~ Super Spicy Mama ~

In a fit of  housewiferly  enthusiasm ( ‘housewiferly?’  Just go with it.) this morning, I began cleaning out my spice cupboard.  It’s been on my ‘To-Do’ list for nearly three years now.  Life most certainly takes priority to the expiration dates on my Thyme and Rosemary.

What happened today to bring this item to the forefront?  I couldn’t get my Thyme and Rosemary out of the cupboard because they were, er, STUCK to it.  Apparently some almond extract spilled a while (years?) ago, and morphed into some kind of superglue as it dried.

I haven’t used my Thyme and Rosemary in while, is what I am saying.

As I was removing these ancient artifacts from the shelves, memories of a conversation Critter and I had years ago surfaced and broke free of my little pea brain:  He was in elementary school at the time, and was watching me make cookies, and asked me which of my spices were ‘good’ spices, and which ones were ‘bad’ spices.  I told them they were all good, if used in the right recipe!  But if we took garlic and added it to a chocolate cake batter, well, it might turn out horribly wrong.   I remember so clearly how he pegged me with his chocolate brown eyes and posited, “How would you know if you didn’t try?”

I had no answer, but to this day have not wasted a perfectly good chocolate cake batter finding out.  Still, he had me dead to rights.

This year, Critter started a new school.   We pulled him out of his old school for various reasons, the largest of which was his extreme unhappiness, and plunked him (gently) into The Friends Meeting School in Ijamsville, Maryland.  Understand, he has been with the same group of kids since Kindergarden, and now he was going to be in a completely new, and smaller circle of peers. It was a clear case of the devil you know, versus the devil you don’t know.

OH HOW WE SUFFERED GREATLY in the days leading up to his first day at Friends!  In his mind, there was no end to the possible tragedies ahead of him.  “What if I fail?”   “What if they hate me?”  “What if they bully me?”  “What if I make no friends??”

Again and again it was, “WHAT IF I MAKE NO FRIENDS?!”

Finally this past Monday, the first day of school had arrived, and before he got out of the car at the drop-off lane, I pegged him with my own chocolate brown eyes and posited, “But what if you did?  How would you know, if you didn’t try?”

He had no answer; I had him dead to rights, and he knew it.

I’m very pleased to report that we’re on day three at the new school, and Critter is happier than I have seen him in a long while.  And check it out…..he’s made a boatload of really nice, good friends already.  All is good these days at The Little Cottage!

I just hope….I really really hope…that he doesn’t turn this back on me and demand I try putting garlic in the chocolate cake.



And speaking of which…I have to figure out how to get almond extract superglue out of cherry wood grain.  Pray for me.





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~ What in the Googly Moogly is THAT? ~

Well, first off, I’d ask you if you even know what Googly Moogly means.  And if you didn’t, you probably don’t catch a lot of what I say, is what I’m saying, says I.


THAT, is actually THIS:

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My beloved, Gigantic HAND.   The HAND that will be on our float for Poolesville Day on September 17th this year, in…. you guessed it….Poolesville, Maryland.

This is the chosen symbol this year for PRIDE, our community pro-civility movement.  This HAND, simply put, is the reminder to everyone that DOING THE RIGHT THING is still COOL in this world.  Think of it as a HAND up.  Or a HAND outstretched, instead of the fists we’ve been seeing so often in the media as of late.  THIS is the hand of solidarity and goodness.

And, er, we ain’t done yet!!!  EEEK!!!  All summer long I kept thinking, “Meh, we’ve got plenty of time!  Plenty of time!  September 17th is forever away!”

But today it struck me that it’s less than a month away.

After I hyperventillated for a few minutes, I put my paper bag down, and reminded myself that I’m not alone in this venture.  In fact, My Captain, and another father, Brian, have done all of the armiture.  Mr. Gemmell, a local art teacher, had the kids design and build the hand.  And me?  I’ve been on the phone a lot.

Like, A LOT.


A master delegater and encourager, that’s me.   (Varmint asked what ‘Task Master’ meant, and I bellowed at her, “Quiet, Peon! and get back to work!”)

We have had kids from all ages, and all over the community helping us with ideas, paper macheing, and painting! We’ve had others donate their town hall (Thanks, Barnesville!) and their trailers, and all kinds of advice!

So picture the finished hand, outreaching to those in need, on a trailer as a float for Poolesville day!!!  Picture people walking near it with signs saying “BE THE DIFFERENCE,” “MAKE A DIFFERENCE” and “LEND A HAND,” while throwing candy out (gently, per the powers that be), while music blasts out with a zippy beat.

