Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Daffodils Are Blooming
The early spring Michigan landscape is looking pretty blah. There are no leaves on the trees yet and even the early woodland wildflowers are only on the verge of showing us their beauty.

Picture of February Gold in March
Crocus and snowdrops have bloomed and now the early daffodils are showing their color.

Violet Acres has several varieties of daffodils, but only the early blooming February Gold show color in the month of March. They just bloomed this week and they certainly are a welcome patch of yellow in the otherwise drab and messy looking gardens.

Oak Leaf Blues
The "senior" brown bag lunch at the Kalamazoo Nature Center yesterday was not for the feeble. We hiked a little more than a mile over some rough hilly paths through the beech/maple forest with a naturalist guide to show us the emerging wildflowers. It was a beautiful day - in the 60's (F). Mom and I both had an enjoyable time and have signed up for the next "senior" event the last Tuesday in April.

At one point on the hike, the naturalist stopped under an oak tree. She had us each pick up a shed oak leaf and a shed maple leaf and hold them up to the sky. The maple leaf was translucent, the oak leaf was opaque.

We learned that in the beech/maple forest the translucent leaves expedite the warming of the ground in the spring. The opaque oak leaves work as insulation and slow the warming of the ground. Also, the oak leaves take three to four years to decompose and will frequently smother whatever delicate plants are trying to grow beneath them.

Picture of front yard before spring cleanup
This is a picture of our front yard. Most of our front two acres - the area we maintain - looks like this right now.

Violet acres has oak trees. Lots of oak trees. So many oak trees that I've never bothered to count them.

They drop their leaves very late in the fall or early in the spring. Spring raking is inevitable. The leaves are deep, heavy, and wet.

It's more than just leaves. It's lots of sticks and branches and acorns.

I kept track one year. It took 14 hours of raking to clear the front two acres. That does not include the time spent burning and/or hauling away.

The next year I hired a lawn service to come and do it. Two men with all the big powerful blowing equipment you could ever imagine worked eight hours. And they didn't get it done. Almost, but not quite.

As you might imagine, this was very expensive. It was also unsatisfactory. They didn't "blow" the acorns and I've been weeding out tough little oak seedlings ever since.

I've come to the conclusion the best results are obtained by raking. So the raking has started. It's a pleasure to be able to do a little every day, enjoy the outdoors, and observe the emerging plants. Unemployment has its advantages.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Blogger Idol, Week 11
Blogger Idol is the brainchild of Darren at LivingRoom.

Each Sunday (Australian time) Darren announces a theme for the week. We have three days to work that theme into a blog post. We post the entry in our own blog and leave a link in Darren's blog so we can read what each other wrote.

If you want to read the other entries, the links are here. blogger_idol-1.gif

I will read as many of the entries as possible. Later in the week I will list five entries of note.

This weeks theme is 'Blogger Pageant'. We were given three pages of questions used to quiz beauty pageant contestants and asked to pick one.

I selected "Describe Your Community".

Paw Paw, Michigan, USA
I live on a very rural dirt road near several communities.

Map showing Paw Paw location

Kalamazoo is a good sized city about 15 miles to the east.

About ten miles to the east there is a major shopping and fast food corridor in Oshtemo Township.

Our mailing address is Paw Paw, Michigan, a quaint little village in SW Michigan halfway between Chicago and Detroit. It is named after a tree that grows along the area river banks.

There is nothing fancy about Paw Paw. The 3,700 citizens of Paw Paw tend to be very casual, down to earth, and (mostly) pleasant.

Picture of downtown Paw Paw
Tourists and summer home owners flock to Paw Paw in the summer to have a completely different experience than their life in the city.

On summer weekends, half the license plates in the food market parking lot are from out-of-state. These people drive hours on Friday to come to Paw Paw to enjoy the small town life. They seem to love that fact that Paw Paw is a very uncool, relaxed little village.

Thanks to the local weather, friends and strangers alike have an instant conversation starter that everyone is knowledgeable enough to discuss.

This quote from the Paw Paw website attempts to turn our volatile local weather into a tourist attraction:

"Paw Paw is located in Southwest Michigan, so it possesses the infamous 'Michigan weather'. It sees exaggerated examples of each of the four seasons, with winter being the most extreme. It is not uncommon to have snow one day and sunny, 50 degree weather the next. The weather is definitely interesting and keeps residents and visitors alike guessing on what tomorrow will bring!"

Yes, that's what it's like here. There's a local saying, "If you don't like the weather, wait ten minutes."

Picture of Maple Lake
Paw Paw is the heart of Michigan's wine country. The main industry is grapes. Paw Paw has two winneries, St. Julian Winery and Warner Wine Haus.

The second weekend in September is the Annual Wine and Harvest Festival. It's a heavily attended event with a grape stomp competition, winery tours, wine tasting, carnival, quality craft show, games, hole in one tournament, parade, community breakfast, music, tournaments, and, of course, local merchant specials.

My favorite part of the festival is the fireworks on Friday night. They are shot off over Maple Lake, a large shallow lake in the middle of Paw Paw. All around the lake are grassy banks where the spectators bring blankets to sit outside on a beautiful late summer evening.

Those last few days of summer are always extra special because we know that a long, cold winter is coming soon.

Sunday, March 28, 2004

More This and That
Questions from Sunday Brunch.

1. Are you organized or disorganized?

In general, I'm very organized. I am most organized when planning a project. I am least organized when maintaining my home and lesser possessions.

I love making detailed plans on paper. I frequently fall short on the implementation.

