Thursday, January 31, 2008

Mold Is The New Black

We've lived in North Carolina for 14 years now. We arrived in January of 1994. Temperatures were in the middle 40s and we went around without coats on, making the locals think we were crazy people.

I like North Carolina, and I like living here. It gets nasty hot and humid in the summer, but it did in Illinois, too. We have a great church to belong to, wonderful friends, a snug and cozy house, a woodsy backyard, Tom has a job he enjoys and appreciates, we have good neighbors. In short, I like living here.

ONE thing could make me move away from North Carolina. Just in case you notice some day that I'm gone...take note now of what drove me away. The culprit. The perp. MOLD!!!

Before I moved here mold was something that happened to bread that sat on the counter for too long. Or to leftovers lost in the darkest corners of the fridge. Or to damp laundry stuffed into a basket and forgotten. Or to boys' clothes in a forgotten gym bag.

But here, the mold...it stalks me. It haunts me. It wants to devour my house and everything in it. It seeks to destroy my lungs and my sinuses. It is evil and I hate it.

Our house isn't the cleanest house you'll ever see. But we make an effort, we truly do. I clean the bathroom once a week...the deep cleaning part, I mean...those Lysol wipes are great for in-between swipes. But once a week I scrub the tub, sink, and toilet with caustic chemicals. I scrub hard and I afflict my lungs yet more with the fumes of the best that modern chemistry can offer.

Yet, every single week I find black crusty mold on the faucets in the tub and sink, and around the edges of the grab bars in the tub. I find it on the frames of the bathroom window. Every single week.

This mold starts out pink. Cute, pretty, peachy pink. During the week I swipe at the pink whenever I see it. Toilet tissue, towels, the aforementioned Lysol wipes...whatever's handy, I use to fight the menace. And STILL by bathroom cleaning day it has managed to grow and harden into the nasty black crusty crud.

It's not limited to the bathrooms either. It lurks on the window frames throughout the house. It plagues the kitchen sink. It used to creep and crawl around the edges of the carpet till we ripped it all out...it is probably trying to attack the vinyl floors now.

There are other molds outside. I don't care about them from a cleaning standpoint, although I do know someone who frets mightily about how the mold has discolored her concrete patio and sidewalk. I can call that patina and be in denial about it. But I can smell the mold outside, I can feel it in my lungs and sinuses, I can see the black spot on my roses, it's out there. There is no escape.

There is even a special kind of mold that attacks tobacco in North Carolina. Blue Mold. Doesn't that sound pretty? I wonder, would I mind the mold in the bathroom so much if it was blue? The bathroom is blue...hmmm...can I exchange molds?

So, if I'm missing some day...check my credit cards, see if I've traveled to some other place...someplace dry and clean. Some place where it gets cold enough in the winter to kill the mold spores. But, maybe, before you do all that...just look for a big, black, oozing pile somewhere...and listen closely for the sound of little mold spores singing a victory song over my conquered body.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

There Aren't Any Good Songs with "Thursday" In The Title

**So, on the desert island would I be drinking out of the shower or the commode? See, that's why the first item on my list was My Husband. When I posed this question to him he pointed out that by stating I wanted a "nutritious food source" I had left that category open enough that it could even be represented by a grocery store. It might have been better to say "a source of nutritious food". The grocery store would sell bottled water and other beverages. It would also sell deodorant, shampoo, and a bunch of other things that I would call necessities if I thought about it long enough. Although he did say that one could possibly manage without deodorant by showering a LOT. But that would leave me less time to read all those books...or to drink out of the toilet.

**Why is there no "open quote" in Blogger? When I type quotes they both end up being close quotes. Strange.

**So what you've got to ask yourself is do I feel Economically Stimulated. Well, do ya, Punk?

**I was going to start trying to be less sarcastic.

**The government is going to give us Free Money. Isn't that special? What's the scoop, anyway, those of you (cough-Jim-cough) who know these things...is this one of those deals where we'll have to pay it all back out of whatever refund we might get on our 2008 returns? Or are we just going to pay it off "painlessly" in higher taxes for years to come?

**Why do I feel like doing everything in my power to keep from spending this money? It should probably go directly to our emergency fund, which needs a shot in the arm anyway. (I am whispering this bullet point so that the washing machine and water heater don't hear me and start feeling ill.)

