Thursday, July 31, 2008

Update on Clothesline

We recieved the clothesline on Tuesday, and of course it rained so we couldn't use it. Fezzik admitted that he thought we were nerds to be so excited about a dumb clothesline.

Not that it phased us.

It stopped raining yesterday, and we load-tested the line. It's up to snuff! I spent some time this morning hanging clothes in the quiet. An obnoxious Stellar's Jay came along and interrupted my reverie, but I didn't mind because those feathers are my favorite color. I tried to get a picture of him, but he was uncooperative.

We've got three loads on the line, and there's room for one more.


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The First Shoe Dropped

I've spent the last month agressively chewing my fingernails for nothing, apparently. My forehead (and now chin) can return to their normal, unblemished state, thank you very much. I can get a decent night's sleep, finally.

You see, I was not laid off today.

Phew, I think.

I was really upset about the handful of people I know who were. Some of which had great passion for what we do. Others of which have families to feed, clothe and shelter. I'm sick about that, actually. I think the bad skin is here to stay for a while.

It was so weird sitting at my desk receiving the IM's from other friends who "made it through" - "Are you ok?" How do I respond to that question? Honesty wasn't the best policy here. I'm glad I was able to maintain my composure enough to say "I'm ok, and I'm glad you're still here."

I used to work for a company that put its people first. Not so much, anymore. We were told to "stay focused" today. We did, on our shock.

Don't tell anyone, but I cracked open the flask I keep in my bottom drawer. It was there in case of emergency.

I feel like this is melodramatic, but it was quite a big deal to me today. If you've been paying attention, you realize that my job is not my life, but the thing is, I do need it. And I'm freaked out about the alternative.

Sweet dreams.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Baby Giveaway

I've been getting familiar with Naturemoms blog, which has some pretty decent information. She seems like someone I'd like, which is a prerequisite for me to get involved with new blogs. Addict much?

She's having a cute baby stuff giveaway today. All you have to do is leave a comment on her post here: Stacie, Sandra and Scarlet, it was written for you.

Things I Love, but Don't Own and Can't Afford

News Flash: Etsy is a veritable treasure trove of covetabe stuff. I think this little pillow would add a bit of wonky style to our living room, and pull together all things English in my house: the barley-twist mantle clock and dining table & chairs, the Green Men, and my Spode tea set. Isn't it cute? I've been drooling over the Karen Hilton Designs Etsy store for a year now. Enjoy!

Soap Opera

Those of you who know me (probably) know I used to make soap. I loved it. That's not entirely true, because making soap is a pain in the ass. I like a couple things about it - namely the creative process of coming up with a new scent or emmolient blend, and most of all, the end result. Hand-made soap is so mild and our skin thanks us for using it.

Life has been in the way of our soapmaking adventures for the past few years now. I used to sell it to Lawnboy's cousin, who owns an herb shop in Montana (our aloe & tea tree soap had a standing order with one of her customers, they claimed it was the only soap that helped their psoriasis). But, I got lazy (I call it busy), and Solsitce Soap kind of dropped off the face of the earth. I haven't even made any for our own personal use in this time.

This period of laziness is over. Lawnboy came home from work yesterday and said "Let's sell our soap again. You be the creative and marketing departments, I'll be the manufacturing and distribution departments."

We're going to spend the next month building up an inventory of different soaps, and also SETTING UP OUR ETSY STORE. There, I said it. I already have some ideas for the shop, and mark my words: two months from now, at most, you'll see a link here to our brand spanking new Etsy store, where you'll be able to choose from at least 10 different soaps. All of which will have been made, and will be shipped the day after it's ordered.

More to come.

And, if you have a favorite scent or a particular skin problem we can try to solve through soap, feel free to leave it in my comments.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Missing

Mom would have been 62 today. I miss her very, very much. She was my friend, my role model, my Mommy.

