Friday, October 31, 2008

Trick and a Treat

*I wrote most of this post on the evening of Halloween, but started having issues with uploading photos and couldn't finish until today. I am backdating it so that I don't have to go through and change the tenses because I'm lazy like that.

Our dog Mingus has become a fleshbag monster and is exceedingly disgusting to be around these days. He walks around our new house, pausing every 3 seconds for a 60-second long itch fest, then walks a couple steps and starts the routine all over again. Along the way he drops pieces of skin, hair, and blood. He smells wonderful too.

Ha! Told you there was a trick. Doesn't that look like a creature you'd love to share your home with? If so please call me, I will PAY you to take him.

So even though I've already taken him to the vet 4 times, changed his food twice, given him any number of different medications, painstakingly flushed the affected area, and even bought him a new house for God's sake, he is worse than ever. I took him in to a new vet (one that is walking distance from our house, hooray!) and I really like this new guy. He seems to genuinely want to help Mingus instead of just treating his symptoms and having me come back every month when I reach my breaking point and can't stand living with the dog anymore.

So now, Mingus is on a pill regimen that is distributed to him in just 3 easy daily installments and reasonably priced at about $8 per day. Have I mentioned I don't even like this dog anyway?!?!?! Not to mention the fact that he pooped on the way to the vet and since I forgot to bring a bag with me I had to pick it up on the way home. The problem was, they gave me this newfangled fancy bag at the vet with a wire rim and a cardboard part that was supposed to fold over and close it but danged if I could figure it out, so I had to walk home through my neighborhood pushing a stroller and holding onto a dog leash with one hand and holding an open bag of dog poop out away from me and everyone else while enjoying the subtle aroma wafting back at me. I am NOT happy with this dog right now.

Now on to the treat, which was the rest of the day. I don't know about your kids, but Emily is absolutely tearing around the house right now, and she hasn't even eaten any candy! Halloween was a big hit here, both for her and for us.

We set up the candy bowl in the front hall, I dumped in a bunch of candy and I also added some dehydrated apple chips, figuring we might as well give the kids a choice. Will went so far as to put a bowl of whole apples up there too. The only problem was that Emily was totally jazzed about this and ended up taking bites out of many of the apples:

Then we got her dressed, and she was of course the cutest puppy in the universe:

When trick or treaters showed up, Emily would grab handfulls of candy and show the trick or treaters while I offered up the bowl, then she'd pull her candy back and help me close the door. Once the door was closed, she would clap, as if to say "Jolly good, we did an excellent job".

We goofed around on the front porch for awhile:

Then we went trick or treating! I figured we'd do about 4 houses or so, just to show her off a bit and meet our neighbors, but she was loving it so we stayed out for about half an hour. Every time a big group of kids went by, she'd take off after them (especially the little boy dressed as Elmo. What is it with Elmo?) And every time someone would open their door, Emily would just go barging in! I had to chase her down in a couple people's houses, but it let us introduce ourselves and we got invited in a couple times. Will was thrilled that our neighbors across the street invited him to have some beer to take with him. There were people in the neighborhood that really went all-out too! One lady had a Tarot card reading table set up in her front yard, along with horror movies playing on a TV outside. One woman dressed up and set her porch up with a Harry Potter theme. It was lots of fun, and Emily was sad when we came back inside. It was great, exactly what trick or treating should be, and I was thrilled because this was part of the reason we wanted to move to a younger, more active neighborhood.

The other trick or treaters were great too. They started promptly at the appointed time, and we only had 2 small groups show up after the official stop time, and all the kids were so polite! We didn't have any greedy grabbers, we didn't notice anyone coming around twice, and they all said thank you and one even told me I had a lovely house! There were also a couple little girls who offered to trade me candy for water since they were so thirsty, so I let them keep their candy and sent them along with disposable plastic cups of water. Too cute.

