Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year's Eve

Well folks, its almost here. In just a few hours that giant ball will drop and we'll slide on into the new year. Have you made any resolutions? Any big changes or challenges ahead of you in 2008? What are you going to do to make this new year a greener/better one? Any plans? Any ambitions? Or are you planning to keep your head down and ignore the changing of the calendar?

It may seem trite, and perhaps it is... but I do tend toward sitting down on New Year's day and evaluating my plans for the year ahead. Silly, but I have some big plans for the year – both for Naturally Nerds and my own personal life. In the afternoon, I'll share some of the plans with you folks.

Until then? Pop some champagne or chill a bottle of fizzy grape juice and celebrate. We've made it through another year, and in spite of the doom sayers and gloomy gusses we haven't blown ourselves up or completely melted the icecaps this year. Here's to hoping we make this coming year even better.

Off to insure the bubbly is properly chilled, then its a quiet night with the Prime Geek waiting for the ball to fall.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Rules of Burning

As the demo and reconstruction of our ablution chamber continues apace above me, I decided to take a few moments this cold Sunday and share a few helpful tips and rules that the kindly people at the wood burner factory neglected to mention in their brochures. The inclusion of these facts would no doubt result in a definite decline in burns, singes, inhaled soot, and various other “issues”. But, as the Prime Geek and I have finally determined – these companies MUST be in bed with the burn cream, fan, and hairdressing suppliers in the country and are trying to force us to use them.

1) When doing ANYTHING that involves opening the door of the wood burner while there is a fire within (ie – adding more wood, stoking the fire, poking logs to make them spark, and generally just messing about), the first step is in fact walking away and procuring a hair tie. Both the Prime Geek and myself have rather long hair, and while the initial jerk and recoil when sparks begin to swirl around your head may be considered energizing.... if one wants to KEEP long hair, its just best to tie it back. Burned hair smells revolting. Trust me on this.

2) Childish though it may be..... chainsaws are kinda cool. We're attempting to keep to our greening ways and have purchased an electric chainsaw so as to not pollute the air with billows of gas smoke. No doubt the initial thrill will one day soon fade, but as someone who was never allowed to work with the boys and use most power tools – this is just nifty. Took ever ounce of self control to not let out a grunt ala' Tim Allen.

3)Use fire gloves. Every time. Seriously. Yes, I know. You're only going to move the log you just set down, it hasn't even lit yet. However, having your hands on a potion of wood just as it decides to ignite? Not fun.

4) For the girls out there – Give up on your nails. Just go ahead and cut them down to almost nothing. Even the smallest millimeter past the tip our your finger can be grabbed and ripped in an instant. I have been paid back a million times for ever rolling my eyes at girls who cursed breaking a fake nail. Ripped across the nail bed and jammed back into the side of your hand? Might be a tiny injury, but it will make you curse like a sailor and temporarily loose the ability to think coherently.

5) Guys? Please keep in mind where the door opens in relationship to certain.... private areas. Singeing these will not get you much sympathy, in fact it is far more likely your loving wife/girlfriend/partner will be rolling on the floor giggling too hard to offer much help. Just a warning.

6) Serious perk that should be in every brochure? Imagine never again having a pause between the thought “You know, I could go for some hot cocoa right about now.” and being able to pour out the boiling water. Sounds like a little thing, but after coming in from -10 windchill and knowing you are always able to warm up at once - inside and out – life seems far more chipper.

7) My father calls it Amish Television... but seriously, there is something wonderfully soothing about sitting back and watching the flames dance. Heck, it entertains the cats as well!

Oops! I hear the clarion call of the bathroom brigade. Off to see if there is anything that flushes in the bathroom. Until tomorrow.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Overhaul Christmas Gifts

Sorry about the lateness of the posting today, the Prime Geek and myself are battling through a cloud of dust and debris and it was frankly only about five minutes ago I located my laptop in the upheaval. To explain – while my mother has always tended towards Christmas gifts with bows and paper clinging to their side, daddy1 dear goes for gifts with a bit more oomph. They might be odd, they may take a few moments of blinking to get your head around... but they are gonna be good. These gifts will also be guaranteed to not have been purchased in anything resembling a mall. Dad went into one of those “dread halls of the damned” once back in the 80's, and he still swears to this day that not one thing in his years as a Marine pilot come even close to the horror he experienced within its doors2. To this end, our present this year from my father was a joint one for the Nerdly Nest. Rather then more DVD's, or electrical gadgets designed to amuse and enthrall... he's giving us a bathroom.

Well. A bathroom floor, a new toilet, several days of backbreaking work3, and the ability for us to use the money we had set aside for the toilet as payment for a new vanity and sink. We replaced the shower head and faucet earlier this year... now all will be new except the tub.

Step by step, we are reclaiming our home from the thrall of some truly moronic previous owners. Each time a new job is contemplated the utter stupidity and short shift manner of “fixing” it before makes me wonder if they truly were tool using mammals. Dealing with the moronic manner the chimney was covered was haunting enough, but the nightmare PG and dad are facing at the moment makes me seriously wonder if the folks before us had opposable thumbs.

For months we have been tiptoeing around the bathroom situation. Honestly, I think we were both hoping that brownies would wander in one night and fix it for us. Several distressingly “squishy” spots in the floor, a mystery brown seepage that leaked up towards the light over night, and a smell that, at times, made me forsake my green leanings and reach for some high powered chemicals. In the last month we were reduced to cutting rubber mats to size to slide under the bath rugs if we wished to sit without fear of ooze. The Prime Geek even confessed to foregoing using his own homes toilet for any... deep thoughts, instead waiting until he got to work – or heading down the road to his parents house.

Enter my father, and the dream of a bathroom where one can read in comfort.4 The next few days until the New Year will find us battling this personal Golgathum. I'll keep you posted (and tomorrow we're back to the actual Naturally Nerdy lifestyle. Just let me get this toilet out of my livingroom!).

1Yes. I call my father daddy. I'm half southern. Deal.
2I come by my own personal distaste of the mall quite honestly.
3Before the PG chimes in with a nasty note, I'll come clean. Hard backbreaking work done by my father and the PG. So far my job has been to keep my mother as far from the house as possible so they can be free to, well, express themselves fully as they wrestle with a job worth of the labors of Hercules. Still a tough gig for me... but I'm not the one sweating bullets.
4We all have our own versions of bliss. Is it so wrong mine includes plenty of soft tp, good reading light, and a large selection of novels?

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Hope It Was A Very Merry Christmas For All

Here at the nest we had a very busy Christmas, driving hither and yon to various family homes in the effort to insure each side of the Natural Nerd family got even Christmas time with the Geek and I. Presents were exchanged, fires were cuddled by, far FAR too much food was eaten, and a readiness for the new year is building.

To this Nerd's shock, her family has decided to stretch a few toes onto the Green Streets and see how they can fare. A fact that not only encourages the Geek and I, but also makes us realize we had better up our game or risk getting left in the green wake. I will NOT allow my city boy big brother to show me up in the gardening arena. I'd never live it down if the lad who was once chased three miles by a herd of cows manages to make me look bad. Nothing like the fear of ridicule and shame to motivate one.

To that end, Natural Nerds will be experiencing its own overhaul in the coming year. Both the Prime Geek and I are full of new ideas for the nest (both literal and virtual) that we can't wait to share. I will be instituting a few new weekly segments and hubby dear has even begun to murmur about wanting to write a bit more about his experiments energy savings and things that go BANG in the night. The new sections will be introduced on New Year's Day – yup, I'm bowing to crowd mentality and planning my New Year's Resolutions. So far, I've managed each year to achieve almost all of the previous years plans. I figure having them up for all to see and critique will keep me on my toes.

The next few days will find us airing the Nest, few serious matters will be covered until the first (although I have a serious crow about my town to brag about tomorrow)... so come on by and help yourself to some hot cocoa. Since the woodburner was installed, hot water is always at hand and ready to share. Now that the gift giving portion of the season is over, I'll be sharing a few of our greener attempts at sharing... along with a few embarrassing moments to amuse those who know us. It wouldn't be the holidays without someone getting red in the face.... might as well be me!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Merry Christmas

At the risk of the PC police running around shushing, I'll say it again. Merry Christmas. Oh course, depending on which friend I'm talking to - Happy Hanukkah, Merry Solstice, Happy Kwanzaa, and Merry NaBangBang (don't mind that friend... he's mostly harmless.)

It's been a barren board here at the Natural Nerd Nest for the last few weeks, sorry about that. We're going through a brief period of rebuilding, overhauling, and general construction here, but once Christmas is past we'll be up and running with new daily updates starting on December 27th. Both I and the Prime Geek have some rather ambitious plans, both for the site... and some rather nifty ones for our own day to day lives. Here's hoping I can get the readership coming back again... I think you'll be pleased with the new additions we're putting in.

Have a wonderful Christmas, and please remember. Step out of the glow of the lights, walk away for a bit from the piles of sparkly paper and mountains of "stuff" tossed at us in the next few days, and just take a few moments to take a big breath and hug your family tight.

Night all.

Friday, December 7, 2007


“You have to have a new computer, Nerd.”

“Trust me, you're going to love having a laptop.”

“Your computer is ancient... you won't have any of these problems with the new one.”


Or, to quote my wonderful... if slightly innocent, mum “Horse Apples.”

The above should really tell all there is to tell at the moment. With an internet connection that sees to be suffering from an advanced case of palsy and a hard drive that refuses to speak nicely with my software, this natural nerd is once again thinking she might have been better off sticking to the stone tablets and chisel.

Hopefully this weekend will find me in better standing with the technology gods... I got an early Christmas present of a my own little slice of Zen and I can't wait to load it up.

What is a suitable offering to the gremlins that inhabit my motherboard? Any ideas?

