Saturday, May 30, 2009

Speaking of eggs ...

Yesterday gave us unexpectedly nice weather, and we made the most of it by dragging the grandparents with us to the Cleveland Botanical Garden.  Liza was alternately incredibly bored and really excited.  For example, she ran into her old adversary, the fountain in the children's garden:
Well, not so much "ran into" as "stood around and stared at."  Oh, well - she'll be thanking me for that fountain later this summer when I drag her back again and it's 9 million degrees outside.

The glass house was distinctly lacking in chameleons, but apparently Friday was "Everybody Lay Eggs on the Maypop Day" in the butterfly community.  There were an insane number of butterflies around the vines, all attempting to lay eggs at the same time.  All that activity wasn't so great for getting still photos, but I managed to grab a couple while they were catching their breath in between sorties.
Liza, meanwhile, was absolutely 100% convinced that if she stuck her hand out, butterflies would come and land on her finger.  Who does she think she is, Mary Poppins?  Snow White?  

We bought her a Monarch butterfly finger puppet, and she flapped all the way home.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Mash note

Translation with corrected spellings:
"Dear Emmy,
I love when you come over.
Love Liza."

This was the most legible of the dozen notes she's made and delivered to the 10-year-old next door, who occasionally lets Liza play on her trampoline and sometimes comes over to play on our swingset.

The idea of Liza having a "best friend" who is six years older than her isn't as weird to me as it might be to some people.  I grew up with my "best friends" living next door, and they were probably four and six years older than me (Hi, Barbie and Sue!).  I think they put up with me because I had a better swingset than they did, plus they moved away before they grew too old (and cool) to be friends with a little kid anymore.

It will be interesting to see how this pans out.  At the rate she's going, Liza will be helping Emmy with her homework by next summer, so maybe she'll keep her around as a useful pet ;)

The bachelor

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Dress rehearsal

First, she got ready, in full (fake) hair and makeup:

Then, she posed for pictures in the theatre lobby (I didn't coach her on how to stand, I swear):

Next, she rehearsed the finale with all the (14,000) other dancers in her show:

This was actually really cute, because the girls' hats were so big that they couldn't physically do some of the required arm motions.  Plus, the girl on the left didn't participate at all, which I thought showed her tremendous strength of character.

And then, because somebody decided it was a good idea to have the class of 3- and 4-year-olds go 24th on the program, she sat around for almost two hours, waiting to rehearse her number.  I got to sit there with her, trying to keep her from messing up that god damn hat or the 15,000,000 bobby pins necessary to corral her hair into what her dance studio considers an appropriate hairdo.  And we got to see all of the acts that will go on before her, which in a way was good, because during the actual performance she's going to be sequestered backstage for the whole show and therefore won't see the other dances.  She was predictably entranced with the ballet numbers, while I had fun watching the pint-sized gangbangers in the hip-hop classes attempt to pull attitudes.  Dude, you're eight and you live in Berea.  You are about the farthest thing from "hip" that there is.

Around 7 pm - you know, the time we usually start getting Liza ready for bed - she finally got to go on.  My god, the horribleness of it is not to be believed.  As far as Liza is concerned, the entire choreography of her song involves randomly stamping her heels into the floor.  Apparently the occasional shuffle steps that the other kids are doing are just for wusses (or people who actually care about following along with the rest of the class).

Thank god I had previously sat through 23 other relatively out-of-step and out-of-time and occasionally clueless performances, or I think I could have actually suffered brain damage from watching my child.  I will never, ever tell her that, but gaaaaaaaaah.  She didn't look like she was having fun, she looked like she was trying to work through a painful groin injury or something.  We didn't even get one of her signature "there isn't a twirl in the choreography, but I feel that the dance needs one, so I shall spin recklessly anyway" moves.  

And I got to watch this hot mess again when I showed the video to Jason.  And I get to pay $12 per person so that Jason, my parents, and I can see all of this again on Saturday afternoon.

True quotes from this evening:

J, on the phone: "So, how'd she do?"
Me, with Liza in earshot: "She made it on and offstage just fine!"  silence  "Oh, and she gets to be the first person to walk on stage for her class."
Liza: "I'm the line leader!"
J: "Well, that's great.  Not going to say any more?"
Me: "Nope."

J, at dinner: "Sounds like it's going to be a memorable performance."
Me, with forced cheerfulness: "Yep, it's going to have all the best attributes of an Amtrack collision."

J, watching the video: "Wow.  There's 23 more like this?  Oh, your poor, poor father."

I was going to go ahead and post the video here, but I've come to the conclusion that if I can't stand the thought of watching it again to edit it for YouTube, that's probably a sign that nobody else is going to want to see it, either.  There's "so bad, it's cute," and then there's just "so bad."  I know where this falls.  At least the still photos are cute!  Maybe if I look at the one of her in divalicious mode long enough, it will supercede the performance in my memory.

