Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Hot Buttered Rum

My gal Elaina mentioned Hot Buttered Rum in her most recent blog post, and I couldn't stop thinking about it after that. I found a manageable recipe online -- from Emeril, no less -- and went home to prepare it. Alas, no whole nutmeg in our house. Borrowed some from a neighbor, did a quick Google search to learn how to use whole nutmeg (I didn't even know my grater had a "fine" mode), and went to town. I had to substitute the dark rum in the recipe for the light rum on our shelf. It smelled great, but tasted watery and too alcohol-y strong.

Tonight I tried again using milk instead of water, and using less rum. Oh, and dark rum this time! Mmmm, mmmm, good!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Massive Keyboard Driver

Given that subject line, you might hope I'm going to tell you about a driver for a large, heavy, oversized, or otherwise BIG keyboard.

But no, I'm talking about the driver itself that is massive. 74 MEGABYTES for a keyboard driver? What kind of programmer writes this bloated stuff??

It's not like this is a fancy-schmancy special/technical/biometric/multi-language keyboard. It's just a regular keyboard with a few multimedia buttons:

Just Wow.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Much activity lately!

It's been a very busy couple of weeks!

Monday 3-Sept - Labor Day we went to the Shore, splashed in the ocean, laid on the beach, and went to dinner at PF Chang's in Atlantic City. I get to eat at PF Chang's from time to time because of business trips, and I love the food, but it was more enjoyable this time because my mom & husband had never been there before.

Tuesday & Wednesday 4-5 Sept - Quick trip to Winnipeg for a business trip. It went great, after solving a technology disaster. I needed a serial connection to demonstrate the equipment I had brought but it turns out that my laptop has no serial port! My testing had all been done at my desk at work - where the docking station has a serial connection - so I never noticed that the laptop itself was serial-free. We drove around Winnipeg trying a few different solutions, and after 90 minutes we had a USB-to-serial cable that worked.

My travel was smooth, despite being booked on Northwest Airlines and being forced to connect through Minneapolis. On the return trip, while sitting in a Minneapolis airport bar for the two-hour layover, I finished the paperback I had brought with me. I was so disgusted with it by the time I was through - after finishing the last page I slammed it closed and dropped it on the bar. I didn't even want to take the book home with me. So I told the bartender that it was such an "exciting" ending that I was too exhausted to take it home, so he should give it away to someone. I was afraid if I told the whole truth he wouldn't want to offer such an awful book to anyone. The book was Bee Season, by the way. It started out so normal (which parallels the storyline, which starts out as a normal life for all of the central characters) but devolved into some kind of spiritual-searching-craziness. There were elements of it that I really liked, such as the family members who are each searching for meaning in their disconnected lives without realizing that the other family members are searching elsewhere. Though not a main part of the storyline, the discussions of sex were unnecessarily graphic. My bartender said he would give it to his wife. I'm glad I paid only five dollars for it at a used bookstore.

Thursday 6-Sept - When I got back to the office, my computer couldn't get an IP address --> means I couldn't connect to the network. After a few attempts at solving it myself, I was forced to call our MIS guy for help. He decides the best thing to do is uninstall all unauthorized applications because they could be interfering. Excuse me, but I've had those apps for months without a problem. I changed two things while in Winnipeg, and we've already reversed one of those things. How about we try reversing the 2nd thing first, before resorting to drastic measures? At this point he was frustrated by my defiance and he left. A couple minutes later his underling tech guy came to carry out the uninstall orders given by the first guy. I made him wait while I tried my solution, and it worked! So my unauthorized apps are safe, and my shiny new USB-to-serial cable is not. Well I'll keep it for the future offsite demos, but I'll have to uninstall its nasty driver every time.

