Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Clean Sheets for 2020

My husband, just yesterday, asked me, "Is it okay if we start the new year with clean sheets?"

That question makes my house sound a lot more disgusting than it actually is.  My husband is the one who washes and dries the laundry, because that involves electric power and chemicals -- things he loves and cares about.  But putting the sheets back on the bed involves manual dexterity and geometric precision, aspects that fall more in my area of pickiness expertise.   So the question about "do we wash sheets today?" is one he's kind enough to ask me in advance, since it affects my To-Do list.

We have one set of sheets.  My parents bought us an awesome set from Land's End, back when we married almost two dozen years ago.  I think we had another set, too, but we haven't used it on the bed in forever and I couldn't find it when we were packing up to move, so I figure we gave it to someone who needed a set of sheets at some point.  So that set of sheets from our wedding was our only set, and it lasted for nearly -- but not quite -- two dozen years. 

And then this fall, while my husband was traveling, the fitted sheet developed a rip right at the place where my feet rest.   These sheets, I realized by looking at the rip, have become threadbare enough that it's not worth repairing them.  And so I had to figure out what to do about replacing the fitted sheet.

Danged if I was going to resort to going to an actual store, of course.   I scouted about at the so-called Thrift Stores for a set of yellow, queen-sized fitted sheets.  And wouldn't you know, I found a set at the first place I went?  They were so crisp, it was like they'd never been used or even laundered.  So  I snapped them up and brought them home.

Only, it turns out, they were not actually queen-sized sheets. The fitted sheet refused to live up to its name; it wouldn't fit at all.  I figure it was actually a full-sized sheet, mislabeled by one of the thrift-shop sorters.   Still, I figured the chance of finding a set of sheets in my color, in good shape, and the right size,  . . . well, that chance was pretty slim.

So.  I put the flat sheet upside down on the bed and pinned the corners.  Experimenting and a tiny bit of futzing revealed that a full-sized flat sheet (if this actually was a full-sized sheet set, as I'm guessing) is just about exactly the right size for making a queen-sized fitted sheet.
The corner of an upside down flat sheet on our queen-sized bed.
If you look really carefully,
you can see the vertical stitching at the corner,
with extra fabric hanging out to the left.
Once I had the corners pinned, I took the sheet down the hallway to the Command Center and sewed those four corners, straight seams.

And that's how I made my own fitted sheet, no elastic needed, no scissors needed either.  When I turn the sheet right-side up and put it on the bed, the extra material at each corner kind of hangs down like a tail.
My "new" fitted sheet, with its corner tail.
 I just tuck the tail under the mattress.  It's actually much easier to deal with than elastic, and in the month or so we've been using this "new" fitted sheet, it seems to work great.

So that's the story of how we made our bed.   Here's wishing you and yours clean sheets for 2020, too!

Monday, December 30, 2019

The giant chronological paper box(es)

A while back, we bought a book called something like, Organization for people with ADHD.  We bought it because my sons (and maybe my husband) are ADHD, and because Organization is Me.   Somehow, I can't find the book anymore . . .

 [. . . pause to acknowledge the irony of losing a book on organization . . . ]

. . .  but there are two really helpful things that we learned from the book, and fortunately I haven't lost the knowledge.  

Here's one of those two really helpful things.  

To help get rid of paper in your home office (or wherever you take care of paperwork at home), don't have a tiny little paper recycling box that you empty regularly into a larger recycling bin.  No, instead, have a LARGE paper recycling box, one that holds months and months of paper.  
A large box of mixed paper (glossy, catalogs, whatever),
and a large box of office paper.
And then, in your head, don't think of it as a "recycling" box for things you're getting rid of.  Instead, think of it as the place where you keep all of your outgoing papers, chronologically sorted.   This mindset allows for easier decisions.   Do I get rid of this envelope from my newspaper carriers, or will I need it again to send them a thank-you note?   Either way, into the box it goes.  If I need to look at again, I can find it at the appropriate layer.  It's chronologically sorted, naturally!

