Monday, November 30, 2009

blog sprint

Today's One Minute Writer: What is the worst part of getting time off work or school?

The time I have to think. Yes, really. I overthink just about everything, which is why I usually have entirely too many projects going on at once. That way, I have less time to dwell on all the uncertainty.

What am I doing and where am I going?

If only time off meant sleep.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

muppet queens

[The Muppets: Bohemian Rhapsody]

Yes, from Jane Austen to Jim Henson in just a few moments. That's how it goes around here.

'a total jane nerd fest': an invitation

Ms Kat is inviting us to join her in reading Jane Austen. We're starting off with Sense and Sensibility, which, it turns out, I've never read. I finally started reading it last night, but I was dead tired and had to put it down and drift off to sleep on the couch...before Pic even went to bed. (It could have been our two-and-a-half hour walk in the chilly chilliness yesterday in all of our layers and layers of clothing. But, it was good to finally get outside as a family again now that Cardo is feeling better.)

So, I will eventually be posting some more about what I'm reading, but I'm only about twenty pages in at the moment. See the comments on the Kat's Meow post I linked to above for the discussion thus far.

Happy reading!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

when i'm not sleeping...

...I'm learning new skills. Kind of.

I was attempting to learn the 'crowned princess' braid, but I flubbed up (there's a phrase I might never have used before) somewhere around getting across my forehead. I can't bear to post a picture of the front. I'll keep working on it. As for the back...yeah, I'm pretty sure there aren't supposed to be any inadvertent* (or advertent either) pigtails, but there they are. I like them.


P.S. Yes, my office/library/den is a wreck.

P.P.S. I also try to write posts that need more brainpower than I have at them moment. I need to recharge and then later I may be able to post my other bit of rambling.


* Why is that not a word? How do we have 'inadvertent' without 'advertent'?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

notes from a quiet place

Cardo is feeling under the weather (and the weather is beautiful right now). He's getting over something right now, which means that for the last almost-week, I've been sleeping on the couch while he germs up our bed. I cannot wait to be able to sleep in my bed again, after we change the sheets, blankets and pillowcases, of course.

For yet another year, Cardo is working this holiday. This just comes with his job and I don't really mind it, actually. We're not much for celebrating much of anything. This year, so far at least, I think I'm dealing with the 'holiday season' pretty well.Yes, I know it's just begun. Usually I end up pretty quietly depressed and weepy, which always upsets Cardo because he can't 'fix' it (or fix me).

I'm thinking we might end up having a very quiet evening. We're supposed to go to a friend's house, but Cardo might just come home and go to bed. I'm not sure. He hasn't really let me in on the plans past letting me know a few weeks ago that he had accepted the invitation. (I'm just thankful that he doesn't randomly bring people home for dinner.)

For now, Pic's 'resting' in her room and I'm waiting for the kitchen floor to dry (Pic was having a problem not dropping her yogurt on the floor this morning...but the floor needed cleaning anyhow). I'm listening to Dolly Parton here in the den and NPR out in the living room. I'm about to put on some real clothes (I'm not in my pajamas, but I'm not in clothes I'd go out in) and take Pic for a walk for a bit. Tomorrow's supposed to be much colder and we haven't walked much lately.

Right now, I'm thankful for this quiet time.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

[DOLLY PARTON POOR FOLKS TOWN from 9 to 5 Soundtrack] -- the pictures don't really go with the songs, they're just a Dolly photo album, basically, so you can listen and do other things if you'd like

Monday, November 23, 2009

books, glorious books

I just finished reading Novella Carpenter's Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer. It is due back at the library tomorrow, with a number of other books, and I'm working hard to actually turn books in on time, so others might have a chance to enjoy them also. (When we were reading aloud In Defense of Food, I actually finished reading it in the library parking lot, right next to the book drop.)

I can't remember where I came across mention of Carpenter's book, but I'm glad I did. I think I might read this again one day. At first, I thought the narrative jumped around too much, often taking a short trip back to tell a new little story, but as I hurried to finish the book as the due date loomed near, I didn't feel like reading this was a chore. I enjoyed it. Even when I was trying not to gag as she describes the killing and preparing of her various animals for food. (I've often said to Cardo that if I had to kill animals so that we could eat meat, we'd be vegetarians. I don't think I have it in my to hunt/raise animals and then kill them. If I were ever in some kind of Man Versus Wild situation in which I had to kill my own dinner, I'd probably die. As it is, I just try to not eat too much meat.)

Anyhow, I ended up really enjoying the book. And, I've become reinspired to, when we finally, finally one day have a house, raise chickens (for eggs, of course, unless someone else wants to come over and chop their heads off and do all the other preparing for me) and keep bees. (There, I've said it. I've only ever confessed these little fantasies to Cardo. Laugh if you will. I like to dream about the future, and I tend to get idealistic.)

So, tomorrow, I'll return Farm City and, I hope, pick up The Children's Book by A. S. Byatt. I'm next in line on the waiting list for that one. After that? It's coming up to my turn for one of my guilty pleasures: totally nonserious, nonacademic, nonnon-fiction (got that?) mysteries.

What else? I'm not sure where to go after that. No doubt I'll check out some more children's literature. I'm making up for lost time. I feel like I went from Clifford and Berenstain Bears and Ramona to Little Women and Are You There God? It's Me Margaret and Lois Lowery to Dean Koontz and Steven King, passing by oh-so-many great opportunities along the way. Oh, if only I could stop time and all other activity and read, read, heart would burst with joy!

As for Pic, we are on a dog theme this week. She is fairly obsessed with dogs. There really wasn't much in the Juvenile non-fiction section on dogs, especially compared to the entire shelf devoted to cats, so I only picked up one DK Eyewitness Book on Dogs. Pic loves Susan Meddaugh's Martha (who has been animated for PBS Kids), so we also got Perfectly Martha. I picked up The Adventures of Taxi Dog, which I remembered from a Reading Rainbow...and I also picked up that episode of Reading Rainbow. (I also seem to remember something like Doggy News from Reading Rainbow, so I'll have to try to find that on our next library visit.) We got a couple of other books, too, including one we read today: The Very Kind Rich Lady and Her One Hundred Dogs. We both enjoyed this. It's very simple. I think that in 'regular' schools (ones not housed at my dining room table), elementary teachers sometimes do a 100th Day celebration for the 100th day of school, and this might work for that. We also have plenty of Clifford books and let's definitely not forget Go, Dog. Go!

