Friday, July 25, 2008

Grandma Mary V. 1925 - 2008

Last year we threw a surprise birthday party for my mother in law, JoAnne. Mary V was instrumental in the decoy actions, we three drove up to Ashcombe’s greenhouses while everyone arrived for the party and set up, got food together, etc. JoAnne was very surprised. One of the married-in family, Rod, made some frozen fruit drink concoction that was VERY strong. I distinctly remember Mary V wandering through the crowd, drink in hand, smacking and licking her lips in ecstasy.
  • She’s been almost totally deaf most of her life, with the last remaining hearing in her ‘good’ ear dwindling away in the time that I’ve known her. Last February she went through with the surgery to get a cochlear implant, and for the first time in years she had some hearing back. She was so thrilled. This June for her birthday a lot of people gave her those musical cards. The family has decided to donate her external implant device back to Johns Hopkins.
  • Last year sometime Matt and I went to visit grandma. We notices she kept rubbing at her ribs on one side and finally Matt asked her about it. Well, she said, she was out in the garage and something had to be removed. So she went to the basement and got Steven’s 4’ bolt cutters and went and cut the thing, but she wound up catching her sides in the handles of the cutters. “I think I cracked a rib,” she told us. “It hurts when I breath a little. But there isn’t anything they can do about it, anyway, except tape it.” She never did go get it checked out.
  • Whenever we visit she always fed us really well. She never got out of the habit of cooking for a large family, so when people would arrive she would start bring out casseroles, ham or tuna salad, bread, lunchmeat, cookies, homemade candy, pies, tarts, and especially the breads (banana, zucchini, etc) she would make almost daily. Everything from scratch, no mixes here. She would also give us breads that were frozen to take home. Also, every summer she would can dozens and dozens of jars of jellies and jams, pickles, relish, and especially tomato sauce, then she would take us to the basement and give us boxes so we could fill up. We haven’t bought tomato sauce in about 4-5 years. Of everything she made, my favorites were the green tomato dill pickles and the orange marmalade. Both were very strong. I’m hoping to get the recipes, but it is very possible she did it from memory.
  • Mary had a computer and she and I would email back and forth fairly regularly. Due to her hearing problems, this was a really great way to communicate with her. She was fairly savvy with a computer.
  • She and I shared a love of gardening. I shared some seeds with her this year for the Guatemalan Blue Banana winter squash. She was so tickled, she told JoAnne just the day before she died, the squash vines were going around her vegetable patch 3 times! She’d never seen anything like it. I’ll probably be going over to tend her garden the rest of the summer, I don’t think anyone else will be doing it.
  • She made the best coffee I have ever had, and I’ll miss it terribly.
  • Most of you know that I also make jewelry (just got my business license, actually). Christmas a year ago I made a necklace for her as a gift. She was thrilled, and JoAnne told me Sunday that she apparently wore it all the time. She had it on Sunday.
  • She was pulled over for a speeding ticket a couple years ago and told the cop he should be out catching criminals instead of picking on little old ladies. So there.
  • On the other hand, someone told me yesterday she hit a an automatic car wash. I hadn't heard about this at all. Go Grandma.

There was another funny story that Matt told yesterday, I've forgotten it now. I'll post it when I remember.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Update on both fronts

Max is doing well, we had his appointment yesterday afternoon to get checked out post op. There is a normal amount of inflamation in his operative eye. The corneal ulcers aren't healing as quickly as she'd wanted, so she recommended and did another procedure for that. I won't go into details. Suffice it to say it has a 99% success rate within 2 weeks and he now has contact lenses. Yes, you read that right. My mother just loved that, she joked that she can just see me on my hands and knees at a outdoor cafe or something, saying "Don't mind me, I'm just looking for my dog's contact lens!" We go back the end of next week for another checkup.

He also still wasn't eating this morning (not much to eat since Friday evening). We were concerned about this. Matt has been maintaining that it has to do with his habit of rolling on his food and he can't with the cones on his head. I scoffed at this, but apparently it worked because Matt took a handful of food, rubbed it on his back and Max then ate it right up. Yes, you read that right. Dogs are strange.

As for the Grandma situation, the viewing is going to be Wednesday night and the funeral mass Thursday morning. Family is starting to fly in today. 3 people are staying with my inlaws, despite the fact they had their well drilled deeper yesterday and as of an hour ago the people had still not shown up to put in the well pump and hook everything up.

Monday, July 21, 2008

When it rains….

