Friday, July 31, 2009

It's that time again

Yep, family reunion weekend. Only this time, no mother-in-law to help with kid-wrangling. And still no tomatoes. But at least this year everyone will know who my kid is ...

Yes, I did make my daughter a (condensed) family tree t-shirt to wear to the reunion. It's not quite as cool as I had hoped, but I like that you can see the matrilinial line straight from my great-grandmother down to Liza. Wish I could have included all of her (second?) cousins in there, but it would have been a mess ... especially since one of my cousins has 7 kids! And forget about putting the whole family in there ... the whole family tree is on a sheet of kraft paper that's like 3' tall and maybe 20' long. That's not going on a 6x shirt, no matter how small you make the font.

In case you want to make one of these before your next family gathering, remember to print the names out on the iron-on transfer paper as mirror-images of how they need to be on the shirt. And try to start drawing the glitter puffy paint lines before, say, 11pm the day before you leave.

I may add on to the shirt before Liza goes back to Jason's mom's house the next time, putting Jason's family tree on the back and connecting it around to his box on the front. Because I'm all chock full of spare time and stuff ...

Going medieval

Last weekend we decided to do something fun instead of just sitting around doing nothing and mowing the lawn. So we grabbed some friends and headed out east to the Medieval Faire, where Liza got to wander around outside dressed up like a princess, eating junk food and freak-watching. I'm not sure which part of "medieval faire" people interpret to mean "dress up in whatever freakish costume exposes the largest expanses of your lily-white fleshy skin," but man, if it had wings, it was there.

We weren't sure how many of the performances she was going to be up for, so we set our expectations low ... but she hung in like a trouper all day. She even liked the jousting so much that she made us go back to see it a second time.

Part of the appeal, I'm sure, was that we got to meet the horses after the show was done. We stuck around until we were pretty much the last ones there, which meant Liza had plenty of time to get used to the idea of getting anywhere near an animal that is 4 times her size. Me, I liked the little crocheted doily on the horse's head.

Liza also liked the part where she got to put money in the knight's helmet. He was very good with the kids, answering all the questions and being happy to pose for photos despite the steamy heat after the 10-minute downpour before the show. Dude must take a bath in Gatorade between performances.

Me? I liked Wonder Fool, but then, I'm a sucker for fire-breathers. And Jason was just happy to get out of there without anyone asking to buy souvenirs ... so a good time was had by all!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Busy, busy, busy, but not with blogging.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

schvim schvim schvim

Liza started her swim lessons last month, and I wanted to talk about it then, but I didn't want to jinx it. Because despite her initial insistence that putting her face in the water was totally not necessary to learn to swim, and the fact that I had to bribe her with trips to the Dollar Store afterwards to get her to put on her swimsuit in the first place, Liza loved the classes. She loved the teachers, she loved the water, and she even got used to putting her face in the water. By the time she was done with two weeks of lessons (four times a week), she was able to swim in our friends' pool with only a pool noodle under her stomach to keep her legs from sinking. And she was willing to do a bob (after some cajoling).

Liza was doing so well that when I swam with her for practice, I felt guilty about wearing my own goggles. So I've been gritting my teeth and swimming without them, and without holding my nose nearly as much as I'd like to. I've been splashed in the face by other kids, dunked under water by a four-year-old, and choked on chlorine more often than I'd like to admit. But if Liza can man up, so can I. At least for this summer.

She had two weeks off between swimming class sessions, and she started up again on the 13th of this month. And again, I didn't want to jinx it, so I've kept quiet about her progress this whole time. But now that the lessons are over, I can officially say, "Oh my preshus baby can sort of swim with her face in the water and she did 8 bobs in a row and she jumps into the pool with such vigor that I have to stand midway in the second lane from the side in order to catch her without her jumping clear over my head!"

