Friday, December 14, 2007

I flew into & out of Minnesota

Create your own personalized map of the USA

That was kind of fun :)

Waiting for the rain to turn over to snow. Maybe before sunrise? I'll be in bed, then.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Good company lifts the spirits

Our very homey Internet cafe

Some friends came over with their kids to get out of their no-power houses. My kitchen table turned into our own little Internet cafe! and the kids enjoyed the change of pace, power, heat, and electric light, too. You can't see the cell phones charging, but they were practically the first thing plugged in -- a cell phone is a lifeline this week.

Most trees are free of ice. It's rained hard several times during the day, so there's a lot of flooded low spots. My current hope is that the water is gone and most of our town has power back before...


Monday, December 10, 2007

Ice Storm: yep, it's a big one

The trees around our house glisten and glitter, bow low and creak under the weight of half an inch (I think) of ice coating every twig, branch, limb, old leaf, and future leaf bud. Our river birches are bowed very low, and the lower branches of our stiff, young oak have been pulled down so they actually touch the driveway and sidewalk. Branches are down and trees are broken or completely fallen throughout our block... neighborhood... town... state. It is a beautiful, awful sight.

And I feel very lucky to have power. Half a million people in Oklahoma are without power. And more than half of our town. And most of the friends I've heard from and heard news of today. This is the biggest-ever outage in our state, according to the electric company.

We're also very lucky as a town that our roads are bare and wet, not covered with more ice and not likely to be. That means we can get places if need be. It means the boys and I can leave home and do something else for a while tomorrow afternoon if we want to, yay.

I'm guessing that pretty much everyone is wondering what will happen to the remaining trees overnight and as the ice begins to melt tomorrow. Dear husband and I are thankful that no trees are threatening our house, and that our car is safely in our garage. We personally know several people whose luck has already run out in that regard, and we have a third of a neighbor's tree (in the form of large limbs), fallen, in our backyard.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

A brief history of the previous four months

August - preparation for the new homeschooling year, deeper and more intense this year. Number One destination for my energy and creativity -- until we started lessons/schooling! Then the homeschooling and the last of the prep work took over my life and squeezed blogging out of the picture, sorry. See the weekly routines and yearly reading plans on my homeschooling blog, A Bit of Bubbly, for a glimpse of that stuff.

September - time of seeking and settling into the routine that works best for our homeschooling this year. Scouts got rolling, and so did Sunday school (I teach pre-K and kindergarteners in a Godly Play program, my kids attend their own classes), homeschoolers chess club, the MOMS Club interest groups I try to attend, and so on.

At his first troop meeting since early summer, Son1 received his four merit badges earned at Boy Scout camp in June, and moved up two ranks -- oh wow! From this point on we don't expect him to move up in rank faster than once every year to year and a half, because he's only 11-nearly-12 and we see no need to rush to Eagle before age 17 or so. Now is the time to be choosing merit badges to work on.

Son1 had several Boy Scout camping trips at the end of the month. Son1 went with his patrol, others from his pack, and 4,980 other Boy Scouts (!!) and adult leaders from our state and elsewhere to the Oklahoma Centennial Camporee. An entirely different experience from the small campouts he and we had previously done -- wow.

October - routine and activities continued. On the third weekend we all went on a family campout, which was great, and it was really good to get to know some of dear husband and Son2's den families. We barely saw Son1; he stayed busy and/or hung out with his patrol, including a challenge called Tree-Top Tea Time (light a fire high in a tree, on a metal garbage can lid held with heatproof gloves by a Scout, and boil water for a cup of Earl Grey tea for the Senior Patrol Leader!). I was up before dawn both mornings, and the stars were amazing. I loved looking at them with one of the dads, who is from New Zealand, while we waited for the coffee to perk (yum!).

Suddenly Halloween appeared on the horizon. Due to the boys' previous negotiations, I purchased cool spiky stretchy colored fingerless gloves that they used for their costumes. Also due to their pleadings we actually, for the first time ever, carved Jack o' Lanterns!

I had gotten a little carving kit on post-holiday clearance one year, so we actually had more than the usual paring and kitchen knives for carving. The patterns that came with were neat. We covered the table with a cloth and lots of newspapers and went for it. I remembered that I really don't like pumpkin innards, and yet we had fun roasting the pumpkin seeds and figuring out how to follow the design instructions for transferring the designs to the pumpkins. Son1 did his entirely on his own; Son2 did about half of the work on his. I was impressed! and called it art, of course....

And then there was costuming, and trick-or-treating, and much consumption of candy.

November - kind of a blur, really. I had a birthday early in the month, turning 45 (why does everyone print books and newspapers so tiny nowadays?!?) Several cool field trips with the homeschoolers association. We went to a youth concert of the Big City philharmonic, a wonderful experience that led me to promise myself to get more live music into our lives.

The next week, two days before Oklahoma's centennial Statehood Day on November 16, we spent the morning (in a group from our homeschoolers association) at a historic homestead very near the state capitol building, participating in living history programs.

The kids played with old-fashioned toys from tic-tac-toe to stilts, from jump rope to a ring-and-sticks game, and then had a very interesting lesson in the schoolhouse from a reenactor teacher. The dads participated as well (the moms mostly took photos!), and were very funny! Then we moved on to the barn to stuff scarecrows with straw, use machines to strip dry kernels from corn, sort them, and grind corn meal, and then split logs and use a cross-cut saw (lots of adult supervision!). Afterward we headed over to the capitol and took a very complete tour from a great tour guide. A long day, but completely worthwhile.

Two days later, that Friday, I was off to the other Big City in our state with the rest of my church's delegation for our annual statewide convention/meeting for two days. This was my sixth year, I think, and although I always really enjoy it, this year was very good because the new bishop told us about his priorities, vision, and plans, and I was impressed!

That Saturday was a busy one for our family: I was away, dear husband went to an all-day Scout leader training event, Son1 spent the night with a Scout patrol friend so he could participate in several Scout events on Saturday, and Son2 also got to spend the night with friends and do fun stuff with them on Saturday. We all got back together early Saturday evening... and went to a cookout party! We were back home by 9 pm, kind of glad that there was a football game everyone left to go watch on TV. Fun party as always, but what a weekend!

That Sunday I realized it was the start of Thanksgiving week! We have a tradition now of gathering with three other families to celebrate Thanksgiving with feasting, games, and conversation, so we prepared for and thoroughly enjoyed that. I think this year our family especially savored the long holiday weekend with no particular plans. Next, a flurry of preparation for our departure the following Wednesday, for a week away.

December - we took a week for a car trip to Ohio to visit family. On the weekend in the middle, dear husband and I drove to Detroit for the wedding of friends while the boys stayed with their cousin, aunt, and uncle (and had a great time). We drove home from Ohio last Tuesday. After a few days of commitments for me that the boys helped with as well (assist with the church's bazaar on Wednesday morning, and then a funeral reception the next day), now I think I'm feeling a little caught up and back on track.

Today, as I write this, the boys and dear husband are marching in our town's holiday parade with our Scout pack & troop. They went to the parade site directly from the monthly men's breakfast (sons welcome) at our church, and afterward might drop Son2 off at the church for the final rehearsal of the Christmas pageant to be done in the morning service tomorrow. Or they might swing by here so I can take Son2 and the other two can head for the cosy chair/sofa a bit sooner. This evening Son1 has a Scout patrol board game night at the home of a Scout family, and I have my nonfiction book group mere blocks away (in a minute I'm going to go read more of the book!), so he and I will go to and from together.

I am very thankful that our impending ice storm/cold rain event has been slower and slower getting here; rather than tonight, it looks as though Monday is the day for that. The fridge, pantry, and laundry will be pretty much ready for bad weather, though I should get some breakfast foods.

I knit a lot on the trip, finishing my cozy alpaca-wool socks and getting most of the pair of lighter weight pastel wool-cotton socks done as well as a pair of wrist warmers per Son2's request. I LOVE for seeing what other people are doing with patterns that catch my eye, and keeping track of patterns I really want to knit.

What I meant to say was that the household will be ready for bad weather, and I'll be ready as well!

So, hello!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

A little tropical storm action in Oklahoma

After a rain-stormy afternoon and evening yesterday, bedtime included the accompaniment of thunder and lightning. The weather alert radio woke me up a lot around 2:30 am, I think. Not to mention the lightning and all that. I finally looked at the clock at 3. I slept off and on (more weather alerts), and when they started mentioning tornado watches in counties that sounded nearby, I gave up, got up, and checked the weather service Web site and various radars. Yep, big stuff was about to whack us, with a fierce, steady march from the west. I was tempted to turn on the TV to a local channel to see blow-by-blow (haha) details, but if I spend much time up at night I can have a horrible time getting back to sleep. I figured if a tornado is sighted in our county, the siren at the end of our block will sound. I went back to bed (and sleep, yay).

Slept for a while, and then the weather all went to heck in a handbasket. Tons of windy, lightning, and rain. At 5:30 I finally tore myself from my bed to check the upstairs windows that we usually leave open at least partway; indeed they were open about a handspan. The wind, coming through those handspan gaps, blew the door open as soon as I turned the knob! (This is a little set of French doors that open from our bedroom into an glassed-in former balcony room.) THAT, of all things, woke dear husband up a bit. I closed the windows, getting all wet from blowing rain, got myself dry, and went back to bed, closing the blinds even more so maybe I could get back to sleep despite the lightning. Dear husband was already snoozing again by then.

My boys mentioned casually this morning that there sure was a lot of lightning last night, "like all night, Mom!" I guess the nights of comforting them during thunderstorms are behind us now (sniff, sniff).

