Monday, February 28, 2011

March goals

Alas, a new month is upon us. One that includes spring break (yea!) and time change (boo!), lots of visits of family (yea!) and warming of the weather (hopefully not too warm). And I must consider and decide on my new set of goals for this month.

Goals? I've achieved my goal of sleeping in comfy places, says Hank.
So, far, the knitting goals have fallen through for the most part. The February Lady Sweater still isn't done, though the crazy colored Dr. Who scarf is hopefully providing joy for someone (sold at the auction Saturday evening).  The household oriented goals have gone better. The kitchen looks nice almost every night and the bathroom is staying cleaner. I really haven't spent all that much time in the yard, but with warmer weather and more energy, that should become easier*. These results say.... keep knitting goals simple (one goal), household goals could use some challenge and yard goals should be simple.  So, thoughts for March?

1. Finish the February Lady Sweater. Spring break will help.
2. Declutter office closet. The office is becoming the nursery in a week or two, so its all moving somewhere. I know there is plenty in there we don't need, use or love, so I'd rather relocate it out of the house, rather than taking up space inside the house.
3. 5 minutes a day working in the yard. This might include pulling weeds, planing herbs or easy veggies, or just sweeping off the back porch. The vitamin D will do me good, also.
4. Put a picture in each blog post (random, I know)

What are you goals for March? How are your yearly goals coming along?

*Turns out that with the onset of the 3rd trimester, I was anemic. It took nearly a week, but the iron supplements seem to be kicking in. Its 830 pm and I'm not in bed. That's a good sign.

Yummy White Sauce

A good friend shared a simple white sauce recipe a while back. Its so very yummy on spaghetti with a red sauce (with sausage) to mix it with. Ah, almost to die for.  However, the white sauce isn't so "healthy" and neither Hubby nor I need a lot of extra calories or fat, would rather get those from the dessert! Here's the original:

Melt 1/2 stick of butter and saute 1 Tbsp of minced garlic in it till honey brown. Stir in a small carton of heavy cream and 8 oz of cream cheese (cut up is best). Stir until all is melted and blended. Add any desired herbs and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese until melted. Do NOT boil. Serve fresh from stove.

I adjusted it a bit to make it more "healthy" (though who knows that means, really...) I used a spoonful of butter to brown the 2 tbsp garlic and I left out the heavy cream and used about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of non-fat milk. It made a bit less, but it came out just right to give me enough left over for lunch tomorrow.

I'm all about adjusting recipes to fit our needs, and this time it worked. Very nice!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Why I love Saturdays

Why do you love Saturdays so much, you might ask me.  Because you aren't going to work? Because you have the chance to create your own day by what you want to do?  Somewhat and yes.  I love Saturdays because I get to be homemaker on Saturdays; I get to putter around picking up, doing laundry, cleaning a few things, perhaps making bread and doing some sewing or knitting.

At times, I think about spreading out the various chores over the weekdays so that Saturdays will be more free for my hobbies. But by the time I get home in the evenings, get some dinner ready, eat, and clean up, its time to start the bedtime routine and head to bed. Plus, I'm often so tired that I want to do nothing but go to bed. Thus, everything gets pushed to Saturday.  I don't bemoan this too much, as its fun to have a full day of things I enjoy (mostly) doing. [I don't really like to vacuum or hang up laundry.]

Then, at times, I think about what it will be like after Samuel is born. I'll be working much less, if at all (that's still up in the air), which means more time at home. But Samuel will need lots of attention.... so I wonder. I hope to have some semblance of a routine to run from that keeps the house looking relatively nice and still giving me the time to further develop the hobbies (sewing, knitting, gardening). Ah, the big unknowns.  If only we could peek into the future and know what is coming, if only to adjust our expectations.

Friday, February 25, 2011

February Goals, Update

The "Crazy Colored Dr. Who Scarf" is finished. Well, it had to be cast off and end woven in as the Gala is tomorrow night, and the auction is then. Its not as long as I wanted it, but its been hard to get much knitting done. I'm quite tired by the time I get home in the evening, and often still have real work to be done (like cooking, cleaning, grading, etc). But its done now!  I didn't get a picture before giving it to the Gala organizers.... imagine the previous picture ...

