winter break-down

Anyone with a "blended" family can tell you that holidays can be rough. Add a grandchild to the mix, and it gets even worse. Our clan has enough experience with sharing holidays to avoid fighting, but we do seem to get busier and busier every year. This was our celebration schedule, starting the Sunday before Christmas:

Nutcracker matinee. Small Person to Auntie L's for two nights.
Work, shop.
Shop, bake, get Small Person back.
Bake, wrap, panic.
Unwrap, wade through piles out the door to first visit. Eat, drink, unwrap, be merry.
Laundry, pack, wade out the door for next visit. Drive, eat, unwrap, be merry.
Drive to next visit, unwrap more, be wearily merry.
Drive, leave Small Person with last set of grandparents.

Be forewarned, next year we're cutting somebody out. Or, making them come to us.

I've had a couple of days to relax, eat the treats from my stocking, and completely re-do Small Person's room. Yep, it's another project. Unfortunately, I didn't take pictures, but it did turn out really well. We pulled up the gross carpet and cleaned up the beautiful wood floor underneath. Then we cut about two feet off the legs of her loft bed. She doesn't like being so far off the ground, but this way she still has some space for storage and fort building. It's too cold and wet to paint and re-finish, so we'll save that until summer, or birthday. She'll return today to the surprise; I can't wait!


...and I'm spent

Today I finished up the holiday madness at work and don't have to think about it for two weeks! Huzzah! The crazies were still ordering like mad to have things on time for xmas. Sure, we can ship your lovely little gift with express mail for thrice the original cost, no problem. Whatevs, I'm done for the season. When I get back, we'll start shipping all the orders made with gift cards. It ought to be nearly as busy as the pre-holiday weeks. Ah, well, no rest for the wicked.

Tonight we went to the traditional small town caroling event. Hot cider and cookies, loud, packed ballroom and miraculously sleeping babies in the midst of it all. Next on the agenda: to bed early and a Tuesday filled with wrapping and cookie planning and last minute grocery shopping.

And, I know I'm a day late (and always a dollar short!), but Happy Hannukah and Solstice!


winter wonderland

We got our xmas tree this weekend. The subsequent schlep home and decorating got Small Person so riled up as to make for an extremely frustrating bedtime scenario. Who am I kidding? Bedtime is always frustrating lately. 'Tis the season for all-nighters and middle of the night holiday prep, anyway, so it's not like I'm really missing out on my own beauty sleep. Having to shove a half-knitted hat under the couch cushions every time I hear the hinges creak on Small Person's bedroom door doesn't do any favors to that pattern, though. Fortunately, it's a forgiving fuzzy yarn, and she'll never notice anyway.

Okay, pardon the complaint tangent, back to the tree. The tree! We went for a potted one this year, and we'll try to remember to water it this time. No ornaments were smashed during the process, despite Small Person's best efforts and grabby hands. She did a fantastic job decorating one square foot of tree to the maximum saturation point, then was a good sport when we suggested a few relocations.

There are no presents under the tree, yet. There is shopping and crafting and online ordering to do this week, so it will stack up fast. Small Person is the only grandchild of a ridiculous amount of folks (thank you, blended families!), which means I can usually get away with a couple of strategic mom gifts and leave the spoiling to others. 

Awkward segue to: the latest garden news.

That is a photo of the freezy frost on our garden this morning. I admit to being a total wuss in cold weather, so I'm not particularly excited by this. But, it did thrill my black heart to see that my latest slug trap was doubly effective. Intoxicate 'em, then freeze 'em to death! I know, totally disgusting. Isn't that what the interwebs are for, after all?

Those funny things in the background are my recycled bottle cloches. Trash into treasure, that's my motto. Translation: I can't bear to throw that out, let's just hang on to it a little longer....?


wax on

This is today's completed craft project: teacup candles!

This project was so ridiculously simple. Really, what am I going to say? Melt wax, place wicks, pour slowly. That was about it. But, the reveal is pretty dang cute. And, I must congratulate myself (someone has to!) on the thrift-to-fun ratio of the project. Thrift store cups, wax, wicks, and scent from the craft store. Now, I'm pretty positive my gift recipient does not read this blog (if so, hi Grammy!), so only we will know that this charming semi-homemade gift took us less than a half an hour and cost less than $15. Shh! don't tell!

Plus, it's one of those projects with a high instant-gratification factor, perfect for Small Person to help and see results quickly. Perfect for me to not freak out when she sticks her fingers where she shouldn't. The wax doesn't get too hot, it's easy to stir and pour, and she can be proud of her skills when it's unwrapped. We'll definitely give it some fancy wrapping to complete the boutique look, and that's that.

One down, countless to go.


like butter

Sometimes my housekeeping verges on the schizophrenic. Instead of sorting the laundry that's been on my floor for a week, let's make butter!

The rationale behind this decision? The insane amount of cream we bought for Thanksgiving that was subsequently left over. We went to the big box store, of course, and the conversation went something like this:

"So I need three-quarters of a cup per pie, times four pies..."

"That's three cups. And I need a cup and a half"

"And we need enough to whip to top the pies."

"So should we get an extra half-gallon, just in case?"

"...I guess it can't hurt."