Saturday 8-Sept - Two congregation picnics to attend, one for my current congregation and the other for my previous congregation. Both were fabulous fun. The first one was a pig roast (yum!) and was mostly friends gabbing with each other. I napped in their hammock for a short while, played catch with a football until I got tired, and participated in the gabbing. The second picnic had baseball (great photo ops) and other sports, including a pool. I joined in a late volleyball game only after I saw that I was equal to everyone else in my lack of skill, and had a bunch of odd sore muscles for two days.

The drive home took us past the town's "Community Day" festival, which I skipped only because of the picnics. By the time we drove by, around 8:30 PM, the party was kickin' with food, music, crafts, crowds, and fireworks. What a shame to be too exhausted to go! When we turned onto our street, we saw fire in someone's backyard -- thought it was a bonfire at first, until we got closer and saw it was clearly not on purpose. Flames were 15+ feet high! The SUV in front of us slowed down to study the situation too, and we decided to call 911. One of the questions they asked was whether anyone was at home -- so they'd know whether to send help for burned people. We didn't know - so hubby and I walked to the door and I banged on it and rang the bell with urgency: "bang bang bang, ring ring ring, bang bang bang, ring ring ring," and so on until someone opened the door. The lady looked annoyed, and I found myself speechless. My husband coolly stated "there's a fire behind your house" just as her husband joined her at the door, so he ran out the door to check it out. The fire department took a long time to arrive because the trucks weren't at the station a few hundred feet away, the equipment was all at the Community Day festival several miles away. We got to chat with the young family while we all watched the fire submit to the professionals. We all speculated that someone must have dropped a cigarette or something while they traveled on the railroad tracks that run behind the yard. The fire-woman sprayed for a long time to make sure it wouldn't re-start from an ember later. When it was all over, the family's winter woodpiles were burned up along with a 10-foot section of fence. No damage to the house thankfully, but it could easily have gotten out of control quickly and spread through the wooded yard if nobody had called for help. Our area doesn't have fire hydrants (everyone has private wells) so it was my first time seeing a fire-department tanker truck. We were all wound up from the excitement and it was very hard to wake up the next day.

Sunday 9-Sept - Went to church in the morning, where we had some fun visitors: the family who sold us our house! They had been in this congregation for 20+ years so they were very happy to visit. They had come back to the area for his dad's wedding -- at 80 years old he surprised everyone by getting married again! My mom was exhausted from the night before and didn't wake up in time to come -- she was so disappointed that she missed the fun.

Tuesday 11-Sept -- Mom made Indian food, and we all loved it. Her best efforts yet!

Our wedding anniversary is this Saturday the 15th. We have reservations in a happenin' restaurant in Old City area of Philadelphia - the same place we went last year. Since hubby didn't reserve our seats until last week, we have a 5:15 dinner date. Oh well, the bright side is we won't be exhausted at the end of the evening! I wonder if he'll want to see King Tut exhibit while it's still in town.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

I'm not an alcoholic

I've been dealing with a few un-bloggable personal problems lately. I now understand why people retreat to the bottle as a coping mechanism. I see how alcohol provides an escape. In the past few weeks, I noticed I was drinking for all the wrong reasons. I've not gotten drunk, but my motivation was definitely wrong. So yesterday I consciously decided to drink no alcohol, and went on a bike ride instead. The experts always recommend exercise as a healthy way to handle stress, and I expected it to be a little bit incomplete. Like when they say you should snack on carrot sticks instead of carrot cake, it's just not the same. I was pleasantly surprised to see that exercise really is effective -- even better than alcohol.

Therefore, I see two reasons that I can proclaim my non-dependency:
1) I recognized when alcohol was becoming a problem for me
2) I found a healthier way to handle the urge to drink

Now all I have to do is maintain the good habit.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Wandered into some trouble

Around 6:30 Sunday evening, my husband was working in the yard, and the dogs were outside off their leashes. We don’t have a fence, but Suzie has lived with us long enough she knows where the boundaries are. Duncan though, hasn’t learned them yet. My husband turned his back to look for something in the garage, and apparently he was turned around for longer than he thought. In that time, Duncan wandered into the street and got hit by a car.

