Thursday, February 28, 2008

A Tale of Two Twenties

Last night before I headed out to a meeting, I handed my husband $20. He would be handling the taxi service to gymnastics for the girls, and the subsequent feeding of the children. In my absence I was 99% certain that the feeding was going to take place at Taco Bell – hence, the $20.

When I got home last night, he informed me that all but some loose change from the $20 had indeed been spent at Taco Bell, to feed the five of them. He expressed some outrage at the prices, and I agreed with him that it was, indeed, pricy.

So pricy, actually, that I had stopped taking the girls out after gymnastics several weeks ago. Instead, I let them pick what I will make for dinner when we get home (almost invariably Kraft Mac-n-Chez), which they find just about as nifty and which I find to be about $18 less expensive than a trip to a fast food restaurant.

Twenty dollars, gone on a single meal of doubtful nutrition. Poor little twenty, we barely knew ye…and I shall try hard not to think that at the supermarket, I could have bought a whole chicken, a bag of potatoes, some fresh broccoli and carrots, a couple onions, a bag of granny smith apples and some milk, and then made a classic roasted chicken dinner with mashed potatoes and gravy and an apple pie to boot, followed by a rich and savory chicken pot pie for the following night and probably lunch the day after that…

I’ll try really, really hard not to think about that.

Today, I took Captain Adventure for an outing. We went to the library for some brain-food for mommy and some books with CARS! in them for Captain Adventure, and we ate our snack and ran like maniacs around the rose garden for a little while, and then we pulled into the hospice thrift store.

For $18, I picked up three brand name women’s sweaters and one turtleneck, all looking like they’ve never been worn, a skirt and a book for Eldest and a two-piece set of Osh-Kosh jeans and button-down shirt for Captain Adventure – brand new, tags still on it. The women’s clothes were all marked down 20%, because the weather is starting to warm up and we won’t need the sweaters for much longer.

This season has been hard on my winter-wardrobe. I’ve ruined four different sweaters in one way or another (including one pure wool one that somehow got into the regular wash and was felted to about a size 000), had holes ripped in my turtlenecks by such random things as orange tree thorns and a flying kitchen knife (heh heh, yeah, apparently soapy water makes things slippery and if you’re gesturing wildly while holding a soapy-water coated kitchen knife, it might fly out of your hand and drive its point right into the fabric of your shirt, which will then go zzzzzzzzip! and run from right below your left breast all the way down to the hem – who knew?!) (it wasn’t a BIG HOLE, but it was a mighty long little zzzzzzzip), and decided that a couple other things were just a little too tired looking even for me and tossed them into the rag bin…

Gosh, I pondered as I put the last shirt on the last hanger and slipped it into place. I don’t even have enough left to warrant a space bag this year! I’m going to need to make some replacements, next winter…

This second twenty provided for next year’s need, and (assuming I am a little less clumsy next year) (which is, granted, a rather large assumption) will continue providing well beyond that.

The value it provided will stick around for a long, long time.

So there you are. A tale of two twenties. One vanished quickly into a single meal for five that tasted good, but wasn’t very nutritious (you are not going to try to tell me that a Nacho Bell Grande meal is ‘good for you’, are you?); another is going into my closet for (hopefully) (as long as I don’t take up chainsaw juggling) a very long stay indeed, a stay during which it will be actively useful for months of the year.

How long does your money stick around and make itself actively useful?

Discuss amongst yourselves. I’m off to keep working on that flaming shell border on the Pacific Northwest Shawl. I also noted this morning that after the shell border, I then have to do i-cord along the top.

I predict that they are going to end up burying me with this still unfinished project someday.

(EDIT: OMG, I just realized something about this shawl pattern! It, too, is going to be providing me with YEARS AND YEARS AND YEARS of frustration entertainment value! OK, just had to share my little 'let's think about the positive side of this flippin' flamin' shell border thing' revelation. Carry on.)

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

No, I'm not going to blame the teacher

I admit that in the heat of battle, I wanted to email Eldest’s teacher and USE ALL CAPS!!!!!!!

This morning, I’m thinking I might send a quick note asking that, in future, she make Eldest do these sorts of things at recess, not after school.

But I’m not mad at her about the whole adrenaline-inducing scene yesterday. I don’t think she did anything wrong – honestly, I’m glad she’s doing what she’s doing for Eldest.

People who know us comment on how Eldest is just like me. It is kind of uncanny, actually – she is a little Mini Me, right down to the nasty case of ADD and associated ‘how can a child who has an IQ in the stratosphere, who tests at something like the 99-percentile, be failing fourth grade math?’

This teacher has made it a mission to help Eldest learn the skills she needs to do well in school. Motivating her to clean out and organize her desk is not easy. I know. I go through it every week here at home, trying to get her to organize her backpack or dresser. Even with my direct, hands-on help, she can seldom keep things together enough to be able to find a shirt in there. (“Honey…THIS is the SHIRT DRAWER. Why are you shoving shirts into your underwear drawer intead of the SHIRT drawer?!” “Uhhhhhh…{blank stare, because her mind has suddenly shot off to more important questions, like, Do golden dragons really eat gemstones, and if so, what is the nutritional content of them and I wonder if they taste good?}”)

Ms. X didn’t know we have a hard-core “you get out here the instant the bell rings, missy!” deal going. She couldn’t possibly have known that I was going to go completely ape-poop because she was late. That I was going to have my special needs son melting down in the van while I waited. She definitely couldn’t have foreseen that someone would tell me “she isn’t in the classroom, it’s closed up and locked”, when in fact Eldest and her Best Friend Forever AND Ms. X were all in the classroom at that very moment!

That’s what really set me off. I was merely annoyed right up until that point. I assumed she would be in the classroom, or the bathroom. When I was told she wasn’t in either of those places, I lost my @*^@.

I can’t blame Ms. X because I didn’t check myself, but asked someone else to check for me – and then that someone reported back in error and sent me on a downward spiral of fear and panic.

She only knows that Eldest seems to think it is perfectly OK to hang around cleaning out her desk in her usual languid fashion. At the fourth grade level, the majority of the kids walk home on their own – Best Friend Forever does – and generally speaking, they won’t do things they know are going to get them in So. Much. TROUBLE!

I’m not going to blame Ms. X on this deal. She does a wonderful job, and works extremely hard to help my dreamy daughter do well in school, in spite of herself.

Eldest, on the other hand…SO! MUCH! TROUBLE!!!!

(And we shall ignore all the times her mother did EXACTLY this kind of thing, only worse, like the time I simply walked away from school at recess and spent the day wandering around the walnut groves and generally hanging out waiting until I saw other kids walking home so that I could casually go on home myself like nothing had happened, because nobody would notice, right?) (I was in second grade. THEY NOTICED.)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Everything is Ooooooooookay…

So this afternoon, after one and a half hours of lunch break, I jumped into the van to pick up the children.

This is a one-hour ordeal of hurrying up so I can wait. HURRY AND GET TO THE SCHOOL! If you aren’t there by 2:02, you will not be able to park within a five mile radius!!

