Some Ideas Are Better Than Others

some of my ideas DO work – will be adding to the trellis fencing this fall – grow more ivy

I was wrong. Okay everyone? Happy now?? 🙂 I admitted it. You were all right and I was wrong. But my idea wasn’t wrong – it was my implementation. 🙂

burlap walkway – first iteration – loooking towards the street

I HATE that black weed block. In my initial days of homeownership, before I spent hours and hours planting flowers and herbs, I hired landscapers. We’d built a deck, and I wanted to safety-proof it for our new-born son. The service put down weed block and then a very thick layer of mulch all around the deck. For years we would add a fresh layer if the mulch bed was wearing down. That probably helped to kill our cherry tree – suffocating the root system.

current view along the back of the deck, w/ compost bins where once there was a cherry tree

Time goes by, children grow up, hobbies change, views from the house change, and ultimately, as I’ve recorded here, the time came to “do something” with the back yard. With the kitchen renovation I saw the backyard every day. The window had always been there, but I used to sit with my back to it, not sideways to the view. Now I see the back yard all the time. I began working my way from my viewpoint around the back to the compost bins and then this year to the side strip between the deck and my neighbors’ fence.

stage one looking from the street end to the back property line, with my blue hydrangea (and neighbor’s grass clippings)

That strip gets very little sun, but all the rain that everyone else gets. We don’t usually walk there except to get to prune the ivy growing up the deck privacy screens or to get to the water spigot on that side of the house. All of this means that that side of the house tends to be nothing but weeds. I wouldn’t mind too much if the weeds were mowed, but that wasn’t getting done either. I decided to make a path. I wanted it to be ‘green’ – it should be permeable and it should NOT have that hated black weed blocker that lasts for generation after generation, and should you decide you WANT to plant, you need a machete to cut the weed blocker to get to soil. I wanted a semi-temporary solution until I figured out what should be done as a permanent solution.

3rd iteration – adding bricks to block mulch run-off

First I weed-whacked all the weeds as low as I could get them. I pruned the weeds and the garbage out from the base of the ivy. Next I covered that area with fine burlap. I know that weeds CAN grow through burlap, but I’d picked a very fine mesh and I was hoping for slowing the growth, not obliterating the growth. I put down stepping stones so that we could use that path even after rain when the ground would be muddy. I put down mulch at the base of the plants to help slow weed growth and make it more attractive. I noticed that the mulch was higher than the other side of the path, which meant a heavy rain could wash the mulch right across the path into the fence. I put down bricks on the burlap to line the mulch and hold it back. It looked VERY nice, in my opinion.

penultimate iteration – lots of stepping stones, bricks mulch, no mud (see the low spot up there?)

My family complained that the stones were too far apart for a comfortable walk. I’d been thinking of a ‘working stride’ not a “stroll” so my initial spacing worked for that. They also pointed out that weeds could/would grow throw the burlap but I demonstrated how easy it now was for me to pluck the few daring plants. They were unimpressed. I went and bought more stones and made a comfortable path. The the rains came. With the rains came faster more abundant growth, and much more humidity. Perhaps I’d have weeded better without the humidity, maybe it would have always been too much, too fast.

weeds thru the burlap, up close and personal

I’m going to try one more “patch” this year and then let it go. The path is 54″ wide. I ordered a roll of fine mesh window screen material – 100′ x 60″. I’m going to pick up the stones, roll out the screen, put back the stones. If this does not sufficiently slow the weeds to a point where I can battle them successfully, I’ll admit complete defeat. Next year I’ll call in a landscape service. 🙂

Maybe I should just get goats

South to Tucson

poolside – El Conquistador Hotel, Tucson, AZ

My last 2 vacation trips to AZ we headed north to Sedona to sight-see and hike up there. This time we decided to head south to Tucson. As it happens, it was a fortunate decision. By the time I got out to AZ, the north was burning with wildfires – many of the parks and sites were closed. My son’s landlord had been to the Tucson area. Much like my sister, Colin takes voluminous notes on where he goes, what you should see, what you should pay, what you should know BEFORE you go, and all the other information that can make the next person’s trip the best possible. Of course my son and I are among the group that don’t read directions, or only skim the directions, so sometimes even having fantastic direction can be lost on us.

