Saturday, January 12, 2019

drums and ponies and nest-leaving

Well, life continues to be rich and full in the Miser Household.  The biggest news of the week comes at the end:  N-son went off to college today!

Before he left, he bought new clothes, including this red suit.

He asked me about three times, "Don't you want to include this on the blog?"  So I guess I did.  Here's N-son's great red suit.

What else happened?  My husband went to his weekly Tuesdays-with-Toomey protest.  I asked the theme for this week, and he answered,
Today we are eradicating homelessness.
I’m thinking we may not finish today

My husband with a gift from Alise.

Meanwhile, here are too many pictures of N-son playing drums at church.  (A-child joined in later!)

And that's our fledgling, leaving the nest.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

From calendars to boxes

Calendar pages (the kind you hang on a wall) are often square.   Calendar pages are often pretty.  Ergo, calendar pages are great material for making origami, especially if you want to make fairly durable, stiff objects.   

Like these gift boxes, which I made out of last year's Cow Yoga calendar. 

I followed the directions at the website, and it was really pretty easy to do, once I go the hang of it (for example, I discovered that calendar paper is so stiff that I used a wooden spatula instead of my fingers to "iron" out the creases).  I made 6 "tops", and then trimmed the pages just a little to make 6 "bottoms" that fit inside.  The end result was a bunch of really nice boxes that I could put small gifts in, or even just give to my granddaughter for stacking and knocking down.

A friend sends us calendars of his photos every year.  Lately, he's been photographing protests.   Here's a photo of the 6 boxes I made from last year's protest calendar:

They're lined up on my husband's dresser, because he's the protest pro around here!

As for my own pro passion, I offer a math geeky aside:  One of the questions on the website above is
"This is great – thanks! Would love to know what size paper you need to make different sized boxes if you know? Else I will have to find out by practicing I suppose."
and the author responds,
I believe the length and width of the bottom of the final box is roughly 1/4 the size of the original paper. Hope that helps!
But *actually*, the boxes are 1/sqrt(8) the size of the original paper. (That's a tad bigger than 1/3). The calendar pages I used were 12 inches square; the boxes came out about 4.5" wide and 2.25 as deep.  So now you know.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Buy/Borrow, Keep/Purge: some book decisions

My husband and I, we prepare more and more for a move to a smaller home.   We don't know which smaller home, and we don't know when we'll move.  But we continue to slowly and carefully curate our belongings so that the things that get to make the move with us (some unknown day) will be those things we actually really, truly want to keep.

It's kind of hard to be emotionally attached to the fourth set of twin sheets or the nth towel in the towel stack, and so paring down the linen closet has been fairly easy, emotionally speaking.  But the further we get into the paring-of-possessions routine, the more personal the decisions become.

So, books

These can represent hopes and dreams: languages we started learning and imagine someday we'll return to and become fluent in.  Classic novels we will someday wend our ways through so we can say we did (War and Peace, I'm looking at you!).  Cooking techniques we'll master some day when we have time.  Decades come and decades go, but these hopes and dreams still sit between hard covers, lined up in rows, staring at us from their hard spines.

Books can grow dusty on our shelves while still having their hooks in us because of emotional ties to our pasts.   Miss Manner's Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior weighs down a portion of my own library for this very reason; ain't nobody gonna pry this book from its place in my permanent collection.

And books can be tributes to something we love.  My husband's recent sorting dilemma fell in this area.  The works of C.S. Lewis altered the course of his life, and they continue to have a profound influence on the way he approaches the world.  For that reason, we own at least one copy of every book Lewis has written, most of them with copious hand-written notes that my husband took while reading and re-reading these books.  We also own books that other people wrote about C.S. Lewis. 

In the sorting decisions that my husband has been making, he's decided that we're keeping the former and releasing the latter.   It was good to read these secondary sources, but keeping them isn't as important.  He doesn't need to go back to the biographies and analyses over and over -- and even if he changed his mind about that, he could find these books again relatively easily.   Keeping the words of Lewis himself close at hand is like having a friend in the house you can turn to for advice and solace.  But the books about the guy, not so much.

