News About Buster

Buster Horizon

Buster has aggressive lymphoma. Today he goes in for a urine culture to see if his trouble urinating is due to a mass or an infection. They did see a mass at one point, but we’re hoping it is an infection we can treat with antibiotics, as a mass in the bladder or urethra will make his end of life more uncomfortable. We can not afford chemotherapy and, at 13 years of age, the benefits may not outweigh the risks associated with the treatment. (Though of course we want to be selfish and grasp at every possible day we can have with him at our side.) The veterinarian estimates that he has a month, maybe 3 months if he responds well to steroids. Three months is very optimistic.

Thank you all for keeping him (and us!) in your thoughts. I believe this goes without saying, but, this really sucks hard.

Green Card

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I can tell you exactly when my love of plants took hold. I was 17 years old, and it happened while sitting in the theater watching the movie Green Card with my best friend. In the movie, Brontë Parrish, played by Andie MacDowell, agrees to an arranged marriage with Georges Fauré, played by Gérard Depardieu. He is French and in need of American citizenship; Andie is a horticulturalist who wants an apartment with a rooftop garden and greenhouse. If I remember the movie correctly, Andie needed to be married to appease the conservative board members of the building who didn’t approve of a woman living alone. (!!) Chauvinism notwithstanding, the second Andie walked into her dream apartment I thought me, too, please.

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True fact: If we had a girl, her name would have been Brontë.

What I noticed about the apartment, aside from the historic greenhouse, antique fountain, and dozens of seed glass windows, was that every room had at least two or three plants.

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There were even plants in unexpected areas, like in the shower of windowless bathrooms. Andie Parrish: horticulturalist extraordinaire! That’s the only way I can explain what appears to be an enormous, thriving, blooming bromeliad in her entryway. Not jealous. Nope, not I.

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I’m having a plant situation around here. The weather has been unseasonably cold and rainy for weeks and it wreaked havoc on my warm weather plants. My spider plant is dead. So is an Italian topiary, a ficus, and a jade. You guys, I almost killed my philodendron. No one kills a philodendron (lie–I’ve killed at least three).

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I like to kill my succulents slowly, like a sadistic madwoman. The spindly creature third from the left has been gasping for weeks.

cacti

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I have had some successes. My cacti are thriving. No plant does heat and cold like a cactus. I was able to resuscitate my goldfish plant , kept a yellow mushroom situation with my Sansevieria at bay, and forced my first bulbs (amaryllis, and now I’m forcing paperwhites).

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We’ll see how these little cypress trees do. I’d like to say they were a well thought out purchase, but Trader Joe’s is a temptress with her plants in pretty pine boxes.

Baking Superstitions

Baking Superstitions

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Saturday morning pancakes has become a tradition around here. I use a Martha Stewart Buttermilk Pancake recipe I found a few months back. It’s my keeper recipe. I’ve tried several since then, and so far this one is almost everyone’s favorite. Mikey favors one that produces thick, chewy pancakes no one else likes, so his vote doesn’t count.

I make the pancakes in the same thrifted, brown pyrex bowl every time. It’s one of my very few thrifting successes (the color could be better) and I use it for all of my baking. I have other bowls, but this one is the perfect size for mixing baked goods. If it’s dirty and I have other bowls I can use in the cupboard, I’ll wash this bowl.

The speckled mug with the peach and the blueberries and the inexplicable autumn leaf is for melting butter. Always and only. One day I heard a knock on the door, and on my porch were a three members of a new Seventh Day Adventist church going up in the neighborhood. We chatted for a while (Catholic, not going anywhere) and they gave me the peach/blueberry/autumn leaf mug with some literature. I didn’t want them to waste money when surely there was someone on the fence who could use a good mug, so I tried to give it back. They insisted I keep it as a gift. That was 8 years ago, and every time I pull down that mug to melt butter I think of them. I shared this story with the Mister once when I asked him to bring me the “butter mug” and he looked at me like I asked him to mend a rift in time. When I explained to him the origins of the mug he didn’t know we had, he called it marketing well done. I call it a darn fine butter mug. Seriously, perfection. I can melt an entire stick of butter in the microwave without the butter spilling over or the mug overheating. It’s, like, the best butter mug ever.

