Monday, June 26, 2006

In which she knits, there is cool air, and baseball

Last week the boys played in their baseball post-season tournament (city parks and rec baseball).

Son2 was very discouraged, feeling that his T-ball team would only play (and lose) two games and be out of the tournament, no longer able to play games. We attempted to cheer him up and encourage him, that playing is fun, being a good team during the game is fun no matter the score, etc.

They lost the first game somewhat badly I think -- I never pay a lot of attention to the T-ball scores, and his gloominess continued. BUT two nights later his team was AHEAD for part of the game, scoring many RUNS and doing really great!... on their way to a 1-point loss. Wow! Closest game in a while!! He and other kids on the team were really sad that they lost, but the coach was really, really great, telling them how proud he was of them (I'm: sniff, sniff), etc. After a nice treat, Son2 was somewhat recovered and looking forward to Son1's second game the next night.

Meanwhile, Son1's team won its first game! In the second game, the following night, Son1's team was totally bulldozed, steamrolled, etc., by its opponent -- especially the pitcher. This is the first year of kid-pitch baseball (all the same age, 10-year-olds) for us, and this pitcher is relatively accurate (lots of strikes) and fast (lots of strikes). Son1's team just lost heart and limped through the game, despite everything the coaches did and said to encourage them. Tough times.

Two nights later they played their third game and lost, not quite in the game though they did have a few plays to be proud of. AGAIN I was sooooo impressed with how their main and assistant coaches talked with the boys after the final game, saying how proud they were of the boys, giving specifics, talking about this game and about the whole season, practices, etc. (Sniff, sniff.)

Early in the week both boys got to participate in a free, one-morning baseball clinic put on by top high-school coaches and players from various states, in town for the Sunbelt Classic series. Both boys LOVED the clinic, got even more fired up about baseball (and T-ball), and got a lot of great instruction with skill drills.

Now baseball and T-ball are over for this year. Both team's coaches said they will plan a get-together to celebrate the season in a week or so. That will be good. Dear husband and I are making tentative plans for Son1 to get some hitting practice with a good friend of ours, and are thinking about how to keep both boys' skills up over the months between now and next spring so they start the next season more confident.


I did mention knitting and cool air. Hmmm. Baseball and T-ball ended for our boys by Thursday night, so Friday evening we went to a game of the Sunbelt Classic series here in our fair city. This is a round-robin series of games between state teams of excellent ballplayers who have just graduated from high school. It was great! Kinda like single-A ball, I would guess, with maybe 100 fans in the stands at our local university's very nice ballpark.

We arrived near the end of the previous game, and then there was a half-hour break, so I started knitting a heel on my lacy New England socks for me; that was really nice. I knit a little more during the late game, but eventually put it away (lace, with tiny little sock yarn, on tiny little needles...). We had a great time, and my guys returned for Saturday night's championship game (I was at my book club).

When we arrive for the Friday evening game, though, we realized that the cooler weather that day (high in the low 80s, I think) meant we would get rather cool sitting and watching baseball for three-plus hours. We were of course wearing clothes for our more typical 90F days or a warm, humid evening. We were fine, I was fine, until the game ended and we walked to our car. Suddenly! Chilled! What was this foreign feeling?!? To be chilled in Oklahoma in June?!? Amazing!

We drove the couple of miles home, and proceeded to turn off the a/c and open up the house. I might have been chilled after sitting for hours, but not once I got moving. Lovely! It was a bit warmer over the weekend, but last night and tonight the temps are in the LOW 60s -- so, fling open the windows as soon as it's below 80 this early evening! Fall asleep to the sounds of frogs and insects and people playing basketball in the park behind our house! Drink it all in, enjoy it thoroughly as a brief lull in our blazingly hot summer.

And that's what I have to say about that!

