Wednesday, December 18, 2013

"Don't Touch Me Aspidistra"

When I was a teen living in England I worked at the Ardley Kennels near Bicester.  The owner, Mrs. Beril Kelland would have me in for tea.  While it was being prepared I would sit back and enjoy the beauty of her Victorian home.  The detailing of both house and furnishings amazed me,  and I remember thinking that some day I was going to live in something similar.  The Victorian era enthralled me and even at that young age I would go to antique shops in Oxford and make little purchases of items to go in my future home.  With a big love of flora in or out of doors I fell in love with all of Mrs. Kellands plant stands and one in particular held a very large and ancient Aspidistra in a beautiful Victorian planter passed down to her from a family member of that era.  I was just lightly touching the detail of the pot when she came into the room "Don't touch me Aspidistra" she called out in her shrill voice.  I jumped in surprise and she started to laugh telling me that was a quote from one of her favorite comedies on BBC and can't help screeching it when she gets the opportunity.  Comedy aside, I inquired if she knew anything about the Aspidistra.  "No, it is just one of those plants that never dies."  Truly the Aspidistra elatior is known as the Cast Iron plant for a reason, it can withstand all sorts of neglect, harsh temperatures, smoke, dust  and many other bad conditions.  Because of this ability to withstand those conditions it was very popular in Victorian homes.  Later that summer while on a family vacation in Spain, I spotted the perfect ceramic pot for an Aspidistra.  My mother told me it was too large as with two adults and four children space was a premium in the family car.  I pleaded with her and promised to carry it on my lap all the way back home to England, she gave me a rye smile of "Bet you can't do it", and I made the purchase.  Stubbornness prevailed and the pot remained on my lap the rest of the trip.

I have had this plant since 1971 when we settled here in Portland
The corner it sits in is almost devoid of natural light because of the heavy draperies just as in the Victorian homes,  and the brown tips on the leaves are due to neglectful watering.  Hey, "Do as the Victorians do....or did!"

Monday, December 16, 2013

Beauty Is In The Eye Of The Beholder

My dear mother was a “Craft Queen” extraordinaire.  I grew up in a house filled with those pictures of vases done in shimmering beads or better yet painted seeds.  She frequently drove us all out of the house while heating her latest plastic flower craft creation in the oven.  She loved her creations and it showed because the house and the family cabin were filled with them.  So the other day when our long time bestest of the best friend Jan came to the house with a large paper Christmas wreath,  I did a double take and if she had not been so quick to enter I would have erected my craft free zone sign on the front door.  But alas, she was standing in the front room with lots of witnesses so I couldn’t very well have ejected her.  There was some dribble about some other friend who made it for her but when she saw that it was made of sheet music she just knew we would love it.  Jan is a minimalist of sorts, her house is clutter free and right out of “House Beautiful”.  There are empty drawers in every room! Unlike our motto of drawers are made to be filled.  I shall never have to purchase another dress shirt ever again as a steadfast rule of Jan’s is that when her husband Brian comes home with three new shirts, then three must vacate their place in his closet.  I have forty winter dress shirts and close to that amount in summer shirts.  But wait a minute here we were talking about that big hideous wreath stuffed full of sheet music that she just unloaded on us………
"Wait…..wait why are you taking down my peony painting (also given to us by Jan years ago)…..oh no you can’t really want that hung there????"
"…….hmm? Well yes that really looks quite nice there.  You know it looks as though it was made for that spot."

Thanks Jan, we love it… any more cool stuff?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Golden Leaves and Silver Trees

Besides watering in the greenhouse there is little time spent in the gardens.  The pond has been frozen for the last week which has sent the koi into hybernation mode, so nothing to do there except keeping the intakes on the pumps clear of leaves.  The last time I spent any great deal of time gardening was about three weeks ago and most of that was sweeping up the masses of leaves from the wisteria.  I was amazed by the intense color of my little dwarf ginkgo "Chi Chi" that sits at pond edge just under the wisteria arbor.  I quickly took a picture of it, the first since I planted it in 2008, as it usually drops its leaves when I think to get the camera.

