Monday, March 31, 2014

A List

So.  Haven't posted in a week or so, which maybe was a nice break for you.  It was kind of a... I don't know, melancholy week for me, not because of anything specific and not because anything bad happened, but more because the black dog that's usually at least five steps behind me was only one or two paces back, and while I really don't care for the internet practice of only posting sunshine! rainbows! our family is happyhappyhappy all the time! because I feel it's dishonest and leads those viewing this skewed, technicolor version of life to feel pretty crappy about their own real, imperfect life, I likewise disdain those who log on solely to spread bleakness and a perpetual woe-is-me message, and had I posted at all last week, the latter is what you most likely would have gotten.  (<----Hello, run-on sentence!)  Basically, I'm impossible to please.

Now that I'm on a more even keel, I do believe it's time for a list.

  • A few weeks ago, Caedmon and I were in his room, him "cooking" a meal for me in his play kitchen, me sitting on the floor waiting for the plastic food feast.  He first served me a plastic drumstick, then plastic bananas, then a plastic waffle, and finally a plastic hot dog.  I fake-gobbled it all up, but declined when he began urging a plastic hamburger on me, saying, "Oh, no, I couldn't.  I'm just too full!"  He stopped what he was doing, a look of real concern on his face, brought his face to within a few inches of mine, and carefully told me, "Mommy?  It's just pretend."  This from the boy who has trouble controlling his frustration when I forget to call him by his superhero alias of the day.

  • Adelaide has been writing books.  I haven't yet asked permission from her to print excerpts, but I really feel like these are things that need to be shared with the world.  Obviously I'm a little biased, but gracious, these are funny- sometimes intentionally, sometime not so much.  Our daughter is probably the most dedicated reader of this blog, so I doubt she'll care, but she's definitely reached the age where I need to ask before publishing random tidbits about her, no matter how funny I find them.  I'm pretty sure she won't mind if I give you the title of the one that just happens to be sitting right next to me here, though!  "The Funny Bits of My Life, By: Adelaide Crisler; The My Autobiography Series, Book #1; Includes special pieces of art and sneak peek at next book!! Special Edition."  If I've learned anything from Adelaide's autobiographies, it's that she has inherited my inability to summarize: the aforementioned Book #1 is 76 pages long.

  • Yesterday I found daffodil sprouts and more tulips.  Our compost heap is now only half frozen solid, and I've started my seedlings.  All this makes me think maybe spring really is here, which means it will snow in a week.  Mark my words.  Oh!  And I found a lost earring of mine in a flower bed I was cleaning out, which only a week ago was still a block of ice and leaves.  I'm not really sure what I was doing wearing gold, dangly earrings while gardening last fall, but I suppose sometimes the urge to weed overcomes the best of us.  I was pathetically excited to find that earring.  But really, it was like finding buried treasure.  Raking away soggy leaves and weeds, and lo!  A flash of gold!  Well, you know, fake gold-painted metal, but whatever.  It was like I was a real live pirate for two minutes.  And by "pirate," I of course mean a Disney movie kind of pirate, not a sad, modern-day pirate.  I'm so glad we had this talk.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Suspicious Previous Owners *Now With 50% More Tetanus!*

Remember, a few months ago, when I wrote about those trash bags in the corner of our backyard that I was just sure contained human remains, thoughtfully left behind by the previous owners of our house?  Remember how they weren't actually dead bodies (shocking!), but giant colonies of roly polies and leaves?

Well.  After reading that post, Derek informed me that he left those sacks there.  He filled them right after we moved in, put them in the corner, then forgot about them, leaving me the ever-important job of over-reacting and stressing about them for years.

After that, I felt a bit guilty about suspecting the previous owners of our house of murder/ negligent lawn care.  BUT NO MORE.

Over the past two days, I have spent hours digging metal out of our backyard.  There's a few square feet along a section of our back fence where grass has always refused to grow, and I had picked a few stray pieces of metal (large springs, a gate hinge, etc) up the first few times I mowed over it when we moved in.  A couple days ago, I finally decided to investigate just what the heck was up with that section of yard, and started digging.  It had plenty of pebbles and ash, so I assumed this is the area they used for burning before building the fire pit, but then I started finding nails and screws.  And didn't stop for TWO DAYS.

