Sunday, July 29, 2007


It's been a huge flurry of finishing projects around here. First there was the cardigan for my mother, which needed to have its buttons attached and be washed and blocked ....

(the Fair Isle pattern from Stitch n Bitch Nation)
Then I finished the baby bunny hat, also from SNB Nation. It's a little more zombie-fied than I'd like, but at least I used up part of my stash to make it, so I didn't pay to make the zombie rabbit. The finished hat is too small for my kid, anyway, so I guess Penelope's the one who is going to look like a rabid rabbit :)
Then I used more stash to make the Baby Jester hat that one of the Lexington SNBers posted as a free pattern on their group page. Took almost as long to make the pompoms as it did to knit the hat. Two words about the color scheme: Go, Flashes!

And then I used more stash yarn to finish the blue sock I started a few weekends ago down in Columbus. When I did the second sock, I realized I had screwed up the first sock, so I had to unravel it back to the heel and fix it, because it looked even more ridiculous when it was wrong than it does when it's right. Yes, these are toddler socks, and despite the over-blobby-ness of them when they're flat, they don't fit Liza too badly. I guess toddlers have fat feet.

I'm currently working on the second sock to the adult pair I started down in Columbus, as well as the "log cabin" knitting technique from Mason-Dixon Knitting, which will eventually be a felted pillow, if I ever finish the last few inches. Boy, am I getting sick of picking up cast-off stitches ... which is the whole point to the technique, but oh, so tedious. And I downloaded a few crochet patterns yesterday, just to keep my hooks in the ring on that front. I've already banged out one flower, which I still have to block, so you'll just have to wait for a while to see it. No predicted use for the flower, but it's a good project to use up the bits and pieces of the fine-gauge cotton I was so fond of a year or two ago. I've got a bunch of golf-ball-size skeins of leftovers sitting around taking up space that could be occupied by newer yarn, so it's got to go ... go productively, of course.

Oh, and I've been blowing my nose every 10 minutes, in between hacking things up and washing my hands. God, I hate summer colds. Somebody pass the Zycam ...

Friday, July 27, 2007

A shout-out to Asha and the other hackers

Just wanted to thank Asha over at Parenthacks for the mentions this week ... it's always fun to watch my sitemeter statistics jump up when she posts a link to one of my blog entries.

If you've come to my blog from Parenthacks, welcome!

And if you've never heard of Parenthacks, do drop by and take a look. You wouldn't believe some of the ideas that people come up with for making it easier/more convenient/less annoying to deal with kid stuff.

My personal favorite hacks so far are the "pool noodle as makeshift bed rail" and "Sharpie your cell number on your kid before you go to crowded places." Good stuff.

Cookie-saving hack

You know how when you make a batch of cookie dough, if you bake all the dough right away you either end up eating way too many cookies or throwing out stale cookies after somebody leaves the Tupperware cookie box open again? And you know how if you freeze half of the dough to use later, it's a giant block of cookie goodness that takes forever to thaw enough to use? I think I've solved the problem.

When I made a batch of cookies yesterday, I took the second half of the dough and formed cookies on waxed paper on a spare cookie sheet. Since I wasn't going to bake them right away, I was able to really cram a lot of them on one sheet. I covered the cookies loosely with plastic wrap, then stuck the whole thing in the freezer for a couple hours to harden up the "cookies."
After the dough was hard, I dumped all of them into a freezer bag and labeled it with the bake temperature and time. Next time I want to bake cookies, I should be able to pull out just how many I want, and they should thaw out most of the way while I preheat my oven. Just like the place-and-bake cookies you can buy at the grocery store, only fewer ingredients I can't spell, and a whole lot cheaper.

If I have time this weekend, I'm going to do the same thing with a recipe of sugar cookies, which I usually just shape into balls and flatten with the bottom of a drinking glass that I've dipped in sugar. If I get them that far and freeze them, then some day when I'm desperate for a craft activity, Liza and I can pull out a few and decorate them with the colored sugar and candies. And then eat them, of course!

Incidentally, the cookies pictured above are based on the recipe on the back of a bag of mini chocolate chips, except 1/4 cup of flour was replaced by 1/8 cup of regular cocoa and 1/8 cup of the black cocoa you can buy at King Arthur Flour. Also, I used 1 stick of butter and 1/2 cup of Crisco instead of all butter. These are the best cookies I've made (or eaten) in a long time.

Thursday, July 26, 2007


Last week we got a real whopper of a rainshower, complete with thunder and lightning and rain falling so hard it was difficult to see across the street. This occurred right before dinner, and Liza was determined to go out in the downpour. I managed to stall her until after dinner, telling her we could go out and play in the puddles after the rain slowed down a little.

She was EXTREMELY displeased when it stopped raining completely and the sun came out, and insisted on suiting up and going out to look for puddles anyway.

