Friday, August 31, 2012

Another Daniel Update

I won't make you wait ... I'll just come right out and say it ... shout it, actually ...

Daniel is doing AWESOME!

In case you don't know what I'm talking about, here's a quick summary.  Daniel is our eleven-year-old greyhound.  In late July, he was diagnosed with low-level T-cell lymphoma of the spleen.  (Click HERE to read my first post about this).  He is being treated with chemotherapy (CCNU) and prednisone, and he has responded perfectly.  (The update I wrote after his first chemotherapy dose is HERE.)
Along with his cancer, a big concern for me has been his loss of weight while he's been sick.  He is so thin.  Since his first chemo treatment, I run him across the scale at my vet's office once a week to keep a close eye on it  ... my normally 70-pound dog bottomed out at 58.2 pounds when I weighed him on August 15.  (That's three pounds less than he weighed when he had his first chemotherapy treatment.)  He has a great appetite, and will eat anything I put in front of him, but he was still not regaining any of his weight.
"Is breakfast ready, Mom?"
August 20 was our appointment for a follow up with his oncologist and his second chemotherapy treatment.  Upon examination, Dr. Sheafor pronounced that Daniel's spleen is now "dramatically and palpably smaller" (her words) than it was when she saw him three weeks before.  She reassured me about his weight loss ... she theorizes that it was probably the reduction in the volume of the cancer in his spleen that accounts for most of it.  I was over-the-moon excited when she told me this.
"What's that?"
Our weight check this week revealed that Daniel now weighs 62.2 pounds ... that's a four pound gain within two weeks!  He is still really thin, but that's okay because he is going the right direction and he should soon be back to a better weight.
Our happy, active Daniel is back.  He has a spring in his step, a boyish twinkle in his eyes, and he has the energy to run and play again. 
Thank you for all of the wonderful messages that so many of you have sent asking about Daniel.  It is wonderful to report that he is fantastic, and I can't hardly stop smiling about it.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

One Thing Leads to Another

Do you know that you can see what Pinterest folks are pinning from your web site or blog?  (or any web site, for that matter)  The URL to use is:"insert-web-site-URL-minus-the-www-stuff

To see what has been pinned from my blog, the link would be:

What you get when you go there is a page that shows everything that's been pinned from the site, by whom, and who has repinned or commented or liked the pins. 

Like this:

Most of the time, people pin photos of my furniture or building projects.  Sometimes I see that they have pinned photos of my roses.  My most popular photo, as you can see, is the post where I detailed how to use Annie Sloan's clear and dark waxes on my big blue dresser. 
What I noticed yesterday is that someone pinned photos of Lu-Ray Pastels dinnerware that I took at the DC Big Flea.  She titled her Board "Lu-Ray Love", so knew that I had a fellow Lu-Ray fanatic on my hands, and I clicked through to see what else she had on that Board.  (I find the best stuff for my own pin boards this way!!)
This person appears to be a recent Lu-Ray collector, and she has been quite busy, pinning dozens of images from sources all over the 'Net.  As I scrolled down, I found another one of my photos ... this one was our cherry china cabinet, filled with a portion of my own Lu-Ray collection.
She didn't pin it from my blog, though.  It came from a Google search, and the link-back was to  It's definitely mine ... I'd know my own china cabinet anywhere.  The provenance of the photo won't get lost, thought, no matter where it came from, because I insure the safety every photo that I publish online by applying a watermark.
There have been one or two comments recently from Anonymous folks complaining about my watermark, saying that it's distracting and takes away from my photos.  Perhaps it does, a little bit.  When I edit my photos, I always adjust the opacity so the watermark is almost transparent to try to help with this ... like on my hummingbird photo from last week.
Because my watermark is always on my photos, I don't worry that folks are pinning and re-pinning my images.  In fact, I am extremely flattered that anyone would take the time to search out things that I have published and that they like what they find enough to pin it to use later.
So, Folks, feel free to pin whatever you find here that you like.
Speaking of pinning ... Do you have favorite people that you follow on Pinterest?  I always love seeing what my rose friend, Carolyn Parker, is pinning.  (warning:  don't click that link unless you have LOTS of time to spend.  Carolyn's boards are gorgeous!)
Want to see what I have on my Pin Boards?  Click HERE.  (In response to a suggestion by a kind reader, I have added a Pinterest button to the top of my sidebar.)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A New Project