I don't know how many nails I ended up with, because I lost count sometime after 137.  I do know the sack I used to hold all the old, rusty screws and nails weighed at least a few pounds.

What does this mean?  What were they doing?  Did the previous owners of this house one day look out over the backyard and say to themselves, "You know what this yard needs?  MORE NAILS."

I do know the husband was a roofer.  Is there some sort of secret society amongst roofers, the Brotherhood of the Shingle, or something?  And do they happen to have ritual burnings of things that don't actually burn, like METAL?

The only thing I'm really sure of at this point is that there are more nails out there, because I had to have missed a few, and I may not even have excavated all the points that contain randomly buried bits of metal.

The one bright spot in this?  I now have a big mound of gorgeous black earth along the fence where I still don't trust our children to tread, so I have no choice but to plant some heirloom Ten Commandments gourds.  Gourds like iron, right?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

I'm a Believer

Today is the first day of spring.

I will admit, this morning I had a bit of a bad attitude about this.  Not because I don't like spring, but because it hasn't been especially spring-like around here.  In the more deeply shaded parts of our yard, there are still stubborn patches of snow.  This is depressing and infuriating.  I don't who I'm furious with- Old Man Winter?  Have any of you seen that old cartoon with the bear cub who keeps sneaking out of his bed to go outside and play, despite Jack Frost warning him about Old Man Winter, who is creepy enough to frighten our children a bit?  Hang on... Google to the rescue: "Jack Frost," from 1934.  We have a DVD full of winter- and Christmas-themed cartoons from the '30's, each tragic/scary/deeply politically incorrect in its own special little way.  Our kiddos actually love it, as do I.

Aaaaanyway.  Old Man Winter.  I hates him.  I did a little poking around in our yard a week ago, sloshing through the lake that was our backyard on a rare warm day, and found nothing.  No growth of any kind.

But today.  Ah, today.

I know.  I do this to you every year.  But tulips!  Those are the beginnings of tulip shoots!  *Cue Hallelujah Chorus*

Adelaide was the one to spot them in a sunny flower bed in our front yard, making her Favored Child of the Day.  It wasn't until I saw these that I remembered planting bulbs in this particular location last fall, in a bed otherwise devoid of tulips, or much of any spring-blooming flowers at all.  I'm kind of thinking these tulip blooms are supposed to be... blue-ish?  Gracious, that can't be right, can it?  Quick, someone check and tell me what I was doing (or burying, as the case may be) five months ago, because for the life of me, I can't recall.

We also found the beginnings of some yarrow I planted last summer, late enough in the year that it never did bloom.  I'm curious to see what colors we end up with, as this was sold as a "Summer Pastels" mixture.  (Why do I feel such delicious anticipation over yarrow?  Is there something wrong with me?  Or has this just been an abnormally brutal winter?)

And see that wee little bit of plant, gently tickling my thumb there, all pretty pink and the palest of greens?  That, my friends, is the beginnings of the lenten rose I planted late last spring.  I'd been wanting a hellebore for a few years, and finally planted one last year, but late enough that it was past its flowering time.  I know that hellebores tend to be among the earliest spring bloomers, so I've been checking and checking the spot I'd planted it and not finding anything.  I was beginning to feel resigned:  it was such a cold winter, and such a young plant, and maybe its location wasn't ideal, etc, etc, when this very morning, the first day of spring, LIFE.  I found this tiny little shoot, and decided life is worth living.  Or something.

And now, a question.

We find a number of eggshells in our yard and on our sidewalk throughout the year, but most are small, about the size of a robin's egg.  This one, however, was much larger than any we've ever seen around our house; that big piece is about the size of two 50-cent pieces.

And immediately overhead, in the giant pine in our front yard, is that nest.

And zooming in, there it is.  From my vantage point on the ground, I estimated it's at least a foot in diameter.  So, any national geographic-types reading this, or bird lovers, or just anyone who knows more about birds than I do (which would be pretty much anyone anywhere ever):  Any idea what kind of bird we have possibly inhabiting this nest, starting a big bird family?  (Not to be confused with a Big Bird family, as we live on a numbered avenue, not a street named Sesame.)

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

But The Page Was Torn Out

Yesterday morning, I called Derek at work and told him I was thinking about canceling the doctor's appointment I had just scheduled the day before.  His objection to this was a little more... let's say forceful than I had been expecting.

