Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Hi, my name is Tilly. You can see from my photo that I am adorable. I was born in the countryside and adopted at two months of chronological age. I have an older a sibling, Zozo, who was born in Wisconsin and adopted at six weeks of age. We moved into the city house of Ima. Ima makes certain that we have lots of affection, food, water, clean bathroom facilities, lots of rest, toys, and regular visits to the doctor. She even trims our nails, which is quite irritating. Of course, my favorite activities are tummy rub and treat time.

Unfortunately, Ima has been seeking employment for a long while and is sad because she has had difficulty finding a job. She has sent out over 500 resumes and been on over 20 interviews. Ima is an eccentric middle-aged human female with many talents. When she isn’t looking for a job she volunteers with disaster response, community building, and mentors college students. She has helped several neighbors convert their yards with native perennial plants.

Ima has devoted her life to helping others in need. She has worked at several 501(c)3 nonprofit non-governmental organizations and educational institutions. Ima has taught Level 1 English to adults, job readiness skills to people receiving MFIP (welfare), service learning to sixth graders, managed volunteers, coordinated a mentoring program, and many other tasks. She feels obligated to support others. However, Ima needs assistance now. She’s rather embarrassed to ask but I am not.

Please consider making a gift at Go Fund Me www.gofundme.com/i4ix0 to help Ima pay the mortgage, bills, and buy food for Zozo and I. Searching for a job is all consuming. The cost is approximately $2,200* per month since she is frugal. She has been trying to spread cheer through sharing her thoughts freely by blogging. She has also focused on promoting talented artists with her words. Regardless of your decision, please encourage your friends and family to become regular readers of Ima’s blog. Delight Ima by Friending her on Facebook and Following her on Twitter.

Thank you for your time and consideration of this humble request. All gifts great and small are deeply appreciated. Ima promises to use the funds for necessities like mortgage and food. As soon as she procures employment and pays the bills she will donate to charities the amount that is raised by this effort (it may take a year or two). She will keep you updated on the blog.

Many Purrs,
Tillie & Zozo

PS Translated from Meowlish by Ima.
Note: * = Go Fund Me and Pay Pal extract a small fee for processing the donation.

Attitude of Gratitude.
© 2012 Ima B. Musing

Monday, March 26, 2012


Latest review was posted on February 27th.

Interpreter of the Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri Three worms
Short stories, some were terrific and others mediocre. Unsatisfying because the brevity only provides a taste of the character. I’d rather read more of the story.

Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley Three worms
Military veteran returns to war at home. Ezekiel abhors violence but uses it as a tool to advance into a new profession. Well-written mystery crime novel. Characters needed more development and could have easily doubled the length of the book. Disturbed that all the women were either sexualized or marginalized.

Battle Royale by Koushun Takami Three worms
Disturbingly violent twist on a survival story. Don’t read if you are prone to nightmares. Same vein as the popular Hunger Games.

The Measure of the Magic by Terry Brooks Two and a half worms
Legends of Shannara series from a prolific author. No map and did not provide enough background story. Weepy women, ugh. Lacks logic that so many characters would suddenly be bestowed with special abilities and no instruction. The magic was never measured.

Here Comes The Nice by Jeremy Reed Two worms
Insufferable characters see-sawing between two time periods. Story-line best appeals to readers interested in the fashion, drugs, and music of the 1960s. Misogynistic view of women as only sexual orbs. Convoluted writing which was difficult to follow. Gave me a headache. Needed a map. Author’s superciliousness to promote himself in the book is untenable.

Read every day!
© 2012 Ima B. Musing

Monday, March 19, 2012


I grew up in a small town, I saw the good, bad, ugly and beauty of knowing your neighbors and that they in turn knew you. Good because people would help each other, usually without asking. When we were low on groceries a bag full would appear on our doorstep or be placed in the back seat of the car (no one locked doors in those days). Good because when I fell while bike riding, two people called my mother as I was limping home. They told her that I had been hurt and didn’t want a ride. She met me at the door with a medical kit. “Good” because we are “in it together,” we have an obligation and duty to help each other since someday we may need help.