I would fill my tub with leaves and carry them out to the compost barrel and on one of my trips I noticed a very unusual sight......

.......Raspberries in the last week of November?  I was told by MeMa that they were quite delicious as she sucked them down quicker than a hoover on a dust ball.  This week all that is gone, there are no more raspberies or golden ginkgo leaves.  Everything has a layer of ice on it, when I walk the ground gives a frozen crunch under my weight.  I don't last long outdoors, there is no joy in this frozen land.  Inside, MeMa has turned Menagerie Manor into a Christmas wonderland.  Furniture moved about to accommodate such things as the aluminum tree which needed to go in front of the windows because I was able to find the color wheel at an antique shop in perfect running order and in the original box.  When viewed from outdoors the silver tree slowly changes from green, yellow, blue and red -  a real treat from the 1950's.

 MeMa has a real skill for decorating this old house, me not so much but I follow direction if you get what I mean.  She asked if I would like to arrange the large collection of Santa's on the mantle, I looked at her with disbelief as I know MeMa has a penchant for order.

So while she set up the manger on the top of the old player piano I slowly started unpacking the many Santa's, keeping in mind height and material of each figure.  Last Santa figure placed, I stood back and gazed at my handy work........and so......after MeMa redecorated I poured us both a glass of wine and we sat and listened to Christmas piano rolls.

 Do you know what goes good with a glass of wine while listening to piano music????  
Fresh picked raspberries....or so I've heard!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Psychology Of A Dream

The psychology of dreams is something that I never usually think about for one reason only, I don't have dreams, at least any that I can remember by the time I rise from a sleep.  When I awake I am thinking of what will be going on in my day.  I generally sleep very soundly and fortunately straight through the night without having to get up in the middle of the night like most men have to at my age. However the other morning I woke with quite a start, I don't like calling it a nightmare as it involved my late mother.  I was sitting at their dining room table and my mother approached me, sitting a jar in front of me and saying "Here, I'm giving this to you, I know you would want it."  At that point I gasped and sat bolt upright in bed.
Many years ago when I was a small child I remember visiting my grandparents, the big old house were my mother was born and raised had a very large old kitchen and on the back side was a sun porch were my grandmother would do the laundry and there was a large chest freezer.  On the wall behind the freezer was a wide shelf that was filled with miniature trinkets from Cracker Jacks, odds and ends of glass trinkets. 

Many of them had been found while working in the large garden and orchard behind the house.  I was fascinated with my grandmothers miniature collection but I was told that I could only "Look at them, not touch."  While we were away in Europe the old kitchen was remodeled and the old sun porch was removed.  On our return to the US, I asked my grandmother what had happened to her miniature collection.  She told me she still had them all but they were put away.  When my grandmother passed away her daughters divided the contents of the family possessions among the four sisters.  A few weeks later I was sitting at my parents dining room table as I had been in my recent dream, my mother was going through a box of things from my grandmother's house and to my delight she pulled out a jar filled with my grandmother's miniature treasure.  I was very excited and said, "Lets look through it." But my mother was tired and simply put it back in the box and said, "Perhaps another day."  As anyone knows going through the loss of a loved one's belongings and the memories that such things can conjure up is quite exhausting so I said no more about the jar and soon it was totally forgotten until the other morning when I sat bolt upright with the shock of my late mother handing me the jar in my dream.  I called my sister and told her about the dream and asked if she remembered Mom lifting the jar out of the box that night long ago?  She said yes but had no idea what had become of it since then.  I was determined to find out so I stopped by my fathers house to look.  I decided that since she came in from the garage in my dream that the cupboards there might be a place to look and to my surprise the first door I opened there was the jar sitting there at eye level.
The jar, it might as well be filled with gold coins because after that dream it is just as valuable.

I swallowed hard and thanked my mother out loud, and with a trembling hand I firmly grasped the jar and closed the door.  After living all these years with our house ghost Lucy pulling shenanigans at Menagerie Manor, I am not surprised by such things.  But when your own late mother comes to you in a dream and hands you a jar of treasures you were denied in the past, then I have to admit I was a bit unnerved by this whole episode.  Thanks Mom, I will treasure it always and promise to "look but not touch".

