Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas is coming


Recently we decided it was time to kick the dogs off the bed. Not only do we humans need to assert ourselves more (there's been some instability in the pack--dogs sniping at each other, etc.), but we were going to have to buy a larger bed to accommodate the 150 pounds of canine(s) that kept hogging all the space. So there was no choice; the dogs would have to sleep somewhere else.

Gracie wouldn't be a problem. She already had a kennel of her own that she liked all right. She goes there when she's feeling insecure or just needs some "me" time.

But Silver and Cairo have never been kennel dogs. Silver would do whatever she was told, albeit with Sad Eyes. But Cairo? I expected howls (literally) of protest. When he got his leg amputated, he fussed and fought constantly against being confined.

"Just get him a really big wire kennel," said the s.o. "He doesn't like the regular kind because he can't turn around in there as easily, because of only having three legs."

I doubted it, but I shrugged my shoulders and got Cairo a wire kennel big enough for a Newfoundland. For Silver, I got a large Canine Camper portable tent kennel with a nice fleecy liner. It was light and it could be collapsed into something akin to an art student's portfolio. We'd be able to take it on trips--convenient.

I assembled Silver's kennel and lined it with a couple of extra blankets, because...well, because she's my princess. My heart was already broken because I wouldn't be able to be in constant contact with her throughout the night. Having her kennel next to me was not the same as having her furry butt against my knees!

Then, at the foot of the bed, I erected Fort Cairo, a massive edifice that took up half the bedroom. It looked clinical, so I took two big fluffy dog beds from elsewhere in the house and used them to make it comfy. The dog beds fit side by side in the kennel.

Cairo walked into the bedroom and looked at the cage. "C'mere," I said, and he did. I climbed into the kennel and beckoned him to follow me. He did. He curled up in the soft cushions and looked contented. We stayed there for a few minutes snuggling, and then we left.

An hour later I looked into the bedroom and was shocked to see Cairo sleeping in his kennel.

Another hour later, I looked in and saw Silver sleeping in Cairo's kennel. I gently ushered her out and showed her her own kennel again.

Near bedtime, Cairo returned to his kennel. He looked content. I locked him in, and I felt sneaky and unfair doing it. He noticed, but did not react. I kenneled Gracie as well ("Gracie, kennel!" "Okay, mom!"), and then kenneled Silver.

We all got a fantastic night's sleep, although I cried a little bit because I couldn't touch my dogs.

When my alarm went off, I de-kenneled Silver and Gracie and led them out of the bedroom. I unlocked Cairo's cage, too, but he elected not to leave his fort. I really am gobsmacked that the Dog Who Would Not Be Kenneled is so fond of a big scary wire cage, but I guess if you fill a nice spacious area with soft pillows, certain dogs will always claim a spot.

Monday, December 15, 2008

a political plea

Please, everyone, sign this petition. I'm usually very skeptical of petitions, but this one has a very real and (I hope) attainable goal: the appointment of a Secretary of Agriculture who will fight for small, sustainable farms. I've had it up to here with the way corporations dictate our farm policy -- how 'bout you?

ETA: Aaaaaand he's named a Monsanto stooge to the post. *sigh* Well, it was worth a try.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Trailer fire

At 2:45 AM, our dogs all stood straight up and started howling. Soon we humans could hear the sirens, too. It wasn't just a cop pulling someone over in our driveway (which they're fond of doing in the middle of the night, for some reason). It was a convergence of several types of sirens. Some of them we recognized from the s.o.'s days as a volunteer fireman.

"Are you getting up to look?" the s.o. asked me groggily. He had returned from a poker game only an hour before, and had probably only just descended into REM sleep when the noise commenced.

"Mm," I replied. I fumbled for my glasses, clapped them onto my face, and shuffled across the room to the front window. I crouched down and stared through the leaves of our umbrella plant at the flashing lights across the street.

It took a moment for my eyes to adjust, and then suddenly I exclaimed, "Holy shit, the old trailer next to Eddie Lee's is on fire! I mean REALLY on fire!" The flames reached 20 feet in the air, bright as daylight.

Today I went over to look at the remains of the trailer. I wasn't the only gawker; a man and his son had pulled up their pickup truck to peer at the shell of the structure. This is what we saw:

Probably an arson. Or so you'd suspect when an uninhabited trailer with no power suddenly goes up like a flare in the middle of the night.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The sky is falling!

No, this isn't a post about the economy. We had a 20-degree night last night, and I woke up to find our pecan trees dropping all their leaves simultaneously. Anyone ever seen anything like that? Because I haven't. This is new to me.

There's an ankle-deep layer of leaf litter on the ground, and when you walk under the trees, entire compound leaves snow down upon you. When I walked the dogs, they got all crazy from the crunching and crackling and floaty things everywhere.

I wish I had a way to post a video, because it's cool. Really cool.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Avian etymology

A lot of strange thoughts cross my mind at 7 in the morning before I've had my coffee. There I am, standing out in the yard with a dog on a leash, watching our birds socializing and getting their morning graze on. My thoughts wander and sometimes become very strange and esoteric.

You can tell that the happy event of the recent election is still on my mind. The other night we reshuffled the birds' night quarters so that two years' worth of geese were housed together, and the ducks had more space to themselves in their safety pen. But when we let them all out again in the morning, the younger set of geese bolted away from the older geese and returned to grazing with the ducks they grew up with. It crossed my mind that the new geese caucused with the ducks... and then I groaned because it was so profoundly stupid.

Recently we've been thinking about the inevitable: the fact that we will have to slaughter the one young male duck and an indeterminate number of young male geese. The reason the number is indeterminate is that most of the time you absolutely cannot tell geese from ganders without grabbing them, turning them upside down, and pulling their tails back to (cough) expose their junk. We recently saw this done on Dirty Jobs, but we scoffed at the usually-heroic Mike Rowe because the geese he was grabbing were about half the size of ours. Big deal, bucko--try to hold an Embden without getting your arm chewed off!

Anyway, this caused me to wonder if I had discovered the origin of "taking a gander". Could the expression really have originated with the act of flipping a goose over and looking at its privates to see if it was a boy? Sadly, no--it apparently has more to do with craning your neck the way geese do when they honk. That's possibly the most disappointing etymology I've ever come across. You can't win 'em all.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

My sweet little dinosaur pals

Here's an intriguing local food idea that I hope takes off. Maybe someday we can emulate it in this country.

