Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!

We had a pretty quiet Halloween around here (I bought waaaayyy too much candy, just as The Husband predicted. Oops!). This is the first time The Husband and I have not dressed up for Halloween in years. I just couldn't bring myself to spend time on money on costumes this year when (1) there was a decent chance we'd be in the hospital with the baby, and (2) I'm in no condition to attend Halloween parties comfortably. As it turned out, Baby Girl is happy in her current home and spurned our attempts to cajole her into a Halloween appearance. Guess she didn't want to share her birthday with a holiday. Chewy happily got into the Halloween spirit. Not that he could even see what I tied around his neck (he's since gotten a trim). Recognize this bandanna?
This pic is posted at The Husband's behest: "He looks like Yoda!" That he does...not nearly so aged or wise he is, though.

Since I was not dumping all my energy into desperately trying to finish an elaborate costume this year, I did make a few Halloween decorations. We're generally pretty sparse in that department because of the costumes, so it was nice to have a few around for a change.

There were actually two of these bats hanging in the tree. Made from a pair of socks I rescued from the trash when The Husband discovered a holey heel.
There were three of these ghosts. I had intended to just shove the dowels they're supported on into the ground along the walkway up to our house. Sometimes I forget we live in the desert. The ground was hard as a rock. So one got stuck in a flowerpot by the door. Two others are "sitting" on the bench in the bat pic. These are balled up paper from the recycling bin covered in trash bags, then scrap white polyester leftover from last year's costume, then cheesecloth. Tied off at the neck with ribbon leftover from our wedding (over four years ago--I save everything for just such occasions as these). The dowels I purchased ($.89 each). Oh, and the faces are just craft foam.
This is the one indoor Halloween corner. Trinkets we've collected from Scarlet Lily and my mom over the years as Halloween gifts. We also have a mini-pumpkin in the kitchen from the pumpkin patch. And a wooden pumpkin shaped candy bowl. Didn't get that one on film, sorry.

That's our Halloween! I did finish a "costume" for the Little One in case she debuted in time, but I'll wait to post that until I finish the hat. Maybe tomorrow. Luckily, being a baby, she can wear it any old time and it won't matter that she missed the Halloween window. Head over to Ouiser's blog to check out the cutest (ahem, I mean, scariest) witch you ever did see.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Boo, Hiss

...As my mother would say.

Kohl's sucks.

Allow me to elaborate: Yesterday I was doing a little shopping there, making an exchange. When I went to check out, I told the saleslady that I didn't need a bag and held up my canvas tote (as I usually do when I remember them before heading into a store...usually I forget and end up trying to carry everything back to the car in my arms without leaving a trail behind me). She looked at me very sheepishly and said that they're not allowed to let me not take a bag. I asked if I could just carry it out (it was only one item this time) with my receipt, in my hands, and she said they are required to make me take a plastic Kohl's bag. I told her that was stupid and irresponsible and I was going to complain. She got really excited and said she hoped I would and that she finds the packaging waste in that store appalling (like, when they're unpacking new merchandise for restocking), but that they won't allow employees to submit that kind of feedback. She pointed out the website on the receipt for completing an online survey about my shopping experience. She was really very nice.

I, however, was irate. When I got home, I filled out their online survey. Stupid, likert-scale online survey with no free text fields. So when I answered "definitely not" when asked if I would recommend Kohl's to others, there was no way to explain why not. The link on their website for emailing them wasn't functioning. It took me nearly 10 minutes to find an email address by which I could contact them.

I wrote them a nasty email. I warned them that I will be boycotting the store, that I have a blog on which I would relate this story, and that I would encourage my readers to boycott them as well. They wrote back (I'll give them credit for promptness) that they have no plans to change this forced plastic bag use due to security reasons. Yet, they let me walk in with the items I wanted to exchange without a receipt, walk all the way to the very back of the store where their customer service counter is...the only place you can complete a return...during which time I could have picked up anything and claimed I was returning a gift. But they won't let me walk the five feet from he checkout counter to the front door to exit, with my receipt in hand, without a plastic bag covering that "proves" I made the purchase. I'm almost tempted to go back there with the same Kohl's plastic bag and see if they let me reuse that...Almost. But not quite.

