Attack of the killer squirrel

A final basement sunflower update?

It doesn’t look like the last of my basement sunflower buds is going to make it to a full sixth flower. The plant, which was the largest and strongest, did well with the transfer outdoors at first and was still looking good about a week later.

Sunflower plant outdoors collage

Two factors, though, doomed it. Its beautiful spot between two bird feeders made it irresistible to a voracious squirrel that repeatedly climbed it to get to the birdseed.

Bird at birdfeeder with sunflower plant

At first, I pounded on my kitchen window to chase the squirrel away. Then, my photographic instincts got the better of me, and I captured some shots of the squirrel scampering up and down the plant through my kitchen window, until the whole plant came crashing down with the squirrel clinging to it.

Squirrel climbing up sunflower plant collage

Sunflower plant after the squirrel pulled it down

I tied it back up, but that night (in mid-April!) we had an ice storm. I lay awake at 3 a.m. listening to the sleet and worrying about my plants. The next two days the temperature stayed down in the 40s. My other plants kept doing fine, but my squirrel-weakened plant’s leaves shriveled up into crisps.

I’m no botanist, but I don’t think that final flower is going to bloom. Who knows, though, maybe it will….

Ailing outdoor sunflower bloom

See all the flowers:

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The Angel of Grafton Street

Angel of Grafton Street, Dublin, Ireland

On Grafton Street in white and gold,
with regal wings and upturned palms,
a painted statue is ignored by most.

Two lads approach, coins in hand,
not really seeing her.

She comes to life and startles both,
yet cheers their weary souls.

Angel of Grafton Street Dublin Ireland

   In response to the Gargleblaster challenge, I had 42 words to answer “Do you see her much?” I wrote about when this living statue brought a bit of magic to a tiring afternoon in Dublin.

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They did it: My basement sunflowers lived until spring

About to bloom basement sunflower, now outside

Planted at the wrong time,
they broke through soil anyway,
kept alive by a buzzing light.

The long winter persisted,
but they grew stronger,
and laughed
bright yellow blooms.

In spring,
they breathed fresh air
in a world that now made sense.

   In response to the second Gargleblaster challenge, I had 42 words to answer “Who dunnit?” I wrote about my basement sunflowers surviving until spring to be transferred outdoors.

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Three Finales that Worked

The recent finale of How I Met Your Mother brought another round of Internet rage, but as a loyal viewer I thought the ending was right, as I did with both Dexter and Breaking Bad, two other shows with finales that met the wrath of the masses.

Spoiler alert!

How I Met Your Mother

How I Met Your Mother Source: CBS

People were mad that Robin and Barney got divorced, and I get that. They were mad that the mother died, and I get that too. For Ted to tell the whole nine-season story about how he met his children’s mother to then only focus on her for a short time didn’t make much sense, unless you consider it from the point of view of his children’s observation that Ted was still pining for Robin, as he always had since the series’ beginning.

Of course he had to end up with Robin. I thought he would season after season, and when he started referring to her as “Aunt Robin” in his story, I had a hard time letting go of the idea that she was the mother. When she was set to marry Barney, I still found it hard to believe that she wouldn’t end up with Ted. So the divorce had to happen and the mother had to die. Ted loved the mother and honored her, but he was always going to end up with Robin. I knew that blue horn would be there too. While the last couple of seasons were less funny than the show at its best, the story arc was perfect.


Dexter Source: Showtime

The ending of Dexter was exquisitely haunting. Even though for the last few seasons, my interest had waned as I thought the show got too repetitive, the ending redeemed the series. The monster became human, just in time to have to sacrifice his happiness in penance for his many crimes and to protect the people he loved. I do not think he would ever harm Harrison, but for Dexter to have happiness in his grasp and walk away from it was so beautifully unexpected. He could finally feel feelings, and those feelings made him ache. That final shot in a dark lumberjack’s cabin, such a contrast to the bright pastels of Miami, stabbed me.

The part of me that loves happy endings bargained that he could still make it to Argentina someday, but the grim storytelling was perfectly painful. He became a good person, and good people suffer.

Breaking Bad

Jesse Walt Breaking Bad Source: AMC

While I thought both How I Met Your Mother and Dexter had seasons that dipped in quality, Breaking Bad was a thrill the whole way through. The creator had imagined a character who turns from Mr. Chip into Scarface, and while I had liked poor Mr. White for many seasons, he clearly crossed the line into evil. Watching Jane die after moving her and poisoning Brock were both unforgivable. The suffering he caused Jesse was so severe that I remember one commenter calling it “torture porn.”

