Friday, October 31

Ducky Slippers

I made these as part of my daughter's Halloween costume last year. You'll notice in the pictures that there is a white "sole" on the slippers. That's not part of the pattern. The day before Halloween it was raining, so I quickly top stitched some plarn onto the bottom to help keep the slippers dry. You can find instructions for making plarn at My Recycled Bags.com.
click photos for larger images      
Materials used
• 5 oz Yellow Red Heart Supersaver yarn
• I crochet hook (5.5 mm)

Gauge (with two strands of yarn)
5 sc = 2 inches
8 sc rows = 3 inches

Finished size
4½" wide (at toes)
7½" long
7" tall

Special stitches
backstitch single crochet (bsc): holding yarn to the front of work, slip hook into stitch from the back, yo and pull loop through to back, yo and pull through both loops on the hook
single crochet 2 together (sc2tog): slip hook into first stitch, yo and pull loop through stitch onto hook, repeat once, yo and pull through all loops on hook
single crochet 3 together (sc3tog): slip hook into first stitch, yo and pull loop through stitch onto hook, repeat twice, yo and pull through all loops on hook

NOTE: Pattern is crocheted with two strands held together throughout

foundation row: ch 16, sc in 2nd lp on underside of ch, sc across (15 sts)
round 1: [ch1 sc3tog, *sc, 3sc in one st, sc, sc3tog* twice] repeat along second side of foundation row, do not join
round 2: sc in ea sc around, do not join
round 3: *sc2tog, sc to end of side (13 sts)* twice, do not join
round 4: *sc2tog, sc to end of side (12 sts)* twice, do not join
rounds 5-7: sc around (24 sts), do not join
row 8: sc to center of top (approx. 6 sts), turn (no turning ch), bsc around (24 sts)
row 9: turn, sc around (24 sts)
row 10: turn, bsc around (24 sts)
row 11: turn, sc 11, sc2tog, sc to end of row (23 sts)
row 12: turn, bsc 10, backst2tog, bsc to end of row (22 sts)
row 13: turn, sc 9, sc2tog, sc to end of row (21 sts)
row 14: turn, bsc 8, sc2tog, bsc to end of row (20 sts)
row 15: turn, sc 7, sc2tog, sc to end of row (19 sts)
row 16: turn, bcs 6, sc2tog, bsc to end of row (18 sts)
row 17: turn, sc 5, sc2tog, sc to end of row (17 sts)
row 18: turn, bsc 4, sc2tog, bsc to end of row (16 sts)
row 19: turn, sc 3, sc2tog, sc to end of row (15 sts)
row 20: turn, bsc 2 sc2tog, bsc to end of row (14 sts)
row 21: turn, sc 7 (to center of row), fold in half and slst heel on wrong side of fabric.
round 22: return to right side of fabric, ch 1, sc around, do not join (24 sts)
rounds 23-31: sc around (24 sts)
round 32: sc 24, join w/slst
Tie off and weave in ends.

Thursday, October 30

Something I Don't Miss Not Having

There are a lot of stores and restaurants that we love but can't visit in South Dakota: Meijer, Red Robin, Office Depot (just to name a few). There's one not here that I don't miss at all, though. In fact, I'm kind of glad I no longer have to admit I don't shop there, even though they are "so much cheaper."

I'm talking about Aldi. I recognize that what I am about to say may be anathema to some of you. Let me tell you about my Aldi issues, and you can decide for yourself.

Number one: they don't stock what I buy. Aldi stocks a lot of staples. Unfortunately, they seem to have missed many of the staples I buy. At my local Aldi in Illinois I couldn't find: whole wheat flour, unbleached white flour, rolled oats, natural peanut butter, organic fruits and veggies, whipping cream, soy yogurt, sheep and goat cheeses, and real maple syrup. As those items generally made up about ¾ of my weekly shopping list, I didn't really feel I could stock much of my pantry at Aldi.

