Friday, May 29, 2009

Graduation did not come gradually

This afternoon, we went to watch Captain Adventure "graduate" from preschool (although just to thoroughly mess up our groove, he still has two more days of school next week). He was wearing a graduation cap and squirming constantly in his chair. His aide was steadily providing snacks to keep him (and one of his equally fidgety classmates) in place – and glory be, when his name was called, he chose to run to his teacher to receive his diploma!

Cutest. Thing. EVER.

Oh, you don't believe me? You think I'm exaggerating, that maybe I've got that Mommy Blind Spot thing going, and think my uglified little monster is "cute"?


Captain Graduates!

(The fact that the gown sleeves are WAY too long for him just tickles me outside of all reason…)

I still can't believe he's going to kindergarten next year. It just doesn't compute, in large part because he is still so…well, vulnerable.

Physically, he's almost five. In some cognitive areas, he's almost five. He can build like a five year old. He can recognize shapes and patterns. He recognizes some words and can "decode" simple books (which is a precursor to reading, which is darned exciting for a four year old). He invents stories and games. He has an invisible friend.

But in most other ways, he's only two. He's got the patience of a two year old. Socially, he's two. His speech is barely two. His ability (and inclination) to follow directions? Oh yeah. Totally Two.

Terrible Two. He is stubborn like Two. He is self-obsessed like Two.

…he is my baby, like Two…

It's so hard to look at his innocent little face, his baby-face, and think kindergartener.

This graduation did not come gradually, for me. It feels like it was just yesterday that I was dragging him around from pediatrician to therapist to psychologist, practically screaming for help. This isn't right, something is wrong, HELP US…and they were all saying, "He's not old enough for this, that or the other yet…let's wait and see, let's give it another few months, in two months he'll be old enough for preschool…"

And then wham!

It's been two years. Two years since I left my job to start the odyssey. Not quite a full year since he was officially diagnosed with PDD-NOS. Just shy of a full year of autism-specific preschool.

And now kindergarten?

My baby is going to kindergarten?

Just doesn't seem possible.

Any more than the fact that Eldest is going to middle school seems possible. Wait, wasn't kindergarten just last year? Sixth grade? SERIOUSLY?!

The wheel just keeps on turning, faster and faster. Time goes by so fast, and yet so slowly, too…endless days full of laundry and sandwiches and picking up socks off the floor…gah, how much longer until they're all grown-n-flown?!…and yet whenever I blink some new milestone has just shot past me and the dread of the empty nest hits me. I'm gonna blink, and they'll all be off living their lives...

Ah, life. It always seem to happen when you aren't looking, doesn't it…

Thursday, May 28, 2009

But first, a word from necessity…

I have a store-bought clothespin bag…wait. Let me rephrase that. I had a store-bought clothespin bag. The dumb thing has shredded, and not only did it dump my clothespins all over the yard (lovely), it is now dispensing a sticky bright blue powder onto everything it touches. GAH! Cheap piece of @*^&@ I mean REALLY!, it's not even that old (although admitted it was left out in the elements a few times too many, mostly because my clothesline never comes down and almost always has something hanging on it)!

My very first thought was, Drat, I'm going to need to buy a new bag.

My second thought was, I can't believe you just thought that. BUY a new bag? What kind of attitude is THAT? You can totally MAKE a new bag, probably with something already lying around the house.

My third, fourth…twenty-seventh thoughts were all around things like past trauma from attempting sewing projects, interspersed with enthusiastic ideas that made good use of ruined jeans – of which I have a bounty fit for a rather thread-bare king. (Which I still think would work just fine, if I weren't genetically incapable of sewing fabric together without attaching my thumb permanently to the finished [and now bloody] object or breaking the needles on my sewing machine.) (I broke a needle on silk once. Silk! And I still don't know how I managed it…)

And then I suddenly thought, Waitasecond…what about all that worsted weight cotton you've been making washcloths out of like a madwoman lately?

Sturdy 100% cotton…wears like iron (I've got kitchen towels I made ten years ago out of this stuff that are still going strong)…good stitch definition…machine washable…hmmmm

Now, there are several ways one could go about this. One could, for example, whip together a simple bag in something like, eh, four hours and be done. It's a clothespin bag, for carp's sake, not an heirloom piece I expect to be donated to the Smithsonian.

That would be sensible.

So naturally, I'm pouring through my cable books because why go with simple, if you could instead encrust the thing with cables? Why spend just a couple nights-while-watching-the-news making a new bag, when I could instead turn this into a forty-seven cuss Monster Project, complete with multiple rip-backs and perhaps a few more math problems than I already have, which is plenty, thank you.

Sigh. Honestly, I don't know what to do with me either…(but seriously, I think this is going to be a kewl little bag…)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Creative Process

I think I've talked about my (cough-cough) creative process before, right?

You know…the one where I tear my entire house apart, wildly flinging yarn, needles, books of every description, bits of paper and so forth over my shoulder while in the throes of creativity, and am then startled to find myself sitting in the middle of what might be mistaken for something left behind by a tornado strike?


SEE, here's the thing. I got this idea and it involves laceweight yarn and lace patterns that may or may not currently exist and The Mabinogi(on).

Hey, I never said my Creative Process was particularly logical. Or even grounded in this reality. In many ways, it is actually the antithesis of my database-programming life, which is forced into rather narrow and predictable channels because computers do not deal well with people suddenly yelping, "Oh! You know what would be cool?!" and then charging off on some wild tangent that has nothing to do with whatever you were just doing.

It throws off their groove when you do that.

ANYHOO. So I'm up too late making notes and sketching out patterns and working out math (ugh, mat not working right, not working right at all…) and looking things up and suddenly I discover that I can't find my copy of The Mabinogion.

This led to a long, involved conversation with the husband around whether or not I owned a copy, and what happened to the copy we eventually decided I did, indeed, own once upon a time but which neither of us can remember seeing in literally ten years, and while we're on the subject, what ever happened to that big old musty volume of Brehon Law I also used to own but now cannot find…?

And then I showed him my (rough!) sketch of what I had in mind and he laughed at me and said my horses looked like sheep.


Harrumph. OK, OK, so I can't draw for poop, BIG DEAL, and can we PLEASE stay on-topic here?! Because you know what else I can't find? Most of my "big" stitch dictionaries. Call me crazy, but I'm pretty sure that I own more than one (1) "big" stitch dictionary. I'd swear I owned at least three "big" books with lots and lots of pretty pictures of various stitches, including lots of lace ones.

BUT, they are nowhere to be found. And I know this, because I have pulled every single book I own off the shelf looking for them. Unless they have somehow gotten where books do not go (which is possible), they no longer exist in the same space-time continuum as the Den of Chaos.


Furthermore! My Creative Process has now led to even more destruction of my bedroom…which I believe I mentioned earlier is (ahem) somewhat untidy right now. "Somewhat untidy" being a phrase which here means "please, dear God, do not let my mother come over and see this room right now because she may have a heart attack and die and I would feel guilty forever and ever because I killed my mother with my untidy ways."

Partially this is not my fault. My husband hosted a D&D game here last weekend, and before said game started he cleared a few areas (like the front room and his Man Cave, which was being used as a guest room)…and by "cleared" I mean "scooped everything into baskets he then carried upstairs and dumped on the floor in our bedroom for me to deal with later because I am the only person in this house with the Mystical Psychic Powers necessary to decide where things belong."

