Sunday, March 30, 2008

A Breath of Fresh Air

I think I need to start carrying my camera with me whenever I leave the house. Several days ago, the car in front of me had a bumper sticker that said "Client #1" on it. (Of course, I called The Professor to tell him how funny I thought it was, and Miss Serious, who happened to be in the back seat, demanded to know exactly why that was funny, but I digress).

Today I was working at an elementary school, and used the ladies' faculty room. As I closed the door to the tiny stall, I came face to face with a urinal cake that had been hung from the hook on the back of the door. It was in such close proximity to my face that I could have kissed it. (I chose not to do so, by the way.) I'm not sure why someone thought this would be a positive thing for making the ladies' room a little nicer, but I'd sure be interested to see how their house is decorated.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Cornbread Dreams

Being a teacher and someone who has always loved to read, I eagerly looked forward to the time when my children would be able to read on their own and enjoy books as much as I do. Big Trouble has recently been branching out into choosing his own literature:

So nice to see a young child enjoying books, but to truly appreciate his choice, you must look closer:

Ah yes - that is what you think it is - an entire book with recipes for cornbread (Who knew such a thing existed? Who knew it was possible? Who knew my five year old would feel the need to check it out of the library?). Those little scraps of paper stuck in the pages are bookmarks which he cut out himself (leaving a pile of tiny pieces of white paper on my floor a la snowflake cutting season) and placed to mark the recipes he thought would be best. I'm not sure what his criteria was for picking his favorites, but apparently he has about 56 that he would like to try.

I'm not sure what we're having for dinner tomorrow, but I'm pretty sure it will involve cornbread.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Green Laundry

The Professor and I have been trying to go green; we've done the basic things like anyone else (recycling, reducing trash, etc.) and have been branching out into some of the less basic things, such as the worms. One of the areas I've been trying to make more earth friendly is our cleaning products; this isn't a huge concern, as my housecleaning regimen usually consists of shoveling up what's on the floor, and occasionally swiping at something with some spray and a rag. Laundry, however, needs to be done on a more regular basis (who is wearing all of these clothes??) or we all end up wearing those forgotten items which end up at the bottom of the drawer for a reason; so I dug around on the web and found some recipes for laundry detergent. I was a bit skeptical about how well it would work, and to my very pleasant surprise it works great.

I found there are basically 2 recipes on the web - 1 for liquid and 1 for powder. The liquid required cooking and increased storage space, so naturally, being lazy efficient, I chose the powder.

The recipe is:
1 bar grated soap (I use Ivory - Fels Naptha is supposed to be good, but I couldn't find it anywhere locally):

1 cup borax:

1 cup washing soda - I had to ask for my grocery store to stock this for me, but depending where you live it may be easier to find:

As you can see, the process for making the detergent is extremely high-tech, involving an old box grater and a plastic cup that I marked off in 1/2 cup increments. I then pour all the ingredients into a ziploc bag and shake it really well; it helps to mix the ingredients and breaks up the soap a bit.

We put in 2-3 Tablespoons for a large load (our building has those giant industrial washers) and it seems to do a good job. The clothes look clean, and I haven't heard any stray comments about body odor, so I think we're good.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Relaxing Holidays

Why is it that children seem to instinctively know when you desperately need sleep and are able to time their (very) early morning visits accordingly? The Professor's parents and my parents live about 15 minutes apart, so holidays become an extravaganza of visiting everyone we are related to on the same day. So 3 egg hunts, 2 full (giant & delicious) meals, multiple desserts and jellybeans, 2 car rides with fun holiday traffic, 4 bouts of carsickness and 1 child's late evening stomachache to round out the evening, Easter was over and everyone was thankful to crawl into bed. Big Trouble, using the aforementioned children's powers, came creeping in well before 6:00. What with daylight savings and all, it's still quite dark before 6:00.

Luckily, children are cute, even in the dark.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Fun at the Zoo

When The Professor and I were expecting Miss Serious, we decided that we would provide her with gender neutral toys so that she wouldn't feel pressured by any preconceived stereotypes (academics can be so annoying). She was given a wide array of toys, including dolls, trucks, and the like. She tended to prefer the toys that were traditionally meant for girls. When Big Trouble came along, we did the same, and if he could get his hands on something with wheels, he was in heaven. So much for our little experiment.