Number two: they aren't cheaper than the sales--or even the regular price for some items. Aldi carries many items I would buy (such as meats, rice, canned beans, and butter). I found, however, that quite a few of these could be purchased more cheaply if I stocked up when they were on sale at Meijer. Ground beef, for instance, was regularly $1.69/lb at my local Aldi. When Meijer had the same package on sale, however, I could get it for $1.39/lb. Beans cost 55¢/can at Aldi, but were 33¢/can (and sometimes as low as 25¢) at Meijer on sale. Butter prices varied, but they tended to hover around $2.50/lb at Aldi; I never spent more than $2.00/lb at Meijer on sale, and occasionally, I could even find it as low as $1.00/lb. Then there are specialty items, such as soymilk. Aldi only stocked one brand and only in quarts for ... well, I don't remember how much. I never bought it, because it was more expensive than the gallon packages I could purchase at Meijer--and that was a brand I knew I liked.

Number three: the convenience factor. At Aldi, you have to put a quarter deposit into your grocery cart. Now, granted, you get it back at the end of the trip, but you have to carry a quarter with you whenever you go. Plus, the cashiers don't bag your items, just toss them back in the cart, and not always very gently. After checking out, you still need to spend another 5-10 minutes bagging groceries while trying to corral your child and keep her from walking out the automatic door into the parking lot (make that 15 minutes). Additionally, Meijer is open 24/7, but the Aldi by my old house closes at 8:00 PM.

Number four: not-so-fresh produce. I know some people manage to get great produce at Aldi. I was rarely one of them. Nearly every time I shopped there, I'd have to throw out some fruits or veggies that had spoiled before I'd gotten the chance to use them. It was especially bad with bananas and onions--two things I buy almost every week. If I have to throw food away, I'm not saving money.

So there it is. The combination of those four issues generally kept me away from Aldi. Now, it's not an issue anymore. There's not a single Aldi in the entire state of South Dakota. I just need to figure out where I can find sheep cheese and dried fruits here, since there aren't any Whole Foods and Trader Joe's either. Sigh.

Wednesday, October 29

WFMW: Global Undo

Don't you wish there was an undo button for life? Something that you could push to take back the thoughtless comment that escaped your mouth or the impulse purchase that put you into overdraft in your checking account.

Well, I can't help you with that, but there is an undo command that you can use in e-mails or online forms or even blog posts and comments: CTRL+Z

Now, it won't get back the e-mail you accidentally sent to your boss, but if you were editing an e-mail and accidentally erased a big chunk, just press the Control key and the letter z (at the same time) and voilĂ , like magic, it's back.

In some instances, such as Blogger's post composer, you can undo several actions simply by repeating the keystrokes. In others, such as Notepad, you can only undo your last action and repeating the keystrokes only toggles undo and redo.

NOTE FOR MAC USERS: I don't use Mac, but I've read that the keystrokes for your operating system are CMD+Z. Anybody tried that?

For more tips, tricks, and other good stuff, visit Rocks in My Dryer.

Tuesday, October 28

None in the Whole State

I knew I was moving to a sparsely populated state (South Dakota is home to only about 800,000 people), but I didn't realize precisely what that meant for my shopping and spending opportunities.

Of my favorite stores, the following don't exist within 100 miles of me (the majority of them have no presence in the entire state of South Dakota):
  • Avenue
  • Borders
  • Dick Blick
  • IKEA
  • Meijer
  • Office Depot
  • Papyrus
  • Party City*
  • Trader Joe's*
  • Whole Foods*
  • Williams-Sonoma
* and these don't even offer on-line shopping!

On the bright side, I guess it will be that much easier to save money.

Monday, October 27

When the Nobel People Come Calling

I was thinking the other day as I shared about my unreal viral award, what would I do if I were offered a real award? Particularly one with money attached, like the million-dollar purse that comes with the Nobel Prizes. How would I spend a million dollars?

Well, first I'd give a bunch to the church (or is it the Church? to those people sharing God's love in practical ways with those in need). That would take care of the first two or three hundred thousand. After that I'd probably pay off debts for myself and my family. That's probably another $100,000 there, and I'd still have $600,000 to go.

I'd buy a house, I suppose, and a new car or two, bringing me down to about $300,000. After that, I think I would finance Adam's restaurant that he'd love to open, which would probably take up the rest.

How would you spend $1,000,000 if you had the chance?

Sunday, October 26

But ... Why?

