can't you see the sunshine….


My Mother knitted. I remember that she would knit while waiting to pick me up from dance lessons or riding lessons. I still have some of the sweaters that she knitted for me. I knitted as a child but was not very good at it. Too tight.

During one of our trips back to the US from Italy, I discovered that our neighbor Jane had taken up knitting. I took it up again after that trip. Now, it is a good way to pass the time while sitting in either of the two support group meetings that we go to a month or while waiting in doctors’ offices. It seems like we do that a lot. I have also joined a knitting group that meets at our local library. You can knit what you want, but once a year donations are made to a local women’s shelter. So I have been knitting.

This is a hat and scarf I knitted for my friend Roberta. (Look Jane! Ribs!) (that means I had to use more than one type of stich while knitting)

I thought the hat was a little dull so I made a pin to dress it up a bit.

And this is my friend, Roberta, wearing the scarf and hat.

This is what I have knitting through out the year to donate to the shelter.

I don’t do anything fancy. Just one simple stich. That’s why making ribs on Roberta’s hat was a big deal. And they nearly drove me crazy. It is best for me to stick with my one simple stich. I like playing with the colors and the combinations that I can make. So that’s one of the things I have been up to.

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Orchid Show

My friend, Debby and I have been talking about repotting our orchids. I have two small ones, grocery store specials. They live inside by my desk in the winter and outside on the table on the deck during summer. They were blooming when I got them and one has rebloomed. The other hasn’t. The one that hasn’t is sending roots out all over the place. The potting medium has sort washed away in both of them. So I felt like it was time to repot. Now, I know, I could watch a You Tube video about it but I kind of wanted a workshop about it. And Debby found one as part of the Fall for Orchids Show put on by the Triangle Orchid Society ( at Duke Gardens. It was on a recent Saturday morning and I was able to make arrangements for someone to come and stay with Ben since I would be more than a few minutes away and gone for several hours.

The show was very interesting. (Pictures in a bit.) What was the best, was the repotting workshop. Attending the workshop were 15-20 people, mostly women aged from 30 to late 60s, some with ethnic backgrounds which after living in lily-white Italy always thrills my heart. The presenter was of retirement age and never really said what he had retired from doing but his wife was a botanist. He came to orchids late in life as a way to have something to share with his wife during retirement. Their shared interest had expanded to include over 1500 orchids.

This man has a HUGE amount of knowledge about orchids and is very passionate about them and loves to share information about them. This was supposed to be a one hour workshop about repotting. Well, first we had to talk about potting medium. (I give this man due credit for emptying all those Talenti Gelato containers that he had for showing off the different tyoes of potting mediums) Then we had to talk about orchid naming and the different places in the wild were the odchids live. How that is important in picking the correct medium. At this point, it is well into the hour. He picks up his blow torch and lights it. Ohhhhhh. Uses it to sterlize his clippers. Then after beating a potted orchid around a bit he yanks it out of its pot. There is almost a collective gasp of horror. I know I coddle and baby my orchids. Don’t let anything get too close to them. Carefully wipe off the leaves. “Oh, no! he says, These things are tough! They live on tree trunks and branches. Animals crawl over them. No need to baby them.” All the while he is hair cutting the roots away and explaining which ones to cut or keep. “You know, I was going to divide this. But now I think I will keep it as one plant. I don’t have a pot the right size for that so I’ll get to this one later.” Shoowsh it gets tossed on the back bench. At this point it is about 15 minutes before the hour is to end. There is a big discussion about parking meters since this is on campus and Duke Parking is known to be rabid about enforcing parking limits. A third of the attendees leave to go feed the meters. The presenter talks about collecting in the wild and the implications and the historical background of this. Finally, 5 minutes before the hour is to end, (and I know this because sotto voce across the table one of the attendees has whispered “you know he has yet to put an orchid in a pot.” I looked up at the clock at this point.) he picks up a smaller orchid, gives it a very complete root haircut. fills a pot with medium, sticks the orchid in, adds some more medium and at 5 minutes after the workshop should have finished HE HAS POTTED AN ORCHID! I think we should at this point give him a standing O or at least a cheer. But since Debby’s sister-in-law is along too I decide to behave.

Now, I know that I have had some fun at the expense of this kind man who was volunteering his time and sharing his knowledge. I apologize for that. It was one of the most interesting and informative hours that I have spent in a long time. I would suggest to the organizers that in the future he should be given a longer time slot. So how about some pictures…

Orchids with bunny ears!

It was a great event. Thanks to Debby for finding and organizing it.

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Elephant Ears Again

We recently suffered through our second long stretch of 90+ degrees heat. Finally it was broken by some rain.

Needless to say, I was fasinated by the water collecting on the leaves. I am also fascinated by the size of this leaf.

It measures 28 inches long by 22 inches. Not as big as this one that we saw in the greenhouses at NC State.

That is my friend Roy standing beside it, to give you an idea of the size of the leaf.

