Sunday, December 22, 2013

Stop. Just...Stop.

I know - I've gone missing.  Not sure anyone's even noticed, actually.  But I'm just popping in to say that I should be back at some point.  In the meantime, if I see one more blog post about making homemade marshmallows, I refuse to be responsible for my actions.  PEOPLE - marshmallows are available in your local grocery store for less than 2 dollars a bag.  They are not meant to be gourmet cuisine.  STOP RAISING THE BAR. 

Sheesh, it's only 2 days until Christmas - you'd think folks would have something better to do than get all pretentious about their junk food, wouldn't you?

Saturday, December 14, 2013

That Goose Is Getting Fat

Remember this discovery of mine?  Well, I'm still enjoying Songza (and now so is Jennifer Jo over at Mama's Minutiae); but I'm guessing that Larry rues the day I discovered the "Singin' in the Shower: 80's Edition" playlist there.

Seriously, people, how could someone NOT like Huey Lewis and the News?

It's raining ice right now.  ICE.  We lucked out earlier this week and experienced a snowfall that ALMOST covered all the grass; so my poor winter-fun-deprived children made the most of it, with sleds and shovels and hot cocoa.  Now we have got a muddy mess and frozen stuff falling out of the sky.  I guess that is as close as we are ever going to get to a winter wonderland around here, so I'll take it.

I guess this could be a possibility.
Christmas knitting?  Don't ask.  I'm at the facing-reality stage of that process right now.  You know, the stage when you decide that, really, not all of your relatives deserve handknits?  Where you ruthlessly slash the recipient list to meet the realities of the space-time continuum?  Yeah, that stage.

And if anyone can tell me what the heck I was planning to do with the 7 skeins of City Tweed DK yarn (sage green) that showed up in my latest Knitpicks order, I'd really appreciate it.  Because I haven't a clue.

Sunday, December 08, 2013


Today Rachel handed flyers out around the neighborhood, offering to bake cranberry bread/muffins for a reasonable price.  "Leave your holiday baking to me!" the flyer exhorts her hapless victims. 

"What if too many people order?" asked Larry, with some concern, after she left.

"Oh, no, that won't happen," I said.  "We did this last year - a few people ordered a few loaves and a couple of dozen muffins, and it was spread out over a 2-week period.  She made some money for Christmas, and everyone was happy."  And then I went blithely on with my day, secure in the knowledge that most people aren't interested in ordering homemade baked goods from an 11-year-old.

We all know how this ends, right?

Rachel went to sleep with dollar signs in her eyes tonight, leaving me to sit up and marvel at how easily my plans for the week had been torpedoed.  Because tomorrow I need to help Rachel churn out the equivalent of 14 loaves of cranberry bread for our apparently hungry neighbors.  And damn right I'm taking a cut of that money - cranberries don't grow on trees, you know.

This gentleman doesn't know what he's gotten me into.

[Cranberry bog image: Mass Great Outdoors Blog]

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Maturity Bites

Susie is singing "Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!" over and over and OVER again.  Loudly.  Tell me - where's the Geneva Convention when I need it?

My nice relaxed Saturday suddenly became over-scheduled and impossible to manage, and there is not much I can do about it. Have I mentioned I have been anointed the president of our local homeowners' association?  It's a tiny one, luckily - just our immediate neighborhood of 47 homes.  But, because of this august position, I'm meeting with a landscape consultant this morning.  And with the snowplow guy this afternoon, to sign a contract.  If we have the surprise winter storm of the century around here tomorrow, it will be because I didn't get that contract signed.

Seems like people are suddenly expecting me to do all sorts of grown-up things. When did I turn into an adult, anyway?

Friday, December 06, 2013

Anyone Seen Me?

Hey, I have something to ask all you normal people out there - you know, those of you who actually have cable TV and watch the nightly news?  A friend of mine just emailed me saying that, while she was watching the news on ABC, she saw a Samsung Galaxy commercial wherein the woman using the phone was pulling up my blog to her screen.  MY BLOG.  Has anyone else spotted this?  Can anyone find a link to this ad?

Just trying to enjoy my 15 seconds of fame, is all...

Friday, November 29, 2013

Do-Nothing Day

Don't begrudge me, people - I've earned this.  We ran 3 full dishwasher loads yesterday.  Oy.

If any of you have not yet discovered Songza, this is the perfect day for it.  It's like Pandora, only way more awesome.  It's chock full of curated playlists, designed for every mood and musical sensibility.  Currently, I'm listening to the "Walking on Sunshine" playlist, designed for an upbeat morning mood.  But don't worry, there are lists for those of you who are not so disgustingly cheerful in the morning, too.  And you don't have to keep refreshing the page to keep the music playing.

And?  It's free.  What more could you want?

Back to the Christmas knitting - it feels like a sweat shop around here...

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanks-a-Latke!

Enough of this Thanksgivukkah crap - it's Thanks-a-Latke we're celebrating today.  Just remember that the next time it rolls around.  In 70,000 years or so....

Take a moment and watch - it's worth it, even if you've seen it before.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Right Turn

I waited 24 hours, and then I looked.  3 lefts and one right.  I'm not thrilled, but I'll live.  I ripped one of the lefts all the way back to the ribbing and am now well on my way to MAYBE having 3 full pairs of fingerless mitts completed.

Minus the thumbs.  I'm telling myself I can maintain my momentum better if I save all the thumbs for last.  I have a feeling that the mid-December me is going to hate the pre-Thanksgiving me for making that decision.  Right now, however, it feels good.  Because I hate knitting thumbs.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Head In The Strand

This is precisely what I look like lately.
Okay, so a couple of weeks ago, I knitted two fingerless mitts.  Susie, of all people, pointed out to me that, instead of a pair, I had knitted 2 left hands.  Gah.  So I knitted up 2 more, irritated the entire time because I had planned to improve on the pattern for the second pair.  And tonight, as I was working on the right hand of a third pair (which is turning out just as I like it, thank you), I noticed that there were none of my marks on that particular pattern.  You know, no tally marks keeping track of the rows in the various repeats...