One of these days I'm going to go completely off my cracker and start holding objects dumped into my lap for sorting to my forehead, intoning solemnly, "Oh brother-spirit of the {object}, speeeeeeak! Tellllll me where yoooooou beloooooooonggggggg…"

Bonus points if I actually hear a response…

But getting back to the untidiness around here, partially (mostly) it is totally my fault. My bedroom is also my office, which is also my Etsy store, AND my workshop storeroom, plus my research laboratory and furthermore I keep my clothes in here and oh yeah, all my books (including, usually, the missing ones) and all the bills that need paying and my harp plus all music for said instrument and the music stand(s) and my spinning wheel and of course a small assortment of things like stools and chairs and I'm sorry, were you still wondering why my room is a wee little touch on the crazy side?

…did I mention two baskets of fiber waiting to be spun (badly) (I'm SO not in love with my spinning right now) and a lifetime supply of Chapstick…?


NOW, here is the thing about my Creative Process: It renders me almost completely blind to such things.

Oh, sure, I know it's there. I even know – in a distant, out-of-body-experience kind of way – that I'm Doing It. I see myself fling a book down on the table and whirl away to snatch up some silvery-gray roving to ponder the possibilities, and some disconnected part of me mutters, That
isn't going to put itself away, you know…

But it doesn't really register. I'll drop five different skeins of yarn onto my big craft table and fiddle with them, then snort and walk away to grab a sixth skein and a set of #7 needles to see how that one turns out. The mess is getting awfully big, that disconnected voice remarks.

But it just doesn't sink in. I'm busy. I'm Otherwise Engaged.

…I'm trying to make this stupid swatch look like a horse, and furthermore trying to figure out how I can work it so the math comes out right…I don't want a massive "blank" spot at either end, but I'm about ten-fifteen stitches short of a fourth repeat of the pattern at the start of this panel…hmmm…maybe I could add a ten-row pattern somewhere in there, or add two rows to each of the three other panels…? Let's see, if I'm adding two stitches per row…{several pieces of wadded up paper get thrown in the general direction of the trash can, a pen gets left absent-mindedly on the floor, calculator tossed carelessly into a basket of fiber, skein of now rejected because it just isn't "it" yarn is sitting on the floor wondering what it did to deserve such a fate}…

But then, eventually, inevitably, I snap out of it. Maybe I Got It (or Gave Up On It, which happens too darned frequently), or discovered in my ramblings that somebody else did all the hard work for me and I can just download their pattern and be done with it.

And, like, ohmygawd, what the @*^&@ happened in here?!?!

Tonight, I finally nailed down the basic outline of the shawl I want to attempt to create. I've got the patterns I want to try, the theme I want to follow, the yarn and the needles. I put together a concept sketch (limited drawing abilities, how I curse them) and roughed out the math (Needs more work. Send rum.).

And then I knuckled at my eyeballs, swiveled around in my chair, and looked at my bedroom.

Holy. Fish. Paste.

I…really don't know how to put this…

I have created a disaster area in here that will probably take two or even three full days to straighten up.

Which I will get to right away, of course.

After I've figured out that math problem, and maybe done just a few rows, you know, just to see how it goes…

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

…and then I got swine flu and died and we all lived happily ever after the end…

As expected, I’ve now got that ‘I need a vacation to get over my vacation’ feeling. I went to Disneyland with one of my best friends and her daughter Queen Teen, in celebration of said Queen Teen’s birthday. Huzzah!!

It was Queen Teen’s first visit to the park, and it went brilliantly…Disney has done a pretty darned good job making the park accessible for beautiful princesses in bright purple wheelchairs.

And then we came home, and I (re)got swine flu a damned stupid boring old cold (but maybe bronchitis! which would at least be slightly more interesting than a damned stupid boring old cold!), and then I died except not really but I half wished I did because ugh, colds suck that way.

That something can make you feel so utterly wretched and yet not have the decency to be even a tiny bit life threatening is kind of annoying, you know? Not that I’d actually want to die of a cold or anything mind you (I’m kind of against dying – it would be such a waste of time and besides, my bedroom is a terrible mess and it would be sooooo embarrassing if anybody saw it like this), it’s just that if I’m going to feel that miserable and sore and achy and cough so hard I’m afraid my spine is going to snap in half, well, I’d like to at least have the…vindication? satisfaction? I have no idea what the word I’m looking for is, here…{word I can’t think of} of being taken seriously by a doctor or something.

Instead of what I always get, which is a casual, “Oh, ya, you’ve got a pretty nasty cold there, doancha…OK, so, go home, take some Sudafed and drink lots of fluids.”

Whaaaaaaat? No magic pill? No antibiotics to make with the All Better In Less Than Two Days? No dire warnings of impending doom? No Get Out Of Housework Free card?!

Oh. And. Turns out that when they say “fluids,” they do not mean “rum.” Feh. Not only do I not get a Magic Pill, I don’t even get to dissolve my Sudafed in a Mai Tai – you know, for ease of swallowing. Hard to swallow those big old pills when you have a sore throat…

Of course, if they do take my spine-crackin’ hackin’ seriously, they will send me for an X-ray, which will cost me about $780 and show that gracious!, I have two (2) lungs in there! Two (2) working lungs, with absolutely not so much as a spot on them! They might even compliment me on my sexy, youthful lungs!

…right before they tell me that sure enough, it’s just a cold and I should go home, take Sudafed and drink non-rum fluids until it decides to pack up and leave…stopping to see the cashier on my way out to settle up, of course…

Oh there you are, Insult! I’d like you to meet a good friend of mine: Insult, this is Injury, Injury? Insult.

Doesn’t even have the decency to be swine flu. Ooooooh no, no interesting side to this thing at all. Just a miserable rotten no good lousy plain-vanilla cold…possibly with the slight twist of bronchitis, which is like putting parsley in your homestyle chicken soup. No cilantro or curry paste for you, oooooooh no…just plain old flat leaf parsley…

You know what else I want to know? (No, Tama, what else do you want to know, we’re all riveted by your Sudafed-driven rants today…) I want to know, how come we don’t have some easy to use technology by which we could wash our lungs?

No, seriously! We have the Neti-Pot thing for our sinuses, right? Well, some of us do, anyway…although I have yet to use one successfully. My sinuses are usually so thoroughly blocked that the water can’t get through, so I just stand there like an idiot with the pot rammed up my nostril and no water flowing at all.

My doctor laughed so hard at me upon witnessing this Epic Fail (because he didn’t believe me when I said the water couldn’t get through, so I showed him how it couldn’t get through) (I’m sure he’s sooooooo glad he went through all those years of college and medical school, so he could watch the Crazy Lady shove a Neti-Pot spigot up her nostril and attempt to pour warm water through her sinuses while simultaneously giving a blow-by-blow description of how it wasn’t working because she is physically incapable of shutting the @*^&@ up even when talking right this very minute might cause her to drown… “Eee? Eht woan GO {sputter! gag!}…tru meh nodze…{gurgle, gak!}”), he gave me a month’s worth of free samples of my new allergy medication by way of apology.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah. I have often thought during Times Like These, that it would be really nice if my lungs had come with, say, a removable lining. So I could just unzip the lining and run it through the wash, see? Wash out all the Yuck that is causing all this inflammation and brouhaha, and then I’d be Cured!