Raincoat: Land's End, courtesy of my mother-in-law. Umbrella: summer clearance sale at Target. Rainboots: table centerpiece from my babyshower back in 2005, courtesy of Joy. Yes, Joy, I did save them all this time, and yes, she loves them. And not just for rainstorms ...That's Liza splashing around in the river near our house, which has a decent amount of water in it for the first time since we've moved here. It's still only about 6" deep in the "deep" parts where we go, but Liza was into the whole wading thing.

That second photo is from my phone, by the way, which takes better photos than it does video. It's still not spectacular, but it was better than hauling the big one around with me. Now that I've finally figured out how to get the photos out of the phone and onto my computer, I'll have to share some of the ones that have been stuck in there since I got the phone.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The unexpected perils of classic Sesame Street skits

So it's practically impossible to get Liza to hold still long enough to brush her teeth. We've tried just about everything - bribing with stickers, changing locations, professional wrestling holds, threats, pretending to brush Bunny's teeth, letting her brush our teeth, taking turns with the toothbrush, etc. I can usually get a new approach to work for about two or three brushings, then it's back to the old "tackle the kid on a bed and hold her down while I scrub" technique. The only thing that works this week is to offer YouTube videos as a reward for cooperation. She's big on watching the video of her sliding into the swimming pool over and over again, saying her lines along with the recording.

In order to keep from going brain dead, I have been throwing in a few classic Sesame Street skits I've found online, mostly ones with Cookie Monster or Elmo. I've been stocking up on some that she's a little too young for right now, but might appreciate in a few months ... Swedish chef, Super Grover, Beeker singing "Feelings," etc.

When I found a copy of one of the 'Grover as a waiter' skits, I thought I had hit paydirt. You remember those, right? Grover's an inept waiter, and the balding blue dude always gets stuck at his table, and things go horribly wrong for both of them in some spectacularly ridiculous way. "Great!" I thought, something new we can watch tonight. I chose to show her this one, right before bed. Watch it, and pay special attention to what happens at about 2:33 into it (right at the very end):

At 2:33, Liza's face crumples and she starts screaming like someone is coming after her with a chainsaw. "Cheeseburger! Ahhhhhhh! Cheeseburger! Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh!"

I get her calmed down, explaining that Grover is fine, it's just pretend, he wasn't crushed to death under a large lump of tasty, flame-broiled goodness. I quickly queue up one of the cute kitty videos, and she settles right down.

After I read her the three bedtime books she has chosen, Liza decides it would be fun to kick my arm as hard as she can while jumping up and down on the couch. I calmly tell her that if she kicks me one more time, she's going to bed without any bedtime songs, a fate she considers worse than being crushed by a giant hamburger. She looks right at me and kicks me again, so I carry her and the posse up to bed, turn out the light, shut the door, and listen to her scream bloody murder for an hour.

Not an hour straight, of course - every 15 minutes or so one of us would go up to make sure she hadn't broken her leg while kicking the wall and wasn't hyperventilating as badly as it sounded from the extreme opposite end of the house. She wanted songs, she wanted milk, she wanted MOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMMMMMYYYYYYYYYYYYYY! Ahhhhhhhhhh! As long as we were in the room with her, she was her normal self, but as soon as we tried to leave, the screaming started again.

At a quarter to ten I gave up on watching Mythbusters and went in for the last time, prepared to be in there for as long as was necessary. I enter the room, and she's standing by the door with the posse, complaining calmly that she has a piece of blue paper stuck to the bottom of her foot. I help her peel it off, then tell her to get back in bed. She does, and I remind her that if she's upset about not getting any songs, it's because she kicked me, and I warned her what would happen if she did it again.

"mumble mumble big cheesemumble mumble trip mumble cry sometimes"
"Wait, are you still upset about the cheeseburger video?"
"Ahhh! Cheeseburger! Trip and fall down! mumble mumble cry mumble mumble! Scared!"
"Okay, so you're scared because you think Grover got hurt when he tripped and fell down under the cheeseburger?"

Well, at least now I understand why there was that note of hysteria in her voice tonight. We go through the whole explanation again, that it's just pretend, that Grover isn't really hurt, that it was all just supposed to be funny.

"Ahhh! Cheeseburger! Trip and fall down! mumble mumble cry mumble mumble!"

I explain that there are lots of stories about Grover being a waiter, and the same guy is always at the table, and there's always something really wrong with what he orders, and it always looks like Grover gets hurt, but Grover is really fine - it's just pretend, like when we pretend to eat the Play-Doh birthday cakes we make.

"Grover hurt? Cry sometimes?"

I ask if she wants me to talk to Grover tonight, to check to see if he's okay. "Okay." I tell her I'll tell him that she was scared because she thought Grover was hurt, but now she's happy because she knows he's okay. She's a little lost by that one, but it takes her a few seconds before I get the next "Ahhh! Cheeseburger! Trip and fall down! mumble mumble cry mumble mumble!"

