Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Good news on nature!

I read this article this morning with my iced tea and bagel and it just made my day!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween to All!!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Future Is Looking Bright....

Kirk and I were reading the story of Louis Braille tonight. It starts out with a heartbreaking accident that causes young Louis to go blind. Then it goes on to explain that at that time, early 1800s, most blind people had miserable lives.

Since blind people couldn't communicate with others by reading or writing, it was considered useless to send them to school. As a result, they were cut off from such professions as teaching, law, and medicine. Many blind people had to live in poorhouses. Others begged for food and money on street corners. The lucky ones found jobs shoveling coal or carrying bricks in exchange for food and a place to sleep.

The story goes on to tell how Louis was determined to find a way to read and help others do the same. There was at the time a cumbersome system of raised letters, but it was time consuming to read, expensive to produce, and would never truly open the world of books to the blind. At fifteen, Louis Braille created the Braille system - though it was not accepted during his lifetime, this gift he gave to the future lives on today to millions of blind people.

When we finished the book, Kirk and I talked about how sad and troubling things we now accept will one day likely be changed, perhaps by one person, dedicated to solving that particular problem. In the future, we may not be able to imagine hungry children, ill children, people dying in wars or being sent to prison. All it takes is that one person determined to find a way. Good wishes! Eileen

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

NO complaining 21 day challenge. Hit or miss;-)

One night, browsing the internet, I read about a person trying to improve his marriage by not complaining for three weeks. He referred to a 21 day no complaint challenge that eventually led me to the website

I LOVED the idea. And I was successful for almost three hours. Then, ironically, I found myself complaining to a friend about my kids' complaints pertaining to four of the five food items on their dinner plates. Following the suggested practice, I switched my bracelet (my own though the site offers one) to the other wrist as a notice to myself I'd have to start the 21 days over again.

And thus I've gone on, once going three days before the switch. I will be delighted to hit a new high of four days but am benefitting from the mere attempt. The very process of editing the complaints, negative descriptions, griping, and whining from my communications makes me realize two things. First, negative talk is a complete bore. Second, when I talk about the "bad" stuff, I "re-infect myself" by reliving the situation and just bring myself and whomever I'm talking to down.

This challenge has made me very aware how much I complain to the kids ("Yuck! Can't you please close your mouth when you chew!"), about the kids ("You wouldn't believe how much the kids were fighting today!") and around them ("I can see why the postal service is going broke with those inconvenient hours").

So if you take out all the negative, what's left to talk about? I've started asking "So what's the good word?" when we sit down to dinner or I call my parents. I really enjoy hearing what's going well in others' lives. And talking about the good in my day: a hug from the kids, a perfectly toasted bagel, a kind check out clerk, the blue jay up in the Oak tree, the fact the kids ate all their veggies (even if open-mouthed), brings my mood up, reminding me of the myriad of happy moments in each day.

So far I've made it to 9:02, Wednesday morning, keeping it on the up and up. I had to start over again last night....not that I'm complaining...;-)Good wishes!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


As I got more and more behind on my blog, I was too embarrassed to even check my last post date. Finally, tonight I took the plunge, wow, almost two months!

To anyone kind enough to have checked in during that time, thanks and apologies for being so slow. It has been a wonderful few months. I made huge progress on my book. I have worked really, really hard to be a better mom (not always successfully) by listening more and being more in the moment. I got a lot done in the yard, finally tackling the weediest areas. And of my list of all the projects I wanted to tackle by October first, I made serious progress, including getting the 1980's wallpaper out of two bathrooms after living here for 14 years with plans to do so;-)

I'm enamored of the Happiness Project and get her daily postings. A recent one I really took to heart was about making the life you want. She wrote "If I've learned one thing from my happiness project, it's that if I want my life to be a certain way, I must be that way myself. If I want my marriage to be tender and romantic, I must be tender and romantic."

I love that line! I copied it and emailed it to myself as a reminder to create the life I want, I have to be the person I want to be and do the things that person would do. I get it wrong a lot, and get frustrated when I do something the person I want to be wouldn't do (over eat at the Chinese Buffet, yell at the kid over minor stuff, ignore my family, not call my parents regularly, let the dishes stack up till the ants all come back, etc. etc.) But I make baby steps to be that person and when I do something she would do, I pat her/me on the back;-).

I hope all of you are striving toward goals that will and are bringing you joy. Best wishes! Eileen

Monday, August 15, 2011

Five daily frugals

I've been trying to do several frugal things each day to keep on track. It's sometimes easier to make a goal of five choices a day that are frugal, and then enjoy trying to meet that goal.

