Thursday, July 31, 2008

Cowabunga

So, in my last post, I showed you some of the verdant flora of Costa Rica - green things growing on any and all static surfaces. Today I'd like to share with you some of the very unique fauna I saw while in Costa Rica.

I know, I know, who really wants to look at some other schmuck's vacation photos? But just humor me, you've probably not seen these critters before either. I mean, people travel to Costa Rica just to view its varied wildlife, you may as well take a look. (I'm not entirely sure they come back with photos like mine, but it's possible.)

Two of the more rare animals I spotted were in the Arenal volcano region. There was a beautiful swan (which I did not know were endemic to the area):


And a fierce cobra:


In the capital city of San Jose my boyfriend and I were amazed at the variety of bovine specimens we saw:

Cowberator


Holy cow


Just plain scary circus cow



Sacred cow (Dairy lama)




Do these shoes make my calves look big?



And the cow jumped over the....
OR
Cows have the best grass

Decalfeinated


He won't buy the cow if he gets the milk for free



Moover and a shaker

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Wild Women Do NOT Have The Blues

Today is the day of my triumphant reunion with Mr. Schleckah.

He has been gone for such a long time.

Here are the peeps who visited me here at my Personal Bachelorette Home while Bill was off on Doggie Doodie Duty.

Peter
Martha
Jennie
Michael
Elizabeth
Jennie again
Paul
Mom
Dad
Ann
Jennie again
Nancy
Jon
Zöe
Peter again
Martha again
Jennie again

(Anyone who didn’t come over, you should have: it was fun.)

I have seen all these peeps since the last time I have seen the Schleckah.

Schleckah, on the other hand, has seen a lot of dog.

Here’s part of a typical email from his week:

Doggies woke me up at 7 a.m. It takes like a freakin' hour to walk, feed, give pills, all before I have coffee. Then I go back into the bedroom and see that one of them (most likely Maggie) has pee'd all over the rug (big wet spot). I can't find any cleaning products. Wiped it with water and paper towel. Looks like shit.

Going up to make coffee.

Love, Mistah Schleckah

One day all 3 doggies had a poop party and Bill had to clean up six separate piles of poop from the living room floor.

As my niece used to say when she was a wee baby: “Poo poo stinky!” To which Jacquie would reply, “Poo poo *IS* stinky, Honey.”

Which I think Mr. Schleckah has discovered.

Since there are no dogs pooping around here, I’ve had time to organize some Home Improvements while Mistah’s been gone.

What once was bare . . .

. . . is now full of joy and happiness:

My Dad hang our Caribbean triptych (by St. John artist Elaine Estern), while Mom, my sister Ann, my friend Jennie and I were the peanut gallery gave him lots of helpful advice.

He also hung Wild Women Don’t Have the Blues:

(The print isn’t crooked; my photography is).

I just looked up the title, because I heard a rumor it was a book. I don’t think it is, but there is a documentary called Wild Women Don’t have the Blues directed by Christine Dall which sounds great: Blues music is an intrinsic part of American life and this documentary looks at Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, Ethel Waters and other female pioneers of the blues and how they transformed southern field tunes into such evocative, vital music.

The artist is Jim Tanaka. He’s a former Walt Disney artist who studied in New York and was influenced by the jazz greats, especially at the Savoy Ballroom.

I just read a hilarious interview with him – he was 85 (in 2002) and when the interviewer asked him questions about various works, Tanaka kept replying, “I painted that? Gosh, you remind me of so many things!”

I’ve been kidding with my friends all week that although I’m having a really great time alone, I am, really, one of these days, going to start missing the Schleckah. Really soon.

Then I just got this email from him this morning. Unlike me, he took it easy last night:

I feel great today, as I eased off the Kettle early and ate a big left-over pasta dinner. Of course, I've been up since about 6:30 a.m. thanks to my friends, Big Hanna, Sally and Hop-along Skip.