Aaaaaaaah.  That's better.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Really, I'm not kidding about the "gallons of blood" part

My plantar warts - now, with even more vascularity!
. (This space left intentionally blank to give the squeamish a chance to look away before we get to the good stuff)
This was taken a day and a half after the last excision, hours after the bandage was soaked and carefully removed so that none of the gauze strings that were stuck in the scab pulled the whole mess off (like, ahem, last time).  The whole thing is a little bigger than a quarter, with the worst mess there in the middle smaller than a dime.  Yes, it hurts like hell when my podiatrist is doing the excision.  And yes, it still feels better today than it did yesterday before he started cutting.  Yesterday afternoon it was a bit on the tender side, but that didn't stop me from turning over a bunch of the back garden soil, so it must not have hurt too badly.

The one on my other foot is alllllllmost gone.  Might need one more shot on that foot, and I probably have a couple more visits with Dr. HappySlashAndScrape to solve the foot pictured above.  But at least I feel like we're making progress!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

My daughter

Liza had a hard day today, what with having to gleefully watch my podiatrist relieve me of gallons of blood through the bottom of my right foot, and having to share her favorite playground with 75 other 4-year-olds from her school, and having to watch Handy Manny for an hour while I toiled with shovel and hoe and 4,000 bags of sand in our swampy new flower garden.  My goodness, her life is tough.

So it wasn't really a surprise that she wouldn't go to sleep right away tonight, wanting to be rocked, and then wanting to get out of her room altogether.  I told her she could stay up and ruin her mood for tomorrow if she wanted, but I had work today (thank you, mermaid costume purchaser!).  She played quietly in her room for almost an hour, and the only things I heard from her involved needing ice cubes for the water glass by her bed.

At 9:15 she called out and asked me to help her cover up with more silkies.  I go in to see what's going on, and she insisted it was necessary to sleep on her bed ...
 - sideways
 - on top of her pillow, with a smaller pillow under her head, so she's actually letting all the blood drain slowly into her brain
 - while wearing her polarfleece bathrobe
 - and not using any sheets or quilts
 - but instead using nine 3' square silkies piled on top of each other as blankets.

I drew the line at cuddling with the 20-pound beanbag chair full of stuffed animals, though, which I confiscated on my way out the door.

She's still in there, sideways, on her pillow, wearing a robe, covered only with silkies.  I figure she only sleeps through the night half the time anyway, so tonight's quirk isn't really going to hurt anyone, even if she wakes up all freaked out.  Plus, it will be fun to see what color her face will be in the morning.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Well, darn

12:15 pm - I'm posting about the triops pregnancy.

2:00 pm - On my way out the door to pick up Liza, I notice that three of the triops are belly-up on the bottom of the tank with nary a fluttering swimmerette among them.  Cheney ... er, Coulter isn't one of them.  Huzzah!

3:45 pm - All five, dead as doornails.  My sensitive and delicate daughter's response to the news?  "NOW can I touch one?"  Yeah, um, NO.

Breaking news!

One of the triops has what look like egg sacs!  Our precious baby "Cheney" is going to be a mommy!

So it's sort of awkward that "Cheney" is actually a girl (or a hermaphrodite ... triops swing both ways, you know).  Guess we're going to have to change its name to "Coulter," seeing as how it's always bullying the others and is generally so full of crap that it trails along behind her all day.  

Coulter's also the one who ate all the tasty bits from half of the dead triops before I removed them from the water, but that's a whole 'nother issue.  Had to pry her off a corpse in order to clean out the water ... shudder ...

I'll try to get a photo of the expectant mother, but since we had the Incident a few days ago, the triops have been living in a spare Gladware plastic container, and the sides of that are sort of frosted, so it's no good for underwater photography.  When I get another bottle of distilled water, I'll get the tank with the clear sides cleaned out and see if we can't get some pregnancy shots.  In the meantime, you can check out flickr for other people's shots ... this one is the closest to what Coulter's sporting today.

Now I have to decide whether I want to try to save and hatch the eggs once this round of dudes dies off.  Doesn't sound like it's terribly hard, but I'm not sure how long I want to devote kitchen counter space to creepy-looking invertebrates.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Cookbook review: The South Beach Diet Taste of Summer Cookbook

Yeah, so my doctor told me I needed to lose some weight.  Like, 12 pounds in the next three months.  Not too difficult, but I figured some healthy new recipes might help jumpstart things.

I didn't find many appealing "diet" cookbooks at our library, but one that stood out was The South Beach Diet Taste of Summer Cookbook.  I knew that cutting out the "bad" carbs was going to be part of my diet approach, so this seemed like a good way to find recipes that weren't so focused on pasta, tortillas, and toast.