"Okay, how about this? Let's make up a different ending for the story. Since it's just pretend, we can pretend anything we want, right? Why do you think Grover tripped? Was it because the cheeseburger was too big, and he should have asked for help to carry it?"
"Grover need help. BIGGGG cheeseburger. Ahhh! Cheeseburger! Trip and fall down! mumble mumble cry sometimes mumble mumble!"
"Right. So let's pretend that Grover asks for help, so he doesn't trip." So I give her the Cliff's Notes version of the story, only at the end Grover asks about the ketchup, then gets Charlie the cook to help him carry the cheeseburger back into the kitchen. There's a long pause, then, "Grover fall down?"
"No, sweetie. Grover didn't fall down, because he asked for help to carry something big. Everything turned out okay."
"Hey, let's think about something nice. Remember the frogs we saw at the pond today? What noise did they make?"
(smiling) "Aruk!"

Things got much happier after that, and she was mostly settled down by the time I started rubbing her back. She was still thrashing around a little, and she spent about 20 minutes after I left kicking the wall, but she wasn't crying or screaming, so I think the worst of it is past ... at least until she dreams about the damn cheeseburger and wakes us up at 2am. Yep, I'm looking forward to that one.

Something tells me there's going to be a lot of chicken nuggets in her future when we go out to fast food restaurants for the next few months ...

Wow, the video feature on my phone really blows

Of course, the lighting in the restaurant didn't help, either, or the compression necessary to store the thing on the phone, or the fact that this is literally the first video I shot with my phone.

Still, how cute is that blonde blur in the middle of the screen? Soooo cute.

Actual conversation

As I'm trying to get Liza to go to sleep at the bed and breakfast where we stayed this weekend, I try to get her to relax by talking about what we did that day, which mainly involved eating outrageous amounts of food and having about 1,400 of her second-cousins fighting over the chance to be the next one to help her down the big slide at the reunion site.

"So, honey, what did we do today?"
"Fishies swim under water."
"That's right, we watched the fish swim in the pond at the hotel. What else did we do today?"
"Turtles swim under water."
"Oh, did you see a turtle when you were looking in the pond? If you say so. What else did we do?"
(incoherent rambling for about a minute and a half, followed by) "Arms WAYYY up in the sky. Fly to the moon! Touch the moon!"
"Okay, you want to touch the moon. What do you think the moon feels like?"
"Moon feels sad."
"Oh, I'm sorry to hear that. But if you could touch the moon with your finger, would it be rough or smooth?"
"Would it feel like cheese, or like a rock?"
"Like rock. Not cheese. Mama silly."
"And do you think you could stand on the moon? Is the moon big or little?"
"How small? Can you show me with your fingers?"
(moving fingers slowly together as she talks, stopping them about 1/4" apart)"Tiny moon. Very tiny moon. Very very."
"Wow, that IS small. What about the stars? Do you think they feel rough or smooth?"
(incoherent rambling for about a minute and a half, in which the words "moon," "fish," and "turtle" are featured prominently) "Okay?"
"Sure, whatever you say. I think it's time for you to close your eyes and go to sleep now."

Odd weather

The sun is shining in through my window so brightly I may have to close the curtains, and it's thundering so loud that I almost spilled my drink last time it happened.

And it's July, and I had to dress my daughter in sweatpants and a sweatshirt to run errands this morning. God, I love Cleveland!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

I'm so proud that I didn't lose it

The last few days, putting the kid to sleep during her "normal" naptime has just been the beginning of a two-hour-long whine&play session in her room followed by conking out on the couch around 5pm. So yesterday I decided I was going to just wait until she looked like she was tired to even suggest the whole nap thing.

Around 2pm we were playing in my room, rolling around on the bed and doing gymnastics and tickling. She suddenly grabbed Jason's pillow and started trying to burrow her face into it, saying, "Liza sleep here."
"Okay, do you want some covers?"
"Yeah, want covers. Where posse?"
"They're in your room. I'll go get them for you."
I leave the room, practically giddy with the thought of actually having an hour or two to work on something during the afternoon. I return with the posse, and she's under the covers in our bed, eyes slitted open, slurring her words.
"Thank you, mama. Liza sleep here. Night night."
Giving a mental "WOOHOO!!!" I kiss her goodnight and head for the door. Before I can get there, Liza pops out of bed and says "All done! Let's go outside!"


She finally took her nap at 4:30, after getting really sleepy on the couch and depositing about 1/2 gallon of pee between the sofa cushions without bothering to tell me until the video was over.

I got her to sleep last night by 10:30.

Mantra of the week: Must ... not ... open ... bourbon ... before ... 4pm ...

The post-guest-room drought is over

Before: plum-colored walls, and unpadded striped seat "cushions" backed by 1/4" plywood and corrugated cardboard. And a table that was varnished in something that never fully cured, so when I would pick up a plate it would go "crrrrrrrruccccchhhh" as it peeled away from the tacky surface.