Hopefully you'll feel good later -- I'm sure Ms. Boogsie will help cut through your hangover.

Love, Mr.

I think now, finally, the day I’m going to see him, I miss him.

See you soon, Mr. Schleckah:

And I’ll see YOU soon, too, Ms. Schnookie-pie.

Oh. And I guess I’ll see you guys too:

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Pupdate

When we last checked in on Moki, I was in a state of near panic at the idea that the beast we had voluntarily brought into our home was going to grow into one of those dogs you see on the news who has eaten the children. And the neighbors are interviewed saying: “it was a cute puppy and all, but clearly an asshole. I warned them!”


I had sent out a plea to the dog trainers of San Diego to heeeelllllllllllpppppp, and I had a scheduled phone consultation.


That phone call was encouraging, the trainer reassured me that most of the behaviors I described were normal for puppies, and that it's common for dog owners to forget the woes of puppydom when remembering the overall disposition of a family dog. That reminded me that although we've got nothing but loving memories of our dear departed Porgie girl, she did once eat a whole couch.


So we set up an in-home session with this person, mostly because she was the fastest to respond and we had e-mailed throughout that whole first day. That evening, I had a couple of really nice e-mails from another trainer, one who had young kids and seemed totally positive and cool. But I stuck with the plan I had made, which turned out to be a mistake. That first trainer was not good. We didn't "click" (puppy training humor, God I'm pathetic). She was more interested in selling us the 5 lesson package than she was in helping us. She made all of us feel like incompetent idiots, especialy the kids, who had to pretend to be puppies while my husband and I practiced our clicker skills. She was scary.

I called that other woman, I had a good feeling about her. And that was the right move After our first lesson, she e-mailed:


Your puppy is starting off with a perfect family dog temperament and your kids are nice and they will be working on linking their contact with treats so I expect that your puppy will be great with your kids.

She invited us to bring Moki to her house for a playdate with her dog.

We've got tricks up our sleeve now, and when Moki gets the devil in her, the kids can grab their clickers and treats and coax her to sit, lie down, touch her nose to various objects, and our favorite: relax on a mat. That one is going to come in very handy.


Don't get me wrong, she's still a puppy, and she's still completely demented. And she's bigger, and finds new and surprising trouble every 3 or 4 seconds. But the training really helps, it's just a matter of finding the balance between working with her and just enjoying her. It's just like parenting, sometimes we have to remind ourselves that every moment does not have to be teachable, sometimes we should just savor the special kind of crazy that this little one brings to our otherwise predictable household.


I imagined that this post would be filled with adorable photos, but she is never still, and the kids and I have a flight out of town at the crack of dawn's ass, and I've got to finish packing. I do have a first attempt at showing a video, I'd say the odds are 50/50 that it will work.

Remember Bambi and Barbie?

video


But just in case the video doesn't work, I want to leave you with a beautiful image of humankind. A photo that I took a couple of nights ago when man walked in to the restaurant where my family was dining, sat by himself, and acted like he was completely normal.



Wearing this:





Bueno.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Green things growing

Can you have a green vacation? was the title (and subject) of guest blogger Jane's post this past weekend. (Thank you to Jane, btw). Here is my reply to Jane: Why yes, yes you can. You can have a very green vacation.

I just had one, last week. I was in Costa Rica, one of our beautiful neighbors to the south. It's rainy season down there, which means lots of, well, yes, rain, and lots and lots of green. In fact, it was so green, so verdant, so lush, that I almost lost my suitcase.....

Plants and grasses grow on everything, every roof, every rock, every nook and cranny.

Here's a typical bus stop:

And a photo of my suitcase by day two:


Here's the hotel's pool bar palapa:



And my suitcase on day three:



Here's the Palenque bar's roof:



And my suitcase on day four:


Even the very elegant Grand Spa's roof is not exempt:

This greenery makes for very beautiful landscapes:


But, shit, where the hell is my suitcase?