Can anybody explain the appeal of Twitter for me? I really don't get it. I've been to the site, checked out the tweets posted by some of my favorite bloggers, but still, I just can't seem to figure out what keeps people going back.

Let's see if I've got the premise right: you write short bits of commentary about what you're doing all day, who you've seen, what you're thinking. You share them, in real-time, with the whole world. People subscribe and are able to follow your minute-by-minute activities.

Isn't that what we used to call stalking?

Really, isn't it?

The whole scheme just strikes me as ... invasive. Why on earth would anybody want hourly updates on the minutiae of my life? What purpose does having this information serve? If you really want to know what's going on in my life or inside my head at any given moment, why can't you just ask me? And if you don't ask, why should I tell you?

I'm just baffled.

Saturday, October 25

I Used to Be More Used to This

For my entire adult life, I've moved pretty frequently. I think my longest stay at in one location was just over 3 years. The last several moves, however, have just been from one end of town to another. For the past almost 7 years, I'd gone to the same church, lunched at the same restaurants, and shopped at the same stores. I knew where all the local attractions were. I was even starting to be one of those people who gave directions based on where things no longer were. You know the ones: "Head north on Main Street, then take a left where they tore down that gas station."

I miss being well-attuned to my town. I don't know where things are here. For two weeks, I didn't even know what county I lived in! I just found out a couple of days ago that our local Wal-Mart is open 24 hours.

I miss my friends who knew me before I was a mom. Those who were there when I became a mom. And those who knew me even before Adam and I started dating. Long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away.

There is a technical term for what I've got: culture shock. I knew it was coming. It happens with any move to a new area. It caught me off guard, though. I wasn't expecting everything to be so ... ya know ... different.

It doesn't help that I haven't found everything, yet. In the house, I mean. I don't know where my crochet hooks are. Actually, I broke down and just bought several new ones. I was getting antsy. All of our books aren't out yet either, nor are our DVDs. And I don't know where my winter shoes are. I moved with just my Tevas and now that the highs are in the mid 40s, my toes are getting chilly.

Adam did find my favorite Bible the other day, though. I haven't had a regular prayer or devotional time since we've been here. Now that I think of it, that's probably not helping me keep a reasonable perspective on life.

Maybe I'll go get my Bible and have a nice talk with God before the rest of the house wakes up. And maybe I'll even have a cup of tea.

Anybody seen my mugs?

Friday, October 24

Evidence-Based Maternity Care

Earlier this month, The Reforming States Group, Milbank Memorial Fund, and Childbirth Connection released a report on the state of health care in the U.S. for expectant moms and their babies.

From the report summary
Milbank Report: Evidence-Based Maternity Care

Poor quality care and unacceptable health outcomes affect a very large population — there are over 4.3 million births in the United States every year. And they impact babies during their most sensitive and important period of development and younger, primarily healthy women.

Further, private insurers (covering 51% of all births) and Medicaid programs (covering 42%) are getting poor value for their considerable investment in maternity care. This translates to wasted resources for taxpayers, employers and families themselves. Maternity care plays a major role in the health care system. Hospital charges for mothers and babies far exceed charges for any other condition, and cesarean section is the most common operating room procedure in the country.

From Consumer Reports
Back to basics for safer childbirth

The report found that, in the U.S., too many healthy women with low-risk pregnancies are being routinely subjected to high-tech or invasive interventions that should be reserved for higher-risk pregnancies ... the current style of maternity care is so procedure-intensive that 6 of the 15 most common hospital procedures used in the entire U.S. are related to childbirth. Although most childbearing women in this country are healthy and at low risk for childbirth complications, national surveys reveal that essentially all women who give birth in U.S. hospitals have high rates of use of complex interventions, with risks of adverse effects.

The reasons for this overuse might have more to do with profit and liability issues than with optimal care, the report points out. Hospitals and care providers can increase their insurance reimbursements by administering costly high-tech interventions rather than just watching, waiting, and shepherding the natural process of childbirth.

Convenience for health care workers and patients might be another factor. Naturally occurring labor is not limited to typical working hours. Evidence also shows that a disproportionate amount of tech-driven interventions like Caesarean sections occur during weekday "business hours," rather than at night, on weekends, or on holidays.

