Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Me vs. cats, cats vs. cauliflower... the wasp wins every time

The cats love to sit on our seed flats. So far, they have squashed all of my baby cauliflower and most of the brussel sprouts. The peppers seem to be safe so far, because they show no sign of germinating. Are you serious, Peppers? You are so immature for your age. Grow up.

Cats have no respect for the money or effort that goes in to growing heirloom all-season cauliflower. They have no vision for the glorious brussel sprouts to come from the tiny sprouts in their flats. All they see is warm dirt to nap in. From this, I deduce that cats should be indoors and gardens should be outdoors, and no good can come when their lives intersect.

By "no good," I mean that this is what happens when you cross cats with gardening indoors:
  • dirt all over your house
  • dirt all over your cats
  • lopsided seed flats (I would be lopsided too, if Franc sat on me all day.)
  • a lean harvest
I thought I was really, really angry at the cats for the destruction, and I thought I really, really wanted to punish them. But then Franc got stung on the paw by a wasp he was trying to eat, so I take it back now.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Make It! March : DIY Garden Markers

Today, our baby nephew was dedicated at church. (Yes, he was the cutest, thanks for noticing! He took off one of his shoes, and then chewed on it like a champ.) The pastor talked about planting seeds - which is perfect, because our dining room table has turned into a nursery. The table gets better light than the rest of the apartment, so that's where we set up our three flats of seeds: four kinds of tomatoes, three kinds of basil, four kinds of peppers, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, thyme, chives, parsley, cilantro....

I had hoped to have rows and rows of tiny plants to show you. But the hard truth is that without a professional photographer (cough -Ben- cough) or a camera with a microscope to work visual magic, a seed doesn't do anything to brag about in just three days. I admit that I ran out of time/became too lazy after planting all those peppers to change my craft at the last minute. So this week, we have pictures only thanks to my parents, who let me dig random holes in their yard with very little notice.

Let me introduce the final craft of the National Month for them, just in time for your own spring seedlings:*
5 ways to make your own garden markers

1. Pottery shards are perfect to label your herbs and veggies. (If you don't have any broken pots, I recommend Goodwill, or our cats would be happy to come over to break some for you.)

2. Find some children to collect flat rocks for you. Wash them thoroughly, and then use paint or markers to decorate them and mark them with veggie names. Use a couple coats of polyurethane or clear spray paint to seal.

3. For artsy garden markers, raid your local thrift shop for old silverware. Find some with cool, mismatched handles, and write your labels with a sharpie on the metal. In scientific testing I performed, permanent marker holds up to water but not hard scrubbing, so you should be able to reuse your cutlery again and again. (Good. I don't know how to grow mulch.)
This at least is truth in advertising.
If you prefer something simpler, use white plastic cutlery. It looks neat, photographs much better, and stands out in a garden.
4. Use scissors to cut the top and bottom off of an aluminum soda or beer can. Cut the can into strips. You can either cut these into regular-shaped garden markers (rounded on one side, pointy on the other), or you can create whatever shape you want, hole punch it, and hang it with wire.
Chances are, this sign is too illegible to mislead you.

You can try to "engrave" your plant names on to the aluminum, but I had limited patience/success with that, because even using a nail, the words didn't show up very well. But permanent marker looked fine.
5. Oh, your cats also chewed and destroyed your blinds? Before you throw them away, salvage what you can! Scissors and a permanent marker will make these into perfect plant markers.

*Did I intend to photograph all of them? I did, until I remembered that my blog photographer returned to Haiti and anyway, haven't your imaginations been dormant all winter? And gotten flabby?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Spring fling

I wanted to take this slowly, because I've been hurt before. But spring came, and I couldn't wait any longer. Please meet my potential new daffodils in the potential new yard of my potential new house.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

It Could Happen To You :: Three Short Stories About Buying a Home

It was Sunday night, and we had an online meeting with our realtor. We were tired, so we took the laptop into the bedroom and sat on the bed. We logged in to his meeting program, and watched his mouse all over the screen as we talked through details of an offer we were making on a property. I was sitting with one leg tucked beneath me, and realized my foot was falling asleep. I leaned back to move my leg, and fell out of bed.

