Monday, July 30, 2018

Pets and babies

Saturday night my friends Marla and Martina came over to hang out, and Marla brought baby Carsen so that Martina could meet her.

Little Carsen was fascinated by one of our aquariums and kept gazing at it:

No matter which way Marla held her, she turned her head for a better view. That little girl may have to have an aquarium in her nursery one day soon!

Marco, as always, wanted to be in the room with the company. He watched the baby carefully, with a great deal of interest, and then started talking to her! We were puzzled at first by what he said. He kept calling her "Chip". 

"Chip? Hey Chip! Heeeyyyy Chip...hey Chip-Chip! Wha cha doin'?" 

Chip, as some of you may remember, was a tiny sparrow that lived with us for years. I think that Marco was looking for a way to refer to the baby, and the best word he could come up with was the name of a small bird that he used to know! How smart is that? He does that kind of thing very often; I was mopping the kitchen floor the other day and he said, "Take a shower? Gonna take a shower?" because that was the closest word he had for something that involved cleaning with water.

Life with a parrot (much like life with a baby, I imagine) is never dull!

Marco perched on the shower door the other day, waiting for me to get in!

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Kitchen hacks...summer fruit edition

I saw the easiest, tidiest way to slice up a watermelon on YouTube the other day! I wish I had discovered this method years ago, and now I'm going to share it with you. 

Start off by cutting the watermelon in half. Lay one of the halves cut-side down on a cutting board, and with a sharp knife start peeling away the rind like so:

After peeling away all of the green outer rind and all of the white inner part, this is what you have:

Half a peeled watermelon reminds me (uncomfortably) of a brain. Ha!

Next, carefully score the melon with long, one inch slices both horizontally and vertically, holding it all together as you work. It will look something like this:

Now it's time for the magic! Find a bowl roughly the same size as your half melon, and put in down on top of it, like so....

then carefully (with one hand on the bottom of the bowl) flip the cutting board and bowl over and then move the board out of the way....and VOILA!

Perfectly sliced watermelon with almost zero mess! I think each half leaves a couple of tablespoons of juice on the cutting board, and that's all the cleaning you have to do. Is that a neat trick, or what?

I hope you all enjoyed my little "kitchen hack". Let me know if you decide to try it for yourself!

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

When it rains....

Remember when I mentioned in my last post that we just spent $300 to have our dryer repaired? Yesterday our washing machine decided to give up the ghost, too. It died right in the middle of a load, and wouldn't drain, wouldn't spin, wouldn't do a damn thing. Ugh!!

After consulting YouTube I did a little tinkering to rule out the most simple, obvious things. No good. I finally came to the conclusion that the washer had kicked the bucket, and rather than risk a big repair bill, I went out and bought a reconditioned (used) washer from a reputable used appliance dealer. There went another $300. They're supposed to deliver it tomorrow and take the old broken one away. I'm glad it's settled without too much trouble, but that's a total of $600 we've spent in less than a week.

And we wonder why we can never seem to save money!

Yesterday wasn't all bad, though. For one thing, when I got home in the afternoon I found a bag by my back door that contained this:

Marla had left them for me! Her grandma has a garden every year and always sends us yummy fresh vegetables. We had a couple of the tomatoes with our dinner last night, and they were the first really good tomatoes we've had this year!

Speaking of Marla...yesterday she finally let her husband announce the birth of baby Carsen on Facebook and post a few pictures. Since losing their first baby only a few days after she was born, they were very guarded about telling people they were expecting another. But now that she's here safely and doing well they're finally starting to relax....a little bit, anyway!

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Isn't she a cutie? I just love this little girl! Auntie Jenn is going to spoil her rotten! :)

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Late Summer Daybook

I've decided to borrow an idea I've seen around the Internet and occasionally write a "Daybook" post here on my blog, using prompts to get my ideas flowing and to capture a snapshot of my daily life at the moment. I hope you enjoy it! 

Outside my window...

it's a typical July, hot and humid, and we could use some rain. Early in the week, when we went out to walk the dogs just after sunset, we were treated to the sight of a gorgeous, golden crescent moon in the western sky with Venus shining like a jewel beside it. How I wished I had a camera capable of taking a good picture of it! Maybe someday...

I am thankful...

that I was able to find an appliance repair service that was able to send someone out immediately when our dryer died earlier this week. I was also grateful that it could be repaired and we were spared the expense of having to buy a new one on top of paying for the service call. The total cost was $300...not great, but much less than I feared. And we only had to do without a dryer for one day.

