Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas station identification

Back in October I posted my little "station identification" and here's a second installment. Faith and prayer have been on my mind again because of Christmas, which somehow this year has been more quiet yet meaningful to me than ever before.

Tomorrow my mom is teaching a lesson based on the very talk that inspired me, and having read my post, she asked if I would put my thoughts down into something she could share with the women in her class. It's not often I put my testimony in writing, but it came together well, and I thought I'd share it here:

At the time of General Conference in October, I had recently committed to myself to work on several areas of personal weakness. For a few weeks I had been making an earnest effort to improve, and had been trying to pray daily for help to do so. In fact, praying every day was something I have always struggled with, and while at first it seemed ironic to pray for help to remember to pray, I found when I humbled myself and asked for that help, I received "reminder" promptings and was blessed to find time and energy to follow through.

So when I heard Elder Bednar's talk on prayer, the topic was already on my mind and I felt as if his words were directed straight to my heart. The idea that my prayers--morning, evening, and throughout the day--are interconnected and thus powerful to bring the Lord's blessings into my life, resonated in me and gave me faith that with the Lord's help I could forge my weaknesses into strengths.

I turned to my prayers with renewed energy, and while I still struggled to pray more than once a day, I could tell it was getting easier to be consistent, and I knew the Lord's grace was compensating for my failings. I began to see incremental but tangible improvement in the areas where I was working to repent, and my prayers were answered as I was blessed with patience for myself and others, resources were brought to me to help and strengthen me, and I began to make the changes I needed to learn, grow and become better.

I know this is just the beginning, because my weaknesses will take a lifetime of repentence to master, but I am already feeling so much more peace and hopefulness, and above all a sense that those most challenging burdens have been lightened as I wrestle to overcome them. I know this is only possible through the infinite mercy of a loving God who desires for me to return to be with Him someday, and offers the power to me each day to do what I must do to look forward with a perfect brightness of hope to that ultimate goal.

I'm grateful for a living prophet and apostles who carry the good news of the gospel to us, bearing witness of its infinite truth and saving power. I am grateful for a compassionate, forgiving Savior who intercedes for me and offers to take away my burdens if I have faith in Him and act on that faith. And I am so grateful for the blessing of being able to pray to a loving, all-knowing Father in Heaven who is just waiting to bless me, waiting for me to ask for an understanding of His will in my life.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Bling, baby

This year I let the kids decorate the tree. Audrey got a little sidetracked.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Yay... and yay

After last weekend I finally kicked the nasty bug that had been hanging on since before Thanksgiving. Woohoo!

Since then I've been baking, baking, baking. First it was Nanaimo bars, which are destined for parts distant in Canada and Germany, because they keep well for a long time.

Then last night it was sugar cookies shaped like Christmas trees and stars for my Activity Day girls from church to decorate at our activity this afternoon. Each girl got a plate of cookies to take home to her family, and the rest we are sending (along with handmade Christmas cards) to a young lady who just left for a mission. She'll get to South Carolina early next week, and I thought it would be nice to have a box of goodies waiting for her when she arrived.

Tomorrow I'm baking a batch of sugar-free pumpkin bread for a friend with diabetes... and some for me, too, because through all of this baking I've not eaten any of the goodies.

I know I haven't said much about it, but Overeaters Anonymous has been a great blessing to me in the last three months. I've only just begun my journey of recovery, but already I can see a huge shift in my attitude about myself, my life, God, everything. The transformation of my outer self is becoming very evident as my clothes get looser, but it's nothing compared to the spiritual transformation of letting go of pain, resentment and addiction—and replacing them with serenity, love, and sanity.

It's a tremendous gift (and a timely one) to have peace. Peace on earth, good will to all men. Peace, one day at a time.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

So sick

Not that I've been the most consistent blogger for, say, ever since I've been blogging, but if it seems like I've fallen off the planet (again) and am failing to return phone calls and emails, this time it's because I've had a nasty sore-throat-upper-respiratory-sinus-cold-flu-thing off and on for the last three weeks. Every time I think I'm getting better, it drags on and then takes a turn for the worse. Jim and the kids have all had variations on the same creeping crud, but now it's just me and Audrey hacking and sniffling and oozing and aching.

I'm sick enough that I've only been to church once in the last three Sundays. Sick enough that I've run us out of NyQuil (and our DayQuil will be gone tomorrow). Sick enough that last night Jim got drive-thru dinner and even made a special trip to Taco Del Mar for my fish tacos and sinus-clearing pico de gallo. Sick enough that today (after being up with Audrey seven times last night) I slept in until 9 a.m. and let Jimmy play Wii all day long (okay, I did have him get dressed, make his bed, and stop to eat meals), so you know it must be bad.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Yet another reason...

