Sunflower and Hollyhock Seeds

How do you know when a sunflower is ready to harvest?

The bees won't tell you.

The bees won’t tell you.

The ladybugs won’t tell you.

The passion vine masquerading as a tree won't tell you.

The passion vine masquerading as a tree won’t tell you.

The grubs don't know.

The grubs don’t know.

The four o'clocks don't care.

The four o’clocks don’t care.

Sahara's not talking.

Sahara’s not talking.

The silk floss stumps might know, but who can understand their accent?

The silk floss stumps might know, but who can understand their accent?

The marigolds think you should figure it out for yourself.

The marigolds think you should figure it out for yourself.

The branching sunflowers, they're too pretty to be bothered.

The branching sunflowers, they’re too pretty to be bothered.

The cut sunflowers have more important problems.

The cut sunflowers have more important problems.

Sahara still isn't talking.

Sahara still isn’t talking.

The ripe sunflowers themselves might give you a hint.

The ripe sunflowers themselves might give you a hint, but…

It's the squirrels.  The squirrels will let you know.

…it’s the squirrels. The squirrels will let you know.

How do they get the shells onto the TOP of the flower?!

How do they get the shells onto the TOP of the flower?!

So several of the sunflowers that Jess planted in Ava’s garden have been harvested and laid out to dry. She didn’t get much into the garden before she got too big to dig anymore.  The sunflowers and a smattering of marigolds, that was it.  We tried spreading a wildflower seed mix but nothing took.  I started some new seeds in peat pots this week, so hopefully those will give us a little color before the summer is over.

Speaking of seeds and color, I harvested a ton of hollyhock seeds.  I started to put them into packs of 40 seeds each, which worked alright for these

hollyhocks 3

The purply ones

and these

hollyhocks 11

The whitish ones

since their seed heads took longer to mature.  However I had literally over a thousand seeds from this one:

The pretty pink one

The pretty pink one

Instead of counting out seeds I just threw about 100 seeds into each pack, and stopped after 12 packs.  I went through the plants yesterday and collected roughly another thousand seeds (pink and some white).  Please, if you’d like some hollyhock seeds email me your address and I will give you more than you can use.  Bees love love love them.

And in a month or so I’ll have some sunflower seeds to share, too.  Giant Greystripe, I think.

And last but not least, a gratuitous pic of Ava looking like the sweet babydoll she is.

And last but not least, a gratuitous pic of Ava looking like the sweet babydoll she is.


Spring Color, 2014 Edition

Happy Mother’s Day!  I’m a month late posting this little photo project, but, you know, I had a lot going on.

The color mood of the yard that day was a dreary dusty grey.  I decided to focus on the little spots of technicolor polka-dotted around to see if I could capture a rainbow.

Red tomatoes

Red tomatoes

Red, orange, and yellow lantana

Red, orange, and yellow lantana

Orangish plank of wood

Orangish plank of wood

Yellow chrysanthemums

Yellow chrysanthemums

Turquoisey garden stake

Turquoisey garden stake

Blue snow scene on a metal can

Blue snow scene on a metal can

Fuchsia bougainvillea

Fuchsia bougainvillea

Pink hollyhock (my first ever!)

Pink hollyhock (my first ever!)

And a giant ugly man-eating grasshopper!  GROSS!!!

And a brown, giant, ugly, man-eating grasshopper! GROSS!!!

I am terrified of grasshoppers.  And most other insects.  And rodents.  And amphibians.  And reptiles.  In that order.

By the by, this is my last post as a non-grandmother.  Ava will arrive via c-section either late Monday night or early Tuesday morning.  Next time I post I will be an Oma!  Eeeeee!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Color

I keep meaning to post.  Really I do.  Alas, I haven’t done it.  Until now.  I am posting.  Currently.  Immediately.

I am unwell.  Long sentences hurt.  Everything hurts. I am drinking Theraflu and tea.  Together.  Ugh.

I have embarked on this week’s bloggy photo challenge in order to liven up today’s post.  These photos are from around my parents’ abodes in Pasadena and Ojai (and one at a fun place called Clockwork Couture).  So enjoy.  That’s an order.  *cough*

Red - poinsettia in Ojai

Red – poinsettia in Ojai

Last semester I dropped a class I knew I was not going to do well in.  Simply put, the instructor was senile.   I dropped it too late, however, and upset the Financial Aid gods.  (And we all know how well that hasn’t been going.)  In order to appease them I have to file a petition to be reinstated, and include an education plan.  Getting in to see a counselor for an education plan is ridiculously difficult at my school, but I finally did it.

Orange - citrus in Ojai

Orange – citrus in Ojai

I had to wait in line for an hour just to make the frickin’ appointment!  My laptop and an episode of Downton Abbey took the edge off, though.

