The Analog Brain

It is becoming clear to me that I live under a rock.  First, it took me forever to find out about subscription clothing services, and now I find that I missed an entirely new way for me to make my lists and keep track of my calendars.  I finally discovered the Bullet Journal.

At first I was skeptical.  When Bullet Journal pins started popping up on my Pinterest feed, I assumed it was just a time-waster for stay-at-home moms who had to find new ways to use all their old scrap-booking and stamping materials since nobody does that anymore.  (Sorry ladies, judgemental girl is judgemental.)  I don’t have time for anything (besides knitting & violin) that doesn’t involve work or home responsibilities, so I ignored the fad.

The other day a FaceBook friend posted that she had discovered Bullet Journal and she was hooked.  Now I tend to find this particular friend to be a sensible and non-herd-following sort, so my curiosity got the better of me and I decided to check it out.  The concept was conceived by Ryder Carroll and is outlined in his website located HERE.   Seriously, go check it out.  I’ll wait.

After watching the video I couldn’t stop thinking of it.  The desire to try the process was so strong I hit up Amazon in the middle of a sleepless night and ordered a notebook and some fine-line pens.  They haven’t arrived yet so I have taken consolation in pinning a ton of ideas to my Pinterest board.  I’m going to try the system for a month to see if it helps me keep my projects and appointments on track any better than my delightfully (dis)organized pile of multi-colored post-it notes.  We’ll see how it goes.  With any luck, this may be the solution to my scheduling issues.  If not, I’ll add it to the towering pile of shit I tried that didn’t work out. All I have to lose is a blank notebook.  With the barrier to entry so low, if it fails I’m out almost nothing.


Reconciling Conflicting Philosophies

My parents were as opposite to each other as could be.  Dad was always interested in quality over quantity.  We always laughed that Dad had to have the biggest and best of everything.  “Texas-style”, we called it.  Laugh all you want, but his stuff lasted.

On the other hand, Mom was always seeking a bargain.  If you specified an item, she would come up with a generic – not necessarily the closest generic, mind you  Nikes would get translated to $3 Keds from Roses.  After all, tennis shoes all do the same job, right?  Need a frying pan?  Sure!  They sell them at the dollar store.  Or, even better, you can get a used one from the thrift shop.  Heck, I’ve probably got a spare here in this pile somewhere.  (Rummage, rummage, rummage…)

Now Dad’s stuff lasted, but that means we never got rid of it.  The storage unit is full of things like reel to reel tape decks and speakers from the 1960’s, roller skates with wooden wheels, and some of the world’s ugliest, and sadly, sturdiest furniture.  Mom’s stuff never lasted, but she never got rid of it, so we also have multiple cheapie cameras, broken appliances, and assorted “as sold on TV” garbage cluttering up the storage unit.

But the storage unit is a story and a job for another day.

I inherited Dad’s philosophy, which is causing me heartburn because I have a new obsession.  It turns out that mandolins have the same tuning as the violin, which would make it a simple thing to pick up a second instrument.  I’m not sure why I am so interested in picking up a second instrument, but there it is.  For some reason, I just really want to play one.

Purchasing an instrument one doesn’t know how to play can be challenging, particularly when you don’t have friends nearby to drag to shops for their opinions.  And being a violin player, I’m a bit of a snob when it comes to what constitutes a decent starter instrument.  Therefore, I did a lot of research on my good friend, the internet.  Dontcha just luuuurve the internets?

The internet tells me that the instruments in the guitar shop down the road with the attractive prices all sound bad, will have no resale value, and might actually self-destruct sometime in the future.  Instead – buy this “cheap” $1,000 name brand until you have time to save up for a “real” instrument.  Huh, sounds exactly like buying a violin.  Only I don’t want to put as much effort into a mandolin as I do the violin.  It’s really just something for me to dork around with.  But, but, but cheap is bad.  Ugh!

I’m so torn.  Either I’ll swoop something up at a stupid expensive price and regret it later, or Ill buy something cheap and regret it sooner or later.  Regret, angst, indecisiveness, oh my!  Better let this simmer for a while.  Of course I did that with the violin and the desire got more intense, not less.

Going for it.

I did the recital.  My lesson was two days prior.  After going through a couple of options, and discarding the ones already taken, my teacher and I decided I would play Dvorak’s Humoresque for my fist ever solo.  Yes, two days prior to the recital.  Ugh.  I hadn’t played it in nearly a year.  With very little time to bring it up to speed, I showed up late due to traffic and had the opportunity to play it through with the accompanist exactly one time.  Needless to say, I flubbed the performance, missing two shifts in the middle and demonstrating some pretty poor intonation.  *sigh*

I was under prepared for the group numbers too.  For one of them, I laid out the wrong music.  How many gavottes are there anyway?  I tried to play it from memory and ended up air bowing a couple of measures before stepping into the back row to cheat off someone else’s book.  Honestly, if anyone I knew had been there I would have been deeply embarrassed.  As it is, I will just chalk it up to one bad experience and hope that I get more notice and practice time for the next one.

