Monday, March 30, 2009

Busy as bees.

This was last July. The video at the end is our fifteen minutes of fame I guess.
It also shows a simpler time. A time when the farm market was already stocked and opened, instead of empty, dirty, and disorganized. When the bees were all situated, captured, housed, gathering, buzzing. When it was warm and sunny instead of gray and moist and chilly.

There was no Anti-Carpenter back then. Well, I take that back. He was around then, and he built the nice countertop you may catch a glimpse of in the video, thereby luring us into a sense of complacency. The better to trick us into allowing him to torment us at a later date.

The bathroom is in use. It has already been baptized by fire (aka The Double-Ended Flu.) Seems to be working OK. And all I have left to do is: polyurethene 3 oak doors and all the trim, uncaulk and recaulk the toilet, try to clean the caulk residue from the window frame & possibly putty and re-urethane it, patch and re-paint all the dings on the walls, scrub all the black scuff marks A-C left all over the bathtub from his stupid-ass boots that we've repeatedly had to tell him about. He says he's coming back to finish the exterior framing of the window & to pay us back for the first tub surround that he destroyed and we replaced. Whatever. This weekend was my first in awhile without nieces to babysit so I was hoping to get all of that bathroom stuff done, the house cleaned, the market set up, vacation planned, bills paid. Instead I crawled into a chair with Lily because I'm a whiny baby. Actually, that was Wednesday night. I was really trying to do stuff Saturday, so Mark also decided it was a good day to take the kids to a movie. So that evening I took my unmotivated, unshowered, bra-less self to the old new movie theater. (I was havin' a tough time, ok.)
The theater was brand new when Mark & I were just old enough to get dropped off by our parents to catch a movie with friends. Such freedom!

It was a bustling place situated behind The Washington Mall. Parking spaces were at a premium and you might not get into a showing because it was sold out.

Now the the mall is an empty husk of its former self. Park anywhere you like, and the movies are always discounted and mostly empty. Oh, and bring your own 3-D glasses for Monsters vs. Aliens because you can't get them there.

But it was cute without the 3-D glasses. A good time other than our over-the-top phobia of touching things in public spaces. It's stupid, I know. Neither one of us thinks twice about sticking our arm up to the shoulder in a pig's plumbing, shoveling manure, or field-dressing a deer, but ask us to touch the door handles of a restaurant and we gag. And then to watch our children crawl all over the seats and then eat popcorn from a cardboard tub with their now contaminated hands?

Mark says to me, "You get a free refill of popcorn, you know."
'Ya, so.'
"Well, you know they just stick everyone's same cruddy bucket right back into the popcorn bin." This coming from the guy who eats pigs feet and chicken necks. And No, we didn't get a refill.

Instead, in keeping with our wayback machine theme, we went to EatNPark for coffee and dessert at 9 o'clock at night. Decaf for the grown ups. Pie and milkshakes for the young'uns.

Then Sunday, before I could even get a whole cup of coffee in me, Mark says 'Let's go to the museum!' Good Golly, Man! I'm trying to clip coupons here! But, the Carnegie is having an exhibit called 'The Horse' and there was no way I was passing that up. My sister and her crew came along and an educational time was had by all. I do not have any pictures of her goosing the naked statue. I do not have any photos of The Horse exhibit. Big No-No there. And the rest of my photos were kind of a flop.
See? Blurry. But it is kind of funny if you picture the dinosaur wearing Mark's head and Mark with a brontosaurus body. TeeHee.
And my last ditch effort to redeem myself as photographer: Museum Super Heroes, Assemble!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Myrple Syrple Festival

