Sunday, November 4, 2018

Tea and a sensible biscuit

A couple of months after I got back from England, my friend Jan went over and found this little wet teabag saucer for me:

She knows me so well, doesn't she?

Tea and I are having a milestone moment in our lifelong relationship.  And I do mean lifelong!  I remember being a little girl coming home from elementary school to brew myself a pot and make up a little tray with cookies, sugar, milk, a cup and a spoon, plus my tattered copy of Little Women, to take into a cosy reading nook I had manufactured in the basement.  It was so restful and wonderful, I did it again the next night, and then for the rest of the week.  Likely as not the cookies were my mother's famous chocolate chip ones, the ones everybody loved and couldn't keep their mitts off of.

The secret incredient in said cookies?


How early did I start having caffeine, I wonder?  Those cookies were a mainstay of my childhood so my guess is, 'early'.

Before we delve any further into all that, let's take a moment to admire this lovely box of tea - another gift from Jan, and the latest installment in the long journey tea and I have made together:

I fell in love with this stuff in a fish and chip restaurant in York this summer.  It really tastes and smells of oranges, while definitely being tea, and is awesome, and is also the first time I have actually liked drinking fruit-flavoured tea.  I stupidly neglected to go back to the museum gift shop where I'd seen it to buy some to take home, and then couldn't find it anywhere else despite constant hunting, so Jan took up the challenge when she was there.  She ended up buying it from the chef at the hotel where she was staying!  It seems like it's available almost exclusively to commercial enterprises, though I did find it in a couple of online shops that will ship to Canada.  I brewed a pot for Jan when she gave it to me and she was instantly all, DANG, why didn't I get a second box???

I tell you this so that you will appreciate the misery of the aforementioned milestone.

which is because...

Now that the house is done except for the myriad bits that I'm supposed to be doing (paint touch-up, dealing with the growing mass of gardening tools and boots and gloves at the side door, unpacking the boxes we haven't looked at in over a year so that we can donate whatever is in them, etc.) I am trying to address some sleep issues that crept up while I was trying to juggle a huge renovation project with all the other bits and pieces that make up an adult life. 

You know the drill for dealing with chronic paralysing insomnia, because there are SO many news stories floating around to tell you just how much not sleeping is harming you, like you hadn't noticed already.

They are all boring and sad to consider, like

not playing on your computer or tablet or phone into the wee hours

not racing around doing chores until the very last minute, but instead introducing restful routines that cue your brain to think MUST. SLEEP.

not eating sugar in the evening

not having caffeine after, what, lunchtime?

Basically it's all a lot of yuck.  Sensible behaviour = not fun.

Still, as I have learned to my cost, not sleeping also = not fun.  So I am trying to be sensible about screen time, which is why there are still so few new Hugs here.

I am taking time to read a book on a sofa for about twenty minutes before I go to bed, too.  A real book, made of paper, which is harder now that I have converted most of my library to e-books to save space.

And I have cut out sugar - actually, I cut down to the level the World Health Organization recommends (25 grams, which is less than what's in a single slice of most cakes), and after a few months of not dying from that I decided to drop to none grams per day, because I was pretty sure that sugar has only been pretending to be my friend all these years.

Fun fact

An odd thing happens when you stop eating sugar except what's naturally in milk or added to extremely dark chocolate: even the 6 grams in a single roll of delicious, nostalgic Rockets candy will make you feel very sick. 

... and then there's caffeine.
I've never been a coffee drinker - the closest I get is decaf lattes or maybe a small decaf on the way to the cottage in summer - so my overall caffeine consumption is not crazy high even when you factor in very dark chocolate.  In fact my problem, as it turns out, is not late-day caffeine but early morning caffeine.  That's because I 'like' (aka require) a good cup of tea every morning about ninety minutes before I have to go out.  Which can mean getting up very early, which in turn is a huge problem if you're not nodding off early the night before.

So: I decided to break my connection to early morning tea, and to do that, I've had to kick caffeine.

