Monday, January 31, 2011

Percy Jackson birthday

Here's some of what's been happening:
  • Sunday night, we went to a big birthday party out in the country for one of C's 3rd grade classmates. The family does party organizing professionally, so we couldn't miss it. They have a big house, a small stable for their horses and donkey (???), some sheep or goats or both (I was too far away to tell), a pool and a building that might be a reception hall. The party was Percy Jackson themed and the kids enjoyed a moon bounce, pony rides, archery (D had a close call), hot dogs, bilingual clowns who organized games and made balloon animals in the garage, and cake. At one point, I was involved in a game where two kids were competing to see who could wrap their mother up faster in toilet paper, mummy-fashion, but I got off easy compared to the other adults who faced wigs, fake noses, undersized sombreros and the need to perform the Mexican Happy Birthday song on miniature fiddles and accordions.
  • On the drive back, I got to see my very first live skunk in the wild. He (or she?) was walking calmly along the road as we drove by.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Underwater

This was a little bit morbid, but it sounds like the kids are having a good time.

D: I'm in water, my air tank has run out, and I'm not holding my breath!

C: Prepare to die!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

74 degrees

Here's some of what's been happening:
  • I have a new nephew!
  • This is a big weekend for the kids, but my husband also had an in-town conference and a 40-some page contest essay to whip up. I'm so tired after yesterday's activities and I haven't really been able to recover. I drove C to her horse riding lesson out at the ranch this morning. We all four had an early lunch at the cafeteria (the kids biked over), I supervised the kids as they biked on campus, the kids and I did a small grocery shopping, and then I took a walk after while my husband took the kids to buy a birthday gift for tomorrow.
  • I think this is where I should share with you my philosophy for dealing with birthday invitations. First of all, unless we have already paid to do something else or the kids are sick, I consider myself honor bound to go to all kid birthdays we are invited to. Fortunately, at least half of these birthdays (include our own) are no-gift. Otherwise, the road to the poorhouse would be paved with birthday invitations. Secondly, I always try to contact the parents (OK, the mom) and ask what to get the child. If there is no reply, I consider myself off the hook and licensed to come empty-handed with my little cake-eaters. If there is a reply with gift ideas, I follow it to the letter. For tomorrow's birthday boy (a Percy Jackson fan), we got the Mythology volume from the Ologies series. He may already have it, but it's the best I can do on short notice.
  • The kids were building an aluminum foil Viking longship.
  • I helped broker a deal between the kids. C had selected a group of small toys she didn't want anymore and was getting ready to offer them for sale to D. C wanted 50 cents for a little man with a functioning parachute, but I got her down to 25 cents and the deal was done. I was unable to broker a deal for D's easel and C's rocking horse, or for C's rocking horse and D's stick horse.
  • The kids did a lot of math workbook today. D did coin counting problems. I don't know how much C did today, but I corrected 36 pages of work from her Grade 3 multiplication workbook. C is pretty smooth with her times tables, but she balks a bit at the two-digit multiplication problems that she has started getting at school.
  • We got up to 74 degrees today.
  • While looking at houses on the internet today, I found one from 1958 with marvelous mint green/forest green tile in the bathroom.

