Friday, December 30, 2005

Book stack gone mad

Now that the holiday hubbub is settled down to a steady pace, very much eased by the nice long Christmas break for my dear husband and Son1, I've started in on my after-Christmas-Day reading.

I decided to finally start reading about the Balkans, Rwanda, and so on after a failed attempt a while ago (upon finishing The Bone Woman, see below). Causes: my nonfiction book club started in November, with Guns, Germs, and Steel, and though I hadn't barely made a dent in the book -- it was November, eek! -- the discussion got me interested in both tackling the book again and learning more about genocide. Then I volunteered The Bone Woman for our January book, so why not. Bosnia and Rwanda, here I come. Tonight I read a good chunk of The Balkans: A Short History.

Here's my current book stack, more or less, almost all from the library.

Audubon First Field Guide: Night Sky
Looking Through a Telescope
...because we can see stars by 6 pm at this time of year.

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency
...January book for my MOMS Club fiction book group.
The Botany of Desire: A Plant's Eye View of the World
...February book for my nonfiction book club.
The Bone Woman: A Forensic Anthropologist's Search for Truth in the Mass Graves of Rwanda, Bosnia, Croatia, and Kosovo by Clea Koff
...January book for my nonfiction book club. I highly recommend it, even if you never would imagine reading a book on this topic -- like me.
Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies
...last November's book for my nonfiction book club. And therefore:
The Balkans: a short history
Madness Visible: A Memoir of War
Beyond the Mountains of the Damned: The War Inside Kosovo
A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide -- I actually bought this book.
(requested: We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families: Stories from Rwanda)

Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt
...I'm curious about this book, a completely different topic for Anne Rice, about the boy Jesus.

The Good Son: Shaping the Moral Development of Our Boys and Young Men by Michael Gurian
Raising Musical Kids: A Guide for Parents
Homeschooling: The Middle Years
...Son1 has been having puzzling difficulties with school and I really like this book The Good Son; I want to incorporate more music into our lives; I really like the HSing, the Early Years book.

Crewel Yule and Embroidered Truths by Monica Ferris
...and a LOT of other themed murder mysteries (coffeehouse, scrapbooking, knitting). Fun!

Handknit Holidays by Melanie Falick
The Knitter's Companion
Knitting in Plain English by Maggie Righetti was time for some fun inspiration, plus a rereading of solid foundation books.

This blog's Year in Review

I couldn't resist -- sorry about all the memes and quizzes lately...

Year in Review Meme

(via Hazelnut Reflections)

Record the first sentence of the first post of each month on your blog for the past year.

January 2005:
I'm pretty sure I was the anti-Holidailies, as I pretty much stopped blogging during the period the Holidailies participants vowed to blog daily! (Dec 6 - Jan 7).

February 2005:
Today I realized that I'm starting to drag.

March 2005:
Boys, ours, and sports (setting aside my knitting -- I started a sock on double-pointed needles, heehee)

April 2005:
It's April and the beginning of storm season here in the heart of Tornado Alley.

May 2005:
I am so tired.

June 2005:
Progress is made! (with socks I was knitting)

July 2005:
In early June we started talking about fun things we wanted to do this summer.

August 2005:
The kids and I have been home from our 22-day Washington state trip for a scant two and a half days.

September 2005:
My dear commenting visitors, please be not annoyed that I've turned on Blogger's anti-machine-spam feature so now you have to be a human being and type in odd combinations of letters and numbers to comment here...

October 2005:
"You're a big city girl with a small town heart, which is why you're attracted to the romance of Rome."

November 2005:
Did I mention that I decided to take on a sort-of-big project as my leap into paper crafting?!?

December 2005:
I'm feeling pretty good about the whole homemaking thing right now.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

After Christmas meme

Amy of Good Soil posted this meme...

If you received a Barnes and Noble gift card in your stocking (or just wish you had)...

1. Do you go to the brick and mortar store or use it online?
Brick and mortar, 'cause browsing through the bookshelves is such sweetness.

2. Do you think "This is mine, all mine!" or "I've been wanting such-and-such read aloud for the kids?"
Mine! Well, mostly.

3. Do you buy yourself a nice B&N coffee from the cafe, or consider that a waste of good Book Money?
A nice coffee, and then I drink it, look through my book(s) of choice, and knit. Aaaah.

4. Does a $50 value on the card mean
A)Spend as close to $50 as possible without going over.
B)Buy one book and save the balance for next time.
C)Take $50 off a purchase of $100 or more.

For me, A -- I spend it all and no more. Or, only a tiny bit more?

5. Do you take the children and consider it a fun family outing, or plan your trip for when your hubby can watch the kids?
This would definitely be a solo outing. On the other hand, the kids are jumping up and down ready to head to B&N and spend their Christmas cash, so we WILL have that family outing anyway.

6. And finally, do you make a beeline for your favorite section (and what section is that?) or do you browse the new releases and recommendations up front when you walk in the door?
I browse the displays throughout the store, then check out history, religion, fiction, cooking, gardening, crafts (knitting! etc!), children's religion books, homeschooling resources (history again...), and then start figuring out what to actually buy. A very difficult decision!

Anyone care to try the meme? I know Dy is meaning to.. Emily?

Monday, December 26, 2005

I've been sorted

I'm in Gryffindor, and I'm not-so-secretly pleased!

I'm in gryffindor!

be sorted @

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christ Is Born Today!

In dulci jubilo...

Resonet hodie...

Christ is born today!

A few choral quotes running through my mind today.

From my heart to yours, a very blessed and merry Christmas to you!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

No mail, he said

"No mail for us," said Son2 after checking the curbside mailbox. Er, um, take a look at the entryway, boys! Woohoo!!

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Too funny.

In other news, the Christmas tree received its multi-colored lights yesterday evening with very little foul language from yours truly. Then the kids added the ornaments and the garlands of red beads. Today I put down the official snow-substitute swirled white bedsheet, and we have a decorated Christmas tree!

In addition, nearly all of the gifts for the kids have been acquired. Good secrets are being kept. Stockings are out and ready for Christmas Eve. There's an electric candle in the kitchen window and a string of white lights along the windowsill of the big dining area window. With no extension cord to be found (where did they all go??), the rest of the electric candles are waiting patiently for me to take care of their electrical connection needs.

The boys are literally spinning with excitement and extra energy; more outside time helps a LOT. Yesterday I realized they were actually duelling outdoors with their wooden sword and a cobbled-together alternate weapon; I wished for shields with which I could give them a little prep/pep talk about blocking sword blows!

After dinner tonight we also played Kerplunk and put together a 3-d puzzle. Maybe tomorrow we'll play Ticket to Ride, a great railroad-across-the-USA board game. I'm thinking about making either homemade ornaments or cookies with the boys tomorrow or Saturday.

Perhaps I should consider putting up the Christmas tree a week earlier in the future. It is doing wonders for my mood!


Today's O Antiphon

O Rex Gentium, et desideratus earum, lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum: veni, et salva hominem, quem de limo formasti.

O King of the Gentiles and their desired One, the Cornerstone that makes both one: Come, and deliver man, whom you formed out of the dust of the earth. Amen.

Finished knitted object, a wee one

It's a dishcloth. And I like it. Red and white (for Christmas) 100 percent cotton Peaches and Cream from a big-box store, and family-handmedown size 7 aluminum needles. A fun and fast little project, perfect for the holiday-prep-addled brain.

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I used the "bee" stitch, which was a bit puzzling to figure out. My first bee-stitch dishcloth looks a bit irregular because it was really hard to figure out whether I'd just done a "knit in the stitch below" or not. Finally I figured out that I could tell what I'd done the previous row by whether there were two wraps or one around the back of the previous stitch. Aha! Not to mention, the whole "knit in the stitch below" was VERY confusing -- as described it was clearly an increase -- until I found a blog entry that I cannot for the life of me find again. Anyway, the blog mentioned that you slip the old stitch off after knitting into the stitch below it. Whew. That made it work (made sense to clueless learner me). Now it's kind of fun.

I'm using dishcloths instead of sponges now. I'm tired of old stinky sponges no matter what I do, so I might as well use dishcloths and toss them in the laundry with the cloth napkins, kitchen towels, and old-towel kitchen rags!

When my dishcloths have all been washed, I'll take a group photo. Hey, why not.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Christmastime list checkup

Gifts sent to relatives? Check. Mostly. At least the kids.

Gifts acquired for our own children? Half-check. I always end up doing this in the last week before Christmas, and it goes fine. I'll go to a few stores tomorrow morning, leaving the boys with dear husband 'cause he's taking the rest of the week off (and next week, all the way through Jan 2, yay!). That might do it. I have a few homemade things to do, if possible. This is all more complex because Son1's birthday is the day after Christmas.

Christmas letter written? Check. Though I'm not even attempting to send it until next week.

Christmas tree up? Check, thanks to dear husband.

Christmas tree decorated? Uh, no, thanks to the carefully packed-away lights NOT WORKING and therefore a trip to the store late last night to buy more lights. Now I'm working up the energy to put the lights on the tree before the kids go to bed tonight.

Teacher gifts assembled and given? Check. Whew.

Last day of school reached and finished? Check. And boy howdy, are these two boys getting excited about Christmas! I'm applying lots of outdoor playtime to ease the mix of excited boys and no-energy mommy.

Common areas of the house decluttered? Not on your life. Kids' toys decluttered and streamlined? Arrgh, not that either. I've started hauling things around and clearing out the living room etc 'cause of the Christmas tree and of course the upcoming new items arriving in the household shortly... but the clutter has gotten a bit wild and it's daunting. And that's the first decluttering priority. We can deal with older toys after Christmas Day.

