Sunday, March 30, 2014

March Is Almost Over - Where Did It Go?

Hi everyone!  Can you believe I'm actually blogging again!?

It's been a few weeks, and just to give you a few updates:

  • Noel's been working night shift, so we haven't seen much of each other lately, except on weekends!  But he's between jobs just for this weekend, so we've had a nice time hanging out, getting some stuff done around the house, and going out for fantastic Indian food.  Yum. 

  • My new job is going extremely well.  I'm enjoying it so much!  The people are nice, the work is challenging, fun, and exciting!  It's invigorating to be doing something different - and I'll be involved in LOTS of face-to-face training, which is one of my favorite things to do.  I'm lucky I get paid for it!  :)

  • It's already warm here - I took some pictures today to share with those of you who are looking forward to spring, to remind you what it looks like!
So I might have taken a secret picture of my neighbor's house, just to show you how pretty the azaleas are.   Don't tell them, ok? 

We don't really have much of anything blooming around our house yet except for the little wildflowers growing in our yard.  We call them grass, even though our entire yard is basically just a variety of weeds.  I'm ok with that.  Green = Grass.
But!  We will have lots of pretty blooms!  Our canna lilies are coming in nicely - we had to cut everything down to the ground level with all the freezes we had this year, but it's growing back nicely.  So are the lantanas.  So far the only thing that isn't growing back yet is our monsterous 8-10 ft tall hibiscus.  I fear it didn't make it.  At least we have the cannas:


And you can't really tell, but our little peach tree in the background is greening out all over.  :)

So Noel and I will readily admit that we are...not the most diligent about watering our yard.  Which is why we have weeds and not grass.  We have pots by our mailbox that have contained over the course of 2 years:

- Sweet potato vine
- Little purple flowery things
- Mexican heather

All of which died because they dried out.  So we decided this year to just embrace our laziness and go with a safer option:

Cactus!  These are calling Boxing Glove cacti, because the little new buds look like boxing gloves/fists.  We'll see how they work.  We feel like official Texas homeowners, having cacti in the front yard!

Also - for those of you who may be slightly clumsy and/or like to try touching things you shouldn't (Examples: Is the stove hot? Let me check! or Eew...that looks slimy.  Let's find out!), you may want to either (1) get super-thick gloves when planting cactus, or (2) hire someone else to do it for you.  Because these little guys HURT.  They'd be awesome to plant under windows to prevent burglars getting in that way.  I still have little thorns in my fingers. 

And now on to the garden proper!  We've worked hard this year to amend the "soil" in our yard, but with limited results.  I set out the little seedlings a few weeks ago, and sadly a lot of them didn't make it.  Some of them did, and for some plants I just put seeds straight in the ground.  And things are coming up!  We put out a soaker hose today hoping that would help with the onslaught of heat we're getting ready to see in a few months.

The watering is working!  Look!  Lima bean plants!

And the little seed bonbons that my friend Lisa gave to me?  Have started sprouting!!  Neato!

 It was so pretty out today that we decided to grill!  Noel got the grill started and then sat down with a Shiner Bock (National Beer of Texas) to relax for a few.  Here's our patio with the pergola we built (not yet covered with fabric  And our fancy table and our brand new patio chairs! 

But lest you get too jealous of the salad days we're already enjoying here in the suburbs of H-town, remember that we technically live in a town called Spring.  For a reason.  We are swimming in pollen.  This is at a seam on our patio - the light yellow is pollen that's still remaining AFTER we had 1 1/2 days of rain. 

Everything here is tinged in yellow. My car? Yellow. Noel's truck? Yellow. Our house? Yellower. When it rains we have yellow puddles. I now take an allergy pill with my vitamins every morning.  Want blonde highlights?  Go stand under a tree for 20 minutes. 

But it could be worse, right?  At least we'll have lima beans!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

A Little Lip

Today's post starts off on a melancholy note, but it picks up fast, ok?

(Also, can I just say how proud I am to blog 2 days in a week?  WOW).