Right after I run around telling everyone that I need to simplify life and take on fewer projects (and concentrate on finishing the ones I have in process), I take on a whopper of a new project ... managing a top-to-bottom renovation of this place. 

For the past year, The Husband and I have been buying houses to renovate and rent.  This is our latest one ... a very tired house in a very good location.  The interior, in particular, has been subject to a bit of abuse ... but I can see past all of that.  
I'm not doing the actual work on this myself ... there's WAY too much to do and it's much better to hire professionals because this house needs a LOT of work.  Fortunately, a contractor friend of mine was available, and I trust him to do a fantastic job on it.  Within the next two weeks, this house will go from three bedrooms to four, and get a completely new kitchen.  We are also repairing all the drywall and old water damage, painting EVERYTHING, remodeling the master bathroom (water damage, ugh.), freshening the powder room and upstairs hall bath, and laying new flooring on the whole first floor.
Did you notice the lone plant in the landscape?
One rose bush in a bed in front of the porch, actually thriving despite being choked by Bermuda grass.  Look at those spotless leaves!  Whatever rose this is, it's a nice one, and I'll dig it up and keep it for myself.   
It feels great to be working a real renovation project again!!  I have a shopping list, and I have been making good use of the Habitat ReStore locations nearby to get lighting, plumbing, mirrors, etc.  As of yesterday, the house looked as bad as I think it's going to look ... kitchen cabinets and old appliances gone,  the flooring removed, walls dotted and patched with tape and mud, bathrooms deconstructed ... I guess this means that there's nowhere to go now but UP.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

iPad Photos

You know that I have been working to find a reliable way to blog on my iPad.  I think I almost have it figured out enough to do a tutorial ... stay tuned.  In the meantime, I love the fact that the iPad takes awesome photos!  It's usually sitting around near where I am, so if something cute or interesting happens, I just have to pick it up and click off a couple of photos. 

Here are some photos that I have taken over the past few days.  Each of them is edited only to reduce the size (down to 640x480), add my watermark, and sharpen ... no color correcting or brightness adustments.

I have been working hard to eliminate some of the clutter and chaos in our house.  We have too much stuff, and I will be going room by room to reorganize what's in there that I do need and get rid of whatever I don't.  I started in the dining room.  I found a place for everything that belonged there, and everything else was piled onto the table ... to be sorted and taken to other parts of the house or donated.  Alice and Dorothy decided that this green basket should find a new life as a cat bed.

