Jenny & the Cat Club Ornaments

November 29th, 2012 by: cheyenne

Ronin is cat obsessed. She dressed as a cat for halloween (Jiji from ‘Kiki’s Delivery Service‘)—in fact, she dresses near-daily in the cat outfit. She is also Christmas tree-obsessed, so every year we get the tree as soon as humanly possible. She then spends about all her time underneath and behind it, organizing the bottom tiers of ornaments into unusual collections and shoving her dolls and stuffed guys deep into the foliage.

Every year I make a handful of new ornaments and this year’s collection is based on her favorite cat books, Jenny and the Cat Club, by Esther Averill.

So far, I’ve managed to finish only four of the main characters. Ronin abandoned the project after about five minutes; winding the limp paper mache around the tiny figurines was absurdly tedious. She stood next to me instead and plotted out which character I was to make next.

Jenny Linsky! She’s around 3″ tall.

Checkers & his retrieving ball!

Edward Brandywine!

Pickles the fire cat! I need to make his little firecap.


July 9th, 2012 by: cheyenne

Ronin. This photo was taken by her friend’s babysitter, who rocks with a camera phone.

ps – Ronin wanted to say something, and that something is: “I’m a kitty-cat.”

Summery! Sort of…

June 22nd, 2012 by: cheyenne

The monkey grows; observe the evidence.

Last year we spent most of our home-owner energies making the inside of the house pleasant; this year, we’ve been focusing on the outside. I dreamed up the elaborate and non-standard fence situation you see in the back in exchange for a rusty, ivy-encrusted old chain link nastiness, which we ripped out and drove to the scrapyard for real cash money. It’s a mad world. Joshua nay-sayed my fence every step of the way but I prevailed and I think it turned out pretty nice looking. He even helped build it. Best part is I got a table saw out of the deal.

If fence building wasn’t making my spring awesome enough, I personally excavated a giant hole and leveled a large area for some garden beds. I decided we could turn the hole into a dry well, but it turns out that it held water too well and we had to fill it back in. But not before we terrified all the neighbors’ kids with tales of falling into the hole; Hans’ dog Otto actually fell into the hole and Ronin got hit in the head with a rock while standing in the hole. I’m not sure what it is about a yawning abyss in one’s backyard that creates such a focal point.

To make up for all the back-breaking labor I was missing out on by not finishing the dry well, I removed sod from an area the size of a small house and then excavated the rotting cinder-block foundation of an ancient garage. It was super fun. We even got some Craigslist crazies to come take the foundation blocks away! One guy even came back for seconds.

At long last, garden beds were erected, retaining walls retained, and a quaint brick walkway assembled around everything to keep the mud at bay. The walkway is comprised of bricks I got for free from some dude dismantling his chimney; they were all crusted with 90-year old mortar that I had to chip off with a really big screwdriver. Because nothing ever can possibly be simple. Or easy.

Finally we got a load of nice clean nice composty dirt (six yards!) and wheelbarrowed it all over the place. We now have a garden with tomatoes (five different ones!), cucumbers, zucchini, yellow and green patty-pan squashes, asparagus, rhubarb, peas, lettuce greens, arugula, and fennel! Yay!

Summer is gone and we never posted anything about it

October 6th, 2011 by: cheyenne

Well, basically what it says above. Ronin has grown like 7 feet, weighs in at a whopping 30 pounds, and can read simple words when she’s feeling obliging. She is intensely willful and inordinately contrary. We like to say that she inherited the contrary gene from her great-grandma Nikki. She loves to sing and is constantly making up songs about random things, like a little mosquito, a bird flying to its nest, a little blue car.. She makes up unusual melodies and even attempts to rhyme her verses. Driving in the car on short trips around town is no longer fraught with peril; she sits tight, sings herself a song, and most importantly, stays awake (usually).

Summer was brief and very mild. I didn’t get my tomatoes into the ground until June and they are just now fruiting (but they are fruiting lots). I also tried to grow arugula and as soon as the plants got large enough that I felt I wouldn’t be depriving them of their only mature leaves to make my salad, they all bolted. Lame!

Earthday: Ronin danced with the hippies and rolled in the grass.

Ronin and the other kids peeking at Kricket in her caterpillar puppet.

I painted a little snake on her arm. What then followed was an introverted hour of intense concentration while she carefully picked all the paint off with her fingernails. Temporary tattoos are also far more temporary than they should be where Ronin is concerned.

Hiking in Forest Park. Ronin wanted up.

Our summer was really very low key, yet we kept very busy. We went to the river or lake, hiked in the woods, and biked around our new section of town to one of the many different parks. We did a lot of cooking and eating al fresco while the kitchen was dismantled. Here I am cooking a caramel custard on the back patio amidst the construction debris.

Ronin finally got her bunkbed. It took us long enough. We were given this one by Joshua’s mom, who used to use it in her classroom for puppet shows. It’s way sturdier than the IKEA one and we didn’t have to monkey with it to get rid of the lower bunk. Unfortunately, it had been stored in her garage for two years and had some mildew on it. I scrubbed it and dried it well before we assembled it in Ronin’s bedroom but by the time we got it together, both of us were coughing, had tight throats, and just general allergy-yuck symptoms. So, to Ronin’s intense and vocal disappointment (we felt so bad), we took it apart and brought it back outside, where we stewed over what to do with it. In the end, I sanded the entire thing, sanded away all mildewy spots, and then lacquered it with many coats of the stuff I finished the floor in the kitchen with. It no longer smells and it looks quite nice. We got it back up in Ronin’s room soon thereafter and she LOVES it.

