Hairbrained Ideas R Us

Posted on 7/29/2014 10:55:00 PM
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How to Kill a Sunday Afternoon

Step 1. Gather kids and husband. Say to kids and husband, "I bet you I can cut a watermelon in half using only rubber bands."

Step 2. Watch while family scoffs and declares you crazy.

Step 3. Produce watermelon.


And large bag of rubber bands.


Step 4.  Wrap rubber bands around middle of watermelon.



Ask kids to count rubber bands.

Step 5. Add more rubber bands. And more rubber bands.  And more rubber bands.


Step 6. Realize this is taking way too long.  Try to add rubber bands in groups of fives.  Realize five heavy duty rubber bands is too many to stretch at once. Tell kids it's time to learn to count by fours.  See? It's not wasteful, it's educational.

Step 7.  Continue adding rubber bands. Begin to notice a change in watermelon shape.



Step 8.  Continue adding rubber bands.  Realize watermelon is now sweating juice from its pores.  Wash hands several times.

Step 9.  Begin to video tape final exciting climax.  Realize you have just run camera out of batteries.  Switch to camera phone. Decide against video because extra set of hands is needed to steady watermelon during rubber band installation phase.  Also because hands are still covered in watermelon blood and phone is not watermelon-juice-proof.



Step. 10.  Add two hundred, thirty-eighth rubber band.

Step 11.  Duck as top half of watermelon pops off and flies across deck, nearly taking out beloved rosemary tree. Retrieve halves for photo opportunity. Marvel at perfectness of halves.  Claim to have expected this all along when really, you just thought it would be crushed into four or five unruly pieces.



Step 12. Retrieve what is now a single giant rubber band ball.




Step 13. Feed watermelon halves to Shortlings.  (You didn't think we were gonna waste it did you?)  Call this dinner.



And drinks.



Step 13. Treat blisters on husband's hands from wrapping 238 rubber bands around a watermelon.  For fun.  Consider how weird this will look when posting on a blog later.  Share stupid quirks and dumb ideas to entertain self and children with world anyway.  Why start hiding it now?

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LIRR

Posted on 7/27/2014 03:35:00 PM
I'm not entirely a photography purist even though I lean more toward SOOC shots and almost always prefer the cropping I do with my eye in the viewfinder to any improvement I can make later with the crop tool.  I post process a lot of my photos, but it's generally with a minimalist's touch.  Some pictures are different though and they call out to be messed with until they're right.

I worked for a long time in Photoshop before I got this image as gritty and overexposed as I think it wants to be. I'm still not sure I got it but it reminds me of a Terry Richardson photo.  So it must be close.




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Skeleton in the Closet

Posted on 7/26/2014 03:04:00 PM
Meet the only child who had to fight her parents in order to go into the closet.  Despite the fact that we secured a relatively nice hotel, this is where she chose to sleep on a recent weekend trip out of town. 


It was actually pretty nice because this was the first hotel room we've stayed in quite awhile where I haven't been woken up in the middle of the night because one of the two of them kicked the other in her sleep.  So I hope she enjoys sleeping in the closet until she's eighteen.

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Herbs Drying in the Window

Posted on 7/22/2014 08:00:00 AM

And yes, it smells fantastic in my kitchen right now.

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Stuffed Bird of Hope

Posted on 7/20/2014 06:50:00 PM
A recent storm blew this nest and two robin's eggs from one of our trees.  The KingofHearts found them a couple of days later.   We're pretty sure that's not a Robin's nest, but it's an amazing piece of construction and fascinating, so we brought it in the house for the kids to inspect.  The KoH brought the eggs in a few hours later and handed them to me.  I didn't quite know what to do with them; it seems a shame to throw them out.  So not wanting them to break (because that'd probably smell unpleasant), I just put them in the nest.



The little, parentless eggs have distressed The Caterpillar greatly and even though we've explained that the little birds inside the eggs would have to have died in the days the eggs were outside unattended - before we even found them - she is still looking for ways to care for them, "just in case." 

