Saturday, January 30, 2021

Miser Family update: 30 version

 Well, life continues to be rich and full in the Miser Family Household.   This week, we especially celebrate 30 years of L2.   See the specially decorated cake from L2's aunt?  Hear the "Happy Birthday" played by Y?  And see L2 through the years . . . Big birthday kiss to you all!

This week was the final week of J-term for me, which means I gave quizzes and more (make-up quizzes) and then final exams, and I graded and graded and graded.  But also this week, my collaborator and I submitted our NSF grant proposal, something we've been working like crazy to pull together.  And now it's pulled together, and sent out, so phew!!! and YAAYYY!!!  With J-term done, I now have a break until . . . Monday.  Which is when our spring semester starts.  

Speaking of "spring break" . . . [this segue is actually how my husband loves to change the topic.  He'll say, "speaking of grading and papers, the newspaper said start-of-completely-new-topic.]  So, speaking of things that break, I'm very glad my husband is safe and chagrined about the two flat tires he had while doing his Adventure Driving en route home from his Adventure Biking.  So, that's another thing that happened this week. 

But to get back to "30 years" (which is what L2 is), I have always had a soft spot for the age 30.  I was born when my dad was 30; my only birth child was born when her dad was 30; and I married my current husband when I was 30.  So I think of this particular year as an auspicious one for her.   And so it kind of makes sense to catch back up with that wonderful man who is 30 years older than I am, my dad.   And so here's my interview with him.

1. What things were you doing a year ago that you're not doing now?

We went out to eat several times a week, went to movies, concerts, and the opera. I also spent time planning vacation trips.

2. What occupies your days, nowadays?

Keeping the house in repair; There is usually something minor to fix every other week or so. There is yard work, even some in winter after an ice storm. I spend time reading the paper and working on crossword puzzles. I am not very good at this, language skills being my weak suit, but with help from Sue we can work the easier ones.

3. Tell me a bit about your hobbies.

Woodworking is my favorite hobby, but in truth I do not do much with it these days. What spare time I have these days is spent going through the old junk from my previous house, still in storage. I actually enjoy repairing things around the house. I have all the tools required to do most any job. Because of the limitations caused mostly by my age I have given up on the tasks requiring great strength, or working above my head, or crawling on my belly under the crawl space, and so with reluctance I have hired help for some tasks.

4. When you treat yourself to a bit of "me" time or special indulgences, what does that involve for you?

These days it mostly involves reading. I take several popular science journals “Science,” “Physics Today,” and “Sky and Telescope” I also read books, mostly science related or history.

5. What kinds of things would you like to be doing in the future that you haven't done yet or aren't doing now?

I would like to go back to traveling. There are many places that I have not yet visited, and that I would like to see. I can no longer keep up physically with the much younger travelers so I will mostly go to places where I can look, but not have to climb too many stairs.

6. Describe some of your favorite household gadgets or treasures.

My favorite newish item in my life is spray oil for pans, used for baking. It eliminates the job I like least about baking.

7. Are there any questions I should have asked you, but didn't?

Not that I can think of at this time.

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

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Three thoughts on . . . water usage

Thought 1.
Back in December, I paid my usual quarterly water bill.  In 2020, over the course of that crazy year, our household used about 22,000 gallons of water.  That translates to 60 gallons/day, or 30 gallons per person per day.  We don't take conscious, drastic steps to reduce our water usage ("conscious drastic" is mostly aimed at plastic and landfill-bound garbage in the Chez Miser), and yet we're way lower than the 300-gallon-per-household estimates of the EPA, or the 100-gallon-per-person-per day estimates I've seen elsewhere for US water usage.   I'm not really sure what we do (or don't do) to make this big a difference.

Thought 2.  
About the time that I was paying that bill, we got a letter from Zimbabwe, from the father of one of the children we sponsor through World Vision.  He says, in part

We live in a village which is about 420 km away from the capital city of Harare.  Our homestead comprises of four huts of bricks and thatched with local grass. Cattle, sheep, and goats. We also keep maize, ground nuts, sorghum and cotton.

Our school is 5 km away from our home. We fetch water from a borehole which is 2 km away from our home. Our area is partly hilly and mountainous. It is infested with mosquitoes and tsetse flies.

