Monday, December 28, 2009

In praise of my 1995 Honda Civic

I love my car. I bought it new when I lived in Toledo, and it will be 15 years next April that I have owned this vehicle. It has almost 172,000 miles on it, and, aside from three or four mufflers, three batteries, three or four sets of tires, and some miscellaneous "normal" repairs, it's been a relatively trouble-free car. I know I might be jinxing myself, but at this point, I'm ahead of the game, so I'll continue.

I know that my days with my beloved Civic are numbered. I put $500 into it a couple of months ago, which included me getting a new battery, which I am extremely thankful for each morning when I start my car. There's nothing wrong with it right now, but odds are I'll get to the tipping point in the next year or so, where it makes sense to get another car instead of plowing more money into this one. I take my car to Tom, who laments (in a nice way) most of the time that there's nothing expensive that needs to be fixed on it, and promises me that he will tell me when I'm at that tipping point. Pretty amazing.

I've had such a good experience with my Honda, it only makes sense to consider buying another. And I, for one, consider gas mileage to be almost the most important thing when deciding who the contenders are for Linda's next car. People who use their cars for actually hauling stuff or driving in potentially treacherous conditions of course have more to consider than I do here.

My old car gets about 35 mpg, and often more than 40 on the highway. This is what I'm used to, so naturally I'm looking for something comparable in my next vehicle. I can't imagine, given how I will use the car, settling for less.

So, what are my choices? Well, today's Civic gets a dismal 25/36. Yawn. The Civic Hybrid gets 40/42 mpg, but costs about $24K. Civic also makes the Fit, which I think is "so me". It costs less, about $18K for what I want, but it only gets 27/33. To its credit, there are websites that tout how people are getting much better mileage out of their Fits, so maybe I could get mid 30's overall? I like the style of it enough that it will likely be a contender. I've also read things online that say Honda is going to put out a hybrid Fit in the next couple of years, and if that were available, my decision would be made.

Finally, there is the Insight. I remember when my SIL bought one at least 6-8 years ago. She's got a long commute each day, and that model is a two seater. Today's Insight is a five seater, gets 40/45, and cost about 21K. I feel a sense of responsibility toward promoting this kind of consumerism, where we talk with our wallets, and that is a good reason to buy an Insight.

I'm thankful I don't have to make the decision quickly. I need to explore other makes of car as well, and also see if a diesel would work. One thing I've noticed is that American-made hybrid cars are more expensive than I thought they'd be. For example, the hybrid Escape, a small SUV made by Ford, is $30K! So, the search is on.

New (to me) Blog

I found a new blog on Science Blogs the other day. It's called Casaubon's Book, written by Sharon Astyk. She's homesteading, but was (and was?) trained as a scientist and writer. A fresh perspective on some of the environmental issues I've been pondering lately. I like her description that she and her husband decided to live "using a fair share of the world's resources".

I've also updated my blogroll with some new things I've found lately. Local food and crafting movement sites, as well as a very nice introduction to the science of evolution.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Aack! Enough relaxation!

OK after two days of hanging around the house, I'm really ready to get some stuff done! It was nice to have the down time, and today's list includes going to work for a bit, organizing school stuff, and continuing to look for good end-of-the-year deals on stuff that I'll have to buy in the next six months anyway.

I went to JCPenney's yesterday and bought Mr W four pairs of pants and two dozen pairs of socks. His dad has bought socks for him in the past, and now we've got about 4 different kinds of socks floating around in the laundry. The plan is to pitch them all (they look like they need it anyway) and start over with one kind of sock.

BTW, Why don't they make pants with double-fabric knees? I have several pairs of Mr W's pants that are perfect except for large rips in one or both knees.

