Friday, August 29, 2008

Grocery Limbo: How Low Can You Go?

Come play grocery limbo with me! Here's how it works: Take your usual grocery budget, and see if you can spend less than that the next time you go shopping. At our house, I'm doing lots more bean soup type of meals and homemade cornbread...that sort of thing. Basic ingredients. Cooking from scratch.

I'm off to a bad start this week because I've had to make two late night/early morning "quickie" stops (those always end up costing more) because dh's car is in the shop and I haven't had time to do my usual big grocery run.

Your weekly score: Just what you spend on food, divided by how many people are in your family. If you eat out, that counts. Add those numbers to the grocery budget.

See how low you can go. Can you push that number down next week?

What do you all think? Would this be a fun blog meme?

I think some recipes and ideas at www.hillbillyhousewife.com might be helpful.

Let me know in the comments box if you are doing this, too, and perhaps we can exchange ideas.

A Small Rant about one short-fall of FPU.

A reader of my blog helpfully suggested that I should look into Dave Ramesey's Financial Peace University. I have not been to FPU (can't afford it, HA!), but I have extensively read and familiarized myself with the books/materials Dave Ramsey has published.

Yes, it can change your life! Yes, it does help, and has helped, and continues to help.

Our lives have already been changed. So we can move on to prosperity, health and happiness, right?

Not so fast, Mister Ramsey.

A family can work the system, and really be working the system, and still have more things go wrong than the emergency fund will pay for. (So you need a bigger emergency fund, but where will you GET that bigger emergency fund if all your money is already tied up each month and your shovel just can't get any bigger, (see below). Catch 22 that I have yet to hear Dave address.)

A family can work the system, and have medical problems that are greater than the emergency fund.

A family can work the system and not have as much energy (see the medical problems point) as the next guy, and therefore not have the ability to get that job delivering Pizza. Here's how it works: Economically, a family is one unit. When one or more members of a family suffer with chronic or acute illness, the other members tend to step in and get the jobs done that the chronically ill person would have done. This ties up family resources of time and energy (and money), preventing the healthy person from doing as much as he or she would otherwise have been able to do. This holds true whether it's a child or a spouse who is ill, I think. Care-giving takes energy, time and money. I have seen this played out in more than one family unit who is dealing with on-going health issues of one or more members.

Nowhere in Dave Ramsey's materials have I ever heard him address this particular issue.

If someone knows of where Dave Ramsey talks about this, I'd dearly love to know.


If someone wants to send this blog post to Dave Ramsey, I'd love to get a phone call on the air from the man...bwahahahaha. I'm sure Google has my phone number out there for public consumption.

A Confession with Great Humility

A few months ago, I blogged about wanting to help the charity "Goods for Girls" (see sidebar). But have I done it yet? No, I have not.

Why?

Because every pay period that comes along, there seems to be more expenses than pay check and I have not had the chance to order any of the necessary materials yet.

But I still manage to buy plenty of sodas, and other wee little impulse purchases here and there.

God have mercy. I need a better strategy.

No, actually, I just need to do it. Yesterday was pay day and so I could go right now and buy what I need to do this.

I think I will.

Off I go.

So, there's my humble confession.

Am I the only one who thinks about doing good, talks about doing good, but then who does not follow through and actually DO good?

Grumpety Grump

I woke up this morning and remembered that we are OUT OF COFFEE!!!!! Auuuuuugh! So I got up and went to the store before breakfast. Not my favorite way to spend the morning.

So, I"m dragging around Kroger getting this and that...and the coffee...

I'm sure the cat, if he knew, would be duly grateful as well, since we were out of cat food just as much as we were out of coffee.

But, I must admit, I would have served that cat tuna fish mixed with oatmeal if it hadn't been for my need for caffeine.

And yes, I've read the stuff that says that merely be switching to green tea I could flush all sorts of belly fat. I tried, I really did. But there's just nothing like the ol' cup of

Morning Coffee!

;-)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Pictures of Basel!

My parents just got back from visiting Switzerland for a month, and here are some pictures they took of the old "stomping ground". Of course I cried when I saw them.

Well, all you blog readers, here's the city where I lived when I was a kid.