Goals for the next few days: take care of myself to get rid of my cold and avoid Christmas morning wipeout (eat right, drink lots, take zinc etc, relax, sleep enough). Finish the Christmas gift-getting and -making. With the boys, finish decorating the tree and get the electric candles in the windows. With the boys, bake cookies! Wrap their gifts before the late afternoon Christmas Eve service rather than 10 pm - 1 am (shudder). Do the essentials and enjoy them without fussing over what we're not doing / not getting done. That's a biggie.

Today's O Antiphon
O Oriens, splendor lucis aeternae, et sol justitiae: veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris et umbra mortis.

[Oops, it's not "O King of the Nations, and their Desire; the Cornerstone, who makest both one: Come and save mankind, whom thou formedst of clay." Not at all!]

O Dawn of the East, brightness of light eternal, and Sun of Justice: come, and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

UPDATE: Only later did I look carefully at the latin and realize the English paraphrase is not for this antiphon at ALL! I found an appropriate translation, from R. Fairchild's sermon and lectionary resources O Antiphons page. I like their English translations much better, anyway.

I love the Great O Antiphons. A big thank you to those sister and brother Christians of the 8th and 9th centuries.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Actual home-cooked meals

As previously mentioned here, I haven't wanted to cook since, oh, maybe August? July? So we've been limping along in the nutritional dinner area this whole time. Clearly I'm going to have to bootstrap myself up into Cooking Woman mode.

It did occur to me a few days ago, as the boys were begging for this or that fast food, that... we could make fancy tacos (etc.) at home really easily. And we could have breaded fish and fries and coleslaw at home, too, for a lot less money than a fast food meal. Finally, Son2 was talking about how much he used to love that red soup we used to eat... Oh, you mean tomato soup? with grilled cheese sandwiches? Right there we have three EASY meals I can actually make without having to be creative if I don't want to (I think the creativity thing is my problem right now; my creative energy is really tapped out. Note to self: explore that thought later.)

Yesterday I actually wrote out a menu list -- meals to have before Christmas. Here it is.

- Beef stew and homemade bread (we have all of the fixings, and making homemade bread means we stay home all morning or all afternoon, which is a good thing right now)
- Ground beef and lentil soup (have all fixings except beef stock, but I have turkey stock -- and beef bones so I COULD make beef stock some evening)
- Tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches (we got the ingredients last night, woohoo!)
- Spaghetti squash and regular spaghetti, red sauce, and bread (homemade or not) (we have everything but the tomato sauce and the regular spaghetti, which is a fallback in case the kids hate the squash version)
- Small steaks, roasted vegetables, homemade rolls (using our freezer stash of meat)
- Chinese-style noodles with vegetables and chicken-or-beef on the side or mixed in (dear husband does these Chinese-style inventions and we forget how much the boys LOVE the flavors! we need noodles, though)
- Waffles-or-pancakes and scrambled eggs (this was last night's dinner, with waffles)

Actual home-cooked meals and real planning, oh my!

UPDATE. Of course the plan has changed already! We had waffles and scrambled eggs the first night. Then last night we were going to have leftover soups from Wednesday night's Advent supper at church -- beef and mushroom soup, tomato vegetable soup, and for the kids canned tomato soup -- but we went out and got our Christmas tree and picked up a couple of pizzas. On our way home we passed our bicycle-commuter neighbor and invited him to dinner, so he kept dear husband company while DH prepped the tree for an overnight in a bucket of water, and then joined us for the most casual of dinners and a viewing of "A Charlie Brown Christmas." I think tonight will be soup night, but we'll need to get more bread for grilled cheese sandwiches since the current loaf has disappeared into hungry boys and man as cinnamon-sugar toast over the last few days.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Lists and lists

There are lists and then there are lists.

I'm actively working on/attending to a list of Christmas gift ideas for our kids' grandparents and cousins. A list of ideas for gifts from us to our kids. A list of Important Things To Do this week, and on the weekend, and before Christmas. A list of requested meals (who knew Son2 would remember he likes tomato soup?). A list of household to-dos. A list of church-related to-dos. A list of chores for the kids to do. Trying to cross things off and keeping things moving along around here.

And then there are the other lists.

The list of movies we have seen lately thanks to a free trial subscription to Blockbuster Online:
- The Polar Express (saw that in the theater last year, wow)
- The Incredibles (never saw it in the theater despite good intentions)
- I, Robot (just dear husband and me)
and those we'll watch this weekend:
- Whale Rider (dh and me)
- Million Dollar Baby (dh and me)
- The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl (kids and/or all of us)

The movies we are recording with our DVR to watch soon:
- A Christmas Story (huge favorite of dear husband's)
- It's a Wonderful Life (for perspective and sentimentality)
- The Santa Clause (huge family favorite, but our VCR broke so we haven't seen it in a while)

The Christmas-holiday-winter specials for the DVR to record:
- A Charlie Brown Christmas (of course!!)
- Dr. Suess's The Grinch Who Stole Christmas (the animated version, a HUGE favorite for dh and me; we dislike the Jim Carrey version rather a lot)
- Santa Claus Is Coming to Town (what parent can resist "Put One Foot in Front of the Other...")
- Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and the Island of Misfit Toys
- Frosty the Snowman, and Frosty Returns (not favorites, but they're fine)
- A St. Olaf Christmas (always wanted to see this but always missed it)
- Some other Christmas music specials, I forget what
- Christmas from St. Peter's, the televised Christmas Eve/Day midnight mass with Pope Benedict XIV

It's time to scan next week's schedule for versions of the Christmas Carol; I want to see the 1930s one, the 1940s one, and the Patrick Stewart one. This year I really want to read the story (for the first time), and I DO have a copy now.

Another list is obvious from earlier posts: the list of knitting projects on the needles. I added another -- a dishcloth using the dishcloth cotton my mother-in-law sent me and one pair of the many family knitting needles she sent me as well (wonderful gift!), and using a "DW" pattern. Super easy and quick, and I need more hand-size dishcloths, so it's perfect.

Then there's the list of books borrowed from the library, mostly (about 10?) fun little mysteries that I plan to enjoy during Christmas vacation, next Thursday through the Monday after New Year's Day. I have a bunch from a needlework-shop-owner detective series, a series of coffeehouse-related mysteries, and a scrapbook-related mystery. Who knew such things existed? They're fun. I also borrowed the new Anne Rice novel about the young Christ, Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt. I borrowed Guns, Germs, and Steel AGAIN because my nonfiction book group's discussion inspired me to finish it. I also borrowed a Ken Haedrich cookbook about soups, breads, and salads, in hope of being inspired by one of my favorite cookbook authors.

Lists, lists, lists. I'm making those lists and checking them twice. It'll work, so long as I spend as much time the next seven days on the to-do kinds of lists as I do on the for-fun kinds of lists.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Knitting in progress pics

My Harry Potter right sock for Son2, based on the SixSoxKnitalong Go Team! pattern. I'm going to park the stitches before decreasing for the toe, and start the second sock -- because he's a growing boy!
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Same Harry Potter right sock, inner-leg side.
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My simple top-down fair isle hat, the beginning. I'm up to 34 stitches on each of 4 needles.
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Simple top-down fair isle hat, a close-up view. You can see the eight stitches of the Ocker cast-on for a circular center start. If you know what you're looking for you can see where I had to pull out 4-6 rows early on and then couldn't figure out where the decreases were happening so it was impossible to get the stitches back on the needles with the same orientation. Ooops; obviously it doesn't matter much (enough?) to me, since I just forged onward.
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Saturday, December 10, 2005

Weekend plans, knitting news

This weekend is all about the birthday parties. And the knitting. And probably a real effort at pulling together a Christmas card design. In between birthday party forays, of course.

This morning I took both boys to a birthday party at an inflatables place, where they bounced and slid and played live, well-padded Rock'm Sock'm Robots with each other. This evening it'll be a bowling birthday party for Son1, and us if we'd like to bowl too. Tomorrow afternoon we're off with both boys to another friend's at-home birthday party.

In the meantime, I made a plan for knitting myself a hat! I need an easy knitting project, since all of the coffee to-go cup sleeves are done and I'm back to colorwork sock knitting -- which requires some focus. I decided to park the toe of Son1's first Harry Potter sock and cast on for the second sock. He's a growing boy, so I finally decided to wait on the toe of sock No. 1 until I was at the toe of sock No. 2. Anyway, I've started a hat for me for a second project.

I did some online research yesterday, printed out a bunch of things, and decided to use most of the colors of my Brown Sheep Company's Top of the Lamb sportweight wool stash. I want to make a flat-top fair isle hat like this with similar fair isle/colorwork action and purl stripes, and I want to knit it top down, following Susan's Live Dangerously, Don't Swatch Hat pattern. That meant I needed to look up and learn Emily Ocker's cast-on for the center of a circular piece, which worked great last night. I'm also using some top-down-hat tips from Lucia.

I'm using deep navy blue as the background color, and I pulled out the light blue, yellow, deep red, and white as possibilities for the purl stripes and some colorwork on the side of the hat. I plan to vary the background color as in the fair isle hat in the first link above. I'm a little concerned about the light weight of the sportweight wool yarn, but the stranded colorwork should make those parts of the hat warmer. I'll keep that in mind as I invent the hat! Basically I'm going to invent things as I go along. Oh my. I'm excited!

Next, a Christmas card design. Probably work on that tonight and tomorrow early afternoon. Hmm.