As always, one of the main difficulties with getting rid of something that's in the house already is the notion of "loss aversion" -- the idea that we value things more when we own them than when we don't.  So we've started focusing on the aspect of what we'll gain when these books are gone.  It's not just extra space or an easier move.   The truth is, we both love love love reading books -- and it turns out that reading books we don't already own is fantastically enjoyable.  When we go to the library and look for one book, but come home with three (or seven, or whatever), we've opened up realms of new worlds. 

Increasingly, as we pay attention to what we actually do instead of what we think we'll do, we realize that we get a heck of a lot of joy from The Library, whereas we get combinations of obligation, guilt, and comfort from our library.   So we're working on preserving the comfort books, while packing up and giving away the rest.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Miser Family update -- heady version

Did you celebrate Thirdsday (Thursday 1/3)?  Man, I nearly missed it, but thanks to my friend/muse/mentor Evelyn Lamb writing this excellent Scientific American blog essay, I learned that some geeky mathematicians planned to do the day up in style. Needless to say, I became one of those geeky mathematicians. Apparently, celebrating Thirdsday involves sharing things, so I made a loaf of bread, left 1/3 at home, and brought the rest to the office to share the people nearby. It also involves reciting as many digits of 1/3 as you can, in one breath. I made it to 73:
in case you were wondering.

There won't be another 1/3 on a Thursday until the year 2030, so the next Thirdsday celebration is a heck of a long way off yet.

Other celebrations made the week one that was rich and full for the entire Miser Family.  For example, on New Year's day my husband hosted a Book Nerd gathering, which was so danged much fun that by the end we declared this the First Annual.  My favorite part was Sarah Grasshopper's homemade book earrings and matching book flower in her hair.  I am jealous, in a good way! Mark your calendars for the next Book Nerds gathering, 4 p.m. January 1, 2020, followed by pork and sauerkraut, for a traditional New Year's good luck dinner, per local traditions.

Speaking of my husband, he didn't crash his bike this week -- but nonetheless this comic strip was, I think, written for him.

(I still remember him in 2007, lying on the stretcher in the emergency room with his neck broken in three places, plus a bunch of other broken bones, with a surgeon stitching his face back onto his skull, asking me to go buy him a new cell phone because he was worried it had gotten smashed when he crashed.  Fortunately, the phone was undamaged. So that was a big relief for us all.)

N-son got to have a smashing pizza party with his former Squash team, spending celebratory time with them before he heads off to school next week.

And K-daughter send me a plethora of pictures, annotated:
Had a super fun week at work! Picture one: fooling around with co worker with (turned off) heat gun. We were making pieces for our machine that holds our gama alumina. Picture two: I'm soldering wires Picture three: the control panel I had to wire! Picture four: I made a nest!

And . . . that's the news from our family, which continues to be wealthy in our celebrations.  May you and yours be similarly prosperous.  

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Unwanted Mail day

In our quest to reduce our landfill-based trash, but really to reduce any trash at all, I spend more time than I'd like actively asking companies to stop sending me mail.  This past semester, I'd saved up a bunch of offending mail for a massive "please stop" blitz, and yesterday was that blitz.

I'm really grateful for Catalog Choice (   They can't help with EVERY company, but when a company is on their list, stopping mail is just a click or two of trouble.  In fact, I'm so grateful that I gifted them a little $100 donation as my final charitable contribution of the year. 

I'm also getting low on my "Please remove us from your mailing list" stickers that I use with credit card offers and other stuff that comes with returnable envelopes.   And then I spent a bunch of time on the phone. 

"Please remove us from your mailing list"
Stickers are almost all gone. . . 
All told, I think I spent about an hour and half.  Sheesh. 

A box of unwanted (glossy) mail.
The office-paper mail is in another box.
Technically, most of this unwanted mail is "recyclable", but it's getting harder and harder to find places that want to recycle it.   In my area, there's one recycling center that accepts well-sorted donations, but they do it as a kindness: office paper actually loses them money.   (Other things like chip board and aluminum are money makers, provided it's well-sorted and clean, which is why they're so careful about what they accept).

And as long as we're on the subject, I'll just note in passing that we've achieved a record low number of trash cans at the curb:  we put 6 (six) cans at the curb in 2018 [insert small celebration noises here].  A huge part of the reduction is that we had a similar reduction in the number of people in the house -- only 3 of us living here full time now.   And because I love graphs, that's how I'll end this post.