I thought we'd gotten past the inevitable realization; I had a long talk with her yesterday.   But tonight, we found her saying a little prayer over the eggs and covering them with the plastic pieces the bird had woven into the bottom of the nest.  

"What are you doing?"

"Maybe if I keep them warm, they'll hatch. Maybe."  

I was sitting on the couch a little later and looked up to catch The Shortlings skulking around and whispering in hushed tones, which is never good. So I got up to investigate and found this:


I've struggled lately with my outlook on life and the world in general.   In recent years, I've become more and more conflicted between wanting to stay informed about the world around me and needing to stay sane because it's all just so damn depressing.  I completely stopped watching the news on television because I simply cannot abide any more anger and uncharitable opinions from talking heads and politicians who cut a wide swath entire groups of people with just a few stereotypical adjectives... as if they've met every one.  I've even sworn off reading the entire internet once weekly as is my habit because there just isn't much good out there. Facebook? Ugh. Facebook has just made me realize that most of my friends are jerks. But this picture above? This is one of the pros of having and being around kids.  They remind you that there is still some good in the world and if you work very hard, you can nurture it.  Because if a little girl can care this much about two little eggs, maybe we can all move toward caring about people some day soon.  OK, probably not soon.  But at least for now? This makes me happy.

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What it Means Is We Better Not Forget Dinner

Posted on 7/19/2014 06:08:00 PM In:
"There are two ways to look at today: either we didn't feed our children lunch or we didn't feed our children breakfast.  Either way, I think that makes us bad parents." 

"We fed our children brunch. That makes us fancy parents."  

"I'll take it."

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Esherickesque

Posted on 7/18/2014 06:30:00 AM In:

The real discovery of our Blobfest weekend was not campy street festivals, nor tin foil hat and scream contests, but a new favorite artist.  While we were sitting in The Colonial waiting for The Blob to begin, The KingofHearts and I saw an advertisement on the screen for a nearby museum.  After we'd sucked the marrow out of Blobfest, we weren't hip on heading back home quite yet, so we took a little detour to check out this museum.  Neither of us had ever heard of Wharton Esherick before and we just wandered in on our way out of town.

As it turns out, you can't just wander in to the Esherick museum.  You have to make a reservation.  It says so at the entrance.  There was a lovely woman in the gift shop who explained and that's when we realized we'd walked right past the sign that clearly states such.  So we shrugged our shoulders and said we'd try to come back another time.  The girls let out an "awww," but that was about it - we apologized for being jerks who couldn't read a simple sign.

But she stopped us as we were going out the door and said, "Hang on a second, there might be someone who would be available to give you a tour right now, but it's only a chance.  Let me see if he can come over."

So she picked up the phone and a few minutes later, we were beginning our personal, private tour with none other than the curator of the museum and let me tell you, this place was a-mah-zing.  We weren't allowed to take photographs inside the house so I only have a few to share, but there's a nice virtual tour of the house here.  You should look at it, but more importantly, you should physically go there because those photos might be nice, but in person, it's an experience.  

Here's what I learned about Wharton Esherick.  He was a contemporary and good friend of Louis Kahn (who is one of my favorite architects), though their aesthetics couldn't be more different.  He tried to be a painter in the early 1900s and didn't have much success at that (though I do not understand why because what I saw of his early work, I loved).  So he and his wife moved to Pennsylvania to become subsistence farmers - or as the curator said, "to lead an organic life" - while he tried to sell his artwork. He started to carve frames for the artwork he sold and found more interest in the frames than the artwork, which eventually led him into a career as a wood sculptor that lasted the rest of his life.  He designed and built the entire house and all of the furniture in it.

This is the garage. THE GARAGE!
The original portion of the house was stone.  He added the wooden addition later but always felt the balance of the house wasn't right.  So he added that silo section when he was in his 70s.  That's not paint; he tinted the stucco on the outside of the silo to mimic the colors of the surrounding forest.