**And, to just get all the snarkiness out of my system for now, we'll assume this is the Bread. Where are the Circuses? That was a really silly question in an election year, wasn't it? :)

**But there are those new Macs out there. Not that the one I'm typing on right now isn't perfectly lovely and very fast and healthy and spiffy and not that I would dream of retiring it in favor of say a...laptopthatdoesn'ttakeupsomuchroomonthedeskandisportable... never mind.

**About bread (but not circuses because I hate clowns). I make bread, and Natalie makes bread now, too. We almost never buy bread or rolls or hamburger buns or pizza crust. Sometimes bagels, because we haven't learned to make them yet. We could probably buy most of our bread at Aldi and pay a bit less than it costs to make it. But we are spoiled now and we don't like cheap store bread. I can't even stand to walk past the bread aisle in the grocery store because I can smell all the preservatives...yuck!!

**My point there is that by making something ourselves we get a better product than we could afford otherwise. People don't think about that enough these days. Sure, you can shop at WalMart (I don't, but you can!) and get all manner of things at budget prices. Or you can go to the other extreme and shop at Whole Paycheck or Fresh Market and get really yummy food for high prices. If I worked for pay I think a lot of my paycheck, if not the whole thing, would go toward paying for the things I do now...we'd have to pay private school tuition, buy all the food that we make from scratch now...those are the two that stick out right now.

**Right now I'm reading The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs.

**I don't think I'm more contented yet. But I've only made it to the second chapter.

**I finished Raising Demons by Shirley Jackson last week. It's not about raising demons, really. Truly.

**Before we went to Illinois I bought yarn to crochet a scarf to go with my new winter coat. While we were there I realized none of my crochet hooks were big enough to work with this yarn. Of course I realized that AFTER we had shopped at Hobby Lobby and at a knitting store. So, when we got home I bought new crochet hooks...which were not available in the local craft stores and had to be purchased through Ebay. Now I've got the hooks, got the yarn, and got the pattern. But I don't like how this yarn works up crocheted. Drat.

**Drat, again. Because you know what this means? It means I really need to knit this scarf. Actually, I really need to knit this scarf. It's just garter stitch, so even I can do it, and it will work really well with this yarn. But, and I know some of you can see this coming already, I don't have the right size needles to knit it on. And the needles I want are probably not available at the local craft stores.

**If I were a pagan I'd say something about the "universe" and its desire to keep me from having this scarf. But, I'm not, and I won't, and while I wait to get my needles I'll keep reading Burroughs' book...

**It's not that we live in an area completely deprived of knitting and crocheting supplies. I use weird flexible plastic hooks and needles because I get sore arms, wrists, and hands really easily and the plastic is warmer and holds off the pain a lot longer.

**This is Thursday, the day that Natalie cooks supper. Hurray for Thursday!! Since I don't need to do any supper prep this afternoon I should instead be: reading, making yogurt, and blogging.

**There's one done. Next up---yogurt!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Ten Things Tuesday

Rebecca wants to know 10 things we'd want with us on a desert island. My list is probably much less exciting than Rebecca's or Natalie's, but I think it might be a bit more practical. :)

1. My husband (who is a hilarious guy, but probably wouldn't be for long on a desert island)

2. My Bible

3. A complete set of the Everyman's Library

4. A working, clean bathroom with flush toilet (and toilet paper!) and shower

5. Some place shady and comfortable to sit or sleep

6. A nutritious food source

7. My contacts and eye drops

8. An extra set of clothes

9. A laptop with WiFi connection :)

10. Dark chocolate

This was fun! I'm sure by tomorrow I will remember something else I would be unable to live without...

Thursday, January 17, 2008

24 Books For 2008

Okay, it's not the 888 Challenge, and I couldn't come up with a clever alternate title. Oh well. :)

After much thought and inner turmoil I have come up with my list of 24 books I plan to read in 2008. Yes, I have started on a couple of these already, fortunately! There are 9 categories, so obviously not an equal number of books in each category. There are a whole lot more books in one particular category because it's my favorite. :)

Here we go, categories are in alphabetical order:

