Thursday, January 31, 2008

Movie: The Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All

I think the title says it all as far as plot summary goes. With my birthday buddy Anne Bancroft in it, how can it not be good? Her part was sort of eh, though. It was not the most interesting part of the movie. Diane Lane and Donald Sutherland, stars of the flashback segments, were absolutely fantastic, though. And it was a great movie for a vintage clothes fiend like myself. The styles, like the story, spanned many decades, and I thought they did a very good job on all of them. Once again it's confirmed: the 40s clothes are the ones I love the most. I am sure I was either a very well-dressed lady or a man with an appreciative eye for stylin' babes in a previous 40s life.

As I am Hollywood's pawn, for me this film was a bit of a tear-jerker, but it was fairly mild on the pathos scale for those of you with stouter constitutions. I definitely recommend this movie. Kind of strange-- I could only get it on video, not DVD, from the library. I think I got this movie out because I thought it was going to be a film adaptation of Widow of the South, which was an excellent book. I got the two titles jumbled in my head. And hey, look, there's a video trailer for the book. I never saw one of those before. And what do you know, that made me cry. I am a sap, what can I say. I really need to monitor myself more closely and not watch things about war or death.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Catching up

I've been fairly busy the last week or so. Last Tuesday I went to the monthly Entrepreneurs for Sustainability meeting with a very cool woman, Jennifer, that I met at last November's Ladies Who Launch meeting at the Cleveland Wine School. It was the best E4S meeting I've ever attended, because it was basically all networking but with a little structure. Their meetings are often rather presentation-heavy, and while I've learned lots of interesting stuff, there are only so many people you can meet when you squeeze the meeting people part in around the edges. In a small world moment, I ran into Don O. and his wife, Barbie. That was a nice suprise. I also ran into two of my fellow classmates in the Greening Your Home class at the Nature Center, a couple who have a construction business that is big on reusing and salvaging materials. Sweet. The most interesting person I met that night was Hank Haberman, who is working on spreading urban forest permaculture throughout northeast Ohio. Cool. Let's start with our yard.

On Wednesday, my new-ish friend Kimberly came over for a little knitting and gabbing. I got a few rows done on the preemie BSJ, which has since been finished and is awaiting seaming, even though I had planned to work on the larger of the two charity blankets still languishing in my knitting basket. Thursday I did some work with a new organizing client, and that evening was the Greening Your Home class at the Nature Center, where we had a nice review of some of the stuff we learned at Yestermorrow last summer about the stack effect, vapor barrier, etc. I also got a business card of someone who does green rehab locally, so that was good.

Friday was the Cuyahoga Spinners' Guild meeting, so I went there and got some help on my knitting stuckness from the fabulous Judy. I confirmed my suspicion that underarm gussets were the way to go on my Two-Tone Shrug, so that project is back on track. I also confirmed that, yes, I need to rip back on the Nordic Lights wrap, so I'm working myself up to it, because it will be a sad moment when I have to pull about half of it out. And I spun! I did most of a bobbin's worth of yarn, and by the end, it wasn't even looking so bad. I lucked out to sit between two very experienced spinners, so I think I was absorbing some of their skill by osmosis. I did more spinning on Saturday, maybe not quite another half-bobbin full, didn't look as good as Friday's. I think the edge of the couch is not an ideal seat for spinning at home. It's definitely a skill that takes practice to develop.

On Sunday I went to a baby shower for my cousin, and I hadn't yet seamed and sewn on buttons for the BSJ I was making her, so she got (gasp) the smaller of the charity blankets. You know what? She loved it. It's acrylic so that thing can go on the floor, in the washing machine, in the dryer. It can get puked on, spilled on, whatever. That thing will wear like iron and probably be just the same when the child has gone off to college. I feel okay about not giving it to charity after all. And frankly, my track record with baby gifts is that hardly anyone has been gifted the thing I originally began with their baby in mind. It's usually a few babies ago. Hey, you still got a knitted gift. Feel lucky.

This week has been quiet so far until today, working 8 full hours in a row with no break (usual max is 6). Phew! I'm beat. So that's it. I'll post spinning and knitting photos soon. For now, I'm pooped!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Why, Dennis, why??

I am going to cry now.

Kucinich drops out. Now I know why my brother doesn't vote.

I found this link on someone else's blog. I wish I could tell her thank you, but I would have preferred to be blissfully ignorant for a while longer if I could. Sob.

He was the only one with an environmental policy that I could get behind. I think now I'm left with John Edwards, whose environmental ideas as stated on a MoveOn town hall video that has since disappeared from their web site made me laugh out loud ("and then we'll have lots of farms in Africa!" was the punchline), and whose ideas about universal health care make me want to run screaming into the night. Sigh.

Maybe some time with the spinning guild will help me snap out of it. Lots happened this week, so I'll post a more upbeat update later.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Bowling was awesome

We had such a great time bowling that we are going to do it again soon. So those of you who missed it can still get in on the fun. And if it's just The Professor and I who go, that is fine with me, too. What a super fun time. Paul was by far the best of us, and he gave me some good pointers so that I could achieve my initial goal of at least one non-gutter ball. I even got one strike and one spare! That allowed me to accomplish my second goal of all 10 pins down in one turn. Alas, I didn't achieve my final goal of breaking 60 points in one game, but that just leaves me something to strive for next time. Not too shabby for essentially a first-time bowler. I took my camera but was too busy having fun to take pictures. Whoops. Again, I am so grateful to the people who came out to celebrate with us. Thank you.

