carolinainmymind

can't you see the sunshine….

Fall

We didn’t really have Fall in our part of Italy.  Lots of non-decidous trees; pines, cypress, cedars, live oaks.  This is our first full fall back.  Here in NC because it has been so warm still (it was 80 degrees on Monday, 11/6) the trees are just starting to turn now that we are having a cold spell.

The hoo-ha over Monday being the last warm day for a while prompted me to go out and plant daffodil bulbs in the front.  Earlier in the summer I thinned the cannas.  Many years ago my neighbor was an older man of European descent who loved to garden and had the beds around the front of his unit and mine looking very nice.  He is long gone and no one has really touched them since.  The cannas had taken over, even  covering a couple of azaleas.

There is a lawn care service that comes every Monday at the CRACK of dawn.  In early September they put out grass seed, on the day that hurricane Maria was supposed to swing by.  Well, we got about a teaspoon of rain from the storm and no other rain for over 30 days.  I realized that the seed was not going to come up unless someone watered.  And my neighbors were getting married at the end of September so I thought it would be nice if that grass grew.  So I watered, two times a day, every day for over two weeks.  The Monday, after spreading grass seed, the lawn care staff was back, cutting, raking and blowing.  The next Monday the same thing happened again.  That was when I gave up watering the entire front.  What is the point if someone is going rake/disturb all the seed.  I did finally find a lawn patch kit that I spread on the bare spot by our door and barricaded it off so no will tramp through it.  I have been watering again.  Reseeded another time and finally have a reasonable amount of grass coming up.  Even though I whine about the lawn care folks I do appreciate that they come and cut and rake and blow leaves so that I don’t have to do that.

Back to my daffodil bed, while thinning the cannas I discovered some day lilies.  I also went on Craig’s List and traded some of my cannas for more day lillies.  So every daffodil got a day lily friend planted with it.  After the daffs do their thing, the day lillies should be coming up and will fill in and cover the dying daff foliage.  Behind them is some bee balm that did not do well in the planter in the back and a few other prennials.  That whole front bed should be pretty low maintenance next summer but blooming and colorful.

This is at least the 4th daffodil bed that I have started.  I always think of my grand mother when I plant daffodils.  She had them in her yard in Kentucky.  I think I helped her plant some.  She died in early November many years ago.  So it is nice to remember her as I plant bulbs and start a new flower bed.  Think she would be happy that I did.

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When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang

Upon those boughs which shake against the cold

Bare ruin’d choirs where late the sweet birds sang

                                                                                         Shakespeare

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Feathering the Nest

When I tell the story about moving back to the US from Italy, one of the things that people always realize and comment on is “Oh, I guess you had to buy a car.”  A few folks will say “Oh, and furniture too.”  I guess the others think that we moved furniture…. Well we didn’t.  And we didn’t store that much.  Fortunately, our condo is so small we don’t need much.

From our experience where we rented I knew we needed a piece of furniture that could act as counterspace in the kitchen and table space for meals.   We looked online at free-standing islands, tables with storage, just about every configuration/name we could think of.  To me most of them looked exactly like what would be seen in any American kitchen.  I just couldn’t cope.  The only one I came close to liking was at Williams and Sonoma and was custom-built.  And they custom built the price too.  Then I hoped to get some one to build one for us but gave up on that idea too.  So good old DIY was the answer.

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Capital City Lumber to the rescue.  And these really cool moulded plastic forms.

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These forms allow someone to build shelves with straight cuts, no angles, no need to ‘toenail’ which can be hard if you don’t have a lot of DYI skills.  When we moved in, our friend Pat put this together for me.  As a temporary measure we used a door on top.

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When Wayne (the man who made my Murphy Bed) came over to talk about the bed I realized he was probably just the man to make the table top.  So we talked about it.  And he agreed.  When he delivered the bed, he took away the table base.  For a few weeks our door/table balanced on top of big plastic tubs and we got by.  I was very excited when Wayne returned with the table top.