Happy Birthday, Mom. I hope you know you set the bar really high, and I strive every single day to be as good a mother as you were. Thanks for giving me so much to miss when I think of you. And so many good memories to look back on and laugh until my sides hurt.

Today's lessons:
1. Be kind to everyone you encounter.
2. Especially your family.
3. Laugh as much as you can.
4. Check your boobies for lumps, and go to the doctor when you find them.
5. Cancer sucks, but it makes you appreciate what you have. Don't wait for something scary to start appreciating what is right in front of you already.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Ten Random Things We Do on the Cheap

Sorry if this bores you to tears. There aren't any earth-shaking new tricks here, I am just jotting these down as motivation for myself to stay on track with our budget. Today is payday, and normally I would go out and buy whatever I've been coveting for the last week. I can't do that anymore, as our priorities have realigned. You get to read about it.

1. We don't buy (very many) commercial cleaning products. It's been said before, but vinegar and baking soda make perfectly reasonable scrubbers and disinfectants. Also, your 7 year old could make a volcano out of them if he wants! We add lavender or tea tree essential oils when we're cleaning the bathroom for the extra disinfectant power, and the delicious smell. The best part is that none of these things are carcinogens.

2. We (try really hard to) create a weekly menu, based on the food we have hoarded in our pantry, and stick to it. Lucky for us, I'm a complete freak about having a trillion different grains on hand, so at any given time we could cook up a barley pilaf, falafel, spanish rice, couscous, split pea soup, tabbouleh, polenta, or any combination thereof.

3. Lawnboy always packs leftovers for his lunch the next day. And sometimes the day after that. And the day after that, too. We have a big freezer, so when I cook for an army, we freeze the leftovers. I, on the other hand, get totally bored with food and can't eat the same thing day in and day out, and I usually resort to buying Lean Cuisines. I'm embarassed to admit that, but it's true. I get them on sale and use coupons.

4. We garden. A lot. There are fruit trees and bushes in our yard, too. We have pears, apples and blueberries. Next year, I'm hoping to add hardy kiwi to that mix. Oh, and most importantly, we eat the stuff we grow. And if we grow too much, we share with our friends. I'm bringing two heads of lettuce to work today for that reason. I should really bring kale too, but we seem to be the only ones who eat that weird stuff.

5. You might infer from the last post, we don't use our clothes dryer in the summer. Our clothes last longer, we don't use nearly as much electricity, and the sheets smell so good. Crunchy towels aren't my favorite thing, but you get used to it after a while.

6. Speaking of towels, we reuse ours instead of washing them after every bath. I go through 2 or 3 towels a week, which saves on laundry, time as well as money.

7. We wash and reuse our plastic ziplock bags until they have holes in them. I've been known to rescue bags that belong to friends/family, before they hit the trash. I draw the line there though. No dumpster diving for baggies for me.

8. We don't have cable t.v. We have the cheapest Netflix subscription, which stands in nicely for the shows we miss by not buying cable. Bonus - we only watch the shows we really want to see, skip the commercials, and best yet, we don't spend nearly as much time watching t.v. anymore.

9. We used to eat out at least once per week. We've whittled this down to once or twice a month. I'm not gonna lie to you - this is my least favorite strategy. It is fun to have friends over and cook for them, though. Having friends over means we're motivated to really clean our house, too.

10. We prioritize, and the things we really want get bumped to the top of the list, so we don't feel deprived all the time.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Things I Own and Love, but Don't Possess (Yet)

When we were in Italy in 2004, we stayed at an amazing Agritourismo, Villa Stabbia.

They generously allowed us the use of their laundry facilities, which consisted of a nice Bosch front-loader washing machine. Instead of a drying machine, there was a T-rack clothesline outside our front door, right next to the orange tree. Our clothes have Never. Smelled. Fresher.