After the trick or treating Emily was totally jazzed and she went tearing around the house for awhile. She stopped at the candy bowl, and just flung every piece out of it onto the floor:

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Baking Soda + Vinegar = The Bomb Diggity

And not just because dumping the two together brings back fond memories of the 2nd grade experiments that started me down the road to becoming a chemist. I am somewhat "crunchy" when it comes to eating, diapering my daughter, recycling, cleaning etc. The problem with being crunchy about cleaning is that many of the organic/natural cleaning products out there suck compared to my beloved Clorox wipes and Swiffer Wet Jet, and even so they are usually way more expensive.

But as I sadly surveyed my new glass cooktop onto which I had allowed a boiling pot of lima beans to overflow, and my teakettle which bore a layer of scum comprised of every meal I've cooked since I got married 5 years ago (it lives on my stove), I REALLY didn't want to use the bottle of chemicals that the old owners left behind for cleaning the stove. I thought of the residue just sitting there on the stove until I turned on a burner and then volatilizing into the air to be inhaled by me and my nearest and dearest and I was just glad I don't own any canaries. I have an organic stainless steel cleaner that I really like for all my appliances, and I've been using the "Green Goddess" cleaner recipe from Good Housekeeping to clean my floors, small appliances and toilets, but neither of those were cutting it for the cooktop or the teapot.

So that's when I consulted my friend the internet, who advised me to bust out the baking soda and vinegar plus a razor blade for burnt-on ickyness. It has taken me a couple false starts over the years, but now I'm a believer. I should have taken before pictures too, but look at that sparkle! I didn't even need the razor blade.

I then decided to attack our Teavanna tea steeper, as an unappetizing brownish tea coating had built up on the inside of it, prompting one of my recent guests to say: "Wow, it looks like that thing gets a lot of use."

You can see through it again!

The I attacked our bathtubs:

Lovely. Now my daughter and I can sit in clean bathtubs without stewing in leftover chemicals.

I know you're all laughing at me right now for my little infomercial on vinegar and baking soda, but know you want to try pickling your house too!


Monday, October 27, 2008

What fireplace?

I have always had a problem with family rooms. Most of the time there is a fireplace, which tends to be the dominant feature in the room. The problem is, where do you put the TV, and how do you arrange your furniture when you have a split focal point? Our solution?

With the invention of flatscreen televisions, I thought this problem was solved. If you notice, there is a design in the fireplace tile that looks like a built-in frame, so we went out and bought an LCD TV that would fit in the frame. We were warned that we'd have to be careful that the TV didn't get too hot when we used the fireplace, but as we pretty much only used our old fireplace (with usually disastrous results) on Christmas Eve every year, we figured this wasn't a problem. We were warned that we'd have to get a mounting system that would angle the TV down so that we wouldn't have to crane our necks to see the TV. No problem, we got a mounting system and even paid for professional installation.

Well when the Geek Squad showed up last week to set up our TV, they walked into the family room, and I immediately got "the look". I am SO sick of getting "the look". It's the look that says "Are you insane? There's no possible way this will work". I'd say I've gotten it an average of 1.5 times a week from various workmen since we moved in.

Aparently even with the mounting system that angles the TV, the tile rectangle up there is WAY too high to mount a TV. They offered to mount it lower, but they still cautioned that every tile they drilled into would surely crack, and said we'd never be able to use the fireplace because our TV would get soot in it. Now it would drive me absolutely nuts to have the TV halfway in that tile square and halfway below it, it would look like we mounted it in the wrong place. I also didn't want to irreversibly wreck the tiles. They suggested mounting the TV on the wall perpendicular to the fireplace, but there we were back at the split focal point problem that bothered me so much to begin with that I bought a new TV instead of messing with it. Not to mention the fact that I really wanted to be able to see the TV from the kitchen, and there was also our old TV out in the garage (you know, the one the movers gave me "the look" about when I told them we wanted it in the basement?) which would go against the wall just as well as the new LCD TV would. So I sent the Geek Squad on their way, dragged the TV, the mounting system, and a million reciepts back to Best Buy (where they told me their system said I had already returned the TV) and finally we just hoisted the old TV in. It was late at night and I was already in my pajamas, I shudder to think what the neighbors think of us. After the difficult task was complete, I just exclaimed "Why don't we put the stupid thing in FRONT of the fireplace?!?!?" Turns out it wasn't a terrible idea.

