Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Again with the river

We went down to the river last week, where we saw an old friend:

... and found some (very) new ones:

We were lucky enough to actually see one of the frogs this time:

... and to catch the waterlilies in bloom.

The fact that it was nice and cool and green didn't hurt, either.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Queen of Questionable Judgement

It sounded like such a good idea. Liza has been getting so good on her bike with training wheels, it's hard to keep up with her on foot. She's not up to the point where she can ride along with an adult next to her on a bike, so maybe I could just go along on rollerblades. But the sidewalks in our neighborhood are too bumpy to blade, so I'd have to skate in the street while she rode on the sidewalk ... and every time she needed a little push to get started, I'd have to clomp up somebody's treelawn, push her, then clomp back down to the street.

Okay, so maybe we should just go to the paved bike trail near our house. It's completely away from the street, almost completely flat, and both wide and deserted enough that we could go side-by-side most of the time. But it's out in the full sun all day long, and it's deserted enough that if something happened, it could be hours before somebody happened along to help out.

Okay, so maybe the bike trail at the Metropark (the part near the 21 on the map). Yeah, it's smooth, separate from traffic, and in the shade, there's a fair amount of bike/blade/jogging traffic, and the part near the beaver pond is mostly flat with a few gentle rises. We're set!

Things went fine for a while. She's still learning to stay on the right side on a shared path, so I had to do a fair amount of nagging about that, but otherwise, things were fine. I even managed to negotiate the copious amounts of storm debris (oops, hadn't anticipated that) without wiping out me or my daughter. She even made it up and down a few rises with only a few surprised squawks and a couple gentle pushes from me to get back up the hill.

We went one way for a while, then turned around and went back to the car. Since we hadn't been out long, I suggested we explore in the other direction. The rise that way turned out to be higher, and I had to push her the last few yards to the top. "No problem, on the way back I'll just get her to stop on her way up and we'll walk the bike down so she doesn't end up careening out of control and end up in the beaver pond."

As I am thinking this, Liza is coasting down the back of the rise, which is gradual but rather long, and she's picking up speed and hollering louder and louder as she goes. She's not strong enough to use the hand brake on her bike yet, so the only way she has to slow down is to either coast to a stop, or drag her feet. I'm yelling at her to put her feet down to slow down, she's yelling that she can't, I'm telling her that of course she can, she's not paying attention to where she's going, and she drifts off the right side of the path. In slow motion she's careening through the greenery, legs cartwheeling wildly in the air on either side of her bike, and when she finally coasts to a stop, she falls over ... into a patch of poison ivy.

Meanwhile, I'm simultaneously avoiding sticks, trying to slow down on damp pavement, shouting directions, and kicking myself for coming to this path, so I don't see where a tree root has popped up the asphalt into a 6" tall speedbump all the way across the path. I hit that going at a good clip, and I manage to remember to throw myself forward onto the pads (as if I really had a choice when my feet got knocked out from under me that way). I skid a yard or two on knees, wrists, a couple fingers, and I think the fastener on my jeans shorts, judging by the bruise I have on my stomach.

Now I'm checking myself for major injuries, Liza is crying and wandering around in the poison ivy, and I swear, the bike is on it's side, the back wheel spinning like a scene in a bad movie. I wipe the blood off my fingers, wade into the greenery and pull out the kid and the bike, and we start the slow trek back to the car. I give up on trying to skate and push the bike, and I put on my backup sandals that I had stuffed in the basket on the front of Liza's bike. Except, of course, those sandals had landed in the poison ivy, so I had to leave my socks on to prevent spreading the oils to parts of my body that hadn't been exposed yet.

That's when the high school cross country team ran by.

Bet they'll be talking about us for a while ... muddy kid who is dawdling along, picking one of every type of leaf she can find near the path, being drug along by one arm by her muddy, bleeding mother who has a pair of muddy rollerblades under her arm and a pair of white athletic socks on under her expensive leather sandals.

After explaining to her 14,000 times that we need to hurry so we can go try to wash off the poison ivy oils, I finally get her back to the house and hose us both down with liberal amounts of hot water and soap. Our clothes are in the washer on HOT right now, which means my jeans shorts will probably shrink so much they'll fit Liza. And I get to spend part of my weekend wearing rubber gloves and washing down Liza's bike and my rollerblades with hot, soapy water.

All because I wanted to go for a bike ride this morning.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, the sum total of our injuries from this little exercise: I have a 1/8" long cut on one finger, and Liza has a non-bleeding scratch on one leg.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

For Mimi

Oh, dear, I really am very shallow sometimes

Upon finding out that Michael Jackson had died, my first thoughts (in order) were:

"Oh, no!"


"Maybe I should relist that record on ebay."

And then I felt bad for thinking of capitalizing on the death of a celebrity.