...I love living here in Smalltown, WA: today we were driving up the street to my mother-in-law's house and passed Santa behind the wheel of a bright red Mazda Miata all decked out with garlands, a wreath, and even lights in the wheel wells. He had the top down, of course, while driving about 15 mph in the parking lane with his hazard lights blinking and waving to everyone who passed him—including my two extremely delighted children. Audrey even waved back (one of her first waves ever)!

This is the same Santa we ran into two years ago in front of the local Bimart. He handed a saucer-eyed Jimmy his very own shiny, wrapped gift about the size of a shoe-box and then was off in his Miata to spread more holiday cheer. Being new transplants from the big scary city, Jim and I confiscated the present, handling it gingerly and when we got inside Bimart, we asked one of the cashiers if she knew anything about this suspicious Santa character giving away gifts out front.

She told us about a wonderful man named Bill Amo. Thanks, Bill, for helping my kids to believe in Santa just a little bit longer.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Goodbye, ghetto

For almost a year now, we've been planning to get a new couch. Our old sofa—once contemporary, comfortable and beige, and the first piece of new, non-hand-me-down furniture Jim and I purchased after we were married—had been through almost thirteen years, two cats, and two kids, and for the last few years had been hiding under various throws to disguise its abject state of discoloration and disrepair. It was definitely time to trade up. We scoured the few furniture stores in Yakima, even checked around when we happened to be over in Seattle, but all the couches we liked were either too big for our living room or too expensive. So we waited.

We had pretty much given up and resigned ourselves to a few more years with the ghetto couch, and then on Black Friday, Jim and Jimmy went on a shopping excursion to a local store. Jim found an $800 couch on sale for $450—nothing fancy, but it fit both our living room and our budget, and the microfiber upholstery looked sturdy enough to stand up to both children and cats.

So now the old sofa is out in the back yard until Jim can take it to the dump next Saturday, and we're sinking into the lap of luxury on our new couch. It's nice and cushy, but best of all, it's brown. Which isn't necessarily my personal favorite color, but 9 out of 10 parents surveyed agree: brown furniture is best for hiding the countless spills, scuffs and stains certain to be inflicted by a growing family.

Not that I'm lifting the ban on drinking juice while sitting on the couch.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Tightwad tuesday: draft dodging

Eliminate door drafts. Install weather stripping around doors that open to the outside. If you have a large crack or gap underneath a door, you can easily (and inexpensively) block the draft by filling a leg of an old pair of tights with sand or rice until it is long enough to stretch across the width of the door way, and then cutting and tying it off with a knot. Or if you really want to be all fancy-schmancy, get some fabric that coordinates with your home's decor (fleece or terrycloth from an old towel would work nicely), sew a tube the length of your door and about as big around as your arm, fill it with rice or sand, and tie off each end with a cheerful ribbon.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Learning can be fun?

Last Tuesday we took a field trip with our homeschool group to the Pacific Science Center. Here are a few snaps...

Oh, and did I mention the work study program is an integral part of our homeschool curriculum? I believe in putting my kids to work as young as possible...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Tightwad tuesday: big buckets of love

Recycle used industrial buckets and use them to store dry goods: sugar, flour, salt, rice, wheat, long-term food storage, pet food or whatever else is hanging around the house that needs protection from moisture and pests. One caveat: do not use a bucket that has formerly contained any kind of detergent, paint or other chemical; stick to food-grade buckets.

Food-grade buckets are available at most supermarkets, especially those with in-store bakeries. Just go up to the bakery counter and ask if they have any empty frosting buckets or other industrial buckets they no longer need. (The two buckets pictured above actually held eggs. Go figure.) Be sure to get the lids, too, if they will be used to store food. Lidless buckets are also useful; they make great wastebaskets or containers for gardening.

Take the buckets home and give them a thorough scrubbing with hot water and a bleach-based product. They stack nicely and are easy to label and relabel (I like to use masking tape and a Sharpie to put contents and date on each bucket).

This may very well be my favorite tightwad tip ever because I love getting things free, especially things that I use all the time. Free. It feels good just to say it.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Monday, October 27, 2008

If you think...

...I've been ignoring my blog and my Facebook page, you're absolutely right. Real life has taken over the front seat and blogging has been kicked to the curb. For now.