Latest additions to the book stack

I'm a few chapters from the end of President Carter's book Our Endangered Values: America's moral crisis for my book club, and I have to say: ouch, ouch, ouch. Such an indictment of our current political climate and leadership. Reminds me how much things have changed over the last 20-some years, with the religious right's rise to power. Makes a clear case for some huge changes under our current president, G.W. Bush, and exactly how they are contrary to almost all Americans' deeply held values. Ouch, ouch, ouch.

Anyway, here are the books I borrowed from the library more recently.

Chez Panisse Fruit, and The Pleasures of Slow Food: Celebrating authentic traditions, flavors, and recipes. Looking further into the eat local, eat in season, eat great fresh food thing. This is the ONLY Chez Panisse book my library system has; how odd.

Edible Wild Plants of the Prairie: An ethnobotanical guide. This is great! The first thing I thumbed to was lamb's quarters, and the writeup was really interesting.

Twilight in the Desert: The coming Saudi oil shock and the world economy. Skimming this; I don't have a desire to gain an extravagantly detailed knowledge of the production history and prospects of the huge oil fields, but there IS stuff here I want to know something about. First chapter: history of Saudi Arabia -- not all oil millionaire sheikhs. Hmmm.

The Homeowner's Guide to Renewable Energy: Achieving energy independence from wind, solar, biomass, and hydropower. Still going where my curiousity leads.

The organic suburbanite: An environmentally friendly way to live the American dream. At first glance, looks like a totally lightweight and fluffy book, but I'll take a better look anyway.

I'm also supposed to read The Other Boleyn Girl for Monday's fiction book group meeting, which I might do 'cause I love that whole 1500-1680 time frame, but I'm starting to think that's one book group too many.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Let's talk energy use

I've learned to read my electricity and natural gas meters, and I just read my electricity meter. At first I was shocked: so far this billing cycle (mid-June to mid-July), we've used 304 kWH in eight days! A total of 38 kWH/day! AAK! Um, er, wait a minute...

For context: my numerical goal is to keep our June-July-August electricity use very even and much lower than our usual peak summer use. For some reason we typically increase our electricity use in May-June, use a LOT more in June-July, somewhat less in July-August, and a LOT more again in August-September. I think the double peak is from my "oh aak it's so hot!" ... "I can handle this" .. "oh aaak it's so hot I can't stand it any more!"

In terms of numbers, last year's mid-May to mid-June "shoulder season" use was 1140 kWH, June to July was 1510, July to Aug was 1228, and Aug to Sept was 1459. Mid-Sept to mid-Oct dropped back to "shoulder season" use of 1012 kWH, and then it stayed lower until this May. So... 1140, 1510, 1228, 1459, 1012 kWH.

This year we've used: 1055 kWH in mid-May to mid-June, and then 304 kWH so far for the current billing cycle of mid-June to mid-July. The good news is that, compared to this cycle LAST year when we used 1510 kWH total or 50 kWH/day, this year even with the hot, hot, hot weather we've used just 38 kWH/day. HOORAH!!!

I think our biggest-use electrical appliances are:
- Air conditioner/heat pump
- Clothes dryer
- Fridge
- Freezer
- Computer and peripherals
And then I guess the clothes washer and dishwasher. Bringing up the rear are the TV, DVR (always on), lighting (nearly all compact fluorescents now), stereo. And the little power draws of clocks (including that in the coffeemaker and the microwave oven!), battery rechargers, power transformer cubes, and a few recharging cordless things.

We're using the a/c fairly frugally, not using the clothes dryer at all, and I'm trying to keep the computer off midday... but not completely succeeding lately. I'm going to try the computer's "sleep" mode when I step away for a few minutes. I've become goofily vigilant about unplugging all of the little rechargers when they aren't actually charging anything. My dear husband tells me the laser printer "sleeps" when not in use, so that's reassuring. I'd love to put the microwave and stereo on power strips and turn them completely off, but that may not happen unless/until power prices become much more painful. Same with the computer printers, and some peripherals that have those transformer cubes making heat from our electricity!

