Friday, March 30, 2007

Constant Struggles

All of a sudden it's after 3 p.m. here. I had the day off today, because my job incorporates lots of 'after hours' work opps. Well, not 'opps' so much as mandates. But that's fine, because I can then take Friday off. Which I did last week, too.

What is NOT fine is finding myself here having accomplished little of what I'd hoped to get done today. Sure I've done a couple of things, but I really needed a solid day's worth of housework/errands running today to catch up on the slack that I've been since I went back to work.

So what you're going to get from me today is a to-do list. I keep having new things come to mind when I'm in the shower or the plant shed, but by the time I think about it again, the task has slipped my mind. My brain gets full pretty easily.

There are so many things...Mom? If you read this, don't bitch at me for the things I haven't done yet. "I know! I suck!" is my only answer, and my deeply felt guilt already takes its toll. For the rest of you, constructive ideas about managing my life are always welcome.

I have the rest of the day today to make as many inroads into this list as possible. Tomorrow a.m. early I'm swinging by Crazy John's place (He LIVES!), and we're going to have a day trip to see some birdies. I've not been birding in a while, and it's the very beginning of migration season. Maybe the painted bunting will come poop on my head! On Sunday, my friend Maria is going to come over to see my house (must CLEAN!) and she's going to help me move the last empty bed into place. Later that day I'm heading out to the BBQ capital of my state, for a training that will take place on Monday.

The ONE thing that absolutely must happen today is the meds buying; the prescription is expiring.

Whew. OK. BREAK!

Load dishwasher
• Run dishwasher
• Clean filthy counters
• Sweep
• Mop
• Clean off surfaces...make some order, already!

• Put away clean clothes
• Wash dirty clothes
• Pick up shoes
• Wash bedclothes
• Find resting places for extraneous surface crap.
• Vacuum and then swiffer and then mop.
• Install new bedskirt
• Rotate mattress

Living room:
• Remove stack of recyclable paper
• Take bedding off of couch
• Swiffer

Extra bedroom:
• Turn table back into a desk after stint as germinating table
• Move desk stuff off of bed
• Put sheets on bed

• Get last seizure med refill
• Make a call to doc for a new script.
• Find a lab to get thyroid levels checked

• Mow lawn
Plant radishes
Plant beets
Plant Swiss chard
Plant onions
Plant beans?
Feed the worms
Repot the sorrell into the Myküll gift pot
Water the bed
Turn the compost pile
• Move dirt
• Move bed frame to sunny spot

• Do taxes
• Do 2006 Health Savings Account reimbursements (BTW, I don't care what the savings are. I am NOT organized enough to make this work my way. Never AGAIN.)
• Pay rent
• Pay bills
• Deposit paycheck
• Collect 1/2 of past water bill from deadbeat former housemate (Yeah right. it's only ~$20. I should just write that off. I emailed him about it over a week ago with no response. I get the feeling he's going to "stick it to me!" I feel pretty bad for him...not even willing to pay his past debts.)
• Find new roommate, trying not to be as freaked out by my last bad living experience as much as I was with my last bad job experience...

• Get bashed in side fixed (mom, this is what you can't bug me about. the anxiety about not having done it is out the roof as it is)
• Fix the windshield
• Take in to see why the maintenence light is on
• Figure out when to get the timing belt changed
• Figure out where to get maintenence done in this new town (Honda owners, any ideas?)

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Cuteness Galore


One of the kids I worked with at my last job wrote a poem; he performed it spoken-word style at a celebration we had shortly before the program ended.

My then-boss contacted the author and had the poem printed up and framed for me before I left that last job. When I moved this summer, I almost ditched the poem. I did ditch the certificate of appreciation that the former employer gave me at the same time, cause, meh. It's hard for a certificate to make up for being laid off, you know? I toss things into the trash without a moment's hesitation. Sometimes it bites me in the ass later on, but at least I'm not like my grandma and sister, who hoard things. My friend R convinced me to keep the framed poem, though, so I put it away somewhere in my office and forgot about it.

Well, I came across it a couple of days ago and put it in my bag to take to work. It's hanging behind my monitor, along with a rescued (bad) oil painting of a group of unidentifiable shorebirds.

I wanted to share it. I've changed the teen's name (trying to keep the rhyme) and left out the title, for anonymity's sake.

Week one was team building
Not knowing a soul
Getting used to the old light in the ceiling
And the room being a little cold

As the weeks progressed we got to know each other
Minds got loose
Soon we felt like long-lost sisters and brothers
We were beginning to expand our family roots.

So much fun now
That we can barely pay attention
The group is one now
Learning all types of preventions

Preventing pregnancy, date rape, HIV and STIs
Through our strong ties we can make people realize
If they open their eyes
And look past the horizon
People will hear them now; there's no need for Verizon.

I leave here a pain annihilator
Not a heart breaker
But a spirit levitator
And I had a great group of friends there to help. They are my mind motivators.
So most importantly I leave here not just Ricky Dean
But Ricky Dean a peer educator.

It would be really, super easy to snark on this, and OH don't you know I have (There's no need for Verizon??) . But it really touches me. Something I did...something I facilitated, made this 15-year old boy have these thoughts. His sense of self comes through so strong...Go Ricky Dean!