Bunny and Nigel love it.

All the guys got to sleep in it the first couple of nights. Now she’s back down to Nigel and sometimes one other guy.

Underneath is a little playhouse. We have curtains that enclose it and I thought I could cut little windows, a door, and paint cute things on it.

She has never before shown any sort of irrational fear to anything but just lately she has voiced some concern about a moose in the walls. Also a knocking in the bathroom closet. Neither of us are sure where this came from. She always wants us to open the closet so she can look inside (there’s a toilet plunger in there, which I suppose is scary in its own right). It was bound to start at some point I suppose, but still, we’re trying to figure out how best to respond so that that they fade rather than grow more intense.

Joshua signed her up for a gymnastics class and she loved it. She is strong and fearless (when it doesn’t involve moose) and can hang on a bar almost indefinitely. She likes the bars and the “balance bean.” We originally thought we would put her in ballet since she’s still mad about it but the ballet classes seem to be less structured for this age group. Maybe when she’s a little older.

Kitchen remodel part II (finished, mostly)

September 30th, 2011 by: cheyenne

Some before photos of the kitchen. People were telling me (people who had never seen it in person, that is), that the kitchen didn’t seem so bad. And it wasn’t as bad as the bathroom or anything, but I pretty much had it in for the kitchen from the moment I laid eyes on it. I hated the floor tile, I hated the counter tile, the cabinets were all too small and just funky, and the insides smelled like squashed ants. Even though there were no ants in sight. Squashed-ant smell drives me utterly nutballs.

I took a bunch of close-up photos to illustrate just how nasty it really was. Behold:

Ugly exposed smished particle board bits. These were in most of the cupboards. I guess at one point, the hinges ripped out and were re-mounted elsewhere..?

Nothing was square. (This is how this cupboard closed; it’s not supposed to be ajar.)

I have no idea what the story was on the back panels of the cabinets. It couldn’t have possibly come like this, could it?

Oh look: greasy drippings behind the cabinets! How wonderful. I guess that wall has to go. Now, what do you suppose is behind the stove fan?

Mmmmm, tasty. When we removed the rectangular vent that went up to the ceiling, we discovered that the fan was actually just venting into the wall between studs. Not actually outside.


Demolition went fairly rapidly. It’s easy to bust apart cabinets when you don’t care about scratches. We took easily three tons of CRAPOMGWTF to the dump (had to rent a moving van to get it there). You do not even want to know how many mummified rats and mice we’ve so far removed from the innards of this house. Between this and pulling the ceiling down in the basement (did I mention?), Joshua expected to be stricken with hanta virus at any moment for a good 4 weeks (we did our internet research).

We initially thought that we would not have to remove any walls. HAAAaaaaaaa! Probably should have taken them all out but we’re stubborn that way. Complicated keeps the mind snappy. It takes a something-something to blend new crisp sheetrock into 100-year-old uneven plaster. That something is Crazy.

We had our usual round of setbacks. I spent about four billion hours agonizing over the perfect turquoise color to paint the walls and what I picked out ended up looking freakishly kelly green in our house. I then spent about 3 minutes picking out the substitute and it was fine. Perfect, even. Joshua ended up starting a plumbing project that eventually encompassed the entire rest of the house just trying to replace a sink in the exact place the old sink was previously.

Here we’ve just laid the countertops over the lower cabinets. Suddenly there was an end in sight. That hole with the stool? That’s where a mechanical DISHWASHER is going to go. And do you see those kick-ass wooden butcher-block counters? I DIE!

OH la la.

OH LA LA!! The stove is this crazy huge black monster that we didn’t intend to get but randomly ended up with and now are SO HAPPY we did. It’s the best thing I’ve ever cooked on: gas top, convection electric oven. And ventilation! HEAVEN!

I would have liked to have cabinets that went all the way to the ceiling (even though we have to use a stool to reach the uppers as it is), but this was the best we could do. I plan to put little half-rounded shelves to the right of the window. I have a bunch of light-seeking little succulents and what-nots that want this space.

And the new shiny sink: I have lusted after that sink for years. I have a love/hate relationship with IKEA, but mostly love.

Here you see our crazy humongous steel refrigerator. I was lobbying for the tiniest refrigerator you could buy—preferably one that fit under the counter. We would then have an auxiliary freezer in the basement or whatever. Joshua wanted a big ol’ side-by-side thing with cold-water jets and an icemaker. I won first and we ended up first buying a very small (but tallish) fridge, but it was freakishly loud and sounded like an irate flock of birds every time it kicked into gear, so we took it back. Then Joshua won and we ended up with this thing: it’s one of the highest energy rated beasts out there and with all the rebates and tax whatnots and sales (we had an armory of coupons), it ended up being about the cheapest option. We win!

We eventually intend to add cabinets over the fridge and to the left, but were still figuring out what exactly we want.

Oh, don’t mind my child; she’s having a total fit on the floor.

Oak countertops!!! I love them!

Cheyenne Weil, Joshua Coxwell