Monday, February 22, 2010


I'm still working on the living room. I've made a lot of progress; unfortunately, I had to reset my expectations.

We don't have a television; instead, we have a projector that we hook up to our Wii and to the laptop for movies. The original plan was to mount four bracketless shelves (Lack from IKEA) on the back wall and use them to house the projector, speakers, internet radio, and Wii. One shelf also would provide a space for the laptop to sit when we watch movies.

Alas, I didn't measure the depth of the shelves in relation to the depth of the projector, and the front half hangs off the shelf. Not okay. I had already mounted one of the shelves, and I mounted it too high for the purpose, too, but that's a discussion for another day. I discovered all this Friday night, and I just let it sit. I was discouraged and irritable, my friend Christi was at the house, and I just decided not to decide.

I spent most of Saturday getting Burgundy ready for the military ball. We had a major snafu with the dress, and when we sorted that out, she wanted her hair in an updo. By the time she left and I turned my attention back to the furniture issue, my mind was able to look at the situation with a fresh perspective.

So I moved the large entertainment center/wardrobe over to the back wall and placed it under the Lack shelf. It turned out to be the perfect solution, too. All the entertainment stuff fits inside it, and a hole in the back allows us to run cords out. The industrial surge protector, which is huge and unsightly, is hidden on the top of the wardrobe under the ivy. When we're not watching, we can shut the doors, and it's all hidden away. I love this idea so much more than the original. I still have to find a way to bring in the dog kennel because the dog has decided that used Kleenex and bathroom trash constitute oh-so-tasty chew toys.

I also need to find a place to hang our pretty wedding photo. It doesn't really go anywhere. The frame just isn't right for our house, but I'm not willing to spend the money to replace it right now.

Well Mark and the girls have just left for school and work, and I need to get to work myself. Hopefully, I'll get a chance to post photos later.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Lenten Season

Lent. I'm not Catholic. I'm a moderately respectable Methodist with traditionalist (i.e., Catholic and Orthodox) leanings. I very much agree with the Scottish Twins about why their family celebrates Lent.

Hm. i really like the idea of either giving up complaining or daytime internet. I hadn't decided yet whether to give anything up (Yeah, I'm late), but giving up internet during the day sounds like a very useful temptation to wrestle. Here's why: I gave up TV fifteen years ago when I still smoked, drank and uh other stuff in college. I couldn't keep up with the party schedule and the boy schedule and the school schedule AND the TV schedule, so I ditched the TV. Sold it to my mom for $100 bucks and used the money on more liquor (to the best of my recollection). I've never wanted it back, and as I've matured, I've discovered that when it's on, I'm grouchier, have a shorter temper, and get less done. And the mean lasts, too. I'm a little more cutting for hours after watching. So while we watch movies together on our computer and projector and even watch an occasional TV show, I don't and won't own a TV. However, internet is becoming my new TV. You know those people who let their house go to foreclosure swearing there's no money while paying $150 per month for cable? Well, internet service is the thing I don't know if I could let go. Actually, I think I could let it go. There's always the library if it comes to that. I don't know if Mark could or would though. Well, he would. If we couldn't pay our bills and had trouble buying food, he would definitely give up internet. But only after trimming everything else in the budget.

However, internet at work is getting out of hand. It's very easy to get distracted during a mind-numbing repetitive task (o yes. repetitive taskeses; I haz dem) to look up something that wanders through my brain, and next thing you know, I've been reading blogs for 10 minutes. Uh, ripping off my employer: not what I had in mind for the day.

So yes, I will be using the internet only for work purposes for the rest of Lent. Happily, I'm not actually Catholic or Orthodox, so I need not self-flagellate over waiting until the third day of Lent to address it.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Let's Dance!

The girls are getting ready for school; I can hear them in the kitchen getting their lunches ready. They're listening to David Bowie on Burgundy's cell phone, and Burgundy's singing along, "If you should fall. Into my arms. And tremble like a FLOW-WAH!"

I am pleased as punch to announce that Burgundy took 2nd place at the district science fair this year for 9th grade Medicine and Health. After talking about it, we all agreed that she will go on to the area competition in early March. This will be Burgundy's first time at area, and it was her first time to win at district, too. I think that a big part of her success is due to her very large sample size; she tested 103 people this year.