I have the best bowl for baking and the best butter mug. I’m sure something else would work–maybe even something that wasn’t thrifted or given to me for free–but I’m not willing to try because I’ve convinced myself that if I make pancakes in a different bowl or melt butter in a different mug the world will immediately splinter into sharp, irreparable pieces. And the pancakes are sure to taste terrible. Thick, chewy things only Mikey would like.

I’ve been eyeballing a Dutch oven for, oh, 13 years. I’m thinking it could become another one of my superstitious kitchen items. I would use it for soups, stews, and braised meats. Le Creuset has been out of my price range, but there are lower priced cast iron ovens on the market now. I don’t know how they compare. I bought one two weeks ago (the one from Kohl’s) and it’s still in my trunk. I’m undecided.

It doesn’t help that I made a beef and barely soup last night, only to discover no one really likes barley. Mikey called it “chewy, like tofu.” Nico asked for more bread “because that’s the only way I can eat this soup, mama.” The Mister and I just chewed, and now I have heartburn. I knew I would get heartburn–barley has a similar texture to oatmeal, and I can’t eat that in any form without my esophagus exploding into a fiery rage.

Christmasing

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Christmas Village

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My mom was never one for holiday decorations. We had a tree, stockings, and outside two wreaths and a string of lights. I always wanted more. I wanted it to look like Christmas exploded. I wanted it to look like every holiday exploded. Didn’t happen. I vowed I would be different and that, for the most part, didn’t happen. It turns out holiday decorations are expensive and you have to store them when they aren’t is use! Just another one of the crushing truths you learn once you grow up.

When I put up decorations in the library, I wasn’t expecting the older kids to pay much attention, but they did. They immediately asked if there would be Christmas decorations and, most surprising of all, it was the 7th grade boys who were the most excited about the decorations. They wanted to put on the star, hang the ornaments, set up this and that. I was shocked. It changed my view on holiday decorations, at least a little.

I finally bought the Christmas Village I have always wanted, and I even spread out fake snow. No, even more embarrassing than that, I bought two kinds of fake snow (glittered and plain) and mixed them together because the glittered was too glittery and the plain didn’t have enough pizzazz. (!!) When I showed my little snow village to the family they just sort of looked at each other and blinked, smiled, and–were Mikey and Nico tall enough–probably would have pat my head. The Mister looked at me and said, “You bought dust?”

“It’s not dust; it’s fake snow.”

“But in a few weeks you have to dust the fake snow and throw it away.”

“No, I have it all planned out–”

“This I have to hear.”

“I’m going to sweep it into a container I marked Fake Snow. I’ll reuse it every year! You’ll see.”

It was $2, so I’ll probably just throw it away, but I refuse to admit defeat until it hits the trashcan.

In the spirit of things I never thought I would do, I’m making garlands! My friend’s family owns Patio World, and every holiday season they turn into Christmas World. Their prices really are better than large chain stores for a much better product, and you’re shopping local. But, if you’re making a garland for a K-8 library and want something super, super inexpensive, then you ask your friend Kelly to give you a garland making lesson in the parking of her store using only items from The Dollar Store. It was like wizardry. I had trouble tracking her hands because there was cheap garland and tinsel the width of dental floss flying. We’ll see how I do. I have this image of me looking like the Magician’s apprentice, covered in soot and holding a garland burnt to cinders. Then I sneeze and the garland crumbles to dust at my feet. An ornament rolls away, exit stage left.

Do you remember Dinosaur Mountain? They are alive and well! They come out every year, without fail. Dino Mountain–as it’s now called–has moved to the mantel since our three little trees gasped their final breath last year. I’m tempted, oh so very tempted, to add more dinosaurs to the mix.

The Saint Report and The Saint Academy

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Mikey turned in his saint report lat week. He narrowed down the Franciscan Martyrs of China to Saint Gregory Grassi to avoid writing reports on 29 martyrs. Smart move. Saint Gregory represented the martyrs, who represented the 100,000 of executed Christians. Lots of representation going on; it was quite the bureaucratic saint report.

The original plan was to make a 12×12 Pokemon card for Saint Gregory. Just like a Pokemon card, it was going to have all his info, his “power” and his value. Mikey wanted to do this on wood since paper wouldn’t be thick enough to paint on both sides. I sent the Mister to Home Depot to buy some thin veneer, and when he called and gave us all the options available he mentioned casually that they also had sheets of chalkboard.

