Sunday, September 30, 2012


On Sunday mornings at my house, T and I wake up but don't leave the bed, instead bringing books and computers into the fold.  I drink prodigious amounts of coffee, read, and troll the Internet.  T plays computer games.  We check out Post Secret together.  We whisper our conversations and laughter because JT is still snoring away in the room next door.  Inevitably, the cats join us to get some petting and affection.

It doesn't last for more than an hour.  Invariably, the cats leave or the boy wakes up and the rest of the day begins. But in that hour, I am reminded that all is happy in my world.  The people I love are nearby, the coffee is warm, and the living is easy.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Freshly Painted, chapter 3: Adios, Señora

There was a snafu in the new color of house paint, one best illustrated by this picture.
Ummmm, yeah.  That color down below, the new color?  It doesn't match the established siding upstairs.  And I am definitely stuck with that siding. My choice of  Senora Gray (which I kept reading in my mind as Señora Gray) is a no-go.  The Señora was sent packing and it was back to the color drawing board for me.  Dozens of paint chips and a handful of trials later, we concluded that the proper color is Baltic Gray, another Benjamin Moore color.  He's no easy-going Señora, our man Baltic Gray.  No, he's tough.  Durable.  Ready for snow and rain storms.  And a perfect match for the upstairs siding.
Disaster averted.  That's happy.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Fu Manchu

JT awakened this morning to find that puberty is a cruel master.
This may require twice-a-day shaving.

Not to mention the combing and brushing.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Seasonally Adjusted

We had the day off of school yesterday and though I've likely plenty to atone for, that isn't a requirement of my religious faith.  So I cleaned out my closet instead.  Mostly, this involved setting aside some t-shirts now too raggedy to wear and swapping out warm weather clothes for cooler weather fare.

My house was built in the 1930s and closet spaces reflect a less material mindset.  I do have a finished attic, however, and while two-thirds of it is given over to the boy's playroom, the remainder is a giant closet for bed linens, sweaters, and seasonal clothes.  I swap things out twice a year and yesterday was the day for the changeover.  If I were a braver woman, I would have made some pictures of the attic closet but let's just stipulate that some additional cleaning needs to happen before I get that bold.

The clothing change complete, I headed to the backyard where I took the time to review what's left of my summer garden.  On this front, I did make some pictures.  Here's a last rose.
There are still quite a few zinnias, including these brilliant pink flowers .

There were enough zinnias for a bouquet so the flowers went into my basket along with some lima beans for a supper near me quite soon.
That's happy!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Vocabulary with T: Fuck-Knuckle

I suspect that I don't have to write a single thing to explain what the phrase fuck-knuckle means.  Because, come on, fuck-knuckle?  How can that word mean anything other than screwed up beyond belief?   Just so we're clear, fuck knuckle is what happens when something messy or confusing is made worse by human error.

My bin of hair ties are a mess in general.  Then I paw through them and they are fuck-knuckled.

Shoelaces on a kid's shoes are often screwed up.  When JT gets involved, they are fuck-knuckled.

Republican politics have been scary and confusing for a while.  But since the GOP settled on Romney as their nominee, Mittens and his campaign staff have taken the party to a fuck-knuckled state.

Sure, you could describe these events as twisted.  Mixed-up.  Chaotic.  Screwed up.  But why bother when fuck-knuckle is there, perfectly willing to serve, and able to describe things far more accurately?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Your Weekly Dogwood: Week 4

We are at the start of our third week of daytime temps in the 70s.  The nights have been cooler, with temps as cool as the low 40s and 50s.  It's sleeping weather par excellence and I love the sound of the night as I tuck under my quilt by the open window each evening.  In the backyard, the dogwood tree is taking on more and more color, a reddening coat of leaves to celebrate the season.
Days and nights like these are all too fleeting.  Soon enough, a sweater won't be enough to ward off the chill and the leaves will begin to fall.  But the sublime blue of the early fall sky in the afternoon tells me that we have a few more warm afternoons ahead of us.
I'll take it.

Monday, September 24, 2012


Though I always enjoy the arrival of a new season, I am sorry to say goodbye to summer flowers.  The last blooms of the season are among my favorite, a reminder of how quickly time passes.  There is a patch of cosmos growing at T's house that are particularly lovely this fall.
We're geting ever closer to frost so this weekend I made some pictures of the flowers.  I'll stow the bright blooms away for the cold months to come.  

