Monday, December 6, 2010

Back in action

Oh, what a Sunday!  It has been weeks since I had any real ambition, thanks to the nasty bug(s) inhabiting my body.  But I finally vanquished enough of the pain in cough-racked ribs to tackle some real physical activity.  Raking leaves.  It has been driving me nuts to look out the window and see the grass and soil hidden beneath leaves inches deep.  So I tentatively went to work, carefully gauging my tender torso.  I will admit to almost wimping out at one point, but I pushed on.  I raked, mowed the lawn, and raked some more, until the compost heap was overflowing and the yard bin full.  So I still have a few piles of leaves, but I feel I really accomplished something.  And while the exercise was long overdue, somehow I didn't break out in a sweat.

So did I relax then?  No.  I made a huge pot of soup.  Minestrone.
Want to know my secret ingredients?  V8 juice, refried beans, and Spicy Mrs. Dash.  And I add precooked pasta towards the end and the peas and stewed tomatoes last.

I was finished then.  Right?  Right?  Nope.  I baked black-bottomed cupcakes (an old Sunset magazine recipe) to thank the wonderful group of students I supervise.  Have I mentioned I teach?  No?  Well, I do.  And instead of writing an exam (the one thing I detest more than grading), I found myself doing kinds of other things.

Today they came running in to get them.  They have me well trained to make them near the end of every semester.  After all they do to make my life easier, how could I not?!

Have you remembered to thank someone who makes your life easier?
(And, yes, I am avoiding writing my exam by blogging!)

Friday, December 3, 2010

She's Alive!

I know, I know.  I feel like I am hearing Molly Weasley say, "Where have you been?!"  I am back among the living after weeks of struggling with a particularly nasty respiratory infection.  Not that it is totally gone, mind you.  But I can function once again without wondering "how I am going to do it?", whatever "it" is.

So for my first posting after forever, should I share what my house looked like for Halloween?

Or about the delightful young college women who graced our Thanksgiving table (let me clarify, they were not on the table)?  Young women who brought beautiful flowers, played games with the Offspring, and clearly did not want to leave after dinner?

I certainly do not have photos of our Christmas decorations since we haven't done any.  Yes, I refuse to decorate the weekend after Thanksgiving.  We simply have a moratorium on Christmas until December 1.  What can I say?!  Since so much time has past, I thought I would share that not only did we get some glorious sun, the first in weeks, I had something else to brighten my day.

I have never tried to force spring bulbs of any kind and certainly not paperwhites.  But between the autumn bouquet and the promise of spring, my outlook is brightening.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Passing skills to another generation

It has been a very busy three weeks here at Chez Pooh with the start of school for all inhabitants.  The summer flew by and I did not get around to many of my plans.  But then the lack of a real schedule is one of the joys of the summer!

One of my goals during the summer was to start teaching Offspring some basic life skills.  Like sewing.  Now, some people would argue that males will not use sewing skills, but as we all know, a lack of basic knowledge can limit the possibilities before they even begin.  Pants may need hemming, buttons always fall off.  If you can sew, home decorating becomes a whole lot cheaper and oh, the possible Halloween costumes (and I have had to be very creative to meet the imagination of Offspring)!  Okay, so, it didn't happen this summer.  Well, it sort of did.  One August afternoon I drew a pattern on a sheet of cardstock, removed the thread from the sewing machine, put in an old needle, and introduced terms like "pressure foot" and "seam allowances".  I remember doing this when I started in 4-H in the fourth grade.  I made my pattern a little more interesting by including a favorite toy logo.  There were lots of corners and curves, long lines and short.  And he did great!  Didn't stray off the lines hardly at all!  Not that that was any surprise-the kid has a phenomenally long attention span (which made kindergarten very difficult) and the attention to detail that plagues his parents and saturates his genes.

He was so excited that he was immediately asking to sew on real fabric.  So I dug out a long skinny strip and let him learn to hold two edges together while feeding the fabric.  But the straight stitch was not good enough so it was on to the zigzag.  His fascination with the only two buttons for fancy stitches were next on his agenda.  While the interest was there, I wanted to run with it.  So what to do next?

His Aunt Pogonip at Meadowsweet Cottage had made a pillowcase for him not too long ago and I thought that would be a good place to start.  Straight lines, no gathering, not too much fabric.  So, just before school started, we headed off to the land of fabric and he picked out three prints that fit his requirements for the beginnings of a new bedroom theme.  With help from Robin's pillowcase tutorial, it was so very easy.  So here is the finished project, complete with french seams, I will have you know.  I will admit that I cut the fabric, pinned everything in place, did the ironing, and helped with the stitiching over the points where there were ten layers (or more) of fabric.  So he didn't totally fly solo.  If I was a judge at a county fair, he would definitely earn a blue ribbon!  I'd go so far as to say he did an out-of-this-world job!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Back to school

Yesterday morning Offspring stood on the stairs for those "first day of school" photos that we take every year.  But instead of a little boy, it was a young man standing there.  These days when I turn to look at him, his eyes are almost (but not quite) level with my own and I don't have to bend over to hug him.  His feet are now officially longer.  He has long since surpassed eating the same amount that I do.  The voice is starting to deepen and I have to caution him that he is much stronger now and must be more gentle with his mother.  The strongest indication of the little boy disappearing was the total lack of hesitation walking into school.

