Hurricanes

So it has begun. The mad dash to prepare for the impending wrath of Mother Nature in the form of Hurricane Irene. She is threatening to bash the heck out of us here along the northern part of the Eastern Seaboard. She has already caused damage and casualties in North Carolina and parts of Virginia. She threatens us now.

It’s Saturday late afternoon and, I think, the calm before the storm.

People have been glued to the TV and internet’s weather alerts waiting for a signal of what to do next. They’ve been to the stores. They’ve snatched up every last battery they could find. They’ve headed to the beaches to bag sand to help keep Irene’s storm surge waters at bay. They’ve bought the ply wood, boarded up their homes. The milk is gone. The bread is gone. The gallons of water are gone.

Now we all wait. We listen the reports. They say Irene is strong. Once a Category 3, she’s been downgraded to Category 1. But still a Hurricane. And Hurricanes are fierce.

For those on coastal areas of Connecticut, New Jersey and New York, there have been some mandatory evacuations. Some people have left their homes behind in hopes that when they return, there will be something to return to. I shudder to think of New York City having the same fate as New Orleans. Katrina was unkind. I hope that Irene is nicer.

For us, even though we are about 20 miles inland from the coast — “as the crow flies” — we are still under a Tropical Storm watch tomorrow. Irene could still touch us here in some way, shape, or form.

So yeah. We have to be prepared. We currently have a back pack filled with flashlights, a radio and some lanterns, a few crank lights and candles. We cleaned the basement floor and my husband cleaned out the gutters. We broke out the Coleman stove and stocked up on propane tanks. We have charcoal for the grill and a little portable charger that can keep a light lit for a little over an hour. Water, peanut butter and jelly, lots of baked beans, canned goods, bread, some juice boxes, of course a few bottles of Chianti to keep us warm — and happy — if Irene knocks out power for more than a day.

Thankfully my husband grew up with well water and knows enough to fill our bathtubs prior to a big storm. We’ll do that tonight. Just in case. You don’t want to have to deal with that crap when you are dealing with all the other crap on top of it. We’ll probably take in water in our basement. We’ve had a few rainy days and the ground is still a bit sodden so perhaps that is inevitable. At least it’s not furnished.

We have ditched our TV Free August to watch for Irene. I love the exuberance of Jim Cantore and his gang from the Weather Channel during severe weather. They live for this kind of thing. They find standing on a beach, getting pelted with sand as 75 mph winds nearly knock them to the ground exhilarating. Now that is Reality TV. Maybe I am a closet meteorologist, but I love them there at TWC.

Yes, I realize that we have been conditioned. This may be hyped and overblown and maybe Irene will just fizzle out and dump rain on us up here in Connecticut. That would be great.

But maybe she wont.

I wouldn’t want to be the ones who didn’t have our ducks in a row, our shizz together, if Mother Nature decided this was the real deal.

I hope Irene spares us. But be safe and prepared just in case.

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TV Free Adventures

I just wanted to share some of the stuff my kids are doing now that we are two weeks into our 2nd Annual August TV Shutdown.

(I have decided simultaneously with the no TV thing that I am sick and tired of having to entertain them every minute of everyday so in the past few days we have pretty much stayed home and I have made them have fun. By themselves.)

But here is a sampling from today. Things to do without TV.

1. A magnifying glass can and does offer my probably pyromaniac son hours and hours of fun. It came in a bug kit some years ago, and was deemed “boring” after five minutes of play. But it was recently unearthed and my son has found that burning stuff can be fun. Like our already summer-burnt grass, a leaf, a rubber bat. He tried his arm, but I nipped that one in the bud. I hope this does not last.

2. My daughter has taken to jumping off rocks. With her purple umbrella. I mean they are not really high rocks or anything and hopefully she won’t get too far if indeed she does get air. But I just think it is very creative. She yells “look out below!” each time she jumps.

3. We finally decided to clear out our “camp site” that we created in the our woods last year. We brought the weed wacker, the rake and a clipper up into the woods and the kids, well, my son, at least went to town. I left them to their wares.

He proceeded to bring a 10 foot tall branch from a beautiful ash tree down into the yard (and then tried to burn its leaves). I went up into the woods to see what other things he had done and he pointed out another “felled” tree. It was a dead giveaway that it actually was felled by him because of the very fresh and neat cut two feet from the bottom of the tree.

4. I decided I better help and began to rake out a path from the patio to the campsite only I unearthed a hive of yellow jackets and before I knew what hit me, I was stung several times in the leg. I went screaming down the path with two very painful welts and since mommy was screaming, so came the kids and we all went inside. My rake is still up there.

The yellow jackets are swarming it now.