Virtually impossible to hide anything or keep a secret because everyone was always up in your business. Bad for anyone seeking privacy. Bad for introverts who didn't desire attention. Bad for selfish people who don’t want to help others. Ugly for people who tended to make mistakes that aren’t easily forgiven. Ugly would be the rumors, even though they were usually based in truth. If your reputation were tinged, people would shun you. Sometimes the shunning would be extended to your family, though they did nothing wrong. You would not be welcomed or invited to activities. Neighbors would be begrudgingly polite but it would be obvious that you were not liked. No one would tell you why even when you asked for an explanation. The isolation would be devastating.

I have always been a bit of a “square peg” I never matched the expectations of a “round hole” small town. I didn’t feel comfortable with the conservative culture and some of the small-minded residents. I was told not to ask so many questions. I didn’t fit in but I miss the beauty of the quiet. The beauty of knowing people and being comfortable with the rhythm of life. Safety of stability. Beauty can create unattainable expectations if you’ve never lived in a small town. I yearn for the closeness but feel wary of the razor’s edge. Humans are complicated flawed creatures. We ironically err when we assume otherwise. No one is perfect. Period. End of Discussion.

However, the Internet is bringing us back to the village. We are not limited to geography but by access to technology, knowledge how to utilize the technology, and shared values. The Wild Wild Web can be vicious when it spreads false rumors or seeks to harm. Everything that you say and do could be posted online forever. No way to erase mistakes. Apologizes may be ignored so you cannot correct your blunder. Cameras are everywhere recording your every breath. Fear can spread like fire. It is much more vicious than a physical small town.

Misinformation can be framed in a way that it sounds legitimate. It is impossible and probably unethical to block negative attitudes but lies should be prosecuted. The same laws that apply to the printed and broadcast media world should apply to the Internet. We are stymied by artificial international boundaries. Thus, we have to create an online culture that rewards positive behavior and ignores the negative. Don’t reward nasty people who seek chaos and harm. Don’t pass on rumors until you can verify that it is a real fact. Don’t fall into the trappings of being a bully. Be good to your online neighbor because we all reside on this planet. We dwell in the Internet Village, let it be good and beautiful.

Ima for Mayor.
© 2012 Ima B. Musing

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


Consumed a scrumptious Sunday brunch at Al Vento Restaurant, located at 5001 34th Ave South in Minneapolis, MN. Long curtains adorn the crowded entryway but are not very effective at blocking out the winter chill for front room diners. It would be nice if they had a heated tent on the outside deck for people to wait for their table. Two hosts should be present at the doorway so that one can check in guests while the other seats a group, preps a table or at least post a sign that states “Wait to be seated.”

Buffet style brunch is arranged on tables and on top of the high bar. Eggs Benedict featured a nicely poached egg atop a small spinach leaf and soggy piece of bread with a tiny dribble of Hollandaise. It might be better to separate the components for the diner to reassemble into a toasty version. Hollandaise tasted homemade but larger dollop desired. Thick cut bacon of varying degrees of crispness available, which is good to suit the preferences of the diner. Zesty sausage and country cut potatoes, which need toppings. Plain egg bake had very little flavor. Blander tomato pasta dish was quite disappointing since this is an Italian restaurant.

Crisp waffles were in short supply. Wonderful real whipped cream to top the waffles but a drippy maple syrup container made hands sticky. Green salad ingredients displayed on top of the bar included pickled beets, cheese, olives, balsamic dressing, and other fixings. Saddened that no fresh mozzarella cheese was available for the green salad. Tomato-cucumber-bread salad was featureless. Perfectly blanched asparagus tips salad was good. Superb lox (salmon) was served with toasted bagels and cream cheese; dill sprinkles would have been nice addition. Simple desserts and fruit. Nice chocolate fountain and endless refreshments.

I ate so much that I wasn’t even hungry for breakfast the next morning. I drank water for 24 hours until consuming a light lunch on Monday. I have worked at several eating establishments. It is grueling work and one only hopes that the diners leave at least a 20% tip. Oftentimes, the server has to share the tip with the host, bus-person, bartender, and kitchen crew. Al Vento has possibly one of the smallest bathrooms in the Twin Cities. It is located near the bar, no room to turn around.