Sadly, I was the only adult student there.  None of the others ever make time to attend.  I’ve never even met them.  They might be mythical – like unicorns, or good hair days.  However, I really enjoyed watching the kids perform, and took some mental notes on what I can learn to improve my own performance going forward.  It was surprising to realize that most of them have been playing for years longer than me, even though I’m playing more advanced material.  Also interesting was that they all struggled at certain points.  Nobody had a flawless performance, even the superstar.  I was a bit relieved by that.  Perhaps I should suggest that we do something just for the adults sometime.  We could gather at someone’s home and have drinks after.   Or maybe before.  I might play better after a glass or two of wine.

Once all the performances were done, certificates (for testing I assume?) and trophies were handed out to the kids.  I was surprised.  That never happened when I played piano as a child, but we didn’t have testing then as far as I’m aware.  If there was, my parents opted out for me.  I certainly don’t remember having certificates or trophies at recitals.  We did do group pictures back then though.  I have one or two of them around here someplace with me rocking out one of my groovy 70’s maxi dresses.  There were no group pictures this time.  No trophies or certificates for for me.  I settled for a cup of diet coke and a quick exit. 

Honestly though, while a poor performance would have been discouraging in the past, this time it makes me want to work harder.  I want to play well, and even if that means I play alone 99.99% of the time, I will use that time to improve.  This isn’t a race.  It’s not my career.  The only thing I have to worry about is not meeting my own expectations.  I know what I need to do.  Time to buckle down and make it happen.  And I suppose my participation must have encouraged somebody.  One of the moms asked me how long I have been playing, confessing that she had always wanted to learn.  I told her to go for it.  I hope she does.

Afterwards, I took this picture, just to prove I survived.


Then I went out and had a margarita the size of my head.

April Garden Update

So far, the garden is doing remarkably well.  The first seeds to germinate were the lettuce and the radishes.  We now have appearances by cucumber, beans, peas, zinnia, calendula, and one lonely carrot top.  Hopefully the other carrots and the nasturtiums are not far behind.  Spinach plants were purchased and planted out.  They have taken well, and are producing new leaves.  The onion sets are standing tall and also producing new shoots.  The cabbage is indifferent.  I hope for Christopher’s sake that it does better soon. It’s his first plant.  There are two squares left in that box.  I intend to put in more lettuce and radish seeds for some later harvesting.

Today’s game plan includes getting the goods to make a second box and materials to make a trellis for the climbing plants.  We have already purchased some plants to go into the proposed new box.  Sitting in their little nursery containers on the deck are four bell peppers, zinnias, and dahlias.  The other half of the onion sets still need to go in, and I’m sure there are more seeds wanting a home.  We’ll fill up a second box for certain.

Moe bought about six tomato plants.  He likes to grow those in containers on the deck.  He also got some herbs and a coffee plant.  There are two trees that need to go into the ground.  One is the lilac tree that mom bought.  It’s about to bloom.  The other is a pomegranate tree.  We’ve always wanted one.  Hopefully we will get some fruit.  Pomegranates are tasty!  There are also plans for grapes.  I think I might buy the vine and go for it.  My violin teacher has good luck with his.  The worst thing that could happen is we don’t get grapes.  I can live with that.

And so it begins…..

The garden grid arrived today.  I put it together after work, only to find that my 4×4 garden is slightly lacking in full measure.  No matter, I just moved things around a little bit. 

After squidging things up a bit (yes, I made up that word), and rewriting my little plan on the fly, I successfully put in the seeds for cucumber, pole beans, sugar snap peas, calendula, carrots, zinnia, lettuce, radishes, and nasturtium.  The cabbage went in also, as did two squares of onions.  There are three squares left which will house spinach, bell pepper, and more radishes in about two weeks.  The spinach and bell pepper will be purchased at the nursery.

Here it is in all its glory!


Of course, I’m left with at least twenty onions to plant and the thought crossed my mind that two squares might be more fun than just one.  Then I could plant more veggies and some flowers for cutting and bringing into the house.  The lazy part of my brain is all “why don’t you just plant the onions in, you know, the GROUND?  Because that would be thrifty and a cool science-y kind of experiment.  It would be all “What grows better-onions in the soft, special soil, or onions in the silt/clay mix that passes for topsoil around here?”

