Monday, October 30, 2006

Procrastination DOES Pay!

And it pays in Target gift cards!

A few months ago my credit card company had a security breach and so we all got assigned new numbers. This was slightly irritating as I had the old one memorized, but I appreciate the part where they're protecting me from identity thieves. Well, sorta, anyway. I had changed most of my recurring-charge services to the new number, but apparently I missed the Chicago Tribune. Actually, I think the Trib missed me -- before I went on vacation to England, I put the paper on vacation stop and changed my billing info at the same time, and apparently neither went through because I got papers the whole time I was gone.

Anyway, they sent me a letter saying my billing was out of date and I kept MEANING to get to it, but I've been really busy, so I didn't. I finally got around to it today and I'd waited so long to do it that when I called they'd thought I was cancelling and gave me a $25 Target gift card to stay with them!

SWEEEEEEEET!

Procrastination pays off in Target gift cards!

New Phones

We got new cell phones, finally, since Mr. McGee's screen was broken and my battery could no longer hold a charge. I HATE getting new cell phones, because I absolutely loathe learning new systems of how to access my contacts and find new ringtones and get everything set right. I hate moving all the phone numbers over to the new phone. I hate how every phone has a different speed dial system. And I get disturbingly emotionally attached to my phones, so I hate trading them in for a new one. Even, as in this case, when I absolutely LOATHED my existing phone from day 1 because never was a more counterintuitive interface designed by man or beast. I'm STILL emotionally attached to the phone.

Anyway, we got new phones. There were only two phones available to us because we don't want camera phones -- most courthouses in Central Illinois don't allow camera phones in the building. (Neither, for that matter, does Caterpillar. And yet only two models available without cameras!) So I'm pretty happy with my new phone, which has a ridiculously long battery life because it has NO OPTIONS at all, except what I don't like is that I can't download ringtones! It's the basic, stripped-down workhorse model, so no new ringtones for me.

This is tragic, because they were the one "fun" cell phone thing I loved. I don't want to take pictures, or play games, or listen to music, or send text messages, but I am ALL OVER ringtones. When Mr. McGee called me, my phone would play this stereotypical porn music and announce "Incoming ... booty call! Incoming ... booty call!" in a sexy porn voice. (Mr. McGee hated this ring but as I pointed out, it's not like HE had to listen to it.) When my sister, a Domer, called, my phone rang the Notre Dame Victory March. When my brother called, the Super Mario theme song.

But now I have a new, ringtone-less phone, so no incoming booty calls for me for the next two years. It's really sad. On the other hand, the new phone is blue, and I like blue so much it makes up for a multitude of sins!

(Note to tech companies: Make technology pretty and apparently people will ignore lack of features.)

Friday, October 27, 2006

My Dining Room Is Soft and Fuzzy and Furry

Yesterday I learned a very important craft-related lesson, which is that when you're working with faux fur, all cutting should be done outside. In the meanwhile, my diningroom looks like it was hit by a faux fur snowstorm, and I'm not real sure how best to clean it up.

Faux fur hairs also make the hardwood floor ridiculously slippery. It's like a skating rink in there.

I have to admit, though, that it is an interesting change to be covered with faux fur rather than cat fur. At least my clothes have different color hair all over them than usual.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Hrm ... More Missing Stuff

The monster in the house is expanding his repetoire: Now my bodkin's gone missing! Does anybody else even know what a bodkin is? What in the world could my house monster want with my bodkin????

A pair of embroidery scissors has also wandered off. Maybe the house monster is taking up medieval crafts or something. I just hope I don't find either with my bare feet!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Blergh

Mr. McGee and I have caught some nasty autumnal bug. I blame it on the fact that we live less than a block from two elementary schools, where the small children go create their germ stew and we get to see evolution in action as all their little viruses mingle. The problem is that as we don't actually HAVE children, we have no immunity to the world of elementary school superbugs. They walk past our house, sneeze, and I'm sick for two weeks.

I know this is a superbug because while I have terrible fall allergies and catch every limping little weenie-virus floating around Peoria in the autumn because my immune system is too busy attacking tree crap and mold to pay attention to ACTUAL DEADLY DISEASES, Mr. McGee hardly EVER gets sick.