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Wayne followed the measurements that I wanted.  The table is 5′ by 4′.  The counter top part, what we use most of the time is almost 3′.  He had just the hinges to mount the other part which is now a leaf that folds down.  And is down most of the time.

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Here’s what it looks like open.  We can comfortably seat 6.  8 in a pinch.  So the first weekend in November we had Pat (the clever man who put it together in the first place) and Debby over for ‘Duckappaloosa!’.   And the table worked very well.

I am ready now to declare the ground floor more or less done.  We have all the pieces of furniture that we need down here.  Pictures are hung.  The tops of two pieces of furniture are covered with things.  A few hours of focus and channeling Marie Kondo will fix that.  There are some projects that still need to be done.  They have always been on the ‘winter projects’ schedule.  I’ll get to them.  In a few weeks I’ll try to get to a before and after post.  We are very lucky that it has turned out so well.

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Sleeping with sharks under the stars

The majority of the furniture that we stored for 10 years was storage pieces.  Some that I had bought and four bookcases that had been my parents.  My father had gotten the school book cases from the Louisville Public Schools.  Before I left their home, he and I refinished one and I used it as a china cabinet for many years.  The others had been in their house.  When I closed their house, I moved those three up to Virginia.  And then into storage in North Carolina.  And then out of storage.  Two went upstairs (a real treat to move up the steps) and have clothes and pictures.  Two remained down.  The former china cabinet has become my pantry.  And this one has become a Murphy Bed.

 

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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Murphy bed (in North America), also called a wall bedpull down bed, or fold-down bed, is a bed that is hinged at one end to store vertically against the wall, or inside of a closet or cabinet.

History

The bed is named for William Lawrence Murphy (1876–May 23, 1957), who applied for his first patents around 1900. According to legend, he was wooing an opera singer, but living in a one-room apartment in San Francisco, and the moral code of the time frowned upon a woman entering a man’s bedroom. Murphy’s invention converted his bedroom into a parlor, enabling him to entertain.[1] Earlier foldup beds had existed, and were even available through the Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalog,[2] but Murphy introduced pivot and counterbalanced designs for which he received a series of patents, including one for a “Disappearing Bed” on June 18, 1912[3] and another for a “Design for a Bed” on June 27, 1916.[4]

Murphy beds are used for space-saving purposes, much like trundle beds, and are popular where floor space is limited, such as small homes, apartments, hotels, mobile homes and college dormitories. In recent years, Murphy bed units have included options such as lighting, storage cabinets, and office components. They have seen a resurgence in popularity in the early 2010s due to the weak economy, with children moving back in with their parents and families choosing to renovate homes rather than purchasing larger ones.[5]

In 1989, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that the term “Murphy Bed” had entered common usage so thoroughly that it was no longer eligible for trademark protection.[6]

Designs and models

Most Murphy beds do not have box springs. Instead, the mattress usually lies on a wood platform or wire mesh and is held in place so as not to sag when in a closed position. The mattress is attached to the bed frame, often with elastic straps to hold the mattress in position when the unit is folded upright. Piston-lifts or torsion springs make modern Murphy beds easy to lower and raise.

Since the first model several other variations and designs have been created, including: sideways-mounted Murphy beds, Murphy bunk beds, and solutions that include other functions. Murphy beds with tables or desks that fold down when the bed is folded up are popular, and there are also models with sofas[7] and shelving solutions.[8]

Hazards

When attempting to pull a Murphy bed down from the wall, if not installed properly, it is possible that it could collapse on the operator. In 1982, a drunk man suffocated inside a closed Murphy bed,[9] and two women were entrapped and suffocated by an improperly installed wall bed in 2005.[10]

In popular culture

Murphy beds were a common setup for comic scenes in early cinema, including in silent films. Among the films which use Murphy beds as comic props are Charlie Chaplin‘s 1916 One AM, several Three Stooges shorts, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, the James Bond film You Only Live TwiceMel Brooks‘s Silent MovieThe Pink Panther Strikes AgainThe Great Muppet Caper, and in Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

It’s also used as a gag in the Tintin album Red Rackham’s Treasure, when Professor Calculus unknowingly activates a Murphy bed while Thompson and Thomson are sitting on it.