Aaaaaand wait until 2:20, when the little darlings flood forth demanding snacks.

HURRY! Grab yours off the curb! Go-go-go!! Otherwise the crowd will become intense and you’ll never find their little selves among all the rabble!!

Aaaaaaaaand now we’re going to wait again, until the second set get out at 2:55 and 3:00.

So at 3:00, I threatened the middle two with severe punishments if they horsed around while I walked the twelve feet to where Captain Adventure was being led. I stood there and listened while his teacher told me he had “listening” issues today (no, really? I never would have guessed, after all, he was only completely intractable all morning…) (cute! But intractable…) and that he had to sit in time out after recess because he forced a teacher to physically chase him down and haul him bodily into the classroom.

I stood there and looked quite serious and nodding a lot while actually looking around for Eldest. Where the heck was she, anyway? It’s going on 3:10, and she gets out at 2:55, and I have given her an earful on many occasions about hoofing it on out right after class, WHY! Just last week, hadn’t I given her Lecture #412 about Courtesy To Others, Timeliness Edition?

Where is the child?

When the teacher ran out of commentary, I started walking around with a very disobedient Captain Adventure mounting outright rebellion against my every command in tow, looking for my oldest daughter.

She is nowhere to be seen.

My back is throbbing, so I take Captain Adventure back to the van and buckle him up. Surely she will be coming out any second now.

She is not.

The 3:15 kindergarteners swarm out and are sucked into minivans. Still no Eldest.

I have no stroller, and Captain Adventure is in one of those Really Disobedient Moods. Trying to carry him is a nightmare right now. He thrashes and yells and tries to hit and bite me. He wants to run off. He is very strong, and doesn’t pause to consider what would happen if I suddenly let go and let him drop to the pavement. He’ll take his chances. He wants freedom.

Damn it. Where is that kid?!

I’m gonna kill her. I’m gonna KILL HER.

3:30. No Eldest. @*^&@.

I pull up in my van to the front of the school and ask a teacher if she’s seen her. Noooooo. Nobody has seen her. Is she in the bathroom? No. Her classroom? Nooooo, the classroom has been locked up.

What the HELL?!

Meanwhile, the middle two are whining copiously about snacks and needing to go potty (they lock the bathrooms right after school, so we have to go home for that) and Captain Adventure has gone into Super Meltdown Mode, Animal Style. He is screaming in a way that dying horses scream. His face is turning purple, and he is straining to burst the restraints on his carseat. People are staring into the van as they pass, wondering what I’m doing to that poor kid.

I need Advil, and I need it bad.

OK. I’m getting backup.

I shut the van’s doors and threw it into drive. Immediately, there’s a chorus from the back: “What about Eldest?”

“SHUT. UP.” I yell. I drive home with my knuckles white and my stomach churning. I am leaving my daughter at school. I am driving away without one of my children. @*^&@.

I get home. I storm into the house. I throw open the door to my husband’s office. He holds up a finger to tell me he’s on the phone. I ignore him.

“I have to go back to the school, Eldest is missing, you’ve got THEM,” I snap. I grab my previously-forgotten cell phone and run out the door.

Back into the van.

Back to the school.

I pull up as the last of the kindergarten parents are leaving. I see a parking space, and I’m heading for it when, up ahead, casually sauntering up to the front of the school, I see…Eldest, and Best Friend Forever.

I always thought that thing where your eyes go all spinny and steam comes out of your ears and whistles like a tea kettle was merely a cartoonist affectation. It’s not! Somewhere in the distant past, some cartoonist was probably late coming out of the school and saw his mother staring at him with her eyes all googly-crazy and literal physical steam pouring out of her ears and it branded itself on his memory as what people look like when they are well and truly pissed.

Do you know where my daughter was, for forty minutes after school?

Guess what she was doing. For forty @*^&@ing minutes after she was released by the bell? For FORTY MINUTES, when she knew that we were sitting in the van, in the parking lot, attending her pleasure?

She was…


Her teacher had written out a ‘perfect attendance’ certificate for her, but told her she couldn’t have it until she had cleaned out her desk. Eldest has a Certain Problem in the organization department, and her desk has repeatedly been declared a Federal disaster zone, and hazmat teams are regularly called in to clear out the waste.

So. Eldest did it right then and there. Because she was excited about her certificate and wanted it. Best Friend Forever hung around to help her, which probably added at least twenty minutes to the process.

Have you seen those desks, the ones they give fourth graders? They are smaller than a @*^&@ing bread basket, but it took my daughter, my Genius Level IQ daughter, forty minutes, to get it clean enough to claim her prize.

Amazing how ‘thank God you’re all right!’ and ‘I’m gonna KILL YOU!’ can exist with equal fervor in one’s mind at the same time.

But! We're all home now. Safe and sound. And soundly lectured, too. And now I have a new lecture in my arsenal: #1262, If You Ever Do That Again So Help Me God I Really Mean It I Will KILL YOU DEAD.

I wonder how many times I'm going to be using this bad boy...

Monday, February 25, 2008

My new old friend

I have been checking out the tattered copy of The Complete Tightwad Gazette: Promoting Thrift as a Viable Alternative Lifestyle by Amy Dacyczyn from my local library for nine years.

This would be in addition to all the times I checked out the original series from libraries in Cities Past. The Tightwad Gazette was the first real help I got on my journey. The personal finance books always did the same thing: They told me what to do, but not how to do it.

Spend less, they would urge me, and then they’d give a handful of examples. Don’t buy lattes, bring a bag lunch a couple days a week. Yeah, thanks, that’s a huge help.

Amy gave me the how. Not merely in the form of a whack of specific ideas for saving money, but in mindset. She taught me to look at things differently, to think about things differently. To stop and say, “Wait, what’s the actual weight of this thing? The bottle’s bigger, but there’s four fewer ounces of product? Hmm, that means this shampoo is actually pricier than this other one, even with a $1.50 off coupon…”

Bare-fisted frugality, people, that’s what this book is all about. It is bright and humorously written, but push come to shove we are talking about line-drying clothing to save twenty-five cents in natural gas, washing baggies to save a nickel each time and turning bottles of shampoo upside down to get those last few drops before taking the Last Shower, where you add some water to the ‘empty’ bottle, swish it around, and then use the soapy water on your hair. Then and only then can it be said that we are out of shampoo.

Recent reviewers mention that the advice is ‘dated’, and I suppose it’s true. Things change. Economics is a moving target, and prices seldom remain fixed. At one time, it was cheaper to buy powdered milk than fresh; in some areas that may still be true, but in mine it is most emphatically not.

In any case, the theories remain sound, and I still find the book to be both a good reference and an awesome way to jump-start my system when I’ve gotten sluggish in my tightwaddery.

So naturally, I checked out the book again recently. Then things got crazy and I didn’t get around to reading the chapter(s) I was meaning to re-read, and it was due back to the library (oddly, they seem to want the books back every few weeks, go figure), and I went online to renew it and they said, “NO! Somebody else wants it, you bring it back this minute, missy!” and I said, “Oh, bother. I really should buy my own danged copy of this thing…”

My first impulse was to head on over to Barnes and Noble, right then, for my own copy.

