One Square Yard: July 15

Recently, I was invited to participate in a month-long July photo challenge—SquarePerspectives hosted by BeckyB from her blog The Life of B. The challenge is exactly what it sounds like: Rather than post photos with the usual rectangular cropping, the challenge is to post photos cropped square. So each Wednesday in July, I will be presenting a series of square photos from my own yard, which nowadays is the farthest I usually go. Hence the title, One Square Yard.

Even in my mostly green and wooded yard, there are a few flowers to brighten the gardens. While they bloom, here they are in their square glory.

Five Months into the Pandemic

Here we are, five months into a pandemic that is ripping this country to shreds. It feels as though the Trump Administration is following advice from a book called 101 Bad Ways to Deal with a Pandemic.  Seems as though they’ve pretty much worked through the list.  Deny science. Check. Inadequate testing. Check. Encourage people to not wear a mask. Check, check, check.

Nevertheless, despite the disastrous leadership, Clif and I, like many others, have adapted. We’ve figured out how to order most everything we need online. (Thank  you, Instacart.) We’ve only gone to a store once since March, and when I hear tales about how too many people have decided that masks are for sissies, I’m not eager to go back.

In truth, I really enjoy having my groceries and other goods delivered, and I’m wondering if I’ll ever go back to in-store shopping. We shall see.

Because of our age and our health issues, Clif and I haven’t strayed too far from home. Every few weeks, he takes rubbish to the Transfer Station. I’ve delivered cards to a friend. We’ve talked about having people over for a socially-distanced cocktail hour on the patio, but we haven’t done it yet, and I’m not sure if we ever will.

Because as it turns out, Clif and I are doing just fine at home by ourselves. We each have our various projects, and we are busy and engaged every single day. We are two introverted elders who think home is best, and this makes it much easier for us to self-isolate. And, we have each other. I really do feel for those who are alone and for extroverts whose joy comes from being around other people.

We are also lucky to have technology. While I know it has its dark side, for us technology has made staying at home not only bearable but also fulfilling and creative.

Because of technology, every day I start out the morning traveling around the world as I check out what my blogging friends are doing. I go to New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Canada, England, Scotland, Wales, France, and to many places in the United States. Always, I am inspired and moved by what these wonderful friends write.

Clif and I belong to a virtual film club sponsored by our library, and every other week we get together to talk about a movie.  What great discussions we have.

Our library also sponsors a virtual trivia night and book group. Clif and I are terrible at trivia, and last week we came in last. No matter. We still had fun. And book group is just as thought provoking as film club.

Once a month, I Zoom with friends from a media group I used to belong to.

Once a week, we Zoom with “the kids.”

Streaming services provide us with plenty of good entertainment—movies, docs, and television series.

NPR offers so many excellent Tiny Desk Concerts that I could listen for quite a while and not hear a repeat.

Naturally, if I were granted a magic wish, I would use it to dispel Covid-19, which has torn lives and economies apart.  I might be a homebody, but I would rather not have to be compelled to stay home because of a killer virus.

Plus I miss my kids like crazy.

But I don’t have this power so all I can do is adjust to the situation.

I hope you all are adjusting, too.

 

What’s Making Me Happy: July 10

As I wrote on Monday’s post, because of his type 2 diabetes, Clif is embarking on a low-carb diet. And if Clif is eating low-carb, then so am I. While I might have toast for breakfast, and Clif might make an   an omelet, I am not going to cook two different meals for our supper. Too much work. And besides, it doesn’t do me a bit of harm to eat low carb and perhaps avoid future problems.

Therefore, we are venturing into new territory, and this week I made “fried rice” with riced cauliflower. I expected it to be good. After all, in the fried rice I usually make I often use either cabbage or broccoli, and cauliflower is in the same family. But, readers, making fried rice from riced cauliflower turned out even better than I expected. So tasty!

I love it when that happens. (Not always a given, that’s for sure.) We will probably be having this meal once a week or so. In fact, I could have some right now. I’ve also found other recipes for riced cauliflower, and the one I plan to to try next is a Mexican “rice” dish. I didn’t take pictures of the fried riced cauliflower, so all I can feature is the package. Next time!

The second thing that is making me happy is my bee balm. While it was a bad year for irises, it has been a glorious year for bee balm. My patch in the backyard is fuller and more vibrant than it ever has been. In the late afternoon, when I relax on the patio, I have that glorious spark of red to draw my eye. The flowers also draw hummingbirds. I will try to get a decent picture of one, but I make no promises. Those winged Will-o’-the-wisps are fast.