So when he came home yesterday and said exultantly, "I won my jury trial!" (long pause) "I think I'm going to lie down," I knew that we were in for trouble. And indeed, we're both headachy, ear-clogged, nose-running, exceedingly cranky sacks of humanity. We spent most of last night snapping at each other and the cats before sleeping so restlessly we repeatedly woke one another up.

Unfortunately I have to work today; I'd really rather be lying in front of daytime television soothing me with its siren song while I drool gently on my pillow and sneeze every few minutes in a pleasing counterpoint to Judge Joe Brown's smackdowns.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Bookshelves!

Having given up - for now - on the idea of a contractor who actually shows up to build us built-in bookshelves, we sprang for a pair of decorative ones in the living room off the rack. They aren't as awesome as built-ins, nor do they hold as much, but they SHOULD get the last remaining few boxes of books up off our basement floor.

We decided my theological library would migrate upstairs, since a lot of the books have nice bindings and since I reference them a lot but just for one or two sentences, so I'm always running up and down the stairs for just a couple things. So today I've been busily ferrying up an armload at a time of theology. I'm done with Bible, liturgy, and ecclesiology and ready to start on theological classics, moral theology, and the problem of evil.

The thing I hate about moving books is that I get very accustomed to my arrangement on the shelves, and then when I move them, it takes me months before I can find them in the new system without endless searching. Of course these shelves are nothing like the shelves my books USED to be on, so everything's moving all over the place. I typically sort my theology books by my areas of academic interest (rather than author or title or religion or even Dewey Decimal topic), so I at least have some flexibility when not quite all the preaching books will fit on this shelf and, hey, didn't I also reference that book a lot in New Testament? But still. Undoing those nice, neat rows and moving my books all around is wrenching and I know two weeks from now I'll be searching madly for my Harnack and he'll be off in some corner mingling with the preachers and I'll be terribly confused.

But still -- bookshelves!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Gardening Roundup

We've pretty much winterized the garden, beyond adding some mulch and raking up the leaves, which means it's time for a gardening roundup!

The big learning experience this year was the new vegetable garden. Next year: Way more lettuce, way less tomatoes. You can only eat so many tomatoes. Your entire block can only eat so many tomatoes. I, on the other hand, could single-handedly keep an entire lettuce farm in business.

One of the first things we learned is that rabbits love broccoli, necessitating a fence to keep out critters. Squash worked well, and was fasinating to watch grow; the beans were not so good. (I think they got some kind of parasite, though.) I was meh even on the beans that did grow. I had a bad year for spices, probably because I was busy with the vegetables. Eggplants are fun, even though I don't like them that much, and Mr. McGee had a GREAT year for peppers. He's actually overwintering them in my basement, which now looks like a jungle. He got a year-end harvest of more than 20 fatalli peppers, and is now giving them to everyone we know. We may have no friends after this week!

I think the biggest surprise for me was the sunflowers, which I ADORED watching grow. One of them grew to easily 15 feet. I'm not such a big fan of sunflower seeds, but I plan to cut the heads off later this week and store them to be put out for birds and squirrels in the winter months. I've briefly considered planting my entire back fence with sunflowers, but that might be excessive.

Carrots and radishes -- my underground veggies -- were a TOTAL failure. I think my soil needs a few more years of amending and loosening. We got a few stubby, thumb-looking carrots, and they tasted pretty good, but it wasn't a good crop.

Elsewhere in the garden, we learned that no matter what you do, squirrels have an evil power to dig up your crocus bulbs. We'll see how many come up next spring; last spring, we only got a handful out of the probably 150 we planted.

The clover was a mighty success. So mighty we're overseeding everywhere and, in a couple of places, trying to grow a clover-only patch. It stayed brilliant green in the drought without us watering, when everyone else's lawns went brown. It attracted bees and butterflies. It required very little mowing. It kept the rabbits out of everything else because they liked the clover better (as did my cats).