Meanwhile, both girls started getting sick at the end of last week. It's ranged from isolated sore throat to sinus crud that almost completely obstructs breathing. I've felt a bit under the weather, but not as bad as the girls.

Because of the crud, Burgundy and I haven't run since Friday. We talked about it, and I think we're going to pick back up today and start over with week 4. I'll let you know how that goes.

Right now Mark is inspecting the lunches, and I've been informed they are inadequate.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Julia's play last weekend was Big Love. It's an adaptation of an old Greek play about 50 sisters whose father contracts to marry them to their 50 cousins. For some reason, the sisters find the plan objectionable, and when they can't get anyone to help them, they plot together to murder their husbands on their wedding day.

The "modern" version, written in the 60's, uses the basic play content to explore feminist themes. I imagine it's difficult not to explore feminist themes in a play about women having their futures sold to strange men by their father. The tone of the play is angry and volatile.

Julia played one of the brides and played her beautifully. The down side? Poor girl's voice now sounds ragged and shredded. She developed first a sore throat and now a pretty honkin' sinus infection.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Knitting Projects

Yes, I knit.

Before Christmas, I envisioned a series of fabulous, luxurious hand-knit gifts for all the loves of my life. Greatest among these was a plan for matching socks for Burgundy and Julia. That is, the sock designs matched, but Julia would receive pink, and Burgundy black.

Allow me to backtrack and to completely alienate any readers I might have had who are not completely immersed in the Wondrous World of Knitting. I love to knit socks because they're a small enough project to  keep my attention for the duration and a large enough project to use as a canvas for Real Knitted Artwork.

In support of and deference to this love of mine, I have joined expensive sock clubs, bought expensive sock yarn, and spent countless dollars on books of sock patterns, sock theories, sock blockers, sock needles, sock dolls, sock monkeys, and arrangements of stitch patterns and formulas to stimulate my own creativity. In so doing, I find myself consistently drawn to the patterns and ideas of the magnificent Cookie A.

Her patterns are intricate, mathematically balanced, and they're remarkable for the way that the architectural and structural lines of the sock itself dissolve into the pattern, becoming a feature to enhance the pattern rather than an element around which the pattern must work in order to insinuate itself onto the sock.

Oh dear. I nerded out, didn't I? Well, last year, Cookie A released the Ellington pattern, and I immediately swooped in and scooped it up. I mean, look at this:

Now I have to tell you that I did not take these photos. They're linked from Cookie's photo feed. I tried and tried to find a photo of my own darn sock that shows the majesty of these beauties, but my photography skills are not sufficient to do justice.

Well, I saw the pattern, and I knew that the girls needed these socks for Christmas. I nearly finished Julia's socks:

And I did finally finish them only three days after Christmas while we vacationed in Austin. Actually, it was while Mark, Burgundy, JB, and Julia vacationed. I spent the whole time in the hotel room puking and pooping and praying. And knitting, I guess. Now that I think about it, I understand why Julia hasn't worn her socks much . . .

Alas, Burgundy was not so lucky. She received a small box (in fact, the clear plastic box my iPod Touch came in) with a tag on the front that read, "Band Socks" because I knitted hers in black so she could wear them with her marching band uniform. Sadly, Burgundy has grown accustomed to my ways, what with the quilt for her bedroom and all.

Well, now Ravelympics are upon us. I thought about knitting Burgundy's second sock for the Ravelympics; I really did. I also thought about knitting the second sock from my November sock club package. The one I promised myself I would not knit until I'd finished Burgundy's second sock. As it happens though, neither of these projects have been "hibernating" long enough to qualify for the work-in-progress event.

Alas, no. I'll have to start another project. It breaks my heart, I tell you. However, I have a very definite deadline for this project; shouldn't be any trouble, right? I mean, we see how well I respond to deadlines right?

Hey, why can I hear crickets chirping? Where's my chorus of agreement?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Laundry 5 Cents per Load

I've been doing 1 load of laundry a day, and it's getting very close to the point where I'll only have one load to do on any given day. I'm very pleased with this consistency and with the order it's allowing me to introduce to our home.

I used the last of my laundry detergent recipe today, so I had to whip up some more. I have never been successful with the liquid soap recipes I've found online, so a couple of month ago, I switched over to the (mostly) powdered version. I'm very happy with it.

