Saturday, April 26, 2008

Cranky Tuesday and the Saga of the Sandals

We are nearing the end of school vacation here at Chez Necessity. The kids have been off since Monday, and go back this Tuesday. It's been rather a long week. Mind you, I like vacation - we get to go to lots of places as a family, and everyone gets a break from their normal routine. However, I'm a routine kind of gal; I like knowing what the plan for the week will be, what I'll be making for meals, etc. Also, the kids definitely react to the change - I keep wondering if someone is sneaking in here and giving them espressos while I'm not looking.

This brings us to Tuesday. The day started out badly; you know those days when you just wake up grouchy? I'm not generally a cranky person (normally being sweetness personified), but I knew as soon as my feet hit the bedroom floor that Tuesday was not going to be my favorite day. I had planned to take the kids shopping for sandals, but after assessing my mood, I should have cut my losses and stayed home. I did not. You know when you're watching a movie and the main character does something so ill-fated, you find yourself talking to the screen? I would have talked sternly to my screen if I were watching the movie of my life.

We dropped The Professor at work (in an effort to both save money and be green, we have one car) and continued on to Target. I like Target. The kids like Target. Should be an easy, pleasant trip, right? We went in, headed to the shoe aisle, and I braced myself. I was speaking to a friend this week, and she mentioned that her 9 year old has been causing her agita because she has developed opinions about her clothes, and now won't wear certain things. I was somewhat amazed by this statement, because Miss Serious has been this way from about the time she could consume solid food. I'm not sure, but I think her first complete sentence may have been, "I don't like these shoes," or maybe the ever popular, "But it's itchy."

We settled down into the sandal aisle, and Miss Serious began pulling completely inappropriate choices off the shelves; now that she is no longer in little girl sizes, the manufacturers make items to fit girls ages 7-14. Because we all know that 14 year olds and 7 year olds should be wearing the same fashions, including wedge heels and sweatpants with words slapped across the backside. (Actually, nobody should be wearing those, but I digress.) After about 40 minutes, and several hundred shoes later, a pair of sandals went into the cart. (Mind you, these were the first sandals I pulled off the shelf). We moved on to Big Trouble, and luckily the first pair out of the gate fit and were approved, as opposed to last year, where the above rant could have been written about him, except that when we got home with the newly purchased sandals, he announced that they hurt his feet and he couldn't wear them. Is it possible for feet to grow in the 1/2 hour it takes to drive home from Target?

We then moved on to the clothing section; as I've progressed as a mother, I've learned that I need to buy bathing suits when it's much too cold to wear said suit. If I wait until the actual season, the suits are all gone, but I could have my pick from a wonderful selection of fleece hoodies. Miss Serious perused the suits (many of which were already on clearance!) and was naturally attracted to anything that sparkles. Miss Serious' fashion sense is pretty much all about the sparkly. I'm hoping that her tastes change a bit later in life, or she is going to be one spectacular 50 year old. We gathered up all the possibilities, and headed for the changing room, always a fun place with 2 children and hundreds of bathing suits to try on. As we neared the changing room, the attendants had about 19 carts surrounding the area, so I left mine about 2 miles away and grimly headed in. I was then informed by the fitting room attendant that I could only take in 6 items and needed to leave the rest in my cart. Yes, my cart that was parked back in Guam. I asked if I could just leave the other things at the desk, and was told very self-righteously that that was impossible, because they were working there. At this point, the children were singing and spinning and my patience was just about over. I did as requested (I may have actually flung my items into the cart, rather than gently placing them), Miss Serious tried on and chose the most sparkly suit possible, and our excursion was finished.

Well, not really, because I still needed to buy a cake box. A friend asked if I would make her son a lego cake, so off to Michael's for the box. Miss Serious had birthday money, and purchased a craft kit. All was seemingly well until we got back in the car, and Big Trouble asked if he could help her with the kit. She very sweetly told him that she didn't think so, as the box said it was for ages 6 & up. Let the pouting commence - Big Trouble could win awards for pouting if any existed. I wonder if there is any such thing? He could be the key to us becoming independently wealthy. Miss Serious claimed not to understand why he was upset, as all she did was read to him what it said on the box. I contemplated my options, decided there were no good ones that didn't involve doing my children in, and we went home. The day wasn't a total loss however. I made this:

and the birthday boy was enormously pleased - not a pout in sight.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Some Days I Love the Mail!

