Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The new chair finds a home...

Remember that awesome chair I trash picked a few days ago? I decided to do something radical with it.

I put it on the porch. I know. Hold yourself.

The funny thing about the porch is that before this summer we rarely used it. In spite of being heated, it tends to be cold in the winter and hot in the summer. This summer however, has been uncharacteristically cool and the porch has been the place to be this summer. We tend to all fight over the one comfy chair in the corner of the windows. Lily in particular will disappear for hours on that chair, reading and playing with the dogs.

The other chairs are wicker, which are very pretty, but not super comfortable for a few hours of reading.

We've been talking about experimenting with putting a space heater on the porch this winter so that we can continue our porch love affair. This got me thinking about seating on the porch and I immediately conjured up an image of cozy reading in the new chair. Since Fall is right around the corner I decided to go ahead and bring the wicker chairs to the basement and bring the new chair front and center.

I decided to stack my newly trash picked vintage cooler, as well as some of my tin baskets for visual interest.

When Fall really begins I'll put out some mums, plaid blankets, and pumpkins. Are you thinking about fall? If you are, you'll love this piece about decorative gourd season.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Death, Electricity, Shopping...

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Actually, for me it was the best of times, for Lily it was the most unconcerned of times and for Rebecca it was the saddest of times. What single event could elicit such different reactions? It was the death of our last hermit crab whose name was (I think), Nemo. Nemo was part of a hermit crab dyad which David purchased for the children out of guilt about three years ago. He'd been working and traveling for months and he decided that pleasing the children with hideous pets was better than having me on speaking terms with him.

When he presented the crabs, the children were enthralled. For about ten minutes. I told David that these crabs were not going to be my responsibility because at the time we had four cats and two dogs and I was not to be held responsible for keeping one more animal alive in my house. For the first few years they lived in David's office, but in the last year they made their way into the house, though why this happened is a mystery.

It is benign neglect for which we have to thank for the crabs living as long as they did. We'd feed them, put some water in their tank, but generally they were ignored. Yesterday I realized that it had been a while since I'd heard Nemo plotting his escape so I took a closer look at him. He seemed unresponsive. I tapped him a bit and his claw came off.

My heart lifted! One less animal to maintain! Call me cold hearted, a mammal elitist- I will own these labels. The only thing I won't own are any more hermit crabs.

In other news, our cape trip has been postponed because my folks are still without power on the cape. They are fine otherwise and grateful that they are without power while the weather is warm and the grill is available. Still, I can't help but think that perhaps Santa should leave them a generator under the tree this year at Christmas.

Finally, I caught Lily in that rarest of moods. She wanted to go clothes shopping. Generally she's not much of a shopper, but today after sorting through her fall clothes from last year and realizing that she had outgrown nearly everything she was ready. We had most of our success at The Children's Place where I purchased six shirts and six pairs of pants for $104.00. That's only slightly pricer than the junk store!

Hope everyone is recovering from the hurricane and squeezing some fun out of the last days of August.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Notes from the hurricane...

Today Hurricane Irene arrived, though by the time she got here she was a Tropical Storm. As you know, we were prepared with batteries, ice cream and Doritos and luckily only the ice cream and Doritos were needed. I suffered a minor injury when some cheesy Dorito powder went into my paper cut, but when one considers the dire hurricane predictions, I feel grateful to have come out with only the stinging pan of artificial cheese on bare flesh.

The hurricane gave me the chance to get a few things done which had been nagging at me. One such thing was finalizing and ordering the assorted curricula for the education of my children. I finally decided to go with History Odyssey which I think will be both interesting and a whole lot of fun. I also sent off my Letter of Intent and Educational Plan so that the Education Police will not come and drag my children into school for standardized testing.

Now that those plans are in place we can attempt to enjoy our final week of summer. Poor Rebecca continues to suffer from her Mystery Illness. The only thing that any of the tests showed was low Vitamin D. The theory seems to be that because her Vitamin D is low her body is having a hard time fighting off whatever virus she has. The hope is that by upping her Vitamin D will help her body fight off this stupid virus.