Ravenous crowd consumed a lot of food. Kitchen crew struggled to keep some of the containers filled. Perhaps they could install a camera to watch from the food prep area. Food labels and brighter lighting needed in the bar area on a cloudy day. Server was friendly but too busy to provide much attention. Salt and pepper shakers on the table or buffet area needed. Sixteen dollars was a reasonable price for the brunch. Smooth background music would add to the ambiance. Make a reservation because it is a popular destination. During the summer you can sit on their lovely patio. www.alventorestaurant.com

Overall rating of three and a half forks (out of five).

Yummy for the tummy.
© 2012 Ima B. Musing

Monday, March 12, 2012


Please read Parts I & II, posted on March 7th and 9th.

Native perennial plants are easy to take care of after they are established, hence the label of low maintenance. Install grasses and flowers that naturally grow in your geographic area, not cultivars or imports. The initial investment of time and money to establish the garden has paid off. I kept the fence up for two years to make certain that the new plants were rooted. After removing the chicken wire, I erected a short two-foot decorative wire fence to make it look like the flowers were there on purpose. A few people in the area had had their native grasses and plants removed by the city because the neighbors thought it looked like weeds instead of a low maintenance yard. Hence, inform your neighbors or they may get your yard condemned. Check into local laws and ordinances. If they are not conducive to non-turf lawns, petition the lawmakers to change the rules. The local Watershed District has taken photos of my garden to post on their website.

Weeds can sprout up along the edges and sometimes the perennials will expand beyond the fence or on the pathway. I remove these plants right away. My grandma would always say, “Any plant in the wrong location is a weed.” She was right. I move desirable plants to better setting and pull out the remainder to give to friends, place at the curb with a “free” sign, or compost. The perennials needed constant watering the first year but less the second and almost none the third. Their roots go down so deep that drought rarely affects them. A couple years ago there was a moderate drought in the Twin Cities area but my yard wasn’t affected except for the boulevard. It needed water but the rest grew well because their roots reach down about 10 feet underground. They also soak up rain going into the rain garden and I rarely get water in the basement. When I do it is a trickle compared to the previous stream.

Some of the plants just don’t tolerate the site due to many factors, the soil, light, pollution, or they just aren’t strong enough. I replaced them with other plants and the surviving plants naturally filled in the area. The kids in the neighborhood know me as the “flower lady”. The come over and steal a blossom or two but that is okay with me. I only get annoyed when adults let their dogs tread, poop or pee in the flowerbed. It kills the plants.

I cut down the plants in the fall to nearly the soil. I wait until after the first frost so that they will drop their seeds. I gather seeds and give them to people who want to grow their own perennials. Birds swarm the plants to consume seeds before they fly south. I stuff the dead stems into the compost bin. It is a lot of labor to do this in the fall so I split it between several days. Some years I am slow and it snows before I was able to tackle this task. Trudging around in slush to remove the growth. Ugh. In the spring I rake out the flattened remainders of the growth and watch the new shoots emerge. I have had to replenish the wood-chips a couple times but the plants have filled in so there is very little open space remaining. I developed a huge allergy to Goldenrod and have been trying to eradicate it.

During the warm season I never have to purchase flowers. I take them everywhere I venture. There was a drop-in center for clients at one place that I worked and I took flowers a couple times per week. The clients loved the blooms because none of them lived in housing where they could grow flowers. The flowers draw bees, butterflies and lots of animals. My cats love watching and smelling the creatures outside, Nature: The Kitty Channel. Feral felines prowl the beds seeking mice and voles. The only bad experience was a foul smell one day. A skunk must have decided to hide in the flowers and some creature irritated it enough to create a stink. Ugh. I had to close the windows for a couple hours. I knew enough not to venture into the garden that day since skunks are nocturnal and move around at night.

Previous Garden-Related Blogs:
Seed starting tips posted on March 3rd, 4th & 5th, 2010.
Butterfly garden ideas posted on September 28th, 2011.
Composting guidelines posted on November 8th, 2011.

Native perennial plants are the best!
© 2012 Ima B. Musing

Friday, March 9, 2012


Please read Part I first, posted on March 7th.

