Friday, December 29, 2006

Christmas Leftovers: Cats-in-law

A few scraps from our recent holiday vaca at the in-laws' house.

Today's topic: The Cats-in-law.

For seven days it was me versus five cats, four inside, one outside. Every time we visit, because I am allergic, I have to keep our bedroom door closed at all times to prevent the cats from lounging on, rooting through, vomiting on, or peeing in our suitcases, beds, pillows, sleeping bag, and pack and play. Did I mention this house is in Florida? And my mother-in-law gets cold at night when the temperature drops below seventy? Thus little to no AC at night. The room is poorly ventilated anyway, and with the four of us heavy breathers sweating through the night with the door sealed shut, our windows fairly drip with condensation by morning. Might I add that the cats make themselves comfortable in this very room the other fifty-one weeks of the year. Their ghosts linger.

I had a pile of our dirty clothes outside our door for five minutes while I did something in our room, then I stepped out into the hallway, shutting the door behind me of course. The hairiest cat, a beautiful Ragdoll, lolled playfully on top of the pile. I tried to shoo her away without touching her. That is apparently cat-sign language for, "Let's play a while!" She swatted at me and the clothes as I tried to get them out from under her, and she actually laughed when her nails snagged one of my favorite shirts. Every time I tried to get the shirt away, she'd pierce and pull at it anew. And I thought dogs were destructive.

My husband's parents' cats are beautiful things, but I can't touch a one of them, or the swollen itchy masses that used to be my eyes will get worse. Washing my hands is futile, considering that the towels I use to dry them apply more cat hair to my skin than the washing removed. As I prepared for dinner one night I hung a clean shirt over a towel bar and began locating my shower stuff. I knocked the shirt off accidentally, and it didn't just fall onto the floor, it fell into the cats' water dishes. I shrugged, laughed a little, then sought out a towel. When I opened the shuttered doors of the linen closet, an orange cat stared me straight in the eyes from its cozy perch atop the bath towels.

The ILs got new couches for the family room last year, and the cats have already had their way with them. There's a carpet-covered scratching post in front of one of the corners to try to prevent the inevitable, but all that fur-covered toy attracted during our visit was my children. They pushed it, pulled it, stepped on it, kicked it, sat on it--everything but licked the damn thing--ALL WEEK LONG. Their joyous play kicked up huge tufts of the combined fur of the cats, which settled happily on my person. Wouldn't you know it, any cat toys (balls, fur mouses, fishing pole type thingies) are far more interesting play pretties than any distraction actually created for human children.

Seven days. Running nose, puffy eyes, failing contact lenses.

Why didn't we stay in a hotel? I prefer histamine attacks to bedbug infestation. And there's that half-a-G we saved...

Saturday, December 16, 2006

We Interrupt this Absence for Two More Recommendations

This is rather yummy:

So is this:

That is all I have to say.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

The Home Stretch (and a book rec)

Folks, it's the time of year when my mania for getting stuff done bumps up to 11 on a ten-point scale, and would you believe that blogging is at the bottom of the to-do list? I'll be taking a leave of absence from this forum until early in the New Year. But before I go, I have to tell you about the wonderful novel I'm reading--and it's just the right time of year to read it--Marisa de los Santos's Love Walked In. She's a local author, and even better, she's an extremely gifted author. I'm hoping to get to her booksigning at Borders in a week or so. Pick up her book and bask in its warmth, hope, and humor.

May your days be merry and bright, my friends.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

He's Done it Now

O.J. Simpson has a new book coming out November 30: If I Did It, preceded by a t.v. special, entitled "O.J. Simpson: If I Did It, Here's How It Happened."

according to the Chicago Tribune,
Although Simpson has denied committing the crimes, he will describe how he would have carried out the murders if he were guilty, according to a Fox news release.

Okay. My wife--the mother of my children--was brutally murdered. However will I heal from this trauma? Oh, of COURSE! Well, yes, the golf is helping, but I now see that if I can find a public forum in which to fantasize in gruesome detail about being the psychotic son of a bitch who did it, then not only will I find some kind of inner peace, but I will also cement my innocence in the eyes of the world.

The money I'll get? Oh, yeah! That'll be cool too.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Bulbs are in

I finally finished putting in all my bulbs for spring. I had to move some daffodils which had become impenetrably dense in the last few years, and I added some muscarii (grape hyacinth), tulips, and some smallish alliums. I try tulips every few years, and have been satisfied only one year, when I was living in North Carolina. Either I never get them deep enough and they freeze/rot/get eaten, or they just don't have enough nutrients where I put them. I tried to prepare their beds better this year. I'll try to post a photo this spring if there's any action in the tulip department.

I laid some wire fencing over the beds to deter deer or other rodents, but there are always the underground dudes who'll eat the bulbs with no trace. I am going to try to scratch in some fertilizer today and mulch a little bit. I have a feeling, though, that I won't have time. It's D's birthday and the kids are incredibly restless.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

It's Carmen Tonight!

Now just pray with me that the babysitter doesn't forget as she did once before. I reminded her Tuesday when we trick or treated at her house. She is 17. And you know they have brains like...well... like that of a 41-year-old mother of two toddlers.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

A Boy and His Whale

(minus the boy)

Hope you can make out the picture--N draws with a light hand. He did this whale about a month ago when he was 3y 2m old.

Thanks for indulging the proud mommy.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

'Tis the Season be inundated with catalogs.

I generally get about five or six catalogs per month from stores I actually patronize. Whenever I get a catalog I don't want, I immediately call their 800 number and ask them to stop it. But the holidays brings 'em all back out again in unwieldy masses.

Today is Halloween. A record NINE holiday catalogs are in my mailbox:
Wisteria (home decor/furnishings)
King of Prussia (mall)
L.L. Bean Kids
Plow and Hearth (home and garden decor/furnishings)
One Step Ahead (kids to 3yo)
Leaps and Bounds (3yo on up)
Maryland Square (shoes)
Company Kids (home decor/furnishings)
A Southern Season (gourmet foods and gifts)

Now, if you are someone like my mother-in-law, nine probably represents a slow day in your mail-order life. In the space of about six months, she could bale enough of her junk-mail to erect a skyscraper in her backyard. But knowing her, she wouldn't build it herself at all, she would simply order herself one. With cats painted on it. Personalized with her name and a saying about grandchildren. And I'm sure a music box would be stashed inside a secret porcelain door on the 12th floor. But enough about someone else, this blog is about ME.

I could call these catalogs' numbers and say get me off the lists. If I subsequently need to make a purchase (doubtful), I can easily find their websites. Here's what they'll say when I call, though: "We have removed your name from our database, Ms. Scrooge, but you may still receive catalogs for another six to eight weeks, since we print and distribute them in advance."

How convenient for them to keep them coming through the buyingist time of the year.

Friday, October 06, 2006

A Glass of the House Whine, Please

Sorry I've been out of touch, everybody. Here's what I've been up to:

The family room carpet is done, as is the painting. Now we have to reconfigure the furniture and move it back in. But some of it has to be cleaned first, for the same reason the carpet had to be replaced. Dogs who are five percent territorial, ninety-five percent lazy

So here's where they will now live. Yes, I'm letting them share my study. The flooring for the new dog condo and the neighboring powder room is finished. I love the rough brick look. However, we haven't finished painting these rooms. Then the powder room (on the L) needs a new light fixture, its vanity repainted and knob replaced (see said piece on the study floor, awaiting its turn).

We had the same carpet (in "artichoke"--hard to tell the color on the interwebs) put on both staircases and the top floor landing. Oh, I almost forgot--we still have to figure out WINDOW TREATMENTS for the lower level. This job will never end. But when it does, the roof comes next. We're thinking white with solar PV to tie into the power company grid. Anyone out there done this yet?

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Don't Push Me

Hey, Representative Mark Foley:
     Shut the fuck up.

Ahem. In the clear light of day, I see that my comment above, posted last night, was simplistic and vulgar. What I really would like to say to him is don't think you can move the focus and the guilt off of your own dirty self by announcing through your spokesman that you were abused as a teenager. Maybe you were. I am sorry if that is the case. But now is not the time.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Where has the thyme gone?

Why, I transplanted it from garden bed to pot, along with some parsley, a fairly large rosemary shrub, and my oregano. We harvested all the carrots (promptly ate them in two days), and then I broke down my three raised beds behind the patio. After raking out the dirt, I planted some Turf Alive!®, raked a little more, and mulched with straw. Now what we have is a big mess of wet straw. But if you look very closely, you can see wee blades of grass--and some very healthy wild onion shoots--testing the air. It was the perfect project for this stretch of perfect weather, just the sort of feeling in the air that convinces you that your favorite season is now fall.

Which is why it's so hard to report that I'm ticked off today. Christiana Hospital, where my two children were born, has the largest, most comprehensive maternity ward in the state. And, according to a letter to the editor I read yesterday (and I called the hospital to confirm), THEY HAVE STARTED CHARGING $15 A POP TO CHECK YOUR CHILD SAFETY SEATS. I had N's seat checked weeks before he was born, then I had his rechecked along with A's right before she was born. Free. Free free free. Just schedule on their available days and times, and, well, free. Keeps kids alive, you know. Was staffed by volunteers, you know. WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED? If this new (and PROHIBITIVELY high) charge prevents a child from surviving a crash, I may have a breakdown.

And another thing, but not so important. Why does Disney insist on putting inappropriate video advertisements before KIDS' videos like Rolie Polie Olie? The preview I am speaking of is forDisney's House of Villains. YES, thank you, I want my 3yo and 18mo to watch Cruella scream, Meleficent boil, and whatever-the-hell-that-underwater-witch's-name-is turn into a fire-breathing demon. The freakin videotape is for preschoolers, for Jebus sake! Why scare the shit out of them before they've even gotten to the "feature"?

