This Bird Does It

Librarian ramblings


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Summer love

I wish I could paint you a picture of my backyard, but I’m not sure my powers of description are up to it.

It’s very green. It’s July and the driest part of the summer hasn’t arrived, yet. Our yard has it’s share of weeds, but we tamed quite a few in the grass this summer. The “flower bed” that lines the back of the property, however, is hip high in things that weren’t intended to grow there. The four foot wide section that lines the edge of the patio and then around the corner of the house could be a flower bed, but it’s all ivy. Ivy and weeds, but my husband yanked most of those before the holiday weekend. I mean to dig it all out at some point and put in a garden. I want to grow tomatoes, and peppers. and squash, and maybe some herbs. It’s the only section of the yard that has any chance of getting enough sun during the day.

There’s a pretty large pin oak that dominates the yard. It provides a lovely shade this time of year and along with the sweet gum in in the front yard, allows us to keep the air off on days where the highs top out in the low 80s and the nightly lows dip into the 60s. To the other side is a gorgeous royal maple that’s just large enough for its branches to barely touch those of the pin oak. Now that we’ve removed the overgrown burning bushes next to the patio, I enjoy watching it’s strangely lovely purple leaves in the sunset these long summer evenings.

The deck I’m sitting on is pretty old. In a few years, we’ll have to tear it out and see about the retrograde situation back here. I don’t know what we’ll put in later, but for now, this old deck is wonderful. I love the old boards. The feel of a deck that’s been here for 30 years or so is different than a new one. There’s a pergola roof with warped slats that will probably have to come down before the deck, but it lends a certain character to the whole thing, too.

For the holiday weekend, I hung some cheap strands of Christmas light style Chinese lanterns. They are too cheap to leave up long term, but they make me smile on these perfect summer days. As it’s getting dark, they make the whole place feel comfortable.

In the yard there are about a million twinkling lightening bugs right now. The flutter up to the deck and twinkle out at the fence line. It’s like looking out on a fairyland. I can hear the traffic of the major highway that runs across the top of our city just north of us, but it seems a lot further away from my suburban backyard. I know there is a mall, and a grocery store, a gas station, and about six banks all within site of my roof and I can see the chain hotel just two backyards away. Still, it’s an oasis here. The darker it gets, the more the fireflies show.

I’m not a summer girl. Summer may actually be my least favorite season. Tonight, though, is different. Tonight I am all about summer. Summer in Ohio. Summer on my own back deck. Summer with only the most basic responsibilities. Summer as its meant to be.

Give me another week or two and I’ll be ready for fall. 🙂20140709_211812

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Oh, Christmas Tree. MY Christmas Tree.

I want to tell you about my tree. I want to tell you all about my Christmas tree. If you come to my house during Christmas, I will gladly recount for you my recollections of each and every ornament crammed on it’s branches. I’ll expound on the type of tree, the kind of lights, the method of stringing the lights, and the topper. I’ve got opinions on ornament placement, positioning within a room, even when it should be put up and taken down. Of course, if you come to my house during the holidays it would be much more fun for you if I did not spend great lengths of time rambling upon the lovely tree in my living room which you are free to admire right there. So, I’ll write this all up in a totally pointless blog entry. If you make it through, there are extra cookies for you when you come visit. 🙂

First let me tell you that I really love my tree. I’m also sure that those of you who have Christmas trees each year love your trees. And I am fully aware that there is the possibility that your love of your tree might even be as sincere and as intense as my love of my tree. So I’m not really saying that my tree is better than your tree, but, um, well, maybe just a little better. (Oh, for heaven’s sake, I AM kidding.)

I will never put my tree up before Thanksgiving, and most likely not before December 1. Just seems wrong to me. I have no problem with stores going crazy with their Christmas decor and sales the minute Halloween is over, but I don’t want it in my house. Dec 1 is quite soon enough for me. And I won’t take it down before the New Year! I think my heart would go into post holiday breakdown if I had to pack it all up just one day after the high of Christmas day! We spend that day vegging in front of the fire, playing with new gifts, and not getting out of our pajamas! I usually try to go for Epiphany on January 6, to get all Twelve Days of Christmas, but I don’t always make it since Girlie Bird’s birthday is so quick after. I like for it to be cleaned up before we celebrate that.

Screenshot 2013-12-11 at 10.00.01 AMI love a Frazier fir. The branches are strong enough to hold my heavier ornaments, it’s dense enough to be a solid looking tree, but there are usually little pockets within the branches to tuck ornaments into. It has a lovely smell, and if you keep it watered, will usually stay pretty fresh for the full month I like to have it in my home.