Anyway, I did finish this pair of socks yesterday. I'm disappointed with how the colors pooled, but they will be good sturdy warm socks, so that's a good thing. I'm currently working on a pair of felted mittens, using up some odds and ends of yarn. My hands are pretty much always cold at the dog park, so this is needed.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Pre-Holiday Thoughts

It's funny what a double edged sword this holiday stuff is. On the one hand, I am really happy that all I have to do at this point is the fun stuff: put out the presents, cook the chicken, bake some gingersnaps, work away on my knitting, head down to Denver tomorrow night. Ahhhhh. OK, I also need to work half a day today and tomorrow, but it's researchy stuff, so no big deal.

On the other hand, it's going to be a quiet Christmas. I really love spending time with my family, and Mr W is going to be with his dad for half the time. It's OK, though. I'm looking forward to a bit of solitude, and whenever I get bored, I can always go to work or get going on organizing my course materials for school.

Nevertheless, it's time to wish all who actually read this little blog a happy holiday season filled with good times, good food and and good will.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Accounted for

Being single again, and having already seen my family for Thanksgiving, I didn't know how I would feel about spending the rest of the holidays alone. On the one hand, it's a relief to not be traveling by plane. On the other, there is a tendency to get mopey when I'm all by myself for too long or in certain situations.

I am happy to say that I have been accounted for. I had both an invitation to visit friends on Christmas, and have been invited to a New Year's Eve party. I guess it seems like a small thing, but I was really touched to be remembered and included. Mr W will be with his dad xmas eve and xmas morning, but I'll have him in the afternoon and we'll go visit friends in Denver after we open presents here.

I've also signed up to volunteer at our First Night celebration downtown. It's funny, I find the idea of having a kid-friendly New Year's Eve celebration that involves the arts so darn appealing. My kid, however, has never agreed with this sentiment, and has never wanted to go. So this year, darnit, I'm going by myself! I'll help out at one venue for a few hours, and then am free to wander around the others for free before I head over to the party.

This is good stuff.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Just give me money

I decided to refinance my mortgage in order to pull some equity out and do some improvements. I've been approved pending the appraisal, which happens this morning. For some reason, I'm a little nervous. There's no reason it won't appraise for more than I paid for it, considering I've done some improvements already.

Maybe it's just the idea of someone looking at my stuff, in my space. I feel like I've let go the putting-crap-away aspect of housekeeping since I started teaching. For example, there have been cardboard boxes on my enclosed front porch for several months, and I just got them cut up into the 2x2 ish sections and bundled so they can be recycled. The place looks great, only now I need to go back and pull stuff out of boxes and out from under things and actually organize them. That's OK, it will happen.

Mr W and I will go see some holiday lights tonight, and he's got a play date tomorrow, so the weekend is shaping up to be busy in a good way. It's so nice not to be worrying that I need to get a lecture outline done, or a quiz made. I might take a stab at starting to organize my school stuff, though.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


It's been a lean few months for knitting around here. I've gotten a couple of things done that I posted the other day, and I'm almost done with a pair of socks, but I have to frog (that's rip out in its entirety) one because I made it too big and ran out of yarn).

I really do enjoy knitting in the evenings. It's relaxing, and most of the time I am content to listen to NPR and knit and that's it. It's sort of meditative. Well not this semester! It was almost like BEING in school, remember that? When, no matter how much time you had, and no matter what you got done, there was always something hanging over your head that needed to be done.

Eesh. So, needless to say, I'm thrilled to have gone through preparing for the bio class I teach once, and getting stuff organized is part of my between semester plans.

However, I have declared the weekend after Christmas: Knittypallooza. I have this sweater, this, ahem, summer sweater, that I started last spring, and would very much like to do a big push and get it done over the next couple of weeks. You know, so I can start something else! I also have the aforementioned sock to reknit, and then yet another sock to rip out and redo. I actually do love to knit socks, it's just hard to tell in the first few inches if they are going to fit, and my second one is often not identical to the first.

Knittypallooza will require me to sit around an knit most of the weekend, and I think I'm up to the challenge. Going for that long will let me feel like I've made up for lost time and get it out of my system.