This is why I do what I do.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Daddy's gone a-hunting

Last night I dreamed that I was sitting outside with a bunch of people and a Painted Bunting flew up. He was kind of dully colored, almost like he was about to molt.

For some reason he was also extremely bold, and didn't mind me snagging him (at the behest of the crowd) and perching him on my head. Of course I had already been extremely excited, since I've never seen a Painted Bunting before (and look how cute they are!!).

But I also realized that wild birds, no matter how seemingly cooperative, probably don't want to spend much time perched on someone's head.

I was right. He deliberately pooped all over my head. And I was at work, so I had to wait for it to dry and then just not touch it.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Status Quo

Things that make me feel better, temporarily

Burned pretzels
Smoked cheese
Herbal tea

Looking at that list makes me think I should try some lapsang souchong.

Sunday, March 25, 2007


I don't feel well. I have worms.

Wait. That came out totally wrong. Let me regroup and start again...

:::clearing throat::: Ahem!

I picked up the worms for my worm bin from the fabulously generous and supercool JeniQ today. I was kind of quiet, because somewhere on the way to Jeni's house I began to feel kind of ill. Almost as though I had a stomach virus.

I stopped at Supermercado León on the way home, because I felt I would DIE without some kind of fruit juice and/or frozen sustenence. I got home, did the minimal amount of work needed to keep the worms alive and happy, and crawled into bed. It's weird to have it so nice out but to feel so gross. The Italian ice I picked up has been hitting the spot, too. I considered getting some Cheerwine or SunDrop sherbet instead, but the mango and piña colada ices are probably the best way to go.

So I'll tell more about the little vermis, but a day by the pool with too much beer and too much sun apparently really did me in yesterday. Back to bed for me.

I'll still have the worms tomorrow.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

My work is not done here

Oh my. It's a gorgeous weekend, and I was fortunate to be able to take Friday off, due to long hours early in the week. I've gotten a lot done, including the worm bin. More on that later. There are lots of pictures, but I want to wait until I have the whole thing set up before showing off what I did. (Of course, I dreamed last night that the bin I made fell apart. Can't escape the anxiety!)

More pressing now is the HUGE pile of soil and compost sitting in my driveway. If anything is going to get me in shape it's going to be moving the pile around.

Lookie here:

Um. WOW.

OK, to foment some motivation to move that pile of dirt, I'd like to show off some of my babies that will eventually go IN the beds, as well as the pea babies that weeded and mulched yesterday. I'm a little worried about them, because they don't seem to be getting any bigger.


In order, from top left, clockwise: jalapeño peppers, sorrell, sweet basil, sweet frigitello peppers (which, BTW, had three germinate yesterday! YAY!), Extreme Bush Tomato, and Indian Stripe tomato.

OK, off to move some dirt, as soon as I put in my contacts. I'm going to a POOL party later on today, where I'll show off, well, nothing except my slight sunburn from yesterday (despite 30 spf protection). But I will drink cold beer from cans.


p.s. I noticed some Carolina Wrens went to an open house at my bird box yesterday. I hope they liked it. I just hope they get the financing.

Oops: almost forgot the peas:


Thanks to Imperatrix, I had a happy CD to listen to while I did my work today. I figured I'd kill myself if I tried to make it through the whole thing, but once I got into a groove I didn't even notice the time. Until Deee Lite came on. Ha ha. But no, really, it's almost the last song.

So check this out:

I'm going to be pretty sore tomorrow. But I think I did a decent job of using gravity plus that gray container to the best effect. I used my legs not my back.

See how much I moved? The pile began basically at the lower right corner of the picture. I used the rake to spread the topsoil smooth.

Finally, Michele? I'll buy you some new flip flops, cause, um, looks like I got yours a little dirty, after mine fell apart yesterday. Thank god they were brown to begin with!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Good thing I have an IUD

I'm, um, babysitting. I think the better word for that in this case would be baby screwing-up.

The parents left about, oh, an hour or so ago. Baby would not eat. Baby would not stop crying. Baby almost puked from crying. I have baby drool all over me. Which would be fine, if it weren't because Baby didn't want to stop crying.

See, Baby didn't have any mom boob for soothing. And Baby did not like that. I had no momboob smell to me, but OMG I did have momboob juice in that sippy cup. IT WAS NOT MOM BOOB!!!!

No boob juice for this baby. Any overture of me trying to soothe him was not gonna happen. I even tried for food. Bouncy chair thing that hangs from the doorjam. Singing. Dancing. No boob juice, just CRYING.

He apparently is somewhat soothed by Donald Fagan, which is fine. I have The Nightfly on

The dogs even whined a little as I sweated around the house trying not to panic. I didn't panic, but I felt really, really bad for the poor boy!

Eventually I just put him down several times without eating anything. He is quiet now. In a bit I'm going to go look at him and make sure he's not just quiet because he's dead. I'm pretty sure he's alive, though.

(oh god please let him be alive....)

He's alive. He's asleep. He's breathing. Whew.

The Purple Crayon

Go visit Today My Boss.


It's a friend's new website.