Whatever I think about our 60 gallons/day water habit here in our own home, I'm darned sure we'd be using a heck of a lot less if I had to haul it over the hills from a hole in the ground a mile or more away while flies were biting me.   I have so, so many reasons to be glad for faucets and water treatment plants.  So, so many.

Thought 3.  
My Christmas gifts this year were basically soap and water.  I bought soap for my family from a friend of mine who runs her own soap-making company out of a shed behind her house.  And I sent money to DigDeep, a project to get running water and sinks in the homes of Navajo families.   (Thanks, Revanche, for pointing me to that!).  Because, really, what the frigg is up with people in our country not having access to clean water?  Sheesh!  

I was a bit worried that my dad's wife would be a bit tetchy about that being my "gift" to her, but I got a really lovely thank you note back.   She loved the soap, and she talked about how when she and my dad combined households, she gave one of her extra desks to "Waterboys for Jesus" (who had posted an ad, requesting items for a yard sale).  They sold it for $150, and used that money with other yard sale proceeds to help build a well in India.  She concluded, "A different location than our American Indians, but just as in need of clean water".  So, yay for that, too.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Miser family update: warm clothes for cold weather

 Life continues to be rich and full in the Miser Family Household.   This week has been particularly rich in warm feelings, and to celebrate that, we are ready to display our warm clothes.  

My kids have learned to dread my response to their lament, "but it's cold outside!".  I've co-opted an expression from Mr. Money Mustache; I start saying, "I know it's cold, but there's this invention . . . "  And they say, eyes rolling, "I know, I know.  It's called clothes.  You put them on your body and you stay warm".   Right.  And, let me tell you, my family is rich in warm clothes.  

K-daughter and her family use these warm clothes to make the most of winter: "We dress in our warm clothes for cold weather while hiking at the PA grand canyon in the middle of January! Leg warmers and all".   

My sister-in-law is no cold-weather wuss, either: "Showing off my athletic prowess while braving the elements in my warm clothing. . . . That is a skating rink that was set up in front of the T-Mobile arena. Because of Covid there is no rink this year. ." She added, "I was over there by myself having a good old time and wanted a video so I could show Frank and my friends. I went up to a total stranger, handed him my phone asked him to take a video. As I was coming in after my first lap he signaled for me to go around again. Turns out he didn’t know a word of English. 🤷‍♀️ "

Not to be outdone, her brother (um, my husband) dresses in three layers in preparation for a big bike ride.  And N-son says, "Just got bundled up to go outside", to which I say, " Your bundled up and my bundled up are two different things!"

Okay, kiddos, let me show you how to properly bundle up. Clothes, people, clothes.  Just watch me:  I am sporting a stray hat that I found in the road (the stray hat followed me home; can I keep it?), a scarf my daughter knitted me, a wool coat my mom bought me 30 years ago, fuzzy bear-paw mittens my sister gave me, and yard-sale uggs. Oh, and painting jeans, but those aren't great for cold weather.

I-daughter loves winter most of all the seasons, because "sweaters".   When it comes to sweaters, she is an artist (behold!):  "A pile of hand-knit sweaters!"  Y likewise displays appropriate coziness ("This is my temp one if I can't recreate the Bernie mittens pic in time").   And for those of us who come in from the cold, there are "Warm blankets for comfy snoozes on cold days ... made by grandma".   And leave it to the Minnesota branch of the family to come to the party in "My warmest clothes . . . Also known as a sauna 😂".

What else is going on in our world?  I-daughter is very excited about Sock Madness, still two months away but already featuring preparatory scavenger hunts.  One of my running buddies, the one who does pediatric physical therapy and who is therefore an awesome font of knowledge for not-so-pediatric friends who occasionally sprain things, got her first Covid-19 vaccine!  yay!   My guy and N-son are also technically eligible to get theirs now, due to a combination of age and diabetes, but in PA it's just about impossible to get vaccines right now, so we'll have to be patient.  I mean, to wait.  (Because "patient" could mean something else, y' know).  

