Tuesday, September 8, 2009


I feel as if I'm becoming terribly cynical. I read a change the world post today, and thought, really? Really? Do we have to? Isn't there a place in this modern landscape to just enjoy the space we're in? Why does everyone have to be remarkable, unique and beautiful? That's so much damn pressure. I think I'd like to be peaceful, content, and cheerful instead.

In other news, here are my lovely new dishes. I spent forever in Target debating whether they would really work, but they do, oh, how they do.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Fourth day of school

Day one, he had his doubts, because he hadn't gotten any work done.

Day two, he said, "well, socially I think this will be fine, but I'm not so sure about academically." He was anxious about already being behind because of computer issues. (No wireless access in the temporary building makes it tough to do online school.) That evening we talked to his US History teacher, who suggested that he start history and math after Labor Day, and the academic pressure relaxed.

Day three, yesterday, massive confusion about pick-up location amidst a torrential downpour, but when he finally made it home, he said, "I had a really fun day today." YAY!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Plants and other living things

I can't believe I killed the rosemary plant. I thought those plants were pretty near indestructible. Less than three weeks with me, and it looks like it was abandoned for months.

I guess it's still a good home, though. When I looked through the viewfinder, I realized that the plant had an inhabitant that seemed quite happy to be there, although less happy to have a giant looming human peering at it.

Even more than the dead rosemary, though, I can't believe that the flowers are thriving. Plants are weird.

I had another picture of the plants, a close-up. But I couldn't resist this one with Zelda smiling at me from the door. Happy flowers, a happy dog, a happy lizard--three out of four isn't so bad.

Monday, August 17, 2009


I did a mangled recipe for dinner tonight. Back in San Francisco, my roommate Danielle made a pasta dish with smoked oysters that was delish. I've tried to make it a couple times and never come anywhere close, so tonight I browsed for smoked oyster pasta recipes, then took the bits of recipes I a) liked and b) had the ingredients for. (And b was sadly more important than a.)

(Of minor note--I didn't really cook much back in SF, so it's possible that the dish was incredibly good just because real food always tasted amazing. When you live on bagels and microwave pizza, sometimes all food really needs to be is warm.)

So my recipe: I preheated a frying pan with a generous dollop of olive oil in it over medium low, while I diced an onion. A small one, because the big one was half rotten *sigh*. Threw the onion in the pan, and while it started cooking, pressed two garlic cloves through the recently re-discovered garlic press, which probably only has a brief window of use before it gets buried in the drawer again, and added them. Took a handful of sun dried tomatoes and chopped them up, although not too fine, mostly because they kept sticking to the knife, then tossed them in the pan. Finally chopped up a tin of smoked oysters--mashed might be a better word for it--and added it. Stirred a few times.

Then--and this was probably key--I realized that I'd forgotten to start my water for the pasta. Ah, how sad. I turned the heat a little lower on the pan of "sauce", and turned the water on. Except for some reason I only turned the water on to medium. Another 20 minutes later and I realized my water still wasn't boiling. About 40 minutes after I started cooking, the water finally boiled and I could cook the pasta.

The reason all that is important is that my "sauce" cooked slowly for a long time over a really low heat. And it was YUM. Funnily enough, though, not so much on the pasta, although I was certainly happy to eat it. But I was too hungry to wait, so kept taking little bits of the oyster/onion/garlic/tomato mash and spreading it on bread, and it was fantastic. Definitely one of the better mangled recipes I've done recently. It didn't even occur to me to take a picture, but since it was really one of the ugliest foods I've seen, that's probably not a problem.

(Another minor note: the kid wouldn't even taste it. I allowed this, because I didn't really mind if I didn't have to share. He got to have some bottled sauce over spaghetti instead.)

Friday, August 14, 2009

Going gray

I never spent much time picturing my hair turning gray: sure, sometimes I imagine myself as an old woman, already gray, but that's not usually about the hair. That's about family or solitude or pain and suffering.

I have said that as soon as I started going gray, I'd start dying my hair, but secretly, I haven't been so sure. Honestly, dying your hair is a lot of work, a lot of maintenance, and I'm kinda lazy when it comes to my looks. I barely brush my hair and I rarely get it cut--how would I keep up with color?

But when I pictured that day, I pictured my hair with a sprinkling of silver, strands lightly scattered throughout the brown. Never once did I imagine graying at the temples first. Why not, I wonder? That's how my brother went gray. That's how lots of people go gray. But you know, those people generally seem to be men.

