The Quiet Park

Spring has really been taking its own sweet time in getting here this year, which is a pity, because if there’s one thing the east coast does better than Idaho, it’s being green.

In northern Idaho, you get exactly one month of green. The minute May hits, the hills are as lush and verdant as Ireland, and you wonder why in the world anyone would choose to live anywhere else.

And then June happens, and the moisture is sucked out of all vegetation, the undergrowth becomes particularly prickly, and the only thing that stays green are the pines with the tell-tale name.

So I was thrilled when I moved to the east coast and discovered that everything stays green until it goes golden. The trade-in, of course, is the feeling that you are living in an armpit.

All this aside, today was a lovely misty day that really highlighted the incoming greenery, so I hauled myself and my umbrella outside to see the colors.

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The nice thing about a park in the rain, on a weekday, at one in the afternoon, is that you truly have the place to yourself.

And there were indeed signs of spring, despite the slow-going. Perhaps wary of another sudden frost, the leaves were advancing at a snail’s pace, but they were there.

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One started to get the feeling that the leaves were only showing themselves grudgingly.

I didn’t expect to see any animals besides the usual assortment of birds and squirrels, seeing as my closest park is hardly larger than your average Wal-Mart, but I actually ran into a herd of deer that seemed disturbed at my passing.

I felt bad about it, really, because there wasn’t really anywhere for them to go. The park has a lake on one side and suburbs on the rest.

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The straggler who would have been picked off if I were a wolf.

It was very wet out, but I enjoy overcast days. They typically mean I only burn a little.

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I spent a little while trying to figure out how this tree had managed to split and fall so artfully.

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Fungi!

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And speaking of fungus, I don’t know what this stuff is but a poor baby pine was coated in the stuff. I’m always grateful humans can’t grow mushrooms on themselves.

There’s a part of the park with an odd low wall that extends into the lake; something to do with keeping the little bay of water from being disturbed, no doubt. People are always out on the wall; teenagers going to drink or smoke, children trying to look cool to their friends, fishermen who like a little risk. But thanks to the rain, it was empty.

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I didn’t go all the way out because I wasn’t willing to risk falling in to drink or smoke in a cool place.

Back in the park, one of the flowering trees was heavy with large pink blossoms. I figured by the time the leaves on other trees came in, most of the blossoms would be gone.

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There was absolutely no way to get a picture of this tree without also picking up the trashcan on the right. It couldn’t be done. Also, I was too lazy to crop it.

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Very pink. A well-established whatever-it-is.

While I was in the park I went looking for the fairy house I had built some time back, just to see if any part of it was still there, but there was no sign of it. I have no idea if some little girl found the tea set and kept it, or whether they were unceremoniously trashed some time later.

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But I did find some periwinkle in the vicinity. I always wanted to be a periwinkle fairy.

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It was nice to get out. In a month or so it will be unbearably sunny and humid and I won’t want to do anything but stay in my air-conditioned room and long for colder climates, but for now it’s pleasant.

And then, when it’s too hot and humid to function, my employers will take me and the three to six boys to Disney World again because “It’s the cheapest time of the year to go!”

A Trip to Terrain

The first thought I had today as I took the vacuum to my bathroom to deal with a spider approximately the size of Venezuela, was that being an adult sucks because you don’t have another more adultier adult to deal with spiders.

Possibly you do when you get married, but I wouldn’t want to take the time to track down my husband to deal with it. The chances are, the second you leave the room, the spider uses its powers of teleportation to hang out in your bed instead.

But my long and redundant is that I’m actually glad to be an adult, because my adult friends and I can go out and do adult things together. Like spend all day in a greenhouse, for example.

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One with a mushroom house, even.

I always thought I liked plants until I met my friends Katrina and Addison. It turns out, I’m a small fry in the world of liking plants. I may have twelve plants in my bedroom as we speak, but Katrina and Addison live in a house that is 85% plant life and 15% board games. Frankly, it’s ideal.

Katrina, previously mentioned as the person most like a fairy I’ve ever met (besides my father), is always dragging me off to strange and fascinating places, like fancy tea houses and the Mutter Museum. This time, it was a restaurant and greenhouse called Terrain.

Terrain is a nifty restaurant and greenhouse that is always teaming with people. And by people, I mean white thirty-something women. Katrina and Addison go there whenever they can justify spending the entirety of their paycheck on plants. They were very excited. I was excited by osmosis.

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The front entrance.

Terrain is several big barn-like structures full of plants, and things related to plants. And candles. And hats. And variously-shaped glass jars. Much like Renaissance Faires, it’s a magnet for a certain kind of people. Typically, people of the feminine persuasion who enjoy things like brunch and sunny hiking trips.

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The roof was always covered in plants and I could never tell how many were real.

