I can’t say enough about Niki Firmin. She’s from the U.K. and my contact with her is through LinkedIn.com.
Not only is she uber-talented as you can readily see, but she is a lovely PERSON, too. She posts progress pictures of her drawings so that we can enjoy works in progress. Then she shows us the stunning finished project for some lucky client.
If you’re interested in having Niki do a portrait for you, you can contact her at NikiFirmin.com. She already has bookings into 2019, so hurry to get your place in line.
WISH 1 –
“My Wish for you in 2019:
May peace break into your house and may thieves come to steal your debts.
May the pockets of your jeans become a magnet of $100 bills.
May love stick to your face like Vaseline and may laughter assault your lips!
May your clothes smell of success like smoking tires.
May happiness slap you across the face and may your tears be that of joy.
May the problems you had forget your home address! In simple words …….
May 2019 be the best year of your life!!!” ~ Unknown
WISH 2 –
“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.” ~ Neil Gaiman, British author
WISH 3 –
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
We are having the happiest end-of-the-year I can remember. Our son lives and works in Thailand. It’s been over 3 years since we have seen him. He was here so we could celebrate his 40th birthday, Christmas, and he’ll leave on the 2nd, after celebrating New Years with us.
We lost our daughter, Jade, to SIDS when she was two months old, so Brian is our only child. Raising kids is a crap shoot. Lots of good people do the very best they can and end up with heartache. We won the lottery with Brian. He’s a kind-hearted soul and wise beyond his years.
He has spent much of the holiday fixing our stuff – our dash cam in our car, the new phone set up, my pedometer, an in-house camera, and lately, our Synology (a device that allows you to record your DVDs on it. We accessed our Synology via Roku and a device they provide. They announced they are no longer providing it as of the end of the year. SHRIEK!
Brian wrote a program that looks through our movie list, picks one out that needs reformatting so we can access it through our Playstation 3, reformats it, then puts it into a special directory of finished movies. Then it chooses another…. He has been monitoring the progress and testing periodically to make sure the movie comes up through our Playstation, having good resolution and sound. He won’t be able to get all the movies done before he leaves, but he’ll make sure my husband can do it on his computer and finish the project.
I took the picture above because he spends a lot of time on his laptop while he’s here. When I start missing him a lot (try 2 seconds after he leaves) I can pull up this picture.
My husband, Harvey, and our son, Brian.
Brian and me.
Harvey and me.
Brian will visit relatives in Charlotte NC and friends and former co-workers in Gainesville FL before he heads back to Thailand. At the end of January he is going to Nepal to a monastery to meditate. He’s been accepted for 3 weeks and can extend that with the permission of his teacher. He hopes to stay two months.
We’ll be incommunicado while he’s meditating, but then we’ll get back to talking to each other daily on a secure chat program and seeing each other periodically via a conference call program.
Life is especially good this year.
*Elena posts on LinkedIn the work of many talented artists, plus her own fine work.
*Disclaimer: I cannot give credit to all the talented photographers represented here. R.J. Bennett works to save endangered species by posting wonderful pictures he finds from all over the world. The credits I list are from the source where I got the photo. So many talented photographers showing us the beauty of the animals around us.
*Disclaimer: Some of these photos are taken by the people given credit here. These people, as I do, love to display the work of talented photographers who may, or may not, have listed their names.
This is my greenhouse. My husband and I built it, following some plans he found on the net. It has a dirt floor covered with two layers of heavy black plastic to discourage weed growth. It has a people door in one end and an exhaust fan on the other. We built ‘tables’ all the way around with room under them for storage, plus one corner for taller things, like a trash can full of Mel’s Mix.
I think most people who build greenhouses are concerned about warmth. We live in Arkansas and the big concern here is trying to keep our plants from burning up inside! I manage as well as I can with the exhaust fan which comes on automatically when the temperature gets too high in there. I also prop the door open on the opposite end. In order to run the exhaust fan or turn on a light, I string about 300 feet of outdoor heavy-duty extension cord from the house to the greenhouse. We don’t have heat or air conditioning, so the main thing I’m trying to do is extend the growing season.
My plan is to start seeds for cool crops, such as lettuce, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, etc. around March 1st or so, with the hope that when it’s the proper time to plant them outside in my raised bed, square foot garden, I’ll have healthy plants to transfer. I’m really new at this, so everything is an experiment, and I’m reading everything I can get my hands on trying to figure out how to do things.
Our Garden –
We started out with a square foot garden on the ground. We live on top of a ridge line and had to truck in the soil to make a small space around the house for a ‘yard’ when we built over 30 years ago. The square foot garden allows you to build a garden plot on top of your existing soil using Mel’s Mix to bypass any soil problems. (Mel’s Mix is a combination of peat moss, vermiculite, and as many different kinds of compost as you can find. We use mushroom, barnyard, cotton burr, and some made by us.)