Number of trash cans at the curb in various years since we started keeping track

Monday, December 31, 2018

How I made my very own cow candle holder

I got a new cordless drill from my daughters for Christmas, because apparently our Mother's Day Stair-repair extravaganza convinced them I'm the kind of person who would be happy with two cordless drills (one for drill bits and the other for putting in screws), and that in addition to having two drills it'd be nice for me to have extra drill batteries.

My daughters know me well.

I also got a little plastic cow because my family believes it's not really Christmas until I receive a cow.  So.  Drill, and cow.  Cow and drill.

Clearly, what I needed to do was to make the cow into a birthday candle holder.  Start with tiny drill bits to align the hole correctly, and build up to bigger drill bits to accommodate the candle . . .

Et voila!  The cow candle holder stands at the ready.

Having useful tools is wonderful, isn't it?

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Miser Family update, updated

I keep saying it, but it really freakin' continues to be true:  Life is Rich and Full in the Miser Family Household -- with surgeries, college acceptances, multiple trips, scholarly resubmissions, and cell phone constructions, and a flu.  Speaking of the flu, that's my reason that this update will actually be a two-week update: some people do a juice cleanse, but last Saturday I did an intense 7-hour lasagna cleanse.  Uff! 

So, my own individual fun events were that I

  • graded my exams and did the usual end-of-semester clean-up;
  • visited my Dad and his wife with my sister and her husband, and a few of my own kids, too;
  • resubmitted a paper that had gotten "minor revisions";
  • had surgery!!!  Whoo hoo!  I had my stomach lipoma removed, much to my delight.  (The doc says it was the size of a peanut, but I got to see it and think it was more the size of a cashew).
By the way, I'm totally fine.  Two days after I had the giant hunk of flesh ripped from my body, I did a fun 5-mile run with my buddies and then did a bunch of bike errands. 

Sometime during the week, my step-daughter snuck into the house and decorated the dog.  In the same way that hikers "leave nothing but footprints; take nothing but photos", she then very kindly took all costume evidence away with her but left me the pictures.   Which I love!  Even better that these photos remind us of the awesome dog in the Grinch movie we watched (per our advent calendar); Prewash was really curious about Max the Dog in that movie. 

N-son's huge announcement is that HE'S GOING TO SCHOOL!!!  A mere two Mondays ago, we heard that he gets to start school in mid-January.  We're all over the moon about this.  Although all other news pales in comparison, I'll just mention he had a blast these past few days visiting New York with his dad, and he got to go solo to see Aqua Man and Creed II.  (Writing that makes me think "AquaMan and Creed, II" might be a very interesting movie.

Last week, my husband celebrated the 49th anniversary of his driver's license.  This is a big deal for our family, and it's the only Special Dinner we do that involves restaurants (we go out to a diner, but of course). 

A selfie (us-ie?) with 7 of us at the
Car Dinner.  
But the car dinner wasn't all he did.  When I try to reconstruct the last two weeks from his Google Calendar, I see . . .
  • Philadelphia Jewish Museum
  • AICHE reception
  • Bike protest 
  • Doctor (he had his foot -- not his head --examined because his feet are ugly)
  • Overnight homeless shelter (he notes he was a "jewish volunteer in a Catholic church")
  • New York with N-son (while there, he rode 3-4 boroughs and New bridges 3-4 times, went to the Holocaust Museum and the Schomburg Center for Research  in Black Culture) 

In addition, sometime in there we had a hoppin' Christmas day gathering of five-sixths of my kids (I-daughter was off visiting her dad's family instead).   We decorated a gingerbread house and had a rousing round of Then-and-Now photos. 
Then . . . 

. . . and now

A cell phone, obviously.
  Later in the week, A-child and I used our technical engineering prowess to make her a cell phone.  We verified that it worked when she used it, in the living room, to call me in the dining room approximately every 45 seconds to update me on what the dog was doing (chewing a bone).  And (chewing a bone. again.)   If you ever want to make your own cell phone, it turns out all you need is (a) the leftover boundary from a bunch of My Little Pony stickers, and (b) a piece of corrugated cardboard.   Just let me know if you need assembly instructions. 

And that's the latest news from our family, which continues to be wealthy in our adventures.  May you and your be similarly prosperous.