Admittedly, that's not as efficient as sticking to a budget, something I've slacked on this summer. That said, it was a fun, frugal weekend. We took our big quilts to the laundry mat because when we bought our washer I asked the guy for any advice on getting it to last as long as possible. He told me keep the lint traps clean and don't wash big blankets. He said that shaking thing you sometimes get when the blanket gets to one side is very, very hard on the machine.

We also biked to the beach. We live too far out to bike to most places so we drive part of the way, park, then bike part of the way.

Kirk had wanted swim flipper and goggles. We stopped at a thrift shop on our way to the beach and lucked out finding flippers that fit for $1.

We spent Sunday at a local park playing baseball, soccer, Frisbee and even a bit of tennis (almost all equipment gotten at garage sales through the years), so fun and frugal.

Cooked a big batch of pasta, then made three meals for the week ahead - mushroom, spinach pasta; ricotta lasagna pasta, cold veggie pasta.

Happy frugaling;-)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Frugal decisions -

Frugal Decision #1

Two months past the one year warranty (NOT frugal), I make a long overdue call to the appliance store to say our "new" dryer isn't drying very well. She suggests prior to sending a technician for an $85 trip charge, I disconnect the dryer from the vent system and try one load of towels. So I do, and sure enough, rather than needing two and a half full cycles, all six towels are dry in 50 minutes. So I look into the vent system as best I can, where it curves into the wall, stick my hand in and feel a LOT of lint.

Next I look for vent cleaning services, and up pops "Vent cleaning scams", so I check the local listings for good reviews and find one that got 28 positive reviews and no negative. They charge $179 to clean the dryer vents, sounds pricey, but they got good reviews, and my dryer vent goes all the way under the family room, has three 90 degree angles, is almost 20 feet long and I know hasn't been cleaned in at least the decade we've lived here.

The tech comes and can't get his "magic wand" through. He has to take apart each piece of the pipe work (ripping off the duct tape), and shows me it's so clogged with wet lint (stinky too) that barely a pen could fit through the middle. He completely empties the entire line - almost three grocery bags full of wet lint, puts it all back together and my dryer is working great. Lesson learned, and I think, money well spent as I wouldn't have been comfortable taking apart all that tubing.

Frugal Decision #2 -

Kai's training wheels, which I'd gotten for 50 cents at a garage sale, finally gave way. We bought another set for $10, and they lasted all of about a week before bending when he hit a curb. A person recommended a bike shop that I think of as pretty expensive (think Trek bikes) to see if they could help. I went and asked the tech and he said they had a pair they'd taken off another bike that I could have for free and would just have to pay the $10 installation fee. Happy to do so, this new pair, as he showed me, was almost three times thicker metal than the first.

Frugal Decision #3 -

We're biking almost everywhere. Cheaper than gas, better for the environment, and makes for healthier mom and kids;-).

Frugal Decision #4 -

Working in spare moments, I'm finally making some progress on the book. Today I set the timer for one hour and told Kai if he played quietly for an hour, we would go to the lake. He found some dinosaurs and I was able to get in some writing and sketch out a scene. So happy all around.

Frugal Decision #5 -

Staying at home a lot more this summer and really enjoying our pretty home, yard, and neighborhood as well as the local parks, beaches, lakes, and neighborhoods.

Frugal Decision #6 -

Having too many times missed opportunities to get something I needed because I forgot, I now keep a list in the car of stuff we need, and errands that need to be run. I used to keep this list on the refrigerator door (I still keep the grocery list posted so the minute the butter is out it's on the list) but I find glancing at is as I'm about to run to the library and see "need nails for picture for Living Room" is all I need to be way more efficient.

Good wishes!

Monday, August 8, 2011

A fun day, but a troubling sight at night.

Today was a wonderful day. We got the good news the window shouldn't have broken due to a Pokeball and four- year- old and probably had a stress fracture or some fault and will be replaced just for the $60 installation costs. We also biked downtown to meet Greg (Kirk is visiting the grandparents) for dinner and got to see a free water ski show (they were practicing) and stopped to watch a Frisbee tag game.

