Friday, July 31, 2009

Oh! oh! oh!

I am so disgusted!

And after this, you will be too. So fair warning to all squeamish readers and to those who may be reading before mealtime.

I was going to toss out the leftovers from my husband's birthday cake. I peeled off the aluminum foil and glanced down, preparing to scrape the remains into the trash can. There were these odd little things in the pan. Tiny little dark brown twisted things.

Mouse poo!!!

And in confirmation, one corner of cake/frosting was chewed off.

Ick! Ick! Ick!

What is it with this house! First squirrel pee on the threshold and now mouse poo in my kitchen?!?

Ick! Ick! Ick!

I seriously want to bleach my entire kitchen. And possibly the soles of my feet for walking on that floor barefoot. And possibly all of my plates, bowls, glasses, and silverware. It does not help that my thirty-plus year old vinyl floors are already scarred and constantly dirty looking.

This is just repulsive. I swear that we are not unclean people. I wipe the table and counters multiple times daily. I put away food in appropriate containers and in appropriate places. There are no open bits of whatever just laying about. But mice! Mice infestation! Ugh! And not a polite mouse like Anatole.

For those of you who were thinking about visiting, please don't let this sway you. I promise that we will deal with this mouse infestation. Swiftly and ruthlessly. We will not be serving you rodent droppings.

For now, pardon me while I do the grossed-out dance through my house.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Plus ça change,

plus c'est la même chose.

Our previous house was a tract home, one of several designs offered by a builder who was developing a new subdivision. We worked very hard to personalize the design (by plaguing our poor builder with modifications and details). In the end, it couldn't escape its essential nature. It was a nicely detailed tract home. We longed for something with more character.

Now, we're in our 1935 home that's loaded with vintage charm from its lilting, creaking wood floors to its plaster walls and ceilings. During last Saturday's street party, I chatted with a neighbor who had lived here for over thirty years. She had bought her home from the original owner. Along with the house, she had received from that original owner lots of documents about the house, including advertisements from the 1930s. These ads offered homes in a brand new suburban neighborhood. Like my 1998 tract home, my 1935 Colonial was part of a builder development. The French are right. The more things change...

I recall a conversation I had with a friend a few months ago. I was rhapsodizing over the charming, historic town centers in the northeast. He pointed out that in 100 years, the spanking new, what I denigrated as artificial and inorganic town centers in the Dallas area would be historic. That there was no essential difference between the old and the new other than time. And as much as I hate to admit it (and as much as I argued against it over a margarita), I think he was right. Perhaps the only difference between my much-desired 1935 Colonial and my 1998 tract home is 63 years.

P.S. We're finding that vintage charm has its downsides. Some water from dripping swimsuits in the children's bath found its way to the powder room ceiling below, causing localized, but severe breakage of the plaster. We'd had a similar water issue with drywall in our old house, but it didn't cause so much damage. Just another thing to add to the to-do list.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Boston friendly

When researching our move, I did lots of research. On various online forums and from various people in real life, I heard the same dire message: the folks up north were unfriendly. They were as cold as their winter temperatures and...well...just plain rude. Rude drivers. Rude outside of their cars.

Now, coming as I did from the land of "Texas friendly," this worried me a bit. Not that I needed to hear the life story of every single person standing in line with me at the grocery store. That, actually, I could do without. But as a stay-at-home extrovert, I worried about being cut off from all adult conversation, save my husband and my now long-distance friends.

Well. I've been up north for several weeks now. You know what? It may not be Texas friendly, but it's Boston friendly. And that's plenty friendly. I've chatted briefly with strangers at the checkout lines in grocery stores. With strangers at the local lake. Drivers let me in. Even the folks working at the RMV (that's DMV to you Texas folks) were super friendly and kind.

On a more personal level, we've enjoyed a few playdates already. An extremely kind neighbor is even throwing a barbecue to introduce my son to some of his fellow students at the local school. And I'm slowly forging some connections with fellow moms in my community.

Now, that's not to say that sometimes, friendliness is unexpected. Recently, at a Nordstrom presale (a curtained off, by-appointment-only area for previewing and purchasing sales merchandise before the sale officially begins), I was browsing through an entirely too large selection of North Face outerwear. I was lost among the varying degrees of fleece and puffiness. I politely caught the eye of an older Asian woman and asked, "I'm sorry. I just moved here from Texas, and I wondered which of these coats you think are really useful?" The woman shot me a startled, wary if a chipmunk had addressed her or something equally as unlikely. In seconds, she thawed and began chatting and reviewing coats. I heard about her son's internship and how much I'd like Boston. In departing, she welcomed me to New England. Now that's friendly! Boston friendly.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


Warning: the following blog is dedicated to my inner English nerd.

The following are some of my favorite road signs spotted around the Boston burbs. (Note for my Metro West brethren: there are silly signs in Austin as well.)

