Friday, November 5, 2010

Orange velvet

Sorry to be all about the weather but its been a glorious couple of days in Seattle.  At this time of year we are usually under a blanket of cloud wearing a layer of fleece with a gortex in the car.  Instead, it has been unseasonably warm with a record high temperature under dazzling blue.  All the clarity has led to fabulous vistas of acid yellow poplars, ruby maples and trees arrayed brown and orange with leaves like crushed velvet.

We have been enjoying ourselves.

Wren at Greenlake before a quick visit
to the dentist to adjust his first filling

Abundance of Agaricus
This warmth after rain (a record rainfall from a storm the day before) has led to a fresh crop of mushrooms all around.  Sadly, with Mum gone I have no myco-friend with whom to range into the woods, but I have been learning about the agaricus which have sprouted in profusion around the sidewalks and parks in the neighborhood.

Agaricus Moelleri from North Seattle yard
The majority look tasty and share many characteristics with the agaricus bisporus which is most commonly sold and cultivated (portobello) but I have learned that most are instead most probably Agaricus Moelleri which are toxic.

The agaricus genus is more difficult identification than other species I have tried to key out.  They are not nearly as distinctive as chanterelles and the common boletes.  Instead, the characteristics are often subtle things like odor and staining of the flesh.  I am, apparently, pretty smell-blind at the moment as I cannot smell the phenolic or almond odors which help distinguish between species.  To make it more complicated, pretty toxic ones appear similar to those which are most delicious.

I took some mushrooms down to the PSMS ID clinic at the Center for Urban Horticulture (Monday afternoons) and they confirmed the ones from Snoqualmie area were "fried chicken mushroom" Lyophyllum decastes so I ate a few.   I hope to take some of these agarics down on Monday to learn more from the experts.

More Raccoons
 The raccoons haven't dared show their faces here for a while or perhaps don't care to now that I store the compost inside and have no more chickens for them to savage.   However, I learned that raccoon drama has been playing out in other areas of Seattle.

Walking around the lake with Chris this morning, I heard the story of her neighbor who let her small white dog outside a couple of nights ago and had to fight off a raccoon which had it in a death grip.  The dog survived but everyone was shaken up.  Chris and Pascal heard the ruckus and learned later what happened.

Speaking with another neighbor I have learned that the man who feeds them lives over the back fence from her on 23rd.  Apparently he has fed them for years.

Wren makes a code
We have been rearranging the living room to prepare for our recent purchase of a couch.  While I was reinstalling the shelves in a new spot, Wren found a few discarded pieces of shim.  He drew on them and then asked for tape to join them together.

"This is a code!" he announced.
"What's a code?" I wondered.
"You know, when the boys play Indy Andy Jones they get A CODE to open THE DOOR into a NEW LEVEL!"
He carried his code around all day, even on a bicycle ride to the park.  When he feared he had left it at the park we had to ride all the way back even though we were almost home!

"This is my code."
On the same playground trip Wren surprised me by running up to me and hitting me with a stick.  While other parents looked on, bemused, he yelled at me:

"I am hitting you with a stick because I love you and I loosed you!"

He was very angry with me because he had lost sight of me (I was sitting on a bench nearby while he played and when he looked up he could not see me at once) and was afraid.

Couch Destruction
Josh hasn't been feeling very well and took the day off today.    Since a new couch is being delivered tomorrow,  he decided to break up the old one to enable me to take it to the tip in my van.  That way we save on a van rental.

"There is a Lego book in the couch!"

Wren and Josh work at demolishing the couch
Wren was very interested in the process of breaking the couch using a reciprocating saw (a big chainsaw in his words) and a sledgehammer.   We were all intrigued by the collection of pens, lego, dust, hair bands, broken ornament and coins which were down the back of the couch in the bottomless crease.

Monday, November 1, 2010


Halloween is a favorite holiday for the kids and it was the first "trick or treating" that Wren has participated in as anything more than a cute accessory.  Tonight trick or treated with Isaac and Alex and their families.  Its been relatively warm this past week, the warmest Halloween since I came to America nine years ago.  We had no trouble wearing our costumes without coats and set off at dusk to trick or treat the neighborhood.

Frost and I were dressed as zombies while Wren was a skeleton.  Alex was a hobo and Isaac was a Warhammer Dwarf. 

Wren and I being Dead

But we can't keep dead for long...

Frost says I am too happy to be a zombie

Wren being scary

Alex - down and out

Wren enjoyed the trick or treating but was concerned that things might be too spooky or scary and wanted me to hold his hand to every door.  That meant he couldn't keep up with the posse of big boys and was torn between wanted to drag me along and to leave and rush off.  As a result he stayed with me but kept shouting "BOYS, BOYS" hopefully when he was given candy.

