Entering the Birthday Zone
April 28, 2009
We’re in the thick of birthday season. For us, it starts in late March with Roni’s birthday and continues through to the beginning of July with Glenn’s. And sandwiched in the middle of it all comes Ben, whose big day this Saturday is the one we’re currently preparing for. He’s got his sights set on a Sony PlayStation Portable and a big party with several friends from school, so it’s likely his special day will also be especially draining on the old wallet. Well, you’re only a kid once, as the saying goes.
Roni’s birthday was a bit of a financial drain, too, but she’ll be the first to tell you it was well worth it. She finally got the Apple MacBook laptop computer she’d been wanting since last year and was certainly not expecting when she opened the giftwrapped box the evening of March 23. Seldom do such gifts come as a surprise anymore, because we usually don’t buy them unless we make the purchase decision together. But we’d been doing a lot of window shopping and the time finally seemed right to do it. Glenn ordered the computer through Amazon and it arrived on the doorstep a couple of days later, where Roni collected the package with no idea what was inside. She was expecting a piece of yard art for our garden, as her birthday falls right at the start of spring when we are focused on decorating the yard anyway. Even once she had the wrapping paper off the night of her party, it took her a few seconds to realize what she was holding. And then it hit her.
“It’s my new laptop! I can’t believe you got it,” she exclaimed, eagerly pulling it from the box and setting it up on the dining room table. We hooked up her old computer to the new one to let it transfer over her files, and by the end of sitting through a DVD of the greatly overrated movie “Twilight,” she was happily setting up the new MacBook and checking out its blazing speed on the Internet. With all the work she’s been doing to build a fan base for Romance Book Scene through her social networking activities at Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, she has found the new laptop with its faster processor and wider screen a definite blessing. That, and it’s really cool for reading e-books.
The other thing Roni has been doing a lot of these days is rediscovering photography. Earlier this year, Ben introduced her to DeviantART and she began posting a few of her photos to the site, just to humor him. But that afternoon of posting pictures reminded her of how much she used to enjoy photography, so for the past three months she has been taking more pictures and posting more of them on her blogs and social networking sites. It wasn’t long before she decided she needed a camera of her own, to avoid the occasional arm-wrestling matches that had been ensuing over use of our Canon PowerShot S3.
After a couple of months shopping around for a model that suited her needs, we visited BestBuy the day before her birthday and picked out a compact Canon PowerShot A 1000 IS, which conveniently fits in her purse so she can take it everywhere. And that is exactly what she has been doing. At 10 megapixels, the camera’s resolution is close to double that of the older S3, and even though it has only a 4x optical zoom, it has many of the advanced features we enjoy in our other camera, including the ability to shoot short sound movie clips. We got a 4 gigabyte memory card to go with it, which ought to last her for weeks if not months before we need to clean it off.
After exhausting the obvious subjects of family and garden, Roni was eager to take her camera on the road. One of our first stops was the Brentwood Iris Garden, which is part of the Brentwood Harvest Time collective of U-pick farms. To say that the iris garden is a U-pick wouldn’t be totally accurate, however, as visitors don’t actually get to buy plants to take home. In fact, the garden is the equivalent of a living catalog showroom with more than 140 varieties of irises on display. They bloom at various times, so on any given day during the spring you are likely to find some color. All the flowers have their names affixed to stakes so customers can jot down their favorites and place their orders. The purchases are delivered in several weeks when fresh bulbs are taken from the iris garden’s growing area and are either mailed to the customer or made available for pick-up.
We are trying to figure out how to incorporate some irises into our garden after touring the Brentwood garden on April 3. We’ll probably have to go back for another look, because we both spent most of our visit filling up our photo cards with dozens of pictures of the lush green fields speckled with purple, white, orange, yellow, blue and even black irises. We chatted up the owner for nearly half an hour afterward. He told us his father started the garden because he loved irises and wanted to show them off to the public. They do a festival near the end of April that we wanted to go to, but on the day of the event we got busy with other activities.
Roni wasted little time uploading her iris photos to DeviantART. She now has the coolest photo editing tool in the house, and the rest of the family is envious. Ben has been lobbying to get her old iBook so he can have a portable computer to take wherever he likes. The idea of being able to chat with his friends from the comfort of his bedroom is very appealing to him. Of course, once that happens we’ll never see him again, so for now he’ll have to be content with his corner in the dining room next to the main computer where Dad listens to most of his music collection and where we do our occasional web and print design work.
