Saturday, June 29, 2019

Miser Family update: Beauty and the Bug version

Life continues to be rich and full in the Miser Family household.  This past week has showered us all with beauty and bugs.

The weather has given us hot, clear days that fade into crispy coolness after the sun sets, so that it's almost Byronesque:  We walk in beauty, like the night of cloudless climes and starry skies, and all the aspect of delight meet in our aspect and our wanderings.  The sun is so hot of days that my solar dehydrator (a pile of screens and storm windows, carefully separated by scrap wood) had gone into overdrive.  I dried three gallons of cherries (which then fit into two quart jars), and then two quarts of cherry pits, and then four zucchini (a pint). 

And we baked ourselves, too.  The week started with a fun concert in our local park.  I-daughter got to sing at it, while K-daughter and friends and I provided living arches for A-child to run through: a human obstacle course set to music.  

There weren't many bugs out at the park, but Prewash is beset by bugs at home.  She's on her third round of antibiotics for a UTI, but even more, she's obsessed with flies that appear in our home this time of year.   What a laser pointer is to cats, flies are to Prewash.  Except that the flies provide a 3-D chase experience, which is highly entertaining for Prewash and for all the humans present.  As far as I can see, the flies are still perfectly safe, though.

But my husband, fortunately, seems to be un-beset.  He graduated from physical therapy!  They didn't give him a cap and gown, but they did give him a t-shirt.  So, good for him.  The rest of the week, he's traveled here and there.  For example, last night, he went to a Pete Buttigieg rally in New York City, that doubled (tripled?) as a birthday celebration for Buttigieg's husband and a commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Stonewall. 

Not that a four-year-old kid could ever bug a parent, but . . . I ended the week getting to spend extra time with my granddaughter. On Friday evening, I tossed her in the bike trailer and we did my city's Slow Ride, which is always a lot of fun.  And today she came over so she could get the heck out of her mom's hair help me take apart some bunkbeds with a ratchet wrench.  I always love a good session of wenches with wrenches!  And she's surprisingly effective with that tool.  Beautiful. I have to keep that one in mind!

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

Thursday, June 27, 2019

A 10-minute app and an hour of power

Aside from the camera on my phone and the alarm clock, the app I use the most -- by far -- is my timer.  I have it set for 10 minutes, and I use that baby almost every day during the school year.

I use the timer as a calm-down-and-transition timer.   Often, just before I leave the office to head for home, I'll do a quick clean up of the office and then do a 10-minute mediation.  This little package of time, wrapped up with a bow, helps a lot with getting my head from spinning around with all the seemingly urgent things.  It gives me a way to appreciate the here-and-now of the outdoors, and to appreciate the coziness of my house once I get there.

I also use the timer to motivate me to start those dreaded tasks.  A referee report?  A memo?  There are big, nebulous tasks that I know will take a bunch of work and time, and just getting started on them is tricky.   So I break these up into nibble-sized chunks.  I write in my to-do list, "Ref report; 10 min & pf" (the "& pf" is short-hand for "and plan forward").   When I get to that item in my to-do list, I pull out my timer and start it.

Not my phone's timer.
I can't use my phone to take a picture
of my phone, apparently.
Then I start working on refereeing.  Maybe I need to read the paper.  Maybe I need to locate a related article.  Maybe I need to take notes, or start a LaTeX file.  Whatever it is, I spend ten minutes doing just that, and nothing else.   Usually by the time the timer beeps at me, I'm on a roll and have found something that makes me want to keep going . . . and that's exactly why I quit, right then.

Even though it's tempting to keep going until I hit a snag, stopping while I'm excited means that starting the project the next day is something I'm going to look forward to:  "oh, right, I just had to fix those spelling mistakes and point out the references to Smith's work!".  (Or whatever).  So, when the timer beeps, I stop working on that project.   I write "Ref report; 10 min & pf" on tomorrow's to-do list, and check it off of today's list.   The next day, I'm all ready to jump in to the spelling/Smith references.  Eventually, I get to the point where I don't need to limit myself to 10 minutes, and then the report is done.  Joy!

