Wasp Warrior Princess of the North

One fresh August morning, I thought I’d get some air and sunshine into the place.  I raised shades and opened windows in every room.  In the bedroom, there is one we rarely open.  The shade stays down and if we want a breeze, we use the adjacent window.

But as this was a day for sunshine, I yanked on the shade to retract it on its roller.  And was immediately taken aback in horror.  Attached between the inner window pane and the outer storm window was a wasp nest the size of a tangerine.  Not quite an orange, not a clementine, but — you know — a tangerine . . . but not quite as sweet.

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Once I realized they had no access to the inside of the house, I stood perplexed.  It was like one of those bee hives you can watch from the safety of a glass pane.  Except I don’t want one of those in my house, and these things weren’t making honey.  They were making a home and they intended to stay.

I walked outside to view it from another perspective.  I posted it on Facebook, hoping for sage advice.  I texted friends.  I called my brother, who was on his way out of town.  Unfortunately, he said, he was not close enough to help.  I talked him through it, but he had little to offer.

My Facebook friends replied with everything from, “Walk back and forth muttering, ‘Tut, tut, it looks like rain’,” adding “It worked for Winnie the Pooh” to “Run!”  My text query produced the response, “Call an exterminator.”

There are a few things you should know about me if you don’t already.  I’m frugal.  I’m not going to pay someone to do something I can do myself.  I’m independent.  I’m not going to rely on a man for something that doesn’t involve brawn or . . . well . . . anything else I don’t have.  I’m resourceful.  If there’s a will, there’s a way, and I definitely had a will to get rid of this thing and all its little inhabitants.

My new outdoor perspective unveiled no answers.  I couldn’t see how they got in, nor could I see a way to launch an anti-wasp assault weapon at the nest.  As far as I could tell, the only access to the nest was from the inside.  I walked back inside and strategized.

The only safe way I knew to kill a nest was to shoot it with wasp and hornet spray.  The only access to the nest was to open the window.  In order to keep them out of the room when I opened the window, I was going to have to seal it off.

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Step 1:
I sealed the window with painter’s tape and lightweight plastic.

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Step 2:
Releasing a couple of inches of tape at the bottom, I used a pole to push the window up, pulled the pole out, and quickly resealed the tape.

Now, did I mention it was a very windy day?  No sooner did I raise the window, but a gust of wind came and puffed my plastic like a balloon!  I could hear the tape straining, then the wind sucked the plastic out as if taking a bigger breath, and blew against the plastic again.  I’d like to say I watched confidently chanting, “Not by the hair of my chinny-chin-chin.”  But it was more like “Oh my God . . . oh my God . . . oh my God!”

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Because all the movement had agitated my little stinger-friends, they took to head-banging themselves against the plastic with fury.

Plan B was forming in my head, and it went like this:

  1. Run.
  2. Close the bedroom door.
  3. Call the exterminator.

But the tape held, and the wasps calmed.

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Step 3:
I released the corner of the sealed plastic, as far from the nest as possible (we’re talking maybe 18 inches, tops).  Aiming as carefully as I could through the semi-opaque plastic, I deployed my weapon of mass destruction.  Once.  Twice.  Then quickly pushed the tape back down against the frame.

Part of being strategic is being able to add tactics as they become necessary.

Step 3a:
When pushing the tape to the window frame proved unproductive, I realized the wet spray toxin had rendered it un-sticky.  Hastily, I dispatched more tape to the corner, while wasps buzzed, drunkenly defending what they mistakenly assumed was their turf.

It’s a cruel death, really.  As pollinators, I appreciate them.  As tenants, I do not, and alas they had to go.

Step 4:
After a reassuring period of time passed, the plastic, tape, and finally wasps were removed.  I found their access, and closed the gap.

Only one live wasp returned, probably coming back to his rampaged home to discover his loved ones had perished in a savage attack.  Yes, I imagine bugs think like this, and it makes my life traumatic sometimes —  when I do these little things one must do to secure one’s home from pests.

Anyway, it was a mercy killing.  One swift and final blow with a fly swatter brought the last one to his fate.

That afternoon — I’m sure it was karma — three wasps came in through the back door.  After my earlier adventure, I felt all-powerful.  Fearless, even.  Swat! . . . Swat!  Kill, kill . . . KILL!

I tweeted, “Call me Jean, Wasp Warrior Princess of the North.”

Peace . . .

wasp
wasp (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

 

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Minnesotans Grasp the Last of the Season

I love to watch the sun come up over houses across the way.  The neighbors’ trees stand high above their rooftops, and the sun lights them up like fire at this time of year.  How fast the summers fly these days.  Here in Minnesota, we grasp the end of the season like life itself is slipping through our fingers.