Whaaaaaa?  how is this possible and does it mean I have to be a gracious person and give my box of lemon and orange tea back to Jan???

hahahahahahahaha don't be silly. 

No, what it means is that I wait till at least 9am to have my first cup, and usually later.  When I have that, I brew a caffeinated tea bag for 1 minute in freshly boiled water, then dump that tea, and steep the bag again in freshly boiled water for about 3 minutes.  It doesn't cut all the caffeine, but it does take it down quite a bit, especially if I am busy mulitasking and don't get the bag out for 90 seconds the first time.

Thankfully, although this does not result in a completely delicious cup of tea, you do still get a tastier cup than you do with actual decaf, which is what I am drinking from midafternoon onward UGH.

Still, it's tea!

And you can even have it with a biscuit if it's a not very sugary one, like an oat cookie for example, which is delicious with cheese.  Consuming it all while wearing warm handknit socks also helps foster the illusion of comfort.

You might be wondering whether all these drastic life changes are paying off.  And the answer is, horribly, Yes.

I am sleeping much better.  I  do feel more energized and hopeful about what I might manage to take on in the day, and I am more productive than I've been.  Also I feel less snacky and seem to be losing weight, because apparently caffeine stimulates hunger? and sugar has a lot of calories in it?  who knew.  Also I think I must be spending less money now that I am not buying or making cookies or other sugary friends.

Still, I know that whatever happens between me and sugar, tea and I will always be in love.  Cue the last present from Jan:

 This coaster speaks the truth.  You canNOT drink too much tea.  It is not possible.

Hope you've all been well and happy while I've been off recalibrating!

brief garden update: it is not done - we still don't have a lawn - but it's done for the season.  next time, I'll show you where we left it.  I think you might be impressed, or at least willing to tell me you're impressed so that I feel better about how hard it was to get what we did do, done... and about finally  noticing based on the 2-day recovery time from just 2 hours of brick path setting that I seem not to be 25 years old any more.  Grrrr.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Knitting weather approaches

The heat this summer was so bad I just couldn't face holding onto wool - how uncharacteristic of me is that??  And also, we have had a lot of landscaping stuff to contend with, so my hands have been occupied with bricks and patio slabs.  Here is a picture of a sock though, to preserve the integrity of this blog:

The back yard is not nearly so tidy or neat as these yummy stripes - over the past three or four years the weeds took absolute hold out there and all the piles of construction material compacted the ground like nobody's business.  I have had a very hard time imagining an actual garden out there.  Even imagining a deck was a challenge, and as a result Ray and I had to design it pretty much on the fly.  It did come out beautifully however and here is proof in case you forgot (or rather, in case I forgot to show you before):

We haven't 'finished' it with furniture or a barbeque or anything, yet.  Apart from being preoccupied with weed removal, we are absolutely overwhelmed with indecision about what to do next, which is not like me.  I guess the answer to the question of, "What consitutes such a black hole of yuck as to destroy all creative vision?" is, "A yard full of sandy rocky dirt and stacked plastic planters, scattered casually with bricks."

(this is the after picture.  you don't want to know how bad the 'before' was.)

Thankfully my incredibly talented friend Claire is rescuing me on the What To Do Next front.  Claire loves gardens and has done a ton of work in them, plus she has a fabulous aesthetic for flowers and design generally.  So, on with the hardscaping by me, to make room for the soft by her. 

On the weekend I was setting down more patio slabs in the far corner of the yard near a mystery shrubtree thing that has looked like it's dying since we moved in 22  years ago but still persists, and I remembered suddenly taking photos to share with you here of some gloves I'd knit and perched artistically on its gnarled branches.

Remember when I used to take pictures of knitting around our house and post them here??? Ah, the good old days.  This has been a long journey just to get to attractive new vantage points for photos.

However, the house continues to be a hit with one and all and feels more like our old home every day (just less cramped, and with more cosy seating space.)

