Tuesday, December 4, 2012

What they miss

This is a picture of my son-in-law, Jason, taken on the night he deployed to Afghanistan last spring. He is holding his then six year-old daughter, Lexi. Jason was leaving for his third Afghanistan deployment.

Tonight or tomorrow, there will be a similar photo, I hope, but this one will be of an arrival home, not of a farewell.

This past year, while Jason was away training and then deployed, my husband and I spent a lot of time in Jason's home, helping to look after his lovely daughter. The experience made me painfully aware of what our military men and women miss while they are away, working long, dangerous hours in service to our country. 

Here is just a small sample:

Jason missed seeing Lexi learn to ride a bike.

He was away when she lost her first tooth.

He wasn't  able to attend her first dance recital.
He didn't get to share those magic first moments when Lexi truly fell in love with reading and good books.
Jason couldn't attend Lexi's kindergarten awards assembly, couldn't take her to her first swimming lessons, or celebrate at her 7th birthday party . 
Recently, I said to my daughter that I felt for her, for how tough it has been this past year to be on her own a lot, essentially a single mom with a busy army work schedule of her own. (Even at home, an army work day is a long one; she leaves the house by 5:10 a.m. for early morning physical training.)
But Molly's response was this: That no matter how hard it had been for her, it didn't come close to being as hard as what a deployed soldier in a war zone was going through on a daily basis.
Well, with luck, Jason will be back tonight. There will be many more "firsts" ahead for Lexi and Jason will be there to share them.
Still, in my opinion, the price of repeated deployments is high, even for those who come home physically unharmed. Each time that I was the one to see Lexi win an award or learn something new, I felt like a thief, like I was stealing something special that could never be given back.
Welcome home, Jason. You won't be seeing me for quite a while. I figure that the best gift a mother-in-law can offer at this time is her complete absence. But hey, don't forget to send pictures of those new Lexi milestones that are going to be coming along. You know, the ones that you're going to be there for from now on.
Love you guys!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Round Lake Festival of Trees

 Last night, I popped into the first ever Round Lake Festival of Trees. This historic village located between Albany, NY, and Saratoga Springs has an active group, the Women's Round Lake Improvement Society (W.R.L.I.S.) which is sponsoring the event. Proceeds will go toward the library and other Round Lake community events.
 In addition to decorated trees, holiday cookies were offered for sale. Visitors were given a bakery box and "cookie elves", like this nice lady, below, helped fill the boxes with assorted treats, at $8.00 a pound.
 I snapped a few photos for this blog before being chided by one lady that I wasn't to do that. The designers, she said, wanted to protect their work. Bah, humbug. I explained that I wished to write about the event for my local blog, but she was firm.  I hope the W.R.L.I.S. ladies re-think that policy for next year. Getting decorating ideas and inspiration is a chief reason why folks go to events like this.
 This sparsely decorated silver tree, above, appealed to me. In my own back yard, families of cardinals abound and sometimes in winter, we see scenes quite like this.
I also liked this simple, traditional idea: old-fashioned paper chains, but made of sheet music rather than construction paper. Sweet.

The Round Lake Festival of Trees and cookie sale continues today, Saturday, December 1, from noon to 8:00 pm, and on Sunday, December 2, from 1:00 to 5:00. Most of the trees, wreaths, and center pieces are for sale. The event is set up in the Round Lake Community Room at 49 Burlington Ave. The room is handicapped accessible. Admission is $5.00. Round Lake is located off  the Northway at exit 11.


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Thrifty Storage

or, What happens when you go off and do Army things and leave your restless mother in charge of your household.

 For the past five weeks, I have been holding the fort here in Clarksville, Tennessee, while my daughter-the-Army-sergeant was away for training. Her own Handsome Husband is also away, busy serving his country as a medic on his third deployment to sunny Afghanistan.

Which left me some spare time on my own in their home while the seven year-old was in school. Uh oh.

Like most of us these days, this busy military family has a storage problem. On a cruise through the local Goodwill, I spotted this lovely credenza. Okay, it wasn't so lovely just then, but for $24.99, it had my attention. Then, because it was senior day with twenty percent off all purchases, the price to me was just $19.99. How could I pass that up?

There was one downside. This thing is heavy. I'm talking piano-like heavy. It took three strapping men from Goodwill to load it into my son-in-law's Equinox.

One of them eyed me and said, "How are you going to get this into your house?"

Ah, details, details.
After thinking about that overnight, I did manage to get this beast out of the Equinox and into the garage. Those details are best left untold. (Don't worry, Jason. No harm came to your car.)

Next step: cleaning it up. After a good scrubbing, I surveyed the web for some ideas about improving the looks of this thing.  Since the furniture already in this home is dark wood, I thought re-staining might make the piece look more like this new credenza I found online, as pictured below. The new one was priced at
$1,159 so I was learning to like my thrifted version even more.

After further online research, such as at blogs like Centsational Girl and on the Minwax site, I decided to give Minwax PolyShades a try in Bombay Mahogany.  Below, you can see the credenza taking on its new look.
The Minwax product worked well, adding stain and polyurethane in one step. I did have some problems with the finish, but that was mostly because I was working in poor lighting for this kind of a job. Also, working with the garage door open (to try to preserve the few brain cells I have left) meant that even little breezes brought in bits of stuff that got stuck on the tacky surfaces.