As I write, I see there is frost on the shingles.  It will be a good day to bring in the remaining tomatoes that might have ripened in the garden.  I made some notes for next year, entitled Garden 2016.  It says things like

No onions
More carrots
Lots of kale
Plant tomatoes in the side yard
Spread out herbs
Expand concrete block garden
Only two or three zucchini plants

Winter is as long as summer is short.  I tend to forget what it was I wanted to do unless I write it down.  Especially where zucchini is concerned.  Zucchini is one of those things that gives a gardener a boost of confidence.  If you’ve ever been offered an armload of zucchini, you know how prolific they are.  I don’t know how many seeds are in a packet, but there are several dozen too many for the average family.  Yet, planting two or three seeds from a handful of many seems somehow wasteful when it’s so easy to just pop a few more in the dirt.  And that’s where the zucchini takeover begins.

UntitledThe summer also brought me some really great luck with jalapeño peppers.  They started ripening at the same time as the zucchini.  One morning I began to harvest, stomach growling and mouth watering.  I thought to myself, “There has got to be something I can make for breakfast with zucchini and jalapeño peppers.”  And so I headed where all great cooks go . . . to Pinterest. I plugged “jalapeño” and “zucchini” into the search bar.  Lo and behold, my screen filled with tasty options.

The most delicious-sounding recipe was some type of zucchini-jalapeño pancake.  Unfortunately, I didn’t pin it, and I can’t seem to find it again to share with you here.  As I read the list of ingredients, I checked my mental pantry.  “Got that . . . yup . . . ooh, I have that . . .”  I knew I’d like it because all the ingredients were my favorites.  Then I read the directions.  It called for squeezing the hell out of the shredded zucchini no less than three times, separated by 15-minute intervals.  And I was hungry NOW!

Not being one to let the culinary arts get the best of me, I started to imagine something simpler.  Instead of grating the zucchini and squeezing the water out, I would noodle them with my Veggetti™ (which my kids maintain is a vulgar-sounding gadget), and sauté the water out.  Using all the same ingredients, minus the almond flour, I made the MOST delicious frittata.  It was such a mainstay of my summer breakfasts, that I want to share it with you here.

Ingredients:

 1 T olive oil
1 medium zucchini, noodled or shredded
1 finely diced jalapeño pepper
1 slice cooked bacon, diced
2 eggs 1 T cream (or milk)
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/4 c shredded parmesan

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Heat oil in a medium oven-safe skillet over medium heat until a drop of water skitters on the surface.  Meanwhile, whisk eggs with cream, salt and pepper.  Add zucchini noodles and jalapeño.  Sauté until vegetables are beginning to brown and the water has cooked away.

Pour egg mixture over vegetables.  Sprinkle diced bacon over the top and place in hot oven.

When the eggs are nearly set, sprinkle parmesan over the top.  Return to oven until eggs set. Best enjoyed al fresco!

Experiment with your own herbs, vegetables, and cheese.  I made several variations of this frittata, and I couldn’t tell you which was my favorite.  Whatever is in the garden and fridge is fair game!

Peace . . .

The Behavioral Science of Snow Removal

Schneeschaufel snow shovel
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It occurs to me that those living closer to the equator may not have the luxury of appraising neighbors on methods of snow removal.  By closer I mean closer than one of the northern-most United States of America.  Mention you are from Minnesota, and people immediately conjure images of wolf-like dogs racing across an open tundra, a parka-clad rider mushing them on in search of the next meal of blubber.

Yeah, it’s something like that.  Only I’m in my Dodge Neon, the dog has positioned herself on the center console looking out over the dashboard, and I’m on my way to the supermarket.  Sure it’s cold, and there’s snow on the roads.  It’s Minnesota.  It’s winter.  Get over it.  The minute a flake falls from the sky, everyone wants to know what the roads are like.  My answer?  “Eh . . it’s winter.”

And with the season comes the practiced art of snow removal.  Minnesotans have been removing snow for centuries.  Technically, the snow is not removed.  You can’t remove snow unless you bring it inside, melt it and flush it down the drain.  No, we move it.  From here to there.  Sometimes, we have so much snow to move that we scoop it up in front loaders, empty it into dump trucks and haul it away.  I’m not sure where they go with it, but if it were me I’d haul it to California.

While snow in the city comes with parking bans, tow trucks and impound fees, in the suburbs it’s all about what your neighbor is doing.  Why should winter be different than any other season?  As soon as the lawn is covered, and they can no longer judge the green of your grass, they will begin to analyze the white of your driveway.