The neighbor saw him get hit, but didn’t know whose dog it was until my husband went looking for Duncan and asked him about it. “Yeah,” he said, “I did see a little white dog get hit by a car and then he bolted.” They went looking for Duncan, and realized that Suzie might follow them into neighbors’ yards so my husband brought her back to the house. He went looking some more, and when he still didn’t find the dog he turned towards home to tell me what happened and to ask for my help to find Duncan. When he got to the door, Duncan was there waiting to be let inside.

About 7:00 he told me that “my little one” as he said, had been hit by a car, I was in disbelief. Because I didn’t see the dog, at this point I had no idea how badly he was hurt or even if he was alive. My face drained, my chest felt like I’d been punched, and at first all I could think about was how I was going to tell the Humane Society about it. They had asked for a picture and a brief update after he was home with us for a while, and how could I possibly tell them that we’d allowed this to happen?

Duncan made it up the stairs and ran to me. I checked him over and he didn’t seem to have any serious injuries. There was some blood, so I put him in the sink to find out how bad it was. It was just a scrape, and otherwise he was fine. My husband went back to the neighbor's to report the good news. The neighbor was really mad at the driver, who didn't even slow down. Duncan had been in the lane for so long that the driver either hit him on purpose or had his eyes off the road for way too long. He told the story of his terrier that was killed by a car on that road just a few years ago, during the Super Bowl no less so that day turned really sad really fast.

Over the next couple of hours, I spoke with my mom and read some articles on the web – the potential for internal injuries got me worried, and I started looking for signs. He was acting like he was in pain, laying down a lot, and his eye was twitching a little.

So by 9:00 decided to take him to the animal hospital. There are lots of vets in our area who use the words “animal hospital” when they name the practice – so I thought there would be a lot of nearby options for treatment. But when I called around, all of the after-hours recordings were sending me to just three 24/7 emergency rooms in the area. One is on the shore an hour away, one is in South Jersey 45 minutes away, and one is in Philadelphia (across the river, past a $3 toll, and in the next state) that was only 40 minutes away. So we went to Philadelphia. I was really surprised that there was nothing closer than this.

On the way there, I explained to my husband that I was glad we were going. Even though we were pretty sure he was fine, and we knew it would be expensive, it was worth it to know he was okay. I would have worried about him all night otherwise. And I explained how much I had invested in this dog, both emotionally and financially. We had looked for him for a long time, I had driven a long way and taken time off work to go get him, we had paid a lot of money to adopt him, and I was really attached at the heart.

We got there a little before 10:00. After they took him and determined he was not in immediate danger, we had to sit in the waiting room for a long time waiting for a more thorough exam – lots of other animals were coming in that night that were in very bad straits. One dog came in very sick and bleeding out, and he didn’t make it. The teenage girl that had brought that dog was just bawling in the lobby, very distraught over her sudden loss. I told my husband that I would act that way too if our dog died.

“Really? You’re that much attached?”
“Yes, remember how I told you there was a lot invested in him?”
“I didn’t know it was THAT much.”
“Yeah, it’s that much.”
“We need to get a fence.”

It was tough to sit in the waiting room and watch all the other anxious owners, and to see all the animals that were really bad off. It was a very tense two hours.

But the vet told us our dog was unscathed, a little bruised, his bloodwork was normal, and he sent us home with a course of anti-inflammatory meds. He advised us to watch Duncan’s breathing over the next day or two because sometimes those problems only show up over time. Whew! $135 later, at about midnight, we were out of there.

And then in the car on the way home:
Hubby: “And we need to get him microchipped.”
Me: “We sure do. We don’t want him to get hurt or lost.”
“I worry more about YOU than him. If he got hurt or lost, now I know how much crying I would have to deal with!”