Then I said, “Nay, verily, I shall not do it for behold, I can Just Say No to fiscal imprudence.” I had already parted with a significant portion of my weekly allowance for a housewarming present for a friend, leaving me with a vastly reduced grocery budget. I actually had to go an entire week without diet Pepsi. YES WAY. The movie documenting my against all odds survival on nothing more than water, coffee, and slightly past its ‘use by’ date cranberry cocktail (I used copious amounts of cheap vodka to kill any potential mold spores in it) (none were visible or even probable, but one can never be too careful about such things) will be coming soon to Lifetime.

I felt a little put out, but at the same time hey. A deal is a deal. Those are exactly the kinds of purchases that make for financial train wrecks. You think it’s going to be some Big Huge Thing you buy, the expensive car or the $600 handbag, but it usually isn’t. It’s a series of smaller things, like going into Target for cat food and coming out with cat food, pine-scented litter, five cat toys, a book about parakeets and eight cute candles. None of them are over $5, so all of them are dismissed as ‘no big deal’ – but added together, they are mighty enough to sink your boat before it can come in.

And then, Behold how the Faithful are rewarded. I opened up my email last week and found I had been unexpectedly blessed with a $25 B&N e-certificate.


My shiny new Complete Tightwad Gazette arrived today. I have never seen a copy in this condition. It’s so new! To be honest, it’s kind of weird. This is probably proof that I was really past-due in getting a copy of this book, but I find it strange that there is no coffee stain on the back cover, and that the pages aren’t dog-eared, and that page 159 isn’t torn. And there are no pencil marks on the index, obviously scrawled by somebody’s toddler at some point (it wasn’t one of mine, I swear!).

I’ve actually stood in front of the bookshelf looking for it, and my eyes have zoomed right on past it because it was too new to be the one I was looking for.

My new old friend, home at last.

And on the cheap, too.

I think Amy would be proud...

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Thanksgiving Dinner in a Bowl

Potato leek soup is something I make fairly regularly, especially around this time of year when leeks are plentiful and relatively inexpensive. I love it for being quick, easy, cheap and oh-so-satisfying.

But last week, I did something I’d never done before. I would like to claim that I was being profoundly clever but the truth is, I had a big old thing of turkey stock in the freezer, and it was one of those ‘I’ve got to get more room in here’ moments. I had no leftover turkey with which to make turkey soup, and thought it might be an interesting change to use it as the base for a potato soup.

It is, indeed, an interesting change.

On the one hand, I’m sure I wouldn’t like it ‘all the time’. I actually prefer a potato leek soup made with a clear vegetable stock, because I am fond of leeks and potatoes and I don’t want the stock to be upstaging them. There is also a vague feeling that you’re actually eating mashed potatoes with waaaaaaaaaaaay too much gravy on them.

But. On the other hand…it is like drinking Thanksgiving dinner. It is one of the most “comfort-food” soups I think I’ve ever made. It got an enthusiastic thumbs up from the husband and two of the four kids (the other two don’t count, because they also don’t like ice cream or anything from McDonalds – obviously, they have un-American taste buds). And it is pretty low fat, too, which is important for those of us who are dieting, or whose stomachs go into Volcanic Eruption Mode when dietary indiscretions occur.

There are a million recipes for potato leek soup out there; this is mine, which I’ve modified to include a minimum of fat in deference to my testy stomach.

2-3 tablespoons olive oil (you can also use butter, if the fat thing isn’t an issue for you)
6 small leeks (or 4 regular), white and very-light-green parts only, thinly sliced and washed
3 stalks celery, thinly sliced
4 medium russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
~ 5-6 cups water or stock (vegetable, chicken or in this case, turkey!)
1 cup milk, optional but tasty (I use 1% due to my dietary issues; for more decadence, try 1/2 cup cream!)
Salt and pepper to taste

In a nice big soup pot, heat up the oil or butter over medium-to-medium-high heat, add the leeks and celery and saute until the leeks are translucent – usually about eight to ten minutes. Stir often, don’t let them burn!

Add the potatoes and stock to cover plus about an inch. Bring it to boil, then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer, cover and ignore for about twenty minutes.

Test the potatoes – they should be fork-tender. Now, you can leave the soup just like this for the ‘rustic’ look, but personally I like it smooth and creamy. You can use a hand blender if you’ve got one, or put it carefully through your blender if you don’t. You can also put only part of it through the blender, which gives it more body but leaves the chunks of potato for a more hearty feel.

Stir in your milk or cream if using and give it a taste either way. It will need salt and pepper – add as much as you feel it needs. I usually end up with about one and a half teaspoons sea salt and maybe a quarter teaspoon of fresh ground pepper – that way the Denizens will eat it, while the husband and I can add more if we feel it needs it.

That’s all there is to it. Simple, fast, warming and filling. Good stuff, people.

And now I’m going to go work on that shawl. I really mean it, this time.


I am on row 167 of 178 on the shawl.

And then I have to do the shell border thingee around it. Which might actually take me until the 15th of Octember, given how not-fast a knitter I am. But still! Only nine more rows, and I’m done with the body!


If anyone can explain to me why, given how close I am to finishing it, I am finding myself instead surfing the Internet and going through my yarn stash and looking through pattern books and also spending a lot of time updating my Blogroll to remove blogs that have been ‘dead’ for, like, five months or more, and also I am pondering firing up my video game for a little mindless violence Saving the World from the minions of darknss…well. If you can explain that, why don’t you upload a video of yourself doing it to YouTube? Because people, I am totally heading over there, next…

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Holy Perfect Martini!

The Perfect Temperature Martini Maker has got to be one of the coolest useless inventions, ever.

So, this thing ‘shakes or stirs’ (!!!) your fixin’s until they achieve the perfect 34 degree temperature required to make perfect homemade martinis.

From the ad: The stainless steel shaker moves up and down vigorously during the shake cycle and gently rotates in stir mode, melding the ingredients during either cycle for 60 seconds.

It also mentions having an ‘ice’ line and a one ounce cap to get that perfect ratio of ice-to-ingredients going.

But still. C’mon. How necessary is this thing, anyway? I have watched dozens a few bartenders mix martinis in my time. They all do it about the same way: They scoop a bunch of ice into a pint glass (yes, a pint glass) and then they magically ‘just kind of know’ how much vodka or whatever they’ve poured into it, and then they put another pint glass on top of it and shake like the dickens for a while, often while engaging in Witty Banter with the drunken customers.

And then they slap a little thingee on top and pour the drink through it into one of those Spill-Ensure™ elegant martini glasses and hand it to me whoever might have ordered such a thing.

I’m pretty sure they would scoff at the idea of a ‘perfect martini machine’.

That said, here in the Den, perhaps one of these could be considered an upgrade. Let’s go over the martini-making process around here and see what we find.

I have a real martini shaker! We got it as a gift from one of the husband’s old bosses, and at the time we did not drink any form of martini, fruity or otherwise so it was one of those “Wow, it’s a…well. It’s a…oh, look honey! It’s a martini kit!” kinds of gifts.