By the way, the arctic air is gone and the snow is nearly gone even in the north-facing gutters and roof nooks; it's 55F today and sunny!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Knitting: Coffee to-go cup sleeves

I used Brown Sheep Company's Top of the Lamp sportweight wool for most of these coffee to-go cup sleeves that I made over the last few weeks. They're being sold at my church's holiday bazaar today. They were quick and easy, for the most part.

Sportweight was a good choice; it made this a fast project, a couple of hours per cup sleeve, usually. I wanted a dark color on at least one edge to mask coffee drips. When I got frustrated that my normal bindoff was too tight I found and learned a new binding off stitch, and that was cool. You can see that at the bottom edge of the two multi-colored cup sleeves (in the second photo, on the right).

I got fancy with the multi-colored cup sleeves. I wove in the bottom ends then brought them up and out the top, braided them with the others, made a knot, and trimmed a casual tassel -- just for something different. I think I'm gonna knit me up one of those!

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Red and white

The colors of the very popular local state university.
Offset ribbing (intentionally switched from k2p2 to p2k2 halfway through the middle stripe), slip stitch rows, checkerboard stitch I think (k2p2 for 2 rows, then p2k2 for 2 rows, etc.), and a simple stripe.

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Blue and yellow

Offset ribbing, multiple stripes.


One strand Opal pastel variegated sock weight yarn and one strand Top of the Lamb (T-o-t-L). It didn't occur to me to change needle size! Both start with 2-3 rows of deep blue T-o-t-L with the Opal. On the left the base T-o-t-L is yellow, and on the right it's white. The lefthand one is checkerboard stitch for the top half, merged into ribbing for the bottom half by way of a bunch of random decreases -- don't look too close! The righthand one is seed stitch for the top half and ribbing for the bottom half -- with fewer stitches cast on and thus no need for weird decreases.

Son2 LOVES the yellow-and-Opal version. He declares it BEAUTIFUL. I like the white-and-Opal version a lot, myself. Before I knit myself one of those, though, I'm working on a deep red cup sleeve with a wild red-orange-yellow Squiggle upper part!

Very cool: Son1 is deep into reading the knitting books I got for him at the library. Kids Knit, Kids Knitting!, Sunny's Mittens, and another beginner kids' knitting book. I think the best are Melanie Falick's Kids Knitting! and Sunny's Mittens. He now wants to make mittens, which means learning to wrangle double-pointed needles AND getting some appropriate wool yarn. In true knitter fashion, he wants to start right now with any yarn I have! I've created another knitter!!

UPDATE: Son1 changed his mind; now he's started knitting squares to make into bean bags, following Melanie Falick's recipe in Kids Knitting! -- what a good idea. He shopped my stash of old solid-colors acrylic yarn that I bought from a friend in my first months of stash building, for purposes such as this. I'm dropping hints on ways he could hold the yarn, or bring the new loop through, etc., to help with some of his frustrations. Right now he knits very evenly though a bit tightly.

Snow pellets, graupel, simple snow crystals...

It's snowing! For the last 10 minutes around our humble abode the snow has been falling. Thanks to the cold days we've had, the street and driveway are NOT melting anything at all. The streets and driveways have a thin, white covering, and the white stuff is blowing from the edges of roofs.

This stuff makes a noise when it hits the windows, so I don't think it's snowflakes. It looks more like pellets. It's handy to have a shelf full of weather / meteorology books that dear husband and I have collected since college days. So, I thumbled through my old Observer's Handbook, c1982, Her Majesty's Stationery Office (college textbook!) and read the description of snow pellets (no mention of graupel). Okay, time for the Peterson's Guide to the Atmosphere. Hmm, no obvious answer here either. Finally I pulled out LaChapelle's Field Guide to Snow Crystals and learned that it could also be simple snow crystals, since it's too cold for the clumpy big fat wet snowflakes of near-freezing temps. I went upstairs for another reason, and realized I could see the snowy stuff up close out my loft office window, which looks right out on various sections of our roof. Definitely pellet-like. Okay, good enough!

That won't matter to anyone unless they're looking forward to starry snowflakes on their coat sleeves and car windows. Fun, though. I love snow, and the scientific arcana about it and about cold places. I really missed the white stuff when we lived in north Florida. If we lived in a more mountainous and cold-winter place I'm pretty sure I'd be a student of winter mountaineering and glaciers, since I never ended up going to Antarctica as a research oceanographer (saline currents off ice shelves, oooh cool).

This stuff is funny right now, because it's too cold for it to stick together or stick to anything else. Between wind gusts it's simply rolling down and falling off those roof sections outside my window.

Winter is a-blowing in

Here in Oklahoma, we're getting our first taste of winter weather. A cold front came through, followed by arctic cold air. This morning's low was something like 17F; it may creep to a high of around 20F, and then fall to an overnight low of around 9F. It's also rather windy, 20 mph mostly. That means a windchill today around 3F, and tonight dropping to as low as -6F. This is old hat for folks in the northern plains, but not so much for us in the southern plains. Brrr.

The boys are excited that we're supposed to have an inch or so of snow this afternoon, but they don't understand that (1) at these temps, the snow will be so dry that it won't make snowballs, (2) it's so windy that the snow will just blow around, and (3) it's so cold and windy that I won't let them outside to play anyway. Sigh.

Here's what I wrote in an email conversation with some friends today.
We love snow, all except my Ohioan husband, but the thing about today and tomorrow is that it'll be dangerously cold, especially with the wind chill. I forced Son1 to wear a hat to school (he's been objecting lately) and I told him that if for some insane reason they have an outdoor recess today or tomorrow, he's to tell them his parents said he has to stay indoors. There is no playing outdoors for my kids when it's this cold and windy.

For winter weather outdoor play days, here's what I wish I had: silk long underwear. Seriously good layering and outerwear make a big difference in comfort level, but other than my token "play in the snow" effort, I just send my boys into the backyard and prep the hot cocoa for when they come back in. Also a set of dry everything so they can head back out later even if their first gear is wet, LOL.

As far as winter weather in general goes, I had the car serviced, I pulled out the winter hats and mittens, I'm working on a winter weather kit for the car, the house is pretty buttoned down, and I plan to make beef stew and bread for dinner, YUM!

Oh, this is funny. Son1 just complained, "It's still not snowing. How can it be cold outside when it's not even snowing???" LOL.
Keep warm, everyone.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Christmas is coming. Quiz time!

Whaddaya know. Hmmm.

What Christmas Figure Are You?

Christmas Elf
Haha, Santa's helper! You are the joyful, helpful elf. You are the type who looks for reasons why certain actions could have been taken, or why some things occurred. You mainly do that when the situation affects you. Mostly, you are someone who likes to help others, and you probably attend some community service events. You like to make sure that things are right. You hope for the best for others. Merry Christmas =)

What Christmas Figure Are You?
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Thursday, December 01, 2005


I'm feeling pretty good about the whole homemaking thing right now. People and house are being taken care of, holiday activities are off to a good start, and I'm even in the mood, after a too-long hiatus, to bake bread and treats and make dinners. Did I mention that the laundry is on a pretty good roll?

Seems a bit vague and everyday, I know. Here's the deal.


After our two feasts on the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, I thought I wouldn't get the Christmas decorations out until later this week. That worries me because I can end up putting off important Advent and Christmas things and we end up not enjoying the season and our family traditions to the fullest.

On Sunday evening, though, I decided to pull out The Boxes in order to switch the kitchen towels to the holiday/winter ones. While they were open, I got out the snowflake placemats made by Aunt R. and the big snowflake napkins bought on clearance one year. While I was digging around in the boxes, why not get out all sorts of kid-made stuff to put on the mantel?

Next thing I knew, Christmas music was playing, thanks to dear husband and his iTunes Christmas playlist on his laptop! So sweet -- he knows I absolutely love all kinds of Christmas music. Son1 got into the swing of things and eagerly helped move things, put away autumn things, and decorate the mantel. Yay!

First seasonal music played in Advent: whatever dear husband played Sunday evening. On Monday I listened to DirecTV's XM satellite radio's wacky Christmas music channel. Or maybe it was their Nashville Christmas channel? Probably both. On Tuesday Son2 and I finally brought out my box of Advent and Christmas CDs and tapes, and I played some instrumental Celtic Christmas music, followed by Leon Redbone's Christmas Island and two Amy Grant Christmas CDs. I snagged my absolute favorite for-the-car Advent/Christmas music: Kathy Mattea's Good News. Today at home I'll put on my ultimate favorite Advent/Christmas music: medieval! and a little bit of Renaissance; gotta have those celestial choirs.

Most of our Christmas decorating this year will probably be serious decluttering so we can enjoy our living areas. Plus the Advent wreath, electric candles in the windows, the decorated mantel, all of the Advent and Christmas books piled on the hearth, and, later, the Christmas tree. An example of the decluttering I mean: last night we put away everything that was on the card table and got out some jigsaw puzzles. Son1 put together half of dear husband's 3-d British telephone booth before bed, and when he finishes he plans to start dear husband's 500-piece flat puzzle of a violin, yikes. THIS is why I've wanted a card table!


On the house front: the handymen we hired to do outside repairs on our house have finished half the tasks over the last two days, which is a huge relief. The siding on the upper half of the chimney that was water damaged has been replaced and they'll also correct the problem, the problems with the vent openings at the peak of the roof are being corrected, and they'll be back to do the rest. Big relief to get that taken care of, with the money in the bank for it.

It's time to get quotes on replacing the back fence. And attend to some other household maintenance things, indoors and out. It'll be very good to get more things taken care of rather than worry about them.


