Thursday, March 26, 2015

a small thing to love: a broom

I'm not sure why I'm so fond of a good broom, but I am.

I like the kind with wooden handles and straw bristles, not plastic. I always drill a hole in the wood and add a loop or a ring to hang the broom, so the bristles don't warp from sitting on the floor.

I like a good broom so much, that about two months ago I splurged.  I spent $12 and I bought an upstairs broom, even though we already had a broom hanging in the kitchen.  First thing I did when I got home after buying the new broom:  drilled a hole and inserted a ring, and hung it in the hallway.  Now the boys don't steal the kitchen broom and leave it in their bedroom; they have a dedicated bedroom broom.

That's all.  I just like brooms.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Update: In the Twinkle of a (Dog's) Eye

Last July, I wrote about a doggy dilemma:  do I take my aging dog in for ophthalmic surgery, or not?  By denying my dog care, was I dooming him to pain and suffering?  Blindness?

He'd been scratching his eye and squinting, and the vet diagnosed him with a torn cornea.  Often those heal on their own, but for Miser Dog, not.  We were encouraged to take him in for more intensive treatment, but I decided not to.  I figured his advanced age didn't warrant serious intervention.  But I did worry that I might be soon taking care of a blind-in-one-eye dog.

Now, lo these many months later, I am happy to report that Miser Dog is fine.  He gallantly helps with clean-up of dishes, as yesterday's post shows.  He also bravely defends our home from squirrels and joggers by standing sentry atop his dog house.  If any intruders come too close, he woofs them away.
Miser Dog standing guard.  
 The dog house stands over a window well, outside the window to our dining room, and within a fenced-in dog run.  The dog door that lets him back into the dog house is down in the window well.  A set of hand-built stairs helps him get from the floor of the basement up to his dog door, which we set in a panel of wood where the window used to be.  From there he passes through the door, and hops up from the window well to the level ground (and from there up onto the top of his dog house).
Miser Dog heads outside for a little fresh air.
 To get back in the house, he just reverses the process.   He's got quite a bit of pep still in him.  And he seems to be none the worse for wear in spite of last summer's cornea concerns.  In fact, you might say he still likes to keep an eye on things.

Are there any dangerous dachshunds walking by on the right?  No . .
Nope; don't see any dangerous dachshunds!

 Any scurrilous squirrels threatening from the left?   No . . .
Thought I mighta saw a squirrel, but it retreated.

By the way, notice the total lack of squint.  It looks like his eyes healed up okay, even without professional intervention.

Okay, then, Miser Dog's sentry duty is done, and it's safe to come back in the house.
Welcome back, Miser Dog!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Canning Jar Burgers

Okay, so the title of the post is a bit of a lie.   This isn't about canning jar burgers, it's about canning ring burgers.  Either way, we think this idea is pretty cute.

N-son had a stroke in utero, and so some kinds of physical activities are still oddly difficult for him -- especially things that require fine motor skills with two hands.  Making hamburger patties, curiously enough, is one of those tricky things.

So last week when it was his night to cook, he asked for help forming the hamburger patties.  And being the kind of mom who wants my kids to grow the heck up so they can fend for themselves in a few years, I decided to try to find a way that allowed N-son to make patties all by himself.  And the answer to this burning question (or, at least, to this grilling question) is canning jar lids.

Because, as it turns out, the ring for a wide-mouth canning jar is perfect for holding a quarter-pound of hamburger.  We had a 2-lb pack that we sliced into 8 equal blobs of hamburger.  Each blob went into its own canning ring, arranged neatly on a cookie sheet.  (The dog, in the background, is intensely curious about this process.)

 To get beautiful round hamburger shapes, just pat the meat down into the mold.  Super easy: it can be done with just one hand -- in this case, the non-stroke-affected left hand!   You can see that the middle canning ring hasn't yet been patted down, but the close ones have.  The burgers get nice and round and have an even thickness.

 Use the tray to carry everything over to the grill.  The burgers slip right out of the rings.
 See how nice and even these shapes come out?

And here, of course, is what Miser Dog has been waiting for:  clean-up time!  He likes to help pre-rinse our dirty dishes before the go into the dishwasher.  Everyone in our family has a job to do.
I didn't take a picture of the finished burgers because by the time they were ready, I was ravenous.  But they came out great.  Good job, N-son!  Bon appetit!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Lumpy old people

Well, life has been a swirl of paper and pain over here in the Miser Mom neck of the woods.  My husband and I have been divvying this up: the paper has sort of piled up around me, and the pain has piled up around him.   Fortunately, both paper and pain seem to be subsiding.

The pain started attaching itself to my husband right after the New Year.  It started with discomfort whenever he sat.  For an ADHD guy, sitting has always been one of his least favorite activities, but the pain got so acute so that he couldn't sit at the dinner table, or sit in church, or sit in a car . . . yoicks.  He got some X-rays.  The preliminary diagnosis:  degenerative spinal arthritis leading to crumbling lumbar something-or-others, leading to pinched nerves.

The pain turned into numbness.  MRI's of his spine followed, suggesting that maybe spinal arthritis was not really the culprit, after all.   If it wasn't the butler that did it, who?   Like a bad TV show, we had to wait for the next week's episode of MRI to scan his pelvis.  As long as the docs were filming, they decided to go for some shock value, and so they sent him in for electrical nerve testing.  (Along the way I got to discover just how frightened my husband is of electric shocks . . . it was nerve testing in more than one sense!)

Fortunately, eventually, both the second MRI and the Franken-tests confirmed that the problem was a cyst on his hamstring.  A big (1.5") cyst, but basically just a blister.  Another week of waiting, a sonogram to determine precise location, and a needle to drain the cyst, and he returned back to nearly normal.

