Strawberries, That's Where I Had Them

Posted on 3/30/2012 07:25:00 AM
We were encouraged by the one small strawberry we grew last year and thought we'd try for two.  If we double our crop each year, we could be selling strawberry freezer jam in a fruit stand on the side of the road by the time the girls' graduate from college.  So... keep your fingers crossed for good weather.




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Eastern Red Bud

Posted on 3/29/2012 07:17:00 AM
We may not have cherry blossoms in our front yard, but this Eastern Red Bud tree is a reasonable facsimile. And it makes me happy.  That'll do tree, that'll do.


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Mommy's Little Metro Rider

Posted on 3/28/2012 07:08:00 AM

I figure she'd better learn the ins and out of public transportation now, before it's too late.  Always watch the stations.  Always give up your seat to older people who need it.  And never, never let go of that pole.


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Vanity Cherry Blossom Photos

Posted on 3/27/2012 06:16:00 AM In:
Through the magic of photography, using creative angling and cropping, one might almost believe that these were taken on a leisurely Spring day where there weren't a thousand clamoring tourists underneath their feet...

and that park security wasn't about to chase us down for climbing the trees.




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Bustling Blossoms and Beavers

Posted on 3/26/2012 06:58:00 AM In:

The D.C. Cherry Blossoms are one of the most quintessential Washington events each year.  

As The KingofHearts explains it to The Shortlings: "A long time ago, The Japanese government gave the United States all these Cherry Trees as a gift. Every year in the Spring Cherry Trees bloom with all these pretty pink blossoms. So they planted them all around the water here so in the Spring the Tidal Basin would be really beautiful. And now every year, Japan sends its entire population over to D.C. in the month of April to take pictures of those trees and take them back to Japan."

It is crazy crowded down around the edge of the Tidal Basin when they're in bloom and everyone pushes and shoves for the best angle and light to take pictures.  So it's exciting too, because there's always the chance that someone might shove you a little too hard and you'll end up taking your photos from within the Tidal Basin... with a wet camera.  

Once a few years after I moved here, a couple of beavers took up residence in the Tidal Basin.  They came out at nights when no one was looking and did what beavers do: they chewed down trees.  Over the course of a week, they felled four of the original ninety year old cherry trees that were a gift from the Japanese government in 1912.  It was a giant Thing and there were beaver sightings in the newspapers and on television and much discussion about how to catch them and where to find them and whether to shoot them on sight.  D.C. residents were divided along a distinct line: Save the Beaver Groups on one side and Save the Cherry Tree Groups on the other.  The city of Washington was brought to it's knees by a couple of rodents that weren't even aware anyone knew of their existence.  Eventually, if I remember correctly, the beavers were humanely trapped and relocated... probably to Remsen Park.  The Battle of the Beavers had ended.*

But it wasn't the only drama surrounding the trees over the years. 


We took the whole crew down to the Tidal Basin this weekend because I had somehow convinced myself that the parade was on Saturday.  While wandering around, I kept wondering why Constitution Avenue wasn't yet closed off yet.  "You'd think they'd ready the path a little ahead of the parade's beginning," I kept saying.  But I guess three weeks ahead is probably a bit too much to ask. 

So instead of the parade, we just walked around and I tried to get a few photos despite the rain and overall crappy light from the overcast day.

I've posted photos of the blossoms before, but keep going back every couple of years to try and outdo myself.  Which isn't hard.  What is hard is narrowing down which photos to post. Just be glad I was able to get it down to this many.











*look at me, getting through this entire paragraph without once making reference to the possible suggestive use of the word beaver**

**whoops

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Health Nuts

Posted on 3/25/2012 02:59:00 PM
"Are you just going to eat whipped cream out of the can?"

"No. I was going to put it in a bowl first."

"So you're just going to have a BOWL of WHIPPED CREAM?"

*scoffs* "No!"

"..."

"I was going to put some caramel sauce on top of it too."

 *facepalm*

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Inappropriate Humor at the Underground Lair

Posted on 3/23/2012 07:49:00 PM
I would like it noted that I did not stack the stuffed animals like this, nor did I suggest that they should be put away in this manner when I asked The Caterpillar to clean her room.


But only because I didn't think of it myself.