In the popular PC video games The Sims 2 and The Sims 3, Murphy beds have the potential to kill playable characters, an allusion to the hazards of pulling them down.

 

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Pantry on the right, Wayne who made the Murphy Bed in the center and the Murphy Bed on the left on the day Wayne delivered it.  Wayne owns The Master’s Craftsman.  We decided on a Murphy Bed to make the ground floor look a little less like a bedroom and to give us more floor space when it is folded up.  I am really tickled that I found Wayne on Craig’s List and that he was willing and able to do the work.  And that he listened, understood what I wanted and did it.  Many times when you are a small woman your ideas or desires can be ignored or poo pooed by workmen.  Wayne did not do that at all!

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It took a while, but I got it painted.  Found a cabinet that fits between the two and now holds cook books.

Wayne was excited about   using an existing cabinet to make a bed.  Normally he makes these beds from scratch with woods that the client picks.  He is a true craftsman.  Notice how he carefully kept the original handle and lock and key.  Inside, he reused the wood from the shelves to make the head board and the frame to attach the bed to.  I like the original wood and choose not to paint it.

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After a few nights of sleeping in it I realized I could have stars!  So when Wayne was back a few days later to deliver our table (more about the table in another post) he drilled the holes that I wanted in the top.

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Can you see the Big Dipper?  They twinkle too.  Sooo cool!

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Today I put on my shark sheets.  (Southern Tide brand at Belks.  Very soft and a great shade of blue).  So I’m sleeping under the stars with the sharks and tickled pink!

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Getting Ready for Fall

Well I finally got my bed.  I had a Murphy bed made out of one of the old school book cabinets that my parents had.  There were 4 and I kept all of them.  Somehow, years ago, I knew I would need good storage.  Two are painted white and are upstairs crammed full (mostly of things that came from my parents’ house) and two are down, one is my pantry, the other now a Murphy bed.  I am very pleased with it.  More about that later

 

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Wayne, the bed maker from The Master’s Craftsman click here if you want to see his site

In between the two cabinets I found a kitchen cabinet at Restore (the Habitat for Humanity outlet) that holds cookbooks.  Today I have been painting (as my father would say) a hunk of wood, faux stone, to be the counter top for it.  I certainly channeled my inner Richard for that.  Tuesday the 31st , Wayne will bring back my island base and a table top for it.  Finally!  I will be almost ready to declare the downstairs more or less finished.  We can have folks over for dinner!  What fun!

 

But of course the ice maker remains but a dream.  It worked for 2 weeks and then started over flowing, making an iceberg.  After a few weeks the distributor replaced the fridge.  That icemaker worked for 3 maybe 4 weeks and then started doing the same thing.  That was July.  Various fixes have been offered including a full refund, replacement of the same again, or a different fridge (stuck out 4” more) or wait to see if manufacture can come up with a fix.  We have tried several fixes and are now waiting on a new different idea…..

Anyway the outstanding planter on the edge of the deck is a big success.  Remember this is what it looked like in the Spring when it was first planted

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So nice and orderly

And now.  Before I begin  to move a few plants that just didn’t do well in the shade and the ones that need to be wintered over

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Finally I got the whole jungle thing going on.  Now if we could just get rid of the UGLY school buses.  But that is next year’s battle.   Our friends Jim and BK will be happy to know that I have pulled out the asparagus ferns and they are just waiting for them to come pick them up and take them to their winter home in their basement.  Just kidding!  Jim and BK were good friends to care for that fern for 10 years and keep it alive.  I divided in the spring and small bits of it will be wintering in Ben’s shower.

