Sunday, April 29, 2007

Going Green(er)

To my surprise, this month's Vogue has an extended batch of stories about green alternatives to conventional things - organic cotton clothes, sustainability, the whole thing. Very cool. They mentioned as a site selling, well, reusable bags, some of which are Fabulous (and pretty, and rather hilariously expensive), with the harrumph that fer heavens' sake, fashion is about fabulous bags, too, y'all. So on top of the cashier at the grocery store yesterday mentioning that Massachusetts may be outlawing those recyclable plastic bags that seem to gather along the highways and byways of our fair Commonwealth, I decided it was time to - well, shop, a bit, but also add to my somewhat meager collection of inadequately sized fabric bags, and fit myself for really doing the grocery shopping using ALL bags I bring myself. We'll see how it goes. I ordered some black string bags and a couple of large black tote bags, which allege that they hold about as much as a regular grocery bag. Any suggestions for remembering to bring the bags with me? Probably get into the habit of storing them in the car, I guess.

The other thing I'm trying to do consistently is only drive the minivan when there's a lot of kids or gear to transport or a really long distance to travel. The rest of the time, when I drive (which I try to do as little as I can), I take the little car. Better gas mileage, less expensive, much more efficient. Also the dog doesn't seem to get carsick in the little car. The gas bill does wonders to concentrate the mind on conservation measures. Remember when Bush & Co. were going on about how measures conservationists suggested were unworkable because if implemented, they'd result in gasoline costs of $3.00 a gallon? Funny, huh. Now we've got the prices, all right, but without any environmental benefit attached.

I'm a wee bit jealous of my friend Laura's solar panels. My roof can't take them, apparently. Though there is something I need to research that is a slate roof shingle with solar cells embedded in it, which would be pretty cool. Next time I have a spare several thousand dollars lying around, I'll look into it a bit more.

Still haven't gotten the chain saw working. Still got a gigunda tree across the driveway. Hey, firewood! Just gotta get it the hell off the driveway. Yup.

See you around, I hope, folks - Javaroom? Knitting group? Fingers crossed for no last-minute foolishness.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Ack. Oof. And a job done.

No, not littlest offspring's gloves (yes, yarn harpy, still not those!), but the Austermann socks, mit aloe und jojoba oil. I'm wearing them now and they feel wonnnnderful. Or wunderbar. Possibly both. Yay!

Weaseldom had a bit of detouring going on. We realized that middle child's Extremely Spiffy Event for which she was going away this weekend required not just the fancy dress we already had located, but also a nice outfit not involving jeans or sweatpants for the preceding evening. And we realized that Wed. night was our only chance to go find one. Sigh. So we tended to the shopping emergency, and all was well. Missed Javaroom. Sniff, sob. THEN--ah; then, child's transportation had a sudden health mini-crisis, this morning. So the crazed weasel, in truly crazed fashion, decided, "well, hey, I can drive." And, "why don't I also drive the other person who needs to get there, too?" And, "yay! she can make sure I don't get lost!" (I refer the gentle reader to a previous encounter with the tricksy ways of the Tappan Zee and 684, and the sneakiness of the turn, which if missed sends one hurtling toward New Haven).

I'm back, from a slightly longer day than I anticipated, having successfully deposited all and sundry, without getting lost and while wearing some very nice new socks. I have accumulated good karma enough to at least begin to counteract travel gremlins for our upcoming summer vacation. And I am now sitting calmly, with my besocked feet up and a glass of amaretto.

So, oof. Ack. And a job done. Cheers.



Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Belated Birthday, and Huzzah!

Happy Shakespeare's Birthday, a day late!

Also dh's birthday, on the 21st. I brought some flowers. (Ah, you're thinking, that's why so quiet this week; you would be correct about that.) He would have been 49.

More cheerful by a long way is the hard work of eldest child on her costume for Anime Boston. She and her friends started working on this huge project last September, and the results were breathtaking. They won first prize for craftsmanship in the novice division, and also a special judges' award - and one can only win two awards. Very, very proud mom, here. Have a look:

And that's all for now. The convention was amazing, the kids were amazing, they were so thrilled to win, and that's been the week. Other than a Pilates lesson, in which I discovered that my years of dance training and work in musical theatre resulted in completely unconscious turnout. The Pilates teacher has to keep telling me that my feet are pointed outward. Apparently this is so ingrained that I can only NOT do it with a lot of struggle. Ah, well; learning something new is good.


Tuesday, April 17, 2007


It started raining and snow/slush-ing Sunday, and it's been doing it ever since, with very little pause. Sunday night we had scaryily high winds. I'm thankful that we've taken care of our trees over the years, and the really ancient ones have cables keeping them from breaking apart. One of the not-so-ancient ones is now across one end of the driveway.

I didn't want to walk down and take a closer picture, but it's a big, fat, oak tree. I've already cleared away the smaller branches. I can't make this thing budge when I throw my weight against it. So today's chore (avoiding by blogging about it, natch) is to get at least one of the chainsaws* repaired and cut up the tree so I can move it out of the driveway. We have a circular drive, so I can actually get out; this is really more a nuisance than a catastrophe.