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Some Scenes May Be Too Scary for Children Under 7

Posted on 3/19/2012 11:38:00 PM
The Shortlings have been enjoying watching episodes of R.L. Stine's The Haunting Hour lately, which, if you aren't aware, is like The Twilight Zone for kids.  (Although by today's standards, the original The Twilight Zone really is more for kids.  I don't care though, I'll still waste an entire Labor Day watching The Twilight Zone marathon wherever they play it and squeal with delight when The Eye of the Beholder comes on.)  The Dormouse, especially, is and always has been our Goth Girl who enjoys all things creepy and eerie... a girl after my own heart.  Under other circumstances, I'd probably say The Caterpillar is too young for some of the R.L Stine episodes, but she wants so badly to be like her big sister and do what she does.  So she curls up into a tiny ball under my arm during the more suspenseful parts and announces, "I'm shchared," but looks at the TV screen through fingers spread over her face.  Fortunately, she always seems to get that it's just a show though and allowing her to watch hasn't backfired on us... yet.  It probably has something to do with her viewing companion.   



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Parenting Win

Posted on 3/17/2012 08:24:00 PM
Years ago, when Monica and I worked together, we were having a particularly bad week one day and decided that together we would march into our boss's office and demand either:

a) a raise in salary for our troubles 

or 

b) a trained monkey to go and fetch our documents out of the office printer so we wouldn't have to leave our chairs

We would have taken either, but secretly preferred option b.

OK, maybe not so secretly. 

I'm happy to report that The KingofHearts and I have convinced The Shortlings that it's their job to run down the stairs to get our print jobs out of the printer, then bring them back up to us.  

What's more, they respond to this task when we yell, "PRINTER MONKEY, HO!" and fight over who gets to have the privilege of going. 

Sometimes you get what you want in life... it just takes awhile for it all to come around.  That's what they call Karma, I think.

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My Brand New Box

Posted on 3/15/2012 05:01:00 PM In:
Spring acomin' and all, I've been trying to figure out what to do with my box herb garden.   


I loved having this herb garden so convenient last year and cannot begin to tell you how much and how often I actually used those herbs for cooking, which surprised even me.  We talked about how to refurbish my box after leaving it outside throughout the winter.  Weather is notoriously bad for boxes of all kinds when kept outdoors and mine is no exception, donchaknow, despite the fact that we really didn't get any snow to speak of this year.  We also noticed a few design flaws when we built it, ones that we would have liked to improve upon if we had it to do over again.  Basically, I'd start over with two palettes, take some of the extra boards off one and nail them onto the other on the back to make a single, solid panel on the backside.  Then not use landscapers fabric at all except for around the bottom to keep the dirt from pooling around the palette's footprint all year.

So my box has been on my mind, as I'm sure you understand.  The KingofHearts has been thinking about my box too and he even offered to bring home a couple of palettes from a local business he'd noticed.  He hadn't gotten around to doing that when Monica (she reads the internet so I don't have to) sent me this link to purchase a Triolife Plant Pyramid.

WANT.

So I forwarded the email to The KoH as I so often do with things I want and typed into the subject line: WANT!  (We're nothing if not communicative.)  Sometimes I send him things marked WANT and he completely ignores me for some reason.  But he knew this was different because of the ! in the subject line, I'm sure.  He took a close look at the video and came home with some measurements he sussed out and the week of the Building a New, Three-Cornered Box was born. 

With new lumber no less.  


So decadent. 

Not entirely new lumber, because we used some of the leftover decking material for parts of it. 

So we're green too!  Two points for us.


I cannot begin to tell you how he was able eyeball it from the video and then reproduce it in real life and that is probably because I am not a Building Things Genius.  It's clearly not exactly the same; some of that was intentional, some wasn't.  With the palette box last year, we found that it worked great in direct sun until about August, when the heat and direct sun tried to kill every single one of my preshus baybee plantz with it's angry rays.  So we moved it under the shade and got a couple more months of really good growth.  It was worth it, because many of the herbs lasted all through the winter and I made Thanksgiving Day stuffing using fresh herbs I strolled out the back door to harvest.  But it took two men and a boy (or more accurately said, one pretty strong adult, one wussy wife and two children who "JUST WANT TO HELP" and who, by their very underfootedness, create a dangerous and deadly scenario of toe amputation possibilities) to move it and it was a pain in the... neck.** 

I wanted casters on the bottom so we could roll it around.


