Spring is starting to Sprout

Winter has been rather mild here in New York. We had a freak snowstorm in late October, but that was about it.

I planted a bunch of bulbs in October, almost as soon as they arrived. And I worried about them when they started to send up green shoots three weeks later.

But now it’s almost March, and things look promising so far.

I also planted some astilbe, and I think they sort of look like hyacinth so far.

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The Christmas of the Sick

1981. Toronto. I didn’t get to finish the gingerbread house I was making with my classmates.

Why? My entire family had been felled by the flu. All of us. It was a very vomitty Christmas.

My mom comes home from various trips with some illness or skin outbreak. Lately, my thing is to get sick on major holidays.

2011. Da Bronx. Our house looks more like an infirmary than a home with tissue boxes and endless cups of tea everywhere. It was a very phlegmy Christmas.

Chris’ parents had been sick the week before. Then Chris started to complain of a sore throat. By Christmas Eve, he was not feeling any better, so off we went to the ER.

The doctor asked him if he was experiencing any hoarseness of the voice. Considering he sounded like Pablo Francisco/Don LaFontaine (he does a lot of the movie trailer narrations), the look on his face was incredulous: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y9pAv-z2ens

I was felled on Christmas Eve night. I felt like a ton of bricks hit me. I don’t really remember Christmas Day. I think I slept a lot, drank a lot of tea and watched back to back episodes of Mad Men. I think I slept for a lot of Monday too.

Yesterday I realized I’d had enough of this being sick business and went to my doctor. It is the oddest thing, but whenever I actually need to see my actual doctor for an illness I always get the partner in her practice. Which is fine. Cuz at least I’m being seen.

No. I don’t have strep. But I do have a very nasty sinus infection. What’s interesting about this particular infection is that a lot of the congestion I have is draining. Somewhere. On occasion I feel it in my nose and it does not want to come out. I’m on a course of antibiotics.

But I’m really sick of being sick. And I’m sick of tea.

I hope everyone has a happy and healthy New Year!

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Oh, Leopold. I miss you so.

Leopold. The bestest cat.

Leopold. I adopted Leo when I was 15. My brother had just left for college and I wanted a pet. He was the only kitten left at the ASPCA in Manhattan. We had seen other kittens at other adoption centers, but Leo was the one.

Leo was full of energy in his cell. We looked at the other cats up for adoption, but we kept going back to Leo. Leo probably didn’t care. He was more interested into getting up over the fence of his cell and falling onto a more mature cat snoozing next door. I’m serious! At one point he climbed his fence that separated their cells, was hanging upside down from the top, and was just about to land on the older cat when the attendant caught him.

He meowed in his cardboard crate in the cab all the way home. I felt sorry for both Leo and the cab driver. Then he skulked around the apartment, head low, tail lower while he sniffed out his new surroundings. He never meowed after that unless he was on the way to the vet!

As I said, he was a very active kitten. We played a little roughly with him only because well, he was cute and we found the ferocity with which he “played” very endearing. We actually used to play tag. He would chase me out of the bathroom and “tag” me on the ankle, I would chase him into the bathroom and “tag” him on his head. He so wanted to catch the shiny bell on the really long string that he would wind up panting with exhaustion afterward. Once dad had a pile of maps on the floor. Poldy came running down the hall, leapt onto the map and went skiing across the floor. And he did it over and over again.

Leo bit. Not hard, at least, well, most of the time he didn’t bite hard. He got mom once bad enough she had to go to the emergency room. It took some time for her to forgive him. He bit me once hard enough and I chased him around the apartment with a water sprayer. The following morning he approached so tentatively it was comical.

He never scratched, though. He did not ruin furniture. He actually loved his scratching post, especially when it was liberally covered in cat nip. Oh my did he ever look stoned when he was on the nip. When he did “scratch” it was so subtle, on the sofa, that it became clear he just wanted our attention. “Scritch. Scratch. Scratch.” He wanted his treats. Once, while using his scratching post, his nail got caught in one of the carpet loops. Dad was working at home that day, busily giving some poor receptionist a hard time about something or other when he turned around to find Poldy waiting for him patiently, his leg still stuck to the scratching post–which he had dragged in all the way from the living room.

He was no lap cat. He didn’t meow unless he was at the vet’s. But he liked being in our company, and often joined us on the couch as we watched television. He especially liked to sit on the newspaper on the couch. He also liked sitting on the newspaper (or my textbooks) on the kitchen table. And of course it was always on the page I happened to be reading or working on at the time. Poldy often liked to sleep at the foot of the bed, but more often he would wedge himself between my feet–which made rolling over a bit complicated. That’s when I learned to sleep with my feet sticking out of the covers.

If you couldn’t tell, Leo was a marmalade colored cat. He blended in well with the hardwood floors, especially in full sunlight.

One evening, long after Leo had left us for better pastures, I mistook a piece of kraft paper that was on the floor for Leopold. It was just the right size and almost the right color in that light.

I miss you, Poldy.

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While Chris was away . . .

