01 July 2014

Life’s Little Annoyances

The planet Mercury is in retrograde. Well, was. Depending on who you talk to, it will move forward again starting either today or tomorrow at 7:49 PM CST. I am not taking any chances so I will keep my head down until tomorrow evening. To be totally honest, I do not put much stock into things like this but it’s nice to have something to blame for all the bad luck that has recently come our way.

While mercury was traveling backwards through the skies, we dealt with a flooded basement on a daily basis, a leaky roof, and a car that keeps telling us it wants its brakes fixed even though we just paid $160 to establish the only thing broken is the messaging system itself. There are documents that have mysteriously disappeared, I got a parking ticket even though I have a permit, and I just spilled coffee all over myself.

However, as someone pointed out to me earlier, what about the people who are having good luck? The Dutch team comes to mind, with their win over Mexico. A very valid point. One that I don't have an answer for because there is no answer. Well, maybe that Ryan and I took one, or several, for the team?

Whatever the reason, the basement is fixed, the roof will be, the car is not broken, and my parking ticket has been voided. With the exception of the coffee stains, all is well again. Onward and upward we go, Mercury included. And hopefully Team Netherlands as well. Hup Holland, hup!

17 June 2014

Take It To The Bridge

Together with a dozen or so present and former colleagues, Ryan and I handed out water and Gatorade to roughly 8,200 runners in the annual Summerfest Rock ‘n Sole Run last Saturday. We manned Water Station #3 at the top of the Hoan Bridge. It was a wee bit early, we started at 5 AM, but the spectacular view more than made up for the hour!

Handing Out Water to the Runners
Hoan Bridge
Hoan Bridge Up Close
Lake Michigan
Milwaukee Art Museum

16 June 2014

Ryan And The Electric Eel

Sounds like the name of a band, doesn’t it? Or a children’s movie perhaps, a funny TV show, an exciting book? It’s not. It is a tool, a very burly one. They can be rented at your local DIY store to clean up your sh*t. Ryan’s favorite thing to do on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

We are having some issues in the basement. Every time it rains the basement floods. Every time we shower the basement floods. Every time we flush the toilets, the basement floods. Basically anything involving water will cause our basement to flood. The sump pump we purchased is not up to the job because of the silt that blocks the water intake and causes the pump’s motor to overheat.

Egged on by my cousin and myself, who were raised to attempt everything yourself before calling in the professionals, Ryan rented the Electric Eel: a burly machine that pushes and rotates a sharp object attached to a steel cable down the drain and cuts up whatever is in its way. Then you pull it back out, insert a bigger sharp object and do it all over again. Until the obstruction is completely gone and your water flows freely again. Sound easy enough, in theory.

The reality is a little different. First off, you don’t stick the Eel down the drain in the floor but open up a pipe that connects to the main line, usually located closer to the street. The Home Depot guy told us the blockage is always in that pipe. In our case we found out there was nothing to open up. We found a pipe going down into the newly poured cement floor at the front, but it is not capped off. That can’t be good. When we looked inside, we could not see anything alarming. We figured the blockage was probably not there, but in the part that’s under our floor. If that pipe had been blocked, then our basement would have flooded from there as well since it was not closed off.

But what do we know, we’re not professionals, and the tool was paid for, so we stuck the Eel down that pipe anyway. We pushed the line down as far out as it went, about thirty feet. Then we hauled it back in. That was the fun part. The engine had some trouble pulling all that weight, and Ryan had to give it a hand. Hanging directly over the pipe, he got up close and personal with the contents of the sewer. He was not happy and very vocally so. It did stink, I’ll give him that, but Lola’s diapers were so much worse. What was truly awful though, was the brown splatter flying off the cable when it rolled back up onto the reel. I held up a piece of cardboard to catch most of it, but not all.