Just to reward your patience, here are some snapshots from our yearly outing to the Roslyn harvest festival. You can check out the snaps from last year's festival if you want to see how much Jimmy and Audrey have changed this year.

Here's a little recap of what's new with us in October:

Audrey: walking is now her preferred method of transit. She talks constantly—still mostly jabbering, but with a few words like "banana", "kitty", "Mommy", and "Daddy" mixed in. Oh, and she just gave up her morning nap this week, so we're figuring out how to readjust our schedule accordingly.

Jimmy: after taking Columbia Virtual Academy's placement testing, we determined he's between first and second grade in both reading and math, but technically he's enrolled in kindergarten so we don't have to log twenty hours of teaching per week (the state requirement is 10 hours of instruction per week for kindergarten, and at first grade it bumps up to twenty). Homeschool is more work and more fun than both Jimmy and I expected; right now we're studying vocabulary for colors in Spanish, animals in science, vowels and consonants, and writing numbers from 100 to 200.

Jim: got a new job. We're ecstatic because he will soon have a four-block, five-minute walking commute (instead of driving forty-five minutes each way on roads that are very icy in the winter), better benefits, and a higher salary (not to mention what we'll be saving on gasoline!)

Me: got a new haircut and started going to Overeaters Anonymous. I've always had a rather skeptical-bordering-on-derisive view of twelve-step programs, but I'm over that. After just one month, it's already been life-changing. And yes, it is partially to blame for my scaled-back blogging, but I don't necessarily think that's a bad thing.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Station identification

You've been warned in my last post; I'm in an introspective frame of mind. So when I say I'm going to pause for station identification, I mean I'm going to take a post to talk about who I am and what I believe. If you'd rather run for a bathroom break or check what's on another channel, feel free. I'll get back to my regular programming, but not just yet.

I'm Mormon, and although I don't bring it up often in this blog, my faith is a big part of who I am. Twice a year, Mormon leaders broadcast a General Conference via satellite for church members around the globe. Back when we first moved here and Jim was trying to talk me into switching from cable to sattelite dish television, being able to watch the conference on television was his big selling point. It worked. The first weekend of each April and October, I'm glued to our television for all of the sessions; I even recorded it on our DVR while I was at Jimmy's soccer game yesterday morning so I could watch it later. Each conference, I come away with something different, based on the talks given and what I've gotten out of them. This conference it's all about prayer.

I mentioned in my last post that this coming year I'm going to be working on some things I've been putting off and struggling with, and one of those things is prayer. For several months now I've been praying more often, asking for strength in areas I feel weak, but just in the last two weeks, I've been making a concerted effort to pray every day, no mean feat for me. What's amazing is, as I've been working to do better myself, I've had several opportunities to teach my son about the power of prayer, that his prayers are heard and answered. Just in the last two days, I've seen four separate instances where he has prayed, received a specific answer, and I've been able to talk with him to identify the answer and that it came to him from God. Each time we then prayed and thanked Heavenly Father for answering our prayers.

I think if our planet could harness the power of faith in a five-year-old's prayer, we could end hunger, achieve world peace, balance economies, and probably even stop global warming. Lack of faith is really a grown up problem. I'm getting used to being schooled by my kids.

One of my favorite talks from this weekend's conference was by Elder David A. Bednar, who is the junior member of the Mormon church's Quorum of Twelve Apostles. As I listened to his eloquent talk, it pierced my heart and seemed directed at the very core of what I'm trying to do with my life right at this moment. He touched on the topics of both prayer and gratitude, and of the former, he said this:

"...meaningful morning and evening prayers are linked to and are a continuation of each other.

"Please consider this example: there may be things in our character, in our behavior or concerning our spiritual growth about which we need to counsel with Heavenly Father in morning prayer. After expressing appropriate thanks for blessings recieved, we plead for understanding, direction, and for help to do the things we cannot do in our own strength alone.

"For example, as we pray we might reflect on those occasions when we have spoken harshly or inappropriately to those we love the most; recognize that we know better than this but we do not always act in accordance with what we know; express remorse for our weaknesses and for not putting off the natural man more earnestly; determine to pattern our own life after the Savior more completely; and plead for greater strength to do and to become better. Such a prayer is a key part of the spiritual preparation for our day. Then during the course of the day, we keep a prayer in our heart for continued assistance and guidance, even as Alma suggested: 'Let all thy thoughts be directed unto the Lord.'