It will be nothing short of awesome.

Unless it falls horribly flat, in which case it will suck, and I’ll have to hang my head in shame. But I am shameless, so that really isn’t an issue, now is it?

But just try to imagine our finished product!  What a statement it will be!!!  Think Animal House,


without the, er,



Course, if that is the comparison I am going to make, the obvious other comparison would be that….


this is me.



Don’t  judge.

Poolesville Day.  Saturday, September 17th, in Poolesville, Maryland.  Find out more at:  http://www.poolesvilleday.com/

Come and see our HAND float.   We have a lot of PRIDE in it!  I think the Parade starts fairly early in the morning, so don’t be late!!!

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See you there!



Bluto…..er, I mean…Mama






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~ Sexy Hobbit Feet ~

I think we’ve already established that I have feet so calloused, they make alligator skin seem soft and supple.  Was it 2012 we discussed that in ~ Walking On Hot Coals ~ ?  I remember how kind and non-judgemental you all were about it back then, so I have absolutely no qualm about sharing another sexy aspect of my tootsies with you.

I didn’t realize how hairy my feet have gotten…specifically my toes…until I had a pedicure today, and proudly suggested to the owner of our beloved nail salon here in Poolesville that she put a picture of my newly painted toes up on their Facebook page.

I mean, who doesn’t love a fun watermelon design on their toes during the summer, right?


But when I got home and saw the picture on facebook, I realized not only are my piggly wigglies painted in perfect watermelon regalia… my hairy hobbit toes showed up in full force too!


Look at these puppy paws, will you?  And I am the person who suggested this picture get plastered on Facebook for the whole town to see.  Could I possibly be more of an obtuse dork?

There was only one thing to do about this.  I had no choice but to strut it, as if I meant for this to happen all along.  I embraced the Hobbit in me, and am putting it out there for all of you to witness, as well.  If you’re going to accept me for my crocodile soles, you might as well love me for my furball toes.

Sounds like a country western song:  (Sing with a heartfelt Twang)

“She’s got crocodile soles,

and fur ball toes,

and I love her, God knows,

heaven help me!”

Look, I’m not saying it is a GOOD country western song.  I’m just saying if you put it to music, it would play well.  I’ll try to get My Captain to record it for you. I’m sure he’ll sign right up.

Don’t judge.


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~ Nothing To See Here…~

Our little town has a special group dedicated to the promotion of civility.

It started about a decade ago when concerned folk wanted to squash negative behavior, like bullying, and just plain rudeness, and bring back politeness.  You know, reinforce kindness and charm and, heck, just put the true back in True Blue.   They dubbed this concept PRIDE, which stands for Purpose, Respect, Integrity, Dedication, and Effort.

The townfolk  wanted to bring to the forefront of our community’s consciousness the concept of pushing these ideals a little harder than those currently being pushed via social media, Hollywood, and Pop Culture.

This year, I went to a meeting of PRIDE.  And within a half an hour, I had signed myself on to be in charge of building the PRIDE float for our annual town day, otherwise known as Poolesville Day.


What would the float be???

Every year, PRIDE comes up with a catch phrase.  Last year it was “Stand Up,” as in stand up for people, stand up against bullying, stand up to injustice.  This year, the phrase is Be The Difference.  As in be the difference to someone. Be the difference if someone is getting picked on.  Be the difference if you see someone who needs help.

Be the difference and lend someone a hand.


As in, be someone’s rescuer!  You never know how much your help might mean to someone!

So we decided the float would be a giant, extended “Let Me Help You” hand.  As if someone were reaching down to lift someone else up.  Think Sistine Chapel…


It’s a beautiful idea, isn’t it?  I thought of it myself.  Well, I thought of stealing DaVinci’s idea, anyway…   You might say I’m artsy fartsy in a totally plageristic sort of way.

But I’m most emphatically NOT artsy fartsy enough to actually BUILD such a concept. That was where the middle school art teacher, Mr. Gemmell, and his students at John Poole Middle School came into play.  In the space of a week, some chicken wire, some scrap wood, and some paper mache, and Bada Bing, Bada Boom, THE HAND was born.

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I love it.

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And throughout this summer, we, and some student volunteers,

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are going to finish the armature, and get the beauty painted.

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Our good friends, The Stottlemyers, loaned us the trailer.