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Sometimes... People Just get it Right

I'll confess, I was on the verge of writing up some fire and brimstone condemnation on the state of the universe today. Between a budding cold, a looming doctors appointment, and some miserably frosty weather, your Natural Nerd was feeling a tad bad about the universe in general. Nothing like a sinus headache to make you cranky with the world around you. To add to the misery, yesterday I received my FOURTH copy of an oh so precious/pretentious/and preposterous “green” catalog (which, while it might be made from recycled paper, is coated in a nasty slick ink that means it can not be burned OR composted. Joy.) which had me frustrated. I'm all for a chance to earn an honest buck.. heck, I put on my own merchants hat whenever I can, so I understand the need for commerce. But this thing is....

Well. I'll write about that another day. As I said, the fruit of human kindness wasn't really flowing in my heart, and I had more then a slight feeling of doom and gloom regarding our species and its wasteful wasteful ways... but then an article online caught my eye.

Most of us have heard on the nightly news about the horrid drought going on in the South (compounded by fires and complications caused by Katrina) of the States. Towns nearly deserted as the water dries up, people hoping/praying/dancing for a few million drops of rain to wash the dust from throats and homes. Wastefulness, overcrowding, over polluting, and global warming have all taken their turns in the media as the root cause for the drought. Screams, groans, and tantrums take place each night in the news as one person blames another for the drought... and yet another demands those around them fix the problem. City councils who say other states “owe” them help, mayors and governors all desperately trying to save their political asses by laying blame or proffering promise all seem to dominate in the news.

It has to be someone else's fault, right? It's not the peoples responsibility to fix it, someone else is going to take responsibility... right?

For the most part, that does seem to be the view. But not everywhere. Seems one little country in Georgia took a look at the tendency for the South to be, well, hot and dry, and planned ahead. Back in the 80's they looked at possible future problems and made a course of action. Stuck to it to... which in these days of “it's not MY fault” whining, seems pretty amazing. Check out Clayton County in Georgia... and be a little more hopeful about where we seem to be as a species.

Planned, organized, and working toward the future.

Who 'da thunk it? Maybe we won't die out after all.

I know, not my normal style of post. See first statement regarding bad weather, headache, and the like. Normal nerdieness tomorrow. Til then, I'm heading back to bed.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Brain Blots

Soapstone Woodburner?


Professional Chimney Sweep Install?


Gas for cutting and shifting wood?


Tylenol and muscle relaxers for sore backs from toting wood?


78 degrees inside on one small load of wood three hours after beginning the burn while ice sleets down outside in 15 degree weather?

Absolutely frikken priceless.

Night, Everybody.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Group Activity Avoidence

After mentioning the other day that the Prime Geek and I have ventured into the troubled waters of gym life, I received a few emails expressing confusion over why I seemed adamantly opposed to joining any type of organized sport. As I'm stuck right in the middle of a massive house turnover – the woodstove installers will be here soon, and its a tough job to write while your home is infested with chimney sweeps – I thought I might pull up something I wrote not too long ago, in an effort to show WHY I avoid anything that requires any sense of innate grace or agility. Hope you enjoy a little peek into the day to day life of your Natural Nerd.

Recently, your friendly neighborhood Natural Nerd learned a few important life lessons. Shall we go over them today class?

Lesson the first. When home alone, balancing oneself on a rickety stool THEN removing oneself from said stool to kneel atop the pointy two inches of kitchen sink in an attempt to reach and raise an old and HEAVY window sash that has been more than likely left closed for years.... is not the wisest course of action. Although points will be rewarded for the foresight to set the cordless phone within reach if the nice men in the emergency vehicles need to be spoken to. Sadly these points will be removed in......

Lesson the second. Upon REACHING previously stated sash, one should really maybe consider stopping until a stronger person is in the home with one after discovering that not only is it a difficult object to stretch for... it has apparently been painted over at least once, sealing it shut. Points are rewarded for quick thinking and the use of a bread knife around the seals, but these are quickly stripped for failure to think through the need of bracing material once the window is opened. For in this failure, if one simply tries to jamb the sash as high as possible and hope years of thick paint layers will cause a natural brace to be formed so one has time to A) slide UP the screen window and B) slide down the storm window so the multitude of cats cannot escape out into the wild blue yonder - one would be incorrect in this hope. This is where we learn in

Lesson the third, that a 8 paned heavy old wooden sash, when suddenly dropping from a distance of not less than 18 inches at full speed upon BOTH of ones wrists will, sadly, result in a moment where time and space have no real meaning... for there is only pain in that eternal second. Pain and an overwhelming inability to both SEE, and to draw breath. (See previous sentence regarding the only substance allowed in that second, IE Pain.) Upon leaving that eternal void of mind numbing agony, one may gain points for mildly hysterical laughter and an attempt to show that one is really fine, but these will only be awarded if there is another life form in the home to see this strength of character. As the only possible entities are cats... sadly these points will have to be skipped. Also, the immediate - although quickly squashed - desire for ones mommy would have rendered the points invalid anyway. This quickly brings us to

Lesson the forth. Once the immediate assault upon ones person is over, there is still the little matter of removing oneself FROM the encumbering window sash. This is hindered not only by the concern that both wrists might, in point of fact, be smashed beyond recognition AS wrists, but in the realization that to open the window one will have to use the possibly smashed wrists as levers. In this lesson we quickly see that hoping A) some random stranger sent from the heavens themselves will suddenly appear and rescue one, B) that perhaps one could simply wait for ones husband - 9 hours to go - to get home and lift the sash, or C) that ones cats will suddenly drop the facade of being mere felines and unveil themselves as space traveling super beings who have hidden their opposable thumbs just for and event such as this...... are all for naught. In fact, in lesson the fourth, one deals with the sad realization that one must help oneself, and should also do so quickly as ones balance on the previously mentioned two inches of sink is becoming precarious in the extreme. This leads us class, to

Lesson the fifth. Where one learns one CAN open windows using stumps once known as hands.... it just isn't too jolly of an moment. Any points that might have been awarded are quickly removed by the amount of angry invectives spewing forth from one at a rate that causes four cats to scurry upstairs. A window's parentage is brought into the profanity laden shouts, as well as the hopeful demise of any and all that might have had a hand in the construction of the house. However. Points WILL be awarded for bloody minded stubbornness for, after ascertaining that the wrists are not shattered, merely bruised shadows of themselves, going back the window and getting the damn storm windows pulled into place!

Finally in lesson the sixth, we come to the conclusion that the best possible thing to do is to spend the rest of the day sitting very still in a padded chair watching mindless television in the hopes that one will not be attacked by any more of the house around one.

Class dismissed.

Yup. That's my life. Sometimes.... ya gotta giggle and go with it or risk being found banging your head against a wall.

Any questions now in my aversion to activities that put me in close proximity of : hard balls, heavy bats, slippery floors, or groups of people running?

I thought not.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Nerdly Natterings

The turkey coma has finally begun to recede – helped no doubt by the simple fact that we went out to family for Thanksgiving and managed to hie tail it out without many leftovers being tossed in the Jeep. Let's hear it for the newlywed shuffle, managing to combine two full Thanksgiving meals within a mere 4 hour window. One delicious turkey dinner with my family, and a hour in the car down to the Prime Geeks we did it all over again.

A serious yearning for flannel pajamas by this point is a rather obvious desire... but one I reveled in for four days. Today is the first time my (distressingly tighter) jeans have graced this nerd's body since the meal-a-thon began. Which... in a wandering way, brings me to the newest initiative in Casa De' Nerd.

With a heavy heart – and a MUCH lighter wallet – we have willingly signed over our bodies for the next year to the local rec center. I wanted to avoid the desperate push to improve every aspect of my life that seems to hit us all as the ball drops in Time Square, so rather then join the throng at the gym in the New Year... we're gonna shuffle our respective booties there now.

Now, please don't think that this means the Natural Nerd is going to dissolve into a diet site. There will be NO yammering on about how many “reps” we did last night, nor will there be any hostile threats toward either carbs, fats, or transfat. There will be no counting – of the calorie OR carb variety. I'm a good Irish lass, and I will NOT give up a tuber my family immigrated for. I'm also a confirmed carnivore. Steaks WILL be eaten, anyone attempting to substitute a soy burger for that steak had better be sure they can run faster then I can. (And remember, as a tool using creature, I see no trouble in using the Jeep to do my running for me.)

No, instead... I'm trying something new. An experiment, if you will. From here on out, this Natural Nerd is going to indulge in the diet of moderation. Moderation in all things... including moderation. (There. That leaves enough wiggle room for the odd moment of chocolate induced insanity.)

My goal is not to be a size 2, or look like I could be shaking my “thang” on the latest MTV award show. (Granted... the size requirement seems to have gotten a LOT looser these days for that particular honor.*) Instead, a balanced hope for a stonger body, a bit heathier might be nice as well, and maybe toss in the hope of fitting into my clothes a tad bit better. Nothing extreme. Let's be honest here. At 6'1 (ish) with the bone structure of a quarterback, I'm never going to be tiny. I'm just shooting for healthy. How does this all tie into a site devoted to trying to live a naturally nerdy life? Fair enough question. My answer runs along these lines...

A healthy body is cheaper to operate. Stronger body = fewer doctors visits. As the rising cost of health care has many of us contemplating a jaunt back to the days of a leather thong gritted between your teeth and a rousing bout of home surgery, it makes sense to try and spend a bit more time on the upkeep of the old model to avoid having to buy parts for the new. (We have discussed my skinflint habits numerous times.) With a stronger body, I can maneuver myself around my environment cheaply and greenly. - IE Bike or walk my happy tuckus through my daily errands. Joining the rec center gets me involved in my community, therefore prospering all. Group activities ranging from sport teams (well. I'll cheer. Anyone who has watched me walk into a door jamb... TWICE in ten minutes knows better then to think I'd be going out for a team sport. But I'll help carry the gatorade.) to several local outreach crews. It might be nice to get to know my neighbors for a change.**

See. All valid and even mildly green reasons for having some overly perky blond chirp “And one, and two” at me for hours a week. Oh god.........