*Yes, I know that hanging out clothes is a no-cost, environmentally friendly solution to the problem, but clothes that are hung out to dry in our backyard end up smelling funny, possibly because our neighborhood is right in the middle of the city. 

From the kitchen...

It's the height of farmer's market season here, so fresh vegetables and fruit are cheap and delicious. I've been doing very minimal cooking on these hot days and keeping meals light and simple. For dinner last night I had peaches with vanilla yogurt. Delicious.

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Farm stand goodies!

I am reading...

the newest book by Naomi Novak, Spinning Silver, or at least I will be as soon as I can swing by the library and/or the bookstore. Hopefully the library, because again, I'm trying to save money! But Marla and Martina and I are planning to read this book for our next book club meeting and I need to start it soon. We loved Novak's last book, Uprooted, and had a really fun discussion party with themed foods and drinks that we had created (click here to read about it), so we're looking forward to a new Novak book! I hope it's as good as the last one!

I am hoping...

to finally finish a knitting project that I started......4 years ago! It's a large cowl knit on size 8 (US) circular needles, with 220 cast on stitches. The pattern is relatively simple, but I keep messing up and either adding or dropping a stitch and having to recount, then correct the mistake if I find it, and altogether it's been a real pain to knit! I think that's why I put it away for so long, and the guilt of the unfinished project kept me from picking it back up or else starting anything else. The yarn is beautiful (and was expensive) and I really want to own the finished cowl, so last week I decided to pull it out and start again. I'm finally making some progress on it and if I push myself, I think I can finish it before I go back to work. It's going to be a relief to finally be done with the damn thing!

I am thinking...

about the upcoming school year (I go back to work in 3 weeks) and some things I'd like to accomplish now that I feel settled and my job is no longer "new". We also have a new principal; regular readers will remember that the old one got in some legal trouble last May and lost her job. The 8th grade assistant principal, Mr. O, got promoted to take her place, and everyone (including me!) is so pleased! He's friendly and fair and great with the kids, and has the respect of the whole school. I'm so glad he got the promotion! 

Around the house...

cleaning, organizing, and purging continues. We're asking around for recommendations for a realtor, and are hoping to buy a house and get moved in before the end of this year. Better to go through our stuff now than to have to do it all once we're in the process of moving.

I am working...

on cultivating patience on my weight loss journey. I've lost 22 pounds so far, but it's taken almost three months to do so and I have a lot left to go. I had hoped to lose a little faster than this, but I'm working with my doctor and following her good advice. She says I have a much better chance of maintaining the loss if I proceed slowly and focus on changing my habits. I know this is true and good advice, but I want big results....yesterday!

I do realize that 22 pounds is a great start, and it's also a significant percentage of the how much I hope to lose in total. I'm eating in a way that will be sustainable once I get to my goal weight. And even better than the pounds I've taken off so far, my blood pressure (top number) dropped over 20 points and went from the "pre hypertension" to the "ideal" range! So that's a win right there!

I am listening...

to the sound of George gently snoring at my feet as I type this.

Celebrating the season...

"I celebrate myself, and what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.
I loafe and invite my soul,
I lean and loafe at my ease... observing a spear of summer grass."
-  Walt Whitman

"Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer's day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time."
-  John Lubbock

Summer is in full swing here, and although I haven't made it to the beach yet (I'm hoping that might be possible one afternoon before I go back to work) I have had the opportunity to go swimming two or three times at my friend Marian's house with a couple of other friends. Nothing feels better than a pool on a hot July afternoon! I love floating on my back, watching the clouds drifting across the sky and the occasional hawk soaring high, high up. Swimming at Marian's is a double treat because her husband, Bruce, will serve as our bartender and waiter, bringing pitchers of margaritas and platters of snacks out to us to enjoy poolside.

The end of July contains two birthdays to celebrate: my friend Martina's is today, July 21, and my dad's is July 30. Next Saturday night Martina and Marla are coming over to have cake and wine to celebrate Martina, and then the following Monday my mom is hosting a small family cook out for dad's big day. Gregg and I will be bringing the birthday cake, as there's no good bakery in the small town where my parents live. I might even attempt to bake dad's cake myself, but I haven't told anyone that just in case I lose my nerve (or it turns out badly). In any event, I'll have to be extra strict with my diet this week, to make room for birthday cake twice next weekend!

