In 2018, an anonymous person planted some iris on the common ground area closest to our house. The flowers were a pleasant surprise when I took my daily walk and I’ve been looking forward to them every spring since 2018. At first, the iris looked like this photo. The arrow shows where the planting stopped–at the fourth rock.

Last year, I noticed some additional iris plants at the next two rocks. This year, the bed is expanding even more. The turquoise arrow shows one of the 2020 additional plants–a white iris. The green arrow shows a new 2021 iris (not blooming), and the orange arrow shows something different: a little shrub. The yellow arrow points to where the floral display now ends–at the eleventh rock. I wonder if the plan is to eventually plant something at every rock.

Here’s a closer look at the new shrub. I assume the gardener painted the top of the stake red so the grounds crew wouldn’t mow the little bush. It’s not blooming, but I hope it will be a blooming bush. Maybe next year.

Meanwhile, the original purple iris at the first four rocks continue to thrive and I continue to enjoy them when I walk by.

As I was looking at the pictures of Jeff and La with Ollie, their first grandchild, I couldn’t help remembering when Ted and I had Jeff and my parents became grandparents for the first time. It logically followed to remember when Jeff and La had Alex, making Ted and me grandparents for the first time. Expanding on this theme, Jeff was the first great-grandchild of my maternal grandparents and Ollie is Ted’s and my first great-grandchild. Grandma and Grandpa, Mom and Dad, Ted and I, and Jeff and La were all approximately the same age when we had our first child and when we became grandparents for the first time. And yet, . . .

. . . I can’t get over how young I feel compared to how old my parents and grandparents seemed to be when Jeff was born. Maybe that’s the perspective of youth looking at age. Is it wishful thinking on my part, or do we look (and act) younger than previous generations did at the same age? Look at the pictures below as you consider that question.

This four-generation picture was taken when Jeff was ten months old. Ted and I are in the center with Jeff, and I’m five months pregnant with Kathy. My grandparents are on the left and my parents are on the right. Remember, Jeff is my parents’ first grandchild and my grandparents’ first great-grandchild.

Let’s jump ahead a generation. Here are Jeff and La with their first grandchild, Ollie, and Ted and I with our first grandchild, Alex.

Here are Ollie’s great-grandparents. We haven’t met Ollie yet, so we don’t have a picture of the three of us.

What’s your verdict on the aging thing? Ted and I choose to think we look younger than our parents and grandparents did at our age. Whether or not that’s true, it makes us happy to think so.

We’ve had a cool spring, so rhubarb has had a great season. For rhubarb lovers, this is good news, but if you don’t have a rhubarb patch of your own, it’s sometimes difficult to find fresh rhubarb in the grocery stores. Kathy, however, has sources, and she contacted her peeps to fill a big bag of rhubarb to bring to me when she visited this weekend. I’m going to freeze it and look forward to rhubarb in the future.

Here I am, cutting the stalks and filling quart containers for future rhubarb pies and kuchens.

Kathy’s big gift bag of rhubarb was filled with nearly six quarts of the delicious vegetable. I set one quart aside for a fresh (not frozen) rhubarb pie for dinner tonight.

I smiled all the way to the freezer and I can’t wait for dessert tonight.

Ted and I had a semi-spontaneous family weekend with our daughters and their families. “Semi-spontaneous” means the idea came up only a few days before the event. Isn’t it odd how, when you try to plan something for the more distant future, it’s hard to coordinate everyone’s calendar, but in the short term everyone says “Sure, we can be there”? It was fun!

This is the family birthday season when we have five birthdays plus Mother’s Day over a period of just a few weeks. Of course, I always celebrate a birthday “season” for myself and family members have teased me about it in the past. This year, because of COVID restrictions, several other family members admitted that their birthday celebrations have been extended to more than one experience as well. They’re learning how much fun a birthday season can be.

For many years, Kathy has made cloth gift bags for her gifts. We all enjoy her bags and, while we were sewing Teddy’s draperies, Kari mentioned that she’d like to learn to sew Christmas gift bags as a future project with me. I decided to start practicing and trying different ideas, so I made seven gift bags for this birthday bash. I tried lots of things: one and two-color bags with matched and offset fabrics; center and side fabric joinings; zigzag seams and French seams; buttonhole and seamed openings for cording; threaded ties with and without a ruffle above the cord; fabric, braided, and ribbon handles; envelope and rectangular bottoms; decorative stitching, etc. It was fun and I now know what’s easy, what’s time-consuming, and some of what does and doesn’t work real well. All the bags turned out nicely, and I’m ready to get started on Kari’s and my Christmas bag project.

Dean’s birthday was the earliest, so he opened his gifts first.

Next on the calendar was Teddy, who is now a teenager. They grow up so fast!

Kari’s birthday fell last, so she was third to open her gifts. That box in front of Kari is filled with bag-making Christmas fabric and notions. It was part of Kathy’s and Annette’s birthday gift to help Kari get started sewing her Christmas gift bags.

About a month ago, Kari told me that if Ted and I need a birthday gift idea for her, she’d like a bicycle helmet. She has one, but she hates wearing it because it’s uncomfortable. One time when she was at our house, she borrowed my helmet and said she liked it so much that if we didn’t give her a nice helmet for her birthday, she was going to buy one herself. In my opinion, that gave Ted and me a clear direction for what to give her for her birthday.

Because shipping sometimes equals or exceeds the cost of the gift, Kathy and Annette included Mother’s Day and Father’s Day gifts for Ted and me too, so we expanded the birthday celebration parameters.

