Thursday, October 30, 2008

One Matron, One Vote

I went and advance-voted today at the branch of the county library near me. I had heard of long lines, even for early voting, so I went during the school day. Mom and Dad are in town, so I didn't have to take Hank with me. There were a ton of people there! If this is early voting, I wonder what Election Day will be like. I only had to wait in line for twenty minutes or so, and I took that time to study my fellow citizens and try to figure out their voting preferences.

Strangely, in Georgia you're not allowed to wear t-shirts or buttons that endorse a candidate to the polling place. Today I happened to be wearing my Obama shirt from one that has his giant face on it--and I had to zip him under my vest.

I think it's a silly law. As though you could apply undue pressure to your fellow voters with your wardrobe choices. Then again, look at the size of that face. So we went covert, Barack and me. Deep in enemy territory! True, I couldn't see who they were voting for, but I was NOT getting an Obama vibe from that crowd. And indeed, Laura told me that they talked about the election in her class, and she was the only kid in favor of Obama, and she said, "I felt left out, Mom!" I could have given her a big talk about how democracy is invigorated by difference of opinion, or maybe I could have discussed specific policies of Obama's that we believe in, but I was tired. So I just said, "Well, on November 5, they will have backed the loser." Not my greatest parenting moment.

So voting went smoothly--there were 15 of those Diebold machines, the ones that don't print out a paper record, so who knows. I don't mean for this to become a political blog, but the suspense is killing me over here. Could I just wake up and have it be November 5? And in the meantime, it gives me pleasure to know that I canceled Frenemy Neighbor's McCain vote. Sorry to be such a bitch, but that's where I'm at right now. She actually called my neighbor two houses over--the crazy Ron Paul supporter conspiracy nut who told me that the U.S. Government crashed the planes into the WTC--and said, "I see that you took down your Ron Paul sign. I have some extra McCain/Palin signs if you would like one." He told her that he was voting for the REALLY crazy Constitutionalist party candidate, and she was disappointed. I'm sorry I didn't get to hear those two go at it. Good times in the cul-de-sac. And go vote!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Get These Dudes to City Hall On Time

Today is a big, huge day. In San Francisco this afternoon, these two guys are getting married.

David, on the right, has been my devoted friend for years, and in Michael, he's found the one. They are a pair of Mr. Rights. Now it can be told: a long time ago, I told David that I would kill him if he let Michael get away. And today they get to make it legal. We are all still in a whirl--they just decided a few weeks ago that with the election looming, and Proposition 8 on the ballot (more on that below), they would get while the gettin's good. I think it is romantic, like running away to Gretna Green in one of those old novels that David and I are always going on about.

So besides being romantic and exciting, this day is also political and exciting. David's full blog posts about their decision are here and here, and you should read them 'cause he's way smart AND giddy as can be, but I like this part below, especially. We have the chance, through this moment of social change, to realize what a varied and elastic institution marriage really is, or as David says, that “all the millions of straight married folks that have gone before us have figured out millions of ways of being married.” This may be the conservatives’ worst nightmare, but I think it’s true, it’s exciting, and it’s happening. David says:

One thing that confuses me about the party line for us marriage-equality supporters is that we say it won't redefine marriage. I understand this as a strategy, but there's no way around the fact that this will change marriage. I think that's what might be exciting—and maybe even more honest—about it. This is another opportunity for a dialogue about the real workings of the institution—what it flattens out, what it might open up, where and how it's about the operations of power, where and how it's about the private and the public. . . .I know this sounds terribly unsentimental. But it's a
politically fraught moment, and there's no getting around the fact that my marriage will be bound up in this and a lot more. And, straight readers, so are yours. They always have been, in one way or another.

So, on Election Day in California, voters will decide on Proposition 8, which would amend the California Constitution to “eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry.” Ever since the California Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage earlier this year, some folks out there have been flipping out like it’s the apocalypse. Here’s just one choice bit from the Yes on 8 people (I won’t link them—you can find ‘em if you want to):

If gay activists want to legalize gay marriage, they should put it on the ballot. Instead, they have gone behind the backs of voters and convinced four activist judges in San Francisco to redefine marriage for the rest of society.

Did you get that? The gays are so sneaky! Going behind people’s backs like that! And my land, we let San Francisco have judges? You mean it’s not all marching in pride parades and shopping at Barney’s up there? There’s your problem.

