Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Second childhood

It recently occurred to me that I haven't written about Ben the Wonder Dog in some time. He informs me this is an egregious omission and probably the reason the blog's readership has dwindled.

(We'll let him think that. . .  I don't have the heart to tell him it's really probably because I don't get off sit down on my fat you-know-what and write more often.)

Ben, who turns 15 in February, is growing old.

Or so we thought until about a month ago.

Most of Ben's year has been punctuated with long, deep naps -- so deep that we occasionally have to wake him up to let him know we're home. He struggles a bit more to get up from his blanket now, hind legs wobbling perceptibly. (Strangely, hopping up on the no-fly-zone sofas in the living room and guest room isn't a problem. Funny how that works. ). And occasionally we find he's wandered into the bathroom to stare at the tub.

(On the other hand, perhaps that isn't a true barometer of aging -- I wander into a lot of rooms and stare at random things. Check that off the aging list, okay?)

ANYWAY.  Earlier this year, we resigned ourselves to helping Ben age gracefully and comfortably in our home. Until now. The dog appears to be experiencing a second childhood.

These days, we are greeted in the morning by a canine senior citizen who bounces and prances around the condo barking to get on with his walk. He's also been known to bite and tug at his blue blanket in his fever to walk.

Outside, Ben literally lopes across green spaces in search of new smells -- and occasionally still stalks an unsuspecting squirrel. Our walks have gotten longer and longer instead of shorter and shorter and it's proving downright tricky to convince Ben it's time to go home.

And meal times? It's like we have a teen in the house. Ben fusses and frets -- punctuated with a few spoiled barks -- until food is delivered. . .  and then stands in front of the laundry room where his treats are located. . . until treats are delivered.

Always a grazer, who has left dog food in his dish almost his whole life, Ben is now a card-carrying member of the Clean Plate Club. Most mornings an empty dog food dish, edges scoured for renegade crumbs, greets us -- along with a hungry, reproachful side glance from the dog.

Ummm. You gonna eat all of that?
What's up with this second puppyhood? Our theories range from the possibility that this fall's cooler temperatures and damp mornings have hit Ben's aging sweet spot. . . or that the reoccurring appearance of the Most Adorable Grandchild in the World is a heads-up to keep moving or risk being attacked by a 13-month-old hurricane of curiosity.

And the purpose of this is........

Whatever it is -- we love it. And it appears Ben does too. Pesky teenager.

You know, youth is wasted on the young.
P.S. Sorry about the poopy pix. Technical problems!

Friday, October 30, 2015

WTF Friday: The count down

Duly noted.
About a month ago, I spent the day with DZ, my oldest BFF (can you say 5th grade?). She was hooked up to various IV lines for her bi-weekly dose of chemo -- and I was posed to learn the fine art of counted cross stitch.

May God have mercy on our troubled souls.

Okay. I'm a quasi-crafty person. I know my way around a glue gun. I've put together a seasonal wreath with the best of them. And back in the day -- when I had the eyesight of an eagle (albeit a very nearsighted eagle) -- I did crewel and cross stitch work, but I always eschewed counted cross stitch. Because, well, it involved, counting. 

To put this in perspective: DZ is the math-science part of our friendship equation. I'm the wordy variable (who's been known to draw on a occasion, too). We bonded in 5th grade while working on posters for a school book fair contest themed "Swing into Books." (Is "theme" a verb? it is now) .

Our desks were across from each other, and I was cutting out about a bazillion felt leaves for a Tarzan-oriented creation. I believe DZ decided to inventory each one and calculate how many leaves could be produced from a 12 x 12-inch piece of green felt. When we discovered our mutual love for the local bookmobile -- it was destiny: We were made for each other!

As a result, given our different skill sets, it's no surprise that, over the years, DZ has gravitated to crafts that require organization and precision, becoming a skilled baker, quilter and counted cross stitcher.

And I blog (not very faithfully these days, I'm afraid). . . . and do yard art.

But back to our counted cross stitch lesson. My first assignment was a bookmark. Within 10 minutes, I had an impossible wad of tangled thread on the back of my project. With the patience of a saint, DZ carefully excavated through my counted cross stitch folly and got me back on track. Fast forward another 10 minutes -- another bird's nest. Again, DZ to the rescue.

Interesting aside: The vast majority of counted cross stitchers don't use the F word. They should. And, if I have anything to do with it, they will.