That I have since worn it down to the point where the seal on the cap is somewhat questionable is testament to how poorly suited for Mommyhood I am many years have gone by since then.

Anyway. I take the shaker and I put a bunch of ice into it. Then I get out my Starbucks espresso measurer. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to use it for (and I really can’t remember where I got it in the first place, either – I know I didn’t buy it, it just sort of appeared in my house one day and made itself at home), but I find that it works very well for measuring out my booze roughly an ounce of liquid.

ANYWAY. So I put one and a half measures of vodka, half a measure of Cointreau (or triple sec, depends on what I’ve got left over from the last party we threw), and between one and two measures of cranberry juice. I prefer the pure unsweetened stuff, but often settle for cranberry cocktail because I am easily wearied in the supermarket and the pure unsweetened cranberry juice can be like the Holy Grail of juices because apparently my fellow Americans feel that cranberries, left unsweetened and/or blended with other juices like pear, or apple, are ‘too bitter’ and they do not like them.

There is no accounting for taste.

And I resent that their lack of taste buds results in my finding pure cranberry juice hard to find in my local stores.

But I digress.

Where was I, anyway. Oh yeah. So. Then I add a highly scientific measurement of lime juice I like to call ‘a fairly robust squirt’.

Then I stand over the sink and begin shaking like the dickens, praying to $DEITY that the damned cap doesn’t spray sticky Cosmopolitan martini makings all over the kitchen like it did that last time.

Then I pour it into a martini glass (I have those too! THREE of them! I used to have four, but, well. Let’s just say that delicate glasses with HUGE rims balancing on stop of wee little stems which require things like Attention To Detail and perhaps good hand-eye coordination don’t tend to last long around here), and try to drink it fast before one of the kids comes by at Warp Eleven and sends it crashing to the floor.

Hey, did you know that martini glasses actually attract toddlers? It’s true. They can be playing with the coolest set of Cars From The Movie Cars, and the instant a parent tries to sip daintily from a martini glass?

BAM. There they are, trying to climb up into the parent’s lap.

The same is true of lace knitting. I have recently embarked on thorough scientific research and can tell you that if I even think about picking up my lace, Captain Adventure (previously playing happily with his cars on the floor in the kitchen and ignoring me completely) will immediately rush over and act cute: “Oh, HI, Mommy! Hi! Sit down, mommy? Mommy sit down? Captain Adventure sit down! Get pillow! Pillow for nite-nite, sit DOWN mommy!” If thwarted in his mission to sit on me, he will immediately pitch a monster tantrum. “I wannit sit wif MOMMMMMMEEEEEEEEEEEE!”

Behold, the abused, neglected, unloved child who never, EVER gets to sit on his mother’s lap.

On a related note, Captain Adventure would like it to be known that Cosmopolitan martinis are, in fact, yucky. Oh, they might look like Kool-Aid, and the fact that Mommy is slurping one down faster than he goes after a bag of Go, Diego, Go Fruit Snacks (now with real juice!) may lead one to believe that it is some kind of priceless treasure of a snack.

But it is not.

It is yucky.

And his mother would like to submit to the Guild that the expression on the face of a three year old who has been warned repeatedly that something is “really yucky!” who then insists on giving it the old college try anyway is a riot.

Seriously. It was a face which clearly said, “And I thought vegetables were nasty! OH MY GAWD, woman, how can you drink that?!?!”

And then he said, “Oh. That YUCKY!” and went around the house repeating it over and over and over and over again. And each time I took a sip of it, he would stare at me with an expression of combined disgust and awe.

I’m cooler than that kid who eats beetles right now. Yeah, crunchy bugs are gross, but you should get a load of what my old woman sucks down every night sometimes…

Wow. Two digressions in one post. I’m on a roll!


I think it might be an upgrade, sure.


I can buy an awful lot of vodka for a hundred bucks, which is what that fool thing costs. And think of all the exercise I’d be missing out on, not having to shake them by hand. And then clean up the mess from the leaky cap. And then the broken glass off the floor, with the bonus weight-lifting involved from bodily seizing whatever kid knocked it over away from the razor-sharp shards they were about to start dancing on like the great Grape Stompers of France.

Yeah, I think I’ll just keep doing things the old fashioned way around here, and leave the perfect martini maker to the MI6 folks.

Although I’m willing to bet theirs would have some kind of nuclear power source that could also control satellites, and a handy laser cutting tool in the cap…

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Grrrrrrrr !!!!lace!!!! grrrrrrrr...

My knitting time has been next to nil lately. I’m working on a Little Project, which is consuming about 99.9% of my free time. And the shawl is one of those things that you don’t whip out during a few idle moments at the doctor’s office.

Oh no. It is one of those projects I don’t dare do even at home, sometimes. Like right now, for example. I am burnt out on the project and want to do something else. Saaaaaaay, I thought to myself. This would be a great night to spend working on the shawl!!

Yes. Except that it is lace knitting. With this thread-like yarn, I am expected to follow something that goes, like, K2tog, yo, k1, yo, ssk, yo, ssk, yo, ssk, yo, k1, yo, k2tog, yo, k2tog, yo, k2tog, yo, ksptlksjhg, ha, ha, ha, something about a martini…honey are these potatoes supposed to be...mommy! Can I color? Paint? Play-Doh? Run for Congress?


Was this supposed to be a…


{tink tink tink tink tink}

Still. I would like to show, you know, some actual progress when I take pictures of the blob shawl Friday. Which I’m planning to do.

If I can find the charger for the camera’s battery.


I am not having the most organized, ‘together’ week I’ve ever had, here…

In which we prove again that we are insane

So I spent the last week going over the list of stuff I wanted. It is a shockingly short list these days.

My ordered list looks like this:

Retire at 55
Have college funds ready when Denizens graduate high school
Finish backyard
Kitchen remodel
Move somewhere closer to San Francisco
Attend Culinary Academy

The only new thing on the list is the culinary thing, and if I were to be completely honest it’s only on there because I felt that surely there just had to be something ELSE I could put down that I wanted.

I sat down with my husband (because he kinda deserves a vote on these things) yesterday morning to talk about his thoughts. What are the things he wants. I didn’t tell him about my list – I wanted to hear about his.

Funny thing about the two of us: I think we share a single brain or something. We tend to think so exactly alike you’d swear we’d been together longer than just fourteen years.

So when I sat down and started grilling the husband about what he thought about our overall direction and what things he wanted, his list was identical. But reordered.

And, uh, he’s not all that into the whole ‘julienne the green beans by hand’ sort of thing.

He wants the move more than any other thing on the list. He wants it enough that he made it very clear he’d rather continue working clear into his 70s than stay here.

He hates it here a lot more than I do.

Hmm. Well. Interesting wrinkle.

I don’t mind moving the move up the list. Believe me, I don’t mind. But at the same time, Hmm.

Housing is a ton more expensive There than Here. That is kinda why we live Here: it is extremely affordable.