I forgot to prune my roses way back around Easter or whenever I was supposed to do that, so I thought, "Hey, why don't I just let them grow crazy all summer and see what happens?" (This is also my hairstyle strategy.) Well, what happens when you let fancy roses grow crazy is that they don't put out very many flowers because they're busy growing buttloads of leaves on single branches that get up to 9 feet long but not any thicker. Also, they'll use your garden furniture as a trellis if they can reach it, which can make for an awful thorny sitting experience. But what was kinda exciting was that if you leave them alone long enough, ROSES FRUIT. Real fruit! Bigger than crabapples!

I knew that roses were in the same family as apples, but when I saw the rose fruit I was like, "Holy crap, those look like apples!" I guess these are what they call "hips," which is not what I thought people were talking about when they said "rose hips" in books, but makes a lot of things make a lot more sense, even though it's a stupid name for a rose fruit. They're awfully pretty, just blushed pink. I haven't done anything with them -- there's only five or six of them -- but they're allegedly edible.

On the insect front, we introduced store-boughten ladybugs and lacewings (as in "don't you dare kill my store-boughten bugs!), which cleared up our aphid infestation lickety-split. We also managed to attract a praying mantis, and we had butterflies galore, including dozens and dozens of monarchs. (Plant milkweed!) Ants continue to defeat my efforts to keep them out from under my new patio, which is a bummer, but I did see this crazy-beautiful bug in my corn. Still no bats, though. I am never going to get bats.

What's on for next year? We're in the planning stages with all those brightly-colored gardening catalogs they send you as soon as there's a bit of chill in the air, trying to entice you to buy 8 zillion flowers because it's cold and dark and snowy and the flowers are so pretty and springy and colorful and unlikely to grow in your region. Mr. McGee has suggested a permanent herb garden, and we have a couple areas marked out by the finished patio that need planting with something before the weeds take them over. We'll also have to have a go at some of the grass that's gotten weedy. Mr. McGee wants to try some berry bushes; I have an idea in my head for a "black-and-white" garden, although I don't know if that's next year. And we're going to get a couple of heirloom apple trees put in in the spring, which will be super-cool. Plus lots, lots, lots more lettuce!

Friday, October 13, 2006

I Think the Honeymoon Is Over

He didn't leave me the last piece of cheesy bread.

Monday, October 09, 2006

ShareWalk: Eyebrows Blew It

I promised, ages ago, that I would promo ShareWalk, which occurred Saturday, on my blog. Share is an organization that provides resources, networking, and support to women (and their families) who have suffered the loss of a pregnancy or an infant. Losing a life that has hardly begun - or never had a chance to begin - is particularly and horribly wrenching, and made all the worse because our society, which doesn't deal well with death in general, has really no idea how to cope with the loss of pregnancy or a newborn infant. In a society that hardly allows mourning to continue past the funeral, we have no real venue for the public mourning of a lost pregnancy or infant.

This was a topic particularly dear to my heart because I did my master's thesis in theology on the lack of liturgical recognition of pregnancy (I'll blog more later on my specific thesis if anyone's interested), and my thesis advisor, Karen Westerfield-Tucker, had written the first Methodist liturgy for pregnancy loss (that is, miscarriage or stillbirth) -- it's "A Service of Hope after Loss of Pregnancy," in the United Methodist Book of Worship. My friends began having babies while I was in graduate school, and since I was at that time doing a master's in theology, I became very interested in the theology and liturgy surrounding pregnancy and liturgy, though I had not been pregnant myself. (And again I resist the temptation to go off on a long theological tangent because that's not the point here.)

While working on my thesis, one of the major topics my liturgy had to confront was the fears unique to pregnancy -- the fear of miscarriage, of mental or physical defect, of pain, or labor, even of death. (Pregnancy is still a dangerous time for a woman.) Even in our churches (and synagogues and mosques -- I looked comparatively at Jewish and Muslim resources), we have hardly any resources to talk about the fears of pregnancy, and almost none at all to talk about the grief of miscarriage.

Miscarriage is the death of hope. It's a loss of a life before that life had a chance to begin. It's hands never held, kisses never given, sweet baby breath never breathed. It can be physically very painful, hormonally nightmarish, and bodily confusing. (Pregnancy, even when it doesn't come to fruition, moves things around in there. Fat migrates. Pants don't fit.) But it's the death of hope, the emotional devastation of the death of a child you already loved when it was in its blastocyst form.

So when some of my local friends involved with Share approached me about promoing ShareWalk on my blog, I was enthusiastic. ShareWalk is a walk of remembrance and hope for women, families, and friends who have suffered pregnancy loss. These local women have started a ShareWalk here in Peoria for those of us affected by miscarriage. I was pleased and excited they asked me to help through my blog.

Well, last Thursday I came down with a nasty head cold that got into my ears, and I spent most of the weekend wishing I could amputate my head or at least my ear canals, and blogging fell to the bottom of my list. (The missing stuff post was a desperation post because I felt the non-blogging guilt.) So the walk was Saturday, October 7, and I totally blew it on promoing it, because this is the first day I've been into my e-mail and a real member of the human race since last Thursday.

So anyway, even though I was late on blogging the walk, I urge you all to support the work of Share and our local Share chapter, to check out their events in the future, and to be aware of the terrible emotional toll pregnancy loss can take on a family. If you have a friend or relative who's lost a pregnancy or infant, give them a hug for me and then be there for them.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Hide the Knives - No, Wait, Someone Already Did

One of the perpetual mysteries of homeownership is where all that missing stuff GOES. For the eight years prior to moving to Peoria I moved, on average, twice a year (in and out of dorms, in and out of apartments, etc.). So anything that went missing either turned up when I moved, or I assumed I lost it during the move. But now that I've been in one place for two and a half years, and now that I'm the grown-up in charge of things like laundry and socks, I'm starting to notice some alarming trends of disappearance.

I have no butter knives.

I know I had twelve, because I bought the flatware-in-a-box set for 12. (At Kohl's, with serving pieces -- it was a great deal). I'm down to maybe six knives, and that includes a couple of butter knives that don't actually GO with the set but were left for me by prior roommates, or possibly just migrated into the drawer on their own; I have no way of knowing. Where the heck are my other six or eight butter knives? Where, exactly, does a butter knife hide, other than down the disposal? (They're not there.) And why are the utensils disappearing at such oddly different rates? I still have all the spoons (soup and desert) and all the dinner forks, but I've lost probably 1/3 of the salad forks. (Look, it came in a box. I promise I don't use two different sizes of forks except on holidays.) Why, while we're on the topic, did I not buy from an open-stock pattern so I could replace them when this happened?

At the same time as all my butter knives are disappearing, I swear I have more kitchen utility knives every day. I already had more than enough, having been bequeathed a set of Ginsu knives by a former roommate, remember those from 80s informercials? Let me tell you, THEY WORK. They can cut those stupid plastic clamshell packages where you usually either gash your hand or destroy the product! I've also used them as saws for minor carpentry projects. Seriously. Anyway, I swear to God, they're multiplying. Every time I go in the kitchen drawer, there are more. Are the butter knives growing up to be Ginsu knives? This is starting to look like the only rational possibility.

Socks don't disappear in my house, but I think my washing machine eats washcloths. I moved to this house with two complete sets of washcloths from the wedding (8 in green, 8 in blue), plus some assorted pre-marital washclothes, maybe five or six, plus a package of 20 cheapies I picked up when we were living in two different states and one of us for some reason ended up with none of the washcloths. So that's about 40 washcloths.

I can find TEN, and only if I fully investigate the entire laundry cycle. Where have the other thirty washcloths gone? How does something like a washcloth just disappear? How have I managed to lose thirty washcloths but no socks? Why do my kitchen dishcloths, which are basically the same thing but a waffle weave, never disappear? Does the Laundry Monster have something against waffle weave?

Some things that disappear are a little more disconcerting. I lost my glasses case about three months ago, which is weird, because I never wear my glasses, so they're always in the case, and I have the glasses, but not the case. I lost a rolling pin that I used to roll out cookies last year, that has disappeared so thoroughly (I searched every cabinet in the kitchen AND my basement pantry) that I actually bought a replacement after having to borrow a rolling pin from my neighbor in an emergency. Where does a ROLLING PIN go? Or even more alarmingly, where's my paper shredder? How does a paper shredder with attached bin go missing? WHERE CAN IT HIDE???