As the weather turned cool and cold, we realized Son1 had some serious gaps in his cool/cold-weather wardrobe. I'm thankful to be connected to enough friends with boys of varying ages so we receive plenty of hand-me-downs for most of the boys' clothing needs. But this year I've noticed a big need for long-sleeved tops for Son1, and Son2 could use a few more as well.

Yesterday Son1 and I went to a big-box store and got a plain long-sleeved T-shirt, a waffle-weave long-sleeved top, a turtleneck, and a fleece pullover for him; a waffle-weave long-sleeved top and a fleece pullover for Son2 who already has turtlenecks and long-sleeved T-shirts; coordinating nice long-sleeved T-shirts for the two of them for church and other dress-up occasions; and khakis for Son1 for church (he revealed that he prefers them to jeans for church, surprising me!). They're all in great fall colors for my guys (deep red, khaki green, deep olive green, navy blue) at nice low prices. And I've introduced to them the idea of layering, an excellent idea in a high-heating-cost winter, a/k/a The House Will Be Cool.

The things that aren't hidden with hand-me-downs are (a) shrinkage and (b) durability. When something has already been worn a bunch, you already know the size it's going to be AND how it's going to last and look after some wear. I washed all of the new things last night and... Son1's plain long-sleeved T-shirt shrunk some and might be too small, but the rest came through the laundry just fine. Whew!

I would prefer to buy at a second-hand store (Son1's jeans came that way), but this worked for this season. This afternoon we keep looking for cold-weather shoes for Son1 to replace his basically shredded athletic shoes.
When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
for all of them are clothed...

Psalm 31
I've heard there's a possibility of snow after this upcoming weekend. Heh.

UPDATE: Son1 now has light-hiking-boot-type winter shoes, and Son2 has LLBean-style slip-on winter shoes. If this winter brings snow, ice, sleet, graupel, or even the lowly cold rain, they now have better footgear for it than this morning, and that makes me happy.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Knitting meme -- my turn

Emily tagged me, and now we're off!

What is your all-time favorite yarn to knit with?

As a new knitter too, though far newer than Emily, I only know that I especially like the combination of sock knitting and Lang Jawoll sock yarn.

The worst thing you've ever knit?

My eyelash yarn and thick acrylic yarn scarf that got me started on knitting in February 2005. Worst thing because it has lots of holes, mostly hidden, and a few unruly loops of yarn, and it's in acrylic which I usually dislike. And yet... I love it! I love the hot oranges and reds in a winter scarf, I love that I made it myself, and I love that it drew me into knitting.

Most valuable knitting technique?

Knitting in the round with double-pointed needles. It means I can make socks!

Your most favorite knit pattern?

The one I'm currently working on. Okay, er, um, let's pick one. Right now I'm enjoying the Go Team! pattern from the SixSoxKnitalong, which I adapted to make Harry Potter socks, in Gryffindor colors of scarlet & gold. The lettering spells out "Harry" around one sock leg, with "Potter" coming on sock No. 2.

Favorite knitwear designer?

I haven't yet fallen in love with any particular designers. My eye was caught early on by designs in a Jo Sharp library book and a Debbie Bliss book, but I haven't knit any of their stuff so I know not whether I'd truly enjoy their designs.

Best knit book or magazine?

I enjoy Interweave Knits magazine, and I love I learned a lot even as a beginner from a library copy of Meg Swansen's Knitting. The many detailed tips were great, and I really want to make a Russian Prime sweater someday.

Favorite book?

To echo Emily, I learned a LOT as a rank beginner from Melanie Falick's Kids Knitting and Debbie Stoller's Stitch and B*tch. As in, how to recognize a knit stitch and a purl stitch, LOL. I really needed the very basics, and they inspired me with accessible possibilities while helping me learn, learn, learn. Next favorite: Knitting on the Road -- for my second sock project, help with learning to knit socks, and lots of accessible inspiration!

Your favorite knit blogs?

Mason-Dixon Knitting, Sweet Georgia, Claudia's Blog, I'm Knitting as Fast as I Can, Zeneedle, Knit One Purl Too, fluffa, .... Like Emily, I have a long secret Bloglines list that I shall not reveal. But this question had me browsing through it and getting all knitting-inspired again, yay.

The knit item you wear the most?

The first pair of socks I knit myself. They're short and fun. I used a wildly variegated pastels acrylic sportweight yarn, and of course I Made Them Myself! I love wearing them with my Birks, even if my tension was tighter on the second sock and it's a bit too snugly short compared to the first, LOL.

I'm not sure who to tag who hasn't already done this meme. Hmm. How about Trina and, er um, Sarah if she stops by here.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Happy Advent to all!

Advent. A time of preparation, anticipation, and maybe a time to get our Christmas cards mailed! I brought home from church today an Advent wreath base, candles, and a booklet of weekly prayers and readings. We need to add greenery to the wreath base and place the candles, and then we'll be ready for our much-enjoyed nightly Advent wreath lighting with the kids.

I love to bake and cook for Thanksgiving feasting, and it's a great way to begin the holidays. Right now the turkey stock from yesterday's turkey carcass and drippings is simmering on the stove and smelling delicious. It'll go into the freezer for cooking Christmas dinner. Tomorrow morning I may make cranberry-orange bread (recipe from my Fannie Farmer Cookbook) or pumpkin bread (F.F. cookbook or a recent Cooking Light magazine), and my favorite topping for toasted pumpkin bread: easy baked cranberry preserves (Fancy Pantry, by Helen Witty). The family prefers cream cheese, so we have that, too. No special reason -- only that these treats mean harvest and holidays and keeping warm against the cold outside.

Gotta keep things moving along. Holiday prep, always-needed household management, repairs (!), get out the Advent and Christmas music, put up the pre-Christmas decorations (no Christmas tree until later...), do some related projects and reading with the boys, start Christmas gift prep and shopping, ... Yet: pick and choose what we love and what is most important to us about this season, both climatological (fall becoming winter) and liturgical (Advent to Christmas to Epiphany).

What happened to the last two weeks?

They flew by, that's what. First, the crunch days of our church's final preparation for hosting the diocesan convention. Somewhere in there we bought a dishwasher because the original-to-the-house, 14-year-old dishwasher died suddenly and the simple fixes didn't fix it. Time to buy a new one. Then, the work of doing the hosting (went great! was fun! glad it's done!). Funny enough, our hand-me-down TV died suddenly while I was working at convention, so we did some quick research (thank you, and bought a new TV.

A deep breath, and then whaddaya know, it's time for Thanksgiving. We went to some friends' for the day itself, relaxed on Friday, and hosted our own feast with more friends on Saturday. Today is a regrouping day, and yet...

We're experiencing high winds that have so far knocked over/down two full panels and a post of our worn-out back fence. The back yard adjoins the neighborhood park and looks out over a gentle downslope, so we see all the way to a far horizon past the far rooftops. South and southwest winds always hit the backyard fence and the back face of the house pretty hard. After deciding it was too dangerously windy to try to detach the half-blown-down second panel -- we'll do what we can after the winds die down -- dear husband and I stood in the back yard and watched the second-story roof shingles quiver and shake in the wind. Oh boy. Again, we'll check it out when the wind has finished its work. I just checked, and the latest National Weather Service report is wind speed sustained at 40 mph, with gusts to 52 mph. I believe it.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

How to keep this boy in books?!?

Son1 finished Peter and the Starcatchers last night. All 425? pages. In 48 hours. Yikes! How am I going to keep this boy in books?!? He LOVED the book; I definitely need to read it. Until this week I had no idea it was the story of Peter Pan before he became Peter Pan, or that one of the co-authors is THE Dave Barry, humor columnist for the Miami Herald.

I bought the highly recommended books Inkheart, Eragon, and Peter and the Starcatchers through his class's Scholastic Book Club order, and they arrived Wednesday. He'd already read Inkheart, but I wanted it for our shelves. He started Eragon, but then picked up Peter... and apparently couldn't put it down! Yesterday he also borrowed the new Inkheart sequel, Inkspell, from a friend, and he is also reading A Wrinkle in Time for his class literature circle at school. Wow. When it rains, it pours I guess. Two weeks ago he was reading and rereading some gaming magazines and reading the Circle of Magic series (that I'm also reading).

Of course next week we'll be all about Harry Potter again, with the opening of the new movie. I predict with some confidence that the day he sees the movie he'll drop all of the books he's reading so he can reread the HP series for a couple of weeks.

I'm barely bothering to read my own fiction right now -- I have Inkheart, Eragon, and Peter and the Starcatchers to read, as well as the 2d, 3rd, and 4th Circle of Magic books, LOL! And I bet I'll reread the 4th, 5th and 6th Harry Potters along with Son1...

She knits! For coffee to-go cups & water bottles

I've been carrying around in my purse the cast-on stitches for a pretty pink child's sock, but it's on a circular needle so I can learn to knit a sock on a circular needle ("magic loop" method). Big problem with this: I'm really busy and haven't been inclined to sit down in a quiet moment and figure out how to do this.

So. I stopped at my wonderful local yarn shop and bought some sport-weight wool yarn in fun colors, went home and got a good size of double-pointed needles from my wonderful passed-along and inherited stash, and cast on some clear red wool for a to-go coffee cup sleeve.

I've had plans for a while to make a bunch of these to donate for our parish's annual holiday bazaar, and I know each one will take me maybe two hours -- they're ribbed sock cuffs, basically -- and I also know that this is easy and fun to do... so now I have a proper purse project. I have three weeks until the bazaar, and I think I can make a bunch. For the bazaar I plan to display one on a (new) to-go coffee cup, and another on a water bottle!