In related news, our Thanksgiving this year will not be quite as local as usual. All three of our young Blue Slate turkeys have turned out to be hens--friendly, winsome hens that we cannot bear to eat. They follow us around warbling and chirping. They cock their heads when we talk to them, and they eat out of our hands. Gah! So I (cough) ordered an organic turkey from Earthfare. It's embarrassing, sure, but who'll be laughing in the spring when we're eating turkey egg omelettes?

Everybody in the U.S.: GO VOTE NOW!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Hooray for the sewing machine repairmen

Last week I blew out a gear in my sewing machine while sewing the straps onto my new handbag. It was particularly irritating because I was only minutes from finishing the project...then all the more so because it cost me $100 to get the machine fixed. But it was well worth it. My sewing machine is a 1960s Singer with all metal parts. It needed a tuneup, or at least some kind of competent attention, so maybe it wasn't the worst thing in the world for me to be forced to haul it in.

Anyway, now I've finished the handbag. I'm a little irritated with the designer. Even though I used stout denim and upholstery fabric, the bag is floppy. I starched the hell out of it, but it only helped a little. She really should have specified a piece of stiff plastic or something similar for the bottom. I'm going to try to find something appropriate.

Still, don't you think it's cute? Note the water bottle pocket on the end and the newspaper holder on the side. The latter of these is made out of the waistband of an old pair of jeans. (Who, me? Spend money on twill tape? Never!)

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween

Big Jack looks fierce as Li'l Jack (carved out of a turnip* just like in the original folktale) looks on.



* Well, actually, in this case, a rutabaga. It was big enough to fit a tea light.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

And I shall wear thee constantly

Ever wait for-freaking-ever for something, and when it arrives, it's...

...even better than you imagined?

I almost don't mind having pulled up lame with plantar fasciitis, because it made me get some decent shoes. I love my Danskos!

Monday, October 27, 2008


Remember a while back when I whined that my Netflix hadn't come on time? Now they never come on time. In fact, they take an average of two to three additional days. I'm guessing that by watching two DVDs per week for so long (which is pretty heavy usage for a one-at-a-time renter), I got myself flagged as an unprofitable customer and they are deliberately slowing down my shipments.

On one hand, I can respect that they have to keep their shipping costs below a certain threshold to make a profit. On the other hand, why don't they just charge enough to cover a more realistic level of usage? No need to be dishonest about it. Sheesh.

Part of me wants to go back to the two-at-a-time plan so I can watch my shows, but part of me refuses to be manipulated into paying an extra $5 a month.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

At long last

It's taken me quite a bit of effort to get this sign (they're in high demand, which is good). Finally I laid hands on one. I figured I had better commemorate it here before some rat bastard steals it.

Gooooooooooooooooo team!

Friday, October 24, 2008


I had almost finished sewing myself a really beautiful handbag (if I do say so myself) when I did something to my sewing machine. The bobbin wheel isn't spinning in concert with the needle. I'm going to have to take it to get repaired, and who knows how long that will take. I WANT MY HANDBAG, DARN IT.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Dispatch from Charlotte

This week I'm in Charlotte, North Carolina, for a work-related conference. Here's a fun fact that I learned in the elevator at my motel: the N.C. Commissioner of Labor is some unfortunate soul named Cherie Berry.

The conference has been really fun so far, believe it or not. The seminars have been interesting (and believe me, if they hadn't been, I'd have been snoring on the table, because I got in pretty late last night). And this afternoon we got a fascinating behind-the-scenes tour of Hendrick Motorsports. I'd show you pictures, but what we saw was Top Secret, so we had to put our cameras away. I will say this much: For a sport with such a redneck image, NASCAR is the geekiest, most gearheaded thing I have ever seen in my entire life. They fine-tune the cars on special metal slabs that are leveled to the zillionth of an inch. It's like the Space Program in there.

Probably my favorite things I saw at Hendrick were the semi trucks that serve as the teams' mobile offices. The upper level of each truck stores two cars simultaneously: the driver's favorite, and a spare in case he crashes during warm-ups. The bottom level is like the most tricked-out tour bus you've ever seen. It's kitchen, garage, and high-tech communication center all in one.

In case anyone wonders, no, I did not see Jeff Gordon or Dale Jr. or any of the other drivers! Just lots of industrious crew members doing lots of industrious things. I came away feeling oddly warm and fuzzy--I suspect all the people there really love their jobs.

I'm staying in an affordable chain motel out on the periphery of town. I picked it because it's near the city's brand-new light rail line. The rail system turns out to be a total delight. Not only is it fast and easy to use (it takes me about eight minutes to get to the convention center downtown, and the trains run constantly), but the people who ride it are so friendly. On my way into town this morning, I had a really nice conversation with an older woman who was on her way to work. On my way back, I talked with a nice Honduran guy named Angel who is on month five of a six-month work visa. This sort of good cheer is what you get when you mix mass transit with southern hospitality, apparently.

I'm exhausted and I have to be up early, so that's it for now.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A trip to the mountains

Water levels still low at Lake Lanier (the green in the foreground is a bridge beam):

The mind-blowingness that is Burt's Pumpkin Farm near Dawsonville, Georgia:

Rouge Vif D'Etampes pumpkins...and me in the background:

Our haul:

The path to Amicolola Falls is paved with recycled chopped-up automobile tires. It feels dreamy under the feet:

And the falls themselves are totally incredible:

We also got apples, lots of them, but didn't remember to take any pictures of the apple houses. Oops!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Exciting autumn plans

We're opting out of our usual Athens Locally Grown sales this week so that we can drive up to the mountains on Thursday and get our apples and pumpkins. I'm so excited I can barely contain myself--I was so worried we wouldn't manage to do it this year.

We will be buying a few extra pumpkins to sell off the front porch, I think...if for no other reason than to irritate a local lady who last night ruined a meeting of an organization I belong to by quoting Deut. 18:9-12 in full and announcing that Halloween-ish things were an abomination in the eyes of God. "Stricken" doesn't begin to describe the look on the face of the hostess, who had filled her home with beautiful holiday decorations. All religious questions aside, the whole thing was just unspeakably rude.

I am thinking of making a Dr. Who jack-o'-lantern. I would make the Torchwood one, but I don't think Captain Jack looks like Captain Jack.

Woo hoo, comments are back!

Rescued by the Haloscan people!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Dumb luck

On my way to the farmers' market this morning, I noticed that gas was $3.51 a gallon. Four hours later, when I left the farmers' market and pulled into the gas station, it was $3.41. Let's hear it for procrastination! So glad I waited.