I like the fact that the recipes don't seem like diet cooking ... there are no weird techniques you'd never use in regular cooking, and very few odd ingredients that you wouldn't normally use.  There are some artificial sweeteners in some of the recipes (mostly desserts and a few breakfast smoothie type things), but those would be easy to sub in a smaller amount of regular sugar if you wanted to avoid the chemicals.  I think the best thing is that lots of the recipes are self-contained, with veggies and protein all in one shot.  That means fewer things to think about when trying to get food on the table, and it also means I don't feel like I'm missing out on something by cutting back.

It's also nice that there are recipes for all three "phases" of the diet, which means there are very low carb recipes, moderate carb recipes, and some recipes that are for the "maintenance" side of the South Beach lifestyle.  There are also suggestions on how to take the phase 2 recipes and make them lower carb, for example, which makes things more flexible.

This week we tried four recipes from the book:  two chicken, one beef, and one vegetarian.  Three of them were great and I'll definitely be making again, and one was good, but probably won't show up again for us.  Here's what we tried:

Spicy Chicken and Black Bean Tacos:  This makes a ton of food, especially considering you're supposed to cram it all onto four tortillas.  We ended up serving it open-faced, and there was enough of the filling mixture to cover the tortillas about 1/2" thick all the way around.  The chicken/bean mixture is a bit dry, so we added a small bit of shredded cheese and some salsa at the table.  The chicken preparation was very easy, and yielded chicken that was still tender on the inside while being nice and crispy on the outside.  Definitely going to keep this recipe, although in the future I might tweak it with more tomatoes or something else to make it a little saucier.

Herb Marinated Sirloin with Roasted Asparagus and Tomatoes:  This is the stand-out recipe of all the ones we tried.  Put the rub on the steak, let it sit around for a while, then pan-fry it.  While the steak is resting after it's cooked, roast the asparagus and tomatoes in the oven for less than 10 minutes.  Perfectly done, perfectly complementary, and really, really tasty.  We'll definitely be making this one again, and I'll be using the asparagus/tomato technique a lot.  We love our asparagus around here!

Curried Chicken Salad with Peanuts: This was the only disappointment in the bunch.  It tasted fine, and the mix of textures in the salad was nice with the tender chicken and crunchy veggies and peanuts.  But the recipe makes an insane amount of dressing for the amounts of salad ingredients, and if you follow the recipe, you're making the dressing in the serving bowl before adding the veggies, so you don't know until it's too late that you're actually making soup.  Seriously, we saved half of this for leftovers the next day, and in the 7" tall plastic container we used, at least 3.5" at the bottom was sauce.  If I made this again (which I probably won't - curried chicken salad just doesn't do it for me), I'd make the dressing seperately and add it at the last minute in small increments.  You could always pass the extra at the table in case anyone wants theirs drowned in dressing like the original recipe suggests.

Vietnamese Style Vegetables with Rice Noodles:  This is the only one I can't find online already, and it's so good, I can't resist sharing the recipe with you.  Considering how few ingredients are in the sauce, this has a remarkable depth of flavor ... sweet/tangy/spicy/smoky.  Yum!  My only quibble is that the directions given in the recipe for cooking the rice noodles didn't match the ones on the package, and I should have followed the package instructions.  There was a little bit of last-minute panicked improvisational rice noodle cooking, but I think it turned out okay anyway.  

Vietnamese Style Vegetables with Rice Noodles 

2 ounces rice noodles
1 tablespoon chili paste (from a jar)
1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large head broccoli, cut into small florets (4 cups)
1 medium red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced into half-moons
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
4 lime wedges

Cook noodles according to package directions.  Drain and set aside.

While noodles are cooking, in a small bowl whisk together chili paste, fish sauce, lime juice, and vinegar.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high heat.  Add broccoli and toss to coat; cook, tossing gently, until tender, about 4 minutes.  Transfer broccoli to a plate.

Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the skillet and heat over medium-high heat.  Add pepper, onion, and zucchini; cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are just beginning to soften, about 4 minutes.  Return broccoli to the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes more.  Stir in chili paste mixture, cover, and cook 1 minute more.

Add noodles to the skillet and toss well.  Add cilantro and toss again.  Divide among 4 plates and serve warm with lime wedges.

Makes 4 servings.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The good, the bad, and the, erm, dead

The Good:  The yard sale netted $382.87 over three days, with just over $83 of that assigned for Liza to split between her savings and spending accounts.  Most of the stuff is gone, although I didn't meet my personal goal of selling that ugly-ass black sink (for $5!  you can't even buy the knobs on the cabinet for $5!).

