Thursday, May 29, 2014

Advanced Clothing Technology

For dinner yesterday I cooked salsa chicken in the crockpot.  I also had a list of things to do after dinner, including buying a rug for the office and potting soil for the tomato plants.   I needed my husband to go along on that shopping trip, so he could carry heavy things for me.

He came home, and said, “What’s for dinner?”  He looked in the crock pot, and said cheerfully, “Oh, goody!  It’s budgerigar stew!”

Let’s all say it together:  BUJ-eh-ree-gar.  

I thought, Uh oh, he’s in that weird off-the-wall kind of mood.  I focused on my question.  “After dinner, would you please go with me to Lowe’s [the ‘home improvement store] to pick up a few things I need?” 

His response took us into the realm of Very Weird.  He said, “You mean, like bras, and things?” 

Clearly his thoughts were moving in a different direction than mine.  Or he was focused on “Things that begin with the letter B.”

Me, taken aback:  “Bras?!  At Lowe’s?”

Husband:    “Yeah.  You know, bras for the outdoors.  Outdoor project bras.”

Me, baffled:  “Outdoor bras?  You mean gardening bras?  Camping bras?”

Husband:    “Yes.  There is an unmet need for such merchandise.”

I got a piece of paper and jotted down “outdoor bras” and “unmet need”, because I already knew that you, Dear Reader, would want to know about this conversation. Then we sat down to dinner.  For once, all five of us were there.  I put the salsa chicken and the rice on the table. We asked God’s blessing on the food.  Perhaps if we had asked for the Almighty’s approval of the conversation, the discussion might have gone differently.

Husband, still in a jolly mood:  “Please pass the budgerigar.”

Older Daughter:  “What?!  Budgerigar?”

Me:  “Dad means the chicken.”

Younger Daughter:  “What is a budgerigar?”

Me:    “It’s a small Australian songbird, I believe.”

Son: “We’re eating songbird for dinner?”

Me:    “NO.  It is CHICKEN.”

Younger Daughter saw the note I had jotted down, and said, “What’s that?”  I showed her, but said, “Please don’t read this out loud.”  Which of course, meant that she did read it out loud.

So the topic of outdoor bras came up again, right there at the dinner table.  Even though two of my kids now count as legal adults, we are still not ready to dine with the queen.    It is unlikely that the queen wishes to discuss technological advancements in ladies’ underwear at dinner.

The kids started in to discuss product development.

Older Daughter:  A camping bra is a good idea.  It could be a place to store your camping equipment.  Or – how about this!  A bug spray bra!

Son: It could be designed to slowly exude the bug spray at regular intervals.

Younger Daughter:  You could design it to have special slots for cookies!

Older Daughter:  Or you could store water in it, and have a straw, for easy rehydration!

Me:  That’s ridiculous.
However, at that very moment, I was thinking of that well-known merchandise: the Beer Hat With Straw.

Husband: I heard that they are making clothes that will take the energy generated by walking around, and the clothes will store up that energy.  You could store your hiking energy in your clothes, and use it to power your flashlight at night.

Older Daughter:  The clothes could store up the energy and then at night, the clothes themselves would glow.  No need for a flashlight!

The ideas continued to flow, but I did not contribute. I was thinking of what I had learned from that highly reliable source of information, the NPR show Wait, Wait! Don’t Tell Me, about energy generation and bras.  I did not dare share this with the family.

* * * * * * *

What technological advancements do you wish would come with your next clothing purchase?

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

An Open Letter to our Water Heater

Dear Water Heater,

We are truly sorry for whatever we said or did that made you cry and sob so much that you wept gallons of water all over the basement floor.  Please forgive us!   We want you to know that we are grateful to you for convincing us to throw out most of the pile of stuff that was sitting on the floor, between you and the drain.  You proved to us that we do not need that stuff.

We hope you realize that we had no choice but to replace you with a newer version immediately.  Trust us when we tell you that we burst into tears when we saw the bill for the installation of your replacement.  No matter the cost, though, the cold half-showers that we took today convinced us that getting your replacement was worth every one of the many, many pennies that it cost.

We do have to say that we had hoped you would be with us for another year, since your installation date was March 2005 and your lifespan was projected to be 10 years.

