Spring ambitions

Last week I went to that gardening class with my mom. This is funny, since my mom is quite an accomplished gardener. I think that she went so that I wouldn’t feel awkward. Thanks, Mom!

Anyway, it was a good class put on by Iowa State Extension office. I got all inspired for my vegetable garden this year. My flower gardens will get some work, too, but they are mostly established with perennials, so I’m going to be concentrating on the veggies. Besides going out and buying some tomato seeds, and pondering what other things I’d like to eat fresh this year (IF I can get anything to actually grow), I also purchased a seed sprouter, and planted an in-kitchen herb garden. I also want to start growing lettuce and mesclun in the kitchen, but I’m still debating where exactly this will happen, since I have very limited counter space. I’m considering brushing off my macrame skilz and making some plant hangers, but I’m not sure if a) I would actually accomplish this, and b) if it would work.

Maybe I’ve been doing too much lately, but I’ve been super tired. I know that this last weekend was jam-packed, what with the class on Wednesday, a book group meeting on Thursday, the UnpackLIS conference on Friday, work and a trivia night on Saturday, and ASL practice and helping my little bro with a paper (until 1am!) on Sunday. I’m hoping that the increase in light will lead to a decrease in sleep needed, but I’m not holding my breath.

Here’s what I’ve been up to lately, challenge-wise:

Cooking: I made pancakes to freeze on Sunday so that I can just grab the suckers in the morning. Planning on doing it again tonight. Sometime soon, I’m thinking of trying it with waffles. Other than that, not much. Nothing on the dinner front outside of pasta and rice. Sometimes that’s even a chore. Today I ate cottage cheese for dinner.

Blog: Not meeting my goal, but still updating relatively regularly. At least it’s an improvement over last year.

Soda: I had one on Friday (it was free, along with lunch, for being a presenter at the conference!), so I’m up to three for the year. Not too shabby!

Get up with the alarm: Miserable failure in the last week. Particularly in the last few days, since I often can’t identify what the annoying noise is for several minutes every morning. I’m hoping if I get a good night’s sleep or two, this will amend itself.

Walk the dog: Going strong until yesterday, when I needed to sleep as late as possible to make up for such a late night and busy weekend. This morning, I accidentally turned my alarm off, so I overslept. Rocko got a 25 minute walk, but that’s it.

Knit a gift a month: I finished a pair of slippers I started last November, which are now added to the gift stash. I also knit a cowl out of some very pretty sock yarn I had in my stash; I think I will need to add a crochet edging, though, since the stockinette curls so much it looks like a rope. *sadface* I may get around to posting some pictures. I am also working on finishing a scarf I’ve had in the works for a year and a half.

Read 150 books:

I’ve finished:

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
Salt: A World History, by Mark Kurlansky
Lost Boys, by Orson Scott Card

I have started A Person of Interest, by Susan Choi

Still working on:

Academically Adrift, by Richard Arum, et. al. (slightly abandoned)
Blindsided, by Priscilla Cummings (also slightly abandoned)
The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires, by Tim Wu

All this puts me just about on target, at 41 books, or 27% of my goal. I’ve seriously slowed this last week, but I think I can make up for it.

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Witty titles escape me tonight

So, contrary to my post last month, I’ve decided not to apply for the MOL program yet. Upon pondering the time commitment, it occurred to me that I just may die if I add one more thing for myself to do this spring and summer. I’m still contemplating it for fall though.

In retrospect, I am surprised that I haven’t yet mentioned that I’m learning American Sign Language. I know I’ve mentioned it on Twitter and Facebook, but apparently I haven’t here. My friend Bambi is teaching me and a couple other people. She’s a really great teacher, and I have gone to the local Deaf coffee chat for three weeks now, and can hold my own in conversation. Just FYI, learning ASL has been a lifelong dream of mine (and here I am definitely not exaggerating). I am so stoked that I am finally doing it. Some of you may have heard this before, but when I made the decision to go to grad school, I was also seriously considering becoming an interpreter.

So besides learning a new language, I haven’t been doing too much lately. Chuck is finishing up on the living room (pictures soon!), and we are contemplating what projects we want to sink our money into this summer. Next week I’ll be going to a class on vegetable gardening with my mom, so I can start planning my garden.

Here’s an update on my challenges:

1) Blog

Obviously, I’m not doing so hot here. I’d say my posts are coming more  like once every three weeks, but I partially blame that on not having the internet at home. However, I am proud that I am still posting at all.

2) Drink less soda

So far, so good. One more soda drunk, for a total of 2 since January 1!