2. How well can you swim?
I was over 50 when I learned to swim by taking private lessons from a Western Michigan University swim team member. I had always been afraid of the water, so this was a big scary deal. She was a wonderful, patient teacher and I was soon swimming laps in the University pool three mornings a week at 6:30.

Back to the question - I'm not a very good swimmer. I was almost always the slowest person in the pool. But I am proud of myself for learning and it's a good way to exercise without jarring my joints.

So why don't I do it anymore?

3. How often do you fill your gas tank?
When it's about a quarter full, I fill it up. When I was working, I filled up once a week. Now I have no set schedule. I depends on how much driving I do, and that varies from week to week.

My gas purchases need to be better organized so I'm not pumping gas on the weekend when it's most expensive.

4. Where is your favorite vacation spot?
During my working years, my favorite vacation spot was always home.

Now that I'm home everyday, I'm starting to think I might like to venture out into the world occasionally.

My son and wife have a new house in Idaho that I've never seen. That's high on the list as a potential destination.

5. What is your favorite animal to have as a pet?
I love my dogs.

Right now I'm sitting on the loveseat. Dog Sunny is sleeping next to me on my left. Dog Pappy is sleeping on the back of the loveseat behind my shoulders. It's all very relaxing and I'm thinking about taking a nap.

Do you ever take a Sunday nap?

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Saturday Sum Up
The fascinating Saturday feature where I respond to comments from recent Seasons of Violet posts, and then pose a question of my own.

Comment from John -
Here's a URL for the (cicada) story I read. Swarm of cicadas takes aim at U.S.

This CNN article appears to be written by a non-nature loving city person. Toward the bottom of the article is this explanation of their alarmist tone:
"There's no question that the class of 2004 will be a nuisance. The cicadas will make plenty of noise, and adults are poor fliers that tend to bump into things."
Maybe we should all stay indoors and lock our doors this summer?

Comment from Cliff -
"Senior" is a state of mind, not a birthday.

Also Comment from Carrie and KeLee expressing sympathy on my fall last Saturday. Thanks ladies.

Usually, and especially since I lost weight, I'm able to think young. Last week, however, my body delivered a rendezvous with reality as it protested the jarring it received when I fell.

I almost posted a picture of my totally bruised foot. Fortunately sanity reigned through the pain. I took two Tylenol and went to bed instead.

At first I thought that being laid up was going to be a great excuse to sit and knit all week. By the second day my shoulders and wrists joined the screaming parts of my anatomy and ruined my knitting plans.

The bruising is 80% gone. Only the toe and my knees still ache. (On my pain scale "ache" is much milder than "hurt".) Life is getting back to normal and I'm feeling younger each day.

What's the first thing you think of when someone refers to a "senior"?

Question from Carrie -
Where's Violet? Eagerly awaiting another post....

Carrie wrote her question at 8:15, 45 minutes after I posted the cicada post at 7:30. She couldn't see the new post because AOL delays showing updated Seasons of Violet.

Mom, another AOL user, has the same problem seeing my new posts. For some reason AOL isn't real time with the internet.

I've had Mom try REFRESH and it does not bring in the new post. I don't understand this.

Can anyone explain this to me?
(I've already received the explanation "AOL sucks". My analyst mind is looking for an explanation that's a little more technical.)

Question from What's On . . . Right Now? -
What's On 'your blog' Right Now?

Hummm. If you're reading this post, you know what's on my blog right now.

My senior mind seems to be incapable of making something interesting out of this meme topic. Guess I'll skip it for this week.

Did you have a good week?

Any other questions? Leave your questions and/or answers in the comments.

Househunting Bluebirds

Bluebird couple sitting on the far house
Last weekend Granddaughter Kimmy and I went shopping at Wild Birds Unlimited. We replaced the four old, falling apart nest boxes on the back three acres with new everything.

We installed wonderful new poles that screwed into the ground, new baffles to keep out the raccoons, snakes, and other egg-eating wildlife, and new nest boxes.

The nest box on the left has a slot at the top instead of the traditional hole. The theory is that the bluebirds will still use the nest box with the slot and the English sparrows will not go in it.

We've had a few incidents where the English sparrows have invaded a nest box while the bluebirds were nesting. It resulted in a horrible deheading of the bluebird. I've learned this is a common problem, so I'm willing to give the new slotted nest boxes a try.

Shot this picture as I took the dogs out for their early morning walk today. Sorry it's not more clear. Male and female bluebird are sitting on top of the far nest box.

As they flew off to the nearest tree I explained to them that they would be safer in the other, slotted nest box. Hope they understood.

Friday, March 26, 2004

Where Have All the Bloggers Gone?
There were only 23 Blogger Idol entries this week. Where did everyone go?

It's been a pretty smooth curve down from 84 entries the first week, so I don't think the ten week decline is due to an unpopular topic or the basketball games.

Maybe it's because of the extra time and thought that need to go into a themed entry.

Usually I see the topic for the first time on Sunday, let it ferment in my subconscious for a day or two, and end up posting my entry mid-week.

After ten weeks, Blogger Idol has become part of my weekly routine. I enjoy it. I enjoy writing my entry and I enjoy reading the other entries. I'll miss Blogger Idol if it goes away from lack of interest.

Does Anyone At My Bank Understand Interest?
This week I started shopping for a place to park my severance money until needed. What an eyeopener.

My bank is offering a high interest rate money market account which is almost too good to be true in today's low interest rate climate. Thanks to DH Bob reminding me that it is important to know how and how often the interest is calculated and applied, I confidently started asking questions that I assumed any bank employee could answer.