Friday, January 28, 2011

History night

Here's some of what happened today:
  • I've been sprouting alfalfa and radish seeds.
  • This morning I walked to Starbucks and walked over to the other faculty neighborhood. No for sale sign yet.
  • After lunch, I met the mother of a classmate of C and her 3-year-old and we walked through the zoo together. Then I picked the kids up from school (darn those downtown construction detours), dropped C off with her dad at home and took D to a (no-gift!) birthday part at Chuck E. Cheese. This was the first time at Chuck E. Cheese for both of us. D spent most of his time in the Habitrail at the back, which was a good thing, since I eventually lost his cup of tokens. He took that pretty well. We had pizza and cookie cake and hurried home. I helped C assemble her Viking outfit (white mock turtleneck and red corduroy jumper) and helped her with her jewelry (homemade Thor's hammer necklace, gold cardboard brooches, Baltic amber necklace with irregular beads). She wore her hair loose. I drove C to history night. She was free the first hour and got to visit the Civil War exhibit (runaway slaves on the dark playground with lanterns, Sherman describing his march to the sea, Abe Lincoln reading the Gettysburg address, Abe Lincoln being shot at Ford's Theater) and the Ancient China/India exhibit. She ate a quick wonton, sampled some Indian rice pudding, and hurried back to the Viking room. In the minutes before showtime, the Viking room was as loud and rambunctious as a real Viking village. It got more decorous as visitors arrived, but it also got hot. The little boy Vikings in fur coats must have really been suffering. C did her poster presentation on runes with a classmate who looked very much like Astrid from How to Train Your Dragon. I told her so, too. Eventually, the evening was over, and none too soon. After all that fun today, I can barely walk. At home, my husband took pictures of C. At least judging from the camera screen, her Viking costume photographed really well.
  • We are entertaining the idea of doing faculty-in-residence again. There are three positions open right now. One is a computer science position, so we wouldn't apply for that. One is very demanding and formal, but with a nice stipend, and it turns out that two families that we know are applying for it. We'd like something more open-ended, I think (make some brownies, show some movies, make some cookies, make rice and beans), which leaves one FIR position that happens to be attached to some on-campus apartments.
  • So, our housing prospects are looking like this 1) buy house in other faculty neighborhood 2) do faculty-in-residence and do 1) as opportunity allows 3) failing 1 and 2, buy a house in 2012 in the older neighborhood near downtown.
  • My husband has baked blueberry whole wheat muffins. We're going to eat them and watch Monk.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Legoland

Here's some of what's happening:
  • We've just discovered that Dallas-Ft. Worth has its very own Legoland. Entrance is $12.50, which is tolerable. Bear this in mind, out-of-state visitors with children.
  • A knitting club is forming at C's school! It sounds like it's targeted at slightly older children than C (kids younger than 7th grade are supposed to bring a parent), but it's very nice to see the luxuriant blooming of afterschool activities that has been happening over the past year or two.
  • I put out a new directory for the neighborhood with three new families. In the early summer, we're going to be losing a large portion of the neighborhood to demolition.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Arcadian Adventures

Here's some of what's been happening:
  • My husband got home late from Toronto on Monday and he and C finished C's Viking writing poster assignment. Under my supervision, C had written out her text and copied runes (with Latin alphabet equivalents). C and her dad chose a photograph from Wikipedia of a huge and incomprehensible rune stone at Rok, in Sweden, along with a translation.
  • C has finished reading Carry On, Mr. Bowditch.
  • D has given us $13 to pay for the materials for his telescope. Construction is well underway.
  • After a long break, I've finished listening to Stephen Leacock's Arcadian Adventures with the Idle Rich, a series of humorous sketches of life among American robber barons. It deals with oriental mysticism, country homes, labor issues, the stock market, impoverished English nobility, ecumenism, and university building projects. Living in the immediate path of a university building project myself, I appreciate the latter. Dr. Boomer, the president of the university, is a prodigious builder, eager to rip down and replace every college building older than 25 years old. Showing a prospective donor around the college, Dr. Boomer explains the college's pressing needs. "For example, in the physical science department there was a mass of apparatus for which the department was unable to afford suitable premises, and in the chemical department there were vast premises for which the university was unable to buy apparatus, and so on. Indeed it was part of Dr. Boomer's method to get himself endowed first with premises too big for the apparatus, and then by appealing to public spirit to call for enough apparatus to more than fill the premises, by means of which system industrial science at Plutoria University advanced with increasing and gigantic strides." Leacock was a professor of political science and economics.
  • My current gym audiobook from Librivox is Sholem Aleichem's Jewish Children. Sholem Aleichem was the author of the Tevye the Dairyman stories which eventually became Fiddler on the Roof.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Toronto