I've been feeling rather poorly for close to a couple weeks now, but, while what I recently mentioned is true, that I do enjoy medical establishments in general, I simultaneously tend to believe that there is generally little that doctors can do to help me.  (This fun little mental conflict is quite indicative of how I view life in general, fyi.)  It felt silly to make the appointment in the first place, as I was certain that I would go, my doctor would check me over, pronounce that "Yep- you have the common cold.  Drink lots of fluids and get plenty of rest," and I already know all that, so what's the point of going, again?

Still, there was a smallish chance her years of medical training would enable her to tell her more than I could tell myself (this little brand of hubris is a specialty of mine, frequently warring with my acknowledgement of how often I let completely insane paranoia dictate pieces of my life- see previous paragraph's parenthetical statement), so I made the appointment, made the suggestion to cancel less than 24 hours later, this was brutally rebuffed by husband, admitted defeat, gathered the chilluns (it's spring break, so I got to bring all three offspring with me, making my appointment a spectator sport), and went to the doctor.

She checked me over.  She said I have a nasty cold.  She told me to drink lots of water.  She told me to get plenty of rest.

Then she said that's not pinkeye, it's actually extra juice seeping up out of my eye from the raging infection in my sinus.  (WHO'S HUNGRY?)

Antibiotics were prescribed.  I took my first dose around noon yesterday.  By evening, I still had a cold, but I felt like a member of the human race with a cold.

Have you ever read The Phantom Tollbooth?  (If you haven't, you should.  Like, right now.  It's available at any library or bookstore worth patronizing.  Seriously, don't even finish this post, just go read the book.  It's short, and although written for a younger crowd will teach you delightful things about imagination and dodecahedrons and all manner of really important things.  Go.  This post will wait.)

Now that we're all back and have surely read it, you will know exactly what I mean when I say that it wasn't until last night, feeling more or less human again, that I realized this (miraculously undiagnosed by non-medical school-attending me) infection had turned me into a Lethargarian, a creature who, as we now all know, is a resident of the Doldrums.  In the past, I've always identified Juster's Doldrums as an extremely apt illustration for depression, and while I still do, I'm also able to identify it as the place I've been living the past couple weeks, courtesy of this little illness.

During my recent stint as a Lethargarian, I assumed it was only thinly affecting the people around me.  (Except, of course, for Caedmon's Daily Cry because I couldn't read to him, first because my throat hurt too badly, then because laryngitis robbed me of my voice completely.)  When Derek arrived home last night to find his wife returned to a creature that is able to perform higher brain functions and actually does have a personality, however, he made a charming comparison between Sick Me and Eeyore.  I don't recall ever thanking anyone for noticin' me, but perhaps he does have a point.  HEY.  Eeyore makes a pretty perfect resident of the Doldrums, although a quick peek in my copy of Tollbooth doesn't reveal any sweet pink ribbons tied to the tails of the Lethargarians.  Maybe they're distant cousins.  What a family reunion that would be!

I really don't remember where I was going with all this (much like Milo, a reference which I trust each and every one of you understands now)- we'll blame it on my rusty brain, which is just getting warmed back up after its sick leave, never mind the fact that this is how pretty much every one of my posts go.  Let's wrap it all up with a quote from the book we've collectively enjoyed:

Riding along on the back of anyone who'd carry him was the Threadbare Excuse, a small, pathetic figure whose clothes were worn and tattered and who mumbled the same things again and again, in a low but piercing voice:  "Well, I've been sick-but the page was torn out- I missed the bus- but no one else did it- well, I've been sick- but the page was torn out- I missed the bus- but no one else did it."  He looked quite harmless and friendly but, once he grabbed on, he almost never let go. (p 239)

Have any of you ever known anyone ridden by the Threadbare Excuse?  Perhaps you yourselves, occasionally?  Obviously, I never have!  (Oh, THE IRONY; see every single line of this post.  "Well, I've been sick...")

Friday, March 14, 2014

Warmth Is Sacred To My People

I loathe car dealerships.