From USA Today
Study: High-tech interventions deliver huge childbirth bill

The University of Wisconsin's Douglas Laube, a former president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, blames "very significant external forces" for the overuse of expensive technologies in maternity care.

"I don't like to admit it, but there are economic incentives" for doctors and hospitals to use the procedures, says Laube, who reviewed the new report before its release.

For example, some doctors might get bonuses for performing more labor inductions, which adds costs and increases the risk of C-sections, which, in turn, increase hospital profits because they require longer stays.

In addition, some doctors order unnecessary tests and procedures to protect against malpractice suits, Laube says.

Bonnie Jellen, head of the American Hospital Association's maternal and child health section, hadn't seen the report. She says women's preferences and doctor's malpractice concerns have helped raise the C-section rate.

Says Corry [co-author of the report]: "A lot of people think pregnant women are accidents waiting to happen. It's just crazy."

The full text of the report is available online in both HTML and PDF formats.

Thursday, October 23

How to Transfer Documents in Three Days or Less

Day one:
  • Look up DMV online
  • After much searching, find forms for transferring license and registration documents
  • Print and fill out forms
  • Attempt to locate nearest DMV location; fail
  • Look up nearest DMV location through use of Google
  • Neglect to find hours of operation and location services

Day two:
  • Wake up early to get a good start on the day
  • Go to nearest DMV location
  • Discover DMV is closed
  • Agree with husband to return the following day

Day three:
  • Attempt to get up early to get a good start on the day; fail
  • Get to the DMV about 10:00 AM
  • Realize you wasted your time filling out the online forms as different forms are required when applying in person
  • Discover license and registration are two different departments and must be handled in two different locations
  • Fill out new forms with 98.8% of the same information
  • Wait to be called to the counter
  • Step up to the counter; find that you left your wallet at home
  • Grumble to yourself while your husband surrenders his out-of-state license
  • Wait while he answers the appropriate questions
  • Sit down again, waiting for his name to be called
  • Watch as he signs his name and has his photo taken
  • Wait for his license to be printed
  • Ask directions to the vehicle registration department
  • Stop home to pick up wallet
  • Visit a fast-food restaurant to wait out the anticipated "lunch rush" at the other location
  • Find new building; enter through wrong door
  • Redirect through correct door, following signs to driver's license office
  • Turn in completed application and wait for name to be called to surrender out-of-state license
  • Answer several questions, repeating information listed on the form
  • Sit back down, waiting for name to be called for photo-op
  • Wait ... watch two people who arrived after you pass through the photo and printing steps
  • Convince your daughter that she is not old enough to have her picture taken for a driver's license; compromise by offering to let her stand in front of your for your photo
  • Take photo; wait for license to print
  • Pick up license; be pleasantly surprised by the good likeness of the photo
  • Ask where to go in order to transfer the title; return to a previously passed-through part of the building
  • Wait in line for an open window
  • Step up to the window, discuss your application for title transfer with the clerk for several minutes
  • Offer a big sigh when the clerk informs you that you are in the wrong place; you live in a different county and must pay for your title transfer at the county seat
  • Drive 30 miles to yet another location
  • Discuss with your husband which of the buildings in the downtown block looks most like the place to go
  • Choose the wrong building
  • Cross the street to the right building
  • Try to enter through the wrong door
  • Walk around to the right door on the opposite side of the building
  • Step through a metal detector and allow your bag to be searched as you enter the county courthouse
  • Watch while your husband sets off the metal detector, but is told to go ahead with no further search
  • Step up to the treasurer's office area; wait for the next available clerk
  • Fill out affidavit to explain name change on title, as marriage certificate you brought is not acceptable proof of change
  • Complete application through questions and answers with the clerk
  • Learn that registration charges are based on age and weight of vehicles
  • Wait while she looks up the vehicle weight for your car, as that computer program is not responding
  • Write check for specified amount
  • Drive 30 miles back home, arriving at 4:00 PM
  • Collapse in quivering pile of exhaustion

Wednesday, October 22

WFMW: Surfing with the Sound Off

Right off the bat, I need to admit this post is part "tip" for bloggers, part "rant" against my latest pet peeve. Bear with me, will you please?

