Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Top 10 Weird Things Found While Packing to Move


We are in the home stretch of packing for our move out of Seattle and to the neighborhood of Cottage Lake in Woodinville. (Cottage Lake! I never knew I'd ever live in a place with such a twee name. Don't get me wrong; I like both cottages and lakes. It's just that I have lived in cities for the past thirty years, so it's a bit of a change.)

We've turned up a number of unexpected items in the process of packing, such as my sister-in-law's black sweater, lost a year ago during her visit here and shipped back to England yesterday; a big tablet filled with drawings of blimplike horses with tiny legs, sketched by my daughter when she was about four; and a left shoe whose partner has been sulking in a closet for nearly a decade.

Among the finds were a few somewhat unexpected objects, just one of which is of unknown provenance. So here are The Top 10 Weird Things Found While Packing to Move.


Weird Thing 1 is a user's guide to a 1950s range.

I guess it would be truly weird if there had never been a 1950s range in the house, but as we had said range sitting in the basement for the 17 years we lived here, it's not really ultra-weird that the guide should be kicking around the place; it's probably just weird that it turned up at all.

(When we moved in, we brought a new oven with us, hence the needed-repairs range was put in the basement with plans to get it going and install a canning center downstairs. Never happened, alas.)

The second strange piece of flotsam: a mid-1900s fold-out driving map for Middle and South America. 

I have never even been to Mexico, let alone South America.

I can only think that it came from the archives of my uncle, who was well-traveled in a bus-tour sense. He frequently jetted off on vacations that involved touring places by bus and came home with endless out-of-focus pictures of what looked like the same canyon over and over again. He didn't know how to drive, so why the road map? We'll never know.

Oddment 3: A cassette single of "Jingle Bells" by the Singing Dogs, Dolly, Pearl, Caesar, and King.

This musical wonder was a hit in the 1950s and repeated its success when it was reissued in the 1970s, when many things of dubious taste enjoyed a heyday.

Yes, kiddies, before there were YouTube videos of talking dogs and philosophical cats, arranging differently pitched dog barks into a musical arrangement was considered a remarkable technological achievement! I am quite sure I got a kick out of this back in the day, probably while wearing my wide-wale deeply cuffed brown elephant-bell pants with my "ghosts boogie-ing in a graveyard" polyester shirt.

However, we don't even own a cassette player. So I don't know why this is still floating around.

"Huh!" tidbit number 4: a feather from my pet parakeet Fleckle, who also dates back to the early 1970s, having lived his two-year lifespan in that fashionable era.

I loved that little bird, and saved one of his feathers in a tiny ceramic box--as I rediscovered upon finding that box and opening it as we packed. Fleckle would sit on my finger and even endured being shown pictures of parakeets in the World Book Encyclopedia as if it were a family photo album.

"What's this?" number 5 is a bread-dough self-portrait made by my daughter when she was in preschool. It turned up inside the china cabinet inside a Belleek creamer that belonged to my grandmother. Trust me when I tell you that my daughter is considerably more charming looking than this self-portrait would suggest.


"Where'd this come from?" item 6 is a canceled stamp from Argentina.
Provenance is surely my uncle's ephemera once again (see: fold-out map of the Americas). He collected stamps, among many, many other things.

Such as Disney figurines, Christmas ornaments, Christmas figurines, decorative plates, almost anything made by the Franklin Mint, records, coins, dragon statues, Betamax disks, more decorative plates, etc.

And my husband is annually alarmed by my little-animal collectibles.  He should count his blessings.

Item number 7 is a wheel off a vehicle that belongs to Noddy, a taxi driver who is a wooden toy and drives happily around in Toyland. Noddy is the brain-child of author Enid Blyton and got his own TV show in the late 90s. Noddy and his car came home with our daughter, then age two, from a visit to relatives in England.

Since then, the car, the wheel, and the Noddy figurine have never, ever been all in the same place at the same time.