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Freshly Painted, chapter 2: Shabby but Not Chic

The powerwash job sent a lot of loose paint flying and generally succeeded in proving beyond a shadow of doubt that the house could use a paint job.  The worst of the sections are in the back, off the deck.  The previous owners had a hot tub here and it left its mark on paint.
Which is not to say that the rest of the house isn't in need of some fresh paint.

The ivy that once grew up the west side of the house wasn't doing the siding any favors.
In short, Sassafras House is more than ready for the improvements that are coming.  The next step is chipping the rest of the loose paint, siding repair, and then the application of primer.  That work started Friday and will continue into next week.  I'm getting excited about the coming changes.  Updates as warranted!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Freshly Painted, chapter 1

In a long overdue house project, Sassafras House is being painted this fall.  Of course, I'll be blogging about the project.  The best place to start is with some before pictures.  The house is a two-story bungalow with a large front porch and loads of windows.  Here's a view of the front yard, which faces north.  This picture was made Monday morning, as T and I were getting started trimming the overgrown shrubbery along the foundation.
And here's the front of the house after the shrubbery haircut (the large evergreen bush to the left is still due for a trim but it's clear that I need some power clippers to get that done).

Here's a view of the back of the house, which faces south.
Here's the west side of the house.
The driveway is on the east side of the house and that section should be the easiest section to paint since it doesn't have any shrubbery to get in the way.
The second story has vinyl siding that is in good condition, so that color is fixed.  The first story has the original old-fashioned wood siding and that is what needs painting.  The paint is worn and chipped and generally looking shabby, as Lucy is prepared to testify.
The current siding color is a taupe-gray and, in the interests of continuity with the upstairs, that will be the updated color as well.  The paint to be used is Benjamin Moore, a color called Senora Gray.  The windows and front porch will be trimmed in crisp white.  The big decision I have to make is whether or not to stick with the cranberry shutters and accent trim.   I like that combination just fine but I think that something new would be pleasing so I am leaning toward a change.  That means giving up all the cranberry trim, including the front door, one of my favorite parts of the house.
The project starts today with a power wash.  Chipping, siding repair, primer, and two coats of paint plus all the trim work will follow.    I'm excited about the changes to come and I'll be making and posting pictures every step of the way.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Your Weekly Dogwood, Week Three

We had yesterday off from school and the day was a glorious contrast to this morning's rain.  T and I were lured into the yard for some projects involving trimming the overgrown shrubs in the front yard.  I'm preparing for the house to be painted (more on that later) and that involves getting the shrubbery around the foundation in check.

In the meantime, the dogwood is slimming down on it's own, heading pell-mell into fall with a glorious set of red leaves.  I made this picture in yesterday's lovely sunlight.  The pace of leaf change has really picked up in the last week.
More cool nights are ahead and if I were a betting woman, I'd say there will be even more reddening leaves next week.  Seasonal change has a way of making that happen.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Horror

This year, JT is enrolled in a course called Values & Choices.  It's a class that combines health, sex ed, some character education and, near as I can tell, JT's increasing horror that anyone would say the words penis and vagina out loud and in the company of girls.

The funny thing is that he knows all this information and I'm not the sort of parent who is embarrassed about laying out the facts.  I want JT to like his body and know how it operates.  I'd like him to grow up and have a healthy sex life and I think honest information is the way to make that happen.

Even so, I'm finding that he's a bit of a prude.  Case in point: in the back of the Values & Choices book are diagrams of  human bodies, complete with vagina, uterus, penis and testicles.  He showed them to me and then shook his head in disappointment as he noted, "this sort of thing is really for parents, not kids."

I refrained from pointing out that the parents had clearly mastered basic anatomy in the process of becoming parents.   No 7th grader wants to have that image reinforced any more than necessary.

Saturday, September 15, 2012


When T first met JT, she was bemused by his laser-like focus on precision scheduling.  The boy likes to have a schedule for his days even when the day's plan is to hang out and have fun.  He'll schedule that fun and then hold your feet to the fire ("you're 5 minutes late for playing Clue, people").  T quickly dubbed JT the "party planner" and then she pointed out that he has some career prospects in time management and logistics.

