Being neighborly

Our senior citizen neighbors (no, not those senior citizen neighbors, the other ones – the ones we met just last summer after living next door for nearly two years) called for help shoveling the driveway and sidewalk yesterday. John helped the last time it snowed, in December, I think, but since there’s no such thing as a snow day anymore, work does not go on hold when the weather gets bad, and it’s hard to squeeze in shoveling at home AND shoveling for the neighbors. Luckily, it hasn’t snowed much this winter.

So the other day, David left a voicemail for John, requesting help. First, he shouldn’t have to call – we’ll be better about that. It’s not like we didn’t see the snow. Second, David is trying to find college students or someone to help him out, but he’s striking out. Third, that day was not a good day for John to walk away from work for a couple of hours. He could keep half an eye on Jack, though, so we brought some toys and the tablet upstairs, and I went to shovel some snow.

I don’t think shoveling is fun, and I don’t want to have to do it every day, but it felt pretty good to be out there. It was hard (the overnight rain had packed the snow down so it was heavy and slushy), but it was good exercise. We started in his driveway, and by the time we reached the sidewalk in front of his house, I was so warm I took off my coat. We cleared his entire driveway, including the snow-plow slush at the street, and then cleared his entire sidewalk, all in about an hour. David was out there with me, so it was nice to catch up with him, and it felt good to be helping him out.

And then he tried to pay me! I refused, of course, but accepted the present he had for Jack. I can’t remember if I’ve said this before, but David spent his entire career designing and building toys, and he has the neatest stuff. His present to Jack was the most recent version of toddler power tools, the first versions of which were his idea and his design. How cool is that?

He’s an interesting guy, and I’m looking forward to nicer weather so we can hang out in the yard and talk.

I cannot be trusted

A quick search on my blog tells me that I have not told you the story about the time I let the neighbor’s sheep out of its pen.  I was reminded of it because I talked to that neighbor the other day.  I did NOT tell him this story.

Last summer, we met the neighbors who had recently moved in to the big house at the end of the lane behind us.  They’re super nice, and they happily gave us the use of the lane between their house and their barn so we could use it as a path through to the neighborhood on the other side.  They were putting up gates on either end of the path to prevent random traffic, but they assured me that I should feel free to go through them whenever.

I didn’t want to take advantage of this shortcut, but it was awfully convenient, and we used it happily for a few weeks.  And then they got two baby sheep.

They kept the sheep in the fenced area in front of the barn with the two gates, right where we would walk through, so I avoided going that way for a while.  I didn’t want to assume it was still okay since, you know, livestock.  The next time I saw them, maybe a few weeks later, they mentioned that we hadn’t been by lately, and I explained (sheep, gates, don’t want to assume), and they assured me it was fine (pish, tosh, nonsense, of course you can still walk through) – they really are very nice people.

I didn’t immediately take them up on their offer, but it wasn’t TOO long before we started using the path again.  Jack was always in the stroller, so I would park it close by one gate, open it just enough to get the stroller through, get him through as fast I could, and then hurry to close the gate.  Same drill on the other end, and then repeat on the way back.  Getting out was always a little harder than getting in because these were very friendly little lambs, rushing over as soon as we came in, butting at my knees, baaing.  (Jack paid no attention, but I thought it was cute.)  Still, for a good while I was able to get in and get out, going for the walk and coming back home, without mishap.

Then came the mishap.

Jack was sleeping soundly so we were heading home, and we got back in the fence without any issue.  It was getting out where we had a problem.  The only thing that saved me is that one of the sheep was less interested than the other.  Both were at the gate with me, and when I told them to go away (before I opened the gate), one of them listened (the bigger one, thank goodness).  The other did not, so I held him (her?) off with my knee, like you would a jumping dog, while I opened the gate just barely enough to get the stroller through.  I got through, too, and I was closing the gate when the littler sheep squeezed past.

I set the brake on the stroller as quickly as I could, shut the gate before the other sheep got out, and tried to somehow chase after the runaway sheep without spooking it.  It headed toward the house instead of toward the road (whew), not running (double whew), so I crept that way talking to it (here, little lamby-lamby, I’m not going to hurt you).  It gave me some crazy looks, teased me a couple of times by heading in my direction only to scamper off, and at one point completely freaked me out by dashing toward the driveway.  I only caught it because it stopped to eat some ivy, and I cannot say how grateful I am that it was still a baby (maybe knee-high) because I was able to pick it up and keep it restrained while I got the gate open again and shoved it back in.