Online meetings are hazardous.

We had some paperwork to take to the bank regarding our home loan. I remembered to take my W2's from 2008, my last pay stub, and even my glasses. We pulled up at the bank, parked, and walked in. I don't remember who noticed first, Abe or I. "That's weird. They must have redecorated." I turned around, looking for something familiar. "Abe. We're in the wrong bank."

Someone had already approached us. "Welcome to Wachovia!" We made a hasty retreat, got back in the car, and drove 25 feet to the bank we intended.

Buying a house has made me obsessed with home decorating magazines. At work, we have about 8 months of old 'Better Homes and Gardens' magazines (which should come with a warning: These products and remodels cost more than the home you're buying, Karen. Put the magazine down.). I have read all of them.

In August 2009, I came across this idiotic tip (p. 83). "A teacup or dipping bowl makes a pretty organizer on a desk, dresser, or nightstand. Check your cupboards - even a small, ceramic pet-food dish you no longer use can work." Clearly, the person with that idea has never met a pet, or at least has never met pets like mine. Given half a chance, Franc and Kina will chew the tops off the q-tips, the elastics for my hair, and the rubber bands we keep in the kitchen. Pets don't need an invitation - like putting it in their bowl - to eat your stuff. And unless you plan to spend your money on the interior of your cat, instead of your home, I suggest you organize your office supplies in a container with a lid.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Make It! March : The Perfect Pet

This week, I'm pointing the way to a wonderful free pattern that will save the day if everyone you know is having cute babies. All of those shower gifts start to add up... and besides, look!Thanks to baby Samson, this puppy's slobbery mouth is as real as it gets

Every baby needs a disproportionately skinny-limbed, large-headed stuffed animal to suck on. And all you need to make one is:
  • a pair of gloves
  • needle & thread
  • three buttons
  • stuffing (skip the craft store and buy yourself a $0.99 throw pillow at Goodwill. A single pillow still half-stuffed in the closet has so far supplied the insides for this little pup here and a whole flock of birds)
  • Martha Stewart's free "Glove Animal" pattern: download here! There are also instructions for a rabbit, so if you get started soon, you could have a bunny in time for Easter.
I found these perfect googly-eye buttons. Are they not the cutest? In the end, I felt like my dog's head looked weird (boys and girls, that happens when we have no necks), so I used a little yellow hem tape to make a collar with my nephew's name on it.
The collar fastens with a hook and eye, like so:

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Make It! March : And Then Have Pants To Nap In

excellent advice from my brother-in-law, who excels at modeling, among other things (like protecting his family from rabid cats in Haiti, becoming my personal blog photographer, and bike trials)

Pajama pants are great for all kinds of activities, like sleeping, yoga (for bonus points, make a matching bag for your yoga mat!), washing dishes, baking, surviving an earthquake, walking the cat.... If you don't already have a pair, you should make one. Or four. I made four.

With all that experience, I can tell you that the fabric for pj pants is great. I chose cotton flannels, and made a navy pair with little mooses, one with a blue cowboy theme, a pair with a hilarious print of bears, tents, and camping equipment, and one in a beautiful beige and tan plaid. Check out all the cotton flannels, and find something with a sense of humor.

Exhibit A:
Everyone makes pajama pants patterns - except maybe Vogue. I bought Simplicity 2541, because it comes with men and women's versions of the pattern, and includes pieces for a pajama shirt -- that, come to think of it, I am 99% sure I'll never use. But it seemed cost effective at the time.

The pattern is very easy to follow, and produces a great pair of harem pajamas if you don't cut down the length above the crotch by an inch or two... or probably three, for a woman's pair. (Seriously, this pattern is long in the crotch to pigeon-smuggling proportions.) Don't forget to add the length back at the bottom of the leg when you cut, or you'll end up with pajama capris.

