Monthly Archives: March 2011

Drumroll please…

I'd eat peaches every day.

In the month of March, I bicycled 138.45 miles.

Fleur

I ran 5.7 miles.

Last year's peach with this year's flowers

I roller skated 2.5 miles.

Covered in Spanish Moss

I walked 58.85 miles.

Wildflower

My grand total was 205 miles! Hooray! I’m going to make April’s goal 225 miles, because the weather is going to be better and I know I can get some more bike rides in.

*all photos taken during my walk on March 10

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Green Snapdragon

New site logo!

Dan and I have spent the past few weeks working on my new business website, the business I’ve been thinking of starting for a couple of years now. Please, go check out the site and tell me what you think!

Special thanks to my pal Erin, who got me out of the morass of overthinking the name, and suggested I use my favorite flower as the business name. There are many floral businesses named Snapdragon, but I’m the only Green Snapdragon out there.

I’m hoping that having a website will help bring in a bit more business, and maybe once I’ve got a few more jobs under my belt, I can start advertising someplace. Craziness!

Bellefleur, part 2: Or, what I did for my birthday

I think that pretty much every year since I’ve started this blog, I’ve written some sort of maudlin post about my birthday and it’s all deep and meaningful or whiny or whatever. Last year’s birthday was pretty bad, and I decided a few weeks in advance that I was going to have a better day this year. So on March 1, along with several other people on a message board I read, I started a 100 Mile March. I planned to run, walk, or cycle 100 miles during the month of March. It sounded daunting at first, but doing the math it would only be an average of 3-ish miles per day. Which is totally do-able! It’s not like we’ve been sedentary since we’ve been here; we’ve done tons of bike rides and I’ve done lots of walks and walk-runs, and I knew if the weather cooperated I could make it. Going 100 miles was something to add structure to my day and to my time, and a goal to work toward, and something that might help me feel like less of a useless slug.

Several days into my plan, after motivation had me running, walking, and/or riding my bike every day, I realized that maybe I could do 100 miles by my birthday, as our bike rides were long enough and frequent enough that they began to add up. I kept track of my mileage, measuring the walks/runs I did with a pedometer and the bike rides using an online running map. I had completed 93.3 miles by March 11th, the day before my wine cave job, which left me three days to complete the remaining 6.7 miles. After the 20 mile bike ride on the 11th, giving blood, and six hours on my feet the next day doing the flowers, I was pretty wiped out, so Saturday the 12th was the first day of March I didn’t do any intentional exercise.

The next day, I spent the day and evening in Santa Rosa with my mom and her boyfriend. After discussing several options for how to enjoy our day, we settled on lunch in Graton and roller skating (!). Yes! My mom took me roller skating for my 32nd birthday. I had my pedometer on all day, in case we had decided to go for a walk, and also wore it during the roller skating to see if it would track my mileage (but it totally didn’t work right, of course). I had lots of fun on the skates, watching kids of all ages and adults either fly, stumble, or dance around the rink. My mom had fun, too, though I think she got tired more easily than I did. It had been at least ten years since I’d been on roller skates, so if nothing else it was a chance for me to see how comfortable I felt and how much work I’d need to get up to the level I’d need to be to try out for Roller Derby.

I noticed that the pedometer wasn’t accurately tracking my distance (I didn’t expect it to do so, of course), so I asked one of the employees of the skating rink if she knew the circumference of the track. I kept a mental tally of the number of times I skated around the rink, and if I knew the distance around I could get a better approximation of the miles I’d gone on four wheels. She asked the manager, who informed her that he only knew the length and width of the rink, not the circumference. I thanked her and went back out for a few more laps.

At that point, I had been skating for over an hour, and while my left hip area (and by hip area I mean deep butt cheek muscle) was getting pretty sore from taking the curves in the same direction over and over again, I was feeling far more confident in my balance. So as I rounded the last curve on the last lap before my exit plan, I thought about the math I might need to do in order to figure out my mileage and not about what my feet and body were doing. And ten feet before my planned graceful exit from the roller rink, I ended up tripping and falling on my hands and knees. Right in front of everybody. Because it’s a normal and dignified for a 32-year-old woman to do.

My knees were pretty bruised up, and I broke a blood vessel in the meat of my hand, but mostly I was just a little unsettled because of how HARD I had fallen. I guess being up on the wheels of the skates, plus the surface of the rink, plus being 32 all added up to me feeling jarred. If I do end up trying out for derby someday, I think I’ll need to practice falling safely for a while first.

I got home from my day with mom and a friend helped me find a link to figure out the circumference of an ellipse. Armed with the length and width, and the number of laps I’d skated, I was able to guesstimate that I’d skated 2.5 miles, and walked one. Which left me with 3.2 miles left toward my 100 miles-by-my-birthday goal.

