26 May 2013

Animal Planet LIVE

It’s Memorial Day weekend and we have all gathered at my parents-in-law’s house. The long, snowy winter has added some extra inches to the water level in the lake but it’s still a long way off from what it once was.

As usual Lola and her cousin L. were hunting for frogs down by the water. Despite the very loud croaking we hear at night, there were not that many frogs to be found yet, just dozens of ticks.

At long last the girls came back with one frog, a lovely green specimen.



What they also found was a garter snake. It was a decent sized one, about three feet long. After it was admired by all, the girls took their temporary pets around the house while the adults remained behind on the back deck to relax a little, enjoy the sun, and watch Ryan and his brother put the dock in the water.




Queue blood-curdling scream. The adults jumped up as one and ran to the front of the house, trying not to scrape their bare feet on the gravel path, fully expecting to find massive amounts of blood. Fortunately none of the children were injured. The same could not be said for the frog, however.

It seems the snake and the frog met, and the snake did not play nice.








It took the snake about ten minutes to devour the frog in its entirety. After recovering from her initial shock and horror, it was she who let out the ear-piercing scream, Lola returned to the scene of the carnage, curious and fascinated although still very upset.



“Thanks for the free lunch. See ya..!” And off it went, full belly and all, back into the woods.



21 May 2013

Summer Evening At The Ball Park

Yesterday was the Rangers’ first baseball game of the season and they played well. Sadly they lost. But Miss Lola got a hit without having to use the tee. Proud parents of course, but the slugger herself was not impressed.

“I have done it before.”

Must be her number. It was hot, the mosquitoes were atrocious, but the smell of brats on the grill and the crack of the bat hitting the ball made for a perfect summer evening.









10 May 2013

Kitchen Progress Report

Two years ago, when we bought this house, we started on the kitchen as our first project. It didn't go quite as fast as anticipated. In fact, after we ripped out the dropped ceiling, painted the walls and the kitchen cabinets, and learned a valuable lesson in the process (never again will we paint cabinets!), things came to a complete standstill. We replaced the refrigerator and the dishwasher last year but that was about it.

Two weeks ago we decided it was time to finish this project. Light fixtures were swapped out, outlet covers renewed, a new stove brought in, and for the finishing touch, the floor was redone. The eighties brown polyester paint-stained carpet was ripped out and replaced with lovely old-fashioned black and white tile. It fits the house perfectly. Behold our new floor. (Please ignore the mess. Just look at the blocks, mesmerizing aren't they? And the pretty orange fridge.)



Of course there is a downside to having a nice floor, isn't there always? No longer can I just sweep crumbs and such from the counter top onto the floor and call it a day. I actually have to bring the mop out on a regular basis. A small price to pay, I say. Happy weekend!

03 May 2013

Of Aliens And Citizens

I have a new job! And a fun one, too. The technical college in the area, together with a local literacy organization and a nonprofit agency of the diocese, has received a federal grant to assist permanent residents in becoming US citizens. They need a coordinator to market the program, keep track of the applicant progress data, and run quarterly reports for the government. Who better for the job than your friendly resident alien? Thankfully, the college thought so too.

And so I make the trek south three days a week. It’s a great program and I really enjoy being part of it. Permanent residents who are interested in becoming citizens are offered assistance with filing the naturalization application, English language and US civics classes, and the possibility to practice citizenship interviews, all free of charge. As the coordinator who navigates between the three partners and the applicants, I hope to meet many interesting people on this road to citizenship.

02 May 2013

Spring Thoughts

My living room window is covered in peck marks, made by a robin that wanted to come in last Friday. All day long she flew up in the air and knocked on my window. There is a Dutch children’s song about just that: “Little robin flies into the window, peck, peck, peck. Let me in, let me in.” It was highly amusing. When I wondered on Facebook if I should let her in, someone suggested she wanted to let me out.













It’s so unusual to walk outside and be enveloped in warm air. We went from freezing temperatures to high seventies and eighties practically overnight. I love it, don’t get me wrong, but the transition is rather sudden. But oh, how glorious to go out barefoot. Alas, tomorrow the temperature drops again.

Every day on my way to work I notice the trees are a little greener than the day before. There is a subtle hint of green on the branches right now, which I am sure will be more pronounced tomorrow. Our lilac literally burst into leaves yesterday. It is full of buds, ready to become gorgeous and fragrant purple flowers.

The mini crocuses I planted last fall have come up and they look so lovely. There are flowering daffodils by the side of the house that I did not plant. They just showed up. The rhubarb is pushing its way out, and the catnip is going strong. Ryan and Lola have cleaned up the Lily-of-the-Valley beds.

It is finally spring.

01 May 2013

The Rookie

She was reluctant at first when I asked her if she wanted to sign up for summer baseball here in town. But then one day she hit the ball just right during t-ball in gym class. That felt so good, she wanted more. There are not enough kids to form a t-ball team but she was welcome to join the coach pitch team. And so she did.


She is the youngest by far, throws like a girl, and is easily distracted (“What’s that on my shoe?”) but she’s doing it. She did not let that baseball that hit her square in the forehead on day one deter her either. Good girl!

28 April 2013

The Green House

Yesterday was the very first proper spring day up north, and our first order of business, after finally enjoying some coffee outside, was fixing the roof of the green house. Being veterans at this, we completed the task in no time, and without any arguments. Once the green house was cleaned, all 400 plants were moved from my dining room into their new home. Just a few more weeks, and we can plant them outside.

I promised you pictures, didn't I? I found them but then I got distracted by life. So here they are. Most are from last year when the green house was built. Some are from yesterday, to show off our ginormous tomato plants. Seriously, they are flowering already.