Instead of getting the answer, I learned several puzzling things.

You can not call the bank and talk to anyone who knows how the interest rate is applied. The people who answer the phone are barely capable of understanding the question.

The people who might be able to answer the question (according to the people who answer the phone) are too busy to come to the phone. They also don't have time to call back later.

Bank websites do not answer this question.

Is it possible that a computer calculates the interest and no human being knows how the program works?

Will I Enjoy My First Time?
Next Tuesday I am going to my first "senior" event. It's a brown bag lunch and short hike at the Kalamazoo Nature Center.

The first time I saw the event in the Nature Center flyer, it didn't register that I might be old enough to attend.

Even after I considered attending, I felt the need to call and ask them if I was old enough to be a senior. I was. By four years. Yikes!

Top 5 Blogger Idol Posts for Week 10
Here are five entries that spoke to me. A different five may speak to you.

A complete list of entries is here: blogger_idol-1.gif

  • Ian's Messy Desk. Childhood Treasures.
    A thoughtful poem about childhood treasures and life.

  • Spare Change. One Child's Timeline.
    Humorous portrait of the world of a little boy.

  • Cliff Between the Lines. Coins and Corals and Carved Coconuts.
    A peek into a piece of Cliff's childhood. A personal, heartwarming, well written entry.

  • Codswallop and Flapdoodle. Putting away childish things...or not.
    A conversation about the appropriateness of keeping childish things, only not half as serious as my description makes it sound.

  • Silent Tribute. Eyes Wide Open/Always Hoping for the Sun.
    Jess certainly knows more than I understood at her age. And she writes about it with humor and insight.
Which one is your favorite?

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Blogger Idol, Week 10
Blogger Idol is the brainchild of Darren at LivingRoom.

Each Sunday (Australian time) Darren announces a theme for the week. We have three days to work that theme into a blog post. We post the entry in our own blog and leave a link in Darren's blog so we can read what each other wrote.

If you want to read the other entries, the links are here. blogger_idol-1.gif

I will read as many of the entries as possible. Later in the week I will list five entries of note.

This weeks theme is 'Childhood Treasures'.

Cicada Summers
Summer 1953. I was eight years old and the endless summer days were full of cicadas.

I was fascinated by the holes in the ground where they emerged from their long dark youth. I was excited by the big beautiful but scary looking fly like adults.

Picture of cicada and exoskeleton
From my Little Golden Book of Insects, another childhood treasure, I learned that the cicadas spend 17 years underground feeding on tree roots. Magically, they tunnel up from the ground on the seventeenth year, shed their drab brown exoskeletons, and become colorful adults.

The adults look like beautiful giant flies. They climb trees, make loud buzzing noises, mate, and lay eggs. The eggs hatch and the nymphs drop out of the trees and burrow into the ground for a 17 year feast on tree roots. The adults die, their 17 year cycle complete.

Most important to my childhood quest for cicadas, I learned they don't bite.

That summer the cicadas were everywhere. I caught them, heard them, watched them, and collected all the exoskeletons I could find.

One afternoon I was able to watch an adult split the back of an exoskeleton and slowly slip out into the world on a treetrunk just at my eyelevel. It was a very slow metamorphosis. It took every bit of childish patience I could muster to refrain from helping the cicada out of its shell.

I wanted that exoskeleton to add to my collection, my wonderful childhood treasure chest of shed cicada skins.

One hot summer day I got out a piece of paper to make some important calculations. How long would it be before I could have this much fun again?

1953 + 17 = 1970? Impossible! It was never going to be 1970!

1987? 2004? My eight year old brain couldn't comprehend ever reaching those dates.

Summer 1970. I was twenty-five years old and had recently given birth to my second child. We lived in an apartment in the heart of town. I never noticed the cicada summer that must have occurred.

Summer 1987. I was forty-two years old and life was very very busy. I had two teenage children, a job, a house, a full time demanding job, and a twenty-seven mile commute. We lived on a very small lot in the city. I never noticed the cicada summer that must have occurred.

It will soon be Summer 2004. I am fifty-nine and at leisure living in the wooded countryside.

The great-grandchildren of my childhood treasures are coming up out of the ground this summer. Lord willing, I will be collecting cicada exoskeletons with my eight year old granddaughter - as soon as she learns they don't bite.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Weekend Fun and Pain
It's below freezing, the wind is blowing, and it's snowing. I know it's spring because I read it in the paper. Did someone forget to tell the Mother Nature?

Yesterday, in the afternoon, the sun came out and it warmed up to the 50's (F). Granddaughter Kimmy and I went to a Maple Sugar Festival at the Kalamazoo Nature Center. We got the see the sap running, the sap boiling, and taste the finished product. Yum.

Spending the afternoon outdoors in the woods with the first signs of spring was delightful. Sharing it with Kimmy made it a special event.

I managed to fall down and hurt my left big toe. It's swollen and black with bruise. It hurts. I have it propped up as I write this. If it's not better tomorrow, I'm going to have to come out of denial and get it x-rayed to see if it's broken.

Fortunately, I was able to ignore the toe and continue to enjoy the Maple Sugar Festival. The toe got gradually worse throughout the afternoon, but I didn't go into limp mode until Kimmy had been delivered safety back to her mother in the evening.

I'm guessing that walking around all afternoon on an injured toe wasn't the best thing for it, but I'm not sorry. We had a great time. It was one of the first beautiful afternoons of spring and now that winter is back I can sit around with my foot elevated.