Why are you looking at me like that? It’s brilliant, I tell you! Granted there are some…erm…technical details that would need working out (like how you could soak your lungs in antibacterial soap without drowning), but right now the idea of being able to physically scrub my lungs sounds mighty good.

Oh well. I guess since I’m not dying and can’t wash my lungs, I’ll just have to…drink some more not-rum fluids and maybe take another dose of Sudafed, and just…wait…for this stupid dumb boring old cold to run its course.


(This is Round 2 on this particular cold. I thought I was done having a cold last week but ooooooh no, it’s back…and I hates it, I HATES IT SO MUCH…)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Gonna need a vacation to get over my vacation

Let’s just say it, shall we? I do not vacation well.

There. I said it. I am not a person who finds vacations relaxing. Not the planned sort, anyway. The kind that involve reservations and firm commitments to be in precisely this place at exactly that time.

They stress me the @*^&@ out, people.

AND-AND-AND…when other people are involved? I turn into a Level 42 Stress Monkey, because now I feel as though I, and I alone, am about to completely RUIN somebody else’s good time.

But no pressure!!!!

When I actually take “my” weekends away, I generally have absolutely no idea what I’m going to do until about ten seconds after I’ve left the house. I could go nowhere at all, or I could end up in Montana – it just, you know, depends.

On my mood, the weather, the time of year, whether or not I ever got around to fixing the hole in my tent…I find it very relaxing to just sort of pick a direction and go, and when I find someplace cool, stop.

Shoot, back in the day, I’d get off work on a Friday, take my walking stick out of my trunk and let it fall – whichever way it fell, that’s the way I’d go.

Vacation planning, Tama style. Landed me in some darned interesting places, too.

Tomorrow, a girlfriend and I are getting away from our men, each of us taking one (1) daughter along for the ride. It’s been over a year in the conniving, but as usual I find myself on the eve of departure ripping my hair out screaming, “WAIT! Where’s the sunscreen? Do you have your allergy meds? Where are my meds? Crickey, some old person has apparently left forty-seven different kinds of medication in my cabinet…oh wait, is that all mine?! GAH, do I want to bring the dandruff shampoo, or the ‘for hopeless hair’ stuff? Will I need a lipstick? Do I have a lipstick?...gads, this thing is older than me…let’s just assume ‘no’ on the lipstick question then…did you pack underwear? ACK! Don’t I have any clean underwear? C’mon, all that laundry I did today and I’ve got no clean underwear?!?!” {this is the point at which I discover what while I did in fact do eight loads of laundry today, my dirty laundry is still upstairs in my hamper…}

This is vacationing like normal people vacation, and it makes me a Class A-1 Insane Person.

Also, I have not yet packed.


Right! So! In case you’re wondering where I am for the next few days? I’m giggling with a very dear old friend about just about anything, especially if it involves potty humor because we are very mature that way.

Now, where is my stupid bathing suit and please dear $DEITY let me still fit into it hallelujah amen…

Monday, May 18, 2009

Money Monday: May 18, 2009

For most of us, food is the biggest expense after housing and possibly transportation if you’ve got one of those big old car payments. With budgets getting tighter and tighter, more and more of us are looking at the old grocery bill with eager scalpel in hand, looking for places to nip and tuck our way to financial glory.

The biggest help I’ve found in reducing my grocery bill has been to look at everything I buy and ask myself what it really is. We pay a hefty price for the convenience of having someone else do things for us, a price that is not always worth the premium; and we have become so accustomed to essentially being spoon-fed finished products that we don’t even realize there is an alternative.

Take tortillas. An eight-count package of burrito-sized tortillas runs $3.65, or 46 cents per tortilla. With each Denizen slamming down two or three tortillas in a sitting, we can run through two of those packages a day without even getting a meal out of it.

So: What is a tortilla? Flour, salt, shortening and water. That’s it. Add some shaping and some heat, and you’re on your way.

When I make a batch of tortillas from scratch, it takes two cups of flour ($0.14), a quarter cup of shortening ($0.25), a dash of salt (less than a penny) and 3/4 cup of warm water. That makes about a dozen large tortillas, for $0.40…around three cents each, plus some time.

Potato chips: Potatoes, salt, and either an oven rack or a couple inches of hot oil. A pound of potatoes is around forty cents, a bag of potato chips is $5 for a 16 ounce bag. Oh, but you want the “special” flavors…check out the specialty salts, both in the ‘seasoning’ aisle and around the popcorn. A jar of BBQ-flavored salt designed for popcorn runs about a buck, and will season at least six batches of home-fried potato chips. Just about any potato chip flavoring you can imagine is also made in a “sprinkle on your popcorn” form.

Add a sharp knife to a whole pork loin, and you’ve got boneless pork chops. I pay about two bucks a pound for the whole loin, versus $4.99 and up for a pound of boneless pork chops.

When you’re in the supermarket about to buy The Usual, take a second to really think about what you’re paying for, and how big a deal it would really be to make it from scratch.

A boxed chicken-flavored rice dish for $2.40, with three servings? How about 1.5 cups of rice ($0.60) plus three chicken bouillon cubes (~ $0.30)? (Dissolve the cubes in a little hot water, stir it into your water and make the rice as usual.)

It’s just a matter of stopping to actually think about what, precisely, you’re paying for…and then making a call about whether or not it’s worth the premium you’re paying for it. I’ll be frank, a lot of times when I add in the freshness and “custom flavor blending” I get when I make my own Spanish rice or refried beans, the crack-a-can convenience just isn’t worth the 100% or more price increase.

And now, because too many people have said, “But isn’t making tortillas really hard? Don’t you need special equipment and some junk?”…here’s how to make a batch of about twelve 9” tortillas.

2 cups flour
Dash of salt
1/4 cup shortening
3/4 cup warm water

Cut the shortening into the flour until thoroughly blended. A pastry blender is awesome for this, but a fork or two knives works just as well. Add the water and knead until you’ve got a smooth, elastic ball – you can do this with the dough hook on your stand mixer, or by hand. You want the gluten to really break down so that you’ve got a dough with a lot of stretch to it.

Set it aside, cover with a clean cloth (because a dirty one would be gross) (seriously, why do they always specify a “clean” cloth? Would anybody out there actually say, “Eh, this garage towel will do!” and put some greasy gross towel over their food?!) and let it rest about fifteen-twenty minutes.

Take a non-stick frying pan big enough to accommodate your desired tortilla and heat it up over medium-high heat. You don’t need to add anything to the pan. Dust your working surface with a little flour (and be prepared to do this again and again and again), take a small handful of the dough and roll it into a ball.

Using the flour as needed to keep it from sticking to your board, roll it out to the size and thickness you want. We like them kind of thin around here, but a little thicker is better if you’re doing soft tacos.

You can either roll them all out and then start cooking, or you can cook as you go. In either case, you’ll want to flip it over halfway through cooking – only about one to two minutes on each side. These are super-easy (and lots of fun) to flip without the aid of a spatula. Great for making you feel awfully clever, and if you miss, no big deal – they don’t coat your kitchen in raw dough if they fall out of the pan half-cooked.

