Not done yet….

We are (sadly) still busily unpacking here at Caterpickles Central. Using my former metric of ignoring all the boxes of things that I’ve decided what to do with (but haven’t quite done yet), we have 23 boxes to go.

Only a couple dozen boxes down from my last status report doesn’t seem like much progress, and if you were to walk through my house, it wouldn’t look like much progress either. On the other hand, I have managed to *mostly* reinstate the fundamental organizational principle of any decent home library. See if you can guess what it is.

(Photo: Shala Howell)

(Photo: Shala Howell)

Still, I can’t shake the feeling that I’d be done by now if I hadn’t become so distracted by summer. I confess. I got tired of looking through my window at all these lovely cool Chicago days, and allowed The Seven-Year-Old to lure me outside.

Crabapple picking was totally worth it, though. So were the road trip to Wisconsin and the days at the zoos and museums and public gardens and playgrounds and pools. I love summer. Can’t bear to miss any more of it.

Even if I do only have 23 boxes to go.

(Photo: Shala Howell)

(Photo: Shala Howell)

Catch you in the fall.

~ shala

Posted in Miscellaneous Musings, Nature, Out and About | Leave a comment

Mother Nature hates New Jersey and other news of the month

A round-up of stories that caught my eye while I was off gallivanting with The Seven-Year-Old this past month:

July 10, 1926: The Day Nature Blew up a Town in New Jersey (The Vane)

NewJerseyLightningStrikeJuly 10 marked the 88th anniversary of the day that a bolt of lightning blew up an entire town in New Jersey. Apparently, the lightning bolt hit a military arms depot in the town, triggering an explosion that leveled more than 200 buildings within a half-mile radius.

From The Vane:

More than 600,000 tons of explosives stored inside the depot detonated, resulting in one of the most catastrophic man-made explosions in the United States. The blast completely destroyed nearly 200 buildings in a half-mile radius, resulting in $47 million in damages (more than $631 million today when adjusted for inflation), 21 deaths, and dozens more injuries. The explosion was so powerful that people reported finding debris nearly 22 miles away.

World’s Largest-Ever Flying Bird Had Huge Wingspan, Fossil Shows (Huffington Post)

Artist's illustration of the Pelagornis sanderski, the world's largest ever flying bird. (Image: Liz Bradford, Bruce Museum)

Artist’s illustration of the Pelagornis sanderski, the world’s largest ever flying bird. (Image: Liz Bradford, Bruce Museum)

From the Huffington Post article:

A fossil found in South Carolina has revealed a gigantic bird that apparently snatched fish while soaring over the ocean some 25 million to 28 million years ago.

Its estimated wingspan of around 21 feet is bigger than the height of a giraffe.

The Field Museum has a Tumblr!

Not really a news article, but a fun site to follow nonetheless: The Field Museum Archivist has a Tumblr page, which she populates with amazing images from the Museum’s past, like this one — of a field team prepping a 2400 pound Trachodon fossil for transport in 1922.

(Photo: Field Museum)

(Photo: Field Museum)

Scientists discover largest four-winged dinosaur to date (USA Today)

From USA Today:

An exquisitely detailed fossil excavated in northeastern China shows that the dinosaur’s tail feathers measured a full foot in length. More than 20 dinosaurs are thought to have sported plumage, but none boasted feathers as long as those of the new fossil, which dates back 125 million years. The next-longest dinosaur feathers are less than 9 inches long.

“I’ve worked for over 20 years in China, and I’ve never seen anything like this,” says Luis Chiappe of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, a paleontologist and a co-author of a study reporting the find. “It was absolutely stunning to see how perfectly preserved these feathers were and how long they were … essentially one-fourth the length of the animal.”

The only downside to this story — the fact that the dinosaur is named after the research team’s corporate sponsor.

The researchers named their new species Changyuraptor yangi. The first part of its name means “long-feather raptor,” and the second part honors a Chinese financial supporter.

Only a matter of time, really. Applying for grants is ridiculously painful. Still, the question of how to determine the marketing / business value of the rights to the second half of a dinosaur’s scientific name kind of fascinates me.

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The Seven-Year-Old goes shopping

Overheard at Bass Pro Shops…
HotDogSteamerWMThe Seven-Year-Old, excitedly: “A hot dog steamer? That’s my dream machine!”

We’ll make a camper of her yet.

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Posted in Funny Stuff My Daughter Says, Out and About | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Wordless Wednesday: The Seven-Year-Old practices medicine

(Photo: Shala Howell)

(Photo: Shala Howell)

Unpacking continues apace at Caterpickles Central. Only 52 boxes to go! (More or less. If you ignore the piles of boxes that I’ve decided what to do with — donate, move to basement, break down & recycle — but haven’t quite gotten around to taking care of yet.)

Literalistic caveats aside, a few days ago, we uncovered a trove of stuffed animals from my childhood. The Seven-Year-Old immediately adopted this battered old raccoon, and sent him to hospital for some belated rehab. Raccoony lost an eye in a regrettable incident some 35 years ago.

I honestly don’t remember the details, but I’m certain The Seven-Year-Old will pry some suitably grim story of my miscreant younger self out of Raccoony this afternoon.

