Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Ice Storm

Ok, so I said that my next post was going to be about reading aloud, but weather intervened. We're in the middle of an ice storm here in NE OK. Not as bad as last year's, yet. As I was madly rushing around yesterday, I thought of a list of things to prepare for/with/against.

First of all, watch the news. At least listen to the weather channel while you're cooking breakfast or check the Yahoo extended forecast. I had NO IDEA there was bad weather on the way until my mother mentioned it on the phone. Ice storm? Whaaaa...That was Sunday evening. So I only had Monday morning to prepare.

Second, stock up. Monday is my grocery shopping day anyway, so this wasn't too much of a stretch. We actually could have gone without shopping this week, with the state of our stockpile. However, last year power was out for WEEKS. I wanted to stock up on some fresh milk and produce to get us through. (Plus, I found a great deal on Embrace razors to use my coupons on, so it all worked out.) I also grabbed a couple of things that would be easy to prepare with no stove/oven, as ours is electric. Hot dogs, granola bars, lunchmeat for sandwiches.

If you don't have a stockpile of canned goods, bottled water, and toilet paper, I suggest you start one. There's a great thread over at afullcup.com that has pictures, too. Having non-edible supplies like lamp oil and ice melt will help you avoid the long lines and scarcity that occurs when people are running around the day before the storm.

Third, do any errands that electricity effects. For me, this is pretty much all of them. I limited myself to the WM trip and the dry cleaners, as the ice was starting to fall during my drive. My workplace never lost power last time, so I still had to be clean and presentable and in uniform, even though we had no light, heat, or clean clothes. The dry cleaners holding my clothes hostage was one of the last places to get power restored. Learned my lesson there. We filled up both vehicles to the brim with gas in case the gas stations lost power. Make sure your prescriptions are filled and your first aid kit is stocked. You'll be stressed enough without your blood pressure meds and band-aids. Make sure you have plenty of cash on hand. Last ice storm, the drug store opened without power, but they were accepting cash only.

Fourth, do any chores that electricity would make impossible or onerous. I washed every stitch of clothing in the house. Every bath towel, sheet, and sock was washed, dried, and put away. Now we have at least a week's worth of clean EVERYTHING. I ran the dishwasher twice, so that every cup, bowl, and fork would be clean and ready. Run the vacuum, clean out the fridge, organize. Make areas safe to bump around in the dark with a flashlight. Put things where they normally go so that you can find them even with no light. Make sure all cell phones are fully charged.

Fifth, put all your emergency supplies in an easily found, safe place. I gathered all my candles, flashlights, extra batteries, and lanterns on the coffee table. There is plenty of natural light in the living room in the day, and the coffee table is still easy to access in the dark. All of these things are normally in drawers or in the back of closets, scattered in different places around the house. I gathered all the extra blankets and throws from the back rooms and put them on the couch.

Sixth, find something to do while the power is out. Gather up your board games and decks of cards. String a white sheet to make shadow puppets. Get out your musical instruments. If you're without power for any length of time, stuck in a cold house surrouded by dangerous roads, you'll want some entertainment.

And, finally, and ice storm is a great way to start reading aloud by the lamplight. Ta-DAH!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

More money saving tips from the Queen! Or, for our Oklahoma readers, Read Y'All!

You know, Nettie, that Wayne and I have been trying this whole frugality, plan-your-money thing for about two years now. I'm a member at Debt Proof Living, and I read Get Rich Slowly and I Will Teach You To Be Rich about every day. I also love Wise Bread for sheer volume of tips. I was reading some blog the other day (love the segue from super-specific to very vague?) and it mentioned that one of the things they do for cheap entertainment is read aloud.

Well, duh. Doesn't everyone?

I guess that's a no. Wayne and I have been reading books aloud for a while now. I know the starting point was going to see the first Narnia movie. On the way home, I was trying to express my mixture of feelings to Wayne; basically I liked it, but I was really upset about the whole fox character (not in the book!), even though I love Rupert Everett. In an effort to explain, I whipped out the boxed set I've had since I was about eight, and read the particular passage. No fox.

After that, I decided we should just read the whole thing to really see where the movie people did good, and where they deviated from the text, which is a huge no-no with me. We ended up reading the entire series.

