31 August 2009

Leaving 970 & Local Charity Advise Please!

We are leaving #970, it's official. It’ll take about another month and a half for us to wrap up the state-side side of our lives and then we’ll be off. It’s going to be hard to say goodbye to #970, not to mention all the junk we’ve stuffed into it’s nooks and crannies. But luckily, I have found two very good charities, ones that will get most of what we are not taking with us. Since I have so much stuff please, please, if you know of a good, reputable charity in St. Louis that accepts donations of household items tell me about them (other than the Salvation army, Good will, Am Vets, etc. Not that they're not reputable, just that I already know about those guys). Thanks!

While we wind down our US lives, Matthew is getting things going for us in Beirut, Lebanon—our destination. No, I’m not involved in this on anything other than a conceptual level. He’s managing all of it—the car situation, apartment, everything (until I show up, that is). I’m really looking forward to going back. There’s so much to do and see and this time I get to do and see it without two children in diapers.

It isn't clear how long we will stay, and Matthew and I have decided that we're fine with an undefined period of residence over there.

Beirut is where Dandelion was born, where Star learned to talk (in French and Arabic before English, actually) so it isn't like we don't know what to expect or what we're getting into. We do, or at least we know a whole lot more than the first time we arrived back in 2004. And guess what? We did not fail out of Lebanon 101.

29 August 2009

What You Need

Except for the fact that the drill isn't in the picture, this is a pretty good collection of the stuff you will need to install two new 220 volt receptacles at my house. That's what I did today. The stuff slowly assembled on top of my washing machine while I worked.

My washing machine and dryer and refrigerator all run on 220 power--they were purchased overseas several years ago. The 220 thing; not that big a deal, actually. Electric dryers in the US are usually 220, so we already had two breakers set to 220 and a receptacle for the dryer in the basement. With the help of an extension cord/power strip, it has delivered power to the washer and dryer and a whole host of smaller appliances since we first moved in.

So, Friday Craigslist helped us get rid of the rather ancient and energy sucking refrigerator that was in our house when we bought it. With it out of the way, I knew I was going to have to install a 220 receptacle in the kitchen to power the (much newer, nicer, more efficient) 220 refrigerator-from-abroad. Since I was going to be messing with the 220 line anyway, I figured I should relocate the basement receptacle so that it is nearer the washing machine's drain line. That way, we won't have to keep on using extension cords downstairs.

The whole project went off without a hitch. This morning I bought new receptacles at Lowes, and the nice man there helped me find the right kind of cable. This afternoon, I was able to start and complete the project exactly as I had imagined it. All of it went according to plan. This is unusual for me in the area of home improvement.

Given that there weren't any major hiccups in the installation of the new receptacles, I was really shocked how long it took and how hard it was. What I thought would only be a little bit of work took me four hours. How can that be? We're only talking about two receptacles. Plus, that 10 gauge wire did a number on my delicate fingers. No lie.

28 August 2009

God Bless Craigslist

Over the past week, I have gotten rid of the horrible old refrigerator that came with our house when we bought it, two enormous wardrobes, and a bag full of ink cartridges that date back to two printers ago. The refrigerator was gargantuan and wasteful and ugly. We've replaced it with our trusty LG, the one that we brought from Lebanon, and it is superior in every respect. The wardrobes had outlived their usefulness and are off to be useful to other people. The printer ink I parted with for free. After all, it might have gone bad after so many years on the shelf. I wouldn't sleep well wondering if I had just traded garbage for money.

All of this was made possible by Craigslist. I've declared my love of Craigslist on this site before. We have an enduring relationship.

There's more to come of course. I'll be Craigslisting like a maniac. There's just so much here that I don't need to keep. There's something very wonderful and liberating about having fewer things. Honestly, I think it helps me sleep better at night.

24 August 2009

Feed Me

Last weekend, my cousin Katherine helped us find the carnivorous plants at the Botanical Garden.

I've probably walked past these little predetors a dozen or more times and failed to notice them. Or maybe I did notice them and then I forgot that I had? The trouble with the Botanical Garden (and I'm not entirely sure such a thing can even be called 'trouble') is that you can't possibly notice everything. There's simply too much for that. It's an unimaginable luxury, really.

Kids had a great time. They always do. Here they are in the Japanese garden, looking every bit as happy as they actually were.

We had a lovely time.

22 August 2009

Helping Out

The girls recently helped Matthew wash the car.