Now that I'm finally here, I really understand why we dye our hair. And it probably is worth the work. But I'm also sort of curious about what it will be like if I just let it happen.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Family visit

I claim that I can work through anything and it's largely true. Long practice, I'm sure: way back when, I could walk through crowded school hallways without ever pausing in my reading to try to get a few more pages in between classes. Back when I was freelancing, I was perfectly capable of writing a coherent news story with a three-year-old pulling on one arm. Reading while walking is actually easier than writing while parenting, but the practice focusing during the former probably made the latter possible. The experience of the latter has made my current work a breeze. I really could probably work through a hurricane, if the power stayed on.

Today, my parents brought the kids over, and while sitting at my desk, I could see R, T, and C playing in the pool. It was another phenomenal day--I might have considered it too hot, just a few short weeks ago--and there was laughing and splashing and moderate shrieking. Meanwhile, the dog couldn't decide where to be, Dad was working on fixing the wood of the pillar two feet away from me, and the bird was sure that since I was at my desk I should let her out (she's not concerned with trivial details like the risk of someone opening the doors to the outside) and kept trying to tell me so. Loudly.

And yet still, I worked. I'm torn, though, between being pleased with myself (what focus!) and hoping that this wasn't one of those days that one regrets wasting on one's deathbed. The fun chaos of having six people in the house is all too rare in my life.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The game has changed

The basketball game with the dog isn't working out quite as well as it did the first few days, because Zelda has decided that she likes to swim. She won't even wait for us to get to the ball anymore: if it's in the water, she hurls herself in after it. Once she reaches it, she drags it to the stairs and then waits. If we don't throw it, the current created by the pump will slowly drag it away from the steps and into deeper water. She lets it get a foot or two away, and then her muscles start to bunch and her legs tremble and then...Splash! She's back in the water. She spent more time in the pool today than I did.

R's computer is broken and he is out-of-sorts. I think possibly that not having all the outlets that his various games provide is giving him too much time to reflect and worry. But it's not showing up as coherent "I am anxious about school starting" statements, more just generalized mean, coupled with a longing to fight about nothing. I declined to buy flank steak for stir fry and you'd have thought I'd become Republican from the scorn heaped upon my willful ignorance. Sometimes I think becoming taller than me has gone to his head. You'd think he'd at least learn to cook before criticizing my ingredient choices.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Leaving the house

I'm tempted to find it ironic that I leave this house so much more than the last. I don't think I could even count the number of places I've been in the last two weeks: restaurants and food stores, hardware stores and...hmm, I wonder what the generic name is for stores like Target and Bed Bath & Beyond? Well, plenty of them, too. Ha, and that doesn't even include the pool supply stores. Oh, the pool supply stores! Yes, how I've loved them.

I'd guess that all that will slow down a little now that we're more settled, and once school starts, but actually it is one of the things that I'm loving about our new home. There's so much more here. Yes, I could have gone to every place I've been from the last house (and did, sometimes) but it was a trek. To go anywhere except the grocery store was an hour commitment for the driving. Oh, and the food--well, our "easy" sit-down restaurants there were Perkins and Chilis and while I don't mind either, I don't mind them a lot more if I eat at them very very rarely.

Yesterday, I went to the farmer's market and it's the prettiest farmer's market I've ever seen. Considering how crowded it was at 8:30, I'm not sure I want to visit it at 11, but it was lovely. I bought some lemon parsley pasta (which we haven't tried yet), peaches and green beans, and best of all, a container pot of mixed flowers for the front porch and another of rosemary. I told the saleswoman that I was death to plants so wanted something that had a chance of surviving me, so she carefully picked out a pot with three perennials, including one that looks like beach grass, and told me all the others plants (four or five of them) would die, but that would leave more room for the surviving three. I suspect, knowing my history with plants, that they'll all die, but the beach grass might survive. I can hope, anyway.

I put the rosemary on the patio table and between the smell of cedar from the shower and the smell of the plant, the patio smells so good that I could sit there all day and just breathe. I ate dinner there in the early evening--a plate of fresh bread and interesting cheese and some smoked salmon and grapes and a glass of San Pellegrino water (eventually upgraded to a glass of red wine, the Menage a Trois that I like so much) and yes, it sounds pretentious, I'll have to balance it out with a microwave pizza or some leftover Chinese food today, but truly, it was delicious.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


Wikipedia is the thing that's changing the world. All knowledge, available the moment you want it.

