Friday, November 30, 2007

Final Post (for the contest) on the Org Challenge

Well, here they are, the final photos for the challenge for this year. I ran in to some slowdowns after some initial good gains. Thanksgiving took more time than I thought. The busy time at my new job was busier than I dreamed and that took a toll on the time I could spend. And I'm willing to wait for the free furniture, which meant I definitely wouldn't finish by the deadline. But overall, I'm really pleased with the progress that was made, and it's easier to keep it clean than to get it there in the first place, so it was totally worth it. Thank you OrgJunkie! And please note the title: this is only the "end" because it's the end of the month. When we get the new shelves, etc., I'll repost for fun (and to keep me honest). Short answer questions below pictures.

Before: Remember the "teetering" shot?

After: No piles! Yay! Lapdesk? Donated. File box? Emptied, purged, recycled, refiled. Shelves? Eh, not perfect, but at least you can reach the books without bumping in to piles now. Toys are off the floor and in or on the bin over by the shelves (see next photo).

After: The shelves here are not terribly different, because the new shelves aren't up yet. But the humongous pile beneath it is much improved. Also, for those who were paying close attention, the sideboard piece is supposed to be gone, replaced by new-to-us shelves. It's still here, but it is totally empty and ready to be picked up by a friend who needs it in her dining room far more than I need it here. And, inspired by this purge, I also sent out that I am giving away a table and chairs and a glider; all will be gone to new homes where they are wanted and needed by next week. Hooray! (And please note door to laundry room is open so you can see I didn't just throw stuff in there either!)

Before: And, of course, my computer desk. Hard to believe I can even find the keyboard.

After: my favorite part, though the hardest to keep after, since I bring a ton of paper down here to transfer info at the computer and then get distracted by other fun stuff in cyberspace. Not terribly different from when my husband and I got the big head start earlier in the month, except our mouse died and so we have new wireless mouse and keyboard, eliminating two more sets of wires. Heaven.

Bonus pictures:
The new, improved file area, where I actually, you know, file things now. I purged about 10 bags of paper recycling from here, archived and coordinated files from consulting projects and volunteer activities, and slowly am purging over a decade of paperwork.

And the shelves. They'll never make House Beautiful, but they make my house useful, and I wanted to keep it real (yo). I still have filing to do. And the stuff on the shelves isn't particularly attractive, but all the games are together, the compuer resources together, the photo albums together, and directories, office supplies and scrapbooking projects all have their own zones now. I'm almost embarrassed to type that. But the room has been through so many changes along with the family that the old zones slowly deteriorated. This system should be one I can keep up with; it's working so far.

1. What was the hardest part of the challenge for you and were you able to overcome it?

Hardest part? Making the time to do it the way I wanted to do it. But it was a good lesson in transferring what I'm good at in my job (realistically chunking work in to do-able pieces) in to my home life (where I tend to like to do things all at once).

2. Tell us what kind of changes/habits you have put into place in order for your area/room to maintain its new order?

Well, the people at Goodwill know my car when it's coming now. Hopefully I'll keep up with them.

I also used to keep a "project bag" for each activity I'm in (alumni interviewing, breastfeeding counseling, consulting project, reunion committee...). I purged all the bags and instead of just leaving them around have filed them away in the drawers so I still have the grab-n-go ability but without the mess.

3. What did you do with the “stuff” you were able to purge out of your newly organized space?

Most of it moved on (or is in process of moving on--see below) to somewhere else. Friends took all the extra furniture in this room (and more from elsewhere). The recycling bins at my church are extra full right now. A big box of toys went to the "child free" aunt & uncle to make their house more fun for small visitors. And did I mention the paper recycling?

4. Now that you have completed the challenge, do you think having and keeping your space organized will make a difference in your life?

Yes. My husband is not embarrassed at the way the room looks. I don't have agita when he comes down the steps, and it's less work to get the room ready when his family is coming.

6. Why do you think you should win the challenge?

I hate to shoot myself in the foot, but I don't even care if I win. I needed the push to finally get going on this and get it done, and I was happy to have the excuse. It's not done yet; the "new" shelves are our brother-in-law's old shelves, and they aren't ready yet; for free, I'm willing to wait. There is more purging to be done. I didn't even touch the stuff on the deep shelves since I'm waiting for the new shelves to come to reorganize those. But it was totally inspirational to do this with others in the same boat. I loved seeing others who were willing to let me in on their messes and sucesses. I got some great ideas reading about others. And I got to make my husband very happy in the process. I feel like I already won in the ways that matter most. (Though the prizes look great!)

And can I tell you--I learned a ton of new blogging skills from this too (like how to post pictures, place buttons, etc.) so that was also appreciated!


BONUS: Don’t forget to show me a picture of your purge pile in the trunk of your car on its way out!! Biggest pile wins the awesome bonus prize!

Dude, I wish I'd known about this before! This isn't even my biggest purge pile! Gotta read more carefully.
What you see here in all its glory: six boxes of things that need to be returned to catalogs or mailed to gift recipients; four more bags for Goodwill; three bags of paper recycling from my filing binge; three French Hens (kidding, though who could know?); a tote bag of stuff that can go to my office at work; a bag of candles for Girlfriend to use in Christmas baskets for the church giveaways; and do you recognize the Bombay Company box from the Teetering picture? Say bye-bye! AND what you can't see is a tub full of toys that are going to my sister-in-law's to make her house more kid friendly (and what do you know--mine too, by extension!).

Many, many thanks again to OrgJunkie for hosting (and for the comments on my updates--that was unexpected and very kind!) and to everyone who participated, whether you stopped by or not, and whether I got to comment to you or not. Even typing this now, I'm cheered by the fact that at least 18 of you are so coordinated you were done and ready to post before midnight, and also comforted that I bet I'm not the only one racing the clock. See you next year, everyone!

The End of the Road

I don't know if it was NaBloPoMo, my first November working outside the home in four years, the six books at once that I'm trying to read, the Organizational Challenge (more on that later), or the weather, but I am stunned that it is December tomorrow.

I have learned a ton this month. I am glad I did NaBloPoMo to force me out of my meme-only postings, though I am still far more comfortable within the confines of a stated topic. (Sixth grade freewrites, anyone?)

I have loved reading so many other peoples sites and give special awe to Shelley and Lemonade & Kidneys, who actually posted every day (woo-hoo!) and are eligible for the goodies.

And while I will really miss reading everyone's everyday posts (ahem, Anjali), I certainly understand why they might drop off from here. And I am blinking in bewilderment at Finslippy, who had so much fun with the month that she is continuing daily. Hurray for her and me, her reader, but wow. I'm glad to get a break.

Now excuse me while I go finish cleaning my room. I have six hours to finish posting for OrgJunkie!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Seven Things You Might Not Know About Me

Thanks for the tag from Lemonade & Kidneys!

1) The best vacation I've ever taken is to Wyoming's Rodeo Days. It was like a trip to a foreign country for this east-coaster. We rode horses on the plains, had a free pancake breakfast from the local Lions Club attended by thousands, saw Native American dances, a gun fight show (which totally helped me understand why gun issues are different there than where I live), a "Transportation Through the Ages" parade including the real Conestoga wagons that some families' ancestors had taken west with them when they settled, and an Air Force air show. Oh, yeah, and the rodeo and backstage tour--also amazing.