At which point the horrifying thought occurred to me that I may have blithely knitted 4 left-handed mitts.  Meaning, my Christmas gift-giving plans will have been shot to heck, because - while I may have time to knit 4 more pairs of handwarmers and 3 more scarves - an extra pair of handwarmers will push me right past any possibility of finishing in time.  And the stupidest part of this whole story is that I am scared to look.  Obviously, I need to get together the 4 fingerless mitts I have already completed and make sure that I have 2 rights and 2 lefts.  But I can't.  I don't want to know.

[Frustrated knitter image: luv in the mommyhood]

Friday, November 22, 2013

Gone Knittin'

It's that time of year, folks - the time when my fantasies of a hand-knitted Christmas run full tilt into the brick wall of reality.  I've been knitting and roaming the Internets buying yarn and generally ignoring my family and my blog and...well...everything.  I'm at the point where I am vaguely aware that, if I were to add up the time it actually takes me to knit a pair of hand warmers or a lovely waffleweave scarf, I would discover there are NOT ENOUGH HOURS left to complete my gift list.  So, naturally, I choose not to add it up.  Knitting with my eyes wide shut, as it were...

So much yarn, so little time, people - so little time.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Dancing Fools

I think I need this dress.
For the second time this year, Larry and I braved public humiliation to attend a local contra dancing session.  Surprisingly, it went okay.  I smiled manically, as previously directed, which helped to make up for the fact that Larry spent the greater part of the evening looking confused.  We're a good team like that.

Like last time, we made it to the halfway point of the evening without collapsing; and, as we were trying to sneak our exhausted selves out of the building, one gentleman asked if I wanted to waltz.  You see, these crazy people waltz around the room during their break instead of sprawling in chairs and trying to catch their breaths.

Fact: Dancers are in very good shape. 

Fact: We aren't dancers.  We just fake it.

[Dancers image: freeclipartstore]

Thursday, November 07, 2013

All The Apple-Shaped Ladies

JAG jeans?  Yes.  Yes.  And again, yes.

All you apple-shaped middle-aged women like myself, get thee to Zappo's.  If you are between sizes (again, like moi), size down.  You will note that these jeans are actually pull-ons - there is a soft band of (barely) stretchy fabric just above where the waistband should be.  It may look weird in the picture, but it is not at all noticeable - once you throw on a sweater or a blouse or even a T-shirt, the jeans look exactly like all the low-to-mid-rise styles that are popular with our daughters. And you won't have that darn metal snap or button digging into your menopausally endowed stomach, as it does with normal jeans. Or is that just me?

Now, I KNOW I am sounding shallow and self-centered lately, going on and on about my jeans and my waist size as I am wont to do; but people, ill-fitting jeans are as demoralizing as a bad hair day - if I don't have jeans that make me feel like a million bucks (or, at least, $54.99), my whole day feels lousy.  If that makes me shallow, so be it.

But I'm thinking it just makes me human.

Monday, November 04, 2013

The Latest From The Lollipop Guild

Feeling good about these
I've been to 3 yarn shops in the past 2 days.  Oh, and Michael's yesterday evening.  I guess maybe it's a good thing that Auntie Kate is leaving tomorrow morning - things have gotten a bit out of hand around here.

On the plus side, I've knit two sets of fingerless mitts for Christmas presents.  Of course, that accomplishment only makes me feel as though I've earned some more yarn.

I typed "yearn" up there at first.  I yearn for yarn.

I also spent time today shortening my jeans so that I don't lose the nice jean hem.  Can anyone explain to me why petite jeans come with 29-inch inseams?  I wear 2-inch-high clogs, and I still have to cuff up my pants.

I have high hopes for these, too.
Anywhoo, I saw this neat hemming method on Pinterest and decided to try it.  It works!  Sort of.  I mean , the idea works, but I had to fiddle with the details.  I tried it out on my old jeans with the holes in them, and really, it looks fantastic.  If you aren't short, you cannot appreciate the luxury of being able to dress in clothes that don't look like oversize hand-me-downs.  And now that Anna at An Inch of Gray has alerted me to the existence of jeans that might just fit, I might even be able to abandon my latest plan of buying some trendy maternity jeans at Target to accommodate my post-menopausal belly

I can't believe how desperate I am feeling about this wardrobe problem.  Really, I don't ask much, clothing-wise - just a pair of jeans that look stylish and that also button around my waist without gouging my stomach.  I'm not obese, people (although, if I keep eating this Halloween candy the way I have been the past few days, I will be); I'm just the wrong shape, apparently. 

A POX on clothing manufacturers, that's all I'm trying to say.

[Fingerless mitts image: Ravelry]
[Jag Jeans image:]

Friday, November 01, 2013

Halloween Something Something

Can't think of a good post title - can you tell?

A good Halloween was had by all, despite the intermittent (and UNPREDICTED) rain showers that occurred here. (As one local said, if only everyone had dressed as Mary Poppins, they all would have been prepared.)  This was the first year that Brian (costumed as a Lego piece, which he made all by himself, thank goodness, and the materials cost me only 10 bucks) was allowed to trick or treat without an adult - his 13-year-old self was thrilled to leave his younger sisters with his dad and go to as many houses as he liked with his 2 buddies (a ninja and a banana) instead.  That left Larry with only a bag of jelly beans and a princess to take around the townhouse developments, which felt a little strange, but he managed.

A popular item around here, apparently
The jelly bean costume came out great - many thanks to small town me, who suggested using water balloons (of which we had 2 or 3 bags in the house, I know not why).  They worked perfectly and everyone was happy.  It was rather weird having a Halloween with no costume crisis.  I guess I'm still sort of traumatized by the year that Brian wanted to be a tornado.  And of course there was the butterfly-wings crisis of 2001...