No one was home to witness my misadventure except Jack, who was no longer napping (we were not exactly quiet).

We haven’t used their path as a shortcut since.

Something happened!

I have been wondering if I will ever have something to write about other than the baby or the book I’m reading, and the answer is: YES!  But only if it’s something that happened to someone else.  Apparently.  Because the only things happening to me are baby-related.

What happened, you may ask?  And since it didn’t happen to me, why should you care?

My neighbor’s new barn burned to the ground!  And because it’s crazy-dramatic, that’s why!

My front-yard neighbors, Kev and Kerry, bought a house about 10 minutes north of here and moved in last weekend.  On Monday, Kev was burning cardboard boxes in the fire pit and his barn (his new house has had a barn) burned down.  He swears he put the fire out before he left (he was at the old house, getting it ready for tenants when the fire started).  The arson guy (Kev is not being charged with arson) says an ember must have gotten under the barn.

  1. That’s what he gets for not recycling (not my joke).
  2. The previous owner put the fire pit too close to the barn, but that doesn’t excuse Kev since he used it anyway.

No one was home.  The police (or whoever) called Kerry, and when she couldn’t reach Kev, she called Allison (who owns the bookstore across the street from us), and Allison ran over to the house shouting about a fire, so Kev went running for his fire extinguisher thinking the bookstore was on fire, and HOW DID I MISS ALL THIS?  It was Monday.  We were here Monday.  We’re here all day, every day.

I wonder if this is a new curse.  Remember the house that caught on fire across the street from us in Oregon?  Maybe fires happen to those near us.  At least it was their new house, not the old one.  Wait – twice is a coincidence.  Keep your eyes peeled for a third one – that’ll make a pattern.

All us new moms look alike

You’re out with a stroller?  You must be that one person I don’t really know who just had a baby!  When I’m out for a walk with Jack and I meet someone else out and about in whatever neighborhood I’m in, there’s a 75% chance they’re going to ask me if I’m so-and-so from down the street who just had a baby.  Not ONCE have I been their so-and-so from down the street who just had a baby.  I’ve had that conversation with a LOT of people in at least three different neighborhoods.

Today’s version:

I’m walking down the sidewalk minding my own business.

“He might bark, but I promise he’s friendly.”

Um, what?  Oh, that poodle who looks like he has a mohawk is in the front yard.  “Thanks!”

The man heads to the dog, and I stop at the end of his sidewalk and ask if I can say hello to the dog.  Because dogs.  He says of course, and I start petting the very friendly, very nice dog.

“Is your husband Matt?”

Um, what?  “No….”

“Because his wife walks around here a lot and they have a two-month-old.”

“No, I’m Susannah, my husband is John, and he,” pointing at the stroller, “is nearly 6 months old.”

What I don’t get is how he only remembers the husband’s name when it seems it’s the wife he’s met on her walks, but whatever.  His name is Tom, the dog’s name is Bogey (as in Humphrey), they’re both nice, and if I don’t write his name down, I’m not going to remember.  Yesterday, I ran into a woman I’d met on a walk months ago and messed up her name.  I remembered her kids’ names, but I guessed Grace for her.  Nope.  She’s Nancy.  But she didn’t remember mine, so we’re even.


The other day when I was walking with Jack, we saw a red car driving slowly towards us.  It stopped a few houses ahead, and a white-haired lady got out of the passenger side.  I assumed she was being dropped off, but then she looked at the house across from her and clapped a few times.  If she said anything, I couldn’t hear it. I had time to wonder what on earth she was doing.  As we got level with her, she said “Little black dog wearing a cone.  Have you seen him?”  Ah.  “No, but I’ll keep my eyes open.  If I find him, where should I return him?”  “The house at the end of the cul de sac.  No one’s home, but the door’s open.”  Uh…maybe that’s how he got out?  Or maybe she left it open so he could get back in.  We got beyond the car and I looked down the cul de sac.  There was a little dog in a cone standing in the front yard of the house at the end.  “Ma’am?  Is that him?”  It was.  Probably too embarrassed in the cone to wander far.

