Monday, May 31, 2010

For those who gave all

You went through fire and fear, in places near and far, facing a horror the likes of which we happy beneficiaries to your bravery and sacrifice think we can imagine…but cannot.

You suffered.

You died.

I have a good and peaceful life in this beautiful country I call home, a happy and prosperous life, a life of great plenty and freedom.

Your great sacrifice is silently, invisibly woven throughout the life, the liberty, the pursuit of happiness I enjoy today, and every day.

I thank you, I bless you, and I remember you.

A flag in chalk

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Garden Report: Memorial Day Weekend Edition (long and picture heavy)

This morning, I was sitting with my coffee watching Kick Buttowski (what? I love Kick Buttowski…when Awesome calls…a daredevil ANSWERS the PHONE…) when I noticed a plant was growing on my hutch.

Huh, I thought to myself. I don’t remember setting any of the plant starts over there…

Ya. I didn’t. But I did set some sweet potatoes I meant to make a pie out of over there, uh, a while ago, and then I sort of, well, you know how sometimes, you get kinda busy and then, um, well…

sweet potato growth
Mother always told me potatoes would grow if I didn’t keep things clean…

Naturally, I looked at that and thought, I should totally plant that!!...but where…?

Then I started walking around my yard looking for a likely spot to drop a sweet potato plant and I thought, I should totally take pictures of all this! but of course I didn’t have the camera and I had to get to…oh wait, it’s Saturday, I don’t have to get to work or into the kitchen…I CAN TOTALLY GO FIND THE CAMERA AND TAKE PICTURES!!!

So I did.

Along the north side of the house, in an isolated bed that gets too much shade for just about anything to grow against the house itself, I planted some horseradish. It arrived as these little stunted roots that looked thoroughly dead, and I thought I’d been had and that the people who kept saying, “Make sure you plant that somewhere away from other things, it grows like gangbusters and takes over the whole plot!” were nuts.

Yeah, well. A couple months later, this is just one of the four “dead” roots I planted.

Not so much dead. Also, doesn’t care…sun, shade, lots of water, almost no water, whatever, I’m just a happy little root plant planning world domination…

Across the concrete path, I planted spinach. This is also a pretty shady spot, almost no direct sun at all and not that many hours of indirect light either.

The spinach grows slowly there (takes about 50% longer to get “harvest sized” than it would in “full sun”), but it grows.


Down at the end of the path, we have another tricky spot. Two of the three artichokes are doing well; the third one was eaten almost to a nub by snails and is limping along behind the other two. Stubbornly alive, but not really spreading out much.

This is a happy one. Because this is a happy blog.

The cranberries don’t seem to be either thriving or failing. They’re just sort of…there…


But all three bushes are “there,” and we’ve had…really bizarre weather. Everything is moving slowly right now, because we’ve had so many gray, cold-cold-cold days and nights (for California, mind you – my friends in Toronto are currently rolling on the ground screaming with laughter at the very idea that 40 degree nights and 50-something days is “cold”). But this weekend we’re jumping back into our more-normal 80s, so hopefully we’ll start getting the heat and sunlight that makes the Central Valley a bread-basket.

Speaking of (corn) bread, the corn field is coming up well.

Corn field

Pretty soon, it’ll be time to get the other two “sisters” into the ground. I’m planning to do the “three sisters” thing this year…in among that corn, I’ll be planting some pinto beans and pumpkins. The beans use the corn as their climbing supports, and also fix nitrogen (which corn eats up like kids eat, well, corn) back into the soil for the following crop cycle. Furthermore, they help to stabilize the corn when the wind whips through – important out here where we get the Delta “breezes” quite frequently…where “breeze” means “holy crap, somebody put that patio umbrella down before it carries off the table!”

The pumpkins, meanwhile, spread out their leaves and vines to create a natural weed-blocker and moisture retention – extremely important out here in drought-afflicted California.

When the corn gets to about 4” high, I’ll be out there like a kid in a mud pit planting the beans around each stalk, and the pumpkins in the empty spots.

By the way, please ignore the weeds. I suspended all weeding last weekend when I realized the new corn looked way too similar to the cursed sword-blade-like grass that is the bane of my existence. Then I suspended it even more when my back went all jicky on me Tuesday. (It’s still being a pain. Which pisses me off because I have plans for this long weekend, people, and they don’t include lying around feeling sorry for myself…but I did a fair amount of that yesterday, even knocked off work-work a little early so I could “work” on my back instead and it helped, so I’m trying very hard to be sensible today and not go all She-Ra on the housework and the gardening. Even if it is giving me a nervous tic to be sitting around on my ever-expanding backside watching my house not clean itself. Never mind. I’ll survive. Let’s keep going. Lots more ground to cover.)

This is a little less than half the back forty(yards) given over to corn; it was supposed to be all in roma tomatoes right now that were supposed to be about three weeks from harvest, but, well…yeah. I think I’ve mourned long enough over my poor little romas.

So let’s look at one of the survivors instead.

survivor roma

In the containers, the cherry tomatoes pulled a fast one on me: they have little tomatoes already growing! Eeeeeee!!!

Cherry tomatoes

The beefsteak and the yellow heirlooms still have flowers, but no tomatoes forming yet. I can’t say as I blame them: it’s just too danged cold to be fruiting up out here, really.

The peas came out a couple weekends ago; the vines had been too badly damaged by the powdery mildew and they just never recovered from it. So we pulled them out and got rid of them in the city trash (wah – it kills me to do that, but putting diseased plants into your compost is just plain stupid), and then we added fresh non-diseased-plant compost and a little organic fertilizer to the patch and mixed it all up…I’ll be planting watermelons in there today or tomorrow (back permitting), using seeds we saved from a store-bought watermelon. We’ll see what happens. The problem with doing that is that you don’t know what you’ll get; if the watermelon we bought was a “plain old watermelon,” we should be fine. If it was a hybrid, the plants we get from the seeds may not be what we expect. Or even edible. It’s a gamble, but hey – it’s a free one, which is my favorite price.

Oh, and my husband so totally got me. We were discussing whether or not we could try using the seeds from this watermelon (where “we” means “I” and “discussing” means “thought out loud to myself with him as an audience at great length”, and he looked at me with a totally serious face and said, “You know, I’d really rather if you bought one of those seedless watermelons to do this – I like the seedless ones better.”

And I was all, “Uh…honey…?” because how was I going to gently tell this usually rather brilliant and observant man that SEEDLESS watermelons were going to be darned tricky things to get seeds from and then he busted out laughing because seriously, did I think he was THAT dumb?!

Also, I planted some carrots over here last weekend. Carrots drive me a little crazy, because they take so darned long to come up. I’m a child of the instant-gratification era, something that can take up to three weeks to appear is like, ohmygah, am I sure I got those seeds into the ground?!

Future Carrots

And this is a future onion patch. With a bonus sunflower.

surprise sunflower

I didn’t plant this sunflower. I’m not sure if one of the kids did it when I wasn’t looking, or if it is a seed we planted last spring that just took this long to take off. I don’t really care – I love sunflowers in general and sunflower seeds I can eat until I’m sick.

Here’s a shot down from the top. I love the center, the way it looks all flower-like already. Also, this sucker will get up to eight feet tall eventually, if it’s the mammoth I think it is. (Because that’s the only kind of sunflower seeds I’ve bought.)

from the top of the sunflower

Behind the back forty(yards) along the fence, where once there were roses-roses-roses, there are now Christmas limas beginning to come up.

Christmas limas

My husband lined the fence with a wire trellis, all the way along the back forty(yards); I can grow anything that wants to climb back there without having to fiddle with twine or supports or anything.

Sorry ladies…he’s taken.

I replanted some cucumbers there too…nothing yet…patience…paaaatience…

The blackberries and raspberries are, like the cranberries, doing “just” fine .They’re healthy and happy, but they’re not really growing a whole lot. I can’t wait to see what they do when the weather gets more California-like for them.

thornless blackberries

The trees are also having an…interesting…time of things. Now, I’m not really counting on these little fruits actually growing into edible things. This is the tree’s first year in the ground here, after all. That said…technically, these peaches “should” have been ready in May. May is over in a couple days and, uh, well…they don’t look anything like “ready.”


Quite a few shriveled up and died (which is actually good IMHO, because if all of them ripen up that branch is going to have a devil of a time not breaking off!), but these that remain are just sort of…staying exactly the same size. Golf ball size. Same with the nectarines. Hmmmm…

Also…something is chewing holes in my Ranier cherry’s leaves!!!!!

who is nibbling my cherry tree?!

Whatever it is doesn’t like the Bing cherry, or any other tree. It might be fond of the potatoes, which have had a little damage exactly like this. I think it must be something winged, because I have been stalking around out there at all hours I could searching for the little bastards. If they’re nocturnal, they must be, like, 2 a.m. nocturnal. The tree seems to be fending for itself for the most part, but for a while there I was afraid it was going to actually kill the tree – it only had a few paltry leaves left!