Moments after we cleared customs on the way back into our country, we ran to MacLendon's Hardware to pick up an umbrella-style folding clothesline. The model we bought cost $75, and lasted just one year before the cheap aluminum arms and plastic joints busted on us. We had saved enough on electricity costs by not using our dryer that we had enough in the bank to get another one, which lasted another year and then busted on us too.

Because my darling Lawnboy refuses to throw anything away (am I guilty here as well? Probably.), we now had two identical clothesline thingys. Which meant Lawnboy could patch something together in a time-consuming, but not too quality, method (sorry, Babe, you know it's true). He "fixed" the clothesline by putting together the good parts and slapping the sad, bent, sagging thing back up. Then he put the broken bits back in our shed.

This year, we delicately loaded our clothes to make sure they didn't break our precious clothesline. It was doomed from the start, but we gave it a go. It broke on us last weekend.

We had already decided that we didn't want to buy another piece of crap that would break within a year, so Lawnboy went on a hunt for a Quality clothesline. He found one. The TS-140 has all metal joinings (not plastic like our old one), and is guaranteed not to break for 10(!) years. We bought it yesterday and anxiously await its arrival.

I suppose we should throw the other ones away at some point.


Update 7/23/08: To the relief of his broke-ass parents, Fezzik's lunchbox has been found. Don't forget, it pays to put your contact info on your stuff!

Arrgh! We bought one of these expensive lunchboxes for Fezzik, expecting it to last and last and last.

It has; two years and showing no signs of wear. It's like a bento box, little compartments for different things. It was $30, but divide that by the number of days he's used it, and it was only $0.06 per use.

Kiddo lost it yesterday on his camp field trip. Dang.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Dragon Arms

I dragged my boys to the Mediterranean Festival this weekend, at which I was to spend $200 of my boss/friend's money on belly dancing accoutrements.

Success! I came within $3 of her limit, and I totally scored.

The list of items acquired:
  • 1 BEAUTIFUL silk veil - hand painted in copper, dark rose and dark brown/copper tones
  • 1 jewel-toned paisley handkerchief-hem wrap skirt- knee length, reversible to a pretty floral print
  • 1 AMAZING hip scarf with v v v v v pattern coins, very jingly, gold coins, and coppery tie-dyed fabric
  • 1 copper-coin belt with u-shaped coin lengths
  • 1 matching copper anklet
  • 1 pretty burgundy petal skirt

Also, Fezzik came away with a sweet henna dragon on his arm. He walked around SO PROUD of that thing all day. We went back in the late day, and he found the artist who had painted his dragon earlier, and said to her "See? It turned out GREAT! And did you notice? My arm is really a lot stronger now!" He held up his other, weak arm for comparison.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Something's Wrong

There's something that has been bugging me since I've been on my own, making a living for myself: How do people live such extravagant lives?

I have gone through periods where I've run up a ridiculous (to me) amount of debt. I've (to be honest, WE'VE) worked hard to pay it off. A big portion of an inheritance windfall went to our credit card, student, and car debt, and for about a year, we felt comfortable. Not rich, by any means, but comfortable enough to buy groceries without worrying about coupons or sales, enough to take the kids to Disneyland, etc.

But in order to stay out of debt, we are now realizing that we need to go back to worrying about that stuff.

We realize that some would consider our daycare costs (as much as our mortgage) excessive, and we go camping, and we usually haven't stressed about it much when the boys need, or even want, something. We both put the maximum matched amount towards our 401(k) plans, although that amount is nowhere near the 10% retirement-savings goal we have.


We live in a tiny house. Our cars are old, and paid off. We split our schedules so as to avoid daycare for the older one. We have a garden; we buy our kids' clothes, toys, and books used at least 80% of the time. We buy some of our own clothes used too. We don't have expensive habits - no boat, no smoking, drinking or illegal nastiness, no naughty internet subscriptions. Since we've had the 2nd kid, there have been no vacations off the continent (those 2 trips to Europe were worth the debt, I still believe). Our new kitchen cabinets are coming from IKEA, at a cost of $3,500, as opposed to the $8,000 we could have spent on the stuff we'd prefer.