I'm not remotely being pushy about the use of fabric bags instead of plastic. I'm being pushy about being given the choice. I am pushy about the reprehensible irresponsibility this company is demonstrating. I have watched grocery store after grocery store around me in the last year switch over to selling their own cloth shopping bags with their logo emblazoned on the front. I have noticed fewer and fewer funny looks from salespeople when I decline a bag and hold up my own. Why does it seem like Kohl's is moving in the opposite direction? And, seriously, take out any environmentalist, green taint to this story for a minute: doesn't this ring a little authoritarian to you? I must take your damn plastic bag with me? I'm the one paying for the merchandise! Don't I get any say? What happened to ****ing customer service?

Sorry. Got my Scottish up again.

Please people, consider writing Kohl's your own complaint ( Consider not shopping there until they change this. I've never boycotted a company before. I've never written this kind of letter before. Maybe it's all the time I've got on my hands. Maybe it's the pregnancy hormones. But I'm all kinds of riled up and they are minus one customer.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Most Recent Sign that the Appocalypse Is upon Us

Ever heard of Friendship Bread? I hadn't. And was duped because of it. So consider this your fair warning. Some other poor soul gives you a cup of a yeast mixture as a "starter" and you make your bread. That part's great. But you also have yeast leftover that you're supposed to pass on to a number of friends. And they have to do the same and pass it on to their friends. And they to theirs. And it grows exponentially like a plague (or a yeast). I don't know that many people! Who bake. Who live near me. Maybe if I were Amish, I'd have more friends. Certainly more who bake regularly. But I can't keep making two loaves of cinnamon bread every ten days for the rest of my life! And giving away yet more of it. What few friends I have will be friends no longer. "Friendship bread" is a misnomer. This is an Amish pyramid scheme!
I accepted my own portion from my sister-in-law, not knowing what I was getting into. To her credit, I don't think she meant to trap me in this circle of hell. I'm pretty sure she knows lots of people who bake and so didn't anticipate the burden. Now I've made the stuff three times! But I finally escaped the perpetuity by giving all my portions away (this is actually the second time I gave them all away. After the first time, one came back to us. It's like the proverbial cat.). I must say, however insidious the system is, the bread is dang good. Sweet and cinnamoned and soft and not too cakey. But I have three loaves in the freezer, so I've had my fair share, tasty though it is.

Some projects that have been in progress:

Baby hats, modeled by Marvin the Monkey, whom I've had since I was a baby. The platypus was a gift from The Husband years ago. Let's hope the baby fits the hats better than these guys. I got this knit fabric on sale at Joann's. Did the baby need more hats? Absolutely not. Did I need practice sewing with knit fabrics? Well, need is debatable, but I wanted to learn to sew them without getting all that stretching and puckering and lettuce-leaf edging. A walking foot and a ball point needle seemed to do the trick. I can't seem to find where I got the pattern from now, but if anyone's interested, let me know and I'll track it down.

Lamp shade cover (McCall's 5346). Note the absence of lamp. It's one of a pair we've had for years that were super cheap and currently unused. I ruined one in my first attempt at taking the shade apart. This is the second. The base of the lamp is black. Certainly functional, but I'm hoping the husband will have time to give it a quick white spray paint job before Baby arrives. I made this with leftover quilt from a quilt I started for a friend's baby years ago and never finished. More on that in a future post...

Pillows, loosely followed from the Semi-Simple Pillows pattern in Amy Karol's Bend-the-Rules Sewing book, though you could find this pattern tons of places. It just has that overlap seamed back so you can remove the covers for washing. This fabric was used by Scarlet Lily as a table covering in the baby shower she threw me a couple months ago. It goes perfectly with the nursery! Once the room is in better shape, I'll start posting pics of the finished product. We're just not there yet.

By the way, all these sewing projects are ridiculously easy. So, if anyone is looking for more info on them, just let me know!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Pumpkin Fever

Yesterday, I dragged the Husband on an hour-long trek to the nearest pumpkin patch. It's a farm south of Tucson, and their fall festival includes a hay maze, petting zoo, farm store (my favorite), contests for the kiddos, and, of course, a pumpkin patch. We did not pick our own pumpkin, alas. We were trying to minimize the walking for the sake of my back. But we bought a we-pick pumpkin, and some local jams. The produce was beautiful. I love fall and I love fall colors and I love gourds and pumpkins of all shapes and varieties. It was fun.
We took a lot of pictures and The Husband loves to take candids, so I was unaware of lots of pics he was taking of me. When I was editing them last night, I found it hysterical how normal I still look from the back, no?Not so much like my usual self from this angle though! This is a typical pose for me lately...the right hand pushing on my ribs where I get frequent pain. I don't know if Baby Girl has got her foot lodged in there or what.

