Spring… Springs

It probably goes without saying that spring is here. You can tell because it’s May 19th, and also because here on the east coast it’s a mild 94 degrees, the way spring is supposed to be on Venus.

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Spring is that important time of year when you can start having staring contests with deer, because they can’t easily see you approaching through the green foliage until it’s too late and they’re forced to watch you for as long as you watch them.

In fact, I’d wager we’re on the verge of summer instead, but it’s important to keep in mind that it’s still spring because otherwise the series of photographs I have in my possession would be for naught.

Every Wednesday afternoon the eldest boy I take care of has a piano lesson at the house next door. This house is on a very pretty piece of property overlooking a lake, with some great big windows to emphasize how spotless everything is because the piano teacher¬† doesn’t have three to six boys.

So every Wednesday, while the oldest boy was explaining why he couldn’t possibly have practiced that week, I positioned myself in front of the same window and tried to line up my shots. It’s easier said than done, but I came away with just over two months worth of photos, and a vision of exploding spring time.

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I do easily forget how pretty the east coast is from May to November. It stays this way by maintaining humidity levels equivalent to lying in warm jello. I haven’t yet decided if this is worth it.

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.

Bits and Bobs

If it seems like I’ve been quiet here lately, it’s only because I’ve been too busy being violently ill elsewhere. These kinds of things happen when you’re surrounded by public-schooled children.

On the other hand, I may have picked it up from someone other than my charges on the weekend. A friend of mine had a birthday party and decided we should all go play laser tag for it, all ten of us adults. We filed into that flashing, disorienting waiting room swearing that we would show Timmy’s birthday party no mercy, and it was just as well, because those seven year olds swarm at you like Day Z zombies.

We lost to a full team of under-tens on the second round, but I maintain that it was because they had five more players than us.

And on Sunday, I visited Philadelphia for the first time, to play a game called “Escape the Room.”

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Philadelphia sure is a pretty place. Here’s a picture of the buildings while I was stuck in traffic…

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And here I was stuck in traffic again…

Escape the Room is where you pay to be locked into a room and have to use your (probably non-existent) puzzle-solving skills to escape. While we were working on ours, called “The Dig”, we heard the people in the one across the way (“The Office”) run out of time and subsequently fail. You only have an hour to complete the room and find the key that releases you, and even with the generous hints the game-masters give you, it’s hard.

And fun. I highly recommend it.

I have no pictures of this because they didn’t want us to spoil it for anyone, but I’m really not that kind of person. The blueprints have to be aligned by the light blue shapes in the middle.

It was the next day that I got horrifically ill, so I could have picked it up while laser tagging or room escaping or merely nannying the night away. But now that I’m recovered and on tangent after tangent, let me tell you about the cookie you absolutely must buy:

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It says “Lotus” on the top, but don’t let that fool you.

These rectangular, gingerbread-colored cookies are Biscoff cookies, which I had not heard of up until now. They might be bigger in Europe, I’m not sure. Regardless, Alaska Airlines served them on the last flight I took with them, in a display of marketing genius, and I was so hooked that I used my previously purchased in-flight wi-fi to order three boxes of them right away.

They’re like… graham crackers in cookie form, perhaps. Very difficult to describe. But they taste incredible with tea. Or coffee. Or water. Or on their own. And, as cookies go, they’re not too calorie-dense. Not that I’ve really looked at the back of the packaging.

So I’ve been up to a whole lot of nothing worth blogging about. On that note, here is a picture of the grocery store ivy I purchased a few months ago:

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I’m sure at some point it must have crossed my mind that ivy would grow, but ow that it’s actually outgrowing the pot and the windowsill I’m not sure what to do with it. It’s not my house, so I can’t plant it outside, but I don’t want to just dump the thing.

Life can be hard at times, especially when you’re a plant in my terrible care.

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.

A Spot of Wild

I was restless this morning. The children have only half days all week in order to make room for parent-teacher conferences, and I had a few short hours before all three to six boys would come rampaging through the house again. I cleaned my room, tried a new orange spice herbal tea that tasted like a fall candle steeped in water, and sat on my bed listening to Mrs. Parent and the maid converse in the kitchen on the other side of the wall.

And then, before I went utterly mad, I grabbed my hiking shoes and my car keys and drove five minutes to the nearest miniature wilderness.

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Which was currently being terrorized by the Rolling Rock Bandit.

I miss the country, you see. I miss being able to walk in a straight line and not getting hit by a car or running into a building. My sort of country is the one where your nearest neighbor could be demented murderous scarecrow-demon, but neither of you like company so you avoid each other and it’s not a big deal.

And I miss the silence. Even in this park, which was good-sized, I could still hear the traffic all around and if I walked more than two miles in a straight line I would be in someone’s back yard.

Nevertheless, it was beautiful.

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Either the rain had driven everyone else out of the park or we were all silently circling it about half a mile from each other.

One of the biggest adjustments of moving to the east coast was how very green it was. In Idaho you had one month of the year in which things were green- May- and then things turned brown and stayed brown until May came around again. Sure, the trees were technically “evergreen,” but they are the unfriendly sort of green because Idaho really doesn’t like having people in it.

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Here, things stay green all summer. And then they turn golden! How cool is that?! It’s like nature here likes you!

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There’s a trade-off, of course. There are ticks here that like to kill you very gradually. There’s venomous snakes. There’s poison ivy. All the dangerous things here are stealthy, unlike Idaho, which has the decency to maul you quickly via large predator.

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“Leaf of three, let it be,” they say, as if every single plant in this forest weren’t three-leafed.

Though I’ve been here only once or twice, my very favorite part of this park is after you follow one of the trails for a mile or so. You spot a little wooden railing in the middle of nowhere…

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…and there in the middle is a single, solitary gravestone. There’s no houses nearby, nor any sort of marker or monument. Nearby are some other stones that may once have been something else, but now are just stones. This place has clearly been maintained, but no attention is drawn to it.

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Gertrude Provost / Wife of Jonathan Provost / Born Jan. 10, 1809 / Died Feb 22, 1839

So here is the memory of Gertrude, who died when she was barely 30. I did some complicated research involving the Google search engine and came up with absolutely nothing in the first three minutes, so I gave up. Perhaps someone else knows something about the pair of them.

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And then you walk some thirty feet, step out of the treeline, and the trail goes full circle. If nothing else, it greatly helps a nanny preparing for the second bout of Thursday to relax a little.

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Though I’m afraid to say that the Rolling Rock Bandit’s sidekick, Dog Poop Person, is on the rise.