So, what are you all reading right now?

declutter: days all the rest

My camera battery needed a serious charge last night and I've been lax on posting photos. Anyhow, I've reached the end of my thirty days of declutter. I need to do about 300 more, so I'll keep slowly whittling away here.

First, I have some items I got from an orientation over three years ago. Until the last few days, they've sat in the same bag in which I received them, waiting for me to actually getting around to using them. Not going to happen, it turns out.

(Don't you love how clean my carpet is? I have no idea what that is in that second picture there, but I'm hoping it was just a shadow.)

Cardo found me a new jacket at Goodwill this past weekend and so an older one has to go. This one is definitely warm enough, it's just never been a favorite of mine. Out it goes to keep someone else warm in these colder months.

These last have been with us an embarrassingly long time. I was once off on this whim where I wanted to make flavored iced teas at home. And I did, for a few months. These were all pretty full, but I emptied them, obviously, before I took the shot. I'll stick with honey for my teas (I brew it hot, add the honey and then put the whole mug in the refrigerator to cool).

(And, the 'sugar-free' just means with Splenda instead of an actual food. I'm not sure I'm comfortable with Splenda, but I have a looong way to go before I'm only eating what is actually food. One laboratory concoction at a time.)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

reading...and how it's learned

I might have vaguely told this story before. If so, ah well, because here it vaguely comes again.

I hated learning to read. I remember it being a stressful time for both myself and my first teachers. I didn't get common, but then-difficult-for-me, words like 'the.' I also was easily confused when confronted with 'b' and 'p.' It wasn't until I was about halfway through my BA that I saw the video where a man was presenting to teachers the 'watch concept.' I really have no idea what the concept is called, but, basically, he holds up a wristwatch and asks, 'What's this?' 'A watch,' his audience dutifully responds. He turns the watch around, 'What's this?' 'A watch.' He keeps moving the watch around, asking the same question. Of course, it's always a watch. Then he holds up a shape: 'p.' 'What's this?' Ah, yes, it's a 'p' now, but when we flip it over, or around, it's also a 'd' and a 'b' and a 'q.' I don't know that it would have helped me to have someone point this out to me when I was five, but it might have been nice to know just how arbitrary letters are. I still occasionally mix up such letters when writing. I still, sometimes, write my 'S's backward and have to think for a moment, 'What's wrong with this?'

Ultimately, I came out fairly unscathed, I think. I love to read. I like to always have something on hand to read: books, magazines, blogs, newspapers, toothpaste tubes, graffiti. I'm a person who will bring a book or other reading material wherever she goes. Cardo's car seat pockets are stuffed with books. (Mine used to be too.) If I have a few moments of spare time to myself (ha!) and I don't have reading material on hand, I'm anxious.

I love to read.

Pic loves books. She loves to have them read to her. She loves to pore over them, taking in the pictures, making up her own stories to go along with them. She's pretty good at repeating a book to us once we've read it to her. I'll often read a book to her and then have her 'read' it back to me. I've recently started helping her make her own books.* But, how do we get to the next step?

Being as overly-educated as I am, with two degrees in Literature, I feel this pressure to be the parent of a child who reads right now. People ask me if she's reading yet or if I'm teaching her to read and then I'm filled with dread. I feel like a failure knowing that she's almost five and still doesn't read on her own. I know it is ridiculous for me to feel this way. (I know it, I know it, I know it.) It's just...the expectations. It's the stories that others I know share: My older sister was reading at four, my mom tells me. My friends were reading at four. And so on. As I said, Pic is almost five. I feel the ridiculous pressure.

Here's the thing: I have no idea how to teach a person to read. There are some who say that children should be taught the phonics approach. There are others who are for the whole language approach. There's the balanced literacy approach. There're probably more that I've never heard of.

I read to Pic constantly, or so it seems. We definitely reach and surpass that fifteen-minutes-a-day marker. She's getting much better at letter recognition and knowing their sounds (although I have to say, soft 'c,' hard 'c,' 'k' and 's' are presenting a bit of a challenge...but I'm just impressed that she's getting that). I'm working with her on sounding words out and recognizing/memorizing very common words like 'the' and 'and' (another although: this isn't so easy when there is no one standard way to write each letter). She doesn't have much patience for this, though, and I don't want to force it. I don't want her to become frustrated and give up. I don't want to lose my own patience and give up, or worse, speak sharply to her and make her associate reading with me being upset.

So, now that I've rambled for many, many words, I'm wondering: What did/do/will you do? What worked when you were learning to read, if you remember? If you've ever taught someone else to read, what helped?

I'd love some suggestions, if you have them, although I have to say, I may say, 'Interesting,' and file a suggestion away, unused. I know that not everyone learns the same way and that there won't be some panacea for all my woes. I know (or maybe just hope) that someone might advise me to just keep reading to her and set the rest of my worries aside for now.


* At Poke's suggestion, I checked out (actually, I bought) How to Get Your Child to Love Reading by Esme Raji Codell, which I use as a fantastic resource for lists of children's books by subject. One of the things Codell suggests is 'taking dictation': have a child dictate a very short story to you, as you write out about a sentence per page and then have the child illustrate the story as you read each of the sentences s/he has composed. Pic's first story was a variation on Jack and the Beanstalk in which all the characters were female and Jack and the giant were friends.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

and, so, goodnight

I haven't quite figured out where to fit in time to write here in my day. I'd like it to be a somewhat regular time, but, well, ideas don't come to me at a set time every day. (And, sometimes, they don't come to me at all, and then you're serenaded with complete nonsense, much like what is going on right now.)

I'm needing to get to sleep in just a few moments here, but a quick note first.

I don't like Sherlock Holmes, or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle for that matter, any more now than I did when I first read my Holmes collection about ten years ago. I don't care that Doyle had garnered canon-status, I'm not going to take it (no, I'm not going to take it! I'm not going to take it anymore!). Okay, so, actually for the next day, at least, I'm going to dwell on Holmes, but after that, I'll stick with my Millhone (when is "U" coming out?), Fletcher, Qwilleran and Swensen. I really don't care how frivolous any of my choices are/seem, I enjoy them. And, Grafton's books and Murder, She Wrote carry a kind of nostalgia, I guess, for me. I see no reason to stray from that. Especially for Mr Holmes, who irks me ever so much.