This summer, I've started something new that I'm kind of loving.  There's this long list of "someday" goals I've been carting around in my planner:  I really ought to get back to playing banjo.  I really should spend more time training Prewash, because she loves learning new tricks. I really should do more upper-body work.  I really should spend more time with friends, instead of futzing around by myself. Etc, etc, etc.

Well, with the kids out of the house and my summer schedule relatively wide open, I theoretically have time to tackle each one of these "should"s.   And at some point in early May, I had an inspiration:  Why not just bundle them all together, and spend 10 minutes on each?  So I decided on an order that made sense to me: starting with dog training is an easy, fun way to get started; doing a workout right before a stint of meditation is friggin' awesome, . . . that kind of thinking.  And so here's what my Hour of Power has looked like this summer.
  • Take my evening meds (which I'm supposed to take about an hour before dinner)
  • Training and treats with Prewash (this lasts 10 treats, not 10 minutes)
  • Write to/invite a friend to something, spending 10 minutes max
  • Ten minutes of cleaning something in the house
  • Ten minutes of playing banjo
  • Ten minutes of strength/stretching workout
  • Ten minutes of mediation
  • One piece of chocolate:  the reward.
I put the "invite a friend" thing in the middle because it's psychologically the hardest thing for me.  I really like the idea of reaching out to people, but the combination of thinking about my schedule and reaching out to a, y'know, person is a bit daunting.  I think that's the thing that's made the biggest happiness difference from this Hour of Power, though.  

I also want to say that a single piece of chocolate after ten minutes of meditation is intense.  It's so annoyingly sweet and filling.  Eating this one piece has helped me reduce the amount of sugar that I mindlessly eat at other times of day, paradoxically.

There's part of me that wants to say, "I wish I'd started doing this long ago", but I think that really the only reason I can do it now is lack of distractions during the rest of the day.  This is the first summer in a long time when I don't have to think about taking care of my kids or grading papers or responding to urgent deadlines.   The once or twice I've had a loaner kid this summer (that is, when I babysat for a friend), I reverted to sitting in a corner and reading a book in the evening, and didn't bother powering for an hour.  

Having said that, I am really appreciating this routine as a way to kick-start a whole bunch of healthy habits all at once.  

Monday, June 24, 2019

A-child uses a cordless drill for her first time

A-child holding a pair of bee condos
My next house has a paved patio out back, but no grass.  There is no yard at all.  I'm both dreading and eager for the challenge of figuring out how to compost my food waste when I can't just dump in on the ground outside my back door.  I'm also thinking a lot about my future role regarding flora and fauna . . . a native garden group that I've gotten heavily involved with has me rethinking a bunch of things about the birds and the bees and their connections (or not) to what sits around our homes.

A-child looks at a pair of wooden blocks.  
For example: honey bees.  I know they're having all kinds of problems; this year had a huge kill-off, unfortunately.  Several friends of mine keep honey bees -- one of my friends used to, until the township she lived in started spraying trees near her home with pesticides, and then her bees died off . . . sigh.

But I did not know until recently that honey bees are foreigners:  they're not at all native to the U.S.  And our domestic bees of many sizes and shapes, who serve important roles in our ecology, are also struggling.   In fact, they're struggling even more than they might have, because they have to compete with all the bossy honey bees that people keep introducing into various areas.

Apparently, native bees don't make honey, so that's why Winnie the Pooh lives in Europe and only visits America when we read books.  Also, native bees don't sting, and they don't live in hives.

Pilot holes where I wanted them.  
The best thing people can do for native bees is probably something like plant flowers or stop spraying poisons on the plants they visit.   But since I can't do the best thing in my new neighborhood, I did a tiny little thing that I was able to:  I taught my grand-daughter to use a cordless drill.