"We notice during this particular day that there are occasions where normally we would have a tendancy to speak harshly, and we do not. Or we might be inclined to anger, but we are not. We discern heavenly help and strength, and humbly recognize answers to our prayer, even in that moment of recognition we offer a silent prayer of gratitude. At the end of our day, we kneel again and report back to our Father. We review the events of the day and express heartfelt thanks for the blessings and the help we received. We repent, and with the assistance of the Spirit of the Lord, identify ways we can do and become better tomorrow.

"Thus, brothers and sisters, our evening prayer builds upon and is a continuation of our morning prayer, and our evening prayer also is a preparation for meaningful morning prayer. Morning and evening prayers, and all the prayers in between, are not unrelated, discrete events. Rather, they are linked together, each day, and across days, weeks, months and even years. This is, in part, how we fulfill the scriptural admonition to pray always."

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Countdown to thirty-nine

That's right: a week from today I hit the big 3-9. Which feels like more than just the runner up for a major milestone, because I'll have less than a year to think about what it means to be forty before it smacks me across the head.

When I hit my last decade marker, I was depressed because I hadn't reached some important goals I hoped to accomplish by that point: getting my bachelor's degree and starting our family topped the list. Fortunately, Jim's birthday present to me was a pair of diamond solitaire earrings, which immediately yanked me back from the brink of despair because, hey, who needs some lousy piece of paper to hang on your wall when you have diamonds, right?

My thirties have had a great run. I did get my degree. I swam, biked and ran a triathlon. I learned (and forgot a lot of) Spanish. I traveled to Mexico. Twice. I read several hundred books. I gave birth to two wonderful children. And I'm still married to the same sensitive, intelligent, generous guy with great taste in jewelry. Oh, and handsome. Did I mention handsome?

I've been pretty introspective about it over the last couple weeks, because I want to be at peace with being forty, which means this is the year to get just a few more things done before the decade ends. I've got some big things in the works, too. Things I've been needing to do, putting off, struggling with. But I can feel it: this is the year.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Housekeeping and safety

This post might not be about what you'd think from the title. I've made a few little "housekeeping" changes to my layout: cleaned up some buttons I'm not using while I take a hiatus from writing poetry (more on that in some other post, some other day); got rid of my blogroll and replaced it with a "followers" list; deleted the part in my profile about which town I live in. This was after reading an excellent post about blog safety by my good friend Aubrey. Which is just the segue I needed to transition from housekeeping into safety...

Recently Aubrey had a truly horrific experience with her blog and some very benign pictures she had posted of herself being viewed by an unintended and unwanted audience. She had an unfortunate crash-course in blog safety, and has generously passed on what she learned. It's definitely worth a read.

The reason I replaced my blogroll with a followers list is to safeguard the online privacy of my family and friends whose blogs I follow. Instead of using a blogroll to see when you update your blogs, I'm now doing it from the privacy of my dashboard. And I would request a favor of any of you who have me on your blogroll, if I may: if you have a link to my blog which uses my first and/or last name, please change it to "chicklegirl." I'd be ever so grateful.

I would strongly encourage any of you aforementioned friends and family who have used your first and/or last names as well as any information about where you live (like pictures of your house with the address showing, etc.) on your blogs to discontinue doing so. One of my friends who is a writer uses her full name on her blog to establish a professional reputation, but she is otherwise careful to omit any other distinguishing characteristics that would enable identity theft or stalking.

It may seem like a pain to go to all the trouble to remove information if you've been posting it on your blog. Especially if you've been doing it for a while. But it's worth every effort to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Better safe than sorry.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Tightwad tuesday: take note

With the price of gasoline hiking ever upward, the cost of food will continue to follow. Keep tabs on the lowest prices by making a price comparison notebook.

Write down the costs for items you use often and compare between different stores, as well as between different brands within the same store. This will also help you be sure you're truly getting a good deal when something goes on "sale", because some brands are still cheaper at their regular price than other brands at a "sale" price.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Jimmy got game

At the risk of seeming too much the doting soccer mom, I'm excited to report that Jimmy scored his first goal today. Sadly, I missed this historic event because I was home mowing the lawn.

Thank goodness for camcorders and husbands who are willing to trade off taxi duty. You can get all the game day commentary and video highlights (complete with rockin' soundtrack) on Jim's blog.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Summer in a jar

Every year at the beginning of September, my mother-in-law heads to her favorite orchard in Wenatchee to buy peaches. She grew up there and has known the owner for decades. His peaches are always lovely: firm but tender, unblemished, and the flavor is... well, amazing.