Speaking of Alice ... last week I received a box of roses in the mail.  She waited patiently while I unpacked the box, then she sat there and gnawed on the leaves when she thought I wasn't looking.  Bad kitty!
Yesterday afternoon, I came inside and found this scene.  All five of our critters were snoozing peacefully together in various spots in the family room.  (No artful staging in this room, as you can see.)
The tree crew finished removing most of the two damaged oak trees in our front yard, and they used a stump grinder on the stumps.  I'm still in a bit of shock over the loss.  We had the workers leave some large pieces behind, and I hope to contact someone with a portable sawmill to cut the pieces into boards.  Perhaps some of the wood can continue on as something useful ... I'm aiming for a dining table top ... we'll see.
To help me get over the situation with our trees in the front yard, I find that I concentrate more on the view from the back of the house ... especially the view of my shade garden, with the pavilion and our huge pecan tree.  Looking at this scene, in morning light, is really soothing.
Ruby eats a lot faster than Daniel does.  To help slow her down, she gets her meals in one of those special bowls with obstacles that she has to eat around ... but she still finishes before Daniel.  To keep her away from him while he's eating, I have trained her to come to the kitchen door and sit for treats after she finishes eating.  Her newest treat every morning is that she gets to lick the dregs out of the empty cat food can.  I assure you, there is no need to rinse this can before I put it into the recycling bin.
On Sunday evening, the sky was beautiful.  I took my iPad outside with me while I was grilling dinner, so I could take pictures.  This one came out particularly well.
It seems appropriate to end this by looking upward, toward the sky.  I will be thinking about a lovely blog friend (Hilary of Crazy as a Loom), as she faces brain surgery today.  I love her for her attitude, her outlook on life, and her devotion to her family and her critters ... especially her dear rescue dog, Roy.  She has already received a huge outpouring of support to help her through this, but a bit more is welcome, I'm sure.  Please take a minute and head over to see her and show her some love. 
That's it for today.   Thanks for stopping by and spending a few minutes of your time here with me.  It means a lot ... really.
Here's a quick edit to update everyone about Hilary.  Her daughter posted a new blog entry yesterday afternoon, saying that her mother "went beautifully"  (the surgeon's words).  This is great news!!  Click HERE to go to the update post, or HERE for the main link to her blog.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Announcing the Winner ... and Asking a Favor

The winner of my spur-of-the-moment fig jam giveaway is .... #24 Kelly Ann, of Kelly Ann's Quilts.  Since you're right up the road, I will bring your jam to you next week.  Congratulations, Kelly!!

Choosing the winner  wasn't as straight forward as it should have been.  My rules were simple ... leave a comment, and be sure that your comment includes your contact information.

It took FIVE tries for me to draw a winner that I could contact directly.  Selections 1, 2, and 4 chose comments from people who do not have their email visible in their blog profile, and who did not leave their email address in the body of their comment.  For each of these, the return address on their comment was the dreaded "noreply-comment @"  (Selection 3 chose Comment #6, which was my own comment ... it would be weird for me to win my own giveaway.)  

Out of 37 comments/entries in the jam giveaway, 13 turned out to be ineligible. This gave much better odds of winning to the folks who played by the rules. 

I am one of the many bloggers who is on a quest to politely ask everyone to PLEASE do whatever you can to wipe out "noreply-comment @".  Most of the folks I approach about this aren't even aware that they ARE noreply bloggers.  Others have the idea that hiding one's email will make them less of a target for email spam ... not true, from my experience.
It is frustrating beyond belief to receive a comment or a question from a reader, and to have no way to answer that person directly.  I am hesitant to answer comments publicly in the comment section ... I don't know the chance of the original commenter seeing my response, and I may want to give info in my response specifically intended for THAT commenter. 
Using the Old Blogger Interface, it's a simple matter to make one's email visible in one's blog profile.  (If you use the new Blogger interface, see below.)
Click on the Blogger B button to access your Blogger Dashboard.

Click 'Edit Profile' on the left side of the page.
In the Privacy section, check the box that says 'Show my email address".  Type your email address into the Identity section, if it's not already there.
Scroll to the bottom of the page, click the orange 'Save Profile' button, and your done!
For new Blogger interface users, there are no instructions on how to do this because Google has apparently removed this option in the switch to the new interface and Google+ profiles .  I spent a very frustrating half an hour in the new interface trying to figure it out.  My genius computer guy husband looked for it, too, and it's not there. 
As far as I can tell, the only way for a new Blogger interface user to make their email address visible would be to make a temporary switch to the old interface to make the change as outlined above ... then you can switch back.  To access the old interface, click the Gear icon at the top of the new Dashboard page, select Old Blogger Interface from the drop-down menu, and you're there.
Speaking of the new Blogger interface ... I'm going to hold out and use the old interface as long as I can.  Google is going to have to drag me kicking and screaming to the new interface when the time comes for them to eliminate the old one.  It's not that I don't like change ... I don't mind change most of the time ... I just that don't see any of the supposed benefits that Google/Blogger is talking about with the new interface ... this sounds like the subject of a rant for another day.
Anyway ... back to the original subject of this post ...
Congratulations, Kelly!!
I know you'll love your jam.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Making Fig Jam