I loved Jesse, and he needed to get free. Some people said the series took the easy way out by giving Jesse a happy (although ambiguous) ending, but I don’t see it that way. Sure, Jesse was a drug dealer who shot a man in the face, but Jesse was good deep down. He grieved, he mourned, he took responsibility. He tried and tried to escape the life he was stuck in.

As much as the show was masterly at keeping its viewers rooting for the evil Mr. White, I grew increasingly disgusted with him over his claims that he was doing it all for his family, the idea that had made me like him in the first place. To me the most crucial moment in the finale was when he admitted to Skyler that he did it for himself. That moment earned him a moment of peace before his death.

Those pesky viewers

I understand that loyal viewers feel ownership for the shows they love and stay loyal to, but the writers usually are the ones who know best how to wrap it up, and these writers got it right. Now, as for the Lost finale? Horrendous!

What did you think of these finales? What was your favorite TV show finale?

hate-finale Source: Uproxx via Reddit

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Sleeping in the Sahara

Sahara Morocco

In the Sahara,
collapsed on a carpet,
air so dry my eyeballs ache,
colors transform,
beige to orange to black.

Nearby, unseen,
a camel’s never-ending chewing
keeps me company.

I drift,
under a purer black than I’ve ever known
and never-ending stars.

Sahara Morocco

Sahara Morocco

Sahara Morocco

I wrote this in response to the Gargleblaster prompt, “What’s so amazing that keeps us stargazing?” about sleeping in the Sahara in Morocco in 2010 (in 42 words).

Related: Morocco travel photos


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Holding my book in my hands

UPDATE 04/06/14: Thanks for the votes on the cover. My book is now published!

Timid No More . Now in Paperback

Timid No More (in paperback)

One of my favorite scenes in the old Steve Martin comedy The Jerk is when Navin R. Johnson eagerly searches through the telephone book and finds his name in print. He points at the page in ecstasy and declares, “I’m somebody now!”

(Video link)

The irony is that a maniacal sniper also searches the telephone book and randomly picks out the same name to choose his next victim.

Despite this warning, I felt a similar thrill when I received the proof of my book in the mail: “Things are going to start happening to me now.”

No matter that I published it myself for a market of me. I held my book in my hands, felt the heft of it, and rubbed its silky spine. Self-indulgent, yes, but if you’ve ever toyed with the idea of self-publishing, I recommend it. It was easy and affordable.

Watch out for the snipers by the oil cans, though. You’ve been warned.

Author and book, Timid No More

I’ve also been tinkering with the cover. Please take my one-question poll below.

Timid No More cover poll

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Beyond 101 Things: 12th quarterly report

12th Quarterly Report: January – March, 2014

I had worried that I would have nothing to write about once I finished my list of 101 things in 1001 days. In this first quarterly report after finishing, that seems to have happened. And I’m okay with that. After the final push to finish my list, I was quite pleased for a while to feel like I didn’t have to do a damn thing.

Still, I’ve done a few things in the last three months that I got excited about.

Paperback Writer

Timid No More paperback coverMy biggest news is that I updated my eBook Timid No More to include all 101 things. (I had published the first version in 2013 after I was about halfway through the list.) I am also self-publishing a paperback version. The proof is being shipped to me, and I can’t wait to hold it in my hands.

I also made a new video that featured all 101 things in order, set to “Ripple” by the Grateful Dead. I like watching it myself, letting so many memories from the last three years wash over me.

There are worms in my basement

I have wanted to try composting with worms in my basement for years, so I was pretty excited to get them in the mail.

worm farm Unpacking my new worms

Limoncello Love

Delicious and easy, I made homemade limoncello, another thing I’ve always wanted to try.

homemade limoncello When winter gives you lemons…

Basement Sunflowers Still Blooming

I started with about 100 seeds of various types of sunflowers, got about 30 sprouts, and grew six big plants. So far, three of them have bloomed, one was a dud, and two more have new buds. I continue to be pleased by watching these flowers grow. The project is almost at an end. I will feed their remains to my worms.

Blooming basement sunflower New life amid the polar vortex

Chopped-style Home Cooking Challenge

My husband played along and picked me up some mystery ingredients for my challenge basket: catfish, Cream of Wheat, curry paste, and turnips. My job was to open the basket and feature them in a meal in 30 minutes. The meal turned out well, better in fact than many of my pre-planned meals.