Which, for my husband, is not exactly normal in the sense that one might mean for other people.  He's thrown himself back onto his bike, is taking Russian language classes for fun, and is trying to get a waiver to stay in the army a few more years.   (And why, you ask, would the army want to toss out a perfectly good 62-year-old man who is possibly suffering from degenerative spinal arthritis?)

The fix for the cyst was simple.  The diagnosis was the bear in the cave; we'll be sorting out the bills and reimbursements for his many tests for a few months yet.  But at least we know now he's not decrepit; he's just lumpy.

I, too, have been getting lumpier over time.  Every once in a while, I notice a hard lump (on my thigh, on my arm), and I point it out to my doctor with understandable alarm.  So far, my doctor just shrugs it off with "it's a fatty nodule".  Okay.  I've got fatty nodules.  And the older I get, the lumpier I'll get, too.  I'd looked forward to growing older with my guy, but it looks like our marriage goes beyond even that:  now I know my husband and I can grow lumpy together.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Transition Shelves

In our home, my Command Central is my sewing room.  That's where I do mending, where I lock up the boys' meds, where I sort mail and pay bills every Saturday, and where I store our financial records.  So figuring out how to move things from other areas of the house into my sewing room, without constantly running up and down the stairs, requires its own little organizational trick.  Just like most rooms in my home have a trash can, several rooms in my home have a "Sewing Room Bin".

In my bedroom, the Sewing Room Bin is a basket under my night stand.

By the door, there's a "mail bin" where my kids and husband put incoming mail and other important papers for me.

And in my office, there's a designated "take home" shelf (above the CD player and below the multi-colored paper).
I take home papers from work just about every day.  But the other bins, I take them upstairs only when they get full, or on Saturdays at bill-paying time, whichever comes first.  Y'know, sort of like other people take out trash.

Getting things from one busy area to another:  any good organizational guru knows how important that is.  It's why, when you declutter a room, you're supposed to bring in special bins designated as "trash"/"donate"/"recycle".

I like my "transition shelf" system; I can get papers and mending off of the bed/counter/table so they don't clutter up my living space, and I know won't lose them or forget them.   I have other, more amorphous and temporary piles for things like "take to the library", but my Sewing Room stuff never gets mixed in with those other things that need to leave the bedroom/house.  So I can trust that I'm not losing important papers, and I know that those papers and mending piles will be ready for me when I'm ready for them.

Nice, eh?

Friday, February 13, 2015


For the past few years, I've sent our far-flung relative e-photos for Valentines' Day. Here's this year's photo, as suggested by N-son.

Three people, six feet.  Can you tell which toes belong to N-son, J-son, or me?

What I love about this photo is that it's so hard to tell our feet apart, either by color or by size. (Hint: J-son has hearts on his toes).

Happy Valen-feet day!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Surprisingly Fast & Easy Fixes

Not surprisingly, as a miser (mom),  I mend a bunch o' stuff.

Here are my two latest personal Miser Mom Mends:

Mend number 1:  Miser-Dog ate one finger off of a very expensive bike glove; I made a single denim finger using my sewing machine, and then I hand-sewed the makeshift finger onto the glove.  (Sticking a pen inside the finger while sewing made it easier to maneuver the fabric where I wanted it).

My husband enjoys making jokes that I'm giving him the finger!

Speaking of clothes that the dog has enjoyed too much, "Mend #2" is that I patched a pair of J-son's boxers that the dog munched on.  (Usually, the dog goes for *my* underwear, not other underwear, so I've been trying to tell J-son that this a kind of a canine compliment).  I like using t-shirt material as patches on the back side.
 On the "good" side of the clothes, the patch shows through just barely as scars.  Fortunately, very few people get to see J-son's shorts while he's wearing them.

But those two projects are NOT the fix-it projects I'm most proud of.  Instead, I'm just delighted beyond belief that I'm passing my proclivity for patching things along to my kids.  For example, J-son came to me one morning to complain that the pocket on his sweatshirt was coming undone.  I think he meant for me to fix his sweatshirt; but instead, I sat him down in front of the sewing machine, and in the space of 30 seconds, he re-fastened his own pocket by himself.  Yay, J-son!
J-son is Sew talented!

We've also had a bunch of problems with our low-flow toilets running frequently.  (Sort of defeats the purpose of low-flow, right?)  With all the crazy administrative work I'm doing for my college this year, I have a hard time figuring out how to get the hardware store so that I could fix this myself.  While I was in San Antonio at the math meetings, my husband got so frustrated with our toilets that he wrote to me:
If there is some new part we should order, we should do it soon.
Let me know if there is something I can do.
So I wrote back:
Go to a hardware store and just ask. We need a new flapper assembly. (You could take a photo with your phone of the inside of our toilet to show the clerks, but they'll know what I mean).

I know we'll need four, but get one to see if it works. If it does, buy more. If not, we're no worse off.

They're generally really easy to fix, I swear. It just takes time, which I don't seem to have much of.
So, do you know how much is cost to replace the the flapper assemblies on all four of our toilets?

It cost $8.  That's Eight Dollars.  My husband (wisely) disregarded my advice to fix one toilet at a time (which would have cost a whopping $16) and got a bag of five "universal tank flappers" for a mere $8. It turns out that taking pictures and showing them to the guys that work in hardware stores is a great way to figure out how to fix things in your home.  My husband fixed one toilet himself; then he delegated the other three toilet repairs to my sons.  Our family is living proof that there are some plumbing repairs that are so easy that a kid can do it.

So there you have it:
  • one $60 bike glove,
  • one $2.50 pair of boxers,
  • one $10 sweatshirt, and
  • four ($????) toilets,
all fixed for the price of $8, plus a bunch of (yard-sale-purchased) thread.

And we could still break one more toilet, if we had it (which we don't).  Hooray for mending!