Meanwhile, I haven’t noticed any perceptible erosion in my marriage vows since Sulu got hitched. And I’m no Laurence Tribe, but it seems to me that if prop 8 passes, it’s in violation of the Equal Protection clause of the U.S. Constitution. The folks at No On 8 have much more to say. Me, I'm just happy for my friends, whom I love. David and Michael, we here at my house are thrilled for you guys. Marriage really can be a blessed state, and Matt and I wish you every happiness. Let the bells chime. And OMG I just looked online at the Denby pottery you guys registered for, and I’m dying, it is so pretty. It. Should. Be. Mine. Also, someone has bought that Iittala bird for y’all. Where is MY gay wedding?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Candy, Candy, Candy I Can't Let You Go

I bought groceries today, but I also sold some gold, so it was a net gain. There weren't many super deals that got me to the stores, but there was cheap candy to be had at both Publix and CVS. THIS time I'm going to actually save it for Halloween, not like the doomed M&M "fun size" bags of last week. They WERE a fun size. To be sure this batch lasts the week, I've hidden it somewhere in my stockpile in the garage. Now I'm going to try to forget where. But I keep reminding myself! Dang, I really need one of those lockboxes that Al Gore was always talking about. Cassie reminded me that there was Nestle candy on sale at CVS (the coupon is in her post), and Publix had their M&M's bogo, plus there's a $1/2 printable coupon floating around. Fiddledeedee is the place for that one and for all Publix lore.

A couple of other fun things at Publix: by the Sara Lee bread, there is a tear-off coupon for $3 off a pumpkin when you buy a pack of SL hotdog buns and a Hilshire farms sausage (the polish sausage thingies are 2 for $5). Publix's large pumpkins are $5.99 this week, so for $7.50, you can get buns, big sausage, and big pumpkin. Not free, but if you're in the market for some polska kielbasa anyway (I was), the $3 pumpkin is hard to turn down. The pumpkins are really accumulating on our porch.

Also, the Ritz crackers are bogo, which is good enough for me. Plus there are tear-offs for $1 off when you buy the Ritz and a chunk of Kraft cheese. The bigger chunks are marked down to $4.50. That stuff freezes, if you're into it. I also had the bogo Wholly Guacamole printable that expires 10/31, so I got two of those. I had a $1 off coup from the paper, so those were $1 each. As I type this, an entire guacamole is vanishing into my family's bellies, while we wait for the chili to simmer. Those were the highlights. So, spent $45.79, saved $28.68, but I feel good about the cheese and sausage I got for that.

This afternoon my neighbor called me and said that her tennis friend was having a gold party a couple streets over. Have you heard of this? I had only just been told of this phenomenon the other night. Basically it's like a Tupperware party, only instead of buying stuff, you bring your scrap gold to a dude who comes to sort it, weigh it, and offer you cash for it. The gold dudes pay the hostess 10% of what they pay out. Now, I am sure that you can go to a jeweler in your town and get a better price, and I've heard of some scammy gold parties where they weigh all the jewelry together and pay you the lowest carat rate, or they tell you you have 14k when you have 18k, or some such. So you should keep your eyes open. But the likelihood that I was going to gather up my scrap gold and go find a jeweler willing to buy it at a better rate was zero. And there is something to be said for the convenience of going to the next street to do this. One of the gold dudes told me that they are booked up for night parties every single night between now and the first of the year, so they're doing these afternoon parties in neighborhoods like ours, where a lot of women are home during the day.

So Normal Neighbor came over and watched Hank for a few minutes, and I went to the right house, and two dudes carefully untangled everything I had and looked it over. They had all the little tools, magnets, rubbing stone, magnifying glasses, etc. They sorted it by type of gold, then weighed each type. They paid me $110 cash for a few broken, tangled chains I got out of the bottom of Laura's jewelry box, and some little dented, ball earrings from the 80's. I didn't sell anything I actually wear, so it seemed like a little windfall. Plus there was food there. Maybe something to do if it comes your way.

Here's Hank, reminding me of a pumpkin with his orange shirt and pumpkin head. Yesterday he asked me to close the door and let him sit on the porch by himself.

Gotta go, my chili's ready. And be sure to check at Fiddledeedee's to see what the shopping experts are up to!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Aspects of a Weekend: Three Pictures

Here we are heading to our party. Matt thinks Vikings don't smile much. Sadly, this pic doesn't show my parrot and the adorable red flower pin on the feather side of my hat. We had a great time doing all the normal party things, plus our friend Kelly and I totally crushed us some Rock Band.

Croc haters, this next one is not for you. Laura got these cute Croc slides, and they came with a big, brown grosgrain ribbon bow on each toe. The grosgrain didn't stay tied, and the ribbon was too short to tie a double knot, so I got some Halloween ribbon from the dollar-bin at Target and dolled 'em up. I am not going to be wearing shoes with ribbons myself, but I love them and I think they're great on a little girl.

And an open letter to the makers of Velveeta Rotini & Cheese with Broccoli:

Dear Velveeta,

What the heck? This is what came in the little pouch of "broccoli florets" you included in my box of mac n' cheese. Not enough to fill a thimble. Even allowing for significant rehydrating, this greenish powder is not going to magically turn into the lush veggies shown on the box. If this is the "broccoli," how am I supposed to feel good about myself while serving boxed mac n' cheese to my kids? You are not helping.