I'm now off my rant stump.

A note: I started a new blog at Like I need that time sucker. I'm going to do all my writing about topics gustatory at--how originally titled, you will say--Eat and Drink. Hope you can pop in. And if you want an invite to make a vox blog, let me know. I think I have some to give away. I can't figure out a way to put in a hit tracker, so if you visit, please comment! I'd love to know who shows up.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Insomnia: A Small Price to Pay

Just needed to let everyone know that Anne Frasier is responsible for the dark circles under my eyes, the stoop in my shoulders. I haven't slept terribly well since I finished her newest novel PALE IMMORTAL. The images she conjured and the questions she left unanswered are yet rattling around in my head. I'm not sure I can wait another year for the sequel. (By the way, Anne, you'll want to ignore the title my husband suggested for the second installment: PALER, IMMORTALER.)

I would love to go back and reread the thing in a calmer state, but at the rate my eyes were tearing through the story, I unfortunately burned up the last half of the thing trying to get through the climax. Guess that means I'll have to buy some more copies. Hehe. The story is compelling, exciting, at times humorous, horrifying, and fascinating. A grand read.

I second Christa's pronouncement that atmosphere is Frasier's forte. I'm steering clear of Burlington, Iowa now that I know she used her hometown as the basis for Tuonela. No use getting myself mixed up in that mess, right?

Boys and girls, as the weather grows cooler and the days shorten toward Halloween, you'd be doing yourself a favor to brew a mug of tea, curl up under a wooly blanket, and crack a new copy of PALE IMMORTAL. But first, make sure you've stocked up on your sleep before you plunge into the darkness. It lingers long after the last page is turned.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

PALE IMMORTAL by Anne Frasier, on sale September 5

I highly recommend you buy Anne Frasier's newest novel, PALE I am halfway through it, but forced myself to put it down long enough to write this blog entry. And that was no small feat. Frasier has made the creepy world of this novel so utterly believable that broad daylight doesn't do much to lessen my goosebumps. I must keep reading to find out the answers--or do I really want to know those answers?? Here's the "official" synopsis:

Welcome to Tuonela, a sleepy Wisconsin town haunted by events of 100 years ago, when a man who may have been a vampire slaughtered the town's citizens and drank their blood. Now, another murderer is killing the most vulnerable...and draining their bodies of blood.

Evan Stroud lives in darkness. The pale prisoner of a strange disease that prevents him from ever seeing the light of day, he lives in tragic solitude, taunted for being a "vampire." When troubled teenager Graham Stroud appears on Evan's doorstep, claiming to be his long-lost son, Evan's uneasy solitude is shattered.

Having escaped Tuonela's mysterious pull for several years, Rachel Burton is now back in town, filling in as coroner. Even as she seeks to identify the killer, and uncover the source of the evil that seems to pervade the town, she is drawn to Evan by a power she's helpless to understand or resist....

As Graham is pulled deeper and deeper into Tuonela's depraved, vampire-obsessed underworld, Rachel and Evan team up to save him. But the force they are fighting is both powerful and elusive...and willing to take them to the very mouth of hell.

Now get a load of the cool video for PALE IMMORTAL:

Kinda makes you want to RUN out and buy it, doesn't it? Then do it!

Need more? Go to the PALE IMMORTAL blog and listen to the soundtrack and MP3s, read the first two chapters, and learn much, much more.

Now, I'll be getting back to the book. With all the lights on, of course. And maybe the TV too. And the radio.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Fall Follies

For academic geeks like me, every fall promises the beginning of a brilliant new year. Blank notebooks, earnest faces, new shoes, spotless chalkboards. However, because I am on teaching hiatus while at home with my 18mo and 3yo, my usual September yearnings are thus far unrequited. Quiet moments have lately found me reading and even--gasp--writing again, but this "semester," there are more pressing assignments I must complete.

  • We need a new roof. Yesterday.
  • The family room/powder room/study redo is underway. I've identified the flooring we will use and we've summoned the contractor. In the meantime, we're stripping wallpaper, painting, pulling up carpet and vinyl, cleaning and deodorizing floors, and finally resting our weary bones. We'll let the installer-dude do the rest of the job.
  • I'm kicking my roomie out. Little A has shacked up in her crib beside our bed for 18 months now--a stale arrangement, frankly, since I weaned her a couple months ago. So we've got to prepare the spare bedroom for N--who's been in the nursery too long--where he will move into his first adult-size twin bed. Then we will roll A into the nursery.
  • But first, my parents will be visiting next weekend.
  • Oh wait--Did I mention the gigantic branches that Ernesto brought down last night across our patio, garden, and fence? The branches themselves are the size of trees. We'll need to enlist some large muscles and a couple of chain saws to free one from where it's wedged in the lowest crotch of the tree. (Lowest being a relative term. It is an enormous maple tree.)

Wife, parent, homeowner. It's hard to fit in any other stuff at the moment. I think there's a handy calendar in my Trapper-Keeper, though. I'll try to pencil in some writing time for next week.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

What's on YOUR desk?

I see this on other writers' blogs from time to time, and I've yet to join in, mostly because I don't write at a desk per se, but on the kitchen table. But, because I am seriously procrastinating some editing I need to finish, I will detail for you...

What is on Mary's "desk," from left to right:
  • withered bush bean blossom
  • neon-green foam walrus sticker, its tail stuck to its own underside
  • black Uni-Ball Vision pen, micro tip, my favorite writing instrument
  • red and white checked cloth napkin
  • Baby Van Gogh DVD
  • pile of third birthday cards
  • Thomas the Tank Engine plastic track
  • telephone
  • my Dell laptop
  • Palm Pilot cradle
  • latest Writer's Digest (he's a she!)
  • pepper mill and salt shaker
  • junk mail to shred
  • digital camera
  • another telephone
  • husband's defunct cell phone
  • husband's G4 laptop
  • grocery/menu list
  • glass of water
  • empty decaf mug
  • Stepford Wives (Oz remake) DVD
  • today's News Journal
  • coupon carrier
  • Garden Design issue from May/June 2004
  • rice sock heating pad (I'm tending to a neck spasm)

I'd love to hear from you guys on this, and I know some of you have done it already. Even if you're not a writer, I'd like folks to post a comment with a link to what's on YOUR desk!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

The Skinflintstones: Grocery Challenge, Final Episode

Well, August 8 was the final day of my month-long attempt to lower the grocery bill by purchasing inexpensive yet healthy and et'ical foods. We have a good deal of home improving to do in the next year or two, and saving money will for a while be high on my list of priorities. If you're just now tuning in, I (temporarily?) gave up my career as an English professor to stay home with my two babies, now 17m and 3y. No plans yet to return. Before I left the profession, we didn't spend any time worrying about money. Now, we must attend to our bank account. Despite this concern, our lifestyle is one we believe in.

Sooooo, how'd we do, Mary?
Grand total for the month: $335.
I have a nagging feeling that this is probably close to what I usually spend when I'm just shopping normally--following the fliers, using coupons, thinking healthy. Was it too much trouble for too little payoff? I'll have to think about that. Just a reminder that my running total only covered food items, not household or paper goods. Now something that WAS different, and that you can't see in the grocery tally, is that we ate out far less than usual during this period. I worked hard to pack lunches for D, and pushed through on particularly tough afternoons to make dinner for everyone when it would've been easier--and much more costly--to get take out. But I survived. And we were healthier for it, I'm sure.

Starting on September 1, I am going to start the experiment again, but this time, pull the belt a bit tighter. I won't follow it on the blog, but I may give an update halfway through for kicks.

And finally, a correction. I noted on my Be A Local Yokel blog entry that Delaware had seen the last of its market strawberries. But lucky for me, I was mistaken. Highland Orchards has a crop of late summer berries out right now that are petite and orangey-red. So sweet-looking, but I can't speak to their taste because, well, I didn't want to spend the money to buy a carton. So, huzzah to the strawberries of summer--long may they produce!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

New Ultrasound Study

I just read this article on Ultrasound scans can affect brain development.

I do not doubt that sonograms do things to fetuses that we don't know about--we may never know about in our lifetime. Lord knows I had enough sound waves shot through me to cook little A in my womb juice. All because I was 40 and pregnant, and no one wanted to be sued for malpractice by a geriatric parent.

Here's a question that the study raised in my mind: Is there a connection between the growing number of sonograms done on fetuses and the rise in autism diagnoses?

Friday, August 04, 2006

Skinflintstones--Bringing it Up to Date, Day 26

Well, I tallied the bills from the past two and a half weeks. I've basically kept shopping the sales, stocking up on non-perishable or freezable loss leaders, and only buying the necessities instead of luxury items. The walnut substitution in the pesto was OH SO AWESOME, by the way. I put it on pizza one night and dressed up some spaghetti and shrimp with it another. For dinners we've just been eating what's around the house, but DANG we go through sandwich bread quickly around here. When I find it for less than $2/loaf, I stock up and freeze . I could spend more in gas and visit the thrift store twenty minutes away, but what's the trade-off there?

My thinking on eggs: We eat a lot. I'm going to stop buying them at the Superfresh. I'm sick about the poultry industry in the U.S., disgusted at the poor conditions for the laying hens and the inferior nutritional quality their feed creates in the eggs, and I've decided it is worth it to pay extra for the on-site free-range eggs from Highland Orchards. I don't know what they feed their hens--I will ask next time I go--but I do know they can range the farmland there. The hens and the eggs are healthier. It really is worth it to me.

Interesting fact: Both the Rite Aid pharmacy (24hr) and the Target sell a gallon of whole milk for $2.89, $1 less than does my grocery store.