And the dinner I made to take with us turned out great, if I do say so myself. It was my first time inventing a crock pot dish, and I was a little worried about it. I don't really understand crock pots as well as I do things like baking and sauteeing. With crock pots, you read the recipe, you follow it, and as if by magic, the ingredients become a meal. How many cups of liquid per cups of dry are needed in a crock pot? Who knows? I winged it with 2 C wheat berries, 2 C white beans (northern or navy, I'm not really sure), an onion, and 7 1/2 C veggie stock, because that's what I had. When it was done, 9 hours later (7 on high, 2 on low), I tossed it with grated carrot (2 C?), steamed green beans (1 bag frozen) and a lovely homemade vinaigrette, and it was a very nice wholesome dinner with a little grated parmesan sprinkled on top. Big thanks go to The Professor who babysat it while working from home yesterday afternoon and called to give me periodic updates on the doneness of the beans and wheat berries. I am excited finally to cross the threshhold into experimentation with the crock pot, and if anyone knows of any resources on the science of slow cooking, I'd be much obliged.

Tonight I'm going to an E4S meeting. That's Entrepreneurs for Sustainability, dontcha know. I'm meeting a woman I met at November's Ladies Who Launch meeting there, so that will get me to go, because honestly, I'd just as soon stay home and keep reading the book I'm on now and maybe do some knitting. I got to within 20 sts of the end of BSJ #3 before running out of yarn, and that's using ALL of it, saving nothing for seaming (I can use whatever for that). So I have some scraps in my stash that will just have to do, and I had to cut it a few rows short as it was. I also started a preemie-sized BSJ to donate to Christopher's Angels. Thank you to Seven on the Knittyboard for the link, and thank you to Elizabeth for the pattern.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Feast of Madelyn

Today, Monday January 21st, marks 6 years since my sweet wonderful momelet left this world. My mom was pretty much the greatest person I ever knew, and although I didn't realize it until after she was gone, she was also my best friend. At her memorial services (yes, we had two, and both were standing room only), both my aunt and uncle also said she was their best friend. And in the little book I put out at the services for people to write memories of mom that I could keep and reread later, nearly everyone who contributed said that mom made them feel like her best friend from the moment they met her. That's the kind of person she was.

The most memorable and salient quality of my mom, besides being best friends with everyone she ever met, is that she loved a good party. She loved to get together with friends, eat, laugh, drink and generally have a good time. She threw legendary parties since long before I was born. Even the most modest get-together was more fun with my mom in attendance.

The past few years I've made an effort to celebrate mom's life on this day because otherwise it would just be too sad, and I'd miss her too much. I pretty much miss her every day but especially on this one. So tonight, in honor of mom, we are going to celebrate the holiday I made up, the Feast of Madelyn (thanks to my buddy Lo, who was with me on the phone and facilitated the naming process). We are going bowling at Mahall's. It was The Professor's great idea, because I didn't get it together to plan something fancier, and a perfect one since mom used to bowl in a league. I had envisioned an event at the Cleveland Wine School learning about wine and food pairing like we did for the Ladies Who Launch meeting in November (mom would have loved that), but they were closed this weekend and I'm attached to celebrating on or near this exact date. Maybe we'll do that next year. Tonight, though, it will be great to see some friends and goof around at the bowling alley. I feel so grateful to everyone who is planning to come. They help me keep the memory of my mom alive, even though none of them ever got to meet her.

If you are far away and want to celebrate with us in solidarity, why not go bowling with some friends tonight, have a great time, and raise a glass to Madelyn, Queen of the Party Girls.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

I cooked!

My most exciting news for the weekend is that I cooked. I have been really bad about cooking for a long time, leaving The Professor to fend for us most of the time for longer than I care to admit. Oh, the shame of it all. But Friday, spurred on by who knows what inspiration, I made some sweet potato soup in the crock pot (recipe from this cookbook) and boiled a big pot of brown rice. I couldn't risk interrupting my momentum to stop and snap photos, but it really didn't look like much anyhow. An enormous yam, an equally enormous onion, cut and plopped unceremoniously into the crockpot, along with some garlic (2 cloves), some spices, and 4 cups of turkey broth made from Old Tom, the turkey The Professor cooked a few weeks back. The broth was treated with the appropriate amount of reverence, especially as it was nicely measured out and clearly labeled in the freezer. After 6 hours in the crock pot, I processed it in the Cuisinart with a little bit of peanut butter and lime juice. Yum. The rice we ladled it over gave it a nice stick-to-your-ribs quality, and I was so glad to have it ready to go when The Professor got home from work.

Yesterday, I made both a casserole and rice pudding. The rice pudding was in the crock pot again, using this recipe, except I left out the apricots and used brown rice and some cream that we needed to use up subbed in for some of the milk. The pudding cooked overnight and made a delicious breakfast this morning-- we both had seconds. The casserole was the leftover rice from Friday plus a can (jar) of beef that we got from The Professor's mom and dad for Xmas (they gave us 10, and they put it up themselves, which made it an extra special gift), some frozen green beans, grated cheese (grated by himself) and some cream of ... soups (celery and mushroom) as well as some eggs and milk. I ought to have put in some spices as it was a bit bland, but it was clearly adequate because while it was cooking, The Professor came downstairs and said, "The whole house smells like dinner," in a happy and satisfied way. Why don't I cook for him more often? He certainly does appreciate it. Oh, and once I added some Worcestershire sauce to it, it was divine. Didn't discover that until eating it as leftovers for lunch today, but there's still half of it left to go. Mmmmmm, Worcestershire sauce. I practically licked the dish.