Family

For the Family's Sake
*Susan Schaeffer Macaulay

The New Birth Order Book: Why You Are The Way You Are
*Kevin Leman

Raising Demons
*Shirley Jackson


Fiction/Literature

Home To Holly Springs
*Jan Karon

Our Mutual Friend
*Charles Dickens

The Way We Live Now
*Anthony Trollope

The Pickwick Papers
*Charles Dickens

The 39 Steps
*John Buchan

Greenmantle
*John Buchan

The Salzburg Connection
*Helen MacInnes

Swallows and Amazons
*Arthur Ransome

Three Men In A Boat
*Jerome K. Jerome


History/Audiobooks

Undaunted Courage
*Stephen Ambrose

Truman
*David McCullough


History

Unconditional Surrender
*Albert Marrin

The Birth of Britain
*Sir Winston Churchill

Modern Times
*Paul Johnson


Philosophy/Audiobooks

Plato And A Platypus Walk Into A Bar
*Thomas Cathcart


Philosophy/Politics

Modern Fascism
*Gene Edward Veith


Satire

Gulliver's Travels
*Jonathan Swift


Theology

The Rare Jewel Of Christian Contentment
*Jeremiah Burroughs

All Of Grace
*Charles Spurgeon

Spiritual Depression
*D. Martyn Lloyd Jones


Travelogue

Roughing It
*Mark Twain


All of these books are either in our house now, or easily available from the local library. Some of the categories are audiobooks so that I can do crafts while listening. I will read other books during the year not on the list. For instance, I read to Colin everyday during school and none of those books are listed. I also do a lot of casual reading of craft books, cookbooks, self-help books, etc. from the library. Those things I will dip into and glean from, but I will not give them an in-depth, serious reading.

Next year I'll evaluate how this number and combination of books worked for me and plan from there where to go. I wonder if there will be a 999 Challenge in 2009?

Friday, January 11, 2008

888?

Have any of you considered doing the 888 challenge this year?

I'm drawn to it, but seriously wavering because of the sheer magnitude of the idea of reading 64 (56 if you take the cheat) books in one year.

When I was 15 that would have been easy-peasy; I could probably read three or four books a week back then. But now...ulp!

I went around the house and inventoried all the books I have on hand that I haven't read and I came up with 33. Which number is not divisible by 8 and does not fit the triple digit formula to work with the year. And some of these are whacking great tomes (probably why I haven't attempted them yet!) like all the volumes of Churchill's History of the English Speaking Peoples. And Paul Johnson's A History of Christianity. And 6 immense Dickens' novels, one hefty Trollope, and a lesser-known Mark Twain of considerable thickness and small type.

Then I considered what other books I could buy or borrow to make up the 64 (56) and I can think of quite a few. And if I were to run out of ideas I know where to find more; there are 888 lists popping up everywhere online. Plus I know all these bookish people who would probably bombard me with stacks of worthy books if I asked to borrow some. My dad is right next door, for one. Eeep!

You know what this means, don't you? More reading means less computer time. If I'd had a computer when I was 15 I highly doubt that I would have read as much. Lucky for me, computers when I was 15 took up buildings several blocks long. :)

So...ponder, ponder, ponder...think, think, think...debate, debate...anybody got an opinion on whether or not I could pull this off?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Poseur Knitter

Nope, I don't think I'm a real knitter. Not a Velveteen Rabbit, no way.

Because, you see, I can't/won't master the purl stitch. I've tried, and I can do the stitch. What I can't do is make it look right along with the knit stitch. One or the other is too tight, so when I knit into a purl or vice versa I end up with a lopsided, bumpy, weird stitch.

Though I don't know a lot about knitting, I know it is wrong for my stitches to look that way. Stockinette stitch is supposed to be a smooth field of little lined-up v's, all lying up against each other smooth and snug.

Have I given it a fair try? Possibly not. I have tried with acrylic, cotton, and wool yarns. I have tried with bamboo needles and plastic needles, straights and circs. Am I giving up too fast? Quite possibly!

I might be able to master the purl stitch with lots more practice. Maybe I should have the strength of character to push through the barriers and solve this tension problem.

But, here's the deal...I find knitting boring. I'm not a "process" knitter, I'm a "product" knitter. So far the only product I can produce is garter stitch dishrags. I would like to make mittens, socks, and a shawl. But if I have to spend months making boring swatches trying to get purling down, I may go crazy before I get to any of those things!

I'm thinking of cheating. :) I crochet and don't have these problems with crochet stitches. Shawls can probably be crocheted, although it may take some searching to find a pattern for a thin, lacy crocheted shawl. But here's the cheat I'm considering for socks and mittens:

Sock Knitting Loom

and

Mitten Knitting Loom

So, am I giving up too soon?

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

A Luxury!