Ok, so today I went to a funeral for the father of my former boss.  (That's the melancholy part).  The funeral was at a Lutheran church, so I was expecting some funky architecture.

(This is probably where I should jump in to say that, as a Scholar of Religion and also a Ritologist (yes, it's a word) with the student loans to prove it, I have a theory on church architecture that I won't get into here.  Basically it's this:  You can pretty much wager successfully on a church's denomination by the way the church is built.  It's hard to put into words.  Maybe I'm just denomination psychic.  Anyway.  Lutherans = Funky Architecture, usually heavy stone that looks like something either built in 1347 or something built in 1975 that was trying to look like it was built in 1347.)

So this funeral was in a Lutheran church.  Guess what the church looked like?  A monastery from 1347, with upper modern stained glass windows straight out of the Age of Aquarius.  It was actually really lovely, truly.  Also the service was very nice - upbeat, optimistic, and full of really pretty music.

Now, as many of you already know, I have a penchant for sacred spaces - churches, synagogues, sacred stone circles, you name it, I like to be smack in the middle of it.  They're usually very calm places, quiet and peaceful, and I can't help but look around and decipher symbols and such.  So when I go to weddings, funerals, anything in any type of religious space, my inner ritologist comes out in full force.  The amusing thing about this is, even my former boss (whose father's funeral we were attending) said during the reception afterwards that she figured I was enjoying myself looking around at everything and studying it.  Um...busted.

This church was set up in a very interesting way, with the Communion table smack in the middle, and parenthesis shaped altar rails around it.  There were congregation chairs on 3 sides, with the choir and organ on the 4th.  Very egalitarian.  Martin Luther would be proud.  :)

I really wanted to get pictures, but figured that would be horribly gauche of me. 

 - Side note:  Also gauche?  Wearing a stupid Bluetooth to a funeral.  TAKE IT OFF ALREADY, YOU ARE NOT THAT IMPORTANT.

Ahem.  There was a lovely model ship, about 5 feet long, hanging from the ceiling off to the side.  I actually stopped an acolyte after the service and asked about it, because I had never seen that before in an American church.  She said a Dutch model maker had made & donated it in the tradition of churches from where he's from, where model ships would be hung in churches to bless those who work on the sea.  Charming! 

The holy water font was chalice shaped and made of dark marble.  It was also like an infinity pool, with the water even with the very top of the bowl.  I honestly thought it was a marble table at first, the top was so smooth and still. 

The coolest thing though?  Relates directly to my master's thesis - a real page turner about the construction materials used for ceremonial chalices for communion in the medieval period in Europe, and the laws against using certain materials for fear of (1) contaminating the wine, or (2) spilling the wine.  If you're interested in reading the entire thing, let me know and I'll send you some valium instead, because it'll accomplish the same purpose. 

Back to the point.  Am a bit rambly today.  So when the acolytes & ushers were prepping for communion, they had the big silver chalices (love chalices!) and then trays of small little communion glasses.  Communion single-serve shot glasses, if you will.  They look like this:

The ones they had today were glass.  When I was a kid, we had plastic ones and I used to go around and collect them after church and take them home for tea parties with my stuffed animals.  Um...looking back that seems a bit sacrilegious.  Apparently Alexander Bear was very devout.
The people today had three options: drinking straight out of the big chalice, intinction (meaning they dip the bread into the wine), or using the little cup.  But the cups weren't pre-filled with wine.  I was confused.
Then I saw this - a new evolution in the world of communion, designed to avoid spilling the wine, but still allowing people their single-serve, germ-free communion experience:
A chalice with a pour spout.
How brilliant is this!? 
Also, I just realized you can buy these online:
Isn't the internet great? 
So that's a taste of religious studies for all of you non-anthropology types.  I could go on and on about the symbols on the liturgical robes, the windows, how the lyrics of the hymns were different from the Baptist or Episcopalian ones I'm familiar with, etc. but I won't bore you.  Anymore tonight, anyway.  :)

Thursday, March 13, 2014

It's that time of year!