Also, Laura and I loved HSM 3. If you like musicals and you like good-looking people, you will like this movie just fine. It was so wholesome and adorable that it made ME more wholesome and adorable after watching it. For like, an hour. So those were the high points of our weekend. What did y'all get up to?

And for more easily-digestible Monday lists, check out ABDPBT:


Friday, October 24, 2008

Stepping Out with My Baby

Maybe you have been on a long sea voyage, or you do not have a child between the ages of five and fourteen, and therefore don't know that today is the premiere of High School Musical 3. Oh Lordy, the excitement in this house! It is palpable, y'all. Laura and I are going for a night out with our girl crushes, Pretty Neighbor and her daughter. We got tickets early this week--they were already selling out--and we're going to get there early to be sure we get four seats together. Laura is pushing to wear her Gabriella wig (which we got to go with her genie costume--not sure how that goes together, but it looks fab). Laura's friend is dressing as Sharpay for Halloween, so naturally she wants to wear her costume to the movie. I was resisting Laura's desire to wear her wig. I don't know why, except that my child doesn't usually go around bewigged. Then last night at bedtime, she said, "Please let me know as soon as possible what you decide about the wig." And I thought, "Why the heck not?" So we will be there in our most fetching wigs, to moon over how dreamy Troy is, and to see if Ryan comes out of the closet finally, or if things with him and his sister go in more of a Flowers in the Attic direction. Pretty Neighbor is pregnant, so unfortunately I will not be bringing a thermos of margaritas.

Then, the big event of the weekend is an actual, grown-up costume party that Matt and I are attending. It has been eight years since I went to a costume party. Eight years ago was, not coincidentally, the last Halloween before I had children. We went to a party in Berkeley when I was seven-months pregnant with Laura, and I went as a zombie. Um, "zombie pregnant lady" is not adorable, people. Nobody really wanted to talk to me. So this year I'm going as a girl pirate. Not super creative, but still fun. I had two costume choices, Cleopatra and girl pirate, and Matt voted strongly for pirate.

HE has spent two weeks crafting a Viking costume. And wow. This is someone who gives no thought to what he wears on a daily basis, but lately he comes to me with questions like, "Do you think this belt buckle is too garish?" and "Should I go with the sword or the two axes?" He's been going to Michael's BY HIMSELF to shop for Viking jewelry. He took a Chewbacca costume and cut it up, making a long furry cloak/vest thing. There was enough fur left over to make boot covers. And he has a giant horned helmet, which makes him seven feet tall. Believe me when I say, the effect is. . .striking. And authentic--it's like the Viking costume taps into some essential part of his nature. Since we're not a costumed pair, like Ike and Tina or something, our common link is that we're Seafaring Criminals. Should be a night to remember.

So what are y'all up to? Here's to a happy weekend for everybody!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Around the House: How to Make a Feather Wreath

For today's installment of Things I Love Thursday, I'm focusing on something you might kind of hate. It's okay! We can still be friends. If you've been around for previous Thursdays, you know I've been sharing my favorite things around my house. To qualify for a Things I Love post, a thing has to make me happy every time I look at it. My previous TILTs--the rush seat stools, the Marimekko fabrics, the melamine plates--all do that. And all of them have a kind of modern, unfussy vibe that is representative of my taste in general. But THIS, I don't know how to categorize this. I just know that I love it:

It's a Halloween wreath that Laura and I made. We took a straw wreath form (we didn't even take off its plastic wrapping) and wound three feather boas around it, pinning them with floral greenery pins. Laura did most of the wrapping. Our wreath was about 15" in diameter, and we needed 3 6-foot boas to get good coverage. You don't want the wreath base showing through. We stuck an orange ornament up in there. Then we grinned and high-fived each other. It's hanging in our entryway above a little black table that has pumpkins on it.

I should say that in most aspects of life I shun the froufrou. Give it to me clean and simple, every time. But there's something about a feather wreath that is SO over the top, I cannot resist. It's exuberant, and just so dang fluffy! So you're saying, "Okay Beck, it's a cute Halloween decoration, but you wouldn't have a feather wreath in your house ALL the time, right?" Ahem.

That's a corner of my bedroom. And that is my feathery friend. Practically nobody ever sees this but Matt and me. Now you know everything, internets! Some history: Two Novembers ago, I went on a late-night foray to TJ Maxx, and this green creation was tucked among the Christmas decorations. It called to me, and I liberated it (only $14.99!) and brought it home. As I bore it into the house, Matt said, "That is fine as long as you didn't pay actual money for it." He also said it looked like a Muppet, which it does. We were still getting settled in our house, and we had a lot of bare walls. I hung it in our bedroom to bring in a little holiday cheer, and I liked it so much, it stayed and stayed. I go back and forth on whether it looks too Christmasy. What do you think?