We joke occasionally that we’ve become so enmeshed in our connections to the virtual world that we can all be sitting in the same room on a Saturday afternoon and not say a word to each other except through instant messages. OK, so that’s exaggerating perhaps just a bit, but the high-tech tools have allowed us to keep in contact with a far-flung community of family, friends and acquaintances. Ben has online pals in Washington, Florida and Texas. Roni is closing in on her goal of 500 friends on MySpace. Glenn has 30 followers on Twitter.
Fortunately, we also occasionally have lives outside of cyberspace. On March 21, Glenn got together with his folks for a cold and windy hike at Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve in Antioch. Despite black, leaden skies that threatened a downpour most of the morning, they got in a walk to check out the historic Rose Hill Cemetery and a few early wildflowers before enjoying lunch at a Chinese buffet.
There has been no shortage of wildflowers in our backyard this past month, as the poppies have taken over just about anywhere that wasn’t otherwise occupied by another plant. In some cases they have rooted themselves in cracks in the concrete and amid the bark of the landscaping behind Summer’s Garden. As one large plant can produce a hundred poppies or more, each of which becomes a seed pod with dozens of seeds, it is likely that future populations will be equally robust. We won’t pull them from the ground like the weeds that they are until they’re done blooming sometime in late May or early June. At least for the time being they are a welcome bit of free spring color.
It’s hard not to be in a gardening groove this time of year. With everything that has been going on, we haven’t been spending a lot of time outdoors yet, but that is slowly changing along with the warmer weather. We got out to Orchard Supply Hardware on April 18 to take advantage of their tax-free event and bought a few tomatoes and peppers to plant in Roni’s garden across from the kitchen. We haven’t found the six-packs of strawberries we bought last year, a disappointment as we had hoped to replenish the strawberry terrace we built last year, although some of the more hearty survivors manager to root themselves and are coming back on their own. We bought a couple more wine barrel halves we’re up to 13 now so we’ll have a place to plant the three Christmas trees we’ve had sitting outside since the start of January. The biggest of the trio keeps blowing over in the wind, so we’re surprised it looks as good as it does.
Last month we reported that we shelved plans to get the third statue in the Four Seasons statue series when the store we’d bought Winter from went out of business. After that, Roni scouted around on the Internet and we found another dealer in Pittsburg that was selling the statues for a comparable price, so on April 5 we placed an order for Spring. We already have a garden spot for her under the shade of the evergreen ash tree. We’re hoping the statuary’s estimate of four weeks until delivery is accurate.
The doves that had been nesting in the wisteria vine by our front porch successfully hatched a single squab around the beginning of April. They abandoned the nest just in time before the vine started leafing out. It has just about overgrown their spot. The doves that had been working on two separate nests in the hanging baskets on our back patio since the end of January at last decided to use one of them, so any day now we are expecting hatchlings in the basket closest to our back patio door. We were afraid they wouldn’t start nesting there because it was too close to the house where they would get spooked by our presence and that of the cats. They would bolt every time we opened the back door. But once the eggs were in the nest, now they tolerate us at all times. We’ve mostly left them alone and they seem less skittish at our presence whenever we have to duck underneath their basket to plug in the cord to our fountain.
There hasn’t been much new progress on the foreclosure next door to us. The house came on the market April 17 for $200,000. There have been a few lookers, but so far no one moving in. The front lawn is starting to die, so at least for the time being we can say that our seedy front lawn is not the worst in our corner of the block.
We didn’t do much for Easter this year, although we did dye a dozen eggs and picked up a few bags of candy that we shared among the three of us. Given the option of whether he wanted an Easter basket or the equivalent value for something else, Ben chose to cash out on the jelly beans and cash in on a gift card for Gaia Online, which he put to use purchasing new attire for his avatar. Roni made up one of her special meals for Easter dinner, and we spent the day relaxing at home.
That is going to about wrap things up for this month. We’re counting on the temperatures to warm up and the wind to die down so we’ll have nice weather for Ben’s birthday and some spring planting. Enjoy your May.