Deck the halls, now make it disappear

MAYBE IT’S JUST ME, but lately, I get as excited to undecorate after Christmas as I am to decorate right after Thanksgiving. Oh, there have been years where I could barely stand the thought of dragging the “big Santas” up from the storage room, but once I unbox them, I’m always happy I did. And this year, in my new place, they hold a place of prominence I didn’t have in my last house:

My Santas, displayed atop the peninsula that holds the gas fireplace.

A few years ago, I was feeling grouchy in December, and came *thisclose* to just not digging out the Big Santas. Why get them out, I thought, when in three weeks I will have to spend another half-hour putting them away? So I told my kids, and they said, WHAT?? YOU HAVE TO GET THEM OUT!! So I did.

When I was a kid, my mom mandated that the Christmas tree come down on New Year’s Day. Ornaments repacked, gifts put away, all traces of the holiday gone. I remember dreading the chore. It meant the Christmas fun was over, and January’s bleakness had arrived.

Mom? I get it now.

This year’s tree is my first-ever artificial tree. It holds many of our favorite ornaments, collected over the years. It also features two new Christopher Radko ornaments that Seth got for me, since I made sure Curt got the three we had before, to hang on his own tree. I was moved to tears that Seth remembered the name and shopped to find a good deal, and selected two he thought I’d like – a Santa, and a church.

See that red thing on the left? It’s a fancy Christmas tree storage bag. With wheels.

As much as I loved this tree, and as much as I’m dreading going down to the garage to get the storage boxes and lugging them up all 30 steps, then back down again, I’m ready for Christmas to be over. It was a really nice holiday this year, but it punctuated the end of a challenging year – not personally, but for the country. The “WTF IS HAPPENING” vibe persists, at least where I live, and the feeling of watching a slow-motion train wreck and being powerless to stop it wears on even the hardiest soul. I am looking forward to a new year, even if the fresh start is symbolic.

I have always differentiated between Christmas decorations and winter ones. As such, I think I’ll leave this display up for a while:

Silver and red: They aren’t just for Christmas.

And yes, that *is* an as-yet-unpacked moving box that has has there since March, thanks for noticing! But after the tree is stowed away, I’m unpacking that box and placing its contents on that cart to the right. For now, anyway. Until I think of a better idea.

As I write this, there are guys outside with leaf blowers, removing the dusting of snow that fell overnight from the sidewalks out front. I am grateful to be inside, next to my warm gas fireplace, which now works (thanks, Steve!), instead of blowing snow off of my driveway and front walk, which is what I’d have been doing a year ago. The joys of homeownership were many, but so were the annoyances, and snow removal was one of them. In this season of my life, I am grateful for what I had before and even more grateful for what I have today. I have a sense that I am exactly where I need to be at this moment.

Come at me, 2018. I’m ready for you.

Herb gardening in 16 easy steps

With apologies to Chesapeake Bay Woman for ripping off imitating her patented tutorial format, I’d like to present my readers with one of my own.  It’s possible highly likely that you already know way more than I do about growing an herb garden; nevertheless, you might glean a humorous superfluous helpful nugget in my take on

 Container Gardening: Culinary Herbs

 1. Think about how nice it would be to grow and harvest your own herbs. Consider doing it, then forget procrastinate for two  five  eight years.  

2. Make and drink a Mojito, made using mint from a $3 plastic clamshell package.  Fall in love with said Mojito. Think about how many more mojitos you could make if only you had lots of fresh mint in your very own garden. Obsess about Envision this:


3.  Have an epiphany: This year, you WILL grow your own herbs. Be sure to choose a convenient location for your revelation, such as the gardening aisle in The Hundred Dollar Store Target.

4. Impulsively purchase three good sized, terra cotta-look, plastic planters (the ones on sale), two smallish bags of potting soil (whatever fits in your basket), and seed packets for mint, plus two kinds of basil, chives, parsley, cilantro, and rosemary.  Decide against buying those super-cute red plastic garden clogs. Pat self on back for remembering you already own a pair of pristine garden gloves and a trowel, thus preventing the unnecessary outlay of additional cash.

5. Bring items home and deposit them on your carport. Allow them to sit, untouched, for eons until the very end of May. Rationalize your procrastination as an attempt to prevent frost damage to your future seedlings, even though the last frost in Plant Hardiness Zone 7 is almost never later than the end of April. Which was a month ago.