Included: Old wooden house on Thumringerstrasse, where I lived when I was in Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grade. "Mittlerebuecke"-a shot looking across the oldest bridge in Basel, looking from Kleinbasel towards Grossbasel. Notice all the bikes and mopeds and scooters. A tram stop at Marktplatz in Grossbasel, where the weekly open air market is held.

A shot of the apartment building we lived in when I was in 3rd grade-beginning of 6th grade. My room was on the second floor, the sticking out part (the brown pepply newer looking apartment building).

The red building is the Rathaus, at Marktplatz in Grossbasel.

And last but not least, are pictures of St. Mattheuskirche, where we attended Church on Sunday mornings (Swiss Reformed) and St. Blaesischule, where I attended 3rd and 4th grade. My brother and I did lots of roller skating on that asphalt school yard when school was not in session. We even had hockey sticks.

The brown pebbly apartment is about 1/4 block from the school, (the photo shot is facing the direction of the school yard). The back of St. Mattheuskirche (St. Matthew's Church) faces the school yard as well. It's all very close.

Since Basel has the Rhine River dividing it into two parts, the parts are referred to as "Greater Basel" (Grossbasel) and "Lesser Basel" (Kleinbasel). We lived, of course, in Kleinbasel.

Here's a nice wikipedia entry.

An Icon to gaze upon



Let me not reduce You to an image on some wood, when I am there with You because
it is You who are bearing me through the pain of being lost and found again.

Let me not forget that I did not find You, but that You sought me, and found me.

Let me not forget to hear Your voice, Good Shepherd.

Let me not forget to follow where You lead.

Let me not forget that You laid down Your life for Your sheep, Good Shepherd.

Let me not forget to follow where You lead, for I was lost and You have found me; I am lost and You are finding me.

You always find me

And bring me home.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

How do "Regular" Teachers Do It????

I just got done catching up on grading. I'll admit, I had three days's worth, for all subjects, for all four kids.

Two hours of work.

Whew!

Note I said "regular" teachers and not "real" teachers. I'm a "real" teacher, too.

And this year, it feels more like it.

Dinner tonight?

Cornbread and Lima bean soup.

Lima bean soup:

chopped onion
chopped carrots
soaked lima beans
package of fake-o-vegan "pepperoni", chopped
two vegetarian "beef" flavored bouillion cubes
the rest of the spinach that needed to get cooked
and water.

Crock pot on high for half the day, then I turned it down. It's been unplugged for a while now, but it is still nice and warm.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

First of the coming Fall Season

Today, it was cool enough, that I wanted these this morning:

But I'll most likely be in sandals and sweating in a few hours, and taking a cold shower to cool off by tonight.

So it goes.

Taking Matters into My Own Hands

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Monday, August 25, 2008

Using iCal to Help Homemaking

I know this is so very basic, but I thought I'd share. Years ago I came across a book called Sidetracked Home Executives. The concepts in this book really changed my thinking about housework, for the better. As in, I started thinking about house work. It does not come naturally to me. Sidetracked...advocates the use of a 3x5 card file with a chore per card, divvied up in daily, weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual chores. Then you spread house keeping tasks out so you are never overwhelmed and your home looks great almost all the time.

It really does work to bring things up a notch or two.

Until you spill your box.

Flylady (google her if you don't know about Flylady) is also based on this system, sort of a new evolution of it, actually. This works, too, until you throw a brick at your computer in reaction to all the pink and purple warm fuzzy guilt trips coming at you via your e-mail box.

The Authors of the Sidetracked book also have a web site and lots of goodies they want to sell you, but really, who needs to spend money?

Recently I figured out (OK, so Wes very patiently put up with my screaming at the computer while he taught me...) how to create to-do cards on iCal and so now I have a non-spillable "card file box" with a list of chores that pop up every day.

So, my dailies involve a quick spritz of the bathroom, sweeping the dining room/kitchen floors, and staying on top of meals, cooking and dishes, and laundry. As a for-instance, my weeklies for Monday are to wipe down the outsides of my appliances, and swipe the spilled ickies off the inside of the fridge. Even a half-efforted swipe has ratcheted things up a notch in there. Tomorrow my weekly chore will be mopping. And my occasional chore today? Clean the dining room chairs. You know about the crud that gathers around the base of the posts /slats of the chair? Go look and get grossed out. I'm sure some of that crud lives at your house too if you have kids.