Smart little dog.  We had one of those.  And we had one of the other kind.  When Roxy got out, she took off, but if you could get close enough with her leash, she’d come trotting back so we could all go for a walk.  Riley, on the other hand, occasionally got out the back but could always be found waiting patiently to be let in at the front door.

I think we won the neighbor lottery

D-Day + 2, no change, but I have more confirmation that we have pretty great neighbors.  My next-door neighbor was coming home from the gym as I was coming back from my walk, and she, being a nurse, was pretty reassuring and offered (again) to help when/if we need it.  I saw our other immediate neighbors around lunchtime (Kevin and one of the (grown-up) kids) when I stopped by to give them some of last night’s cookie batch, and they insisted on sending me away with apples they picked this past weekend and admonishments to wash my hands as soon as I get home because Kerry has a cold and they don’t want me to get sick.

Nice people.

Neighbors are doing it right

I keep a list of things I like about houses and might consider for our forever home (like tile floors or hardwood floors, floor to ceiling windows, skylights, Olympic sized bathtubs, wraparound porches, a creek at the bottom of an expanse of lawn, plenty of trees, window seats, a library with a ladder, first floor laundry, a mudroom, etc.).  At this point, the list is full of contradictory things, and a house that had everything probably wouldn’t stay upright, but at least I have a list of things to refer to when we actually start looking.

Anyway, there’s a house a few blocks from us with pretty stone wall and steps and a vine-covered railing.  I like it.  I want it.

Added to the list.

Again, I learned the dog’s name, not the owner’s

I looked out the window after doing the dishes tonight and saw a large dog sitting in our yard.  He was facing the street and was on a leash attached to a woman who was just standing there staring at her phone.  My first instinct was to be annoyed.  Her dog is in our yard.  At least he’s just sitting there, but still.  Who does that?  And she’s not paying attention at all.  She’s not taking his picture…maybe there’s a pokemon in our yard?  Nah.

So I went outside to say hello (and find out what was going on, which was not much). The dog’s name is Neko, and apparently he just really likes our yard.  She said every time they walk down the street, he goes up our first step, walks into the yard, and sits down, I guess to survey the neighborhood.  He was very polite about it.  Good thing, too, because he looks like a wolf.  He let me pet him a little, so they’re both forgiven.

I’m the weird neighbor

Our neighbors have a dog.  He’s a 6-year-old Great Dane named Merlin, and he has a great bark.  I met him the other day in their driveway.

I recognize the dog.  I know his name.  I know his breed, and I know his age.  It’s been a couple of days since his owners, our neighbors, told me that information.

I’ve talked to the neighbors at least five or six times, including the day I met their dog.  The first two times, I got their names.

I do not remember their names.  I do not remember where they lived before they moved here.  I do not remember what they do for a living.  I’m positive we talked about those things.

The next time I see them, I’m going to have to tell them that I’m that guy.  “I’m sorry.  I’m the person who remembers dog’s names, but not people’s names, and I feel terrible about it, and what are your names again?  I’ll write them down this time.

Oh, and we work from home every day, so if you ever want someone to let Merlin out or take him for a walk, we’d be happy to do it.”

I actually did say that last part when I met the dog.  I think they were genuinely interested.  John thinks they think I’m crazy, and why would they let their new neighbor (who they don’t know at all and whose name they probably don’t remember, either) into their house?

Nature removed

There are men in our yard.

That could sound sinister.  Isn’t.  But they have chainsaws and shovels!  Oooh, and an ax (axe?).  Our neighbors hired people to remove the mess of trees and thorns and weeds that acted as a barrier between our yards, so all of a sudden we can see into their yard (and they can see into ours).  It’s temporary, or so the not-scary men told me the other day.  They’re going to put in a retaining wall with a fence on top of it so we’ll get our privacy back, it’ll look nicer, and I won’t have to get in there and get stabbed by thorns anymore.  Heh, “anymore”.  I’ve been too afraid of the thorns to even attempt it once.

Aaand the chainsaw-wielding guy just did a circuit of our backyard.  That’s unexpected.  I’d make sure the back door is locked, but I’m pretty sure his chainsaw could cut through it.

Tune in tomorrow to see if we survived the afternoon!