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4th of July and a Moving Milestone

(Photo: Michael Howell)

(Photo: Michael Howell)

Happy Fourth of July!

Despite appearances, I have not in fact declared my independence from blogging. I am still madly scribbling down The Seven-Year-Old’s questions for future posts:

  • “How did people realize that there are colors that we just can’t see?”
  • “Are there jellyfish that can clone themselves?”
  • “Why do Rice Krispies pop?”
  • “Why do Daddyo’s day-old biscuits taste bitter?”
  • “How do you dry dock an aircraft carrier?”

OK, that last one may have been Daddyo’s, but it sounds terribly interesting, doesn’t it? I’m looking forward to having the time (and the mental space) to look up the answers to these and all the other questions that have buzzed about The Seven-Year-Old’s brain these past few weeks.

Sadly, scribbling down notes is about all I’ve had time to do lately, as we have moved again. Happily, we are now in our (hopefully) permanent Chicago home, which means that once I’m through the press of unpacking this round, I should be good for a while. After eighteen months of nearly continuous contemplation and/or execution of one move or another, I’m insanely motivated to finally get this done, and have been working on it nearly full-time since sometime last May.

This week we hit a major milestone. Only 99 boxes to go before we can call ourselves settled and resume normal life. A discovery that prompted Daddyo to burst into song:

♪♫  99 boxes of stuff on the floor

99 boxes of stuff.

Take one down, scatter the stuff all around,

98 boxes of stuff on the floor… ♫

So that’s where we are. Singing about boxes of stuff as we slowly build each of the rooms in our new home, and grapple with life-altering questions like “Do we really need that 12th box of office supplies?” “What is that? A Cat 4 cable?

The Seven-Year-Old, helpfully, "Mommyo, I put your coffee cup on a coaster for you." (Photo: Shala Howell)

The Seven-Year-Old, helpfully, “Mommyo, I put your coffee cup on a coaster for you.” (Photo: Shala Howell)

In brief, we’ve been busy. We just haven’t been busy with the sorts of things that make for good Caterpickling.

With good luck, I’ll be done with (& recovered from) the current move by August, at which point The Seven-Year-Old and I will attempt to pack in an entire summer’s worth of fun into three crazy weeks. Checking my calendar, this implies regular posting on Caterpickles will resume in early September. In the meantime, it’ll be intermittent posting only, I’m afraid.

Thank you for your patience.

Happy Summer!

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Posted in Miscellaneous Musings, Out and About | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Semi-Wordless Wednesday: My piano’s back!

(OK. Not wordless at all, but I’m too happy to only have pictures.)

When we moved to Chicago about a year ago, we rented a furnished place. Moving a piano is gruesome work and kind of hard on the piano, so we decided to store our ancient historically interesting (at least to me) Everett upright piano until we had found a place of our own.

My piano arrived Monday. There may have been some rejoicing.
b and the piano
On my part, anyway. As you can see, The Seven-Year-Old was extremely dubious about the prospects of getting the piano up all those stairs.

Our new condo is a third-floor walk-up, and turns out, The Seven-Year-Old was right. My old Everett wasn’t flexible enough to get around the turns in either the front or the back stairs, so the movers had to call a crane company to hoist it up to our back deck.
Piano hoisting
MovingOnUp
PianoAlmostThereMy piano wasn’t the only thing that had a bit of trouble making the turns Monday. It wasn’t at all clear that the crane was even going to make it into our alley.
CraneNaturally, once the piano was safely in its spot, I tested it to see whether it still worked (hey, you never know).

Man, that piano booms. I’d forgotten how loud it was. So very great for me. So very unfortunate for my neighbors, especially as we don’t have any rugs or couches in that room to dampen the sound–yet.

I don’t know whether to practice more so that I’ll become a tolerable enough player for an audience, or to subject my neighbors to only infrequent bouts of increasingly subpar playing. What to do, what to do… :)

Oh yeah, you know what I’m going to choose. If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go choose some more of it.

Happy Wednesday!

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Wordless Wednesday: The Seven-Year-Old drops a hint

Or, what I found on my desk when I sat down to work this morning.

(Art: The Seven-Year-Old Howell)

(Art: The Seven-Year-Old Howell)

Guess she’s tired of waiting. I know this breaks the rules of Wordless Wednesday, but I haven’t been around for a while. Here’s what I’ve been doing:

  • Managing painters, plumbers, electricians, and flooring guys
  • Hiring movers
  • Packing up our current place
  • Cleaning/prepping our new place (we move again in June)
  • Paying taxes (in three states!)
  • Camp NaNoWriMo (a mini-National Novel Writing Month event held in April)
  • Trying to figure out how donations work in Chicago
  • Trying to figure out how emotions translate into body language and how body language translates into words on a page
  • Binge reading Elizabeth George mysteries
  • Debating with Daddyo on the ideal functionality of a master bathroom

Here’s what I’ve not been doing:

  • Caterpickles

Sadly (?), all my spare words have been going to my novel lately. Hopefully I’ll return to my regularly scheduled blogging output soon. In the meantime, enjoy the spring!