I'm fresh out of clever things to say about this project, so get thee to a sewing machine to earn yourself a nap and the pants to do it in.

Monday, March 8, 2010

How to bathe a cat

It's that time of year in America for responsible cat owners to take on their animals' winter coats. (Today it was 70 degrees, or as I thought of it, 70 things I would rather be doing than going in to work.) With the weather warming up, your kitty really doesn't need all that hair anymore... so here is a helpful guide to get you through.

Things you may need:
  1. Sedation. This will work best if there's some for you and some for the cat.
  2. A trip to your local Petco, so-named because you will go co-mpletely crazy before you leave... with $30 worth of organic cat shampoo, pet nail clippers, and useless toys that will interest your kitty less than an empty cereal box or toilet paper roll. That is if you're strong. The weak leave Petco with catnip "candies," perfumed body mists for pets, plug-ins for their homes that periodically release chemicals "calming" for cats, and homeopathic concoctions to slip in a cat's water to treat their "nerves." I think there's a special place for people who give roofies to their animals, and it's called the nut house. Although, let me get some... [See 'Things You May Need, #1.]
  3. At least two sets of hands
  4. At least two sets of towels
  5. Divine intervention
I shouldn't have to tell you to get your $6 out of those nail clippers before you crack open the $11 pet shampoo. But I will, because you need to know.

Use the expensive grooming tool you may have bought at your recent trip to Petco (or a cheap comb for people) to brush your pet as best you can. The hair you pull out now is hair that you won't have to clean out of your tub, so spend some time on this.

And then introduce your pet to the water. Don't forget your pet's inner Goldilocks - the water should be neither too hot nor too cold; it must be just right. Also, at this time put both sets of hands to good use.

Your heart may break halfway through the bath, when you see your pet reduced to a dripping, scrawny, broken-spirited thing. DO NOT LOOSEN YOUR GRIP. That is when they will suddenly extend a paw, grip the edge of the tub with the strength of 1000 men, and bolt free. At that point, you should give up washing the cat, and start washing your bathroom, which will somehow be messier than the kitty was to begin with.

I suggest using some kind of cup for rinsing - fill with bath water, then pour - rather than trying to force a live cat under running water, if you value your life. And speak in a soothing voice! It's nice for your cat and stress level. Then when your cat is rinsed, get ready with the towels!

Once you have your sopping wet cat bundled up, find someplace warm to sit, and soak it in. Literally, the water from the cat will come through the towel into your clothes. Figuratively, you should enjoy the moment. Change out the towel if you have to. Unless your cat is afraid of your blow dryer (Franc), you can use it on a low-setting to help them dry out faster.

I can testify that in the end, spring cleaning your pets is well worth all the effort, because what is nicer than a soft, frizzy, sleepy cat that smells like papaya pet shampoo? Maybe nothing.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Make It! March : The Yoga Edition

BREAKING NEWS!!! March is National Craft Month. Can you imagine? You did not even know until March 7, because Hallmark doesn't makes a card for craft month.

So to make up for Hallmark's amazing lapse, here on my super blog, I declare "Make It! March." Every Sunday this month, you can look forward to a featured craft. Or if you don't craft, you can at least look forward to consistent posting -- here for the first time ever! Either way, please get excited.

And welcome to this week's Yoga Edition, in which you will learn how to make Amy Butler's 'Nigella' Yoga bag, only better. This clever bag has three pockets - big enough for a water bottle and deep enough not to lose your keys.