Usually Jim and I have her pick up a 30-pound box for us, which will yield about 18 quarts of canned peaches. Last year I was still recouping from Audrey's birth so I didn't can any peaches, but this year we ordered two boxes.

I used to borrowed my mom's kettle whenever I was canning, but about five years ago I invested in a nice big one of my own that can process nine quarts at a time. Jim and I spent the last two evenings in the kitchen with our oscillating fan cranked up to high and the back door open to let out some of the steam emitted from the kettle.

For me canning is always about bonding with family and sharing skills. I learned how to can from my mom, who put away fruit and vegetables every year when I was little. My dad taught me the nifty trick of using a table knife to slide the fruit halves through the neck of each jar so that they stay round side up and form orderly nested stacks. Jim learned about canning from his mom, and always pitches in. This year Jimmy was old enough to start helping, and was very proud about learning how to cut the peaches in half and then peel off the skin. The fruit will be that much sweeter when we eat it because we worked together.

I woke up sore and stiff this morning, and it was only with much creaking that I managed to extract myself from bed. But how wonderful to come down into the kitchen for breakfast and see the neat rows gleaming in the early morning light, like so many jars of bottled sunshine.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Game day

We decided to sign Jimmy up for soccer this fall. Back in March, during the sign up period, he was adamantly opposed to playing, but we took a chance and signed up anyway. Over the last few months we've been talking it up and gradually he has warmed to the idea. It helped that his cousins Maddy and Olivia also play and that they got him a new ball for his birthday.

A week ago Wednesday was his first practice, and then the first games were held jamboree-style last Saturday. The top two photos are from pre-game warm up that day, and the bottom photo and video are from today's games.

Both last week and this week, his favorite refrain in the middle of practice has been, "Mom, I'm too warm. I'm tired. I need a drink. I need to rest." But after a little pep-talk from his dad and lots of encouragement during the game, he's started to hustle after the ball and suck it up when he gets "tired". Check out his excellent save at the end of the video clip!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Tightwad tuesday: cool to be cheap

Seems like lately it's getting more hip to be a tightwad (or so I've been reading). I'm sure that has much to do with thrift being compatible with conserving natural resources and our society's rabid consumerism being the ultimate anti-green. Trendy or no, it's always a good time to jump on the bandwagon and get thrifty, so if you haven't yet, check out these "fabulous freebies" and try a few of them.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Thursday, September 04, 2008


Ah, where did the last year go?

For grandmas and other far-away relatives: a video clip of birthday cake will be forthcoming.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008


Not to be confused with Mod Podge, because hodgepodge refers to a motley assortment of ideas or things, whereas Mod Podge is an abbreviation for the "Modern Decoupage" craft glue invented by Jan Whetstone in the 1960s.

I've been looking back at my blog and realizing it looks rather like I fell off the planet (other than writing a dumb post about J.Lo), and honestly I've felt that way lately. The last month has been a blur: sewing a baby quilt, taking dinner in to a friend who's a new mom, sewing a blouse, going to my 20 year reunion, teaching five pre-teen girls to make freezer jam, getting really sick during the same week Audrey cut four molars, writing an amazing poem, sewing a green and white polka-dot baby dress to enter in the the county fair, taking a mini-family-vacay to the Pacific Science Center, riding the ferris wheel at the fair, Audrey's first birthday, cleaning house to get ready for out-of-town company and a birthday party, baking two batches of cupcakes (because the first ones all collapsed flat right out of the oven) and finally, yesterday, Jimmy's first day of kindergarten.

Did I mention we're homeschooling? And Jimmy has his first soccer practice in less than an hour? And Audrey has not had (and probably at this point will not have) an afternoon nap? And even though according to the calendar we still have 18 days of summer, it's already fall here in Ellensburg but that's okay because fall is my favorite season? And yesterday I found out Jimmy has been peeing in the bathtub because he's afraid of the noise the toilet makes when it flushes? And I'm having a really excellent hair day?

It's all good. It's a hodge-podge and it's mine and I love life.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Jenny from the bike

I recently started participating in a "confession Tuesday" exercise with some other poets, based on the idea that confessional writing is helpful in the poetic process. The jury is still out (at least for me and my poetry), but I have actually started to enjoy unburdening myself and airing some of my sillier quirks and foibles in the relative anonymity of the internet. Last week I confessed something for which I get a lot of well-deserved grief from Jim: I'm a closet J.Lo fan.

