Thursday, April 29, 2010

Writer's Cramp & Green Thumb

It's been another busy week, and it might look like I'm slacking off on the writing. But I'm not! I have a deadline approaching for the magazine, and have picked up some freelance writing for a few web sites. I'm excited. We'll see how it goes -- I have to get through writing a couple "newbie" articles first.

You'd think that planting dozens of flats of begonias and other plants would make me not want to tend to my own flowerbeds at home. Wrong. On my day off, I popped into a local greenhouse to get some color for my whiskey barrel and patio. I couldn't help it. I had to.

Purple and pink is the theme this year. Big surprise, right?

I got ambitious, trying a few new things for hanging baskets and patio containers this year. Joyce gave me a herd of clay pots for my birthday, and I'm working to fill them up and put them on the patio. It's starting to look really cool out there. More shots will come once stuff starts to bloom. So far, the new things I've planted are some dahlia bulbs, a Sun Patiens (impatiens for the sun...gorgeous but doesn't look anything like an impatiens), a basket of gypsophila, silver falls dichondra and an ivy geranium, and some vinca. I might have gone a little overboard?

The flowerbeds are pretty low-maintenance. This year, I've tried to "weed out" the morning glories and four o'clock mix, because they literally choke out the rest of the garden (I barely saved my Clematis from the morning glory last summer). I've planted some simple wildflower mix seeds in various spots, plus the zinnia standby. The coneflowers are doing really well, spreading throughout the front bed. I can't wait for everything to bloom -- it's a riot of color.

I have a touch of my grandma in my garden. There are a few hollyhocks growing in the west bed -- cultivated by seeds taken from her hollyhocks on the edge of Heron Lake. And then I'm babying along a Jackmanii Clematis. She had a fabulous, huge purple clematis at the Heron Lake house that I loved. I hope mine looks as nice as hers someday.

Can't wait for summer!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

I have eau de wet dog in the house this morning. While I could light my new Heirloom Rose candle (the only thing I can afford at Pottery Barn!), I'm letting it go for now. We finally got the rain that has been threatening for several days. And of course I had an outdoor activity planned.

My table looked like this yesterday:

Since I sold so many horseshoes in the past week or so, I needed to increase inventory for this weekend's Spring Fling in Stella. While I only have five finished horseshoes to take with me, I'm hoping to get some custom orders and maybe even sell a few more. That is, if it stops raining. I'm watching the radar, and the rain blob is ever-so-slowly moving east!

If all else fails, I can always pick out a recipe from my new Pioneer Woman cookbook and do some high-caloric baking. The cinnamon rolls are pretty tempting.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Busy, Busy

It's turned into a crazy-busy week: work, migraine, work, writing, custom horseshoe orders. I love being so busy, but I'm definitely going to need a lot of coffee tomorrow morning.

Some new horseshoes -- these are three custom pieces I finished in the past week:

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Wonderful, Wonderful Wizard....

This weekend, I got to see the national production of the Wizard of Oz -- in Springfield. I had great seats with my friends Joyce and Liam. And the best part was that the play was interpreted.
It's been years since I've been to a play. The last one I can remember attending was a Christmas Carol at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis -- and I think I was in high school then.

Since then, theater sets have changed a lot. The Oz performance, which was at the Juanita Hammons Hall, was amazing. Instead of the old school background sets, the background was created by a fancy-schmancy projector. Everything came to life, from the Kansas tornado that swept Dorothy away to Munchkinland, to the Yellow Brick Road and the sparkling green stars over Emerald City.

"Snickers," as Toto stole the show. What a well-trained dog -- this Scottie was a pro, trotting on and off the sides of the curtain, sitting next to Dorothy while she sang "Over the Rainbow," and being toted around in her arms.

The play was interpreted by a team of interpreters. I did not catch their names, but I definitely hope to see them in action again. I've never seen two interpreters team up to sign anything before, and it took me a little while to adjust.

Can't wait to see what productions Hammons Hall and the Walton Arts Center plan to present for the next round of plays. I plan to go to as many as my budget and schedule will allow.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Friday Photos

I've been taking a ton of photos lately with the new Nikon. The spring weather has been perfect for experimenting. Today I spent at least an hour going through photos, organizing and deleting, cropping and resizing.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Birthday Fairy

I was visited by the "Birthday Fairy" yesterday. She wasn't too much of a bitch. (The inspiration is thanks to a certain person who sent me the funny card.)

It was a good day. I don't feel as old as my age, thankfully. I got a few treasured birthday hugs, lots of emails, my Facebook page was swamped with greetings, and I got to spend time with some of my favorite people! I even got a home-cooked meal, courtesy of Stephanie, with about a dozen college kids who made me feel, well, old.

A free birthday frappucino at Starbucks. Caramel, if you must know. If you have a Starbucks gift card, (thanks, Joni!) you can get a free drink of your choice at Starbucks! They don't check or anything -- at least at the one we went to -- so I wonder if this could be something I could try more than once a year? Just kidding.