Business was slow today, but on the bright side, I was able to lay hands on some really wonderful homemade wheat bread (much better than I could make myself--and the woman grinds her own flour), as well as some cabbage, sweet potatoes, and zucchini.

In other news, the nice Haloscan people are working with me to fix the comments problem, so we should be back up and running soon. Part of the problem, for me, was my upgrade to the new type of Blogger template with drag-and-drop capabilities. As soon as I changed over, my html metamorphosed from something I understood fairly well to a black box of "wrappers" and "skins" and cryptic variables whose purpose I could not determine. Anything I have managed to accomplish since then has been...well, see the title of this post.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The spoils of battle

As I mentioned yesterday, I was an idiot and forgot to actually submit my order at Athens Locally Grown, which meant that I was forced to go on a sort of local foods raid of all the grocery stores in town. What I got was mostly inferior to what I would have gotten at ALG, in that it wasn't as organic or as grown-by-people-I-actually-know, but it wasn't bad. Instead of being from about a 75-mile radius, it was from about a 150-mile radius. All in all, better than blindly buying South African oranges and Indonesian tilapia.

I should mention, before I show you what I bought, that there are a lot of things we don't need to buy. We have a garden full of vegetables (yes, even in mid-October): a few tomatoes, lots of eggplant, cucumbers, kale, mustard greens, bitter melons, and peppers of every possible description. We have herbs, from basil to sorrel to parsley. And we have a freezer full of our own chicken, plus some local grass-fed beef, wild Gulf shrimp, and a 16-pound chunk of pork. We expect to take delivery of half a lamb later this month.

We also have already socked away some locally ground wheat flour, cornmeal, Carolina Gold rice, and grits. We have canned and frozen vegetables including tomatoes and borlotti beans. And since right now is the tail end of the muscadine grape season, we have more of that glorious fruit than anyone could stand.

So with that introduction, here's what I found at Kroger and EarthFare. First, the things that were actually grown in the area:

Clockwise, from the upper left: Organic milk that was certified in North Carolina (this is the one item whose provenance I have the least certainty about, but beggars can't be choosers when they forget to order their raw milk from 70 miles up the road!); boiled peanuts from central Georgia; lettuce and bean sprouts from western North Carolina; Georgia chicken breast (for those times when I need something quick and don't want to defrost a whole one of ours); butterbeans from western North Carolina; and sausage from a Georgia town about 45 minutes west of us. There were Georgia potatoes, too, but I forgot to take their picture.

Second, the items whose ingredients might be exotic, but which were made by local companies:

Clockwise, from the upper left: Terrapin India Brown Ale from Athens, Ga.; Red Brick Ale from Atlanta; Red Rock Ginger Ale from Atlanta (no HFCS!); tofu and fresh lo mein noodles made in the northeast Atlanta metro; organic fairtrade coffee roasted about 70 miles away in South Carolina; and bread from the very same Athens-based company I would have gotten it from if I had remembered to order it from the buying club!

Note the absence of one of the beers in the photo. Several more of them appear to be missing this morning...

One of the first orders of business, as far as cooking all this bounty, will be a big wokful of chicken lo mein, using some of the chicken breast, the lo mein noodles, the bean sprouts, and some of our own greens.

A major goal I've set for myself is to drive up to the north Georgia mountains, as I have in years past, to get pumpkins and (even more importantly) apples. Oh, and sorghum syrup, too--my pancakes simply aren't as good without it. But I'm really busy right now and I have a work-related conference in Charlotte coming up in a little more than a week. Gas prices are also a major deterrent. It's possible that I won't have time to go to the apple houses at all, and that makes me sad. No! I have to find the time. I just have to.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Eat Local Challenge FAIL

Oh, man. When I went to look at Athens Locally Grown today so that I could fulfill all the orders other people had placed with us, I found my own order still sitting in my shopping cart, disabled because the ordering period is over. I never actually placed the order, so now I don't get goat milk yogurt or raw cow's milk or goat stew meat or locally ground coffee or locally baked breads. The breads I can make myself, but jeez, now my enthusiasm is mighty low. I was really looking forward to all that stuff.

I had meant to post a photo of my haul this evening. I still will, but now I am going to have to do some serious scrounging while I am in town.

I would ask if anyone knows whether you can make goat milk yogurt out of frozen goat milk (we do have some in the freezer), but my comments are still botched, so, er, e-mail me!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Oh bother

As you may notice, I've tried to do a bit of sprucing up around here. (Since it doesn't appear that I'm going to get around to doing any major renovations, it's the least I can offer my beloved blog guests!) Unfortunately, I'm having some trouble with the Haloscan comments installer, and while all my comments do still seem to exist, none of them can currently be viewed.

If anyone has any experience with Haloscan (or, indeed, enough grasp of html to help me figure this stuff out!), can you please e-mail me at jlswedberg at y@hoo dot c0m?

In the meantime, let me see if I can get my wishlist and other sundries going again!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Call the waaaaahhhhhhmbulance

For a long time, I've had really good luck with the Netflix shipping center in Atlanta. They turn around my movies and TV shows in one day, meaning that even though I have the ultra-cheapie one-at-a-time plan, I can see two per week if I make sure to stick them in the mail the next morning. I've been maintaining a steady Tuesday-and-Friday schedule.

Today my Netflix didn't come. My whole schedule is shot. And there is NO DR. WHO WITH DAVID TENNANT and NOTHING TO DISTRACT ME FROM THE DEBATE TONIGHT.

Shit. Shit. Shit.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Also, apropos of nothing

Is anyone doing NaNoWriMo? I'm doing it sort of informally because I'm breaking the rules: Instead of a novel, I'm going to work on a cookbook.

Et vous?


Has anyone else here in the south noticed that there seem to be a whole lot of mockingbirds this year? Today one was sitting in one of our butterfly bushes, singing his head off at me. He was so cheerful that I had to stop and listen.

This year was extraordinary for butterflies, too. I don't know if that's a function of some natural cycle, or just the fact that we had a 100-foot row of zinnias this summer.

Friday, October 03, 2008


It's October! And I promised you guys CHANGE and NEWNESS in October!

Here's how far behind I am: I forgot the Eat Local Challenge had started, and somewhere in the back of my head I believed that I had another month to think about blogging it.

Well, crap. This is an inauspicious new beginning.

To tide you over until I figure myself out, here is a picture of the doorstop I just made for my friend L2. It's from Lotta Jansdotter's book Simple Sewing.

