Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Yay - Progress on the HQ

This morning I had an argument with a mop......and the mop won. I tripped over it, and likely broke my left great toe. Much screaming and language most unbecoming ensued. I'll spare us all the picture I took of that tonight, while feeling both sorry for myself and singularly impressed with the wide range of blues and reds the bruising is now displaying.

No, I'm not wasting time going to the doctor for it, at this point, as I likely would just get told to "keep it elevated, take ibuprofen, and it will heal on its own in six weeks."

(ask Karene how we know this!) So, that's that. I'll save the co-pay and give that plan a chance.

I managed to get done with my work in time to practice some more on the HandiQuilter frame with my Janome 1600PBX. I give you Exibit A (improvement on the overall meandering stitch, though still not close to perfect):

(double click on picture, it will enlarge and show black stitches)

I also finished the last three rows of a charm quilt (my third, by this pattern I made up) for a really special girl I work with daily (at the office of one of my transcription accounts), who is going through radiation for her second bout with breast cancer. She likes cats and the color blue. This is what I came up with. Karene helped me pick some coordinating borders. All the squares are different cat prints, offset by white-on-white squares, sashed with blue pawprint material.

Tomorrow I am going to bite the bullet and load this quilt and start to meander/stipple it.......Hopefully I can finish it and get it bound with the bright blue paw print material and it will be ready to be wrapped up and given!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Happy Second Day of Summer!

I love my neighbor's Morning Glory trees!

I am not sure he knows the vines are running up my side of his trees and making such a pretty picture (and possibly going to choke out some of the trees/shrubs he has placed there).....but I love morning glories, so, I love these morning glory trees I see each morning!

I also have been eyeing the rose bushes, to be sure and see the buds that have been teasing us for days when they actually open.

"Good morning, Gorgeous!"

And somebody's (Karen's) Japanese eggplant was showing off this morning.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

What's for dinner?

We're having Grilled Chicken (Spicy Mustard Marinade!)

Quick and easy!

4 chicken breasts (boneless)
4-6 chicken thighs (boneless)
1 cup spicy mustard
6 tablespoons cider
4 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon fresh chopped rosemary from my yard
1/4 teaspoon powdered garlic (out of fresh, darn it!)
a dash of cayenne pepper
a bit of chopped green onion

.....mixed, tossed in bag with chicken parts - flavors blending in the fridge!! Will add steamed zucchini/peppers/onions tonight and ring the dinner bell!

(If my day goes well, we might even be able to eat out on the patio on the new table in the cool evening air.....but only if I get those seats attached!!)

What's for dinner tonight at your house?? (I need new ideas!!)

Editorial Comment (8 p.m.):
The recipe was so good that Karen and I said we could have it again tomorrow night and love it. It was fantastic!

We ended up having a celebratory dinner of sorts. Karen had a review today and received a promotion and a raise! And we wished Laurie was here to celebrate, as she accomplished a legal milestone today that will help her tremendously. It was a good day, but we missed you, Laurie!!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Picnics may commence!!

Karen and I tackled the picnic table tonight. I had already slathered on some deck waterproofing stain and it was reasonably dry. I wasn't entirely pleased with how the stain went on, but if it does the job, that's fine. I love the color!

Our first clue that all may not be as it should be was reading the instructions which alluded to the usual "insert screws into predrilled holes."

We're spoiled, Karen and I, because we get a lot of stuff from IKEA and I will say, I do love IKEA. And not just because IKanEvenAfford it. But because their items have predrilled holes, proper screws and tools included and always, ALWAYS work.

We got the appropriate screws from the bag, and turned to the parts we had gathered and discovered.....

No predrilled holes.

Grrrrrr! Falling back and punting, we drilled our own. We measured, leveled, placed pilot holes, placed screws and washers.....

We laughed, we goofed, we corrected and we persevered!

And we have a table! (I'd advise that no one sit on it yet, as the seats are only resting in place - we ran out of sun before we ran out of project!)