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Our new adopted quadruped mammal

On Tuesday I checked my email and read about a Cavachon in a Humane Society shelter in northern New Jersey. We've been looking for one of these dogs for months, and were about to resort to paying a breeder over $1000 for a puppy. But wouldn't it be great to help a doggie who needs a home, and save money to boot? So we kept waiting and our patience paid off:

He's between 2 and 3 years old, and his previous owner named him Rocky. We changed his name to Duncan. He was brought to the shelter because his human parents were working too much, leaving him alone 10+ hours a day. He cried all day every day, and was becoming destructive. We don't have that problem, so he's perfect for us! Here he is an hour after I brought him into the house:

He's a bit timid and behaves as though he's probably gotten smacked in the past. Duncan is a very mellow boy. He loves to curl up behind my knees and rest his adorable chin on my ankles. There's almost nothing more endearing that a doggie could do! My mom's dog is a 3-year-old field trial labrador (HIGH energy) is just tormenting him. She wants to sniff him, mount him, and otherwise demonstrate her dominance. We have been able to keep her under control with close supervision, and by separating them when we're away. We'll start working with them both this weekend, with the aim to make them buddies -- on equal ground with no aggressive dominance and no fearful submission. It might take more than one weekend, but we'll get there. We have to!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Our new bikes

The latest exciting thing to happen in our house is that my husband and I got new bicycles. Good ones, bought at a bike shop and not the Wal-Mart. Finally I'm starting to get the exercise I really need! We usually ride for 20-30 minutes most days of the week, which is plenty of exercise to keep my heart healthy and hopefully to lose some weight.

One of my favorite things to do is to lead him onto streets that he doesn't know, and get him to admit that he has no idea where we are. And then just around the corner he sees a landmark he recognizes, and now he knows how to get home. I teach him new streets every time we go out! It won't be long before I'll have to take 40 minute rides with him in order to keep finding new streets.

We look like total dorks I'm sure. We both wear helmets to protect our wise brains, and we just bought some proper clothing last weekend. It's no fun to bike in cargo shorts that keep riding up your legs the whole time. And in a T-shirt that sticks to your back when it gets sweaty. So now we've got some high-tech stretchy breathable fabrics to ride in.

The bikes we picked are called Comfort Hybrids, which is a combination of beach cruiser plus racing bike plus mountain bike. They took some key features from each type of bike and put it all in one. They're from a company in Europe called Specialized. I was disappointed when I checked Consumer Reports (AFTER the purchase, of course) and saw that my bike was rated lowest of all the hybrid bikes they tested. Mostly it was because of the shifting that it got low marks. I'm starting to have difficulty with my shifters, but it seems like an adjustment is needed and not a whole new bike. I'm just outside the return period though, so it makes me a little nervous to be having these problems at this point. Really, I hope it's just an adjustment.

And the other exciting news in our house is the discovery of a great recipe. It's a copycat recipe to duplicate the Mustard'n CurryTM sauce at Chicken Kitchen. We loved that place in college, but they don't have any of them where we live now. We're still tweaking the recipe, but if you want a copy just send me an email.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Rattlesnake Encounter

On Saturday morning my husband saw a rattlesnake! He was checking the bunny house, a structure that was on our property when we bought it. We don't use it for anything, but the previous owners raised rabbits there. We just open it now and then to check for infestations and to make sure it's not rotting away... well it's got a new resident now.

He opened the door and stepped halfway in, and heard this funny sound, kind of a hissing. He listened while the sound continued, and after 10 - 20 seconds he identified where it was coming from. He looked along the roofline, just above the door -- inches from his head -- and saw the rattlesnake! He ran away from the bunny house and came inside to tell me. But I was napping, so he waited for an hour and went to check again. This time it was gone, and that's when he came into the bedroom to wake me up and tell me about it.

Google revealed that timber rattlesnakes are endangered in New Jersey, and there's a number to call to report a sighting. The guy at the DEP was friendly and made lots of snake jokes, so it was kind of a fun experience. I almost hope we see him again so that I can call the nice folks at the DEP again. And maybe they'll send someone out to take the snake away if we make the call while the he's still hanging around.

