Monday, February 28, 2011

Simple spring pleasures

Spring weather is here, at least for a while. Cool weather veggies presently occupy the limited number of sunny spots available at our home. No beds are prepped for wonderful spring color.

But a trip yesterday to the local Lowes building and garden supply store offered me a happy feast of gorgeous plants that were on sale and splashing their fantastic color all around.
Purple pleasure

All I went home with were two tomato plants. I had beds ready for them. If I buy plants – or accept pass-along plants -- before I have their new homes ready for them, they are likely to die before I get them planted. I have learned that the hard way, by killing numerous innocent flowers and shrubs. 

Today I was out early, actually enjoying weeding around red sails lettuce, romaine lettuce and English pea plants. I also enjoyed a little green visitor to my bucket of hand tools and other gardening paraphernalia.
Tree frog on a leather work glove

Posing for a closeup

Ready to jump to escape the camera

Giving me that “Back off, paparazzi!” glare
My little visitor matched the description and looked like the photos of the green tree frog, Hyla cinerea, shown here on the U.S Geological Survey site. Hyla finally parted company with my gardening equipment, but it was an enjoyable visit for me. 
Happy day!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Confused posies?

Narcissus a month late
The white blooms of narcissus, also known as “paperwhites,” usually make their debut at the Skupien homestead in January. This year I had given up on seeing the tiny yellow cups surrounded by cheerful white petals. But just a few days ago, they started blooming.

Our variety of narcissus closeup

Their yellow daffodil cousins were right on schedule, however. Now I have narcissus and daffodils blooming at the same time – a first for me. I needed photograph evidence. Logistics plotted against me. Time limitations, angle of the sun, droopy daffodils, some kind of briars I have yet to attack. Ack!

First attempt.
Nope, had to try again. The backlit white blossoms were just not showing up.

Second attempt.

My knees said, “Pick a bouquet and snap a pix of the flowers in a vase for heaven’s sake.” I said, “One more try.”

Final try: Narcissus and daffodils blooming together

I also did a sniff test of the white blooms, something it had never occurred to me to do before a January encounter (Jan. 23, 2011, post) with paperwhites in Fairhope, AL.
A Fairhope narcissus

Mine don’t look the same. But like the Fairhope blooms, the scent, up close, is cloyingly sweet, not a particularly pleasing odor. Fortunately, my enjoyment is visual, so I will continue to welcome their arrival, whether parading as narcissus or paperwhites, whether on time or late.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Flipping his lid

Walker flips his lid at Coffee Fusion
The past five days and four nights husband Walter and I enjoyed a long list of “firsts” with 9-month-old grandson Walker while parents and sibling were at Disney World. His visit was the first at our home sans his mom, dad and sister. Of course, another of those firsts had to be introducing him to Coffee Fusion, our favorite local coffee shop.

He enthusiastically practiced his eye-hand coordination with the lid from my hot tea.
Walker at work on physical skills

More practice

No, we didn’t give him coffee. It was just an empty cup.

Empty cup or not, he insisted on managing by himself.

Walker is a naturally happy little camper, which is great, because Nana and Baboo’s house is almost like camping. We enjoyed our Baboo and Nana roles nonstop with this happy little camper!
More cup practice at Coffee Fusion

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Five days until spring

Red sails still sailing along . . . a little
Mobile, AL, gardening guru Bill Finch maintains that our southern clime boasts six seasons. Spring arrives by Feb. 20.

In his recent column in the Mobile Register here, he laments “Why can’t we have our own spring? Why are we always celebrating someone elses?

“When some joker jumps on TV and says March 20 is the start of spring, he’s selling you someone else’s spring — New England spring, Punxsutawney Phil’s Pennsylvania spring, a poetically posed Parisian spring, some suspiciously socialist spring in the former Soviet Republic.

“But it ain’t our spring.”

Finch’s columns have supplied me with info that works and advice about what vegetables grow and don’t grow well here, about how to combat some of the invasive flora of the coastal south, and why I can’t seem to get squash or cucumbers to survive.

We are still eating a little lettuce from a quickie October planting, and I have managed more recently to get outside and plant some mesclun and English peas that are just pushing up. But it seems that lately, anything in the garden is accomplished in 15-minute episodes once or twice a week.

Vegetable garden and our yard (I was grown before I realized that the word garden refers to more than just a vegetable garden) shows severe neglect. What the mighty Finch has not been able to instill in me is the get up and go to get up and get it done!

I see signs of spring in the blogs of other elders posting about their energetic gardening efforts. Envy strikes . . . and hope, however bad the cliché is, springs eternal!