walk to the pool

Among the things I tend to forget to check is HOW FAR is the resort I am picking from where we need to be/go. One time I booked us into a GORGEOUS resort in Scottsdale (The Boulders), because I “remembered” from my first trip that it hadn’t taken us ‘that long’ to get to Scottsdale to go shopping. Well, the shopping was in SOUTHERN Scottsdale and the resort was in the NORTHERNMOST Scottsdale. 🙂 Not so convenient. This time I picked a resort that was listed in the wine country site as a recommended location. Yes – we’ll get back to the “wine country” bit. What neither the resort site nor that publicity site mentioned was that the resort was more than an hour from the wineries. 🙂 It WAS a nice resort – the El Conquistador Resort, and the drive was not that terrible when that day came. One thing we are learning about resorts is that they have far fewer room amenities than the good old business-traveler hotels. We’ve also learned that neither my son nor I have “resort dining palates”. All 3 Arizona resorts we’ve visited were beautiful. Gorgeous pools, gorgeous scenery, friendly staff – visually wonderful. None of them have had restaurants that served the food we like. Breakfasts are good, but then it’s pretty difficult to mess up breakfast. 🙂 Poolside food is good as well. But when it comes to dinner, there’s just not much there that we like.

El Conquistador Hotel – sculpture

Our plans were fairly basic for this trip. I’d not been feeling very well physically, and given that and the Arizona temperatures we didn’t want to overdo (another one of my superpowers – over-scheduling). We started with a very leisurely breakfast in Tempe, as well as a stop at the automotive supply shop to replace the windshield wiper I broke on my son’s car. 🙂 We had allotted 3 hours for driving to Tucson but the resort was – again – in the northernmost area of Tucson. I think it took maybe 2 hours or less – I don’t really remember exactly. I only remember that it was definitely less than expected. We spent Thursday afternoon hanging out at the pool (lovely) and relaxing. We found a nice restaurant with outdoor dining – Noble Hops in the Oro Valley. At that point all we wanted was a light meal. We opted for several appetizers and beer. The food and beer were very good; the service is meh. But we didn’t care about the service since we had a good table, good weather, lots of interesting dogs on the patio, and a lovely view. It was close to the resort as well. The crispy cauliflower was delicious. 🙂 I think we also had the hummus and the nachos. We headed back to the resort where I read and my son did whatever he did on his computer. 🙂 We rested up for Friday’s planned excursion to Saguraro National Park.

For my sister, whose new ‘thing’ is birds

Working From My Western Office

Chandler Hilton pool

If it’s June it seems to be that I am in Arizona. I’m not sure how I manage to always pick the hottest months to go to Arizona, but perhaps that’s just one of my many superpowers. 🙂 I needed to pick my dates carefully because I had a VERY important 2nd birthday for the cutest grand-niece in the world, and then commitments on the coming home end as well. I took an early morning flight out on Monday morning. The last 2 early morning flights (I’m talking 9am here, NOT 5am) both had the sleeper seats – the kind that recline nearly horizontal. Last time that was a complete waste for me as I was not tired, but this time I thought – why not? I reclined and slept. 🙂 That does make the flight go faster. What I want to know is why I NEVER have those seats on the red-eye coming home. That flight has the old basic seat, but that’s when I want to sleep the entire flight. Go figure.

No, you CAN’T come with me

I picked up my rental car and headed to my Arizona ‘home’ – the Chandler Hilton. I have to give them a call-out – they are always so helpful and pleasant. I really do enjoy my stays there. I’d booked us a room on the executive level so we had a balcony, and access to the lounge (water and coffee and snacks all day long!). We also had a view of the pool this time instead of the parking lot. 🙂 I do so love a water view! 🙂

My son and I both planned to work the beginning of the week, and then take off from Thursday through Sunday for vacation activities. I always get a kick out of having him stay at the hotel with me and then “commute to his office” in the morning – his office being his bedroom since he’s been WFH for over a year now, like many of us. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were fairly uneventful activity-wise. We did go out for a celebratory dinner on Monday. We were celebrating my son’s latest promotion (just learned that morning) and the up-coming vacation. We had dinner at Stone & Vine Urban Italian. We’d eaten there my last trip and both loved it. It has great ambience, outdoor dining beside a lake and wonderful waitstaff, not to mention the delicious food. It was a great start to the week!