Repeat until you’re out of dough.

Wrap around your favorite fixin’s and enjoy…for a lot less than the store-bought version.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

It’s a very BRIGHT sock, isn’t it…

I had been pondering what to do with my skein of Lorikeet. Torn, really. On the one hand, I wanted to do something “interesting,” pattern-wise. On the other hand, I also wanted to see what the yarn looked like when knit kind of plain.

And then Bells showed off her sexy Blackrose socks, and after I got done saying, “Wow, those surely are sexy!” I thought…hey!

Because the Blackrose pattern is both interesting and plain. And there’s a pattern for wrist warmers, too…I have high hopes that the skein will actually be large enough to do both socks and a pair of wrist warmers.

Because, see, then I’d have it on MINE ARM, which would amuse me because, uh, I’m easily amused.

Ahem. Anyway…check it out:

Lorikeet Front

That’s the front, with the little lacy bit. (It looks better when I put it over my hand, but I’m not coordinated enough to do that AND take a picture.) (I tried. It didn’t work.)

Lorikeet Back

And there’s the back – plain knitting.

Now, my girls each have different tastes when it comes to clothes. Eldest tends to favor dark, rich colors and somewhat classic styles. Danger Mouse is an anything-goes layering specialist – she often looks like she’s going for the Japanese street fashion look (warning: picture-heavy site). And Boo Bug loves anything with flowers, and bright colors.

So last night while I was knitting and watching the news, Eldest hung over the back of my chair regarding the socks with what might be called great skepticism. Boo Bug was swooning on the sofa, and Danger Mouse was curled up glassy-eyed in the other chair waiting for the news to finally, finally! be over so we could switch to something good.

I finally asked for it what Eldest thought of them.

“Well, I really like the colors,” she said diplomatically. {long pause} “I’m just not sure about it being socks.” {another long pause} “It’s a very bright sock, isn’t it?”

“That’s kind of the point of this yarn,” I advised her loftily.

She grimaced, shrugged and said, “Well, I wouldn’t wear them.”

“I would!” Danger Mouse chirped up.

“Me too!” Boo Bug announced.

“That’s three against one, Eldest,” I said smugly.

“Ya, but Daddy wouldn’t wear them, and neither would Captain Adventure,” she shot back. “So you’ve actually only got…uh {a look of extreme concentration flitted across her little face}…fifty percent approval on them!”

And then I died laughing, the end.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

In other news…

I just uploaded a bunch more stuff to my Etsy shop .


…geesh, it takes longer to do all that re-skeining, documenting, photographing (re-photographing, re-photographing, ARGH! WHY won’t this red look RED?! RE-PHOTOGRAPHING!!!), and uploading than it does to dye the yarn!!

Oh, did I forget to mention that?

Soooooooooooo…allow me to give y’all some insight into my non-yarn life, which makes up in filthy lucre what it lacks in warm, fuzzy, fibery goodness.

A couple weeks ago, I was invited to put in a bid on behalf of our Enterprises on a database project. Reading through the project description, I said to myself, “Sounds simple enough!”

And then I got a piece of paper and started making boxes, circles, and lists.

See, one of the things we do to determine how much time (and therefore money) a project is going to cost is to throw together a quick sketch of the final product – boxes with table names and relationships, a field list, and an action plan around each of the individual requirements – in other words, how we think we’re going to solve each of the needs the client mentions in their scope of work. Resources, methods, etc.

Even though it is essentially like dashing out song lyrics on a napkin, sometimes it takes longer to put together the bid than to do the work…especially on simple little things like this. It’s actually a little irritating, because I’m thinking, I could have finished the whole dang thing in less time than it takes to tell them HOW I’m going to finish the whole dang thing…

But hey. It’s part of the job, and helps me prevent things like getting ankle-deep in spiders before I realize that by ‘web’ they didn’t mean the Internet. Or that I forgot about 75% of their requirements when I put the bid together.

Yeah. Forgetting 75% of the needed work? That’ll suck on a flat-rate bid.

My quick outline showed a database with four tables, six forms, a handful of queries and three reports. Everything in the bid request matched up to something on the sketch. Simple database, going to administrative staff, might have concurrent use once in a while (meaning two or more people are accessing the thing at once)…the time/difficulty rating on this one is garter stitch scarf on #13 needles in super-bulky yarn, folks.

This is first year stuff. The kind of stuff I was doing back in 19-neveryoumind. The kind of stuff that in more robust economic times we’d be all, Eh, let some kid handle that one.

I figured out how many hours I expected it would actually take us to do each task, doubled that and put out a bid that was still really low and fast. Which felt weird, because frankly we’re used to doing things that take months of work and require servers dedicated to development and complex arrangements to move what we’ve made from development to production. And even more complex arrangements to bring the whole team (which is usually at least six people) together for the Project Accomplished party.

So something that I say, “Sure, I can knock that out in, eh, an afternoon, all by myself” is a rarity.

Then, I got the second bid offer. This is where the client, having received bids and weeded out the obvious losers, re-issues the project to the remaining combatants…sometimes with a few further details.

The further details in this case made me go, Whoa, hang on, waitasecond here…

The cute little database that would be used by “office staff” had morphed into a database-driven website, with multiple login classes, hefty security measures and possibly thousands of simultaneous users. It now had to handle picture galleries, audio/video files and a total of nearly two thousand different fields of entry.

Holy crap.

It needs not just the database built, but the website part as well.

And did they mention the shopping cart part? No? Oh. Well, yeah. It kind of needs to have a secured shopping cart with connectivity to their payment processing service.

Suddenly, this thing has gone from chunky garter scarf to heirloom quality Estonian lace shawl big enough to wrap around bride AND groom made of cobwebs on 0000 needles.


Ya, we’re going to need to revise that bid just a tad.

But first, I need some more napkins so I can enhance the data diagrams…

Monday, May 11, 2009

Money Monday: May 11, 2009

How often have you heard this one: “Do what you love and the money will follow”?

And how often have you said something like, “*snort!* Ya, right, because it is just sooooooo easy to make a living watching CSI:Anywhere and knitting up cotton washcloths!”

I have my own theory about that saying (no, really? Tama has a theory about something? What a shocking surprise!! Because, you know, she has so few theories…)


Anyway. My feelings around how true that statement is can be articulated with another Olde Sayinge: “Time flies when you’re having fun.”

Plus, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

Times like these are both the worst and the best for thinking about doing what you love, rather than whatever puts food on the table. I wouldn’t swap a steady paycheck for opening my own business right now if I had the choice, frankly; but not having that choice, and having been forced to do it…it’s good.

I work harder and longer than I would at a conventional job for returns that are not quite equal to what I’ve made in the past for a lot less effort…but it doesn’t feel that way. In fact, I usually don’t realize I’ve had a “rough” week until I start totaling up the hours for our record keeping.

Put in a lot of hard work, add a dollop of good old horse sense and some meticulous business practices, and the money will follow, almost no matter what you’ve decided to make Your Business.

Put a lot of hard work, a dollop of good old horse sense and some meticulous business practices into something you love and the money will follow and all of the above will feel almost effortless.