It was evening and they were already wearing their pajamas which I guess made it all even more fun for them.

Mad Art

Last night Matthew and I went to the Mad Art Gallery. It's a really fun building to be in--very nicely kept and lots of separate spaces to explore. You can watch a little movie about the gallery and the history of the building here.

We were there for the St. Louis Showcase. Here's a picture of their poster.

And here's Matthew in the Jail Cell Listening Room.

And here's a shot of one act on stage.

Those with good eyes will make out a cellist on stage. She's been teaching Matthew to play for the past year, and she's the best.

19 August 2009

Wolf Child

Not too long ago (and likely at my child's insistance), Aunt Terra made Dandelion a wolf suit.

It is commonly believed that children who wear wolf suits are likely to make mischief.

But to do that, they have to have energy for it. School has resumed and already it has started to really curtail my kids' energy. Today they came home happy and tired, a combination I can't complain about.

18 August 2009

Happily Ever After

Once upon a time there was a miserable old driveway. All the other driveways on the block were better off than the miserable old driveway. They all belonged to people who loved them more and took better care of them. The miserable old driveway was ashamed and sometimes cried when no one else was looking, which was all the time. No one ever notices a miserable old driveway.

Then one day, just when the miserable old driveway had given up all hope of ever being as well-cared for as the other driveways on the block, a miracle happened. The lady the miserable old driveway beloged to got out there and cleaned and weeded and cleaned and weeded some more. Then, two strangers came and poured black smelly goop all over the miserable old driveway. That goop stank like you wouldn't believe and the miserable old driveway and the people it belonged to wondered if the smell would ever go away.

But of course it did. The miserable old driveway is still miserable and old, but beneath all that goop, no one will notice. The driveway is used to not getting noticed, so that part worked out just fine.

17 August 2009

If They Follow Me Home, Can I Keep Them?

Jeffrey Campbell's Cuff Heel

At City Museum

City Museum had been on our minds for a while, and this past weekend, we decided it was time to make a day of it.

Here we all are, on a rebar-encased airplane wing, suspended three stories up in the air.

It's one of a precious few photos of all of us.

12 August 2009

Earlier Today

Blueberry Pinwheels

Yesterday I made a blueberry cobbler that turned out so-so. Oh well. At least the pictures turned out well.

I wish the cobbler had turned out crazy delicious, but it didn’t. This is the second time that I've made this recipe. Last time, it was way too sweet, and there weren't nearly enough blueberries. This time, I more than doubled the amount of blueberries, taking the recipe from 2 to 5 cups. I didn't increase the sugar, and thought that I had probably created the perfect cobbler. But no. It didn’t have the effect I had hoped for. Even at 5 cups, the recipe still doesn't have enough blueberries in it. I'm thinking about trying it again with further modifications, but the trouble is, I don’t know if I can keep on dedicating my limited supply of blueberries to tinkering around with a recipe that might just be hopeless.

I'll get that all figured out eventually. If I end up perfecting this recipe, this is exactly where you'll find it.

10 August 2009

Aphids on Bindweed

So, usually when I post about my yard it's to brag about what's growing, blooming, or making me smile 'round here. This isn't one of those times.

Those are aphids on bindweed, double blighting my garden.

The good news is that the aphids don't seem to be interested in any of the other plants in the yard. They cling to and coat the bindweed exclusively. You'd think that such a pest might give the bindweed a run for it's money. I only wish that it could. No, bindweed holds its own very well against the aphids' assault.

All the same, it's kind of convenient that the aphids all live on bindweed. It's easy to just pluck the weed, toss it in the compost bag, and have done with two problems in one.

09 August 2009

Beneath the Tall, Tall Oak

We mostly stayed indoors today because it was crazy-hot. Toward evening the temperature dropped enough for outside activities. I decided to tackle the spent day lilies. Only three blossoms remain and after they bloom they're done for the year.

I was about half done with that little project when Matthew took the girls around the corner to the park. When I finished, I joined them beneath a tall, tall oak. While the girls built houses and walls out of the dirt, I noticed many tiny acorns sprinkled all around.

Quite taken with them, I gathered a small handful.

Dandelion's Necklace

You have to agree, the kid's got style.

08 August 2009

Mary Ann, in the Basement, With the Drill

I started building these drawers a long, long time ago. But today is the day I finished. Feels pretty good to make progress. The next step is to install them.

