Random Thursday: Random Travels and Battle Sheep

Random Thursday (ˈrandəm ˈTHərzdā): the day on which Sarah plunks down all the odd bits and pieces she’s been sent by friends or has otherwise stumbled upon this week in an effort to avoid writing a real post, the assembly of which usually ends up taking twice as much time as sitting down and creating actual content.

My MIL is doing well (thank you for your kind thoughts and crossed fingers), I made it to the next level of interviews, traveled by train to Chicago all by myself (hush, it’s a Big Thing),  had a marvelous time with two of my favorite people (and one favorite’s teenaged daughter), and made it back home in time for a two hour nap before taking the kids to the annual school Luau and Backpack Dumping.

Been an active week.

The kids’ school stuff was waiting for them when I dropped them off this morning for the first (half) day of the new school year.  The entire household is very excited about this new opportunity for intellectual and social growth—with the sole and unsurprising exception of the kids, who just last week were complaining loudly about how boring summer camp was, until they realized they only had four days left.

I took the day off, so in a little while, I’ll head back pick them up, along with all the forms we forgot to pick up at the Luau.  Oops.

But for now, it’s time to relax, have another cup of coffee, and offer random, illustrated pieces of the last couple days:


The Windy Rainy City

Chicago Tour2

It doesn’t have a thumb in it, but I’m pretty sure I did take this photo. Jane wasn’t with me and it’s on my phone, so unless a pickpocket took pity on me, it’s mine.

My friend thefirstmausi and I (and her daughter) met early Tuesday morning at the Chicago First Lady Boat Dock—and when I say “met”, I mean for the first time in person—to take one of the Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruises.

‘firstmausi has the best ideas.

If you ever have the chance to take one of these, please do.  The docents are a hoot—they know their stuff and they also know how to make it interesting—and since Chicago is a tall, busy city, it’s easy to miss all the beautiful structures—historical and new—if you stick to the streets.

And also hidden urban folk art.

Graffitti Chicago

Plus, you’re on a boat on a river, so everything is relaxed and lovely and mercy those bridges are low.

I’m going to go again the next time I’m in Chicago, because the city is constantly in flux and I want to see the results of all the construction and restoration efforts that are just getting started. . .  and also because I missed most of the last half of this one due to the rescheduled rainstorm—which was inexplicably moved up from Friday, and whose decision was that?—drove us inside.

There were large windows and we could hear the docent, but we always seemed to be on the wrong side of the boat to see whatever she was describing.

But that gave ‘firstmausi and I time to talk, so I can’t complain.*


In the Pink

One of the only things Sunny likes about going back to school is getting new shoes.

You can’t tell from the photo, but these things are bright, bright pink.  With neon color splashes on them.


She loves them so much, she asked for a second pair, exactly the same, for gym.

And went to school today, wearing them with her new, lacy school dress, which is bright purple.

Clutching her pink, hedgehog-shaped pencil sharpener.  Named Fluffy.

Guess where we had breakfast?

Guess where we had breakfast?

Why not?


Taxi of Shame

Chicago was a seven taxi trip for me—five of them on Tuesday—and totally worth the cost.

I like taxis, especially when I’m alone in a city I don’t know well and won’t be staying in long enough to learn bus routes.

You get in, given them an address, and they take you there. No transfers, no missed stops, no walking.

My only problem with this method of transportation, aside from the environmental impact, is that I’m total crap at flagging them down, and I’ve learned—thank you, Manhattan—that throwing myself on the mercy of the nearest hotel doorman or even random strangers works a lot better than throwing myself in the middle of the street.

I’m not easy to miss, so I assume my body language isn’t confident enough . . . or I have a random secret invisibility superpower that only works on cabbies.

I’m fully aware that this may be two ways of saying the same thing, but having a superpower is way cooler, so we’ll use that one.


In the Pink, Redux

Jane wore some pink today to school, too.


Unlike her sister’s shoes, this image has the intensity juuuuust right.

Not that she didn’t opt for awesomeshoes of her own this year:


That’s my girl.


Psst, Lyra

These are what I think of, when I think gooseberries, which grew wild in our yard when I was a kid:


What we had Tuesday evening** were apparently cultivated Cape gooseberries.

Cape gooseberreis

What else would you serve with memoir bandal cheese and purple heirloom tomatoes?

(The pita chips from the hummus, right)


Battle Sheep!

I can’t take a trip without getting something for the kids, mostly because I love them and also because dear god the puppy dog eyes.

To amplify the incentive, they were supposed to come with me but we couldn’t make it work.

Guilt is a great motivator.

So is shopping at cool toy stores. Like Marbles: The Brain Store.***

A somewhat bewildered ‘first mausi found a Gummi Candy kit that’s perfect for Sunny, my budding Mad Scientist and gummyworm addict.

And for Jane?

Battle Sheep

It’s like Risk.  With SHEEP.



Tuck This in Your Garter . . .

Flask Building

‘firstmausi and I saw this building after the rain chased us below deck, so I have no idea what the docent said about it, if anything, and I haven’t had the chance to track it down, yet.