Good Samaritan (it wasn’t me)

Today was beautiful and warm and breezy.  We had the windows open and the fans going all day.  It was great, but it also means we hear EVERYTHING that goes on outside.  This evening, before sunset, we heard a horrendous screeching noise right outside the apartment.  We looked out the windows and saw a car stopped in the middle of road, blocking the northbound lane, with the drivers side door open.  There was another woman inspecting the red mini parked on the side of the road just in front of it.  I assumed we’d just heard a crash, that maybe the car had hit the mini or the mini backed into the car.  I stopped looking through the screen (opting for the clear part of the window), and I couldn’t see any damage, and then John noticed the tire leaning up against the mini.

Apparently, this car was driving up our street when the front left tire CAME OFF THE CAR and rolled into the street and hit the mini.  The horrendous screeching noise was the front left corner of the car, minus its tire, scratching up the pavement.  We stood at the windows watching the circus (the people in the car running around, getting the tire, staring at the car, the other drivers trying to go around the car to get out of town, the southbound lane stopping to let the northbound lane swerve into their lane to go), and then we heard someone shout something about needing a jack.

John: Should I help?  I have a jack.  I should help.  Should I help?

He decided to help.  By the time I went outside, there were 7 or 8 people clustered around the car (only three of whom were working).  Everyone else on the block was out on front porches and stoops (me and our housemates included), watching the fun (and occasionally yelling).  With the help of two of the guys who live next door, John jacked up their car and got the tire back on.  Sort of.  Turns out that out of the five bolts that usually hold a tire on, one was missing and one had been completely broken off.  Of the three that were left, only one was straight and able to be used.  The car owners (who didn’t help at all and barely said thank you) decided to risk driving back to DC rather than drive the car slowly to a shop.

We’re going to keep an eye on the news for the idiots who are surely going to lose the tire again going too fast on the highway back to DC tonight.

Howling at…the moon? Howling at something

(John and I split a bottle of wine at dinner tonight (Today is his birthday!), so please forgive any typos.  Or rambling.  Or nonsensical rants.  But I’m sure there won’t be any of those.)

It’s easy to forget that our neighbor has a dog.  He’s just so quiet most of the time.  Every once in a while, we’ll hear him scrabbling across the floor (maybe playing with a ball?), but he doesn’t bark and we rarely see him outside.  (That could be because we’re rarely outside.)

We heard him all day today, though.  I don’t know what was going on over there, but this poor dog HOWLED all day.  It was adorable at first, and it inspired me to howl back.  That resulted in a minute or so of silence, when I imagined this dog staring at the wall that connects our houses with his head cocked to one side.  “Did I really hear that?  Is someone talking to me?  I didn’t quite understand it – maybe they’re from another country.”  Then he’d howl again.  And really, I’m not sure why.  Some days we have emergency vehicles rushing down the street all the time, but not today.  No ambulances, no fire engines, no police cars, no sirens of any kind.  It passed adorable (although it circled back to adorable once an hour or so) and became lonely around midday.  Why is this dog howling?  Does he miss his owners?  What makes today different?

We’re about ready to volunteer ourselves as dogsitters.  Maybe not volunteer, but we’d offer a competitive rate.

Small town? Large town? Hard to say

Our apartment is only about 4 miles from (not) our house, but I shop at different stores (except Wegmans), go to different gas stations, different Starbucks, different Panera, take a completely different way to work…sometimes it feels like we moved much further away.  I don’t see the people I used to see around, which makes perfect sense – they’re not our neighbors anymore.

I do still occasionally run into people we know, though.  I went for a run after work yesterday and ran into a woman from our boxing class.  I guess she lives in THIS part of town, and now that I do, too, it makes perfect sense to see her out and about.  But it’s still not that far from where we lived before, so it seems insane to think we never crossed paths before.  Outside of boxing.

Probably a whole third of the people I work with live in this town – how is it that I never see any of them around?  Because really – I NEVER see anyone from work, and we’re all practically next door neighbors.  Where are they all hiding?  Maybe I’m oblivious to it.  They see me coming and duck behind the nearest bush.  It’s what I would do if I saw them first, so I can’t blame them if that’s what’s happening.  People from work should stay at work (with very few exceptions).

Or I should hurry up and move away.  Like, actually move away.  Four miles is a tease.

