28 November 2010

Laundry in the Living Room

Well, it's not actually that bad.

I think I mentioned in an earlier post that one of the ways in which Nathan and I are trying to "beat the system" of materialism is to save some money by hang-drying our laundry.  In the summer, this is a wonderfully fresh and outside-based activity.  I can imagine I'm in a back yard somewhere with grass beneath my feet and trees scattered about.  Sometimes, even little birds come by and sing sweet songs to me as I hang my perfectly spotless tablecloths, and the woodland friends help to hang the sheets.  It's really a sylvan wonderland, you know.

In reality, it's not so different, although I am spared the worry about bird poop from the errant singing sparrow as our back staircase is completely covered.  Living on the third (top) floor, we have rigged a little laundry line outside of our back door.  Being safe from the rain, with a nice large side opening for the breezes (although no direct sun), we hang our things outside on the line, and place our rickety little folding drying racks on the landing and thus our things dry.  Sometimes for days.  There is really very little work involved, save the hanging part, but that appeals to my sense of order, and so it's really an exercise in meditation for me.

But the cold weather always makes me wonder how folks did it prior to dryers in the winter.  True, freezing temperatures evaporate water quite well, and so one ends up with stiff clothes until that water is gone completely, but - brr!  We've taken our drying racks and set them up in the dining room, and then we hang the shirts and things on hangers in the bathroom.  But yesterday, the flood of laundry (we hadn't washed clothes in at least two weeks) necessitated more space.  So, I stuck a few nails above the door jamb and the window casing and strung our camping drying line to and fro along the length of the bathroom, in a sort of zigzag fashion, until I was out of line.  Literally and figuratively, probably, but no one has complained.

The result is quite festive, although instead of banners, socks and aprons wave gaily to and fro in the forced air breeze.

However, unlike the summer season of drying, this fall and winter season is tej'ous!  Nathan runs the gauntlet outside and down the stairs, across the back end of our building to the laundry room in the basement.  Then, either depositing or unloading or both, he returns around the back and up the stairs laden with two wet loads of laundry.  Even in the cold, he is sweating a little from the effort.  He leaves the laundry on the back porch so that if I can't get to it quickly enough, it won't molder in the heat (there is no danger of that right now, mind you!).  I then pick up that freezing cold laundry and hand the little bits inside on the racks.  Olivia's clothes on one, Elsie's on another, and all the socks paired on the line.

There is always a system, you know.

The shirts end up in the bathroom, and the jeans and towels and tablecloths head out to the back line.  If there's no room, they end up on the back porch, back in the basket, to await their turn in frozen captivity.

Last night, socks and delicates took a devil-may-care attitude and ended up on the lines in the bathroom.  We have a houseguest, and she is dear friend, otherwise I think my husband might have been mortified at his skivvies parading about in such a manner.

I would have honestly liked to have left it at that, but Nathan has need of the shower this morning, and so I am up early to take laundry down.  Boy, I hope it's all dry.  Otherwise, I'll be stringing line again around our bathroom, like some sort of laundry fairy.

So, all you with dryers out there, rejoice!  Even if you do lose the occasional sock or two, the convenience is certainly worth it.

Not that I mind, honestly.  There is a bit of romantic heroism in this, I think.  We are actually saving money by cutting out laundry bills in half (the fryer here costs as much as the washer), and there is no hauling to a laundromat, so that saves gas.  Really, the only thing we are expending is work.

And in this case, string.

Which, dear reader, finally brings me to my point.  Hurrah!  In these times, where so much is unstable, there is a little bit of peace found in the simple things.  Eating good, home-cooked foods.  Spending time with friends and loved ones.  And, yes, even hanging the laundry.  This simple act, done out of love for family and value of work, really makes a difference.  At least for the underwear.

27 November 2010

The Frugal Game

So, dear readers, we finally did it.

We cut ourselves off from our credit cards.

This has been REALLY tough, especially in a place where value is measured by purchasing power rather than virtue.

Evanston, where we live, lies on Lake Michigan, right north of the City of Chicago.  It is a suburb, but (and I probably say this only because I live here), it's not really that suburby.  It's a city in itself, but I imagine it to be really an extension of Chicago, only with more trees and a lot less light pollution.  We are right on the El and Metra lines, which shoot straight into the heart of Chicago, so, on a weekday, you can get downtown in less than forty-five minutes.  Which is really saying something in traffic here.

The people are chilly, but that's to be expected in the city.  After a while, you'll find those gems who remember your name and coo over your babies.  Those are the keepers.  We have a "local" national grocery store, where the prices are high, but the people are nice and if I don't show up with my daughters in tow, I am asked at least twice where the girls are.  We have two Whole Foods (that's a long story), lots of boutiques, and the two houses on our block that went up for sale recently each sold for almost a million dollars.

I don't even want to count that high.

So we decided, after lots of tough battles with our budget, that, aside from making more money, the real exercise we need right now is to stop living beyond our means.  Some of you may say, in your smarmiest tones, "Of course! what a silly notion.  I never spend more than I make."  To which I say, "Bravo for you.  What a champion of liberty you are."  But for us, and I dare say the majority of Americans, this is a difficult task.

Just look at "Black Friday."  I almost felt guilty not spending money when everything was on sale.

But I got over it.  And also I digress.

The easiest way we figured we could do this was to stop using our credit cards.  We started it as sort of a challenge, really, in self-discipline, and it's become rather fun.

Our largest expenditure of "variable" things (i.e. not a bill) is on food, so we stopped eating out.  Hard to do, mind you, in the dining capital of the North Shore.  But we did it.  That meant getting up earlier and cooking - not prepared food, but from scratch - breakfast and lunch.  And actually planning for dinner and starting cooking before 5 PM.  We don't have a microwave (that's another long story), so we heat things up with fire.  It's more romantic that way, even if it takes longer.

The funnest part of it has been the meal-planning game.  It goes like this:

1.  Open pantry
2.  Take survey of the various types of beans and legumes
3.  Figure out what sort of concoction one can brew up with mung beans and a can of corn
4.  Find a respectable recipe online (that poor can of corn is still there)
5.  Run to the store and pick up $3 worth of extra ingredients
6.  Cook dinner
7.  Feel pious

Piousness is sometimes better than dessert.


So, once the bills are paid, we divvy up the remainder into those necessary but somehow the first to be cut categories, like laundry and food.  It's reminiscent of the arts in public schools, no?  But we manage, and it's been fun.  And we've been more regular.  Probably all those beans.

So take that, materialism!  Pow!

20 November 2010

Mrs. Baby

This was originally published on Nathan's blog:


But I had to re-print it here, because I haven't posted in a while and also because it is spot on Elsie.

Mrs. Baby

Wearing a dress.
Making sounds nobody knows what they mean.
Saying all the words she knows in random order.
Laughing after soiling herself.
Putting food in my water then screaming at me until I scoop it out.
Pretending to be a cow but making a sound like a bird. 
Looking for things to throw.
Hoarding items in a secret place that only she knows about for days at a time.
Eating bananas like they're crackers.
Demanding pancakes at any and every hour of the day and night.
Sometimes when she's sleeping I call her Mrs. Despot, as a joke.
She then wakes up, gouges my face and shouts at me for a full minute
Before falling back into a "peaceful" sleep.
And I decide go about my day.