Well, yes, it can. Quite a lot, actually, when you can't bear to throw it away. So, this morning I poured some into a mason jar and started shaking. Small Person got into the act, too. Alas, her assistance was short-lived; those wee arms tire quickly.

So I shook and shook and shook and shook and shook. And shook. And then I shook some more. Then, all of a sudden, the frothy whipped cream started to come together. A few more shakes, and it was all one mass of butter floating in sweet buttermilk. Yum!

Butter went into the fridge, buttermilk was added to the Sunday morning waffle breakfast. What went on the waffles? Butter, of course! More yum! The resulting full tummies felt marginally better than slurping the stuff straight from the carton.

We spent the rest of the day working off the dairy fat in the garden. There was a ton of weeding to do, plus the weekly compost rotation, then some green onions and radishes to plant.

We wrapped up the day with a birthday celebration, for which I offered to make a cake. A non-sugar, diabetic-friendly cake. No problem!

Meatloaf cake with mashed potato frosting, garnished with broccoli florets and, the kicker, bacon rosettes. Even more yum! Just what we needed to complete the eating holiday.

At least I didn't have to do any shopping this weekend! 


giving thanks

"Goodnight, sweetie, I'm very thankful to have you for my daughter."

"And I'm very thankful for my pet fish!"

Well, I bought the fish, so I guess that's somewhat reciprocal.


a little work, a little play

I've had an uncharacteristically busy day. Got up at 8:00 (respectable for a Sunday), exercised, turned the compost pile, and made ten pie crusts, all before noon. What, who is this person?

Seriously, the rest of the week I'm my regular lazy self, but I usually have to get some stuff done on Sunday. I'll have limited time this week to fulfill my Thanksgiving pie quota, so I had to get those crusts done. They are hanging out in the freezer, ready to bake a little at a time during the week.

The compost tossing is my usual Sunday chore, when I remember to do it. It's strangely satisfying. Almost as gratifying as growing the garden itself, watching the scraps degrade enough to go right back. And around we go again!

Small Person went off for her overnight visit with Baba, since she has the whole week off from school. When did they start doing this? Anyway, that means that although I did have a productive morning, I spent the rest of the day geeking around on the interwebs. Back to my normal self.


project time!

Every year is the same: I plan fabulously creative home-made gifts for everyone, then end up feverishly knitting my fingers off Christmas eve and everyone gets the same scarf. You'll just have to take my word for the fact that my ideas are fabulously creative, because, of course, I have no proof. I'm sure this holiday will be no different, but I'm eternally optimistic. At least I'm getting started before mid-December this time.

For example, Small Person and I finished a fun project this morning. I found it here, and changed it a little to suit our needs. It's a Hannukah advent calendar! Yes, very odd, but we though our friend Her Tinyness would like it. Follow the link for all the project details; it's basically some paper cups and tissue paper, all glued together, plus eight bitsy surprises inside. Pop the tissue paper each day for a treat!
We had lots of fun picking what to put inside and putting the whole thing together. If I can manage it, and can come up with 25 non-candy prizes, I might make one for us, too.

This project also adheres to my gift-giving strategy since I've become a mom: anything my kid makes is automatically adorable, something any person would be thrilled to receive. I'm sure you'll all agree, right? Or, if not agree, at least put a happy face on when you unwrap a mangled and fingerprinty... something.



Our current bedtime reading is the BFG, by Roald Dahl. One of my favorite books, by one of my favorite authors, and I am thrilled to finally be reading it to Small Person. In fact, her copy used to be mine, and it shows. It's the first big kid chapter book I can remember purchasing on my own. My own choice, my own cash, me taking it up to the counter to have it rung up. The poor paperback is falling apart at the seams. We gingerly open it up every night, tuck in the bits that have come unbound, and dig in to a new chapter.

The BFG, in case you're unaware, stands for Big Friendly Giant. It's the usual Dahl specialty; characters and scenarios that are fantastic but oddly acceptable. With kooky vocabulary to match. It's maybe slightly above Small Person's comprehension level, but she's not complaining, so neither am I. There's a little more interrupting for definitions and other questions, but that's part of the whole reason we read, right? This is better for mom's sanity than re-reading Fox in Socks for the eleventy-millionth time, anyway.

Now that we've started on the chapter books, I've unpacked the boxed ones I've been lugging around. All the books I kept from my childhood, plus whatever I could sneak out of the family bookcases. Small Person's shelves are now full of them; the Borrowers, more Dahl, the whole Anne of Green Gables series, Astrid Lindgren. It might be hard for me to trot through them slowly, chapter by chapter. I'll have to sneak a few out for some quick bedtime reading of my own. It's like mac-n-cheese for the brain; perfect comfort.


more mom stuff

Small Person had some good ones this week:

"Why are you wearing just your pants?"
"Because I'm being a man hero and man heros don't wear shirts!" Spoken with serious face and deep voice.

Later, "holy cow-a-moly!"

And, still later, "Mom, do you want to play cards with me? I invented a new game. It's called Card Game X, and you can play it any way you like!"

