog 2 months plus of posts about the renovation of the 2nd floor. For those of you who may not remember/know, we are gutting the entire 2nd floor of our house and rebuilding it from the inside out. Sigh. In 2 phases. Because we needed a bedroom and a bathroom so first they gutted everything but our bedroom and bath. They built a new bathroom, a hall closet, realigned a bedroom wall, added a huge closet, new wood floors, new walls, new electrical, central air, new radiators, all new wood trim – you get the idea. I knew it would be difficult and long, but it’s been even longer than I feared. We are about to start phase 2 – which means we have moved out of our bedroom into one of the finished rooms. Tomorrow starts phase 2 – demolishing our bedroom and the original bathroom (which will stay a bathroom but will be updated). Plus updating the electric, heating, closet and floor in our bedroom. In other words – we’re doing the last 5 months all over again.

Our new beautiful bathroom. Meant to be a spa escape. Shame we’ll have to put up shower doors.

Above is our beautiful new bathroom. My husband and I designed the tiles – a huge blog post in and of itself. We laid out every one of those tiles, labeled them, and boxed them neatly in order. Best laid plans and all of that. 🙂 It’s meant to evoke a sense of escape, luxury and serenity when you enter. Teak cabinet on the wall instead of a typical vanity. The saddle (hah – I learned new words – that’s the piece between the shower and the outside floor), the base of the window, and the base of the recess are all from the same piece of marble. The ceramic pedestal sink, the Italian tiles on the floor, and the shower itself meant to evoke “escape”. There is a bidet toilet seat that can do a zillion things. 🙂 I’m looking for the setting that has it get up and fold the laundry and dust the house. 🙂

It’s almost a shame they will be adding shower doors tomorrow (have to have a fully working bathroom in order to demolish the old bathroom). I suspect that the doors will lessen the impact of the shower tiles. But in the meantime here is a closeup of the recess – note we used the same pebble floor tiles in the recess – the brilliant suggestion of the gentleman doing the actual tiling. Note also my husband’s selection of THE most expensive shower fixture he could find. *grin* It’s 5 foot in length with 4 body jets, an overhead rain, and a hand-held for his poor short wife. 🙂 We opted for the teak stool instead of a built-in stool. There are 8 different tiles. There are 3 large 2″ x 6″: pewter, aquamarine, and eucalyptus. *grin* There are 5 small crackle glaze tiles scattered about. We loved those crackle tiles, but it would have been too much and too expensive to do the whole thing with them. Neither of us wanted a “pattern”, so we ordered enough of each color to scatter them about and break up the big tiles. We love it. It’s everything we wanted. Either our friends and contractors are excellent actors or they all seem to be impressed by it as well. 🙂

Shanah Tovah! (Happy New Year)

Lucky us – beautiful perfect weather for the weekend and holiday

Oh wow have I been busy!!!!!! 🙂 And it’s been (mostly) wonderful. Sunday evening began the Rosh Hashanah holiday, or (one of) the Jewish New Years. This year is extra sweet for me because my son is home for not just ONE holiday but for all THREE holidays occurring in the next 3+ weeks. In celebration of that, and because I really, really need it, I’m on vacation from work for 2 1/2 weeks. 🙂

simple bedroom – a bed, clothes, a light (hanging from window sill), privacy for windows, fan. new wood trim, baseboard and doors

The renovation is still ongoing. SO much has happened and I’ve not blogged most of it. We got new floors, we got trim, we got doors, I was FINALLY told I could start designing the tile walls for the new shower. (I’d been begging since May.)

This room even has a door! no doorknob. a closet . no knobs, no clothes bar.

My husband and I spent hours on Saturday laying out the 3 walls of the new shower. We got along quite well on this except for the discussion of how to indicate which tiles get cut to fit. Mind you – we didn’t disagree on which tiles. What we seemed incapable of communicating was how to tell that to someone else (as in the person who will do the tiling). We did not come to blows but I confess I DID raise my voice. Several times. 🙂

We don’t plan to leave the big window in the shower. 🙂

After that we were both aching and exhausted. I was aching and exhausted from hauling boxes and boxes of tiles out to the work area in the driveway, and from clearing the deck and rearranging all the furniture (more on that later). My husband was aching from hours bent over arranging tiles.

there is a 3rd frame but foolishly (in hindsight) we put that in the house upstairs. I got creative for the 3rd wall

I think I was brilliant and correct about how we’d do the tile arrangement.