We took a lovely drive to the mountains of Meyersdale, PA yesterday for the Pennsylvania Maple Festival. I'm not sure how Mark discovered the festival's existence, but once he did, he was an unstoppable force.
'They show you how to make maple syrup!' he'd exclaim. And 'Who wants to go to the Myrple Syrple Festival!' Never mind that he already knows how it's made. Or that he's seen the whole operation at the farm where our syrup for the market comes from. Or that I'm pretty sure he's tapped trees himself.
Anywho, I'm glad he insisted we all go. Mawsi and Pops came along and there is always some bit of charm that follows us whenever we all go somewhere together. Parking spaces magically appear, the sun shines, and there are always friendly dogs to pet.
Somewhere around the Mason-Dixon Line we saw these beauties: I want one so bad. I've only had one company get back to me with a quote. Tens of thousands of dollars I believe. I still want one.
Our first scheduled stop was the Lions Pancake and Sausage breakfast in the community center gymnasium. You're ushered in to sit elbow to elbow with other folks at long cafeteria tables. You help yourself to a carton of orange drink or a cup of coffee from the carafes on the table. There are pitchers of maple syrup and Styrofoam plates of butter pats. A plate of 3 fluffy pancakes and 2 fat links of homemade sausage are brought to you and you're allowed 1 plate of seconds. None of us were man enough to order seconds.
And if it's your 7th birthday, one of the Maple Queen's court will give a shout 'Princesses! We have a birthday!' and all the princesses will gather round to sing a lovely rendition of 'Happy Birthday.' How sweet was that? They should be proud of their princesses. Very nice girls, every one of them. Not sure who that lady in green is, but she was a good sport!

After carb-loading, we headed out to check out the sights. A pretty mural. Inside the festival park, we also saw a blacksmith. I thought of you, OsageBluffQuilter (and OsageBluffBlacksmith!)

We saw a woman 'washing butter' after she'd churned it. Learned about 'coopers' and how they put a barrel or bucket together. Heard a song played on a Hammer Dulcimer. Mark groaned when he saw it 'Oh great, I'll never get you out of here now.' Such magical music!
Here's how they'd haul the sugar water collected from the trees back to the sugar shack for cooking down into syrup and sugar.Here's inside the sugar shack. It takes a long time to make syrup this way. This is spotza. I'd never had it before. The maple syrup is cooked to a soft ball candy stage, drizzled over shaved ice and you eat it with your little wooden stick. Sugar, sugar, sugar!

Here's Lil tapping a 'tree.' First you drill a hole, then you tap in your spile and hang your bucket.There was quite a bit more, but I didn't take enough pictures. Too shaky from all the sugar.And from the start I got when this guy fired his muzzle loader up into the air

On our way home we stumbled upon the Casselman River Bridge so we got out to have a look. Really pretty and the longest stone arch in it's day back in 1813.

We saw a lot of beautiful farms on our way home through the mountains. Immaculate picture-perfect spreads. And much to our surprise, we saw these bad boys:Texas Longhorns on the top of a mountain. I told you things got magical when Mawsi & Pops come along.

Myrple Syrple!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Here's what my poor husband called to tell me this morning (with his good friend laughing hysterically in the background at this ongoing saga):

Shortly after he arrived a half hour late, the "Carpenter" (because he has been demoted from being a real Carpenter in my eyes) launched into a paroxysm of thunderous, hacking coughs and with a wheezy cry of 'heart attack!' stumbled out the door and fell to our porch onto his back like an emphysematic turtle. Mark, in no way convinced there was anything wrong with him (it is not uncommon for him to have crazy loud coughing fits,) nonchalantly asked him if he'd like for an ambulance to be summoned.
I don't know what the guy's response was, but no ambulance was required, and when Mark and the Anti-Carpenter went on a supply run to the hardware store, I guess he was quite ambulatory and downright sprightly. Or spritely? As in muss up everything he touches like some evil little creature?

And here I am all out of strawberry wine.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Sam has Google-ability.

Sam said he googled himself at school today. So he's pretty pumped about that.
Lily's on there too. We looked for Ag but didn't find her. She was OK with that because the Flapjack cartoon was on. We love us a Flapjack cartoon in this household.

If you were wondering, the carpenter called. He left a long rambling voicemail about when he was going to cook supper, when he was going to eat supper, and whether or not he should show up tonight.

I have been enjoying some homemade strawberry wine (made by a talented cousin 'o mine) in celebration of my carpenter's supper. It is delicious and pretty. Cheers, Carpenter!

