Tag Archives: daughter

Centerpiece for an herb garden: Clay pots paired with glossy paint and VOILA!

You know that feeling you get when you look at the perfect pictures of perfect gardens and landscaping in magazines? Kind of that “oh, I wish my yard could look like that….” But unless you’re a professional landscaper or are willing to spend oodles of money to hire someone to turn your yard into something out of Better Homes and Gardens or Martha Stewart Living, you’re left to your own devices.

And that isn’t always a bad thing. You’ll end up with something much more beautiful and satisfying — if only because you’ve done it yourself. At least, that’s what I tell myself at the beginning of every summer when we begin reworking the gardens and trying to create something different.

My herb garden hasn’t varied much since we first designed this one after moving in 22 years ago — at least in size and shape. Herbs have come and gone, new ones have replaced old ones.

Last year for my birthday, my daughter surprised me with a birdbath that she’d designed from various sized clay pots. It’s amazing what one can do with plain old pots and some bright glossy paint. The birdbath has a place of honor smack in the middle of the herb garden.

It begins with this,IMG_0489[1]

topped with this,IMG_0488[1]

and then….voila!IMG_0485[1]


Random thoughts, my usual fall-back blog topic, seems too, well, random. Musings sound so much more meditative, more thoughtful. Since I’ve been on a short four-day weekend “vacation”, my time to muse meditatively has been productive.

Technically, this was a “staycation”, although it was really anything but. “Staycation” would suggest “staying”, easing back onto the patio chairs, and doing nothing but reading, resting and drinking something tall and cool. In reality, these four days have been more movement-oriented, though there have been quite a few tall, cool, ones.

So technicalities aside, these are some of the musings I’ve mulled over during the past three and one-third days:

1. Massages are well worth the money spent. They’d probably be even more worthwhile if the MASSAGEE paid attention to the MASSAGER’S caution to “take it easy for the day…don’t do anything heavy duty.”  That cautionary note must have missed the part of the brain that understands and processes messages, because two hours later, my electric Mantis appeared on my patio. Freshly repaired, and bearing shiny new rotors, it begged to be tested. So I hoisted the little tiller to my herb garden and happily tilled away. My husband offered to move some flagstones for me, then stood back and grinned. Only he knows how truly excited I was to be able to use the Mantis. Just a year ago, I wasn’t in any shape to do gardening of any kind, and we weren’t sure when or if I’d get to do so again. I even pulled weeds and smiled…much to the chagrin of my massage therapist, Joy Stemen. who chided me for ignoring her.

2. Listening to Car Talk on my morning run makes me wonder what car mechanics think when someone comes in with a car problem and explains the solution as suggested by Click and Clack. There’s probably a lot of eye-rolling. Anyway, I’ve been planning my own call to Car Talk. All the callers are from big cities…never any little towns like Bluffton, Ohio. I want to be the first. And I have the perfect problem. A few months before we retrieved our 1997 Dodge Caravan from our daughter, she’d turned on the van only to find the dashboard dark. Nothing lit up. Hm…she drove to the Dodge dealer and explained the problem to the woman at the service desk. The woman grinned and accompanied her to the van, where she gave a hearty smack to the top of the dash. Bingo! On blinked the dash lights. Her comment? “Fixed that problem, eh?” This happened again a few weeks ago, so Fred whacked it once and they blinked back on. But I’m just curious enough to call the  Magliozzi’s for their take on this curiosity…if only to hear them mangle “Bluffton”.

3. Yesterday, we moved more of our daughter’s “stuff” to her new apartment. Ike, of course, went along for the ride and as soon as he stepped in the house, the cat went into hiding. We looked everywhere. High, low, under beds, in closets, behind the fridge. No Casio. Anne, however, was not giving up. After about 30 minutes of looking, she got down on the floor and found a hole about four inches in diameter, leading to a larger space in the cabinet area. Peering inside, she saw two bright eyes staring out at her. You have to understand. Casio is not a kitten. He is a more-than-full-grown cat. Huge, in fact. Almost as big as Ike.We managed to entice him out with some catnip. How can a cat squeeze his body into a hole smaller than his head?

