Friday, August 01, 2008

Hitting the pool

On Wednesday, it was brutally hot--33C (about 92F) outside and 28C (about 83F) inside--so we drug our carcasses to the local outdoor pool. John complained that we found a spot in the shade under a tree. Hello? What is the point of going somewhere to cool off if you don't--sit somewhere cool? John and Hannah swam a bit, then John took his towel to go lie in the direct sunlight. I love the heat, but hate sunbeams--I can feel my skin sizzling in direct sunlight--so I stayed on the blanket under the tree.

not dead

No, I didn't smother him with a floaty. He was too lazy to sit up while taking his turn at blowing up Hannah's alligator. He worries that it looks like he is pleasuring a blow-up alligator, but I assure you, he never does that in public. (Ha ha, Honey!)


Now that Hannah is careening toward the teenage years, I fear that all her photos for the next, oh, 10 years will look like this, just with different clothes. Oh, well.

Here is something I jotted in my notebook at the pool:
"Old ladies, middle-aged ladies, young women, girls--all wear two-piece swimsuits, bikinis even. The men wear trunks, speedos, a prosthetic leg. There are none of the long t-shirts of my youth, no beach cover-ups. I find myself staring at someone's back in line at the snack bar. Does that spot look cancerous? Should I say something? She walks off holding ice cream."

Sorry about that--I was reading Margaret Atwood at the pool.

Anyhoo, about 5 minutes after we got there, a big black cloud settled over the sun and floated back and forth over it for the next 3 hours. Have you seen my recent post "Murphy's Law"? Yeah, that's my life. I thought I also heard thunder, but that turned out to be the sound of children flopping themselves down the new big, plastic pool slide.

If we were to chart Hannah's level of enjoyment of a pool outing, it would look like a big V. When John suggests a trip to the pool, she gets totally gung-ho, gathering up everything without being reminded, grabbing the car keys so she can pack up and wait for us in the broiling parking lot, being extra polite. We get to the pool, she gets into the water, gets a snack (with her own money), and then she is ready to go home. No, there is no reason to stay, life at the pool is an unremitting hell, etc. etc. Finally, she stalks off to get back in the water, just to get us off her back. That would be the bottom of the V. Then she finds her friend's brother. A boy about her own age to pester? Nirvana! Back to the top of the V until it is time to go.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Murphy's Law

We are trying to do our bit to reduce our energy consumption, both for the environmental benefits and also because the cost of energy keeps going up. John reminds us constantly about turning out unused lights. I do my bit in the area of laundry.

Al Gore recommended not using the hottest setting on the washing machine, so I have already given up 90C for whites. (A lovely side effect is that the strata of deodorant on John's t-shirts doesn't get melted onto them; they have never been more deodorant-free.) I also bought a drying rack to reduce our use of the electric dryer.

laundry on the balcony

I don't think I've used the dryer more than about once a week in the last couple of months.

Of course, the weather here tends to throw a monkey wrench into my laundry plans. We either have a long stretch of cool, wet weather, which means I have to either find room for the rack indoors or use the dryer, or we have unseasonable, unpredictable storms. Recently, we have woken up to sunny, hot weather. Perfect for drying jeans, think I. So I shove the jeans in the washing machine on cold. I drag the wet jeans onto the balcony and arrange them on the drying rack. Thirty minutes later it clouds up. Thirty minutes after that it starts to pour rain. Or, as happened on Saturday, it begins to hail:


I wonder if I have inherited my Grammy's weather-influencing ability. She lived in Houston with my Gramps and had always heard about how dry it was out in West Texas. Alas, every time she visited us in West Texas, it rained. She didn't believe him about the desert conditions.

Hannah really didn't want to go on a class outing on the next-to-last day of school, so she got busy on the Internet looking for tips on rain-making. She spent all of Monday evening in her raincoat and galoshes, shaking her home-made rain-maker and spinning and chanting. Unfortunately, the rain did not hit until *after* the class had reached their outdoor destination. Fortunately, they went back to school early to watch a movie, and Hannah had dry clothes in her backpack.

So the moral of the story is that Mother Nature will always kick you in the proverbial nuts.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Camera fun

We have had our digital camera for 3 or 4 years now and have never figured out how to take close-up photos without them coming out blurry. Just recently, I noticed a setting with a little tulip-shaped flower and the letters "MF". I don't know why we hadn't ever tried it before. I thought it turned on the date-time stamp--Monday through Friday--and John only thought "motherfucker", although I can't see how that is an automatic setting on a camera. Usually that is user error. Anyhow, I finally noticed and tried it:

pink flower, close up

Motherfucker, indeed. (Except on me.)

So without further ado, I will now bombard you with photos and commentary about my balcony garden, because I love the satisfaction of coaxing things to grow.

All the flowers in our window boxes were planted as seeds, so it has taken awhile to get actual flowers. These were one of the first ones to put out blooms:

yellow flowers

I don't know what any of the flowers are called, because I wasn't very good about labeling the pots when I started them, and Hannah was helping me, and some of them are from mixed-seed assortments that didn't specify what was in them beyond "summer assortment" or "butterfly assortment" or whatever.

white flowers

These are on one side of the yellow flowers. The flowers are tiny, but there are lots of them, and their perfume really attracts the insects.

purple flower

This is on the other side of the yellow flowers. It is only one plant, but it is putting out clusters of purple buds at every node. It is also an insect-pleaser.

salmon flower

I have a variety of these in different shades of pink and orange in the next planter over. This is the latest one to open up--I just love the salmon color! The flowers look very delicate, but the petals are quite thick and firm, and the flowers last a long time without discoloring or wilting. I think the oldest flower is about 3 weeks old and is just now getting brown around the edges.

weird plant

I made this picture a little larger so you could see the weirdness of this plant. It looks like a succulent, with fleshy leaves, but it needs lots of water. The underside of the leaves and the stems are covered in tiny bulges that look like water droplets. Occasionally this plant puts out a spiky--something--that has fine hairs sticking out of it. Not knowing what this plant really is, I guessed that it was some kind of ground cover and that the spiky things were its flowers. But then one of these popped up:

flower on weird plant

It only lasted a couple of days, but the lovely color and delicate petals were a nice contrast to the fleshy leaves underneath.

lemon balm

Lemon balm. I've been using it in frozen concoctions instead of lemon or mint. Delish!

Hannah saved some seeds from the kitchen, and now we have these:

bell pepper?

I wasn't sure which kind of pepper I had been chopping when Hannah asked for the seeds, but I'm guessing bell pepper. The 2 plants that survived have put out a ton of flowers, so we should get quite a few peppers over the summer. The go nicely with the tiny citrus trees

citrus tree

and gigantic walnut trees

walnut tree

that stand next to them in that corner of the balcony.

chili plants

Last year I bought seeds to plant chili-peppers for John. We didn't manage to use all the chilis, and I didn't get around to composting the dead plants, so a few weeks ago I went out and harvested the seeds from the leftover chilis. Voila! New plants. I love recycling.

John was waxing optimistic about growing half our own produce, but that is hard to imagine in our circumstances (no actual garden). But, it will be nice to go out on the balcony and snag the occasional pepper to throw into some spaghetti. And although our flowers are few in number, they give me a lot of enjoyment on a cool summer morning.