Laundry detergent recipes pretty well are ubiquitous on the web, and I won't pretend that I'm original in my concoction. All the same, I am proud of what I've learned and figure I ought to show it off.

I found a recipe I like (no idea where) and made a very slight adjustment to make it easier to remember. I changed the ratio of ingredients to be 1:1:1. It was pretty close to that before, and this gets my clothes fully clean.

1 cup grated Fels Naptha (a bar soap available in the laundry aisle at the grocery; look on the top shelf)
1 cup Arm & Hammer Washing Soda
1 cup Borax Washing Powder.

Fels Naptha cost around $1 a bar; I think I pay $1.19. A 55-oz box of Arm & Hammer runs $1.89, and a 76-oz box of Borax is $2.89. Going by the weight of a cup of each of the powders and calculating the cost per ounce of the powders, I was able to calculate that the powder portion of my detergent costs me about $0.53/batch. I usually can get about three batches out of two FN bars, so I figure more or less 1.5 cups per bar.

Total cost: $1.39 for about a month's worth of detergent. I use one heaping table spoon full (that is, not a small cutlery spoon, one of the larger ones) per load, and our clothes have been cleaner and have smelled better since we switched to this. At one load per day, that puts our laundry detergent cost at about $0.05 per load.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Nommy Nom Nom

Food, oh food.

With the part-time stay-at-home thing happening, I've really been able to get into the kitchen and cook. I've been making blueberry muffins every weekend that last well into the week. This takes care of our breakfast.

I've made a menu the last two weeks that, while not a straightjacket, has kept us fairly on track with eating well and out of the restaurants. We ate an entire box of raw spinach and another giant box of field greens last week. This is a huge stride forward for our family.

Last Sunday, I made a phenomenal butternut squash soup. I first made it for Thanksgiving dinner, and I think it is becoming a family staple. It's very simple:

Peel, seed, and dice one butternut squash (about 6 cups). Finely chop and saute in olive oil one small, yellow onion. Add the squash, 3 cups of water, 1/2 a teaspoon of marjoram, some red and black pepper, and 4 cubes of vegetable (or chicken) bouillon.

You boil that for about 20 minutes, then I use a stick blender to puree it into a thick soup with a block and a half of cream cheese. It's incredibly filling between the protein (cheese), fiber (squash), and fat (cheese again). One bowl will take care of you. We've been munching on yesterday's for three meals now, and it's still there.

This week, I have one cooking mission: I want to use a jar of the sauce I made last weekend, modify my pizza crust recipe to be a little more usable, and make pizza pockets for my family. I had the idea last time I made pizza, but it seemed a bit daunting what with the pizza dough and all. But I made pitas over the weekend (a post for another time), and that process gave me some good ideas.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Cloud Atlas, the Pursuit of Stuff, and Me

Reading all these frugal blogs, I'm coming to grips with the reality that I am not frugal at all. You likely will never find me rejoicing over a sale on dishcloths or eating veggies I don't really like because they happen to be on sale. I combine several savory character flaws that guarantee I won't go there: I'm lazy (scrubbers for dishes? I call them teenagers); I'm a bit of a princess (ew! zucchini? Nas-TAY. I'd rather retire on Alpo than eat it.), and I like stuff.

Ah stuff. There's a wonderful if relatively unknown book called Cloud Atlas with a major section about a dystopian future where all religion has been outlawed and consumerism is the major religion. Your "soul" registers your worth, which in turn determines your value. It's the extreme outcome to a world where morals and discretion are shunned as unscientific, only the measurable and productive (finance, science) are valued, and people believe things will fulfill their longings. The government creates this last belief as a remarkably effective distraction from its own abuses.

Note: Cloud Atlas is kind of a weird book. I absolutely love and have read it a couple of times. However, it's arranged in sections; each major character gets his or her own novella, none of the major characters interact with one another because they all live in different times and settings. The sections span time from the 18th century to the distant future when Earth has returned to barbarism and only a few vestiges of the dystopian society's technological capabilities have survived the cataclysm they engendered. The book is not easy reading but absolutely is worth the time and energy investment.