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Walker preview

Green peas . . . so this is lunch?
A trip to Louisiana two days ago gave this nana a preview of the upcoming arrival of 9-month-old grandson Walker for a four-night stay this week at Baboo and Nana’s house. During his older sister’s birthday party, I had the opportunity of assisting Mr. Walker with his lunch.

With kids all around, especially BOYS, Walker was not especially interested in his green peas. He did manage to get in a little practice at manipulating Nana. He clamped down on his spoon with great authority, a maneuver that allowed him to get his hand on the spoon.
A crafty little “grab-the-spoon” strategy

First the remote and now his eating utensils . . . I am sure I will be adding more items to the list of things Walker wants to explore without adult interference!

Sunday, February 13, 2011


Yesterday, Saturday, Feb. 12, 2011, husband Walter and I traveled to Louisiana for a Pinkalicious party. Little girls of a certain age seem to be enthralled with the Pinkalicious series of children’s books. Granddaughter Molly Kate had the first in the series, titled what else but “Pinkalicious,” and celebrated her birthday #3 with a party centered around the book’s title character.
Pinkalicious book takes place of honor among party decorations.

Pinkalicious is a little girl who loves all things pink, pink, pink and experienced some remarkable side effects from her overindulgence in pink cupcakes. True to the popular narrative, guests were treated to pink cupcakes.
Cupcakes large

Cupcakes small

Cupcakes giving Pinkalicious a ride

And a giant cupcake-shaped birthday cake

Molly Kate was a little overwhelmed as her dozens of guests, adult and kid-sized, arrived. Initially she took a low-key approach to the festivities.
Molly Kate snuggles with Baboo

By the time everyone finished lunch and gathered for the singing, candles and birthday cake, the birthday girl was ready to party. Wearing her pink tutu and pink bows that her Aunt Blair had made her, she was busy gathering her little friends and a cousin to play Ring Around the Rosie.
MK executes an enthusiastic ring around the rosie with a somewhat bemused buddy Noah.

Ashes, ashes, all fall down.

By the way, I googled the Ring Around the Rosie nursery rhyme, just to check spelling and see if I could find out why I grew up with “upstairs, downstairs, all fall down” instead of today’s “ashes.” The Snopes site debunked some information I had read years ago about the meaning of the rhyme. If you click here, be sure to go to the end for John Lennon’s comment on the meaning of lyrics.

Little brother Walker, celebrating his 9-month mark, entered the gift-opening excitement. Once he exhausted the pleasure of playing with wrapping paper, he headed for the least girly of his sister’s new possessions, Barbie’s convertible.
Walker gets ready to take a spin.

In the quiet aftermath of the pinkalicious party, a thrilled Molly Kate worked through her gifts, systematically trying them out, one by one. Below, she has just finished examining the little doll that came with a pediatrician’s tools of the trade.
Fledgling pediatrician Molly Kate proudly pronounces her new doll healthy.

Happy pink birthday, Molly Kate!

For the truly dedicated MK relatives, older MK birthday posts:

Friday, February 11, 2011

Happy thoughts

Yesterday was a gray and gloomy day, but abundant internal sunshine was available thanks to grandkids, and of course, their parents.
I need an updated pix of daughter-in-law Sarah and the Fab Four . . . maybe next week?

Here is my happy list:
Molly Kate, a few days away from 3 years old, had her first dance lesson that was open to parents. This grandmother couldn’t be there, but her mom Katie posted photos and video here.

Grandson Walker, right, will visit Baboo and Nana next week while sister Molly Kate enjoys Disney World
Baboo and I will get to keep 9-month-old grandson Walker at our home for the first time next week. And the week following, our oldest son’s wife and their Fab Four will be in town for a week. Blessings indeed!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Technical difficulties

To all those fellow bloggers who I love to visit, digest their latest post and sometimes offer a comment, we are experiencing technical difficulties with our Internet connection here AND maybe Blogger, too. Since I am technologically challenged, and turning things off and on hasn't worked, it may take me longer to figure out what is happening. ARGHHHH!

A Sunday walk

Sunny skies and mild temperatures lured husband Walter and me out into local trails of Mississippi’s mainland section of the Gulf Islands National Seashore.

