The Post About Me Shopping for Stuff

I bought a new summer purse today.  ZB and I were in the Mart of Wals, looking for staple gun staples and a few other odds and ends, and they had this lovely little crocheted hobo purse on sale for $10. The link doesn't have the exact pattern mine does, (which is brightly colored stripes in a fun summer rainbow of colors) but you get the idea.  And since it is bigger than the first purse I bought for summer (which is bright and fun but really too small for all the stuff I carry so I'm constantly having to mash everything together to get the zipper closed), I was all, "Well you just hop right on in the buggy here, pretty little purse".

(And they say you can't find high fashion at Walmart).

Now, if I hadn't bought the new purse, I wouldn't have been going through the old purse and found my super-secret (so secret I forgot they were even there) cache of Target gift cards.And as anyone who has ever found some unexpected gift cards can tell you, they will totally burn a hole in your pocket if you do not run out and spend them toot sweet.  So off I went to Target.

I started out in the swimsuit section, because I need to revamp my swimwear selection.  See, I seem to have hit a very tricky age when it comes to swimsuits.  When I was younger and perkier, my swimsuit of choice was the bikini.  Bikinis are the official swimwear of college students.  Your thighs are firm, your metabolism is high, and you finally have enough curves to fill it out and not look like a boy.  It is a good age to wear a teeny swimsuit and feel like you can take on the world.  Good times, good times.

But then I had a child.  And when that happens, certain areas of the anatomy (and by that I mean the boobular region) became more ample and you just come to a point where you need a little more support than what a couple of strings can provide.   Besides, strings are also not the best thing for coverage when you have a one year old using your swimsuit for footholds while she scales you like Mt. Everest.  So bye bye teeny bikini.

Normally, the next stage in the life cycle of the swimsuit would be the tankini.  They offer more coverage, but they don't go so far as to be an actual one-piece suit.  And there are some really cute ones out there.  But I can't do them.  See, I have a really long (freakishly long, really) torso.  So they all hit me at a really weird place.  Like around the 5th rib kind of weird.  And whereas you can wear the tankini and look cute, I just look like I stole a shirt from a six year old.  So my only hope is to go old school pre-tankini and see if I can find something like this:

Note the underwire, generous bottom coverage and industrial strength shoulder straps.   These are our friends.

Sadly, Target was fresh out of swimsuits from the '50s, and I was feeling really bummed that despite my best efforts, my gift cards would go unspent.  However, just when things were at their darkest, a beacon of light signaled to me from the shoe department.  And I did manage to come across these little beauties who needed a good home.

Women's Mossimo Black® Penina Espadrille.Opens in a new window
These look electric blue in the picture, but they're a very nice turquoise color in real life.
The bargain gods must have felt really bad about letting me down with the swimsuits, because after cooing over these adorable turquoise shoes for a while, I checked the price and  they were on clearance for...are you ready for this? Eight dollars.  Eight American dollars.  Seems they only had a size 5.5, a 9, a 9.5 and a 10 left, and they were ready to move them along.  And while I'm not normally a shoe fanatic, I could think of at least three outfits that I could wear these darlings with, and I just happen to be a size 9, so I really couldn't in good conscience not buy these shoes.

(By the way, I tried explaining this shopping logic to Tony when I got home, but he didn't get it AT ALL.  Sigh.  Boys. What can you do?)

Anyway, to sum up: Cute shoes, cute purse, unexpected Target gift cards.  On the minus side, no swimsuit, no time machine to go back to get swimsuit, and the regrettable knowledge that my time in front of a three way mirror and fluorescent lights is not over yet.

So in the mean time, I'll be the one at the pool wearing a poncho. But I'll be doing it with some cute accessories, so hopefully you'll be so mesmerized by my summer shoe and purse awesomeness won't even notice the lack of swimsuit.

That's the plan, anyway.

Rollin' on the River


I trust everyone survived their Memorial Day weekend?  It was a balmy 95 degrees here all weekend, so Tony, ZB and I celebrated the sacrifices of our armed forces by spending as much time as possible submerged in water.  ZB and Tony did so in her baby pool on the back deck, and I did so in an inner tube while riding down a mountain river in the Smokies*.  