There's something terribly sterile about them- and not in the welcoming "Come in, hang up your hat, allow me to save your life," way characteristic of hospitals. (Yes, I do enjoy medical habitats, in general, and while I will politely nod and smile sympathetically while you describe your fears of doctor's offices and medical centers, I will not truly understand whatever it is that you're talking about- unless we're talking about anyplace inhabited by a dentist.  Dentists rank right up there with rabbits on the list of Creatures Not To Be Trusted.)  Car dealerships are all silvery surfaces and the walls are plastered with advertisements for their cars, which makes no sense whatsoever- I'm already there, okay?  You got me.  I know of no one who wanders into car dealerships, past all the actual cars to aimlessly peruse the photographs on the walls before jumping and saying, "HEY.  Maybe I should buy a car today!  I like this one, right here on the wall."  Get yourself to Hobby Lobby and buy a giant $10 post-impressionist print, Car Dealership People, and I'll be a lot less scowly in your place of business.

Even the people that work there hate it.  At least I'm guessing they do, which is a reasonable assumption, given the car salesman I saw standing just outside the building at the dealership I was at a few weeks ago, on a day that had already seen its high temperature of -2 come and go.  Nobody chooses to leave a place with temperatures sustainable to life unless it's simply unbearable.  Poor, miserable car guy.  I bet he could do with a daily dose of Almond Blossoms.

The reason I found myself at a (terrible, horrible, no good, very bad) dealership was because we were looking for a car.  To purchase.  And believe it or not, we, and by we, I of course mean Derek, had already researched a boatload of cars and didn't have to look at the gallery of photographs on the walls of the dealership to choose one.

I won't bore you with the details of all the test drives and negotiating and blah blah blah (in part because I was blessedly absent for most of it, and in part because no one should have to fear death by boredom as a result of reading this blog), but in the end we ended up buying a new (to us) car to replace Derek's old one.

It is a nice car.  I have not yet entirely decided how I feel about it.

Most of this is, I admit, fear of disloyalty to our old car.  As a result, I find myself saying things like "Oh, look at that, when you try to turn up the volume it actually works 100% of the time.  No one likes a showoff, New Car," and "Some cars don't feel the need to have fancy things like actual knobs and buttons for adjusting the heat and air conditioning, some cars are content with stabby metal parts because their plastic knobs broke and fell off long ago.  Don't get too big for your britches, New Car," and "So your windshield wipers work.  Big deal, New Car," and "I know of some cars who aren't afraid to make all manner of terrifying noises and can shimmy like a flapper in a spangled dress and make you fear for your life all at the same time- let me tell you New Car, there is almost nothing adventurous about driving you, unlike some other cars who helped me discover that I really am a strong, courageous woman every time I sat in them."

Then I discovered the glory that is heated seats and switched loyalties fast enough to make Benedict Arnold's head spin.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A Listy Sort of List

  • This morning I looked around and realized everything in our house was empty.  Empty Kleenex boxes.  Spray bottles empty of their cleaner in the bathrooms.  Empty laundry detergent bottle.  Empty baking soda shakers and empty soap dispensers, also in both bathrooms.  Close to empty fridge (well, as empty as our fridge ever gets anymore).  This is apparently what happens when I'm sick for several days in a row- nothing necessarily falls apart, which is comforting, I suppose, things just don't get refilled.  So I spent the morning mixing up some all-purpose cleaner for both bathrooms (half vinegar, half water, a squirt of dish soap), refilling the baking soda (I use it when I need an abrasive when I'm cleaning, it's kept in old parmesan cheese containers because they have lids perfect for shaking a bit out into the toilet or bathtub), refilling hand soap dispensers (this one is good, because it means my family has been listening when I say WASH YOUR HANDS WASH YOUR HANDS WASH WASH WASH YOUR HANDS), setting out new tissue boxes, grocery shopping, and making a fresh batch of laundry detergent (I use the Duggars' recipe).  I started all that make-your-own-detergent-and-cleaners business several years ago because 1) it's super duper cheap, 2) takes very little time (less than a minute to make the all-purpose cleaner, around twenty very easy minutes to make the detergent), and 3) when I began, our kids were all tiny and daring connoisseurs of just about anything toxic they could get their grimy little hands on.  

  • Why the crazy shouting about washing your hands?  Because kids are filthy, filthy creatures, that's why.  I feel that I can say this with impunity because I've spent the past week wiping never-ending streams of snot from our younger children's noses, throwing my arm violently across my face because Caedmon won't stop coughing in my face (this also works as a nonverbal reminder to cough into your elbow, which is good as I've all but lost my voice), and using warm, wet washcloths to clean and coax Caedmon's eyes open in the middle of the night.