What Happens at the Equinox
Questions from Sunday Brunch.

1. Do you get a spring break?

No. At the moment, there is nothing going on it my life to take a break from.

2. Some of us are pretty casual about spring cleaning. Others go to it with a lot of gusto. Which are you?
The house gets ignored even more than usual as I spend all my energy working outside in the spring. I love it - until the blackflies hatch in April.

3. Is planting flowers or a vegetable garden on the agenda?
Flowers. We have shade almost everywhere, so I plant Impatients.

The Kalamazoo area is the bedding plant capital of the US. I love walking though the greenhouses in the springtime. It usually results in a flat or two of some plant I've never grown before.

Most of our property is planted with perennials. We have hundreds of hostas. Lily of the Valley grows like a weed here.

4. Do you suffer from allergies and do they get worse in the spring?
I have mild allergies and they do get a little worse in the spring. I ignore them. They're worse in the fall, and I ignore them then as well.

5. How will you celebrate Easter this year?
Quietly at home.

I am the only church attending member of my local family, so it's not a big family holiday for us.

Church on Easter is an overblown crowded production. A few years ago the elders asked the "regular attenders" to park at a nearby soccer complex and take a shuttle to the church on Easter so that the "guests" could be sure and find a place to park. That request solidified my feelings about the Easter service, and I've been skipping them ever since.

What are your thoughts on Easter Sunday Church Services?

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Top 5 Blogger Idol Posts for Week 9
Here are five entries that spoke to me. A different five may speak to you.

A complete list of entries is here: blogger_idol-1.gif

  • Tim Samoff. I Wish I Cared.
    Yes! Yes! Yes! How I feel about celebrities expressed in poetry.

  • Where the Hell Was I. Please... Haven't We Suffered Enough?
    This is a little too true to be completely funny.
    No, I changed my mind. It is completely funny!

  • Random Ramblings of Ryan. Dear Chevy.
    Interesting choice for a celebrity. I could identify with his feelings only my letter would start "Dear Tercel".

  • American Diatribe. To God, from an agnostic.
    Be sure and read the comments. They're as interesting as the post.

  • Cliff Between the Lines. Eternal Nightcap.
    This is so heartbreaking I almost didn't pick it. But it's good, so here it is.

Which one is your favorite?

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Wearin' of the Green

Picture of Mom dressed for St Paddys Day and cataract surgery
This is my mom all decked out for cataract surgery at the top o'the morning on St. Paddy's Day. (Mom calls herself Monette in the comments.)

Last month she had the left eye done. When I saw how funny she looked in her pretty green hat and a "YES" on her forehead, I knew I'd be bringing the camera for the second eye in March.

The shamrock necklace was her idea. Doesn't it go well with the hospital gown?

That writing over her right eye is a little note from the nurse to the surgeon to let him know which eye is having the surgery.

The luck of the Irish was with us - even though we are Swiss. The cataract removal and the lenses implant went very well. Mom now has better vision than a twenty year old. What a blessing.

The surgery takes about ten minutes. The results are immediate, although the eye has to be babied for a few days while it heals.

Cataract surgery patients get sent home within a half hour after the surgery. At that point they are still a little groggy and forgetful from the drugs, so I'm mom-sitting until she can answer all questions to my satisfaction. It's been a very good day.

Did you do anything green today?

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Blogger Idol, Week 9
Blogger Idol is the brainchild of Darren at LivingRoom.

Each Sunday (Australian time) Darren announces a theme for the week. We have three days to work that theme into a blog post. We post the entry in our own blog and leave a link in Darren's blog so we can read what each other wrote.

If you want to read the other entries, the links are here. blogger_idol-1.gif

I will read as many of the entries as possible. Later in the week I will list five entries of note.

This weeks theme is ‘Letter to a Celebrity’.

Dear Biz Stone, Genius,

My goal was to get Seasons of Violet permalinks working before this Blogger Idol entry. So I grabbed my copy of Blogging, Genius Strategies for Instant Web Content, looked up "permalink" in the index, and there was the answer. It was a simple matter of moving the blogger tag. Your book explained why - in language I could understand - and gave an example of the required code.

Even after six months of blogging, I am still using your book for a reference.

Seven months ago, I didn't have a clue how blogs were created or how to code an html tag. I thought I wanted to start a blog, but I didn't know how.

As has been my lifetime habit, I went looking for a book to tell me what I needed to know. And I found yours, Blogging, Genius Strategies for Instant Web Content. In fact, yours was the only how-to book I found.

It turned out to be just perfect.

Your book was just as advertised.
"This book doesn't assume you know the seemingly obvious, and it provides how-to projects, sound advice, and inspiration for both beginners and experts."
I could be poster child for that sales blurb. For me, nothing about creating a blog was "seemingly obvious", yet I had a Blogger blog on Blogspot up and running in two hours after I started reading. My blog wasn't fancy - it still isn't fancy - but Seasons of Violet is a blog and it's doing (almost) everything I want it to be doing.

What turned out to be even more important than the technical information was your encouragement.
"Relax. It's Okay to make mistakes. It's okay if some people think you're a jerk, and it's fine if some people don't "get" you. There will be others who do. And you'll be happy once you get in and realize that the water's warm."
"Don't think about it too much; just blog every day and your voice will develop."

These words of wisdom have played a large part in maintaining my motivation and giving me permission to just be myself and keep blogging.

I haven't completely found my voice yet. Sometimes I get full of myself (I can always tell those posts. Noone wants to comment on them.) But every month I get a little more relaxed about what I write and have a little more fun with what I write.

