Thursday, October 28, 2010

dahlia explosion

Remember the sweet little dahlias I planted in the backyard in April?

Four tiny pink/purple dahlias in the center of the picture between the rose bushes
Well, now they look like this.

Dahlias - 10.23.10
They've wreaked havoc on my orderly flower bed, but I'll take the mess for the hundreds of blooms I've enjoyed this year. And it's almost the end of October and the plants are still blooming! I love dahlias--they're such perky, happy flowers and I'm pleased to have gotten my money's worth. If they don't come back on their own in the spring, I'll definitely replace them.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

new trend?

While running the Army Ten-Miler this past Sunday, I noticed a disturbing new shoe style: gloves for feet.



http://www.vibramfivefingers.com/

How could anyone run ten miles (or farther) while wearing these shoes? Have you seen them? I had never noticed them before, but I saw at least four runners wearing them on the course. (Brad saw at least that many, too.) They have a very thin sole, which I assume means little cushion or support. And the material between my toes would not only bother me, it would certainly rub blisters.

I scoff now, but will I be wearing these soon? Is this a trend I should look into? Runners, what do you think?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

love update

The lovebirds in my class have both applied to work for me next semester as undergraduate teaching assistants. I interviewed both of them yesterday, one right after the other. (They signed up for adjacent interview times and came to my office together.)

I have almost double the number of applicants that I need. Do I dare hire one but not the other? If I hire them both, will they sit next to each other during staff meetings and maybe even hold hands? Will I die from their cuteness?

Would they ever guess that their blossoming romance now has an audience?

Monday, October 25, 2010

i'm a mac girl now

www.apple.com
I got a new computer for work: my first laptop and my first Mac. And I am so confused!

I knew that Macs were much different from PCs, but I didn't anticipate starting at square one with my computer training. A co-worker had to show me how to shut it down the first time.

I figured that the only way to learn to use this thing is to dive right into it. I ripped off the band-aid and unhooked my work PC last Friday, so now it's Mac or nothing.

I'm hoping that using a Mac becomes as intuitive as everyone keeps telling me it will. In the meantime, I'll plan on all computer-related tasks taking twice as long as they should.

Friday, October 22, 2010

oh, fiddle dee dee . . .

I finished Gone with the Wind! And I loved it!

Male readers, don't shy away from this book. I am already pestering Brad to read it. (How long do you think he'll hold out?) This story is magnificent and contains plenty to keep men and women equally entertained. The writing is exquisite and Margaret Mitchell pulls you into a Utopian Old South that will stick with you long after you read the last page. I love this movie, but the book is much better. (Isn't that always the case?)

I am so pleased to add this book to my list of all-time favorites. This list includes my ten favorite books that I could read again and again. I have another list that I call "books I respect". Gone with the Wind could go on either list, but because it captured my heart in a way that only beloved books do, I put it on the favorites list.

I am so relieved to have found a winner. I've read so many books this year that I was starting to get discouraged that I hadn't found a new favorite yet. But, I finally did. And, now I'm sad it's over. I have a touch of the book finishing blues.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

white house garden tour

We had a full weekend. After frolicking at the pumpkin patch and wineries on Saturday, we went on a White House Garden Tour on Sunday afternoon after church. We enjoyed the warm, beautiful weather while we sauntered around the grounds.

The best part of the tour, in my opinion, was that you could get so close to everything.

Right outside the back door of the White House!

We enjoyed beautiful views in every direction.

Washington and Jefferson in the background

The tour was packed with people, but it was self-guided, and the staff allowed you to mosey.

Back of the White House - flowers on every level, even the roof!

I had seen the West Wing from a distance before (barely), but never this close (except on TV).

10 yards from the Oval Office
My favorite part was the First Lady's kitchen garden. But I was surprised at how far from the White House it is. The chef could never leave dinner cooking on the stove and run out to pick some fresh thyme on a whim to throw in (like I do). It would be nice to have a staff to keep the garden perfectly manicured and loaded with award-worthy-looking produce.