…it pours. This week has been really rough. Max is doing well, from what we can gather from his attitude and actions. He goes for his one week check up today, I’ll report back when I know something.

However, Mary V., one of Matt’s grandmothers, died very unexpectedly yesterday in a freak carbon monoxide accident. They found her ‘asleep’ on the sofa, barely breathing. After 911 was called, etc etc, they found the car had been running in the garage long enough to run out of gas. The CO was 1700 parts per million, enough to kill in 2 hours. (Everyone: PLEASE be sure your smoke detectors are also CO detectors!)

The shock of the accident is the worst part. Grandma had a really good run, she was feisty. She’d had 11 kids. She was an extremely active senior and at 4’11” still did a lot of her own work around the house, carrying the 8' step ladder up from the basement to fix the curtains, etc. Her kids gave her hell when they found out these things, but Matt and I had a catchphrase we used for her: GO GRANDMA!!!!

She was my adopted grandma, too. My two grandfathers died when I was 6, on of my grandmothers died before I was born, and the other was estranged from us, so I really never had grandparents that I really knew. Mary V. was my adopted grammy. I’m glad to have had 10 years with her. She’s the kind of old lady I want to be when I grow up. And, hey, there are worse ways to go. It could have been a stroke or cancer, she could have lingered for a long time…

I will do a grammy retrospective sometime this week, you won’t want to miss it. Lots of funny stories.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


First and foremost, Max is doing well. (The above picture is from his neutering last year.)

OK, the back story. We woke up on Sunday morning, Max's left eye was closed and goopy. We cleaned the goop away, and noticed that his eye appeared cloudy, like a cataract patient. I called the emergency vet in Frederick, MD, then drove him down there around 7:30. They did a pressure test on his eye and it was very high. They also notice the lens looked like it was tilted. They sent us to the emergency vet in Gaithersburg, MD, right on the outskirts of Washington, DC. I was not happy about driving down there, but it was a lot closer than I thought, Max slept the whole way, and at least I didn't have to fight rush hour traffic.

This was an advanced care facility with a lot of specialists. Their Opthamologist wasn't in that day (of course), but they did some tests and started him on some pressure reducing meds. They told me he had an anterior luxating lens. I'm very eye squeemish, so I won't go into details. They kept him and I headed home, exhausted and hungry. I got home about 12:30.

They did the surgery to remove the lens on Monday night, it went well and as expected. He's also developed corneal ulcers, one on each eye, which are painful and complicate the situation. They don't know why these developed. The good news is that they reduced the pressure in time and reduced the damage to the eye, so he has sight in that eye. The bad news was the price tag, which was almost high enough that we wouldn't have been able to do it. Almost.

They sent us home with 7 eye drops, 2 pills and one goop that you squirt in his mouth. He hates the drops, so we also hate the drops.

He has two elizabethian collars on. He is getting drops 3x/day, he has a good appetite, and although he's not too interested in drinking anything we are getting him to drink some occasionally. He slept downstairs by himself last night, cones in place, and did ok.

I'm at work today, I'm going to go check on him at lunch. I feel like I should check in to a hospital or something, I'm so stressed about all this. I was home with him yesterday and although he slept almost all day I was just so stressed I couldn't eat anything. I am trying to eat a bagel and have some coffee this morning, but I've already got a tension headache. I keep telling myself I can only do what I can do: give him his meds, talk to him, love him up, let him out. The rest is up to...him? Fate?

Sunday, July 06, 2008


I had off this week, and thank god because I had a lot of work around here to do. And I got almost everything done that I wanted to!

I did a lot of weeding in the veggie patch, it took me two mornings but I got it done. I also got newspaper and hay around the squash plants to keep the weeds at bay. Almost everything is blooming, except the pumpkins, and I have two little baby zuchs and a few tiny yellow squash. The winter squash vines are starting to run. I have no idea how long they'll get, but the time I grew pumpkins they must have run over 20'!

For more on the garden, visit my garden blog, I'll be updating it Monday or Tuesday.

We're still waiting on the greenhouse, it should be shipped tomorrow.