Some moms would lament that their "baby" is gone.  While I may comment that he is not a baby any more in conversation, I am quite pleased to see him more grown up and to see how he is growing up.  All that time and love invested in him when he was little is paying off.  I personally think he is a great kid.  He certainly is not a "typical" teenager (well, rousting him out of bed was a tad more difficult than usual!).  You can hold conversations with him.  He looks you in the eye.  He will act excited, rather than bored or sullen.  And he is nice!  Death knell, I know, when said about boys. But I am raising someone's future husband here and I think that matters!

Back to school always means that I am less "Mom" and more "adult".  I get back to work, have time to do chores uninterrupted (well, mostly), and have more contact with other parents and adults.  And every fall I feel an urgency to tackle as many projects that didn't get done during the summer as possible, before the weather turns uncooperative.  Hey, it has been uncooperative practically all summer, what am I saying!  So maybe the painting I had hoped to do won't get done.  Maybe there are still piles of papers to sort.  If I can just finish the old paint jobs I will be satisfied.  The ones where just one or two things that didn't get finished finally get completed (the bathroom moulding, the garage ceiling, the house numbers). If I can sort through one more box of old paperwork or finish a sewing project here and there, I will feel a sense of accomplishment.  And maybe, just maybe, saying no to one particular volunteer project will make that happen.

Addendum:  I had prepared this post yesterday and just wanted to add a photo later in the day (when the backpack was here). But my feeble memory finally kicked in and I remembered that after school on the first day back is not necessarily a pretty picture. So instead of taking a photo and blogging (please forgive me!), I planned and prepared for making the rude awakening of back to school a little less shocking. After a trip to the grocery store that meant a special issue of National Geographic waiting on the table with fruit quickly washed and ready for a snack.  With the first course of the snacking (there were 3!), I focused on heartier fare with a second course of fruit ready when the first was inhaled. Dinner included green bean casserole and other favorite comfort foods.  I commiserated over the numerous algebra problems and the first current event assignment, while providing lots of hugs and as much positive energy as I could muster.  I didn't try to accomplish anything else during this time except helping my teenager adjust to the loss of personal time.  To his credit, he spent more time on his homework than complaining (a first, I think), staying focused and even enjoying the mental exercises.  It helped that he was motivated to finish in time to watch White Collar (thanks to the joys of the DVR).  And, you know, it worked.  All those little things boosted the spirits of my introvert and made for a much more pleasant first day of school.  I even got to hear what went on during the day!  I wish I could remember that I need to be more "present" and less "productive" in order to be a good parent!  So I tweaked this entry for "after the fact" and have to just accept that if this blogging is to work for me, I have to do what I have to.  And for me, family come first.  Always has, always will. 

Friday, August 27, 2010

Biggest home improvement yet

We knew this day was coming.  The time when the house needed reroofing.  Despite our best attempts to stretch out a cedar shake roof beyond a 20-year lifetime, the time had come.  Who knew that picking out a color to reroof would be so hard!  We drove all over the area trying to find houses in the materials we were considering.  But pitch, time to day, number of trees, orientation can all change how the same composite shingle looks.  Well, we finally decided on a color (on our vacation, no less!) after weeks of agonizing.  (Decisions are not my strong suit.)  Any roof was more important than the "perfect" color.  We just want this one to last so we don't have to listen to 2 days of racket ever, ever again.  What do you think?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Gotta love adjustable waistbands!

Anyone with growing or grown kids knows that they reach stages when they grow out of clothes before they wear out of them. We are blessed with friends that pass on their hand-me-downs. Shorts, ski jackets and pants and other extra-cold climate apparel, boots, sandals, as well as lots of shirts and regular pants have made a regular series of very welcome appearances at our house. We call it the E Collection.  Well, Offspring wore out the seat of one pair of shorts recently and I really did not want to have to go shop for more and did not think it likely we would even find any left in the stores. So we rummaged around in the drawer of the E Collection and found the perfect pair. And I don’t know about you, but I positively adore the inventor of the adjustable waistband that is becoming standard issue on kids’ pants. I have lost track of the hours and gallons of gas traipsing all over our metropolitan area to find uniform pants and jeans that fit. Before adjustable waistbands, Offspring once had to try on 17 pairs of jeans to find one, I repeat, one pair that fit even somewhat. Perhaps I should clarify that. Seventeen pairs of the same size, same brand, same cut that came the closest and then looking for the one pair that did not immediately drop to his ankles and in which he could still bend over without cutting off the blood supply to his lower extremities. Well, the adjustable waistband changed all that for us. Life is good!
Well, back to my story. This pair of shorts from the E Collection? Only one problem. They had an adjustable band. “What?!” you say? How could that be a problem?
See? The elastic “buttonholes” had coalesced into one very looooong buttonhole.

