Friday, August 29, 2008


I apologize, but this post will probably not be humorous in any way, shape, or form. Before you give up and wander onto another blog that will entertain you more, at least give me the chance to explain myself.

You see, I have been growing hops. Apparently, this is something of a novelty as every person who comes over to my house is greatly impressed by the hops. Now that I think of it, I'm the only person I've ever known with a hop garden. So today I decided I would tell you a little story about the creation of the hop garden, show you a few pictures, wish you a happy Labor Day, and go on about my weekend. No harm, no foul.

Once upon a time my friend J decided it would be fun to brew beer. We all heartily agreed that this was a good idea and happily sipped away at the confections that were coming out of J's house. Unfortunately, hops cost money. Apparently they're going for something like $40 a pound at the moment. J had the brilliant idea of growing hops ourselves. There was just one problem: he leaves town for months at a time due to his occupation and wasn't going to be here to plant, tend to, or harvest hops this summer. We figured this pretty much prohibited J's growing any hops as they generally have to be planted, tended to, and harvested to do anyone any good.

However, I do happen to have a little garden out back. And I do happen to like it that J brews his own beer. And I also happen to think $40 a pound is a little excessive. And so, the great hop garden was born. J ordered 2 hop roots, D constructed 2 lattice structures for the hops to grow up, and I sat around and watched all of this until it was time to plant the little guys. We've had mixed results. Unfortunately, the fuggle hop root completely bit the dust. It wasn't growing and wasn't growing and wasn't growing.... when I decided to dig it up and take a look at it, I couldn't even find the root. Sad day. However, our cascade hop root took off and has provided us with a good deal of hops. I don't have our final tally, but I'm hoping to have saved J $20 in hop fees this year. Since many people have never seen a real, live hop plant, I decided to take some pictures and show you what they look like.

The green, vine-y looking plant growing up that lattice is the hop plant. The lattice we have is 8 feet tall. From what I've read, the hops can grow 12 feet up and 25 feet out. Mine really didn't grow out, just up.

Here are the actual hop fruits/flowers. The green pinecone-looking things are what actually gets used for brewing. They are surprisingly light - not thick and heavy like pinecones would be. They're mostly made up of little tiny leaves all over. I've picked about a mixing bowl full and am drying some right now. J says that once they're dry all I have to do is freeze them and wait for him to come home.

Hops are what gives beer its bitter flavor. As you may have guessed, very bitter beers have more hops and less bitter beers have less hops. J has also informed me that some hops are used for flavor and some more for aroma. The hops that died on me were aroma hops (I think) and the ones that grew were flavor hops (again, I think - I could have gotten it mixed up). I'm going to keep picking them until frost when I plan to just cut the whole plant down and take what I can get. The plant will grow back next year (bonus!) and provide us with even more hops. Yea!

So, there it is! Your useless information station has provided you with a short little lesson on hops. Use it to impress your friends and loved ones!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Big Ass Problem with this Big Ass Ad

So..... a magazine came to my workplace. Common enough, right? And there was a full page ad on the back of the magazine. Again, common enough. Humor me and read the whole ad, right down to the very bottom.

Erm, who named their company BIG ASS FANS? And then who thought it would be a good idea to put the words 'hard to reach places' and 'big ass' in the same ad with pictures of giant rotating fans?

Words escape me at the moment.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Great Bat Escapade of 2008

My mother-in-law called late last night hoping that I could help her with two bats that had found their way into her house. Note that I didn’t say my mother-in-law called late last night hoping that D could help her with her bats. Note that I also didn’t say my mother-in-law called late last night hoping that we could help her with her bats. Nope. She called late last night hoping that I could help her with her bats.

Why?, you ask.

Because every single person in my husband’s family is petrified of bats, of course. What other good reason could there be for expecting a pregnant chick to hop out of bed, giving up much needed sleep time, to clumsily chase a bat around the house, hoping not smash her growing belly into anything too dangerous in her pursuit of flying rodents? That’s the only good reason I can think of.

Even her dog is afraid of bats, it appears.

I declined to help with the bat chase for the simple reason that I knew if I got up and went out long enough to hunt down rogue bats, I wouldn’t wake up for work in the morning. Gestating is hard work, people. It makes me sleepy. D told his mother to call my brother-in-law instead.

The simple problem with this is that my brother-in-law is also petrified of bats. As I was drifting off to sleep the phone rang again and D informed me that my brother-in-law was currently chasing the bats around the house wearing a plastic laundry basket over his head and waving a blanket around to capture the poor creatures. Apparently this constitutes standard bat-chasing gear. I have yet to hear the outcome of last night’s charade, though I’m sure it will be entertaining. If it’s good enough I’ll update you.

I have no idea why D and his family are so terrified of bats. I’ve tried to tell him that they’re not going to hurt him, but he remains convinced that one day a bat will swoop down from the sky, bite him on the neck, dig in with it’s little fangs far enough to produce a fair amount of gore, and fly off again with a large enough chunk of him to feed a herd of small bat-lings. D is further convinced that each and every bat that exists either 1) has rabies or 2) is a vampire bat and will turn him into the undead. Nevermind that, to date, there are ZERO reported cases of people turning into the undead after an encounter with a bat. Nevermind that bats don’t make a habit of eating human flesh. Nevermind that none of the bats I have chased out of anyone’s home (5 or 6 to date) have actually come close to even touching me. Nevermind any of that. Clearly, bats are dangerous man-eating, zombie-making machines, out for revenge on the human race. Obviously.