In order to make buying the house we want There possible while maintaining our current very pleasant I might add lifestyle, we will need a monster down payment. A HUGE DOWNPAYMENT. Super-Sized King Jumbo Down Payment. The kind of down payment that would buy a house Here outright.

Right. Well. So. At the moment, I’m starting from…well, let’s see…if I take the five and carry the one, and…hang on, I gotta take off my shoes and use my toes…fifteen, uh, twenty-two minus the three…right.

I’ve got $0 set aside at this point for the down payment on an extremely overpriced expensive home in the heart of the Bay Area. Granted, we’ve got some equity in the Den that we’d be cashing out and rolling into it, but it wouldn’t be nearly enough to cover what we’d need.

It’s daunting. Daunting enough that I’m really questioning my own sanity how realistic we are being, here. We are talking about wanting to almost triple our net worth in five year’s time.

On the plus side, though, no matter what actually happens, it won’t hurt us. The improvement to our net worth won’t harm our ability to retire, nor will it damage our ability to send the kids to college. It’s really just a hit to our current lifestyle, and frankly…we don’t care that much.

Isn’t that weird?!

But we really don’t. We were going over the list of things that will have to be dropped…the date nights and the cable TV and the monthly allowance for things like yarn and D&D figures, and neither one of us was a bit bothered. We are not a bit phased by the idea of ‘no vacations until further notice’.

We know it isn’t forever. Sure, it’ll be a long haul – but at the end, we will have exactly what we want: Exactly what we have right now, only closer to where our hearts beat.

Right. And now, I have some calls to make.

The cable won’t cancel itself, and neither will the Netflix…

ROFL du jour

Captain Adventure’s talking is coming along pretty darned well. His teachers have mentioned that he is talking almost non-stop in class, to the point where they are torn because on the one hand, HE’S TALKING, YAY! On the other…he’s talking during story time, cleaning time, circle time, ANY TIME! They should be shushing him, but the change is so dramatic and positive they don’t want to do so.

I have a big exercise ball. The Denizens, obviously, think it is the coolest toy, ever. I frequently descend on them saying, “Hey! No throwing that ball! It is not a toy!!”

This morning, Captain Adventure has been “helping” me with every single thing I do. He’s been in my bedroom, and he got hold of the ball. He was rolling it up and down the hall (it’s bigger than he is!) and so forth.

Then he threw it down the stairs.

I turned. I opened my mouth to say it.

He looked at me with a wicked little twinkle in his eye and shouted, “Hey! No throwing dat ball! OK, mommy?”

I haven’t laughed this hard in a long, long time.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The biggest challenge thus far

As we’re going forward with our LBYM 2008 project, I’m doing awfully well at things like reducing gasoline consumption and not going to WalMart. The grocery budget has been going well, too, mostly because I’ve been aggressively clearing out the cupboards and freezer rather than buying ‘new’ food.

However, it is becoming clear that my biggest temptation is going to come from online retailers, especially those of the yarn persuasion.

I get ten or more emails every single day from assorted online companies. Most of them I can delete without being tempted in the slightest to even peek…but there are a few that are almost irresistible to me.

KnitPicks. Gaelsong. Webs. JoAnn.

They’re killing me, man!!

I know that I should simply delete the emails without peeking. I should just hit the delete key. Bang. Gone.

But I peek. I say, “I’ll just look, you know, just for giggles …”

And then they say, “CLEARANCE!” or some junk like that, and I’m clicking on the link and next thing I know I’ve got $75 in my shopping cart.

Fortunately, thus far I have managed to not actually impulse-buy things like Celtic goddess statues and piles of yarn ‘on sale’, but I greatly fear it is only a matter of time before I forget myself.

It’s like being on a diet while working in a chocolate factory.

So, from here on out, I am going to be screening my email. Every day, I’m going to reconfirm my commitment to taking care of business first by going through my incoming mail and deleting even the most tempty of the online retailer offers.

Without peeking.

Even if the word ‘clearance’ is in the title. No matter how good the sale, spending money on things I don’t need right now is out of the question.

I have bigger hopes and dreams to take care of, first.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

All done but the obsessive checking

Via email today: Congratulations! The IRS has accepted your federal tax return. There's nothing else you need to do.

...except check my bank account fifteen times per day to see if my refund has been deposited yet...

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

I hafta go lie down

OK. I did it. WHEW! Heh heh. Yeah.

Ok. So, the check should be coming soon now, right? We're good?


We're good. So far, anyway. All filed. And I only double checked every single line item a few dozen times, so I know everything is correct. Also I plugged the same numbers into three different softwares and got the same basic answer, so I'm pretty sure it's right.

OK. All good now. Fine.

I’m just…gonna go lie down…for a second…

(The e-file stumbled over the tax id number for one of the childcare places, and I swear to God I almost screamed in horror. Oh my gawd, the deduction is going to be disallowed I JUST KNOW IT. It just had a misplaced hyphen, for cripes’ sake. EXPLAIN TO ME AGAIN, why it is that I am in charge of these things?!?!)

Deathly taxes

I’ve filled in all the little boxes. I have answered all the questions. I have dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s. I have checked it twice.

Three times.

Perhaps ten.

It is time…to file those taxes.


Let me just…I just want to…am I sure the values I’ve put on all those donations to the Disabled Veterans are reasonable? Wait. Let’s look at the pictures again…no, no, yes.

Yes. I’m being quite reasonable. Throwing away money, probably.

OK. {Deep Breath}

I’m gonna file this bad boy…after I get a soda. Just one more minute of thinking. See if anything occurs to me that I’ve left out.

I’m due a big refund this year. A BIG ONE. The fact that we were subject to AMT last year, and withheld for it this year, and hey! I stopped working abruptly in April but didn’t change my husband’s withholding because I was going to get busy making money independently but then I didn’t because it turned out that I wasn’t just making a good excuse to the boss when I said Captain Adventure needed 210% of my attention…

Yeah. We really over-withheld last year. We’re due two big checks, one from Uncle Sam, and the other from our beloved Golden State.

Wait. Am I sure about that? Let me just go over this one more time…

Now, I ask you. What the hell is it about {music indicating the End of the World is nigh} taxes?

I am not one of those people who feels my government is out to get me. Not usually, anyway. Granted, I’m not 100% certain they are always (or even often, for that matter) acting in my personal best interests, but I am certain that they’re not actively out there trying to harm me, either.

I’m sure they never actually mean to give me those black eyes and knees to the groin. I’m not afraid of the police, military personnel, or members of Congress. If Ah-nold were to stop by the house, I wouldn’t automatically assume he was trying to kill me. (Unless of course he were a killer robot with a big gun. Then I’d be worried.)

The FBI could turn up on my door and I’d be surprised, but not particularly worried. This is how I roll with my government. No worries, really. I’m a pretty boring little person; the worst thing I ever did was steal a pack of bubble gum when I was about ten. And then my mom made me take it back and apologize and pay for it. If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime…

Anyway. I’m not afraid of my government, is what I’m trying to say.

Except, uh, for the IRS.