On the knitting front, BSJ #3 is nearing completion. I forgot to do my increases on the buttonhole row and so had to rip back, so here's a photo I snapped while the needles were out and it actually looked like something:

I will have *just* enough yarn, I think, if that. No I-cord edging this time around, though. I'll have to try it on my next one, because of course there will be more. I continue to be thrilled with the way the color changes worked themselves into nice healthy stripes and the way the two colors of yarn (the variegated hot pink/green/white/orange and the salmon pink) work together.

You can also see evidence in this photo (upper left corner) of me finally managing to read and knit at the same time-- the cookbook holder that has been languishing in one of our icky old cupboards for so long it's acquired a funky smell (and it's lucite, so that's got to be hard to do) comes out of retirement to hold my book on the table in front of me, hands free. I'm reading an excellent book called Made from Scratch (partly responsible for the cooking blitz?), and I'm about half way done. My reading progress is likely to skyrocket now that I can read while I knit. Goodbye, television! Hello, books!

The Professor is working on some rewiring today (upstairs hall light and bathroom outlet), and he opted for the wiring scenario that did not require a trip to the hardware store and the purchase of new materials, so that was good.
Oh, and speaking of not purchasing things, today I glued up my awesome homemade pill box that I made last weekend. From a nondescript gift box to a happy little pill container. I did a much better job this past week of taking my supplements since they were in this handy little box and didn't require me to dole them out of all the different bottles each time. Anything to get them down the hatch.

Time to finish the baby sweater, and ferret out some buttons from my insane button stash. Final photos to come tomorrow-ish. Hope everyone else is having as lovely a weekend as we are.

BSJ #3, End of Day 2

Got quite a bit done yesterday/last night. I am loving the way the colors are unfolding with this yarn. It's a good match for the pattern, I think. Reminds me of watermelon, with a little cantaloupe thrown in for good measure.

Still panicking the entire time about whether I will have enough yarn to finish it and what I will do if I don't. Yeah, that reduces the enjoyment factor slightly, but it's still better than all my other projects which require actual thought. I've cruised around Ravelry to see whether any one is trying to unload any of this yarn (Berroco Love It) in a color that will match, but it looks like only some brown up for sale, which isn't quite the direction I want to go. I am not above just writing to people who have this yarn in their stash and making them an offer, but the due date for this puppy is next Sunday when I attend the baby shower, so that would be tricky. Hi, you know that yarn you have that you have no intention of selling? Can you sell it to me and oh, by the way, can you please ship it overnight, today? Don't imagine that would go over too well. I'm just going to knit away on it as fast as I can and see where things wind up. I have no shortage of yarn in my stash, but as for something that will match this yarn of a similar weight and fiber content, nothing that fits the bill, I don't think. Fingers crossed it won't come to that. With the Colinette Cadenza I used to make the first two of these, I had loads of extra, using the same needle size and the same number of skeins; it just feels different this time for some reason.

Book: Write It Down, Make It Happen

Subtitle: Knowing What You Want, and Getting It

by: Henriette Anne Klauser

I finished this book a few days ago, but it's taken me this long to settle down enough that I could write about it without just exclaiming how amazing it is and telling everyone to go read it at once (although that sentiment still applies). To call this book self-help does not do it justice. It's more like magic spells to improve your life and inspiring stories to light a fire under you to do so. The book is a collection of techniques and ways to use writing to manifest what you want in your life, interwoven with stories about people who have done just that. I heard about the book from Barbara Winter, who mentioned it in a recent email newsletter, and immediately got it out of the library.

Several chapters had me weeping at the beauty of how life worked out so well for people using simple journal writing to chart the course of their lives, sometimes without even realizing it. A woman who needed a care facility for her aging mother with Alzheimer's, another woman's search for her future husband, the author's own dream of having a walk-on part in an opera, several stories of people looking for the perfect home and miraculously finding it. The reason this book moved me so much is in part that I have used some of the techniques in the past, before this book was even written, and they worked. I have bored many of you with the dream job wish list story that resulted in me getting just such a job within a few weeks of making the list, but in case anyone missed it, I'll recite it again.

It was 1997, and I was having a rough time emotionally, and my dear friend and godbrother, Jay, gave me the very good advice to get a job-job (I was freelance editing from home at the time) so that I would have a reason to get out and be in polite society, a reason to pull myself together on a regular basis. So I wrote down a list of qualities I wanted in a job. I wanted to work only two or three days/week so I could keep freelancing. I wanted to be able to dress casually sometimes and dress up sometimes. I wanted to work alone sometimes and work in a group sometimes. I wanted to use my writing skills and my talking on the phone skills. I wanted to be able to bike or walk to my office and to work for someone nice. I am sure there was more on there, but that's what I remember 10+ years later. So I looked at my list and I thought, Hmm, a part-time development job might fit the bill. And then I thought, Well, I'm not going to find a job like that in the back of the City Paper, so I better start making some calls. So I called my friend and former boss, Paul, who didn't know of any jobs but needed someone to re-do his resume, so I said, Sure, I can do that. It would get me out of the house and earn me a couple bucks. Fine.