The meeting went very, very well.  I’ll spare you the boring details and cut right to the chase:  if all goes as planned, I will be graduating next Spring!

Yellow - chips in Pasadena

Yellow – chips in Pasadena

I will have an AA in Humanities.

Green - elephant ear plant in Pasadena

Green – elephant ear plant in Pasadena

And an AAT (Associate of Arts for Transfer) in English!  Two degrees at one time!

The counselor said university applications need to be submitted as soon as the Fall semester starts.  That’s only four months away.  I think I went pale when she told me that. *L*  I’ve been chipping away at this education for almost 20 years, and I was beginning to fear I’d be a career PCC student.

Turquoise - forgotten paper decoration in Pasadena

Turquoise – forgotten paper decoration in Pasadena

What this means, though, is that I don’t have room to take any more classes just for fun.  Not that I took any superfluous classes this year (except for my 1-unit independent study class for Inscape), but they were classes I particularly enjoyed.  I thought I had some wiggle room to fit in a few more, like Poetry and Spanish 2 and 3.  Nope.  No more creative writing classes.  No more Spanish.  I met the requirements and I have to move on.  Boo.  I mean, YAY! *hack hack cough cough sputter*

Blue - TARDIS in Burbank

Blue – TARDIS in Burbank

A couple weeks ago I served on a panel for a conference at school called Borders of Diversity.  It’s hard to pin down an exact description of this conference, but I’d say it was a social awareness thing.  There were student project posters all around presenting a variety of social problems, and the panels ranged from the environment to Autism to various forms of expression as a means of social…awareness, I guess.

Alls I know is that the Inscape instructor asked us to participate in a very informal creative writing panel, so I showed up.  I stressed about it all day, but in the end all we did was arrange some chairs in a circle and talk about Inscape with about a dozen people.  And snack on cheese squares and grapes.

Purple - recycle bin in Pasadena

Purple – recycle bin in Pasadena

And listen to a woman pitch a piece she wants to write advocating masturbation education as part of the sex ed curricula in schools.  Well now.

Lavender and yellow - lantana in Pasadena

Lavender and yellow – lantana in Pasadena

As part of this whole thing, we were asked to participate in a short interview for a show on the school’s radio station.  So earlier in the week I met with a lovely woman (seriously, we need to hang out) named Dot, who hosts a weekly news show called Over Coffee focusing on arts and community events.  We talked mostly about my writing, and she had even been here to read my blog!  I wasn’t quite expecting that, but I think I did alright.  It was pre-recorded so I was easily editable.  It aired the same day as the conference, and at the same time I was watching guest of honor Dan Kwong, so I missed it.  I’ve been waiting for it to post on-line so I could share it with you all, but eh: I’m not too keen on listening to myself anyway.  ;o)

Pink - rose in Pasadena

Pink – rose in Pasadena

So that’s all for my exciting past couple of weeks, culminating in illness.  I will try to consult with the first-come first-serve High Priestess of Financial Aid Petitions this week, so cross your fingers that I can get this all sorted out quickly.  And then rub your lucky rabbit’s foot for a quick end to this snotty, coughy, achy thing I have going on.  Or pray.  Prayers are good, too.


Oh, What a Day

My Tuesday morning started with rain.  Lovely, silvery, crystal rain that makes the drab streets shine and the colors of everyday life vibrant.  I made sure I had my camera AND memory card before I headed out the door.  School is out until January, but I wanted to snap my view shots in the rain, so I swung by the college just for you guys.

San Gabriel Mountains, 12-18

San Gabriel Mountains (or not), 12-18

Naturally, it stopped raining before I got there.  I tried to take my mountain shot without the parking lot, but my auto focus rebelled.  I like my auto focus a great deal, much more than my manual focus, so I compromised and gave it some lines to focus on.

Construction, 12-18

Construction, 12-18

I had hoped to be in the rain, to prove my “stoicism in ‘all weather’ shoots” to Steve Pulley.  Oh well.

Boone Sculpture Garden, 12-18

Boone Sculpture Garden, 12-18

As you can see it was still plenty drippy out.  I decided it was the perfect time to introduce you to the sculptures in the sculpture garden.

The first thing you must know:  there are only three…yes, three…whole sculptures in the sculpture garden.  There was one more, but it seems to have disappeared.

"Bound Goat" by Jack Zajak

“Bound Goat” by Jack Zajak


Close up of “Bound Goat”

Before I actually looked at it, I thought this was a bull.  Hmm.

"Column Figure" by Stephan Balkenhol

“Column Figure” by Stephan Balkenhol

Close-up of "Column Figure"

Close-up of “Column Figure”

Column guy here is roughly 10 feet tall, including his column.