The worst part of it was that it didn't do any good. The water pooling in the drain was still there. Nothing had changed. We had only proven to ourselves what we already knew: we are the exception to the rule and our blockage is under the house. And for that we need a professional. So we hauled the heavy-ass machine back up the stairs, hosed it off, and took it back to the Home Depot. For the time being, we’ll take short showers and hope it doesn't rain. Oh, the joy of home ownership.

13 June 2014

All Cats Look Gray in The Dark

Now that we have traded in the trendy industrial neighborhood for a residential one, we run into typical residential issues. For instance our neighbors have cats, just like we do. And their cats are curious, just like ours are. So when they see the basement window ajar, to accommodate the hose pumping out the flooded basement, they venture inside to explore our home. And no doubt, help themselves to the cat food in the kitchen.

While the humans are very friendly towards the neighborhood pets, the animals are not. The older, grumpier cat in particular. Sandman howls at the intruders in a way that makes your hair stand up straight. Naturally this occurs in the middle of the night. And when he’s chased them off, he turns on the young, happy-go-lucky cat relatively new to our household and howls and hisses at him. Makes for long nights, I tell ya.

It has made me wonder if Sandman’s eyesight might be failing. I cannot discuss this with Ryan because he does not want to consider the fact that his boy is fourteen years old now, a most respectable age. But being an older cat comes with some problems. When he thinks no-one is looking, he obviously has trouble with jumping onto chairs. He has stopped hunting a while ago. He will walk straight at me but jump with four feet in the air when I call his name.

The other night he walked up to Fluffy ever so cautiously, with his ears flat against his head. When he was about a foot away from him, he visibly relaxed in an “Oh, it’s you” kind of way and walked off. That really convinced me he can no longer see very well. There is no visible sign of cataracts, or any other obvious eye problem. Perhaps I should perform some of the cat vision tests I found on the web. Yes, they do exist and no, they do not involve a chart.

Then again, we just moved into a new house where nothing is where it should be. And Sandman is not bumping into any boxes or furniture. Perhaps he’s just grabbing his chance to beat up the little pest that has forced him to share snuggles, attention, and food. I wouldn't put it past him. Most likely things will settle down when we unpack all those boxes and the house starts looking more like a home instead of a warehouse. It will certainly improve my mood.

04 June 2014

Back By Popular Demand

I was recently requested on Facebook to do a little blogging. I guess I should if I mean to keep this online diary somewhat up to date. And in truth, we have had some big changes around here since my last post. (My butt is all better, by the way, though it took a lot longer than seven to ten days.)

Big Change One

Santa Claus brought Lola a kitten for Christmas. She really, really, really wanted one and he caved, knowing that Sandman is still not a fan of her and she does love animals so. Fluffy, who also goes by the name Junior, is a cute little puffball. Contrary to what the book says about Birman cats, he is a very vocal cat. We try to train him to be quiet, by spraying him with water when he gets out of control, but it does us little good. He does seem to have developed a love for bathtubs and holds no grudges whatsoever about the water. Sandman has warmed up to him, after pouting for a little bit, and while they do not snuggle, they do play together every day.



Big Change Two

After many frustrating and fruitless attempts to find gainful employment in Milwaukee, I have finally returned to work. I too work for our friendly local cable provider now, just like my husband. After two weeks of intense training, I am learning the job on the job. I am in the quality control business now, where my attention to detail and somewhat anal tendencies are put to good use. It’s fun. I like my colleagues and for the first time in my life, I can ride my bike to work. Not that I have, but I could if I wanted to.

Big Change Three

We have moved. Again. As soon as it became obvious we would be staying in Milwaukee for a while, we started looking for a place of our own. Our apartment was fabulous, but the price tag was not, and there were a few other things as well. We bought a cute little house a couple of blocks down the street and we moved into it last weekend. You would think with all this moving experience we would know better than to underestimate the job, but no. However, it’s done and the place looks like a hoarder’s paradise. After three days of searching for it, I have finally located the missing coffee maker. Next on the docket is creating a path to the cable outlets so that our friendly local cable provider can transfer our services.