4. I am of the belief that one cannot have too many white shirts. My daughters used to laugh when I went shopping because they could predict I’d return with at least one white shirt. This is true. I still do this. I’m sure my therapist would have some Freudian explanation for this fixation. If I lined all my shirts up by color, there would be a gazillion white ones — each different — followed by other hues in singles. Oh, except for black. I am also of the belief that one cannot have too many black shirts. I’d say it is fortunate that the girls no longer get to examine my shopping bags, but it doesn’t matter. They come home and go straight to my closet to count the whites. And the blacks.

5. Why do some people have such nice, pleasant dreams and I have such stupid ones that wake me up at ungodly hours? I used to blame this on my mother’s side of the family, because she has equally odd dreams. But a Pannabecker cousin recently mentioned that my dream sounded like the ones she has. Guess I can’t blame it on the Suters anymore. The most recent one involved someone’s dogs having puppies in the car while my oldest brother was driving. Cute though the puppies were, they were expelling worms. Ewww…but even that one doesn’t match my all-time worst nightmare of pulling nails from my skin. In handfuls.

6. My friend and running partner, Mary, and I received the same Mother’s Day card. Mine came from my daughter, hers from her father-in-law. When I got mine, I called my daughter to thank her and ask if they came in other names. Dead silence on her part, then a big guffaw. “Mom, think about it. What other name would work in the “punchline” on the inside?. Eat, drink and be…?” This proves to me…once again….that there should be a club of Marys. We could count how many of had to smile politely as old men teased us as children, “How does your garden grow?”

I wonder if other people muse their days away like I do?

The curse of the Mother’s Day plant

Last Sunday, the rain let up just enough that I decided it was time to do some planting. Despite a hankering for a new high-rise raised bed, I’d decided instead to do mostly container gardening. Having done this successfully several years ago, and bolstered by an article posted on the Stratton Greenhouses Facebook page, I headed out to the playhouse.

Okay,technically this is no longer a playhouse, but since I like to play in the garden, we still call it that. My dad built this A-frame “cottage” about 18 years ago, intending it as a playhouse for the girls. He told me we’d be lucky if it lasted for two years, but since my dad never did anything halfway or shoddy, it still stands.

Anyway, the toys housed inside have been replaced by gardening tools and equipment, pots of all sizes, bags of potting soil, and assorted spiders and bugs. So…Sunday, I shoved aside the spiders standing guard at the door and grabbed four big clay pots and a bag of potting soil.

This was to be an early planting of succession crops (I made that up to sound like I know what I’m talking about). In one pot went mesclun (a “gourmet” blend of greens, and in another pot I planted spinach. Then because I wanted to compare the success of basil grown in a pot versus that grown in my herb garden, I plopped some basil seed in the third pot. In the fourth pot, I mixed a handful of year-old buttercrunch with spinach.

Container garden pre-squirrel attack

Despite the fact that it was likely to rain within a few hours, I dutifully sprinkled water over the four pots. In the back of mind, a niggling voice festered. “Maybe you should put screens over the pots….just in case.” Since I’m so good at ignoring little voices I took some pictures of my pots and pleased as punch, went into the house to announce the start of my 2011 garden.

The next day, I was talking to my youngest daughter on the cell phone as I walked home from work. As I approached the patio, I excitedly told her about the plantings. My happiness suddenly turned to howls as I realized one of those wretched squirrels had decided to feed on my newly planted seed.

Her response? “Mom, it’s the curse of the Mother’s Day plant. Remember?”

Pot post-squirrel attack

Oh, how I remember. Long ago, when she was about six years old, she’d planted a flower in a tiny pot at school and brought it home to give me for Mother’s Day. She and her dad had hidden it in the garage, locked the door, and forbade me to enter the garage. They forgot to tell that to the furry creature hidden somewhere in the dark recesses of the garage.

The next morning, the two of them sneaked out to the garage. There was a loud scream, followed by angry cries of frustration. Somehow, they’d unknowingly locked a raccoon inside the garage and he seemed to think that flower was his breakfast.

I honestly think if the raccoon had hung around, Anne would have grabbed the nearest shovel and smacked it.

It was Anne’s version of Judith Viorst’s “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day.” A Mother’s Day I’ve never forgotten.

Twenty years later, she’s obviously still hanging on to her memory of that day, but with a humorous twist. And so…there you have it…the curse of the Mother’s Day plant. Guess I’ll have to wait until after Mother’s Day to re-plant.