Somehow, I am convinced that the IRS is waiting to pounce on me and repossess my house or some junk. Last year I got a notice that we owed another $600 and I went into super-meltdown mode. OH MY GAWD OH MY GAWD OH MY GAWD…

Turned out someone Over There had entered Boo Bug’s social security number wrong, the system had rejected it, and they’d adjusted our entire return based on three kids, not four. When I called, they fixed it.

Just like that.

One call. Twenty minutes, max. “Oh, I see, you say that should be a ‘6’? One moment please…oh yes, that’s fine, it’s gone right through. You’ll get your amended amendment (yes really, an ‘amended amendment’) in about a week, you need take no further action, thank you for calling!”

So. Please explain.

Why do I feel afraid to file these taxes?

I have never had a problem with the IRS. I have never had a negative experience with anyone from the IRS. I am not lying on my taxes – I really did overpay. The money really is mine.

So why do I feel like a child who has just been told she can go ahead and get a cookie, but knows the mean old uncle is about to slap her hand with a ruler when she goes for it?

I don’t pretend to understand it – but I really do need to get over it. I need that money back, thank you very much. I’ve got bills to pay, as I may have mentioned a few bazillion times recently.


I’m going now. To file the taxes.

Here we go.

Gonna file my taxes.

Right after I check out my Bloglines…

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

I want hazard pay

Housework, as we all know, is extremely dangerous. It really should only be performed by well-trained professionals. The fact that hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions, of untrained Americans are taking their lives into their hands every single day attempting such feats as doing laundry or cleaning the bathroom should be of major concern to each and every one of us. The burden placed on our medical community from housework-related accidents is devastating. Not to mention the ecological disaster caused by billions of band-aids being produced and then tossed into landfills!

For perfect example: Today, I was cleaning the kitchen. I knew it was dangerous! I knew a license is required for services costing over $500! But like many scofflaws, I thought I was above the law. I simply drew down my shades, picked up a sponge, and started to work.

Things were going well, until I got to the cooktop – my mortal enemy.

I lifted up the lid to clean the junk that accumulates underneath it. I wiped down the knobs. I ran the sponge firmly along the outer edge, to get all the hot holy @*^&, it bit my finger!!!

That’s right. The cooktop? Bit. Me.

Turns out, it has a sharp edge down at the bottom, where the glass panel for the knobs meets the stainless steel hood. I’m sure if I had actually gone through the licensing process, I would have been aware of this pitfall – but I had not.

And now, I have the Paper Cut of the Gods +10 (Chaotic Evil) on my left ring finger. And like most wounds that are not really serious at all – it hurts like @*^&@in’ @*^&.

And, I have gone through no fewer than eight (8) band-aids today. The first three soaked through, and then I forgot I was wearing one and stuck my hand into dishwater (see? housework is the cause of all my sorrows!).

Then I put on two because I thought, “Ha ha! I know, I’ll put one on, and then another one, which will keep the first one in place!”

They popped right off the finger and fell into my knitting basket. By the way – this particular cut reacts to nice fresh air brushing across it precisely as though I had thrust it into a vat of vinegar, lemon juice and salt. Yeah. It’s a toe-curler.

And now I have another set of two very determined band-aids. One cloth ‘fingertip’ band-aid, covered by a whacking huge “blister treatment” one. It’s not really a band-aid, it’s designed for blisters (duh, hence the ‘blister treatment’ on the box) – I’ve loved them for actual blisters caused, say, by knitting frantically day and night for two weeks because CHRISTMAS IS COMING. But now, I have found another use! These things do not come off easily, and kind of fuse together where they overlap. HA! Take that, slippery band-aid syndrome!!

But, returning to more serious matters: I have learned my lesson. From here on out, I’m leaving the housework to the trained professionals, and I urge you to do likewise. Do not make the same mistakes I have made! Save yourself who knows how much grief and pain and cost-of-band-aids!

Stick with knitting. It’s safer.

Now, if anybody needs me, I’ll be in my knitting chair repeatedly stabbing myself with those sharp lace-pointed needles…

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Blob That Ate the Desk Chair

Hey look – knitting!!

Pacific Northwest Shawl 02_10_08

Yes, that blob is the Pacific Northwest shawl. It is actually a lot of fun to knit – although it would be helpful if I could be relied upon to count to seven.

You know, repeatedly.

It doesn’t help that my counting tends to go like this: “Knit one, two, three, no-you-may-not-have-a-cookie-right now, four, five, get-off-of-there-before-you-kill-yourself, twelve, fifteen, what-the-@*^&@-are-you-doing-now?!?! {set down knitting in mid-row, charge off to see what the @*^&@ they are doing, come back} uhhhhhhhh…{tink, tink, tink}…one, two…”

Anyway, I think it is coming along pretty darned well, and it’s a lot of fun to knit. Of course, it’s also one of those devious projects that starts with a casual, “Cast on three stitches…”

Well, actually, this one begins with “crochet 5 chains, knit through the loops on the bottom side…”

It’s not as confusing as it sounds. I’d never done it before, and I got it on the first try even though me + crochet hook = amusing disasters that are not humanly possible and yet we have them ON TAPE.

Anyway, this started with three little stitches and is working its way up to three hunnerd and sixty five – and then you do the shell border all the way around the sides.

I’ve got a ways to go, I think is my point here.

This Claudia silk is a pleasure to work with, too. It doesn’t split, is not excessively slippery (a little, but not excessively), and isn’t being too mean to my hands, either. Sometimes I find silk a little drying for me, but so far so good with this stuff.

As always when doing lace, I am suffering from disbelief on this project. I’m looking at it and saying, “Oh, man. This does not look like the picture…” and getting all worried that one little hole is bigger than the other little hole, and does that ‘seagull’ look crooked to you? It looks crooked. I think it’s crooked. Maybe I should rip out the last fifty-six rows, back to that seagull…”

It looked like a big old blob hanging over my chair. I kept trying to ‘stage’ it a little better, so that it looked more…well, like a frothy, delicate piece of lace, rather than a kind of purplish blob that had burbled up from under the desk to eat my chair.

It laughed at me. And also refused to look like anything but a blob. Well, fine. Be that way. Look like a blob, see if I care. Phooey.

I’m looking forward to the blocking. It always surprises me. Granted, I’m not a big lace knitter and haven’t had a lot of these experiences, but the way you can take a damp blob, stretch it out on the rack bed, let it dry, and then pick up a frothy, delicate piece of lace is one of the great miracles of knitting.

Besides. That moment when my husband walks into the bedroom and sees something stretched from one end to the other of our king sized bed, held in place with about fourteen thousand pins?


Sunday, February 10, 2008


Otherwise entitled, Could somebody ELSE please be in charge of this now?!

Along with working on the have-do-be list, I’ve also been going over our budget. I’ve been trimming things up and making some of the easier choices.

And then I hit the Planet Organics wall.

ARGH. Could somebody else please make this call for me?!

Their produce has been wonderful for us. When I signed up last year (good grief, has it really been a whole year?!), we were a family that seldom ate fresh produce – I’d gradually stopped buying it, as the taste and textures and freshness just weren’t worth buying.