We celebrated her last day of swim class on Thursday. Jason took the day off from work to come see her lesson, and afterwards we all swam at the pool's open swim time. And Liza actually did a sit dive and swam unassisted for several feet before I caught her. About 20 times in a row. And she jumped off the side and let us get her face in the water. About 100 times in a row. And she did bobs. And I couldn't have been prouder.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Um, no. Just 'No.' And possibly 'Ew.'|20595〈=en-US&whse=BC&topnav=

I especially love that they have both regular shipping ('Eh, he'll keep a few more days') and expedited shipping ('For when you've got to plant 'em NOW!').

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Gotta love that reception

A few months ago I used up some leftover yarn and made a beautiful blue hat, which unfortunately didn't fit me or Liza. It went in the Pile of Unassigned Presents, where it stayed until this past weekend, when I grabbed it as a last-minute addition to the birthday gifts for our next-door neighbor. I taught Emmy to crochet a few months ago, and she's generally crafty, so I figured she would appreciate the effort, even if it didn't fit.

Well, she opened it, ooohed and aaahhhed over it, tried it on, and it fit perfectly. And she wore it for two days straight. In July.

Did I mention it's made of bulky wool?

And Liza loves Emmy so much that she decided it was necessary to wear a hat so they'd both match, which is how I ended up with this in my backyard yesterday ...

Too cute for words, those two.


Sunday, July 19, 2009


Every time we go on a trip, Jason insists on taking a photograph of himself somewhere along the way. We've started dubbing these "wacky Jason shots," because there is no way to look serious when you're photographing yourself by blindly pointing a camera from arm's length. For example, here he is at St. Mary Falls in Glacier National Park, July 2004:

Of course, most of the time when we're out hiking there's not a soul around to take a picture of us together, which has led to the inception of "wacky Gretchen-and-Jason shots," like this one from Grinnell Glacier:

And this one from Goat Lick:

The worst thing about these is that at the time I had a camera with a cool lens that swiveled around so you could have it facing the same direction as the viewscreen, so that you could see yourself when lining up wacky shots. So I knew I looked this bad when I took the shots ... Also, I think the only piece of clothing in these photos that we don't still own is my red shirt in the bottom shot. I miss that shirt ...

And one final shot before I wrap up this week of reminiscing. This is probably my third-favorite shot of wildlife from the trip. It's a ground squirrel we saw near the Highline Trail in Glacier National Park.

It has always reminded me of this shot that I came across when I was writing about malaise (long story), and it makes me giggle every time.

Anyhoo, thanks for playing along with me during this trip down memory lane. And who knows, maybe we'll do this again the next time the cats pee all over the toys in the basement and force us to clean up after them for three hours and reorganize the whole thing so that nothing absorbent is at ground level. After all, that's what brought the CD of old photos to the surface last Sunday, so maybe it will happen again.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Wildflowers? Weeds? Depends who you ask.

Roadside color, Waterton Lakes, July 2004

Not much to say about this, other than "Look! I've been taking plant pictures for five years now!" Someday I'll get myself organized and either make a photo book out of them or start selling them on etsy (probably the latter ... I've already come up with a name for the shop and everything).

Friday, July 17, 2009

I swear, I'm going to have my own episode of "When Animals Attack!" someday

We were hiking near Waterton Lake in Canada in 2004 and saw this on the trail like 100 feet in front of us, and my first response was not OMFG A BEAR RUN FOR YOUR LIFE BEFORE HE SMELLS THE GRANOLA BAR IN MY BACKPACK.


Next thing you know, I'll be smearing honey all over my kid's face and trying to get coyotes to lick it off so I can get a photo of that, too.

Oh, did somebody say 'coyote?'

Okay, this one was far enough away (can you say, 12x digital zoom?) to not be a threat, but it was really cool to see, anyway.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


Twisted tree (and tiny Jason) on the trail back from Grinnell Glacier, Glacier National Park, July 2004.

I love this photo because it reminds me of the hike we took to Grinnell Glacier. The glacier itself was a bit of a disappointment, but the trail was absolutely drop-dead gorgeous for almost its entire length.

And, at 12 miles round-trip, it's the longest hike I've ever done. I know, it's not majorly long for experienced hikers, but since my usual hiking area includes a paved trail and flush toilets, this was a big deal.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Also: Yarn Porn!