The section of the book on Nea So Copros (the dystopian society) burned itself into my mind, and it colors the way that I think of my purchases and purchasing patterns. It triggers all my conspiracy theorist leanings (I was raised in Mississippi; cut me some slack), and it has strongly influenced the way I view our government's urging to spend, Spend, SPEND as if we, through the act of spending, can somehow save ourselves. I hear it, and I get chills thinking of the ultimate end envisioned.

We're already cloning animals for food (Oh yes we are; see Food, Inc). We already live in a society so fragmented and closed off that we often openly devalue the old, the handicapped, and the very young. By toddlerhood, we assess our children's money-making potential, and many people would consider their children failures if they chose to be a craftspeople. Woodworkers. Car mechanics.

Said differently, we already tend to assess a soul's worth by its ability to earn money. It's a dangerous, slippery slope. It makes me want to move to the hill country, plant some fields, get a cow and a few hens and be done with this suburban nonsense.

On the other hand, I do love stuff. I have a craft room full of luxury fibers (alpaca, cashmere, merino wool) for knitting. And I live in a sub-tropical climate. I have an 1,868 square foot home. There are four of us. Three when Julia goes home. Our house is full of stuff we don't need, just want. And I do enjoy it.

So where's the line for me? How do I decide when I've crossed over from a normal, healthy lifestyle with some acquisition to the world of wanton, flagrant consumption? I don't know, and that's the trouble that Cloud Atlas brings to my spirit.

I know that giving functions as a direct counterbalance to consumption; we give. I wrestle with how much to say about what we give because I don't want recognition from that. However, I do believe that giving is a very important step to combating the subtle, and in my opinion, evil, doctrine of Salvation through Consumption.

I know that when I pay attention to my approach to others, my drive to obtain quiets itself in the interest of serving others. At one time, when I lived on $8 an hour and thought I made a pretty good wage, I thought that a person making $30,000 a year had no excuse for choosing not to give and save. And then I tried to live on $30,000 a year. Fourteen years later, if I worked full time, I would pull in over twice as much, and it's only by focusing on others' needs that I succeed in giving some of that money away and in saving some of it for retirement.

I want a simpler life, and I believe Mark does, too. We have to decide where to cut back, and I think it will be a slow process. Burgundy has been raised in what I see as opulence; others (I know) see us as living on the edge. We have very slowly begun getting nice furniture. I have a wooden roll-top desk. Mark has a beautiful upright piano. We consider our computers indispensable. My Macbook. His home-built race-car computer. I want to install a Murphy bed in Burgundy's room. I want a bigger kitchen. Mark wants a better car (I genuinely believe that for our current lifestyle, this is a need). Mark wants more gardening stuff.

Where does it stop? When do we draw the line? Is there a line? Or do we simply try to focus on acquiring the things that will allow us to cut back more? I believe that the line of frugality and simplicity moves around for everyone. I think we have to draw our own conclusions and create our own lines (within the bounds of spiritual health and morality, of course) based on our values. This truly is our mission, our job.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Running: Week 3

As posted last week, I really didn't think we were ready to handle week 3 of the couch to 5K. For one thing, week 2 involved 90 second runs with 2-minute walks.  We could barely complete the 90-second runs; Burgundy kept cramping up, and I checked the timer on the iPod more obsessively than a condemned man with a watch.

Week 3 called for 3-minute runs. Twice as long as week two. I didn't think we were ready.

Thursday after posting my concerns, we didn't seize what would turn out to be our only opportunity to run that day. I felt mildly guilty, not because I feel like our running is tied to a particular daily schedule, but because I feared that I would make excuses all week, and then it would be too late.

So Friday after school, I picked Burgundy up, and we changed and headed out the door immediately. During the warm-up walk, we talked about strategies to handle the intervals, which were thus: 90-second run, 90-second walk, 3-minute run, 3-minute walk; we were to repeat these once for a total of 4 running intervals: 2 at 90 seconds and 1 at 3 minutes. 

We talked about how we would regulate our breathing, not run too fast, and generally take special care not to exhaust ourselves in the first 30 seconds of the long intervals.

The first interval flew by, and as we finished the follow-on walk, we internalized our concerns and pep-talked ourselves. The three-minute run started. For my part, I noticed that it didn't start to truly hurt until the two-minute point. At the end of the following walk interval, we realized that we were halfway done. We stared at each other in amazement.