That’s all Mikey had to hear. His new idea was to do a chalk drawing of Saint Gregory, still in Pokemon format. Once he started drawing with the chalk, though, he realized how hard it was going to be to get any sort of detail. Midway through he changed his plans and decided he was going to make a “fancy old painting” of Saint Gregory using chalk, chalk pens, and paint pens. (I think he meant a renaissance style painting. That big gold orb behind Saint Gregory’s head is his halo.) These were his reference images.

Gregory Collage

He was especially proud of his scalloped gold “frame” and the little lines that come out at each corner. Those lines, he says, is what makes the frame look real. I took a close up picture of the scallops. Guess which three scallops were mama’s showing Mikey how to apply the right pressure with the paint pen? Guess who rolled his eyes and said, “Yeah, mom, I got this.”

I’m curious to see what his grade is because there were some instructions that he felt messed with his “vision.” He says he spoke with the teacher and got the okay to do what he wanted to do. We’ll see what happens.

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The saint reports (Nico had one, too, but only written) must have inspired me, or more likely I was desperate and looking for something to write about for NaNoWriMo, because I’m now writing a middle school book about an academy of future saints. Maybe. Not really. The story changes every day (today the main character is a regular kid convinced he’s destined for sainthood, and I’m pretty sure that’s the right direction to go) but I’m not letting myself go back and edit or I’ll never get past the second paragraph. I’m incredibly behind on my word count and I want to burn down to cinders all…four pages I’ve written. This is easily the hardest project I have ever undertaken. Harder than walking every day, harder than any 31 day series, harder than eating at home for 30 days straight. In fact, if I wasn’t working with Carey and Kendra or announced my intentions here, I would have already tossed in the towel. I should be at just over 6,000 words but I’m closer to 2,000, in case you were wondering.

My only saving grace is that I haven’t put pressure on myself to create a work of art. I remind myself every day that I’m only doing this to get in the habit of writing fiction and to have fun. No more, no less. To facilitate that, I’m sticking to what I know: little boys, brothers, and quirky-dry humor. The main characters–two brothers–bear a remarkable resemblance to Mikey and Nico. Much of the dialogue comes from conversations with Mikey and some of the plot comes from his Friday journal. Every Friday Mikey’s teacher has the kids write to their parents in journals they keep for the school year. They are supposed to discuss the week, shares their thoughts and feelings, etc. The parents (one or both) write back. When I am in the library, Mikey barely looks at me. I am the uncoolest of the uncool. If I ask him about his day after school, I sometimes get a mumble. I might get a little more if I’m lucky or if someone has especially wronged him that day. But in his journal, he tells me the best stories using his clear, unmistakable voice. (You’ve read his 3rd grade baseball essay, right?) It’s one of my favorite parts of the week.

Academy Boys

(An excerpt, but not the beginning. This is somewhere in the middle of the huge stack of 4 pages I’ve written.)

My name is Thomas, but everyone calls my Tommy. I am the future Patron Saint of Students. I bet you didn’t see that one coming.

Forget everything you know about saints. We’re neither heroes nor infallible. We’re not gods. We’re human, just like you. Sister Thérèse once said during assembly that our Lord needs from us neither great deeds nor profound thoughts. Neither intelligence nor talents. He cherishes simplicity.

That made me think of the Angelopoulos twins and what happened in Chemistry when they combined potassium nitrate and table sugar over an open flame. God is smart to keep His expectations low.

  • Thomas, for Saint Thomas Aquinas.
  • “I bet you didn’t see that one coming” is a phrase Mikey uses often in real life and in his short stories.
  • “Assembly” is a weekly school meeting between students and teachers at Catholic schools. More spiritual than a pep rally, but nothing like mass.
  • The simplicity quote is one attributed to Saint Thérèse of Lisieux.
  • The Angelopoulos twins are really Sts. Cosmas and Damian, twin brothers and the patron saints of chemists. Angelopoulos–Greek for bringer of good news–is the first name that popped up when I Googled ‘Greek last names.’

Image from Pinterest, no source.

Hi! I’m Jules.

I used to be an attorney, but it made me grumpy. Now I write about life, sweet and savory, as a wife and mother to two small boys. My knowledge of dinosaurs knows no bounds.

You can read more, including the meaning behind the name Pancakes and French Fries here. And, yes, I really am phenomenally indecisive.