See, my friend Erin had her brother and sister-in-law in town to visit for the weekend, and Drew (the guy Erin is dating) had his family in to visit, so they were all, "What should we do to entertain all this family when it is blazing hot outside?".  And I, being the helpful friend that I am, was all, "I dunno...Charades?" and Erin (who is a much better event planner than I am, although possibly not as good at charades) was like, "Actually, I think we're all going to go up to the mountains and go tubing".  And I was like, "Sounds fun! Where should I meet you guys?"

Which is how I ended up inviting myself along on Erin and Drew's family (and me) outing.  

So on Saturday at the crack of noon, Erin, Drew, Erin's SIL Virginia, Drew's sister Anna and yours truly piled into Erin's car for a scenic jaunt to the mountains.  I say scenic because normally the drive from Knoxville to the Smokey Mountain National Park takes about an hour, but Erin thought she remembered a shortcut to avoid the always crowded Pigeon Forge area.  Alas, the fates were against us, because between the "shortcut" (which did take us right through Pigeon Forge after all), the police detour due to an accident, the mandatory Dunkin Doughnuts stop, a brief rest stop pause to look at a map and figure out where the heck we were, and my insistence that we not do more than 25mph on the curvy mountain roads (due to my tendency to get all green and barfy from motion sickness), we finally made it to the tub rental place about 3 hours after we set out.  

Still, the company was nice, I scored permanent dibs on shotgun (the one advantage to the above-mentioned green and barfy), and I brought road snacks, so the drive wasn't bad at all.  

Once you get to Townsend (the town about 2 miles outside the National Park Entrance), you can rent tubes for roughly $6 a day.  For another $2 the tube rental places will shuttle you and your inner tube up to the river and drop you off.  But we are locals, not some newbie tubing tourists, so we eschewed the shuttle bus and decided to drive ourselves up to a more fun, more energetic part of the river where we could partake of some white-water rapids.  So we tied our tubes down all over the car with what basically amounted to dental floss that we found in the trunk of Erin's car and took off for our river adventure.  

From Left to Right: Anna, Erin, Virginia, Drew and Me ready for some tubin'. 

If you head into the SMNP (that's Smokey Mountain National Park for ya'll who have trouble with acronyms) by way of the Townsend side, you'll come across the famous "Y" where the river splits into, you guessed it, a Y shape.  This is a popular destination spot for swimming, picnicking, and tubing (if you rode the shuttle bus).  And it is very nice.  But! If you go up the river another mile or so, you will hit a less crowded, much faster, much more fun section of river.  

And really, who wouldn't want that?

Ya'll, the river did not disappoint.  We were a little worried about having enough water volume when we first went up there, but the rains that we've had recently more than guaranteed lots of white-water rapids for us to bounce, slide and sometimes downright fly though.  
Pay no attention to my sexy sexy mesh water shoes.  What they lack in fashion, they make up for with traction on the slippery river rocks.  The hat I have no excuse for.

It was hard to for me to grasp that there's no "right" way to go down the river.  You have to be vigilant about submerged rocks and trees and such, but other than that, left of the rock, right of the doesn't matter.  If you get stuck, just paddle your tube back out into the current and do it again.  It wasn't designed by a team of engineers or theme park designers. It is nature at its finest, unstructured, untamed, and unapologetically beautiful.  That said, there was one memorable chute where nature got a little more up close and personal than I bargained for.  See, I was caught in a bit of an eddy while facing backwards.  I was wearing a very fetching nylon swim skirt (see the first picture if you need a visual refresher) and I was just maneuvering my tube away from the one current into another when something bumped up against my thigh.  

(Yes, there are fish in the river.  It's not something I like to think about a lot, and for the most part they stay away from the people, and the people never even know they're there.  Kinda of a nature don't ask don't tell policy.)  But this particular little fish decided that he was going down the same current that I just had, and was most surprised to find me still at the bottom of the chute.  Worse, the water ballooned my skirt out so that it was acting as a giant fishing net, and Mr. Fish flew right past the rocks and right up my skirt.  

(This is the part of the day where I re-enacted Jesus walking on water, because as soon as Mr. Fish's tail went fwap! fwap! fwap! against my thighs, I shot straight up out of the water and hovered six inches above it  while screaming and beating myself about hips and buttocks).  

