Browsing Archives for May 2010

Muskrat Neuters Husband

May 25th, 2010

We have a large, grotesque creature that lives in our pond.  I call it ‘the marsupial’ knowing full well that it is not a marsupial.  I just like to call it the marsupial because I am a weirdo. The Country Doctor calls it ‘the rat’ knowing full well that it is not a rat. He just likes to call it rat so that I will let him shoot it.

And it is working.

I don’t want him to shoot my marsupial…

But he sure can shoot his rat.

This would be an excellent example of the hypnotic power of branding.

The reason that he wants to shoot the rat is because it is digging big holes in our dam.  If we lose our dam, we lose our pond.  If we lose our pond, lots of fish, turtles, frogs and insects will die.  If lots of fish, turtles, frogs and insects die, then all the birds will leave and the show cats will have nothing to stalk.  If the show cats have nothing to stalk, they will spend EVEN more time stalking the brown chair in the living room which drives me insane.  If I go insane – WHO IS GOING TO FEED MY KIDS!

Do you see how the eco-system at MSFH is dangling from a delicate thread?  Do you see that shooting the rat might just be the best choice for everyone?  We are not shooting the rat for fun!  We are shooting the rat to SAVE LIVES!

In reality – the rat is a muskrat.

Here is the story of how the muskrat neutered my husband.

You may want to close your eyes while you read this.


Me – I saw the marsupial swimming around the pond again.

Him – You mean the rat?

Me – Yes, the rat.

Him – I’m going to shoot it when I get home.

Me – You won’t be able to shoot it.

Him – Why not.

Me – Because you can’t stand still long enough to shoot it.

Him – What do you mean.

Me – The ‘rat’ can stay under water for like fifteen minutes!  Then he comes up, takes another breath and dives back down for another fifteen minutes.  You will never out-wait him.

Him – Yes I will.

Me – No you won’t.

Him – Yes I will.

Me – No you won’t.  It’s the same reason that you can’t grill anything!  You have zero tolerance for standing and waiting.

Him – I can grill!

Me – No you can’t!  You can’t stand to watch what’s on the grill – which happens to be crucial to grilling.

Him – I can hunt and I can grill.

Me – No you can’t!  And you also can’t watch TV or a movie.

Him – I can watch TV.

Me – NO YOU CAN’T!  You can’t sit still long enough to make it to the first commercial!

Him -  You just neutered me!

Me – What?

Him – You just NEUTERED me!

Me – You mean because I said you can’t grill, hunt or watch TV?

Him – Yes!

Me – Oh… well… sorry about that honey.  You are uh… really good at uh… planting trees.

Him – I am going to come home and SHOOT that RAT!

Me – Okay babe.  You shoot it.  You shoot that rat.

Him – I will.

The Help

By Kathryn Stockett

It’s great.
Truly great.
At least I thought so.

Here is the author’s web site if you’d like to read a synopsis.  The novel is set on the knife’s edge of the Civil Right’s movement in Jackson, Mississippi.  The story revolves around two black house maids and the women for whom they work.  Reading it is like sitting at the table with your best girlfriends and trading the most scandalous gossip you can imagine. Secrets slowly unfold.  Oppressed people find a way to fight back.  Lives are destroyed. Lives are saved.  Minny makes a chocolate pie…

I don’t know if I will ever be able to eat another piece of chocolate pie as long as I live.

The whole time I was reading it, I just kept thinking – this book has got to be made into a film.  I want to watch this story unfold on screen. I want to see these characters, hear them talk, peek inside their houses and see what everyone is wearing.  Steven Spielberg’s DreamWorks is making the film.  So I guess I will get to see Skeeter turn into a hippy and Hilly dress better than everyone else.

The casting will be interesting for this story.  There are so many vivid characters.  Who should play Minny?  What about Skeeter?  And who gets to play mean old Hilly?  Maybe January Jones!  I think she could do a very good socialite villian!  I would love to see Whoopi Goldberg play Abilene.

Some of the cast members have to be relatively young (2o somethings) and I don’t know the young actresses as well as I uh… know the uh.. sort of um… middle aged actresses, but as much as I would like to see Cate Blanchett play Skeeter – I just don’t know if she can pull off 23.  Maybe Gwyneth?  Or is she too old now too?  Gaw! I only know the extremely elderly actresses these days!

What does that mean!

I imagine that a few stars will be born with this film.

Have you read the book yet?