Here's some of what's happening:
  • We're expecting my husband back from Toronto tonight. Toronto was where the Maronite church with the misplaced BMW was located in my previous post. My husband was visiting a lady in a nursing home in Toronto in a mixed Polish/Middle Eastern neighborhood. He reports excellent Tibetan food.
  • C has purchased some embroidery floss from me and is working with her embroidery kit. I'm morbidly afraid we're going to lose a needle into the carpet, so she has instructions to put her needle down on a cookie sheet when she takes breaks from her work.
  • At school, C has been doing some weaving as part of the Viking experience.
  • We've gotten on more or less OK in my husband's absence, although I notice the kids have been watching more TV than usual.
  • I had two sets of tea visitors today, my neighbors and my Russian tutor.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

House hunting

Here's some of what's happening:
  • The kids biked to and from church this morning.
  • After lunch, we did two playgrounds near the river.
  • In the early 20th century neighborhood near downtown, a pretty Mediterranean house on the far fringe has dropped from $180k to $145k. My favorites in that neighborhood are from $180k to $250k, but I'm hoping for some new listings in the $160s. There have already been a few of those, but they come and go very rapidly.
  • Closer to home, there have been many developments in the other faculty neighborhood near campus. A 2.5BR home (the half is a small study) seemed to sell very quickly back in November, but the buyer was unable to get a loan, so I got a call a couple of days ago from the seller, who had mixed me up with my neighbor. Well, things moved very quickly and my neighbors got the slightly less than 1700 sq. ft. home for $145k. That's $86 per square foot, or thereabouts. Recent comps for this neighborhood had hovered around $100 per square foot, so I am very pleased by this development. (There's a 3000 sq. ft. house coming up for sale for $310k.)
  • With regard to this faculty neighborhood near campus, I find myself in a real Goldilocks situation. Either the houses are too small or too expensive. I've passed by so many opportunities in that neighborhood that I feel like I almost don't deserve any more chances. It's a very small neighborhood (about 28 houses), but there has been an unusual amount of real estate activity there, both building and sales. Rumor has it that another home (nearly 2000 sq. ft. and built 30 years ago) will be going up for sale later this spring. I love the location and the size, but am concerned about the price and possible condition of the house. It's a divorce sale. I was walking through the neighborhood last week and saw the garage open (I think that was the same house). It was one of those garages that are absolutely packed with debris, no room for a car. I'm intrigued but cautious.
  • This weekend, I realized that subconsciously, I am doing my darndest to take over the other faculty neighborhood and repopulate it with young families. I've already got a family picked out for the 3000 sq. ft. house.
  • My husband went to a Maronite liturgy this weekend. The sermon was in Arabic, with God being called "Allah." At some point, the pastor said something that sounded like a recitation of a sacred text, then followed it up with the English translation: "There's a BMW parked in the wrong place."
































































































Saturday, January 22, 2011

Skate lesson

Here's some of what's happening:
  • This morning I took the kids to the local roller skating rink for a lesson. C has taken to it faster than D, while D seemed better at ice skating. In fact, C has taken to it to such a degree that she wasn't really paying attention to the instructor and was mainly just skating around while the instructor worked individually with other kids. I think she's really picking up on the idea of keeping the body still and letting the rollers do the work. She also had at least one very graceful turn this morning. D finds the whole thing a lot more laborious. I don't think C would benefit much from more group instruction right now. She may get a lot out of just independent skating. If she didn't make progress, I think one or two private lessons might fix her up.
  • One thing that I'm trying to nip in the bud is the idea that we're going to go to the rink and C will get to spend her money on various vending machines, cheap trinkets and games of chance.
  • We came home for lunch, went out and did grocery shopping. We spent $7.99 for a foam trifold poster for the history fair. C spent much of the afternoon writing out her Viking rune report on sheets of paper which we will eventually attach to the trifold poster. C writes the runes beautifully, but I'm not sure how we should arrange them on the trifold poster. I'm not Ms. Graphic Design, so I'm waiting for my husband to become available, so he can take over with some of this poster stuff.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