Not only has the quality been excellent, but the fact that the box just sort of turns up each week has forced me to get back in the habit of putting vegetables back on the table.

And their people are awesome. Everybody I’ve talked to has been on the ‘super neat’ side of the scale. They’re a small company working hard to make a positive difference in the lives of both their farmers and their customers, and I respect and honor that.

But as I’m going over our budget and looking for places to nip and tuck, well.

This is a tough one to gloss over. We’re paying a high price for a small volume, and we’re a big family. A big family with a fairly constant stream of dinner guests, no less.

That $75 ‘family’ box is almost big enough for us – but we still have to supplement from the supermarket, especially in the fruit category. And we’re out of their normal delivery area (story of our lives!), so there’s an additional $5 delivery fee tacked on. That’s $80 a week, for about a third of what we actually eat.

The supermarket produce remains pretty sub par; our local farmer’s market won’t open again until May. There is one twenty miles away, but…well, it’s twenty miles away. It’s very small, but kind of determined. I did go a couple weeks ago, and have to admit the prices were awesome. I got slightly more produce than the $75 box generally has AND five dozen eggs, for $40. Even tacking on $6 for gas, we saved money. The produce was top quality, too.

But. It’s twenty miles away.

On a Sunday.

I can guarantee you right now, in writing, that I will not get out there every week. Or every other week. I will mean to, and I will have every intention of doing it, but one thing will lead to another and somehow I just won’t get around to it and then suddenly my children will be regressing back to not recognizing broccoli…sigh.

It’s a big thing with me.

There was a time when I gladly sacrificed nutrition to save money. And there was a time when I just didn’t really think about it much. But these days, I’m thinking about it. Not only ‘is this a healthy choice’, but where did it come from, who grew it, how was it grown, what else am I eating when I ingest this thing?

Having produce delivered every week, regardless of what kind of crazy I had going on, forced me to put a high level of importance on having fresh, local, organic produce on offer every single night.

I don’t want to lose that. It’s a good thing.

At the same time, we need to be extremely cost-conscious right now. If I can get produce I feel confident about eating for half the price…well.

I should do it.

You see? ARGH.

It is both very difficult, and a no-brainer, at the same time.

It is making my brain hurt.

And I don’t want to make the call.

Why couldn’t they be jerks over at the Planet? Huh? Why couldn’t they just be rude, uncaring jerks who didn’t care a fig whether or not you were happy and healthy and eating right? This would be so much easier if they were…

Thursday, February 07, 2008

It’s all about YOU

Allllllllrighty. Back to work. This week is almost shot and also this is somewhat of a large task, so I’m actually going to make this my ‘rest of this week and all of next’ goal.

What I want to do next is work on my ‘have-do-be’ list. I know I’ve brought this up ad nauseum a few times, but in case you’ve missed those posts, here’s how it goes.

Find a little quiet time, and think about your life. Not your debts, not your income, not how much you hate those curtains or how much you wish your mom would quit comparing you to your Perfect Sibling.

Think about your life. Yourself. Your own individual groove.

What makes you happy? What specific things give you joy and fulfillment? What are the things that you dream of? What keeps you up at night that you’d like to change? What are the things that keep coming back to you again and again?

In your quiet time, write it down. Don’t worry about whether or not it is “meaningful” or “cosmic” or “deep”. You’re not going for a Nobel Peace Prize, here. There’s no right or wrong answer. You are your own person, and if a big bag of pretzels and a football game is what gives your life meaning, more power to you.

This isn’t about anybody else. This is not subject to the approval of anybody else. This is only and purely about you, looking for your perfect life.

Write down things as they occur to you, then walk away and ignore it for a little while. Overnight is usually pretty good. Then, come back and look at the list again. There will likely be things you forgot, and things that on second (third, fourth) thought really aren’t that important.

Tweak it. Then leave it alone again.

Once you’ve got a fairly stable list, the real work begins: Figure out where each thing falls in relation to each other thing. It’s like your vision test: Better 1, or 2? Better 2, or 3? OK, how about 3, or 1?

Again, don’t worry about which goals are ‘loftier’ and which ones are ‘mundane’. Don’t think about how expensive, impossible, or otherwise crazy your list is. There are no limitations right now. Money, time, background…none of that is important right now. It's OK to be more interested in what others might consider a lower-priority thing.

Remember: It's all about YOU, baby. Only YOU can decide where things fall in your personal priority scale.

Where are going with all this?

Simple. Think about your money for a second. What do you do to earn it? No, no, not “I’m an accountant”.

You trade your life for it. Instead of living that time for you, you live it for your employer, right? Those are hours you didn’t spend with your friends or family, painting, knitting, reading, doing the things that you love to do, right?

Our cash is a physical manifestation of our life-energy.

I know. That’s, like, deep and some junk.

We often don’t give it the respect it deserves. We complain about how little of it we have, we whine about how we can’t do this, or that, or the other. We spend it like water on random things at the mall or the supermarket, without stopping for even a second to think about what we’re doing.

We obsess about it, and yet fail to understand just how bottom-line important it really is.

With a clearly defined list of what we really want in hand, and more importantly, in mind, it is far easier to look at each of the thousands of spending opportunities we are confronted by each and every day and compare it to the dream life.

Just because you can get the shiny whatnot, should you? Is it what you really want? Are you trading all your fondest hopes and dreams for some new thing that happened to cross your path when you were bored or tired or down and feeling the need for just a little something to perk you up again?

The most powerful tool we have for managing our lives is not our net worth, our credit scores, who we know or where we live.

It’s our intelligence, our unique human ability to stop before we do something, even something pleasurable, and think about where it will end up. Our ability to say, “Yeah, that would feel good right now, but it is not good for me in the long run”, and close up our wallets and just walk away.

Am I saying I’m OK with not going to Rome next year, I’d rather have the shoes? Suddenly I’m more interested in a cruise this summer than sending my kids to college, ever? Since when is a Blackberry more important than retiring comfortably and early? I need a mocha right now, more than I need financial stability tomorrow?

Stopping to think is what makes the difference. You can make a million bucks a year and still have nothing if you can’t stop and think; you can make a pittance and retire a millionaire if you can.

And that is way more than enough sermonizing for one day. Now that I’ve blistered you with fire and brimstone, go relax and have fun with it. It’s a neat exercise, and sometimes the answers can kind of surprise you.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

I suspect this may answer a few questions…

So. How do I get through the whackity-bazillion pages of mindless drivel brilliant prose I crank out in the average day?

This right here helps a lot:

111 words

Touch Typing online

I knew I was pretty quick on the keyboard, but now I know why my coworkers used to complain that the sound of my typing was worse than rain on a tin roof…

Home again, home again, lickity split

I always find vacations marvelous in two distinctly opposite ways. The first is the part where you Get Away From This @*^&@ing Madhouse. The grand and glorious feeling of none of the usual domestic fretting for however-many days washes over me, and the anticipation of not having to worry about a darned thing is enough to make me cry.

