Sunday, April 6, 2014

Week 5 - Boise Spring Color Explosion

It is full on spring in Boise now.  Yards that get more sun than mine have tulips blooming all over town.  I'm not jealous.  Mine are a couple weeks behind nearly everyone else's, but they will be worth waiting for.  Besides, once April hits we get plenty of color to keep us happy.   The old adage says "April Showers Bring May Flowers".   For us it is almost always March rains that bring the blooms in April, so we are a full month ahead of the rhyme.

This spring will be particularly special for me, as it is the last one I will have here for a while.  Come fall my husband and I plan to leave home for about two years to serve a full time mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.   We have a lot to do to get ready.  One of the big things on that list, however, is to savor every day we can here and build memories of our sweet home in Boise.  I know we will miss it.  But I am just as sure that I am ready and excited to serve.









Friday, April 4, 2014

What I'm Reading - And the Mountains Echoed



I am currently listening to the audio version of  "And the Mountains Echoed" by Khaled Hosseini  I have previously read both The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid sons, and have enjoyed Hosseini's work immensely.  So it comes as no surprise that I've feeling totally captivated by this book.

This book is described over at Penguin.com with these words:
"...a new novel about how we love, how we take care of one another, and how the choices we make resonate through generations. In this tale revolving around not just parents and children but brothers and sisters, cousins and caretakers, Hosseini explores the many ways in which families nurture, wound, betray, honor, and sacrifice for one another; and how often we are surprised by the actions of those closest to us, at the times that matter most. Following its characters and the ramifications of their lives and choices and loves around the globe—from Kabul to Paris to San Francisco to the Greek island of Tinos—the story expands gradually outward, becoming more emotionally complex and powerful with each turning page."

I have been very touched by the characters that Hosseini creates,  and as with all of his books feel his deep sense of honor for Afghan culture even while recognizing the parts that may seem brutal.

I like the way this book takes us around to different parts of the world, showing how inter-connected we all are and how are choices continue to send ripples of consequences for generations.

This is a rich, well written book that may become one of my favorites.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

TIMBER!!



I do not like heights.   Perhaps I should rephrase that.  My entrails turn to jelly if I am any higher than 3 steps on a ladder.   So you can imagine my trepidation watching the guy who is up in our 50 foot pine trees.

These trees were planted about 30 years ago.  They are not particularly attractive, and they are far too close to our neighbor's fence.  Before the trimming started, there were branches all over our roof and the neighbor's roof  (of their 2 story house).  They constantly shed needles and pine cones and keep me from being able to grow much of anything in that part of the yard.   So we finally decided it was time to take them both down.

We had several different companies come give us bids on the job.  One guy said he would not take the work for any price - too risky so close to the houses.  Another guy quoted us a price that would have paid for a vacation to Italy.  We had one other guy come out last year who started the job, but clearly he was not prepared for trees this big.  We called it quits with him after a huge section of limb went flying and mangled  the gutter and shingles on the edge of our house.  It took us a full year to get the courage to try again.  This time, however, I think we've found the right men for the job.

I recently signed up for "Nextdoor",  a private social networking site that is specific to neighborhoods.   People use it to let folks in their neighbors know about services that are available, report lost dogs, give warnings of any suspicious behavior to be wary of, and other news relevant to a particular section of town or housing development.  Through that I learned about Mountain Tree Service.   Robert came out to take a look at the job and gave us a more than fair quote.  So we made an appointment that was two weeks out.

Today is the day we were scheduled to have him begin working on this tree removal.  However, I thought he might call to reschedule since it has been raining all day.  Everything is soaking wet.  But no - true to his word, he showed up, right on schedule.

So far I've been pretty impressed with his concern for safety and his respect for my surrounding plants.  Both he and his helper are being as careful as can be reasonably expected to lower big pieces down so they don't just fall and tear up the yard.

I'm excited that these two monster trees are finally going to be gone so I can plan something different for that section of our back yard.  I love trees, but those two will not be missed.

While Robert does the high tree work Brandon manages the ropes and clears brush
Great team work!


Friday, March 28, 2014

Week 4 - Boise Spring Unfolding



Days have continued to grow longer and we have been blessed with some good, soaking rains.  The combination of the two is working wonders in my gardens.   Here is what I have right now:


I love these vibrant fuchsia azaleas.  I have two big shrubs, each nearly five feet tall.  They are just beginning to open up and will be the highlight of my back yard for the next week or two.