Plans, plans, plans and more

Why am I still dreaming about Dave Neuhaus? Maybe Marianne is right and he's actually a Demigod. I'll avoid the minute details of the dream, because really, who besides me cares, right? An overview, however, can't be avoided. If only for my own records.

Setting: my old high school

Dave Neuhaus walked by me in a hallway. He was a senior, but it was today. So he must be about 37 or 38. But he of course, looked the same as he did (GASP!) 20 years ago (Jesucristo todo poderoso, I'm old. when did that happen??????). I explained to him that I was, in fact, NOT stalking him. That's the gist of the dream, but somewhere along the line I also had a shower at a just-barely-not-coed facility. And there was snow. And birds. Gosh my life is boring...same old topics day after day.

I have a $126 soil delivery (3 cubic yards) scheduled for Friday. It's going to be 1/2 very rich compost and 1/2 darn rich topsoil. I'll have to shovel it into my beds, but that's fine. It's going to be sunny and in the 80s this weekend. Nice time to be outside!

My early-seeded sorrel is finally showing some vigor, which gives me hope for the sickly-looking, spindly, leaf-curling tomatoes and not-yet germinated sweet peppers.

New Project: Woooooorms!

A couple of weeks ago, I sent out a "wanted" email to my local FreeCycle listserv asking/begging for anyone's extra compost bin, or lacking that, a vermiculture setup. I got an email back from this guy Sean, who is a neighbor and enthusiastic vermicomposter. He let me know that it's actually really easy to DIY with vermiculture, and pointed me, in turn, to one JeniQ, who appreciates a good thrift store score (especially when we're talking almost free Danskos). Of course, Sean referred me to JeniQ more for her goodness of vermicomposting outreach than the other things that are cool about her (another birder!!). But at any rate, she's going to be hooking me up with starter worms and technical assistance.

Sean and Jeni and I have been in contact several times since that original email; Sean has offered up a drill to make my bins, Jeni has pointed me to resources, including a blog posts about worm farming in general and how to "harvest" the castings.

Oh yeah. Why worms? I'm allergic to cats, and I wanted a pet.

Just kidding. I want the worm poop. That's all. My bin composting is too slow. I am whole-hog (as opposed to half-pig) into this gardening project, and I want to pamper the planties with the rich goodness of the castings.

(So I can eat the garden products, muah ha ha ha ha ha)

I meet JeniQ on Sunday. Right on.

More to come...

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

It's just terrible.

My friend Karen and I met in about 1982 or 83, when she moved to my small, midwestern hometown from Raleigh, NC (via somewhere in Ohio, I believe).

My first memory of Karent was me begging her, in my silly fashion, to have a bite of her snack outside by the bike racks. It was a big, roundish brown cookie, and I took a HUGE bite. Only it wasn't a cookie at all. It was Kibbeh. I believe I spit it out. We were both embarrassed, I think.

Karen's dad Alfred was Syrian, which is why she had such an exotic snack with her, and as I grew closer to Karen and her family, I learned to love Kibbeh. (I've never done kibbeh-nayye though...raw meat. Blech). I also learned to love Al.

Al was Karen's best friend, I think. They had a relationship that transcended any other parent/child relationship I had seen before. Al was Karen's top adviser and her champion.

Karen and I also roomed together in college, and one of my main reasons for picking my graduate school was that I knew Al and his wife, Karen's mom, Dorothy would be close enough by for me if I needed them. A second pair of parents, you could say.

Al helped me buy the only car I've ever bought from a dealership. Al was hilarious. He was just FULL of good-natured teasing, often with unexpected results. One of the stories I always heard was his restaurant classic response. When the server came by and asked how things were, Al invariable put on a stony face and said "It's just terrible!" Of course the server's response would be to rush to see what to do about the situation, but Al didn't let them hang for long. He had a great big smile that clued them in to his joke, and he would let it shine!

Al passed away on Saturday after a month-long stay in the hospital. Karen had mentioned he was in the hospital, but I think I never really understood the severity. I thought about going to visit, but as usual in that situation, I talked myself out of it. After all, the hospital is stressful as it is without visitors to contend with. And Al was a hale guy. He had had his brush with severe illness years before and pulled through, so no way was he going to succumb this time. No way. Apparently he went downhill really quickly. Karen told me yesterday that she had made it back here to spend time with him and to let him spend some last time with her two babies. So that part is good.

I'm going to miss Al, and this time? It really is terrible. I love you, Al.

Monday, March 19, 2007

For the record

I had my (at least) second Google search for "Dave Neuhaus" leading here to the blog. Those of you who've been reading since the old blog will know the story, but anyone coming here via a search will not.

For posterity and google searchers, here's a quick explanation of the ins and outs of the Dave Neuhaus tag. Dave Neuhaus was a high-school friend of mine who played timpani in the orchestra when I played French horn, back in the late 1980s. He was quite cute, and had a HUGE smile that people teased him about. Sometime in the last year I had a dream that Dave came to find me because of his deeply seated (heh) feelings for me that had not abated. After I woke up and figured out what the hell I had just dreamed, I tried to look him up online. I had no luck, even though I think I know where he went to college in NY.

