The Lonesome Death of Alice

Posted on 3/25/2015 07:55:00 AM
At a nursery one day a few years ago, I took pity on this tiny plant on the for sale table that looked dead already, but was on sale for twenty-five cents - probably because the tiny little stalk wasn't any taller than a quarter.  I thought it was a succulent at the time and put it in my cacti pot, fully expecting it not to live out the month. It turned out to not only live, but thrive and outlived every single one of the cactus plants in the pot.  Now it has put off so many other plants, I could have an entire forest if I were only to give it a little encouragement to reproduce.  In fact, the main thing I have to do with this plant is keep its babies from growing in my other pots... and the yard, and the cracks on the sidewalk, and the grout lines in my kitchen tile.

After over three years, the main plant has finally bloomed for me.


If you don't have much of a green thumb and tend to kill plants but want to grow something, I highly recommend the Mother of Thousands.

Of course, if you practice too much benign neglect, you could end up like Stephen King in Creepshow, so make sure you're willing to practice a little selective reduction.



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How Did the Deer Cross the Road? Safely.

Posted on 3/22/2015 08:23:00 PM
One of my very favorite things upon moving to this area was the wildlife.  Everyone here complains incessantly about two things: the squirrels (The KingofHearts calls them "bushy-tailed rats") and the deer (who eat everyone's flowers and vegetables from their gardens).  I, who grew up mostly in the desert and never saw a squirrel or a deer the entire time I lived there, love the fact that squirrels and deer now regularly run around in my yard and I never really get tired of seeing them.  Kinda like my reaction to snow.  I recognize that it can be a pain, but I still get excited every time I see a snowflake.

Squirrels may be busy-tailed rats, but I've spent a lot of time in Baltimore and I kinda like the rats there too.  



When I was a kid, a guy in my grandfather's neighborhood had tamed a bunch of the wild squirrels.  They'd eat out of his hand and sit on his shoulder.  I always was so impressed by that, but was never there long enough to get any of the squirrels used to me and at home, the closest thing to a squirrel sitting on my shoulder was when one of our cats would catch a lizard and leave its disembodied tail on my pillow.  One year, I fed the squirrels corn cobs, just so they could come up to my window and I could get a better look at them.  A few months later, corn stalks started growing in my lawn.  I didn't realize it, but the squirrels has been burying the corn all winter long and then the corn sprouted and grew when spring came.  If I could only train the squirrels a little better, I could have a heck of a garden with very little work.  I would name it the Veruca Salt Memorial Corn Garden.

After the first snow in this new house, I went outside and saw footsteps that went in a straight line from the street outside, through the middle of our front lawn and right up to the window of the master bedroom, then wandered off into the yard and around the house.  I was a little freaked out because it appeared that someone was looking into our bedroom window while we slept.  But then I went outside and got a closer look at those footsteps.  The snow was a few inches high and if you looked down into an impression, you could see that it was actually a deer print and the deer had just been dragging its feet a bit through the snow, so from father away they looked like human prints.  I am much less concerned about a deer watching me sleep than some stalker/voyeur/possible serial killer.  Whew.

I would love to have a great garden, but we have a lot of shade on our property so I think that's unlikely.  Given that, I am all for the natural landscaping and allowing the deer to come and hang out at my place whenever they want to have a deer party/buffet.  We've had this discussion at work and my coworker told me the other day that she saw a bunch of deer in her yard so she went out on her porch and yelled, "Go! Get out of here! Go over to Underland!  They love you there."

They probably heard her, because this was the view out my back window the next day.



Also, they seem to have taught their young to look both ways before crossing the street.





That's city deer for you.

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The Back Forty

Posted on 3/09/2015 07:43:00 PM
Wanna know why we bought this house?  This. This right here, is why we bought this house.



It was warm today and most of this has melted off by now, which is a good thing because I can't seem to solve the mystery of why, when I start a fire in the upstairs fireplace, the smoke backs up into the downstairs fireplace even though they have separate chimneys -- but not every time, mind you, only about a quarter of the occasions when I use it.  How does smoke go down?  I do not understand you, Magic Smoke. Hopefully this will be the last of the snow pictures for awhile.