It's only Thursday, surely there will be more to report. Her regular use of the word "certainly" is bound to produce a good sound byte at some point.


mom stuff

Small Person has been sick with the bronchial funk this week. Aside from the middle of the night coughing fits and the Bonnie Tyler voice, she's pretty game about it. For her, the worst part is having to stay away from her beloved kindergarten.

For me, the worst part is the bed sharing. It was fine when she was a baby; she had the same sleeping habits she has now, but such smaller proportions! She still spends the occasional night in our bed, but it's rare, and usually close to morning by the time she gets there. Five full nights of my long-legged girl in the middle of the bed kicking and rolling and splaying her limbs about all night? Not exactly restful. Even worse, I like to burrow and roll myself up in my covers at night, and she throws them all off. Small Person sleeps like a log, of course. And, like all children, looks like an angel while she's sleeping, so all my midnight frustration dissipates. Until my alarm rings.

In other news, today was our first parent/teacher conference and report card! Nothing big; at this point it's all Satisfactory or Needs Work, basically. Small Person is officially Satisfactory, and a joy to have in class. Whoopee! The only things noted by her teacher to pay attention to I'm already aware of and we both agreed they are not problems. Her meticulous nature, for example, often means she works slowly, to her own standards. When it's time to move on, sometimes she is not ready and worries about it. Mrs. J. is great, though, and reassured me that Small Person is not pressured about it and can work to her own pace. Awesome, since this is one I've been fretting about. I'll probably be fretting about it for the rest of my life, actually, so I'll just concentrate on relaxing Small Person's worry.


Halloween part IV: A New Hope

How can I resist a family costume when we're so height appropriate? Here's our rebel forces:
I rushed home from work on Friday, glued R2's chin strap on and put the costume together over Small Person, then cut a hole in a large white sheet and belted it over my white under layer. It took me longer to bun up my hair than it did for the Young Fellow to casually peruse his closet for the Han Solo outfit. In fact, it was so easy for him, I think I'll have to officially change his blogonym to Han.

It rained most of the day, but tapered off just in time for us to hit the streets. We drove across town to meet friends and wander the good candy neighborhood. Small Person pooped out after barely an hour. She had a school day full of treats and Halloween fun, so I wasn't surprised. Then, trading and sorting and eating, oh my! I've since confiscated and hidden the rest of the candy, to slowly dole it out until she forgets about it. Or until Han empties the cache on the sly.

Now I can start planning for next Halloween. Any suggestions for a good trio?


Halloween, part III

I just finished the paint job on R2's dome. It took me all week to find the right combination of construction materials. I ended up with a plastic bowl and some silver foil paper, both from the dollar store (yay, cheap!). Put together with lots of double-stick tape, then painted. If it takes a long time to dry, I'll have to complete the chin strap tomorrow; hot glue and elastic. I'm not sure if I'll be able to attach some kind of light and/or 3-D accessories. I'm running out of time and energy, and still need a little time tomorrow to put myself together. Fortunately, I have a nearly full bottle of hairspray, so that should get done without too much swearing.

More pictures and the trick-or-treat report tomorrow. Happy Halloween!

P.S. Everyone keep your fingers crossed for clear skies, so the paint doesn't run!


Halloween, part II

Did you guess which presidential candidate I voted for, yet? If not, here's another clue:
I confess: not my idea. There's a lovely site devoted to the barack-o-lantern, with photos and free templates to download. Fun!

We all carved our pumpkins yesterday, and may yet do more. I forgot (again!) to save and roast the seeds, but we do have two uncut pumpkins awaiting us, so I'll get those ones. Since we live on a busy road with no sidewalks, I'm not expecting any trick-or-treaters; we're enjoying the lanterns on the back patio right now. We'll go to a friend's open house and canvass her neighborhood on Halloween. It's nice to have a place to duck into to warm up, grab a non-candy snack, and examine the loot before either heading home or out for round two.

This is only the second year we've taken Small Person trick-or-treating. I thought it was a bit much for her to do until she could manage it without being carried. Not to mention, it wouldn't be very fair to make her work so hard for all that sugar I wouldn't let her eat. Now we do the standard Halloween evening gluttony and ration it out until all that's left are Tootsie Rolls and SweeTarts. For some reason, the chocolate seems to disappear so quickly...


Halloween, part I

This is the beginning stage of Small Person's Halloween costume. The remainder involves some shoulder straps, a helmet/mask made of a foil roasting pan and some more blue paint. The costume was her idea, no coaching by the Young Fellow, I swear.

I'm thrilled; at last I get to dress as Princess Leia! Not bronze bikini Leia, unfortunately. Even around here it's too chilly for that. I think it would stretch even my ingenuity for the use of unusual materials. I'll stick to Episode IV Leia, since it's not much more involved than a white sheet and a belt. That's a relief, as I'm sure I'll be working until the wee hours the rest of the week getting R2 finished. More photos as we go along.


field trip!

Holy cow am I tired. When I heard that nearly half of the parents of Small Person's class had volunteered to attend the pumpkin patch field trip, I was a little surprised. Really? Wasn't that a bit too much? Nooo way! I was only assigned to look after my kid and one other and that was plenty for me. Taking into account bus transport time, the trip lasted the entire school day. That's a lot of running around after five-year-olds that have suddenly lost their sense of hearing.