(Of course, this delightful little moment was witnessed by our entire group, several random hikers and all the fish's buddies, who were no doubt laughing uproariously at my expense).  

I'd like to at least be able to say that the fish that assaulted me was huge- a 15 pounder or something like that, but the truth is that I never saw him.  He slipped away unnoticed while I was trying to explain to my group that no, those screams were not me being eaten by a bear...I just had a run-in with a cross-dressing fish who wanted to try on my skirt.  

But fish cooties aside, the outing was simply wonderful, and a lot of fun.  (Totally worth the carsickness to get up here and back).  We ran some sections of the river three or four times if we liked the rapids, and drifted through the calm parts, just enjoying the scenery and the sunshine.  I met some lovely people, had a lot of laughs, and got thoroughly and refreshingly soaked.  

And while our veterans and active duty soldiers might not have envisioned this exact scene (fish attack included) while they fought to keep our country free, I appreciate their sacrifice in order for me to do so anyway.  Happy Memorial Day, ya'll.

* Why didn't ZB and Tony come, you ask?  Because you have to be 2 years old to ride in the tubes, and ZB isn't there yet.  (And Tony is an anti-social hermit who hates group outings).  But next year!  Oh yes!  The fun will be had by all next year!

The Pipes, The Pipes Are Calling

The Scottish Highland games were in town this weekend, so Tony, ZB and I went to check it out.  (I happen to be able to claim some Scottish blood since my ancestors hail from Aberdeen, and I wanted to share the heritage with ZB since that blood runs through her also, but mostly I just enjoy watching big beefy guys in kilts throw heavy things in the air.)

(Although can I just say that not everyone is built to wear a kilt.  They're one of those items of clothing that look really really good if you have the legs to pull it off or really really bad if you don't.  And I don't care how far you can throw a rock- if you insist on wearing a kilt you should at least slap some self-tanner on those milky white chicken legs of yours.  Yikes, man.)

Anyway.  We had a lot of fun.  We watched the caber toss (that's the one where these big burly guys try to flip what basically amounts to a telephone pole end over end) and the hammer throw, and one competition whose name I don't recall where people use a pitchfork to flip a bean bag the size of a carry-on suitcase over a bar twenty feet in the air.

Suffice it to say there was a lot of grunting.

(And probably hernias, but I can't really say for sure as I personally only witnessed the grunting).
Tony and ZB by the cabers. Bigger and heavier than they look.

We also had a very un-authentic lunch of chicken tenders and french fries (because who wants haggis when it's 90 degrees out? well, who wants haggis period?), watched a sheep dog demonstration where I lost major points with Tony-the-zookeeper by mistaking the herd for goats when CLEARLY they were sheared sheep, and took in the pipe and drum band competition.
Looks like goats to me, but that just proves I'm not a sheep dog.
Not sheep or goats, but still running around on a field. 

Also, we saw a Scottish Rock Band called Albannach who were FANTASTIC.  I mean it. You've never heard pipes and drums quite like this before.  Zoe loved them.  She and I danced with the crowd in front of the stage, and she never took her eyes off the band.  Totally much so that I'm afraid she may want to take up the drums and the bagpipes and oh boy won't that be fun!

So to recap: cabers, pipes, sheep dogs, drums, skinny white legs in kilts. No haggis. A good time had by all.

The Sad Tale of Mr. B Gourami

I have an impromptu diaper changing station in the floor of my living room.  I say impromptu because I literally just plunk her down on the floor and change her.  (As opposed to taking her to the official diaper changing station in her room, which would mean carrying her up SEVEN. WHOLE. STAIRS, and I think we can all agree that I'm not going to do that if I can possibly help it).  Plus the whole living room floor thing works because not only do I have a little canvas cart for the diapers and wipes and creams and all, but it is right next to the fish tank, which means that ZB can lay there calmly and be distracted by the fish while I change her (instead of flopping and rolling like an electrocuted alligator on methamphetamine, which is her normal modus operandi). So see? Win-win for everyone.

Anyway. Yesterday she's running around doing her thing (dumping cheerios in the floor) when I catch a whiff of a certain eau de baby poo.  And I'm all, "Calling Dr. ZB to the changing floor. Calling Dr. ZB to the changing floor STAT!" (which doesn't really make any sense because if anything, I'd be the doctor in this scenario, but ZB thinks my intercom voice is funny and I want her to get used to the idea of being called doctor since it will be up to her to take care of me in my twilight years, and I'm angling for the nice home with the brand name jello instead of the generic stuff).