It felt easy. Energizing. The rest of the run flew by, and we felt good. Now put that in your pipe and smoke it. Day 2 (Saturday) also was easy even though we had to do it back-to-back with day 1. Skipping on Thursday really did throw off our whole rhythm, though. We have to run on Thursdays from now on. Thursday, Saturday, and Tuesday. We can do that.

We skipped Tuesday, too. A cold front blew in, we could hear the wind howling outside, and the thought of braving the elements for a run sounded almost as appealing as spending the night in a used iron maiden (photo courtesy of

Yesterday I regretted that decision a little when we started our final run of the week after a three-day hiatus and enjoyed a light sprinkling of rain from start to finish in 50-degree temperatures. We did it, though. We finished week 3.

For what it's worth, I don't think I've lost so much as an ounce of weight since starting. I couldn't say for sure because I won't replace the batteries on my scale and haven't weighed myself since December.

I'm honestly relieved, because I feel such peace about loving my body just where it is, skinny or fat be damned. I feared that by taking up running, which I genuinely enjoy, I would start to lose weight, get excited about that, and lose this peace I feel. I'm also relieved to find that I don't feel any disappointment about the lack of weight loss since starting. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Performance Season must end soon. Burgundy's Senior musical (remember, she's a Freshman) finally ended last Sunday, but Julia still is in all-day practices that last until 9 PM sometimes for the theater group's production of Big Love. They both still have rehearsal for Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

All these performances and rehearsals conflict. We have season tickets to the opera, there are only two performances left, and neither we parents, Burgundy nor Julia can go to Saturday night. Of course, they can't go tonight, either.

Ironically, tonight's performance, Benjamin Britten's The Turn of the Screw, is one of the operas I really was looking forward to seeing if only because it's in English, freeing me up to listen and watch the action instead of dividing my time between the supertitles and the actors.

I know this reveals me as a total opera novice; so be it.

In other news, Burgundy earned a Division I on her Solo for UIL, and her ensemble earned Division II. The ensemble rating is particularly impressive because one of the trumpets in the ensemble dropped out two days before the performance. Burgundy was so upset, but everyone stepped up with ideas, and they found a replacement Wednesday night, practiced with him Thursday and Friday afternoon, and performed Saturday morning. A Division II really impressed me. Apparently, the judges also were impressed with "the tuba," who had to maintain the foundation for the music. Yay Burgundy!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Rearranging the House

My husband hoards. It gets overwhelming sometimes. He's slowly getting better (as in, over the last 7 years, he's begun to see reason about things like not having a garage full of books he won't read, but he still can't let go of the pile of movie stubs going back at least 10 years), and our house is slowly getting better along with him. 

::mumblemumble:: Well, it helps that I've started cleaning house, too.  ::mumblemumble::

So the books in the garage are starting to go away, but we still have all the "House Books." Like cats, they get in the way, sit on the couch when I don't want them there, poop on the rug (well, okay, they leave dust bunnies on the shelf), and generally command attention I do not want to give them. 

Lest you think I'm an illiterate, non-reading boob, I have a degree in literature. I love books. Reasonable books. But these are books on circuitry and obsolete technology (the 3.5 Floppy Disk Will Alter Our World), old magazines, phone books, etc. Jane Austin is welcome to crap on my carpet (metaphorically). Ma Bell? Not so much.  

Our most successful foray into controlling the books to date has been two 5 x 5 Expedit bookshelves, both of which are crammed into my relatively small living room. Well, I've had an idea. I moved one of the Expedit shelves into the formal den, which currently does not house a table, and in its place, I will mount four (4) and only four (4) bracketless shelves from IKEA on that wall in the living room. 

I will find a way to make do with only four because that's how many I already have, and I'm NOT buying more.The shelves will be not quite randomly spaced, but they won't be all in a straight line. Those four shelves will house our projector (stand-in for a TV), our Wii system, our speaker system, and a blank spot for the laptop when we want to watch a movie on the projector. I'm very excited about it.

Meanwhile, of course I had to completely unload all the books and other detritus from the shelf in order to move it. So while I loaded it back up in its new home, I decided that I should at least cull my own collection of books. Well, of all the surprising and embarrassing discoveries, I only found one (1) of my husband's books on the shelf. And it was worth about $20 (he sells books online). Awkward. Now even accounting for the three shelves that our electronics occupied on this thing prior to its move, I still cleared out seven (7) shelves on this case. That were double-stacked.