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Maxwell Smart

There was a period in our eldest son Nathan's life when one could best describe him as nomadic.  He was following his current dream of drummer in the band.  So he would come into town with all his worldly possessions including Maxwell Smart, landing with a bit of a plop back in his old room at the top of the stairs.  As soon as his travelling box was opened, Max would flop down on the sunroom floor in an exaggerated stretch and almost immediately start that motor boat purr.  Then it would be time for Nathan to move out again and Max would fuss and growl as he was being shoved back into his travel box.  His beautiful green eyes would turn to black holes of pure anger.  After about the third exodus, we asked Nathan if Max could just forgo the move and stay here at Menagerie Manor.  When he said yes, we were thrilled, Max was thrilled and Nathan was relieved.  I think because he didn't have to manhandle Max into the box and listen to him growl on his way to his new apartment in Eugene.
In the years to follow there was a constant parade of new creatures coming and going and Max would greet them all with his patience and charm.

Ninja our youngest son Ian's chihuahua

There were many times when he would have to retreat to higher ground, but he never showed aggression even when his girth and strength was superior.

Max loved his home and it truly was his home, he would join us in every room and make himself comfortable even if it meant his person would have to hold her morning coffee while turning pages of her much loved morning newspaper.

His high level of patience and charm extended to the next generation ~ "The Little Terrorists". Never pulling away when hugged so fiercely by little arms that meant only love.

With heavy hearts we say goodbye to Maxwell Smart the Governor of Menagerie Manor.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Halloween 2013

The Little Terrorists are growing up and like other things, Halloween is taking on some new priorities.  In years past the parents would pick out costumes and the Little Terrorists would be tossed into them usually at the last minute and join in on the neighborhood festivities without a lot of hoopla about makeup or what they looked like as long as the outcome was lots of fun and of course candy.  This year plans and costumes were given a great deal of thought by the children....... and the adults.  Once they were in costume then there was the make-up that transformed them all into creatures of the night.

click on photo's to enlarge

Case in point the fair Adrianne
prior to make-up....
...with the help of Auntie Jill transformed into the "Bride Corpse"

Taeya dolled up as a Blazer Cheerleader and Brooklyn told me he was a "scary clown." I told him he was just too cute to be scary.
Ok...scary clown transformation complete!
Crazy Cat Lady hissing at Uncle Nathan as he scares at least eight of her nine lives out of her.

Auntie Jackie transformed into Medusa

Then from out of the blue sky floated a sweet little blue butterfly with lopsided wings......

 Lloyd the wonder dog thought the little blue butterfly was the sweetest thing on two legs.... ....ahem wings.

The fifth annual 62nd Avenue Giant Pumpkin Parade went well, minus the pumpkin this year. We had a very good neighbor turn-out
Brooklyn and Bentley, our Miss Betty's little brother who lives next door with CCL

Then it was back home for the traditional meal of MeMa's clam chowder and homemade bread before turning the "Little Terrorists" loose on the neighborhood.

Little Lucy soon got the hang of the whole Trick-or-Treat scenario

And before long she was leaving everyone in  the dust including MeMa, as she raced from house to house.

But you know the best thing of all for us grandparents is after a night of sugar highs...... in the case of this little blue butterfly...... that they get to go home.