What else?  Well, on Wednesday, just an hour before Biden placed his hand on that big old Bible, our provost announced to the faculty of my college that I'd be the next Associate Dean.  So, that's kind of a big deal in our family right now -- my guy has started calling Prewash "Dean Dog", even.  The president (of the college, not of the U.S.) bought me a book I'd told her I wanted:   "Being Wrong: adventures in the margin of error", and I'm getting ready to try to be humble-yet-useful in this next role of mine. The "humble" will be especially hard for me.   I say that to people, and they say, "Oh, I'm sure you'll do a great job!!"   To which I think, "Yes, I know I'll do a great job.  That's why being humble is so hard!"   I've started reading the book aloud to my guy, as an antidote (vaccine) maybe.  

And that's the news from our family, which continues to be wealthy with those warm and fuzzy feelings.  May you and yours be similarly prosperous.    

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Miser family update: we are artists; behold!

 Life continues to be rich and full in the Miser Family household.  This week, we are particularly full of art, and artistic-ness, and general art-i-tude.  Behold!

The theme ("I am an artist; behold!") was suggested by I-daughter to me so long ago, that she forgot she'd been the one to come up with it.  But the name of the theme was barely off my lips before my husband, the pun artist, shot back, "I know exactly what I'm going to do".  Hence, bee holding art. supplies.  Yes.

My sister-in-law was only milliseconds slower in responding; she says, "One of my best friends turned 65 a couple of years ago and rented a house out in the Berkshires for all the girlfriends. On Thursday night she had a woman who owned the local “Sip and Paint” make a house call. It was so much fun."   

This kicked us into a spate of wall art; a painting of a fish that L1 gifted to N-son, a painting of bottles that L1 painted long ago and gifted to me, a scenic painting that L1's father-in-law did, a commissioned painting of a tiger that K-daughter did a few years ago.  They are artists!  Behold!

The grandkids get in on the action; A-child has a blown-glass ornament she made (with a little help), and B-child artistically arranges a "rock formation mess".  I-daughter is a sock artist; behold!  K-daughter carved a wooden cow that likes to sit under its favorite tree in the living room, smelling the flowers just quietly . . . (just like Ferdinand!).  N-son is a much louder artist, but in a rockin' good way.  Y creates edible art; she says, "Mostly doing food art this past week- a surprisingly good first attempt at yakisoba!".  As for me, admitted to scrambling to contribute, and I-daughter chipped in a familiar photo with pies and the pair of us:  "You made me, and I'm a work of art!".  'K.  I'll take that!

We haven't had any exciting glucose monitor adventures this week, and my guy returned his trial hearing aids, so that wipes out any fun medical stories I might have had.  Teaching J-term is eating up pretty much all of my days, so I don't have any personally fun stories to tell you (oooh . . . except . . . I just signed a contract for a something-something-something, which will be officially announced Monday.  So I guess next week, I'll have a story to share then.  Cliff hanger, anyone?)

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

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Miser family update . . . we 8 the whole thing . . .

 Life continues to be rich and full in the Miser Family household.  This week, in honor of yesterday's date (which is 1-8), we are so rich that we can't believe I 8 the whole thing!

  • L2 shares the 8 of wands.
  • I-daughter makes a pretzel into an 8 by 8-ing a piece of it, and also (kinda out of order here, whoops) says, "If I 8 this, I'd have a really high-fiber diet"
  • Y, who is almost a doctor so who officially knows healthy, says "I can't believe I 8 three of these cinnamon rolls for lunch today... tummy ache noted."
  • My sister-in-law (who can totally believe it), says "I have the right size fork for the task at hand"
  • Amelia the dog is not allowed to 8 grapes, because they're bad for dogs.  
  • N-son flaunts his Sudoko with red 8s, 
  • and I made a gr8 big ol' loaf of bread.  mmmm.  
  • In my fave explanation of a photo, K-daughter says, "My m8es! Sorry for the w8, it's a little L8! And the pic is out of outd8- from our beach trip out of st8 :)"   And B-child, now on solid foods, 8 the whole spoonful of kale and applesauce. 
My husband's contribution is this 5-minute video, comparing army c-rations from his first tour of duty with MREs from his more recent time in Iraq:

N-son has been having adventures with his new glucose monitor.   The first one went mostly kinda okay, except for sending us dire warnings about high glucose that we didn't really need to care about.  The second one completely failed to work.  My guy spent a bunch of time on the phone with the rep, who mailed us some new ones.  The third one had kind of hilarious mechanical attachment issues: there's a big plastic thing that you're supposed to use to attach the monitor to your body, but the plastic thing wouldn't release the transmitter, so the whole thing stuck to his body like a giant plastic leech.  I finally pried the transmitter out of the leech with a screwdriver, but broke the transmitter in the process.  