This week the girls and I will visit my folks on the cape. Rebecca can rest with Nana and Aunt Lois while Lily and I go hang with my old pal Julian and his family. Some fried clams, a change of scenery and some sand in our shoes- summer is not ending without a fight!

Friday, August 26, 2011

I am an English boot wearer!

I am too tired for a proper post so I will share this. In the midst of my hurricane preparations I took a few minutes to stop at Global Thrift for a look see. There I found a wonderful pair of brand new boots from Marks and Spenser which is a British store. It has the original price tag which is written in pounds! Pounds I tell you! This will inspire me to swear in the English fashion when I wear them instead of the more traditional American fashion. I will not tell anyone which boots I am wearing, but when they hear me say "sodding!" "bloody!" etc, they will know and envy my clever English boots.

In hurricane news, the Dorito's have been purchased, the phone is charging and we are as ready as we will get. At the risk of being an obvious git (Ha! Tricked you! I am not wearing my boots right now, but they are nearby.) please stay safe!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Stroke or Earthquake? hard to say...

Nothing happened today that was very interesting at all but I will try to find something to tell you about anyway. I did some laundry. I scooped the cat box. I reorganized my office.

The biggest focus of the day has been preparing the hurricane box.

I have five bottles of water, five flashlights, many scented candles, a filled propane tank for the grill if we lose power, and enough batteries to run the house for weeks.

Tomorrow I am going to the grocery store to see if there is any food left. Hopefully there will be some Doritos and chocolate chip cookies left because I would hate to be in an emergency situation without the essentials.

I have also taken an informal poll regarding yesterdays earthquake. It seems that anyone over the age of sixty who experiences an earthquake firstly assumes that they are having a stroke. When questioned about it my dad said that he thought he was having a stroke but did not bring it to the attention of Nana, because it is his preferred way of dealing with mysterious medical conditions. Luckily, it turned out to be an earthquake so it is a system which is working out pretty well for him.

That's all I have for you tonight. My cold is making my face itchy and my nose stuffy and my head hurty, and so I will go to bed and look forward to a another day of exciting disaster preparedness tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Good roadside trash...

Today began with Lily crawling into bed with me and refusing to get out. She did not seem sick so much as stubborn and I felt uninspired to argue with her. I brought her a bowl of goldfish crackers and the roku remote and got on with my day.

Rebecca and I had to be at the doctors office at 9:45 for a strep test (negative) and another exam and discussion about Rebecca's Mystery Illness. The plan is to test for a vitamin D deficiency and then to simply wait it out. If after six weeks it has not resolved we'll see a specialist, but all of the test results show a healthy child- who is tired and running a low-grade fever. I have decided not worry about it and this is precisely what I was doing when I spotted some promising looking trash on the curb in Lexington.

You have perhaps heard of Lexington. It featured quite heavily in the Revolutionary War and is now home to many rich people with old houses. There are regular people in Lexington too, but I bet that their trash is not nearly so good to pick through as the rich peoples trash. As I was driving down the road I saw a sweet chair in my favorite color of green apple. I hit the brakes and pulled over so that Rebecca and I could examine the find. Dusty, but very serviceable!

I took it home and pulled the old crumbling foam from the seat cushion. After the slipcover was washed and the cushion seat stuffed it looked very nice indeed. The fabric of the which the slipcover is made is nearly identical to the fabric my mother used to recover a recliner about thirty years ago.

When I returned home with my chair around noon, Lily was still in bed watching TV and she had convinced David to fetch her some chinese food for lunch. Since I have a cold I thought it best that I have a little soup and kill some zombies which is a very therapeutic thing to do when you have a cough and congestion.