So that job took me all of ten minutes at the MOST to do.

Oh, and the other things, in my come-lately to housekeeping pizzazz: I've also been creating a file card for dinner each night on the day I plan my menus to go grocery shopping. Knowing in advance what to cook has made our meals way yummier and more interesting since I'm not waiting until the last minute when I'm tired to decide what's for dinner.

Tonight is Curried Chicken with vegetables and mandarin oranges, over rice. And yes, the chicken is thawing.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Disappointed

I was out, talking with my sobbing son today, during Church. Why does he pick just this time to be all upset about EVERYTHING? (He's ten). So I was trying very hard to be a good parent, and be a good listener...

...and I missed communion!!!!...

Big, HUGE bummer!

Was it a genuine need on his part (with my parental responsibility being done rightly), or could I have established a boundary and not let him pull me out of Liturgy like that? Hard to say.

This week has felt like I have a NEW JOB. The curriculum we are using is just what I wanted. All laid out, no slacking. But the kids are getting the education they need, and that is what's important.

So, I have a new job. Too bad I don't get paid.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A bag o' stress

Starting a new school year with a new curriculum that is much more thorough than the slap-a-daisical home schooling we've done these past years has got me feeling like the guy at the circus spinning mulitple plates (after a lull, everyone will have questions at once and are not shy about interrupting each other, sigh).

And I've heard "this is too haaaaaard..." from so many mouths today, that I just can hardly believe that our school day is over. It's 3 pm. We started at 8 a.m.

It could be worse. We could have HOMEWORK! (Which we do not have, thank goodness!)

I'd love to de-stress by going for a walk, but we have painters here painting our newly fixed upstairs (fire damage, remember?)

So I blog instead.

There's just nothing much to write about when my day is filled with workbooks, checking homework, giving "motivational speeches" to my kids about their school work (he he he) and doing chores.

Hopefully we'll settle into a routine and the stress will lessen.

Too bad nobody pays me for all this work.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Fibromyalgia

Blarch. My wrists are cycling right now. Much weakness and sudden bursts of pain when I'm doing things like holding a full carafe of hot coffee.

And it seems that I turned my ankle a few days ago, because it is all bruised and swollen, but I'm in NO pain down there, and I can walk on it just fine if I'm wearing closed shoes. I was getting some twinges when I was going for a longer walk in my sandals yesterday, and that was before I even noticed the bruising.

My body is SO WEIRD!!!!!!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Cut and Paste from Crunchy Con on Beliefnet

Let's pray for peace on Friday
Thursday August 14, 2008

posted by Rod Dreher @12:26pm

One of Mark Shea's readers, an active-duty soldier, asks that Catholics devote this Friday, the Feast of the Assumption in the Roman Catholic church, to praying for world peace. The reader writes:

What is apparently going on in Russia, Georgia, South Ossetia, and what it about to go on in the Persian Gulf in blockading Iran could indeed lead to a World War One, or more accurately WW-III type conflagration. Although I don't see any evidence of the conspiracy theory "neocon manipulation" leading to the current situation, it is clear that events are unfolding that may be frighteningly irreversible. Call it Lucifer's due diligence.

Through Mark, the reader asks for prayers for world peace this Friday, through the intercession of the Virgin, with special emphasis on the Caucasus and the Middle East. I think it's a great idea. This Friday is the same Marian feast for the Orthodox (we call it the Dormition, and there are some theological differences with Catholics in our understanding of the event in the life of Christ's mother that it commemorates), and if anything we have even more reason to pray for peace, given that the Caucasus war involves hostilities between two Orthodox Christian countries.

I would like to invite all our readers -- Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant and non-Christian -- to join together tomorrow to pray, in whatever way you pray, for the peace of the world. Please pass this on to your prayer chains, post to your blogs, get the word out some kind of way. I think our soldiers in the war zones -- I'm thinking of you especially, Another Believer -- would particularly appreciate it.

The Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos


Theotokos definition: God-bearer. This title is a theololgical statement about who Jesus Christ is.