Stephanie treated me to a dee-lish cupcake at Rick's Bakery in Fayetteville today. I couldn't decide between a wedding cake cupcake, a kamikaze brownie or a carrot cake cupcake. The cream-cheese frosting on the latter won out.
Sorry for the "quality" -- my camera phone isn't quite up to par when compared to other photos.

Plus, I got to spend some time playing with the camera in a pasture of horses. This shot's my favorite:

The birthday celebration will continue through part of the weekend. I'm off to see the Wizard on Saturday with Liam & Joyce.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Llama Llove

Believe it or not, I've never really been around llamas before. Sure, I've seen them from afar and read about them, but never actually petted one. I know they are good guard animals for a herd of goats. I know they spit when they are angry. And that is about the sum of my llama knowledge.

Then on Sunday I got to meet Thunderbolt.

This guy is the newest addition at the Hamiltons' farm. Is he cute or what? He is a bit of a shy fella around strangers, but I plan to win him over -- and probably take a few more pictures once he befriends me.

I didn't know llamas came in a spotted version. Until I saw Thunderbolt. Doesn't he look soft and huggable.

I didn't know they "hummed."

I had to look them up on Wikipedia to find out more. A baby llama is called a cria. Llamas have an attached tongue, which means they can't stick their tongue out to lick other animals (or you!).

Watch for more pictures once he settles in at his new home.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Chicago Recap

Chicago was, in one word, awesome. It was a girls' weekend to remember. I'm already looking at the calendar (and the budget) to see when I can go back.

I flew into O'Hare in the middle of the afternoon, then navigated my way to the Blue Line from O'Hare to the Clinton stop in downtown Chicago. It's amazing how so much of the train system in Chicago is not handicap-accesible -- at least on the route I traveled. There are stairs. LOTS of stairs, which are not for the faint of heart.

I found Union Station without a misstep (we won't talk about the poor guy I almost tripped with my rolling suitcase) and even got the express train to Lisle & Brenda's house. She hid a house key for me in a super top-secret spot so I could get into the house while she was at work. Lucky for me, her dogs love me and I got a tail-waggin' greeting from Sugar the pit bull and Hooch the french mastiff!

Sure, this might be too much detail, but this country mouse is proud that she didn't get lost in the Windy City! I guess you can take the girl out of the city but you can't take the city out of the girl.

One of the highlights of the trip was this smiling face:

We took a field trip to the Chicago Botanic Garden and wandered through the greenhouses and gardens. It was a beautiful day and we had a very relaxing time. I loved this purple flower -- it was surreal and the color could not quite be captured on camera! I need to find some seeds or seedlings of this flower.

After the relative calmness of the Botanic Garden, we decided to do something off-the-wall for our Girls Night Out.

We went to Medieval Times.

Yes, with wenches, knights, jousting, princes, horses and cheering. It was dinner theater with horses.

There was also a visit with the Easter Bunny at the country club on Sunday:

I got a city fix, times ten. I made a few trips to my beloved Caribou Coffee for a cup of happiness. Stopped counting calories and indulged in Chicago deep-dish pizza, sushi, chocolate-chip-blueberry pancakes, the best dessert ever at Stir Crazy, and a few martinis. (Not all at one sitting.) I also became addicted to chocolate Cheerios.

I also got to see a movie. In the theater. With captions. It's been about eight years since I've been to a movie theater with captions. I think seeing a movie in the theater is going to become a girls weekend tradition!

Thanks to Brenda & Sophia & Sara for a fabulous time. I can't wait until the next one!

Monday, April 5, 2010

still on Chicago time

It's still the weekend for me!
I've had an absolutely great time up here in Chicagoland. Tons of girlfriend time. Great food. Too many desserts.Pink Peeps.A visit to the Chicago Botani Garden. And Costco. Easter brunch & an egg hunt that garnered me $4. A few drinks. Great movies (even two in the theater!). Lots of giggles with sweet little Sophia. Cuddles with Hooch and Sugar. Shopping. And more.

I'm enjoying one last round at Starbucks & then heading back to Brenda's for a relaxing evening. The journey via train, plane & car starts Tuesday morning. Catch you later!

Thursday, April 1, 2010


Hello from Chicago! No, it's not an April Fool's joke. I've been looking forward to this trip for about 2 months. It's finally here!

As usual, I got to the airport way too early. After an uneventful flight (which means I only had sweaty palms and heart palpitations during takeoff & landing), I worked my way to the Blue Line at O'Hare, got off the subway at the right station, lugged my suitcase up flights & flights of stairs. And then yet another flight to get up to street level & sunshine! After a quick detour into Potbelly Sandwich Works, I made it to Union Station. No problem for this country chick.

I only tripped one person, and only took one wrong turn. Now I'm sitting on the Metra train, waiting to depart Union Station for Lisle. Once there, it's a leisurely stroll to Brenda's house, where she has a key hidden for me in a super-duper top-secret location. There's a pit bull and a French mastiff in the house, but they know me, so I'm expecting some big, stinky doggy lovoing while we wait for Bee and Ms. Sophia to get home.
Ciao for now!