Friday, July 31, 2009

The things I start wondering, when the sleep aid is finally kicking in

I wonder…if there will ever be a time when I have fewer than three knitting projects on needles at the same time. Or fewer than three hobbies in simultaneous play, for that matter.

I wonder, if I actually did force my Denizens to eat only what is in season or what was preserved while in season…would they appreciate strawberry jelly more? Because dudes, the strawberry season is about over and I did not lay down even one (1) pathetic half-pint of the stuff. They'd be out in a month and whining for eight more before the very first berries of the season appeared.

I wonder if my mother is lying to me when she says, “No, you were just as awful about banging on the door every eight seconds when you were little,” because in my memory, my brother and I would never, no NEVER, have been the constant source of distraction, noise and request-for-less-of-same-ignoring that my Denizens are on a daily basis.

…of course, when it comes to my Denizens, the problem isn’t so much that they individually are so awful – it’s the sheer volume that gets to me. Individually, they’ll go away for a good hour when told to scram!, but there’s always three more with new crises to announce.

I wonder if there will ever be a time when I do not have laundry piled up on my grandmother’s beautiful, too-fancy-for-this-house dining room table. I swear, I put the stuff away…and yet the next morning holy crap!, there’s more!!

Speaking of laundry, I wonder if Captain Adventure will ever be potty trained.

Also, I wonder why $DEITY has to be so cotton-pickin’ mean. “Well,” I said, long long ago. “Whatever we decide to do, I have to have the last kid before I turn 38. Because I don’t wanna be forty and still! changing! diapers!!”

Ha. Ha. Ha. OK, yeah, good one, $DEITY…now please, the kid just turned five, can we have some potty usage from him now?

Speaking of potty, I wonder which of those girls is the one who keeps using the thing and not flushing when she really. should.

Also, I wonder which one of them still keeps using the cardboard from the empty toilet roll, even though it has ended in disaster every.single.time. Besides, that just can’t feel good or work properly, you know? Seriously.

I wonder how it is that I read faster than most people I know, and still can’t keep up with my bloglines…and yet if I’m shirking my duties, I find myself constantly hitting “refresh” hoping someone has said something

I wonder if I’ll get any time to work on all those simultaneous projects next week. It would be nice to reclaim some of those needles. Oh, and having finished socks and vests and sweaters and scarves and gloves and…well, you get the idea…

I wonder if I’ll get one last chance at that strawberry jam this year…one last farmer’s market booth with one last flat of ripe but not rotting berries for me…a lady at WalMart (grrrr…WalMart, how I despise ye…and yet, the low-low prices on Mason jars, they summon me to you…) watched me loading another dozen pint jars into my cart and asked, “Oh, are you doing some canning? That’s practically a lost art…”

And I thought to myself that my whole life sometimes feels like something out of the annals of Lost Arts. I play a Celtic harp and tell the old myths and stories to my children, with great seriousness, as though I am handing down great and sacred Truths that must be preserved. I bake our bread from scratch and haven’t bought potato chips in I don’t know how long. I spin and knit and am slowly learning to weave (although at the moment I’m playing with barely-warped projects because of the difficulty involved in getting Uninterrupted Time around here – I don’t know how vital it really is yet, but the books all say things like “turn off your phone and ensure that you will not be disturbed until you have finished dressing the loom” and as a novice, I don’t care to argue with them and say, “Naw, I’ll be able to figure out where all those ends go, easy!!”).

I mean, thank Dog we have cable and the Internet. We’re at least that normal…although we still don’t have a Wii or a Playstation or a Game Cube or, uh, whatever-all else has come along since the Atari.

I wonder if I’ll actually get a full night’s sleep tonight. Just once, it would be nice.

But it can’t happen if I’m sitting here.

Good night, Blog-o-Sphere. Good night, sleep tight, sweet dreams…I’ll see you in the morning.

Good night.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Most Excellent Coolest Thing EVAH

OK, SO! This last weekend, the husband and I went down to Laguna Beach while my parents watched the Denizens. My mother-in-law, see, had gotten tickets for us and four of the sibs-in-law for the Pageant of the Masters down there.

It was very cool. But it wasn’t the most excellent coolest thing EVAH.

The next day, we puttered down the Pacific Coast Highway looking for someplace that wasn’t crazy swarming with people.

I don’t know why we thought we’d find such a place. But eventually, we ended up at Mission Bay in San Diego. Which was still with the crazy and the swarming of people, but we found a parking space and furthermore, you know, next stop Mexico!, so we figured we’d better just, you know, stop.

Now, let me remind y’all that I am from Northern California. In my mind, beaches are on the cold side, usually more rocks than sand and loaded with sharp shells, broken glass and other flotsam and jetsam, and did I mention the cold part? You dip your toes in the water, you might just lose a couple of them to frostbite.

I know soft, sandy beaches with warm, inviting water exist. I’ve been to Hawaii, twice, and greatly enjoyed being able to just frolic right on out into the water, la la la, and start swimming.

But in my home state, I associate “swimming in the ocean” with wetsuits, or a verrrrrrrry long adjustment period before you get waist-high and decide that discretion is the better part of valor.

So when we took off our shoes and started walking through the sand, I was already tripping out because it was so soft and warm. It was like walking on hugs.

And then we swerved down to where the waves were rippling over the sand and when they hit my feet I jumped twenty feet straight up in the air and came down screaming because ohmygah, the water was so warm!

Thoroughly freaked out by this most un-California like behavior from a beach, it took me a good long while to be talked into going swimming. Almost thirty seconds, in fact.

So I’m out there body surfing and having a grand old time with some pretty intense waves, yippee! Ha ha! I taunt you, Death By Drowning!, it’s only been twenty{mumble} years since last I went body surfing!...when something very large and gray suddenly shot out of the next wave over, arced in a graceful half-moon over the water, splashed down, curled around itself, and popped its head out of the water about ten feet away from me and grinned at me.

I swallowed about fifty gallons of salt water, squealed like a girl and backpedaled like an idiot.

It’s funny how your brain reacts to something like that – it was like a series of clicks.

Close! Large! Close! Fish! Close! Teeth! CLOSE!!!! TEEEEEEEETH!!!!!


If I’d been a little braver (did I mention the teeth?), I probably could have swum to them in a few strokes. There were three of them, and they wanted to play; I was pretty slow and boring, so they moved on before I could work up the courage to approach them.

They circled the surfers (who were a few swells further out from me) like puppies. One of them reached over to stroke them as they went by – the first dolphin flinched away, the second nuzzled closer and turned its belly up for a rub.

Then another surfer took off, and all three of them shot after him. They danced around his board (which must have been damned distracting), weaving through the waves. Two of them liked to lace their jumps over each other; the third was a big clown, always flipping upside down to make a big splash when he hit the water.

When the surfer inevitably went down they kept on going, leaping further and further away from the shore as they went.

We all stood there, dumbstruck, and watched them go.

It was one of those big-time WOW moments. They are some seriously beautiful animals, and to see them that up-close was…not something I ever thought I’d experience.