I hope everyone had as safe and fun filled Halloween night as the "Little Terrorists".  BOO!!!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The "Curmudgeon" Has His Day

I am usually the first person to arrive at the office, and by time the rest of our office staff trickle in I am busy with the duties of my day and don't really say anything unless directly spoken to.  I have a lot to accomplish each day and everyone knows it, so they usually let me be.  But when there are questions to be answered who do you ask?  Well, that would be Doc Chambers (moi) the old man that has been here longer than most of the buildings on the property.  Work ethics in a lot of the younger employees is one of my biggest gripes and I am not shy about unloading on an individual when they ask a question that would benefit them if they researched and found the answer themselves, the material is all here.  After all, this is the Rail Training Department for heavens sake!  But you see, it is a lot easier to have Doc answer your stupid questions, unfortunately it also brings out the grouchy impatient side of me.
The last person to arrive is my boss and oh yes, I give him hell for it every morning telling him he is supposed to set an example for his employees by arriving first.  But he is used to my verbal chastise and probably think the world ended if I didn't give him hell until he ducks into his office and shuts the door.
Friday morning for me was exceptionally busy as I had taken an extra day off the week before, so when my boss came in I didn't look up but just kept busy with my work.  I did however notice that he did not pass by my desk and go into his office.  I looked up when I heard him clear his throat as he was placing a large box of pastries on my map table in the center of the room. And before the staff could dive into them he said "the large apple fritter is Doc's", and then he quietly walked into his office and shut the door.
Promptly at noon he emerged from his office and declared that he was hungry and would we like to join him for lunch out?  We ate at a local Italian restaurant and when the bill came he paid for mine.
After arriving back at the office I again busied myself with work as the days events were seriously having an effect on how much work I was going to have to do before leaving for the weekend.  Once again I heard my boss clearing his throat, but when I looked up there was not only the entire office staff but the director and all the secretaries and the staff from the adjacent offices all standing and looking at me with goofy smiles on their faces.  I looked at them all with impatient frustration and said "What do you want?"  The youngest staff member "Young David" said, "See I told you this would just piss him off." And I think I detected a panicked shiver run through his body.   "I have a lot of work to do, so tell me what you want and then get back to work." My boss came forward  holding a small package and then started in telling everyone how this office would not have run as well as it does without Doc for the last 35 years and blah blah blah.  I stopped him mid blah and told him he missed it, it was last week on the 18th and it has only been 34 years.  I then went on by telling him they make these things called calendars and it might behove him to purchase one so he wouldn't have to depend on me to keep him straight.  He gave me a very nauseating patient look and said that I was quite wrong that my anniversary date is the 26th and it has been 35 years to which "Young David's" shaky little voice piped up with an agreement.  I gave him a look that sent him scurrying back into the safety of the crowd and then thought about this news.  I was wrong and they were right.....damn it!  I smiled and thanked everyone when I opened the package and found a gold pin with three small diamonds around the company logo.  After everyone said their piece, one of the newer secretaries said "We should all sing for "He's a Jolly Good Fellow." I think Young David probably wet himself when I bellowed "NOOOOO!"  I thanked everyone and then said, "Ok everyone needs to get back to work now, it's Friday and I have lots to do even if you all don't." Marylin, one of the Training Supervisors looked at me and said, "You're such an old curmudgeon."  The office quickly cleared and as I sat down at my desk I thought, really, has it  been thirty five years?

The "Curmudgeon" and his boss

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Scratching Deer ~ And 53 You Say?

Fall is ebbing into winter and the threat of frost is eminent.  I had moved most of the winter tender plants into the greenhouse when this old man’s back decided to show its age.  It really is all my fault as I forget that I am not the young nimble gardener that I used to be and don’t take precautions like lifting properly and doing so with the aid of my back support strapped securely in place instead of hanging on its hook in my closet.  My back is better now but I am holding off moving the three largest pots into the greenhouse until one of our son’s are able to assist.  We also moved all of my orchid collection into the sun room for the winter as the heating in the greenhouse is getting old and expensive to maintain at 78 degrees throughout the cold winter months.  I turned the thermostat down to 45 and if the remaining plants seem to hold their own it may get turned down lower.