Finpex 2011 beckons the family philatelist

I have a funny feeling I know what my husband will be doing this weekend. Not that he’s mentioned this…or at least not outright. He posted a story on The Bluffton Icon (www.blufftonicon.com) about Fort Findlay Stamp and Postcard Club’s annual stamp show — Finpex 2011.

Okay, here’s one thing I’ve learned in 30 years of marriage to this guy. See, he’s a philatelist, and philatelists are all alike. They band together. In our case, they live beside each other. A few weeks ago after church, he informed me that he was going next door to play. Okay, that’s not exactly how he put it. It was probably more along the lines of “I’m going over to look at Bill’s (Swartley) stamp collection.” I noticed he didn’t take any of his own along. This can mean only one thing. There will be another Sunday afternoon “sharing of the stamp collections.”

It’s not that I don’t appreciate stamps. I do. Especially when I need to send a letter. And…okay…long ago, I had a stamp collection. My cousins — who lived in Japan — sent me a stamp album. It was beautiful — red with some Japanese characters on the front, and inside the sticky pages were covered with plastic that you peeled back to stick the stamps in place. They must have sent me some stamps, because the album had some very pretty, shiny turquoise stamps…with Japanese characters. I’m embarrassed to admit I never got more than a few pages filled and I had no clue what I was doing. I liked pretty stamps. Still do.

When Fred told me about his stamp collection, I thought, “aha — another common interest”. But then he showed me his. Oh my. This guy was serious. He had stamps and stamps and stamps. They were actually worth more than they cost. Compared to him, I was just an amateur philatelist. But I’d already told him about my so-called collection, so I had to show it to him. He was kind. He didn’t laugh…or at least, not too loud.

Over the years, he has continued to collect stamps, attending stamp shows periodically and usually coming home with some treasured item of great value. I ooh and aah over his purchases and pretend that I know exactly what they are. He’s not fooled.

Because I know he collects foreign stamps, when family members travel to other countries and ask what they can bring back, I tell them to bring him some stamps — they don’t take up much room in an already full suitcase.

When daughter number 2 comes to visit, the two of them usually spend some time on one of their favorite past times — soaking stamps. The routine goes like this:

  • Fill large bowl with warm water
  • Dump stamps in bowl and let them soak
  • Remove stamps and carefully remove the remainders of envelopes from the backs
  • Place each stamp on a cookie sheet to dry

I don’t know what they do after this…I usually fall asleep in the middle of the process. But in the morning, I see cookie sheets filled with stamps, lined up side by side, and I make the usual snide comments. They roll their eyes at me.

So anyway, there’s this stamp show in Findlay this weekend. Finpex 2011. If you’re a philatelist, it’s the place to be.

Not a philatelist? Not to worry. Maybe you’re a numismatist. They frequent coin shows. Guess who you’ll see at those, too?

Crocuses, parsley and forsythia, oh my

Isn’t it amazing how crocuses suddenly pop up? Yesterday, the warm weather sent me out of my stuffy office in the early afternoon. I just had to get out and enjoy the sun and warmth, so decided to walk home to check in on the husband and the dog. As I walked through the backyard, I was surprised to see some random crocuses blooming. Their bright yellow color immediately lifted my spirits and I began to look around the gardens for other signs of spring.

Little green shoots everywhere! Tulips, daffodils, hyacinths…and other plants I can’t identify until they bloom. The forsythia buds were starting to pop, so I clipped off a few stems to force indoors.

About this time, I found the dog dragging his master around the block…or maybe it was the other way around. I stuck a crocus in the dog’s face. Apparently, they don’t hold the same fascination for him as they do for me, or he was just disappointed that the yellow thing didn’t smell edible. The husband, on the other hand, was happy to see the crocus. As we stood there like two dummies, staring down at those tiny flowers, we wondered how it is that they surprise us every year. We wondered if we stood there long enough, would we be able to watch them grow and open? Maybe some botanists know how this works.

I snapped a picture with my phone and sent it to my daughters. One responded later on (yawning), that “Oh, I’ve seen them all over my neighborhood.” So much for that excitement.