But once DZ got the cross stitch boat righted the second time, I kind of got the hang of it. Feeling pretty full of myself at the end of our session, I announced:

Note to The Mom Unit, My Date and The Kids: Do not read the next part of this. 

You have been warned.


Note to The Mom Unit, My Date and The Kids: You can start reading again.

DZ smiled and nodded benignly, gracefully hiding an urge to wrap one of her IV lines around my neck.


So. I am just finishing up my second project and will now share several counted cross stitch take-aways in closing:

1. Counted cross stitch is a contact sport. It involves sharp things like needles, people! Sharp things that find your fingers -- and d.r.a.w. B.L.O.O.D. So, therefore, counted cross stitch is also a blood sport. Make sure you're up-to-date on your shots before tackling that next bookmark.

2. Counted cross stitch is kinky. Christian Grey, take note. My counted cross stitch projects have introduced me to more knots than you'll ever master in three lifetimes.

So rooky, Christian. So very, very rooky.
(Thanks, Google Images!)
And by the way, Christian, you really haven't really experienced bondage until you've self-stitched two fingers to a sampler that reads "Home Sweet Home."

3. And finally: There IS room for the F bomb in the rarefied world of counted cross stitch. Plenn-nn-tty of room.

Just ask My Date.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

WTF Friday (except it's Sunday. . . live with it): The squirrel edition

One of the great pleasures of being a member of a homeowners' association (aka, HOA) is joining the group's listserv. It is here we read about the latest coyote sightings, people rifling through mailboxes, the sweet old man who cadges aluminum cans out of neighbors' recycling bins and how people REALLY feel about the (too) early a.m. deployment of electric leaf blowers. (Answer: Grumpy. And snarky.)

We've been treated to an epic, weeks-long e-debate about a new loo in the club house (Group consensus: Yes. And it happened, people. There was even an open house!) AND gotten some awesome recommendations for home improvement services in The Beav. So, listservs are GOOD!

But I have to admit I wasn't quite ready for this recent subject line: "Dead squirrels on SW xxx Ave. (not roadkill)".

Now, squirrels have been the subject of a few listserv emails this summer. But largely the living kind.

According to most missives, our local squirrel population seems to have increased alarmingly this summer, (probably, according to my listserv statistics, because there are way fewer coyote sightings than last year) and as we've seen for ourselves, the little buggers apparently thrive on seeds, nuts and aggravating local homeowners.

But dead squirrels.  That's a whole different bag of rodents. The sender wondered if some squirrel vigilantes were leaving out poison bait and cautioned "neighboring cats and dogs [and birds]-- and possibly children -- could be at risk, either by direct access to the bait, or by access to the squirrel corpses."

Ewwwwwwwww. But point well taken.

Which brings me to how we've been dealing with The Crater-nator and Rocky:

Behold: The elixir of gods.
In essence, it's habanero oil -- inhaling it while you mix into your birdseed can send even those with lungs of steel coughing and snorting into the next county.  BUT based on the increased traffic at the bird feeder, it appears to be crack cocaine to chickadees, nuthatches and juncos -- and anathema to our little rat friends with the fluffy tails.

There WAS some early payback on the part of The Crater-nator and Rocky. They actually ditched some of the seeds in various pots on the Postage Stamp Patio, causing a bit of death and destruction as sunflowers attempted to heave themselves up toward the sun.

And now, as the fluffy-tailed (but much humbled) terrorists scamper across the PSP in search of less inflammatory victuals, they occasionally glare at me.
Ever been mean-mugged by a 4-inch squirrel? I have.
I can live with that.

But I do think about "Dead squirrels. . . (not roadkill)." And sincerely hope little puffs of smoke weren't coming out of the ears of the deceased when discovered.

That would be, well. . . awkward.

DISCLAIMER: Dear PETA and animal rights people, my backyard bird experts assure me the squirrels are safe. They, like the 90-year-old Mom Unit, just do not like spicy food. It's a matter of taste, people. . . a matter of taste. Squirrels have it, too.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Fly, fly away -- or die

Behold Bermtopia's very own Great Pit of Carkoon.

But instead of attempting to dispatch Star Wars luminaries, I spent a delightful Monday afternoon using my "pit" in an attempt to annihilate a disgusting, rapidly multiplying population of freaking fruit flies. My weapons of choice? A stoo-pid armory of home-remedy weapons like cider vinegar, dish detergent and, much to my dismay, a fairly pleasant zinfandel from Trader Joe's. Let's just say the fruit flies didn't buy it.