While I was at Paul's office typing up his resume changes, he was in the next cubicle over on the phone, and he pops his head up over the divider, hand over the receiver, and asks what kind of job I want. I can see he is just on hold for a minute, so I don't go into detail but just say, Some kind of stupid office work, anything. Well, he finishes up his phone call, and then comes over and says, Well, I'm not sure it's what you're looking for, but I know someone hiring for a 2-day/week development job. After picking my jaw up off the floor, I said, yes, that would be perfect. With Paul's recommendation, I had the job within a couple weeks.

So, I know that the techniques in this book work, and I think, why haven't I been using them the whole time since then? Well, I'm back on track now. I can't recommend this book enough. If you are dissatisfied with anything in your life: job, home, relationships, anything, get a copy and try it out. There's nothing to be lost but a few hours of your time. It's a quick read, although I had to pace myself because my reaction to it was so intense, and if it works for you, too, think how much happier you might be.

Friday, January 18, 2008

What, no knitting?

The astute observers among you may have noticed that there has been very little knitting content on this blog as yet. Well, I'm not styling myself as a knitting blogger, I tell myself, so what does it matter? But showing off and sharing my knitting was one of the things that moved me to get going on this blog, and I do want it to be part of the mix. I mean, even I will get bored of me sounding off about all the crap I'm not buying. And I've got a hell of a lot of yarn to use up. So what gives? Why no knitting posts? I will tell you why. I am stuck.

I did honestly cut my right thumb on Day 3 of the new year, and that sidelined me for a bit, but it's been thoroughly healed for a few days now, so that's no excuse. And I've got a bunch of projects on the needles, so it's not like I don't have any subject matter. But when I say stuck, I mean stuck. All my projects are currently at the point where I need to sit down and sort them out. They all require thought and concentration. I can't just pick up something and mindlessly knit away. So, what does the lazy knitter (me) do in this situation? Start a new project, of course! So I am happy to tell you about my newest knitting project, a baby sweater for my cousin's impending shower. Here's what I've got so far:

I swatched and cast on at last night's Greening Your Home class, and then I just knit away, right past the increase row for the fullness above the cuff, so when we got home, I reknit that part. I'm planning to work more on it today. Oh, and before class I asked our teacher, Jim LaRue, about the frost-protected shallow foundation, and he said that it can be integrated with existing construction and that it is cheaper than the kind of foundation we have in the house now (full basement and crawl space), so that's great news. There was at least one guy there last night who does green re-hab, so next time I need to get some business cards and start talking to people about our addition. In case you were wondering, yes, the irony that we're doing the Compact and talking about adding on to our house is not lost on me.

Oh, and I have to apologize. I told a whopper yesterday. We bought a new refrigerator in 2007. Yipes. It is staggering to me how unconsciously the purchasing of new things has occurred in my life thus far. Staggering.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

To buy new tires?

In which The Professor joins us for a guest post as his penance for breaking our Compact agreement on Day 2.

The Compact: an agreement that we will do everything possible to avoid contributing to rampant consumerism in the year 2008. We will buy nothing new except essentials (like food), we will do everything possible to buy used or local, to make it ourselves, or to do without.

Day two of the Compact (January 2nd): I bought tires for my car. The tires are brand, spanking new, and almost certainly not locally-made. Oops. This makes for a good discussion point, though. At first the answer to the question “should I buy new tires for my car?” seems obvious. The car already had used tires, they were no longer safe to drive on, yes, buy the new ones. But I put no research or discussion to the question. Could I have had them resurfaced? Could I have purchased a set of slightly used tires, and then reduced my use of the car by taking public transportation or biking? It would have been more inconvenient, but I most likely would have saved quite a bit of money, and the hypothetical used tires would have gotten a year or two of additional use before being recycled. Or perhaps I would have concluded that brand new tires were my only option, so suck it up and buy them.

Anyway, the new tires are now slightly used, with about a hundred miles on them. I’ll have to do a better job keeping in mind The Compact philosophy. It’s impressive how ingrained I am in the “buy new and don’t worry about it” philosophy.

Embracing the moral dilemma

My dear friend Anne posted a comment yesterday that gave me some wonderful food for thought (thanks, babe). Anne wrote:
there's some good stuff in "the compact" but imho it's both way too vague and way too extreme all at once. anything that makes buying a notebook a moral dilemma is way too much work for me!!!! :) i'll just do my normal routine of not buying much stuff, period.

First off, I did get to chat with The Professor about journals after I wrote that post about them, and we are both in agreement. Journals are a necessary exception to the nothing new rule. We both feel very attached to our choices of journal, and while we happily economize on paper in every other way possible in our household, journals are one item on which we are unwilling to compromise.

Just to give you an idea, I'll tell you a little about our household paper habits. I should give credit here and mention that it was the poet Chrystos, reading at Giovanni's Room (oh, Rachel, don't look, it's a terrible web site) in Philadelphia, who first inspired me to use every bit of each piece of paper, out of respect for the gift that paper represents. Since 1993 or so when I heard her speak, I (and now we) print on both sides of all pieces of 8 1/2" x 11" paper, both at home and at work. After printing both sides, if a paper has even one bit with one side blank, it gets cut up to use as scrap paper for making notes (if we don't write it down, we forget it), which I've got little boxes of in nearly every room in the house. No sticky notes or cute notepads from Target for us. Junk mail gets evaluated for scrap usage on the back, as do all the little library tickets we bring home. The scrap paper thing we do at our workplaces, as well, and I've even gotten other people doing both of these things at a few places I've worked in the past. I am doing my part to reduce paper consumption on the planet, by golly. I'm splashing out with a new journal. It feels like a reasonable indulgence.

