Lynn's blog

It's been gorgeous here lately, but not today! Last night it was so cold we had to put our down comforter back on the bed.

Coincidentally, we had a turkey carcass in the fridge--well, part of a carcass, it was the leftovers from a turkey breast. We also had some chicken bones left from John's birthday dinner; he made curry and de-boned the breasts himself and I froze the unused part. So into the soup pot they went, along with an entire onion--skin and all--an entire bulb of garlic, skin and all, a handful of old mushrooms, some peppercorns, sea salt and a dried-up hand of ginger. I love stock for using stuff like this up that I couldn't otherwise use, and making it delicious, too.

I make stock using a pot just like this one: A pasta pot. Yes! It makes sense. I'm not going to want any of the above solids in the final soup. So I put the pasta liner inside the main pot, put all the stuff in that liner, and when it's time to strain I just lift the pasta liner out. Viola! Instantly strained. :) Saves me a lot of burns and swearing straining the stock into another pot.

I'm not at all sure what else is going into this soup. I don't really have any leftover meat from the turkey to speak of. But I have several gorgeous leeks, and I've been asked to put barley in there. So barley leek appears to be the direction we're headed.

I also got a new kombucha scoby last week and have a batch of sweet tea cooling on the stovetop right now so I can start a batch tomorrow. My old friend Gonzales got thrown out when I was in the hospital, and really, can you blame my mom? If I opened up a Corningware casserole and found that floating around not knowing what it was, I'd throw it out too.

And if I don't run out of gas, I'll be making banana bread. I'm determined to not let any produce go to waste and really squeeze the dollars right now, and I have a hand of bananas past their prime. Though I just noted the time. It may need to wait till tomorrow. If it works, I'll post the recipe, since I'm making it with spelt.

Update: Yep. Outta gas. But! I did put up the soup recipe.

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"We are unable to roll back time. Most of us wouldn't even want to. Our concern is for our children who are growing up in a rapidly changing world where modern technology can take away their childhood."
--Barbara Patterson, Beyond the Rainbow Bridge

1. Unscheduled time and a long leash: Your child does not need every minute of every day scheduled and supervised. He will not die, either of boredom or "stranger danger."

Alvin Rosenfeld, author of The Over-Scheduled Child, calls it "Hyper-Parenting." Keep extracurricular activity to just one or two at a time. Let your kid be bored. Boredom leads the imagination to great discoveries.

At the same time, don't be afraid to let your older child out of your sight. Teach your children to listen to their intuition, and give them the tools they need to be both safe and free.

2. Outdoors time: There's been much discussion of nature-deficit disorder in the media, but I'm not even talking about the woods. I'm talking about just going outside:

A major study came out [in 2005] that said that the rate of obesity in children is growing faster in rural areas than it is in cities and suburbs. Again, it seems counterintuitive. But it's not so counterintuitive when you think about the fact that the family farm is fairly nonexistent now. Kids in rural areas are playing the same video games, watching the same television, and they're on longer car rides.

The minute the sun comes out here in Oregon I kick those two girls out of the house into the yard. This year we're planting a bean tent for the kids to play in; consider planting a sunflower house with yours.

3. Limited electronics: We watch TV at our house. The girls are limited in what they can watch, we have to approve of it, and they don't have TV in their room (and never shall). They don't have iPods and are not allowed to wear headphones in the company of other people. We don't have a game system, not even the grown-ups, to the complete shock of other men John's age--they almost can't believe it. The computer is for school and a little bit of goofing around. We don't have a DVD system in the van. The girls don't "text." In short, if it comes between you and your children, or your children and the world, it's not a helpful technology. Ditch it.

4. Marketing awareness: Teach your children about advertising and how companies try to sell them things. Branded merchandise is not a good influence. Understand what brands are trying to teach your children. Usually the message is how to be a consumer. Is that what you want for your kids--a passive life as a consumer?

For instance, we don't allow Bratz merchandise in the house because we don't like the relentless shopping and flirting promotion attached to a toy marketed to pre-teens. We also don't like the sexualizing of pre-teens and even babies in these toys.

First you have to get clear about this stuff yourself. What message are you wearing across your chest? And why are you paying to advertise for some company--shouldn't they be paying you?

5. Family first: If you read TNH, you're probably either already putting family first, or longing to. For some families, it means a parent at home full-time. For others, it means that and homeschooling. Just as with electronics, if something comes between you and your family, re-evaluate, whether that thing is a paid job, a volunteer job, a hobby or even an attitude.