Orchid # 63 an odd looking little miltonia obviously enjoying the warmth of the sun room
Last week MeMa, myself and the dogs spent a few days at the family cabin.  We packed up Thursday evening and zipped out of the city.  It takes one hour from Menagerie Manor to the gates of the compound and every time  we arrive I wonder why we just don’t do it more often.  It is very relaxing and the air is clear, clean and woodsy smelling.  I had to go into the office Friday morning to finish a project and returning to the city with a large list of things to bring back to the cabin.  MeMa spent Friday clearing out all of my late mothers things and doing a thorough cleaning of the entire cabin, a job none of the rest of us were looking forward to.  Her goal was nothing more than to make coming there easier on my father.  When I got back to the cabin there were a mountain of boxes and bags to deliver to the nearest charity drop off and I filled the back of my work van.
Saturday was a day of rest……well sort of.  Being under a canopy of deciduous trees the roof and rain gutters were packed with leaves and forest debris.  We worked like troopers cleaning and clearing up the massive piles of leaves.  The deer that live in the surrounding forest are very tame and if the dogs are indoors, will allow you to stroke their noses and ears.  We only pray they never leave the compound as they would be easy targets for hunters.

Sunday was the day to celebrate MeMa’s birthday.  Our boys and their families and my father were coming for supper.  Unfortunately Ian, the youngest was sick so he and his family stayed home.  Nathan our eldest and his family arrived and my father as well.  We all enjoyed the meal and while MeMa, Nathan,  Jackie and the “Little Terrorists” all went swimming my father and I did the washing up.  On their return we had cake that I had my father pick up from the baker in town.  When I placed my order I told them to put 58th  and not her actual 60th.  When the box was opened we were surprised to find it read 53rd, I don’t think the mistake bothered MeMa at all.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Ever Faithful He Keeps His Watch

"I think I heard her"

MeMa has been gone since last Saturday and Friday could not come soon enough.  Every time a car goes by Popeye runs to the sun room steps and stares at the garage door.  I have given up trying to stop him as he is completely sure that this one will be her.

Friday, September 20, 2013

A Bit Of A Catch Up

It is a bit sad to do so but I refer to the year of 2013 as the year of the plague, sounds horrible but with five deaths in the family one begins to wonder.  Last week dare I say but great aunt Lorainne passed, yep that makes an even six....ho boy!  Aunt Lorainne was well into her 90,s maybe even 100 I just didn't have the nerve to ask.  Our immediate family are all doing quite well, the Little Terrorists all starting school except Lucifer....I mean Lucy.  Dear sweet Little Lucy who started her "terrible two's" at about, she will be two this Christmas.

Yes, that is our Lucy on the right

School makes it hard for MeMa and I to see much of the five grandchildren, but we still have soccer filled Saturdays and MeMA watches or chases Lucy every Thursday.
MeMa and my father are driving to Phoenix Arizona this Saturday as my twin brother is having the mass and celebration of life after for his late partner Tony.  Since I spent the week with him just after Tony's passing I decided to stay here.
The creatures here at Menagerie Manor are all doing fairly well.  Maxwell the cat is fifteen and unfortunately is on the downside of age and health and I fear one morning soon we will not be greeted by his insistence for his morning bowl of meat.  We try to make him as comfortable as possible until that end.  The "Little Nazi" Sophie still chooses to ignore the rules of the house, especially the one of no dogs on the furniture.......
"I am invisible"

Miss Betty is doing great and zooms everywhere in her splashy red cart and wheels with Popeye close by.  Popeye always a brick short of a full load still finds Betty's cart fascinating as though it was a new and amazing thing.


When he gets a bit out of line Miss Betty sets him straight.
The canaries are finishing with their moult and starting to sing again

With the approach of fall weather the koi are getting fat, ready for their long winter hibernation.

 Though the gardens at Menagerie Manor are looking a bit sad due to our absence, the greenhouse occupants are flourishing from the large orchids...... the little cacti seedlings.
Soon we will be filling all available space in the greenhouse with winter tender plants such as everything below in the "Yuma Garden".


Our banana pathway sports some real giants this year, it will be a shame to see them die down in winter but with next springs arrival they will be even larger.

The chicken house has now been turned solely into a garden house and with the addition of this very sturdy steel shelving unit and MeMa's supervision it is quite a tidy outcome

 I even made use of the old nest boxes.

So even with all the adversity that life can throw in our path....we carry on.