Actually, real quick, before I turn in, I suppose it'd only be fair to explain why I don't like Holmes. He seems to only slightly tolerate women (those silly creatures). And his arrogance? It makes me crazy. I've recently met someone who likes him, in part, for just that trait, but I can't stand his let-me-gaze-into-the-distance-as-I-slowly-explain-just-how-simply-simple-you-are attitude. Okay, so he's good and he's confident in that, and perhaps I should be happy for him, but I won't be. He's fictional, so I don't feel the need to be nice to him.

And, so, goodnight.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

scheduling for a laid-back (as far as scheduling my day goes) procrastinator

[I actually wrote everything before 'Decluttering?' yesterday, but never got it posted. Perhaps I'm not off to the greatest start, but today has gone pretty well so far.]

I’ve been trying at something of a consistent rhythm around here for the last couple of months, but I’ve been largely unsuccessful thus far. Now, though, I’m craving a somewhat regular schedule even more.

First, though, let me talk about ‘schedule.’ I don’t mean something along the lines of the following:
8a: drag self out of bed
8:15a: make breakfast
8:30a: eat breakfast
and so and and so on. I mean more of a loose schedule. I’ve been reading others’ writing about rhythm so much lately and I feel that ‘rhythm’ is a much better word. I’d like to have a somewhat set rhythm to most of my days (notice how I’m not exactly pinning down any specifics here).

The biggest hindrance to us having some sort of unwonky rhythm is my wonky sleep. I will again begin trying to work on this. However, that means that I’ll have to get more accomplished during the day which, in turn, means we need less random running around in what feel like pointless circles. Whew.

I’m not exactly sure what our loose schedule is going to look like, but I’d like it to be something along the following lines:
• wake up (at decent time, after having had decent sleep)
• morning abultions
• make and eat breakfast
• learning/exploring with Pic
• lunch
• picking up
• resting
• writing/reading/work prep
• make and eat dinner
• stuff
• bed

This only really works for some days. For instance, Pic and I only have four days worth of dedicated learning time (of course, that doesn’t mean that we don’t explore/learn at other times…that happens for all people at all different kinds of times in all different kinds of places). And, one of our days is a library field-trip day. We used to go at least twice a week, but our library is now closed two days a week and the hours have been shortened for the days on which it is open. I like us to be pretty free on Cardo’s days off, as this is when we run our errands and generally just enjoy his company. I very, very much appreciate that he works full-time-plus to keep us in a home with food on the table and so on, but I am also very aware of how little time his job seems to leave him for spending time with Pic.

In order to be able to stick pretty much with this rhythm, I’ll have to be more disciplined. I’ll have to have sort-of set times to do certain things. I’d like to have a set time to write and post to this here blog. As it is now, I write and post whenever, very often in the middle of the dark when I should be asleep like everyone else in my home.

I’ll also have to stick to my meal-planning. We’ve actually been pretty decent with this, excepting times when we have company or extra commitments.

Finally, I’ll have to set aside some time for myself on Sundays in which to prepare for the rest of the week.

I think that this is all doable. I’m not sure whether it is all doable by me, so we’ll see.

So, now: I’m wondering how you all keep a healthy rhythm in your own lives. Do you make lists? Do you have spreadsheets? Do you have no choice because your day-job forces you to squeeze in the rest of life in the remaining moments?


Declutter? The camera has been living in Cardo's car the last few days. I had it out yesterday, but last night was one of those nights that I went to sleep freakishly early (a bit before eleven, I believe).

Days 26-8 (I'm almost finished!):

I kind of like this shirt, it just fits me all wrong. It hugs too tightly in some places and sags in others and is just unfortunate. Ah, well, back to the thrift shop it goes.

An album that was gifted to me, I believe, in high school. I haven't listened to it in the last ten years, so out it goes.

Another high school gift. Ah, gotta love Spencer's (or, really not at all, although it was funny and fitting at the time).

Monday, November 16, 2009

book love

We currently have nineteen books checked out of the local library system, and two more on hold. I've also got three of a friend's checked-out books. I can't tell you how much I love libraries.

Here are some of the children's books we're particularly enjoying right now:

-- The Quiltmaker's Gift, written by Jeff Brumbeau and illustrated by Gail De Marcken. The overall message is so in-line with how I'd like to live my life (I'm working on it) and the pictures are so intricate and beautiful and we could pore over them for hours. We'll be checking out The Quiltmaker's Journey next.

-- I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie, written by Alison Jackson and illustrated by Judy Schachner. Pic has had me read this to her so many times that I'll soon have it by heart. She's fascinated with it. It's wonderfully silly.

-- It's Not the Stork!: A Book about Girls, Boys, Babies, Bodies, Families and Friends, written by Robie H. Harris and illustrated by Michael Emberley. This has definitely generated much discussion, but it was also much discussion about anatomy and birth and such that led to us checking this out. Actually, the first time I checked this out was for a rhetorical theories seminar presentation. I'm still not exactly sure how we used this in the presentation and I suspect that I must have been pretty close to brain-fried by that point in that semester. However, I was happy that I had come across the book because I knew that I'd want to come back to it when Pic was a bit older.

-- With Love, Little Red Hen, written by Alma Flor Ada and illustrated by Leslie Tryon. Cardo really liked this one. I have to admit that I think I like it, but I'm not exactly sure, as I was reading it aloud with my mind half elsewhere. We still have it and I'll read it again before I turn it in to the library. I think it would be a great book for introducing letter-writing. Also, it would be cool (I just said 'cool' like I'm ten-years-old again) to use it as a basis for a writing project, doing something similar with other children's stories. We might return to it when Pic is a bit older and can better grasp the whole story.

-- Be Glad Your Nose Is on Your Face, and Other Poems: Some of the Best of Jack Prelutsky, written by [of course] Jack Prelustsky and illustrated by Brandon Dorman. I am loving this collection. Prelutsky's poems are fun and use some great vocabulary. I also enjoy Dorman's illustrations. We're having fun with this collection now and I predict we will still be for a long time to come.