Until someone can tell me what it’s called or what it’s for, I’m dubbing it “The Flask Building’, because that’s what we thought it looked like from our angle and I persist in the delusion that I’m funny.

So if one of the characters in my wereduck story has his office in the Flask Building—and he will, ’cause I wrote it up on the train—this is why:

Flask Building 2




*I might complain about the photos she took of me—I really should know better than to bother picking up my hairbrush in Chicago—but I’ll wait until I see what she does with them.  If it’s blackmail,  I might have to travel to Germany to retrieve the negatives—darn!

** I was able to meet Lyra for a wondrous hour or so at One North Kitchen, which has good food and fantastic staff. Our  waiter—who made the mistake of joking about writing his memoirs in front of two writers who were more than willing to run with it until he fled—sold us on a plate of bandal cheese with (purple) heirloom tomatoes, crostini, and gooseberries.  She and I had also ordered two other appetizers—herbal flatbread and hummus, YUM—and were holding seven different conversations at once, so by the time we noticed the gooseberries, we’d forgotten what they were.  I figured they were a kind of baby tomatillo, which sounded plausible to Lyra and the passing bartender we asked.  He went to check and it turned out we were both wrong.  And now I’m trying to figure out where I can get gooseberries up here . . .

***Can I just say here how much fun I had trying to explain to two German women the ode to commercialized history and disposable income that is the American Girl Doll Store?  I finally gave up and agreed with ‘firstmausi and her daughter:  “Only in America.”  Such a proud moment.


Sunny’s Nutcracker

Every year, Sunny’s school puts on an all-student performance of The Nutcracker.  This doesn’t just mean everyone who performs is a student, it means all students perform, from the 6-week babies to the 6th-graders —they even have alumni kids come back to help wrangle the dancers.

Janie spent three years at this school and was, in order, a Snowflake, a Spanish Dancer, and a Flower.*  Sunny has followed in her sister’s footsteps until this final year, when she was cast as a Russian Dancer.

“Not a dancer, Mommy,” she told me.  “A tumbler.”   And she proved it by somersaulting into the barrister’s case.  For three weeks.

But the performance itself is always a hoot and you can’t get near the stage for parental groupies.  My husband and Janie went to the balcony to take photos with his camera, while my MIL and I did what we could from the main level.

These aren’t good, because I took them and my husband left for an all-day yoga workshop right after the final curtain call, taking his camera with him.  And the theater was dark and the similarly-dressed dancers kept moving and, well, I took them.  But these are the best of the lot and should give you an idea of the exuberance and fluidity of the experience.

To keep things more manageable, the cast—barring the littlest members, who “go to bed” right after their acts—stays on the stage:

The kids are sitting about five deep.  Sunny is on the right, behind the pointsettias.  I think.

Here’s the epic battle between the Rat King’s mouse troops and the tin soldiers.  The soldiers were outnumbered this year—two took one look at the audience and fled back to their cupboard—but since most of the mice ignored them to fight each other, it didn’t matter much.

The Rat King and the Nutcracker duke it out.I took this about ten seconds before the Nutcracker’s head spun around and fell off.  It was great.  Clara, who’s doing the oh, dear face under the tree, will be taking off her shoe and decking the Rat King, thus becoming the first self-rescuing princess in ballet.

The Chinese Dancers, with dragon.  There’s more to meet the eye with this dragon . . .

. . . a lot more.  Last year, the last segment of the dragon broke free and had to be chased down by Herr Drosselmeyer.

The flowers were as busy as bees this year—they would occasionally plant themselves, and the Flower Fairy on the right would smack them on the head with her wand to make them twirl again.  If the Fairy had been wielding that when Jane was a blossom, it might have been a little less vaudeville . . . Which would have been a shame.

Here are the Russian Dancers.  Sunny is third from the left, or fourth from the right, and kicking like a small, curly Cossack.

She’s next!

To the delight of the audience, she threw her hands high in a sort of gymnastics salute . . .

. . . bent in half . . .


. . . flipped over . . .


. . . And recovered to thunderous applause.  I’m not kidding—the ladies behind me were cheering.

Especially on her second pass, when she threw her hands up high . . . then stopped the proceedings to pull her pants up.  It brought down the house.

As did her curtsey before she hid behind the poinsettias again.

“You were wonderfull,” I said later,while trying to get her new Hello Kitty! bootsover her still-kicking feet.  “Did you have fun?”

She grinned at me.   “I was scared when I was waiting, Mommy.  But then it was my turn and I was brave.”

Yes, you were, sweetheart.

This was our last year for this particular production company’s Nutcracker—Sunny will be going to Jane’s school for kindergarten.  But it’s always so much fun, I think I might sneak in next time as an alumni parent.**


*In her last performance, she and her friend hammed it up so much,  I was certain the Flower Fairy was going to plant her permanently in the stage, petals down.  Her father and I sympathized.

**One of the ladies behind me did—she says it’s even better when you don’t have to worry that your Snowflake might absentmindedly stick her finger up her nose to the second knuckle while waiting for her cue.  Sounds good to me.