I cast on Thursday evening while watching TV (and ripped it out and went down a few needle sizes and cast on again). I knit a round or two while chatting with friends during our MOMS Club visit to the local natural history museum yesterday. I knit a wide stripe of contrasting yarn and switched back to the main color while watching TV last night. This morning I'm within a couple of rows of binding off. Yay!

This coffee cup sleeve and a couple more will be in the local university's colors. I also have a thicker, variegated, dark red wool yarn, and more sport-weight plain black, pink, yellow, medium blue, and another color I forget. It really helped that they were all on clearance!! The coffee cup sleeves will have ribbing in the top and bottom thirds, and I'll play around in the middle third -- slip-stitch patterns, and various stitches and second colors. I also bought some Squiggle in a mix of hot colors (oranges, yellows, reds) and another very fun yarn in pinks, to knit into the first few rows of a couple of coffee cup sleeves for just crazy fun.

It all makes me smile. Just the thing to have in my purse or tote for the crazy, crazy week that begins today.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

A deep quiet, rustling by

Lately I feel both introspective and very busy. There are tiny snatches of deep quiet that whisper to me in an instant and then are gone. I never seem ready to follow them to the great silence and peace, the fragrant clearing in the deep forest, but the whisper is nearly enough. At bedtime I put my face to my open bedroom window, breathe in the cool night air, listen as the leaves rustle in the wind, the insects gently buzz and sigh, an occasional car glides by or a train whistle sounds in the distance. The whole world seems to breathe deeply, gently, slowly as the night settles in. I wish that I could draw it to myself, fold it up and tuck it into my pillow to breathe its stillness to my soul as I sleep until morning. Instead, I breathe in the night and during the day try to notice the sun-glints of deep quiet that sparkle for just a moment, here and there, among the busy things I do all day.

As a way to follow that sparkle, that whisper, I rediscovered the following quote in an email folder for things to think about. It was sent to an email list months ago with the note that it's a translation of the text on a German Web page.
The books of today are made of paper. The books of yesterday were made of skin. The Bible is the only book made of air -- a flood of ink and wind. A senseless book, mixed up in its meaning, likewise lost in its pages like the wind on the parking lots of supermarkets, in women's hair, in children's eyes. A book that is impossible to hold in two stable hands to read thoughtfully -- it will keep spilling away, will let the sand of its sentences sift through the fingers.
By Christian Bobin, "The Child, the Angel and the Dog."

Friday, November 04, 2005

It's a plan! Thanksgiving feasting

We live far enough from family that we decided long ago to stay home for holidays and have our own celebrations at home. For several years we've invited friends over for our Thanksgiving feast. Last year and this year we're going to celebrate Thanksgiving Day with several families; this probably means next year will be our year to host! Crazy woman that I am, I can't let the holiday pass without our own feast and LEFTOVERS, so we've also had our own Thanksgiving dinner on the Saturday of the holiday weekend.

Over the years I've worked out a plan so I can make from scratch just about every part of our feast, and make or prep some foods ahead. It's a feast, but I've learned that it can be an easy feast. Roast turkey is easy, the pies I make are easy, the vegetable side dishes are easy and most can be made in advance, ...

One of the benefits of early prep is that the house smells yummy several days before the actual feast day, getting us all ready for it (though it's a miracle if the spiced and sugared nuts last until Thanksgiving Day!). Another benefit is that the more I stick to this plan, the easier and more enjoyable the feast day itself is for me.

Often I try a different recipe for a side dish. This year I might make seasoned roasted sweet potato wedges; some savory for the grownups and some sweet for the kids. Now that the kids are older and typically eat most of what we serve for dinner, we've noticed that they don't enjoy our traditional feast dinner -- but dear husband and I don't want to change it very much! So I try to include textures and tastes that they're more likely to prefer. I avoid too many mashed and pureed vegetables; we always have sweet potatoes and jellied cranberry sauce; and we have some version of green bean casserole. If nothing else, they'll eat those and the rolls. If they have any sort of protein, I figure they're fine!

Here's my plan as it would be this year IF we were eating at home on Thanksgiving Day; I'll actually shift some things for our Saturday feast later a day or two, and add whatever we're bringing to the families gathering. I have this on the computer and print it out the week before Thanksgiving to use and scribble notes on.

Thanksgiving & Christmas Planning 2005

The Menu

Dinner: Roast turkey, gravy, country-style bread dressing, mashed potatoes, roasted sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, olives, pickles, dinner rolls, red wine, sparkling apple cider.

Dessert: Pumpkin pie, pecan pie, whipped cream, decaf French press coffee.

The Shopping List

-- Nonperishable or needed early --
Wine, white and red; beer
Various crackers
Olives, green and black
Pickles, bread and butter type
Chicken broth, fat-free low-sodium
Canned pumpkin
Jellied cranberry sauce
Evaporated skim milk
Frozen green beans
Yukon Gold potatoes, onions, sweet potatoes, carrots, celery, oranges, cranberries, Romaine lettuce
Dinner rolls
Turkey wings
Provolone, sliced, and/or Swiss
Great coffee

-- Perishable --
Whole turkey or turkey breast
Whipping cream

-- Other --
Knife sharpening
Platter and serving bowl(s) ?

The Schedule

-- Previous week and weekend --
Clear counters; clean out fridge, freezer
Make piecrust x 2 (or 4); freeze
Slow-cook spiced nuts, sugared nuts
Make good breads for sandwiches and toast
Make baked cranberry preserves, cranberry bread, pumpkin bread for breakfasts and snacks
Check table linens

-- Monday --
Buy turkey and whipping cream; refrigerate

-- Tuesday --
Put frozen piecrusts in fridge to thaw
Prep Yukon Gold potatoes into salted water; refrigerate
Roast stock fixings; make stock; refrigerate overnight
Make roux for gravy
Oven-toast cubed bread ends (from freezer) for dressing

-- Wednesday --
(easy dinner from freezer or takeout; DH grill?)
Make two pies; cool; refrigerate
Cook Yukon Gold potatoes; mash with potato water and season; refrigerate in microwave-safe dish
Make dressing and green bean casserole; refrigerate in baking dishes

Thursday - Thanksgiving Day

-- Morning --
Bake pies if not yet done
Kids: set table (tablecloth, napkins, dishes, silverware; trivets, candles?)
Get out serving dishes and utensils (for turkey, gravy, rolls, beans)
DH and kids: make snack mix?

-- Lunchtime --
Kids: set out nibbles (pretzels/crackers/snack mix, carrots and celery with dip, sliced apples, olives, nuts)

-- T - 3 hours --
Prep turkey

-- T - ? hrs --
(time depends on weight of turkey)
Turkey into oven at 325F; baste with chicken broth or turkey stock
Kids: prep cranberry sauce (put in fridge), olives (black and green), pickles
Cut and season sweet potato wedges?
Dressing, green bean casserole OUT of fridge

-- T - 1 hr --
Oven: sweet potatoes into oven to bake (seasoned wedges or whole); add white wine to turkey’s basting liquid
Stovetop: make gravy and keep warm
Prep rolls; add topping to green bean casserole

-- T - 0.5 hr --
Oven: turkey OUT. Rolls, dressing, green bean casserole in
Microwave: heat mashed potatoes
Kids: set out relishes
DH: carve turkey

-- T (6 pm) --
Serve all (check, and turn OFF, oven)
DH: open and pour wine!

-- After dinner --
With kids: whip whipping cream; serve pies
DH: make coffee

-- After kids are in bed --
DH: deconstruct turkey and break down carcass. Me: start stock

-- Friday/Saturday following --
If whole turkey: cook and cool stock, skim fat, freeze. Freeze remaining meat in stock
If any leftover mashed potatoes: make mashed potato cakes, freeze
Make turkey casseroles

Repeat, with simpler dishes, for Christmas dinner!

Christmastime meals

Day before Christmas Eve: Easy dinner or takeout

Christmas Eve: Seafood in light Alfredo sauce over pasta, steamed veggies, good bread; cookies. Make cinnamon rolls to rise in fridge.

Christmas breakfast: Homemade cinnamon rolls with cream cheese; fruit, coffee

Christmas nibbles: Crackers, spiced nuts, DH’s beef rolls, fruit, vegs, cookies (simpler than Thanksgiving)

Christmas dinner: Roast turkey breast, gravy, dressing, baked Russet and sweet potatoes, green beans amandine, cranberry sauce, pumpkin and pecan pies (simpler than Thanksgiving)

Son1’s birthday: Son1’s choice for dinner + ice cream and homemade cake

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Work for the grade or for the understanding?

A friend found this quote online.
One thing about school -- I always had this attitude that I was in school to learn, and attempted to do whatever was involved in that process, while school had this attitude that I was there to earn grades, which I couldn't care less about. Unsurprisingly, my grades weren't very good.
A verrrry interesting point that can be extremely subtle when you're actually really good at doing A+ work and you test well too (i.e., my older son and me, at least in primary/secondary school).

This reminds me a LOT of a little conversation Son1 and I had Monday afternoon over his finished and (graded? corrected? marked up?) schoolwork from the previous week. He was frustrated / irritated at the things he didn't get right, and I began to suspect that his goal was to do perfect work. I told him his job was to do his best. That sometimes he'd get everything "right," but at other times he would be challenged a bit more and the things he got wrong would help him know what he needs to work on.

Hmmm. I'm still thinking about this..

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Playing with paper for my Sunday school kids

Did I mention that I decided to take on a sort-of-big project as my leap into paper crafting?!? A set of cards for the Days of Creation. For 12 kids. That would be... 84 cards! Plus a set for me! So my first goal was a mere eight sets besides mine. Thankfully, all but mine would be the blanks -- ready for the kids to complete in their own way.