Then we discovered that the deep-root watering system’s valves were actually in the “off” position – so it wasn’t getting any water other than the rain. We’ve had many, many days of “rain,” but it hasn’t been rain-rain. It’s been “heavy misting with occasional actual showers” kind of rain. Fractions of inches kind of rain. Not enough for a thirsty new tree. We opened up those valves and gave it a good long drink straight from the hose into the deep watering canister, and it perked up considerably. Something is still eating those leaves, but it is putting out three or four new ones for every one that gets nibbled into lace.

The Bing cherry tree, though, is unscathed and extremely healthy. The little Granny smith apple tree is also happy, although some of its leaves are curling a bit…I’m not sure if it MEANS something, though, or if it’s just what new apple tree leaves look like, so I’ll be consulting my tomes of tree lore this afternoon.

On the way past the play structure, I paused for a strawberry shot.


The “upside down” planters are doing pretty well overall; the Denizens are responsible for the watering and harvesting of the two hangers, and they do the former with something almost like diligence and the latter with gusto.

Butternut squashes are happy.

Butternut Squash

And the replanted-in-the-back-away-from-whatever-was-nibbling-up-front zucchini is starting to come up.

zucchini take II

And then we come to the potato beds…where there are flowers. Now people, I am ashamed to confess that I never really thought about potatoes and how they look when they grow. If you had asked me to guess, I would have expected some low, ugly bush with a bunch of knobby roots growing under it. Something stunted, with all that energy going into those big bulbous roots below.

White potatoes have blossoms like this.

white potatoes

This is the red potato bed…

red potato bed
White potatoes are a little to the right, and the containers there are the cherry, beefsteak and heirloom yellow-striped tomatoes. And the blue thing is a trike, because around these parts the signs of children are EVERYWHERE.

These are the red potato blossoms.

red potato flowers

I am so charmed I can hardly stand it. So charmed that I lay down on my back next to the purple potatoes so I could get a decent shot of their glamorous adornments.

purple potato flower
Felt kinda good to lie down on the ground, actually…it’s nice and hard right there and my back was already bitchin’ about being made to {gasp!} WALK AROUND…

The blueberries under the front window are, like every other berry around this place, just kind of cruisin’ into summer.


They leafed out nicely, but aren’t really “bushing” the way they’re supposed to yet. Gardening, it turns out, requires a fair amount of this stuff called “patience.” WHO KNEW?!?

My long-suffering husband is going to build me a cute little herb box to go here along the walkway to the front door.

Future Herb Box

I was going to buy one but then I was all, “FIFTY BUCKS ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!” And I pouted for a minute and then I had this brilliant idea, so I walked up behind my husband, kissed the top of his head fondly, rubbed his shoulders and purred, “Well hello there, you sexy, sexy man!” into his ear.

He sighed heavily, rubbed his eyes wearily and asked, “What do you need built now?”

He loves being married to me. It’s awesome.

Speaking of sexy, lookit what he built for me already!!!!

sexy boxes

I’ll do another post to show the whole process, but this is where we are now. And my man? He did all of it. Shoveling out the extra dirt, rerouting the sprinklers, drawing up plan-things to turn log-things into box-things…and now he’s drawing up plans to turn sand-things and brick-things into patio-things to go around them so that fugly patch will finally after twelve years look good… he’s so brilliant I can hardly stand it.

mah man
And this is him on the Big Build Day, explaining something about angles and bevels and leveling and blah blah blah sand and blah blah blah pavers and I think he may have said something like “don’t you DARE take a picture of me right now, I’m all sweaty and gross!” so naturally I kinneared him anyway and now I’m posting it on my blog so the whole Internet can see it – LOVE YOU TOO, SWEATY! SWEETIE! WHATEVER!

I can’t wait to get stuff started in these. Since it’s up front and in a mostly-shady spot, I’m focusing on things like herbs and shade-tolerant stuff like the spinach. I’ve been told potatoes might be OK with it too (it gets four to six hours only…in the summertime, that can be a blessing because it gets rippin’ hot and direct sun will about melt the paint off the house, but in the winter that block is going to be a challenge to keep planted…) (although with these boxes? You can totally turn them into little greenhouses with almost no effort at all…said the woman who doesn’t do any of the actual woodworking that makes that happen…) (hmm…I wonder if the neighbors would mind me running grow-lights out there in the winter time…it’s not exactly right under their bedroom window...)

And these? Are coming out.

Future Potted Something

Good riddance, sez I. It’s a funny thing about these, actually: There are two of them, one on either side of the garage. They are fiddly little ornamental bushes that you have to get out almost very stinkin’ week and trim; when trimmed, they are pretty little topiary-ish things. But most of the time? They look like this. Because they are so far down on both our lists of Stuff I’d Like To Do Today that we just never get around to it.

I’ve disliked them since we moved in. Himself has loathed them since we moved in. He had no idea I disliked them too. He thought I loved them. So he’s confined his dislike to the occasional grumble all these years…and was very pleasantly surprised when I was all, “You know, maybe we should rip those out of there and put something else…maybe more blueberries…”

And then when he started the boxes, I suggested we take them out, tile in those patches, and put “nice” planters there – terracotta or something – and then we could mix up what we plant there. (Don’t tell him, but I’m thinking about dwarf lime trees. He’s not that fond of limes, but I am and so are most of our neighbors…but nobody currently has a lime tree, dwarf or otherwise.)

The last area where something is getting ready to feed us is here…much to the amusement of the neighbors who own half of this, who think I’m certifiably nuts (but in a nice way):

dirt strip

Oh, you can’t see it? Here. Have a close up.


It’s lettuce. My husband even ran a little drip line out to it from the main line. I can keep a miniature salad bowl going there all season.

And that’s the not-a-bit-brief garden report, Memorial Day edition. We’ve had quite a few failures this year, actually, from roma tomatoes that died to squash plants that got eaten to beans that shot up during a brief warm spell only to be murdered by an unexpected late frost. And the peas being taken out well before we would have liked by that cursed powdery mildew. I’ve had a lot more trouble with snails and cutworms, too, and am dreading the coming aphid invasion.

But it is just such an amazing thing, to walk out into my backyard and hey look, food! It’s a daily miracle, seeing bare earth suddenly green with sprouts.

Every single day, it’s like getting a present. A flower here, a sprout there, an absolutely perfect berry or the bright red of a ladybug on a leaf. (Go get the aphids, girl, go get ‘em!)

And of course, sitting down to a meal that came entirely or in part from your own yard is just something that can’t be beat. All the flavor and savor you get from farmer’s market produce, from produce that was grown until it was actually ripe, picked and brought to market within hours instead of days or even weeks, but with the added spice of having been grown with your time and talent it becomes something transcendent.

Better than any drug for just about anything that ails you.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Dear Back:

We’ve been together a long time. I consider you to be a very close, uh, body part. Now of course, our relationship has been somewhat strained for the last five years, ever since you suddenly decided to take that lifelong tendency of yours to get your vertebrae out of joint to the next level, so to speak.

Now, I don’t hold you entirely to blame. After all, I haven’t exactly taken things easy on you. I’ve abused you. I’ve ignored injuries to you – although in my defense, the fact that you’ve always been so damned touchy hasn’t helped there.

After all, I can hardly go through my whole entire life not doing stuff because you’re being a prima donna, Back. I can’t just stop everything to cater to your every whim. Not only would that lead to a very dull life indeed, it’s not just about you, or me, or us – there is a whole big family involved here, and we all have needs.

Which is why I think we need to have this chat today, Back. Because I really don’t understand what you’re doing right now.

I think at this point it may be helpful to pause for a quick review of the sorts of things that may or may not be reasonably expected to cause a back to go :!!!pwang!!!: and then throw itself and the rest of the body attached to it into a downward spiral of agony from which there seems no escape for the next unknowable period of time.

Activities that WOULD be expected to cause a :!!!pwang!!!:

  • Moving a piano up two flights of stairs
  • Picking up a furiously fighting five year old who doesn’t WANT to take a
    bath right now, even though he smells like the jacks behind the 5th Infantry encampment
  • Digging trenches
  • Wrestling bears
  • Bench-pressing a VW Microbus

Activities that would NOT be expected to cause a :!!!pwang!!!:

  • Sitting up in bed
  • Coughing
  • Laughing
  • Picking up a 24-count box of Junior Meltaway allergy tabs (total weight maybe 5/8 an ounce)

All clear? Good. Now. As you know, Back, I picked up a box of melt-away allergy tablets on Tuesday morning. I was leaning down slightly to do this, and I was looking to my left so I could bellow at call to Captain Adventure to come and take his allergy medicine.

And you went :!!!pwang!!!: with an almost audible pop and have been a right bastard ever since. You have scoffed at Advil, sneered at Tylenol, and have throbbed defiantly at Vicodin. You won’t be soothed by packs of heat or ice. You don’t want me to sit, stand, stretch, hold still or lie down. You’re keeping me up all night and then cramping up even more because we’re tired.

All because I picked up a tiny little box of allergy medicine?

Pardon my use of abbreviated obscenity, Back, but, seriously…WTF?!

Now, I still love you. We’ve been through a lot together. We’ve ridden horses and bicycles, climbed mountains, gone wind surfing; we’ve swum countless miles in pools and sloughs. We’ve stood on the bows of sailboats and crawled through cave openings that common sense said were a very bad idea indeed.