If I EVER am heard uttering the phrase “Feel the burn” in a manner NOT rife with sarcasm.... kill me. Please?

*I swore to myself it would never happen, but it did. Against all reason, a Britney Spears crack has wormed its way into my site. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

** All good and noble reasons. Okay. There might also be in the back of my head a slightly unnerdly like desire for just ONE year of being the hot wife before the Prime Geeks and I, as he put it only a few weeks into our courtship, spawn. And maybe a hidden desire for a pair of leather pants a fellow merchant is peddling. But those are only a teeny tiny reason. The others are the big ones... really. Honest.

Don't judge me.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Doing the Time Warp

Wow. Watch your step folks.... that time portal in the corner has a doozy of a last step. Who 'da thunk a week or so could slip away so fast? Sorry about the delay, I have started another project (yep, another... the frenetic gerbil is spinning the wheel at hyperspeed.) that sucked most of my time this last week as I tried to figure out how I wanted to tackle this particular mountain. The mountain STILL isn't climbed, but I have safely reached my first summit face, and the Sherpa's assure me I'm headed in the right direction.

Until then, there is a massive amount of turkey headed straight for most of us, so instead of my usual blog and a frantic attempt to catch myself back up on the Nerdly Plains I'm going to simply give you a quick overview of a few of my favorite chill buster ideas. The real blogging will start back up again on Sunday – once the Prime Geek and myself recover from our food comas.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving folks. Hug your families and spend a little time between feasts to be thankful for all the gifts in your life.

Quick Tips and Gifts for Keeping a Body Warm :

1) I confess... I almost feel guilty for this first one. Staying warm and staying green should entail hard work and sacrifice... not the convenience of simply plugging something in and flipping a switch. However, screw the guilt.... it has made my mornings blissful since I first unwrapped it (and hey, I gotta use a gift from my mom, right?) We all know of electric blankets. Most of us have even figured they are cheaper to run then the heat all night, so wrapping ourselves up toes to nose is often the first attack of beating the winter freezes. Sadly, as a married women... its an ephemeral bliss. My nights may START with both myself and hubby under the warming glow of the electric blanket, but by morning I'm left freezing and blue by a husband who whirlwinds in his sleep and wraps the blanket around himself. What's a gal to do? Last year, it meant I had to keep 4 or 5 extra blankets on my side. Not anymore! There is now an electric mattress pad, capable of generating constant warmth and comfort from below.... no matter how much your significant other my try and steal your covers! Bliss! Joy! Pure decadent hedonistic delight! (A bit much? Perhaps. But YOU wake up with warm toes for the first time in months and see how YOU feel about it.) Heck, its almost medically required. My back feels pretty good for sleeping on a crappy mattress. Trust me. This is an item you want Santa to bring.

2) Blankets aren't just for the bedroom. Here at Casa de' Nerd we have warm and cuddlies draped over the back of every seat, tucked into the corners of each room, and stacked beside the sofa. At this point, I should point out that not only are the Prime Geek and myself confirmed cuddle bugs, we throw a mean cuddle pile party. (Get your minds out of the gutter people!)

3) Acquire (if you haven't already) a FOS.... better known as a Fugly Old Sweater. These beloved objects may have absolutely NO style or sense of glamor. They must be either gifts from a color blind but well meaning relative, relics from your misspent youth, or the prize of a trip to the thrift store. They must be over sized, baggy, and most of all warm. This is a key piece of your armor against the ravages of winter. Keep it close at hand for the first sign of a draft or a chill. If this item doesn't set the teeth of at least one fashion forward friend on edge... its not gonna keep you warm. This is what you will drape over you in the morning stumble towards coffee, it is your go to grab for the jaunt to the mail box, and it must only leave your immediate area while being washed. (Not too often.... part of its protective shield is created by the smells of your home.) Resist any attempts to replace your FOS with a more attractive sweater. Be vigilant.... friends and family members will attempt to destroy it.

4) Now is the time to gather up all those mismatched socks that have gathered in the bottom of your underwear drawer. Seek these lone wolves out in the corners of your closet, follow your cats frantic drags under the stairs to the hidden sock lair. Wash all of these, using extra fabric softener. Once clean and soft, pile into a small basket and leave in the living room. Use these as instant slippers for wet feet, cold feet, and any bare feet that may wander past. You may hesitate to off a friend a pair of sock if they troop in with soaking boots, but a mismatched set is easy to hand off.

Stay warm and have a wonderful Thanksgiving.
Ta Ta For Now, from the Natural Nerd.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Jeering at Jack Frost

I'll confess the following is a tad hard to write today. It might be the middle of November in the snowbelt, but someone forgot to tell that to the weather. It's a drizzly day with streaks of sunshine trying to emerge, and it must be at least 58° degrees outside. The furnace kicked off last night and hasn't even tried to warm the place, as the inside temperature is holding steady at a balmy 68° degrees all on its own.

Be that as it may be, this Indian summer can't last, and eventually we'll have to face the cold. If the news is to be believed, this winter is going to be harder on most of us... environmentally AND financially. Doom and gloom reports of possible price hikes for heating fuel – gas, oil & electric all seem to be in-line to rise as high as 40% above last years already high costs. As the proud owners of a lovely old (re : drafty) home, the Prime Geek and I are urgently attempting to weatherize our home before the snow flies.

The temptation is to simply crank the heat and hang the consequences, but... well. I'm too cheap. I know, I know. I could gussy it up and say that I was attempting to limit my family's carbon footprint, that I am strenuously trying to avoid using our dwindling fossil fuels, that we have decided to be vigilant in guarding our little green nest from the evils of corporate plundering of virgin land for oil... but the simple fact boils down to the basics.

I'm cheap. So is the Prime Geek. Toss into the equation our home is older (see above re: drafty as a dowager's drawers) and even WITH the heat ratcheted up to “Swedish Sauna”... it's hard to get the old girl above 68°. Frankly a $200-$300 monthly gas and electric bills is far too much to consider for a mere 68°... and that was at last year's prices. I shudder to think what it would cost us this year to try for a heat wave.

At the end of the month, the Prime Geek and myself are hoping to finally have installed our new soapstone woodburner. This will be our primary source of heat (along with being our occasional slow cooker) and we plan to use the gas for just cooking, heating water, and occasionally running our dryer. After the install is complete, I'm sure the PG will once again hijack this site to wax lyrically on his new toy and his own cleverness in obtaining said toy. Until then, we are trying to get the house wrapped up for winter, and see what all we can do to keep ourselves and the four terrors warm and comfortable this year. Having lived in various chilly abodes over the years, I have quite a few nerdly tricks up my sleeve to battle the season. The next week or so of blogs will be dealing with simple (and let's not forget CHEAP) ways you can keep yourself warm.... without having to sell a kidney or dig a coal mine to achieve it. They will be ranging from odds and ends you can score at your local resale shop, quick do-it-yourself projects for those brave enough to face either a sewing machine or a hammer, and the odd investment that has proved its worth already.

Jack Frost doesn't stand a chance.

Monday, November 5, 2007

A Rebuttal to A Favored Writer

Today I'm going a little off topic, with very little nerdly or natural content. Pretty much all that will be in this particular post is just little old me discussing a small portion of my life. I hope you either read it and understand, or read it, roll your eyes, but come back in a few days when this rather lengthy mind burp is done. We'll see where it all shakes out in the end.

I should start things off I suppose, by explaining where this particular little mind diversion got started. Now, in addition to writing, attempting to run a nerdly natural nest, and more then a tad bit of sewing in my day.... I also spend my fair share of time surfing the web and reading some very talented peoples work. Some makes me laugh, some think, others groan. At times I find some that cause ideas to pop and yell for attention, becoming either springboards to my own writing or even flat rebuttals. Some of my favorites can be found over in the right side of this page if you're in the mood to wander. I'll warn in advance, a few aren't exactly work safe, so you might want to meander around on your own time.

Now, there are a few writers out there that I check every day. , are three such blogs that I eagerly await each new posting. All captains of well turned phrases, all intelligent (and often wonderfully snarky) disputants of a myriad of subjects. But today, it AD's site that caused a slight mental tizzy, coupled with both irritation and dread. I have started a dozen letters to him, (and I'll be sending him a link here, as I think this might be a clearer way to explain then any of the letters I began writing and gave up on.) some angry, some annoyed, a few that sounded frankly whiny, and several that just didn't clearly make my point. A few days ago, he posted another bit on the wonders of fibromyalgia... and that's where it all got terribly difficult for me.

Ambulance Driver is a marvelous writer, chronicling his life as (you might have guessed) an EMT. Funny, dryly droll, educated in his subjects. He has touched on fibro several times, once with me responding, and his latest with another sufferer taking their turn at bat. This time, I'm going to try it separately... and see if I can explain the perturbation his writing is causing some of us.