And, finally, last and certainly not least:

-- Te Amo, Bebe, Little One, written by Lisa Wheeler and illustrated by Maribel Suarez. This is one of Pic's all-time favorites. Cardo's too, actually. I love that it has become such a happy part of our lives. Often, Cardo will start reciting this and then Pic will join in. They do a kind of call-and-response with the verse. Little things like these make me happy.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

a happy birthday... Auntie L! I hope it was good enough, although I know it could have been much better. Here's to a wonderful year!


let's dish*

This weekend, and last week actually, we didn't do a great job of sticking with any kind of menu. I wrote one out. I was quietly ambitious, but then I was weak. So, this week, we're back to being frugal and making meals here. So, here's the tentative menu for the next few days (please note the lack of frozen pizza):

Mon: zucchini, brussels sprouts (with apples and turkey bacon)

Tue: baked triple-bean pot, sandwiches

Wed: possibly dinner with friends, as Cardo is going to go in early -- we'll see what the plan is, but we'll have a ton of baked beans and I might try for some popovers (no salty-times-infinity chicken, though)

Thu: enchiladas, Coach J-style

Fri: vegetable soup, popovers

Sat: lemony quinoa with spinach

Not ambitious, I know. Pretty tame. Just the kind of stuff I can handle.

I recently checked out the New Moosewood Cookbook from the library (after having seen it in use over at The Blankie Chronicles) and I have a whole slew of recipes I'd like to try, eventually, from there. They are as follows (get comfy, it's a long list of so much goodness):

- cream of asparagus
- light cream of celery
- miso soup
- summer vegetable soup
- vegetable chowder
- cream of broccoli
- cauliflower cheese soup
- split pea soup
- Hungarian mushroom soup
- mushroom bisque
- homemade croutons (for some of the soups)
- herbed carrot soup
- lentil soup
- mushroom barley soup
- cream of spinach soup
- chilled cucumber yogurt soup
- vichyssoise
- chilled berry soup

Salads (mainly dressings):
- very green dressing
- basic vinaigrette
- sweet & tart mustard dressing
- tabouli
- marinated mushrooms

Baked goods and sandwiches:
- custardy popovers
- pita bread
- focaccia
- blueberry corn bread
- flour tortillas
- chappatis

- spinach-rice casserole
- calzone
- polenta

- orange cake
- Ukrainian poppy seed cake
- pound cake, and variations
- stovetop rice pudding
- baked custard
- strawberry-rhubarb crisp
- no-fault pumpkin pie
- crunchy-top peach pie
- real blueberry pie
- berry sauce and berry sorbet
- Moosewood fudge brownies
- lemon mousse

Whew! Yes, I'll have to check the cookbook (or foodbook, as Pic refers to it) many, many more times because I can't buy myself any new, or even new-to-me, books right now. ::big sigh of lament::


Yesterday, for whatever reason, I forgot to include my declutter item, so here're yesterday and today:

Containers. The first I got in high school and used to store various pieces of stuff I've since gotten rid of. The second I got from my aunt and I believe it was filled with potpourri. I haven't used either in a very long time and it's time for them to move on. G'bye.

Maybe if I don't have some many containers for random stuff/junk, I'll have less random stuff/junk...maybe...except, I am me.

Only five more decluttering days to go before I make it to thirty days! (Only about a billion more pieces of stuff here in my home that are completely non-essential to my life.)


*When I saying the title to myself, I kept thinking of this song:

...which I sing 'Let's dance, put on your night dish, la, la, hmm, hmm.' Yeah. I know the few words I fake don't make any sense, but there you have it.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


While today wasn't necessarily exciting, it was a good day. First, because my parents are here. We woke up late (Cardo finally went in to check on Pic at 9:30, while I was thinking, 'Yes! She's still asleep! I can still sleep!') and made a vat of oatmeal. I had mine with a bit of maple syrup, some frozen blueberries and some almonds and it was pretty tasty.

After that, off to errands. Although I may not love paying my utility bill, I do so love to have a home with electricity and gas. Actually, I don't really mind paying the bill (with money Cardo earned, of course), I just don't love it. New ink, next, because the 'new' cartridge we put in last time didn't work. We buy recycled cartridges and something must have gone haywire.

Next stop? Lunch with Mr M and Baby K, where Pic had a bit of a weepy meltdown and I had to take her outside for a walk and a cuddle before she calmed down.

Then, our weekly visit with Grandma J (she told Pic that Pic could call her Grandma because Pic has no grandparents in Reno). Yesterday, Grandma J called to let us know she was sick and we might not be able to come over today, but she was considerably better today.

A few more errands, including getting some frozen yogurt. Cardo is the Frozen Yogurt Monster. There's a new place in town and he's obsessed. Moreso than I am with ice cream these days (I must be in an ice cream slump).

Our last outing was a trip to Coach J's new place (which she mentions here). Even before we got inside I liked the place. The patio is cute and would be a nice place for a little table and some chairs. There're a bunch of windows and I'm sure the house gets great light during the day. It was nice to get out a bit and see some good friends, some who I haven't seen in a bit and most who I don't see very often (I'm something of a hermit*). I need to get myself out so much more often and see these wonderful people.

We're settled in for the evening. No Monk last night, but there will be some tonight. What will I watch when this season, the last of the series, is over?

One final note. I almost left Coach J's without getting a piece of Ms B's pumpkin roll and, oh, what a terrible mistake that must have been. Ms B? Homemade snickerdoodle ice cream sandwiches? Homemade pumpkin roll? I'm in love!


* I've mentioned this before somewhere, but I once went about a semester not being able to remember the word 'hermit.' I could only think 'eremite,' but I was too afraid to use it in conversation or writing because I knew it wasn't quite the word I wanted. Ah, Spenser, how you will forever influence my vocabulary.

Friday, November 13, 2009

happy friday the thirteenth...

...just because!

So, I've just seen both my parents and my child off to their respective beds (kind of, my parents are actually using my bed tonight and Cardo and I will be using the couch bed...just to clear that up) and all is well and quiet. It's nice to have company.