As you may recall, I recently got speakers on my computer. Can I tell you how excited I am about being able to watch all the little YouTube clips everybody posts? Well, okay, I'm excited to see some of the clips people post.

I've discovered a darker side to surfing with the sound up, though. Some people think it's cute to have sound or video clips set to automatically play as their page loads. Please, please, for the love of all that's not waking my daughter up while I'm on the computer after she's asleep: If you are one of these people, I beg you to change the settings on your site! Surely it would be just as simple to have a nice little "play" button for everyone who wants to hear/see/experience the media, and the rest of us will be left in peace.

Well, there's my plea. Unfortunately, since not everyone reads my blog (and a misguided few probably don't even agree with me that this is a horrid waste of bandwidth) further steps must be taken. This is the tip part, for those of you who have been waiting.

I've taken to surfing with the sound down. Sometimes I turn my speakers off. Occasionally, I'll set the volume to mute. Mostly, though, I just turn it waaaaaaay down. That way, as I'm innocently wending my way through the world wide web, my tender ears aren't assaulted by loud noises, and my daughter doesn't wander into the living room wanting to dance in the middle of the night.

For more tips to brighten your day (most without ranting commentary) visit Rocks in My Dryer.

Tuesday, October 21

A Crushing Blow to the Ego

One evening recently, my daughter was asking about why we had to move. I explained it was because Daddy had gotten a new job.

"Why did he get a new job?" she demanded.

"Because he was the most qualified candidate."

"No, he's not," she insisted. "He's Daddy!"

Monday, October 20

That Makes So Much More Sense Now

I've been reading about Seth Godin quite a few places lately. Apparently he has a pretty well known blog. As I rarely venture out of this little Moms' Corner of the blogworld, I don't really know much else about him. This morning, though, I finally figured clued in about one important detail:

Seth Godin is not the same guy as Josh Groban.

I'm glad we had this talk. Carry on.

Sunday, October 19

Late to the Hayride

We're supposed to be going on a hayride this afternoon. Everybody is meeting at the church parking lot at 2:30. Actually, this was all supposed to happen last week, but there was some rain so they put it off a week.

Unfortunately, I don't think I'll be able to make it at 2:30. You see, the Bears are playing the Vikings today. That means the game will actually be on TV here. Now that my Bears TV time has been downsized to just a few games a year, I'm not prepared to early without a more compelling reason than a big wagon and a couple bales of hay.

So, we'll be a little late. I'm sure they'll save some hot dogs for us. Adam's record for hot dogs is 10. Maybe I better call ahead and warn them.

Saturday, October 18

I Found Rush Hour!

I figured out where they've been hiding it. I guessed pretty accurately last time.

Adam and I actually got stuck in traffic that was clogging up the left-turn lane to go into the local superstore.

Yes, folks, Sioux Falls hosts rush hour at three o'clock Saturday afternoon, right in front of Wal-Mart. Bring your RV and stay awhile! I'll bring the coconut marshmallows for roasting.

On the Other Hand

Well, that was easier than I thought it would be. I'm all merged.

I edited the post pages at By Hook or By Cook to forward to this blog. The first couple went just fine, but once I stepped away for a while and returned to complete the project, Blogger had added word verification to my publishing page. Apparently their computers thought I was a spam blog.

Not that this is the first time Google has suggested I was an automated process with malicious intent. Every once in a while while I'm browsing through my iGoogle homepage I get the following message:

Google Error

We're sorry but your query looks similar to automated requests from a computer virus or spyware application. To protect our users, we can't process your request right now.

What's that phrase about the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing? I've noted before that the various divisions at Google don't always seem to play nicely with one another.

And while we're on the subject (kinda), does anybody else think the word verification Google uses makes it nearly as hard for humans as for computers? I've left a lot of comments on a lot of sites and I've found most of them to have more user-friendly human checking than Google's warped and twisted letters. More than once I've tried to type in what I thought it said, only to have to do it all over again because I couldn't read the letters! Surely there's a better way; if only I could figure out what it is and sell it to Google ....

On the positive side, though, I really like the new Google search widget (installed in my sidebar). I'm also intrigued by the new comment option for commenting right on the page. I miss the avatars, but I really like keeping everything together on a single page. What do you think?