3) Get up with the alarm

Ugh. I am managing to get up and out the door in time for a good long dog walk, but I think I am actually getting worse rather than better. Any ideas on how to wake up easier would be appreciated. Just FYI, I currently only have my phone for an alarm. I’m contemplating getting a clock, but am leery as to whether this would help or not. When I was in college, I used both an alarm set across the room from my bed and my phone. I still would manage to turn both off and oversleep.

4) Walk the dog

I am kicking butt here! Rocky gets his walk every week day. On weekends, it’s a little spottier, but he usually gets one on Sunday, and maybe every other Saturday. I’d like to tell you that his behavior is better for it. I suppose he listens a bit better, but he still FREAKS OUT when we see other dogs. This is one reason that I’m happy we walk so early in the morning — there is usually no one else out. Unless you count that guy who has two collies, and doesn’t ever have either on a leash, or that dog yesterday that was wandering around by itself and freaked me out. Yeah, other than that, we’re good as gold.

5) Knit a gift a month

I need to get a move on for March! I finished a baby blanket that I gave as a gift last Saturday, and am currently knitting a pair of fingerless mitts for a friend to give as a gift, as well as a vest for myself, but have no Christmas gifts to show for the month yet. I’m thinking another pair of those mitts would knit up fast and be a nice, quick project…

6) Cook more meals

I’ll try to do more of this later. For now, meh.

7) Read 150 books

Yet more butt kicking. Here’s what I’ve read in the past couple weeks:

Finished In the Belly of the Bloodhound, by L.A. Meyer
Mississippi Jack, by L.A. Meyer
My Bonny Light Horseman, by L.A. Meyer (do you think I like this series?)
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Other Stories, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
You, by Charles Benoit
A Tale Dark and Grimm, by Adam Gidwitz
Soulless, by Gail Carriger
Ninth Ward, by Jewel Parker Rhodes
Nightlight, A Parody, by Harvard Lampoon
Push, by Sapphire
You be Me, I’ll be You, by Pili Mandelbaum
Dougal, the Garbage Dump Bear, by Matt Dray
Guji Guji, by Chih-Yuan Chen
Waiting for Winter, by Sebastian Meschenmoser

These last four are new books I ordered for my library. You be Me, I’ll be You is a real disappointment — I had seen that it was an award winner, and read a good review, and it sounded promising. Not so much. It will foster some good conversations in classes, though.

I am currently reading:

Academically Adrift, by Richard Arum, et. al. (yes, still)
Salt: A World History, by Mark Kurlansky
Blindsided, by Priscilla Cummings
The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires, by Tim Wu

I also need to finally finish Little Women and Anna Karenina. Someday.

For those of you who are counting, that is 38 books so far this year, and another four partially done, with two in a perpetual holding pattern. Not too shabby!

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Double standard?

There has been a flurry of blog posts and Twitter updates in the last week about being careful what you write on the Internet, and warning bloggers to “think before you post.” This is sound advice, and possibly even a little obvious. But sometimes it really is easy to forget that what you blog, tweet or otherwise post on the Internet, whether or not you are trying to be discrete or anonymous, can come back to haunt you.

Case in point: the controversy surrounding Natalie Monroe, whose “profanity laced” blog has so upset teachers, parents and students at her school and across the country.

I will not weigh in here about whether or not Monroe should be fired, or whether she has the right to say what she wants on a blog written anonymously. But I found myself thinking of her and her situation when I read this article today. Why is it that a teacher is suspended, and will possibly lose her job (thereby most likely becoming unemployable in her chosen profession), for complaining about student motivation and co-workers (and apparently using some choice language in doing so), while a deputy attorney general of the state of Indiana can make blatantly inflammatory comments (with no attempt at anonymity) on Twitter and on his blog with no repercussions? If Monroe’s behavior is unbecoming of a teacher, why are Jeff Cox’s comments acceptable for a deputy attorney general? I think there are some double standards at work here.

What do you think? Please comment.

Update: Apparently, after I read the Jeff Cox article, it was updated to state that he has been terminated from his position. While I can never be happy about someone else’s missteps, I am glad that the seeming double standard does not exist.

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I have fallen behind

I think this post at Hyperbole and a Half sums up my motivation to do things in life exceedingly well. Case in point: my challenges for this year, as accomplished so far. Witness:

Blog – Hmmm. No posts since January 20. That is one month without a post. Three missed posts = system failure! I could possibly blame this on the fact that I can’t afford the internet at home, and do not do personal things like write posts for my personal blog at work, but this would only be an excuse. Fail.