Even if I'm the only person has ever dropped their yoga mat in a wet parking lot and watched it unroll into the mud, internet searches show that I'm not the only one who loves a bag for their yoga mat. Now look away from those bags, some of which are more awesome and less expensive than I expected! Because you can easily make your own custom bag, give it to your sister for Christmas, and wish you had kept it for yourself.

incontrovertible evidence that a yoga mat bag will improve your life 37% and increase your overall life satisfaction in 7-10 days

Follow these easy steps:
1. Get the pattern for free. (If you click, it will come! ...and as a pdf.)
2. Fabric shop. I used an outdoor decorating fabric (water resistant!), so it was sturdy enough to skip interfacing, and should hold up well in Haiti, where it went to live with Alexis. For the lining, after looking at every scrap of cloth in the store, I chose a simple light cotton with perfect tiny polka dots.
3. Read through the directions, and realize the pattern is borderline crazy, because it doesn't close at the top (they cleverly don't show that in the picture). But don't lose heart! You can decide that a yoga mat bag should really close at the top,** and just buy a little extra fabric. 1.5 yards for the exterior and 1 yard (+) for the lining will probably do it. Also, buy cord for a drawstring and a cord stop.
4. Get busy! Follow the pattern, except instead of creating a wide open yoga mat tube by sewing a hem at the top, cut the main pieces longer by several inches, and sew a "pocket" for your drawstring. Make sure you leave an opening to thread the cord through!
5. Take credit. I highly recommend the use of a cheesy "Specially handmade by..." label, so that everyone will know how clever and crafty you are, and you can have bragging rights in yoga class. Very zen.

* Did I suddenly become a talented photographer?! Unfortunately not. Credit goes to Ben Depp for the pictures. Honk if you think he should quit his day job to become my personal, full-time blog photographer!

** Dear Alexis, you had better be using the full length of this bag in order to show everyone the clever drawstring closure. Otherwise, I may be forced to come to Haiti and extradite your bag to my own closet.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Can I call you Tribulation?

This has been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week. On Monday, Abe's car was stolen, along with a good half of my sanity. And Tuesday, our contract on the fantasy dream house fell through. I became a total monster. I told Abe that, given the week's track record, I didn't even want to wake up on Wednesday - and that turned out to be the day I heard one of my clients has been trying to spread lesbian rumors about me (a story for another day). Awesome.

As much as those events totally sucked, it was my reactions to them that made this week so rough. I realize that I haven't acted like I believe in a God who promises helping grace (Hebrews 4:16) and kindness and mercy (Ephesians 2:4-7). And I'm not sure I've really believed in a loving God since the earthquake in Haiti (where my sister and her husband live). In church the week after the earthquake, I cried instead of singing. All around me, people were lifting their hands to a song that praised God for being powerful enough to move the mountains. The only thing I could think of were the people crushed under weight of those mountains when the earthquake hit. And then they sang "Blessed be the name of the Lord," and I cried out in my heart, because I don't know how to choose to bless God's name when he takes away everything.

I hope that God will teach me.

"I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Monday, March 1, 2010


What happened to February?

And what happened to Abe's car?*

They were stolen. February must have been, because nothing else explains how it snuck away without me noticing.

And Abe's car most definitely was stolen - and stripped - of the back seat, doors, side panels, hood, battery, steering wheel, stick shift, floor mats, stereo, instrument panel (I'm particularly sad about that part, because somehow there was a dead bee inside the odometer. I always liked that dead bee.)... We woke up at 8 am this morning to a call from police dispatch, telling us they had found our abandoned car -- which we had definitely not abandoned. Ugh, Thieves, are you serious?! Do you really have no respect for peoples' Monday mornings? I woke up thinking the only thing I had to dread was work -- but only because I didn't know that you stole our car.

What did you even need our car for? It was not that special, except to us, because it used to belong to Ben Depp, who is famous for being my brother-in-law and a photojournalist in Haiti. You picked on our poor car because it was easy prey. Abe wasn't surprised by the police dispatch - apparently, p.o.s. hondas are a hot item. When he had some issues with the ignition contact a few months ago, a friend taught him how to start his particular honda using only a regular old screwdriver.

Well, screw you, car thief. Go to jail.

*Abe insists that I tell you his car was called Green Jellybean. Sorry, Ben, I know you probably find that humiliating.