Monday, April 16, 2012

Spring in NC

These photos are from several weeks ago.  The trees are no longer flowering, but it is still a beautiful, magnificent Spring in North Carolina.  I will never tire of how lovely it is here outdoors.

Pink azaleas bloom along the fence.  Eventually I want to get these growing elsewhere around the yard.

What I love about this neighborhood is that it has SO many trees!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Enjoying work

Portrait of me (the taller one) and a student, by a talented first-grader
Receiving beautiful artwork is just one of the many reasons I love my job.  Being a teacher makes me realize how VERY wonderful it is to really enjoy your profession, especially just the day-to-day experience of working.  I am so happy to see my students everyday, and teach them, and just talk with them.  I'm convinced the most important aspect of any job is by far the enjoyment factor-- not the money factor.  I am also convinced that everyone can find an occupation they enjoy as much as I do mine-- it just might take some time and trial-and-error to find it.

Flowers to be planted

Black-Eyed Susan, Forget-Me-Not, Sweet Pea, and Lupine
These are my flower seeds soon to be planted-- hopefully this Saturday morning.  These packets were the cheapest seeds I've found yet-- a quarter each, at one of the dollar stores around here.  I am hoping to plant these around the yard as well if I can get them to do well enough.  My delphinium and orange poppy (planted last week) have not yet sprouted, but probably should in the next week. 

I really miss the tropical flowers and plants we had down in Florida-- and so want to start to appreciate the plants we have available in this different climate.  Several plants I see all over here in NC are my favorites locally-- the magnolia trees, the azaleas, and above all the flowering trees- peach trees and cherry blossom trees (I think). 

What are your favorite native plants or flowers where you live?

Little sprouts

My seedlings are making progress, and they seem to love their sunny spot in the windowsill.  On the left are grapefruit, and on the right, finally, my first McIntosh apple seed sprout!  I couldn't be more pleased.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Sowing flower seeds

So far I've focused mainly on herbs and vegetables, but now I'm branching out to flowers.
Yesterday I picked up some carrot, watermelon, zucchini, and delphinium seeds at the grocery (Food Lion), and today found during a rare venture to the dollar store that they have seeds there, and they are much cheaper than the ones I'd just bought.  The seed packets at Food Lion were $2 each, and the ones I bought at the dollar store ranged from 33 cents to $1.30.  So now I know. 

My grapefruit seedlings are making satisfactory progress (pictured above, on the right), and this afternoon I planted seeds for three types of flowers: orange poppy, in the re-purposed egg carton, above, as well as delphinium (which can grow up to five feet tall-- just like me!) and a perennial wildflower mix (both in planters outside).  I am so excited about these flower seeds, which have relatively short germination periods, and if they do well I'll put them in planters not only on the front and back decks, but around the yard, too.  I was tempted to buy lavender seeds as well which remind me so much of the South of France....and I will probably go back to get those. 

We also have three mums growing in pots outside which we thought had died in the winter cold, but I pruned them back today to uncover the green growth under the dead branches.  It is my goal to do much more with flowers this year, and today I made a little progress.  NC is naturally quite beautiful, but people just don't do much with flowers here like I was used to in Florida and Germany, where it appeared to be mandatory.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Simply beautiful: visit Killarney National Park with me on a bright summer day

All of these photos were taken in Killarney National Park, County Kerry, Ireland, back in Summer 2010.

I loved how the light was coming through the trees right here.

Tall wildflowers along the trail
I wish national parks in the U.S. had castles.
One of my favorite photos-- I like the way the walls of the castle frame the lake and mountains.
Pretty light comes through the trees on a forested trail.
It was a looong walk to this stately manor home-- and well worth it.
Unbelievable view adjacent to the manor.

So beautiful here!
Approaching the ruins

In the nave...(ignore the eye infection).

This spot along the path was one of the most beautiful I've ever seen.

Frugal furniture options

One of the several things I have learned in recent years, since becoming a grownup, is that furniture is expensive.  I dislike this, so I've developed the following methods of combating it.  I have listed these in order from best option to least-best (but still good).

Best option: DIY
There are two paths to accomplish this: either make what you need yourself, or refurbish and spruce up old furniture you've already got.  Some ideas for the former:  Stack up stuff (such as large books) to make a side table, use plywood to build shelves or bookcases or a table, make a platform bed out of old pallets, etc...  You're only limited by your imagination.

As for fixing up stuff you already own, there are a ton of options: add new handles/hardware, paint it (I've done this with plenty of furniture, and it's the easiest way to completely change the look), create designs and decorate it, and just do anything you feel like to make it your own.  If you don't feel like being really artsy, but simply want to refurbish something old, that's also a great idea.  One of my favorite things is an antique Japanese lamp we had sitting around that was nonfunctional, and I was easily able to rewire it with a kit that probably cost five dollars or less at Wal-Mart.  Another is our homemade bookcase (which is also by far my most useful piece of furniture).

This option is the most creative, and thus the most fun, and that's why it's my favorite.

Second-best option: choose used over new
The best option in this category is to "adopt" a family member's spare furniture, since this would be free.  Mom, for example, might be a good candidate for a furniture source, though I would suggest asking first.  Second-best (and a personal favorite of mine), is the thrift store-- the only store in which I enjoy shopping.  This could be Goodwill, the Salvation Army, or any number of thrift stores you probably have locally.  The furniture is usually of lower quality, and you'll need to weed through a lot, but remember that you could combine this with Option #1 and artfully spruce up something you pick up for ten dollars.  Another great idea is the Craigslist furniture listings.  I've gotten a few good things this way, always for a swell price.  The only downside is that you will generally need to drive to where they're at and pick the stuff up-- but there is some great stuff to be had, and it is well worth sifting through what's available.

Third-best option:  when all else fails
I am loathe to buy something new, because the other options are just so much more fun (and cost so much less)-- and because I love old things.  But when I must buy something new, my default choices are Target or Ikea.  Not everything on the Ikea website can be ordered online, so keep that in mind when attempting to order that way.  Mom and I recently had the joy of shopping in their real, live store (in Charlotte) for the first time and had a ball, and we bought one of everything (almost).  As for Target, I have found that shopping conditions are ideal in September, when their dorm stuff goes on clearance.  My freshman year I scored a sweet coffee table (for five bucks!), a nifty purple desk lamp, and assorted kitchen stuff, all of which I am still getting use out of now, years post-dorm-- so I am certainly getting my money's worth.

--One last thought: I've never tried this myself, but is also an option worth mentioning, especially for the truly broke and/or frugal.  It's a site where people give away stuff for free-- so it's certainly worth checking out!