I've shared photos with some people already and have been asked by several for the blueprints, which do not exist.  But I can provide instructions based on my experience of poking my head through the back door every few hours to see the progress:
  • First, to go Big Box Home Improvement Store and purchase eight boards.  Smart People would not bring Children Who Love to Climb on Things in Big Box Home Improvement Store, but we are not Smart People.
  • Cut each board approximately thirty-five and a half times until they fit into one of five basic shapes: Big Triangle, Medium Triangle, Small Triangle, Tiny Triangle and Pyramid On Which To Hang Triangles.
  • Be sure and curse at each board multiple times as that really whips them into submission.  
  • Give Shortlings each a hammer, a handful of nails and a spare board piece and tell them to drive all the nails into the board if they want to "help."  Because you're totally gonna need something like that later.
  • Move on to putting it all together.  Decide you will do this entirely without screws or nails because that's way cooler.  (it totally is)
  • Go to three different Big Box Home Improvement Stores to get more nuts for those casters, because heaven forbid a single Big Box Home Improvement Store sell BOTH screws AND nuts that fit each other... and also because your children lost them in between when you brought them home from Big Box Home Improvement Store and when you walked into back yard. 


  • Have argument with wife because she thinks all the dirt will fall out from in between the tiers where there's more space than on the original.  (Note from wife: Not complaining about the design, I actually love that it's quite a bit taller, I just thought some screen or additional lumber should be added in between the tiers to hold in the dirt.)  
  • Add screen in between the tiers after you start pouring in dirt and you realize it's all falling out. 
  • Listen to wife conspicuously not say, "I told you so."
  • Tell wife you think you should buy six bags of soil; she thinks it should only be four. 
  • After opening four bags of soil and filling box, make mental note to use additional two unopened bags of soil for some other purpose. 
  • Take some time to listen to some music.***
  • Endure undying adoration from wife because THIS IS THE MOST AWESOME THING EVER AND IT WAS TOTALLY WORTH IT AND I WILL NEVER EVER MAKE FUN OF YOU AGAIN.****




*Monica and I have probably had a little too much fun talking about my box, among other things, on The FacePlace recently and more than one of our husbands has complained about our use of innuendo in the country of social media.  But I still maintain that it is not innuendo if you, in fact, MEAN EXACTLY WHAT YOU SAY.  Sorry all of ya'll's minds are in the gutter, but this is, for all intents and purposes, a garden box.

**Keeping it PG for the MPAA


****That part's probably not true. 

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Study in Crocus

Posted on 3/14/2012 05:15:00 PM In:
This is the SOOC shot.






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How to Keep Your Kids Quiet in a Restaurant

Posted on 3/13/2012 01:12:00 PM
Tell them they can't put their elbow in their ear and watch them try to prove you wrong.


Keeps them busy for a good twenty minutes.


They can, however, lick their elbows.  So that one doesn't work, FYI. 

Just sayin'.

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Immortality

Posted on 3/10/2012 12:17:00 PM
These days at church, I work with the teenage girls and we have activities once weekly outside of Sunday.  A lot of what we do involve teaching skills and I've focused on some pretty modern-day useful things like budgeting, career planning, investigating colleges, etc.  But a few weeks back, a couple of them expressed an interest in learning to crochet.  I'm nothing if not inclusive, so I went out, bought a big bag of yarn and hooks for a big time stitch and bitch activity.* 

I learned to crochet years ago and haven't done it in ten or fifteen years at least, but I used to be pretty good at it.  So I figured I ought to brush up on my skills before I had to help teach others.  Holly Homemaker, I'm not.  I don't sew and crochet and the like for fun, but I do know how to do those things.  To me, it's not fun, really, it's just a means to an end.  Like when I wanted a wedding dress that didn't look like it came out of a pretty, pretty Barbie Princess box.  I walked into one store and the sales person asked me what I was looking for.  I said, "Just something classy and simple. No lace, no sequins, no beads, and NO BOWS ON MY ASS."

"Well, it was nice talking to you," she said, and walked away.

The lady at the fabric store was a bit more helpful and I hand made my entire wedding dress because there wasn't a single store in the Washington metro area that had what I wanted (or at least something I didn't actively hate).  Who would have known that when I taught myself to sew while the children napped during those boring babysitting afternoons at 16 years old that that skill would save me several thousand dollars and months of aggravation?

My point here is even though maybe crafty stuff isn't really your Thing, as it isn't my Thing, it is helpful to possess the knowledge so everyone should learn. You never know when it'll come in handy.