I'm sure my own hearing suffered some damage on the bus ride over. I was thankful I seem to have grown out of my school-bus-induced motion sickness. And, I only had a minor headache to show for twenty minutes of hysterical excitement contained in that steel echo chamber.

The patch itself was great. Competition in this area ensures a lot of awesome patches with plenty of auxiliary activities. Besides actual pumpkin fields, there were tons of flowers, animals, corn and hay bale mazes, and the ubiquitous bouncy house. There were several other schools scheduled to attend the same day, so it was concentrated mayhem for everyone. The few families that were there on their own ran for cover as the buses pulled up.

The only downer of the day was that Small Person was stung by a bee on the ride home. Ouchie! Fortunately, we were nearly back to school by that time, and the first aid kit had one of those nice sting soothers in it. Even better, one of the moms works on an ambulance and made quick work of grabbing the necessaries from the kit. I think she should go on every field trip!

As soon as we made it home we collapsed on the couch for a nice little rest. That's code for "mom sleeps through something on PBS." Alas, we are not nearly done for the day. There is still a pumpkin to carve, and a treat to make for the school Harvest Fair cake walk. I have a feeling it's going to be something from a box with some nice orange sprinkles on top.


my civic duty

I have short arms which give me a serious handicap for taking self-portraits. So, none of my shots of me wearing my sticker came out. I had to settle for relocating my badge to my leg and, as you can see, it still doesn't look that great.

Anyhoo, voted. Done. Yay! Now I have to root around for some stamps and send it away to be counted and keep my fingers crossed that it gets counted properly. That's enough to keep me awake nights, how about you?

I always like to vote by mail. In fact, I think I've only visited a polling place once in my life. Just not convenient, you know? Voting by mail allows me to still be responsible while indulging my natural love of ease. Otherwise known as laziness. I'm even more happy to do it now that they include the sticker to flaunt.


what if everyone else jumped off a bridge?


Also, weeniest post ever. I'm in the middle of making dinner and I've an article due tomorrow. So there! I promise I'll update ...soon-ish? I hope.


I'm still here

Obviously, the first thing to drop off the to-do list mid-semester is the blog updating. One of these days I'll follow through with all my grand organizational and time-management strategies. Until then, I'll be catching up on "Project Runway" when I should be doing any number of useful things.

I have a mid-term today, which I'm not too worried about. One thing I never have a problem with is keeping up with my course reading, and just by virtue of that and conscientious note-taking, I'm pretty sure I've got it covered. My first article is due next week! I've still a couple of interviews to do, so I'm in the stage of amassing information and sorting it appropriately. I found it surprising how easy it is to arrange to interview someone. Everyone likes to talk, apparently, and are delighted to be asked their opinions. That definitely makes it easier for me to fake my social graces, in a chatty, cocktail party way. Just wait until I have to deal with some controversial issue and ask real questions. Yeah, right. There's a reason I'm more interested in magazine writing; fluff, all the way!

The job is going well. I do manage to stay organized and tidy there, at least. Every day has a large chunk of standard stuff to do, and then some diverse and changeable projects. I really like this kind of schedule; it prevents boredom and allows more job creativity. We have a friendly, efficient office and I'm enjoying it a lot.

I'm not spending as much time in the garden, lately. Hopefully today I'll be able to get out there and muck about. The little rain that we've had made everything perk up. I'll probably take out a lot of the summer stuff today, except the tomatoes. We're still picking those every day, and loving them. We've already started eating greens; delicious! I pulled all the basil last week and made enough pesto to eat and freeze for a few meals. It's one of the few green things Small Person will eat, so I like to keep that well-stocked.

Otherwise, the house is a mess, laundry needs doing, dinner is unplanned, and I stared into the fridge for five minutes this morning awaiting lunch inspiration. You know, the usual.


garden update

I haven't done one in a while, so here we go.

We ate some tiny, mutant corn this past weekend. Despite (or, perhaps because of) its stature, it was sweet and tasty. Lemon cukes are producing several a week, perfect to make cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches for Small Person's lunch. The cherry tomatoes are wonderfully sweet and prolific, we munch them whenever we're outside. Radishes are sprouting, kale and mustard greens are ready to eat, zucchinis not too overwhelming. We have one bright orange pumpkin and several green ones of various sizes creeping along. The butternut squash is slow, though I'm still keeping my fingers crossed. Many things were just started too late to get a full harvest.

But, I have high hopes for our Fall garden. The greens are happy, I'll probably put in more, since I love them so. Carrots and beets are looking well, broccoli started, cabbages healthy. I've been relying on my folks for lots of garden advice (and veggie starts!) and, boy, have they been helpful. Stubborn, silly me, to avoid any garden work, and thus practice, until I can do it all on my own from scratch.  What the heck, it's all an experiment, right? At this point, I'm still surprised when we do harvest something; I'm not quite my own sole purveyor, yet.

I'm not spending as much time on the garden in general right now, since I started working again. Theoretically being more busy means I should be more organized to deal with it, but... Let's just say Young Fellow has been doing a lot more watering than usual the past couple of weeks.