Sometime I should do a post about what I've learned about home building but every time I think of it, there is just SO MUCH! how can I condense it into one post or even a trio?  Plus, not all of it is positive and who needs that.

I will say that everybody who works on a house should specialize, yet know how to play nice with others, because even the tiniest things like lightswitch placement impact the function of a home.  The lightswitch box has to attach to a stud somewhere - so does plumbing, for that matter (or rather the reverse, since a stud and pipes can't occupy the same exact space) - and the studs aren't always where you want the switch or outlet to be.  But an electrician knows wires, not design.  And a plumber knows pipes in the same way.  And neither of them will know what size sink exists that will leave enough room for taps to all fit in the space that remains once the bathroom door opening has been framed in per the building specs, and the walls have their drywall.  Which is why we have a wall mounted tap in our powder room that isn't centred on the wall light above.  And also, why the vanity there stands about an inch off the side wall - so the vanity could be centred on the taps that are off centre from the lights.  Luckily, Pete and I found a cute framed mirror with textural details that ALSO are not centred top to bottom.

Good thing I don't obsess about symmetry, right?

Okay, obviously, I totally do and I am getting my chance in the back yard to indulge that quirk.  There are no lightswitches to consider there, after all.  But... there are patio slabs which are of fixed dimensions and attractively fixed costs (as in, $0 because they were here when we bought the house.)  And you know what?  that turns out to be just as restrictive as wall studs!  So, even though Claire and I are working hard to design a parterre-style garden with boxy, brick-bordered flower beds and weathered brick paths laid down by moi,

nothing really lines up out there either.

But there is going to be a knitting bench.  And cooler weather is coming... so I might just be able to treat myself to a nice long knit and natter outside under the leaves before too much longer.  Wouldn't that be lovely?

Mostly though I am looking forward to moving on from all this work to recapture some of my old favourite things, like writing in this blog more than once a month or two, yeesh.  I do feel we're getting closer to that magical day though, and I am so glad you were able to stop in and spend this bit of time with me.  Hope you've been well and enjoying life, and that we meet again very soon!

Thursday, July 19, 2018

I have been away on a holiday and now I am home

Ugh, how many weeks is it since I wrote you a Hug? Too many.  First I was researching and plotting and planning, then I was packing, then I was trying to clean out the fridge so I wouldn't come home to something truly awful in there (mission only partially accomplished) and then I was away on a huge vacation we've waited years to pull off...

Sunset lighting up the gold statue in front of a certain Palace

... followed by some hard-hitting jet lag which is finally lifting.  Whew!!

I have a pair of Emma Bridgewater fold-away shopper bags on my desk, alongside a bag of Marks and Spencer cookie boxes, and my teacup is resting on a coaster that says 'm' in the official London Transit font in use since 1916.

Guess where I was for 16 days!

Okay, we weren't in London the whole time.  We also got up to York...

medieval city gate

gorgeous blue doors
  to stay inside the medieval walls at a charming old rectory converted to a hotel,

maximum cosyness at the end of the day

 and took a minicoach tour of the North Yorkshire moors because it was just easier than renting a car and making Pete drive hither and yon. 

(Edited to add: the name of the cute village below is Helmsley - thank you Kathy!)

I wish I could remember the name of this beautiful village inside the Yorkshire Moors National Park
but at least I can copy the gorgeous white planters right??

Ruin visible from same village

Also in North Yorkshire, no idea where but I had to share these trees

Same village as before.  SO CUTE.

We had perfect weather, apart from the heat.  I could not take a bad photograph with those gorgeous skies as the backdrop.

From York we nipped south to France, getting off the Eurostar at Lille to take a regional train to Arras

I love the monochromatic architecture here, it makes every detail jump out!

so we could meet our amazing guide (Living Memory Tours, highly recommended) for a full day at Vimy Ridge and other WWI memorials.

I was standing almost at the middle of the big circle of metal wall here...
it extended all the way around from a small entrance.