...just about 4 feet long.  With only 3 days of February left, I doubt I'll finish the February Lady Sweater, though it would wholly appropriate. Ah, well.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Things that surprised me about pregnancy

Getting clothes to fit is a fair bit of work.... the belly size is changing regularly.

The "I gotta pee" sensation changes and you have to re-learn what it feels like.

The "full" and "hungry" feelings also change and you have to re-learn what those feel like.

Eating many multiple small meals is totally different from "grazing". And it takes effort to learn how to do it well.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Baby Blankets

There are lots of baby's on the way in Hubby's department at school. It seems we are a relatively fertile group!

My standard baby gift has been blankets; an item I can make and always useful.  In fact, after my sister had her baby and we got to talk about all sorts of baby things, it become apparent that many blankets are not big enough to swaddle a newborn, and everyone loves a blanket with a warm side and a cool side -- and that's what I make!

If you have a sewing machine and about 2 hours, you can make this greatly appreciated baby gift.  Many of my blankets are a bit fanangled, making due with what I've got.  This is a style of blanket that is simple and easy to resize to fit the need. I'm generally of the opinion that bigger is better. I have started making mine about 3' x 3', give or take a few inches.

Material: Most recently I used cotton flannel and flannel-backed satin for the two layers. I generally go for a patterned cotton flannel and a single colored satin, aiming to have the satin a color that matches one of the minor colors in the flannel.  Thread? Something matching.


1. Cut the flannel to size. Don't be too worried about getting exactly 3' x 3' or 4' x 4', as the fabrics tend to stretch and shift. Use the flannel to cut the satin to size. (As often as not, I take the short size of the fabric, fold it diagonal and cut to make a square with which ever fabric is smaller; use that to cut the other fabric to size.)

Pin the two pieces of fabric so that right sides are together.

2. Stitch around the edge, leaving a 3 or 4 inch gap in the middle of one side to flip the blanket right side out after sewing.  The flannel will stretch and the satin will slide; finishing with the corners exact has eluded me so far. It seems that the flannel stretches less if it is on bottom as you stitch. But anyway about it, when the four sides are stitched (with the gap left for flipping), clip the corners, flip the blanket right side out, and poke the corners out so that they are as sharp as you can get them.

3. Iron lightly to smooth the blanket and get good edges. Pin the edges such that the flannel and satin meet right at the edge, even if your satin doesn't lie completely flat doing so (looks nicer and satin never really lies all that flat).  Pin the gap closed.

4. Choose a decorative stitch, or a simple zig zag stitch, and stitch around the edges. Keep the stitch close to the edge, within 1/8 to 1/4 of a inch at the most. This will stitch the gap closed and set the edges. All done!

These aren't hard to make and once you get the hang of it, you might be able to make one in about an hour (or less if you are doing several at a time). I don't remember where I got the idea, but it isn't original with me.

Have fun making baby blankets!

Friday, February 11, 2011


This morning, while brushing my teeth, our electricity went out. Again. I wonder why Oncore seems to have such trouble keeping our electricity going. It doesn't help that all the house has is electricity. No gas, or any other options. Just electricity. Thus, a lunch of Ramen noodles was made with the help of a camp stove. 

Last week, I forget which day, the electricity went out due to rolling blackouts. That's fine, we can handle that. But then, 15 minutes later, the electricity came on and then went off again not 5 minutes later. We headed off to school figuring Oncore knew, since they were running the rolling blackouts. When we got home later that day, we find out, via the neighbor, that the electricity had been out for 7 hours. The neighbor spent several hours trying to reach an actual person, not a recording (we'd only heard recordings for the previous 3 outages). She did, but spend much of the day on the phone trying. Seems they turned our electricity on, something blew and they didn't know it was still out. Their reporting system didn't report to them that we had reported an outage. It was quite the ordeal.

Today, we talked to an actual person every time we called. That was nice, but it took them 6 hours to get the electricity back on. Seems when you live outside city limits, don't be dependent on electricity, or be ready to deal with semi-regular outages.