I love it, and so does she! It was supposed to be filled with dry beans or rice, but L2 has six dogs, none of whom can really be trusted not to get curious about foodstuffs, so I stuffed the top half lightly with fiberfill and then inserted a t-shirt fabric bag full of pea gravel in the bottom half. I may make more of them. If I hadn't spent so much time futzing with the eternally screwed up tension on my sewing machine, it would have taken me only an hour or so.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Why, hello!

I know, I know--this blog has been silent lately. I just haven't been feeling it. I think it has run its course. But I do have some things to say, and I don't want to lose contact with any of you, my friends and readers.

My current thinking is that I will launch a completely new blog at the beginning of October. All I'll say right now is that if it happens, it will be a completely different blog from this one. I also think I'll be posting only weekly, but with much richer content per post.

I will keep you informed as the date approaches!


Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Off with our Ed

For a long time we've wanted to do something about the fact that Crazy Neighbor Ed watches our every move. He's some kind of deviant, we think, and it's creepy to be, e.g., weeding the garden or picking blackberries and then realize that he's standing on the property line staring at us.

We may be close to CNE Removal. Well, he'll still be there, but he won't be able to see us.

We have been wanting to put up a fence, but we couldn't justify the cost when the fence wouldn't actually contain anything. Then our beloved L2, who works at a building supply store, told us that wooden fence panels with warped boards and other minor defects are often put on sale for a fraction of their original price. "We're in!" we said.

Today she came to tell us that she has reserved 11 slightly out-of-kilter panels for us. That's at least 2/3 of what we need! So we gave her the cash. No doubt the rest of the panels we need will turn up soon.

With friends like this, we can obscure our enemies. :-)

Monday, June 16, 2008

Where we've been

St. Martin, French West Indies. We like it very, very much indeed. (Do you think they will let us immigrate?) Everyone was so friendly, and the snorkeling and beaches were spectacular.

We caught nasty colds on the plane, though, so I am not particularly talkative or energetic. Just very happy and grateful for the wonderful vacation.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Birthday #38: mixed results

We are NOT going to talk about the fact that I woke up this morning to a bobcat-killed turkey hen. (RIP Amelia, you sweet girl. I even forgive you for that time you dealt me a flying karate kick to the face.) The poor s.o. is trying to figure out a way to protect the other birds. Anyone know anyone with guard llamas to spare? It's hard to protect against something that slinks through your electric fence without disturbing a single strand of wire.

So remember, NO TALKING ABOUT THAT. Unless you have llamas. It is my birthday, and I don't want it to be all about dead poultry.

Instead, we are going to talk about cake: fresh banana cake, filled with banana creme patissiere. Obviously I was going for taste, not glamour.

The dishes from it are already done. :-)

P.S. A shout-out to the "outlaws," who gave me the world's cutest rice cooker and the world's most awesome craft book.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Late spring thing

Yesterday we took Mr. Cairo to another Bark in the Park at Turner Field. It was wonderful, just like last year. Actually, the weather was significantly nicer this time around--breezy and 75 instead of glaring and 95. But it's hard to ever, ever, complain in a baseball stadium full of happy dogs and happy dog owners.

Here's a joyful photo of me and Cairo. I'm making an effort to have my picture taken more often, because it recently occurred to me that my aversion to the business end of a camera has meant that there are precious few pics of me as an adult in existence! I am here. I exist. Voila. :-)

The big news around here is that the s.o. and I purchased a dishwasher as my early birthday present. It is a portable that will be able to be converted into a built-in when we remodel the kitchen. I love it so much that I have practically built a religion around it. The other day the s.o. walked into the kitchen to find me sitting on the floor with Gracie (who is a little spooked by the big white cube that makes watery noises), murmuring into her ear, "Do you know what that machine does, Gracie? That machine makes mama happy."

Now the s.o. jokes that if he really wants to freak me out, all he would have to do is wheel it into another room and hide it somewhere.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Throwing a few comments over the wall

This makes me incredibly nostalgic!

•The roses are in bloom. So nice.

•Don't use L'Oreal RevitaLift Night cream. I was foolish and vain and I bought some. It gave me a nasty case of perioral dermatitis that I'm still trying to get rid of. I left a nastygram on their corporate web site, but haven't heard back yet...although part of the problem might be that I made it clear I didn't want coupons for more of their products. :-)

Update: They refunded my money! As in, they actually cut me a check. I have to admit I'm rather impressed.

Oh, and Diana, I haven't even managed to get to the drugstore to pick up some hydrocortisone yet, but a mild salicylic acid exfoliator, plus a light allergy-tested moisturizer, has helped bring things back to normal. I'm still afraid to wear makeup, but I'll get there.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


I appear to be on hiatus. I am having a wonderful spring (as I hope you all are), but I don't seem to have a thing to say. Look for me in your comment boxes! xx

Thursday, April 03, 2008


I actually voted for an American Idol contestant this week. It was Carly Smithson. I thought her version of "Here You Come Again" was one of the best performances I'd heard on the show, so I was predictably enraged by Simon's damning-with-faint-praise review.

She wasn't even in the bottom three. Ha! I did my job.

Carly sometimes doesn't come off cute or friendly on TV. She's a little too earnest and has a tendency to overshare at awkward moments. And she can be a little prickly, too. I think that's why I identify with her so strongly; I see myself in her. I joked with the s.o. that my vote was on behalf of all of the people like me and Carly out there--we need to hang together! We are lovely, kindhearted people who lack schnuggly wuggly squeezability. :-)

Speaking of schnuggly wuggly squeezability, David Archuleta and his entire family can take a long walk off a short pier. I was utterly repulsed when I saw him on one of the TV Guide channel's AI-related programs. They asked all the contestants what they did with their first paycheck. His answer? His family took his winnings from a kiddie pageant and gave it to his grandmother so she could make her rent. Of course that's a wonderful thing to do, but couldn't the family have helped grandma out without putting all that weight and responsibility directly on their kid's shoulders? (Maybe they could have used some of the money they spent hauling their son around to precocious-kid competitions!) With his psycho stage family, he's going to turn out to be Michael Jackson. Lindsay Lohan if he's lucky.

My feelings about the contestants overall haven't evolved much since the beginning. I do think that Jason Castro has failed to live up to his potential. Conversely, Michael Johns seems to learn and evolve each week--he just gets better and better. And David Cook exceeds all expectations. I wouldn't mind seeing him win the whole thing.