And then I looked at the bids for the other Off the Wall albums listed right now, and I relisted mine anyway, because I'm shallow and opportunistic.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Them there's some tasty vegematables

And then Liza and I ate it, pod and all, and it was good. The end.

First week of summer

Forget dates on the calendar - there are more reliable signs that it's summer in Cleveland ...

trapeze action

sitting around looking moist

(pretend) butterflies emerging from their cocoons

teeny tiny produce

So, MLF, enjoying the heat down there in Texas? It was 82 here today ... I thought about turning on the air conditioner, but then the sun went behind some clouds and I forgot all about it. Bwahahahahahahahahaha

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Monday, June 22, 2009

Matchy matchy

I had a couple of yards of really cool fabric left over after I made a couple of these bags, and it was slated to become a shirt for Liza. That is, it was until I found directions on making a forehead-slappingly-simple skirt from a minimal amount of fabric. Less than an hour later, we could be all matchy-matchy.

This took close to two yards, mainly because my thighs are long and my knees are ugly, so I wanted the hem to fall below the knee. I needed the extra yardage because I couldn't just cut the fabric in half and use it that way. I ended up cutting it at about 30" or so, and using a very wide casing for the elastic at the top (because all I had was some that was leftover from making Jason a pair of boxers a decade ago). I hemmed the bottom by double-folding it and stitching it down. Liza's uses all of the extra fabric from my skirt, so it's a lot fuller than mine. And the elastic is loose enough that she'll be able to wear it until she's in middle school.

Easy peasy.

Now I just need to refrain from buying two yards of every fabric I think is cool over at Joann's, and I'll be alright. Maybe I've got enough of that linen left over from making a dress years ago ... guess I'll be digging that box out later tonight ...


I had to post at least one picture before the slugs get to this one, too.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


When part of the haul I brought back from my parents' house included these:
And a friend called while I was driving back to Cleveland to tell me that the pick-your-own strawberry place was open, and another friend told me she and her daughter had never been out to pick strawberries before, and the weather on Sunday was 75F and sunny, well, it was pretty much inevitable that we'd end up here again.

Ready for anything!

Action shot that includes something other than my huge ass and the back of Liza's head! And yes, she actually picked this year, although she found it a lot more frustrating than when we did the raspberries last fall.

Why it's (almost) worth the effort

Anybody got a hankering for some strawberry jam? Because I've got a bit to spare. It's going to take a while for the three of us to get through the eleven pints I put up yesterday morning.

*In case anyone is wondering, the white stuff at the top of the jar is paraffin wax, which is how my mother and grandmother always sealed their jam jars. It's fallen out of favor (darn you, mycotoxins!), but since the jars I brought back from my parents' house were primarily the threadless ones meant for wax seals, it was the best option for me this time. I had enough fun with sterilizing the jars and trying to melt the wax and keep the jam from bubbling over while fending off the "help" of a four-year-old with long arms and a stubborn streak a mile wide, without having to worry about processing the regular canning lids, too.

Oh, and Liza's decided that the jam smells funny, and she refuses to try it. Woohoo! More for me! It's not as good as the raspberry jam I made last year, but it will do in a pinch.

Rapunzel braids now for sale!

You can find them here.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Monday, June 15, 2009


What's that spell?

Over the weekend Liza attended a birthday party for one of her preschool classmates. It was a joint bash for her and her brother, with a cheerleader/football theme that worked for both of them. The parents did a really good job with the theme, helping the girls get gussied up with glitter makeup, spirit tattoos, sparkly hairspray, and pom-poms, while the boys all got ref's whistles and got to do a punt/pass/kick game on the football field the parents had spraypainted on their lawn.

Most of the girls were a little bewildered by the whole concept of cheerleaders, so it's a good thing there were some older girls there to teach them The Ways of Pep. I'm fairly certain those girls had all been through cheerleading camp, as they actually seemed to know what they were doing. Despite their young age, they managed to get all of the four-and-youngers to do a "stunt," even Little Miss Velcro Who Only Wants To Visit The Goldfish In The Fountain.
And yes, I have proof, because it was cute beyond words. Maybe I'll have to enroll her in that silly cheerleading summer program after all.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Oh, snap!