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And our dear friends The Browns,

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in conjunction with the beautiful town of Barnesville,

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are loaning us the storage space and work space.

Reverend Ann, from our local Episcopal church, donated the funding.

And My Captain?  He got volunteered to be the structural engineer.  He’s SO PLEASED with me for signing him up!   You should have seen his face when I told him the news!  (ahEM.)

We (and by we, I mean THEY) got the claw, er, I mean, THE HAND loaded onto the Stottlemyer’s trailer, and immediately Varmint began to worry that it would fly off the trailer in transit.

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She had visions of a giant hand flying off the trailer and hitting a busload of children or something.  Or worse yet, the pizza delivery guy.  She was seeing mayhem, I tell you!

“Meh!” I exclaimed, “It’ll be FINE!”

Varmint, Critter, Mike, and Grandma Jane had little faith in my assessment.

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As did, I’m happy to say, My Captain, who has been around the block a time or two with my over-zealous optimism.

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So he got out his trusty-dusty-rusty winch straps, and secured that sucker DOWN.

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I offered to give him a hand……


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As did Critter.

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And finally,  The Hand was seen being hauled through Poolesville and Barnesville, to where it will be stored until we can work on it later this summer.


Oh, and we also went through the McDonald’s Drive Thru, and acted all non-chalant, like, “There’s nothing to see here, just a 6′ armless hand.”

No one batted an eye…..Garsh I love this town!!!!

Stay tuned for the rest of the story!

(And pray for My Captain!)

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~ What The Heck IS Collapse Rescue, Anyway? ~


Whenever I tell people that My Captain is an expert in Collapse Rescue, and they give me that vacant, polite nod of the head, I KNOW they have no idea what I’m talking about.

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Why should they?  Most people never have a need to be rescued in a collapse, whether it be from a trench, or a terrorist bombed building.  But let’s say for a second that you did.  Let’s say you were unfortunate enough to be in a bombed building, or a collapsed work trench.  What the heck would you do?

Well, first you would pee yourself.

THEN, you would collect your wits and call 911.  The person on that end of the phone would then pee THEMSELVES, and then they would begin the dispatch, which would ultimately end up in someone deciding the resources required were more than your average fire crew.  If the dispatcher decides it warrants a collapse team, they would activate the Special Operations Technical Rescue Team…. or TRT.

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The TRT here in Montgomery County, Maryland, is the same team that handles Ropes (Also called “High Angle Rescue”),  Confined Space, and Structural Collapse rescue as well as the Trench Rescues.   Swift Water and Hazardous Material Rescue fall under a different part of the Special Ops umbrella.

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We’re lucky here in Montgomery County, because our County TRT has many of the same rescuers and technicians who are on the FEMA Urban Search and Rescue Team, (Maryland Task Force 1).  Basically, because we live where we live, and MD Task Force 1 is centralized here, we get the cream of the crop running to our aid.

And seeing as how Washington D.C. (AKA, the huge freaking political target) is so nearby, it’s probably a good thing…..

The team trains often.  Not as often as My Captain would like, but there is only so much time in a day, and only so many dollars in a budget. So they do the best they can.

Training takes many forms.  Last week, the team worked on trench collapse at the National Institute for Standards and Technology campus.  First, the TRT came in and used a back hoe to dig a hole, and then simulate a trench collapse.

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After that is in, they place ground pads all around the trench to avoid causing further cave-ins.  It disperses the weight of footsteps around the compromised soil.

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Now it is time to shore up the walls.  They do this with rawthar expensive shore forms made of Norway Fir plywood and Kevlar.  The point of the Kevlar is to make it really strong.  You don’t want to be in the middle of a rescue and have your shores fail.  That would fall under the BAD category.

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They support the rawthar expensive shores with aluminum struts, which are air pressure forced, and then collared for even better tightness.

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Once those are all in place, and only then, can our guys descend safely into the trench to perform a rescue.

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Notice the yellow tube…that is sending air down into the space.

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Helpful to all involved.  The team monitors the air to make sure there are not excessive gasses below. And sometimes they heat the air if it is a cold day and the patient is buried in cold ground.  Heck, even if it is a warm day, and the victim is buried in cold ground, they could become hypothermic because the soil is 50 degrees.

They think of everything, these guys.

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All of this has to happen as quickly as possible, obviously, but it takes hours to get it done, and done safely so we don’t accrue even more casualties.  Hence the training.

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And thank God they do it!!!




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