Sunday, July 31, 2011

My Favorite Part of Summer: The End

It's not secret that I love autumn. But my favorite part of summer is happening now. Reliably, around July 15th or so, Michael's Arts and Crafts starts putting out their Fall stuff. For me it heralds the end of Summer and the build up to Autumn.

They first put out the Fall foliage stuff, and about the time the Tulip Tree in the woods behind our house starts losing its leaves, they start putting out the Halloween stuff, too.

Some of my favorite selections from this weekend:

Thursday, July 28, 2011


We went to Philadelphia as a mini vacation this week. It was just an over-night kind of dealio but it was fun and we did a lot.

Everyone who is a fan of things-in-jars knows about the Mutter Museum. Part of the The College of Physicians of Philadelphia, it's a collection of medical oddities including: a gangrenous hand in a jar, Siamese Twins, fetal abnormalities, mis-shapen skulls, and so on.

Entrance to the museum. The banner says, "Disturbing and Informative" or something like that.

Unfortunately they don't allow photography in the museum. Not only are the specimens really interesting, but the exhibit itself is really cool. It's set up like a Victorian Era collector's cabinet, with massive dark wood frames, giant panes of glass, drawers full of bizarre treasure, and velvet lined boxes with shiny instruments.

A light, by the building sign.

Some of my favorite things:
  • A side exhibit of "Exquisite Skulls" of different animals (included horses), with mirrors under the skulls so you can see beneath them.
  • Black cabinets with red-orange back panels.
  • Labels with scrolly work and hand-painted numbers.
  • Drawers of things removed from inside of people including pins, small metal toys, and such.
  • Square glass jars with ghostly dyed hearts.
  • A black framed fetal skeleton artfully arranged.
  • An "exploded" skull on an ornate stand.
  • A wall of skulls with labels noting features and personal information.
  • Shiny tools with ornately detailed handles.
There was also a gift shop and I wanted to buy ALL THE THINGS. They had original monotypes of skeletons and other prints (skulls! absinthe!) and some other art like painted dolls and skull coasters.

But I ended up purchasing this thing-in-a-jar:

...containing rubber tree flowers (at home).

Next to the Museum was a medicinal herb garden. Whenever we come across secret little places like this we refer to them as "magical lands"--something that I aspire to have one day.

The garden, next to a stony church.

It was quite big and welcoming despite being enclosed by a pointy wrought-iron fence. There were plants everywhere, sectioned off in cozy little beds surrounded by rock paths.

Benches in a circle.

The plants were are labeled with their names, and the ailments and symptoms which they were (or are!) used to treat.

Bee balm, for nausea, vomiting and fevers.

There was also a rather helpful looking statue of a little girl offering a dish of water. There were also little plastic pans of water for birds and bugs and I imagine whoever else needed a drink.

Statues: another mark of a magical land.

It was quite hot and humid out, but overcast all the same. And we were getting hungry so we piled back in the car and drove off to out hotel. After a little downtime we decided to wander around the neighborhood and soon found The Continental.

Sam had actually been here before and it was a good lunch place for sure. It was kind of 1950s diner-tastic, but significantly classed-up. The decor was a great martini theme with red, green and tan colors. But my favorite part was the skewered olive lights:

Complete with red "pimento" bulbs.

The place also had a massive bar selection. But since it was 3pm we didn't have any libations! The food was excellent on its own.

After lunch we wandered around some more including walking up and down South Street which we deemed "The Haight of Philly." There were massive amounts of headshops there, and some nerdy design/art-kid stores. There was also a healthy dose of music-centric shops including one that sold band shirts and was run by a woman who had her daughter playing on a leopard-print rug. It was pretty adorable.

Philly, over all, struck me as a pretty pet-friendly place. There were people walking dogs everywhere. We even met a couple of shop-pets include a Sheltie and this guy:

Black shop cat.

...who, appropriately, lived in a witchy-looking place that had statues of dragons and crystals and amber jewelry and fossils in a back room.

Closer to our hotel, we visited some historic cemeteries. There were also a lot of other historic landmarks, but we didn't visit any of those. We joked about how morbid our vacations turn out to be. But, hey--the cemetery was quiet and shady and nice.

And of course had some cool tombstones and coffins.

I was happy to see that their cemeteries were not uptight and at least one even welcomed pets. When we were in Boston there were some sort of strict rules, like staying on the walking paths. But this one, at least, let you go where-ever AND allowed dogs.

The rules.