We haven't left the house today, so I don't know what the neighborhood is like... but the weather service site seemed to show our town got over five inches of rain as of 7 am, and it rained a bunch more after that. Our park was a soggy lake this morning just like it was all of June!

The weather service Web site said something about a rare and unusual event: the storm formed an eye-like feature complete with high winds around it and a deeper low pressure inside. Wow.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

iPod fun with podcasts, but not what you think

Current track: Latinum, the Latin class: My Second Latin Lesson.

As the surprised recipient of a new-to-me iPod mini, I've spent a little time the last week or so figuring out what to listen to and how to set it up. At the moment music doesn't attract me as much as all of my neglected podcasts. The opportunity to listen to something interesting that I normally don't get around to makes grocery shopping, laundry, and general household chores MUCH more enjoyable!

This morning I'm particularly pleased because last night I figured out how to have little themed groups (playlists). So...

Barb's iPod playlists, mostly random selections of the unplayed podcasts on my laptop.

Somewhat brief:
- Night sky podcasts
- Knitting podcasts
- French lessons (trying to brush up on my school French)
- Latin readings (I want to get used to how it sounds)
- Latin lessons and Son2's Latin program readings
- Science podcasts
- Math podcasts
- History podcasts

Somewhat longer:
- NPR podcasts, a mix
- specific Diane Rehm shows
- specific Talk of the Nation shows

A few solo things, and long lectures and talks:

- The VerbCast: French verbs by relaxation
- Lecture: The Geography of World Cultures (Stanford)
- Lecture: Introduction to Virgil and the Aeneid (Stanford)
- Talk: Simple Delicious, by Frances Moore Lappe (Stanford)
- Lecture: The Appian Way, Rome's Road of Memory (Seattle Pacific U.)
- Lecture: Sustainability (Penn State)
- Talk: Food, Ethics, and the Environment series, with the authors of Fast Food Nation, What to Eat, and The Omnivore's Dilemma, and a vice president of McDonalds corporation (Princeton)
- Two Edge Talk -- Catholic podcast
- one Dave Ramsey show, to see what I think

I lovelovelove this. Perhaps this will draw me back to knitting a bit every day?

Summer reality in the front garden

Those deliciously cool mornings are now a matter of context. Here I sit on my entryway bench, enjoying the nice temperature of the morning and the chatter and buzzy murmur of the birds and insects... but I hustle to get out here between 7:30 and 8 am because by 8:30 it'll be a lot less sumptuously cool. Right now it's 79F, after a morning low (around 7 am) of 75F. It will be 85F pretty soon, and I will find this bench much less attractive as the mercury rises past that point on its way to 100F again.

Yes, the summer reality typical of Oklahoma has at last arrived. That peculiar month of rain in June, and its remnants in July, help me appreciate the sun in August MUCH more than usual.... Also, when I turn my bedroom blinds at night from blocking sunlight to letting in a bit of morning sun, I still drink in the sight of the stars! (No clouds...)

All cloudy, rainy summer long, my perennials bloomed their happy heads off and lifted themselves tall and strong. The tall daylilies bloomed on five foot tall stalks! The Mexican hat and Indian blanket filled out and bloomed all summer long. The little burgundy daylilies were happy as well. This is the front garden that I planned with the intent of watering only very rarely; they're generally on their own to deal with the weather. June and July was an embarrassment of riches in terms of deep watering, and they certainly responded.

Now, under the late-coming summer blast, everything is drying out at last. The daylilies are done and their stalks and leaves are turning brown. Suddenly the Mexican hat and Indian blanket foliage has faded from their former clear green, and a whole lot of their flowers have gone to seed heads; time to deadhead again! On the other hand, the sunny yellow coreopsis may make a late summer reappearance; I just noticed the plants have greened up again. Usually they do bloom again in late summer, a welcome event.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Reduction update: power

Our electricity meter was read on Tuesday, July 17, and I downloaded the stats and statement the next day. Our usage for the previous 32 days was 739 kWh, or 22.4 kWh/day -- half of what it was two years ago!

Two years ago, before I started being careful about our a/c (air conditioning) use in summer, our usage for this time period was 1510 kWh. Last year, when I was pretty serious and yet we had a very hot summer, we dropped it to 1245 kWh in our highest-use time period for the summer. Until we get the house better shaded and insulated, when it's sunny and hot we tend to use a/c very lightly during the day, and for night drop it to the highest setting at which people can readily fall asleep.

So 739 kWh is really, really great -- and yet aided by a halfway rainy, cloudy, semi-cool couple of weeks. I'm waiting for a totally blazingly hot month or so, to see how much improvement we've really gotten, with the addition of some little tower fans in the living/dining/kitchen area.

Interestingly, to me anyway, the new time-of-use meter says we used 697 kWh in non-peak hours, and a parsimonious 42 kWh in the peak hours of 1-7pm Mon-Fri, in which we get charged a higher rate. (Our bill was nice and low as a result.) I'm very happy about this, because it says I've been fairly successful in avoiding the peak hours. That meant no toaster, coffeemaker, or microwave oven then. Gotta use it before 1 pm, and eat different foods. We're eating more cold and room-temperature foods for lunch, which is great in a warm summer anyway. It's also helping me aim for light dinners with good appetizers.

This week we had a cooler day and night, so I turned off the a/c entirely, and at dusk opened the house for the night. It was pretty comfortable. Not cool like needing a sweater, but very nice. So, I've kept the a/c off, and opened up the house at dusk. We use the outdoor air to cool the house to 74F or so, rather than running the a/c at night to cool the house to 84F (upstairs). The house is a bit more humid this way, but this week it has been very nice. Love our fans.

The most uncomfortable time seems to be the evening and early night hours, because the house is at its warmest. It helps a lot to spend some of the middle evening outdoors, when the sun is low but it's not dark yet. Then at dusk I open the house up as the outside temp starts its slide down to the pre-dawn low. Nice. Also, I love hearing the outdoor noises rather than being insulated from all of that 24 hours a day all summer.

By the way, when we have guests for part of a hot day, if need be I put the a/c at 86F (top of the stairs, remember) and turn on the tower fans. That seems to be quite comfortable for everyone.

As for other electricity use:
- I'm staying steady with our careful use of the clothes washer (full loads, cold water), clothes dryer (not at all; hang everything to dry), and dishwasher (full loads, short cycle).
- The addition of little tower fans replaces some a/c, so that's a big plus. I bought one at a big box store for $20 last month, and rediscovered the other under my little-used loft desk; it was a handmedown from a friend many months ago.
- In the warmer house my laptop gets hot and uncomfortable to use after a while, so I find myself putting it to sleep and doing other things more, another plus.
- In the evening I have noticed that we are content in the living area with only one lamp lit (compact fluorescent), and the living room tower fan (and, often, our two laptops or one laptop and the TV).

- Get a smart power strip or two to plug the stereo and TV stuff into. These have several always-hot plugs (we need one for our DVR), and the rest of the plugs turn off with the power strip switch.
- Get two regular power strips. One for the microwave oven so I can keep it off when not in use. The other for the various chargers, again to keep off when not in use, and maybe for the clock radio I use for the radio in the kitchen.
- Buy reusable tinting film for some key windows to cut the light coming in. In addition to our two south-facing windows on the main floor, morning sunlight falls on the lower and upper windows in our dining area, facing NNE. The top windows are 9 feet up and have no coverings. This project will require me to reach out and find a friend or neighbor willing to lend us an indoor ladder.
- Clean under the refrigerator -- that's where the coils are that are supposed to be kept clean.
- Change the house air filter.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Reduction update: garbage & compost

The boys and I actually set up sheet composting/bed preparation about 2 weeks ago on the grass-overrun backyard garden beds. I still can hardly believe that I finally did this thing I've been "meaning" to do for several years. A friend has this quote in her email signature:

"There is a difference between interest and commitment. When you are interested in doing something, you do it only when it's convenient. When you are committed to something, you accept no excuses, only results." - Ken Blanchard

I am definitely committed to reducing our emissions tons and tons (haha, I guess that's a joke? tons of CO2...). Dear husband is on a rare business trip, and I took the opportunity to see how it is to leave the a/c off completely, opening the house up to catch cooler night air. Since I only cool our upstairs bedroom to 84F anyway, maybe we can continue opening the house up at night after his return. We love our bedroom ceiling fan, and the two little tower fans in the living/dining area.

Back to the composting. To start, we laid down cardboard from boxes (to block light to the weedy grassy stuff), watered it well, and dumped a bunch of grass clippings on top, spreading that to the edges of the cardboard. A week later (mowing day on our street, apparently!), I liberated bags of untreated grass clippings from a neighbor and added those to what my husband acquired from mowing our yard. Then... I did the second amazing thing. I started saving kitchen scraps and actually dug them into the grass clippings. Twice!

Then I started to worry about whether I was doing this all wrong... found some Web sites that discouraged kitchen scraps, especially with sheet composting... started to worry that my browns and greens were out of balance.... But I kept saving my kitchen scraps. Right now I have a kitchen bowl (with a lid) full of a week's worth of fairly wet kitchen scraps I need to toss somewhere! So I did some more research and decided to trust the several pro-sheet and trench composting sites that encouraged kitchen scrap use.

I'm a little worried still that I don't have enough browns, but now I know to check for an ammonia smell when I tuck the kitchen scraps into the composting beds. If it's there, I'll get the boys to join me in hand-shredding some paper and newspaper, and mix that in.