Luckily we have a flat hearth, and our fireplace isn't a traditional design that screams "there's a fireplace back here!". I don't know, maybe it looks really stupid, but I don't care at this point. Now we can use a TV we already had, we don't have to split the focal point (since we in effect got rid of one) and we can still use the fireplace if we roll the TV out of the way. Or we can just get a screensaver that looks like a fireplace. Either way, that's one more thing that should have been simple but wasn't that's finally taken care of.

Emily's new hobby

Emily has taken to walking around the house and collecting everything she can get her hands on, then carrying the items one by one to a place where she arranges them. As you can see, she helps herself to the contents of the plasticware cabinet (which I leave un-childproofed because I love cleaning up lids from all over the house, I mean because I am a good mother and it makes Emily happy) and even the liquor cabinet, which we will shortly be relocating.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

And we're back!

Phew. I can't believe it, but it is officially two weeks now since the big moving day. And thanks to my naive belief that the cable company could respond to a new service request in a semi-timely fashion, this is the first day we've had internet. It feels really good to have a link to the outside world again (especially since we have no TVs either right now) but I also know that I've been able to get a lot more done these past two weeks thanks to not having the distraction of the computer.

So everything went pretty well, except that we had to rethink some plans for the basement due to the fact that NOTHING fit down the steps. We have no outside entry to the basement, so the only way to get down there is through a door that is in a narrow hallway. So between the less-than-optimal entry point and the 90 degree turn the stairway takes on the way down, we couldn't fit the treadmill, ping pong table, tv, couch, or refrigerator down there. Will was able to bring over some buddies and disassemble the treadmill and ping pong table to get them down there, but the refrigerator will have to stay in the garage, and we'll have to get rid of the couch and the TV and get skinnier models instead.

But other than that snag we're enjoying the new house immensely. Will is biking to work every day, I am walking to the grocery store, and we're LOVING curbside recycling and twice weekly garbage pickup. Emily's favorite part is the backyard (specifically the swing set), which is a reasonable size to maintain and not the unmanageable wilderness our old yard used to be.

I am amazed at how much stuff we still have to put away though. There are still boxes filling the garage, which we pick away at a couple at a time. But most distressing is the fact that we STILL have some stuff at the old house that we're working on getting over here. I am tempted to just get rid of everything that is still over there (if we've lived without it for 2 weeks we can't REALLY need it, right?) but much of it is paperwork we need to sort through and keep, clothes that are not my current size but that I HOPE to fit into again sometime in the future, and seasonal things that I will eventually want. One or two more couple-hour stints at the old house should see it cleared of our stuff, but it's so difficult to do with a toddler. Emily freaks every time we go back to the old house, and I feel like it'll probably be easier for her to think of our new place as home if we don't take her with us to the old house. It's also been difficult to unpack here because at first we came to the harsh realization that none of our baby gates from the old house fit our wider doorways here, and now that we have that taken care of it's much more difficult to go up and down the stairs with big boxes, not to mention the fury that being left behind inspires in Emily when we try to go out to the garage to grab a box or take something downstairs.

But I am confident that by Halloween we will at least have all of our possessions cleared out of the old house and be 70% of the way to being unpacked here. At least now we've gotten enough stuff taken care of that I can fall asleep at night without spending an hour or two laying in bed making panicky lists of everything that I have left to do.

And in other exciting news, congratulations to Will's cousin Ceci on getting engaged last Wednesday, and to Will's sister Margaret for getting engaged last Saturday! I can't believe that Will's/my college roommate Brad is going to be our brother in law! At any rate, we'll have no shortage of weddings to attend next year!