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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Closed Door Policy

What is your household expectation regarding closed doors? When I come across a closed door, I assume there is a person on the other side seeking privacy. When Blondie sees a closed door, though, he assumes there's something interesting happening on the other side and he wants to investigate. We disagree about what a closed door means. I knock, Blondie barges. According to Blondie, if you want privacy, you have to lock the door.

Last night I needed to do some last minute Christmas shopping, so I went in the computer room and closed the door to browse Amazon. Blondie was working on the floor in our bedroom, so I didn't think I would be interrupted. I was right in the middle of my shopping when Blondie barged in. I felt like a teenage boy caught with a naughty magazine! I tried to close my browser quickly, but it was too late.

There is no lock on our computer room door, and I probably wouldn't have locked it anyway. I just assume people know you're not supposed to fling open a closed door. Does it matter which room? Would you enter a bathroom if the door was closed? When I leave the bathroom I always leave the door open as a signal that the facilities are available. When I see a bathroom door closed, I assume someone is in there. Blondie often leaves the door closed...and the fan on.

Now Blondie understands why you should knock before entering. "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." For everyone who barges through closed doors gets no surprises for Christmas!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas Decorations

I usually try to get my Christmas decorations up during Thanksgiving weekend because I always have a Christmas Cookie Exchange the first week of December. That didn't happen this year, but I did get everything done in time! Most of my decorations are concentrated in the dining room. That's the only place where we really have space for the Christmas tree:





This table used to be behind the sofa in the living room, but we've rearranged and this is where it ended up. The table runner was a wedding gift from one of Blondie's relatives and I've collected the crystal candlesticks over the years. The little basket holds all of our Christmas cards. Eventually I'll go through those and put the photo cards on the refrigerator!



I have two wreaths like this that stay up all year. This year I added these burgandy bows and glass balls for a little Christmas cheer. Of course, when I tried to put on the first glass ball, I dropped it and had to clean up a little mess before I could continue with my decorating.



Here's a close up of some of our Christmas ornaments. You can see Obi-Wan Kenobe and Darth Vader from Star Wars at the top right, and the crew from Star Trek beneath them. Near the top center is an ornament the Julie made for me last year. She and C. cut little cross sections of wood and burned our initials into the wood and added a sprig of berries and twine. They're very cute!



Blondie is partial to the science fiction theme, but Snoopy is my character of choice. Here's my collection of Peanuts ornaments:



We don't have a chimney, so our stockings are hung on the china cabinet with care. The two center stockings match the table runner on the sofa table, and the two on the outside are just extra stockings I have. My stocking is already full, but I haven't peeked!



I'm linking up to Thrifty Decor Chick's Christmas Tree Party:



And The Nester's Christmas Tour of Homes:

Monday, November 14, 2011

Homemade Laundry Soap

Making your own laundry detergent is a great way to save money, and it's very easy to do. I made a batch recently and this time I documented it for the blog. I use Gayle's recipe from The Grocery Cart Challenge, but I modify the procedure just a little bit.

You can find all of the ingredients you will need at most grocery stores in the laundry aisle. I bought all of my ingredients at the same time and paid less than $10 for everything and there's more than enough ingredients to make several batches of soap.

To make your own soap, you will need:
1/3 bar of Fels Naptha Soap
1/2 cup Borax Powder
1/2 cup Washing Soda
25 cups of water
a large bucket

First, grate 1/3 bar of Fels Naptha Soap. Like Gayle, I use my food processor to speed up the process. The first time I did this, I thought to myself, "I wonder if it's a good idea to use my kitchen utensils for this?" Then I came to my senses and decided that it's soap, what is it going to hurt? The grated soap looks a lot like grated cheese:






While I'm grating the soap, I heat 6 cups of water. When the water is boiling, I add the grated soap and let it melt.




After the soap has melted, I add 1/2 cup of Borax. Borax removes stains and neutralizes odors, and if you have hard water, it will soften the water.




I also add 1/2 cup of washing soda. Not baking soda! The boxes look similar, but the products are different! Washing soda cleans grease and other stains.




Stir the powders until everything dissolves:




At this point, I added 4 cups of water to dilute the mixture even further. Gayle pours the water into the bucket and then adds the soap mixture to that. You could do it either way.




When the mixture looks consistent, I pour it into a large bucket. My mop bucket works perfectly for this. Then, I add about 15 cups of water and stir it up.




I let it set all day and by evening it kind of looks like a jellyfish. The mixture congeals and separates from the water. This is normal. I like my soap to be smoother, so I at this point I thoroughly mix it with my immersion blender. If you don't have one of those, just stir it.