Friday, October 17

Friday Fiction: Part Two

[Part One]

The stained glass was dirty. The tiny chapel was cramped, filled with mismatched furnishings as if it had been supplied entirely from an ecclesiastical flea market. The sullen light let in by the grimy windows fit well with the somber service.

My father had many friends packed in the hard wooden pews. Neighbors who'd known him when he was this high came to share their condolences and gently estimate a return date for their prized Tupperware and Corning glass.

My mother sat in the last row, dressed in unrelieved black, clutching a dry hankie in her lap. I could not see her from my seat, but I knew where she would be. Rarely did the dictates of custom mean much to my mother, yet out of respect for those who mourned my father's passing, his estranged wife kept her place quietly at the back of the church.

Pastor Craig presided over the service in customary solemnity, his black robe not quite covering well-polished dress shoes that shone even in the dim light of the chapel.

I sat and stood, following the liturgy out of habit, scarcely noting the words. My mind didn't wander; I simply could take in no more. As we stood to sing the final hymn, I watched neighbors and sons of neighbors, six all together, step up to raise the casket and carry it down the narrow aisle.

My mind brightened at an unruly thought, "It's like a wedding, only in reverse."

I lowered my eyes as a small smile tugged on the corners of my lips. I let my mouth go slack. I was not ready for the return of feelings yet.

The graveside service was blessedly brief. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, my father's remains were lowered into the ground. I sighed, accepting the hugs, kisses, and awkward pats on the shoulder as everyone headed back into their everyday lives.

My mother stepped forward after the crowd had dispersed. She hugged me gently and rubbed one hand up and down my back as I rested my head against her strong, slight shoulder.

"Would you like coffee?" she asked me.

I shook my head, still leaning into her, breathing in the spicy scent of lavender and honey, the bath oil she had used since I was a child.

"Food?" she tried again.

"Sleep," I mumbled, raising my head to meet her eyes.

She nodded and led the way.

Back at my father's house, I sat in a high-backed chair, awed by the efficiency with which my mother arranged the sheets and pillows into a cozy nest for me to burrow. She kissed my forehead and left me alone in the dusky pink of the guest room.

I slept for minutes or hours, I wasn't sure. The room was dark, but I could hear the clinks and thunks of my mother baking. Though I'd barely made a dent in the neighborhood's casserole procession, she was making more.

"Is it any wonder," the irreverent thought refused to leave without expression, if just to myself, "there is an epidemic of obesity in this country when a whole generation was raised to process their grief with food?"

Copyright ©2008 by Amy James Gray. No part of this text may be copied or reprinted without the prior consent of the author.

Thursday, October 16

Happy Belated

D'oh! I completely missed my own blogiversary. Experience Imagination turned two on October 11 and I totally didn't notice. Happy Birthday to me, anyway.

On a (just barely) related note, do you know how hard it is to find stock images of birthday cakes with two candles? I finally had to give up and just make my own. Everything I was finding had either one, three, or a whole slew of candles with a fire about to start any moment. I guess that will make my life easier for next year. Maybe I'll even remember to post on time. Hope springs eternal, right?

Wednesday, October 15

Works for Me: Furniture Catch

I figured it out! I figured it out!
With a pencil and a pad, I figured it out!

Well, okay, not quite. But I love the song, anyway. And I did figure something out that's bothered me for years. Maybe it will help you, too.

There is a catch on my desk chair that keeps it from tilting backward. I like to be able to sit back in that half-reclined position and think deep thoughts. I find it restful. Maybe it puts my brain in better alignment or something

In any case, my daughter likes to play with this chair and spin it around. She regularly sets off the catch mechanism and, until just recently, I've not known how to fix it.

But, I figured it out! (Have you caught on to that idea yet?)

The lever that controls the height of the chair twists to allow the seat up or down. It also slides in and out about ¼" and that is what controls the tilt.

So, now when I come back to my computer desk after my little one has been spinning and playing, I can lean back and ponder to my heart's content. Ahh.

For more tips and tricks to improve your live, visit Rocks in My Dryer.