His sculpture is amazing and easily able to impress even the geekiest artist and/or woodworker wannabes, which coincidentally describes The KingofHearts and me to a tee.  He liked non-traditional lines and mimicking nature and finding the natural abstract form of whatever he was working.  What we didn't expect was how impressed by the place The Shortlings would be.  Every time the curator took us into a new room, he was met with gasps of awe and surprise from my kids.  They. Loved. Everything.  From the artwork, to the floor, to the carved wooden spoons and cutting boards in the kitchen.  The Caterpillar declared her desire to live there and offered to be the caretaker of the house.  The Dormouse asked how many years before she could come back and be a docent.  They both asked somewhat-relevant questions.  Most of the time, kids walk around without the sense God gave a goose, but every once in awhile they surprise you and this was one of those times for me.  About halfway through the tour, the curator turned to me and said, "Oh my gosh, I love your kids!"  I suppose it's possible that some of their interest had to do with being told they could touch the sculpture and a lovely gentleman who treated their questions like important matters and not just an irritant, but I can't help but think that it maybe, just a little bit, had to do with the beauty surrounding them too. 

The curator mentioned that if we liked the work and wanted to support it, one way we could do so - since they weren't able to accept our kids' offer of indentured servitude - was we could tell others.  So that is the purpose of this post today.  If you are in the area, get yourself to the Wharton Esherick house.   Tell them Winnie-the-Pooh sent you.


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It Crawls, It Creeps, It Eats You Alive!

Posted on 7/16/2014 03:05:00 PM In:

I had a bad case of gottagetouttatown week last week and I've always been a bit obsessed with The Blob in all its iterations, but in particular, the 1958 original with Steve McQueen.  I think it goes back to watching all those Saturday morning B sci-fi movies in the World Beyond time block when I was a kid.  So last week, when I was reading The Internet for my umpteenth time and I happened upon a description of the street festival, Blobfest, and then realized that not only was it close enough to drive, it was also coming up the very next weekend, I was all, "Oh we're SO going THERE."

The KingofHearts just rolled his eyes, much like we did when I insisted we had to attend HonFest, or when I almost drove us off the road trying to get to Foamhenge.

Don't feel too sorry for him.  He may complain about my weird vacation destinations but he almost always enjoys them.  Almost.

So, as it turns out, The Blob was filmed in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, just a couple of hours from D.C. and the theater from that scene is not only still standing, but still in operation.



Each year, they sponsor a street festival and have special screenings of the film.  The big event of the weekend is the "Run Out," which recreates this scene:



They dress the theater up appropriately.



Or at least semi-appropriately.

 
We weren't able to be there on Friday night for the Run Out, but we did get to attend a screening of the film the next day.  Because bad, old movies are required education in the Underland household.


We sat in the balcony and got there pretty early so I was able to get this fantastic shot of the projection wall.



Which was featured here in the film:



Now, there's a plaque to commemorate it.



The Colonial theater is really fantastic and still has the old projection room equipment.



Then they let us go upstairs, where they had the resident Blobologist, who knows everything about the movie AND has the dubious distinction of knowing the recipe for making the Actual Blob, which he will not tell you, I tried.



He also knows how they were able to create all those awesome special effects like the one with this actual tiny set used in the film. 



Outside, they had the original fire truck on display.





And the Doctor's house still stands a few blocks up from the theater.  I'm sure the occupants of it just love having lookiloos hanging around on their street corner.





They also have a street festival with appropriately creepy vendors.





A tin foil hat contest,



a costume contest,





and a "Make Your Own Blob" table.


She's telling it, "Now DON'T eat anyone!"



This concludes this photoessay on Blobfest.  Now to put a few dollars in the therapy fund my children will almost certainly have to dip into when they tell this story in Group Therapy one day.  No one will believe them that their mother made them spend an entire weekend celebrating a movie filmed nearly fifty years before their birth, so hopefully blogs will still exist then for the photographic proof.