I spent a delightful morning yesterday, making fig jam and totally trashing my kitchen.  (It would have been less of an ordeal if my dishwasher wasn't broken ... new one on order ... washing dishes by hand until it arrives.)

My fig trees by the barn are producing a double handful of fruit every couple of days.  After three harvests, I had gathered enough figs to make a batch of jam.  (Figs can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days, in a single layer in a covered container.)

The recipe:

5 cups chopped figs
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon butter
1 package Sure Jell pectin
7 cups sugar

Wash figs.  Remove stems.  (I also cut a small slice from the bottom of the fig.)

I used my ancient Cuisinart food processor to chop the figs.

This was way easier, faster, and safer than chopping the figs by hand.  Considering the incident where I sliced off the tip of my finger a couple of months ago, you can understand why I'm still a little bit leery of knives.  (My finger is fine now, thank goodness.)

In a large pot, cook the figs, lemon juice, water, and pectin until the mixture comes to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly.

Add the sugar all at once, and return mixture to a full rolling boil. 

Let it continue to boil for one minute, stirring constantly.  Turn off the heat.  Skim off any foam.

Ladle jam into sterilized jars.  (This batch made ten-and-a-half 8-ounce jars of jam ... the half-jar went straight into the refrigerator.)  Process them in a water bath for 10 minutes or so.   As the jars sit on the counter to cool, the lids make a very pleasing popping sound as the jam cools ... which indicates a good vacuum seal.  Store any jars that don't seal in the fridge.

Now it's time to enjoy the fruits of a good morning's labor.  English muffin, warm fig jam, and a good cup of coffee.  Yum!

I'm using a lot of left-over paper party plates for now ... remember, the dishwasher is broken.

I have had store-bought fig jam before, but have never made it myself until now.  I am surprised how different the home made jam looks and tastes.  Home made is a lovely rosy red (not brown like store bought) and it has a very fresh taste that reminds me of strawberries.

You can bet that I will be out later this morning, gathering more figs to keep to make more batches of jam.  I should put up as many jars as I can while I have figs ... so we have enough for us for the rest of the year ... and enough to share with friends.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Today in the Workshop

I spent a good part of today in my workshop.  It felt good to have tools in my hands, because it has been quite a while since I had the time or the inclination to build anything. 

What was I working on, you ask?

My friend Janet (of The Empty Nest) used salvaged windows to help decorate the walls of her new shop.  She had some windows left over, and she asked me if I would use them to make a mini greenhouse for her. 

I delivered the greenhouse to Janet at her shop this afternoon, and she squealed and hugged me when she saw it.  I'm really excited to see what she does with it.  Since she's such a chalk paint magician, I have no doubt that it will be beautiful when she's finished. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Sunset Sentry

A little male hummingbird has decided that my feeders belong exclusively to him.  He sits on the gazebo frame, or nearby in the pecan tree, and tries to chase all the other hummingbirds away from 'his' territory.

I loved the way he looked this evening as I saw him from my kitchen window, silhouetted against the sunset after a rainstorm. 

Here's a bit of 'full disclosure' about this image ... I took some really cute hummer silhouette photos through the kitchen window with a long lens, no more than 10 minutes before the sky turned this great color ... and when the sun got a little lower in the sky and the color appeared, the bird was nowhere to be seen.  So, I snapped a sunset photo from the same angle, and I spent a few minutes with Photoshop, clipping a bird out of one of the other shots, and pasting it into the sunset photo. 