You know, going back and reading those 2 posts?  Makes me super glad I wrote all that stuff down.  Score one for blogging.

We had 33 trick-or-treaters, which is up some from previous years.  Of course, when we first moved here in the late 90's, we used to have 60 or 70 kids come by.  I blame all these stupid trunk-or-treats that adults insist on holding for their precious little darlings.  Oh, wait, I've already railed about that problem.  I'm getting a bit repetitive here with my tirades. 

I need more of these.  NEED.

Hardly anyone handed out Twix this year, though.  Can I complain about that instead?

[Water balloons image: Promo-Wholesale]
[Twix image: Hugs & Cookies]

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Decisions, Decisions

We're not as far along as we should be in the Halloween costume creation department.  I've pretty much made the executive decision that Susie has to be a princess (because we have the dress - why else?); but Rachel fell in love with this costume that I saw on Pinterest.  It should be really easy to make, but the devil - as always - is in the details.  Tell me, what shape balloons do I need to buy so that, when half-blown-up, they will resemble jelly beans?  Round?  Long?  Does it matter?  Because, really, I haven't the foggiest idea.  I know I should just buy both and the heck with it - it will still be the cheapest costume ever.  But, somehow, I've looked at balloons several times at Target and Michaels and still come home empty-handed.

Just tell me what to do, will you?  I am being plagued by indecision here.

[Costume image: Don't Waste The Crumbs]

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Unprecedented Restraint

I'd like you to know that Auntie Kate has been here for over 24 hours and we have not yet been to Joanne's.  Nor has Larry had any excuse to practice his mad staple-gun skills.

We may even be able to delay that trip to the fabric store one more day, as a well-meaning neighbor sent me this email this evening: 

I have that bag of material that I mentioned at Bunko. It's mostly velvet and Thai silk. There's also some yarn and embroidery thread. You're welcome to it, if you think you can use it.

If you think you can use it?  Is the Pope Catholic?  Is the sky blue?  Is Congress most definitely not earning its keep?

I wonder how early we can go fetch that bag.  7 AM?  No?  How about 7:15?  We could get a little crafting in before church, you know.  Just to take the edge off, as it were...

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Holidays? What Holidays?

Still here - Auntie Kate visit impending, so not only do I have to clean up this house so she cannot see the squalor in which we ordinarily dwell, but I also have to sort out my sewing drawer, fabric stash, yarn stash, etc., in preparation for our annual crafting binge

Oh, yes, and plan some sort of food - that would be helpful.

So, yeah, busy.  I just want to reassure you folks, as the holidays approach, that this should be a Christmas-prep-free zone until at least the 15th of December.  So, if you are already becoming overwhelmed by seeing blog post titles such as "Starting My Christmas Shopping!" or (worse) "Finished My Christmas Shopping!" or "Complete Menus for the 12 Days of Christmas," rest assured you can come here and not risk suffering the panic attacks that normally accompany such frighteningly festive screeds.

Crazy to leave it all until the last minute?  Stressful?  Actually, no.  I've run this experiment since 2009, and it has been a resounding success - thanks to Amazon's 2-day shipping, which saved me that year of the freak pre-Christmas blizzard.  Save Christmas for Christmas, folks - that way you aren't sick of the whole darn thing by the time the 25th rolls around.

[Oh, except those 6 sets of handwarmers I plan to use as presents.  Those have to be started earlier than 15 December.  But they don't count, because, well, KNITTING.  I'd be doing that anyway.]

Saturday, October 19, 2013

How To Have Grateful Children

I've disappeared for a bit again in order to go back to my dad's house and continue cleaning out an accounting office where essentially nothing was thrown away for, oh, 35 years.  NOTHING.

Paper clip, anyone?  We seem to have plenty.

I couldn't face the discomfort of sleeping on the couch again (not after all those hours in the car), so I screwed up enough nerve to sleep in the only available bed, which happened to be in my dad's bedroom.  You know, the room in which he passed away a mere month ago?  You would be correct in assuming that I kept the light on.

I suffered no hauntings, however, and arose refreshed to face the veritable mountain of paper and office supplies which awaited me. We filled up the garage yet again with boxes of stuff to be recycled or given away or thrown out.  I managed to get rid of 2 huge old office desks and a bookcase (thank you, Craigslist!); and I spent more time gathering photos that I will bring home and beg David to scan into the computer.  A good day's work, but there is stuff I still have not even touched. 

Which brings me to the real point of this post: people, walk directly to whatever filing cabinet you might have in your home and empty out a folder or two.  Now.  Just do it.  Repeat this exercise at least once a week.  Your children will thank you for it someday, I promise you.  Oh, and really?  They won't care too much about your high school yearbook.  Feel free to toss that, too.

You're welcome.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Science 1, Marital Discord 0

Vindication, people, that's what this study concerning rats and Oreo cookies is - vindication for every time Larry has asked me, "But WHY can't you eat just 2 Oreos and leave the rest of the package alone?"

“Our research supports the theory that high-fat/ high-sugar foods stimulate the brain in the same way that drugs do,” neuroscience assistant professor Joseph Schroeder says. “That may be one reason people have trouble staying away from them and it may be contributing to the obesity epidemic.”

See, Larry?  I'm addicted.  It has nothing to do with willpower or discipline - it's brain chemistry.

But, wait!  Larry wants you to know that that is not the whole story.  You see, in the early years of our marriage, my younger, more optimistic, believing-in-feeding-kids-healthy self often served rice cakes and peanut butter for lunch and insisted that it was tasty.  Delicious, even!  Larry refused to drink that particular nutritional KoolAid, as it were; and now - dontcha know - we read that, as part of the experiment,

Schroeder’s neuroscience students put hungry rats into a maze. On one side went rice cakes. “Just like humans, rats don’t seem to get much pleasure out of eating them,” Schroeder said.

In other words, when trying to think of something that was as unlike the yumminess of Oreos as possible, the architects of this study came up with the lowly rice cake.  "Imagine that!" said Larry, feeling himself vindicated once and for all in our longstanding rice-cakes argument.  "I told you they tasted like styrofoam."