Friday, March 28, 2008

The gleaners

For some reason I find this incredibly cute:

The s.o. is tilling one of the chicken runs for replanting. At first, all the chickens ran for cover--the tiller is a loud beast. But gradually they re-emerged, and now there is a little flock of brave chickens following the tiller and scratching out all the bugs and grubs that it exposes.


Thursday, March 27, 2008

Late bunny

I have been meaning to post this photo for exactly as many days as you might infer. I was thrilled with my easter-egg stylings this year (I almost wrote "this ear," which is fitting for a lagocentric holiday). Note the use of the eggs' natural colors: the light blue is overdyed with half dark blue, and the pinky-brown is overdyed with half red. The solid color ones are mostly bantam eggs, which are the only white eggs we have.

Larjmarj at Knizzle fo Shizzle posted about the most amazing egg-dyeing process, which I think I'll try next year. Can you believe the gorgeous patterns? The only downside is that the dyes are emphatically not edible. But then again, the s.o. won't eat the ones I dyed using trusty Badia food dyes, claiming that he can taste the difference. So no great loss, then.

I haven't made any hot cross buns yet. With the holiday coming so early this year, it doesn't seem timely. I'll do it in a week or two, maybe.

This dose of spring has been brought to you by 10 Signs Like This, putting the Eostre back in Easter since 2004.

Saturday, March 15, 2008


I can't say I didn't know that the south was part of Tornado Alley. After all, east Nashville was stomped by the giant boot of Mother Nature just a couple of years before I moved there. Last year, too, when I was driving back from the Georgia Organics conference, I saw the splinter-embedded remains of a neighborhood that had been hit.

But I have to admit that I am sobered by yesterday's weather. I'm a little fearful, too, because even though last night's storms brought our town nothing but thunder and lightning and rain, there's another day to go before the system clears. Strong possibility of...well, a whole laundry list of things, according to the National Weather Service. Maybe even oobleck.

I'm pretty sure that nature doesn't take requests, but just in case I'm wrong, here are two:

(1) No more tornadoes please, and secondarily,
(2) No hail on my rental car please!


Friday, March 14, 2008


Every spring I forget to take pictures of the amazing Bradford pear trees in our town, so this year I decided to remedy the situation. Now I know there's nothing great about a monoculture, and yes, I'm sure it would have been better if our mayor had chosen to plant native species along the right-of-way instead. But have you ever seen a mile of Bradford pears in full bloom? A full mile. I saw my friend Tara on her morning walk while I was taking these photos, and she didn't think I was crazy for doing it. She just said "It's beautiful. It looks like it snowed."

For the record, this is all across the street from our house. It's yet another reason why I love where we live.

We had a really awful day yesterday. My favorite goose, the small female, died. She had been sick for a little more than a day and then died in her sleep. She had been making a horrible crunching sound inside her throat, and she wouldn't eat, although we were able to get her to take some water. It sounded as though she might have damaged her trachea in some way. We're pretty sure (and very hopeful) that it wasn't something communicable.

I will miss her terribly--she was the only one who would let us pet her. What a sad turn of events. I hope she knew that we tried to do what we could for her.

To top off a perfectly rotten day, my car broke down when I was in town on errands. By "broke down" I mean "stalled out in traffic and nearly got me killed." It's something electrical that's going to cost us $500, plus the fees for the rental car I had to borrow until Monday. One nice thing I can say, though, is that the people at the Toyota dealership in Athens are really helpful and dog-friendly. I had Silver with me, and they never gave me a moment's guff about having her in the waiting room, in the rental area, in the rental car. In fact, a salesman came and played with her for a while, and they made sure I knew where to get her some water and where to take her for a walk. They even apologized for being out of dog biscuits. She repaid them for their niceness by being very polite and doing tricks for the mechanic.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Here's what I think...

about American Idol tonight.

• I think that Michael Johns and Amanda Overmyer gave even better performances than the judges gave them credit for. Really really good. Michael's performance of "Across the Universe" was electric. I could feel how much he felt it. And while I don't think Amanda is particularly versatile, I thought she nailed "You Can't Do That."

• I also liked Carly Smithson, Jason Castro, and David Cook a lot. David Cook actually made me like a Lionel Richie song last week--what else is he capable of???

• Chikezie was way cool...although whenever he is not singing, his personality kind of annoys me.

• Brooke White was wonderful too, although she didn't stand out as much as she has some weeks.

• I was a teensy bit embarrassed for Kristy Lee Cook.

• David Archuleta mailed it in. It was terrible. FAIL.

• David Hernandez was spectacularly lame and deserves to go home. What is especially unforgivable to me is that he doesn't know how much he sucked. He lacks a "cheese" filter.

So. Your thoughts?

Thursday, March 06, 2008

The hens can tell spring is in the air

Our chickens laid 32 eggs today, which is a LOT. We have somewhere between 35 and 40 hens; I lost count a long time ago.

I think I can do the math on this. There are two chocolate-brown Welsummer eggs, but there are three Welsummer hens. And we have two white bantam eggs, which means only two of our five Japanese banty girls laid today, and our Mille Fleur girl (who lays tiny tan eggs) did not.

So, er, that either means we have at least 37 hens, or someone laid more than one egg, which is possible.

This reminds me of those word problems we used to do in math class.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Headless person in sweater

Behold! I finished my very first sweater: Teva Durham's Lace Leaf Pullover from Loop-d-Loop. I made it roomy, but not huge. It's perfect for those occasional days when I can't seem to get warm.

I'm head over heels for it. I'm very pleased with myself!

Not long after we finished shooting these photos, the s.o. and I had to grab the dogs and run into the bathroom. Our town's brand-new tornado siren (conveniently located three houses away) was wailing. We had a real honest-to-goodness tornado warning. Good thing nothing happened, because nobody around here has a basement.

One nice thing about not having a basement is that we do not currently have a flooded basement.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

All-time record?

We sold 15 dozen eggs yesterday. We were congratulating ourselves on having moved 7 dozen early in the day. Then at dinnertime a pickup truck full of Mexican construction workers showed up and ordered 8 more!

All I can say is, muchas, muchas gracias, guys. When your hens are laying more than 2 dozen a day, it's easy to get a little snowed under.

They said they'll be back in two weeks, which should mean we'll have enough to go around again.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


In drought-remediation terms, we're still dry as a bone. But on a day-to-day experiential level, this winter/spring feels exactly as it should: muddy and green and full of life. We are getting rain, and it is wonderful.

