Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The yield from our lamb, in case you were wondering

I kept track of all I got out of that lamb, and kept meaning to post it for posterity's sake, but kept forgetting. Here is the tally:

4 boneless leg roasts, total 10+ pounds
2 standing rib roasts, total 3 pounds 4 ounces
spare ribs, 2-1/2 pounds
stew meat, total 8 pounds
neck meat, 1 pound 10 ounces
7 quarts of stock
1 pound 4 ounces of cracklings which I mixed with peanut butter for the birds
Over 5 pounds rendered tallow + 2 pounds additional rendered fat, for making soap

We ate one of the rib roasts for Christmas dinner and it was just lovely.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Suspension of Disbelief

Erik Evan has compiled a list of The 50 Laws of Science Fiction Physics over on his Kunochan blog. Absolutely worth reading.

Here's a taste:

Doctrine of Hostile Alien Tourism: when technologically advanced spacefaring aliens initiate a war or invasion against the Earth, their first strategic maneuver will be to destroy a number of famous human landmarks, usually ones with no strategic or defensive value.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Printer done died

My trusty HP Photosmart 3310 up and died last night while I tried to print our annual Christmas letter (a hint, perhaps?). I have decal orders waiting and could not delay, so I ordered a new Epson Artisan 810 from Amazon with overnight shipping. Barry really loves Epson and has never been able to understand my loyalty to HP. He wore me down last night, as I was already having a discouraging day and did not feel like defending my position. I like many features of the Epson and the price was certainly right. I'll let you know what I think of it after I use it for a bit.

EDITED: Don't buy one. I'll post specifics later.

Everybody's Doing It: My Favorite Movies from 2009

C'mon, it's all the rage! Everyone wants to know what everyone else's favorite movies of the year were. And I'm sure you have been checking this blog at least daily wondering what Maria's favorites were. Wait no longer. Here they are.

Since we hardly go to theaters because of a) being broke and b) having children of too many different ages and interests to go together, I saw exactly 2 movies in the theater this year.

So my top 2 movies were: Star Trek and District 9. I liked STG and I LOVED D9.

Can I count movies I saw this year that didn't come out this year? I can? Oh good. This year I saw Voices of a Distant Star on DVD. I do not do anime. Master K does, and cannot figure out why I am not interested in it. But I Netflixed Voices of a Distant Star on the recommendation of several people whose opinions I respect, and loved it. It's animated, but not anime, if that makes sense. It's a poem of a film, not very long, and while it has a sci-fi setting, it is a poem about two people separated by time and space and what happens to their love. I cried and cried. I give this one a Five Hankie rating.

I re-enjoyed Aliens after a long time away from it. We have the extended version with all the deleted scenes and I don't like it as well, but I can cover my eyes and say lalalalala during those scenes and just let the story unfold as I remember it.

Some others:
Gran Torino Clint Eastwood swearing a lot and showing that he's really soft-hearted in the end.
Let The Right One In A darling baby vampire. In Sweden.
The Fall Lee Pace being sexy, tortured and a little twisted.

And in television:
The Wire: The Complete Series (Barry and I went on an all-five-seasons binge during which not much else got accomplished around here)
Flight of the Conchords: The Complete First and Second Seasons (indescribable and hilarious)

I'll post my favorite books from 2009 another day.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Friday, December 11, 2009

Family news

I have not posted here (blathered enough about it on Facebook, I guess, for most lifetimes), but my father in law, Ron, in Pennsylvania, had a heart attack a week ago Wednesday. He has a pretty high pain tolerance, which is why I think he wouldn't go to the hospital. I'm trying to give him the benefit of the doubt. :o) Anyway, he didn't call his doctor till the next morning, and of course his doctor told him to get himself to the ER immediately, and so by the time he finally got some care for this, it had been many hours since the initial event. He failed a stress test, had an attempt at angioplasty which also failed, and then this Tuesday he had bypass surgery. He's evidently doing fine; we are not hearing much, so we hope all is well.

Barry has finals next week but as soon as they are over he will be catching the train back there to spend the next 2 weeks helping his dad settle in at home and helping his mom, too. I'm thankful all is going as well as it is, and that Barry was able to take off and do this. Had this happened a month ago, I don't know what he would have done. To leave then would have meant trashing the semester of work. God is so in charge here and we are thankful.