For those readers who living outside a city, whether true country or merely semi-rural as we are, do you often have power outages? How have you dealt with them? Just endure? Or are you otherwise prepared? I'm trying to think through if we should/ought/can deal with an outage other than candles and a camp stove.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

On my mind....

Hank on my lap, wondering what I'll plant this year. With the baby due in May, what can I handle? Don't want too much, and don't want it to end up all Hubby's job, but some peppers and tomatoes, maybe. Perhaps some huckleberries for extra compost material?

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Making things on the day off

Today, I got ALL the grading done. Makes life beautiful until next Monday when I'll start collecting work again.

With the extra time today, I made a soaker. What's a soaker, you ask? Its that outside barrier for when you use cloth diaper that doesn't have a water proof layer. Plenty of cloth diapers come with an outside barrier layer, such as PUL (I think the most common). I'm sure I will have several of those, but my tightwad nature and crafty hands desire to make something for my baby. Nearly a year ago, I purchased two XL sweaters at a garage sale for a quarter each with plans to try yarn recycling. That idea flopped when I realized how small the yarn was, so I saved the sweaters for something else. One is 100% cotton, the other 100% cashmere. Cashmere is wool, I thought, I could use it to make a soaker. Wool soakers are excellent at providing that outside layer, while giving baby a comfy bottom situation (not hot, not cold). Others have praised wool as soakers, see for a much better explanation than I can offer. I realize cashmere might not be best of wool choices, but I thought I'd give making such a small garment a try.

I used a the pattern from

Ready to work... I have the red cashmere, blue cotton sweater, a yellow fleece on bottom and a grey sweatshirt in the middle. I am thinking to use the yellow fleece for soakers, too, as I've read that fleece makes a good outside water "proof" layer.

Hank is even there to keep me company.

The pieces are so small! The leg cuffs were particularly tight to get the sewing foot into.

 Its so small! (scissors for size comparison)

Obviously, I'm not so concerned about looks, thus the contrasting thread. I figure at the newborn stage, it shouldn't matter so much. I wonder if cashmere will work, because I have a fair bit of cashmere sweater left and I want to use it for something. I added a wetzone layer (to help with the wetter areas, see contrasting thread through the crotch), and used some fabric from the blue cotton sweater for that layer. 

This will likely be the soaker that gets used when the others are all dirty and I need to do laundry. But, its a start on the stash! (My luck and baby will be born too big to wear any of the little stuff I might make.)

Early Day

Due to weather (which is actually getting better), I came home early from school. I was done with classes, Hubby was done (the uni cancelled everything b/c of the weather), so home we came.

And what do I do?

I'm grading. I figured I should get as much done as possible. My stack for Biology is nearly an inch thick.....  blah. The hard part of teaching is the paper work/administration part. 

Monday, February 07, 2011

A cloth diaper stash for the baby

So, I know that using cloth diapers is cheaper than disposables, but by how much? I thought I'd do a bit of calculating of how much setting up the newborn stash is going to cost us.

My plan is using hand-me-downs and flats. One of Hubby's cousins has passed along quite a stash of diapers, but I don't know what size they are (not seen them yet) or exactly how many, so my count will be about creating a stash from scratch. I will also need a slew of fitted diapers for Hubby and other non-folders to use, and I will try to account for that. I'm going simple and cheap.

I figure I'll do laundry every other to every third day, so that makes for 24 to 36 diapers. We need soakers/covers (the outside layer) and I'll be able to make some, but I'll count purchasing 10 or so (they can be reused a certain number of times).  In all, I'm planning to purchase so that we have: (I plan to purchase cheap, and make cheap, but I'm using generous prices based on amazon searches)

36 flat diapers @ $2 each = $72
10 soakers/covers @ $10 each = $100
10 fitted diapers @ $15 each = $150

For a total of.... drum roll please!  $322

I acknowledge this is for the newborn stage only, though the flats will fit for a while. As baby grows, bigger covers and fitteds will need to purchased which will up the cost.