After: Yellow walls, foam cushions covered in vinyl and slipcovered in cotton that's been Scotchgarded within an inch of its life. Cheap flannel-lined vinyl tablecloth, modified so it doesn't stick out funny at the corners.

The cushions have to be one of the finest examples of BAD reupholstering (no one will EVER be seeing the back sides of them, even if I have to torch the house to prevent it), but a) they're done, and b) we're probably going to rip the table and benches out in a few months to redo my junky kitchen anyway, so who cares if they're perfect? And with a toddler in fingerpainting mode in the house, the cushions were doomed from the start. At least they no longer clash with the walls or cause severe back pain if you sit on them too long. And I DID manage to get the plaid to match at the corner, which is all that's important, right?

Now, we're talking!

Looks like the Viagra worked. Anyone need half a dozen jalapenos, all at once?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

File backup

I've had computers crash and burn on me a few times in my life, and each time I'm repentant and stay current with my file backups for about a month and a half, then it peters out. After I found out about my unknown published article, I realized that the files I would need to show I had or had not received payment for this article were probably lost in The Great Sweet Tea Laptop Gumming Up of 2005. Crap.

So that same evening I was continuing to give up sleep so that I could fart around in cyberspace, and after a trail of seemingly unrelated links that I will never be able to recreate, I ended up at Carbonite, a site that offers automatic online file backups, with the ability to retrieve the entire contents of your computer when said piece of junk inevitably tanks on you.

I signed up for the free 15-day trial, and while I haven't had to use the recovery feature yet (thank god), the whole updating process is simple and truly automatic. Basically, you tell it which types of files you want to back up (they recommend everything on your desktop, and everything in your My Documents folder), hit the start button, and it does its thing in the background, gradually sending encrypted copies of all of those files to its storage facility. If you lose your internet connection or turn off the computer, it pauses the download and picks up at the same place next time you're online. It nibbles away at the documents over the course of however long it takes to finish them (you can request that it back up certain files right away, if you're particularly worried about your thesis, for example).

I turned it on that night, and I just noticed now that it's finished backing up all my files. That's a whole bunch, folks, given how many cute kid photos I have on here, and all the Lazy Mama stuff, and what have you. Of course, I've had it connected to the internet on a high-speed connection the whole time, but still - not bad progress, and I didn't have to do a darn thing. And now that the initial files are in place, it checks my computer every time I connect to the internet to see which files need to be updated in my backups. So far I haven't noticed any change in the speed of my other internet work, which can continue while all this backing up is going on in the background.

Once the trial is over, I think the upkeep is $5 a month. I think $60 a year is cheap enough to have piece of mind that the next time I knock over my drink, the crashing computer won't be taking half of our family photos with it.

If any of my readers are interested in trying Carbonite, let me know - if I refer you and you sign up, I can earn free months of service. Just drop me a line at the Lazy Mama email address (lazymamadesigns [ at ] yahoo [ dot ] com) with your real name and your email address, and I'll refer you.

Yet another weird thing in the zucchini pot

Monday, July 16, 2007

Signs that today was not a happy toddler day

  1. While shopping, child refuses to do anything she's told, then completes the tantrum trifecta by throwing a 2-pound bucket of play dough at her mother's head, then flinging herself on the floor and screaming like she's being eaten by wolverines.
  2. After collapsing next to the car and rolling around in the parking lot, screaming because apparently 10 minutes of running around in the restaurant's patio area wasn't sufficient in her opinion, child absolutely loses it when deposited into her car seat. "I want do myself!" reverberates inside the car for the entire 15-minute ride home, melting small plastic pieces in the car's interior. Once home, child climbs out of the car, then insists on climbing back into the carseat by herself. Child looks smug.
  3. Child goes down for a nap, after only popping out of bed once to use the potty, and only requesting different covers twice. Thirty seconds after leaving the room, mother hears the lightswitch turn on in child's room, and the closet door open, and the cheerleader pom-poms come out. Several minutes later, child starts opening and slamming the drawers under her bed, then jumping on her bed until she bounces into the walls (repeatedly). After more than an hour of various banging, clanking, thumping, rapping on the door, whining and screaming to be let out, then begging sweetly and using please, mother relents and lets her out.
  4. "He gets home at 5 pm, right? Okay, so I only have to last three more hours before I have backup. Only three more hours. I can take anything for three hours. Where's that remote control?"
  5. Child spends an entire episode of "The Bear in the Big Blue House" alternating between a glazed-eyed stupor and frantic jumping up and down on the couch, culminating in a flying kick to her mother's sternum that almost propels a knitting needle into the mother's lungs, followed by draping herself across the injured parent and slurring, "hugs, mama, hugs!" while attempting to impale herself on the same knitting needle.
  6. Child runs around playing aimlessly while mother is up to her armpits in raw pork during dinner prep time. After several minutes of silence, child materializes at the kitchen door clutching a pair of training pants filled with poop. "I'm running around naked!" Mother has to shut off dinner prep, get new pants on child, rinse out training pants, start a load of kid laundry, wash out and sanitize bathroom sink, then wash up and go back to the raw pork. Which the cat probably hadn't been snacking on. Much.
  7. Manic child races laps around the kitchen/living room/dining room circuit, giggling and gibbering like a lunatic, instead of eating dinner.
  8. Actual statement made during dinner: "Mama, Liza door - help open - bite finger. Kiss finger ... feels all better now, okay?"
  9. All attempts to secure child's cooperation on menial tasks (like cleaning up the blueberries that were scattered across the floor) are met with either slack-jawed incomprehension, or whining and shrieks that can make an adult's ears bleed at 20 paces.
  10. Mother muses that it's lucky the kid picked today to pull this, because if it was seven days later in her stupid birth control pill cycle, she would have already strangled the kid and been a couple of states away from the scene of the crime by now.
  11. Crazed look in adult's eyes as she contemplates how quickly she can pack a change of clothes, a bottle of bourbon, a knitting project and a good book - and head for the hills.
  12. "I think she just kicked herself in the face," father says, exiting the child's bedroom after putting her to bed for the first time tonight.

