Lynn's blog

I don't know what I've gotten myself into.

I want to get better at bellydancing. It's not easy, not least because I have little core strength. John has gone in for three short programs, and I have entered into them because dang it, I want to dance and I need more than the dancing itself is giving me; I'm too far into a strength deficit to come out of it by dancing alone.

So we're working on getting to a hundred pushups a day in 6 weeks, TWO hundred situps a day, and biking every day for 30 days starting April 1st, though I'm not joking.

We started the pushups and situps today. I am amazed how many pushups I can already do; I've never been able to do more than two of any kind in my entire life, and today I did fourteen knee pushups.

I still can't do a proper situp. I do crunches instead. There's just too much of me in front to get very far up. I did eighteen crunches.

This is WAY more than I thought I could do, and I'm on the first day of the program. Anyone want to join me?

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Now that the deck and kitchen are more or less finished, we turned to a vexing problem along the side of the house. When that community group planted our yard three and a half years ago (and then dropped us on our heads when it came to the promised follow-up), they planted a grape vine by the house, and a dippy young man built a huge bamboo trellis.

Sadly, he anchored it to the electrical conduit feeding the house.

Last year we finally got grapes from this vine. We took down the trellis late last summer when Mr K, our contractor, came to build the deck. This week, he's here with the final piece, the new trellis/arbor for the grape vine. The arbor will run the entire south side of the house, and will have room for four more vines; it'll be pretty, and give the house a little shade protection, too.

I went out yesterday afternoon once Mr K had left, and discovered that in sinking one of the posts for the arbor...well, I bet you can guess. He tore out the grape vine. Yes, he tore out the grape vine for which we were building the arbor. I could swear I pointed it out to him, but he didn't remember which plant it was. O irony! O fortuna! O. Henry!

There's enough of the rootball left that we're hoping we can save the poor thing, but if not, well, we were planting grapes anyway. It'll just take three more years before we get any at all.

In the scope of things, this is one of the few "disasters" that have beset the remodel, so I can't complain too heavily. I was just looking forward to grapes this year, that's all. Guess I'll have to buy 'em at the store.

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Boy, I've been finishing stuff like mad lately! Check it out:

A pair of fingerless mitts, knit in Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock almost-solid in Charcoal. These ended up being Josie's; they look overly goth on me and perfect on her.

And then, a project I've been working on since late 2008:

A GIANT afghan/blanket crocheted in Lion Brand Homespun. Each one of those stripes, dear friends, is an ENTIRE HUGE SKEIN of Homespun--11 in all. If you're a Homespun fan, the colors are Shaker and Fiesta. Turned out really pretty, and very, very warm. Also large. I'm SO GLAD to be done with it, not because it wasn't fun to work on--lovely, mindless crochet--but because I've been working on it for 18 months and I was beginning to despair of finishing it.

Now I'm planning out an odd-ball shawl in browns, grays, purples, rusts and oranges. Possibly a blue and a red double-stranded with gray. Think Noro. I started it as a feather-and-fan, but I didn't like the way it was looking, so I unraveled it. I started again with a dishcloth-style shawl, but didn't like that either. I'm unraveling it again and will be planning out something built like the feather-and-fan shawl, but not in feather-and-fan. Stay tuned.

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From time to time here at TNH Central, odd boxes show up at the door, addressed to "Editor." Sometimes I know they're coming; sometimes I don't. Usually they contain books, but not today.

Today, a long thin one showed up, and inside was a HomeRight Paint Stick Kit. I vaguely remember telling a PR guy I'd give it a bash. After all, we have a kitchen to paint--oh yeah, hey! We shooed the last of the workmen out! The cabinets, flooring, countertops, they are all done! Jeffy the Hippie Contractor has only a tiny bit of mudding to do, then we get to paint! Eeek! I have to find colors now!

So the Paint Stick showed up at the right time. We've been curious as to whether these work better than just an ol' roller and tray, and I guess we'll find out. If this does work, it'll make painting the high ceilings around here really easy, almost fun. We'll keep you posted, and I'll try to get pix of the kitchen soon.

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Eleven years ago this week, The New Homemaker was born. Josie was about 18 months old, Louisa was a wish, and my life was very different.