Tuesday, October 14

Shutting Down My Blog

Not here. Don't worry, I have plans to keep Experience Imagination around indefinitely. I have been thinking of getting rid of my project blog By Hook or By Cook. I almost never post there anymore. I'm not sure why I thought I needed two blogs to share my craftiness and cookiness (yes, yes, that probably should be spelled with a "k").

Really, it's just a matter of transferring the posts over here. Then maybe I'll actually start posting some recipes and patterns again. Just don't hold your breath for it to be any time soon.

I've also been thinking about a design overhaul. I've been getting a little tired of this design. Those of you who have been following my blog for awhile may have noticed my tweaking here and there over the past several months. I'm especially fond of my new subscription buttons in the sidebar. Those took me about four hours to research and test the code to make them work right.

My biggest concern is that I don't really know much about CSS or how the whole template thing works. I don't want to start something that I won't be able to finish. Maybe I should get a book.

Any suggestions?

Monday, October 13

"There's Just No Way to Sanitize Live Fish"

I'm vacillating between a moue of disgust and a great big giant belly laugh.

EWWWW or HAHAHA?
You decide.

Something's Fishy: Washington State Bans Carp Pedicures, Calls Them Unsanitary

(with thanks to Shannon at Rocks in My Dryer for sharing this link)

Sunday, October 12

I'm Brilliant

At least that's what they tell me. In Spanish. My friend Jeanne, who writes At A Hen's Pace, passed on this wonderful award, saying she hoped to encourage me to post more often. She also said:
She's a superb writer; she's also funny, insightful, honest and quirky--even in the midst of trial.

Ooh!! Love those warm fuzzies!



I was looking for the origins of the award and found a killjoy informing us all that it's not a real award, just "a viral nuisance." Pah, say I. It may not be real to Alex Boese, but I like it just fine. If viral marketing is lauded, why not viral admiration and encouragement?

Now I'm supposed to pass it on to another brilliant blogger. Actually, I have two. One I know personally, the other I've only stalked online gotten to know virtually.

I hereby bestow my own warm fuzzies on Abigail of abirumania and Christine of welcome to my brain . net. Both women write thought-provoking posts that challenge me to reassess my own understanding of my world, my faith, and my relationships. Thank you, ladies. You inspire me.

Jeanne also tagged me to share six random things about myself, since apparently she didn't get enough with the Seven Random Things Meme. Thats okay; I've always enjoyed trivia. First thing done!

2. I can't seem to get a handle on the pronunciation of "meme". I know it's supposed to be "meem", but I continue to think of it at "meh-meh".

3. My family has some weird birthday coincidences:
  • My mom and dad were born on the same day of the month, two months apart.
  • My brother was born in the intervening month, two days earlier
  • My father's ex-wife has a birthday in the same month, two days after my brother's
  • His birthday is a week and one day before his wife's
  • Her birthday is two days later than my niece's
  • Another niece has a birthday exactly one week before my sister's
  • Her husband has his birthday exactly one week before mine
  • Adam's birthday is exactly one week after mine
4. I used to look forward to watching The Love Boat when I stayed home from school as a kid.

5. I was named after my great-grandmother, my grandmother, and my dad.

6. I prefer generic canned black olives to Kalamatas.

The first six of you to read this, consider yourselves tagged.

Saturday, October 11

Things Are Different Here

Moving is good for the soul. I'm convinced of it. We all could use a bit of picking up and dusting off of our cultural sensibilities once in a while. Now that we've arrived here and are starting to settle in, I'm discovering just how long it's been since I've had a little cultural shakeup in my life.

I went to college in North Carolina. I had moved there from New York, about an hour north of NYC. I made a friend in my first couple of weeks down south; her name was Lynn. She'd moved a year or two earlier from Los Angeles. She told me about her own first few days in the state--how every evening for a week the lead news story was the kid on the overpass chucking rocks at the cars driving down the freeway, and how they hadn't caught him yet. That week, she said, she'd come up with a gentle reminder to herself of the radical turn her life had just taken.

"Welcome to North Carolina," Lynn shared her wise words with me. "Things are different here."

That phrase has come back to me this past week. Often. It's taken a little twist, though: Welcome to South Dakota. Things are sure different here.