So, add to the $63 from Day 7,
7/16: $30 (party food minus cake, which my parents paid for)
7/20: $22
7/23: $64
7/27: $27
7/28: $3
7/30: $6
8/1: $33

Running Grocery Total for Day 26: $248
I'm doing pretty well considering houseguests, a birthday party, and two emergency caffeine-detoxifying, medicinal dark chocolate candybars ($5). Remember that I'm not counting paper goods. I am trying hard to keep those costs down, too, but I'll work more diligently on that next month. Oh, and in the interest of full disclosure, D had to buy lunch for himself today, I bought the babysitter and me some subs for lunch last week, and D brought home a take-out pizza the other night. These are three hits to the wallet that I guess I am willing to live with. If we were hand to mouth, though, we wouldn't let them happen, obviously. (Not to mention we couldn't afford a babysitter.) We are a terribly lucky family to have what we have. Praise be.

I just dug up, oh, about a dozen potatoes from the potato patch. And how many seed potato chunks did I plant back in early spring? Oh, about a dozen. This is such a non-payoff that I don't see myself trying potatoes as a food crop anytime soon. It was purely an experiment this year--my first attempt. I didn't treat them very well, and as you just read, they are returning the favor. Digging up measly potatoes is no one's idea of fun. Live and learn, right?

We are eating lots of things from the garden, pantry, and freezer still. Black beans and rice, pasta y fagioli soup, tonight will be green bean and tofu stir fry with rice with potstickers and some miso soup. I think my husband is getting a little tired of cheese sandwiches for work lunches, but we lately seem to eat all of whatever I make for dinner the night before. I guess he's so hungry from his puny lunch that he eats his usual dinner helping plus lunch leftovers at the same time. Also, the kids are eating more and more, which I need to get into my thick head. I've already learned to double the amount of pasta I cook at once. They are crazy for any sort of noodle, but I can't give N any sauce with tomatoes in it because it makes his eczema worse.

That's it from the hot country.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Be a Local Yokel

Please read this essay by Jim Scharplaz, entitled "Biting the Land that Feeds Us."

Now go seek out your local farmers' market, family farm, or orchard stand. Buy from them first. Start thinking about where to put a little garden next spring, and pick one or two vegetables you'd like to grow. Let your kids help you! My 3yo ate a cherry tomato and some parsley tonight, with a tough game face. He was attracted because he knew they were out of our garden. If they'd come from the store, he wouldn't have thought twice about waving them away.

If you have to buy supermarket stuff, as I do sometimes, at least try to buy what is in season in your neck of the woods. Delaware's strawberries are long gone this year. But that's okay! There are plenty of other fruits we can enjoy grown not two miles from here.

Finally, educate yourself about the consumption habits of your country. If you live in the same country I do, the U.S., you are part of a miniscule 5% of the world's population, using 20% of its resources. Lots of those resources ultimately go toward growing, harvesting, and delivering to us the food we have become accustomed to eating. In unhealthy quantities, I might add.

I'm by no means perfect, but if you'll join me in making a few small changes, then maybe we can lighten the burden our kids are surely going to suffer under.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Just When I Thought I Had it All Figured Out

I discover today I've been drinking caffeinated coffee. All day long. Every day. For two weeks.

It's all falling into place. No wonder I haven't been getting to bed until 1am.

And then haven't been sleeping. Thank goodness I weaned our daughter a few weeks ago.

Damn the Target for carrying a brand I'd never seen in a huge size at a great price. Behold:


Sunday, July 23, 2006

Update from the Kitchen

One houseguest, third birthday party, husband's protracted business trip, major power outage, and tree explosion later, I'm back. I've made about three grocery runs since last we talked, including one to replace stuff I had to throw out when the fridge got too warm for comfort. I will tally the results of those visits in a day or two.

We're still doing a good job of living out of the pantry and freezer, though, with the addition of produce and dairy. I have been taking advantage of some loss leaders at the Superfresh to restock (e.g., butter and cheese to freeze, Snapple for D's lunches, canned olives, tuna).

Just a few notes:
  • Potatoes baked in the microwave (russet and sweet) really don't taste any different to me than those cooked for an hour in a hot oven. The "experts" always complain that the texture of oven-baked is so much more delightfully fluffy. I've never oven-baked a fluffy potato in my life, and I've tried every recommended method I've come across. What I like most about baked potatoes--the potato taste, the salt, and the butter--can be had from four minutes in the micro. (Be sure to poke it with a fork a few times unless you like cleaning baked-on potato crud from the walls of your oven.

  • My salad days are a-changing. I have very few lettuce plants still producing, but the tomatoes and cucumbers are just now getting started. I should be letting go of salad greens and moving on to marinated and fresh vegetable salads at this point. However, I purchased some Romaine today for $1.99/lb, and probably shouldn't have. I have a taste for Salade Nicoise and couldn't resist. I didn't have time to make it tonight, so we had a Caesar salad instead, but I'll do the whole Nicoise shmear tomorrow.

  • My 16mo daughter likes Romaine lettuce with Caesar dressing. Very strange indeed. She likes it so much she learned to say "salad" after just one bite.

  • It's a monetary blessing that my grocery store is out of pine nuts. As I am burdened with a ton of fresh basil (poor me), I will give walnuts a try for my pesto. I already have some in the freezer, and this recipe looks darn good. I'm also going to throw caution to the wind and use the trusty green can of Kraft grated Parmesan that's on my shelf rather than spring for pricey chunks of Parmesan and Romano.
  • Sunday, July 16, 2006

    Skinflintstones, Day 7

    One week is behind us. How'd we do?

    Running Total: $63

    Shopping Today: Had to get basic menu prep stuff for our lovely meals for the houseguest this weekend, plus party food for my son's third birthday tomorrow. At Target, I spent $9, with sales and coupons, on two boxes Cheerios, two boxes Post Honey Bunches of O's, and two boxes of MSF "sausage" and chik patties. At Superfresh, I splurged a bit for our dinner tonight, plus I did some stocking up on sale items: French bread, two loaves of sandwich bread, Hamburger buns, potato chips, frozen peas, feta, sour cream, sushi, gal of whole milk ($3.89--$.50 more than the other grocery store!), and marinated artichoke hearts, all for $25.

  • breakfast: cereal, bananas, milk, juice
  • lunch: leftovers, sandwich, milk
  • dinner: Greek pasta, grilled salmon burgers, fish sticks, milk, white wine, salad w/cucumber, tomato, and avocado
  • dessert: ice cream sandwiches

  • Thoughts:
    tomorrow I need to get a fruit platter ($$) and lemonade along with the Thomas the Tank Engine cake from the Shopright. If I had a few spare moments, I could buy whole fruit from the orchard and cut it myself (although I will add their fresh peaches to the platter). I just don't have the dang time!! That is often the trade-off, no? How much is YOUR time worth?

    Friday, July 14, 2006

    Skinflintstones, Day 6

    Getting tired of this yet?

    Running Total: $29

    Purchased Today: Went to Highland Orchards and picked up some produce. Broccoli crowns, $1.89/lb; white peaches, $1.89/lb; blueberries, $2.99/qu; lovely canteloupe, $1.49. Total was $13. (I always round to the nearest dollar for my totals.) Produce there is almost always cheaper than at the corporate supermarket (Superfresh). And even when it's not, I have no qualms about supporting my long-standing neighborhood farmers over the conglomerate who sells produce from who-knows-where.

  • breakfast: cereal, soy/milk, NutriGrain bars, bananas
  • lunch: sandwiches, leftovers, apple, pudding
  • snack: graham crackers, milk, apple juice
  • dinner: lasagna, bread, broccoli, canteloupe, red wine, milk
  • dessert: blueberry cobbler, ice cream, ice cream sandwich

  • Thoughts:
    Didn't have time to go to the grocery store today, just the orchard. I plan to go to the Superfresh and the Target tomorrow to get some food for our meals and for the birthday party Sunday. I'd love to visit Trader Joe's, but I know I will spend money on things we don't need. Their stuff is reasonably priced, but most of what I buy from them are luxury items.

    Skinflintstones, Day 5

    Running total: $16

    Shopping: Had to get a few things at the Superfresh, so I stocked up a tiny bit for the month by shopping the loss leaders. Purchased tomatoes for $.99/lb, loose garlic, 18 eggs for $1.50, 2 boxes Kraft Mac&Cheeses for $.60/box, 2 boxes of store-brand round waffles (froz) for $1/box, and a bag of pretzels for $2. Grand total of $8. I thought I did pretty well.

  • breakfast: cereal, fruit cocktail, juice, milk, soymilk, banana
  • lunch: MSF garden veggie patties and buns, sandwiches, applesauce, fruit cocktail, juice, milk
  • dinner: cheese tortellini Alfredo w/mushrooms, green beans, salad w/tomato, rolls, mac&cheese
  • dessert: banana, waffles and syrup

  • Thoughts:
    Two important things in terms of expenditures this month: a) my brother-in-law arrives tomorrow for three days, and b) my son's third birthday is Sunday, for which we are having a party for approx. 15 people. I've decided that I will put his birthday groceries into the month's tally, but not his cake ($19). The big shopping trip will be tomorrow. I will not skimp on my guests, but I will try to find good food at the best prices. Wish me luck.

    Wednesday, July 12, 2006

    Skinflintstones, Day 4

    Running Total: $8

    Out of garlic and eggs. Making lasagna for our houseguest (one of D's older brothers) Friday night, so these are necessary very soon. Plus, I imagine we'll be using eggs for breakfast while he's here.

  • breakfast: milk, cereal, Nutrigrain bar, soymilk, bananas, English muffins
  • lunch: sandwiches, apples, fruit cocktail, frozen pizza, milk
  • snacks: graham crackers and milk
  • dinner: breakfast! scrambled cheese eggs, English muffins and jam, MSF sausages, more fruit cocktail, apple juice
  • dessert: honey roasted peanuts

  • Thoughts:
    Alphabeter reminded me that if I didn't have these two toddling tornadoes, I would have time to make my own things more cheaply from scratch. Those were the days...