Here's the final amazing thing. We produce so much compostable kitchen waste! I love redirecting the food scraps (not meat or dairy or fats), and that includes coffee grounds and tea bags, but wow, it adds up fast. It has made a big impact on the amount of kitchen garbage we send to the landfill.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Eating locally: a book review

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver, one of my favorite authors, was a couldn't-put-it-down book for me this week. Her prose didn't have the inner glow of her essays and novels, but I stayed up late one night trying to read as far as the season I am in right now!

The book is about Kingsolver and her family's year of eating locally, focused mostly on what food they grew, why, how, and how they ate. Throughout the book there is a lot of info -- some would say preaching -- about why one ought to choose to eat locally produced food. I've heard most of it before and she was preaching to the choir with me. On to the food!

This book made me hungry. During the two days I devoted to the book, I had good ingredients, and found myself eating...

Farm-market tomato and homemade bread sandwiches
Farm-market peaches, sliced, with local cream
Homemade multi-seed bread, toasted, with local butter
Local Spanish peanuts
Local pecans, toasted
Farm-market peaches, sliced, with homemade granola and local yogurt
Wedges of leftover frittata of local, pastured eggs and farm-market tomatoes, made into sandwiches with homemade bread slices.

I had this stuff; the book sent me into the kitchen to do something with it! And frankly, Kingsolver inspired me to cook much more from scratch and to find a way to do some putting food by for the winter.

The story of how they grew most of their food for the year was fascinating and impressive. Sometimes too impressive. Because the book begins with their move from Arizona to Virginia, I expected them to be starting with a new garden... but no. They relocated to land and a house they were very familiar with, having owned it for years and spent many summers there. They had already renovated existing orchards and spent years preparing the garden plots. They had gardened for years in both places, and had lots of experience putting up food.

Also, they come off somewhat as foodies -- used to making amazing food with specialty ingredients -- though they seemed able to focus on local foods if they could grow plenty of interesting things in their garden, and still have their olive oil. This year was more a matter of intense focus and energy toward a singleness of purpose: eating local food and trying to grow as much of it as possible themselves. Clearly they had years of garden preparation and garden, cooking, and preserving experience to bring to that focus.

It was amazing, and yet, honestly, too impressive to inspire me to similar heights. The gardening seemed on a massive scale, compared to my faltering efforts, and I must look elsewhere for inspiration in that regard. I have made and canned jams and preserves, and have dropped peaches in boiling water in order to slip the skins off easily... but the massive effort that the Kingsolver-Hopp household poured into canning the huge amount of tomatoes and tomato sauce they did... that seems beyond me. An August spent over a hot stove? I wondered time and again whether they had a summer kitchen (open air, not attached to the house), or did they use a lot of air conditioning, or is it less hot and humid where they live than how I think of Virginia?

With all of my questions about the Kingsolver-Hopp household doing major amounts of water-bath and pressure canning over a hot stove, as well as plenty of blanching in order to freeze foods, I was glad to find that Sharon of Casaubon's Book had recently written about preserving foods in low-energy ways. She emphasizes something Kingsolver does not: eat seasonally and accept what is in season for your fundamental food resources for that season -- with preserved food as accent and supplement. Perhaps with that in mind the tomato dependence could be eased somewhat!

I loved Kingsolver's descriptions of local-food meals, both simple family meals and celebration meals. This book has probably given me the final push to make yogurt, and I will probably try making cream cheese and mozzarella. These are three things our family really enjoys, and apparently they are all pretty easy. Also, if I can find a way to preserve that would fit better with our life, I am motivated to buy bigger quantities at the farmers' market and preserve away. I still want to plant fruit and nut trees this fall, and berry bushes. I'm at the beginning; they are at the fruition.

So, I have mixed feelings about this book. And yet, I want a copy on my bookshelf, to read as powerful inspiration to cook simple, seasonal, local meals -- consistently.

A deliciously cool morning, from our entryway bench

Cool morning air gently stirs the upper tree leaves and branches. A scarlet male cardinal pauses briefly in the grass below our river birch's low branches. The red geranium in the pot at the front step blooms again after a quiet few weeks. Not a cloud in the blue, blue sky.

I hear the gentle clatter of Son2 getting his breakfast... cars going by on the cross street... the gas mower working the grass on the far side of the cross street... and, in the intervals (oh, there went a motorcycle), bird song.

The only thing I can smell is laundry! Sadly, it's the overpowering smell of (too much) softener in someone's clothes dryer, pouring out the dryer vent and into the morning air. Oh well.

Our tall orange daylilies -- so very tall in this year of plentiful rain -- have finished blooming, their flower stalks stiff and drying even as they lend support to some stems of Mexican hat, which will bloom much longer. The short, russet daylilies started blooming later and have a few buds of promise still. The red-orange-yellow The sunny yellow coreopsis has been in a lull for several weeks; I think they'll bloom again next month, but we'll see.

The morning is especially delicious because the humidity was low yesterday and last night, and the temperature didn't reach 90F yesterday. I opened the house up shortly before dusk, and it cooled down wonderfully overnight -- much more than the frugal use of the air conditioning would. Great, great sleeping weather for summer. In half an hour or so we'll close up the house for the day to preserve the cool into a warmer day today.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Harry Potter 7 is in the house

We've had Harry Potter book 7, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, since Tuesday. Yes, that's four days before the worldwide release in English-speaking countries (which would be... 12:01 am today in the USA). I. Could. Not. Believe. It. A friend preordered it from a small bookseller/distributor that is now being sued for delivering 1,200 copies on Tuesday.

We got our copy Tuesday early evening, and with my busy week I managed to get the book read by... Wednesday evening. Who can wait?????

The book is SUPERB.

I'm not ready to reread it, though I reread the epilogue the next day. . I read it with attention to detail, and I'm just not ready to read it again -- yet. My current plan is to start a reread of books 4-6 while waiting for Son1 and everyone in the world to finish HP7. Then the worldwide conversation can begin!!!

The hardest part about being an early receiver of the book is that I cannot (will not) talk with anyone about it. I am pretty thankful that the friend who ordered it for us also got hers early; we talked several times as we read it, and again yesterday when we'd both finished. Sometimes ya just gotta process things aloud! In addition, over the last couple of days I looked online for "HP unanswered questions" and loose ends lists and predictions to read.

Soon, soon I'll be able to talk about HP7 with other people!

In the meantime, we head out to pick up Son1 from church camp this morning, and I promised him we would bring HP7 with us if we possibly could -- so I will. I bet I won't be the only parent bringing a copy to pickup! I warned Son2 that Son1 would want to read all the way home and all the rest of the weekend. Son1 took HP6 with him to camp; I wonder how far he got?

In related news, for the first time in the history of the Harry Potter movies the entire family saw a Harry Potter movie in the theater AND in the first week of its release. Son1 and I went to the HP5 movie before he left for his week at church camp. Son2 and dear husband went earlier this week. We all really enjoyed the movie, though dear husband reported that Son2 was a little bored at the evening showing, and arrived home very tired, but happy to have seen it. As for me, after the HP5 movie I realized it's time to reread books 5 and 6, and maybe even 4. So after reading HP7 I started HP4.

Another related news item. The day after seeing the 5th movie, dear husband decided maybe he could read the series now. Hurrah! He took HP1 on his business trip. My new plan is to buy the series for the family in hardcover, "like new", from used booksellers online. Son1's paperback copies are literally falling apart!

We've never attended release night Harry Potter parties, but yesterday when I picked up a new paperback copy of HP1 for dear husband at Barnes & Noble and saw all of the cool backdrops and so on set up for that evening, I was wistful. I thought briefly of taking Son2, but I've heard of long lines... and it would be incredibly past his bedtime... and, biggest of all, Son1 would be crushed that we did it and he couldn't (being away at camp and all). So, we stayed home and went to bedtime at our normal times and got a good night's sleep.

Like dear husband, Son2 has seen all of the movies (most at home on DVD), most of them multiple times. A year ago he read about half of the first book. Yesterday I finally let him know that we had the HP7 book, and he begged me to tell him: does Harry die? (I told him, and made him promise not to say a word to anyone until his brother has finished the book AND only talk about it with people who want to.) A bit later, more questions: does Lord Voldemort die, what happens in the end, ...

At that point I decided, and told Son2, that he would have to wait until Son1 finishes the book -- probably this weekend. I'll tell him then. That's just too much info to entrust to a 7.5 year old!

Status: One family member has finished HP7 and is reading HP4; another is reading HP1 for the first time; yet another has been reading HP6 and will drop everything to start HP7 at about 11:30 am today. Perhaps I should take a soundtrack CD for the drive home from camp?!?

Enjoy, everyone.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Blogiversary - three years today

Amazingly, today is the very day of my three-year blogging anniversary. Plus ca change, plus ca ne change pas -- the more things change, the more they stay the same. I'm blogging a lot of the same stuff! I don't know whether to be cheered by or disappointed in that, but I'm going to go with cheered.

And a heads up: I'm working on changing this blog into a WordPress blog, as soon as I make some decisions about a Web address. Amazingly it was really easy to import all of the posts and comments; now I get to have fun inventing categories At Last!

Plus ca change?

Doing anything with those grass clippings, mister?

The sheet composting is a go! A week ago Sunday I marshalled the troops -- well, the kids -- to prepare some neglected garden beds for sheet composting while dear husband mowed the front lawn (so he could add the grass clippings as a top layer).

Sheet composting, a/k/a horizontal composting, a/k/a lasagna gardening, is composting in horizontal layers in the location you intend to grow plants. The cardboard is supposed to cut off sunlight for the unwanted plants (grass etc.) and be the first "brown" layer. The grass clippings are an easy source of a "green" layer. My intention is to add food scraps, coffee grounds, etc. as available and cover them with more stuff.