For those of you looking at this posting oddly, wondering just what the heck fibromyalgia is, allow me to give a quick(ish) explanation. Its a wonderful mixed bag of chronic pain and fatigue, often coupled with such party favors as IBS, heart arrhythmia's, allergies – chemical & environmental, mental fog, and... just as the perfect icing on the cake – depression. To be fair, fibro is really an umbrella term used to describe a whole collective of connecting “issues”. The best way to describe the pain element is to short hand it to – arthritis not in the bones but in the connecting tissue that holds everything together. If you have ever trimmed a roast, that thick silvery skin that keeps the muscles connected to muscles.... it in that. Fun. Now, why do I care about this? I was diagnosed three years ago. Now, don't get me wrong. Some days I'm fine. Beyond fine in fact. The reason the Prime Geek refers to me at times as a hamster on speed is when I'm having a good day, I spend most of it desperately trying to catch up and then get things done ahead for the bad days. I have a fun grab bag to deal with, pain is a pretty constant thing. Now, in my case... I've had health “issues” most of my life and my pain threshold is pretty high. It has to be, I simply have too much to do to sit out my life just because I hurt. But, it IS there. Cold damp days suck for me (the reason we camp in palatial style... or at least the excuse the PG gives to explain his thrill for the ostentatious!), as do severe weather changes. Moving is critical, if I'm still for too long my body will cramp, and that just gets ugly. I don't sleep much (laying still is worse then sitting still) and that no doubt plays a part in all the other issues. Hubby often thinks if I could just get a solid week of sleep in, I could catch my body up and have longer periods of good days. Still searching for something to shut my brain off (a mix of tylenol pm, over the counter sleeping pills, herbal tea that frankly tastes of horse piss, and the odd shot of vodka is where I am at the moment. Any suggestions, feel free to send me a hint.) so that is a case of maybe. No doubt its the lack of sleep that makes me tired, often gets me cranky, and leads to massive brain farts as my mind desperately tries to tunnel through all the assorted piles of crap to get to one needed thought.

I have the heart issue, in my case a fortunately mild malformation of a valve that while I pass out from time to time, my body has figured out how to essentially reboot itself once it figures out there is a problem. A moment or two of my blood not flowing, my brain kicks out its own Mayday yelp and I'm back in business. More annoying for me then anything else (my backside is well padded and injuries are usually nominal.) its more of a trauma for those around me. A 6'1 female suddenly going white and hitting the floor is a concern for any shorter person around me. My mom laughs that's one of the reasons I married the PG, if I fall on a power lifter I will not risk crushing him.

The fog? Check, got that too... but as a writer, I'm rarely without a pad and pen. With lists shoved in pockets and taped to walls, notes to check for lists on mirrors and computer screens, even reminders typed into my cellphones alarm, I manage to keep my life flowing more or less smoothly. The things that I do completely space out on, I have a portable brain (wave PG) usually somewhere near that I can pump for help.

IBS? Well, we covered that when I was discussing giving up toilet paper. There's a reason I don't have a magazine rack in my bathroom, I have a bookshelf. With the new laptop I'm considering having the Prime Geek build a lap desk to mount next to the toilet. Might as well be productive when I'm stuck in there, right?

Allergies? Check – fun ones too. I don't mind the food allergies all that much, although I could kill for a piece of my mom's banana bread some days, and I do miss shellfish. But the chemical ones are the biggies. Can't take most pain killers, as they would, well... kill me. Vikoden? Seizers. Oxy? Same. Anything with the word "Codone" or "Codeine" in it are big no-no's. Heck, if you wanted to find out where people are partying when they shouldn't, have me walk around, I'm better then a drug dog. One sniff of weed and I'm puking in the corner. Avoiding “those” kind of parties in college was no biggie, the thought of my dad killing me didn't keep me away, the thought of ruining my new leather boots did. Its these allergies that lead to so much difficulties in treating my fibro. If I can't take painkillers to manage the pain.... what can a doctor do other then pat me on the back and say “Sorry kid, it sucks to be you. Next incarnation try for an upgrade.” I've seen countless doctors, many who simply shrugged and admitted themselves to be at a loss. Only in the last few years was I able to find a doctor who could identify my “issues” and allergies as part of one illness. I lucked out and found the doctor who actually DID end up writing the book on fibro. Sadly, not all are as lucky as I.

Depression? Yeah. Sometimes. It's hard not to when you're hurting, aching, sitting in a bathroom being sick. Its a tad bit of a downer. Frankly, only the fact I have a sick and twisted sense of humor keeps me going at times. I laugh when normal folks cry, I get a morbid curiosity over what is gonna fall apart next. Its what keeps me sane(ish).

Which leads me to what started this post off in the first place. Apparently some folks are using fibromyalgia (a hard to diagnose, often MISdiagnosed, still not terribly well understood syndrome) to scam their way to hard core meds. I can fully understand how frustrating and sickening that would be for a heath care provider. I can sympathize with the annoyance of having drug dependent people littering up ER's and urgent care facilities with long lists of why they need their fix dragging them away from people who need REAL care. Honest. I get it. I can even see the humor in his post regarding the Fibromyalgia Claus ala' Virginia's Santa. AD even throws us a bone by stating “Just because I've never personally seen a legitimate fibromyalgia sufferer does not mean that they don't exist. It may just be that they're too busy living their lives to show up in an ER six times a month begging for a fix.” He states he's willing to believe in us, just that those that HE sees don't fit in his head as a real patient.

Too busy? Damn straight. Being 28 and having to have my husband remove the round shower handles and replace them with ones I CAN grip is embarrassing enough. Showing up at a hospital just isn't in my plans. Hades. It's hard enough to get me to a doctor anymore these days. And, frankly.... that reluctance is built on mindsets like AD's. Years of being thought I was lazy, stupid, mentally defective, unmotivated, or worse – all of the above make me dread going to the doctor. The day I found out there was a portion of my heart that was visibly not what it should be was an actual relief. I wasn't nuts! I wasn't lazy... frankly the doc was shocked when I rattled off my day to day list of things to get done. It took a seizure in the waiting room for another to realize I really WAS allergic to certain meds. (A cracked skull I was glad to get.) My tp usage is proof of the stomach issues. I've been poked and prodded, tested up and down,and swallowed more green glowing goo then anything that is landbased should ever contemplate ingesting.

I'm not nuts. I'm not lazy. I'm not a hypochondriac junkie looking for her fix. I live my life as best I can, always trying to find ways to work around my health issues. Some days all I need (as
one commenter on AD's blog stated) is a hot bath and a handful of tylenol. Others aren't as rosy... but I get through.

So why the rant? Why the need to address someone else's view on my own site? Why, to put it simply, am I doing this?

If a police officer said the following, how would you react? (Oh boy, I'm gonna get some nasty comments from this....) “All I even see are black men beating on their wives. Everyday, smacking their women and kids around. That's all black men are doing as far as I can see. Course, the good ones might just be living quietly, being good husbands. Perhaps. But all I see are black men beating down on people.”?

A politician who stated “All the gay men I know have been pedophiles. There may well be some good gay men out there. I just don't see them.”?

Riots in the streets, media screaming for their heads, or worse..... a Barbara Walters Special. (shudder) I respect AD. I do. I love his style, I'm thrilled he has book coming out. But, well, this part is the only section of a letter to AD I will write here.... maybe he'll read it, maybe not. But so its said....

Can we just drop the fibro=malingerers thing now? Yeah, you're having a rough time with people in the ER. I get that. I do. But at a time where fibro isn't really very well understood, when doctors are still arguing over treatments AND diagnosis, when people are still struggling to figure out what is wrong with them and why they just don't seem to be getting better... can we just drop the whole shtick? I'm the last person to scream for PC behavior, but at the moment you're making a lot of people's life that much harder. Saving face by hiding behind the lines of “You just haven't met them, they might be real” is perpetrating a bigger problem... and frankly it stopped being amusing awhile ago.

Lupus was once “All in our heads”. So was MS. You state in your own comments that you realize the majority of fibro sufferers are not the problem. That you fail to see the harm in you spouting off after a bad day. Here's the problem.

Not everyone reads through the comment following a post. To someone reading a site, written by a medical professional – you've essentially explained away fibro as nothing more than a crappy attempt to get prescription meds. To someone seeking information on a possible diagnosis... a MEDICAL professional has just waved it away. Yes, no one should self-diagnose or refute a doctor's diagnosis from something a humorous slice of life website says... sadly however, its a common things. PG calls it the Wallmart factor, ie – the lowest common denominator. You are an amazing writer with a huge audience. Several times now people have written into your comments reactions ranging from fury (a bit melodramatic, but some folks are) to despair, with a fair amount of frustration and epic long explanations and attempted reasoned replies... and yet it still gets dragged back up again in a few months.

Can it just be let go of now? Please? At this point its just getting worn into the ground. Your website, your point of view, your slice of life as it happens around you. I get that, but what I also get it there is power in words – be they written or spoken. Now it just comes off as a bit smug and somewhat pat. Please. Just move on.

I have never met a fibro patient who simply walked into an office and was clapped on the back with an instant diagnosis of fibro. Most of us endure years of misdiagnoses, meds that cause more ills then good, dark periods of wondering if we really ARE just nuts (lazy, stupid, what have you). Maybe we did something wrong, was it a punishment... why can't we fix it and get better. There is no magic pill to pop, no surgery that will render us better once the bandages are off. If we're lucky, we have a lifetime of searching and researching ahead of us, therapies to try, diets to follow, exercises to do, and family members to placate. We often hear the chant of “But, you LOOK fine.....” and either have to keep silent to avoid the views such as yours or accept the stares and doubts and try to educate those around us in the hope that in time others will have an easier life because we tried to explain.

If all you see in your ER are the fakes and the phonies... before you smirk and dismiss so many others who, as you said yourself, are simply trying to live their lives quietly... look around for us. Take an afternoon and read sites like for the facts, or track down one of us and talk to us. Most of the ones just trying to live their lives will be happy to answer anything that might help others skip the path we had to walk to a diagnosis.

I think you might be surprised.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Wonderfully Warm

This week seems to have been fixating pretty firmly on one concept above all others – being warm. I started the week pulling carpet, then our local chimney sweep gave our plan of a soapstone woodburner the official go ahead. A cord of wood has been ordered... and plans to split and stack several more have been laid. At the moment, I am dawdling over my next big sewing project of two new winter skirts, both out of fuzzy polartec – long enough to warm my feet when curled up in a chair. The bizarre weather that plagued us all September and October is finally at an end (air conditioners on high in October? Global warming became a tad more real to this nerd!) and we seem to be settling into the pattern of hunkering down and playing ant vs grasshopper.

