Busted, or Front Yard, Part 2

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I received this e-mail from my Home Owner’s Association:

Good morning Laura,

We have been notified that you have new landscaping around a tree in your front yard. While the board does allow this, they still require an architectural request form be submitted for approval prior to any exterior changes. I’ve attached one for you to fill in and return at your convenience.

Thank you,

Your HOA

This bothers me on several levels.

First, I’ve lived here for 12 years, which means they’ve cashed approximately 144 of my checks. Checks signed “Laurel”, not “Laura”.

Second, when I was weeding the garden around Rocky 2 (the tree in the front yard) a week ago, and the little old lady from across the street came over and complimented me on how my flowers looked, I assumed she was being neighborly. I didn’t realize she going to run to the HOA to have me busted for beautifying my yard.

Third, and most importantly, the landscaping around Rocky 2 has been there for 6 years! I put the tree, the flowers and the edging in at great expense to myself. AND I got prior written approval from the HOA to do so.

So there.

I took this picture a week or so ago. The day lilies started blooming a few days later.

Maple tree, day lilies

I also planted a window box, for which I didn’t need my HOA’s permission. There are celosia and sweet potato vines in the box, and a cat in the window.

celosia, sweet potato

Stay tuned…

p.s. I shared this at Chic On A Shoestring.


Hawaiian Shirt Day, and 271

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I really wanted to wear a Hawaiian shirt to work tomorrow. It’s casual Friday, and some of the guys wear Hawaiian aloha shirts in the summer.

I pulled a shirt out of the back of the closet and noticed it needed ironing. Normally, I would give it the bachelor press. You know, throw it in the dryer with a wet towel. I decided to actually iron it though, and I have photographic proof of this startling occasion.

Aloha shirt

I did have to dust the iron, though.

Although Mom didn’t teach me much, she taught me how to iron. She started me on Dad’s handkerchiefs, and eventually worked me up to shirts. Collar first, then the yoke, the sleeves, the lapels and the body. It’s an art form, you know.

Of course Mom taught me other things that I’m still trying to forget.

Romantic relationships: “Men only want one thing. Control that, and you control them”.

Self-esteem: After looking at my face, sadly, “Well, at least you’re smart”.

More on romantic relationships: “Men don’t like smart girls”.


After ironing my shirt, I decided to catch up on the shredding. I wasn’t able to finish, because I ran out of bags. I really should have thought it through before I recycled a whole bag of paper bags last week. Oops.

I filled 4 bags with shredded paper, so that puts my total count at 271.

Overtime ends tomorrow, and I should have more time after that to work on the garage or the studio (I’ll flip a coin). The overtime I put in netted me an extra $380 in June. Yay!

Stay tuned…

The Front Yard

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Hmmm, my cottage seems to be falling down around my ears. My clothes dryer is screeching, the dishwasher door won’t latch (wash dishes by hand? Oh the humanity!), the Amazon Fire TV doesn’t work, and the gas fireplace has been on the fritz for months.

And besides that, all my light bulbs seem to be burning out. My BFF “G” always replaces my burned-out bulbs when she visits. I call her (cue dramatic music) “The Bringer of Light”.

See, I have a little bit of a fear of heights. Well, actually, it’s a fear of depths. It’s not the fall, it’s the landing on the hard surface below that scares me.

So what did I do last weekend? I worked in the front garden. I weeded around Rocky 2, my maple tree. Then I put mulch in the bare spots. I looked at Rocky’s leaves and found them full of little red blisters. Uh oh, that can’t be good.

The Google says they’re the tree’s natural defense against mites. There’s no spray or anything to kill the mites, and they don’t do permanent damage. You just have to keep the tree healthy and well-hydrated so it can fight them off by itself.

Oh, hydrating the tree is kind of a problem. I’m really bad at hydrating.

I have a water spigot on the front of the house and one on the back. The valves that control the water flow have to be shut off every winter, to keep the pipes from freezing. Then the valves have to be turned on in the spring.

The problem is that the valves are in the very crowded utility closet. They’re near the floor, between the water heater and the furnace, and behind the water softener. I use a long pipe to reach in and turn on the valve for the back spigot. But for the last few years, I haven’t been able to find the valve for the front spigot.

Utility closet

It seems to have totally disappeared. I just don’t understand how that happens. After turning both valves on and off every year for ten years, how does one just disappear?

So I linked three heavy, dirty hoses together and ran them from the back yard to the front yard. I soaked the ground around Rocky’s feet for a good hour. Then I coiled all three hoses back up and put them away.