Dormition definition: Falling asleep in the Lord.

Church history teaches us that the Virgin Mary fell asleep in the Lord, and her body was translated to heaven where she is alive in Christ.

Have a hard time believing that because it's not in the Bible?

Well...things just as "strange" are in there, aren't they? Elija being swept up to heaven in a fiery chariot, the righteous dead being raised in Jerusalem at the time of Christ's death, Enoch...just to name a few "strange" Biblical stories in the same genre.

Fact of the matter is, Christian Tradition universally testifies to the Dormition/Assumption of the Virgin Mary. When the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox Catholic Churches are saying the same thing, one can know that this is the teaching of the Church that goes back to the beginning.

And besides, as big as we are on keeping and venerating relics of the saints (because we do, after all, believe in the power of the Holy Spirit working holistically in a person's life) one can surmise that if the relics of the most pure Virgin were lying about someplace, there would be a very long line of folks waiting to venerate the, or light a candle or something.

But no. There is not.

I'm reminded of the role of Mary, that she is always pointing to Christ. "Do whatever He tells you", she says to the servants at the wedding feast of Cana. In her icons, she is always gesturing towards the Christ whom she holds in her arms. It's not about her, it's about her Son.

And so it is fitting that this beloved Mother of our Lord would be assumed into heaven. She still points us towards her Son and our God. Through her intercessions she still supports the Church. And in this feast we celebrate a mini-Pascha, looking forward to our own resurrection in Christ.

This feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos, which is really about her being ALIVE in Christ, is also about our hope in the Risen One, and how we will be like Him when he raises us up on the Last Day.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

8th grade science




You Passed 8th Grade Science



Congratulations, you got 7/8 correct!

8th grade math




You Passed 8th Grade Math



Congratulations, you got 10/10 correct!

Vocab Quiz Whiz




Your Vocabulary Score: A



Congratulations on your multifarious vocabulary!

You must be quite an erudite person.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Separation from the World

I"m thinking of "Separation from the World" today. What does that look like for an Orthodox Christian?

How does that look in your life?


I don't think I'm nearly as separated as I'd like to imagine that I am (for even in the midst of fasting I have to confess gluttony!). I'm currently reading _The Gulag Archipelago_ by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, and there's that famous line about the dividing line between good and evil running straight through the center of every human heart (which I actually came across this morning on page 168!) which gives me pause to ask the question: How possible IS it for a person to truly be "separated" from the world? It seems to me that this "separation" is something internal, which will have external ramifications/manifestations.

Do I not watch movies (which I do too often, by the way) because they are distasteful to me, or because I have some externally imposed rule telling me not to watch movies? This is a "for instance"...

And as Orthodox we have the monastics as models, and we are all aware of the difference between US and THEM (while at the same time also being aware of the similarities). And the verity that the monastic struggle is certainly not an escape, but rather an intensification of the same struggle we all ought to be engaged in.

So in what directions is this "separation" growing in your life?

Perhaps my attempts at an increase in the virtue of self-discipline when it comes to dreaded house work is a beginning.

Perhaps the growing distaste for movies and TV. Perhaps my sudden and inexplicable inability to actually read novels the way I used to.

Perhaps the struggle to pray and the awareness that it IS a struggle is a beginning as well.

Perhaps the clearer hearing of that "still small voice" is a beginning. (Oh, if only I could say honestly that I have yielded to the urge to to stop what I am doing and pray each time I hear that still small voice!)

Perhaps...

Where are all these things coming from? "O Heavenly King..." it seems to me that if Solzehnitsyn is correct (and I think he is, see what St. Paul wrote in Romans 5-7), then there's never room for complacency or smugness in our repentance.

Just some thoughts. I'd love for others to weigh in.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Currently reading...

The Gulag Archipelago...and I laid down my copy and can't find it, Auuuuuuuugh! I know. Alexandr S. just died this past week, and it's such a cliche to rush out and read a book by him, but I had to do it anyways. And then we were cleaning out the garage, and lo and behold, there was a copy.

Absolutely lovin' Solzhinetsyn's sense of humor. Did I misspell his name? Maybe. But I can't find my copy....Auuuuuuuugh!