There was even a dog bowl.

After a while we went back to the hotel to relax until we were hungry again. I should also mention that it was kind of drizzly the entire time we were there. But it was an inoffensive/non-committal kind of rain that wasn't too much of a bother.

We had dinner at a Spanish tapas place called Amada which is run by a celebrity chef (or something like that). The ambiance was quite nice and really, you can't go wrong with tapas.

They also had a list of entertaining sounding cocktails so I got one. I thought about having something with absinthe in it, but I wanted to save that experience for the Edgar Allen Poe bar in Baltimore! Instead, I had a vodka, lemon, rosemary concoction that was rather tasty.

After dinner we decided to try some of the other restaurants by bar hopping. We were in a great location for that, since all the places we visited were in easy walking distance of our hotel.

Sam's choice was a tequila bar next to Amada. He had a variety of tequila on the rocks that he had never tasted before. And I had a dirty martini. It was pretty quiet when we got there, which was nice. But we only stayed for one drink before visiting the next place.

My choice was National Mechanics.

It's in an impressive building that looks like it could've been some old state house or bank or something. Inside its quirky personality shines through. This is a little dark, but maybe you can spy the stained glass window and the things-in-jars:

And here is the foam model for a taxidermy fox(?) repurposed into a strange light fixture:

And right next to me by the bar, what looks like medicinal bottles made into small, weird chandeliers:

It was open mic night and pretty active for a Monday night. The acts were nothing to write home about, but they were at least entertaining nerd-music. We had a few ciders before calling it night.

After our late night out we decided to sleep in a bunch. Which turned out to be good, because our breakfast/lunch location of choice didn't open until 11:30.

Farmica was another great place to eat. Since we showed up soon after it opened it was quiet but got busier. Its focus is locally grown, sustainable fare which I always appreciate.

Sam had a mexican cheesesteak, and I ordered a salmon and egg salad sandwich with fennel salad but they were out of salmon :( All the same it was pretty delicious. We also drank copious amounts of water!

We putzed around the neighborhood a little while longer before jumping back in the car for the ride home. It was a nice little visit!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A Grandchild's Guide to the Cemetery

(Sorry if this treads on morbid territory, folks. But this post is meant to be a helpful reminder for me, on those occasions when I want to visit the place where my father's parents rest.)

How to get to Fort Lincoln Cemetery:

3401 Bladensburg Rd, Brentwood, MD 20722

View Larger Map

How to get to East Mount Calvery:

(click to zoom in)

Where to find the Tavel Plot:

(click to zoom in)

Who will you find there?

Sterlin Tavel Senior, Olivia Tavel, Sterlin Tavel Jr, Ella Mae Tavel, Hilda Gish, and Daniel Tavel.

Other things:

In front of you will be the Garden of the Crucifixion.
Behind you will be the Garden of the Apostles.
There's a big oak tree to your left, and a crazy spruce tree behind you.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Nature is awesome

On our morning walk with Locksley this morning we came across something pretty amazing.

Behind our apartment is a little woodland area with paved trails that lead to a playground and recreation area. I always tell Sam he's flattering it by calling it a "forest" because it's really more of a "woods" in that it's just a scrap of wilderness. But even so we get some pretty great visitors--fox, birds, deer, snakes, and so on so I'm really grateful to have it so close to home. It's my favorite place to walk the dog.

So we're on our morning walk when all of a sudden we come up on this:

Can you see it? I spotted her first and even when we stopped to observe Locksley was pretty much oblivious. Which is good because you don't really want to annoy a snapping turtle.

I knew immediately what was going on, she was digging a hole to lay eggs! As we stood quietly watching she gave us kind of a dirty look and went on with her business.

Digging with her back legs, a pile of earth behind her.

Watching the turtle reminded me of the turtles that we had growing up. My dad when he was a boy would go out into the woods and find Eastern Box Turtles. They'd keep them for the summer and then let them go in the fall. So when my sister and I were young we did the same. One year we even had a turtle lay eggs, though I don't think they hatched.

Sam's mind was blown from coming across this turtle. It was definitely an educational experience! And it made me really grateful that I had lots of experiences with nature as a kid.

We didn't want to make the turtle too uncomfortable with our presence so we didn't stick around too long. She was doing important stuff, after all! I hope that her choice of a nesting spot is a safe one and that the eggs get a chance to hatch.