Saturday, July 26, 2008

A Green Vacation - by Guest Blogger Jane

We are honored and humbled to introduce another guest blogger for this weekend! We thought it would be hard to do a 3-way this weekend because 2 of us are NOT traipsing around in the jungles of Costa Rica, and we had a gem in our back pocket we were waiting to share. Our (Ellie's and my) sister Jane recently wrote the following for her blog, which is environmentally conscientious and linked to an actual income-generating business, unlike some blogs I know. Jane is yet another smart and fun and funny and ridiculously fit sister of ours, but to me she will always just be the bitch who stole my candy.

*************

Can you have a green vacation?

I tried. I really did. I took the train to Connecticut to visit my family instead of driving. Let me repeat. I took the train to CT from Chicago with my three kids. That's 20 hours on Amtrak, folks, and I recommend it highly. I did start to get that caged animal feeling after about 16 hours, but on the whole it was pleasant and so lovely to be able to stand up, read my book and drink water with abandon. Speaking of which, I bought two plastic water bottles at the train station when I realized I had forgotten reusables - but Amtrak has water spigots in each car and we reused those bottles the whole weekend until I dumped them in my recycling container at home this morning. I know, I know, you're not supposed to do that, but there were no wild temperature fluctuations and aside from the fear that we'd all catch Dylan's fever, we braved reusing plastic bottles.

Failure began on the train, ten hours into the trip, when I ordered a cup of coffee. Paper cup, paper tray, four-fold paper napkin. I dispensed with the napkin and the tray, but guiltily accepted the cup, in which I emptied a disposable container of half and half. By the time I ordered our breakfast I had resigned myself to green failure- we had muffins, egg sandwiches and scones, all individually wrapped in plastic and served in, you guessed it, cardboard trays with four-fold napkins.

Once we got to my parents' house we were able to keep our waste to a minimum, largely because my parents do the same. But on my first visit to Walgreen to get supplies I realized I didn't have a reusable bag, (my mother later said there were several in the trunk) so guiltily accepted plastic. First time since March. It got worse. Shorehaven's delicious beverages were served in plastic cups. And the Circle Line Tour serves its beer and water in disposables only with no recycling on board. Toss. And in central park's Leap Frog Cafe every single utensil and serving piece was disposable. Toss.

So the question is - is it possible to have a green vacation? Ironically, had I driven I would have had more control over my immediate environment while sending significantly more carbon into the atmosphere. I would have brought my cold and hot portable cups and reusable bags for that quick run into the store.

On the positive side, the experience made me realize that many things that used to seem like a hard habit to break or form have now become rote for my kids, my husband and me. We compost. We don't use paper napkins. Our town recycles everything so we produce very little trash. But once I got outside of my little green cocoon, it all fell apart. And it was depressing to realize that my family's efforts are such a drop in the bucket.

What's the answer? Short of traveling only to recycling friendly cities, I have to plan better or just do the best I can under the circumstances. And next time I'll at least bring a Green Homes coffee mug.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Wired

My life changed on Tuesday.

Mistah Schleckah left town for 8 days. He’s at the other end of the state on double-doggie-doodie-duty. Actually, starting on Saturday, he’ll be on triple-doggie-doodie-duty.

Poor, poor Schleckah.

Here he is all packed up and ready to leave.

Bye Mistah! Have fun with the doggies! (He is waving, but he can’t roll down his window.)

I didn’t even have time to miss Bill because he was replaced almost immediately by another man.

By this man. The AT&T man. The man who connected my poor sad sorry soul to the internet. To the world wide web. To the rest of civilization.

He also hooked up a home phone for us.
.
Sigh.
.
I love Mr. AT&T Man. He's the nicest AT&T Man in the world.

Later that evening my friends P&M stopped by. They were heading out of town, and I'm opening their Tavern for them afternoons this week, so they dropped off a key. They also dropped off their second car for me to use.

Isn’t that nice of them?

Sigh.
.
They're the nicest P&M in the whole wide world.
.
Of course, I do miss my man Bill.