Then we moved on to Harry Potter, which was such a huge success that I once read a segment aloud into the cell phone propped on my chest. Wayne was out of town, and couldn't wait to find out what happened next. He's a dedicated listener. (Which is the arrangement we have--I read, he listens, we both comment.) If it wasn't such a stalky-fan thing to do, I would write J.K. Rowling a letter about how she inspired my no-reading husband to plow through a book once. It was Deathly Hallows, and he couldn't wait for our appointed reading time (bedtime) to move on. I took a picture.

How is buying all these books to read aloud frugal?

1) Well, we didn't buy most of them. Like the Narnia books, I already owned a lot of the books we read. My parents were big on books, and read to us every night. My brother only likes Hank the Cowdog and certain civil war books. I loved girl books--Laura Ingalls Wilder, Anne of Green Gables, etc. We always got a book or book set at Xmas and birthdays. So I'm well-stocked.

2) The public library. There are umpety-teen library branches here in our fair city. Our library website is great--you can order a book from any branch and it will be delivered to the branch of your choice within days. I usually choose the one closest to my house and the one closest to my job. The request feature is my favorite. I read about a new book online, hear about it from a friend, etc., go online to the website, request it under my name, and voila! It will appear on my branch's holdshelf.If someone else has already requested it, the site will show what number I am in line. (Currently I'm 10 of 16 for the waiter rant book, but that saves me $15 on a new hardback that I'll probably only read once anyway.)

I've always got some books on hold, some on request, and some waiting for pickup. Every time I go into the library, I can drop off my old books and head straight for the holdshelf. I grab my holds, step over to the automated checkout, and be done in a few minutes. I still spend my time browsing, but I can cut down on errand-running time this way.

3) Paperbackswap.com. Love this site! I can post the books I don't want anymore (even hardbacks or audiobooks), and trade them for new-to-me books. All I have to pay for is postage (and I'm sneaky like that and ask for postage for gifts), which averages out to about $2 per book. There's about a two-week turnaround, but it's worth it to fill out a series or get books for gifts. I've gotten some brand-new books this way. If you're ordering for a gift, there's a nifty little message box where you can contact the sender and make requests, like "good condition for a gift" or "no smoking/pethair/dogears", whatever you're allergic to.

And for those of you who are squeamish about gifting a 'used' book--haven't you ever 'browsed' a book at Barnes & Noble before? Or read the whole dang thing right there in those comfy armchairs? You're not likely to get a virgin book that has never been read. And really? Like you can tell. And does a book lose any of its charm for having been read once?

4) Gifts. My family is a big fan of practical gifts. And yes, we include books in that category. (Honestly, I've read my copy of Anne of Green Gables way more times than I ever used my practical black rain boots.) This is our gift-giving mantra

Something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read.

5) Used book stores. My local used book store accepts your old books for cash or credit. So I can walk in with a bunch of old books and out with a bunch of new-to-me books. And I'm supporting local business.

So now you know how to get the books. Next time, boys and girls, we'll talk about how to actually get to the reading part.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


Yeah, I'm sick. I have a semi-cold. Not really bad, just annoying. Actually, I'm pretty good at being sick, as it entails lots of lying around, reading, drinking lots of fluids, and sleeping. All my normal hobbies, only now I don't sound so lazy.

So the only thing I'm pissed about is that it's my day off. What a waste! When I could have called in sick to work and had an extra guilt-free day off. Damn.

And I was so going to my parents' house today. Not really to see them, or my annoying brother, but his decidedly wonderful offspring, my only nephew. Who is the cutest, funniest, smartest, most amazing 5-year-old on the planet, and couldn't be any more perfect if I grew him my ownself.

Some of his favorite things, in no particular order:

--Playing hide and seek (during which he hides, then hollers, 'OK, come find me now!' and giggles maniacally at his genius hiding spot, usually under my parents' bed)

--catching grasshoppers to keep in a plastic habitat, let them go, then catch them again (obviously we wouldn't be doing this one today, as it is fahreakin' cold)

--my parents' cat, named technically Spider. (When we first got him, he was so teensy tiny and his little black hairs stood up all over his back and...actually, I think my mom had a dream that she named him Spider, so we did. Our one brush with the New Age. He has been called Panther since my brother and I taught him to jump up and cling to our outstretched arms with HIS outstretched claws. Super cute when he was a teensy ball of fluff, not so funny when he reach 10 lbs. He got so good at it, he would spring up at you any time you reached your arm out, like in the middle of the night, reaching for the faucet to get a glass of water. Panther screams supposedly sound like a woman, and they can attack people, so it all ties together, see? Oh, and he's solid black and a minion of Satan. So, Panther is appropriate.)