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Posted in Miscellaneous Musings, Wordless Wednesday | 4 Comments

What do you serve to a party of dragons?

CaptainHookDragon

The Six-Year-Old has been inspired by Hiccup to create her own Hero’s Guide to Deadly Dragons. This is her diagram of a Captain Hook Dragon. (Art: The Six-Year-Old Howell)

It’s March, which means that any day now, The Six-Year-Old will morph into The Seven-Year-Old. The Six-Year-Old is slightly obsessed with dragons (and their Viking trainers) at the moment, thanks to Cressida Cowell’s How to Train Your Dragon books, so we are planning a dragon (and Viking)-theme birthday party for her.  Naturally, the topic of what kind of birthday cake we should serve came up.

Years ago, I made an Icelandic Devil’s Cake in conjunction with United Nations day at my daughter’s preschool. I can’t remember if I actually carried the cake in to share with others. I might not have, because that cake was AMAZING. And frankly, I’m not good at sharing AMAZING.

Since the Vikings settled Iceland, I thought our Dragon and Viking themed party would be the perfect time to trot out that cake again.

The Six-Year-Old, flatly: “No.”

Mommyo, pleadingly: “But I could shape the cake like a dragon’s egg and decorate it with little swirly spots of frosting to look like spots.”

The Six-Year-Old, firmly: “No.”

Mommyo, curiously: “Why not? It’s an authentic Icelandic recipe. Something the Vikings might have eaten. I thought you’d think that was cool.”

The Six-Year-Old, decidedly: “That cake was disgusting.”

Mommyo, calmly: “You must be remembering a different cake. That cake had layers of deliciousness, dark cocoa, chocolate chips, chocolate frosting, butter…”

The Six-Year-Old, disgustedly: “And bananas. I hate bananas.”

Mommyo, sadly: “Are you sure you’re remembering the right cake?”

The Six-Year-Old: “Ask Caterpickles.”

So I did. Come with me into the Caterpickles Way Back Machine. Mind the gap.


In Which The Four-Year-Old Takes an Unwanted Trip Down Memory Lane

Posted on October 26, 2011 by Shala Howell

One Devil’s Cake: 3 1/2 cups of sugar, 1 1/4 cups of butter, 1 1/2 cups of very dark cocoa, 1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips, and 3 Tbsp of (decaf) coffee, applied to 4 1/2 year old after dinner = 2 1/2 hours of continuous galloping. Priceless. And not in a good way.

Mother, after mashing up a banana to use as the middle layer in a traditional Icelandic devil’s cake, thinks, “Mashed bananas were the first food I ever fed to The Four-Year-Old. I bet she’d think that was cool.”

Without putting any further thought into it, Mother digs in the silverware drawer for a Gerber baby spoon leftover from those halcyon early foodie days. Prepping it with a bit of mashed banana, she carries it into the playroom where The Four-Year-Old is relaxing in front of a Clifford cartoon.

Mother, excitedly: “Look, The Four-Year-Old, it’s the first food I ever gave to you as a baby! Want to try some?”

The Four-Year-Old, totally repulsed, scrambles under the couch cushions in her haste to get away from the scary slimy spoonie thing: “What. Is. That?”

Mother, still trying to keep that sentimental feeling: “Mashed bananas. You used to love them.”

The Four-Year-Old, hand over mouth, just shakes her head and looks vaguely sick.

Mother, abashed, walks back to kitchen, and dumps the rejected bananas into the sink. She pulls out a five from her wallet and puts it in The Four-Year-Old’s Future Therapy tin. We may not be able to fully fund her college, but by George, her therapy sessions will be completely covered.


It’s not actually a good plan to have The Six-Year-Old bake her own cakes for her party in her Easy Bake Oven, right?

Oh well. At least The Six-Year-Old has the party decorations well in hand.

The Six-Year-Old's homage to Toothless. (Art: The Six-Year-Old)

The Six-Year-Old’s homage to Toothless. (Art: The Six-Year-Old)

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Posted in Can we do that sometime?, Funny Stuff My Daughter Says | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Dinosaur Pet Guide

Back in the day when we had one arthritic cat and one merely very old cat, the Then Three-Year-Old wanted to know, “How much arthritis would a Giganotosaurus have to have to be a safe pet?” A cursory examination of the various weapons systems (size, teeth, claws) makes me inclined to answer a lot. Far too much to be compatible with life, in fact.

Last week, one of our favorite Norwood correspondents alerted me to this Dinosaur Pet Guide by John Conway (via I Love Charts). Although the Giganotosaurus doesn’t appear on it, I think it’s safe to assume the experience of owning a T. Rex would be pretty similar.

Dinosaur Pet Guide by John Conway (Via I Love Charts)

Dinosaur Pet Guide by John Conway (Via I Love Charts)

Posted in Can we do that sometime?, Funny Stuff My Daughter Says | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Wordless Wednesday: My View This Morning

WinterTreesSnow on trees is my favorite part of winter. And I’m ridiculously happy that I get to see it again this morning. Even if it is March.

Morning, y’all.

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Posted in Wordless Wednesday | Tagged , | 4 Comments