The joy we get from our journals is also worth the consumption of new resources to us. That half hour I spend every day filling my beloved college-ruled lines with black ink are my therapy, and I know The Professor delights in drawing possum limbs on the creamy paper in his journal. These aren't things that are going to wind up in landfill while we're alive, either. I've kept journals since high school and before, and the only way they're leaving this house is if disaster strikes and they go up in flames. The Professor's will some day wind up in a library, I'm sure, testament to his future Legendary Contribution to Science. In an effort to make my journal consumption less of a burden on the world's resources, I am going to at least find an alternative with some more recycled content and no plastic cover. I have got some contenders so far and will keep looking. I've got a couple months left on the one I'm using now. I'm also planning to buy in bulk so that the amount of carbon spent getting them to me is reduced, because a supply to last me a good few years will come all in one go.

But in response to Anne's comment (sorry, that was a heck of a digression), I don't agree that the Compact is vague. It might seem vague, but what I think the Compact is, is personal. I've been doing it all of two weeks, so I'm no expert, but this idea isn't some credo handed out by someone to which we've agreed. This experiment is about becoming conscious of our choices, not cruising along on auto-pilot like we have done. I like that we have to think of these things ourselves, talk about our choices, make up our minds, be actively engaged with the challenge of reducing our consumption. I mean, we've only got to have the journal sit-down once, and then we're done. It took about 3 minutes to hash out. Because we're new and coming up the curve, the number of conversations we'll need to have is higher these days, but it will level out, and then we'll just cruise along on a new improved auto-pilot, and that's part of why I want to do the Compact. I want the moral dilemma. It's there whether I want it or not, so to me, bringing it to the forefront and wrestling with it now is an investment in my future peace of mind.

And to put it in perspective, let's have a little run-down of what I purchased in 2007, before taking the pledge. New clothes: zero. New shoes: one pair construction boots, required for Home Design/Build class (and I needed them, more than once I would have lost a toe if I had just been wearing tennies). New electronics: zero. New music CDs: zero (although Andy got me one for my bday). About the only new thing I did buy last year was fabric and yarn, and I think we got some Stargate SG-1 DVDs. So I'm not some shop-a-holic swerving hard left into this new way of life. I was already pretty light on the consumption scale. But I want to go as far as I can. I want the extreme, too, but I guess that's not news to any of y'all who know me.

So, thanks, Annie-kins, for helping me to clarify why I am doing this experiment. Love ya, babe!

Whoops, another new fun blogging error, published this before it was done. I like making these newbie mistakes and getting them out of the way :)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Compact: Eating Out

Well, this morning I just couldn't decide what to have for breakfast. We were out of bread, and I'm currently sick of my favorite apple/yogurt/walnuts concoction. The kitchen's a bit of a mess, so cooking an egg didn't feel like the best option. My ideal scenario would have been to find a friend who wasn't busy and go to the nearby bakery/cafe for a pastry and some chat (we are going to skip right over the fact that 9 times out of 10, pastry = sugar = what the heck I thought I was giving up sugar), but alas no one I tried was answering their phone this morning, and the one person who did had just eaten. I then proceeded to spend a good hour or so wrestling with myself about whether or not eating out fits in with our Compact-ing journey or not. The Professor and I have discussed it some, but we didn't reach a resolution, so I couldn't just go with a clear conscience and be done with it.

Given that the wrestling was occurring on an empty stomach, it's no surprise that I finally gave up, bundled up, grabbed some videos to return to the library, and stalked off to the bakery for a frickin' cheese danish, no-sugar pledge be damned. On the way, I stopped into the hardware store to see about a light bulb we need for the office, and who should I run into but The Professor himself. Hooray! Alas, he was rushing late to an appointment to do lab/science things, so we didn't get to hash out our self-imposed rules on eating out, but we will, I hope, continue the conversation at the first available opportunity. He did give me his blessing on the danish, and a loaf of bread he'd picked up at a different, slightly less convenient but decidedly yummier bakery that he'd gotten since leaving the house this morning. So, I could have skipped the danish and eaten toast, but I got the danish anyhow. And a muffin. And a croissant. You have to spend $5 to use a debit card at this bakery, so I couldn't just get the one item, alas. And at that point, my mind was made up.

The whole eating out issue brings up so many questions. I am not even going to start going into it now, but I am sure it will be the source of more than one future post. I wonder how other people have answered this question. I'm going to go hunt around other Compact blogs and the Yahoo list and see what I can find out.

We also started a little bit of interesting conversation in the hardware store. On hearing a little bit of our Compact conversation, our favorite salesperson there asked, "Well, if everyone stops buying things, wouldn't the economy just grind to a halt?" I wanted to say, but didn't, is the American population so moronic that if everyone did stop buying unnecessary things all at once (in that insanely unlikely scenario, I know many people who have no intention whatsoever of changing their consumption patterns even one iota), that we would all just sit here with our thumbs up our asses and not figure out any other ways to make a living? I mean, people are going to need stuff (nice clean new spiral-bound journals for one thing), but having less of it isn't going to stop the world spinning. If the bulk of American jobs were manufacturing jobs, I might buy it, and I need to do my research before I can say for sure, but my guess is that most of the stuff people are buying isn't even made in the US, so whose economy are we worried about? This whole experiment is definitely going to be a thought-provoking one, I can tell.

