Monday, October 31, 2005

Ghosties and Ghoulies and Long-legged Beasties

The rain held off until we had turned off the lights and most of the trick or treaters had gone home. Not a very elaborate Halloween for us: the highspot was probably the magic show performed by Count Wakula at the library.

I have been involved with Halloween costumes since the kids were little. Back then it was pretty basic, usually involving a cardboard box and some wire or a couple of yards of cheap fabric. The PreTeena caroon by Allison Burroughs hits the nail on the head. There are more indoor parties these days, which demand fancier and fancier costumes. The fabric store is a riot of spangly, glittery and colorful material, but, amateurs beware! These same fabrics tend to be slippery and treated with all kinds of gummy substances, which can play havoc with a machine. Liesl’s butterfly wings last year were decorated with sequins, which were glued onto the fabric and my thread frayed every inch. And this is the time of year when the soccer mums descend on the fabric store the week before Halloween. “Halloween costumes,” they think, “how difficult can that be!” An assistant at my favorite store was telling me about the woman who bought an elaborate pattern, opened it up and asked what all the sheets of paper were for.

This year I made two very simple costumes. That was just as well as my sewing room is full of books and my machine and iron are crammed into one end of the bedroom. Liesl was an angel (infinitely easier than her earlier request for a rock costume. Not as in Christine Aguilerra, but an honest to goodness geological specimen.) And for Manny I made a king’s costume. Kate made her kids costumes and the others passed around costumes from previous years.

I also found a photo of the armor I made last year for Emmanuel, but haven't been able to find photos of the costumes I have made in the last few years actually being worn. I did manage to find a photo from 1973. It is blurry and faded, but it brought back memories of dying a mophead for Kate's wig and cutting up sacks for the Indian chief. Again I vow to make an early start next year and have costumes made and ready by September. Let's see!

Friday, October 28, 2005

Another Birthday

Happy Birthday to our oldest grandchild, Emmanuel, who is eight today. It was great to have him here this summer. I think he had a good time too, especially when he and Nonno got together for their daily Dove Bar treat.

Manny was born in Italy and can hold his own in a conversation with Nonna Patrizia. And now he is attending a bi-lingual English/Spanish school in Virginia. Quite the renaissance lad - and a pretty good soccer player too. Hope to see you again soon, Manny.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Garden Frou Frou

I enjoy gardening. For me, it is a journey, not a destination. Sure, I am happy when the outcome is attractive in terms of color, texture and variation of height and shape, but what I really love is playing in the dirt. I like to transplant, dig, and work compost into the soil. My gardening outfits tend to be cotton pants or sweat pants, t-shirts or sweatshirts, all of which fit my criteria of comfort and garments easy to throw in the washing machine while I jump in the shower to remove sweat and mud.

It appears that, once again, I have missed the sartorial boat. According to an article from the Cox News Service, I should be clothed in pieces from Garden Frou Frou, the brainchild of Amanda Brown-Olmstead (didn’t a guy called Olmstead design Central Park?) Her garments “are available in suede look-alike and synthetic blends that feel like cashmere...Prices for jackets are $220-$350; jumpers $250;overalls, skirts and knickers, $150-$250.” I point out to any English friends and family reading this that the exchange rate as of today is £1=$1.776, so you can work it out for yourselves. Not that you can buy this stuff in England: you will need to pick it up in Canada, Bermuda or the British Virgin Islands. Remember, too, that “jumpers”, means pinafore dresses, and as for knickers, we’re not going there.

Guess what? These clothes are versatile and can be worn “beyond the flower beds. For a night out, the quilted floral jacket would be the perfect topper for velvet trousers and a silky camisole.” That’s more than I can say for my “Chicks for the Cure” t-shirt.

My only question is, why didn’t Martha Stewart pick up on this earlier?

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The State of the House Address

Life as I know it is seriously disrupted. Nothing that can’t be rectified with a bit of hard work, but annoying nonetheless.

Just before I left for DC, a contractor started work on the basement. In the spring, the waterproofer had fixed the large crack that was sending water into the room and since we had messed up the paneling trying to locate the crack, we decided to redo the whole room, in part as a retreat for visiting grandchildren. As the contractor removed the rest of the paneling, he discovered another crack, this time in the wall at the front of the house. Re-enter waterproofing man, who suggested we go through the whole procedure again. But this time, instead of digging up the driveway, he had to dig up the shrubs and flowers in front of the house. I had spent a lot of time out there this fall. Two years ago the roofers had sent three layers of old roof crashing down and I had finally cleared up most of the evidence of their destruction. At least we weren't expected to dig up the shrubs. Or re-plant them. I am such a trusting person. We had to run errands the day the crew turned up to re-plant and I believed them when they said they had placed markers to indicate where the plants belonged. Maybe they had, but they had failed to indicate which shrubs went where. I returned several hours later to find everything in the wrong place, planted too high and gasping for water. Probably by spring the picture will be brighter. I will go out this week, plant some bulbs and wait to see if Mother Nature can help me out.