So, as I dither over which needs done first – new slippers or skirts, knitting or sewing – I'll let you in on what is bubbling away in my cauldron at the moment.

The BEST Beef Stew (bar none, no exceptions – she said modestly)

1 beef chunk (at least a pound, more for crowds or greedy carnivores, less if you're eating this alone – although, leftovers of this are a wonderful thing to contemplate when refrigerator rummaging.... chuck, stew meat, blade, whatever. I'll be honest, there are about 2 ½ pounds cooking away as I write this, and I'm not planning on sharing with anyone other then the Prime Geek. ) Just chop into rough bits, about an inch cube works well. Season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder

Heat a touch of olive oil in a heavy stew pot. Toss in the meat. Now. LEAVE IT ALONE! Just for a minute, but resist the urge to mess with it. If you must keep your hands busy, chop an onion into rings and crush up some garlic cloves (how much garlic is up to you. My mom uses 2 cloves, I use the whole bulb.) Once the meat has brown a bit, scootch it around and brown each side, toss in the onion and garlic.

At this point, part of the magic begins. First, pour in a tad of gravy master (its in a small bottle in the seasoning section. Only substance in the world that simply tastes.... brown. But in a good way.) and then open two (2) bottles of Honey Brown beer. (Sadly, they only come in 6 or 12 packs. You'll have to figure out what to do with the rest. Beer bread is one way to go..... chilled and drunk while eating the stew is another.) Pour this over the sizzling meat. Watch out, its gonna foam. Add to within 2 inches of the top of the pan beef broth (canned, homemade, or made with water and beef base all work. No time to get picky.) Lid on, and turn down to low.

Simmer at least 2 hours..... but longer is always better. If the liquid boils away to much, add more broth. 2 hours makes it fine, 6 hours makes it spectacular.

When you can't keep the wolves at bay any longer (try bribing with beer if possible to allow it a bit more time to cook) lift off the lid, raise the heat, and drop in potatoes and carrots. I usually use peeled white potatoes chunked into slightly larger then bitesize and peeled carrots cut into rough matchsticks – but use what you have. Prefer the peels? Leave 'em on. Like more onions? Toss them in. Any root veg will work here, turnips to parsnips, sweet potatoes and reds.

Lid and cook until the veggies are soft and your stomach is threatening to climb out and grab the stew without waiting for you.

Eat. Loosen your pants. Eat a bit more. Go to bed. - Alcohol or not, rambunctious behavior is not encouraged directly after consuming. Food comas likened to those of the major holidays have been known to occur.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Out with the New, In with the Old....

I know, I know. Sounds counter-intuitive, doesn't it? Our culture is driven by its eternal search for the newest and the best, the shiniest and the coolest. Well, here at the Nerdly Nest, we're pulling back a few decades and seeing how it works out for us.

What am I rambling about? Well, as the dust in my hair, the ripped fingernails, three splinters still jammed in my hand, and a filthy pair of jeans headed towards the wash will tell, I just spent my morning ripping up our living room carpet in the hope I can salvage the wooden floor underneath. I'm going to polish the lovely (and 90 years old) oak floor with some beeswax when we get the edging finished, and perhaps in the spring we'll sand it and seal it with polyurethane. Until then, it will be swept and kept healthy with wax... and if I have my way the rest of the house's carpets are doomed as well.

Now, why would I go ripping up carpet for an old beaten up wooden floor? Aesthetics aside, it comes down to the health of the house AND our own health. The cheap carpet the previous owners (headed for a date with a recycling firm) nailed onto the wooden floor boards is, first off, tacky as a plastic yard flamingo. Off white, crushed pile, stained and worn... it was time to go. Impossible to get really clean, daily vacuuming and spray on dirt busters did little to help. My allergies just got worse, and the Prime Geeks asthma seemed to increase the longer he stayed in the house. Our cats had placed their votes as well, showing their displeasure in truly unsocially accepted behavior. After countless attempts to get it clean (going so far as to buy a carpet steamer) I called it quits. The Prime Geek thought there might be a wooden floor under all that muck... but hadn't gotten around to actually looking. So, one evening last week I was found with a steak knife in one hand and a reckless attitude firmly installed... ripping through the carpet (in the center of the room, of course. If you are going to do a thing, do it big.) to have a little look-see for myself. Success! A pain to remove, but there IS something worthy of working on under the indoor/outdoor crap.

With a rip and a heave, and several trash bags later the carpet was off this morning. Another back breaking hour washing the floor down with Murphy's Oil soap on my hands and knees (if I'm gonna do it, I might as well do it right) and our floor is almost finished. PG will have to do some time on the edging, and I foresee the need to get working on a few rag rugs to toss around the room. Luckily I have more than a few bags of scraps to use.

Bit by bit, we'll free this lovely old home (1917) from the ghosts and specters that weigh it down. The old carpet is going, the nasty gas fake fireplace is being demoed this week and a soapstone wood burner will soon heat our home. I hope to get as many of the old features restored in our lovely lady, to bring her back to her glory from before.

But before that?

I gotta get a shower.

Maybe two. The crappy padding under the carpet was disintegrating as it was pulled and I think I breathed in more than I threw away.


Friday, October 26, 2007

Cleaning out my Closet *

Okay... part of the pantry and fridge, I'm not feeling brave enough to face the actual closets today. But, as I'm heading out of town tomorrow and will not be home until Sunday afternoon (leaving the Prime Geek to fend for himself until I return) I thought I would be a kind and caring wife and make something he can snack on until I return. He's perfectly capable of caring for himself, but there are things that need used up, and somehow men seem to lack the gene required to recognize the difference between “Needs Used” and “Able to Vote, and Looking to Expand it's Borders”. So, a rummage through the odds and ends of what we have, and a soup pan on the stove with enough to keep body and soul together until I return. As I've had a few requests for recipes from these rummages, I'll give this one a shot and see if anyone else likes my quickie potato soup.

The first item that needs used up is simple. I have two open boxes of potato flakes, and only one pouch in each. They could just be consolidated into one box... but that would still leave dinner in question. Now, food purists carrying the banner of fresh is best might be horrified to know that I keep such evil items in my cupboards. And, while we ARE trying to eat closer to the earth and eliminate many overly processed foods from our diets... potato flakes are always gonna be a cupboard staple in this house. Used to thicken stews, tossed into baked goods, and last ditch efforts to ratchet down overzealous spice endeavors, they are a great item to keep close at hand.

While I am enough of a good Irish lass to appreciate a solid spud, and I know the value of a good tater when it's baked, roasted, fried, or simmered in a stew.... instant works better in some applications. And, to be honest, there seems to have been several crappy harvests in the last few years. If my options are green and soft potatoes or a box of the instant.... I'll use the instant every time. (Hey, cheap, decent flavor, and shelf stable almost as long as plutonium... what's not to love in a pantry pal?)

Start the potatoes as the box requires (dumping in a gratuitous amount of garlic powder, black pepper, and a bit of cayenne to give it some heat.... leave it to come to a boil and rummage the fridge for the rest of the soup.

A quick shuffle through the shelves turns up an almost empty milk carton, just a few glugs left to pour into the soup... a carton of chicken stock from last nights dinner, there's almost 3 cups of that left. Odds and ends of several cheeses – a handful of mozzarella, an end of some fresh Parmesan from our trip to Amish country, a wedge of Velveeta lurking in the back in its foil wrapped shroud.

Alright. Yes. I have Velveeta in my refrigerator. Don't judge me. I can see that container of Rocky Road you're trying to hide. AND the jar of pickles that's been in yours since last November.

Yet again, no real recipe here folks. Just use mashed potatoes, instant or last night leftovers, thin it out with milk and broth (or water and veggie juice if you must) toss in whatever cheese you have and season to your families preferences. Shots of hot sauce and Worcestershire are at your discretion. If you get ambitious, try adding some cooked leftover chicken, and/or last nights cooked veggies. Its a quick and simple meal that can be reheated over and over again (just add a touch of milk or broth to thin it out each time) AND if it congeals completely by the end, pat it into thick pancakes, dredge it in a few more potato flakes and some seasoning and pan fry in a little butter.

Isn't recycling tasty?

*Great. Do you have any idea how embarrassing it is to get an Eminem song stuck your head when you're a 28 year old housewife?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Prime Geek Speaks

So this post is going to be, in the vein of Monty Python, Something Completely Different. I say that primarily as I am not the me that you have come to know and love, I am The Prime Geek. Yes, I am guest-blogging. Or, after reading this, you might say I am guess-blogging. Sometimes, it’s not far from the truth… And why, you ask, has my shadow fallen upon the pages of Naturally Nerds? Because we made a bit of a change in Casa del Geek-o, and I am primarily responsible for it. Oh, the Nerd has mentioned it, several times actually, but since I’m the one who did it, I get to tell the world. This may or may not be a one-time thing, there may be other times that I lend a literary hand. We’ll just have to see.

A few months ago, the Natural Nerd hollers out from her office “my computer sucks!” At the time, I was enthralled in an episode of Heroes, Stargate, Justice League Unlimited, or Robot Chicken or some such. I believe my exact response was along the lines of “I know” muttered under my breath as I summarily returned to the tube. Loving spouse and uber-geek that I aspire to be, even I cannot wrest The Beast into behaving, and I know this. This does not stop me from being asked to try…

“Can you fix it?” echoes invariably down the stairs.

“OK” I reply. “I’ll get the bullwhip and the stool, you find my top hat.” The wife, however, did not find as much humor in that statement as I did, it would seem.