I'm laughing at the photo of the homemade wine in the recycled bottled on my goonie formica next to the 2 for $4 hot dog buns, accumulated dirty dishes, paint brush and stone sealer littering the kitchen.

5 Stages of Grief Hiring A Contractor/Bathroom Remodelling

We are magnets.

If there is an unreliable, self-employed contractor within a thousand square miles of us, we will bend over and kiss our own arses for the opportunity to give him our hard-earned money in exchange for an exasperating and frustrating experience.
I swear we're not doing it on purpose, but so far, in the few years we've lived at our place, we've hired a drunk carpenter who Mark literally throttled and threatened in order to get him to complete the piss-poor job of soffit, fascia, gutters, roofs, etc. that he'd started. We are slowly repairing all the damage he did. Truly everything he touched he un-improved.

We've hired a drunken painter (who bragged about being a teetotaler,) who Mark also threatened (He is not a violent person, I swear.) in order to get him to clean up all the over spray on our brand new deck & "just, for the love of Pete, finish our damned house, it's been half -painted for a month now."
And so on.

Now we have the carpenter who can arrive sober and do acceptable work, but he just can't always be bothered to show up. When he says he'll arrive at 8:30am, he'll call at precisely 8:30am to tell you why he won't be there. Other days he just can't be there. Or maybe he'll show up sometime in the afternoon. (Supposed to be 4:30pm today.)

Then he'll complain about this or that, insult Mark, putz around, talk some more, and make some more insulting remarks. Then Mark will invite him to eat with us and he'll eat supper with us. And finally we'll decide to install the floor ourselves because we're afraid he's going to mess it up in some passive-aggressive fit.
So I've spent the past 3 days on my hands and knees with my nose a few inches from the floor. I've inhaled copious amount of grout dust deemed by the state of California to cause cancer.

Saturday night we mixed up our package of grout and started smearing. We were going to get it all done that night. We'd spent all that day and the previous night babysitting nieces and taxiing my sister-in-law all over the countryside, so at 10:01pm, about 15 minutes into our project and 1 minute exactly after Lowes closes, we discovered that we had about 1/10 of the grout that we needed.

Sunday morning Mark got out of bed and went on a grout run. (And threw in a new charcoal grill for good measure-talk about a boy being on cloud nine.)

So of course they don't have enough packages of Smoke Grey. How about Hemp?

Whatever, I don't care, let's do this.

Brings 100 lbs of Hemp grout mix home, we mix a bag and hate the color.

Dump an entire bucket of Hemp grout over the hill.

Return to town and purchase 100 lbs of Delorean Grey at Home Depot hoping it will match. Getting desperate at this point. Starting to not care a little. This is before wiping:
The new grout seems to be working out and it takes forever and requires endless wiping and smoothing. We are obviously not professional tile setters but dammit we just want our bathroom back. Also, it is not what I pictured. I pictured dark grout.

Mark has asked me a couple times if I like it and my answer has always been 'I'm gonna have to like it.' and he says 'Yes, that's right.'

Grief: Why do contractors hate us so? We pay. We cook. Hell, we do half the work ourselves!

Anger: Are you seriously insulting my husband? The one who cooked you dinner and hasn't complained once that you show up whenever the hell you want to.

Bargaining: Just gimme back my bathroom and I'll never hire a contractor again.

Depression: We are idiots for hiring a yet another contractor. Will we never learn? :(

Acceptance: I can poop in the yard and bath in the pond. Kidding. We still have the bathroom in the cellar.

So that's where we're at. Quite honestly, I should be grateful to this guy, because one day, when our bathroom is done and all broken in with dirty underwear and wet towels lying on the floor, Mark and I can sit back and have a good laugh. Because I haven't even told you the half of it.

Plus I've learned how to do grout. Another positive! This is basically the finished product minus stone sealer:
Have I shown you these? I liked them, Mark insisted on them, and it makes me happy to look at them. Positive!
Nerds Ahoy! The plug I bought doesn't fit. Still using a plastic bag to keep it from sinking.

Later on, Ya'll!

Monday, March 9, 2009

More bathroom progress.

Looks like the walls are going to be off white. What's done is done. Amen and amen.