But I digress.

So I lure her over to the base of the fish tank with the aforementioned interview voice and toss her (gently) on the floor.  I gave the fish a pinch of flake food so they'd be nice and active for her viewing pleasure, and got down to the business at hand.  I'd just gotten the old diaper off and was mid-wipe when something odd happened: An unidentified flying object hit me in the head.  Make that a wet unidentified flying object.  One that bounced right off of the top of my head and landed in the entry way by the front door, where it was quickly one of the fish from my fish tank.

I'm not sure who was more surprised, me or the fish.  (ZB seemed to be taking it all in stride).

Now, I had my back to the fish tank, so I can't really say 100% for sure what transpired, but my guess would be that the blue gourami, feeling both physically and emotionally blue, had become tired of the taste of slightly stale tropical fish food flakes.  So tired, it would seem, that he would come to actively detest it.  And that it just so happened that this was the straw that broke the camel's back.  After swimming excitedly to the surface, hoping for whatever it is that the sophisticated fish foodie hopes for, he was once again disappointed to find the same old crushed fish flakes AGAIN.  And filled with fishy despair, he concluded that he had nothing left to live for and dove through the one inch opening of the open lid and onto the floor below in an attempted suicide.  It probably would have been a successful plan too had his fall not been softened by my hair (ewwwww! Fish hair! Gross!) and had I not immediately (well, almost immediately...I had to slap a quick diaper on ZB before letting her go) scooped him up and dumped him back into the tank.

(Of course, I suppose that technically it doesn't have to be suicide.  It could have been attempted fish murder for all I know.  For it is true that the blue gourami has been occasionally known to defend his corner of the tank (home to his favorite plastic plant) by chasing off interlopers.  And sometimes these chases involve a nipped fin or two.  So it is possible that someone or someones felt that blue gourami had gone a little too far with that last tail nip, and that something had to be done.  They could have waited until my back was turned and the other fish were distracted by the food, and then floop! they grabbed the unsuspecting blue gourami and heaved him out of the tank.  An almost fool-proof plan too had it not been for the unfortunate head bounce and my benevolent nature.  There is that, I suppose).

Either way, after a few seconds of flopping around on the floor while I speed-diapered a baby and grabbed a fish net, the blue gorami was returned to the tank, none the worse for wear.  (Except for maybe a few brain cells lost due to near-suffocation, but I am not really counting that because c'mon, he's a fish! How many brain cells does a fish really need?)  And before you start feeling bad for the stupid brain-dead fish, know that when I put some flakes in the tank for their evening meal, he went right to the flakes and ate with great gusto just like all the other fish.  So apparently the area most damaged was his taste receptors, because now he loves the flakes.  And since there was no way he was ever going to get anything other than flake food, this is a very good thing indeed.

Ever since "the incident", I've had this amazing craving for freeze dried fish flakes!

A Little of This, A Little of That

Hola Internets!
I thought I'd drop in to give you an update on the tree situation, as well as a Mother's Day recap and any other random things that happen to pop up while I'm typing.

First off, Mother's Day.  It was very nice despite it being all gray and rainy outside, and sleepless and cranky inside (someone who will remain nameless is teething.  She won't let me see for sure, but I'm thinking the dreaded one year molars.  Suffice it to say, it is a whiny time in the House of Quirk right now...and I don't care how many times Tony tells me to knock it off).  But Tony and ZB gave me a lovely necklace with ZB's name and baby footprint etched into it.  Apparently you scan a copy of the hospital footprint and send it to the company, and they use it to make a tiny replica of your baby's print.  (Or in ZB's case- her giant one).  It makes me smile every time I see it.  Total Mother's day score on that one!

In unrelated news, can I just say how totally bummed I am that Fox is taking the show The Finder off of the air?  (Or took, as the case may be, because I just learned that the season finale was it for the show).  Seriously Fox?!?  I actually LIKED that show!  It wasn't just a carbon copy run-of-the-mill police drama, or medical drama, or (heaven forbid) cheesy reality show.  It had some good one liners, and while it felt like the characters were still finding themselves, I thought the show had potential.  BAD FOX! BAD!  At least give me an epilogue that tells me what happens to everyone!  You can't just leave Willa hitch-hiking by the side of the road!