The Bad:  Today I sat in the garage from 9am until 5pm and sold a total of seven items.  One of them was a Playstation with games, and the young kid who was getting it jumped up and down all the way to his car, screaming "This is the happiest day of my life!"  That sort of made up for the hours and hours of watching it rain and stop raining and oh, look, it's raining again.  At least I got a lot of knitting done.

The Ugly:  "Um, Gretchen, the you-know-what's aren't looking too healthy."  Yeah, you could say that, what with the comatose triops bodies and spastic twitching.  As near as I can figure, the carrot that I grated into their water to supplement their food (as instructed in the manual) must have had some kind of pesticide on it or something.  Or, possibly, I put too much in and it fouled the water ... but I don't think that would have happened so fast.  I fed them before dinner, and by the time we had wolfed down our food, it looked like the Orkin man had come to visit the tank.

Crap, crap, crap.  I grabbed a spare gladware container and the bottle of distilled water we keep to top off the sump pump backup battery, then realized that the water was basement temperature, not the nice 80 degrees the triops water currently was, so I had to microwave it until it was lukewarm.  Then I used a spoon to fish out the twitchiest triops, taking as little of the original water as possible, and plunked them in the new tank.  Two were hopefuls, two were only flailing one little swimmerette every once in a while, and the other four looked dead as a doornail.  After a few minutes in the new water, though, they started to perk back up.  The hopefuls stopped swimming around upside down on the bottom and started swimming normally, while the flailers started moving more limbs.  Then one of the doornails - let's call it 'Lazarus' - started fluttering one little swimmerette.  Hallelujah!  It's like Easter, only with exoskeletons!

All in all, we managed to salvage five of the eight, which is probably a more sustainable number of animals for this tiny tank, anyway.  The three that croaked were the smallest ones, so I guess whatever it was that caused the distress - fouled water, pesticide, lack of oxygen - hit them the hardest.  At least Liza isn't too upset about it.  As a matter of fact, I had to keep elbowing her out of the way and telling her to be quiet and let me concentrate on letting me fish them out of the old tank, because she was gleefully asking, "Ooooh, are they dead?  Which ones are dead?  Is that one dead?" every 0.85 seconds.  On a less creepy note, we finally got to examine one up close (while it was holding reeeeeeeealy still) and confirm that they do, in fact, have three eyes.  So that was cool.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Growing, growing, growing

I'm not the only one who's interested in the triops' development, especially now that they're big enough to see without any sort of magnification (or squinting).

Of course, now that we can see them, Liza is convinced that their name is false advertising, since you can only see two eyes.
Of course, for all the triops anatomy we know, those dark spots could be there to disguise the true location of its eyes, especially since they show up as tinted areas on the shells that these little dudes keep molting all over the tank.  

While we wait for them to get big enough to see the actual eye locations for certain, at least they're continuing to be entertaining.  This is the THIRD time I've fed them today.  Greedy little buggers.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


That's how much I've sold so far in the yard sale, which is actually more like a garage sale, thanks to the hideous downpour we got to live through this morning.  It was raining so hard that the mylar balloons on our sign were plastered to the ground, they were so heavy with rain.  Luckily, I had looked at the weather report and just set the whole thing up in the garage anyway, so it didn't do anything other than make my hair frizzy and my yarn a bit on the sticky side when I managed to knit a whole 8 rows on my dishcloth.  Yeah, it was a busy day.

And about $45 of the sales are officially "Liza's," since I am letting her keep the proceeds of the sales of her toys in order to encourage her to get the stuff out of my basement.  She's got her eye on a jack-in-the-box, of all things, which is technically a baby toy but takes up significantly less room than the truckload of stuff we've sold so far, so I'm all for it.  I'll probably be able to sell it for $5 on the next yard sale ...

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


After climbing up on the bathroom counter and using the sink (and my new Dirty Sanchez soap) as a footbath for the fourth time today, Liza remembered that she can't actually get down from the counter without assistance, at which point she began screaming for me to come give her a towel.  I was in the middle of taking the trash out to the curb and had a giant steaming bag of used cat litter in one hand, so I told her she was going to have to wait.  That was when her head exploded, or at least that's what the outraged screams sounded like.  

When I got back inside she was still in full-on harpy mode, so I carried her to her bedroom and told her that we'd discuss the situation once she calmed down.  Oh, and by the way, that particular tone of voice means that it's time for you to get some rest.


Um, yeah, that statement pretty much clinches it that you do.  Let me know when you've decided to quit screaming and writhing like a child possessed.  

I went down and read a book for a while, waiting for the mumbling and kicking of walls to subside.  When I got to the end of the chapter I realized that she had been up there for much longer than a usual time-out, and usually she asks to come out after a few minutes of navel-gazing and wall-thumping.

