They're Love Balls

Posted on 2/03/2016 04:21:00 PM
We bought these ridiculous Christmas decorations years ago for this project, fully intending to toss them out immediately afterwards, but never got around to that part.  They've been kicking around in the attic ever since.  This year we moved everything and they got put in with the Christmas decorations, so I put them outside on the Narnia lamp post.

It's February now, and even though it would take almost no effort and less than four minutes, I still haven't gone out there to take them down.   I'm like that person who leaves their lights on year round and tries to tell you they're just up early for next year.  Perhaps I could leave the pink and red ones and try to convince people it's for Valentine's Day.

 


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Hairy Ice Balls

Posted on 2/02/2016 04:08:00 PM
I know, I know.  I'm a 14 year old boy at heart.

Looks like someone stayed out too long in the snow.



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Now Are the Foxes

Posted on 2/01/2016 02:57:00 PM
One night when we were coming home in the car late last November, we turned the corner to find a group of three or four deer gamboling through the neighborhood. And when I say "gambol,"  I use that not to be pretentious, but because that's the only word that effectively describes what they were doing... prancing and jumping about with no clear direction or leader.  I'm not one to over-anthropomorphize animals but it's hard to see them as doing anything else besides just "goofing around."

Then we looked a little lower to the ground and realized they weren't alone.  They had a small fox companion, who was jumping and running along with them in and out, underneath their feet, probably chasing after whatever small rodents they were kicking up from under the leaves.  

We've heard tell of fox in this neighborhood and I saw one a couple of times last year, but much like the coyote I kept seeing last Spring, no one believed me because they didn't actually see it themselves.  

This year, the fox is back and he's brought a girlfriend.  We've seen them both hunting in our yard in the early mornings.  They're gorgeous and fascinating to watch.  They'll split up and circle around the house in opposite directions, then meet again around the other side.  And we'll "chase" them around the house, try to get a glimpse out of the side window, then the back then the girls' bedrooms, and so on.  One morning I saw one trotting off with a squirrel in it's mouth.  When they appear, you'll first see all the squirrels go up the trees and then start chittering and shaking and waving their tails wildly in warning.  If you notice this happening and keep an eye pealed, then soon will be the foxes!



This morning, I happened to have my camera close enough to grab it before they were gone.  They're hard to photograph because they move so fast but I did get one decent picture as proof.




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My New Favorite Shakespeare

Posted on 1/31/2016 10:51:00 AM
Last month we went to the Folger Shakespeare Library (they do some amazing stuff there, cannot recommend highly enough) and saw Pericles and it was amazing. And not just because The KoH got us seats so close I could put my feet up on the stage and get sweated on by the actors, either.


The show has closed now and they are on to other things, but I need to immortalize this sign for posterity, because while this sign wasn't totally why the play was so amazing, it certainly didn't hurt.


"This production will include a mild strobe effect.
This production will also include pirates."



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Noir Morning Routine

Posted on 1/30/2016 10:10:00 AM
Came out of the shower the other morning to find Humphrey Beargart interrogating Lauren Bearcall with the bedside lamp and small child voicing the parts with, "Where were you on the night of January 16th?"



There are so many things I love about this moment, I can't begin to start with number one.

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Winter Seating Arrangements

Posted on 1/29/2016 09:53:00 AM
Despite it getting pretty cold here in D.C., the living room stays pretty warm because of a large window wall.  But that doesn't mean there isn't significant pushing and shoving to get the last warm spot.

Oh good, someone put the cat away.



And then they poured it into this basket.

 

For where there is a fire and a lap, there will a cat be also.




This is a terrible photo, but I adore the look on this cat's face.


Selfie with Cat.  (or is that selfie with human?)



Cat is all, "Dude get out of my sunbeam."



Looking for a warm bed. Any bed will do.



Come to think of it, maybe the cat isn't cold. Maybe she just hungry.




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Wondering

Posted on 1/28/2016 09:28:00 AM In:

I almost forgot until I was cleaning off my phone that we attended the reopening of the Renwick Gallery on New Year's weekend.  This is the first building built specifically to be the nation's art museum. It used to house the Corcoran Gallery before the Corcoran moved to a larger space and when it was built in 1859, it was known as "the American Louvre".  Thank you Wikipedia.

It's been closed for renovations for a long time and I've been itching to get back in there.  This was a really cool reopening because while it was still closed, they invited artists to come tour the empty space and decide what they'd do with it and develop their art installations from empty inspiration.  The resulting exhibition is called "Wonder."  We loved it and highly encourage you to see it if you can because photos just don't do it justice. Just the same, here are some photos.  Also because it is a Smithsonian gallery and there's no admission fee.