There is a local knitting group that meets weekly and is getting together tonight. I might try to make that, although it's waaayyy on the other end of town. I'm starting to feel like I need to get out, after a few weeks of hermit-dom.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Just about there

I'm just about ready to turn my grades in for this first semester of teaching at the community college. In what amounts to the epitome of going through every little thing for the first time, yesterday I went to campus to get the finals scored on the scoring machine. As these things go, I had learned how to use the OTHER machine, not the one I had gotten forms for and my students had taken their test on. So I had to trudge over to the department office and bug the extremely nice and helpful admin assistant, who was her usual helpful self. She's so helpful that I feel bad when she drops everything to help me, you know?

So my finals have been scored, I just need to tally up the two parts (multiple choice and written) and add that to the rest of their grade, which I've already calculated. I'll turn it all in tonight.

I did get a chance to meet briefly with the lead instructor, who is my supervisor, and it made me really want to get a full time gig doing this. It's very unlikely at this institution, but one never knows. I've resolved to look around, and see what comes up between here and Denver.

I knew I would like it, and for all my complaining about being buried under the prep work and grading, I very much enjoyed it. The students come in with almost no scientific literacy at all. I tried (and will hit this point harder next time) to expose them to ideas that had relevancy to their daily lives. Two things I used were the Science and the City podcast, and Ted Talks. Both were about 20 minutes long per segment, and I had students do write ups on the topic.

During the break between semesters, I'm actually looking forward to getting my stuff organized into folders, so I can do more of a grab and go sort of thing. I hope to also get out and socialize more, I feel like I've been a bit of a homebody the last couple of months.

Monday, December 14, 2009

New Projects

Here are two projects I've completed lately. We had a cold snap here and it was good motivation to get these done. The hat is a pattern called Stella's Hat and is made from alpaca, which is kind of droopy, but very soft. The cowl is a pattern called Crofter's Cowl, and made from Cascade Venezia, which is silk and merino - great stitch definition and quite soft. It's a dark purple, which looks a bit yellowed in the photo.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Old me's

My dad's been getting the family photos organized. Yesterday I received a package with "my" photos in it. I had long forgotten about most of them. I need to get them scanned and will post some when that happens. How was it that we thought those huge eyeglasses looked stylish? So funny.

One thing I've noticed, though, is about how I look as a teenager and adult. I've always been about this size, always been a little heavier than I wanted, always thought if I could just lose those 10 lbs, I'd look so much better. Looking at some of these pictures, I realize that my shape has been pretty consistent over the years.

If I was exercising and eating healthy in a way that I thought I was doing all I could reasonably do for myself, I guess I'd be more inclined to accept that this is what I look like. But, while I do OK foodwise (I don't eat much meat, and I try to eat a variety of foods) and I walk several times a week with Sally at the dog park, it always feels like I should do more.

Maybe I should try what I call the "red wine-noodles-sorrow" diet. When I was going through the divorce, I dropped that pesky 10 lbs. (not intentionally) by drinking a couple of glasses of wine in the evening, eating ramen noodles (no seasoning, just a little peanut oil and soy), and walking around the house crying. I'm kidding (mostly).

No, I don't want to go that route. I do want to have good tools to cook good food for Mr W and myself, though, so yesterday I bought this. Better yet, I used a gift card that my brother in law gave me that had been sitting around. I took it to Macy's yesterday and the very nice clerk was able to reactivate it. So, I paid $25 for a pot that retails for (OMG) $139. I hope to have it for years.

I like the idea of having the right tools to cook with, and I do want to grow and actually eat some vegetables that we grow next year. I hope this kind of mindfulness towards what I eat contributes to a healthier me.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Cold and hopeful

I snapped this of Sally the other morning when it was about -10 outside. She has the tough job of sleeping on my bed most days, but is always on the look out for opportunities to get out and go to the dog park or to "dog school", the doggie day care that wears her out and lets me off the hook for dog park duties once or twice a week.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A good night's sleep

It's been cold here. As in dipping down below zero for the last few nights. The year I bought this house (2005) I had the house insulated. It seemed like the furnace wouldn't go on much at all at night, which is a good thing, because in this small house, the furnace wakes me up every time it kicks on. I'm happy to use earplugs when I don't have Mr W staying at the house, but if he is, then I want to be able to hear him if he calls.