2) I hate the cold but I love the snow.

3) I love the beach but I hate the sun.

4) I was voted "Most Likely to Work at Disneyworld" after our band trip there senior year in high school. (I took it as a compliment.)

5) You know how they say "you never forget how to ride a bicycle?" Not true.

6) I still have my mother's world-class collection of almost 200 beanie babies scattered around the house. (OK, and some were mine too.)

7) I hate the slang words for stuff that comes out of your nose. We use the word "nosedirt" in our house.

Reading this and need a NaBloPoMo topic to tide you over? Consider yourself tagged!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

WFMW--holiday edition--Outdoor Tree

When I was a toddler, my parents made the move from the apartment to the house. And as the story goes, my father drove us to Gaudio's (YES! a real store name! can you imagine?!!? and it was gaudy-oh!) and let me pick any tree I wanted from their display. He paid the guy to throw a box over it and drive it to the house, decor and all, long before this was available standard. So I grew up with a tree that had blue bells, blue and white lights, and blue seals all over it with sparkly blue and white glitter balls for accents.

Eventually, I had been making and receiving so many ornaments they didn't fit on the artifial tree anymore. So my smart parents put a real tree up on the screened in porch off the kitchen. Voila! The professionally decorated tree was in the living room, and the classic family tree was outside where we ate every night.

When we moved out, my husband and I decided to get our own artificial tree (though I still miss the music box tinkling "Silent Night" as it spun the blue bells tree). But by the Christmas when our oldest was 2, it was painfully obvious that This Would Not Work. The boy climbs anything. The tree would be history in a jiffy.

Enter our fire company and our back porch. The fire company sells trees as a fundraiser (which we joke is really like a "make work" scheme for a fire company). If we have it outside, we can have the biggest one we want and not worry about the ceiling. We get outdoor-tested lights, and use all plastic ornaments (thank you, Ikea and Kindy's).

There are so many benefits to us in this system. We can use old items or cheap plastic ornaments that don't break if they fall and that we won't care about if the squirrels carry them off. There are no needles falling in the house, which is good as I am a terrible housekeeper without pine needles piling up. It gets us outside in the winter months, which we sometimes get too lazy to do otherwise--not just for decorating the tree but because the boys always want to play near it so we end up in the yard more. When it's too dark or cold, the tree doesn't take up playspace but is still fully visible from playroom. And if it ever snows, it looks amazing.

That's what works for me. What's working for you? Post it here and enjoy Shannon's blog and all the other posters' ideas. I am really liking Shannon's tax deduction plan--working for me with my final two days of my Organizing Challenge, that's for sure!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Creeping Christmas

For as long as I've known him, my husband's family has gone all-out on Christmas decorations. The hall held the big "Jesus is the Reason for the Season" sign. The garland wound its way up the bannister. The mantel held (some of) the Santa collection. Even the toilet seat had a peekaboo Santa cover. There was not a place in the house to hide from Christmas--it was THERE.

It still is, for the most part, but when my in-laws downsized houses, they also downsized the decor, moving some of it to their children's houses, and keeping a managable amount for themselves. But I remember asking in wonder, "How long does it take to do this?" thinking of my own parents' one day decorating binge. My mother in law replied, "All month!" and so I was introduced to "creeping Christmas." Unlike my family's tradition of tossing on all the lights on the warmest weekend day we could find in December, they planned things out, a little at a time. Thanksgiving slid in to Advent, which bloomed in to full Christmas regalia. But since it came quietly, with a turkey here exchanged for a snowman there, they dubbed it "creeping Christmas."

I always loved that term, I think since the malls, the radio, and the TV won't let the holidays sneak up on anybody anymore. So while Christmas invades the commercial side of life with all the subtlety of a herd of elephants, it's nice to take a breather post-Thanksgiving and let it come more quietly in to the house.

On Friday, as we left our in-laws from a lovely post-Thanksgiving dinner, I saw one lone little tree tucked in a corner by the door. "Oh! Creeping Christmas!" I joked, immediately setting my older son on edge. (I think "creepy" is still too much on his mind from Halloween.) "Why is Christmas creeping?" he demanded to know. So we talked about the difference between creepy and creeping, and read the poem "Fog"(since I incorrectly remembered it including the word "creep," but it was instructive and helpful anyway) and now he's saying it too. "Creeping Christmas, Mama!" he said, pointing to the holiday doormat I pulled out to replace the Thanksgiving one. And so it continues, both the tradition and the holiday's arrival, quietly coming to change our home, piece by piece.

And, just in case he ever decides to read this: Happy birthday to my husband, my love, and the joy of my days. May the next 40 years be as fun as the first!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Menu Planning Monday

Woo-hoo! Last week of November, here we come. My freezer needs defrosting in a big way so there may be some strange meals and a lot of repetition as I try to get this emptied before it's too cold to defrost until spring!

Monday: Leftover pork (from Dinners By Design: best yet from them) and leftover turkey breast. Rice, snap peas, broccoli.

Tuesday: Sssssh...we're going out to dinner for my husband's FORTIETH birthday! Don't tell. We're going here. I'm totally excited. The boys are going here with cousins and cousins-to-be (Girlfriend's kids).

Wednesday: Trader Joe's pre-cooked prime rib, mashed potatoes, creamed spinach. Haven't tried this before except in an in-store taste thingee; am hoping it's good.

Thursday: I really really really hope I'm out to dinner with my book group. We are reading Eat Pray Love and I am desperately heading for the finish line, as much as I've enjoyed it. (Local? Read the book and wanna come? Email me for details!) That means my husband and boys will eat spaghetti and meatballs.

Friday: Who knows? It all depends on the writers' strike. And I will need to leave it at that just in case my husband suddenly starts reading THIS WEEK. Doubt it but will have to leave you in suspense until then. (City Mouse-Country Mouse knows what I mean!)

Happy week, everyone!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

A Little Bit of Bloghopping

Do you have any interest in the inner workings of the Catholoic church? If so, you must check out Whispers in the Loggia. My friend Rocco is in his glory right now, sending dispatches from The Source--the Vatican during the week of celebration as new cardinals are elevated. Rocco was one of my workstudy students and knows more about the Catholic church than I suspect many seminarians do. (The new ones, at least.) His knowledge comes from a pure love of the institution (which the church would do well to remember is in short supply these days). So for him, this trip is like sending his brain and soul to Disneyworld, and it shows in his posts.

All kinds of holiday fun coming up, from Oh Amanda and Christmas Spirit giveaways to BooMama and her house tours. And I don't know if you'll be able to get to Target's "running guy" as my boys call it for much longer but it's been an absolute hit around here. My little guy, in fact, is calling, "The wunning guy! The wunning guy!" in a very worried tone now that he sees me on this page instead. (You see one of our first journeys posted on the side column. Remember the Choose Your Own Adventure books? Kinda like a cyberversion of that, but with the goal of getting to Target's two day sale.)