It isn’t that simple, of course. Someone who loves making one-of-a-kind Christmas ornaments out of dog poop, for example, may find their gross (in more ways than one, ahem) income is a little…um…less than spectacular.

Some things just aren’t going to be fah-buu-los money makers, no matter how hard you try.

But here’s another thing about doing what you love: It can make sacrificing other things a much easier pill to swallow.

If I’m doing something I love, but it doesn’t earn me enough golden coins to pay for a seven day European cruise?

Hey, you know what?

I’m OK with that. The cruise would be nice, sure it would…but I’d rather be happy 95% of the time and keep my vacations to a nice camping trip with the kids than be miserable 95% of the time but able to take one crummy week off to loll around on a boat.

A lot of times, we sort of default into a position where we’re just plain unsatisfied with our lives – we get a job, any job, and we do that job, and the job is tiring and boring and stupid, so we live for the weekends. We spend-spend-spend trying to make ourselves happier, but it’s just not right because bills-bills-bills, we’ve got to get back to work. Got to make more money, for the bills-bills-bills, hate this job, can’t quit this job, miserable-miserable-miserable, you know what WE need? A VACATION! Quick, charge up a seven day cruise and some new clothes and we’re going dine from sea to shining sea! $200 for champagne, sure! This is a vacation! So, c’mon, make with the happy!!!!

And then the boat docks and we go back to Real Life, where we are miserable and unable to break the bonds of misery because bills-bills-bills.

95% miserable, 5% manic about having fun, dammit!!!

When you’re miserable, the idea of giving up your “little luxuries,” from a stupid $3 Starbucks fix to a $3,000 (or even $30,000) vacation makes you feel physically nauseous. Can’t do it. It’s a non-starter, Sparky! You BACK OFF my little luxuries, or I KILL YOU!!!!

But when you’re doing what you love for a living, well…a lot of things become clear.

I don’t need to take a vacation to relax and be happy. My daily life being spent doing something I at least like means I’m not walking around with a 500 pound sack of Stress on my shoulders to begin with – I don’t need to do anything to ease a burden I don’t have.

The money follows…and then it stays put.

Which means that if I’m making less money doing something that makes me happy, well, that’s OK. I don’t need more.

I need enough, and then I am full.

I’m not advising that everybody who isn’t ecstatic about their job quit immediately!, and rush out to open yarn stores or bait shops or whatever.

I’m just saying that if you are miserable with your work-life balance, take a few moments to think about why. Think about what would make you happier, and ask yourself why you aren’t doing that instead.

It’s probably going to come down to money, and the knowledge that a lot of times what we love are not necessarily things that make you a zillionaire.

But don’t put the period there. Keep thinking about it. What would be closer to what you love? What about your job is making you miserable? What would make it better? Is it this specific office / boss / coworker? Is it the industry? Is it your part of the industry?

How can you start finding more Happy in your daily working life? What kind of change would you need to make, and what would it do to your paycheck? (Funny how seldom that kind of switch results in a bigger paycheck, huh?)

What kinds of things do you do right now for a momentary mood lift would you be willing to do without, to be happier all of the time?

It’s one of the great gifts of our race, the ability to think beyond what is right in front of us. We can imagine what isn’t physically there, build from unpleasant realities new places that we would prefer.

We can do what we love, and money great or small will follow, and we can then craft our own Happy from whatever our love has attracted to us.

What marvelous creatures we are, eh?

Friday, May 08, 2009


I was going about my usual kind of day this morning when I was rocked back on my heels by a question that seemed, well, utterly random.

“Oh, you’re a runner?” The young clerk seemed greatly impressed. I blinked at him stupidly for a moment. Why on earth did he assume that? A quick scan of my attire revealed that I wasn’t even wearing my usual tennis shoes (they’re wet – the gardening was rather moist yesterday) but rather my “good” tennis shoes (leather, definitely not for running).

Add that to a pair of jeans with a hole in the knee (uh, the gardening is also a bit on the kneel-y side) (and besides, I’ve got a messy, jeans-ruining kind of day ahead here) and a t-shirt that is rapidly approaching tie-dye status due to accidental sloppage of dye that technically isn’t supposed to adhere to cotton and yet here we are, not to mention the fact that while I am on the slender side physically, it’s not a “well-muscled” kind of slender but more of a “with significant soft spots” – not exactly what you expect to see in someone who spends any amount of time wearing out their running shoes, if you know what I mean.

So, you know…uhhhhh, dude? ‘splain!…

“Uhhhhh…not exactly. Why, uh…?”

“Oh. I just assumed, you know, the watch…{shrug}…”

My what-now? I looked at my watch…which is a Timex Ironman Triathlon.

OH. Riiiiiiiiight. Sport-o watch. Only I didn’t buy it because I am a runner or triathlete or any kind of athlete – unless endurance parenting is considered a sporting event.

Which sometimes I really think it should be. Can you imagine the Olympics version of the sport?

“OK, and up next is Maude Cloverfield, four time birthing champion, ready for the Simultaneous Soccer, Piano Lessons and Girl Scout Meeting Event. Going to be a real challenge, with the baby so close to feeding time…”

“Right you are, Steve, but remember she’s been doing very well throughout these games. Her casserole performance set new records in both speed and palatability.”

“We were all very impressed by that…all right, she’s ready to start the first leg, Finding the Mislaid Minivan Keys Whilst Ensuring Everyone Has Shoes On…”

But I digress. I bought the sport-o watch for several reasons, none of them sports-oriented.

First, it was on sale for half off. Yay, last year’s model!

Secondly, it is water resistant up to 100 meters. This means that when I forget to take it off before doing the dishes, or plunge it into a bathtub while trying to get someone’s hair washed, or dive into a pool to rescue a child who can’t freakin’ swim but jumped into the deep end anyway, I don’t have to buy a new watch.

Third, it has the ability to set three scheduled alarms. So I can have one to remind me to pick up Child #1, another for #2-3, and the third for #4. They can be customized to be daily, weekday-only or weekend-only.

The function for timing laps I use for timing things like…how long Denizen #1 has been on the computer, how long Denizen #2 has been staring at cartoons, and how long I’ve had yarn soaking. Things that don’t necessarily need precise timing (that’s what timers are for), but things I want to keep track of so I have ammo. “Oooooooh no, you’ve been on that computer for 46:04:00:01, young lady! It is so your sister’s turn!”

The timer is essential. I’m pretty much using it all day long. Without timers, I am a lost soul, drifting aimlessly through my day forgetting all about the bread rising in the oven or the yarn baking in the oven (to set the dye) (because I know somebody is going to ask, “Uh, Tama? Why are you baking yarn? Is your budget that tight, that you’re reduced to eating your stash? OH GOD, please tell me you’re not serving acrylic to your children…!”). It helps me stay on task when I’m having a particularly ADD kind of day.

And being on my wrist, I can’t set it and then wander into another room and not hear it go off.

It even has a snooze function (of sorts): If I don’t manually turn it off, it’ll kind of hibernate for a couple minutes, then beep again. So if I’m Otherwise Occupied and can’t deal with whatever I was timing right now (like, say, I’m stirring soon-to-be-soap, which is a stir constantly until you’re done kind of deal once you put the lye-water and the fats together), I can just ignore it and it will beep again, thus reminding me that I was supposed to do something else.