We used this drill, together with some old spare blocks of wood, to make bee condos.  (See this website for the official directions: )

Holding the drill with two hands. 
I drilled tiny pilot holes in the right places, and then switched to a larger drill bit so I could get that tutu-ed four-year-old doing her stuff.  She learned how to hold the drill -- yes, you have to put down the flower you picked, so you can hold the drill with both hands.  You also have to keep squeezing the trigger after the drill is all the way down, so that you can pull the drill out.

For the first few holes, I held the drill from the top and guided her, but by the end she could operate the drill on her own once we got it aligned, she could drill the entire hole herself and then pull the drill out.   Awesome.

Now A-child is super-excited; she's taking one of the bee condos to her own home.  She's convinced she's going to have honey in there despite my explanations.   Maybe she's got a little Winnie-the-Pooh inside her.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Miser Family Update: work and play edition

Life is hoppin' with richness and fullness here in the Miser family household, with work and play ka-ching-ing into our lives this week.

The week began with a fun birthday dinner for my youngest daughter, K-daughter.   Instead of making chocolate cake, I made chocolate cupcakes in some cast-iron muffin tins that I-daughter had scored for me for my birthday (from a yard sale, no less!).  We topped these with a candle holder that I made from a plastic cow that I'd been gifted at Christmas, together with a cordless drill my daughters had given me.  (I'm talented like that, y'know).  So this was a birthday of many past presents.

Speaking of being talented with tools, N-son texted me from school, where he's very much enjoying learning building maintenance.  He wrote:

I just made an N for my name.

Can you put it in the family letter?

I love that my kids like my mentioning them.  And I love his N!  This is a great way to play at work; it's fun to see N-son carrying on the great family woodworking traditions that my dad passed along to his three daughters.   Someday we'll see what N-son can do with a plastic cow and a candle.

J-son has just finished his first full week as a camp counsellor.  By Friday evening he was exhausted, and slept like a log.  When I talked to him on Saturday, I asked how he liked his job, and he immediately answered that he loves it!  I asked what it was he loves; he said, "The campers!"  He's in charge of a bunch of younger kids.  I said, "I bet they climb all over you and use you as a jungle gym", and he said, "all the time."  I repeat: it's so nice to see my sons enjoying their work.

Even my husband, who technically is retired, had a week of fun work.  He spent much of it up in Boston at a Chemical Engineering conference with his former coworkers, schmoozing and catching up on all the good gossip.

And me, I got the page proofs for our book, and my coauthors and I are diving deep into it, hoping to get feedback back to our publishers quickly so the book can keep moving forward.

I got to hang out with my daughters again later in the week; we went with a friend to see Mamma Mia, and at intermission we took awesome pictures that my daughter promised to send me BUT DIDN'T.   HEY, I-DAUGHTER, STEP IT UP!   Ooh, and then today K-daughter, A-child and I went to a local orchard and picked 30 pounds of cherries, while A-child sang happy cherry-picking songs that she invented as she sang.  Later today, I managed to get the cherries all pitted and either in the dehydrator or canned up . . . but now my fingers are all black from cherry juice.  Good thing we're not taking pictures now!  But life will be delicious in the months to come, thanks to the fact that sometimes you really can pull food right out of the air and put it into buckets.  Wow.

And in a truly delightful evening, we had the family that will be buying our house come over for dinner; we also invited the neighbors on either side of us.  So they all got to meet each other, exchange email and phone numbers, and discover that one neighbor makes the best vanilla cake ever.  It was a sweet get-together, really.

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

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Celebrate Juneteenth! (Black History Month pictures and sticky notes)

When I was growing up, I'd never heard of "Juneteenth".  That says a lot about my education -- how lacking and skewed it was.  Because Juneteenth is the "oldest known celebration of the ending of slavery in the United States".  Kind of a big deal, don't you think?

I don't know the best way to celebrate the day, except to be super glad that I live in a country where slavery is illegal, and to continue to speak against oppression, and to hug my kids.

