February 26, 2010

Super Student

I can't stop doing my homework. This is so unlike me. I usually wait until the very last possible second before a deadline to begin working on a project. I think I like the adrenalin rush that comes with the last minute push to get things done. But, I'm so excited about school and, so terrified that I might--God forbid-- get anything less than an A (that includes an A-) that I'm doing homework early and, oh, so thoroughly. The thorough part doesn't surprise me because that's how I am. The early part is new. I'm glad for it though. Still, I can see that I'll need to carve out time when I just need to let the homework go so I can hang out with Jerry.

Warren is at jury duty today. Poor guy. They didn't call him in all week until the one day he was hoping to go to lunch with friends.

It's almost 9:30 and I think I'll go clean up in my office for a bit before Jerry wakes up. Or maybe I'll do some more homework. It's so fun to be a student again!!

February 23, 2010

Eh Gads!

Has it really been four days since I last posted? I guess things got busy. We finished our fabulous vacation on Saturday, spent the night at my mom's in Sacramento, where my niece, Cora, played with me all evening and then let me read her a story and put her to bed. (Normally my sister is the only one who has this privilege, but since she was out on a date night with her husband Cora settled for me. It was very sweet.)

So we drove home from Sacramento on Sunday, and then my classes started. I'm taking two classes in Library Science and I already have homework and reading to do. I'm trying stay on top of it all though, so I don't get stressed out in the end. One of the girls in my class last night was saying how it had been soooo long since she'd been in school, so I was thinking maybe she was older than she looked. But then she said "I graduated in 2004." In what land was 2004 was a long time ago?! Anyway, it was kind of funny in a "how did I get so old?" kind of way.

And now I'm off to do some reading (about libraries, of course) and to bed.

February 19, 2010

Simple. Frugal. Fun.

I started a new blog the other day. This is the year I get my act together and get my house, finances, life, and all that other stuff in order. And the blog will document it all. I'm starting with organizing and purging, but the other two items on the list are living frugally and having fun. Anyway, check it out! It's called Simple. Frugal. Fun. And leave a comment if you can so I don't start to feel all lonely over there.

I'll post more pictures here later today. We went to a fabulous beach yesterday where there was tons of driftwood and Jerry had a great time making sandslides (like a landslide but with sand). It's supposed to rain today, so we'll probably stay in watching movies, reading, playing games, and being on the computer. It's so relaxing here!!

February 17, 2010

We're Moving!

Just kidding. But we would if we could. If Warren's work could happen up here, I'd pack my bags and move here in the blink of an eye. I love it! Even Jerry said he'd live here if only they had faster internet and satellite television. That's high praise. Warren likes it, but he's not prepared to move just yet. He's a city boy and wide open spaces make him nervous. I think I could convince him, though, given some time.

I woke up at 4 this morning and looked out the window to see that the cloud cover was gone and the milky way was clearly visible. It was so beautiful. I woke Warren up and we took a blanket out to the trampoline and lay on it, looking up at the stars. We saw at least 4 shooting stars in the 20 minutes or so that we were there. It was spectacular. It's easy to forget that we are just one of so many planets in so many galaxies when you live in the city. It's nice to be in a place where that's more apparent.

After our early morning stargazing, Warren and I slept in. We had a lazy morning and then, after lunch, the three of us (four if you include Patsy) drove to the Point Arena Lighthouse and took a guided tour (Patsy stayed in the car). This is the lighthouse.
And this is a view from the top.
It turns out that the entire city of Point Arena (and its lighthouse) was destroyed in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. After our tour we walked along the bluffs. The pictures speak for themselves, I think.





We stopped in at a bakery on our way home and bought some delicious cookies and coffee, then came back to the house, played Pit, watched Warren jump on the trampoline (Jerry and I are still sore from our last jumping episode!) and now Warren and I are at our computers and Jerry is on the phone getting some advice on playing WoW.

Yesterday we took another walk around the property and found some wild mushrooms. I'm pretty sure they're the black chantarelles that the owner had told me about, so as soon as I send him a picture (just to be on the safe side) I'm going to pick some for a pasta dinner.

Another thing I did yesterday was create a full and easy to read accounting of my grandma's estate and how much it was worth and where the money has gone so far. I was so relieved when everything added up perfectly. It was right down to the penny! I'm hoping the estate will be wrapped up in the month or so. When I take my fee it's going straight into a savings account for a trip to the Galapagos Islands. Anyone want to go with me? Warren's not a boat person and Jerry's diet is too restrictive for that kind for travel, so I'm going solo! It may take a while before I've got all the funds together, so if you're interested in going there's still plenty of time to save! I'll keep you posted on the details.

Oh, and another thing we did yesterday was watch the sunset.