Ah, the mantra of the working world; TGIF! I'm relieved to arrive at this happy day. I essentially doubled my activity and workload this week and it shows in my bloodshot eyes. Although, that could be the glass of wine I downed as soon as I got home. I have the night off, since Small Person left for her weekly overnight visit with the grandparents. Thank you, Baba!

Sadly, I'll most likely spend the remainder of my Friday night off finishing homework, catching up on email and reading, then going to bed early. Tomorrow is for laundry and various housekeeping chores, then hopefully a grocery trip squeezed in there somewhere. Sunday we're off to a birthday party for Her Tinyness, for which her excellent parents rented a bouncy. Oh, joy! Oh, exhaustion unrelieved! I often pack Small Person's pajamas when we go visiting for a busy day like that. I'm thinking of bringing my own this time, as well. I'm looking forward to a real day off... oh, sometime within the next decade, perhaps.

That's what I get for re-joining the ranks of the responsibly employed, I suppose.


work makes me tired

The first day of work went well. I did a variety of tasks that are familiar and anticipated, but not boring, and got along well with my boss. It looks like a good situation. I probably won't talk much about it here, though; partly paranoia, I guess, but I'd rather save this blog for fun stuff, anyway.

I am very tired today, though. That might also have to do with the assorted activities that keep piling up. My homework, research, and interviews for assignments, Small Person's bottomless kindergarten paperwork, and the other necessaries of house and garden just don't stop lately. It's all fun and interesting stuff, or at least useful, so I don't begrudge it. Okay, maybe just a little bit when I've had to repeat a request three times in a morning, every morning before school. How much longer will she need my help getting dressed?!

In other news, this Friday is picture day! I know the readership (all three of you) can't wait to see Small Person's first school portrait. Duly noted; I'll be ordering the ginormous extra huge photo package that includes some random junk with dozens of wallet-sized prints. Sorry, the 8x10 ones are saved for the grandmothers.


things that go bump

Remember that little self-congratulatory post a few days ago about how great my balance is? Of course, today I fell flat on my face; a nice comeuppance.

We went to pick up trash around Small Person's school today, and I guess an hour of stooping, bending, squatting, all to pull tiny brittle bits of deteriorating plastic out of the landscaping really got to me. It was a double-whammy of a stumbling trip. I caught myself on the edge of the pavement only to hit the parking curb and go down. Fortunately, I was able to fall safely, I was wearing gloves and jeans and didn't scrape my face. Have to keep that money-maker lookin' good! I did end up with a goose egg on my shin and a severely bruised ego. The other adults in the area politely pretended not to see as my Young Fellow scooped me up and dusted me off. We had a good laugh at my expense and went back to picking up the shocking number of discarded cigarette butts.

I start my new job tomorrow! I'd better have a medicinal glass of wine before bed to make sure I feel okay tomorrow.


Summer is officially over

I just had to dash out to rescue the clothes on the line from our first rain. Yay for the free water for the garden! Boo for running the dryer and the heater and the lights all day. I know, Kath, I'm a spoiled Californian who gets way more than my fair share of sunshine. Really, I love the rain and the weather changes. Now I'm off to hunt up my boots and umbrella. And, more importantly, those belonging to Small Person.


this is for Tara

Tonight we had puffy pancakes for dinner. My sister and I used to make them all the time for breakfast when I was younger. It's a simple egg, milk, and flour recipe; a quick, hot breakfast even for a lazy teenager. I haven't made them in a long time, though, because they are not very practical for the weekend family breakfast. They take a whole cast iron pan on stove top and in oven, and for some reason I can never get the assembly line logistics right. Waffles are usually my go-to Sunday morning meal.

Tonight, however, I felt confident. One, two, three, melted butter on the stove and rotated into the oven. There was a little bit of eating in shifts, but yumminess made up for timing. Sadly, the puffy part always deflates when they are removed from the oven. Happily, it leaves some nice gullies for syrup to flow into. Add some bacon, and you've got a fabulous breakfast, er... dinner.

great news!

I finally figured out what my long-torso-wide-hips-short-legs physique is perfect for. All those standing balance yoga poses!

I've been enjoying a twice-weekly class for a month now, and this is the first feel-good thing I've noticed about it. I mean, we all know starting a new exercise regimen can be frustrating, even painful. Especially so in my case, when I'm asked to do push-ups. I always feel excellent after class, though, thanks to the final relaxation and breathing exercises. It's a class of mainly beginners, which definitely makes me fell better about my lack of flexibility and strength; many are in the same boat as I am regarding the push-ups.

But... but! I love the balance poses! Maybe that low center of gravity (see above re: short legs) really does help, or maybe it's the wide, Hobbit-like feet. Or, maybe my powers of concentration really are that good. Ha! Whatever it is, I do get a nice feeling of accomplishment when I can ever   so   slooowly   ease out of those weird stretch-squat-turn-on-one-foot standing poses instead of wobbling and hopping about. Then, of course we move on to something involving upper body strength and I'm gasping again. Curse you, plank pose!


working mother

I got a job! I had the interview yesterday, my glowing references were checked (thanks, guys!) and the position confirmed pretty quickly. Now everyone can breathe a sigh of relief.