Eff. Thank you, Internet. By dinnertime, my kitchen looked like a goddamn college Genetics lab gone very, very bad.

You see, drosophila melanogaster breed like rabbits. No wait. Check that. They breed like fruit flies. According to Professor Wikipedia, the little bastards can lay up to 500 eggs at a time -- and it only takes 8 to 10 days to go from egg to adult. 8 TO 10 DAYS, people!

It all started so innocently. A recent, well-meaning article in the food section of The Oregonian, PDX's kind-of daily newspaper (our home delivery is Sunday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday -- go figure), shared how to best store the summer bounty of your vegetable garden to reap its rich, unforgettable gifts of flavor.

For cucumbers and tomatoes (some of the best heirlooms I've raised to date, btw), the answer is keeping the your harvest at room temperature. Seems refrigeration sucks the flavor life out of them.

I, of course, do everything I read about in the news and started keeping tomatoes and cukes out, creating lovely vignettes of late-summer harvests on our dining room table.

Enter the fruit flies. The little turd-lets.

I looped back to the Internet for non-toxic home solutions as they multiplied: One was cider vinegar. Even the produce guys at our local grocery store recommended it. And so, at the World Wide Web's suggestion, I whipped up a concoction of cider vinegar, dish detergent and a chunk of very ripe banana -- my own little Pit of Carkoon.  I am sparing you a close-up it was SO GROSS.

Any hoo, the cider vinegar apparently smells like over-ripe fruit to a fruit fly (helped, of course, by REAL over-ripe fruit), they have a fruit fly orgasm and bomb on over to it, land on the vinegar because they think it's rotting fruit (apparently fruit flies are not the sharpest knives in drawer -- evolution can be so cruel), and then, because it's all slippery-like because of the dish detergent, they slide into the cider and drown.

Sadly, I had no fresh sarlaccs in the pantry.

This all sounded simple enough. Except MY fruit flies thought I had just handed them a bowl of free fruit fly crack cocaine. A bunch of the guys lounged around the rim of the bowl all last night -- POOL PAR-TAY! Wearing Speed-o's. Do. not. even. ask.

So, today, we brought in the big guns: Fruit fly traps. The world needs more plastic, right? HOWEVER, they are non-toxic, good for 30 days (by that time, we'll be winding down on the tomatoes and cukes) and kinda cute. They appear to be working!

Seriously. A second after I snapped this, one of the little twerps
disappeared into the trap. For good. His companion is now likewise unaccounted for.
That is. Until the next 500 eggs hatch.

Friday, August 28, 2015

WTF Friday: The vegetable edition

So. In my brief years of vegetable gardening, I've eschewed growing squash. First, I don't like most squash species. Second, in the shared-garden gardening world, aka When Pigs Fly Farm and Think Outside the Box Acres, squash take up quite a bit of real estate. . . real estate I'd much rather dedicate to heirloom tomatoes, green beans, cucumbers, etc. etc. It's obviously a fair point of debate, given the volume of squash still available at our  community garden and farmers market.

 Just an observation: A lot of friends become scarce this time of year if you grow zucchini.

So. About 5 weeks ago, I noticed a new sprout in "front yard."  (I'm at a loss to actually describe the "front yard." Front slope? Front cliff? Front abyss? You decide.) I put my money down on "hollyhock." Holly-hardy-har-har.

As we quickly approach our first anniversary here in The Beav, I can report there have been surprises (mostly delightful and pleasant) almost every week -- including what grows (or doesn't) here on The Lane. The horticultural epiphanies tend to be the most entertaining.

Case in point: Our "hollyhock" has turned out to be a squash, courtesy, we think, of bird poop. Arrrgghh. You can run, but you cannot hide. Especially when it comes to squash.

It appears to be a pumpkin. Or so I like to think. It is much better behaved than last summer's Mr. Pugly -- my pumpkin project that essentially ate a 12-by-12 vegetable patch. Which is good. Well-behaved pumpkins help keep us on the grid in terms of good-neighbor-relationships-because-zucchini-isn't-involved. Or so I like to think.

It's not on the landscaping plan we submitted to our esteemed homeowners association. I'd hate to be drummed off The Lane because of a squash. But nobody has noticed this unintended squash-y squatter. Or so I like to think.

And we have a pumpkin. Or so I think.

It's shaping up to be a good fall.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Seeing red

We are not blogging about Astoria today, kids.