Saturday, June 13, 2009


* Organization for Organizing My Parent's (old) House

My parents own two houses, mainly because the first one was already paid off before they bought the second one. They live in the "new" house, and visit the "old" house on weekends. The old house is very rural and is located across the street from a navigable river, so it was a great place to escape the stresses of suburbia.
"Third Generation Porch Swinger"

Having two houses was very convenient for them, because they tend to be the type of people who form strong emotional attachments to objects and are therefore reluctant to get rid of anything. Add to that a growing yard sale addiction and a dad who can fix almost anything, and you end up with a vacant house that gradually fills up with stuff.
"Before: The Back Porch"

Not just a house, though - a two-story garage, a workshop, and a screened porch also served as convenient places to tuck box after box of old files, a pew from the (demolished) family church, a collection of small boats, a spare wall oven, every bicycle they ever owned, and a lovely selection of books they haven't had a chance to read yet.
"Before: The Garage"

"Before: The Workshop"

This was fine while my parents were young and healthy, but as they have aged, maintaining two houses became more difficult, and they began to think about selling the old house.
"When Ivy Wins and Ed Loses"

When they were approached by someone who might be interested in buying the house, they started to try to sort their stuff. When the potential buyer scheduled a home inspection for next week, they switched into a low-grade version of panic mode.

And that is why I spent last week at my parents' place, hauling stuff out of attics and porches and cabinets and closets. I toted and scrubbed, I cajoled and reasoned. I boxed and bagged and pitched and sorted. And I sweated - did I mention the lack of air conditioning?

The first day we cleaned out the screened porch.
"After: The Summer House"

Yes, that's the after version. Just imagine how much worse it was before we started ... think "25 years of accumulated grime on everything - now, with a bonus mummified headless squirrel corpse!"

Next we tackled some repairs on the front porch, which had rotted out around the edges. Don't want the home inspector to accidentally punch through the porch floor when he walks up to the front door, do we? Replacing the floor involves removing all the trim, jacking up the porch ceiling so the columns can be detached from the boards, then prying out all the nails and hauling out the 3/4" thick sheets of plywood. Oh, and before you can put down the new boards, you have to fill in the critter burrow, "now with a bonus fleshless pelvis of an unknown mammal!"
"The Woodchuck? Raccoon? Skunk? Skeleton Under The Porch"

As a "break" from the regular work, I took time out to weed some of the flower beds and tag-team mow the grass with my parents' help. The front bed was so overrun with grasses and some unidentified twining weed that you could barely see the peonies and iris. I swear, it looked worse than most of the bank-owned properties in our neighborhood, and that's saying something. But we took care of that, at least temporarily.

"After: The Front Flower Bed"

The final two days were spent clearing out the attic, closets, and kitchen cabinets, as well as the clutter in the mudroom and the worst of the stuff on the back porch. My dad still has to go through the income tax files from 1973 (no, not kidding) and I still have to convince my mother that the local library does indeed stock all of those Dick Francis books she might possibly at some point in the future maybe want to read again (if she finishes the six cartons of unread books first). But we're in a lot better shape now than we were last week.

Thursday I spent something like five hours on eBay, trying to find out which of the items we had set aside might actually be worth enough to justify the time and expense to list them for sale. There were a dozen or so record albums that seemed to be a good bet, so I photographed them, edited the photos, wrote the listings, and got them online. Some of the stuff that we thought was worthwhile turned out to be yard-sale quality rather than Antiques Road Show quality, which was both a disappointment and a relief. The extra money would have been nice, but damn, I was sick of listing things on eBay.

Through all of this my parents toiled alongside me, either toting and hauling or watching Liza ... I'm not sure which was more strenuous, as Liza was all about going down to the beach and running through the sprinkler and riding the scooter and trying to get into every room where we were working. And she spent most of the time insisting that she wasn't going to wear shoes outside, despite the fact that my parents recently had the roof replaced and there are still a decent number of nails and shingle bits stuck in the grass. Good thing she had her tetanus shot in May!

Basically, we got a lot done, but nowhere near what needs to be done if the place is ever going to actually change hands. If the buyer comes through with an offer, there's going to be another road trip (and a very, very large rental storage space) in my future.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go play my old Cat's Eye game, which I found in the closet cleanout. That, and 1980s Dallas Porn Star Barbie ... but that's whole different post altogether.


Planted three zucchini seedlings next to the house, hoping that the deer won't venture that close to people so they'll be safe from depredation. If all these buds turn into fruits, we may be wishing those deer would take a nibble ... or trying the deep-fried zucchini blossom recipe I've heard so much about.

I love this dress


That is all.

Friday, June 05, 2009

I have found Liza's mission statement

Draw a crazy picture, 
Write a nutty poem,
Sing a mumble-gumble song,
Whistle through your comb.
Do a loony-goony dance
'Cross the kitchen floor,
Put something silly in the world
That ain't been there before.

"Put Something In" by Shel Silverstein, from A Light in the Attic.

The fact that my daughter can sit down and read poems by herself ... absolutely, stunningly amazing.  The fact that the one poem she specifically requested that I read again the following day was "Hippo's Hope" ... proof that she's inherited my sense of humor.

Check out this animated version of the poem ... it's not quite as detailed as the Shel Silverstein illustration in the book, but it's pretty cool, anyway.

