Monday, September 30, 2013

Safe sex and meal planning. Not at the same time.

Since the start of the new semester, I've noticed that a pregnant woman gets A LOT of attention on a college campus. I mean, my baby belly gets a lot of attention everywhere, but particularly here on campus where it's relatively rare to see. Add in the fact that I look like I could be a student and I get a lot of odd looks. There are smiles from older people, some smiles from young women and some sideways stares as if they're wondering if I'm pregnant because I'm trampy and slept around. Almost uniformly, however, young men give me a stare more like this: O_o I sincerely hope it's accompanied by the thought, "Oh, crap. Maybe I should go get some condoms, just in case...."
Speaking of which, I got to be the condom fairy a few weeks ago. Strange thing, but it made me happy. When cleaning our apartment I found a few condoms from, well, before, and (after checking the expiration date) decided that we really don't need them. So how to get rid of them? Easy. When we went to the Pub one night I stuffed them in my purse. Carried my purse into the bathroom and left them in one of the stalls so that someone who might need them could anonymously take them. And take them someone did, since they were gone by the end of the evening. So here's to promoting safe sex, even in subtle ways.

We're finally getting some of the major reorganization projects done around the house. Well, one. It was a busy weekend, with one friend coming into town and another friend having a birthday party. So when Sunday rolled around we were both pretty tired and just wanted to have a lazy day. That didn't happen. Shane had a meeting for a project, I met with people for a "going away" lunch for the friend who was in town (and since I'd had breakfast only about an hour before, I didn't even order anything), and then there were myriad things around the house to take care of. Of course there were. If I'd known when I was a kid how many house chores were involved in being a grownup, I might not have considered the trade-off of "autonomy" vs. "chores" to be quite so one-sided.
All this to say, we got the garage cleaned out! We have an interior place to park for the winter, which means no plugging in our car. Woo! This makes me so very happy, as it also means no running the car for a half hour before going anywhere to warm up the engine.
We still haven't organized the closet, and I still haven't done anything about making curtains to block off Baby's area. But I'm really feeling the push to get things done and I know those will happen in the next week or two.

With the change in my schedule, and with Shane's crazy semester schedule, cooking is something which could fall through the cracks. However, we can't afford to get takeout every night, or even every week (or every month....) so I'm making a serious effort to really plan out our week's meals in advance and to be highly organized so that we have both dinners and lunches (leftovers!). The CrockPot is my savior, once again. And I'm trying some new recipes, just so we've got plenty of variety. Today's is this beef stew, and later this week this apple-parsnip soup. (Shane's not a fan of parsnips so he's wary. Also, he doesn't like the texture of pureed soups so to add a bit of texture I'm going to throw some chicken-apple sausages in there.) A friend sent me a recipe for Mexican chicken soup, so that will be going on our menu soon too, along with this tomato soup and this cream of potato soup with bacon. Because bacon.
If I need a quick bread pairing with any of these soups (other than the tomato soup, which will of course have the traditional grilled cheese with it), I've got these freezer biscuits which will be super easy to make. And of course, I'll let you know which of these recipes are winners. Because everyone could do with a few extra easy meals in their repertoire.
I did try making these pumpkin cinnamon rolls, which were deemed half successful. I thought they were ok, Shane didn't. I'll make them again sometime, but I'll try baking them like regular cinnamon rolls, rather than in the Crockpot, and see if that helps. Also, since they're from a vegan blog and we are most assuredly not vegan, I changed the recipe to this:

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls
3 1/2 cups flour, plus enough extra to make it properly doughy/roll out
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp yeast
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup pumpkin
1 egg

1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves to taste (a bit heavier on cinnamon and nutmeg, lighter on the cloves)

I suggest baking them (probably at 350^ until done) and then smothering them with cream cheese frosting. For health.
I don't want to give the impression that we're only eating from the CrockPot. Whenever we've got time, or can make time, we actually cook. Last Thursday, Shane decided that since he hadn't cooked in nearly two weeks, and missed it, he wanted to make dinner. This meant starting dinner at 9:00. So I snacked in the afternoon (but was still plenty hungry by dinnertime) and got everything chopped, prepped and ready for him. It could have sucked, eating so late, but it didn't. And it was not only nice for him to do something he enjoyed toward the end of a crazy, busy week but also for me to have a bit of a break from the kitchen. (Yes, at this point *only* chopping vegetables constitutes a break from the kitchen.)

After the first snowfall I had Shane bring my small carrot boxes inside, but the large planter boxes were far too large to carry into the garage so I left them out there figuring that the next time I needed carrots I'd go pull them from there. I finally did that. Only six of my large carrots actually germinated, so it wasn't the greatest haul. However, I did get a good laugh since all but one of them was mutated in some way!

