Vacation Week

Last week was Vacation Week here in Maine. If you are picturing me lounging in the sun, fruity drink in hand, keep dreaming.  The only downtime I got was Sunday, between the hours of 12:30 and 2pm.  I didn’t see a single fruity drink the whole week, unless you count the orange juice I had to wipe off the windows when the kids missed the sink.  The one highlight? My husband also took the week off. Normally this would have rocked beyond belief.  But since we are LIVING THE DREAM of 250 year old home ownership, Vacation Week was Hell.

Highlights of Hell included:

Cleaning out the basement.  Normally I wouldn’t complain, a little tidying here & there, but our basement was so congested we had to rent a jumbo sized construction dumpster.  It arrived Friday afternoon.

Let the Vacation begin!  Our super duper olde house had some super duper olde wood in the basement.  As you can see here:

All the construction debris from upstairs had to be stowed somewhere.  Unfortunately, the recent rains which flooded our basement also waterlogged much of the discarded material.  Causing it to mold as well as rendering it ungodly heavy.  The rodent excrement peppering much of it was just a bonus.

It took us four days to haul everything outside to the dumpster.  And if the backbreaking labor wasn’t memorable enough, its aftermath was truly unforgettable.  Likely b/c of something I breathed in/touched/otherwise ingested while hauling all that crap, I spent two nights splayed across the bathroom floor, longing for death.  There is something about a severe GI upset that scars a person.  Twice in 3 days is enough to induce psychosis.

In between the wood hauling, full body chills & bathroom trips, we enjoyed nature.  And we didn’t even have to leave the house!  When you are Living the Dream like we are, you discover all sorts of things you never knew you had.  Like red squirrels!

OOOooOOOh!  Yes he (or she) IS VERY CUTE.  My older daughter was beside herself with worry and desire, both to save and KEEP the squirrel.  I am wild about animals. but frankly, I draw the line at eyedropper feeding an infant squirrel ten times a day for the next who knows how long.  After 2 days of trying unsuccessfully to reunite baby w/momma, we took him (her) to the nature refuge.

So, where was that squirrel hiding?!  Remember all that wood in the photo above?  Well, it’s reeeeaaallly hard to see, but there in the back you can faintly make out some wood paneling/shelves.  These walls/shelves were put up by the former owner, who had hoped to use the basement as a workshop – before realizing how high the water table is.  Back before we bought the house, our home inspector urged us to remove as much of this stuff as possible.  50 years of flooding hasn’t been good to this wood.  These walls/units were serving no other purpose than to 1) hold water, 2) mold, 3) conceal stuff.  Stuff like the squirrels who’d been living behind them.  As well as a lot of chewed up batting, poop, and potential structural issues – which, thankfully, we’ll now be able to see before they wreak havoc.  Here is the space with the beautiful brick archway exposed.

But the nature discovery didn’t end there.  Oh, no.  With all that work we’d been doing INSIDE, we hadn’t noticed just what a beating the outside had been taking.

When we moved in 8 months ago, we had a green lawn. Over the winter, the green naturally turned brown. As spring has sprung, much of the grass – mostly out back – has regained its verdant look. But the lawn out front?  About a month ago, these strange brown patches started appearing. Subtle at first, now downright ugly. Initially the dead grass fit the pattern of being urine burned. Along the edge the sidewalk, where dogs do their business. Or, as one neighbor suggested, it could have been salt burn from the snow plowing. Initially this made sense, until these brown patches began to grow, moving up from the sidewalk to the upper part of the front yard. My husband and I wondered whether it could still be dogs? But our neighbors are courteous, and we had such a mild winter. Surely, neither explanation could account for this, and no other yards seemed touched. The dead zones kept spreading and our concern grew.

I went out late last week to investigate. I brought along a heavy metal rake, and began first by poking, then by scraping the surface of the grass. The brown dead areas came off effortlessly, and just below the surface, to my horror, I found:

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!  WHITE GRUBS. Dozens and dozens of them. I spent some time removing the dead zones, which of course just so happen to be DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF OUR HOUSE. Facing the street. Where everyone can gaze upon them.