"Er, and this is...?" number 8 is a yellow piece of plastic that looks like a little wig. That is because it IS a wig. A little, plastic, yellow wig.

It came off the head of one of those blue-bodied Fischer-Price "mom" play pieces that most American kids who grew up in the 1960s will recall. Recently, an entire nation of these little people trooped through our house, passed along to me by my mom (who does not wear a cobalt blue dress or have yellow plastic hair) as she downsized her own possessions after moving.

Somewhere in the mix, there is a bald-headed Fischer-Price mom.

"EEEK! What the heck is this doing in the freezer??" item number 9 is a dead bushtit.

Stop looking at me like that. If you aren't a vegetarian, chances are high that you have dead birds in your freezer, too. Ever hear of chicken? Right. So, OK, we were never going to cook the bushtit for dinner. And never mind that this is a second creepy reference to finding feathery things.

See, it's like this: One day a few years ago, I was walking my dog Luna and saw something about a block away fall to the ground. When I reached that spot, I saw that it was a tiny little bird called a bushtit, which was not merely resting or pinin' for the fjords. This was an ex-bushtit, off to join the bleedin' choir invisible.

Luna lunged forward, seemingly intent on reclaiming her Labrador-retriever heritage, but I intervened, knowing it was far more likely that she was about to reclaim her guzzling-Hoover heritage. I pocketed it and took it home. And then? Reader, I froze it.

Reason being that I thought the local Audubon society might want to eventually stuff it and use it in their educational programs for kids. I am not making this up. I asked a friend who works there and she said yes but apparently Audubon's own freezer was crammed full of dead birds waiting to be eviscerated and stuffed and could I hold on to it for a bit longer? (I am trying to visualize freezers so full that there isn't even room for a tiny bushtit.)

As we are quite busy right now, I will no longer pursue this angle and will simply return the birdie to the earth in our backyard. It is NOT coming with us.

Nobody wants a photo of a dead bird, so instead here's a closeup of the amazing structure of  its wing feathers. You can probably deal with that.


And (drum roll), last but not least, and definitely the creepiest, in part because its provenance is unknown, and in retrospect because it bears an uncanny resemblance to the aforementioned Bread Dough Self-Portrait, is...

       Weird Scary Clown Head on a Stick


"Hi, kiddies! I love you!"

















Thursday, July 4, 2013

Red, White, and Blueberries

It's the Fourth of  July, which means, of course, that the 80- and 90-degree, relentlessly sunny, azure-skies days that we've enjoyed for a week have abruptly ceded the stage to gray, overcast, low-60s weather. Fingers crossed it brightens up a bit. (Nice weather is scheduled to return--natch--after the weekend.)

But! Still in the works are the other joys of summer, aside from sun and heat, namely the holiday's signature RED...in the form of fresh Rainier cherries...


and white (in the form of marshmallows that will later be smooshed in S'mores over a backyard fire--Jet-Puffed, of course, because they are apparently "America's Favorite")...

and BLUE, in the form of locally grown blueberries (which admittedly look more purple now because they've been baked into the Blueberry Yogurt Coffeecake, made using a recipe from the wonderful cookbook Dungeness Crabs and Blackberry Cobbler).


No, really, it WAS hot the past week, and not just "Oh, you Seattle-ites think a 70-degree day is roasting" hot. Really, 80s and 90s. MID-90s! Proof: here is the sign put on a fence up the street by an enterprising girl who was busy plying the thirsty multitudes with beverages. Note, please, the parched dragon.


If overcast skies persist, we might not see much of the colorful fireworks, but by then we'll be working on the colorful Rhubarb Marionberry Crisp, shown here before it's gone into the oven while a bloom of frozen condensation still rimes the berries (from the Phinney Farmer's Market) nestled among the rhubarb grown in the backyard garden.


Even if we don't get to see any fireworks, we can always find a rainbow somewhere, such as this celebration of the Supreme Court's recent ruling on DOMA as exhibited by Adirondack chairs up the hill.