In my Godly Play class, we tell the Biblical story of the Creation every fall with a set of Days of Creation placards. I've wanted to set up an art activity for the classroom in which the kids make their own set of cards so they can "take the story home." I finally disovered paper crafting ideas. All of the details are over at my homeschooling blog.

Days of Creation cards, completed by yours truly.
Posted by Picasa

I brought the blanks -- the basic cards for each day -- and the finishing supplies to the classroom. They'll be available as one of many art activity possibilities for several months, or perhaps for the rest of the year. My four- and five-year-old Sunday school kids can work to complete their set of cards over however many Sundays they want or need.

Days of Creation card blanks, on a playing card base, ready for the kids to complete. Notice the little envelope they all fit into.
Posted by Picasa

I brought short strips of paper to glue on as the firmament (Day 2), stencils to make flowers and green growing things (Day 3) and the sun and moon (Day 4), tiny insect stamps and fish stickers (Day 5), animal stickers and small pieces of paper for drawing people (Day 6), and golden hearts and gold glitter glue to decorate the day of rest (Day 7).

My only concern is that kids who come irregularly may start it and not finish, but if so I think I would get it to them somehow with a note for their parents on what it's about.

This art activity requires more adult involvement than I prefer for a Godly Play art activity, but it would be less so if I had avoided stamps (or prestamped the blanks) and had already introduced using stencils, and glue paints. About half of the kids are interested each week, and they get 1/3 to 1/2 done in one class session. They leave their card project on a tray, and I resist any temptation to encourage anyone to finish their cards, work on them every week, etc. It will appeal to whomever; not for me to dictate.

I'm really happy with this project so far. Now, I still have four more sets of blanks to make. Yay for the Xyron machine and the adhesive cartridge -- nice craft glue sticks are NOT a very good substitute for the Xyron adhesive, so I'm back to using the Xyron. I hear this kind of use is where the Xyron shines, and I believe it.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

My career in 5 minutes for schoolkids

Today I spoke to Son1's morning school assembly for about five minutes. They've invited two or three parents to come each morning this week and talk about their careers, what it is, what kind of training they needed, what's hard about it, what they like, etc.

I heard that Monday was a civil rights lawyer and a physical-therapist-and-foster-mom, and that Tuesday was a professor of anthropology and a university librarian. Yesterday there were three: a physician who works in hospitals and a clinic, a hair salon owner, and a firefighter -- all suited up, of course. I was contacted to talk about being a Web designer.

Okay, this had easy parts and hard parts, as least when I thought about it beforehand.

Easy: Talking to pre-K through fifth graders. Asking them if they've ever visited a Web site to play games or get information (many hands shot up), or if their parents have ever used a Web site. Talking about being a Web designer, having a home business, being self-employed. Telling them that I really enjoy Web design because I like both technical things (math and science) and artistic or visual things.

Hard: Mentioning in a positive way that my path was not straightforward; I thought I wanted to be a scientist but, in the middle of that training, decided I didn't want it any longer, and made some decisions that brought me to the idea of Web design. That I do Web design only part-time, at night and during breaks in the day. That my main job is being an at-home mom and taking care of the household (household engineer, LOL). That I chose a home business in Web design because it fits with the kind of life I want.

But it went well. I really liked that they introduced me by giving my name, that I was most importantly mom to Son1 (pointed out with his class) and Son2 (in the back with dear husband), and that I was also self-employed as a Web designer. Along with the basic What I Do info, I think I managed to mention things that are really important to me -- that there are many choices, you don't necessarily end up work full time or for other people, that where you end up might surprise you, that being a mom is very important to me.

Whew! I didn't say everything I thought of (be a lifelong learner, try all kinds of things, follow your passions -- they may even multiply, you can choose to live within your means, you might choose to be "underemployed" to follow your passion or be more content), but I did hit the main points in my five minutes in the spotlight. 'Cause who knows, one of those kids might actually have noticed something I said and it might make a difference to him or her someday.

Something I thought about afterward: I have no idea if I'll be doing Web design in the same way (with clients, with individual Web sites, etc.) five or ten years from now. What I'm doing now may be just the current form of a changeable, changing aspect of my life and work. And I don't mind that at all.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Harvest baking, cold season plans

For too long (weeks) I've been mostly avoiding the kitchen, not interested in cooking or baking. We're about out of fresh produce, milk, and other such important things, as well as some essential staples, and for some reason I am rousing from my kitchen slumber at last.

Today I did a careful inventory of exactly what we have in the fridge, its freezer, and pantry, and began to look through my many recipes to start spinning some ideas. I have a recipe database on my PDA with the title and ingredients of recipes that catch my eye, whether printed from the Web or in a magazine (either Cooking Light, which I keep, or torn from other magazines). I love HandyShopper -- free and wonderful; I have so many databases on it! This afternoon I added info on the November 2005 Cooking Light recipes that interest me.

Tomorrow morning I'm hosting and teaching (with Emily of Hazelnut Reflections!) a learn-to-knit gathering for total beginners in my MOMS Club chapter. I'd like to have some nice food to offer. That means, given the state of our pantry and fridge, that I have to make it. Well! I still have flour, sugar, oil, dry milk powder, pumpkin, eggs, spices, and apples -- and cranberries and pecans in the freezer, so this I could do. Extra bonus: delicious food for breakfast for my guys!

After dinner I created my plan of attack and got going. Now, at bedtime, six loaves of CL's Spiced Pumpkin Bread are cooling on my counter. A 9x13-inch pan of my own Busy Mom's Coffeecake is completely cooled. The mix of chopped apples, cranberries, and pecans for CL's Baked Apples are in the fridge waiting for sugar, water, and cinnamon and some time in the microwave tomorrow morning.

Four of the pumpkin bread loaves are for my frozen food exchange group, another MOMS Club chapter activity. My tentative plan for tomorrow's knitting gathering is to cut the coffeecake, slice up a loaf or two of the pumpkin bread, put the coffee on and the tea fixings out, and get the baked apple mix cooking in the microwave. Then I want to try a piece of toasted pumpkin bread topped with the baked apple mix, as CL suggests, yum. All of the food except the hot beverages should be fairly kid-friendly, too, and I can always pull out the chicken nuggets from the big freezer. Everyone brings their not-in-school kids to these MOMS Club things, of course.

For now, my feet are up, I'm sipping a glass of red wine, and enjoying how good the house smells.

A nice bonus to all of this baking: I didn't turn the heat up all day long, and we didn't need to do so for the evening, either. Brisk autumn weather swept into Oklahoma a few days ago, nights are in the 40s F now, and there was frost on open areas of grasses this morning.

Especially with energy prices heading upward, I plan to gang up (group together) batches of oven baking, roasting, etc., to be more efficient with oven use and timed to helpfully warm the house. I plan to do the same with the clothes washer and dryer, though I really, really want to string a clothesline in our sunroom to use solar energy for most clothes drying AND to humidify the heated air entering the house. It is quite wonderful that on most sunny winter days I can open the door/windows to our sunroom and upstairs little room above it after 11 o'clock in the morning, because they provide heated air to the house.

The sleeping homemaker awakes!

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Grass-fed meats, or how I learned to love my co-op

We joined the Oklahoma Food Co-op a year ago last spring and have enjoyed the access to farm-fresh local and regional vegetables and other things (stone-ground whole wheat flour and cornmeal, handmade soaps for gifts, etc.). It's been kind of like an organic, local-foods store that takes online orders once a month, actually. We like it a lot.

The biggest effect on us, at least I think so, is likely to be what happens as we buy and eat more of the meats from co-op producers. We're gradually moving toward buying only organic, grass-fed beef and buffalo through the co-op instead of factory-farm, feedlot-fed, drug-laden meats. The cost is higher than supermarket prices but not too bad, especially as we don't eat a lot of meat. The free-range chicken is much more costly, but at some point we may try it, too. I can see that we'll eat more beef and a lot less chicken, which is really funny after years of thinking of beef as bad. I'll get some pork, too, at some point. If we can plan ahead enough, I'd like to buy a side of beef with several other people.

As we sample various grass-fed meats at their higher costs, we are moving firmly to stretching-the-meat cooking and the very occasional savor-the-hunk-o-meat meal! My thoughts as I try to rework the budget: When we have meat in a meal, it's going to be a highlight. And when it doesn't matter what the meat is, maybe it doesn't have to be meat. For instance, tacos or burritos with various beans and rice. Highly seasoned chili with TVP (a soy-based substitute for ground meat). On the other hand, steaks on the grill...

I think it's worth any changes to our eating habits. Among other things, I'm learning that grass-fed beef is not the threat to our health that fatty, 'well'-marbled beef is. It's a lot closer to venison in many ways. I love buying from people I could drive to visit if I really wanted to. The meat is also soooo delicious. Ask my husband about the beef stew I made last winter with the stew meat from a co-op producer (and homemade stock from co-op-bought beef bones). Wowwwww!

If you're interested, here is some fascinating reading: Eat Wild and Power Steer.

The October co-op order closes tonight, and I'm buying:

A "Soup for Supper" special from Cattle Tracks. A 1-pound package of stew meat, a 1-pound package of beef bones, two 1-pound packages of ground beef, and recipes for Cattle Tracks Stew and Cattle Tracks Chili. Yowza!

A 1-pound package of buffalo stew meat from Wichita Buffalo Company. To try.

A 20-pound bag of dry peanuts to clean and store for roasting, eating, cooking with, and making peanut butter.

A couple of bulbs of garlic. I might try planting some as a winter garden experiment for the kids and me.