I'm already beginning to wonder if I was out of my mind to plant Bishop's Weed.  It truly is invasive.  However, it is doing exactly what I wanted - completely filling in an area where not much else was growing.  It has pretty leaves and grows so densely it chokes out everything else - even the weeds.   I just have to do some take-no-prisoners trimming back a couple times each summer to be sure it does not spread to the areas where I don't want it.  For now, I'm really enjoying it.  But I have quite a big patch from having just planted a few sprigs I got from a neighbor.  This is truly a Borg of a plant, trying to take over my yard.  They say it is great for public spaces or yards of people who want something that looks nice even though they can't get out to do any work in it.  I'm counting on this baby to be my serious ground cover when I get to old and infirm to keep up with the maintenance I do now.


My Bleeding Hearts are coming along nicely.   I had to move one because we are getting ready to take down two 50 foot pine trees and I didn't want to risk it getting smashed.  But it seems to be doing well in its new home.  All the ones I have right now are the pink variety.  I'd like to get a couple white ones to add to them this year - especially if I follow through on my ambition to plant a moon garden.


I've had my big yellow daffodils blooming for a while now, but this week I've started to see a few other varieties appearing.


My Pulmonaria is starting to put out its multi color blossoms.  I love this plant and look forward to it every spring.  I have a whole chain of them that circle one of the few pine trees we are keeping.  


I planted these white Scilla just last year and wasn't sure how many of them would survive the squirrels.  I've been very pleased to see groupings of them popping up in all sorts of places.  



This sweet forsythia has been moved three times as I keep renegotiating the layout of my gardens.  I think I've finally found a spot for it to stay.  I need to keep in mind that although it's only a couple feet tall right now, over the next few years this thing will grow taller than the fence if I let it.  I am trying to keep an eye to the future as I decide which plants to introduce and where to put them.


My hyacinth bulbs are pushing out fat buds and will soon be opening to full color.



Another shade lover is my Brunnera  I have a couple different varieties.  I like the variegated ones with the lovely white stripes on the leaves, but this Jack Frost is always lovely as well.

Week by week I enjoy watching different things emerge and learning about each plant.  I am reminded of walks I used to take with my grandmother on the ranch in Oak Creek (Arizona).  She could name every single thing that grew on their property - even the weeds.  I admit I am not as enthusiastic come summer when days turn hot and my gardens compete with other interests.  But in the spring time there is simply no other place I would rather be.











Friday, March 21, 2014

Movie Review - Robot and Frank



Robot and Frank   is an intriguing film,  funny and sad all at the same time.  Frank Langella portrays an aging man with memory loss who in his younger days was a jewel thief.   When it becomes clear that Frank is not doing well at meeting his daily needs, his adult son, Hunter, (James Marsden) gets his father a robot butler to help out. The robot tries to get Frank to work on a garden, suggesting Frank needs structure and that a project will help improve Frank's cognitive ability.  Frank has other ideas, enlisting his new robot friend to help him in a jewel heist.  There's a great trailer clip of it here.

The relationship between Frank and the robot is the heart of this story...but the subtext is clear, without beating the viewer over the head.  What is the responsibility of families for those who face the personality crippling disorder of dementia?   In what ways might technology help ease the burden of caring for this rapidly growing population?

Susan Sarandon does a great job as the local librarian who has a special relationship with Frank. Liv Tyler has a supporting role as the daughter.   The disconnect and disagreement between the son and the daughter in this film was played lightly, but in real life those sorts of tensions can play hell in families.

The movie was very worth watching...it's one I would not mind seeing again.

The bigger context, however, is one I only wish we could all escape.  We can't.

In a national study, "the prevalence of dementia among individuals aged 71 and older was 13.9%, comprising abut 3.4 million individuals in the USA in 2002".

How our whole culture addresses the need for care for the many millions of people who will face this is yet to be adequately addressed.  Another report claims that one in three older adults die with Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia.

As our population continues to live longer, how we deal with this growing problem will define who we are as individuals, families and as a nation.

