Thursday, March 31, 2011

Teething Bites

Dammit! I'm not doing so well with my blog this month. It's been very hard to find time to sit down to write, which was exactly what I was afraid was going to happen when I started my blog. But, I'm sitting down now and I'm going to tap out a few words before a certain someone decides to start screaming again.

I'm not sure if I've mentioned this before, but I hate teething. HATE. And I might just punch the next person that says "Oh, I never had a problem with it, my kids didn't seem bothered at all." Don't say I didn't warn you. My son is NOT ok with teething. I had read that once the first few teeth come in they get used to the sensation and it bothers them less. Wrong. Ben has 8 teeth right now and I swear for each tooth we must have lost at least a week of sleep. He is currently cutting four molars, and while I have to admit he's not as bad at night, he's still driving me NUTS. He's overtired and not sleeping well, which has turned him into a whiney, screechy, nutball. Combine that with the fact that I am slammed with bookkeeping work right now and you can probably conclude why I have been so negligent in my blogging. Never mind the fact that I wanted to start some creative writing as well. I'm just going to throw that out the window until all four molars are in, and possibly those stupid canines too!

On the positive side, my lovely son has decided that books are his favorite toys. He constantly empties the bookcases and carries them around the house. And not his baby books with the bright colors. My books. I can usually find him sitting on the dog bed or next to the shoes "reading" Nicholas Sparks or Jane Austen or even Margaret Mitchell. As much as it drives me nuts to have books all over the house, I continue to let him carry them around because I want him to love books as much as I do.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Trying to Find Inspiration in Dreams

It seems the second I decided that I'd try to tackle writing something longer than a blog post, my work load increased a thousandfold. Finding time to write has not been easy. Instead I've been trying to brainstorm something to write about. And even that has been hard to do. So I've been hoping to have a nice vivid dream of a plot to write about, but that's not happening either.

In the past I've had some really excellent dreams that would make really great stories. I don't often have dreams that I can remember, especially vivid ones, but there have been a few that I can still remember clearly. One, when I was a teenager, was of my mother drowning at a dam. It was the only dream I've ever woken up from in tears. I had to call her that morning just to hear her voice. A vivid and sad dream, but not story material. When I was in a creative writing class in college I had a very strange dream with the most amazing setting. It was the Lincolnville ferry terminal, at night, and I was swimming in the water near the dock. It was dark out but there were these huge spot lights illuminating large circles in the water, making giant gray polka dots on the dark surface of the water. I could move from circle to circle but the dark voids between the dots made me invisible to anyone around. I was trying to help someone who committed a murder escape by hiding them in the darkness. It was a very, very strange dream.

I think the most vivid, and haunting, dream I ever had was between IVF cycles, I think we were doing IUIs then. I was reading Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series at the time (if you haven't read these books, stop what you are doing and go read them all...right now) and was completely lost in the story of Jamie and Claire. In my dream, I was Claire and my husband was Jamie, I was standing by the window wearing a white night gown watching him outside, I had a hand on my belly feeling a baby kick. He came inside and told me I was bleeding, I looked down, saw the blood and told him very calmly that I was having a miscarriage and to go get a doctor. The doctor came and told me I was never pregnant, that my belly was full of plants (invasive milfoil if you are curious) and she had to scrape them out. I woke up convinced something was wrong with me. It was a very strange, but memorable dream.

There have been other dreams that I've woken up from and said "man, you really should write a story about that one" but it seems I have forgotten them all now that I think I could make use of them. So I'll just keep brainstorming and hoping that one of these nights I'll have another really good dream!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Since I'm Not Busy Enough Already, I'll Write a Book

So I think I'm going to start a little project. I'm going to call it the "Write-a-Book-Project." It involves, writing a book. The other day I read a blog by a young writer who was self-publishing her own ebooks. That blog linked me to another blog with a middle aged man doing the same thing. And the funny thing was, they were both making money at it. So it got me to thinking, maybe I can make money writing books.