The oven, stove, furnace, and water heater use natural gas, or else they'd be near the top of the above list. In fact, with little oven, stove, or furnace (!) use this summer, the main natural gas use right now is the water heater.

So, that's where we are right now. Woohoo! 38 kWH/day in the Oklahoma summer!


I think I'm done reading topical Anglican/Episcopal blogs and my favorite Anglican/Episcopal email list for a few days -- too much stress after our triennial General Convention of the Episcopal Church. Sigh. Yet, hoorah that GC elected Katharine Jefferts Schori, Bishop of Nevada, as our presiding bishop-elect! Quite interesting that she has a doctorate in oceanography -- cool beans! (I applied to grad school for meteorology and oceanography.)

Speaking of my science-study past, I highly recommend Field Notes from a Catastrophe as a great, great intro to and overview of climate change, global warming, and its "on the ground" realities. I feel as though the author connected the dots for me, filling me in on the developments since my time in grad school. I recognized many of the scientists she discussed as well as their areas of research, and she brought me right into the present and what's taking place right now in this very, very, very readable and interesting book.

Next on my climate-change reading list: The Two-Mile Time Machine: Ice Cores, Abrupt Climate Change, and Our Future, by Richard Alley, and the "Abrupt Climate Change: Inevitable Surprises" research summary from the National Science Foundation.

Speaking of climate, weather, whatever... I'm still avoiding high air-conditioning use, line-drying all the wash, avoiding use of the oven and stove, etc. Continuing to try more ideas for grilled foods, but we're eating out too often in these last days of baseball season.

I'm getting a bunch of peaches, squash, and so on from our food co-op tonight. I plan to freeze lots of peach slices and shredded squash, and make a couple of peach pies between tonight and Saturday morning. I MUST eat more veggies and fruit; been doing terribly in that regard even though it's the beginning of harvest time locally. It's all of those baseball nights of grab-and-eat, or eat at the ball fields, or fast food. Sigh. Eat More Veggies (and peaches)!

Yesterday and last night the weather shifted from hot, hot, hot (upper 90s F) to cloudy, stormy, and a lot less hot -- "cool" would still be a stretch -- with highs in the upper 80s and high humidity, sigh again, for maybe up to a week. Oh my. I won't feel tooooo bad baking those peach pies. I think next week I'll try to cook peach cobbler in the cast-iron skillet on the grill; I wonder if that would work??

I haven't been knitting, haven't made much quiet time for myself, but am feebly starting to get the house back in shape for a little physical/visual peace and enjoyment. Most effective tool for all of those things: plenty of time at home. So, the last few days I've skipped MOMS Club morning activities and stayed home. Yesterday was delicious with the only commitment being a 9 pm T-ball tournament game (sadly Son2's team lost and is now out of the tournament, but they played well and scored lots of exciting runs and good plays).

On that note, I'm gonna press "Publish".

Friday, June 16, 2006


I've found myself unable to write a blog post lately. I've felt scattered and yet focused on particular things. Settling into summer break (no school schedule and activities and homework that delineate our hours and days) and yet busy with afternoon swim lessons, baseball most evenings, and et cetera. I'm choosing and learning new habits of household work -- for summer, for conservation, for relying on ourselves and our region more than Chilean grapes and Iowan beef -- and yet the midday heat and the daily outdoor time in that very heat leads my body straight to siesta time, planned or not, in the later afternoon hours.

I just enjoyed a great phone conversation with Emily of Hazelnut Reflections, and afterward noted how scattered my side of our conversation was. Perhaps a bit of intentional siesta, reflective time, would help now. Pull out the knitting. Or simply take a nap. Something to allow my mind to relax and enjoy the moment, and then spin off into reflection and whatever else.

It's 4 o'clock. I'm going to stop now, turn off the computer, find my sock knitting and a comfy cool spot, and tap into that internal quiet pool of stillness. As long as the kids are content, anyway...