We walked into this room and The Dormouse immediately named this artist without seeing anything about it.  I thought that was pretty impressive by any modern art lover's view because I know and love this stuff and still cannot name the artists' names hardly ever and also, where did she see his stuff before because I had only seen internet pictures of it.  Then she let it slip that there was a big feature on him in a past Highlights Magazine, so yay for kids' throw away reading material.  

The whole room was filled with these pods built entirely from twigs.  No good way to get a photo of the scope because the room was enclosed, you have to check out Patrick Dougherty's other works here.  The kids adored it.



 We probably spent more time looking at this installation than all the others combined. 



 It was fascinating from all angles and in all lights.


And with all patrons.





For scale:




This one, I just wanted to climb inside, but it was hanging from the ceiling and, I fear, not built for me weight.


This was maybe my favorite room.  All four walls were covered with this kind of stuff.  


Which, upon closer inspection...


I wanted to stay in here all day, it was so fascinating.  Even the paint on the walls was made from crushed bugs.

This last one was so interesting.  It was a reproduction of the energy wave from the 2011 Tsunami.  The lighting shifted every few seconds. We had to wait in line for awhile to get into the next exhibit and I just let the kids lie on the ground under this and stare up. 





If I were extremely rich, I'd pay good money to have a slumber party and let my kids invite all their friends to sleep under this one night.  Good thing for the Smithsonian we're not.

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Sound Effects

Posted on 1/27/2016 10:19:00 AM
This is the ice crackling outside as the sun warms everything.  Proof that my hope is not misplaced in the belief that one day, some day, my kids might actually go back to school.  

But not today.


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I Do My Little Turn on the Catwalk

Posted on 1/27/2016 08:00:00 AM

This Siamese and their back thing might have gone a bit too far.



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Nanook of the North

Posted on 1/26/2016 03:41:00 PM
Here we are raising up our heads from the frozen tundra. Washington D.C. got a good 30 inches of snow this weekend and the world stopped for awhile here. Fortunately, we never lost power, which is my main worry in a storm like this, not because we would freeze, but because I don't want the pipes to freeze.  

And so we learn that Pipes>Children.  

We did end up snowed in for about three solid days and I set a new, personal record for consecutive number of days wearing my pajamas. I even managed to shovel snow, make several trips to the wood pile for firewood, AND host the neighbors for dinner without ever putting on proper clothes or a bra.

Woo hoo!

Here are a couple of photos from Winter Storm Jonas, or #Snowzilla, as we have all come to refer to it.

This is state highway 295 or the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, one of the major commuter routes from Baltimore to DC.  I have never seen that much nothing in twenty years of living here. Taken by a friend who lives within walking distance.  I wasn't crazy enough to drive there.

Our deck, looking out the window. It was like living inside a snow globe during the storm.


Found The Caterpillar playing under this and poking at it with a broom handle the next morning.  We had a long talk about icicles and snow overhangs after that.

Yesterday, we finally got around to shoveling out the driveway, which I am now regretting the length of. When we finally broke through to the end of the drive, I threw my arms up in the air and yelled, "Freeeeeedooooom!" al la Braveheart, only to realize that neither the hill we live on, nor any street in the entire neighborhood had been plowed so I couldn't go anywhere anyway. In possibly related news, my neighbors are now certain I am insane.


The Shortlings amused themselves by working up a gymnastics routine and performing it for us.  Who knew they were interested in gymnastics? No one, that's who!



But the best thing by far that happened all weekend, was this news report I happened to see.  I wasn't sure what I thought I'd heard, so I ran live TV back a few minutes to be certain.  Then I hit record as fast as my thumb could find the button because this needs to be saved for posterity, obviously.  




Dee-lightful!

The story on the interweb goes that the guy just called the television station, identified himself as a spokesperson for VDOT, and the very, very professional journalists with their superior fact-checking abilities earned in college, said to themselves, "Eh, seems legit."  And thus, our prank caller was able to make his way to on air.
  
I'm constantly grateful for the modern conveniences we enjoy. I know our three days of snow pales in comparison to what some people deal with every year.  And two or three generations ago, they did it without electricity, heat, running water, a car in every garage, or reasonably close city centers. Because a portion of what I do involves some disaster response efforts, I tend to be more prepared than most for a few days of weather or power outages... but I'm fully aware that I'm not as prepared as some. We are typically stocked with food and water for several days (and probably more if we have the ability to cook from base ingredients we have in food storage)We are generally prepared for the power to go out (because it happens so often here).  We have flashlights, batteries, candles and oil lamps, an emergency supply. Now with a couple of fireplaces, we have added firewood to that list and The KingofHearts spent most of the Spring chopping wood to store after we have a few scary trees removed (also a huge load off, knowing this storm was coming and we'd already had that done).  We've got enough for most of the winter for typical use.  Without an operating furnace, we probably could have kept the house warm enough with both fireplaces running, had we lost power, and we probably wouldn't have had to abandon our home for a neighbor or hotel, but it was sure nice not to have to use those contingency plans.  

