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.