Technically speaking, if one does not remove the snow from one’s driveway, the snow will eventually remove itself.  However, if your intention is to leave the snow until it melts in the spring, after driving over it and the fluctuations in temperature, you’re going to end up axle-deep in frozen ruts going nowhere fast.  I think all Minnesotans can agree that some amount of snow movement is necessary.

You have several options, offering various stages of effort and cost.  You can buy a shovel or hire a kid to shovel you out.  You can buy a snowblower, or hope a neighbor brings one over.  Some people put a plow on the front of their truck and not only plow out their place, but make money plowing out others.  My dad used to take out his four-wheel drive with the plow on the front and drive around looking for little old ladies shoveling their own driveway or families stuck in the ditch.  His pay was the smile on their face.

Once suburbanites have chosen our option of snow removal, we are obligated to assess our neighbors’ methods and motivation.  It is safe to say that a homeowner can be accurately labeled by the driveway he keeps.

  • The Gambler:  This guy checks the forecast first.  He may leave up to three inches lay if he thinks it will melt by 2 p.m. tomorrow.  If the stuff is still falling, he gauges the weight per shovelful, duration of snowfall, and rate of accumulation before making his plan of attack.
  • The Sloth:  This one owns a snowblower, but will wait to see if it melts first.  He is often seen three days later carelessly snow-blowing ice chunks toward windows and small children.
  • The OCD:  He is out there with his shovel as soon as a dusting appears.  Unfortunately, as soon as he finishes the bottom of the driveway, the top is already accumulating snow again, and he can’t possibly go inside until the whole thing is clear.  You might want to bring over a cup of hot chocolate or a small meal.
  • The Over-Acheiver:  You can spot this star student by the way he not only shovels his sidewalk and driveway, but his effort extends to parts of the yard, and even into the street.  Where other houses’ curbs slope naturally to the street, his is cut at a 90-degree angle exactly at curb depth.
  • The Good Samaritan:  This guy can often be spotted down the street, snow-blowing out every plow drift along the way.  The plow drift, as Northerners know, is what the city plow deposits at the end of your driveway after you have meticulously cleared it out.  The Good Samaritan wears a frost-encrusted smile accompanied by a frozen-snot icicle mustache.
  • The Homeschooler:  You can spot this one by the number of shovels lined up in various sizes outside the door.  While the shovels are in use, please slow to 15 mph as children will be present.

Me?  I’m inside huddled next to the space heater.  The chimneys across the street are emitting a steady flow of horizontal steam, communicating a cold, steady wind against a sunny blue sky.  I can hear the rhythmic scrape of Bubba’s shovel, his black toque bobbing occasionally above the window sash.  He finally invested in a snowblower this year.  And as Murphy’s Law dictates, I think we can forecast a fairly light year for the stuff, rarely dropping enough to start it up.

Maybe that makes me the smart homeowner.

Peace . . .

How I Lost Over 150 Ugly Pounds in One Week

Five days off work, plus two weekends equals 9 days in a row of over-indulgent ME-time!  Some people travel.  Others reconnect with nature or family.  I like to choose a theme.  This week the theme was Decluttering.  If you know me at all, you will know that anything worth doing is worth making a list:

Items that need decluttering include:

  • Coats
  • Table Linens
  • Entertainment center
  • Clothing
  • Undergarments and socks
  • Pajamas
  • Cleaning closet
  • Pet supplies
  • Cookware
  • Beauty and health products
  • Crafts
  • Books

Half Price Books

As you can see, I have my work cut out for me.  I decided to start with the books.  Three boxes have been patiently waiting for their trip to the Half-Price Bookstore for several years, so this was an easy beginning.  I dusted them off, trying hard not to fall back in love with any of them in the process.  I only rescued two.  One was a trail-guide to trees, which I’ve actually searched for twice this year.

“Oh, hey . . . HERE you are!”

The other was my How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk book.  I can’t believe I was going to give away the all-time best book on communication EVER.  What was I thinking?

Because today is a beautiful sunny day, I dressed in a lightweight t-shirt.  I checked twice to make sure you couldn’t see the dark-colored bra underneath, finally deciding it was only visible if you were staring at my chest.  At my age, I can only hope for so much!  My brushed hair fell in soft waves along my shoulders.  With my cheeks blushed, eyelashes curled, I looked in the mirror.

“Hello, beautiful!  Looking good!”

On the way out, I grabbed another stack of recyclables harvested from craft supplies and patterns, and a sack of trashed junk from the basement.  Both the trash bin and the recycle bin are nearly full, and the garbage pick-up was yesterday!  My step lightened as I went back in to grab the latest box of culled books.