Most exciting of all, my stats show that people are reading Seasons of Violet.

Some people even leave comments. I love comments! Comments implemented with the help of Blogging, Genius Strategies for Instant Web Content of course.

Thanks Biz. Great book.

To quote one of your favorite phrases, "Good stuff!"

A grateful fan,

Monday, March 15, 2004

What Country Are You?
According to this Quizilla quiz, I am Switzerland.

Switzerland -
A neutral power for as long as most can remember, it has avoided war for several centuries.

However, it is still considered highly advanced and a global power.

Powerful without Force.
Makes Excellent Watches, Etc.

Target of Ridicule.
Constant Struggle to Avoid Conflict.
Target of Criminal Bank Accounts.

Which Country of the World are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

This is so cool because I really am half Swiss.

My grandparents and their two year old daughter, my mother, came to this country from Switzerland in the 1920's and became naturalized citizens of the USA.

I don't understand the "Target of Ridicule" comment. Maybe because we yodel on mountaintops?

I pronounce this quiz very accurate - for me. Give it a try and see if it's accurate for you.

What country are you? Do you agree?

Sunday, March 14, 2004

What's In A Name
Questions from Sunday Brunch.

1. Do you like your name?


2. Are you named after anyone?
I'm Marguerite Louise after my mother, Marguerite Louise.

There are four generations of Louises now. I named my daughter Heather Louise and she named her daughter Kimberly Louise. It's a tradition that means a lot to me because I love the other three Louises so very much.

3. Do you have a nickname? If yes, what is it?
When I was a small child, everyone called me Didi. Before I started school someone taught me how to write my name. It was so easy, D-I-D-I.

I'll always remember the day I started first grade. There was a piece of paper on my desk that said "Marguerite". The teacher explained to us how the name on that paper needed to go in the upper right hand corner of every paper we produced.

Confident that teacher had made a mistake, I marched up to the front of the room and boldly informed her that my name was Didi, D-I-D-I.

That was the day I learned my name is Marguerite, M-a-r-g-u-e-r-i-t-e.

4. If you could change your name, what would you change it to?
If I had to change my name, I've always liked the name Phoebe. I'd be Phoebe Louise.

5. What is the most interesting name of your friends or someone you know?
I think Eastern Indian names are beautiful. Two of my favorites are Padmaja and Nirmala.

What is the most interesting name of someone you know?

Saturday, March 13, 2004

Saturday Sum Up
The fascinating Saturday feature where I respond to comments from recent Seasons of Violet posts, and then pose a question of my own.

Comment from KeLee -
Right now I am eating low carb and it is working for me. It's amazing how different our bodies are.

I temporarily forgot that the current trend is the low carb diet and that some dieters don't want to hear about ice cream sandwiches.

In Weight Watchers they poo-poo low carb diets by saying people can't stay on them for life because people don't really eat that way.

I disagree with Weight Watchers. In order to lose weight a person needs to change their eating habits to whatever works for them. As KeLee points out, we're all different.

In order to keep the weight off a person needs to retain the changed eating habits.

For most of us, maintenance is not easy no matter what type of dietary changes we've made. A Weight Watcher diet isn't any easier to maintain than a low carb diet.

My "mature" body seems to like the fiber found in the carbs and low fat meals, so that's what I'll continue.

Are you dieting? Do you count carbs, calories, or something else?

Comment from Carrie -
I think all the names: Marsha, Kelee, Marguerite, Violet etc. are lovely.

I think Carrie is a lovely name, also.

Carrie is my little little sister and is named after our paternal Grandmother. Grandmother Carrie raised eight children on a farm in Minnesota during the early 1900's. She was the best cook in the world - on a cast iron wood stove. She worked so hard that she remained thin as a rail her whole life. (Oops. I seem to be going back to the diet thread. Sorry.)

Speaking of names again, I enjoyed changing Seasons of Violet to refer to myself in the first person and call myself by my actual name. It feels right. And so far no one has spelled Marguerite with a Q.

How was your name selected?

Question from What's On . . . Right Now? -
What's On 'the back seat of your car' Right Now?

Picture of dogs in the back seat
My back seat has two Lookout car seats, one for each little dog. This is a wonderful invention for keeping smaller dogs safe and secure and out from under the driver's feet.

The seats have a washable fleece lining and are very cozy. Sometimes the dogs curl up in them and go to sleep. When they're not sleeping, they're up high enough so they can look out the window.

The Lookout seat is secured to the car with the car seatbelt. There's a short tether that goes between the seatbelt and the dog. I don't like the thought of making a quick stop and having a dog's neck jerked, so my dogs wear a car harness around their chest with a D ring in middle of their back.

Both dogs know that when I pull out the harnesses there is going to be a car ride. They get extremely excited. Princess Sunny (front in picture) wiggles and squirms with excitement until I can hardly get the harness on her. The much more dignified Prince Pappy (back in picture) stands still and trills with excitement.

Both dogs ride in the back seat so we don't have squabbling about whose turn it is to ride in the front. (Actually it's because I have an airbag on the passenger side and they're much safer in the back.)

Do you think my dogs are spoiled?

Any other questions? Leave your questions and/or answers in the comments.

Friday, March 12, 2004

Report on Spring
It's coming. I know it's coming. Last week we had the big thaw. It was above freezing for several days, the snow and ice melted, and everything turned to wonderful springlike mud.

Sunday I saw the first robin. It looked a little cold, but happy to be here.