    Lands' End of the Road

    I am embarrassingly fond of Lands' End. Am in fact wearing a pair of their jeans; I own at least three, probably four. Maybe half my casual wardrobe and much of my work wardrobe bear their label. I've bought from them for about twenty years, until two hours ago, when I was pretty dissappointed to see this inside the latest LE Kids Catalog (in fold-out card form):
    The Lands' End "Squish-a-Bug" shoe-size chart.

    Can someone explain how a company that has such a wonderful, classic, outdoorsy, level-headed reputation decides to promote kids killing bugs for fun?? Yeah, sure, it's a joke. But it's senseless, you know? It reads, in part, "Go on kids, squish the bug!" hahahaha. just closed the wallet.

    I also just sent them an email detailing my disappointment. I'll let you know if they write back. And hey, if you're disappointed too, it wouldn't hurt to let them know.

    Go to their customer service form and write your comments. When you click on submit, if you have my experience, you will get an error screen. Sadly, another strike. You'll know in a few minutes, though, if they've received it, because they will write you back with a tracking number. I sent multiple forms of the same comments because I thought it was not going through due to the error screen. But they received at least two of these, come to find out. Oh well, I guess they'll see how much this "bugged" me. Roll those eyes, people.

    Tuesday, July 11, 2006

    Skinflintstones, Day 3

    Running Total: $8

  • breakfast: cereal, bananas, milk/soymilk
  • lunches: sandwiches, leftover "Mexican lasagna," leftover vegetables, scrambled cheese eggs, English muffin, milk, applesauce, apple, snack pack pudding (lunch items look ridiculous all together, but I send D to work with a packed lunch that is very different from ours at home)
  • snacks: blueberries, graham cracker squares, milk
  • dinner: coconut milk curry w/mushrooms, peas, strips of MSF Chik Patties, and golden raisins over brown rice; corn on the cob; fish sticks; rolls; milk--always the milk for the kiddos
  • dessert: honey roasted peanuts, red wine

  • I took it easy on the decaf today--only three cups.

    I'm cooking and feeding us like we are not skimping, primarily because I have a well-stocked house and I'd already planned the menus before I got this hair-brained idea. I suppose once we start running low on something I will begin to get creative. I also suppose I'd better make some kind of rule for myself like, "I will only buy groceries that are necessary for our continued good health, food that I can't make at home." (And thanks for the cereal bar idea, Alphabeter!)

    Don't Miss Ya, Wouldn't Wanna Kiss Ya

    Tonight I was cleaning my study in preparation for the painting and reflooring, and I found print-outs of two emails from a student in an online American literature class I taught four years ago. They arrived within five minutes of each other, about an hour after I posted the semester's grades. Not only did the student not sign his or her name, but s/he wrote the wrong course title in the subject line.

    So, for your amusement, I type verbatim:

    I hope that you checked my very good, because I never worked so hard on a paper and get such a bad grade. Thank you for making me never want to take a another online class, I had Three people pro-read my work and two are engish majors.

    Dear, Pro, [My last name].
    Please don't take this the wrong way, but there is no way I should recieve nothing lower than a "C" it's a shame, shame on your teaching skills.

    I guess what really got my goat about these emails is that this person--a college student, no less--didn't know that if you capitalize "Three," you must also capitalize "Two." Good God! No wonder I failed him. Or her.

    Monday, July 10, 2006

    Skinflintstones, Day 2

    Running Grocery Total: $8

  • breakfast: cereal, NutriGrain bars, milk, bananas
  • lunches: leftovers from last night's dinner, cheese toast
  • snacks: snack-size packages of Teddy Grahams (bad choice--bought the 15-pack at Target specifically for outings, not for home snacks)
  • dinner: spaghetti and canned white clam sauce, peas, Trader Joe's roasted balsamic vegetables (froz), rolls, salad w/tomato and black olives
  • dessert: graham cracker squares and peanut butter, red wine

  • Thoughts:
    I drink a lot of decaf. It isn't cheap. Maybe I could cut down.

    Bought some bananas at $.50/pound, some apples at $1.49/pound, and a gallon of whole milk ($3.39). Spent about $8.

    Sunday, July 09, 2006

    Meet the Skinflintstones, Day 1

    My mission:
    To spend as little as possible on groceries (food items only) for the next month (July 9 to August 8). At the end of the month, I'll tally my expenses for future reference. I estimate that right now, I spend approximately $400/month on our food, which is way, way too much.

    Not knowing I would launch into this project, I shopped yesterday at Superfresh, my overpriced neighborhood grocery store (I shop the sales AND use coupons), and picked up some fruits and veggies at Highland Orchards about two miles away. So, while I am relatively well-stocked in terms of pantry, freezer, and fridge, I will be trying my best to help us live off our stores for the next month. It's me, my husband, my almost 3yo, and my 15mo. Let's see how we do!

    Today's menu:
  • breakfast was cereal, milk/soymilk, bananas, two cereal bars

  • lunch was sandwiches of various sorts; we also finished last night's leftovers (tofu and green bean Thai stir fry w/brown rice)

  • dinner was Mexican lasagna (beans, corn, tomatoes and tomato sauce, spices, fake meat crumbles, layered with corn tortillas and jack/cheddar cheese), steamed zucchini and onions, and salad w/avocado. Fresh peach and blueberry cobbler for desert. Kids had graham crackers.

  • Running low on:
    whole milk for the kiddies (D drinks soymilk); only four bananas left

    So thankful I do not have to economize in order to make rent or pay medical bills. Replacing the family room floor seems quite luxurious by comparison. Until you witness the heinous odor assault down there. D and I have almost decided how to proceed with flooring, but in the meantime he is painting the walls to get us moving on the redo. He rocks.

    Monday, July 03, 2006

    Brighter Days

    Well, the flooding rains are gone. (For now?) We celebrated by steam cleaning the nasty half of the family room carpet, but to no avail. It still stinks. I know conventional wisdom says steam cleaning won't do a thing for pet odors if they have penetrated the pad, but we thought we could do some good. Nay. I am more convinced than ever that we need to get a hard-surface floor down there, after we trash the fifteen year-old blinds, clean and paint the walls, and tear out the mess that we walk on daily. Then we have to scrub the cement floor and baseboards with some odor annihilator; no small task, I imagine. After all those preparations, we can install (or can we afford to have a professional do it?) a wood laminate floor, I guess, although that laminate stone is awfully pretty. Awfully expensive, too. "Laminate." That is a funny word when you say it a lot.

    My annual July 4th peach pie is baking in the oven. I am incredibly lucky to live a hop and a skip away from Highland Orchards, a long-running family farm that isn't officially organic but shuns pesticides and chemical use. Their peaches are now coming in and I selected white ones this year. I've only used the yellow ones in the past. I follow the two-crust peach pie recipe out of How To Cook Everything (although I'm hesitant to plug the guy since he dissed Julia Child). The following will be our little secret: I use Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust. P.C. (pre-children), I would've donned my dark glasses to buy a small tub of Crisco (gasp) for the homemade crust.

    Yesterday (Sunday), D, N, AC, and I had an outing to the Kalmar Nyckel Ship Yard, which hosted "A Gathering of Tall Ships." We toured the Kalmar Nyckel, our own tall-ship-in-residence here in Wilmington. There were other ships there, too, plus some pirates, live music, and vendors. An all around fun day.

    D works today, but is off tomorrow for the fourth. We don't have much planned except that D will take N to his first fireworks show, on the riverfront (near the Ship Yard, in fact). AC will be in bed already (we hope), so I will stay here with her and the dogs.

    I suppose that's our news of late. Nothing fancy, nothing too exciting, but I think that's good for me just now.

    Tuesday, June 27, 2006

    Rainy Days and Tuesdays

    We aren't flooded yet, but it may just be a matter of time. The humidity is getting to me as much as the constant rain. Our house smells like we've been baking--but nothing you'd want to eat. More like a casserole of smelly sneakers, dog illnesses, and soiled diapers. Can't open the windows, don't want to crank the AC to 65 degrees to drive out some of the funk. We'll just avoid having guests for a while.

    Not a great day today. Come to find out at a dr's appt that my 15mo daughter is not the strapping 23 pounds I assumed. She isn't even 22. She's somewhere in the 30th percentile for weight, and close to 95th for height. She saw the surgeon today to recheck her umbilical hernia and to see about a lump behind her ear. Those look fine for now, but the doc noted she was a little skinny. AC's 15m checkup at the pediatrician is a week from Thursday, so we will have a talk then about how in the world to get this kid to eat more. For lunch today, all I could get in her were two bites of almond butter and jelly sandwich, three bites of pizza crust, and about five sips of whole milk.

    And I came home to two piles of diarrhea from W, my NON-hemorraghic gastroenteritis-victim-dog (that was R a couple weeks ago). It's moments like that that make me not want to have our family room recarpeted or refloored at all. Why not let the dogs keep being sick on the rust shag carpet from 1978 until we eventually move? Yes it is hideous. Yes it stinks, especially on damp days. But if we keep it steam cleaned regularly, maybe we can tough it out. These eleven-year-old dogs can't live forever nor will we be in this house much longer, right?

    AC and I are going to try to visit a few furniture stores this afternoon before we pick up N from daycare. We are moving him into the guest room and will need at least one kid friendly dresser and a few safe lamps for him. I'm wondering if we need to clean and rebind the fraying Oriental rug that is in there, since he is all for pulling at loose strings around the edges of things. I'm sure that will set us back a few hundred at least.