She had crawled into bed, pulled the covers over herself, and gone to sleep.

Praise Jeebus!  Yard sale pricing, here I come!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Things I got for Mother's Day

  2. Jason let me sleep in.
  3. And he bought me donuts.  Chocolate-covered mini donuts.  And I ate almost the whole bag, and he didn't even get grumpy about it.
  4. And he fixed lunch.
  5. And dinner.
  6. Flower pot painted by my daughter at preschool, along with a marigold plant we planted together during "muffins with mom" day last week.
  7. T-shirt from an etsy seller that's so soft, I want to wear it for the next week and a half.
  8. Soap samples from Dirty Sanchez.  Dude, you've got to click through and read her descriptions.  It's too funny.  And the soap is nice, too!
  9. A Wii game that's like Zuma, only better!  Especially since I have played it for over an hour and haven't died even once ... but that's just my mad skillz, not the "easy" level I've got it set on, right?
  10. As much childcare as I needed yesterday to get my gardening done.
  11. Liza was polite and well-behaved and didn't whine even once when we went shopping for the plants.  She didn't even ask to get out of the cart so she could throw herself headfirst into the fountains like she normally tries to do.
  12. And I don't think I heard the phrase, "NO!  I WANT MOMMY TO DO IT!" even once.
It was the best day ever.

Yummy yarn, yummy project

So, what do you get when you combine a yummy cotton-blend yarn with really long color changes with a pattern that makes a nice squooshy thick scarf?

You get a beautiful, pettable, washable scarf that will go with every coat in the world and will never get lost in the back of the closet.

I love this yarn - it's Taiyo from Noro, a company known for it's really long blocks of color and insanely itchy wools.  So I was super-excited to find the same color design in a softer, kinder yarn.  Those long blocks of color are what make the stripes ... that, and the fact that the scarf is knit with two skeins of the same colorway, each started at a different end when it's joined.  
I probably could have gotten by with one skein and just pulled from opposite ends of that skein, but that has the potential to get all tangly, and besides - now I have enough left over for a matching hat!

Today was all kinds of not awesome

It didn't start off too badly, what with actually getting my shopping list made in less than four hours and getting to take a shower while the kid was parked in front of the television.  I dropped Liza off at school, ran over to the grocery store and shopped like a bat out of hell, in hopes of a) having something other than month-old cheese and mayonnaise in the fridge for dinner tonight, and b) getting done fast enough to actually accomplish something at home before having to pick up the kid.  I blew through the store like I had rocket fuel for breakfast, then I found the shortest checkout line and I waited ... and waited ... and waited.  Trust me to find the line manned by the four-foot-tall, 90-year-old woman with no urge to hurry and no desire to just type in the damn SKU already, if it didn't scan the first six times, it's not going to change now omg I'm going to kill her keep smiling keep smiling so she won't see it coming.

Ahem.  Despite that delay - did I mention it took 15 minutes for me to check out?  And there was no one in front of me in line?  Gahhhhhh - I managed to find a few minutes to get caught up on computer stuff, but I lost track of time and had to drive a bit faster than usual in order to not be horribly late for Liza's pickup time.  She was the last kid there, of course, and was on the teacher's lap with a paper towel in her mouth and tears in her eyes.  Apparently there had been a miscommunication about exactly who was getting off of the playground see-saw when, which ended with Liza falling off and biting her tongue.  And subsequently drooling blood all down the front of her shirt - you know, the Hanna Andersson shirt that I finally managed to convince her to wear despite her pleas of "But that's the shirt I wore on the letter E day when I threw up all over the floor at school!"  Dude, that was in October.  Get over it.

Or, not.  Guess that shirt really is bad luck.  Here's hoping the blood comes out as easily as the puke did!

My afternoon plans of shopping for more flowers for the yard were shot thanks to Bleedy McSwollentongue, so we went home and nursed her with a popsicle and some cuddles, which seemed to clear things up nicely.  After a while of reading and playing on the couch, it suddenly occurred to me that yesterday was the 10th, which meant today was the 11th (wow!  the intellect involved in making that leap!), and somehow that sounded like the day that Liza was supposed to get her picture taken with the rest of her dance class, but I thought that was on Tuesday?  I shuffled upstairs to check the paperwork, and yes, she needed to be at the studio in costume and full makeup in, um, half an hour.  And I still hadn't altered the dress or hat to actually fit her.  Ulp.

You have never seen someone get a kid ready for a photo shoot so fast in your life.  Into the shower - out of the shower - into a robe - tons of hair gel and bobby pins - add hairpiece to make her bun look less pathetic now that she's got short hair - shorten straps on costume - make hat somewhat close to actually sort of fitting after the fourth alteration - powder/blush/mascara/eyeshadow/lip gloss - find tights and tap shoes - pack extra gel and hairspray and bobby pins - write a check to get a copy of the photo I'm killing myself to get the kid into on time - and, done!