What gives?

Just last night, The Mayor announced he would be buying a Cadillac for his father-in-law. He was also the recipient of a $900 pool cleaner Dolphin for Father's Day. Other friends buy houses in The City, and immediately undertake $75,000 remodeling projects. These people all have kids, too, so I would imagine their monthly stipend isn't much bigger than ours. We went to a wedding last weekend that was beautiful and amazing and more fun than I've had in years, but probably cost more than my annual salary. I know these folks could probably afford it, but there's no way on earth we could. I just don't get it!

Ok, I've got to run now, and stop complaining. These coupons aren't going to clip themselves!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Stuff I Own and Love

Item #1, the Sarah Utter "reading is sexy" mug.

Why do I love it? You had to ask?

1. Obviously, reading is very sexy
2. It's yellow, with a rad bright green font
3. It's made from corn plastic, and 100% compostable

Thursday, July 17, 2008

On Wedding Cakes, and Knowing What You Want

My dad is getting married next month, and the biggest decision he has to make is about the cake.

He invited me to his day of cake tasting, and when he did, I immediately started drooling, imagining all the lovely frosting-coated sugar bombs we'd get to sample throughout the afternoon. He set up appointments (or so I thought), and we were set to leave promptly at 2 pm one Sunday.

In the car, on the way to the first bakery:

"So, Dad, what bakeries are we going to today? "

"Bakeries? Plural?"

"That's usually how these decisions are made."


Soon after, we pulled into the parking lot of the bakery where my own wedding cake was procured. In the door in a flash (we both walk fast when there is cake nearby), we had our tasting plates loaded up with 6 (mine) to 12 (Dad's) different flavors in a heartbeat.

We grabbed a seat in the little display room, and when the first bite of the first flavor (tiramisu) was still in his mouth, Dad said "Yep. That's it. That's the one."

"Dad, this is MY wedding cake. Exactly my cake. Don't you want to try another flavor before you declare a winner?"

"Why would I need to?"

"Look, I grabbed your fiancee's favorite flavor (white cake, strawberry filling, white chocolate frosting). Try this."

(chews) "Yeah, not as good as the first one."

"Dad, you can get different flavors for the different layers if you want. See? Here's a good one - passionfruit filling. It's good, isn't it?"

"Nah. Let's go put a hold on the wedding date."

And we did. The baker told us that she didn't need the final details until two weeks before the wedding, so we decided to leave.

"I wasn't kidding when I told you that your wedding cake was the best cake I've ever eaten."

"Dad, I don't remember you telling me that. When?"

"At your wedding."

"Eleven years ago."

"Yep. Come on, Kiddo, let's go. I've got things to do today."

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Excitement Never Ends

This morning, after Fezzik's alarm went off, he came in to snuggle up with us. As all four of us lay there in varying states of waking up, Charlie the cat came prancing into our room.

I happened to be sitting up, trying to get up the motivation to get out of bed. I saw Chuck first, and he appeared to be carrying a small, furry animal in his mouth.

I said "Um, Charlie has something gross in his mouth." Lawnboy jumped a bit when I said that, and looked over at him and said "It's another damn mole!"

What the heck?

We're considering hiring him out for mole eradication services.

Gross, though, that he was showing off to us in our BEDROOM. These are the times when I'm most glad I married Lawnboy. Because I love it when he takes care of removing all the dead mammals from our home.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


I have hinted at it in earlier posts, not at all subtly, and as anyone who comes within a 20-foot radius of me on any regular basis knows, I am officially obsessed with belly dancing.

Sorry Jess, it's true. I know it bores you. I'm ok with that.

Last week's technique class focused on whirling, like Whirling Dervishes (only less Muslim, and less male). I can absolutely see why whirling like that is a religious experience. We learned how to focus on a spot on our hand (wedding ring came in handy, literally), and we were able to whirl nonstop for over 4 minutes, the first try.