We commandeered all of the large, flattened cardboard boxes lounging about in our garage and laid them over the grass that had overrun the backyard garden beds against the house. I neglected those beds all of last year's scorching summer, and the only remaining intentional planting is a sturdy Russian sage (Salvia petrovskia, I'm pretty sure). So. We covered an entire bed with cardboard boxes, and most of the Russian sage's bed. Then the boys enthusiastically watered down the cardboard, and we headed back indoors.

Half an hour or so later, dear husband had dumped a lot of the grass clippings onto the cardboard. I spread the clippings with a rake, and overnight some storms watered everything really well.

A week later, yesterday morning the traditional bags of grass clippings perched curbside at most driveways up and down our suburban street, ready for the city's weekly yard waste pickup, and I needed more grass clippings. So, I liberated the four bags of a nearby neighbor's grass clippings -- choosing a neighbor I knew did not have their yard treated -- and plentifully covered my composting beds. Woohoo!

Last night I realized that I had a solution for my need for "brown" layers: newspaper and the ever-present sack of papers to recycle. We probably need to shred these, because the only barrier layer ought to be the bottom layer (until it decomposes). I don't have a shredder, so I think the kids and I will get used to tearing up newspaper and other paper. At some point I expect to get a hand-crank shredder I saw on the Web once.

Once we have a ready supply of "brown/dry", I can add kitchen food scraps to the composting beds and cover it up with paper pieces, a bit of water to wet the paper, and some soil.

My hope is that this fall or at latest next spring I'll be able to plant in those beds. One is intended for vegetables. The other, I'm kind of planning to put in a cold frame this fall for cool-season vegetables, and in spring maybe perennial flowers, and vining beans on a trellis for summer -- it's in front of a south-facing window.

If we get motivated further, with a good supply of cardboard and newspaper, I'll finally create the island bed around our river birch trees in the front yard. That would seriously put to use the street's supply of grass clippings for a few months. If I want to do that, though, I need to start pretty soon, 'cause happy growing grass won't last too long now that the standard Oklahoma summer heat has arrived.

Woohoo! This has the potential to rescue those neglected garden beds AND prepare them for some really good gardening work AND help me put kitchen food scraps to good use. It's sadly amazing how much food we throw away (scraps and stuff that we didn't eat). And then there are the coffee grounds.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Keeping cool

Some really great, easy ideas for keeping the house cooler on those blazing hot Oklahoma summer days I'm sure we're gonna get any time now.

102 and No Air Conditioning on the Blue Skies Urban Farm blog. Fresh tips: honeycomb insulated blinds; siesta schedule.

Keeping the Heat Out on the Green Living Ottawa blog. Excellent tips: Coolaroo shade sail for outdoor living areas, or sunny walls and windows; window tinting film that can be removed for winter and reinstalled for summer.

The big tip I have to offer was my mother-in-law's excellent idea: use a tower fan in the main living area. We got one and its lovely oscillating breeze has been a huge help in keeping the a/c to a bare minimum all day and into the evening.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Another baking day

Yep, that Amish Friendship Bread starter was soooo ready. No denying it; today had to be a baking day. I still have three and a half loaves of breads in the freezer, and plenty of granola, so I am baking only I needed or had promised to do.

1. Chocolate cake layers, for Son1's cake to enjoy (he left for Boy Scout camp the day after his half-birthday party last month)

2. Four loaves of Amish Friendship Bread! I still had both bags of starter, so I made four loaves of bread (I cut the sugar some) and two bags of starter.
- One loaf of cinnamon-sugar AFB
- One loaf of cinnamon-chip AFB (from the mini cinnamon chips I got from the Baker's Catalogue)
- Two loaves of vanilla AFB

3. I'm probably going to toss the bowl of sliced nectarines, peaches, white peaches, and their juice into an 8x8-inch pan, top it with some stuff, and make a crisp or cobbler, whatever it's called!

Time to pull something together for dinner. I'm pretty sure dessert and breakfast are covered for a few days...

Friday, July 06, 2007

And the other son... Gryffindor!

Son2 being Sorted
Originally uploaded by Pioneer Library System

"Because I like Harry Potter."

Who could argue with that logic?!

Thank you, dear husband, for locating Son2 in the sea of Sorting photos!

Is there a Hogwarts in his future?

Son1 being Sorted
Originally uploaded by Pioneer Library System

At our public library's second annual MuggleFest last month, the staff snapped a photo of Son1 being Sorted by the Sorting Hat, in conversation with Dumbledore.

Oh, you want to know which House he chose? Dumbledore told each candidate that in their heart they would know to which House they belong. My dear 11 year old son said,

"Slytherin, because I'm evil and crazy!"

I was shocked -- shocked, I tell you -- that he was not a Gryffindor boy. At least it gives me a reason to exclaim,

"I canNOT beLIEVE we have a Slytherin in the family!!!"


Thursday, July 05, 2007

How lucky do you feel?

About climate change

A very interesting argument is made in this short video. Check it out, and see what you think.

In the media and in watercooler conversations, are we arguing about guesses or about choices? Watch the video!

If you find yourself thinking up (or reading in the comments) various counter-arguments or muttering about details, check out his followup ventures into the complexities.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Independence Day

White peaches, nectarines, more peaches, watermelon.

Lots of little flags along our curb.

Kids' special treat of small-bottler birch beer and cream soda in glass bottles.

Plenty of time for conversation with friends.

Good beer. Margaritas.

First-ever homemade three-bean salad, a success!

First-of-the-summer homemade salsa, always delicious.

Grilled burgers and sausages.

Ice cream bars.

Fireworks from near to the horizon. Cities and towns and families all around, making fire and light and sound.

Oooh. Aaaah.

Now let us renew the light of liberty, which is more powerful and good than capitalism or war or climate change or all-bets-are-off free trade, as our best gift to the world. And that's all I have to say about that.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

How low can we go? June report

90 Percent Emissions Reduction -- Month 1 progress

We're coasting this month because it's been so cool. Usually we're well into our peak a/c season, the height of our yearly electricity usage, but we're still in spring-type usage.
  • Unusually cool, cloudy (and rainy) month -- easy to keep the air conditioning off. We run it once in the late evening to dry the house out a bit. I set it on-but-warmish overnight and enjoy our bedroom ceiling fan -- I think the a/c might run only rarely because I only bumped it a bit warmer this weekend when I got up and it hasn't run once all morning. (I usually turn it off in the morning but there was some sleeping in happening).

  • Still hanging the laundry to dry, but I was getting a bit desperate for some sunny or at least windy days to beat the humidity! Today we have sun and a breeze, so a load of laundry is airing out -- hurrah!

  • Bought a small, oscillating tower fan. Has kept the living room very comfortable when it's been humid or a bit warm indoors. Hope it will help tremendously if or when our normal hot, dry Oklahoma summer arrives.

  • Tweaked the energy saver settings on this Mac laptop (PowerBook G4). Learning to use the screen at a much dimmer setting.

  • Discovered the light wash setting on the dishwasher, a "duh" moment. An 18-month-old unit; we run it full, in the wee hours of the morning thanks to the delay feature.

  • Experimenting with making a full pot of good coffee every 2nd or 3rd day, and drinking cold coffee from the fridge the other days. Started turning off the coffeemaker when brewing is finished, as the resident hot-coffee lover only wants that first cup anyway.

  • Started making sun tea for my husband's iced tea, rather than using the coffeemaker to make a concentrate. Seems to work better when it's not actually raining, though.

  • Discovered that our microwave and our toaster draw the same amount of power in use. Still absorbing this fact.

  • Not sure this will affect our reduction, but it's interesting: I signed up for a time-of-use electricity meter, and that was installed earlier this week. Now I'm very motivated to keep everything low and off in the 1 to 7 pm time frame on weekdays (very high cost at that time). I hope it will lower our electricity cost, and also spur me to keep our use shifted to the overnight and morning hours. When we get our normal hot, dry Oklahoma summer (still hoping), I expect this will reinforce my determination to keep the a/c off.

Natural Gas
In summer our only use is the hot water heater and occasional stove and oven use.
  • Our use might increase a little this summer, though our food costs and miles would go down, because I actually did a baking day this week and would like to do this routinely.
In the warm season I generally avoid like the plague any use of the oven and stove (it heats the house and heats me). I miss homemade bread and other things, and a friend gave me an Amish Friendship Bread starter that needs to be divided and loaves made from it every 10 days... so I'm going to try a planned baking day about every 10 days. That means I'll spend less on breakfast foods, too. As described in an earlier blog post, Friday morning I did my first baking day.

I would love to have a backyard wood-burning oven for such a baking day -- someday.

Not much to report here.
  • I started washcloth "sponge baths" to freshen up, and I'm continuing my Navy-style showers. I found I can use a very small amount of water to wash my face and to brush my teeth. My husband and I flush frugally. We all turn the water off when brushing teeth.

  • The dishwasher and washing machine are run with full loads only, except for the occasional small laundry load.

  • The shower heads are all low flow, and I'm trying to encourage the boys to use less than the full flow.

  • No need to water the garden or other plantings due to the torrential rainfall.

  • Baseball season is over! Beginning this week we're no longer going to the ballfields every weeknight.

  • I've worked to combine errands and to reduce our "out and about" days. We seldom leave our town of 100,000; we have one car; and my husband works two miles away. As a result, our basic daily use is up to me -- to choose our activities and errands wisely, and have a basket of "to-dos" ready near the door to reduce driving miles by getting a bunch done in one trip.