Today, we've finally seen a snowplow on the street, the sun has come out and I am ready to leave the house again.  Just waiting to find out whether the schools agree with me for tomorrow. (Oh please, oh please, oh please.)

This morning, the sun rose over the snowy neighborhood roofs. It was quite beautiful.



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Dr. T. J. Eckleburg's Persistant Stare

Posted on 12/30/2015 11:08:00 AM
Since we moved into this house, I've been slowly trying to decide how to decorate it, where to put our copious amounts of stuff, etc.  In the months before we sold the other house, we had painted every wall, every closet, every baseboard, every window trim piece and every shelf at least once.  The only thing we knew when we moved in here was that despite the fact that the entire thing was painted apartment off-white - and we hate apartment off-white - was that we would be living with apartment off-white for awhile because none of us was interested in painting another wall any time in the near future-perhaps ever.

There has been a wall that begs for art here since the second we saw it.  It's recessed next to the fireplace and over some built-in cabinets with display lighting above it.  One of the things I've wanted to know the most about the previous owners of this house was what the room looked like when they lived there.  Which way did you face the couch?  What did you hang on that hook that comes out of the ceiling that's way too high up for anyone to reach?  What did you do in the stairwell? And, most importantly, what was on the art wall (as it has come to be known)?  I know a little something about the previous owners, but despite that, I cannot for the life of me figure out how they decorated this place.  

Anyway, the "art wall" was the very first thing we wanted to do something with when we took possession of the place.  Despite that, it has proved to be the most difficult.  Every time I had an idea of what I wanted to do with it, I'd sit with the concept for a bit and then abandon it a few days later.  A large television would have done it, but I wanted a little more pretentiousness than that.  So I started browsing art.com to find a large print I liked.  That made the process a whole lot harder. There are tons of painters I like, but I couldn't land on a decision about what the room needed, nor what I could stand to look at for long periods of time.  To make matters worse, I decided it had to be something meaningful too, not just a pretty landscape. So I started trolling the discount stores.  There was always lots of cool, affordable stuff, just nothing that speaks to me.  At some point, I decided if I was going to put artwork there, as much as I love certain famous painters, I'd really like to support actual living artists - not just have a reproduction of something that hangs somewhere else.  Then I started combing Eastern Market and craft shows and art shows for original painters and photographers.  I found a lot of things I loved, but wow, some original art - at least in the size I'm talking - is pricey!  Then I started going out of the box.  But once I opened that box, the decision making process went way out of control.  We thought about making it a gallery wall of some of my photography.  We thought about installing dozens of shelves for The KoH's steel work and my glass work.  We thought about putting photographs of ancestors, We thought of painting a mural.  Hanging several small pieces.  Using printers' drawers and milk crates as shelves for knick knacks seemed too busy for the size.  Combining a mural of a tree and then "hanging" family photos off it's branches, which, weirdly, wasn't an original idea as it turned out.  Installing a wood facade with reclaimed wood, also not an original idea - maybe even backlighting it - good lord, has anyone not thought of my ideas before I have them? 

So for the past eleven months, that wall has sat there empty, taunting me with my indecision.  

Then one night a few weeks ago, some friends were over, one of whom is a really talented artist.  I was remarking after they left how I really liked her stuff and wished she would paint more and The KoH said, "Why don't we just ask her to paint a piece for us for the wall?"

Dawnlight breaks over Marblehead.

So we asked her if she'd consider a commissioned piece.   She immediately said, "sure," and then they follow-up: "What do you want?"  

*sigh*

I was kind of just hoping you'd tell me what you think should go there, wasn't really an answer she was looking for, so I hemmed and hawed about it for a few days and finally said, "I want something indirectly based on The Great Gatsby, specifically, this part of the book that references the billboard.  I've always been obsessed with that billboard."  I showed her some styles and color pallets that I like and she went away and came back a couple of weeks later with original artwork.  I framed it, bought some shelves from a website I've been drooling over for the past several years and then in a few short days, plus eleven months of equivocation, Wall Accomplished!  

This formerly blank wall completed in a manner with which I could not be happier.