Pic has already wowed them (or something) with her humor and knowledge. They've been treated to her wonderfully logical jokes ('Why did the balloon go up and up? Because it was full!'). Also, she made sure everyone near us at dinner tonight was clear that 'boys have penises and girls have vaginas!'. Just to clear that up. (I haven't quite gotten into the many nuances and biological possibilities that really keeps her statement from being stark fact.)

Now, I'm off to catch up on others' blogs, watch a little Monk on the computer (possibly) and maybe do some word puzzles and/or reading. Wow, I am a party girl, no doubt about it.



Disney Princess shelf paper? Something like that. I'm still not sure how Pic talked Papi into buying this for her, but here it is uselessly taking up space more than a year later. Ah, well, into the give-away bag it goes.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

talking in circles

There's something about getting into bed at night that suddenly makes me want to have in-depth chats with Cardo. I'm sure he loves this (please note the irony here). When he's ready for bed, he pretty much wants to lay down, wiggle around for entirely too long trying to find a comfortable spot and then quickly fall asleep (oh how I envy those who can fall asleep so quickly). Also, I'm pretty sure the sound of my voice droning on and on puts him to sleep.

Anyhow, last night was just such a night. I wanted to have a deep conversation about our future and about my own goals that have been slowly surfacing over the last five years. I've been so busy that I haven't had much time to really think them, my goals, through, but having this time 'off' has given my plenty of time (often too much, actually) to think about what I value and about what I want out of this go-around.

And, going around seems to be what we're doing. Every time we decide something, there seems to be an 'or,' either expressed or not. We could stay and settle into this rhythm, or we could go somewhere else and start out again. I could find part-time work, or I could go right back to school (if one will have me). We could stay in the apartment, or we could find another place to rent (if only we had a few tens of thousands of dollars as a downpayment on a house...ah, well).

At times, having so many large possibilities looming makes me want to completely shut down. I am easily overwhelmed and I don't really relish change (at least not initially, but I pretty quickly adapt if I give myself a chance). The other day, as we walked, I was thinking how nice it would be if someone, some magical fairy godperson, walked up to me and just told me what would be the best choice right now. Um, yeah, not going to happen, I know. And, anyhow, I don't really take well to being told what to do.

So, I'm still unsure about our next move. For now, I'm just trying to enjoy where we are and remember how happy I am that I am a part of this family and that I have so much time with this family. I'm afraid that, by next August, so much will have changed (Pic should be in kindergarten then) and I don't want to wish this time away or spend all of it worrying.

I would just like to throw one idea out there: if all of my friends would like to come live nearby, or stay nearby, that would be great. If I owned a commune, I'd invite you all to live there with me. Or something. However, I know that we all have different places to go and be right now and in the future, so I'll just keep thanking the wonders of the interweb for making staying in touch possible.



Oh, Children's Music, how I don't really love you all that much. I apologize.

This lived in my car for quite some time. The plastic case is actually crumbling. I regretted buying this almost the moment we did buy it, but, as fortune would have it, we haven't had to listen to it in a verrrry long time. Mainly, we stick with NPR or the Sesame Street Best album I got at Secondhand Prose for $1! I love it. (And, yes, forty-year-old Sesame Street deserves its own post, but it'll have to wait.)


Seriously! I own more holiday cards! Oy with the poodles!

Into the give-away bag they go.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

sundaes for breakfast, anyone?

Okay, so it's a quinoa sundae, but still.... Actually, this is also what I had for dinner last night, but the avocado from last night was somewhat questionable. Obviously I lived to eat another delicious quinoa sundae. (I made the quinoa with vegetable broth. I like the flavor so much better than when I make it with water. I tried it as breakfast cereal once, made with water not broth, with some milk and blueberries, but I wasn't so into it. I hope that wasn't confusing.)

I got the recipe idea here, but I only use black beans, quinoa, avocado and cheese. I like the queso fresco casero better than any other cheese I've tried on this, but we don't always have it on hand. Oh, I just looked at Catherine Newman's recipe again. Yeah, mine's not nearly as involved, but her recipe was definitely inspiring.


So, decluttering? First, I have to say, we went to the library booksale, for the $6/bag day and got 35 new (to us) kids' books and four movies for $12! We so had room for more in our second bag, but we were ready to go. And? All of those new books have already been catalogued! (Now, I just have to catch up on the many, many already floating around the apartment, but I've been working on it somewhat diligently these last few days.)

So, yes, I'm bringing more stuff into the apartment, but I just keep in mind that I have allowed myself a couple of collections, one of which is books.

In the meantime, I've begun to look again at our office/library (I really need a better term for this, I'm just so excited to have a place that really feels like a library in our home, albeit a completely messy library). And, oh the treasures I've found! Decluttering should be a snap (or a cinch? what's the cliche?) for the remainder of my thirty-day time limit. In fact, I'll, no doubt, be able to continue on with this one thing a day deal for a bit longer.

Today's decluttering item? A big old bag of trash that lived in my car for, um, two-plus years. Okay, so I didn't really carry a bag of trash with me for two years, although I wouldn't put it past me, but when we sold the car, I shoved all of the detritus in a trash bag and then, apparently, shoved that into the office closet. I began looking through it today and some stuff was salvageable: a couple of pencils, my umbrella, a picture of Pic from when she first started school (oh how I miss it and don't all at the same time). Otherwise? Mainly trash or shredder fodder: insurance cards and registration cards dating back at least two years, a broken visor, power bill receipts dating back at least two years, a random booklet that had been completely soaked at one point but that had since dried to brittleness (I say it's a word). Oh, yes, basically a big old bag of trash. Nothing to be given away today, but I'm definitely breathing a little easier having gotten rid of all of that crap.


P.S. As if I need more stuff to bring into the apartment...Tomorrow is the Savers 50%-off clothing, shoes and accessories sale.


P.P.S. I'm sure that this Veteran's Day will be especially emotional for many. I know that I spent much of this morning, listening to the memorial service, in tears of sympathy for those affected by the violence at Fort Hood and a kind of sadness that violence happens at all.