"Red Pine" by Deborah Butterfield

“Red Pine” by Deborah Butterfield


Close-up of “Red Pine”

Last week I learned something astonishing about this beautiful driftwood sculpture:  it’s not wood at all!  It’s metal! Cast bronze and scrap metal to be exact.  Even up close it looks like wood: you have to touch it to believe it.

The lingering droplets of rain and extra-vivid colors were too good to pass up, so I took some flora close-ups, too:

Fountain grass

Fountain grass

Pampas grass

Pampas grass

More pampas grass

More pampas grass

My favorite pampas grass shot

My favorite pampas grass shot

Raindrops on something green

Raindrops on something green

These were the unedited shots.  I played with some special effects on my paint program to make them look extra special in black and white, but I won’t bore everyone with those.  You can view them here if you’d like.



The elevator in the parking garage has a mirrored ceiling. 🙂

I took myself to the Reyn for coffee, breakfast, nice people and a comfy corner to spread out my book notes. (In case you’re a new friend and don’t know, I’m writing a book for my grandmother, my Oma, about her experiences during WWII in the Netherlands.) I decided to tackle the beginning, the opening that describes her family and life before the war came.  I thought it would be easy since she wrote a good chunk of it herself, and the rest she dictated while I typed.  The plan was to simply organize the information into a decent opening.  Easy peasy, right?

No, not at all.

As I went through my notes, I found lots of little mistakes.  Oma has more than a touch of dementia, so I already anticipated something like this.  During our interviews I had her repeat as many stories as I could without being obvious about it, just to make sure they were consistent.  I didn’t think to double and triple-check background and family information.  I can do my research and fix it all, but it’s time-consuming and she wants her book sooner than yesterday.

My biggest concern, though, is that making these corrections is beginning to alter the story:  it’s becoming her story versus the story.  But whose story is the story?  Mine?  This isn’t a book that’s going to be on any Best Seller lists, so in the grand scheme of things I guess it doesn’t matter if some of her details are wrong, especially since they’re true to her.  If she was in her right mind, though, she’d want me to make the corrections.  At this point I don’t know which is the more ethical choice: to correct or not to correct?  It drove me to frustrated tears.

Back at Mom’s house the weather was funky.  First it started to hail itty-bitty balls that looked like nonpareils.  Then it started to rain big drops…

Sunny rain.

Big rain drops and proof of my stalwartness

…but it was sunny!  Look!


Sun in the rain

Sun + rain = rainbows, so I scanned the skies.

No rainbow here.

No rainbow here.

Or here.

Or here.

Nothing but clouds there.

Nothing but clouds there.

Maybe it slipped through this cloud hole?

Maybe it slipped through this cloud hole?

I never found a rainbow.

About ten minutes after the rain stopped, the wind picked up.  It blew the clouds clean away, but somehow the skies were still dark.  The mountains were illuminated orange, then pink, and wouldn’t you know the camera battery decided it was the perfect time to die completely.  Which was okay, really, because the wind was freezing cold!  It drove us back inside to scramble for any little bit of warmth or coziness we could find.

The wind blew through the night.  It was calm this morning, but still so cold.  We were thankful, though, that we didn’t get a windstorm like we had last year, that kept us cold and without electricity for four days.  (Here are some aftermath shots from that exciting night.)

Whew!  Quite the Tuesday!

Hope you all are keeping warm and holding your loved ones a little closer.  ❤

A Day of Compliments

After class yesterday, I stayed behind with two classmates, Maria and Vicky, who are Italian and Russian respectively.  They began talking about how much they miss their own cultures and how dissatisfied they are with American culture.  Maria said I’m one of the most human Americans she knows, and Vicky said she is fed up with superficial, emotionless Americans.  “You are an exception, though, Janine.  I’m sorry, Honey, but it’s true,” she crooned, and gave me an apologetic hug as if she were insulting me.  It made me laugh.  How is that an insult, to be called human and unsuperficial?

Then later on at The Reyn, Jess and I were engaged in a conversation about…I don’t even know what about, to be honest, but the subject of jobs came up.  “You should work here,” Jess said.

“I’d love to work here.  How much fun would that be?”

Israel, the owner, whipped around.  “Why didn’t you tell me that when I was looking for a new waitress?”  he almost screeched at me.

“I’ve never worked in a restaurant!”

“Bah! You’d be a good fit here!”

The Reyn, if you haven’t read about it yet, is an old, small coffee shop that my family and I frequent.  They’ve never had more than a couple waitresses, and only during busy times, so losing one is losing a big chunk of the staff.  They’ve been down a waitress for about a year.  Israel finally hired a couple of young guys from a type of work-study program, and while they’re good kids, they’re less than stellar at their jobs.

Israel looked at me out of the corner of his eye.  “Maybe I should fire Matthew.”

If only.