Not without shelling out loads of cash, anyway.

Life is funny that way, you know? You can spend thousands of dollars for a Perfect Vacation that leaves you with nothing but a pile of bills – or be on a Hotwire-hotel-and-hot-dog-dinner kind of vacation and be handed something like that.

What a world we live in, huh?

What an awesome, awesome world!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Where my treasure lies

I got royally pissed yesterday. SEE, I was trying to put some polish on my oh-so-wise words about in-season produce and various ways in which it can be stored for future consumption, thus saving tens of THOUSANDS of pennies and possibly the ENTIRE WORLD because a Mason jar can be reused indefinitely, whereas cans of corn from the supermarket must be manufactured and then (hopefully) recycled into something new, and blah blah blah…and my Denizens were making me a Crazy Person.

Every eight seconds, it was something. She’s touching me. She’s not touching me. Yeah, well, it IS a problem, we’re supposed to be playing TAG! She won’t give me the DS. She won’t let me have my latch hook kit back. Well yes, technically, I traded it for the Mickey Mouse cross-stitch kit, but it turns out that cross-stitch is hard and I don’t wanna do it anymore. I’m hungry. I’m thirsty. I don’t want water or milk, I want Kool-Aid. Or lemonade. Or something-else-aid. Whatcha doooooooin’, mommy? Mommy? MOMMY? WHATCHA DOOOOOIN’?!?!

I feel as though I’m just waiting for summer to be over, so I can get back to my life, you know? Waiting for school to start, so that I can get back to business.

Boo Bug bounced into the room and started nattering on about something inane as I was trying to figure out which box was supposed to be checked on the bus form for Captain Adventure, and I snapped at her.

Which is a lot like kicking a puppy.

And then, as I was hugging her and trying to explain that gee whiz, I’m only a person and you guys have been pick-pick-picking at me not just all day today, but all day every day for the last two months, it struck me: Isn’t it ironic that I’m annoyed with the children for keeping me from taking care of the business that is all about ensuring that those same children are kept in food, shelter and clothing?

They are, after all, kind of the point.

They are the things I wanted most. They’re my hope, and my reward. The greatest gift I’ve ever gotten, and my greatest gift to the world – my masterpieces. They are my sacred duty, my delight, my pride and joy.

Ironic that they can irritate the skin right off my nose, huh?

Parenthood is full of these kinds of minefields. There’s the dewy-eyed expectations we build up from the time we’re young, and then the harsher realities.

Sure, there’s still all the unicorns and rainbows and giggles and cuddles and lovey-dovey blah blah blah, but there’s also retching noises from the top frickin’ bunk at 2:15 in the morning. There’s an autistic five year old bellowing, “MOMMMMMY!” while you’re on the phone with a potential client – now a lost client. There’s a constant stream of messes, and there comes a point where you swear you’re going to just belt the next kid who says, “Sorry, Mommy!” – because seriously, I’d like a lot less sorry and a whack more not offending in the first place.

But they’re still my pride and joy. I’d rather live my life in second-hand jeans eating homegrown meals with them than, well, anything else without them.

They’re my real treasure. I’m already the richest woman I know, and no matter what may happen financially, those riches are mine for keeps.

Now, if I can just remember that when I’m back in the trenches trying to get Something Important done, and then somebody comes skidding in with their hair on fire and a sibling or two hot on their heels and starts their side of the tale with the phrase, “I wasn’t even doing anything!”

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Tough as room temperature butter

Did Boo Bug and Danger Mouse want to go blackberrying yesterday? {SQUEAL!!!}

It was possibly the most exciting thing that had ever happened to them in the last few days!! So we put on jeans and we rigged some buckets (Costco-sized margarine tubs with rug-wool yarn handles) and we leaped into the Homer the Odyssey and drove the 3.7 miles (with them demanding if we were there yet every fifteen seconds) to one of many tributaries of the Sacramento River – the nearest spot where there were blackberry bushes meeting my requirements that they be not too close to the water nor too close to the road.

Talking a mile a second, giggling, swinging their buckets, my two assistants jumped out of the minivan and charged at the bushes. They were going to fill both buckets all the way up! And mommy’s plastic shopping bag, too!! They were going to pick every single blackberry on the whole river, THAT’S RIGHT!!!!

Two seconds later, they were scrambling up the hood of the van, squealing like, well, little girls.

“What?!” I shrieked, expecting them to scream, “snake!” or “rat!” or “hedge fund manager!”

“Ohmygod ohmygod ohmygod,” Danger Mouse panted.

“Mommmmmmeeeeeeee…” Boo Bug whimpered.


“There’s…{giggle}…mommy? {giggle-giggle} there’s a…ohmygod…{giggle}…”

“Spit. It. OUT.” At this point, I’m expecting Jimmy Hoffa’s zombie corpse to rise from the delta muck and shamble toward me menacingly.

“It’s a…spider!” Danger Mouse finally erupted. Boo Bug let out a long, low moan of pure terror.


“A BIG spider!” Danger Mouse asserted, pointing a quivering finger at the fourteen mile long by twelve mile high by sixty mile deep mass of blackberry bramble.

Sigh. Yeah. Like I’m going to be able to see a little bitty spider she’s pointing at from twenty feet away in that monster!

“Now listen, girls,” I began sternly as I approached the bushes. “There are going to be spiders out here. That’s par for the course. This is the delta, they grow pretty big out here, so you just have to watch where you put your SWEET MOTHER OF MERCY!!!”

The first spider was about the size of my thumb, and was sunning itself on a web that stretched a good two feet across the brambles. Below it was a slightly smaller one on a bigger web, and above it was, hmm, their grand-pappy I suspect because dog-dang, the sucker was huge. If I’d put it on my palm (which was so not going to happen), it’s legs would have gone from my wrist to the middle knuckle of my fingers. It’s body was the size of the palm beneath the thumb the other spider was the same size as.

Massive. And very much not alone. They were everywhere, webs glistening in the sun, stretched out like tourists soaking up the rays and waiting for some hapless bug or other to wander into the web.

Eventually, the girls got over their initial quivers and approached the bushes again. They squealed with horror as I reached in to pluck berry after berry from the vine.

“Watch out for spiders!” Boo Bug would scream, every.single.time. Even though believe you me, I was watching out for spiders.

And if a spider happened to scuttle out or start jumping up and down on its web because it thought my actions meant dinner was forthcoming, she would scream even louder and run back to the van.

Sigh. Yeah. I breed ‘em tough, people.

Danger Mouse hovered at my elbow and coached me. “Ooooh, mommy, there’s a whole bunch of big ones! You should get them…no, no, there! Right there!

“Why don’t you get them? I’ve got plenty right here!”

“Welllllllllll…I just think you should get them…”

Ten minutes after we had parked, Danger Mouse began complaining that she was too hot. Hot. So hot. Toooooooo hot. Could she go sit in the van? It’s even hotter in the van right now, babe. Oh. Well, maybe you could turn it on, and then the air conditioning would keep it cold?