Josie is now twelve and a half. She is as tall as I am, and by the end of the year will probably loom over me. Louisa is past my shoulder, and turns nine next month, if you can believe it.

TNH has survived economic catastrophes, disk crashes, pregnancy, critical illnesses, and stuff you'll never know about. Here we are, eleven years later.

Thank you for reading. :)

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It gets very dark and gray in Oregon in the winter, so any bits of color I can get into my life, I do. The cheapest, most instant-gratification-y way I've found? Nail polish. Cheap bottles can be as little as a dollar, and I get them in all kinds of colors, anything that appeals! Right now my nails are a warm metallic gold--gilded like a picture frame! But at other times this winter, they've been deep red, mermaid blue, dark green. Cheers me up every time I look at my hands.

Another way to get color: Embroidery floss! Also cheap, and in vivid tones. Here's a big pile I've collected:

And this is what I'm doing with it:

This started life as a Russian punch embroidery kit we could never figure out; the punch wouldn't punch. But I liked the design, so i decided to just do regular old embroidery over it. I'm done with the background and have started the chicken. It's turning out really well and will be framed and hung either in the kitchen or in the TV room. Possibly the latter. We have this odd animal motif going on in there.

The unexpected jolt of color:

One of my youngest daughters' friends managed to somehow snap the axle of my spinning wheel clean off. Luckily, it's a Babe Production wheel and almost everything on it is pretty much open source/self-serve--we just need a dowel.

The funny thing was when JJ took it apart to pound out the broken pieces. Inside (the top of the supporting tube is open), we found my missing needle-nose bottle of spinning oil, its refill bottle (I've been missing both for six years), five colored pencils, a bright blue knitting needle, and a big piece of pink pink pink sidewalk chalk!

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So glad you asked! I've taken up my crafting again in earnest after a couple of years of lackluster inspiration.

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Meeting someone you've known for 13 years for the first time is an odd thing. Will we like one another? Are we each the person the other thought she was? After all, people are often different online than they are in person; they're not lying about who they are, but they're better able to express themselves or connect than they are in real life (or vice versa).

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Yesterday we finally got the last cabinet. Some time next week, we'll have the cabinet fronts back, newly repainted--did I tell you that? All the new cabinets showed up with the paint peeling off. grrr.

The new cabinet is perfectly painted, and the cabinet maker is making things right. When he brings the fronts, he'll also repaint the base cabinets. Yeah, those got munged, too.

So: Floor, check. Last cabinet, check.

What remains: Framing for the fridge--it got pushed into what was the door to the back porch, which is now a sorta shed accessible only from the new deck; the countertop for the new cabinet; and the painting. Oh, and a new unfitted glass display case/cabinet where I can put my pretty things like teapots that I regularly use.

We're already re-organizing things. I winnowed my cookbook collection from nearly 100 volumes down to 30, and from there, down to 17 remaining books, all beloved.

The major casualty: My ancient, falling-apart copy of "Laurel's Kitchen," which I've kept all these years solely for the introduction. Carol Flinders' essay on the value of women's work is absolutely brilliant, as was her similar essay in the first edition (I had the tenth anniversary second edition).

But the recipes themselves are horrid, the nutritional advice is outdated, and we are about as diametrically opposed to vegetarianism as we can be. If I could get a chapbook of the introductions, I'd buy it in a heartbeat. But the book itself is in my recycling bin.

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For thirteen years now, I've been a member of an online support group of mothers. We formed as a group early in our pregnancies on what was then the only dedicated listserv for pregnant women. We were supposed to be together only for the duration of our pregnancies, all due in October of 1997. (Josie came in September, earlier than expected, but they let me stick around. ;) ) At one point early in the babies' lives, someone said, wouldn't it be funny if we were still together when the kids were in kindergarten? We all scoffed.

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Ever think about becoming a reporter? (Hint: Don't.) Here's how to put a story together:

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We have been in this fershlugginer kitchen remodel/recovery since AUGUST, and before then our old floor was a disaster. Well, feast your eyes on this (commentary by JJ):

Marmoleum in Barbados (off-white), Raven (black) and Bleecker Street (red--yeah, I don't get the name either). As you can see, the baseboards aren't in yet, nor is the painting done. But oh, man, it's an improvement from this:

End of February it should be 100% done, the railings on the new deck in, the painting done, everything fresh and tidy and re-organized. It's like having a new house. I keep going in there as it is, with the new floor and the stainless steel appliances and countertops, and think I've walked into the wrong house...

