Monday, August 30, 2010


Click on the photo for a larger view.

I was excited to swap out old pictures for new ones in our wall display. Nick liked the new one on the right, but didn't care so much for the one on the left.

I still need to pick a wall color- desperately. I am just overwhelmed by all the options, and am paralyzed by indecision. I'm afraid that I'll commit to something, and that it will be wrong. I just need to reassure myself that, no matter what I pick, it cannot possibly be any uglier than what is already on the wall.
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The House Always Wins

We've had an ant problem here since about two hours after we'd moved in. We didn't even have any food in the house when we first saw them crawling over the sink and counter. The commercial baits we bought did not interest them. They happily crawled around them and continued to look for even the smallest crumb on the counter. First battle was a win for the ants.

However, the war was not over. Janette had an ant problem last year, which was quickly solved with household items. Step one: puree hot dog. (I actually minced it, because I didn't want to wash the food processor). Step two: Mix three parts hot dog puree with one part borax (sold as a laundry additive, it's cheap too.) Step three: Watch ants as they swarm on the mixture and carry the poison back to their home to share with the queen. Step four: Notice there are no more ants around after a couple of days.
(A variation on this formula can be made by using honey instead of hot dog, if that's what your ants prefer.)

So, we got rid of the ants on the counter, and that was great. But then a couple of weeks later, a new batch of ants figured out where the dog food bowl is, which is also next to where Henry eats. It became very bad very quickly. By the time Henry was done with lunch, the bits he had dropped would be covered with ants. I think ants were eating more dog food than the dog was. The challenge was to put the poison on the floor in a way the ants could get it but dogs and babies couldn't.

Add another step: Cut little entrance holes in the bottom of a sour cream container (or similar). Put the bait inside, and replace the lid. The ants can now crawl in, but larger creatures can't get to the poison. Borax is only mildly toxic to mammals, but I still don't want any little mammals here eating borax-laced hot dog.

We had one more ant breakout in our bedroom. I had thrown away a cup that had once had ice cream in it, in our bedroom wastebasket. I did not know this was the ant equivalent of Disneyland. They came in a dramatic swarm and were all over the garbage and adjacent nightstand. I was grossed out. I made a batch of ant bait, put it in the sour cream container, and waited. Six hours later they were swarming (see photo). The next day they were gone.

I win.
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Monday, August 23, 2010

Block Party

On Saturday, the next street over had a block party. We had been invited to stop by, so we went and had some cotton candy. It was so hot and humid, that it turned into a ball of goo in about 2 minutes. Henry didn't exactly get the concept of the bounce house ball pit. Then a bunch of tween girls got in and were throwing the balls at each other, which made it even less fun for H. The saddest part is, he wouldn't even touch the cotton candy. He doesn't know what he's missing.

We only know 4 people on that street, and none of them were there at the time. I had been hoping to meet people, but ended up not actually talking to anyone. I'm still working on getting to know my neighbors, and obviously I need to try a little harder.
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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Foreign Concept

We had a family outing to the zoo today. Nick had a rare day off, of sorts. Nick had to go to work at 6:00 PM, and then work until tomorrow around lunch. At the zoo, the Henry got to pet a guinea pig, but the rule was you could only pet it with one finger. Nick and the zoo docent got Henry model just one finger, and every time he would pet the animal, he would bring out the rest of the fingers right as he touched the fur. Very sneaky, or more likely, he just doesn't have clue.
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Sunday, August 15, 2010

We Named Our Son Jennifer

When I was in junior high, it seems all of my friends were named Jennifer.  In addition to having a bff/cousin Jennie, my friends at school were Jen A. and Jen S., and in high school, Jen H and a few more Jens, Jennys, and Jennifers.  Point being, I knew a lot of Jennifers and they were generally wonderful people, but it could get a little confusing.

When Nick and I were expecting, we considered the popularity of a name.  Because our last name is Johnson, we figured we needed an unpopular name so there wouldn't be two "Jennifer Johnson" kids in a kindergarten class.  So, we went old school.  We went for a name that I had never met someone under fifty using.  Neither of us went to school with a Henry.  We had no friends or relatives named Henry.  It was ranked in the 80's on the social security list, between some names I'd never heard people use.  The only Henry I knew the first few months of our baby's life was the octogenarian Henry in my camera club.  I thought his generation's "Jennifer" was going to be William or Aidan.