1. Wait for Delayed Green
If the city didn't post this sign, would it then be okay to go on red?

2. Stay in Lanes
I saw this tonight on a highway. Now this actually made me worry. Am I not allowed to change lanes? For how long? Is this just a reminder that I should not swerve about like a driver in Mexico for whom lane markers are just suggestions? I actually should google this and find out.

3. Thickly Settled Area
Ummm...isn't that true for much of the Boston metro area? My favorite sign of this ilk is in Dover, land of mansions on multi-acre spreads. Yes. Thickly settled, indeed.

Don't get me talking about parking signs in the North End. Yikes! I thought decoding parking signs in the University of Texas campus was difficult. Will and I ended up paying umpteen dollars to park in a lot because we couldn't figure out if we were allowed to park or not. that I think about it, maybe this is a clever way of generating parking revenue from tourists. A win-win situation for the city...

Monday, July 13, 2009

Not the bee's knees

I spectacularly introduced myself to the very nice lifeguards at our local lake this afternoon. My eldest was swimming. My two youngest were playing in the sand. I was stepping towards the youngest when I felt a sharp prick and then pain, pain, and more pain. Did I step on a thorn? I turned my foot up to check and found a fuzzy squirming bee attached to my sole.


Can I say that bee stings hurt? And it really hurts on the sole of one's foot? I was trying to downplay my reaction, but lifeguards came running (one kindly pulled the stinger out of my foot because...despite doing some yoga...I'm no longer as limber as I once was and couldn't do it myself). I gingerly hobbled to a seat, and the lifeguards rinsed the sand off my foot and put some sort of anti-sting wipe on the sting. People were staring. Not really the way I'd like to introduce myself to the folks of the town. Hi. Yes, I'm the fool who stepped on a bee. That's me. Perhaps I could reframe the situation. I saved children from stepping on a bee. Fell on the sword. That's me.

Luckily, my husband had taken the day off to run some errands so he could swing quickly by to pick up the children and bring me my crutches. And so I sit, foot elevated and sore, feeling like a complete fool.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

A newcomer's review of local groceries

As a sort-of-foodie (claiming full-blown foodie status is a bit much for someone who actually enjoys boxed shells-and-cheese), finding a grocery routine to replace my Austin routine has been hard. Central Market in Austin was my reliable stop. It, partnered with Costco, Whole Foods, the farmer's market, and local grocery, provided perfectly for my family.

Now. Where to go? How to feed my family? My review of some groceries in the western Boston burbs:

Trader Joe's. Love. Love. Love. I don't think I've bought anything from Trader Joe's that's disappointed. We love their boxed shells and cheese, hummus, frozen dumplings, deli cheese, Joe Joe's cookies, pasta sauce, salsa, tortillas, cereal, etc. The cons? It's small. In one shop particularly, the aisles are so tight that it's difficult to negotiate (especially when one has multiple children clustered about the cart). The shops closest to me don't sell alcohol. The produce section is small and doesn't offer much variety.

Speaking of produce, that leads me to A Russo & Sons in Watertown. Ah...the classic love/hate relationship. What a delectable assortment of produce! Not as many exotic fruits as my old love Central Market carried, but an even better variety of Asian vegetables. And fresh flowers and plants splash colorfully across the entrance. Enticing. But the traffic flow! I thought the Austin downtown Whole Foods had a confusing layout (I never did get the hang of that place...even after countless visits). The store is (again) small and crammed with a jumble of aisles. The aisles are so narrow that in spots, it is difficult for two carts to pass. There is no defined flow (well...not that I could figure out) so it's a headache-inducing struggle to get through the store. I'd bet that it would be less headache-inducing without the three children, but...well...with no preschool/babysitter, it is what it is. Having said that, I still stop there at least every couple of weeks and load up on produce.

And Costco. I discovered that each Costco has slightly different merchandise. I was so disappointed with the Dedham store. I had relied on my Costco for a variety of organic foodstuffs, including pasta, canned tomatoes, soups, and chicken. The Dedham store had none of these. I luckily discovered the Waltham store which at least had the organic chicken breasts and thighs. Whew! Other than that, it doesn't have much organic food at all, leading me to believe that Austin, unlike Boston, must really purchase organics.

Baza. What a great little local market. And fun to hear a Russian greeting or good-bye. But aside from the exotic flavor, we've bought our favorite salami, decent deli meats, and breads. A nice place to stop by for last-minute menu fillers.

What about Shaws? Stop and Shop? I'm embarrassed to admit that I haven't gone to them yet. I rarely shopped the regular grocery stores in Austin so I've carried that habit here. I'll probably stop by one soon.

Note the recurring theme through this blog is the use of the adjective "little." I've come to realize that there will be no Central Market here. That giant purveyor of gourmet produce, wines/beers, bakery, deli/cheeses/meats/seafood, bath and body care, dry goods, snacks, and so on. It's a different culture. A different use of land. Smaller places. Smaller spaces. But thankfully not smaller taste.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

A whole other Newton

Lately, I've been feeling that my kids need a little more organized stimulation than accompanying me to various exciting errands and running wild through our house/basement/backyard. That's wearing a bit thin. So since I'm new to town, I decided to google "children's programs Newton." I was so excited to find that our local library was flying in a biologist from a national wildlife refuge in Iowa to present a program on insects. How exciting! And my budding four-year-old entomologist would love this!