Because I will have forgotten the bread dough even exists by the time the soap has traced and I’ve gotten it safely into a mold and am congratulating myself for messing around with lye and living to tell the tale, AGAIN! GO ME!!!!

I have never yet burned myself (or my clothing) with lye. Not even once. I am very impressed by this, because I have burned myself draining spaghetti and even while lifting drained spaghetti from the strainer to a plate (hot water, running down the tongs) (do not try this at home, folks, it takes a professional idiot to pull that one off), making custard (it burbled out of the pot onto my arm in large, napalm-like schallops) (it is too a word – a schallop is bigger than a dollop but smaller than a whack) and taking pies out of the oven. Spilling coffee, making toast, winding yarn too fast through your fingers, pretty much any possible way that you can ignominiously give yourself a painful and humiliating burn, I’ve done it.

Back in the Stone Age when I was a smoker, I even managed to achieve Expert Idiocy by failing to correctly take a lit cigarette out of my mouth. It stuck to my lip, and my fingers sliiiiiiiiiiid down the cig and ZAP! Tiny burn between my index and middle finger, right on that sensitive webbing. Nice. Such talent! I oughta be in pictures.

You know, the ones with captions that say, “Don’t Let This Happen To You!”

This is your brain. This is your brain if you act like Tama. Any questions…?

So anyway, it’s pretty deflating, going from high-fiving yourself for your crafty brilliance at 2:15 in the afternoon only to discover a blown-out wad of what would have been perfectly good bread if you hadn’t forgotten all about it until the yeast had eaten itself sick at 5:30.

Of course, the only thing worse than that is not discovering the wad until you smell something weird going on and then discover that the oven you just turned on to pre-heat for dinner had oh yeah!, bread dough rising in it.

Bonus points if it is was in a non-heat-resistant bowl that has now broken in half and/or melted all over your oven.

But I digress, again.

And am about to do it a third time, because it occurs to me that I never, EVER make soap when the Denizens are home. I am always completely alone in the garage, with the kids safely at school or Grandma’s house or Wherever, when I’m messing around with the lye I’ve never splashed onto my jeans or into my eyeballs. Coincidence? I think not...

ANYWAY. I’m not sure there’s any point here…except that I’m thinking perhaps Timex should consider an IronMommy line of watches. A couple more timers, maybe, and make that water “resistant” a water “proof”…it’s got to be small and nondescript enough on the wrist to escape the notice of curious toddlers, but big enough to be seen even if we happened to lose our glasses again. It should go with everything, have at least some fashionable flare, but remain rugged enough for a Navy SEAL because folks – the life of a parent is a rough-n-tumble kind of deal.

There is no room here for a pansy-arsed watch that can’t take being chewed on by a teething infant, stolen by the dog and buried in the flowerbed, dug up by the preschooler, washed by the helpful eight year old and presented to Mommy at 3:15 in the morning by the preteen who found it in the bathroom when she stepped on it barefoot.

Just sayin’.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

It’s better than REAL logic – it’s TAMA Logic!

I want to preface this by saying I do not have a problem.

I can stop any time I want.

That made perfectly clear, I took our recycling to the redemption center yesterday. The glass bin was nearly empty, the plastics were about half-full, but the aluminum can bin was not merely full, but overflowing.

This is not one of those cute little color-coordinated bin sets designed for apartment dwellers. These are sturdy 23-gallon garbage cans.

And the cans were, each and every one, crushed.

That’s a lot of cans, people.

I got $0.60 for the plastic, and $1.25 for the glass…and $12.85 for the aluminum.

As he was pouring the cans from our tote to theirs, the dude doing the weighing chuckled and said, “Looks like somebody’s got a six-pack-a-day Diet Pepsi habit at your place, huh?”

Whaaaaaa? Why…harrumph! How dare you…what, sir, are you insinuating here, I mean…really! {sputter!}

Now, I would love to say that, you know, hey, we’re a family of six, right? A six person family could theoretically go through an awful lot of soda. And don’t forget the visitors! Because we have lots and lots of those. Other kids, friends, family – it’s like we have a revolving door into the Den that is never locked.

Yeah, well. Problem being, two of the Denizens drink no soda whatsoever, and the other two are only allowed to have it occasionally (where “occasionally” equals “whenever grandma brings them some 7Up, because they have a mean, mean mother who doesn’t share her soda) (well, it’s MINE, MINE I TELL YOU!), and furthermore the husband is an iced tea drinker which means that at least 85% of the overflowing aluminum bin was the result of, well, someone else in the family drinking a fair amount of Diet Pepsi.

My first It’s Not As Bad As It Looks BECAUSE was that I don’t take the recycling in that often. In other words, although it may be extremely full, it might have taken six months to get that way. (It didn’t. It was about six weeks.)

THEN I decided It’s Not As Bad As It Looks BECAUSE my mother had come over and I’d offered her a Diet Pepsi. (One.) (Statistical Fact: It takes way more than one crushed can to fill up a 23-gallon garbage can.)

OK, so, can’t hang it on guests and/or parties. But, It’s Not As Bad As It Looks BECAUSE there are a fair number of Coke cans in there, courtesy of The Viking having visited a few times last month.

Which leads me to It’s Not As Bad As It Looks BECAUSE, compared to The Viking, I am a rank amateur when it comes to soda consumption. That dude could easily go through a 24-pack every day. So if I go through, you know, two or even three in a day, that’s nothing.

Comparatively speaking, I drink less than a hummingbird. (And if you compare my soda consumption to, say, the water consumption of an African elephant? Pffft! Neglible!) (See, this is why I feel that comparing myself to anybody else is both pointless and fraught with peril and that that way lies madness…but I digress…)

Last night, I took the kitchen recycling out. As I stomped four Diet Pepsi cans flat, I had to pause to consider that I had actually emptied the kitchen recycling earlier that morning in honor of the trip to the redemption center.

Ahem. Welllllllllll…as they clattered into the bottom of the bin and winked up at me, I decided It’s Not As Bad As It Looks BECAUSE one of those was from yesterday. So it doesn’t count. That’s only three. It’s not like I have a problem or something.

A tiny voice in my head cleared its throat and said, accusingly, “Dude…

Argh. I hate that voice. It’s the same one that starts commenting on the relationship between my expanding thighs and the box of Nerds I just swiped out of the kid’s reward box. It brings up salad when I’m thinking pie and points out that if I would just remember to do my thrice-daily stretching exercises, my back probably wouldn’t feel like a herd of bison had trampled it.

At this provocation, I revved up the excuse-engine and fulfilled the full promise of Tama Logic.

It’s Not As Bad As It Looks BECAUSE in the last year (I said to myself), I have given up things that were approximately sixteen THOUSAND times worse than a measly two or three (with occasional bursts to four) (OK, possibly, if you count days where I grab a soda while out and about, the equivalent of six) cans of Diet Pepsi a day.