If you like spending fifteen dollars on a pretty pink perfume-bottle plant mister, boy is Terrain the place for you.

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Just look at all these colored bottles!

I spent a considerable amount of time wandering the place and resisting the urge to grab everything I saw. Ferns were everywhere. Air-plants were everywhere. Containers to make your own terrarium; fourteen different sizes of terracotta pots; watering cans that looked cute but were, according to Addison, much more decorative than functional.

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I’m an instant killer of ferns, but I crave them like some kind of fern vampire.

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One day, my house will look like this.

We wandered around the place for an hour before our brunch lunch reservation was up. The attached restaurant serves, predictably, a lot of plant-based meals, and a number of fascinating teas. And, perhaps best of all, they server their appetizer bread in a flowerpot.

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And it was delicious.

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Anyone who ever goes to Terrain has to take a picture of the flower pot bread. It’s the Law. 

I always feel a degree of shame with taking pictures of my food at restaurants, but I was too drunk on Terrain’s “Iced Blueberry Pie Chai” to care. I had two.

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This was a fried cauliflower burger. I didn’t expect it to be as good as it was.

After lunch it was back out to the greenhouses to collect plants for purchase.

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And to stare at the massive ceiling kokedamas.

There was a book sale coming up the following Monday that I planned on splurging on, so I told myself I could only buy one item at Terrain. Accordingly, I bought two plants, two fancy pots, and a pretty plant spray bottle.

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Was it worth it? Absolutely.

If you live anywhere near Glen Mills, PA, I would recommend taking a day and going to explore Terrain- possibly in another month or so, when there’s more to see outside as with the inside. The downside, of course, being that you will begin your slow transformation into a middle-aged white woman who throws garden parties, but it’s a small price to pay.

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Well, that and that if you go to Terrain and then to a book sale the next day, you won’t have enough money leftover to purchase this gem.

The Philadelphia Flower Show

Until last Sunday I knew very little about Holland, save for a vague idea that wooden clogs were involved somehow. Now, however, I can confirm that tulips, windmills, and bicycles are the other three things in the Netherlands. Sometimes bridges.

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Often all at once.

On Sunday I dragged James to the Philadelphia Flower Show on the basis that he had to, because I was his girlfriend and I said so. I find bullying and manipulation to be excellent cornerstones of a relationship. Plus I bought him lunch.

This year’s theme was Holland (last year’s: Ireland. So close), and as stated above, Holland has a lot of bicycles and windmills. It’s enough to make you wonder if each individual artist began to set up their displays and grew increasingly depressed as they realized that every other artist had been in possession of the same idea.

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“We’ll have windmills! And hanging flowers!”

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“We’ll have hanging flowers! And bicycles!”

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“We’ll have bycicles! And bridges!”

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“We’ll have bridges and hanging flowers and bicycles!”

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“WE WILL HAVE A BRIDGE MADE OF BICYCLES WITH HANGING BICYCLES. Also tulips.”

Don’t get me wrong, it was all lovely, at least those exhibits that I fought my way through the crowd to see. Sunday was opening day and the crowds were thick, resulting in many blurred photos as professional photographers used the heads of passerby to brace their heavy-duty cameras.

Getting through the crowds rapidly became exhausting, and I had bought all my windowsill plants for the day, so I was about to release James from this special guy Hell when I caught sight of the “Live Butterfly Exhibit.” With BUTTERFLIES! LIVE ONES!

So we stood in line to funnel into a netted room, where we were handing q-tips dipped in sugar water to try and tempt the exhausted butterflies to us, so we could carry them around like fairy wands.

But as it turns out, butterflies just take what they want.

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It took me five minutes to pry this one off of the netting, and only because I wanted my sugar q-tip back.

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Got you, you little punk.

Catching butterflies was hard work. James and I struggled to coax the fragile things onto us for what felt like ages, while small Disney princesses in training waltzed by with sleeves covered in the floaty things. If that’s not a sign that I’m old and no longer desirable by the fairies, I don’t know what is.

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Most of the butterflies went to the ceiling to rest. I couldn’t reach them. James could, but he was too busy remarking on how short I was.

I caught sight of a large blue butterfly and spent the remainder of my time in the enclosure trying to get it to love me. “Go on, have a sugar stick,” I whispered, shoving the q-tip at its feet until it latched on to avoid being pushed off the plant.

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It requires immense concentration, badgering a butterfly to accept you as its new owner.

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Success! The q-tip is gone for good, mind you.

Once my life goal of holding a blue butterfly for thirty seconds was accomplished, James and I packed up and headed out, and I faced the reality of my ever-shrinking windowsill space for my new plants.

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The little ones will need big pots soon. I have no space, but I need more.

Fortunately, there is a solution to dwindling windowsill space: Hanging plants.

