Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Dog's Life

Yesterday (and today, actually) was a very sad day at our house. Our sweet dog, having reached the incredible age of at least 14, had been slowing down for the last year or two, but the last few months, and most particularly the last several days have shown a marked decline.

We got her at the pound about 11 1/2 years ago; we toured the whole place, and couldn't find the right dog. We didn't see her, because she was in a cage with a particularly insane black lab who was jumping around so much we never noticed the sweet, quiet dog in the back. An employee pointed her out; they had picked her up on the side of the road with the lab, and they both had porcupine quills in their faces and tongues. We brought her home, and have enjoyed her ever since.

She's seen us through 2 moves, 1 doctorate, several jobs, and the birth of 2 kids. Her sweet nature and kind heart always showed through, even when she dragged my curling ribbon through every room of the house, turned over all the houseplants and covered the living room rug with an inch of dirt, and removed all my cookbooks from the bookshelf, taking a bite out of all the corners. My personal favorite was when I came home one day and couldn't figure out what the amethyst sparkly stuff was all over my kitchen floor; turns out that I had left a coffee cake in a pyrex dish on the counter, which she pulled off. When it landed on the kitchen tile, it shattered into about eleventy billion pieces, but she managed to eat every last bite of the coffee cake with no injury to herself.

She was always wonderful with the kids; Miss Serious let her be, but Big Trouble was determined to ride her, grab her hair, and pull her tail. She took all this abuse in stride, with never so much as a growl. She would just look up at us with her sad eyes, which seemed to ask, "Please make it stop."

Over the last few weeks, she progressively lost the ability to support her weight on her back legs. She was put on painkillers, which she happily chomped down, as I believe they were meat flavored, and apparently delicious. The last few days she had great difficulty getting to a standing position, and walking around the house became more and more of a challenge. When we came home yesterday, she was unable to stand, and when she looked up at me, her big sad eyes once again seemed to say, "Please make it stop." We took her to the vet yesterday, and her suffering is now over.

Rest in peace, sweet girl. We love you and will miss you with all our hearts.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Let It Snow!

Well, they said it was going to, and they were right. They even nailed the time that it would start - are meteorologists practicing black magic these days? Because of the mess the roads were going to become, the school declared a snow day. (This is what it looked like about an hour into the storm.) I was glad, because yesterday I taught Kindergarten, and I'm still recovering. I think that if I taught Kindergarten full time, I would probably have to start drinking at lunch (though I probably wouldn't lead with that statement at a job interview).

The kids were excited about the day off, and promptly began to plan one of their elaborate games; they have a room full of toys, but most of their time is occupied with imaginary games that they invent themselves. Today on their day off from school, they decided to play....school. Hmmm.

I have to admit, snow days were a lot more restful (though less interesting) before we had children. I could sleep late, and basically lounge around being lazy and doing what I wanted to do all day. All that is now over, however, and by about 9:30 I found myself telling the kids that if they didn't get it together, I was going to send them to school anyway and they could sit on the steps until 3:00. They decided to pull it together, and made this:

It's a gingerbread house kit that I picked up a few weeks ago (and have heard the question "But when are we going to make it?" pretty much every hour since). The kids had a good time, and did a lovely job. I liked this kit, and the gingerbread actually smelled delicious - the last one didn't have any odor at all - so now the living room smells like a bakery.

We capped off the afternoon with a trek outside (the wind was blowing the snow horizontally - what fun!) and we had a snowball fight. Age definitely has it's advantages when it comes to snowball fights - bigger hands can craft much larger snowballs than 6 & 7 year olds can, and we've learned not to throw our incompletely formed snow directly into the wind.

Happy snow day Miss Serious and Big Trouble - you sure know how to make a snow day fun.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

It's Official - Everybody's Got Their Crazy On

Got to love the holiday season. Some things about this time of year are wonderful, like holiday lights, and eggnog (oh my gosh, do I love eggnog), but other things are less delightful. Things like the Target parking lot. I keep thinking that we're still in November, and not just about a week away from Christmas. Thus, I thought I would just run in to Target and grab a couple of things - not even Christmas related urgent-type things. Duh.

Not only is the parking lot stuffed full of monster SUV's, everybody's just a tad on edge because they too have just realized that Christmas is just a little over one week away. This causes normally sane people to become a bit less sane. Quite a bit less sane, in fact. It's the holiday crazy that makes 9 SUV's think they can all have the same parking space, and instead of giving up and looking for another, they all clump up together beeping their horns, which of course echo beautifully in the concrete parking garage, and making charming gestures to one another.

It's always a joy to see the Christmas spirit in action. Fa La La La La, La La La La.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Done, Done, Done, Done!

YAY! It's done! This is Big Trouble's Christmas stocking that I began cross stitching when he was a baby (mind you, he's 6 now....). But then I learned to knit, and all the cross stitching got tucked away. I've made stockings for Miss Serious and The Professor, and last Christmas Big Trouble finally realized that he was the only one (well, besides me) that didn't have a personalized, hand-stitched stocking. So, I dug out the partially finished stocking, and this summer really began working on it in earnest, as I knew he would be looking for it this year, and I would feel enormous waves of Mommy guilt.

He faithfully followed my progress, and was always so happy when any new section got completed. I finished the embroidery a week or two ago, and rounded up the material to actually make the thing into a stocking. Last week I cut out the satin, velvet, and braid, narrowly avoiding the puddle of glitter glue that Miss Serious was working on at the table, got out my sewing machine, sat down to sew and.....had no maroon thread. Luckily my mother is an avid sewer and has just about every color thread known to man, so she brought me a spool yesterday, and today the stocking is finally a stocking! Hope you like it Big Trouble, and thanks for being so patient.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

My Life in Color

Just after Miss Serious was born, the digital camera boom set in. We got one when she was just a few months old, and have been happily snapping pictures with it (and its predecessor) since. All these lovely pictures were downloaded to the computer, and then sent via email to family and friends so that everyone could see every time she stuck her tongue out or held up her head ever so slightly. By the time Big Trouble came along, pictures only got taken when we were at an unusual location or someone was on fire.

The upshot of all this digital photo-taking is that we have no pictures. This does not mean we have no images of our children, but we have almost no actual, hold them in your hands pictures. I decided over the summer to rectify this, and go through the pictures on the computer to pick some to print and place in albums. Unfortunately, because we have taken 700 bajillion photos, this task was rather more daunting than I had planned, and, with my eyes spinning in opposite directions, I finally stopped around the time that Miss Serious would have been 1.

Fast forward several months, and I decided to get my bottom in gear (no subbing most of this week, as Miss Serious has 1/2 days at school) and get some more done. I spent about 2 hours last night going through them, and I've gotten up to about the time Big Trouble was 6 months old. The file in which I'm placing these pictures now has 200 images in it, and I have rather a long way to go. The process is wonderful, however, and it has been awfully fun to go through our lives together through the succession of smiles, messy eating, vacations, birthdays, and general cuteness that lives on my computer. Hopefully one of these days we'll have some albums to flip through and make the cuteness accessible to everyone.

Friday, November 28, 2008

All Sewn Up!