Remember twirling around in a pretty party dress when you were 4? It's still amazing and totally worth it. Try.

Last night, we had an introduction to American Tribal Style (ATS) belly dance. Wow, a spiritual experience for me.

One of the things I adore about our workout class is that most of the time, we're dancing to upbeat, hip-hop Arabic music. Which, in case you were unaware, is REALLY GOOD.

But ATS belly dance is different. The music is smaller, the beats are from a real drum, the dancing is more focused. The idea (qualification: I am NO expert yet) is that the group dances very precisely, in unison. In "tribal fusion," which we normally dance, we're all interpereting the dance in a personal way, so we're all over the place, even if we're doing roughly the same movement. The precise, uniform dancing of ATS was trance-like for me, and really, really powerful. I'm not even sure I have words to express it just yet. Something about joy.

I'll work out the rest of that thought, and get back to you. For now, know that belly dancing is important to me, and not just because of physical fitness.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Dans le foret et la mer, or Ode to Carrie

Spent the weekend camping with an old, dear friend and her family this weekend. Aside from the midnight crying baby (ours), it was time extremely well-spent. Our parenting styles are very similar, our kids get along like they've known each other all their lives, and it made for a weekend of fun.

My friend is fluent in ASL and teaches Cued speech to transliterators. She has inspired me to pick up the pace with signing with my little one. We saw crows all over the place, and he picked up "black bird" today. He's smart, have I mentioned that?

Just as I had been in 8th grade, I am again in awe of my friend's internal beauty and the peacefulness that she exudes. She is an amazing, calm, loving and peaceful mother, and her babes are two of the luckiest on earth.

I have teased her for the past 18+ months about the fact that whenever we see each other, her husband has been mysteriously absent. I called him her imaginary husband and when we invited her to our camping trip, I wondered if he would show or not. Perhaps he'd have to work, or maybe he really doesn't exist. On the phone, when we were planning our meals, she told me that she'd found a nice actor to portray him all weekend.

She found a great actor/husband. He fit right in. It's so nice to hang out with people who are so normal, so like us. They are smart and funny, basically they're better-looking, more accomplished, fitter versions of us. Really, what's not to love?

Our boys were granted pocketknife privelages over the weekend, and boy, did they ever think they were cool. We caught them using them in the woods a couple times, and I ended up revoking the privelages for a period, but they earned them back again after a while. Basic rules: carving your spear at the table = good; scratching your belly with your knife on the trail = bad.

We granted Fezzik a lot more freedom this weekend than we ever have. He was allowed to explore the woods with his buddy, out of sight of his parents. He did great, and I think we'll need to give him some more freedom in other facets of his life. I worry that I spend too much time envisioning my kids' tragic demises, and loosening the umbilical chord doesn't help. I know that I owe it to him to trust him with more freedom, but what about the other people, the ones I know I shouldn't trust? It's a dilemma that every parent faces. I hope I'll get through it. There are so many horrible things that happen every day. Maybe I should stop watching the news.

Exploring the tide pools was fun as usual. We got the honor of finding many sculpin under the larger rocks we overturned. The tides were unusually low on Saturday, and attached to the rocks where the sculpin were buried, there were hundreds of pretty yellow eggs. A few of them were hatching and we were able to watch a few tiny, wiggly fish hatchlings squiggle their way over the tops of their brothers and sisters. Amazing. Also spotted were lots of starfish, a few jellyfish, a moon snail egg casing, tons of crabs, chitons, a few hermit crabs, and various segmented worms. And, in terms of mammals, bats greeted us at the beach while we watched the fireworks on the 4th.

When it was time for our friends to leave, their precious and precocious little girl said "Mommy, I am not going to miss Fezzik when we leave." "Oh? Why not?" "Because, when his parents aren't looking, I am going to sneak him into our car and take him with us."

That's basically how I felt about their entire family.