So I did some research and found a website that can help you publish an ebook. It will get them on amazon for you and some other ebook sites. Interesting...very interesting... So then I decided I should buy an ebook and see how it was. (NOTE: I'm not a fan of ebooks. I gave my mom a ton of crap about getting a Kindle for Christmas. I would MUCH rather have an ACTUAL ink and paper book in my hands, BUT, I'm looking into this anyway because it would be a much easier way for me to get from point A to point B.) So I bought an ebook for 99 cents. It's not that good. It's not horrible, but it's very clearly a ripoff from another extremely popular teen series (one which I may have read embarrassingly quickly) this time written by a very young author. (SIDE NOTE: I may be a bit jaded now since the author made me feel incredibly old by referencing Weezer as though they were a "new" band and not one that is having a new surge in popularity 17 years after they actually were a "new" band) This so-so ebook is selling very well for her, and she's actually making money with it.

Again, I can't help but think to myself "Why am I not doing this?" So, I decided I'm going to do it too. The decision is made! Now comes the hard part. I have to write a book. Uggghhhhh

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Consequences of Farting on Pillows

Have I mentioned I'm a stepmother? Well, I am. And not to a couple of cute little kiddos that come to visit every other weekend. They're teenage boys, and they live here. Don't get me wrong, I love them. I've been living with them now for six and a half years (has it REALLY been that long??) and we get along really well. I've learned A LOT of lessons from them, like when to keep my mouth shut, that you can pass ground turkey off as ground beef and how to stand back and let them learn.

Sure, we've had plenty of arguments, but we have always been able to work our way through them. And I've had lots of moments that truly melt my heart, like when one stepson called me from his grandmother's house to thank me for staying up late and making him notes to help with his homework. Then there are the funny moments, like when mid-flight one of them looked over at me and said he was looking forward to going down the slide when we got out of the plane. Yes, he really thought that was the only way you got out of an airplane.

Tonight we had a funny moment, when one stepson looked at my son and told him to "fart on Daddy's pillow and give him pinkeye." Really?!?!? This is apparently a condition that my husband and I were uninformed about. Fortunately, we have now been educated (while we were rolling on the floor laughing) that pinkeye comes from farts on pillows. Thank goodness for teenagers, I may never have known the consequences of farting on pillows.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

3,438 Pages Until July

So I've decided to start re-reading a series to prepare for the release of the next book this summer. The author (George RR Martin) decided to take ONE MILLION YEARS to finish this next installment and I had for the longest time given up on him. I was actually going to refuse to read the next book in the series because it had taken him so long to finish writing it and I was beginning to hate him. But, at the end of the day, I'm just a sucker for books, so I'm finding myself re-reading A Game of Thrones. And I'm in love with it. Again.

Re-reading books does not bother me. I know some people can't stand it, since they already know what's going to happen, but I love it. The first time I read something, especially if it's good, I read it so fast that I can barely recall what happened in the book. I read in the moment I guess. The second time I read something I usually go a bit slower and have time to savor some of the details and, since I do have an idea of what's happening in the story, I can pick up subtleties that I may have missed before or allusions to something that will coming up next.

Some books I've read 3 or 4 times, Tarzan is one and Diana Gabaldon's Outlander is another. I think I've read Antoine de St. Exupery's The Little Prince half a dozen times. They never get old, or boring. The stories captivate me time and again and create a little world that I wish I could be a part of. Fortunately for me, A Game of Thrones is casting the spell over my life and I'm finding it harder and harder to put down the book and return to my life of dirty dishes and dirty diapers.

