The Rocket Home for Wayward Fairies

Whilst browsing online for garden ornaments, I found a site entirely devoted to creating “faerie” kingdoms in one’s own backyard. Its name?, of course.

Efairies: for all your online fairy needs.

Being that I am the parent of two little girls, and I am recently obsessed with gardening, I perused their online catalog, which is astonishing in the breadth and depth of fairy products. I imagine some little old cat lady out there, dodging hanging crystals in her one-room cottage, doddering out to her full fairy village, complete with cottages, churches (I didn’t know Pan had a church!), ¬†outdoor stairs, fences, bridges, and, oh, hell, why not the 50-Piece Fairy Garden Set for only $1580?

And don’t get me started on the accessories, which run the gamut of post office boxes to teeny weeny galoshes for placing outside the fairy door. It’s like a feminine version of an HO train set, only the conductors have wings and the streetlamps are shaped like mushrooms.

I began to give up hope that I’d find anything at which my husband would not roll his eyes, when I landed upon this guy, the Old Cave Fairy Home (fairy not included).

It’s sweet, small, simple, and would fit in well with the hillside in our yard; in fact, it would fit perfectly into our newly built faux retaining wall. I could add some shade-loving ground cover, and presto! We have a sweet surprise for our more observant guests. With shipping, it cost about $35–not too bad for something that would surely bring the girls great delight.

It arrived last Friday, when we were in the backyard, and languished on our porch for hours, until I checked my email and read that it had been delivered. And yes, I, adult parent of two, got out of bed at midnight to run to the front door and tear open my package of fairy magic.

The next morning, before the girls got up, I removed one of the stones from the wall, replaced it with the fairy cave, and planted a little flowering ground cover over it.

Everyone say it with me: AWW.

I decided to let the girls discover it for themselves, but then after eight hours, couldn’t wait anymore, and pointed it out to Eliza.

“Look! What’s that?”

“A fairy house! How did that get there?”

“Maybe the fairies built it.”

“I think you builded it.”

“Maybe. Do you like it?”

“No. It’s weird.”

“Why do you say it’s weird?”

“Because I don’t love you anymore.”

She followed up that last bit with a big grin to show me she was just teasing, and I found the whole conversation far too adult for an almost four-year-old. How is it that I plant a damned fairy house for a kid, and I’m so transparent that she guesses that 1) I built it, not fairies; and 2) my feelings could be hurt if she didn’t like it; and 3) she could tease me about my feelings being hurt?

Yes, folks: since I planted the fairy house, there’s a little less magic in my world. Well, to hell with her. I think it’s super-cute and kind of magical. I’m tempted to make a little blue worm to put out front. At least he’ll invite me in for some tea and not poke fun at my craving for gratitude.

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A filthy, filthy Mother’s Day weekend: Faking a retaining wall

A few weeks back, after the long slog of winter, spring burst upon us like she’d been waiting months to say hello. Which she had. This is the first spring in our new home, and surprises have abounded like bunnies hopping on our patio. Which they do.

You may remember how, last year, I spent some time cutting down ivy (both nontoxic and poison) from our fence and trees. I continued my search-and-destroy mission during the one nice day we had in February, cutting the vines from our few remaining ivy-ed trees, and after the requisite shower of leaves cleared, we’ve been rewarded with a much clearer river view than we had last year. As a bonus, the trees themselves seem to be gasping in gratitude: one has leaves growing up its trunk, something I’ve never seen before, and must be the result of its release.

There's a river down there, in the sun's glare.


As the days grow longer, I spend my evenings engaging in various lawn projects: clearing leaves from our “back nine” (the other side of the fence); killing poison ivy in its tracks; planting new flowers and stopping new ivy from growing up trees. Weekends, though: that’s where it’s at. Last weekend I spray-painted my index finger into numbness (I’m serious; it barely has feeling back now) and freshened our craigslist-purchased 9-piece patio set from rusted, tan dinginess into white, glossy glory.

Even the old cushions look happier.


But the real fun came yesterday, when I decided to clean up a mess leftover since we cut off some very leggy forsythia last year. Over the years, the shrubs had grown gangly, shading the soil beneath and keeping anything from growing, and over the time the dirt from the hillside made its way, inexorably, onto our patio. Plus, big bare dirt patch didn’t look very nice.

