Thursday, February 25, 2010

RIP Snickers

Snickers, a.k.a. the fat brown ratty, passed away in his sleep last night. He was a 2 years and two months old.

Snickers, a brown hooded domestic rat, was adopted by the Nesmith family in January of 2008, along with Frederick, a black hooded rat. Snickers and Frederick lived in a pleasant 3-story rat cage, and enjoyed playing with their owners. Snickers was particularly fond of collecting bits of paper and carrying them into his cage for a nest. He loved to eat, especially crickets, and was very sensible about hiding from predators, like Mitzi and the ubiquitous basement hawks.

Late in his life, Snickers was stricken with cancer. He managed to live with the disease for some time, due to the care of his people, who fed him special treats by hand as he got frail.

He is survived by his adopted brother, Frederick, and his people, Robbie, Eli, Jane, and Bruce. He will be missed by all.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Jane: Cooking with Gas

One of the things I love best about this house is the kitchen. Beautiful maple cabinets, dark granite countertops, cherry floors. Lots of room. I love everything.

Except for the stove. It's an electric, glass-top cooktop.
People look at it and say "wow! so easy to keep clean." Yeah, but so hard to actually cook anything on. If you've ever had one of these, you know the heat is very difficult to control. The burners take a while to heat up when you turn them on, forever to cool down when you turn them off, and you really can't lower or raise the heat very accurately. Pretty much you have to take the pot off the burner, turn it down, wait a while, then put the pot back on . . . a pain.

Today, I replaced it with this beautiful gas cooktop. It fit perfectly into the opening in the countertop, so didn't have to redo that. Doesn't it look great? Five burners, including one power burner and two simmers.
The workers had to finesse a bit--the top drawer got in the way of the gas pipe. But instead of shortening or getting rid of the drawer, they just cut a tiny notch in the back.
Fits just fine now.

They also installed the regulator behind my pot drawer, where there was plenty of room.

Yay for clever workmen! And yay for my new stove. Making spaghetti and meatballs on it tonight!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Jane: Trumpets

On Thursday, three packages arrived on our doorstep. They were trumpets! Bach Stradivariuses (Stradivarii?) for Robbie to try out--he's making the big step to getting a "good instrument."
His instructor, Bryan, had encouraged us to consider buying him a good instrument this year. Robbie's at that stage in his musical development where it'll make a difference. And he really enjoys playing.

The trumpet he has now is a Bach, but it's a student model. Bryan let Robbie try out two "professional" models--the Stradivarius and the Yamaha model. Apparently the Yamahas are more consistent--you get one and it'll be good. The Bachs vary more from instrument to instrument, but a good one is REALLY good.

Robbie liked the Bach the best, so we checked into getting one. I immediately thought about going to Brasswinds, a huge music store in South Bend, Indiana that we see every time we drive from CR to Cleveland. Turns out that's where brass folks get their instruments! We couldn't find a good weekend to travel over, but the Brasswinds folks have a good deal--they'll ship you 3 instruments to try out--no shipping charge--and you can try them. You just ship back the ones you don't want and buy the one you do.

(Turns out my sister's doing the same thing for her daughter, Gabi, who's a oboist. The instruments will come from a place in MN for her to try.)

Robbie's going to play these for a while and take them to his lesson. He's pretty excited about playing them--they do have a beautiful sound!

Meanwhile, I'm counting birds for the Great Backyard Bird Count. Message to chickadees out there: if you don't show up at my feeder today, you don't get counted!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Jane: Bird Counting

I just heard about a great birding opportunity--the Great Backyard Bird Count, which is happening this weekend.

Bruce and I used to do the Audubon Society's Winter Bird count every year. It was before Christmas, and involved getting up early and tromping around in the snow to various bird-ish sites in Cedar Rapids, counting birds. I liked it, but I wasn't crazy about how cold I'd get by lunch time.

This count, by contrast, can be done from the comfort of one's own home. Apparently, you just watch for birds in your yard, and report the highest number of each species seen during a particular time period. You can look intermittently all day, or choose time slots--15 minute segments. They have a form to fill out so you know what to look for.

I'm going to do this for sure. I'm always watching who's at my bird feeders!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Jane: Dealing with a snowy winter

Snow will continue to overspread Iowa today, and continue right into Tuesday. This long-duration snow event will likely produce 4-8" across the area by the time the snow stops. This is only one issue though, and the wind will be a much greater problem. Expect the winds to be blowing at 20-30 MPH by Tuesday afternoon, causing significant blowing and drifting snow. This will also cause visibilities to drop near zero in the rural areas. --KCRG Weather for Monday, February 8
Yeah, it's still winter here in Iowa. There have been news stories about breaking a "number-of-days-with-snowcover" record this year, and everyone's getting tired of it. Now it looks like we may get another hit of snow.

We've been busy trying to keep our spirits up and not get too bogged down by winter. I've been trying to point out fun things we've been doing every week--
  • Robbie's Jazz Band concert at the end of January,
  • the City Revealed holiday party at Zin's,
  • this past weekend's trip to see the quilt exhibit at the Hoover Library and dinner in Iowa City,
  • open house at the city greenhouse, where the air was moist and warm, and the orchids were blooming!
  • next week's jazz concert at the Public Library and Valentine's Day . . .
Yesterday, Eli and I went out to one of the outdoor ice rinks to skate--well, I skated and he just skidded around on the ice. That was fun--the "if you can't beat it, join it" approach to winter. We saw ice fishermen and a snowmobiler while driving to West Branch--having something fun to do in the winter makes it more bearable.

And Robbie says he thinks of money when snow falls--they have a shoveling job! So, really, it's not so bad. Still, I sure wouldn't mind seeing green grass again!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Jane: in the theatre

Last night I helped out at a rehearsal of Coe's spring musical, "Company." Yes, the Sondheim musical from the early '70s.

Why was I helping out with a play rehearsal? Because one scene includes a character who's taking karate doing some take-downs on her husband. The director had heard I was a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, so he asked me to come and help them with that scene.

(Anyone who knows anything about marital arts will know that there aren't really many take-downs in Karate--it, like Tae Kwon Do, is a striking martial art. But the writer of the play did not know that!)

I looked over the scene and chose a few simple takedowns that the students could use. I showed the young woman some basic martial arts stances and moves, and I demonstrated and coached them on the takedowns. It sure was a lot of fun! They were pretty brave doing all that stuff--never having done martial arts before. I'm going to have to come back and work with them a bit more on some of the moves. One of the stage managers said they needed to improve "posture." He was right. But I was pleased at how quickly they learned it.

It's fun to see rehearsals and practices--of any kind--in progress. You can see all the things that have to be considered before the group is performance-ready. Like--how to get all the actors into the right part of the stage when they need to be there, when people should stand up and sit down, and what to do with the cups. All sorts of decisions have to be made. When I wasn't coaching, I just sat and was amazed.

Company will be performed at the end of March. I'm going to go see it, of course! My name will be in the program: Martial Arts Consultant!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Jane: Can't resist amigurumi

As you can see, I've just finished another amigurumi, a tiny project to tide me over after that big sweater project (and the prayer shawl I didn't like so took to the frogpond). He's actually made with leftover crochet aran cardigan yarn.

The pattern's available . . . somewhere online; I modded it so this sheep would feel at home in one of Aardman's productions.

I don't know what's next, crochet-wise.