He was given a lot of candy.

Trick or Treat the Spider
There was one house in our neighborhood that Wren had been waiting to trick or treat.  They had a purple inflatable spider posed on a shrub and Wren had decided that this house, out of all houses, was his destination on Halloween.

The Spider House we had to visit
Unfortunately, when we knocked at the door there was no answer.   Wren was very upset.  A few hours later (on the way home from dinner at Trina's) he was upset when I told him we were done trick or treating.

"What about trick or treating the big spider?" he asked.

I agreed to stop one more time at the big spider in case the family had come home.

I stopped the car and Wren rang the doorbell.  The lights were on inside and big spider was still glowing but nobody answered.  I told Wren that they must be out and he said "no, they are in!"

He walked back to the car in tears.  While I was buckling him back in Frost noticed two children peeping out the window to see who was outside.  The kids decided they would "try again" in case the people had only just noticed them.  Clearly, they were home and hiding but Wren was obsessed.

Wren rang the doorbell again.  Just to complete the picture you should know that Wren was now in his pajamas without any basket and it was 8.45pm.

They answered the door and Wren said "TRICK or TREAT" and looked up expectantly.  The man was very apologetic.  He explained that they had no candy left because they had left a full bowl of candy outside their door while they went out with the kids and when they came back they found it had been stolen - the candy AND the whole bowl.

Wren was not gracious about this news.  He burst into tears in front of the poor guy.   I apologized and explained he was particularly keen on this house because of the big spider but he had plenty of candy.

Wren walked off into the darkness, a picture of dejection.  The door closed.

Just then, the door opened again.  We were called back.  The little boy who lived there brought his big pumpkin basket and offered Wren one of HIS candies.   Wren was thrilled, joyous!  All was now right with the world.  He had trick or treated The Big Spider.

I thanked the child profusely :)

Frost trick or treating at a neighbors

Wren didn't find this house too scary.
The Big Green Zombie [who ate the leftovers]
The most scary part of the night was at Trina's.  We had almost finished eating when someone came in through the front door laughing like a maniac and making a growling sound.  He pounced around the corner into the living room - it was Mike dressed as a bright green mohawked zombie.  He had bloody wounds, blackened eyes, three stubby teeth in a mouthpiece.  He was so bizarre that I didn't recognize him.

He had been to the Sounders FC playoff game with some friends all dressed as Sounders' Zombies.

Mike is the one on the right. 

Wren was horrified.  Mike had to remove the teeth, mohawk wig and some clothing to prove to Wren that he was a person, a known person.  Wren clung to me and wanted to go home when he heard the front door opening a while later.  He said he thought that more zombies might be coming.

Other than that, and the fact that the Sounder's lost the game, the haunting was a great success.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Two Arboretums walks in two days

Yesterday was one of those days of bright brilliant blue made more sudden because the sun is already getting low on the horizon.  Its not fully warm but its sunny and lovely so you dress warm and prepare for sudden squalls and go outside.

Anna, the kids and I went to the Arboretum to collect acorn cups, hunt mushrooms and look at the leaves.  In fall the maples turn a brilliant palette of gold to red.  As you can see, they were looking splendid.

The boys walked around looking for mushrooms and then transformed into bears.  I am not sure why they became bears - at least these bears didn't crawl around as Wren does when he is being a dog.   The bears hid in bushes, ran away, growled from dark corners and pounced on us when we "Do Not See Us"!
Why don't I have a 200 year old maple 'nook'?

The Bears pounce on me.

Acid yellow makes me happy.

Ari escapes from the maple bears, bedecked with leaves.

Leo and Wren climb the same tree Frost climbed
when he was 3.  Leo went Very Much Higher.

The bears hide behind a tree and are persuaded to growl
for the picture

 Of course there were mushrooms
Wren has adopted my pedagogical tone and likes to inform people about mushrooms and "boletes" and "garics" with blithe lack of concern for facts.  As everyone knows, it is authority and not veracity that counts for toddlers.

There was some rivallry to carry the collecting baskets and as a result I ended up with none while Leo and Ari carried them [or rather Leo carried one and Anna carried Ari who carried one] while Wren used his backpack.  Here, Wren opines about a mushroom while Leo politely listens.  

I imagine Wren telling Leo that this mushroom is Not Edible.  "It is Eat Poisonous
not Touch Poisonous."

Hugging a bunch of Chlorophyllum rachodes
I plan to use for stock

Mystery bolete of great decay and stature