The next morning I mix it with my immersion blender again, and it ends up looking like this. Using a funnel, I transfer most of the mixture into my old laundry detergent jug, and store the rest in an ice cream tub.




The mixture still tends to jell after sitting for a few days, so I shake the jug really well before pouring into the detergent dispenser of my washing machine. Some people say that the soap clumps clog their dispenser, but I have found that if you shake it well before pouring, it never causes a problem.

Each load of laundry takes about 1/2 cup of detergent, which happens to be exactly how much the cap of my old detergent bottle holds. This soap is great for front loading washing machines because it doesn't create a lot of suds and it is great for people with sensitive skin because it doesn't have any additional dyes or fragrances. If you wanted a particular scent, you could add your favorite essential oil, but I like the way it smells on its own.

Monday, November 7, 2011

It's A...

BOY!



We're going to have a new addition to our little family. Blondie and I are expecting a baby boy this spring. The official due date is February 29, but we'll see when he decides to arrive.





Blondie has been working on preparing his room. He's going to have newly refinished floors and freshly painted walls. Blondie has been petitioning for a recliner for a while now, so we decided this was a good reason to get one. We have rearranged our living room to accommodate the baby's recliner, but Blondie is enjoying it for now.







I have been feeling really well and haven't experienced any of the usual unpleasant symptoms of pregnancy. I never had any morning sickness and haven't had any heartburn so far. I was really tired for most of the first trimester, but Blondie was great about helping out around the house and letting me rest.








We're very excited about this little guy. He's going to be the first grandchild on either side of the family, so there's no doubt that he'll be a little spoiled. Judging from all of the gifts he has already received, I think his grandparents and aunts and uncles are a little excited too.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Haters

I'm very disappointed about Halloween this year. The community where Blondie and I live has effectively banned trick-or-treating. I did not have one trick-or-treater last night.

Some local Halloween haters "officially" changed the trick-or-treat night in our town to Oct. 30, and then immediately discouraged people from trick-or-treating at all. Instead of going trick-or-treating on the "official" trick-or-treat night, local families were encouraged to attend an event co-sponsored by the town and church where costume options were limited to a western theme.

I think it's completely fine for any church to have a Hallelujah Festival, especially on a Sunday evening, but was it really necessary to move Halloween and then have the cowboy contest on the same night?


I do understand the risk of allowing young children to trick-or-treat in places where parents don't know the neighbors and are unsure of their children's safety after dark. However, if children are old enough to walk around town alone after dark, they're probably too old to be trick-or-treating. One special thing about Halloween when I was growing up is that my dad always took us, and we didn't go to houses where we didn't know the residents. What responsible parent allows their child to trick-or-treat alone anyway? Most of the youngsters who come to my door on Halloween a.) know me, b.) arrive before dark, and c.) are accompanied by their parents. This is not a community where trick-or-treating is dangerous.


As for the shenanigans that are supposedly prevented by church sanctioned Halloween events, do you really think that's an effective way to prevent vandalism? No teenager is going to bring out the toilet paper and shaving cream until after sundown. The kids who cause trouble after dark on Halloween may go to the citywide celebration, but I would bet a dollar that the costume contest was over before dark and there was still plenty of time to cause a little mischief before curfew. And for the most part, it's just that: mischief. No, I wouldn't knowingly allow my teenager to participate and I was too much of a goody-two-shoes to do it when I was that age, but is it really hurting anyone? Doubtful. The actual juvenile delinquents aren't going to deterred by a citywide Halloween diversion.


With the recent closure of the public school in our community, the church has become increasingly involved with community activities, so I do think there were good intentions behind this event. I just think the approach is ineffective. Activities co-sponsored by the town and the church are intended to make people feel welcome, but I think it makes people who are not part of this particular church feel even more separate.


Halloween doesn't have to be evil or sinister. It's nothing more than a fun time for kids (and maybe some adults) to dress up in silly costumes and solicit their neighbors for free candy. If you don't like Halloween, leave your porch light off. But please don't cancel Halloween for the rest of us!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

San Diego Vacation

Blondie and I had a wonderful vacation in California over Labor Day weekend. I was scheduled to attend a conference in San Diego that week, and since Blondie was out of school for Labor Day, he came along and spent the weekend with me.



We had a great time. We arrived on Friday and explored Little Italy and the Gaslamp Quarter. We were pretty hungry by the time we arrived, so the first thing we did was look for a place to eat lunch. Filippi's Pizza Grotto was recommended by our shuttle driver, so we decided to try it.