I miss him when I have to make my own coffee in the morning.

I miss him at Happy Hour:
.

That’s poor Mistah’s empty, unused glass on the left.

But as Mistah Himself would say, “The only thing worse than drinking alone is not drinking at all.”

I miss his silly repartee.

Sigh.

He's the nicest Mistah in the whole wide world.

Later that night, though, I sat there with a big cheesy grin on my face because I realized that in the course of One Day:

  • I got connected to the internet
  • I got a home phone
  • I got loaned a car
  • I got the key to my favorite bar
  • My husband left town

This is turning into One Hell Of A Week.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

back-asswards

I’ve had a few interactions with the police lately. But don’t worry mom, they can’t prove anything. There was that officer who idled next to me when I changed my pants, and of course there was the police business of my break-in – which was so disappointing, just for the record. I thought they’d come out and dust for prints, canvas the scene, interview witnesses, and nab the perp. But they just took my number and said an officer would call me back to take the report over the phone, and if no one called within 24 hours I should call them again. To their credit, I got a call within a couple of hours, a sweet officer who said things like: “Geez, that guy was fast!” and “Thank God he didn’t get your purse!” In my head, he looked like this:



But I digress. I also had a police incident at work recently, and we went to a safety expo in our neighborhood last weekend where the kids and I talked to lots of police men and women, and they even got to sit on CHP motorcycles.

These recent police interludes were all significant to me, because I have been trying to capture a specific digital image for some time now and I've been keen to find the opportunity. I finally got it yesterday!

It was hard, I needed a photo of the passenger side of a local police car, and while I had a few opportunities to get one while driving, I was too scared I'd vear into oncoming traffic, which is probably frowned upon by the police. Or worse, I might have been seen taking the photo by the cop. Wouldn't that violate the hands-free rule?

This all started a few weeks ago when I was driving the kids around, and a police car stopped next to us. We were checking out the car and could not help but notice this:



The kids wanted to know why the flag was backwards. I could not imagine an answer! What the hell? It’s not like the way ambulance is written backwards on the front of a rig so you can read it in your rearview mirror, this just does not make sense. I signaled to the cop that I had a question, and he rolled down his window. “We were just wondering why the flag on your car is backwards”, I said curiously.

He said that all the flag stickers are the same, there is no left or right side distinction. So the flags look right on the driver side...


but they are fucking backwards on the passenger side!


Is it me, or is this complete lunacy? Did someone make a conscious decision to do this? Did they just figure “ah, what the hell, just slap ‘em on there. No one will notice.” Or did someone fuck up royally and order like 50 gazillion flag stickers before realizing that exactly half of them would be BACKWARDS?

I do not know what to do about this. It disturbs me. It’s embarrassing. I wouldn’t put a fucking backwards flag sticker on my car, and it's not like anyone is expecting me to be a model of civic responsibility.

Silly peeps.

What would the real police think?


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Of Mice And Men And Zucchini, or, “A Bike Ride to the Book Barn in Deep Summer” - by Guest Blogger Bill

Beth is in the Rain Forests of Costa Rica this week, and has asked our very own Mistah Schleckah to fill in as Guest Blogger.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Preparing for my bike ride to the Book Barn is more exhausting than the ride. I’ve got my helmet and riding gloves and I’m unlocking my bike from the deck, but I forget my sunglasses. I run back inside, grab the glasses, run back out to the bike. I’m ready! Except I forget to fill my water bottle. I run back inside, fill the bottle, run back outside and now I’m really ready – except that I left the sunglasses next to the sink while filling the bottle. I run back in and retrieve the glasses from the sink and return to the bike. Wait! Where’s my wallet? I go inside again and spend the next 10 minutes rummaging through my clothes. Finally, bike and backpack are set.