Some days I open my mailbox, and can just dump the whole pile in the recycling bin. One would think I have an independent fortune judging from the number of credit card solicitations and charity requests that I receive. Some days, the mail is a wonderful surprise; I had birthday money which desperately needed to be spent, and I placed two orders, both of which arrived on the same day.
This is Cotton Fleece from Little Knits - it was half price, because the dye wasn't as expected. The colors are beautiful, and as I'm only making single color garments, colorfastness isn't such an issue. I was so impressed with their service - very quick and with a personal touch. The green has become:


It's Green Gable, and after several false starts (I was unable to remember which row I was on when doing the lace, and then realized when I tried it on about halfway through that the gauge was off) it's looking nice. I've knit one of these already, and was really impressed with the pattern. It knit up really quickly, and fits perfectly - let's hope this one does the same. The second package contained this:


These are from Knitpicks - I got some undyed sock yarn to try my hand at self-striping dyeing (I can almost see The Professor rolling his eyes), some colors for the yoke of my alpaca sweater, and some cotton to make this:

It will eventually be the Katharine Hepburn Cardigan from Lace Style. I now have an awful lot of projects on my needles, and strangely, most of them are for me. I usually don't make sweaters for myself, sticking to the smallest members of my family. I love instant gratification, and knitting little items really works for me. Plus, when you knit a sweater for a small child, fit isn't such a crisis - a little big? It'll do for next year. A little small? Anything looks good on a cute kid. Sadly, these rules don't apply nearly as well to the adult portion of the population. Were I to wear an ill-fitting hand-knitted garment, I have a sneaking suspicion that it would simply be viewed as a cry for help.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

It's Earth Day!

Earth Day is here, and I'm amazed at how chic it has become to go green. You can't turn on the TV these days without a show about green issues; sadly, most of what I've seen are stories about things you can BUY that are green. Want to save the earth? You can buy a t-shirt made of organic cotton created by fairly paid workers. Or, you could remodel your house, as long as you use sustainable bamboo flooring. Unfortunately, all of these feel-good solutions are, in my mind, missing the point. Maybe we should examine if we really NEED a new t-shirt or a home remodel. As Americans, we have not tread lightly on this earth. I'm not sure when it happened, but we stopped being referred to as citizens, and are now called consumers, which is what we have become. We are the wealthiest (and some would say the luckiest) country on the earth, and with this good fortune should come wisdom and foresight. This beautiful planet has served us well, and now it is our turn to return the favor.

I hope that everyone will take today to begin at least one new habit that will help to nurture this planet so our children can enjoy it's bounties as we have. One thing that is doable for most of us is to stop using plastic bags. Whole Foods is actually giving away free eco-bags today, and most grocery stores now sell them for a very minimal price (the trick, at least for me, is remembering to actually bring the bag with you to the store!). Maybe you could start recycling, or really think about your purchases before making them to examine if it's something that's a need or simply a want. Being green doesn't need to be complicated or expensive (though it can be both, if you'd prefer); it just involves being more conscious of our day-to-day decisions, and thinking about the impact these decisions make on the world around us.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Do They Know They're In Westchester?

Spring seems to officially be here - the flowers are blooming, the windows are open, and the kids are begging to wear shorts. To celebrate this beautiful day, we took the family out for a special lunch to one of the kids' favorite destinations - Costco. Yes, you read that right - Costco. My children seem to think it's Disneyland (the fact that we've never taken them to Disneyland probably helps reinforce this). They get to eat a hot dog (we're vegetarian, but when we go out, we let the kids choose what they would like - if they could order meat with a side of meat and some meat for dessert, they would be in heaven) and then get to wander through the store and hunt for samples. They take sample hunting very seriously; generally on the car ride over they have a preliminary discussion about what the samples will be, involving their favorite samples, as well as the infamous day last year when we went at dinnertime, and there were no samples. NO SAMPLES! The level of incredulity on their little faces was hard to believe. Luckily there were excellent samples to be had (we did not actually purchase any groceries) and everyone was happy.