Meanwhile we have had the fence people replace the rotting posts in the backyard fence, the gutter people install shiny new gutters and downspouts and the window crew put glass block windows in the basement room. We are getting somewhere, at least with the infrastructure, if not the cosmetic stuff.

I forgot to mention that we moved between two and three thousand books from the basement. They have now taken over my sewing room and are scattered throughout the house. And in one week we are having the study floor sanded and re-finished, which means another fifteen hundred or so books are slowly being moved to the dining room. Then we have to move the furniture. That has to be done in between continually cleaning the house as the dust rises up from the new drywall in the basement. Am I complaining? You bet I am.

At least the saga of Ernie’s hand is gradually coming to an end. For the second time he spent several hours at St. John Macomb Hospital. Some of the area where the hematoma had been drained was not healing and yesterday he had a skin graft. So he is back in a hard cast for a while (try moving books and furniture when you can’t bend your wrist.) Then there will be therapy. The surgeon suggested he stay out of the workshop and write a book instead!

So there we are. Order will be restored, but it helped to get this off my chest.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Welcome, Linus

Marcie and Andrew greeted Linus Albert on October 11th at the George Washington Hospital. Liesl and Theodore and I had been waiting for the phone call, which came about 10:30. After Theodore's nap, we jumped into the car and made the trip into DC so they could meet their new brother. It was fun to watch them with him. Theodore's vocabulary is limited, but "baby' is a word he has mastered. Of course, I took the opportunity to hold Linus as much as I could. A lovely little boy. By chance Lucy had the day off, so she joined us at the hospital and accompanied me back to Rockville, which was helpful since I got lost twice and it was way past dinnertime.

Marcie stayed in the hospital until Friday and I looked after the children while Andrew taught. The staff at his school delighted him by volunteering meals this week. Things stared to fall into a pattern over the weekend and when I left on Sunday, Marcie's mother arrived to lend a hand. It was a great week for me and a chance to get to know Liesl and Theodore just a little better. So, while it was good to get back, I miss my little guys in Maryland. More photos on the Williams/Ament photo page.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Theodore is two

Another birthday today! This time we are celebrating Theodore's birthday. He and I became good buddies this summer when we traveled to Iowa with Andrew and Liesl. We became roommates and I got to know him well.

Two years ago I was in Maryland helping to take care of Liesl when Theodore (seen in the picture with his big sister) was born and in two days I will be flying back to help look after the two of them while Marcie is is the hospital for the birth of their new brother/sister. I can't wait to find out about our new grandchild and to spend time with these two. Watch this space.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Where the bee sucks . . .

I can tell you exactly where the last bee with whom I got up close and personal sucked. My arm, right below the elbow. What’s more, I was simply standing on the sidewalk. I was not wearing bright colors or perfume, I was just standing there. And so yesterday, for the second time this summer, I was stretched out on an examining table, while the doctor dug around with a scalpel, extracting remnants of a sting. Again the question was, “Was it a bee, a yellow jacket or a wasp?” I phrased my answer as politely as I could. It also explains why my arm is swollen, red and throbbing and I am taking steroids and antibiotics in the hope I will look halfway normal before I get on the plane on Sunday.

So forget all that merrily, merrily business and find me some hydrocortisone.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Thirty six today

Happy birthday today to Elizabeth (seen here with Henry just before his baptism.) When I phoned her today she was a bit groggy from too little sleep (Caroline had a rare restless night) and indignant that Benjamin and Caroline should chose today for a couple of other lapses, which caused her to spend part of her birthday with a bottle of Lysol!

Elizabeth is a great mother, a loving wife and daughter and a talented cook. She has many other attributes she spent her teenage years hiding from us. It brought back so many memories as we cleared books out of the basement in preparation for some remodeling: there was Elizabeth’s Sociology text book (from college!) with the bold inscription inside the cover “Elizabeth Ament. I love John Cougar Mellencamp.”

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Another Birthday

Daniel was four today and we celebrated with a trip to Thiessen's Apple Orchard in Leamington, Ontario. Daniel is very easy to buy a present for these days. He enjoys-in fact, he is obsessed with-Thomas the Tank Engine, so a Thomas shirt and hat was an easy choice for our birthday gift to him. It was a glorious day: beautiful weather and a most enjoyable picnic in the orchard. There probably won't be too many days like this left in 2005.