A few years ago, my sons teased me into starting a "Black History Month" dinner (in February, not on Juneteenth).   Since printing out stuff and preparing for the dinner is something that takes a bit of lead time, I usually do it during the summer.    So here's an extra bit of Juneteenth celebration this summer: I'm sharing with you my Black History Month pictures, in case you want to do something similar yourself in February.

What follows below are documents that my family has used for a Black History Month themed dinner activity. It consists of photographs of notable African Americans, which we taped up all over our living room and dining room walls, and a set of sticky notes in random order, which we worked together to match with the corresponding person. Each photograph gets exactly three sticky notes: a name, and two interesting facts.

The files are large enough that I couldn’t upload them all at once, so there are five different files of photographs; each file has about 11 photographs interspersed with biographies, so if you print these out double-sided, the biography will be on the back of the photograph for your reference.

There are two sets of documents with clues that are supposed to go on sticky notes. To get the clues onto the sticky notes, I suggest
  1. Print out the pages on regular 8.5x11” paper,
  2. Attach 2x2” sticky notes over the clues, trimming the sticky notes on the top row to about 2 x 1.25” as appropriate,
  3. Run the paper back through the printer, so the clues will print on top of the sticky notes.
  4. If you use different colors for the top row, the middle row, and the bottom row, then each photograph will get one sticky note of each color.

Here are links to the files:

Bob Marley, Jimi Hendrix, Colin Powell, Katherine Johnson, Condoleeza Rice, Tracy Chapman, Scott Joplin, Charles R. Drew, Judith Jamison, Misty Copeland, John Hope Franklin

Lena Horne, Langston Hughes, Oprah Winfrey, Marshal “Major” Taylor, Maya Angelou, Malcolm X, Angela Davis, Madame C.J. Walker, Bessie Coleman, Lewis Hamilton, LeVar Burton

Duke Ellington, Maggie Walker, Martin Luther King, Leontyne Price, Dred Scott, Jessie Owens, Mae Jemison, Ida B. Wells, Spike Lee, Rosa Parks, Thurgood Marshall

Frederick Douglass, Jackie Robinson, Arthur Ashe, Booker T. Washington, Louis Armstrong, Richard Wright, Barack Obama, Audre Lorde, Percy Julian, Etta Falconer

Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Florence Griffths Joyner, Alex Haley, Zora Neale Hurston, George Washington Carver, Ella Fitzgerald, Sidney Poitier, Muhammed Ali, Harriet Tubman, Shirley Chisolm

And here is a set of sticky note clues (all mixed up), and the rest of the sticky note clues.

And here are the answers to the first set of sticky note clues.  

Monday, June 17, 2019

How I made . . . a mess

I've been trying lately to think about Monday's posts as "making Mondays", without being too obsessive about that theme.   Well, with the traveling I did last week, I didn't have too much time to make something new, aside from making a mess in the garage.

So, to keep loosely on the theme . . . this is how I made a mess.  (Anyone who likes is welcome to play along at home!). 

We've been trying to rearrange the garage -- not just "clean it out", which is understandably the standard example of everyone's least favorite time-sucking task.  No, our garage has actually been fairly tidy and open, but we're trying to Re-Zone this space to act as a staging area for moving.   So instead of tidying the garage, I've moved things that used to be neatly stacked away so they're now things in piles and more piles.

The idea is to break the garage into well-labeled zones.   We have a zone for things we're going to put out at the early-July yard sale.   We have zones for things that go to special places -- Habitat Restore, a craigslist buddy who collects packing materials, a scrap metal dealer.  We have zones for things that are staying here for the new owners, zones for things that go in the first wave of moving, and zones for things that will go in the second wave,  late in August.  We're working on creating a zone that the new folks can use for storing their stuff before they move in.  It's a big garage; we can share.

But of course, moving stuff around in a garage uncovers dirt.  And also, I realized as I started moving things that my incredibly well-organized stack of scrap wood happens to include a lot of stuff not fit for moving to the new house, and definitely not suitable for the Habitat Restore place. 

We have a buddy with a wood-burning stove; he declined a lot of these scraps because they're too big to fit in his stove, though.