I have given up potent pain medications and switched to the more holistic suck it up method of pain relief (it, uh, doesn’t work as well if you want to be picky about not hurting, but has far fewer side effects…while I love not hurting, I loathe and despise feeling ‘woozy’ – people with control issues and ‘woozy’ do not tend to mix well, and folks? I have me the control issues. I’LL drive, thank you very much…). I have stopped taking narcotic sleep aids. I’ve cut back my coffee consumption drastically, from a somewhat insane average of six (or so) (give or take) (mostly give) cups a day to no more than two. (Gee, I wonder why I needed sleeping pills…) I’ve beefed up my fiber and cut back my processed sugars and starches. I’ve started making myself fill up, drink and refill my 24-ounce water bottle three times a day. I meditate twice a day, whether I have time or not. I take time to do cleansing breathing exercises throughout the day. I take three times the vegetables and half the meat at dinner time.

I have also firmly resisted the awesome bargain that is buying the See’s Candy coupons at Costco for months now, thus eliminating two(ish) pounds worth of candy going onto my thighs each month.

See? I’m a nutritional saint.

And I totally do not have a Diet Pepsi problem. That I cracked my first can at 8:15 this morning means nothing. What?! Why are you giving me that look?! Hey! It’s Not As Bad As It Looks BECAUSE my stomach was a little testy, and everybody knows that the original use of Pepsi was for tummy troubles, right?!

So! It’s It’s Not As Bad As It Looks BECAUSE it is medicinal!

Furthermore, It’s Not As Bad As It Looks BECAUSE it is hot in here! It was 78 degrees in here at 8:15 this morning! Seventy-eight degrees in my office right now! It’s hot! A refreshing Pepsi is just the thing for such innervating climates!

Pepsi cola hits the spot / Twelve full ounces, that’s a lot / Twice About as much for a nickel quarter, too / Pepsi-Cola is the drink for you!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go to Costco for some more Diet Pepsi healthy, cost-effective whole-grain staples and milk.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

The brightness of birds, now with the convenience of yarn!

Last week, Captain Adventure’s class had a fieldtrip to the Micke Grove park in Lodi. In a rare departure from what passes for normal around here, parents were not only openly invited to attend (usually we have to go through a “lottery” process, where they say “we have room for 3 parents” and then all fifty of us put in our names and the same three people get “randomly” drawn every stinkin’ time) (but I’m not at all suspicious of how “random” the “random” “drawing” “is”) but were even allowed to provide their own transportation there and back again.

Which is nice, because ordinarily the parent volunteers are not allowed to drive their own relatively quiet vehicles through every Starbucks drive-thru between Point A and Point B to and from fieldtrips – we must take the bus.

With the kids.

All seventeen thousand of them.

And no drive-thrus, coffee-oriented or otherwise.

Which, you know…meh.

So, since I had a Starbucks card burning a hole in my pocket an open slot on my calendar that day, I drove through the nearest Starbucks drive-thru…and the next-but-one nearest Starbucks drive-thru… my beloved son, whose education, amusement and enlightenment were my only focus, over hill and dale (and more hill, and more dale…and a little more dale…and another hill…) to Lodi and the Micke Grove park...where there was gaiety and frolicking and fun, first in the playground and then…the zoo!

The headliners at Micke Grove right now are lorikeets. These are little parrot-like birds that are friendly to the point of being obnoxious. They are hyperactive little beggars, full of vinegar, beautiful, charming, pushy, bratty…and this zoo has got about forty of them in an interactive aviary.

There are several varieties, but the ones that really caught my attention were the Rainbow Lorikeets. Their coloring is so insanely bright you’d swear somebody had artificially dyed their feathers…and also, they were the biggest clowns in the lot.

You can pay a dollar for a cup of nectar, and they will not only fly right onto you but will practically bring their furniture and move into your house because they are very much extremely chummy.

We were both utterly charmed by these little birds. I was entranced by their coloring, and Captain Adventure was nearly in hysterics over their antics. They are absolute professionals when it comes to working a crowd.

I asked if he wanted to go inside their house and see them closer. He said yes. (Actually, he said “yeh-t” because that is how he says ‘yes’ because he has some curious mental block around the ‘s’ sound, but really that’s neither here nor there.)

On our way in I paid the dollar for a cup of nectar to attract one to us…so it was no surprise to me when a so-brightly-colored-you’d-swear-it-was-fake lorikeet promptly fluttered down, landed on his shoulder and loudly declared, “Chirp-chirp-chirp-chirp-chrrrrrrrrrrrrrippp!rip-rip-rip-chrrrrrrrrip!chirp!!”

But for Captain Adventure…it was a huge surprise. Practically life altering. In his experience, birds don’t land on you. They fly away from you. They are tiny, terrified little creatures that flee before his mighty four-year-old bluster.

Not this little lorikeet dude. Counter to all known bird behavior, he not only approached our intrepid Captain, he landed on him and stuck there. When Captain Adventure shrugged to try and get him off, he only shifted his little feet to get a better grip on his jacket and peered amiably up into his face. When Captain Adventure tentatively brushed at him, he bobbed his head as if to say, “Oh yes, isn’t it a lovely rainy day? So! Got any nectar on ya? Two sips per head pat is the usual, mate…”

Captain Adventure turned to me, eyes wide, and said, “Mommy, git bird OFF’N me!”

I showed our feathery rainbow the cup of nectar in my hand. ‘Nuff said! He cheerfully jumped from my son to me and buried his head in the cup.

The boy’s eyes were round as saucers. Lion taming had nothing on this, let-me-tell-you. Mommy = Fearless! (Yeah, right…having been nipped more than a few times by sharp beaks in my day, I was far from fearless on this deal…but having survived more than a few nips, well, they rank as extremely aggravating but not life threatening in my book.)

It was one of the friendliest birds I’ve ever encountered. They had said they were “acclimated” to people, but this went beyond “acclimated”…I’ve known hand-fed-from-the-egg-on pet parakeets that were less pet-like than this little guy. (In fact, one of the worst nips I ever got was from a friend’s pet parakeet, right after she got done telling me she never nipped anyone.) (I should have known better. She also told me she had house trained the bird, and that she never just pooped randomly in her apartment. HAHAHAHAHAHA. Yeah. Bird droppings on every surface…) (…also? ew!…)

The colors were all the more fascinating because of the range. Electric blue head, bright green wings with some dull green at the tips, insolent little epaulettes of yellow at the shoulders, bright orange fading to dusty orange – and where the blue met the orange, brown.

Just like what happens if you squish orange and blue dyes together.


As I listened to Captain Adventure tell the story of the bird that landed ON MINE ARM over and over again on the way home, the colors kept coming up again and again. He had-him BWOO on him HEAD, an’ ELL-OW on him ARM, an’ OH-RANGE on him BEW-WEE, an’ GWEEN! On him ODDER ARM!

(By this time, he had utterly forgotten any apprehensive moments and insisted that he liked it when the bird landed on mine ARM!)

So Monday afternoon after I’d done a few other things yarn-wise, I sat down with pots of color, measuring implements, a few plain white coffee filters and a picture in my mind of my little lorikeet dude. A bunch of mixing, muttering, and getting dye all over my hands and jeans (again) (I swear, I get more dye on myself than on the yarn), I had the colors I wanted.

And then there was painting, sponging, patting, blotting, squinting, splotching, and more dye-getting-on-things-other-than-the-yarn.

My hands looked like I had some weird flesh-eating disease.