That is a raging case of pinkeye- in both eyes, of course, because we're not under-achievers around here, at least not in the things that count, like infectious diseases.  Atticus had it last week, but it was way less severe and shorter lived.  Cade is smiling in this picture because even being sick for five days straight can't dampen his spirits.  

  • Every time I look out the bathroom window downstairs, the devil's offspring is sitting there.  

Look at him.  It's like he can sense where my tulip bulbs are planted.  

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A Day Which Will Live in Infamy

Despite the title of this post, I am not talking about my birthday; nor am I talking about the terrible event that happened exactly 41 years before I entered this world.

I am talking about last Saturday.

Derek's parents spent last week moving from southern Kansas to their newly purchased house just about an hour north of here (huzzah!).  Saturday morning, we stuffed the kids into the backseat of Derek's car and headed up to see them and help unpack.

After we'd toured the house and eaten lunch, Derek got down to the actual work of unpacking, his mom, Becky, volunteered to take our kiddos on their long-awaited tour of the property, and I, because I had begun to feel ill, decided to go along on the hike (no doubt due to the fact that I will never, ever be able to banish my mother from the recesses of my brain).

Let me start by saying that the 70 acres Derek's folks now live on is just gorgeous.  Hilly, mostly timbered, intersected here and there by streams, an interesting rock wall-mini cliff-thing (hey- I'm a native flat-lander, remember?  Hills and geographical variations of just about any kind aren't really my thing), and surrounded by farmland and a state park.  We followed some kind of game trail that ran alongside a frozen creek bed, the kids high-stepping through the snow happily enough until we reached the rock wall.  At that point Atticus made it known to me that he required a little, ahem, disciplinary chat, so I let go of Caedmon's hand, crouched down in front of our elder son, and quietly disciplined my little heart out.

Once finished there, and after securing assurances from Atticus that he would, in fact, behave perfectly for the rest of his natural life (har har), he and I turned to find Becky and Adelaide examining the rock wall and its attendant features: little mud nests clinging to the rock from whatever birds build those things (I'm no ornithologist), pretty colored striations in whatever kind of rock makes up that wall (I'm no geologist), the frozen creek bed we were standing in (I'm no creek-ologist... or whatever).  At that point I began to do my customary Counting of the Children (I do this approximately one million times per day, every day, and suspect that, should I ever reach an advanced age, even when all the rest of my faculties have deserted me, I will be found slumped in a wheelchair, mindlessly muttering, "1,2,3... 1,2,3... 1,2,3..."), but discovered I was only able to say to myself, "One... and there's two... and, let's see, three, three... where's three?"

Caedmon was gone.

Adelaide didn't know where he was.  Atticus didn't know.  Becky didn't know.  I didn't know.

I have long thought of myself as being good in a crisis- and even after Saturday, I still generally believe that, because thinking one of your children may no longer be alive is not a crisis, it is the end of the world.  I am not speaking hyperbolically.  For a parent it is Armageddon and the scary parts of the book of Revelation and whatever other end-times language you want to employ.  Becky walked quickly back down the trail, the way we had come, hollering for Caedmon, while my brain quickly calculated that with the rock wall at our backs, there were only about a thousand other directions of unfamiliar territory our curious three-year-old could have set out in, and he could even then be lying in the snow, having fallen down a hill or tripped over who-knows-what, unconscious.  With this helpful information at the forefront of my mind, I whirled around several times yelling for Cade before setting on a vague course toward the long-disused hunting cabin that was in sight.  Stumbling through the snow, beginning to sob, still yelling for our son, whispering prayers between yells, telling Adelaide that yes, I was scared, making Atticus cry in fear because of the uncharacteristic distress evident on my face, a very small part of my mind began to wish for my inhaler because apparently my lungs don't like it when I try to make them do all the things.

I called Derek, to send him running out to the woods with a search party.

Just as my husband picked up, I heard Caedmon's voice.  And I began to cry in earnest.  Becky had found him, back up the trail.  He had followed one of the dogs from the rock wall down the creek bed, but soon found himself in a part where the banks rose high enough on either side that he couldn't scale them.  He had to have been close enough to hear us, but never answered.  Did I mention hiding is one of his current favorite/terrifying games?