I had to go out for a bit in the afternoon and when I got home at 4:15 Lily was still in bed. In fact, she had not even been downstairs all day. I went upstairs to announce to the children that the afternoon had become quite windy, which means only one thing- it is time to play "Teddy Goes Flying!". This game is played by throwing Lily's rakish teddy bear into the wind and seeing where he falls.

There was much joy at the news of the wind and it inspired Lily to get out of her pajamas and into real clothes. Teddy had a grand time being thrown about the yard, though he narrowly escaped becoming stuck on the garage roof. There is no end to the adventure in our family.

The fresh air and bear throwing seemed to revive Lily and she played happily with Lincoln logs for two hours, pausing only to eat some left over pizza and bounce on the new green chair.

Yesterday we had an earthquake, but I felt nothing. I am hoping that Hurricane Irene lives up to the hype. I plan on doing a big shop on Friday. I will purchase batteries, kitty litter, ice cream and stew ingredients. What do you cook when the weather gets bad?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Je suis malade...

Sunday and Monday were all about being a grownup.

Doing stuff. Making it happen. Setting goals and making them realities.

My plan was to continue being a grownup everyday for the rest of my life and so this morning I got up, had some coffee and started the laundry. I came up with some grownup plans for my office nook, but the thought of executing those plans was exhausting. I decided to execute them another day.

Then I started putting the slipcovers on the chairs and sofa and felt very tired. And headachy. And my throat felt scratchy and I realized that my body was forcing me to stop being a grownup and get into bed.

I have been here ever since, popping motrin and cough medicine and killing zombies with plants.

Many of All six of my readers have been wondering about the state of Rebecca's Mystery Illness. This morning the pediatrician called to tell me that all of the results came back normal, even and most especially the one which would have pointed to some of the Big Scary Illnesses like cancer. We go back in to the doctor tomorrow for a strep test, even though it seems unlikely since her sore throat just started. Interestingly, my child has no fear of having blood taken at all. Since the age of three she has happily sat through blood draws like it was a walk in the park. Throat cultures on the other hand leave her shaking like jelly. Luckily our appointment is in the morning so she won't be worrying about it all day.

Lastly, I dreamt that it was Christmas eve and I had forgotten to buy a Christmas tree. I also dreamt about cutting my hair.

Now you know everything.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Not hacked to bits, but crazy none the less...

It turns out that being a grownup is exhausting. It requires far more energy to sweep stairs and clean the attic than it does to solve murders via Law and Order reruns and as such, I am both smelly and tired.

Remember that huge crap purge I did this spring? Let me tell you, it made a huge difference in cleaning up the basement (yesterday) and the attic (today). The attic only took about an hour since all that was really required was for me to put the luggage away properly and put away four bins worth of dress up clothes. I was quite pleased with myself, so pleased in fact that I had ice cream for lunch.

My most ridiculous project by far is my latest round of slipcover dyeing. I have finally found a Rit Dye recipe with which I am happy (1 package of scarlet, 1 package of wine) and have proceeded to buy out the local craft shops of these colors. This has required much driving around. This is the sort of project which cannot be accomplished without much swearing, not because it is particularly difficult (it requires almost no skill), but because the timing is critical.

The dye must be poured into the washer and allowed to agitate. Only after it has agitated a few minutes can the (already wet) slipcover be put in. Then the washer must be allowed to agitate vigorously. My washer only allows for a 15 minute agitation cycle which means that I must not become distracted by Plants vs. Zombies and forget to pause the cycle and allow the whole mess to steep like my mothers tea. (If you knew my mother you would understand this reference. Like a good woman of French Canadian lineage she makes her first cup of tea when she wakes up and allows it to steep for hours before she finally drinking it after reheating it in the microwave. I promise that right now somewhere in my mothers house, tea is steeping.) The longer the steeping, the better the color. Inevitably I become distracted by a dog, an email or my important job of killing zombies with plants and then I jump up, swear loudly and run down the basement steps to fling open the washer so that I am not a complete fabric dye failure.