This is the metal wall up close, an accordian effect with names printed on both sides. 
Names of all the dead soldiers from battles in the area, listed alphabetically as equals. 
And I thought the Viet Nam memorial in Washington D.C. was moving.
We also saw several WWI cemeteries, of which this is one.

All the cemeteries are different depending on whether they are French, German, or Commonwealth.  This was a Commonwealth cemetery with roses planted between every few headstones, and huge lavender bushes at the ends.  I spotted bees and butterflies in the lavender; it was very strange to think of summer life carrying on over the bodies of all those lost boys and men.

The battle at Vimy Ridge just had its centennial and every Canadian knows about it, but when we mentioned it to English and American people who asked about our trip plans, quite often they didn't have a clue what we were talking about.  So in case you don't know either, it was both a tough and important battle for Canadian soldiers, and also: a victory.  France dedicated the site to Canada, and our government financed an incredibly beautiful memorial there which Pete wanted very much to visit.

The chosen stone is absolutely ethereal.

For me, having read about it and seen many photographs of the memorial and the preserved trenches, what was astonishing was the landscape, still hilly and pockmarked from shells and mines.  And the very small distance between the two sets of trenches where the soldiers on both sides were fighting so hard.  This is not something you can appreciate easily from another continent.

We went straight back to London from France and had almost a week to explore museums, eat, and find cool places to spend the hottest hours of the heatwave there (mostly that was mostly our hotel, which thankfully had a/c... I didn't think to check before I booked it so we were lucky!)

I have two Canadian cousins living just outside of central London and thanks to excellent train and tube service we got to see them both, which was wonderful. We had ice cream and coffee-walnut cake and a proper Sunday Roast with Yorkshire pudding.  I finally got to visit the Victoria and Albert Museum, which I didn't get to the whole year I lived in London, and have always wanted to see, though for some reason I didn't take even one picture of the dress exhibit which was the reason I wanted to go.  (however, it was excellent.)  I did however take this photograph.

The Victoria and Albert museum is not air conditioned.

I also discovered that the only proper cup of tea is made with a bag of, I am not kidding, 'Yorkshire Tea.'  For years I've been drinking fancy Taylor's teas and I could not believe it when I realized Taylor's is also responsible for this very strong, delicious, sturdy, reviving tea.  I brought home two big boxes but thankfully our regular grocery stores all import it.  Had I but known, I could have been living on it all these years!  Oh well, I still have time to thoroughly enjoy it.

Even without being able to travel to the classic estate gardens out in the countryside, we saw SO many lovely garden spaces.  This one was at Hampton Court Palace:

This one was once a private garden and sits right in the old part of York :

I so wish we could build tall brick walls here, they are just dripping with character.  Here is another walled garden from a National Trust property in Hampstead, a village in north London:

The cute North Yorkshire village had a communal garden with a wilder look:

And then there's St. James' Park in London, for the wildest of the wild.  I wonder if you can enjoy this view from the windows of Buckingham Palace?

Even walking along the street in London (okay, Hampstead, which is basically the most beautiful urban space on earth) you see gardening inspiration.  Emphasis on GREEN.

I particularly liked the planter boxes outside our hotel.

We saw lots of ivy-as-garland in fact.  I absolutely want to copy this sort of thing for our back yard, which is almost ready to become something more than a post-construction dirt heap.

Well, that was a lot of pictures.  I wonder if I have any more?

Oh yes!  The Royal Air Force Flyover (of Buckingham Palace) which marked the RAF Centenary.  We were in London for so many great events and this was the last, complete with this colourful finale. 

Anyway: I was away, and now I am home, and I have no further distractions (apart from the Tom Bihn luggage addiction I developed while trying to figure out how to pack properly for this trip) to keep me from unpacking from our move home last August, and writing regular Hugs, and getting back to work on novels now that I am not project managing in my spare time.

But first I think I really need a very long nap and a day or two on the sofa watching movies.