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The Corpse Plant

When we still lived in Italy, I started following this blog. The writer, lives about a mile from where we are now. Following his blog gave me a good idea of what to expect garden wise before we moved back. Now that we are back I have just kept reading it. I was tickled when on Tuesday, he posted about a corpse plant blooming at nearby NC State University. It wasn’t until Thursday AM that the newspaper picked up the story. This was a case where being connected on social media paid off. Thanks Arthur!

Wednesday, at our exercise class I talked with our friends Roy and Marcia about going to see it. And we agreed if I could arrange tickets, we would go. It was free but, online reservations were required. Accessiblity for Ben and Marcia was an issue. Parking on campus can be difficult. Accessible parking even more so. Viewing slots were for a 15 minute period. After weighing the hour needed to get Ben ready to go somewhere, the logistics of finding two handicapped accessible parking spaces and the fact that Ben was not nearly as excited about seeing this plant as Marcia and I were, I decided that he might just not go. Roy was dragooned to be the driver allowing us to be dropped off if no parking was available.

Well, our after 5:00 PM viewing time on Friday meant we could get on campus and park fairly close by. So after a bit of standing in line we got to see the much hyped Corpse Plant.

This will give you an idea of the size of it. It was sitting on greenhouse table.

The bloom started to open on Thursday. It was already wilting by the time we got to see it, which is normal. It is very short lived. As you can see from the newspaper photo the center part had been erect but on Friday was now folded over.

If you are able to read the poster about the heat you can see that the plant heats itself up to attract pollinators and produces a smell similar to rotting flesh. By the time we were there it was more like a fish shop smell. Really not that strong. Some close ups.

And this bit of history, lifted from the Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden website.

When it was discovered in the rainforest of central Sumatra in western Indonesia, by the Italian botanist and explorer Dr. Odoardo Beccari in 1878, the stories caused quite a sensation and disbelief among European botanists. Not until the first specimen flowered in cultivation at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, England in 1889 did the world take notice. During the Victorian era plant hunting was at its height and unusual specimens were enjoyed by a discerning and curious audience. It was also an era where governesses protected young women from such an indecent sight. Whenever the Amorphophallus titanum, which grows only in western Sumatra, has flowered in cultivation it has attracted an enormous amount of attention. The 1998 bloom attracted more than 5,500 visitors to Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden and worldwide media attention as the first documented bloom of this species in the United States since 1939. A 1996 bloom of this species attracted thousands of people to Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, as did a 1970 two-day flowering in Java which attracted 34,000 viewers. It was introduced to the United States in 1937 when the New York Botanic Garden and the daily press kept the public informed of the progress of the gigantic bloom grown from an imported tuber. The spectacular event so impressed people that when a second specimen flowered (from another imported tuber) two years later it was designated as the official flower of the Bronx, symbolic of the largest and fastest growing borough of the City of New York. The discovery of this species must rank as one of the greatest highlights of natural history exploration.

So I was very tickled to get to see this. Thanks to the owner of the plant, a Doctorial student at NCSU, Brandon Huber. And thanks to NCSU for allowing the public in to see it too. It really was cool!

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Ben’s Birthday

Ben’s birthday was July 1. We celebrated on the 30th by having brunch at Poole’s Diner in downtown Raleigh.

We were a big group so we had to wait for a table. So we had a drink while we were waiting. It was not hard to get Ben in and out of the restaurant. Food and service were good. Sorry no food pics. I felt like it was a nice size meal, without feeling stuffed and without dragging home left overs. I would certainly go back.

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How’s the yard looking?

Very well, that is so nice of you to ask… Except for a difficult 10 days of 90 degrees plus dry weather in MAY, it is been a fairly decent Spring. A good bit of rain. Sometimes too much. But more or less spread out.

The bee balm is being a little pushy, but the day lillies held their own. I’m real pleased with them and the blue salvias.

The butterfly bush has finally gotten settled in (only took two years!). It is doing well this year.

This is where the ramp from the deck ends, at the back of our condo. The hydragenas in the pots were $5 half dead ones from Lowes. They have perked up and are about to bloom again. My friend, Jim, gave me the vinca in the two pots in back.

Here’s the deck. Doesn’t it look great! It is so nice to sit out there. Guppy now sits beside me in the blue chair. I’m waiting until she starts expecting her own glass of wine….

I finally figured out something to do about the ugly telecommunications post.

I relocated some of the elephant ear forest and the flamingos… much nicer looking than the ugly box.

I am aware that we are fortunate to have this space, the time and the means to be able to indulge in something that is just pretty. It does provide me with a huge amount of enjoyment and the activity that I look forward to every year.


Hummingbird Heaven

My friend Debby lives near Jordan Lake. She is out in the country and has a beautiful yard. She also has two hummingbird feeders and a whole lot of hummingbirds. She makes a gallon of food a week for them.

It was great fun to stand between the two feeders and watch the 10 to 12 hummers fighting over space at the feeder.

She also has the coolest dragon flies that I have ever seen.

It is in the lower right corner of the picture. White body/tail, very flashy wings!


Twenty Years

Ben and I got married. Twenty years ago today. How about that! We have been together longer. We just rambled around to getting married then.