Every time the dog chases her ball into the woods in our backyard, I wonder if the rattler is hiding in the leaf litter. She's already been bitten once, by a snake in North Carolina at her old house. So she *is* dumb enough to investigate such things.

As for me, I haven't really changed my outside activity since learning of our new resident. I've really just raised my awareness. I watch where I'm stepping, and I keep my ears open for hissing / rattling noises. I feel kind of privileged, actually, to have an endangered species nearby. I want to protect him, not kill him.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Plumbing repair for newbies

Monday night my parents decided to put some things in the basement. My dad's the oblivious type, so it turns out I was fortunate my mom went down there to help him. She's the attentive type. She noticed some water on the floor near our well pump, and discovered a pinhole leak in the copper pipe.

We went to Home Depot for supplies, and when she tried to cut away the broken section of pipe, the cutter we bought was doing a horrible job. We drove all the way back to Home Depot to exchange it for the more expensive pipe cutter, plus additional supplies since we revised the repair strategy. The new pipe cutter did a slightly better job, but it turned out the pipe was in poor shape and that's probably why the first cutter seemed so bad. Even the new cutter couldn't make a clean enough cut. So instead of repairing the pipe, it needed to be replaced. It took till 1 AM, but we replaced it ourselves. And turned the water back on. And saw that it was leaking from a different spot now. We called a plumber and made an appointment for the next day and then we went to bed.

When the plumber arrived around 2:00 the next afternoon, I watched him cut things and glue things and solder things and then he said that that glue had to dry before we could turn the water on again. So at 6:30 we turned on the water and it was leaking from another NEW spot! The plumber's phone was turned off, so we left a message and proceeded to try to fix the new leak by ourselves. We got it patched well enough that we could take showers (finally!) and wash a load of laundry.

In the middle of all of this, I found that we have an infestation of flying ants in the walls, our attic vents are suffering from unwanted condensation, and my husband didn't know that the dog gets ONE scoop of dog food for dinner and not TWO. That last thing was a really REALLY little thing, I know, but it was the straw that broke the camel's back. After I fixed the dog food error, I stood in the middle of the dining room and dropped my head and cried. From exhaustion, frustration, hunger, helplessness, and all kinds of unhappy feelings. Of course my husband was eager to make me feel better, so he comforted me and talked with me until I was smiling again. I laughed when he said "I don't know how to fix things around the house, but now I see why other guys do. Look what they have to deal with if they can't fix something! A crying wife is no fun!"

The plumber finally called back a couple of hours later and promised to come by first thing the next morning to replace it, agreeing that's "what [he] should have done yesterday." This morning he arrived right on time and he fixed it for good. I hope.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Drive safely, everybody

I was stuck in traffic for two hours on Friday night -- the day we had the sleet storm in the Northeast -- because of a crash on the highway. The news reported that it was a van carrying 12 migrant workers that spun out of control on the icy road, slid across the grass median into oncoming traffic, and was hit by a box truck. The van's driver and two others were killed. Eight others went to the hospital. I was shaken up just for having driven past it.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

100K Honda Civic

My 1998 Honda Civic hit 100,000 miles this morning! Hooray! It happened on my way to work, in front of a farm market on Route 322.

But if my meeting hadn't been canceled last night it would have happened on my way to or from the meeting, which is what I really wanted because that's a route I travel 3 times a week with my mom. It would have been a good spot close to my house, where I could point to it all the time with my friends and family in the car and announce the significance of that spot. But alas, it wasn't so.

I was kinda disappointed to be alone for this event, so I called my mom when I was a half-mile away from the big moment, and she celebrated with me. I was also a little bummed that it happened along a road that I'm usually traveling alone. I did watch for some other landmark that I could use as a frequently-traveled celebration spot, and I can use the Route 322 overpass whenever I'm on the highway and celebrate the 99999 mark, at least.

