Don't be fooled. Inside this thin coating of sweetness is a fiery core of total insanity.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

What I Saw, and Did, and Bought at the Tacoma Home and Garden Show

I knew the Tacoma Home and Garden Show was coming up, but I wasn't sure I wanted to go, because the Northwest Flower and Garden Show is also coming up soon, and I figured that would be enough to satisfy me. Well, then I started reading about friends on Facebook who went to the Tacoma Show, and decided that I just couldn't wait a couple of weeks to see gardening stuff and get inspiration. So last night I suggested coyly to Nigel that maybe we could go today?

So we did. What fun!

There were quite a few landscaping companies there offering to install pondless waterfalls like this one. This is the only one I took a picture of, because I like the log laying across the bottom, and I love the patches of moss. Maybe I should hang onto one or two of the big lichen-covered branches that fell during our ice storm, and lay them artfully across the stream (which I have cleaned out since my last post). I have a few small pieces of driftwood strewn around it, but they are way too small to make an impact. I need something bigger to match the size of the stream.

This was a pretty cool cabin. It's completely insulated and actually quite large. It would work as a place to get away and do craft projects. But it's kind of overkill for a garden shed.

One of my favorite booths was Art of Stone, which had the most wonderful creations in concrete and cement. You may recall before Christmas, I was doing a lot of work with concrete and cement. I have a few creations that I haven't blogged about yet, but they are nothing as creative and beautiful and whimsical as the lovely artwork I found at their booth. That sweet angel came home with me!

Ever since the two-day power outage that we endured because of the ice storm, Nigel and I have been talking about getting a wood stove installed. So one of the booths that we checked out was Wallace's Stove and Fireplace, which has a shop right here in our own town. We got a lot of questions answered (pellet versus wood, what do we do since we have no chimney, etc.). It looks like a wood stove is in our future.

I have also been contemplating getting a new garden gate this spring. Ideally, I would love to have a big heavy wooden gate, one that maybe looks like a door, hung on stone plinths or maybe concrete block faced with stone. At the Marenakos Rock Center display, we found this stone plinth. It's a little small for the look I really want, but at least now I know I might be able to get what I want there. Another spring project.

As we traipsed around the booths, lunchtime came and went, so around 2 p.m., our stomachs decided it was time to eat. The Tacoma Dome, where the show took place, has an upstairs restaurant called McKinley's Grill, which sits on a balcony overlooking the show floor. Nigel had a Philly cheeseteak with fries, and I had a cup of butternut squash soup, and chicken caesar salad. While we ate, we could hear local garden guru Ciscoe Morris giving a talk. We couldn't hear every word, but according to the show schedule, it was a talk called "Ask Ciscoe: Answers to Your Garden Stumpers." Knowing Ciscoe (I watch his show almost every weekend), that was an excuse for him to ramble on and tell a lot of wonderful garden-related anecdotes. At one point, we heard him howling like a coyote! After he finished his talk, he walked through the show floor, just under the spot where our table overlooked, and I thought about yelling "Ciscoe, You Rock!" but I wasn't sure Nigel would appreciate the attention.

From our table in the restaurant I could see a booth called The Olive Branch, that was selling flavored oils and vinegars. So after lunch, we made a beeline for that booth, and bought two bottles of flavored dipping oil/marinade/dressing. We got to taste a sample of each, and Nigel liked the Chipotle while I favored the sun-dried tomato. Naturally, I got to buy the bigger bottle!

By then, we had had enough of the crowds, and didn't really need to check out any other booths, so we went on our merry way!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Aftermath of the Storm

Some of you may have heard about the crazy weather we've had in the PNW this past week. The week started with on-and-off snow, which changed over on Thursday to an ice storm, which brought down trees and power lines all over the region. For a while over 250,000 customers (individual and business) in Washington state were without electricity and/or heat. That included us. Our power came back on Friday night at about 10:30, after being off for about 40 hours.

The back garden early in the week (pretty, huh?)

Fortunately we had a gas stove, which we could light with a match to cook and to warm up the kitchen area (it's an open plan house more or less, so kitchen area means a fairly large space). Some of that warmth made it up to the second floor of the house, but unfortunately, not into the bedroom. But I had a nice fluffy duvet and a husband to snuggle with in there at night.

And for entertainment I had my Kindle during the daylight hours, which was fully powered up with a couple of books that I hadn't read before.

During the ice storm, ornamental grasses and perennials in the front garden became encased in ice.

A hanging basket in the front, which until the storm had kinda sorta been hanging onto life

English laurel bent over by the heavy weight of the ice

All day Friday, as things thawed, we could hear all around the snap, crackle, plop of huge chunks of ice, snow, limbs and small branches falling off trees. A lot of them landed in my back yard, littering the  stream.