Here's a luxury for a slightly sick, on-the-mend person...a husband who is almost completely well who fixes supper.

We had fish sticks, mashed potatoes (from scratch), and corn. With ginger ale to drink. :)

Warm, soft potatoes, crunchy fish, sweet and salty corn, bite and bubbles from the ginger ale. The perfect recovery meal!

Now all I need is a nice warm shower, some crocheting while watching a Kipper video with Colin, and a fairly early bedtime. Should be ready to hit the ground running tomorrow morning.

For Mandolinartist

The official Wikipedia definition of a Horseshoe Sandwich...complete with a picture:

Horseshoe Sandwich


Now you know!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

How Do You Categorize A Trip?

I tried to think of ways to break our recent trip into categories...ways to rate the various experiences...clever icons or emoticons to use in a list. But, not everything fell into neat categories, and I was getting too obsessed about making it all work out neatly. So you get the quick and dirty version, with good, bad, and indifferent all jumbled together. Which is how travel, and all of life, really is when you come down to it. So, without further ado (and do you hate it as much as I do when someone writes "without further adieu"?) I give you The Journey to the Frozen Prairie:

*Colin is a GOOD traveler! We haven't taken a trip out of state for 4 years, and I knew he would travel better at age 6 than at age 2. But I was still surprised at how cheerfully and happily he sat in his booster seat and played games, chatted, looked at the sights, etc.

*We really can't travel all the way to Springfield in one day anymore. Maybe in the summer when it stays light later we could try it again. But all of us, and especially me, did so much better with an overnight break.

*Related to the last point...I found that constantly being aware of pacing myself on this trip was immensely helpful in keeping my pain and fatigue levels manageable. It's hard to face yet another area where I can't go on like I used to, but ultimately it's worth the adjustment.

*Hilton Garden Inns are great little hotels. We stayed at 3 different hotel chains this trip, and we liked HGI best. With holiday specials they were reasonably priced, very clean and pretty, and had a yummy breakfast buffet.

*Being together in the car is valuable family time. There's something about being closed up in a small space, progressing toward a goal, but yet not having anything TO DO that forced us all to relax, talk, and just enjoy being together.

*Yes, we did bring along things to do...just nothing that was work. Natalie and I both brought crafting stuff, Colin had some small toys and coloring books, Tom had his nap pillow. :)

*Illinois is depressing in Winter. Spring, Summer, or Fall there are things to see across the wide open spaces. But in Winter it is dark, grey, dingy, and blah. When we got back to NC we could see the difference that a slightly warmer climate makes; we have so many evergreen trees here and the grass is still green in many spots...nice.

*I don't like trying to socialize with a TV going constantly. My hearing isn't 100% so it takes a lot of concentration to hear conversations in a group, anyway. With TV added to that I tend to just tune out and shut up.

*We don't have exciting New Year's Eve parties at our house. There's nothing sacred about celebrating an arbitrary calendar date, so it's no big deal. But this year's celebration involved a blaring TV, a bunch of people looking bored, some good snacks, and a sparkling juice/champagne toast at midnight. Other people enjoyed it, so...good, that makes me feel better about it. Meh...

*It was good to have all of Tom's family together, and I think it meant a lot to his mom. The Roths are a talkative bunch, and there is always a lot of laughing and carrying on. Colin fit right in partly because he is so much like his Grandpa Roth...I just wish Grandpa Roth could have lived to see Colin.

*New Year's Day we got together with a bunch of people from my family...aunts, uncles, cousins, first-cousins-once-removed, friends...we all met in the fellowship hall of the church that most of them attend. We had pizza and soda and lots of conversation. It was very good to hear and see how everyone was doing. So many of them have faced trials and struggles, and yet I think everyone there that night is striving to live for the Lord and to serve Him. What a great heritage to have as a family.

*Being around family shows you so much about yourself and your children. It was good for our kids to see other kids being raised the same way they are. It was good for them to see other parents just as weird as theirs and to realize where all this weirdness came from. :)

*Tom and I got to talk with several of my cousins and their spouses about raising kids, and particularly some specifics about the challenges we face with our children who are now young adults. What a blessing to be in a family where no one seems to be swinging to the extremes of legalism or lawlessness, but instead striving to find the "Biblical middle". The specific applications of Biblical parenting look different in each of our houses, no doubt, but that's how it should be.