We then moved on to the outdoor portion of the day - there is a beautiful nature preserve just down the road, which is situated in the middle of a very populous area. I imagine that the land developers weep every time they drive by it - all this land situated in one of the most expensive areas of the country, with waterfront to boot. We got to see this:

Miss Serious and Big Trouble were tracking it by finding hoofprints:


And then we saw this:

I approached it very cautiously for fear that it would run away, but I needn't have worried; this was apparently one of the more brazen wild turkeys out there, and didn't even look up as I got closer. In fact, after a bit of a stare down, I ended up backing slowly away - wild turkeys are quite large.

The juxtaposition of all this wonderful wildlife being around the corner from a Commerce Bank is definitely odd, but certainly appreciated. Sadly, when I asked the kids what their favorite part of the day was, Costco won hands down. But at least they got to wear their shorts outside.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Only 255 Days Left Until Christmas

I like to knit people (small people) things for Christmas; it allows me to feel like I'm doing something productive - even though I just look like I'm sitting on the couch knitting, I'm really making Christmas gifts. Who can argue with that? Last year I ended up in a really ugly crunch with finals to grade, holiday baked goods to make, and some very rushed knitted items, a combination that makes for a less than merry mom.

This year I decided to try to get a jump on things, and just finished this for my niece:

It's a Lion Brand pattern, and went together nicely - the seed stitch cuffs and button band in the darker color added a lot of interest to the plain stockinette.

Her brother will be getting this:

It's Trellis from Knitty. The cable pattern is really nice, but the math required is causing me pain - I've ripped out the shaping more than a few times, but I think I've got it now.

I'm always torn about knitting things for the littlest members of my extended family; I hate to think I'll be thought of as that crazy aunt who always gave them sweaters, but it may be my destiny.

Why fight it? Fa La La La La, La La La La.

Monday, April 14, 2008

No Complaints

After 38 years on this planet, I have sadly come to the conclusion that I am a rather intolerant person. I am truly fascinated by the wacky quirks of others, and enjoy commenting on said quirks. I always think of the phrase attributed to Dorothy Parker: "If you can't say anything nice about someone, come and sit by me," and find that it sums me up rather well. I also find that I tend to complain more than is probably healthy; thus, when The Professor and I stumbled across A Complaint Free World we thought it might be worth investigating. It sounded like a nice idea, in theory at least. It would be nice to go through the day without complaining about things; driving would be calmer, my family would be happier, the house would be cleaner... (I can dream, right?) The idea is that you don't complain (or gossip - is that possible?) for 21 days, thus creating a habit. They recommend wearing a bracelet, and if you complain, you must switch the bracelet to the other wrist. Sounds simple, right? (Although I was pretty sure that my wrists would chafe from all the activity.)

We ordered ourselves a couple of bracelets (sadly, when I saw them on the website, my first thought was "Oh - they're ugly!" Yeah - I have some work to do...) Here is the Professor wearing his bracelet.


I've been somewhat lax about wearing mine - The Professor has done a much better job sticking to the program. However, there have been casualties:


Here is The Professor's bracelet now. Suffice it to say that one shouldn't complain angry. It's been an interesting experiment, and certainly helps me be more mindful of the petty comments I make during the day.

I don't know if it's actually made me a better person, but I haven't heard any complaints.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

It's Not Easy Being Green

Here at Chez Necessity we (okay, mostly I) don't like spending money. I like to reuse things until they literally fall apart, and even then, I try to nurse them along for as long as I can. Case in point is my clothes drying rack; a piece has broken off, and to keep it from falling over when more than 1 sock is placed on it, it is now being held together by an assortment of twist ties and rubber bands, with greater or lesser success, depending on the day. The Professor does most of the laundry round these parts, and is barely tolerating this foolhardy attempt to avoid buying a new rack.

However, we are are trying to be more environmentally friendly; thus, I have been valiantly washing and reusing our plastic water bottles. This was very successful, until we started hearing about all the pesky possibilities of plastic molecules leaching into the water; I avoided thinking about this for a long time, but finally it was time to take steps.