Cook – Ha! Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha. Here is a good summary of how that usually goes. No baking. Little cooking. However, lots of construction. As I blog, Chuck is building a mantle for the fireplace, which is THE LAST THING that needs to be done in the living room (though the closet still needs to be finished, but I am choosing to ignore that fact. Also, our furnace broke about two weeks ago right before the epic blizzard. I didn’t feel much like cooking at the time. Sorry.

Read 150 books – Oooo! I’m doing well here. I am just barely keeping pace. Time to read some more children’s books to up my numbers. Hey – that’s not cheating! I said originally that the reason I set the number so high was because I read a lot of children’s books. So there.

I have recently read:

Amusing Ourselves to Death, by Neil Postman
Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins
Peter and the Starcatchers, by Dave Barry
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson
I am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to be your Class President, by Josh Lieb
People of the Book, by Geraldine Brooks
The Global Achievement Gap, by Tony Wagner

I got about halfway through Charles Dickens’ Nicholas Nickelby and gave up.

I am currently reading:

In the Belly of the Bloodhound (Bloody Jack #4), by L.A. Meyer
Academically Adrift, by Richard Arum, et. al.

Knit one item a monthWell, I knit two things last month, so I was ahead, right? The slouchy hat and the Gaptastic Cowl. Both easy and on big needles. I’m currently working on finishing a gift I started last fall. And a pair of socks I started before New Year’s. So, I’m knitting! It just doesn’t count to my goal.

Stop drinking soda – I think I’m doing well here. I’ve had one Coke Classic, which was shared at the movie theater. Other than that, none!

Wake up with alarm – all except for one particularly bad morning, I have gotten up after the second or third iteration. However, I have been loitering in bed longer than I should, and am trying to actually GET UP after shutting off the alarm, rather than laying there for another 5 minutes (or 10).

Walk the dog for an hourI am happy to say that this is also going well, at least on weekdays. It is harder on weekends, but Rock is usually getting at least one walk Saturday and Sunday, too. Just not in the morning.

I am currently also applying the the Master of Organizational Leadership program at the university I work at. And working on keeping up on issues in the library world. And the education world. Honestly, I wonder how everyone else does this!

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Heavy lifting

The past week has not been good for my challenges. We’ve been doing some construction on the house, and thus, I have not made a real dinner (outside of a quick pasta) for a week. Neither have I baked any bread. More on the house a little later.

I haven’t been hammering through the reading as much, either, since we’ve devoted every night after work and all weekend to working on the house. This week I

I also haven’t had much time to knit. However, I did start January’s project: a cute little slouchy hat, which I’m making out of Cascade Chunky Alpaca. I’m nearly done- started the decreases, at least.

I’m still holding strong on getting up in the morning, limiting my snooze button to two hits in the morning. Which means I’ve had plenty of time to walk Rocky! We’ve done our full route every weekday. I must say I skipped Saturday, since he was going on a doggy play date in the afternoon. Sunday, he got two walks- one in the morning, and one at night!

And! I still haven’t had any soda! I may be due for a real Coca-Cola Classic sometime soon. However, my beer consumption has been above normal this week, again, due to construction. I suppose it’s not the greatest idea, but I like myself a Pibber when putting up insulation.

So. About our house. First, let me tell you that our house is a very, very, very fine house. With two cats in the… basement.

When we bought our house, the previous owners told us that they had had a leak in the roof, but had gotten it fixed. We had no reason to doubt them. You could see the patch. Plus, who would assume that a Baptist minister and his wife would lie straight to your face? [Answer: you should. Shysters.]

Less than two weeks after we moved in, it became obvious that the leak was, in fact, not fixed. After a few attempts to locate the source of the problem, Chuck decided to re-roof the front of the house (we want to put a dormer addition on the back, so we did not do that half). Which resulted in this:


It seems that the “fix” had been to simply nail down the thinnest sheet of plywood that it is possible to buy, and throw some shingles on top to make it look like something had actually been done to fix the leak.

After tearing off three layers of shingles, disrupting the world’s largest nest of carpenter ants, replacing sheathing, and building new overhangs, Chuck, his dad and my step-dad put on some beautiful new shingles. “This roof will never leak again,” said my father-in-law.

Last March, it did. My father-in-law still blames phantom raccoons. But *somehow* the roof was leaking IN THE EXACT SAME SPOT. After some minor adjustments to the flashing, the problem was solved, apparently for good.