Ughhh.  Yes, it is UGLY.  Having had a mere postage stamp of a yard in Philly, we had no freaking clue.  How could we have possible hedged against a nemesis we didn’t even know existed?!  And so, we got to work.  Once again.  We spent time researching online, investigating natural and chemical pesticides, trying to determine the best course of action.  I wish I could tell you we did it the happy holding hands way, but this time – it was us or the grubs.  We decided to take the dirty route and poison them using Grub-Ex.  I did not want to do it, but dammit, we have invested everything we have & more in this house and I will not let some white grotty grubs take my beautiful lawn away.  OH NO.  Our next door neighbor lent us her spreader and we put that Grub-Ex down on every inch.  2 days of work and the lawn’s still ugly as sin.  But hopefully it’s on its way to health.  Time will tell.

The icing on the cake came at the least expected time.  I went to relieve myself and was greeted with this.

No droppings in the (lived in portion of) the house, no sign of them at all – then BAM! a dead one in the TOILET?!  When the mice are jumping ship, is that a sign?  Sigh..

Red Vines = Worst Candy EVER.

In typical teacher fashion, my pal Curly has assigned her readers a June Theme Post.  Next time, I’m getting a Hall Pass..

Today I would like to talk about a subject most normal people enjoy.  CANDY!  Specifically, Red Licorice.  I love red licorice (even if it’s not *technically* licorice).  I also love black licorice (the real stuff) but we are not talking about that here.

redvine_closeup

I took the above photo of a red licorice twist this morning.  PLEASE NOTE:

  1. there are no visible bite marks on the candy.
  2. there is a lot of UNEATEN CANDY in this photo.

Coincidence?  I think not.  Two Words: RED VINES.

You wouldn’t think red licorice would be such a divisive topic, but it is.  Much along the lines of the great Coke v. Pepsi debate, red licorice lovers tend to fall into one of 2 camps depending upon which brand they prefer: Red Vines or Twizzlers.  No need to tell you, I’m a Twizzlers girl.

redvines_vs_twizzlers

  • Twizzlers: red “licorice” style candy that looks great and tastes even better.  They are soft and pliable.  Twizzlers are deliciousness itself.
  • Red Vines: red “licorice” style candy that looks pretty good but tastes awful.  Red Vines are rigid and bite like plastic.  Red Vines are just plain GROSS.

I have eaten Twizzlers my whole life long.  I’ve never cared for other red licorice, but had no strict opinion on Red Vines until just 2 months ago, when I encountered them for the very first time.  I was at the Target in South Portland, looking to score some candy for the movies.  YOU DO IT TOO, so pipe down.  I had a jumbo pack of Twizzlers in my cart when suddenly I spied a snazzy blue package on a lower shelf.

redvines

WOW.  ATTRACTIVE!!  I’d heard of Red Vines before, but when I read that they’re VERY LOW SODIUM, WELL.  I booted those Twizzlers faster than you can say LICK-OR-RISH.  Me & the Red Vines proceeded to the checkout and the Vines rode up front on the way home.  I was SO EXCITED TO TRY THEM!!!!  I had a Vine in my mouth before I’d even hit the kitchen.  Luckily for me I was near a trash can when I started to chew.. because [gag] First time in my life I had to SPIT OUT CANDY.  That Red Vine chewed like plastic and tasted worse.  It was hardly sweet, and there was this sort of wheaty flavor going on, uggggghhhhh.  Not good.  I ran to brush my teeth, but the vileness remained.

Afterward, I went to put them in the trash, but.. Wait. I thought twice.  Were they really that bad?  Like any good mother, I wanted to test them out. ON MY KIDS.  BWAHAHAHH!!!

SO. When they got home, I tried pawning the Red Vines off on them.  Did they pass muster?

redvines2

WHHHHYYY MOMMMY_WHYYYY?????  The taste – it’s stuck in my teeth.  It’s worse than a cough drop!

Now, you might think I am truly horrible for doing that to my kids.  HECK NO!  Any good mother will tell you.  Delicious Candy = FAT KIDS w/ ROTTEN TEETH & DIABETES.  I knew that candy tasted like crap – they weren’t going to eat it.  BUT I looked GOOD for giving it to them.  Mommy gave us candy = Nice Mommy.  Those Red Vines. They’re still sitting here, 2 months later.  No one’ll touch em w/ a stick.  I really should be calling up those Red Vines folks and thanking them for doing their service to America’s children.  But – between you & me, I’m afraid they’ll send me some as a Thank You.