So, for the next few weeks I will be re-reading this excellent series, welcoming the characters back into my life and searching for subtleties I may have missed the first time around. And then waiting, and hoping, that Mr. Martin is not messing with me this time around, and I can actually find A Dance With Dragons on bookshelves in July. With 3,678 pages in this series...I should be busy for a while.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Dirty Dishes Are Ruining My Life

I've been feeling a bit overwhelmed lately. Or perhaps it's really the feeling that expectations of me are a bit too high. It gets to be a bit tiring when you find yourself waking up every morning to the same dirty dishes, the same junk strewn about the living room floor, the bathroom I'd like to clean, but can't ever seem to get done and work piling up in an insurmountable heap. Am I really the only one here that can see all this stuff that needs to get done? I find it hard to believe.

I could ask for help, and I do, sometimes. But I often find myself asking repeatedly, or pleading, or (God forbid) nagging before anyone will listen. It's frustrating and easier to just do it myself.

Add to that the ever increasing workload that I am taking on with my bookkeeping job. I'm in way over my head with this, since I am not actually a bookkeeper, merely learning as I go thanks to a boss willing to let me learn and make some money at the same time. As grateful as I am for this opportunity, some days, like yesterday, I just want to cry in frustration because I just don't know what I'm doing! I'm not really a bookkeeper!!!

And then there is my son. Who is a good little boy, but has days where he feels the need to SCREAM IN MY FACE for no apparent reason. He is also very busy and has a tendency to crash into things prompting me to consider buying him a helmet...with face mask.

In summary, I am overwhelmed. But I have to say, writing about it makes me feel a whole lot better. Perhaps I'll let someone else handle the dishes today...

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Some Days I Think I Can Cook

Sometimes I think I've really got this cooking thing down. Earlier this week, on a whim, I made chicken quesadillas with homemade refried beans. Then, when I was craving sweets and didn't have enough ingredients to make the usual brownies or cookies, I whipped up a peach-apricot-blueberry crisp from the over abundance of canned fruits my grandmother likes to give me in my Christmas food basket. It wasn't the BEST crisp I've ever made, but for a five minute fix I thought it was pretty tasty. Plus, no one else in the house liked it, so I got to eat the whole thing myself. Bonus.

Tonight I whipped up a salmon corn chowder with fresh dill. With only the basic outline of how to make a chowder, provided by a quick call to my mom, my chowder was pretty dang tasty, if I do say so myself. The whole family, who aren't really chowder eaters by choice, managed to enjoy a bowl, and my husband ate two!

Creating a delicious dinner from thin air gives me quite a rush. I get all excited and geared up to cook some more. Can I top myself? What else can I throw together that everyone will love? I like to pretend for a minute that maybe I am a gourmet chef at heart, confined to slave away in my too small, poorly stocked kitchen. What delectable delights could I create if only I had the means??? Then I have a reality check and start cooking tuna noodle casserole...again.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Red Pajama Day

When Benjamin wears red pajamas I can't help but smile. Yesterday I woke up grumpy. I was overtired, cold and I didn't have enough eggs to make anything yummy to eat for the day. I had loaned my car to a friend in need and was going to be stuck in the house all day. Yesterday had all the makings for a terrible day. But, Benjamin woke up in his red pajamas and I couldn't help but smile. Racing around on his stubby little legs with his arms flailing, Ben was a vision in red.

I'm not sure what it is about red jammies that makes me so happy, but the red long johns he had when he was just a few months old had the same effect. He was too cute for words then, and is even cuter now! It could be that the red plays up his blue eyes, or perhaps it's that red is not a pastel baby color. The bright "adult" color juxtaposes nicely with his tiny little frame. I'm really not sure what it is, but I can safely say, Benjamin and his Red Jammies saved my day yesterday!!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Yes, I'm THAT cheap...

I'm cheap. Very cheap. My husband is cheap too. We're a match made in Bargain Shopper's Paradise. Last night I watched a show about extreme couponing. A lady bought over $600 of groceries for less than $3. Impressive. Very impressive. I would love to do that kind of bargain shopping. But I'm afraid I don't have the dedication to clip EVERY coupon I see and spend hours reading sale fliers. Instead, I just focus my energy on being cheap.