I love the small round one which looks kind of like a bear claw. Even better, Shane came home and when he saw them lying on the counter asked, "Where the heck did you buy these carrots from?" :)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Millions of tiny happinesses

My library ebook copy of Gretchen Rubin's "The Happiness Project" is finally mine (for a short time) and I've been very much enjoying reading it. Like, 'I would recommend this book to pretty much anyone' levels of enjoyment. Why? What makes reading about someone else's project to be just a bit happier so rewarding? Well, lots of things. For starters, it's a helpful place to think about your own happiness (and she repeatedly outlines why this is a worthy goal--such as the facts that happier people tend to make those around them happier, and they are more generous). Are you happy? If so, why or why not? What makes you happy and why don't you do more of it? Like Gretchen herself, I struggle with these sometimes. I push off the things which make me happy for the things which I should do instead. And there is happiness in having a clean house, but there is also happiness in taking a relaxing bath when I need it and I don't do that nearly enough.
Some of what she says are her weaknesses, her faults, resonate with me. Probably the biggest was when she described herself as a score-keeper, particularly with her spouse. I have to admit, I really hate this quality about myself, but I'm also a score keeper with Shane. He is with me as well, but of the two of us I'm probably far worse. I'm sure that on my end it has something to do with growing up as one of four siblings, learning to keep track and keep score so that I don't miss out on my fair share of good things (dessert!) or end up with a disproportionate amount of bad things like chores. However, this isn't an excuse for keeping score in my marriage. Really, it's a horrible way to look at things. "I did X chore, so it's not fair that I should also have to do Y chore as well." It's a "wah! poor me!" attitude and I really want to break myself of it, but of course a change such as that, a change in your entire attitude, is hard to do. Probably if I worked on it every day for the next year I would still find it hard at the end of that year.
Compounding this, I am pregnant. 33 weeks! The end is in sight (and yet, that makes for the beginning of another tough but rewarding chapter in life: motherhood). I have zero stamina, lots to do, insomnia because I'm the size of a hippo so I'm tired all the time, and dammit, I deserve a little extra special treatment! Everyone tells me so. I tell myself that.
But...doesn't Shane deserve a bit of coddling too? He's taking seventeen credits of classes this semester. All told, between class and homework, it's more than a full-time job, and he's working on top of it. (Still helping our elderly friends up the hill to clear their trees, and got a few hours a week in the computer lab--at least he's allowed to do homework during the lab time when someone doesn't need his help!) Not only is he putting so much effort into this semester, but it's not even the fun classes. Three of them are hard, and only tangentially related to the programming that he's interested in: physics, calc 3, and statistics. These classes suck. Physics sucks even more because of the way the class is structured (it's an evening class and homework is due by midnight the night of 5 hours to get it all done, and that's true even for the Friday night class!) and because the professor...well, I'm not in the class so I don't know if he's got tenure and has just stopped caring, or if his teaching style just isn't for Shane, but it's hard. Even with a friend's help, the homework takes hours every week. My poor guy looks so frazzled. Just because things are a little harder on me doesn't mean I should add to his burden. So what if I had to do all of the hand washing, again, because he was too busy, you know, doing homework? What makes my contribution to the household more special or more worthy than his?
On top of everything else, we don't get to spend much time together right now, for obvious reasons. When I have time, he doesn't. When he's free, I'm working or doing homework. Between Monday and Friday of last week, I'd estimate that we only got to spend about 3 hours of quality time together, and most of that was while we ate dinner for a few quick minutes or did a little bit of cleaning up together. Wheeeee. On Friday night, we ended up snapping at each other a couple of times, not because we were mad at each other but because we were frustrated by the situation. Thankfully, we did each explain ourselves so what could easily have devolved into an argument turned into hugs and sympathy for how hard we've each been working.
So this leads to the biggest reason why I'm enjoying this book: it's making me think more about gratitude. Instead of being upset by these hardships, I'm going to do my best to undertake a more grateful way of thinking about them. Instead of mentally whinging because we only got to spend a few minutes together eating a dinner that I had to make, again, I would like to be grateful that I have a husband who will take a few minutes out of his busy day to eat dinner with me, even if it means staying up that much later to finish his homework, and who is grateful in return that I took time out of my busy, tiring day to make dinner and have it waiting for him when he got home.
As the saying goes, instead of being upset that I have to do the dishes, I should be thankful for what those dishes represent: food on the table and someone I love to share it with. Not everyone gets to say the same.
Along with gratitude needs to come that buzzword which I really dislike for some reason, but which really fits: mindfulness. Since we'd spent so much time apart last week, when Shane asked me what I wanted to do on Saturday night I told him that, honestly, I wanted to hang out at home with him. Instead of saying that he wanted to go out and see people, which he usually does after a hermit-like week of schoolwork, he said, "Sounds great! There are a few movies we haven't seen yet that I'd like to watch." So we sat in bed the entire evening and watched movies. We cuddled the dog, we made hot chocolate from scratch, and it was beautiful. I just didn't realize how great it was until this morning when I was wishing that I was back in bed, cuddled up with him and sipping cocoa, laughing about something together. At the time, I was so tired from the week that I didn't stop to fully appreciate how wonderful those moments were. Now that I can't get them back is when I'm realizing just how good I had it.
I must admit, it's easier at this time of year for me to be grateful. I know it just officially became autumn according to the calendar, but we've already had our first couple of light dustings of snow, which didn't stick but are a poignant reminder of how fleeting the seasons are. The trees are still in their golden glory, but not for much longer. The air is chilled and perfect. It's my favorite time of year, when I'm so happy to snuggle into sweaters once again, and to curl up with a good book and something hot to drink--warm milk and honey, hot cocoa, hot apple cider.... It's the time of year to make gingerbread cookies and to really savor all of the flavors of the season. So many good things are coming my way. And the holidays, while still distant, will be upon us before we know it, with all the attendant fun activities and family time. How could that not foster gratitude?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