You know, I'll let him win that one - so long as he stops regarding as a moral failing the fact that I can't eat just 2 Oreos.  Or 3...or 4...

[Rat/Oreos image: Bob MacDonnell / Connecticut College]
[Rice cakes image: Photo Dictionary]

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Star Struck

Okay, your comments on my last post made me realize that I was focusing too much on finding a really neat THING to give Larry for his birthday, rather than just doing something fun.  So I bought him a movie gift card (I know, it's been done here before), and he was perfectly happy.  Because he really doesn't need any more THINGS...

Now with a wicked New England accent...
Theo came to visit us this weekend, and we took advantage of having 2 resident babysitters in the house by going to see Captain Phillips.  People, I've never been a big Tom Hanks fan (although I do think that, if you take any movie Steve Martin has been in and replaced him with Tom Hanks, the movie would have been WAY better), but he was EXCELLENT in this film.  Just WOW.  And, to make my day even better, there was a preview for another movie (coming in December) that will star George Clooney, Matt Damon, John Goodman, and Bill Murray.  "What's it about? " asked Larry, who missed the preview because he was getting our popcorn. 

"What's it about?  I don't know.  I don't care.  MATT DAMON.  BILL MURRAY. JOHN GOODMAN," I told him.

He just doesn't get it.

[Tom Hanks image: Entertainment Weekly]

Thursday, October 10, 2013

A Cry For Help

Seems like just yesterday that I wrote this post about baking my husband's birthday cake...and it seems like just the day before yesterday that I wrote the instructions for that same cake here.  I swear, my life is on fast forward and it is time once again to indulge in that annual extravaganza known in these parts as baking the cake that I am not even sure my husband likes.

But I still don't have a present for him.  Last year we bought him an IPod Touch with my BlogHer earnings, and it is sort of a tough act to follow (unlike the spiffy 4.1-gallon paper shredder we had bought him the previous year).  I am plumb out of ideas, folks.  Reasonably priced suggestions, anyone?

[Cranberry cake image: My Recipes]

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Relax! Be Happy! Or Else!

Oh, faithful readers (or at least my middle-aged compatriots amongst you) - there is no hope for us. Or, as the sub-headline of the Washington Post article put it:

Another reason to stress: Stress itself may lead to dementia

The study followed 800 women for 38 years and found that those who reported being stressed during middle age (i.e., the NORMAL people) were 21% more likely to develop Alzheimers as they got older.

Listen, folks, stress is synonymous with middle age.  Think about it: teenagers, wrinkles, menopause...the list goes on.  And now I'm being told that it's all an express ticket to the Alzheimer's rodeo?  Gee, I can hardly wait. 

I am trying hard not to dwell on the budget impasse/Obamacare/debt ceiling imbroglio, but please - if you happen to be a Congressperson who believes that the threat of a government shutdown is a legitimate budget negotiating tactic, then don't suddenly be shocked - SHOCKED - when certain gov't services are not being provided during the shutdown that you yourself have rashly precipitated.  Or, better yet, come back to the bargaining table to discuss the BUDGET, not a healthcare law that has already been passed by Congress and declared constitutional by the Supreme Court.

Also, please don't keep raking in your paychecks while you are depriving the federal workforce of theirs.  It makes you look like the hypocrites that you are.  Not to mention that you are increasing my risk of Alzheimers by stressing me out with your talk about how you NEED your paycheck to pay your mortgage, unlike the rest of America, I guess.

I need to cheer up.  Maybe I'll go watch Season 1, Episode 2 of ALF again.  The jigsaw puzzle joke gets me every time.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Humor, 80's Style

Now that we've watched all of the episodes of I Love Lucy twice over, it's been pretty difficult to find good TV shows that are both family-friendly and watchable without wincing. I mean, think about it - no obvious sexual content, no disgustingly sarcastic children, no disgustingly sweet children either. 

Also?  Funny.  They have to be funny. 

So, in an unaccustomed burst of brilliance, I decided to try out ALF.  I remembered it vaguely from the late 1980's, when a neighbor of my parents (and their generational cohort) would watch it religiously and laugh himself silly; but I was in my 20's then and felt a little too cool for it.

I gathered David (16) and Brian (13) in the TV room for a screening last night.  Oh, people, ALF was funny, all right.  Brian enjoyed it outright, and I caught David laughing also.  We watched the first 3 episodes and no one objected.  Alf is the extra-terrestrial version of a Borscht Belt comedian.  His timing is impeccable.  The youngest kid is cute, but not so much that you want to stab him.  The teen girl is not snarky, just pleasant. Granted, that last is not very realistic, but what do you want from a show whose main premise is that an alien life form is hiding out in the house of a very suburban family?  And whose running joke is that he really wants to eat the family cat?

Also?  The 1980's.  The house is decorated in shades of blue and mauve, the teen daughter is wearing some sort of overalls get-up (when she isn't sporting her Laura Ashley dress), the phones all have cords on them, and no one has a personal computer.  It's like time travel and a history lesson, all rolled up into one.

What was up with that blue-and-mauve thing, anyway?

Thursday, October 03, 2013

I'm A Believer

Today?  Is a day of triumph.  A day of rejoicing.  A day, even, of reveling in that all-too-rare feeling of having at least a modicum of control over my own life.

At least, sometimes....
As detailed here before, I am the official tub-drain declogger in this family.  With my mad Rosie the Riveter handywoman skills and my cute pink tool kit, I have figured out how to remove that little cover from the drain hole and pull out the disgusting matted sodden mess of hair and soap bits that is preventing the water from exiting the tub in a timely and graceful manner.  I know!  You envy me.

And, yet, recently, my efforts have not been enough.  Apparently, there are knots of hair somewhere farther down in that pipe that my fingers can't reach.  The upshot being, we've all been showering with our ankles in a couple of inches of water for the past month or so, while my frugal self has struggled with the concept of having to pay a plumber 100 bucks to clear the drain.

