Friday, September 27, 2019

My new haircut is growing on me

My friend who cuts my hair (once or twice a year) has even more busy than I have been.   So my hair has been getting longer, thicker, shaggier, . . . just generally hard to deal with.  And me being me, I didn't want to pester said friend.  And me being even more me, I didn't want to pay money (and take time) to get my hair cut. 

I'd seen other people talking online about the "upside down" hair cut.  There was even a video of a woman at the beach doing this hair cut herself.   The video was, I dunno, 3 minutes long?  It turns out, this hair cut is even speedier than that, if you don't feel like you first have to pose in your bikini from all angles.   So this is the No-Bikini-Posing version of the upside-down haircut.

Here's how it goes:  bend over (pretend like you're touching your toes) and brush your hair.   Cut across in a straight line with your favorite sharp scissors.   I used my sewing scissors, for example.  Stand back up.

That's it.  A 30-second hair cut.  I was skeptical that this would look okay, but I knew I had the pestering-my-friend as a back-up plan if disaster struck. 

The result, fortunately, was far from disaster.   The ends of my hair are no longer frizzy, and the layers came out looking like, well, like layers.   Like I'd meant them (which I actually did, so that's good). 


And that's my new haircut.  Which is growing on me. 
The end.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Miser Family Update: buried treasure version

Life here in the Miser Family Household continues to be rich and full: with concrete, music, travel, hypothermia, and Pirates!
Early in the week, Prewash and I got to supervise a construction crew pouring concrete almost practically at the base of our porch.  Front row seats!
The guy at the left: is his shirt yellow or green? 
I say yellow; my husband and N-son say green.
My guy got to make it home safely from Russia; the periodic table is still going strong even after 150 years!   And K-daughter had hiking adventures in Montana.  This is the text she sent me on Tuesday:

We are safe.    
I ended up getting hypothermia, but I'm safe. A-child is safe. D is safe and the rest of the crew. We are heading back to civilization and going to eat


And then her cell phone service cut out until today, when she told me she was on a plane headed home.  So. Safe. 

Also, I-daughter apparently realized that I had no idea what she was up to (maybe because the last update said that I had no idea what she was up to), so she sent me this email:

Mama,September has been rich-and-full of music! First I spent a weekend in NYC visiting Dena (my college friend). We went to a karaoke bar and 2 musicals (Waitress and Beetlejuice).Chorus started up on Monday, so I'm singing again. Saturday was our retreat/long rehearsal day (9am-2pm) and then at 3 we performed at the Africa-fest downtown.
Last night I went to the Backstreet Boys concert at Hershey! I saw them at Wolftrap in 2008 and they're just as much fun now 😀😀😀 I got home after midnight and I am very tired now, but I think my ears have stopped ringing.
All in all it's been a great music-full month so far!
I'll see you Saturday (and maybe tonight if I feel awake enough)
💙I-daughter
P.s. one of the pictures is the toy soldiers outside of FAO Schwarz (in Rockefeller center) holding my sock 😂


As for me,  I started a Zero Waste group here in our city, and we had our first meeting, and it was fun.  People came!  

N-son is starting to study to get his learner's permit, which means he might get driving lessons soon.  That will be a grand new experience for him!   He says he's been in touch with J-son, and that J-son really likes his new job feeding Wounded Warriors.  I'm glad he got a job, but I'm sad that it meant that he couldn't come home for our awesome annual tradition of . . . 
The Pirate Dinner!

Complete with giant turkey legs, pickles (for brine), lemons and limes to prevent scurvy, hard tack (oyster crackers), an all-new Treasure Hunt, a lusty singing of "What'll yer do with a drunken sailor", and awesome costumes.

New this year was the Pirate Cake, which came out adorable, if I do say so myself.  
See the cannons?  the alligator?  The treasure chest in the poop deck?
From the other side, you can see a poor sailor walking the plank.