Monday the 14th I turned 32. As it turns out, I estimated pretty closely the amount of flowers I’d need to do the wine cave job, but there were a few flowers left over, especially the flowers I had bought to make the large arrangement. So rather than keep all the leftovers or throw them out, I decided to make a few arrangements with what remained and give them to various friends here in town. I made a large bouquet for my friend Heather, who has been in and out of the hospital with some pretty scary health issues the past several months. I made two small nosegays for her daughters. I made a different arrangement for my friend Cadi, who lent me clothing to wear for my job interview. And I made an arrangement to use as a centerpiece on our dinner table, because we’d asked a couple of other friends to come over for my birthday dinner. Dan ran an errand in Healdsburg and delivered Cadi’s arrangement while I walked to Heather’s house holding a large bouquet in a jar of water in one hand and a smaller jar holding two little ones in the other. My arms were pretty tired by the time I got there! Heather liked her flowers and Natty and Paigey liked theirs quite a bit, so that made me feel good that I was able to make pretty things for them. (I also made an arrangement from the leftovers from my trial centerpieces back in February, though I never blogged about it, and brought it to the girls while Heather was in the hospital.)

For Cadi

For Cadi

After visiting with Heather and her family a little while, I walked home. It was 3.5 miles roundtrip, so I completed my goal of 100 miles by my birthday, and was able to do nice things for other people as well.

For Heather

For Natalie

Wee bouquet

We had tasty homemade Indian food for dinner, and enjoyed our company, and when they were ready to go I offered the dinner centerpiece to Karen for her to take home, which I don’t think she was expecting. I’ve decided it’s fun to surprise people with flowers, and I’m glad that it was the theme of my birthday this year.

For Paige

Bellefleur, part 1

Six weeks ago or so, one of my high school friends sent me a message on Facebook.

“You do flowers, right?” she said. She’d seen the flowers photos I’d posted after doing the October wedding, and remembered. My friend works for a winery in Alexander Valley, and she told me about this big event they do every year for their wine club members, a fancy sit-down dinner in honor of Cyrus Alexander (for whom the valley was named), with a wine pairing for each course. “We need 10 centerpieces,” my friend said. “Do you think you’d be interested?” The best part, of course, was that the dinner is served in their WINE CAVE. (How cool is that?)

She put me in contact with the person in charge of the event, and I went out to visit the space. Barrels lined the walls of each branch and tunnel, and I pictured how it might look with one long table, set with linens and candles, stemware gleaming, and my flowers. I’d emailed photos of my work, but the lady wanted to see a sample arrangement, so in February, armed with the knowledge of their linen color choices and a 5×5 glass vase, I got some flowers at the wholesale place in Santa Rosa and a few more at Trader Joe’s and I made two arrangement options, one more formal/elegant and one more in my style (including some mustard, which blooms everywhere around here all spring.) The lady liked the one in my style best but her partner who was the final word on decision-making chose the more traditional style. And they decided to have me do a large arrangement for their tasting room as well.

Everything was set to go. I gave them an invoice with my estimated material and hourly costs, including the time spent and materials I’d used for the trial centerpieces. I planned a trip to the San Francisco Flower mart for March 10, giving me an extra day to acquire anything else I needed and for the flowers to open some. But on Monday, the lady I’d been working with called me to say that her coworker had been let go, and she was suddenly made aware that he had ordered 12 tables instead of ten, so she was panicking and asked if I could do two extra centerpieces. Then, she said that she’d liked the “my style” version of the centerpiece I’d done and gave me free reign to make them the way I wanted. I sent an updated invoice to include the additional labor and material costs, and Thursday Dan and I drove south, arrived at the Flower Mart just after it opened to the public at 10 AM (it will be months before I get a wholesaler’s badge, as I need my business license and then I need to apply and then I need to wait etc. etc.), and explored the market. It was an amazing experience for me (I suspect Dan had less of a good time, since he was essentially my pack mule and probably couldn’t care less about flowers), and I’m looking forward to going again to get the supplies for Leah and Simon’s wedding.

But I digress. Thursday night, I did two hours of flower prep – stripping leaves, trimming stems, removing newspaper wrappings. Friday, I picked up my check from the winery and then we went on another 20 mile bike ride around Alexander Valley and Dry Creek Valley and then, while heading home, we passed by a community blood drive at the Geyserville Grange, so we stopped and I donated blood and saw at least five people I recognized as parents of preschool and elementary school classmates but didn’t remember their names. Plus a high school teacher. We went home and I drank lots of water, trying to rehydrate and prepare for Saturday.

And then, Saturday came. I got up pretty early, got all my stuff together, and loaded buckets full of flowers and a hastily-assembled peanut butter sandwich into the car. We drove to Geyserville where I picked a few lupines to include in my arrangements and we stopped at the side of the road near the winery for mustard. And then, by about 9:30 AM, I was in the zone, cutting and assembling and experimenting in the winery’s commercial kitchen.