So for some reason the tag Dave Neuhaus came to mean anything related to boys and dating.

Dave, if you find this, I'm not scary. Email me! Lastewie at the Google mail. Or with this format: firstname.lastname (at) the Google mail. I have the same last name.

Sunday, March 18, 2007


Well, I've officially harvested something. It was time--probably past time, actually--to thin the peas. My official consultant told me last week that I could do it when the plants were looking crowded or whenever I wanted pea shoots in my salad.

I just ate about 8 plants worth, straight. No dressing, no company in the form of other greens, no cheese. Tasty.

The non-germinated peppers have me worried. I finally have two jalapeños peeking out, but none of the frigitellos have even hinted at germinating. I can't help thinking that nothing will actually grow, and that I'll be forced to go to some horrible nursery to buy flats of non-exciting vegetables, which will also fail to thrive. This is called the popover mindset. A number of years ago, when I was horribly depressed, I suddenly became absolutely incapable of making popovers "pop." Instead they were lumpy, solid little chunks of dense nastiness. My messed up brain translated that first to "I'll never be able to make popovers again" and then expanded it to "Nothing I do will ever be successful."

The reason I'm concerned about tending towards the popover mindset, I think, is that the sorrel I planted ages ago is not exactly thriving, either. Nor are the peas. The sorrel's inside, and though I've transplanted to larger pots with better soil, I'm convinced my lack of experience is going to fuck everything up. The peas have been the same size for the last two weeks or so. Maybe the thinning will help them. Kill a few to save many, or something like that.



I dreamed last night that my dad's best friend from childhood's son, (who happens to be this nice cutie's real life husband, if you followed that complicated relationship) proposed to me. Mind you, he was still between 18 and 20 years old, though I was my real current age.

Anyway, I wasn't thrilled about the engagement, but I did like the ring. A lot. I can't remember the design too too well, at least not to describe it, but I'll try anyway. It was gold. There was not a solitaire diamond. It was a thickish disk, set on a normal ring. The disk was about the size of a women's watch face. You could detatch it from the ring by unscrewing it, and the disk was designed to spin in place. The threads that unscrewed were gold, too. On the face were four tiny diamonds all clustered at the edge, and then some free-floating diamonds that were inset around the edge to move freely (kind of imagine this as a ring rather than a watch, but about an inch thick). There was also some kind of white jade inset.

I mentioned I was not happy that I was engaged. I think I didn't really have a choice, and we hadn't even been dating. But I took the ring, and I put it on. And then the guy disappeared off somewhere, and I plopped down on the couch next to a guy friend of mine.

I showed him the ring. He was impressed, and immediately pressed the white area, which apparently was a hidden switch. Up from the ring rose a white touchscreen. I have no idea what it controlled. But I showed it to everyone, because in my mind it meant the boy really loved me.

On top of spagheeeeeeetti...

Frozen prepared meatballs, even if from Trader Joe's, will ruin home-canned marinara sauce. Nasty.

Don't make the same mistake I just did. Make your own 'balls.
My mom is the inspiration here. She taught me how to make these, and I've tried my best to make them my own.

Here's how I do it:


Lean ground beef (1 lb or so)
One egg
Progresso Italian Seasoned breadcrumbs
Romano or Parmesan cheese, in crumbs rather than shredded.
Garlic 2-3 cloves, minced or crushed
Parsley, minced...a goodly amount

Mix the meat and egg together. Toss in the minced or pressed garlic and a couple of handfuls of parsley. Add equal amounts of bread crumbs and cheese until the texture of the meat mixture is no longer sticky from the egg, but not dry either.

Form into balls, say about 2 inches in diameter? I'm a smaller-but-more-of-'em 'balls gal myself. I have seen people who prefer one big ball, but I don't swing that way. I think it's kind of weird, actually.*

Place on a cookie sheet and place into a hot oven (temperature? I have no idea. I'm not really much help, am I? I'd probably put it at about 350-375-400º or so).

Cook until WELL browned. Take out at some point and rotate them around. Some people will think they're overdone the way I like them. However, there's a reason for my doing so. First, if you don't use lean beef, it will cook more of the fat out. Secondly, and more importantly to me, 'balls that are brown, brown, brown will have more flavor to them. Kind of like how you'd rather grill a steak than boil it in water. They both end up cooked, but are NOTHING like one another. If you want them not to be dry, you can of course cook them less. Since I put the 'balls in the sauce and cook them for a while, they aren't dry by the time I'm done with them. And the sauce has that good meat flavor to it.

Or maybe that's what they call Umami...

All I know is that I'll never buy meatballs ready-made again. Blech.

*But then again, I'm the one making sexual innuendo about meatballs...

Friday, March 16, 2007


I left my phone in my office accidentally. The building locks behind me. I was the last person out of the office. All of my coworkers' home phone numbers are in the office, too.

Um, if anyone wants to hang out with me this weekend they'll have to have email access.

Is it smart shopping if you don't technically NEED something?

There's something really nice about a good thrift store. I've got a new favorite near my office; I've always liked it., but now it's not 30 minutes out of the way. Target funnels all their overstock to this store, and the people who shop there don't seem to want the same things I do.