Final thought: All of these things are of a piece. Limiting electronics means fighting consumerism, which leads to more time outside which leads to less over-scheduling which leads to more time for families which leads to less reliance on consumerism and electronics both...

It's all of a piece, my dears.

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I'm trying to do 20 minutes in the garden a day. I've always believed that if you can throw 20 minutes at something, if you do it every day, you can accomplish a great deal. I used to do piles of sewing that way, virtually everything I wore.

So I did some weeding in the still-horrid raspberry/fig bed and planted old-fashioned yellow crookneck squash in an empty spot in that bed. It's the old warty variety that I really love.

In a big heap of dirt that looked promising I put Futsu Japanese winter squash. John never liked winter squash until we went out to dinner once for our anniversary at a really expensive restaurant here in town (it was an anniversary gift).

It was a "prix fixe" dinner, where you sit down and food just arrives. Among the dishes was a winter squash puree. I think because the place was so expensive, he tried it. Next thing I knew he'd practically licked the plate! It turns out that he'll eat winter squash served savory but not sweet, and his favorite is Japanese squashes like the one we had that night. I always fix it for him roasted along with garlic then pureed with butter and cream. What's not to love?

We'll see if any of it comes up; the seed is from 2005! So I planted about 3 times the seed I normally would. If I get lucky, I'll move the extra seedlings to other locations or give some away.

It took closer to 45 minutes than 20 to do what I wanted to do. Now I'm pooped.

[Pictures courtesy Wikipedia.]

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Here is John with his paper bag doppelganger. See the resemblance? See why I laughed so hard?

Josie made a set of them, one for each of us; I don't know what she did with the others, perhaps they're waiting on our next presents.

The only thing that worries me is when John starts to talk to himself:

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Josie made John a paper bag puppet version of him for his 36th birthday today (happy birthday, baby). It looks just like him. John also wanted to test out the video on our digital camera. So if you've ever wondered what I look and sound like:

I laughed so hard I'm sleepy now! Apologies for the awful video, we really were just testing it out for ourselves. Tomorrow I'll get a picture of him next to the puppet, it's scary.
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Isn't this lovely? It's an angelica plant out back in the same permaculture "guild" as the apple trees. I have no idea what to do with it yet, other than admire it. Ima took the picture when she was here yesterday.
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This is Louisa today, Wednesday, just over age six. Melisa took her picture with her Mothers-Day-present camera. Can't you just see who she is? I mean, besides a kid who really needs a haircut.

It was knitting circle today, and I'm glad my friends were here. We got bad news today: John lost the job he just started in February. It's probably for the best. It wasn't a good fit. Nevertheless, it's always frightening when this happens. We're going to be okay. We'll just keep on keeping on.

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For instance, using:

  • olive oil to shave
  • a coffee filter to diffuse a camera flash
  • lemon to get sticky stuff off a grater
  • a dryer sheet to prevent thread tangles when hand-sewing
  • newspaper to deodorize reusable food containers
  • baking soda to erase crayon marks
  • vinegar to wipe salt stains off of boots
  • a ziploc bag to keep your hands clean when kneading dough
  • velcro to hang pictures
  • salt to remove clothes iron residue

...just ten of 101 uses Real Simple came up with for those ten everyday items. Worth printing out or at least bookmarking. [via]

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I don't know about where you live, but here there is a thriving scrap metal business--mostly fueled here, sadly, by meth users, but not entirely. Anything metal not tied down, and some things that are tied down, is being sold for scrap.

Last week my friend Teri had to move, and like a lot of folks who've had roommates had all this old stuff and didn't know how on earth she was going to get rid of it without taking it to the dump. Among them were several useless box springs. And then it dawned on her: Bed springs are metal!

She posted them on Craigslist as free scrap metal and they were gone before her keyboard cooled, saving her a trip to the dump and the dump a bunch of box springs that turned out to have a final use.

To test this hack, we "curbed" the pictured pile of stuff that's been littering my back yard awaiting a trip to the dump: Pieces of the old swing set that weren't needed for the bean trellis; and an old bed frame that gave up the ghost last year. I posted it on Craigslist, with the proviso that it had to be stripped elsewhere. Less than five hours later, it was gone!

Give it a try. I bet you've got some similar stuff cluttering up the garage.