    I could continue a sort of update on all things me that have transpired since my last post, but it probably bore you and surely depress you. I'm just full of sunshine today, aren't I? What I need to do is get off the intarweb, put my contacts on, grab AC, and look at more furniture. I'm outie.

    Thursday, June 15, 2006

    I'm back, but not for long

    We returned from vacation Sunday night and I just haven't stopped running since. R fell ill the same day we got him and W back from the boarding kennel (Monday), and that has been a bit consuming, as has the visit of a very special friend and her family who stopped over last night. So, now, I'm going to make a quick update and then get the heck out of internet land for a little longer until I can create a little more peace around here. And there's still the looming mountain of laundry to be dealt with.

    The week in Jekyll Island was a dream, considering I was sick as a dog when we left the house for our two-day drive down. I was functioning again by about the second day at the beach, and a grand week it was.

    The kids enjoyed everything, I mean everything about the vacation. N even decided it would be a hoot to use the potty all the time. All kinds of potties (even tried a public urinal once), and all kinds of positions. I witnessed his first stand-up pee, and he's still keen for that even now that we're home. He stayed dry nearly the whole time except upon wake up. We won't talk about his desire to poop only in his pullup, though. Babysteps, right?

    A was her usual daredevil monkeygirl self, hurtling her 23 pound frame headlong into the waves before anyone could catch her. She spent a great deal of time climbing onto and off of the chairs around the house, and continues that new hobby here at home. Last night, she went head first off the couch during one of her acrobatic routines. Miraculously, her skull landed on N's thigh before she hit the wood floor.

    D and I had some couples time, thanks to my folks and my sister's family, who agreed to pitch in with some babysitting. We rode horses on the beach one night at sunset, and enjoyed a nice seafood dinner at SeaJay's followed by an oceanfront stroll another. D's parents drove up from FLA to stay overnight one night and visit with us and the grandbabies.

    We were severely limited in our contact with the outside world. This, I loved. In fact, I am pining for it now. I really don't have much motivation or desire to be as "plugged in" as I was before we left, so for now, I won't be so active on my own blog, or reading and commenting on others. It's not that I don't love ya, but my heart is somewhere else right now, somewhere closer to home.

    So keep on doing whatcha do best, friends, and I'll be thinking about you all until we meet again.

    The laundry calls...

    Tuesday, May 30, 2006

    Peace, Out for a Fortnight

    Getting geared up for the big road trip with the husband and kiddos. We're going to Jekyll Island, Georgia, for a week with the rest of ma famille. This will be my last post for at least a couple of weeks, because I'm about to start packing in earnest (leaving in a bit over 48 hours). It will take us two days to drive down, we'll stay a week, and then there are the two days back up, and--boy--that's a lotta driving and time away from home!

    This may be the big mistake of the summer, but I'm not taking my laptop. I'm not even taking a hard copy my novel-in-progress. I will take a notebook and some pens and pencils, but I'm not expecting anything to make its way to the paper unless the brownies also do fiction. (Did anyone else's Brownie Handbook have the story of the brownies who came in to the cobbler's workshop at night and helped him finish up his shoemaking? Or clean up his mess? Or something? They've probably edited that one out in favor of some story about more realistic role models like Audrey Hepburn or Serena Williams. Did I say realistic? I digress...)

    So I'm not planning on doing any writing at the beach. Reading? Yes.

    I'm taking Julia Spencer-Fleming's In the Bleak Midwinter, Michael Connelly's The Closers, Allison Brennan's The Prey, and Cathy Pickens' Southern Fried. Lord knows, what with my plans to tour the historic district, go horseback riding, bicycle with D, cook, eat, and shop, I may not have any time to read. Yes, there's always that lolling on the beach thing. I've heard that's very relaxing for people who aren't chasing a 14mo perpetual motion machine and an almost 3yo imp. Most likely, the books will be devoured on the ride to and fro, and in bed late at night.

    Gotta go lay out the kids' outfits, so I guess this is goodbye for a bit. I will say to you, as my parents used to tell me when they left me to my own devices, "Keep your nose clean."

    I never really understood it. Is it snot-related?

    p.s. The dogs weren't invited, sadly. So they will be relocated to a deluxe compound with heated floors and four-legged neighbors whose butts they can sniff with abandon. Hmmm--maybe that's what it means.

    Wednesday, May 24, 2006

    Food Love

    This is one of my favorite products. You add milk and butter, and--voilá--something a hell of a lot better than your typical bland Alfredo sauce. It is tangy (has blue cheese in the mix) and garlicky to boot. So now you know why I am sorry to report that my #*&($ supermarket hasn't carried it for months now. If I had a minute, I'd ask them what's up. As it is, I will just sulk. I tried Knorr's Alfredo sauce mix in its absence, and my mouth fell asleep in the middle of the meal. I hate the jarred Alfredos, too. I need something with some zip.

    So while I'm complaining about food, my favorite baked beans are on sale this week, and my flavor is the only one they are out of. Standing in line for a rain check was out of the question today, sadly.

    And because I am nothing if not loyal, I have to share one of my most favoritest products ever with you: Heart-Smart Bisquick (used to be called Low-Fat Bisquick). I use this stuff at least once a week for anything from "quiche" to cornbread to, yes, biscuits. There's not much it can't do--I can make you a three piece suit out of Bisquick if you give me enough lead time. Is it being Southern that makes me a devotée? Or just being addicted to baked goods? Someday I'll share my raspberry-apricot cream cheese Danish recipe with you. It's from the '70s and thus for full-fat Bisquick, but I've made it with Neufchatel and low-fat Bisquick, and it is still teerifique.

    In case you were wondering, these three will never appear together at dinner chez moi. Maybe the beans and the Bisquick in some proximity, but the McCormick mix? Naaaa. I have some standards.

    Wednesday, May 17, 2006

    Mother's Day Weekend

    Why is Mother's Day singular possessive? Isn't it a day for all mothers? It's not my mother's day. It is also my day, and a day for lots of otherses' motherses. I will stop this now, and go on to give you some highlights of my nice weekend.

    Saturday I went to Andrew Wyeth: Memory and Magic, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Really an excellent exhibit chronicling his looooong career, explaining his personal symbology, and--new to me--showing how wonderfully he fit(s) into the Surrealist movement of the 30s and 40s. We saw the Dali exhibit at the PMofA last spring, and the connections I was making as I viewed this one were stunning.

    I especially enjoyed seeing the local scenery in Wyeth's works (he spent much of his life about twenty minutes from my house). But try not to think of him as a painter of quaint landscapes. For me, the exhibit was kind of like my "rediscovery" of Robert Frost. Yes, I knew his poems were inscribed into the American psyche. But I figured they were all convenient captions to Currier and Ives prints (nevermind the historic disconnect!). But NO. Once I was ready to revisit them (in graduate school), I realized these were deeper, darker poems than anyone had cared to point out to me before. Same holds true for the masterpieces of Andrew Wyeth. Yes, it's a pair of fishing boots. Quaint Maine lobster hokum, right? But NO. It's a portrait of Wyeth's friend and local ne'er-do-well, Walt Anderson. It's a portrait of his friend, but it's just his boots. The same way the painting of two doors is a portrait of his neighbors Alvaro and Christina Olson (the blind subject of Christina's World--probably his most famous work).

    I've rambled enough about the exhibit. Obviously, I thought it was great. So if you're in the area, please take a peek.

    That was Saturday. So how was my Mother's'es' Day on Sunday? Just wonderful. D let me sleep in. He supplied the family with my beloved Dunkin Donuts for breakfast. He watched the kids when I wanted to go poke around at the nursery and the hardware store. We worked in the yard. We took a walk. We played. We got takeout for dinner. IT WAS FANTASTIC. It's why I got into the business, friends: 'Cause one day a year, they let you do whatever the hell you want. ;)

    N was all about donuts at breakfast. We stopped him at one and a half, but that didn't mean he couldn't keep asking, right? When we told him that breakfast was over and he needed to quit asking for more donuts and go play with his sister, he replied, "Can I play with a donut?" I almost let him, just for being so damned entertaining.

    Thursday, May 11, 2006

    Home Alone. But Not.

    So my husband is sitting next to an empty seat at Don Giovanni and I'm stuck here listening to the decidedly anti-classical wailings of "Daaaaaddy, Daaaaaady, Daaaaady" from my son's bedroom. I've been trying to put him to bed for the last hour and a half with no success. I'd dearly like to be in that empty seat, wearing the outfit I had to take off two hours ago when it became obvious the babysitter was a no-show. She called an hour after she was due with profuse and tearful apologies as she sped to our house. I told her to turn around--that I had sent D so at least one of us could be on time and see the whole thing--and that she was forgiven. It sucks that she's just a typical forgetful seventeen year old, cause I totally want to scream at someone, but she doesn't deserve my wrath. She feels bad enough already.

    sigh. Had been looking forward to this show for months. The current aria chez moi is "'Ant more water. 'Ant more water. 'Ant more water, Mom." He's kind of got a rhythm going.

    Going to be a sucky night.

    Sunday, May 07, 2006

    Date Night Report

    And a grand Friday night it was, my friends. The weekend started off with a gigantic bang when D and I, starstruck and gape-jawed in the third row of the DuPont Theatre, beheld Joyce Carol Oates and Salman Rushdie for nearly two hours. My fellow blogger Lisa Coutant interviewed me about the evening, and you can find my answers to her questions here. Thanks, Lisa, for giving me a spot on your entertaining and informative blog.