So much for the most recent adventures from the Southside. I am sure there is more, and who knows, perhaps I will be a little more disciplined in the future and post on a semi regular basis again. Maybe even include a few pictures. Just as soon as I can find my computer. And the charger. And my camera. And the cable to connect my camera to the computer…

05 February 2014

Butt Hurt

Sunday was a glorious day. Sunny, blue sky, not too warm, not too cold. My kind of outdoor sports weather. So Ryan and I gave Lola away to my cousin and the two of us went cross country skiing together. We had never done it but had always wanted to. Whitnall Park, just south of Milwaukee, rents skis and snow shoes for the afternoon.

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It’s not as easy as it looks. Those skinny skis are mighty slippery and the forward walking motion is a little awkward. Without proper trails –and what trails there are have been destroyed by people walking dogs, snow shoers, sleds, and butts- it’s even more difficult. I fell within seconds of taking off, and again the first time the trail went downhill. But after a while we got the hang of it and found it a most enjoyable way to spend the afternoon.

Until I fell for the third time. It was a flat surface, and I wasn’t even moving. But somehow I lost my balance and fell on my butt. And this time, there was no layer of fresh powder snow to cushion the fall. It hurt. A lot. But I got up and continued on my way, telling myself to ski it off. Not that there was a choice about it, we were on the far end of the park.

I did take off my skis to go down a particularly steep bit since I hadn’t made it downhill at all without falling, and I didn’t want to risk my tailbone again. Especially since Ryan flew into the trees in a most spectacular way there. When we got to the end of the trail however, I found I was not able to bend over to take off my skis. Not good.

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And so, after dropping Lola off at school Monday morning, I continued on to St. Francis to ascertain whether or not my tailbone was broken. It wasn’t, merely severely bruised. The pain should go away in a day or ten. I can’t take any good drugs for the pain since they cause constipation and that is the last thing you want in my situation. Ibuprofen it is then.

Bummer. At least I am not a broke ass, just butt hurt.

20 January 2014

Winter Sports

Like every self respecting big city, Milwaukee has a downtown outdoor ice rink. Much ice skating fun there is to be had, with upbeat music blasting from the speakers and hot chocolates provided by the local Starbucks.

Ice Skating at Red Arrow - Jan 2014

Ice Skating at Red Arrow - Jan 2014

Ice Skating at Red Arrow - Jan 2014

Unlike other big cities, Milwaukee also has an indoor Olympic training oval, the Pettit Center. Also a great place to go ice skating, sans hip drinks and tunes. With, however, real live Olympians running about.

Shani Davis

When the Olympians leave the ice, ordinary people can skate there, too. We signed Lola and her cousins up for skating lessons this winter. Every week, they learn the basics of gliding on ice.

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Under the watchful eyes of their dads, Lola, M. and C. are learning to balance on skates, fall and get up, glide, and skate backwards. With varying success, I must say. But they are having a lot of fun.

We also signed Lola up for six weeks of skiing lessons, another winter pastime she loves. And while she has not yet set her sights on Mt. Bohemia, her father’s favorite spot, she is getting to be quite good.

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12 November 2013

Putzing In The Woods

It's November and that means deer season is rapidly approaching. Ryan is getting in the mood and will be spending every single weekend this month up north. This past weekend Lola and I joined him. It was fun putzing around in the woods and prepping for Opening Day. On Sunday we even woke up to a dusting of snow. Lola was beyond excited, jumping up and down on the bed.

When I say "dusting," I mean dusting

What's different this year is that my father-in-law has purchased an acre or two, three, eighty across the road. Instead of just finding a good spot to put up the deer stands, Ryan and he were talking about clearing some popple trees, as aspen trees are often referred to, developing food plots, and building deer stands to last.