My date and I taking a turn through Bermtopia, visiting Number One Son, The Miz and The Most Adorable Grandson in the World. And here's what it looks like:

It's fire season. And most of the world around us is red or grey as smoke and ash mute the late summer sun and skies.

There are about 36 large active fires burning in Washington and Oregon today. (Sorry, Idahoans, I can only get my head wrapped around what's happening in my two "home" states, but I know it's bad your direction, too.) Crunching numbers gathered by the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center, this translates into more than 700,000 acres of forest and grass lands. Almost 9,000 men and women are fighting these fires in conditions that are unimaginable. And, tragically, 3 of these heroes lost their lives yesterday. Four of their colleagues were critically injured. I cannot fathom the tragedy of this.

While those of us safe and sound in Bermtopia grump about the pressing heat, smoke and gritty air quality, we try also to remember the human price paid by those who live on or close to these fire lines. Homes and businesses gone. Irreplaceable family mementos in ash. Livestock and livelihoods scattered and presumably lost -- for how long, who knows? Charming towns and beloved recreational areas emptied by mandatory evacuation orders. Many face uncertain days ahead as winds are predicted to kick up across eastern Washington and Oregon tonight, fanning fires that range in containment from 0 to 94 percent.

We've lived through 28 fire seasons here in Bermtopia. This is the worst we can remember in terms of danger and destruction. If you'd like to reach out and help the families and communities affected by these fires, there are ways to do this. The American Red Cross has set up a Western Wildfires page -- under "Ways to Give."

That's a pretty good place to start.

And, oh, maybe skip that wienie roast and quit smoking if you're schlepping through eastern Oregon or Washington any time in the near future. (Can't do anything about fires started by lightning strikes, but some were human-caused, people. That's just stoo-pid.)

You're welcome.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015


How can it be I haven't touched this blog for three months -- THREE MONTHS!!?? How can one be gainfully unemployed retired and not make time to fire off a few bon mots once or twice a week? What a wanker I am.

Well, I'm back. And, actually, thanks to the miracle of my cell phone camera, I have pictorial proof that I haven't been just sitting on my patoot doing nothing. Sort of.

1. Well, there was this move. . .

In an impressive burst of karmic irony, Number One Son, the Miz and the Most Adorable Grandchild in the World moved to Bermtopia, our former domicile, at the end of May. We helped. Imagine cleaning and closing up a 2-bedroom apartment in Everett, packing, driving across the glorious state of Washington and unpacking over a three-day period. Yup, that was us.

And did I mention, the MAGITW perfected crawling that weekend, thereby requiring the one-on-one attention of at least one adult at all times? I am now qualified for a career as a Secret Service agent.

Grandma, you forgot to mention I'm pulling myself up, too.
2. And we had to take a break for a little culture here and there. . .

By taking in a Nellie McKay concert over in PDX's Alberta Arts district. . .

Visiting the city's Japanese Garden. . . Rose Gardens. . . and Chinese Garden

And rolling over to the coast a couple of times. (Okay, okay: technically not cultural. Does it count that we watched "American Ninja Warrior" one night?)

Greetings from The Place of Noisy Water.
I still refuse to get my paws wet.
3. And let's not forget Phase One of the Great Front Yard landscaping project. . .
It's a start, people. It's a start.
4. We did hit the road a couple of times. . .

Number Two Son and I took on Chicago, ostensibly to attend a wedding but mostly we just geeked out on the architecture, Jamaican jerk chicken, the Art Institute, River Walk, Millenium and Grant Parks, Lincoln Park Zoo, gangster tours and miniature golf. Not necessarily in that order.

And there this little junket to Sin City with our Vegas travel buddies, the Poop Heads.

Check it out!
If Joe Biden's presidential bid peters out, he can always fall back on that side job!
5. We played with matches with the Mom Unit and Number Two Son on July 4.

6. Oh, there was that record-setting heat wave that pestered all of the Northwest most of July.

Fat calves and Hobbit feet! Yay me.
Homemade sangria helped.
7. And we cared and nurtured Think Outside the Box Acres, where tomato leaf curl, blossom drop and incendiary bush beans are a way of life.

The survivors.
So there you have it. A waa-aa-aay too long pictorial documentation of how I'm spending my spring and summer vacation. But I finally figured out how to move Instagram pix to Blogger. So we've got that going for us. Which is good.

I am tired of being a wanker. I am back in the blogging saddle. Next stop -- Astoria, Ore., via the backroads. Providing the back roads are not too back-roady.