    While you can read the highlights of the panel discussion on Lisa's blog, the rest of the evening was not without merit, as I shall describe forthwith. I decided on a whim that we should have a drink at a restaurant bar, something we have done too seldom since starting our little family almost three years ago. Did I say "too seldom?" I meant "never." So, we capped the brilliant date with champagne martinis* and a chocolate lava souffle at Deep Blue Bar and Grill, while listening to live music and occasionally checking on what we astutely predicted would become a nip-slip of epic proportions. The victim was not I, thank goodness, but a well-endowed blonde across the bar whose right breast for ten minutes doggedly worked itself free from its tiny triangular bond.

    And on that illuminating note, I shall end my recounting. Would that all spousal date nights were so entertaining.

    *"Martini" is a term that is these days bandied about far too much for my liking, especially when certain drinks so labelled have as little resemblence to the actual article as Jessica Simpson does to Grace Kelly. But I am happy to report that a champagne martini turned out to be not such a bad thing. Delightful, in fact.

    Tuesday, May 02, 2006

    Belated Thank You to Mr. Philly

    Duane Swierczynski is a successful editor-in-chief, blogger, and author of many works of fiction and nonfiction--his latest is THE WHEELMAN, so go buy it. He's also a great ambassador for the city of brotherly love, Philadelphia. I'd like to give a public shout-out to Duane for recommendations on parking and dinner in Chinatown. We met some out-of-town friends there a few weeks ago and tremendously enjoyed our repast at the Malaysian eatery, Penang. After fattening ourselves up on squid, duck, shrimp, and vegetables that were sauced, noodled, riced, and pancaked every which way but NOT, we waddled down to Walnut Street and finished out the evening with some local brews at Moriarty's.

    Wednesday, April 26, 2006

    Accessory to a Will

    Emeraldcite, I thought of you when I found this by pure accident: suggests several accessories you may want to purchase along with your Quicken Willmaker Plus 2005 software. Scroll down on the page to see what you might not be able to live without!

    Tuesday, April 18, 2006

    Painful Rewrites

    I'm revisiting the beginning of my Work-In-Progress before I write any further (I'm almost halfway done with the first draft of the novel). Chapter 3, I find, is devoid of any meaningful conflict; it's mostly just the introduction of a couple new characters, a few clues, a few more steps forward in the plot, and some witty banter. Yawn. I think I just fell asleep.

    So, I'm doing something weird. For me, anyway. From a link provided by the ever-helpful and encouraging Karin Gillespie, who writes a killer blog, I am rewriting chapter three the Ingermanson cum Swain way.

    It is a strange and wondrous activity. And painful, really, since I have such limited time to write. It's like when you fall down in some dirt and gravel and cut yourself, and the cut is really full of crap, and you know you've got to clean it out so it can heal up right, but you know it's gonna hurt, so you just grit your teeth, and clean that sucker up. Okay, so I think I just compared my novel to a wound. Hmmm. I'm gonna let that one stand for now.

    Anyhoo, Ingermanson's article outlines one wild way of designing and executing scenes. I'm up for it. We'll see where it takes me. I've already created a new character who is temporarily named HOT BABE DANGER STRIPPER. With a character like that, how can conflict be far away?

    Wednesday, April 12, 2006

    Finally: Real Customer Service

    FINALLY, I can without hesitation say that a medical institution has gained my full confidence. And it's for ANIMALS. The Veterinary Referral Center in Malvern, Pennsylvania has a wonderful orthopedic surgeon in one Dr. Franczuszki. He is not only knowledgable and practiced at what he does (which includes repairing little doggies' kneecaps), he is kind and understanding. His patience and friendliness also extend to the shrieking toddlers accompanying his clients to their appointments. He is almost always on time to the appointment, too. I know two other people who have had Dr. Franczuski operate on their dogs, and both were extremely pleased at the outcome. So it's not just me.

    Yes, so the surgeon is wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. But I can't not talk about THE STAFF!!! The receptionists, the techs, and whoever else has helped W and me, my GOSH they're great. They allow me to call from my cell phone in the parking lot and wait in the car until someone is ready to see W; they help me get W from car to reception area while I juggle my kids; they are unfailingly POLITE and RESPONSIBLE and INFORMATIVE and CARING. When someone failed to call me back yesterday afternoon in response to a message I left, they apologized profusely this morning. How often do you get that? There is a play area for children, the facility is squeaky clean, there are good magazines and people restrooms, I could go on and on. Even their telephone hold message is comforting. I LOVE THEM! When my knee gets bad enough for surgery, I'm going to put on a dog suit and go there instead of to the *&#$%^ people hospital.

    I will calm down now and end by saying that if you live anywhere near southern Pennsylvania and your dog has orthopedic problems, you will not regret visiting Dr. Franczuszki and the Veterinary Referral Center. We drive almost an hour each way, and it is well worth the trouble for my peace of mind. I only regret that they will not give me a discount for the previous advertisement. Well, I don't even regret that. They deserve the good publicity. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to get in touch with me.

    Monday, April 10, 2006

    Member of the Family

    My dog needs physical therapy.

    Those are five expensive words. And silly words, to many of you.

    But when I've needed PT, I've put in the money and the time. When my son needed PT and OT, you can bet your bottom dollar we took him until they told us he could be released. Dear W has been a member of my family for almost ten years, longer than either of my children. If he needs help, we'll get him help. And he will repay us. By picking the winning Powerball numbers this week. Cause we will need about $220 million to pay off his medical bills by the time it is all said and done.

    (In short, we took W in for an 8wk post-op visit today: rebuilt knee joint is doing great; leg is not so great--he still isn't using it; needs pain meds; needs PT.)

    Thursday, April 06, 2006

    I See How It Works

    Well, yes. Okay. Maybe I jumped the gun. I was almost giddy with optimism when I made the last post several hours ago, naturally jinxing the rest of the day and the family. AC's low fever of the last three days shot up to 103 this afternoon, prompting an unplanned trip to the pediatrician, who found the girl's right ear infected. Now we're all home (N, AC, and I), but dinner has not yet been prepared. D will, in a perfect world, be home shortly. It remains to be seen whether I can pull off this writing interlude.

    On the Plus Side

    Things are looking a bit better around here. Yes, I have a cold. But at least I am not losing my cookies. Yes, the hail bludgeoned my newly transplated seedlings I brought up under the basement grow light for three weeks. But at least I am not solely reliant on my farm for food or income. Yes, I misunderestimated on D's W4 last year and thus accidently loaned the government enough to buy shitty body armor for our troops. But at least we're getting it back in the next ten or so days. Yes, I haven't really worked on my novel in one month. That's right, one month. But, BUT, BUT, my husband is determined to get home from work by 7pm tonight and put the kids to bed himself, so I can have two hours of uninterrupted writing time. Yes, things are looking up, finally.

    Wednesday, March 29, 2006


    My front door needs a sign reading, "Plague House," decorated with a skull and crossbones. Note to readers: IF YOU COME INSIDE, YOU WILL GET SICK. Brother-in-law and mother-in-law have stayed two days later than planned, while BIL heaved and hoed in our guest bathroom. They ship out tomorrow for FLA, after which you may glimpse me through the window (BUT DON'T COME OVER!) in my Hazmat suit, sanitizing the house.

    I think it was Valentine's Day when this crazy ride all began with my illness I assumed was food poisoning. DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT COMING OVER, PEOPLE. YOU'RE NOT INVITED. After I bounced back, N got it. Then D and AC got it. Then my dad (visiting from ALA). Then my BIL (visiting from FLA). Then our babysitter (visiting from down the block). Then our nephew (visiting from Jersey). NO MORE GUESTS. Forgot to mention my pink-eye and the handful of family colds within this six week span. Oh yeah, and major surgery for one of the dogs.

    Nine weeks until beach vacation. Nine weeks until beach vacation. Nine weeks until beach vacation. ...

    p.s. I got some work done against all odds this week. MIL watched the kids while I went to Lowe's to get some garden supplies. Lesson learned: if you want good service, go on a weekday morning. And wear a tight sweater.

    p.p.s. Should I be upset that the orthopedic surgeon did not look at the MRI films or even read the MRI report I brought him today? He assigned me some stretches and a return appointment in 6 weeks. Believe me, I'm fine with stretches.

    Thursday, March 23, 2006

    Rare Moment to Catch Up

    Where to start where to start? Parents arrived Friday night, bearing gifts. For my birthday, my mother painted me the most beautiful, and I mean the MOST beautiful pastel portrait of my boy N. It's from a photo she took at Christmas of him eating oatmeal at their dining table, a large cloth napkin tied as a bib around his neck. I remember that morning well. His back is to the plate glass windows letting in the morning sun. My mother is infinitely talented. Unfortunately, her eyes have been troubling her lately. It has been a mixed bag to have her as a role model, since there is basically nothing she can't do and do well.

    Then there were the presents for AC, whose birthday was Sunday. Many fun and pretty things for the one-year-old girl. We spent Friday and Saturday getting ready for Sunday's big party, then, Sunday morning, my father woke up very ill. So ill, in fact, that none of us wanted to risk inviting people into the house to meet his germs. After I called the guests and delivered the bad news, Mimi, Daddy, big brother N, and I gave AC a small celebration with cake and ice cream.

    In other news, my dog W walked on all four feet today for the first time in, oh, seven or eight months. I took him very slowly about twenty yards. He had his left rear patella repaired two weeks ago, and I took his stitches out Tuesday. His incision looks great. We go back to the ortho vet the first week in April. Here's hoping he'll be healed soon.

    D and I are off to see Pilots--wait--that's Pirates of Penzance tonight. Should be loads of fun.

    Wednesday, March 15, 2006

    Blogus Interruptus

    Sorry I've been scarce. Ye olde washboard and mangle have been overworked dealing with the side effects of the family yakfest. D and AC are on day three and are still poorly, but N and I are so far glurge-free. Saints presarve us.