Love how my son’s landlord recycles house water for the gardening

The Only One

red spotted purple butterfly

Two years ago I had LOTS of butterfly sightings. It was so much fun to snap the pictures and determine what kind of butterfly had come to enjoy my garden. Last year I think I had a total of 3 sightings. 3. Not even a full hand. This year is even worse so far. One. I had ONE butterfly sighting and it wasn’t even on my flowers. TTTT – I’m a little concerned that the only reason this one was on the chair so long was that it was injured or dead. 😦 I have been planting native pollinator/butterfly friendly plants. I have lots of pollinators out front but nary a butterfly. That makes me sad.

Birthday in NYC

New York Harbor, looking upriver – Jersey City on the left, Manhattan on the right

I have very mixed emotions about celebrating my birthday. I’m sure it stems from having a summer birthday and not being able to have birthday parties during my school year. A great number of my friends went away to camp or beach homes over the summer. The last party I remember was in elementary school. I KNOW it was in elementary school because I remember playing pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey. 🙂 How old does that make me??? After that I have no memories of non-family celebrations at all. I had a fantastic 40th birthday because my family threw me a surprise birthday party. I’d always wanted a surprise party and they pulled it off beautifully. My 50th birthday was going to be a full-out no-holds barred party. I’d arrange for hula dancers, an ice cream truck, a huge guest list. Unfortunately that is also the year my father fell down the stairs, into a coma, we had to make that awful decision, and we were sitting shiva on my 50th. After that, my birthday reminded me of losing my father. On my 60th my sister decided I needed to celebrate no matter the sad reminders. She got us concert tickets for the Beacon Theater in NYC to see South Side Johnny & The Asbury Jukes and George Thorogood & the Destroyers. I have some great photos from that, as well as from our yummy dinner that night.

view of Manhattan from the SI Ferry/Mall complex

So if you leave it up to me – I’m not going to do anything. This year was another one of “those” numbers and my sister took charge. This is the summer of the Van Gogh Experience in NYC. There seem to be two competing (?) immersive experiences happening. We went to the one at Pier 36. My sister asked me back in the spring when the publicity first began, and I said it sounded like fun. That was the full extant of my knowledge about the show. 🙂

Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge (connects Staten Island (right) to Brooklyn (left))

As the day approached, we began looking at weather reports, and trying to plan other fun activities. I have a tendency to over-schedule – try to cram as many things into a day as possible. I’ve been having some health issues this summer, and the men-folk prefer NOT to be crazed and rushing, so I decided we needed a mellow day. One where we sauntered and savored and sat.

US Coast Guard

The weather decided to cooperate perfectly. We couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful comfortable day. We began by driving to Staten Island to take the ferry from Staten Island to the tip of Manhattan. The ferry is FREE – yes, FREE. Of course you do have to pay for parking. The last time my sister and I did this both of our offspring were in elementary school (have I mentioned my son is now 30?). At that time the SI ferry terminal was grungy and old. We parked in this ENORMOUS gravel lot – huge and dusty. Now the terminal itself is a destination – right next to an upscale mall. Hey – we even used the bathrooms in the terminal – that’s how new and nice it is! My sister and I dropped the men at the terminal, warning them NOT to buy tickets. *laughing* We’d heard that there are scammers there who will “sell” you a ticket for the FREE ferry. Our husbands are both the type of person who would think “oh wow, I’ll get the ticket now and surprise my wife.” 🙂 They did NOT buy tickets.

Jersey City

The ferries run every 30 minutes and we only had a wait of perhaps 10 minutes before boarding (including the bathroom visit). There is seating inside and out, despite the website still claiming only outside seating. The sail is about 25 minutes (5 miles), with wonderful views of the New York harbor, the Statue of Liberty, Manhattan, Liberty State Park and Jersey City. Perhaps the coast guard has always been out there patrolling the harbor, but maybe not so blatantly locked and loaded in the past as it is in the present. I’d mistakenly headed to the starboard side of the ferry, forgetting that The Lady would be on the port side. My sister and I switched sides, but the men stayed starboard and had a view of the Verrazzano-Narrows bridge. My husband has done many bridge inspections in his time, and one of those was the Verrazzano. We have a photo of him WAY up there in the structure, so he was perfectly happy seeing the bridge. But I promised I’d get the side ‘right’ on the return trip.