All Your Worth II

It's been a while since my last post on Elizabeth Warren and Amelia Warren Tyagi's All Your Worth: The Ultimate Lifetime Money Plan (2005). Warren and Tyagi are the popularizers of a 50/30/20 household budget, 50% going to essentials (mortgage, basic groceries, utilities, etc.) 30% being nonessentials, and 20% going to savings. The theory of it is that if your income should be cut in half, you can continue automatically living on half the income by using the 50% essential budget and temporarily discontinuing nonessentials and savings. That is elegant, but I note that there was a biggish chunk of the book that I skipped where they go back and forth at length on the question of what is an essential and what is a nonessential. Presumably, if you want to go with their method, it might be a good idea to produce a color-coded budget with various items labeled according to their status, maybe even with a split showing how much of each category is essential and nonessential. For instance, if a family devotes $900 a month to food, it might be helpful to have a pre-made budget where $600 is coded as essential and $300 is coded as nonessential. Likewise, if a family devotes $200 a month to clothing purchases, $100 might be essential, while the other $100 was nonessential. It's a bit too complicated for me, but I appreciate their insight that it's the car payment, rather than the new shoes that are going to kill you if you get laid off or become disabled. You can stop buying shoes for a while and nothing bad will happen, but if you stop making payments on a vehicle or a house or an insurance policy, lots of bad things will start happening. Here are some notes and quotes:
  • I'm just casually flipping through to do this review, but I'm not totally sure where charitable giving is supposed to fit into the model budget. Is it a 50% item or a 30% item? I note that neither the word "charity" nor the word "giving" appear in the index.
  • Warren and Tyagi are kind of big on the financial nostalgia. Things were different in your parents' day, they say, which is why parents' advice doesn't work anymore. "Once someone found a job, if they worked hard, they could pretty much count on keeping that job until it was time to collect a gold watch at retirement. No one trembled in fear over the prospect of mass corporate layoffs that swept out even the hardest-working employees, and "downsizing" referred to the size of a lady's dress, not the size of the workforce. The boss generally picked up the tab for health insurance and a pension, so no one spent half their salary on medical care, and not too many people fretted about getting by after retirement." The only item there that I can really get on board for is the part about not spending half of salary on medical care a generation ago. Otherwise, I have serious doubts about this sketch of the history of the American economy. What do my older readers think?
  • I like this quote from the authors on the impracticality of separate finances for married couples. "Realistically, it just isn't possible for one of you to be poor while the other is rich. If this marriage is to last a lifetime, then you are not going to retire in comfort while your mate eats out of a garbage can. You are not going to live in a mansion while your spouse lives in the street. And unless you are a real heel, you are not going to take your vacation at an exotic resort while your mate bunks with the fleas in a third-rate motel. In short, you are married, and so is your money."
I'm personally putting this book in my give-away box. It's got a lot of good material, but it's not streamlined enough to be an ideal how-to book. On the whole, I would recommend Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover book instead as having an easier to follow program.

Telescope fund

Here's some of what's been happening:
  • I guess I'm going to have to forfeit mother-of-the-year. I took my afternoon nap (my secret and somewhat taboo method for performing energetically and cheerfully from 3PM to midnight) this afternoon, but unfortunately with such success that when I finally woke up, it was 20 minutes past school pickup time, my alarm having probably gone off and been silenced. Oops! I drove over and picked up the kids from the aftercare room. It was free Starbucks all around for the kids. That was not my plan for today, but that is the legal penalty for the offense. I believe I also may have lost my right to complain about parents who screw up their pickup of their kids from board game club, at least for the next six months.
  • My husband and C are starting their papercraft St. Basil's! I have dibs on the finished product.
  • D has a tooth that's coming out.
  • After many complaints about math at school being too babyish (too much counting and shapes for his taste) D is very pleased to be starting some real math. In front of me, I have the worksheet he approved of. It's not Singapore, but some sort of shiny, brightly-colored worksheet. It has a pictorial representation of the problem plus a numerical representation (two unit blocks plus three unit blocks, or 2 + 3). They are also introducing a number line.
  • D is working hard to purchase materials for his new telescope that my husband is building for him. He's been keeping his Kumon Dollars and Cents workbook in his room and working diligently on it in the morning.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Horse Boy

While the kids were at CCD, we made a run to Walmart. I got fresh blueberries, apples, an oven mitt and a plastic cake box. The cake box (with a bottom and a top that snap together) has long been on my want-list. It's not like we make cakes all the time, but when we do have a birthday cake around, it's hard to protect and store it. For a couple of years now, we've been using a plate and an upside-down glass bowl, but it invariably messes up the frosting. This cake container cost us only $5.50, a very good deal. I'll have to experiment to see if it can safely transport cupcakes.