The only hitch was that, to determine the point of the new leak, Chuck and father-in-law knocked a huge hole in the living room ceiling. Luckily, we had not yet fixed it from the initial water damage the year before. But there was still this huge, ugly, sad hole.
Fast forward about 9 months. Time to fix the hole! While we’re at it, why not just replace the whole ceiling. Hell. Let’s replace the windows too. Well, if we’re going to replace the windows, we might as well just insulate and dry wall that whole wall. Why not this one too? Oh, and since we have the access, let’s replace all that old wiring in this room. The result?


Just for reference, this is what it looked like before (from the listing when we bought it):

The wiring was done over the weekend, the windows went on Monday, and all the insulation was put up on Tuesday. Today, the new drywall went up on the ceiling. Next, we drywall the walls and spackle. Then paint and light fixtures (which we still need to find). Then, we can move the furniture back in. Then, I can have my house back.

Of course, we’ve seen this kind of destruction before. Here’s what happened when we wanted to put in an exhaust fan:

From this:

To this:

And, six months later, to this:

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Tonight, when I came home from work

Today we had a power failure at work, and I got to come home at 9:45.  It’s amazing how long the day seems when you get it off unexpectedly.  I went to the Yarn Shoppe and chatted with Judy for a while, came home and read a chapter of Body at the Tower while munching on a PB&J on homemade bread, took Rocky to the dogger park, chose a recipe for dinner, and went grocery shopping all before 1pm.

Right now, I’m making homemade yogurt.  I’ve wanted to do this for years, but have never felt completely sure of my ability to do it.  I was looking into buying a yogurt maker, but they’re pretty pricey, and I don’t like having anything in my kitchen that can only be used for one thing (outside of a bread maker, though I suppose you can make more than one kind of bread, so…), both because it seems like a waste and because I don’t have a lot of storage.  I found this recipe to make yogurt in your crock pot and the lightbulb went off.  Duh!  I am going to place the heated, then cooled, mixture into the oven with the light on to try to keep it at a consistent, warm temp, since I keep the house rather cool, particularly at night.  But hopefully, tomorrow morning, I will have yogurt.

I’ve done a pretty good job keeping up with my challenges so far this week.  Here’s the run-down:

Read 150 books: 5 books finished, halfway through 2 more.  Technically, one book I’m listening to now is the first three books of a series, but the official counter on Goodreads will only count it as one. Oh well.  I am currently, actively reading:

  1. The Guardians of Ga’Hoole, books 1, 2, and 3, by Kathryn Lasky
  2. The Body at the Tower (The Agency #2), by Y.S. Lee
  3. Little Women

The books I have read so far are:

  1. The Tale of Halcyon Crane, by Wendy Webb
  2. My Year of Meats, by Ruth Ozeki
  3. If I am Missing or Dead, by Janine Latus
  4. Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins
  5. A Different Day, A Different Destiny (Snipesville Chronicles #2), by Annette Laing

Stop drinking soda: number drunk since made decision – 0!

Knit one item a month: Big fat 0 so far… haven’t really knit a stitch since break. Boo.

Cook, bake more: Doing pretty well here.  Obviously, I’m making yogurt.  I baked some bread yesterday.  I made pasta and steamed veggies last night, which was a bit of a cop-out. But I did make Split Pea & Rice Soup from Sundays at the Moosewood on Monday, and Lentil and Spinach Soup from The Greens tonight.  They were both good, but I really loved the lentil/spinach.

Get out of bed with alarm: I have hit snooze only two times each morning but Sunday, when I don’t have to set an alarm.  This is a VAST improvement. It means I’m up about 5:30, with just enough time to slurp down a cup of coffee (which my dear husband is kind enough to make for me before he leaves for work) and be out the door with The Rock at about 5:45.  An hour walk means I have enough time to have one more cup of coffee before getting ready for work.  I quite enjoy it.  Which brings me to…

Walk the dog for at least an hour a day: Sunday’s walk was a bit longer (70 minutes), Monday was 55 minutes, and both Tuesday and Wednesday were 60 minutes. As you can tell, I have a specific route I walk that takes just about an hour at a normal pace.  Today, with all my free time, I was also able to take Rocky to the dog park.  There were no other dogs there on a blustery mid-Wednesday, but he ran around for about 20 minutes, and barked quite a bit at a kite someone was flying nearby.

Blog: Duh!

Not a bad start.

