Ch ch ch changes . . . or not.

Hey! I missed my 3yr blogiversary a couple of weeks ago. I just spent a bit of time looking back at the last three years. I seem to be having trouble coming to terms with the passage of time lately. I just keep marveling at it. Anna loves to rub my nose in this – a favorite tease of hers is, here “Mama, for sale I’m growing up! I’m going to be five! And after that I’m going to be SIX! And then I’m going to be. . . um. . . one two three four five six SEVEN! I’m going to be SEVEN!” Then I have to turn on my stern voice and tell her to knock it off. It seems she’s been giving her sister ideas, too, what with Claire growing up and all.

Three years ago I didn’t even know I’d be in a different house now. Three years ago I was pregnant. Two years ago I was sleep deprived, and took the vacation by which all vacations will be measured. (I don’t mean that in a good way) One year ago we were still getting settled in the Big White Money Pit. Unfortunately from the exterior the house looks the same, only minus a busted deck in the back. Inside there has been more progress, but not as much as I’d like. Such is life.

This weekend, like all previous Labor Day weekends, we’re going camping. However, instead of joining my extended family in the mountains, we’re off as our own little family of four. We need this right now. We’ve all been so caught up in the business of life that I think we’ve forgotten to hang around together and enjoy each other. Anna was perturbed to learn she wouldn’t be going to Pap-pap’s camp this time, but I promised her that she’ll have fun and that next time we’ll go to Pap-pap’s. I’ll miss the drunken revelry up there, though.

One thing remains constant year over year: I’ve got the two cutest girls ever!

Baby wren

I’ve mentioned the wrens that have been reproducing in my garage and gutters. A few weeks ago I came home, order parked my car in the garage (! Still excited to have a garage, sick even if it has no practical door) and upon exiting said car realized I was not alone. There were two baby wrens hanging out, about it with a busy parent wren hopping about with tasty bugs for them to eat. One of them didn’t mind having its picture taken as it hopped about near the stroller. If you look closely, you can see the few remaining downy feathers on its head.

The jaded, practical side of me says that baby birds are nothing special, that millions (billions?) of them are born every year. But this is the only one that I got up close and personal with. The wrens aren’t shy, and they’ve been hanging around so long that I know all their calls, and can spot the grown ups from the recently fledged.
What can I say – I’m easily amused. You must be, too, since you’ve read this.

Posting from the Vineyard

We’ve got a grape vine in our yard. Last year we let the critters eat the grapes as we were busy doing things like moving in and cleaning up puddles of raw sewage in the basement and replacing the dead water heater and trying to plug in lamps.

This year we picked the grapes. We picked over 50lbs of grapes. I am not exaggerating. I weighed them.
We gave a 10lb bag to the neighbor. He gave some to another neighbor. The grapey harvest just keeps on giving. On Saturday, this I made jelly.

First the grapes had to be removed from their stems. We put them in bins for storing and subsequent washing. At this point we had about 35lbs:

I filled the dutch oven with as many grapes as it would easily hold and mashed them with a potato masher. I brought this up to a boil and let it simmer for 10 minutes. Then I filtered the pulp/skins/seeds from the juice.
Here is two cups of juice:

In case you’re wondering, Clorox Clean-Up is great at removing grape stains from laminate counters.

I ended up with about two gallons of juice.

Each batch of jelly requires a mere four cups of grape juice and a whopping seven cups of sugar! I cooked the juice and the sugar until it was at a rolling boil and popped in a packet of liquid pectin. I cooked it for exactly one minute as directed and ladled it into pre-washed jars. They weren’t kidding about that “one minute” thing. I went a few seconds over on the first batch and the jelly went over and burnt all over the stove and smoked up the kitchen. The jars went into the canning pot to be boiled for five minutes. They all sealed and set properly. Success!