I had already informed my neighbors about the landscaping project and shown them photos of the flowers. No one objected but I wanted them to be informed since they would be looking a it every day, too. After the turf removal I had to landscape the soil and dig in a rain garden. I hauled a multitude of wheel-barrels full of soil to build up dirt next to the house (due to water running into my basement when it rained). I made it twice as steep as suggested because I knew that it would compact over time. Plus, I dug out a rain garden twice the size needed since it will slowly fill up. The pile of turf and soil in my backyard grew into a mound. Manual labor is an excellent workout and I felt stronger every day.

It was now time to mulch with wood-chips. I located a company who sold the chips in bulk. It was cheaper to purchase what I needed for the entire yard and get it delivered. I knew that 18 cubic yards was a lot. Felt rather overwhelmed when I arrived home and the pile was as tall as my single-stall garage. I nearly cried. At least it was a Friday and I had the weekend to start moving the bulk. First, I sprayed the landscaped soil with Round Up to kill any weeds or bits of turf that were still there. Second, I scattered a heavy layer of corn gluten meal. Corn gluten meal serves two purposes, it stops seeds from germinating and it is a fertilizer. I hate weeds so this was a positive endeavor. Finally, I started moving the wood-chips one wheel-barrel full at a time. It took a week to get them either into the newly landscaped sunny area, stored in the shed or next to the garage. 162 square feet is a heck of a lot of wood-chips!

After the chips were out of the driveway and I could park in the garage again, I focused on planting the flowers. Due to the huge population of rabbits in the neighborhood and pesky dogs that like to poop in the yard, I erected a three-foot tall chicken wire fence around the new flower garden. Ventured to a local organic nursery and purchased the plants. I procured small six-plex cartons because they were cheaper and I needed a lot of plants. I utilized a standing bulb planter, which I could step on to punch a hole in the ground and reduce strain on my back. Moved aside the mulch and punched in holes one foot apart because I wanted them to grow in close proximity. Lessens the opportunity for weeds to develop, too.

After all the holes were dug, about 200 in the sunny side area or phase one. The yard looked like a corkboard with staggered holes. I used a ruler for uniform placement. I took the plants and placed the shortest growers around the edge but a foot and a half back from the sidewalk and driveway (pussy toes, prairie smoke, etc). I decided to alternate the variety of plant for visual complexity. I had started some short prairie grass on my own (under three feet) and placed one row of grass behind the flat plants. I then deposited the shorter flowers in the next row and worked up the tallest in the back and closest to the house. Three-foot perimeter remained around the house for a pathway. I put away my tools and placed the leftover plants in a part-shade location in the backyard. Watered in the new plants and gave the leftovers a drink too. It was an exhausting day but I was happy that the plants were finally in the sunny side of the front yard. Took a shower and collapsed on the couch.

New plants are very vulnerable so it’s important to give them a drink of water daily. If it didn’t rain I watered them in the morning before I went to work. Plants in the six-plexes were even more vulnerable so I gave them a drink in the morning and when I got home from work. I placed netting over the top of the sunny side and potted plants to keep the squirrels out. They can be rather pesky and dig up newly sowed flowers. Unfortunately, the net deterred the birds that eat bugs but I figured that the tree-climbing rodents were more of a threat.

It was time to start the shady side of the front yard, phase two. I followed the same procedure, dug out the turf, landscaped around tree roots (the boulevard tree and the neighbor’s tree), killed off the weeds, put down corn gluten meal and wood-chips, erected the fence, dug the holes, and plopped in the plants. Obviously, I chose plants that liked part-shade. Exhausted but happy.

Phase three, dig the boulevard. Repeated the steps and choose plants that did well in drought and heat. My boulevard is only couple of feet wide so it dries out very quickly. I could not erect a fence but I did put up wooden posts with streamers to help keep out dogs and their owners. Sprinkled hot pepper flakes over the ground to deter animals and reapplied once per week. I adore dogs. I don’t respect owners who let their animal pee and pooh on plants. The plants are expensive and the animal’s waste can kill, especially when the plants are small and the roots are not established. It really irks me when people let their canines and felines out to roam. It is dangerous for the animal and annoying to the neighbors. My cats stay inside at all times.