February 16, 2010

Jumping For Joy

Come on in! But be sure to take your shoes off at the door. It's muddy out here.When I left you yesterday, Patsy and I were about to head outside to explore the property. That's just what we did and it was so cool! We found the cabin where the woman who lives here (she's an author) writes. We found a freaky abandoned trailer with broken windows and no door. We found an outhouse (also with no door) and an old rusty bath tub. We discovered the guest house, with its sliding barn door and super cool loft. We found the garden. We found a platform tree house and some of the craziest looking mushrooms I've ever seen. I cleaned off the trampoline and bounced a little as I surveyed the treetops. And then we went inside where I made tea and whole wheat pancakes. (I'm not being as strict with my healthy eating plan this week).

For the rest of the morning Warren, Patsy and I stayed inside while Jerry slept. I brought some photography books with me, so I started reading one of them. It's a nature photography workshop in a book. So, I read that and tried to take some pictures using the guidelines in the book, but I have a loooooong way to go.When Jerry woke up we all went for a walk around the property. We stopped in at the guest house, where Warren and Jerry played a game of foosball while I picked some fresh oregano from the garden. Patsy roamed freely, coming back to check on us every now and then. I believe she thinks she's died and gone to heaven. The only drawback to all this wide open space is that Patsy's hips are sore. Once she lays down at the end of the day it's hard for her to lift herself back up. I sense a hip surgery in her future.

After our hike around the property we came back to the trampoline. I set my camera up on a tripod so we could take goofy pictures of us in the air.


When we couldn't take it anymore we all limped back inside for lunch. Then, Warren and I had coffee on the deck. After that, we hung around the house for another couple hours, and then drove into Point Arena. It takes about 20 minutes to get there. Did I mention that this house is remote? To get here you have to get off highway 1, drive about 6 miles on a deserted, winding road, turn off that road onto a dirt road and drive another 1.3 miles to the long, dirt (but, mercifully straight) driveway. You have to enjoy solitude to live someplace like this.

After buying a few things at the market in Point Arena, we drove down to have a look at the Point Arena pier. It was cold and windy, so we didn't stay long. We plan to go back for some coastal exploration on Wednesday. Back at home, Warren started dinner while I wrote my newspaper article (the one about the teacher), then we ate dinner, watched a movie, and went to bed.

And now, here I am again. Sitting at the big window, looking out at the ocean which, up until this morning, has remained mostly hidden under a cover of gray clouds. Today, though, I can see the sparkling blue water. This place makes me want to jump for joy.

February 15, 2010

Bliss

I am sitting at the dining room table of our home away from home, looking through the huge windows to my left. Off in the distance, beyond the pine trees, redwoods and green rolling hills the Pacific Ocean is just starting to peek through the fog. I'm going to put on some warm clothes and take the dog exploring on the 10 acres of land which belong to the owners of this house. But I just wanted to write a quick note on my blog to say, "Wow."

Wow. I can't believe we get to stay here. And I can't believe it's free. But we do. And it is.

Wow.

February 12, 2010

Clean, Clean, Clean

I'm just taking a breather in the midst of all the cleaning we've been doing today in preperation for the house swap. Swapping houses has been great for the cleanliness of our house because there's no way we would put this much effort into cleaning just for ourselves. Or even for guests that we know. It's another matter entirely when you're having guests who don't know you!

Anyway, I wanted to tell you about our experiment. The one we did last night. It's really easy. You need an LED (you can get one at Radio Shack), shoes, carpet, and a metal object. Hold one metal leg of the LED in your fingers, walk across the rug (wearing shoes) and slide your feet as you go (picking up extra electrons along the way), and then touch the other leg of the LED to something metal (we used a doorknob) and you get a teeny flicker of light. It's really cool! Oh, and I forgot to mention the lights should be out and it should be dark. That's all there is to it! After the experiment we watched a couple YouTube videos about electricity. Jerry seemed really interested and I was so happy to be doing something fun together because he spends an awful lot of time with his friends on the XBox these days. I miss him.

My breather is over. Time to clean the bathrooms and then it's off to the movie theater for the Percy Jackson movie. Yippee! We've been waiting for this one forever!

Crazy Day

This was my day yesterday:
7 wake up, have tea, eat breakfast, finish gathering tax information
9:30 leave home, drop off Summer at her house
10:30 tax appointment with accountant
12 arrive home, wake Jerry for dog walking
12:30 dog walking (while walking: call Warren to see if he'll be driving Jerry to D&D, no answer; call Jerry's friend Shea re: early pick up for D&D; send e-mail to woman in France who is worried because my sister-in-law, who is supposed to be hosting her daughter this summer, has not responded to her e-mails; call sister-in-law to see what the heck is keeping her from responding; call warren again, no answer)
1:15 drop Jerry off at home, start water boiling for pasta, back into the car to pick up Shea
1:30 shuffle boys, plus Warren into car for D&D game
1:45 compose e-mail to woman in France explaining that sister-in-law must be really busy, send another couple e-mails
2:15 leave house to interview teacher for newspaper
3 interview
4:30 home, eat
5 clean
6 decide to take a break and watch Galapagos DVD (Warren and Jerry arrive home soon after)
6:45 make dinner
7:45 clean
8:45 do some Japanese with Jerry, read first pages of "Getting Started in Electronics" with Jerry and do a quick experiment
9:45 clean
10:30 bed at last

It was a busy day.

