If you do what you have always done, you will get what you have always had.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Shaking off complacency

Once upon a time, we lived in Barbie's Dream House on a budget so tight it squeaked. Dinner at Sonic was a treat, and when I shopped for groceries, I bought more 'ingredients' than 'food'. (All the parents out there know what I'm talking about--you spend $200 at the store and the kids complain there's nothing to eat.) One of the strategies I used was to make hash marks across the top of my shopping list while I shopped--one for each dollar--so I could keep track of how much money I had left.

We're in a better place now, with room in the budget to breath. It's good, but I've gotten comfortable. I went to the store yesterday and got half-way through the produce section before I realized that I hadn't looked at a single price. I just picked stuff up and put it in the cart. Out came the pen to make hash marks. About five aisles later, I had marks two thirds of the way across the top of my page (8 1/2 x 11, mind you). I had to change my tracking to one hash mark for every $5. I knew food prices had gone up. In the back of my mind, I knew that a lot more prices start with four or five now. I still buy more ingredients than food, but there is more convenience food in my pantry than there used to be.

I think I'll be spending a large chunk of this summer in the kitchen. Mom is going to teach me to can, and I'll be doing more cooking for the freezer. I'm trying more vegetarian and whole foods recipes based on what I've got growing in my yard. Prices are going up, and they never go back down to previous levels. It's just reality. Some people complain, some people strike, and some people tie on their boots and do something different. It's more work, but at least I don't have to hitch the mule to the plow to feed my family. Yet.

Labels: ,

Thursday, June 12, 2008


I started "organic" gardening last year. I figured if I was going to put in the effort to grow food, I might as well make it as healthy as possible, and using alternatives to pesticides is easy on a scale as small as mine. I'd love to be able to say that I spent the previous winter reading everything I could put my hands on about organic gardening, and that I did extensive research about what to plant and where. I can't; I'm a trial-and-error girl. Lucky for me, gardening is a forgiving hobby, and my tomato plants were still setting blossoms when the frost killed them.

At the end of last season, I pulled up my plants, laid them out in my raised bed, and covered them with dirt rather than tossing them all in the compost bin. (That's called sheet composting, if anyone cares.) This spring, as soon as the ground thawed, the tomatoes started sprouting. Apparently, cherry and roma tomatoes are tenacious little buggers! The strong ones were moved to the center of my raised bed to be trained up the trellis. I gave a few away. The rest, I'm afraid, were weeded out. I couple weeks later, I noticed leaves coming out of my compost bin. I tried to find where they were coming from; I thought they were zucchini, and I was going to transplant them, but I couldn't find the base of the plant, so I just let them stay where they were and didn't think too much more about them until the leaves started getting bigger and bigger. The other day, Vicky pointed out the flowers, and that's when I remembered the watermelon I composted last summer. Here's what I've got:

Sorry for the lousy quality; my camera is a piece of crap, and the close-ups of the flowers looked like something by Andy Warhol in a drunken stupor. There are four flowers now, and a few more buds. Everyone I've told has asked if the melons will be safe to eat. Since there is nothing toxic in the compost, I can't imagine that they wouldn't be. Now that I think about it, it's good that I didn't transplant them because the spot in the raised bed would have been WAY too small for a watermelon. I'd need the whole raised bed for that, whereas zucchini can be done in a large pot.

The garden hasn't been all easy-peasy this year. I had terrible luck with herbs; the only ones that came up were the sage, chocolate mint and cilantro that self-seeded last year. Everything I planted, with the exception of some borage, failed, and I had to go buy basil, lemon balm and mint plants. Can't win them all, I guess. Maybe next year I'll sheet compost the herbs where I want them to grow, and start a few inside for good measure.


Wednesday, June 11, 2008


Eric found this on one of his gaming bulletin boards last night:

Research has led to the discovery of the heaviest element yet known to science. The new element, Governmentium (Gv), has one neuron, 25 assistant neurons, 88 deputy neurons, and 198 assistant deputy neurons, giving it an atomic mass of 312.

These 312 particles are held together by forces called morons, which are surrounded by vast quantities of lepton-like particles called peons. Since Governmentium has no electrons, it is inert; however, it can be detected, because it impedes every action with which it comes into contact. A minute amount of Governmentium can cause a reaction that would normally take less than a second to take from four days to four years to complete.

Governmentium has a normal half-life of 2-6 years; it does not decay, but instead undergoes a reorganization in which a portion of the assistant neurons and deputy neurons exchange places. In fact, Governmentium's mass will actually increase over time, since each reorganization will cause more morons to become neurons, forming isodopes. This characteristic of moron promotion leads some scientists to believe that Governmentium is formed whenever morons reach a critical concentration. This hypothetical quantity is referred to as critical morass. When catalyzed with money, Governmentium becomes Administratium, an element that radiates just as much energy as Governmentium since it has half as many peons but twice as many morons.

Now, with that in mind, go read this. Just saying.


Monday, June 09, 2008

"Anansi Boys"

I must confess, I'd never heard of Neil Gaiman until we watched "Stardust" on DVD. Somewhere in the credits was a blurb that it was based on a book. I missed it, but Eric didn't, and a few days later he came home with a bag full of Neil Gaiman books.

I started to read "Anansi Boys" a few months ago, but I had a hard time getting into it and put it back down. It sat under my night stand until Saturday, when I found it again. I was looking for something else and shuffling through piles of stuff when I found it and thought maybe I'd try reading it again.

Once I figured out the writing style, it was a surprisingly easy read, but that took a little time. I was reading it after church yesterday and told the family that it was a very strange book. That's when I realized it's written very much like a Lemony Snickett book aimed at an older audience. It was just the paradigm shift I needed to zoom through the rest of the book.

It's really quite a lovely coming of age/finally growing up story. The protagonists are two brothers, Fat Charlie, who is a doormat in the beginning, and Spider, who has it all and takes what he wants. It is sprinkled with dry-as-a-bone humor (Neil Gaiman was raised in England, if that helps) and Anansi folklore.* All in all, it's a great beach or hammock story, and with summer coming on, there should be opportunities for anyone to read it. It's appropriate for pre-teens and up; there is some fighting and reference to sex, but it's far less than one would see in a thirty minute sitcom. (I'd be more specific, but I gave up watching sitcoms years ago. I'm basing my opinion on commercials and what I see passing through when the kids get control of the remote.) It has a wide array of characters who have odd idiosyncrasies, not one of whom failed to make me laugh at some point.

I was curious about whether his writing style was Lemony Snickett-esque all time or whether it was specific to this book. I started reading "American Gods" last night, and so far it seems to be just that book. I'll report back when I've finished.

*I had no idea what Anansi was at first. Honestly, I looked at 'Anansi' and my brain translated 'Anasazi', as in the ancient Pueblo tribe. That could account for my initial confusion and may give more insight to the inner workings of my convoluted little brain that anyone wants. Once I finally got it straight, I remembered seeing a book when I worked in the library in Italy about Anansi; I shelved it quickly because Anansi is a spider, and even cartoon spiders make me do the yucky dance.