I tried capturing a respectable image of one of the brown pelicans in flight. But darn those birds, they just won’t oblige this photographer wannabe by staying still or coming close.
Pelican in flight over Davis Bayou

Okay, so I found some color that stayed in one place.
Bright red yaupon berries

A munched-on leaf offered another spot of winter color.
More red

And the curls of the vine supporting the leaf also caught my eye.
Natural curl

Cool but not frigid temperatures, sunshine gilding leaves and branches with molten gold, blue sky, an egret, pelicans, a flock of some kind of perky little birds either passing through or overwintering, fellow human beings, both residents and snowbird RVers, sharing a beautiful day . . . joy!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

A request from Grandma Sugar

My mother-in-law Grandma Sugar, right, and my husband Walter 

My mother-in-law, Grandma Sugar, is suffering from osteonecrosis, or "death of bone" of the jaw (ONJ). Osteonecrosis is reportedly a rare condition involving the jaw and is characterized by pain, swelling, infection and exposed bone.

She has all those symptoms. She asked me to post a warning about bisphosphonates, a class of drugs that are used in the treatment and prevention of osteoporosis and that have been associated with osteonecrosis. The brand she used for a number of years was Fosamax.

A Mayo Clinic Web site said that there have been reports of a possible link between bisphosphonates and osteonecrosis since 2003. The majority of cases of bone-death of the jaw involved people with cancer who were receiving chemotherapy and had been given intravenous bisphosphonates to treat cancer that had spread to the bone.

The site noted that a small number of cases of osteonecrosis of the jaw had been reported in people taking oral bisphosphonates for osteoporosis and the cases were primarily associated with active dental disease or a recent dental procedure, such as a tooth extraction.

Grandma Sugar falls into the category that had a tooth extraction while taking oral bisphosphonates. Although the date of publication of the Mayo clinic post is not included, I suspect that the phrase “ the small number of cases” is seriously out of date. Grandma Sugar is now under the care of an oral surgeon who said he has 30 other patients suffering from the same condition.

Osteoporosis is a serious condition and not getting treatment is probably not an option. So what is an individual to do about avoiding the possibly nightmarish side effects of the drugs used to treat osteoporosis?

The Mayo Clinic site said to get needed dental work before starting the medication. That doesn’t help Grandma Sugar. And, “If you currently take an oral bisphosphonate and need a dental procedure, you should discuss this with your doctor and dentist.” Too late for her to do that, too.

But it may not be too late for others to make decisions that would decrease their chances for experiencing what she is going through. That is why she asked me to do this post. Getting the word out to others who are possibly at risk is important to her.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

NOLA’s Lafayette Cemetery

Lafayette Cemetery, established 1833, was our last stop on a December 2010 self-guided walking tour of the New Orleans’ Garden District. As the sun neared the western horizon, we explored one of the city’s oldest cemeteries.

The cemetery is located on Washington Avenue between Prytania and Coliseum streets. After we had our coffee and tea break at Still Perkin’ in the Rink, it was just a short walk to the cemetery entrance on Washington.

Water-table levels are commonly cited as the reason for the custom of burial in the aboveground vaults that are iconic New Orleans images. According to a New Orleans historian at a conference I attended at Tulane University years ago, the aboveground burial choice is more cultural than logistical, a result of French and Spanish influence.

Many of the crypts that we saw are in poor repair. Some are being restored. All are custodians of stories from the past.

Narrow avenue of aboveground tombs with wall vaults visible at the end of the corridor

Grassy lanes and more spacious multi-vault, aboveground tombs

This example of a society tomb, with multiple vaults similar to a mausoleum, was for members of the Jefferson Fire Company No. 22.

Fire engine detail

Philanthropy entombed, another example of a society tomb

Cross of stone

Cross of wrought iron

A sasanqua camellia contributes its living color to our visit of one of New Orleans' "cities of the dead"

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Winter color: 90-mile cultural differences

Happy pansy faces grace the entryway at a Hattiesburg doctor’s office.

During these past few weeks my visits with our mothers have been conducted on the way to medical providers and in the waiting rooms of medical providers.

Even when these “supreme elders” are under the weather, they have a sharp eye for spots of happy color that relieve the winter weather blues.

On the coast it was the traditional purple, gold and green of Mardi Gras.

Top hats reminiscent of Mardi Gras marching clubs greet arriving patients.

More purple, gold and green in the waiting room.

Our town’s hospital outpatient lab boasted a miniature Mardi Gras float filled with lapel pins on sale to raise funds for the American Heart Association.

A miniature Mardi Gras float is ready to roll.

This king cake baby displays two of the fleur-de-lis pins that celebratie Mardi Gras and healthy hearts.

In Hattiesburg, 90 miles to the north, it was flower pots full of cheerful color that greeted patients.

Whether the local culture leans toward sunshine in a pot – or on a hat -- both brighten a dreary day.