I’ve also tried to convince D that bats are more afraid of him that he is of them. As I witness his terror increase, I could change my mind on this one, but generally I think it would be pretty scary to be a bat trapped in a person’s house. Think about it. You wouldn’t be able to get out to your little bat family and there would be all these walls all over the place you weren’t used to so you might fly into them and there wouldn’t be any handy bat food sitting around. Not to mention that you’re trapped inside with the predator highest on the food chain. It could be downright freaky to be a bat trapped in someone’s house. I imagine that when bats fly around people’s houses and realize there are human beings present they probably think to themselves, “Oh, shit! I’ve gone and gotten trapped in a human’s house. How do I get out of here?”. When said bats start trying to find their way out and are confronted by strange creatures camouflaged with blankets and plastic laundry baskets, the “Oh, shit!” factor must intensify tenfold. After all, there is no creature in nature quite like a human with a blanket and a plastic laundry basket in tow. Mama bat never taught them how to defend themselves against that.

I actually kind of like bats. I think I read somewhere that they eat their weight in mosquitoes. I don’t know if that’s over the course of an evening or a week or the whole summer. Either way, they eat mosquitoes, so they’re okay in my book. Now I’d prefer not to have a bat colony roosting in my attic or anything, but I don’t think bats are so bad. They’re just little critters that want to fly around and eat mosquitoes and hang out with other bats and show off how they can hang upside down. I’m cool with that.

The last time D’s mom got a bat stuck in her house, I was called to the rescue. I never did find the bat and my mother-in-law spent a week hiding out downstairs with every door in the house closed for fear a giant bat would sneak up on her and attack her. The time before that, I did find the bat. It was hiding out in my mother-in-law’s bedroom, looking for a way home. My husband, his mother, his sister, and his nephew all crowded around the house outside, looking hopefully up at the bedroom window. If you’d been driving by and didn’t know better, you might have thought there was a fire somewhere in the house and everyone was waiting outside for the brave fireman to rescue a poor child who’d been trapped inside and was shouting out the window for help. Nope, no such thing. Just a bat.

D and his mother armed me as best as they could with a broom. No one offered me a plastic laundry basket or a blanket, and I didn’t think to ask for them. At the time, I didn’t know this was standard bat-hunting gear. I made my way up to mother-in-law’s room with my trusty broom, shut the door and opened the window, hoping that I could coax the bat out of the room and into the night without any chance of it escaping to another room in the house.

Unfortunately, when you turn on the light in my mother-in-law’s bedroom, the ceiling fan also comes on. This constitutes a serious bat hazard that I did not foresee. Remember me telling you how the poor bats who get trapped inside of houses have to deal with running into walls they didn’t know were there? Well, they also have to deal with the possibility that some fancy piece of gadgetry might somehow put them into a trance in which they fly around and around and around in circles beneath spinning fan blades without the power to make themselves stop. This poor little bat had been hypnotized by the shiny lights and spinning blades and just couldn’t stop. I didn’t know what to do. On one hand, I could use the broom like a baseball bat and try to whack the bat out the window on his next turn around the fan blades. This didn’t seem like a very nice option to me as I am generally against the harming of defenseless little bats. On the other hand, I couldn’t figure out how to stop the fan blade without turning out the light and I wasn’t about to hunt down the bat in the dark. In the end I had to settle for catching the bat on the end of the broom and nudging him out the window and into the night. I’m still a little traumatized by the potential damage I did to the poor little guy, but I was trying to be as gentle as possible which is hard to do when all you have to work with is a broom. On the upside, he did fly away from the scene which suggests to me that he was generally okay.

I guess next time I should ask for a laundry basket and a blanket.

For Velma & Cuthbert

For Velma, because she is the workout guru.... follow these instructions for training with your neice/nephew:
And for Cuthbert..... Irish Mist might calm mama, but:

Friday, August 8, 2008

Give & Take

This weekend some of my friends are coming to my house. This isn’t a terribly unusual occurrence, as I generally try to hold some sort of event at my house about once a month to ensure that people have a chance to get/stay connected. However, most weekends my main goal is to serve. I buy some beer (or make some jello shots!), cook some food (mmmm, remember chocolate tasting, anyone?), clean the house, light a few candles, and silently pray that throwing a party actually counts as service. I know it seems like a silly thing – throwing a party = community service? – but my heart really wants to serve.

It seems like it’s so hard to stay connected in our twenties and thirties as we venture off into marriages and parenthood and careers – we have condos and houses; lawns to mow and bills to pay; obligations to fill on Saturday mornings and Chinese take-out to eat in front of the television on Saturday nights because our friends are out getting their own condos and lawns and bills to deal with. It’s just a hard phase of life. I don’t know if this is something particular to my generation or if it’s the way it’s always been. I have no idea, and I suppose it doesn’t really matter. It’s the way it is now so that’s what we have to deal with.