As near as I could tell, her computer had decided that (a) playing some video files were OK. It liked doing that. Even some web-based streaming videos were good. But others, oh no, others were BAD. Very bad. They would only play with the “G” from “RGB” enabled. Everything looked like Hal Jordan’s home videos. Not good. The Beast also decided (b) that it must have had a headache, because it randomly started muting. Everything. Did I mention randomly? Seen those insipid commercials about cell phones cutting out mid-conversation? Yup. Like that.

Now, in an effort to solve (a) I reinstalled every codec I could think of. No luck. I reinstalled the video driver. No luck. Spare monitor? Yup, no luck there. I even went so far as to replace the video card. You guessed it, no luck. Frustrated, I moved on to (b), thinking I might get lucky there. Again, drivers, codecs and hardware later, I still felt no love from The Beast. As a desperate last-ditch effort to salvage what I could, I backed up all the Nerd’s music, videos, musings and any other document I could find, wiped the hard drive, and reinstalled the OS. I’m willing to bet you can all tell me what happened next; problems (a) and (b) were still present. Constantly getting problems like this at work is why I’m going bald, people. I do not need them at home.

“Hun, it’s time to get a new ‘puter.”

Now, at this point, I feel that I need to stop and explain what you’re going to read next. The Nerd can be a bit… excitable… at times. When faced with something she can’t quite grasp, or doesn’t want to grasp, her brain kicks into overdrive, the turbo spins up, and drops about thirty pounds of boost into the engine that is her brain, in an attempt to gain mental traction. Her vocal processing unit, unfortunately, only came with the standard four-speed gearbox and donut tires. What follows is my meager attempt to put into writing what I think I heard. I’m absolutely certain that I’m only about 60% complete/accurate, but here goes.

“Idon’tneedanewpooter,mypooterisabsolutelyfine,thankyouvermuch.AndmyCOMputerisfineitdoeseverythingIwantittoexceptplayingvideosfromYahoobut itdoesplayfromYouTubeanditdoesmywordprocessingfineanditdoesmyemailfineexeptforwhentheinternethangsanditplaysmymusicmostofthetimeanditputssongsonmymp3playerand…”

At this point, the little tape recorder in my head went “click” and while I am sure that she continued her computer’s capability compendium, I was unable to capture and comprehend any more. Time to switch tapes.

“You’re getting a new computer. I just got a big raise, and it’s time to put that to good use. I’m buying you a new laptop.”



“You’re getting a laptop. You’ll love it.”

“But… But…”

“You. Will. Love. It.”


While I will admit that the discussion was a wee bit more prolonged and drawn out than that, the Nerd eventually did relent to my superior Geek knowledge (BRUHAHAHA!), and let me buy her a laptop. If you’ve been reading this site, you know she grudgingly admits that she loves it. We ended up actually buying a pair of very respectable little Acer’s, with 1.8 GHz AMD Dual Core proc’s, 160 GB HDD’s, built-in WiFi and Bluetooth, and DVD/RW combo drives. Pretty nice units, actually. They came with Vista, and I put 4 GB’s of PC5300 DDR2 RAM in each. It’s the last bit that really makes them stand out. They are truly a desktop replacement. And that brings me to why this story appears on this website.

The Beast ran on a 350 watt power supply. That’s peak rating, mind you. In practice, my Kill-A-Watt tells me that it actually drew a nominal of 260 watts. This is for a piece-o-merde mid-range desktop from about seven years ago. Toss in a CRT monitor and you have another 90 to 120 watts in usage, and a peak draw of up to 400. Throw in a pair of speakers and a printer, and we have an average draw of 430 watts, give or take.

To put that in perspective, that’s more juice than our entire house’s worth of CFL light bulbs. Two or three times over.

Being a geek, I of course have a high-end gaming PC as well. This runs on a 750 watt PSU, and pulls a nominal of 420 watts. I do have a flat panel LCD, so I’m a little better off there, but again, when you toss in al the extras like speakers, printer, external hard drives, and everything else, that PC has a typical draw of almost 750 watts. We’re typical users, and have things running in the background that require time, so these computers are left on nearly 24/7.

That there’s a ton of energy, y’all. In our little slice of the world, we pay $.11/Kilowatt hour. That figures out to be in the neighborhood of $75 a month.

Enter the laptop(s). In addition to its decreased form factor, and all the added desk space that it brings, leaving aside the portability issue (which the Nerd has already touched on) these things come with a 90 watt power supply. Of which they only draw about 60 watts under normal usage. Combined, they cost us just under $5 in electricity each month. That $70 saved each month is over $800 a year. I don’t know about you financially, but that’s a mortgage payment for me right there, with a little extra for good measure.

We currently have about 45 watts of solar electricity production with about 200 Amp hours of storage. Just enough to go camping with, basically. The Nerd has already made some sqwakings about me writing up a rundown on that setup, so look for it here sometime in the future. I’m mentioning this because these laptops could be run off nothing but our own solar production. To be more comfortable, I’d want to double or quadruple our production, to get in the neighborhood of 180-200 watts, so that we could leave them on 24/7 like we do now, but that’s about $1000 in solar panels that I don’t have yet. In a year or so, when you can build solar photo-voltaic for about $1-2/watt, I will be revisiting this idea, as well as expanding on it.

And what happened to The Beast? No, it did not end up in a landfill somewhere. I reformatted it (yet again) and am using it to brush up on my Unix and OpenBSD skillz. It gets run a few hours a week, and spends the rest of its time in the corner under my desk scowling at my toes. I kick it occasionally for good measure, ya know, just to be sure.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Wonderful Problems

Yup. You read the title right. I'm stuck in the middle of a half a dozen or so quandaries, and I feel pretty lucky to have each of them. What, don't believe me? Think I'm merely attempting a Pollyanna attitude? Ahh... yea of little faith. Observe -

Mountains of fall produce sit around me in various states of preservation. Piles of apples, mounds of pumpkins, acres of food waiting to be used and put away for the needs of the winter and spring. Should I make apple cake; rich and just a touch crisp, juicy to the point of dripping? Or should pumpkin bread be first up in the oven; hearty and healthy with its load of spices and whole wheat, with just a touch of sin lurking in the middle with its white stripe of cream cheese?

Cold weather at last means REAL food for a change. No more feeling like I should use up the piles of greens which seemed to follow me home all summer in yet another endless salad. No... time at last for hearty beef stews, made all the thicker for a generous helping of Honey Brown beer poured in at a critical moment. Chilies, chowders, and casseroles now can rejoin our weekly menus. Back to REAL food... just what to prepare first?

Birthday money finally all spent... but what to work on first? Tackle the mountain of fabric it garnered? Make the flannel pj's first.... or do I want my blue cammo fleece skirt to be first cut out? Maybe I should get my new scarf finished.... the time to wrap up is coming fast. Do I make the new curtains for our bedroom? Or should I go play with the sari silk I picked up at an unbelievable steal? Silk or wool, fashion or function.... what to do, what to do.

After a month of highly unfall like weather (I'm sorry, as someone who lives firmly in the Northern Ohio Snowbelt... I should NOT be contemplating using our air conditioner in October!) the temperature finally dipped last night, along with a lovely steady rainfall and a deep rich fog. Yes, honestly, I AM happy about that. Blame a youth spent reading British authors like Sayers, Christie, and Marsh. I might have been born in the States, but my soul belongs on some fog covered heath. I love cool, crisp, foggy autumn. So... as I snuggled into my recently beflanneled bedding, I faced a serious decision. Close the window and use just the one blanket.... or leave it open and pull out the comforter.

Choices, choices, choices.

While I dither and decide, the Prime Geek has decided to try HIS hand at this blogging 'thang. So tomorrow (AND Wednesday; like myself, he has a tendency to ramble a tad....) a special treat. A change of pace from the natterings of a Natural Nerd to the gabblings of a Greening (against his will at times) Geek.

Hold on tight!

To the few that care, it's pumpkin bread, beef stew, new skirt AFTER the scarf is finished and a nice cold breeze with a heavier blanket. There. I CAN be decisive. Sometimes. I think. If I have to. Maybe.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Rub a Dub Dub

Blank stares. That is what my simple statement was met with. Unrelenting disbelief that I had strayed so far from my newly greening roots. Within moments I was pelted with reactions ranging from outright condemnation to quiet cajoling to return to my senses.

Who knew confessing to a love of hot baths would be the start of such trouble?

Yes, I'll say it again. I'm a natural nerd and you can't make me take a cold shower. Isn't gonna happen, keep walking.

I know, I know. In a day and age where monastic simplicity is the new wave of fashion (oddly being sold from magazines offering Zen in ten easy payments), admitting to a perceived luxury is taboo. How wasteful. How thoughtless. Blog after blog are joining the cold shower movement, one Canadian writer (who I admire very much) has even gone so far as to research and decide to implement a Navy-style shower. Cold water, turned off, soap up, sluice off quickly, and leave the stall. How.... clinical.

When did enjoying life become verboten? For me, a bath is far more than the act of simply getting rid of the days dirt and dust. It almost always involves a book, something to drink kept near at hand, sometimes candles.... and often a towel shoved under the door to keep desperate kitty paws and toy mice from reaching out for my attention (hey, we all have our crosses to bear!). Its my chance to relax, unwind, let my overly active brain just chill for a few minutes. Frankly, most of my best writing comes out of a hot tub (For did the Great Pratchett not explain the phrase “Eureka” is merely Klatchian for “Where's my towel?”) and a bit of a soapy soak.

Where did being environmentally conscious mean we had to embrace a medieval hermit's lifestyle? Why is pleasure in the small things in life a bad thing?

Allow me a moment to present an argument skipping the shower train and sinking back into your tub.