How to make the most of your library experience: Don't piss off the librarian

I don't usually think of my job as a "customer service" job. It is, and I do know that, but tucked away in our little corner of the University, most people don't even realize we exist. The people who do know about us are generally so happy that we exist, and use our resources so much, that they love us. Consequently, I avoid roughly 95% of all "customer service" related bullshit. In over four years of working here, I've only had to deal with a handful of truly rude or annoying patrons.
Which is not to say that I don't have problem patrons. It's just not the major problems that other places have. We get the little annoyances, the things that people without severe mental or emotional problems (I've had to deal with a few of those) bring to the library without seeming to realize it. Pretty much anyone who's going to read this will, I assume, be smart enough to know not to go to the library drunk. Most people will understand that, while looking at porn on a library computer is not technically illegal, it is gross. Doing more than just watching said porn, however, is completely illegal. (That doesn't stop people from doing it.) There are serious, gross, and flat-out creepy problems which librarians have to deal with and which most people don't even think of. Several of our librarians had to go on a hunt for whoever was downloading and printing pictures of child porn. When they called police and caught the guy, it turned out that he had an outstanding warrant on a charge of child molestation. Lovely, right? This didn't even occur at a public library. This was a University library. Public librarians have it so, so much worse.
There are entire meetings I've been to discussing the porn policy (where does the line get drawn between legitimate research--there are a few classes which could/do require students to look at what would otherwise be questionable material, and not all students have personal computers--and someone just getting their jollies watching porn in public?) or discussing what to do if someone's passed out. Are they drunk, or could it be a serious medical condition making them appear so? Where do these lines get drawn?
What I'm talking about are not the gray areas. These are things which people should know how to do, and just don't. These are the things which piss me off. Give me ten people with mental illnesses over one person who comes to me with a combative attitude, acting like I'm their servant.
To be clear, I am not, strictly speaking, a librarian. I haven't gotten my MLS (master's of library science) degree. I'm just a lowly library technician. A staff person. However, I sit at the front circulation desk. Our librarian handles the major issues, while my coworker and I handle the day-to-day running of our little demesne, including dealing with the patrons. Even better, mine is the first desk people get to when they need to speak to someone. So when we do get a lousy, annoying, or just plain rude patron, they come to me first.
So here are just a few problems that I've had over the years, and why they are problems.

1. It's such a simple thing, but push in your chairs. Seriously, you should have learned how to do this in kindergarten. I don't understand it, but very few people actual feel that they need to bother pushing in their chairs at the library. Consequently, they block aisles and create a less welcoming atmosphere for everyone. Every time I get up from my desk I end up walking around pushing in chairs that people have left strewn everywhere. It's annoying.

2. Don't be rude to your fellow patrons. I'm not talking about outright rudeness, here, (which is a huge problem but also falls under the heading of "I'm sure if you're reading this, you already know not to do these things" category outlined above) but about small rudenesses. Don't chat loudly on your cell phone. Don't take up lots of space because you can, spreading your bag, coat, laptop, etc., all around over several different desks, chairs, or tables. Someone else might need that space. Someone else might want to get through that aisle. Don't be a dick.

3. Don't whine about how hard you've got it and why that exempts you from the rules. Seriously. This is probably the most common type of complaint we get. One woman is so infamous for it that we groan when she comes in. My favorite is her complaint, "But I have children." This excuse has been used for everything from why she can't turn in any book on time to why we're jerks for sending an ILL book back to the library which owns it before she could pick it up, even though she had a month in which to come pick it up before it was due. Congrats on your fertility, lady! That doesn't exempt you from library rules. You are not special. Your failure to plan ahead is not our fault, so don't try to make it our problem. We will not sympathize.