Our starting point:



To escape from eight little girls running around the house, it was the day of Lola’s birthday party, Ryan spent the day replacing the windows in the potting shed by bigger ones.





Next up, the roof:







So far, that was easy. And now for the fun part, putting up the acrylic plates. Gliding them into place was a major pain but we got it done and we’re still married.




And for the finishing touch, lobelia.




A few shots from inside:





That was last year. This was yesterday. The black-eyed Susans, started from seed, on their way to the green house.





Everything is back in place. And the dining room looks almost normal again.

22 March 2013

Four Hundred And Counting

The absence of gardening weather has not stopped us from planting seeds. We like to get a head start where our veggies are concerned, to maximize our summer yield. And now that we have a place to put everything, we are really going for it. We are also throwing some flowers in the mix.

It began last month. We sowed forget-me-nots, lobelia, alyssium, black-eyed-susans, cardinal climbers, and two different varieties of cherry tomatoes. Almost every single seed germinated. Yesterday the seedlings were transplanted to bigger pots to accommodate their growth. In the empty seed starter pots we planted large tomatoes, leek, corn, cucumber, okra, echinacea, marigolds, and more lobelia.



If they too germinate well, and why wouldn't they, we will have nearly 400 plants living in our dining room. The plan is for them to go to the greenhouse, but obviously it's still too cold for that. Not to mention part of the greenhouse roof blew off this winter and that needs to be fixed first.

Which reminds me, I have never shown you any pictures of our greenhouse, have I? Last year we turned the dilapidated potting shed into a cute little greenhouse by replacing the old windows with floor to ceiling ones, and installing clear acrylic sheets on the sunny half of the roof. I'll dig up those pictures and post them tomorrow.

21 March 2013

First Sign Of Spring

Rumor has it it's spring. I have yet to see any proof. It's very cold outside, there is about a foot of snow and ice on the ground, and it only just stopped snowing. I planted bulbs last fall, but they have a long way to go. And not a single robin has been spotted in these parts, just a few geese earlier this week.

There is hope, though. I looked out the window a few moments ago, and noticed a little head sticking up from the snow. The chipmunks are up! He, or she, had dug a tunnel through the remains of the ice castle that Ryan and Lola built, and sat there, quietly looking around. He seemed somewhat confused by what he saw, and after a few minutes went back into his underground home.

I'll toss out some homegrown sunflower seeds for them. The birds are not too keen on them and it will be awhile before the grass is back.

22 January 2013

Baby, It's Cold Outside

I just shipped Lola off to school, two hours later than normal. Our school district started with a two hour delay because of the cold. Schools were closed all day yesterday in the UP and I am sure they are today as well. I had never heard of Cold Days before, only Snow Days.

It was 14 below this morning when Ryan left, with a wind chill of 25 below. For the folks back home who are complaining about the cold, or lack thereof - another Elfstedentocht just bit the dust, that's -26 and -32 Celsius. Brrr!

Today's high will be a balmy 7 degrees (-14 C). It sure is pretty though, the bright blue sky and the sun reflecting on the snow. If only I could stay inside all day.

11 January 2013

Sick Bay

My baby is sick. My poor little girl is running a fever, throwing up, and starting to develop a nasty cough. She was up quite a bit last night, and has slept for most of the day today. To add to her misery, being sick today means she is missing the root beer float party at school. I promised to make her a root beer float at home but that only partially made up for things.

I feel for Lola, really I do. Of course I do, I am her mother. But the thing is, I am supposed to be the patient today. Yesterday I had oral surgery. There is an infection raging in my jawbone and it's threatening my teeth. Due to the loss of bone, they are at risk of falling out. To end the infection, the bone was scraped clean and bone grafting material was inserted. My gums were then sewn back together and some kind of dressing was applied.

My head now hurts very much as you can imagine. The painkillers I was prescribed aren't up to the job. And though it's not the most pain I have ever felt, it is in my head and that seems to make matters worse. To add insult to injury, I am starting to look like a chipmunk on the left side of my face. But instead of nursing my aching head, I was up half the night nursing Lola and cleaning up vomit.

Sigh. Life is not fair.

31 December 2012

New Year's Eve

My husband and daughter are in the kitchen prepping diner. We are eating spaghetti tonight. No black eyed peas for us on New Year's Eve. Lola is chattering away about anything and everything while the two of them are rolling meat balls. I sit in the living room trying to type with a cat on my lap.

After diner we're having a party. We will be dressing up, playing games, and blowing our party horns, picked up at the Dollar store for the occasion. We still need to make party hats. Lola is very excited about the party and plans to stay up until midnight, although she doesn't really expect to make it that long.

This will be our second New Year's Eve in this town. If I remember correctly, it will be a nice and quiet affair for most of the night. Perhaps one or two firecrackers will be set off. I am used to so much more noise. Where I come from, this night is the big fireworks night.

When I was complaining earlier about the lack of noise on New Year's Eve, Lola sighed: "Oh mother, why can't you just enjoy your new life?" (I don't know where she gets this stuff, I very seldom complain for the record.) I tried to find some live streaming of the Dutch fireworks but no such luck. I'll just have to take her home some day for the real thing.

Well, I am off to get dressed for the party. Happy New Year, everyone! May 2013 be a peaceful and blessed year for us all.

11 December 2012

One Wish Granted

As I type this, my mother’s plane is taking off. In just a few short hours she’ll be here. I can hardly wait. I’ve got to finish up one work project, scrub a few toilets, and throw a vacuum cleaner around the house. And then I can enjoy the rest of the week off.

My mom ordered snow. Not so much that it hinders traffic. Just enough to makes things pretty. Here you go, mom! Just for you.






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