The forsythias lived under the juniper tree, and were very, very big.


During last year’s Chainsaw Day, my dad took out the shrubs, and cut them back to more manageable stumps. But the dirt was not growing any grass–it was too dry and dead, and the shade didn’t help–so I figured I’d get some mulch and ground cover and maybe dig out some of the dirt.

Following three days of rain, yesterday was the perfect digging day: 60 degrees, and damp. So I started digging. Inside of twenty minutes, I found eight stepping stones that once led a path out the side gate; the deepest one was buried about two inches. So I dug more into the hillside. And more. And found a sprinkler head–six inches underground. The hillside’s slip into our patio had apparently been happening a very long time; makes me wonder what else is in there. Bodies? A pirate ship?

Being my father’s daughter, I rummaged around behind our shed until I found a long, discarded 2×12 board, and several large slate-like stones. I’d bought river rock and mulch at Lowe’s already, so I set about building a mini-retaining wall.

I’d also bought topsoil, thinking I’d need it to fill in the dead spots, but it turns out I had all the topsoil I needed; it just happened to be five feet out of place. I laid down the river rock, propped the board and the stones, filled in the soil, and five hours after I started, I had this. Like our kitchen island, this is a prototype: some day, maybe we’ll have a real retaining wall, built with stuff that’s not from our junk pile.

Here’s another view.

The paving stones are still dirty, but what do you want after being buried for 15 years?

Turns out, on this Mother’s Day, I don’t need Calgon to take me away. Just a shovel and some dirt.

Posted in Home, Yard | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Changing the Conversation

I’ve been busy blogging over at, and I’d kindly ask you to shoot on over there to read not one, but TWO posts about rape in our favorite movies. Sometimes wacky hijinks are just wack.

Post #1: Changing the Conversation: The Rape of Betty Childs , in which¬†Revenge of the Nerds isn’t all fun and montages.

Post #2: Don’t Listen to the Devil On Your Shoulder, in which Animal House, of all movies, offers an excellent example of how NOT to take advantage of a girl.


Donate to Pittsburgh Action Against Rape.

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Product Review: BabyLegs Legwarmers!

Waaaaayyyyy back in the summertime, I got an email from BabyLegs inviting me to review their product. Ha, I thought! Fools! I already love BabyLegs, so this’ll be easy. No problem.

Except that it was summertime, and while summer in San Francisco is pretty much the ideal time for a kid to don some BabyLegs, summer in Pittsburgh is an ideal time for a kid to don their birthday suit. Fast forward through moving, distractions and general not-getting-to-around-to-itness on my part, and I’m looking out the window at the cruel joke that has become Winter, 2013: It’s March 25, and the snow is pouring in.

Given that it seems we’re still in the clutches of a Seven Kingdoms-worthy winter, I think it’s the perfect time to (finally!) make good on my promise and review BabyLegs. Springtime is great BabyLegs weather!

What are BabyLegs?

Legwarmers. For your baby. It’s so simple. And they’re so adorable you’ll want a pair for yourself.

Why BabyLegs?

Because they’re cute. And also, they’re brilliant. Ready for why? Hmm? Wait for it… you don’t have to take off the pants to change the diapers. This may not seem like a great concept, but trust me: when you’ve got the squirming two-year-old pinned to the pizza place’s bathroom floor, one elbow in the stomach and the other fighting against the weave-and-bob of the eternally kicking legs, you will be so glad you won’t have to pull down the pants that you’ll send me a thank-you note.

Baby legwarmers are my favorite gift for parents of newborns. After Eliza, we’ve got a good… oh…. 25 pairs? Maybe more? And Gillian’s so little that she’s still going strong. I’ve made them from knee socks, bought them from Etsy, and worn them all over and over, and I can say that there’s a reason BabyLegs are a bit pricier than other brands: they’re better-quality. They haven’t pilled, they haven’t stretched or begun unraveling; they’re strong and can stand up to many trips through the washing machine.

Plus, they’re really, really cute. They have a “neutral” collection that’s not gender-specific, but be sure to look at all three collections, because they pretty well cross gender lines in a lot of cases. Take the first two below–I love me some rockets! And they have a great assortment of varsity-style striped legwarmers… may I suggest red and gold, for the Gryffindors in your life? Or perhaps some silver-and-blue, for us Ravenclaws?