This giant-box thing hasn't yet affected my son's life, since he doesn't really have much paper (I file all his paperwork myself, because . . . well, because his dad and I are still the ones dealing with the bureaucracies that are involved in his life).  But the giant-box system has made my own workspaces  easier places to work in this year, especially as I continue to set up my  Command Center in this new home -- with no shelves (yet), and with a FreeCycle filing cabinet showing up late in the fall, leaving much of the early months of the new house a very printer-paper-box-fueled state of paper affairs.

By the way, because of the way recycling works here, I actually have two large boxes: one for "mixed paper", and the other for printer paper.  I also have a small container for newspaper and cardboard (that, I empty out fairly regularly) and a box for "charity envelopes" -- which we save for the dOnnOr in August.  So I'm living a boxy kind of life.  I'm really looking forward to building some bookshelves next summer, just to get things off the floor!  (Well, and to get my poetry books back from my office at work).

But back to the paper boxes.  The book (did I mention we lost it?  and that it's about organizing?) suggests that this recycling box be something beautiful, so you appreciate having it around in the office.  I will probably get to the "beautiful" someday, or at least something funky and aesthetically pleasing, but you can see from the above, we're not there yet.  Which is okay by me; I'm a huge fan of cardboard boxes.  

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Christmas with my N kids, where N ≥ 6

One way of describing Christmas for people in my faith tradition is this:  this is the day we celebrate the birth of God's only begotten Son, a birth that paved the way for the rest of us to become adopted children in this large, diverse family.

For some reason, that particular description resonates a bunch with me.   The whole give-and-receive gifts thing is still very much present [<-- whoops] in our household, but I've tried to make gift exchanging take a secondary place to house building---in particular, gingerbread house building---with all my family members building the family building, so to speak.  Us, coming together.

See the house builders in the distance?
Yesterday's Christmas was super special for me: it marked the very first time that all of my children (birth, step, adopted) were together for Christmas.  In fact, it's the first time we've all been together in one place since November of 2011, when we managed about a half-an-hour together for a family photo. 
They're building the gingerbread house.
We did exchange gifts, and commemorate the Moment-of-Togetherness with photos, and we did build a gingerbread house.  The house, like my family, comes with diversity and drama and a bit of color.  This year, the gingerbread house included revelers drinking eggnog on the rooftop, revelers falling to their untimely doom, dinosaurs and cyclopses patrolling the yard, and a few other assorted characters.  Fortunately my real-life family is not quite that exciting.
A gingerbread house with dinosaurs and cyclopses
and partyers falling from the roof,
while the real-life family relaxes without dinosaurs.
How many children do I actually have?   Good question!   Below is a quiz posted on the dining room chalkboard by a pair of my offspring.
How many children do you have?
a) 6, b) 10, c) 13,
d) all of the above (depends on how you count).
As a hint to yesterday's version of the answer, we had thirteen people and one delighted dog at the house.  Gathered together, this was a picture of my Christmas clan.

Thirteen people on my front porch stairs.
I'm the one holding the stuffed tree.

And with my children only (depending on how you count them), here's the "10" version:
My ten children: of the birth, step, adopted, in-law, host, and grand varieties.
We also had remote contact with two more:  our former foster child, C-son, who spent a summer in our home, is now in college and on the football team (he told J-son via facebook).  X-son, whom we didn't quite get to adopt but whom we still support a bit down in Haiti, spent a bit of the evening on What's App with me.  He's been quite ill, and tells me "Life in Haiti is hard".  No kidding.

Having said that, I have to say that one of my favorite presents this year came from my sister, who gave us toilet paper.   The paper came from a very funny B-corp company run by people who
"learnt that 2.3 billion people across the world don't have access to a toilet. That's roughly 40% of the global population and means that around 289,000 children under five die every year from diarrheal diseases caused by poor water and sanitation."
In other words, I got toilet paper that was NOT wrapped in plastic, and maybe someday X-son will get a toilet, so he won't keep getting sick.