Well, Thanksgiving is over, and it was a success. We all ate our fill of Thanksgiving delicacies - a holiday that celebrates with mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie is ok with me! For the last couple of years we've been attending an inter-religious Thanksgiving service. It's officiated by all different faiths, (Christian, Jewish, Buddhist and B'Hai were some of those represented yesterday) and very interesting. The message yesterday was on the topic of giving faith in times of crises, and one of the sentiments really stuck with me - it was that in times of crisis or loss, it's important to remember to be thankful for what's left, not lamenting what has been lost. Interesting thought.

After the traditional stuffing of the stomachs, in my mashed potato-induced stupor I managed to stitch together this:

It's Trellis from Knitty, and it's been a long time coming. I really like the sweater, but with with the pattern and cables and what-not, this is a sweater that can only be done when you are paying attention, as I found out many (MANY) times and had to rip back because things were all awry. I love the finished product, and it's just a shame that small children don't stay small - this sweater will probably see one day of use, but it'll be one stylin' day!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Crazy Eyes, Part Duh

Well, it's still the day before Thanksgiving, and I'm still feeling a bit under the weather. For the record, when you're really exhausted and you're trying to decide which you should do first - nap or make piecrust - pick nap.

I chose unwisely, and decided to get the piecrust out of the way, and apparently I am incapable of reading a recipe and realizing that 1/4 pound of butter and 1/4 cup of butter aren't the same thing, and that when you only put 1/4 cup of butter in the piecrust and then add the water, it doesn't form anything resembling piecrust. And when you realize your mistake and try to add the other 1/4 cup of butter after the fact, it sort of just globs all over the outside. If this were for my family, I would roll it out and move on, but as I am bringing it to someone's house, I wrapped up the first try and stuck it in the freezer (for us to enjoy at a later date) and made another, complete with the correct amount of butter. Now for that nap - I hope it fixes me, but I don't have high hopes....

Crazy Eyes!

I'm stunned that tomorrow is not only Thanksgiving, but we are now less than a month away from Christmas! I've been subbing, which is great, but I'm still getting the hang of how to get things done 'round the house while I'm not in it! Thus, I headed out to the grocery store this morning, since I had yet to buy any of the food we will actually be consuming tomorrow.

Our Trader Joe's opens at 9:00, and when I got there at 9:10, it was already full of people pushing carts around the store with "the look" on their faces. I know that look well; it's the one where you know you have to get 9 jillion things done, and time is running short. Everyone was hovering around the potatoes and squash looking somewhat unbalanced, so I grabbed what I needed and got out quick.

Now I'm home with my groceries, enjoying the quiet of my house, getting ready to make some pumpkin pie (boy do I love pumpkin pie!), and trying to ward off yet another cold. I was in a 5th grade classroom yesterday, and the incredible amount of slurpy noses was not to be believed. Handwashing is our friend....

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Last Lecture

I had read about Randy Pausch quite a while ago; he was a Carnegie Mellon professor who found out he was dying of pancreatic cancer. Apparently it's common in academia to give something called a "last lecture," in which professors review their lives and impart some wisdom that they've learned.

This last lecture was different in that it actually would be from the point of view of someone who had only a short time to live. I've been on the waiting list at my library for a LONG time (sadly I didn't start actually reading the book until I realized it was already overdue) and was surprised by this book. I was expecting something rather maudlin, and instead it was interesting, funny, and inspiring. Obviously, the subject matter being what it is, there were parts that were sad, but the overall tone of the book was one of optimism and humor. This man lived the heck out of his life, accomplished dreams, and loved his family.

There's a You Tube video of the actual lecture, but I enjoyed the book more. I liked being able to read the chapters in my own time and give them some thought. It was a short read, and divided up into small chapters (perfect for my time schedule these days). Randy Pausch died on July 25th of this year from pancreatic cancer, and judging from the way he lived his life, I'm sure he is missed by many.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Ah, The Irony!

I seemed to have lost that old blogging mojo. As odd as it may seem to anyone who knows me, lately I haven't felt like I've had a lot to say. And then I got sick. And now Miss Serious is home from school with a hacking cough (but the rest of her feels ok). But on Sunday we all did the Habitat for Humanity walk, and the juxtaposition of the whole thing must be talked about.

I really like Habitat for Humanity - it's a very hands-on organization with clear and tangible results. I also like doing the walk, as it's a good way for us to involve the kids - I figure if they can learn the habit of helping others while they're young, it may stick with them. We did it last year as well, and it's about a 2 mile walk through some eye-poppingly expensive real estate. The irony of the whole thing is painful as you pass what can only be described as mansions, one after the other, many of which have a stunning view of the water. Miss Serious actually asked me at one point if we had ever thought of getting one of them (as if the only obstacle were that it hadn't ever occured to us to buy one of these opulent and crushingly expensive homes).

We enjoyed the walk, but I'm pretty sure the kids' favorite part was the munchkins and cookies at the end (I've decided that you could probably make my kids do just about anything if you dangle munchkins in front of them). Thanks to our generous friends and family we were able to raise $125, which probably pays for one day of hedge-clipping at one of the mansions we passed.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Trash Talk

I came across a funny blog a couple of weeks ago, written by a guy who calls himself Sustainable Dave (I think he has another blog under that name). It's called 365 Days of Trash, and he decided last year to not throw anything away for one year. This doesn't mean that he has no trash, but he's been recording all of his trash (both recycling and garbage), weighing it, and keeping it in his basement. I'm not sure what the benefit to keeping it in the basement is, except for perhaps the visual reminder of the garbage that we all create. He's been able to seriously reduce the amount of garbage he produces (I imagine that even before this experiment it was much less than the average American) and seems to have a tolerant wife who puts up with the whole thing.

There's also a Time article about him that explains the background of the whole project. Much of the blog consists of lists of his daily garbage (when I compare them to my own list of throwaways, I am stunned) but he also jots down his thoughts about how the project is progressing. It's a really interesting look at what we leave behind, in a very visual manner. He talks about how when we say that we threw something away, nobody ever stops to think about where away is. A thought-provoking (and definitely unusual) read.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Beauty Is Only Skin Deep

Well, I've been doing that darned reading thing again, this time about makeup. Now, I don't wear a lot of makeup. Even when I was working every day, I had a pretty low-maintenance routine, using the bare minimum of what I could get away with - just enough to look slightly less unkempt than my normal self. Now I've learned that the makeup, lotion, etc. that we put on our faces in a sometimes futile attempt to look better are actually hazardous to our health. Cosmetics and personal care products are not required to meet specific standards for health, and, in fact, according the the FDA, "a cosmetic manufacturer may use almost any raw material as a cosmetic ingredient and market the product without an approval from the FDA."

Lovely. According to Big Green Purse by Diane MacEachern (a really interesting, quick, and useful read, by the way), a good place to start to try to reduce these hazards is to read labels (not easy when trying to purchase something in the store with 2 kids whining about lunch...) and look to reduce these four things: Fragrances, Phthalates, Parabens, and Triclosan (what's in anti-bacterial soap). This is definitely easier said than done, as I discovered when I flipped over the products in my bathroom - fragrance and parabens were in almost every single one.