Mahatma Ghandi (and several others) have been quoted as saying a nation's greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.  Sadly, when dementia robs you of someone you love but leaves a shell of that person behind who still needs care, it is no longer a matter of esoteric philosophy or even public policy.  Deciding what you can and cannot do on a day to day basis to be there for that person can be one of the most brutal life experiences possible.

While technology may provide some innovative assistance to how we address the demands of caregiving,  no robot will ever be able to fully take away the sting.

Week 3 - Boise Spring Continues to Unfold

Earlier in the week I was off to Spokane to do a presentation at the NW Regional Rural Health Conference, so I'm a couple days late on this week's flower report.

As expected, new things are waking up all over the place and those that had begun last week are moving right along.  I have several spots where daffodil are blooming and the allium is getting tall.



The Dianthus is just beginning to wake up, with promise of rich color to be covering it soon.




















The Berginia Cordifolia  (left) - also known as "Pig Squeek"is showing color as is the white Rock Cress.  I have some other colors of Rock Cress, but they are a bit further behind.


I absolutely love the sharp, brilliant color of green of new leaves that trees around town are starting to show.  I've recently started using a Pedometer to challenge myself  to be more active....no more excuses about my job keeping me in front of a computer or in meetings.  This body was designed to MOVE so I'm determined to increase my distance each week.  As I go out on my breaks and at lunch, or take longer walks after work, I'm seeing new life pop up everywhere.

Without question, I love Boise in the spring.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Book Review - Robinson Crusoe

                                                           (Image of Defoe from Wikipedia)

I just finished listening to the unabridged original version of Robinson Crusoe by Daniel DeFoe.  It was an amazing story - with so much more depth than I ever knew.   As a child I read the Junior Scholastic version.  Years later I read a similar edition to my grandson.  I thought I knew the story well.  It was only when I read the full unabridged original story as the author intended it that I came to understand it better.

Robinson Crusoe is so much more than an adventure story.  In many ways, it is a deeply religious book. There are many passages throughout the book where Crusoe wrestles with the concept of providence and whether things have happened in his life due to chance or the hand of God.  There is all kind of symbolism and several important themes throughout the novel.

There are also passages about his adventures after his rescue from the island that I have no memory of having been included in the abbreviated children's versions I had sampled before...like the harrowing scene where he and his traveling companions are attacked by wolves in the snowy mountains during their trek to Calaiwhere he plans to take a ship to Dover.

I learned a new word as I was reading the book.....  DeFoe repeatedly uses the expression videlicet, a lovely old English word that I suppose was more common when the book was written (1719).

There have been several movies made of this classic tale including the following:




1997 version,
screenplay by Christopher Loften,
starring Pierce Brosnan.

Opening Scene  HERE

( I LIKE the looks of Sean Conner with long hair in Medicine Man, but this former Bond guy loses his appeal with the shaggy mane)






                            1964 version

                        Starring Robert Hoffman
                           See it HERE




     

                                                               1954 Version
                                                 starring Dan O'Herlihy

                                                               See it  Here









I have not yet watched the older version, although I may sometime soon.  I was curious about the opening of the 1997 version with Brosnan - that whole duel scene and the woman he wants to wed but can't since her family is rich and his is not....completely made up and has nothing to do with the book.

But then....considering the fact that I've recently read/listened to some old James Bond novels and realized how very little they follow Ian Flemming's original works, I should not be surprised.

Bottom line - I very much enjoyed the BOOK Robinson Crusoe by Daniel DeFoe.  Over 200 years later, it's still a captivating read.  The movies?   Dunno... my jury is still out there.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Movie Review - Gravity (Spoiler Alert)

                                                         (Photo credit:  Screen Rant)

This afternoon I watched the film Gravity with Sandra Bullock and George Clooney.

Even though there were some scenes of decent acting and some very impressive technical  aspects of the movie, it just wasn't my cup of tea.  I'll get to my reasons for that in a minute.   The first beef I have, however, has less to do with the movie itself than many of the comments and reviews I've seen about it.  I keep hearing this film described as a sci-fi movie. In my mind, it is NOT in any way shape or form science fiction.  Yes, there is a lot of science.  Yes, it is a fictional drama.  That does not make it science fiction.