So moving on, we have the pebbles! We think they don't look like the online picture, but we're thinking these are better for us because they're 'less jewel-y' and more pebbly. We're more rustic, less bedazzled.
Oh, but we are putting little baby chandelier type lights on the ceiling. Mark's selection. They may be in tomorrow. I guess that is kind of bedazzled. Huh.
Sorry about the photo quality. No lights in the bathroom yet.

And we're not quite anywhere near installing the pebbles yet. I just wanted to pretend.Something to lift my spirits after scrubbing drywall dust from EVERYTHING.

It's neat to walk on, and, with all the different shapes and colors, I'm thinking it'll give everyone plenty to look at as they sit daydreaming on the pot. What?

Here's the fountain at night. Ain't she pretty? Dang it, we are bedazzled.

Won't you take me to...Chinatown!Or My Old Man and the sea

So Saturday was the big Girl Scouts-at-the-mall shindig. Each troop picked a theme to decorate a booth and then everyone goes around to each booth visiting and doing activities. Lily's troop chose China as their theme.
Each girl contributed whatever they had on hand that was China-themed (or let's be honest here-pretty much anything even slightly 'Asian'.) I don't have a lot of Oriental or Chinese stuff. I wish I had some lovely rugs or tapestries or silks, but I don't, so I went to the dollar store and bought some LaChoy fortune cookies.
We also had 1 Webkinz panda bear, and 2 of those wall hanging/calendars you get for free from Chinese takeout.
But the crowning glory was: the last minute Chinese costume I rigged up for Lily.
Now I realize I could've gone the easier route & made her a kimono, and I knew that was what everyone else was going to do, but kimonos are Japanese, darn it, not Chinese. So my goal was some sort of Mandarin blouse representation, made from the only Oriental-looking fabric from Walmart that I could find and no-sew iron on fabric tape. Pair it with black pants, white socks, black slippers, and a bun updo: voila! OK, I was a little disappointed, but mostly not. Because 1.) I wasn't required to bring a costume and 2.) just as we arrived, the leaders realized that one of the girls had walked off with one of their costumes and mine was the saving grace (in my mind.)
Kind of made me feel all warm inside. Good thing, too. Because I had Lily's booth assignment time wrong and returned her for her duty only to find them tearing down the whole thing. Apparently I was an hour off. She didn't start at 3pm-the whole thing ended at 3pm.
And that's how I do.
And then keeping with the Asian theme of the weekend, after dropping the kids off with my mom, Mark & I happened upon a Korean restaurant down in Cecil. How unexpected is that? We were on our way to the Home & Garden show in Pittsburgh when we spotted it.
It's just a tiny place, a former coffee shop with seating for about 10 people inside. It's called the Golden Pig, and that name alone would've been enough to tempt us to stop. I can't even tell you whether I've even seen a Korean restaurant, and I know I've never eaten at one, so I was pretty excited.
The proprietress is a beautiful and welcoming woman who chats with you and encourages you to try to pronounce the dishes you're ordering. I felt like I was sitting in my mom's kitchen. Welcomed, you know?
When folks would come in for their takeout, she would tell them, try the kimchi, and even if you don't like it, eat it anyway, because it's good for you. But I don't know how anyone couldn't like the kimchi because it was incredible. Everything was delicious.
So if you're in Cecil (the middle of nowhere,) I'd say stop in and eat your cabbage. It's good for you.
Sunday was my mom's wedding reception following her Jamaican wedding get-away. It was a really nice time, good food, and our newly extended family is really sweet. Mom is glowing, in my opinion, and looks prettier and happier than I've ever seen her. So, yay mom!
After that, after Mark upped his IQ at the open bar at mom's reception, we decided to put the fountain in the pond. It was already raining so what was a trip out on the boat with no plug, right?
Mr. Wizard stuffed a plastic shopping bag in the hole and had me shove off with a scrap of lumber as a paddle. We're all class and intelligence here.
I'll let the pictures speak for most of the story. Aggie did a fantastic job of capturing the whole thing. The only thing you can't really see is the one point where frustration, impatience, and multiple draft beers culminate in Mark yanking his boots off and mumbling 'I'm going in there.'
I didn't get overly excited. This is something that could happen at any time, beer or no beer. So I calmly suggested that it's probably not easier to manipulate a cinder block while treading water when you can barely manhandle it from the boat. And I made sure to remind him for the rest of the night that he should be thanking me for keeping him out of the pond. Should have let him do it.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Bathroom progress. Now with more fractions.