4. Read the signs we have posted. They're posted for a reason. It amazes me how many people come into the library and just...don't read things. We have pretty much all of our rules posted somewhere or another. We've got signs up everywhere in an effort to show people where things are. We definitely have patrons who never need to interact with us unless they're checking out items, because they've actually read the signs. Then there are the patrons who won't even read the colorful sign I have posted on the front of my desk, and get pouty when I point it out to them. It's a sign asking people to stand in front of my desk, rather than coming around to stand by my side, both because it's creepy when they invade my space and, more importantly, for privacy issues. Speaking of privacy issues....

5. Don't assume that we're keeping things from you to be jerks. There are an amazing number of legal issues surrounding libraries and the information we have access to. We have an incredible amount of personal information about people in our database: names, phone numbers, addresses--all to get in touch with people when we need to, but still personal info--and since we're a University, ID #s which can access all kinds of other personal scholarly information, such as transcripts. Not to mention, information on what books people have checked out (yes, that information is legally protected). People are always shocked and generally a little pissed off when I can't do something for them which would infringe on someone else's library information. We had a woman in the other day asking if her husband had checked out a book. When I told her that I couldn't legally answer that question she said, "But he's my husband!" Sure. But you don't have proof of that, and even if you did I still wouldn't be able to tell you because there are laws protecting that information. Yes, even from spouses.
We also have patrons asking to check out books that are on hold for other people, on the other person's behalf. We can't let you do that for a variety of reasons, including those pesky privacy laws again. I realize it can be inconvenient, but you're not only asking me to break library rules for you, you're asking me to break the law.

6. Don't, for the love of all things holy, assume that we will do all of your work for you. The one thing I see most commonly, and which drives me craziest, are the people who walk up to my desk first thing and say, "Where do I find this?" My first question for them is, "Have you tried looking in the catalog?" Half the time they say no, and I mentally categorize them (fairly or not) as lazy. Sometimes, I do realize, it's a matter of telling them how to get access to the catalog. (It's online, just like everything else these days.) But I actually had one conversation go like this:
Me: Did you look in the catalog?
Patron: No.
Me: Well, you can look it up in the online library catalog from any of those computers over there. It will be the homepage, so it's really easy.
Patron: But I wanted you to do it.
Me: ...But I'm showing you how to do it, so that you don't need to come and ask me every time you want to look up a book.
Patron: Yeah, I still want you to do it for me.
At this point, I was super annoyed and wanted to tell this guy, "Go fuck off, it's not my job to coddle you and enable your laziness." Of course, I couldn't say that. I ended up looking up the book for him, but I did let my annoyance show through. It would have taken this guy less time to look it up himself than he spent arguing with me about who should look it up. I got the impression that he was being a douche because he could, and because he thought it should be my job to cater to him. That is not, ever, the purpose of a librarian. Yes, we're here to help. But using a library correctly is not difficult, and it is a skill that all people should learn. When you don't bother to try learning, you're not going to get the most helpful service.

7. Don't ever think that you know more about the library's resources than the library worker you're talking to. This one happened just this morning, as it turns out. The very first thing I had to deal with when I got to work was an angry phone call from someone who was pissed that he couldn't find the information he needed. I realized pretty quickly that he was looking in the wrong place on the website but every time I tried to explain how to get to the information he needed he swore he was looking at the place I wanted to navigate him to and would rant for a bit about how awful our website is. ("When I type in the title of this journal, it's not even the first thing that comes up! It's, like the seventh, and that's just crazy." I wanted to ask if he'd ever used a database before, and if he understood how they work. Do you always accept your first Google hit?) If he'd have shut up for 30 seconds, it would have been a much faster and more pleasant conversation. As it was, I had to endure several minutes of him talking about how horrible our website is, and by extension the library and everyone who works here. Not productive, dude. I finally got him to listen to me, explained a few things to him, and then how to get what he wanted. All the while, I had to endure more verbal abuse about how bad our service is. Thanks. Once again, if you're willing to learn then I'm willing to teach you. If you're not willing to learn how to use the library resources properly, then there's really nothing I can do for you. You're going to have a bad time, and it's going to be all your fault. I just can't say it that way to you.

8. Don't lie to us. It's pure stupidity on your part to assume that we can't see through your lies. Just because we don't call you on them every time doesn't mean that we believe you. The third time you come in with some lame and generally convoluted story about why you can't turn in something on time, I'm not going to be happy with you and I will let it show. Because the why isn't actually my problem. You checked out the item, and by doing so you need to understand that....

9. Checking out a library item is sort of like signing a contract. You agree to borrow it for a certain amount of time, and we should have a reasonable expectation that you will bring it back at least close to the time it's due. We explain when an item might have a fine attached to it so that you know beforehand. And usually, we're pretty nice. We'll waive fees all the time, knowing that a) students are poor and b) life happens. But when it's a consistent problem on your end, then expect the library to have a problem with you. You are not the only person in the world, nor are you the only person who might want to borrow the item you've taken out. We have rules about borrowing periods for a reason. If you're not following them, that's your fault. You knew what you were getting into when you checked the item out.