Why does my nephew love him so? I really have no idea.

--Dr. Pepper. Because my mother has yet to beat her fifteen year addiction to the stuff (for the previous ten years it was Cherry Coke), and can always be seen can in hand. She has even allowed him to have a donut and Dr. Pepper for breakfast. Which drives my brother crazy, and makes me worry about orthodontia.

--Yogurt. Again, with my mom. She has nothing on that couple in the commercial about all the different flavors of yogurt. Except that hers aren't lined up neatly, but squirreled away amongst the cow vaccinations, Diet Mountain Dew (my dad's vice--see how I come from a long line of addicts?) mysterious things in knockoff Tupperware, and the occasional baggie of thawing calf fries.

--Deer Hunter, a computer game where you...well, hunt deer. Last time I was home, he even postponed his usual lavish shrieking welcome to finish 'gettin this deer'. Sniff.

--Play-Doh. Which his amazing Aunt Queen bought him gigantic quantites of for his birthday (and his father displayed amazing paternal savvy at hiding half of before little guy noticed they were gone). His mother had to buy another supply for Xmas, only two weeks after his birthday. He has created some surprising original works, such as the pile of 'yellow coyote poop' on my mother's kitchen table. Genius use of color and texture.

--Me. I am the bestest aunt ever, as I will play hide and seek and white trash gymnastics* forever. (I have sometimes taken TWO naps on an 8-hour visit. If we could harness five-year-old energy, we wouldn't need Boone Pickens' windmills.) Some of the most heartwrenching phone calls I've ever had were his little voice piping over the line "Are you comin to Grandma's right now?" when I'm on my way to work. Or the forty-seven phone calls I get in the hour-long drive to Grandma's--"Are you here yet?" And seeing his little face pressed up against the screen door when I do arrive, and hearing "She's here, she's here!" (No male has ever been that excited about my arrival. EVER.)

*Somersaults on the bed until Grandpa makes us stop ('cause it's his bed), somersaults in the kitchen floor, holding his hands and letting him 'walk' up my body until he reached my stomach and he's in a little ball, then flipping him over until his arms nearly wrench out of his sockets. Safety first!

So you can see why I'm pretty bummed, and have spent the last three hours reading other people's blogs. Then I realized that I haven't nattered along on mine for a while. And, embarrassingly enough, MY blog isn't even saved to MY favorites. Hm. Sad.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Spaceballs litter box

Yay! New poo box!

Which actually isn't a box. It's a black plastic sphere on a black plastic base that looks a LOT like the stormtrooper costumes in Spaceballs. Only black. 'Cause a beige litter box? Meh.

So Christmas morning actually came to my house on New Year's Day. I went running into the laundry room in my pajamas to see if Santa had left a little present in the litter.

YEEESSSS! The cats get it! One of them used it! I get to push the button that makes it go all the way around and sift out the poo and drop it through the waste ports into the nifty little drawer underneath! Oooooh. Aaaaah. And I squatted there on the coldcold floor and watched the. Entire. Cycle. Did I mention that I had a pounding headache from the night before and had to hold myself up by leaning on the shelf above the poo box? Yeah.

Wayne was not so excited as I was, and managed to describe my childish delight in the worst possible terms. He'll be excited when he has to clean the damn thing. He will be. (Shaking my fist menacingly.)

And I am the best wife ever because my husband is snowboarding down a mountain in Colorado as I type. One of my coworkers mentioned that he really wanted to go snowboarding this weekend, but he didn't want to go by himself. So I had Wayne call him, I ordered plane tickets and a rental car, drove them to the airport in the middle of the night, and he better damn well have a good time.

Isn't it amazing how guys can do that? Wayne's met the guy before, he's not a complete stranger, but he doesn't hesitate to jump on a plane with this person and crash at his buddy's house for a few days. And spend four days completely together. Just to go snowboarding. Which is my idea of a horrible time, sliding around in snow on a freezing cold day with hundreds of other idiots all bent on doing the same insane thing...which is why I'm curled up a home with hot chocolate.