“Wow!  How much does this bad boy weigh?”

I stepped on the scale with and without the box.  It weighed in at around 38 pounds.  No wonder I was looking so great this morning.  I’ve lost a lot of weight!

Balancing the box against the store window while pulling the door open, I looked down.  The weighty box stretched my shirt, revealing not only my plentiful cleavage, but the black brassiere I had carefully checked for show-through.  I released the door and hauled up on the neckline of my t-shirt.  A chivalrous employee ran from inside to hold the door.  Hiding behind my sunglasses, I accepted their offer and retreated to my car.

George Washington smiled smugly from the ten-spot.  He knew I was taking him to coffee.  There I ran into a friend from work.  She asked how my week of decluttering was going.  After I shared with her the fruits of my labor, she said, “Well, you look . . ”

“I know.  I look great, right?”

We shared a nod and a broad grin before I went on my way.

Clearly the weight loss was showing.  As with any plan, you need to stay motivated, or you’ll be right back where you started — or worse.  The problem with taking nine consecutive days from work, is that nine days is exactly how long it takes to forget how energy-depleting work life is.  Today, on day eight, I’m all like,

“I can keep up this momentum!  All I have to do is to come home from work and spend a half hour each day organizing and decluttering!”

I seem to have forgotten that feeling of wanting nothing more than to put on my p.j.s and melt into the couch.  Not to mention getting ready for the next day,  bedtime rituals, possibly mustering up enough energy to eat a healthy dinner.  And how, by Thursday, I usually just say,

“F*** it, give me a peanut butter sandwich.”

English: A peanut butter and jelly sandwich, m...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Don’t get me wrong, I love my time off, but she’s a tease.  Everything seems attainable from this side of the time-clock.

So what’s my plan?  How do I keep moving forward after the success of a 150-pound week?  Maybe these inspirational quotes will be more effective for decluttering than they have been for weight loss.

“This is a journey, not a destination.”

“One pound at a time.”

“When I feel like quitting, I ask myself why I started.”

“Good things come to those who work their asses off.”

“Keep calm and carry a gun.”

Wait . . . that last one I read on a t-shirt at the gas station.

Never mind.

Peace . . .

What Happened to Dens?

The Brady Bunch opening grid, season one
The Brady Bunch opening grid, season one (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Do real people have dens anymore?  The Brady Bunch had a den.  We had a den, but not until both my brothers stopped using that room as a bedroom.  We set up two chairs facing a t.v. placed in the corner.  Behind one of the chairs sat a desk which also faced the t.v.  Behind the desk was a clothes-closet-turned-storage.  I don’t remember what was in there.  Probably papers.  Back then people used to save a lot of papers and canceled checks.

The Brady’s den belonged to Mike, the man of the house.  I think our den belonged to my mother, who paid the bills at the desk and watched t.v. until way past my bedtime.  But my father also fell asleep watching baseball in there and after school it was my favorite place to sit and watch television while eating a snack of kippers and diet soda.  No . . . that’s not a typo.

There are lion’s dens and dens of iniquity.  Basically, I guess, dens are a place to find trouble.  Mike Brady was always scheming up something in his den, and Marcia once got in trouble for using Mike’s den without permission.  That begs the obvious question, what was Mike hiding in there that the kids couldn’t be in there unsupervised?  I always knew there was more to those Brady’s than reading magazines in bed.  By the way, Marcia was forgiven once Mike realized she was secreting away to write a nomination for Father of the Year.  Man, I’ll bet he felt like a cad.

What happened to the dens?  Did they turn into family rooms?  Home offices?  What rooms will we have in our homes of the future?  How does a room just disappear like we never really had a use for it?  Are rich people the only ones with dens and formal dining rooms anymore?

We have a room in the basement that we sort of re-modeled.  We put in new tile flooring, restored the baseboards, eliminated moisture, and painted.  Bubba has a really cool desk space with all his favorite things crowded around his computer.  I put some scrapbooking things in there and packed it so full I can’t even use it.  Some decisions need to be made . . . and I’m talking dumpster duty here.  But Bubba knows better than to touch my stuff, and I wouldn’t think of rearranging any of his shit.  Because as George Carlin taught us, all his stuff is shit and all my shit is stuff.

Now all this room needs is a name.  It’s not really a home office.  It isn’t a craft room.  Bubba sometimes calls it the Bat Cave.  I called it the Situation Room for a while.  I’m thinking it might qualify as a den.  After all, I’d be pretty pissed if Marcia messed around in there . . . even if she were crafting a letter of nomination for Mother of the Year.