10. Understand that we have lives outside of the library. When I tell you that the library is closing, I mean that it's closing. I have a home and a family to get back to, and you're infringing on that. When I say "we're closed", I don't mean 15 minutes from now, I mean now. The fact that you didn't get all of your online shopping done before the library closed is not my problem, but you're making it mine. And I'm not being a douche for saying that I'll call security to have them escort you out, I'm trying to let you understand what a douche you're being to me. Once again, we have our hours signs posted all over the place. If you ask, we'll tell you when we close. I go around the library before closing to let people know, hey, we're closing up soon. It is not a surprise, and once again you don't get to be the special exempted person for whom the rules don't apply. You're just being an ass. Now get the fuck out of my library and let me go home.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


This last Saturday, my friends threw a baby shower for me. It was actually held at my apartment, and I consulted a lot with the friend who was organizing it, so I guess I sort of threw it for myself too.
I'm not sure how I feel about baby showers and wedding showers and such. I know a lot of minimalists decry the tradition, and having the attention on me makes me uncomfortable, but I do also understand that some people love the tradition and don't feel right about things unless a woman has a baby shower or wedding shower or whatever. And I'm not opposed to it, necessarily, just because I feel awkward about being the center of attention for doing nothing more than procreating. Yeah, it's a big deal to have a baby in one sense (yay, babies!), but in another...women all over the world do this all the time. It's special, and yet it's not. I think this, and the blatant consumerism which is encouraged by baby showers, is where my ambivalence comes from.
Part of what makes a shower awkward for me is the expectation that people will bring gifts. Not only am I the center of attention, but I really, really hate the idea of making my friends feel obligated to give me things. So I tried to make that very clear, but no one seems to have taken me seriously since they all brought gifts anyway. I'm not complaining here, they gave us wonderful and useful things. Books for Baby (good ones, too, like Dr. Seuss books and The Berenstain Bears), bibs, socks, a blanket with monsters on the fabric. The mustachifier. Even baby wash/shampoo, which is always handy.
Shane has been complaining for a while that we don't have any bath toys. Seriously. He's kept an old squirt bottle which used to hold body wash so that he can play around with squirting water in the shower. My ridiculous spouse will never grow up. Well, now he's got some bath toys. I'm pretty sure that I will never get to give our daughter a bath because Shane will be so excited to play with the toys that he'll take over. (Again, not complaining!)
The biggest thing we got was one that I was starting to get nervous about not having: a carseat. This came from Shane's parents, of course, (his mom came up for the shower) and I feel a little guilty that they spent so much money but, at the same time, incredibly, unspeakably grateful to them. It's the carseat I wanted, which is a combination seat and not just a strictly infant seat like some. This one will be good until about the time Baby needs to move into a booster.
Being among the first of our friends in Fairbanks to have a kid means that a lot of the bigger items can't come second hand. I didn't really have to decide about how I'd feel about a used carseat because it wasn't an option at all. When I first got pregnant, I thought perhaps we could borrow an infant seat from our friends, until it turned out that they were also expecting another little one. It's going to be the same thing when the time comes for us to need something like a highchair, and a slightly bigger crib. However, for those things I have zero qualms about buying used.
Anyway, the shower was such fun. A bunch of fun ladies gathered together for an afternoon/evening to chat and eat and have a grand time together. The spouses and boyfriends and a few other people gathered at someone else's house to play cards. I got to have a hilarious moment when Shane was gathering stuff together to head out because he told a friend over the phone that we had a bottle of rum which he could bring. I said, "Hey! I wanted that for the baby shower!" I got a dropped jaw and stuttered, "Wh...what?" Until I started laughing, that is, and he realized that I was joking.
Instead of playing baby shower games (have you ever looked at those? they're horrible!!) my friend bought some stuff so that we could make a quilt. Everyone decorated squares with fabric pens. Mine, of course, said, "Welcome, tiny overlord." My friends have skills, though, and they did some really adorable squares. We joked about writing very adult messages on there, things like, "Don't drink and drive" or "Never sign a contract without reading the fine print". Like horrible baby names, I think it's much funnier to joke about that than actually do it.
My poor dog didn't understand what was going on at all, so of course she got nervous. She spent a good portion of the party thrusting her head at me for reassuring pets. The cat simply hid in a cabinet in the kitchen. Our friend had to bring her 2-year-old, which of course no one minded (she's adorable!) and had brought some balloons as decoration. The 2-year-old couldn't get enough of those balloons. When I fed our pets, I thought perhaps that people had been around long enough that I could lure the cat out of hiding and it seemed like it would work, until the 2-year-old started banging on the balloons and cackling loudly. Nope, cat was back in the deepest recesses of the cabinet. So I fed him in there.