Look at all that hair I had

With no pre-event coordination, look how well colour coordinated we are with the celebrant and ‘my little bridesmaid’, Delaney, Ben’s grand niece. I still call her that. (And don’t miss my DIY chandelier. I had forgotten about that until I was looking at these pictures)

The bride

The Groom

The Ceremony

To share these with you I am taking pictures of our album. The actual pictures are all in focus. It is hard to light the picture, hold the album and the camera to get a picture to post. We only have these wonderful pictures because our friend Betty Truman took them and printed them and sent them to us. A wonderful and thoughtful thing to do.

What a great card. And this one

They both lead you to our honeymoon in Paris

What a fun twenty years it has been. We moved from Virginia to Italy and now North Carolina. Our relationship has grown and changed. We still love each other very much and laugh every day over something. Here’s to at least twenty more.


My Uncle John

I had two Uncle Johns. One on my father’s side and one on my mother’s side. The one on my father’s side lived in New Jersey and died over 10 years ago. My mother’s brother, the youngest of the group and the last one of that generation on that side of my family died in late January. He was 98 years old.

This was taken the last time I visited with him in 2014 (maybe?)

He was born and spent a large part of his life in Louisville. He fought in WWII. Stationed in England as an Army Air Corps intelligence officer. He married a Welsh woman and brought her to America, where she gave birth to twin girls. Something must have happened… she and the twins moved back to Great Britan. And nothing was ever said about them again. I only know because they are recorded on our extensive family tree and because I have this newspaper clipping.

The twin daughters waiting to board a plane to go back to England.

Anyway, my Uncle John married again when I was about 9 or 10. He married Thelma, who I thought was very glamorous because she worked (!!!!) and they lived in an apartment (!!!!!!) (very shocking when you grow up in the US suburbs in the 60s). They did not have children. I can remember that Thelma (and maybe John) brought me a lunch box on my first day of elementary school. I also went to see The Nutcracker with them. And they had me down for dinner. Of all my many Aunts and Uncles I did the most with them. They were a very special couple.

But Uncle John was special too. He was always a happy person. He sang little bits of songs and whistled. I know that is why I do that too. Because of him.

He and ‘Thel’ moved to Florida. On a trip back to Kentucky, John and Thelma came to visit me when I lived in Wilmington. None of my many other Aunts and Uncles ever stopped by. Aunt Thelma died in Florida a number of years ago. Uncle John lived near her relatives and was getting along okay until he more or less got ‘lost’ driving somewhere. My mother was still alive when that happened. One of my cousins (possibly the oldest one) Bob and his wife, Cheri, moved Uncle John up to Indianapolis where they were living and got him an apartment at facility there. That was 2003. For all this time they have been responsible for him. Even though he was not in their house they still visited and had to be ‘on call’ for him. How fortunate Uncle John was to have them. And how caring and loving it was of them.

So a number of years ago, when I was living in Italy, I started to search for Uncle John’s twin girls. With the help of my British friend, Jules, I found them. Through an intermediary I contacted them and asked if they would like to to know about their father, if they would like to come visit me in Italy or just anything….. One of them had died as a young adult and the other wanted nothing to do with me and no further contact with me. (Okay, who in England doesn’t want a cousin in Italy?) Anyway, I have respected that. And I will not try to contact her about her father’s death. But I will tag him in this post so that maybe if she ever searches for him it will show up.

John Harvey Gudgel Jr was a kind, gentle, sweet man who always had gum in his pocket to share, a smile on his face, a joke to tell and a laugh that was infectious. I will miss him.


Valentines, Letters, Keeping in Touch

This is the Valentine that we sent to Ben’s grand daughter

You can’t really see it, but that is the Effiel Tower behind the kissing couple. Ben and I honeymooned in Paris. The grand daughter is in a French Immersion Charter School in New Orleans. Her French is so good. And Ben and I were the first set of grandparents to take her to France. I like to remind her of that, subtly, of course. Side note: The grand daughter has a FULL set of grand parents, 8, yes that is correct 8. Each parent of the child (aka Ma and Pa) has divorced and remarried)

On to the letters. I recently updated my traveling address book.

My traveling address book used to be little bits of paper that were stapled together. I realized that a number of folks on the list are no longer with us. So a new address book was in order.

Our mailman loves us. Every 2 or 3 weeks I send notes or cards to a number of folks. I started this when we first moved to Italy. I wanted to keep in touch with my aunts and uncles and some friends. This is also when I started my blog. Sending mail from Italy was expensive. I cut my card and letter writing back some and sent them links to my blog entries. Anyway, I still write about 10 notes every two weeks.

And just the other day there was a notice at the city park center for ACTIVE ADULTS that we go to. They were looking for someone to respond to letters from 5th graders who are working on the art of letter writing and cursive writing. What’s a few more letters….

One was beautiful. The handwriting was easy to read. The child wrote about her interests and asked about mine. No problem. She got a 2 page response. The next….well, I had to take my highlighter to it. I couldn’t read some of it. He/she got a response. I was nice. Suggested that more work was needed. Try again. We’ll see what happens….

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