Hope all is well, and has been well, with you!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Fun with pruners

Today we'll be reporting on the newest crafty venue here at Hugs: the back yard deck!

This is the classic North American house thing, isn't it?  A private open-air space elevated, if only by a step, from the rest of the back yard.  It used to be that houses were built with front porches big enough to let you sit and enjoy a cool drink in the shade and chat with your neighbours as they passed (which is why we put a front porch on the house almost as soon as we got it, because we like old style stuff.)  Decks on the other hand are better suited to tranquil communing with nature and a book, or cooking on a barbecue, or drinking beer on a hot summer night with friends.  And, since the slats of a deck tend to have gaps between them, for losing your knitting needles down into the abyss below.

(it is for this reason that I especially love a porch, and also, why I am probably buying some sort of outdoor carpet for the deck.)

Now that we have a deck, even though it's not actually finished, we can finally reach with ease the canopy of this odd shrubby tree that was old when we bought the house more than 20 years ago and is still limping along the same as ever.

This thing produces a ton of new shoots and foliage every spring, and then the most gorgeous blossoms, and then without warning a huge chunk of branches just wither and the whole thing looks terrible till early fall when it pulls itself together for one last burst of energy and presents us with unattractive, squishy orange berries.

However, much as I harbor resentment for these longstanding disappointments, I do appreciate the tree for

a/staying alive in spite of age plus endless onslaughts by raccoons and squirrels, and

b/providing much-needed privacy screening.

If only it didn't have so very many dead bits.

I mentioned, I think, the fact that raccoons moved into our garage and made it their personal toilet, but perhaps not that Pete was able to rescue from it the really good pruners I bought him a few years back.   I am SO glad he did that and also, that he told me where he put them afterward, because I love pruning off the dead stuff from a tree, or the stickie-outie bits that always catch you in the eye as you pass.  Pete also loves pruning and we actually tussled over who got to use them the other day, so probably we need two.  But!  how thrilling, even when thwarted by a competitive spouse, to be able to prune 20 years of dry crusty branchlets off our ugly tree!

It's probably worth mentioning that Ray and I designed the deck around our original lilac tree, which I might regret at some point in the future, or just next week.

Already, birds sitting in the lilac's branches have made the new decking their toilet, and as soon as the flowers bloom we'll have bees visiting as well, none of which you want happening directly over and around your head as you recline with a book and a cup of tea.  But if you regard this particular deck as a clean space to step out onto for lighting a barbecue and snipping off some herbs, then having the lilac tree scenting it is exactly what you want.

In other garden news:  yesterday, after a heavy rain, I noticed that the interesting droopy evergreen tree in our front yard had orange gunk all over it:

Close up, this stuff is uglier:

I may never eat dried apricots again.

It seems this is 'cedar apple rust', a two-stage disease that produces spores from these big orange casings on infected cedars after a heavy rain, then sends them on the wind to infect nearby apple trees.  Or to mountain ash trees, of which we have a rather large specimen looming over the back of the house and roof.  (in fact, though it is a messy tree with more squishy orange berries that get all over the back yard, that particular tree is the primary view from my office, so I don't want anything to happen to it.)

I don't know whether this was the right thing to do, but I used the pruners to snip off every affected branch above the fungus zone right over an open bag so the spores would have no chance to catch the wind, and then I tied the bag tight and binned it.  Next up, I think we are supposed to spray our tree with copper to try to control the problem and prevent further spore events.

Yuck, huh?

Back to the deck: as I type, Al is sanding cedar strips that he and Ray will use to custom build trellis inserts wherever we don't have pressure-treated planks mostly butted together, apart from slim air vents in between.

The use of cedar for the trellis - he deemed other woods too flimsy for the amount of ripping required for the design we came up with, and/or too short-lived for railing use - is causing Ray physical pain because we are going to use a solid stain on the deck.

It's one thing to solid stain pressure treated wood, but you just don't do that to cedar! If anything, you use a clear stain, but normally, around here at least, you just let it weather to a silvery grey and then let moss grow on it and when it falls down after 25 years you replace it with new cedar if you can afford it. And you might not be able to, because cedar is the most expensive wood you can use for outdoor projects.

