Friday, November 01, 2013

Halloween 2013

(c) 2013 Ms. Huis Herself at

Happy Halloween, everybody! Well, happy day-after-Halloween anyway. I'm so excited to share the girls' costumes with you this year! They had very interesting ideas, and I think their looks turned out great! Without further ado, here you go!

(Click on the picture to see it bigger.)

Can't quite tell what they are, exactly? Not too surprising, since they were both combination costumes. Pumpkin was a ghost-owl*-vampire while Penguin opted for zombie-vampire. Here are some close-ups of their faces.

Fun, huh?!  I'm looking forward to seeing what they come up with (and what we accomplish) next year!

*Barn owls are white, so that helped with the ghostiness!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Freaky 5K - Beekeeper edition

(c) 2013 Ms. Huis Herself at

As you probably know, I've been doing this 5K running thing for a few years now - 4 to be precise.  I ran in one my first year, 2 my second, 3 my third, and now I've completed 4 in my 4th year as a runner!  The only one I've done every year is our town's invariable HOT one in July, but I've now completed the Y's Freaky 5K for three different years!

One of my favorite parts about this race is that it's a costume-friendly one.  And I LOVE costumes.  (But I think people who enter the costume contest in outfits they didn't run in are totally cheating.)  

Anyway, presenting my 2013 Freaky 5K costume...

Beekeeper Being Chased by Bees!

I'd been toying with this idea in my head for a while, but last night I decided I really did want to do it, so after the girls went to bed,  I made the bees with some scrap fabric, a really big Sharpie marker, some rubber rings (for their heads/to hold open them in a windsock fashion), and milk carton side wings.  And thread.  A lot of thread.  Fishing line to attach them to my hat/veil combo.

I was worried that the wings would make them top-heavy, so I ended up sewing a largish bead inside each one at the bottom of the last stripe.  I think it helped.  Not that I ran fast enough that they really flew, but still...

The hat was a little more annoying than I thought it would be in that the front kept wanting to slide down lower than I liked, and my earbud cord was pulled on some by the elastic of the veil, so it kept falling out, but overall, not an awful one to run in, for a costume race anyway!  Lots of compliments and smiles, so that was nice.   I figure I'll just detach the bees' string from my hat and throw 'em in my costume tote 'cuz you just never know when this sort of thing will come in handy!  :)

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Car Talk, WI Dells to Home edition

(c) 2013 Ms. Huis Herself at

We were enjoying [maybe not the right word!] a long [extra half-hour due to stop-and-go traffic on I-94 for at least 18 miles] drive home from a wonderful weekend at Wisconsin Dells we'd enjoyed [right word!] with most of my side of the family.  Here are a few snippets of our conversations.
Me:  What was your favorite ride this weekend?
Penguin: Hm... the family raft ride!
M: Why?
Penguin, our more extroverted child: I think because you got to go on it with more people.

 The girls, pointing out to me that it was almost October, and since I don't start their Halloween costumes until October, wanting to get those settled.

Me:  Well, then, have you decided what you want to be?
Pumpkin: Yes! You know!  I want to be a ghost-owl-vampire!  
Me:  Um... how are we going to do that?
Penguin, interrupting:  You can guess mine!  "I drink...your BRAINS!"
Me:  Yeah?  You're sure you want to be a vampire-zombie?!

...discussion ensues regarding how to make Penguin a zombie-vampire.  Basic consensus is vampire (already have cape!) + greenish face & sores...

Me: Ok, then, how are we going to do a ghost-owl-vampire?  I don't know if I can make all those three things work.
Pumpkin: Well, the owl is a barn owl so it's white like a ghost.  
Me: Ok... tell me more.
Pumpkin:  So I need a white owl costume, then add FANGS!
Me:  So... like a vampire bat, but a vampire owl?
Pumpkin: YES!

Slightly later, still in a Halloween-related conversation...

Mr. Kluges:  Hey, did you think about being a vampire-fairy?!?!?!
Pumpkin, subtext, that is ridiculous: Nooooo!
Mr. Kluges: Why not?
Pumpkin:  'Cuz that's not real!

It's a good thing I wasn't driving, 'cuz we would've went off the road with my giggling after that last bit.  Vampire-fairy =/= real, but vampire-zombie AND ghost-owl-vampire? Totally possible!


Sunday, September 01, 2013

Chicago aka Stinky Onion Land

(c) 2013 Ms. Huis Herself at

We had our first non-camping, non-relative-visiting family vacation in August... and guess where we went!

That's right - Chicago, IL!