At the end of the day, when everyone went home, I went for a walk with the dog and my MIL, then we watched "Despicable Me" (she'd never seen it before!) and went to bed. It was a lovely ending to the day. Shane woke me up when he got home and we chatted for probably about an hour in the wee hours of the morning. For some reason, I love those moments. The quiet house, the lateness of the hour making it seem sneaky and forbidden but we're up anyway, alone in our little world together. I hope that feeling carries through to when I'm waking up at night to feed and change Baby.

I still need to clean out our closet so that we can move the baby stuff in there. Shane keeps saying, "I'm waiting until the last minute for that," and I keep trying to convince him that, at 32 weeks, this is the last minute.

We had our first snowfall this morning. It didn't stick around, but it's a clear sign that winter is almost upon us. So many things are changing, but they're good and happy changes. I'm excited for the new season, and the new direction my life is going to take very soon.

Monday, September 16, 2013

One old sheet

Trying to re-thread my serger makes me think of this silly quote: "Like Sisyphus, I am bound to Hell." My serger was a hand-me-down from my MIL, who bought a new one in the last year or so and gave me her old one. (She was under the impression that a new one would solve some of the frustrations she had with the old one, only to find out that, no, those are simply serger frustrations and had nothing to do with the age of the machine.) I'd pulled it out a few weeks ago determined to get some of my projects done, only to end up (45 minutes later) frustrated and angry with the machine, with not a single thing sewn. I put it away for a bit, knowing that my MIL would be in town this weekend, for my baby shower, and that I could ask for her help re-threading it then.
Well, thankfully it wasn't just me. I mentioned the serger problems to a friend who does quite a bit of sewing and she commiserated with me about what a pain in the butt sergers are to thread. So I felt a little less incompetent. And my MIL did help, which took about another 45 minutes of threading and re-threading and re-threading...until we finally got it working properly. Then we had to rush off and get her to the airport. :)
Even after all of that, I only managed to do about half of what I wanted to get done before one of the spools ran out of thread. Shane wanted to go across town to the beer supply store anyway so he could start a new brew, and it happens to be right next to the craft store so we went together and I got new thread. (I even had a couple of 40% off coupons which I got to use!) Which meant having to re-thread the serger, again and again and again.... I got it working and a few small items later, another spool ran out of thread. I'd seen it coming, though, and bought several spools of thread, so it was no big deal except for the re-threading. Shane was in the living room working on his bike (the derailleur cable broke, so he was putting in a new one) while I was re-threading the serger and he kept laughing at me while I was cursing the machine and yelling at it. "You're threaded, dammit, WORK! Oh, you sonofabitch machine...." Not that Shane was really any better, either, muttering to his bike and sighing over the cable. But we both prevailed and got our things working.
In any case, though it took most of an afternoon, I got the projects I'd had waiting finished. Wooo! All of them came from one old, queen-sized top sheet. The bottom sheet had ripped horribly (Shane's fault, of course) several years ago and I kept the top sheet because it might be useful "someday". And it has been, don't get me wrong. When we had to cage our cat after he broke his femur last year, we used this sheet in the bottom of the recovery palace. When we've needed a dropcloth for non-greasy projects, this sheet has been pulled out. But it's nothing that I feel bad about cutting up, either. So about half the sheet has now been cut into small-ish pieces for several different projects.
The first is that I wanted to make reusable cloth baby butt wipes. If we're going for cloth diapers, might as well go all the way and use cloth wipes, right? And it's not like they're hard to make. Even for a beginning sewer such as myself, these were ridiculously easy. I cut out squares of fabric and simply serged the edges. That's it. We now have a nice stack of baby wipes, which can get washed along with the cloth diapers. As for what goes on them and makes them wipes, from what I've read all you need at first is just a bit of water. (After all, it's more than we adults do for ourselves!) You can add a bit of baby wash to the water as well, but it's not totally necessary, especially for newborns. We'll figure out what works best for us once she's here. But this is one less thing that we need to buy.
And to be clear, I'm certain that there will be times and circumstances for which we'll buy disposable wipes and diapers. I've accepted that fact. But with all of this planning and prep, we'll have to buy far fewer of those items than the average family, which will not only save lots of money but will prevent garbage as well. I like both of those things.
The second item I made was a rice heating pad for my back. It's not aching as much as it was at one point, but I figure it's hard to go wrong with having a heating pad on hand. Apparently a lot of nursing mothers end up with aching backs too, and, well, life causes aches and pains. Now we can fix ourselves. [Picture to the lower left is halfway through making the heating pad. I sectioned it so that the rice doesn't all fall to one side.]
I used a lot of rice yesterday. Not that it's terrible, since rice is so cheap, but I still cringed a little. The final item I made was a rice draft dodger for under the front door. There's a decent sized gap and in the winter we can feel a draft at foot level. We had a towel that we put in front of the door, but this is a more elegant solution, and easier to deal with. Since it was so long and I knew I'd use lots of rice, I also stuffed it in a few places with fabric scraps from my earlier projects. It's not much, but it displaced a little bit of the rice and, again, kept me from throwing that fabric away.
I'm so excited to have the serger working that I'm wondering what other things I can make? Beginner projects only, of course. One idea is to make a couple of baby changing pads for around the house, but for that I need to buy some towels from Value Village first. (Also, if I don't get around to actually making a cute little changing pad and instead just have towels on the floor, it's not a big deal to us, so this isn't a priority.) We also don't have anywhere to put said cloth diapers and wipes yet, so I'm thinking of going to the craft store and finding some water resistant/waterproof fabric and an embroidery hoop to line an old pillowcase (we have lots of those, too). It would look something like this and I could just throw the whole thing in the washing machine with the diapers. Also, since it would hang in the closet, it would keep things off the floor and out of temptation range for the dog.
In the meantime, I'm going to work on making some baby socks. I'll post the pattern later, if I can get it to work, but I'm basing it roughly on the sock pattern I used for my Forty-Below Socks (which are the knee-high socks in one of the Stitch 'N Bitch books). Of course, I'm using much, much thinner yarn and size two needles for these socks, rather than sweater-weight yarn and size 5 needles as I did before. We'll see how they turn out. If it works well, I know I'll have plenty of yarn leftover so I'll make a few pairs as gifts for friends and family who are having babies.