Some more Compact thoughts: Journals

I read an interesting message on the Yahoo Compact message board yesterday. The question was posed whether school supplies were the sort of thing people could buy new as an exception, and I replied that I was trying to figure out what to do about this matter myself, as I've started journaling regularly again, and I'm going to be running out of pages in my current journal way before the end of the year. I might have an extra in the drawer, but I can't recall, and if I am on my last journal, then what?

I'm pretty picky about my journals. Since the early 90s it's been the 5 1/2" x 8 1/2" 5-subject spiral-bound college-ruled notebook from CVS, and no other will do. One of the Compact-ers replied that he had loads of old school notebooks he'd only partially filled and would be happy to clean out of them what he wanted to keep and send them on to someone in need of notebooks. I think he meant the teacher, not me, which is fine, but it got me thinking. I thought, well, that's really thoughtful and nice of him. And, I thought, it makes me incredibly sad.

Writing in someone else's half-used, who-knows-what-sized, been-heaven-knows-where notebook for my journal? Good gravy. It's just too depressing to even consider. I want to live more responsibly, do my part to put the brakes on consumption in our country, but getting all the thoughts out of my head every morning is part of what makes it possible, and I don't know if I can really think into just any old notebook. I'm pretty attached to the size and shape and heft of the ones I use. We're talking over a decade of one kind of journal, a huge box of them up in the attic, all the same size and shape. I did use up all my school notebooks when I first finished college so as not to let them go to waste, but I don't know if I can compromise on this front. I might need to sneak them in under the banner of art supplies, but really, who's sneaking? This agreement is between me and me. Well, me and The Professor. I'll have to talk to him about what he thinks.

One sad thing is that CVS stopped making them with plain paper covers a while ago and the last few have had a plastic cover, which for my purposes is completely unnecessary. These babies aren't getting lots of wear as they rarely leave the house. Perhaps it's time to find a new journal supplier at least. My dream: recycled paper and then all the other things listed above, with the 5-subject separators optional.

The Professor will be posting some more Compact thoughts later today, I hope.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Movie: Keeping Mum

Started it Saturday night, finished on Sunday, Keeping Mum with Rowan Atkinson was a cute dark British comedy. Decent acting, which is no surprise given the cast, which also included Maggie Smith and Kristin Scott-Thomas, and a rather predictable story, but light and relatively amusing so the predictability wasn't a problem. Rowan Atkinson really is a comic genius. Patrick Swayze has an amusing scene or two. Has he had plastic surgery? I kept wondering, though. Has he? How does one research that sort of thing, and is it really worth the time spent doing so? I'm going to guess not and just let it go. Kristin-Scott Thomas makes a hilarious Swayze-related statement in the DVD extras. Really, I'm a sucker for anything with British accents. Good knitting background movie. I recommend it.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Movie: The Terminal

Last night when The Professor went dancing, I stayed home and watched the Tom Hanks film The Terminal. Or should I say the product placement film? So much product placement, so little time seems to have been the theme of this movie.

I should confess, I was predisposed to dislike this movie. I had made up my mind before I ever even picked it up at the library. So, I didn't really go into watching it with an open mind. In my defense, though, all my suspicions about the commercial nature of the movie were confirmed almost immediately, when the (I don't even care about ruining this one it was so bad, so get ready for some small spoilers) line was delivered 10 minutes into the film, "There's only one thing you can do here: shop," which was a bit too eerily reminiscent for my taste of the snippet from W right after 9/11 urging us all to get out our credit cards to fight the mean terrorists with a big dose of spending. Ugh. You know a movie is a waste when the most clever thing about it is the end credits. I won't ruin those, because it really was the best part of the film. Tom Hanks pretty much lost me at Cast Away (remember that giant commercial for FedEx?), if not before then. You've Got Mail? Are you kidding me? Just what the world needs, a cinematic ode to AOL. Barf. The word sellout is too good for Tom Hanks.

Catherine Zeta-Jones rocked in Chicago, but her character in The Terminal was so one-dimensional as to be impossible to believe and the little eyelid-flutter quirk was just too precious. The only good parts of this movie were thanks to the supporting cast. A juggling show by Kumar Pallana and Trekkie love between Diego Luna and Zoe Saldana stand out.

In unrelated news: we have a metal pot lid in our cupboard that fits the crock pot perfectly. Not ideal in terms of heat containment, but it means I don't have to haul my butt out to the thrift store to hunt down a glass one, so yay. I also made myself a homemade pill box for my vitamins out of a cardboard box we had in the attic, a sort of little gift box that a gift card probably came in. I need to add some glue to fortify it, but I'll take a picture soon to share. I'm quite proud of it! The pill box was one of the first things I thought about wanting to buy and then not buying this year. It's nice to know that 20 minutes with an Exacto knife can keep one chunk of plastic, one purchase out of my life.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Last night's movies: one hit, one miss

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and Home for the Holidays were our library rental picks last night. I first saw Priscilla at one of the Ritz theaters in Philly when it was first released. I don't remember if I saw it alone or with friends, but I know it was fun and fabulous, and it's lost nothing in the intervening years. The Professor enjoyed his first viewing as well.