I know it's not everyone's taste and more than one person has pointed out that it looks like Harry Potter is looking down on us - thank your father, kids - but everything on this wall has meaning to me and I love having Dr. Eckleburg staring down on me to capture my every action just in case I run over Myrtle with my car.


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In the Bleak Midwinter

Posted on 12/30/2015 09:45:00 AM
It rained all week but was over 60 most of the time, so no white Christmas for us. We did get a colorful one though.



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X-mas Reivew

Posted on 12/28/2015 05:20:00 PM
More and more, the success of my Christmas holiday is determined by how little I have to do to accomplish it.  I don't care about the gifts, or decorating, or traveling, or attending parties... I just want a few stress-free days in what is otherwise a stress-filled year.  C'mon, Santa, that isn't asking too much is it?

This year, I insisted I was actually taking off the two weeks off I had while my office is closed.  Usually, my time off goes something like this: I spend days writing out instructions for What To Do If Something Breaks While I Am Gone and even though everyone has received those instructions multiple times in the past and has printouts taped to their walls (I know because I taped them there and no one ever throws anything away), moreover, everyone all has the exact same information in an email from the last time I was gone (I know because no one has ever deleted even the most insignificant email in the past ten years and can easily call up the advertisement for a great deal on a Toyota Camry that was going on in 2002, yet can somehow not find an email from me titled "How to Send An E-Newsletter."  I give the interested parties additional face time training on how to follow the steps in the email.  I ask if they have any questions.  They say no.   I bid a fond farewell to one and all and about sixteen hours after hugs, well-wishes, and promises not to bother me on my vacation are made, I get a call from someone who was not paying attention during the Orientation While Alice Is Out Days and asks me one of two things: 1) something that is clearly outlined on the list attached to their wall, or 2) something that could totally wait until I return.  But then because it's just easier to do it now while I understand/remember what's needed than to have a Giant Pile of Crap To Do And Figure Out waiting for me on my desk when I return, I pull up my email and log into the office remotely to do it.  Then while I'm there, I see nine other things that are really easy to do right now and I could just finish, rather than adding them to the Giant Pile, and while I'm doing that, six more emails come in that fall into the same category and before I realize it that can of worms I've opened has spilled and suddenly, there are worms crawling through the ductwork of my house.  And now I've racked up about six and a half billable hours on this vacation day, which I will not go back and turn into a work day because I'm already into my Use Or Lose Leave and I might as well just pretend I got some time off, either way, it works out the same.

But I digress.

This time, it was different.  

It was twenty-eight hours before someone texted me with an emergency that totally could have waited two weeks.

But I'm getting better about how I deal with that kind of thing and I spent about five minutes confirming that yes, that probably was spam you got and you can just ignore it, then I went back to bed.  

What moxie.

Some of that moxie might have been the food poisoning Santa brought me for Christmas, but either way, I feel I made a stand. Yay me.

The rest of the week has been spent doing crafts with The Caterpillar.



 Great way to use up old magazines, by the way.

Airing my grievances.


It's totally ok, the lights are NEXT to the Festivus pole, not ON it.

And readying the house for Santa.



When I was a kid, I was a crazy early riser on Christmas morning.  I can't remember a Christmas I slept past three am and then didn't just watch the hours DRAG by minute by minute, bored out of my skull because I hadn't prepared enough books or games for me and my brother to play quietly in my room.  It was torture. Finally, unable to bear it anymore, we'd sneak down the hall in the dark and try to spy what Santa had brought.  One of us would be the scout, then run back and report. Then a few minutes later, the other would try to make it out with perhaps better luck.  I have no idea why we didn't just get a flash light, or hell, turn on the light.  Our parents were asleep.  But it was all a part of the experience.  At least until that Christmas when Santa brought a parakeet, and my brother accidentally tripped on the cage and that damn bird SQUAKSQUAKSQUAKED and woke up the entire house and scared the living crap out of the both of us. 

We totally deserved it.

But you know what? Christmas started early that year.

I've always been a bit surprised that my kids didn't pull the same stuff at Christmas and actually slept in until around six. Which isn't late, I grant you, but at least it's their normal daily waking up time.

But this year I counted on it and they didn't.  

Because kids always disappoint you.

Just kidding.  (not really)

No, this year, I'd gotten very little sleep the previous two nights and was hoping to grab a couple of hours when The Caterpillar woke up around 12:30. The KingofHearts put her back to bed.

Then she woke up at 3:00.

I put her back to bed.

Then 3:30. 

The KoH put her back to bed.

Then 4:00.