We "done good!"

And we discovered Le Tigre likes Cherry Jello......

I realize that is of little interest to anyone, but it astounded me. I did not in a million years think a dog would eat something that sweet, or that strongly fruit flavored.

(We're suspicious it was the whipped cream on top that was the attraction for her!)

Monday, June 18, 2007

Ladybugs Galore!

Yesterday, Karen decided to take action and defend her garden (all three pots!). She had planted two Japanese eggplants and a tomato plant and was dutifully watering them, talking encouragingly to them each morning, etc. She has visions of making a yummy stir fry that she grew herself.

However, we noticed that the eggplants were being visited by aphids. Now, I have no clue if aphids are really anything to worry about.....but Karen was insulted. I mean, there's this whole back yard out there. And they want her Japanese eggplants. Unacceptable!

She hustled off to Armstrong's Nursery and came home armed with ladybugs and a special spray soap. I am really enjoying watching the ladybugs do their thing.....because I love ladybugs.

If this doesn't work, we'll bring out the soap spray she bought. Its safe for humans and plants....so no biggie. But the ladybugs are more fun!

Also on my patio? The miniature rose bush from Helen is just exploding with blooms!

And my tomatoes are still alive. Now, that's where it gets personal. I better not see anything, aphids or hornworms, on my tomato plants. Hmmmm, I might go put some of Karen's ladybugs on my tomatoes just for insurance!

(Any and all gardening hints welcome!) Happy Monday all!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without!

I got up this morning and vigorously and enthusiastically attacked "my list".

  1. Transcribe hospital account.

  2. Transcribe clinic account.

  3. Paint picnic table parts.

  4. Cover chair for Michael.

  5. Hang dining room curtains.

  6. Replace living room curtains.

  7. Hang living room blinds.

  8. Cut slip preventing pads for under downstairs rugs.
As usual, my optimistic outlook for the day far exceeded the reality. I got the transcribing done. And I blitzed right past that #3 by declaring it to be "too hot" outside in the sun. Yes. I am a wuss. Moving on, I tackled the chair project. I have picture of this chair "before" I got the bright idea to fix it.

I had taken it apart.

Then, in keeping with my optimistic "bite off more than I can chew/do" attitude, it sat in pieces on the fireplace for eight months a long, long time. Today was the day I was determined it would get reborn. Of course, I was determined to do a lot of other stuff today too. Yes, well...

First, I used highly sophisticated materials to repair all weak spots and splits in the aged Hide of the Nauga (one of my dear Dad's expressions, meaning 'cheap plastic').

Don't laugh. There is a special place in Heaven for the inventors of both duct tape and WD40. I can't live without either one of them!

I covered the repaired seat with two layers of lo-loft quilt batting which I had handy and no longer use.

I covered that with a layer of cotton canvas material and covered THAT with the actual navy plaid I had chosen for the chair. I screwed the seat onto the frame with Michael's assistance. Note to self: #9. Work out more, need more muscles!

That went well, so I continued. Similar techniques were used to cover the seat back. And then the board covering the seat back was covered and screwed into the seat back and the seat back was mounted on the chair frame.

The final hurtle was the arm rests. They came off easily, were hard plastic, and were basically not very cooperative. I finally wrapped the materal around them, duct taped it temporarily, stitched the top and bottom of the tubes that were formed, cut holes in them where screws needed to go, slapped them on the arms, and screwed them into place.

After more sophisticated upholstering techniques were utilized, they were placed on the chair frame.

Upon testing the seat, I discovered I could quite easily fall forward on my nose, but not lean back. One of my favorite things about that chair was the ability to lean back in it and stick my feet up on the table....ahem. I quickly unscrewed the base and rotated it 180 degrees, reattached it (all by myself this time!) and voila! A working chair ready for the ultimate test:

Mr. B and Max the WonderDog gave it the thumbs-up! Or maybe Mr. B liked the chair and Max liked having his head scratched....... Later, Max attempted to look willing to help me clean up the disaster that was left behind.