After the last storm system moved through, the temperature turned frigid. Then the wind began howling and whistling, as it often does here. How bad is it? Our ill-fitting back door (which we tried to have replaced this winter, but never did thanks to the complete incompetence of a certain expediter at our local Home Depot...we eventually gave up and got our money back) not only let the gusts burst through into our kitchen, but even popped open three times last night. We locked it before bed.

Luckily, I have these:

They're a pair of fingerless mitts made from the hugely popular Fetching pattern by Cheryl Niamath. I lost a lot of stitch definition by making them out of farmspun alpaca* instead of Cashmerino. But they're fantastically springy and snuggly and fuzzy. I also added some bling by trimming them with cuffs of Bellagio copper metallic yarn.

The only thing I would change about them is the picot edging at the finger opening. I can tell it's going to curl and annoy me a little. But after I had the first one done, it was bound off too irrevocably to contemplate undoing it. So I'll live.

Magically, the mitts took less than 100 yards of yarn to make. So I still have more than 200 yards left. I'm thinking skinny scarf, also trimmed with Bellagio.

By the time I get it done, of course, it'll be 90 degrees outside. It's hell being a slow knitter. Good thing I enjoy the process.

* Thanks, mom!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Total eclipse

Did you all watch the lunar eclipse last night? We had one of those perfect cold, clear nights where you can see twice as many stars as usual--like a million party lights spinning across the sky. I walked outside at 10:01 pm (right after Idol, of course; see below), and the moon was already starting to turn doomsday red-orange at its left edge.

I found it so compelling that I bundled myself up and stuck a lawn chair in the middle of the yard. I turned off the back porch and kitchen light, and I got half a glass of red wine in a takeout cup. I sat and watched, with breaks to warm myself up, until the moon disappeared into a tiny silver sliver.

The s.o. agreed that the eclipse was cool, but he wasn't willing to sit outside for as long. He visited a couple of times and watched the sky with me. It was eerie and beautiful. Unfortunately, he was indoors during one of the strangest moments of the evening.

For a little while around 10:30 or 10:45, the entire world went quiet and the only sound I could hear was the blood whooshing inside my head. Then a couple of dogs a few houses down started baying and barking. Suddenly I heard an alien sound from the woods: like the whinny of a horse, only flutelike, with the top of the octave held long and clear. It repeated eight or ten times, and then it was gone.

Afterward I ransacked the internet until I was pretty sure I had found the sound. I think it was this.

And now for something completely different: my opinions of the American Idol top 24's performances.

Favorite guy: Jason Castro. He's one of the guys who has had practically no camera time prior to this week, so he was a complete unknown. We were also biased against him from the start because he has silly white-guy dreadlocks. But I loved every second of his "Daydream." He was vulnerable and tender and showed fantastic control. He seems as sweet as can be, too, and appealingly geeky. I hope everyone else is as taken with him as I am!

Runner-up: David Archuleta, who I think is well on his way to becoming America's sweetheart. The kid is incredible.

Overrated: Michael Johns. It pains me to say it, because he is capable of great things, and he seems like a really nice guy. But I really didn't need to hear an imitation of Eddie Vedder singing "Light My Fire." I'm baffled that the judges seemed to like it. I can only assume it sounded better in the room than it did on TV.

Favorite girl: Brooke White. By a mile, actually. She doesn't have the most amazing pipes of the group (that honor would probably go to Carly Smithson). But she has IT. She has Carly Simon-ness, Carole King-ness. Her folksy, mandolin-tinged version of "So Happy Together" is the one performance of the night that has stuck with me note for note. I'm a little tired of the "good girl" sideshow that Simon's comments seem to have ignited, but if it makes viewers notice her, I'm all for it.

Runner-up: Asia'h Epperson. Do you know how hard it is to sing Janis Joplin and have it sound fresh? And, might I add, more soulful and funky than the original?

Overrated: Syesha Mercado, who has one of the best voices of the group, yet managed to squander it completely on a song that didn't show off any of her capabilities. I am beginning to think I may despise the song "Tobacco Road." No, wait--I know I do.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

This means spring is coming, right?

There's a brand-spanking-new American Idol Top 24, and I'm really excited about it. I think they're doing a much, much, much better job of picking 'em and presenting 'em than they did last year. They've assembled quite a pool of talent and personality.

Anyone have early bets? We suspect David (the young one, although actually, all three of them have massive potential), Asia'h, and Michael will be there near the end.

If anyone needs me on a Tuesday or Wednesday evening from now until the finale, sorry! I'm not available!

Just in case the title of this post misled you into thinking I was going to write about gardening, I should note that the radishes and peas are up. The s.o. has tilled the rest of the garden, and then some. I think he is addicted to tilling. The main garden is about 3500 square feet, and he seems to have set his mind on the idea of doubling it. Wow. Just think of all the gorgeous flowers and yummy tomatoes.

The most definite sign of spring's impending arrival, however, is this: Cairo came in with a wood tick on his head the day before yesterday. Eek. But really, I don't mind picking off the occasional parasite, as long as it's not on me.

Friday, February 08, 2008

I'm proud of this

Our town has a minimum monthly water charge of $15. If you use an amount below a certain threshold, you are billed this minimum amount. Beyond that, it starts to go up per gallon of usage.

For the month of January 2008, we used only 720 gallons and were charged the minimum! That hasn't happened to us since before we started gardening and raising poultry.


We might be getting some rain, fellow southerners, but the drought isn't over. Let's all keep conserving as much as possible...

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

One goose a-laying

Today I'll be taking three of our roosters on an adventure. One is the Langshan we originally gave to L2's dad. He, er, didn't work out in that situation. He got along with everyone peacefully enough for two months, then got his confidence up and gave their other rooster a bloody thrashing. So he was returned to sender.*

He and two of our four Mille Fleur d'Uccle bantam roosters will be given to a Freecycle guy who has 66 acres. Supposedly they'll be pets, and he and his son will dote on them. I hope that's true, although you never know! These three rooster fellows are too handsome to eat...not to mention awfully old and tough for the American palate.

The Langshan rooster is already in his transport cage. I was sequestering him in the duck house--the better to catch him later--but one of our geese started obsessively trying to get in because she has a nest in there. I was afraid she'd sand her beak all the way off, so I freed up the space. Now she's nesting happily. She looks absolutely adorable sitting in her carefully constructed whorl of straw. I could swear there's a beatific expression on her face.