Monday, November 9, 2009


For the first time in...two years (?), I made bread. I've been wanting to make bread for us, but it always seems like such a chore, even though I love eating freshly baked bread. I've been reading through the SouleMama archives and found an easy-looking, simple bread recipe and, after we bought a bread pan Saturday night, I actually made bread. (Well, I waited until last night to make it, because by the time we got home from gallivanting around, as my Grammie would say, on Saturday, it was too late to make bread.)

The bread is Amanda's (SouleMama's) WHO bread (there's a bread machine version of the recipe also, but we don't have a bread machine). The WHO (wheat, honey, oat) bread is super-easy to make and oh-so-quick too. (It took me maybe twenty minutes to put everything together and I'm a person who has to triple the prep time of most recipes because I'm such a slow cook/baker.) And, most important, it's good. I love it. I will definitely be making this a lot more often. Cardo and I couldn't resist sharing a piece last night, just before midnight, when the bread was ready. Then, this morning, I had two pieces and a apple for breakfast. Pic had a piece toasted with butter and strawberry preserves, and an apple, for breakfast (of course, it took her until almost one o'clock in the afternoon to finish her breakfast). I doubt this bread will last very long. I'm excited about this (if you couldn't tell)!

By the way, I love SouleMama. I have a ton of bookmarks from the blog, saving projects I want to try and foods I want to make and books I want to read. I found SouleMama through another blog I love, The Blankie Chronicles. (Kate also blogs at Cluck and Tweet.) From both The Blankie Chronicles and Cluck and Tweet, I've also bookmarked tons of posts. Each time I create a new bookmark for a new project, I'm more excited about this time I have with Pic before she heads off to school (sometimes, I need to remind myself why I'm doing this year at home).

Anyhow, I just thought I'd share the blog and food love.

In other food nonnews, this is what Pic and I had for lunch the other day:

We're kind of into making popcorn lately. Except, I tend to always burn some of it. The day before this pictured lunch, in fact, I was doing too many things at once and I burnt the first three kernels to disgusting, black bits that billowed smoke and caused our smoke alarm to chirp (but only once...huh). Oops. Any advice? Should I have the heat turned way up so the kernels will pop faster and the already popped pieces will have less time to char? Or, should I have the heat turned down so I won't scald the popcorn?


Of course, I need to post days seventeen through nineteen for my decluttering:

Birthday paraphernalia that, let's face it, I'll never actually use. And, a book that, let's face it, I'll never read. As much as I don't like to let go of books, sometimes I just have to realize that there are some that will just lay around, unread, until they decompose.

I got this bag when I subscribed to Self. It looks cute enough, but it doesn't have a zipper or or snap to keep the main compartment closed (I prefer a zipper). It's small enough to be a purse, but I like my purses to securely close. Also, it has some weird, crinkly plastic lining that makes me crazy. It has been hanging on a door knob for almost a year now...time to give it up.

Friday, November 6, 2009

high praise, ecc

Thank you all for your recent (and ongoing, also) kind and wonderful words. I don't know how I do it, but I sometimes forget that there is more to me than just one identity. Yeah.

I'm just trying to work through some stuff, here, obviously. And, as I already know, I shouldn't post when I'm exhausted beyond belief. (Actually, I probably shouldn't be exhausted beyond belief.)


Decluttering anyone?

Two postcards I've had rustling around here since high school. I apparently have a lot of stuff left over from high school.

As Ms K commented, she finds it easier to give away others' belongings than one's own belongings. I completely agree! There are so many times when I want to just go in Pic's room and start giving stuff away from there. However, I've restrained myself relatively well so far, although I do have her choose toys that she no longer plays with to give away. (Cardo, in so many ways my opposite, isn't big on holding onto stuff, so I there isn't much to raid there, even if the temptation took me.)


Anyhow, tomorrow? A date! (Date number two if you count today's lunch with Ms B!). Cardo and I will try to find Pic's winter gift and then, I hope, we'll spend a little time for just the two of us. I'm envisioning...a walk. I'm definitely a cheap date.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

movies, depression and clutter

Kind of a lot for one post, but I didn't want to do a whole bunch of posts. So here goes:

So, I'm still pretty tired, but we're home for the evening, I have a few things to do and to bed and (I'm figuratively crossing my fingers here) some spectacular slumber.

As for today? Let me just tell you that my child is thoroughly excited by 'Dolly!' as she refers to Hello, Dolly! Definitely my child. She's not as into The Sound of Music. I'm wondering if she'll like Mary Poppins and I'm looking for that at the thrift stores now (now, I'll just have to get over my not-so-much-loving Mary Poppins). I'm thinking we'll add in a little Music Man and My Fair Lady and see how we do with those (she enjoyed what we watched of Funny Face, so I'm hoping she's also an Audrey fan). Oh, and Into the Woods. I'll have to watch that one again also.

Other movies? Bedknobs and Broomsticks, which I enjoy. I'm thinking to get Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, which I've never seen (yeah, I know). Any thoughts on that one? Any other thoughts? She wasn't so into Yours, Mine and Ours or the Hayley Mills Parent Trap, so we'll try those again later.

Also for later, and after I've seen them again because it's been a while: Escape to Witch Mountain and Return from Witch Mountain* and Watcher in the Woods (which was a little creepy to me, so that'll be for when she's quite a bit older).

Oh, I should probably mention that we did not, of course, watch all of these today. I just got into a musicals/older children's movies mode.


* I think one of these movies was recently remade, but I'll stick with the originals. We'll see. I tend to glorify things in recollection.


I just watched this momversation. It was not easy to watch.

I also like the video that Mindy Roberts posted in the comments, part of the episode that ended up on the virtual cutting room floor.


As for the clutter? You might be thinking, as was I, that I had already divested myself of all the extras greeting cards in my possession. Oh, would we be wrong! I found two more sets. Out they go, along with a plastic tub of frail rubber bands and a Marvin the Martian keychain that I believe I never actually used. (The rubber bands, which are snapping as I stretch them, are headed for the trash.)

new rules

I've been thinking that I'm being a little (very) pathetic. I have been cutting myself off from friends solely because of my own worries and doubts. I keep telling myself that I'll cut this behavior out posthaste, but, well, I haven't.

