Get the carrot! Get the carrot!

When your house was sided mid-century, global burden of disease and not the last mid-century but the one before it, it’s hard to find replacement siding.  We’ve got some damaged pieces and some missing pieces that need to be replaced as part of the exterior refurbishment job.  I’ve talked to two lumber mills this week about having some custom made.  It entertains me to see people’s reactions when you explain what you’re after, but they’re not really surprised.  It reminds me that we’re not the only crazy old house lovers out there.

Lately I’ve had another project weighing heavily on my mind, and I made a decision today that took a huge weight off my shoulders (and replaced it with another older one).  I’ve been working on my MS degree off and on for a disturbingly long time.  In fact when I started this blog I was still taking classes.  I needed one more class and a thesis to finish.  My advisor needed to grant me permission to take the final class because the time limit for completion had passed.  He said he’d grant permission when he had a draft of my thesis in hand.  Fair enough.  Then I had Claire, and switched jobs, and moved, and the thesis got shoved so far to the back of the to-do list that it all but fell off.

Yesterday I had lunch with a former colleague who moved to France seven years ago.  He asked me if I ever finished the degree.  *wince*  Also at lunch was my boss, who laughed when the subject came up because he’s been encouraging me to finish, too.  *double wince*  Today I ran into another former coworker who asked me if I finished the MS.  *triple wince*  Then as I was sitting on the 31st St bridge, I saw this billboard.  OKAY, UNIVERSE.  I GET THE MESSAGE.  I will write a draft of the thesis.  I will contact my advisor, eat a generous helping of crow for having let so much time pass, and beg and plead for him to let me complete the degree.  Then and only then will I proceed with the project that I want to be working on.  It’s a good carrot.

Bucket list

It’s going to be absofreakinglutely beautiful out today and I could be outside at home getting work done but intstead will be at work getting work done since a) that is what I get paid for and b) if I manage not to blow any more vacation days hanging outside my house on a ladder I can have two weeks off in December.  Besides that, buy viagra I have accepted that I will not get the house finished this year.  I will not even get the third side of the house finished this year even though I have the first story scraped and all the windows on that side reglazed because I can’t reach the peak on that side.  Technically I could, bulimics but it would require borrowing the big ladder from my father and finding a way to put it up and convincing my family that I’m not going to die a horrible death from falling off said ladder.  So we were to hire a painter to do the high-up bits on that side and the back, but he’s gone MIA and I fear that the nice weather will got MIA next.  I’m working very hard to accept this, but it rankles every time I walk in the house.  The side in question is the one that faces the driveway.

In lieu of painting yesterday I replaced the threshold on the old front door.  It started out simply enough – remove old threshold, cut new threshold to fit, install new threshold.  Ignore the fact that the screws to hold the new one down don’t screw into anything since they line up with the gap in flooring underneeth.  Install rubber gasket in new threshold.  Try to close door.  Realize that gap under door is not even.  Examine to see if it’s because door is cut crooked or hung crooked.  Take door off hinges and out onto porch to cut 1/4″ off 2/3rds of bottom of unevenly cut door.  Stand around and talk to neighbor who shares the wisdom that all projects end up more complicated that originally planned.  You don’t say?  Remove door sweep before cutting.  Find out that previous owner who “stripped and refinished” the door’s interior didn’t bother to remove the cheap ass sweep and there’s a 2″ strip of white paint along the bottom.  Shrug.  Cut door.  Rehang door.  Squeeze door shut over new threshold gasket and hope the whole thing compresses to the point that it is someday functional.  Remove decorative trim from inside of door winow and seal up gaps with caulk and add nails so that window glass no longer rattles in frame.  Replace trim.  Walk away from door and eat pie.

Pie:  I baked pumpkin pies from scratch yesterday.  I’ve always wanted to try this.  Some people have always wanted to try bungee jumping.  My ambitions are less likely to break my neck.  I had two “sugar pie” pumpkins which I cut in half.  One of them cut easily, but for the other one I seriously considered getting out the Dremmel.  I have never encountered such a tough pumpkin – it was like wood on the outside.  The tiny pumpkin saws from our jack-o-lantern kit finally enabled me to get the thing open without opening an artery in the process.  That was the toughest part of the whole process.  I cleaned out the halves and put them face down on a pyrex baking dish with a little water for an hour at 350 until they softened.  Well, one of them softened.  The tough one remained rock hard on the outside but got soft on the inside.  I let them cool and scraped out all the flesh.