Wednesday I saw the first bluebird. It was a beautiful flash of blue flying off the top of one of the nestboxes as the dogs and I approached. The bluebirds huddle together in the nest boxes while Michigan flips back and forth between spring and winter during the month of March.

Picture of daffodils
Today it is winter again. It never got above freezing and it's been snowing off and on since last night. The forecast calls for snow through next Tuesday. The low temperature tonight will be 13F/-11C.

Not a temperature range that promotes nest building. Mr. Robin is somewhere trying to keep warm and wondering why he was in such a hurry to get here.

This morning I took this picture of some "February Gold" daffodils. Obviously the name doesn't apply when they're planted in Michigan.

These brave little daffodils are the first out of the ground in the spring. They came up under the snow. When the snow melts, there they are growing away just like they'd had sunshine.

They bloom the first week in April and it's an exciting moment to see the bright yellow color in the garden.

Picture of hellebore

This Hellebore is as good as it gets for current blooms in the garden. These amazing plants start blooming even before the first major thaw and continue blooming on through the spring, long after they're overshadowed by the more showy flowers.

This little guy lives in the deep dry shade of a large oak tree in our front yard where nothing much else will grow. My garden is full of plants that don't need coddling, and this is one of the toughest.

After months of winter, it was fun to take garden pictures. Another harbinger of spring. It won't be too long now. The next garden pictures will have more green than white. Spring is coming soon.

What's up in your garden?

Top 5 Blogger Idol Posts for Week 8
Here are five entries that spoke to me. A different five may speak to you.

A complete list of entries is here: blogger_idol-1.gif

Cliff wrote two confessions this week, and, I confess, my favorite is In Your Face, the post he didn't use for a Blogger Idol entry. This one had me digging down into my own heart to see what was there. I encourage you to read it.

Which one is your favorite?

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Stop the Creeping Pounds
This week's Blogger Idol post has me thinking about my weight. I think it's creeping up. Not much, just a little, maybe a pound or two, and it's scary. My body wants to be fat and it's fighting back.

I noticed that I was sticking a few extra grapes in my mouth in the morning, an extra snack in the afternoon, a few extra crackers in my mouth at night. It was still the "good" food - not many extra calories - but those little things add up.

One of the big secrets of weight control is portion control. I've gone back to using the measuring cup.

Another big secret of weight control is writing down what I eat. I've got a little piece of paper in my jeans pocket to jot down my intake. Nothing fancy, just a quick notation and tally of points. (I was trained to lose weight in Weight Watchers, so I use points instead of calories.)

It's become obvious to me that in order to maintain, I need to stay aware of everything that goes into my mouth. I will continue with the food log.

I'm going to try an experiment. Each week I will write about some of the food I enjoy eating.

This will help me stay focused on my weight. It will be much more fun than a Weight Watcher's meeting and certainly much cheaper.

Maybe I'll even learn about some new things to eat as my readers make comments. That would be perfect.

Food Review - Skinny Cow Low Fat Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream Sandwich

Picture of Chocolate Peanut butter Skinny Cow
Product - Silhouette Skinny Cow Low Fat Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream Sandwich.

Serving Size - 1 sandwich.

Calories - 140.

Weight Watcher's Points - 2. (I just recalculated the points and it came out a little over 2 points. By Weight Watcher rules, that makes it 3 points. I've been counting these as 2 points for a year now so I'm just going to pretend I didn't recalculate. It works.)

Remarks - I can't eat ice cream. Or maybe it's more correct to say I can't stop eating ice cream, so I don't start. That includes low fat ice cream that comes in containers. The serving size is way too small and I have no will power when taking yummy stuff out of that big container.

Skinny Cow ice cream sandwiches fill the void. They are creamy and tasty, almost like real ice cream, and better than most of the low fat ice creams. I can reach in the freezer, take one out of the package, and bypass the temptation to cheat with the portion size.

Sometimes the chocolate peanut butter isn't available at my grocery store, so I've tried the vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, and mint. They're all good, but the chocolate peanut butter is the best. The flavor is more chocolate than peanut butter. The peanut butter flavor is very light.

On my diet, a Skinny Cow is 10% of my daily point allotment so I want to make sure I enjoy eating it. I pay attention to the creamy, cold, tasty sensations. I eat it deliberately and slowly and enjoy every bite. One Skinny Cow is big enough so that when I'm done, I feel like I've had a treat.

Warning - I didn't start eating Skinny Cows until I was several months into my diet. I think if I'd had them in the house before getting accustomed to eating less, I would have been tempted to eat more than one Skinny Cow in a day. I avoid this temptation now by journaling what I eat. It is important to write everything down and count the calories/points!

Find them - In the ice cream section of the grocery store. According to the Silhouette web site, Walgreens sells Silhouette ice cream. I'm going to stop by a Walgreens and see if they have some of the flavors I haven't tried.

Be careful to pick up the Silhouette brand. Other companies make a similar product packaged in a similar container. They're not as good as Skinny Cow. Not even close.

I have no affiliation with this product in any way.

The preceding opinions are mine. You may have a different opinion. I'd love to hear about it in the comments.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Blogger Idol, Week 8
Blogger Idol is the brainchild of Darren at LivingRoom.

Each Sunday (Australian time) Darren announces a theme for the week. We have three days to work that theme into a blog post. We post the entry in our own blog and leave a link in Darren's blog so we can read what each other wrote.

If you want to read the other entries, the links are here. blogger_idol-1.gif

I will read as many of the entries as possible. Later in the week I will list five entries of note.

This weeks theme is 'I confess'.