Sadly, the second movie (necessitated by the one Excedrin I took at around 4 pm, which contained enough caffeine to keep me up all night if I'd wanted to be), was not so great. I should just say that is 100 minutes of my life I won't be getting back and leave it at that, but I won't. Australian drag queens are a tough act to follow, so perhaps it was merely the contrast, but I don't think so. Home for the Holidays was just basically unwatchable schlock, and it didn't have to be. Holly Hunter, Anne Bancroft for crying out loud. These are heavy hitters; it could have been a good movie. How Claire Danes' 3 minutes of screen time earn her mention on the DVD case, I do not know. Robert Downey, Jr. is both spastic and sloppy; one gets the sense not so much acting as just being an annoying jerk and getting paid for it, to which I say good for him, but I don't want to watch. Dylan McDermott is not so good looking that he can get by on that alone, but the movie sure tried to let him. The one redeeming moment is the movie is when you get to see that Charles Durning is probably a pretty good dancer. Overall, though, quite disappointing, and I would not recommend Home for the Holidays to anyone, not even as background noise.

Friday, January 11, 2008

A post a day keeps the guilt away?

Well, we didn't go see The Golden Compass after all. I had a bit of a headache, The Professor's tummy hurt a little (he's napping now), and we just got part way there, turned around and came home. A trusted source, my dear friend Rachel, told me I didn't miss much so I feel okay about it. We might try again, we might wait for the DVD. It's funny, because I love to see movies on the big screen, but I don't really care for the volume at most movie theaters, so I'm more and more willing to settle for the DVD experience. Esp. now that I can view them widescreen at home. Small, but I prefer the original aspect ratio. My film aficionado geekiness comes out.

In Compact news, last night while tidying up the kitchen, the crock pot took a dive off the top of the frig. How much does that suck? The pot part and the crock part survived, the lid part shattered. Like a good little blogger-in-training, I took a picture. Pretty exciting, eh? Hey, I'm new to this blogging, cut me some slack. So now I need to find a crockpot lid replacement. That should be a fun adventure. Part of me wonders if I can't find one whether I'll convert that appliance to a dye pot for yarn. I'm still in the dreaming stages on yarn dyeing, but I take any opportunity I can. There's also the option of just using some other pot lid on the crock pot. Doesn't have to be glass, right? That might be the way we go. Thrift stores are like the lottery: you have to play to win, and hunting for a spare crock pot lid just does not sound like how I want to spend my time.

Also on the living more sustainably front, last night The Professor and I attended the first in a series of lectures on Greening Your Home at the Nature Center at Shaker Lakes, our local wildlife center. Eighty people were there. That was a lot of folks. It was cool to see such an enthusiastic turnout. The parking lot was overflowing. Next week we're hoping to carpool with some other folks. I had hoped the teacher, Jim LaRue, would cover the frost-protected shallow foundation information mentioned in the class blurb, but alas, he did not, and I didn't pipe up with my questions.

Completely unrelated, let me throw in here that I am not very patiently waiting for my friend Dave (Dave, I know you are reading this) to start his blog. We talked about starting blogs together in solidarity, and here I've taken the leap and he's still standing on the side of the pool in his Speedo. I kid! But seriously, Dave, let's go. I am calling you out, my friend.

Okay, I think that's enough randomness for one day. I will say that I tried to formulate a knitting-related post today and could not for the life of me get a decent shot of the fair isle wrap I am making using my web cam. See? I tried, and this shot was my best. Ick. No my living room is not that garish green, and the wrap looks way better than that in person.

I need to rip out and reknit (it's way too snug at the top), and I'm balking, because it involves taking measurements which are tricky to do myself, or figuring out whether I can sort the problem via blocking, which I doubt. The Professor will help me with measuring at least, but it's not his forte, so I haven't even asked for help yet. Oh, how I wish I had a nearby friend who was crafty and helpful. The people I know who could help me are all far far away. Sigh. I'm also still nursing my thumb, which I gashed open last week cleaning the toaster oven tray. I don't know how those knitting bloggers do it. Writing about and photographing knitting is a daunting task. I have newly increased (and it was considerable already) respect for you all.

Oh, and I will close by saying I just had my first almost-lost post-- the power went off on our street for a few seconds. But I only lost like one small edit because of autosaving. Felt like a rite of passage, though. Cool.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Some more substantial updates

Frankly, I think I've got a bit of stage fright. I've told a few people I started this, and y'all might actually be reading it. Gasp. What to tell you about?

The other hitch is that there has been so much going on lately that I don't know where to start. The Professor (my sweetie) was out of town for a few days and I went gangbusters getting stuff done around the house, cleaning out the last of the paper that began accumulating 6 years ago when I moved to Atlanta to be with my mom when she was sick, catching up on laundry, some small doses of sociability, which included some knitting time (working on the charity blanket that I just can't seem to finish) and also watching my cool former cooking teacher, Christina Pirello, on TV thanks to Mary Ann Tivo-ing her appearance for me. It was pretty wacky to watch her using tomatoes and chocolate, which are pretty wide for macrobiotics, but of course it makes sense if she's trying to appeal to a national TV audience and come up with a menu for less than $40.

I'm reading a fantastic book called Write It Down, Make It Happen, by Henriette Anne Klauser, which is completely rocking my world. I've had a few experiences in the past of writing a wish list and magically everything on it coming true, so I know it works. I'm using the technique again now and already having fabulous results. I'm hoping to convince The Professor to use it to get his current NSF grant.

As for our progress on The Compact, I have bought only groceries and some take-out food (trying to wean myself) and one used book (a copy of the Klauser book as the one I'm reading now is the library's). The Professor broke the rules big time on Day 2, but I'll let him tell you about that. He's agreed to write a guest post as penance. There have been a few times already when I've thought, darn, I need a ... fill in the blank, but so far, every problem has been solved with a homemade solution.