Okay, so the arrival of the crocuses fell flat on the kid, but it sure got me inspired. Although the gardening catalogs have been filling our mailbox for several months now, I’ve not paid much attention to them. See, part of the problem is that a couple of my brothers are already eating from their gardens, but then that’s an unfair comparison. One has a farm with a greenhouse and the other one plants spinach in the fall so it’ll pop up early in spring. It’s a lot warmer in Virginia and Kansas.

If that smacks of sibling rivalry, it probably is. But hey, I’ve got crocuses. Bet they don’t. AND I have fresh parsley which recently poked up its head from under its winter blanket of snow.

Now I’m rambling, so it’s time to quit. Besides, those gardening catalogs are calling me. Time to build some new raised beds and get moving.

Isn’t it amazing what a little warm weather will do for the soul?

Things that made me smile

What makes you smile? Fresh flowers, sun, a hug, a funny joke.

I love fresh flowers. Daisies are probably my favorite because they’re so sunny and make me smile. So…it’s mid-January and why am I thinking about flowers? Okay, partly because I just like to think about them, but also because at our employee dinner, I received my 15-year ceramic vase made by one of my favorite artists — Gregg Luginbuhl. I told Gregg that I planned to keep it filled with fresh flowers on my desk at work. I hope that pleased him. It pleases me. Every time I walk in my office, I see a bunch of yellow daisies, alstroemeria and snapdragons. Wouldn’t that make anyone smile?

That’s not all. In our living room, we had a big bunch of huge Gerbera daisies. After two weeks, they were slowly dying, one at a time. I plucked the last two of the bunch, snipped their stems short and put them in a tiny vase in the bathroom. Okay, here’s the thing. Flowers in a bathroom might seem strange to some people, but think about it. The smell can mask some other not-so-pleasant ones.

This whole flower thing started me thinking about things that made me smile this week…a week that should have been a lot easier than last week, but turned out to be almost as challenging. But I read something recently about the importance of writing down…at the end of the day…one thing that made you smile. So here it is the end of the week and since I never got around to doing this on a daily basis, I’m doing it now. Here are some things that made me smile.

1.) A virtual bouquet of flowers from daughter no. 1.

2.) A second e-mail with another virtual bouquet of flowers from the same daughter.

3.) My mom remembered something that I didn’t, which just proves that she still has the upper hand.

4.) A hug from a coworker. For no reason except she somehow knew that I needed one.

5.) Listening to my husband hum while he mops the kitchen floor.

6.) A student thanking me for helping her get started back to school.

7.) An e-mail from daughter no. 2 telling me that she was filling out her grad school application.

8.) Hearing a snowplow behind my house in the very early, very dark hours — reminding me that the campus maintenance crew was already clearing paths.

9.) A new pair of Smartwool socks.

10.) A slew of e-mails from my brothers, asking what they can do to make life easier.

11.) Seeing pictures of my cousin’s two newest grandsons — born in the same week and weighing exactly the same amount at birth.

12.) Powering up the snow blower…which sort of made up for not getting to mow last summer…and getting a face-full of white, powdery snow.

13.) Sitting on my 40-year-old butterfly chair in the dark of the early morning, remembering hours spent in that same chair while pestering my dad in his study.

14.) Stopping in the middle of the road to watch three deer saunter across the road…and remembering my daughter’s description of the deer that “dropped out of nowhere” to slam into our van.

15.) Listening to Babs sing SMILE. (Be sure to click on the word, smile.)

“Twas three days before Christmas…

‘Twas three days before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring ‘cept Ma and her dog. One child and two cats were nestled snug on the couch, when Ma and her Ike tiptoed into the room. From out of the dark, there rose such a howling, the quiet household shuddered and woke with a start.

So much for a quiet start to the day. And so much for my attempts at poetic license. I knew that there would be an extra cat in the house, but I’d been assured that Peaches the Queen and the visiting Casio, would “just ignore each other”. What we didn’t plan on was the rude awakening of said cats and child by one wriggling, tail-wagging miniature Schnauzer, eager to join the sleeping trio.

Ten minutes later, one cat had been relegated to the outdoors and the other one to the basement. Ike, the innocent instigator, was upstairs in bed with the other child and Harvey, the calmest dog on earth.