Kitchen Garden
If you ever get the opportunity, I highly recommend this tour!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

fall frolic day

Each fall, I claim the one Saturday that Tennessee has a bye weekend as mine. Brad spends the entire day with me doing whatever I want, which normally means visiting a pumpkin patch.

We left town at 10 a.m. on Saturday and didn't get home until 8 p.m., but we had a fun day! We drove about an hour away to our favorite pumpkin patch, Hollin Farms in Delaplane, Virginia.

The pumpkin patch sits on top of a hill and affords stunning views.

View of the Blue Ridge Mountains from the edge of the pumpkin patch

This patch is authentic--the pumpkins are still growing on the vines in the field. You have to harvest your own.

Brad in the patch with pumpkins as far as the eye can see!
Hollin Farms also has an orchard and garden where you can pick your own greens. If you're looking for tons of activities for kids, this is not the place. But we like it because it's a real pumpkin patch and not just a fall carnival.

Self portrait amidst the pick-your-own-greens area
We bought two large pumpkins, one large gourd, and a handful of small pumpkins and gourds.

the spoils
We left the pumpkin patch and went to the nearby Hot Air Balloon, Wine, and Music Festival to visit with our friends for a little while. Brad and I also ate corn dogs, which we hadn't done since the last time we attended that festival two years ago. After the festival, we stopped by two wineries for tastings, shopped at Tysons, and picked up dinner on the way home. It was a full, but great day.

Tennessee Vols, please take a weekend off more often!

Monday, October 18, 2010

daily remembrance

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day was last Friday, October 15th, and I missed it. But I'd bet my savings account that anyone who's experienced a miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant death doesn't need one special day devoted to remembering his or her lost children. Each day is its own remembrance day. The loss of life is not something you forget. Long after the condolences cease, your body heals, and things are seemingly back to normal, you realize they're really not, and they never will be again. But, by God's grace, you get used to the new normal.

Miscarriage has changed me in profound ways. Some of my relationships have been affected, for better or worse. I've bonded with women I barely know, some who are also members of the club and some who aren't. I have increased compassion for people who experience loss. I've learned to ask for help, and to lean on others when I need them. I understand what it means to grieve.

Sometimes I feel like I barely remember the month of July. My mind has repressed that month's memories to help me cope. The days since then have seemed long, but the weeks have flown by. I've found that whether you're standing on top of a mountain or crawling through a valley, time passes quickly, which does help. Some things are easier now, three months post miscarriage, but some aspects are harder than I expected them to be.

The Lord, in his kindness, may very well bless Brad and I with other children. But we will always love and remember these two, our first two, even though we never met them.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

the creeping cataloupe

My cantaloupe plant is freaking me out.

It's difficult to see in the picture below, but it's grown out of its bed and is creeping across our lawn.


Here's another view. See how the plant has stretched out in all directions? It's loaded with blossoms, but no fruit. Remember that my yard is not large. If this plant is going to take up prime real estate, I expect it to produce.


A closer look of its long, creepy arms.


It's a monster.


The vines crept up my green pepper plant's stake and pulled it down, all but strangling the poor green pepper plant in the process.


This plant gives me the willies. At night, I dream it's going to creep up to our second-floor deck, slither under the door, sneak down the hallway to our bedroom, and strangle me in my sleep. (Yes, I have an active imagination.) If this post turns out to be my last, you'll know what happened to me.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

adjective or possessive?

Although I haven't blogged about this topic for a while, longtime readers know about my obsession with using proper grammar. My biggest pet peeve is when the apostrophe is misused. (Longtime readers also know my standard caveat for posts like this: I've made grammatical mistakes on this blog and will continue to do so. I am not an English grammar expert, but I do strive to use it properly to the best of my ability.)

A friend told me she recently took her daughter to a concert for children. Is it a kids concert or a kids' concert?