Yes, I drove her to the studio while she was wearing underwear and a bathrobe.  She doesn't own any shirts that open wide enough to get over the Massive Bun of Plastic Hair without messing it up, and there wasn't time to finagle anything remotely clothes-like, so we went for speed.  If only I could have found some really large sunglasses and a very small dog for her to bring with her, she'd have looked very divalicious.  Except the robe is a really pilled polarfleece one I got for $2 at the resale shop ... but I don't think anyone noticed, mainly because they were so shocked that I had actually given in and done Liza's hair the way the Hair Nazi studio owner had decreed.  I have been threatening for weeks to boycott the ugly slicked back bun hairdo - seriously, it took dozens of pins to contain Liza's hair in that style for the 45 minutes I needed to get her to the photo shoot and back, it's not going to work any better when she's got to be in a dance recital for three hours with no adults around to fix it when she decides it's fun to throw herself backwards bunfirst at the floor.  I am very curious what the Hair Nazi would do if we showed up for the recital with her hair pulled away from her face but not up in a bun ... I sort of think the pile of abandoned tap shoes in the studio waiting room is left from previous students who decided to be conscientious objectors to the hair policy.

Yeah, so, anyway ... we pulled up at the studio so fast that I think little cartoon smoke clouds were spurting out from behind our tires, and I had the kid stripped naked and into her costume in about 45 seconds flat.  We got there 10 minutes after we were supposed to show up, but at least 10 minutes before they were scheduled to actually take the picture, and she looked reasonably presentable, so I consider it a success.  The place was a madhouse, and the costume hats are like four feet wide, and I spent the next 15 minutes utterly convinced that she was either going to wipe out some little kid with that hat, or it would get stuck on some parent's coat and rip the fake hair right off of my kid.  But neither happened, so all of that extra hair gel and all those spare bobby pins were for naught.

After her photo we got her into some regular clothes and drove home, where she asked for a snack and then fell asleep face-down on the couch, leaving a Frisbee-sized puddle of drool on the slipcover while I fixed dinner.

And now I'm looking at the list of summer activities I've thought of having Liza try, trying to work out a schedule for that which includes a couple activities on different days but leaves plenty of free time for just hanging out ... it's going to be, um, fun.  I feel like an air traffic controller trying to fit 453 things into five slots, and oh, look, here comes Air Force One.  Because it all sounds fun, and she has actively said she wants to try all of it, and I could sooooo use a break a couple of times a week to actually complete a thought without having to answer 14 versions of "What if?" worst case scenario questions ("But what if Jimmy finds out about my party, and he comes, and HE wants to go on everything first?"  Dude, the party was over a week ago, and Jimmy didn't come, and you got to go on everything first, so just leave it the fuck alone, okay?).  But since I'm not going to be able to fit gymnastics, dance, cheerleading, yoga, swimming lessons, theatre classes, dinosaur classes at the natural history museum, and a summer camp at the Lake Erie Nature Center all into one summer, something's got to give.  

I think it may be my brain.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Triops - now, with video!

Today we're up to about 3/4" long (including the tail whiskers) for the big ones.  And, because you know you want to see what these things really look like in action (and I'm lame enough to think this is cool) ...

Oh, and since I was bored and followed a bunch of the links that showed up at the bottom of my embedded video, I found a really cool movie somebody made of how awesomely strong they are on playground bars. Check it out: 

Gardening triumphs

Remember the garden designed to camouflage the satellite dish?  It's looking awesome, with only minor additions of some annuals each year.  This year we're doing wave petunias, full-sized snapdragons, and a lantana that's been trained as a standard.  
It's soooo cool - I've never seen one that shape before, and now it's in my front yard!  Huzzah!

Also cool is the number of things that survived last year despite all of my best (worst?) efforts.  For example, there's the 10 clumps of black-eyed susans that I transplanted from my neighbor's garden ... when they were in full bloom ... in July ... when it was like 95 degrees and I didn't have the bed ready for them yet.  Yeah, that was a good idea!  But they all managed to straggle back this year, so any bunnies in the neighborhood should be fully fed and happy this summer.

There's not much going on the in the vegetable garden yet ... today was the official date of last frost for our zone, so I haven't bothered to mess with it much yet.  But the oregano that survived the winter is happy.  Anybody want to come make lots and lots and lots of pizza sauce?

And finally, on my list of "holy crap, how did I do that?" triumphs, we have the jack-in-the-pulpit plant that I bought at great expense last year, watched sit there and be sullen for most of the summer, let go to seed, had a hard time finding this spring, found out that they're hard to naturalize in gardens and I might have to replant them this year, and all of the sudden there were four of them last week.  Yay, me!

