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).