Phew. Quiet reigned again…for a few minutes anyway. I took that as a sign that I could take a shower. Halfway through that, daughter number 1 pops her head in the door to say that “I was trying to find an outlet for the coffeepot, and I unplugged your bread machine. Does that matter?” Matter? Why would it matter that a loaf of cinnamon raisin bread had been unplugged mid-cycle? A little deep breathing reminded me “not to sweat the small stuff”. Lo and behold, she’d plugged it right back in and the bread kept baking. Huh. Must have some sort of surge protection on it.

30 minutes later, I headed off to work. As I walked out the door, I heard two hoots of laughter from daughters number 1 and 2, watching something on the Internet. Which reminds me. All cat- and dog-fights aside, it’s good to have my family home.



On talking trees, fighting crowds and virtual Christmas shopping

Somewhere along the way, my attitude toward Christmas shopping changed…somewhere between Dr. Barbie and one of those toys for which we forgot to buy batteries…and which we remembered in the wee hours of Christmas day. In fact, during a recent stop at a mall, after just 10 minutes, I began to get the heebie-jeebies. My skin started to tingle. Had to get out. Fast.

It used to be so much fun…fighting the crowds in Toys ‘R Us and deciding exactly which set of Legos we should add to the burgeoning collection. Checking off that last item on “THE LIST” was so satisfying. But then one year, it was no longer “fun”. It was just a challenge…a headache that didn’t want to go away. Add to that those years of working retail when the last-minute shoppers would show up 10 minutes before closing time on Christmas Eve, and, well… you get the picture. My dad, with whom I managed a store for several years, once told me that his Black Friday was actually Black Christmas Eve.

Which reminds me. What is this insanity of  shopping at 4 a.m. on Black Friday? Daughter number 2 volunteers to work the early shift on Black Friday. She’s still young enough to think it’s fun to watch people scramble around for the best bargain. Of course, she’s also learned to stand back from the front doors when they open at 7 a.m.

My own Christmas gifting plan changed with the increasing availability of Internet shopping. Choosing gifts became ever so much easier, and it actually became fun again. No more standing in lines. No more feeling as if I was about to faint from hunger because there was no time to eat. Now I can eat while I shop. Multi-tasking at its most efficient. And returns? Easy.

The only problem with Internet shopping is that if you don’t plan right, you can get stuck empty-handed. This happened about 10 years ago, when daughter number 1 had her heart set on a specific wool sweater from J Crew. Ordered it, but dang, if that thing didn’t arrive. I had to wrap the picture. She was very gracious about it. Lucky for me, shortly after noon on Christmas day, the doorbell rang. There was our favorite now-ex-postmaster with a big ‘ol box in his hands. Luckily, he’d seen it come in at the last minute and dropped it off on his way home.

So with Christmas just…gulp…two weeks away, I’ll admit there is one thing I miss  — shopping on Christmas Eve in a busy mall. Okay, I realize this flies in the face of everything I’ve just said, so I should clarify. Actually, I guess it would be “not shopping”. We used to go to people watch on Christmas Eve, back when the Lima Mall still had the fountain in the center, back when Lazarus (now Macy’s) had the talking tree.

Who remembers this?We’d stop at the tree and let the girls chat for awhile. Then we’d head to the fountain, where we’d sit and snicker at the loonies rushing from store to store, looking for the last-minute “perfect” gift. Now, the tree and the fountain are gone and it’s just no fun to stand against the wall to watch.

Anyone know of any good Christmas Eve-shopping-people-watching sites on the Internet? Grab a cup of hot tea, a comfy chair, and enjoy the madness.

The cat who would be Queen

Peaches the cat, AKA The Queen, has done it again. At nearly 20 years of age, she has successfully proven that she still has the upper hand. Or the upper mouth, to be more specific.

Over the years, she has done a fairly decent job of being a cat, despite her tendency toward suggesting she is, in fact, human. Periodically, she chases down birds and rabbits, and deposits them like peace offerings on the front porch. On those days, she stands guard over her catch, meowing loudly to announce that she has done her catly duty.

Her first rabbit offering sent first one, then another, and finally a third, female gagging and stumbling onto the couch, at which time a certain male was summoned to dispose of her catch. She seemed a bit irked by our refusal to place a crown on her head, but dutifully went about formulating her next plan of attack.