As I don't use lots of makeup, some of it is really old (we're talking college, here), so I've been hunting around for some replacements. I didn't want to have to buy makeup from the internet, so imagine my surprise when I came across Physician's Formula Organic Wear at my local CVS. It said it was all organic, and had Eco-Cert certification. I didn't know if this was a real thing or not, so I went home, surfed through the ever-helpful Google for a while, and lo and behold it is a real thing. I also found a really helpful site for finding the hazard levels of products you use (sunscreen, makeup and the like). None of the Organic Wear products were above the middle hazard level, and many of them were listed as low hazards (as opposed to some of the things I'm currently using, which were in the red, high-hazard section - always what you want to see), so I decided that I should take the plunge.

Unfortunately, it's quite a bit pricier than my normal Cover Girl/Maybelline purchases, so I had been putting it off. Imagine my surprise when my CVS circular came this week announcing that the whole line was 40% off! So, yesterday I toddled over and came home with these:

The stuff is interesting, and the packaging is completely recyclable, so the containers are like a really thick cardboard. It seems to work pretty well, but it was interesting to note that the line was quite limited - no mascara or lipsticks (they had a tinted lip-gloss kind of thing), and tinted moisturizer instead of foundation. I guess there's a reason the companies use the ingredients they do, as it's obviously not so easy to create some products without them. Judging by my past experience, these things will last me for about 10-20 years, so I'm glad I like them!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

All Over

Well, Halloween has come and gone, and it was a grand success. Here's Big Trouble the vet:

and Miss Serious the rock star:

They had a great time trick-or-treating, and also did the reverse trick or treating with the fair trade chocolate. When we did this last year, we were at The Museum of Natural History (they shut the museum down in the evening, and the kids all come in costume and trick or treat throughout the museum - really fun) and it was so busy that the kids just quickly gave them the card and we moved on.

This was the first year we did it at people's houses, and I must say, I think I know how Jehovah's Witnesses must feel when they knock on the door. The kids followed a routine where they were given their candy, and then handed the homeowner the card saying something along the lines of "Here's a piece of Fair Trade chocolate for you." Almost every time this transaction happened, we saw "the look." Now, I know this look, because I'm sure I make it when someone is trying to sell me something. The person's smile freezes, and their eyes quickly dart to the side. Several people asked if we were collecting money, but there were a couple who knew about fair trade and asked the kids what they knew about it. I confess to feeling relief when we were out of cards and could just receive a regular smile at the door (and now the kids have enough candy to last them until the end of time).

Friday, October 31, 2008

Trick or Treat!

Halloween is upon us, and the kids could not be more excited. I think they look forward to this holiday more than almost any other (I think that Christmas still has the edge, what with the present factor and all) and have been planning their costumes for many weeks. They really enjoy making their own costumes, and Miss Serious especially has been putting in a lot of energy to the finishing touches of her costume. She is rarely something mainstream (last year she was Fern the Green Fairy from the Fairy series of books. She loves these books, and they encompass pretty much any kind of fairy you can think of - jewel fairies, color fairies, weather fairies. I can't tell you how grateful I was when she became able to read them on her own, because they could not be more excruciating...) and this year is going to be a rock star. She made a microphone, and carefully chose an outfit, which consists of jeans, a sparkly shirt, and boots. I put a big ponytail on the top of her head, and we crimped her hair. She got some colored hair braids from my cousin, and is wearing dangly earrings, sparkly nail polish and makeup. I had some concerns (I kept them to myself, as Miss Serious does not enjoy hearing these kinds of concerns) that no one would actually know what she was supposed to be, but my fears were alleviated when I saw her making a drawing yesterday; turns out it was a fancy sign that said "Rock Star" that she is going to tape to her shirt. Always thinking, that one.

Big Trouble decided to be a vet, and as he really loves animals, this was a perfect choice. The Professor dug up a white lab coat (I safety pinned it from giant to kid-size) and went to the vet's office and got some tongue depressors and gloves. From around the house we gathered a stethoscope, a syringe, and a prescription bottle. We put a bandaid on one of his stuffed animals, and made him a little clip-on name tag. Good to go.

Obviously, other than the costume fun, the big draw of Halloween is the Trick or Treating. Last year we started a new tradition - it's called reverse trick or treating, and is to help expand awareness of fair trade chocolate and the issues involved in the growing of cocoa beans. The children are sent (for free - love that!) a packet of informational cards and fair trade chocolates. When they trick or treat, they give one of these to the person answering the door. It caused a little confusion last year (who expects to be handed something at their door?) but I found that people were really receptive to the whole concept. The labor issues in the chocolate industry are one of those things that most people (including, recently, myself) are unaware of, and this is a fun way to get the information (and a little chocolate) out. Obviously it's too late for this year, but the info on how to do it is here.

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

If the Hat Fits...

Well, I guess the 2nd time is the charm - Big Trouble's hat is finished. He picked out the yarn this summer when we were on vacation in Cape Cod; it's ArtYarns Merino (how did my children get such champagne tastes? They both gravitated to the most expensive yarns in the store) and the colors are great for Fall. I knit it once, but due to a size miscalculation on my part (I decided that since he is older, I should add 8 stitches to my normal hat pattern. Not wise, as it was then too big for me - at this age, kids and adults have almost the same head size) it got frogged and re-knit. All of this is worth it, however, because Big Trouble is extremely gratifying to knit for. He's so happy when I make things for him, and not only does he wear them as soon as possible, but he tells everyone that his mommy made it for him and he loves it. Who can resist?

(For some reason, the angle of this picture makes it look like his head is freakishly tall, but I assure you it is well within the normal range.)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Well, the organization of Chez Necessity slowly continues. About 6 months ago (I have mentioned the procrastinating thing, right?) I cleaned through all my files, not out of any crazy desire to organize, but because I could no longer fit any new papers into said files without enduring massive paper cuts. When we lived in a house, I had a large filing cabinet and all the space I could ever desire. Since moving to a smaller space, I've downsized to a 2-drawer filing cabinet, which theoretically is enough to hold all my financial and household papers. This concept only works if I occasionally remove some old items rather than just adding new ones, which is what I finally did. I like to keep things, but even I was somewhat floored to find that I still had my financial aid applications from my senior year of high school (we're talking 1987 here....) along with just about everything else since. So, I pulled out all the old things, but didn't just throw them in the recycling, as there is so much talk about identity theft these days, and older documents seem to have your social security number on everything.

So, I tucked the papers into a basket under my dresser, to be dealt with later. Well, later ended up being today. I don't have a shredder, and don't have any interest in getting one; not only do I want to avoid spending money on something I don't really need, but space is always an issue here. Enter, the cheapie version of the shredder:

After about 45 minutes on the couch ripping everything into little strips, I now have a bag of recycling that will hopefully keep my personal information personal. Hopefully the pain in my hands will be a reminder that maybe I should do this sort of thing on a more regular (rather than every 10 or 20 years) basis. Sadly, I'm not counting on it.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Well, There's More Room Now

I've been trying to get some motivation going, but it's been a hard road. Miss Serious has been having some insomnia issues in the middle of the night (we're talking being awake for 2-3 hours), thus causing me to have a serious case of exhaustion and sleep-deprived stupidness. She's gotten back on track, but my body hasn't fixed itself yet.