Speaking of TV, has anyone else seen the preview commercial for Underworld Awakening?  

I haven't seen the movies, and I know nothing about them, which is probably why whenever the previews come one and I hear the line where the main character says, "In the endless war between vampires and lykins...", I always think of this:

Now, I'm probably not the movie's target audience so this "endless war" doesn't really make sense to me, but if I had to guess, I'd put my money on the lichen, because the thought of an algae/fungus combo laying the smack down on the blood-sucking undead cracks me up every time.

Finally, I'm sure you're all dying to get an update about our whole "tree or not to tree" question.  Sure enough, the tree guy came back out last Thursday and was like, "So what's it going to be?"  I cannot tell you how hard this decision has been for me.  It totally consumed my every waking thought for a week and a half.    I went back and forth and back and forth roughly 400 times a day.  And I can't express to you how much I appreciated all your comments and suggestions.  So in the end I decided that the reason that the decision was so hard was because as much as I liked the idea of a small flowering tree, I just couldn't imagine our yard without at least the pin oak in it.  For better or worse, it is a main part of what makes the yard what it is.  So I'm splitting the difference and cutting down the regular oak and keeping the pin oak.  By cutting just one down I can solve the crowding problem and let a little light in for at least half of the grass while still keeping a mature fixture in the yard.  And after talking to the tree guy about just how much they'll cut off the pin oak, I think I can shape it up a little bit on the other side to balance it out and keep it from looking so weird.  So that's that.  As soon as I signed the official paperwork, I instantly felt 100 times better.  The pretty tree is saved, the yard will look brighter and more balanced, and I still get one flowering dogwood as a replacement.  So thank you, beloved Internets.  You have saved a tree and helped me out once again.

The Pin Oak is giving you a standing slow clap.  

I Think That I Shall Never See, A Tree So Lovely Before KUB

I have a conundrum, oh beloved Internets, and I'd like your esteemed opinion.  See, I had a visit from the local utilities board (KUB) the other day regarding the two giant oak trees I have in my front yard.  It seems that the power lines that run along my street have filed a restraining order against my trees, and my trees are currently in violation of said order by not maintaining the required minimum 10' distance:

Exhibit A:  See the power lines at the top of the picture?  My trees are clearly not respecting the 10' safety zone as dictated by the power company.
Because of this, the power company spray-painted green dots on my trees and came to the door to let me know that some guys wielding chain saws in bucket trucks would be along to extract vengeance upon my topiary trespassers.  Now, I don't remember if I told you guys about this before, but I had almost this exact same conversation a few years ago when the utility guys came through to clear the lines, and back then they absolutely butchered my trees.  They cut this giant wedge out of half of the tree, and they looked stupid for...well, I guess until this year when they grew back out and retook the power line.  So apparently the trees are of the size now that this is going to be a reoccurring theme.  They invade the lines, they get cut back, they look stupid, they finally grow out again, they invade the lines, and the whole cycle repeats.  I said something to this effect to the utility guy, and he was like, "Well, you could opt to be in our tree replacement program". And I was like, "whaaa?" and he was like, "Yeah, we cut down your giant trees for free and replace them with two smaller ornamental trees of your choice.  We even come back out and plant them for you."  And I was like, "For freesies?"  And he was like, "Totally without charge to you". And I was like, "Hmmm".  

So here's my thing:  I can keep my giant trees with the understanding that they will spend pretty much the rest of eternity sporting a really bad hair cut compliments of Knoxville Utilities, or I can have them cut down and put something smaller like dogwoods or flowering crabapples or the like in their places.  Tony and I have been waffling back and forth about it for a week now.  He thinks that it would be a shame to kill some trees that have been here a lot longer than we or the house or even the power lines have been here.  I think they drop leaves and acorns all in my flower beds in the fall, make it impossible for grass to grow because everything is always in deep shade, and completely block the view of the house from the street.  
House?  What house?
(Hint- mine is the one with the white porch, not the one with the car).
Now, some of you are probably asking if they keep the house cool by shading it in the summer, and the answer to that is no.  The way the sun comes up means that they might shade the house for a second at dawn, but that's it, so energy savings are negligible and therefore not a consideration.  And before you even recommend getting rid of one and keeping the other, remember that any big trees that remain will have the "Skrillex 'do", which may work for electronic dance musicians, but not so much for oak trees.  