Sure, it was less than 4 hours away, and it's very much still a Midwestern USA city, but it was someplace we'd never been (other than my wonderful 40th birthday fun bash), we were away from home, we stayed at a hotel for 4 (four!) nights, and there were museums and touristy things to do!

Day #1 - we left home, later than I'd planned on because I didn't know Mr. Kluges had as many things on his to-do-before-we-leave list as he did, but we arrived in Chicago late afternoon, checked into our hotel (kitty-corner from the Harold Washington Library with its giant owl corner decorations) and started seeing the sights!

First, we walked to the Buckingham Fountain, hung a left, and continued on to the Bean (aka Cloud Gate - see above for photo... one of about 4 that I was in the entire vacation*).  Following supper at a pizza/pasta joint, I convinced Mr. Kluges that it wasn't too late to walk to the Sears/Willis Tower...where their line management skills (aka hiding lines behind lines behind lines throughout different parts of the "experience"), led us (aka me) to believe we could maybe see the city at sunset from the 103rd floor.  We didn't make sunset, but gosh, the lights were pretty anyway!

Day #2 - The Field Museum!

The one thing the girls kept talking about seeing in Chicago was Sue, the world's largest, most complete Tyrannosaurus skeleton.  So we blocked out all of Saturday to go to the Field Museum.  We have an extended membership at our local kids' museum, which meant we could get in for free... plus paying for any extra shows/exhibits we wanted to add on.  We added on a package of all three extra exhibits (Caves of Lascaux, Bioluminescence, Underground Adventure) and one show - about Sue of course! 

The day was a complete success.  We walked down, arriving just before 10 (the museum opened at 9), and stayed The. Entire. Day.  The museum closes at 6, and our girls were like, "What? We have to leave now? But there's more to see!!!"  We figured they'd last until mid-afternoon at best, but were pleasantly surprised at how engaged they both were (even the 6 year old!) in the exhibits. We saw the show of course, but we managed to get to all three of the extra exhibits as well, plus maybe half? of the regular exhibits.  A day well-spent, and a place we'd definitely visit next time as well!
Our Cicada Girls, emerging from their exoskeletons in the Underground Adventure

Day #3 - Outside in the Heat

So, after a full museum day, I thought it would make sense to do non-museum-y stuff the next day.  So we got tickets for an architectural boat tour for the morning**, with plans to see the (free) Lincoln Park Zoo after, and fit in a little Navy Pier action at the end of the day.  Great plan... except for the heat.  It was HOT. 


Blue snow cones are an awesome way to beat the heat!

Random public art fountain encountered on the way to Navy Pier

Navy Pier's Ferris Wheel - not as big as the one at the World's Fair back in the day!

Day #4 - The Sky and the Sea

When planning, we'd given the girls the choice on the last full day of going to the Adler Planetarium, the Shedd Aquarium, or the Museum of Science and Industry.  The second two especially had been recommended to us, but we decided to let them choose.  They picked the planetarium, which was fun.  We first did a quick walk-through of the very cool public library near our hotel, then did the (really too long) walk down to the Adler and enjoyed much of the day there.  Once again, our local kids' museum membership got us in for the basics, and we paid to add on a couple of shows. Really, this was only a half-day attraction, but we still had fun.

Looking out the windows at lunch, we'd seen a public beach very close to the Adler, and since I'd been carrying around the girls' swimsuits in our daypack, after our time at the Adler, we stopped by for a couple hours of fun playing in the waters of Lake Michigan to finish out our days in Chicago

Day #5 - The Return, with Bonus Friends!

While it's always hard for me to end vacations, we did have an added bonus for our last day - a visit with some very, very dear friends who'd moved away earlier this year.  G, her husband, and their adorable children were just a scant 5 minutes off the highway, as she'd reminded me when hearing about our trip.  How could we NOT stop and see them on their new/in-the-family farm? It was hard to leave, but we hope to visit them again soon (and stay longer next time!)

All in all, a wonderful first family vacation, with a lovely (if not as quiet as desired) hotel, lots of sights seen, relatively patient children, and many memories made and photos taken. The girls have already been talking about what they want to see whenever we go back - the Shedd Aquarium, revisiting the Field Museum, and seeing the Museum of Science and Industry top the list so far.  Oh, and in case you were wondering, yes, I did have them dress alike most days to make it easier to find them in a crowd, and yes, we did plan their souvenirs-from-when-I-went-to-the-Field-Museum shirts for that day, and ones about the solar system for the planetarium day, and ones-from-Mr.K's-business-trip-to-Chicago for the first day, 'cuz they (and I) thought that was cool.