It's a lime-ish green with a pink bauble. The color maybe kinda tweaks it away from Christmas for me. Maybe. But in any case, I love the color. I love the way it relates to the vintage lamp next to it, and I love the way the round fluffiness contrasts with the hard, straight lines of the chest of drawers. I love the whole thing. And, just like a stopped clock that is right twice a day, we're entering the season of the year when this wreath is marginally appropriate as a holiday decoration. All the rest of the year, I just love it for its own fabulousness.

If you're into it, you could make some fab wreaths by getting the supplies at Michael's. Or, these people sell them. Looking at their site with all the wreaths on one page kind of hurts my eyes. It's all about context. Apply sparingly. More important, taking the froufrou thing out of froufrou surroundings makes it work, for me. And whaddaya know, Pottery Barn is doing it. Or this girl made an adorable Halloween wreath--she started the way Laura and I did, and just used more ornaments. I do love this for Halloween, I think it's sophisticated, but friendly.

So that's my feathery confession, and a Thing I Love. Am I crazy? It's okay if you think so! And for more beloved objects, hasten to Diaper Diaries.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Free Soap, My Friends

I am not one of the frugal shopping ninjas like Bren, Sarah, or Carrie, but I do love a deal and I love the coupon game. My finest shopping hour this weekend was at CVS. First, I was thrilled to find the 99 cent bars of CVS soap that are paying $1 ecb each (they had the moisturizing ones at my store, but I think other types work too). This is good for the rest of October. Brenda clued me in to this deal, and I bought five, paid with ecb's and got all that money right back. And I did not take every bar that they had, because I am a proper lay-dee, I am. I left two bars. Then, THEN, I wandered back to the clearance shelf, and it was crammed with bags of Gold Emblem honey-wheat pretzel sticks--the thick kind. Now, I don't eat pretzels, but these were 13 cents a bag. THIRTEEN CENTS. I guess they were 90% off. So I took a few bags, and tried a pretzel right there in the store. It was delish! I bought 16 bags, STILL leaving several for my fellow shoppers. Go quick and see if your store has these on clearance. My kids love these, it turns out. Only Matt will not eat them, but he has a very specific snack ideology. I also got the two free-after-ecb's pumpkin pails. That was fun.

Then to Publix, where I could not resist the siren song of really cheap frozen chicken tenders. I had 5 coupons for $1 off the Fast Fixin's bogo, so I got six of those. They ended up being $2 each. I also got the bogo bags of candy, with coupons. The Mystery Penny Item was Publix toilet paper--woohoo! The sun will never set on my tp stockpile. Then I got a lot of produce and eggs and other non-coupon stuff. Spent $47.49, saved 39.18. The "spent" line was more than the "saved" line, which doesn't qualify me for the all-stars, but I was happy.

And Target, Target was delightful. I went at night with no kids, and I remembered that Target is my Safe Place. Nothing bad can happen to me there. So much great stuff is on clearance all over the store. I did some Xmas shopping--can't be too specific here--but go to the housewares/picture frame/kitchen section and look for some 75% off Thomas O'Brien kitchen stuff, and some really great accessories on the endcaps. Also, there is a Supertarget coupon for $1 off Archer Farms juice, and a lot of the AF juice is clearanced for $1.48 or so. Awesome selection of snack crackers at 50% off and cheaper. If you come to my house for cocktails in the next few months, I'll be serving CVS honey pretzels and Archer Farms Italian garlic crostini. I also bought a couple of lampshades, one of which works, but my lamp woes are the subject of a future post, no doubt. And if you are on my Christmas list, you are a lucky duck! Unless I decide to keep this stuff 'cause it's so CUTE.

Then, to round out the weekend of getting and spending, my excellent mother-in-law stopped at our house tonight, on her way home from a trip to Providence. For my December birthday, she gave me two of those Brooks Brothers Miracle shirts, one white and one black, to "beef up my professional wardrobe." I love her because she always gives presents early. And the shirts are really great--very flattering and classic. She came upon a buy-two-get-one sale at BB. It may be online too. That is her brand of frugality, and I love it.

And go check out Fiddledeedee to see some real Publix Super Duper shoppers.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Four Conversations with My Neighbors

1) I was over in Fancy Land taking Laura to a friend's house, and I stayed to have a drink with the hostess and another mom who was delivering her kid. In the course of the visit, talk turned to housework, specifically laundry, and how I think it needs to be abolished in favor of just going naked all the time, because the laundry is seriously killing me. Our hostess said that her cleaning lady does the family's laundry, and I was like, "Exsqueeze me? How does that work?" "It works great," she said. I bet it does. I don't have my cleaning lady anymore, but even when I did, she didn't do laundry.

Then the other mom piped up and said that she pays her mother to come over and do their laundry. I had an ambivalent response to this. My mom and my mother-in-law do things around my house every time they come to town--I'm certainly not opposed to accepting their help. I love it. But the notion of taking one's mother on as paid household help seemed strange to me. Or it at least took me a moment to process the idea. While I was thinking about this, the other mom went on, "She likes to sit on the couch and fold clothes and watch TV. And since it's kind of mindless work, I just tell her, 'Take all the time you need, Mom. You're not bothering anyone.'"