I took one more picture to record this for posterity, because normally my "projects" don't:

  1. become FOs (finished objects, as opposed to UFOs).

  2. work out this well!

I'm on a roll, baby. I'm eyeing the dining room curtains next!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Would I recommend medical transcription as a career today?

My dear sister gave me a heads-up that my nephew's new bride (Heather) was contemplating going into medical transcription, and might call me for my input. I quickly dashed off a response to her that she could print and hand them (I don't have their email addy at their new home just yet) and then as I thought about it, I decided to post my response here. What started to be a few sentences was much longer and apparently, I'm not very happy with my chosen field.....I'd be interested to hear what anyone else has to say. Comments are moderated, but I only keep out obvious spam, so if anyone lands here for the first time - feel free to leave a comment. I am hoping to get some other MTs' viewpoints which give her things to consider.

Here's the gist of my email response with a few edits:

I would be happy to give Heather my impression of the job/business, but I am afraid its not very positive. It is hard, with long hours, difficulty getting paid well, and we are losing business to off-shore (India) operations daily.

It is my hope that my business and my ability to provide jobs for a few MTs, runs out at about the time all the "old guys" (dictators) retire. The new guys seem to be using voice recognition software, and having someone in their office edit, or they are sending it to India to get the work done for pennies, and also having someone in the office edit it....or even using programs that key in their findings into an electronic medical records system. Where I am able to keep business, is in small accounts, with older doctors mostly, or small surgicenters, etc, and being willing to drop everything and do what they need immediately. (I've lost accounts to India and gotten a few of them back when the work came back looking like "Swiss cheese" with all the holes in the dictation....Smaller clients have proved more loyal, so that is my focus rather than hospitals).

Heather has a degree, more than one, in fact. I turned to this business because I did not. I made a good income because I worked way more than 8 hours a day, and way more than 5 days a week. I would not wish this on anyone. Its my dream to semi-retire and go to work for someone else, part time, and when I leave work every day, I'm done! It won't call me from the kitchen or my sewing studio, it won't get me up at 4 a.m., and my check will always be there on time - no waiting two months and arguing with an account to get paid.

She would have to take a medical terminology course, purchase tons of equipment (if she chose to be an independent contractor) and work for very low pay initially. She would discover that the course taught her only a fraction of what she needs to know. She would likely learn on tapes that were relatively perfect, and then start working for dictators who were not. This would for example include dictators who are tired, mumbling, dictating through cold pizza at 2 a.m., dictating while driving on a cell phone, dictating while waiting at a train crossing with the car windows open, dictating while in bed - whispering so as not to wake up the wife, dictating with screaming two year olds in the background, dictating while peeing (yes! been there, done that!), dictating with psychotic patients yelling at them, etc. Then throw in the fact that a large percentage of the above mentioned dictators are also speaking English as a second language.....barely.

Once you take the course, and find someone to let you start (normally a hospital setting or a national service would give the best "in the trenches" training and extremely low pay) you end up making copious lists of new words the transcription course never taught you. Words that just got invented last year. Names of forceps that are not included in the 14 pages (two columns per page) of forceps in a surgery reference book.

I will say, that I no longer use my reference books. Google is my new best reference source. That saves me approximately $39.00 per book, per specialty (gynecology book, ophthalmology book, orthopedic book, pulmonary book, psychiatry book, plastic surgery book, etc). Those books were being updated and getting bigger every few years. I had about 10 specialties I kept up with. No more!

The courses you see ("become a medical transcriptionist and make 30,000 a year at home!") are often rip-offs. In many cases, you get basic anatomy words, a few somewhat-perfect tapes, a certificate that means nothing to any medical records director in any hospital, and you're out hundreds of dollars. In my humble opinion, a course through a local college can be slightly better if it is taught by someone (seasoned!) with actual transcription experience. I believe there is an online course recommended by the AAMT (American Association of Medical Transcriptionists - which recently changed its name to something I don't remember) which is excellent! One of my transcriptionists took a similar course from a company that was affiliated with AAMT 15 years ago, and was very well prepared to start. It cost her a pretty penny and it took her a year to complete it while her son was small. However, even she found out quickly while working for me, that she was learning many new words daily that her course Just. Didn't. Cover. (She remembers crying frequently over her first accounts!)