My solution? To replace the elastic. Not so quick! The elastic was sewn into the middle of the back waistband (so that it doesn’t pull out). So first I had to open up the back waistband and happily the beltloop was not sewn into that seam. I found that the elastic was sewn onto a small strip of fabric just hanging free in the casing so I ripped out that stitching.
The next step was to take a piece of elastic, fold the ends back and stitch them down. After that I made three buttonholes, on each end, for a total of six. Thank goodness my sewing machine has an automatic setting that replicates the first one. Then I restitiched the middle of the elastic to that little flap of fabric, threaded each half into the waistband, and cut open only the buttonholes that were needed.

The hardest part was resewing the waistband. I couldn’t sew under the belt loop in one straight line so I just divvied it up, starting from each outward edge and sewing as far as I could with the belt loop smushed out of the way, and then repeating from the other side. Ta-da!

I think it took me all of 30 minutes, maybe 40. And most of that was refreshing myself on how to make buttonholes with my machine.

When the time comes we will pass on this pair of shorts to another weed who is growing so very fast. We will have helped someone else who may not have the time, sewing skills, or the access to a sewing machine to extend the life of another piece of clothing. Now that is the green way of doing things! One person at a time, doing one little thing here and there. It all adds up.  (It also helped to pass the time while listening to the cacophony of roofers replacing our roof.)  One more thing to check off my list(s)!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Nature's Masterpieces

I finally learned how to download the photos from my new camera. The new camera my wonderful husband thought would be a good idea given that we were taking what was likely to be my once-in-a-lifetime trip to Yellowstone. (My old camera just would not have survived so many photos.) Not that I wouldn't like to go back. It is just not the sort of trip that can be planned at the last minute, the kind we typically take.

Anyway, I thought I would share some of my flower photos. A photograph cannot do justice to the wide vistas and the wonder, but a girl can try!  (And right now I am just happy that I figured out how to post photos.)

No, I have no idea what this white one is. 

Monday, August 16, 2010


I tried once before to do a blog.  Actually, I set it up for my offspring, but by then school had started and homework took over.  So I occasionally posted a trivial bit.  But life was too hectic.  Isn't it always!  When I decided to try and pick it up again, I discovered that the note with the offspring's convoluted password that I could never remember had disappeared.  Yes, I know you are not supposed to write passwords down.  But just call me "Dory"!  Short term memory disappeared about 2 years ago.  If I don't write it down, I don't remember it.  Period.  Zilch, nada, nothing.  I wonder how I function sometimes, but I am my lists.  Stacks of them.  Some are ten years old but still valid.  No bucket list, though.  Although, if I did have a bucket list, seeing Yellowstone National Park would have been on it.   I am happy to say that if I had such a list, that would be get crossed off now. 

Yes, we took a real vacation.  Not that visiting family is not a vacation.  Anything that gets me away from the house and my piles of lists and projects and have-to-do's qualifies as a vacation.  But we did the whole road trip, see the sights along the way (although not as many as I would liked), savor the moments vacation!  We only do that about every 3-4 years because of schedules and finances and needing to see family.  What's more, we did not run into any problems.  We came back driving the same car we left home in.

I must admit that I did not expect to have those ooh-and-ahh moments in Yellowstone because I expected crowds to be everywhere.  (And I am an introvert in how I get my energy.  Crowds suck the life out of me.  I much prefer small groups.  Once a group hits 7 or 8, it's big.  Not that I can't enjoy a bigger group, I am just exhausted afterwards.  So shopping at a mall?  Dementor city!)  But the only place we felt the crowds were overwhelming were in the Old Faithful area.  Now, really people, Old Faithful is big and reliable, but it is not, in my humble opinion, the best feature of the park.  I loved the colors of the hot springs, the plopping of the mudpots, the variety of columns in the biofilms (don't's a geeky science thing).  So Grand Prismatic Spring and Dragon's Mouth Spring and the Anemone Geyser get my votes for favorite spots.  And listening to the bison grunt and snort was totally awesome.  I could just picture the hills covered with the huge herds of long ago.  While our time in Yellowstone was short (four days/three nights), it was a wonderful experience.  One I hope the offspring will long remember.

Perhaps the other thing that made this trip so special is that I got to see two of the best friends one could ask for.  Neither friend lives anywhere close to us, but I still consider them among my best friends.  One friend we stopped to visit along the way (I planned our route so we could do that), but could not stay even remotely as long as we would have liked (thanks to a late start due to a broken irrigation line).  The other friend drove all the way from Billings with her husband just to spend time with us.  This friend #2?  I had not seen since 1987!  In minutes the years fell away and we were enjoying our time together as we always had.  It could have been awkward since we married since we last saw each other.  And one can easily run out of things to talk about.  No.  The men got along, the offspring took to them quickly, there were no awkward moments of "what shall we talk about now?", and I was mentally planning the next visit as we said goodbye.

Maybe we will have to do this vacation thing again.  I guess we were just gun shy after the last trip resulted in a series of events that they base movies on.  And that's good.  We couldn't afford both a new roof and a new car this time around.