The third thing, as always, is music and another NPR Tiny Desk Concert. (Thank you, thank you, NPR, for bringing so much music into my life.) This week, for blogging friends who like country and bluegrass music, I’m featuring Mandolin Orange, a duo from Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Their music has also been categorized as folk and Americana. Whatever it’s called, Mandolin Orange’s music is just plain good, and their songs certainly represent a strain of American music. If you like Mandolin Orange, be sure to listen to the last song, “Wildfire.” Released on the 2016 album Blindfaller, “Wildfire” is even more relevant today than it was four years ago.

 

One Square Yard: July 8

Recently, I was invited to participate in a month-long July photo challenge—SquarePerspectives hosted by BeckyB from her blog The Life of B. The challenge is exactly what it sounds like: Rather than post photos with the usual rectangular cropping, the challenge is to post photos cropped square. So each Wednesday in July, I will be presenting a series of square photos from my own yard, which nowadays is the farthest I usually go. Hence the title, One Square Yard.

One of the things I have noticed about a square perspective is how it makes the photos pop and brings the subject closer to the viewer. Not always what you want, of course. Sometimes the long view is best. But I am finding that almost any photo that features a close-up benefits from the square cropping.

An Odd but Fruitful Fourth

Saturday was the Fourth of July. As Wikipedia puts it, the Fourth is a day, “commemorating the Declaration of Independence of the United States, on July 4, 1776.” As I’m sure most of you know, it is a national holiday.

For Clif and Me, it was the oddest Fourth of July we have ever had. Usually, we host a gathering of family and friends on our patio, and Clif makes his legendary grilled bread. But thanks to Covid-19, no family and friends this year and no grilled bread.

Unfortunately, for the past ten years, the weather has been beastly on the Fourth, very hot and very humid. This year, of course, the weather was absolutely perfect—sunny but not too hot and low humidity.

At around 2:00, Clif and I took to the patio and had grilled Beyond Burgers, a tasty vegetarian substitute for hamburgers. The weather was so fine that we stayed on the patio for the rest of the afternoon.

We talked at great length about food, and how we can eat better to enhance our health. Ever since the pandemic started, both Clif and I have been aware that not only are we at risk because of age but also because of health issues. Clif has type 2 diabetes, and I am overweight.

I have been working diligently at losing weight and am having success. I’ve also been riding my exercise bike five mornings a week, and I’m happy to report that my creaky knees are not as creaky.

On the Fourth, Clif decided it was time to get serious  about controlling his carbohydrate (carb) intake. A friend of ours who has struggled with type 2 diabetes for years is now facing the prospect of going on dialysis. Sobering, to say the least. And this really made Clif think about his own health, not just in this time of Covid-19 but afterward as well.

For the past year and a half, Clif and I have been vegetarians. This might be coming to an end as we add chicken and fish to our diet as we change to a low-carb regimen.  But strangely enough, being vegetarian has given us the courage and confidence to tackle low-carb eating. Giving up meat was not easy for us, but we did it,  and we radically changed the way we eat. Because of this, we know we can change the way we eat again.

Now, Clif is a computer guy, a geek, if you will. Because Clif couldn’t find an online tool for keeping track of carbs that worked the way he thought it should, his response was to create his own carb data base on his computer. The data base allows him to create his own list with net carb numbers and serving size. This makes it easy for Clif to keep track of his daily carb intake. He is aiming for 50 to 60 carbs a day, and yesterday Clif was able to do this and still have beer and nuts on the patio.

So onward, ho, to a new way of eating. One, we hope, that leads to better health.

 

 

 

 

What’s Making Me Happy: July 3, 2020

Actually, even during this time of the pandemic when I miss my family like crazy, many things are making me happy this week. Therefore, instead of one item, I am offering several.

First, with much fanfare, I present my two new hoses, each 100 feet long, which means I can reach all the beds in my front yard when they need watering. No more Jean de Florette hauling of water.  But can you guess what happened right after we got the hoses? Rain, rain, and more rain. Too funny! However, I am ready and well prepared for the next dry spell.

Second, Clif has come up with a graphic for my upcoming podcast of The Other Green Door. At some point, there will be a book, which will include several stories, and this graphic will be used for the cover as well.

And, third: More music. Ólafur Arnalds’s tiny desk concert is the polar opposite of the one I shared last week of Rodrigo y Gabriela. The latter’s music is sheer joy and energy. Arnalds’s music is soulful, gentle, and melancholy even. Both types of music reflect aspects of the human condition, and what a good thing it is that we have such a diversity of musicians who capture these moods and emotions.