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We love Netflix. We're not big buyers of movies, and we always have a hard time remembering to take videos and DVDs back to the rental place.

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The "Aughts" were a hard decade for this family. We started out healthy, happy, and rich--yeah, we were multimillionaires there for a brief, shining moment. Then we were plunged into poverty and sickness.

We've spent most of the decade climbing painfully out of both conditions, and while we're not entering the "Teens" in as good as shape as the previous decade, we're sure ending it better than we've been through most of the "Aughts." The main things we're grateful for about the decade are that we have Louisa (2001), and that I'm still alive after the medical cock-ups that started in 2002. I still fantasize about suing everyone involved, but I can't take the stress.

But here I am in 2010. I'm still alive. I'm finally feeling as if I can stop looking backward, as if I've finally processed what happened to us, and what happened to me. Financially, we're about as precarious as most middle-class families these days, but nothing like we were post-2001. Our kids are well. John's well--better than ever. And I'm ready to look ahead, not back.

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Monty Python fans will get the reference.

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It's only October and I'm already waiting happily for 2010, not because this year's been so horrible, but because it's been so up-in-the-air. I've decided 2009 is the Year of Breaking Things.

My brain broke in February (well, it'd been broken for years, we just figured it out then). It's repairing itself fairly well. I still have ups and downs but they're not nearly as UP and DOWN as they used to be.

My uterus broke in April, and I discover I didn't write about it here! I've been so distracted. I nearly bled to death in April, from a regular old period. I ended up in the hospital for two days for a near-emergency ablation and two units of blood. Who knew you could bleed to death THAT way!

Our kitchen ceiling broke in August. The upstairs toilet plugged and ran at the same time, and there was nowhere for the water to go but out. The upstairs bath flooded for about 30-45 minutes. We discovered it when water came pouring out of the walls in the pantry hallway and basement staircase--it had come through the bathroom's pocket door into, rather than down, the walls. And we saw a little bit of water coming out of a light fixture. Long story short, the next morning we woke to a crash and discovered the kitchen ceiling on the kitchen floor.

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Lookee! A baby!

My sister-in-law Katie gave birth to her this morning at 3:21 am, no weight or height released at this time. :) We're going to go see her today when John gets off work. Welcome to the world, Miss Zoe!

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One of our relatives asked us for family photos for a class project. Ben, Ben, Ben. You should know never to ask for stuff like that:

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One of my other projects that absorbed too much of my time is now out of the way, I've finished the upgrade on the site (almost--couple of stragglers), and it's all purty again. How you like? :)

If you catch any bugs or problems, please let me know. In the meantime, now that this is my main blog, I hope to be spending more time with you for reals.

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If you can believe it, my youngest girl is eight. Some of you have been following this site since before she was born, and now she's eight.

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Hey, guys. I'm sure a few of you are wondering, what the heck's going on with Lynn? A few things.

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I'm going to be upgrading TNH's software--it's really, really out of date! That will lead to some bumpiness, but it should also fix problems like not being able to post through the spam filter, allowing for better editing of the recipes (right now the ones with duplicate ingredients won't let me edit them, the buggers), and so on. We'll see what happens together! :)

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I think I told you guys we were going to sell our extra lot. Well, we put it on the market and it sold--with a backup offer--nearly full price in less than three days.

This is very good news. It means we'll be mortgage-free. It also means we'll lose our big yard, and I'll finally say goodbye to a dream I had for myself: urban self-sufficiency. Ever since I bought this place I wanted to have a big garden, chickens, maybe a wood-fired oven.

But first I got divorced, and my gardening nut ex-husband moved out. I remarried John, but he really hates yard work--despises it. And then I got sick. So there was this yard, slowly going fallow. Nothing I did to get help with the yard worked. I had my chickens, but it became an enormous battle with the kids to get them to do their chores and feed them.

So really, it's clear. That dream is never going to come true. I don't have the family support, and I don't have the strength. I'm Not That Guy, as we say around here, though I really wanted to be That Guy. The sale of the lot means financial relief, but it also means goodbye to my chickens, who are already in their new home. And it means goodbye to the idea of me as an urban farmer. Bye, Farmer Lynn.