We haven't found rush hour yet. I don't think they have it. Adam and I have been out several times now between the hours of 3:00 and 6:00 PM, but not once has there been any traffic-induced delay. Of course, the fact that we can easily transverse the city in less than twenty minutes does make everything seem right next door.

Our electricity is provided by a cooperative. I'm not sure what that means. I haven't yet read the brochures they sent us. Adam tells me that if we pay more than is spent providing us with lights, heat, and computer time, they'll send us money back. I could get into this.

We took a family outing to a local apple orchard this week. I was excited to go because apple picking is something Adam and I have been trying to do every autumn for five years, but this is the first time we've managed it. The publicity for the orchard describes it as the perfect place to get away from city life. And it was lovely. Giant hay bales, a pumpkin patch, a little country store, and lots and lots of apples. Did I mention that this particular orchard is just five miles from the heart of the city?

Last Friday evening, we made the mistake of trying to shop at the big box superstore on the weekend. Everyone else was there, too. Maybe that's where they've been hiding rush hour. In any case, I should have been warned as we drove into the parking lot. A good section of the last row away from the entrance was filled by a collection of recreational vehicles. It reminded me of home games at Louisiana State (Geaux Tigers!).

Since we've been here, I started watching the news again. It makes me laugh. Not the horror stories they show, but the anchors. And the technicians. I'm guessing that our market here is a few rungs below Chicago on the career ladder of news crews. The evening news, especially on the weekends, is a bit less polished than what I remember, back when I used to watch the news regularly.

Adam and I have started playing a little game I call "Guess the Story". When the graphics don't match the copy, the first one to say which story the footage is from wins. We've had two matches this week, and we're tied at one apiece. Stay tuned for the bonus round. That's when we predict how soon the overpass-rock-throwing story will air. Should be any day now.

Friday, October 10

Highlights (Not Just for Children Anymore)

It seems like for-absolutely-ever since I've posted. I went six whole days without my computer. Six days! And then, just for kicks, when we tried to set it up, the DSL wouldn't work, so I had to wait another day for the local phone company to send somebody out to check the line.

Just to catch up briefly:
  • Last month we spent a week driving to and from South Dakota for a series of interviews Adam had set up, and to check out the area and see if we'd like to live here.
  • He was offered a job that sounded just perfect at the last place he went. We had less than a month to get our stuff together and move ourselves across two states.
  • We secured an apartment long-distance and started pulling boxes out of the attic. After much discussion, we realized the move itself would take nearly a week, so we planned two weeks for packing up our stuff, one in transit, and a final one unpacking before the new job started.
Our moving sale went well. We made over $100, which was my goal. Plus, it made for a nice break from the packing.

The last day of September, a bunch of our friends came over to help us load the truck. The next day, another friend came over to help clean. She also brought her daughter to entertain our daughter and keep her from too much "helping". I need to send out a big THANK YOU to them both, because I don't know how we would have managed on our own. We certainly wouldn't have finished in time for dinner followed by swimming at the hotel pool.

Traveling was pretty uneventful, just as you hope driving a 26' moving truck hitched to a trailer carrying your car will be. We managed to make it the whole trip without losing anything or having to back up.

My brother lives in town here, so I had enlisted his help in collecting a crew to help us unload. When I spoke to him on Friday night, only three guys had said they were coming, and one could only be there an hour. Thankfully, in the end we had six strapping men (not all of them were young), plus Adam. We were able to get everything into our new apartment in less than two hours. Now we just have to get it all unpacked.

Meanwhile, the computer is set up, the phone is working, and we're trying to figure out what TV channels we get (I found channels that aren't listed in TV Guide--I've never had that happen before). This past Sunday was my first week of Bears withdrawal. It went pretty well. I was able to watch most of the Packers' loss to Atlanta and the Steelers' win over the Jaguars. And the Bears won again, which is more than I can say for another ursine sports team that makes its home in Chicago.

Oh, and in other news, I have sound for the first time! When I got my current computer, our friend who built it had installed a sound card, but didn't include speakers. I've had so little experience with computer hardware that I had no idea how simple it would be to plug my $10 speakers in and hear everything I've been missing. Now I, too, can watch Hulu.

So, what's been the highlight of your week?