Meet the newest members of our family:


These are SIGG water bottles, and are apparently on the cutting edge of water drinking technology. We got good recommendations on them, and ordered them from reusablebags.com. So, many dollars later (The Professor had to order them, as it was too painful for me) we have recycled our old plastic water bottles. The ones The Professor and I got for ourselves are flask shaped - I thought they would fit better in a bag when going to work; there is a side benefit of people thinking you're hitting the bottle during a particularly long, drawn out meeting.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Are You Kidding Me?

I've recovered from the fiasco of the tiny sweater; I frogged it and after a decent interval chose another sweater which I thought would serve the yarn well - the Seamless Yoke Sweater from Elizabeth Zimmermann. The pattern is simple and easy to follow (one would think...), and I ordered some colors to make fair isle designs on the yoke. So far so good. I swatched and measured said swatch. I measured a sweater that fit me for the size, and decided that 40" around would be good. I did the math, cast on 200 stitches and knit happily away. I did have some misgivings that it seemed small - couldn't be - I'd swatched and measured. I continued knitting, and it still looked small. Finally I put it on 2 needles so I could stretch it to measure and:

Yes, upon closer inspection, that number is:


As anyone with half a brain (sadly, I seem to have less than that) will tell you, 18 X 2 does not equal 40. The sweater now looks like this:


And I am drinking this:


Looks like moonshine, doesn't it? It's actually a lovely local brew that The Professor picked up. I think it's helping, but it still won't make 36=40.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Never-Ending Birthday

Although Miss Serious' birthday was last month, the family celebrated this weekend. Easter put a giant monkey wrench into plans this year, as it felt the need to appear in March! Miss Serious decorated her own cake, and even though the weather outside is frightful, she chose a spring theme:


We all ate, drank, and were merry, and I think the celebrations surrounding the big 7 are now officially over.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Tooth or Consequences

The Tooth Fairy has been visiting our home for about a year now; unfortunately, our Tooth Fairy is not the sharpest fairy in the forest. Last year, Miss Serious lost a tooth, placed it excitedly under her pillow and drifted off to sleep dreaming of riches to come. Sadly, the next morning she woke us up in tears holding her tooth pillow which still contained only a tooth. Mind you, this was only tooth number 3. One would think that the Tooth Fairy would not have run out of steam so early on in the game. The Professor explained that since Miss Serious had lost her tooth so late in the evening, she probably hadn't gotten on the schedule in time, and to try again the next night. Luckily, the next night she was rewarded for her patience with double the normal amount of money.

Things went along quite smoothly for the next couple of teeth, and then a few days ago Miss Serious lost another tooth. This time she wrote a note and placed it with the tooth asking the Tooth Fairy what she looked like. The Tooth Fairy very kindly answered said note in beautiful, pink, swirly letters. The note and the money were exchanged for the tooth, and all was seemingly well. Alas, it was not so. Miss Serious woke up and very happily read her note and put her money in her bank. And then, she discovered her tooth on the table, where apparently the Tooth Fairy, unable to do two things at the same time, had placed it while replying to the note.

Can you fire a Tooth Fairy?

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Harvest Time!

After the post about the worms, I had a few people ask me how the heck you harvest the compost without harvesting the worms with it. This is a reasonable question, and I myself wondered the same thing when I first started researching the whole thing. As the compost is about ready now, I thought I would document how it's done.

First, you push all the compost to one side of the container, and then on the empty side, you place ripped up newspaper:


You then proceed to only feed them only on the side with the new newspaper, the idea being that they will migrate over to that side because there are no tasty morsels on the side with the compost.

This works to some extent, but is slow; not being the most patient person, I have developed my own procedure. After about a week (or when I'm tired of waiting) of the new feeding pattern, I leave the top off the container for about 1/2 an hour. The worms hate light, and will promptly scurry away from the top of the compost. I then scoop off the top layer and stick it in a bag. I repeat this process a few times, until there really isn't enough compost in the bottom for the worms to go anywhere. I mix what's left back in with the newspaper, and spread it around the whole container.

It's pretty efficient, and keeps the worms in the container where they belong; after all, I have more work for them to do.