I have also found that becoming certified in this field is not necessary. It is touted by the association, but it rarely (in my personal experience) makes any difference with an employer or a national transcription service. I have never been asked if I was certified, and I have never asked anyone I contracted if they were certified. (Every job I ever got, I got after testing on the premises. And that was the procedure, per those companies, whether I was certified or not. Likewise, nearly every job I ever gave anyone, rested entirely on their performance on a test dictation I provided them.)

Certification, I have been told (so this is hearsay only) involves being tested in a room with no reference materials, no spell check, no nothing except you and the word processor and the dictation. I don't feel that is a good measure of a person's ability. Its not so much knowing everything, as knowing how to use the tools we have at our fingertips and our knowlege of how to FIND what you need. I had a certified MT working for me once whose work was the "weakest" of my team. So in my humble opinion, an MT can just save the money and save themself the stress of testing for certification.

That having been said, I will say that for me, MT was the right thing to do, for my family, at the time. I never got to nursing school, and this was at least a way to be in the field that interested me. I was able to stay at home with my kids, working out of my home, and was the mom on the block who handed out cookies and band-aids and carpooled and watched everyone up at the neighborhood pool, while other moms worked in a regular office somewhere in Corporate America (this was while I was living in Chicago and Texas). I typed between mommy duties. I have never missed a day of work, because when my little darlin' was vomiting, I was there with her and when she slept, I typed. I have worked every holiday, in those 27 years (normally very early in the morning so that I'm done when the festivities begin). People still get sick and have emergency surgery on Christmas day. (I GET SICK, and four hours later when I can leave the bathroom, I'm propped up typing again!) I worked before flying to San Fran for Michael's dad's funeral, and worked after I flew home that night. I work from mom and dad's in Wyoming when I'm "on vacation". I worked those extra hours, and my income way surpassed that of what I would have made in an "in-house" job. I did the grunt work for years and years, and then bought my own system and started hiring people when I got to CA.

Now, my little corporation bills a fair amount a year and I gross less than half of that because I pay a large chunk of that to my transcribers who are independent contractors to my corporation.

I type a little less now, because I'm also proofing other people's work. When proofing, I make an extremely good hourly wage (if you look at it from that angle). I have one account for which I rarely type anything but the occasional correction. That is easier income for me, as an editor. Its a nice break in between the accounts I actually transcribe myself. But I'm afraid to take on a lot of accounts like that, because in the event of several transcriptionists being unable to work one day, I simply could not make up the difference. I also am afraid of losing the rapport with the individual clients and my ability to truly give them the attention they want.

But MT (as any career) can be a pain. I argue with accounts to get them to provide patient information for the work that they want to come back to them with that information included (medical record numbers, properly spelled names, etc). I juggle their changes in days dictating with my staff's days available. I argue with accounts over waiting 60 days to pay me. They want their work in 24 hours (or less! my radiology account gets 4 hour turnaround). Well hey, I want my check in 20-30 days. Go figure.

(I've had to learn my way through small claims court when a psychotic doctor didn't want to pay at all. I won!)

I get phone calls from accounts at 7 AM that want to know where a report is, and find out the dear doctor dictated it in a stupor at midnight the night before. (I of course was unconscious at 9 pm asleep at midnight!) And I have daily adventures in coming up with enough staff to get the work done. On any given day, one of my seven "peoples" (whom I love dearly and are all good people) might have an emergency, a vomiting child, an elderly parent in the ER, a teenager issue, an urgent parent-teacher conference, a flooding washer, a wrecked car, a power failure, a computer failure, an equipment failure, an internet failure, or a pet that needs to have medical attention. When this happens, if one of my "peoples" cannot pick up the slack, the ultimate responsibility is mine.