Mark graciously looked up every book I set aside for its value and listed any for sale that were worth more than a few dollars. There were two, maybe three books. The rest I boxed up and took to half-price books. I got $12 for those, and then dropped off another trunkload of clothes, knick-knacks, and other random things at Goodwill.

This has inspired me to cull the other shelf now, so that's my 15-minute daily project this week. Wish me luck!

Photos to come soon! I'm excited.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Eating Well at Home

I've been wanting to can spaghetti sauce for two or three weeks; I even bought a bunch of fresh tomatoes recently to use in it. Because I am a master (mistress) procrastinator, I let them go too long, and I had to cut off several bad spots to work with them.

All the same, I did it, and this morning I put 8 pints of spaghetti sauce into the pantry. This will keep us set for about eight weeks, by which time we should be getting close to harvesting more tomatoes from our own garden, which we're about to plant.

With the impending NASA layoffs, it's imperative that we eat in and save as much money as possible. So it's my new mission to do it up right for the family so that we won't be tempted to eat out (like I want to do right now).  I've noticed that we do better about eating at home when we have quick, easy foods to eat. With the spaghetti sauce pre-made, I can make dinner in about 15 minutes. I already have meatballs made and frozen in single-serving portions.

We have several other quick meals that work well as leftovers: lentil soup, cheese quiche and spinach quiche, anything pasta, etc.

The greatest challenge that I face right now is having vegetarians in the house. All our favorite go-to dishes are meat-filled or meat-dependent. Some things are obvious; for example, I substitute vegetable bouillon for chicken broth. Others frustrate me endlessly. Chili is a great example. It's my favorite meal, and I make it with lots of beef. I also make it fast; chili is a 30-minute meal here, and it can feed us for a couple of days at least. I haven't made chili since Julia arrived, though, because it seems kinda pointless. Only Mark and I will eat it, and I'd still have to make a separate meal for the girls. Yeah, sure, I could learn to make vegetarian chili, but I don't want veg chili. Gross.

I want hearty, drippy, chewy meat. Grr.

For now, for this week, our menu is thus:

Sunday lunch and dinner: Lentil soup and rice
Monday lunch for Mark and Mel: Lentil soup and rice
Monday dinner: Baked salmon and salad (yes, the girls will eat fish)
Tuesday lunch: leftover salmon with broccoli and carrots (salad's too much trouble for work)
Tuesday dinner: Girls will have mac & cheese with salad or broccoli; Mark and I are going to an investment seminar and will eat there.
Wednesday lunch: Tuna salad sandwiches
Wednesday dinner: Black bean lasagna
Thursday lunch: Black bean lasagna with any leftover veggies around the house
Thursday dinner: leftovers night; also, Julia has a play performance
Friday lunch: leftovers - just clean out the fridge
Friday dinner: Fish tacos (Julia has a play performance again)
Saturday lunch: I'm going to try The Atheist Homemaker's chickpea cutlets served over a bed of fettucini with alfredo sauce and served with steamed, lightly buttered broccoli. This will be my adventure in cooking for the week.
Saturday dinner: If I get the chance (and succeed) at making pie crust, I'll make cheese quiche.
Sundays are always either for eating out or catch as catch can.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Insert Clever Title Here

Yesterday ended up being a much bigger deal than I expected. DH needed surgery to repair a minor hernia and to remove a couple of lumpy masses from his right thigh. The masses have been there nearly a decade, so we don't think they're anything serious, but the doctor is sending them off for analysis anyway.

The surgery should have been really minor, and I suppose it wasn't on the scale of a hysterectomy or something. The recovery really tore him up, though. The hospital wouldn't let him leave until he peed. And five hours after waking from the surgery, he still couldn't go. Even worse, the nurses insisted that he walk to the toilet, and it took him at least three hours from the first attempt to stand to successfully walk a grand total of maybe 30 feet.

Every time he stood, dizziness set in, and we'd have to hold him up while he drooled into a barf bag. Poor baby. At 7:00, they moved him from day surgery recovery to a room upstairs, and half an hour later, I left to eat dinner. About 8:30, he called to announce his successful urination. I've never felt so proud.