5. I decided to end the day with a pan of turtle brownies. They are from a recipe I found at the best baking blog ever and the picture alone almost satisfies my sweet tooth. It’s here, www.bunsinmyoven.com and I swear you will love all her stuff.

So, that’s today. The kids and their dad, uncle and cousin will sleep out tonite at the camp site. Me, I am gonna camp out with a Netflix movie and maybe the whole pan of turtle brownies. This tv free stuff is hard.

Happy Weekend.

Amazing

The other day I took my kids and their cousin on an adventure. We went to an orchard about 45 minutes away to check out their Sunflower Maze.

Not to be punny, but it really was amaze-ing!

I admit, I had a done a corn maze before and it was neat in a creepy, I-hope-that-no-aliens-with-hooves-or-possessed-blonde-children-are-lurking-there kind of way. 

But this orchard took that idea of a living labyrinth and designed it with sunflowers so that people could enjoy the late summer flowers in a new and very exciting way.

When we drove up to the maze in my SUV, I admit I was thinking “Hmm, that doesn’t look very big.” But that was just the periphery of the maze. After I paid the couple bucks, once inside, we were greeted with thousands of 6-foot or taller bright yellow and red varieties of sunflowers. And they towered over us.

My son and his cousin took off and left me and my daughter to our wits to find our way out.

I didn’t realize until about 10 minutes into the thing that at the check in, the piece of paper I was given was actually a map of clues to find your way out. There were 10 check posts within the maze and my daughter and I made it to number 5.

I was paying so much attention to the bumble bees and butterflies that the sunflowers had visiting them. The place was teeming with them. The brown centers of the sunflowers each had at least three bees on them and butterflies flitted from aisle to aisle, flower to flower. I couldn’t even begin to imagine just how many bumble bees were in the maze.

My daughter was delighted and skipped her way through. She wanted to lead and I let her. She would go ahead then pop back to make sure I was still with her. The flowers, in some places, were at least 3 times the size of my on-the-tall-side 5-year-old.

And then we got lost. Deadend after deadend. After about 20 minutes or so, I heard my son’s familiar voice calling “Mom!” He and his cousin found us in the middle of the maze surrounded by dead ends and happily led us out.

How they did that, I don’t know. I had the map with the clues after all. The boys, all dressed in their typical cousins camouflage, were human GPS, though I didn’t need to program them. They just went, found their way out, and then came back in and rescued us.

Safe and sound at the end!

It was a neat thing to do. The sunflowers were so huge, but probably not even at their best as the sun was not out that day and they weren’t reaching up to the sky as much as they probably could.

After the maze, we went berry picking and found ourselves some awesome blueberries and a whole lot of ripe peaches. (I know I said blueberries were kind of done in our area, but a 45 minute drive north and there were tons!) Hence, a blueberry-peach cobbler in the oven right now!

If you do have a living labyrinth, or a corn maze, I wholeheartedly suggest finding one and checking it out.

It’s an amazing thing that someone can design a maze that will thrive and flower so beautiful for the public to enjoy.

A Little Bathroom Humor

Have you ever had that chore that, while you try to ignore it, just keeps nagging at you and getting under your skin? It hangs there waiting for you to address it. Poking at your shoulder sometimes as if to say “I’m waiting.”

Mine was my master bedroom shower. It’s the room we copied almost identically from a luxury hotel room where we stayed for a wedding in Florida a few years back.  We took that room, the room with a glass enclosed shower with the chrome fixtures that sparkled like sunshine, the brown and white marble wall and brown tumbled floor tile and the raindrop shower head, and made it our own. It was the one place during our home renovation I could not wait to get finished so I could have my own oasis.

But now it was bugging the crap out of me. Because every time I took a shower, it was there.

The greenish blue stains that had over time absorbed into my beautiful tiles. I couldn’t quite figure out what they were. I googled “green and blue bathroom stains” many times. I got many different answers. Copper. Magnesium. Hard water. But one thing I did find out that really stunk was how to get rid of them.

Because the marble was so porous and unique, more than likely, the old trusty internet sites said, I could not get rid of them without using something called a “poultice” that I would lay over the tiles for a day or so that would absorb the stains from the marble. Whatever they were. And maybe, just maybe, the stains could be removed. But it would be time-consuming and costly.

The room was not even five years old and I didn’t want to take a chance at ruining my beautiful, not to mention costly, bathroom marble I had so painstakingly picked out.

So, I just left it. And it proceeded to get worse and bug the hell out of me.

Until I decided to take a leap of faith with one of my all time favorites: baking soda.