The category with the most potential for reduction... and the least progress.
  • Attempted to keep compostable food scraps; got quickly overwhelmed. I really need a compost pile or a couple of sheet-composting locations asap.

  • I noticed we throw away a lot of packaging materials. I'm about to do my once-a-month grocery and household goods shopping rounds, so I'll have the opportunity to make a lot of decisions about packaging that hadn't quite sunk in last month.

  • I started saving all envelopes that come in the mail with a plain back, for my scrap notepaper stack by the phone. I already reuse all printed paper that has a blank back.

  • I contacted the several catalogs we receive and reduced (one) or stopped (the rest) the mailings.

Consumer goods
Quite mixed.
  • I feel as though we spent more on nonessentials than usual, but this is typically true in May and June for various reasons. We paid for Boy Scout camp and the deposit for church camp. We bought the tower fan, some thrift-store clothing, baseball team photos, and a new book for me -- a very rare thing. I got a cell phone for the first time (cheap prepaid).

  • On the other hand, I browsed in a new yarn store in our once-yarn-poor town, but held firmly in mind my stash of yarn at home :) and I continued my heavy use of the public library.

  • Succumbed to the lure of fast food too often on baseball nights. Must consistently prep food ahead next spring -- the home version of fast food.

  • Baking day, see above, using lots of bulk and many local foods; should lower our food cost and miles for breakfasts.

  • I'm preparing for my monthly round of food/household shopping; time for lots of decisions on food choices, sources, miles, and so on.

  • Bought more goat milk laundry powder and soap, dairy (cream, butter, buttermilk), and some produce through our Oklahoma Food Co-op.

  • Bought other produce only at our town's farmers market (and only homegrown by the sellers).

  • Found a friend of a friend who sells eggs from her home flock and lives a mile from me. I'm getting a couple dozen eggs!

  • Found some local sorghum syrup sold at a rural corner store nearby; will try as a substitute for honey, maple syrup, and molasses.

  • My vegetable and herb plants are struggling 'cause I have waited a really long time to plant them in hopes of sunny days. I still have hope.

  • Last weekend my husband finally got a nonsoggy day to mow the very tall, fully weedy front and back yards; I grabbed two of the full cans of clippings to spread over cardboard and newspaper to start sheet-composting beds. I haven't done it yet because we've gotten so much rain since then that I'd need snowshoes to walk in the yard without sinking ankle-deep in the soil. I still have hope.

By now I'm just laughing at my tired-of-rain attitude!

Should I just brave the rain and marsh-like yard to get going on the sheet composting? Or wait for the weather to break -- supposedly late this coming week? Today was beautiful and I was able to hang a load of laundry to dry. Woohoo!

I do love this psalm

Psalm 84

1 How lovely is Your tabernacle,
O LORD of hosts!
2 My soul longs, yes, even faints
For the courts of the LORD;
My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.

3 Even the sparrow has found a home,
And the swallow a nest for herself,
Where she may lay her young—
Even Your altars, O LORD of hosts,
My King and my God.
4 Blessed are those who dwell in Your house;
They will still be praising You. Selah

5 Blessed is the man whose strength is in You,
Whose heart is set on pilgrimage.
6 As they pass through the Valley of Baca,
They make it a spring;
The rain also covers it with pools.
7 They go from strength to strength;
Each one appears before God in Zion.

8 O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer;
Give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah
9 O God, behold our shield,
And look upon the face of Your anointed.

10 For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
Than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
The LORD will give grace and glory;
No good thing will He withhold
From those who walk uprightly.

12 O LORD of hosts,
Blessed is the man who trusts in You!

(This is the closest I could find online to the version I love the most.)

New King James Version (NKJV)
Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Baking day results

Great breakfast of cinnamon rolls. Family declares undying love for mom.

Peaches not ripe enough for easy peeling; peach pie postponed for another day.

Three pounds of pecans toasted. House smells great.

Big batch of oat granola, with a big handful of multi-seed mix, baked. More great house aroma. After granola is cool, chopped toasted pecans are mixed in.

Bread baking! Four loaves of a basic white-wheat bread (white hard wheat flour gives a light texture). Kids can hardly wait for a slice to have with jam.

Two loaves of a hearty whole-wheat bread with a multi-seed mix mixed in, and some pressed on top. Mom declares complete toast happiness; kids indifferent.

Amish Friendship Bread starter divided, and two loaves of cinnamon-sugar A.F.B. made. Kids renew undying love declaration.

Veggie roasting put off to another time.

At 12:55 pm, air conditioning turned off. At 1:10 pm, oven turned off. House is comfortable. Success is declared. Bread is sliced and eaten (with butter or jam). After a break, mom tackles bowl and pan washing, and puts away cooled breads with a great sense of accomplishment.

Triple our normal rainfall

Central Oklahoma remains the big winner during the month with an average rainfall of 12.34 inches, nearly triple their normal amount of 4.57 inches.

~ Oklahoma Climatological Survey summary of June 2007's drought-busting rain, June 29, 2007

That's where we live. No wonder we're feeling so soggy.

This very minute I'm watching The Weather Channel to get out of the "sorry for myself" rut. It's helpful to hear about other places -- the cool nights in the northeast USA, the rain in northern Australia, and the rare snow in South Africa.

Rain, rain, go away. Please go somewhere else to play!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Baking day plans

A friend gave us some Amish Friendship Bread starter, which should be divided and a loaf of quick-like bread made every ten days. I had been mulling over the idea of a baking day this summer, but once a week seemed too often (since I don't want the heat in the house). Aha! Every ten days, with a little flexibility of a day early or late, seems like it could work well.

The starter will be ready to divide and make a loaf of bread tomorrow, and I bought sort of too many peaches at the farmers market today, so here are my plans.

- Clear counters!
- Put pecans to soak in warm, salty water (for crispy pecans, yum!)
- Maybe make up cinnamon rolls, to rise in the fridge overnight
- Mix granola dry ingredients
- Maybe make pie crust?

Tomorrow morning
- Bake cinnamon rolls (if I made them) -- 20 minutes
- Start bread dough for part-whole wheat bread, and maybe multi-seed bread -- ready to bake after 2.5-3.5 hours
- Dry pecans in low oven -- 30-45 minutes 'cause they'll be baked again in the granola
- Maybe prep peaches and make a peach pie? -- 40 minutes baking
- Mix up cinnamon Amish Friendship Bread and bake -- 45 minutes
- Shape breads for second rise
- Chop pecans; add pecans, honey, and butter to granola; bake granola -- 30 minutes?
- Bake breads -- 30 minutes

Depending on how the morning goes, I might finish by roasting those young onions, new potatoes, and beets. I want to be done and able to get rid of the heat by noon, either by opening windows (the no-rain option) or by a single use of the air conditioning.

The end result should be a breakfast of cinnamon rolls, a loaf of cinnamon Amish Friendship Bread, a peach pie, a big batch of oat-pecan granola, some spare crispy pecans, and four to six loaves of a basic part-whole-wheat bread for sandwiches, toast, and French toast; maybe also a loaf or two of a seedy whole-wheat bread with a multi-seed topping. The seed mix has been stored in the freezer, and I really want to try it.

Oh, and roasted potatoes, onions, and beets. Should I get some sausages to go with?


Summer finally breaking in?

The boys are choosing to play board and card games! They set out to walk around the (very irregular and large) block yesterday and got sidetracked playing in the park behind our house! They are reading books, and want to bake with me! This is a great thing, after weeks of the two of them bickering with each other and pining for video game time, seemingly unable to find anything else worthwhile to do.


Also, we saw a bit of sunshine this morning! It's gone now, but at least the skies are somewhat bright. We've gotten more rain this year, as of yesterday, than we got all of last year. All of the land is waterlogged, and all of our days and nights as well.

I ended up using the clothes dryer for a load of laundry, because the days are staying cool (under 80F), cloudy, and very humid, and I needed to launder some slow-drying things. Sigh. I got far enough ahead early last week when it was sunny and windy (got lots of laundry hung dry) that I think we can pretty much hold out for the sunny days predicted for this weekend. If not, I'll do a strategic single load as needed.

We are eager for swimming pool outings, and are ready to pounce on sunny or at least not-rainy days. On Monday we were at a friend's enjoying the backyard pool... and the skies opened and a downpour began. Unlike recent days, this went on and on and on; a few of the kids stayed in the pool, enjoying the experience, while the rest of us tucked ourselves under the patio umbrella under the shelter of a mature tree, with an ear open for the sound of thunder. Finally we heard a telltale rumble and hustled everyone in the house, where we dried off and had a nice time anyway.

Son1 has made his list of things he wants to do this summer, and posted it on the pantry door. Son2 and I will write his today. We did this three years ago, and we drew from that combined three-page list of many different ideas for a long while. Time for new ideas, though.

Yay, summer!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Eat local once a week, or gradually in July, or...

There are more and more ways to try this eating local thing.

One Local Summer

Eat one dinner of local ingredients each week. From the blog post at

It’s a way to explore your world and support local growers and start learning what’s available in your local foodshed.

Don’t fret over salt, spices or condiments. Focus your efforts on produce, dairy, eggs, meat and grains.

Local Food Month

Eat local as much as possibly throughout the month of July, to explore the possibilities available to you. You choose the extent to which you attempt to eat locally. From the blog post at Crunchy Chicken:

The challenge: ...increase your consumption of locally and sustainably grown food and decrease your consumption of imported and packaged food.

After one or both of these efforts, some of us might be ready for the September Eat Local Challenge: only local food, all month long.