There are a gazillion versions of what Christmas means to different people, and I know this is only one of many, many ways to mark the day (or not).   But for me, what a wonderful day.  
A close-up of my only begotten daughter,
the first of what would eventually become a family too large to count.
Well, at least to count consistently.
She made these socks herself. 

Monday, December 23, 2019

Miser Family Update: lights and celebrations

The Driver's License celebration
Life in the Miser Family continues to be rich and full lately. The darkest week of the year has come and gone, and temperatures wandered down into sub-freezing. We've responded by being out-and-about more than usual, but also by piling celebrations one on top of the other, almost like they were blankets piled one-on-another against a cold winter night.

My husband keeps throwing more layers onto his bike outfit and zooming around in what sunshine there is on these frosty days. He also continues to attend Toomey with Tuesday protests, and he spent a bunch of time driving J-son to a recent legal thing. The "driving" goes well with one of the highlights of this week: the 50th anniversary of his drivers license, which we celebrated at a nearby diner.

The next night was the cause for even more celebration, as I-daughter and N-son performed with their musical corner downtown at a standing-room-only event. We were all shoulder-to-shoulder, enjoying the awesome music.

singing at a standing-room only event
(It's not my camera; the room lights are red).
And then the night after that. the celebrations piled on yet again: Winter solstice arrived, the shortest day of the year, and so we celebrated with a candlelight dinner.

13 candles and N-son
A bunch of non-academic people have asked me how I like "the break" now that I have a period of time "with no work for a while".  I could be snarky and point to the referee reports I've been writing, the talks I've been preparing, the pile of exams that are now graded . . . but the truth is, I like working on this kind of stuff.   In fact, I managed to shove my elbows around in my To Do list and create space to figure out how to make an advent calendar in LaTeX.   And my new advent calendar is fab: it has windows that are *exactly* the size of a common post-it note, and it has "\ifthenelse" statements that automatically put the days in the right places . . . So the answer is,  I love my break. 

We've headed into the few days before Christmas by heading down to my dad's home, to spend a bit of time with him and his wife and my sister and her husband.  It's good to be with family, and it's good to use the dark, cold days as an excuse for celebrating even the minor things in life.  

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

Friday, December 20, 2019

The Car Dinner -- a 50-year Driver's License Anniversary

Fifty years ago yesterday, my husband got his driver's license*.  That marked a turning point in his life, and our family has celebrated this day for many years because . . . well, because we love celebrating things, and this seemed as good an excuse as any to gather together festively.
* As a geeky  aside: I seem to be terrible at spelling that word: where do the 's's and 'c's go?  Lisence? LiscenceLicence?  It turns out that "license" -- c first, then s -- comes from the same root that gave us "licentious" and "licit" (as well as "illicit"):  Google tells me the word comes from licentiac ‘freedom, licentiousness’ (in medieval Latin ‘authority, permission’), from licere ‘be lawful or permitted’.  Okay, so now I know.
So, our family celebrates the Driver's License dinner, also known as the Car Dinner, which is a heck of a lot easier to spell.  We dress up --- which for most of us means we dress up very warmly, because more on that in a moment; but some of us get dressed up in Driving-themed Togs, and yes, I mean Dogs in Togs.
Look at that waggy tail!  Do you see the "spoiler" on her back?
It's Dog Earnhardt, of course.
The rest of us dress warmly because we walk to a nearby Diner.  The "warmly" is important because the weather outside is frightful, as the song goes.  The "walk" is because now that we live in the heart of the city, we're less than a mile away from the nearest Diner, and it seems silly to start up a car in frigid weather and drive it a distance so short it couldn't even warm up properly.  And yes, we think it's highly amusing that we're walking to the Car Dinner.   And finally, the "Diner" is because we tried for years to think about how to throw a themed Car Dinner at home, and failed.  So the annual Car Dinner is our only Special Dinner that is at a restaurant. 

Oh, the weather outside is frightful . . . 

. . . but the diner is so delightful.
Happy anniversary, guy!

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Mitten purchases (or not): put it off, put them on

Here are three mitten stories.