We’ve fallen and gotten back up (eventually) many times, you and I.

But if you don’t sober up and fly straight PDQ, I’m sending you to military school.

And this time I really mean it.


Wish I had my commute commuted...

This was but a cast-on rib this morning when we hit the road THREE AND A HALF HOURS AGO.

Some mornings are just like that. Delays leaving the house, delays at the station, delays on the rails, hordes of children getting on and off the trains,

And now I feel like it's the end of the day rather than the beginning...sore, tired, cranky...just...done.

Eh, well. Can't change the past, so I guess I'll just have to focus ahead and make it the best rest of the day I can...and look forward to telecommuting tomorrow!!

(sent from my Treo)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Why trains are cool

Only having to drive five miles in this pea soup this morning.


(sent from my Treo)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

That’s my boy all right…

We had Captain Adventure’s semi-annual IEP meeting today. We weren’t particularly surprised by anything they had to say about him; we’ve actually had very good communication with his teacher the entire year, so it was more about making casual conversations and emails “official.”

He’s very good at his school work. In some areas, he’s actually way ahead of the “average” kindergarten graduate. He is happy to do the work, too, and seems to enjoy it.

He’s come a long way with his social skills, too. He’s still hardly a social butterfly, tends to keep to himself and is very uncertain and hesitant when it comes to interacting with his peers, but he’s gotten a lot better about talking to adults and speaking up in class.

They were really focusing on the positive, because they want to shift him back over to the district program instead of keeping him in the county – getting him closer to a mainstream environment.

So they were talking up how ready he was, and how well he did at this and that and the other, and how he had scored a perfect score on his kindergarten exit exams (same test they give mainstream kids, by the way) (not that I’m boasting or anything) (well…maybe just a little boasting…), and how well he’d been doing with his potty training.

Oh yes. We spent quite a bit of time discussing that. See, he absolutely cannot go back to district unless he is potty trained. District does not do diapers, people. District requires that the child can be relied upon to tend to calls of nature all by his little self, without much in the way of reminding, nagging, or leading by the hand, verbal commands all the way through the procedure, and assistance washing hands afterward.

I think they might actually faint dead away if they found themselves having to deal with {gasp!} wet pants. (I’m fairly certain that’s not literally true, but this is the impression being given.)

Shortly before we broke up our meeting, they asked if we wanted our Captain to take the bus to his sitter’s house, or if we wanted to take him with us. And we said we’d just go ahead and take him, since it was already 4:00 and we had basically told our coworkers we’d be taking the entire second half of the day off anyway.

So they brought him into our meeting. He was surprised to see us there. “What the heck?” he said in his Funny Guy voice. “Dere’s da mom-meh and da dah-dee hear-ya?”

He was awfully patient while we were wrapping up our meeting…but as we were getting up to go and I was asking him if he wanted a snack, he started telling me I was “out of time.”

It took me a long time to realize he was talking about a need to go to the potty. Finally, giving me a look that clearly said he despaired of ever teaching me anything, he said, “You run out of de time, and den I haf de pee down my pants.”

You have the…oh, look, so you do…

Now, I know it was entirely wrong of me and all, but I almost laughed myself to death. Here his teachers were, assuring me that he was for all intents and purposes potty trained, hooray, and we could with confidence! send him on to the pee-makes-me-faint hothouse flowers back here in our home district…and he’s standing there without a care in the world in soaked underpants, pants, socks and shoes.

That’s my boy all right.

Go ahead. Try to say he is this, or that. Tell us how “it is” with him. Grab your label machine and try to stick one on him.

He will smile his charming little smile, and his little eyes will twinkle, and he will promptly do exactly what you just said he couldn’t or wouldn’t.

I love you, my quirky little man.

Stubborn steaks and all.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Because “sharp” is my middle name

Back in late April, I took advantage of Eco Store USA’s 2-for-1 sale (alas, that sale is over now) to restock my laundry soap; since I use the gray water from my laundry on my garden, I’m a bit fussy about what soap I use. (Go figure.) Their stuff works well on all but the kinds of stains I don’t think chlorine bleach applied with an orbital sander could get off and thus far the gray water has done no harm to anything I’ve watered with it.

Also I like the scent. It’s eucalyptus, and it does not last through the drying of the clothes. The house smells pleasant while the laundry is going, but I don’t then walk around smelling like I’ve been out hugging eucalyptus trees.

Because I like to keep some things kind of secret.

Hence the blog where I tell long stories about all the trees I’ve ever hugged and named “Clarence.” (It was an oak tree, and I don’t know why his name was Clarence or why I was so sure he was a he-oak. He just was. The same way that Homer the Odyssey is a he-van named Homer. It just kerchunked.) (The Civic’s name is Albert. Because the Civic we had before him was named Victoria.)

ANYWAY. The shipment was sent in two boxes. The first box hit the porch on May 4. The second box…didn’t.

And a few days later I thought, …waitasecond…didn’t I have a second box coming…?

FedEx said it was on time and in Sacramento. Hmm. Well, OK.

A week passed and my random brain suddenly spat out a reminder: …waitasecond…where’s my second box…?

And FedEx now told me that it was damaged and being handled “per shipper instructions.”

May 5: Package returned to shipper.

Oh. I see. Well, OK, then, I’ll check in a few days.

At which point, FedEx proudly told me it was “on time” and due to be delivered on May 18. Left Hagerstown MD on May 10, arrived Sacramento May 14, hmm. Four days to get only 70 miles? Really, FedEx? Well, I didn’t pay for expedited shipping so I guess this is the FedEx version of the slow boat to China. Whatever. May 18 it is.

And I get on with my life.

Until this afternoon, when my brain once against suffered a spasm of memory and poked at me with the waitasecond reminder that I was missing something.

So I went back to FedEx looking for answers and they said they had delivered it on the 20th and gotten a signature and everything, which they did not and I was all, “OH MAH EVER-LIVING DAWG! Some miserable filthy excuse for a rotten so-called human being stole my ecologically-friendly laundry soap!!!”

I spent a few minutes envisioning lively revenge I could take on such a person. Because you know how we ecologically-friendly product users, tree huggers and knitters are, all full of the violence and elaborate revenge schemes. And then? I’m going to write a FIRMLY WORDED letter sprinkled with adverbs to the editor…ha ha! That’ll fix HIS little red wagon, ha ha!

Then I started asking FedEx what the heck, man?!, by which I mean I began clicking randomly on things that looked like links hoping they would lead me to something more than “signed for by DBANNEN” – who by the way is not one of my neighbors.


It took an embarrassing amount of time for me to notice that it was delivered Exton, PA.

Which would be roughly 2,800 miles from here.

Which would be where EcoStore is.


What threw me (I think) (apart from apparently believing a package could get from Sacramento to Exton in less than 24 hours) (which I suppose is possible but not at the price I paid for shipping) (which was nothing because shipping is free for orders over $25) is that it went through Hagerstown twice. The first time, they apparently sent it right back to Sacramento, where they promptly went, “what the heck, man?!” and threw it back on a truck to Hagerstown, where they presumably went, “Ohhhhhhh, return to shipper, gotcha…” and tossed it on other truck, the one heading east-ish, that got it back to Exton where (presumably) someone (possibly named DBANNEN) at EcoStore received a box that was squished and/or leaking aromatic laundry soap all over the place and said (some variation on), “Well, darn.

You know what upsets me about all this?

The fact that my brain is going to continue giving me random prods at the least convenient time possible until that blasted box actually gets back to my porch.

That is what it does, my brain. It doesn’t go, “Oh! You were going to call your grandma today!” at, say, 3:15 in the afternoon.

Oh, heck no. 3:15 in the morning, sure. It will wake me up at 3:15 in the morning to scream “HOLY CRAP, YOU WERE GOING TO CALL GRAN TODAY AND YOU DIDN’T!!!!!!”, with an urgency usually reserved for things like, “HOLY CRAP, I’D BETTER DEFUSE THAT BOMB BEFORE WE’RE ALL BLOWN TO KINGDOM COME!!!!!!!!”, thus ensuring that I will spend the next hour before the alarm goes off in a weird state of half-sleep (where the really bizarre dreams live) instead of actually asleep (where being rested for work lives) (but why take all the fun out of my work day by being rested? pfffft! being rested is for the weak…) (yeah…could I be weak now, please, thanks?).

And then it will forget all about it for the next twenty-four hours, only to bring it back up in the wee hours the next day. Or, it will bring it up while the Denizens are dangling off me yapping about dinner and permission slips and don’t forget to call Gran later and can they have sixteen friends over for dinner and also they forgot to tell me they need to bring 48 store-bought cookies to school tomorrow.


Oh well. Without people like me, Franklin-Covey would go out of business. There would be no need for smartphones or PDAs, either. Shoot, even pen and paper manufacturers would feel the pinch – not only do I need pens and pads to write my incessant lists, but I lose them like they were free.

Think of the billions of dollars that would be lost to the global economy if there weren’t people like me wandering around unable to remember what the heck it was they were just thinking about two seconds ago.

It would be horrible.

Which is why I…uh…wait…where was I going with this again…?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

...need more hours...