Life is all about attitude, after all -- when disappointed, look for a good part that can be celebrated. And hey, my car did make it to 100,000 miles! Let's drink to that!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

New house needs a new dog

We're looking for a dog. We've been thinking about it for a long time, but we finally got serious about it a few months ago when my mom brought her dog for her visit at our new house. We really liked having her dog around, and we started to really want our own dog.

After considering our needs, we decided the best option was to adopt a retired Seeing Eye dog. We sent in an application and have been on the waiting list for about three months. They said the wait could be "extensive," but we were okay with that because that is really the dog we wanted to have. We found out later that an "extensive" wait is about one to four years.

Then last week the Westminster Kennel Club broadcast their annual dog show, and we watched the whole thing. Both nights. After that show, we saw that we had so many more options available. Our #1 dog became a Cavachon, and I started watching our area shelters to find an adoptable one. I'm still waiting for a Cavachon to show up, but I'm truly torn. I want to keep waiting for the Seeing Eye dog, but I also want to give a home to a shelter dog who really needs me. Especially if that could be a Cavachon or something close to it.

We went to our County animal shelter last night so that I could practice NOT taking a dog home with me. And so that I could practice some skills I saw on a recent episode of Dog Whisperer, where Cesar Millan goes to a shelter and explains why this family shouldn't adopt this dog or that dog, and he showed why this last dog was the most balanced dog in the facility. So I wanted to look for a balanced dog, and really I only found one yesterday. And he was too big for us, so it wasn't that hard to walk away. I did have to consciously avoid thinking about what would happen to those cuties if nobody took them, and it was not easy. I did want to help all of them.

After my mom moves into our house with her dog, perhaps we'll feel less urgency to get our own dog. It might be easier then to wait for the Seeing Eye dog to become available. But if mom's dog doesn't do it for us, and there's no suitable Cavachons around, and we just can't wait for the Seeing Eye dog any longer, then maybe we'll look for a breeder who can sell us a Cavachon puppy. But for now, I'm just trying to wait for my mom's dog to get here. I don't want to have to make any other dog decisions until then - the real trick is not to be swayed by my husband, who wants a doggie NOW.

Monday, February 12, 2007

New Feed URL

I know it's a pain, but I would appreciate if you would change the URL in your feed-readers to point to http://feeds.feedburner.com/singh. This change will make it easier to promote and deliver my content, and provides more audience engagement (such as digg and del.icio.us with each post).
Fortunately I have few subscribers (ummm, ONE I think) so this change should not cause a lot of agony.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Urban legend: water is less healthy than wine

Received this email from a friend today:
It has been scientifically proven that if we drink 1 liter of water each day, at the end of the year we would have absorbed more than 1Kg of Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria found in feces. In other words, we are consuming 1 kilo of Poo. However, we do not run that risk when drinking wine (or rum, whiskey, beer or other liquors) because alcohol has to go through a distillation process of boiling, filtering and fermenting and alcohol kills E.coli
WINE = Health

As a microbiologist, I feel compelled to shoot down this blatant attack on drinking water quality.
The math doesn't add up.
1 bacteria = 10-12 kg (very roughly)
1 kg of bacteria = 1012 cells
1 liter of water per day = 365 liters
1012 cells / 365 liters = 2.7 x 109 cells per liter
Waaaaaaaaaaay higher than the bacterial load found in tap water even in the developing world, by many orders of magnitude. If a liter of water had this many bacteria in it, the water would be visibly cloudy. Even if you drank water with such a high bacterial load, you are surely drinking a mixed population and not a pure E. coli solution.

So there.

Hypertextbook: Mass of a Bacterium: "A typical mass of a bacterium would be about 10-12 g or one picogram (pm)."
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory: "E-coli concentrations in unsanitary drinking water at various developing world sites are typically found to exceed thousands per 100 milliliters (e.g., 30,000 per 100 ml reported at a site near Pune, India). The WHO standard specifies less than 1 per 100 ml for good drinking water quality, which is also the standard used in the industrial world drinking water supply."
US EPA Drinking Water standards state that heterotrophic bacteria should not exceed 500 CFU per ml.
"Heterotrophic plate counts and drinking-water safety" from World Health Organization: "Exposure to general HPC microbiota is far greater through foodstuffs than through drinking-water."