Speaking of cold, ice cream should would be good, huh? Huh, mommy? Wouldn’t ice cream be good right now? Iiiiiiiice creeeeeeam…oh! Hey! Here’s an idea! How about we stop picking blackberries (Excuse me, ‘we’? What’s this we, huh? I do believe I’m the only one with stained fingers and bramble-scratched arms around here…), and go to Baskin Robbins instead…?

A few moments after that, a bird ran through the bushes. Twin shrieks of panic went up, two pairs of feet sent up clouds of dust, and a pair of little girls were huddled on the hood of the van again.

“Ohmygod ohmygod ohmygod…!” Danger Mouse chanted.

“Mommmmmmeeeee…dere’s somefink in dere…{whimper}…” Boo Bug was about to faint. Somefink! Was! In! Dere! Possibly a flesh-eating MUMMY or a purple-breasted BRAIN-SUCKER!!!!!

“It’s. A. BIRD! Geeeeeeez…!”

Five minutes later: I need to go potty.

Thirty seconds after that: So…thirsty…must…have…water…no, not that kind, the REALLY COLD kind…you know…from…{dramatic gasp indicating death from dehydration is nigh}…Starbucks

A split second after this: OH! Are we going to Starbuck now?!

Thirty seconds after that: Can we go swimming in the river? We don’t mind getting our clothes wet…

Two seconds after that: SCREAM! SCREAM! SCREAM! THERE’S A SNAKE IN THE WATER! OHMYGOD OHMYGOD OHMYGOD SNAKE SNAKE SNAKE!!!!!!! (It was a branch. An admittedly snake-y looking one, but it. was. a. BRANCH!

But the final straw came when the same duet of ear-splitting shrieks went up over an…wait for it…orange.

Yes. As in, the common orange-colored citrus fruit. Someone had dropped an orange by the side of the road, where nature had run its course (probably with a little help from a passing vehicle) and the orange had splattered all over the place.

Scream-SHRIEK! OHMYGOD, Mommy, it’s an ORANGE, and it looks like its BRAINS are all SPLATTERED!!!!

Ewwwwwwww, orange-brains! GROSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!

Less than half an hour after we pulled in to start picking, we were packing it in. I just couldn’t take the constant screaming, the cries of panic, the fear that Boo Bug was going to lose her mind and run straight into the road because ohmygod ohmygod ohmygod, a butterfly almost landed on her!!!!!

My youngest daughter is terrified of pretty much all bugs, regardless of their friendliness. The butterflies most of us find charming and sweet, she thinks of a terrifying, irrational, fast-moving insect that is probably intent on biting her somehow.

They were looking into their buckets at our haul as we marched the few feet back to the minivan, discussing how many we’d gotten and exhibiting the magical ability most kids have to completely forget Plan A ever existed. Fill up the buckets all the way? Both of them? Pffffft, nobody ever said anything about that. There’s gotta be a hundred pounds of berries in these two (barely a quarter filled) buckets.

And then, another scream.

And a thud.

And a whole bunch of plink-plonk-plink-plink-plink…plonk!...plonk…

“Um…mommy? Uh…look at what Boo Bug, erm, did…”

Half our haul was hurtled into the water because there was an ant on one of the berries.

Oh. My. God. Oh. My. God. Oh. My. GOD.

An ant. Oh. Horrors. Save us, somebody, please, save us.

Oh Mighty River, take the blackberries, just spare our lives from the Dreaded Little Black Ants, which come to eat our soooooooouls…

I took a few deep breaths.

I reminded myself that they were awfully cute, when they were babies.

And that California law takes a very dim view of people who throw their seven year olds into a river with instructions to get back every last berry, missy.

I then took the surviving bucket away and set it on the passenger seat beside me – the last thing I would need is a bucket of blackberries hurtled at the back of my head at 50 miles an hour on a levee road because OH MY GOD AN ANT.

We drove, calmly, back to the Den. I washed the ants off the remaining blackberries (discretely), and set them aside.

Barely four cups of beautiful berries. Enough for a pie, anyway, but pretty far short of the gallon I was hoping to get yesterday.

Oh well. There’s still a fair amount of season left for them.

Next time, I’ll go alone.

…geez Louise, what a pair of pansies

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Money Monday: July 20, 2009

I’ve got about nothing right now…mostly because I’ve got an idea trying to happen, and I’m just not sure whether it’s brilliant or laughably childish.

It has to do with increasing our self-sufficiency. We have a larger-than-average chunk of land under the Den, and frankly almost all of it is just kind of…sitting there. We have a vast stretch of dead-zone that used to be the back lawn, we have bare patches stretching along both the front and back sides, a massive bare patch in the front and a weed patch under the front window.

We’ve been looking at these areas and saying, “We ought to garden in those. We could be growing an awful lot of the food we need.”

Then a couple weeks ago, I was having an idle conversation with my parents. My mom said something about how much hard work was involved in growing your own food, and I pointed out that really, there wasn’t an easy way around that whole hard-work thing.

I could either spend three hours a day out in my backyard growing it, or I could spend twelve hours a day commuting and working in an office to pay someone else to grow it for me, right?

And frankly, well, I’d rather take the three hours of admittedly physically demanding work. I don’t mind the dirt and frankly I find it kind of therapeutic – and I don’t think it’s doing my back any harm, either. Sure it gets sore by the end of the day, but at the same time I feel better, overall.

Exercise in the great outdoors is funny that way. Even if it does kick up the aching joints, the whole body rather appreciates it.

ANYWAY. We’ve been looking at growing only what we could actually eat, but more and more I’ve found myself wondering just how far I could take things around here.

Could I grow enough to not only feed us, but to stock one of the quarter-sized booths at a farmer’s market? And could I make enough there to not only pay for the costs of raising the food, but to perhaps buy what we can’t grow for ourselves? Eggs for spinach, beef for tomatoes? (Heh, OK, and here’s some proof that I’m way too easily amused: I’ll trade you this beefsteak for that beef steak…HAHAHAHAHAHA! Get it?! Because...beefsteak is a kind of tomato, but it's also...ahem...nevermind...)

But seriously…could I micro-farm enough to actually feed this family?

And hey, how about this: Could I build up enough of a business selling my handcrafts to turn around and pay for the regular street clothes we wear – especially given that I buy about 80% of it second-hand anyway? Maybe I could work up to a full booth at the market, offering everything from zucchini (please, buy the zucchini…GEEZ, the Giving Tree has nothing on our zucchini bushes…I’ve taken to sneaking them onto the neighbor’s porches at night, I’ve grated them into bread and baked them in casseroles and I think my skin is starting to turn green PLEASE, is the zucchini-season over YET?!) (…but I can’t dig them out and plant something else because, gosh, they’re so giving…) to hand-woven kitchen towels, jars of jelly to bars of soap.

When I look at what I do with my “spare” time right now, holy smokes, I’m an old-fashioned general store! And I’m pretty darned good at it (if I do say so myself).

I think I could make things people would want to buy.

And I think I’d have fun doing it.