And then… it rained.

Stay tuned…

p.s. OH MY GODDESS! The second valve is behind the big copper pipe, by the yellow tag, isn’t it? I’ll have water at the front now!

Damn, it’s nasty in there.

Utility Closet Close-up







No Soup For You!

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No.1 Sis and her teenage son were visiting Mom. After chatting for a while, Mom invited them to stay for supper.

My nephew went to the stove where a pot of soup stock was simmering. He pulled the ladle out and came up with a ham bone and a bay leaf.

“Gee. thanks, Grandma”, nephew said, “but I had Bone and Leaf Soup for lunch”.

Being my mother’s daughter, I used to simmer chicken soup stock on the stove. I’d throw in a whole chicken, or a chicken carcass, add some water, veg, and spices, including a bay leaf, of course. Then I’d let it cook for a couple of hours and call it done. It was watery Bone and Leaf Soup.

Recently, No.2 Sis told me she makes the soup stock in the crock pot overnight. Overnight! Like 8-10 hours! I tried it and it was delicious! It was really soup! As in, put it in the refrigerator and it will turn into gelatin. That’s real soup stock.

I probably should have left it alone after I strained it, and just drank it as broth with my meals, but I wanted it to be chicken soup. I got a recipe on-line, added chicken chunks, fresh veg, and spices (no bay leaf). Then I simmered it on the stove for a couple of hours.

Meh. The vegetables were still too crisp. So I cooked it in the crock overnight again.

Not my chicken soup.

Not my chicken soup.

Unfortunately, I kinda dropped the crock while pouring the soup into the storage container. All the broth spilled and I was left with just chicken and veg. I added in commercial broth and reheated it.

Meh. I don’t know if it was the commercial broth, or the absence of the bay leaf, or the combination, but it was a little flavorless. I was so disappointed! After 2 days work, it should have been way better than “meh”.

Next time, more onion, more garlic, and homemade broth.

And a bay leaf. Because who wants Bone Soup when they can have Bone and Leaf Soup?

Stay tuned…

267, and the Laundry Room

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Last weekend I dreamed that I couldn’t find my clothes washer. I wonder why.

Laundry room, before.

Not only is the washer buried, so are the dryer and the laundry tub.

I cleaned it all out and filled 3 bags of recycling, not even counting the boxes on the dryer.There was a bag of mail and newspapers. There were 2 bags of bags. Yes, bags of empty bags. I’ll save anything.

And yes, things are still coming into the house in bags and boxes all the time. The bottom box is a Melaleuca order of vitamins and laundry detergent. The top box is an Amazon order of protein drinks. All consumables, so they won’t take up space for long.

The laundry tub was full of purchases that I had totally forgotten about. I’m SO not cured of my shopping impulse yet. There were rubber gloves and a jar scraper for the kitchen. There was a set of pens that I’m sure I didn’t need. Laurel’s Cottage is kind of  “The House o’ Pens”.

There was a palm sander that I bought to, I don’t know, sand things? Oh yeah, I need to refinish my bedroom nightstands. Someday.

But now it looks like this.

Laundry room, after.

Stay tuned…



Bella, The Brave

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After a long day at The Company, I was lying on the couch, reading a mystery novel. Suddenly, Bella started tearing around the living room and dining room like a cat gone mad.

Then I heard it. The buzzing. Oh, a fly, I thought. Then I saw it. It was huge. Uh oh, a bee?

I got up and wet a dishrag. No, it was really, really huge! A dishtowel.

Oh my Goddess, it’s a wasp or a hornet! I immediately thought of this meme I saw on Pinterest:


Cute, cuddly, fluffy, good for everyone. 1 sting, then it dies.


Skinny, mean as f*ck, good-for-nothing, basically a bee on meth. Infinite stings, thus the aggressiveness.


A wasp on steroids, usually so bad-ass it doesn’t even bother stinging you. Still, stay the f*ck away from it.


As Bella jumped up to catch it, occasionally succeeding, I whipped the dishtowel at it. I was trying to smush it against the wall, but every time I missed and the behemoth would buzz toward me, I’d run away screaming like girl!

But Bella just kept after the monster! Eventually she cornered it, and I beat it against the wall, and then as it fell, I beat it against the floor. Finally, we were victorious! Oh my great Goddess, the adrenaline!

Bella and I took a couple of victory laps around the kitchen island (in slo-mo) and then we both collapsed onto the bed with tuna treats. Ahhhh.




This is probably is a good time to remind you that June is “Adopt a Cat” month in the U.S. If this story hasn’t inspired you to run to your nearest shelter and pick out a new feline, I have many others!