What I didn't realize, and perhaps couldn't see coming, is that we were using a name that was on an up-swing.  After he was born, we would meet people that would say "My niece just named her baby Henry last week." I've met other Henry's at the playground, the zoo, and the grocery store.  A friend recently posted pictures on facebook of her son (who has the same name as Dallas's youngest that I thought would be really uncommon) with her nephew-that's right- Henry.

By trying to go just slightly off the beaten path, we've ending up in the middle of a herd of people just like us, who all have boys with the name equivalent of Jennifer.

PS- To my Jen friends, it is a great name, and you're great too.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Stages of Waking

They say there are five stages to mourning. I'm not sure how many stages there are in the process of waking up from a nap. It begins with gentle stirring from sleep, then some stuff happens in the middle, then acceptance.

Click on photo for larger view.
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Random Stuff I Miss from St Louis

Of course, the first thing I miss about St. Louis is our friends, but this post is more about the tangible things you could experience if you went to St. Louis for yourself.

Some things I miss about St. Louis:

Missouri Botanical Garden
Seeing the Gateway Arch every time I left the house
Tower Grove
The St. Louis Mills (all Nick's dress clothes came from the Hagar outlet)
The Magic House.  Henry's just getting to the age that can really enjoy it.

Pho Grand
Ted Drewe's
Sweetie Pie's at the Mangrove (for their awesome mac & cheese)
Quik Trip- the greatest place on earth for fountain drinks

Things and Services:
The wall of windows in our apartment
Built-in dishwasher
Easy freeway access (it was literally in the front yard)
Awesome eyebrow threading at the Galleria  (the Chicago version was TERRIBLE)
St. Louis Camera Club  A huge regret is I didn't find out about this until our last year there.
Emily Southerland Photography  Beautiful Portrait work
A sales tax rate that's less than tithing (not so in Chicagoland)
Five o'clock traffic is really that- traffic at 5:00, not all day and night.

This is an Orchid from Mobot's 2010 Orchid show.  The orchid show is definitely on the list.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Thursday Update

Reading time at the library is on hiatus until September, so we haven't left the house today. We did play in the backyard long enough for Henry to step in some dog poop. I was tempted to just throw the shoes away, but had to admit that was a pretty wasteful solution. I had the lawn mowed by 9:00 this morning, but it was still hot and humid. Between the heat and the terrible mosquitoes, there isn't much incentive to go outside.

Vacuuming up flies is a poor solution to having flies. Yesterday we had some flies in the house. I vacuumed them up, which is not as easy as it sounds. The trick was cornering them in a window. But them I turned the vacuum off, and they promptly flew out. I had assumed the vacuum would kill them, instead I just managed to relocate all the flies to be in the kitchen. Henry and I went to the store and bought a fly swatter, which is an effective solution to having flies.

Katie is in Slovenia, the homeland of my maternal line, visiting our Slovene cousin and meeting other relatives. We haven't seen Alja, the cousin in question, since her 2002 visit, but she and Jo Ellen correspond regularly. Kristy is with Katie, and Liz is leaving for the airport to join them as I type. Katie and Kristy have already been to Ukraine, as part of Kristy's charitable work, and Turkey. I'm a little jealous, but tourism is also hard work and it's just too hot there right now. I think Slovenia will be more comfortable than their last two stops.

I've been doing quite a bit of sewing recently, but it's all straight lines. I put more pockets on Nick's current white coat. I cut up the white coat from his med school days to use the fabric. Now he has a pockets actually big enough to keep a stethoscope in. I've also made some nursing covers and have a few more to make before too long. I think I need something else to be my next project though- perhaps an apron.

In St. Louis, there were weird goings-on I could tell you about. Here, not so much. Several nights ago, I was laying in bed when I heard a car horn honk once. That's as weird as it's been. Also, the neighbor two houses down is having a new roof put on today, so there is some construction noise. That's exciting.