* Note: Both of the pix on the first day that I'm in were taken by lovely strangers, after I'd offered to take pix of them (a couple at the Bean, a woman on her own at the SkyDeck) first.  Too often the photographer isn't in the picture, and I'm happy to take a photo for somebody else... and then I'm not shy about asking them if they'd mind doing the same.  Works great!
** Where we learned that Chicago comes from a Native American word Chigagou meaning something along the lines of "field of the stinky onions."   

Friday, August 23, 2013

9 is big stuff!

(c) 2013 Ms. Huis Herself at

Happy 9th Birthday, Pumpkin!


(Turning 9 is exciting!)  

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Too Darn Hot, even to the Bees!

(c) 2013 Ms. Huis Herself at

It's hot.  In fact, it's DARN hot, especially for this northern US clime!   We've had a stretch of around 90F days,  with not much cooling down at night, which is rather uncomfortable!  Luckily for us human types, we can escape to the magical land of Air Conditioning!  Fortunately for the Kluges/Huis household, we gave in and purchased window air conditioning units for the 3 bedrooms last summer.  Thank the Lord for those, 'cuz hot = nobody sleeps (well) = grumpy pants family!  

But my poor little bees haven't got none of that air conditioning business!  Instead, they do this:

They hang out on the front porch when it's hot.

Sometimes there's enough of them hanging out outside that they end up just climbing onto & hanging off of each other... then it's called "bearding."

Here's how bearding looks from the side...

...and the back, so you get a sense of just how many bees are hanging off of each other.  Pretty crazy, huh?

This is a view from above(ish) of the landing board.  Notice anything different about some of the bees?

The ones on the left (south) side that are lined up in rows are fanning - standing there, buzzing their wings like nobody's business, to try to move some (hopefully cooler) air into and up through the hive.

And that concludes your beekeeping lesson for the day!  Hope you enjoyed it! 

Friday, July 05, 2013


(c) 2013 Ms. Huis Herself at

So this happened today, on the last day of the first session of swimming lessons... 

That'd be my 8 year old daughter jumping off the low diving board... and my 6 year old daughter leaping from the high board!  Penguin said today, "I want to try the high diving board now!" So she climbed up, looked around briefly, and then just jumped right off!  No hesitation, no "maybe not today; I'm coming back down," just JUMP!  

It was so much fun, she did it again, several times, sometimes even with the two of them trying to coordinate their jump.  Well done, Penguin!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Color Run 5K

(c) 2013 Ms. Huis Herself at

I did my first 5K of this year this morning, and it was a color run!  As in, while you're running along the course, occasionally you run a gauntlet of people throwing colored paint powder on you!  

It was fun for something different, and a fun way to get my first 5K of the year done.  It's been raining lots lately, and the course was SOAKED.  A couple of times the water was deep and sucky enough that I almost lost a shoe.  There were a couple of small hills, and the trail on them was slippery, slippery clay, so I walked for safety on the last uber-slick one.  I was just glad that it wasn't actively raining while we were running, and the temperature was lovely.

Here's how I looked when I got home afterward....


After a LONG and scrubby shower, I'm pretty much back to normal, with the exception of my blue hand.  Apparently that blue's a little more persistent than the rest of the colors, and has taken up residence on all my knuckles and between my fingers.  Oh well. :)  We'll see how the color sets on the shirt - it's already more blendy than I'd've wanted, but it's definitely not white anymore!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

I'll name you Beatrice, you're Beulah, and you can be Bea... I'm gonna need more 'B' names...

(c) 2013 Ms. Huis Herself at

 We've been thinking about doing this for a while and Mr. Kluges finally talked me into it last September.  We ordered our equipment, put it together, and today, picked up the final and most necessary component to our new endeavor...

That'd be a box full of bees, folks!
We are now beekeepers!  

Mr. Kluges and the girls watched from the back roof/balcony while I installed them into their hive.  To start we got a "nuc," which is basically 4 frames out of the middle of a hive.  They should have an active/laying queen and a bunch of her daughter bees along with eggs/pupa/larvae in various stages, and honey and pollen, too.  All I had to do was carefully remove them from the cardboard box they're in and put them into their prepared permanent home.  I looked for the queen, but didn't see her, which isn't too unusual considering my lack of experience. :)  I'm not too worried (well, not too worried), but I'll look again in a few days and see if I can find her then, or at least eggs, which would mean she's there & doing fine.

Here are some photos of the process.

This is the nuc of bees riding home in the trunk of the car.

After I took the first frame out of the nuc, I showed it to my 3 observers. There are bees everywhere on that thing!
Taking a look at a frame of bees to see if I can spot the queen, observing the capped brood, looking for eggs, etc.
Adding 3 new frames to each side of the hive for the bees to fill with pollen and honey for themselves.