I lucked out and nabbed exactly what I was looking for; part-time, fits my exact schedule, small company, small office, reasonable pay, my skill set plus new things to learn, and enough variety to not bore me to tears every day. My boss seems pleasant and interesting and I'm feeling very enthusiastic.

The only drawback is that I'll have to give up my volunteer time in Small Person's classroom. I might be able to rearrange after this semester, but for now we'll just continue with our extracurricular home projects. It's the same old dilemma: work vs. momming. I don't like conflict, though, so I'll make an end run around this one and try some different strategies. With part-time school and part-time work, I really can't complain that much.

Since I start on Monday, does this give me an excuse to do some weekend shopping?


hair today

I've been doing this no-shampoo-shampoo experiment that seems to be pretty popular around the internets lately. Google it, you'll find lots of different ideas and recipes. The one I chose to try is a baking soda scrub followed by an apple cider vinegar rinse. Rinsed in between, of course, unless you'd like first grade science experiment volcano in your shower every day. Both are are diluted to a ratio of about one tablespoon to one cup of water. After three weeks of using it, I am impressed.

My hair is naturally oily, one might even say greasy, and I don't like to wash it every day. I find that if I rinse it in the shower without washing, it tends to look even more like an oilslick, so it's either no shower, or wash all the time. I don't like to shampoo all the time because I feel the shampoo overdries my hair and makes the oil return with a vengeance. I have pretty long hair, and I don't really style it (no blow-drying, no product) unless I have an event to attend, or just need to get the stuff offthebackofmyneckinthisheatrightnow, dammit! Anyway, thus far the experiment has been a success. My hair is more regulated, less extreme, more manageable, and definitely shinier, thanks to that vinegar. I'm still fiddling around with how many washings per week and tweaking the measurements a little bit, but I'm very pleased with the results so far.

Of course, probably the best highlight to this kookiness is the cheap factor; no more pricey shampoo. You remember the dad from "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" with the Windex? I sing the praises of baking soda and vinegar. They can do anything!


sick in the head

As expected, starting a new school routine has infected us with germy germs. We have the sniffles and, even worse, the whiny-I-don't-feel-goods. It did happen earlier than I thought, considering we're still enduring 100 degree days and just barely entering September. Oh well, I guess it's better to get that immune system geared up sooner rather than later. We're keeping the fluid intake up and watching a lot of Spongebob Squarepants, as the Small Person has trouble resting at all unless she's painfully ill. I couldn't even keep her out of the pool today. She likes to reassure me when I ask how she feels: "well... don't worry, I can still go to school." I'll remind her of this quote when she gets to high school.


back to school, part II

Tonight was Back to School Night at Small Person's school. I've been curiously anticipating this event since I first looked at the school calendar. I'm interested in learning more about the school, teacher, curriculum, activities, etc. and didn't really know how to jump in and ask until parents were invited to do so. I'm a wuss when it comes to this kind of situation, as I believe I've already established. New people, new situations; not my forte. I expressed elsewhere my tendency to assume I'm the weirdo parent in the room and get defensively judgmental.

Well, I was pleased and soothed by Small Person's teacher. She is experienced with and devoted to kindergartners in general and seems to have a good sense of the abilities and needs of this class in particular. I didn't get a good feel for the other parents, but I'm hoping to over time. I signed up to spend one morning a week helping out in the classroom, which I am super excited about. This is one benefit to unemployment: lots of time to volunteer!

As for the curriculum, while the school is definitely concerned with state standards, it doesn't seem to be in a freaky "test scores, and only test scores!" kind of way. Small Person's teacher let us know what the kids will learn and the milestones they will reach, but also that there is no homework, they have free play time, they will get messy, they will have fun. Kindergarten is the place for kids to learn to love school, in her opinion, so that's what she hopes to help them do. Of course, since I will be in the classroom once a week, I can keep spying to reassure myself.


I'm growing my own food!

Apparently I'm writing a gardening blog, since I'm always excited about it lately. Here are the latest baby pictures:
Little kale, collards, and mustard greens under our elaborate shade protection.
Mini watermelons!
Button squash, with bonus aphids. I'm having trouble staying on top of both of these.
Cherry tomatoes sprouting like crazy. I'm planning to make some slow-roasted tomatoes when they all ripen at once.
Finally, the world's smallest eggplant. So cute!


sooo hot

According to the local forecasters, the temperature did not get higher than 96 degrees today.
To me, it felt rather hotter. Our multitude of thermometers told various tales.
I wasn't sure what to believe. I didn't really care. Too much heat makes me grumpy.
The bright spot of the day (aside from the blinding sunlight reflecting off the patio) was that the laundry dried almost before I finished hanging it on the line.
Yep, that's how thrilled I am about the heat; it even makes laundry seem fun.



We've now had a full week's worth of kindergarten and school for mom and dad and, although we are all excited and stimulated and enjoying ourselves immensely, we are tired. Kindergarten is half-day, which means a little bit of running around coordinating rides and schedules. We are also still getting used to school day and night routines and chores. Alarm clocks and lunchboxes and homework, oh my! All this fun and futzing makes Small Person slightly more tired and thus drama-prone than usual, and me slightly more crabby than usual. Not a good combo. We're working on it.