And if the point wasn’t to replace a paycheck but purely and only to provide food and clothing for the family…if I weren’t worrying about how much I was making an hour or how much more I could be making if things were different…it might even stay fun.

See what I mean? It’s either the lamest duck I’ve ever hatched, or it’s the best idea I’ve ever had.

And I honesty don’t know which it is.

So instead of worrying about it any more, I’m going to load up the Denizens and we’re going to go blackberry-ing.

A couple hours of play-work, and I should be able to lay down six full pints of seedless blackberry jam, and fill up our freezer with plenty of Summer for when this season inevitably ends.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Wait, was that blur a whole WEEK going by?!

I’ve had another one of those weeks. Almost every day had one “little” thing tucked into it that somehow managed to cause the entire 24-hour period to just…vanish.

Took Boo Bug for her well-child checkup. Poof! There went Monday! Trying to put in an order for some new merchandise took the lion’s share of Tuesday. Wednesday I managed to get a few items listed on Etsy.

Then there was the comedy of errors that was getting Homer the Odyssey’s air conditioning fixed…extremely long story short, it appears a rock or some other road hazard managed to puncture the compressor. As it turns out, getting this repaired for under $800 is pretty much impossible around here; and in an extremely rare turn of events, the dealer was actually the cheapest route.

I know. Next we’ll have dogs and cats living together, and possibly a man may become pregnant. Who knows? If a dealership service department can be offering the lowest price on anything, well, anything is possible out there…

That took up half of Thursday and about all of today.

I feel as though I’ve been running a marathon this week, and yet at the same time I feel as though I’ve got a net-zero on forward movement.

It’s weeks like these that cast a pleasant glow around the idea of simply cutting out of the Civilized World and living on some kind of self-sufficient farm in the middle of ten acres. No having to worry about appointments or meetings or deadlines. Things have to be done, sure, but not necessarily by no later than 4:00 this afternoon or else!

But then again, in that scenario, I would not have found a beautiful pair of earrings jammed improbably under the front passenger seat, which matched the shirt I was wearing perfectly.

Because I’m pretty sure that if I were living an entirely money-free self-sufficient life on a farm somewhere, I wouldn’t have bought the earrings in the first place. Or had a minivan to lose them in. And I certainly wouldn’t have been clearing it out before taking it to the shop so nobody would know the shameful truth of just how filthy and cluttered that vehicle can get, given a few days of inattention or one average road trip with all four Denizens aboard.

So, uh, the suburban Californian housewife, um, well. It has that going for it, right?

...yeah, no, um...I really don't know what "that" is, exactly...

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Dear Beloved State of Mine

In response to yours of July 9 and 13, 2009 reminding me – twice – that you would like me to send in my use tax by no later than July 31, 2009 via your convenient, online service, please find enclosed my payment.

Sort of.

MotherOfChaos, occasional yarn dyer

registered smart aleck

Monday, July 13, 2009

Money Monday: July 13, 2009

I think the subtitle of this post should be “do-over…do-over…do-over…”, because guess what? I’ve started, deleted, re-started, re-done and otherwise messed around with this post approximately 62,000 times since Saturday morning.

It’s been that kind of week.

We got some awesome news (for a change): After a full year of intense searching, interviewing by phone, fax and even occasionally live in person, after sending my resume to about 400,000 companies and discussing how I was ever-so-perfect for this job…I’ve still got nothing.

My rotten husband, on the other hand, knew a guy who knew a guy who wanted to know if he knew anybody who could bring some mad T-SQL development skilz to bear on a twelve to eighteen month project at mad T-SQL Developer pay rates.

To which Himself replies, “Do I know anybody? DUDE! I am Anybody! Here, have a resume!”

Badda-bing, badda-boom, two weeks later…he starts next week.

Envy green, it looks good on me, does it not?

Never have I had such a bizarre combination of relief, happiness, anger and seething resentment. I feel thoroughly dissed, you know? I’ve been working so hard at even getting an interview, for carp’s sake, and he just waltzes in and they’re all, “Dude! You’re AWWWWWWWWESOME! When can you start?!”

I could about spit nails. I mean, what, am I chopped liver over here? Do I smell bad? Did I have boogers on my shirt or something? WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?!?!

But I’ll get over it, because the net result is a good 40% bump to our income. Nothing gets me over job-search-related angst like having our bacon saved like that.

At the same time, well. Talk about having the rug pulled out from under you. I’ve spent a lot of time and energy trying to get a “real” job, and suddenly I’m basically hamstrung. I’m now the work-at-home parent, whether I’ve got paying work to do or not. We can’t have two commutes, which limits my potential job search badly…there’s just nothing within a thirty minute radius of the house.

Well, you know, shoot.

But at the same time, who knows? There are a wide variety of possibilities out there, really; none of them are necessarily huge money makers, but frankly they don’t have to be. Our shortfall is actually fairly small, and could be closed with even a modest second income.

All I need to do is figure out what I can do work-wise with a day that starts at around 8:30 in the morning and ends at 2:00 in the afternoon, can’t be more than thirty minutes from the Den and doesn’t involve having to carry on cohesive thinking or phone conversations after said 2:00 end of day.

Hmmmmmm…Thank goodness I love a challenge, huh?

In some ways, this really is one of the up-sides to the economic downturn. We’re being forced to rethink a lot of things – what we spend, what we earn, how we earn what we earn and whether or not it actually fits in with what we really want to be doing.

Sometimes, we do things simply because, well, that’s what we do. It’s not necessarily the best possible thing, but it’s just what we know.

Having to figure out a new way to get an oar in the water has the potential to lead to great innovations. Who knows what might crawl out of my brain in response to this combination of need and limitation?

It could be something awesome.

Which is the hope I’m going to stick with, because frankly continuing on with the slow motion train wreck we’ve been enduring for the last year is enough to make me scream!

Thursday, July 09, 2009

A moth flew by…

Last week, I went out to the storage shed for my gardening gloves. As I jerked open the door, a moth fluttered by.

Not one of those big white ones that like to hang out in the garden. Not a big, smooth-cruising one.

A tiny brown one that fluttered unsteadily, as though it had been sniffin’ hard on the wool fumes.

I have never had a moth infestation before. This is rather remarkable, considering the large and varied stash I’ve kept through the years. I’ve had everything from the finest cashmere to the lowliest of raw wool go through my stash, and never once have I had a problem with moths.

Until now.

When I started my Etsy shop, I moved a fair bit of my stash out to the storage shed. I wanted to keep my “store” in my best storage spot – the bedroom where the cat isn’t allowed to hang out, in the sturdy lidded bins that repel invaders like cat hair, dust and spiders. (Having never seen a clothes moth up close, they simply never entered my mind.)

Most of the moved stash went into lidded boxes and Space Bags (praise $DEITY)…but there was a fair amount of overflow that didn’t fit into what I had. Oh well. No big. I’ll just put it out here in baskets for now, and I’ll get around to buying more bags soon…

Every single woolly thing that was not in a box or bag was gnawed upon. Judging by the decimation, they have a distinct preference for alpaca, but are not adverse to a nibble or three of Merino either. They ignored the superwash and anything with other fibers blended in – if there was cotton, nylon or acrylic in it, they (apparently) gave it a miss.