2) My friend Normal Neighbor will just not pick up her dog's poop. It really bugs me about her. When she's out walking her little dog, and it drops a deuce in someone's yard, she just looks around to see if anyone has noticed. A few days ago, we were both on the way to the bus stop with our dogs, and her dog stopped to make a deposit. I pulled out a plastic bag and pointedly held it out to her. "Here," I said. "Nah, it's okay," she said, "They're not home."

3) Mindy, next door, is having her basement redone. She told me she'd gotten all new paint, floors, and furniture down there, and I told her I'd like to see it when she gets everything set up. She said that she just had to get the bear skin hung on the wall. I was like, "You have a bear skin?" And she said yes, that her late husband had shot it. (Her husband died a few years ago, and she just remarried.) I said, "Wow," because I was thinking that a bear skin didn't really accord with my ideas of Mindy's taste in decorating. That is to say, while a bear skin isn't exactly my thing either, I was actually going to be impressed that Mindy was taking that kind of decorating risk. I've been in her house, and her taste, like that of a lot of my neighbors, runs to extreme matching, a reverence for a quasi-Tuscan look, and safe, idea-free interiors. Think burgundy and hotel art. Then I remembered that she'd said she was having the basement made into a "man space" for her new husband, Ron, and that one of the rooms is Harley-Davidson themed. It made me realize that she didn't see the bear skin rug ironically, or as an aesthetic object, the way I might. She saw it as a trophy, duh. We were coming at this bear skin thing from totally different angles.

When I said, "Wow," Mindy apparently thought I was expressing disapproval, because she hastened to say, "Well, we had history with that bear," which made me laugh. This black bear was stalking all around their cabin in the mountains, and even came into their house one time. They were afraid for their little dog, so her husband shot it. And now, she's using the skin of the bear that her dead husband shot to adorn the walls of her new husband's man cave. Isn't that weird? Or not weird, but striking. As Matt said, "Ron has taken on the Mantle of the Bear."

4) My crazy Frenemy Neighbor told me that as soon as Halloween is over, she's getting her Christmas trees out. She has three or four artificial trees that she puts up. I said, "You're getting an early start!" She said that she has so many ornaments that if she doesn't start in early November, she'll never get them all hung by Christmas. She went on to say that she collects ornaments, and if I'm ever bored, she offered, she'll tell me "the story of every one of them." I blacked out for a minute and then told her that I was going to make it my life's work to never be that bored.

If you like lists, check out the listy thing going on at ABDPBT:

Have a nice day!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Roy G. Biv Elementary School

Does your kid's school do this? Today Laura's teacher mailed out her weekly newsletter, and it announced that next week is Safety Week. Each day requires specific clothing.

Monday: No Bullying Day, wear yellow shirt and sticker (I don't know what sticker this is).

Tuesday: Internet Safety, wear tropical or Hawaiian print shirt (get it? Safe surfing?)

Wednesday: Pet Safety, wear animal print or a shirt with picture of an animal. Hmmm, we might have to see if any of her Gymboree Tiger Love still fits (you Gymbo freaks know what I'm talking about). But would that condone the keeping of tigers as pets?

Thursday: Fire Safety, wear orange.

Friday: Red Ribbon Day, wear red. I can't remember what "Red Ribbon Day" is and the newsletter doesn't say--I think it might be no drugs or something?

So it's all fine, and it's fun for the kids to do this and all dress the same, but I think you know what I mean when I say that this is also kind of a pain in the ass. In addition to mom's normal list of schoolchild to-do's--homework, lunch, snack, paperwork, right shoes for PE, etcetera--we have the added mental expenditure of remembering which day is which color/theme and choosing appropriate clothing. It sounds silly to say it, but it is just one more thing.

They did this Safety Week in both Kindergarten and first grade, and last year L's teacher got really into it, because GET THIS, on fire safety day, she double-dipped. That day they also had a MOCK SNOWBALL FIGHT in the classroom, for which we had to send in cotton balls, and supply our tots with hats, scarves, and mittens so they could look the part. Snowballs? On Fire Safety Day? Saints preserve us. It's Mama's job to remember this craziness and to fish the mittens out of a box in the basement at 2:00 in the morning.

So that is my tiny complaint. However, I do get satisfaction from knowing that Laura has what she needs, that she will feel included in the activity, and that she's going off properly dressed for whatever fake weather she may encounter.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Does This Header Make My Butt Look Fat?

You can be honest. I made it last night using Scrapblog. I first heard of this site yesterday from Carrie at Buzzings of a Queen Bee. It is the awesomest--so easy to use. I am certainly no graphic designer, and my skills with photo editing software are junior-grade. I don't understand all the tools in Photoshop. But Scrapblog lets you click and drag and make pretty pictures, and it all works just like you expect. I can't even imagine how much thought and work went into making their builder so intuitive. I hear there's a great video tutorial on the site, but I just started poking around while listening to Anderson Cooper and 29 other commentators talking about the debate.