Three 2-pound pie pumpkins from McLemore Pumpkin Farm.

Five pounds of pears from PD&H Farms.

A 5-pound package of stone-ground whole wheat flour from Springhill Farms for my freezer, 'cause I'm nearly out. If I could reasonably store the 25-pound bag, I'd buy it, but no.

I'll pick up my order at our pickup site in my town next Thursday evening. Maybe we'll have stew for supper that weekend! And make some truly from-scratch pumpkin pie.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Hurricane. Flood. Earthquake.

A tsunami. Hurricane after hurricane. Floods. Landslides. Fire season. Earthquakes where the aftershocks are pretty huge as well.

Dear husband murmurs jokingly, "It's the end of the world!"

It's an awful lot of natural disasters affecting a lot of people and places, some pretty close to home and others simply devastatingly huge. I'm thinking more and more that the morning alarm bell is ringing to wake at least some of us up. Wake up and smell the coffee. Wake up and see the needs. Wake up and respond, help, take action for other human beings. Wake up and breathe deeply the freshening breeze of my life connected with others, near and far.
...No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were. Any man's death dimishes me because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee....

From Meditation 1, by John Donne
Please pray for, and help, the people affected by this weekend's earthquake in India, Pakistan, and Kashmir. I am impressed more and more by the work of Episcopal Relief and Development, both in immediate post-disaster relief and in long-term work all over the USA and the world.

Episcopal Relief and Development

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Costume plans underway

Mere moments ago we seem to have reached agreement on what the kids want to "be" for Halloween, and we still have three weeks to accomplish it. Yay! I really didn't want to buy costumes, nor do I want to spend a huge amount of time, nor do I know how to use a sewing machine or hot glue gun. I'm happy with their choices and so are they, hurrah! Now, I really hope there will be no waffling or changing of minds...

Son2 (5 1/2): "a scary ghost." In this case, it means he wants to wear our fluorescent-green spiderweb cape with the hood falling over his face. I suggested painting his face white (I'm thinking maybe some dark shadows under/around his eyes...) and wearing white, and he thought that'd be cool. He has his sound effect figured out already: "oo-oo-oo-Oo-oo-oo..."

Son1 (9 1/2): a Ninja. So I'll get some black sweatpants for him and we'll use his navy blue turtleneck and black hooded sweatshirt. I'll find some black cloth a la cowboy's kerchief to put across his nose and mouth and tie behind his head. He'll probably do the design work and foil covering of a cardboard knife and paper-towel-tubes-and-twine numchucks (sp?). It'll be the cool, silent type of costume, right?

If Son2 and I go to the Mummy and Son party hosted by the city parks and rec department, I'm planning to wear dark clothes and put bright plastic insects and spiders in my hair and on my shoulders. Ewwww!

I guess we've moved from cute into creepy, eh?

Thursday, October 06, 2005

God's, mine, or ours

I was tapped to write a personal reflection for this Sunday's stewardship insert into my parish's service leaflet. On the front side will be the rector's theological reflection on trusteeship, based on Matthew 21:33-43 in which Jesus tells a story about the owner of a vineyard who leased it out to tenants. It was a very long-term lease, at the end of which the tenants refused to give to the owner what the vineyard had produced.

I've had a tough, non-self-reflective week and I wrote and then trashed three or four different bits. I threw my hands up in frustration this afternoon, and then tonight I wrote this.

I learn and relearn over and over how good it is to hold things loosely.

Sometimes I learn it with time. All of my time is a gift from God; grabbing every scrap I can, afraid that it will slip away, is exactly the opposite of what God intends. When I’m able to relax and enjoy my kids, letting go of what I might have planned for that time, I am rewarded tenfold. And so are they.

Sometimes I learn it with money. Whether I have little or much, it’s another gift from God. The money I have is to be put to work and, when God calls, put to the use God intends. At times I’ve been stressed over every grocery trip, but at other times we have guests to dinner and our hearts overflow with enjoyment even over soup and bread.

Sometimes I learn it with family, and friends. On occasion I realize that a life may be nearing an end, or a friendship blooming or coming to a close, and I’m able to face it holding our relationship loosely and following God’s voice. At other times I can hardly help myself as I grip tightly and fight for control. Let me guess which yields greater riches for both of us and is God’s desire.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Halloween time

We enjoy Halloween in our family, in a moderate way. When my kids were really little I finally came to terms with the holiday. I had a lot of anti-Halloween influences from Christians I knew in my later teen years, so that was a factor for a while. So... I did a bunch of research about Halloween.

I worked through the hearsay, lore, and historical research on Halloween's pagan origins (Roman and early Celtic customs), the layers added to it from a mix of early American customs (similar to how the American Christmas developed, but that's another topic!), the cultural changes to Halloween within the last 50 years, and the whole "worship Satan / honor witches, ghosts, goblins, ..." reputation (from some of the Samhain elements, I believe). I also learned a lot about the October 31 - November 2 Hispanic celebration of Los Dios de las Muertes, the Days of the Dead. I wrote a piece about it at the time: Halloween Time: Samhain, All Saints, Los Dios de Las Muertes.

Now I think the essence of Halloween is -- and has always been -- that everyone who wants to can come face-to-face with, or even dress up as, whatever scares them. I still don't like the gory/horror aspects, but I'm okay with skeletons now, and if my kids want to do a horror/creepy thing I think I'd let them. I wrote a very brief piece about this a few years ago: Some Halloween Thoughts.

I really like including some aspects of Los Dios de las Muertes. I have come to appreciate its less fearful, more party-like approach to death, and I think it's a good mix with Halloween (and All Saints Day). So I tend to decorate with happy Jack o'lanterns, spider webs, and such, but I'm on the lookout for skeleton decor to add to the mix!

Big city/small town, history galore AND cappuccino -- yep!

You Belong in Rome

You're a big city girl with a small town heart, which is why you're attracted to the romance of Rome.

Strolling down picture perfect streets, cappuccino in hand.

And gorgeous Italian men - could life get any better?

What City Do You Belong In? Take this quiz :-)

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Go read: 30 Days to Becoming an Opera 8 Lover

Opera has been my primary Web browser for several years now. I was a loyal Netscape user "forever." Now I like Firefox okay, and I will reluctantly fire up Internet Explorer for must-visit sites that break in Opera (their design staff's fault!), but Opera is wonderful. My dear husband prefers some Mac thing on his Apple laptop, but I sing the praises of Opera. Easy, helpful, great useful features... learn about all about it at:

30 Days to Becoming an Opera 8 Lover

The earlier version, 30 Days to Becoming an Opera Lover (version 6, I think?), convinced me to try Opera and I LOVED it. I applied for and received free registration as a member of the Web design community, so that made me even happier, but now Opera 8 is FREE for everyone.

Go check it out, especially if you use Internet Explorer, shudder...

No ads. Better browsing

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Time flies! Fall blows in. Art Fridays...

Too long between blog posts again, sorry! All is well, and tonight a wild wind is blowing in cool autumn air and at least a day of long-sleeves weather. We've been homeschooling for nearly a month (woohoo!) and I've gotten a bit organized and a bit buzzing with ideas, so I spent some time and energy on that stuff. I blogged about it over at A Bit of Bubbly so as not to bore you all!

Life is not as hectic, even though it's nearly as busy as a few weeks ago. I'm not perceiving my days as frantic or chaotic right now, yay. I have a lot to do over the next few days so my weekend is front-loaded with some planning for what I need to do (various activities, review my Godly Play story memorization, prep for a meeting to run, prep for a home party to host, read my book group book before the busy weekend -- yay for what I've heard is a fun and quick read: Goddess for Hire).

On Friday I'm going to introduce my now-homeschooled youngest to Mommy's recipe for a good end to the week and start to the weekend: Art Fridays! I'm getting really interested in paper art/paper crafts, and I want to do some fun art experiences with my sons, so I'm going to combine the two into a basis for Art Fridays. My youngest and I will do stuff on Friday mornings, and I hope to pull things out again most Saturdays so my oldest can join us.

This week we're either going to do some stamping on paper with household objects and foods, the current lesson over at Paperarts' Family Book Arts 101, or I'll learn to use a borrowed crafters' adhesive machine to cover playing cards with paper, like starting to make an ATC -- artists trading card. The ultimate goal with the cards is to make Days of Creation card sets for my Godly Play Sunday school kids to embellish; I have a couple of weeks to get there from here.

A week or two after the stamping, I want to do the next lesson with the kids: making an accordion-fold book using our favorites of the stamped paper. Cool!

I'm laying the paper-art/crafts groundwork for me AND for the kids by watching DVR'd episodes of DIY Network's show Scrapbooking. My youngest is already trying paper layering and putting special pages in a three-ring binder he asked for. Let's see what happens when I get out papers and we try making a little book!

I like being able to tell myself "Friday!" when I want to start digging through all of my stashed Stuff and Do Something Artsy with the kids or by myself. I'm giving myself permission to pursue these interests, whether for an hour or several Fridays/Saturdays/Sundays? with the family. And so much could fit on Art Fridays. Playdough, Fimo, Sculpey. Further knitting lessons with the kids. Making cards to give and send to others. Playing with flour on the counter, which the kids love. Watercolors and oil pastels that we own but have never tried 'cause I didn't have the nerve. Oh boy!