This whole thing started a few days ago, and her behavior has been going downhill ever since. Good thing I just recently reread sections of some of our parenting books, so I know this is all astoundingly normal. I guess it typically doesn't hit until around 30 months, so Liza's a few months early, but other than that, it's textbook two-year-old tantrum behavior. I just keep chanting under my breath This will all improve in a few months. This will all improve in a few months. And if it doesn't, maybe we can dump her at my in-laws' house and move to the West Coast.

It's a shame, because she was such a joy to be around for the past few weeks. Guess I can just look back on that with nostalgia and hope she'll get back to that point again soon.

bad movie update - swingin' kitty love found at last!

I finally remembered the movie that had the swingin' kitty love ... The Mighty Peking Man. The wikipedia entry even has cover art that features the kitty love scene ...

(inept description of swingin' kitty love: bikini-clad blonde girl who was raised in the jungle by an ape-man falls in love with the guy who comes to capture the beast. Five-minute-long sequence of them frolicking lovingly (set to bad covers of Helen Reddy tunes) which prominently features the girl twirling around with a real cheetah on her shoulders, ala Gunther Gebel-Williams. At one point, bikini girl is twirling around holding the cheetah up against her chest by grabbing it under its front legs, so the poor cat's back legs are flung out in an arc as she twirls ... and then she lets go and the cat goes flying offscreen.)

Eat your heart out, Mimi!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Sometimes bad habits pay off

I admit it - I have a self-control problem when it comes to sleep. It's darn near impossible for me to go to bed before 1 or 2 unless someone else forces me to (or I know I have to get up early the next day ... and even that doesn't always work).

This wouldn't be so bad if I was getting stuff done while I stayed up, but a lot of the time I'm just randomly surfing the Internet, or spotting deals on eBay, or reading TWOP reviews of shows I don't even watch - now that's bad.

Last night I was killing time by googling my name ... sad, I know, but at least now I know that there's a lesbian Unitarian pastor who shares my name, so I won't be surprised if I get her mail. And last night I hit paydirt ... in the form of a story published under my name in a Cleveland business magazine, which I remember submitting as a freelance piece but DON'T remember getting accepted or paid for.

I originally wrote the piece for a magazine writing class while I was working on my master's degree, and I'm enough of a packrat that I still have most of my notes from the class. I dug out the file, and lo and behold, the article online is almost identical to the last draft in my file, with only a few minor edits.

On the one hand, woohoo! Another clip I can add to my resume!

On the other hand, what's up with publishing my story in 1994 and not paying me? And I'm sure I didn't get paid, because I made a huge deal out of when my first paid piece was published, and that was six months after this one.

So now I get to write the official "um, are you gonna ever pay me for this?" e-mail to the editor, all for a check that's probably not even enough to cover the gas I spent researching the story. Ah, the joys of freelancing.

Punk cuke

Yet another thing I've learned from this year's garden - cucumbers have little resinous spines all over them, one for each little wart. They brush off easily when the fruit is ripe, making a mess all over the counter and floor.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Oh, my. I think I'm in love.

So far I've sold the boat, three side tables, an ottoman, a box spring, a mattress, three framed black and white photos, and probably some other things I've forgotten. I can see more of the cracked garage floor, I'm going to have fewer big things to drag out for the impending yardsale, and I'm up by $475. Must ... not ... sell ... furniture ... we're ... actually ... using ...


As predicted, it's not a whopper.

More like a White Castle burger when the manager gets stingy.

Not that there were any complaints ... I love that she has to cross her eyes to even see the corn.

Apparently aiming is much easier when you have a stationary target.

Finishing up the last few kernels Liza missed.