It's good to take some time every once in a while figuring out the answers to new problems in life (like, "How do you attache a Twizzler rope to a pretzel mast?"*).    It kind of keeps you fresh.  And alive.  It's better than getting hypothermia, I think.

And that's the news from our family, which continues to be wealthy in our piratical adventures.  May you and yours find buried treasure, too.


*  The good thing about this problem is that you get to eat your mistakes.  
The best technique I found for succeeding is to make a slit in the Twizzler with a knife, 
a bit larger than the diameter of the pretzel, and slip this over the top of the pretzel mast.  
Icing helps with gluing together almost everything else on the cake, 
but it's not very effective with Twizzlers.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

How I made my first few bicycle chandeliers

Here's the thing about starting a completely new project: the uncertainty is almost paralyzing. I had decided I wanted to make a bicycle chandelier, and I'd googled "bicycle chandelier", and I'd bought some ugly old chandeliers and some bike wheels . . . and it was still just super intimidating to get started.

It's the same way I feel about scary math problems.  It's the same way I feel at the beginning of lots of projects I start, really.  I've had lots of practice being overwhelmed by uncertainty, and pushing through it.  I just thought I'd mention that, because I think in someways combatting that feeling is the hardest part of this project.

Here's how I talked myself through it:  what's the worst that can happen?  The worst that can happen is I totally screw up and have to throw away all the materials.   And meanwhile, I'll have learned something.  That's not so bad.  

Plunging ahead:  I bought some bad, but still aesthetically fine, bike wheels from our local B-corp bike shop for $1 each.  (The really cool wheels are purple, or green, and I'm saving those for later, when I get good at this!)    Then I bought a bunch of chandeliers so that I could use the light sockets and wires.  (These were ugly/slightly damaged fixtures from Habitat Restore, ranging in price from $5 to $12.50).  So the first step was to get them taken apart.  
In this wall-mounted light fixture,
I wanted the innards but not the outards.


For this, I needed a screwdriver and a wrench.
I find the act of taking things apart really therapeutic, actually.   I think my favorite thing that I've ever taken apart is a chair that my husband's mother gave us.  But a chandelier is also fun to disassemble.  

The next question was how to hook the pieces to the bike wheel.  I sat the wheel on a large vase, and experimented.  Here was my first attempt: sit the swan-necked pieces on the bike wheel.  




This looked kind of reasonable (ish), but ended up being super hard to balance if I lifted the wheel; it tilted all the heck over the place.  So I further disassembled, and pulled the sockets (with wires attached) from out of those gold swan-necked pieces.  This took forEVER, until I finally realized that the screw that connected these particular sockets to the gold pieces was inside the socket, not outside.  Then it took about 1 minute to unscrew all 5 sockets. 



I haven't found an easy way to make holes in bike wheels (which makes me happy about riding them), so I just tried to find a way to wrap the wires that come out of the socket around the wheel itself.  That actually seemed to be an okay way to do it.  It's not beautiful, but it has a kind of geek chic to it.


This next picture shows the a fixture hanging from the wheel, and another lesson learned.  I was trying to figure out how to suspend the wheel from a chain.  I threaded the chain through the center axle of the wheel and used the axle itself to anchor the the chain.   This was before I discovered that chandeliers and other ceiling fixtures have the same threading as bike axles.   


A much more elegant (?) way to hook the chain to the wheel is just to screw the chandelier hook right on to the bike axle.   Whoop!


The wires the come from the light bulbs then get twisted back together --- all the white ones in one swirl, all the black ones in another swirl --- together with the wires from the cord that will plug this baby in.  To get that cord-with-plug, I got a cheap extension cord from Habitat Restore, and snipped off one end.

Then I carefully stripped a bit of the casing from each end, in the standard way of doing that.  


The mass and tangle of wires isn't particularly elegant, I admit.  (Have I said that before?)


Here's me testing the light before I hang it:

wow, the floor is so shiny that it looks like extra lightbulbs are down there!