Here are my worries: I'm no longer in the position I was in in May and previously. I am not, at the moment, a student. I'm a mamma staying at home with the little one and that feels pretty much like it right now. My doubts and worries: the people I was friends with will no longer want to be friends because I no longer fit in with the group. Some are still students. Those who aren't, have gone on to become teachers (yes, just about everyone I know and love is a teacher or is studying to become one). What do I have to give to a friendship when I spend almost fifty hours a week raising a four-year-old and taking care of the apartment? I don't want others to become exasperated with me because all of my stories involve my kid. I'm worried that others will see me as something of a...I don't know the word. One who has given up? One who has failed to live up to her potential? (One who has never been sure of that 'potential' anyhow.) A quitter? There were a lot of factors that went into my decision to stay here for the year and not do the program in England. There are a lot of factors playing into our decisions about our family's future. However, under all of that, I am wondering if I can accept this as enough for me for right now. I so easily can see the good that other people do in anything they do, be it going to work outside of the home full-time, staying home to care for their children or their home or both full-time. Working from home. Anything others do, I can definitely get behind. I've never been a good moral supporter for myself, though. I tend to judge myself harshly, and then imagine that others are doing the same.

Geez, there's so much more I could say on this subject, but I won't. There're too many expectations that I may never live up to and I just can't stop imagining the rolled eyes from those who might think I'm throwing opportunities away. Like I have tried to imply, I really have no idea what others are thinking, but I worry about it nonetheless (which, Cardo would point out, is part of my problem...never worry about what others are thinking he tells me, but I don't have his quiet confidence).

So, off with the rambling and on with the rules:

-- I will be more available to my friends. I will be available by phone, although I much prefer to communicate through the interweb (hint, hint) or face-to-face, when I can be lured from my cave. (Of course, this means that I actually have to figure out the whole e-mail situation, yes?)

-- I will let go more easily and understand that people grow apart, that our life choices pull us in different directions and that every friendship is not meant to last forever.

-- I will date my husband, even if it's only once a month.

-- I will, eventually, ask for time for myself.

That's all for now. I don't like to make too many changes at once, else I'm overwhelmed.


P.S. I've gone from incredible amounts of sleep Insomnia hit hard last night and I haven't been to sleep. I'm sure that I'll read this over later and think, 'geez, I shouldn't be let near the computer in a insomnia-induced stupor,' but this has been on my mind for a while and I wanted to post it before I lost the nerve, again.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

food, and pictures of it

I always seem to figure things out much later than, well, everyone else. Or, I'll read/hear about something, think it's a good idea and then take years to implement it. Such is the story with weekly menus. It is amazing how easy it is for us to actually stick with eating at home when we have a menu, no matter how rudimentary or boring it may be. And, now that my student loans are coming due and I'm not working this year, we really need to be able to stick with an eating at home routine.

Of course, there are other benefits. I love to eat at home. I can eat in my yoga pants, slippers and an oversized t-shirt, as I did tonight. We like to cook together, which is a nice experience for me. I've been getting Pic to try more foods (although, she still usually tries the food, declares it either 'yummy' or 'blech' and then declines another bite no matter how it tasted). Our food is healthier than most restaurant food. And, yes, we spend less money. Much, much less. When we do eat out now, I notice that I'm often disappointed in the food. It just doesn't taste as good as I used to think it did. And, I also always wonder, 'Couldn't I have made this at home?' Of course, though, I do still like to eat out on occasion, given the restaurant.

Anyhow, tonight's dinner? Sincronizadas (with turkey, not ham) and roasted zucchini.

As I said: rudimentary and boring. But, I enjoy it. Cardo hadn't eaten at all today (!), so I had the zucchini in the oven and the ingredients for the sincronizadas ready to go when he walked in the door (he's the sincronizada-maker here...otherwise I would have started making those too). Shortly thereafter, we were sitting at the table, discussing our day while Cardo and I ate dinner and Pic ate apples. Of course. Actually, pretty much all she had to eat today was fruit. Ah, well. I know it could be much worse. I've always tried to be really careful about getting into power-struggles over food with her. I just don't figure they'll be very productive. So, there are lots and lots of nights where she tastes dinner and then eats fruit or crackers or toast. I don't cook something else for her and I don't voice my frustrations (because, believe you me, they're I know how my parents felt about my very own incredibly picky eating habits).

When Cardo isn't home, Pic and I usually have even more basic fare. Sunday night, for example, we had oatmeal. (Here I go with the oatmeal pictures again. Yes, even though Peecho has told me it looks like vomit. You're welcome for that mental image.

I do have to admit that Pic's looks better than mine here...I had already stirred mine all up. Steel cut oats, chunks of apple*, maple syrup, pumpkin pie spice, toasted almonds, a bit of milk and some Craisins. (Does anyone know how to dry cranberries with no special equipment? I'd like them without the sugar.) Pic's a big oatmeal fan. She's also a big fan of almonds. I made the exact same thing again for breakfast Monday morning, except that time I chopped the almonds before I toasted them.

This morning, we had fruit and toast. I bought a sourdough round at House of Bread, which I haven't mentioned in forever, but which I still love, love, love. I kind of burnt the bottom edges of the bread and Pic's face when she tasted that part was hilarious! (No pictures, sorry.) I asked her what was wrong and she told me, 'I don't like the black part. It's disgusting.' I told her she could just eat the rest of it.

Finally, my decluttering item. It's food also, if you consider hard candies to be food.

We've had this little plastic container of sugar-free hard candies for so long I can't even remember when we bought them. There're also some caramels in there and I don't know when they joined the party. The original occupants of the container went incredibly quickly. Trader Joe's dark chocolate-covered caramels. Mmm. (I didn't give the candies away. I trashed them.)


* When I make steel cut oats, I add chunks of apple because the cooking time is so long. When I make old-fashioned (rolled) oats, I add applesauce because there isn't enough time for the apples to soften.

I've also topped oatmeal with some jam and once I tried mashed bananas (I'm not a fan of bananas and I definitely don't like them in my oatmeal.) Does anyone have any other tasty oatmeal topping ideas to share?

ah, well

The first thing I thought this morning was not, 'Aaah, I really needed those ten-and-a-half hours of sleep. I was beyond exhausted last night.' No, it was, 'Oh, man, I didn't post anything last night!'