Still, its all I know how to do. And I do a good job of it, with the help of good "peoples." We get business without advertising, by "Word of mouth on the Golf Course" or "Word of mouth in the Operating Room" or "Word at the Networking Breakfasts" from satisfied and enthusiastic clients.

And until I can get Mr. B to decide its "Time" to semi-retire, I will keep doing it. (Even after that "Time" arrives, I foresee continuing to do this in an abbreviated form, from a different location!) It pays the bills. His present job is only part time (about 30 hours weekly) and along with income, provides us with medical benefits, and contributions to our 401K and other retirement accounts. It works for us! I value the benefits very highly, with my diabetes!! He works very hard around here after he gets home every day while I keep typing. I have not seriously grocery shopped or explored the shelves at my "walmarts" more than once a month in a long time. I hand him a list and the stuff appears in the kitchen. He pays the bills and manages our affairs, handles my payroll, handles my gazillion pages corporate income tax return, and typically cooks for himself, does his own laundry and deals with our emergencies.....I keep typing. I cannot tell you how helpful that is!

For the last 27 years, this has been good for me and bad for me. I have not had a holiday come around in 27 years that I was not toooo tired to enjoy celebrating. But my kids have been well fed, clothed, educated, and I have been HERE for them, all day, every day. Sometimes their perception is a little different. I heard a lot of "You're always working!" and still do! But I have reams of pictures upstairs waiting to be scrap booked that point to my ability to get to games, get to school presentations and plays, be a Brownie Cookie Mom (and Dad!), be a Room Mom and throw Christmas parties (back when we could call it that!), manage sleepover parties, create costumes, bake for bake sales for various causes, etc, over the years. Some of that would have been a lot harder if I had worked in the Land of Suits, Pantyhose and Long Commutes. We've paid off a home, achieved an excellent credit rating, and we've saved a small chunk of change for retirement.

It has been a good job for me. And I've met and worked with some absolutely fantastic medical transcriptionists. My current team is amazing! I have a group of real "do-ers" who are WILLING and share my work ethic. They make my job much easier and more pleasant! The comaraderie is certainly helpful and most of my "peoples" truly try to step up to the plate when one of us has one of those pesky emergencies - I have been very blessed!!

But I still wouldn't recommend MT to anyone. At least without giving them an earful of information that they will only hear from those of us who deal with it daily. A good source for her to read would be MTStars.com.

All of this being said, if she is still interested, I could get a course name recommended by AAMT that is the good foundation, and obviously, if she did wish to do this and completed the course, I would LOVE to be able to provide her some work. I will be at this job for several more years....so at least if she decided to go this route, she would know she would have some opportunities to start with. Getting started is very very hard.....it seems like every job opening I see calls for 2-5 years experience ..... But I'd be thrilled to help with that. If she still wants more information, let me know....I can send the course name, and also some idea of the equipment she will need so she can consider price versus earning potential.

She may wish to consider learning to be an MT but then functioning as an Editor. And medical billing is also possibly something she would want to consider.

Well, gotta get back to work!


I think she got more of an answer than she bargained for!! The above opinions are just that: OPINIONS. They are mine; they may not be yours. I would love to hear other MTs' opinions about this career choice. Thoughts, anyone?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

First Day of HandiQuilter Kindergarten

I used my HandiQuilter frame and Janome 1600PBX together today for the first time!

This kicked my butt big time! I had fits getting it to work, had to dig around for better than half a day in my sewing studio to see if I could find the manual in case I was making a threading error....

I could not get it to just take a few stitches without becoming unthreaded.

The only thing I could find in the book to do differently was to thread the needle from right to left instead of left to right. I had reached a point where I was willing to try anything. I'm not convinced that it was the threading of the needle, as I also loaded and unloaded my bobbin, and might have corrected a tiny error there also.....who knows. Whatever it was, WORKED! I was able to make stitches.

