Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Anybody need a vacation home?

My Sainted Mother-In-Law has been hard at work for the past six months, rehabbing a house she and her sister inherited last year.  It's finally finished and on the market, so if you've got a few spare $$$ sitting around and would like a place on the Shore, check it out:


I mean come on, who wouldn't like a view like this out of your sunroom?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

I plan to be proud to partake of your patio room**

Yesterday morning, before the work began:

Yesterday afternoon, as the work was winding down:

Yesterday evening, after the storm that dumped several inches of rain and hail on us:

Luckily, the track that will hold the third wall up wasn't installed yet, so I used a shop broom to sweep the water out of my new, 2" deep swimming pool that's located conveniently right above the sump pump in the foundation.  Then I spent an hour this morning blowing all the leaves out, and setting up fans to try to get the concrete dry enough for them to glue down the third track today.  The volume of leaves knocked down by the hail was impressive - maybe 25% of what was on the trees in our neighbors yard ended up plastered all over the side of our house and every other vertical surface in our yard ... like the panels that will make up parts of the walls of the room:

I keep telling myself that at least I won't have to rake those leaves up this fall, but the suckers will probably regenerate by then.

The hail wasn't record-sized, but it was kind of cool to see that it was obviously formed in two steps instead of one continuous process:

Not huge, but we got quite a bit of it.  This was taken more than an hour after the storm:

My plants were not exactly in favor of the giant julienne-slicers falling from the sky: 

What's funny is that I always take pictures of my new gardens right after I've mulched them, and I always joke that I have to do it then, because it's never going to look that nice again.  Good thing I did, too, since this was what it looked like on Sunday:
Notice the non-shredded hostas right above this?

Oh, well, at least we didn't lose any trees, have the power go out, or end up with a flooded basement.  Things could have been much worse than having to do a bit of sweeping and ending up with a lot of new "green" material for my compost pile.

** When Harry Met Sally reference.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Young authors

Have I mentioned recently how awesome my daughter's school is?  Last week was the culmination of the Young Authors project that each grade has been working on for the past few months.  Liza's kindergarten class used the project as an opportunity to learn about non-fiction books, and each student capped the project by writing his or her own nonfiction book.

The kindergarteners' books included all of the standard non-fiction items, including a table of contents, author biography, and glossary.

This project has been going on for months - can you imagine the level of dedication and skill required to usher 22 kids through that whole process and come out the other side with your sanity intact?  Kudos again to the K teachers for managing to pull this off!  And then on Thursday evening all the parents were invited in to see the books and learn more about what some of the other classes had been doing.

It was a great chance to celebrate the students' achievements and take a look at some of the other kids' books.  It was amazing the breadth of subjects the kids picked, and how excited they were to tell us all about what they wrote.  The kids do this each year, so by the time Liza graduates, we should have quite a library of her books!

The traditional spring "Wow, look how high the river is today" post

Yeah, I talk about the river a lot.  And we go there a lot, especially in the spring, because it's just so darn interesting.

The weather has been so weird this year that we didn't make it down to the river until last week.  We brought out rubber boots with us and scoped out a few favorite spots, like the frog pond.

An old friend - who may actually be old enough to remember us from previous years, if herons have enough brain cells for that - was remarkably tolerant of a certain Nosy Parker who wanted to watch him eat dinner.

 We climbed around on our favorite knobbly trees (as best we could while wearing rubber fireman boots).

We checked to make sure that the antique graffiti hadn't disappeared over the winter (it hadn't).

We made mudcastles and looked for crawdads (found one, too!). 

We took artsy photos we'll probably never get around to selling.

And, oh, yeah - we watched the whitewater kayakers.  

Kayaks! On our little bitty stream that's more of a drainage ditch than a river for 11 months of the year!

Seriously, these guys were having so much fun, and they were so cool about letting us watch and take pictures.  I wish I had gotten one of their e-mail addresses so I could send them some of the shots I got - they turned out really well, considering I have never even seen the sport in real life before.

It was a great end to a great afternoon.  Looking forward to more river adventures later this summer (when the water goes back down!).

Okay, this one actually isn't too terrible

Remember the Christmas concert?  Well, in order to get the full grade school experiences, Liza's school does a spring concert, as well.  It was mercifully shorter than the winter concert, and somewhere along the way this year most of the classes found a bucket in which to carry a tune, so it wasn't as painful, either.

The kindergarten and first grade kids performed songs from "Barnyard Moosical," with each class taking the part of a different animal.  Costumes were easy - try to dress vaguely like a farmer,

... and put on a chicken headband right before you go on stage.

Liza's been running around singing her performance song for the past few weeks, so we already knew it was going to be a cute song ... but when you get 22 kids up there doing the Funky Chicken Strut, the cute increases exponentially.

Isn't that impressive?  You can actually understand many of the words they're singing!  Way to go, 5- and 6-year-olds!