I think that's all the updates I've got in me for today. Hope everything is well in your world.

My Daemon

Okay, I feel like I'm cheating a little posting this thing, but it's my first chance to do something like this.

What do you think? Does this seem like me? I won't say what I think until I get some feedback from y'all. If you click on the picture, it gives you a little questionnaire. I don't know if the answers might change the shape of my daemon? It said 12 days before it settles into its final form. Fun!

We're going tomorrow to see the movie. Stay tuned for another review.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

More moview reviews

Two more movie reviews for y'all. I have been doing so much other stuff that I don't even know where to begin writing about it, but I will post more than movie reviews, I promise.

Roger Dodger was really quite enjoyable and charming, which was a bit of a surprise. I watched about a half hour of it one night and the rest a night or two later. I wasn't digging it after the first session, so I only put it in reluctantly to watch the rest. I like to finish stuff. I'm glad I gave it another go. The dialogue is stellar, the story is engaging, and once the nephew shows up, the malady from which Roger suffers (being a total player) actually takes on a whole new gleam of being endearing rather than repellent. Used for good, teaching young Nick how to meet girls, Roger's womanizing ways become less sinister and more entertaining. The best line: "You drink that drink! Alcohol has been a social lubricant for thousands of years. You think you're going to sit here tonight and reinvent the wheel? Please." Campbell Scott did a heck of a job. Some of his monologues were dizzying.

The Girl in the Cafe was another great pick. The use of color and line in the framing of every single shot was incredible. I wish I could have seen it on the big screen, but it was only a TV movie (HBO), what a waste. Because I am a mainstream media-phobe (see the word unplugged in the title of this blog), I didn't really know too much about the historical backdrop of the 2005 G8 conference and the Millennium Goals, so the movie really shook me up-- I called my sweetie quite rattled to see if he knew the current event status that the ending doesn't give away. Bill Nighy blew my mind with his performance. So vivid a character. Kelly Macdonald did a fine job as well. Love the accent. Took me right back to Glasgow.

Both of these movies made marvelous use of the cliffhanger ending. Marvelous. Especially the latter, because it will motivate you to action. The extras on both DVDs were impressive, too. Not the usual drivel of outtakes and deleted scenes. I recommend them both.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Movie Reviews

Another way I shall endeavor to entertain you here, Dear Reader, is by providing little movie and book reviews about things I read and watch. I'm a fairly rabid consumer of DVD rentals from the local library since we turned off our cable (and didn't install an antenna for getting regular network) TV in August 2005. I didn't want to be sitting home without a job watching Oprah. Not to knock Oprah, but you know, I just didn't want that. Plus, the library is a 2-minute walk from our house, and you can just about anything you can imagine there for free free free. Can't beat that with a stick. I've been slowing down on books, but I hope to pick it up as I wean myself from the boob tube.

So, without further ado, my first review on this blog, of the movie The Last King of Scotland, starring Forest Whitaker and James McAvoy. Oh, wait, I should say, that I personally can't stand spoilers of any kind. I prefer to know as little as possible about movies when I go to see them. My ideal movie situation is just showing up, sitting down, and not even knowing what is playing. Tricky to accomplish in real life. So, I am going to try to give away as little as possible, so my reviews might be more just opinions and recommendations, but I will submit them for your perusal nonetheless.

I liked this movie. I didn't like the violence, but the acting was top notch, the cinematography was also very good, casting brilliant, story well-written and tight, and there were some surprisingly steamy scenes that were very well done. James McAvoy is utterly dreamy, so I will have to seek out other films/shows with him (hello, IMDB). Forest Whitaker was incredible. I didn't know much of the history that this movie covers (Idi Amin's rise to power and his subsequent corruption and brutality in Uganda), so it was also somewhat educational, despite the kernel of the story being entirely fictional.

I would recommend this film to those with a strong stomach or the willingness to watch a fair few scenes from behind your arm and/or muted. The extras on the DVD were especially interesting, because the film was made in Uganda, and many people there remember Amin's reign of terror none too fondly. I wonder how hard it must have been for them to see Amin come alive again in Forest Whitaker.

I also watched The Education of Shelby Knox last night. Eh. It was alright. I really wonder how the film came to be made at all, because it just wasn't too phenomenally interesting (the star is a bit of a drama queen, which almost gave it a reality show feel at times), and how did these filmmakers happen to connect with their subject? I wouldn't really recommend this film unless sex education in public schools is a big passionate issue for you.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Testing 1-2-3

Well, hello, world! I've been thinking of starting a blog for a while, and now I guess I've gone and done it (I thought there would be a few more steps and I'd have chances to bail out, but this blogger thing pretty much plunks you in the deep end before you know it). I want to chronicle my quest to give up sugar (and maybe even TV), my love affair with yarn and knitting and all things fiber and textile (other mistresses include but are not limited to sewing, quilting, weaving, and spinning), the exciting adventures of designing and building an addition to our house in as green and eco-friendly a manner as we can manage, and my journey toward finding work that is both rewarding and remunerative. Oh, and my sweetie and I started off 2008 with a nice long chat about how we are planning to do The Compact in 2008; I'm sure that experiment will provide more than a little fodder for this blog. Think that's enough things to write about? Sound too all over the place? Welcome to my world. Okay, my tiny corner of the internet's virtual world. I'm so glad you're here.