It really is gorgeous, isn't it?

And Al is sanding every piece so it's smooth on the sides with slightly broken edge.

Pretty much every day Ray asks me if we really, REALLY want a white trellis and I say Yep, and I know he's chalking up another church visit to pray for forgiveness for putting solid stain on cedar.  I should probably be praying for forgiveness too but I am pushing forward with solid stain because I want a more formal garden there and after 20 years in this house I think I've earned the back yard of my dreams.

He had to use cedar on the front porch railings too, and tried hard to persuade me to at least consider a black stain that lets the grain show through, to the point of bringing me a sample of cedar with a black stain that lets the grain show through.  Suffice it to say that when it comes to staying true to the house's 1940s urban architecture I have no heart, and still said Nope.

(actually, I laughed and said nope.  I did say I have no heart!)

And that's me summed up for the recent past and the forseeable future: all deck all the time with a bit of springtime gardening around the edges.

desperately want to reach that dead branch at the top!!

How have you been enjoying the change in seasons?

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Scrambled eggs

Lately I've been craving (and then making) scrambled eggs, because I watched Doris Day's character order them in My Dream Is Yours while she sat in a nightclubby booth with Jack Carson.  "Just something light," she said, and he asked, "Scrambled eggs?" And that's what they had.   In a nightclub!  Or maybe an after hours club?  It was a pretty fancy place, anyway, to have eggs on the menu.  Ah, it was a different time.

This is something you read about in 1920s English crime novels too, characters coming back to somebody's flat after a long night of crime solving to eat a couple of eggs quickly fried or scrambled or omeleted in a pan on a tiny hob.  Eggs are so simple and tiny and fast to eat, though of course, the cleanup is not always the funnest.

I don't order them in a restaurant (they'd be stiff and cold by the time they hit the table in the places I frequent) and can't imagine them appearing late at night in a really fancy place today, but I love the cosy familiarity of a plate of freshly cooked eggs, don't you?  On toast, preferably, made from really amazing bakery bread.  I could eat that every day for the rest of my life and when it comes the dueling studies about whether or not they raise cholesterol, I always side with the Nope, they don't argument, out of love for them.

More cosy familiar things that I've been up to since the last time we visited:

Socks, of course.  I have three pairs on the go.  They're cast on in pairs, and divided into six little knitting bags, and each one is at some wildly different stage than the other because I find I am clunking down into my chair to watch a bit of something, grab a bag and pull out its contents, and if I'm feeling benevolent toward that yarn/colour/sock stage then I work on it.  And if not, I reach for a different bag.

TV watching.  I caught the British costume drama Tutankhamun recently, which I enjoyed enormously having been of an age to have the whole King Tut thing become wildly important while still in elementary school because the artifacts were touring to the Royal Ontario Museum.  My school, an hour away, bused us all in to see it.  Pete's school, just barely outside the city limits, did not.  Weird, huh?  I don't remember feeling anything about what I doubtless saw.  But I do remember eating the chocolate from a King Tut sarcophagus tin afterward. It was delicious and seemed very golden-shiny.

Also: watching Monty Don's 'Big Dreams Small Spaces' gardening program on Netflix.  Ray is back at our house, finishing off the front porch (and feeling distressed about the fact that we are putting solid stain on CEDAR.  I agree.  It is terrible... but it's the only wood that will stand up to the elements and comes in proper handrails and isn't full of knotholes, and our house style isn't really wood grain friendly.)  When the porch is done he will begin to transform our back yard with a deck and a long narrow pergola, which will give us hard landscaping to work from.  Pete and I are considering various decorative, functional bin sheds for garbage, recycling, and bike storage.  When all that's done: PLANTS! None of which we've chosen yet.  Monty is so knowledgeable, encouraging, and enthusiastic, and our need is great, so I feel sure the sitting time is justified.

