Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Oyez! Oyez!

Please don't hate me because we went to Maui last week, even though we'd just been to Kauai in November. My brother planned the trip for his family and asked us to come along. My nieces are 7 and 9 and the sweetest kids and I didn't want to miss seeing Hawaii through their eyes, especially when they're at such delightful ages.

I tried to convince Greg to come but wasn't having much luck. Then my nieces sent him letters, including this one from Tabi:

Greg hates glitter with a white-hot passion. Only a monster would say no.

At Christmas I told Tabi she was a genius and she sighed and said conspiratorially, "There's probably going to be some glitter." She's the best.

So. Anyway. We went to Maui and instead of visiting gardens we hung out with my nieces and swam and ate burgers and swam and swam and swam. It was awesome. How cute are they? They are still, for the moment, super affectionate and not embarrassed to hold my hand in public. So wonderful.

We went on a sunset sail the first full day we were there and humpback whales were breaching all around us.

All week you could just look out on the horizon and you'd see whales leaping, slapping their dorsal fins, or shooting plumes out of their blowholes. I've never seen a whale in the wild, so that was really neat. We also took a snorkeling tour and got to swim with the biggest green sea turtles. I could lay on the surface of the water and watch sea turtles forever. They're more transfixing than TV, though you can't play on the computer in your sweatpants while you watch them.

Greg and I stayed two nights longer than my family so we could have some time alone. Greg, unbeknownst to me, made arrangements for us to have dinner in a little bungalow by the beach so we could watch the sunset while we ate dinner. Then he shocked the hell out of me by asking me to marry him. After hanging out with my family for a week!

I reacted, not by crying like a normal person, but by getting really sweaty and forgetting how old I was. Our server asked me my age and I said, "37." Greg was like, "You know you're 36 for another month, right?" And I made him pull out a calculator and make sure he was right. I honestly couldn't remember.

So I think I got so happy I had a tiny stroke! I went to the bathroom and I saw a miniature frog, which I considered a good omen. In retrospect maybe he wasn't real? Either way, I'm really happy and I'm sure the feeling is going to come back to my arm soon.

Our server was so excited about our engagement, she didn't want to leave our sides. She told us about growing up in the Philippines, her son's job, the hotel where they stayed in Times Square, the time they went to Washington DC . . . She also took about a thousand photos of me and Greg, making sure to cut off parts of our heads so she could get the table settings in the photo. She was a hoot. She also told us the key to a good marriage was giving in, "And I guess the bible says women should submit?" which made Greg laugh and me shake my head vigorously. She really was sweet but very goofy.

Now we're trying to figure out where we can get married where we don't actually have to PLAN the wedding. Wedding planning sounds like the most boring thing ever. I love throwing parties but most weddings seem like a lot of work toward creating things that no one remembers, like decorations, favors, and ornamental poufs. Instead they remember if the food sucked and if your friend made a super awkward toast.

So if anyone knows where you can get married by a sea turtle, hit me up. If the turtle could do all the planning, even better.

Between this and spring coming, I feel like my heart may burst. It makes me feel even more passionately that marriage needs to be available to everyone. How anyone could deny this wonderful feeling to any of their fellow humans boggles my mind.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Garden bloggers' bloom day February 2014

I've always felt that February is the cruelest month. The only bright side is that it's also the shortest. Thank goodness for bright spots like crocuses.

Crocus chrysanthus 'Romance'

Mahonia 'Underway'

Helleborus x ballardiae 'HGC Pink Frost'

Sarcococca ruscifolia

The last of the blooms are clinging to Mahonia x media 'Arthur Menzies', which got pretty beat up by the snow.

I'm so ready for spring and more blooms. I think the hummingbirds are too, they're sick of fighting over my slim pickings.

Happy bloom day! Be sure to check out the fun over at May Dreams Garden.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Love yourself, check your supplies

We don't celebrate Valentine's Day around these parts. I think it's a silly holiday, though I do enjoy the extra chocolate that seems to pop up at work. I was thinking about what this silly stupid holiday could be good for and I thought about emergency preparedness.

A year ago we had a dinner party to celebrate the anniversary of the Cascadia quake. It was really fun but I think we scared the shit out of our guests. This year Greg had the brilliant idea to do zombie preparedness instead. I could still harp on people to be prepared for emergencies but within the safety of a discussion about how awesome The Walking Dead is.

In the course of the evening I found out one of my friends doesn't own a fire extinguisher and I proceeded to harangue her ALL night. I am the worst hostess ever. We played a round of Zombo, which is just like Bingo except it hopefully inspires a feeling of panic in those who don't have emergency supplies at home.