One fun thing about Scrapblog is that all their "stickers" make it really easy to add little holiday motifs to your header, if you're into that. I like what I made, but I don't know if I'm married to it. Change is hard, and I love the familiar. I liked my green page, because I love green. I read something about how green is the most soothing color because seeing green is like giving your rods and cones a massage. Science, people. But I was starting to feel like I was in a fishtank that was overrun with algae. So I'm trying this. I am not sure it sets the right tone. What do you think? I'm still playing with it, so pardon my dust! And pardon me for saying "butt." I am vulgar.

Scrapblog is the newest Thing I Love. Check it out, and scoodle over to Diaper Diaries for more love objects. Other things I love are here, here, and here. And here.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Girls on Wheels

Just yesterday, Laura finally got the hang of riding her bike. So fun to watch! I can still remember that feeling of realizing my dad had let go of the seat. She's had the bike for a long time, but she's been a little afraid of it, preferring to ride her scooter. Our streets are really hilly, and not conducive to the parent-running-and-holding-the-seat method, but a neighbor gave us this tip and it really worked:

Out on the sidewalk, have your child sit on the bike holding the handlebars. Let her push herself along with her feet, taking short glides forward. You don't need to be touching the bike. She can practice balancing for a few moments when she pushes off with her feet, and she can put her feet back down again when she wobbles. She will start to zoom for longer distances, lifting her feet up higher. Then encourage her to try to pedal during a glide. She'll try it, she'll try it some more, and suddenly you'll be shouting, "GO GO GO, YOU GOT IT!"

This position--starting with feet on the ground--seems to reduce the nervousness that comes with the "pedal while Dad runs" method. And granted, Laura is 7, but she did this all herself in two afternoons. I just watched while she got herself ready and went for it. Along the way, I said, "You're really getting it," and she said, "I feel like I'm halfway between getting it and losing it." Pretty much how I feel about most things.

Later, Matt and I watched her circling the cul-de-sac, and I could not stop offering advice. Matt said, "She's doing it, she's got it." And I was like, youth is wasted on the young, 'cause I could ride the heck out of that bike. My turn!

So, an easy bike-riding tip for Works for Me Wednesday. Other things that work for me are here, here, and here. And hey, let's be careful out there.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Lordy Lordy, Look Who's Gourdy

Several satisfying things happened this weekend. We needed to increase our pumpkin quotient, and get a jump on some fall décor. The leaves are changing all around us, and Mindy, she of the spotless yard, has a little autumn tableau set up in front of her place, with a veiled bride scarecrow and a groom scarecrow, surrounded by mums, pumpkins, and tin jack o' lanterns. Mindy got married not long ago, and her scarecrows are standing by a little sign that says "The Newlyweds." So, clearly, we needed to up our game. On Sunday we drove up to Burt's Farm, near Dawsonville, a pumpkin mecca.

That bluish-gray pumpkin is called a Jarrahdale, a variety originally from Australia. The little sign at the farm identified it as a "Jerraddle." I tried to google "jerraddle," and nothing came up. With more sleuthing, I found the proper name, and I wonder if when an Australian pronounces "Jarrahdale," it sounds, to a Georgia pumpkin farmer, like "jerraddle," with the emphasis on the second syllable. Amy, my Australian native-informant, what do you think?

Anyway, it's pretty. The pumpkins I've been seeing at the grocery stores just weren't looking too good so far, though we'll probably get a few from there to carve. The big orange one is just the size I wanted--the $14 size. (You could spend a lot of money on a pumpkin at that place. Mindy has one that's the size of an end-table. It is hulking.) Also, Laura and I made a feather Halloween wreath, which I'm sure you'll be seeing in a future post. It is prettier than it sounds, even if Matt says it looks like a Muppet.

Another pressing outdoor goal was achieved Saturday when Matt and I trimmed the bushes out front. Or "trimmed" is really too mild a word. "Went medieval on" is more like it. You may recall that they sorely needed it. I am sure it was a spectacle, the way Matt and I both had to wrestle with the huge hydrangea bush. I mean, we got around, behind, and on top of that thing. We were merciless, and that bush gave as good as it got. At one point, Matt was standing on a stepladder between the bush and the house, wielding the heavy-duty loppers and reaching as high as he could, while I stood on the front side and pushed parts of the bush towards him with a rake. To do that, I had to get really intimate with the laurel hedge in front of the hydrangea, and it was covered in laurel pollen. As you will recall from the post linked above, the terrain makes this a challenging spot. Every time he would reposition the ladder, Matt would tell me his "exit strategy," or where he was going to hurl himself if he fell off, so I could avoid that location. At another moment, I stood on the porch with Matt holding on to the back of my jeans, and leaned out as far as a could with the clippers. We should have sold tickets--it was a slick operation, people. Sometimes we said ugly words. And there were spiders. But we got the chains back on Frankenstein.