I decided that it would help motivate me to clean/declutter all the little hidey holes in our apartment by taking photos of the mess so I could do a before/after thing. I was hoping that this would keep me in the cleaning spirit, as opposed to what usually happens, which is that I clean out one area, and am so pleased with myself that I decide that's enough for a while (which invariably ends up turning into next year...). Well, I took my pictures, and decided yesterday that I should tackle my bedroom closet. It has become the repository of much more than clothes - anything that doesn't seem to have a home ends up getting shoved in there. Here's a lovely before picture:

And a charming during shot (where did all these clothes come from? I only ever wear 4 things):

And finally, after:

Now there's lots of space. Unfortunately, this is partly because a lot of the items are now in a garbage bag (I couldn't bring myself to take a picture of those). This is because they are apparently delicious. Especially cashmere. Now, I don't come by cashmere easily. Anything I own is the result of a wonderful gift, usually from my mother who hunts up these unbelievable sales. Thus, one can understand my extreme sadness when I opened up my plastic, underbed container and found not one, not two, but about 97 holes in some of my beautiful sweaters. I had dutifully dry-cleaned said sweaters (took off the plastic - ahhh, lesson learned) and placed them in an airtight storage box. Unfortunately, there were either little creatures already in the box, or in something else that was packed up with them, and they spent the summer feasting on cashmere and merino wool. They also enjoyed items in my closet, including some hand-knit elbow length fingerless gloves, which I have since washed, frogged, and salvaged the yarn for something else.

So now, all my yarn is in plastic bags, every item in the closet has either been washed or vacuumed, and every nook and cranny in there has also been vacuumed. I'm trying hard to look at the silver lining, and I do enjoy being able to find and replace clothes in my closet without physical injury to my fingers. I also found a lot of wonderful things tucked away (some old pictures, my HS diploma, and the like) that made me smile, so the day wasn't a total loss. Now, on to the kids' closet...

Saturday, October 25, 2008

62 Days and Counting..

Christmas is coming. There are lots of kids in my extended family, and for the last couple of years I've been pretty good about knitting things early for them, but this year I think I will run out of time. As I posted before, I've been working on a cross-stitched Christmas stocking for Big Trouble. Sadly, it was begun soon after his birth (mind you, he's 6 now) and put aside when I discovered how much I like to knit. He finally realized last Christmas that he didn't have a lovely hand-made stocking to match Miss Serious' and The Professor's. I've been working A LOT on this stocking, and it really makes me appreciate how much more I like knitting. After about 19 bajillion hours, it has gone from this:

to this:

It's looking more stocking-like, and even though to the untrained eye it looks almost done, it's not even close. What makes these particular designs so charming are all the details; what makes these particular designs a pain in the patootie are also all the details. I am now in the outline/detail phase, and I've reached the point where I am about ready to stick a tapestry needle in my eye. I would put it aside again, except for this little person that keeps coming in to see how it's going, and who exclaims excitedly over every new section. This child has even gone so far as to say, "It's ok if you don't finish it Mommy; I know it's a lot of work and I'll understand." Pure evil.

Friday, October 24, 2008

And So Ye Shall Rip

Haven't posted much lately - I've been knitting, but don't have much to show for my efforts, as I seem to be ripping out more than I'm actually producing. Exhibit A:

Yesterday this was a hat for Big Trouble. Unfortunately it was a hat that was a roomy fit for ME, and as Big Trouble does not have a freakishly big head, it is now back to being just a pile of yarn.

Exhibit B: Last week the weather decided to change directly from summer to winter, and my ears were freezing after walking the kids to school. I had seen the pattern for Calorimetry and thought it looked like it would work. I had some lovely Brooks Farms Four Play yarn left over from my mom's Christmas scarf; it's really soft and not at all itchy, so I thought it would allow me to wear it on my head without making me want to rip out all my hair.

Well, after knitting this thing several times, I was sorely tempted to do just that; the picture in the pattern is just the size I was looking for. Unfortunately, the first time I knit it I ran out of yarn as I was casting off right here:

If you can't see it in the picture, I had about 20 stitches left to cast off. So, I ripped back and reduced the decreases, cast off, tried it on, and Miss Serious said "Wow, Mommy, you made a bonnet!" While this may be a good look in the world of a 7 year old, it wasn't quite what I was going for. So, I frogged the whole thing, and cast on 100 instead of 120 stitches, and only did 10 increase rows instead of 16. This helped, and the final version looks like this:

Miss Serious liked it so much that I made her a skinny one with the leftover yarn (it looks more like a straight headband) to keep her ears cozy. It is warm and comfortable, but I'm not really into the whole mother-daughter matching thing; around here just the wearing of a hand-knit scarf on your head makes one stand out quite a bit. Adding in the cutsie factor of matching one's daughter may tend to cause people to raise more than an eyebrow. I may have to go all out and get us matching dresses...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Ohhh, I Get It...

We went to the local nature preserve yesterday, and I figured out why turkey is served (well, not by us, but by others) at Thanksgiving. While we we weren't able to spot any other wildlife besides a lone sparrow and hundreds of squirrels, the woods were overrun with turkeys. It kept surprising us to see them in the woods, as they are so big and yet so quiet. We kept coming across them, and they are quite brave - we probably could have talked one into getting into our car if we were so inclined. Luckily, we were not, and we left all the turkeys to the quiet of the woods. They're definitely not pretty birds, but carry themselves with grace and dignity; generally what I'm aspiring to most days myself.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Well, we are coming to the end of our 3-day weekend. I was able to catch up on my missed sleep from all of the subbing. Well, not actual subbing, but thinking about subbing, which causes me to not sleep and also to wake up and stare at my alarm clock starting at about 4:22 AM. The fact that I haven't gone in yet doesn't seem to matter to my sleep-deprived brain. I'm hoping that next week I will actually get a call, actually go in, and actually get over my silly self. Hope springs eternal....

We all enjoyed our time off, and even hit what is lovingly referred to round these parts as "The Big Mall." This is probably because it is a really big mall, complete with 4 floors, a carousel, and a ferris wheel. Being on the frugal end of things, we don't tend to go to malls very often, unless we have gift cards to use or a specific item in mind, which therefore makes going to the mall a real treat. This time we went to return a shirt, and so that Big Trouble could use his gift cards to buy a Wall-E robot. We had seen this robot in Target several weeks before his birthday, and he decided that he would like it. Little did I know that this would turn out to be an uber-popular toy, and when we got to Target, gift cards in hand, we were informed that they were sold out everywhere. Big Trouble handled the disappointment well, and we enjoyed the rest of the day.

I think that the fact that he handled his disappointment so well spurred me to try find this toy. I punched up the Target website, and though it was sold out everywhere, they did have 1 at a Target about 1/2 hour away. So, the next day we hopped in the car, made the journey, made a beeline for the toy section and, of course, it wasn't on the shelf. Two salespeople and several discussions later, they found 1 left in the back room, and Big Trouble was thrilled. I hope I haven't become one of those crazy parents who stampede all over each other to get their child a certain toy; as I didn't have to step on a single soul for this robot, I think I'm in the clear.