Because I am an idiot and never remember to wear gloves until I’ve already stained them, and then I think Eh, no matter, I’ll just scrub them good with Reduran when I’m done, and then I spend the next several days with funky-colored hands that these days make people recoil in horror and scream, “OH MY GAWD, SWINE FLU!!!!!” when they see them.

They also scream that if you sniffle. Which I do frequently right now because Hello, Allergy Season, back so soon? Because I didn’t have time to miss you one little bit!

The next day, I had three of these hanging on the line to dry:

Lorikeet yarn

They made all the other skeins look rather tame, even the hot pink ones. They’re so outrageous, they make me giggle – just like that crazy little bird and his friends.

I can’t wait to see how a pair of socks knits up out of this stuff.


(If it is illegal to have this much fun, please don’t tell me. I’ll need some defense if I end up in court. So also don’t tell me about how ignorance of the law is no excuse in the eyes of same, because then I will lack complete deniability, which is this phrase I heard somewhere that makes so little sense it must hold up in court.)

Monday, May 04, 2009

Money Monday: May 4, 2009

We have now been without a traditional paycheck around here for seven months. It’s going…um…welllllll…

In some ways, it’s going absolutely no-question most excellently well. Most new businesses struggle for the first year or three to break even, with their owners relying on things like partners and savings to get them through the awkward periods…we jumped in head-first with no savings and no financial partners and have managed to keep the lights on, food on the table and our creditors fed.

Can’t call that a failure.

But, at the same time, we haven’t been able to put a dime aside for future problems and in fact have had more net negative months than net positive ones – in other words, we’re consistently adding tads and touches and the occasional dollop to our outstanding debts.

Still, we’re blessed. I don’t generally like to step back and compare myself against other people, because that way lies madness…but comparatively speaking, we’re doing awfully well. We’re keeping the bills paid, we’re not fielding irritated calls from creditors, we’re not trying to figure out how to cheat Peter to pay Paul, we’re not in terrible peril.

Just moderate peril and mightily annoyed because dog-dang-it, we worked hard to avoid precisely this kind of situation and yet here we are!

My theme for this week has got to be stay the course. I’ll admit I’ve been feeling the burn a bit lately, suffering from what I call frugal fatigue. It’s easy for me to be frugal when the results are clear and obvious – when I’m watching our net worth go up or a savings goal fill up.

It’s a lot harder when my absolute best efforts result in…losing money slower. It gives me that “what’s the point?!” feeling. Why am I working so hard, if all I get is more debt and more disaster and more GAH!?

Why not just…do like “everybody else” and, say, replace my stupid old half-busted Dyson with a brand new one? What the hell, it’s only another $400 on the funeral pyre! Why not just take the kids on a cruise this summer, or get myself a new laptop, or whatever other fool thing just flitted into my brain?

Might as well use the credit while I’ve got it, what with the issuers slashing rates all the damned time whether you’re a “good” customer or not…can’t win anyway, might as well make myself a winner at losing…

It’s a weird place for me to be. I’m generally one of those hopeless optimist types, which makes this kind of fatalistic, negative attitude really odd for me. Feels a lot like wearing somebody else’s glasses, you know?

I’ve just got to remember that sometimes, losing money slower actually is winning. It is better to keep the losses to $800 rather than just let go and who cares and run that deficit up to $8,000.

Eventually, this storm is going to end. They always do. When this one runs its course, our choices now will determine where we start the next leg of the race…buried to our necks in bad choices and trying to figure out how to dig out when our hands are underground, or merely up to our knees (or hips…I think we’re about at the hips right now…), able to yank ourselves out and start sprinting ahead quickly.

Speaking of keeping the old chin up and positive attitude thing, during the all-too-many moments when I’m between programming projects, I’m having a blast playing with yarn working diligently toward having a more robust Etsy presence.

Sure, it’s not going to replace a day job income anytime soon…but every little bit helps. And it makes me feel like I’m doing something, when all my usual courses of doing something have come to a flat-out stall thanks to phrases like, “We’ve decided to go a different direction,” or “We feel that you are overqualified for our present needs” or “Is there any way you could lower your rate to, say, $6.75 an hour?”

(Or better yet, pay us something to allow you to do the work? k-thx…!) (Swear, sometimes it feels exactly like that…the client wants you to cut your rate further and further and further until you damn near are paying them to do the work, and STILL they want to fritch and fratch about every nickel and dime…)

Also, it is fun. Playing with fiber and color beats sulking on the couch watching daytime television {shudder} any day…wait’ll you see some of the ones I did today (hint: wear sunglasses)…but I’ll have to tell you the story too AND show you, so after they’ve finished setting, soaking, rinsing and drying I totally owe you a post about them…

Friday, May 01, 2009

I take no responsibility for what you do next

I’ve been obsessing thinking about those stuffed baked tomatoes a lot lately.

And by ‘a lot’ I kind of mean ‘almost exclusively.’

They are on my brain. Because they are good. Every time I look at my struggling little someday-beefsteak-tomato plants, I find myself launching into this fantasy where I’m making them for lunch and dinner something like six times a week.

So I thought I’d share. Because if I’m gonna gain 5,000 pounds this summer, by golly, I want everybody ELSE to, too I’m generous that way.

So. What you need:

2 cups béchamel sauce
6 large ripe tomatoes (not TOO ripe – it’s best if they don’t have any mushy bits)
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons chopped spring onions (including green tops)
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, coarsely chopped
2 cups chopped, cooked spinach – drained and pressed to remove as much water as possible
1 cup yes one full CUP freshly grated Parmesan (dudes…you can see where this is going…)
1 cup chicken stock
Salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 375, and get your béchamel together (that recipe is below, in case you don’t have one you already love).

Slice the tops off your tomatoes, then scoop out the pulp and seeds. Turn them upside down to drain while you move on.

Melt the butter over medium heat, add the onions and parsley and sauté a little of the ornery out of them, about two minutes worth. Add the spinach and cook until the moisture has all evaporated, stirring constantly.

Slowly add your béchamel sauce and stir until thoroughly blended. Add 1/2 cup of the cheese, then salt and pepper to taste.

Flip the tomatoes back upright in a baking dish. Sprinkle them inside with a little salt and pepper, then ladle your spinach mixture into them. Pour 1/2 cup of chicken stock around the bases.

Pop it into the oven and bake until the tomatoes are soft, roughly 40 minutes. Baste about every fifteen minutes with the broth, adding more as needed.

Remove from the oven, sprinkle the remaining cheese over the tops, and pop it back in until the cheese is browned and extra-delicious, about five minutes.

Congratulate self for eating yummy, healthy tomatoes and spinach. So mature! (Conveniently forget about fat content of butter, cheese, and milk.)

Béchamel sauce:

3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon paprika
1 cup chicken stock, heated
1 cup milk, heated
Salt and white pepper

Melt the butter over medium heat, add the flour and cook, stirring, until blended – about a minute. Add the paprika.

Gradually add the milk and stock, stirring constantly with a wire whisk. This is making a sauce, so the constant stirring helps to keep it smooth and creamy instead of lumpy and gakk-y.

Continue to whisk over low heat until smooth and slightly thickened, about five minutes. It isn’t going to set up like pudding, so don’t make yourself crazy when it doesn’t.

Season to taste with salt and pepper, then raise the heat to medium and simmer away for a couple minutes – that lets the flavors blend together.