Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Jane: Beautiful flowers

We have the most beautiful magnolia on the block, don't you think?

The hot weather on Friday and the heavy rains of the past few days have taken most of the petals down now, so I'm glad I have photos.

I love this kind of magnolia because it can stand the Iowa winters, yet it looks so lush and southern. The tree itself is beautiful, too, so even when the flowers are gone, it looks nice. Ours has particularly nicely-shaped branches.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Jane: Book review

OK, I'll admit it. I'm an Anglophile. I don't love ALL things British, but I love being in England--the weather (sometimes), the light, the sense of history and a literary past, the architecture, the flora and fauna. Sometimes the British people too.

But those British people can be puzzling. I remember being rather put out by the British women I met when I first taught at TASIS England. They were really smart people--smart, confident, organized, professional. But when a man entered the room, they would suddenly get giggly and the pitch of their voices would raise an octave. Suddenly, their apparent IQs would decline! It made me nuts! I remember discussing it with another American woman. We couldn't figure it out.

Well, Sarah Lyall's book The Anglo Files: a Field Guide to the British, doesn't address that problem, but it addresses many other aspects of the British psyche--British men and sex, British politics, British child-raising, British teeth. And the author is a journalist, so she doesn't just rely on stereotypes, one thing I disliked about Bill Bryson's book, Notes from a Small Island. Lyall shares anecdotes from people she's interviewed and historical and literary quotes, too. But she's also got a great sense of humor, and tells the book as one with an unusual perspective on British people: she's an American married to a Brit, and living in London with her children, who say things like "this blouse is unsuitable with these trousers."

Enjoy this book--I laughed aloud many times.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Jane: Pruning

Today it was a beautiful day, about 65 or so, sunny, with a light breeze. So late in the afternoon, we worked in the yard, pruning some scrubby trees out of a lilac hedge (or would-be hedge--it's being suffocated by scrubby trees) along the edge of the yard.

Robbie thought we needed to mark the trees with spray paint first. Hey, if you've got a can of spray paint . . . .
As you can see, he also marked the tree with his hatchet. He wants an axe, but I told him I would not buy him one! This tree ^ is too big for us to prune out with my pruning saw. I'm hoping my neighbor, Steve, will loan the use of his chain saw for it.
You can see the hedge here, after we cleared out lots of trees. That's my shadow!
Here are the piles of branches and mini-trees we cut out. After supper, we cut them up and tied them in bundles for the yard waste truck.

Robbie was great help with this chore. All I had to say was "Do you want to cut down a few trees?" and he was there! He's always loved chores that involve tools.

Eli also helped with the branch clean-up. He even found a few sturdy sticks to use for sword-fighting.

Anyway, I'm hoping that this clear-out will encourage the lilacs to come back; they've been shaded and crowded by scrub trees and didn't bloom much last year. They're lovely white lilacs, so worth the effort.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Jane: Back to the Blog

I haven't been blogging here for a while--I've been blogging with my students elsewhere--but I think it's time to get back at it.

I'm at the computer early this morning to make a little thank-you card for my friend Katharine. She brought me some beautiful empty Kleenex boxes.


One day at ballet, I saw a Kleenex box in the trash. I took it out.

"I wonder why someone's throwing away a perfectly good rat house," I said. Katharine thought that was funny, and we talked about how our ratties love Kleenex box houses. Chewable, cosy, disposable (when they get too chewed up).

So now she's been bringing me the family's boxes! Our ratties are very happy!