Friday, October 10, 2008

One Angry Fish

This is Twyla the fish. Twyla is a betta fish (and a male, and even though the children know this, they decided that he should be named Twyla because of the pinkness). This is our 3rd betta. The kids got the first for Christmas a few years back, and when it died about 1 1/2 years later, it was replaced with betta fish #2.

And then Miss Serious went to a birthday party. Let me preface this by saying that around here, children's birthday parties are completely over the top. They are rarely at the child's home (if they are, they involve the rental of blowup jumpy castles, clowns, and snow cone machines) and are usually at a themed restaurant or activity place, which costs the birthday parents a startling amount of money. After having gone to many of these extravaganzas, Miss Serious asked me where she would be having her birthday party last year (we had it here, no clown, no blowup jumpy castles, but it was a tea party, and pretty spiffy if I do say so myself).

The nice thing is that as they get older, these have become drop-off parties, so the adults don't have to be subjected to the incredible fun-ness of the whole thing. At the party in question, I walked up the front walk to pick her up and passed a father holding a fish in a clear bag full of water. He looked at me, smiled a bit, and said, "Yeah, you'll be getting one, too."

Enter Twyla. We bought a bigger bowl for him because the bowl that was given in the goodie bag was about 3 inches around and seemed more appropriate for a mosquito than a fish. This fish is crazy. Having had other bettas, I know their propensities to puff up when you get close to the bowl, but this one takes it to a whole other level. Cleaning his bowl takes twice as long as it should, because it is prefaced by chasing him with the net for an inordinate amount of time. Once he's caught, it's still a little exciting, as the first time I pulled him out in the net he leaped out onto the counter. Where he thought he was going, I have no idea.

I've finally decided that he's being extra fish-macho to compensate both for the name and the pinkness. I'm not sure who he's trying to impress, but so far, it's not me.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Back in the Saddle

Or keyboard. Or whatever. I've been kind of MIA lately - haven't even been keeping up with email. There have been some changes round these parts, and I'm working on getting my head back in the right place. We had the big family party for Big Trouble's birthday this weekend, which invariably takes up buckets more of my time than I anticipate. It's not that it is too hard or time-consuming, it's just that I have discovered I am really bad at estimating how long things will take. Denial, or something, I don't know.

This week Big Trouble began full-day kindergarten; his school does half days for the first month to help the kids transition. It seemed like a good idea initially, but after a week, both my kids were more than ready for full day. We walk to school, and I was getting to know all the crossing guards really well, as Miss Serious has been full day since the beginning, requiring multiple trips to the school.

I've been very ambivalent about him going off to school full day. I don't yearn for the days when the kids were young, or wish that I could turn back time or anything. I've enjoyed my kids at each age they've been, and never feel the need to change that. This is different, though, because I've been a stay at home mom for almost 8 years now, but once the kids are out of the house all day, my role is vastly different. I told The Professor it was like I've been working at a job I really enjoyed, and now it's been outsourced, a feeling which surprised me and threw me a bit off balance.

I plan to go back to teaching next year (I am SO looking forward to job hunting after all this time....), so in aid of this I interviewed to be on the substitute teacher list in the kids' district. I filled out my application, sent in my resume, and was placed on the list. I thus don't quite know why I was so profoundly shocked when my phone rang yesterday morning just before 6:00 AM asking me to sub; it was at a different building, so I had to say no, but now I know it's official, and sooner or later I WILL get called, and WILL need to dress myself up in grown-up clothes and teach a strange class full of strange children. Don't get me wrong - I loved teaching school, and I'm sure after the inevitable growing pains I will be fine. While my kids have been home I've taught graduate school and supervised student teachers teaching their classrooms, but it's not the same as teaching elementary school myself. It's just that subbing is much less suited to my temperament. I am someone who likes to know plans far in advance, and I have a distinct need for a feeling of control. These things are all impossible in a situation where you don't know if (or where - could be kindergarten, could be 5th grade) you will be working until the jangle of a phone early in the morning.

I gathered my wits about me yesterday, hit the teacher's store, the internet, and my old files, and have compiled a pile of things which may or may not be useful. Having only subbed twice in my life (and that was back in the dark ages, before I had taught school, had gray hairs, or children of my own) but having survived those, I'm sure I will survive this next chapter in my life. Unfortunately, my obsessive nature woke me up at 4:30 this morning to look at the clock and wait worriedly for the phone to ring. It did not, and I heaved a sigh of relief. Until tomorrow when 4:30 rolls around....

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Happy Birthday Big Trouble!

Six years ago today, I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. He was a sweet, exceptionally cuddly child (still will snuggle any chance he gets), and it's amazing to me how fast the time flies. He's now a kindergartner, and was really looking forward to his birthday this year. He started asking me weeks ago how many days until the big day, and now it's here. He brought his birthday bag to school (they share special things about themselves) as well as low-fat muffins (they no longer want frosted cupcakes for birthdays; I understand the reasoning, but it still makes me sad) for special snack. Even though I use the name Big Trouble for him (he started this when he was about 3, using the phrase "Here comes Big Trouble!") he is a lovely, sweet-tempered, joyful child with a wonderful sense of humor and fun. I am so proud of the boy he has become, and am always proud to be his mom.

Happy Birthday Big Trouble! We all love you.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Grass Does Look a Bit Greener

Envy is a funny thing. Well, not funny ha-ha, but you know what I mean. We used to live upstate, in a rather depressed area. I was working as an elementary school teacher, and in that area, it was very common for people to either not work at all, or work at sporadic, low-paying jobs. The major industry in the area had left quite a few years ago, and people either left to find other work, or stayed and tried to make the best of things. Therefore, as a teacher, I had one of the higher-paying careers in the area (thus making all of us teachers beloved by the community, obviously...).

Fast forward a few years, and we moved down to Westchester. The Professor began teaching college, and I stayed home with the kids. It's a really good life. My kids are wonderful, I have a great husband, we live in a lovely area by the water, the schools can't be beat, we have enough to eat, we own an apartment that we like, we're able to save for retirement and the kids' college, etc. If I could stay in my own house with my own family, things would be fine. Because going outside around here invariably causes problems.

Just after we moved here, I was driving to the store, and got a bit lost (a very common occurrence for me, I'm afraid). I ended up on some back streets and was stunned at the size and grandeur of the homes. We're not talking just nice houses here. These are absolutely beautiful places to live (admittedly they're on postage stamp-sized pieces of land, as land is at a premium here). When I finally found my way home, my first question to The Professor was, "So when did we become the bottom-feeders?" We live very close to New York City, so the vast majority of people in this area are either lawyers (you can't throw a stick around here without hitting at least one lawyer, which is certainly never suggested, for fear of lawsuits) or in the financial industry. The amount of wealth floating around is staggering. My children have playdates in some of these homes, and I admit to being somewhat embarrassed to have their children over to my 4-story walk-up apartment (although the kids are always fascinated to visit an apartment house and climb the stairs - always fun to see how the other half lives, I guess.)