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Chocolate and Sudoku

That's a recipe for a sweet night's sleep. At least tonight. I've been staying up wayyyy too late (no, not eagerly exploring satellite TV and the DVR!), and by today I was Just. So. Tired. I watched the recorded (yay!) national evening news, the DVR is recording ER, dear husband is kicking back for the evening, I have no hugely pressing projects other than to catch up on sleep, I've had a delicious mouthful of semisweet chocolate chips, nothing else is calling my name... so I'm off to bed. I'll use my PDA to play several games of the math crossword-like puzzle Sudoku, check my to-do list and plans for tomorrow, and set a morning alarm. Then it'll be time for sweet dreams. Ahhhhh.

Night night.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

TV freedom, and no, I didn't throw it out

...we got a DVR ("TiVo"), or digital video recorder, when we switched our TV service from cable to satellite yesterday. We've wanted to do this for years, but just couldn't squeeze the budget to do it. The current DirecTV + DVR offer is so good that we'll be out of pocket just $19.99 in up-front costs, and about $11 more per month for the DVR and a regular DirecTV receiver for my husband's little den ("room of his own").

Dear husband and I played around with the satellite TV and DVR last night, and then this morning I spent some time setting it up for one of my major DVR goals: cutting the kids off from junk kid TV. Now it'll record the kid shows *I* choose -- lots from PBS, a few NickJr shows, a very few Playhouse Disney, and a select few just-fun shows -- Kim Possible and Jimmy Neutron. No more temptation by SpongeBob, woohoo!

I added some other kid shows that look interesting -- especially on the Science channel, Discovery Channel, and so on. And NOVA! After that I took some time to set it up to record the shows dear husband and I watch semi-faithfully; most are starting their new seasons this week and I think I've got all of them set up. I may record a bit of morning news and the evening local news; I always miss them and being able to watch them with my finger poised on the fast-forward button would actually be nice.

I really wanted to get a bunch of recordings set up so we could switch ASAP to watching recorded shows we chose rather than whatever's on live TV. Son2 was quite content to choose his show from the 7-8 great choices I had for him by post-lunchtime. Yay!

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Tinkering complete?

After rather a lot of struggle all evening long with Blogger, I finally successfully uploaded a working new version of my blog template. What an effort!

The lovely-to-my-eyes new background images are courtesy of Bloggrounds. Too fun!

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Goodbyes / for those who have died

I find that I resonate with the prayers for the dying and for the dead that are found in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. I'm sure it has something to do with my tender spot about grief and goodbyes. I've noticed that my husband, sons, and I always, always, always pay attention to departures, whether it's lots of crazy waving when we drop Daddy off for work every morning, plenty of hugs and kisses at airports, or the bedtime ritual of "doing night-nights" with each person in a particular way.

I've put a few BCP prayers on my Faith at Home page about children and death, but here's a new one to me. Someone posted this in a blog's comments (the blogger's grandfather had died). I found it quite wonderful.

From the 1789 U.S. Book of Common Prayer:
Most merciful Father, who hast been pleased to take unto thyself the soul of this thy servant; Grant to us who are still in our pilgrimage, and who walk as yet by faith, that having served thee with constancy on earth, we may be joined hereafter with thy blessed saints in glory everlasting; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
You can explore this and many other editions of the BCP on this Book of Common Prayer page.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Gas prices, arrgh

Lowest-price gas (regular unleaded) in our Oklahoma town was $2.29/gallon when I went to Washington state July 25, where the prices crept up from 2.49 to 2.56 while we were there. To my surprise when we arrived home August 16, here in Oklahoma the low price has skipped upward about 20cents, to $2.49. It continued to surge upward, and was about $2.69 the day before Hurricane Katrina made landfall. Then gas prices spiked, reaching 3.09 a few days afterward.

Gas held stead at that price for about two weeks. A few days ago it started falling by 6 to 10 cents a day! But wait, there's more: the price drops in the last 36 hours have been remarkable. Today I personally saw gas at 2.57 a bunch of places, and friends saw it at 2.49. A SIXTY CENT drop in a week?!?!?!? Tell me there wasn't some gouging going on here. Grrr. And my dear husband pointed out how interesting it is that now we feel $2.49 a gallon is a bargain. Arrgh.

Not much more to say tonight. Our windows are open and I get to enjoy, not only cool breezes, but the night sounds! We heard a freight train go by (half a mile away). Now it's all crickets and other chirping things. The first true break in summer weather!

The great Katrina migration

Two weeks after it blew through the US Gulf Coast, it's clear that hurricane Katrina has resulted in the largest displacement of Americans in 150 years -- if not the largest ever. The scale is monumental. It's as if the entire Dust Bowl migration occurred in 14 days, or the dislocations caused by the Civil War took place on fast-forward.

(The emphasis is mine.) Read the article: The Great Katrina Migration.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

What's really filling my time

I got a wonderful, marvelous, delicious nine and a half hours of sleep last night, and I feel SO MUCH BETTER! (Made possible by kids who are now somewhat self-sufficient for a bit on Saturday morning!) The last couple of weeks have been filled chock-a-block with things to do -- on deadlines. Yikes. At these times I look at my normal days and think, "I had no idea what busy really was!"

It feels good to accomplish lots of things. And yet, I couldn't keep this pace up. I'm barely keeping up with laundry and groceries, we've had take-out for dinner more than I'd like, and the (homeschooling) sit-down time with Son2 early each morning is particularly precious; it's both one-on-one time and Mommy-slow-down time.

Hurrah, the final deadlines are nearly met. Here's what I've been working on.

  • Freelance Web design subcontract work, multiple projects for a local Web design company. A chunk of time midday and much of my evenings in my home office. Has slowed down significantly this week.

  • Registration packets for the annual diocesan (statewide) convention hosted this year by my church; multiple problems with getting the mailing together. Much time spent at the church.

  • My Daughters of the King (DoK) chapter, as president this year, preparation for the upcoming year: planning, yearbook, collecting dues, figuring out membership issues, preparing for first monthly meetings (day and evening). All but the planning is new to me this year. Lots of little bits of time here and there; still working on membership and dues.

  • Godly Play Sunday school class, 4- and 5-year-olds co-teacher, preparation for the upcoming year: planning lessons, spiffing up and setting up the room for back-to-Sunday-school Sunday (tomorrow), etc. Some little bits of time, plus a chunk in the room today. I rest on the TON of organizational work, including a two-year plan, that I did previous years.

  • Both DoK and Godly Play are part of tomorrow's Rally Day and Ministries Fair at church. DoK will have a table at the Min. Fair; the Godly Play teachers will be in our classrooms to meet kids and parents. In a few minutes I'm relocating with my coffee over to the church to do that classroom spiffing up I mentioned!

    On the back burner ready to move up are a newsletter and some church-event publicity. The freelance Web work may become less intense, not sure. After tomorrow Godly Play will move into a weekly routine of memorizing/refreshing the story when it's my week to be storyteller. After this coming week the DoK stuff will move to a monthly cycle around the meetings. It's just this whole Launch The Year thing has really gotten hold of me this year!

    I'll post more on the homeschooling gig over at A Bit of Bubbly at some point today or tonight. All is well.

    Tuesday, September 06, 2005

    Quick update, big things

    First big thing: Today is my first day homeschooling Son2; I withdrew him from kindergarten at the big "neighborhood" school this morning right after we dropped off Son1 at our former neighborhood's little elementary school to continue in fourth grade there. Last night I set up a homeschool blog called A Bit of Bubbly over at, so I can talk about that stuff ad nauseum and not bore you all! We did some reading and, er, number literacy (counting and such) this morning, and he fairly zipped through the second of our phonics readers, yay! Then he got to go play with his friend next door who is in afternoon kindergarten -- Very Big Plus, let me tell you, to homeschooling, at least today!

    The other big thing: Over the last week or 10 days a lot of my "free" time has been filled with freelance Web design work for a local Web design company. Whew, I'd forgotten lots of my little things to speed up my design work, but I'm back on track now. We're taking it project by project, seeing how we work together. By the end of the week, with Hurricane Katrina saddening and shocking me daily, it was a draining week -- but I accomplished much. I like the work and that it pushes me to do much more Web design than I had been. Who knows what will come of mixing this and the homeschooling and seeking balance and simple living. Hmm.

    Thursday, September 01, 2005

    Let us lament

    In the devastating wake of Hurricane Katrina, my life is unaffected (except for the price of gas, $2.97 today), but there is a deep undercurrent of grief.

    What can I do? I can send money. I can pray. I can attempt to answer my kids' questions, both asked and unasked. Today I made a new Violence, Disaster, and War page on my site Faith at Home, and changed the front page to point to faith-oriented disaster/trauma resources. I'll send out an email newsletter about it to my readers. I'll put some good links out there on my church's Web site and email list. I'll see what I can do through my church and my MOMS Club chapter. And yet... grief.

    Today I read a sermon that a friend mentioned fits really well this week even though she wrote it at another time. If your heart, like mine, is breaking every time you hear or see news coverage of the results of Katrina, please read Raewynne's sermon.

    Erd_donatenew_wht Since today is a Blogging for Katrina day, here's a really good avenue for donating money. And there are a ton more possibilities at Instapundit's roundup.

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    Bit o' spam protection

    My dear commenting visitors, please be not annoyed that I've turned on Blogger's anti-machine-spam feature so now you have to be a human being and type in odd combinations of letters and numbers to comment here...

    Monday, August 29, 2005

    Tiny Houses -- no, really!

    Check this out. Amazing. What would it be like to live with no furniture and only the barest of essentials, in a beautiful, compact, tiny house? Sort of like living on a sailboat, but with perhaps a loft and porch, running water, and no bilge to pump out. Wow. Or maybe it could be a studio or office in the backyard. Or your tiny guesthouse down a path from the kitchen door. Hmm.

    Tumbleweed Tiny House Company