Sparrow had her baby and she's adorable! Lookit the cuteness! Right now the menopause hormones have me wanting to mama-chew on every baby I see. Miriel is very chewable. ;)

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Why I love this man.

And this is the last either of us will speak about this for a while.

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Back with the Monday Night Nonsense, breaking off for Heroes.

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These are chip bags turned into super cute pencil bags! Here's the full tutorial. [via]

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This is the front of my house today, a sunny and warm day. See those flowers? That's one rhodie bush, a variety called "Sappho." It's white with an eye that's so purple it's nearly black. It came with the house, and once it finishes blooming we're going to clip it back pretty hard. And by "we" I mean John. ;)

Portland is known as the Rose City but really, we are the rhodie city. Rhododendrons do so well here, you can't kill them with a stick.

See the bee in there? Bees love this bush. When I first bought this house 20 years ago there were a couple of rhodie bushes that were a color I really hated (a violent fuschia) and were planted against the foundation, which I also really hate. They were big bushes, but my ex-husband and I dug them up, wrapped the roots and gave them away. Both of them lived--thrived, in fact. I can still see one of them just a couple of doors down.

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This Mother's Day, I had to put on a pair of latex gloves and clean out a chicken's impacted vent (if you're not squeamish, Google it; if you are, don't). Last Mother's Day, I died.

I think this year was better than last year.

Actually it was good to take stock of how far I've come. I spent a chunk of today sitting in the sun, weeding. Leonard came, along with our friends Laura and Tom and their friend Kelly, and we did a yard cleanup. It's looking semi-decent out there.

I astonished myself by cleaning up the small bed in the front by the lamp post. I dug out the weeds and planted the rest of the alyssum and white petunias to go with the deep red ones. I found a sack of seeds from 1989 (!) and spread some ancient alyssum seeds out in front, too. If they sprout, great; if they don't, that's fine too. (I have a TON more seeds of different kinds and I'm just going to spread them around and see what happens.)

Then I went out back and sat on a bucket, weeding out the completely overrun raspberry bed. I found a bunch of beach strawberries had put out runners everywhere and will probably cover that bed given time and relief from cleavers and dock. I didn't come close to finishing but it looks better than it did.

Going through the yard today, we found that the satsuma (planted in 2005) has set about 18 plums and the apples (late 2006) a dozen apiece. One of the gooseberry bushes is covered and there are currants on a couple of the bushes. Fun!

The part I'm most looking forward to is the bean house. We moved the girls' old swingset frame to a sunny patch and we're going to use it as an A-frame trellis that the girls can crawl inside. I just need some bean seeds. :) I'm going to plant sunflowers around it, too.

Then I came inside and collapsed for three hours.

But you know what? It was worth it.

I hope your Mother's Day was good, too.

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St. Louis in the '20s. Bootleggers. Swells in top hats. Flappers with tails. And ears. No, not fox stoles--real ears and real tails.

This is a story of a St. Louis occupied entirely by cats.

Tracy J. Butler's Lackadaisy is a gorgeously illustrated net comic telling the story of Miss Maisy, the elegant owner of the Little Daisy Cafe. At least that's what's on the first floor; in the subterranean cave beneath the cafe is the swank speakeasy Lackadaisy. Butler's artwork is stupendous. The characters practically leap off the page. A fun, fun story, and I can't wait for the next installment. And this is from someone who generally speaking doesn't care for "funny animal" comix.

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I have the place to myself. No car, but no kids and no hubby. Just a morning and probably part of an afternoon stretching out before me. John took the girls down to my mother-in-law's to pick up an old computer we're going to outfit with Ubuntu Linux for the girls. My mom was right, there's something very screwy about her old iMac; it may have been a lemon, because we can't get the thing to run fer nothin'.

This is my Mother's Day present, by the way, a day early because tomorrow the troops arrive for a garden cleanup and I'll be cooking and puttering all day. Now I am finishing up my morning rounds online and seriously pondering a trip down the street to a cafe with the paper. I rarely do that--I rarely leave the house, and even more rarely do I leave the house by myself.

Update: I hit Caffe Pallino and had cheese grits and scrambled eggs and a cup of coffee so big I couldn't finish it. I read the paper, cover to cover. Once I finish up my rounds here I'm considering a doze with Mr Patrick Tull reading Mr Patrick O'Brian on my iPod, carefully placed away from my heart. :)

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Sugar Bunny Boulevard is spearheading a drive to knit garter stitch squares for Greensburg, KS, the town that was all but destroyed in a very bad tornado last week. The object is to gather enough squares to make a family in the area an afghan, and if more squares come in than are needed for a single one, the organizers will just keep assembling afghans until they run out.