Last year I thought I had the cleverest of solutions because if the furnace turned on during the middle of the night, I had a little space heater set on the floor below the thermostat that I would turn on low to fool the furnace into not turning on for the next few hours. That worked like a charm, but now the dog's got the run of the living room at night, and I'm just not comfortable yet leaving the heater running while she's in there. It's not like she leaps around, she's good about plopping down on her blanket and staying put until morning. I still might put the heater on a small table and try that.

Last night, though, I was all about putting in the earplugs and taking an Ambien. It worked really well, and when the alarm went off this morning, I could just tell that I rested well. And today was a good day. When I get a good night's sleep, I feel like I'm at my best. I was playing songs on my ipod in the lab, and had a smile for everyone I crossed paths with.

This makes me wonder what the world would be like if people routinely got enough sleep. How would we treat each other if we were all well-rested? People would be less stressed out in general, I would predict, and have more patience with other people and themselves.

Just my two cents.

One down, a couple to go

I finished shopping for Mr W last night. And before I revel in my great purchase, I do want to acknowledge that I'm happy/relieved to be able to do any shopping this season, and will do a post soon on how I'm trying to foster some sense of giving to Mr W, who gives lip service to the idea, but is just starting to understand that someone's gotta give for someone else to get.

I wanted to get him an inexpensive video camera because he's shown some interest in making short movies with his Bionicle toys. I love the Flip cameras, it's just the all in one sort of thing I was looking for, but they were just a little to pricey for an 8 year old.

So this is what I got: Which I see this morning is $1.20 cheaper today than it was yesterday - 'doh! That's OK. It was about $40.00 which is low enough that if something tragic happens, no one will get too upset.

I need to do other family shopping, for nieces, nephews and my dad. His birthday is Dec. 23rd, and godhelpyou if you combine gifts. He is easy to buy for, though, and desires restaurant gift cards. I do one of those for his birthday, and then for Christmas, I go rogue and for the last few years have gotten him something that he hasn't asked for, but uses anyway and this pleases me greatly. It's fancy jelly from Harry and David. I don't know, to give a person who has a very narrowly defined gift list something they will enjoy pleases me.

Oh, and as for myself, my LYS (that's local yarn store, for non-knitters) is having a 30% off sale on a brand of yarn that I like. I'm going to buy a sweater's worth of yard tonight for me. Now, if I could only gift myself the time to knit that sweater....

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

More Mom Pictures

Here are some more pictures I found when I was home last.
This is the most recent. 1961 when she took Dad home to meet her parents.
Mom in her Nursing School gradutation portrait. I love how the name tag says "Miss Temple"

I'm guessing this is her high school portrait. That locket is still around, but I'm not sure who has it.

I love this one - she's probably 15. So sassy!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Another project

So here's another thing I'd like to get done to my house in the next 4-6 months. This is a picture of a pair of windows in my living room,which runs almost the length of the yard. My plan is to replace these windows with a sliding glass patio door. This side of the house faces north, so I don't want to sacrifice any light by putting in a single door. A patio door is almost this size, and I'm hoping that fact makes the job a little simpler.
The other part of this is that I want to have a 10 x 10 deck built on the other side of the doors, so I can spend time outside comfortably. It will also be great not to have to leash the dog and walk her out to the yard. I'm looking forward to creating sort of an extra room, and I want the deck covered with a pergola of some kind to block the sun in the summer.

Right now, though, the Christmas tree is in front of these windows, and there is about 8" of snow on the ground. Forecast is for another 3-5", and it's going down to -1.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

It's only December 6th?!

I'm so ready to start planning yard and garden projects, I can't believe it's not even Christmas yet!

