Monday, March 31, 2008

You know, that thing we are involved in, over there

My poll on “What’s going on in Iraq now?” garnered the votes of
A war: 0
A U.S.-led occupation:3
A police action: 1
Other: 2

I asked the question because of a somewhat heated debate with my husband recently. Just today NPR used the word “war” again, referring to the Iraqi situation. CNN and the Chicago Tribune still use the term. I guess it’s just a handy shorthand, if incorrect.

So, you who voted “other,” please explain in the comments section. What is it?

Saturday, March 29, 2008

How walkable is your house?

How many errands can you do on foot, instead of driving? According to the Walk Score site, our house is a 75. ("70 - 90 = Very Walkable: It's possible to get by without owning a car.") I feel like that's a little low. For instance, I can walk to the post office, and that's not calculated in. On the other hand, under movie theaters we get credit for a psychic reading place. Not sure how that works, exactly. But here's another oddity: our closest coffee shop is not a Starbucks.

Bill Gates only gets an 11. Loser.

The white house gets a 94. But I bet they drive everywhere.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


If only we knew ahead of time which toys would get the most bang for each buck. So many dollars spent incorrectly. However, despite the expense of the sturdy wooden furniture, this is our best ratio of dollar to fun. Every day, and I mean it, every day, the dollhouse amuses, sitting up on the train table at a perfect height for redecorating and pretending.

The actual house was made by my sister-in-law for her grandmother, whom I never met. That SIL wanted to sell it at a garage sale at our house, marked $45, I think. I immediately set it to the side. Eventually my husband painted the interior white. My mom and I wallpapered, carpeted, tiled the kitchen floor, and installed a hardwood floor in the dining room. That night I went to a party and told some guy that I had remodeled a whole house in a day, har har! He was clearly impressed until I told him the scale of the project.

Workers of the world, unite! Or is it a religious meeting? There’s definitely something subversive going on.

Mouse relaxes in a nice bath

Where I sit and blog

The backyard and balcony garden, with infestation of giant frogs

Monday, March 24, 2008

What I was wearing this past winter

I wore my very lovely warm sheepskin hat a lot this winter. My youngest is modeling it here. It gets a lot of comments. "That's quite a hat!" is popular. So is "Is that your hair?"

You'll note these are not necessarily compliments.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

My secrets, revealed

It’s all Steve’s fault. What was he thinking? I'm hosting brunch for 18 tomorrow, despite throwing out my back. And what does he do? Hands me my procrastination on a platter. I owe you a beer, man.

1. I can't believe I've never...dyed my hair a crazy color. Seriously.

2. Every time I think about...the condition of this house when we bought it, and the fact that we had parties in it anyway...I still cringe.
3. I wish I’d…
traveled the world more...when I had the chance.
4. I’ve never felt so out of place as when I…hmmm. I don’t know. That’s the sort of thing I forget about as soon as I can.

5. How much time I spend reading for pleasure…is my guiltiest pleasure. And watching “The Biggest Loser” while eating junk food.
6. I hope…N...know(s) how grateful I am for…putting up with me.
7. In my darkest hours, I secretly blame…
necrophilia...for my dysfunction.
8. Having two beautiful daughters…changed my life forever.
9. My earliest remembered moment is...actually a dream, which I still remember in some detail.

And I tag this guy I vaguely know: The Monkey King

Friday, March 21, 2008

Full-service blog

Please take a moment to analyze how you feel. Take your time. No rush.

:: elevator music ::

OK, depending on your results, perhaps you ...

Need a good cry? Every child deserves a voice.

Need a good Rock and Roll brainteaser?
Can you guess the song from the scrambled lyrics?

Need some silly entertainment?
Pete and Rob - stop action Playmobil movies

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Eating locally and organically

OK, you know how sometimes you save a blog topic and you just add and add and add to it until it’s so huge that you don’t know what to do with it? Well, this is one of those.

A few years ago I read The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan, and raved about it like a lunatic for a few years. That book forced me to start buying only organic potatoes.
Then I read The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan. And I wanted to stop eating corn.
Then I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver. And now I’m crazed completely and plan to expand my own vegetable patch. An interesting illustration from that book is the "
Vegetannual" which explains nicely why the foods in season have to come from a specific part of the plant at a specific time. She’s also online, with lots of other resources.

Find a CSA (Community-supported agriculture) program near you
Find farmer’s markets near you.
What produce is in season now, by state.
Here’s a fascinating look at which companies own different branches of the
organic industry.
If you happen to live near Chicago, as I do, there is a lot of info on the
Vital Information blog.

If you don’t enjoy reading and would rather watch a nice documentary, in which a somewhat wacky farmer goes from conventional to organic farming, there’s The Real Dirt on Farmer John. I hear King Corn is good, but I haven’t seen that one yet.

And lastly, the
National Family Farm Coalition (NFFC) helps grassroots groups ensure fair prices for family farmers, safe and healthy food, and vibrant, environmentally sound rural communities. For when you are ready to take up pitchforks to change the world.

Please let me know if any of this was helpful to you! The comments section is always open.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Fun things to do with kids

Idea #1: If you are looking for children’s books in other languages, some of them obscure, check out the Big Universe site.

Czech? Check. French and Spanish, mais si! German? Nein! Figures.

They also have English, of course. Might be fun to browse around with the kids.

