Category Archives: home

Making Friends with…

I believe that, as I write this on Friday June 11, we are in our 7th consecutive day in the 90s. I am not a happy camper. I wilt any time the thermometer rises above 80, especially if humidity accompanies the heat. Husband usually loves heat, to a point, and tolerates it much better than I, so we have what I call the A/C wars, just like my folks had. [Mom would just hole up in the air conditioned rooms, and Dad would hang out in his room (nice large one with its own sitting area and TV) with the window open – he had a nice magnolia tree right outside the window.] I can do climate control with shades in windows in the a.m., but by mid-afternoon I need A/C.I just looked ahead via Weather.com:  between now and June 24 in SE Minnesota, there is one (1) day when the high is predicted to be below 85˚ F.  And we are in a bit of a drought – greatest chance of rain predicted in that time frame here is 56% chance today, and there’s not yet a cloud in the sky.

So an interesting thing happened after I got up this morning – I’d had a really nice and complicated dream in the wee hours, and wakened with a pretty strong shift in attitude:  I am going to Make Friends with the heat. It could be that our entire summer will be like this, and I do not wish to be miserable all summer. Instead of hating and grousing about it, I will embrace it, and do what I can to enjoy it. This will mean shifting my schedule, my way of doing things, where I do things, and perhaps what things I do. And I may have to buy awnings or screens to create more shade for the patio out back (and my out-the-back-door summer kitchen – worth perhaps another blog post).

There is shade on our back patio till about 10:30, and there was a little breeze this morning. I invited a nearby friend over for ice water, if she could come by 8:30. (She’s an early riser.) After that I placed a lawn chair in the driveway under the beloved Hackberry Tree, and till about noon I perused my recipe books for chilled soup recipes. I have fans on right now, and am about to go to the NICE COOL BASEMENT to clean it up and find some sewing projects, perhaps clear a place that we could play Mexican Train. Once the A/C has cooled things off upstairs, I can watch movie clips for a zoom class I’m taking on Musical Theater…

In other words, I’m trying.

How are you coping with this heat wave so far?

Is there anyone or anything you might “make friends” with that could make your life easier?

Lamb Chop Chomped

I think I watched television as a kid about the same as others.  Captain Kangaroo, Romper Room.  Too old for Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers, but just the right age for Shari Lewis and her puppets, especially Lamb Chop. I knew it was Shari doing the voices but I was fascinated by hearing Lamb Chop speak without seeing Shari’s lips moving.

So imagine my dismay when YA came home today with a Lamb Chop chew toy for the dog!  And as if that’s not bad enough, it has a main squeaker along with a squeaker in each foot for a total of five!  The din is awful and it gives me a sick feeling in my stomach seeing Lamb Chop getting chomped.

Do you have a favorite character from your childhood that you would hate to see turned into a dog toy?

Luna’s Great Leap

I have written before about our cat’s fascination with my Julbocken, the Scandinavian straw goats popular at Christmas. She loves to chew on the wheat berries at the end of the straw sprigs that make up the beards. Last Christmas I left them out in the living room instead of putting them back in the closet in January. I had repaired the beard of the largest Julbock and festooned him with a lovely beard and wanted to show him off.

I had three Julbocken and an Austrian straw girl on top of a curio cabinet that I thought was out of the cat’s range for leaping. The figures were at an awkward angle to jump to from the love seat (or so I thought). I thought the angle and the narrowness of the surfaces would dissuade her from leaping. I would sometimes see Luna, the cat, stare intently up at the figures from the floor, as if calculating what she needed to do to get up there. The other evening I heard a strange yowling, and I entered the living room to see her on top of the curio cabinet feasting on the repaired beard of the largest julbock. I got Luna down and put the goats back in the closet. I left the girl, since she had no berries to chew on.

A few days later I took this photo, that I think captures Luna calculating how to make another leap.

She hasn’t, to my knowledge, leapt again to the top of the curio cabinet. The girl has been left undisturbed. Luna isn’t a very active cat, but she is far more calculating than I would have imagined.

When have you taken a calculated risk? Did it work out for you? Who are the most successful risk takers you know?

Role Models

About two weeks ago, Husband and I were in the front yard veggie garden planting tomatoes and peppers. This was unusual for us, as we never, as a rule, put tender plants outside until after Memorial Day. The weather here is too unpredictable, and there is often a late frost. This year I convinced myself that it would be different, as the weather service stated the chance of frost in our region was very low for the rest of the month.