We stayed in five different places during our trip to Europe last summer.  Almost all of them were chosen because they were the cheapest places I could find that could accommodate my family of six.  We spent our first four days in a suburb outside of London with Pete and Ilona who are dear old friends of Mike and Liz who are dear old friends of ours.  Several years ago, Mike and Liz brought Pete and Ilona to our house for an overnight visit.  We cooked out, swam in the pond, drank wine, and forced our English guests to name the fifty states (at which they were very good) and then a few years later, we showed up at Pete and Ilona’s house and moved in with them for four entire days.  Talk about an awesome exchange rate!  

It was during this stay that I began to learn something rather strange about the British.  They are unusually passionate about their gardens.  Hey! I work at a garden center. I am a gardener. And there is probably nothing that I enjoy more than time spent in a beautiful garden. But these British people – they take it to a whole new level.

Upon arrival at every single British home I visited, we were immediately escorted into the garden.  What Americans call a backyard – the Brits call a ‘garden’ and it is nothing like the American version of an open grassy stretch littered with large plastic toys, a swing set, a dilapidated dog house and an abandoned shrubbery.  A British garden is an actual garden. They are lovely, fragrant rooms with nooks and crannies and well worn furniture.  These garden rooms were absolutely the most beloved part of their homes.  In fact, from my experience – the Brits really seem to view their houses as long tiresome hallways that you must walk through (and hastily) to reach the garden.  The Brits sort of push you to the garden.  They hustle you out back.  ”Come out to the garden.” they say as they jog you past the living room, the dining room and the kitchen.  If you are a house junkie like me, this can be somewhat painful.  I longed to linger in each of the rooms and ask nosy questions about the history of the house.  I wanted to absorb the bones, the colors, the flooring, the length of the windows, the trim, the fixtures, the wood tones, but the Brits we visited didn’t seem care about their houses.  They didn’t point out the additions, the remodels, the interesting features the way that Americans do.  They didn’t talk house.  They talked garden.   Or actually they talked in the garden and they want you out there with them – pronto!  

“Come to the garden!”  they call as they rapidly disappear around a corner.  

You race along behind them trying to suck the fleeting scenes of the various rooms in through your pores. Odds are – these are the only views you will ever get of the house.

This whole garden thing had a slight tinge of desperation to it.  We visited the UK in August which is the warmest month in the UK, but also one of the wettest months. It rained off and on throughout each day while we were there. The second that the sun peeked from behind the clouds our host Pete would start hollering to his wife Ilona.

“Ilona!  Come out!  Come out to the garden!.”  

Sensing Pete’s acute need for people to populate the garden, we would shuffle out and obediently sit down.  The boys would start up a game of cricket with Pete and Ilona’s son Louis and then Pete would yell again.

“Ilona!  Ilona!  Come out to the garden Ilona!”  

From somewhere in the depths of the house we would hear Ilona call back that she would be there in a second, but Pete needed her out there now.  

“Ilona!  The sun is OUT! Come to the garden! ”

Ilona would finally appear breathless at the back door. She had rushed through whatever task had held her up to get out the garden before the sun disappeared, but it was too late.  The sun was gone.  A light, chilly rain had started to fall.  The sky turned silver and then steely gray. The wind picked up a little – but we did not move.  We stayed in the garden.  I pulled on a sweater and hunched down against the cold, refreshing my tea cup with a second layer of heat.  If I learned one thing about the British while visiting the UK other than that they love their gardens, it is that a little penetrating, teeth crunching cold does not seem to bother them.

At all.

In fact, I spent one very cold, miserable day at the seaside with these British people and they were completely unperturbed by it.  While an icy wind blew us sideways and the sun played a gruelling game of tag all day long refusing to shine for more than three seconds at a time, the Brits dove into the freezing surf, stopping occasionally to build a castle in the cold wet sand or dry off in the ice tipped gale.

We hunkered down behind a windbreak for a picnic lunch.  I wrapped myself in layers of damp beach towels to try and keep my teeth from chattering.  Everyone except for me seemed utterly impervious to the misery of the situation.  I can only imagine what these people would be like on a day when the weather was good!