We also made our semi-annual pilgrimage to the local liquour store and, as usual, bought a lot of different stuff. It is interesting to me to just go in and look around a good liquour store because you never know what you're going to find. This is what we bought:
  • Sweet & Sour mix and a bottle of Triple Sec for my favorite cocktail, the Sidecar.
  • A bottle of cheap but good white wine.
  • Matt got a bottle of single malt scotch, his drink of choice. He actually has a book of scotches that talks about all the distilleries in Scotland and what they produce. He's going to try to get one of everything in the book to try. Hey, everyone needs a hobby.
  • Matt also got a good ($$) bottle of tequila and a matching ($$) bottle of coffee-flavored tequila. The coffee one is very very good, I can't drink but a tiny sip of it but the aftertaste is wonderful.
  • I got a bottle of Chocolate Zinfindel white wine. I haven't tried it yet, I'm waiting for an appropriate occasion.
  • I also found a bottle of Maple Cream liqueur, which I've already cracked open and found it wonderful over ice.

I think that was it. I'm not going to tell you how much all that cost.

I finally received my business cards, they look great. I also ordered some mini cards from to use as hang tags for my jewerly. I purchased a gorgeous brown leather 3-ring binder to use as a portfolio to take into local shops and show my jewelry. I bought some stuff at AC Moore to finish the portolio pages up and some grommets to use with the mini cards, I'll try to take pictures and post it all sometime in the future.

I think that's about it. I took a nap while I was off, that was exciting. :)

Thursday, July 03, 2008

It's set in concrete now!

We recently purchased a 10'x12' greenhouse, which isn't here yet and is, of course, on back order. We don't know when it will get here because they keep pushing the date back, those silly people. But in order to have a nice home for it, we made a form and poured a concrete foundation.

The same day, we got a guy we know to come up with his bobcat and do what is commonly called 'work' around the property to help us with some problem areas. We had some straight edges that needed smoothed out and our driveway badly BADLY needed straightened out. I will post pictures of the work Joe did for us later.

The picture above is the 'before' of the place where the greenhouse is going. The brown thing is our incinerator, where we burn our paper trash. The pile of rocks on the left is...well a pile of rocks we got from the local quarry. It was free! It is their junk rock (below), they can't do anything with it because of the quartz veins running through it, can you believe it? So we asked for it so we could build some nice rock walls with it in the future, and they were kind enough to just drop it off for us.

All this is in the big hole that was supposed to be the site for our new garage, but since that was dug out we decided to rebuild the garage where the current one is and do things a little differently. So this is a perfect place for a greenhouse or two, sheltered, flattened already.

The bank in the picture above, right also was to come out and get smoothed out (see below).

As for the foundation, we had a lot of big PVC drainpipe that Matt used for the foundation (see below). It worked out, this will easily drain water away from the greenhouse while making it so we didn't have to buy a lot of wood to use instead. A money-saving idea! We likes these, yes we does.

Matt estimted 5 yards of concrete and the truck was due for 8am on Saturday and lo! That's when they arrived. And they actually made it up the driveway! Will wonders never cease.

Notice the drain sitting up in the middle of the floor. That's 'crush n run' that they are standing on, it makes a good base.

That's Matt and his dad, Ray, and the guy from the concrete company on the right there. I didn't catch his name, let's call him Magnus.

Magnus actually pitched in quite a bit, even though I don't have any pictures of it.

(Left) And here it comes!

(Right) Making sure there's enough in the far corners.

(Left) Pulling it from the middle to the nearer corners. You can't see the drain, but it sits a few inches lower than the edge of the foundation. It was covered up with duct tape to keep the concrete from getting in, but they needed to make sure the floor sloped away from the drain so they had to keep pulling concrete from the middle to the edges.

(Right) Starting to skreet the floor. The skreet is resting on the drain in the middle and Matt is using it to flesh out the slope of the floor from the edges. Ray is still pulling concrete into the corners and to the edge.

(Left) Almost finished skreeting!

(Right) Pouring the ramp. Before the greenhouse will really be a greenhouse, we're going to be using it for a shed. We needed a place to empty our garage into, and this seemed like it would kill two birds with one stone. Now, we can empty the garage, tear it down and rebuild a new one AND then have a usable greenhouse afterwards instead of a shed that we'd have no future use for. A lot of the stuff in the garage will need to be moved using a dolly, hence the ramp.

(Left and below) Matt, smoothing out the already skreeted floor with a hand-held 'float' trowel.

(Left) Matt. Smoothing out the middle of the floor. Balancing on a 2x10. If he had lost his balance it would have been a MUCH better picture.

After this was finished, we all went next door where they were also pouring a floor in the basement.
We also purchases some concrete sealer to use on the floor. It is stained a nice rusty red color, we thought it would be a nice color.
Stay tuned, this weekend I will probably post pictures of the work Joe did to the driveway area.