Still warm here and dry.  The HOA’s crack gardening staff spread grass seed on the day that one of the hurricanes was supposed to hit us.  It didn’t.  We got about 5 tablespoons of rain.  For 2 weeks I watered the grass seed.  But the gardening staff kept coming back mowing and raking leaves and blowing them away.  And all the grass seed too.  So I gave up.  We have a very bare patch on both sides of the walk to our door.  I found a grass seed patch package that has a papery mulch, seed and fertilizer.  I put that down, barricaded the area off to keep the crack gardening staff and their machines AWAY and we almost have grass.  I have also been working on taming the giant patch of cannas that was out front.  Found a nice clump of day lillies that had been over whelmed by the cannas.  And I have some daffodil bulbs to be planted.  So we are busy busy here.

 

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Oh Marie,

Regular readers might remember last winter when we first arrived in the US, I went to a thrift shop in Ocean City, NJ and bought a few second hand books to amuse my self with until I could get to my favorite Wake County Public library, Cameron Village.  One of the books I bought was written by the clean up expert, Marie Kondo.    And you might remember that I have written about My Ben and his NEED to keep every thing.  I mean EVERY THING!

So I opened a tote this week and there were the books I had bought in OCNJ.  Some I have read, like Marie Kondo’s book and some I have not read.  I made two stacks, resolving that I have to finish the unread ones before I can get more books from any of the series that I am reading.  And since we just really don’t have room for stacks of books, the completed books need to find a new home.

My Ben and I have been going to a City of Raleigh ‘Active Adults’ center for an exercise class and a music therapy class.  In the lobby of the center is a basket of books that folks bring in to give away.  So I decided to drop off our books.  Today, we arrived for our class.   I got Ben in his wheel chair, put the books in his lap, wheeled him in and went back out to move the car.  Coming back in, Ben immediately says in what passes for his hurt/indignant/angry voice, “Why didn’t you let me see this book?” gesturing with the Marie Kondo book.  I took a step back, fearing that the Gods of Order, Disorder or Irony, any or all of them, might shoot down a bolt of lightning.   It really took a good bit of self control not to fall over laughing or lash out with some sarcasm.  I just smiled and said if you want to keep it that’s fine and removed the other books to the basket as quickly as I could.

So now Marie Kondo has made it back in to our condo.  Beside Ben’s chair where his library book has been sitting for several weeks now.  I’ll give her a few more weeks and then try to slip her out again.  She is just going to have to do her part and fall open to a page that says “PASS ME ALONG TO SOMEONE ELSE!”

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Another food post

I don’t write as many of those as I used to, do I?  ‘Toto, I guess we aren’t in Italy anymore.’  We don’t get out that much and American food is just not that special.  A few weeks ago we did meet Jim and BK in Creedmoor for Mexican food.  ( click here if you want to see their site)  El Corral.  It was, as always, excellent.  I’m sorry that I didn’t take a picture.  When we used to come back for visits we always tried our best to stop by here since the food is good.  And it still is.

Anyway, we are still trying to find our pizza of choice.

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The box on the right is a brand that we used to get at the Esselunga in Italy.  The contents are on the left of the board.  I have to dress it up for Ben by adding more ham and cheese.  The box to the left and the pizza to the right of the board is Harris-Teeter’s brand.  It would have been excellent except for the American tendency to gild the lily and take dishes one step too far!  The zesty sauce!  What is wrong with good, simple ingredients?  Good cheese.  Good tomato sauce. Simple crust.  No need for some overly garlicy/basil sauce.  None of the take out that we have tried is acceptable.  The hunt continues.

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My tomatoes are just about finished but the green beans have started to come in.  Last night there were enough to make an Asian style dish, Gingered Pork with Green Beans and Carrots.   It was very tasty.