Marking the cutouts for the window and the wall recess

My husband has a good color sense and a good eye. It wasn’t feasible for us both to work on the frames at the same time and I had other chores that needed doing.

close up of the first wall. this is the back wall of the shower with the awning window. roughly 5’x 8′. the sides are roughly 3′ x 8′

I suggested that he start – layout the tiles in away that pleased him. Then I would critique/edit, then he would critique/edit my revisions and we’d be done. Except for labeling every single tile for the person to tile. *grin* Look at all those tiles that need to be labeled.

I’m a very good scullery maid and lackey. I brought all of the boxes out of the garage and arranged them

We chose 3 different “large” tiles and 5 small crackle-glaze tiles as accent pieces. We agreed we did not want the same color next to each other. In this case “next to” means side by side, not above/below. The pictures in this post were taken before my final critique/edit/labeling. That will happen later this afternoon.

we need to pick grout. You can see the floor, the shower walls, shower floor. what’s missing, I realize because of this photo, is the backsplash for the sink – also tile that needs grout

Once we finished with the tiles and the deck, we both collapsed in the hot tub with the jets on high.

The left-most panel was done on brown paper I marked to fit the wall measurements. It’s also the only panel that I have “aligned” and reviewed. The other 2 frames are today’s task. 🙂

Then it was time for me to head to the airport to get my son. His plane was a few minutes early so I didn’t even have to wait in the cellphone lot – I could go straight up and get him. Sunday was bake-bake-bake and food preparation for 2 holiday dinners. Sunday night was at my sister’s house for which I made 4 desserts: 3 sugar free and 1 sugar full. It was a lovely dinner with family.

deck is totally rearranged and ready to entertain in “fall-season style”

Monday was religious services in the morning where we got to see friends we haven’t seen in 3 years because of Covid – zoom services, not in person. Then home to cook-cook-cook and set up the deck for dinner for 12. Well eleven and a half because one of the 12 is 3 years old and did not actually sit at the table. We had a wonderful time with family and friends, and post-dinner conversation and drinking lasted until after 11:00 pm. It was glorious.

the guests are gathering, the food is cooking, the wine glasses are ready!

Shanah Tovah!!!! A happy, sweet, healthy new year to us all!!!!

holiday candles, challah, wine glasses and the shehecheyanu fruit.

Feeling Young Again

Eric Clapton, MSG, 2022-09-19

But oh my, we sure don’t LOOK young anymore, do we?

We were at Madison Square Garden last night rocking out to Jimmie Vaughan and Eric Clapton. Oh I LOVE the Blues. Although I was so excited to hear Clapton, I’m a bit sorry that Jimmie Vaughan’s set was so short.

Jimmie Vaughan at MSG

We missed the first few minutes, unfortunately. I also was not yet into the automatic “take a video” mode. So all I have are some very poor quality photos and 3 second videos which are really “live” photos. What can I say? I was enjoying the music and getting into it. In other words – EXPERIENCING IT LIVE rather than viewing it all through my phone. 🙂

Clapton opened with God Save the Queen (or should I now be writing King???) which he has been doing since Queen Elizabeth’s death several days ago. I haven’t seen him perform live in several years, but I don’t recall him wearing a suit & tie to perform. Black suit, black tie.

The guitar playing is still amazing. Is it generational or does every age love to hear those guitars singing out, weeping, rocking, pounding, loving?

It was a long night transportation-wise. We did take the train in, but it had a pause around Newark because of “police activity ahead”. We got to Penn Station about 75 minutes before the concert.

We thought we’d get fast food at the station before going upstairs but the problem with that plan is that there is nowhere to SIT anymore. All seats were removed years ago to deal with the issue of homeless sleeping in the station.