Meanwhile, my friend Hannah took Burgundy to her Joseph rehearsal at the church, and both girls took care of getting their own dinner. Mark and I finally made it home around 9:30, and I put him straight into the bed, where he is right now.

On a completely different note, today is day 1 of the 3rd week of the Couch to 5K program. For the first time, I'm well and truly intimidated. For week 1, we had to run 60 seconds and walk 90 seconds. Easy peasy. For week 2, we had to run 90 seconds, and walk 2 minutes. I'm sure we couldn't have done week 2 without first running week 1, but it still didn't strike fear into my thighs. However, I feel totally unprepared for week 3. First up, as soon as the 5 minute warm up ends, we have to run 3 minutes, then walk 3 minutes.



Seriously. Three minutes? I can barely knit for three minutes. I don't have that kind of attention span. My legs don't have that kind of attention span.

We're going to do it today, and if we finish and want to die a horrible death, we'll spend the rest of week 3 repeating week 2. Burgundy had a horrible stitch about halfway through the third run of week 2, so I'm a little worried about her starting up week 3, but I think it's just a training thing.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

These Kids Done Got Me Runnin'

The most important rule of grammar is that you may break the rules only if you understand the rules. That's the only excuse I can offer for today's title.

Burgundy and Julia both perform. Today, Burgundy is playing in the in-school performance of the Senior Musical. They chose Gershwin's Crazy About You, and the kids have done a phenomenal job. They had to learn to tap-dance, sing and act at once, and the orchestra (where Burgundy is) had to learn to play with singers, something that Burgundy (at least) has never done before. They have three remaining performances: Friday and Saturday at 7PM, and Sunday at 2PM.

Since returning from Christmas break, the orchestra has had rehearsal every Monday through Thursday until 6:30 PM for Crazy for You.

Meanwhile, Julia plays onstage. Last semester she played a maid in the theatre group's production of Dracula. This semester, she's playing one of 50 brides who murder their grooms in the play Big Love. That play starts this Thursday and runs through Saturday, with two productions on Saturday.

Again, since returning from Christmas break, Julia has had play rehearsal every day until 6PM. Starting this week, it lasts until 9PM. Last Saturday, she had practice from 9AM - 6PM, then she had to shop for her wedding dress, as the school does not provide the costumes.

Meanwhile, both girls and Mark have been cast in our church's production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. All three of them are in the chorus, and Burgundy also won a role as one of Pharaoh's adoring girls.

The three of them have rehearsal every Sunday, and additional, role-specific rehearsals are held two to four days a week to supplement the all-cast rehearsal. Unfortunately, chorus members are required at almost all rehearsals.

This Saturday, Burgundy has a solo and ensemble contest, where she's performing Edvard Grieg's My Johann as a solo and Pachelbel's Canon with a brass quintet.

For this, Burgundy has met twice during school to rehearse with her piano accompanist for her solo. Three times a week (including Saturday get-togethers) for the ensemble rehearsal.

In addition, both girls sing in the church's youth choir, and Mark sings with the sanctuary choir. That's Wednesday night for Mark and Sunday's after Joseph rehearsal for the girls.

Between the three of them and all their commitments, I'm exhausted. There's always someone to pick up or drop off, and noone else has the time (because of homework, etc) to help with the housework, so that falls 90% to me and the rest to Mark. Happily, I am part-time now, so I don't mind committing myself to keeping our home clean. It's good.

Now I have to figure out what to do about our opera tickets. We're supposed to go on Wednesday the 10th to see Houston Grand Opera perform Benjamin Britten's The Turn of the Screw. That night, Julia has play rehearsal, and Mark has choir. All three of them have Joseph rehearsal. All the other performances have conflicts, too. I'm thinking about finding a time that Mark and I can go and inviting my parents to join us. I doubt Mom has ever seen an opera.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


A few years ago, I took up quilting.  My first two quilt tops were nine-patches arranged into a neat little optical trick. The design is called an Irish-something-or-other; I've forgotten now. It took three years to lay them out, sandwich them with their battings and backings, and pin them together for true quilting. In that time, I did most of the piecework for another quilt in beautiful peach colors, and I made a snail's trail quilt for my daughter our of all blue fabrics with a bright yellow mariner's compass in the middle.