I used a small food processor to puree the flesh and had enough for two pies (4c) with a cup leftover which went into the freezer for later.  I baked the pies using the recipe that came with the pumpkins.  I’ve heard two schools of thought on baking pumpkin pies from scratch:  one camp says it doesn’t taste appreciably different from canned pumpkin, the other says that the flavor is better and worth the extra effort.  My verdict?  The flavor is different if you really pay attention, but if I hadn’t known they were from scratch, I wouldn’t have noticed.  And it’s not better or worse, just a little more. . . pumpkiny.  But having smelled pumpkin in its various stages all day long, I was rather tired of it by pie eating time. 

Mark “Make pumpkin pie from scratch” off to-do list.

Happy Halloween! (only two days late)

We like Halloween at our house.  This year I had two princesses – Rapunzel and Cinderella.  The night before their transformation they carved pumpkins:

At dusk they bundled up and set off to collect enough candy to put them in a sugar coma until Christmas:

Then we went to a costume party at Grammy and Pap-Pap’s where they partied ’til they dropped.  Or in Claire’s case, pilule demanded to be picked up.

I’ve already begun sewing their Christmas dresses.  I say it’s because I want to get a jump on holiday preparations, but really it’s borne out of gratitude to not be outside scraping the house.

Fall is falling on me

It is October.  Time for crispy leaves and crispy weather.  My house, dosage unfortunately, approved is mocking me in its half-paintedness.  It is not a good idea to paint house exteriors in the rain.  I am in a race against time, page constantly watching the calendar, the weather forecasts.  The neighbors cheer at what we’ve got done, but I look anxiously at the sky, slap on more “sprig of ivy” and swat at yellow jackets.

The girls are asking about the progress of their Halloween costumes every three days or so.  That will only get worse in the next three weeks until I get them finished.  I can’t finish them too early, or they’ll be destroyed before the holiday by their over-anxious owners.  They ask me what I want to be for Halloween.  I should get white overalls and a cap and be a painter.


Claire is three years old.  She will tell you that with great pride, melanoma also pointing out that next she will be FOUR!  Amazing how that happens. 

Three year olds abhor food.  Not all food, just food on their plates at dinner time.  The rule at Casa Unreserved is she who fails to eat her dinner will not get any “bedsnack.”  (snack eaten before bedtime, healthy as often as not since my kids are suckered into thinking things like fresh fruit and yogurt are grand treats,  typically consumed on Mama’s lap while one is hearing stories)  Claire, being very very three, thinks she is smarter than house rules.

Last night after a near solid hour of monkeying around, the girls were told that they had five minutes to finish their dinners, after which plates would be removed.  Anyone not eating a suitable amount of dinner, a.k.a. “eating good,” would not be getting any more food until breakfast.  “Fine,” said Claire, “I’m not hungry anyway.”  The remainder of her dinner went in the garbage and she ran off to demolish her bedroom play. 

Bedtime rolled around, and Claire asked what she could have for a bedsnack.  I reminded her that she was getting no snack, cue wailing and gnashing of tiny teeth with full histrionics.  The storm was brief.  There was a sisterly consultation.  Not five minutes later she was at my side, tapping on my shoulder.  “I wanna tell you something, Mama.  I love you.”  She threw in her most winsome face for good measure.  Eyelashes may have been batted.

“I love you too, Claire.  But you’re still not getting a bedsnack.”

“But I just want to give you a kiss!  That’s all!”

“I’d love a kiss from you!  You’re still not getting a bedsnack.”

“That’s okay.  Anna said she’d share hers with me.”  With plan in place, the self-satisfied weasel sauntered out of the room.

“Anna is not allowed to share her bedsnack with you – you get NO bedsnack.  Maybe tomorrow you’ll eat your dinner.” 

Cue tantrum #2. 

Never try to outweasel Mama.

My daughter, the teenaged naturalist.

[The scene:  This morning.  In the bathroom.  I am brushing my teeth, cardiologist Claire is hanging around, chatting.]

Claire:  [spotting an ant on the floor] Mama!  An ant!  Kill it!  Kill it!

Me:  Leave the ant alone, it’s not bothering anything.

Claire:  It’s a carpenter ant!  It will eat the carpet!  Kill it!

Me:  It will not.  Leave the ant alone.

Claire:  Look, at the ant, Mama!  I see its antlers!

Me:  Those are antenae, not antlers.

Claire:  [with audible eyerolling] What-EVER.

Bad blogger, no cookies.

Shame on me, patient neglecting my blog.

The problem is that updates of “Hi!  Everything’s peachy keen!  Buh bye now!” don’t hold anyone’s interest, caries not even mine and I’m easily entertained.