Also: reading about how bad sitting is for you - brain function, circulatory system, mood, and so on.

Reminding myself to knit standing up while watching TV.

Standing up at regular intervals between wonderful sitting sessions.

Honestly, I love sitting.  It's what I aspire to whenever I'm doing anything exhausting which is most of the time I spend not sitting or lying down.  I mean, I love walking too, but there is something so wonderful about curling up in a comfy chair!  And you can't eat eggs standing up really.  Not without dropping bits on the floor.

I should wrap this up now but can we just take a moment to think how wonderful Jack Carson was?  He died so young - just 52 - and he was so talented and sweet on screen, I still feel it like a personal loss though we weren't even alive at the same time.  I would definitely order restaurant eggs if I could listen to Jack Carson be charming while I ate them.

Take care and I'll see you again soon!  Might even have a finished pair of chair socks by then.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Easter Socks

Though I'd take a break from cake consumption (I am testing out vanilla versions, with white icing) to show you my new Easter Socks!

Okay, clearly they aren't done yet.  But I did get to spend Easter Weekend knitting away on them and getting purple alpaca fluff on my shirt whenever TCM was running something arresting enough to lure me away from the oven to my beloved armchair.

I can't remember now, even though I just finished them a couple of weeks ago, which socks I was knitting before these - I think they might have been a sort of dusty rose wool/mohair blend striped with another wool/mohair blend to eke them out to a generous length?  but I was SO annoyed with myself for choosing that sock set to knit instead of this one.  I had really wanted to be feeling alpaca in my hands.  I was well onto this second sock (disclaimer: the first one is only just at the heel also - I try to get all the stripey leg bits out of the way so I can enjoy the sprint to the end with the single yarn I use for the rest of the foot) before I realized:


So, really it's good that I saved these ones to knit later, even if Easter has passed and I am still working on them.

I can tell looking outside now, and walking around outside too even if I am still wearing my big parka, that it is well and truly spring.  Clues:

there is some sun most days
there is no snow on the grass
the grass still looks dead and flat, unlike in fall when it is green and shivery
there are tiny buds on some trees
birds are going crazypants with the singing

Actually here is an odd bird thing.  Mostly what we hear at the house is barking, so I was surprised the other day to take the garbage out from the non-dog side and hear a cheery spring birdsong.  I was like, WOW!  I forgot that sound even exists!  At the condo it's mostly birds and churchbells but six months of bark bark bark can override a lot of your memory.

Renovation tip: when your heating and ventilation installers ask where you'd like the ugly air vents on the outside of your house, and reinforce the fact that they are ugly and should probably pop out of your house somewhere that nobody will be looking at them because MAN are they ugly, think past aesthetics all the way down the list to function.  At the condo, birds wake us at 6am and at the house, it's barks, because the sound-magnifying air vents scattered all through the inside of our house lead to one spot on the outside where nobody will be looking at them except some hugely excitable and chatty dogs. 

Anyhoo, that's how I found out spring was here - by taking out the garbage. 

Of course in spring you are not thinking about wearing alpaca socks unless there is yet another freak snowstorm where you live.  And if you are me you are thinking Uh Oh, even at the thought of that snow melting away because hello view of the back yard:

Especially if your contractor is coming back as soon as the weather is warm and dry enough to run a chop saw effectively, the better to build your deck and other back yard landscaping bits.  And hopefully remove the raccoon gate from the broken garage door and fix same and find a home for a stack of old bricks too.

Yep: I am running out of time to figure out how to resolve the mess that is our back yard and add in some good screening structures to block out the less fortunate aspects of our view.  Thank goodness
this week is looking too chilly still for that job to start, so I can sit down with Denial and some more sock!

You know what, and I'm not just saying this because of purple alpaca - I think the answer is lavender plants.  Loads and loads of lavender planted in elevated boxes along the back of a pergola, blocking both the view above the fence line, and also, the mosquitoes. 

What do you think?