According to Readwritethink.org,

 "Science fiction is a genre of fiction in which the stories often tell about science and
technology of the future. It is important to note that science fiction has a relationship with
the principles of science—these stories involve partially true-partially fictitious laws or theories
of science. It should not be completely unbelievable, because it then ventures in to the genre
fantasy.
  The plot creates situations different from those of both the present day and the
known past. Science fiction texts also include a human element, explaining what effect new
discoveries, happenings and scientific developments will have on us in the future.”

The technology depicted in this movie is absolutely possible today.  Some scripts have to do
with hospitals  and/or medical community.  Some are cop shows.  Some are college life.  This
happens to be a drama that unfolds in space.  That does not make it sci fi.

That detail aside, I just didn't like the movie that much.   At first I thought what put me off
about  it was that  the bulk of the movie is carried by Bullock with no interplay with any other
actors.  George Clooney's part is relatively brief.  Some people just don't like her style of
acting.  I actually do.  Still, I do generally prefer movies with more interaction between charac-
ters. But then I started thinking about the movie Castaway with Tom Hanks.  That movie dealt
with an individual in  a life threatening situation where one actor carried the main story.
 I REALLY liked that movie.

Here's where I see the main differences...Castaway takes more time building character
development.  The experience of that movie goes on over a long period of time and we
see a wide range of emotions as Hank's character, Chuck Nolan, has to deal both physically
 and emotionally with surviving on the island where he gets  marooned.  Also it closes with
several scenes that explore the impact that experience had on him when he  returns to his old
life. In Gravity the time of the events is very short, so the main focus in on adrenaline charged
emergency with less nuance.  Sure, there is a scene where Bullock's character more or less
comes to terms with things - but it's a flash in the pan compared to Castaway.
Also, this movie does not give us any information at all about how her life  is when she returns.  
That was a big disappointment to me.  We can speculate, but they don't show us at all.

As with a lot of 3-D movies, a big piece of the movie seemed to be to set up scenarios where
various objects  could come zooming toward the camera.  Special effects can be an enhance-
ment to the film, but in my way of thinking if they become the dominant focus the movie suffers.

I did like some of the cinematography.  Some nice photos of space.  Also, I liked the
interplay between Clooney and Bullock during the short time they have together on screen.
But overall, I was just not satisfied with this movie.  It may have won a bunch of awards and
gotten great reviews.  It did not make my hit list.



First outing of the season....


I've been fighting a nasty sinus infection and seriously considered just flying the couch today.  But it was just too nice a day not to be outside.  So this afternoon my beloved and I headed out to Eagle Island State Park with our son and his family to walk the dogs, play with the kids and catch a few fish.   It felt good to be out in the sun.  We didn't stay terribly long, but it was just enough to stretch our legs, build some memories, and feel blessed to have at least some of our family here in Idaho now.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Bountiful Basket - Week 2

This is what I got in this week's Bountiful Basket:

Fruit:
1 pineapple
7 bananas
7 pears
9 apples
6 tomatoes

(I did a report on tomatoes in elementary school.  That's when I discovered tomatoes are actually a fruit, not a vegetable.)

Veggies:
5 # sack of potatoes
2 more spaghetti squash
kale
lettuce
mushrooms.
celery
7 Anaheim chilies

I was happy with just about everything except the spaghetti squash.  I gave away last week's squash.
Then I went to check out the BountifulBasket Blog  and found they have a yummy looking recipe for stir fry using the stuff.  The ONLY way I have ever made it is just plain baked, and frankly, it's not that impressive.
Seeing a new way to try it has me actually looking forward to using what we got this time.   I really like it that the blog shows all sorts of recipes for using the stuff we will get.

Here is some info about the food that we are getting from a recent BB email:

" High Quality, Low Cost and As Local as Possible… So, how hard do we try? Pretty hard! Most bananas are from Central America or the Caribbean and are grown by a couple gargantuan conglomerate growers. We get all of our bananas from small farmers in central Mexico. This saves the co-op between $4 and $7 a box, keeps money with small farmers, and helps keep the carbon footprint small."

Will I sometimes get stuff in my basket that I would not have chosen to buy?  Yep.  That happens. But I still like supporting this effort, and I believe I'm getting a good value for my money.   I am looking forward to getting more involved in the co-op by showing up earlier to help with the unloading and set up.  It's as much about building community as buying produce. Also, it challenges me to get out of my food rut and try some  new things.  All in all I'm very pleased with our participation.