I figured I had the potholder/blanket skills down but it would be nice if I were to show up having actually made something recently.  Since it was pretty cold still, I thought I'd make something I could actually wear.  I have a metric ton of scarfs in the house; don't need another one of those. So I set about creating something... different.  It basically started out as a möbius strip that I was playing around with and I have decided to call it: a cowl. Enough to show up at our little activity and be at least familiar with the process again.


Then I went to Philadelphia and wore it while out and about in the chilly Philly night.**  It was incredibly warm and soft.  Love. 

While I was at the conference in Philly, I saw someone wearing one of those cool, slouchy berets, which I coveted.  Admittedly, not giving my full attention to the conference, I pulled up Etsy on my phone and did a quick search, only to find out that they were about $50.  That's when it occurred to me that I still had all that leftover yarn at home.  So when I got back I set about trying to reproduce a beret I liked.  The Dormouse was kind enough to model that for me in this camera phone photo.


The can of worms wasn't quite completely closed yet because The Dormouse sat watching me and said those seven dreaded words,

"Can you teach me to do that?"

My knee-jerk response was to say, "No.  Of course not.  You're much too young."

But for some reason, I clamped my teeth together and thought for a second.  I remembered that *I* was eight years old when I learned to crochet.  I learned from this woman, in fact:


Her name is Avis and that's her husband, Harold.  They weren't relatives of mine, but rather a retired couple who lived down the street from me when I was a kid.  They went to church with us and somehow adopted us as honorary grandchildren.  The photo above was them on their Fiftieth Wedding Anniversary.  This is them in their first year of marriage.


I don't remember how or why it was determined that she teach me to crochet.  But I do remember gathering up bags full of yarn and traipsing off to her house to sit while she patiently taught me how to do different stitches and then watched my progress for hours.  It was quite the mitzvah.

They were both incredibly creative and talented people.  He painted and made all kinds of artwork from found objects in the desert.  I remember in particular he made these bird mobiles from the pods of the devil's claw plant.  (I really wish I had one of those now.)  She could make anything: knit, crochet, sew... and was never anything less than gracious about using those skills and passing that knowledge along to others.  They had a tiny chihuahua dog named Chiki that they both doted over.  We loved that dog like it was our own.

Both of them have long since left this world.  He died when I was still in junior high, I think.  She outlived him by several years and died sometime in the 90s.  Last I saw her, I think I was just home from a mission in South America and visited her in a nursing home where she'd been admitted after a stroke.  She was unable to speak and I think she remembered me but I'm not a hundred percent sure.  

I hadn't thought about them in a long time, but lately they have both permeated my mind as I taught The Dormouse the beginning stages of how to crochet.  She has taken to it quite handily and turned out to be a quick study.  Now each night before bed, she grabs her crochet bag and works her needle*** while The KingofHearts reads to her.  She asked what she should make and The KoH suggested we needed some trivets for the kitchen, so she's working through that idea.

While I check in on her, I've been unable to help reflecting on all the hours I spent in Avis' house while she watched me weave away on one project or another.  It occurs to me that the one sure fire way to secure your own immortality is to pass on your knowledge to others.


Avis would be so proud.


*probably best if we don't use those exact words for churchtime discussion
**sounds like a Bruce Hornsby song
***see? that's how much I don't crochet; it's called a hook 

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Poetry in Motion

Posted on 3/09/2012 12:02:00 PM
Sometimes this weblog is a vehicle for me to communicate.  To write and be creative and  say my piece and work out what I feel, then declare it to the world.  Other times, the purpose is for it to become the archive of my life and I post things here because this is the best way for me to be able to document that they happened so I can find them again. This is one of those times.

A poem, by The Dormouse.


Life

Sometimes life is perfect.

Confusing.
Relaxing.
Different.
Fun.
Calm.
Peaceful.
Exciting.
Energetic.
Anxious.

My life is all of these.

Colorful.
Stupid.
Invisible.
Visible.
Conversational.
Jovial.
Sad.
Mad.
Pleasant.
Cool.
Humorous.

My life is these too.

That way you don't know what to expect when you start a new day.


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Extra Element Theorem

Posted on 3/08/2012 07:36:00 AM
I always tell people if you want to be entertained, follow The Caterpillar around our house with a tape recorder when she doesn't think you are paying attention to her. This is my super-imaginative child, who is constantly reenacting scenes from shows she's seen and delivering a diatribe of commentary, soliloquies and arias.  This morning she tried to tell me about a dream she had; the whole process took forty-five minutes, she said the word "and" at least three hundred times and the gist of the story was that she went to the grocery store and bought a peach. It doesn't really matter what the event in our house, there is always a running diatribe about it, whether anyone's listening or not.  And let's not forget the songs... the songs... they go on for HOURS.