I was at play in the kitchen.

I have always wanted to make cinnamon rolls. It was a lot easier than I thought it would be, just very time consuming since you have to let the dough rise twice.

Whaddya think?

My first attempt at, erm, cinnamon triangles.

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Something in my garden bloomed. Goddammit!

I planted these at the end of May and they have finally blossomed. Everything else, aside the Freesia, remained dormant or did nothing at all.

But I can grow something from scratch! So there!

A Mexican Shell Flower. A little beaten up by Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene.

Reddish Mexican Shell Flower bloomed this morning.

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We were in Floridaaaaaahhhhh. . .

We are just back from Florida, where despite the heat and humidity we had a really good time. It helps that Florida understands central air conditioning.

We departed from White Plains airport. The airfare, with a connection flight in Atlanta, was too cheap to pass up. The airport itself in White Plains is such a rinky dink little place. They don’t have gates. They have doors! And you have to walk on the tarmac to get to your plane. . . . The waiting room isn’t much bigger than your standard McDonald’s dining area.

We stayed at a Residence Inn in Orlando. Between the two of us, Chris and I had earned enough Thank You points to cover the cost of the hotel. In the end, I owed the hotel a measly $2.72.  It was a huge 2 bedroom room with a kitchen and 2 bathrooms. (Which is important when a certain someone often spends upwards of 20 minutes in the loo.)

First up was a trip to Aquatica, a water park run by Sea World. The very first feature we went to was Roa’s Rapids. Which is totally awesome. The first time we went, as we entered the rapid we passed people exiting. They were laughing and screaming. The rapids are very fast. It’s about 40 inches deep or so, and lifejackets are available for non/weak swimmers.  Off you go! Your feet might be on the bottom, but you probably look like you’re skiing underwater. Stick to the edges and the jets will propel you a little faster.

And then. Then you decide you’re a little tired and you want to get out of Roa’s Rapids. There are 2 exits/entrances. First you have to remember if you want to get out where you came in. If that’s not the case, no matter. But if so, you may need to swing around the circuit one more time. You spot the exit. Get ready. Grab your mate and/or child and plant your feet firmly on the bottom. Link arms! It’s time to look like Cubans coming to shore (in Florida!). You start laughing and screaming, just like the people you noticed laughing and screaming as you were entering. Now you know why they were laughing and screaming. You can’t get out!

The first time we went a few years ago, we were struggling to get out when Chris let go of Monika’s hand. Monika and I had made it safely to shore. I sighed. “We have to back in to get your dad!”

We also went to La Nouba, a Cirque du Soleil show in Downtown Disney. Very good show. A little less kid-oriented than their usual touring productions (this is a permanent production), but still very entertaining.

Universal Studios was on our list for the next two days. Listen to me. This is key. If you have a multi-day/two park ticket: Go at 3 or 4 in the afternoon. At that time, most people are getting ready to leave, they’re fed up with exiting into gift shops and getting trapped in them for 15 minutes or longer. The lines are shorter AND it’s less hot.

Harry Potter Ride Was Fun . . . the look on Monika's face says it all!

Don’t forget that most areas of Florida are having torrential downpours at around 3 p.m.–this is another reason people are leaving.

After three days of fun in Orlando, down we went to Siesta Key Beach, the #1 beach this year (according to Dr. Beach). We had been two years ago and really enjoyed our time there and decided to go back. The sand is white, and it is so soft it’s like walking in flour. The water was warm and gentle. Ug, so amazing.

Beautiful white sand of Siesta Key Beach . . .

We stayed here, as we had the previous time: www.siestakeysuites.com

Our accomodations in Siesta Key were very comfortable and large. Fully stocked kitchen (in terms of instruments, not ingredients), beach towels, beach umbrella, chairs, etc. 2 pools to use. Central air conditioning. It was a little lonely there, though. We were the only ones in the compound.

Sorry for the vanilla update, but we just enjoyed ourselves immensely. It was nice to relax for two days on the beach.

But let me tell you about our rental car.

I was so excited when we got to the rental lot. We could choose any car from our rental category. There stood the new Fiat 500! I squealed, I clapped my hands. I got into the driver’s seat. I promptly got out.

“What’s the matter?” Chris asked.

“Oh, the rear window is like looking through a mail box slot. Blind spots galore!”

From there we argued over our remaining choices. I wanted a Nissan hatchback Versa, but there were none. Chris wanted a Ford Fiesta, but there were none. Our remaining choices: Chevrolet Aveo, Hyundai Accent and Toyota Yaris.

I’ve never driven an Accent and the Aveo just looked ridiculous beyond belief. So I was pro Accent. Chris and Monika loudly outvoted me for the Yaris.

The Yaris. Ah, the Yaris.

We spent five minutes looking for the button inside the car to open the trunk. Chris finally realized, *gasp*, we had to use the key. The trunk is extremely tiny. It is designed for paper grocery bags and at most would hold 4 of them. 5 if the bags are not fully packed.