I looked up some snapping turtle information and apparently they can lay anywhere from 10-30 eggs! The sex of the eggs are determined by temperature. And they can hatch anywhere between 55 and 125 days later. You can learn more fascinating stuff about snapping turtles here and even more nerdy stuff here.

Also, we managed to get a video where you can actually see her plopping some eggs into the nest:

Nature is awesome! Thanks and Godspeed lady snapping turtle!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Busiest Friday Ever

Friday the 13th had a lot in store for me this month, and all of it good!

I found a baby bird

I took a half-day at work so I could meet the farrier at Bonnie's for Gobie to get his feet trimmed. On the way out of the parking garage at work a baby starling flopped out in front of my car! So I stopped, parked, put on the hazards, and got out to usher him to a safer place.

Well, I looked around to see where I could put him. Any nests? Adult Starlings looking worried? Even a good patch of grass with some shelter from predators and away from the road? Nope! He was also way too easy to catch which made me think that he probably wasn't feeling so hot anyway. So I did the only logical thing for an animal-loving bleeding-heart could do: I brought him home.

I had a feeding pan in the car so I put him in that and then wrapped my black, breathable rain jacket around that so he wouldn't flop around the car. Then I high-tailed it home.

Fortunately I have some spare cages lying around. I put him in Nooch's old cage with some paper towels in the bottom. I noticed after I put him in the cage that I had a red bug on my hand. Uh oh--parasites! I'm no stranger to rehabbing birds so I knew that these weren't going to infest me or anything (they're specific to BIRDS and, as I learned, specific to Starlings, even). I also noticed quite a few on my jacket, and squished 'em all. Honestly he didn't look so hot so I wasn't sure he was going to live. I didn't want to be late for the farrier so I high-tailed it to the barn.

Gobie got his feet trimmed

I made it to the barn on time! You can read all about how Gobie's feet trimming went here. The short version is: he was great and the farrier was awesome! It was a totally pain-free experience and left me confident that I have a good little pony on my hands.

We went to a Thrill Kill Kult show

So appropriate for Friday the 13th--My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult was playing a show at Bourbon Street in Baltimore. So we went! Sam and I don't go to a lot of shows so much anymore, but when a band that we like does come around it's always a treat to go see them. The band put on a great show as usual, occultiness and sleaziness at its peak performance!

Saturday, April 23, 2011


Horray! We did it! Gobie has been successfully loaded in a trailer and delivered to his new home.

It was a group effort. I am so grateful for the awesome help that we had: Michelle, Melanie, Berry, Bonnie, Jason, Patty and Sam. It was truly a team effort. Gobie was being a very good boy without a bite or a kick, just some nervousness. He got to eating grain off the floor, but it took Michelle and Barry pushing on his butt to get him to actually stumble in to the trailer. Once he was in there he was quiet and well behaved.

This trailer's not a-rockin! On our way home...

The drive was pretty quick. The weather managed to hold off on the rain until we actually got to Bonnie where it just sprinkled a little bit. Gobie unloaded like a champ and was good about being lead into one of the pastures. He's in his own big area which shares a fence line with another pasture where the rest of the horses are. His first meeting went great!

Oh hey.

There are four other horses at Bonnie's. Honey (Bonnie's palomino), Cinder (a big white horse with a crippled leg), Bo (a plucky Arab gelding), and Kahlua (a brown 30-something mare). There was a little bit of squealing between Gobie and Bo (as the two bachelors) but their first meeting was pretty mellow.

Okay, I'll see ya later.

Bonnie put out some hay for Gobie in case he wanted it. He ate a little bit, but since he'd had some grain and was grazing all morning he wasn't super interested.

I guess I'll have a few bites.

Bonnie let out her corgis and Sam and I had a good chat with her about logistical stuff. There's a tack area where I could put my stuff, an area for feed and things if I wanted, and smaller pasture areas where I could work Gobie when I need.

Bonnie's Corgis, Furby and Belle, have great manners around the horses. Gobie checked them out, but then went along minding his own business.

Let's all eat grass!

Gobie didn't check out his entire paddock, but he see where the water trough was and checked out the tree.

What IS this crazy thing?

I was glad to see he didn't seem frantic or nervous about anything. He wasn't squealing for his friends, or pacing the fence line or anything. He was curious about the other horses, but not nutty about it.

And he came over to the fence to say hi to us several times. And of course to get a treat or two.

This is Sam's "I have a horse!" look.

And from over the fence Gobie seemed to be making good friends with Bonnie's horse, Honey. She almost started grooming Gobie's back, before Bo got a little bossy about it.


