14 December 2010


Dear Readers,

First off, let me state that I may just be the only person in the Chicagoland area who likes winter.  And my four year-old, Olivia, may be the only one who LOVES it.  There is something so delightful about bundling up and trekking out, being able to see where you've been in the crisp snow, and making a general mess of things with ice and twigs and grass and boots when you tromp back into the house, and then cozying up with a blanket and a warm drink.  Ideally a fireplace, but I think those are against code in our building...

We've been learning about the year and the equinoxes and solstices, and so every day when Olivia looks out and sees the snow-covered ground she asks, "is it solstice?"  A.k.a. Is it winter?

No, it is not officially winter, but I think we should petition that, with negative windchills and blowing snow.  My goodness.  If snow does not a winter make, what does?  I love the softness that a snowfall brings - the thought that the world is still within a snowglobe of flakes - and the pace of life must necessarily slow down.  And blizzards aren't that bad, either - they remind us that we are much smaller than Nature, even with all of our lovely technology - and they make us appreciate the warmth of the hearth and the company of friends.

So I suppose my only caveat with winter is that it has to snow.  A lot.  A Metrodome-roof-collapsing lot.  Which it, unfortunately, despite our northerly latitude, does not.

My mother will send me weather bulletins about blizzards and the worst storm of the century and I won't even read them.  It is too depressing to me, who loves snow, to read with anticipation the doomsday forecasts of 1 foot of snow to see it tapering off as soon as it hits this lake.  "Lake Effect," which to most implies more snow than normal, doesn't apply to us, except in that it usually sucks the moisture right out of the air and then jettisons it across the lake to western Michigan and northern Indiana.

Sometimes I think we live on the wrong side of the lake.

Olivia, however, is too young to be embittered by years of promises broken.   She LOVES the snow, and any sign of it is heartening for her.  Our first snowfall happened before this so-called "blizzard" that just swept through, right on time immediately after Thanksgiving.  Here are some of the fruits of our outside labors.

Brr.  I hope you are warm and cosy seeing these!

11 December 2010

One of life's big questions

Where to live, where to live?

It would be wonderful if I could flip through a real estate catalog and take my pick.  Or, better yet, close my eyes and plunk my finger down on a part of the globe that would determine our next place of residence.

But, of course, there is much more involved in the decision than a simple guess!

The factors to consider are quite numerous, and, like many big decisions, require the proper alignments of the planets before anything can be decided.

The first factor has pretty much decided itself.  We are a family of four living in a one-bedroom apartment.  Although, dear reader, I think we've done a pretty fine job of it, and also considering that I'm the one who is here most of the time with the girls, I can certainly see that we will need some more room soon.  But, to be honest, I'm not entirely convinced!

Which leads me to the second factor, which is cost.  We moved from Chicago to Evanston after Olivia was born for several reasons:  Nathan would be closer to work and would have a shorter commute; there were more trees; and the place we found had a bigger kitchen for only a little more of the cost.  Also, our apartment was the least expensive of all the ones we saw, even though it was also the most ghastly.  When we first came for a showing, the walls were painted bright red and yellow and the bedroom was purple.  Not lavender or lilac - purple.  And the best part was that the paint only went as high up the wall as the person could reach, and so the roller marks stopped about a foot from the ceiling.  Of course, they painted before we moved in, and we further plastered and painted over the cracked walls and had a lot of other work done, so I think the place is in much better shape than when we first began living here.  But, the work was a trade-off for the rent, which, even so, has gone incrementally up in the four years we've been here.  Even now, it's a bit tight for our non-profit, single income budget.  But, then again, the work is a trade-off for the pay - I'm not working for pay on purpose and so subsequently am working much harder at home with my girls.

The trickiest bit is finding a larger place for the same or at least a similar cost.  And, the more settled we've become here, the longer my list of house requirements grows.  Every scenario I've found online has sacrificed one important "must-have," such as a small kitchen with those ghastly oak cabinets (ours are a cheap white, but I like white - it seems so clean - and is easy to clean, to boot), or carpeting (which won't work with my asthma, even new stuff), or too far from the train line (which Nathan uses for work), or not within walking distance to a grocery store (for the days when Nathan takes the car).  Pretty much "not our current place." 

I think that, at this point, dear reader, you may sense my reluctance to leave where we are.  But I also know that change is necessary - a new place would bring it's own exciting challenges.  Not to mention the purging of accumulated junk that happens when one moves.  And the next year may bring big changes for our family in terms of income, and so we may end up needing to move more than just within city limits.

Oh, dear.

So, at this point, I really just have to plan several scenarios for the coming year:  staying in our current place, staying in Evanston, staying in the Midwest, and staying within the U.S.  I suppose I could also plan for international travel, but that is a bit out of my brain range right now.  It's hard to plan a garden in Boston, but who knows!?  As the year progresses, and our lease comes to an end in April and Olivia's school comes to an end in May, I'm sure we'll have a better grasp on things.  But I hate waiting!  And not knowing where you're going to live is rough!

This will be a winter for patience, I suppose.  And counting my seeds and paring our personal belongings for a more-than-likely move.  Wish us luck!

10 December 2010

Two things that are amazing...

...if you are under five.  Or 30, like me.

1)  Netflix on the television.  This one might require a bit of technical explanation.  First of all, let me explain that we don't really watch television, because we don't have cable and since our converter box broke, we can't get any local channels even.  So our computer is solely for those DVDs that haven't met Elsie and been scratched into oblivion and the occasional video game. 

A while ago, a family of generous friends gave us their Wii (woo-hoo!), which is Nintendo's recent family video game console that works with one's television.  We can all play it - even Elsie and Olivia - because it relies on gross motor skills to operate, rather than joysticks.  Anyhow, we've had it for several years now, and have enjoyed it periodically, but mostly during parties when friends are over.  However, Nathan mentioned the other day that the Wii could do more than simply play video games - it could connect to our wireless internet and we could check the news and weather and even watch Netflix - which, for my Gramma, is an online movie service, where you can watch movies and television shows on the computer. 

So we labored last night and figured out how to connect everything and - voila! - we are now able to watch those movies and shows on our television, rather than our computer.  Which is a bit convoluted, I suppose, but it is really exciting for all involved, because, dear reader, it means that I can write this post, because my little person is watching Wonder Pets on the television rather than this computer!

2)  COUCH-BED!!  To add to the excitement of Netflix on the television, we've recently had a line of overnight guests, who have been treated to our guest room - read: living room with our couch converted into a bed, courtesy of IKEA.
This lovely little couch folds out into a queen-size bed, and Olivia and Elsie and I all scramble to make it as hotel-y as possible, with clean sheets and wool blankets and feather (and not) pillows.  But no mints, which I would really like for the pillows.  The funnest part is the folding out, during which both little girls clamber onto the couch part and "ride" while I fold it over and down.  Couchbed is the best thing since sliced bread.

We had it ready for a houseguest last night, who ended up delaying his arrival for another day, and so we had the room all tidy and the bed all comfy for - US!  And we enjoyed every minute.

(In fact, Olivia and I - the early-risers - are currently enjoying both out couchbed and Netflix on the television right now! ;)