This morning, I got through making 48 pancakes, a dozen scrambled eggs and four pounds of bacon, pouring half a gallon of milk and two quarts of apple juice, refilling and heating almost a pint (!!) of maple syrup, and the general hysteria that follows a sleepover.

Our littlest camper had to go home just before midnight. The strangeness got to be too much, the darkness and the noises and the no-mommy and the no-daddy and eventually even though she was sleeping with Boo Bug with her sister just on the other side of the wall (with the big kids)…it was a no-go.

So the husband pulled on his gardening shoes and bundled her next door to sleep in her own bed.

Bright and early, there came an enthusiastic knocking on the door and she threw herself right back into the party like she’d never been gone. Oh hai, I can haz bacon?!

Then I went outside and discovered one of the potato plants had graciously decided to throw me a bone – or rather, a beautiful little purple flower. (Please envision a picture of said flower here. Cute little purple flower with a brilliant yellow center.) And I went, “Eeeeeeeee!” like it was a winning lottery ticket and made everybody come outside and look at it.

Pre-teens are so jaded these days. Although one of them had managed to play here all day yesterday without ever glancing in the backyard, and she was rather…let’s call it “impressed” even though I think it was actually more like “unaware that her friend’s parents were quite that crazy”…most of them just kind of went, “…yawn!...” and went back inside to watch Happy Feet.


So I planted some carrots, and some onions and some lettuce. Weeded the corn patch a bit and then suspended all weeding because some of the corn is sprouting and looks too similar to the nasty thick-bladed grass that was the reason we killed off the original lawn lo these many moons ago.

Checked the spinach along the shady side fence (doing fine) and the green beans (ditto), the cilantro (perhaps a little too well) and the horseradish (boy, am I ever glad I put that into its own little cement-enclosed area – it really does try to take over the world, that stuff). The blueberries, the raspberries, the strawberries in their hangers, the peaches and the cherry trees, and my brave little apple tree.

Then I came back inside and started some new cups with new jalapeno, Serrano and bell peppers. Then I had a fit of silliness and started eight more cups of beefsteak tomatoes. I have no idea where I think I’m going to put them. Just a vague plan involving every spare container we own plus maybe some repurposed plastic totes with big holes in them; they aren’t any good as totes anymore, but I was thinking they could make perfectly good herb containers or something and a couple of them are deep enough that tomatoes might be fine in there. I don’t know, and with the investment being maybe ten cents for seeds, heck.

I’m willing to take a chance and see what happens.

Which is kind of the nifty thing about starting things from seed using whatever is lying around: The Great Tomato Disaster, with over 150 plants lost, set me back…seven bucks. And some time. Plus I think I owe a fair chunk of change to the Cuss Jar.

Then I pondered the other stuff I’d still like to get into the ground somewhere. More golden beets (but we need to get water out to that part of the Back Forty(yards)). Bok choy (nah, I want to use the front boxes for that because they don’t mind partial shade conditions and are so darned adorable while growing). More spinach (not in the mood). Re-planting the cucumbers that also got eaten (stupid earwigs) (and snails) (and cutworms).

And then I found myself groaning softly to myself because gah, earwigs and snails and cutworms, OH MY. And the impending aphid invasion.

It was around this point that I stood up and realized that I am old was done. The hip, the back, the attitude…all clearly said, “ARGH!!! YOU KIDS GET OFF MY LAWN!!!!!”

With a follow up of, “I wanna take mah pills, sit in mah chair, and not budge unless the house catches on fire.”

Except that we were out of milk, and needed watermelon seeds.

So I went out to get those two little things and it turned into this two hour odyssey of do you have anything other than this fiddly seedless / heirloom / personal-sized melon? that got downright silly by the end.

The problem, of course, is that our Home Depot has diddly for seeds really, and the other reliable source of seeds is WalMart, and I would have to be suffering from a severe concussion that brought on complete short and long-term memory loss before I would voluntarily go to WalMart just for one package of seeds.

I need a far more compelling reason. My WalMart irks me. It’s just…I don’t know. The staff is surly, the aisles are weird (and got worse after their big recent remodel), the other customers are either brain-dead or intentionally trying to piss me off, the parking lot is like…Toddler 50 Meter Dash meets Indianapolis 500.

Anybody who isn’t just sort of weaving slowly and drunkenly in random circles is speeding, yo.

So I need to have an actual list of things I can’t get anywhere else before I’ll go to WalMart.

Which meant I went to Orchard Supply Hardware instead, because they have seeds. Only they only had these “specialty” watermelon seeds. I’m kind of looking for the hardy old-fashioned kind of watermelons, watermelons that aren’t going to require that I sing to them in Welsh or tuck their tender little fruits into individual mesh wrappers, or whose vines are going to faint dead away when (not if) the aphids get into town and attach themselves by the millions to their vines every day.

Also, I need them to be the standard green rind pink interior sort. You know, the kind children recognize as being watermelon? Yeah. I kind of don’t want to have to wrestle the Denizens to the ground and force-feed them any blue or orange or white “watermelon” flesh to prove it tastes like watermelon even though it isn’t pink.

Then I stopped at a defunct feed and seed store.

Then I stopped at one that is closed on Sundays. Awesome.

Then I gave up and headed toward home and almost forgot to stop for milk and had to make the Biggest U-Turn Ever (like, a two-mile long one) to get back to the store, passing another store on my way but did I have a $3-off coupon at that store? No I did not.

And then I got milk and the same kid ran over my foot twice and hi, not to criticize your parenting skills or anything but could we please not let the three year old push the cart any more times because I am two seconds from killing him and if he runs over my foot again I may just bellow “YOU KIDS GET OFF MY LAWN!!!” in his face and that might confuse him and stuff?

And then I came home and looked at my party-demolished Den and my kitchen that needed cleaning and my fridge that needed clearing out and I thought…well, let’s gloss over what I thought precisely and go with, uh, “Gee gosh golly, I think I’m going to take a little resty-pooh before I think about that any more, where a ‘little’ can be translated to mean ‘for the rest of my life, maybe.’”

This turned into quite a weekend, and as usual I’m a little kerflumped to realize that in seven hours the blasted alarm will be shattering what feels like the middle of the night to tell us that it’s time to get up and do it all again.

This working thing, man, it’s seriously cutting into my work day.

But it’s also seriously cutting into our cash flow issues, so even though I complain pretty steadily about it – I’ve got no actual complaints.

Except that it would be awesome if someone could arrange for the human body to need just half an hour sleep a night to be all refreshed and stuff, and then maybe slow the earth down a bit so we get 38 hour days.


That would be awesome.

So if someone could get on that, that would know...awesome.

Thanks in advance.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The only constant

The Plan: A birthday party for Danger Mouse (newly turned ten this very day) of, eh, well, we’re late planning this so let’s call it maybe six kids in addition to our four.

Revised: Oooookay, eighteen kids in addition to our four, a jumping house, $90 in pizza, cake and ice cream. But it’s over at 3:00 so we can collapse in a state of advanced lethargy later in the afternoon.

Update: Right, so, two more kids showed up at 2:45 so they’re staying a little later. No big.

Correction: Oh, there’s the other two neighbor kids. OK, so, they’re just…settling in for a while. No problem, they live right up the street…

Clarification, please: Sleepover? Who said anything about…oh, well, I guess just the one friend is no big deal, that should be fine…

Several phone calls and trots up and down the street to consult with parents later: Six giggling, whispering girls between the ages of 6 and 13 are deposited on mattresses, in sleeping bags and doubling up on beds all over the Den. None are sleeping. None are likely to get around to it before 3 a.m.

Conclusions: One father wonders how he keeps getting talked into these things (and/or left out of the decision making process).

One birthday girl is delirious with joy, having had The Absolute Perfect™ birthday celebration.

One formerly disappointed pre-teen who was supposed to go to her first “big” slumber party next week (cancelled because the organizing child’s parents suffered a spasm of sanity realized they had a scheduling conflict) thinks her lot in life considerably improved.

One little brother is a bit perplexed by the sudden influx of sisters and rather hopes they are going home soon because they sure do boss people around an awful lot.

One youngest child is sleeping for the first time in a house where her parents are not. (They live next door. She'll be fine.)

One big sister gets to finally not have to go to a boring old stupid little brother baseball game FOR ONCE tomorrow.

One little brother is irritated that having a baseball game first thing in the morning means he can't crash the sleepover party. SO not fair. {pout}

Ten children are looking forward to bacon and waffles and eggs tomorrow, even though they are currently so stuffed with pizza, cake, ice cream and watermelon that they could hardly walk up the stairs to their assorted sleeping spots.

One mother is questioning how it is she gets herself into these things, but has to admit that when one lives in a Den of Chaos where the only constant is change, well...things are going to change. Constantly.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Potaytoe, pohtahtoe

Either way, they're about to have flowers on them.

This makes me happy in a way that is entirely childish. I can't wait to find out what a potato flower looks like...

Thursday, May 20, 2010


One of my new favorite blogs is Cold Antler Farm. Not long ago, she wrote a post about a salad.