Why do I get involved in such insanity? Because spending $40 on fabric dye is cheaper than buying actual new slipcovers and allows me to indulge in my English housewife fantasy. Why do I imagine that English housewives spend their days stirring pots of fabric dye? I have no idea, but it comforts me, so please do not tell me otherwise.

Today also involved the purchase and application of some spackle. I got the heavy duty stinky sort of spackle because the area in need of spackle happens to be the ceiling above David's CPAP machine and I felt that perhaps this was not an area in which I should skimp. 

Today I dyed three IKEA chair slipcovers. I still have the couch to do and I am sorry to say, I have run out of wine colored dye and will have to venture out again tomorrow for more.

We are on Day 17 of Rebecca's mystery illness. We should know more sometime this week when the blood work results come in, but in the meantime I am taking her out on short outings. To craft stores. Several times a day. A mother's love knows no bounds.

Lastly, you may remember that several articles of clothing had gone missing from around the house. The items in question were a bikini of mine, a bra and some of Lily's clothes. My experience as a reader of mystery novels told me that my things had been undoubtedly stolen by a mad serial killer and I was going to be hacked to bits any day. In turns out that all of the clothes were at my dad's house where I left them the last time we visited. Crisis averted.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

In which we are very nearly grown-ups...

When I was a kid my dad was always working on the house and yard. There were the inside projects and the outside projects. He'd come home from work, put on his work clothes and mow the lawn or fertilize or build something. Weekends were for the big projects like retrieving used railroad ties from the sides of the tracks to use in our massive vegetable garden. He'd then excavate the area and install the ties. There was always something that needed fixing or building and he was always there doing it. Now he's retired and he still always has a list of projects. Right now he is rebuilding the rails on his deck and no doubt is working on his list of winter indoor projects for when it's too cold to work outside.

I too always have a running list, but I am way more of a slacker than my dad. I have a few excuses. My husband usually works around the clock and so all of the projects must be done by me alone. The children need supervision and education. Hard work gets boring. Murder mysteries are interesting.

This summer has been different. Things are getting done. One of the biggest changes was that David took two solid weeks off from work after his shoot. He had time to sleep and relax and this has given him to energy to tackle some house projects which have been nagging us for years.

Some are embarrassingly simple. For example, the gun part of our sink hose has been broken for about five years. In all of that time we would just look at it and think, "My god, how will we ever fix that." Last night David decided that he would fix it. He did some research about turning off the water valve and headed to the hardware store. He had an entire new hose mechanism in his hand when he noticed that the gun part could be purchased separately and could be screwed on to the existing hose.

Five years of living like droopy-eyed one arm children only to discover that the repair would cost $8, take two minutes to install and would require no actual skill.

This sort of discovery has emboldened us. Suddenly the vast list of things to fix, tidy, paint and clean seems completely within our grasp! Where we were once feeble home economic invalids we are now mighty home improvement warriors!

Proof of this fresh resolve can be found on my driveway. The cracks are sealed. The sealcoat and applicator brush are purchased. All that stands between us and a repaired driveway is a rinse with TSP and the heady smell of fresh tar being spread across 1,000 square feet of driveway. We are even sealing over the painted bricks, which means that after the sealcoat is done, I will be faced with the task of repainting the bricks.

We will not be daunted. The driveway will be repaired, the bricks will be painted, because this is Sparta! And we are grownups.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Miscellany, sickness and squalor...

The last few weeks have been quite vexing here at Shiny Red Houses. Rebecca has been running a low grade fever for fifteen straight days. Her symptoms are primarily fever and malaise. We are onto our second round of blood tests. The first round came back negative for all of the usual suspects- lyme, mono etc. So now we wait for some answers next week. Meanwhile, Rebecca seems to be adjusting to her new life as a sick person. We've been taking short outings so that she doesn't get completely depressed by a lack of human contact.