Burgundy's quilt should have been a masterpiece. And to be fair, Burgundy thinks it is. But my piecing was so poor that my inexperienced self was afraid to lay it all out and machine quilt it. And I was WAY too lazy to hand quilt it. So I tied it with pieces of blue yarn (God bless knitting; it saves me yet again), and she put it on her bed and loved it.

I should add here that I gave Burgundy the nearly-complete quilt top for Christmas in 2007. I gave her the "finished" quilt the following August. Procrastination, I am thine. Love me for my devotion.

Meanwhile, I made about 76 stupid snail trail squares, didn't need most of them, and they've been sitting around in the craft room, taking up space ever since. So earlier this week, I decided that my craft project du jour would be to make and quilt a matching pillow sham for Burgundy's quilt. I finished piecing it yesterday, and I zoomed through that ugliest quilting job ever attempted on a machine yesterday for about 45 minutes before deciding to stop for the day. It's about 1/3 quilted.

Today I plan to finish quilting it, cut out, hem, and sew on the back of the sham (in that overlapping envelope style), and have it on her bed before she gets home from school. Wish me luck!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Naggy Mom

If you remember, I recently started following the Naggy [profanity redacted] on Ravelry for housecleaning plans and tips. It's working remarkably well.


A friend who comes over often came in yesterday and went kind of wild about how great the place looks. She said the house seems to have gotten bigger.

The best part? I'm staying on top of it. There are little things here and there that I haven't been able to bring myself to do. But for the most part, it's looking good.

Here's what I do every day before work:
  • Make my bed
  • After my shower, grab my washcloth and swipe the dirtiest surface in the bathroom before I toss it in the hamper
  • Empty the dishwasher, which should be full of sparkly, clean dishes from the previous evening's delightful game of Crack The Whip Over Your Teens Who Hate You and Know You Are Out To Get Them. If I lost that game, then I load the dishwasher instead of emptying it.
When I get home from work:
  • Spend 2 minutes (timed, yo) on a crap magnet. This is a surface in my house that just magnetizes crap. For some, it's their kitchen counter. For others, it's the desk. We have an abundance of crap-magnets in our house; some aren't even horizontal (yes, the fridge).
  • Process ONE load of laundry. I don't care about wrinkles, so I let laundry sit in the dryer once it's done. So for this task, I fold yesterday's clean clothes right out of the dryer, throw the clothes sitting in the washer into the dryer, and then throw a load into the washer from the waiting basket. Then my load is done for the day, and I can forget about it.
  • Open and process the mail. I don't let myself get up from the desk until the mail is filed, tossed, set in the shredder pile, or schedule (and filed)
  • 15 minutes on my current declutter project (currently the craft room)
That's my basic routine. On different days, I like to add other things in. For example, I'm about to start a project to relocate a major piece of furniture (white Ikea 5x5 Expedit bookcase) from the living room to the library. I'm very excited about it. I'll post before and after pictures next week (hopefully). So today I have a task to spend 15 minutes moving books from one room to the other.

Family Planning (but not like that)

Mark and I have also scheduled a weekly 30 - 45 minutes to synchronize our calendars and double check the budget. Mark is the calendar nerd, and I'm the budget nerd. We set the timer for 15 minutes and review the calendar for that long. He's really good about writing EVERYTHING down, so this generally is his chance to make sure my calendar is up to date. We also plan who will pick up the kids from different activities. This week we had to figure out how to work around Mark's scheduled surgery. He's having a hernia repaired.

After 15 minutes, we reset the time and spend another 15 looking at the budget, evaluate whether we have any unplanned expenses coming up for the week and try to figure out how to pay for them. Once that's over, if we have any more energy and haven't started arguing, we wrap up any loose ends.

Overall, we're beginning to really get a handle on things around here. Our goal for February (financially) is to recover to the point that we have our Baby Emergency Fund back in place. In order to really do that, we'll need to stay on top of everything else.

And Now for Something Completely Different

Most everyone has heard that Obama proposed spending caps over the next few years, and to be honest I think he's right to do so. Unfortunately, in his budget proposal released today, he proposed canceling my bread and butter outright: NASA's Constellation Program. For now, I'm still employed, but that might not last until September. Our goal now is to fund our emergency fully before the pink slip comes. Thank goodness this bill has to get through Congress first. And that our work has a 30-day stop-work notification clause.