20131209_142751 I am all about the white lights. My dear husband and I have gone back and forth with this, as he contends that the white mini-lights are a fad from the eighties and that I am just way behind the times. I will admit that we should give up the incandescent lights and go LED. I will. I couldn’t do it before because I’m not giving up the sweet, warm, soft glow of the mini incandescent bulbs. The mini LEDs were cold and blue and I just couldn’t do it. They’re getting better, though, and in the next couple years, I’ll make the switch and the investment. For now, though, I’ll fight with my mini lights. And I do mean fight. Every year I expect that at least some of the strands will be worthless when I pull them out of the bin and plug each one in to test them. Some years I’ve thought there were enough only to end up running to Walmart at 10:00 pm for just a couple more stands. A couple years ago as the LED movement really took off, I found myself traipsing all over town looking for the precious, tiny, white lights on a green strand. Walmart was actually my third stop that year. There was a rather ugly exchange with a manager who had overheard me grumbling in the aisle. He asked if he could help me find anything and I asked why there were no white mini lights. He rolled his eyes and rather dismissively informed me that there simply was no demand for those old things. “Right? I mean, obviously there is no demand, that’s why you have 12 feet of empty shelf space devoted to them on DECEMBER 3RD!” I ended up running into a couple returning several strings who were checking them in with the “greeter” at the front door. I bought them off them right there.

This year I picked up three strands of 100 a few days before we planned to get the tree. No reason to repeat the late night search. On Saturday, Dec 7th we went as a family (a grumpy, overtired, very cold family, but still) to pick out our tree. It had snowed a couple inches the night before so I expected we’d be bringing home a wet, or at least damp, tree, but the first couple stops were very disappointing. None of the workers seemed interested in selling a tree to us or anyone else. I mean, hey, you couldn’t just knock the snow off the outer branches. On the third stop, we found the perfect tree. We took it home and through the long and ridiculous process of trimming lower branches, putting a fresh cut on the bottom, and getting the thing straight in the stand. I opened the bin with all my surviving strings from last year and began plugging them in one after another. This is probably the best time to tell you that I like A LOT of lights on my tree. Usually I end up with 2000 or more. After trying all the strings in the bin I ended up with six strands of 100 that worked, four strands of 100 that did not work, and four strands of 150 that were half on and half off. Never had that much of a failure rate, but onward. I start at the top and wind the strands in and out of the branches, making sure that the tree is lit from the edges to the trunk. This is what makes the wonderful effect of sparkle as you walk by. Took me two stores to gather the necessary replacements, and two days. The tree stood, half lit, in that time, like a man in his tux, but no pants.

tree blog 9tree blog 6Now, NOW that the thing is all lit up, and I mean ALL lit up, it’s time for the ornaments. This is the best part, right? This particular collection of ornaments is so special, so person, so representative of me, and of my family. Aren’t all ornament collections like that? No, no they aren’t. Surely you’ve been to someone’s house and their tree is decorated as if it came from a kit. and maybe it did. Maybe that’s the look they’re going for, a very matched set kind of look. That’s not me, though it’s clear looking at the tree that I have a preference for glass ornaments, we have a pretty wide variety of styles. There are handmade ornaments made by my husband as a child, and some made by his grandmother for him. There are Hallmark ornaments given to each of us as children from grandparents, parents, and Santa. There are a few glass bulbs, looking all old and fragile that came from my childhood tree. tree blog 2Then there are the ones we’ve collected since we began building our own family. I got a couple for wedding shower gifts, and even one as a wedding gift. I bought a heavy sterling ornament with a house on it that sort of resembled our house for our first Christmas in our own mortgaged home. My mother bought me the stork with a baby ornament for the year I was so hugely pregnant with my daughter, who was born early the next year. Girlie Bird got several “Baby’s First Christmas” ornaments the next year, and I had to remind myself to buy ornaments for each of the boys. It’s good to be the first born, I guess. Of course, Santa brings the kids their own ornament each year, that they care nothing about now, just like their dad and I couldn’t have cared less when we were kids. tree blog 4But I go a step further than my mom did and write their names and the year on each one. In 2003, I lost the first of my grandparents, my paternal grandfather. My husband’s maternal grandparents died before I met him, and I mean to buy ornaments for them with his input, but I started buying ornaments for loved ones as they passed. In 2008 one grandmother, and then in 2010 the other, passed away. Then in 2012 we lost my husband’s paternal grandfather. I have an ornament on my tree for each of them. I picked each one out to remind me of them, and then put their name and birth and death years on them. Hopefully, my children will be putting those ornaments on their trees for many years and they’ll be reminded of the names of their great grandparents. They will know their names.tree blog 8tree blog 7