A five minute shower uses roughly 12-15 gallons of water. Which means... the normal shower uses about 30. Let's face it, a minute or two is poured down the drain dickering around with the temp, if you have long hair it takes at least 5 minutes just to get IT rinsed, and that's after you soap up. You could... as the Prime Geek is wont to do, suggest buddying up for potential water conservation. But, frankly... it takes twice as long, somebody gets shafted in the warm water department... and if we're all honest adults here ultimately you end up preforming certain acts that require the use of a second shower for both parties (a long spiral of cause and effect will occur if the attempt to “share” is implemented at this point. That way lays madness.... fun madness. Madness I don't mind wallowing in once in a while... but madness all the same.). Hardly a savings to be found. And you run the risk of scaring the cats. Or breaking the soap dish.

A full tub of water? To capacity the big boys will hold 40 gallons MINUS the space taken up by your average adult. So... we're back to the 20-30 gallon range here. In other words, about the same as your “saving” shower. Toss in the capacity for relaxation – mental AND physical, the only quiet moment a lot of people get to themselves, and I think it seems to be a pretty good use of 25 gallons of water (we have a shallow tub.) But wait... there's more.

Hot water? In cold weather, don't send it back down the drain right away... that's a standing humidifier (electric free.... thank you very much) just begging to be used. Hot warm water also equals hot warm air... which means you can ratchet the temperature down a few degrees when you head to the bathroom. A hot bath before bed is not only relaxing, but if done right, means you are warm and toasty as you slip into bed... which means you can spin the thermostat down again. Another savings to be had. Warm body, cool house? Means if anyone else is sharing your abode, they are going to be searching out the one warm and toasty item in the house to cuddle up to. Wow, look at that. With the simple implementation of hot bath you've - humidified your house, warmed the floor which holds the bathroom, lowered your energy costs in heating, AND caused energy sucking lights to be turned off as you head for a serious cuddle.

Sounds like a brilliant environmental plan to me.

Monday, October 15, 2007

A Little Something Different

Today on Naturally Nerds, I'm going to go in a slightly different route. Today is Blog Action Day. An attempt by those fighting the green fight to try and see how many voices can be raised in one voice towards one goal. Across the nation (and the globe, I really feel like I should be writing this with a Coke Classic in one hand and a high pitched children's chorus singing backup in the next room) thousands of blog writers are switching from usually scheduled programming to talk about the state of the environment, what you/they can do to make a difference, some protests, some quiet contemplation.

Me? As in most aspects of my life, I seem to be slightly outside of the herd on this one. But that's fine, less risk of being trampled in the crush – granted it also means I don't have the protective cover OF the herd... and I run the chance of the herd being headed my way if I make too big of a wave, but all in all, its how I prefer to stand. So, today I'm not gonna rant about the inevitable doom and gloom of the planet. Not going to rally a good chant to Momma Earth (can't stand the scent of patchouli anyway, and have never been a big fan of fringed vests), and I'm not going to scold or sermonize.

I'm going to make one small observation, and one small idea. The rest? Well, if you are reading this blog you either are here because you already think some changes need to be made - so there is no need to tell you things can look a little grim... or you're here strictly for the random (hopefully entertaining and sometimes humorous) interjections of a subculture Valkyrie who may one day be forced to post a picture of herself got up in chainmail undies to get better ratings. In which case ranting and raving will only make you roll your eyes and look for your nerdly fix elsewhere.

So here we go. Ready? My premise for fixing the world, the deficit, the political system, global policies AND the size of my rear – Moderation in all things, including moderation.

I know. Earth shattering. All the worlds ills knocked down into one fortune cookie sound bite. Nifty, huh?

Hear me out. We didn't get into our collective mess overnight. There was no shotgun blast of pollution that rang out at midnight and turned our perfect Eden into a smog filled Hades. Didn't get here all at once, not going to fix it tomorrow. Get rid of your car, become a vegan, join a monastery where you live on soy tea and mung beans and live a life of duty tending cows and abandoned pigs, wear only a paper loincloth, and refuse to take longer than a 1 minute ice shower in the creek once a week to get clean......

And we're still in trouble. For each hermit living in the woods on nuts and berries there are a thousand people just trying to make it to Friday so they head to the basketball game and grab a beer.

Running around screaming the sky is falling isn't going to work. You either overwhelm all those around you into a catatonic fit Рending in a Sex, Drugs, and Petroleum waste fueled Ragnar̦k as everyone decides to party before they burn.... or you get tuned out as a hysteric. We've seen this for years. You cannot change every person completely overnight, and frankly I don't think we should try. Every day brings us closer to new advances, new understandings. What is the cure-all today might be the cause of the disease tomorrow.

So. Moderation. Don't give up the T-bone on your birthday... but take the time to shop around and find a butcher who sells local meat, humanly raised. If reading the paper while you drink your coffee is the only way you can start your mornings... toss a box by the trash to bundle the paper afterwards (and look around for a fairly sold coffee.) Drive to work? Fine, but how about slipping on a pair of tennis shoes when you want to head out and grab your lunch instead of grabbing the keys. Better for the air, cheaper on your wallet, and hey.... that walk everyday means you don't have to always pass up that chocolate milkshake on the way back to the office! Don't beat yourself up when you forget your water bottle at home and grab a soda instead. Learn to LIKE your veggies, and maybe try your hand at a hanging basket of tomatoes on your stoop. Make the small steps, each and every day... and I think in time you will find you have done quite a bit to help us fix the planet. Every tiny adjustments makes a difference, every little step helps to reshape your world.

Learn the baby steps. Yeah, you likely won't win a Nobel Prize for slowly working moderation into your life, but you will learn how to live a little lighter on this big green planet. Moderation in all things, including moderation.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have a squash to pop in the oven for dinner and while the oven is on already I think I might just make a batch of cookies! After all, I have to try and practice what I preach.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Belated Blogging

No good excuses for falling off the green trail this week, just another birthday come and gone to lay the blame on. I have spent my week with visits from family (thanks for heading up Mom) to a wonderful few days with the hubby just horsing around. I highly recommend having your spouse take a short vacation over your birthday as it gives you a darn good reason to sleep in past noon at least once without it being a weekend! I'm not sure how I feel about being 28 yet... inside seems more or less the same as 18, but my knees HAVE noticed the passing years. But at least I can comfort myself in the knowledge that however old I become, the Prime Geek will be older.

A good birthday all in all. I'm resolutely ignoring the hovering 30 that seems to have gotten a tad closer with the passing of a year. A new laptop, credit cards completely paid off, more knitting items then I should admit to, and a "spend $200 on what you want" offer on the boards from a wonderful Geek. But presents aside, there are some larger reasons why this birthday was such a good one.

First year as a Married Nerd... and while I don't base my value on my relationship to a man, this particular relationship has given me more stability, confidence, and joy than I imagined possible. First year in my own home... no more apartments, no more wandering, no more wondering where I'll be staying in a month, a week, a day. The address may change over the years, but knowing I'll be waking up next to PG has given me a stability I never dreamed I would achieve.

Looking back over the year, I find some real changes in myself. Still frenetic (although finally trying to learn how to sit still for at least a moment once in a while) still the same scattered Magpie personality.... but a lot more confident in my choices AND in my changes. I'm not sure where this is all heading, but for a change I'm positive that no matter where this path leads, this is one gypsy lass that is going to be facing the future with a grin and a wonderful partner at her side.

And..... just IMAGINE all the trouble I can now cause with HELP!

We return to the Nerdly grind in the morning where we will attempt to discover if it really IS a savings to be had in sharing a shower..... or if a nice long bath is the more environmentally friendly (if not NEARLY as much fun) route.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Garbage Bowl Blues

As much as it pains me to admit, I am an avid Rachel Ray fan. I have my tivo set to record her daily offerings of 30-minute meals, on days when I have projects to work on that require little concentration I can be found tuning into her talk show... I even own several of her cookbooks and have been known to pick up her monthly magazine offering. Now, in my defense, the main reason I keep up with the perpetually perky Ray has less to do with her actual recipes, and far more to do with her laid back cooking style. “Once around the pan” and “just a palmful” are measurements I can get behind. Most of her meals can be guidelines, rather than precise rules. Even my beloved Alton gets too far into grams and ounces for this free-spirited cook to handle on a daily basis. Don't like coconut milk? Use evaporated. No chicken in the fridge? Go ahead and use pork. She understand that circumstances can change in an instant for the home cook, that the contents of our pantry is not always planned to the tiniest details... that in short, cook are usually just people who want to eat. Preferably something tasty and isn't going to entail two trips to the store and a sink full of dishes before all is said and done.

I also have to admire how she has managed to create her own personal empire on little more than a love of food and a determination to reach her goals. We're talking about a women who must have Martha Stewart starting to sweat a bit. Her merchandising juggernaut is fast approaching Stewart's level – running the gamut from books and pans, talkshows, cooking shows, travelogues, and spinoffs, foods and even a new word for the dictionary* - all done with a far friendly manner then Stewart's firm “Do what I say and you too can be almost as perfect as I am” demeanor. She appears to be on a one women mission to take over the world... and frankly there seems to be nothing to stop her.

All that aside though, there is one teeny tiny thing that is beginning to drive me batty. Well, other than her slightly disjointed conversational style... but that could be fixed with the simple act of someone replacing all cups of coffee past her 20th or so with decaf. I have watched her cooking shows for years and always found myself slightly gritting my teeth as she cheerily tossed everything into her handy dandy garbage bowl. While being able to corral all your scraps into once place DOES make a lot of sense, just chucking willy-nilly everything from apple cores to tin cans into one place just seems.... well, wasteful and more than a tad thoughtless. At this point Rachel has a HUGE platform, millions watch her, read her, heck... I know more than a few who try to dress like her. One small extra step and she could have all those faithful viewers being a tad more responsible in their own daily life.