It's still a bit embarrassing for me to admit in the light of day and the presence of other sentient life. So I feel the need to qualify it by saying I was more a fan of J.Lo when she was still Jennifer Lopez. Back when she starred in Out of Sight and inspired women everywhere to envy her making out with George Clooney in a bathtub. Back when she had not yet merged into the media circus that was Bennifer. Back when she didn't have to write a song about how she's "real". Back when she wasn't going global with her own lines of perfume, yoga gear, and faux-fur undies. (Although I have to admit I thought "Glow" smelled really good.)

For the last few years I've kept my distance: watched her romantic comedies, listened to "Let's Get Loud" on my workout playlist, but generally steered clear of reading anything about her. A few weeks back I happened to see pictures on of post-partem J.Lo looking trim in her bikini and thought, "Good for you, girl." Taking off pregnancy weight can be tough, so more power to her. Then this morning I saw another article on, this time about how she was training for a triathlon and had a blog about it. Sorry, but if you gotta have an entourage of makeup artists touching you up for a photo shoot after a training session... that's just not keepin' it real.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Tightwad tuesday: best when fresh

Buy fresh fruits and vegetables at their peak season, when prices are usually lowest. Here's a handy guide (for produce grown in North America):

And while it won't necessarily save you money, shopping at local farmers' markets is a great way to make sure you're getting the freshest, most delicious produce, while supporting local growers.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Lego love

When I asked Jimmy who he made this for, he said, "Audrey... and you and Dad and the kitties... to show love for everybody."


Gotta appreciate a male who's not afraid to express his feelings. And in such an artistic way.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Tightwad tuesday: go veggie

Have a vegetarian dinner once (or more) a week to cut back on meat costs on your grocery bill.

Monday, July 28, 2008

My favorite neighbor

Back in college I got a lot of flack from my roomies because around the house I would occasionally burst into song, and it was always:

It's a beautiful day in this neighborhood
A beautiful day for a neighbor
Would you be mine
Could you be mine
It's a neighborly day in this beauty wood
A neighborly day for a beauty
Would you be mine
Could you be mine
I've always wanted to have a neighbor just like you
I've always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you
So, let's make the most of this beautiful day
Since we're together we might as well say
Would you be mine, could you be mine
Won't you be my neighbor
Won't you please, won't you please
Please won't you be my neighbor?

I knew all the lyrics by heart and could even sing it on key. No mean feat for me. When my birthday rolled around, they gave me a copy of You Are Special as a joke. I loved it.

This morning Jim emailed me a link to an article about Mr. Rogers on CNN, and it plastered a big goofy grin on my face. Which is still there.

He was and is my favorite television personality because when I was four, I believed he could talk to me through the TV set. As in, I could ask him questions and he would tell me the answers. Yeah, I know. I outgrew that belief within months but not the magic of curiosity, optimism and kindness Fred Rogers embodies for me. It's gratifying now to see how timeless his simple but powerful messages still are, how my own kids love him as much as I did.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Tightwad tuesday: fix it yourself

Fix things that are broken. The public library offers many books teaching how to do basic “handy man” tasks like repairing loose furniture legs, fixing leaky faucets and toilets that run, and replacing plugs on electrical cords. My favorite is Dare to Repair: A Do-it-Herself Guide to Fixing (Almost) Anything in the Home, by Julie Sussman and Stepanie Glakas-Tenet. Try fixing appliances yourself before calling a costly repairman; many companies have 800 numbers you can call to talk to a service person.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Walk don't run

This morning I did my first walking-instead-of-running workout. Maybe I shouldn't have gone to the middle school track two blocks from my house where I used to run, but I like being able to keep track of how far I've gone. It was a good workout; I walked four miles, at just under a four MPH pace. But I couldn't help feeling a little wistful, in spite of the endorphins.

It probably didn't help having to try not to envy the two college boys who lapped me repeatedly with their easy, loping sprint. I just had to keep reminding myself they would have lapped me even if I had been running.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Getting old bites

I know I'm not even forty, but lately I've been feeling old. I first developed arthritis in my thumbs in 2001, during my last year of college, in which I spent insane amounts of time on my computer typing research papers (and apparently hitting the space bar far too often). For some reason, it disappeared during both my pregancies—there seems to be some evidence the pregancy hormone relaxin alleviates arthritis pain—and returned within a few months after.

Since December I've been feeling arthritis in my hips as well as my hands, but just in the last few weeks it's become extremely painful after I run. In training for the triathlon I was planning to do at the end of August, my runs are up to almost six miles, but lately it takes me two or three days to stop feeling joint pain after I run, even when I take large doses of ibuprofen (as suggested by my doctor) both before and after. The long recovery time has effected being able to do my regular workouts, and I've started to worry the pain could be indicative of greater problems.