We used to hear people yelling at each other (sometimes angry, often not) across the street from our apartment in St. Louis. Yesterday, I thought I heard someone yelling outside. I figured out what had actually happened was Henry had managed to turn on the TV and some cartoon characters were having a disagreement. I guess I'm just looking for some excitement.
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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Twenty Years Later

There are not many things I have from when I was ten-years-old. And there's certainly nothing useful from that era of my life still around- except for my sewing kit. When I was in fourth grade, Jo Ellen took me on Saturday mornings to the Button House School of Sewing. It was in the teacher's basement in Salt Lake. I think I remember her saying that her last name meant "button house" in German, if that gives anyone trying to track her down clues. I only stuck with it for a few months because my dad took us skiing on Saturday mornings in the winter. The irony is I now have absolutely no desire to ski, and wish I could sew much better than my poor skills allow. The first project you had to complete was to make a bag, which you would use to store your subsequent projects in. Next I made some horribly constructed "unit" clothing because I was so jealous of Michelle Sutton's outfits. The neck of the shirt I made was so wide, I had to wear a shirt under it. I think the pants were even worse.

When I started lessons, Jo Ellen bought me everything I would need. Going down our supply list, we needed a pin cushion. Jo Ellen recommended this red magnetic one. It was $8. That seemed like an exorbitant amount to spend on a pin cushion, so I was hesitant (even though Jo Ellen was paying). But that was the pin cushion I ended up with, and have used for twenty years. Until last week, it looked almost new. Then I dropped it on the hard floor. I almost cried, but then snapped the bottom back on, and realized it would still be great- it just now has a little crack in it. I hope it will last another twenty.

The pin cushion is sitting on top of the secret to keeping the same pin cushion for twenty years- a Caboodles organizer. I think Jo Ellen bought that to keep my supplies in, and it has worked. I think I'm still using the same pins and seam measurer as she bought me all those years ago.

Now that I think about it- one other thing I have from when I was ten. Jennie Ashworth and I bought nearly identical Caboodles (from Shopko I think). I have kept make-up in it ever since I was old enough to own make-up. Even though it's black and neon pink, I'll never replace it- the old ones are so much better than the ones they sell today.

The little girls (as Jennie and I referred to Katie and Kristy back then) wanted ones so badly, they talked our generous grandpa into taking them to Shopko and buying them each one. Mine was pink on top and black on the bottom, and Katie's is identical but black on top and pink on the bottom. Not like she was trying to copy me or anything.

Thank you Toots, and thank you Grandpa.

P.S.- you can now get a cheap knock-off of this pin cushion at Walmart. I bought one for my mom, and while it may be adequate, it's not as good as this one (even with a crack in it.)
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Sunday, August 8, 2010

Chicago Botanical Gardens

We finally made it to Chicago's Botanical Gardens. In St. Louis, the gardens (Mobot) were a mile away. Here, it's an hour away (if the traffic isn't bad.) They had a large bonsai collection. This bonsai is over 100 years old. When I see bonsai, I think of Sarah Davies's bonsai Charlotte, who was a casualty of Utah's dry climate and a relocation out of the bathroom.
We spent most of our time in the fruits and vegetables. I loves the grapes- they had a huge trellis of them covering the walkway.
These are apple trees, trained and woven into an arch.
Henry and Nick potted a tiny basil plant. Henry was mostly interested in the shovel. He's hidden because his shirt matches the bucket.

The gardens here are very different from mobot, but they seem grander, as if Chicago lives by the "Go big, or go home" motto. There was more commercial photography going on here, so they must not have the same stringent policies that mobot does. I hope we'll go back soon, because there was so much more of it left to explore and it changes so much with every season.
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Friday, August 6, 2010

Another Water Fail

He does not like getting wet. We drove quite a ways to go to a pool party at a ward member's grandma's house. It was a fun idea, but he didn't like being in the water, and he really didn't like it when he rubbed his eyes and got sunscreen in them. The drive home was horrible. It took close to two hours to go thirty miles.
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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Almost Ripe

Just as I thought we were having beginner's luck with our tomato plants, I realized our real problem. Forget root rot or pests- those can be dealt with. How do you keep a toddler from picking all the fruits off the plant? Do they sell a spray for that?
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Sunday, August 1, 2010

He's A Stacking Machine

On one hand, I was inclined to remind him for the thousandth time
to stay out of the cupboards. But I was thrilled at his mad stacking
skills. That tower is five items high and organized with the widest
cans on bottom. He's brilliant.