My husband and I finished watching The Horse Boy (2009) last night. It's a documentary about a couple and their autistic 6-year-old and a trip they take to Mongolia to ride horses and commune with shamans in order to seek relief from the boy's autistic symptoms. Curing autism with shamans would not normally be my cup of tea, but it really works as a movie. I don't want to give away too much of the movie, but by the end, Rowan has made significant progress, and I don't think it was just film making tricks. (I pointed out to my husband that this was not a controlled experiment, since they did two interventions at once. He agreed, suggesting that they should have had one group get horse riding, one group get shamans, one kid get horse riding and shamans, and one group get none of the above.)

Literalism

Me: Pick up your rooms!

D: But it's attached to the ground!

Easy Cottage Style

I own several cottage style books, so maybe it's time to stop buying them. That said, Easy Cottage Style is a very respectable entry in the genre. Here I should warn the unwary that this is one of those cottage books with a lot of old, worn, chipped, faded things. That's not a smoke-blackened fireplace--that's character! I like the colors and the encouragement to live with imperfection. However, I have to say that I draw the line at rusty beds. For heaven's sake, you guys have beautiful vintage linens--why the heck would you put those on a rusty bed??? One unusual aspect of the book is that the back of the book contains detailed instructions for recreating some of the items seen earlier in the book. The crafty (hello, K!) will rejoice at the instructions for an embroidered bed throw, lace-edged napkins, a Roman shade, a patchwork pillow (like my mom used to make), edging a curtain with antique fabric, a valance, a circular tablecloth, recovering a bar stool and a teapot stand made from 60 wine bottle corks.

Coastal Living Beach House Style

I have a few books to write about. Coastal Living Beach House Style came out in 2010, brought to us by the good people at Coastal Living, the magazine. For $16, you get a lot of beach houses in various styles (New England, Southern, Key West, Caribbean, Southern California, Pacific Northwest). These are beautiful homes, but I'm not sure that the photo or printing quality totally does them justice. Sometimes the colors and the focus seem just a little bit off. One interesting feature at the back is a collection of paint palettes for each of the regions covered. That is a very good idea that I haven't seen done before so systematically. New England's palette is off-white, greyish blue, a slightly muted red, and navy blue. The South gets a creamy white, aqua, lime, and a medium pink (I think I'd use the white, the aqua, some of the pink, and skimp on the lime).

Sniffles

Here's some of what's been happening:
  • The kids had a cold Monday (D had a disruptive cough and C had a fever), so I kept them home from school. Although Monday was MLK day, the school observes it with a service day, rather than a vacation. D's class provided cookies for the church staff (the school rents space from a church) and C's class collected women's and children's clothing for a shelter. My husband was able to be with the kids while I made a grocery run that morning and I had the presence of mind to pick up some art supplies for purchase by the children. D did some math workbook and the kids played Mario Kart and watched Star Trek. I would have gotten more productive activity out of them, but I was beginning to succumb to their bug.
  • By Tuesday, I had a nasty cold, so I begged off my babysitting duties. I did battle with my cold with herbal tea, orange juice, Tylenol, hot baths (for the steam) and a nap. As of today, I'm in much better shape.
  • D is making good progress on his Kumon Dollars and Cents workbook, which provides coin-counting practice.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Robot lawn mower