I know, I know. Way to nitpick. She has a million things going on in her life... and I'm focusing such a tiny thing. But... I do have to wonder. How many extra cans would hit the recycling center each year if half of her viewers made the switch? How many acres of land would end up being renewed... if only half the viewership carried their garbage bowls out the compost pile? How many tons of trash would never make it to the landfill if just of quarter of her fans took these steps a few times a week? I think part of my problem is that is IS such a small step. She already has a garbage bowl on the shelves of Target and Wallyworld... spend the extra five cents on a plastic lid and help start a movement towards responsibility. The shear busyness of her life would be the beacon for others to follow. If she can make the switch while running her mega-business, then surely it should be easy enough for others to do the same. Its her very pervasiveness in American's lives that could make such a difference.

So. What to do? I have to admit, I'm gonna do the nerdly thing... there are several e-mails in various stages of polishing that will be sent on their way to the Rachel empire in the hopes someone hears. I don't know if it will do much, but maybe if more of us ask, she might end up seeing her way to joining the cause.

What do you say.... wanna help me tilt at windmills? If you do, there are several options available. If, like me, you still find technology a rather cold way to converse, send her a note by snail mail at :

Rachael Ray
132 E. 43rd St.
PO Box 543
New York, NY 10017

or if you are more in tune with the Prime Geek's love of all things techno her webmaster's email is

So, if you think there is a good reason to rethink the garbage bowl dump.... do me a favor and let her know.

*I don't care HOW many people voted for the dratted thing. EVOO IS NOT A WORD!

Friday, October 5, 2007

It's Official

I am nerdier than 96% of all people. Are you a nerd? Click here to find out!

Think this is why I never dated in highschool? Honestly, I took the dratted thing to prove I WASN'T as nerdy as a few other people I could name.

Crap. Think I can demand a recount? Just because I game old school D&D, own a pair of elf ears AND a chainmail bikini....

Ya know, somehow I think the above admission isn't helping my case as much as I hoped.

Oh well. At least the Prime Geek is further gone then I am.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Vista Views and Laptop Love

I honestly never thought I would have an opinion one way or the other in the controversy that seems to be raging over the new Vista system that is being implemented on new pc's covering the country. I've heard the fights from both sides... and while I didn't really care one way or the, I will confess my leanings were against the newcomer - if for no other reason then I dreaded having to relearn all my VERY basic computer skills. By sticking with Windows XP, I knew where my stuff was, how to access it, and even how to branch out a tad bit into unfamiliar waters without worrying I would cause my computer to first implode.... and then possibly melt into a puddle of steaming goo. Ever since watching Tron as a child, I've viewed most computers with a fair amount of distrust and distaste. My relationship with the Prime Geek didn't help matters any. In efforts to “improve” my computer in some esoteric manners that only he could fathom (Yes, honey, I'm sure it went faster after you rebuild the widget and formatted the whosit to bypass hyperspace.... I just never really saw much difference.) I would be rendered first computerless while he cackled and rebuilt... then the inevitable return with nothing where I remembered it being. The computer might have been better in some way... but as all I use the dread machines for is writing and surfing the web.... it all was a bit beyond me.

But then.... my computer finally died. Even the Prime Geek's mystical skill with all things sparking were of no help. Granted... to be fair, it HAD suffered through two small electrical fires, one cat peeing on the works, at least three lightening strikes, and numerous drops from varying heights over its eight year life. I fought hard for another tower based computer system. It was what I knew, and I've always secretly viewed those people who jaunt off to coffee shops to work on their great American novel as posers of a sort. Call me old fashioned, my view of the writer at work came straight out of Little Women. Give me a garret, a stack of paper, a quill pen and I can write the world. Force me to work with battery life, mocha shots, and a crowd of black turtleneck wearing semi-intelligentsia's.... and I get cranky. I like the deep strokes of good keyboard, I like my monitor to be both large AND slightly above my line of sight. I, frankly, didn't want anything to do with a laptop. The Prime Geek insisted if I was going to take the next few years and try and see if this writing thing was ever going to be more than a oddly frustrating and sadly consuming hobby I needed the mobility of a laptop.

In the end, I was beaten. Quite simply.... he bought the dratted thing and was going to be the one to maintain it, so my ability to argue was somewhat limited. Also.... if all I could come up with was a slightly whiny “But I don't know how.....” I just had to accept I was beaten and adjust to the fact I was getting a laptop and was going to have to just suck it up and learn Vista.

The laptop arrived and within an hour, it was set up in front of me and I was told to get on with it. Now, a few days later, I have come to a few conclusions.

One. Vista? Not really all that big of a deal. Now, the Prime Geek isn't one to let things stay as is... no no, the lad is always chasing after the bigger and the better. So before the laptop was even turned on, he installed the full complement of memory possible in the computer. With that installed, the huge lag time everyone seems to loathe isn't an issue. Vista takes almost of full gig of memory? Not a problem... I've got an extra three to run after that. With one move, the biggest complaint was taken care of. Any other complaints can be answered by simply restating the rather sad truth. I use this as a typewriter, a way to surf the web, a cd player, and a source for crossword puzzles and endless games of Majong. I have few other requirements or needs. Thus, no matter all the other options available, this is fine.

Two. The whole laptop thing? Better than I had dreamed possible. Yup, the simple fact of being able to switch what room I'm working in is wonderful (Happy hon?) As any writer can tell you, simply getting up and walking around can help jog things loose. The ability to get up and leave... and still be able to work is something I can get behind fully. I don't have to put off working on material because I have to head out of town for the day, no more transcribing barely legible notes scrawled on a napkin from a cafe... I can work wherever I need to. Nifty.

Lastly? Perhaps having a wireless internet connection isn't such a great idea. The ability to answer e-mail or watch YouTube where I once simply had a moment of peace and..... shall we say singular concentration might be a sign of the end of our civilization. If I put a microwave and a small fridge in there I might never have to leave the room.

One the other hand, it does free up a lot of space as I no longer have to carry three or four books into the smallest reading room* with me.

Now, I realize with this blog posting I'm veering a tad away from my nerdly roots and beginning to stray into the path of geekhood.... but let's face it. YOU try sharing a bed and a bathroom with the Prime Geek and not subconsciously absorb a few techno odds and ends! Tomorrow it's back to the Natural Nerd grind.

*As described by the Great Pratchett.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

In Praise of Child Labor – Or, Anyone got a couple of 10-year olds I can borrow?

While my family pulled up stakes often enough for my brother and I learn the importance of placing maps to the loo next to our beds – one blind stumble down a set of stairs you forgot you had is all it really takes – one thing remained constant. When the leaves began to turn, we would be found either in the garden with dad pulling up veggies, or helping mom steam up the kitchen with her canner. Either fresh from our own garden, or brought in from the local U-Pick farmstead, the kitchen would be full for weeks of food in varying stages of “puttin up”. This do it yourself approach to food completely spoiled our taste buds for the pallid and pale canned tins of fruits and veg our neighbors seemed to always be serving. It was never hard for me to understand why my classmates hated any and every green veggies their parents would try to shove down their gullets. Mushy, gray, and tasteless, the only hope was the the thick covering of either butter or cheese they spread over it. I'm sorry, but green beans should be, well... green for starters.

It was simply how the summer would end. Dad would take us (big brother and I) out to the garden patch or the local farmer's market first thing in the morning, we picked until the sun beat too hotly down onto us.... then it was into the kitchen with mom to start the long process of stringing, cutting, slicing, boiling, canning, and freezing. Vital grownup duties would be solemnly handed out, long would we argue that we didn't need the peeler, we could use the paring knife safely. How loudly the best jobs would be fought over.... a baby could wash fruit but it took a steady and “mature” hand to man the blanching process. More than a few summer nights ended with my brother and I sitting on the back porch shucking corn or snapping beans, arguing over who did the better job, who did it faster, who could get more done.

Fast forward to today. After three years of exile in a tiny kitchen with no freezer space and only a tiny apartment stove – in other words, far too underpowered for a canner – I finally have a real home. With a real kitchen. And plenty of putting up toys to play with. So, back to the joys of preserving the harvest, right?

Well, while the garden didn't work out this year (hopefully the compost will help for next) I had found a few local orchard and farmer's markets to fill my horn of plenty with. A weekend spent in Amish country with my parents, and I was two bushels of apples richer. While getting them placed into the car, I will confess to a slight hesitancy.... there did seem to be rather a lot of apples going into the car. But joy of joys! Fresh local apples, grown so locally I can practically guess the name of the picker within three tries. Apple butter, applesauce, apple bread, dried apples – a real favorite. Apple slices to freeze, apple fritters, joy of joys.... apple cake! Sure, there were a lot of them, but thats good, right? Should be a breeze, heck... I started working on apples when I was barely four, its a snap.

Three days later and I will admit the smell of apples now sickens me. Only 2/3's of the last bushel to go, and I am seriously thinking about simply... shall we say, enriching the compost pile a tad. I've peeled, I've boiled, my house resembles nothing so much as a applesauce factory... on a bad day when the cleaning crew has walked out. And still the apples come. I swear, they are following me. I even found on sitting bold as you please on the back of the toilet this morning. I think they might even be breeding. Its the only answer. There is no way I willingly and knowingly brought this many of the wretched things into my home.

In desperation, I called my mother and asked her how she coped. What secret was I forgetting that made the job go by so quickly? There had to be some vital step the years away had made me forget.

Once she stopped laughing, she told me.

“Frankly, we never would have gotten it done without the two of you kids. Your brother so anxious to prove he was a grownup, you so desperate to show you could do whatever he could do... Child labor dear. Never can without it.”

So. Anyone got a few spare ten years olds laying around? I promise to have them home in time for dinner.