Several years later, we are experiencing the next round of gender preferences - Big Trouble has become a computer game junkie. Miss Serious has always enjoyed playing the occasional game on the computer; she plays a game or two, has a good time, and then moves on to another activity. Big Trouble is a whole other matter; if left to his own devices, he would plant himself at the computer in a trance and emerge only to use the bathroom (one would hope).

Yesterday he spent some Christmas money (oh yes - Mom knows how to drag out the fun!) on a game called Zoo Tycoon 2. I don't play a lot of computer games, but as this one required more reading than his little 5 year old brain can process, I went through it with him to learn the ropes. The game requires you to build a zoo basically from scratch. You need to create the exhibits and place the animals, giving them the proper food, shelter, habitat, etc. An excellent idea in theory, but unfortunately I created this:

For future reference, when playing Zoo Tycoon 2, try not to enclose the zoo visitors inside the grizzly bear exhibit - your zoo will lose a 1/2 star from its rating. (I have to say, I felt that the raters were rather generous in this regard - one would think this sort of problem would result in much harsher penalties).

Surprisingly, Big Trouble has decided that he now understands the game enough to no longer require my services.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Pain of the Inevitable

Well I finished the tiny sweater last night and blocked all the pieces carefully to the correct measurements. This morning when they were dry I sewed the seams on one side, and shockingly:

It doesn't fit. Who could have predicted such an outcome?

FYI - when The Professor took this photo, he told me I needed to stand up straight because my shoulders were crooked - I mocked him. Lo and behold, my shoulders definitely are crooked - I think I must have been trying to compensate for the circulation being cut off to my arm because of the tiny armhole, because now that the sweater is off, my shoulders seem perfectly even. Honest.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

You Knit What?

Well, the sock is done:

Sadly, this is what the second sock looks like:

Lest you think I have been wasting my time by doing things other than knitting, here are pictures of Miss Serious' birthday present, to show how industrious (and foolish) I've been.

Miss Serious did the posing - it was important to her that they all be different. She doesn't want Barbie to ever become stale.

The patterns are mostly from Nicky Epstein's Knits for Barbie. I used leftover sock yarn, and I have to say, the amusement level with these patterns is really high. You can finish a sweater in a couple of hours, complete with shaping, set in sleeves, and picked up stitches for a buttonband and collar. I've been knitting them on the sly after she goes to bed, so they actually were a surprise. Big Trouble saw me knitting them last month, and was able to successfully keep the secret; he didn't even drop hints - I was stunned. Unfortunately, he became rather a task master, and whenever he saw me working on something else, he felt that he needed to crack the whip and remind me that Miss Serious' birthday was coming, and shouldn't I really be working on her present?

Nothing like having a 5 year old feel like he has to keep you on track.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Why Pennies & Electricity Don't Mix

FYI - If you can avoid it, don't drop pennies behind your carbon monoxide detector.

This used to be a carbon monoxide detector:

These used to be pennies:

This used to be an outlet:

I'm pleased to report that we didn't burn down the house, and electricity continues to flow benignly through our home.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Happy Birthday Miss Serious!

Seven years ago today I gave birth to this lovely little girl:

Well, maybe not so little, but definitely in the little category. I couldn't believe they were going to let me walk out of the hospital with this tiny little person about whom I knew almost nothing.

I remember watching her sleep (the first day she actually did sleep - after that things went downhill a bit) and wondering if she was breathing; I spent an inordinate amount of time in her first few months wondering if she was breathing. After an adjustment period, involving miles of carrying a crying baby, we figured each other out a bit, and enjoyed the learning process.

Now she has become a beautiful, intelligent, sensitive, caring young lady, and I am in wonder at how fast the time has passed. I marvel daily at her insight and humor, and feel incredibly privileged to be her mom.

Happy Birthday, Miss Serious. We love you with all our hearts.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


I'm not usually interested in the video clips that get sent around via email, but this morning my mother sent me this: (keep going past the frogs - it gets better)

Monday, March 10, 2008

Time-saving Technology

I am not a very technical person. I understand the things I absolutely need to know (like how to turn the computer on) and not much else. We don't have lots of fancy gadgets here at Chez Necessity, but we do keep the basics around to document children doing/saying/wearing silly things.