This summer I have been trying to tackle a lot of the big house projects. Today David spent about three hours in a crouched position filling in the driveway cracks which were on their way to becoming a tourist attraction. Who needs the Grand Canyon when you've got your very own Driveway Canyon of Doom? I spent the day trying to beat back the squalor that has crept into every corner and crevice of the house. So much fur, dust and cobwebs. Where does it all come from? Why does the fur accumulate on the stairs? These are the questions which have no answers.

As part of my house beautification project I did a lot of painting. The kitchen cabinets all got a fresh coat, as did the bedroom doors. You know what I finally painted? The spots on the ceilings in almost every room where I did not do a great job of keeping the wall paint off of the ceiling. My most dramatic ceiling accomplishment involved sanding down the flaking paint off of the kitchen ceiling and repainting it.

I know how to live.

Summer is winding down for us. The dark comes earlier, the evenings are cooler. Our local beach closes next week and all too soon the sweet laziness of summer will end. This summer has been the perfect antidote to our busy spring. David's been home and we've all recovered from his two month shoot.

We've all started to look forward to fall a bit I think. The mornings warming up by the fire, the crunch of the leaves under our feet, time alone with the gorillas. I want the house projects done, so there are no distractions- only large concentrations of coziness.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

In fact, we did start the fire...

I am sorry to say that the Great Wasp Attack of 2011 slowed down my yard projects. It's hard to remain enthusiastic for painting fake bricks on your driveway when there is a buzzing hive of venomous wasps just waiting for you to go near it. Yesterday I sprayed an entire can of wasp killer on the nest. A few hours later I threw some rocks at the nest from the safety of my kitchen window to see if any angry wasps emerged.  I threw one basketball and three rocks at the nest. No wasps responded. I figured I was in the clear.

This morning however, I was dismayed to find that there were more wasps patrolling the nest. How could this be?!! My battle against the wasps was escalating into a full blown hornet zombie war. I sprayed another can of poison on the nest and then waited. I threw more rocks. Nothing happened. Still, I was nervous. The bag and nest needed to be removed, yet I was hesitant to try to move it because I have learned that wasps are jerks and their stings really hurt.

Luckily for me, Amy showed up. Amy has so many virtues. She is funny and kind and pretty and patient. She is also stupidly unafraid of bees, so she was more than happy to investigate the nest. How brave/stupid is Amy? She poked it with a stick!

It was a good thing that Amy did poke that nest with a stick because otherwise I would not have known that the nest was still home to a family of healthy and thriving larva. In some of the holes we could even see wasps trying to emerge. It was like wasp spontaneous regeneration! We debated how best to handle them. They needed to die and I was out of wasp killer.

I suggested we drown them in Tilex, but Amy had a better idea.


I went searching for my lighter and Amy asked if I had lighter fluid.

We chose not to over think this fire idea. Setting the nest on fire was an extremely appealing idea to us and it seemed like the sort of idea that upon more careful consideration might seem like a Bad Idea. We turned on the hose so we could put out the towering wasp inferno if we needed to. I nixed the idea of lighter fluid because that seemed like a great way to have the fire department show up, and I really didn't want that story to be part of my blog post. Now if it had brought a hunky FBI agent into the picture...

We started the fire. The larva did not scream, so that was a disappointment. I think that Amy and I were hoping for a great bonfire of destruction, but the pile was wet so we mostly had smoke, some flame and and some nicely roasted larva. After the larva were mostly dead we squished them with our shoes. That part was very unsettling and truly disgusting.

Then we spent some time poking around the nest and leaf pile looking for any survivors who needed squishing. There were none. We were like the marines and the honey badger all rolled into one.

This will undoubtedly be the most exciting thing to happen to me all month. All I have happening now is trying to figure out who stole my bikini and Lily's bathing suit. Ideas?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

I am an idiot: Example 652

Today I mulched and mulched and mulched. Mulch both delights and destroys me. I love how quickly it can tidy up a yard. It is the lipstick of the landscaping world. The part about mulching which quite literally destroys me is the hauling of mulch bags around the yard. It turns out that I am not as buff as I had hoped.