A couple of weeks ago I got tennis (new) and racquetball rackets for $6 total.

Today I got these for $10. New. Bow down to my thrifting skillz.

Yesterday I finished my second garden bed. My tomatoes and basil have all germinated. It's almost time to thin the peas. I've got some soil ready to be delivered. I just need a day's notice and $100, and I'll have myself three cubic yards of a rich, black mix of 1/2 topsoil and 1/2 compost. That'll make for good eating.

I've started making big plans for Jamie's visit, but I won't bore you with those (yet...heh). I'm hoping she brings a dog.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Build her a cake or something...

My dear stepdad Pedro just got out of the hospital yesterday. He had been flat on his back in pain for NINE days straight. No acute trauma, just...excruciating pain.

To top it all off, once he had been admitted there was some kind of hospital-politics snafu involving his needing an outpatient procedure that they wouldn't give him because he was inpatient. Typical Catch-22 situation, with Pedro caught in the middle. I don't know what the final agreement was. At one point there was talk about having to hire an ambulance and private nurse to transport him to the outpatient facility. The other option was to give the outpatient doctor temporary hospital privileges for this one patient. Eventually he got the procedure somehow. Mind you, he's a doc in the community and my mom used to be an exec at this very hospital* and there was escalation up to the high eschelons of the administration. Politics! Can you imagine what happens with patients who don''t have such a strong advocate as my mumma??

Anyway, today's Pedro's birthday. He's a gem, and he's able to walk now.

Happy Birthday!!

*This is the same hospital where I worked for a time on a food line spooning crazy-hot beef broth into plastic containers for the patient food trays. Yay hair nets!!

p.s. Am less tired. I only worked 7 hours yesterday, and it made all the difference. I also mowed the lawn, and enlisted the neighbor to help me move the garden bed off the porch. My lawnmower is human-powered, so there was exercise involved. I'm also leaving early today, and plan to get the second bed created this p.m. before the rain hits us!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Crawl in?

I am so so so so tired.

I come home after work, peel off my clothes, crawl into bed and crash by 9 or 10 or 11.

I have to force myself out of bed at 6:15 when my strange, new alarm clock goes off*.

I am tired when I wake up. I am tired throughout the day. I am tired at night and in the morning and most of all, maybe, when I'm at work.

I'm fine when I have had my morning coffee, for about an hour or two. And then I'm tired again.

My friend Emily said that when she started a job after not having worked in a long time she was bone-tired like this for months.

I had another friend ask if I was depressed. I don't think I am. I am unsatisfied about a couple of things in my life (weight/out-of-shape-ness), satisfied about others (have a job, improved living situation), excited about others (garden projects, upcoming friend visits, vermicompost possibilities), bummed about others (not being as connected with local friends recently), and stressed about others (un-done paperwork, job, finding a new roommate, the cost of topsoil, how sick is Pedro and when is he going to get better).

I'm tired. Just plain tired. Weary. Worn down. Drained. Done in. At times I've also become pretty sensitive. Actually, looking at that last entry I've apparently been tired for a while. I'll mention it at my next doctor's visit.

Oh, and I've had a dry, bloody nose since December.

I'm wanting to crawl into bed right now.

*Twice in the last two weeks I've set the alarm wrong and it's woken me up at midnight. Each time I got up, went into the bathroom and put my contacts in before realizing I had only slept for a couple of hours. What happens is that there are three different alarm times possible. One is set for 6:15. The other two I just haven't set yet. Which is why they are at midnight. I don't try to move the switch to the midnight alarm, but I guess I do somehow. I don't know. I'm too tired to think about it any more.

(I'm also feeling somewhat teary!)

Sunday, March 11, 2007

On spring and blogging

I think I blog because I go days without talking to people in real life*. If only blogs had a "human touch" function.

In other news, I've seen boy birds both feeding prime tidbits to the girl birds and also posturing with other males (FLAP FLAP SQUWAK, SHE'S MINE!). Spring! (But I still have juncos and white-throated sparrows, both winter birds here.)

*Outside of work, that is.

March forward (p.s. lots of photos)

Screw the cost, this is FUN!

Yesterday I sawed the wood. Today I assembled and joined one of the two beds I plan to make for the garden.

Things I learned:
•Friction causes things to be hot
•Drill bits can melt
•Knots in wood are hard and resist drills
•You can buy an adapter to turn your drill into a power screwdriver
•Drills can go in reverse if you need to take out a screw.
•Even if your wood is warped you can still make the last joining (relatively) square
•Wood is heavy
•I need to find a couple of people to get this thing down to the yard.

•Some gnomes are assholes

•Some gnomes help carry around your seedlings


•Mid-March is when the camellias open up

Not least...

•There are OLD remnants of past residents here. (There didn't used to be a wall abutting that group)

•Quality topsoil costs $25/square yard. Compost $35/square yard. I need three yards. Delivery (around the 1/2 mile) is $25. Hm. Maybe NOT screw the cost. What the HECK?? (But LOOK!! Peas and homemade compost!)

Just for Jamie:

My lawn feeds bees, too.

And finally...