It took me six hours, about an hour and a half longer than I’d expected it to, but I successfully created twelve centerpiece arrangements and one large arrangement. Sadly, I only have photos of the arrangements themselves and none of them in the wine cave, as the caterers didn’t arrive to set up the tables before I finished my part of the job. I asked whether the lady I was working with would take photos, but she hadn’t thought to bring a camera, either.

But now I have more examples of my work, and another reference, AND I got PAID! Yay!

Anemone, freesia, mustard

Blurry and the colors aren't quite right

Leaf-wrapped interior

Amaranthus, kiwi vine, alstromeria, snapdragon, freesia

Liatris, lisianthus, bells of ireland, iris, freesia, snapdragon, lisianthus, anemone

What can happen in 90 seconds

Some time several months ago, Dan and I were at the feed store where we buy our cats’ food and litter when we came across a rainbow-striped cat harness with leash. Since for the first time we’re living in a house with a big fenced yard, we had started to talk about the possibility of trying each cat, one at a time, on the harness outside for a couple of minutes to see how they liked it. Both cats are avid watchers of what we call the Kitty Show (aka watching out the various windows and sliding glass doors and looking at all the wildlife that traipses through the yard) so we thought they might like to try some (brief, supervised) time outside.

Neither cat seemed to enjoy the experience overly much during the couple of initial outings, so we kind of forgot about it for a while. Then, January happened, and it was warm-ish and sunny and didn’t rain for nearly a month. We thought it might be fun to see if either of the cats was interested in outside time again. One day in mid-January, Dan put the harness on Loki and brought him outside the back door. Somehow, the cat managed to wriggle out of the harness, knock over several yard tools, run through a leaf pile, and hightail it back in the house, seemingly within the blink of an eye. All told, he was probably outside for about a minute and a half.

A few days later, Loki started scratching.

He scratched, and he bit himself, and he started pulling fur out of his back. He was acting like he had fleas, though I couldn’t see how he could possibly have them, since we’d been in the house for months with nary a sign of fleas anywhere. I checked him for flea poop and monitored Robin but I couldn’t find any sign other than Loki’s obvious discomfort. I found one flea in our bed early on, but neither Dan and I nor Robin seemed to be getting bitten at all. We realized that he must have picked up a flea during that 90 second jaunt outside (in January) (in barely 60 degree weather). We’d never had to worry about fleas at all in Denver, since there aren’t really fleas in Denver, and the cats were always indoor-only there. But squirrels and neighborhood cats run through our yard all the time, so I guess somehow there was a flea that managed to get on Loki during that minute and a half. Eventually, we decided that we’d just treat them both for fleas and be done with it, so we got some of that Advantage stuff and dosed both felines, washed the bedding and the rugs and vacuumed the carpets, thinking that would be the end of it.

It wasn’t the end of it. He kept scratching and digging. I didn’t see more flea poop on Loki, so I brought him in to the vet thinking maybe he had a flea allergy and he’d need a steroid shot to feel better. The vet found flea poop that hadn’t been there when I’d checked, gave him the shot, and told us to give him another dose of Advantage and flea powder the carpets in the house. So we did.

The shot, which wasn’t cheap (and neither was the vet visit) didn’t seem to give the cat any relief. He was starting to look all manky and bald on his back. We dutifully flea powdered all the carpets. Then one day I had gone into the bedroom to fold laundry on the bed, and I watched in horror as three adult fleas emerged from the fluffy, down-filled spread we had on the bed, the one thing that we hadn’t washed when we washed everything else because of the down filling. ARGH. It was disgusting, to watch the fleas come out to try and feed on me. I killed them all and immediately dragged all of our bedding outside and threw up in my mouth and then I threw the spread into the washing machine and washed it on hot. I’m sure the fluffiness will never be the same, but I’ll never be the same after seeing those fleas pop out from between the fibers of the fabric cover.

All of the bedding got washed again, and we vacuumed and flea-sprayed down our mattress and the bedroom rug again and the furniture in the living room. And Loki went after Robin.

We’ve had Robin now for over 14 months. During that time, we’ve had periods of time where the cats ignored each other or seemed to have interest in one another but generally left one another alone. We’ve also had times during which Loki goes after Robin ever chance he gets. Those times seem to coincide with stress, and I think the stress of having fleas for the first time in his life must have been more than his poor little walnut brain could handle, because since the flea problem started, Loki has been more vicious in his attacks. We’ve tried the things we’d learned second-hand from an animal behaviorist – praising him when she walks through the room and he doesn’t chase her; squirting him with a water bottle when he’s considering going after her; isolating him in a room when he does chase or attack her. Until the flea problem began, Loki seemed to be getting it through his head that his predatory behavior toward the other cat was unacceptable. But once that began, all bets were off.