Oh, and in case anyone thought these photos looked a little familiar, check out the entry from a year and a week ago. Yep, they're still eating raw corn, despite the change in venue.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Dad puts his skills to good use

Painted for the tugboat festival held last weekend in Delaware.


Funny thing about that corn ... last time I gave it a good poke to see how it was progressing, the ear was about 4" long. Shame it isn't smaller, or I could pickle it next to its buddy the cucumber.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Good thing my parents didn't have access to this

Or my childhood could have been a lot more painfully embarrassing that it already was.


Welcome to the wonderful world of our cucumber plants - tons of flowers, but only three have turned into cucumbers. Guess I need to import some bees or flies or whatever it is that pollinates cucumbers. Either that, or break out the paintbrush and cotton swabs.

Of course, now that I actually have done some research, it looks like I should have been pruning the heck out of my vines, and fertilizing them, too. Oh, well. They look nice, and the deer haven't hit them yet, so I guess that's something.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


The sand-and-water table I bought Liza comes complete with a castle, a boat, a dragon, a knight, and a princess. After I put it together and set it all up for her, she pitched the princess down the stairs, dumped the knight, boat, and dragon on the floor, and spent 30 minutes playing with her new plastic bugs in the castle. Notice how she's got them lined up nicely in front of the side door?

Between the bugs and the screwdriver she used to pretend to put the castle together, she was a happy, happy kid. I've figured out how to get her to smile for the camera, at least temporarily - turns out, "Say cheese!" works pretty well when you've got a cheese-obsessed toddler in front of the lens. When that stops working, "Say Super Duper Party Pooper!" usually fills the gap.

And she was even happier while I put together the picnic table, since she could spend another half an hour putting the screws into the wrong holes in the wood. And peeling off the stickers that told me which parts were what. Once I had the table together, she immediately jumped up on the bench and said, "Lunch!" I guess she knows what it's for.

Whenever her grandparents come to visit, Liza spends hours in the swing. It's not that she's hiding from the house, or anything, it's more that it's something she loves to do that isn't too physically taxing on the grandparents (unlike games of tag or "throw me up in the air" or crawling around on the floor). So this is what Susie saw for long stretches of the afternoon while we were in Columbus this past weekend.

There - now you've all had your cute kid fix for the week. Don't say I never did anything for you!

Please oh please oh please ...

... let them be ripe in time for the family reunion in two weeks.
The backstory: My mother's mother is the youngest of 11 (10? who can remember?) children. Years ago she and her siblings started getting together once a year for a reunion, the centerpiece of which is a shared meal that is part family gathering, part cook-off. For as long as I can remember, my grandmother and grandfather brought a platter of peeled, sliced tomatoes from their garden in Indiana. My grandparents were proud of their (huge) garden, and rightfully so - if you've never had a tomato that's never been touched by the icy hands of a refrigerator, one that is only hours off the vine, you don't know what you're missing. Between the tomatoes and corn that literally wasn't picked until the water to cook it was starting to heat up on the stove, we had some memorable meals when my parents and I used to go out to visit The Muggiest Place On Earth In August.
My grandmother has been in a nursing home for the past few years, so my aunt and uncle stepped up to the plate (so to speak) and have been taking care of the tomato situation. But things may be a little hectic for them this year, thanks to some medical issues in the family, so while I'm sure they'll attend, I don't know that Aunt Lois is going to have two hours to peel and slice tomatoes. I'm hoping to have enough of my own tomatoes to carry on the tradition for the third generation. If I throw in some from the local farmer's market, I could probably add some cucumbers and cilantro from my garden and bring a fatoush salad, too, which no one but me and Jason would eat but would make me feel like I tried.
The tomatoes shown above are just starting to barely turn color at the tops, so I guess there's hope.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

what I did on my summer vacation

One red-and-white dishcloth, one pair of toddler socks, 2/3rds of a toddler sock, one adult sock, and seven balls of chenille yarn wound from 4' pieces I bought dirt cheap several years ago.

That's what happens when you give me four hours riding in a car, several hours of downtime at a hotel, and a dozen hours of roleplaying games at a gaming convention - I knit. A lot. Most of the gamers didn't mind, except for the guy I beat at Munchkin while turning the heel on the adult sock ... he looked pissed.

Games played this weekend:
Dread, a roleplaying game where characters are described in words (rather than statistics), and success depends on whether you can take a turn at Jenga without toppling the tower. Sounds stupid, but it's the most fun I've had roleplaying. Anytime I get to backstab my fellow gamers, intimidate a police officer, and get away with $300,000 in loot from a bank heist, I'm happy.