See? It sounds like I have talked myself into replacing them, doesn't it?  A pretty dogwood perhaps?  Flowers in the spring, doesn't drop acorns in my pond, doesn't cause the yard to look like the 100 acre woods where Christopher Robin played?  But then I look out my window and I see this, and it's so tall and majestic that I'm like, "I can't cut something like that down! It's probably as old as I am!"  And then I'm right back to where I started.  

So what to do, Internets, what to do?  The deadline for the tree replacement program is Thursday.  Cut them down and replace them with pretty little trees, or keep them in their majestic yet soon-to-be funky shaped and acorn dropping splendor? What would you do if you were me?  

Squirrel Interrupted

Scene: Mid-morning in a suburban Knoxville neighborhood.  The sun is shining.  The birds are chirping.

And I am chasing a squirrel around my backyard in my bathrobe.

It's a good thing most of the neighbors are already at work, because here I am, arms waving, crazy bed-head hair, and the folds of my fuzzy blue robe whipping around my calves as I chase a fat gray squirrel around and around the trees in the backyard.

(You know, it's a wonder they haven't had me committed yet).

Anyway.  The problem is not the squirrel itself.  (In fact, I suppose that based on the description above, most people would argue that it isn't the squirrel that has the problem at all.  And to that I stick my tongue out at all of you.)  No, I happen to like the squirrel.  He's fuzzy and cute and he scampers in a way that I enjoy watching.  The PROBLEM, I would say, is a certain destructive squirrel behavior that he insists on continuing...mainly, he enjoys knocking the bird seed out of all of my bird feeders.

And here's the worst part!  He doesn't even eat it!  I wouldn't mind if Mr. Squirrel was hungry and just needed a little snack.  But he doesn't eat any of it at all!  He just enjoys hanging from the tree branch by his back legs and shaking the bird feeder back and forth until all the seeds are in a messy little pile on the ground, where no bird (except the occasional dove) will go to eat it.  Destructive for the sake of being destructive.

It is a classic case of squirrel behaving badly.

Mr. Squirrel and I have talked previously about this kind of behavior.  When he first moved into the area, I told him flat out that he was more than welcome here, but that he needed to abide by a few yard rules...mainly, no climbing into eaves of the house to break into my attic, and no dumping the bird seed out of the feeders.  That despite it, you know, literally hanging off of tree limbs, bird seed doesn't just grow on trees.  I have to buy that stuff.

Easy enough, right?  I do not ask too much.  Just a little common squirrel courtesy.  But will he abide by the rules?  No!  He is a punk juvenile delinquent squirrel, and he's deliberately trying to vex me.  And this morning when I looked out the kitchen window while waiting for my pop-tart to do its toaster thing, there he was, doing his little upside down act of vandalism and chanting "neener! neener! neener!" in my general direction.  So I just snapped.  I snatched open the back door and flew, screaming and waving, out onto the deck where I took a running leap and cleared all of the stairs in one stride.  "You've done it now, squirrel!", I shrieked.  "You've messed up my bird feeders for the last time!"  His eyes got really big and round, and you could hear his little squirrel voice go, "Uh-oh!  This sister be crazy!"* as he took off racing towards his favorite tree.  But I am smarter than this fuzzy-tailed rat, so I had already headed him off at the pass, and he had no choice but to change course with me in hot pursuit.  This continued for a lot longer than you would imagine...especially with him being fat for a squirrel and me fueled by my righteous, righteous anger, but eventually the red haze cleared and I began to lose steam.  He managed to climb a tree to safety, and I stood at the bottom, shaking my fist and hurling a few choice squirrel insults at him before retreating back to my now-cold pop-tart.

So yes, most of the neighbors now think I'm insane.  And perhaps they've seen a little more of me than they bargained for when the flap of my robe got caught on that tree branch.  But you can bet that that squirrel will think twice before messing with me again.  There's no telling what I'll do to save a little bird seed.

*I have no idea why my squirrel talks to himself like a hip-hop gangster.  I didn't make the rules.