These are fairytale pumpkins, which I had never seen or heard of before, have you? I love them! And I love that they're called fairytale pumpkins. They look just like Cinderella's coach. We bought one of these because we're not actually planning to carve one this year. They just rot too fast in the Tucson heat after carving.

This gourd reminded The Husband and I sooooo much of one of our favorite You Tube cartoons...
Doesn't he look exactly like a gourd? Specifically, like that gourd? We love him.

The Husband with sympathy belly. Or smuggling pumpkins. However you choose to title it.

While we're on the pumpkin topic, I thought I'd share a few recipes I'm loving this month. Let's just say I'm getting plenty of beta-carotene. We'll be lucky if the baby doesn't emerge with orange skin.
This one you'll see in the next Try This!, if you're a subscriber...
Pumpkin Banana Smoothie
Being pregnant, and not working right now, I've become a big fan of smoothies. A pretty basic blueberry-banana smoothie had been my standby until I found a recipe for a pumpkin one and tweaked it to my liking and needs. So here is my version. I think the original came from the Cooking Light website and you could likely find it there through a search. All I changed was the yogurt:pumpkin ratio and the sugar content. My version is not too sweet, so if you prefer it sweeter, just add more sugar and/or orange juice. And I added wheat germ, the crunchy kind. I used canned pumpkin in the recipe, but I'm sure you could use fresh just as easily. You may just need to blend longer.

Blend together the following:
~3/4 cup plain, non-fat yogurt
~3/4 cup canned pumpkin (refrigerate first if you want it cold)
1 banana (I slice and freeze mine the night before for the coldness)
~1/4 cup orange juice (preferably the kind with calcium added)
~1-2 Tbsp crunchy wheat germ
~1 tsp cinnamon
~1/2 tsp nutmeg
dash of ground cloves
~1/2 tsp Splenda (or brown sugar, or honey, or white sugar, whatever)

This makes enough for two servings as a snack or one serving as a full meal, which is how I tend to have it (for breakfast). Soooooo good for you: calcium, protein, huge amounts of Vitamin A (beta-carotene). If you include the wheat germ, you get all kinds of folic acid and iron, too. And if you weren't looking to make it so healthy and wanted more of a dessert-y smoothie, I bet you could swap in some frozen yogurt or ice cream for the yogurt. It's the perfect time of year for this! Enjoy!
Also not to be missed are Amy Karol's chocolate chip pumpkin muffins, here. I got requests for this recipe after The Husband brought some into work. Amy doesn't mention how many it makes, but I made 2 dozen large muffins. You could easily get more if you made them smaller. Mine came out looking just like hers do in her photo.
I also made pumpkin bread last week. An old standby recipe that's been good to me over the years, but pumpkin bread recipes are so easy to come by that I won't bother sharing it unless I get a specific request. I'm feeling ready for a new twist on the old standby...any suggestions?

Thursday, October 18, 2007


Blogging slacker, that is. Sorry. My back's been acting up again the past ten days or so, so I haven't gotten much done. Which makes me feel like I have nothing to blog about. I've "filled" many a day with nothing but a little cleaning, a little cooking, and lots of heating, icing, and bed rest. The Husband has begged and begged for me to forget the cooking and cleaning and finish up the nursery and the sewing, so I'm trying to do that now. I have some things in progress for sharing in the near future, but for tonight, only this:

I recently discovered Library Thing. Do you know about this? It's an online catalog of books in your "library" (I think that whether this means books you own or books you've read is up to you). You can share your library, see what others with similar libraries are reading, get recommendations based on your ratings of books in your library...there's so much more, I'm still exploring. But there's a new feature in my sidebar showing a random sampling of books from mine.