I have decided to boost my efforts to grow food next year. To that end, I'm going to plant raspberries, and devote Mr W's old sandbox to veggies. This is a picture of the entirety of my yard, from the corner farthest from the house. It's a small lot, and I have no front or back yard. As far as potential garden space goes, there is this side yard, and then a strip along the alley on the other side of the house, where I have flowers, shrubs, and ornamental grasses.

I think I'll put the raspberries in some kind of container along the fenceline, to keep them from overtaking the yard and keep their soil isolated from the veggies that will be close by. Then I'll put veggies in the old sandbox that's in the other corner. I have a trellis for peas/cucumbers that I'll put over there, and then just sort of see what fits and what I feel like planting at the time. I tend to get overoptimistic with regard to the amount of vegetables I think I'll eat, so I want to plan realistically.

I also have the two old T posts that someone used to hang laundry on. I have visions of stringing something between them and having some kind of wind-powered, painted, fanlike arty something. Obviously still in the planning stages.

Other projects are afoot as well. I'm considering having work done on the house to make the yard more accessible from the house and will post about that in the future. For now, I'm content to research berries and dream of warmer days while I procrastinate about having to go out and shovel the 6 inches of snow that fell last night!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Thanksgiving - Take 3

For whatever reason, probably because I handed off a manuscript to my boss yesterday, today was a good day. I also got to work in the lab most of the day, and after being deskbound at work lately, it was nice to get back there.

Anyway, as I was doing a few go-rounds with Sally at the dogpark (if I stand there, so will she, so I walk and we both get some exercise), and it was cold and dark, I thought to myself that I was thankful to be walking at the dog park just then. Nothing hurt, I was warm she was happy to be loping along, and it seemed I should acknowledge that somehow.

This got me thinking about Thanksgiving, and how it really wasn't the same without my sister there, and in the future we'll gather elsewhere, and that's all OK. It's just how it is. On the way to arriving at this conclusion of it being OK, I realized I forgot to kind of acknowledge what I am thankful for, which is a good thing to be acknowledging this time of year.

I'm thankful for having a healthy kid. I am so proud of Mr W, I could just about burst into tears sometimes. I'm also thankful that my health has been good, and furthermore that I have decent health care. Related to that last point, I am thankful I have a job that I really like, with coworkers who are good to work with and a boss who lets me do my projects without hovering over my shoulder. I should buy him a bottle of scotch or something.

I am very thankful for my family. My dad continues to be healthy and active, and my brothers and their families mean more to me than I can convey. I'm thankful I have a circle of friends near and far that are there to celebrate and commiserate. I'm thankful for this house. I was fortunate to come out of my divorce with the financial means to buy it, and it has served as a source of security in a number of ways. I'm thankful I got the opportunity to teach this semester.

OK, that's a good list for now. It's supposed to go down below zero tonight - I'm also thankful for my sweater and slippers!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Of Course!

I'm a big fan of clever solutions. There's just a special kind of satisfaction associated with figuring something out with an answer that is resourceful and creative. I've gotten these sorts of forehead-smacking solutions for a couple of things lately that I wanted to share.

The first one happened when I was visiting family in Ohio. I was telling my sister in law about my desire to get the hardwood floors refinished in my house. There is hardwood in the living room and my bedroom, which comprise over 50% of the square footage in the house. I'm sure you can see the problem here. There simply isn't room to move everything out of those two rooms. My SIL looked at me and simply said, "rend a POD". Brilliant. I can get one of those big plastic boxes put in my driveway and keep the stuff in there for the few days it takes to do the floors. Ta-da!

The other thing was that, living by myself, it's hard to make arrangements to take my car into the shop. I borrowed Mr W's dad's truck last time, and took the bus to the repair shop. And felt pretty smug about it to, I might add. But as a taxi was behind me in traffic today, I thought to myself, "hey, I can just arrange a taxi, or our Dial-a-Ride program next time". Yea! I much prefer not having to rely on someone I know for a ride.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Old Photo

I got some family photos when I was home, and intend to scan them sometime soon. Here's one from about 1967-68. I was the baby of the family at the time.