The goose nest has been in the duck house for about a week. And yes, we have had a goose egg:

Isn't it impressive? And beautiful?

We ate the enormous egg scrambled with spinach and red peppers and mushrooms. It is my sad duty to report that goose eggs are not as delicious as chicken, turkey, duck, and quail eggs. They are a bit watery and insipid...or at least this one was. But it wasn't bad by any means. Just nothing special.

In other news, the chickens are adjusting well to their new situation. All the disagreements seem to have been worked out, and everyone plays nicely together.

They enjoy the long chicken run, too! The only thing that's lacking is fresh vegetation. But the s.o. seeded the second run a few weeks ago, and it is greening up nicely. We should be able to release them into it later this month.

Here's a shot of the February garden:

It doesn't look like much yet, but so far we've planted some peas, fava beans, carrots, and radishes. We plan to do some very extensive tilling in the near future, because we have to get our greens and turnips in as soon as possible.


* On the other hand, the turkey we gave to L2's dad is living the life of Riley. They actually purchased two turkey hens for him, and now he is in "full puff mode" at all times. Most excellent.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Big doings

Under cover of darkness, we have just combined our two chicken houses. The birds will have all night to get used to each other's presence before they are actually able to see each other. And when the sun rises, I'll be there to make sure no one gets injured in the pecking-order-sorting-out process.

All of the roosters tried to "spur" me, but the only injury I sustained was when I whacked my head on a shelf in one of the houses. (For the record: Ow.) Some of the birds screamed their little lungs out while we were moving them. It sounded as though we were torturing someone. I halfway expected a police cruiser to pull up in the driveway!

So why all the animal-shuffling? Well, Chicken House #2 is plenty large enough to accommodate all our chickens, and it has two big outdoor yards that they can run in. We don't want to grow our chicken operation any more; I like knowing all the chix individually. So we are converting Chicken House #1 to a garden shed, and we're plowing the outdoor yards of Chicken House #1 and making them part of the garden.

Speaking of the garden, the s.o. and I spent a while today preparing some beds. Peas and fava beans will go in this week!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Warm fuzzy feeling

One of the coolest things about having gotten married at arguably the most famous wedding chapel on earth is that you can be watching a CSI rerun on a Sunday night and suddenly get to see the site of your wedding. That's what just happened to me, and it brought a big smile to my face.

I've seen it on HGTV before, too!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

January is not completely lame

Around here, there's one thing that keeps January from being completely devoid of outdoorsy fun, and that's the fact that it's tree-planting season. Yesterday we received our annual order from Trees of Antiquity, and we wasted no time getting the saplings into the ground. Here's what we got:

• 2 Dorsett Golden apples (a breed from the Bahamas, with practically no chill requirement)

• 1 Suntan apple (a gorgeous cross of Cox's Orange Pippin)

• 2 Siberian crabapples

• 1 Seckel pear (to replace one that died in the drought)

We've also got three Mirabelle plum trees on order, but since they're coming from New York state, they won't be shipped until March 1. That's pushing it for us, but we had no choice...and we really wanted those plums.

For those who haven't been keeping track, we already have:

• 2 Montmorency cherries

• 2 Smyrna quinces

• 1 Bramley apple

• 1 Calville Blanc apple

• 1 White Pearmain apple

• 1 Winesap apple

• 1 Arkansas Black apple

• 1 Monark apple

• 1 Whitney crabapple

• 1 Seckel pear

• 1 Greengage plum

• 1 Damson plum

We may add even more fruit trees over the next month or so. The oldest trees in our orchard are only three years old at this point, and because of the horrible late frost last year, we've only ever gotten two pieces of fruit: one quince, and one Arkansas Black apple. But that was enough to get our juices flowing. One day we hope the orchard will reward us with plenty.

Does anyone have experience with peaches? We've avoided growing them so far, because we've been told they're difficult to grow without pesticides and fungicides. But maybe there are resistant varieties that could be grown more or less organically...?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Jenny was here

Our beloved Stew visited us over the holiday weekend. What a blast--it's just a ton of fun to have our friend come to see us. Not to mention that our dogs are over the moon when their "Aunt Jenny" comes to see them.

We kept a low profile overall--no visits to Athens, and in fact no excursions whatsoever except to the grocery store. We had a grand dinner with L2 and her houseguests (two delicious vegetable dishes made by one of the aforementioned houseguests, plus leg of lamb, pitas and tzatsiki, sangria, and crabapple pie) and laughed and talked.

Jenny taught me some crocheting and I taught her some knitting. And astonishingly, she crocheted this gorgeous, cozy scarf for me in a mere hour and a half...

...which makes me wonder if there might not be something to this hookifying business after all. ;-) Seriously, crochet seems a lot more versatile than I had previously understood. It's not as intuitive for me as knitting is, but I can definitely see myself working up the occasional crocheted piece.

Jenny birdwatched a bit, although the weather was less than cooperative, so most of it was done through the kitchen window. This is truly a paradise of chipping sparrows.

After Jenny had to leave (snif!), the s.o. and I watched American Idol (hooray! new season!) and I finished knitting a blaze orange hat I've been making for him.

Even when it's not hunting season around here, it's never 100 percent safe to walk in the woods without a touch o' the orange, so I've taken it upon myself to provide day-glo garments for all of us, human and canine. The s.o.'s hat is a huge success; it fits him perfectly and is already much loved. Next comes a dog sweater.

Friday, January 18, 2008

A finished object!

I've been knitting a lot. A lot a lot. But unfortunately, one of my projects appears to be cursed. I bought some periwinkle-colored Cascade Sierra--a smooth cotton-wool blend with a beautiful sheen--and knitted a double-stranded ballet t-shirt out of it. The bulky texture made it incredibly unflattering, although it had charming cap sleeves. So I unraveled the whole thing and tried knitting a little cropped cardigan with the same cap sleeves. My first version, with the yarn held double as per the pattern, was so thick it resembled a Kevlar vest. So I unraveled it and tried it with the yarn held single. I got most of the way through it before realizing it was too flabby to hold its shape.

So that glob of so-called fabric has been set aside until I have time to redesign the original t-shirt to my specifications. Which will be, according to my calculations and my *cough* rather long project queue, in approximately the year 2015.

Luckily, I have been working on some other things, too. And I finished one of them, to my immense pleasure and satisfaction.