Thank goodness Becky kept it together during all this, because I most assuredly did not.  I did not plant myself in the snow in a catatonic stupor, but neither did I use any kind of logic in my fumbling search attempt.
Total time elapsed?  Probably around five minutes.  It's hard to say, exactly; I'm sure whatever neurochemicals washed over my brain during this whole thing warped my ability to judge the passage of time with any degree of accuracy.

One good thing that happened afterward?  Caedmon and I both got sick, all feverish and aches and pains and nasty cold symptoms.  Not usually the cuddliest of boys, for the most part he's wanted nothing more than to curl up in my lap, sucking his fingers since we got back from our little adventure Saturday afternoon.  This suits me perfectly, as I keep finding myself in tears over the thought of losing little Caedmon, and it's much easier to reassure myself that he's still alive (though not quite well) when he's stationed right in my arms.

I feel like he should come with a warning sticker that reads something like "Capable of scaring the very LIFE out of you."

Friday, March 7, 2014

Brave New World, Iowa

Several times a week, I get emails about how to be a better blogger or how to improve your blog or how to market your blog.  I ignore 99% of these, but today, when I saw the subject line "30 Post Ideas to Try," I decided to give it a whirl.  29 of them didn't really speak to me ("Share your playlist from Spotify"- What is Spotify?  "Create a guide to blogging or SEO"- What's SEO?  And why am I consistently ignorant about things that are apparently common knowledge to everyone else?), but that 30th one, well, it was made for me.  And by "made for me," what I actually mean is "made for someone who lives in an interesting city," which is actually not me.  Don't get me wrong:  I love our little town.  But when the blog post idea is "Create a vacation guide to the city you live in," you get the feeling maybe they're not talking about Nowhere, Iowa, population:  3,000.

Still, I was really struck by this idea, so we're going to go with it.

The Crislers' 2014 Vacation Guide to Brave New World, Iowa

(Quick note:  The name of our town is not actually Brave New World- hereafter referred to as BNW- but if you do know the actual name of the town and you remember anything from your high school sophomore english class, you'll get this fun literary reference.  You know what, though?  I actually really like the name 'Brave New World' for a city.  Anyone know how to petition to have your city's name changed?)

Food:  Would you believe that you have four- FOUR- eating establishments to choose from in the thriving metropolis that is BNW?  (Five if you count Dollar General, which of course you should.)  You can choose to dine at ye olde sandwich shoppe (aka "Subway"), one of TWO not-dirty gas stations (both of them Casey's, so they do make decent pizza), a recently opened mexican restaurant that I've never eaten at but most likely isn't as sketchy as it looks on the outside, or a barbecue restaurant that is actually completely delicious and definitely your best bet for food you're actually thinking about putting into your body.

Entertainment:  All I can say is I hope you like watching corn grow.  And the smell of pigs.  (As for the former statement, according to Derek's mom you can actually hear corn grow in the summer because it grows so fast, but it has to be on a completely still, windless day- good luck finding one of those- and as for the latter statement, any pig farmer worth his salt- aka bacon- will tell you "That's the smell of money.")

Accommodations:  While BNW doesn't technically (or non-technically, for that matter) have any hotels, motels, or charming Bed and Breakfasts, you, of course, are always welcome to stay in the guest room at the Crislers!  (I haven't run this by Derek yet, so for now this will just have to be a secret between me and the internet.  Fortunately for me the internet has a terrific history of keeping secrets.  It is also a reliable source for all your medical decision-making needs, fyi.)

Now, we don't have a website like most motels do, but I'd be more than happy to give you an idea as to what to expect should you decide to take advantage of the luxe guest quarters awaiting you at la Casa de Crisler.

Most traditional motels have a lobby to welcome you into their space.  We- and by "we" I now mean "you," of course!- have this:

That's right!  And it has been 67 DAYS since our last incident on these stairs!  

Next up:  your bedroom/ the coal room!

Obviously, in this shot I don't have the linens ready, but rest assured, when you arrive, I will provide you with an ample supply of whatever blankets I don't mind getting old coal dust and soot on.

Features exposed beam ceilings, exposed brick walls (is this place a vintage/antique lovers' paradise or what?!), lots of exposed spider webs, a light bulb, and, in the winter, our family's bicycles for ample seating!

Rather than something as obvious and bourgeois as a sink, we provide this en suite indoor cistern, which is of course the final word in turn-of-the-century indoor plumbing (turn of the 19th to 20th century, that is).