Here's the photo I took of the teacher I interviewed. I really like it.

February 11, 2010

C'est La Vie

I had a feeling it was too good to be true. The Vita-Mix is not going to be mine. Apparently the guy who offered it to me failed to check with the other resident of his house (his mother) before offering it to me. And she wants to keep it. Oh well. It's a good thing he asked her before giving it away! So, I'm still hoping some other giving soul who doesn't use his or her blender will see fit to give it to me.

In the meantime, I just interviewed a junior high school English teacher for the local paper and he was so interesting! He's exactly the kind of teacher you want your kid to have. I asked him if there was any one kid that he felt he'd really impacted in some way and he said that it's the kids who are making an impact on him. He said they teach him something new every day. What a gifted and inspiring guy.

And now we are down to the countdown. Our house swap begins at 1:00 on Saturday afternoon and the house is a mess. There is lots of work to be done! But at least we have a lovely, newly painted front door.

February 10, 2010

Defeat & Victory

Defeat:
I've given up on my career as a worm castings farmer (or vermicomposter). I sold the worm bin on Craigslist for $45 yesterday, after my worms died. Yet again. They were doing so well just before Christmas, but then I unthinkingly threw a bunch of food and eggshells in before we left for the holiday. It was just too much for them. The result was mold, flies, and dead worms. So no more worms for me. My regular compost pile is doing really well now and I'm just going to stick with that.

Victory:
I really, really want one of those expensive, super powerful Vita-Mix blenders. My parents bought one a couple years ago and I've been patiently waiting for the Vita-Mix to join the other unused (or rarely used) appliances in their garage so I can surreptitiously transport it to my own kitchen, but it just isn't happening. They keep using the darn thing. So, when I heard they were on sale at Costco, I asked Warren to stop by and check out the price. Sadly, (and as expected, really) the Vita-Mix does not fit into the unemployment budget. So, on a whim, I posted an ad on FreeCycle. It must have been a month ago that I put that post up and I had given up on the idea of getting one completely. In fact, I hadn't held out much hope of getting one in the first place because even used (like on Craigslist) they sell for a well over two hundred dollars. But guess what I found in my inbox this morning?

OK. Enough guessing. I'll tell you. I got an e-mail from a guy who said he'll give me his Vita-Mix blender!!!! Can you believe it!? He said can he have a six-pack of Miller in return and I told him I'd give him a case!

Yippee!!

February 8, 2010

Super Bowl

Jerry made his annual Super Bowl Sunday theme park trip with his friend, Jackson, yesterday. But for the first time I just dropped the boys off at the park and left them to their own devices. Jerry was a little nervous about it, but I couldn't justify spending money on my own ticket when funds are so tight. And it all worked out really well. Jerry had a great time and checked in with me throughout the day on his cell phone, and I was able to spend a few hours with my grandma. We visited for a couple hours, then watched the first part of the Super Bowl in the living room of her assisted living home with the other old folks. They were my kind of sports spectators. We all just rooted for whoever had the ball and cringed when anyone got tackled. So all in all it was a fine day for everyone!

We've had confirmation that the French boy will be staying with us for three weeks this summer, so that's really exciting.

Today I'm going to paint our front door. Well, I'm going to primer it today. I'll paint it (cobalt blue!) tomorrow. So, that's exciting, too (for me, anyway--our door has needed paint pretty much since we moved in).

I feel like moving to New Zealand today. I'll probably get over it, but every now and then the mood strikes me. Anyway, that's all I have to say, really. Sorry this blog has become so boring. I only keep up with it because I enjoy other people's blogs so much that I would feel guilty about dropping mine--just in case anyone feels the same way about mine. Ah, well, the paint can is calling!!

February 5, 2010

Released

I've been released from jury service for the year. Yippee! They settled out of court, so I never even ended up on a jury. I did, however, get free entry to the Museum of Modern Art on my lunch break yesterday, which was cool. And which is why I have no pictures to show you today.