As you may have noticed, I adore the idea of community. I think it is beautiful to see what can happen when enough people get and stay connected and start to take responsibility for each other’s well being. One of my friends brought me a Frankenstein balloon after my first miscarriage because she wanted to love me. Friends from my community helped me paint Lisey’s house and Bev’s house before they really knew either one of them as an act of love to me and to invite them into the club. We help each other move, we help each other grieve, and we help each other determine whether or not the hamburgers are cooked to an edible temperature. We grow plants for each other if, say, one of us leaves on a ship for months at a time. I have a friend who I know is lonely and I make a conscious effort to make sure s/he has a place to be when I know s/he might not otherwise. You build community and these things just happen. When you get and stay connected you start to be unable to just let your friends suffer or to let them deal with stuff on their own. You have to paint their houses and bring them Frankenstein balloons and invite them into everything you can because you can’t bear not to. That’s what community does.

So to me, throwing a party every month and trying to get/keep people connected is service because it helps them be part of a community that loves them, and I want for all of them to be loved. In my little world, sometimes service means giving away blankets; sometimes it means buying really good beer. *shrugs shoulders* I can’t justify it to you, I can just tell you that it is what my heart says to do and I believe it is good. Sometimes god blesses the open spirit and sometimes god blesses the open tap (or the open fridge, or the open grill, or the open container of Rice Krispie treats… you get the picture). Don’t get me wrong; I love to party. But more than that I love seeing a connection getting made and seeing someone learn to love or be loved.

Back to the point of this: oftentimes there will be people at my house on a weekend because I want to love them and serve them. This weekend 6 of my friends are coming to my house to serve me.

As you may have heard, my living room is in a rather sad state of disrepair. Lisey has arranged a bit of a sanding party in hopes that my plight of despair might be over relatively soon. The longer I think about my living room, the more it makes me remember how my high school English teacher made such a big deal about how the house in “The Fall of the House of Usher” was dilapidated!!! as though we’d all somehow made it to high school without knowing what dilapidated meant – he seemed to think he was talking to illiterates (and really, isn’t ‘dilapidated’ kind of a weak analogy for ‘house that ripped in half and sank into the bog’?). Anyways, equating one’s living room with something Poe wrote is generally a bad sign, and Lisey jumped right up and decided to do something about it. See what I mean about community?

Now I am not a girl who generally likes to be on the receiving end of the whole service thing. It makes me uncomfortable – I always feel like I should be doing something more or that I owe whoever helped me big time or that I’m quite pathetic for needing help in the first place. Of course I never think the people that I serve are pathetic or owe me big time or whatever else, but me? Well, that’s different. Don’t ask me why, but it is. I’m not supposed to need everyone to sand my stupid living room.

Anyway, I have been anticipating my friends coming over to help me this weekend and I realized that I don’t feel any anxiety or guilt about it whatsoever. None. I don’t feel bad for needing their help. I don’t feel bad for taking up their time. I don’t feel bad for making them work. I don’t feel bad at all. I just feel immensely grateful to be a part of a group of people who value me that much.

I think I am learning the value of being able to take as well as give. I think I am learning how to let people love me. And I think this is a good thing.

I have no idea how this happened, but I kind of like it. It is nice not to feel immense guilt every time someone wants to love you. I don’t know if it is the quiet acceptance of these people as family or the extraordinarily humbling past year that I’ve barely survived. I don’t know what it is, but it feels great. It feels freeing. It feels like I belong somewhere.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

New Blog for Your Entertainment!

Some of you may know my friend Lisey. And some of you may know that she's pretty damn funny. Well, if you didn't , you have have the chance to find out. Lisey has started her very own blog to show off the abominations that her mother-in-law has brought into her home under the guise that they could be garmets for Lisey's child. No one in their right mind would put an actual child into these clothes, so I'm assuming that Grandma Nancy is actually just trying to sabotage Lisey's house and home by bringing in the ugliest things she can find.

Click here for a good laugh.

Oh, and Lisey, do you still have that baby-hooker swimsuit with the pink camo???

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

D vs. My Cat ~ Compare and Contrast

Last night my alien-horse cat Zeus was sitting on the piano cleaning himself while D and I ate dinner at the dining room table. You know how cats lick themselves clean? And you know how it's pretty much impossible for them to actually lick the tops of their heads? So you know that thing they do where they lick their paws and then run their paws over the tops of their heads to get themselves clean? Well, he was doing that.

For reasons unbeknowest to me, D decided this was very funny. Ok, I admit, it is kind of funny to think you'd have to lick your hands to get your face clean. It's one of the many reasons I'm glad I'm not a cat. But then D strayed out of the realm of things I can at least sort of understand and decided it would be even funnier to give it a try himself.

Not kidding.

He stood there and licked his hands and ran them through his hair about 8 times before he decided it wasn't really working. The whole time he's making fun of poor Zeus, not even realizing that Zeus has long since ceased licking himself and is now staring at D in wonder. Even the cat didn't understand what was going on.

On the upside, he didn't sing during any of this.