Monday, September 9, 2013


Me: "She's getting enormous."
Shane: "Stop talking about yourself in the third person."

31 weeks, and I'm starting to get a bit weary of being pregnant. Mostly, the waiting. I'm not a patient person in general, and waiting for something so momentous which, really, I can't plan for as much as I'd like (I don't get to pick my due date, or how I'll react to the pain, etc.) is getting tiresome. Even Shane said the other day, "Yeah, now that the shock of 'holy shit, I'm going to be a dad' has worn off, I just want it to start already."
Of course, the aches and pains, the not being able to breathe or bend over very far, the not sleeping well because of all of this, and the subsequent exhaustion are starting to take their toll as well. That might have something to do with my impatience. And still, I am so lucky because this has been relatively easy on me! No health problems for either of us, no excessive weight gain for me, etc. So I do, constantly, remind myself of that. But at this stage, being pregnant will never be easy.
I still have plans for organizing and decluttering and getting ready for Baby's big arrival that I want to set in motion and yet...I have no motivation for most of it. I'm so tired. Can't I just lie down and read for the next two months?
My usual marathon of preserving food is more like a 3-legged race for turtles this year. A bit derpy, not quite sure what direction I want to go, and very, very slow. My laziness has paid off in one way, though: I finally used my food processor in the way it should be used. I had TONS of rhubarb to process, so that I can make Ginger Rhubarb Marmalade (recipe courtesy of my MIL), and instead of chopping or cutting it all by hand I took the lazy/easy way and pulled out the food processor. Because this is exactly the kind of thing we got it for. I feel ridiculous for not using it as much in the past because it made chopping the rhubarb the work of about 10 minutes.
And when I say tons of rhubarb, it's not too much of an exaggeration. Some of this will get given away as gifts, the rest will stay with me and go on muffins and toast and all kinds of other yummy things. Because it's amazing, and tasty, and perfect.
I'm just waiting for the stores to get more crystalized ginger candy in bulk.

Thanks to our recent Costco run, we have tons of food in the house. Other than needing a few perishables every week (fruit, milk) we don't have to buy really anything. We've got two weeks' worth of menu items simply with what we have on hand.
Oh boy. Saturday night, we decided to make salmon chowder. It's Shane's recipe, but I generally act as sous chef when he cooks. (He does the same for me a lot, too.) The way we make it, the salmon fillet gets cooked in the oven first, while the vegetables cook and get soft in the soup pot, then the salmon gets added to the soup along with the cream base and everything simmers for about 20 minutes before we eat. Well, Shane pulled out the Pyrex baking dish and set it on the stove, not realizing that he'd left the burner under it on after making the roux. After getting everything set up to simmer, we fed the pets and I decided to do a load of dishes to clean up a bit pre-dinner and BOOM! The Pyrex exploded everywhere. I mean everywhere. The poor cat was gone in a heartbeat, terrified out of his mind. The dog, after one stunned minute, tried to go back to eating her dinner (there were salmon skins in it!) and we had to pull her away because there was glass in her bowl. We even had to throw away our entire pot of soup (16 cups of chowder!) because of the glass that almost certainly got in it. We tried to justify eating it. "Maybe if we chew very carefully? No, no."
To make a long story short, after 45 minutes of cleaning, when it was past 8:00, weary from cleaning and more than a little shell shocked, we decided that instead of trying to thaw something out and start dinner all over again we'd just go out to eat. So much for our streak of frugal meals. And now we're down a baking dish on top of it all.
At least no one was hurt. Shane called his brother later on and started the conversation with, "So, I tried to blow up my pregnant wife tonight...."