Baby update: We're doing well. Chugging along at a little past 37 weeks. She had hiccups that I could feel for the first time today...three times!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Four Weeks and Counting

Last weekend's fun continued (for me anyway), when I finally convinced The Husband that it was time to put together the nursery furniture. We're using a dresser that we already had and putting a changing table on top. We bought a used Ikea children's bookcase that I found on Craig's List. The crib and recliner are now put together, ottoman is in place, mattress is in place, curtains are up. We're on to the fine-tuning (cleaning up instruction manuals, plastic bags, putting away clothes, hanging artwork, etc.), but it still looks a mess in there, so no pictures yet. Eventually.

I haven't done any sewing in a few days. I started trying to make a Boppy cover. Something that should have been very simple. But something's not lining up right and I got too frustrated to deal with it. I will probably just let it be for a while and work on something else in the meantime (a wetbag for the diaper bag?). I just can't bear to pull out stitches I've just put in. Especially when they relate to a zipper. Ugh.

In the meantime, my fingers have swollen up like sausages. I woke up with them hurting Friday and took me until late Saturday to figure out that this was because the skin was being stretched to within a millimeter of its life. But they were not severely swollen and didn't really look that strange, as fingers. It's just that my fingers tend to be very long (what with my being very tall) and proportionally thin (although, not truly small--it's a nice illusion) so it took me a while to realize the problem. I also was having bouts of lightheadedness Friday and Saturday. I put all the pieces together and knew from the pregnancy books I'd read that these can be signs of preeclampsia. So I called the OB Monday, they had me come in, and...nothing. We're all good. BP is great. Not losing any protein. Things are moving along in there, but nothing imminent.

Although, when the OB reminded me that, at this point, if I were to go into labor they wouldn't do anything to stop it, I said "So, it could be as early as 37 weeks or as late as 41 weeks" (I'm 36 weeks now), and she said, "It could be as early as tomorrow...and I really don't think you'll have to wait until 41 weeks." So I don't know if she knows something I don't (probably, as she's a surgeon) or if she's just being nice. Because I am at that point where I'm about done with this whole pregnancy thing. I was very grouchy last night and told The Husband that I haven't been whiny or complain-y much this whole pregnancy, and have dealt with all my aches and pains (especially the back pain, which has gone on for about three months now, almost nonstop) in a fairly optimistic manner, but now I'm done. I'm sick of feeling useless and incompetent and, most of all, not being able to exercise. I will be complaining from here on out. So he's had fair warning. I'll try to spare all of you, though.

I promise to try for some pictures next post.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Off to a Good Start

To the weekend, that is.

Last night, The Husband and I had an appointment with Dream Dinners. Ever hear of them? Or other companies like them? I know there are several national chains. This is the one closest to us. The deal is that you pay them money, they let you put together a bunch of dinners with ingredients they already have prepared and set up for you, you take them home and freeze them all. Then, when you have a two-week old infant and can't stay awake long enough to preheat an oven, never mind prepare a whole meal...well, I guess you still have to preheat the oven to cook the food. But all the shopping, preparation, and 90% of the assembly is done.

I was first told about these miraculous places over a year ago at a coworkers baby shower. Several of the moms there swore by these lifesavers to get you through rough patches: like a new baby, an illness in the family, a parent being out-of-town for a lengthy trip, etc. The interesting part was, although those women told me "it's a little more expensive than doing it yourself, but not as much more as you'd think," the Dream Dinners people made a big point (and understandably so, as it's a good one) of letting us know that they price out all the meals at a local grocery store (and a cheap one, actually) each month and that they've come out below cost for the last six months running. Which means it's actually cheaper (according to them) for me to get our dinners this way than cook them myself...

Two major problems I have with the system are these: (1) You have no control over the ingredients. So I can't make sure the produce is organic. I can't substitute non-fat for low-fat. I can't get Tilamook cheese. I can't make decisions like, generic canned beans, but gourmet parmesan. However, on this point I will say that I noticed they always did use low-fat or non-fat options with dishes calling for sour cream. But you can bet your booties it wasn't organic. (2) The Husband and I wash and reuse our Ziploc bags, but most people do not. For these dinners, you generally dump all the ingredients into 1-3 Ziplocs, then put all parts into another Ziploc to keep them together in your freezer. Logical. But wasteful.