One of our neighbors stopped by to ask what we were doing. We explained, and he said it was good information, as he always watched us to see when it was time to plant. I was rather taken aback by this, and felt pretty guilty as last week, we had to cover our tomatoes and peppers because the weather service was wrong, and temperatures were predicted to reach 31 last Friday night. Moreover, there was light snow predicted, and a high wind warning. I don’t know if the neighbor took our cue and planted his garden. I sure hope not.

We dutifully covered our plants with large tarps. Nothing froze, but it made me again vow I would never plant before Memorial Day. I don’t know if I like being a role model. I make mistakes. I don’t want people to emulate my mistakes. I never had any siblings I had to be a role model for, and I can imagine it must be really annoying to be in that position.

Were you ever considered a role model for others? Who were your role models? Ever felt like a fraud?

Stranger Danger?

A few days ago, as YA and I were having some lunch downstairs, she looked out the front window and said “there’s some sketchy woman taking pictures of our house.”  Now what you need to know is that every person that YA doesn’t know personally is “sketchy”.  Secondly, during spring and summer it’s not all that unusual for strangers to take photos of our gardens.  So I didn’t think too much of this until she said “She’s still out there.”  I turned around to see an older woman walking up the driveway between our house and the nextdoor neighbors. 

I went toward the back of the house and I could see her clearly. She was looking into our backyard and still taking photos.  This was the day after the new driveway had been laid, so I thought maybe she was interested in the cement work.  So I stepped out onto the back stairs and asked her if I could help her.  She said “Oh, I’m just looking at the house.  I used to live here 30 years ago.”  I replied, “Oh, are you Claire?”

I’ve heard of this kind of thing happening but never expected it to happen to me.  When I bought this house, it was in terrible shape – I had to have a clause written into the sales agreement that they get all the garbage out of the house or I would pay $5,000.00 less. I spent an afternoon in the house with Claire before the closing date; I was waiting for various contractors who were giving me quotes for painting, floors, carpet, etc.  She seemed a little over the edge at the time and I was glad to get out of there at the end of the day.

Anyway, I talked to her over the fence in the backyard for a few minutes.  In that short amount of time, I wasn’t convinced that she had backed away from thay edge.  She told me she was living in 300 square feet in her ex-husband’s basement in California – not exactly the kind of detail you need to tell a stranger.  Up until that second, I had been thinking maybe I should invite her in.  I’m absolutely sure she would have taken me up on the offer if I had made it.  But I had things I wanted to get done and I had a suspicion that if I invited her in, she might be inclined to overstay any welcome I might offer.  So we talked a bit more about changes to the neighborhood and then I went back inside.

YA was horrified that I had considered inviting her in and while I initially had a twinge of guilt, I got over it. 

Have you ever met any of the previous owners/residents of your homes?

The Driveway

Big doings this week at our house.  After 30 years the driveway is getting re-done!  It’s looked awful for years, the cement seams filled with weeds and the asphalt part crumbling but I let it go as long as I possibly could.  But starting last year we’ve had to be way too careful driving up and down because the ruts in the blacktop were deep enough that if you just drove straight up/down, you could scrape the bottom of the car.

It turned out to be a two-day job because I decided to replace the little paving blocks in the back with a real sidewalk as well.  The first day, they demolished the driveway, moved the paving stones and dug a nice trench for the sidewalk.  Then in a very smart move (amazing how they know their own business!!) they covered everything in plastic; it poured buckets overnight.  Watching them take up the soaking wet plastic and get as much of the water into my yard and my neighbor’s yard instead of onto the driveway was almost painful.

The cement business seems like periods of very hard physical labor punctuated with standing around.  Waiting for the next phase of the job begins or waiting for some piece of the job that someone else has to do gets done.  Just as well – if they worked that hard for 7 hours straight, no one could last in the job!

The cement truck couldn’t get all the way up the driveway so they filled an intermediate container on wheels – looked like a big bug.  Then from the bug to the wheelbarrows, then the hard work of spreading it and shaping it.

All this excitement was hard on the dog and the cat.  Of course, with all the work in the backyard, Guinevere had to do all her business at the end of a leash and overnight she had to be “escorted” into the yard to make sure she stayed off the plastic.  The noise made her a bit anxious but keeping her upstairs helped a bit.  Nimue also disliked the noise and disruption; I’m never quite sure how much she picks up from the anxious dog and how much is her own crabbiness at having her routines varied.  Not that her routine actually varied that much.