*I didn't get much crafting done on this trip despite packing a huge bag of knitting/crochet/needlework supplies. I cross-stitched one sunny morning at Mary's house, and knitted a dishrag in the car, and practiced some knitting stitches to the point of frustration. But I probably shouldn't have packed so much stuff to do. :)

*Natalie and I went to a Real Knit Shop while in Springfield. This was my first trip to such a place, and if they are all like this one I'm not in a hurry to repeat the experience. The yarn is expensive, but I was expecting that. I thought I'd look around and touch some yarns I'd read about online...maybe buy a skein or two of something neat if the prices were reasonable.

*Unfortunately this shop was staffed by the Shrill Knitting Man. Normally I think of knitting shops as being female-owned and operated, but I'm not opposed to men knitting (I think historically men knitted before women) and/or running shops. And this fellow wasn't exactly compromising his masculinity by working there, if you know what I mean. But he clung to us, and chattered at us, and emoted about the products...to the point where I was about to run screaming from the store. Fortunately Colin had been drinking plenty of water to get over his cough...saved by the full bladder. :)

*So, I didn't buy the expensive sock yarn I was looking at. Which is a good thing, because after I started calculating everything later I realized it would have been a dreadfully pricey pair of socks. $8.50 per skein of yarn, and it took two skeins, $5.00 for reinforcing thread, ?? for needles, and ?? for the Wonderfully Simple Sock Pattern That Only A Complete Idiot Could Screw Up which the SKM was insisting I needed to buy.

*And then as I was practicing knitting later I realized I simply cannot execute a decent purl stitch, and there's no way to knit socks without purling.

*Horseshoe sandwiches are a wonderful treat. Even a poorly-executed horseshoe is great. Hamburger, fries, cheese, texas toast...how could it not be good? There are differences in execution, and the place where we had them puts the fries on top of the meat and then pours the cheese sauce over the whole thing. My preference is for the cheese sauce to be on top of the meat and bread with the fries piled on top. That way some of the fries get cheesy and some stay crisp and crunchy. But that's mere semantics...a horseshoe is still a thing of beauty and a joy forever.

*Ginger Ale is not an exotic beverage. I can go to the dinky Lowe's Foods up the road and find three brands of it on the soda shelves. So why was it so hard to find in Springfield? Granted, the Shop n Save we went to was not in a great neighborhood, but it did have an extensive liquor department. Doesn't anybody even mix Ginger Ale in drinks anymore? We *finally* found some 1-liter bottles of store-brand GA in some odd aisle...with wine coolers, maybe? I could have bought any number of lemon-lime sodas, but what's the deal with the Ginger Ale?? I asked the Pepsi guy stocking the shelves and he told me Pepsi doesn't even make a Ginger Ale..okay, their loss, I guess. An older man who heard me talking told me he used to drink Ginger Ale all the time growing up in South Carolina. So, it's now a "Carolina thing" a la Cheerwine?

*But Springfield does have Spumoni ice cream. Yum! We bought Prairie Farms because it came in a half-gallon box that would fit in the hotel room freezer. Edy's probably would have been better, but PF was pretty good.

*Hotels with guest laundry rooms are a treasure. We packed light, we couldn't have packed any heavier and had room to to sit in the car. So we ended up doing a couple loads of laundry at the hotel. So much nicer than tracking down a laundromat.

Well, there's more, but this is already too long. That's the best of it, anyway. No great tourist attractions, no fabulous parties, no trendy shopping sprees. :)

Monday, January 7, 2008

Arithmetic of Genetics as Applied to Sandwich Making

Take one man who likes his sandwich made thusly: Two slices of bread, mayo and mustard spread ON THE BREAD, meat and cheese between the bread.

Add one woman who likes her sandwich made thusly: Two slices of bread, butter (if available) spread on the bread, meat and cheese between the bread, mayo and mustard spread ON THE MEAT.

These two, in 20 years of marriage, will produce:

A child who makes her sandwiches exactly the same way the man does, and turns up her little German nose and sneers at anyone who suggests that any other way is acceptable.

One other child who makes his sandwiches like so: Two slices of bread, mayo spread ON THE BREAD, meat and cheese between the bread, and mustard spread ON THE MEAT. And also two ancillary slices of muenster cheese spread with mustard, to eat as a side dish IF his mother doesn't catch him first and put a stop to his evil plan.

Make of that what you will...and wait with bated breath for the Amazing Travelogue of Randomness which will be posted in the foreseeable future...