We are still shopping at the Harris-Teeter.  Ground has not even been broken on the Wegmans yet.  Every now  and then I venture into Trader Joes.  Now that we have a car that is not an oven on wheels we might try to get up to the Lidl in Wake Forest more often.  Our friends Jim and BK like Sprouts.  We have still not been to it, although Ben is keen to go.  (Ben is keen to go many places but he is not the one who has to load and unload his wheel chair and all his paraphernalia.  Our trips have to be tied into other errands or appointments)

I did catch on that I can order deli items online and then just pick them up at the Harris-Teeter without standing in line.  And I make our grocery list online too.  If I had a whoop de doo phone I could just have it on my phone.  Still old school, I print it out.

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I also find that while shopping I need to remind myself that the Harris-Teeter is only a few blocks and that I don’t need to over buy.  I have found that we are throwing away more food (spoiled) than I would like.  No exciting food here.  And I know we are very lucky to be in this position to be able to whine about boring food….

 

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What are you reading?

Growing up I always loved summer because I could read what ever I wanted and as long as I wanted.  And many is the night that I stayed awake half the night finishing a book.  The joy of doing that, but oh how awful you feel the next morning….

I know I recently posted about the two series that I am reading this summer.  To my dismay, I discovered that my library doesn’t have all of the series.  (Yes, thank you, I know how to order up books from other branches and have them sent to my branch.  I am talking about the library as a whole)  So either I need to fill in by reading some of them online or buying some (HORRORS!)  Anyway, while waiting to figure that out I decided to expand from the two series that I was reading.  So I have added The Irish Country series by Patrick Taylor and Effie Leland Wilder’s three books about aging in a retirement community.

The Irish Country series takes place after WWII (maybe the 50s) in a small Northern Irish town and centers around the new doctor in town and his settling in.  It is 15 books. That should keep me amused for a while.  I have been to Ireland, but not Northern Ireland, and I certainly understand being an outsider and small town life after living in rural Italy for 10 years.  This is not some great work of literature but an entertainment.

I have also read Amazing Place,  What North Carolina Means to Writers  (edited by Marianne Gingher) a collection of observations by North Carolina writers about how living in North Carolina has  influenced them.  From more than one writer I agreed with the idea of how important it is to write in and preserve the language of North Carolina.  And how maddening it is to read an article written by someone who does not know the area and portrays the entire state as full of hicks and rednecks.

(Which brings me off on another branch, I have made the acquaintance of a brother and sister whom I speak with regularly.  And I have a friend who would turn up her nose about me chatting with these folks because ‘they sound country!’.  (I can tell, that growing up, her Momma instilled in her using proper English and not sounding like you are from the sticks beyond.) Anyway, I delight in being back in North Carolina and having conversations like the ones I have with these folks.  And if you put aside some of the words that they use, you can hear a lot of college level vocabulary used correctly.  Even though I don’t think either one of them went to college. Conversations like these are one of the things I enjoy most about being back in the US and especially in North Carolina.  I can over hear (and 99% of the time no one cares if you join in the conversation) great stories and comments and truly appreciate all of what is said and the little nuances of the words.  Keep in mind that after 10 years in Italy I was just getting to the place where this happened.  Anyway I have digressed)

So I have come to the conclusion that what I really like about the Miss Julia series, (by Ann B Ross, the one that is helping me find my repressed, not so gentile, Southern lady) the Deborah Knott series, (by Margaret Maron) and the three books by Effie Leland Wilder is the telling of a story and the use of dialect when appropriate.