Exhibit A:

Rockets! Rocket City!

Exhibit B:

Say it with me: I am a robot.

And most important, Exhibit C:

Kitties on her dress and rainbows on her legs!

Rather than building outfits around a dress, I find myself building outfits around the BabyLegs. Which is probably why the rainbows are my favorite–they match it all! As Gillian grows (slow as she goes) we’re using them less often, as she’s inclined to pull them, and in fact, all of her clothes, off. But I can’t recommend these enough for newborns and infants. They protect the knees during crawling, keep the little chubs warm without overheating, and like I said: no pants to fight.

Like BabyLegs on Facebook here!


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A Spring Vacation, Only Not

Firstly, thanks to, who somehow discovered RocketCityDigs and featured us as one of the best DIY/Home Improvement Blogs in Pittsburgh. Pretty sweet, eh?

I joked for years that Pittsburgh’s not safe until after St. Patrick’s Day. That is: it is not springtime until the big St. Patrick’s Day Parade, after which, the snows will stay at bay and spring will finally arrive. No one listens to local boy Punxsutawney Phil. It’s St. Patrick you trust.

Until this year, of course. It’s been a long, long winter. Cold and gray, and when I woke up this past Monday morning to see more snow on the ground, I nearly cried. Granted, part of the reason I moved back here was because I missed the seasons. But even the long-timers have admitted this has been an unusually long, gray winter, and a few weeks ago, we decided to celebrate the dawn of spring by skipping town.

We could’ve hit the Laurel Highlands, our ski region; only 45 minutes away and in the heart of the Laurel Mountains, the Appalachians’ kid sister. But it’s still ski season, so we figured we’d save some dough by heading up to North East, an aptly named little town on Lake Erie. After all, water is water and a beach is a beach. Even in late March, if the weather’s 45 degrees, it’s still marginally sunny, and you still have a view, right? Plus: Pennsylvania grape country. Which means Welch’s, and also wine!

So we booked our house, packed up the kids, and headed north. That’s right: north. From Pittsburgh. In March. We’re our own worst enemies.

Here was the view somewhere past Edinboro:

Balmy, no?

The snow kept falling for twelve or so hours. Sometime around 6 PM, as the snow continued accumulating outside our beach house window, I decided to pour some bourbon in my tea and pretend it was December. Snow’s glorious in December, after all. Happy New Year!

Two days later, and I’m accepting, again, that with small people in tow, a vacation won’t be a vacation for a long time. Eliza couldn’t sleep the first night; Gillian ended up in bed with us last night. They haven’t yet hidden in the hallway, waiting to ask me to come play with them, but it’s in the mail.

Gillian's the one on the right.

I know, I know: we can afford to take two days off work and go on a mini-vacation, so who am I to complain? But the thing is that paying money to go away from home raises one’s expectation of fun and relaxation… but being out of your comfort zone is just a little more challenging in every way. So you while you’re relishing the change of scenery, you’re eyeballing the definitely-not-child-safe glass media center and wondering if your toddler will split open her forehead or poke her eye out on it. In one moment, you’re drinking mimosas on a Friday morning; in the next, running to the wide-open front door because the locks are well-oiled, and reachable. Which brings me to our original logic in choosing an off-season location: we didn’t want to shell out big dollars and still have to deal with the toddler factor.

Now is the winter of her discontent.

On the upside, the town of North East is lovely, if deserted this time of year. We visited a storefront wine seller, had an excellent sandwich at Rizzo’s (which, in Pennsylvania, is like saying “I had especially good french fries” in Belgium), and we’ll be hitting the Erie Children’s Museum a bit later. It’s the kind of town that peppers the California coast: small, tourist-driven economy, with coffee shops and toy stores and a well-appointed grocery store. And even the locals were caught unawares by the early spring storm, so we’re not complete idiots.

We had pancakes and bacon for breakfast, and watched “Clifford” on premium cable. Things are looking up.

So we’ve decided we’re coming back this summer. Preferably to the house we’re renting now, actually, which is well-appointed and only five homes from the beach. I’m looking forward to seeing it green.

So close. So cold.

Actually, I’m looking forward to seeing anything green, as long as it’s not a shamrock. Damn you, St. Patrick. Damn you.

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