When Beth asked me to be a guest blogger, many ideas came to mind, but today is one of the hottest days of the summer, with sticky humidity, so what better thing to do than take a cruise along the water. My book-collecting passion is keeping me in shape this summer. One of the greatest used book stores in the country (with an incredible combination of quality, quantity and price) is about seven miles from our house, so in an effort to save gas, keep the beer gut down to size, and never miss a deal, I ride to the Book Barn at least several times a week. Today I’m bringing the camera so you can come along. I dedicate this blog to my friend Jan Rueb who lives in Alpine, Texas. Jan and I have gone on several rides together in the Davis Mountains of Far West Texas, marveling at the stark beauty of the Chihuahuan desert.


But Jan has never seen the Connecticut Ellie and I grew up with – the Connecticut we’ve now reconnected with thanks to our little house in New London. So, here we go. A few twists and turns through the neighborhood...

I love the homes around here.

I love the dappled summer sunshine and the alternate patches of shade along my route.

I’m taking these pictures while I ride so I hope I don’t crash into anything.

OK, I’ve got to stop here for a self-portrait.

And here – can’t pass up a veggie stand….

A giant zucchini for a buck? On the coffee-can honor system. Gotta love it.

And Jan, look at this New England stone wall…

I hug the shore and the water comes into view…

The route zig-zags inland just a bit and look at this little pond with baby catfish…

Onward…This is the Babe Ruth baseball field that I played on as a teen-ager. I made the All-Star team. I also struck out to end the game that eliminated Waterford from the tournament, so let’s ride on.

God that zucchini is weighing me down.
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I should have noted that we’ve already crossed from New London into Waterford (where I grew up). Now we’re riding over the Niantic River into the town of East Lyme….

This is the village of Niantic.

And check out the Mermaid on the package store sign….

Only one mile to go. Yep, there it is. The Book Barn…

This is the entrance area at the “Barn,” where, on busy weekends, literally hundreds of people come with boxes and boxes of books. A store employ evaluates the books, accepts some, rejects others, and then the customer gets a choice of cash or store credit for the books the Barn wants to keep.

Here’s the owner, Randi White, doing what he does best…

I used to work here, so I know everyone. After a few hellos, I make my usual rounds through the buildings, looking to see what new treasures I can find. All the new arrivals pass through this shed at the front of the store. It’s part of “Ellis Island.” Get it?

Eventually Randi’s crack staff moves the books to their appropriate sections. I tend to wander into the building called the Annex where most of the hardcover fiction is found. The store has something like 300,000 books in many different buildings and two locations, so it’s impossible to see everything.

Hey, look at this….

OK, I pay for the book and stuff Steinbeck in with the zucchini.

My friend “T” at the Barn suggests I make zucchini canoes – cut the vegetable the long way, scoop out the seeds, fill each piece with spicy rice, sprinkle cheese on top, then bake it. I take this under advisement, but right now my legs are stiffening up and I’m not drinking enough water. We better get going if I’m going to make the ride home.
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Back over the Niantic River and look – the railroad draw bridge is up.

Looking straight down from the bridge I can see the lobster boats.

This is classic summer weather. I’m drenched in sweat. We’ll take a different shore route back to the house. We’ll follow Shore Road in Waterford. Great beach houses down this way. These people have a grass tennis court in their back yard.

I’ve seen wild turkey and deer along this stretch. Today I spy these guys…

Watch out kids – zucchini-toting guest blogger on wheels with camera, coming through….

Back into New London and the final cruise to home along Pequot Avenue….Gotta love the lighthouse….

Must be close to home now – there’s our friendly crane at the submarine factory on the Groton side of the Thames River….

The last few turns through the neighborhood . . .

. . . and that’s it: back at the house.

I’m totally over-heated and tired but what a great ride. You can’t take these days for granted. They’re almost too hot and almost too sticky, but they’ll be gone before we know it. Sometime late next month someone will notice the first leaves starting to turn. But we don’t need to worry about that now. We just rode to the Book Barn. We’ve got Steinbeck and Zucchini …

And a garden hose…..Ahh!! Here’s to summer!