Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The (Abbreviated) Life and Times of Mr. Goby

A. and his dad took Cubby and Charlie on an adventure to Lake Ontario on Sunday. While they were fishing on the pier, they saw a man catch a goby. Gobies are an invasive species of fish in the Great Lakes. They are caught with some regularity, and are not supposed to be returned to the lakes. So A. gave the fish to Cubby to examine.

He does love to examine fish.

After about fifteen minutes of close study, A. suggested maybe they could take it home and keep it in a fish tank in Cubby's room. Cubby, of course, was all for this idea, so the goby was placed in A.'s rinsed-out coffee cup with some lake water and transported home.

Needless to say, I was thrilled to see it.

Also needless to say, that was sarcasm.

But who can resist the excitement of a boy with a fish tank? We fortuitously had a 50-gallon fish tank in the cellar, which A. hauled up to Cubby's room, put on his dresser, filled with water, and deposited the goby into.

And then the goby sat. Or rather, hung out there on the bottom of the tank. He didn't eat the worm A. dropped in for him. He didn't swim around. He just . . . sat. This did not prevent Cubby from running back to his room every five minutes to check on Mr. Goby.

When Cubby went to bed that night, Mr. Goby still hadn't eaten his worm. An hour after he should have been asleep, I found Cubby in his room with the lights blazing, checking on Mr. Goby. When Cubby came down early the next morning, he told me he got up early to make sure Mr. Goby hadn't died.

He hadn't. But he also hadn't eaten the worm.

Yesterday Cubby collected some stones and shells from the lake for Mr. Goby's tank, as well as some of the dried corn that had been used to chum for carp on the beach. Mr. Goby didn't seem interested in these offerings, although he was at least swimming around in a more lively manner.

Then, this morning, Cubby came downstairs and told me he thought Mr. Goby was dying. When I asked him why he thought so, he said Mr. Goby used to be gray, but now he was white.


I told Cubby to go find his father and show him. Better him than me.

Mr. Goby was indeed gone. But he is not forgotten, oh no. A. made sure of that by popping him right into the jar on Cubby's dresser that contains the pickled lamprey eel. How touching.

And thus ends Cubby's first experience as a pet owner.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Ghosties and Ghoulies

The subject of ghosts seems to come up a lot in conversations about our house. People always want to know if we have one or have seen one.

Short answer: No.

Not that I'm the best person to ask, since I suspect I would be the last person on earth susceptible to a haunting. Too practical and impatient. If I heard chains rattling in the middle of the night, I would be not so much afraid as pissed off that one more thing was disrupting my sleep.


A. always claimed that the only reason we don't have a ghost is because it's been the same family living here for 140 years. He suspects that if anyone else moved in, the ghost of Aunt Elizabeth (a turn of the 20th century relative renowned for her unpleasantness) would haunt them out of the house.

However, my niece, who is twelve years old, and one of our current house guests, who is eleven, both used the word "creepy" to describe our house. So maybe there's some kind of restless spirit that only haunts pre-teen girls?

Or maybe pre-teen girls who have spent their lives in modern houses find a setting so old and antique to be vaguely disquieting.

In any case, for anyone who has ever wondered, there is no resident ghost at Blackrock. And there had better not be as long as I'm living here. I have enough to deal with. The ghosts will just have to haunt someone else.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Historical Nomenclature

We are anticipating a full house of guests this week. When the MiL was discussing the room in which one particular guest would be sleeping, she referred to that room as "Audrey's Room."

Say what? That particular room has always been referred to as "A.'s Old Bedroom," (for obvious reasons) since I've lived here and never before have I heard mention of an Audrey. Addy, yes. The very back bedroom upstairs is always referred to as "Addy's Room." Addy was the last servant ever at Blackrock. She went back to Harlem to visit her family in the 1930s (I think) and never came back.

Can't say I blame her.


I of course requested enlightenment from the MiL about the mysterious Audrey. She was the hired girl during World War Two, and she apparently had problems with wetting the bed*.

Almost ten years in this house and its history still surprises me.

* Not the same bed that is currently in there. You may think this would be obvious, but this is Blackrock we're talking about. My children sleep in beds that date to at least the 1950s.

Sunday, July 13, 2014


Happy birthday to
the indomitable Charlie

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Roughing It

The MiL decided it was time to overhaul the upstairs bathroom. I suppose it was time, seeing as it hadn't been done since, oh, maybe the 1940s and there is still (STILL) a hole in the floor from when the last plumber was working up there. SIX YEARS AGO.