Three years, I waited...
Now, I have been a fan of the Flylady since 2002; and I credit Marla Cilly with saving my family from living in utter squalor all these years.  Still, I never quite believed her when she claimed she had a tool that could unclog drains.  I would read the description and the testimonials, and then I would shake my head and move on.  Until this week.  This week, I became desperate enough to bite the bullet and order a Clog Cannon from Flylady's webshop.

It arrived today.  And, to my disappointment, it didn't seem to work.  In fact, things got worse, to the point that the water wasn't draining at all after Susie's shower.  Faced with the prospect of telling Larry that I had messed things up completely AND wasted $25 in the process, I grabbed that Cannon and applied it to the drain again.  And again.  And again.

"What's going on in there?" I heard Larry say from the hall.

"Nothing!  Just cleaning the tub!" I shouted, as I threw all my weight behind that darn device and prayed to Flylady to give me a miracle.  Somewhere around the fifth time, the magic happened.  I heard the drain gurgle (oh, beautiful sound!) as that water slid swiftly, gracefully, to wherever it is that bathtub effluent goes.

I spent the rest of the evening singing "I am Plumber, hear me roar..." and waving my Clog Cannon at Larry, who did not appear to be at all impressed with my fix-it skills.

You know what?  I think he's jealous.

[No one has paid me or given me free merchandise to write this blog post.  I'm a Clog Cannon convert, is all.]

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Drinking The Kool-Aid

There's something been going on around here lately - a lifestyle change, really - that I haven't been sharing with you. 

It started innocently enough, when a friend mentioned that gas was a lot cheaper at Costco.  Now, you have to understand that, all these years, I've been a Costco refusenik, refusing to join the masses loading up those giant carts with huge boxes of foodstuffs and 48-roll packages of toilet paper.  Oh, yes, there have been times I've looked wistfully at my friends' tubs of Costco salsa and their giant frozen lasagnas, but I've been able to get past all that and move on with my life.

But cheaper gas?  I realized that I drive right by a Costco once a week, while the girls are at art class.  So, hey, I'll just check it out, I thought.  I don't have to buy anything.  Just, you know, LOOK at the prices, make sure I'm still getting a better deal at the military commissary I frequent once a month.

Oh, it is indeed a slippery slope, people - it took me less than an hour of walking around Costco and doing some rapid-fire calculations re the gas money savings more than making up for the membership fee, and suddenly I'm filling out a membership application and buying 90 dollars worth of granola bars and corn chips and the like.  NINETY DOLLARS.

I feel special.
No, actually, I'm in deeper than that.  I opted to become an EXECUTIVE member (hey, an additional 2% back on purchases), plus I agreed to sign up for the special Costco-issued American Express card (an extra 3% off the already low gasoline prices!).  And....well...I'm excited about it.  Apparently, I needed something different in my life, something to look forward to each week.  Who knew that that something was just a bit of warehouse shopping?

I haven't told Larry about the extra credit card yet, mostly because I hate watching him bang his head on the computer keyboard like that.  You see, he is a one-credit-card type of guy.  And I don't think he'll understand if I tell him that, as far as dealing with mid-life crises goes, this is a fairly uncomplicated solution, more convenient for our family schedule than twice-a-week belly-dancing lessons or monthly yoga retreats.

Maybe I should just lure him in to the warehouse-shopping madness by telling him about Costco's low, low prices for cases of Sam Adams.  Everyone has their price, right?

[Gas pump image: bargaineering]

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Misguided Ambition

I drove to New Jersey this weekend, armed with 60 boxes and 6 rolls of packing tape.  Yes, it was time to clean out my dad's house, where he had lived for over half a century.  I thought I was up to the task.  I thought it would be cathartic to go through that stuff, sort it out, and box it all up.

And, yes, it was cathartic - that is, if catharsis is the process of grief morphing into a feeling of resentment toward the dearly departed once the mourner realizes, with a sense of dawning horror, that 60 boxes is NOT NEARLY ENOUGH.  60 boxes is a JOKE.

Woefully inadequate

I had a realtor stop by, approximately 24 hours into this process.  Up until then, I was doing okay - focused on my progress, energetic, hydrated.  And then, as I took her around the house, I snapped out of my illusions and saw the mess through her eyes - the accounting office with papers from 1978 on, the 2-car garage already full of boxes, the laundry room with I-don't-know what-all shoved into it.  It was in this last room that she turned to me and said, in the tone of voice one would use to disabuse a small child of the notion that she can single-handedly dig all the way to China, "You know, there are people who can help you with this.  They come with a big truck and take it all away."

Yeah, that would be nice, wouldn't it? 

On the bright side, I dug up a photo album filled with pictures of my father as a boy and a young man.  I had never seen any candid photos of him from that time in his life - I had assumed, in fact, that none existed.  He looks so young, so happy, with his whole life spread out before him - it's a nice antidote to my memories of him from the past 4 months or so, when he was becoming feebler and more senile by the day.  His physical and mental misery spanned maybe one year out of a total of 87 -- these photos remind me that that single year doesn't define his entire life.

Now to find those helpful people with the big truck...

[Boxes image: enviromom]

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Broken Dreams

A while ago, I announced on this blog the exciting (to me) acquisition of a new set of glassware, an acquisition necessitated by the sad fact that we had only 3 intact glasses remaining in our kitchen cabinet.

An all-too-familiar sight...
Fast forward almost 3 1/2 years - Brian dropped a glass in the sink and I realized that we, once again, had only 3 usable glass drinking receptacles left.  Now, in this house, 3 1/2 years is not a bad run for a set of glassware, not bad at all.  But still, I've grown to dread that sound of breaking glass.