To our great delight, there is a restaurant/bar right in the station – Kabooz. We got a table for 4 in their “outside” area – outside meaning not inside their site but in a fenced off area on the floor of the station. 🙂 “Outside” is a relative term. The drinks were VERY strong and the food was quite good. We were already mellowed out by the time we got to our seats.

Coming home was much more of an adventure. The concert ended about 10 minutes before the 11:06 pm train home. That meant a midnight train home getting in after 1:00am. Ouch. But when we got downstairs we discovered the 11:06 was delayed. Very delayed. We made the 11:06 which left at about 11:35pm. Even so, there were sooooo many delays. My guess is that there was a lot of rail work happening. When we got to our station we were on the Northbound track (we were on a train heading south), and had to climb down the steps to cross the 2 southbound tracks and then go up stairs to get to the platform. We got home somewhere around 1:00am. Although we are sooooo tired today, it was worth every moment!!!

A Little Moment of Joy & Beauty

Swallowtail enjoying the tithonia

Some weeks I really, really need to look at flowers and butterflies and even the deer. Good grief, what is WRONG with some people????? There is so much happening with the renovation, which is very good news. But I’m sitting here listening to the new floor being installed upstairs. There is crashing and banging that happens after long interludes of quiet or fairly ‘gentle’ installation sounds. I don’t know what he is doing up there to make the house shake, but each time it happens I cringe. He’s working right over my head at the moment. You may remember the HVAC team was working in that room and stepped through the dining room ceiling. I hope my ceiling and my nerves survive today.

They have no fear. I walked out on my front porch and all they did was look at me. I am standing perhaps 10 yards from them at most, and they kept munching away. Nothing too precious growing there at this time.

Thwarted!!!!!

blockade!

It was only a matter of time. Sooner or later there would be something happening in the renovation which would be deemed not-cat-safe. Sheetrock is NOT cat-friendly. It makes a complete and total mess. The floors are covered in white dust. There is STUFF everywhere: debris, workmen’s tools, supplies, unknown stuff. BC got out during dinner (the door being opened a zillion times to the dining room and us being less than speedy) and headed upstairs. She did NOT want to come back down. She was Exploring. When I went to pick her up she ran into our bedroom. I locked her in. After a bit she was willing to be freed and come into the dining room for Greenies. As much as I love her being with us, I did NOT want her wandering about the mess, nor did I want white dust-covered paws jumping into our bed. Drastic measures were needed. I took one of the large boxes in the front hall (the one with the pedestal for the sink) and put it across the bottom of the plastic zip door. For good measure I placed another box on top, although I was fairly certain one box would suffice. I was correct. BC did try valiantly to get out that night, as evidenced by the shredded plastic in the morning. But as determined as she is, she is still a little too small to push that box out of the way. We’ll open it up again soon, little kitty, I promise.

defeat

A Multi-season Weekend

Cool enough for a fire and no fan. All the little lights hanging in the ivy walls

The weekend temperatures fluctuated as greatly as our plans. Our maybe that’s backwards – maybe our plans fluctuated as greatly as the weather. In either case things changed quickly. We started the weekend with no plans. I thought I’d keep working on weeding and chores. My brother-in-law suggested that the 4 of us “do something”, maybe a bbq. I said great. Then I remembered we’d talked about taking the Circle Line cruise around NYC. A perfect weekend to do that! Friday night around dinner time I booked us 4 tickets for Sunday. Saturday morning my sister emailed me to say that my brother-in-law had test positive for Covid that morning. Sigh. Because she mentioned getting someone to use their tickets, I never checked for a refund.

getting ready

I thought it would be fun to have our friends Pam and Jerry go out with us. They like “doing things” and they were a week-recovered from covid. As they do not answer their phone or email on Shabbos, it’s not always easy to reach them. I drove over to their house and checked with Pam. They couldn’t go Sunday but they were available that night. Yes! Come for drinks & snacks on the deck. I kept trying to find someone to use the other 2 tickets. My friend Amy could use 1 but her son Joe didn’t want to sail. It finally occurred to me that maybe I could get a refund or reschedule. Yes, indeed both of those are possibilities. So while texting Amy I handled the refund request. I invited Amy & Joe for dinner on the deck on Sunday. 🙂

The flowers started doing better once we had a day of rain and reduced temperatures.