Knitters is crazy. I know, because I have a blanket like this that was started for me when I was sick last year, and it means the world to me. So I know we can send a few squares that way from TNH knitters.

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If your young child has been receiving Merck's ProQuad vaccine sequence--a four-in-one covering measles, mumps, rubella and varicella (chicken pox)--she may need to move to the separate shots. Merck is having manufacturing troubles:

Merck said Thursday that its ProQuad vaccine, which protects against measles, mumps and rubella as well as chickenpox, won't be available from about July until at least year's end.

"It's too early to say at this point whether new (ProQuad) supplies will be available in 2008," said Mary Elizabeth Blake, spokeswoman for Merck's vaccines division.

However, the drugmaker expects to have plenty of two separate vaccines that cover the same diseases: Varivax, for chickenpox, and M-M-R II, for measles, mumps and rubella.

The federal government recommends children get each of those shots twice, once at age 12 months to 15 months and again between ages four and six years old, or — when available — they can receive the ProQuad vaccine twice.

Last year, the government recommended the second chickenpox shot because of outbreaks among schoolchildren, apparently due to waning potency of the vaccine.

...which is why we didn't bother with chicken pox vaccination in the first place, but hey.

The main take-away from this is, instead of two ProQuad shots, your child will now have to get two MMR shots and two Varivax shots.

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Guess what I just read? iPods can make pacemakers malfunction:

iPods can cause cardiac implantable pacemakers to malfunction by interfering with the electromagnetic equipment monitoring the heart, according to a study presented by a 17-year-old high school student to a meeting of heart specialists on Thursday.

The study tested the effect of the portable music devices on 100 patients, whose mean age was 77, outfitted with pacemakers. Electrical interference was detected half of the time when the iPod was held just 2 inches from the patient's chest for 5 to 10 seconds.

The study did not examine any portable music devices other than iPods, which are made by Apple Inc.

In some cases, the iPods caused interference when held 18 inches from the chest. Interfering with the telemetry equipment caused the device to misread the heart's pacing and in one case caused the pacemaker to stop functioning altogether.

frickety frack frick-a-frack.

Next note to self: Don't put the iPod over your heart...

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I took two 1 mg melatonin tablets last night in hopes of helping my sleep; I've heard people talk about doses anywhere from 1/2 mg to 10 mg. While I did get to sleep I had trouble staying asleep; I had dreams weird enough to verge on the nightmarish. Known side effect. So tonight I'm back to 1 mg. I feel like crap today, though I can't say whether it's the sleep issue.

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Has anyone here eaten a KoolAid pickle? I love pickles of all kinds, and while KoolAid is for dying wool in this house--we certainly don't drink it--I have been known to munch on technicolor pickles from Asian markets that you KNOW have all kinds of funky crap in them.

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Hey kids! It's another MotherTalk blog tour!* With special guest bloggers Los Bros. Underwood!

Right about now I can already hear the groaning beginning from moms across the country: "Summer's almost here! What am I going to do with these kids?" Don't abandon them to the TV, for starters, and don't overschedule them. Instead, give them a summer with nothing to do, and the tools to do it with.

Around our house, we often joke that we're raising 19th century kids. A lot of the souce materials we use in homeschool are from that era--for instance, the McGuffey readers and speller.

Among our very favorite books are the "Handy Books" of Dan Beard and his sisters, proto-scouting manuals for the late 19th century kid looking for cool things to do that still work splendidly for 21st century kids looking for something to do. Even so, many of the activities in those books don't work for today, not least of which because we're not as rural as we used to be.

Enter "The Dangerous Book for Boys," a bestseller in the UK that's just being published here in the States. Brothers Conn and Hal Iggulden have put together a handsome volume of which Dan Beard would approve.

To put it to the test, I gave a copy to two actual boys, Simon and Jonah Underwood, the closest things I have to nearby nephews. (I have to say their mother was not thrilled with the book's title, especially considering these two often mistake themselves for elven archers.)