Don't you hate it when you are in the middle of a book and misplace it?

Lord, have mercy on the soul of your departed servant, Alexandr, and may his memory be eternal.

Back to Home School

A new pencil sharpener. Freshly sharpened pencils.

Colored pencils sorted by rainbow shades in the caddy.

Blue pens. Red pens.

White erasers.

Dry erase markers for the white board.

Two magnifying glasses, a new globe (How long will the borders be accurate with war brewing in Georgia smack dab on top of an international pipeline? God have mercy!)

Wide rule notebook paper, composition books, and accordion folders. One for each.

Shiny new textbooks, teacher notebooks just waiting to be used. Multi-colored tab dividers.

School supplies make me giddy.

20th High School Reunion

It's coming up next month. I'm totally not planning to go. I think I'd rather go shovel dog poo at the park.

I got an e-mail this morning about it. All the usual "cool and involved" people who were "cool and involved" back in High School are on the reunion committee. I guess people don't really change all that much, and I have no desire to confirm that fact in real life.

So, how do my blog readers feel about High School reunions? Have you been? Was it a waste of time and money?

Friday, August 08, 2008

A Trip to Parisa

For anyone living in my town, if you have not been into Parisa, the international grocery store yet, give it a whirl. I've lived here for HOW many years, and today was the first day I ever shopped there. I have a friend who raves, and so I took the plunge.

The item I was specifically after was a big can of stuffed grape leaves (Dolmades, I think they are called). They are delish, and lenten, and sit there in the fridge waiting to be grabbed and eaten.

We also came away with some falafel mix, some stuff to make curried lentils, and a jar of red currant jelly.

I was intrigued by the dried lemons. What would one use those for? I can imagine throwing one into a soup for flavor. Or rice as it cooks. Does anyone from the middle east know? Perhaps next time I will try some out.

It was fun to go in there, and browse the aisles and find intriguing culinary treasures.

Whenever I go to an international market, I always come away with the notion that food and eating in the USA is somehow out of balance. But that's not a new thought, is it?

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Hogwarts Cake





I would love to see what someone who is actually talented at making cake frosting do magical things could do with the concept.

This is two 9x13 cakes, a plethora of regular and kiddie sized plain cones, and some sugar cones, three containers of chocolate frosting, graham crackers, and sugar wafers.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Trouble Focusing

Whenver I have a big day, the day after I have a very hard time focusing and getting up and doing what's on my to do list.

This is such a day. I got home from liturgy after stopping off at the store, and it's been sitting on my butt time ever since.

Why is that?

I ought to get up. My list is short. I could rest better if I did that stuff now and then took it easy, rather than sitting here with these few things hanging over my head.

Am I motivated, now that I've told the world? I don't know.

Go clean the bathroom. Tidy the kitchen, mop the floors and bake a birthday cake. And then I will be free. That's my list.

Seems like I ought to get it done in short order. By 2 pm at the latest. It's 12:46 right now.

My only excuse is that my oldest is busy baking cookies and the kitchen is occupado. It really is a one-butt kitchen.

Where will my motivation come from? God have mercy.

UPDATE: I got it all done and then some...by 2 o'clock. The "then some" included getting some garden fresh tomatoes blanched and into the freezer. That feels good.

The Feast of the Holy Transfiguration of Christ: Firstfruits



Before his Passion, Jesus Christ went up onto the top of Mount Tabor. He took Peter, James and John along. While they were there, Jesus was transfigured, and his disciples beheld his glory, and saw Moses and Elija alongside. They were commanded to keep silent until after Christ's resurrection.

This transfiguration is the first-fruits of what is to come. Christ is the firstfruits, and we are to follow.

I'm always reminded of the story of St. Seraphim of Sarov, who was speaking with his companion:
"Oh, if you only knew" he once said to a monk, "what joy, what sweetness awaits a righteous soul in Heaven! You would decide in this mortal life to bear any sorrows, persecutions and slander with gratitude. If this very cell of ours was filled with worms, and these worms were to eat our flesh for our entire life on earth, we should agree to it with total desire, in order not to lose, by any chance, that heavenly joy which God has prepared for those who love Him."