And instead of a toilet, we have this lovely drain.

Now we just need a clever catchphrase for your new, temporary digs.  I was thinking something along the lines of "The Crislers:  For the discerning traveler with a positive attitude and healthy sense of adventure."  Thoughts?

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Drop Dead Red Sunflowers

Let's take a break from the book reviews and talk about gardening instead, even if I do see nothing but grey and white and brown when I look out our window.

I went to Earl May yesterday to buy carrot seeds (and only carrot seeds).  Just something to get me through to a time when we supposedly won't be surrounded by miles upon miles of snow and ice and freezing cold temperatures.  Something very mysterious happened while I was in the store and I left with not just carrot seeds but also a couple different kind of seeds for gourds and some for ornamental eggplant and flowering kale and I don't even remember what else.  The real miracle is that I only bought one packet of flower seeds:

I'm a sucker for beautiful flower illustrations anytime, but this one is just gorgeous in person.  You know it's a fancy packet of seeds when they credit the illustrator on the back of the packet (Carolyn Crawford, fyi), and the packet itself is at least twice the size of most others.  

I can already tell it will be beyond my ability to simply throw this packet away once I've planted its seeds (by the bye, Derek, that is not an invitation to "help" me toss it, but thanks anyway), but I'm not sure what to do with it.  Simply find a small frame for it and frame the whole thing?  I really don't want to cut it up... I don't think.  I do, however, know exactly where I to plant these sunflower seeds:  in a flower bed in our front yard that has, by some miracle, remained relatively untouched by me thus far, despite the fact that it's one of the few beds in our yard fortunate enough to enjoy full sun.  It's basically just a big rectangular drift of yellow irises that have been there for who knows how long, which means it's beautiful for the few weeks in spring the irises are in bloom, but pretty blah the rest of the year.  I spent approximately four thousand hours (or just four, which is pretty much the same thing) one day last summer dividing them and adding several other colors of iris plants from my grandparents.  Even with a little variety in color, iris-wise, the bed very obviously needs to be more useful and interesting in the summer and fall, so the plan is to sow the majority of these Drop Dead Red sunflower seeds in that bed amongst the iris rizomes.  This bed is also located just under a large window in our living room, and my hope is that they'll be tall enough to be visible from inside the house.  Well, my biggest hope is that the actual flowers will be as stunning as both the illustration and the text on the packet promise.  

Went to the plant nursery for something useful, came out with a handful of seed packets for flowers and numerous other (relatively) useless ornamental plants.  Sounds about right!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

More Book Reviews. Five of Them.

Look!  It's the day immediately following yesterday's post, and I'm doing more reviews!  I'm doing what I said I would!  Exclamation points!

Bossypants by Tina Fey

I am not a regular watcher of SNL, and I've seen approximately one and a half seasons of Fey's show, 30 Rock, so while I knew who Tina Fey was, I didn't know much about her.  I really only read this book because my sister loaned me her Kindle so I could take it home and read all the books she and her husband had recommended.  And oh, my.  Oh my goodness.  I laughed.  I laughed much.  Fey is hilarious and sharp and also hilarious.  I had to put the book down at one point because I couldn't breathe, and I've decided to start saying "May I be amazing at you?" to people.  Prepare yourselves.  Big thanks to Kelli for the rec.

The Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle

If you are one of those people who often thinks things like Those dang Mexicans are ruining everything and Why can't they just stay in their own country and Squawk Squawk Outraged Squawk, then you should read this book and learn to have some freaking compassion.

Past Imperfect by Julian Fellowes

Before you even ask, this author's name sounds familiar because he's the creator of Downton Abbey.  This was a book club pick that I probably never would have plucked off the shelf on my own, as I don't generally go for books about elitest, pedigreed Brits in the 1960's and 1970's, but this was strangely entertaining.  I did have trouble drumming up any sympathy for their rather privileged woes, but it was interesting to read about a world that is increasingly obsolete.

Blood Song by Anthony Ryan

The first in a solid, attention-snaring fantasy series that poses intriguing questions about the meaning of faith and patriotism.  Loved it.  Thanks to Aaron for this recommendation.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?  (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling

I thought this one was okay.  I chuckled a few times, and was interested enough to read the whole thing, but certainly wasn't wowed.  To be fair, I read this right after Bossypants, so just about anything intended to be humorous probably wasn't going to measure up.  I still found Kaling to be very likable, and am curious as to what she's been up to since the end of the book.