In other news, I took a break from heavy-duty grocery shopping. I didn't get anything at CVS except a newspaper and bag of Snickers, for medicinal use. There just isn't anything at CVS that grabs me right now. I might go back in for the bogo All detergent--I've been hoarding coups.

My Publix trip had a brevity and a purity that was actually pleasurable. I didn't have a sheaf of coupons, and I didn't buy a lot of stuff. Bananas, bogo Kozy Shack rice pudding (I've long since used up those printable coupons), two loaves of bread, and two liters of diet pepsi. The Mystery One Cent item was Peter Pan PB--score. And I had the coupon from Sunday's inserts for a free bag of Good Bites doggie treats. Spent $10.66, "saved" $9.83. I'll go back sometime in the next day or so for all the Kahiki and Barber chicken craziness. Check out Fiddledeedee to see what the more creative shoppers are doing this week.

I had some things to say on the subject of fashion at the pumpkin farm, and about my unwillingness to participate in the scarecrow contest this year, but it can wait. I hope y'all had a lovely weekend!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Three Things I Should Have Seen Coming

1) This morning Hank dumped the whole jar of goldfish food into the bathroom sink, plus some on the floor. It smells like sea monkey sex in there. How did he finally figure out how to unscrew the top? And why, six months after we buried the goldfish in the backyard, did we still have their jar of food under the bathroom sink?

2) After we came in from our walk tonight, the dog barfed on the carpet at the top of the stairs. Major barf. Then I remembered that the hour before, as I’d been standing chatting with Normal Neighbor in her backyard, I’d noticed the dog nibbling on grass. Then I had promptly forgotten, because my neighbor handed me a beer in a little koozie that had a grosgrain ribbon tied around it. I was so charmed by the koozie that I forgot the dog had an upset stomach. I think she ate some deer poop or something.

3) Like three years ago, when we lived in California, it dawned on me that lots of people I knew were getting riskier mortgage loans, and that underwriting standards at banks were slipping. Around this time, Wells Fargo told us we could “afford” to borrow a truly stupendous amount of money. I thought, “Hmm, that is whack,” and we didn't take them up on it. Then I got distracted by life, work, and childrearing, you know how it goes. And now we’re in a global financial panic. My bad, y’all! I totally should have said something.

For more edifying lists, check out ABDPBT's listing action:

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Super-Quick Egg Sandwich with the Microwave

Because if I see another bowl of cereal, I will cry. And I love my steel-cut oatmeal, but the 25 minutes it takes to cook is like, an eternity. Sometimes you can't make that kind of commitment. And sometimes you don't want to use the stovetop, because, say, you don't want to handwash a frying pan from last night's dinner that didn't get loaded into the dishwasher. But Mama needs to eat. So here you go.

Into a cereal bowl--one with a rounded bottom will make for easier egg removal--break an egg and add a tablespoon of milk. Beat the egg with a fork. Put bowl in microwave and cook for 3 minutes on 50% power. (Cook for slightly less time if you like it a little softer or if the egg is smaller. Sometimes I do 2 and-a-half minutes.)

While your egg is cooking, toast two pieces of bread. When the microwave beeps, you will have a light and fluffy egg patty. Slide a fork under the edge of the egg and loosen it from the bowl. Careful! The bowl is hot. Ease the egg out onto your bread, and you are ready to rock. Add cheese, mayonnaise, salt 'n pepper, it's up to you. Warm and delicious.

My seven year-old likes eggs this way, and she can make it herself. She loves breaking and beating eggs, but I still handle getting it out of the bowl. It's yummy on a Works for Me Wednesday!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Mountain Time

We spent a long weekend in Western North Carolina at the moutain house. We went to an Obama rally in Asheville, and then, fittingly, met some new people who have donkeys.

Barack Obama was in Asheville doing debate prep, and decided late in the week to hold a Sunday afternoon rally at Asheville High School. Apparently people had been lining up since dawn to try to get a good spot, but in characteristic fashion, we found out only that morning and rolled over there about noon. There were many, many people with better spots than us, but we got in just fine and could even see the man himself.

That guy is good--I think he's going places. It was exciting to be in the crowd. Even lining up to get in was fun, because it gave us a chance to mingle with our fellow liberals. Asheville is the Santa Cruz of North Carolina, you see, and while in line I remarked to Dad that everyone looked familiar even though I'd never seen them before. He said, "It's because these are your people." And they were--all 22,000 of them. Don't it make your red state blue?