In Target later that week, I chanced on a clearance shelf full of plastic tumblers.  Understand, if you will, that - approximately a decade ago - I had decided that I DESERVED glasses, not plastic tumblers. Sick of bowing to the exigencies of a house full of children, I swore that never again would my lips touch anything but glass.  And, until that fateful evening in Target, I had stuck to my vow, regardless of our kitchen's granite countertops and tile floor that spelled eventual doom for any breakable housewares we might have the temerity to possess.

But that evening in Target?  I was the one who broke.  Turning my back on the shelf of glassware that was beckoning just to my left, I put 6 of those cheerful red tumblers in my cart.  You see, it occurred to me that I was tired of cleaning up broken glass, tired of trying to fish jagged glass pieces out of the garbage disposal, tired of discovering shards of glass on my floor even though I had vacuumed the entire kitchen twice. What price, I wondered, was being exacted by my determination to be civilized?  What awful price?

THIS is what defeat looks like, in case you were wondering.

So, yeah, there they are.  50 cents each, and I bet they last forever.

[Broken glass image: Recycle This]

Thursday, September 19, 2013


Quick note to say I'll be back soon.  My dad passed away on Sunday, and we've been busy doing stuff - funeral, sitting shiva, eating ridiculous amounts of cake and cookies, and trying to figure out how to clean out a house that was lived in by the same person for over 50 years.

I'm grateful he isn't suffering anymore, very grateful - but it is disorienting (to say the least) that someone who has always been in my life is not there anymore.  Apparently, judging from my surprise at this situation, I have just figured out what death means.  Some of us are slow learners, you know.

And now, to bed - last night I didn't sleep well, as I was alone in my dad's house, with ALL the lights on.  I was working with the theory that a well-lit house would discourage other-worldly visits.  And then I turned half of the lights off, because I remembered my dad scolding us for leaving the house "lit up like a Christmas tree" and figured that my overuse of electricity might trigger a haunting.

But seriously, it just felt as though he would come walking around the corner any minute.  How could he not?  He had always been there.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Plumb Crazy

The rash hasn't killed me yet.  Just thought you should know...

Uh-oh, forgot to pack corn cobs!
Today?  I had to help Rachel get ready for her FIRST GIRL SCOUT CAMPOUT EVER.  Rachel's naturally high level of enthusiasm was ramped up to the nth power, because she gets to do archery and kayaking tomorrow and I'd even think of joining her, it sounds like so much fun, but the place where they are staying?  Has no flush toilets.  Yet it has cabins.  With cots.

SOMEONE at Girl Scout Central seems not to understand that plumbing is not a negotiable camping option.  Beds are negotiable.  Wooden shelters are negotiable.  You see, tents and sleeping bags suit even this civilization-loving gal just fine.  But, to my way of thinking, there just aren't enough s'mores in the world to make using an outhouse a reasonable proposition.  With or without the corn cobs...

[Outhouse image: Wikipedia]

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Walking The Walk

It's hot here.  Just thought you should know.

I left the air conditioning off for most of the day, because only 1 member of the family was going to be in the house most of the afternoon, and damned if I'm going to air-condition a 2300-sq-ft townhouse for hours on end for only 1 person.

By the way, that 1 person?  Wasn't me.  Key point.

So, David got to enjoy some solitude, at the price of feeling a bit, well, poached by the time the rest of us returned from our various classes and play dates and errands.  I was hoping the hot house would encourage David to go out and look for jobs in air-conditioned stores and eateries, but no such luck.  He seems content to continue to rake in money from hapless older people who cannot figure out how to move their photos from their cameras to their computers.  So be it.  Lord knows he isn't going to run out of customers any time soon.

Where was I going with this?  Oh, yeah, it's hotAfrica hot. So I turned on that AC as soon as I walked in the door.  Do teenagers deserve air conditioning?  Discuss.


I'm still waiting for the wealthy and wise part.
For the past 7 days, I've been making myself go to sleep at a decent hour and get up early (6:30) to exercise/walk before we do breakfast and school.  I hate to admit it, but I am feeling better about my life, as in I no longer feel like I am drowning the minute I wake up in the morning (NOT a good sensation, believe me).  The kids like it better, too, since I actually cook decent breakfasts.  That means, unfortunately, that I have to continue being sensible and healthy, like, forever.  I'm not sure I can pull that off.

In other news, I have a mysterious rash on my arm that I fear may be fatal.  At least, if itchiness can kill, it could be fatal.  So, if you don't hear from me again, it's because Larry, not believing my dire prognostications, provided me with some hydrocortisone cream rather than calling in the best medical minds to focus on my problem.  I tell you, I'm so tired of not being taken seriously around here.

[Benjamin Franklin poster:]

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Pinterest For The Rest Of Us

Rachel and Susie and I had quite the girly-girl day today, shoe-shopping (Payless BOGO half-off!) and going out to lunch and browsing at Michaels.  I came home after a few hours of this immersion in all things feminine and begged Larry to take Susie to the pool, because, really, there is only so much enthusiasm and chatter one person can take in a single day.  I am done.

To recover, I vegged out on the Internets and discovered this Pinterest board that was apparently created by someone who is most emphatically NOT Martha Stewart.  [Warning: if you don't like the f-word, don't click.]  I particularly liked her messy message board how-to. Then I bestirred myself to prep a pan of boppies early, as I will be taking Rachel to her tennis team try-outs right before dinner.  By the way, it still makes my non-athletic self giggle to think that I'm taking a child of mine to try out for anything.  Rachel's wearing her new Payless sneakers and her Target tennis skort, so essentially she feels as though she is going to kick some a**.  Only not in so many words...

Larry and the boys arose at 4:30 this morning to help their Boy Scout troop set out orange cones for a local triathlon.  I signed them up for that, because it gives me a happy feeling inside to watch the teen boys drag themselves out of bed at o'dark thirty.  I felt a little bad about Larry, as he became a sort of collateral damage in this nefarious plan of mine.  I don't feel too bad, though, because he woke me before he left by flicking the light on REPEATEDLY to "look for stuff."  That's one passive-aggressive spouse, I tell you; I may decide to go back to my plan of decorating our bedroom with posters of world-class tennis hunks, just to bother him.  What can I say?  Maturity is not my strong suit.