On Thursday I got in touch with the nurse at my doctor's office and she confirmed what I feared: if I continue to run and cause pain, I'm doing irreparable damage to my hip joints. It devastated me to hear it, because I love running, and I was really excited to do another triathlon. I've been in a bit of a funk for the past couple days as I've tried to process this information, create a new mindset about working out (I can still swim and bike as before because of the low-impact nature of those sports), and move forward with a positive attitude. I'm also holding out with a faint hope that if I drop a significant amount of weight, it would alleviate the strain on my hips and maybe I could run again. But I'm not counting on it. In the meantime, I'm so very grateful I have come to enjoy biking and swimming and have already developed a fair amount of endurance in both. I'm also thinking it's time to investigate yoga and take advantage of the increased flexibility and strength it offers.

I'm realizing more and more how much I've taken my body for granted and been cavalier about my health and fitness. Those days are over.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Tightwad tuesday: re-bag

In addition to reusing plastic shopping bags, you can also save money by washing out and reusing sturdy zip-lock bags. Be sure to wash them thoroughly with hot, soapy water and do not reuse bags that contained meat. These bags are especially useful for moms who need to change diapers away from home. Keep a stash of them in your diaper bag or purse to dispose of smelly diapers or store soiled clothes.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Raspberry pie

On Wednesday I got a call from a friend who has a U-pick berry patch, asking if I was interested in fresh raspberries for $4 a quart. It sounded like a fun adventure for Jimmy, so on Friday afternoon, I packed up the kids and drove down to Mary's place, just inside the Yakima River Canyon. I was surprised at the longevity of Jimmy's enthusiasm, especially considering how hot it was. He ate a lot of what he picked, but quite a few berries made it into his bucket and between the two of us we had about a quart and a third before he said, "Mom, I think I'm done now."

Yesterday morning when I got home from my bike ride, I rifled through my collection of tried and true recipes and found my favorite one for raspberry pie. Jimmy had picked a few berries that were just this side of ripe, and it gave the pie a nice, tangy flavor. Oh, and the recipe calls for pastry for a double crust pie. I always use Martha Stewart's pate brisee recipe, because regardless of her questionable ethics when it comes to the stock market, the woman knows pie crust.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008


Along a short stretch of 105
that slows to 35
is a small town aptly named
whose few houses retreat
behind walls of leafy green
where somnambulant silver
suffuses through silent mist
suspended above crimson stained bogs
moss draped twisted thickets
open onto golden festoons of
scotch broom scattered among
brown grass crowned dunes
gradually give way to
flotsam strewn beach reaching
for crushing embrace of
white crested waves but
underneath all is gray.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Tightwad tuesday: shop ads

Get familiar with ad cycles at your local grocers. You can do this by checking advertisements in the Sunday paper or by going to the grocery stores’ websites. Then shop the ads to decide where you will buy what. The websites for just a few local and regional supermarkets here in Washington:

Monday, July 07, 2008


Every four years, during the year of the presidential election, my mom's family has a reunion over the Fourth of July weekend. We always gather in the tiny cranberry-growing community of Grayland out on the Washington coast.

In the early 1900s, my mom's grandparents, who were itinerant ministers, settled in Grayland. As their family grew, three of their four sons and their one daughter moved away. My mom and her family lived there until the early 1960s, when my grandfather got a job with the US Postal Service in Seattle. Her Uncle Walt, now in his 80s, still lives there, but his two sons David and Francis have taken over his cranberry farm.

When I was little, we used to spend Thanksgivings with Uncle Walt, Aunt Chris, David, Francis, their sister Anne, and lots of other family and friends who gathered in their home. As the oldest in my family, I got the special privilege of riding down with my grandfather and grandmother the night before in their station wagon with the fake wood paneling on the sides. Sometimes (if I had been extra well-behaved) we would stop at McDonald's in Aberdeen for milkshakes.

Grayland was always a magical place for me. Lying awake in Anne's bedroom, hearing the muffled roar of the surf pounding the shore a mile away, I was in another world. Part of it was getting away by myself, part of it was the holiday excitement, but mostly it was the ocean. I enjoyed dinner, visiting with cousins, playing on a zipline in the woods behind the house, but always in the back of my mind, I was waiting for the ocean. Usually we'd bundle up and drive to the beach after we were full of turkey, mashed potatoes, and Aunt Chris's wonderful pies. My parents would turn the five of us loose to run off all our pent up energy looking for sand dollars, moonstones, and glass fishing floats, before herding us into the car for the long drive back to Seattle. It was like heaven, wandering between the gray sky and the gray sand, with the wind and sometimes rain cutting through my coat. It never bothered me; I combed sandy expanses, loaded my pockets with exotic finds to spirit back home.