Prewash pretends that she cut up this wood,
but actually she stayed in the house while I did it.
So I spent a few hours on Sunday and early Monday with my circular saw, chopping things down into burn-able sizes.  And a circular saw with wood -- especially when it's particle board wood -- makes a clean place into a messy place VERY quickly and efficiently.

So, lots of sawing.  Lots of sweeping.  Soon I'll haul out the shop vac and do lots of vacuuming.  But hopefully then I'll be able to use the space more efficiently and the ZGP (Zoned Garage Project) will proceed smoothly.

Prewash wants to know: anybody want any scrap wood pieces to burn?

And that's how I made a mess in my garage.

You're welcome.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Miser Family updated: family and friends edition

Life continues to be rich and full in the Miser Family household.  This particular week has been particularly rich in friends and family.  I got to kick off the week with the friend side of things, heading out to Morehouse College in Atlanta for the TPSE-math meeting.  There I got to reconnect with some of my fave mathematicians, and also meet some of the next gen in my field:
A panel of young mathematicians, talking about their experiences
majoring, getting jobs, and getting PhDs
(takeaway:  good mentoring makes a huge difference).
I'd told J-son I was going to Morehouse, and he was kind of taken aback: "Mom, you're going to hang out with black people?!?"   Um, yeah, I do that sometimes, you know.  He thought about it. I asked for advice; he said, "don't act black".   So I didn't.  I acted like a white woman.  Yeah. 

A sad sphinx covering her face with her wings
at the National WWI memorial
After that, I headed to Kansas City to give a talk at the AP Calculus grading (or "reading", as they call it).  That's an amazing operation:  there are 1170 readers/graders in a conference center exhibition hall, grading/reading 445,000 calculus exams from all over the country and even the world.  It's stunning to see how carefully they train all together, how they ensure that each problem is scored consistently, that every single problem on a particular student's test is scored by different readers who can't see the other scores . . . it's an operation research problem come to life.  
Happy friends at the Zoo

And then the next day,  I got to hang out with my best friend from childhood, who happens to live in KC.  We went to the National WWI memorial and then to the zoo with her mom and her son.  It was a great trip, all the more so because when I came home, I got to come home to a great family of my own. 

J-son started training for his new job this week; he's a camp counsellor.  He showed me a certificate that showed he's good to go on everything except rappelling.  And N-son is having a great time at school.  Here is his experience, in his own words: 
Hey mom,
How are you doing today? Life is amazing in [my school town]. Building maintenance is amazing I met some really good friends in the class. 
The kid in the wheelchair is my roommate who went home with a broken ankle.
I also got to use a riding mower yesterday as well so that was really cool.
Hope everything is going well for you and the family at home. Can't wait to come back and see you.
Love your son,
As I mentioned above, I came home from my various trips and into the arms of my family. My two sons are both in town this weekend.  We had waffles, cheesy zucchini chips, and kale salad for brunch today with K-daughter and A-child and a friend.  So much fun, especially when my boys ate so much kale salad that I had to make a second bowlful.  
Family and friend.  Ahhh.
 And that's the news from our family, which continues to be wealthy in our adventures.  May you and yours be similarly prosperous. 

Thursday, June 13, 2019

What's in our river?

What's in our rivers?  Our city celebrated "Water Week" with a whole bunch of events, including a bunch of river clean ups.  This is the second year I've participated.  Last year, we mostly cleaned up a patch of woods near a river; this year I wish I'd brought some good wading shoes because a bunch of people hopped right into the creek we were assigned to.  Instead, I was relegated to the shore, hauling out the things that the waders handed up.

We've heard so much about plastic in our oceans, and I picked up so much plastic from the woods last year, that I would have thought the main stuff we'd haul out of the river would have been, well, plastic stuff.

One of the most adventurous waders,
pulling plastic bags that had gotten swept into the branches in the river.
But the river moves along at a pace that moves the plastic along with it.  The only place we really found plastic trash was on the shore, or at a natural dam that acts a bit as a sieve.