I missed our farmers' market on Saturday morning, so I want to go on Wednesday morning (fewer participants, though), and keep eating up the veggies we got last week. An Oklahoma-foods store is preparing to open in the next few weeks in our town's historic downtown. I am very eager to see what they have, and what their plans are for local, seasonal foods.

Dust to eat

Who has given to me this sweet
And given my brother dust to eat?
and when will his wage come in?
William Vaughn Moody, "Gloucester Moors," Gloucester Moors & Other Poems, 1910. Quoted by Caroline Henderson, Letters from the Dust Bowl, in her letter to Henry Wallace, then-Secretary of Agriculture, July 1935.

This snippet of poetry really struck me when I came to it in Henderson's Dust Bowl letters. So full of agony, really, especially in the context of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl.

But wait; read it again while holding in your mind the abundance and over-consumption in the developed nations but especially the USA, and the subsistence living of much of the rest of the world.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Another list: the book stack

From the library, I've got some good reading going.

Material World: A Global Family Portrait, and Women in the Material World
Library: An Unquiet History
The Way of Ignorance and Other Essays, by Wendell Berry

Older kid's fiction:
The Worst of Times (a 12-year-old boy encounters the Great Depression with his family; Son1 loved it and urged me to read it, so I'm halfway through and enjoying it)

Waiting at the library:
The Year 1000: What Life Was Like at the Turn of the First Millennium
Last Child in the Woods

Also calling to me, here at home:
Getting Involved with God: Rediscovering the Old Testament
Climbing Parnassus: A New Apologia for Greek and Latin

I think I will STOP picking up other books and work on these above -- perhaps returning Library in favor of the rest. I will take a good look at The Year 1000; I may want to put that aside as well. In order to get more reading in, some Internet time needs to go. Woohoo!

Update: I did return Library to the library. The Year 1000 is very enjoyable! I may finish it in three days of easy reading. I read a good bit of Last Child in the Woods last night, too, but it is slower going because the writing is not as engaging. It's for my nonfiction book club, so I will read the whole thing, and speedily if possible so another book club member can get this copy from the library too. This is a case of the book priority being related to how quickly I need to get it back to the library, or read for book club, or both.

A list: local purchases

Last night I picked up what I ordered this month from our Oklahoma Food Co-op. Here's the list.

Pecan flapjack granola, 1-pound bag
Fresh beets, a bundle of 5
Cream, 2 pints (very rich and yummy)
Butter, 8 ounces
Buttermilk, 1 pint
Healing lip balm, citrus
"Nuthin' But Clean" goat's milk soap, unscented
Goat's milk laundry powder, 48 loads (a pound or so)

I didn't buy much produce because last Saturday I finally made it to our farmers' market and bought this stuff:

Peaches, a large basket (maybe 1/2 bushel? 1/4? dunno)
Blue Lake green beans, 2 pounds
Blueberries, 1 pint
Blackberries, 2 pints
New potatoes, 1 pound
Young sweet onions, 1 pound

So all this week we ate sliced peaches, alone or on cereal or granola, with or without blueberries or blackberries. Yum! We also had Italian green beans (steamed, then topped with a good drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, a good grating of Parmesan, and salt, pepper, garlic, and oregano, and tossed well -- great at any temperature).

I need to go ahead and use the oven to roast all of the new potatoes and young sweet onions (teardrop shaped), and in a separate pan the beets. YUM. I would ask dear husband to grill them, but our charcoal chimney rusted out and we need a replacement. Anyway, then we can snack on the potatoes, onions, and beets, and use them in other things. We have lots of green beans still, so I may get more Parmesan and make a big batch of Italian green beans for the fridge. We haven't finished the blackberries either, so I may freeze them or make a coffee cake with blackberries and last year's home-canned peach not-jam on the bottom.

The granola is a big hit with dear husband and me, so now I will try making granola myself. The ingredients are rolled oats, chopped pecans, whole wheat flour, honey and turbinado sugar, and flax seeds. It's a bit too sweet for me, but still very good. What I like about it is that it's a very simple granola and has at least some Oklahoma ingredients (pecans, whole wheat flour, honey).

I intend to make some baked goods with the buttermilk (pancakes, biscuits, coffeecake?). The first pint of cream is for my coffee for the next several weeks; the second is for whipped cream for treats this week and on Independence Day.

The goat's milk stuff is my standard laundry soap. Next month I'll get a new Sweet Orange Stain Stick, which is a small bar of a strong lye soap, I think. My previous bar has lasted nearly two years and done a good job. I'm trying the goat's milk soap in a search for an alternative to Dove and Neutrogena in the shower.

Tomorrow I'm probably going to stop in at one of our downtown shops and buy a half-pound of decaf coffee. I've completely run out of the fair-trade, organic, well-priced Bishops Blend that I buy at church; the profits help people in need, through Episcopal Relief and Development. It's not local, but I don't mind so much with coffee, spices, and chocolate; they've been traded worldwide for centuries. I might wait 'til Sunday and stick with Bishops Blend after all.

My favorite breakfast lately has been muesli or the granola with sliced peaches and berries, and some whole milk or cream. Plus a cuppa good coffee!

Glub glub

Rain, rain, and yet more rain. That glorious wet stuff falling from the sky? Enough already! Thanks for the bountiful blessings! We're about to float away here; give the water to the parched parts of the nation!

I'm getting a bit tired of gloomy mornings and sudden downpours; this is Oklahoma in June?? The subsoil moisture has been recharged, and every rainwater reservoir in the region is full. All of the games last night in Son1's baseball tournament were postponed, wholesale, to tonight, and tonight we'll probably squelch around and search for a dry spot of ground for our chairs, just like two nights ago at Son2's second and last (oh well; good season though) tournament game. Oh, and lots of Oklahoma rivers are at or above flood stage.

At some point I'm sure we'll get those searingly hot days that are the familiar landscape of our Oklahoma summers. First, though, we'll have some amazingly hot and muggy days while the surface moisture evaporates and sinks further into the soil. When it rains, it pours -- this June, this year, in Oklahoma anyway.

Rain, rain, go away; come again some other day. For now, go water the still-needy parts of God's green acres.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Laundry, accomplished

It is entirely enjoyable to have dried six or seven loads of laundry in two days by wind and solar power -- i.e., hung to dry! The weather forecast for this week was lots of warm days and, by mid-week, a lot of wind, so I took it as my chance to catch up with the laundry all at once without using the dryer. It has been so easy!

For instance, two days ago, a hot and windy day, I hung a load of lightweight clothes to dry (tshirts, shorts), and followed that up with a big load of terry towels (not great to dry on a cloudy and/or humid day, so this was my big chance for an easy drying day). In about three hours the towels were completely dry, so I took in all of that laundry and hung another load to dry. The next morning, after the cool of the morning, I took all of that in and hung a huge load of sheets to dry on our second windy, hot day. I'm learning to vary the type of laundry so I can fill the various hanging places in the sunroom with two loads if possible.

Thanks to the wind, I got the sheets and two more loads dried and put away yesterday, even though it was getting increasingly humid. I stopped for the night due to the humidity and potential thunderstorms. This morning I discovered that a cold front had come through, stirring up a little rain but only a little -- and now it is beautifully cool (70F), with dry air, and windy! I opened up the house to thoroughly cool it down in preparation for the weekend's expected hot days and nights.

Of course this means I'll be looking for more laundry to do in such perfect laundry weather. When I get to the bottom of the typical stuff, I can always wash some blankets...

Between loads and before other tasks, I'm enjoying a morning moment on the old bench in our front entryway, to the tune of the wind-ruffled leaves of our river birches, various bird song, the occasional car passing by, and our wind chimes. This has quickly become my favorite morning spot. Today, though, I'm wearing a fleece jacket over my dress due to the breeze! I may go sit in the wind because that'll put me in the sun, too. Such enjoyable decisions.

Friday, June 01, 2007

How low can we go?

One of my favorite, most-challenging bloggers is Sharon of Casaubon's Book. She and another blogger, Miranda, have concocted the most amazing challenge: the 90% Reduction challenge or the "Riot for Austerity"!

This year-long adventure is open to everyone interested in making big lifestyle changes and discovering the possibilities. The goal is to show by example that Americans and others who have such a wealthy way of life that most of the people on our small world cannot fathom it... can actually downsize, simplify, and reduce our consumption in a radical way -- and still enjoy life!

I decided to join the reduction challenge for the support, ideas, and challenge to go deeper, though my own goals were somewhere between modest and moderate. Here is my baseline, our household's starting line, where we are right now. I'm not providing the USA averages or the full text of the 90% reduction challenge in each area; for all that good stuff, go to 90% Rules. Here we go!


Baseline for 90% reduction challenge

The 7 categories:

1. Gasoline.
I haven't figured our actual baseline yet, but my guesstimate is that we typically use 344 gallons of gasoline per year (11,000 miles at 32 mpg), or about 86 gallons per person per year (divide by four people). This is 17% of the USA average (500 gallons/person/year), but if we only count the adults, we would be at 34% of the USA average.

2. Electricity.
Our baseline is 59% of the USA average, and 49% of the Oklahoma average. Our 12-month usage to date is 6,447 kWh, including 4-for-1 accounting* for the 200 kWh each month of wind power we purchase from the power company. Before the wind power swap, our baseline was 75% of the USA average, and 62% of the Oklahoma average. Our 12-month actual usage to date is 8,247 kWh.