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Sunday Morning Snow

Posted on 3/08/2015 09:16:00 AM
A few shots from this week's snow storm in our new neighborhood. This place is one of the reasons we moved. 










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Sledding, Vol. III

Posted on 3/07/2015 08:58:00 AM
Sometimes you need a little push.

Or a pull.

Or a drag, as the case may be.





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Sledding, Vol. II

Posted on 3/07/2015 08:54:00 AM









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Sledding Vol. I

Posted on 3/07/2015 08:53:00 AM
If you scroll through these fast enough, it looks like a peep show movie at an old time penny arcade. Or reasonable facsimile. 










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Narnia

Posted on 3/07/2015 06:00:00 AM
I always wanted a street lamp at the end of my driveway.   Now to warn The Children not to take any Turkish Delight from any White Witches they might see in the yard.



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Snow Bunny or Fox or Whatever That Thing On Her Head Is

Posted on 3/06/2015 05:35:00 PM
I see her every day and she throws alotta attitude around.  Sometimes I forget just how beautiful she is.




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Angels

Posted on 3/06/2015 05:33:00 PM
The Shortlings have been home from school more than they have been at school since January.  I just decreased their summer camp registration by one week because they are already having to make up days at the end of the year.  They are going crazy and I am going to need a new employee orientation if I ever go back to work again on a regular basis.  I keep saying I don't really mind them being home with me and I don't.  They are mostly great kids who these days only occasionally bicker too much and last week I only had to tell them three times that playing soccer in the house wasn't an acceptable snow day activity.  The problem is there is no semblance of a schedule and this messes with their heads.  They revert to acting like the Wild Boy of Aveyron without any memory of acceptable house behavior or common sense.

Of course last week I spent an embarrassingly long amount of time trying to scrub a stain off the bathroom counter before realizing it was a shadow.

So maybe it's not just their heads.

When I left work on Wednesday we were expecting this big snow storm on Thursday which would probably close even the Federal Government, the last bastion of work ethic, so we knew we weren't coming back the next day.  I poked my head into a birthday celebration to say goodby and said, "Happy Birthday, Birthday Person.  The rest of you, I AM NEVER GOING TO SEE YOU AGAIN."

Yesterday we got between four and eight inches, depending on which fish story you believe. So, yeah, I gotz alotta snow pictures.


 

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Hot Lava, Cold Living Room

Posted on 3/01/2015 02:46:00 PM
I've been up since about 3:30 am this morning because it was

You know how you tell how much oil is in your oil tank?  You take a ten-foot long stick and stick it down in there...  like the dipstick in your car's engine compartment.  But unlike the oil dipstick in your car, this stick doesn't have any markings on it.  You just found it in the pile of renovation project leavings in your shop.  If you don't know the size and shape of the oil tank that is buried in your yard, this method can tell you only two things: 

You Have Oil 

-or-

You Don't Have Oil

I'm learning so much in this new house.

When I got up, freezing, my first thought was of that thirty-year-old furnace we worried about when we bought this house and the many discussions we had about how we knew we'd eventually have to replace it but would try to get through at least one winter with it first because: we poor now.  My second thought was, "I wonder how cold it's going to be today."  So I looked up the outside temperature on my phone.  Twenty.  Then I looked at the forecast for the day.  No higher than thirty.  And then my third thought was, "Yep, that sounds about right."

But then my fourth thought (this is starting to sound like a Steve Martin routine) was about how my kids' piano teacher bitterly complained all last winter every time her oil company let her tank run empty despite her auto-refill contract, and I thought, "As much as I'd like a new furnace, this is not a convenient time to have that problem, so let's pray it's the oil."  It was, so now I owe God a cheeseburger and a game of skee ball.