But still, I come back to what my son told me today:  “The only time I ever found a cold shower to be bearable was at Scout Jamboree in Virginia in the middle of the day when the temperature was 100 degrees, and the humidity was even higher.” 

With gratitude for your 9 years and 2 months of service to us,

The Common Household

Monday, May 26, 2014

Remembering and Praising

During the weekly synagogue worship service, there is a time in which we pause and remember our dearly departed.  The worship leader calls on the members of the congregation who have raised their hand to say the name of the person they are remembering.  No details on who that person is, or what the relationship is, or when they died.  Just the name.   This implies that we trust that God knows who they are and knows our relationship to them.  Then all together, we recite the ‘Mourner’s Kaddish’, in Aramaic.  It’s the same prayer that is said several other times during the same worship service, but this time we say it to mourn and remember.  The thing is, there is not one thing in this prayer other than praise of God.

Yesterday at church we did a similar thing.  It was partly for Memorial Day, to honor military people who lost their lives, but we extended it to any and all people we wanted to remember.  Because we’re Presbyterians, we had to do this with our heads bowed and eyes closed, so the pastor did not call on us as the rabbi does at synagogue, but just left it to potluck that we wouldn’t speak on top of one another.  I thought hearing the names said out loud from all parts of the sanctuary was beautiful and poignant. 

I named my father and my father-in-law.  My father-in-law was in the army during WWII and spent some time in New Guinea.  He never talked about it, at least not while I was around.  My father was in the Army Corps of Engineers, serving in Japan during the Korean War.  He did not talk about it much.

Here is the Jewish mourner’s kaddish, translated into English, to remember and honor our loved ones on this Memorial Day.

Exalted and hallowed be God’s great name,
In the world which God created, according to plan.
May God’s majesty be revealed in the days of our lifetime
 and the life of all Israel – speedily, imminently.
To which we say: Amen.

Blessed be God’s great name to all eternity.

Blessed, praised, honored, exalted, extolled, glorified, adored, and lauded
Be the name of the Holy Blessed one,
Beyond all earthly words and songs of blessing, praise, and comfort.
To which we say: Amen.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

A Simple Message

Ten days ago I got some lovely marigolds and petunias at the farmer’s market.  I put them in the dining room, and ignored them.  Life got insanely stressful.

Last night, the message at the synagogue worship service was “Live in the moment a little.  Don’t spend all your time counting forward.”   I felt this was a message from God.  (Well, duh, the message was delivered during a worship service.)

This morning I got another message, this time from those flowers. They seemed to be gasping, “For God’s sake, please just put us outside and let us fend for ourselves.”

I think that one marigold is really not going to make it.
I set out to find them a new home, stepping outside to discover a picture-perfect spring day. 

Warm, sunny, and dry, but not excessively so.
Garden tools ready

In order to put these plants in the ground, I had to do some weeding first.  I was focused on griping to myself about my tendonitis (a.k.a. snow shoveling elbow) and nursing my worry about a couple other issues, when I saw my neighbor Mr N.  He had a stroke a while ago, and has difficulty walking, but since the weather cleared I have often seen him courageously walking around the neighborhood.  It reminded me of my Dad, who kept walking whenever he could and for as long as he possibly could. 

I said, “Good morning!”  Mr N struggled to say “Good Morning” back.  Then he said, “My name is Jim.”  I said, “My name is Carolyn.”  He declared, “We both are having a good day.”

When he put it like that, all my worry dropped away.  I confirmed his statement out loud, and then realized that he might have been sent to reinforce last night's message.  

I spent the next two hours working outside, sticking plants in the ground, putting in some forget-me-not seeds, and mulching. 

A very good day indeed.

The Corner Rock: a work in progress
This is an allium that I transplanted last year.  It seems to be thriving!

Done, at least for now.

Can one of you actual real gardeners tell me what I am supposed to do with the daffodil and hyacinth foliage, now that they are finished blooming?  Am I supposed to chop it off, let it grow, tie it with pretty ribbons?
 * * * * * * * *

 Here's my garden by the mailbox.  On the left (foreground and then further back) are my balloon flowers (Laurel and Hardy - one is short and one is tall).  The row in the middle are my hapless marigolds and petunias.  I put the forget-me-not seeds in front of the mailbox, because half the time the newspaper ends up on top of my flowers there.  So I'm going for low cost, low maintenance in the front.
There's that pitiful marigold.  I hope it makes it!