In the meantime, we continue with our crafty projects and other extracurriculars. For example, mobiles made of old cds and stickers to hang in Small Person's "clubhouse." Yes, it's an old tarp and frame we salvaged from the yard. You were expecting a Craftsman bungalow, perhaps?
Wax paper and crayon project, that my photographic skills are too weak to do justice:
Mixed up crayons made from the leftovers of above:
Beer trap to rid the garden of snails: 
It's a good way to go, don't you think? And our ongoing collection of rose petals from the bushes that are blooming like crazy right now. These I am specifically saving for Kathi for her wonderful soap. These ought to be enough to barter for a bar or two.
There must be some other stuff going on, so I'll post just as soon as I remember what it is.


back to school

Today was Small Person's first day of kindergarten! Were there tears? Yes, I cried, but I hid it well. When I left she whisked off with barely a kiss and a "don't worry Mom, I won't cry." She's going to have a blast. Unlike terminally shy mom, she loves new people and experiences. Life is a thrill a minute to her, which is something I could try to emulate more.

I also started school this week. Okay, just a couple of classes, one of which is yoga, so "school" is probably overstating it a bit. However, something interesting and invigorating to to with my brain! A marketable skill, even! That's a stunner for an unfocused, unemployed mom with a liberal arts degree. Maybe I'll remember how to socialize with adults, or at least talk to them. Now that would be cool.


this new house

This is our new hen house. We converted an old doghouse that the previous tenants left in our backyard. It already had the open door (duh) and hinged roof, so we added legs, perches, a nesting box, and a piece for the door. It's not quite hen-ready; it needs a fenced run, for starters, since our yard is wide open and poorly fenced for completely free-range chickens. However, we're also planning a portable run of some sort to let the girls out for fun and forage. Yes, girls. We have no plans for a rooster as yet. There are a couple already next door, and that's enough for this neighborhood for now. If our preliminary small flock works out well and we're ready to increase the size of the house and the flock, we'll consider our options then.

In the background, you can barely see four of our six garden beds. That is some short corn, but we're still hopeful. I am almost ready to plant broccoli and greens, plus some cabbages promised from my dad's garden.


bug fun

We found this guy in the garden yesterday. I was so excited to see a real, live praying mantis in our yard! I've never seen one outside of the monsters inhabiting the bug house at the zoo. We had to (gently) examine it a bit before reinstalling it to the tomato box. It's a beneficial predator bug, so we're happy to give it a home. Go, mantis, go!



We're winding up the last week before school starts, so we went for one last camping trip. It's a nice little place; not crowded, clean bathroom, pool. You guessed it: our backyard.

Backyard camping is my favorite. You really can't beat the amenities, the location is always prime, and even if you stay out there "roughing it" all day no one else has to see your scruffy camping hair. Our yard is huge, so we still get to bring the flashlight for the toothbrushing run, and there's plenty of room for a fire. Of course that means marshmallows, which is Small Person's definition of camping in the first place.

Bonus: getting out of bed to water the garden in the early hours is much easier.


this little piggy went to Boston

The Young Fellow is in the middle of a week-long trip to Boston and D.C. We miss him terribly. I'm not sure who has it worse, Small Person because she has to spend the week with boring Mom, or me, because I have no one to tag team with. Well, let's face it, she can't read or write, so I can safely claim greater hardship.  Anyway, to assuage our pangs, Young Fellow took along Piggy Pig to track their visits to the great representational monuments of American history.
This way Small Person gets a vicarious thrill out of Pig's adventures, and we both get a little more fun out of it than just the daily phone call.

Unfortunately, I have no idea what is represented in these photos, so the explanations will have to wait until the traveler returns.

Sadly, there were no photos sent to document their midnight flat tire misadventure, either. Now that would have been interesting for Piggy.


fruit of our labor

I picked the first zucchini out of the garden today. I know it's itty, but that's part of my strategy to stay on top of a potential glut. I plan to grill it with a couple more from my dad's garden as part of tonight's dinner.

In other garden news, the corn is finally getting tassels, the tomatoes are ripening, and the pumpkins are swelling. Yum! The cucumbers never sprouted, despite three separate sowings, so we'll chalk that up to bad seeds. I might try one more time, considering we still have a couple of hot months ahead of us. The beans don't seem to be very excited, which is odd; I've always had luck with even the most poorly tended bean plant. They had a hard time of it with slugs, though, so they might not have recovered enough. I'm optimistic about the peppers and eggplant, although the latter is barely limping along. Most of the sad plants have a lot to do with starting the garden so late and having to make do with the last lingering vegetable starts available. But, at least we're well-prepared for our fall plantings!


our house

"Mom, can we try bear sometime?"

"Mom, can we make cheese sometime?"

"Mom, I wish we lived where there were rabbits so we could hunt for them and eat them."

"Mom, the car is boring.  It would be much more interesting if we had a wagon."

These conversational gems were inspired by our current bedtime reading; the Little House series. We are both enjoying them immensely.  In fact, the history-geek in me likes them even more now as an adult. I admit to doing a little mom-editing on the fly, as I believe that manifest destiny is not the best bedtime topic.  We'll save it for the same day we discuss Columbus.