It started to rain a little bit, so we made everything was good and cozy and then went on our way home. Of course, now I can't wait to go back :)

Friday, April 22, 2011

So the Good News Is...

So the good part about the visit today was actually ADOPTING Gobie, although the getting him in to a trailer and taking him home part didn't work out so well.

His adoption fee was a little bit cheaper than I first thought it was going to be. And the contract was pretty straight forward. I'm actually a co-owner of Gobie with HorseNet Horse Rescue. That means he goes back to the rescue instead of being sold/traded/etc. The contract also says:

Adopter is aware of the following: Gobie came to HorseNet in 2004 from a horrible cruelty case in Washington County. It took him a long time to trust people, and will continue to need reassurance. He is a super smart boy and should be a fun project. Gobie requires training both on the ground and under saddle.

The adoption packet also includes his negative coggins test. And lists his markings as star, stripe, snip, right front pastern, left front fetlock, left hind coronet.

My favorite thing in the packet is his History, though. It has two pictures of him as a little dude looking pretty steely gray. It lists his information as:

Breed: PONY
DOB: 2001
DOR: 2004
Weight: 715
Height: 14

As well as his last worming, farrier, nutrition, housing, vaccinations, and so on.

Even though it was pretty discouraging not being able to get him loaded into the trailer, I didn't get a bad feeling from it. Even when he was being naughty about it, I didn't feel intimidated or threatened by him. And even though he may turn out to be more work that I first thought (and way more work than I really should be getting in to) I think he will absolutely be a good "student" as far as training goes. If only we can get him home... ;d

So the Bad News Is...

Gobie would not get in the trailer!

Today was the day I was going to adopt him and bring him "home" to Bonnie's farm. But, Gobie had other ideas. Namely, there was no way he was getting in that deep, dark, creaking cave that he was pretty sure had a horse-eating monster in it.

I can't really blame him though. For some reason I thought to myself, "Well, I can start training him when we get him to the new place." But really, I should have been training him (instead of just bonding with him) for the last couple of months. I don't think that I figured he would just HOP into the trailer. But I sort of did think that after a few tries he would get in. Not so much.

To his credit, he's a 9 year old horse that has probably SEEN a trailer all but a handful of times in his life, and has probably only been INSIDE a trailer ONCE. And it probably wasn't the best experience of his life.

To my credit, I thought he was little more trained and trusting than he is, at least when it comes to stressful situations. The six year old girl in me was pretty sure that if he loved me out in the field he would trust me when I asked him to get a trailer. But the trainer in me knows that was a pretty silly assumption.

He really did TRY though, and I'm thankful for that. He was literally shaking from fear, but he came so close to going in a couple times. And he really didn't try to fight so much as run away and even that was halfhearted.

When we first arrived he was flirting with Magic. I think she must have been in heat or something because he was raising his upper lip and sniffing around her girly bits. And she was acting rather inviting. Lucky for everyone, Gobie is gelded.

Getting him to come in from the field wasn't too bad. He was definitely a bit stubborn, but he eventually came through the gate to where the trailer was parked. Part of the experience definitely confirmed my sneaking suspicion that he's not totally halter broke--or at least he doesn't have great manners probably because he was never told he needed them.

Anyway, we had a bucket of grain for some encouragement and he liked that. Part of me wondered, though, if it didn't get him a little too excited. It took some doing to get him close to the trailer at all. But every little noise--every creak and groan from the metal--would send him backing up again. It didn't help that semis would be barreling down the road, or that dogs would be barking their heads off. He would try running to the left or the right, and if he made a lot of ground we'd have to walk him around in a circle to gain it back. At one point they were trying to use brooms and a rope around his neck to get him to go in. But the broom seemed to wig him out more than motivate him to move forward. And using two ropes was kind of unmanageable. We got pretty close to getting him to load twice, but alas...

Some broken nails and a bruised finger later, we decided to give it a rest. Probably a good thing, too, because it started pouring rain on my drive home.

So we'll try again tomorrow! They're talking about sedating him (yikes) and setting up some panels to kind of "chute" him in. We may try putting him in with another horse. Part of me wants to take it really slow and just get him use to being around the trailer, and then get him eating out of it, and then getting him finally jumping in to it. But I think everyone else has more expedient modes in mind.

I guess we'll see...

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Congrats it's a...

My in-laws sent us a card in the email today:

(oh dear..)

and here's the inside:


They are so cute! Plus, I like that it's from the cat also.