Saturday, January 23, 2016

Sofa wars

About a month ago, it looked like we might lose our dog Ben. Almost 15-years-old, Ben's hips are going, and one night in December, they completely gave out, leaving Ben panicked in pain.

We rushed to the emergency animal hospital, where Ben collected himself, took a few tentative steps and then peed on a bush. We took him home, thinking it might be the end that week.

But it wasn't. He got better. And better still. To the point where he is now sneaking up on the no-fly-zone living room sofa any chance he can get.

You talkin' to me?
Sneaking is the operative word. If we are in another room, and the sofa is open, he makes a break for it. If we are gone for awhile and forget to "protect" this apparently tantalizing piece of furniture, we are greeted with a guilty canine slinking off the sofa. Sometimes he looks faintly annoyed that we dared return to the house.

This is a dog we now have to lift into the car. And who often labors up the front steps returning from a walk (more likely because he doesn't want to the walk to end). And who looks like he may never get up from his blanket because it's "so hard."

But when he hears the siren song of the sofa, it's game over.

This is a dog who apparently believes the command "Down!" now applies to his head.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Bermtopia by the Sea: The haunted edition. . . Or don't read this if you're home alone, laying in a bunkbed, at 4:10 in the morning


We have survived yet another grand Bermtopian holiday. One that, this year,  was just a notch below epic.

Who else out there in the Blogosphere can say they survived a canine near-death experience. . . the Great Seattle Poopheads' Dishwasher Fire. . . a trip to the ER and hospital overnight with The Mom Unit. . . four days in Texas (not as weird as we thought it would be). . . the Number Two Son's version of Grand Theft Auto. . . and throughout it all, the impossible cuteness of The Most Adorable Grandson in the World.

But this all pales -- pales, I tell you -- to being haunted.

To recap. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day played out here in The Beav with My Date, two sons, daughter-in-law, The Mom Unit and, of course, TMAGITW. We then decamped for another four days to Arch Cape Cannon Beach on the Oregon Coast.

WTF!!!! you ask in a shouting font: YOU ALWAYS STAY IN ARCH CAPE.!!!!

Why, yes, boys and girls, we usually do. But this year, five weeks before Christmas, we we were informed our long-time go-to rental place in Arch Cape had been hijacked by its owner (fancy that) for an impromptu family reunion. Okay, so the guy apparently lives in Tanzania and is home for once in a blue moon. . . . . w.h.a.t.e.v.e.r.

So we selected a back-up place suggested by the rental agency in Cannon Beach. It had its pros and cons, including My Date, Number Two son and myself sleeping in bunkbeds (try it sometime!), a faintly sinister playhouse in the backyard and a selection of somewhat weird tchotchkes displayed throughout the house.

Bald dolls. Two-sided dolls. A frog holding a potato.
There are SO many things are wrong with this.
They should have been our first clue.

After a bracing walk on the beach and a replay of Christmas dinner (leftovers are ALWAYs better -- probably because they are actually warm when you eat them), we all toddled off to bed our first night in the house: The Mom Unit in the main floor master bedroom, the Number One Son and family to an upstairs bedroom, the dog to his bed in the living room and The Number Two Son, My Date and myself to the lower level "bunkhouse."

My Date and I nestled into our bunks, noting not to rise up too quickly or risk smacking our heads on bunkbeds above us, while N2S stretched out in the adjacent room for a late-night movie.

And we fell asleep.

Until about 4 a.m. that is -- when I was vigorously persuaded to answer a call of nature. As I tiptoed back to my bunk, I glanced at my cell phone. It was exactly 4:10 a.m.

"Perfect. Another couple of hours of shut-eye," I thought and began to doze, the house silent except for the faint whisper of a gentle wind in the trees outside.

And then. From inside the wall right next to my pillowed head:






And silence. Well, except for the "WTF!!??" firmly wedged in my throat, struggling to make its presence known.

I let a minute pass.

"Bra-aa-ad. . . did you hear THAT?" I hissed.

"Yesssssss," My Date hissed backed.

We bolted out of bed (of course smacking our heads on the upper bunks) and checked the bedroom windows.

Nothing. Nada. Zip.

The front and backyards were empty and silent, shimmering through an early morning rain shower.

And with that, date and I settled back in our bunks for a not-surprisingly restless couple hours before sunrise.

We recounted the story at breakfast. The Number Two Son had heard the knocks, too!

With that, he and I decided to do a perimeter check, reconnoitering for evidence our Cannon Beach version of Caspar the Friendly Ghost. Armed with a flashlight that was about 4 feet long (they grow 'em big in Cannon Beach), we set out on our ghostly campaign. We checked the empty garage first, thinking it was adjacent to the "bunk house." It was not. Plus the exterior doors were locked.

And then. . .  we discovered the Secret Room -- an add-on to the garage that did, indeed, share a wall with bunkhouse. Was this the haven of some insidious Cannon Beach prankster? The N2S readied the flashlight.

We stopped in our tracks and stared the irrefutable evidence. There couldn't be an insidious Cannon Beach prankster: The knob was coated in at least a year's worth of cobwebs. No. one. had. been. in. the. room.

Gentlemen (and women) of the jury, Exhibit #1
Suitably impressed by our phantom visitor's skills at breaking and entering and knocking, the N2S and I retreated back into the beach house to make our report, only then noticing one, slightly unnerving detail. The door to the faintly sinister playhouse was ajar. The same door -- that had been closed the day before.  

We gently closed it -- with apologies to Caspar.

Epilogue: There were no more paranormal antics for the rest of our stay. . . although we three bunkmates slept upstairs the next night, but the bunkhouse was silent and would not reveal its secrets.

It appears haunting is a lonely -- and somewhat inconsistent -- business. Which is a good thing.

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.