The next year I placed the ubiquitous hosta on the north side of the house since they do well in shade. I didn’t want to grow ferns because they often harbor mosquitoes. On the south side of the driveway I had started a patch of short native prairie grass (blue stem et al) a couple years before. It grows well. I added a patch of milkweed, prairie sage and sweetgrass. I pick and dry the sage and sweetgrass and give it to people who can use it. I burn a lot myself, though the cats don’t like the smell. Zozo does want to eat the grass but too much and her stomach gets upset.


Sustain the green.
© 2012 Ima B. Musing

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Perennials are forever, well, almost. Mowing is a boring, wasteful, and redundant activity. Why burn the time and fossil fuel once or twice per week? I decided a few years ago to install a rain garden filled with native plants. Native perennials are plants that grow naturally in your geographic area. They are more drought and pest tolerant than hybrids or plants brought in from other areas. Once established, the natives require the least amount of maintenance. Thankfully, I learned of the watershed district’s native plant program. Like most Minnesotans, I reside in a watershed district, applied for and was accepted to receive reimbursement for half the cost of supplies (no labor can be reimbursed). Originally I was only going to install a small area but the financial assistance greatly expanded my options. I decided to tear up the entire front and side yards (about 300 square feet).

My lot is twice as long as it is wide and the length runs east west. The short side faces east with the street, sidewalk, and a three-foot wide boulevard. The house sits on the north side of the lot, with the short side facing the street and a detached garage on the south side of the lot. Near the sidewalk, there is a four-foot wide patch on the south side of the lot, hemmed in by the ten-foot wide driveway, which is about fifty-feet long. The sunny part of my lawn is bordered by the house and driveway. There is a short walkway from the front porch to the sidewalk. Due to a boulevard tree, the area is part-shade. The north side of the house is full shade. The backyard is very small.

Education is the most important step. I learned about planting techniques, native plants of the Twin Cities region, and places to procure the plants. I developed a list of plants and grasses. The Extension Service is a reliable source of free information and the local Master Gardner program may offer classes. University of Minnesota has a fabulous website www.extension.umn.edu/gardeninfo/ for upper Midwest plants. I knew that I wanted a variety of plants, different colors, heights and blooming times. Learn about sustainable landscape design at www.sustland.umn.edu/

Luckily, there are several nurseries and events around the Twin Cities that focus on native perennials. The Twin Cities Friends Plant Sale in early May also has a good selection visit www.friendsschoolplantsale.com for details. The Twin Cities Living Green Expo www.livinggreenexpo.mn in May offers free workshops. Not all the plants were in stock but at least I knew what I sought when I went shopping. A list of MN nurseries is at www.plantinfo.umn.edu/ You can also check out the Native Plant Expo and Market coordinated by the St. Paul Audubon Society at www.saintpaulaudubon.org in June. If you don’t reside in Minnesota, just check with your local Extension Service, they should have a list of resources. It is best to purchase from a local nursery or obtain cuttings from a local gardener rather than ordering from a catalogue.

Of course, talking with an actual gardener is the absolute best method of learning. Drive around your neighborhood and look for an impressive garden. Stop and chat with the gardener, if they aren’t home leave a note. It’s flattering when someone notices. Lots of people wave when they walk by or else say nice things if I’m out in the yard. When sitting on my porch I’ve seen people stop their car and take photos. Most gardeners love to talk about how they created their yard. I like to blog about it.

Preparation is the most tedious part of the process. Turf or regular grass tends to build upon itself and the under layers of thatch don’t absorb much water. I could have just sprayed a general herbicide and killed the grass but the thatch would have impeded the growth of the new plants. The grass and weeds could have started growing if it had not been completely destroyed. Thus, I decided to rip out all the turf. I convinced a bunch of friends to bring their shovels and join me on a lovely spring Saturday to dig dig dig the largest part of the yard, the sunny side. We dug out the entire turf growth, about three to four inches down. The turf was deposited into a pile in my back yard and I bought them pizza. More hands make lighter work.


Think green and greener.
© 2012 Ima B. Musing

Monday, March 5, 2012


Zozo is an affectionate cat. The ginger haired tabby likes to cuddle with me on the couch. When she was young she would snuggle under the blanket and lay down outside my right thigh with her head near my knee to sleep, perchance to dream. As you know, felines have outstanding olfactory skills; their noses are extremely sensitive. Unfortunately, this did not work in Zozo’s favor one day. I had consumed some food that caused an excess of methane in my gastrointestinal tract.