Naturally, I had just filled up the freezer from the meat market a few days earlier. Of course! Couldn’t happen when my freezer was stark and empty oooooooh no, where would be the challenge in that?!

So, cussing steadily, I rearranged like a madwoman so that I could get everything from the shed (regardless of visible damage or lack thereof) into the freezers.

My husband thinks it’s funny, seeing all those trash bags full of yarn crammed into the freezer. HAHAHAHAHAHA, yeah, it’s hysterical. If I could figure out a way to attract rust to his Shopsmith, I so would do it. Because hilarity loves company, people, and I am not in a charitable mood right now!

I think the thing that just really burns my cork is the loss of my super-fine alpaca. I had two giant skeins of beautiful dark gray alpaca that shouldn’t have been out there, but I couldn’t keep the kids (particularly Boo Bug and Captain Adventure) from messing with it. It was sooooo soft and lovely, and both of them loved to play with it. Boo Bug kept unwinding the skeins and spreading them out on the bed (repeated verbal warnings didn't work, and I'm told breaking their fingers is a no-no), and Captain Adventure was determined to make off with it. It wouldn’t fit in any of the bins, so I put it out in the shed “for now” while I figured out a better place to keep it.

Those damned bugs have left me with what will probably end up being nothing more than about 3,000 one-yard strips.

Why couldn’t they love acrylic? Huh? Why? Why did hafta be my lovely alpaca?!


I think they came in snuggled in a bag of raw fleece. It’s really the only place they could have come from…to add insult to injury, it’s crap wool someone gave me because they didn’t know what else to do with it. And I kept it because I do that with wool, even the crap stuff.

I hate learning lessons, sometimes. Especially the ones where you have to put on the Dunce cap because you so should have known better.

If you need me, I’ll be in the corner feeling sorry for myself and putting ice on my backside, which I’ve been kicking ever since that tiny brown critter fluttered drunkenly past my nose…

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Black-Bottom Pie recipe

I first learned to make this pie when I was around twelve. It met with great reviews from my folks (especially my mom), so I kept on making it ever since (because I am all about the positive reinforcement from my parents). I’ve fiddled with the recipe a bit through the years – this is the most current version.

Up front I have to tell you this: This pie is a solid four hour commitment from start to finish. Most of that time isn’t hands-on (praise be), but figure that into your plans if you’re making if for a special occasion with a ‘must be on the table by’ time.

You’ll need:

1 9” baked pie crust
1/4 cup water
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
3 eggs, separated
2 cups milk
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips or pieces (IOW, you can use semi-sweet baking chocolate and beat the dickens out of it with your rolling pin – good for taking out your irritations against the world with the “no, no, just making a pie, honey!” excuse for all the violence)
2-3 tablespoons rum (the darker the chocolate you use, the more rum you’ll probably want…the ‘light’ topping can be overbalanced rather easily by robust chocolate)
1/4 cup sugar
Chocolate Garnishes, if you’re up for it

Make room in the fridge for your biggest heat-resistant bowl. (You’ll thank me later.)

When you’re separating your eggs, remember that while it’s OK to have a little white with your yolks, you want not a single drop of yolk in your whites. You’ll be making meringue with them later, and even one drop of yolk can leave you wondering why it won’t make those nice, stiff peaks the instructions swear you should be getting about now.

Pour the water into a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin lightly over it and set that aside, too – it needs 2-3 minutes to soften up.

Put your chocolate bits into a small, heat-proof bowl.

Combine the 1/2 cup of sugar and cornstarch in a good heavy medium-sized saucepan. You’re going to make a custard here, so what you’re looking for is a pan that will conduct heat evenly and smoothly. I like to use a whisk for this, because I’m going to be using it again in the next step anyway.

In a bowl, gently but thoroughly whisk your milk and egg yolks until smooth. Try not to get too enthusiastic, those bubbles can be problematic sometimes.

Gradually stir (whisk) into the sugar mixture in the saucepan, then set it on medium heat – no cheating and cranking it up to Super Blast to try to make it set faster!! Continue stirring until your arm falls off, or the mixture thickens at last and comes to a full boil. Brave the napalm splatters for one full minute, stirring bravely and constantly in spite of the searing danger.

Now, here comes the tricky part: Dip out one cup of that boiling liquid death and ladle it over your chocolate pieces. Hey, cooking isn’t for the faint of heart! (I use one of those long-handled measuring cups, usually either a half or a third cup.)

Whew. That’s done. OK! So now, add your softened gelatin to the custard still in the pot. Stir constantly over medium heat (hmm…why does that sound so familiar…?) for about a minute, until the gelatin is fully dissolved. Pour this into the biggest heat resistant bowl you’ve got, and stir in your rum. NOW, if you’ve got a moral aversion to rum why on EARTH are you reading MY blog of all sacrilegious things?!, or a sensitivity to it, or will be serving this to someone who does (and note that this is going in when the cooking part is all done, so there will be no “oh, it all cooks off during the boil, ha ha!” excuses on this deal), by all means substitute 1/2 teaspoon rum extract…or leave it out entirely, and substitute about 1/2 teaspoon or so of Just Vanilla Thanks All The Same.

Set this into your fridge (See? Aren’t you glad I warned you?) until the gelatin mixture begins to mound when you drop it from a spoon – this takes anywhere from fifteen years to life 45 minutes to an hour. You can attempt to speed things along by putting it in the freezer, but if you do watch it and do nothing else because it will go from liquid to solid super-suddenly on you. You’re going to be folding meringue into this, so you don’t want to need power tools to stir it.

If you get distracted and come back to find it has fully set, don’t despair. Just warm it over low heat on the stove, stirring constantly until it’s smooth again. It will set much faster the second time, so be on your toes!

While it’s cooling its heels, stir together the chocolate and custard. TA DA! It’s like magic, isn’t it?! Spread this into the bottom of the pie crust – if you’re planning to make the chocolate a surprise, make sure it stays right in the middle and doesn’t sneak up the sides much…that way when you cut into it, your guests will be all like, “OH MY GOODNESS, THERE’S CHOCOLATE IN THERE?!” and you can be all, “Oh, yes, because I am ever-so clever that way!” and act like you do this sort of thing every day.

When the gelatin part begins to set, start whipping those egg whites. Beat them with your mixer until they form soft peaks, then gradually beat in that other 1/4 cup of sugar and continue beating until you’ve got stiff peaks. (Pause to allow mind to climb out of gutter.)

Fold the meringue into the gelatin mixture. You want it fully incorporated, but you also want it to retain that fluffy-light texture. Screw your patience to the sticking point and keep at it, tenderly and gently folding the two together until you’ve got that luscious topping together.

Then spread it on top of the dark chocolate part on the bottom there.

Now refrigerate it for at least two hours.

Yes, you have to. Otherwise that top filling just won’t be right. Go on. Put it in the fridge. Oh, don’t be such a big baby! You can survive two crummy hours, geesh…!