6. Realize you don’t have enough bagged soil or pots for all the seeds you bought. Scrounge up two additional pots from previous failed attempts at horticulture. Take shovel into the woods out back and dig up some dirt.

7. Remember that you have been diligently placing kitchen scraps into a compost bin for seven years but have never actually used the compost for gardening. Decide that there’s no time like the present to mix some compost into the dirt.

8. Approach the compost bin with a pitchfork. Realize that the idea of composting is much more attractive than the reality of it. Ew! Nevertheless, push aside crushed egg shells, rotting broccoli stems and decomposing lime rinds to get to the good stuff underneath.

9. Fill the pots two-thirds full of the dirt-compost mixture. Bring them back to the patio. Open and drink a Diet Pepsi. Chat with Former Neighbor Dave, who drops by for a quick visit.

10. Open the bags of potting soil and place some in each of the pots.

11. Finally! Time for the seeds. Open the packets and scatter the seeds on the dirt. Ignore the instructions on each packet advising you to start seeds indoors 8-10 weeks before planting. Mentally calculate the possibility that you won’t have fresh herbs until the first frost in the fall, which, in Plant Hardiness Zone 7, could be as early as the end of September, well after the end of Mojito Season.

12. Top with more potting soil and water. Label the pots so you will be able to tell the cilantro from the Italian flat-leaf parsley when they begin to sprout at the end of the germination period, listed on the seed packages as 10-14 months weeks days.

13. While you’re busy ignoring key details, choose also to ignore the fact that you may as well live in a cave for all the direct sunlight your heavily-treed lot receives. Consider indoor grow-lights as an alternative, then quickly reject that as a sure invitation to unwelcome visits from The Authorities.

14. Consider, too, that you have no elevated surface on which to place the pots, thus leaving them at the exact height of most critters’ mouths. Daydream about buying a charming rustic potting bench from Smith & Hawken, then do more mental math to figure out how many packages of already grown and harvested store-bought herbs you could buy (approximately 80) for the price of a Smith & Hawken potting bench.


15. Resolve to stop by K-Mart’s Garden Shop on the way home to buy a few more herbs– already started — and another pot, so you don’t have to wait until Halloween for your first homegrown Mojito.

16. Further resolve to look into whether it’s possible to grow lime trees in Maryland, which is in Plant Hardiness Zone 7.


Slow news week

After the excitement of last week, this week’s events – or lack thereof – were disappointing, in that they failed to provide the same kind of ready-made material about which to write.  This week can be summed up in two words:


Evidently, I was not the only one having a slow news week.  I still subscribe to the weekly newspaper from “back home” , and it usually contains plenty of stories that remind me why I moved away keep me informed with the events in my rural county.

This week was no exception. When my copy of the newspaper landed in my mailbox, I was spied this headline on page A-1, above the fold:


FORMER resident? That caught my eye. The story describes how a recent widow and her four children won a home makover contest from a local television station.  A more deserving family you’d be hard-pressed to find. But what tickled me is that, while the woman grew up in the county, she moved away twenty years ago.  So yeah, it’s a nice story, and I’m super-glad she won the contest, but I wonder why the newspaper chose a story about a former resident its feature piece this week.

oak2Today it did NOT rain, so we spent most of it making the outside appear as people do, in fact, live here and, even better, give a sheet about the property.  Curt mowed the grass and I swept those fluffy thingies that fall from oak trees off of the front walk… which turned out to be an exercise in futility, because they just… keep… falling. And, with thousands hundreds scores of oak trees on our lot? It’s a losing battle.

Then I made Curt hook up the power washer and I set to work on the back patio.  Picture me, operating a loud, exhaust-spewing, 6-horsepower internal combustion engine, forcing water through the hose at an astonishing, dirt-blasting 2,300 PSI! I banished years of black dirt off of the concrete in excruciatingly tedious, back-and-forth strokes with highly-pressurized water.  Then, because my hand wasn’t yet permanently maintaining its trigger-grip position, I attacked the wooden furniture, removing years from its appearance, too. Eureka! Shazam! Everything old is new again!

My family can consider themselves warned. I’m threatening to enforce hygiene on my children and the dog, measured not in gallons of water but pounds-per-square-inch.  And one day? If no one’s at home? I might just drag the gasoline-powered machine inside and set to work on my squalid kitchen floor.

Let it never be said that I don’t know how to have a good time.  If you say internal combustion engine, I say FUN!