On Saturday, we spent the morning browsing the Little Italy Farmers Market. Blondie bought all kinds of fruit. Oklahoma has been so dry this year that we haven't had good fresh produce in a long time. Blondie got three different types of raspberries, white peaches, and nectarines. We also tried fresh lemonade, granola, jam, and a very interesting organic vegetable smoothie.



After the Farmers Market, we had quite an adventure finding Trader Joe's. Blondie fell in love with Trader Joe's in San Francisco, so we made sure to find one in San Diego. We had to take two buses and walk several blocks, but we finally found it. Most people there were just doing their regular grocery shopping, but we were in the market for snacks. They have the best snacks! Blondie wanted trail mix, so we got three kinds. We also got some chocolate covered, peanut butter filled pretzels and chocolate covered dried cherries. Yum!



We went back to the farmers market for lunch and each got a different type of panini. They were cut in half, so we each got half of both kinds. Later we visited the Festival of Sail and saw a pirate with a pet rat, then we went to eat dinner at The Fish Market and saw the USS Midway.





We went to the San Diego Zoo on Sunday. The San Diego Zoo is slightly smaller than the Oklahoma City Zoo, but has twice as many animals. The San Diego Zoo did not live up to the hype. The zoo has been around a while, so some of the exhibits look dated. Admission to the San Diego Zoo costs $40 for adults, which includes access to the buses and gondolas. Admission to the Oklahoma City Zoo costs $8. We spent the morning walking the trails and seeing as many animals as we could. Then, in the afternoon, we rode the tour bus. We were thankful for a break because of the hilly terrain. One thing the San Diego Zoo has that the Oklahoma City Zoo doesn't is a polar bear exhibit. However, the Oklahoma City Zoo's elephant exhibit far outshines San Diego's.





Blondie and I went to Coronado Island on Monday to see my co-worker who was in town for the same conference. She was checking an item off her bucket list by staying at the historic hotel. We enjoyed a nice stroll through the beautiful neighborhoods and a barefoot walk on the beach before we met up with her for lunch.









Blondie came home on Tuesday, so we checked out of the Hampton Inn and I went over to the Hyatt, where my conference was being held. We really enjoyed staying at the Hampton Inn. The hotel staff was extra friendly and accommodating, we love their hot breakfast every morning, and it was within walking distance of lots of great attractions.

We had heard some complaints about noise from the train disturbing guests' sleep, so I called ahead and requested a room on the opposite side of the building. The train didn't bother us at all, and we were thrilled to be so close to the Little Italy stop because the public transportation was very convenient for getting around town.

The view from our room:



I wasn't as impressed with the accommodations at the Hyatt. It was fine, but much more expensive and my room wasn't nearly as nice. The Hampton Inn offers free Internet access, a full breakfast, and a shuttle to and from the airport, the conference center, and the zoo.

On Tuesday after Blondie left, my coworker and I visited the Naval Exchange at the US Pacific Fleet Naval Base. My conference started on Wednesday, so the tourism pretty much came to an end, although I did return to Coronado Island with another coworker on Wednesday for an evening stroll on the beach.



I did get to experience the adventure of a California blackout on Thursday afternoon. The electricity went out during one of my conference sessions, and we soon learned that it was a citywide blackout. Then we heard that it was the whole county. Then they announced that it was several states. Some people were concerned that the power might not return for several days, but there was no mass panic. Most of the neighborhood stores and restaurants were closed because they didn't have power, but I did get a cold sandwich at the hotel restaurant for dinner. Fortunately, the power did return at midnight and the water came on just a little later, but it could have been a huge pain if the power outage had lasted longer. I am so glad it was Thursday night and not Friday because my flight on Saturday probably would have been delayed.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Carpooling

Since school started, Blondie and I have been carpooling to work on the days when I don't have to travel for work. We estimate that this saves us about $30 per week, which adds up to over $1,000 if we carpool for the 9 months he is in school.

The downside: I have to get up an hour earlier than I am used to. Ugh. I am not a morning person. I'm sure glad he drives, because I'm still half asleep when we leave in the mornings. Also, this means I normally don't leave the office all day (I bring my lunch), which makes for a very long 10 hours. However, the upside to that is getting to leave work early on some days. Blondie does tutoring after school two days a week, so he gets to my office at about 5:00 on Tuesdays and Thursdays. However, on the days when he leaves at 3:30, we get home by 4:15.

Today I realized another downside of this arrangement. Classes started at the university today and I'm teaching two sections of computers and information access. Since my first class is at 8:00, if I were driving myself I would just arrive at 7:30 and park by the building where my classroom is, then drive to my office after class. This morning I had to walk all the way across campus in high heels, carrying all of my materials for class. I know a lot of people do that every day, but I'm not used to it. I will definitely wear more sensible shoes next week.