NOW. You can leave it as-is (which is what I usually do – I kind of like the “surprise!” factor when the chocolate is discovered), or you can put a dusting of cocoa powder over the top, or you can grate some semisweet chocolate over it, or you can get fancy with a peeler and peel yourself some chocolate curls (let the chocolate bar warm up just a bit, then smoothly draw your peeler across the top).

If you want to do the leaves…well, they’re fun. I used rose leaves from my backyard, washed and thoroughly dried. Next, I melted some 58% semisweet chocolate in a small bowl. I used a small spoon to ladle the melted chocolate onto the leaf, then used a wee little rubber spatula (awwww, it’s so cuuuuute!) to spread it evenly across the back of the leaf, to a depth of not less than 1/16” – there’s a temptation to make it uber-thin because you totally want to drink the leftover chocolate, and how much will there be if you actually do what you’re told on the whole ‘how much chocolate to spread’ thing? the leaves themselves are thin and you don’t want “chunky” leaves and all like that, but if they’re too thin they’ll just shatter when you try to get them off the leaf.

I found it was important to make sure the chocolate covered the back, but did not go over the sides of the leaf – whenever it did, the thing became highly unstable when it was time to peel the leaf off. And then it broke in half, and then I had to just eat it. So don’t let the chocolate go over the edges of the ones you intend to actually use on the pie, is what I’m getting at here…otherwise, heck, overlap away! “Oh darn the luck, yet another of these has broken while I was peeling it! Oh well, can’t let it go to waste…”

Once you’ve got the chocolate spread to your satisfaction, set them on a plate and set it in the fridge for at least fifteen minutes. For best results, peel one leaf at a time and leave the others in the fridge while you work – they warm up fast, and when they’re warm they don’t peel off, they melt off.

In your hand. And then you’ll be licking your hand because hello, chocolate, and somebody will walk in while you’re doing this and give you A Look that clearly states they think an Intervention may be called for here, and while you’re trying to explain that it was just the leaves they’re going to get more and more concerned and wonder if there’s a deeper problem than just the cocoa bean habit and it takes quite a while to convince people that it was all just a big misunderstanding when things start heading down that road, believe-you-me.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

And the loser is…

Well, I didn’t win the annual Fourth of July pie competition. This being the first time I’ve entered a pie competition, I’m hardly surprised. In fact, I have to admit to not even being too terribly bummed out, either.

I know that totally flies in the face of baking for competitions, but there it is. It really was about having some fun and engaging with our community a little bit for me, along with hefty humor value because I’m really not the “I enter my food in competitions!” type.

If I were, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t do things like patch tears in my pie crust with big old splotches of extra dough without bothering to make it all smooth and perfect – I figure if my patch job holds the filling in, we’re good. It don’t need to be perfect, darlin’, it’s’a just gonna get et t’minute it won’t scald their tongues…

An apple pie won. A mighty appetizing looking and obviously toothsome example of the species, too…although there is a part of me that kind of chuckled and said, “Ya, that would be the pie for our town!”

Very American and folks, we are a very American kind of town out here, if you disturb the thin veneer of bedroom-community that is what most people think of when they think “Tracy, California.”

Poor, poor Brent Ives (our beloved mayor), along with some volunteers from the Chamber of Commerce and the community, had to labor their way through eight pies and four hamburgers, picking out the Best of the Best.

I know. His job is a tough one.

Although actually, I didn’t envy him one bit. First of all, we bakers can get a wee tad touchy about being judged, and furthermore, the winning burger turned out to be from Famous Dave’s? (WARNING: Music plays!!)

SCANDAL!!!!!! The people around us not only uttered blasphemous words upon this announcement, but hats were flung to the ground in disgust and furthermore there were cries of Foul! and a few other choice words said. (And if Captain Adventure suddenly begins singing out that other four letter word for poop, I can honestly say it isn’t entirely my fault.)

Our boyishly handsome mayor had to publicly declare within moments of the announcement that he didn’t know who the four (4) burger contestants even were until the results were in. Repeatedly. And still, there are whispers that it was all a set up, and the words “kick backs” were bandied around and ohmygah, you would think somebody got billions in Federal dollars to build a bridge to Ripon, y’all!

I didn’t envy him his position one little bit.

And then there was even more scandal because!, see, the burger competition, well fine, they didn’t have any kind of “no restaurants may apply” clauses. But the pie competition clearly stated that the pie had to be homemade, NO COMMERCIAL PIES ALLOWED.

And then the winner immediately announced that this pie was available daily at the Banta Inn. Huh-wha-now? LET THE ANGRY WHISPERS BEGIN!!!!!

If you can buy it, doesn’t that make it commercial? hst-whsss-psssst-hummmmm!

What’s really funny about this is that the pie results were announced before the burgers. So we all just sort of applauded at first, but then five minutes laterSCANDAL!!!!!!!!!

So you know, the whole thing is rigged and the mayor is in cahoots with the Devil and furthermore they’re pretty sure drugs are involved somewhere along the line…

Ah, the small town feel! There’s nothing like it in the world…come to think of it, I seldom envy the mayor his gig. Which is why you won’t be seeing “Tama for Mayor” signs sprinkled around town any time soon. No, no, Brent, I’ll just leave that to you, shall I…?

ANYWAY. Those of us who didn’t take this whole thing too terribly serious (and we outnumbered those who did about three hundred to one) had a wonderful time at both the competitions and the festival itself, which was small, cute and rather well-attended thank you very much.

This is my losing pie.

blackbottom pie

It’s a black-bottom pie. It has a thick dark chocolate mousse in the bottom, and the top is a rum custard / meringue blend. It’s my mom’s favorite pie, and frankly I’m pretty fond of it too…which made all the trial-run pies bearable. (I also discovered a carrot-ginger pie that is pretty darned good too…think pumpkin pie, only substitute pureed carrots and add in some diced candied ginger.)

I tried something new with this (because isn’t that what you always do for these things, try something you’ve never tried before and hope it works out for you?), which were these little deals:

chocolate leaves

I will grant you they were fiddly, but not as hard as they look. First, I went out into my backyard and picked out a bunch of rose leaves. After I washed and dried them, I melted some semisweet chocolate, dribbled it onto the leaves, smoothed it out with a small spatula and stuck them into the fridge to harden back up.

Come back later, peel off the leaves (eating the disastrous ones to eliminate the evidence of your foolishness) and voila! Chocolate leaves, suitable for suggesting where to cut your slices.

OK, yes, there were supposed to be eight smaller leaves, since a pie is supposed to be eight servings. But, well, there were fatalities when I peeled off the leaves. I’d never done it before, and it took a fair number of them before I got the trick and stopped breaking them in half, or holding them too long so they partially melted in my hand, and, well, let’s just say there are a lot of ways to ruin them.