I believe the inspiration for the little act we heard coming from the kitchen last night comes from an animated show called Avatar: The Last Airbender or something like that.  I can't be sure because they watched the series last year and whenever something with Japanese style animation comes over my television, my brain switches into coma-mode and tries to occupy itself with more interesting and engaging things like: I wonder if I could count the number of strands of thread in the carpet, yes, I think I can, let's try, one, two, three....

Anyhoo... The Caterpillar was by herself in the kitchen delivering dialog the other night while three adults in the living room tried desperately to hear it all, yet not stop talking enough to make it obvious that they were listening to her... because all knew the show would end immediately if she got even whiff of the idea that we were paying attention.  I grabbed a pad of paper and started taking dictation like a court stenographer at a Perry Mason trial.

"The five... no... SIX... ELEMENTS!

FIRE... *sfx: crackle crackle*

WATER... *sfx: woosh, woosh*

EARTH... *sfx: craaaash*

and...

...

...

GLITTER! *sfx: yaaaay!*"


I believe that last one is missing from the Tom Lehrer song.

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City of Brotherly Love

Posted on 3/07/2012 08:29:00 AM In:
Had to make a quick overnight trip to Philadelphia last week for work.  I've never been extremely fond of that city.  It's probably because I've had a few bad experiences there in my directly post-college years and after.  But I also never stayed in a hotel that looked out at the City Hall clock before either.  Back then, I was young and poor and mostly slept on other people's couches.  So this was kind of a treat.


As was it to wake up the next morning and see the city in the rain, which is quite beautiful, even I have to admit.


OK, Philly, I might give you a second chance. 

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Books R Us

Posted on 3/06/2012 08:18:00 AM In:
The last of my Boston series of pictures, this is a book shop in Salem.  I would have gone in, but like the rest of Salem, it was closed for the winter.  No wonder there was so much witch activity, there was nothing else to do between the months of November and March.*


*I kid, Salem, I kid.

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Climbing Wall

Posted on 3/05/2012 08:14:00 AM
It's so nice that when The KingofHearts' friends come over to the house, the Shortlings' friends come too...


...and that those friends are the same people.

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Crocus... es... i?

Posted on 3/04/2012 06:22:00 PM
In the late fall, we rake up all the leaves and cover the flower beds with them.  This has two benefits, we tell ourselves:  One, the plants living in that flower bed get a nice blanket of warmth which protects them as winter sets in; and two, we don't have to rake, bag and deal with the elimination of leaves - especially since our county no longer offers curbside leaf removal.  Since we are lazy, lazy, lazy, this is extremely attractive to us and that laziness has a lot more to do with the decision than any idea, misguided or otherwise, that it's better for the plants.  In late winter/early spring, we'll often get a shipment of mulch delivered to the house and just cover all the leaves with it, hoping to help further decompose them and add some nutrients to the soil.  But again, it probably doesn't really do all that much for the soil since we are not properly composting anything.  Gimme and L... gimme an A....

This year, The KingofHearts bought a compost bin and is trying to do that kind of a thing, so he raked all the leaves off the flower beds to put in the composter instead of purchasing top soil or mulch.  

These little crocus shoots were sticking up out of the ground under the leaves and because they hadn't seen much sun yet, they were almost translucent.  It took a couple of days for them to green up, but it was fun to watch their progress for about three days.





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Because She's So Very Busy

Posted on 3/02/2012 05:24:00 PM
We're expecting some friends to bring their kids over for the evening while they go do what married people do when they have a night out: breathe deep, satisfying sighs of relief.  This conversation occurred in my living room while preparing.
 
KingofHearts to Dormouse:  "You need to change your clothes before your boyfriend gets here."

Dormouse:  "He's not my boyfriend!  OK, well he's my friend and he's a boy, but it's not like THAT!"

Caterpillar:  "The Dormouse doesn't need a boyfriend."

Dormouse:  "Well, not right now, I don't.  I have too many crazy things going on in my life already."

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Mommy's Little Hobo

Posted on 3/01/2012 06:30:00 AM
She does have clothes that match, I swear; I just can't get her to put them all on at the same time.



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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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