The rain is enough that the basement is getting water in it, so I'm also monitoring this:

As long the pump keeps spitting water out, we're good. When it gets overworked, the motor sometimes conks out; it works again after I unplug it and give it a little rest. The rain keeps on coming today, though, so I'm really hoping the pump is having a good day.

And here are a couple of the new plants cheering up the place:

In between the survival-mode stuff, I am closing in on the end of my pair of socks in progress - the green Austermann ones that have been taking forever. They probably take forever because I haven't been knitting very much. Funny how that works, eh?

Oh! I finally got tired of not being qualified to go anywhere near the kind of lab work I've been fascinated by for twenty years or so, so I've signed up to take a course in neurobiology at Harvard Extension School. Whee! Very excited, the weasel is. Summer schedule - it'll be eight weeks starting kind of close to my birthday. So part of the answer to "what the hell do I do with the rest of my life" is to try to get myself into a position where I can do cognitive neuroscience research, maybe some basic structural stuff, maybe other stuff. I read an article about this exciting breakthrough at the joint MIT/Harvard lab, and they've mapped the folds in the cortex with MRI for different stages of development: infant, child, young adult. They've got MRI pictures of what normal brains look like at different ages. What struck me was, they're just getting around to this NOW?? holy crap! let me in there! geez! I could sit on my butt, or I could start taking steps toward something I want. It's going to take forever, but a step is better than nothing.

Onward with the day, and everything else. Cheerio, all.

*we have four chainsaws. none of them work.

Friday, April 13, 2007


Well, we have a theme today, somehow. Through no fault of my own, in fact while two doors down visiting a tailor shop, I accidentally went to a bakery and came home with this:

Well, what would you have done? You'd have come home with it, too, I'm sure. Coconut white cake! Raspberry in the middle! (It's good. Especially nice with diet coke.) (Sh, I know I'm not being consistent. There is an exception for cake.) (An exception to almost anything.)

Also firmly in the Yum category is the Totally Spiffy Package from my Secret Pal! Thank you, SP! Voila:

The yum may not be totally visible. The nice planter is filled, in the parts not filled with sock yarn of a fabulous and wondrous nature, with chocolate. Yay! And there are also seeds for me to plant (and probably kill, but we live in hope), and some wee stitch markers that are spiffological and also cute. Thank you thank you! (I love the SP exchange, I really do.)

Less yum but tangentially related is the revival of my kitchen sink's garbage disposal unit. A glass broke in the dishwasher about a week ago and the shards were swept, like all detritus from my dishwasher, into the garbage disposal. Garbage disposals, I have learned, do not like to eat glass. They dislike it very much indeed. So I have tried to fix it, for days and days sticking my arm into the guts of the dishwasher and the disposal and grabbing the bits of glass and getting them out, tiny piece by tiny, garbage-coated piece. Did you know that pieces of glass small enough to be largish grains of sand still make the garbage disposal unhappy? Well, now you do! Yet another public service I humbly provide. You're welcome. I finally cleared them all out, and the unit is now happy again. Yay!

Following on from "sticking arm into garbage disposal," the estimated taxes are Done, Done, Done. I still have to mail the estimated first quarterly payment for the dear old Commonwealth of Massachusetts, but I will wait until the last possible second to do that (so there, taxman!). I have wrestled the tax software into submission long enough to get it to spit out a completely revised Alternative Minimum Tax calculation bearing in mind all my new Itemized Deductions, and the numbers are staying right where they are until the next quarterly filing date. I'll have the whole horrible mess to do over again then, but for now, it's done. It's quite weird making up numbers for my income and seriously calculating what the tax might hypothetically be, and then paying that. I feel unsettled doing it, and slightly crazy.

Time for some more chocolate, perhaps. Yeah. Cheers, all! Thanks again, SP!

Monday, April 09, 2007

Belated Happy Easter

Happy Easter!

We had a chocolate-filled day, ix-nay on the urch-chay thing as usual. The Bunny brought some Smarties eggs for the two younger weasel offspring and a large Cadbury one for oldest, so much rejoicing all around.

I spent a ridiculously long time Saturday working on estimated taxes for 2007. My brain froze utterly about the time I got to this point in the instructions:

I kept losing track of whether they meant the US Schedule B (or D) or the Massachusetts Schedule B (or D). This was after taking several hours to work through everything already, including a half hour at least searching for just this one bit of information:

Okay, GOOD, but, sheesh, it took forever to find that. Until then I was going, oh crap, where do I enter that income? which part of the form does it go on? Schedule Y? X? or is it B? or Z? And yes, Massachusetts has all those letters, and the instructions for the tax form schedules are not arranged in alphabetical order by form name. So instructions for Schedules A and B are after X, Y, Z, and CB. All together now - AAARGH! The children made me promise not to do any tax work on Easter. So I didn't. Back on our heads, now, and to work through the final version, as I'm pretty sure I used one figure from the wrong year and now have to re-calculate the whole second half of the form.