I think Grayland was the place that made me love the ocean, and I've secretly felt I could never stand to live more than a day's drive from it. Something about it goes down to my core, makes me feel more powerful, alive, wild. When I was landlocked during college in Utah, I always felt vaguely unsettled. Especially when I learned to scuba dive in a small municipal pool; that felt wrong on so many levels.

Last Friday morning Jim and I wrestled our own (much smaller) herd into the car and headed to Grayland. It was wonderful seeing my parents and siblings, as well as reconnecting with extended family who I hadn't seen since the last reunion, when Jimmy was just a toddler. But one of my favorite parts of the whole weekend? The last afternoon, right before we left, as I watched Jimmy discover the ocean for himself. When I asked him if he liked the ocean while we were beachcombing, he got a huge grin and a distinct twinkle in his eyes as he enthused, "Oh, yeah!"

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Sally bibs: part 2

My house has been languishing in disarray since I got over my nasty cold, and I finally jolted myself into the necessity of cleaning it by inviting friends over for dinner. Sad but true, the thought of company is what always gets me motivated to deal with dirt and clutter. But I'm finally learning to go with what works for me, so I foresee a lot of dinner parties in my future. Probably for the rest of my natural life.

Now that my dining room table is all cleared off, I had room to spread out my unfinished Sally bib project. In part 1, I prepped all the materials, and now it's time to fire up ole Gertie and get down to sewing.

Sewing and Finishing

Step 1: To make a strip of seam binding long enough to go around the outside of the bib, you will need to take two shorter strips and sew them together. Find two strips with slanted edges that fit together. Then line them up, right sides together, as shown above. Note how the points are not matched up but instead overlap and extend about a half inch. This is so that when you sew them together with a 1/2" allowance, the seam will lie exactly where the edges intersect.

Lay the pinned sections of binding on the throat plate of the sewing machine and line up the needle in the point of the "V" where the sections intersect. Set the sewing machine to about seven or eight stitches per inch (this amount of stitches per inch is referred to as "basting"). Baste in a straight line to the point of the inverted "V" on the opposite edge of the binding.

After the sections are basted together, clip the seam allowance down to 1/8", then fold the seam binding back into its creases and press the area where it was joined.

Step 2: Pin the seam binding (wrong side out) to the outside edge of the bib except for the curve around the neck hole. Gently stretch the binding to curve around the curved edges of the bib. Trim the ends of the binding so they are flush with the edges of the neck hole.

Using the first ironed crease in from the edge as a guide (approximately 1/2" seam allowance), baste the seam binding to the bib.

Now, fold the seam binding over the raw edge of the bib and on the unsewn side, tuck the raw edge of the binding under along the fold and match up the edge with the stitches of the seam where the binding was sewn to the bib. Pin in place, stretching to ease the binding around curved edges.

Stitch the binding down as close to the edge as possible, about 1/16" to 1/8".

Step 3: Pin binding to the neck hole of the bib, leaving 9"-long tails at the end on each side, as shown above. Depending on how long your binding is, you may have to sew two more sections together, as shown above in Step 1.

Trim off the ends of the tails so they are square.

Laying open the middle crease in the seam binding, fold over a small allowance (about 1/4"), as shown above on the right. Then pin shut, as shown on the left.

Position the needle in the middle of the tail section, about 1/8" from the edge, as shown above. Reverse stitch to the top (folded) edge. Shift to forward stitching and baste to about 1/8" from the bottom (open) edge.

Making sure that the needle is in the downward position, completely piercing the fabric, lift the presser foot, and rotate the fabric 45 degrees, so that the bottom edge is now lined up to be sewn closed.

Baste the bottom edged closed, and continue basting along the edge of the binding where it is pinned to the bib, approximately 1/8" seam allowance. At the end of the other tail, reverse stitch to reinforce the edge.

Voilà! a finished Sally bib.

And a happy baby, ready to dig into dinner!

Update: The reason this post is dated Wednesday the second but appeared on Monday the seventh is I was having issues with Blogger downloading my pictures sideways. Finally figured it out this morning (whew!)