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Rock Island

Posted on 7/14/2014 12:10:00 PM
Last weekend, The Music Man (the Robert Preston and Shirley Jones version) was on television and I forced let my kids watch it.  The Dormouse was fascinated with the opening number, "Rock Island" and declared it "early rap." I still cannot figure out whether this is wonderful or if hearing this statement from beyond the grave would cause Meredith Wilson to roll over in it.

This weekend, we took an old timey train ride on the Wilmington & Western Railroad.



The train reminded The Dormouse and The Caterpillar of the train from the "Rock Island" scene and they tried to sing the song but they only part they could remember was "Whaddaya talk, whaddaya talk, whaddaya talk, whaddaya talk, whaddaya talk."  That got annoying after awhile so I looked the lyrics up on my phone, then the three of us spent much of the rest of the ride trying to do all the lyrics in time without messing it up.  So if you happened to be on the Mt. Cuba Meteor this weekend, in the middle car you would have seen three girls, oblivious to the rest of the passengers, doing this:



And if you looked at the seat next to them, you would have seen one, extremely embarrassed KingofHearts, trying to look like he didn't know them.

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I'm Raising a Freaking Genius

Posted on 7/07/2014 06:00:00 AM In:
I've often thought I should just run a voice activated tape recorder in the kitchen to catch all the errant words of wisdom that might be uttered there because I probably miss half of them as The Caterpillar and The Dormouse talk to each other while I'm running around attending to other tasks.  Then I could later transcribe them and use the wonders inside to stock this blog daily.  You know, like Nixon.  That worked out pretty well for him, right?  

Here's something I did catch from last night's dinner:

"Books are like movies.  They have pictures.  But the pictures don't move.  And there are words underneath the pictures."

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Suck It, Pinterest

Posted on 7/06/2014 08:26:00 AM
Monica and I went to a friend's baby shower a few days ago and they were playing a game with clothespins where you got three clothespins when you walked in and if someone heard you say the word baby, they could take one of your clothespins and then they would have four clothespins and you would only have two.  And then if you heard them say the word baby, you could take back your clothespin.  Or if you heard someone else say the word baby, you could take their clothespin and get one back and then you'd have three again and this was to go on and on until one person had all the clothespins and then won what? I guess, the satisfaction of knowing that you're more tedious than everyone else at a baby shower.

This, however, backfired for them on us, because apparently Monica and I are not so so focused on talking about babies and neither of us ever said the word, nor listened for anyone else to say the word and then after a very long time of waiting for lunch to arrive, we each still had our original three clothespins.

At some point, I knocked a clothespin off my lapel one too many times, got sick of them all, and finally took them all off my shirt and Monica's shirt and began creating a toy for the baby.



Then we gave the clothespin horse a little food, just in case he was hungry.


Then the kid-like guests at the shower all crowded around and clamored for more clothespin animals so I confiscated all their clothespins too and gave them a giraffe:


 And a camel:


There were also unphotographed attempts at a worm, a snake, and eel and a cobra, which they all declared were "lame" or something, so I challenged them to create their own clothespin animals and stop relying on my expertise.  So they gave me a spider:


And a... well I do not know what this is:



And that's how Monica and I became the heroes of the baby shower because we entertained the kids for three hours.

Who says I'm not a creative genius?

Oh wait, I do.  I say that.

And these people.


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The Calm Before the Storm

Posted on 7/03/2014 11:52:00 AM
And then Godzilla, Mothra and the LaserCat destroyed the city.



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Washington, D.C. Metro, United States
Married, 40ish mom of two (or three, or four, depending on how you keep score) who stepped through the lookinglass and now finds herself living in curiouser and curiouser lands of Marriage, Motherhood, and the Washington, D.C. Metro Area.

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