On the upside, it was way fun putting these things together! We made 36 servings of around 8 different meals in about an hour. And it was fun! There was a different station for each recipe that you rotated through. There were probably about 10 other people there. Everything went smoothly with no traffic jams. The recipes are hung at eye level. The ingredients are directly in front of you, each with their own measuring apparatus. It was the kind of teamwork The Husband and I are great at (which does not include all types of teamwork): no decision-making, just follow the steps, get into a rhythm, and trust your partner. It really was great fun. And we were convinced enough of the worth of the thing to sign up to do it again in another month. Now, I'll have to report back once we've actually tasted the food--a rather important element of such a venture. But the recipes looked good to me.

This morning was full of even more fun! I talked The Husband into accompanying me to a "Stork Sale" organized by a local hospital. A parking lot full of used baby gear, baby clothes, maternity clothes, and baby furniture. I have so been bitten by the bargain hunter bug. There is a part of me that feels like I wish I could return all the new baby stuff we have and see how inexpensively I could outfit an entire nursery with nothing but borrowed and used paraphernalia (not a big enough part to actually do it, but it's so much fun to find a great deal!). There's another part of me that is so happy to see people out there taking advantage of such community events. Partly because I'm so glad that people who can't buy this stuff new have an outlet where they can get really good-quality items for good prices. There are always yard sales and thrift stores, but this really was a huge gathering of everything baby that you could possibly need, all in one place, all at one time. It also makes me happy to see these things being reused that still have so much life left in them rather than seeing them end up in a landfill with replacements being endlessly manufactured. Anyway, we got a few good buys there, and a few more at some yard sales on the way home.

The only downside: my back is killing me so now I'm stuck in bed for a while, but a recent trip to the library has supplied me with new books. So, I'll live.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Not So Hot

This is a pointless rant about a person who is pointlessly and endlessly talked about, could not be more overexposed, and whom you're all probably so sick of hearing about. But I can't help it.

Oh, Paris. (You know which one I mean.)

For anyone who missed the David Letterman interview with Ms. Hilton nearly a week ago, you can catch up here. Now I'm very pregnant, and spending very much time on the couch, so I feel I am more up on my pop culture than ever before (which is still less than some people--how do they do it?). And I am acutely aware that there are two definite camps on Letterman's treatment of Paris during his interview, which, if you're too busy to watch the interview, was very prison-centered, despite her claims that she's "over it" and "that was a long time ago" and requests to talk about more important things, like her movie and clothing line and new perfume. Anyway, the two camps seem to be those who just thought it was funny (a good chunk of Dave's audience from the sounds of it) and those who think he went too far, that it was funny at first and then he should have let it go. According to the latter group, what if she really is trying to change? Shouldn't we cut her some slack? What if she really is a new person now? Shouldn't we let this go and move past it and let her show that she really is ready to actually contribute something to society?

No! Decidedly, no! What high school did you go to? In fact, what planet do you live on now? Since when to people simply get to apologize for the mistakes they make in life and move on without anyone, ever giving them a hard time about it? And this was a big mistake! She was arrested! How many people you know, real people, regular people, if they got arrested for something as stupid as driving without a proper license, and you knew they did it because they were cocky and didn't think anyone would actually send them to jail, how many of you would honestly let that go without a little bit of ribbing? Or, okay, maybe you wouldn't do the ribbing, but would you honestly say it was unfair of anyone to make fun of them, even just a little, for doing something so dumb? Wouldn't part of you think it was good for her to be taken down a notch or two?

I don't want anyone to be cruel to the girl. I do want her to live it down. I do hope she moves on and grows up and becomes a better person. But it can't be easy. Everything's been so darned easy for her, that's why she has the problems she has in the first place, I and at least half of America would wager. Let her get teased. Remember in high school when you tripped in front of the whole class or you blew the winning goal or you laughed and milk came out your nose or whatever you did that made everyone tease you for a week until someone else did something equally dumb? That kind of adolescent suffering builds strong moral fiber and good character and at least personality, if nothing else. Don't you think that's what's wrong with all those girls who used to be famous for partying and are now famous for being such screw-ups? Nobody has given them crap for being such screw-ups. So how are they supposed to learn?

So, Dave, I applaud you. She deserved it. She doesn't deserve it forever, and she took it well, actually, and I was impressed that she kept a smile on her face through most of it. It was obvious she was pissed underneath. And I understand that, too. But this is life, sweetie. People don't always care how you feel. I hope you do grow up from this. People are so over you. Until your next escapade anyway.