We spent the morning building blazing fires in not one, but two, fireplaces in hopes that that would keep the indoor temperature stable enough to prevent the pipes from freezing on the outside walls of the house because we had Not A Single Clue how quickly the oil company would send a guy out.  As it turns out, it was Pretty Quickly and now I am regret-less about the Very Large Sum of Money we will be paying them this year.  As I type this, the oil tank has been filled, the furnace has been restarted, we popped out to buy an air filter the furnace guy recommended to better push the air around the house, and it's risen to fifty-six degrees in the house, so I'm feeling downright toasty and decadent.

It's been bitterly cold this year in the D.C. area and the first person who sarcastically says to me "so how do you like that global warming huh?" gets a snowball thrown at them. The reality is that extreme weather patterns are an indicator of global warming, so this cold snap does more to support the case of global warming than refute it.  If you wanna have a discussion about the causes of global warming, then that's maybe a debate to have, but we should probably also debate whether a snowball can have a Twitter account.

Throughout the winter, and with the exception of this morning, I've actually been sweating like a racehorse more often than not.  The KingofHearts gave me a glass blowing class for Christmas, so while everyone else has been shivering in the cold, I've been standing in front of an eighteen-hundred degree glory hole.  (That is actually what they call it, I swear.  But please do not Google that term if you are faint of heart and naive.)

I took an intro to glassblowing class years ago.  I learned the basics, I made a snowman (which was really just an exercise to teach you how to use a tool called jacks, two misshapen cylinders (which, I believe we lost during the '11 earthquake), a couple of paperweights, and this, my crowning glory:



It looks a lot better in the picture than in real life, but I'm still really proud of it because I've watched a ton of glass blowing demonstrations and, dude, they make it look easy. It is not easy. I have learned how to attempt a reasonable facsimile of every one of the skills that man demonstrates in that video link  but despite that knowledge, I cannot make things even a fraction as beautiful as he does.  I am here to tell you, it is not easy.

But I learned a lot more and got a ton more practice with this class, partially because there were only four of us, so we basically each got a private lesson from one of the two teachers each week, got to assist for the other person, and made about two pieces per class.  Many of my pieces ended up on the floor, especially one colorful goblet I was particularly in love with -- I got all the way through that project to the end, only to have the bottom break apart as I was taking it off the pole to put it in the annealer. 

Sniff.

But some stuff didn't break.  Here's a random sampling.

This was the first thing I made in this class.  It looks like an interesting water glass, but when you realize that it's destiny was to become a vase, you'll understand just how remedial my skills are.
This odd little guy was also suppose to become a vase, but I had a lot of trouble getting him to grow into a real boy, so he's now what I call my creamervase.
This is my favorite piece from the class.  That oddly shaped creamer from before was trying to look like this.  It's called a handkerchief vase.  This came out unbelievably well and I have no business saying it is my intentional work.  It was luck.
This was my attempt at Mexican glassware. This, unlike pretty much everything else, was planned as a glass and not a vase.  My vase teacher was very patient with me.  Or he couldn't care less what I made.  Either way.

I love this little bud vase because it was totally my design, although you can't really see it from this picture.  It's a three-sided vase.  This was a bunch of fun to make.

Here's a better view of the tri-corner aspect of it, but not a better picture.  It turns out it's kinda hard to photograph clear glass, ya'll.
This guy fell off the punty before I was finished with him.  Once that happens, your piece is telling you it's done, whether you happen to think you were finished or not.  My quick-thinking teacher snatched it up off the floor and tossed it in the annealer while I stared at it, mouth agape, sitting there like a slug.  It was my only defense. I was just starting to work on the neck when that happened so you can see it's totally unfinished, but I'm still pretty happy with the round-ness of the base.  That was hard, people.
The last piece I made was a pitcher.  I learned how to put handles on and was pretty good at that skill, but they can go wrong terribly quickly and my class partner right before this had made a gorgeous pitcher which was aesthetically ruined by a handle placement gone awry. I was too afraid to mess up the perfectness of this piece (all my others definitely have a "stance" and this was my only piece from the class that was somewhat symmetrical) to attempt the handle so I chickened out.

Next class: bowls.  Or balloon animals, I can't decide.

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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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