Anybody recognize these two little guys?

It's a cabinet photo of two little boys in a parlor, taken by Seely of New Albin. It's on eBay right now. (Not my listing.) Their descendants are probably around here somewhere and would love to know about this picture. I think I'll post it on the bank bulletin board, too.

Sorry for the bad reproduction of the photo; the auction shows that it's actually much brighter and clearer. I couldn't figure out how to snag the image off eBay so I printed it and scanned the printout. Terrible.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Two Mighty Hunters

You may not think they look very vicious, but these guys are mighty mouse hunters. Mouse, singular.

Beckham raced through the nativity scene Tuesday, sending porcelain figures flying. He is in disgrace. But he and Briggs ACTUALLY CAUGHT A MOUSE this morning. So they are partially redeemed. It's not a house mouse, it looks like a field mouse, and they caught it way off guard or they could never have nailed it. I still don't know how they managed it. They were sniffing at the bottom of the kitchen door, and then I opened the door to put something on the porch and the mouse must have run in when I did, because when I came back in again, they had him and were slinging him back and forth across the kitchen floor with their paws like a hockey puck. They have no front claws, either of them. I felt bad for the mouse.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

We knew we were the best, but...

... now more people do. :o)

This just in from Webmedx CEO Sean Carroll:

Webmedx has been awarded this year’s #1 ranking in KLAS for our industry. KLAS independently monitors vendor performance through the active participation of thousands of healthcare organizations and then scores the data to create this ranking.
Not only that, but this was the first time Webmedx had been included in KLAS rankings, and it scored the highest any MTSO has ever scored. Ever. Ev-er.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Cloth-Cord Pendant Lights from Rejuvenation.com

I just received an email from Rejuvenation spotlighting their cloth-cord pendants. I just love this kitchen.

I would like to have a little cabin somewhere, a hideaway, that I could decorate like this.

Monday, December 07, 2009

How Not to Make Your Own Modeling Dress Form in 27 Easy Steps

hownot1Remember Mabel the Dress Form? I originally got Mabel from a Salvation Army thrift store in Pasadena, California. She was in good shape, just purplish; she was covered with purple doubleknit fabric. I recovered her in black and we have been friends ever since. However, Mabel is shaped quite a bit like me (flat chested, big butt, hefty waist), so the wire dress form that I got more recently did better for modeling stuff I wanted to sell, like aprons. I really miss that dress form. I got to wondering if I could make a replacement for her. After reading lots of instructions on making your own dress form, I decided to meld them and see if I could make one with just the stuff I had around here.

It provided hours of hilarity for my family. Learn, children, from my mistakes. The photos that follow will show you how I made my dress form, minus many of the false starts and messes that occurred along the way.

We started with an old floor lamp that I had dumpster dived for. The lamp was broken at the top, with one of the pieces (pot metal painted bronze) snapped right in half. But look at those interesting pieces when I took it apart:

I cleaned all the parts in dishwater and dried them.

Here's my first piece of advice: If someone offers to help, say, "Yes, thanks." That's Beckham there, checking out the lamp parts. He has pretty good taste. That thing he's sniffing was a smooth disk of inch-thick cream-colored marble. Very pretty.

Now Beckham and I have begun putting the lamp back together, minus the wiring. We realized that without the top part of it, where the shade and bulb go, the whole thing would not hold together. I found a nut in Barry's tool bench that fit the threads of the center pipe thingie on the lamp, to keep everything in place, more or less.

Next we took a mailer tube and threw away the plastic cap from one end, and taped the other one on so it won't get away. We put this on top of the lamp pole. It's not fastened there, it's just resting.


Next I started to wind a strip (about 5 inches wide) of scrap quilt batting around the mailing tube to form the neck of the dress form. This turned out to be a stupid idea, but the pictures make it look like I knew what I was doing, so I'll leave them in. Do not do this.

I put a little bit of white glue under the end of the batting to hold it in place.

Next I wrapped a wider scrap of batting around the tube below the neck part. See what I mean? Stupid. Next time I'll do it all at once, and then stop winding at the neck part so that it stays narrower than the body.