The best neighbors

The phrase is “good fences make good neighbors”, but apparently so does not being too chatty.  We went to say goodbye to our neighbors across the street Sunday night, and we briefly talked about what we know about the new owners.  Both Mark and Robin told us they hoped they’re like us.  In what way?  Well, basically, we were the best neighbors because the four of us were all friendly with each other, but could (and did) easily pass with a nod or a wave or a shouted “Good morning!” and move on without the need for an extended conversation every time we saw each other.  So…Mark and Robin don’t really want to talk to us all that often?  Perfect!  We feel the same way about them!  So, yes, we were the perfect neighbors for each other.  I can only hope the new owners are as barely social as we were.

Baking Spree: The Donouement

How did it all turn out?  I don’t really know, actually.  I mean, I know I came home with a variety of yummy cookies, but I don’t know if they liked mine.  Maybe I’ll hear about it later…  I went over to my neighbor’s house last night all decked out for the holidays (or as decked out as I get) – I wore a red sweater, snowflake earrings, and my Christmas socks, although no one could see them since I wore my fuzzy boots.  (The socks and earrings, like every other Christmas-themed item I own, were gifts from my mother-in-law.)  I brought my required cookies (3 dozen chocolate chip cookies, NO toffee – nuts were forbidden, and the toffee I bought was made with almonds), some peppermint bark and toffee bark for each person in the exchange (those were gifts, not exchange items.  I figured toffee would be okay for that.), and a couple of the toffee chocolate chips for our hostess, who’s not afraid of nuts. We poured some wine, had some dinner, talked A LOT, exchanged some cookies, and came home.  Fun.  Also cookies.  What’s not to like about a cookie exchange?

I swear I’ve got it all under control

I baked today.  In fact, I’m still baking.  And I need to check on my pies – the last thing I need is burned pie after all that effort.

So far so good.  Now, at least.  I was up to my elbows in pie filling about an hour ago.  I pulled up my recipe (yes, MY recipe – eleven Thanksgivings ago, I experimented until I came up with the ideal sweet potato pie recipe), checked that I had everything to make two pies (I had double the ingredients listed in my recipe), and threw the sweet potatoes (I got them before breakfast this morning) into a pot to boil.  All EIGHT largish sweet potatoes, because my recipe called for four.  They boiled forever, and then they cooled, and then I got my mixer out.  I peeled four of them, put them in the mixer, and realized that was about all that would fit.  Okay, no problem, I’ll just get one pie ready, then do the second.  I mixed everything together, pulled out my pie crusts (I make pie filling, not pie crusts), filled one of them, and realized I had enough filling left in the bowl for a whole ‘nother pie.  What?  So I filled the second pie crust.  (I may have overfilled it a little.)  Then I looked at the other FOUR giant sweet potatoes that were sitting there in the pot, already cooked, just waiting to be peeled and turned into pie.  I had one more pie crust because I always buy one extra (I usually have enough filling left over for a little pie), but that clearly wasn’t going to be enough.  I put the two pies that were ready to go into the oven, shoved the dogs into the backyard so they wouldn’t be tempted to counter-surf for drops of pie filling, and raced to the nearest grocery store for another pie crust.  (I get nervous leaving the house with the oven on.)  I got there, picked up one crust, grabbed a set of six mini-pie crusts (perfect for that little bit of filling left over, right?), and raced back home.  Nothing burned down, so I made the rest of the pie filling.  Turns out those last four sweet potatoes were ALL bigger than the first four, so after I filled the other two regular size pie crusts, I had enough filling left in the bowl for at least another whole pie.  No more whole crusts, though, so I filled the six little mini crusts and called my neighbor Beth.  “Anyone in the family allergic to pie?  No?  Wonderful!  ‘Cause I seem to have vastly overestimated how many sweet potatoes I needed to cook.”  She opted for the mini pies, so John and I are now discussing who we’re giving the fourth pie to.  (We’re keeping one, and two are slated for Thanksgiving dessert.)  It has to be someone we’ll see in the next day or two, so it’ll either be a work friend or another neighbor.  Tough choices to make.

Anyway, I have now added the crucial information that was missing from my recipe.  My sweet potato pie recipe, as written, makes TWO pies.  Never forget.