We're in the middle of the annual Perseid meteor shower! The Perseids are one of the brighter showers of the year and are visible between July 17th and August 24. This year the peak is supposed to be the night of August 12-13 when it will be possible to see up to 150 meteors per hour! I go back to work on August 13th, but I plan to try to stay up late to catch a little of the show if the weather is good. I can't resist the chance to have dozens of shooting starts to wish upon! I hope we have clear skies that weekend.

"The sun is a huntress young,
The sun is a red, red joy,
The sun is an Indian girl,
Of the tribe of the Illinois.
The sun is a smouldering fire,
That creeps through the high gray plain,
And leaves not a bush of cloud
To blossom with flowers of rain.
The sun is a wounded deer,
That treads pale grass in the skies,
Shaking his golden horns,
Flashing his baleful eyes.
The sun is an eagle old,
There in the windless west.
Atop of the spirit-cliffs
He builds him a crimson nest."
-  Vachel Lindsay, An Indian Summer Day on the Prairie

The first week of August hangs at the very top of summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless, and hot. It is curiously silent, too, with blank white dawns and glaring noons, and sunsets smeared with too much color. Often at night there is lightning, but it quivers all alone. ~Natalie Babbitt, Tuck Everlasting

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Your laugh for the day

I'm loving this video by James Corden from the Late Late Show as Robert Mueller featuring Shaggy (as Donald Trump) singing their version of "It Wasn't Me". After yesterday, we can all use a laugh, I think.


Tuesday, July 10, 2018


Today I had to be up and out of the house early, because there was a court hearing for the child I'm a GAL for. I don't think I told you all about meeting this little guy. He's in the care of his great grandparents because his mother has addiction issues and mental illness. He's been with them since he was a month old, and he's thriving in their care. He has big blue eyes and a goofy, two-toothed grin, and is just about the most adorable toddler you ever saw. He was immediately taken with me when I visited the first time, crawling over to me, pulling himself up, and holding out his arms for me to pick him up. He sat in my lap the whole time I was there, and would have happily left with me if we had allowed it! His g-grandma said, "I'm sorry, have to stay here with the old folks!" They're very nice people and are giving the boy (and his teenaged half brother) a safe and loving home. They allow the mother to visit whenever she wants to, but they know that the likelihood of her ever being able to care for him properly is low. She's in and out of mental institutions and drug rehab, and her live-in boyfriend (the little boy's father) just got out of prison and has addiction problems of his own.

My GAL assignment is a lucky boy to have loving relatives willing and able to take him in and raise him, so there's no question of his ending up in foster care. I do feel sorry for the grandparents, though. Little B is a delightful child and seems to have outgrown the withdrawal issues he had at birth, but I can't imagine taking on the burden of any 13 month old child at their age. The day I visited happened to be their 50th wedding anniversary, and this is their great grandchild. They love him and want him, though, and it's obvious that they're taking excellent care of him. The judge at the hearing this morning thanked them on behalf of the court and of the state for what they're doing for this child. It made my eyes tear up a little; this particular judge is my favorite because he always speaks so kindly and respectfully to everyone who comes before him in court. He's very wise, and more than fair, and has a gentle sense of humor that I really appreciate. He also thanked me in court today for serving as this boy's Guardian. How nice is that?

This case goes back to court at least one more time, in late August, and I'm about to take on a new case that has a hearing in only two weeks. I'll have to jump right in and arrange to meet the child (or children) so that I can have a report ready by July 23. I'm trying to get in as many cases as possible while I'm out of school for the summer. I won't be able to take on many new ones once I'm back at work.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Free Bird

Last night, after we put the dogs out for the evening, somebody had the run of the house until bedtime.

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The little devil is also hanging out with me as I type this, sneaking sips of my coffee. As you may remember, he loves coffee. Loves it.

It's getting warmer outside and will soon be time to make him go back to his cage for awhile so the dogs can come in. He's not going to like it one little bit!

Friday, July 6, 2018

Dog days at home

Remember when I told you that our dog Ginger hated to come inside the house and we had to make her do it to escape the heat? Well, she's quickly come to appreciate air conditioning and now we have to make her go back outside at night! What a change!

Both of the dogs have decided that they love being indoors, and they've mostly been good as gold when they're in here. Unfortunately, Marco the bird is NOT happy with this arrangement because he has to stay in his cage all day (except for a few minutes here and there when I close off the back half of the house where the dogs like to nap) until we put them back out for the night. It's been a real pain, confining him to his cage so much because he screams and screeches with frustration. I don't blame him, either. But we don't dare trust the dogs with him, as they've both been known to catch and kill squirrels in the past. And Marco wouldn't know any better but to fly right up to them with his typical parrot cockiness. This is the main reason the dogs have always lived in the garage, laundry room, and backyard, to ensure Marco's safety....but it's too darn hot for that right now, so we all have to manage the best we can. The dogs are getting terribly spoiled, though.