Kobolds Ate My Baby, a silly roleplaying game in which you try to steal as many babies for King Torg (All hail King Torg!) as you can, while dying a senseless death, coming back from the dead because you gave a great final soliloquy, upping your chances of success by barking like a kobold better than the last guy who cheated that way, and then dying again because somebody said "King Torg" (All hail King Torg!) and you forgot you have to shout out the stuff in parentheses if anyone says that name. We were playing in a session designed to teach us how to play the game, and it was hilarious. The scenario involved us trying to steal lunches from kids on a playground, but degenerated into one guy trying to ride an elephant to trample the kids, while another hid behind a bush and conked kids on the head with a sock full of rocks and then ate the kids, leaving the lunches behind. I spent most of my time on the run from the other kobolds because I ended up with the dreaded "tastes like baby" characteristic, so any time they got near me the other folks would try to eat me. And I lost my only weapon, a spork, when I grabbed one of the lunches early in the game. Confused yet? Don't be - it's just that silly.

A Buffy: The Vampire Slayer roleplaying game that wasn't that great, except as an opportunity to listen to Matt's sad excuse for a British accent.

Apples to Apples, Blink, EcoFluxx, and Munchkin - all board games I think I've talked about before. You must own these games. Go buy them now.

And, of course, we watched the Smithees, the convention's annual review of the crummiest movies of all time. And since this was the 15th anniversary of the award, we got to see the Mega Meta Smithees, which pitted the "winners" from the past five years up against each other. Oh, the swinging kitty love. Oh, the 10-minute film endings which show flashbacks of the entire movie ... out of order. Oh, the OB-GYN-cam. Oh, the white supremecist pseudo-nuns on rollerblades who have bizarre lesbian hot tub religious ceremonies. Oh, the crumminess.

Monday, July 09, 2007


Check out the rest of her posts, too - too, too funny, especially the one about when she went to the coffeeshop to write.

Attacked again

Not deer this time, thankfully. Instead, we got a visit from a swarm of caterpillars. I picked a dozen off of the two brussels sprouts plants before I took the picture, so I don't think you can spot any of the fat little suckers here. Instead, you can check out the cabbage looper and diamondback moth caterpillars on this site.

From that site it looks like they turn into little brown moths, but I've been seeing a bunch of these around the yard: Coincidence? Probably not. I've beens squashing them whenever I find them, just in case. Die, evil moth! Die!

Thanks for the postcard love while we were gone

Not pictured: Three more that came in today, all from my cousin in California. Pretend they're sitting next to the rest of the ones she and her husband sent, which are the middle row.

Thanks to everyone who participated in Postcardapalooza 2007. Liza got about 30 postcards and letters, some of which included stickers or temporary tattoos. Our prize for most postcards from one family goes to Liza's second cousin Nicholas, who sent everything in the bottom two rows. Well, since he's only a year and a half old, I guess the prize goes to his mom, but whoever they came from, Liza loved them. Prize for the most unusual card goes to my cousin from California, who sent the two-story outhouse we received today. Nice!

All of the postcards and letters are currently filling up Liza's pretend mailbox, and I'm sure we'll have lots of fun going through them the next time we get a rainy afternoon.

And in case anyone was wondering, Liza was a total trooper while we were gone. Apparently the first day she woke up from nap and sort of looked around for us, then told her grandmother "Mama and Daddy on trip. Liza stay here with Mom-Mom. Snack?" You can't ask for better than that!

Of course, now that we're home, she's been sort of velcroed to my leg again, and the anxiety she was showing about things like storytime and her tumbling class are only getting worse. But at least we got a four-day break, and my mother-in-law doesn't appear to have been too scarred by the experience. So, Susie, what are you doing in September? :)

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The posse in action

left to right - Liza, Dirty Bunny*, Pink Kitty, Mingo, and the merest smidgeon of Bob the Blanket.

The sleeping on her side thing is new ... now when she wants me to stop singing and go to sleep, she says "Night night, Mama," and rolls over on her side with at least half of the posse under her arm. Ohhhhhhh the preciousness ....
*Liza now knows that there is more than one bunny, thanks to some rather forgetful laundry sorting in front of her. I explained that the one in the laundry was a dirty bunny, and she had a clean bunny to play with. Since then she has sporadically referred to whatever bunny is currently in action as "Dirty Bunny," especially when I swap one out for a clean bunny. As in, "Dirty Bunny needs shower. Clean Bunny! Okay!"


We're heading out of town tomorrow morning, so I went ahead and brought in anything that might bolt or blossom or get eaten before we get back on Sunday. That includes a huge bunch of cilantro (now happily resting cheek-by-jowl with an avocado and some lime ... yum), two teeny zucchini, and a mutated-looking head of broccoli.

One benefit to letting the cabbage moth caterpillars eat their fill is that they get really huge and are easy to spot on the broccoli, saving me from the dreaded "oh, dear, that wasn't a floret I just chewed." Only one on this head, and it was nice enough to be right on top.
Oh, and we've got three bars of Dial dangling around the garden, and so far there's been no further evidence of deer. Of course, there have been plenty of neighbors shooting off fireworks nearby, so that might have something to do with it. Considering how deodorized the garden is now, I'm betting the soap will work even once the fireworks are finished. You can smell that soap from 15 feet away.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

I wonder if S-W supplied the paint?