Besides, this saves time and calories for the consumer. Because, see, we all know that if you cut a pie into eight equal slices, well, you don’t eat just one slice, you eat two. BUT, presented with a 1/6-of-a-9”-pie portion, well, you can eat that and feel like you got somethin’, you know? Which saves the time of having to wait until nobody’s looking to go in for that second slice, not to mention the time wolfing down the second slice, and furthermore you’re saving, what, 30% of the caloric intake? (Something like that. I’m not going to do math right now. It might upset the delicate balance of this logic.)

Because I’ve never done this sort of thing before, I didn’t think to ask what my score was – there were 45 possible points, 15 for presentation, 15 for taste and 15 for personal preference.

I learned from the disappointed bearer of a very pretty peach pie that she had only scored 26 points, and I was all, “Whoa, you can get your score?” and she was all, “Whoa, you didn’t get your score?!” and I thought about running back to see if I could get it but then the Denizens threatened Mutiny!!! so instead I just went back to my house like a good little loser and ate the rest of my pie, the end.

(And thus was I spared learning that I got, you know, five points or something, which might actually have upset me even though I’m not the kind of person who gets all hysterical about what others think of my baking because if they don’t like it, that means more for me…)

Monday, July 06, 2009

Money Monday: July 6, 2009

The Alameda County Fair is one of those annual traditions for us. We have only missed one season in fifteen years at this point. Like everything else, the cost of a day’s amusement at the county fair has crept steadily upward. Last year, we went the way we usually did: With a credit card and a little cash, and paying only moderate attention to the total cost as we went.

Because, you know, the good old county fair is the low cost family entertainment value deal, right?

It was a shocking surprise when all the bills came in and got totaled up. Holy smokes, the parking and entry tickets were the least of our problems! The food, and the junque, and the rides – which I’d tried to keep “cheap” by buying just a sheet of tickets instead of getting unlimited wristbands and then bought more tickets because they ran out way before the kids’ energy did…they all added up to an impressively large out of pocket.

But we had a great time so, you know, it was like a little one-day vacation, right?

This year, I was two seconds from saying Too Expensive and refusing to go at all. Because it was too expensive. We’d be in for a good four hundred bucks, minimum, by the time we did all the stuff we’d want to do…the stuff we had to do, because we always did it…

Tradition is a funny thing sometimes.

You go to the county fair one year with your new boyfriend. Gee, it’s sure fun. He loves the art, you love the animals. You do a couple rides. You try a bunch of food. It’s all good, but there are a few things that are just awesome. We should do this again next year…

The next year you go and head straight for those favorite things from last year. A corn dog and wandering through the art exhibit. A funnel cake while you look at the animals. Two beers while watching the horse racing. A plate of BBQ that could feed an army. A couple rides. Awesome. We’re totally doing this again next year…

Each year, another layer is added, another thing that was awesome and we want to do it again next time.

As time goes on, these things become not merely “one of the many fun things to do at this event,” but tradition. We always go to the right as we enter, get a funnel cake from this vendor and then we stand on this brick to eat it and then we turn around three times, stop on the left foot (don’t forget it!) and yell, “Hooka-booka-hooka-booka-Jimmy-Dean-OH! Car-nee-val, car-nee-val, go-go-GO!” before we go on this ride first…”

Yeah, I made that last one up. But you know what I mean: There is a list of “Must Do” activities, and they get longer and more complicated as time goes on. In really bad cases, dealing with the list of what-all must be done becomes the point of the journey in and of itself…and if anything on that list has to be crossed off for any reason, it puts a shadow over the whole event.

Sometimes to the point where, well, you just don’t wanna do it at all anymore.

These rough economic times are forcing a lot of us to rethink traditions like these. I know a lot of people simply aren’t going to the fair at all because they can’t afford it. We considered not going because we couldn’t afford it – not if we did things the way we did last year.

And I had this feeling that it just wouldn’t be as much fun, if we had to do without a bunch of our traditional treats. But then I told myself to quit spackling my hangups all over my kids. I’m sitting here saying “we” wouldn’t have as much fun if “we” couldn’t do all the stuff “we” usually did, but push come to shove, it was me having a problem.

I was the one having a problem with the idea of being too budget-challenged to buy all the stuff I usually bought. I was the one thinking not having a funnel cake would somehow crush my soul. I was the one sniveling about not being able to see what groovy new whizbanger I could bring home to make my housework a breeze this year.

I wanted to be able to shower the kids with junk food and t-shirts and let them try to pop balloons for exciting prizes and go on every ride the carnival had to offer.

And I wanted to do my usual thing, where I buy enough junk food to choke a horse, take two nibbles from each thing and then hand it off to someone else to finish for me. (Big eyes, little stomach – fortunately, just a nibble is satisfying for me and I have lots of kids to spread the fats and calories around…)

I went online and found a package that got us a parking pass, four general admissions and two 2-for-1 soda coupons for $25 – it would have been $48 at the gate for parking and admissions, and the sodas were $4.00 each. They also offered unlimited ride wristbands for $20 each on the pre-fair purchase, versus $28 at the fair.

I made a deal with the kids: I’d get them the wristbands and they could go on any ride the wristbands entitled them to do…and that’s it. No ponies, no stuffed animals, no fairway games, no rock wall climbing or bungee machine or dragon statues or, well, anything else. We would each get one (1) snack, one (1) wristband, and other than that if it wasn’t free, we wouldn’t get it.

I expected a lot more angst. Tradition states that a lot of funnel cake and corn dog action will be going on, and that we’ll buy one sheet of tickets (which gets each kid three or four rides), and then be talked into a second sheet maybe, plus of the pony rides and rock walls might be determined to be an acceptable expense considering that the party of the first part did not in fact buy anything from the Shopper’s Pavilion, unlike party of the second part, who is now carrying a stuffed something-or-other the size of her whole room

But apart from minor pony angst (“Why can’t they be part of the wristbands?!” Eldest fumed…loudly, and more than once) and a brief round of pleading from Danger Mouse about playing fairway games so she could get one of those REAAAAALLY! big stuffed animals (odds of actually winning: 1 in 1,000,000,000), everybody was thrilled with the new reality.

We had a great time, on about a third the cost. We ate a big breakfast before we left, brought our own water bottles and candy with us, and didn’t eat ourselves into a coma on the junk food.

Surprisingly, we survived the deprivation.

The price of everything has gone up. Back in the day, the fair cost $1 to park and $5 for an adult ticket. A ride was one dollar, not three to five bucks. And you certainly didn’t spend six dollars on a corn dog, either.

But turns out, the sheer volume of what we buy has gone up as well. What started out as a quick bite and a whirl on the Ferris wheel has somehow become a full-day extravaganza of eating, drinking and making merry…and unless you stop and really think about why, the sheer weight of because we ALWAYS do such and so! makes giving up even one single nibble of caramel apple a non-starter.

I may not be able turn back the hands of inflation on ticket prices and the cost of a corn dog ($6? Seriously?!), but I can tinker with my own willingness to pay the price demanded, and with my perception that unless I have everything I think I need, the whole experience will somehow be not-as-good as it has always been.

You don’t have to eat until you’re sick to be full. Merely having enough is as good as a feast, and less likely to lead to sour stomach and wallet-holes.