Finally, on a downer of a note but an important one, especially if you are thinking you need a raise right now: you may be right. One of the women's organizations on campus ran a seminar for junior and senior women entering the workforce on how to negotiate salary. They sent along this link just in case these confident, well-educated women were thinking it wouldn't apply to them, and the already high offers they are receiving were "good enough." Watch the calculator figure out what the difference is between "close" and "negotiated to equal" over a lifetime and see if it helps nudge you to be a little more assertive in your next salary negotiations.

Have you ever negotiated yourself a higher salary? I have and it feels great. Look for that story and more in the meme Lemonade & Kidneys tagged me for last week.

Wishing you a good week out there on the internet and in your real life!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

SHS--Right Habit, Wrong Target

Mixed results for last week's habit--spending 15 minutes a day working on the mudroom. I think I spent 20 minutes total this week, and most of that was to maintain what neatness there was after kids were playing, I was working, etc. However, I did spend about 15-30 minutes a day getting ready for Thanksgiving--everything from finding my favorite turkeys and putting them on disply to cooking one dish at a time so I wasn't doing every single bingle thing on Thanksgiving day. And that worked out great. So I think I will repeat the habit this week with the original intent and see if that goes any better.

Meanwhile, I fell off the early bedtime wagon a bit, though I did eat surprisingly low carb for Thanksgiving week. I took Thursday off and totally enjoyed the mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes with everything sugary, but with only a few exceptions, have been trying to stick with it. Accountability, even if it's virtual, does seem to help!

Good luck with your Smart Habits this week! Wanna get on board? Visit here to join in!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Perfection is Overrated, Right?

Hey, missing one out of 30 is still an A, right?

I had the computer on and Blogger running all day yesterday...but we were running all day yesterday too and the post never got to the blog.

It was worth it, though; I had a ball trying out new recipes for corn pudding and the All-in-One Cake (which was only ok; next I think I'll try the NYT's apple cake and see how that goes; I will also try toasting the all-in-one for breakfast this morning and see if that helps); we made our "famous" Le Bec-Fin carrot mousse; and I'm very cheery about the remains of the cheese tray in our fridge.

To top it all off, we had three special things happen yesterday. First, our Beloved Babysitter came to join us for the feast, which is making my older son practically dance with joy that she is here with us this morning.

The other two things are more long awaited. For one, we had tomatoes from the garden on the table for a salad. That doesn't sound like much; I mean, who gets excited about the salad on Thanksgiving, right? Well, for my grandfather's entire adult life, he wanted to have a Jersey tomato on Thanksgiving. (For any non-locals: I don't know what's in the soil, but New Jersey tomatoes are truly one of the world's most amazing fruits. The only downside is they have ruined me on almost any other tomatoes in the world.) He tried everything to save those last tomatoes of the year and eke them out to the holiday. Newspaper, Saran Wrap, paper bags, keeping cool, you name it, any tomato-saving trick you can imagine, he did it. It never worked. He lived to 88 and never had it happen for him. Alas, it's just that he died 10 years too soon. Between global warming and an early Thanksgiving, our last tomato harvest happened last week, giving the greenies exactly enough time to turn a beautiful red for dinner last night. I was sorry he wasn't there to enjoy them but it was fun to have them and to think of him and how pleased he would have been to see them on the table.

And how did this miracle come about? Girlfriend, of course--the amazing woman who has been dating our brother-in-law for the last two years. She grew the tomatoes herself and remembered to have them on the Thanksgiving table. (I would love to grow them but we don't have enough sun.) Girlfriend has been my parking lot buddy at my new job (she's part-time, I'm part-time; she got me the duplicate parking sticker and so I can use her spot in the garage on her off days--a HUGE favor making my work life much easier). Girlfriend is always up for a trip to the shore and kindly included me and the boys when she had her week in her brother's shore house, even though it meant a ton more work for her, because she knows that I love the shore like she does. Girlfriend decides when my husband and I need a night off and descends with our brother-in-law and his younger son, who is worshipped by our boys so they don't even notice when we leave and have a night out. Girlfriend singlehandedly keeps three households running and still has a life. I am in awe of her energy and kindness. And I thrilled to say that last night they annouced: Girlfriend and brother-in-law are engaged.

For all of this, I am thankful. Whoever you are reading this, I hope you had much to be thankful for, too.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

WFMW--writing in my cookbooks

Until I was in middle school, I had never seen a highlighter. Even after my friends had them, they seemed...suspicious, somehow. Who would mark up a book besides a delinquent who hated education? Especially with something that looked like it was really a magic marker in disguise, waiting to actually black out what it was supposed to highlight?

In our kitchen, there was a fantastic lucite cookbook stand, used to protect the cookbooks. Not that they were totally unmarked; my father used to put lipstick on me so I could put kisses in them, and every once in a while, he traced my hands or feet in the covers of the books to personalize them when they were presents for my mother. But the recipes themselves stayed safe behind clear plastic covers, just like the sofas at my great-aunts'.

Once my mother died unexpectedly, I came in to a mountain of cookbooks, all of them used, and every bookmark was a mystery. Was this one of those dishes I liked and just never knew what it was called? Or something my dad wanted my mom to try but since she knew better than he did that he hated candied apples she wisely just kept marked but knew she'd never make? I felt truly lost--I knew the tastes of my childhood were locked in those books, but where?

Well, somewhere after I moved out of the house, my mother either lost her disdain for writing in books, or privately saw it as a secret thrill, or found it more reliable than hoping that bookmarks stayed where they belonged. In some of the books she used more often at the end of her life, there were notes in the margins, ingredients crossed out, directions tweaked, proportions corrected. One recipe noted my boss really liked it when she sent it in with me once for the office--only later to have "WHO CARES?!?!?!" written in big letters with lots of punctuation (after, I suspect, I was passed over for a promotion she--and I--thought I deserved). A recipe for ricotta cake called for some citrus zest. Mom had question marks and the word "never!" written next to that. And so forth and so on.

That was such an unexpected gift and an epiphany for me. Since we assumed we had lots more time together, I never got serious about sitting down with her to ask for specifics of favorite recipes, like "what tomato sauce do you use for the crock pot pork chops?" or "besides the garlic spears, what do you do to your eye roast to make it so good?"

Since then, I have written in ALL of my cookbooks or cooking magazines that I have used more than once. I note when I made a dish ("good, but too rich for summer; make again when weather cools and will be perfect!"), whether it was for an occasion ("served after Christmas Eve Mass when our son was Baby Jesus and we had 15 relatives for dinner"), and any suggestions for next time ("loved the flavor but WAY too hot; skip most of red pepper flakes next time" or "great even without the sausage!"). More important since the sons were born: who liked it, and how. ("wouldn't eat the chicken but the sauce on rice went to thirds before we cut him off.") This way, the record is always there, and someday, if anyone else in this house ever cooks with cookbooks (my husband is amazing at cooking on the fly) and is looking for an old favorite, they'll be able to figure it out. And that works for me! What's working for you? Find out what's working over at Shannon's blog!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Selling Out

Am I this desperate for material, that I'm flacking for the Thomas machine?

Yes, ma'am, I most certainly am.

A proud blogging moment, it is not, but Christmas is coming.

This giveaway site has three Thomas DVDs to give away. In something of a planetary alignment, we have none of them. So to enter the contest, I am to blog about what might happen if my kids met Thomas.