Compared to disposables: A quick amazon search gave me the price of 12 diapers for $13. To make it simple, lets call it $1/diaper. If the baby uses 12 diapers a day, it would take 27 days to reach 322 diapers used and thus $322 spent on disposable diapers (not counting sales tax, shipping, or travel to the store). I break even on cost of diapers at just short 1 month. Hmmmm.... A friend pointed out that $1/diaper is a bit much and she gets an off-brand at $6 for 42 diapers, or $0.14 a diaper. Doing the appropriate math, which Hubby did while we were chatting on this topic, it would take 184 days (just over 6 months) to "break even". By then, however, baby most assuredly will have outgrown at least some covers (if using flats for diapers, as you can fold them to fit several sizes) and there is a good chance you will need some larger sized fitteds. All this adds to the cost, and extends the "break even" time -- which is purely monetary at this point. I think Hubby is right that with baby #1, you don't save all that much using cloth instead of disposables; its with baby #2 and #3 that you start to save the $$. If I'm not too overwhelmed by having a new  baby, I'd like to keep track of what we spend and compare the two methods.

In accounting for cost, one must also consider the cost to wash and dry the cloth diapers, the trash cost for diapers, and the gross-cost of cleaning poopy diapers. There is also the less-measurable cost of diapers in a landfill, but that is not one I pay out-of-pocket, so I will neglect that aspect for now. We are, after all, tightwads before environmentalists.

Unfortunately, I have no idea how much a load of laundry costs us, and no idea how to figure it out. I am planning on hanging laundry out in the summer and fall, we have no shortage of sun and warm weather 3/4 of the year. Come winter, though, I have nowhere to hang any thing to dry inside and no dry place outside. If you know how I can figure out the cost of a load of laundry (wash and dry), let me know. I suspect, though, the cost of  laundering the diapers will extend my break even time to just about a month or just over. With looking at about a 6 month "break even", I don't even have an intuitive idea of how laundry cost will affect the cost. I'd love to know, though!

The time-cost of doing the laundry is another aspect to consider. Laundry is one of those chores that can be done around other things and a chore that will increase whether I use cloth or not. So the time cost is minimal. Also, I'm a biologist, changing poopy diapers and washing them doesn't seem to bother me too much. Can't be worse than dissection, right? So the gross-cost is minimal for me. These aspects will most assuredly vary person to person.

As for trash cost, right now its a flat rate no matter the number of cans, so adding a can of merely disposables each week will make no difference for us.

Even with the long "break even" (which isn't even all that valid), writing this post, and editing it, has made me even more confident that cloth is the way to go. I'd love to hear what others think. Am I off on my estimates? Am I being to stingy with how much we will spend to create a stash for a newborn? Will baby likely out grow the newborn size in less than a month, so the month to break even is just unrealistic? Is there some aspect of the cost that I'm overlooking?

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Books Worth Reading

I've read them before, but now I'm listening to them (I love audio books). Its the Wheel of Time series. I just finished book 4, The Shadow Rising, and I got to hear one of my most favorite parts the whole series (one other favorite part, but I'll talk about that when I get to listen to it). If you've not read the books, or gotten this far, I'll try not to reveal too much, but there will be a bit of spoiler action.

In this particular book, a fair bit of attention is given to Perrin, one of the main characters. Early in the book, Perrin hears news from his home village and decides he needs to go home to protect his family. When he gets there, he finds out all that's been happening there, that is family has all been killed, and the area is being ransacked by Trollocs (big, ugly, evil creatures). Perrin is an immature, self-effacing young man, but he sees what needs to be done and steps up to fill the need. He rallies the people and leads them to victory. In the process, he creates quite the name for himself and the people see him as their lord.

One of the most moving parts is chapter 57, when the big battle is about to happen. Perrin is riding around checking on things, and finds the women in the central green surrounding the younger children. The older children, 13 and 14, have toddlers and babies strapped to their backs and the women begin telling Perrin their plan. The children play hide-and-go-seek in the forest regularly, so they are read to take off it the battle turns bad. The women are ready to defend the children as they retreat and step into the fight should the trollocs break through the lines. Just thinking about the scene makes me teary-eyed even now.