Well, Saturday night was clear and COLD. Cold is, of course, a relative term. Given the 90+ degrees and humidity we’ve been having, Saturday night was in the low 70s in the early evening and not humid. I had on long pants, as did Pam and Jerry. We had the firepit going and NOT the fans. It was cool and quiet and pleasant. Sunday morning dawned much the same. But by the time Amy & Joe came at 5pm, it was near 90, disgustingly humid, and I had THREE fans going on the deck to keep air moving. We were doing okay until the skies opened up and RAIN started around 7pm. We’ve been in a drought, remember???? I have no inside for entertaining – my dining room is set up as a major computer lab. But I have a front porch! We relocated to the porch, I set up 2 fans there, and we had our dessert. There was no rain yesterday during the day but it started again at night and is expected to continue today and tomorrow. Within 24 hours we swung from Autumn back to Summer, from drought to rainy season. 🙂

mandevilla enjoying the rain

This May Be The Right Path

I started trying to build a path along my deck last year. I wanted something that was “green” in the sense of allowing water to flow through, but stop weeds from coming up. My first attempt with burlap as the foundation was a failure. The next iteration was a bit better, but not really great. I used screen material and stepping stones. It did slow the weeds tremendously, but there were still weeds and it wasn’t all that comfortable for walking. I kept adding more and more stepping stones. No photos of all those interations because they just didn’t thrill me.

Tithonia (Mexican Sunflower) and a cosmos

I saw mats made of recycled plastic on Gardener’s Supply. They are semi-permeable and very tidy. They also cost much more than the screening and stepping stones. I bought a set to give them a try. Around the same time a friend of mine told me he’d used old roofing shingles as a path. It so happens I HAVE old roofing shingles from when they blew off during Hurricane Ida last year.

canna lily, butterfly weed, Bolton’s aster, cosmos

I made a patchwork path of stepping stones, rubber mats and roofing shingles. I decided to see which worked better for me. I made the mistake of asking my husband which he preferred. *grin* I was leaning towards the roofing shingles approach because that was much cheaper than the rubber mats, I liked the look, and they were flat. The stepping stones were the cheapest but they are not that comfortable for walking, leaves and other debris get trapped and I wasn’t loving the look. My husband preferred the rubber mats. Of course. Champagne & caviar taste for that one. 🙂 If you look carefully at the photos you can see that I did still use some of the roofing shingles in the narrow area by the lilac bush.

Bolton’s aster (False starwort)

I waited for the mats to go on sale and for me to have some disposable income. That all came together recently and I rebuilt the path. There are still some stepping stones nearby, and 3 slate panels but the majority of it is now recycled rubber. It really is much more comfortable for walking and there won’t be weeds. I used landscaping fabric staples to anchor the pads as well. The catalog/website show the mats as going down sooooo easily and smoothly. My path area is at a slant, full of roots and uneven in its width. I’m also a bit slow at unpacking things so the mats were curled for quite awhile. 🙂 Curling edges not only are tripping hazards but ruin the smooth look.

Great Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica) new for me this year – it seems to be thriving despite the drought

I am still not happy with the path as it moves past the lilac bush. There are a LOT of large roots, with not much space between the roots. I have the slate panels there. I really love the slate panels – I have 2 others elsewhere. They’re not really meant for the way I’m using them – on uneven ground. So some of the slates have broken and some have become detached from the backing. I love how they look so I’m trying to figure out a way to level that area a bit without harming the roots. At the moment that area is probably the least safe part of the walk. Even if I put rubber mats there they will be uneven because of the roots.

In any case I’m done with the path for this year. Water gets through, weeds are blocked, no tripping on most of it, and I’ve lost interest. *grin* Now I need to take a look at the rest of the back area and see what needs attention there.