    The bionic dog's newly re-routed knee-cap groove is healing nicely. Thursday's surgery added one more piece of metal to his already magnetic anatomy--the newest pin holds a piece of bone that had to be moved.

    My parents arrive for a visit tomorrow night, and AC's first birthday is Sunday. Party that afternoon. The ILs arrive the following week. Can you say, GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!?

    In the interest of getting more shit done around here, I'll let Tess Gerritsen do my blogging for me. Today she's written a damn fascinating entry on how she arrived at her latest novel's title. I agree that THE MEPHISTO CLUB is a great title, and the novel sounds like a fun ride.

    Wednesday, March 08, 2006

    Anne Frasier Has Another Winner on the Way

    I won a contest at Anne Frasier's blog recently, and just received the most incredible prize in the mail. It was the video book trailer DVD for her upcoming novel, PALE IMMORTAL. The book will be out in September, and I plan to buy up a copy as soon as it's available. You should too! Meanwhile, have a look at the video HERE. Also in the package was the self-titled debut CD by The Chambermaids, who provided the soundtrack for the PALE IMMORTAL video. Her two kids are in the band, and her daughter directed the PI video. Talented family!

    While you wait for PALE IMMORTAL's release, have a look at Anne's other books.

    One Flu East, One Flu West

    I'm not a very fearful person, not typically paranoid. But this bird flu thing has been pecking at the back of my mind. If we can't deal with an urban hurricane catastrophe that had been predicted for years, then how the hell are we going to manage a nationwide outbreak of a potentially fatal disease?

    Thursday, February 23, 2006

    Two Wheel Revolution

    I love, love, love researching things. I also love writing. (Note the imbalance of the verb repetition.) Some days it's not at all clear whether I write to justify my research or the other way round. On my quest for factual details, I find countless rabbit holes down which I could disappear for hours. Fortunately (I suppose), my time to write is limited, so I must cut short the information chase before it's hardly begun. Then it's back to the novel manuscript.

    Some resources are just too exciting to keep to myself, though. Scootergirl extraordinaire Crystal Waters rides a Vespa that will knock your socks off. Look at "Ilene" here! When I checked out her blog, I found an entry reproducing an ad in the February 21 NYT. Seems Paolo Timoni, the President and CEO of Piaggio Group Americas (Piaggio manufactures Vespas) has written an open letter to US Mayors recommending scootering to alleviate our reliance on oil. Bravo, Mr. Timoni.

    One of my lead characters rides a Vespa, probably because I've had a secret hankering for one myself since I first visited Italy ten years ago. My main protagonist drives an old Honda Civic. Mr. Timoni doesn't have to tell my characters that conservation is cool.

    Tuesday, February 21, 2006

    The Martial Plan

    This started a few days ago: "Momma, you do NOT talk to your boy that way."

    You might call that sassing. And believe me, I don't enjoy hearing that from my 2.5yo. But when your son is "the quiet one" at daycare--never the instigator and never standing up to the bully--it can be a relief to hear him finally assert himself.

    I checked with his lead teacher today, who told me N is just now starting to speak up when someone hits him. I'll help him practice those verbal responses in make-believe situations here at home.

    Here's the thing, though. With his sister, the boy can dish it out in spades. Pushing AC around is the highlight of his day. But since she's still basically a sitting duck--or at least a slow-moving one--and won't be defending herself any time soon, a part of me wants to show N how to push back. And it is not the Buddhist part.

    Friday, February 17, 2006

    Good Health Is Overrated

    Or so I'm trying to convince myself as my left eye weeps from behind my spectacles. Yes, I have pinkeye for the forty-leventh time since my older kid first brought it home from his daycare two years ago. I guess it's the viral world's revenge for my almost four decades of eyeballs so clean you could eat off them. Now every time I blink I pick up another goddam parasite. (I've even gotten two new pairs of contacts since the first visitation. And I don't wear the cheap kind, either.)

    So the eye pain and redness just popped up about three hours ago. If I'd had an inkling this morning when I was having my hip and knee examined at the doctor's, I could've gotten her opinion on the infection too. So, yeah, on that note, I'm going in for an MRI on Wednesday to find out why a) when I go down the stairs or kneel, some invisible lunatic stabs my right knee with his or her invisible icepick, and b) when I stand up from a sitting position, whatever attaches my right thigh to my right hip decides not to support me without a massive fight lasting about one minute.


    Thursday, February 16, 2006

    Return to the Land of the Living

    The stomach virus got me. Or was it food poisoning? Does anyone know how to tell the difference (without going into TOO much detail)? At this point I'm living mostly on grits, oatmeal, cheese toast, and decaf. A little apple juice.

    Happily, I'm lucid enough to get back to revising the novel draft. I've gotten some wonderful feedback on chapter one already (thanks Christa and Annette), and will try to incorporate some of that soon. However, I'm thick into chapter two revisions at the moment, and my mind is on my older secondary character rather than my sleuth. It's hard to flip back and forth, I find.

    I will try to get back to some internet reading soon. I miss my bulletin board buddies and my blog friends!

    Sunday, February 12, 2006

    And a Fun Time Was Had by All

    The foot of snow we got really bummed the dogs out (the taller is 17" at the shoulder), but the rest of the family enjoyed the heck out of it today.

    Even though AC started walking last month, there was no way she could even take a step in this stuff. So we pulled her around in her little purple sled. D pulled N around in the bigger red one. N fell out on several occasions. He told me tonight, "I had trouble three times."

    Monday, February 06, 2006

    Quite Contrary...

    ...has been my computer. But now it seems to be functioning at its old capacity. It looked to be a hardware issue. Happily, D accidentally fixed it when he took my RAM out to install a replacement. When he found that he had brought the wrong size RAM, he put mine back in the other slot. Well, problem solved. WTFBBQ! There are some lingering [strange] issues of hibernation/power saver settings, but these have caused no problems with my work. Back in the saddle am I.

    And how does my garden grow? Well, I gave the raised beds a rest last year, so now I'm ready to get back to my vegetable gardening. Here's the menu:
    Little Caesar romaine; Sungold cherry tomatoes (SOOOOO sweet); Mixed lettuces, arugula, spinach; Royal Chantenay and Sweet Sunshine carrots; Tenderpick green snap beans; Fukagawa bunching onions; Bonanza Hybrid broccoli; First White cauliflower; Joy Choi Hybrid mini-pak choi; Carola potatoes (golden flesh); Hot Lemon peppers; Blushing Beauty bell peppers; Sugar Crunch Hybrid cucumbers; Saffron squash; and Purple Rain Hybrid eggplant. I'll try to keep my current herbs alive (rosemary, thyme, oregano), and add some Italian parsley and basil to the patch.

    Everything except the spinach seeds and the organic seed potatoes (from Wood Prairie Farms in Maine) will be grown from seeds I've had for three years. That's right folks. My seeds live in their folded up seed packets, within zipper bags, inside a plastic grocery sack, in their own refrigerator vegetable drawer. I've done it this way for many years, and I always have great sprouting percentage. Saves lots of $$$, too.

    I plan to start the greens, the onions, and the cole crops inside in another week, or whenever I can clean off the table and set up my grow light--whichever comes first. The seed potatoes will go into their bed in mid-March. (They will be shipped on March 7.) I will not grow peas or sugar snap peas this year, as the limited space of my raised beds and the time spent preparing them made the payoff poor the last few times I tried them.

    I will NOT be doing a CSA subscription this year, but we do have a local pesticide-free farm/orchard I will buy from as needed. I HIGHLY recommend to those of you who can, to get a CSA subscription to a local organic farm. Eat in season, support your local growers!

    So, just as the weather has become downright wintry again, let's dream of spring! What are you all going to grow?

    Tuesday, January 31, 2006

    Computer Crapped Out

    Last post for a while, mates. My laptop is crazy-sick. No, not a virus. We think it's a problem with a driver. It's doing wonders for my writing. Yeah. No. Really. I'm not getting any writing done. Just bummed. I'll check ya later, folks.

    Sunday, January 29, 2006

    Guests Check In, Then Bug Out

    Whenever I get the travel bug, I remind myself of bugs who like travelers.

    Tuesday, January 24, 2006

    How Do You Find Me?

    I've noticed that other bloggers besides me enjoy researching how people around the world come to find their blogs. Lee Goldberg maintains that a steady stream of visitors find him in their search for Lindsey Lohan's nipples, and surely the Book Tarts at The Lipstick Chronicles get hit on by folks looking for shoes, views, booze, and writing news.

    Me? I've gotten some crazy weird visits over the last few years. The most frequent search phrase that brought peeps to my blog in 2005 was..."whine the pooh." No, no typos there. I've had visitors from all over the world who searched on..."whine the pooh" (WTF?) and then chose to visit to my blog. One from Manilla, I think. And Mexico City. And Togo. Go figure. Why that phrase? Yes, I whine. And the word "Pooh" used to appear on my list of movies watched in 2005. That's as close as we get, folks.

    Now even though I'm not sure how a reader in Taipei, Taiwan arrived at my blog, I am delighted that I was translated into what I have to assume (sorry if I'm wrong) was Mandarin Chinese. Here's the page. Pretty, don't you think? I cling to the illusion that the thousands of multilingual typing monkeys who work for Yahoo/SYSTRAN captured the full range of my brilliance.

    I get a few hits a month from folks researching abdominal muscle diastasis, a condition to which I'm apparently doomed. Two big babies twenty months apart and pregnancy weight gain of almost fifty pounds each time (although I'm happy to say I'm now back to fighting weight) have torn my six-pack into two parallel three-packs. A one-inch wide "fault-line" runs down my middle now. I haven't given up, though. I'm working on strengthening the underlying transverse muscles by doing what are called "elevator" exercises, but it's doubtful that the abs on top will ever meet in the middle again. If you are a fellow sufferer, this article from Fit Pregnancy may help.