So yes, it has been ages since I've posted anything.  Yet again, I apologize.  We've been going through a lot of changes here (positive ones!) that have taken up a big chunk of our time. 

So let's do a quick run through of updates since the last actual post...

- We drove to my cousin's wedding in Canada and had a blast!  Eh?
- Went to the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, KY! 
- Saw tigers on the way back at the Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge in Tyler, TX (very cool place)!
- Thanksgiving was great! 
- So was Christmas and New Year's!
- We actually got SNOW in 2014!
- I had a birthday.  Woo.
- The Olympics were on and I may have yelled a lot at the tv when bobsledding was on.  Noel is a patient man.
- I published my first book, Things In Sky: Life Looking Up
- I got a new job (but I haven't started yet!  I start Monday, March 17th!) 

I don't want to go into my new job on the interwebs, but will just say (1) it's a major industry change (from healthcare to food!) and (2) I am super excited.  :) 

Life has been really great lately.  Noel and I have so much fun. 

I've been working on crafty projects, including welding caps for Noel, tons of Christmas knitting (stupid phone SD card deleted itself and now I have no pics of the Weasley sweaters I made for the nieces - bummer), quilt for Noel (STILL not finished), and a sweater for me (finished!). 

For those of you in the Western NC mountains, in case you didn't know, there's a fiber mill in Weaverville now that sells gorgeous yarns! It's called Echoview Fiber Mill. My mom bought me some as a gift and I just finished knitting this sweater with it. It was so silky and has a beautiful sheen to it. And it's 95% wool but isn't itchy! Miracle. :)   I actually had enough left over that I'm also making a loose mesh scarf with it too. 


Noel and I also worked on the garden last month to get it ready for the weather change that normally happens in mid February.  However, something did change - the Arctic showed up.  It was bizarre how cold it got here!!

Now before everyone starts whining about how much colder it is where they are, let me just put it this way:  normally by mid-February, the heat is off and the occasional A/C is running.  We have no salt trucks.  We have no snow plows.  We have no winter coats (although due to my knitting addiction, we do have a surplus of scarves).  So having a real winter here is surprising to say the least. 

So I started planting seeds AGES ago.  We rented a tiller in early February and turned the soil (actually making the garden bigger while we were at it) and mushing in about 400 lbs of compost too.  Did I mention our yard is clay?  Because it is.  Know what grows well in clay?  Nothing.  That's what.

The little seeds sprouted, started growing, and the bottom fell out of the thermometer.  Again and again.

So today I was finally able to plant the garden!  This year I'm growing:
  •  Okra
  •  Cucumbers
  •  Corn
  •  Snap Peas
  •  Cotton
  •  Lima beans
  •  Sunflowers
  •  Herbs (basil, thyme, parsley, chives from Garden Bon Bons)
  •  Bell peppers
  •  Arugula
  •  Spinach
  •  Summer squash

You may have noticed something a bit different on that list - yes, I am growing cotton this year!  I've never grown it.  But Southern Exposure Seed Company, who has a bunch of really cool heirloom seeds (here), has different types of cotton seeds that grow fibers in different colors!  They were usually (according to the catalog) grown by slaves for their own use in pre-Civil War days because they're considered not as good quality because the fibers are shorter and not as smooth when spun.  They also said in the catalog they feel that everyone should grow cotton at least once in their lives, if for no other reason than to realize what backbreaking work it is to harvest.  But they grow in neat colors like yellow & green!  How cool is that?

Anyway, so yes, I'm growing green cotton (pic here) and hopefully will get enough off of it to spin it on my antique spinning wheel (thanks, Aunt Betty!) and can make...I dunno.  A pot holder?  A hat for Loki?  I probably won't get much of the stuff.  It'll be fun, if nothing else, to see how well it does.  :) 

Alright, time to go feed the kitties.  Hope everyone's doing well!!  Take care and Happy Spring!