Now off on another tangent…the telling of a story, especially for comic effect.  One year when my Momma was still alive, Ben and I were driving from Virginia to Florida to see her.  From the Vienna, Virginia library we always got several books on tape to pass the time.  The Margaret Maron, Deborah Knott series was agreeable to both of us, so that is what we were listening to.  Hawthorn, the black and white dog was in the back.  (I haven’t written much about Hawthorn, a good ole boy dog, he died 11 months before we moved to Italy and before I started my blogs.)  He was a very good traveler and always went with us to Florida while Siena went to the ‘spa’ in Leesburg.  He never minded wearing a seatbelt, would happily settled himself down in the backseat.  The only time we would hear from him was when we went through the Hardees or BoJangles Drive thru.  That big paw would come forward and smack down on the console between Ben and I.  Just to remind us that he was back there and ‘oh, make sure to get me a butter biscuit.’  So we are driving down the road listening to a mystery about North Carolina and the reader was at the part where one of Judge Knott’s nephews was deer hunting and came upon a deer lying in the road.  Now he already had a deer or something in the back of his truck.  So he proceeds to put this small road kill deer in the front seat with him.  And goes on down the road.  Well, the deer wakes up!  At this point, Ben and I are laughing.  I hit the pause button.  The language, the way the scene was set up, the reader’s voice.  It was all too much.  We are laughing so hard.  Tears are coming down my face.  I rewind and we listen to it again.  Laughing away.  Well, that was just too much for Hawthorn!  HUMPFH! was the sigh from Hawthorn as he got up, gave us the death stare and then resettled himself in the back seat.  Ben and I did our ‘ohhhh, we disturbed the dog’s nap’ routine which caused a raised eyebrow from him before calm returned to the car.

All this leads to, the ability of these three women to tell a good story and lead you up to the place where you at least chuckle if not have a prolonged bout of laughter.  The best comic parts of the Miss Julia books are complicated.  You have to have read the whole book and catch all the nuances and know the Miss Julia character.  The same with Margaret Maron’s books.  A lot of Effie Leland Wilder’s three books are just entertaining but probably only to someone in my age group or older except for this one short chapter in the second book, Over What Hill?.  I will just say that it involves a constipated donkey, a French horn and an Intracoastal waterway bridge.  Recently, well after midnight I read that chapter and started laughing out loud.  Ben wanted to hear it, so I composed myself as best I could and read it aloud to him.  Now I am laughing, Ben is laughing and I am wondering what our neighbors on each side must think.  But, I know what Hawthorn would do….

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Hawthorn and I in the early 2000s.

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Are we finished moving yet?

Almost!  I know!  We moved two weeks before Memorial Day and now here it is past Labor Day and I am still whining about moving.

It was not a simple move.  Yes, we managed to get all the boxes in one place, completely filling our guest room.  And I have worked at least 4 days out of every 7, every week,  on emptying boxes.  Part of the problem is that our recycling is only picked up every other week.  So any boxes that I emptied had to be stored inside until the magic once every 14 days pick-up day.  I did figure out that I could load the boxes in the car/oven and drive them to a local park and recycle them there.  And in 90+ degree weather I did that several times.  And keep in mind, Ben is not able to help.  And Ben has to keep EVERYTHING that his daughters and grand daughter ever touched and sent to him.  And the envelopes that it was mailed in.   And lastly, ten years ago, when we packed all this up, at least 40% of it was things that moved from my parents house three years earlier that I had yet to unpack and do anything with.  So it has been difficult.

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There are boxes of glassware.  I considered selling it to the outfit called Replacements which is based about two hours away.  The problem was they would only take certain pieces of the set, not all of it.  And they were not offering that much money.  So I just boxed it all back up and paid someone to move it up to the attic.  In 30 years maybe it will be worth more.

And there are the pictures,

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I unpacked them all and piled them on the bed and then started hanging.  Went through 50 hangers.  Almost through another 20 and that doesn’t count the things hung with regular nails and these

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lightweight plastic frames that are balanced on very thin shelves.  A whole wall of them. I need to go through the boxes of photographs to figure which ones to fill these frames with.

Our friend Debby came over and helped with the hanging.

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Our friend Jim came and drilled holes so I could run wires through a cabinet.  Otherwise I have done all of it, working in short bursts, stopping to make yet another meal.  And truly no one can or should be going through my parents’ belongings but me.  It is a very difficult.  Some times I felt like I just moved things from one side of the room to the other.  Some times I just stand there frozen trying to decide what to do with things.