The day we washed and vacuumed and sprayed everything again, it was sunny outside and I’d gone out to pull some weeds when I heard the telltale yowls and screams of a catfight. I ran back in the house to find that Loki had cornered Robin behind the bed in the spare room and was going at her singlemindedly. She managed to get away; he chased her. I had to throw a book at him to distract his attention enough to get him away from her and I shut him in the laundry room. She seemed rattled as usual but we didn’t notice anything amiss until the next day when she hissed and cried anytime she was picked up, and started obsessively licking a spot on her side. Of course, it was a Sunday, so no vets were open and we decided we’d watch it to see if it abscessed because we didn’t want to have to bring her in for another expensive trip to the vet if we could help it. We went online and ordered a plug-in Feliway diffuser to see if that would help with the aggression, thinking at the very least it couldn’t hurt.

Days passed, and her sore spot, a tooth puncture, didn’t seem to bother her anymore. But it developed a lump, so we knew she needed antibiotics. The vet scolded us for not bringing her in sooner, shaved the area, removed the scab, and flushed the abscess, telling us to keep an eye on it. That was on Thursday last week. By Sunday, the weird spot on her skin that we’d thought was just dark skin (she is, after all, a spotted/striped cat) opened up to be a large draining sore and of course, it being Sunday again, no vets were open. We called an emergency vet service in Santa Rosa asking for advice, and the lady told us to keep her from licking the spot using some sort of a cone collar. We put the cat in her carrier and drove her with us to Santa Rosa to keep her mind off the sore spot (instead, she protested the injustice of her confinement in the carrier and her transportation in the car) while we looked for a place that would sell us a cone. Instead, we found a donut-style inflatable collar at PetCo and when we got her home we put the thing on her.

She has never looked so pathetic.

Sunday night, after wobble-walking around and learning she couldn’t eat or drink out of her normal containers, Robin bravely emerged from her perch on the refrigerator to hang out with us on the couch. Loki was resting on the back of the couch behind us. When he saw her coming at him with that giant thing around her neck, he instantly attacked, and it was all we could do to get them apart as he chased her through the house. The poor thing couldn’t jump up to her normal safe places or protect or defend herself with that inflatable donut around her neck, and he managed to get a ton of fur off her.

He spent the night in the laundry room with his litter box and his food and water, while we cried and petted poor Robin in her donut and tried to figure out what to do next. We can’t let him keep attacking her (it’s not fair to her to have to always be afraid of being attacked) and we can’t stand the idea of giving up either of the cats (though honestly, we’re more likely to find a home for Robin if necessary; she’s sweet and loving toward people and she’s less than two years old. Loki is seven, great with people, obviously very aggressive and territorial toward other animals, and he’s already bitten a human once (me).) Sunday night was mostly sleepless, as pathetic donut Robin slept between us in the bed while I woke up every time she moved, afraid she’d be able to maneuver around the leaking donut (it had sprung a leak during the fight) and lick the open sore on her side.

Monday we brought her back in to the vet. They shaved more of the area, washed out the open sore, and gave us more antibiotics. And we talked to the vet about what we might do with Loki. He gave us a prescription for kitty antidepressants, saying that a couple of months on the pills might help change his brain chemistry so he’s less likely to see Robin as a threat or prey or something to be aggressive toward. And supposedly, they work best in conjunction with the Feliway diffuser. Meanwhile, during the time Robin’s open sore is healing and she’s wearing the donut collar, we’re going to keep them separated 24 hours a day like we always have when we’ve not been in the house. We’re trading off keeping her in the back of the house (with food/water/box and a bed and toys) while he’s in the main part of the house with us, and keeping him in the kitchen/laundry room (with food/water/box and a bed and tons of Kitty Show to watch) while she gets to have time with the humans. Maybe after she’s healed up and she’s had a full week on antibiotics, we can try heavily supervised time when both cats are in the same physical space. And by that time he’ll have been on the antidepressants for several days.

I don’t feel great about medicating Loki, not only because we’re messing with his brain chemistry (urgh) but because getting him to take a pill is not easy. And he has to take them every day. While he’s taking the antidepressants, we can’t be away for more than 24 hours because if we have a hard time pilling him, anybody he doesn’t know as well is going to have a BITCH of a time doing it. He bit me bad enough to give me nasty scars on my hand back in December during one of their fights, and I feel like approaching his mouth is just asking for trouble, but so far it’s gone OK as we’ve caught him sleeping and he’s not aware enough to put up that much of a protest. I’m hoping to find some pill pocket treats that might make things easier for giving him the daily pill, but that’s more money spent. And if giving him a pill every day for two months makes it so both cats can live in relative harmony without having to rehome one of them, it will be worth it.