Anyway. I'm sure it will be very nice to have a hole-less, modernized bathroom, but in the meantime, I'm going to be peeing in a bucket tonight.

Lemme 'splain.

The other toilet upstairs is in Charlie's room. I do not enter Charlie's room when he's sleeping, for obvious reasons of waking the dragon.

That leaves the downstairs toilet, which is a looooong way from our bedroom. But whatever. It's a toilet. So it's a long walk a couple of times a night (pregnant, remember?), but at least it's a toilet and it's indoors.


The MiL's friend is staying with us tonight, in our guest bedroom downstairs. This is the room through which you must pass to get to the downstairs bathroom. This means that between the guest sleeping and Charlie sleeping, we do not have an available toilet overnight tonight.

My options were either to go outside, which presents some problems related to darkness and aim and so forth, or pee inside in some other receptacle. I briefly considered getting out one of Cubby's little toilet training potties, but then I decided it's too small and low. Still with the aiming problems.

And that is how I came to be carefully placing a small bucket upstairs in the back bedroom with a roll of toilet paper as my makeshift middle-of-the-night bathroom. At least there's a light in there. And it's inside.

Low standards: I am all about them.

Monday, July 7, 2014

A.P.D.--Baking vs. Cooking Edition

I have never been good at following directions. I was always that student being reminded to read the directions carefully, because I never did. Too impatient, I guess.

I suppose this is why I'm such a hilariously deficient baker.

I regularly forget to add the baking soda, or use twice as much butter as a recipe calls for, or something similarly ridiculous.

I also don't like following recipes when I cook, for the same reason. Although with cooking, there's a lot more room for error. I'm a good cook, mostly because I hardly ever follow a recipe, which means I can't really screw up too badly.

So I suppose what it comes down to is that I'm much too feckless to be a good baker, but cooking is sloppy and imprecise enough that I can get away with it.

And now, my lovelies, let's hear from you. Are you a skilled baker? An accomplished cook? Or do you avoid them both and rely instead on the supermarket for your food?

Friday, July 4, 2014

Currant Affairs

That title is not misspelled, but it may be the worst title in the history of blogging. You'll see why in a second.

A few days ago, our very elderly neighbor called to tell me her red currants* (you see about the title? I apologize) were ripe and she would be delighted if I would come pick them all and use them. I assured her the delight was all ours. A. proclaims currant jelly to be the most exquisite of all jellies (his words, believe it or not), and I still remember with great fondness a currant/blackberry jelly the MiL made several years ago.

So it wasn't lack of interest that kept me from getting over there to pick currants; it was a lack of opportunity. Taking the children with me would have made it sort of difficult to actually pick the currants, since this property is a bonanza of old tractors and RVs and various other items of interest to little boys.

My opportunity came this morning, however, when A. announced his intention of going to the neighbors' to cut some more wood. His brother, who is here for the weekend with his wife and daughter, went with him, as did Cubby. Charlie, the MiL, my sister-in-law, and my niece all piled in a different car and went to pick currants.

We got a LOT of currants.

Hello, my pretties.

The MiL and I spent about 45 minutes during naptime pulling the currants off their stems, after which I crushed them a little, added a bit of water, and put them on to simmer. I measured approximately 19 cups of fruit before they were crushed. The recipe for currant jelly in the Ball Blue Book calls for five cups of currant juice. I'm not sure how much juice I'll get from 19 cups of currants, but I think it's safe to assume I'll have at least enough to make two batches of jelly, which is about eight pints.

The currants are simmering at this very moment. A. has gone to the hollow to cut up an enormous limestone boulder into manageable pieces for stoneworking, his new favorite hobby. The children are still sleeping. We're going to a party on our neighbors' beach this evening (not the elderly neighbors, our next-door neighbors), at which I anticipate eating many varieties of chips and dip, although sadly abstaining from the phenomenal homemade margaritas. Later, there will be fireworks that I'll probably only see through the window, since I'll be in the house with long-sleeping children by the time it's dark enough for fireworks.

All in all, a pretty good Fourth of July. Here's hoping yours is just as good, my lovelies.

* Currants, for those of you who care, are similar in taste to a cranberry, though not quite so tart and definitely much softer than a cranberry when raw. They're very high in pectin and have a little seed in each one that is big enough to be annoying when chewed, so they're perfect for making into juice and then jelly.