Bow-chicka-bow-bowwwww ...

Yes, I did just buy 1,100 yards of superfine 100% silk yarn to make a terribly impractical lace shawl for me. Me. ME. MEMEMEMEMEMEMEME! Because I'm not spending $45 on one skein of yarn for any of y'all :)

Runner Up

Again with the goat pictures! This one comes in second in my estimation only because the whole "inquisitive-looking fluffy animal" thing is such a cliche. A fluffy-wuffy little wubberkins of a cliche, but still overused.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Just about my favorite picture EVER

The Smiling Goat, on the Highline Trail at Glacier National Park, 2004.

I'm pretty sure this was the trail that was only open for the first quarter or so of its length because a goat or sheep had fallen to its death somewhere farther along, and the park rangers were afraid that the corpse would draw too many dangerous animals near the trail. And it's not like the rangers were going to hike out the corpse, so the rest of the trail was closed until the carrion eaters were done with it.

I've got so many awesome photos from our trip to Glacier and Waterton Lakes (in Canada) that I could spend the rest of the month on them. I won't (spend the whole month ... just a couple days), but I will urge you to run, don't walk, to Glacier for a beautiful hiking vacation. If you walk, the glaciers will be gone by the time you get there. Jason was pretty proud that we made it there in time.

Just kidding! That's a snowfield, not a glacier. But the biggies are melting, too, so get your butt out there pronto if you want to see them.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Beach babe

Again with the picture from Florida in 2005!

I love this picture because a) you can see how petite I looked for someone who was 7 months pregnant (small baby, lots of real estate to stretch out in without having to put on any additions), b) Jason is still wearing those ratty sandals all summer, and the baseball hat I'm wearing is the one that's in the back of my car for emergency park use, and c) the sarong I'm sitting on has been in Liza's bag of silkies for years, and it's the first one that gets pulled out whenever she needs a tent, or an ocean, or a river, or a dress for me. So every time she hauls that thing out, I get to think about Florida. Hurray!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Memory Lane

Certain Events (which will be discussed later when I'm not so tired and angry) made it necessary to completely clean out the part of the basement where Liza's extra toys are stored, and while I was moving some old travel books, I found three CDs of pictures that I'm pretty sure never made it onto the portable backup hard drive. I've been copying them over to my computer so I can save them for posterity, and it's been a trip down memory lane.

There are so many cool pictures in there that I'm going to devote this week to sharing them. Item one: me having a dolphin encounter at Discovery Cove, February 2005.

This picture was taken about two and a half months before I delivered Liza, and yet I managed to cram myself into a wet suit (not to mention an airplane seat for four hours each way to get down there and back). In fact, we found out the day we left for Florida that we were expecting a girl, a fact which we hadn't been able to confirm in any of the previous exams. Knowing that it was a girl really made the whole pregnancy thing seem very real, and the entire trip to Florida was sort of surreal as a result.

At any rate, this was our last trip as a couple, and I have photographic proof that I got to pet a smiley dolphin, so it's all good.

Beach day

On Thursday Liza and I went with some friends to Huntington Beach, which is on Lake Erie. It was very weird to be there on a day when it was warm and sunny and filled with people, given the times of year we normally visit.

The water was unseasonably warm, and Liza and her friends had a good time jumping in the waves. I went in with Liza, and she held onto my hands and jumped every time a big wave came in ... which meant that I did the equivalent of about 400 bicep curls with a 40-pound kid. She also was willing to try swimming back into shore (so she didn't get a face full of waves), as long as I kept an arm around her waist to help support her in the water. She's got all the swimming stuff down except the part where your butt stays up near the top of the water. If you could swim while positioned vertically in the water, she'd be golden.

Once the surf got too rough and the lifeguards suspended swimming (my biceps: "thank god for this break"), the girls were still allowed to play at the very edge of the water ... while Mrs. Happy and I sat on a blanket in the shade of the cliff at the back of the beach. It's good to have a moderately responsible teenager around for these beach trips!