THERE IS A MYSTERY!!!! Who left all these tufts in my driveway? It's fur, but I can't tell if it's rabbit or cat (I'm hoping for the latter, I'm embarrassed to say! [They crap in the garden and kill birds, whattya want? I'm all about INDOOR cats])

What happened? There's no corpse. Hm...

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Let's all welcome Marc to the show...

Marco can read and comment!!!!!!!!

I guess the Ethiopian government realized people like me are hardly subversive. They've unblocked blogspot. No wonder I've seen some visitors on my sitemeter the last couple of days coming from Addis.

And here I thought it was a Ministry of Information official stalking me!

I always hated math. Machines, however...

Well, y'all are excel-lent (groan) resources for spreadsheet angst. The fact is, though, that I have no interest in being a guru. I do know the basics already. What's important, I think, is less the spreadsheet and more the bigger picture of feeling overwhelmed when I'm not sure what to do next.

That said, I've made some inroads into Project Garden.

The help I was hoping to have yesterday afternoon fell through because the sweet, sweet camping siren lured my power-tool experienced friend away to the mountains. My lovely Emily and her husband, though, showed their extreme belief in me by loaning me a circular saw and a drill. They told me about their friend who somehow managed to put a running saw down onto his leg, miraculously avoiding bones and arteries, but obviously messing up his leg. I'm usually anti scare tactic, but hey, it worked this time. I didn't hurt myself.

This morning I cut my 2"x12"x10' boards and my 4"x4" posts into manageable bits as planned for my raised garden beds. As I finished up, I realized I had bought exactly 1/2 of the amount of lumber I need to complete the project as I envisioned it (Two beds, 2 feet deep. Ten feet long, and four feet wide.). I can either make one bed two feet deep or two beds that are one foot deep.


I don't know if I said this before, but all the lumber I bought turned out to be almost $100. Which seems just wrong, doesn't it? I'm sure as hell not planning on shelling out any more money. My budget is $200 for creating this garden. If I buy more lumber, enough to make the 2 beds, then I won't have any money for soil, compost, tools, etc. Ideally of course, I'd have liked to scavenge the wood; however, I don't have a truck. Nor do I think I want one. I'd be hauling everyone's crap around and moving way more people than I'd want to.

Next step will be to decide about depth versus square footage (I'm leaning towards the two, shallower beds), go to the hardware store, get a bit and some screws and put the cut up bits all together. Whee!

Does anyone else really, really like power tools? I'm counting sewing machines in this. It's so satisfying to me to just go ZOOM and have something done. It gives me a feeling of satisfaction beyond what I get from cooking a good meal, even!

Thursday, March 8, 2007

I am not good at this, despite its command

T0 my deep, everlasting shame, I've never come close to mastering Excel (I want to put a '!!' after the name). Even the most innocent and simple looking spreadsheets put me in a tizzy. Asking me to work with a spreadsheet that does something other than record information will shoot me up to DEFCON 1.

So not all is puppy dogs, cashmere and birding around here. Any ideas how to overcome this spreadsheet fear?

Wednesday, March 7, 2007


Yesterday at work I went to an event. Remember how I cloaked it with hopefully non-searchable terms? Yeah. That event.

It was absolutely fantastic. I saw colleagues from my former job who greeted me with hugs and "I'm so glad you're back!" I caught up with them; I knew as many or more people there than the current person who will oversee my work, who accompanied me and five of the youth that we took there. So far REALLY so good with this experience, y'all!

There was one really, extremely crazy-odd situation though. As we seven (kids, me, boss) walked into the auditorium, there was this guy sitting in there, alone with his laptop. He looked at me. I looked at him. He seemed vaguely familiar and was STARING at me. As I typically do when I feel like I should know someone, I greeted him and introduced myself.

"Hello there! You look REALLY familiar. I'm Stewie McStewerson, and I work for NonProfit Organization here in State County."

"Stewie, It's Steve N."

My mind started racing. Who is Steve N.? Steve N? Is it my freshman year in high school boyfriend? I had heard he'd moved to my state to practice medicine. Was it the former development guy at Other NonProfit Organization? That guy was tall, too, and it would make sense for him to be here at this event. Or maybe it's that total asswipe from my freshman year of college. Could it be?

Suddenly it clicked. Steve N! I told all my companions, "Hey, y'all this is totally crazy! Steve N. is a friend of mine from college and I haven't seen him in years!"

Steve N. looked at me funny. Then it *truly* clicked. Steve N. was NOT a friend from college; he was a former boyfriend from when I first moved here from the northeast where I had been teaching high school. At the time he was in his first year of medical school. I don't remember what happened between us, but we clearly remained friends at the end of it all.

Steve and I had a lot of friends in common back then. I had met him through an extremely close friend from my hometown who had also gone to the same university as I did. She and I were roommates. After college I went to the northeast to teach, and she came south. I taught at a private boarding school; she taught through a nation-wide teaching program that brings recent college graduates into underserved populations. Rural areas. Urban inner-cities.

