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. 🙂

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.

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.

My Inner 6-Yr Old

“Resentment is like drinking poison and hoping it will kill someone else.”

Pink rose mallow

I’ve spent a lot of time in therapy in my life. I know it only harms me dwelling on hurts and grievances. I know that I need to recognize it, understand it, and move on. But very often my inner 6-year old takes over and refuses to let things go. Tonight is one of those nights.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail enjoying the zinnias

At my second professional corporate position, we had to do evaluations. This particular company had forms that were filled out by your peers, your clients, and your management. It was a way to get a more complete picture of how you worked and related to others. I was young. I was often emotional, defensive, wanting to be the best, never err, and win piles of praise. My father had talked to me about corporate life and appropriate behavior. I tried to live up to my daddy’s teachings. So you can imagine my absolute delight and astonishment when I got the results of my appraisal. “Takes criticism and feedback well.” Wow. Did I have them fooled. *grin* Because whenever I DID receive any “constructive criticism” while my demeanor stayed pleasant and professional inside my head I was screaming and raging. 🙂

Noticed this above my head one day as I put the top down on the convertible 🙂

I’m not all that much different all these years (decades) later. I attempt to be professional, gracious, considerate, calm. I don’t always manage the calm but I think I’m decent at the others. That means that I really really REALLY do NOT enjoy nor forget when I’m treated in ways that I feel are NOT professional nor courteous.

Black swallowtail enjoying the zinnias

In the last 2+ years I have transitioned some of the systems I support to a different team. Our first experience got off on the wrong foot, in my opinion. I know why, and I’m not sure that at their age and relative (compared to me) experience that I would not have done the same. From my perspective they decided that since the work was moving from my system to theirs, since the primary client said the current system stunk and they shouldn’t even look at it, they never approached me to discuss the migration. After they’d built a system and were ready for data is when they approached me. They talked down to me, they dismissed what I said, they “knew better” and it went on like that through the whole process. It wasn’t very pleasant for me but I did what needed to be done on my part because that constituted being professional and doing what was best for my client and employer.

white rose mallow

Unfortunately I needed to deal with the same team yet again the following year. I’d inherited a system I did NOT want to support, and we were moving it to their system. I was delighted and told them that repeatedly. This situation could not in any way be construed as me feeling deprived or resentful for “losing” a system. I couldn’t wait to be rid of it. 🙂 I was named the business owner for the migration effort as I had experience with the process, the clients and the business objective. Yet again I was treated with contempt and rudeness. Lest you think in this case I’m being overly sensitive, my manager set in on one call and was appalled at how I was treated. Daddy would have been proud of me. I stayed calm, stayed on topic, refused to be bullied.

zinnias and rudbeckia hortensia laciniata

Ultimately it came time to cutover from the old system (which we all loathed) to the new one. Unfortunately I did not feel that the new system could do all that the clients needed. It lacked key functionality. The new team wanted to release anyway. We had to present to management why I thought we could not release and they thought we could. Management sided with me. We stayed in development and we put out a great new system because that team really does do excellent work in an excellent tool.

swallowtail enjoying the mandevilla. incipient goldenrod in the foreground

Well here we are, months later. They are working on a project and lo and behold – they want to brainstorm with me. They need information about the process and tool I support. Being a professional of course I will…..

caged tithonia (Mexican sunflower). but at least it’s not part of the deer buffet

My inner 6-year old has begun screaming in my head. The heck I’m going to help!!!! So all of a sudden I’m NOT an idiot????? Because I’m the only one who knows this information and you NEED me? Because it’s been such a JOY to work with you in the past? You think I’m going to sit there and calmly teach you everything you’ve scorned for the last 2 years? You’ve made a dozen decisions on this already and “oh I forgot to tell you” and suddenly I’m part of the process??????

grape tomatoes and herbs and flowers in the rain

You see what I’m up against? I cannot get the 6-yr old to let it go. She’s giving me a headache. She’s enraged. She’s vindictive. She’s gloating. And yet we both know she’s NOT going to get her way. So she’s mad at me, too. Sigh. She and I go through this periodically – this bit where she is determined that THIS time we WILL do it HER way. (Yes, she talks in caps a lot – she’s very emotional.) Maybe giving her air time here will help. Although I’m not sure I let her vent enough up there. *grin*

orange gardenia

Okay, Daddy, I’m taking a big breath. I’m going to make you proud. If it kills me.