Here's some of what's happening:
  • On Saturday, I took the kids for a roller skating lesson at the rink. They skated for an extra hour after the start of the lesson. They were tired, but C was determined to stay until the organized races started.
  • My husband and C have just completed two brooches made from cardboard and a safety pin and spray painted gold. The two brooches will be part of C's Viking costume. I don't know how this worked, exactly, but in illustrations, Viking women often wore chains or strings of beads strung between the two brooches. My husband has a silver-tone chain in mind for the costume. I said that at least in our culture, gold and silver jewelry are not usually combined. My husband pointed out that Vikings weren't hung up on tastefulness.
  • C bought a red and white Valentine's mug at Starbucks with her money.
  • C has finished The Island Stallion.
  • I did 81 minutes and 4 miles on the gym treadmill. It's been at least a month since I've been there.
  • The kids have embraced the idea of vacation homes. Stretchy the dragon has a vacation home (a Little People farm, I believe) while D's paper craft Tower of London is going to be a vacation home for the soldiers that live in his cardboard box castle.
  • We've long dreamed of having a lawn mowing robot. Here's a video with a Wiimote controlled lawn mower. Someday...
  • In other technology news, my husband has agreed to build me a treadmill desk for if we move further away from the college gym.
  • In other treadmill news, we spent part of this evening attempting to remove some of the squeak from our manual treadmill (the one that I dislike). We took it apart and put it back together, but the squeak quickly returned.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Secretary

One of my recent obsessions is the secretary desk, which is in my opinion one of the greatest inventions of the modern world. There's ample and elegant storage, in the form of bookcases or drawers. For the actual working surface, you open the door and voila, desk! You close the door, and nobody has to see all your stuff. The reason I mention this is I was just looking at a midcentury modern home for $130k with a feature I have never seen before--a built-in secretary desk.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Game club and poetry

Here's some of what's happening:
  • I am wiped out. I ran board game club by myself after school. There were 13 attendees, including our two kids. The kids played Connect Four, chess, checkers and Chinese checkers. I escorted children to and from aftercare, accidentally turned away a child whose father emailed so late that I didn't get his message, picked up goldfish and Connect Four pieces from the floor, made sure everybody had a chair, a game and a partner, and discouraged an outbreak of gambling in the back. As usual, I recorded my hours in the big volunteer binder. My husband and I have clocked 18 hours of volunteering so far this year. It adds up very nicely when we both do anything.
  • We had dinner at the cafeteria (C has lately been ordering herself beautiful stir-fries) and then my husband took C to the fine arts talent show at school. She recited Wordsworth's "I wandered lonely as a cloud."

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Wordsworth and Vikings

vHere's some of what's happening:
  • C is practicing to participate in a winter arts show. She will be performing a part of Wordsworth's "I wandered lonely as a cloud" that her class memorized this term.
  • The kids are suddenly into Wonderpets (that's potentially a loud link).
  • C brought home a sheet for her history fair project. Her class is doing the Vikings and C will be responsible for a poster and a Viking costume for herself. Fortunately, the kids will be doing their research and write-ups in class. The sheet says pointedly, "FYI Viking helmets did not have horns." Children with horned helmets are encouraged to explain that Vikings didn't actually wear horned helmets. My husband and I did some internet research. We discovered two things. 1) Commercial female Viking costumes stink (think "sexy Viking"). 2) It sounds like a historically correct woman's outfit would involve a loose fitting dress worn under a shorter jumper or what they call an apron dress. This style reminds me a lot of some Eastern European folk costumes (like the Russian sarafan) that I've seen and doesn't really resemble modern Norwegian folk dress. Not being a seamstress and not wanting to order an authentic Viking costume off the internet, I compromised and ordered C a red corduroy jumper for her to wear with a white mock turtleneck. This isn't exactly right authentic (corduroy!), but it gets the jumper and the two layers right and I saw red mentioned as a traditional color during my internet research. Anyway, who knows what 8-year-old girls wore in Viking villages anyway? The corduroy jumper was more expensive than I would have liked to pay, but I hope it will have a long and happy life in our home.
  • On second thought, I was just doing a bit of googling, and the Vikings quite naturally had amber jewelry. I am considering allowing C the loan of an amber necklace for her performance at the history fair.