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Hot days in the little city

Yep, it's June in Oklahoma, and we're spending serious time every day in the 90s (Fahrenheit). With my new determination to keep the air conditioning as minimal as possible, I keep the top-of-the-stairs thermostat set at 85F during the day. That means downstairs it's, well, somewhat cooler.

I am very, very thankful for our finished concrete floors, so wonderful to my bare feet. If we had cool nights, we would open the house up to release the heat and enjoy the lower temperature of the cool air. But no. Our nighttime air is not very cool (upper 60s) and IS rather humid. So we use the air conditioner a bit more at night and as little as possible during the day.

Some results of this approach:

I try to keep the computer off from late morning until late evening, when we turn the temp down somewhat so the kids can go to sleep more easily (nighttime minimum setting at 11 pm: 78F upstairs). That's a big change from leaving it on most of the day except when I/we leave the house.

I stay downstairs in the cooler part of the house. An easy goal if my office computer is off limits.

No indoor cooking! Well, I'm planning to cook some pasta first thing tomorrow morning for our dinner of cold pasta salad, before I move the thermostat to the daytime setting. Today at 7:30 am I ran the dishwasher and baked a coffeecake in the oven. When both were done, I set the a/c to the daytime 85F. Worked okay, I guess, but I prefer to cook pasta in the late evening, run the dishwasher in the middle of the night (with air-dry), and not use the oven at all...

Coming home from Son2's 2-2:35 pm swim lesson, totally hot and bothered after 40 minutes on the pool deck, the most humid place in town... the house feels wonderfully cool-not-cold, but I'm completely wiped out for the afternoon. Laying on the sofa is about all I want to deal with. So I grab a book and think "siesta" rather than look around and think "what to do next, and next, and next..."

Some changes to my routine: I'm trying to switch my morning coffee-and-reading to this late afternoon "siesta" time. I plan to use the computer in early morning and late evening, and make phone calls in the late morning or early afternoon.

The funny thing is, after swim lessons this afternoon I was SOOOOO hot and tired and NOT looking forward to being outdoors this late afternoon/evening at the boys' baseball practice and game -- but when we did head outside, it was much more comfortable! The light breeze, the dry air -- it was much more okay than I expected. One thought: time to move the air-drying of laundry entirely into the sunroom and possibly get that clotheslines idea into reality. Less indoor moisture = more comfort, I'm sure.

Are you wondering about my main motivation in this? My number one motivating factor for lowering our a/c use is that I really, really want to create more buffer between our lives and the rising costs of our utility bills.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Outdoor cooking, yum!

In my ongoing determination to avoid heating a house that is being air-conditioned (lightly, or so I intend), I have been hanging all laundry to dry except underwear and socks -- a fairly successful project thanks to the Oklahoma heat and wind. I have also been avoiding the kitchen. Well, actually, the stove and oven. And rice cooker. And somewhat the microwave. I can affirm that I use the coffee maker and the fridge, LOL! This is helped along by the house being pretty warm during the day and early evening -- and therefore I have little interest in hot meals, either the making or the eating of.

But. One must eat! Herein lies a new turn of events.

Tonight the boys had no baseball games or practices scheduled. A lull, a gap in the schedule. Dear husband seized the moment and decided to grill a hunk of beef that was stashed in the freezer. Once that info arrived over the phone line this afternoon and the beef began thawing, I started a search for a side dish I could cook on the grill. I have a nice pile of various relevant cookbooks newly borrowed from the library (grilling, Dutch oven cooking, outdoor cooking, campfire cooking, etc.), and my two new cookbooks acquired at the 2006 Chuck Wagon Gathering in Oklahoma City.

End result: a delicious meal that was a big hit, and NO heating up the kitchen! We had grilled eye of round roast with a light covering of olive oil, crushed peppercorns, and kosher salt; very simple, biscuit-like "spider bread" cooking in a cast-iron pan on the grill; and a salad of mixed greens. Every man, woman, and boy x 2 in the household loved it all, hurrah!