echinacea and rose mallow

AhuvaNet 2.0

After my first attempt at netting my garden seemed to have holes in it *giggle*, I decide to up my game. 🙂 I wanted to move the nets up and out from the plants, so that nothing could nibble through the netting. My neighbor mentioned that the deer had totally stripped her mandevilla plant, although to date they’d not touched mine. They (or the groundhogs) had consumed nearly all of the potato vine in the base of that pot, but not the mandevilla itself. I decided that as long as I was going to re-work the netting along the front walk, I’d do “something” about protecting the plants in front of the hedge – which is where there is no longer a pale orange gladiola.

if you are walking by on the sidewalk, you still see flowers first, and then the netting

I stared at all the different net and screen material in the store, some nylon/plastic, some wire. I chose nylon netting for 2 reasons: easier to handle and a little less obvious. I stayed with the chicken wire (as opposed to screen material) because I think that webbing is sufficient to deter the deer but still let the insects move about, and let the flowers be seen.

the green plant stakes do a decent job of keeping the netting off of the plants themselves

I wanted to drape the net over all the pots along the front walk, but not on the plants directly. I realized that I could use the plant stakes I had already to lift the net up above the plants and out to the sides of the pots. That worked quite nicely. I’ve anchored the bottom under various pots and so far it appears to be stable. It’s only been 3 nights but no obvious damage in those 3 nights.

the front netting wraps about the side of the gladiola

Protecting the front garden was going to be a bit more tricky. I wanted it protected but not obscured. I needed a fence stretching across the whole front, and hope that the deer would not be smart enough to figure out they could go around the side of the house and come in through the back. 🙂 The only draw-back to the netting that I’ve noticed so far is that I’ve made it difficult for butterflies to get to the flowers. 😦 I realized this when I saw a huge beautiful butterfly on my zinnias. I’m not sure I can have it both ways – No to Deer, Yes to Butterflies – but I’ll give it more thought.

there’s easily 2 feet between the hedge and the netting, and the stupid gladiolas INSIST on poking through, no matter how I try to rearrange them

Did We Annoy Someone?

My neighbors and I had an interesting weekend. We are living the Homeowners’ Motto: It’s Always Something. You know that last week for me was the HVAC worker stepping through the dining room ceiling. The fun continued.

Only 3 of the piles in this pic. This morning there were 5 and they were much larger.

Either Friday or Saturday I noticed a huge dirt ant pile between my lawn and the sidewalk. As we were still allowed to water that day (maybe it was as early as Thursday?) I used the hose to wash away the pile. There is also some huge and scary looking flying thing that has appeared in the last few days. I’ve never seen anything like it before and I wish I’d not seen it now. It’s big and it moves very quickly. There had been only one and now there are 2, and they seem to like those ant piles. First there was one ant pile which I washed away. There were 2 the next day. This morning there were 5. Thank goodness for the electricians!!!! Eli kicked them all apart with his big heavy steel protected work boots and he stepped on something icky as well. My hero! Could the extreme heat and drought be causing the ant hills and these bugs? The flying things don’t look like wasps – I don’t see any obvious stinger. But they are intimidating.

UPDATE: Or why it’s important to have your teeth cleaned regularly. According to the folks at the dentists’ office these are wood wasps, and those are NOT ant hills. They are the burrows of these ground wasps. I was told to flood them out. I’ll let you know if that works.

This is the little one. I think that the larger one has a more vibrant, larger yellow/black body

Two houses down from me an ENORMOUS branch came down. No wind. No storm. No noise. They’d had branches trimmed several weeks ago. This was a live branch – not dead wood. No sign of infestation. I wonder if one of those lower branches had been supporting this big one and no one had noticed. My other neighbor snapped a picture capturing how lucky someone was – the branch landed BETWEEN 2 cars, not on any car, not on any person. Lucky despite the bad luck.

Those are soft white pine needles so the cars are not scratched

As Helen and I stood there this morning staring at the tree, my next door neighbor came out. THEIR main is backed up and he’s home waiting for the plumber. Do you think it’s going to stop with us 3 or do we need to warn the rest of the neighbors????

Why does a live branch come down if there’s no obvious climate event?