But, I would like to share what I've been eating for breakfast with you. It's so yummy. And so healthy. I've been having Irish oatmeal with 2 chopped dried plums (aka prunes) and 2 chopped dried apricots with a sprinkling of cinnamon every morning and it's delicious! This is my third or fourth week of my new healthy eating and I'm loving it. I can't say exactly what has changed, but I'm having no problem sticking to the foods that are healthy and leaving out white flour, dairy, sugar, and processed foods. It's weird. Normally I would give up after a couple days. I'm also reading a great book that is just reinforcing my decision to eat healthier. It's called The Blue Zones. In the book, the author visits three (or four?) areas of the world that scientists call "blue zones," where a high concentration of centenarians exists, and tries to figure out what lifestyle choices led those people to such longevity, then he gives ideas for how we might do the same. It's a quick easy read and I'm enjoying it a lot. Once I'm certain my eating habits have changed I'm going to move on to exercise and find ways to get moving a bit more. Then I'll add meditation and I'll be set for life. I hope.

More good news: we might have a French boy come stay with us for a few weeks this summer. It would be an "exchange" of sorts through Homelink (the house swapping service we belong to) so that he could improve his English. I'm hoping it works out, though I doubt Jerry would be interested in going to France without us. But, you never know. I can't recommend this house swapping thing highly enough. If you've ever thought about doing it, just take the plunge. You'll never regret it!

By the way, on the unschool front I've made a couple changes. Warren is very worried about the way Jerry spends his time. He particularly wants him to know some things about history and feels he should study Japanese in between his lessons, instead of only doing it for the one hour each week when he is with his teacher. So, Jerry and I have taken to spending some time most evenings after dinner going over a Japanese book I bought him a while back and doing flash cards and I'm also taking the opportunity to tell him a few things about history, or to read a short book from the library on a certain topic. So, it's not strictly unschooling because he isn't coming to me saying "Mom, I want to learn this. Can you help?" But, on the other hand, he's not complaining and we both enjoy cuddling up on the new bed/couch we recently put in his playroom and reading and talking. So I see it more a me nudging him. If he refused to sit with me I think I'd have to let it go, but so far we both enjoy the time, so I'm going to keep going. And it puts Warren's mind at ease, which is good. So it's win/win all around.

I've been thinking of trying to add some math to his life, though. And that might not go as smoothly. The reasoning behind my idea, is that whenever I read about people who study video game design, they always mention that math is important. Now Jerry says he wants to study video game design. But he hasn't yet made the connection that he'll need math. He still thinks he hates math. So, I've been thinking of trying to find a person who loves math to come over now and then and show Jerry what he or she loves so much about it. I'm not really thinking it would be a "lesson" so much as a shared passion. I'm still toying with the idea in my mind. But, I do think that knowing Jerry, and knowing how he tends to feel overwhelmed when he doesn't feel comfortable doing something (which inevitably leads to his giving up), I'm just thinking it may be a bit negligent on my part to ignore the math thing completely. On the other hand, maybe if he focused more on video game design now, he would recognize that he needs math and then he would want to learn it. Hmmm. I think that might be right. So, doing more video game design with him now will lead him to want to learn math if he sees he needs it for the game design that he's doing. Aha! I've just figured it out. OK. Forget what I said before. We're just going to focus on what Jerry loves doing now. And if he finds he needs math to do it, then we'll learn math because he sees a need for it. Yes, that's right. Phew! That was a close one.

February 3, 2010

Jury Duty, Part 2

I'm sure being part of a jury is really interesting once the trial begins, but the jury selection process is mind numbingly boring. The only interesting part is finding out what people do for a living, if they're married and what their spouses do (all the jurors have to answer those questions). But after you sit through 14 people in one courtroom and 20 in another even that tends to get old.

Still, I made the most of my lunch break by leaving the courthouse and walking around some of my favorite places in downtown Los Angeles. And I took pictures for you. With my phone.

This is the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.The Walt Disney Concert Hall.That's City Hall in the background, but the real reason I took this picture was the aloe plants that were in bloom. This flower is one of my favorite things about winter in Southern California. I love it.And I took this one just outside the courthouse. It's for my New Zealand friends. :)I'll be back at the courthouse on Thursday for the continuation of jury selection. So I expect I'll have more pictures for you on Friday.

By the way, have you checked in with the Redpath family lately? They're a family of four, from our homeschool group, who are traveling the world for a year. And they've just been to Stonehenge!

February 1, 2010

Jury Duty

That's where I'll be starting at 7:30 a.m. today--well, by the time most of you read this it will be today (Tuesday). I could have done an online orientation and reported later than 7:30, but because I'm lame and I forgot about it until this very second, I'm too late for the online orientation and I have to be there at the crack of dawn. Woe is me.

On the other hand, last time I had jury duty I met some really nice people who I've kept in touch with, so maybe the same thing will happen this time. Either way, I'll be bringing a few good books (I'm reading My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell at the moment--it's great!) and will spend the day doing some guilt-free reading, maybe a few crossword puzzles, and making new friends.

In other news, I've been going through our New Zealand pictures, trying to choose a few for a frame we're putting up in the hallway (a frame we bought for that very purpose over a year ago) and I found this one of our shadows in front of the Rotorua Museum of Art and History. I like it.