While out working today I noticed that one of the yard waste bags which I'd filled eight weeks ago and never brought to the curb (see yesterdays admission of laziness) had some bees buzzing around it. Hmmmmm, I thought. I should spray that or something. I found a can of flying insect poison and sprayed the area and considered the job done.

You know why I considered the job done? Because I am an idiot.

As the day wore on I decided that I would be an actual grown-up and re-bag the neglected yard waste bags and bring them to the curb for trash day tomorrow. I was determined that the sun would not set before I had accomplished this chore. So determined was I that I continued my work in the rain.

In retrospect, it was the rain which made me cocky. I thought, well, I have already sprayed the bag and it's raining. Bees probably hate rain! And it was with that thought that I pulled up the bag from its rotted out bottom.

Suddenly there were bees everywhere! It turns out that they don't care about flying insect poison and are undaunted by rain. I started shrieking and flailing and ran into the house. I looked down at my clothes- bees! I ripped off my clothes while screaming and stomping. By the time I stopped freaking out I had been stung twice. There were several bees in the house which I killed, including a huge bad-ass wasp.

Then I went to the basement and got out a can of wasp killer. I opened the screen of the kitchen window and sprayed that nest to hell. I am nervous though. I thought flying insect spray would be enough. I thought rain would protect me. It seems that my judgement is seriously flawed when it comes to bee management.

What say you mighty internet? Will the bees be dead by morning or are they plotting their revenge? I am still waiting to find out what I am supposed to do about the maggots.

How many months till winter?

Monday, August 1, 2011

In which I ramble...

It's August. It's August and I can feel summer slipping away from beneath my fingers. The orange pink fabric of summer is so fine that I can barely feel it as it pulls away. I think that what I appreciate most about summer is that the rest of the world is on the same sort of schedule that the girls and I are on all year. Homeschooling gives us time for sleep and friends, for lazy novel reading and an obsession with gorillas. This summer has felt like a gift, a breath in the midst of waiting and wondering.

This awareness of summer's inevitable passing also has me scrambling to get some projects done which I have been ignoring in favor of loafing. Top of the list are dealing with my yard (mulching, weeding, mowing) and repainting the bricks on my driveway. Some of my newer readers may not know that I suffer from a mental illness which compels me to paint things which no sane person would.

Exhibit A: The Driveway


See those bricks? I painted those on the blacktop of my never ending driveway and now the paint has faded and must be redone. Today I bought the paint so that must mean I am serious. Before I paint the bricks I must clean the fence. After I clean the fence I need to pull the weeds and clean the driveway. After I clean the fence, pull the weeds and clean the driveway, I need to fill in the cracks. Once those things are done I can begin to paint. Yay me.

There is one serious downside to summer. Maggots. I know, so many of my posts feature maggots, but I need some support here. Now look, I know I am kind of a lazy chick. I am prone to cutting corners, especially tedious ones. One corner which I cut involves the trash. When I take out the kitchen trash to put into the barrel outside, I close up the bag and tie it, but I don't double bag, or reinforce or do whatever the hell I am supposed to do to ensure that flies do not get into the bag and start families. The flies, quite simply, adore my trash. It is apparently the perfect place to raise a family. I know this because when I took out some trash tonight I nearly lost my dinner when I saw the maggots crawling along the sides of the trash barrel.  How do grown-ups prevent maggots in their trash? I have no idea. I am essentially a ten year old with a mortgage.

Would you like a child update while I am here blogging and everything? The kids rock. No seriously, they do. I feel this especially strongly because they are at camp all week and I am allowed the luxury of enjoying them from a distance for six hours a day. We have been continuing our school work throughout the summer. Rebecca is no longer crying over fractions and Lily has discovered home much fun rhyming poems are to write.

David and I are enjoying him being home. Two months is far too long for us to be apart. We are really not that sort of couple.

So there you are: Paint, maggots, loafing, fractions and true love. You?