Before you watch this, keep in mind that yes, this is real paint, and no, they didn't use CGI


The zukes may be zonked, the peppers pooped, and the tomatoes topless, but at least something in the garden is still happy to see me.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Hurray! The second quilt is done!

See? Quilts that coordinate without being twins of each other. The one on the left is pieced, and the one on the right is raw-edge applique. The second one is the version I'll be putting up for sale on . Now it's time to move on to making some cushions for the rock-hard benches in the kitchen ...

Looks like our zucchini problem has been solved

When I went back to my garden to see if it needed water, I found I wasn't the garden's only visitor this morning. I think the deer I saw the other morning several streets away from our house have finally found my patch of herbivore heaven. Because this used to be three lush zucchini plants ... and this tomato used to be about a foot taller ...
and this green pepper actually had leaves yesterday.
Think I can positively identify them by the bite mark they left on one of the victims? They do that on tv all the time.
In between bouts of cursing and throwing garden tools, I keep trying to tell myself that it could have been worse. The deer only ate leaves, no actual vegetables, and anything aromatic was left alone. So the cilantro that is going to bolt any day now and be worthless? Untouched. Nasturtiums, marigolds, onions, and rosemary were left alone. But the peppers, zucchini and tomatoes were all decapitated. I think the deer are just leaving the veggies for later, or maybe they're just sharing the wealth with the raccoons.
I vented my frustration to my parents, who both suggested using The Percy Solution ... that is, invite my father-in-law and his rifle to come sit in the backyard for a few days. When I pointed out that discharging a firearm in a suburb is probably prohibited, my mother said something about some kind of soap, and both gave me suggestions on how to build an elaborate fence around my garden. Neither one appreciated the brilliance of my suggestion that there should be a coyote rental service. You know, just rent one and stake it out in the backyard. Maybe I could temporarily adopt a really angry pit bull?

Jason was skeptical that anything like coyote urine or bear scat or mountain lion vomit would keep the deer away. "You have to make it smell like one of their natural predators. Go buy a six-pack of the cheapest beer you can find, and hang the empty cans around the outside of the garden." We could make a CD of us yelling "YEEEEEE-HAWWWWW!!" and firing guns into the air, too, which would make us really popular with the fireworks-toting, trash-talking driveway basketball players down the street. Actually, if the cans wouldn't attract so many bees and hornets, it would probably be a good idea - the shiny cans would probably keep the squirrels and birds away, too.

I went online, and found a plethora of information on commercial deer repellants here:

Turns out that once again, Mom was right - Dial soap, hung around the area to be protected, was their best combination of price and protection. I think I'll stop by the grocery store and pick some up on the way home from picking up my mother-in-law this afternoon. If only I'd known in advance that we were going to have the deer problem this week, I would have encouraged Percy to come along, too :)

I'll let you know how the soap works. In the meantime, I have at least one crop the deer can't get to - my couch potatoes are coming along nicely this year.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Toddler art gallery

When we moved to a much smaller house, we had to be creative when it came to finding places to hang all of our photos and art. Since my husband and I are both tall, we tend to hang pictures at our eye level, which leaves guests (and our two-year-old) craning their necks to see. I was feeling a little guilty (and tired of picking up the kid so she could look at family photos) so I decided to make a small display of art at our daughter's eye level, right near her toy area, where she could see it every day and enjoy it.

Those are (inexpensive) original watercolors I bought on, framed in virtually indestructible metal frames that I think cost me $1.50 a piece at a craft store. Liza likes to look at them and make them swing back and forth on their hangers, and sometimes she takes them down and tries to rearrange them. She's even managed to rehang one once by standing it on top of the one below it ... she's got mad small motor skillz, this one does. And the kids who come over to play always stop to check them out, even though I've never seen any of them take a second glance at any other piece of art in the house.

Once she starts making art of her own, I plan to reclaim some more toddler-eye-level real estate on the upper level stairs to hang Liza's work.

Volunteer crop

No, I don't know what variety of mushroom these are, and no, we won't be eating them. Not only are they unidentifiable (even after half an hour on the internet), they look like something that was puked up on our lawn by the Mushroom Fairy. The grossness just doesn't show up on a small photo that well - let's look closer, shall we?
Notice that they completely engulf the leaves of grass? Ewww.

Ever since our first summer in Cleveland, when some folks died from eating wild mushrooms they found in the Metropark (Destrying Angel amanita, in case you care), I've been a bit skittish about anything white growing in my lawn. Except giant puffballs - those are easy to spot, and are supposed to be delicious. I'm not sure how you would carve one, though - do you need a dust mask and safety goggles? Or if you get them early enough do they not puff? Because the basketball-sized one our neighbors had in Kentucky sent up a cloud that changed the weather pattern in town for a week.

Mutant #2