Chopped-Style Home Cooking Challenge Home cooking challenge: You have 30 minutes. Begin.

Let it Be

I continued to work on learning guitar and was excited to learn about many songs that can be played (in a basic way) with four or five chords. I’ve been working on “Let it Be,” “Brown Eyed Girl,” and “Stand By Me,” although not in the last month or so.

Committee Work

One thing I did to push myself out of my comfort zone was agree to serve on a committee that organizes a charity tennis tournament. The Wint Filipek Sr. Memorial Tennis Tournament awards scholarships to Connecticut students athletes and promotes tennis as a sport. Connecticut residents, please enter the tournament. I played in it last year. It’s fun and for a good cause.

In Other News … A Guest Post

I had a guest post published on Pick the Brain.

How to complete 101 things in 1001 days How to Complete 101 Things in 1001 Days (and change your life in the process)

I’m always lethargic in the winter, but I’m starting to get itching for more activity. Bring on the spring!

The Grid: 101 Things and Beyond

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Unpacking my new worms

Worm bin collage

While I’ll admit this is a fairly dull video of me unpacking my new worms, I did get a kick out of documenting my exuberant revulsion and my singsong, “Oooo, they’re alive.”

(Video link)

I set up my new worms in my basement about a month ago with the goal of composting my kitchen scraps.

worm farmThere was a learning curve to getting the hang of feeding them. I gave them way too much food at first, and I endured a smelly week or two, but I read up on getting the carbon vs. nitrogen back into balance, and with the addition of some more shredded newspaper the bad smell went away, and they are back to peacefully existing among my basement sunflowers.

Related posts:

Beyond 101 things Beyond 101 Things

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Mama Can’t Rap

{In response to the Daily Prompt: Papa Loves Mambo}

The Point album coverMy early obsession with classic rock and roll, my soft spot for the singer-songwriter, and my appreciation of quirky fun all trace back to my earliest musical memories.

My mom loved Elvis, and I still appreciate the early days of rock and roll. Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, and the King himself all take me back to my parents’ turntable. As my own tastes developed, these influences led me to the Yardbirds, the Animals, the Rolling Stones, and, my teenage favorite, Led Zeppelin.

My dad in particular loved some singer-songwriters. We used to drive down to the shore almost every day one summer, an hour each way, to go fishing off a particular bridge. My dad had a peculiar habit with the audio cassette of the Simon & Garfunkel album Bridge Over Troubled Water. He loved the first three songs so much that he would play them while my little brother and I belted out the lyrics, and then, he would rewind the cassette and play those three again. And again. And again.

I now know “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” “El Condor Pasa (if I Could),” and “Cecilia” like the back of my hand, and it’s always summer for a least a moment whenever I hear one of them. It turns out there were some great songs on the other side — “The Boxer” and “The Only Living Boy in New York” — but I never knew it as a kid.

I still love plenty of singer-songwriters. An early favorite was James Taylor, and lately I’ve been into M. Ward, Brett Dennen, and Andrew Bird, to name a few.

Finally, I remember my parents also being into various quirky recordings, and that’s come along with me as well. My parents would play the Nilsson album The Point, a story album about a kid who is ostracized for being the only person in his community without a point on top of his head, until the twist at the end of the album. I have forgotten a lot of the story, but I still remember my dad mimicking the line “You got a point there!” whenever one of the kids would make a good point about something.

I still love songs that strike me as funny or quirky. My latest obsession (a year or two later than everyone else) is “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore. It makes me laugh, and I find it inventive, although at least part of the fun is getting to mortify my teenage boys with my awful attempts at rapping.

Hopefully, I’m passing on a fine tradition of parents influencing their children’s musical tastes.

What music do you remember your parents playing?

Related posts:

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Sunflowers (Weekly Photo Challenge: Perspective)

Today, I photographed the third sunflower that’s bloomed in my basement this long, cold, lonely winter.

third basement sunflower

It’s a little burst of summer sunshine that I thought was perfect for the weekly photo challenge theme of “perspective.” Despite its beauty, a different perspective of my basement sunflowers is pretty grim with the harsh grow light, the furnace, the cluttered space, and the dying plants that have already bloomed.

basement sunflowers with grow light

If you don’t like the view, change it.

I wrote about growing these sunflowers in my basement in this post: New life amid the polar vortex

It was one of my challenges to complete 101 things in 1001 days.

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