* Wind power: We buy 200 kWh per month of wind power, which according to the 90% rules counts as 1/4 of the amount in typical power. So we can use all 200 kWh in place of 50 kWh of combustion-generated electricity, and then a 90% reduction for us would be 200 kWh wind plus 40 kWh other.
But I needed to figure our baseline with wind. Hmm; 200 kWh/mo x 12 = 2400 kWh/year of wind power (we have never used less than 360 kWh/month, so I count all of the wind power). A quarter of that is 600 kWh/year of typical power. Take out 2400 from our baseline and put in 600 in its place, and our baseline becomes 6,447 kWh for a year.

3. Heating and Cooking Energy.
We use natural gas.
Our baseline is 44% of the USA average, and 65% of the Oklahoma average . Our 12-month usage to date is 44 decatherms or 440 therms.

4. Garbage. A 90% cut would be 0.45 pounds per person per day.
I still need to figure out approximately how much garbage we create each day. We "recycle" a lot of plastic; most of it by bulk is milk jugs.

5. Water.
Our baseline is 47.7% of the USA average. Our 12-month usage to date is 69,700 gallons. Divided among the four of us, that is 17,245 gallons each for the year, or 47.7 gallons per person per day.

6. Consumer Goods. A 90% cut would be 1,000 dollars per household per year.
I'm still thinking about what our baseline actually is. We do a lot of borrowing and making do, acquire thrift store and hand-me-down clothes and items, and very occasionally buy new items. Hmm.

7. Food.
a. Food you grow or that is produced locally and organically.
Our baseline: most of our meat, dairy, and eggs is in this category; produce is limited right now (mid-spring) but in the growing season we typically buy local and often organic; our whole-wheat flour, wheat berries, and pecans are in this category too, and sometimes peanuts. My laundry soap and stain remover are locally made. Perhaps year-round this category has been about 40% for us by dollar amount or item count.

b. Dry bulk goods transported from longer distances.
Our baseline: our non-whole-wheat flour, rolled oats, rices, oils, pastas, beans (canned and dry) are long-distance travelers, as well as some of our produce. Definitely coffee, tea, and spices. Perhaps year-round this category has been about 15% for us.

c. Wet goods (meat, fruits, vegetables, juices, oils, milk, etc) conventionally grown and transported long distances, and processed foods like chips, soda, potatoes. Also, regular shampoo, dish soap, etc.
Our baseline: almost all personal care items and household cleaning items are in this category, though the cleaning items are vinegar, baking soda, liquid dish soap, and dishwasher detergent. This category is full of our fall & winter vegetables (frozen and canned), breakfast cereals, breads, most condiments, most nuts, chocolate and cocoa, and so on, and so on. Probably year-round this category has been about 45% for us.


That's our baseline. Soon I'll write up my basic plans and expectations for each area. Go check out Casaubon's Book (Sharon's blog), Simple Living (Miranda's blog), and Sharon's other site, Our Victory at Home.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Rambles: around my neighborhood

I took a walk this morning. Hurrah!

In college and grad school I walked all of the time, mostly to get places. I always loved being outdoors like that, and the walking usually seemed an easy, natural thing. It's been years, though, since I routinely walked places or took walks. For a year or more I've been yearning to start walking. I wanted to get outside in my neighborhood, get my body moving, feel the air, listen to the birds and insects, see the homes and yards at a walking pace, and enjoy field-edge grasses and wildflowers up close (we live a block from farm fields).

Here's the thing: in order to start taking good walks, I really needed to deal with my total lack of good shoes for walking. Flipflops and little sandals are my basic warm-weather footwear! Friday evening I found sport sandals at a great price, so I snapped them up. On Saturday I wore them with socks for our day-long visit to the annual Chuckwagon Gathering and Kids Cowboy Festival (at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum) -- and they felt great! Last night as I was falling asleep I vowed that I would go for a short walk this morning.

I overslept, but by mid-morning today I was out the door for my walk. It was cloudy and breezy, and I wore a long cotton knit dress (I nearly always wear dresses), a fleece jacket, and my sport sandals with socks. It was GREAT! It rained very lightly for a while as I walked on the sidewalk down our block and then past the apartments and onto the sidewalk-less big field. The rain faded away and the breezes continued as I walked the other two sides of the big field and listened to the big rustling sweeps of wind through the trees.

Along the mown edges of the big field I got a good, up-close look at some prairie wine cups, closed to the cloudy skies, and some evening primroses. Then I crossed the street to walk against "traffic" next to the farm-field-edge grasses and flowers. An amazing variety of growing things! It was great to be able to stop and look carefully at what from our car is simply a blur of violet or dots of yellow. After a bit, I crossed the road again, walked the sidewalk back to our street, then along our street to our house and some good coffee. I varied my pace as seemed good. Early on I felt my legs complaining a bit (on the big field's uneven ground); mid-walk I felt looser; and I took a slow pace to wind down in the last few minutes. I think it was a 30-minute walk.

It was wonderful. Afterward I took a big picture book of Aldo Leopold's Sand County Almanac and my cup of coffee out to the bench in our entryway and enjoyed them both while breezes rustled through the trees in our front yard and our neighbors' and, on occasion, a bit of rain fell for a while. A bluejay arrived in one of our river birches and was immediately chased away by a smaller bird I didn't see clearly. The sky brightened, and brought out the colors of our flowerbed full of perennial foliage and scattered blooms: yellow coreopsis, red-orange-yellow Indian blanket, and yellow-tipped russet Mexican hat. The daylilies are stretching up fat bud sets, a promise of deep orange flowers in days to come.

A very good weekend morning for me.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Water, water

So far this month we've received over six inches of rain. I think it all showed up last week! With curious timing, water has been a theme for me lately.

It sort of ended up that I began reading quite a lot about water, where we get it, how we use it, and lots more. Informative booklets to help me learn about possibilities for rainwater capture and use on our suburban lot (Water Storage, Create an Oasis with Greywater, Branched Drain Greywater Systems). For an understanding of global water issues, the book When the Rivers Run Dry: Water -- the Defining Crisis of the Twenty-First Century (the first three-quarters was incredibly informative and depressing; the last quarter is fascinating and actually a bit hopeful). I started reading Water Storage in the midst of When the Rivers Run Dry, and the simple presentation of aquifers, groundwater, surface water, wells, runoff, and all that stuff in Water Storage helped me understand better what I was reading in WRRD about dry areas of the world (like ours).

Then it started raining. A lot. And I discovered that all of that water looked different to me than it had. Usually I would be vaguely happy that the plants (from gardens to fields) were receiving water, and I'd also be annoyed at how waterlogged our yard and garden beds would be for a day or so.

This time I saw that many of the big puddles we carefully drove through extended onto the neighboring land. A big stream of runoff water gushed across a road and along a ditch between nearby fields. The big "lake" formed, as it does in every substantial rain, at the bottom of a huge grassy slope outside a campus building. Suddenly I loved all of that water in unpaved places because now I understood that it was recharging our precious groundwater. Also, what a luxurious contrast to the drought we've been in! At last, all over the state, farm ponds and reservoirs are nearly or entirely full. Last week rivers reached flood stage for a time. Creeks ran full and fast, and then gradually subsided.

Witnessing all of this water, so much so fast, here and then gone, I wished the runoff across the land moved more slowly, so that much more of it could sink into the soil. Sure, a big rain would create for more flooded areas for longer (that could be directed into various areas..). And yet. Water in the uppermost layer of soil would be there for the plants to draw from during dry times this summer, and water in deeper layers could recharge groundwater... rather than so much water being rushed off to the river in such great quantities. Wouldn't it be great if every homeowner, business owner, and commercial builder considered water something to capture more of, rather than send straight to the (paved) street? Why not slow it down or even capture some of it before it runs down driveways, across sidewalks, into gutters, down stormdrains, and away to the river?

The grassy drainage ponds designed into new developments suddenly look a lot less like a big bother and a lot more like a wonderful thing -- slow down that water and let it percolate downward rather than dumping it right into the stormwater drainage system. What always seemed such a neat and tidy solution to rainwater runoff (the storm drain system) now looks to me like a big waste of all of our wonderful rainwater. A way to avoid understanding what we have done by covering so much of the earth with hard surfaces. Now I understand a little more of the purpose of farm ponds.

In our own yard there are various ways we can slow some of the runoff to encourage more water to be held in the soil for the trees and plants, while still directing water away from the house. In our front yard, which gets pretty waterlogged in a big rain, we do have to make sure the water moves through the garden beds and away from the house. In one narrow side yard that also gets waterlogged, we need to put in a French drain... not toward the street in front of the house, but toward the back yard, which slopes away from the house and is very hot and dry all summer long.

In the back yard, I hope to plant fruit trees this fall. I'm thinking about various ways to direct rainwater runoff into the soil to hang on to that water a bit longer. The idea I currently like is this: when we plant the trees, leave a slightly lower soil surface around the trees, and fill that with mulch so that the downhill flow of rainwater is slowed down there and some is directed into the soil. For greater effectiveness, possibly do this in long curves across the yard with the fruit trees sort of lined up, and plantings under the trees... Hmm.

In the back of my mind, I wonder what our town's water resources are. How we are managing our resources. What percentage of our town is paved. How our creeks are cared for. How badly our groundwater aquifers have been drawn down. What plans have been made for the future. Whether any big-picture thinking has been done, to look beyond dollars and users to the environmental impacts that always, eventually, impact us.

This morning dear husband read aloud to me an editorial in the local newspaper that mentioned the state water resources board and some upcoming meetings about its statewide water plan! I found and began looking through documents online and learning a lot about the state of water in Oklahoma. Hmmm.