These feelings are my problem, not anyone else's. I think it's wonderful that people are able to have these things, most of which I'm not even interested in having. I am not one who spends her life trying to keep up with The Joneses. However, it's hard to keep plugging along trying to save money on tuna fish in a place where wealth and conspicuous consumption are so very conspicuous.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Dinner and a Show

We went to Costco this weekend. For most people, this probably just involves picking up some (enormous) groceries and going about your business. Not so at Chez Necessity. As I've mentioned, my children think Costco is an absolute wonderland. (I've decided that if one sets the excitement bar very low, it's easy to impress one's children...)

A trip to Costco is a carefully orchestrated affair, and when said trip is announced, there is very often cheering (again, that low bar really comes in handy). We begin with lunch. Costco sells the world's biggest hot dogs (I know, not healthy, but we don't eat meat at home, so it's an occasional aberration) plus a drink (with refill) for $1.50. Quite the excellent deal. I used to be able to make it even better by talking the kids into splitting a hot dog, but they're getting bigger and more opinionated these days, so I've thrown caution to the wind and gone for the whole $3.00. The Professor and I make do with pizza.

During lunch, I amuse myself by people watching. I am endlessly fascinated by what people put in their carts, and what these items might say about their lives. Like the guy that had 48 rolls of paper towels (almost every single cart had a giant package of paper towels). Who's making that big mess? Or the person with 6 steaks and a giant bag of potato chips. Party? Just a standard Saturday at home? I also invariably see at least 3 people buying the world's largest television sets. Not only does this make me wonder how big these people really need their tv characters to be, but also how big must their car be to haul that monster home?

Lunch is followed by a trip to the samples counters. This is the other real draw for my kids. They love being able to get little cups of food on toothpicks, and usually there are several things that they enjoy (we went one day at dinner time, and there were NO SAMPLES. You cannot imagine the horror; obviously, this error has not been repeated).

Then, finally, as an afterthought, the groceries are purchased. Costco is one of those places that has really good deals on certain things, and bad deals on others. If you know your prices and can avoid temptation ("Wow, I really do need 4 pounds of pita chips...") you can do well there. And where else can all of this fun be had in one place for such a reasonable outlay of cash?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Mmmm Mmmm Good

I found a recipe floating around the internet last week, and even though I usually print out recipes and put them in the pile of nothingness and forget about them until I can't stuff anything else into the space above my cookbook shelf, I actually made it right away. Now, this is probably because anything with a combination of potatoes and cream cheese will catch my interest right quick. It's supposed to be a knock-off of the potato soup at Panera Breads (I've never had it there, so I can't comment on that aspect) and the original recipe was:

1/4 cup minced onion
4 cups peeled and diced potatoes
4 cups broth
8 oz. stick of cream cheese
salt and pepper

Intriguing, isn't it? Unfortunately, if I want to continue fitting into my pants, I decided that I would need to modify it a little bit, so I came up with:

1/2 cup finely minced onion
3 cloves minced garlic (I thought it could use a little more flavor)
6 cups peeled and diced potatoes
6 cups broth (I used vegetable)
4 oz. cream cheese (now I'm trying to plan something for the other half of the bar...oh the possibilities!)
salt and pepper

Saute the onion and garlic in a little olive oil; add the potatoes and broth and cook until potatoes are tender. The original recipe had you mash some of the potatoes here, but you really had to stir to melt the cream cheese, and the whole thing got mashed in the process. If you want chunks of potatoes, I would pull some out before mixing in the cream cheese. Add the cream cheese (cut it up in chunks first) with the heat on low and stir until melted. This was easier said than done, and I finally got out my whisk and stirred rather intensely to make it melt. If I do it again, I might melt the cream cheese separately and add it in. Add salt and pepper to taste.

It was YUMMY, even though the kids complained quite a bit. I have to say, I never can predict how foods will go over with them - they love mashed potatoes, and how different is this, really (except of course, for the addition of cream cheese, and how can that possibly do anything but make something more delicious)? Apparently very different, and a cause for quite a few uncalled-for faces at the table. I made it slightly more palatable to them by sprinkling it with a little shredded cheddar cheese, and making biscuits (Oh, a spoonful of biscuit makes the potato soup go down...).

Easy, quick and tasty. My favorite kind of cooking.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


When I'm teaching flute lessons, the kids go into my room and watch tv. One half hour later, I discovered this:

This is how they felt The Professor's dresser should be decorated (my house isn't crooked, by the way, but I think my children, the photographers, are). These little creatures are referred to by Big Trouble lovingly as "bobblyheads," and here's a close-up of their work:

I especially enjoyed the poor rabbits who got their ears jammed into the keyholes. Oh well, idle hands....

Monday, September 15, 2008

There's Something in the Air...

Well, I guess there was, but we couldn't see them. This weekend we went to the Hawk Watching Festival at the Audubon Society in Greenwich, CT. I was expecting a little display for hawk watchers, and maybe a couple of crafts for the kids. Imagine my surprise when we had to park several fields away from the site in overflow parking - who knew everyone was interested in hawk migration?

Apparently this time of year, thousands of hawks are migrating, and they are tracking up to 1,000 a day. Unfortunately, because of the cloud cover (nice for us because it wasn't too hot) you couldn't see any of them. We didn't mind, but I did feel for all of those poor souls with their giant cameras and bird watching equipment.

We saw a wonderful demonstration on birds of prey (he didn't let them fly, as there was also a tent exhibiting rabbits...), which included all kinds of birds (some of whom chomped down some mice for our enjoyment) and a few reptiles thrown in for good measure. A good time was had by all (except, probably, the mice).

They also had a fabulous face (or arm) painting area, and the kids were thrilled to get painted up; Miss Serious was especially glad that glitter was involved - she is, after all, all about the sparkly. The women who did the painting were absolutely amazing, and took time with each kid; this meant that we waited on line for quite a while, but everyone agreed that the end result was worth the wait.

The kids also got to play games, make crafts, decorate a cookie, and each got prizes at the end. The best part about all of this was that it was included in admission! I've become so weary of attending events, paying admission, and then all the activities are extra. I feel nickel-and-dimed to death everywhere I go, and am forced to become the mean mommy who keeps saying no all the time. What a pleasure to not have to do any of that!

Imagine our surprise, when the next morning, we saw this on the top of our building:
Nature is a wonderful thing, especially when it comes right to you! I wonder if all the bird watchers at the Audubon would be jealous?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Knowledge Can Be Expensive

I've been watching the grocery budget here at Chez Necessity continue to climb. We are a family of four, and we don't eat meat (but do eat fish). I used to be able to feed everyone for about $240 a month. Lately, my head hurts when I go onto my Quicken file, because our monthly bill has climbed to about $340 a month. Some of this can be blamed on the rising cost of food. I especially enjoy the price increases that the food companies think are hidden, such as the shrinking package size. Just irritating (but then, I am easily irritated).

The other reason for the vast increase in our grocery bill is reading. Yes, reading. If I (and The Professor) would stop reading I think we would be rich as kings. I used to be very leery of the organic food movement (I used to live up by Woodstock, and the people on this bandwagon were a bit too crunchy granola for me), but after reading again and again what the use of pesticides, antibiotics and the like is doing to our food, ourselves, and our environment, we have begun switching to more and more organic products. Milk was my final holdout, because it's so pricey, but I finally gave in this summer.