Construction

Here's some of what's going on:
  • I've just learned that a house near campus is going up for sale for just over $300k. *handwringing* The way prices near campus have been sticking close to $100 per square foot, it doesn't look like we'll be able to live here. Boo hoo.
  • In happier news, there's a bulldozer working over the narrow lot (50 x 120 feet) in that same neighborhood near campus. We'd thought about it for ourselves a couple times, but the math ($50k for lot plus 2000 square feet at minimally $75 per sq. ft.) was not favorable. All the smaller trees are gone now, the lot is mostly reduced to red clay, but there's one big pecan tree left at the front of the lot. I wonder how big they're going to build and what they'll do about the garage issue. This will be very interesting.
  • C is very into the school box top drive and was pointing out to me that our juice boxes are eligible. C explained her zeal: "Because if we win, I want to know that I was part of it."

Monday, January 10, 2011

Peppermint brownies

Here's some of what's happening:
  • Seen at the local Barnes and Noble: a tween boy reading George W. Bush's Decision Points.
  • On Saturday, my husband roller skated at a rink with the kids. I'm thinking of getting the kids lessons.
  • My husband is building D a baby telescope from a cardboard tube.
  • Tonight, I made some more peppermint brownies.
  • We took down the Christmas tree, put away decorations, vacuumed and got the living room ready for my babysitting later this week.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Crunch!

Here's some of what's been happening:
  • C has finished reading Black Beauty.
  • The kids made a game box at Lowes with a chalkboard panel. We'll be sitting out the next project, since they've done it before.
  • C got a haircut and took it pretty well.
  • The kids ran laps on the indoor college track. They both managed 57 seconds for the 1/9 mile track.
  • This evening, we went out for Blizzards for the kids to celebrate C's courage in facing her haircut. Unfortunately, we've now got a small crunched-in spot on the car after connecting with a pole while leaving Dairy Queen. Bummer.
  • In real estate news, a house in the neighborhood near downtown that I watch has dropped from $320k to $290k. It's a vast house (nearly 5000 square feet), so the current price is actually something like $60 per square foot. If we could get half the house for half the price, we would be very happy.
  • There's more neighborhood dog drama. The neighborhood dog that killed a beloved kitty last summer has killed yet another cat (this time with another dog) and the cat's owner has alerted all relevant local authorities (animal control, college police and city police). I suspect local animal control of being a bunch of donut eaters, but hopefully something will be done.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Zombies

Here are some more notes:
  • I woke up last night from a dream involving zombies and Lady Gaga, neither of which occupies me much in my waking hours. In my dream, Lady Gaga's mother was a Russian urologist.
  • I am so wiped out. I flyered houses and walked to Starbucks this morning and then in the afternoon I walked about 30 blocks downtown while looking prowling around for antiques.
  • C has finished reading Black Beauty.

January flyering

Here's some of what's happening:
  • My husband and C finished a paper model of a Piper Cub. It took 7 sheets of paper to achieve the model. The wing span is over a foot. It is adorable. I've got it in the dining room right now to show off, but it's probably destined to hang in C's room. The only unfortunate thing is that Fiddler's Green has hiked it's prices, so the download costs $8.50. Canon has free downloads, and I've already mentioned that I'd love a St. Basil's Cathedral model and would definitely find a place for it in the dining room. Almost any of the architectural downloads from Canon would also be very pretty.
  • We're hiring a new cleaning lady. We've been using Merry Maids for a number of years (yes, I am that sort of SAHM), but my husband found a review of this lady, which says that she is OCD (in a good way). She came over last night with a friend to see our house and give a quote. As per the online description, she was pointing out to me what Merry Maids has not been doing--baseboards, vents, etc. Everything considered, this should save us $60 a month. The only question is whether we are up to her standards. That remains to be seen.
  • This morning I took a pile of ads ("Are you thinking of selling your house?") and went flyering over at the other faculty neighborhood. I flyered 21 houses, skipping the 4000-square footers, a recently constructed house, two recently sold houses, and a large house with a swimming pool. I've flyered twice before, netting one response each time. Unless something turns up, I'll flyer again every six months or so.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Fort Hood