Thursday, May 19, 2011


There are few things more galling that having the time, energy, and willpower to work on a project with a deadline, only to be stymied by the weather.  Because in case you didn't notice, it's rained every day for more than a week here in Cleveland, and my yard isn't exactly well-drained.  It's miles beyond moist, past wet, and straight into "I'd need hipboots to go in and transplant those hostas today" territory.  Seriously, I have to put on my knee-high rubber boots to take stuff back to the compost pile, since otherwise the water slops over the tops of my shoes and gets my socks all muddy.  And that's in the drier section of the backyard ...

I spent the first couple days of the rain shopping for stuff for our new patio room - buying the light fixtures and ceiling fan we need to install, scoping out furniture and accessories we might want to get, things of that nature.  Tee-hee, look at me, I get a break from having to do stuff in the yard!  Construction is now two weeks behind schedule, and I've run out of places to put stuff while I'm waiting for the room, so I can't shop anymore.

Putting in the new fire pit patio thingee was accomplished during a 2-day break in the weather, and was only possible because I didn't mind that the ground underneath it was getting squished into hard-packed oblivion.  Planting our front beds got done mostly before the rain started, but I've been able to throw in a plant here and there when the rain abates, since the soil up front is much better drained than the soil in the back, but even then I sort of expected there to be a welling up of water in the bottom of the holes I dug.  I should have planted St. John's wort ... then I could just go out and graze for a while and feel better, right?  Nah, it wouldn't be worth the wacko dreams.

Earlier this week I spent part of the day cleaning the craft room, doing some filing and sorting that's been waiting all winter for me to feel like doing it.  Yay.

Yesterday I decided that sometimes you just have to give in and say, "Fuck it, you win, I'm going back to bed and maybe this will all be over when I wake up."  And when I woke up 3 hours later, lo and behold, the sun was shining!  True, there were big gray storm clouds on the horizon, but I had at least an hour-long window of opportunity, and I wasn't going to let it go to waste.  I high-tailed it over to the nursery and finally got the witch hazel I've wanted to add to the back yard, and I found a dwarf (actual fruiting) cherry tree that will look great in the front yard, and then - score! - I found a six-way espaliered apple tree.  Just the day before I had been telling Jason that I sort of wanted one of those to put in the edible garden up front, but nobody around here had them.  Never been so glad to be wrong in my life!

Of course, now I've got a 5' tall apple tree sitting in the middle of my front yard, waiting to be planted (or fall over in the wind and break off one of the grafts) ... which I can't do until I move the bush that's already there.  Which I can't do until the ground dries out some.  Which won't happen until tomorrow, at the earliest.  Which is when the rain is supposed to start again.

Gah.  Guess I'll put on the rubber boots and try to prune back the crocus foliage, or do something else that can be accomplished without actually stepping into any of my beds.

Or maybe I'll just say, "Screw it," and go see a movie.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I parent with a wooden spoon in hand

I thought we were past all of this, I really did.

Then a few months ago the dentist mentioned that he could see Liza's 6-year molars coming in.  Liza was all excited because these are the first permanent teeth she'll have, ones that won't fall out sometime during grade school (unless she keeps eating Reese's peanut butter cups at every meal and/or gets in a really good fistfight).

My reaction: Oh, crud, here we go again.

At least this time we can reason with her, right?

Yeah, that's not working out so well.

So far we've had the standard baby-teething symptoms, now in a new, bigger, louder, more understandable package.  Highlights of the past week:

  • snot
  • post-nasal drip
  • gum pain
  • bleeding gums
  • headaches
  • crankiness
  • irritability
This all came to a head Friday night, when I got to spend the hour before I managed to get her to sleep with her on my lap, crying and snotting all over my shirt and wailing about how much her gums hurt and how she didn't really need teeth anyway and she just wants it to STOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOP.  She had already used her fluoride rinse and couldn't eat or drink anything for half an hour, so most of the usual "teething" soothers were out of the question.  I gave her an ice cube to crunch on, but she didn't want that because the dentist who came to their school said that chewing ice is bad for your teeth.  Bet he doesn't have to deal with teething 6-year-olds at 10 pm much, or he'd rethink that bit of advice.

Anyway, with all of the baby teething toys long gone, all I could come up with was ... the handle of a wooden spoon that's so old it couldn't splinter if it wanted to.  So I gave her the spoon, tucked her in bed, and 10 minutes later the spoon handle was covered in tooth marks and she was sound asleep. 

I'm hoping she gets over this quick, as there could be definite downsides to using spoons as teethers for big kids:

Monday, May 16, 2011

Playing catch-up

Time to catch up on a few things that have been bumping around in my head recently.

1.  Did I mention that I'm using all edible plants to landscape my front yard this year?  You can see details of what I've got over on the Sustainable Summer blog (here).  I'll probably be posting most of the garden pictures there this year, at least from the veggie and herbs up front.  Might sneak a few pictures from my back yard in over here, but if you're looking for garden porn, Sustainable Summer is the place to go.