A true story--two years ago, I was buying R a computer for Christmas. I didn't know when it would arrive exactly and so the day before the holiday, I warned him that "Santa" might not deliver. He told me to check the internet and find out, and when I told him that such a thing was not possible, he went to his grandmother. She took the invoice number from me, and used it to find the tracking number and then the tracking number to find out exactly where his computer was and then that his present would be there before the end of the day. It blew my mind. But not his--he knew, with a faith unbroken by experience, that all knowledge was available to us, if we just knew the way to look for it.

Directly quoted:

Tenterhooks were used as far back as the fourteenth century in the process of making woollen cloth. After the cloth was woven it still contained oil from the fleece and some dirt. A fuller (also called a tucker or walker) cleaned the woolen cloth in a fulling mill, and then had to dry it carefully or the wool would shrink. To prevent this shrinkage, the fuller would place the wet cloth on a large wooden frame, a "tenter", and leave it to dry outside. The lengths of wet cloth were stretched on the tenter (from the Latin "tendere", to stretch) using hooks (nails driven through the wood) all around the perimeter of the frame to which the cloth's edges (selvages) were fixed so that as it dried the cloth would retain its shape and size.[1] At one time it would have been common in manufacturing areas to see tenter-fields full of these frames.

By the mid-eighteenth century the phrase "on tenterhooks" came into use to mean being in a state of uneasiness, anxiety, or suspense, stretched like the cloth on the tenter.


Surprise and earnest observations

I am completely surprised to discover that a retainer hurts. I actually want to put a word that starts with f before hurts in that sentence, but I pretty much stopped using that word when I became a mom, and now that I'm a mom of a teenager (!)(a giant teenager--5'9" yesterday!!) I really can't use it. But wow, the retainer f'in hurts. Hey, but my teeth look great so I should not complain. (And yes, that is ironic: I would rather live without pain and be ugly than be pretty and hurting, even if that makes me unAmerican.)

And while I complain--since I really am complaining--why does the internet have to be so bloody earnest? I am really, really, really tired of sites that want to help me be happier or help me market myself better or help me...anything. I want to be reading a few more selfish, totally self-obsessed, and yet completely entertaining sites. And possibly this is just bad RSS work on my part, but wow, my feed just bored me silly today. Where have all the fun people gone? Not the nice fun people, but the fascinatingly bad fun people? I don't like reality television much, but I think maybe I used to get my dose of reality tv through blog-reading and somehow I can't find those people anymore. All the people I read now are distressingly...earnest. No offense to anyone I read, and hey, if you keep chickens, all is forgiven. I can read many an earnest post if there are chickens and/or goats involved. (Ooh, and/or teen lit. I am waiting on tenterhooks--and what would those be, I wonder? wikipedia, here I come--for the sequel to The Hunger Games. One month to go!)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


Tomorrow is the day the orthodontial torture finally ends, and it's almost amazing how anxious I am about it. There's no way that getting braces off can compare to the pain of breaking the damn teeth in the first place, or the pain of having them pulled, or probably even the pain of having random wires break and poke me in the gums. Relatively speaking, this almost has to be easy--after all, kids do it all the time. And yet...I'm authentically scared of how unpleasant tomorrow might be.

I can half-remember back in high school, playing a game with Kim A. while we ran in gym class. The part that isn't quite clear is whether the game was coming up with places we would rather be, or places we would much rather not be. Was it that we could be eating ice cream or that we could be being eaten by bugs? Darned if I know. But at this moment in time, I would rather have food poisoning than get the braces removed and yet, I want nothing (almost) more than to be done with the whole stupid orthodontia thing.

The two Floridas

In my head, there are two Floridas. One, rarely seen, is vacation-land, a comfortable tropical paradise with a little bit of magic to it. It's flowers around every corner, armadillos and alligators and the occasional fox, boat rides at dusk across a quiet lagoon, feeling the slight prickle of a little too much sun, but never the burn. It's the smell of chlorine and french fries, the sound of roller coasters and happy screams but also cicadas and summer music. It's drinking Corona with lime on a quiet porch when it's so hot that just sitting still starts a little sweat.

And then there's the other Florida. It's the one where nobody knows how to drive in traffic, and the only nearby sit-down restaurants are Perkins and Chilis. It's the Florida of shopping malls and too much air-conditioning, grocery stores with aisles of junk food but not a single half gallon of organic milk. It's the Florida where people actually live, the land of dental visits and bug spray.

Only magic Florida and reality Florida seem to have merged.