Here's some of what's been happening:
  • A couple of days ago, we went to Fort Hood to see some exhibits. Unfortunately, the line was so backed up at the "Visitor Control Center" that we only got in after the museum was closed, but we still got to look at some outdoor exhibits from the pre-WWII era on, both US and some Soviet bloc produced: jeeps, ambulances, tanks, helicopters, planes, a Sikorsky skycrane, tanks, armored personnel carriers, and anti-aircraft guns. The Soviet bloc tanks and anti-aircraft guns tended to be either trophies from the first war with Iraq or gifts from the Israeli government. I think there was also at least one French tank that had been the property of the Iraqi army. Toward the end of our visit we heard two bugle blasts, one just before 5 and one at 5, with a cannon being fired at some point. There's an article on the custom here, which has partly to do with the lowering of the US flag. Visiting Fort Hood was a bit like visiting a small foreign country.
  • Yesterday, D was demonstrating infinity by pointing out that no matter how big a number you think of, you can always think of one bigger. (We have told him this before, so it's not his original idea, but he understands the idea really well.)
  • I've been sprouting alfalfa and radish seeds.
  • D has long been standoffish about the blue doggy quilt that Auntie K made for him. However, he has lately started putting it on the floor and using it for dancing games inspired by Dance Dance Revolution.
  • C is finishing up her work on division of fractions. She's worried about the section on going between fractions and decimals.
  • Today was the kids' first day of school. We were also celebrating my husband's birthday today. He baked a carrot cake in a rectangular pan and the kids and I frosted it (with store cream cheese frosting) and C decorated it with a red balloon made from sprinkles.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Kheer

Here's some of what's been happening:
  • C says: Some days I feel that our home food is better than any cafeteria food would be. Some days.
  • Yesterday being the beginning of the month, we went to the fancy pants suburban HEB and went a little crazy. Among many other things, I found ground coriander, ground cardamon, cardamon pods and two fancy kinds of vanilla extract (the latter at an excellent price). I drove (with navigation help from my husband), so that's one more place I can get to by myself in future. They have an excellent kitchen equipment section, and I am this close to getting myself a cupcake carrying device, because I'm guaranteed to need one at least twice a year.
  • In addition, we did a food order from Sadaf, the Mediterranean/Middle Eastern food importers last night. I got a bunch of Patak Indian sauces (there are none available locally) for $3.99 a jar, some rose water (not sure what you do with it, but I saw somebody on the internet raving about a rose water cake recipe), some fenugreek seeds, and sundry spices. Naturally, I discovered (too late) that I could have gotten the cardamon pods much cheaper than at my suburban HEB. The shipping worked out to about $1 per item, which is tolerable. I still want some rose petal jam, but apparently that's at a Turkish import website, and we'll need to have a bigger order to make the shipping acceptable.
  • Last night, my husband cooked ham and pineapple pizza, using the bread machine to prepare the dough. D got a specially sauce-free section.
  • Tonight's dinner was very showy, but surprisingly easy. I made tandoori chicken using drumsticks, Greek yogurt and Patak's Tandoori Paste (recipe off the jar). I served it with grocery store whole wheat naan and peas and carrots. For dessert, we had kheer (Indian rice pudding, a lunch buffet classic) with slivered almonds on top. The kheer required the cardamon pods that I bought at HEB, so I was glad to have them. None of this was hard to prepare, it just requires planning--the chicken has to marinate for several hours and the kheer requires three hours in the slow cooker.
  • Tonight we and the kids finished watching the 1960 movie version of Swiss Family Robinson. I liked all the swashbuckling and the color, while wishing the boys' love interest at the bottom of the ocean. The youngest brother was so cute and reminded me immediately of my big nephew. We're listening to a version of the book in the car, but the movie takes extensive (and I think justifiable) liberties.
  • My husband has been taking the kids out with their gliders.
  • C is reading and loving Pratchett's Going Postal.