What have I been up to in no particular order?  The girls and I went camping.  There have been several birthdays and some graduations in the (mammoth) extended family.  Anna finished preschool and had her kindergarten evaluation (!!!).  I bought a new car and had several inches of my hair whacked off.  Claire took scissors to her own bangs.  Three year olds are not licensed as hair stylists in the state of PA for good reason.  We started prepping the house for paint.   I planted four baby trees and the only one that was growing was chomped down to a stub by some anonymous wild life.  We attended the Pittsburgh Arts Festival and got to ride in a fire truck.  General life stuff – nothing deep or introspective from me.  (aren’t you glad?)  Instead I will post pictures of the girls.

Hiking with Pap-pap

Posing on a “big rock”

Checking out the fountain in Point State Park

Learning to do laundry the old-fashioned way

And last but not least, being junior junior firefighters


I did spin the silk last night – holy crap!  People aren’t kidding when they say it doesn’t draft easily.  Even though I predrafted it the night before, mind it wasn’t as thin or as even as I wanted because it was killing my hands.  It wasn’t any easier on my hands while spinning, medical although a few times I did get into a sort of groove where I wasn’t fighting the fiber.

I’m not at all happy with how the singles look, but am waiting to reserve judgement for when they’re plied.  After all, the whole point in spinning this was as a learning experience.  Last night I dreamed of spinning silk filaments for car headlights.

Meanwhile, I’ve got about 500yds of wool/mohair spun up for Claire’s Sweater Take Two.  I dyed them Sunday and left them in the dyebath overnight.  Well, sort of.  The dyebath slowly drained out since they were in the wash tub, but that’s okay.  This timeI used “Amazon Green” Dylon  since the darker green wasn’t striking properly.  I was afraid this one would be a bit too yellow or too bright, but it turned out a lovely celedon color that Claire and I are very happy with.  When I showed her the four loose skeins of dyed yarn (she’s always asking what the status of her sweater is) she asked, “But how am I going to wear that?”  I had to promise to knit it up soon.

I am running out of things that can break.

In the past month I have had a virus on a lab computer followed by a complete hard drive failure, pilule two broken vacuum pumps, a broken agitator, a broken part on the  Tribute (Mr. Unreserved’s primary vehicle), and massive expensive deterioration of my car which led to its replacement.  Hooray for shiny new car, boo for ugly car payment!  This weekend the dryer broke.

It’s getting to where I’m afraid to use anything mechanical, including pencils.

In fiber related news, I had a fun new experience last night – I pulled the silk bell I picked up at MDSW into rovings.  It was great fun, even if it did cut a slice in my index finger.  The tutorial I read wasn’t kidding when it said the stuff could be hard on your hands.  Silk is so deceptive!  It feels like cobwebs, yet it’s tough enough to slice through skin.  No wonder people have been fascinated with it for thousands of years.  Tonight I hope to try to spin it, assuming I can keep my eyes off the Penguins game.

How I spent Mother’s Day Morning

I had a lovely Mother’s Day, ampoule and I hope you did, obesity too.  Even if you’re not a mother, I hope you had a lovely May 10th.

I did not get breakfast in bed.  I was out of bed an hour earlier than I would have been for work.  I made Mr. Unreserved drag me down to Oakland to run in the Race for the Cure.  It was quite an experience!

The morning was beautiful, sunny and crisp, which was a change from the rain and gloom that’s been dominating this spring.  The event was well organized, which must have been quite a feat with over 30,000 people gathered in one spot.

I ran in memory of my Grandmother and in celebration of my Aunt.

I ran up and down the hills of Squirred HIll.  Hills were the one thing missing from my training.  They made me fanatsize about plopping down on the side of the course and refusing to finish.  Seeing as I’d have to walk back to the park, I figured I might as well keep going.  After the first two evil miles, the third was mostly downhill and was much easier.  I’ve never been so happy to see Phipps Conservatory (where the finish line was) in my life!  I managed to make my goal of finishing under 40 minutes, even though I had to walk twice to catch my breath.

Mr. Unreserved took a picture of me after the race, but I’d rather post the one from the beginning.  It’s nearly identical, but much less sweaty.

The rest of my day was lovely, but it couldn’t top the rush of finishing my first race.  Now I have to decide what comes next.  Do I keep training?  Chalk it up to another experience to check off the bucket list and move on?  I like the way running makes me feel, but I’m still not able to think of myself as “a runner.”

But on Sunday morning, I was.

P.S.  Get your annual mamogram.  Yes, you.