I e-mailed the youth services librarian, hoping that the spots hadn't all filled up. I was so excited to hear back from her that there were still enough spots for all three kids. I went immediately to my local library's web site to double check the date. I looked at the children's event calendar. I couldn't find the event. I checked everywhere on the web site. Maybe it was in August and not July? Maybe it was on the adult events calender? No...Hmmm...I googled again and found the event.

It's in Newton...Iowa...


I just sent an apologetic note to the librarian. I'm such a doof!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

More treasures

In our office above the closets is a row of cubbies with doors. Lots of storage and perfect for things that you don't need to access frequently, but that you want to keep out of the attic. I noted that the cubbies seemed to have some leftover stuff so we haven't used them. We've finally come to organizing the office and decided to empty the cubbies. I thought they only held a few things. I was wrong.

In a story, we'd find some fabulous antique something or other carefully stored away and forgotten. Instead, we found:

Eight empty shoe boxes (mostly Vaneli). A plethora of vintage electronic devices including a gigantic "pocket-sized" Epson Photo PC550 that takes high quality 640x480 images still shrink wrapped in box, a laptop that's so old that it doesn't have a hard drive (only a floppy drive), and an answering machine that still uses tape cassettes.

We also found a box with the following:

1. Broken pieces of plaster wrapped in a tissue
2. A broken four-spoke porcelain lavatory handle (with the broken bit)
3. Some random chrome lavatory handles
4. Two hinges
5. Some doorknobs
6. Some odd metal hinged rods with porcelain handles on the end
7. One piece of really thick porcelain tile that had been painted
8. One empty thread spool

Some photos:
What is this?

Broken bits:

Fabulous laptop (can't even boot it because you need the boot disk):

Nothing for the Antiques Roadshow or Sotheby's, but it was worth a few chuckles.

A security notice

I've noticed that two of the nicer malls close to my house offer valet parking. A fact that always makes me smile. There's abundant garage parking to be had if one chooses to park oneself. Other than the frenetic holiday rush when I'm sure that the garage is overflowing, I can't imagine a time when the garage is full to capacity. Perhaps the abundance of parking stems from the economy, and it used to be nonexistent. Could be.

Today, I visited the Natick Collection (another thing that makes me smile...not just a "mall," but a "collection"). Upon returning to my car, I found an official looking notice attached to my windshield. First thought...ugh...a ticket! But, thankfully, it was not a ticket. It was a security notice from the Natick Collection that personal items could be seen from the outside of the car. These personal items were various raincoats and a library book. Is crime so rampant here that one must squirrel away all personal items, including outerwear?? After my car break-in, I've been very vigilant about bringing in my purse, phone, and various electronic doodads. But raincoats?

Friday, July 3, 2009

Squirrel pee

It's kind of funny. We used to live on a half acre in a somewhat far-flung suburb. We've had roadrunners wander through our yard. Baby bunnies (one found sadly drowned in our pool). Coyotes howling in the distance. But we've never actually been impacted as much by wildlife as we are now.

I credit our resident hawk for keeping birds out of our raspberry patch. We've plucked several handful of ripe berries with many others ripening on their branches. No nets needed. We've also seen robins everywhere and a couple of adorable chipmunks.

On the negative side, we're also the home of a morbidly obese squirrel. Seriously. This is one big squirrel. He rummages through our trash. He can cleverly undo lids. We find chewed open garbage bags with trash strewn about on a weekly basis. He (or a fellow squirrel) has chewed through a neighbor's plastic trash can.

But today. Today. We were stepping out for an errand. (This is starting to develop into an unwelcome pattern...opening the back door to an unpleasant surprise.) I opened the back door to find a trash bag that had been chewed open, innards strewn about. The bag had just been put out that morning. But in addition to the strewn trash, in between the storm door and the back door, the squirrel left another gift...a little puddle of squirrel pee. Really. I couldn't make this up. The spring on the storm door is broken so it swings open and closed easily. This brazen big fellow decided to climb up the flight of steps to the back landing and rummage about in broad daylight. Then somehow got trapped between the storm door and the back door before getting free. Thank goodness he got free. I really don't want to imagine opening the back door to a frenzied, panicked gigantic squirrel.

Will is threatening to get a bb gun. I say that this is Massachusetts, not Texas, and our neighbors would frown on our shooting any firearm...even a bb gun. We'd get ourselves labeled as redneck Texans for sure. We might as well put a used car on blocks in the driveway, a derelict appliance or two in the yard, and a ratty sofa on the front walk.

Any non-weapon-oriented anti-squirrel suggestions are welcome.