So how about this year we check our emergency supplies instead of trying to get a reservation for that restaurant that will charge you twice what it would on any other night? Maybe you can eat that canned food that's going to expire soon. The list above is by no means complete, but it's a great start.

So this is your gentle reminder: give your sweetheart a real gift and check your emergency supplies. If nothing else, when you see the valentines candy at the grocery store, I want you to think "disaster."

Your fire extinguishers: are they still within their expiration dates? When natural disasters hit, emergency services get overwhelmed. Fires are very common after earthquakes/zombie attacks and the fire department may not be able to get to you. If you don't yet own a fire extinguisher, you can order one online or buy them at any hardware store.

Do you have a first aid kit? I'm not talking about the old box of band-aids in your bathroom cabinet. If something sharp fell on you (or your dog or your cat) and caused a deep gash, do you have supplies to staunch the bleeding? If emergency rooms are overwhelmed, do you have enough first aid supplies to take care of non-life threatening injuries?

Do you have enough food set aside for three days of meals? When we first started putting together our kit I thought, "We've got loads of food in our kitchen cabinets!" It turns out a lot of it (assuming we could get to it) wasn't ideal. We had a lot of pasta, which would require a stove, a pot, and precious water. Have you ever eaten black beans straight from the can? They don't taste very good. Instead we stocked up on baked beans, spaghetti-os, canned fruit, refried beans, and things that are edible straight from the can. This is the first time in my life that I bought processed, sugared peanut butter.

You may get caught in an emergency situation while in your car. Do you have supplies there? Remember after Katrina how the highways were like parking lots? You may need to hang out in your car for some time. Having some food and water, plus a small first aid kit would be a good idea. You can buy pre-made kits on Amazon (I don't make any money off of these Amazon links, I just don't like leaving the house).

Do you have spare food for your pets? What if a disaster strikes and you had planned to get food at the vet/store that day? Stores might now be closed or unreachable. Portland shuts down when there is one inch of snow on the ground. Even a minor disaster will likely bring us to our knees.

In our party bags this year we packed mylar blankets, twinkies, and glow sticks. My next goal for myself is to pack "go bags" for Greg and I. Ideally we'd have backpacks stuffed with extra clothes and basic supplies, in case the house was collapsing/on fire and we needed to grab it and go. I also need to get my bicycle in working condition.

Do I have everyone feeling sufficiently panicked? How about we calm down by looking at this photo from the recent snow.

Remember: Valentine candy = disaster. Delicious disaster.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

I only like the cold when it does stuff like this

Because this winter has been so much colder than the last, some of my evergreen perennials are doing wonderful things. I don't even mean that sarcastically.

The cold turned my Mahonia nervosa wine-colored. The stems are pink! I recently read up on this plant and discovered that it doesn't want full sun, where I have mine sited. It's done fine so far (I barely watered it last summer) so I'm going to keep it there until it screams.

Parahebe perfoliata's purple stems have spilled their coloring into some of the leaves, making it even better looking than before.

On the downside, my favorite agave is mush.

Agave parryi, ay yi yi.

This was before six inches of snow fell. It's completely rotted through and there's no saving it. Sigh. I guess I'll just have to go shopping at Cistus for a more cold-hardy replacement! 

Monday, February 3, 2014

Dasylirion texanum is my favorite plant in the garden (this week)

When Greg and I were in Amsterdam we went to the Botanical Garden. I flew halfway around the world to see gunnera for the first time, a plant that grows incredibly well in Portland. I had no idea it existed! I also witnessed the biggest agave I'd ever seen in the flesh and a Dasylirion acrotrichum. I was totally fascinated by how soft (looking) and kinetic such a spiky plant could be. I fell in love.

Two years ago I picked up a Dasylirion texanum at Rare Plant Research.

It's taken its sweet time bulking up but it's finally starting to come into its own.

The filifers are perfectly coiffed.

Those perfect ribbons of green sport teeth that glow in the sunlight.

I can't wait to see how it fills out the berm as it continues to grow.

It's a tough SOB, zones 5a-11. It can form a trunk (which may be partly buried beneath the ground), with an eventual height and width of 3-5', depending on who you ask. It needs well drained soil but handles the ample moisture in Portland well. It's heat and drought tolerant, liking sun to part shade. It has handled the recent freeze as well as some scorching heat with no sign of stress at all. It will eventually form a 9-15' flower stalk. BITCHIN'.

My favorite plant in the garden this week is hosted by Loree at Danger Garden. Be sure to check out what she's liking this week!