Well, they already have, of course. We head to Strasburg Railroad at the drop of a hat (or "Hatt," as it were). So both my kids have "met" Thomas, several times. My older one asks where Annie and Clarabel are, and whether Gordon is coming, and is in generally good spirits. My younger one is in that complete awe that only toddlers can get, without the full vocabulary--linguistic or emotional--to fully express the enormity of the moment. He is giddy and solemn at the same time, asking just to stare at him, absorb the moment, bask in the nearness, and then wave "Bye, Thomas!" every time he pulls out of the station with another load of passengers from Strollerpalooza.

I am in wonderment at how parenting changed me that these are among my favorite moments of the year. Santa comes but once a year; Thomas, at least three. And then of course, there is the Railroad Museum across the street to complete the joy. We even became members this year so we could go anytime we wanted. (Except, of course, ahem, for Mondays in November, when they are closed. Which I know now.)

So, if you want to see which DVDs our collection lacks, go link to the giveaway site. Heck, you can even register if you want. I have no fear. And apparently they are giving away other stuff too. Good luck!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Menu Planning Monday--Thanksgiving edition

Happy Monday, everyone!

Ah, a short week, and post-mini-vacation to boot. What could be better? Last week went pretty well; we stuck to things for the most part, and the recipes were good, or at least good for using what we had already (ahem, radicchio, ahem). The winner recipe of the week for me was the potato and leek flatbread, but it wasn't as big a hit with the rest of the family, alas. And, we found a half a lasagne in the freezer when looking for the sausages for last Wednesday and my husband asked very nicely if we could substitute. So we did; the sausage dish is on again for this week; and the lasagne was great. (Thank you, Best Babysitter EVER, you know who you are.)

Monday: Leftover smorgasboard. Finish the chicken, finish the lasagne, finish last night's pizza. (Guess who gets what!)

Tuesday: Hoisin pork from Dinner by Design. Have to say, it's been awesome having the half-recipes but I really liked the Super Suppers meals better. With the pork: rice, frozen snap peas. Which my older son enjoys eating by taking out of the shells, but whatever works. Pre-shelled peas are not on his "edible items" list.

Wednesday: Sausage, beans and spinach; rice to augment for boys.

Thursday: Sing along! "It's our turn to gobble gobble gobble!" (Alas, I only know the first two lines of that song and the last one. Gotta google that someday.) Girlfriend is hosting dinner; she's making one turkey, sisters in law and cousins are making the others. We bring cheese & crackers, pumpkin pie (totally buying that today), juice, corn pudding, and pearl onions, my father-in-law's favorite.

Friday: Leftovers, I hope, though I am also getting myself a turkey breast and stuffing mix to make what I like to make. I also might try this cake, whose recipe I found on hunt for Bundt Cake Days recipe. (Don't ask. They should have never, never told me that Martha Stewart's show moved to 2pm when the boys are often napping. I am not in the slightest bit crafty but I am in awe of Martha and her accomplishments.)

There you have it. Some leftovers this weekend, plus visits with family, and all's right with the world. I hope.

Wanna see what others are doing this week? Check out OrgJunkie and find out! Gobble Gobble!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Field Trip

In a fun twist on my usual weekend reality, we buzzed down to DC for a half-weekend trip. My best friend from college, who has lived in California since the mid-1990s, is moving to Milan (yes, as in Italy) next year. Being Supermom, she has systematically planned a crash-course in Touring the US 101 for her boys, ages 9 and 8, giving plenty of first-person material for their American Studies courses in Italy. Happily for us, this included the pre-Turkey-Day visit to the capital and we were included.

Other than poor timing making me whiff on several personal milestones I desperately wish I hadn't (e.g., missing a birthday party for one of my son's friends yesterday, whiffing on the fact that TODAY, not next week was my best friend's anniversary---not that I was maid of honor or anything, sheesh), it was a good trip. We also learned that Son 1 is currently incapable of sleeping in a hotel room. (Hmm. An English teacher might call this "foreshadowing." Stay tuned.)

We also learned that his new favorite song, thanks to their dad getting fed up with kiddie music, and playing Dean Martin at bedtime instead, my oldest's favorite song is "Standing On The Corner (Watching All the Girls Go By)." Which he chose to sing, at volume level 8, as he wandered past the Vietnam Memorial. Probably not very appropriate. But I'll bet a lot of them would have understood. Or at least I'll soothe my mortified mommy soul that way.

All those boys. (And girls, I'm sure, though we only saw boys' names.) All those moms. All those families. All those friends. "Why did they die?" my son asked, and there it was again, one of those questions I have really known they will ask someday, and here's the day and I don't know what to answer. We had already talked about how we were there to say "thank you" to them, and we had talked about respect and honor when explaining that ducks can swim in the water at the new WWII memorial but boys can't...but the "why did they die?" is one I still struggle with. I adore and respect the Quaker tradition I was raised in by dint of my town, and I tend to be right there with them on almost everything. But I can't help but think that we still need someone "on that wall," as Jack Nicholson puts it in A Few Good Men. But the whole idea of war is needlessly wasteful to me that I can't really come up with a good answer for him, my son who is starting to toy with guns.

So we rubbed some names of soldiers we didn't know, and asked God to take care of them, take care of us, and thanked him for allowing us to live in this country. Then we went to play football on the grass of the national Mall, with the rubbings of the names tucked safely in the stroller. I swear some of the ghosts of those soldiers, those boys, were there with us, remembering their own days of playing football with brothers and friends on grassy fields.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Smart Habits Saturday

This week's Smart Habit: Crossing over with my other bloggity project: 15 minutes a day in the mudroom--NOT on the computer, but Going Through Stuff instead. It's not meant to be a forever habit, though I know people do it Every Day (and after that hoarder story on Oprah, I'm good and scared and think maybe I should); but if I can just use this week, with all its extra time at home, to focus on all the unfinished projects in that room--including the room itself--I think I can make a good dent. Wanna join with the Smart Habits crowd? Come here to Lara's blog and tell us what you're practicing!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Friday, November 16, 2007

An Interesting Note

What is it with all of us women bloggers whose husbands don't read our blogs?

One of my most commented-upon entries was the one where I mentioned I'm glad my husband doesn't read my blog (because he would be mortified I'm sharing our shame with the world, even if it was for the good end of getting it cleaned up). And many of the posters were commenting that their husbands don't read their blogs, either.

What gives? I know my husband's excuse: his work IT people are very strict about allowing non-work-related web access so almost anything with the letter combo "blog" is disallowed. And when he's home, either we're together with the kids, I'm on the computer, or he's sleeping.

I used to want him to read it and felt bad that he didn't. Now, I've sort of made peace with it, and besides, this is an outlet for a lot of the things he doesn't really care about. Dinner next Wednesday holds no interest for him. (Me neither, but as the primary shopper and cooker at this stage of our relationship, it keeps me honest.)