Mitten Story number one.  
A few years back, as I was wandering about my favorite store*, I came across a pair of furry bear-paw-shaped gloves.   My sister lives in cold climates, and since the price was right (I think 50¢), I snapped them up and bought them for her as a Christmas present.
[* a neighborhood yard sale]

My sister told me that at first, she thought these mittens were a fairly silly present.  They're not water proof; they're not work gloves; they're just sort of big and goofy.   But they're very warm, and they have a feature that she eventually came to love: an opening in the palm that allows you to flip the glove off your fingers while still keeping it on your wrist.  So she discovered she could wear these very warm, but poofy, mittens, and yet do all kinds of fine motor control things (grab car keys, etc) without having to remove the mittens and potentially lose them.
My hand was not sure how to pose itself, so it decided to do a thumbs-up.  

Eventually, she decided she loved the mittens enough that she found the maker online, and went and bought herself a brand new pair.  And when she described to me how much she loved them, while I was lamenting my own cold hands (because I'd lost a favorite pair of mittens one of my daughters had bought me), she mailed me back the mittens that I'd originally gifted her.

And that's the wonderful saga of this first pair of mittens: purchased for cheap on a whim, and loved so much that they've become a bond between me and my sister.  Bear paws, bear hugs, and furry mittens rule the day.

Mitten Story number two.  
My hands and feet get cold really easily.  I got a case of frostbite (or something like it) when I was a kid, and I blame that for poor circulation in my extremities that affects my life to this day.   And the longer I live with my popsicle fingers, the more I grow to favor mittens over gloves, because my hands just don't generate enough heat unless my fingers can band together and collaborate on the Stay-Warm task.  So this year, as the cold weather set in and as I pulled out my running gear, I decided it really is time to swap my running gloves for running mittens. 

But running is quirky.  The first 20 minutes or so of a winter run is always miserably cold; bundling up and wearing hand protection  at the start of a run is a matter of survival.  But once the run gets underway, about 20 or 30 minutes in, all the muscles in our bodies are cooking and steaming, and my friends and I start unzipping jackets and pulling off our gloves.  Even on the coldest of runs, somehow we all wind up with bare hands by the end.  So what I really want isn't a mitten that's like a winter coat; it's a mitten that's like the set of layers I use on the rest of my body.  My fingers need to be a team, but they can be a team that gets dressed and undressed together, so to speak.

My favorite stores are closed for the season, and summer yard sales really haven't been a great source of running mittens anyway.  So I hunted around on the internet.  I found a set of running mittens on-line that seemed to be almost all that I wanted, except I can't find them used.  Another consideration important to me** is that like many store-bought things, they're pricey.  One pair of these mittens costs as much as my last 5 pairs of running shoes combined --- although admittedly, my last 5 pairs of running shoes combined was only about $25.  Still, $27 for a single pair of mittens is a big deal for me.
[** Nowadays, price is mostly a consideration only because 
I have spent many years identifying as "Miser Mom", 
and by now that identity kind of clings to me.
My husband and I actually have more than enough money for me to "splurge" 
on a pair of gloves, or on chalkboards, or on other even more extravagant things.
But still.  Why spend money for mittens if there are sustainable ways around that?]

Mitten story number three.
In spite of the cost, my cold fingers won the argument, and I splurged.  I ordered a pair of the fancy running mittens from the online store.  And they ended up taking a LONG time to come*** . . . so long, in fact, that I decided to futz around in the sewing room and make myself a pair of running mittens.  
[*** When they did come, I ended up liking them so much, 
I ordered a few more pairs as Christmas gifts for some of 
my friends and family who live in cold-weather areas, 
and those new pairs came within a few days.  
So I think that the company's out-of-stock problems have been fixed.]

It turns out, making mittens is not that hard.  I decided on three layers: two layers of a knit material (essentially, worn-out t-shirts), and one outer layer of a weave that could block the wind.  To make the mittens, I 
  • traced my hands on top the material with a a marker,
  • cut out the fabric, and 
  • stitched it all together.
Ten minutes of hard toil led to this beautiful baby.
The woven fabric, because it doesn't stretch, made it almost impossible to get the mittens on and off, until I realized I could trim that part so that it starts above the wrists, and have the knit part alone on the wrists.  Once I figured that out, the mittens fit me like a glove.  (Well, except that they're mittens.)  I think that tracing, cutting, and sewing took me all of 10 minutes -- certainly faster than doing all of my on-line searching.