The other issue is one of fair trade practices. I am not one who spends huge amounts of time scrutinizing the labor practices around the world, so it's always a shock to me when I learn about what goes on. We started buying Fair Trade coffee last year, after The Professor showed me some information about the treatment of the farmers and workers who harvest coffee. This effectively doubled the price we pay for coffee. It's also not so easy to find, but lo and behold, when I was in Costco this week, I picked up this:

The thing to look for (which I never would have notice before) is the little Fair Trade symbol:

Luckily for those of us who are unable to remember things from one minute to the next, this symbol is used for all products that have been certified Fair Trade. This certification basically means that the company adheres to the standards set up by the organization (fair prices for workers, sustainability, no slave labor practices, etc.). For more specifics, Wikipedia has a comprehensive article here.

Now I see that my bills will be going up again, because I've been reading this:

It's an interesting (but painful) read which chronicles the history of chocolate and chocolate production. I am now in the section on the labor practices, and they are horrific. Who knew that such a tasty luxury item in this country is made with a raw product produced in part by slave labor, including children. Unfortunately, it's much easier to find fair trade coffee than fair trade chocolate, as I've discovered from hunting online for the last hour, but I'll keep at it.

They say ignorance is bliss, but unfortunately the bliss only applies to those who are ignorant, not to those on the other side of the coin.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Many Lives of Yarn

Yarn is a wonderful thing. Add it to a couple of sticks, and voila! You have something you can wear (or, as is often the case in my house, take apart and try again). Such was the case with the Berroco Ultra Alpaca I bought on sale last year.

I first attempted a cardigan, which became known as the tiny sweater:

It then turned into something close to its original form:

With the addition of Andean Silk from Knitpicks (lovely yarn, by the way), and the Seamless Yoke Sweater pattern from Elizabeth Zimmermann, it gained a new life as:

(Photo by Big Trouble, Inc. - Copyright 2008 )

I have a feeling it will be much happier this way. This is the first Elizabeth Zimmermann pattern I have done, and I have to say, I have come to understand why she has such a devoted following. She's so no-nonsense and down to earth, and everything she does just makes sense. She's come up with all these simple, intuitive ways to avoid many of the problems that I often have (like gaping holes where I turn short rows), and I loved the flexibility of this pattern.

Now I just have to wait for it to stop being hot and humid outside, and we'll be good to go.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

That Time of Year Again!

Well, it's September, and school has begun again. When I was teaching, I really hated September, which seemed to mock me the whole summer. It always used to make me crazy when people (non-teaching type people) would say how great it must be to have nothing to do for 3 months (where everyone gets 3 months from, I have no idea, as I always worked until July and began at the end of August). It always used to take me the month of July to recover from the year (the end of the year can suck the life out of you like nobody's business) and then August would come and I would wonder where the time went. Now, I'm not complaining - summers off is a FABULOUS deal, but you end up paying for it during the year. Nothing in life is free, I'm afraid.

Since I've been home with the kids, summer has been a really wonderful time; everyone around here sends their children to camp. These are not working mothers sending the kids to camp that I'm talking about; these are at-home moms, some with live-in help, mind you. Around March the mom conversations go something like this:

Them: "So where are you sending the kids to camp this year?"
Me: "Oh, we're not. We'll be home with them."
Them: After a horrified glance, as if they just saw me yank off one of my children's arms, "Oh, now nice," followed by a quick walk away to a different, more appropriate, mother.

Having already had many of these conversations, complete with the horrified looks, about preschool, I've become pretty comfortable with them. The Professor, however, not so much so. He took Miss Serious to a birthday party in March several years ago. When he came home, he immediately pulled me aside and asked, "Are we supposed to be sending them to camp?"

So, after our camp-less, and clearly inferior summer, Miss Serious is in second grade this year, and Big Trouble is beginning Kindergarten. They had orientation and met their teachers yesterday, and today was the official day one. They both really like school, so the first day back is greeted with much excitement 'round these parts. Here's Big Trouble trudging grumpily to school:

And here they are, backpacks in hand, ready to learn:

They both insisted on rolling backpacks, because you know at this age how heavy that single folder of papers can get...

Good luck Miss Serious and Big Trouble. You always make us so proud.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

'Til Death Do Us Part

After some sleep and the joy of not having to sit in the car for 7 hours, my brain is now able to string a few coherent thoughts together. We spent a lovely weekend in Rochester where my brother got married. The wedding was charming, and we all enjoyed ourselves, especially the children. At one point in the evening, Miss Serious, while cutting a serious rug on the dance floor announced, "I could do this all night!"

Sadly, I could not, and after two looooong trips in the car and two nights spent sharing a hotel bed with one of my children (who are both incapable of sleeping in any sort of normal way, and are totally unaware of the concept of personal space), I was absolutely thrilled to fall blissfully into my own bed.

Unfortunately, I was not to stay there long. In the wee hours of the night, Big Trouble uttered my most favorite sentence in the whole world, "Mommy, I just threw up in my bed."

It's hard to be the mommy at times like these, because all you want to do is shout, "Oh crap!" but instead you need to nurture the poor little soul who is crying and distressed. And then you need to clean up the bed.

Now, I've cleaned up A LOT of vomit in my time, I think more than the average person. We've had a dog for about 11 years who has knocked over and eaten a lot of garbage, and my children, as previously discussed have about the best gag reflex I have ever seen. So I'm not new to vomit. When I say that this was the most revolting of all, I know of which I speak.

After all the cleanup, I finally fell asleep 3 hours later; the next morning the kids were bouncing around, just as full of energy as ever, and even though I had about 9 cups of coffee, I was barely able to function.

I was thinking during the wedding how young and fresh-faced the married couple looked, and when I think about it, I used to look that way too. I can't imagine what's brought about the change.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Hypermiling Update

Hello all. The Professor here, guest-blogging again for Mother Necessity. After our drive home from Rochester yesterday, MN needed a little time to gather her thoughts about what to blog next. Plus, she wanted sleep so it would be coherent. So, here I am with our latest hypermiling news.

We drove Tiny Shiny over the Catskills and through the woods to my brother-in-law's wedding this past weekend. (Congrats and love to the bride and groom!) It's 332 miles one-way to the Rochester suburb of Victor, NY - a long trip no matter how you cut it. Pretty countryside along the way, as you can see.

Tiny Shiny performed like a champ. Even with two packed suitcases, one full garment bag, and heaven knows how many little bags of snacks, books, CDs, and other road trip survival gear tucked in the trunk and under the little feet in the back seats, we got a whopping 39.29 MPG on the ride up. But that pales in comparison to the new Tiny Shiny record of 41.97 MPG on the ride home! (MN says I should round it up to 42.) That's a solid 27% above the EPA's estimated 33 MPG highway for the 2007 Elantra.

Cruise control on the flats, coasting down mountains, keeping the accelerator level going up hills for lower RPM, trying to keep it under 60 MPH, avoiding stops and starts... It all added up to going back and forth to upstate NY on just under two tanks of gas. Color me impressed.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Sickness Does Have Its Rewards

Since I've been pretty much sitting on the couch and coughing the last couple of weeks, I managed to finish this. It's Clapotis from Knitty, and this is the third one for me. I don't usually like to repeat patterns, but this one is a fun knit - easy to remember, and for some reason it's exciting to be able to drop down all those stitches. I think this means I need a little more actual excitement in my life, but you take what you can get.