Anyway, the books are delightful. The details of everyday life and survival in the frontier West; hunting, trapping, cooking, cleaning, laundry, farming, housekeeping, all by hand or with very limited machinery. Plus travel by covered wagon, freak July 4th frost, "hostile Indians," and a blue-ribbon pumpkin.  What's not to love?

I did agree to some of her suggestions; we'll try to make cheese, we've started the garden, we're planning a chicken coop. But, I think we'll skip the hog butchering and bullet making.


Happy Birthday, Sahru!

We had tons of fun playing tea party and stuffing ourselves with treats.  I drank so much tea, I was awake until 2 a.m.  Fortunately, leftover tiny tea sandwiches make a delicious midnight snack.


lady grey

Kathi's recent post reminded me to share our new combined laundry and watering system.

I know I'm desperately nerdy for admitting this, but I love a good grey water system.  You know, the kind that takes the outflow from your kitchen sink, say, and uses it to water your ornamental landscaping.  I've seen (or more likely, read about) some pretty awesome systems that send everything but the toilet water through an elaborate filtration system encompassing gravel beds, aeration fountains, and plants to purify the water enough to use it as irrigation for food crops.

Ours is not nearly so fancy, but it's still pretty keen.  Since our laundry outflow was previously uncoupled from the septic system even before we moved in, we were able to set up a simple system fairly quickly.  From the washer, water goes to two storage barrels that have free-flow irrigation hoses hooked to them.  The hoses go snaking along the property, through fences, under paths, around landscaping to drip on all of our ornamental borders.  Yes, we use eco-friendly soap.  No, we don't use the water for anything we're planning to eat.  With five people in the house, it's easy to do at least one load of laundry a day, more often two.  Which, coincidentally, is the exact proportion to fit on our newly-installed clothesline.  We'll just pretend we planned it all that way.


fair enough

Corn dog, soda, cotton candy, Fun House, Drop Zone, roller coaster, frozen lemonade, chocolate malt, carousel, Moto-Cross, Philly cheese steak, chili-cheese fries, goats, sheep, chickens, rabbits, flower show, giant slide, Ferris wheel, Hurricane, Tilt-a-Whirl, funnel cake.

We had so much fun at the county fair yesterday!  Since the Small Person is actually quite tall for her age, she is thrillingly allowed to ride most of the big-kid attractions.  I stand by with mom accessories (sunscreen, hats, water bottle, snacks) and try to snap photos of high-speed shenanigans.

We endured the minor discomforts of fair attendance (blistered feet and slight indigestion), but happily avoided the grand ones (tantrums and sunburn), and returned our dusty and dehydrated selves home to bath and bed.  Can't wait to do it again next year!



The garden is coming along nicely. I’m wilting in the recent hot weather, but the plants are delighted. Squashes of various sorts are spreading leaves and tendrils in all directions, the corn gains inches behind our backs, and the tomatoes are exploding in blossoms.

This is my first real garden. As a kid, my participation in the various family gardens was limited to eating the produce. Well, I could occasionally be talked into toting rocks out of the beds, but only when my dad paid me for it. At ten cents per bucket, I think he got the better end of the deal.

Anyway, I am excited to be running the show myself this time around. Okay, not really “I.” That just means that I boss and let everyone else do the building and heavy lifting. But, really, I’m happy to be getting out there early in the morning to water and evict snails and give the daily pep talk to the cucumbers. I’m ambitiously awaiting the moment when this project moves from experiment to actual food-source. We specifically planted things that are both easy to grow and beloved by most of the household, so we don’t get burnt out in our first season.

I am amassing a master file of zucchini recipes, though, just in case.


red hot

I have only myself to blame.  I've been particularly careful with sunscreen application this summer. Weeks of habitual daily application and re-application before gardening or pool dips.  Staying shaded or indoors during the middle of the day.  The new sunglasses and super-dork gardening hat.  Responsibility, yay!

Today, however, we hit the park.  The Small Person was having so much fun (in the shade) and I was immersed in my book (in the sun).  Of course I didn't pay attention until I felt discomfort.  Of course by then it was too late.  Now I'm slathering on the aloe and holding my iced beverage against my shoulders.  Yeowch!

Oh, and the book? A history of the founding of the ACLU.  Riveting!


Battle of the Bulge

This is the birthday cake I made for the Young Fellow's WWII-obsessed dad.  He prefers the box cake, so that left the creativity for the outside.  We had great fun scoping out just the right hobby store supplies, laying out the battle scene, and coating the whole thing in powdered sugar snow.  He was appropriately wowed, but then: "hey, is that an AK-47?!"  Yeah, yeah, WWII-era little plastic dudes are hard to come by these days, so we had to settle for a more modern-warfare look.  Still, I think the amputee rounds it out nicely.


Pool party!

This is the Small Person wrapping up her first official swimming lesson.  That is me trying not to actively panic.  Fortunately, our swim instructor is just off camera, ready to catch my non-water-phobic child.  Yay!  Go me, for not passing on my wussiness when it comes to swimming to my offspring.  I haven't willingly ducked my head under in years.  A fact the Small Person is happy to tease me about, gloatingly.  Whatev, Mom is the boring one.  At least I'm a good cook.


new words