And here's the chandelier, hanging from the ceiling.  


I've made another one (with canning jar globes), and I'm going to do a few more that are slightly more aesthetic, now that I have my beta version done.  My daughter saw these up on the ceiling and said she wanted one for Christmas, so score!  If they're ugly, they're nonetheless kind of fun-ugly.  Fugly?

It's really reassuring to go from paralysis to delight on a project like this.  I have to do more of that in my life!

Monday, September 16, 2019

Miser Family Update -- belated version

Life continues to be rich and full in the Miser Family household.   It's so rich-and-full, in fact, that I feel like I'm falling behind (not only in recording these updates, but in catching up with my kids, taking care of myself, etc).

So, super quickly, what's been happening with us?
A-child.  Does she know what this object is?
And it's not even plugged in!

  • My husband went to Russia.  Because, y'know, International Year of the Periodic Table, and the Russian due Mendeleev is the person who kicked this whole thing off.
  • I-daughter:  no idea what she's been up to (see "not catching up with my kids", above).
  • J-son:  has a temporary, one-month job helping a local army base feed Wounded Warriors.  Is hoping to save his money to pay for driving lessons.  Has a new girlfriend.
  • N-son:  has been working outside with many, many bugs.  Bug spray would be appreciated.
  • K-daughter: is off hiking in Montana with boyfriend and A-child.  
  • A-child:  is off hiking in Montana with her mom.  Also did a photo shoot with some really adorable pictures coming out of it.
As for me, I'm trying hard to keep up with my students, who keep giving me homework to grade. They give me so much work!   

Also, over the weekend, one of my buddies invited me to go for a 25-mile bike ride with him.   Now, a bunch of years ago I made a New Year's resolution to "exercise gregariously", which means I try to work out with other people instead of by myself.  But as an off-shoot of that resolution, I decided that when anyone asked me to exercise with them, I had to say "yes" unless I had a time conflict.   My sister found out about this resolution this past summer and made good use of it, wearing me out with daily Fitness Blender workouts in the morning.  So even though I felt like I was overwhelmed and needed some quiet "me" time, I forced myself to say "yes" to my buddy.  And I'm so glad I did: we rode through the golden corn fields and green tobacco fields that surround us, passing Amish buggies and barefoot, straw-hatted children, in perfect September weather.   It was a fabulous reminder of a big, beautiful wide-open world.

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

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Miser Family Update: reaching high

Life continues to be rich and full in the Miser Family household this week.  We've been learning to act brave in the face of scary tasks, and finding our lives all the more rich and full as a result.  

Such as, for example, I learned to make baba ganoush.  (Ganouch?)  I can't even spell it, but I can make it.  And even though it's made of eggplants and such, N-son said it was yummy.  So that's one scary thing behind me.

Also, evaluation plans.  Because apparently, when you write a grant proposal, asking for piles o' money and saying you'll put the money to good use, you have to have a plan to evaluate exactly how good that use was.  Me, I hate evaluation plans.   Our helpful grant person suggested a graphic might be useful, and we nearly resorted to this graphic, helpfully drawn by my co-PI (or rather, by his 3-year-old son).  

However, we pushed through the angst and came up with something that hopefully makes a little bit more sense and might actually be, y'know, useful.  

My guy was kind of nervous about a possible reunion with his former army buddies: one of them was being recognized for some super amazing helicopter work he'd done (pioneering "landing" a Chinook on the back two wheels at the edge of a mountain cliff while rescuing people).   Going to a reunion isn't as scary as landing a Chinook, but these political times being what they are, he wasn't quite sure what reception he'd get (being a knee-jerk liberal protester, and all that).  But he went, and he had a wonderful, wonderful time.  Super!

In other fun news, the week started with the last few days of N-son and L-daughter both being in town.  And right before they both had to leave N-son left, L-daughter, and her In-Laws came over for a rousing game of Monopoly (except that it was a local version, with everything named after stuff in our town).  That was gobs of fun!