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What do I do with things like this?  There are three of these.  Paintings done by a German prisoner of war.  (My father taught/worked in a prisoner of war camp towards  the end of WWII.)  My father liked them.  They hung in my child hood home and their home.  These must have been important to him.  So what do I do with them?  There is just no wall space to hang them.

This has been the hardest part of the months and months of this moving adventure.

But I have forged ahead and hung pictures,

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I am still working on this wall.  We are missing pictures.  I know that our storage shed was broken in to several times.  I can’t believe that it was a box of pictures that was stolen.

The sun that comes in the windows to the left both upstairs and downstairs is very strong.  I fear it could fade any photos.  So, yes indeed….

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pictures of my relatives are hanging in my closet.  Ben’s relatives are in his ‘cubby’ under the stairs and out of the sunlight too.   And just a note, if you ever come to visit, absolutely no comments about ‘that picture is crooked!’ ‘That picture should be 1/2 inch over to the left.’ unless you are prepared to climb up on a ladder and fix it!

This week, we lucked out and found this piece at ReStore (the outlet that is connected to Habitat for Humanity).

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I told Ben I was just going to run in and have a quick scratch around.  As soon as I went in, I could hear it calling my name.  I really like the sort retro 60s Asian vibe.  I measured.  Came home, measured, measured more, mentally moved pieces.  Thought about it over night and finally figured out how to make it work so I went back to get it.  (One of the disadvantages to owning a vehicle that furniture can easily fit in to.  Just too easy to buy something and get it home.)  I am real tickled that it was still available and that it has worked out so well.  The two side parts have glass doors with a glass shelf inside giving a good bit of storage.  They are lighted too.  I covered the glass with black fabric since what I have stored in there is not so pretty.  The center part had already had the back cut out so that we could put all the TV stuff in there.  OUT OF SIGHT!  HURRAY!  And the “Watch Birds” are finally settled in.  To the left side, facing the door.

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We are still waiting on my bed and our table.  And I need to find some piece of furniture to give me a small non-kitchen work area and store tools.  But slowly, slowly we are getting there.  The boxes are all open and stored or gone.  I hope it will be a long, long long time before I see any boxes again.

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How’s the garden doing?

Very well, thank you.

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It is quite jungle like.  Sitting in the rocker I am almost hidden.  I admit to enjoying popping up and scaring the dogs next door.  Now that the heat has broken I hope to be able to sit out there much more.

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I am picking a tomato or two every week and a handful of green beans.

This fall I plan to move the bee balm, which has not bloomed at all, to the front.  Probably not enough sun for it back on the deck.  There is one pot (not pictured) with scarlet sage and blue something (name just flew out of my mind) that is the only thing that the hummingbird visits.   I plan to add more of those pots next year.  Maybe rotating them from front to back so they get some sun.  I need to try a different variety of tomato.  This year it was a plant labeled ‘heirloom variety’.  Not impressed.  Next year I should look for Black Russian.

The deck and planter are one of my favorite parts of our renovation.  I am so glad that our contractor suggested the planter box instead of a regular deck rail.

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We bought a car

Finally!  In mid-August.  It took us FOREVER and tried every one of my last nerves.

You might remember the car we bought from Jim and BK in late January.

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“The Big Car”  a 1998 Lincoln Town Car.  For our purposes, at the time, it was a fine car.  Ran well.  Ben’s fold-up wheel chair fit easily in the back.  Large trunk that I could use for storage.  Good car…. until the driver’s side window stopped going up and down.  And then in early July the AC stopped working and then in the period of 10 short days the motors on all the other windows broke so they stopped going up and down.  Ben’s trips away from home became very restricted.  It is one thing to subject myself to riding around in an oven on wheels but something else to subject Ben to it.  (I feared being arrested for elder abuse.)  For a few weeks my trips were very short or made late in the afternoon or on cloudy days.  Even then, wherever I arrived, it appeared that I had just stepped out of a shower.  Almost totally soaked in sweat.