I've got a lot more planned to add this year, including a giant new bed at the back of the property which STILL hasn't emerged from its waterlogged status enough that I can start amending it, much less plant anything, and some overgrown and under-planned beds we inherited with the house that need some major rearranging and/or trashing.  Should be fun!

Saturday, May 09, 2009

I needs me some of that

I have no idea what is in the triops food, but judging by how energetic they are every time I feed them, I needs me some of whatever that is.  Endless circles and backflips and tunnelling through the gravel and "hey, look - the surface tension on the water lets me walk upside down on the underside of the surface!"  They're going to be leaping out of the tank like Shamu if they get any more jacked up than this.  And they're only 3/8" long!  That's about like this: ___ including the little forked whiskery tail thingees.

Thursday, May 07, 2009


Last year Liza made me a drawing of the yarn store we had visited earlier in the day.  I thought it was so cute that I decided to make it permanent by embroidering it, using my own yarn stash to add some color to what was originally a monochromatic drawing.  I finished it yesterday, and I'm still trying to decide how to display it, but I'm inordinately proud of the results:

For anyone who cares, I used embroidery thread and a stem stitch to make the "shelves."  The yarn I used for the "yarn" includes remnants of three pairs of socks I've made, including Liza's Christmas stocking and the first "real" pair of socks I ever made.  It's all stitched down by couching them with regular sewing thread, which by now I'm getting really good at.

I love the result.  Now I just have to decide how to display it ...

Only I

Only I would decide that the crowning touch for a bathroom renovation would be a handknitted valance.  At least it turned out awesome!
Pro:  I used up some of the yarn I had in my stash.
Con: I have enough of the yarn left to make a shower curtain, bath mat, hand towel, and possibly wall-to-wall carpeting for our family room.

Only Liza

Only Liza could take a 4" plastic doll that comes with 400 little tiny parts, strew them all over the living room, and then lose ... the doll.

Princess Happy may be inheriting a bunch of clothes and perfume bottles and hangers and a cash register, assuming good old Polly doesn't turn up in a week or two.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Mmmmm ..... fuzzy!

I swear, it's like trying to photograph the Loch Ness Monster, if the monster were only 1/8" long and really, really fast.  And living in an unphotogenic plastic box in my kitchen, of course.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Yes, I am a frustrated nature show host wannabe, why do you ask?

Dude, the triops are like twice the size of yesterday, with easily visible tails and little swimmerettes (or something) I can vaguely see if I use the crappy magnifying glass that came with the kit.  They'd probably look something like this if I could get them to stand still for a portrait.

We got to feed them today, and they're so ... dare I say it? ... cute when they eat.  Apparently a triops' mouth is on the bottom of its body, so they're all doing underwater backflips in order to reach the food that's floating on the surface.  Watching the path one swims is like trying to follow as Liza writes in "cursive," which involves a lot of spirally scribbles and nothing that's actually legible.

And we've got about 10 of the things, as best I can count.  Of course, the tank is only about 7" wide, so if these things get to be full size (which they won't) they'll be slithering over each other with about 2 tablespoons of water total around them in the tank.  Now THERE'S a mental picture I needed right before bed ...  Here's hoping for some Darwinian cannibalism in the next few days!

Oh, and in other natural science news, the hawks that are nesting in our neighbor's backyard apparently have a baby.  Either that, or one of the adults was drunk, because when we watched it today, its cry was totally different, and it was doing a total shit job of trying to fly.  It literally almost fell over on a branch while it was trying to climb up it with its beak and claws, parrot-style.  

I haven't had a chance to get a close enough look to identify which type of hawk we've got, although from looking at various types of raptors at local nature centers, I'm pretty certain that's the general type of bird it is.  All of the hawk identification photos and descriptions that I've seen talk about how difficult it can be to distinguish among them, so I may never know for sure.  Right now, I'm betting on broad-shouldered , red shouldered, or red tailed, but that's just a guess.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Mother's Day Gifts Jason Would Never Think of On His Own

  1. Gift card for the car wash.
  2. A new DustBuster.
  3. A hammock and kit to hang it from the trees in the backyard.
  4. A giant rock to put in the flowerbed I'm making in the backyard.
  5. Waterproofing for the remaining walls of the basement.
  6. A bottle of Chanel #5 parfum that doesn't have flakes of skin floating in it*
  7. Happy Balls.
  8. Gift certificate to River Colors, my local yarn store of choice.
  9. Qiviut yarn.  Just because.
  10. Maid service.