While we were spending time visiting, Kathy and Annette brought up how difficult it sometimes is to take a photo with a cell phone when your finger or thumb can’t reach the shutter button. I showed Kathy how I use a floating shutter button and then we looked through her settings until we found one that will allow her and Annette to touch any point on the screen to take a picture. We tried it out with a selfie without considering the background or anything else–we just wanted to try clicking the screen to make sure this worked like it should. The picture turned out pretty decent–not counting the overhead light whiting out my left side.

Teddy had the honor of selecting the birthday cake. He made it himself and got creative with a family favorite–ice cream cake. I might have these flavors wrong, but I think the three parts of the cake were: (1) chocolate ice cream with hot fudge sauce and mint Oreo crumbs for the topping; (2) vanilla ice cream with butterscotch sauce and chopped butterscotch chips in the topping; and (3) traditional vanilla ice cream with hot fudge sauce and regular Oreo crumbs for topping. So many choices!

The family time was great but, as always, ended too soon. We all hope to have another get-together soon and (hopefully) with better weather. We were all looking forward to some pool and hot tub time, but the weather was cool and rainy all day. Pool and hot tub next time, right? Right.

A few weeks ago, Jeff and La were able to visit Alex and Kaitlyn to see their first grandchild. It’s still hard for me to believe that Ted and I have a child old enough to be a grandparent and that we are great-grandparents, but we’re excited about it and are looking forward to meeting Ollie later this year. Jeff posted some very nice photos of Ollie with his grandpa and grandma, and I’m shamelessly lifting them for my blog because I like them so much.

First, we have Jeff with Ollie.

Next, we have La and Ollie. Does she look old enough to be a Grandma?

And finally, my favorite. Jeff described this picture as Grandpa and his talented grandson singing a cover of Billy Joel’s “Piano Man.”

Note: All photo and copyright (if any) credit goes to Jeff. Thanks, Grandpa Jeff.

I’ve had a hankering for something sweet and have been wanting to bake something. I couldn’t decide what to bake until Thom sent a photo of a roasted rhubarb cobbler Katie made. Then, while I was talking with Kathy on the phone, she mentioned having fresh rhubarb and wanting a cobbler. I decided two mentions of rhubarb within a week was a sign from the gods. I decided to bake a rhubarb cobbler.

I made a quick run to the grocery store for some fresh rhubarb.

It didn’t take long to wash and chop the rhubarb, and it didn’t take much longer to mix the crust and the topping for my own rhubarb cobbler. Ted and I enjoyed some of it–still a little warm from the oven–for our dinner dessert this evening. Mm-mm good.

When the world locked down for COVID-19 in March 2020, there were few places to go, few things to do away from home, and lots of time to stay home and do very little. During the lockdown, Ted and I often said we’d go crazy if we didn’t have a backyard so we could get out of the house, and if we couldn’t exercise outdoors. A lot of other people in our area felt the same way–in the 40+ years we’ve lived here, we’ve never before seen so many people walking and biking in our neighborhood.

With documentation always on my mind (too much educational research in my background), I decided to track Ted’s and my exercise during the lockdown. The plan was to do it for three months because a three-month chart fit on a sheet of graph paper. Who knew we’d be living with COVID for over a year?? As the COVID restrictions continued, we thought it might be interesting to track our exercise for a year. We talked about what counted as exercise and decided on the following: walking, biking, Pilates, and anything indoors or outdoors that required at least an hour of effort and boosted our heart and respiratory rates. That category was cleverly titled “Other.” Because of COVID restrictions, our Pilates class didn’t meet from March until September but, during that time, we did hour-long Pilates routines in our basement.

Ted and I have always exercised regularly, but tracking our time provided affirmation of how regularly we exercise. It also showed us that when we take a day or two off from exercising, we don’t have to feel guilty about it. For example, one week in August when it was hot and we just didn’t feel like exercising, we marked off a week on our chart as “vacation.” So there! Even with that exercise-free week, we averaged 8.4 hours per week of exercise in August. Not surprisingly, we exercised the most in June (warm, but not too humid yet–average of 13.87 hours/week) and the least in December (cold weather and all those Christmas preparations–average of 5.6 hours/week).

The CDC recommends 30 minutes of moderate exercise 5 days per week (2.5 hours/week) or 25 minutes of vigorous exercise 3 days per week (1.25 hours/week). We exceeded those guidelines, and we are pretty proud of that. Even in our lowest month (December–5.6 hours/week) our exercise time was more than double what the CDC suggests. Here are the stats for our exercise in the past year.

In the coming year, we plan to alternate more walking with our biking. Why? Because when the weather became too cold to bike, we marched up the steep hill on the street beside our house and realized (puff, puff) that, although our legs were really strong, biking wasn’t giving us a sufficient cardio workout. Other than that, the plan is to keep on keepin’ on. Move it or lose it, right?

According to Alfred Lord Tennyson, “In the spring, a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.” A homeowner’s fancy, on the other hand, turns to thoughts of outdoor spring clean-up. That’s what Ted and I have been doing for the past few weeks.

  • We had a new pool liner installed.
  • We had a new pool pump installed.
  • We drained and cleaned the hot tub.
  • We had the air conditioner inspected and cleaned.
  • We had the irrigation system turned on.
  • We bought a redbud tree to replace the maple tree that was removed last summer. The nursery planted it, but Ted and I removed grass from around the tree and replaced it with weed-resistant fabric and decorative rock.
  • We planted flowers. I shopped for and selected flowers while Ted ran other errands. I fell for a hibiscus tree (center, ahead of Ted). It won’t survive the Missouri winter, but it should be gorgeous all summer.
  • We hauled the lawn furniture out of the storage shed and washed it.
  • We took the covers off and chased the bugs out of the outdoor umbrellas.
  • I washed all the dirt off the concrete while Ted put things away.
  • We’re finished and ready to relax in our backyard resort while we let our fancy lightly turn to thoughts of something else.