The miraculous transfiguration of the starets’ face was described by a close admirer and follower of St. Seraphim — Motovilov. This happened during the winter, on a cloudy day. Motovilov was sitting on a stump in the woods; St. Seraphim was squatting across from him and telling his pupil the meaning of a Christian life, explaining for what we Christians live on earth.

"It is necessary that the Holy Spirit enter our heart. Everything good that we do, that we do for Christ, is given to us by the Holy Spirit, but prayer most of all, which is always available to us," he said.

"Father," answered Motovilov, "how can I see the grace of the Holy Spirit? How can I know if He is with me or not?"

St. Seraphim began to give him examples from the lives of the saints and apostles, but Motovilov still did not understand. The elder then firmly took him by the shoulder and said to him, "We are both now, my dear fellow, in the Holy Spirit." It was as if Motovilov’s eyes had been opened, for he saw that the face of the elder was brighter than the sun. In his heart Motovilov felt joy and peace, in his body a warmth as if it were summer, and a fragrance began to spread around them. Motovilov was terrified by the unusual change, but especially by the fact that the face of the starets shone like the sun. But St. Seraphim said to him, "Do not fear, dear fellow. You would not even be able to see me if you yourself were not in the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Thank the Lord for His mercy toward us."

Thus Motovilov understood, in mind and heart, what the descent of the Holy Spirit and His transfiguration of a person meant.
(For more about St. Seraphim of Sarov visit: http://www.fatheralexander.org/booklets/english/seraphim_e.htm)

But perhaps I digress. Or perhaps not. Having that vision of Heaven...that's been on my mind lots lately. I am too much gloomy and too much bogged down by the trials and temptations of this world. And that other place seems too dim, too far away. This is a challenge for me. And how do I build a life here, and work here and keep that vision of heaven, too. In the Holy Spirit. Oh, how I need the Spirit's help!

But in keeping with the theme of first fruits, Orthodox Christians literally get to bring their first fruits to the Church and have them blessed. We had a small garden planted this year, and so onions, tomatoes of various varieties, carrots and lettuce have made it abundantly into our basket.

First fruits, offered to God.



And so, even vegetables can teach us about the Kingdom of Christ.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The Start of Something New

I like new beginnings. I suppose that's one of my biggest foibles, as it leads to me chaning things up constantly, or always making new resolutions, or starting new diets...

But sometimes in life, a new beginning rolls around on a fairly regular basis:

Back to School!

And this is particularly real for me since I'm a Home Schooling Mom (note the caps).

For some reason I don't let it be too much of an all-encompasing identity. I don't go crazy at curriculum fairs, and don't have a huge stash of unused materials that I bought on a whim, and I don't tend to spend my free time browsing home schooling catalogs or reading home school magazines.

I don't even blog about it all that often, do I?

But today I must. You see, yesterday I had the giddy experience of opening the three boxes of books that came in the mail. Awaiting one more, and then I'll get to crack into them.

It's that fresh feeling of fall coming and the anticipation of learning, and I want to be wearing tights and cardigans (yeah, right, it's August in KY, and we don't get tights and cardigan weather until November around here!) and freshly sharpened pencils, erasers that have not yet been lost and the hope of unsullied composition books.

It won't last, but while it does, I'll enjoy the feeling. And I really hope my kids are similarly excited.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Feeling Disconnected (in other words: Liminality Sucks!)

I suppose it's part of saying goodbye, but ever since we announced to our friends and our parish that we will be moving, with one or two notable exceptions, I have been feeling more and more disconnected and invisible.

Like I'm not even there...

And who knows, it could be another six months before our house sells. Who knows?

Someone told one of my kids that she is glad that we are moving because he gets on her nerves. How. Charmingly. Honest.

Next weekend is our big "clear out" with a dumpster. A week after that, we'll start trying to find a buyer.

Oh God, grant it to be soon!

Anyone need a cat? He's a good mouser, and very laid back. Sleek and healthy neutered Orange Tabby. He's nice and all, but not worth the more-than-two-hundred-dollar pet fee in an apartment.

I have a headache and wish I could crawl into bed. Instead, I have to go birthday present shopping. Times two.

I really should not blog when I"m this tired, shouldn't I? But I'm just grumpy enough that I'll post it anyways.