Meanwhile, speaking of our shameful computer room: Anyone catch the compulsive hoarder story on Oprah yesterday? Wow. As I had feared, once we made the big push a few weeks ago, I've been a little um...complacent about the progress in the computer room. I am complacent no more. This poor woman--her poor family--and hooray for them for getting help. It was very motivating in a good way. And also allowed me to send up a few mental apolgies to my mother, who was definitely a compulsive hoarder but not nearly like this woman was. My mother was never a compulsive shopper, but she and my dad did inherit several households of furniture, which were then left to me to clear out. Her parents were pretty financially strapped all their lives, so they kept anything that might possibly have any used, and that habit is hard to shake generationally. It's also hard because I keep feeling like I need to find, to borrow the real estate valuation term, the "highest and best use" of anything, not just chuck it in a landfill. So, do we auction or donate? Precycle or recycle? Find a friend who can use it? Or sell it online?

And I have to admit, I am feeling like a compulsive hoarder this week as I take advantage of all the grocery sales this week, when lots of foods we eat a lot (or would if they weren't so expensive) are going on major pre-Thanksgiving sale. I have to remind myself that some hoarding really is just stocking up. We use butter. The boys eat bread. Cheese goes fast. Spanish olives? Ok, maybe a bit of a splurge, but my older one actually adores them too, so when they go on sale, grab 'em. Things pile. They'll unpile. I just need to remember to count them in to my menu planning to make it truly worthwhile.

Meanwhile, back to the clearout. And I'd tell you all what I got for my husband's upcoming 40th birthday, but I know if I did, TODAY is the day he'd start to read this blog!

Anyone else know why their significant others aren't reading their blogs?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

You Really Have to Go See This

Especially if you are at all around my age (ahem, late 30s). I got an email with a hilarious (and only slightly inappropriate) commentary on the 1977 J.C. Penney catalog. I found what I think is the original blog spot and am providing for you so you too can get a side ache from the giggles.

In related news, I was equally thrilled and distressed to discover that "The '70s" is an official historic time, if the makers of American Girl dolls are to be believed. Their latest two dolls would now be my age. Apparently, that would be the age of the mommies who have to fork over the cash for these babies, and their lifestyle accoutrements. Makes me glad I have boys who are happy with the 99-cent Hot Wheels from the Acme. (Ok, and several hundred dollars worth of Thomas the Tank Engine wooden railway sets and trains.) The big excitement from the moms I know? Just in case you didn't get it yourself, you can now buy YOUR DAUGHTER'S DOLL the style-able Barbie head that was all the rage in my childhood. Yikes. Toys of toys? This is a little to Escher for me. And a $6 hairbrush for a DOLL? Mine are $3 at the CVS. Only Me, I'm with you on this!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

WFMW--Empty Hands

There is a storyteller in Philadelphia who goes by "Joe Bag-of-Donuts." He tells the story about how he had a friend in the hospital once, and when he went to visit him, he was concerned that he had nothing to bring, and in South Philly Italian culture, you really don't go visiting anybody with empty hands. It's considered thoughtless, and almost a little disrespectful. So he went to the hospital with a bag of donuts for his sick friend, and the name stuck.

Of course it always works for me when someone brings me a bag of donuts. But I recently saw where someone said she keeps her house neat by forbidding empty hands. (This was probably her WFMW post, but in case it wasn't, or to back her up, I'm posting my experience with it here too.) She pointed out how in a restaurant, you almost never see someone with empty hands. Servers are bringing food or clearing glasses. Busboys have their tubs. The only ones who move unencumbered are the hosts or hostesses; everyone else has to have full hands at all times to keep the restaurant flowing. This former restaurant employee had brought the idea back to her own house.

Dang, skippy, this works wonders. It had gotten easy for me to look past the things on the steps that needed to go up or down, and who doesn't prefer to bounce around unencumbered? But when I took my cultural "empty hands" dread and applied it to my house, it was like the brownies came and cleaned it all in one night. The stuff that collected on the peninsula went down, things that had been missing turned up, and it was really very few extra steps to my routine. This was a great technique for me and I hope it works for you too! Wanna see what else is working for people? Go check out Shannon's blog and find out!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Menu Planning Monday on Tuesday

Happy week, a little belatedly!

Life returns to somewhat normal here, though really, it's hard to tell what "normal" looks like on any given day. My older son, though, has made it abundantly clear that between school and his cousins' house after for two days a week that he is NOT spending enough time at home. So we're using this time to regroup a little bit, because, you know, the holidays won't be crazy or anything.

We're also rediscovering takeout, alas (though it's easier to afford with all my work hours). We tried Pei Wei, brought to us by the P.F. Chang's's nothing exotic but everything we had was good. Another theme you'll notice this week: for some reason, the October issue of Real Simple (that I'm just getting around to reading now; I need to learn to resist the call of the cover from the magazine rack--my life would be simpler without all these magazines cluttering up my house!) had a bunch of recipes that used stuff in my fridge already from the last weeks of my CSA and other "shopping at home" adventures. I'll link to the recipes I can find.

Monday: Roast Chicken with Balsamic Radicchio, rice, toaster-oven-roasted asparagus. The roasted radicchio was better than I thought it would be, and I was so distracted I roased the bird upside down--duh--but as I had heard, it did make the breast quite juicy if a little flat.

Tuesday: Sloppy joes, carrots, celery, salad (my 4 year old has rediscovered that he LOVES salads with oil and vinegar, like mom--yay), buttered noodles left over from weekend

Wednesday: Sausage, beans and spinach; rice to augment for boys. (Original recipe called for escarole; wish I'd had it during the CSA season but I'll try it now with baby spinach, which I like better anyway.)

Thursday: Leftovers, augmented by the potato & leek flatbread. And I might use the extra potatoes and leeks to make a fritatta as well since I have 2 dozen eggs in the fridge at last count.

Friday: Probably leftovers again, and if not, it'll be a good night for spaghetti and meatballs. Yum.

Happy week everyone! Want other ideas? Go check out the creative folks here!

Monday, November 12, 2007

We Interrupt Menu Planning Monday for a Blog Carnival

Happy Monday, everyone!

Don't Try This at Home is hosting a blog carnival on holiday gift giving. What a cool idea!

I've been meaning to post on "Gifts for People Who Have Everything" and this seems like as good a time as any. My take on this lately: If you have everything, why add to it? But of course we want to be festive and mark the occasion in some way. Here are my ideas for "stuff-free" gifts for this year. (Though oh, yes, there will be presents in our house; with a two and four year old, how could there NOT be? But with a two and a four year old, the sustained level of interest in any present has a half life of four days, so it's way to early to shop now for anything they actually want, and I've only gotten things they need, like clothes.)

--> I'm sure I'm not the only one who will suggest candy. But what I will be doing this year is supporting two local candy makers: Bevan's, a family-owned place on a modest corner in a nearby suburb, and John & Kira's, for the "haut" chocolate experience. Bevan's (no website! how quaint) has been in the same little storefront for longer than I've been alive. They stock some old-school penny candies, and they are well known for their buttercreams, but they also have decorated mints that are yummy, adorable, come gift-boxed, and are perfect hostess gifts for any holiday party I'm attending. John & Kira's is sort of a modern, more hyped version of this; they have artsy chocolates with lavendar and mint and other exotic flavors. I love that they are run by (wait for it) John and Kira, who used to be teachers, who branched out in to food, and I love that they use all local suppliers for their flavorings, including contracting with one of the agriculture programs at a city public high school to grow all their mint.