Peaches in a rare mellow mood

Just for the record, I’d like to once more make it clear that I do not particularly like cats. Kittens, yes. If only they’d stay kittens. And again, I’m going to blame the addition of Peaches to the household on the Elder Daughter. Soon after we moved into this house almost 20 years ago, the cat showed up and we found Lindsay surreptitiously offering Kitty a bowl of milk. We all know what happens when one does that. So okay, the cat stayed and she’s still with us. She’s had more than her share of nine lives.

Anyway, a few years ago, she began showing signs of anxiety — in the form of loud, mournful howls. She’d stand outside the front door, bellowing until someone would let her in. Instead of hightailing it for the basement, her inside home, she would stalk through the house releasing an increasingly loud howl.

Off she went to the vet, who pronounced her in perfect health except for a bit of anxiety and/or dementia. Hence the howling. Little pink pills (dubbed “Kitty Prozac” by a certain family member) were dispensed. One a day should do the job. Easier said than done. We probably went through five pills before one finally went down her extremely angry throat. And yes, we’ve tried everything…hidden it in cheese and/or peanut butter, begged, cajoled, and… my personal favorite, one person to hold the cat still while the other risk life and limb to shove the pill to the back of her throat while blowing in her face to make her swallow. Here’s the problem. She has extremely sharp teeth and very strong jaws. It’s just not a pretty picture.

But eventually, we gave her a pill three days in a row, at which time she went into mellow mode and the howling ceased. For awhile. Not a long while, but awhile. Periodically, we yank out the pills and begin the routine over again.

So…last night the howling began. Here’s how loud it is. We can see the neighbors peering out their windows to see who is being persecuted. Then they call to see if she is okay. Read: Please tell your cat to shut up.

We tried. We really tried. We ended up with scratches on our hands and a very hairy pink pill clinging to a tiny bit of peanut butter. She managed to eat the rest of the PB. But guess what? She quit howling. It seems all we have to do now is dangle the pink pills in front of her and she gets the picture.

Good kitty. Good Queen Kitty.





Two girls, a boy and three dogs = happy chaos

Chaos reigns once again in the Steiner abode. Well, actually chaos really only reigns when three dogs are in one room at the same time. And it’s a good chaos, unless you’re worried that one dog will take a bit out of the other. Which, I’ve been told, will happen if one particular dog is without her muzzle.

Hence, we have one dog with muzzle and two muzzle-free. Here’s just a brief visual of how this is working out….or not.

Yesterday morning daughter #1 and her guy, Eric, arrived with both of their dogs, Harvey and Luna. An odd cross between a black lab and a dachshund, Harvey is happy galoot who cheerfully tolerates nearly everything, including being chewed on by a 14-pound Schnauzer. He actually used to live here, so this is really his second home.

Luna, on the other hand, isn’t so cheerful. But that might be because she’s been holed up in the bedroom most of the weekend. Luna is a gangly, three-year-old yellow lab mix, with a certain amount of what Eric’s dad terms “paranoia”. I think he might be right. Actually, she’s a sweet thing until she spies the 14-pound Schnauzer. Ike thinks Luna is just another dog to play with, so he becomes a quivering mass of excitement. This is when the muzzle comes in handy.

So today, Ike gets to go visit Grandma P., where he will be thoroughly spoiled. This will allow Luna to roam our house freely for awhile, and all of us can breathe equally freely. No one will have to run through the house yelling for one or the other dog to stay put.

When daughter #2 arrives tonight, Ike will happily hunker down with her. He’s still a bit miffed that he had to sleep with us (as usual) rather than spending the night with Lindsay, Eric and the other dogs. How do you explain to a dog that one girl, one boy, and three dogs don’t fit on a futon? Actually, I’m not sure how that works with two dogs.

At the moment, all is quiet. Harvey has settled in for a snooze in a sunny spot in the family room, where Eric is reading. Ike is sleeping (don’t tell Grandma) on his new favorite spot…the settee. Lindsay and Luna are sequestered in the bedroom where one is (purportedly) grading papers, and the other is probably sleeping.

Where’s Fred in all this? Where else? In his basement office…maybe working. More likely, he’s using that as a ruse to avoid the fray upstairs.

Now. All. Is. Quiet. What worries me is that saying…something about the “quiet before the storm”.