Then I’d want to pave the space between the squares, and eventually expand again. And there’s still a trellis to build.  Plus all the plants that I want to plant in the yard and around the mail box have to be done soon before it gets to be stupid hot.

Once again, my ambition is getting too large for my giddyup.  Story of my life.

Anyway, I eagerly await the first seedlings.  What is going to sprout first, I wonder?  Only time will tell.  Time is an asshole.

The Dirt

Saturday was an absolutely beautiful day. The temperature was in the 70s. I opened the windows in the house to air it out from a long, dreary winter and spent the majority of the day enjoying the outdoors.

Last year, for my birthday, my mother gave me a square foot gardening box. It was already too late in the year for me to get motivated to put the box to work by the time she presented me with it. It gets hot early around here. The kit has been languishing on the top of my workbench since bringing it home last May. The guilt for not using it yet has been eating away at me.

Because the weather was so fine, I decided to finally put that garden box to work. First I assembled it and cut the turf all around the box. Then I moved the box aside and started cutting the grass out of the square. By this time, the boys had come out to see what was going on. One of them relieved me of my shovel, the other boy scared up a second shovel, and together they finished removing all the grass from the square. The youngest then took all the grass that was removed and used it to fill holes in the yard while the eldest leveled the square and raked the bare earth smooth.

March 2014

Determined to do this square foot gardening thing properly, I ran out to the store with youngest boy to obtain the necessary ingredients to fill the box. We managed to find the weed cloth, peat moss, and compost at Home Depot, but had to make a quick run to Cross Creek Nursery to find vermiculite. I held off buying plants despite my son’s pleading because we are due to have a wintery mix of weather tonight. I almost succumbed, but managed to resist. After all, our frost date is April 15th. About the only thing that can go in the ground right now are peas which should wait a week or two anyway seeing as it’s below freezing right now.

Youngest boy helped me mix all the ingredients and supervised the filling of the box. I have to say, I’m quite chuffed with myself for getting it all prepared in time to get crops in the ground. In fact, it is very tempting to get a second box so that I can grow even more things. We’ll see if I get around to it. First I need to figure out how to put a trellis on the north side so the peas, cucumbers, and beans don’t take over the yard. Provided I can get anything to grow, that is. I’m really bad at this. Enthusiastic in the planning, but terrible in the execution.


Now, to plan what to plant and where to plant it. I hope this goes well.

A Bit of Earth

Source: via Krista on Pinterest

Every year or so it seems I have another project with a big learning curve. Some have been more or less successful long term – embroidery, knitting, running, learning the violin, and baking bread. Others have not stuck – yoga, meal planning, decorating, woodworking, etc.

I did well with flower gardening until my children were born and it got too time consuming to take care of two toddlers and keep up with the weeding and pest control. I still love flower gardening, but our new home was stripped of its topsoil during construction so that hasn’t gone well so far. I have no doubts that it will improve over time.

Anyway, this year’s current obsession is vegetable gardening. I attempted a small veggie garden two years ago, but the only thing that survived in our dreadful clay was the radishes. They tasted wonderful! However, despite backbreaking days spent preparing the garden by hacking up the earth with a pickax and amending the soil every which way from Sunday, nothing else thrived. Not unless you count the native meadow weeds that quickly reestablished permanent residence.

After lots of research, and talking with local friends, I have decided to put in a 4’x8′ raised bed and attempt the square foot method of gardening. In my mind, it’s gorgeous, and my family eats well all summer. Reality may prove me wrong. Although a number of friends till and amend with amazing results, I’m unwilling to try that method again. It’s hard enough to stay interested when things are going well. If I have another weed-filled failing crop, I might throw in the towel. It seems as if the square foot method might dispense a higher degree of beginners’ luck.

As if starting a garden weren’t difficult enough, I want to try composting too. Ideally, I’d like a compost tumbler, but constructing one is outside of my comfort level, and purchasing one puts me too far out of pocket. So it seems as if I will have to find a place for a pile. My husband will hate that. He’s generally tolerant of my crazy projects, but the appearance of the yard is important to him. The other trick will be to keep the rest of the family from adding random things into the pile that I don’t think belong in there. I’m approaching it a lot like a science experiment. The rest of the family will likely treat it like a trash pile. I may need to appeal to their more mathematical tendencies to help them understand my method.

It’s February, and I’m ready to get started. I hope to soon be able to start assembling supplies. Seed packets whisper promises to me from their pile in the kitchen. I still need to make a final determination where I want the garden to go, but that shouldn’t take long. Is it spring yet?