Later, back home on the mountain, some new neighbors stopped by to check out Mom and Dad's house and the view from the deck. This is how it works up there. It's permissable to go knock on someone's door because you want to see their house. So we made some new friends:

They arrived with beers in hand. The daughter, Jenna, is a senior at UGA. She was wearing her jeans tucked into her Uggs, and she's a Fashion Merchandising major, so I guess we're still okay to tuck our jeans into our Uggs. We recycled their cans for them and offered them another round. Then, when they were leaving, Jenna asked for a third beer for the road, which we gave her. Carry-out hospitality!

She also offered to babysit sometime when we're up there, because both of the kids fell in love with her. Hank kept wanting to hug her, even though she was a stranger. And later, Laura said, "Mom, did you notice how Jenna's hair bounced when she walked?" (Yes, I noticed.) Anyway, I really enjoy the sort-of looser social rules up on the mountain. Like, you're just automatically more sociable because there are fewer people around. We managed to cram a lot of partying into half an hour with these people. The bonus is they have potbellied pigs and donkeys, which we went by to check out. I hope to get a ride in their crazy little 4WD mountain golf cart one of these days.

Livestock, cooler weather, adult beverages, Obama, Uggs. Good times on the mountain.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Friday Confessions

Reader, Hank and I split a 16-ounce bottle of Coke today. Not even Diet Coke, but the genuine Sweet Georgia Brown. For my part, I felt guilt because I was drinking real, actual coke with corn syrup. For Hank's part, I felt guilty that he was drinking real, actual coke with corn syrup, and he is TWO. We never even buy non-diet soda, but we had gotten some for company. This morning, as I was sitting in a sleepy fog in the sunroom, squinting at Wonder Pets, Hank toddled into the kitchen and came back carrying the coke and a plastic cup. He had such a look of triumph and hope on his face that I wanted to indulge him. (Plus I was too lazy at that moment to get up from the couch and get a healthy alternative--another confession!)

So we knocked back a coke, and MAN, did he like it. If you must report me to child protective services, please also tell them about how, later in the morning, he said that his foot was hurt and asked me to kiss it. I kissed the top of his foot, and he said, "No, the other way," and rotated his foot around to indicate that the injury was on the bottom of his foot, which had been just come out of his dusty crocs. He'd been playing in the backyard. So I bent down and kissed the sole of his sweaty, grimy little foot. Then he made a full recovery. I am hoping that mitigates the scandalamitous coke-drinking.

And here's another thing: while I'm waiting for Laura to pack for the sleepover she's going to tonight, I am watching Bravo's preview of "The Real Housewives of Atlanta." I am not watching it by accident, oh no. I recorded it on my DVR, on purpose, because I am a grown-up lady, and I can watch what I want. I am hurt that they didn't ask me to be on this show, but oh, talk about a guilty pleasure! I really can't share any more about this because some things need to stay private.

Anybody else have something to confess?

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Around the House: Melamine Plates

One part of my brain that I could be using for something useful, like understanding the financial crisis, or remembering when I last changed our AC filters, is instead busy following trends in melamine tableware. Melamine plates and bowls have the obvious benefit of being kid-friendly. Even better, they bring some bold and interesting patterns into the dish rotation, but they don't cost a lot and you don't have to fuss over them. For Things I Love Thursday, here's some of my favorite melamine, and some I'm still coveting.

The name to know is Thomas Paul. He makes beautiful dishes and throw pillows (that's another TILT post waiting to happen). His website doesn't actually sell his stuff, but it's good for seeing what's out there and what the collection names are. Velocity sells all of these online, but there's no need to pay retail, is there? (I'll explain more below, but the best place to buy Thomas Paul is Ebay, and there are some great deals right now.) My favorite, favorite set is Folk:

The woodland motif on the dinner plates reminds me of Tord Boontje (remember the holiday collection he did for Target)? I love these plates. They're kind of Christmasy, though not exclusively so, and I use the large platter (up top) as a cake plate during the holidays.

More Thomas Paul. Artifacts: The big trays would be great propped up as decoration, if you're into that. Or these, in the Gothic pattern, on a wall. How adorable would that be?
And the one I totally covet, Sea Life:
I got all of my Thomas Paul plates (and pillows) on ebay. The most current collections (like Sea Life) won't be listed, but slightly older ones like Folk and Artifacts pop up, brand new in their packages. This guy is the biggest ebay seller of Thomas Paul, and I've bought a lot of stuff from him. Right now, he has a set of 8 plates (4 dinner and 4 dessert) for sale for $12.95. He has twenty of these sets, so check it out. With shipping, it's probably closer to $20, but that's still cheaper than Target's melamine. Also, he has a deal where you can get 6 of these platters, either the pink or the aqua, for $29.95. They retail elsewhere on the web for $18 apiece. Very inexpensive presents or hostess gifts:

Okay, I could go on, believe me, but I will stop now. Hope you liked this taste of Thomas Paul--I loved sharing. Thanks for stopping by. And if I seem obsessed, it's because I really, really am.

Earlier Things I Love posts are here and here. And this I also love.