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

State Fair craziness

When the idea was first proposed to me, I didn't want to. I'm 30 weeks pregnant, I'm enormous, less mobile than normal, and tired. But I said yes, knowing that I would regret it if I didn't. So we took off for the weekend and went to the state fair in Palmer. My in-laws met us there with the motorhome and we all camped out together.
Really, we only spent one day (Saturday) at the fair. And that was plenty. At one point I went back to the motorhome to take a nap (it was rainy, so I hadn't even sat down in 5 hours) and my MIL asked, "Did you find anything you couldn't live without?" I thought that was an interesting way of putting it. Certainly there were things which were lovely and would be useful. Sweaters that I think are gorgeous, beautiful pottery and artwork, yarn from local animals and dyes. Plenty of crap, of course, designed to get you to spend way too much money on something you'll throw away as soon as you get it home. Or as soon as it breaks, a few hours after purchase. But something I couldn't live without? No, of course not. The only thing I was even somewhat tempted by was the pottery, and even that desire died as soon as I thought of how small our kitchen is, how many mugs we own and how few of those we regularly drink out of. (More in the winter than in the summer, but we still own more than get used.) Yes, the pottery was pretty. The mugs were the style I like, a bit bigger than average and perfect for wrapping your hands around. But I can most certainly live without them.
The older I get, the less I enjoy the fair. I remember going as a kid and being SO EXCITED. Rides! Toys! Food! Ok, I'm still way too excited about the food. (Which, it turns out, is the only thing Shane and I spent any money on. And I felt like a glutton for how much I ate, even though plenty of it was shared among several people.) I never really understood why my mom said no when I begged for just about every toy you could find at the fair. We got to go on plenty of rides, but hardly came home with anything. Now I understand. The fair is really just designed to get people to spend money. Probably more money than they can reasonably afford, especially with prices so high. Shane's cousin brought her family, and her older daughter (age 4) is both big enough to go on rides and to feel the pressure to purchase. With the rides, the husband took the daughter on one ride and Erika told us, "$10 on one freaking ride for 5 minutes of entertainment. How ridiculous." Thankfully, they had pushed rides off until late afternoon, when the little girl was tired, so they could go on just a few and then leave. Worse was earlier in the day, wandering around among the booths and hearing her say, "I want this! Mommy, we need this!" At four, this little girl decided that they needed 2 hottubs, one for kids and one for grownups. Of course, her parents have too much common sense to actually say yes to these demands, but I thought it was sad how pushed to consume our culture is that even kids who aren't allowed to watch much (any?) T.V. absorb so much of it. At what age are kids able to start understanding the differences between wants, needs, and luxuries?
As I said, we only spent one day at the fair. We got to see a great (free) concert by a band that Shane and I have enjoyed on Pandora for quite a while now (Young Dubliners), and stayed to watch the silly Lumberjack Show (also free). My MIL and I saw the gorgeous crafts that people have submitted and won awards for, we wandered around the animal pens and watched the two little girls pet some of the animals. ("Why are these baby chickens in a box? Why can't we hold them?") We had a great time, mostly because of the time with family.
Sunday we went to Costco in Anchorage, since we were so close and had people with a Costco card to take us. Woo! I do love Costco. Shane's mom was surprised by what she called our "restraint". We spent about $340, but we were careful about finding good deals. Cheese that's almost $4/block cheaper than Fairbanks, toilet paper, reindeer sausages at half the price we can find them here, etc. All non-perishables, really, since it would be over 24 hours before we had access to a real refrigerator. (The few things which needed to be refrigerated were stuffed in the motorhome's fridge, then in a cooler for the drive home.) We now have stuffed cabinets and shouldn't need to buy more than perishables for the foreseeable future. I <3 Costco.
After that it was to the cousin's house to camp out for our last night and to have a BBQ with even more family. The newlyweds, whose wedding we went to earlier this summer, showed up so we got to congratulate them once again. Learned more about family history, chatted, ate too much (again) and had a fantastic time.
What would an Alaskan road trip be without the wildlife? I drove most of the way home (Shane had trouble sleeping on the air mattress, so he napped a good portion of the way home) and at one point, when it was pouring rain, I screamed a bit and slammed on the breaks, waking Shane up. A fairly large black bear climbed over the guardrail and ran across the road right in front of us. Sure does get the heart pumping. Thankfully, I stopped in time and the bear ran off pretty quickly, so it was fine too.
Despite how much fun it all was, I was happy to come home. It was exhausting, and my digestive system seems much happier to be back to my normal eating habits. The pets, also, are happier. The dog went with us and the cat stayed home. So now we have a dog who's content to once again be around everything familiar, and a cat who's busy showing us just how much he missed us. It's good to be home.