06 August 2009

My St. Louis

My parents moved our family to St. Louis when I was almost six. Actually, they moved us to the outskirts of West County (from Kensington, MD). They still live in the house where I grew up, about 30 minutes west of where I live now. I left home two months after I turned 17. Leaving home took me all over the place; out west, Europe, the Middle East. I came back to the US, to the St. Louis area about two years ago.

During those years away from here, I told people all the time that I grew up in St. Louis. Of course, That's really only the truth if you don't know anything about St. Louis, and at the time, I guess I didn't. But then the people I met usually didn't know anything about St. Louis either. Except one guy in the Army post office in Germany dropped his jaw when I told him I was from St. Louis. A nice girl like you?, he asked me. Really? St. Louis is tough, isn't it?

Well, out in the suburbs . . . all the way up until two or three years ago, I thought that I had been raised in the suburbs of St. Louis. But no, I wasn't. Now that I live in the suburbs of St. Louis, I realize that I actually grew up in the suburbs of the suburbs of St. Louis.

Because I grew up so far from the city, I often get the feeling that I could have grown up in any suburbs ANYWHERE in America and it would have been pretty much the same. You can't say that about cities and you can't say that about small towns either. Both have a sense of themselves as entities with their own history, character, and culture. Small town Illinois isn't the same as small town Georgia, just as Chicago definitely isn't Atlanta. But I bet you their suburbs are too similar to tell apart.

When I was a kid, downtown St. Louis was a foreign place. We went into the city on rare occasions only. Mom infrequently went to Soulard's Farmers Market, and there was a sheet-music shop not far from the market where she bought etude books for me and Joe and Suz. Add to those destinations a baseball game or two, and that would be a fair summary of my childhood exposure to the city of St. Louis. Everyone out in the suburbs believed the city was a dive, and either they were all wrong or they were all right. I might never know the answer to that particular mystery.

The city didn't start to become a place of interest for me until I was a teenager, but then I left at 17 before getting to know the city at all. One of the best things about coming back to St. Louis has been getting to know it and really feeling at home here. I'm really glad that I've had the chance. For me, St. Louis will always occupy a favored spot among all the places I have lived in the big world beyond the suburbs of it's suburbs.

05 August 2009

Evasive Maneuvers

That's me, playing chase with the kids last weekend at Tower Grove Park.

I'm kind of a camera hog, so normally, I would have been holding the camera and Matthew would have been running around with the kids.

I think I might just add this picture to the small collection I have of myself with my kids. A keeper if ever there was one.

04 August 2009

Flavor of the Week

Earlier today we went to the dentist. Afterward, to reward ourselves for yet another cavity-free visit, we stopped off for some Tropical Moose.

Which is to say, snow cones, served up out of a little shack at one end of the Kirkwood Farmers Market. Star chose Pink Lemonade, Dandelion had Watermelon (but only after fuzzy peach and kiwi strawberry had already crossed her mind).

I had the Flavor of the Week, which happened to be a mash up of Raspberry-Lemon and Wedding Cake. Mostly it just tasted like sugar--which given that it was a snow cone was exactly what I was (if not they were) going for.

If you go, get a mini. Only costs a dollar and is plenty big enough.

03 August 2009

After it Rained

I found out what a bumble bee looks like all soaking wet.

02 August 2009

Gelateria Del Leone & Pho Grand

Suz was in town today. Her visit with us was brief. She'll be leaving for California soon. It isn't every day that one's sister comes for a final visit ahead of a cross-country move, so we decided to make an occasion of it and meet for lunch.

That took us down to South Grand, where we chose to try out Gelateria Del Leone.

It was very nice. Sometimes it hits me how many things my children see, do, or experience that were not part of my childhood. Gelato is on that list. I had my first in Rome (of all places!) when I was 19. It felt a little like Italy in the Gelateria--the portions were just right and the flavors were bright.

Matthew and I didn't order anything but the girls were happy to share. They had Mexican chocolate and three different berry flavors. Yummy.

After that it was off to lunch with Suz, Joe & Katy at Pho Grand (literally next-door to the Gelateria). We've been there more than a few times over the past two years and it's a favorite. It's my habit to order something I've never tasted before when I go there; easy to pull off considering their extensive menu and my general inexperience with Vietnamese food. Is it luck or just a sign of quality that I've enjoyed everything I've ever had there?