These mittens are nice and warm -- so warm, in fact, that I can't wear them for an entire run if the weather rises into the balmy 30's.  So after a few runs where I ended removing and carrying them, I cut slits in the mittens so I could flip them like the bear mittens, and I sewed velcro closures on them.  The slit/velcro adaption means that the mittens curl in toward my palm, which is actually a nice addition.  
Again with the thumb.  Not sure what that's about, really.

I have to say, I'm glad I got  the fancy, expensive mittens number 2, because they're super versatile and very comfy in cool weather that hasn't tipped over into the frigid zone.  But my homemade mittens are even warmer (not to mention cheaper and made from scrap materials), and I am likely to revert to these when temps get into the freezing range.  

And that's the end of my mitten stories.
You're welcome.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Pre-Christmas update

Life continues to be rich and full in the Miser Family Household.  The advent calendar (which doubles as a x-mas-preparation To Do list) has gotten its usual December work out.  Even when we're not all together as a family, we do things "together" via advent calendar.   For example, we've been taking Christmas photos and sharing them, with a variety of locations but a remarkable consistency of silly hats and adorable dogs.  

My semester has ended, and I'm now in the throes of grading exams and more exams and some more exams; my guy has been driving our sons around while my sons do their best to drive him crazy.  And when driving and grading isn't happening, we find time to be a married couple.
Me & my guy cuddling on the couch . . . 
I don't have a picture of J-son, although I got to see him briefly.  He was in town seeing a lawyer; that's kind of a story in itself, but it's not my story, so I'll just say we're hoping things work out okay next week, and in the future, for him!

N-son twisted his back (ouch), but with help of a physical therapist and a bit of rest, he's getting stronger.  He's becoming an awesome Instant Pot chef, having made us a couple of one-pot Spaghetti dinners.  
N-son decking the halls with balls of jolly,
fa la la la dog
Prewash is learning to walk up the stairs . . . backwards.  And she loves coming to my office hours to comfort nervous students, who appreciate getting a bit of a dog fix during a stressful time.
Prewash is ready to open presents!
L-daughter is always one to get in on the dog therapy act, and we're all crossing fingers that her therapy dog program at the VA hospital she works at will get to keep going!
My step-daughter has her dogs serving as photo stunt doubles,
so she and her husband can rest instead of posing for the camera themselves.
I-daughter is loving her spinning machine, and actually won a prize in a craft competition.  Whoop!  She took me to a Motown review show, and I got to impress her by knowing the words to pretty much all the songs.  And the woman behind me, gesturing at her wheelchair, thanked me for dancing in my seat to the music, because we should all dance while we can.  True dat!
I-daughter and a friend with warm (reindeer) hats
at Tuba Christmas downtown
K-daughter, D-son, and A-child went on a honeymoon cruise to some warm place, and then went to a Disney place, but they're now back in town and I'm looking forward to seeing them all again!
K-daughter, D-son, and A-child cuddle up for the holidays,
which in their case include honeymoon cruises
And a couple of us got to go to our local theater production of Peter Pan with a friend of mine who became a friend of ours. Peter Pan is a show I can be a bit nervous about, because it can veer into sexist/racist realms really easily, but I have to say I was really impressed with this version.  Lots of fun!
Pirate hats on scurvy dogs
(Taking a friend to an awesome production of Peter Pan)
And just randomly, I include a photo from a previous year of my husband doing a Christmas Yoga balance pose.  Because my daughters sent it to me when I asked for pictures.  And I love watching my husband do yoga!

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

Sunday, December 8, 2019

scenes from my chalk boards

I kind of love chalk boards.   Maybe it's a math thing, but still. Chalk boards. 