But while we were headed back, a mini-van jerked to stop right in front of the porta-potty and a woman started to get out, then the car jerked forward again and I was a afraid she would get hurt. Then when she got out she clearly had a big black eye - all red and puffy. She went to the port-a-potty while the guy got out of the van and waited by the side. I didn't know what to do as I had Kai and didn't want to "get involved" and wished as they drove away I would have written down the license plate so I could at least have called 911. So tonight, please send up a little prayer for a woman in a situation that didn't look good and for every person everywhere that is in a troubled situation. Thanks.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Frugal steps forward and back.

With great pride I had intended to write of my frugal bike basket and fixing the drain without a single dollar to a plumber nor environmental impact of Liquid Plumber. I had seen a bike basket for $22 at Walmart, but looking at it, it looked a bit flimsy and it occurred to me that the maybe I could make my own. So I found a white wicker basket for $1.20 at a thrift store, two black zip strips that I had left over from a fencing job, and had a "new" bike basket that's worked great.

Then we had a drain that wasn't working for awhile. I figured it was just clogged and was loathe to pour nasty chemicals down the drain, so I used wire cutters a wire hanger and managed to pull out the gunk - icky, icky, icky, and now have a perfectly fine drain.

But then today, Kai was throwing a small plastic Pokemon ball and hit our family room window with a force surprising for a four year old and cracked the big picture window. I have to believe the earlier savings will be offset by window repair costs;-).

But each time I find a way to save or be creative, I still get that thrill. Good wishes. Eileen

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Last day of July, 2011

Spent three and a half glorious hours at Panera working on my book, mostly research to answer questions that occured to me when I was in Boston. I put on my headphones and get my large iced tea and delve into 1775 with enormous satisfaction. I haven't had much time to write this summer. With the kids both home full-time, by the time 9:30 p.m. rolls around and kids are in bed (supposedly 8:30), the dog has been walked, Greg and I have a chance to chat about our days, I'm usually ready to sleep and the thought of powering up my computer for research or writing is as unappealing as nighttime sit ups;-). So today, Sunday, was a wonderful time to focus.

The kids and I are biking a lot as I'm trying to exercise away about eight pounds. Now if they want a weekly bagel at Panera, we ride four miles round trip to get that treat. We have to drive to a place where we can all be on safe sidewalks first, but it's fun and the kids seem to argue a lot less when they get lots of outside exercise.

We found a tunnel for $2 at a thrift store (don't shop them much now with the kids to avoid the unending "I wanna xyz"" but we did this day and trained Brandi to go through it with treats. I often feel like she needs more interesting things to do; she's not exactly the obstacles course type Sheltie, but I've read dogs are happier when they are challenged to think and try new things. So this was a happy find.

I am always trying to find ways to get the kids to help out in the garden, not usually to much avail, but when Kai realized he could deliver some annuals we'd gotten on sale to the pot I was putting them in, he got into the spirit.;-)

Good wishes to all and to all a happy summertime! Eileen

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Summer and the living is good;-)

Wisconsin summers are beautiful! And the dry weather, while bad for gardening, has kept away our usual hordes of mosquitoes. Farmer's markets every weekend are a bonus. Rode our bikes downtown to meet Greg for dinner and met a very gracious woman from Columbia who is visiting his firm. She is completely bilingual and it makes me happy I've been studying Spanish with the kids a bit each day and excited to someday be able to carry on a conversation! Wishing you all happy summers!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Boston research trip...

Just got back from a wonderful, wonderful trip to Boston to see all the historic sites from Paul Revere's home to Old North Church, to Lexington and Concord. The trip really gave me a new perspective on our history and corrected some important logistics errors in my book where I have characters doing things that were either on the wrong side of Boston or physically impossible due the time and mileage;-). These sorts of errors will now be corrected. The trip also gave me an appreciation for what a gift we've been given to live in a democracy. The birth of America was never a sure thing! Good wishes! Eileen

Sunday, July 10, 2011

War of 1812

Sorry that I appear to have fallen off the planet. The kids home full time for the summer has been a lot of fun, but very active. Today we went to Prairie Du Chein for a War of 1812 battle reenactment at this very fort on the Mississippi river. It was really interesting (no lives lost) and I learned lots of little details about the lives of soldiers, their families, etc. so it was helpful for my book too. The book comes along in bits and pieces. Once the writing class was over, it's been hard to get many chunks of time, but I write when I can.

We are being pretty good on the frugal front - home more and eating at home pretty much always. Few thrift store ventures (much harder with two boys in tow;-)

The garden is wonderful this time of the year and always makes me happy, whether I'm out there or just watching from the windows.

Wishing all of you a happy July and baby steps along your own journeys. Eileen