So, ah well. That was short-lived. Back to posting as usual, which might just be less pressure. That's okay with me. Maybe next year.

Anyhow, here're yesterday's items for donation:

These are all extra copies, which is exactly what happens when I don't catalogue my books (of course, then I'd have to take the list with me every time I left my apartment). I am still missing seven and twelve (The Penultimate Peril, I now have on hold at the library). I'm not loving these books, but I was really hoping to. They read so quickly though, that I just want to get through the series.

Monday, November 2, 2009

6th grade art class

I think that's the last time my visual arts skills developed. There has been no subsequent growth. I'm trying to be unapologetic about that. Pic and I have begun having art time and I love to sit down and draw with her, but the frustration always threatens to bubble up.

It's probably been a good decade since I last really sketched and I miss it. I was always so upset, though, that what I was seeing -- with my eyes or in my head -- never matched what I was creating. I think I need to let up a bit on myself. I'm just so eager to find a talent, any talent, that I often don't give myself the time to actually develop one. (Let's not get into the whole, 'Is talent innate or can it be learned?' debate. The ancient Greeks were asking that same question and I'm pretty sure we still don't have it figured out.)

So, this month will be full of daily moments of drawing, coloring, painting. Maybe I'll get a be a little daring and try sketching again. We'll see.


credit, where it's due

I didn't mention, but my NaBloPoMo badge is from here. There's always a page for badges. I usually only use the ones sent in by other posters (post-ers). I wasn't inspired by the ones under the November badges, so I waited and I really like this badge. I'm soaking up as much autumn as I can get before all of the beautiful color fades into winter.

declutter eleven and twelve and...

Yes, I'm still decluttering and it's been over a week! I thought I would have given up by now. I'm just hoping that it lasts the full thirty days (and beyond?). The bags went to Goodwill la questa mattina (this morning). Also, we gave away the stroller and the learning-toilet-thingie to a friend this morning. I forgot to take pictures beforehand, so here're images I found on Google Images. (The stroller, we bought used. It didn't have the fun fabric the one pictured here does, but it worked just fine.)


Two quick notes on our reading around here:

We just finished reading In Defense of Food. Somewhere near the end (I'm going to have to loosely paraphrase here, we've returned the book to the library), Pollan urges his readers to go to the farmer's markets. He says something about there being no processed foods there. I think he's talking about the idyllic farmer's markets I imagine when I think of what they might be like other places. Here, though? I always immediately think of the Sparks Hometowne Farmer's Market, which we've finally given up on. As for the no-processed-foods thing? I just have two words: rubber pretzels. Okay, okay, a few more words. Every time we've been, we've marvelled at the amounts of unhealthy foods (and at the non-food products) you can buy as you choose your produce.

Finally: last night, Cardo worked late. Pic waited up for him so he could read her a book, but she finally gave in to sleep before he was home. At five o'clock this morning, she called out for him and asked, 'Did you forget to read me a book?' so they sat together, read a book and then both went back to sleep. I love her priorities.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

a four-year-old's humor

Ah, the jokes have begun. Soon enough, she'll have enough to put together an entire stand-up show. Actually, all of her jokes, thus far, are made on-the-fly. Before you read her joke, please note that the hilarity lies in the fact that she finds herself so entirely amusing during the telling.

Q: Why did the balloon go up and up?

A: Because it was full of air!

[Laugh hysterically, causing your parents to also laugh hysterically.]

time travel

And, just like that, an hour has suddenly been added to my life. Oh, daylight savings time, how strange you are to me.

I'm sitting here in the quiet of the apartment, in the corner of the office-library. I'm uploading photos that I might actually print out so I can start filling in photo albums. I'm writing my monthly letter to Pic, recapping the last month (good thing that I just practiced by posting more generally here). These letters started out as weekly, but that only worked for the first few months, maybe. For the last couple of years or so, I've been lucky to get in more than one letter a month. I'm also listening to shows on Netflix and catching up on my newest blog-love.

In a few moments, though, I'll sign off of my letter, make myself a cup of sleepytime tea and go burrow down into my bed.

A cozy image (from almost three-and-a-half years ago) before I go.



Welcome to November, aka National Blog Posting Month, or for the more ambitious, National Novel Writing Month!

Okay, now that the welcome is out of the way, I'd like to look back on October.

What would have been a month of mainly me, on my own, beginning a new programme, securing lodging and child-schooling, ended up being very different. It ended up being a month of semi-hibernation, of sorts, and quiet adventures. I wrote about some yesterday (it doesn't take much to constitute an adventure for La Famiglia B).

Very early in the month, we had a chance encounter with a friend I haven't recently seen and who I haven't heard much from lately (yes, just what everyone else is thinking about me, I know and I apologize). Because of that encounter -- and my own hiding out -- I've been doing a lot of thinking about friendship, but I'll save that rambling for later. Let me just suffice it to say that I have amazing friends. Truly amazing. I thank you all for your patience with me while I attempt to figure things out for myself.

A bit later in the month, we took a short family trip to our western neighbor. The first part of the trip was business-related, but, after that, we made it over to Monterey. We usually go to the aquarium (of course), but we passed on it this time. We had a great (and much-less-expensive) time, nonetheless. (I still am hoping that we will be able to go to the aquarium next time though.)

Recently, we've gone to visit our capital, taking in the Halloween sights as we do every year, playing at a pumpkin patch we happened upon last year and returned to this year.

We also took that Virginia City trip, but I apparently took zero pictures, although I wore the camera so attractively attached to my hip the whole time.

Pic and I made her costume, following a great many of the instructions, ignoring others. We went trick-or-treating for the second year in a row with Coach J and her family. I can't describe how happy I am to see Pic and Destructor together. I love watching Pic grow, but it's been such a treat to also watch Destructor grow and to watch their friendship grow. I feel lucky to have the Coach J family in our lives.

There has been so much more, of course. We've caught up a bit with my godparents. We've made a new family friend who we immediately loved. There has been reading, learning, walking, growing. I've been trying to learn who I am and shape myself into who I want to be. I've been so lucky to be able to watch Pic grow into herself more and more each day.

There have definitely been some rocky times, but overall, I've been soaking up this autumn. It is, after all, my favorite season and I certainly don't want to waste it.