Speaking of spoiled (and entitled) let me tell you what Ginger did on the 4th of July. I had cooked a special meal to mark the holiday and to have a small break from my diet. We had fried chicken, homemade biscuits, corn on the cob, fresh tomatoes and cucumbers, and a baked cherry crumble made with fresh cherries I had spent the afternoon pitting. Well, when it was time to eat dinner we decided to eat in the den in front of the tv so we could watch a movie. We had just put our plates of food down on the coffee table, and Gregg went to the bathroom while I went back to the kitchen for something to drink. When I came back, guess what I saw? Our "good" dog, Miss Ginger, had helped herself to a fried chicken drumstick off Gregg's plate!  I couldn't help but laugh even though it was a very naughty thing to do. As I said, she's our "good" dog, our "smart, well behaved, never does anything wrong" dog....and there she was, a chicken thief! Poor Georgie, who always gets blamed for being a wild child and is always in trouble, wouldn't have dared to do such a thing! Haha.

Marla came to visit the other day and brought baby Carsen. It was their first trip out together without daddy (he was at work). I made George go outside while they were here. He means well, but he's huge (88 pounds) and goofy and excitable and I wasn't comfortable having him around such a small baby. Ginger, on the other hand, is steady and sensible and well behaved, and so I let her stay inside and meet Carsen. She was fascinated with that tiny little human! She sniffed her carefully, wagged, and then sat at Marla's feet and watched the baby closely. Every time Carsen fussed a little Ginger would gently touch her foot or hand with her nose, and her eyes were full of concern. Gregg and I were so surprised at how much Ginger seemed to like her, given that she's never been around babies, and only rarely has been exposed to children at all. It was really sweet!

I feel like I'm spending my whole summer watching over the dogs since they're in the house. George has done one bad thing--he got a paperback novel and chewed it up while I was in the other room one day, and I also caught him with one of my socks in his mouth another time. I'm trying to be vigilant about watching him so that nothing of value gets destroyed, because chewing is his favorite thing to do when he's bored. I feel like I have two kids tying me down these days! Make that three if you count Marco.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

For those who feel discouraged this Fourth of July

My friend Lunaea Weatherstone shared this on Facebook today, and I asked her permission to share it here with you all. I think it's worth reading for those of us in America (and our friends abroad) who are dismayed at the way things are going in this country under the Trump administration, and for those of us who feel conflicted about celebrating our nation's birthday tomorrow. 

*stepping carefully up onto the soapbox*
Dear friends, I’m seeing a lot of people here saying that it’s a farce to celebrate the Fourth of July, given the current state of the government and its atrocities and the deplorable people who support them. It seems to me that this is exactly the wrong attitude for this holiday. Sure, the Fourth has become mostly about fireworks and weekend sales events and what’s on the grill. A day for flag-wavers and yahoos who enjoy loud noises and how many ways you can find to decorate with red-white-and-blue.
I propose that those of us who are feeling disgust with America look back to the original point of this holiday -- the reason for the season, if you will forgive me. This is Independence Day. The day we finally said we were mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. But what EXACTLY were we rebelling against? I realized I had only a vague idea, along the lines of “oppression bad, freedom pretty.”
So I thought I’d amble over to a history site and read the Declaration of Independence all the way through. Out loud. Everyone knows the second line (“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”), but nowadays we tend to hear *record scratch* after “all men are created equal” and start arguing about slavery and other very bad things. There are flaws in this document and its intentions, for sure. Farther down, there are references to Native Americans that are painful to read, knowing what we know now.
And yet, setting those things to the side just for the moment, without disavowing their importance, I invite you to read the whole thing, aloud, and see if some of this doesn’t ring a liberty bell for us, right here, right now. I’ve pulled a few relevant bits, and just for fun, I changed the villain’s name. 😎
The history of [President Trump] is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. …
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
… He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither…
…He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people …
… cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us…
…In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A [president] whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
…And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.
So let’s do that tomorrow. Let’s make July 4, 2018, our renewal of that mutual pledge to each other. Let’s be mindful of what the real America is. What it should be, what it can be. What it was meant to be. And let’s take it back. πŸŽ†πŸŽ‡πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡ΈπŸ§™‍♀️πŸ§™‍♂️
Thank you for your kind attention.
*stepping carefully off the soapbox*

Sunday, July 1, 2018