I finally threatened her and told her to go to her room or I'd find that Elf on the Shelf that we don't use and have him tell on her to Santa.  

So at 4:15, she woke up her sister and then they were both up.

Ugh. 

They stayed in their room talking (like we couldn't hear that) while The KoH hoped against hope to go back to sleep for a few minutes, and I, still incredibly sleepy but now unable to stay in bed any longer because that's just how I roll, went outside to try to get a photo of the Christmas tree from the yard.  What I did get pictures of was two naughty girls sneaking around the house and trying to view what was in their presents.

Busted. 



I finally went in and scared them back to bed, but instead they went to our bedroom and bounced on the waterbed until The KoH relented and got up too.  So at 4:45 am, Christmas came just the same.


Santa brought them socks, which he hung by the chimney with care.



I stubbornly insisted on building a fire in the fireplace, by the way, even though it was 76 degrees in the $%^& Fahrenheit.  Then I had to open all the windows to keep from sweating my behind off in my flannel pjs.  Because dammit it's Christmas!  Last year when we didn't have a fireplace, it was snowing on Christmas day.  This year I'm having a fire in the fireplace, I don't care if it's 98% humid outside.

The Caterpillar got an entire bag of pistachios, which she cradled like a baby for more time than was actually acceptable.  


But eventually, she started to enjoy the presents... or at least the boxes of other people's presents.


Frankenstein's monster lives.

The Dormouse did NOT get a phone.  That's a blog post for another day, but suffice it to say her mom is a mean old witch who never ever ever wants her to have anything good and 12-year-old me totally would have agreed with her.  She did, however, get a camera.  Because every time she asked for a phone and I said, "What do you think you need a phone for?", she said, "Take pictures with it."

Voila.


She was fairly good-natured about her lack of a phone, I must say.

The Caterpillar received yet another gift that I will regret, but at least this one isn't Legos.


Oh I'll still be stepping on all the pieces of this, but they'll be a lot easier on my feet than Legos.

Legos are the Al Queda of a barefooted parent's existence. 

The Dormouse got this nifty thing, which I thought was pretty cool at first until I realized all it really does is turn fruit into a game controller.  Here's hoping she can actually learn something with it eventually.


 Oh and I finally, FINALLY, got their 2015 Christmas ornaments.  

This year with the new yard, we have spent a ridiculous amount of time with trees.  Cutting dying trees down. Worrying that trees will fall on the house.  Making sure trees don't fall on the house. Chopping wood.  Burning wood. Building things with other parts of the wood.  The KingofHearts has plans to use a few of the trees we had to have taken out as building materials for a shed, but until that happens it looks like a life-sized Lincoln Log project is going on in our yard.  

A few weeks after we cut down several of the trees and they were still sitting in the yard, I was staring at some of them, and said to The KoH, "Cut me off some of those branches in thin slices."

"Why?"

 "Because I want to use it."

"Um... okay... which branch?"

"One a little bit bigger than the size of a glass."

And then he started to smell what I was stepping in and the Underland traditional coaster was born.



Since then, I spent about a quarter of my brain power trying to figure out other ways to use the lumber that is both growing on and lying around my property.  We all have.  There are trivets in the works, as well as a host of other ideas that may or may not turn out to be useful or valid.  But we feel good about this level of living off the land, especially since the Great Hickory Nut Gathering of 2015 turned out to not really be practical in making hickory nut butter.  I don't know how the squirrels eat them.  There is much more effort that goes into opening a hickory nut than there is edible nut inside.  You know what hickory nuts ARE useful for? Burning in the fire.  That's about it.  So at least we won't freeze.


Anyway, it seemed only fitting that the Shortlings' Christmas ornaments this year had something to do with trees. 

Here is The Caterpillar's.


 And here is The Dormouse's.



They were only mildly impressed with them, but these are the kinds of ornaments that I love now as an adult - ones that were created from some unconventional material and totally stand apart from all others.  So I'm hoping these stand the test of time. And unbreakability.

Tonight, we are heading out to a Christmas after party.  I'm baking pie. This, after my favorite Christmas Eve tradition backfired on me and I brought a raging case of food poisoning home from the Chinese restaurant, which I'm only just recovering from.  Serves me right for using Yelp to pick the best-reviewed restaurant in the area.  Next year, I'm just going to the first hole-in-the-wall I see.



It's as stress-free as we get.

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Washington, D.C. Metro, United States
Married, 40ish mom of two (or three, or four, depending on how you keep score) who stepped through the lookinglass and now finds herself living in curiouser and curiouser lands of Marriage, Motherhood, and the Washington, D.C. Metro Area.

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