There were a lot of logistics for us as well.  First there’s the car issue.  You’re not supposed to drive on the new cement for 7 days.  And after spending the last year reading about people breaking into cars or stealing catalytic converters, we were both a little hesitant to park on the street overnight.  We decided to be a one-car family for a week; hers stayed in the garage and I parked on the street during the day and then in my neighbor’s driveway at night.  Second issue was the dog – she spent three days on “house arrest” – only getting out when she was supervised or on a leash.  Third issue was actually the biggest… this was SO distracting.  YA and I both were fascinated and I think we would have easily just sat and watching the proceedings for the entire 2 days. 

It looks fabulous now and I can’t wait until the first time I can drive up it and not worry about getting all the way to the right or left to keep from scrapping!

What’s a project that you put off too long (currently or in the past)?

Infernal combustion

Husband has always considered it his job to mow the lawn. Most of the yard is flower beds, vegetable gardens, and strawberry and raspberry patches. There isn’t much to mow.

I usually mowed the lawn when I lived with my parents after about Grade 6. It was easy. The lawnmower was always well maintained by my father, who loved tinkering and was very mechanically minded. I, too, am very mechanically minded and love to tinker, but while he taught me basic car maintenance, like how to change the oil on my car, Dad never taught me the finer points of small engine maintenance.

My husband is a very scholarly fellow who can write and reason with the best of them, but who was never taught how to fix things. His father was very unhandy. So was his uncle, who somehow was an engineer in a nuclear power plant in Ohio. (He had trouble replacing blades in his own razor.)

We have not had good luck with our mowers. I imagine sitting in the garage all winter without any preparation or winterizing, and then being expected to burst into action in the spring with just a little oil added isn’t the best way to deal with these engines. Last weekend, Husband tried to mow, but the thick smoke pouring from the mower was so noxious for us and the neighbors that he stopped in disgust. We had even had it looked at last fall by a small engine repair guy, but it was not helpful.

We made a trip to Menards and Husband bought an old fashion reel mower, what I would call a push mower. Today he assembled it all by himself while I was at work, and mowed our lawn. No more smoke. No more anxiety every spring if the lawnmower will work. We just have to figure out how to sharpen the blades.

How are you at fixing things? How do you maintain your lawnmower? What are your experiences with reel mowers?

Woodpecker Spa

A few weeks ago, Husband decided to water the strawberry bed with a rotating sprinkler that watered the strawberries as well as a section of the lilac bushes. It was terribly dry then. The backyard birds got very excited and flitted in and out of the bushes through the water. One bird, a Hairy Woodpecker, just sat very still in the lilacs letting the water fall on it, luxuriating in the shower.

One other occasion many years ago in yet another drought we had a flock of Cedar Waxwings sit for a long time in the lilacs as an oscillating sprinkler went back and forth over them. I guess we have a bird spa in our backyard!

I have never been to a spa. I have never had a massage. I know lots of people do such things. I think I fear the intimacy of such experiences. I would rather watch the birds.

What are your spa experiences? How about massage? Any good bird stories?

Accidentally On Purpose

I woke up at seven this morning thinking “Dang, I forgot to set the alarm” – I needed to be up at 6:30 if we’re going to do our regular Zoom workout class. But then I remembered it’s also our 41st anniversary, and wondered if I had unconsciously planned this so we could “sleep in” this morning.

As kids we would have called this “accidentally on purpose.” We might “forget” to go home at the time our moms had told us, or do that extra chore, or tell ourselves we couldn’t find the borrowed toy that we didn’t want to return just yet.

Do you remember this phrase from your childhood?

Can you recall doing anything “accidentally on purpose”?

Do you see any “accidentally on purpose” actions going on around you – personally, or in the greater scheme of things?

What The Heck?!

Not sure how to explain this.  YA has been after me for years to do something about my white/gray hair; it offends her sensibilities that I have some white, some gray and some brown, but nothing uniform.  It doesn’t bother me at all so her desires concerning my hair have fallen on deaf ears.

Monday afternoon she pestered me again.  “I know purple is your favorite color and I have purple dye on hand.”  And for reasons even I don’t quite understand, I said “Sure.”

She did all the work – all I had to do was sit still in the bathroom and then take a shower to rinse off.  Then she cut off about four inches, which I did need – was getting a little scraggly.

Since I’m working from home these days I’ve only had to explain it a couple of time on Zoom calls but honestly I’m not sure what to say, other than I was struck by a “what the heck” moment.

Any “what the heck” moments for you recently?