Turns out those logistics and planning skills are especially handy when it comes to middle school.  7th grade runs on a schedule that seems to maximize movement and involves 8 periods crammed into a 6.5 hour day.  JT was worried about getting his schedule memorized and he fretted all the way to school on the first day.  I wasn't the least bit worried, because I know how he is about such matters.  By that night, he had the schedule memorized and had mapped out effective routes to get to places quickly, with the sort of maximum efficiency he finds pleasing.  Before classes had even started, the boy got his school supplies carefully organized, selecting the appropriate tools for the job.  He's going to need those pens and pencils to cross his Ts and dot his Is.  And by golly, they will be crossed and dotted.
In pursuit of maximum organization, he brought his books to his locker in advance of day 1 and then carefully organized them.  Books and binders won't go missing in his locker.  JT has no time for that nonsense.
Needless to say, he sets his own alarm clock and is nearly always ready when it's time to walk out the door in the morning.  Though I sure there will be some rough patches ahead (he is in the 7th grade, after all), more and more I can appreciate the world of self-sufficient 12-teen.  Even if it is like living with a drill sergeant.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Food Friday: Baked Egg

Breakfast on school mornings is always a challenge.  My son doesn't like cereal (!) and doesn't want to eat the same thing every morning.  Though I've been known to purchase a box of Pop Tarts to preserve the peace, I am not a fan of over-processed foods.  My search for a nutritious and yummy breakfast that is easy to pull together led me to develop this easy recipe for a baked egg.  It requires a bit of advance planning, but it's worth it.  

You'll need a buttered baking ramekin for each egg you intend to bake.  The rest of the ingredients are kitchen staples at my house.

- eggs (as many as you wish to bake)
- 1 tablespoon of grated cheese for each egg to be baked (I like Colby cheddar but Monterey Jack or mozzarella is just as tasty)
- 1 tablespoon half & half or heavy cream for each egg you intend to bake
- for each egg, you'll need a sprinkle each of salt, pepper, & cayenne pepper

I grate the cheese and butter the ramekins the night before and then I leave them on a shelf in the fridge.  In the morning, I usually come downstairs for a cup of coffee before my shower and when I do that, I heat the oven to 375 degrees and remove the buttered ramekins from the fridge.  By the time I've showered, the ramekins are at room temperature.

When the oven is heated, crack an egg in each ramekin.  Add the grated cheese, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper and then pour the dollop of cream on top.  Place each filled ramekin on the center shelf in the oven and bake for 15 minutes.  Let sit for a minute or two when they come out of the oven….that's enough time to make a piece of toast or pour a glass of juice.  The egg will be mostly set with just enough melted cheese and creamy sauce to make it delicious.  If you like a harder egg, bake it for a few more minutes.  

This breakfast is nice and warm on a cold morning and provides enough protein to get the boy to lunch without a growling belly.  Perfect!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Your Weekly Dogwood

I delayed the weekly dogwood report by a day because I had some September 11th related thoughts I wanted to jot down.  But the nights are cooling and the foliage is a changing'.
If this keeps up, I'm going to need a cardigan sweater in the mornings.  That's happy!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


I wasn't living in New Jersey on September 11, 2001.  From my home far away and safe in Nebraska, I watched the horror unfold.  Like many Americans, I was saddened by the tragedy.  It felt personal, in the sense that we were all Americans, but also distant, in the sense that it was hundreds of miles away in a place I hardly knew.  I didn't personally know anyone affected by the tragedy.

Fast forward to August 2002, when I moved to New Jersey for a job.   New York City and the World Trade Towers loom large here, in towns with NYC commuter railroads and people with very personal connections to the city and the events of September 11, 2001.  On the one year anniversary of the attack,  my school had an emotional memorial assembly to mark the day.  I watched respectfully; really more of an observer than a participant.  It was clear to me that while all of the nation was affected by September 11, the people here felt it in a far more personal way.

Today marks 11 years since that awful day.  When my 17 and 18 year old students write of their first political memories, September 11 is by far the most common memory.  They remember being at school that morning when their teachers told them something awful had happened in the city.  Then parents came to take them home and await the return of loved ones who had been in New York, some near the World Trade Towers.  If their own families were safe, they write of other families they know who could not say the same thing.  They have hazy memories of watching images on the television, before parents turned those pictures off and reassured children that they were safe.  Life resumed for these kids, though they have not forgotten the fear and uncertainty of those days.  Those are hard stories to read but they are also term-limited.  In a few years, students who personally remember those dark hours will have graduated.  A new set of political memories will replace them.