As she goes along telling the story of her salad, she ruminates, You know, I really think if every house had a loaf of bread in the oven the divorce rate would go down about 27%.

Oh, I totally agree. Not because of the bread itself, but because of what that sort of thing represents.

You know why a loaf of bread can save a marriage? Not because it’s darned good eats, not because it is “healthier” or “frugal” or because the smell of it brings an indescribable joy and comfort to anyone who enters the home. (Those things don’t hurt, mind you, but I don’t think they would actually cause people determined to divorce to stay together.)

It saves a marriage because the act of making the bread is an investment of time and touch. It’s an act of love. It’s an investment of self into something mundane…and with such things so readily replaced by the automated and outsourced, they have gained even more power than they held when options were few, or none.

Choosing to go through the mess and bother and time to bake bread when it can be had pre-sliced and conveniently packaged in any supermarket (or gas station, for heaven’s sake) says something, loud and clear…and to do it more than just once or twice turns it into an ocean-wave roar and crash, constant and strong.

I don’t have to say a word. The actions of my hands speak for themselves, in a way that is hard to misinterpret…unlike the spoken word, which has a way of coming out wrong or being heard wrong or being just the right thing said at just the wrong time.

Sometimes I say I love you to my family in bread. Sometimes in clean bathroom mirrors. Sometimes in an ill-sewn patch on a favorite pair of jeans. (My sewing skilz, they are not mad.) Sometimes in a knitted sweater or a hand-dyed shirt in “that” green with blue speckles. Sometimes in a handful of weeds pulled on a day when really on the whole I’d rather have been lying inside watching the Deadliest Catch marathon.

Or maybe in a plate of green beans freshly picked from our own backyard, lightly steamed with a little Mason-jar butter…and buttermilk biscuits to use up what the butter-making left behind.

The human touch is a terribly powerful thing, you know. We can throw others into fits of anger with certain gestures…we can show we mean no harm with others. We can soothe a crying infant who knows nothing of language with gentle strokes along her back. We can transfer courage to a suffering friend with an embrace.

We can make the ordinary extraordinary, simply by applying our hands to it, pressing our spirit into it.

It’s easy to say words that sound shallow, insensitive, derisive.

It’s hard to bake a bread that tastes like sarcasm or indifference. Generally speaking and culinary disasters being set aside for the moment…it tastes like warmth and love and home.

It is infused with touch-speak, the subtle yet transcendent language of the powerful human touch.

It’s the next best thing to flat-out mental telepathy.

Even if they come out a little crooked or too boxy or otherwise not perfect, the gardening boxes my husband is building for me will clearly say he loves me…and for that reason they will be beautiful and perfect.

And if I accidentally iron a perfect crease right down the front of his favorite work shirt, the message that I treasure him won’t get lost.

That’s how touch-speak is.

If there were more of that in all the homes of the world, if more of our everyday were infused with it, I’m sure there would be a lot less divorce…and suffering of all kinds. Less emotional turmoil and mental anguish. Less aloneness and wondering what our place is in All This.

Our place is here, with the kin we were born to and the kith we’ve chosen for ourselves, infusing our simple everyday things with our time and talent, with our selves, nurturing and being nurtured, gifting and receiving gifts not measured in dollars or carets, but in depth of spirit, in the quiet assurance of being loved and treasured…and loving and treasuring.

Tall order for a humble loaf of bread or a well-spliced drip irrigation line; but with the power of the human mind guiding the hand behind it, they can be the epoxy that melds a family together.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


..these are very comfortable. And I love them. And they cost me about three dollars with a $25 coupon I got at Famous know, my reward for buying $400 in Denizen shoes in the last six months...?

AND, now I don't have to get three pairs of "classier" but too-long work jeans hemmed up. Score!!!

But I'm goin to go take them off now, so I can keep them nice for a while. Time to head out to the garden, and just this once I'm going to recognize that the yard is ruinous on shoes instead of thinking it'll be FINE and then getting mud all over them.

(sent from my Treo)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Then, with a flip of the switch…

This morning was miserable. We’re in the middle of rushing around like crazy people getting ready to leave for work, and suddenly we realize that Captain Adventure isn’t just being tired and draggy and pissy – he’s sick.


There are a few stages involved in your kid getting sick on a work day.

First, you realize something is wrong.

Then you go into denial about it for a few minutes. He’s not sick, he’s just {tired, angry, sad, obstinate, groggy, thirsty, hungry}.

Then you waste some time trying to figure out whether this is a sick-sick, or a I-will-be-fine-fifteen-minutes-after-you-call-me-in-sick sort of sick. It’s a waste of time because by now you know in your heart of hearts that you are totally staying home with this kid today regardless, so trying to work that around to where you’re going to pop some cold medicine into this child and take him to the sitter’s house in spite of his obvious misery on the theory that he’ll be fine in half an hour is just pointless.

But you do it anyway, because a day home with this particular sick child is a day with no pay for me. I don’t get paid time off (have I mentioned that lately? I have? Oh, well, then I shan’t mention it again for at least twenty seconds), so I am what might be called loathe to go taking days off so I can watch my kid bounce around being perfectly healthy the minute I’ve sent out the “I won’t be coming in or logging on or anything” email.

The older kids, you know, if they pull a miraculous recovery out of their hats like that, I can set them down with crayons and start working. But Captain Adventure can’t (and shouldn’t) be left to his own devices like that.

Bad things have a way of happening. You might as well just go to your most precious, hardest to replace, most expensive object and smash it to bits right away. It saves time and nerve tonic.

ANYWAY. Yeah. He was obviously sick.

So sick, in fact, that he wanted to go back to bed. So I carried him back upstairs, put him to bed, kissed him on the head and rushed to my laptop to let people know I wasn’t coming in and probably wouldn’t be logging on either today and maybe I’ll just real-quick take a look at this thing holy crap, what is that screaming up there?!

He woke up vomiting. Awesome. All over his bed, his clothes, himself, and needless to say he was not happy about it.

Although I still find myself amazed by the things you’ll think when you have a special needs child…I was kind of happy (inasmuch as I could be happy at that particular moment) because what he was screaming was, “MOMMMMMEEEEEEE, I NEEEEEEEED YOU, MOMMMMEEEEEEEEEE, WHERE ARE YOU?!”

See, that’s a natural thing for a kid to holler when he wakes up under such unpleasant circumstances – but it’s not been natural for Captain Adventure. Shoot, it took almost a year before he would acknowledge that I was a separate entity; he didn’t even have a sound for me until he was three and a half.

So I was kind of tickled that he was summoning me specifically in his time of need. Good progress in the recognition of titles and use of words to ask for assistance, kiddo!

And then he wept on my shoulder while I cleaned him up and got him into fresh clothes like any average child would.

And then he hauled off and decked me for absolutely no perceivable reason. Oh yeah. Autism rocks, y’all. He can’t read me, and quite often I can’t read him, either. I didn’t see that one coming one bit. POW! Right in the eye.

…just call me Blinky…

For the next two hours was a pissy little bundle of rabid monkey. He spit his water back at me, pinched me, pulled my hair, hit himself repeatedly in the head, demanded to play the Wii and then shoved the remotes at me shrieking, “YOU play it, mommy! YOU play it!” (I think because it was making him feel sicker trying to follow the action on the screen.)

Three hours into the ordeal, I was desperate for two things: A moment’s peace, and to get some form of liquid into him.

And then I remembered I had Pedialyte popsicles out in the freezer, from when he had gotten eight fillings all in the same day. Eight. The mind boggles…

When he saw the bright blue popsicle in my hand, it was like somebody threw his pissy-switch to “off.” He beamed a big smile at me, his most charming grin, pointed at it and said, “Oh! I like-it dat kind! May I pwease have-it dat one?”

He ate it, and then he ate another one.

Five minutes later, he was running laps around the Den.

Five minutes after that, he ate half a box of macaroni and cheese, a sliced apple with a dusting of cinnamon, drank about ten ounces of water, climbed into my back pocket and has stayed there ever since.

But it’s a much less upsetting sort of clingy behavior. Sure, I’d love it if he’d just color for a while without my constant input and attention, but at the same time, given a choice between this and the earlier “hitting myself in the face and screaming like I’ve got bamboo rammed under my toenails” thing?

Yeah. I’ll take this, thanks.

And now, I’d like to close with a brief note:

Dear Husband:

Please come home at your earliest convenience opportunity.

Bring chocolate.

And vodka.


Monday, May 17, 2010

I wanna go home...

More accurately, I want to BE home.

Somehow, today just felt super-extra long. I just want to be home now, and pretend that I don't have to get up tomorrow and do it all again.

Fortunately, the kids will probably all be fighting and creating HUGE messes and the cat will need a bath (I don't want to know what she got on herself that smells so...ahem...pungent), and there will be Drama and Mayhem and I'll go to bed tonight thinking, "Thank $DEITY I get to go to my nice, safe office tomorrow..."

Ah, the sweet, pastoral bliss of home...

(sent from my Treo)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Passing batons

So there I was. Saturday morning. Coffee in one hand, newspaper in the other. It was late in the morning; too damned late. I had overslept. I had a huge list of things I positively had to get done. The new boxes were being built by my excessively-supportive and handy spouse, I had corn and onions to plant, herbs to start, a house in dire need of elbow grease, bread to bake – you know, the usual lazy weekend list.