Steve and I exchanged cards and caught each other up on our lives. He's an M.D. (not surprisingly), and has specialized in adolescent medicine. He runs two low-cost clinics up in the mountains of my state, where he lives with his wife and 18 month old. We had lunch along with my boss, and talked about our shared interest in access to quality health care and health information for our youth. He reminded me of how my sister had gotten pretty angry with him one time for calling her place of work at that time a cult. (He was right, though)
Meeting up with him inspired me to touch base with those friends from that time of my life. They live all over. Atlanta, Los Angeles, and even my town. I made several emails and phone calls when I got home last night.

I still don't remember what went down with us. Steve N. made reference to when "we were trying to figure out what we were," but that still doesn't ring any bells with me. We laughed about my awkward memory, but I didn't let on just HOW much he'd escaped my mind.

It was a seriously crazy day. Fun, but crazy.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Calling all researchers and computer geeks!

That means YOU!

Marc writes via email:

Hola Beibi:

Saw this linked from to organizedhome and thought of your freezing question. (BTW, Lifehacker is on my "daily" link list.) Also, the GOE has blocked securetunnel so I can't get your blog any more (wah). Do your geek friends know of any more proxy sites?

(Geek is a good thing here, in case you wondered)

Can anyone help an expat out? I know you're up to the challenge. I miss Marc a lot.

En route

Well, I dropped almost $100 yesterday on lumber. I am the proud owner of six 10' by 12" untreated boards and two treated (cause that's all they had) 4"x4" posts for the inside corners.

Ideally I'd have gotten cedar or another rot-resistant wood to avoid the potential arsenic leaching of treated wood. Unfortunately the cost was prohibitive per board, plus the boards were one inch thick instead of two. If I had more personal resources (a truck, specifically), I might could have rounded up wood instead of buying it. It fits with my sensibilities more to re-use things. However, I had one trip to one place, and that was probably even pushing the limits of friendship! (Thank you, Charlie! Couldn't have done it withoutcha!)

The Plan is to create two 10'x4' beds, two feet high. I've enlisted the help of a friend to do the cutting and measuring and drilling together. I've located a circular saw and drill I'll be borrowing, and I hope to provide said friend with a good, home-cooked meal in exchange for his help. He's in graduate school, though, and time is tight. He also has his own wood project, so cross your fingers that he can help me out.

Compare [kom pa' re, in local lingo] is a large grocery store next door to my Big Lots. I almost didn't go in there yesterday after picking up some home essentials*, but then I noticed a local Latino music station had parked outside and was broadcasting live. That particular station knows where the action is, so I figured I'd better take a gander.

It's fantastic. I almost mean that in the supernatural sense as well as the more common usage. I felt like I had walked into Mexico. Instead of one aisle of "international" products, the whole store caters to the area's already large and still growing Latino population.

I felt almost guilty, given my preference for local foods, to be salivating over such exotic produce at such bargain prices. I bought a whole bag of tomatillos for $1.35, cilantro bunches 2/$1, a green pepper for about $.25, and a couple of green plantains for I don't remember how cheap. They have an incredible freezer section, and I can't imagine how much richer my life can be now that I have a source for chicken feet and necks.**

I went home and chopped up the tomatillos, cilantro, green pepper, a medium onion, 5 cloves of garlic and one frozen jalapeno. I added three chicken breasts, frozen, and a can of broth, and let it all cook overnight in the crock pot Marianne passed on to me a number of months ago.

I woke up several times last night with my stomach growling.

*stripy, Fruit of the Loom, hipster underpants, 4 for $3; retro orange, yellow, pink and red flowered shower curtain, $4; Ro-tel (warning: flash), $.49 per can; coffee, $1.50 (um, i hope it's at all palatable at that price).

**I know myself. I'd never buy the feet. I'd possibly buy the necks for stock.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

1976 was a good year for cream of mushroom

My favorite cookbook is immune to current fads; it hearkens back to my childhood, and it's the first place I go when I want comfort food. It's also unintentionally hilarious, long out of print, and falling apart.

The contributors are familiar. When I leaf through the pages, the last names bring me back to classmates, former neighbors, local business owners and famous former residents.

Some highlights (and these are direct quotes).

Metric section
Don't be afraid of grams and liters!

Pheasant in a Clay Pot

Ham hocks 'N Beans
True soul food*

Grandmother's Stuffing
And Grandmother was from Greece!

Coq Au Riesling
White instead of red wine for a great classic dish

Chicken Breasts, Forgive me Chavez!**

*the recipe calls for Michigan navy beans, and most of the Junior League contributors come from my hometown, which is 96.99% white
**I don't understand the reference, and the recipe uses exactly 48 seedless white grapes


Betty Ford's Contribution

Liver Deluxe (Serves 4)
1 lb. liver, sliced thin
2 cups brown gravy
Sprinkle of parsley
Dash of salt
1 large onion, sliced thin
8 slices of bacon, fried crisp
1/2 cup flour
1 T butter

Sauté onion in butter. Dredge slices of liver in flour and brown each side. Pour gravy on liver and season with parsley, salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for 2 minutes and arrange on a serving platter. Place bacon on top of liver.


Saturday, March 3, 2007


I am just absolutely wasted. Not in the alcohol sense in the least; I'm just physically wrenched.

