Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Short Timer

The house sitters are ready to move in, lots of cat food will soon be on hand, and the last of our new plants will be in the ground by the end of the day. There is a road trip in our future -- two weeks in our future. I should be concentrating on work. I have a coffee table book that I need to finish, a direct mail piece to mock-up for the client, and empty Happy Meal boxes that require something self promotional and of actual interest to our clients.

Instead, I am configuring a company laptop for personal emergency use while on the road, making Google maps for each day's driving, and blogging checking the connectivity of said laptop by testing its airport connectivity. Oh, and flying over the terrain of our trip in Google Earth. That's important, too.

I'm slipping into short timer mode too early. Maybe I'll take an extra day just to make the vacation start that much sooner.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Ginkgo Watch - May

Ginkgo Watch April 9While playing marmot paparazzi yesterday, I took Beth to meet my very bestest secret tree friend. The ginkgo is getting very green. The little buds that once radiated at regular intervals from their branches are now little fan leaves. It is nice to have a Ginkgo outside of a formal garden. Usually, you can't get close to them in those situations as they form the centerpiece of some garden trickery. Here, Beth could get close enough to show how green it really is.

David Sedaris Loves Marmots

It's true, actually. David Sedaris visited Spokane for the 2005 Get Lit! festival. The morning of his speaking engagement, he went for a walk downtown and encountered the herd of marmots that roams Riverfront Park, grazing and occasionally accosting passers-by for potato chips and cigarettes. Hey, these are urban marmots, baby.

That evening, Mr. Sedaris spoke briefly about the marmots. He explained that he got a haircut before the show, and asked the barber about the weird giant rodents wandering through the downtown park. The barber said that they were marmots, and essentially harmless as long as you didn't bogart the food.

And what do they eat? Sedaris asked.

The barber knew just what marmots eat. Marshmallows, he said. Marmots eat marshmallows.

I'm sure they would eat marshmallows, given the chance. Spokane Parks Department has begun a campaign to discourage feeding park wildlife and make the marmots more skittish around people, though. The marmots were beginning to resemble fuzzy toilet seat covers from all the handouts. It's difficult to pretend that you're maintaining a natural environment when you have a colony of obese marmots sprawled on the warm river rocks, Big Gulps propped up on their stomachs, handfuls of pork rinds stored in their little cheek pouches.

The feeding also had to stop because too many Spokane residents are not born naturalists. People loved to feed the small furry critters who would come right up to the restaurant patio or the picnic blanket and make big beseeching eyes and take the food right out of your hands and clutch it endearingly between little furry paws. Except some of those "marmots" had long, pink, snaky tails. Almost like, I don't know, wharf rats?

Awww. Cute!

Monday, May 14, 2007

What Else Could I Do?

My nephew loves Star Wars.

He also loves skateboards.

And he wanted a "chocolate cake with chocolate frosting" for his birthday.

Happy Birthday, bud. Love, Auntie Beth

More thoughts on cheese

Saunders Cheese Shop Beth and I often talk about businesses we might start when our 401L plan cashes in. The Really Good Craft Shop, The Really Good Deli, That One Place With The Good Food And The Good Prices, and The Cheese Shop.

When Beth and I first got married, she swept me into a great family tradition of traveling outside of Spokane for Thanksgiving (yes, I used "great", "travel" and "Thanksgiving" in the same sentence). In Boise, Idaho, we would walk over to the Boise Co-op and drool at their cheese selection, often buying more than we needed so we could bring it home. Soon after, Huckleberry's raised the cheese bar in Spokane providing a wider selection that was later emulated by several grocery chains. But none of them were a real cheese shop. "It's just what this town needs" we'd say. "Let's go buy another ticket."

The Saunders Cheese Market is a really great cheese shop. This is good because we can go shop there now, and because we have lots of other things to spend future lottery winnings on.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Mother's Day

Mom, you would have been exasperated today. I started crying in the Mother's Day service and had to leave halfway through to go sit in the gardens by myself.

And then I got distracted and started taking pictures of birds.

I miss you, Mom. I hope you and Nana and Gigi have found a fourth for bridge who doesn't mind the smoke from your Merits and you're having a fine old time. I hope you're not rolling your eyes over my making a scene in church. It's the same church where 200 people sang "Twist and Shout" for you, and I still feel a little tender on Sundays, remembering us all laughing and crying and twisting and wishing you could have seen it.

Happy Mother's Day.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Best Lunch Ever

The cheese plate for two at Saunders Cheese Market:

Around the plate, starting at the 12:00 position:

- Pajerin 2 Latti (hiding behind the cup of olives)
- lightly toasted baguette
- Pecorino fresca
- green grapes
- salumetto
- grilled and marinated vegetables, including artichoke hearts, peppers, cippolini, and mushrooms
- Shropshire
- Marcona almonds
- Cerignola olives (center cup)

Trust the people behind the counter to pick your cheeses for you. Left to my own devices, I never would have picked the Pecorino fresca, but oh yum. Milder and creamier than a percorino romano, with an herb and olive oil rind, it was the best thing on the plate.

Thursday, May 10, 2007


I'm working on a wavy afghan made up of random stripes of fancy yarns I bought with no real plan in mind. I have a bad case of the "ooo, pretty" and two yarn stores within a 10-block radius of the house. This afghan is an effort to display the yarn in a more decorative fashion than the current "skeins in cubbyholes and Rubbermaid totes and plastic bags" scheme.