As I avoid getting down on my hands and knees – and up again – as much as possible, my husband and I decided to build a raised bed square foot garden. I now have 6 ‘boxes’ (4’x4’x12″) that are about at my chest level with a fence around it. I can add more Mel’s Mix, plant, weed, and harvest standing up! I mark the squares with stretched string and plant according to Mel’s suggestions. (Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew). We’ve had better luck with our veggie garden than ever before. We converted two brick planters close to the house to be square foot planters, too, and plant our tomatoes in those.
Each season I’m learning more and more about what I’m trying to do. So far, it’s mostly learning what NOT to do again, but I AM making progress. We were able to enjoy several different kinds of lettuce, spinach, a bit of broccoli and cauliflower, radishes, some celery, squash, and more during the spring. We were able to keep things alive during the summer, fall, and even a bit into the winter.
I started some lettuce plants in the greenhouse this fall because we had a cold snap super early. They did well, but then the greenhouse was getting too cold, so I transferred the plants into my dining area. I was able to harvest lettuce almost all the way through December.
Now all is in hiatus because of the weather. I’m using the time, reading and scheming on how I’ll start the next season.
The bins in the basement are empty. The Christmas decorations are now down and stored in ONE large lidded bin. The bin is now stored under the stairway.
I still need to make a list of the donation for the Veterans Thrift Store, but I can do that tomorrow. We won’t make the donation until after the first of the year.
The spaghetti sauce with meat is simmering on the stove. I have a cup of coffee and my book.
All in all, a great day.
I’m about 2/3 finished with my project of going through the Christmas decorations in the basement. I emptied the three bins, and several more I found that didn’t have much in them. I made a major decision and brought up the big fake Christmas tree we’ve had for years. We have another, much smaller tree that we can decorate when we want to. I like the idea of some other family enjoying the large tree, handmade stand my husband constructed, plus ornaments that are too large for our smaller tree.
BONUS: My husband bought me a really nice, furry blue jacket with a hood several years ago. We’ve kept it in a bin down in the basement because I couldn’t wear it after a couple of years. Neither of us wanted to give it away. I tried it on today and it’s LOOSE! I wore it when I came upstairs. My husband recognized it immediately and broke out in a grin. It’s now in the closet, ready to put on! HOORAY!!!!!
I have one large leaf bag full of things we’ll donate, plus the tree, so far. I have more to go through in the basement and then can make final decisions, bring everything upstairs and put it into the bin in the living room. I may have to pare down what I’m keeping again as I see what will fit in the ONE bin I’m allowing for decorations!
I’m taking a break, drinking a big bottle of water, and resting awhile before giving it another shot.
After a wonderful Lunch Bunch this morning, I’m devoting the rest of the day to two things: reading a good book and starting a new project – going through the gazillion Christmas decorations I have.
I’m enjoy re-reading my Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series. I’m currently re-reading # 15 (out of 25 that have been written.) I discovered I didn’t have #23 and #24, so I ordered them from Amazon. #25 is now in hardback. I’ll wait until I can get it used in paperback before adding that to my collection. I LOVE the main character. I find her quirky, half nuts, and quite endearing. Her friends, co-workers, and relatives make up a truly wacky group, one I find addictive. I’m trying to do something useful each day, and then enjoy as much reading time as I can get.
My house is pretty well-decorated since our son is home from Thailand for the first time in over 3 years. I wanted things to look festive. My son and husband were asked to vote on whether they wanted to add a Christmas tree. Both thought we were festive enough without it.
Besides all the things I have out, my son helped pull down three other large bins from a shelf in the basement. I’m going to be starting down there, dividing things up into two groups – (1) things I HAVE to keep (at least for now) and (2) things I can donate. I’m going to take my time – not having a particular deadline, but my goal is to pare things down to ONE large bin that I will store somewhere where “I” can get it out easily when wanted, rather than having to worry about my husband and I hurting ourselves.
This may take several days to do, or it may go quickly. I won’t know for sure until I get started. The only thing I DO know at this point, is that I’ll get lots of good exercise, going up and down the stairs bringing stuff up as decisions are made and bags are filled.
I’ll add the current decorations that are up now into the bin and bag up things to donate after the first of the year.
I spent all last year trying to go through 30+ years of accumulation of STUFF. I did a good job and we’re in much better shape than we were. Now I have a good START and will continue Phase II of the project through 2019.
My new mantra is “Less is more.”
Loving and taking care of Amber is a full-time job. She will be two-years-old in March and weighs 94 pounds.