Making progress on the bathroom. It should end up taking approximately 1 1/2 times as long as we anticipated. But now I can't really complain because I've compounded the problem by switching up the flooring selection. We were going to do another Pergo wood-looking floor, reasons myriad, but then I found this.

I realize I'm probably a Johnny-come-lately to this scene since I don't catch any of those do-it-yourself, magical home makeover, decorator gauntlet, fight to the death, cage match shows where they gut your bedroom and staple and glue gun all sorts of frightful things to the walls.

And I like things that I pick out at Lowe's or wherever, but I haven't found anything yet that I was hellbent on having. No deal breakers, you know?

After all, my family will soon come in contact with whatever it is and then all bets are off. It could be made to withstand industrial size trauma and indignation, but it will be given a run for it's money once it's part of our home. (Cliche' anyone. Anyone? Sorry, I was 'on a roll.')

But this flooring was calling to me and wouldn't shut up, so my generous husband called them up and ordered it for me this morning. Love you!

(Brother is playing A-Ha, making me want to do the Molly Ringwald dance from Breakfast Club.)

Man Candy (And I'm loving 'Man Candy' as a new name for Mark. Thanks, Amy!) picked the color 'Polished Tiger Pebble.' I was thinking greenish, but I still defer to his judgement on colors. I'd just rather it be his fault if the color is bad, you know? So I've now spent 3 times as much money, and 1 1/2 times as much marital currency as originally planned on flooring. But it's gonna be awesome! I hope.

We've all been sharing the downstairs bathroom for, hmmm, let's say 2 1/3 weeks now. We had a bit of a traffic jam Monday. All sorts of business being conducted, spilling out into the cellar, and using the chest freezer as a vanity of sorts. I think every one's getting sick of all the closeness and sharing. And it's cold down there!

Apropos of nothing, a picture of Yo Yo. He is doing his signature pose with one front paw held up. See that boat behind him?

Mark took it out on the pond and promptly sank it. (Sank? sunk? Sank.) He forgot to put the plug in. The purpose of the dinghy was to put the fountain back into the pond. It has to be tethered to 2 cinder blocks on the bottom of the pond. Last year I floated out on a raft on my belly using one hand to swim and the other to carry the cinder blocks out. We decided to take the fountain out in the winter because we thought it might freeze, and the muskrats chewed the lines that had it anchored. It's a bit cold yet to use my method.And Coco, the Hemingway Cat.
She has about 1 1/2 times more toes than the other cats.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

I'm in love.

He is the Circus Peanut of the Man Candy World and he's all mine. Or something. He's inexplicable. My little boy is becoming a man: he has been running this cold into the ground. Pretty sure he's going to make it, but don't tell him that. Oh, the moping and pitifulness. The plaintive cries for tea. The burning indignation when you tease him about coughing. 'I can't help it! You think I like to cough?!' Well, he learned from the best. His Dad.

Walked in on this scene last night:

Upon closer inspection-that 'headband?' It's actually her 2 dirty knee socks tied at both ends. Nice, huh? Here's Aggie in her newly beloved Duke sweatshirt. Tell Al thanks, Mom, because she's worn it every single day since he gave it to her. In lieu of a proper coat sometimes. Sometimes I can get her to wear a coat, but only in addition to the sweatshirt. Didn't know she was a fan.Poor Aggo. We have accidentally forgotten her 2 times now. First I was late picking her up from her Girl Scout sleepover. Color me mortified for making those Scout leaders wait a second longer than I should have after they spent the entire evening, night, and following morning in the same sweats & just wanted to go home I'm sure. I'm sorry! Then Pops forgot to pick her up yesterday from her after school math club. Thank heavens she's so easy going. Mom of The Year! I'm a shoo-in!