I have twenty four jars of jelly and there is still a gallon of juice in my fridge. I went through about 10lbs of sugar and three more packs of pectin. I’m still trying to figure out why exactly I feel driven to make more jelly than any three families need in a year, but I’m enjoying it. (as are the neighbors, and my co-workers, and pretty soon random strangers on the street)

Meow!

I shaved the cat today. Do you know how tempted I am to title this post “Shaved P*ssy”? I figure I don’t need the extra hits it would bring. But I did shave Oliver. He’s long haired, thumb and once a year I mangle his fluffy orange coat because it gets to be too much for him to manage and he insists on puking hairballs all over our bedroom floor at 3 a.m. He doesn’t mind, in fact with the exception of his belly and backside, he spends the clipping session rolling around as if to say, “Over here – you missed a spot. Okay, now do this side.”
Claire saw him and exclaimed, “Oliver is flat!”
I suppose he is. I should change his name to Eric. (the halibut – obligatory Python reference, not to be construed as having anything to do with my brother’s significant other)
I also sanded and sealed the wooden steps that go up the front of our yard. It was way too much work for too little pay-off. They’re still ugly. They’re ugly because they’ve never been sealed, unless you count the time someone painted them orange. Yes, orange. Such a natural landscaping color. Fortunately most of the orange paint peeled off as the steps were merrily rotting away. This should slow them down until we’ve got the time/money/inclination to replace them. Did I have twelve other projects of greater impact that I could have been working on? Of course! But I was determined to soak up a little bit of sunshine today.
And this evening I have been soaking up rum, so I will stop posting before I write anything I regret later.

The nature of life is experimentation

A common question while doing outreach work to try to get kids to consider a career in science is, salve “What made you want to be a scientist when you were a kid?”
Honestly, troche I never really thought of myself as the scientific type. When I was nine, I wanted to be a lawyer because they make lots of money. Then I found out there were already lots of lawyers. When I was ten, I wanted to be a commercial airline pilot because I had seen the inside of a cockpit and it was awesome. My guidance counselor took one look at my Coke bottle glasses and gently suggested I explore other options. I considered marine biology (okay, that one is sciencey)when I fell in love with a coffee table book of deep sea creatures, but there’s not much ocean in Pittsburgh and I already was fairly certain I wouldn’t want to relocate that far. Then I took piano lessons. What budding musician doesn’t dream of a life filled with their new love, supported by adoring fans? Dad suggested engineering as being more marketable. Chemistry was a compromise, and one I haven’t regretted.

In hindsight, abundant natural curiosity and tendency to experiment were there all along. I still find myself treating life as a series of experiments. Notable experiments have included: What exactly does unmedicated natural childbirth feel like? How do I spin this raw fleece? What happens when I dye wool with this combination of dyes? What happens when I dye my hair with this dye? How do I fix what this dye has done to my hair?

Today I bring you the latest in “Sarah Experiments So You Don’t Have To”: will duct tape really remove a wart?
I’m not happy to admit I have a wart. It feels like some sort of personal shortcoming. Upstanding, organized, attractive (airbrushed) people don’t have warts*. But I’ve had one under my left upper arm for five years and it’s time for it to go away.
I’m happy to report that after one week of duct tape coverage, my viral blemish appears flatter and . . . unhappy. I can’t quantify it, but it seems that it might be working. Average time for resolution in the studies I’ve read was 28 days with an 80% success rate. Stay tuned for all the breathtaking details.

*I was somewhat reluctant to explain my duct tape in mixed company (read venerable in-laws) for fear of grossing them out, but inadvertently started a group recital of memorable skin abnormalities that was enough to turn my stomach.

Fledgling humor

Anna’s version of a knock-knock joke:
Anna: Knock knock!
Unsuspecting Victim: Who’s there?
Anna: Man!
UV: Man who?
Anna: Man who fell down the steps and hit his head at the bottom and hurt his arm and then went outside and ate some ice cream!

Claire’s version:
Claire: Knock knock!
UV: Who’s there?
Claire: Fan!
UV: Fan who?
Claire: [singing] FAN FAN FAN!