She was blissfully sleeping under the blanket when the first discharge occurred. I felt her wake up and take several small inhalations. Zozo relaxed again and a few minutes later another vapor let loose. She jerked to alertness, took a breath, wiggled out of the blanket, jumped onto the floor, gave me a look of horror, and fled from the room. The poor thing had been choked by the fumes. I admit that the fart was quite strong. For several years she did not sleep under the blanket next to me. Her memory of that terrible smell remains vivid. Tillie, muted calico troublemaker, runs from the room and returns when the stink subsides. Momo, now deceased calico kitty, never reacted to the stench; perhaps her nose wasn’t as attuned as she aged.

When my childhood dog, Toto, would pass gas she would blame the closest human. She would sniff the air and give the person a disdainful accusatory look. After consuming a bird her farts would be awful. I’m sure the air color turned a bit green from what exited her rear end. The adage of “SBD” silent but deadly could be applied to that cute fuzzy creature’s airy creations.

Pass the Beano!
© 2012 Ima B. Musing

Friday, March 2, 2012


Rolling on an overturned boat of leather, warm breathing waves between your legs, smelling musty hair and moist wool with deep rumbles of a creature 200 times your size. The experience of riding a horse as a child. I was placed upon a steed before I could walk. Granted, I chose not to walk until I was two years old but I do remember riding a Shetland pony at my maternal Grandfather’s rehab ranch. He would also hitch the pony to a small cart for me to tool around the yard. He was raised on a stockmen’s ranch in Iowa, they breed and trained animals to be sold to other farmers and traveling shows.

Once Grandpa placed me on a regular sized horse I refused to return to the Shetland. I loved horses. I was only scared twice. The first time was when the chestnut mare was giving birth and having a difficult delivery. Grandpa had to get into the pen with her and I thought the baby was killing her. I cried and Gramps told me to hush. She was such a nice horse that I was angry at the colt. All turned out well and I befriended the colt.

The most frightening experience involved a skittish Arabian. I was six years old and walking it in the driveway, as I had done before. Beautiful animal but it slipped on a piece of loose dirt and began to buck. I couldn’t get it to stop so I dropped the reins and gripped the saddle horn. I knew enough not to yell and spook the horse into frenzy. It could have galloped onto a nearby road and harmed or killed both of us. Grandpa heard the commotion and ran over to grasp the reins. I jumped off and staggered to the house. I was bruised from hitting the saddle with my thighs and buttocks. The breath was knocked out of me with my hands, arms, neck and shoulders hurting.

Grandpa calmed down the horse and came in to check on me. I was upset. I’d never been on a horse that bucked more than twice. I was rattled and shaking. He said that I had to ride the horse again. No way, no how, I protested. Gramps must be crazy. He said that the horse was certainly more scared than me. If I didn’t do it right away I would probably be afraid of horses for the rest of my life. I cursed him and he cursed back. He gripped my arm and led me to the horse. He lifted me up into the saddle, grabbed the bridle, and walked us around the yard. Both the horse and I were shaking. I truly learned what the phrase “Get back on the saddle again” means. You have to face your fear or it will haunt you.

I rode horses on his farm until he had to sell it due to overwhelming emphysema. I was irate because I was finally old enough to buy a horse and train it. I wanted to be a barrel racer and participate in the 4-H Horse Show. I was quite bitter that he had to get rid of the farm. I inherited my grandfather’s favorite saddle, Posse hat, and a couple of his leather satchels. I oil the saddle yearly and keep it away from the curious cats. It has nominal value since it was not a high-grade saddle. The smell reminds me of Grandpa. He was born 100 years too late. He never fit in with modernity and would have been happier as a cowboy instead of a farmer.

The night I placed a bid on my house I dreamt that I converted the one car garage into a two-horse stall. Impossible to do in town, plus, they are terribly expensive and take a lot of time to maintain. I herd cats instead. We are distant relatives of William Cody, aka Buffalo Bill Cody, and have relatives who run a small rodeo. I considered going on the road with the rodeo but opted to attend college, alas, another missed opportunity. Mmm, dusty cowboys…

Ride on.
© 2012 Ima B. Musing