2.  You know how you always hear people talk about people who live on the edge of poverty, and how one or two small problems can put them over the edge into bankruptcy or foreclosure or homelessness?  And since most of us are relatively comfortable in the savings department, you sort of shrug it off because really, who has luck that bad?  We live quite comfortably and within our means, with a nice cushion of savings "just in case."  But so far this year we've had a plumbing project that was supposed to cost like $300 turn into a multi-thousand-dollar one, replaced a sump pump and installed a new backup system (which was optional, but necessary eventually), had medical tests done that will be several thousand dollars after insurance pays its part, had to take both cars to get repaired when one of them backed into the other in our driveway (which would have been $2400 if we hadn't had insurance), and had to replace a tire on my car when someone hit a curb with it wrong.  It's not like we're going to go bankrupt or end up homeless, but now that we've had a couple of months of hemorrhaging money it's much easier to understand now how things can go south really fast for other people, especially in families without medical or car insurance.  Note to self: show more compassion when it comes to poverty.

3.  Notice how I'm not assigning blame for the car incidents?  This is very magnanimous of me.  Just sayin'.

4.  Progressive auto insurance totally rocks!  They're headquartered near Cleveland, so maybe we get the best service and everyone else gets the dregs, but the whole "concierge" idea is awesome.  Basically, you set up an appointment to take your car to the concierge center, where their appraisers figure out what the repair to your car should cost.  You can either take a check for that amount and get it fixed elsewhere, or leave the car with them and they will have one of their local affiliate shops fix it while giving you a (free) rental car from the Enterprise dealer right on the site.  They practically fall all over themselves trying to make you comfortable and get the appraisal finished quickly and painlessly.  When the accident happened we were in the process of looking into other insurance companies that might have lower rates, but after the service we received for our claim, we're not looking anymore.  The extra $100 or whatever it is isn't worth the hassle you get from most companies.

5.  After a five-month hiatus, the American Girl doll has come back into play.

First, Liza made her a nice, balanced meal:
Then she read her a story:
And then we had to take her with us in the car when we went to the school spring concert, and pretend to share some of Liza's dinner with her later in the evening, and tuck her into her own bed that night.  Buying birthday presents would have been much easier if she'd decided to do this a couple weeks ago.

Friday, May 13, 2011

I loves me a big project now and then

So when I told Jason he could buy a fire pit thingy if he'd let me put it somewhere that it wouldn't burn holes in my yard every time he wanted to burn something, I'm not sure this is exactly what he had in mind:
That's 46 bags of pea gravel, a role of industrial-strength landscape cloth, three rolls of pound-in edging, a few bricks leftover from the patio I laid a few years ago, and a day and a half of my time.  And a bunch of grass I don't have to mow anymore!  Huzzah!

I wasn't kidding about the storm, guys

Yesterday a hail storm blew up out of nowhere, dumping shooter-marble-sized chunks of ice as fast as an in-door icemaker can. Luckily, it was a short storm - maybe five minutes before it switched to rain - so it didn't shred many of my plants. It was freakishly localized, too - we drove less than 10 miles north of our house and not only did they not get the hail, it was dry as a bone and hadn't seen a drop of rain all day.

Want a quick peek at why my cats ended up hiding in the closet during the storm? I'd turn down the volume on your speakers, if I were you.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

I love you, Jack

And I especially love that I started with one of you in 2007, had four of you in 2009, and have nine of you now:
I love you so much, I bought you two more friends to hang out with in your shady little swamp at the back of our yard.  And I crooned over them and told them how beautiful they were as I planted them, and I mulched around all of you lovingly, and I thought good thoughts and sang you songs and told you all how much I loved you.

Shhh, don't tell Jason that I'm spending more time with you guys than I am with him.  But that's only because it's spring and there's planting to be done and hardscaping to be installed:

And don't tell anyone that I may have found another favorite in these Shooting Stars, if only I can keep the little divas from wilting every. single. day.
When they describe the flowers as looking like badminton birdies, they aren't kidding, are they?  They aren't going to be as much of a source of joy to me all summer, though, as they die back in the summer ... that just gives me more time to admire your plump, juicy seeds, Jack!

Thursday, May 05, 2011

This is here for you when you need it.

animation by shaun moriarty music by ze frank

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

I love TED

Where else - other than the TED talks - can you painlessly learn more about how the digital world works from people who are extremely well-spoken yet still folks you wouldn't mind inviting to your barbecue?

Or see stuff that's so funny you remember it five years later?

I love you, TED.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Srsly, I've been sort of busy lately

You can read more about the epic Angry Birds party preparations here.  And here.  Also here.  And did I mention here?  I told you it was epic!

Also, please start humming "Sunrise, Sunset" while perusing the following photos:

5th birthday: http://mind-flush.blogspot.com/2010/05/thank-goodness-rain-held-off.html

4th birthday: http://mind-flush.blogspot.com/2009/05/whew.html

3rd birthday: http://mind-flush.blogspot.com/2008/05/more-partying.html

2nd birthday: http://mind-flush.blogspot.com/2007/05/taking-advantage-of-dsl-birthday-pics.html

1st birthday: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=9047701054124759441#