[Message board image: Pinterest]

Saturday, September 07, 2013

I REALLY Like Tennis

Can't help myself...another scenic tennis photo...
I couldn't bring myself to post yesterday, because I liked the pictures in Thursday's post so much.  Do you think Larry would mind if I went all teen-girl-y on him and plastered photos of male tennis players all over our bedroom walls?

I guess I know the answer to that one.  Spouses can be so stifling.

I went with a friend for a pedicure today; I spent 15 minutes trying to choose a new color and ended up with the exact same color I've always gotten.  Because I'm adventurous like that.  Although, really, just getting the pedicure itself is adventure enough for my personal-space-craving self....

And, finally (because there really isn't much going on in this neck of the blogosphere, and really? Sometimes that's a good thing), let me recommend Marinka's little tour de force on why her husband REALLY shouldn't try to discuss family budget issues with her.  Ever.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Open Minded

We don't get cable TV, so imagine my delight at discovering that ESPN is streaming the US Open matches live on a computer near you!  Oh, my, those tennis fellas are delicious.  I mean, um, talented - very talented

 All this, and brains, too....

That Serbian guy is no slouch, either, of course.

Tennis skills honed during the NATO bombing of Belgrade - talk about cool under pressure, eh?  AND he speaks 5 languages, including French.  Ooh, la, la!

I know, I know, I'm much too old for any of these nice young men.  And I don't have a shred of cougar in me.  But I do have 3 daughters to marry off, so it behooves me to research potential sons-in-law, don't you think?  Duty calls!

[Youzhny image: WSJ]
[Djokovic image: Adelaide Now]

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

The Truth About Parenting

A few months ago, our oldest child Theo – a newly minted Army officer - surprised us with a visit. He came home over a holiday weekend, because – get this – he just felt like it (awesome!); and we old folks at home were thrilled.  That is, I was enjoying his stay until something unfortunate occurred, an incident that left me, essentially, a broken woman, contemplating the futility of all human endeavour.

You see, I’ve spent many years (22, to be exact) watching reality steamroll over my na├»ve child-rearing aspirations.  As the mom of 6 kids born over a span of 13 years, I’ve experienced my share of disappointments: I’ve had to gradually surrender all my nutritional ideals to the great god Sugar, for example; I’ve watched the Internet pretty much destroy my dreams of a TV- free home; and I’ve even accepted that teaching my kids to maintain orderly bedrooms - and their actual doing so? - are two entirely separate matters.  

But, despite my multiple run-ins with reality as I raised the next generation, there remained one singular accomplishment on which I continued to pride myself.  Not to boast  but, as the mother of 3 boys, I trained those young lads from the beginning to ALWAYS put the seat and the lid down after using the toilet.  


I know…it was as if I had supernatural powers, right?

Is this REALLY so hard to do?
I knew – I KNEW – that, no matter what twists and turns my boys’ lives might take once they left the nest, this one principle that I had harped on for years would stay with them.  I KNEW that I had managed to raise young men who would be fundamentally incapable of leaving that seat up - at least in any household containing members of the fairer sex.  You know, in my darkest moments as the mother of teens, when the harsh reality of childrearing seemed bent on stripping me of the very last vestige of hope –  that hope that I could at all influence my growing children’s attitudes or beliefs or behavior?  In those darkest moments, I would wander into any one of the bathrooms in my home and reassure myself with the sight of that closed toilet.  It was a sign from the heavens, telling me that, yes, I was doing at least one thing right.

But that weekend, with my beloved first-born visiting, I walked into our powder room and discovered what was, essentially, a cross nailed through the heart of my one remaining parenting illusion.  That’s right – that darned toilet seat? It was UP.  There it stood, as it were, mocking any dreams I may have enjoyed of worshipful future daughters-in-law throwing flowers at my feet and thanking me for how well I had raised my sons.

The lesson here, folks, is a simple one.   In the Sisyphean struggle that is parenting, reality will always win.  Expect it.  EVERY SINGLE TIME.

[Toilet image:]

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Ours Is Not To Reason Why

I know, I know, lots of mothers all over the blogosphere are over-the-moon happy today that it is the first day of school.  But while those lucky women dance around their newly liberated households, strewing flowers and kissing school-bus drivers, there is a small group of us moms that is steeling itself for battle instead.  We are sharpening our machetes, as it were, to hack our way through the school-year jungle of workbooks, unit studies, educational apps, and field-trip planning that springs, fully formed, the day after Labor Day.

Yes, the homeschool moms.  It's us.  We feel a tad left out this week.  Behind all our bravado and nonchalance, there is a teeny part of us that wonders what it would feel like to have the house empty 6 hours a day, 5 days a week; we go all aquiver at the thought of our kids getting upset with someone WHO IS NOT US over assigned math problems; in fact, sometimes we even fantasize about nodding sagely at parent-teacher conferences and running the PTA gift wrap sale.  ANYTHING, that is, but do what lies before us.  AGAIN.

Because, yoo-hoo, 6th-grade math the 5th time around?  NOT FUN.  I'll wager I could face down any of you when it comes to calculating fractions and percentages, but the thrill is gone.  GONE.

Sing it, Rosie!
And,'s in our blood.  Homeschooling is a way of life.  And, by the time that first-week-of-school excitement evaporates and the first head-lice notices come home, I and my homeschooling compatriots will have settled comfortably back into the traces, ready to do battle with children who, while able to teach themselves multiple computer languages, cannot seem to remember a basic list of prepositions from year to year.

We salute you happy moms this week, as fellow soldiers in a great battle - we are sisters in suffering, fighting the good fight to get our unappreciative, Minecraft-obsessed children educated, one way or another.  Remember, ours is not to reason why...