Take my grocery bill for example. I feed myself, my husband, his two teenage sons and little Ben for less than $80 a week. We eat well, and always have plenty to eat, and I manage to do it pinching pennies. I have no particular savings plan there, just buying things on sale and buying healthy food that I can prepare myself. Seems to work like a charm!

There is one other money saving tactic I have taken on, and that's making my own laundry detergent. When I mention it in conversation with people it's usually a conversation stopper. Everyone wants to know how to do it, how much it costs, what does it smell like and does it really work. I'm sure anyone reading this now is wondering the same thing. So yes it works, it's insanely cheap, it smells fresh and clean and it takes about a 1/2 hour of time to prepare, which is well worth the savings. So here's how I do it.

Grate 1/2 bar of Fels Naptha Laundry Soap. Heat 6 cups of water and add soap, stirring until melted. And 1/2 cup Borax and 1/2 cup Washing Soda. Stir until dissolved. Pour 4 cups of hot water in bottom of a cleaning bucket. Add soap mixture and stir. Top pail with cold water stirring well. Let set for 24 hours stirring occasionally. Pour into old laundry detergent bottles or other storage bottles. Use 1/2 cup per load and shake bottle before each use. (When I make this I tend to use a little less water to "top" my bucket, you can always add more later if the soap is too thick.) You can add a few drops of essential oil if you would like a particular scent to your soap, and you can also substitute a few other types of soap for the Fels Naptha if you don't particularly like it.

A bar of Fels Naptha costs $1.25. A box of Borax, approximately $3.00. Washing Soda, I think $3-$4. You get two batches from each bar of soap and many batches from the Borax and Washing Soda. I have been making my soap for nearly 2 years and am only on my second box of Borax. The savings on laundry soap is substantial. Yes, it's a pain to make, but well worth the effort, especially when you do as much laundry as I do!

Most people that try this end up loving it, and continue making it. In fact, I think everyone I've given the recipe to is still making their own soap. It's a cheapskate revolution!!! (And no coupons necessary!)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

How About Some Dragons Ken Follett?

So I've been reading Ken Follett's "Fall of Giants," and I am enjoying it. I tried to have a conversation with my husband about it the other day and I got the usual "uh huh, uh huh, yup" responses of someone not nearly as excited about books as I am. So I'm going to blog about it instead.

I read Follett's other histories and LOVED them. "Pillars of the Earth" was AMAZING and I highly recommend it to everyone. You can just tell from reading it that Follett was having a great time writing it. His abundant research and love of architecture was apparent in the details and through the characters he created. The sort-of-sequel he wrote after was also very good. Perhaps not as amazing as the original, but still very well done.

So I obviously had high hopes for this history and have been slightly let down. I'm still inhaling the book (my term for reading as often and as quickly as possible) but Follett's love just isn't there this time. He's trying to write an epic, but to me it just feels a bit rushed and a bit too broad. The story is about the outbreak of World War One and encompasses characters and story lines from England (upper and lower class characters), Russia, Germany and the United States. It also works into the story line, women's suffrage in Britain, unions and the unfair treatment of the lower class, a Russian immigrant to the US and othe Russian mob, and the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia that led to the Russian Civil war. It's quite an undertaking, I have to give Follett credit for the magnitude of what he is accomplishing with this book. Unfortunately, in my humble opinion, the massive scope is compromising what I enjoyed so much about the other histories, the storyline and the characters. The characters are very diverse, but they just feel a bit empty at times. Their speech is too scripted. This character must say this at this time to move the story forward. A bit disappointing.

With all that said, I'm still enjoying the book. It's filled with information, insight, love stories, action and politics. I'm not sure he could pack anything else in there! Well, maybe some dragons, but I think that would change the storyline a bit much...but I am a sucker for dragons.

Do you hear that Ken Follett? In the second installment in this series please include some dragons. For me. Please?