This is more fun than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. But not by much.

My Christmas cactus is well and truly an Easter cactus these days, I think. It probably needs a new pot. I think this because the plant hasn't gotten any bigger, and it's been three years. Bloom:

One of those things that only people who read knitting blogs will fully appreciate: I had a chat with my sister yesterday - she called to say Happy Easter - and we were talking about her new boyfriend and how things are going (move in together? not?) and what she's been up to for the last couple of weeks. She says, we went and visited his sister; she lives in upstate New York. I say, really? where? And she says, well you probably haven't heard of it, it's a little town called Rhinebeck. Pause. I am silent. Oh, yes, dear, I know where Rhinebeck is. Oh, yes. Then I had to spend the next several minutes explaining How Important This Is - egad! a potential near-relative with a house actually IN RHINEBECK! holy crap! Words failed me, people. Eventually she got the general drift. Gack. Agggg. Pluftft. Yeah, I'm really articulate sometimes.

Cheerio, and belated chocolate wishes.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Enough with the snow, already

April is not supposed to mean this:

I was reading farm-witch yesterday, and she was talking about their snowstorm from this week, and I was sitting and saying to myself, ah Maine; you get that in Maine.

I guess you get that not just in Maine.

Feh. That'll teach me.

Knitting is progressing again, at last. I have some writing meandering around in my head, too, which is fun and a good thing.

Cheerio, all!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Breaking news: Crazy lady finishes sweater

Well, I finally managed to finish the commission. Two weeks late. In really, really big yarn. Honestly, this project should have taken me three days, but I'm just not firing on all cylinders yet, took forever. Ah, well - done, delivered, and they love it. Rah! Go, me! Eventually! Yes, this is why no blogging for a while; it feels even more horribly dysfunctional to be writing about how late I am rather than trying to actually finish the work.

Now that particular monkey is off my back, I'm feeling a little looser - not so much clenched in the shoulders, that sort of thing. I still haven't finished up littlest child's gloves (which is itself pretty stunning), but am making splendid progress on socks. Yes, while other paying work was late. Yes, I realize that's bonkers.

There's a design call actually up on Knitters' website with more than three days notice, so I toyed with submitting something for about six minutes and then went, um, Liz? hello? big yarn, way late? anything wrong with the picture here? So check it out, rest of world (I can't find a non-broken link right now, so rest of world, go on and hit whatever makes sense on, okay? Okay.). I gotta say, four weeks for a fine gauge project including time for the yarn to arrive is cutting it VERY close. Designers need to be superhuman speed demon knitters--this is why. Probably the yarn will take two weeks to show up. Then the designers will have two weeks to knit the whole thing, write the pattern, do the schematic...oh, it sounds like so much fun, I can't believe I'm passing it up.

Cooking! I made a batch of pasta thingie and froze three meals' worth of it - yum, good dinner that I can throw into the cooler for those days when we're at the co-op. Here's the recipe:
1 package cheese tortellini
1 package Knorr pesto mix (NOT the cream kind)
1 cup sundried tomatoes in olive oil
1/2 lb. grilled chicken strips (frozen, in a bag)

Cook the pasta al dente, drain, and put in large bowl. Make the pesto sauce; pour over pasta. Chop the sundried tomatoes and add to bowl. Cook (re-heat, really) the chicken strips & dump in bowl. Mix well. Done! Tasty and oh so healthy. At least healthier than pizza.

I've finished doing my taxes - another Rah! go me! is in order, of course. I knew I was going to owe money, so have been dragging my feet. Finally did the last bit of fiddling, printed out everything, and then rather late last night, went onto my brokerage account and put in an automated request for a check for the thousands of dollars I'll need to pay out. And I didn't email my brokerage guy! I called him this morning, and he was freaking out, going "oh wow I have to talk to you, there's--" "I put in a request for a check, dude." "Oh." "It was me. For the taxes." "Oh." "I'm glad you were checking at six in the morning, but it's really okay." "Thank you for calling. I was really worried." "That's a good thing."

I love my brokerage guy. (I don't really call him dude, though.)

Next task: figuring out estimated taxes. Good thing I like this sort of thing; if I didn't, it would totally bite.

Cats! Our insane cat is on parole, again. It seems she's unwell enough that she doesn't absolutely have control of her sphincter. How did we learn this, you might ask? Well, oldest child carried insane cat downstairs and sat with her for a couple of hours, patting her, during which time the cat purred like nobody's business. Then oldest took cat and walked upstairs. Cat yowling about something. Child gets to upstairs hallway. I hear a splatting noise. I inquire. A pause. "Mom, the cat just shit on me." Cat apparently was yowling about impeding crapfest, and her sadness about same. I cleaned the kid off enough for her to walk safely, and then the two of us set about taking care of the...aftermath.

Pets are great. No, really.

Oldest kid is now totally not interested in having children, ever.

Wow, that was gross. The other three cats thought so, too.

Cheerio, all, 'til next time.