We visited four private residences while we were in England, and at each one we were either pushed through the house and into the garden within ninety seconds of our arrival or the house was skirted entirely and we were taken directly into the garden. All of the British homes we visited were fabulously old and filled with character and charm.  I could have lingered.  I could have aimlessly wandered. I could have stepped to the center of each room and slowly rotated for hours admiring the patina of these great old homes, but instead like a stubborn cow through a cattle chute I was forced into the garden. I balked.  I hesitated.  I tried to distract my host with a finger pointed to the mantle in the distance, or a detail on the old walnut banister, but they only gripped my hand and yanked me out to the danged garden!  At which point I settled in and admired the gorgeous, yet comfortable surroundings of these outdoor rooms… all the while plotting my excuse to get a glance inside the home.  

Liz’s sister’s garden.

Liz’s mum’s garden



Our next destination was Paris.  


We took two tiny rooms at a hotel just a few blocks from Notre Dame.  


You could see the cathedral from the window of our room.  

(Look for the tall skinny spire in the middle of the photo.)

There was no air conditioning.  

We slept with the windows open and the noise of the city lulled us to sleep.  

Thankfully – Parisians are not early risers.  

The streets outside our rooms did not really start to ‘wake up’ until we had already hit the streets looking for a croissant and a cappuccino.


Our next stop was Bath.  We stayed in an American chain hotel in Bath – sorry, but it was cheap.  And it was also wonderful because it felt like home!  It was all so big and American! The elevators were huge!   Our entire family was able to fit inside and our suitcases too!  You did not have to fold your shoulders into your clavicle to fit down the hallway!  I could actually brush my teeth with my elbow fully extended!  Paris was clearly not designed with large lumbering Americans in mind, but English hotels were another story.  There was a sign outside that said “We Welcome Large Lumbering Americans!”  The staff spoke English.  THE STAFF SPOKE ENGLISH!  Sorry for this little American moment – but that whole visiting a foreign country thing where everyone speaks a different language?  That is just plain HARD!  Not that I wouldn’t go back to Paris TOMORROW if someone handed me a ticket -but it was nice to get back to a country that shares the same language as you do.  It was a huge relief!  Don’t worry!  There were still plenty of cultural differences and indecipherable words and phrases to make everyone feel awkward and alone, but at least when I ordered a beer in England, they just brought me a pint and no one got all hacked off about it, feigning ignorance just to make me feel crappy.

To read about how I lurched in grief around Bath – you can click here.  

To read about my freakish attempts at trying to speak French click here.  


Upon leaving Bath we took a circuitous trip through the countryside.

We visited Castle Combe, rumored to be the most picturesque village in England


And then we stopped at Stonehenge


Which was closed.

And finally we made our way to The Nautically Themed Hotel.


Where the following signs instructed us.



This was the exterior of the nautically themed hotel.  It was set on extensive  manicured grounds.  We drove up a long curving driveway to reach it.  From the outside there was really nothing ‘nautical’about it.  In fact!  It seemed downright charming!  And it was a bargain too!  We parked the car and approached the front door wondering if we were going to be met by a butler with a silver tea tray and that’s when I saw the sailboat in the window.  

But it was just a sailboat!  


Just a decorative little sailboat!



An old English manor SHOULD have a sailboat in the window!  

There’s nothing wrong with that!



As we entered –  to our right was one perfectly faded, somewhat dated,  yet very cozy lounge.




And to the left, an equally, slightly worn, but appealing bar.

It reminded me of basement rec rooms in the seventies.

And who doesn’t like an old rec room?




It was what was right in front of us that was the most troubling…





What was just a sailboat in the window.

Just a little sailboat!

Was now the dismembered body of a huge sailboat caustically hacked to pieces and then maniacally reassembled for use as a central staircase!




This is the pleasant exterior.


And these are the decaying yacht remains on the interior!



The upper landing…

All the doors had a little portal in them…

You know…

So you could look out and see the ocean.




A spaceship had landed in the backyard.



It was connected via a breathing tube in order to sustain the alien life forms.

The old brick and timber exterior was ‘punched up’ with these very exciting metal and brick staircases that just seemed to scream., “I am so NOW!”

I am so FREAKIN’ NOW!!!


And yet it was delicately softened with a lovely hydrangea to the side.


This was one nautically themed hotel that did not disappoint.
If you want to add it to your English tour – email me and I will send you the details.
It was a bargain!
And actually the lovely and extensive grounds would be ideal for a large function of any sort.
The design elements would give everyone plenty to talk about.

It would also make an excellent setting…


Murder at the Nautically Themed Hotel!

It has a certain ring to it doesn’t it!?!