Several months ago, we started looking for a new vehicle when Ben’s whoop dee doo wheel chair arrived.  Most folks buy what is known as a ‘conversion van’.  This is a passenger van that has  been altered.   Seats removed, bottom lowered or roof raised to accommodate the height of a wheel chair with a person sitting in it.  New conversion vans start at $45,000.  Used conversion vans… well you might find one.  “How about this nice one, a 2007 with only 75,000 miles and it is only $30, 000.”  Yeah, right!  We were suffering from serious sticker shock.

Because I was very focused on getting us unpacked I had let Ben handle looking for choices.  He gave his name and email address to car dealers!  Oh nooo!  I would be asleep and wake up hearing him committing us to driving 30 miles away to visit a car dealer.  And what we would be driving in?  Yes, the oven on wheels.  In 90+ degrees of heat and 80% humidity.  I had to put a stop to that.

Finally, we found a ramp system, called Roll- A- Ramp.   click here if you want to see their site

This started a whole round of measuring the inside spaces and door openings of vans.  Silly me, I thought we should be able to find specs like that online.  Not really.  So visits to car dealers along with a tape measure were called for.  Traveling there in the mobile oven.  Keep in mind, we lived in Italy for 10 years.  Thinking that foreigners would be a problem, at a car dealership in Italy, no one really wanted to sell us a car.  The two cars that we bought were from a dealer ship where we were friends with the owners’ son.  No high pressured sales tactics were used.  It was ” Ah Marta, how much you gotta spend? I show you what we have.”   Here, whoa.  They were at the oven door before I even got Ben out.  And the questions.  With some amount of shame I have to confess that I lost my cool. (My cool had left me even before we had left the parking lot at home.)  JUST GET THE KEYS! OPEN THE DOOR! LET ME MEASURE AND TAKE PICTURES!  And then of course Ben would want to see.  And oh the questions he would ask.  Frayed, frayed, frayed last nerves.  It was torture.

And then there was the ramp installers.  Three choices, one nearby, two about two hours away.  Took weeks,  Really WEEKS! to get in touch with them.  Because Ben has questions.  One is off fishing.  One is on a ‘mission trip.’ One doesn’t bother to return calls.  And then there is the installer of the ‘tie down’ systems.  Just as hard to get in touch with them.  Be prepared to hear this story in great detail if you make the mistake of saying something like “well in Italy/France everyone goes on vacation at the same time.  The whole place just shuts down.”  That is true.  But you know when it is going to happen and you know that the whole family will be away and you can plan.  Here, dealing with small family run businesses, it is crap shoot about who will be working and when.   Not just in a concentrated few weeks of August, it has been the whole summer.

So after considering possibilities, costs and thinking about it, we realized that while it would be nice to have a van that Ben could ride into in his motorized chair we just could not afford that.  So we picked a Ford Transit Connect.  It is a small van.  Many workmen use it.  Fits well in tight spaces.  Handles well.  We will be having a  ramp installed in the back which will come right out on to the sidewalk or parking lot.  Ben will still have to walk from the back of the condo to the front parking lot and get in and out of the passenger seat, then get in the motorized chair  (after I get it out) when we arrive somewhere.  Honestly, when he is no longer capable of doing that the chances are very high that I will no longer be able to manage taking care of him.

Ben’s very diligent search finds a brand new 2016 van.  It had been hiding on the lot.  We got a great price but they only want to give us $100 for the ‘big car’.  What an insult!  Why there is enough room to bake 10 pizzas inside that car if it was parked in full sun shine!  Really!  A good pizza oven would cost more than that and this one was mobile!  I list it on Craig’s List and sell it for $700.  Probably could have gotten more but I wanted it to go to a good home.

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So, this is the new car.  It is cute as a button.  His name has not yet revealed itself to me.  (Long time friends remember Sven) It is such a pleasure to ride around in.  Now we are working on getting the ramp and tie downs installed.  Maybe, just maybe, we can get that all done and take a little trip before winter arrives.

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