For the fourth one, N-son and my husband put it on at the doctor's office, in front of a nurse, to figure out how to do it properly.  The nurse also had difficulty separating the transmitter from the leech that was stuck to my son's body, and she told them that the best technique would be to -- and I am not kidding -- "hit it with a wooden spoon".  So the fourth one turned out to be even funnier than the third one.  I have a wooden spoon, N-son!  Come here so I can hit you!

At home we managed to successfully attach the transmitter to N-son's body last night, and to successfully remove the leech.  (No spoons involved).  Then N-son went home, and the glucose monitor woke me up in the middle of the night,  sending beeping warning alarms to all our cell phones, frantic that his glucose had dropped into the he's-going-into-a-coma range.  My husband rushed over to N-son's place with emergency life savers (literally, candy lifesavers), only the glucose monitor was really way off and N-son was fine; we just needed to calibrate the sensor now that it had time to warm up a bit.  Sheesh.  

As for me, I've started teaching my J-term class.  "Started" feels like a weird word here, because while it's technically true that this week I started teaching, the class is so brief and so intense that after 5 days of teaching, I'm almost a third of the way through the class.  It's some of the most intense teaching I've done, and I find myself mostly brain-dead by the end of each day.  I'm trying hard to teach in a way that supports all my students, who are peeping into my Zoom room from all over the planet.  I'm paying especial attention to the ones who obviously have financial issues, with all that that means (sketchy internet, jobs that take up study time, etc).    My students from China tell me they worry about me here in the U.S., given everything they're reading; I appreciate the concern, I have to say.  

I know the world outside has been . . . scary, crazy, reaffirming, and scary again.  But in this tiny little corner of our world, we're managing to do okay.   And that's the news from our family, which can't believe we 8 the whole thing. May you and yours stay safe.  

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Talking Trash, 2020

So, the bad news for the 2020 Trash Tally in Maison du Miser is that we forked over $80 per trash can this year.  Our next door neighbors, in contrast, paid a much more reasonable $2-$3 per can.  

Which leads to the braggy part of the post: the reason we paid so much per can is because we pay a flat rate ($240/year) and because we put out exactly three trash cans at the curb this year.  That's "three" like magic wishes or Goldilocks's bears or like Dale Earnhadrt Sr.'s car number.   Or like our trashcan count this year!  This is our lowest volume of landfill-bound garbage ever, and I am happy to sit and bask in the accomplishment for a few moments.   Indeed, I'll offer up a graph just to show how far we've come, or just how low we'll go, as you will.

{here's me basking . . .  contented sighs of accomplishment . . . okay, I'm done.}

Most of my trash avoidance is passive: I just don't buy a lot of stuff that comes wrapped in garbage.  It gets easier and easier to figure out how to do this the more I do it, and I honestly don't spend a bunch of time or effort in this passive avoidance; nowadays it just happens.

But trash still does come into the house, and so every once in a while I have to get off my duff and do stuff to avoid stuffing the garbage can.   This past weekend, for example, I snapped photos and dusted off my Freecycle password, and posted the offer of about 6 months or so of padded mailing bags.  (And they were snapped up within 24 hours.  yay!)  A couple of other things went out via Freecycle this weekend, while I was on a roll.

In order to be able to do this Freecycle offer, we'd done the work when we moved into the house of setting up a sorting station for outbound materials.   The "Packing Materials" box is one bin.   We also have bins for things that are headed for so-called Thrift shops, construction stuff that will go to Habitat Restore, a HazMat box, several boxes for stuff that's recyclable at a nearby drop-off center but not accepted in our curbside bins, a bag of rags for a nearby thrift shop that recycles fabric scraps, a scrap-metal bin, etc.  So, that was a once-and-done chunk of time, and also a permanent chunk of sizable floor/shelf space in our basement  (our basement has an external door; it's kind of like other people's garages). 