I thought that she wore my husband and me out because we’re getting a bit ‘long-in-the-tooth,’ but our son feels the same way. We received a beautiful Christmas card with a photo of a yellow lab with a Christmas wreath around his neck from long-time friends. The photo was of THEIR lab, “Tank” who is 5 years old and still thinks he’s a puppy, so it looks like WE are the ones who will have to continue to learn and adjust on the raising of Amber.
She has been ecstatic about our son, trying to knock him over with exuberant bids for attention, barking incessantly when she’s outside, leaving hair all over him, slurping him to the point he has to get up and wash his hands, grabbing the lint roller to try to remove at least one layer of the hair on his clothes. She hasn’t run into him yet – in a trick we call, “The Matador,” where we attempt to turn to the side, yelling, “Ole!” when she hopefully runs BY us at full speed – rather than INTO us, knocking us flat on the ground outside.
We try to stay alert, on guard for anything new. This holiday, she and Molly, our 13-year-old cocker spaniel/schnauzer cross, found the bones of a deer somewhere on our land (we have about 8 acres on top of a ridge line). We have been gathering the bones from the front yard, most of the time under deep protest from the dogs, throwing away some parts we can identify and some we can’t, hoping each day that this is the end of it. They absolutely LOVE to lie in the yard, happily chewing on one bone or another…
Last night my husband and I played, “Dive-into-the-chest-freezer-in-the-garage-and-try-to-find-something” – usually on the bottom of the chest. We were looking for a package of hamburger meat so I can make us some spaghetti – one of the things we’ve been craving while on our diet. We also found some pumpkin bread – a gift from my sister-in-law. She makes that and pound cake, which definitely lives up to its name and goes straight to my hips. I put both of them at the bottom of the chest freezer in an effort to forget they were there. :0) My husband, having an eagle eye for sweets, came up with the pumpkin bread and brought it inside. We put the wrapped chunk of hamburger meat and the unwrapped pumpkin bread on the counter in the kitchen to thaw.
We have a strict rule about Amber being in the living room behind a gate between there and the kitchen. Lately the line has been blurred because Amber has been chewing on the deer and then giving back a lot of dog food as her stomach protests her eating habits. So we’ve been keeping her in the kitchen/dining area to keep her on the tiles in case her stomach protests again. Usually our son is there, working on his computer, and can monitor things.
A perfect storm of events resulted in our hearing a mysterious sound while we were in the living room talking. Our son ran into the kitchen to find Amber, her feet up on the kitchen island, happily eating one end of the pumpkin bread. He yelled, put her outside, and we looked at the chewed bread. I cut off about 1/4 of the bread, making a clean break between Amber’s enjoyment and the rest of the loaf. My husband then happily ate a piece ‘to test it,’ and then another, pronouncing the pumpkin bread ‘delicious!’
Amber thinks this holiday – with deer and pumpkin bread – is a delicious tradition she would like to continue.
My son and I spent a fascinating time together today.
He asked me if I wanted to see him write in the Thai language. We sat side by side on the couch. He had a lap board, paper, and pen. He wrote words, showing how the characters worked together to make the characters ‘high class’ or ‘low class,” and how the vowels were usually a combination of several characters in a pattern that told him whether the pronunciation should have his voice going up or going down.
He wrote out several whole sentences for me, and I loved watching how carefully he wrote the characters, but he clearly didn’t have to think much about it, having practiced for hours and hours to get it right.
Being technologically challenged, we discussed answers to my questions regarding his phone and his computer. He had to get a SIM card to put into his phone in order to use it here in the United States. There is another place in the side of his phone that allows him to store the SIM card he uses in Thailand, so he can change it back when he goes home.
He also showed me how he can change keyboards on his phone from English, to Mandarin Chinese, to Thai and back again with just a click. He participates in a program where people text questions, such as, ‘How do I ask someone if they want to go eat in English?” He answers, after reading the question in Thai or Mandarin, then switches to his English keyboard and writes the answer. He can read Mandarin and answer a question in Thai or in English. I’m so proud of his hard work and determination to become as fluent as possible in each of the languages, plus help other people, too. He says it’s showing respect to learn the language of the country you’re living in.
He’s decided that when he replaces his computer next time, he’s going to buy one in Thailand so it has Thai characters on the keyboard, rather than having to use the stick-on characters that get grungy after a time.
I took Spanish in high school and went to Mexico City one summer. I was able to make myself understood a reasonable amount of the time, but certainly not in anything more than BABY Spanish, ungrammatical, with a lot of acting thrown in. I’m not SURE I would say I’m really FLUENT in English, either, as I feel out of my depth very quickly with people whose vocabulary is much richer than mine.
We had a wonderful time this afternoon, and I saw yet another side of our son. We know we’re biased, but we think we understate what an amazing man he is!