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All the hanging plants.

Convention Gardening

Thankfully, around March, things begin to happen again. People emerge from their centrally-heated homes and decide they should work off the winter weight by, say, holding a deceptively big flower and garden show. And the rest of us, starved for activities, come in droves.

James thought he might spend the weekend visiting with family in Florida, in order to be anywhere other than the cold musty north-east, so I had nothing better to do than to absently search Facebook for weekend events, until lo and behold, the 15th Annual New Jersey Flower & Garden Show!

Fascinating.

I’m not entirely sure what I expected it to be, but in my head I pictured the common Idaho farmer’s market/county fair. Something with a few booths, an abundance of individual roses the size of one’s face, and that weird-looking charcoal drawing that won “Best in Show” via nepotism.

It was a bit like that, only much, much bigger.

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Someone had taken a warehouse-like convention hall and moved eighteen or so gardens into it, complete with brick work, flower beds, full-sized trees, and even a few koi ponds. The whole area had a surreal and almost unsettling feel to it, because it did seem like you were outdoors until you hit a dividing path of cement foundation, or looked up at the black abyssal ceiling above you.

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But the rest of the time it was cozy. Just look at all these things I can’t afford and don’t have room for!

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How long did it take them to get all this dirt in here, and how tedious is it going to be to get it all out again? Will they scrap all the plants?

The event was sectioned into thirds: The garden display section, where landscaping companies vied for your affection by handing out cheap plastic pens; the art section, where people made art related to plants in some way; and the shopping section, with rows and rows of booths selling all the garden knickknacks you never knew you didn’t want.

I made myself go through the art section before I spent all my money on potted plants I would kill within the week.

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Why, look! It’s a… cool spiky thing, with flower bits!

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I would wear this in a heartbeat. Seriously, if anyone wants to gift this to me…

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I enjoy this piece because I find it to be a very good estimation of my life forty years from now, complete with me lurking creepily by the window, eyeballing the passerby.

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Koi!

The sales booths were just as bad as I expected. I started down the first row, tempted by things like fancy weed-whackers despite not having an actual lawn of my own, when I was sidetracked by an older lady in a jewelry booth.

“Hello dear,” she said kindly as she reeled me in with her industrial-strength fishing pole, “would you like to know your birth moon?”

“Yes. Absolutely,” I said, because I had never wanted to know anything so badly in my life.

So she took out a book the size of a few dictionaries glued together and skimmed through the dates, starting from 1900 and working her way up to 1995, December, the 19th of. “You were born under a waning crescent, or crescent descending!” she told me earnestly, already rifling through a few sorted bins and producing a necklace that matched. “It means trouble will follow you most of your life, but since it’s so close to the new moon it means there will always be hope for new chances and rebirth. That’ll be $19.99 plus tax.”

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Needless to say, I bought it. It might not look like much, but it glows in the dark and I will always be able to tell the story of the time I was suckered into buying my birth moon.

There were a number of wonderful booths at the show. I bought a lovely knitted shawl with two matching hats from one, and a little bonsai tree from another. I spent some time being vaguely uncomfortable in a booth of dead butterflies, despite the sign assuring the customers that the butterflies had been collected after they had died a natural death.

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I’d have bought one, but they were expensive and I can’t put nails in my walls.

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Towards the end, weighed down as I was by numerous bags of unnecessary purchases, I came across a booth full of succulents and air plants, some of which- and this is very important- had little caps on the top to make them look like floating jellyfish.

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I bought three.

It’s obviously very important to me that my room look like a jungle is gradually moving in, and I’m thankful to New Jersey’s Flower & Garden show for accelerating that process. It also made me realize that flower shows exist, which is why I’m going to the Philadelphia one in the coming weeks to buy even more air jellyfish.

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I’m running out of space on my windowsills, however.

Basically Valentine’s Day

Today is Valentine’s Day, and instead of doing anything romantic or productive I’m nursing my tea and begrudgingly healing my Overwatch teammates, because I’m sick again for the third time this year. As in, since January 1st.

The problem with taking care of three to six small petri dishes is that you will be sick, all the time, always. Sick will become the background music of your life. I’ve complained about this in the past, but I’m complaining extra hard today because it’s preventing me from going out tonight, and also because I’m blaming my illness on the fact that I killed my Valentine’s Day gift.

You see, on Saturday I went out with James to explore the wonderful and terrifying city of Philadelphia.

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It has architecture.

We spent most of the day wandering around, drinking our various warm beverages and pointing out ridiculous works of modern art.

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I don’t know what to say about this one. It simply is.

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This isn’t modern art (probably), but I was hoping somebody would know what it was, since it was just hanging out on a ‘no parking’ sign.