One of my classes at school is actually a position on the staff of an annual literary magazine called InscapeInscape only meets officially in the fall semester, to choose the written pieces that will be published that year.  Last week…okay so maybe it’s been a week of compliments…last week the instructor told us that we can continue to work on the magazine next semester and he’d sign off on independent study credit for it.  After class, he asked me specifically if I’d continue on the staff, because he thought my input would be valuable.  I’m pretty sure it’s because I’m the only grown-up on the staff this year:  professors seem to appreciate students over 30.  Still, how nice was that?

OH!   I submitted my essay, When The Hospital Calls, to be published in Inscape, and it was accepted!  Several other editors, not knowing it was mine, said it was one of their favorite pieces of non-fiction.  It would have benefited from more revision, but, you know, wouldn’t they all.  This counts as being a published writer!  Woo-Hoo!

If you read the essay and don’t know Joe, here he is, alive and well 10 years after surviving a brain aneurism:

Jojo, 12-03-12

Jojo, 12-03-12

I learned how to knit this week.  Go me!  My sister, Shelly, bought some round knitting looms that are good for making hats, so last night I made my first hat.  Joe is modeling it.  He actually kept it and wore it to work this morning.

My views for Monday:

San Gabriel Mountains, 12-03

San Gabriel Mountains, 12-03

I decided to get a tighter shot of the mountains with less parking lot.  Today my point of reference is hidden behind clouds, so I expect this shot to change again.  Wednesday should be clear, so I’ll be closer to getting it right.

construction, 12-03

construction, 12-03

Boone Sculpture Garden, 12-03

Boone Sculpture Garden, 12-03

Here is the rest of The View Club, you should go take a looksie:

Celi, from The Kitchen’s Garden (Celi’s currently on vacation, so go back a day or more)

Claire, from Promenades Plantings

Marie, from My Little Corner of Rhode Island

Linda, from Life on a Colorado Farm

Cathy, from Words and Herbs

View Day

Wouldn’t you know it, I forgot my camera Wednesday.  So I borrowed my sister’s point-and-click for my biweekly shots.  It was supposed to start raining, but as you can see the clouds were just starting to creep over the hills.

San Gabriel Mountains, 11-28

San Gabriel Mountains, 11-28

The construction workers wrapped the top of the building frame with yellow stuff, I assume in anticipation of the rain.  I tried to find out what it will be, but no luck so far.

Construction site, 11-28

Construction site, 11-28

The well-manicured sculpture garden looked lovely as usual.

Boone Scupture Garden, 11-28

Boone Sculpture Garden, 11-28

The rain finally came yesterday morning.  Just a light, misty rain, but enough to pool and collect in small places.

Raindrops on bamboo plants

Raindrops on bamboo plants

I’ve been impatient to show off my beloved San Gabriel Mountains.  They’ve been so beautiful all season.  I picked a bad time to start taking pictures of it, but I guess the whole point of the project is to get it all, the good and the bad.  Fortunately, yesterday I happened to see a great view of the mountains as I was driving, so I pulled over and took a few pictures.  Unfortunately, it was through a power line field.

I don’t know how to use the panoramic setting on my camera yet, so I stitched my shots together myself. My panorama isn’t seamless, but the mountains are perfect, I promise:

San Gabriel Mountains between rain showers

San Gabriel Mountains between rain showers

Our rain is expected to continue until Tuesday.  I like a good, long, aggressive rainstorm, but this spotty, misty stuff is better than nothing.

Have a lovely weekend!

New Blog Project: The View Club

Soooo hey everyone.   I’m starting a photo project inspired by a couple of bloggie friends at My Little Corner of Rhode Island and The Kitchen’s Garden.  It’s called the View Club.  We take a picture of the same view at regular intervals for an entire year.

I chose a view of the mountains from the top floor of a parking garage at school. Usually it’s quite stunning, but today, of course, the first day I snap the shot, it’s hazy:

San Gabriel Mountains, 11/26

I made a conscious decision to include the parking lot in the shot, but I may rethink that.  Since the mountain view was so disappointing today, I chose a couple alternate views, also from the parking structure.

I don’t know what this is going to be, but I thought it would be fun to watch the progress:

Construction site, 11/26

The construction is adjacent to an area called the Boone Sculpture Garden:

Boone Sculpture Garden, 11-26

If you click on the picture you’ll get a larger view and you can clearly see a horse made out of wood and tree bark.  The other pieces are hidden by trees.  The nice thing about this view is that I take it from a covered landing, so it’s an easy shot in case it rains, although that’s not usually a concern here in Southern California.

I couldn’t chose among the three, so I’m using all of them.  It’s literally only a few steps from one view to the other, so what the heck, right?  My plan is to take the pictures on Mondays and Wednesdays at 11:15 am.  I’ll try to post each picture the same day I take it.

Yay!  This is going to be great.  ❤