Actually, you don’t pick a feline to adopt. It’s more like a cat hires you to be its staff. But still, it’s a good gig. Think about it.

Stay tuned…

p.s. I will definitely have nightmares from seeing all the bee/wasp/hornet pictures on Pinterest while looking for that meme. And I’m already operating on an 8 hour sleep deficit, due to working overtime at The Company. Well worth it, though (both the OT and the link to the meme).

p.p.s. I shared this at Chic On a Shoestring.

Spam Flashback

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Have you ever been walking around, minding your own business, when the sight of something unexpected slams you back into a long-forgotten episode from your youth? I think Dr. Ima Shrink would call it Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

On our way down to Nashville, the sisters and I stopped a gas station in Missouri for gas (duh) and car snacks. I was walking up and down the aisles of the little station, trying to pick out the best snack for the next leg of our journey.

Suddenly, there it was, right at eye level, a whole shelf of Spam.


For those of you unaware of what Spam is, lucky you. It’s a disgusting, canned meat-like product made by the Hormel company*. In my youth, Hormel had a slaughter-house/ packing plant in Austin, Minnesota. Maybe they still do.

When I was in the sixth grade, our teacher, Sister Pete, decided visiting Hormel would be a wonderfully educational experience. Either that, or she was a sadist, as nuns are wont to be.

The students, including myself, were just happy to get out of classes for the day. We eagerly took our permission slips home to our parents to get them signed, and packed a lunch for the big day.

It was a 90 minute bus ride to Austin from Rochester, and it was full of the happy chatter and good-natured sparring of prisoners unexpectedly granted their freedom.

I don’t remember if we went through a canning area or if we saw any packaging lines that, no doubt, would have sparked my engineering interests.

I only remember the processing rooms. Whole pigs hanging by hooks, while workers expertly gutted them, letting the entrails drop onto a slowly moving conveyor belt. I remember the workers wearing rubber boots, as they stood in blood up to their ankles. And I remember the heat, and the overwhelming stench.

Have I mentioned that nuns are often quite sadistic?

After the torment, I mean tour, we went to a local park to eat our bag lunches. Most of the kids had some kind of meat sandwich that they really couldn’t eat without gagging. They went hungry, poor souls. Poor, green-at-the gill souls.

I was a “hot-lunch” kid, which meant my parents had me buy the lunch the school served. We didn’t really have any lunch meat or other fixings in the house, so I had to pack a sugar sandwich (on white bread) for my lunch that day.

I was embarrassed to have to pull my sugar sandwich out of a full-size grocery bag, but I was grateful that I could actually eat.

Let me tell you, the ride back to Rochester was much quieter than the ride to Austin. And my trust in teachers was forever shaken.

Stay tuned…

*All opinions about Spam are strictly my own. Judging from the many flavors of Spam now available, I’m sure tons of people absolutely love it.

Necklace Repairs

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While I was on vacation in Nashville a couple of weeks ago, I looked for a pretty blue necklace that made my heart sing. No luck. I found nothing.

When I got home, I looked at the blue necklaces I already had. They needed some rework, so I took care of that this weekend.

I bought the first necklace in Morocco, umpty-eleven years ago. It’s lapis and turquoise. The necklace is a little short, and the hook scratched my neck, so I haven’t worn it very much.

Moroccan necklace #1

I removed the hook, and tied a piece of ribbon to each end of the necklace. Then I tied the loose end of the ribbon to the opposite ribbon. This made the length adjustable.

Moroccan necklace #2

Here’s the finished, more wearable piece.

Moroccan necklace #3

Next, I pulled out a fetish necklace that my BFF “L” had given me. It had belonged to her late mom, Snooks, and it was lapis and azurite with hand-carved dolphin fetishes. The necklace’s clasp had broken one day while I was wearing it.

I restrung the entire necklace, except for two dolphins. I made a pair of earrings from those (hanging from the neck of the shirt).

Fetish necklace

Last, but not least, I repaired a broken blue-green necklace. One of the chains had broken loose on one side, so I just reconnected it. Easy-peasy.

Aqua necklace

Now I have three new-old necklaces, and one new pair of earrings. Cost: $0. (Earring hooks and bead wire were already in my stash.)

By the way, I earned $98.50 in May from my rummage sale items. Not bad! I might try to sell something on E-bay to make extra money in June. There is a rumor going around work that overtime is imminent, so we’ll see.

Stay tuned…

p.s. I shared this at Chic On a Shoestring.