I've mentioned getting past scary things.  In gymnastics, the high bar is super scary.   So here's a shout out to A-child for (a) being scared and (b) being brave in spite of being scared and (c) having the reward of learning that the scary thing was actually fun after all!
A big thumbs up for the high bar she was scared to go on! Everyone CRACKED UP LAUGHING!
Kind of like evaluation plans.  But different.  That's just something to chew on, there.


And that's the news from our family, which continues to reap dividends from our trembling efforts.  May you and yours be similarly prosperous.  

Monday, September 2, 2019

Miser Family update: education edition

Life is rich and full in the Miser Family household these days; the past week has been particularly plentiful in school and education.

The week kicked off with very back-to-school-like weather; temps dropped about 30 degrees, from 100 to 70's.   On Sunday evening last, a bunch of my kids and their escorts came over for dinner, and we made some awesome, cheerful signs to celebrate Monday's first day of public school.

What color is N-son's construction t-shirt?

I hung these on our front porch for kids and parents to see as they walked by.  I love having a front porch!

N-son was home from school on break this past week, but we learned some good stuff together in spite of it (we read a book called "Organizing Solutions for people with ADHD".  I wish I'd read this 15 or so years ago; I'd recommend it!  I have to say, his room was in much better shape this week than it's been on past visits.   

J-son finished his job and is re-tooling for the next one.  Unfortunately, his foster mom (whom he's living with) had some yucky health issues; I'm glad to see that he's stepping up and helping around the home while she's recovering.  

I started classes -- I've got three of them this semester, all pretty much full up. So far, I really like my students, which is good, because there are a lot of them to like!  And A-child started Preschool again.  I got to see her one more evening, quite spur of the moment, when K-daughter had to go to urgent care to get her hand stitched up (one stitch, so scary but not too bad).   They've recovered so well they went camping this weekend.  

Back to school -- and so excited!

Here's something else I learned: there are swaths of people in the world who see colors very differently.  My dad and nephew are red-green color blind; I'm not talking about that.  I mean that over the decades that I've been married to my guy, we've had several disagreements about colors.  He had a car that he (and N-son, and the car maker) called "green", but my daughters and I all saw it as "gray".   There are a bunch of other small things like that.

Well, there's a bike jacket I wear and a set of construction t-shirts that N-son wears that I would swear up-and-down are yellow:  highlighter yellow.  I-daughter and L-daughter totally agree with me.  But N-son, and my husband, and a couple of other people I've talked to, call those things "highlighter green".  I am coming to realize that this isn't just a difference of opinion or semantics; it's truly a difference in how our eyes process information.  Go figure

Speaking of L-daughter, she breezed into town at the end of the week, and got to spend quality time with Prewash.  (Prewash refused to take sides in the yellow-green debates, in case you're wondering).   L-daughter is looking great, and I'm glad to have her in the yellow camp.

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

Monday, August 26, 2019

Bicycle wheel chandelier (aka, planning for failure: success!)

I can't remember where I found the book that extolled the virtues of "planning for failure".   The author wasn't suggesting we plan to fail, but rather, that being willing to experiment, or to learn from our mistakes, is a tremendous asset.   As in, when you start a new project, build in time for reflection and learning so that the next round is better.

And so.  I decided that making a bicycle wheel chandelier would be a great opportunity to plan for failure -- or rather, to plan to learn from my failures, so I could get better and better.