Unfortunately, said basic items have been falling apart. The video camera was the first to go. Last Christmas (not this past one, the one before - did I mention I'm a procrastinator?) I went to video the kids opening their presents and thought I had the lens cap on; I was recording the thrilling sounds of presents being opened, but unless they were in a blackout of some sort, something was wrong. Sadly, when I went to remove the offending lens cover, I couldn't, because it had already been removed (in itself an unusual turn of events). Using my wealth of technological knowledge, I turned it off and then on again. Oddly, this didn't fix the problem. I then went to my backup and whacked the thing on the top, but strangely, this also didn't work.

Several months later, I decided to give it another go (ever the optimist - maybe it just needed to rest) and try to film Big Trouble's dance recital. This time, the whacking on the top did the trick and we got video of him, but when it came time for Miss Serious' recital, we had no such luck. I haven't taken it in to be fixed, because I know in my heart that they will tell me that it will cost buckets of money, and as it's several years old, it doesn't make sense to pour all those dollars into it.

Fast forward to last week, and the digital camera starts being wonky. It started with little problems, and finally ended up that it would only take one picture; it then had to be shut off and turned on again before it would agree to take a second picture. (I may have also dropped it at this point). So, we decided this would be a good time to replace both items with a digital camera that takes video. Simple, right? Just go on the web, read some reviews, and buy a new camera - easy-peasy!

Unfortunately, I hadn't had the forethought to realize that unlike 6 years ago when we purchased our first camera, there are now 7 bajillion kinds of cameras on the market. And now you can read 8 million customer reviews which are all contradicting each other. And when we finally pick a camera after countless hours logged on the computer by both The Professor and me, we discover that we will need to purchase a memory card. No problem - but when we look up memory cards, there are 9 billion kinds (also with ratings) and called different things, and costing wildly different amounts of money (leading to the inevitable questions about why, and more computer searching). At this point, my head begins to hurt, and I decide that both coffee and knitting are the solution, as I am no longer formulating coherent thoughts. Luckily The Professor slogged on, made the necessary decisions, and ordered the camera.

It should be here in 3-5 business days, which is remarkably similar to the amount of time we've spent on the computer hunting for it.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Spring is Springing!

Well, after a long and odd winter (Today it's 60! Tomorrow will be 20! The next day - who knows?) spring is coming. How do I know?

We spied these outside Big Trouble's preschool - the first evidence I've seen that spring really is coming. He took the picture, and was quite proud of himself (the one he took of my chin is not being used here, for obvious reasons).

I like winter for about 10 minutes, and then I'm done and can't wait for spring. I love when you can still see the blue sky at 5:00, and the birds start shouting things to each other, and you don't have to dress the kids in giant coats (and hats, mittens, etc.) all the time, and I generally perk up. It always feels like there are things to look forward to when I know spring is on its way. I don't know what these things are supposed to be, but I'm pretty sure there will be things.

On another note, this is what you do for fun if your mom knits:

Monday, March 3, 2008

The Power of Positive Thinking

I'm knitting a sweater - for myself. This is a rare occurrence here at Chez Necessity, as I tend to prefer the more instant gratification of smaller items, such as baby sweaters, hats, socks - you get the picture. Also, as I tend toward the cheap frugal, it pains me to lay out all of those hard earned dollars for enough yarn for an actual adult sweater. But, I had some lovely alpaca that I just picked up on sale, and it's enough for a sweater for me. I hunted all over the internet trying to find just the right pattern, and came up empty. I finally decided on a plain cardigan with shaping, which was actually written for the yarn in question. I finished half of the front, and it doesn't look like it can possibly become a sweater.

(Big Trouble took the picture - not bad for a 5 year old - it would probably help if I didn't have a green shirt on to contrast so well with the green knitting...)

The measurements match the schematics in the pattern, but it seems awfully skinny. Why this doesn't deter me I have no idea, but I am now knitting the second half of the front:

Somehow I think the cure for one piece that is too small is a second piece that is equally too small. I guess I figure the heavens will smile on me when they realize that I have put all this work into the sweater, and will magically make it fit.

I'm not holding my breath, although that may be the secret to get the thing buttoned...