It's made out of Brooks Farms Four Play, 50% silk/50% merino. This is a fabulous yarn; the colors are stunning, it's lovely to knit with, and the final product is soft with a beautiful drape. I got this at Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool, and will probably go back for more this year.

This particular one is going to my mother for Christmas, but I think I'll give it to her early so she can enjoy it all fall. Merry (early) Christmas, Mom!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Better Than Bug Spray

Well, for me, at least. We went on a hike to see migrating water birds (egrets & osprey) and the hike leader mentioned that we were going to be sorry we had shorts on because there were lots of mosquitos in the marsh. Well, we soldiered on, and while The Professor and I emerged with only a couple of bites each, my children look like this:

and this:

Apparently, the way to avoid getting bitten is to walk very close to my kids, who seem to be delicious. They were actually having a contest to see who had the most bites. Let the calamine lotion flow!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Doctors Rule

At least my doctor does. We started going to him several years back, when we first moved to the area. My previous doctor did not rule. He was always rushed, made me feel like I was taking up his time, and actually answered phone calls during my already incredibly short, rushed, visits. Now, I don't go to the doctor a lot, so it wasn't a big problem in my life, but irritating nontheless.

I ended up in my current doctor's office yesterday, because I seem to have the cough that will not leave. It had overstayed its welcome about a week ago, so after 2 weeks of hacking I decided it was time. They got me an appointment the same day, I didn't have to wait, and I was out of the office in 20 minutes (did I mention that my doctor rules?) with 2 prescriptions (one came with a coupon which covered the copay!) and an inhaler. This is the other wonderful thing about my doctor - if they have samples on hand, they give them out and save me the copay. Love them! I received all these items, because I was told my cough sounded "harsh" and that there was a dull sound in one of my lungs when I breathed, which if untreated could lead to pneumonia. Having gone down that road once before, and not anxious to travel it again, I dutifully filled all my prescriptions and was told to report back on Friday for another listen.

I ended up with an antibiotic, cough syrup with codeine, and an inhaler. The inhaler worried me. I've never had one before, and somehow got it in my head that it would do something unfortunate to me, so even though The Professor was away at a meeting, I waited until he got home to use it, lest it cause unconsciousness and I wouldn't be able to care for my sleeping children. I don't know what bothered me about it - I guess I've never taken medicine that way before, so as it is an unknown, I automatically worry that it will cause me grave harm. I know this makes no sense and is not normal, but hey, it's who I am.

After he got home, I checked the notes I had written in the office, (since having children I am unable to remember even the simplest of instructions) gathered up my courage, twisted the inhaler, took off the cap, worriedly breathed in, and....nothing. Apparently I didn't do it properly, so The Professor punched up the instructions on Google for me to use during tonight's dosing. Apparently my lungs aren't the only dull thing about me....

Friday, August 15, 2008

Happy Feet

These very happy feet belong to Miss Serious, sporting her Cape Cod socks in Cape Cod. She is not usually too excited by what I make her (the items usually elicit an "It's itchy," followed by a completely unnecessary facial contortion), but these socks made her day. She even mentioned them on her blog, and would have worn them every day had I not snuck them out of her dresser drawer on day 3 for some necessary cleaning. Unfortunately they need to be handwashed, but we all suffer for our art. Now I have to figure out how to keep her from putting them in the wash; even though all other dirty clothes end up on the floor, I have a sneaking suspicion that these will magically end up in the hamper.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The August Thinning

No, not me, unfortunately. My stuff. It's time. We live in a relatively small space (4 of us in a 2 bedroom apartment) and having 2 teachers and 2 kids in a limited amount of space seems to be a recipe for living with multiple piles of crap. Everywhere. As the new school year doesn't start for a couple of weeks, I've decided that I am going to devote some time to paring down our junk wonderful possessions.

I never think of myself as a big shopper or a packrat, but apparently I am both, because this place just fills up. I think part of the problem is that when cleaning up one area, I tend to drop the items onto another, with the plan of putting them away later, thus simply moving the piles rather than making them disappear, making me a realtor for my stuff rather than a cleaner. (The other, perhaps larger problem is that I'd rather knit than clean, but really, who wouldn't?)

When we lived in a 2 bedroom house, in 3 years we managed to fill up a large portion of both the attic and the basement, and that was before children. Granted, our living area was always neat and tidy, but that's what happens when you have extra rooms to throw all your miscellaneous junk into. You know, those things that you pick up and think, "Oh, this Vegetable-Peeler-Head-Lamp could come in handy, maybe, someday, if I ever need to peel potatoes in the dark, like if there's a power outage right before dinner." Said item is then placed in the extra space, never to be looked at again. As we knew we were moving to an apartment, we had a moving sale, the stuff became someone else's problem, and we ended up with some cash.

We now have NO extra space, and while it really helps to keep our accumulation of stuff down, any clutter ends up taking up living space. So, the grand project began yesterday; I attacked the bedroom, The Professor worked on the computer area, and the kids were given the assignment to go through their toys, throwing the broken things away, and putting anything that they no longer wanted but that could be given away into a pile.

I'm pleased to say the bedroom and computer area are looking good; however, when I went into the kids' room after several hours of "work," I discovered a garbage bag with a single piece of paper in it, and a tiny pile of toys no one would ever be interested in, which is why my children were willing to part with them. Hmmm....this may take a bit more overseeing on my part.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Well That Didn't Help...

I've been coughing a lovely, hacking, painful cough for the last several days, complete with sore throat, no voice, and low temperature. I was feeling much better, until this morning when I walked into the kitchen and Big Trouble met me with a cheerful "How many days until you die?"

If everyone hadn't needed breakfast, I would have (justifiably, I think) gone back to bed and called it a day.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Recovering From Vacation

Well, we're back from beautiful Cape Cod. We had a wonderful time, and got through almost everything on our list. We ate way too much fried seafood, walked many miles of lovely trails, and swam in several different bodies of water. We even managed to take some pictures:

I brought home a couple of beautiful things:

This is a lovely, etched glass from Scargo Pottery, a cluster of studios in the woods. They are often at work at the pottery wheels, and Miss Serious spent a long time watching them work. They even gave the kids a big lump of clay to work on at home. Miss Serious has been mentioning for a while that she would like pottery lessons - not really an easy home hobby, but maybe we'll find something local.

The kids picked these out at Ladybug Knitting. They both have champagne tastes, I'm afraid - they picked out some of the loveliest (and priciest!) yarns in the shop. The left is Silky Socks from The Adirondack Yarn Company, and the right is ArtYarns handpainted merino. Luckily, they really appreciate the things knitted out of yarn they picked out themselves, and they like remembering their vacation.

And finally, the beginnings of Clapotis #3, worked on in the car on the way there:

I managed to pick up some sort of bug as well, so came home with a racking cough and didn't get any knitting done on the way home. For some reason I don't concentrate well when bringing up a lung every 10 minutes...

All in all, a wonderful week. What can be bad about a place where you eat ice cream at least once a day?