That's not to say that September 11 will lose any of its meaning in my world.  In the last few years, I've tried to explain the events of September 11 to JT.  For him, it's personal in a different fashion.  He has two classmates who lost fathers in the attack.  These children, just one year olds on that day, bear a different legacy of the day.  They miss fathers they can't really remember, as painful a memory as I can imagine.  For me, that is the real and enduring sadness of September 11.  It's a story of memories cut short by a cruelty that even today seems unimaginable.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Back to School!

Today, classes get started and I carried a 7th grader with me to school.  Not just any 7th grader, mind you, but one who is taller than his mama.
Internet, that fact is rather hard for me to digest.  I'm only 5' 3" but I had hopes that I'd be taller than JT for at least one more year.  Alas, last week's back-to-school checkup delivered the cold, hard facts: the boy is medically certified to be  5' 4" worth of sass and charm.  In this case, sass and charm horrified to discover that summer is officially over.
Oh my.
He's got a new backpack, glow-in-the-dark sneakers, and plenty of attitude so I guess he's as ready for the 7th grade as he can be.  As for me, I'm still wondering where my baby has gotten off to.  

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Real Life Conversations with T: TMI edition

The backstory:  I have noted before the inspirational brand of feminine protection favored at Sassafras House.  But a recent positive message seemed particularly confusing.

Me:  The inspirational saying on this tampon wrapper says, "focus on the goal." 

T:  Well, what is the goal?  Menopause?

And that is why she's the girl for me.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Obama 2012!

I hope that y'all watched President Clinton's Wednesday night speech at the Democratic National Convention.  It was a reminder of the primary virtue Democrats offer to our nation: working together, for the good of us all.  Tonight, President Obama will accept the Democratic nomination for the presidency.  I am proud to have him as my nation's president and I enthusiastically support his re-election.  Full stop.
In the event that you want more details about why I  support President Obama's re-election, I've got a list of first term accomplishments that I am most proud of.  It is not lost on me that these accomplishments came in spite of whole-hearted Republican opposition at every juncture.  Think about what we could have accomplished if the GOP had been willing to work with the Democrats instead of against us.

Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act
The 2009 Stimulus
Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan on the Supreme Court
Iraqi War Draw Down
Auto Industry Bailout
Student Loan reforms that put 600 million dollars back in the hands of college students instead of banks
Ending DADT
Expansion of Food Safety regulation system; we need more, but this is a start
The President's support of marriage equality
Enacting some DREAM Act style reforms for illegal residents brought to the U.S. as children

Is there more to do to get this nation on firm economic and social footing?  Yes, emphatically yes.  And President Obama is the man to help us get that done.  Get yourself registered to vote, folks.  Do it because your fellow citizens are counting on you.  Together, we can't fail.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012


My two favorite garden harvests are tomatoes and zinnias.  Last summer's possum invasion denied me tomatoes and the zinnia harvest was nearly nonexistent.  This year I've had much greater success with both.  In the past week, the daily tomato harvest has been pleasantly abundant.
The zinnias have also done right by me with enough brightly colored flowers for me to enjoy a fresh bouquet each week since the flower harvest began.

That's most happy.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Your Weekly Dogwood is Back

The other day, I was in the backyard and I realized that the dogwood's leaves have already begun to change colors.  Here's where I admit that I am a sucker for seasonal change. Spring and fall, the seasons that anticipate summer and winter, are invariably my favorite seasons.  I like to watch the foliage change and I always welcome the more moderate temperatures that spring and fall bring.

Typically, late summer around here brings drying foliage.  This year we had a good deal of rain and the leaves and lawn are still quite lush.  I've grown so accustomed to the deep green tree leaves that I was a tad surprised to see that the dogwood has already begun to anticipate the next season.  I guess I forgot that Mother Nature's pull is irresistible.

Though the calendar reports that summer has a few more weeks left, yesterday was Labor Day and that marks the end of summer and the start of the fall back-to-school season in my world.  My classroom is organized and I've started back-to-school meetings; classes begin next week.  JT's got some new school clothes and a backpack large enough to carry the truckload of fresh school supplies he's acquired.  I've organized my closet to put the flip flops and summer t-shirts aside.  Fall is on its way.  For the next few weeks, as the leaves and I make our yearly transition to fall, I will be making a picture of the dogwood every Tuesday.  
I figure that a tree this nice shouldn't just get a star turn in the spring.  I hope you agree, Internet.