I forgot to take out the trash last night, so at 5AM I was hauling garbage bags to the curb. But the sounds that early were amazing; not just cicadas, but an entire orchestra of frogs, so loud they could have been percussion instruments. I came back in and put the water on to boil, then let the dog out into the backyard. While I waited for my tea, I followed her out, and sat down to listen. I could see stars in the sky above me--Orion's belt, to be exact. And while I sat there, wondering how long it had been since I'd seen Orion's belt and trying to remember if I'd ever seen it in Florida before, a shooting star flew past. It was gone in a heartbeat, so fast that it was almost as if I'd imagined it. But I didn't. It was real, and just like every shooting star it was magic.

But magic in my very own backyard.

Monday, August 3, 2009

What is not perfect?

The answer is bugs! Zelda's picking up ticks and fleas, the porch has wasps, fire ants are actually building their nests in the walls, and R and I are both getting phobic about the random stray bug bites that keep appearing on our skin. Oh, and let's not even mention the mosquitoes. But all else is absolutely glorious.

In other news, the bird is chewing up my credit card bill, making little pieces with which she will pretend to build a nest. I like this use for a credit card bill better than any other I could have imagined.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Pool ball

The new water game uses the basketball. People get points every time we successfully throw the ball out of the pool and manage to get it to roll under the patio table. The dog tries to block it, of course. We lose points every time Zelda jumps into the water to retrieve the ball because we haven't passed it back out to her quickly enough.

Rory pointed out that if the dog understood the rules she could kill us on this game, but she doesn't really like the water enough to jump in if she doesn't have to. On the other hand, about thirty seconds is all she can stand before she starts to think we might not give the ball back, so we do have to move pretty promptly. She was definitely the big winner in our first game!

I wanted to post a picture of her drooling on her ball, but it appears the only ones we took were when her ball was hidden inside the barbecue. (My desperate move to get a break.) She has the tennis ball instead and she only plays with that when the basketball is well-hidden.

Sunshine on my bed

It doesn't make sense in Florida to love sunny rooms. It's so insanely hot during the summer that it makes sense to hide from the sun, to keep rooms dark and shady and cool. I know that. But I love having sun on my bed. I love lying across the bed at 8AM feeling the sunshine on my closed eyes, and reveling in the sense that there's an entire day ahead of me and it's going to be good, good, good. Sunshine does that for me. Shade does not.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Tree mice

I posted this as a comment at a blog I read, but I liked it enough that I decided I should save it for myself. So here's the tree mouse story:

...So several days ago, my son, all excited, tells me that we have a tree mouse. A tree mouse? I'm thinking, chipmunk? Maybe ground squirrel? We live in central Florida and haven't lived here long, so I don't really know much about the native wildlife. Tree mouse sounds plausible and my boy (13) knows a lot about animals, so okay, we have a tree mouse.

A quick backtrack, we have a huge tree in our backyard and a happy squirrel population. Also cows across the road, chickens nearby enough to hear, lizards continually, and occasionally some other oddity, like once a gopher tortoise got trapped in the backyard while on its commute to the mating grounds (no idea where those were, it's just what the books say gopher tortoises do) and once, extremely oddly, some guinea fowl had to be lifted over the fence. It had been a windy night so apparently they got blown in? The question mark is because honestly, it made no sense to me, but my point is that strange wildlife in the backyard is not an anomaly. A tree mouse sounded plausible.

So the boy sees the tree mouse a few times and reports it to me every time but somehow I always miss it. Then yesterday, he calls me, and I come running. Tree mouse? It's a rat! A RAT! In my backyard!! Climbing the tree!!!

He still thinks its a tree mouse however, so we go online and look at pictures, and confirm that no, it's a rat. A real rat. Apparently Florida has rats called roof rats. And they can climb. And there's at least one, probably many more, living in my tree--or possibly my roof. Ack. I am completely creeped out.

But then, I go off with my boyo to visit my sister and her kids. And as we drive, the boy says, Look, look, mom, there's a feathered tree mouse!

It's a bird.

And then five minutes later, it's look, look, Mom, there's a predatory feathered tree mouse.

It's a hawk.

And ten minutes later, it's look, look, Mom, there are some GIGANTIC tree mice.

Deer, three of them.

And the tree mouse being a rat, okay, that was funny. But my boy being able to laugh at himself like that, that was priceless. It turns out that 13 actually does have a good side.


In other news, nothing about the house. Monday is the day I was originally going to give up, so we're going off to look at rentals on Sunday. I've got another two weeks where it exists in a maybe zone, but after that, I give up. C'est la vie.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

House or no house

I'm really, really tired of waiting for house news. It's been well over two months now, and still the bank hasn't bothered to get back to me. I can't imagine how frustrating it must be for the realtors: if my income was dependent on this, I'd be going insane.