I would've baked apples on the grill, too, if we'd had aluminum foil...

Sunday, June 04, 2006

My "MotherStyle" seems spot on. Hmm.

The quote is SO me, as is everything else in the description.

INTP: The "Love of Learning" Mother

I keep the encyclopedia in the kitchen so we can look up things together while we eat.
  • Intellectually curious and patient, the INTP mother relishes those times with a child when they are learning something interesting together. Whether they’re at the zoo or computer terminal, she sparks to answering his or her "whys" with in-depth responses or new knowledge.

  • The INTP mother is also objective and introspective. She listens to and discusses children’s ideas and questions as she would those of a peer, fostering self-esteem and confidence. Open and non-directive, she allows children the freedom to do for themselves and quietly encourages them to believe they can do it.

  • Independence, autonomy, intellectual development, and self-reliance are probably the INTP’s highest priorities for her children. An avid reader, she naturally imparts an appreciation and love of reading as well.

  • Drawn to all types of learning, the INTP may also value her mothering experience for all the new insights about life it provides her.

  • MotherStyles personality/parenting quiz

With various Myers-Briggs-style quizzes over the years, I've always been I-N-something-something, usually very balanced in the last two aspects. In this case, with one simple pair of choices per element, I was definitely I-N-something-P, and the INTP result is much more "aha! that's me."

Friday, June 02, 2006

I'm here, I'm fine, etc!

Favorite book I'm currently reading: Gaia's Garden: A guide to home-scale permaculture, by Toby Hemenway. Also lots of books for ideas on sustainable living and outdoor cooking (thank you again, annual visit to the Chuckwagon Festival at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum last weekend!).

Favorite kid moment: Listening to Son2 (age 6) dictate the titles and favorite parts of FIVE books he READ AT THE BOOKSTORE to Son1, and Son1 rephrase Son2's favorite parts to a shorter form, checking if that's okay with Son2. Let's see, that's the new reader reading five books on his own; new reader remembering with precision the titles and details; experienced reader but uninterested writer easily rephrasing to fit a purpose; two brothers who mostly fight lately working cooperatively toward a goal; older brother willingly helping younger brother by doing the writing. A wonderful several-minute-long moment this morning.

Newest wildflowers in bloom: Those fluorescent orange wildflowers I noticed in seldom-mowed places last year. I think the succession was white, white and yellow, white and fluorescent orange, fluorescent orange and periwinkle blue, periwinkle blue.

Also, I need to remember that the big mowers mowed the highway edges and then the roadsides along our access street in the last week. That would be RIGHT AFTER I noticed yellow Mexican hat blooming, and Indian paintbrush, and what looked like black-eyed Susan. Sigh. Each year I vow to dig up a plant or two and move them to my front garden bed.

Speaking of our place, dear husband pointed out a sole black-eyed-Susan-like flower under our trees in the front yard! This would never have happened but for the fact that we have not yet mowed our grass this spring. With the drought we thought the grass was dead, but it finally greened up last month. Now that we've had some rain this week and last, shagginess has gotten bad and mowing must be done. In the extremely shaggy back yard we have a multitude of tall blooming weeds/wildflowers, as well as blooming new plants of my verbena on a stick, Verbena bonariensis, scattered across 20 feet of yard. That stuff is a prolific reseeder! Too bad I haven't ripped out all of the landscape fabric in its garden bed yet; I'd be able to keep new plants that show up there.

These permaculture books I've been reading have introduced me to the idea that the weeds are doing the first work of getting the grassy places (a/k/a lawns and yards) fertile and moved toward a more diverse plant environment. Interesting! Also, I really like the comment I read in one of them (did I mention this already?) that the two years of mole tunneling on our land has aerated and created a lage-scale French drain! Something good from moles?!? Nice to hear, lol.

Gotta go. Those are some random thoughts from the house of one who is hanging all laundry to air dry -- except undies and socks -- and loving the results as well as the energy savings. Such a homemaking, conserving nerd I am...