    I can't neglect to mention the great feeling I get when readers visit me from the links on my fellow bloggers' sites. Thanks, y'all who have listed me. If I haven't listed your blog yet, please let me know and I'll reciprocate.

    How did YOU find me? No matter how you got here, I'll close by saying a simple "thank you" to my lovely readers. I appreciate having you there at your monitors, reading my posts, and--when you are so moved--weighing in on the comments page. You are what makes this endeavor worthwhile. *smooches*

    p.s. Rest in Peace, Paul Guyot's Bog. Paul, I enjoyed reading anything and everything you had to say and, especially, savoring the exquisite illustrations you provided.

    Tuesday, January 17, 2006

    The Meme of Four

    Yes, another meme, wherein I am afforded the exhilerating opportunity to talk about MYSELF, and know that others will be GLUED to their monitors with RAPTURE-glue. Vanity, thy name is MEEEEEEEEme.

    The lovely Alphabeter has tagged me.

    The FOUR Meme
    Four jobs you have had in your life:
    Winn-Dixie checker
    English professor
    Computer-lab attendant

    Four movies you watch over and over:
    I think I did this one already (see Seven Things Meme for seven of them, then subtract three)

    Four places you've lived:

    Four Shows you love to watch:
    ummmm, I don't watch t.v. anymore. We just rent DVDs when we want to go back and see a series.
    So, 4 shows I watch on DVD are
    Arrested Development
    The Office
    Sex and the City
    and that was three

    Four places you've been on vacation:
    The Swag
    The Homestead
    The Beaver Creek
    The London

    Four of your favourite foods:
    [Did a Canadian write this meme?]
    Dunkin Donut's Boston Creme donut
    waffles with butter and maple syrup (does that count as three?)
    my mother's meatless moussaka
    black bean taco salad

    Four places you'd rather be right now:
    somewhere WARMer
    my local Brew-Ha-Ha
    I honestly can't think of anywhere else I'd rather be, though. I'm pretty content right here at the kitchen table.

    Four sites I visit daily:
    Bloglines for my list of updated blogs, to see who has visited

    Four bloggers you are tagging:
    this is always a tough one because we are all so incestuous.
    So, if you WANT to be tagged for this meme, consider yourself SO!

    Four sheep breeds you could recognise in a field:
    [Okay, so maybe the meme-writer is British. Scottish?]
    black, brown, white, and white with black faces?

    Four people you'd really like to meet (who are alive) and what you would ask them:
    Thich Nhat Hanh - Will you adopt me?
    Elizabeth George - How the h*ll do you write such long yet compelling books?
    Nicole Kidman - C'mon. Lenny Kravitz??? WTHWYT?
    Paul Farmer - Can I just tag along for a little while and absorb some of your superhumanness?

    Monday, January 16, 2006

    Professor AC

    I've been bumming on this question, lately: Why. Does. It. Take. So. Long. To. Feed. My. Daughter. Her. Tiny. Little. Meals. Of. Peas. And. Cut. Peaches. And. Rice?

    Today, I digested the lesson. In the course of my day, NOTHING is more important than to be here for my children. So I'm in a hurry. Big deal. What's the emergency? I might get behind on my blog reading?

    This stage will pass, to be replaced by another one, equally important to AC, and therefore, to me. Instead of trying to rush her through for my sake, I'm going to breathe us through for both our sakes.

    Sometimes I just need to be driven round the see where I am. And she's just the guide to do it. By. Gumming. Her. Bits. Of. Soft. Food. Very. Very. Slowly.

    Friday, January 13, 2006

    Grab Blag

    Double take of the week: At a stoplight, I see a Honda Insight with cigarette smoke billowing out of the driver's side window. Whatever green he was going for has turned brown by now. Probably even black.


    N (2.5y) has a little Jar Jar Binks action figure someone gave my husband back in the '90s. The arms are bent like goal posts, and when you flip them up and down his tongue goes in and out of his mouth. Heinous, heinous tchotchka. So N had it out yesterday, flip flip flip go the arms, in and out goes the tongue. And he shouts out with glee, "This YOU, Mama!" Moving right along...


    I've decided to hang out my tutoring shingle. Not the shingle that tutors, mind you, but the shingle that says I do the tutoring. "Ye Olde Tewter Shoppe, Mary Louisa - Proprietesse," it shall read. I'm going to be tutoring in writing, grammar, vocabulary, literature, the works. Most sessions will be local (N. Delaware), but I'm also offering online sessions. College prep, test prep, course work help, business writing, the works. E-mail me if you're interested in more info.


    Someone has to stop me. When I became a stay-at-home-mom last year, I thought I was prepared for the mental adjustment to living on one paycheck. Today, I'm not so sure I haven't moved through that to come out on...THE CRAZY BAG LADY SIDE. I seriously contemplated how I could make us some dishtowels out of something we already had lying around the house. Fraying bathtowels? Quite possible. Old tee shirts? Less likely. Too thin. Really, Mary Louisa, HOW MUCH DOES A DISHTOWEL COST? I think I can afford one. Maybe not two, but certainly one. Did I mention that our gas/electric bill for December was $319? No? What was yours?


    Now you see why I am hanging out that shingle. It's partly because I am starting to miss teaching a little. But it's mostly because no one has yet driven a dump-truck full of money up to my front door.

    Saturday, January 07, 2006

    Saturday Morning Quickie

    Started Laura Lippman's CHARM CITY night before last. It's my first novel by her, but won't be my last. I've heard so many good things about TO THE POWER OF THREE that I will get it next.

    Still trying to slog, and I mean SLOG, through Jane Smiley's 13 WAYS OF LOOKING AT A NOVEL. *yawn* Will try to skim some TALE OF GENJI in the next few days, as that is the first of one hundred and one "novels" she read in her post-9/11 recovery period.

    Have a couple more chapters to reread of Maass's WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL. I'm revising the first half of my novel before continuing, and reminding myself of some ideas I had and didn't put into play during the first draft.

    There has been some fun in the house: We watched four episodes of ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT last night. I nearly passed out from laughter-induced oxygen deprivation. At 12:30am we knew we had to go to bed, but we could've easily continued.

    I pledge to update my template soon to revamp my links.

    Monday, January 02, 2006

    Mother + Small Children = No Time to Write

    I've done the math. The numbers are pretty depressing.

    Today I have finally admitted to myself that there is just no quality time to write. I'm about halfway through my mystery manuscript, but chances of finishing within the next six months are bleak.

    At this point I'm getting seven to eight hours of sleep per night, with at least one--sometimes two--wake-ups to nurse A during that stretch. I simply can't cut back there, or I will be worth less than I already am during the day. I'm on kid duty from about 8am to about 11pm when A finally goes down to sleep for a reasonable stretch.

    Save your shouts about having my husband help more. D already gets N up in the morning, dresses him, and feeds him breakfast. When he manages to get home before 8pm, he either holds A or puts N to bed. But then he must eat his dinner and do the dishes (bless him), and he isn't done with that till about 10pm. He doesn't watch TV, he doesn't play video games, and he doesn't do chat, so there's no fat in his schedule. He is a wonderful partner and father, but he just works a lot.

    I can catch ten minutes here and twenty minutes there throughout my days, but that's not even enough time to open my chapter-in-progress and remind myself of where I left off.

    My writer friends who are also mothers of small children bemoan similar situations. However, I'd pretty successfully steered clear of facing it by adopting a once-a-week writing schedule in 2005. Generally, every Thursday that D could swing it, he would come home by 6:30, and I'd head out to the coffee shop with my laptop and stay until closing at 9pm. Occasionally, I'd also get two hours on a Saturday or Sunday.

    I was okay with that schedule, thinking that somehow in 2006 I could get my butt in gear and carve out more time. But for the past three days I've looked at the daily schedule a million different ways, and working on the book more than once or twice a week just ain't gonna happen.

    (And I do let the housework go. And N goes to daycare on Tuesdays and Thursdays.)

    I am amenable to any and all suggestions that don't involve spending money. I predict, though, that the solution for now is for me to practice acceptance, and just write as well as I can, as often as I can.

    Sunday, January 01, 2006


    I don't do resolutions. I do goals. So, along with every other motivated Jane- and Joe-blogger, I hereby state my willingness to think about moving toward finding a way to approach the objectives of the following goals for 2006:

    1. Finish the damn book. (Betcha never heard that one before.)

    2. Start the next book.

    3. Do a minimal vegetable and herb garden.

    4. Get back to travel writing.

    5. Cut down on my internet time. It doesn't mean I don't love y'all, cause really I do, but I have to find more time SOMEWHERE.

    6. Lay money away for a new den floor, A's surgery, and an April trip to the ILs in Florida (involves flying and renting a van/SUV and paying for dogsitters--$$$).

    7. Find a source of money to lay away.

    There are a host of other things I'm already doing that I want to continue to do, so I won't post those here.

    Last year was actually quite a wonderful one. My little A's birth was the real highlight. I made some new friends and I developed existing relationships. I adopted some habits that made my life a little more peaceful. I also adopted some habits that cancelled out some of the former's good effects. C'est la vie, non?

    At some point last year, you may have noticed my film list on the side bar to the right. We squeaked in with Kinsey last night, making it the 25th movie seen in 2005 (as far as I can remember). I didn't list all the television series, music, or specials we watched on DVD (Sex and the City, Arrested Development, The Office, Upstairs Downstairs, Spike Jonze, Chris Cunningham and Michele Gondry music videos, Chris Rock, etc.). I'll try to remember to start the '06 list when we watch our first this year. It may be tonight, as I still have A Christmas Story from the library. Better late than never.

    Happy New Year, everyone. May you and yours be blessed with health and happiness.