Instead, in this particular river, our really major haul was shopping carts.

There were lots and lots of shopping carts. 
Shopping in the river, with four carts for three people.
At least it was not too difficult to transport the carts back to the trash dump site.
Heading for that orange fencing in the distance

There were about a dozen of us at this particular site; we spent about an hour and a half cleaning up a half mile stretch of river.  The ranger in charge said she was surprised at "how little trash we found". 
Our trash haul.
Maybe next year we can make the ranger happy (?) and find more trash in the river then?

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

How to repair a dog with velcro cable ties

Velcro ties.  I keep stocked up on a stash of the ugly gray/black 8" ties that I got at a hardware store, and I am so glad I do.  There are prettier colored versions, but the primary-color ties I've found tend to run only 4.5" long, so they're just not as useful.

There are at least 101 uses for velcro cable ties, of which 98 are basically: wrapping up cords of one kind or another.  I use these for my long extension cords, so I can hang them on a flat hook without their falling off.  I use them for wrapping my computer cord when I travel, so it doesn't get tangled up with everything else in my suitcase.  I use them for my sewing machine cord, so I can carry my sewing machine to the dining room occasionally without tripping over it.  I use these for Christmas lights . . . but you get the idea.  The list goes on.  And on.  (and hopefully the Christmas lights go on, too, but sometimes they just die).

So, with those 98 uses out of the way, there are three other uses for velcro cable ties I've discovered recently.  One, which I wrote about before, is that you can sew them to fabric to make a strap for something that rolls up.  Not everybody needs a cloth drill bit holder that looks like a knitting needle holder, but if you do and you also happen to have velcro cable ties, man, you're set!

My drill bit holder, wrapped up with a sewn-on velcro tie.

Similarly, recently I used a cable tie to replace the worn out umbrella strap that closes up (or rather, no longer closes up) my favorite umbrella.  The umbrella is yellow, so a black strap is a little striking . . . but the handle is black, so it doesn't look completely odd.  Eh, I can live with it.

Here's the most recent use I found for these straps though: repairing  the dog.  Prewash suffers from seasonal allergies, and sometimes her allergies makes her lick herself so much she gets a sore.  By "sometimes", I mean "last week" -- she got a sore on her toe, which she couldn't stop fussing with.  Even if I didn't want to heal my dog, the fussing was starting to keep us up at night.  So I put a sock on her foot, to keep her from messing with her toes.  And I velcro-ed the sock both below and above the ankle, so it'd stay on.

(Just so you don't worry, we also took her to the doctor and got a spray med, plus antibiotics for her UTI, plus vaccines, plus her yearly heartworm and flea/tick meds.  And she's already doubled her allergy meds.   Ooof, she is not a miser dog!  However, the doctor heartily approved of the velcro sock strategy.  So that at least is a frugal solution to a vexing problem.)

In case you want to see up close how she looks with her adorable sock on her foot, here it is.

And the sock/velcro strategy worked.  With the sock on, she was a bit confused at first, but she quickly adjusted, and better yet, started ignoring her foot.  She rested, the toe is healing, and we're sleeping at night.  If the sock gets wet or dirty (nix that: when the sock gets wet or dirty), we just remove the velcro and use it on a clean sock.  

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Miser Family update: pens and needles version

Life continues to be rich and full in the Miser Family household, this week being particularly full of pens and needles.  As in, witness!  J-son got his tatoo(s)!  I've pasted here the one you can see; the other tattoo has a family name, so I can't show it on the blog.   But just to say, he's super happy, as you can see from the emails back and forth: 

On Wed, Jun 5, 2019 at 3:40 PM <J-son> wrote:
It was a success!! I love how they come out thx mom ur the best! ❤️🥰

(I see that he got MY name tattooed, quite large, on his right forearm.)

On Wed, Jun 5, 2019 at 7:11 PM <Miser Mom> wrote:
Man, you've got some gorgeous arms!

Did you get your own name on the other arm?