Tonight, by Sibylle Baier

tonight when I came home from work, hurt
tonight when I came home from work

there he unforeseen sat in my kitchen
buttering himself a bread
and the cat was on his knee
and smiled at me

tonight when I came home from work
tonight when I came home from work

there he unforeseen passed the guitar
and said ‘I battered my car
right now won’t you please give me your tune’

we had a change of the moon
we had a change of the moon

tonight when I came home from work
tonight when I came home from work

tonight when I came home from work
there he unforeseen changed in the lazy chair
and said ‘what’s that sorrow you bear?’
and I could tell him, he understood

he gently took my arm
he listened to my tears till dawn
I dedicate this song to you

tonight we had change of the moon
we had change of the moon

tonight when I came home from work
tonight when I came home from work
tonight tonight tonight

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The gauntlet has been thrown

I’ve made a “challenge list” for myself this year. I prefer this term, since “resolution” gets overused, and I tend to bull-headedly accept challenges just to prove that I can. Case in point: when my husband told me that I couldn’t quit smoking, I quit cold-turkey on the spot, just to prove him wrong. He’s a sly one, that guy.

Anywho, here’s my challenges for the year:

1) Read 150 books. This challenge came about through the Goodreads 2011 Reading Challenge. I read 92 books last year, so I decided that this year, I’d try to stick with about 3 books a week. Mind you, I am a librarian, and I read a lot of children’s and young adult books, so this goal isn’t really quite as tough as it sounds. So far, I’ve read three and a half books the first week of this year, so I’m on target.

2) Stop drinking soda. A few years ago, I would drink about a soda a month. I also cooked almost every meal my husband and I ate, and baked our own bread. Then I went to grad school, and I was reintroduced to late night study sessions, the giant burrito and the extra large soda. I don’t buy junk food, including soda, for my house, so you’d think that now that I’m graduated I would have no problem with this challenge. However, at my current job, we get free coffee and soda from the cafeteria. This means a trip or two each work day to fill up my reusable mug with diet whatever. So, my soda cup has been repurposed as a water mug. Not quite as satisfying, but definitely more thirst quenching. I decided on this challenge about halfway through New Year’s Day, and haven’t had a soda since.

3) Knit/handmake one Christmas gift per month. When I first felt accomplished enough as a knitter to give people gifts, I’d often start them sometime in early December. After a few failures, and extreme late night knit sessions to finish projects on Christmas Eve, it dawned on me that summer is probably a more appropriate time to start working on handmade holiday gifts. Then, I started working on larger holiday gifts. Whole sweaters and shawls and the like. These take a REALLY long time to knit, so this year, I scaled down and made socks, hats and other accessory items. This was definitely more doable, but I started too late again (like, after Thanksgiving). So, inspired by my friend Brenda, this year I am going to attempt to knit or otherwise handmake at least one item a month, so that I can relax next December instead of giving myself carpel tunnel.

4) Cook more meals, bake more bread. Ideally, I’d cook all our food again. But I’m really busy with all that reading and knitting, so I’m not going to try to put a number on this one. But I’m going to try to make at least a couple meals a week in my crockpots, and increase the number of veggies no matter what. I’m also going to try to bake bread IN the bread machine (rather than just using it to knead the dough), since I think this convenience will make the goal more attainable.

5) Get the hell out of bed in the morning without hitting the snooze button for thirty or forty minutes. I love sleep. I love my bed. It is very hard for me to wake up in the morning, and leave my bed. Especially in the winter, when the flannel sheets and down comforter make the bed so very, very toasty and cozy. I can sleep for upwards of ten hours a night, no problem. However, this is a gigantic waste of my time, and actually makes me more tired during the day. So. I am going to get to bed at a decent time (something I already do, actually), and then I am going to set my alarm for seven or eight hours hence, and then GET UP when the alarm goes off. I never want to wake up, but once I get up and move around, I’m just fine. This should give me more time to do the following challenge.

6) Walk the dog for AT LEAST an hour in the morning before work. I am currently walking Rocky about 30 minutes to an hour, depending on when I can force myself out of bed, and how cold it is outside. Sometimes, it’s damn freezing out, but I have warm mittens and scarves and hats that I’ve knit, Cuddle Dudz and a down coat. What I might need to invest in, though are some really good winter boots. The ones I have now are cheap, and I need to wear two pairs of socks so that I can still feel my toes after a good walk. (Rocky is just fine in his fully lined dogsuit.)

7) Blog at least once a week about my progress on these challenges, amongst other topics. You would think this would be easy, but since I have a work blog as well as this one, plus an obvious myriad of activities that fill my time, it’s hard for me to sit down and say “I’m going to write a blog post today.” Even when I do, something else gets in the way. So. Once a week. At least.

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