 * * * * * * * *

And here is the very top part of our difficult-to-manage 'hillside' garden.  This view is from 18 days ago.
Hillside Garden, May 6

Yes, I obsessively labeled the plants, which also reminds me of my Dad, who would make a detailed map of his vegetable garden every year.  These are mostly perennials, but I am constantly forgetting what is in there.

 And the same piece of land today, after weeding and mulching:


Bleeding Heart

Tuesday, May 20, 2014



The Widow Douglas, whose house you see there, is no doubt very happy that we finally got around to mowing again.

Strategic error:  BEFORE administering the icing, one should put the cake on the cake plate.
As soon as I brought my son home from college, I dashed out the door with Younger Daughter to her final theater class.  I left instructions with Son to make a chocolate cake for his Dad's birthday.  My husband had specified that he wanted "chocolate cake with appropriate icing, and no candy on it."  And that is what he got, all made by Son.
Here it is, AFTER maneuvering the cake to the cake plate, using several spatulas.Success!

The birthday man himself decided on a major transformation.

AFTER - he looks 10 years younger
Both Son and Younger Daughter had the same reaction to this change in facial hair:  "AAAAH!"  I love him either way but it seems like it would be cooler in the summer without the beard.
Older Daughter saw this photo...

... and painted this.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Mass, Space, and Matter

Last week, someone sent me this meme on facebook:

It was a particularly timely meme, because just the day before I had experienced space and mass first-hand.

Usually, when faced with a big space and mass experience, I make a list.   

This was my list.  I put all this stuff in the van, plus extra boxes.
That red thing is the hand truck: very useful for the task ahead.

Then I drove the van to meet my son in Collegetown.  I drove as if driving a rocket through space, because I had to get back in just a few hours for Younger Daughter's theater class.

We packed this mass into the van. 
True to his Boy Scout training, he was really prepared when I got there – all boxes packed, access to vacuum cleaner procured, check-out procedure pre-approved. 

We also met up with Older Daughter who had asked for moving boxes.  It turned out she only wanted one box, but she had several already packed for us to take home.  She came home on her own a few days later, with an additional mass of stuff.

Now they are home with their mass of stuff spread out in their space.  It is a mystery to me how their stuff fit in their dorm rooms, which are a lot smaller than their bedrooms at home.   

But forget tidying up the mass in the space.  Older Daughter has thrown herself wholeheartedly into her summer job, and Son has thrown himself halfheartedly into finding a summer job.  (He has an interview on Wednesday, so I’m a-prayin’ on that.)   They are home, and that’s what matters.

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Lone Sentinel

The way to get rich is to put all your eggs in one basket, and then watch that basket.   (Attributed to Mark Twain, Andrew Carnegie, Warren Buffet, and now the Common Household Mom.)

This is the Common Household approach to growing tulips.  If you want to see blog posts about actual hordes of beautiful tulips, go here and here.  We have One Lone Tulip. 

Last year my husband planted a tulip bulb while it was blooming, with three flowers, in the same spot where he planted his dead hydrangea twig.
April 2013
By a miracle, this bulb produced foliage this spring.  Then it gathered all its strength and extracted from its innards one lonely bud.
May 3rd.

After all that exertion, its energy was spent.  It was probably waiting for sunshine to warm its leaves and do some photosynthesis stuff, but it will never get direct sun.  It is doomed to always be in the shadow of the house.

Once I saw that bud, I knew I was its only hope against the Attack Rabbits and Dastardly Deer.  Every time it stopped raining, I covered it with Liquid Fence.  The Widow Douglas next door must have wondered why the neighborhood was so stinky all the time.
May 4th.  Defense plans made.  Troops assembled.

May 5th. It has a cool green stripe on one side.

May 6th.  Opening just a leetle bit more.

May 10th.  Made it!

Triumph!  After 4 long days, it finally bloomed.  

Next year I have the prospect of having more tulips, because I planted the one my friend gave me, but in a much sunnier place.  Rabbits and deer, I’ll be buying more Liquid Fence.  You have been warned.