"We're all just fragile threads, but what a tapestry we make." – Jerry Ellis

Archive for the ‘Favorite Things’ Category

More Thoughts on Bamboo Part 2 – Forget the Panda

potted bamboo

I never thought there would be a need for Part 2 of Bamboo Quest, but here I am, almost two years later and the battle between nature and woman continues.  I wrote a post that spring about my ongoing struggle with the bamboo I had planted based on the romantic notion of “The Fern and the Bamboo”.  I learned a tough lesson—don’t plan landscaping based on cheesy, albeit meaningful, poetic stories about nature.  You can read it here.

In the year between the first attempt at getting rid of it and now, it grew back.  The stalks themselves were not thicker—in fact, they got almost skinny-asparagus-looking, but there were many more of them.  I had spent hours digging up the stalks, presumably by the roots, to eradicate the bamboo from the side of the house.  Ironically, I believe that it actually helped aerate the remaining roots, because it spread up to the side of the house even faster, rounding the corner into the front landscaping.

Last summer, busy with Tyler’s graduation, not to mention completely frustrated with my inability to wipe it out, I just lived with it, trying in vain just to keep it contained to where it already had grown.  The best (or maybe the worst) thing about that side of the house is that I don’t really ever see it like I do the side next to the garage.  It’s times when I am cutting the grass or getting out the hose that I am reminded that I need to do something about that crazy bamboo.


Must conquer bamboo before it strangles my Lilac Bush!

Late this winter, I started to plan what I was going to do about it.  I watched You Tube videos of people telling how they managed to get rid of that invasive plant.  One video I watched with a method I wanted to try was smothering it. The guy doing the video told of how he had left a piece of plywood on the ground and when he moved it a couple of days later, the bamboo had died.  I envisioned laying down thick, black plastic and putting gravel on top.  It seemed like a very do-able method, even if it involved a lot of gravel shoveling.  My fear was that this bionic plant would manage to pop right through the plastic anyway, and it’d be even harder to get to with the plastic barrier.  Another method, told to me by a friend who is actually a plant ecologist, was to cut it back close to the ground and pour full strength, concentrated weed killer in the stalks.  That seemed like an even better plan, and although I don’t like that it will be some time before I can plant anything there again if I sterilize the soil, I liked the idea of dousing it with the weed killer and spending the summer re-spraying as needed until it doesn’t come back.

So yesterday, I tackled the bamboo full force once again.  I prepared by going to Home Depot and buying the largest container of Round Up concentrate they sold as well as a long machete.  The machete purchase worried Darrell a bit.  Mostly because I think he thought I’d lose a digit or two—he knows me pretty well.  I had this idea of going all “Ghengis Kahn” on the bamboo, like a mighty warrior defending the homestead.  Instead, it was a pathetic version of sword-wielding with me slamming the machete into the toughened stalks and nicking them a tiny bit.  I could almost hear the bamboo laughing.  I changed my game plan after about a half hour of getting nowhere, and grabbed my little hacksaw that I use for cutting thicker branches when I’m pruning trees.  I’d grab a handful of bamboo, and saw at it like it was one large branch.  It went much quicker than individually cutting stalks and pulling them out, and left me with little stubs of bamboo sticking out of the ground.  With this method, at least when I was finished it looked like there had been some progress, even if it does grow back.  Rain was forecasted for the afternoon, so I hurriedly poured straight up Round Up concentrate directly on the stalks.  “Bottoms up,” I told the stalks.  I really hoped they were in a drinking mood.

Before - Right


After - Right


This morning when I took a look, the remaining stubs had yellowed slightly, but didn’t look completely worse for wear.  I suppose only time will tell if it actually poisoned them completely.  I vowed to myself that I would make it a point to check on it throughout this season to see if there seems to be places where it’s getting its second…make that its third…wind.  Like any problem, hoping it will just go away on its own doesn’t work.  Again, another life lesson taught to me courtesy of yard work.  I never stop seeing metaphors for life in the yard and garden.

Before - Left


After - Left


When I was finished, I saved a few stalks of the bamboo and put them in a pot.  I want to be able to be remind myself of how a seemingly small act like allowing something as innocent and seemingly beautiful as a slender stalk of bamboo into my space can turn out to have extreme repercussions that take a lot of work to remedy.  For now, that side along the house will remain minimal and barren, until the solution has run its course and I once again can plant something shade-loving (and much less invasive) there.  There is a bright side to this journey with the bamboo, though, in addition to those free life lessons it’s provided me.  Next winter, when it’s cold and nasty outside and I start getting the plant catalogs in the mail, I have a whole side of the house to design and plan.  Maybe a variety of Hostas or some native plants like False Indigos or Blue Lobuia.  And I’ll do my research in the plant section, not the poetry section.



Amy’s Favorite Things

This past week Oprah Winfrey announced seventy-two items that she absolutely loves on her 2014 Favorite Things list. As only Oprah can get away with (and still be seen as the woman who can relate so well to her fans) many of the items are beyond the reach of the average person’s budget. Like dog beds that are in the price range of $445-$710 (hypoallergenic, of course—in case it’s your dog with the allergy problem instead of you). She does have some less expensive items on her list, like her book What I Know For Sure; it’s only $25.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a hater. I’d put my own book, if I had one, on my Favorite Things list, too! I actually admire Oprah Winfrey and find her to be a classy gal who has had to endure, among other things, the media’s morbid fascination with her weight. Still, I couldn’t help but see her favorite things and think that I had at least ten favorite things that everyday, practical people could actually buy for themselves or a loved one without having to finance them through a two-years-same-as-cash deal. Besides, I always wanted to write my own version of Rodgers and Hammersteins’ My Favorite Things from the Sound of Music. I even invite you to sing my list if it puts you in a cheerful mood.