Despite my amateur efforts, the piece didn't turn out too bad (if the lights are kept low, anyway.) Here is Lexi, posing prettily by the finished credenza.
And here she is, happily moving in her games and craft supplies, where they can be close at hand but out of sight in the living room.
As for how that piano-weighted piece of furniture got into the house, well, think I Love Lucy with a working knowledge of the Eighth Grade science simple machines curriculum (ramps, levers, etc.). That, and a strong seven year-old assistant.

The total cost of the Goodwill credenza plus refinishing supplies (stain, sandpaper, good quality brush, mineral spirits, sanding mask) was about $50. The savings compared to the cost of buying one new? About $1,100.  And that is why I love both thrifting and DIY projects.


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A Labor of Love - the gardens at Saratoga Spa State Park

At the entrance to Saratoga Spa State Park on Route 9, there is a spectacular garden. The first time I noticed it, I thought, boy, somebody is really having a good time with that!  On Tuesday morning, I finally got to meet that somebody.
Dan Urkevich is a wiry guy with a quick smile who proudly shares his garden with others. I say "his" garden because he is the one who plans and cares for this year round splash of color. Dan does have an assistant - just one - to help him care for all of the flowers and grounds of the state park. For him, it is clearly a labor of love.
On Tuesday morning, Dan was meeting with interested gardeners at the entrance to the Avenue of the Pines to talk about the late summer blooms and to answer questions. 

In the photo below, Dan has used a New York native, the tall hearty purple Ironweed, to shine at the back of the border.

The gardens, we learned, are a mixture of about 75% perennials and woody shrubs and about 25% annuals.

This lovely rosy plant, above, is an annual amaranth. Dan's gardens include at least two varieties of amaranth, which he says   re-seed themselves readily. I think this variety is called "Molten Fire".

In the photo below, the maroon tassels are from another variety of amaranth called "Love Lies Bleeding".  These plants are tall and bring a lot of color to the late summer border. I love how Dan has tucked in some corn plants among the castor bean and sunflowers to give even more height to the back of the border.

Dan told us that he works with local garden centers, primarily the folks at Sunnyside Gardens in Saratoga Springs, who provide many of the plants for the Spa State Park.

The bright orange zinnias, below, are from the profusion series, a favorite of Dan's, which he buys as bedding plants, not seeds.

Dan also uses a lot of these blue "Hightide" ageratum, below, also purchased as bedding plants.

A combination I really liked were these dark ornamental peppers, below, mixed with the yellow flowers of what I think is helianthus. Notice the green-leaved plants emerging from the back of the peppers? Those are milkweed. They are "volunteers" (AKA, weeds) that Dan allows to stay where they emerge. The monarch butterflies love them and Dan says they produce a vanilla-scented flower earlier in the summer.

I wish I could remember what the plant below was. It was full of  wispy leaves and dark pink blooms. Anybody recognize it?

Oh, well. If I can't figure it out, I can always go back for the next garden talk. That will be on Saturday morning, August 25, from 8:30 to 11:00. Dan Urkevich and his assistant Joan will be back talking about the Spa gardens. If you go, be sure to ask for a copy of the brochure they've made up. It lists most of the plants used in this year's garden.

For day trippers, there are two pleasant places to eat lunch in the Spa Park: Catherine's, next to the vintage Victoria Pool (bring a swimsuit!) and Putnam's Patio at the Gideon Putnam hotel. 


Sunday, August 12, 2012

For the beauty of the earth

Our church service and picnic was held today at the Armer family farm near Ballston Spa.  Lots of good folks gathered to worship and later shared burgers and garden-fresh bounty: ripe tomatoes, sweet corn, cukes, chocolate zucchini cake, all wonderful.

The children climbed the ancient orchard trees and admired the plump Hereford cattle, the turkeys, the handsome Belgian draft horses. It was a lovely day.

For the beauty of the earth, For the glory of the skies; For the love which from our birth, Over and around us lies; Lord of all, to Thee we raise This, our hymn of grateful praise.

Peace be with you.

Friday, August 3, 2012


After a late start planting this past spring, and

after a bout of brutally hot, foliage-burning weather, and

after a month of drought, and

after an invasion of creepy green tomato hornworms...

finally, the tomatoes are beginning to ripen.

There are few things better-tasting than sun-warmed tomatoes just

off  your own carefully tended vines.

Happy August!

(With thanks to friends Bev and Marty for access to their lovely pile of well-rotted horse manure, which I used to fertilize these plants, and for the bales of wonderfully spoiled hay that I used to thickly mulch them. You gardeners understand, don't you? Pure gold.)


Friday, July 27, 2012

Only two more shows this summer for Saratoga Shakespeare

 Imagine Shakespeare in Havana and you have a pretty good picture of this year's very good production of Twelfth Night by the Saratoga Shakespeare Company. 

The Handsome Husband and I hied our way over to Congress Park Friday night to see this free performance with a distinctive Latin flavor.
 At the very beginning, we weren't too sure that this version was going to work, but it definitely grew on us.
 In general, we are fans of free summer Shakespeare programs in parks and this production was a lot of fun.
 The actors are a good mixture of familiar faces along with a lead from Columbia and another from Havana.
 The original Shakespeare dialog is left pretty much intact. They may have cut some things, the HH thinks, but I don't know the play well enough to verify that.
 The actors are miked so there's no problem hearing, even in the lovely outdoor setting in Congress Park.
There are only two more performances scheduled. The show on Saturday evening, July 28, at 6:00 pm, will include live music by Sensemaya, an Albany area Latin jazz band. 
 The final performance will be a matinee on Sunday, July 29, at 3:00 pm. You should pack a picnic and go.