--> I've been inspired this year by some of my fellow Mothers and More members who give or get experiences instead of things. One is taking her entire in-law family to a great musical while they are together over Thanksgiving as their Christmas gift. Another, who lives far away from grandparents, asks them for gift memberships to the zoo or aquarium or other place they and their kids enjoy, and then send them a postcard every time they go throughout the year to thank them for the fun day and tell them what the kids enjoyed. I am keeping this in mind for nephews who love baseball in particular; while spring training seems far away, I'll bet tickets to see their favorite teams when they come to town will be welcome anytime.

--> Speaking of sports, my husband runs the town soccer program here and has for years. He's not a coach, so while many folks say thanks, it's not a big "gifting" kind of position, though some come his was on occasion at the end of the season. His absolute favorite all time gift? Thank you notes from the kids. I'm not joking. One was signed this year by "(first grade girl's name), SOCCER LOVER!" It made his day. (And ok, the fact that she included homemade gingerbread didn't hurt either but it really was the note that was the winner.) And, in fact, this same family gave him one of his other favorite presents: soccer balls from He didn't actually get the soccer balls; children in poverty did, to replace banana leaves or compacted trash substituting as soccer balls. For someone who is just eager to spread his love of the game, it was a perfect present.

--> Meanwhile, food certificates of one kind or another are big hits around here. Friends tell me that teams collect from all the parents for a really nice restaurant gift certificate for coaches or teachers, and my Nursing Mothers Network group sells WaWa Shorti Hoagie coupons that many of the moms use for trash collectors and other service providers. The coupons are sold for a little less than the actual sandwiches, so there's some savings for the buyer, and the group gets fifty cents per coupon.

--> On the side of my blog, you'll see a button for Kiva is an organization for microloans, often as small as $25, to small business owners in third world countries around the globe. You'll find a variety of businesses and proposed businesses and anything from someone requsting $40 to buy a mule to take products to market to $100 to build a shelter for a women's cooperative that makes sweaters for export. There are some really cool ideas there, and while it's a loan and not a gift, you can give someone a certificate to Kiva and let them choose which business to support.

--> Is there a birdwatcher on your list? Go to to sign them up with the Cornell ornithology study. It's $15; they'll get a kit with bird identification sheets, observation tools, suggestions for attracting more birds, and the opportunity to help scientists track what's going on in the sky with our flighted friends. My son, who is lately obsessed with our birdfeeder, is going to become an official FeederWatcher for Christmas.

--> Finally, there is always contributing to an organization with meaning for your recipient; maybe there's a group they belong to, or a cause they support. Books to the local public or school library or their alma mater with a faceplate honoring your recipient are always thoughtful. And my favorite creative charity is Heifer Project International. I love the idea of giving economic sustainability to a family in the form of a bunny hutch or line of ducklings.

When all else fails, Amazon is my gift certificate of choice for now. They can get books and CDs, or diapers and saffron...whatever their hearts desire. And, I either go through iGive or a friend's gateway so my purchase counts towards something good (blog support or organizational fundraising) either way

Those are my "gifts for people with everything" this year. How about yours? If you have some to add or are just looking for ideas, check out the blog carnival. And extra thanks to Shannon for the link!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Book Meme

Many thanks to Anjali for being kind enough to tag me with a book meme during NaBloPoMo!

Total number of books I own:

Wow, couldn't even tell you. I grew up in a house with built in bookshelves in almost every room in the house. My room had an entire wall of them. The living room had an entire wall of them. Same with the family room and three other rooms. So while I purged the vast majority when I sold my parents' house, I would guess I have roughly ten boxes of books here, ten more in storage, and all the books scattered through the house. Both boys have at least a hundred. My husband has a stack by his bed. Mine is as many magazines but a good 40 books there too I bet.

Last book I read:

I just put my youngest to sleep with Freight Train by Donald Crewes. Last book I read before sleep last night: You, Staying Young. Last book I finished: The Three Martini Playdate.

Last book I bought:

The Overachievers. I meant to put it back on the shelf and ask for it for my birthday but I got home and there it was in my bag. I think I at least had a coupon. I hope.

5 Meaningful Books

Only five?!

The Other Side of the Sun by Madeleine L'Engle. I own almost everything she's written, including the out of print and hard to find. Other Side is one of her lesser known novels, but it spoke to me as it centered on a young woman surrounded by old aunts, which was more or less how I spent my childhood, with five elderly aunts (though significantly less drama) bickering and doting and cooking in the background.

A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Van Auken. I read this in a religious studies class and the story of the love of the author and his wife, their conversion to Christianity, and their developing friendship with C. S. Lewis made a profound impact on me and helped me respect my faith just a little bit more.

Paws to Consider by Brian Kilcommons and Sarah Wilson. One of the two best resources we used in adopting our beloved American Sofa Hound from the SPCA. (The other was Adopt the Perfect Dog.) She was a great choice and we knew how to pick her based on these books.

Microserfs by Douglas Coupland. Best known for Generation X, one of Coupland's follow-ups perfectly captured the early 1990s dot-com boom, with vivid portrayals of techies in search of flat food to push under the doors of their too-busy-coding-to-eat friends. I was lucky enough to spend a lot of time working in Northern California in 1992-1994 and this book still takes me back to being 23 and on the loose in a red Mustang convertible and an expense account in the Bay Area.

Questions and Admissions: Reflections on 100,000 Admissions Decisions at Stanford by Jean Fetter. Hands down the most influential professional book I've read. She is so honest and so thoughtful, this book never made a splash that some of its sensationalized, mean and short-sighted followers did.

So, do I know five bloggers who haven't been tagged on this?

Jennifer Niesselein
Shelley at But Wait, There's More!
Philly Expatriate
Lemonade and Kidneys
Mama(e) in Translation

And YOU! If you are one of my lurkers reading this, no need to de-lurk. But if you are searching for blog fodder, consider yourself tagged!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Smart Habits Saturday

It's hard to know if it's the Smart Habits Saturday, or just the right time, but lots of this is working for me. I would never call last week "low carb," but I was far more conscious about tossing another apple or a yogurt (yes, sugar, but also protein) into my lunchbox instead of something like crackers or cookies. And I have maintained the earlyish bedtimes (ok, the writers' strike is really helping out there), so that's promising.

So this week: another big one, in small bites: fifteen minutes of decluttering a day. Some days that might mean fifteen minutes of truly cleaning up (sometimes I poop out after a long day in the kitchen), or fifteen minutes of actually putting laundry away; so if I don't end up at Goodwill every day, that's fine. But I need to start retaking control of not just my project room, but the house overall. That is waaay too big a goal for now, though, so I have learned how to program my digital watch into a timer, and now off I go.

What Smart Habits do you want to encourage yourself to do? Visit here and get inspired!

Friday, November 9, 2007

Maybe There Are Worse Things

You know how sad I am about the introduction of firearms to my son's play arsenal? And how I've been blaming the new nursery school, thinking how this never happened at the Quaker one?