Why a bicycle chandelier?  Our new living room came with gobs of natural light, but basically zero electrical light*.  The room is beautiful, with 9-foot ceilings and gorgeous woodwork, ornate radiators, a handsome brick fireplace, and NO wall-mounted or ceiling mounted light fixtures.  It's wonderful during the day, but as soon as the sun goes down, it becomes a bit of a cave.   So we need a way to add focused light to a couple of different areas the room where we spend the most time.  Table lamps with long cords to trip on just don't cut it. 
My first attempt at a bike chandelier.
It's ugly, but a fun kind of ugly,  I think.
* In the weird electrical wiring of ways of this house, there are actually two sockets for light bulbs on the fireplace mantel.   The electrician initially told us they don't work: they do, actually, and there are four (4!) different light switches that control this pair of sockets.  The two switches at different ends of the living room make sense, but the switches in the dining room and upstairs hallway do NOT -- especially because those switches both override the living room switches, so if you turn off the lights while you're in the dining room or in the upstairs hallway, people in the living room can't turn them back on.   So weird.  

So.   I decided to look for ceiling fixtures.   Not surprisingly, these are super pricey (think $200-$1000 each), even without considering adding in the work of running wires through the wall and installing proper receptacles on the ceiling.  So, I decided to stop looking at ceiling fixtures, and to make my own.  This way I could experiment easily with amount of light, placement of the fixtures, and style.   Plus, I'd get to learn a bit along the way.
  • I bought 5 different wheels from a bike salvage store for $5 total.
  • I bought two ugly lamps, a large bunch of LED bulbs, and some extension cords (to use for wiring) from our local Habitat Restore.   In the same store, I also got a few supplies for other projects, and I ended up spending about $46 on everything together.  
  • While I was on that trip, I stopped at a yard sale and got 4 milk jugs for a quarter apiece; since I can return them to our market milk stand for $2 each, this is like spending negative $7.  
  • At some point, I needed to buy a bunch more cord from the hardware store; 30 feet of lamp wire ran about $10.  
That's the procurement part.  Let's get to the lessons: having spent a somewhere south of $54 on supplies, here's some of what I learned.

This circular chandelier (on its side) was the raw material for one of my new fixtures.
For the purposes of transferring sockets plus wires to a bike wheel, circular chandeliers are somewhat preferable to long wall fixtures.   One reason is that the wires attached to sockets  in a circular fixture are all the same length, so they all met at the middle of the bike wheel when I moved them to their new home.   On the other hand, if you want fixtures for regular bulbs (not skinny chandelier bulbs), then it's totally doable to use the long rectangular kinds, which are much more likely to have the kind of fatter socket you want.   It just gets a little uglier, because the wiring connectors will be a little off-center in the bike chandelier.

This long wall-mounted fixture has sockets for regular-sized bulbs.  

The back of the wall-mounted fixture. 
Notice that the wires from the sockets are different lengths.
That will affect aesthetics, but not function, in the bike version of the lamp.  


What else?  Oh, let's see.  To get the store-bought fixtures taken apart, mostly I just needed a wrench.   But with the larger sockets,  I wrenched around fruitlessly for a while before I realized there's a little screw inside the socket that attaches the socket to the fixtures.

Removing the socket from the gold-colored fixture.  
Okay, but here's the thing that made me kind of giddy with happiness to discover:  If you've ever changed the lightbulb in a ceiling fixture, you probably know that there's a fat central threaded post; the cover often screws onto this post.  The same kind of post is in store-bought chandeliers.  Well, if anyone ever doubted the existence of an omniscient and benevolent God, here's the evidence that such a being loves us:  the axle of a bicycle and the threaded post of a chandelier match.  That is, to hang a bike wheel, all you have to do is screw on a chandelier knob.
Voila: a chandelier knob on a bike wheel. 
I still can't quite believe how sweet that is.
Is that not a kind of minor miracle, or what?

Other things I learned:  it's hard to buy the kind of switch that goes right on the cord.  Our hardware store sells them for $5 a piece; never mind THAT!  I will probably find some old desk lamp that someone is tossing and scavenge that switch eventually.  Right now we're still at the "plug it in or unplug it" to turn one of the chandeliers on and off; the other one, we plug into a power strip with a switch.  So we're not all the way there yet, but it keeps evolving.

I'll write in another post with a few photos of how I did this, and also current drafts of the project.  But meanwhile, on to more experimenting.  Failure, ho!