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Every weekday morning, now that I have the bedroom window open for the season, a young man on a bicycle has been my alarm clock. I don't know what he looks like or where he's going. But every morning around the same time he rides down the hill in front of our house. Some mornings, like today, he is singing, in a young, pleasantly raspy tenor--probably whatever's on his iPod at the time. Some mornings he's chatting with a young woman riding along with him. Some mornings he just goes "aaaaaaahhhh" and lets the vibrations from the road make his voice warble like a little kid.

I hope he's not a kid from the nearby high school, because that means in a couple of weeks he won't be waking me up. I'll miss him.

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By now you are thinking I've gone round the bend. It's probably true. There's just a lot of good TV right now, it's weird! And my favorite of the bunch is "Heroes." It is SO good. It packs more into an hour than a lot of shows manage in an entire season. And so, my top five:

5. Santiago Cabrera is smokin'.

4. The guy with the incredibly long Indian name who plays Mohinder is smokin'.

3. Adrian Pasdar is smokin'. (Natalie Maines, you are a lucky, lucky woman.)

2. Milo Ventimiglia is smokin'.


1. Present Hiro is adorable. Future Hiro is smokin'.

OK, this is a facetious list. No, actually, it's not. Except it is. There's a lot to love about "Heroes," and the main thing is, it's a genre show run by a guy who doesn't know genre but knows good TV, knows how to find good genre guys to work with him, and knows when to rein them in. Tim Kring--he's smokin'!

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One of my favorite TV nights: Dancing with the Stars and Heroes! Except I have to miss the last half hour of the former. grr. Here we go--follow me after the jump and reload throughout the night for the live blog.

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Check out the new articles block: Personalized Soap for Mother's Day;
Buying a Gut-Job--a house that needs to be completely gutted; Why Do Home-Buyers Go It Alone?; a QA on Talking to Strangers, and a review of Tippy-Toes Lotion. Does anyone here actually wear heels? Good grief, that's one of the best parts of staying home--no heels.

And a new poll: Do you suffer from insomnia? Share your insomnia cures in the poll comments.

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cover of paperback American Frugal HousewifeTNH's edition of "The American Frugal Housewife" from 1832 is now available in wire-bound paperback. It's $9.95 from CafePress. The ebook is available here at TNH for $1.95, 10% discount for members, 75% discount for subscribers. (Discounts don't apply to paperback editions.)

Organic food is so often, and so erroneously, thought of as something for elites. But it turns out that organic farming practices may actually help the poor as well as the planet:

A similar conversion to organic farming in sub-Saharan Africa could help the region's hungry because it could reduce their need to import food, Niels Halberg, a senior scientist at the Danish Research Center for Organic Food and Farming, told the U.N. conference on "Organic Agriculture and Food Security."

Farmers who go back to traditional agricultural methods would not have to spend money on expensive chemicals and would grow more diverse and sustainable crops, the report said. In addition, if their food is certified as organic, farmers could export any surpluses at premium prices. ...

Alexander Mueller, assistant director-general of the Rome-based U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, praised the report and noted that projections indicate the number of hungry people in sub-Saharan Africa was expected to grow.

Considering that the effects of climate change are expected to hurt the world's poorest, "a shift to organic agriculture could be beneficial," he said.

It gives me hope.

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I am 46 years old today. I'm a bit melancholy, not because of turning a year older--consider the alternative, which I know intimately--but because it marks the beginnings of all my troubles last year. Anniversaries like that are always a little anxiety-inducing, no matter how illogical that may be. I'm expecting next weekend (my death anniversary--Mother's Day, lovely) I'll be a bit of a basket case. And my therapist is in France for the month, of all months. I'm trying to frame it internally in terms of rebirth and mothering--I died and came back on Mother's Day because I wasn't done raising my girls--but it's still a bit uphill.

We're planning on a dim sum brunch and that's about it. Josie has a cold and we have a ton of chores to do. The good news is, my insomnia seems to be subsiding a bit. I've started taking melatonin, just last night; we'll see if it helps. The biggest help so far has been a CD my therapist gave me. I don't have an iPod, so we've been playing it on the DVD player through the TV and putting the TV on sleep so it turns itself off. It's helped, and John says it's even helped him sleep better.

Update: Dim sum brunch accomplished. If you're in PDX, Wong's King is dim sum paradise. And then! John and the kids took me downtown and bought me a red iPod! And then! We went to free comic book day and got comix! wowser! Seriously, it's a great birthday. Comix and small, coveted, red electronix!

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