During the battle, the trollics do break through the line (not surprising when there are 1000s of them and only 100s of men fighting). As Perrin fights (its all from his point of view), he sees others fighting, first the men, but as they pull back, he sees the women fighting. (Gosh, that really gets me going... must be pregnancy!) He then gets news of men attacking trollocs from their backside... men from another village showed up to fight. He sees his own bride leading them in the fight and is overwhelmed by the sight of her. Its a beautiful scene. If you read no other part of this series, these particular chapters are the most beautiful.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Alice in Wonderland

The movie finally showed up in the netflix instant que, so I decided to watch it while writing mid-quarter reports. I'm not one to latch on clothing or costumes, but I love her dress while she is in underland, the blue flowy one.... see here: (from the wikipedia page)

This is when I wish I actually had some sewing talent, but alas, designing such an item is far out of my ability range.

"Lost my muchness, have I?" I like this quote. I've worked hard at having "muchness" and hope to never
lose it!

A very good movie, though I would have called it PG-13, not PG. The Jabberwoky is scary, quite honestly! Though the theme of knowing yourself and making your own decisions, versus letting others decide for you is appropriate for most ages. It fits well with our American Ideals (not that I totally agree with these ideals; I think we sell short the ideal of duty and loyalty. But that is for another post all together).

Bread and Jerky

Its a beautiful day here! It's well into the 50s and the snow is melting off. The sun is shining and warming up the house. I enjoy snow and cold, but not when its in my house.  I know how to stay warm in a chilly house, I have plenty of experience, but its never fun to have to be bundled up just about all the time. Thus the space heater. But more on that later.

Today, I got busy making beef jerky and bread. I found some nice round steak at the grocery store with little fat marbling. That's important because fat goes rancid much faster than the meat, and the meat will dry out, but fat doesn't. I cut the outside fat off the meat and cut the meat into pieces just small enough to fit in the food processor. I put the meat into the freezer for 30 minutes to firm it up, but not enough to freeze it through. Good for slicing the meat thinly. I had thought to use my food processor to quickly cut thin slices, but that didn't pan out. The food processor more chopped the meat into small pieces, even with the "slicer" blade. So, out came my trusty Alaskan Inuit blade -- a gift from my in-laws after their Alaskan cruise. Its great of slicing meat.

With my blade I sliced the meat as thin as I could, ideally between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick. And now a confession... I used the jerky cure and spices from a box. Its good stuff, but I'm sure I can do it cheaper on my own. But, I had the box of cure and spices, so I used them. Anyhoo, let the meat coat, and layer it in the dehydrator. 

Its still in the dehydrator, blowing the moisture from the meat into the air. Which is nice because its so very dry right now (I've also got the humidifier running). I'll let you know how it turns out.

I also made bread today. I love making bread and tend to use the Basic Tassajara Yeasted Bread from The Tassajara Bread Book*. But every time I've made bread, its good, but crumbly. Too crumbly for sandwiches. I've thought that if I could make sandwich bread, I won't need to buy any. But, gotta get the bread right first.  I started out by googling "how to make bread less crumbly" and found several suggestions that sounded like they would work. So I adjusted the recipe I'd normally make and used less whole wheat and more white flour. Then, when I kneaded the bread, I left it stickier than I normally would, and made sure it never rose too far (those were from the various suggestions I'd read off google). When the loaves came out of the oven, I was so eager to try some, I didn't let it cool all that long... and I wasn't disappointed!

Its so soft, just like sandwich bread should be! I will continue to buy bread until I can make this kind of bread consistently. But this encouraging that I *can* make this kind of bread. I have dreams of someday making all our various bread products, and having a true baking day; though in the summer it might be worth buying bread to save on the cost of air conditioning the house... an oven running all day sure heats everything up -- great in the winter, poopy in the summer. I wonder if one can bake bread in a solar oven -- anyone know?