Today we saw an "old" friend from the Quaker school and her family, and while the kids were playing together the mom told me that one of the new kids in the 4-year-old class was explaining to her child in the sandbox how awful b-l-a-c-k people are--mean, and not to be played with--and now her child runs around saying the same thing. (The mom kindly spelled it out because her child is obsessed with the topic, and she didn't want it infecting my sons.) To top it off, there are black people in her family that the child now won't play with. (The school, btw, claims this never happened, but from what I know, I suspect it did and just no teacher heard it--I absolutely trust they would have stepped in.)

Yikes. I'll take the guns, even though to my chagrin now the actual word (not just "shooters") has entered the vocabulary as of yesterday. That makes me so sad, and I know it's killing the mom, too. How in the sam hill does this stuff start, anyway? Not a good way to start a weekend, really....sorry for the downer. On to Saturday and Smart Habits! Got any for this week? Post on 'em tomorrow!

Thursday, November 8, 2007


I wish I could say I've been working fifteen minutes a night and poof! But alas, that's not how this happened. Mainly, it was my husband, inspired by my start and then while I was out of the house with the boys, a neatness happened! There is a bonus to the end of baseball season.

It's hard not to love the expanded floor space--inspirational, that's for sure. And it gives me the room to work on the projects in the room! Woo-hoo!

Look! Floor space! The view from the laundry room. The teetering towers? Gone! Or at least pushed to the walls where I don't have to worry about them falling over before I deal with them.

It could be argued that "boxes on chairs" are not part of the end scheme for the design concept of the room. But straightened and organized shelves are.

And how about this desk?! I'm so excited about this. My husband found everything from "cable catchers" to wind all the wires to mugs for pens to herd the office supplies together.

I'm not sure that I'm even a third of the way there as we approach a third of the way through the challenge, but the key will be to not breathe a sigh of relief and rest on the laurels but to use it as a springboard ahead. Next stop: the piles around the room...stay tuned!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

WFMW--Backwards Day--Easy Dinners? Crock Pot Especially?

Everyone was so helpful last time, I'm hoping for more help this time.

What's your favorite easy dinner--either slow cooker or takes less than half an hour once you are home?

Thanks everyone! Have other good advice to give or that you need? Go see Shannon--she's full of good ideas and so are her readers!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Fall in to Reading--The Three Martini Playdate

There is a joke in my husband's family--not a joke, really--about how in the world the parents, particularly moms, survived our generation's childhood. My mother-in-law is oldest of three siblings; she had five kids, her sister had four, and her brother had three, so there were often events where there were three moms and twelve cousins running around. This was especially true in summer, when all the moms moved up to the mountains for the hot season (pre-AC days) and the dads came up on weekends after putting in a full week at work. "How did you do it?" the kids now ask, and often answer their own question: "I remember a lot of Manhattans."

Enter my next book in my Fall in to Reading list: The Three-Martini Playdate by Christie Mellor. I should have listened to Anjali back in September when she recommended it as a fast, fun read; it is absolutely both of those things. And the illustrations are fabulous--very 1950's style women and kids in somewhat silly or outrageous poses, like the kewpie-ish tyke on the front with the shaker of martinis, or the Leave-It-To-Beaver-era dad in full suit, holding a kid in a towel post-bath.

Christie Mellor is very amusing. She writes as though she is the modern embodiment of David Sedaris's mother in Naked, with lots of references to martinis and cigarettes and other things that are pretty far out of my daily life and always have been. Her premise is that before your kids were born, you were the center of your own universe. You are bigger than they are. Why did you let them win?

At least from my perspective she swings back and forth between honestly good advice and outrageous you-can't-be-serious ones. I agreed with several of her stances, as do most sane parents I know (birthday parties have gotten out of hand; too many toys do nobody any good), and I got lots of giggles out of her suggestions (buy the smallest possible toys so they are easy to hide when guests come over). And I can't wait to try her retro party recipes (weenie fondue and devilish eggs). But maybe because I'm in a sensitive point about my own parenting, it was hard not to feel prickly about some of her "suggestions," tongue in cheek as they may have been. While I love the title of the chapter "Bedtime: Is 5:30 Too Early?" right now it's such a battle in our house, I think I've lost my sense of humor on the topic.

But, that's far more about me than the book. This was a super-quick and funny read, and it was easy to recognize myself and several other parents in it. Whatever your parenting pet peeve, you'll find it in here, skewered nicely, and all in a good-looking, compact form, ready to be swallowed in one bite, or enjoyed in nibbles, like the hors d'ouevres she recommends. Which I will be serving in our book group discussion on Thursday--if only I can get the boys to nap.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Let the Record Show...

...that I poseted Menu Plan Monday last thing before bed last night at 12:11am. However, I cannot figure out how to put the east coast time on blogger. (I clicked on "pot options" and entered the correct date and time for wehre I was, but it didn't "take" on the posting itself.

Now I suppose this too is a post for today. but it feels a little like cheateing. But if anyone out there knows how to change my blog to my own time zone, that woudl be great!

Note added Tuesday: Let the record also show that I really need my contact lenses in order to type correctly! Sheesh. It was hard to find my glasses without--you know, my glasses...and I hadn't put in my lenses yet, who cares. I hadn't, and I won't make the mistake of typing without them again!

Menu Planning Monday

Phew! Made it through last week--though it was rough. Fortunately we've had a good family weekend to regroup, with lots of parent-kid time, structured and un-, so hopefully we're better prepared for this week. Also, I'm only working three days, which should help more than the choppy handoffs and half-days we cobbled together last week. Still, I'm thrilled with how last week went, both professionally, where it was a ball talking to such interesting, bright kids, and especially thrilled with the level of support from home, where my husband made a Herculean effort and some massive schedule juggles (working second and third shift, anyone?) to make it happen.

With that, the meal planning last week was a Godsend. This week isn't quite as challenging but it will still be important. Another challenge: I've kind of sworn off making separate meals for the kids. They are miserable when they are hungry, but eventually they try what we are having (at least the older one)...tonight, he discovered he loves chopped spinach with vinegar. Who knew that would be a hit with the four year old?!

Another note on the weekend: thanks to a recommendation from Lauren, we ended up with takeout from Buppha Thai, a newish Thai place on MacDade Boulevard that is lots cheaper than the Thai place that opened on Baltimore Pike. It was really quite good--and, while I was there picking up, I ran in to my friend from Your God Loves Me Too and her husband, out for a date, also from Lauren's blog. It's a small bloggity world. Her husband even provided a nice peach wheat beer for my husband to try that they'd brought along!

Finally, this week, some of the meals are from Dinner by Design, another meal assembly place similar to Super Suppers, but with the bonus that they are in Media, which is closer, and allow you to buy half-portions, which feed 2-3, which works much better for us. We started trying them tonight with the chicken kiev. It was ok, but not an out-of-the-park hit like almost everything from Super Suppers. Still, it was the first of six meals so we'll see how it goes from here. AND, our older son ate almost an entire chicken breast himself! He liked the "crumbs" (crust); and he liked the meat with the vinegar on it. (Apparently we're related.) On to this week!

Monday: leftover Thai for my husband...boys and I will be eating out somewhere. We're taking a mystery ride, either to the shore or the train museum. Either way, we'll dine on the way home.