Chalkboards are good for spontaneous art by small people.  And they're also good for spontaneous art by the grown-up-sized aunts of small people.  And just generally, for spontaneity.
A sheep that my daughter drew.  A snail by another daughter. 
And a plethora of hieroglyphic symbols by my granddaughter.
When my husband and I bought this house, I splurged and bought chalk boards for the home --- not just one chalkboard, but two chalkboards.  One of them is up in the room that I call my "command center", and the other is in the dining room, surrounded by pictures of family.

The dining room chalkboard, with family photos all around.
When I said I "splurged", I wasn't kidding.  I might get a bunch of my furniture from yard sales and Freecycle, but these chalkboards, not so much.  I custom-ordered these babies, carefully selecting the size, the surface, and the frame, and I paid a few hundred bucks for them.  So much for the "miser" part of "Miser Mom", eh?  

I like this particular brand of board because of a couple of things.  They accept chalk well (some chalkboards aren't easy to write on, and you have to press really hard, but these look really nice).   And also, they're magnetic.  
Photos of my kids, newspaper clippings, a sabbath to-do list,
and a cleaning cloth (with magnet)
on my Command Center board.
I stick things up on the board with magnets.  I jot down notes for my kids, so when they come over to visit every week or so, I don't forget to tell them stuff or give them mail.  I've come to love grabbing a piece of chalk and writing quick notes to myself.   My family appreciates my scribbled to-do lists, too; possibly that's because my notes about my tasks are a tad eclectic.
Because who doesn't have To-Do lists that say "Shelves, Unicorn"?
Oh, and the paper is this year's advent calendar. 
I like also that the combination of chalk tray, magnets, and writing space makes it easy to label small things or obscure pieces of paper. 
When you move to a new home, you get new keys . . . 

. . . and if you're wondering where you left that bus pass,
this might be a clue.  
There's a beautiful book of photographs coming out from Princeton U. Press called "Do not erase".  It's a collection of photographs of mathematicians' blackboards.  I'm not in the book, and neither are my chalkboard drawings, but I am very much looking forward to getting my hands on a copy of the book.  (Even though it's not due out until a year from now, it's already getting nice press).  

And yes, I've seen the Hagoromo Chalk video (and know a couple of the mathematicians featured therein), and it's possible that a certain brand of chalk might make its way under my Christmas Tree this year.  

And so, in my new home, with its Question-mark-shaped kitchen, its alpine-steep stairs, the Dungeon in the basement, the purple Adirondack love seat on the front porch, and the oddly high ceilings, there's yet another quirky feature to make me love this new little place. 

Self referential humor makes me giggle.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Milk glue, upside-down turkeys, and other life lessons

Somehow, even though I sometimes think I am so very smart that I already know everything there is to know about, I dunno, canning and cooking and Thanksgiving, I keep finding out that there's very very cool stuff that I didn't know already.

And learning this cool new stuff is like getting a present wrapped up in a bow, except without the wrapping -- which is of course is even better, because that means it's a no-trash present.  Yay for learning new stuff!

Here are three delightful (to me) things that I learned recently.  

1.  Inverted turkeys.
Cook a turkey upside down for the first two hours; then turn it over and cook it right-side up for the rest of the time.  That way, the legs don't get all burnt, and the whole thing cooks really evenly and beautifully.  How could I have cooked turkey all these years and not known that?!?  It's like magic.

2.  Vegetable centerpieces.  
Our flower team at church is really astounding, and just before Thanksgiving they did a beautiful set of arrangements that used a few flowers but mostly vegetables: kale, broccoli, squash, peppers . . . and I was so inspired I made my own version for the big feast day in my home.  
I love that I can decorate with food that later on, I'll eat!

3. Milk glue.
For this, I totally have to thank my alter-ego grasshopper, who mentioned at a Zero Waste meeting we held a few months back that milk makes an excellent glue for sticking paper to glass. Man, was she right!  This has transformed how I label my canning jars, my leftovers, the stuff we stick in the freezer.  

Jars, with homemade labels held on with milk.
Magic, I'm tellin' ya!