Batten down the hatches

You can’t tell by looking out the window today, but apparently, the world is going to end soon.  Probably Tuesday.  Judging by the crowd at Wegmans this morning, though, everyone is pessimistic about that and planning for the apocalypse to occur tomorrow.  Yes, I was part of that crowd, but not for the same reasons.  Not out of panic.  I went because we had NO food in the house.   You know, the normal reason you go to the grocery store.  Something I’ve been avoiding for the past couple of weeks because, I don’t know, going to the grocery store sucks.  I went, and we have food, but we’re still going out for dinner tonight because I told one of the neighbors we were (as my excuse not to go to her house for bunko).  She lives across the street, so we kinda have to actually leave the house.  Damn.


I might be the only who’d pay to see this movie

I think I just joined a book club.  I went Friday night to my neighbor’s book club to meet people, drink wine, and talk about The Snow Child (we certainly talked about it, but that was far from the main event).  There were 9 other women there, and all of them have known each other for a long time, so I wasn’t sure how this was going to go.  Four people in this group started the book club FOURTEEN years ago (one of them is my neighbor), and three of those four (the three who are not my neighbor) have known each other since high school (which for me was 15 years ago, so longer than that for them.  I think).  Thankfully, it was not at all awkward.  They were so welcoming, really friendly, and despite the fact that I was the only one there who does not work for a local school district in any capacity and who doesn’t have kids, I didn’t feel like an outsider.  It was fun.  Really pleasant.  I’d like to do it again.

It could have been a movie.  All of these women, all gorgeous in cute but casual clothes, clustered in ever-changing groups around the island in our hostess’s beautiful kitchen, chatting, drinking wine, snacking.  I can just see a camera swooping in from an upper angle and swirling around to follow snippets of conversations.  Later, the camera would follow our move to the family room to talk about the book.  We sat in a circle around the coffee table (some on the floor, on the couch, on ottomans), and the camera would shift from the middle of the group to an over-the-shoulder shot and back until it lifts out of the center and off to the side.

I think I’ve already seen this movie.


John and I have lived in this house for almost six years.  We know the people in three houses around us by name, and of those three, we only know the last names of the people immediately next door.  We say hi on the sidewalk, help them shovel snow, and occasionally chat with the kids.  Six years.  Pathetic and anti-social, that’s us.  In our defense, everyone in this neighborhood has kids (except us, of course), so they all know each other from school and play groups and the bus stop.  Paper-thin, I know.  We haven’t made an effort, and honestly, we haven’t minded all that much.  I’ve met a few more people who live nearby since I joined the gym six months ago, but that hasn’t lead to real relationships.  Until now, possibly.  Maybe.  Friday afternoon, a woman I know from the gym called to invite me to play bunco with her club that night.  They need 12 people, and two of their regulars couldn’t make it.  “Is it a problem that I don’t know what bunco is?”  “Not in the least.  Bring $10.”  Yeah, that doesn’t sound shady at all. Come play a game you’ve barely heard of.  We’ll take your money.  She said it’s easy and mindless, and the club is really just an excuse to for the members to eat, drink, chat, and maybe win a few dollars.  I went.  She wasn’t lying – all you have to do is count, and the rest of pure chance.  I can do that.  And with only $10 at stake, it’s no big deal if I lose.  Which I did not do.  There are twelve rounds (six winners in each round), and I won the most rounds, so I took home $40.  Not a bad way to be introduced to a game.  I’m certain it’ll never happen again.  (This is how it starts.)  I played, I met 10 new people, it was enjoyable enough, and John and I were invited to a block party the next day.  That was a bit more awkward than bunco night, but shortly after we sat down at a picnic table with our food, a couple came over, said “Oh, good – faces we recognize!”, and sat down.  They’re the neighbors across the street and over one house, the ones with the very friendly cat and five kids (mostly grown, all living at home).  Now we know their first names (but not their last name – what is wrong with us?).  Had a good time chatting with them for over an hour.  So, yay.  Neighbors.

There was a spider in my car today.  It was crawling across the roof (upside down, on the inside of the sunroof), and I know this because I was watching it when I should have been watching the road.  Spiders are not allowed in my car!  Maybe I need to put up a sign.  Maybe our new neighbor friends are exterminators.  Except they’re not.  Every single person we met was either a teacher or a government contractor.  Not that those are bad things to be, but they don’t help me much when I’m trying to keep a crazed and bloodthirsty spider at bay while making a left turn.  Inconsiderate of them, to say the least.