I scored another win through sheer persistence.   First at my old house, and then at my new house, I made a point of asking our newspaper carriers to deliver the paper naked, with no plastic bag, and every Christmas I make a point of giving them a big tip and a thank you note for the naked delivery.  Today my carrier (and the carrier's dog) stopped by while walking past my house so that our dogs could say hello.  And my carrier told me that he's planning to write notes to his other customers asking if they, too would like a plastic-free delivery.  He says he's had a couple more already start returning their plastic bags to him, and he'd love to just reduce the number of bags he delivers.  So maybe I'm part of a small neighborhood movement heading in the less-waste direction.  That'd be really nice.  

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Miser family update: New edition

Life continues to be rich and full in the Miser Family household, and this week we're particularly rich with . . . well, here's how I explained it to the fam:

Me:  Theme for next week: "New".

Y:  That is NOT a theme I expected from you! Ha.

My guy: Totally!!!!

Okay, but the theme is "New".  Let's see how we rolled with it!

  • My guy:  My new is new Gap jeans for the new decade of the 2020s. The new jeans are lying across black jeans from the 80s, Gap jeans from the late 90s and another pair from the 2010s.
  • My sister in law: Who “knew” I’d enjoy my new air fryer this much!
  • Me:  New . . . planner pages for a new year! (I made the pages myself!)
  • L1:  Happy New Year!  [They say that owners start to look like their dogs . . . or dress like them?]
  • I-daughter:  First new [knitting] project of 2021! And a very appropriate new shirt  [that says:  It's not a hobby; its a post-apocalyptic LIFE SKILL]
  • L2:  New game to me, Penny Drop
  • Y:  New:  gifted *fancy* coffee grounds.  New: activity of making french press!  Cheers to becoming Dr. Y in 6 mo!!
  • K-daughter:  Hehehehehe (kids with their new toilet paper fort.  Yassss)
  • J-son:  Got some Bling.  It's a necklace, mom.
  • N-son:  Got so many hat Options
My guy is getting fitted for hearing aids very soon, one of the many people who has discovered in these mask-intense days that his ears are just as old as the rest of his body, and that they don't quite pick up those high-pitch sounds like they used to.  Because he's such a tech geek, he's very much looking forward to getting the kind of hearing aids that plug straight into his phone so he can listen to podcasts and such without disturbing people nearby who might be doing math or trying to sleep, thank you.  

N-son has gotten his own kind of bio-tech gadget, too: he now has a glucose monitor affixed to his body that tells him what his sugars are like.  When I say "tells him", I mean it sends the reports to his phone, and also to both of his parents' phones, and every once in a while all three of our phones sound a dire alarm that says "N-son high glucose alert!!" and wakes me up, until I told my phone that high glucose is NOT something to wake me up about.  And then it sends us a dire alarm that says "N-son low glucose alert!!", which would be scary if it were true, but it really meant that the monitor was new and needed to warm up (because his glucose is fine or slightly on the high side, yet).    So, we're glad for the monitor but are still learning how to communicate with it correctly.

And not to be left out, I got a watch that not only tells time, but also tells me how well I slept and how fast I ran and what my pulse is.  It talks a little bit to my cell phone, and every once in a while, it begs me to "please let me see all the texts and emails and such on your phone" and I say, "heck no!".   I got this watch because I want to try to run a half-marathon faster than I've ever run one before, as a kind of a weird birthday present to myself.   Today my watch and I went out for a training run, and we figured out that I'm almost ready for my upcoming half-marathon at a sub-9 min/mile pace . . . as long as I can find a half that's all downhill and only 3 miles long.  Here were my splits:
  • 9:17
  • 9:08
  • 9:18
  • 11:56
  • 12:24
(that 5th "mile" was only 0.8 miles, so extra death on that one).  I guess I have a leeeeettle bit of training left to do, ey?   

And that's the news from our family, which continues to be wealthy in our new adventures and bling.  May you and yours have a wonderful and prosperous new year.