Janie Photos: Going Tropical

Our new furnace is being installed today!

We’ve been without heat since Thursday—considering the alternative, this isn’t a complaint—and have done several creative things to keep warm, including space heaters, bundling, redefining the concept of pyjamas, heating up clothes in the dryer,* and lacing the flannel sheets with catnip to attract our roaming feline tummywarmer.

My husband took the kids and my MIL to the botanical gardens yesterday, which is a good move if you’re cold—it’s semi-tropical in there.  I was playing it a little cooler at the library that afternoon,** so I handed Janie my camera*** and told her not to lose it, thus earning back all the  Best Mom Ever points that I’d lost during Saturday’s Science Homework Incident.

This is what I missed:
I don’t know what that bright yellow flower is, but it reminds me of this one (credit to my husband for this image, as Janie is in the background getting her left hand painted):

Janie caught half of her father looking alert in the foliage (I was told he’d just noticed Sunny about to plunge into the turtle pond) and another lovely flower I can’t identify:


She also took more photos of koi than you would credit, even for an eight-year oldApparently, they kept moving.
These are the best of many—chosen mostly because I think the orange one in the right image looks like a dolphin.


She (reluctantly) handed her father the camera to record the face- and hand-painting.  Apparently, she told him to be very careful with it, because Mom would want to use the pictures in The Blog:

She was so right.

*That was an accident, because I forgot that I’d started a load of laundry last night before writing time, so I shivered until it was all dry and wrapped myself in hot cloth. It was a transcendental experience that I’ll be repeating every morning until Spring.

**I don’t work many Sundays, thank heavens.  It’s only three hours, and I like the comp time, but my husband always finds such great things to do when I’m not around.  I can’t tell if my absence leaves a terrible hole that can only be filled with pure awesome or he’s just being passive aggressive.  But next week, when he’s gone, I’m taking the kids to the Muppet Movie.  So there.

***I’m thinking of getting her a one for Christmas, though if I do, the only images I’ll have in my camera will be of thumbs and Picasso People.

A short autumnal commute

Our Internet connection problem turned out the be the neighborhood’s connection problem, but they’ve jury-rigged a solution until they can run some underground cable.

We’re back, baby!

In celebration, find below the first post I’ve uploaded at home since Sunday—ironically, it’s shorter and more slapdash than the ones I worked on offline . . . But I’m sure that’s just a coincidence . . .


The fluctuating weather is confusing the trees around here.  

A few have already burst into their autumn plumage, but a lot of them are holding onto their chlorophyll with grim determination because temps hit over 90F just three days ago.  Our neighbor’s tree embraced nudism last week—or it sneezed suddenly, we’re not sure—shedding its leaves in a yellow puddle at its roots, while the oak in our back yard is still cheerfully pelting us with its progeny.*

But interesting colors are starting to pop up along our daily commute, so I handed Jane the camera and told her to record some of them for posterity.

“You mean the blog?” she asked.

Um, yeah.

I weeded out the blurs (“Mom, stop the car!”  “Honey, I’m on the highway!“) and the point-blank self-portraits she uses for warm-ups,** but the rest are pretty good for an eight-year old aiming a cheapo digital camera through the back window of a Honda—and much better than her mother could do stock still with an expensive lens:


I think these next three work well as a series—they’re a little blurry, maybe, but I like the composition. 

 Then again, I’m biased in favor of the photographer.

(I think the shadow in the right lower corner up there is us)



  This last tree is right near our house, and on the way home, the setting sun makes the golden leaves glow.  Unfortunately, the camera wasn’t quite up to the task, and I don’t have Photoshop.  But it’s still pretty.


What does your neck of the woods look like right now?


*I swear I saw it bean (or do I mean acorn?) a squirrel the other day.  The squirrel leapt three feet in the air and ran for its life.

 . . . .

They didn’t win, it’s a shame . . .

 . . .  but watching the fourth game of our local minor league (single-A) game was still a good way to spend Sunday afternoon, when the temperatures rose to 80°F and the humidity just a tad higher. 

We had very good seats:

Full confession:  I did bring my latest scene to edit, in case the spirit moved me and the game did not.  I did end up watching, but mostly because two of my favorite umpires were there:

The one on the left is my secret sports crush.  It’s too bad he wasn’t watching the same game I was, but I’ll forgive him, this once. 

Umpire pants, incidentally, look remarkably good on certain people.  Trust me—I’ve made a study of it. 

Sunny’s favorite part.  it was so humid, they only had to do this once, before the game started.  The wind picked up, and the mist felt really good:

The stadium, by the way, is right next to one of the more picturesque bridges around here.  Those buildings on the left horizon are across the Mississippi River: 

Janie took over the camera for a while, which means half the images look like this:

But she also snapped this next one, which I think is the best of the bunch:
The pop-up did have a remarkable hang-time.  The runner made it to second before the catcher lived up to his job description.

Our side hit nothing but home runs—just not enough of them.  But I did get my scene edited while the other team was at bat.  And it didn’t rain until we reached the car.

And excellent day, all told.

How was your Sunday?