It's also the project I work on instead of the one I'm supposed to be working on. I'm supposed to be working on my sister's afghan, which I gave her for Christmas. What I actually gave her for Christmas was a box full of loose squares, skeins of yarn, and a picture of the pattern. And then I took the box back, promising to bring it to her when we visit in June.

This afghan has become my nemesis. The "squares" are actually hexagons. The pattern was more difficult than it looked, including a woven border around each square. But mostly, it's the colors.

You see, my sister has a thing for the decorating themes of the late sixties and early seventies. She also has a thing for the music of Cat Stevens and macramed hempen jewelry, just to elaborate. Not that there is anything wrong with this. Except when my KnitPicks order arrived, with all the colors she had requested. When it was all dumped out of the box, it looked like 1973 had eaten one too many "special" carob brownies and heaved all over my table. Tommy Chong would reject this afghan as being too seventies, man. It is like a visual representation of patchouli stank.

So I'm avoiding it. But I can't much longer. I can't bring myself to give her the same box of squares as a baby shower gift. Looks like I'd better quit avoiding, and embrace my inner earth child. Man.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Monday, May 7, 2007

This is War.

Seventy or eighty years ago, a gardener planted a fir tree in our front yard. As gardening plans go, this was at best short-sighted. Fir trees root shallowly, spreading a circle of roots as wide as the tree is tall. But this tree only had enough room for a ten-foot-diameter root circle, surrounded as it was by sidewalks and asphalt.

The tree thrived, as they sometimes do in adverse conditions. It shades our house in the summer, and shields our front windows from the headlights of cars driving up the hill. But now experts have opinions about our tree. These experts call it dangerous. If it fell, it could hit our house. Or it could fall in the street and kill someone. It could even hit the power lines across the street, blow the transformer, and end up causing a blackout on the entire South Side.

These experts, to a one, think we should cut the tree down.

The tree is healthy, though. It lived through the ice storm of ten years ago, and the high winds last fall, with no damage.

But the tree does cause problems. It's a water pig. We don't get a lot of rain here - about 18 inches a year. The tree gleefully sucks down every drop. The grass in the front lawn struggles. The hostas I planted under the tree came up for four years in a row, but smaller and smaller each year. One didn't come up at all this spring, and the other two have become dwarf hostas. My front yard is becoming an unattractive wasteland.

Ha! say the experts. Now you really should cut it down!

So now I'm at war with the tree.

First, I had a long chat with the owner of Tower Perennial Gardens about planting in dry shade. I bought Dicentra eximia, Pulmonaria 'Diana Clare', Helleborus orientalis and foetidus, Heuchera 'Marmalade' and 'Caramel', Iris pallida 'Variegata', Epimedium colchicum, and Asarum europaeum.

Before I planted them, I filled each hole with a mixture of composted steer manure, Osmocote, and SoilMoist. These plants are entering a hostile environment - the least I can do is make sure they're properly protected. Finally, I watered each plant in with a dilute solution of rooting hormone. Then the whole bed was spread with a mulch of organic compost, and then a layer of bark to keep as much moisture in place as possible. Finally, fertilizer stakes formulated for evergreen trees were pushed into the ground at the tree's dripline. This should compensate for disturbing the shallow roots while we were digging in the new plants.

We'll have to step up the watering schedule under the tree this summer, and possibly next summer too, until the plants are established. It means a higher water bill, and economizing on other things. But the small sacrifices now will mean that our tree "war" might be won, without hurting or killing the tree.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Road Trip!

This weekend's road trip hardly qualified as such - really, we just wanted to get out of town while Bloomsday was being run. Don't get me wrong, I think it's great that 40,000 people want to participate in a 12k road race through the middle of Spokane. I just don't want to be here while they do it.

So, early this morning we threw our bikes on the rack and headed an hour east to Cataldo, Idaho. There's a trailhead for the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes, and if you ride east from the trailhead, you'll have many miles of paved, scenic, flat trail running along the Coeur d'Alene river.

(Gratuitous bike shot. I love my bike.)

The trail was deserted this morning, unless you count the deer, blue jays, chipmunks, turtles, meadowlarks, swallows, ducks, geese (with goslings!), and muskrat. And of course, like most of North Idaho, the trail is absolutely sick with scenery.

It's too bad we can't live someplace nice, with pretty things to look at.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Saturday Morning Breakfast

The winter doldrums are officially over on the Saturday morning that I wake up and suggest that we walk over to the Rockwood Bakery. We have a favorite route that meanders down the alleyways between big, old houses, and lets me peek into people's back gardens. (I am a shameless home and garden voyeur. People could be having a crazed orgy in full view of their front window and I would be all "Why won't they move so I can get a better look at the woodwork?")

Walking to the Rockwood in the spring sunshine was a popular pastime this morning, with a stroller traffic jam at the entry and a line to order coffee and pastries that ended right at the front door. To pass the time, I made friends with a small pug who happily clowned for the camera.

Quiche, coffee, a walnut shortbread, the newspaper and enough sunshine that I'm now noticing the slight pink sting on my shoulders. Finally, winter falls away and I remember that I belong outside.