The pattern is Elisa's Nest Tote, and I made mine out of what I am pretty sure is hemp yarn (Jacquilynne, this was once yours--does my memory serve me?). Here it is full of crabapples:

And here it is laid flat:

It was my first time doing an applied I-cord border. It was a little tedious, but not at all difficult. And it was my first time doing any kind of crocheting whatsoever; while the majority of the bag was knitted, the sides of the bags are crocheted together. At first it was difficult and I had to rip it out and start over. But after that, it was intuitive and I didn't have any trouble.

Now I can bring my own mesh bag to the farmers' market, and maybe inspire others to do the same!

Monday, January 14, 2008

How is it...

...that I was a vegetarian for 16 years, yet never managed to learn to make simple baked tofu?

The Rebar cookbook has three recipes for baked tofu, the simplest of which I used in a stir-fry last night. It's very good, and it's this quick and easy: Press the tofu (i.e., weight it down with something heavy for an hour so that the water drains out), cut it into 1/2-inch cubes, then toss with 1 Tbs. sesame oil, 2 Tbs. soy sauce, and 1/4 tsp. black pepper. Bake on an oiled tray at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes.

That's it. And it makes quite a difference in the finished product. I feel that until now, I've been going through life ill-equipped!

In other news, did you know that some people buy pre-baked tofu at the grocery store for a premium price? Did you know that I've done it, too?

Anyway, I've been knitting like crazy and should have two finished objects to show you within the next several days. My Neiman sweater will take a bit longer, but at least I've managed to knock out nine and a half inches of torso. I think it's going to be beautiful, but hey, next time I decide to knit a sweater on tiny little #2 needles, will someone please give me a reality check?

Speaking of Neiman, is it my imagination, or does Ann have pet hair on her sweater in the photos? I'm grateful for that, actually, because it gives a more accurate portrayal of how the finished piece will actually look on me. :-)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

At least I was a squad leader

Just before I woke up this morning, I dreamed that I was back in high school marching band, and that Clinton Kelly was one of the assistant directors.

Alas, in real life it wasn't that fashionable. Or that funny.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Progress report

Here we are nearly a week into the new year, so it's time to report on my progress re: the Umbrella Resolution. Have I made an effort to use what I have instead of acquiring new things?

Well, I can confidently report that I am absolutely no closer to fitting into my favorite clothes than I was a week ago. It's tough when one of your post-holiday traditions is making cassoulet. For those who aren't familiar with the outrageousness that is cassoulet, it's basically a big crock of baked beans bubbling in goose fat, peppered liberally with confit of goose legs, sausage, and bacon rind. As much as I love it, once a year is plenty.

On the other hand, we have made great strides toward running a more frugal household. We're using a trial copy of Moneydance, which we like very much and will almost certainly purchase. The mere knowledge that the s.o. is logging my expenditures is enough to give me pause when I'm thinking about stopping for a latte.

And then there's my latest discovery in kitchen equipment. When I visited Ohio in December, I had talked with my mother about how much I needed a large, flat-bottomed, deep skillet with handles on both sides. But then on New Year's Day I dragged out my Farberware electric skillet to make meatballs for our visitors, and I fell in love with that skillet all over again. Encouraged, I used it to brown all the meats for the cassoulet the next day, and then to reduce the tomato broth. It turns out it's truly a sweet piece of equipment--so precise and roomy and easy to clean. I've had it for more than a decade, but could probably count the number of times I've used it on both hands. Yet it's the deep, flat skillet I've been wanting! I hereby resolve to use it all the time.

Since I've resolved to make the most of my existing cookbooks, I took an hour or so to go through some of my books and make a note of the recipes I wanted to try. I have a little list now, and I'm hoping to check them all off! Last night I delved into the Rebar Modern Food Cookbook and made two recipes. I'm not sure if it counts as making use of stuff we already have, since Jenny got the book for us for Christmas (ain't she awesome?!), but it's the spirit of the thing, right? Ahem. Anyway, the wilted spinach salad and the fettucine with sun-dried tomato and artichoke heart salsa were both fabulous. It's all the more impressive because both recipes called for olives, which of course I didn't use, yet they still had plenty of zing.

I wish I could tell you I've done some other clever crafty things, but I'm currently embroiled in three ongoing knitting projects, so I can't start anything new at the moment. I did purchase a few supplies to make a t-shirt quilt out of a bunch of the s.o.'s old tees, so I suspect I will be spending a lot of leisure time ironing pieces of t-shirt onto fusible interfacing. I think it's going to be awesome.

Oh, and I pruned the fruit trees in our little orchard. Talk about cheap entertainment--it's like bonsai, only bigger and with the object of encouraging the trees to fruit. Fun, actually.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Happy 2008

Hi everyone! Hope that this new year finds you cozy and happy and motivated to do great things in the coming months.

We had a quiet NYE at home, then had a small get-together with some friends on the 1st. We much prefer our way of doing things to taking part in "amateur night." (If you've seen one drunken idiot on New Year's Eve, you've seen 'em all.) Better to chill around the homestead with a sangria or Bloody Mary in hand.

I am a big fan of resolutions. A lot of people feel they're a way of setting yourself up to fail. I feel the opposite way. I've accomplished great things thanks to New Year's resolutions. Remember how, a couple of years ago, I resolved to learn how to knit something more than garter-stitch scarves? With a little help from some lessons and a ball of handspun from Liz, I acquired a new hobby that I love!

This year I created what I call the Umbrella Resolution, because it overarches almost every aspect of my life. The goal is to make better use of what we have already, rather than buying new things. So, for example, I hope to:

• Make the crafts that I already have materials for--and recycle old things into new things

• Lose those five "nuisance" pounds so that I can fit more comfortably into my favorite clothes, rather than being tempted by new ones (this sounds difficult, but let's be honest: I've been letting myself eat whatever the heck I want, and I could easily be a tad more reasonable)

• Carry homemade snacks and drinks with me so that I don't end up buying them at exorbitant prices when I'm out (Starbuck's doesn't need my money!)

• Make more recipes from my massive cookbook stash, instead of being seduced by new cookbooks

• Decorate the house with homemade wares (see first bullet point)

• Etc.

It's actually kind of a fun resolution, in that it poses a creative challenge. And in the spirit of it, I started by making the knitting-needle organizer in the back of Stitch 'N Bitch. It only took me an afternoon, and I'm very proud of the results. I used only fabric that I already had on hand--some recycled and some purchased at thrift stores.

Next I hope to make the one that stores circular needles, because mine are turning into a giant snarl that looks like the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Has anyone else made resolutions? What are you up to?