Monday, September 03, 2012

On Compassion and Community

The Democratic National Convention starts tomorrow.  That's a good thing because I suspect that the words of my fellow Democrats are just the antidote I need after a week spent watching the Republican spectacle of cold-hearted privilege in Tampa.

A number of the speeches last week really ticked me off.  I found Ann Romney's appeal to the sisterhood of women both disingenuous and dishonest.  It's terribly hard for me to believe that stay-at-home mom with access to multiple homes, household help, and millions of dollars has any idea what life is like for working moms like me, let alone the families in this nation whose income has been shrinking thanks to 1 percenters like the Romneys.  

Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan's speech was a long list of deliberate deceptions.  You can read about all of them here.  I found all of that troubling, of course. But I didn't find it surprising, given Ryan's fondness for the self-serving, bankrupt philosophies of Ayn Rand, whose string of cold-hearted and half-developed truisms forms the core of his beliefs.  

And then there was the nominee himself.  Mitt Romney's speech told me that he loved his parents and that he loves his kids and his wife.  Beyond that, he explained that the economy hasn't rebounded like we all had hoped in 2008.  Well, duh.  He blamed President Obama for that disappointment without once acknowledging that Congressional Republicans have blocked action at every juncture.  Newsflash, sir: Our nation continues to struggle because of the Republican party, not despite it.

But the most chilling moment of all came at the end of Mitt Romney's speech on Thursday night.  Winding up for his big conclusion, Governor Romney  identified the United States of America he wants our nation to be.  He said, "That America, that united America, will uphold the constellation of rights that were endowed by our Creator, and codified in our Constitution.  That united America will care for the poor and the sick, will honor and respect the elderly, and will give a helping hand to those in need.  That America is the best within each of us. That America we want for our children."

After nearly 45 minutes of cheers for virtually everything that Romney said, the hall fell silent at that moment.  This wasn't a room of compassionate conservatives, not by a long shot.

That moment is the cold, hard truth of the modern Republican party: they care not a whit for their fellow citizens.  They reject the idea that we sink or swim together.  Community responsibility means virtually nothing to them.  They've had success in this nation of ours and by-golly, they will hold on to it with both fists, denying others a hand when it is needed most.

No thank you, Governor Romney.  The Democrats aren't perfect, not by any means.  But I know that they care about their fellow citizens.  They understand that the core of our national success is the obligations we have to one another.  I will gladly place my faith in a man and a party who believes we must help the most vulnerable, who understands that the good luck of a child's birth shouldn't dictate that child's fortunes in life.  

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Real Life Texts with KO: Latin edition

The backstory: A few weeks ago, my sister KO took an unfortunate spill.  The result is a pretty serious foot and ankle injury.  It happened at work, which means workmen's comp (an alternate universe whereby your suffering is greeted by a giant medical "meh" while the medical folks drag their feet and you contemplate life with permanent pain).   Two painful weeks into the injury, she's finally gotten closer to a diagnosis, though not a cure.  Pain not withstanding, she has retained her sense of humor.

KO: Broken navicular and talus. You can look that up and send me a Google treatment plan.

Me:  Talus sounds like an STD. Is there something you aren't telling me?

KO:  It's in the same STD family as clematis and shimera.

Note: Every time I mention my clematis vine, my sister makes a disparaging remark about the word clematis, suggesting that I live a less than clean lifestyle.  And shimera is a brand of undies carried by Nordstrom that I have been known to both purchase and disparage

Here's hoping that the good-humored KO gets a decent doctor and the repairs necessary to take those new shoes in her closet for a spin. 

Saturday, September 01, 2012

September 1: Front Yard Flowerbed

I like an overgrown, lush flowerbed but things in the front yard flowerbed are now officially out of control.  The rose of Sharon bears a large portion of the blame; that tree just won't stop sending out feeders.  But it may also be that the chief gardener needs to get out there with her clippers and show the plants who is in charge around here.  Ahem.
In the meantime, the azalea leaves have just begun to turn their attention to development of some fall colors.  After such a busy growing season, I can well imagine that they've need for some rest.
In the next two months, I will be planting some fall bulbs in this flowerbed and elsewhere.  Bulb planting is one of my favorite fall clean up chores, a sign that winter is coming even as it provides a reminder that the cold won't last forever.  Until then, there's still some lush green to enjoy in the flowerbed.  I'll be doing that as I take on the task of fall trimming.