Friday, June 17, 2011

Summer Fridays/Weekends 2011 - Gardening Games

June has rolled around and with it the quaint Big J custom/perk of Fridays off in June, July, and most of August. To that I will say Thank you thank you thank you thank you.

It was a long, long, long, and extremely busy winter. Suddenly I looked up from the madness of May and it was June! Glorious JUNE! With it's Summer Fridays away from the office. (Do you hear the choir of angels singing, or it just in my head? Just me? Okay.)

After the ickiness of last summer's three month bout with e coli, I was hesitant about scheduling more trips. Originally the plan for summer 2011 was a rescheduling and expansion of last summer's big MidWest RoadTrip -- until gas prices spiked to over $4 a gallon and my tax refund wasn't miraculously triple what I hoped. There's having a good time, and then there is being prudent with one's savings account.

The summer of 2011 will, therefore, see me entertaining myself with staycations and mini excursions.

My first summer Friday activities included a jaunt to my childhood stomping grounds. A bridal shower invite was the impetus to head back to Connecticut for a long weekend, to catch up with friends, stock up on supplies not readily accessible in NY without a car to haul loads of things around, and to check up on the family home.

I am of two minds that the CT family house has not yet sold; sad for my folks, especially in light of the fact that the Dam House also hasn't sold yet, but relieved for me. I still have a "home" to go to, even if it is stripped down for staging purposes and left bare of almost everything but my memories.

Aside from the bridal shower, the time away was supposed to be relaxing, a break from my routine, a retreat so I could gather my thoughts and clear out the noise in my head. With no cable, television, internet connections, or much in the way of any visual clutter in the house, it was good to have a zen-like place to go. However, my schedule got a bit cramped, what with separate dinners with Jenn and Nicole, errands, shopping sprees, haircuts, brunch with Nicole and Jenn, the bridal shower, and an evening with Emily and Wendy.

On top of that, I ended up doing a bit more in the way of gardening than anyone could have anticipated. Coming around the corner of the house, I could not ignore the signs that Realtor-outsourced lawn-care left much to be desired... to the point that I actually have the battle scars to prove that I spent hours raking lawns, dead-heading hydrangea bushes, trimming dead stuff out of angry/vindictive holly bushes, ripping out weeds, and trimming "hay" - by hand.

Before and after
You see that -- I have blisters. I was actually raking, weeding, and pruning
of my own free will and volition.
I can truthfully say that that has NEVER happened before.
Even the neighbors were in shock - they've known me for a long time.
I am NOT Nature Girl.

View of the side lawns that still need trimming - evidence that was all sent by cell phone off to the parental units so they in turn could call the Realtor and ask how she expects to sell the house if it looks like it's abandoned and the lawn is full of hay? It looked trashy. It bugged me. I had to do something about it.

During all of this physical outdoor labor, I was also suffering from a horrendous cold, with coughing, sneezing, hacking, nose running, and laryngitis. I am also really allergic to most of nature in general, pollen, some grasses, dust, specifically so it was a real treat and a half to try and breathe. Was it sweat or snot dripping down my face as a result of my gardening efforts? Who knows for sure. (Nice, right?!)

One of my other evening excursions on this weekend away was to go up to see Wendy and "niece" Emily, and to attend one of Emily's away soccer games-- a treat for me, as I don't normally get to enjoy this most suburban of family-related past-times.

Remember my "niece," Emily?

This is Emily showing off her soccer jersey.

Emily is a super busy girl on the go, go, go, (which means that Mom is on the go, go, go, too!). In addition to drama, music, church, camp, co-ed soccer, she also is in 4-H. She just got a bunny, which she's raising to eventually breed, eat, or something. I don't think Emily quite knows, except she wanted a bunny. The bunny was so new, she was keeping it in her uniquely self- and friend-painted room. (She has a very cool mom.) The poor bunny was still adjusting to the exuberance of Emily and a busy household.

It was a gorgeous weekend, and time was tight, so after a tour of the house/farm, the grabbing of one of Emily's military-minded big brothers, it was off to their favorite local watering hole for a yummy dinner al fresco. Much in the way of fried foods were consumed: fried mac-n-cheese and fries for Emily (and me to try - thanks Em), chicken strips and fries for bro, roll-ups and grilled chicken sandwiches for Wendy and me -- and a huge basket of onion strips for the table to share.

I can't believe we ate the whole thing.
So full.
Must stay awake.
I don't know how Emily managed to run around a field, except that she's so dang young.

I think we appalled the "kids," as Wendy and I were rocking out to the early 1980s hits that were playing on the radio. Some of the tunes we hadn't heard since we were kids, (some excellent early '80s M.J., Duran Duran, Stones, etc.). We may have embarrassed big bro in particular with tales of his childhood. Also, my Big City ways (lining up without large gaps between people, for goodness sake!) were so foreign to him that he just couldn't compute that his MOM knew me, at all! [Is he going to have some culture shock when he meet people in his first nationally-filled training platoon. It ain't all like the local Guard, kiddo.]

Emily plays on the one co-ed team in her area (excellent), and this game was up in Plainfield, CT against an all-boy team. We had to arrive early and then wait for the previous games to finish up on the fields. It was a beautiful evening to watch as the sun set, and to spend time on the sidelines catching up with Wendy, away from too many "little pitchers," and too many distractions. As my voice was coming and going, Wendy got to talk most of the time, with some questions and feedback from phlegmy ol' me. My lack of voice also helped keep the cheering at a suitably polite level (unlike the too-full-of-advice coach/dude pacing along side the lines near us!)

Rules of the game: No jewelry or hair clips. Emily got rid of one, but managed to get away without removing the other. Em's team was in black, and the other team was in navy blue. After the game started "we" had to pull out the dickies so you could tell "us" apart from "them."

We had great seats for the first half - right in front of Em's team's goal. She's right there, with her back to us, on defense. Thanks Coach. That's perfect positioning for guests to watch our girl, No. 8.

Post-game dancing

While she complained that "I only got to play, like, 2 minutes." it was a bit longer than that, Em. Besides, from what Wendy and I could see, she was jabbering away with her teammates over on the opposite sidelines. Incessantly. As per usual, for a teenage girl.

It was a great game. "We" won. 5-2. Take that silly uppity all-boys team. Girls rock.

Thanks for inviting me along Wendy. It was so great to see Emily play in what was my first "family" soccer game. But that was a mean, mean trick pawning off a bag of Amish Friendship Bread starter. MEAN! I can't keep things like that alive. So, I let Jenn babysit it until I manage to keep more than hairballs and dustbunnies and desert cacti alive for more than 10 days. When I roll back into town later, I'll pick up another bag of starter and drop off recipes for you. (MEAN!)

What a great way to start off my summer Friday/weekends.

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