This is followed by the marvelous return home, where the pillows aren’t weird and the sheets don’t smell funny, you’re not spending $5 for a lukewarm mocha which is waaaaaay too sweet, and by the way where all your stuff is. Oh. And the kids, too.

Four days is actually my upper limit for kid-free vacations. (Two is my upper limit for kid-encumbered ones.) (Just kidding.) (No I’m not.) (Yes, yes I am.) (Huh-UH! Have you ever tried to deal with four kids in a hotel room for more than a long weekend?! And have you ever been a kid trying to deal with a parent who is trying to deal with four kids in a hotel room for more than a long weekend?!?! Three days is long enough for all of us, thank-you-very-much!)


We had a marvelous time. We stayed in the worst room in the best hotel at the Disneyland resort: The Grand Californian. Our room had no view (awwwwww, the sorrow! Because of course, all I ever do at a resort is sit around staring out my window…), and was located directly over some garbage bins so every morning at 7:00 sharp there was a great deal of metallic banging and thumping and rummaging around going on outside.

Being that I was already awake by 7:00, I didn’t care a fig. Usually we get up around 5:00, so 7:00 is a pretty considerable lie-in for us. And then I’d get in the shower and loiter around in there, with nobody banging on the door yelling, “Mommy? Whacha doin’? Can I have a snack? Can I watch TV? Mommy? I need something! Are you going to be done soon? Mommy-mommy-mommy-mommy…!”

Luxury, my friends, has many, many levels. Which I think is also exemplified by the fact that one of my other “favorite things I did on this vacation” was sitting in front of the big fireplace working on the Pacific Northwest shawl. It is coming along nicely so far – which isn’t very far, granted, but I haven’t had any major disasters yet. The only thing I’m wondering is how well the lace is going to show up in end – this is a beautiful, somewhat dramatic variegated silk. A solid color would probably be better for showing off the ‘seagulls, pine trees, waves and fish’ patterns. But undaunted, I’m carrying on. I love these colors, and if the patterns don’t show quite as nicely, well shoot. I’ll just have to make it again in a solid color sometime.

What was really funny was that children, surrounded by Disney characters and rides and non-stop Fun! And! Excitement!, were still enamored of the knitting. I had a sock with me in the park to keep me busy in the lines, and I swear there were kids walking into things because they were so busy staring at it.

I even got a yarn store experience on the way home! We had to stop in Monrovia to pick up a stereo for a friend, and by golly Unraveled was literally 900 feet from the stereo store! So while my husband was picking up the stereo, I wandered down the street to fondle alpaca, dig through a newly arrived box of Koigu and check out the sale yarns.

This is a beautiful store, a real visual treat, with a wide assortment of yarns at various price-points and a nice selection of books and patterns. I only wish I a) had more cash money to spend and b) could by any stretch of the imagination pretend that I needed more yarn and/or pattern books.

But my husband bought me some yarny goodness as a birthday present, so I didn’t have to walk away empty handed. I got two skeins of Koigu in…hmm, what to call this? it’s fairly muted but still interesting, kind of “foresty” with leanings toward camouflage…and a big ball of Tofutsies in a soft purple.

And then we got back on the freeway and highballed it back home in record time. It was so good to get home to all the Denizens; funny how you can be so eager to get away from them, and then start to miss them within hours. We stopped one (1) time in the six hour drive home, for a drive-thru burger and coffee.

It is so good to be home. Even though we were immediately confronted with stacks of ‘Important Tax Documents Enclosed!’ and memos from school like, “Boo Bug didn’t turn in her writing homework” and “your child bombed the GATE exam” (yes, Eldest bombed it – we suspect that she did it on purpose because she doesn’t want to change schools yet), and a note from Captain Adventure’s teacher stating that he was sneezing continually and had a really runny nose Monday (read as, “Your child is sick, you nasty people! Keep him home!”).

Ah yes. It’s good to be home.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Lace: The new endurance sport

Fortified by accidentally oversleeping to the point of almost not getting the kids to school on time a good night’s sleep, I have boldly leapt forth this morning, full of Joy! And also Happiness! Because I am going on vacation! Wheeeeeeeeeee!

Naturally, the first order of business is to get my projects for the trip.

Yes. Projects, plural. There has to be one I can do while in line for rides (what? Hey, I’ll have you know that I finished from cuff to heel of a man’s sock in the line for Finding Nemo last summer…) and in the car and like that.

And then, there really ought to be the One I Can Only Work On In The Absence of Children.

Because seriously – should I waste four whole nights with nobody jumping on me every eleven seconds?

So. Some time ago I picked up a skein of Claudia Silk Lace 20/2 in ‘Purple Earth’. When I looked at it, I thought of rainbows. And rainbows always make me think of my Gran. So does silk, because she and I both do this thing where we will walk into a department store, wander casually up to a rack, and immediately gravitate toward the $150 pure silk blouse.

Seriously. We could do that in Sears.

It is some kind of talent. And also proof that we take the slogan “Champagne taste, Beer budget” and really make it our own, because we actually went to the store for the 75%-off polyester.

So naturally, it was like, you know…A Sign. “You must buy this (relatively) expensive skein of 100% silk and make something rainbow-y for your grandmother…” (Although, may I just point out that if I were to buy this shawl in 100% silk of this quality from a store, it would probably be over $200? And I only paid $42 for the skein? So really, it’s like…well, it’s 75% off!) (and, uh, ‘some assembly required’) (I know. Shut up.).

I’ve settled on the The Pacific Northwest shawl.

Yes. I know that I have a “certain history” when it comes to lacy-lace. And also that it will take considerably more than four nights of knitting to make this thing, ergo I will be trying to do it while Denizens are bouncing me.

What you fail to realize is, if you look up “incurable optimist” in the dictionary? There is a picture of me. My picture is also next to the word “unteachable” and “dense”. I am also frequently used as a cautionary tale beneath the quote, “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

Never mind!

I’m making this shawl, and that’s final.

And that’s not actually what I wanted to tell you about this morning.

You know what laceweight yarn is? It’s an endurance sport.

SEE, I’m used to sport-weight-and-up wool. You’ve got yourself a skein of that, it’s no more than, oh, 300 yards, max. So when you make yourself a center pull ball of it, it’s all like, “Whirrrrrrrrrrr, done!”

This little tiny, wee, delicate, weightless skein of laceweight yarn packs a humungous 1,100 yards (approximately) of distance.

Do you have any idea how long you have to crank a ball winder to get 1,100 yards of laceweight from skein to center-pull-ball form? Do you?

My personal trainer (yes, I do actually have one – would you believe an entire month of twice weekly individualized personal training costs less than one (1) physical therapy session?! Yes. Way.) would be so proud of my workout this morning. I am sweating, and my right bicep is yelping at me.

He’d be even prouder if I put up a second ball using my left arm, but, uh, well. He’ll just have to maintain a 50% pride level in me, because no way am I doing that again this morning. I have other things to do. I choose life, people!

“Knitting is for grannies”, PAH! I vote that the next person who says that be made to wind up a few ounces of laceweight, and THEN s/he can tell us how “granny” our sport is...