Idea #2: Need something more interactive, but still sorta techno? Set up your video camera to feed into the TV, so the kids can dance around and watch themselves live! On TV! Amusement for a bare minimum of 30 minutes. Plus, you can secretly tape their antics.

Sunday, March 16, 2008


I recently bartered with a friend. For a wooden puzzle, some random play food, and a Sit ‘n Spin, she gave me a large jar of dried cranberries and 25 fruit leather snacks. Like all successful bartering transactions, we both thought we had come out ahead.

I realize that
freecycle isn’t technically bartering, since you don’t receive items from the same people you donate other things to. However, I think of it a great cosmic bartering, as the karmic energy enfolds you to blah blah blah.

As an added bonus, it smacks slightly of: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need. If you squint a little.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Next month's book group selection

This month’s book group pick is a secret. If you are part of the group, you will know who is hosting next month! Please follow that link to purchase, or write it down on a wee scrap of paper and carry that scrap to the library, if you want to be that way about it.

Susie picked Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Susannah picked Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Susan picked Atonement by Ian Mcewan
Suzanne picked The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Stereotypical Signs of Spring

Nothing like a string of 50 degree days. Saw a robin in the yard yesterday.

So, good news, bad news out in the yard. Yes, still a little snowy and sooo oh so muddy. Yes, chives, mint, oregano coming up already. A couple snowdrops blooming cutely.

But looks like, between the cicada damage and the damn bunnies, the Russian quince tree that we planted last spring may be a goner. I guess it's too early to tell. Maybe Russian quinces are used to that sort of treatment, out on the steppes. With the giant wolves and all. Using little saplings to clean their teeth after the kill.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Shop now!

I don't mean to harp on the topic, but if this is on your Amazon list, please click through from here! And be sure to look at the most recent customer reviews, as that is some Good Humor.

Monday, March 10, 2008


Fun link for the day. Just let it load and give it a second.

Useful links for the day if you have a desire to search just blogs: Google blog search and Icerocket. Reading blogs is definitely my new addiction. What a fun way to waste the hour(s) that I'm not working, watching the kids, fighting with my sad and pathetic insurance company, or daydreaming.

Blogs I've been visiting for years:
Mimi Smartypants
Defective Yeti

Here's a few that I've been enjoying recently:
getting flak
French Laundry at Home
falling down is also a gift

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Assistive Technology

At Easter Seals yesterday our speech therapist said, “What do you think about an Assistive Technology* assessment for Nea?”
I said, “Oh, I would be very interested in that.”
She said, “Lots of parents are against it because they think it’s giving up on the child ever being able to speak.”
I said, “Oh, no, not at all.” Then I walked down the hallway and tried not to cry.

So, we’ll see if it goes anywhere. I do think she is getting increasingly frustrated. As would we all, of course, if we were almost 4 and non-verbal.

* Which includes options such as:

  • Adaptive keyboards such as IntelliKeys USB Board, onscreen keyboards for alternate access via mouse control, etc.
  • Access options to all technology via items such as switches, joysticks, headpointers, etc.
  • Speech generating devices (SGDs) such as the Vantage/Vanguard II, DV4/MT4, Mercury, ChatPC II, Tango, TechTalk, BIGMacks, etc.
  • Software programs that help address literacy, writing, math and play.

[List lifted directly from Easter Seals]

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Native plants

So, why is this blog called “bluestem”? Well. I’m so glad you asked. N and I have been very interested in native plants since … well, since we bought this house nearly 7 years ago. We have a little prairie area going, and also enjoy going to various prairies near here to view the local plant life. Probably the least known actual prairie left in the area is the Wolf Road Prairie, at 31st St and Wolf Road in Westchester. Definitely worth a look this spring, if you are into that sort of thing.

It seems silly for me to list the reasons why native plants are important, when they are already well-documented. Consider using some in your garden!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

For your amusement

Today's selection is Garfield minus Garfield, a brilliant post-modern look at our society.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Easter Seals 5K

For the months of March, April, and May, proceeds (if any) from this site will go to Easter Seals. If you don’t need anything from Amazon, please feel free to donate directly to Easter Seals DuPage instead. They do wonderful work. We are coming up on our one year anniversary of ES speech therapy. I just can't say enough good things about them.

May 10th, our ES is hosting a 5K run/2 mile walk. N and I have decided to participate! Two months should be enough to train. Why just today I shoveled the old ice off the driveway, went for a 2 mile jog/walk, walked around the arboretum, shoveled some more, and walked around the block twice while the girls biked. We’ll see how my back feels tomorrow. I did manage to blister my hands a little.

If you are getting back into shape, try
map my run to see how far you went.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

The aftermath

Rummage sale status: spent $100 and got beautiful spring and summer clothing for 2 girls, plus things for their Easter baskets. And, now that I think about it, smallish things to put in the Easter eggs, instead of candy candy candy. Little cars and Sesame Street figures, for example.

Clothing includes Hanna Anderssen, Gap, Gymboree, Land's End, Oshkosh, etc. Lots of gorgeous summer dresses. Here's a story for you. I was debating on some Gap capris that didn't have an adjustable waist. They were marked as $2. I have no idea why I did this, as I don't ever check the pockets, but I slid my finger in and pulled out a dollar bill. So that was settled. Apparently I was destined to buy the pants.