Next, I started adding rolls of batt strips to shape out an hourglass figure for this lady. I was beginning to attract a crowd - a jeering, critical crowd with lots of unhelpful suggestions.

By the way, glue wouldn't hold those rolls on, so I started tying them around with heavy cotton thread. That turned out to be a pretty good idea, actually.

Now I wrapped the torso up loosely in some thick, fluffy batting.

There's that thread again. Now I am using it to shape the torso in at the waist and start to add some definition.

Underwire thread. It lifts and separates. (A little extra padding under that top layer there.)

I started wrapping the whole body in cotton batting strips. The net effect was that the boobies got flattened down.

So I added more oomph. (Actually this wasn't the final version. I didn't take a picture of that. I ended up cutting circles of batting, basting them down and then stuffing them with fluff.) Oooooh, the peanut gallery was really having a great time by this point.

Next came a long, grueling period of time where I used unbleached muslin to make a covering for the figure. I cut a hunk of muslin, made a hole for the pole, and then basically just draped and tucked and pinned and darted and tucked and pinned and basted and fitted it to the form, on and on, ad nauseam. I will spare you all the trials and errors. At least this part bored my audience to the point where they all left for something more interesting.

I covered the neck with a longish tube of muslin with the end gathered. I pulled up the gathers and then glued a circle of white felt to the top of the neck to cover everything neatly.

Voila! There she is! Wait a minute. I wanted her petite, but this is ridiculous. She's a miniature mutant with weird boobs.

But all was not lost. I realized she would work well as a child modeling form. Here she is, modeling a child's wool coat and cap. She worked even better when I turned her body around backwards in the coat.

Okay, so this was not a success, but it wasn't a total failure either. AND since the body is not attached to the lamp base, I was thinking I'd try again with more figures and just swap them out to suit my needs.

Stay tuned, and another day I'll tell you How Not to Make a Papier Mache Modeling Form.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Saturday's Apron: A Dressy Floral Apron

This was a Way Station find: A homemade chiffon apron with pansy motifs added, possibly from an old tablecloth. It's very cute, but I don't wear these (I need something more substantial for my messes). Not sure yet if I'll put it in Lulu's or not; it has some issues, and I like to list things are perfect.

December sunset photos

Is $18.69 a month a decent price for an addiction?

I am the only caffeine addict in the family (Barry kicked the habit a couple of years ago and is insufferable about it). I drink coffee and Diet Dr. Pepper. I buy green coffee beans from Invalsa and roast them and grind them myself. It feels selfish since I'm the only one who drinks the stuff, but on the other hand, who's earning the money around here? More importantly, who needs to stay awake to earn the money around here? That's my justification.

Anyway thanks to Quickbooks, when I realized I was just about out of beans and needed to reorder, I found that I have been spending about $18.69 a month on green coffee beans. And I have cut way back on the DDP.

I know what I WANT you to answer, and since you are my friends, you'll all probably be nice and say things like, "Of course! You deserve it. Go ahead and re-up your coffee beans." But this time I actually want the truth: Am I being too selfish? Do I just need to kick the habit? Or maybe go with cheaper coffee that is less delicious?

Friday, December 04, 2009

Health insurance

First off, let me say I'm really thankful to have health insurance. I am.

But wow. We just found out a couple of days ago that our group coverage through my employer is taking a premium jump, to $675 a month for our family. And this is with me the only one really employed here.

I'm scrambling to see if there are other options for us before the deadline of December 24th when I have to make any changes to our current coverage. Barry has hypertension, two of three kids have ongoing conditions for which they are on meds (nothing serious, don't panic, just kid stuff)... Ten years ago, this probably would not have been a big deal, as we have had coverage for many years now. But now? In Iowa insurers can exclude any condition they don't want to deal with. I'm waiting to hear what Blue Cross of Iowa wants to do about us and if it wants us. We have applied for a very high deductible family plan that would cut our premiums by about half, but heaven forbid anybody should actually need surgery or hospitalization. It would break us.