Part of it for sure is the almost 50-hour week I worked this week (like running a 10K the first day you begin to work out!). Part of it is coming down from the rollercoaster of housemate drama, which is almost wrapped up. Part of it is having stayed up way too late last night.

The effect that this wearyness has had on me is that I am staying in tonight rather than being too terribly social. Sorry Jerrysan and friends...won't be making it to DorkFest after all.

Another result is that I began to cry an hour or so while plowing through "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time." I'm thinking it must have triggered the empathetic, must-cry switch, because I'm finding myself red-faced, puffy and snotty. From about 1/2 the way through to the end (I devoured the it in maybe 2 hours), I had tears rolling down my cheeks, stinging my eyes and irritating my skin. It's even lasted beyond finishing the book; I occasionally have been bursting (actually not bursting. more like...melting) into tears this evening.


On the garden front: I have begun 18 tomato seedlings--two kinds: one I can't remember, but is basically a big, red slicing tomato and then Indian Stripe, which is a lot like a Cherokee Purple. In addition, I've got 8 pepper seedlings (jalapeño and then frigitello, thanks Jamie), 9 basil and 9 more sorrel seedlings. I am concerned about the first batch of sorrel I've begun; I used some pretty old, ratty potting soil. So why not begin again, right? I'm hoping to transplant the first ones and see what happens, but I don't think it did it right the first time.

Did I mention the peas have begun to sprout outside? It's very exciting, yet I think I screwed up by not putting enough soil on the plot. There's really just whatever is on the ground already, not even dug up because of the mimosa roots, with a thin layer of compost spread on it.

I feel very lost in this gardening process, and strangely not all that invested. I kind of expect failure, in a way. Maybe that way I won't be disappointed.

Tomorrow I'm going to try to make the beds; Charlie has a truck and said he'd help me haul some lumber. I have no idea what I'm doing, but at least I'll have the boards. Note to self: find a day and a way to get the compost delivered. Yeesh!

Friday, March 2, 2007


I want SO BADLY to talk about this neat thing I'm doing for work. Let's see if I can scoot around possible search engine terms. Consider it a game!

I work with people 10-23 in general. Specifically the group I work with most often is 14-18. Those people and I are going on a trip lasting less than a day next week. We're going to the city to talk to some people who make lots of important decisions for the state.

Every so often, residents choose these people who make lots of decisions to work for them. One of the chosen people who is in the city making decisions has decided to throw out an idea, formally, that relates to the sector of ages of people that I work with. Currently, this age range that I work with can care for their body and mind in some specific ways that the people who caused them to come into being wouldn't necessarily like, were they to find out. They can't find out now, because the other people, the ones chosen to make decisions in the state's city, have until now realized that it is a bad idea to risk even worse problems.

So this one chosen guy put forth the suggestion that the state change that rule, allowing the people who caused my group and their cohort to come into being to know about private information about my group and their cohort.

The group and I are going to go talk to the chosen people about why that's a Bad. Idea.

So cool.

If you can't make head or tails of this post, email me for a translation and some links.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Wherein I learn

My good friend Marc is living in Ethiopia with his wife and child*, and I've been keeping up with his life via his blog. Over the last few weeks, his family and friends-oriented blog has turned into a hotbed of comments controversy.

Now, I knew absolutely nothing about Ethiopia before Marc moved there. Wait, strike that. I knew about injera (yum), tej (yum) and other foods I've eaten at local restaurants. Paradoxically, I also "knew" (as only a young American child in the 70s and 80s can) that there were "children starving in Ethiopia," and so we were urged to eat the food we were lucky enough to get. Even if it was SQUASH!**

So when Marc started writing in his blog, I found it fascinating. He's extremely well-traveled, and my experiences in other countries have been limited mostly to Europe. The differences between European and American cultures seem to me to be very subtle compared to what Marc is seeing.

So, here's the part that I'm finding so interesting***: Ethiopia has a very government-controlled media, and so it seems that blogging has been one of the only ways to get the word out. As one commenter over on the blog said, Ethiopia is like a Soviet propaganda machine. Skype doesn't work because of a government phone monopoly. Blogger is blocked, apparently to control what gets said against the current regime. There's an issue with freedom of the press, or rather, lack thereof.

I have to leave in 30 minutes for work, so I'll wrap this up succinctly. It looks like the Ministry of Information may have found Marc's blog, because there's this guy over there making some really random comments accusing Marc of government subversion. The same guy accused me of being a suicide bomber for Eritrea. Because of my WTF comments and questions over there though, I've had some interesting exchanges with people who follow Ethiopian politics.

Marc? Thanks...if it weren't for you I'd probably not have learned much about Ethiopia, its strengths and its weaknesses.

(Donning asbestos suit now, because any comment about Ethiopia seems to bring out some very strong opinions, and I've got thin skin for a flame war!)

*I never thought I'd link either of those words with Marc!

**Note to any Ethiopian readers: I'm admitting to ignorance of your country, here. I'm not saying that Ethiopia is bad. I apparently am saying, however, that the common perception of Ethiopia in the US in my childhood was that of starving children.

***Mind you, my understanding is rudimentary at best. I've had a couple of kind folks help me to figure out what's going on, but I'm still learning.