[School bus image: Wauconda School District]
[Rosie image: Wikipedia]

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Don't Google, Be Happy

Some quick updates:

Still working on the crocheted plastic sleeping mat for Haiti - I've got 10 inches done, so this particular good deed should only take me approximately 6 more years to complete.

You wouldn't believe how many plastic bags are in this picture.

Still aghast at what the ravages of time have wrought on one of my favorite singers

Still walking around humming "The Circle Game" and mourning my lack of cute babies to squeeze

STILL have not worked up the nerve to change out my starter earrings for something prettier (although I am planning to use the Neosporin hint that Cassi passed on (one that she got from Jen on the Edge).  I've said it before, but I'll say it again:  I LOVE the blogosphere.


The only thing new is that Theo dropped by for the weekend, so I bestirred myself to cook a bunch of food in honor of his visit.  To be perfectly honest, it was more of a group effort:  I prepped the meat, but Larry grilled it; the children shucked the corn so that I could boil it; and I braved the hot August (wait, September?) sun to buy rotini for the pasta salad David was making. 

These bags do put up a fight

But I am proud to announce that I DID make the green salad all by myself.  And if you think it was easy to open that bag of lettuce, you most certainly haven't tried looking for a pair of scissors in my kitchen lately.  I was fairly verklempt by the time I dumped those leafy greens into a pretty bowl and set it on the table. 

A cold Coke revived me enough, however, to realize that we didn't have enough room around the table for 7 people - which left me wondering, what did we used to do?  I mean, when we moved into this house 6 years ago, there were 8 of us living here.  Did 2 children skip dinner each night?  Maybe I was able to count on sending at least 2 to their rooms during any particular meal?  I don't remember, even though that was ONLY 6 YEARS AGO. 

I must be losing my mind.  Early-onset dementia?  Is this a symptom?  Dare I Google it?


[Lettuce image: blisstree]


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Those Damn Painted Ponies

We had a belated bowling party for Rachel today.  Her birthday always lands somewhere during our summer vacation, so we end up postponing the festivities, as she doesn't consider a McDonald's Apple Pie with a candle stuck in it to be an appropriate commemoration of the day of her birth.

Entitlement, folks - it runs rampant around here.

Anna got 2 of these
We invited about 15 girls to the party, and - its being August - only 4 of them could make it.  That beats Anna's 11th birthday party - only 2 girls could make it to that one; and then, just to make the day extra special, they both ended up giving Anna the exact same present

So Larry and I ended up driving 6 girls (Susie rounded out the guest list) to pizza and bowling.  The guy at the bowling alley looked at us sort of funny when our small crew walked in, as we were required to pay for 12 guests in order to book the party.  The party room did feel a little large for us - add to that the fact that most of the girls who attended fit the classic introvert personality type, and we had what was probably the quietest birthday party ever.  Seriously, I've been to funerals that were less sedate.

And now I get to change Rachel's age over in the sidebar profile there, while marveling at the fact that she was a wee lass of 4 when I began this blog.  I don't know where the past 7 years have gone; and I'm not sure I can bear watching everyone get older and older in these pages anymore.  It's painful to have such a tangible record of time passing, passing, more swiftly than I ever could have imagined when I started writing here, back in the days of babies and nap times and toddler tantrums.  It makes me want to go back and make up for all the times I ignored her pretty little self while I typed at the computer or read my email.  Anyone else want to hug each of their 2-year-olds just one more time?

Still, I cling to the hope that my grown children will treasure these family stories someday.  I even fondly imagine that they will read these pages and recognize their mother as a fellow human being and not just as the flawed parent who begged them to just stop talking and who sneaked their teddy bears into the trash.  Maybe the incidents I relate here will even make them feel better about their own grown-up lives, imperfect as they are bound to be.

Birthdays make me maudlin, can you tell? 

And, yeah, I AM listening to "The Circle Game" over and over.  What of it?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Time Warp

When I hear the name Linda Ronstadt, I picture a 20-something ingenue with long hair and a heart-shaped face.  At the same time, I hear her singing "Blue Bayou" in my head.  Also, her cover of the Buddy Holly song "That'll Be The Day" - I hear that, too.  And have I mentioned that I saw her live in The Pirates of Penzance in Central Park?  She played opposite Kevin Kline.

Why am I inflicting on you these unsolicited reminiscences?  An article tonight on the home page of The New York Times announces that Linda Ronstadt is suffering from Parkinsons and cannot sing anymore.  My Rip-van-Winkle brain simply can't wrap itself around the reality of her current picture; nor can it grasp the idea of that voice being silenced.

Some sort of impostor, I guess
This is who I remember

Folks, the confusion this engenders in my psyche is second only to that which I experience when gazing into the bathroom mirror in the morning.  Who IS that person there, anyway?  And don't even talk to me about the vacation photos I just spent two hours editing.  That VERY middle-aged lady hanging out with my kids on the beach?  I'm not sure who she is, but she sure looks a heck of a lot like my mother.

Linda will always be young to me.  Let's all listen, okay?  For old times' sake....

[Linda Ronstadt image: Sodahead]
[Linda Ronstadt image: The Hollywood Reporter]

Monday, August 26, 2013


Well, I've come up with a new way to determine whether or not someone is the crafter type.  All you do is show them this website.  If they go "Hunh" and shrug their shoulders in a non-committal way?  Not crafty.  If, however, they react as my Rachel did - i.e., "Oh, wow, that's the neatest thing ever!" and immediately start cutting plastic grocery bags into strips to use as plastic yarn (plarn)?  Crafty.

Mine doesn't look this good
 So, yes, today was spent crocheting plastic strips into bug-proof, waterproof sleeping mats for children in Haiti.  Crafty and virtuous!  We won't talk about the first 3 attempts that I had to tear out - sure would help if somewhere among these online instructions someone had mentioned that I needed an N size hook.  But no matter...the girls are inspired and I feel useful.  Join us!

[Plastic mat image: Island Dreams]