Pat Rothfuss turned me, and a bunch of other Fanatical Minions, on to this fantasy artist, Phil McDarby. McDarby did a limited edition printing of a painting he did of his own conceptualization of the Draccus from The Name of the Wind. It's awesome, and he's selling signed (by both him and Pat) prints as part of the Worldbuilders fundraiser.

I like that painting, but was really taken with this one on McDarby's website:

The Amber Dragon's Hoard by Phil McDarby

Anyway, here's an interesting fantasy artist to check out.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Thoughts on the Ethics of Comment Moderation

I put a comment on someone's blog the other day, and then just now I went back to see if there were replies. There were. But also there was my comment, with the guts torn out of it, basically. The blog owner had changed the name under which I posted, and had taken out most of my comment, leaving the beginning and the end but not the main part.

I wrote back and asked her to just delete the whole thing if she was going to edit it.

So let's open this up to discussion: What do you think of editing a post on your blog? I mean, actually changing the words?

Here's my opinion: Comments moderation should be all or none. Either you delete the whole post because you object to the stand taken or the language used or whatever - or you don't. In my opinion, editing the content of the post without the consent of the writer is dirty pool. I have deleted exactly one comment from my blog because it used racist language. I didn't edit out the language and leave the post to stand.

My guess is the blog owner will whine, "But it's my blog, I can do whatever I want." True. But it seems to me that if one were to do that, one should be up front about it. As it stands, she has me saying something quite other than I actually said, and I don't like it one bit.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Police: Dead suspect had officer's gun - CNN.com

Police: Dead suspect had officer's gun - CNN.com

Pat Rothfuss' Second Annual Heifer International Fundraiser W00T!

It's here! And they have a logo and everything.

To recap, last fall, Pat Rothfuss, one of my favorite authors, ran a little fundraiser off his blog to benefit Heifer International. He said he wanted to buy baby ducks for needy families, and asked his readership (The League of Fanatical Minions) to help. He agreed to double all donations up to, I think, $5000. Then when donations passed $5000, he upped it to $10,000, and then $15,000, and in a fit of madness, agreed to match ALL donations. He ended up buying a LOT of baby ducks:

Mind you, that was just Pat's half - the matching half. He and we bought over $110,000 worth of hope for needy people around the world. That hope comes in the shape of livestock and the training to keep it well and use it to the maximum. (As an example, families are taught to care for a goat, feed it properly, use the milk, and then to use the manure to enrich their fields, producing better vegetables/grains.) And that gift will continue to grow; if you are not familiar with Heifer's policy of Passing On the Gift, read about it here. In short, each family that receives a gift from Heifer agrees to pass on the first offspring of their animal to another family in their community that needs help. (I love this. Not only for the increase of the gift, but for the transformation that it performs in the life of the Heifer family: It transforms them from a family in need of assistance to Givers. This is deep, folks. Being transformed into a Giver changes all kinds of things about a person.)

Anyway, Pat had a rather startling awakening to the fact that his fandom was a bit crazy. :o) And he learned his lesson. He's doing the fundraiser again this year, but this time he has a lot of help. He has sponsorships from a bunch of his friends in the fantasy and sci-fi world, and a huge help in the form of Subterranean Press, which is helping with the matching and has offered a ton of wonderful prizes. You see, not only do we get to buy baby ducks, we get PRIZES!! Signed editions of all kinds of sci-fi and fantasy literature, for the most part. You like Neil Gaiman? He's donating books. So's John Scalzi. Pat Rothfuss is giving some of his own books. There are writers willing to look over your manuscript for you. There's even a Golden Ticket: If you win this, Pat will owe you a favor. You get to ask him to do something for you. (He says there are only three rules: It has to be something legal, possible and he can't make anyone fall in love.)

Okay, so here we go. If you are interested in giving to Heifer International, please consider giving through this link (click the baby ducks)

where your gift will be added to by Pat and his friends.

Here's the link to Pat Rothfuss' blog where he will be updating all information about the fundraiser, including the prizes: Worldbuilders Page. Get it? Worldbuilders? Fantasy and SciFi writers? They build their own worlds? Isn't that clever? I thought that was clever.

P.S. So far we have bought a goat. We figured it was the least we could do, having been blessed with a lamb this year ourselves.