Ta Dah!!  Hummingbird at sunset.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Pony Riding

Even the most mundane errands are enjoyable, if the day is sunny and clear ... and one is driving a convertible.

My Mustang is finally home from the mechanic's shop!!   

A year and a half ago, it overheated while The Husband and I were out for a drive.  (Something in the engine blew, and it spewed antifreeze all over the ground.  Click HERE to read the post from that day, and to see photos of my poor car being carried home on a roll-back.)

I have a fantastic mechanic, but he was backed up at his shop and he couldn't get to my car until this past March.  When he disassembled the engine, he found a mess ... my car's original engine was ruined, and it was all the fault of the shop who rebuilt it ten years before. 

It took months, but my mechanic sourced and rebuilt another 1966 engine (instead of a new Ford motor, which wouldn't have been right for my car).  He used all the correct parts, carefully assembled, and he assures me that this engine will last for at least another 30 years. 

During the break-in period with this new engine, I have to drive it a bit more often than I normally would ... and earlier this week I took this car as I ran errands around town.  (There were lots of stares as I pulled into the parking lot at the grocery store and at Goodwill the other day.)

Ten years ago, this car was a gift from my dear husband.  It's not his favorite, but he knows how much I love 1966 Mustangs, and he found a beautiful one for me. 

I am thrilled that my car is back home!  It is especially comforting to know that all of the problems it used to have are gone ... and that it is now comfortable, safe, and reliable.

Look out, Fredericksburg ... I'm back on the road!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Fig Season

The arrival of late summer means that my figs are starting to ripen.  I don't have the time or energy to keep a vegetable garden, but I do reserve some prime garden space for figs ... I love figs!!

I have a collection of eight different varieties of fig trees planted beside our barn.  The good soil and sunny location make it a perfect spot to grow them.    Most of the plants have lost their tags, so I have no idea which one is which ... but I do know that the last one in the line, whatever it is, is the first one to produce ripe fruit and it is my best producer.

This thing is loaded with figs!

The tree next to this one is also full of  fruit, but none of them are quite ripe yet.

Figs ripen their fruit over the course of a few weeks, so it's important to harvest them every few days.  If you don't ... the varmints will beat you to it.

Figs don't keep ... which is why you just won't find fresh figs at the store. 

You know a fig is ripe if it is soft, begins to hang from its stem (instead of sitting stiffly out from the main stalk), and it begins to look a little wrinkly around the top of the neck where the stem attaches.  I carefully snap the fruit off the tree, pick off the remains of the stem, and pop them into my mouth right out there in the yard.

Up until this year, all of our figs were eaten fresh because we never had enough at any one time to do anything with.  This year, I hope I can use them to actually make something ... fig jam, perhaps.

Here is today's harvest.

I've already eaten half a dozen of these.  I am going to wash and refrigerate the rest of them, adding new ones to the stash for the next few days until I have enough to make jam.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Hello, Pixie.

Eagle-eyed readers noticed something different about me in the photos I published in THIS post from two weeks ago.  (In that post, I shared photos of The Husband and me wading in the Arctic Ocean on our anniversary.)  A few of you mentioned my new 'do'.

This is The Husband and me, dressed up for one of the formal nights on our Alaska cruise, with Glacier Bay in the background.

Bye-bye, long hair.
(The first photo in THIS post about Daniel is a good photo of me with the ponytail)

So long, layered bob ... transitional cut that you were.
(I showed you the bob in THIS post.)

and HELLO to fantastic, wash-and-wear hair!

I love this new cut! 
(It's spunky and sassy, just like me.)


I can't leave today without expressing my gratitude to each of you for your kind comments, FB messages, and emails in response to my last post about closing the rose sales portion of Hartwood Roses.  To be honest, I made this decision a while ago ... I was just finally able to find my muse and could put my feelings into words yesterday to make the announcement. 

Thank you, thank you for your support and encouragement!
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