To which he responded,
Nope I got a cross ✝️ 💜 an thx mom I get the arm from the best 💜
It's so good to see him so happy!  

In other news, my husband drove out to visit N-son and to spend time not getting him a new ID.  Of course, the plan was to actually get the ID, but bureaucracy being what it is . . . they'd double-checked that the office that issued ID's would be open until 4:30, and it was.  But the office that authorized the issuing of ID's was closed.  So the two guys got to spend some time together doing father-son stuff instead.  N-son's counsellor gushed and gushed about what a great kid he is, which was a bit of a relief and a lot of a delight.  So that's good.

What else?  Early in the week, I got to go see Ragtime, a musical adapted from E.L. Doctorow's novel of the same name.  I-daughter took me, after seeing it herself and then nearly jumping out of her skin to get me to go back with her.  And it was FABULOUS.  The music was great, the cast was terrific and powerful, and the message of the show just kind of left us trembling by the end.  A different kind of feeling pens and needles.

Our home inspection (on our current home) was early this week, and the inspector discovered (per usual) lots of little things that ought to get fixed by a conscientious person, but nothing really big.  Phew!  The folks that are buying the house are going to get a roofer to come and replace some cracked/sliding slates, but that's it.  Meanwhile, friends give us gifts of cardboard boxes, and we continue to fill our gifts with the good things we've accumulated during our two decades in this house.  

Prewash got her own pens and needles this week: allergy season is in full force, and although I upped her meds to help get her through, I was a tad late.  So she got to go to the vet to get treated for a UTI and a sore toe, plus get topped off on her vaccinations.  We love modern medicine; she's already back in her element by now, although we'll keep those meds going for a bit longer.

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

Monday, June 3, 2019

It's a wonderful shelf life

What goes around, comes around, when it comes to shelving material in my house.   One of my favorite sets of shelves that I made out of  rescued-from-other-discarded-shelves boards is this crazy CD case on the left.  (Remember CD's?)  Over the years, this set of shelves holds fewer and fewer CDs and more and more knick-knacks.  The different heights and eclectic spacing goes a long way toward hiding the fact that I am not particularly good at enforcing right angles in my projects.

Sketching out designs for this baby and turning it into a reality was such a lovely challenge.  (Wow, I still look back on this fondly.)

Another of my favorite set of shelves isn't quite as picturesque, but continues to come in super handy:  the canning-jar storage I made out of old fence board a few years back.    Yeah, those.

But I'm not exactly elegant when it comes to woodworking.  I'm in awe of the amazing kitchen renovation that Mrs. Planting Our Pennies undertook a few years back  . . . wowzers!

Given my propensity for slapping things together rather than undertaking fine carpentry, I'll admit that making my own shelves, fun though it may be, pales in utility compared to adding shelves to existing cabinetry.  I've added shelves to my kitchen cabinets (measure, saw a board to the correct size, add a few of those funky shelving brackets that let you adjust the height of existing shelves, and voila).  I've added shelves to clothing closets in my sewing room to make space for storing paperwork and family tree stuff (measure, saw a board, add shelf supports, and voila).  I've added shelves to the funky-shaped, built-in corner cabinets in our dining room (same as above, but add in a painting step).

And not because it's any trickier than any of the others, here's a before-and-after of my latest add-shelves-to-exisiting-cabinets project.  These are cabinets I bought unfinished and then stained and varnished myself about, oh, three decades ago.  They came with a closed cabinet on the bottom, an open almost-square space in the middle, three drawers that you can pull out all the way, and an open shelf on top.

The cabinets, with a wine-rack added on the left and
and extra shelf added toward the bottom on the right.
A new shelf on top holds hot mats,
the second shelve holds plates, and below that
we have space for bowls.  
I've discovered through experimentation I love keeping dishes in the dining room instead of the kitchen.  Since we're moving to a home with much less shelf space (yay!), and in particular the new dining room has no built-in cabinets, I'm getting ready in advance by adding a few extra shelves to these destined-for-the-dining-room cabinets.   I built these 'new' shelves by sawing apart some boards from old, disassembled bookshelves that used to be in our bedroom.  They color doesn't exactly match, but I figure it's close enough.