It was still expensive. If things were even a hair tighter around here, I’d’ve had to say no to the rides, too. We still would’ve had fun. It would have been a different kind of fun, just like this trip was a different kind of fun compared to last year, and the year before that.

I guess what I’m getting at is this: Most of us are having to make hard choices around what we can and can’t afford, what we will or will not pay for, what things are essential and what things are going to have to go.

And a lot of times, we are demanding all or none when we make those calls. If I can’t have everything I always had on this deal, I don’t want any of it.

I think we might want to reconsider that stance, remember that the “bad” seats are still hearing the music and that getting even just one little bite of something is better than going hungry.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Now THIS is old-school horse trading!

I got a sudden intense craving for a loom last year. This is one of the…interesting…things about Being Me: Where most people get cravings for things like pie or perhaps a pair of strappy shoes, I get hit with longings for 8 harness looms and concert-sized pedal harps.

You know, the cheap stuff that is easy to store (or walk off – how many miles do I need to waddle for each piece of pie, again…?).

Now because this is a pretty standard thing for me (and because, hello, Expensive Longings), I don’t generally rush right out and buy the object of my sudden affections.

First, I tell myself No, you don’t have time and/or space and/or money for that right now.

And then I wait to see if the Wanting goes away. Nine times out of ten it does, because I am also fickle, childish and easily distracted.

The loom thing didn’t go away. Six months later, I was still semi-obsessed with the idea.

So I put it on the list of Stuff To Watch For. I’d scan the PennySaver and newpaper ads (it’s not as remote a chance as it might seem – our area is full of old-timey craftspeople, so you’ll often see ads where folks are offloading their extra spinning equipment, butter churns and this loom somebody built in the 70s for them), and poke through antique stores and so forth and so on.

I saw lots of looms, big and small…none of them in my price (really low) and experience (really not) range.

I saw an antique floor loom for $100 – but “antique” plus “beginner” really don’t go together. Was it missing pieces? How would I replace them if it was? Could I warp the thing? Where does this bit belong? Is it even really part of this loom? Hmmm…maybe I’d better let this one go to someone who knows what the heck they’re doing…

I saw beautiful almost-new looms with full-color instruction books for $1,000. Ahem. Yes. That would be (cough-cough) just a hair out of my price range. (Which was, you know, under a hundred bucks.)

I saw cute little looms that were cheap, sure, but designed for children. Total weaving area: 6” by 8.5”? I want to be able to do small rugs and table runners and placemats and scarves and stuff like that – something more like, say, a knitter’s loom (which has ‘knitter’ in it, which seems to me to mean that I could totally figure this thing out, right?).

And with only a $100 in total budget, I don’t want to blow $25 of that on something that isn’t going to keep me occupied for more than a few weeks before I’m going, “You know, I really wish I had, like, triple this weaving width…”


Yesterday, I finally got my loom. It’s an Ashford rigid heddle 32”, and I’m so tickled I can hardly stand it. My research indicates that it is a good loom for beginners, but it also has a wider weaving area and the ability to do Wicked Cool Weaving – so hopefully, I won’t be grousing that I can’t do this or that or this other thing in a matter of mere days. It’s brand-spanking-new, straight from a retailer.

The kicker is my final out of pocket cost, which is so little it’s ridiculous.

But it took a bit of horse trading to get there.

I get gift cards all the time. $5 here, $20 there, the occasional $50 beauty. I never pay actual cash for them…they’re either actual gifts (rarely), or they come from taking surveys (SurveySpot, for example) or redeeming loyalty program points (MyPoints, Thank You rewards).

We have a fairly robust market for gift cards around here. Several of the moms at the local school are card sharks, and we’ll stand around comparing stashes and making trades in the mornings after we’ve dropped off our Poopsies for their day of educational enrichment.

I’m like the flea market dealer when it comes to these trades. Most of the other moms aren’t looking at the dollar value on the card as much as they are the establishment offering it – Starbucks cards are always worth their full value, but things like Macy’s cards? Eh, not so much, since we don’t have a Macy’s in town. You’ve got to drive to Pleasanton or Modesto to use the card, which reduces its perceived value, see?

SO. It isn’t that uncommon for me to trade a $25 or $30 Starbucks card for a $50 Macy’s card somebody’s grandmother gave them for their birthday. A little patience (and a geographically varied friend group), and I can even-swap it for a $50 Kohl’s card (we have one nearby, lots of my friends don’t).

That $50 Kohl’s card is pure gold around these here parts, because they have some of the best deals and selection on kid’s clothing, and they frequently give “Kohl’s cash” back on purchases – that $50 card will return a $10 Kohl’s cash when you use it, effectively giving you $60 in buying power.

I got three $25 eBay cards for one $50 Kohl’s card.

And then I laughed. Like this: Bwahahahahahahahaha!!!

Which may have alarmed my friend just a little bit, but then she’s used to me and my unique form of nutcase-ry.

Perceived value is an interesting thing, isn’t it? To me, $75 in eBay cards is worth a lot more than $50 ($60) at Kohl’s. But that’s because I’m an Internet-savvy, long-time eBay user who loathes physical shopping. Some of my best yarn scores have come from eBay. There’s always something I want on eBay, and I have only been burned once. And that was as a seller not a buyer, so, you know…pretty good track record, actually. And did I mention that I loathe shopping? So having to go into Kohl’s and face the dizzying array of consumer goods and I can’t find anything and do they have this in a size 6 gah, what happened to this display, did, like, a troop of drunken monkeys escape the zoo and rampage through here or something…and then I feel compelled to reorganize the piles and it takes a massive force of will to remind myself that somebody is being PAID to do that and really, I can just get on with my life, now

Yeah. I hate shopping. Give me the ability to type “jeans size 6” into a search engine, and I am a happy, happy woman. Make me sift through a four-ton wad of mixed up denim, and I get grumpy fast.

But I digress. To someone who doesn’t do the eBay thing, someone for whom computers are a strange and frightening beast and the Internet a puzzle with no solution – those cards are useless, but a Kohl’s card is solid gold.

And why this woman’s father insists on giving her eBay cards for every occasion (Happy National Polyester Appreciation Day, sweetie! Here’s $25 on eBay, knock yourself out…!) is beyond me.

ANYWAY. One trade at a time, I worked myself up to having $150 in eBay gift cards in my drawer.

Then PayPal sent me a coupon for 8% off the purchase of any one item on eBay.


I found Copper Moose Fibers on eBay, where they offered this loom for $184.85 with free shipping.

I practically hurt myself with the maniacal laughter at this point.

$184.85 - $150.00 in eBay certificates - $14.79 coupon = $20.06 cash.

Snoopy Dance of Pure Avaricious Glee.

It’s supposed to get here tomorrow. Tomorrow!

eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! Can’t wait! Can’t wait! Can’t wait!!!

So, you know, if you don’t hear from me for a few days? I’ll be in a corner trying to figure out how to do the “easy, one-person warping method” and sobbing that I am the dumbest, stupidest, most clumsy person in the whole world because HELLO, this is supposed to be an EASY method…!