 

One Square Yard: Wednesday, July 1

Recently, I was invited to participate in a month-long July photo challenge—SquarePerspectives hosted by BeckyB from her blog The Life of B. The challenge is exactly what it sounds like: Rather than post photos with the usual rectangular cropping, the challenge is to post photos cropped square. So each Wednesday in July, I will be presenting a series of square photos from my own yard, which nowadays is the farthest I usually go. Hence the title, One Square Yard.

Perspective is a tricky thing. Some photos lend themselves to square cropping, others do not. But what fun to experiment with this perspective. Many thanks, Becky B!

To borrow the immortal words from Huey Lewis and the News, it’s hip to be square.

One Square Yard

Oh, My! A New Book & A Podcast in the Works

Last night the rain finally came, and what a wonderful thing to hear it dripping from the eaves. It was a perfect rain—not too driving—and I think we might have gotten at least an inch.  Rain is in the forecast for the next few days, and while I like a sunny day as much as the next person, I am grateful for the rain as we surely need it. June has been such a dry month.

Here are a couple of pictures of our rainy yard. (Or garden as my friends across the pond would say.)

Lots of green, as you can see, but as my blogging friend Quercus wisely noted, green is a color, too. Yes, it is.

I am happy to report that Clif and I rose to the strawberry challenge, which I mentioned in my previous post. That is, two quarts of very ripe strawberries that wouldn’t keep long. In two-and-a-half days, those strawberries were gone. Utterly delicious! A good example of what you can do when you put your mind to it.

July is going to be a busy month for me. In the fall, Out of Time, the third book in The Great Library Series, will be published. In the next week, I have to get details about the book to James at Bookfly Design for the cover.  As with any book, there is also lots of picky copy editing to do before Out of Time can be published.

In addition, Clif and I have been working on an exciting new project—Tales from The Other Green Door, a podcast that will air sometime in July or August. The Other Green Door is a spin-off from Out of Time, and it involves two elves, Jace Willowdale and her cousin Thirret Greenwood. They have come from New York City to Portland, Maine, to open a café called The Other Green Door. Jace and Thirret are hoping for a quiet life in this small city by the bay. But because Jace accumulates magical relics from Elferterre, a mysterious dimension, the quiet life eludes them.

Because of the book and the podcast and all the work I must do to get them ready, blog posts for the next month or two are likely to be brief, with maybe a few pictures and a few lines.

Onward, ho!

And stay tuned for the podcast cover.

 

 

 

Strawberry Challenge

The high heat has gone away, and we are having pleasant sunny weather in the low 80s. No AC needed. But the summer is still young, and I expect we’ll be using Eva—my name for the AC—many times before the cool snap of fall comes.

No rain yet, but it is in the forecast for this weekend. Fingers crossed because central Maine is dry, dry, dry. One of the driest Junes in my memory.

In the backyard, the evening primroses are in bloom, and the back garden is aglow with yellow, a jaunty contrast to all the green.

Clif took a closer look at these bursts of yellow.

Recently, we bought ant moats to attach to the hummingbird feeders. Filled with water, the moats keep the ants out of the enticing sugar-water mixture. What we didn’t count on was that the birds would view the moats as another place to drink water. Somehow, a nuthatch taking a sip of water from a moat doesn’t bother us one bit.

With all the hostas I’ve planted, the front yard is not as flamboyant as the backyard. Still, there are pleasures to be found.

This week, strawberries came in our CSA share, two quarts of sweet gems. The berries are small but utterly delicious and extremely ripe. It will be a challenge to eat them all before the berries go bad.

Are Clif and I up to the challenge?

You bet we are.

What’s Making Me Happy This Week

Starting this week for my Friday posts, I’m going to take a leaf from Pop Culture Happy Hour’s book. On that excellent podcast, movies, books, music, and TV shows are reviewed and discussed. On Friday, after the lively discussions, the hosts and guests share what’s making them happy. Not surprisingly, the recommendations are media related.

I’m not sure I’m always going to stick to the media for my happy reports. After all, birds and plants make me very happy. But this week I’m featuring Rodrigo y Gabriela, two dynamic Mexican musicians who got their start in Dublin, thus proving that music is one of the things that binds us all.

So if you’re feeling a little glum by all that’s going in all the world, then click on this link. I challenge you not to tap your feet.

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