As with the above new lessons, I wish I'd known about this so long ago . . . and yet, stumbling upon it now just makes me happy every time I get to put this new knowledge to use, so there's part of me that is just tickled to have a new trick to play with.  Fab.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Miser Family Update: "They're Back" edition

Life continues to be rich and full in the Miser Family household, and this week was particularly rich with family.  We started the family theme on Sunday, when K-daughter, A-child, and my new son-in-law D-son, and I went to a show featuring trained dogs.   The dogs did flips!  They danced!  They stole the trainer's hat (on command), and they stole our hearts.  Our 4-year-old A-child, sitting on my lap, said over and over again, "That's what I want to do when I grow up!"

On Monday, as I was walking around town with a job candidate, and handsome man walked up to me and kissed me -- it was my husband, back from Israel/Latvia/Paris/etc.  Whoop!  Way to let the candidate know that this is a friendly city to live in.  

A day later, N-son swooped back into town via Amtrak, and resettled himself in our spare bedroom.  He has had a wonderful time these past five weeks living with his older sister, but was happy to see the dog and his drums (oh yeah, and his mom and dad).

On Wednesday, we began preparing for our First Thanksgiving in the new home by moving furniture.  The home has a very beautiful, but moderate-sized dining room and a beautiful humongous living room; when we bought it, I figured we'd have to switch the roles of these two rooms for large meals.  And it turns out that having tables in both rooms works really well  We made space for all 15 guests.  
A centerpiece for the table,
inspired by the flower team at my church.
On Thursday, we had our first Thanksgiving in the new home!  It was a meal made possible by 3 Instant Pots, one Crockpot, a bit of stove work, and the oven.  So my tiny, question-mark-shaped kitchen really can pull off a giant meal if it gets help from family appliances.

But of course, the people were the best part of the day.  My dad and his wife joined us, as did half of my children and all of my grandkids.  We also had 6 students and/or friends join us.  We represented 4 continents and 6 different countries:  USA, Japan, Bosnia, Nigeria, Turkey, and Korea (from the era before it was two countries).  This was the first year in a long time we had no one from China.  I think the biggest hit of the evening was my step-mother's chocolate pecan pies, although dad's pair of apple pies weren't far behind.

View at one end of the Living Room table.
More guests in the dining room. 
On Friday, I did my own version of "Black Friday" shopping: I got a filing cabinet 100% off!   Huzza for FreeCycle!  K-daughter and her new family took off for their honeymoon cruise.  N-son and his dad did a bunch of fuel-burning at the gym.  And then I-daughter, N-son, and I went downtown with a few friends to see our city's annual Tuba Christmas.   
See how well the filing cabinet "fits" in the Prius?

Prewash is doing well, by the way, and was inspired by what we told her of the dog show early this week.  You might remember that when we first got her, she didn't know how to go up and down stairs, and that she's gotten a lot of training with me over the years.  Here in the new home, where the stairs are carpeted, we're working on her latest trick: backing up the stairs.  She kind of has to hop backwards; it's really awkward for her, but all the more impressive when she does it.  

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

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Stay-at-home Statistics

While my husband has been gadding about Europe and the Middle East, I've been working like a dog (and my dog Prewash has been staying home snoozing, so she's not working like a dog, even though she is one!)  He's chalking up new countries and new museums and new acquaintances, but I've got my own tally of experiences, y'know. My husband and I keep our own kinds of stats.  Here are some of of the ones I somehow keep track of :