In no particular order:

 Costco Chocolate Chip Cookies. For the record, I can’t remember a cookie I didn’t like, but chocolate chip has to be my favorite. Emily and Erin do a great job whipping up homemade cookies from scratch, as does my mother-in-law, but if it’s going to be store bought I love the chocolate chip cookies from Costco. For one, they’re big, so I can get away with saying I only ate one cookie. They are soft and have those big, chunky chocolate chips in them. They never last very long at our house.

Holiday Printed Paper Towels. Simple? Yes. But some reason I love to pick up a roll of Bounty at Halloween or Christmas with the cute little holiday designs on them. Sometimes I have to settle for just getting the printed napkins, but either way they both make wiping countertop messes more fun somehow. It’s the little things…

 60-Second Instant Nail Color. I don’t have a lot of patience when it comes to painting my nails. This product lets me paint my nails and get on with life sooner without the risk of smudged polish. Of course, a gel manicure from the salon is even easier, but when I’m going to do them myself, quick-dry is the way to go. Plus, it’s a bargain compared to Oprah’s nail colors on her list—a set of nine polishes for $144. Although hers are vegan. (Why does nail polish need to be vegan? Who eats nail polish?)

Speaking of non-vegan…

Wurstmarkt. Wait, you say…a sausage supper made the list? Let me tell you, this is no ordinary church dinner. Held the first Saturday in November at Immanuel Church for over 70 years now, this meal is one you can write home about. As I’ve mentioned before, my home church is located in Ferguson, Missouri, where a lot of unrest has taken place. There was talk of cancelling the event this year due to the protests, but they ended up holding it anyway. Attendance was down from years past, but the important thing was that they carried on. The sausage, the mashed potatoes, the pie…yes, Wurstmarkt definitely makes the list.

My Nike Running hat. I bought this hat several years ago and it makes running in the cold possible for me. It’s just a plain, black hat made from lightweight, moisture wicking material—definitely not sexy, but it keeps my ears warm and holds the heat in by my noggin. Last December we ran the Hot Chocolate 5K run in a “feels like” temperature in the single digits. Between the little hand warmer packets I stuck in my gloves and my hat, I stayed warm the whole time. Can’t run without my hat in these Missouri winters.

My Keurig K-Cup Brewer. For years I saw these at Bed, Bath and Beyond and thought they were ridiculously wasteful. Then I got one for Christmas two years ago. As the only coffee drinker in the house, it’s perfect for me, because generally I only drink a cup in the morning and sometimes one in the afternoon. I love that there are tons of flavors to pick from. My favorite seasonal one is the Pumpkin Spice. When I top the coffee with some whipped cream, a squirt of caramel sundae sauce and cinnamon sugar I can close my eyes and actually pretend I’m at a Starbucks. Blissful!

Nike Structure 16 running shoes. I discovered these little gems about two years ago after coming off a foot injury that sidelined me almost two years. I am an over-pronator with a high arch, but thanks to these shoes, I was able to run and train for four half-marathons without re-injuring myself. This is coming from the person who tried cortisone shots, as well as prescription and non-prescription orthotics. They’ve since retired the Nike Structure 16, and have moved on to the newer generation, the Nike Structure 17; I give both these models the credit for allowing me to continue running. These are probably one of my more expensive “favs”, but in the long run are definitely cheaper than doctor office visits and being in pain.

My crockpot. Insert your brand/size crockpot here, but I think crockpots are God’s gift to busy families. There’s nothing like the feeling of putting your roast and veggies together in the morning and being greeted with its delicious aroma when you get home from work. All you have to do is take out the cooked food and it’s chow time. It’s like a little magic genie makes dinner for me when I’m not home. Also good for cooking up chili and soups, the crockpot is the absentee chef’s best friend. What’s not to love?

My tablet. I have a middle-of-the-road Samsung Galaxy. It is awesome. Before that, I had one of the first generations of the Nook offered by Barnes & Noble, which is an unfair comparison. I liked reading on that device, although the screen was not lit and you could only read BN book formats on it, but on my newer tablet I have apps for both Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble, so I can read either format on it. Plus it’s color. And I can play Candy Crush on it and actually see the little candies on the screen, which is much harder to do on my phone (an LG Optimus that I also enjoy).

Air Wick/Glade room freshening candles. Oprah’s list had a four-pack of holiday candles for $240. Let me offer you a more affordable option. Go to the air freshener aisle at Target or Wal-Mart and pick up either Air Wick or Glade candles. Offered in seasonal scents, they burn cleanly, last for hours and are quite the bargain at a couple bucks apiece. If you’re like me and love the scent of lemon no matter what time of year it is, you can get them on clearance after the season is over and have scented candles on the cheap. Get a little crazy and mix it up—burn pumpkin candles in April and cranberry ones in August.

So that’s it, ten of my favorite things. My list may never be printed in my own magazine or talked about on the radio, but I won’t go broke enjoying these finer things in life. There were several other favorites I had to cut, like gel pens and office supplies to narrow it down to only ten items, but I humbly realized that I’m not Oprah, so I don’t get to have 72. I also don’t have Oprah’s clout to save you 10% when you use the “DRAGONFLY” discount code. If money remains an obstacle, remember there’s always the free favorite things in which we can all agree, beginning with raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens.


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