Friday, February 28, 2014

Who Needs Oscar When You Have Tim?

Courtesy of Wikimedia
Googie Man under CC BY-SA 3.0 license

Tim pitches in for this Hollywood week with his picks for the best movie of 2013 ahead of this Sundays' Academy Awards broadcast...

Today I finally got to see the film Nebraska in my quest to see the best picture nominees for the 2014 Oscars. It was very good. I have now seen 7 out of the 9 films up for consideration As of right now, it is probably in the middle of the pack for me. If I were to rank them right now it would go like this:

1. Dallas Buyers Club-I cannot say enough good things about this movie! Top notch performances from Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto and Jennifer Garner. The story focuses on many social issues that are still prevalent in society today. 

2. 12 Years A Slave-Best film of the year so far. It serves as a reminder of a part of history we should never forget.

3. American Hustle-Comes in a close third. The more I think about this film the more I like it. Great acting performances all around.

4. Captain Phillips-Had the feel of Zero Dark Thirty from last year's awards. Very intense and entertaining. Well deserved nomination by newcomer Barkhad Abdi. On the other hand, Mr. Hanks is one of the biggest snubs in recent memory.

5. Nebraska-Great realistic film that shows what our world is like today. Very funny and entertaining. I could definitely relate to what the main characters were going through. It reminded me so much of the various places my family and I have traveled to. Great performances by Bruce Dern, Will Forte and June Squibb.

6. Her-Another very good film. The premise of a love story that involves a computer is definitely weird, but that's what director Spike Jonze is about with very quirky stories. He somehow makes it work. One final note: Joaquin Phoenix delivers his best performance of his career.

7. Gravity-This is the most disappointing of the nominees because I wanted to like this movie going in. The only thing it really has going for it is the 3-D and the visual effects. The plot can be very predictable and I didn't really feel a connection with the main characters. Having said all that, this is a movie that the Academy drools over which means a lot of Oscar gold.

Copyright 2014 - Tim Musick
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

It's a Blooming Early Spring

Yes, it's dry, it's warm, and now the plants think it's spring. 

We've got the yellow cymbidium at the top open this weekend.

This one is just starting to bloom...

...while this one's been open a couple of weeks now.

In addition, the bougainvilleas never went dormant. While most of them are leafy and green, this bright coral one is in full glory.

We're still picking tomatoes...

...although our cherry tomatoes are twice as big as the regular ones.

This zucchini is making quite an effort, too.

And, always, these super-hot chiles are ready to spice things up.

Copyright 2014 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved 

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Bees Knees

After cutting it back to form a somewhat globe shape last year, our lavender never bloomed again. Recently, I saw what looked like buds on the plant but my wife said "no," those were just more leaves.

Proving I can be right sometimes too, the lavender went ahead and agreed with me. Now, the blooms are opening up spectacularly.

I like lavender for it's beauty and fragrance. People keep telling me you can use it in recipes. When I ask how, I always get "there are lot's of ways you can use it." OK, please tell me at least one...I'm all ears.

My biggest reason for having it, though, is that it attracts pollinators...especially honey bees.  While some shy away from these stinger-equipped insects, I want all I can get so they can wander over to my vegetable garden and help me bring in a good harvest there, too.

This week, we're also experiencing bud break on our grape vine although it never went completely dormant like it usually does. This extremely dry and warm winter means the plants think it's spring. So do the birds...we saw a jay hunting for nesting material and the first swallow of the season over the weekend.

Our camellia bushes are doing well, like this pink one...

...and this red one at the opposite end of the patio.

I'll show you some more flowers popping open a little later this week.

Copyright 2014 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Get Back to Where You Once Belonged

More pruning adventures for this week. The plumeria, beautiful as it is, is invading our space.

I get my big loppers and take off the canes that are intruding into our walkway. The Cheapskate and his family only have so much room. The plants have to learn to share.

The grapevine has been trimmed back as well. I hope I didn't stunt the crop later on by cutting off the second biggest cane.

All is now ready for the season save the sideyard. I just have to till in some amendment and start some vegetable seedlings to plant here.

Copyright 2014 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

CHEAP GETAWAYS: Scottsdale on a Budget

A weekend getaway from the Los Angeles area to Phoenix or Scottsdale is easy. Just head east on Interstate 10 for a few hours, take a one hour flight, or busing it on Greyhound.

It can also be done on a budget or a "sky's the limit" stay at the Biltmore or the Boulders. We're here to tell you how on a budget. The prices below are for a high-season stay in mid-winter, if you come late spring through early fall, you may be able to get a hotel rate for half the price.

GAS - $230
It's 380 miles each way, 760 round trip, and count on another 100 while you're there (the Valley of the Sun is very spread out). Being very conservative and counting on 15 miles per gallon, that's $230 for gas. If you get better mileage and buy most of your gas in Arizona, you can probably knock a third off of that. If you fly, count on at least $70 each way from California per person. The bus starts at $40 each way.

HOTEL - $375
We stayed at a fairly expensive one, the Marriott McDowell Mountains Resort at $173 per night (including tax) or $520. You can stay at a very nice but less expensive property like the Hospitality Suites in downtown Scottsdale for around $125 per night, including breakfast.

FOOD - $255
We spent about $25 per day on breakfast and about $50 per night on dinner, with a $10 snack in between (for three people). $85 per day.

Our entertainment was hiking and free music in the bar, and exploring Old Town so nothing there.

Total for three nights...$860.

Copyright 2014 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Preparation is the Name of the Season

Pruning. That's what this weekend was all about. Cutting back on the plants to make them ready for the coming growing season. Above, the front yard roses have finished their late winter bloom. They're last in line, it's time to cut them back.

I started at the far end of the backyard, pruned a couple of bushes a week, and worked my way over here.

Now, they're all done. I'm soaking the ground so I can pull up the weeds. The smaller trimmings are thrown onto the lawn to get chopped and mulched by the mower.

When it's all done, it looks like this - except I still have to pull up the weeds.

Copyright 2014- Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Shearing and Sanding

Continuing the pruning of the roses highlights this weeks chores. 

Above, you can see Mr. Lincoln halfway through the process. That dead-looking plant next to it is a pot of baby's breath. It comes back each year but I doubt there's any mix left in that pot.

Yep, pretty empty. I just pulled the whole thing up but I bet it will come up anyway from the roots that grew through the bottom of the pot.

Here's our Peace tree rose after pruning.

Another project I started is to sand, stain, and varnish this little table my wife bought for $5 at a yard sale.  

My neighbor, Scott, is a mosaic artist and he's coming up with an insert that I'll install in the middle. It'll become a cocktail table on our patio when done.

Copyright 2014 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Everything's Coming Up Camellias

Like an alarm clock, the camellias bloom each January and February reminding me it's time to shake of the winter lazies and get back to work in the garden.

These shade loving beauties, of which I have three bushes, grow great with little to no care. I pretty much ignore them except to severely prune them every 3 or 4 years. 

When we bought this house, the backyard landscape was pretty hideous.  95% iceplant and a couple of other items here and there, these are among the very few plants I kept. Everything else was ripped out and started anew.

Now that these and our cymbidiums are coming back to colorful life, it's time to plan this year's garden.

Copyright 2014 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved