Thursday, May 31, 2007

Pictures from earlier this week


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Orders to South Korea

Glenn called today. He has orders to South Korea for a year - unaccompanied. Amy and the girls will stay with her parents while Glenn is gone. The good news is that he won't leave until next year. The better news is that after Glenn gets back they might be stationed a bit nearer to all their extended family.


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Sewer tap poem (Thanks, Beth!)

Beth came to my rescue again! How in the world she churns these poems out so effortlessly, I'll never know. (And why was I not aware of this talent back when we were neighbors?)

Ode to a Sewer Tap

Oh, sewer tap, lovely sewer tap,
You make waste disposal a snap!
Without you, we'd be knee-deep in cr*p!
We love you, lovely sewer tap!

~By Beth H.

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Sewer tap

How exciting to walk outside and see heavy machinery at the back of your property and men putting in a sewer tap for you! If I were as talented as "The Reluctant Dragon" I would compose a poem to the sewer tap:

"Oh Sewer Tap!
Oh lovely Sewer Tap..."

But that's as far as I get. So I go pray thanks to God instead.


A bedroom door

Steve, David, and Tom each posed with Mike after they finished installing the door to the bedroom.

(And the sheetrock around the door and the other panels waiting to go up for walls? They're a gift to Tom from Mike, Triny, and William.)


Sam and his best friend

As usual, Mike, Triny, and William did not stay long enough, but we'll see them in a few days at the wedding, and Sam and William will have a few hours together again.


Monday, May 28, 2007

What finger are you?

You Are the Thumb

You're unique and flexible. And you defy any category.
Mentally strong and agile, you do things your own way. And you do them well.
You are a natural leader... but also truly a loner. You inspire many but connect with few.

You get along well with: The Middle Finger

Stay away from: The Pinky

Maybe a crabbed and arthritic thumb... and everyone who really knows me would agree that description comes nowhere near the Laura they know - not a leader, but perhaps a loner at times.


Definitions - do they matter?

This is Steve's final floorplan. He designed it, and hopefully, it will continue to please him, because I think we've reached the point of no return on the work done thus far. It is what it is.

I realized last night that we are not really working on an apartment. We are working on a small house or cottage. (I fear "apartment" as a label for the place has stuck, though.)


Family pictures

Glenn, Amy, Hayley, Abbey, and Madyson - we can't wait to see you in person!


Sunday, May 27, 2007

More apartment work

Tom, Mike, David, and Steve put up furring strips around over half of the apartment walls so they can have a plumb framework for the sheetrock.

The studs for the little wall beside the space for the refrigerator are up now.

Tom pulled wiring through so the sheetrock around the bedroom door can go up.

They did great work last week, and this next week we hope to have sewer news. (Did you ever imagine that sewer lines would be so elusive?)


Saturday, May 26, 2007

The beginnings of a wall

Tom is working hard to make a home. Mike, Triny, and William are here, too, and Mike is working Tom and Steve like dogs - but in a good way!

Here's the framework for the wall between the bedroom and kitchen:


Friday, May 25, 2007

Finished doggie bed - finally!

Yesterday I finished knitting the dog bed for Cocoa and felted it and dried it. Of the 18 skeins of bulky yarn I started with, I had 3 and 1/2 left over. The sides did not stand up firmly - I probably should have used up the rest of the yarn AND made a few decreases over several rounds to pull the sides in a bit. Live and learn. (Or in my case: Knit, felt, and learn.)

Knitted, pre-felted, modeled by Sam:

And here it is, post-felted and dried (in the dryer):

I found that a couple of pairs of Crocs thrown in the washer with the doggie bed worked well as felting aids!

The best part was that after I put the bed on the floor, Cocoa left her familiar bed and lay down on the one I made for her, and she's been using it ever since. It's great to have a knit-worthy dog!

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Sushi for non-sushi eaters

Mike, Triny, and William will arrive tomorrow to stay through the weekend. The children and I decided to make these candy sushi treats for Sam and William to enjoy, although I'm sure they'll share them with everyone.

Sarah made them this afternoon, tried one, and pronounced it delicious.

For our treats we used Fruit Roll-Ups, homemade Rice Krispie Treats (although we thought about using the pre-packaged ones), and gummy worms.

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Chess Pie

On Tuesday evening my neighbor, Cassie, and I went over to Miss Betty C's house for our regular "Knit Night." Miss Betty was in the middle of preparing lunch for the following day. Her Red Hat Ladies were coming to enjoy their monthly meeting at her lovely home on the lake. Miss Betty told us that later in the evening she was going to make individual chess pies for her friends to have for dessert.

That made me think about chess pie. It's been years since I've eaten a slice of chess pie. Suddenly I wanted to eat chess pie. Miss Betty reminded Cassie and me that chess pie is easy to whip up because the ingredients are all those commonly kept on hand.

Last night after the kitchen was cleaned I asked Joan if she'd make us a chess pie. She agreed, and we found a cookbook with a chess pie recipe similar to that Miss Betty had used. The cookbook had been one of Grandmother's, and was sold by the ladies at First Christian Church in Birmingham as a fund-raiser back in 1961. I feel certain either Aunt Nancy or Aunt Olive was the one who either gave or sold the cookbook to Grandmother, because they were both members of that church way back then.

After the pie came out of the oven, Joan cut slices and served us all. It was rich and sweet - perfect to satisfy everyone's sweet tooth.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

What kind of flower are you?

I am a

What Flower
Are You?

"You have a sunny disposition and are normally one of the first to show up for the party. You don't need too much attention from the host once you get there as you are more than capable of making yourself seen and heard."

Well, they are my favorite flower, but I don't know that I fit the description that accompanies the daffodil...

Thanks, Dana , for a fun quiz!


Board games

Because Tom is a board game fanatic, and because he can be very persuasive when he begs (be warned, Karin!) the children play one of Tom's many games most evenings after supper has been cleared away. Last night Tom, Sarah, Joan, and David played Runebound.


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Last Harvest

Last Harvest: How a Cornfield Became New Daleville: Real Estate Development in America from George Washington to the Builders of the Twenty-first Century, and Why We Live in Houses Anyway by Witold Rybczynski is, despite its long and ponderous title, a fascinating book. Mr. Rybczynski has written a number of books that I've enjoyed, and I'm adding this one to the list.

I've always wondered about how housing developments work, and this book answered my questions. The buying, planning, constructing, selling are just a small part of the work that it takes to go from cornfield (or pasture, around here) to neighborhood - and there is much more time involved than I realized. I've been guilty of saying that a particular development has "sprung up overnight" because I didn't know that planning, obtaining permits, working to ensure septic or sewer connections, getting water lines to the area, and even getting permission from other residents in the area for the development may have gone on for two to three years before the first heavy earthmovers appear to start making the roads for the builders and infrastructure.

This book follows a developer as he buys a cornfield in southern Chester County in Pennsylvania hoping to turn it into a villagelike subdivision, and ends with an interview with one of the families that buys and moves into one of the first houses of that subdivision, New Daleville. As usual, Mr. Rybczynski has made a subject that could be dull or boring light and interesting - and easy enough for someone like me, with no background in real estate development, to understand and enjoy.

(But he really does not explain "Why we live in houses anyway.")


Monday, May 21, 2007

The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop

The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop by Lewis Buzbee reminded me so much of several books by Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone. Mr. Buzbee calls his book a memoir and a history, and it is both. He recounts his experience working in bookshops in the San Francisco area, and gives some descriptions of bookshops he's visited in other parts of the United States and the world. Interspersed throughout are bits of history regarding the book store as an entity.

This book is interesting, and made me remember fondly my own experiences as a child ordering Scholastic Book Club books, and various bookshops I've enjoyed. Mr. Buzbee's own opinions and propaganda also figure heavily in the book, but did not change my opinions to mirror his. Overall, I liked this book about books and bookshops, and I'm glad I bought it.


Friday, May 18, 2007

Never Done

My "book-of-the-month" choice for May, 2007 was Susan Strasser's book, Never Done: A History of American Housework. Ms. Strasser has written a well-researched history that is both interesting and fun to read. This book chronicles the daily lives and work of most American women from colonial times through the late 20th century. It gives a great view of the incredible amount of work that - until recently- was necessary to keep the home in order. It also offers an unblinking, honest look at how domestic life has improved and what has been given up as a result of these improvements.

Strasser writes:
"Modern women, who can wash their laundry in automatic machines and pick up their dinners and their children on the way home from their jobs, must consider the implications of the lost satisfactions of old-fashioned housework and find ways to re-create some of those satisfactions in their daily lives both as workers and as consumers. At the same time, they must avoid romanticizing the past."

"Tainted water supplies, rancid food, soot and skin burns from open fires, and full chamber pots offer a more accurate picture of daily life for most people before the twentieth century than the less frequent pleasures of the quilting bee."

I enjoyed each chapter of this book, and learned so much. My favorite chapters, though, were "Daily Bread" - about food and cooking; "Fetch a Pail of Water" - about water-needs of every family, and the eventual blessing of indoor plumbing; "Blue Monday" - about laundry; "A Stitch in Time" - about clothing; and "Selling Mrs. Consumer" - about industry creating consumers out of women who used to be producers (that was a fascinating chapter, and an idea I'd never truly considered at any great length).

Here are a few snippets from those chapters:
From "Daily Bread" - "Few manufactured products relieved the housewives' tasks once they had brought the food home. All year round, food arrived in the kitchen unprepared. Shoppers returned from the market with live chickens that had to be killed, or dead ones that had to be plucked; their work at home matched that of the farmer or the poor urban chicken keeper. Even purchased fish had scales; even purchased hams had to be soaked or blanched. Roasting and grinding green coffee, grinding and sifting whole spices, cutting and pounding lump or loaf sugar, sifting heavy flour that might be full of impurities, soaking oatmeal overnight, shelling nuts, grinding cocoa shells, seeding raisins, making and nurturing yeast, drying herbs: tasks like these accompanied nearly every ingredient of every recipe, whether it came from the garden or the market."

That chapter made me see that I take for granted how quick and easy meal preparation is for me. Last night the children said they wanted something sweet, I turned to Sarah and said, "How about making us some Snickerdoodle cookies?" Less than 20 minutes later we were enjoying warm, fresh-baked cookies, thanks to pre-packaged flour, sugar, cream of tartar, cinnamon, eggs, shortening, a Kitchen Aid mixer, our electric oven, and - of course - Sarah.

From "Fetch a Pail of Water" - "Without indoor plumbing, most women hauled every drop of water they used for cooking, dishwashing, bathing themselves and their families, laundry, and housecleaning; after using it, they hauled it back outside the house, though not necessarily going as far as they had come from the well, the spring, the creek, or the urban hydrant or pump. Heavy work even in the spring or fall, it became unbearable in summer's heat, and in winter women had to crack ice and thaw pumps to get to their frigid water supplies, and empty more chamber pots."

Oh, how I love my indoor plumbing and hot and cold running water!

From "Blue Monday" - " Without running water, gas or electricity, even the most simplified hand-laundry process consumed staggering amounts of time and labor. One wash, one boiling, and one rinse used about fifty gallons of water - or four hundred pounds - which had to be moved from pump or well or faucet to stove and tub, in buckets and wash boilers that might weigh as much as forty or fifty pounds."

There's more, but I'll spare you. Suffice it to say, this family would have fewer clothes, and those would be dirtier longer if I had to wash without indoor water and an automatic washer. I enjoy using my clothesline for drying, but we still use the dryer, too. Steve's grandmother and aunt used to use a wringer washer (electric) and I remember how even that took so much time, and someone had to stay there at the washer to empty the tub and to feed the clothes through the wringer.

From "A Stitch in Time" - "Throughout the colonial period and the first years of the new nation, women made most of the nation's cloth in their homes. They cultivated fields of flax and raised sheep. In the laborious prespinning processes, they used tools and methods dating back to Biblical times, shearing their sheep, carding their wool, harvesting, soaking, pounding, and combing their flax, producing long parallel fibers that could be spun. On spinning wheels made and sold by local or itinerant craftsmen, they drew out the fibers, twisting them together into a continuous thread and winding it onto bobbins; they warped their looms (more expensive and less common than spinning wheels) and wove the yarn into homespun wool, linen, or the combination linsey-woolsey. Coarse and unbleached, or finely spun, carefully dyed, and closely woven, these fabrics covered their beds and (cut and sewed by hand) kept their bodies warm."

I enjoy spinning. I enjoy carding wool and making rolags for spinning. But it takes an awfully large amount of fleece for me to make even 200 yards of yarn - which is about enough for one pair of socks. I can only imagine how much fleece and how much spinning would be needed to knit a sweater (about 1200 yards of yarn) or a blanket. (And finding the time when one also had to prepare food for meals, haul water, wash and iron clothes, and keep the fire going and the babies safe... ?)

From "Selling Mrs. Consumer" - "Advertisers came to see women as their audience; home economists taught women how to shop and how to plan for shopping; new, interrelated products like washing machines and soap powders appeared on the market, each encouraging the use of another; mail-order houses, department stores, supermarkets, and chain stores, emphasizing impersonal relationships between buyer and seller and dominated by large corporations, replaced small shops, country stores, and public markets. By the time of the Great Depression, which delayed the full expression of the new trends, consumption was established as the new task of the private sphere, now completely dominated by the public."

This chapter was an eye-opener for me, and I learned a lot!

Informative, a pleasure to read, with many source notes that in themselves make a great reading list, this book was a four star (out of four) choice for me.

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Here's the deal...

...constructing living quarters from an old carriage house/barn isn't as simple a project as we thought.

The town doesn't know where its sewer lines are. There may be lines on the street next to the barn, but no one knows for sure. The sewer lines on the street behind the barn are only 24 inches beneath the street surface - not deep enough for us to get the drop needed for reliable sewer service.

We had a guy come out and send a camera through the toilet drain in the old servant's quarters, hoping they would connect to sewer lines on the street next to the barn. Instead we found out that they connect to some sort of septic tank - one that looks suspiciously similar to an old abandoned well.

Tomorrow our favorite waterworks man is going to wade into the morass that is the city's map room, and try to find something (a map of the sewer system, maybe?) that will tell us whether or not there are sewer lines on that street.

If there are none, then I guess we start talking septic tank, which is not my option of choice. So I'm praying... .


Plumbing update

We now have pipes in the floor for wastewater and to hook up hot and cold water! I was at Arleine's yesterday and asked her how long it took to make her bedroom suite. She told me that it took 3 months. I'm hopeful that we can get this apartment done that quickly.
(Jacy and Sarah helped with the Polhemus Project right after we moved to Alabama. Arleine told me that I need to take lots of pictures as the work progresses so I can remember "before" and "after" and be thankful for what God has done and continues to do. The pictures they took during their project are inspiring.)


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Rebuilding Greensburg - Block by Block

Tracy at Wool Windings has inspired and encouraged me to use some of my yarn to knit afghan squares for this project. I started last night and have three squares finished and a fourth in progress. It's a fun way to do something for others, with others, for people who have lost everything.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007


This is the trench for Tom and Karin's toilet, shower, sink, and kitchen sink. After 4 days of labor by 3 men with 1 saw and 2 jackhammers, they finally hit dirt!

This is Tom and Karin's water meter that the city put in today - isn't it lovely?

From the middle of the bottom edge of this picture to the telephone pole in the back is 273 feet of ground that needs to be dug in a trench about 1 to 2 feet wide and 2 to 4 feet deep to lay sewer lines to the street. Jason came out this evening and looked it over and will call us in the morning with his estimate of the cost.


Monday, May 14, 2007

Bama Belle

On Saturday we went to Tuscaloosa to celebrate Laurie's graduation. She and Gus invited lots of friends and relatives and treated us to food and a riverboat trip.

The boat's lower level was enclosed and air conditioned (and full of food!).

The upper level was open. The children spent most of the ride up there, making frequent trips downstairs for food and water.

The river was beautiful.

Laurie was elated and relieved to be done.

And even though we were an Auburn family surrounded by Alabama people, we were able to mind our manners and eat elephants without telling any Auburn-Alabama jokes.


Saturday, May 12, 2007

Painted brick

Dy has a brick house and she isn't happy with the look of it. She's trying to come up with ideas of changing the look temporarily, until they remove the brick and put up stone or stucco, and all I could think of was paint.

Our house is wood, built on brick piling. At some point, the house was skirted with brick, and it was painted a very dark green. I'm fine with it. But it isn't my entire house, so I might feel differently if the whole house were painted brick.

My neighbors across the street have a brick house, and it is painted - brick red. It is lovely.


Friday, May 11, 2007

Graduation gifts

It's graduation month here, and we have lots of grads to congratulate. Jacy graduated from homeschool. The ladies at Covenant Presbyterian gave the graduating senior girls a "graduation blessing" last week. Jacy, Mary Beth, and Diana were honored, blessed, and received many gifts. (We gave Mary Beth and Diana jewelry.)

Three boys from church are also graduating. We're giving Matt two MST3K movies. We'll give the other two boys money.

Kira graduated from Auburn yesterday. She and her roommate leave for Italy tomorrow and will be gone for 10 days. We gave her money to use on her trip.

Laurie gets her PhD from Alabama on Saturday. We'll head to Tuscaloosa that afternoon to celebrate with her. We're giving her a pair of socks I knitted.

When I graduated from high school I received gifts in the form of sheets, towels, jewelry, and devotionals. And checks. (When I graduated from Auburn I didn't get anything - probably because I didn't send out announcements and because I refused to sweat to death for hours under a nylon gown in the coliseum just to walk across a stage for two seconds and be handed a blank piece of paper. I chose to go straight to the basement of Mary E. Martin Hall and pick up my actual diploma.) But I'm a very poor selector of graduation gifts for others. I'm too indecisive and worry that I'll give something the graduate already has. I need to learn more about appropriate graduation gifts, I guess.

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