Putting on the inner cover.
Since they're just getting established, I put an empty box on top of the inner cover, then a container of sugar-water for the bees to help feed them until they get going finding nectar sources.
Finally I put on the outer cover and a big ol' rock.  The empty nuc box was placed in front of the opening so the couple of dozen bees still in it could find their way out in their own time.

I retrieved the camera from Mr. Kluges while I was still geared up and took a few pictures.  This circled bee is sticking her rear in the air and giving off the homing pheromone, to help the other bees find the opening and realize that this is now home.

I've already been out to look at the hive quite a few times today because it's just so dang cool.  I even saw a bee returning to the hive with the pollen baskets on her legs packed full of bright yellow pollen (dandelion?) less than an hour after I'd installed them.  The bees seem to have settled in fine, but I'm looking forward to continued observations.  Yay for honey bees!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Hat Day

(c) 2013 Ms. Huis Herself at

Our Little Princess

You can't see it here, but she's wearing a shirt with a picture of Sue the dinosaur's skull from the Field Museum in Chicago.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

An unexpected early morning wake-up crash

(c) 2013 Ms. Huis Herself at

Not that I mean to only write when we've had something bad occur with the house, but this happened...

About 10 days ago, while Mr. Kluges was in Ireland on a business trip, Mother Nature decided that what this extended late winter, is-spring-ever-coming season needed was an ice storm.  A BIG ice storm spiced up with just a little bit of wind.  Yay.

About 5:30 am, I was woken by the sound of some small branches breaking off the tree outside my window.  I didn't think too much of it, as it's a weak tree that often loses a small branch or two in any sort of wind or ice. I lay there, listening to the tap of the freezing rain on my window, and the occasional tinkle of a small branch breaking off and making its way through its brothers to the ground.  Then there was a sudden HUMONGOUS snapping, loud and extended crashing, and a giant, house-shaking BOOM!  I knew right away one of the main branches on one of our neighbor's trees on the property line to the south had come down and definitely hit our house. I tore out of bed into Penguin's room, sure I was going to see branches poking through her window and an hysterical child in bedFortunately, and unbelievably to me at the time, the window was unbroken and Penguin remained asleep.

But I could see out her window that it was more than just that one branch, big as it was.  I then raced over to Pumpkin's room 'cuz the branches obviously went that far - she was awake & asked what that big thunder was.  I told her it was a tree hitting the house, then threw on some clothes, grabbed a flashlight & went out to see what I could see. 

Turns out I was wrong - it wasn't the one large branch we'd always thought would eventually give way and hit our sun porch.  Instead it looked like the entire tree itself had broken off right at the ground and hit our sun porch, with at least some branches hitting the top roof, and it was resting mostly on our sun porch roof, which was obviously damaged and partially crushed.  I couldn't see very much because it was still so dark, but after determining that apparently none of the tree had gone through walls or windows, I went in and messaged Mr. Kluges, who was, with the 6 hour time different, awake and at work.

Once it got light, I went out and snapped some photos so Mr. Kluges could get a better sense of the damage and what had happened
.  Here's how it looked.

The red arrow is the base of the tree, where it broke off from its roots. The yellow arrow shows branches coming completely over the top of the sun porch roof, and the blue one shows branches hitting the top roof.
Our side yard
The poor smashed sun porch roof

The reach of the tree up onto the top roof
Penguin's window, the original one I'd expected to be broken out
Pumpkin's window view, with roof completely covered with branches
The view from the backyard
This WAS the gate to the backyard.

Once the girls were off to school, I contacted the insurance company, and then our tree guy, who wasn't able to come out that day because, gosh, he was really busy and we didn't have any branches actually breaking INTO our house (thank God!).  Later that morning, one of our other neighbors called to say she was sending her husband (and his chainsaw) over about 1pm when he got home from work.  They showed up, and between the three of us and his chainsaw and some ropes, managed to get the tree off of the house.  It got easier to see some of the damage then.

Of course, the branches did a number on our custom gutters!

Since then the insurance adjustor has been out, and so has our contractor.  We're waiting for progress with that.  Mr. Kluges and the neighbor whose tree it was decided to take care of the rest of the tree themselves, so it's now all chopped up and off our yard.  The sun porch roof is going to need significant work, the main roof might need some (thankfully we have some of our special shingles around!), and the gutters are obviously in need of repair.  Surprisingly, it looks like just the gate took the brunt of the tree, but the rest of the fence looks ok.  Somehow, no windows were broken and nothing came through the roof or walls!!!!  I'm counting my blessings on that one!

(Cross-posted to House of 42 Doors.)