The butterfly game

The first day we hung up the hammock, Liza invented The Butterfly Game. She wraps herself up in the hammock, I kick a yoga ball at her as hard as I can, and she laughs hysterically when it slams into her. And every once in a while she pretends to be a butterfly who has been woken up and emerges from its crysalis, but mostly it's all about getting smacked with a giant ball.

Now, my kid has always had a thing for getting hit with balls, so I thought it was just her being strange. And then she convinced our next-door neighbor to play, and Emmy thought it was hilarious, too. And she's ten and should know better. So I guess it's not just my daughter being weird, after all.

Two other four-year-olds have approved the game since then, including Penelope, who you see playing The Butterfly Game with Liza in this video. Enjoy!

Thank you, Pete the Shirtless Redneck Neighbor

Just like last year, our shirtless redneck neighbor and his buddies emptied a fireworks store in order to entertain themselves on the 4th of July. But this time, we were ready for them.
I'm not sure which makes me more proud - the fact that I got a shot of my family lit up by the fireworks, or the fact that it only took me two tries to do it. Go, me!

Oh, and in case anyone was wondering, I am NOT exaggerating the size of this display. I took this photo just before the trash truck arrived to cart away the debris the week after the 4th. I think one can of that is actual household garbage; the rest is fireworks packaging.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Now come on

Now, I loves me some Shaun the Sheep, but come on, did we really need this?

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

But it sounded like such a good idea at the time

We've got lots of jam to use up, so I decided to make a jelly roll. I'm not sure exactly how it happened, since this it the first time I've ever attempted one, but the thing turned out beautifully - behold, the perfect jelly roll!
Well, it's perfect as long as you don't actually taste it. I'm not sure which ingredient is to blame, but this thing smells and tastes like wet dog hair. It's actually bad enough that Jason (who doesn't care for jelly-filled things to begin with) won't even taste it. I don't know if my eggs were slightly off, or the vanilla is bad, or what, but Jesus H. Christ, this thing is awful.

But very, very pretty.

Hey nonny nonny

Is it just me, or does this hat make me look like I should be strumming a lute at a Renaissance festival?

Maybe if I just walk around backwards all day, the incredible awesomeness that is the Fair Isle pattern on the back will stun people into not noticing how troubadour-riffic it looks from the front ...

No? Damn, I didn't think so.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Oh, hai! Are you sure you're not just some figment of my fever-addled consciousness?

  • Average temperature of the female foreheads in our household: 101.2
  • Chance that I'm going to get off the couch to cook dinner: 0
  • Chance that my husband is going to stop at Manhattan Deli West [(440) 734-8500] and buy me a vat of chicken noodle soup for dinner: 100%
  • With extra oyster crackers: 100%
  • Number of times I'm going to have to fast-forward The Princess Bride before he gets home: >5
  • Chance that we'll make it all the way through the movie without her losing it or falling asleep: <25%
  • Amount that I give a shit about whether she loses it because dammit I'm sick and I want to watch a movie: 0%

So, how's your day going?

Saturday, July 04, 2009


And lo, the Great Goddess of Plumbing Repair did smile down upon her, prophesying:

"The problem shall be in an easily-accessible place, one which does not require the help of a Plumber on a National Holiday. The disassembly shall not require any tools thou dost not already possess. The fountain of fetid water that gushes forth shall be confined to the catch basin thou preparest for that task, and thou shalt have enough paper towels on hand to clean out the clog without actually touching it, because it is Unclean. The pipe shall go back together easily, and thou shalt not take My Name in vain, not even once. And so the water shall run freely down the drain, as the Great River winds itself to the Sea. So I have seen, and so it shall be."

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Ooooh, more pretty yarn

A tiny, tiny* scarflette made with leftover sock yarn (Twisted Fiber Art's Kabam in the discontinued Octarine colorway, if memory serves). I may never wear this, but it's lots of fun to look at. Maybe I'll just hang it on the wall in my office ...

*Seriously. It's 22" long. I can get it around my neck and overlap it enough to pin it together, but that's it. Maybe I should frog that extra sock and add on to the scarf ...