*When we lived in Japan, K's mom came to visit and bought me a tiny bottle of Chanel #5 perfume (not eau de toilette) from the in-flight duty free cart.  I've been using it ever since, using the bottle's  stopper to dab a bit on my wrists and behind my ears whenever I need a lift.  The bottle has stayed cocooned in its original box so it wouldn't get knocked over in my medicine chest.  But a few weeks ago I took it out of the box to gauge the level of perfume left, and I was kind of grossed out to see flakes of what I can only guess are my skin floating around inside like a really nice-smelling snow globe.  Guess that's what 10 years of dabbing will do.

My favorite gift

So, when your kid is mildly obsessed with triops, what do you get her for her birthday?

A grow-your-own triops kit, of course!  And, since my own desire for Sea Monkeys was thwarted when I was a child, I was even more excited about this present than Liza was.

We started it yesterday morning, and already we have half a dozen little prehistoric three-eyed horrors swimming around in our kitchen.  Right now they're at that size that is just barely, barely perceptible as not-just-a-piece-of-dust, and you can see the suggestion of a little tail action going on in their swimming.  But, unlike Sea Monkeys, triops can get to be 2" long if you raise them properly, so the dustmite-sized phase shouldn't last for long.

Photos will be coming once there's something large enough to focus on - I'm sure you can hardly wait!

Sunday, May 03, 2009


First, there was homemade ice cream cake on her actual birthday. (You were right, Mrs. Happy, it did take a lot of grease and a hairdryer to get that thing out of the pan)

Then, we invited 13 of her closest friends (13? how does that happen?) for a party at the gym.  I have 400 pictures of the event, and not a single one has its subject actually in focus.  I'm choosing to interpret that as "they were having a really good time," not "my camera is a piece of crap in low light conditions."

And she got cupcakes and a butterfly cake at the party.  Everyone liked the store-bought chocolate frosting better than my homemade buttercream frosting - including me.  So much for that little bit of extra effort.

And she got waaaaay more presents than our current storage situation is ready to handle.  We have officially quadrupled the number of Barbie-type dolls in our home since this morning, and we have been enticed into the godforsaken thrall of Polly Pocket and Her Eight Million Microscopic Accessories.

It was a good birthday, even if it did take close to a week to celebrate.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go sleep for a week.  And eat the rest of the tub of chocolate frosting.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Movie time

I have now officially gone to more movies this year than I did in all of last year.  It didn't take much - I've been twice.

First was a couple weeks ago when Liza and I went to see Earth, that new Disney nature film that is really just a 2-hour rehash of the best of the Planet Earth series.  Liza hadn't been to a theatre since the summer after we moved up here.  That was a disasterous attempt to see a free screening of the Curious George movie, which she enjoyed until she noticed that the boy in the seat behind her was looking at her, and she got so freaked out we had to leave the theatre about halfway through the movie.  There really haven't been many movies that I wanted her to see since then; her aversion to anything that has a "bad guy" in it means there are precious few movies that won't induce screaming fits.

But Earth was perfect, since she had already seen parts of the stuff before, and I had watched enough of the Planet Earth series to warn her about any potentially worrisome parts that were coming up.  There were lots of whispered discussions about how the cheetah wasn't a mean cheetah, it was just hungry, and cute little baby gazelle things are what cheetahs eat, and yes it's sad for the cute little gazelle thing, but maybe the cheetah has babies at home that need to eat, too, and we don't want the baby cheetahs to starve, do we?  That worked surprisingly well, and the only parts she has described as "scary" or "sad" afterward were the parts where the daddy polar bear was going to starve if it didn't find food soon.  They were hitting the pathos on that pretty hard, so it's not surprising that she remembers it ... and I'm glad that she also remembers that the polar bear was hungry because there wasn't enough ice for it to use as a hunting platform, blah blah blah global warming.

And then last night my mother-in-law offered to babysit for us, so Jason and I got to go out for a date.  With dinner and a movie and everything!  On opening night of the movie!  Okay, so I got to sit through the new X-Men movie that was long on special effects and short on actual plot, but it was the first time we've been out to do something like that in a long, long time.  And Liza was fine with it, going to bed on time with no trouble and staying in bed all night and asking me this morning if I had fun on my date.  Hallelujah!

The one thing I've noticed about our movie viewing habits over the past few years is that with the scarcity of child care opportunities, we have to pick and choose which movies are "babysitterworthy."  Chick flick?  No, it looks just as good on DVD.  Epic action movie with lots of special effects?  Yes, it's worth going to see it in the theatre because otherwise you'd be completely unable to see Batman amid all the dark and brooding scenery.

Which is why we'll be hitting up my parents for babysitting when they come out to visit at the end of the month ... because that new Star Trek movie isn't going to look nearly as good on DVD as it will on a giant screen that costs us $9 each to sit in front of.