Douglas fir branches -- they smell like Christmas, but what a mess!

The stream, running again now that the power's back on, but clogged with twigs and branches

Another corner of the garden where branches fell in abundance

And in the front, I lost a tree between us and the neighbors. Do you know that cutting off the leader trunk of a tree is called topping it? And in England, committing suicide is called "topping oneself?" Well, this tree topped itself.

Top half on the right -- bottom half, the rest of the trunk, on the left.

This is the same tree that I lost a couple of limbs from earlier this year. So although technically the bottom half of the tree is still alive, it's truly not long for this world. I figure I now have a good excuse to replace it.

Well, if you don't hear from me in a while, it's because I'm on clean-up duty. I prefer a somewhat tidy garden.

In the meantime -- Hurry up, Spring!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

About My Mom

A warning to readers: This is a very personal, family-related post. If you came here looking for gardening info, then you might not be interested in reading this post.

Still here? Good. Give me a big hug.

Some of you may remember my series of family-related posts from a couple of months ago, when I visited my mom in Massachusetts to celebrate her 90th birthday. We all had a good time, and at the party we managed to surprise her with a bagpipe player.

Well, my mom passed away on Christmas Day, December 25, 2011, at the Kaplan Hospice in Danvers, Massachusetts, surrounded by family members that she loved. I wasn't there, unfortunately, although I have no doubt that she loved me, and that she knew I loved her too.

Despite the fact that she never smoked a single day of her life, she had been suffering from COPD for a few years now. She awoke one night a couple of weeks before Christmas, unable to breathe, and asked my brother-in-law to take her to the hospital. She was there for a couple of weeks, while they tried to adjust the many medicines that she was taking. She was given a choice of going to rehab or to a local hospice to try to recuperate. Finally, she requested that they send her to the hospice. I truly thought she would be there for only a few days, and would be home again with my sister perhaps by Christmas Day.

But instead, her condition declined. My sister called me here in Washington to let me know she was not getting better. But my mind rebelled. I thought she would rally, and I didn't want to believe the worst. I was in shock. I felt paralyzed. Maybe I should have gotten on a plane immediately. But I didn't, and I wasn't there when she passed.

My mom, Margaret (Withers) Scott, exploring a garden. I think she looks about three years old here.

My mom didn't believe in making a fuss about anything. You know how sometimes people talk of someone's temper having a short fuse? Well, I'm not sure my mom's temper even had a fuse. She seldom talked of her own feelings -- in fact, she was the type who denied having them. I spoke with my brother-in-law while I was at my sister's sorting my mom's things, and he mentioned that whenever she went with them to Bible study, and the talk turned to how she felt, she would always speak in the third person. "Well, people sometimes feel..." Never "I feel..." That was her way of distancing herself from her own anger, doubt, fear, even love. And she seldom if ever asked how other people felt. I don't think she wanted to know, but not because she didn't care. Because it would have brought her own feelings too close to the surface.

I don't know if that was a result of her upbringing, or her nature. I do know I am like her, except for the temper part. I have a very long fuse, but when it goes, it really explodes over something that appears to be minor. I do remember once -- when I was being a typical moody teenager -- my dad saying that he wished I was more even-tempered like her.

My mom is on the bottom right, with school friends.

Growing up, sometimes her motherly advice was hard to take, and often contradictory. Here's an example. Both sentences came up in the same conversation. "You're not smart enough to attract a smart man." "Men don't like smart women." I got that advice when I was in my early 20s, and I still don't quite know what to make of it. I think I did attract a smart man, and I don't think he minds that I'm not a dumb blonde (although he would like me to lose some weight).

My mom in a raccoon coat

I found a little slip of paper in one of my mom's dresser drawers, amongst the myriad addresses of friends and other random papers, including some that were completely empty. I don't know where she got it, but she kept it because she thought it was important. Here's what it said.

"Speaking of the tongue, that tiny portion of the human anatomy which is so hard for many people to control, there are a couple of proverbs it would be wise to heed. The first says: 'A slip of the foot you may soon recover, but a slip of the tongue you may never get over.' A harsh or false word, a confidence revealed, an unkind remark, once expressed cannot be taken back. The second proverb says: 'Nature has given us two ears, two eyes, and but one tongue, to the end that we should hear and see more than we speak.' A gently clever bit of good advice!"

It seemed to me that passage epitomized my mom, and was her final piece of motherly advice.

For info about the Kaplan Family Hospice House, click here. By all accounts, they gave great care to my mother in her last days.

For info about COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), click here.


And to my dear brother-in-law, if you're reading this (and I know you are), don't worry about my grieving process. It's private, and it's buried deep, but it will surface eventually (this post is part of it). Just take good care of my sister, I know she's stressed right now beyond measure.