I raced to my office and made a couple copies of a simple design I had seen on many websites. I obviously would do a better job of making a pantograph, or even better, purchase one, if I were working on a real quilt, but I was just in a hurry to try SOMETHING.

I taped several sheets together, slapped them in the bed of the HandiQuilter frame, turned the machine back on, and attempted to just follow the lines with the stylus.

Wow. I felt like I was back in grade school. Kindergarten even!! I could not stay on the lines for love nor money...as evidenced by my sample below. If you click twice on the picture, you will get an embarrassingly clear shot of my first attempt. Demoralizing.

Never the less I yanked Karen out of her room where she had been relaxing after a long day at work. I planted her in front of the machine, told her which button to push and where the stylus to watch was located and turned her loose!

First words out of her mouth: "Mom, this is hard!! But its so much fun!!"

After a couple of passes, she turned the Handi-Handles back over to me and grabbed the camera and started to take a video. I was actually following the lines half decently, but just before I could get smug, she announced I had parted company with the top thread and was "practice sewing." Sigh.

Video: Machine Quilting 101

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Does a cleaned garage count as an FO (finished object)?

Not that I'm slow or have too much to do or anything......but I finally pretty much finished Project Garage 2006 with Karen today. If the linkie doesn't work....I give you the "before"....

And the "after":

Thanks for all the help and the giggles, Karen!

Here's one idea I was pretty proud of. After tripping over this ladder for a year pondering a way to keep this ladder out of the way, I decided to bungie-cord it to the front of shelves filled with stuff Mr. B. cannot part with, but rarely goes through.

Voila! Let an earthquake try to dump those shelves! (scurries to the door to knock on wood......scurries back!)

Another idea I came up with was to elevate the garbage cans we used to house our recycles (one is crushed 2 liter bottles and one is crushed aluminum cans). Bungie cords again came to my aid, and I have the big black trashbags in these cans, so when they start getting full, I yank them out, put a twistie on them and heave them into the back of The Freighter, and they are out of sight-out of mind, but we're thinking green (and netting about $25.00-35.00 quarterly from the recycling place in Anaheim)!!


"That's a lot of cans and bottles," you say?

Ahem. I can solve that mystery right now.

I give you Exhibit A:

and Exhibit B:

Hey, the price was great! There was some serious shopping done and serious savings enjoyed. Well, it sounded prudent anyway....

(there are about five 12-packs behind the row you see at the front......there's more Coke than there is dog food!! Sheesh!)

And, there would be three more up there, if it hadn't been for the carbonated adventure I had when I first lifted a 12-pack down off the top shelf and the glue on the box failed, sending three flying before I could recover. They hit the concrete and we had Instant Indoor Sprinklers! It was a wet beginning to the day, and I contemplated just going upstairs to sew instead.

I tried to focus on the happy thought that it was Diet Coke, not regular.....so the ants would likely not send out a "Party at Mr. B's House!!", to alert all neighborhood ant villages. After I cleaned the ceiling, door, shelves and myself.....I got back to work.

(Any idea whether they have a Diet Cokes Anonymous? Mr. B could use a meeting!)

Having solidified my reputation as having an extremely unexciting life, I'll get back to work. Hopefully I will get a day in my sewing studio tomorrow. :)

Friday, June 08, 2007

The first official Second Friday

First, Patrick moved out. Then five months later Laurie moved out. Our electric bill and hot water bill promptly plummeted! With the savings,
I looked for a way get the family together on a monthly basis to keep us close and bring us up to date on the happenings in each other's lives. I picked the Second Friday of each month to be a repeating opportunity to get us all together.

Second Fridays may be a cook-out in our back yard, a lasagne in the kitchen, or a dinner that we meet at a restaurant to enjoy. If one of us can't make it, its okay. There will be a Second Friday the next month. If there is an event (birthday, raise/promotion, anniversary, shoe sale) during any given month, that will be one definite opportunity to celebrate it....We had our first Second Friday today!