  • 33:  the number of days he's been gone so far
  • 33: miles I've driven the car since he left 
  • 59: miles I've run with my friends since he left.
  • 1: the number of loads of laundry I've done while he's been gone
  • 0: the number of loads of laundry I've done in the decade before he left.  (He is, after all, the Lord of the Laundry).
  • 20: number of NYT crossword puzzles I've done (I save the MTW ones for him, and do the others myself)
  • 0: number of times I've been to a regular grocery store
  • 1: number of times I went to the corner store (to get icing for my daughter's wedding cake)
  • 5: times I went to our local farmer's market
  • 1:  kitchen trash cans I've emptied into the garbage can.  
  • 0: garbage cans I've taken to the curb
  • 65: thermostat setting during occupancy hours.  I'm kind of experimenting with this; it's a bit on the chilly side for me, but I'm getting used to it.
  • 470: milliliters of blood I donated
  • 11.2: my HGB levels recorded at my doctor's office, saying that donating blood put me into "borderline anemic" territory
  • 27: mg of Iron I'm taking daily now
  • 3: the number of days until he returns.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Miser Family Update: pumpkins, sweaters, travel, and rainbow wedding cakes

Life continues to be rich and full in the Miser Family Household -- even with my family mostly far-flung, I seem to have more than enough to occupy my time.  (Okay, I admit it: maybe I'm a tad over-committed at work.  Or over-committee-d at work.)  The stuff I'm doing doesn't even much make for interesting updates: anyone want to hear about a memo I wrote?  Minutes I took?  An exam I graded?  Anyone?

No, I thought not. 

Fortunately, my family is doing enough share-worthy stuff to fill up a letter.  Like, N-son is still having a great time with his sister. (Hey, N-son!  Text or call or email me!  I'm your mom, man!)

N-son and I at our neighbor’s cookout
Me wearing dad’s sweater... and n-son said,”wait, dad wore knit sweaters? “
Halloween here in our neck of the woods came a day late, because actual Halloween threatened bad storms.  That gave us a bit of breathing space to do some cool stuff.  I made a Jack-Cow-Lantern.  I know it doesn't look too much like a cow to y'all . . . but it's a prototype.  Next year my Jack-Cow-Lantern will be even cow-i-er. 

My new next-door neighbors had a blast scaring creating haunted nooks, dressing as werewolves who jumped out of shadows, and scaring the pants off of little kids.  I was surprised at how many parents thought that was HILARIOUS.   Self-selected group, I suppose.  But the pencils I gave out (following my dad's lead from many years ago, and a way for me to go low-trash for this halloween) seemed popular.  I also offered people dog food, to give the dog a treat, and so Prewash had a great time wagging her tail at adoring fans and giving free dog kisses.    

I-daughter dressed as that Disney character that no-one can pronounce.  Mall-off-the-scent. Male-if-it-scent.  You know.

As for my husband, he's having a blast riding his bike and other forms of transportation on the other side of the world.  I get email updates like this:
The last few days have been much focused on war--visiting memorials. Tomorrow is peace--visiting [former army buddy who is now a monk].
Israel by the end of the week.
and this:
T-mobile told me I just entered the eighth country so far, Latvia.  I am at the KGB museum because it's Shabbat and the Jewish Museum is closed.  
and this:
I miss you too!!  Two weeks and three countries and I’ll be home.  
But if that's not exciting enough for you, how's this?  K-daughter's divorce came through on November 1; she got engaged on November 1 and 3 seconds; and she got married earlier today.  Whoop!

I snagged just a few pictures -- and realized too late that I managed to snag several photos of the rainbow cake I made, but none of my new son-in-law.  Well, that's an embarrassing admission of mixed-up priorities.  Here are my photos, mixed in with a few that I-daughter took.
A wedding cake with no plastic toppers,
but still a bride and groom (and wedding party)

A-child actually fell asleep during the ceremony,
but whenever a camera is present, she hams it up!

Before the wedding: sisters getting ready together.  
After hair and make-up is done.
I-daughter's favorite photo of herself that day.
For what it's worth, I also didn't take a picture of myself.  The bridesmaids all wore red, but I wore a teal wool dress that my own Nana had made for my mom, and was glad to bring a bit of both of them to this ceremony.  I gave a speech about all the extra parents my kids have had (because, if any professors has the chance like this and doesn't give a long speech, they might take away your PhD!).  I-daughter said it reminded her very much of the speech my sister made at her son's wedding (that I had to miss).  

And with all that excitement, I guess I can wrap up by saying that that's the news from our family, which continues to be wealthy in our adventures.  May you and yours be similarly prosperous.