She does not hunt, but tree stands she likes
We found all sorts of goodies while we tromped around the woods. Empty nests, funky fungi, even a few deer!







I picked a nice spot for me on the south west corner of the land, amid a triangle of pine trees. This spot is known hence forth as Hanneke's Pine Bowl. Ryan liked it too. In fact, after we finished playing around there, he moved his tree stand over to my spot and will continue to bow hunt in my bowl. He better not get my buck!

A good spot indeed

My stand in progress

11 July 2013

Mind The Gap

Mind The Gap

10 July 2013

New Town, New Title

Five years Ryan promised me. Five years in this house. He gave me two. Which is still a record, I have to say. To be fair, he didn't really have a choice. His new job is in Milwaukee and that three hour commute from the Northwoods wasn't going to cut it. But that doesn't change the fact that once again we are moving and I still hate it with a passion.

Since we're going to the big city, we opted for the full on urban experience. We rented a loft. This country life I have fallen in love with has come to a temporary halt. Our goal is still a B&B in the middle of nowhere at some point in the future. But that's at least ten years from now and in the meantime we will go through life as city slickers.

We moved about half of our stuff, the essentials, to Milwaukee at the end of June. But if you recall, we had roughly 400 plants started for our garden this year. Since our loft comes with a 5,000 square feet roof deck with ample space for gardening, the slightly overgrown plants came with. Our U-Haul looked like a jungle.

What we are lacking at the moment is storage space. We no longer have a pantry, an attic, a basement, or a garage. Nor do we have dressers and a hutch. Those big pieces of furniture were left behind in favor of the plants. We are not sure if we should leave them up north for staging purposes or just get it all over with and rent another big truck.

I still work in Green Bay two days a week. As long as the house is still ours, I sleep there on the floor. Every time I go back, I pack up a box or two, three, and bring them back with me. I also take advantage of the internet connection because that has not yet been set up in the new house. Nor has the phone.

The joys of starting over. Soon we will have it all organized again. Soon...

03 June 2013

Flying Solo

As I looked out my kitchen window yesterday, I noticed a baby bird in the grass, under the big ole’ pine tree in our backyard. It appeared to have fallen out of its nest. While I looked on, its parents, a pair of common grackles, flew in and fed it. Then mama bird, or papa bird, moved back a few feet and called out. The baby bird hopped up in response, flapping its little wings. I watched in amazement at this family effort to teach the fledgling the basics of flight.

Learning to Fly
Learning to Fly

The baby grackle wasn’t the only one unfolding its wings yesterday. Earlier this week Lola announced out of the blue that she wanted her training wheels removed from her bike. She was ready to ride without them. Dressed in full-on protective gear, we set out to teach our girl how to ride. She didn’t realize it, but she caught on within seconds. Turning her bike was a little tricky though, and our little perfectionist was ready to quit when she didn’t get it right on her first try.

Lola rides
Lola rides
Lola rides

I remember my first bike ride. It was my sixth birthday and when I entered the living room there was a shiny red bicycle waiting for me. A friend taught me how to ride it that same day. She held on to my saddle for a minute or two and then let go. That was all there was to it. I can still picture the look of surprise on my mother’s face when I raced by. I had told Lola about this a few weeks ago, and I suspect that’s where her desire came from. But her experience wasn’t as rewarding as she thought it would be.

“I thought dad would hold on for two minutes and then it would be perfect,” she said to me, tears rolling down her cheeks.

Lola rides

Poor kid, blessed with her parents’ perfectionist genes. I don’t know why her first solo ride disappointed her so much she wanted to give up; it looked just about perfect to me. With a little prodding she was willing to get back on her bike and give a few more tries. And lo and behold, she did it. Racing up and down the street, she gave us a big grin. We still have to work a little bit on her right turn, but she mastered the basics yesterday.

Lola rides

When we returned to the house, I walked into the backyard to see how the baby grackle was getting along. He was nowhere to be found. I guess he mastered the basics, too.



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