I go back and forth on this issue, especially when thinking about my church's meetings for members (members meetings or members' meetings), so I did some research.

According to my favorite grammarian, the better question is, are you using kids or members as an adjective or a possessive? Kids don't own the concert, so it doesn't make sense to add an apostrophe. Although I belong to a congregationalist church, members technically don't own the meetings, so an apostrophe is not necessary.

Grammar Girl argues that homeowners' association needs the apostrophe when homeowners actually own and control the group that manages their property. She also said that no matter what your opinion is on this subject, a credible grammarian will certainly disagree with you.

Ponder this dilemma as you visit a farmers market this weekend. (I left off the apostrophe because the farmers generally don't own the market, but I'm certain that I've included the apostrophe on previous blog posts.)

Agree or disagree? Let's discuss.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

when your talker quits

On a regular night with no commitments, I arrive home from work before Brad, get settled, and begin cooking dinner. Brad comes home, gets settled, and hangs out with me in the kitchen. We eat dinner together at the dining room table (no TV) and catch up on each others' days. After dinner and clean up, we each wind down in our respective ways; I settle into my reading nook with my book and Brad lounges on the couch either reading or watching TV.

If eight years of marriage has taught me anything, it's this: I need to arrive home before dinner if I expect to have any sort of conversation with my husband.

This used to really annoy me. I would come home late from work, book club, or girls' night, excited to see him and talk about our days like we always do, and he would do little more than nod or grunt at me when I walked in the door. No conversation. No daily recap. If he was already in wind-down mode, then he was "off" for the day, even with me.

I recently asked him to explain this behavior to me and he shrugged his shoulders and said, "My talker quits."

Although my talker has more stamina than his, I can understand this feeling. I'm not someone who wants to talk all the time either. So, now I have a strategy for nights when I arrive home late--unless it's something urgent or earth shattering, I save 99% of what I have to say until the next night.

And then he gets a double dose.:)

Our marriage survives better this way.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

the next tome

I'm behind on my running and reading goals for the year, but I'm trying my best to catch up before January 1st. I'm forcing myself to run farther distances to make up miles (that's not cheating, is it?) and I have a strict reading plan for the rest of the year: only books for book club, my reading goals list, or church. No distractions are allowed. I don't care how many people rave about a book--if it's not on my list, I'm not opening it until I either meet my goals or give up. No exceptions!

I just started reading the next tome on my goals list, Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind.






I have wanted to read this book for years, and I'm ecstatic to finally get to it. It's a chunkster--959 pages. Not as long as War and Peace, but long enough.





I'm only 150 pages in and I've barely made a dent.


I love the book thus far. It's an easier read than War and Peace. Plus, I'm familiar with the storyline because I'm a fan of the movie. Can you believe that Brad has never seen the entire movie? And he calls himself a Southerner! I told him that as soon as I finish the book, he needs to watch the movie with me. You can guess how thrilled he was with that idea.

Now, back to Tara . . .

Monday, October 4, 2010

love in the classroom

I teach an introduction to research methodology class to sophomores who are members of the honors program I work for. This semester, my 138 little darlings make up 13 research teams that will work together through the end of students' senior year. Being on a research team with the same people for three years can be an intense bonding experience. Strong friendships develop and not surprisingly, romances blossom.

Last Thursday, my graduate assistant of four years who teaches the course with me noticed a couple on one of the teams that sat together and held hands throughout her part of the lecture. I am so glad it was my grad and not me who noticed them. Had I been on the stage lecturing and noticed their canoodling, I would have died from their cuteness! Did the couple think they were on a date? Is that what smart kids do for dates? I mean, what can be more romantic that holding your sweetie's hand and listening to a lecture on correlational and differential research?

Smart kids can be such sweethearts. As long as they're quiet and pay attention, I will take hand holding any day over sleeping, talking, texting, facebooking, reading (for other classes) or the many other ways students find to disrupt my class.