I miss my chickens already.

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I'm on a YouTube kick!

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Looking for a good Halloween read? Novelist MJ Rose--a longtime TNH sponsor--is releasing her romantic thriller The Reincarnationist as a free ebook between now and the 31st of October!

Photojournalist Josh Ryder survives a terrorist's bomb, only to be haunted by near hallucinatory memories of a past life in Rome as a pagan priest whose dangerous congress with Sabina, one of the Vestal Virgins, poses a transgression so serious the lovers will face a certain death if exposed. Scents of jasmine and sandalwood and images of furtive liaisons and violence descend on Josh at will, pulling him to an ancient yet strangely familiar Roman burial chamber harboring the remains of a woman clutching a wooden box.

A trail of present-day murders takes us deeper into a labyrinth at whose heart lies the enigma of a collection of ancient gems or memory stones whose origins trace back to both ancient Egypt and India. The stones' promise to "assist the wearer in reaching his next incarnation" sets the ancient and modern worlds on a collision course.

MJ is releasing the second book in this series soon, so you'll want to read this one quick! :)

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And I DO mean "mucking out." Stables ain't got nothin' on LouLou.

As you may have seen, Anhata and her husband Frank are adopting two little kids from foster care, tripling their children overnight! Since Josie moved into the downstairs guest room, Lou's had two beds in her room, the built-in bed that Jo slept in, and a wrought iron daybed. We gave Hata and Frank the daybed for their new daughter to sleep in until they found something else they wanted.

So we're taking the opportunity for a major mucking-out of Lou's room. So far, we've found long lost dishes, scissors she wasn't supposed to have, several reams of paper, rotten fruit, stolen packets of raisins and the lid off the caramel sauce, and we've collected a bathrooms' worth of laundry, some of it clean, some of it mine. What was she doing with my flannel sheet set and my Jayne Cobb, Mercenary t-shirt?!

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I point to this every Halloween because it's just too damn funny. There are some naughty words, so if that bothers you, don't click.

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I Didn't Knit That for You:

"When a tall, handsome stranger asked me if that was handspun, well, I'd never had a man talk to me like that before!" bwaaahahahahaha!!! I love those Mason-Dixon girls!

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John and I have been doing this thing in the past few months we call "Not That Guy." "Not That Guy" is the guy you wanted to be when you bought all that stuff for, say, scrapbooking. You wanted to be That Scrapbooking Guy, but you're not scrapbooking; it's all sitting there in the closet gathering dust and taking up space. You're Not That Scrapbooking Guy. So it's time to get rid of That Guy's stuff.

So far John has admitted he's Not That Woodworking Guy, and we sold the bandsaw and Shopsmith that have been taking up space in the garage, unused for five years. I have admitted I'm Not That Drumming Guy, and sold my beautiful quinto drum that has sat in a corner of Josie's room, unplayed, for more than 15 years.

(Quick side note: We discovered in this process that we are Those Biking Guys, however, and we took the money from the sales of Those Other Guys' things and bought some new bikes. I am now the extremely happy owner of an Electra Townie 21 speed, the Purple Poem one. Go get on a Townie, they will renew the joy of biking that you lost somewhere in middle school. And John converted his mountain bike to an Xtracycle sport utility bike, which is the coolest thing EVAR. He can haul a week's worth of groceries AND LouLou on that thing. And we have a tandem. I highly recommend tandem riding for couples, it is hella fun.)

The greatest thing we have had to acknowledge, though, is that we are Not Those Gardening Guys. I was That Gardening Guy, but that was before my illness. Now, I'm Not That Guy any more, and I never will be again. :(

After a lot of thought, we have decided to sell our extra lot, the yard next to our home. We had considered moving--we even looked at condo living--but in the end, selling the lot is our best choice. It severely reduces the amount of maintenance and/or guilt we face, it allows us to pay off our mortgage, and it puts us in a much better position to improve the house we have. It needs insulation, new, more efficient windows, a new kitchen (our kitchen is falling apart and we have no dishwasher--aagh!), and the laundry needs moved upstairs from the basement. If we did those things, we could stay in this house happily for at least another ten years if not longer. We love our neighborhood, and we want to stay.

So, Not That Guy. We wanted to be That Guy, but we're Not That Guy.

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