Now, I turn my attention to school. Mid-quarter reports go out Monday and I should have those finished before then. Blah, I hate highly dislike the paper work involved in teaching. (had to use the mark out, looked like fun!)

Friday, February 04, 2011

Snow Day, *Really*

I guess, so I heard, Waco gets snow about once a year -- so far that has panned out true. It seems that old man winter is a cruel old man who seems to forget about us until the end and sends us his "fierce" storms just before winter is done with. Of course, his storms are lessened as they travel south and its really not too bad overall, but seems bad compared to the 80' weather last weekend.

The rain guage is showing about 3 inches of snow at its lowest drift point.

Foot prints are easily two inches deep under the big oak.

 Its a nice blanket of snow. Tomorrow has a high in the upper 40's, so I don't expect it to last beyond then. But we will see!

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

For the Love of Pictures

Being nerds at Dad's place

 I forget where I made this...some website

 My newly set up workspace in the bedroom. Loving it greatly. This was in the midst of grading on the snow day.

 Books I'm trying to read.

 Brrrrrr.... it was cold and wet Tuesday morning.

My attempt at saving electricity. For lazy mornings, I'm putting the hot coffee in the thermos instead of keeping the coffee pot on.

Gosh, pictures aren't all that hard to do!

Reading Books

I've found in the past few years that I'm reading many fewer books than before. Some of that is that I'm busier than in previous stages of life, and the free time I have is less. This all began with working on a Master's Thesis, and when I had time to read, I was reading for that. Then, I was teaching ESL and had continuing ed style writings to read. Now, if I've got time, I'm knitting (which I can watch TV or listen to something while doing), cooking, cleaning or doing school stuff. Just reading has been all but cut out of my schedule.

This disappoints me. I am a reader and I love to read. As a child, I would devour the library's limit of books each two weeks during the summer and was regularly in the school library. More recently, the last time I had a book out of the library here, I ended up with late fees because I forgot I had the books until they were a few days past due. I'd FORGOTTEN about the books; isn't that sad? As a teenager I'd check out the limit of books at the library if only because I couldn't decide what I was most interested in. More recently, I found myself standing in the non-fiction wondering what I should look at, and browsing the rows not noticing anything that caught my eye. Have I grown more a discerning taste in books, or have I lost the immense curiosity of youth? (not that I'm all that old, yet)

Anyhoo, all this rambling introduction to say I'm thinking I should aim to read more. I have several books started and need only to persevere and make time for them. They are worth it and worth the time to spend reading them. These books range from the science of food, to parenting, to the history of missions, to spiritual disciplines and finally to 'organic' cleaning solutions. I imagine I have much to say about each one, though I should aim to finish reading them before opining on them.

Here's the list... and if you have any thoughts on any of the books I'd love to hear them!

Simplicity Parenting, by Kim John Payne, M.Ed.
Bringing up Boys, by Dobson
The Naturally Clean Home, by Karyn Siegel-Maier
From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya, by Tucker
Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, by Donald S. Whitney
On Food and Cooking, by Harold McGee

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Snow Days

Well..... its a "snow day" here for us. True, we are a small, private school and people come from all over town and surround communities, but I was surprised to say the least. A winter storm blew in last night, bringing *cold*, rain and hail/ice. I wasn't looking forward to driving in, least of all over the few bridges we cross to get to school. But the whole day? That's crazy.... but nice.

What does one do with a snow day? A suddenly free, no commitments kind of day doesn't spring up all that often in anyone's life, I'm sure. Here's what I'm thinking for today:


-finish the grading I brought home and didn't finish last night (done as of 850 am :D)
-grocery shopping (I have to take Hubby to school anyways, so might as well)
-make a run to the new yarn store that I haven't visited yet (yeah, yarn store in Waco!)
groceries done, yarn store not found :( and home again by 1230 pm
-declutter the jewelry (finished at 915 am!)
-do the mending of a fav sweater and other items I've procrastinated on. check!
-vacuum done, yea!

That should keep me busy and it makes good use of the day... I hope. We'll see how disciplined I can be, though, I am a major procrastinator.

For those who love pictures, oh sister, I'll see about getting a few during the day. :D