Water, water everywhere, 'cause it's springtime in the Great Plains. Splish, splash, splosh is our springtime tune. Summer and dry times are right around the corner, though. Dear husband is mowing the front lawn; when he's finished I'll put up my yard sign: Make Every Drop Count.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Watching the weather

A quintessential weather-watching day at our house! It's Sunday afternoon, everyone is home and relaxing (well, that's actually sort of unusual in the spring), and dear husband and I are watching/listening to the television tuned to a local channel, for live coverage of the bad weather in far western Oklahoma. Meaning -- intense thunderstorms, big hail, and potential for tornadoes.

This is the third day of rough weather. The people in a south Kansas town lost most of their town to a tornado the night before last. Last night there was tornado damage in a little town in far western Oklahoma. Talking with some folks at church this morning we heard that the weather was firing up again in the very same area of western Oklahoma. Now, in mid-afternoon, it's shaping up to be a very active day all day... and to possibly arrive in our area in late afternoon or early evening.

I'm sure dear husband is conversing by computer with friends about the weather and probably has eight bazillion windows of current weather data open on his computer to review from time to time. Me, I'm happy with the TV info and the fact that the stormy weather is currently far from us.

Earlier I found and printed a map of the Oklahoma counties, because the weather radio alerts are typically by county and my memory is a bit hazy on that particular info.

The kids? They're playing games and eating a snack!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Meals on the run, for baseball nights

Thanks to a full schedule of weeknight baseball games and practices, it is time to get a grip on dinners besides fast food. I need to prepare dinners ahead of time, or stock practically ready to eat fixings from the fridge, and figure out dinner food I can pack in our little rolling cooler cube to eat before, or between, or during games.

Our first, basic thoughts were these:

Fast at-home dinners
Sandwiches, especially messy ones (hoagies/subs...)
Pasta salad
Bean salad (for the adults!) -- three-bean salad, my blackeyed pea salad with diced bell pepper in vinaigrette

On-the-go food
Lay in supplies for sandwiches and tortilla wraps
Cheese hunks
Granola bars
Cut-up fruit
Pasta salad
Bean salad

Then I asked on a favorite homeschoolers' discussion board, and got a bunch more ideas (thank you!!)

Almond butter and jelly sandwiches
Salad wraps
Pasta salad
Hummus and carrots
Coleslaw variations
Trail mix
Granola bars
Frozen fruit such as mangos and pineapples -- they'll partially thaw on the go, very yummy.
Cold pizza
Cottage cheese with fruit on top (we don't do cottage cheese, but yogurt -- yum!)
Hard-boiled eggs
Bean dip with whole-grain tortillas
Eggs microwaved in a coffee cup then kept warm in a thermos -- wrap in a tortilla, and top with salsa and cheese packed in small containers.
Cook a chicken in a slow cooker, remove the meat, and use for chicken salads or sandwiches, or finger food.
Vary the bread as well as the fillings -- bread, buns, tortillas, etc.
Heat meatballs in a slow cooker for meatball subs
Pasta with meat sauce
Chicken sandwiches, especially BBQ'd earlier in the day and served on homemade bread
Calzones -- little bread pockets stuffed with meat & sauce

Many of these will be great for us, and now I've also thought of:

Fast at-home dinners
Sloppy Joes -- filling done ahead, and veggie sides
Tacos -- all prep done ahead
Pasta salad with our very favorite things in it
Big green salad with lots of veggies and sliced hard-boiled eggs, or chicken (beef), and/or cheese
Cold-cut sandwiches on good bread or rolls or tortillas
Maybe try muffaletta or other "stacked" prepared sandwich? Might be too different for Son2, though.

On-the-go food
Yogurt-fruit-granola cups
Thai-style noodles with peanut sauce, veggies, and nuts
Lo mein with whole-wheat noodles, veggies, and protein
Same all-our-favorites pasta salad
Same cold-cut sandwiches
Peanut butter balls (with oats and dry milk and stuff)

Now come the next challenges: keeping ingredients in the house, and doing the early food prep. It makes sense to cook and prep everything in the morning or at lunchtime, way before I might run out of time, and to lay out dinner or fill the cooler shortly before we need it.

I feel much better about the task of dinners for the next two months. Whew! And don't those foods sound delicious?

It's May, it's May, the lovely month of May!

May Day has come and gone, drenched in rain and little in the way of garden flowers to pluck for ring-the-doorbell-and-run bouquets for neighbors. Instead, my recent quirk of mindlessly singing songs related to what I notice or am thinking about... brought this to my lips. "Tra-la, it's here..." Perhaps you recognize it, from the musical "Camelot"? I listened to the cast recording of "Camelot" a LOT in my early teen years; I'm guessing it was the Broadway production but I dunno. Loved it lots, long ago.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Book Stack, oh my! And it's a big one.

In which I detail my own connections among the various books around me, nearly all of which are from the library.

Stacked on the buffet, to inspire our spring/summer cooking.
- Barbecue, Biscuits, and Beans: Chuckwagon Cooking
- The Big Book of Backyard Cooking. Food for the grill, side dishes, desserts, drinks, condiments -- yum!
- The Complete Book of Outdoor Cookery (James Beard & HE Brown, 1955). I rediscovered my Spider Bread recipe, hurrah!!

Also on the buffet, to help me learn about Mexican cooking from the great lady, and see what Raichlen has to add.
- From My Mexican Kitchen (Diana Kennedy)
- Steven Raichlen's Healthy Latin Cooking

Our three-county library system here in Oklahoma is sponsoring "The Big Read," encouraging everyone to read The Grapes of Wrath. I will, sometime, but as my choice for my nonfiction book club's June meeting I picked another book about that time in Oklahoma's history. And a bunch of "go withs" for me.
- Letters from the Dust Bowl. For the book club. Letters from an Oklahoma farming woman that were published in big newspapers across the country, giving readers a sense of the realities of the Dust Bowl and Great Depression from where we live now.
- Rethinking the Great Depression
- The New Deal: Pulling America Out of the Great Depression
...and some children's books on the Great Depression. If Mom's thinking about it, why not add related books to the kids' book stack?

I'm thinking about serving a Depression-inspired meal for our June meeting.
- Depression Era Recipes
- Whistleberries, Stirabout, & Depression Cake

Switching topics to water and gardening:
- When the Rivers Run Dry: Water, the Defining Crisis of the Twenty-first Century. This is my current major focus of all of these books.
- A Sand County Almanac (Aldo Leopold). One of several environmental/conservationist classics I've never read.
- The Natural House (Chiras). Supposed to be a great resource for rethinking how your house and land fit with sustainability etc.
- Creating an Oasis with Greywater and Water Storage, both by Art ---. To help me see what is really involved with rainwater harvesting and use. Graywater from the sinks and shower? Maybe someday.
- Heirloom Vegetable Gardening: A Master Gardener's Guide to Planting, Growing, Seed Saving, and Cultural History. Neat book, tons of great information. Better for the slow winter season rather than Must Plant Immediately!!! season.
- Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots: Gardening Together with Children. I'd like to do something fun with an arbor or other shade for our southwest-facing living room window; this might help the boys and me make some magic.

- Climbing Parnassus: A New Apologia for Greek and Latin. My progress with this has slowed way down because all of the others are library books!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Play ball!

The practices have been scheduled. To get ready for the season, which starts in about two weeks (yikes), Son1 will have three practices per week, and Son2 will have two practices per week. Oh my. Now every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evening, at least one of our boys and a parent will be at a baseball field somewhere, and Saturday mornings too.

Well, that is, until the games start. Then our Friday evenings will often be booked as well. Shortly, we will be masters of the fast, light supper before several or all of us dash out the door, baseball gear and all.

Play ball!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Baseball creeps in

The boys and I play catch on the driveway every few days. We're all getting back in practice. Of course I am much more of a beginner than they are. If we move much farther apart, the ball smacking my bare palm will hurt! I need a ball glove. And yet, it's fun. This coming week I'm going to start throwing grounders to the boys in the park. After I get a glove, we'll also keep moving farther apart so they get a good practice in while I improve.

Last week I got a bunch of baseball-related books from the library. Picture books: Home Run (on Babe Ruth, illustrated wonderfully by a local artist), Roasted Peanuts (friendship and baseball), and Baseball Saved Us (kids playing baseball in the context of Japanese-Americans sent to internment camps during World War II). Story books: Amelia Bedelia Plays Baseball, Sports Shorts, Abner and Me, Satch and Me, Babe and Me, Shoeless Joe and Me. The boys read all of them in the first two days except Sports Shorts and Home Run.

Gear needs: I hope their cleats and ball gloves from last year will do for the first couple of practices for each boy. I hadn't even thought about cleats until right before Son2's first practice, and he was wearing other shoes anyway. Son2 needs to move up from his T-ball glove to his first baseball glove. I'd really like to get a batting glove for Son1 just to show him a little love! And I remember that last year in the first month of games there were more than a few that were so cold I wished the boys had a long-sleeved warm layer they could wear under their jerseys; I'll look for that, too.

We've spoken with both boys' coaches and had the organizational meeting for one team, with the other coming up in a few days. Two days after the first meeting, we missed a team-related activity by forgetting about it. That happens every year in the first week or two, sigh. May we get our act together quickly!

Our Tuesdays and Thursdays for the rest of this month are filled with Scouts and one son's baseball practices, and we don't yet know what the other team's practice schedule will be. My pen is virtually poised over my calendar, but we just don't know yet.

Time to keep an eye on the local college and high school baseball schedules. I want to catch a game on an open afternoon or evening with good weather now, before the boys even start their season. And keep it up during the season.