Tuesday: Dinner By Design's Alfredo Chicken Dijon, salad

Wednesday: Sloppy Joes, maple squash, carrots & celery, leftover rice or potatoes

Thursday: leftovers or lasagne (thanks to City Mouse-Country Mouse!), salad

Friday: Big excitement: our high school (including three nieces/nephews in the marching band) is in the playoffs with the other high school in the county where our other nephews go! So it's band vs band, and taxes (ours & cousins) vs taxes (cousins and grandparents) in a big showdown. Tailgate city, folks!

Saturday: Hoping to go to Saturday Supper with our Mothers and More group. And get the boys haircuts.

But that's another story for another day. Happy week everyone!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Smart Habits...uh...Sunday--back to lowish carb

Hey, it's NaBloPoMo. Gotta hoard my topics.

Last week, I had moderate success with the earlier bedtimes. I'm embarrassed to admit that "moderate success" means I was in bed every night by 12:30, with no single-digit bedtimes. I'll take it, and I feel better too.

This week's smart habit: back on my reduced-carb diet. It's been a crazy week with work, Halloween, the last day of soccer (=crates of soft pretzels) and my scale shows it...nothing dramatic, but just not a good trend either. So I'm trying to remind myself that this is blip, not a permanent situation, and to drink my water and get myself shopping for more fruits and veggies, and more lean proteins.

So boring to read about my food issues, I'm sure, but there's my Smart Habit for the week. Wanna join in with yours? Visit here to get on board!

Saturday, November 3, 2007

As If the First Set of Photos Wasn't Bad Enough

See, NaBloPoMo has been good for me. I learned how to post pictures, turn them, and caption them. HTML coding is still a ways off but I'm doing better. The next installment of Why I Really Need to Work on this Mudroom:

Here we have The Shelves. They might actually stay, not only because they are currently attached to the walls, but because some good deep storage shelves are a good thing, especially for the literally boxes of family photos I have from my mom's house that have yet to be sorted and in many cases distributed. They are perhaps not as effective for things like books and vacuum cleaner bags. Please also note the tower of toys, some of which were due to go in to storage, and others to be given away, until the boys started coming down here and remembering how much they liked these particular toys once they were pulled from the overwhelming piles in the playroom. Sigh. At least it keeps them busy while I (ahem) blog about the mess in here.

And, of course, my computer desk. This is where the blogging magic happens, people. Hard to believe I can even find the keyboard.

So. Enough blogging about it and more getting down to it. Though it really has been a great learning experience to figure out how to add pictures, etc. Hopefully there will be some "progress" pictures here sooner rather than later!

Friday, November 2, 2007

All Souls Day Bloghopping

Happy All Souls Day, everyone! When I walked in to work today, MeCHA had a fabulous Day of the Dead display out, which reminded me of one of my favorite NPR commentaries ever, in Halloween of 2001. The speaker talked of how in Mexican and other cultures, they bring food for the deceased at this celebration. She spoke of how in memory of the 9/11 victims, she would be setting out rice, which is as close to a universal food as there is. It spoke to me, of course, on several levels, but mostly because my mother had also died that month, and so many of my mother's memories were tied up with food also. So since then, when I have gone to the cemetary, I have tended to bring pretzels or chocolate chip cookies instead of flowers. I figure at least they feed the squirrels instead of ending up in a landfill.

Meanwhile, it's interesting to listen to it again, in finding it for this post, and seeing what a teeny piece of the original I actually remembered. Yet of the hundreds of news stories I've heard since 2001, that one stuck with me enough to seek it out seven years later. I thank Susan Straight from here in the blogosphere for such a moving piece. (Who knew she had novels? The internet is a wonderful thing. I'll have to put them on my list. Right there with all the other 58 books on my list.)

In other bloggy gems, for those of you who are Catholic, don't miss my friend Rocco's post, To Be A Saint, in honor of the Holy Day of Obligation (oops) yesterday. It's powerful and inspiring and humbling all at once.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

It's A Good Thing My Husband Doesn't Read My Blog

Oh, readers, those of you who know me in real life know far too well that I am a mess. I hang on to paper that I should be recycling; I delay decisions, which leads to piles, which leads to further delays when I can't find all the information I've collected regarding a decision. It is The #1 bad habit of my adult life and one I am desperate not to pass on to my boys.

Saddest of all? I have married one of the neatest men in the world. Most women would cry in gratitude to be married to someone who is as neat, tidy, thoughtful, and helpful around the house as he is. And I do tell him every day how grateful I am, since my actions do not necessarily support this. I know he cringes at the piles. And he does a great job trying to pass down his good habits and training to the boys. But I know it kills him to see all the clutter around the house.

Our worst offending room? I'd have to say it's the mudroom. Which is also the computer room. And the library. This lack of defined purpose is one problem. Inappropriate furniture is another. It has become storage space, dumping ground, and paper holding bin for far too long. And this month, that changes.

It's a good reason my husband doesn't read this blog because he would shrivel of embarrassment to see the horrendous mess of our room out there for the world to see. But I am partly figuring that since most of the 12 of you who read this have been to our house, you have seen this room, though perhaps not quite this bad, so it's not really news to most people.

Now, the 30-Day Organizational Challenge info is here and here; there are two categories, small space (like a closet or cabinet) and large space (like my mudroom). I would love to add my linen closet to this but I think I have all I can handle with my mudroom. So without further ado, the incredibly embarrassing "before" pictures. With enormous hope for better "after"s. And I'm sorry to say there are more photos of this mess but that's all I can figure out how to upload for now!

If this photo had a theme, it would be Teetering. Love the leaning tower of crapola. Note the lapdesk, still in box, that was supposed to be donated to the jumble sale that was last week, balanced precariously on the file box that holds who knows what? Could be house decor inspiration, could be boys medical records. Hard to tell. And then there's the stack of plastic buttons and the piles on the shelves.

Different angle of the bookshelves. Note the present from a February birthday, and the mess that is the software since my boys are attracted to anything that looks like it might be a DVD.

The shelves here are too cluttered but otherwise ok; the glory that I didn't capture from this angle is all the stuff blocking the bottom shelves. The Disney trip scrapbook stuff is in the corner; there are boxes of things to go to the post office to be returned; note the graduation robe in a basket that need to go to my new work office sometime soon. But clearly my favorite piece: the high chair I bought for $1 at the Presbyterian Church Fair several years ago to lend to friends with babies who came home to visit parents who had cleaned out their baby stuff. Of course, since I was among the last of my friends to have babies (albeit in a decent cohort of us), almost everyone's kids are out of high chairs by now...and those with kids in high chairs have so many older siblings to that child that they no longer travel to the grandparents'!

I'm fond of the sideboard and all its photos, but it has really outlived its usefulness, and in that spot, it takes up space I need for other things (clearly!). And the banner that proudly hung in my dorm room for four years can be re-retired now. When we moved in, I was thrilled to have a place to show off my school paraphenelia, but I'm over it now, and I need the vertical storage space. The lamp, however, stays. Sentimental value. Though she may not stay in this room. We'll see.

And how sad, dear readers, that this isn't even all the mess! But it gives a good sense of the scope of the project. Send good, organized vibrations and happy thoughts my way, please...