Statue of Liberty – and/or why I need a new camera

We’re Going to Need a Bigger House

Full Bloom

First it was chair that was too small. Now it’s the entire house. I do love my rhododendron. But even I concede that perhaps the time has come to have someone professional come in and do a little pruning. 🙂 These photos are from May 2021. I’ve been a bit behind in my posting although I have been zealous about taking photos. I have a Skylight in my living room and just last night a photo came up that showed the rhododendron in full-bloom – mid-windows on the FIRST floor. 🙂 I’ve been so fortunate with that bush. 🙂

getting started

August Means County Fair

Since my son was a toddler we have been attending the County Fair. I’d never gone in all my years of growing up here. I don’t know why but the County Fair never registered on my radar. Once you have a child, however, and are looking for shared learning experiences, the County Fair is a winner. Over the years (my son is now 30) it has changed quite a bit. Or maybe it’s my memory that has changed. *grin* That is always a possibility. I seem to remember it having much more in the way of 4H exhibits than seem to be happening now. The other possibility for this year is that it is the first post-covid fair. I remember there being many more equestrian events, and more large farm animals to ooh-and-ah over. Certainly there were WAY MORE bunnies and chickens and reptiles and rodents than there were this year.

We always go on the weekend, so I never see the prize-winning produce in any sort of prize-winning condition. I always say NEXT YEAR I’ll go at the beginning of the fair, not the end. Somehow though we always seem to head there on the weekend for the fair food. 🙂 This year was the first year we qualified for the SENIOR rates, which are cheaper than the regular adult. Maybe that will encourage me to go twice next year. 🙂

We grabbed something to eat because we were HUNGRY when we got there. Then as is our routine we headed over to see the animals. NO pictures of the animals because they weren’t doing anything very cute or photo-worthy. We did spend some time in the Dept of Agriculture (or maybe it was the Rutgers Agricultural Cooperative, or maybe many groups) tent, learning about the Spotted Lanterfly, but that’s a different post. We picked up some pretzels and water and strolled about the midway looking at the people and the games. For me you know being out and among people is a form of “feeding” – I LOVE the energy and the excitement and the smiles. I will say that there was virtually NO social distancing at the fair, and very little masking. But that’s the beauty of being vaccinated. We stayed as distant as we could when we could, and otherwise enjoyed the moment. 🙂

Vaccinated And Out & About!

View from Inlet Cafe – across Sandy Hook Bay to Sandy Hook

I got my second shot the beginning of May. My husband had long since been vaccinated. So when I saw the promotion for a nearby craft show I was ready. I jumped in the convertible, top down and headed up the highway! It was wonderful to be around other people, laughing and chatting. Almost everyone followed social distancing, used masks inside of booths, and in general showed respect for the other attendees. It was great fun and of course I came home with a few little goodies. 🙂

Chester Spring Craft Show

The weather was great so once I was home my husband was easily persuaded to head down the shore for dinner. We went to our current fav, Inlet Cafe. The view and food were great, live music from the venue next door, but our timing was terrible. I thought by going early we’d beat the crowd. Noooo, we should have gone LATE (which would have worked for us also). We waited nearly 2 hours I think before we were seated. We were just about to go the restaurant next door when our beeper beeped. Next time we’ll go down in the middle of the week and avoid that weekend rush. Because we can. *grin*.

it’s blurry because (1) they were fast and (2) we’d already been waiting over an hr for a table (= cocktails)

Check The Size

Yes, but is it waterproof?

My husband needed a new pair of sneakers. Oh wait – using the word “sneakers” signals my decrepit old age. 🙂 Let me start again. My husband needed a new pair of athletic shoes. To me that implies he was doing something athletic. He wasn’t. He wanted footwear that wasn’t sandals, wasn’t boots, wasn’t dress-wear. (/me whispers: sneakers). I made sure he knew how to access the coupons on my big shoe-store account and off he went. He says he’s very happy with the new footwear, but I have my doubts. Although it isn’t all the things it shouldn’t be, I can’t believe that (1) this is the correct fit and (2) that it will be at all comfortable for walking of standing. 🙂