And, at one point, we ran into humanity’s most creative torture device, the ice-skating rink, complete with five year olds that can skate better than you, and packs of teenage girls taking up half the rink while they check their phones.

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Naturally, we gave it a go. I blame my performance on the fact that the rink was bumpy, and also that I haven’t gone skating since I was a five year old that could skate better than everyone. James and I shuffled around the rink doing our best impression of old people who have kneecap paralysis.

We thought we might stop by to see Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, given that they were a mere two miles away by walking distance, but by the time we arrived we realized it was a Saturday, and desperate parents with bored children were flooding the area by the hundreds. So we saw the outside of the buildings instead.

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Pictured: Line of two hundred-some people waiting to get inside. We sat on a park bench and tried to identify which one of them was a Russian spy instead.

And as a ribbon on the day, James gave me the promised small Valentine’s Day gift, which was a lovely pot of (live) flowers and some coconut truffles. I tucked it all carefully into my car, and when I got home that night, I promptly forgot about them.

The next morning, I woke up sick. And I’ve been sick for three days now (but not nanny-sick; that is, sick enough to skip work). And when it finally occurred to me to go into the car and get my stuff, I realized that pretty tropical flowers don’t survive too well inside a car kept out in the thirty degree weather.

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Pictured here: My flowers wrapped in an electric blanket to try to thaw them out.

I discovered that these flowers are Cyclamens, and I found an excellent website on how to care for them, which sadly assumes you haven’t already killed them. In particular, the website states “Cyclamen that are sold as houseplants are tropical and cannot tolerate temperatures below 40 F. (4 C.). And certainly not 30 F for three days straight.” I’m paraphrasing.

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I’m eating one of the truffles right now as I type this. It’s also frozen.

I think the moral of the story is that I shouldn’t be trusted with anything living when I’m sick. Certainly not the children I’m taking care of. So if I could have a day or two off, that’d be great.

Happy Valentine’s Day to all, and to all a good night.

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Get well soon, little Cylamen.

Belated Christmas Gifts

I’m told that the problem with buying presents for me these days is that I’m an adult, and if I see something I want, I buy it. None of this waiting half a year in the hopes that Saint Nick will bring me something anymore. It was easier for my parents and my sister when I had no money, and it looked like I might never have any money, because then they could just give me money and be done with it.

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But since I’m adult, look at this plant I just bought! I forget what it’s called, possibly something like Hypothermia, but I felt a personal connection to it because it smelled funny and had a weird name.

These days, before I come home for Christmas, my parents ask me to put together a list of things I would enjoy owning that I don’t already, and then they pick just a few things out of the list so that it’s a mystery what I’ll get. This has worked well so far.

Of course, after I finish opening all my presents in Idaho, there’s the problem of how I’m going to fit them all into the four cubic inches of space my airline has allotted for carry-on luggage. Most of the things go into a box, and in the grand tradition of all Ludvigs we never send the box and forget that much of the stuff in it ever existed.

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This time I received the box, but I just didn’t open it for a week or two because I was “too busy.”

I had already forgotten what I had received for Christmas, so this was like unwrapping presents all over again. The rest of this post is all just me showing off my presents, so you can go do something else now. (I thank my good friend Wendy for the very pretty shawl I laid everything out on.)

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A while ago, unbeknownst to my family, I had purchased a book-shaped wallet for myself. Coincidentally, I received a book-shaped purse and a book-shaped backpack for Christmas, so now I can put my book-shaped wallet in a book-shaped purse in a book-shaped backpack, and still have enough room leftover for an actual book!

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I got the games “Coup” and “Happy Salmon.” Coup is a nice little social deduction card game that’s easy to learn and quick to play, good for my board game nights. Happy Salmon, on the other hand, is the easiest way to turn functioning adults into flailing, shouting, desperate maniacs. I highly recommend it.

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Did you ever want to read lengthy full-color comic books about small shirtless quasi-anime elfs that ride wolves and can talk to each other in their minds? Well, now you can! ElfQuest! Slogan: “Made in the ’70s and it shows!” (I love these things so much.)

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My parents are still very concerned that I’m going to be mugged or murdered by thugs out here in the big city, so they like to give me emergency items like heavy-duty flashlights and defense spray so I can use them on my opponent and then be mugged and murdered by even angrier thugs. Also, some earrings! Thanks, Mom and Dad!

And then, last but not least, I got this beautiful thing:

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I’m told it’s a sundial. A portable one, to be exact. If I were an especially competent hipster I could carry this around in my purse and pull it out whenever I wanted to know the time whilst outdoors on sunny days. Sadly, I have not yet figured out how to properly set the thing up, so I can only tell the time by looking at my phone. But it looks really classy.

This stuff really is spectacular. I have to hand it to my parents, they know what I like.

Because I tell them. In a list they request.

God bless us all, every one.