I Lost It
I confess to feeling very smug about losing 34 pounds.

I confess that I can easily become obnoxious talking about eating properly, improving my health, and feeling soooo much better.

I confess that I'm going to be publicly obnoxious now and write about how my life has changed for the better since I lost weight.
My weight was 168 pounds.
Now I weigh 134.

My blood pressure was high enough to require two meds.
Now I'm off all blood pressure meds.

My doctor was insisting I needed to go on a statin for my high cholesterol.
Now my cholesterol is down without drugs.

My joints were stiff and sore with arthritis. Sometimes I couldn't walk in the morning until I limbered up.
Now I'm spry and painfree. I feel ten years younger than I did a year ago.

My jeans were size 16.
Now I wear size 10. People notice. Both sexes.

My stomach frequently hurt.
Now it doesn't bother me.

My age was 58 and I was dreading my senior years.
Now I'm 59 and looking forward to the rest of my life.

I confess that I'm still two pounds shy of my weight goal.

I confess that I'm very concerned about maintaining the weight loss.

I confess that I'm not exercising.

I know that there are people who could easily get obnoxious with me about the benefits of exercise. They are right.

I confess I just don't want to listen about exercise right now.

Can you resist leaving me a message about the benefits of exercise?

Sunday, March 07, 2004

Pictures of Weekend Fun
Saturday granddaughter Kimmy and I assembled and painted a bird feeder kit that we received as a joint Christmas present from son John and daughter-in-law Anne. Construction pictures are in the Making a Bird Feeder album in Picturetrail.

Picture of Heathers Yellow Opal magic Socks
Saturday evening Kimmy and I met Kimmy's Mom in Battle Creek and I got to hand over the Yellow Opal Magic socks I knit at her request. It's always fun to knit for an enthusiastic recipient, especially when she is my much loved daughter.

I Don't Wanna Grow Up
Questions from Sunday Brunch.

1. Do you watch cartoons?

No. Who needs cartoons when there's the 2004 election to watch?

2. Ever buy a box of cereal (for yourself) just for the prize inside?
Think 50s.

In every box of Kellogg's Pep, you get a statuette!

The jingle was so catchy that I knew I had to have one. So, I asked my parents to buy some Kellogg's Pep. Then, I asked them what a statuette was.

The cereal tasted awful, but I was an honest child and ate it as promised. The statuette was a very uninteresting, flat, monotone plastic horse.

Even at that very young age, I was unimpressed. It was the beginning of a lifelong skepticism about advertising.

3. Do you ever go to the playground to play on the swings, slide or teeter totter?
Yes, I have a granddaughter who can talk me into almost anything.

When she was 3, she talked me into wading in the cold creek that runs through our property. It turned out to be fun. We hauled a little plastic table and two lawn chairs out into a shallow area, got a basket of beach toys and dishes and spent many hours out in the water. It's become a summer tradition.

4. Do you occasionally pout, throw tantrums or cry to get what you want?
Certainly not! Never!

5. How long has it been since you've done something childlike (for example: ride a bike, play marbles, jump rope, build a sand castle)?
Yesterday. Granddaughter Kimmy was here. We put together a bird feeder kit and painted it, made cookies, and went swimming at the family swim in the wonderful warm therapy pool at Kalamazoo Valley Orthopedics.

Kimmy and her swimming acquaintance Amy, also there with a Grandma, carried their Grandmas around the pool like babies, giggling all the way. I'm sure the other families thought we were very strange. But they smiled anyway.

What childish delights have you indulged in lately?

Who Am I?
Calling myself "Violet" is taking on a life of it's own. I either want it to feel right or stop it before it gets out of hand.

In general, I'm a decisive person. I'm able to think through a problem, decide what needs to be done (if anything), do it (or not do it), and move on. So why am I having a difficult time deciding what my name is?

Maybe it's because I just entered a new phase of my life and I really don't know who I am right now.

I used to be Marguerite, Senior Information Technology Analyst and EDI Coordinator for Pharmacia. Now that job doesn't exist anymore. Pharmacia doesn't exist anymore. I am unemployed and have the unexpected and welcome opportunity to do something completely different with my life, as soon as I figure out what that is.

But today the question is much narrower. I need to decide what my name is going to be when I'm online.

Last spring when I signed up with my current ISP, I chose the email id "violet". Violets are my favorite flower and violet is my favorite color. Violet is not my name.

My mother likes to call people by their email id and she started calling me Violet. No problem. It was a fun thing to do.

Then I started Seasons of Violet. The name was a natural. The blog is about the natural seasons here on our five acres and about the seasons of my life as I move from one into the next.

Looking back, I can see that the identity problem started when I began to refer to myself as Violet on this blog. It seemed like a fun and harmless thing to do.

Readers started addressing me as Violet in email and comments. How amusing. In fact I briefly considered that it might be better to not have my real name on my blog. I changed my post ending to "// posted by Violet" and charged on with the new name.

It's not sitting right. There's just something about it that is bothering me and I'm not able to put my finger on what it is.

When I reply to a reader via email, I'm still signing the emails with Marguerite. That is inconsistent. I need to decide one way or the other.

Am I going to be Marguerite in real life and Violet online?

And there's the answer! When I'm online, it is the real me. It is Marguerite.

I'm not pretending to be anything that I'm not when I'm online. In fact, sometimes, like now, writing helps the real me emerge.

I'm going back to using Marguerite. It's my name. Please don't spell it with a Q.