For a myriad of reasons, including waiter's lack of familiarity with my camera, our picture of our very first Second Friday is less than great - but it is preserved for posterity. Michael and I joined Karen and Laurie for dinner at Tony Roma's. It was delicious, it was fun and it was of course, all too short. But that's the point. We eat early, and enjoy each other, and then the young folks scatter for the rest of their evening and we elderly types totter off to bed!

Patrick, we hope you can make it next time!! It will probably be in our back yard for a cookout!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Le Tigre

I call her "Le Tigre" sometimes. We said, back when we got her, maybe her formal name should be Tiger Lily. We've had her almost seven years. She is a pit bull with a heart of gold.

She still loves her stuffed animals.

Especially if she can make them squeak!

"Okay, if you insist, I will act dignified for a moment...."

But its soooo hard!

Moments later......

Hide 'n Seek anyone?

"If I dejectedly lay my head on the step, will that persuade you to play?"

"Still no? (sigh) I guess I'll take a nap!"

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Blooms and Fruit

Tomatoes are, I think, technically a fruit. Hence today's blog entry title.

I love early summertime in SoCal. I am not too crazy about late summer or early fall (tooooo hot!). But early summer when everything is blooming and there's a promise of a homegrown tomato on the back porch? Good times.

From here on until I get to pick them, I'll be checking daily for those funky big green hornworms.....or whatever they are called.

I Googled and checked wikipedia.org. The tomato hornworm (Manduca quinquemaculata) is a green caterpillar, the larval form of the five-spotted Hawk moth of the Sphingidae (Sphinx) family. Eeeeeeeeeeew!!

On to way more pleasant things. My dear friend Helen sent me a beautiful miniature rose bush at Christmas and I read that I could grow it in a patio container. So I gave it a whirl. I've been speaking encouragingly to it, and I've watered it and treated it to Miracle Gro. Success! Today's blooms:

I also got a lavender plant on an impulsive whim at Home Depot not long ago. I need to read more about this one, as I am not sure if I should pinch it back so it will bush out a bit, or not. (If anyone knows, please feel free to comment!!) But today, the first bloom started to open!

And about a year ago, my dear friend Deborah moved from sunny SoCal to the beautiful state of Pennsylvania. Before she left, she gave me some of her backyard plants and I have done my best not to kill them. I especially like how two of them are currently being used.

This spikey one is now by the front door and I think it looks really pretty there.

And just off the front porch, the jasmine I planted last year has thrived and is blooming! I have another jasmine winding its way around the posts of the porch fence and the smell of the two of them this morning was intoxicating. I do love me some jasmine!

('Scuze the appearance of the columns on the front porch. That is Himself's Summer Project 2007C: Scraping, Filling, Priming and Painting the sun-damaged portions of the front porch....yet again! It seems like that is a recurring project Every Blessed Year because that portion of the house gets so much hot late summer sun.)

I'm off to transcribe my heart out (stopping just short of wearing down my first distal phalanges), do a lot of dishes and mop a kitchen floor. If I'm really, really productive today, I might get to send myself to "my room" tomorrow and sew/quilt/embroider!

Update From the Sewing Room: Emma (my Janome 9500 embroidery machine) and I are getting to know one another.

Janet (Teacher Extraordinaire) gave me a hint and also connected me with Karen at Leah's Fabric Gallery, who gave me another hint regarding putting the downloaded files into a certain folder (previously unmentioned by my instructions). She also mentioned something regarding format which made me recheck some information I had gotten from an apparently incorrect source regarding format to be used for designs downloaded from the internet! Now that I'm attempting to speak with Emma in JEF format instead of SEW format (loosely, the equivalent of speaking French to an Italian), its amazing! She beeps and moves and lines up and is ready to embroider!

AND, my thread has also arrived from ThreadArt (fantastic ebay company with great prices), and we are good to go!