In a pathetic attempt to avoid getting to work While frugally finishing my coffee to the last drop, I glanced through the yard sale advertisements in our local paper. Toddler clothes, scrapbooking, {yawn} shoes, knickknacks, ‘too much to list here,’ yarn machine and lots of yarn, gardening supplies, estate sal-…wait…what?!

I looked at the words.

I read them three more times.

My first thought was, It’s probably one of those Ultimate Knitting machines. I already have one. And I hate it. Well. Hate is a strong word. I just kind of find it to be…somewhat limited. And fiddly. And it always seems to me that I could have knit whatever it was by hand in far less time than it took to get the yarn to feed through the carriage correctly. (Which isn’t actually true I’m sure, but it feels that way at the time.) Mine has the simple narrow bed that can’t even quite manage a sweater for a robust male figure without fudging, three size-adjusting cartridges and every time I use it, I end up cursing at it.

And my second thought was, What if it’s one of those absolutely unbelievable electric machines? You know, the computerized ones where you just show it the stash and it takes things from there?

Then I had a good laugh because I had a vision of the knitting machine clunking across the floor pulling out every ball of yarn I own and muttering to itself while it tried to program sweaters out of them.

And also because even at an estate sale, such a thing would be way out of my league.

Then I looked at the time and compared it to the starting time on the yard sale and knew – knew mind you – that I was too late. Whether it was a stupid old Ultimate Sweater Mac-phooey or a $10,000 Passap, some other knitter had probably aced me out. Yarn too. Probably all gone.

Well. Maybe not.

But it would probably be all acrylic.

Still. Possibly not all acrylic, possibly not all gone and I had to go to the farmer’s market anyway and I suppose there couldn’t be a whole lot of harm in stopping by.

Oh. My. Stars. And. Garters.

I walked up to a yard sale that had lots of people already shopping away. My wool-senses tingling, I walked straight through the dishes and the clothes, the beautiful furniture and cedar box, and threw open the metal lid emblazoned with Toyota.

One Toyota KS 901, in beautiful condition. Being the owner of a lousy Ultimate Sweater Machine, I’m hardly the go-to expert in all things knitting machine – but I do have a basic idea how they work and what kinds of things render them inoperable.

This thing was beautiful. It had been used, clearly, and loved, and its previous owner had taken very good care of it.

And beside it, still in their boxes too, a tilt-table stand and a ribber and a Knit Tracer. Wow.

Now considering that a new Ultimate Sweater machine is running about $150 at our Michael’s store, I’m looking at something with a bit more functionality and a lot more in accessories. Something that is probably way out of my price league, especially with all those accessories. All still in original boxes, with their manuals still tucked inside.

Yeah. Out of my league. Probably shouldn’t even bother to inquire. Because it’s got a knit tracer and a lace carriage and an Intarsia carriage and holy smokes, the ribbing transfer and a bind-off carriage?!



They’ve got to be asking a good five hundred bucks for this thing.

About the point I was thinking I should probably consider asking what they were looking for, you know, for all of it, the lady of the yard sale came over and started talking to me about it and oh yeah, the yarn.

The bags and bags of yarn. The cones and balls and skeins of it. The ha ha ha, you’ll never believe what she had in every corner of the house stash that we knitters know so well. (A thousand years from now, archeologists will unearth balls of yarn on the site where the Den stands now, still snug and safe in their Space Bags or Ziplocs, and wonder what strange religion was practiced here, when in truth it was just that I managed to hide put away that particular bit of stash extremely well.)

And then her daughter began bringing out Grandma’s yarn. And more yarn. And more yarn. In totes and garbage bags and boxes. And her husband began saying, “Hang on a second, there’s more to that machine over here…” and he’s dragging out a big old Rubberneck tote full of yet more cartridges and manuals and books.

“So, what were you…uh…for the…did you…?” Oh, I am smooth. A salesperson’s salesperson. Suave, sophisticated, butter not melting in my mouth, no indication that I might be the slightest bit interested, ready to bargain the thing down.

“I dunno…I was thinking, you know, because, you know, just the machine would maybe be almost three hundred dollars…maybe three hundred for all of it?”

“Oh, for, so, for the…and the…and…?” Here we go. This is the part where I tug at my chin thoughtfully while making the I dunno… face and point out that we’re talking about an older machine that is no longer manufactured and maybe bring up the issue of replacement parts and such, here we go, my mad negotiating skilz are brought the fore and I say… “Oh, uh, OK.”


I’m a terrible negotiator. I’m one of those people who will set a price inside my head and then just walk away if the price asked is higher than that. Which is undoubtedly extremely irritating to the red-blooded horse trader, who sets his price unreasonably high naturally expecting that I’ll counter unreasonably low and we can argue our way toward the middle where we both want to be.

But all kidding aside, the yarn alone would cost more than $300, even second-hand. At a buck apiece the books would have been nearly a hundred bucks. And Oh yeah, there’s the small matter of a knitting machine with a zillion attachments and extras and the valet that fetches you your morning cappuccino and irons the paper for you.

They helped me load all the stuff into the van. The boxes and bags and totes, the “two men to lift it” box of instructional materials. The yarn, the carriages and cartridges and punch cards and clips and swifts and ohmygah.

I feel like I’m opening a factory or something with all this stuff.

When I got it all home and started going through it all, I just got more and more amazed. This thing is going to take me a long, long time to figure out. It has more bells and whistles than I had imagined. It can do more things than I ever would have thought possible.

And the box of books is a treasure trove of crafty goodness. Encyclopedias of knitting stitches, patterns for both hand and machine, a rug making book, an encyclopedia series of family crafts with everything from glass to leather, bobbin lace to hammock making.

Some of it in like-new condition; some of it with copious notes in neat handwriting in the margins. “Set knob to 1, not 3.” “Gauge too tight, use DK+.” “Put in other side UP.”

When I was going through the yarn I found a baby sweater, beautifully crocheted, all finished except for an end that needed running in.

I ran it in, and eyeballed the skein that made it thinking there was definitely a pair of booties and a little hat left in there, and I wondered – someday, would another knitter come to a yard sale and find herself with a bag of yarn with an almost-finished baby sweater in it?

And would she finish it, and think to herself there was a pair of booties and a hat left in that skein, and then make them and hand off the gift to someone from both of us…freezing that moment in time when the baton left my hand and went to hers?

I hope so. I even trust so. I don’t think knitting and knitters will change all that much between now and then; we’re that sort of breed.

I’ll try to take good care of your things, fellow knitter, and to make warm and loving things from the yarn you left behind.

And thanks for keeping all those manuals. Lord knows I’m going to need them, and badly…

Friday, May 14, 2010

Hey look, kids, another Friday!

This week has been…well, it’s been…wellllllllllllll…


Yeah. About like that.

I am so tired right now that I could go to bed – and it’s only 5:30, y’all. On the plus side, I just turned OFF my work laptop, which means that nobody can ping me for “just one more quick little thing” until I choose to turn it back on again.

Which might be tomorrow, because I have just one more quick little thing I’d kind of like to get done before Monday morning. Because I have caught the disease, y’all. There is no hope for me. Save yourselves.

To be honest, the week went by so fast I’m a little startled to find myself back at Friday already. It’s just a blur of commuting and sleeping, really, with frantic periods of activity between.

And now just when I should be starting to relax and be thankful that it’s over and I’ve got two days off…my brain is beginning to ramp up the weekend chore list.

And what a list it is, too.

With the big tomato planting largely failed and most of the back forty(yards) available for Other Things, well, I’m moving on to Other Things. Which is all well and good but the main thing I really want to get done this weekend is the front yard – which looks like freeze-dried, reconstituted, microwaved crap thank you very much.

The fact that it has looked that way for a full decade now is beside the point. As I have spoken, so let it be! HAIL, PHARAOH! {CLASH!}

All kidding aside, what I want to do up there is not completely epic…but I think it’s what we need to do. The dirt strip is going to become raised beds – made out of the good stuff for once, out of good clean wood that we paid {GASP!} actual money for, and built with attractive hardware wherever it might show. We’ll put in three or four smaller beds, and line the spaces between them with gravel. (Heh. I typed ‘gavel’ first, which is kind of what I’m banging here – silence in the court! The Honorable Me is addressing you! Bow before me, peasant, as I declare your fate, which is that you will spend this weekend doing woodworking to please Me! HA! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!) (um, yeah, my husband? He kind of doesn’t know he’s doing all this tomorrow. I mean, he knows about the project, but I think he kind of missed the part where it is happening right-now. Oops.)

And then we’ll plant them with shade-tolerant stuff – herbs, lettuce, spinach, stuff like that. Real square foot gardening, instead of the hybrid version I do in the backyard.

Which is square foot gardening, just without the boxes…I still have the “hard work” of breaking up the ground (which can be tedious but personally I don’t find it distressingly so) (yet) and the weeds can become a bother if you don’t stay on top of them, but at the same time, you know how you can grow even more in a constrained space? If you don’t take up a whack of that space with bulky boxes!