More reviews up tomorrow.  Probably.  Maybe.  Hopefully.  We'll just see.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Book Reviews. Six of Them, To Be Precise.

Books!  Let's talk about books today.  Or rather, I'll talk about books and you'll read maybe halfway through this post and get bored.  Terrific plan.

The following is another drive-by review of some of the books I've read over the past few months.  I'm not going to talk much about synopses or anything, but each title will be a link so you can read more about it if you're so inclined.  You can find a way to thank me later for not talking about all the books I've read over this long, loooong winter.  As always, I do accept cookies as currency.

The Boy in the Suitcase by Lene Kaaberol and Agnete Friis

Several professional reviews of this book refer to this as a "page-turner" and "get ready to put your life on hold" sort of book.  For me, I would read four or five pages, then have to put it down and walk away for awhile because this book was mega, mega stressful for me.  I read the first thirty pages a few months ago, then decided I did not need this book in my life.  When it was then handed to me as last month's book club selection I literally groaned out loud.  To be clear, it's well-written, with an interesting, twisty plot and relatively sympathetic protagonists, but if you have small children, like children in general, or spend any time whatsoever with children, it may be difficult to read.  

Savvy by Ingrid Law

Delightful YA fiction.  Sucked me right in, couldn't put it down, quick read.  Loved, loved, loved the characters.  Perfect reprieve after something like The Boy in the Suitcase.  Winner of the Newbery Honor Award.

I Am Malala:  The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb

Adelaide begged to read this book, but as it's listed under adult nonfiction, I wanted to read it first to check its content.  Now I'm hoping our daughter does get all the way through it, so she can gain some perspective as to what life is like on the other side of the world, how fortunate she is for something we take for granted- education for girls- and how to have a positive (but not necessarily in a squishy, Pollyanna-ish way) attitude even when all seems lost and someone shoots you in the face.  This was an incredibly inspiring and encouraging read, and I can't help but admire Malala and her family enormously.

Unglued:  Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions by Lysa Terkeurst

I've had a few women rave to me about this book (It's so great!  I absolutely loved it!  I can't wait for you to read it!), and several more who were more, "Meh.  It was okay."  I'm solidly in the "meh" camp on this one.  She spells out some solid strategies on how to keep your cool when all you really want to do is lose it, but she does it in a way that I've come to think of as very soundbite-y.  I know she's a public speaker of some kind, and I couldn't help but think she's probably way better at verbal speaking engagements than she is at writing.  Phrases like " do I shift from having an attitude to walking in gratitude" had me rolling my eyes (this lady loves herself some rhymes, let me tell you what), but I did like the bit where she mentioned that she and her husband simply call out, "Remember who you are" to their children rather than listing a litany of reminders: Be kind, be honest, be polite, mind your manners, etc, etc.  I'm guessing this book really spoke to certain women who found it very timely to where they are in their lives, but... I just wasn't one of them.

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

This book- a simple, young adult love story- has two of the most likeable (fictional) teenagers I may have ever come across.  Bella and Edward, they are not.  While this is a heartstring-yanker of a book, I did wonder a bit about its placement as Young Adult fiction, just because of some of the circumstances Eleanor- a high schooler with a pretty bleak home life- finds herself in.  There is nothing crass about it, and it is absolutely the kind of thing that, sadly, happens in real life, but it also isn't something I'd want a middle schooler reading.  I suppose I'd classify it as a "proceed-with-caution, younger YA readers" kind of novel.

Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin

First of all, this book is no joke: at 700+ pages long, you are making a commitment when you dive in.  When I (finally) finished the last page, my thoughts were:  FINALLY and Destined to become a classic and FINALLY and I need to read that every ten years to see how it changes for me as I (hopefully) gain a little more wisdom.  There are really, really long books that I want to be long, just so that I can enjoy a beloved story for as long as absolutely possible.  To be honest, this was not really one of those.  It felt long, even if it was an awe-inspiring piece of writing.  I recommend it if you're up for a challenge and some deep thinking.

You know what?  I forgot I said I'd break this up into a series of posts.  What a splendid idea.  It's nice to know I do have those every once in a while, even if I promptly forget them.  I'll try to come back and post some more books tomorrow.