Final note: I don't mind being addressed as Violet. I still consider it fun. But I'm not hiding my real name anymore and any correspondence from me will be signed by me, Marguerite. That's who I am.

Saturday, March 06, 2004

Ask Violet
Where Violet takes questions from recent Seasons of Violet comments, answers them, and then poses a question of her own.

Except there weren't any questions this week, other than the one from the What's On . . . Right Now? meme.

Question from What's On . . . Right Now? -
What's On your 'places to go; people to see' list Right Now?

Tuesday is the day I become officially unemployed and help to make George W's unemployment numbers look even worse than they looked last week.
Note: For those who have been reading several months and think I became unemployed in January, I was severed in January. Thanks to the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, I remained on the payroll for 60 days after being severed. It was wonderful. I didn't go to work, I wasn't sick or disabled, and the paychecks just kept coming. But nothing that good can can last forever, and Tuesday it ends.

I need to make sure everything is set so my health insurance continues and I need to figure out where I'm going to park my severance money where I can hopefully earn a little interest until we need it.

Monday night is Sunny's doggy school. Thursday night is Pappy's doggy school. Wednesday Glory has a vet appointment.

I have to find out from the County Treasurer why we never got our dog licenses for 2004. I did the paper work and paid in January and just realized we never got them.

The next week will be a little more interesting. Mom is having her second cataract surgery and two additional eye appointments where she can't drive herself.

On Friday granddaughter Kimmy has a half day of school. I'm going to pick her up, we're going to do something fun, and Saturday we're going to the Maple Sugar Fest at the Kalamazoo Nature Center.

I'm always looking for fun things to do with an eight year old. Any suggestions?

Any questions for Violet? Leave your questions and/or answers in the comments.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Violet's Top 5 Blogger Idol Posts for Week 7
Here are five entires that spoke to me. A different five may speak to you.
A complete list of entries is here: blogger_idol-1.gif

  • Eyecant. People used to go see plays.

  • Our Hangout. Read and think. Do you have "good things" you won't use and enjoy because you're saving them?

  • Retrochic. Great picture of marbles. I've always loved marbles.

  • Where the Hell Was I? Charlie is looking forward to the start of softball season - I think.

  • Skywalking. A poem.

Which one is your favorite?

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Blogger Idol, Week 7
Blogger Idol is the brainchild of Darren at LivingRoom.

Each Sunday (Australian time) Darren announces a theme for the week. We have three days to work that theme into a blog post. We post the entry in our own blog and leave a link in Darren's blog so we can read what each other wrote.

If you want to read the other entries, the links are here. blogger_idol-1.gif

I will read as many of the entries as possible. Later in the week I will list five entries of note.

This weeks theme is ‘Play’.

Pappy Learns to Play
Autumn 2002, we spotted a little adult Papillon on Petfinder who needed a home. (Warning: Petfinder is one of the saddest sites on the internet. If you're soft hearted for animals, don't go there unless you want to add to your family.)

Pappy was 250 miles away living in a foster home. The details of his history are unknown. Unpleasant things had happened to him as evidenced by his broken ear, the scar across his back, and his tendency to run and hide. He didn't know how to play.

Rescue groups are usually very careful about placing their dogs. I understand. It may be the last chance a dog has to find a stable, loving home.

It took over a month to get approved to adopt Pappy. We had to fill out a seven page application, provide personal references, vet references, and have a home inspection.

Finally the day arrived when we could meet Pappy in person and bring him home. He came into the house and displayed his fear by peeing on at least a dozen upright objects and running under the bed. That night he climbed on top of the bed and slept at our feet. It was a beginning.

Most rescue dogs come with "issues". Pappy was no exception. He didn't know he was safe and loved. He was a long way from being comfortable enough to play.

Picture of Violet holding Pappy
The first month we loved him when he would allow it. The rest of the time we left him alone to get used to his new home. Then, he started doggy school.

His first homework assignment was an exercise created just for him. He was to be held and petted by person A while person B fed him little pieces of turkey dog. It worked. He started to learn about love and trust and letting us hold him. He still wasn't ready to play.

Whenever we played tug with Sunny, our other dog, Pappy headed under the bed. By the summer of 2003, he would watch the tug game from the far sidelines. When we tried to get him to play, he acted like he didn't know what to do. One day he grabbed a toy snake in his mouth and ran under the table and shook it back and forth. He wouldn't hold onto it when we tried to take the other end, but it was a start. It was almost like playing. Very tentative playing.

Pappy is very intelligent. He excelled at doggy school beginner class and intermediate obedience class, so he was promoted to advanced class where the dogs do agility. Time to play!

Oops! Pappy didn't know how to play. The first week was awful. I dragged him around the agility course three times. He was so upset that I wasn't sure I could bear to bring him back for the second week.

Week two he was excited to go to doggy school. He really wanted to be there, but he was still afraid to do the agility course. I dragged him through again.

The third week was about the same as the second. Gail the trainer coached me to have patience. We could both see that he wanted to do it. I decided to give it a little more time.

Week four was a miracle. It was as though he'd been pep talking himself all week. "Pappy, you know you can do that stuff and it looks like a lot of fun. You have all the love you need and now it's time to play!"

He was very excited to be there. He relaxed and went sailing over the hurdles, through the tunnels, up and down the A-frame, and through the hoops. Pappy was playing and loving it!

Now Pappy will tentatively play tug with his snake. He always acts like he's thrilled to be trying, so we keep working on it.

It's only been sixteen months since he joined the family. He still has more to learn about living in a home where he's loved and where it's OK to play.

Picture of Pappy with the snake