Mr. McGee helps me search, but it seems like serial household disappearances is a woman's concern. He hasn't seemed to notice the dearth of washcloths or the dismaying shortage of knives. His missing objects can usually be called on the phone so they make noise, or found by his wife. Or, as happened the other morning as he was ransacking the house:

"Eyebrows, have you seen my watch? I've been looking for it everywhere and I'm going to be late for -- Oh! It's on my wrist!"

If only my butter knives could be so easily found.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Tids and Bits from This Week

Apparently, the state DMV doesn't care if you put obscenities on your license plate as long as they're not in modern English. Yes, I'm talking to you I SWIVE. This particularly cracks me up because I have a special respect for people even more dorky than me. Chaucerian vulgarity on your license plate is spectacular.

--------------------

I went to a spa and got myself a hot stone massage, which is basically like a regular massage except that they boil river rocks and then use those to massage you. It absolutely rules. The masseuse noted (as every LMT and doctor I've had since I was 18 has noted) that I have ridiculously tense shoulders, and that I am possibly the tense-est person in the North America. While it is true that Eyebrows isn't so good at the relaxing, I don't think I'm the most tense person on the continent; I just like to store my tension in my shoulders so it's handy if I need it.

--------------------

Having lived in my home for two and a half years now, I thought I might as well get around to hanging some family snapshots. Of course I chose two freakishly hot days of October to do it (92 and 95*F) and of course I was hanging them in my stairwell which draws heat like a chimney and is far and away the hottest part of the house when it's stinky outside. Sweating aside, I now have relatives to look at when I go up and down the stairs, and I don't have to trip over the box of "photos I'm going to hang up next week, really, I'm getting to them" that's been sitting in my hallway since we moved here.

--------------------

Diet Dr. Pepper is not a good breakfast soda.

Monday, October 02, 2006

It's a Bug-Eat-Bug World

Mr. McGee and I have begun cleaning up the garden for winter, which is both melancholy and satisfying at the same time. Melancholy I don't need to spell out, but satisfying in getting those now-messy beds cleaned up and neat, ready for planting again in the spring. One of both the most rewarding and irritating things for me about gardening is how nature won't stay in straight lines no matter what you do and tends to overgrow its boundaries. It's beautiful, but sometimes the anal-retentive part of me starts to miss order and neatness.

Yesterday we were working outside when Mr. McGee found this praying mantis sitting on the handle of our big shears. I was super-psyched because a) they eat annoying little insects like crazy and b) this means our efforts at maintaining an organic, biodiverse yard and using natural methods of pest control are paying off; mantises are not big fans of toxic lawn and garden chemicals (they die), but they themselves are among the best pest control the animal kingdom provides.

"What a beautiful bug*," I said to Mr. McGee.

"You're so weird. You're scared harmless little squash bugs are going to eat you alive, but a big predator like this with jaws and grabbing arms that might actually take a bite out of you doesn't bother you?" Mr. McGee demanded. (Well, that's the gist of what he demanded, not a direct quote.)

"That's just silly," I scoffed.

"Why is that silly?"

"Praying mantises don't eat people," I informed him. "Don't be ridiculous!"

But (as I said to Mr. McGee) this, ladies and gentlemen, is a beautiful bug. She (he? I haven't sexed a bug since 9th-grade biology) was nearly 4" long and was easily the biggest praying mantis I had ever seen. And she was lovely, all perfectly proportioned, sleek, healthy, in possession of all her limbs and and antennae. She had that endearing mantis habit of looking at you as you go by, as mantids are among the few insects that CAN turn their heads. I'd almost swear she was posing for the camera.

So welcome to the garden, you beautiful green bug-eating machine. Now I'm just waiting for the bats to move in!


*Note to anal-retentive entymologists reading, and I see you over there Uncle Pic!: I know that mantids are not technically bugs.