So after I showered one recent morning, while the floor was still wet, I decided to try pouring on some baking soda and leaving it there to see what would happen. I took maybe six or nine of the 2×2 floor tiles and sprinkled baking soda on them. And left.

By the afternoon, I was too impatient and felt oddly guilty that I was probably ruining the tiles and would be in a lot of trouble when my husband got home. So I went upstairs to see if maybe, just maybe, the baking soda had miraculously turned green. It hadn’t.

Well, the floor was dry and the baking soda was still white. The green stains were still there. I hadn’t ruined anything. Yet.

So I thought why not give it a teensy little scrub with a nail brush just to see. Well, to my very happy surprise, as I started to put a little elbow grease onto the baking soda-covered tiles, the green disappeared. Just like that. A little scrub by a mild and natural abrasive and bam! Good as new.

What! I had been told by the people at the tile store NEVER EVER scrub marble. It is too abrasive and you will ruin the marble. So for years, I didn’t scrub. I used the lavender-scented castile soap and watched the green mucky muck take over. And then hang there over me while I ignored it and hoped one day the Green Bathroom Muck Fairy would just come and take her stuff back.

I am not sure really what the moral of this story is. Don’t be afraid to try something new? Listen to the little voice in your head when it says baking soda? I don’t know.

(I am sure you are all like Hello? You haven’t blogged in forever and now you are giving us baking soda?) Sorry. I just wanted to share. To document this time that I feel victorious. Even if it is only bathroom tiles.

Late Summer

I’d like to say I was busy doing some amazing things that have taken me away from blogging for more than a month. But sadly my only reason is it’s summer, and as much as I would like to keep writing every day, it is hard to find the time.

I know. Not a very good reason not to be writing, but it is what it is.

I have had a hard enough time trying to keep up with a weekly article schedule for a news website I currently freelance for. I write about kids and, in the summer, it’s been pretty hard to find them. They are at camp, visiting grandparents, on vacation, at work. Their schedules are tough, too. We’ve played email tag a lot.

But hopefully as summer starts to wind down, I can get a little time here and there.

Now that is a sad statement. Summer is starting to leave us here in the Northeast. I have to say, I am not welcoming it with open arms, per se, but it’s one of those things that happens each year and in a blink, summer is over.

But this year I am looking around to try to see the signs. If you do, you can see them.

Like the tops of the trees getting browner. As we drove home from a weekend in Vermont, we actually did see  a few trees sticking out in the Green Mountain State whose leaves had already turned yellow. At the end of July, this makes me sad.

My flowers are getting leggy from too many days reaching for the sun. They are starting to look tired. Just some marigolds and some creeping daisy things. My lavender plants have also lost their purple flowers. Could be a sign of late summer, or maybe just that I don’t have a very green thumb. Black maybe, but not green.

Other signs — I picked the two, yes only two, little tomatoes from my patio tomato plant yesterday. They were red, ripe and sweet, sweet, sweet! My basil is also flowering. Is that a sign we need to eat more basil?

We went peach picking yesterday, too late for blueberries here in this part of Connecticut. Peaches are definitely a late summer treat. Sadly the crop was not very pickable.  A hail storm in June had damaged so many of the fuzzy fruits that we got tired of wandering the orchard before we could pick any.

Another late summer signal — it is dark at 8:20 p.m. or so. That one always throws me. In June and early July the kids were up until nearly 10 p.m. every night because some light in the sky was still visible at 9:45. I remember that July 4 fireworks on our lake started at 10:15 because it was still “too light”, though I am pretty sure you could see fireworks plenty before it’s pitch black.

Other signs summer is ending soon — there are mums at the garden center. Mums. Fall flowers. They are green and hardy and ready. I’m not.

And the number one realization that summer is nearing its end — my kids are B-O-R-E-D. What are we doing today, Mom? That question came from day one when school ended in June. But now it’s I am so bored! We turned off the tv for our second annual August Shutdown. That may have something to do with it. Or maybe we were Go Go Go for so much of the last couple of weeks, now they don’t know what to do with themselves.

We went to the Cape for a week, Vermont for a weekend, one week of camp each, play dates to the lake, an amusement park, the movies and lots of other little day trips. I have more planned for the last couple of weeks of summer — to go to an art museum, a walk in a Sunflower maze and more berry picking and maybe a trip to Mystic culminated with a stop at the outlets for back-to-school shopping. Now that is a sign summer is nearly over!

The kids already got their teacher assignments and the emails have gone around by parents comparing who got who this year. I guess it is really countdown time.

Well, I found a minute to write this while my kids were still asleep in my bed. Yes, they strong armed me last night. Well, I found them there and since their dad is due back today from his week-long business trip, I didn’t argue and let them stay.

In any case, Happy Friday.