Underneath, the shelf makes space for
 serving bowls, extra flatware, and napkins.
In this cabinet, we've added a wine rack
and two shelves, so now we have space
for cups, serving bowls, and candles.

Why do I love this latest project?  Well, first, it's just fun to make things and rearrange them.  I grew up playing with dollhouses, spending hours with them.  I almost never touched the dolls.  Instead, I rearranged furniture, added new items, moved walls around . . . I was a little architect.  This shelf project is partly like getting to play dollhouse again.

But I also love it because this arrangement lets family and guests help themselves and help me.  Here, for example, is my four-year-old granddaughter.  If I pull out the flatware drawers so she can reach them, she can (and does) set the entire table by herself.

A-child has already put plates and napkins on the table;
now she's getting forks and knives.

She knows forks go on the left and knives on the right.
She also knows who's napkin is whose.  
Having my dishes and such gathered together and easily visible makes it much easier for me to take guests up on their offer when they ask, "Is there anything I can do to help?", and it makes hosting dinners for many people run all-the-more smoothly.  (In this sense, shelf-engineering projects spill over into social engineering).  I think this rearrangement is going to work great, . . . if I do say so my shelf.


Saturday, June 1, 2019

Miser Family Update: rich in vegetables edition

Life continues to be rich and full in the Miser Family Household.  We have been particularly rich in vegetables and full of fiber this week.

Vegetables: we live in an area with some of the most fertile non-irrigated soil in the nation.  Non-irrigated is no joke; this week, our local climate seemed to mistakenly be calibrated to August, with thunderstorms rolling into the area several afternoons.   Meanwhile, the soil keeps bursting with living green stuff.  Our CSA gives us more salad than we can figure out how to eat, and then gives us more. 

And we celebrate in a variety of ways; the park right up the street from my house held a giant "Veg Fest", with bands playing, gazillions of vendors, people, dogs, even a pet boar, not to mention face painting, cooking lessons, and of course lots and lots and lots of vegan treats. 

My husband doesn't get to enjoy the vegetables the way that I do, for intestinal reasons that I won't describe in any detail.  (You're welcome).  He, instead, is making the most of fiber.  And speaking of fiber, my very own birth daughter bubbled over with happiness because . . . well, in her own words . . .
My new spinning wheel! (Name: Christy Burgh, Theme song: Lady in Red)
I'm making yarn!
Behold Christy Burgh:
Likewise, behold yarn!
This looks too even to be beginner yarn, doesn't it?
Memorial Day

And a related Mama-brag, as long as we're on the subject of I-daughter:  She's been teaching knitting classes, and it's just so encouraging to hear how fulfilling that is for both her and for her students.  As one of her students told her, gratefully:  "You are so patient and gracious".  I-daughter called me almost in tears: "I feel like you, Mama".  I may or may not be patient, but I don't think I'm gracious.  She wins. 

N-son came home for the weekend, and got to spend time today with both his local sisters.  In the morning, he and I-daughter sang (with their choir) the National Anthem, to kick off our region's annual 5-mile run through the city.  And then later in the day he teamed up with K-daughter and A-child, visiting our nearby science museum and eventually heading out to a barbecue.   Where of course they will have vegetables and fiber.  Of course.  

And J-son is getting excited because (how the heck to I relate this to vegetables or fiber?  I don't think I can figure that out) . . . because I offered to pay for a tattoo, now that he has successfully made it through both high school and his Sports Therapy program.  In his own (quick texting) words:
I found another tattoo place, Well ik there tats are really good I here. Love u 💜
He wants his name down one forearm -- I guess so that when he's in the boxing ring, the other guy will know who it is that just punched him in the face.  I suggested he get my name down the other arm, and J-son reacted with immediate refusals!  "No!  Mom!  You'd have to be my girlfriend."  He paused, "Or dead".   Okay, so not my name on the other arm.

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