On Friday morning, March 21, 2003, President G...
The White House Situation Room  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Our Situation Room

Clearly, Bubba has the cooler space here.  At least he can get to his.

Peace . . .

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Interview

In January I job-shadowed a co-worker in another department.  It was mostly an informational journey, finding out more about what they do in that corner of the organization.  I hadn’t meant to fall in love.  As those who stray are often overheard saying, it just happened.

When the job opening posted, I submitted my résumé, with a carefully crafted cover letter, to the HR department.  Then I waited.

The first two interviews were lined up over three weeks later.  A Friday.  They would be held early, before the workday surrendered to the weekend.  At the time the appointment was set, no one expected a snow storm.

DSCN1158Thursday the flakes fell all day.  By lunch the back roads were risky.  The HR department called.  No one who didn’t have to was coming in the next day, much less early.  My first appointment was rescheduled for the afternoon.  Soon I was messaged by the hiring manager.  Could I reschedule?  Yes, of course . . . doesn’t my résumé say that one of my strengths is flexibility?  Given the choice, I chose Friday afternoon over Monday.  Weekends are meant to relax, not fibrillate.

It was all worked out.  I would dress for the interview in the morning, wearing snow boots and carrying my dress shoes in a bag.  Returning home on my break as usual, I’d eat a light and healthy lunch, freshen up, and arrive back at work looking crisp and eager.

That evening, I gunned it up the drive to keep from lodging halfway.  Bubba met me at the back door.  He had gunned his car too, but his power steering pump whined.  Something gave and he lost the ease of his wheel.  He made it in, but the car was crippled.  He would have to take mine in the morning.

Okay!  So just another change of plans, right?  Deep breath and forge ahead.

Brush
Brush (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Friday morning I dressed in my professional best.  My makeup and hair in place, nails groomed, brows plucked, Bubba warmed the car.  A trip home to freshen up midday would be impossible.   It was important I felt confident and unruffled before I left in the morning.

The last thing I did before I went out the back door was to grab my purse in the front room.  Looking out the window, I saw the young woman across the street spinning her wheels.  The plows that cleared the streets overnight left a dense berm of snow at the bottom of each driveway.  My young neighbor made the poor choice to try and run her vehicle over the drift.

Now, it occurred to me that if we backed out just right, we could keep our car in reverse and back down the hill until we found a clear area to turn around.  However, it would require us to drive, albeit backwards, right by her while she was stuck in the snow.

“Shoot!” I exclaimed.  Okay, I didn’t say shoot, but you get the idea.  I was starting to lose my cool.

I watched her tires spin a few more times without any encouragement from the car.  There was nothing to do except the right thing.  I marched past Bubba in my boots, well-coiffed hair, and lipstick.  I trod through the snow to the garage.  Plucking the lightest shovel off the wall, I strutted past the woman now on her phone in the street.  I began to excavate the incapacitated car at a feverish rate.

English: Cleaning up after a snow storm in Bor...

Before long, Bubba and a passing motorist had joined my endeavor.  The car was soon dislodged, many thanks were exchanged and we headed back to our own warm automobile.

Sweaty, wet, rumpled, my meltdown arrived violently.  Deep breaths turned into hyperventilation as I tried to keep tears from rinsing away my mascara.

By the time Bubba dropped me off at work, I had regained some small amount of composure.  The place was a ghost town.  The desks of my two office mates sat empty for the next hour.  The only callers were canceling orders.  The call from HR shouldn’t have surprised me.

Neither interview would take place that day.  A small voice in my head mocked my meltdown from earlier.  Next week would be a better time for interviews.  Surely everything that could go wrong already had.

Peace . . .

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My Week of PTO, Part 5

Friday, Day 5

It is hard to believe we had snow just five days ago!  Friday was a put-down-the-windows-and-drive-with-the-sunroof-open kind of day!  I had lunch with a friend, watched a couple movies, and celebrated the annual spring puppy-poo pick-up!

However, I think you will agree when I say that my puttering has improved.  Here are two items handmade in shop classes and given to me years ago.  I have been meaning to paint them forEVER.  My daughter, who is 26 years old, made the shelf unit, and the candle-holder was made by Bubba’s son a couple years ago.

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As per suggested by Lois at Living Simply Free, I primed them both with Killz, which I already had in the house, then bought latex paint to finish them off.

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I painted the candle holder black and the cabinet white to match the bathroom.  After the first coats, I set them in the window to dry.  Then I went outside to soak up that gorgeous weather!

DSCN1205The second coats were added in the afternoon.  The shelf knob was purchased five years ago.  I stored it in the drawer so I would always know where it was when I was ready.  Hey, I am a very organized procrastinator!