But it does look…weird. And a lot more random than it really is, actually. Which is OK in the backyard, but up front I’d like to have it look more…purposeful.

And if it could also look tasteful, well, you know…bonus.

Oh, wait, I’ve got to run. The husband just came in and was telling me how happy he was that this week was over? And I was all, “Yeah, it was a rough one all right…so! you ready for the weekend?”

And he asked, warily, “What about this weekend?”

And I said, “You know, the beds, up front.”


“Well, yeah.”

{pause while he desperately searches for any hint that I am joking and about to say, “Ha ha ha, no, let’s just sit around eating junk food and watching movies instead.”}

Finding no such signs, he ran his hand wearily through his hair.

“Well, @*^&@. You’d better get outside with me so we can take some measurements…”

Oh, he loves me and my little home improvement projects…!

coming, dear…

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Five centimeters each way

Not that I'm counting or anything.

Today is Ride Your Bike To Work honor of which, I almost killed my very first cyclist this morning.

You know how sometimes you're kind of driving on auto-pilot and maybe aren't paying the absolute best attention you could to your environment?

Yeah. Dude on the bike was doing that this morning. "La la la, ridin' my bike, oh, there's the train station on my left across four lanes of traffic, I'll just swerve across all four lanes without so much as GLANCING around me, let alone signalling my intentions la la la..."

In related news, the brakes on my Civic are fully functioning. Which is why he was still alive to be all embarrassed when we were on the platform together and I was giving him Mommy Look #112, "What the (beep) was THAT?!"

In also related news, I have been WIRED ever since. Brrr. Killing someone by running over them with my car is SO not on the "to do before I die" list...

(sent from my Treo)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

How many phone meetings did I have yesterday?

About two inches worth.

The meetings thing is curious for me. I might go a month with only one or two a week...then suddenly, I have flurries where...well. Yesterday, I was in back-to-back discussions about this-n-that-n-t'other from 10:00 until 3:30.

Surely does give the old cell phone battery a workout...

(sent from my Treo)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Nibbling, nibbling, like a very large mouse…

Something has eaten the last remaining summer squash plant from our front yard patch.

It’s not a snail or a bug. It is something with teeth. Something light enough not to leave footprints, but big enough that it ate a healthy four-inch summer squash seedling leaves and all, right down to the earth.

Which sounds like a rabbit to me. Which would not be a bit weird because we are surrounded by the varmints out here. What is weird, though, is the utter lack of rabbit by-product, anywhere in the entire patch. Seeing as how they have now eaten four summer squash plants ranging from 4” to 6” in size…which had to take some time and also required them to hop a good forty feet along in the bed…I find that a little bit weird.

And the neighbors probably find it a little bit weird that I was crawling around in my front dirt patch grousing about not being able to find any rabbit poop in it.

My life? Totally awesome. If I’m not scraping cat vomit off my couch or a toweling up puddle of human pee from the bathroom floor in front of the potty that wasn’t quite reached in time, I’m crawling around my garden beds looking for rabbit poop. Don’t you wish you were cool like me?!

Whoever this is has also very carefully eaten just the four squashes…but left a small field of tender young spinach (usually a big rabbit favorite) between them completely alone. Not so much as a single nibble.

Also, forget if I mentioned it, not a single bit of rabbit scat.

Whoever did this nibbling left nothing. Not a paw print, not a single hair, not a pile of poo or a how-do-you-do.

Just summer squash plants nibbled right down to the ground.


Well, if they’re not careful, I’m going to sit up all night to catch them so I can beet them bloody.

With actual beets.

Don’t think I won’t do it…although perhaps threatening to take craptastic pictures like this one of them with my phone would be more painful for them…?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Flame-Broiled Enthusiasm

The Denizens were not feeling the dinner-love tonight. I put the sauerbraten into the crockpot this morning before we left, so as we walked into the Den there was that rich, heady scent of ginger, red wine, onions and beef hanging in the air.

They were not impressed. It smelled like flavor, and they are against that. Ketchup is about as bold as they want to get.

And it didn’t get a whole lot better. Oh sure, there were some plain buttered noodles – but there were also beets.

Which are a vegetable.

Which, you know…well, veg-ee-tah-bul.

Also pronounced, “Yuck.”

(To which I rejoin, “Get used to the beets, dudes, we’ve got about ten pounds of them coming out of the garden this week.”)

(Addendum to the above: “MWAH-HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!”)

Not even the Fun Fact that they might turn your pee pink could make up for their vegetable-ness.

But it must be announced that they did a noble job bellying up to the table and risking the horror that is a vegetable. None of them liked the beets, but they all choked down what they had before them and then turned their attention to the one thing that could prevent overnight starvation: dessert.

I said, “Let me think.”

They said, “No! No, we want Girl Scout cookies!”

“Are you sure?” I queried.

“Yes! Yes! We want Girl Scout cookies!!”

“You don’t even want to know if there’s another option?”

“UH…” {three little memories spun like crazy, doing an inventory of the sweets in the house} “No, that’s OK, we just want Girl Scout cookies.”

“Ooooookay. Let’s go get a box.”

So we went out to the garage and got a box of Girl Scout cookies.

And a box of graham crackers.

And a couple Hershey bars.

“Oooooh, can I have a candy bar instead?” Danger Mouse was intrigued by this sudden and unexpected development.

“Nope. You’re having cookies,” I told her smugly.

Eldest looked at what I had in my hands coming back through the door and said, “Oooooooooh! I changed my mind!”

“What? What?” yelled Boo Bug.

“Nothing. You’re having cookies,” I told her, digging through the cupboards. Ah…

You may think you know what a “loud” noise sounds like.


You haven’t heard “loud” until you’ve heard four kids putting together the presence of a box of graham crackers, chocolate bars, and a big old bag of (only slightly stale) marshmallows.

These are the moments when I wouldn’t trade my finicky old gas range for the sleekest, fanciest electric model on the market.

Just like camping – without the bugs!

Boo Bug roasts a marshmallow
…oh…wait…well, Boo Bugs don’t count…

Suddenly, everybody got a lot more enthusiastic about that whole “preparing and consuming food” thing.

Hmm. I wonder if there would be some way I could make beets a s’more-like interactive dining experience for them…

Monday ALREADY?!

Well, must be Monday - there's some sweater progress.

But still...that weekend surely did go by in a hurry, didn't it? A blur of sound and light. Mother's day presents, cleaning, shopping, gardening and suddenly here I am...back in the office like the weekend never even happened.

And there's a light drizzle falling this morning. Because it was hot in my neighborhood yesterday, so I wore a short-sleeved shirt. Awesome!

..thus begineth another week...

(sent from my Treo)

Sunday, May 09, 2010

The terror of the turkey

When I was a kid, I had no idea the pangs of terror the cheerful playing of Turkey in the Straw could bring to a parent.

What could possibly be bad about an ice cream truck, for heaven’s sake?


Yesterday, one of the neighbor’s kids had a birthday party. At about 10:30 in the morning, the plucky refrain began to ring out over the neighborhood – and I automatically started going, “No, no, no, no, NO, no, NO, no, no, NO!, NO! do not ask me again, the answer is NO!

It saves time, compared with waiting for each of the four Denizens to rush up to me begging, pleading, asking one more time, then once more, then dredging up legal precedent and informing me that it was Saturday and etc. etc. etc.

“It’s too early,” I pronounced firmly. “There will be ice cream at the party. And furthermore you haven’t had lunch yet.” Ha-HA! Beat THAT if you can…

So the very nice ice cream truck man waved cheerfully and went on with his route.

But he is not stupid. Oh no. He is not stupid. He saw the excited children. He noted the jumpy house on the neighbor’s front lawn. He said to himself, I should come back here in a few hours…

Sure enough, a few hours later, at that perfect 2:00 timeslot (well after lunch, well before dinner), I once again heard the theme from Jaws Turkey in the Straw chiming forth…followed by screams and shrieks and redoubled begging and pleading. ohpleaseohpleaseohplease…

That lovely man pulled right up with his big beaming smile, threw open his window and sat like a skinny t-shirted Santa Claus as approximately 6,200 children flung themselves wildly toward his van.

Our court is often a good score for him. We have four, the next door neighbors have three, there’s one more across the street, and of course That Thing where each child will constantly have one or two friends over. Even if one family is saying absolutely not!, it’s a fair bet somebody else’s parents are handing out a five dollar bill and putting in their own order. Don’t forget my triple chocolate coffee sundae! (The ice cream truck has evolved a bit since I was a kid…he has about forty kinds of ice creams in that [I kid you not] minivan, a few of them definitely geared for the parents. Like I said – not a bit stupid, our ice cream man.)

Yesterday, though, was a bit on the epic side. Not only were there the usual about twelve, there were all the kids of the extended family-next-door over as well.

All kidding aside, I think there were something like thirty children and eight parents crowding around that truck. Which is funny considering they’re coming from a birthday party where there will be, in fairly short order, cake and ice cream.

But there’s just something about that music. It has a way of reaching down and touching something inside. Even children who don’t really know what’s going on will catch the excitement.

And after that first time, when they get it, well. I cracked open the garage door and called out, “Hey, Captain Adventure – the ice cream truck came back.”