Monday, January 22, 2007

How do you like the house?

Since we bought a house three months ago, my friends keep asking how I like it, I guess to make conversation, possibly because they're really interested in my answer. I can't imagine they're really interested, though, because I think I talk about my house too much. I've been making a conscious effort not to let it monopolize every conversation I have. Maybe I've been making so much of an effort NOT to talk about it lately, that I might not be talking about it anymore at all.

Anyway, the short answer: I love it. Especially the space.

Our two-bedroom apartment was pretty big by apartment standards: 1100 square feet. I don't know the measurements of the new house, but I can tell you it's huge. Four bedrooms, two bathrooms, two-car garage, full basement, one acre of wooded land, and a one-bedroom in-law suite attached to the house. So half the rooms in the house are empty, and it will be a while before we have the cash to fill those rooms with furniture and window treatments and all.

My parents are moving in this spring, though, so they will be bringing lots of stuff we can use. They're downsizing from a three-bedroom house to a one-bedroom apartment, so I know they're grateful to bring along many of their things to our house. I'm concerned about getting overrun with their stuff, though, because I really value my open space and this is the first time I've had this much of it. I'll just have to stick to my decisions when I choose not to take some of Mom & Dad's things. It's hard to say no, though, especially if Mom pouts.

The house has absolutely no carpets. It's all hard flooring - vinyl tile, ceramic tile, and wood laminate. The previous owners once had a carpet cleaning business, so they know how dirty carpets are. It's very hard to keep them as clean as hard floors. A few months ago I bought a Scooba, one of those robots that mops the floors, and I love it. I haven't mopped once in the three months we've lived here. However, my Swiffer has never seen this much action. I've found that I have to sweep the hallways and bathrooms daily. And I haven't mastered the Pergo floor care yet; the Scooba seems like overkill because there's low traffic in that part of the house and it never seems to get very dirty. And the cleaning solution leaves streaks on the floor unless I fill the tank with dilute vinegar. I've been sweeping or vacuuming every couple of weeks and it's clean enough so far. Maybe I'll just pull out the mop once a month for that part of the house.

We also love having a garage. Today it snowed for the first time this season, and we didn't have to scrape our windshields or anything because the cars were protected inside the garage. Such a treat! I'm glad we didn't buy a snowblower yet because it would have been little more than decoration.

I've always been told that it's a lot of work to take care of a home. A big responsibility, you know. But this is one of those truths that you can never fully appreciate until you experience it yourself. And my parents never clued me in to the reality of all this maintenance. I thought taking care of a house was just a matter of keeping it clean. We've already had to replace the roof ($5700, ouch) and re-line the chimney (estimates still pending). Even something as "little" as changing all the locks ended up costing several hundred dollars, which was way more than I thought it should cost. I moved a big chunk of our savings into CD's in order to prevent me from accidentally draining all of our money on the house. Of course, we did HAVE to buy a plasma TV before the spending freeze, though. We're really glad about that decision, as irresponsible as it may seem.

We have some remodeling in mind.... the bathrooms were done with cheap materials, including the selection of tiny little stall showers. And the master bedroom has woefully inadequate closet space. The first project on my wish list is to open the wall between the master bedroom and one of the secondary bedrooms so that we can have his-and-hers walk-in closets. Then I want to install a doorless / walk-in / walk-behind shower, whatever you call it. The bathroom is big enough to put a separate tub enclosure, and a double sink, but that will have to wait a couple of years till the cash is there. We've finally clawed our way out of our most expensive debts so I'm determined never to borrow from credit cards. I'd rather cancel cable TV and shop at thrift stores than to get into debt again.

So that's the long answer.