Now, if I could just find that essay I wrote in high school about the societal implications of "They've Put a Brassiere on the Camel," we'd be all set.

Pop-Pop Percy will be so proud

We got our soybeans to sprout on the first try.  Edamame, here we come!

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Well, I guess I have to talk about this sometime

Saturday was supposed to be Liza's dance recital.  I say "supposed to be" because she didn't actually make it to the performance, preferring instead to go completely batshit crazy backstage for an hour.  

The combination of tons of kids all (loudly) getting ready to perform, me saying I needed to go sit in the audience while she stayed backstage with her friends, and the time of day all conspired against Liza, leading to a meltdown (literally ... she was wearing mascara, which is now all over my dress) of epic proportions.  She was utterly inconsolable, to the point where I really wanted to smack some sense into her, which of course wasn't exactly going to work.  After the fourth little kid came over and asked why she was crying, I decided it wasn't worth getting the other kids upset and ruining their recitals, too, so we left.

Out of the maybe 50 or 60 kids performing that day, mine was the only one who melted down for more than five minutes.

I hear the rest of her class performed admirably well.

I, meanwhile, fumed for the rest of the day.  I discovered that when I'm insanely pissed off, I can turn an ill-fitting sweater back into a pile of yarn balls in less than 5 minutes, and I can knit a third of a sweater in an evening.  

For the benefit of my parents, who drove for 9 hours from Delaware so that they could see Liza not make it onstage, here's my crappy video of her dress rehearsal.


Five-foot-tall foxglove that spontaneously appeared in the pile of sod and scrap soil that we've been dumping behind our shed for the last two years.  I'm guessing it was originally planted on the side of the house, but this is the first we've seen of it.

The Big Dig

The drainage in the back half of our yard is bad.  Like, "standing water for months around the raised gardens" bad.  Since it is literally the middle of May before it usually dries out enough that we can mow back there for the first time, it gets a little, um, deep.  And anytime it rains, we have to skip mowing one corner lest we get the mower stuck in the ankle-deep mud that the grass is growing in.

Last fall I decided to start a new campaign to eradicate all of the difficult-to-mow sections of our yard, and I started in the back corner.  I originally just planned a narrow bed along the property line, but after I hit it with the herbicide and started to turn it over, it looked pretty puny.  So this spring I went medieval on that corner, using half a gallon of Round-Up to kill off the grass so I didn't have to strip off the sod.  It's swampy enough back there without lowering the ground level by another 6".

Here is a photo of The Swampy Hellhole Back Corner of Our Yard, after herbicide but before amending the soil:

As we've gotten deeper into spring, the high-tide mark in the back yard has gradually receded, so I've been able to work the bed gradually over the last few weeks.  After more than a few evenings and weekends of work, more bags of sand than I care to admit, and about a dozen bags of mulch (plus a trunkload of free hostas from my parents - thanks, guys!), it's finally done for the year:
That's not a great picture of the garden - the hostas are still a little shell-shocked from their trip last week, so they're a bit on the floppy side.  I'm hoping they'll perk up a bit and fill in a little this year, eventually forming a solid swathe of hosta goodness in a few years.

The good news is that the added sand and plants and air that's been worked into the soil have raised the ground level in the area of the garden, so I didn't have to put bog plants back there.  Well, okay, I did plant two papyrus plants in the lowest section, but that was just for fun.  The addition of my usual weed-preventing trench around the outside of the bed also helps channel some of the water away from the lawn, so it's slightly less squishy back there.  But, as you can see in the photo, we still can't mow as often as I'd like.

This will probably be Liza's last year with the castle - she's already in danger of getting stuck when using the "secret" entrance - and once that's gone, we'll have to decide whether to replace it with another playhouse there, or just turn that into a garden, too.  I'm kind of thinking I might loose-lay some bricks out there and make a tiny little patio, with wrought-iron chairs or a chaise or something.  It's pretty shady there all the time, and it would be nice to take a break from the soil amendment parade I've been marching in this year.  Plus, I've got my eye on some other areas of the yard that need some work ...

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Stock photo


(Number of my readers who will get the joke:  4)

Excisions R Us

Tomorrow morning we will all trundle out of bed early to go find out whether that crusty lump on Zach's lip is, indeed, the return of The Cancer.  If it is, well, he's already past the median survival time for cats who have even one bout with mast cell tumors, so I guess we should count ourselves as lucky.  But the recurrence of The Cancer would be a Bad Sign.  Not to mention what surgery and/or radiation therapy will do to his modeling career ...  So let's all just hope it's an abscess or something, right?


ETA:  Doctor says it's not The Cancer, it's The Figment of Your Imagination.  Couldn't find a thing wrong with him.  Oh, well, at least now Zach has had a good experience at the vet, as opposed to most of his "knock him out before he gnaws your face off" visits in the recent past.