He flew out the front door leaving a boy-shaped hole in the air behind him, hollering, “Waaaaaaaaait, Misser Isss-cweam! I wannit de kind wif da stick an da orange and da pink kind!!” (In English: A Push-Up.) He was so excited he was jumping wildly up and down, shaking his hands and putting in his order over and over and over again.

Ah, the excitement of the ice cream truck. There’s really nothing quite like it. Orders were placed. Money was exchanged. Change was forgotten by overly excited children. Wrappers exploded. The music faded into the neighborhood as, smiling and waving and calling, “See you next time!” out the window, the Magic Man trolled slowly away to other courts and streets, to other crowds of children waving their dollar bills triumphantly in the air as he approached.

And in our court, rapt silence as all the children applied themselves to the serious business of consuming their watermelon bombs, their snow cones of many colors, their strawberry-crunch coated ice creams, their cookie sandwiches and missile pops and fudge bars and Spongebob sherbet.

Lots of things have changed since I was a kid…but the ice cream man remains a symbol of the end of winter, a reason to do your chores and get your allowance first thing Saturday morning, a blissful sea of options in a world where choices are seldom yours to make.

And the sound of that music, flowing thinly out from worn PA speakers, still strikes fear into the hearts of parents. Oh, NO! Not THAT! Quick! Hide my wallet! Bring the children inside! Bar the doors! Close the blinds! Turn on fans! Turn on the TV! Here, kids, take a Wii remote! No, don’t look out the window, look at the video game…!

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Sorry, I’m fresh out of SHAZAM…

I’ve got the “so much to do I just can’t deal so I’m going to sit down and do nothing instead” blues going today. So far today I have cleaned about four square feet of the Den (OK, I’m being modest…it was a small area, sure, but it was a very thorough cleaning that included washing the walls for Pete’s sake, which is not something that is generally on my list of “Must Do” cleaning except that I have these little varmints running around called children and they do things that cause you to suddenly stop in your tracks, peer at the wall like you’ve just seen the image of Christ [or probably Satan, actually, given the kind of reaction one has to what one thinks one is seeing on that wall] on it or something, start to ask, “Whaaaaaaaaat…?” then realize you really do NOT want to know the answer to the question you were about to ask and go find your Murphy’s Oil which has somehow migrated out of the cupboard where it belongs to some random place like under the master bathroom sink – you know, the one room in the house where you would never, ever in a hundred years find yourself needing Murphy’s Oil to clean anything), pulled a few dozen weeds, bought 3 gallons of milk, one bell pepper, a couple packages of lunchmeat that were on extreme sale, five pounds of onions…and a package of onion seeds, a package of bak choy seeds, and a huge amount of dirt.

Which is kind of funny, because part of what I really need to do today is to remove a huge amount of dirt from inside the Den. It’s a fairly impressive disaster zone in here right now.

Bet if I just dumped the contents of the vacuum cleaner cannister into the pots, I could totally plant potatoes with what I’ve already got here in the house.

Oh. And I made this…hmm. What to call it. It’s not a curry, exactly, but it’s kind of…well shoot. It’s…

3 pounds stewing beef, cubed into bite-sized morsels
3 large onions, diced
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons minced ginger
2 tablespoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
2 bay leaves
1 jalapeno, diced
3 cups coconut milk
2 cups beef stock

And then you sear the meat and dump it into a crockpot, and then you sauté the onions and garlic until they’re nice and sweet, and then you add the ginger, coriander, bay leaves, jalapeno and turmeric and sauté until it’s all aromatic and your husband suddenly finds he has all kinds of stuff he needs to do in the kitchen, then you put that in with the beef, add the coconut milk and beef stock, stir, turn the crockpot on “high” for about four hours or so if it’s a newer one that actually boils stuff, longer if it’s an older one that doesn’t run quite so hot, and then you serve it over rice.

Not very well liked by the kids due to being “too spicy”…which could be remedied by leaving out the jalapeno or substituting a milder chili or even just plain black pepper…but the husband and I are pretty fond of it as is so the kids can just eat some boring old rice or something and serves them right for being such picky eaters.

So there. Nyah.

I still have about 95% of the Den to clean.

And I just really don’t wanna.

I don’t wanna so thoroughly that I can almost work myself up to not caring about the state of things – which are cluttered, dirty, sticky in places, slick in others, dusty in still others, with a solid inch and a half of cat hair on everything (Dharma is shedding big time right now as our temperatures are doing their usual thing where one minute we’re shivering and there’s ice on the rooftops and the next we’re in the 80s by 10:15 in the morning inside the house) and really…kind of disgusting, actually.

And I almost don’t care.



Oh well. Guess I’d better slouch down there and get busy. If I can just get four more areas cleaned, I’ll have half the Den done…and then I can feel all self-righteous and smug when I refuse to do even one.more.thing all night long.

(Plus I won’t be all pissy about the house being in such a state. I hate doing housework, but I hate having a dirty house even more. It upsets my delicate little nerves something terrible.) (Oh.My.GAH, I have definitely become my own mother…sigh…oh well, there are worse things, I suppose…although I’m still not as put-together as The Lady My Mother always is, and am more regularly seen without makeup than with and tend to color my hair in ways that amuse me rather than ways that necessarily look good, which I think actually causes her physical pain but she’s too classy to say anything…)

Maple Baked Beans

OK, I admit it: I have a sweet tooth. A serious sweet tooth. It’s…pretty bad, actually. I put too much sugar in my coffee, I raid the Denizens’ Halloween candy shamelessly, I pour maple syrup on my bacon…yeah.

I like me the sweets.

So when baked bean recipes are all, “…a less-sweet version of whatever…” I’m all, “WHY?!?!”

These are not less sweet. These are shamelessly, gloriously too darned sweet.


You’ll need…

1 pound dry beans (pinto, great northern, little whites or navy beans…for a treat, use Stueben yellow eyes or Anasazi beans)

Pick over the beans, discarding any that are broken, funky-looking or not beans. (Little rocks have a way of fooling the packing equipment…no matter how long you cook them, they will never be succulent little morsels of tenderness.)

Rinse them, then either cold-soak them at least three hours or overnight, or use the hot soak method – put them in water, bring it to a boil, turn it off, clap on the lid and leave them alone for an hour.

After they have soaked, put them into a large saucepan and add ten cups of water. Bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until they are almost done. They should still be a bit “al dente” because they still have a fair piece of cooking to do. Drain, reserving the liquid.

Put the beans into a big old 6-quart casserole dish with…

1 large onion, diced
1/2 pound bacon, diced
4 teaspoons minced garlic

Mix them up. Take that pot liquor and add in…

15 1 cup real maple syrup. Please. I’m begging you. Don’t use the maple-scented liquid plastic stuff. Go for the real deal on this.
2 tablespoons ground ginger. Yes. Tablespoons.
1 teaspoon ground mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper

…then pour that over the beans. Cover and bake at 325 until the beans are well and truly tender, which is going to take forever (or about 3 hours) (you can also do this in the crockpot - set on low for about six hours).

You can also use a ham hock or diced ham in place of the bacon, but personally I prefer to use the ham for ham-n-bean soup.

You can also, of course, omit the bacon altogether.

Now. Obligatory cheapskate note about that maple syrup…Look. I know the real stuff is expensive…I stopped for a price check the last time I was in the supermarket and found that a 12.5 ounce bottle was going for $10.75 on sale. The regular price was $12.99, which would make each ounce $1.04, and a cup of the stuff a hair over $8.

Kind of painful.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

I buy mine by the gallon, from places like Triple Creek Maple. Their price for a gallon is $46, plus $18 each gallon to ship it from Pennsylvania to California – not exactly a short trip for it. Your shipping costs may be lower, if you are lucky enough to live closer to Pennsylvania. (I can specifically recommend Triple Creek – ordered from them last time and got an excellent supply of luscious syrup at a very decent price.)

Now, it might seem kind of pricy, paying $64 for a gallon of maple syrup. But that gallon is 164 ounces, and that $64 works out to about $0.37 an ounce – or $3.12 a cup, less than half the cost of the supermarket brand stuff, even on sale. You can store the unopened gallons in any dark, cool place (garage cupboards for us), and the opened ones go in your fridge and take up no more room than a gallon of milk would and will keep for up to a year in there.

If you need to keep it even longer, you can put it in the freezer. Maple syrup will not hard-freeze, so be prepared for that – it can make a devil of a mess in your freezer if you think it’s going to freeze up into ice cubes and get careless about how you keep it.

And if you dig around, you can probably get it for even less. Shoot, a few minutes consulting The Great Google led me to The Field Farm, which has a gallon for $59 including shipping – that’s $2.88 a cup, and they mention volume discounts…hmm, you never know, sometimes what constitutes “volume” isn’t as much as you might expect, especially when you’re dealing directly with a smaller producer.

The real maple syrup is really good stuff.

And that’s enough commercials for one day, thank you very much.

Besides, I’ve got beans to get going this morning…I need about another 40 gallons or so of them to get through my lunch hours next week (I really like these…seriously…sweet little bites of pure deliciousness…)