Then we got in the car. And I spent another five minutes looking for the buttons or joystick to adjust the sideview mirrors. We then concluded that I had to roll down the window (yes, roll down the window!) to manually adjust the mirror!

Turned on the car, played with the windshield wipers (First thing I do always, ever since Mom panicked in a rental car on a foggy evening and couldn’t locate the vent switch or the wipers). Left the lot. We were a few miles into our road trip when I realized “This thing doesn’t have cruise control!”

Chris was willing to give the Yaris a chance. But I hated it instantly. This is a $13,000+ vehicle for the base model. Which clearly we were driving.

The Nissan Versa Sedan (I prefer the hatchback, but let’s talk base models) costs less than $11,000 for the base model. I drove this car in Arizona during my trip to the Grand Canyon with mom. Driving along at an average of 70 mph with cruise control and the ac on full blast we managed 39 mpg on the highway. Which is pretty terrific.

The Yaris we drove, on average, 75 mph with no cruise control and ac on blast and we averaged 30 mpg highway.

The Versa hatchback is a heavier car with a larger gas tank, greater horsepower and torque than the Yaris. It costs less and yet, ourperforms the Yaris.

Chris hates the Versa, so it annoys him greatly that the Versa is a better vehicle.

Did I mention that the console (spedometer, odometer, gas gauge etc) was in the center of the dash of the Yaris? It’s also incredibly noisy in the cabin. We had shouting conversations.

At one point, during a torrential downpour (it’s not rain unless the rain drops you see on the pavement are the size of tennis balls), we were sitting at a red light with the wipers on full speed. Chris and I both looked at each other at the same time, “Are the wipers shaking the car?”

I’ve never been so happy to return a rental car in my life. Even Chris voiced his unhappiness to the rental agent. If I have one good thing to say about this car: it would be the drug dealer’s favorite car. It has pockets and compartments everywhere.

Read this web page for proof that the Versa is superior to the Yaris:

http://www.motortrend.com/roadtests/hatchbacks/1006_ford_fiesta_honda_fit_toyota_yaris_nissan_versa_comparison/viewall.html

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My Demilitarized Zone . . . or lack thereof

The one plant I really wanted in the backyard was a peony plant. The yard could be bald and riddled with weeds as long as I had my peony plant. I didn’t care if it was pink when I really wanted red. I didn’t care if it was a double bloom when I really wanted a single bloom, like a Japanese variety. I just wanted some kind of peony in my yard.

Spring came about and lo and behold, the local Home Depot was actually selling roots. I bought a bag that contained three. Two of them did not look promising, but the 3rd I actually planted. I honestly did not expect anything to happen. The directions that came with the roots were minimal at best. “Insert into ground. Add water. Wait.”

About six weeks later, to my astonishment, small green shoots had sprouted. It was May at that point and I figured this would be a long and slow transformation. I knew that it was not going to produce blooms for me this year, not even next year. Beauty takes time!

I took my boyfriend into the yard and pointed at the peony root and its rather pathetic looking green sprout poking out of the earth.

“Dearest,” said I. [Okay, I didn’t say that. I probably called him “Babe.”]  “I know this looks like nothing, this stumpy thing. But it’s a peony root I planted. And these are its shoots. Do not mistake it for a weed, because it isn’t.” I waved my hands around the sprout emphatically. Le boyfriend considered it for a few moments, stuck out his lower lip in deep thought. “Okay.”

Last week in a gardening fury in which weeds came to rapid and violent uprootings, Le boyfriend was also hard at work in the yard. I forget exactly what he was doing. The sod had already been laid down and I was weeding. I think he was obsessing, really. He was being annoying so I stayed out of his path as I murdered more weeds.

The following day I went to check on my peony. I checked on it every few days to gauge its progress. It hadn’t done much else beyond the one little sprouting but I was encouraged. Out I went into the yard to check on it and I had to stifle a scream in my throat. The pathetic little sprout had been violently yanked out of the soil and left, heartlessly, next to the little root stump from whence it came.

I actually broke down and cried. I was really upset. Idiot boyfriend expressed his regret that he was only trying to help. “Leave the weeds to me!” I poked him in the chest with each syllable.

I gently put the sprouts back into the soil in the hope they might re-root. I’d say its chances are slim.

This weekend the project involved removing the fence. Again, I stayed away from this project. When Chris gets into a project he can be a mean SOB. Best thing to do is steer clear.

I stepped into the yard to admire the finished job and nearly screamed again. The fence had been rolled up and dumped on top of the sprouts that had been yanked out the week before. That I had replanted. With the hope it would spring again.

My idiot boyfriend is an herbicidist. Plantacidist. You get the drift. He is a plant murderer.

My yard apparently needs to be marked up to look like a Demilitarized Zone. North and South Korea. The Gaza Strip. Contested land!

Emily's Platoon is in Position

Since I don’t have expensive and sophisticated photo manipulation software, you’ll have to look at this long and hard to see the pathetic little sprout being protected by my platoon. This is the sprout after a heavy fence had been dumped on it.

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