As it is, it's been a busy few months, what with illness, injuries, emergency room visits and trips to Texas, California, and next week Seattle. And, of course, the interminable teeth appointments. (Implants finally done, braces close to over. Six months from now, I might have working front teeth again.)

So it's probably just as well that we haven't had to move yet. But the closer we get to true Florida summer, the more afraid I get. I don't like it here when it's too hot to move. I'm dismayed that I have no escapes planned, and yet, it's hard to plan for an escape when I don't know when or if we'll be moving. And the longer nothing is final, the more I agonize over the decisions. To buy or not to buy. To have a pool or not. To send R. to Walden or back to Center. I hate it when my brain starts to travel in circles around questions that I can't answer.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Susan Boyle

I just watched the Susan Boyle video for about the 75th time. In my defense, I've been quite sick, so watching the same four minutes over and over has been just about my speed. But this was the first time in a few days and it was lovely to have the same experience again, namely goose bumps and a tear or two--this, despite the absolutely horrible news coverage that has left me feeling as if I am from a different planet than the rest of the people who inhabit this world. Apparently, at least if one reads the people who write for major newspapers, the important thing about the clip is how it shows that we all judge based on appearances. What? That's...an interesting point, of course, but who gets goose bumps from that??

There are three moments that I love in the video, that I've gone back to again and again. The first is when she smiles her cheeky grin. There's a moment, right before the music starts, when she almost smirks at the audience. It's as if she's saying, "I know something you don't." Her confidence radiates. And it's confidence despite the forgotten word, the awkward stripper's hip roll, the skepticism she must have already seen the judges show--it's confidence in the face of adversity and it's thrilling.

And then there's the moment in the song when she so gracefully hits and holds the high notes on the word "shame," the five steps that reach the ceiling. The audience is on its feet, screaming, Amanda is on her feet, the judge to the right is laughing, and even the cynic is leaning back, smiling. It's almost possible to feel, just from the video, the joy and the energy that is filling that room. That's a goose-bump moment. It has nothing to do with Susan Boyle's eyebrows: it's about the feeling of being part of a crowd that is witnessing something miraculous. Oh, maybe part of the miracle is that a frumpy woman with funny eyebrows is creating the joy, but it's the joy that's amazing, not the woman singing.

Finally, I love when she finishes her song and starts walking off stage. The judges are calling her back, Simon beckoning with the patronizing single finger of a man who knows his power, and she's just walking. She did what she came there for; she sang in front of a large audience and she made that audience rock. And now she's done.

Now that I've picked three moments, I have to admit there are others. There's how she seems so surprised, almost babbling when Amanda says yes; and there's the almost shy kiss she blows the audience as she's walking off stage after having pumped the air like a footballer; and there's the lovely woman in the audience bouncing in her seat with happiness; (and I do have to wonder what it feels like for those audience members who have now been seen by something like 50 million people; it must be horrible to be one of those in the beginning whose most famous moment in life might be as an example of what not to do as an audience member.) All of which brings me to my final thought, which is that the film editor is brilliant. Yes, maybe he or she had good material to work with, but it was still an incredible job. A real person picked each of those seconds of reaction shots, each angle onstage, and he or she created a seven-minute masterpiece. Compare it to the Paul Potts video and you'll see what I mean.

And now, having posted for the first time on months on something that is completely unrelated to saving my own memories (which is what I think this blog is for, really), I'm going to go watch it again. If I'd known that I'd watch it this many times, I would have counted because I expect someday to hit 100!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


Backyard, originally uploaded by wendy4767.

Last, but not least--I can't say I've always wanted a palm tree, but it kind of tickles me to think I could have one.


Backporch, originally uploaded by wendy4767.

If we wind up in this house, I expect to spend a lot of time on that back porch.


FrontDoor, originally uploaded by wendy4767.

The scrapes and scratches on the walls are invisible in this picture, which shows the front door from the perspective of the room in which one would formally eat on major holidays and which would otherwise be unused.

Dining Room

DininRoom, originally uploaded by wendy4767.


Kitchen, originally uploaded by wendy4767.

It is truly pathetic that I don't understand how to use flickr. Really, pathetic. And yet--I have to wonder--if it's hard for me, can they really be perfect for the audience they intend to reach? (And yes, my keyboard is still short a critical letter. It interferes with all work to try to think around it.)