And I’m funny about exactly HOW all these ornaments get placed. Heavy ornaments obviously need stronger branches so they don’t droop and drop. I like the lighter, sparklier, glass ornaments to hang on the tips if they can, or at least where they don’t touch other branches so that they swing a little and glitter in the lights as you walk by. I am not typically a sparkly kind of gal, but when it comes to Christmas, bring on the glitter! Oh, and let’s pack them on! If you have big spaces on your tree, you don’t have enough ornaments! As much as I love each ornament in my collection, if I didn’t have enough, there are two boxes of gold and red glass balls that I picked up on clearance one year in January that wait on standby to fill any holes! I just don’t understand why anyone would go to the trouble of putting up a tree to string a few lights around the edges and then toss just a couple ornaments on it. That’s the tree for an office party, not a home!

Tinsel! I go back and forth on the tinsel thing. Every few years I think I want a bit more sparkle and glitter and I buy some and put it up, then I spend the rest of the year finding it in the vacuum, or the dryer vent screen, or whatever and I swear I’ll never use the stuff again. This year I am once again considering it, but so far have resisted. I mean to string popcorn and cranberries each year, too, but somehow it never gets done. I have a few strings of gold beads that I’ve put on a few years, but I’m not feeling it this year. I’ve never been a fan of the tinsel garland for the tree. This year, there likely won’t be anything draped around our tree.

This is it, this year. This is MY tree. Okay, okay, it’s OUR tree. I put it up with the love of my family fueling every decision and moment. It stands for our family, our faith, our hope and love. I put it up while ignoring the rest of the house, and now I’ve got a boatload of work to do before I have my neighborhood moms over this evening. I love these women and they seem to think this room looks like a happy place, so I guess I better get the rest straightened up, too. If you’re still reading, you’re invited to join us for a glass of wine and a cookie tonight! 🙂

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Ahhh, Sweet Saturday



No alarm clocks.  That’s my favorite thing about Saturday.  Before kids I called it sleeping in, but now I’m just glad I don’t have to wake up to NPR’s early morning news.  The big kids don’t need anything when they first wake up anymore, so you can send them to the basement to play video games.  The little guy usually sleeps later and when he does wake up on Saturdays, he calls for Daddy to do Bag of Joe.

Bag of Joe is the silliest ritual in the world, but what toddler doesn’t love being wrapped in a blanket an swung around the living room while Daddy sings, “I’ve got a bag of Joe, you’ve got a bag a Joe, everybody’s got a bag of Joe this mooooorning!”  It’s modeled on the older ritual known around here as “Sack of Sam” but Sam is way to big to be lifted by the corners of a blanket now.

The most wonderful coffee maker ever.

The most wonderful coffee maker ever.

I always set up the coffee maker the night before. When we finally replaced the old one, which had been a bridal shower gift in 2001, I insisted we get the “grind n’ brew” deal.”  Chad insisted it be programmable, and I’m that much of a coffee snob.  If it’s going to sit in there all night, beans ground right before it brews will be fresher, right?  It makes delicious coffee and though I hate cleaning the grinder out every evening, I’m oh so thankful every morning when the thing goes off (sounding like a jet engine, by the way) and I have coffee waiting for me when I get downstairs.

But Saturdays I just set it up and don’t hit the Program button.  I mean, you just never know what time one of us will get downstairs and be ready for coffee.  It’s set for 6:30 AM since that’s what time it needs to go off on weekdays, but if one of us is up at that time on Saturday, something has gone wrong.  It happens, but let’s not plan on that, okay?

I will miss toddler footed jammies when he gives them up.

I will miss toddler footed jammies when he gives them up.

So, Saturdays are for staying in pajamas and slippers.  At least for the kids.  For me, when I finally get out of bed (at the decadent hour of 8:00 AM, mind you!), my extravagance is to go down and grab coffee, throw granola bars at the hungry kids, and then go back upstairs and take a shower.  With the radio on.  Loud enough to hear over the running water.  I don’t hurry, either.  I get to let the conditioner sit on my hair.  I get to shave, well, whatever I feel like shaving, not just rush over the ankles.  I get to lather up with lotion, not just hit the elbows and kneecaps.  No one is in bed making me be quiet.  No one is left alone and unsupervised making me hurry and worry.  No one is waiting for me to pick them up or drive them somewhere.  Even the sound of the phone ringing does not make me hurry along.  It is bliss, really.  I don’t bother with doing my hair or putting on make-up.  It’s Saturday, after all.

And then I come out and find that my sweet husband who has just cleaned the kitchen (making the shower water temp fluctuate, but I’m not going to let that ruin anything) is still not familiar enough with the room to actually find where I’ve hidden all the food.  “I’ve got to eat something.  Will you make me something?”

Break time’s over.  🙂