Sunday, May 31, 2009

A trip to the zoo

We took the boys to the Indianapolis Zoo yesterday. Chris's parents joined us there, and a fun time was had by all.
Some highlights:
  •  wild monkey sex (fans of J.D. Robb will appreciate the humor, but a couple of gibbons decided to have some morning delight) 
  • Wil enthralled with giraffes
  • Sam watching Mommy enjoy the dolphin show
  • Grandma and Grandpa spending time with the boys 
  • Wil startled by penguins swimming under his feet
  • watching a baby elephant take a drink
  • seeing a Scottish highland cow:
Sometimes, it's the small things. More pictures are, of course, posted on the boys' website. 

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Are you up for a challenge?

After reading the National Geographic article "The Global Food Crisis: The End of Plenty," Chris and I have decided to challenge ourselves for the month of June. Here's our challenge: 
Can we move to a less meat diet by only eating meat once a week for 30 days? 
This will be tough, especially in grilling season and since Chris doesn't like many vegetables, but there are lots of veggie options we can still do. Examples include beans and rice, bean burritos, grilled cheese, cheese pizza and pasta. 
Obviously, we won't solve any major problems by ourselves, but moving down the food chain is actually a very environmentally friendly thing to do. We're never going to be vegetarians, but maybe we can lessen our impact. (I did learn all this years ago as part of my Environmental Science degree. So, this is not new, just becoming more critical.)
So, anyone want to join our challenge?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

My reading list

I still have a small stack of books to get through, but there are a few I'd really like to read:
Jane Eyre, which I actually have never read before
the next Outlander book, when it is released (
A Dance with Dragons, when it is released (
Several "In Death" books:
  • Salvation in Death
  • Promises in Death
  • Kindred in Death
My current stack includes Rhett Butler's People, the rest of the Midkemia novels, The Complete Idiot's Guide to World Religions, and finishing the Bible.
I know there are more, but isn't this a long enough list for now?
UPDATE: I am almost done reading "Rhett Butler's People" which I'm thoroughly enjoying. And I picked up "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" and "The Mysteries of Udolpho" yesterday, so they are now officially in my stack.

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Ellers' cats

Just for fun, a variation on the Victorian parlor game "The Minister's Cat."
The Ellers' cats are Adorable cats.
The Ellers' cats are Black cats.
The Ellers' cats are Cuddly cats.
The Ellers' cats are Delightful cats.
The Ellers' cats are Elegant cats. (aren't all cats?)
The Ellers' cats are Friendly cats.
The Ellers' cats are Gentle cats.
The Ellers' cats are Happy cats.
The Ellers' cats are Inquisitive cats.
The Ellers' cats are Jumping cats.
The Ellers' cats are Kneading cats. (yeah, especially with claws in our laps)
The Ellers' cats are Lovable cats.
The Ellers' cats are Marvelous cats.
The Ellers' cats are Neat cats.
The Ellers' cats are Orderly cats.
The Ellers' cats are Purring cats.
The Ellers' cats are Quiet cats.
The Ellers' cats are Restful cats.
The Ellers' cats are Silly cats. (when they want to be)
The Ellers' cats are Talented cats.
The Ellers' cats are Unflappable cats.
The Ellers' cats are Virtuous cats.
The Ellers' cats are Whining cats. (when hungry)
The Ellers' cats are eXceptional cats. (Ok, I cheated, but can you think of one???)
The Ellers' cats are Yowling cats. (when strange cats encroach)
The Ellers' cats are Zen cats.

Friday, May 22, 2009


We skipped the flimsy pressure gates and installed top-of-stair variety gates at the top of the stairs, bottom of the stairs, and both doors to the kitchen. Much easier to just close the gate when we want to block an area off. So here's a boring list of how we use our gates.
The kitchen is pretty much always blocked off these days since Sam can't be trusted in the kitchen, but before Sam was mobile, we still used it when we wanted to keep Wil out of the kitchen, such as when we were cooking.
The top of the stairs gets blocked at night time so Wil doesn't accidentally fall if he runs out of his room (he's had nightmares on occasion) and if Sam is roaming free upstairs.
The bottom of the stairs gets blocked when Sam is roaming free or, and this is the fun one, when Sam is upstairs sleeping and Wil is not. Wil likes to go upstairs and wake Sam up to play. Not kosher.
So, enough about gates, but that's my life. 

Friday, May 15, 2009

And more little things

So, after yesterday's post, here's a rundown of a few other things we have done:
  • Chris commutes most days via bus or motorcycle (~60 mpg)
  • we've replaced several appliances (c. 1986) - dish washer, oven, washer and dryer
  • we deep sixed the deep freeze ($20 savings the first month!)
  • we added R25 insulation to our attics, which had only the original R6 
  • we got a new car that doesn't have spectacular mileage but is a significant improvement
  • I haven't done well the last year or so, but hope to get back into riding the bus or walking with the boys when feasible
  • replace original single-pane windows with double pane
And a few things on the list that we still need to do as time and money (mostly money) permit:
  • replace the c. 1986 HVAC, water heater and refrigerator
  • add solar panels or wind power
  • make or buy a rain barrel
  • replace the siding with insulated siding
I'm sure there are things I'm forgetting, but the point of these two posts was really just that a series of small steps can add up to a lot. And using less energy due to global warming isn't the only reason to do these things. Many save on energy costs so they directly hit our pocket book. Plus, I'm all about the energy independence. 
So what have/are you doing to cut energy costs and consumption?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Sometimes it's the little things

  Yes, we would love to add solar panels or a Jellyfish, but our budget just won't allow right now. Yes, we would save money in the long run, but start up costs are currently prohibitive. 
What can and do we do?
Here's a simple investment in solar/wind energy that paid off the first year, with a total investment of about $15:
Yes, we've changed almost every bulb in the house:
And for $35, we got a programmable thermostat, which is set at 68, with a bump to 70 for 2 hours in the morning for winter heat. For summer, we'll experiment to see what works well, but our usual was 80, with an occasional drop to 78.
 (NB: I forgot to rotate the image and am too lazy to do it now and this is the temperature with no heat/air and some windows open today.)
There are other, bigger, things we've done and more we'll do, but I was thinking about how much energy we've saved as I was hanging out that load of laundry today.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

A tree grows in Bloomington

My Mother's Day present was an apple tree - a dwarf Liberty. Chris had, um, fun planting it:
Also, here are some pictures, finally, of the box Chris built for my vegetable garden:
We planted several varieties of tomatoes, peppers, basil, rosemary and a mystery plant (a neighbor gave me her starts) that I think is lettuce. I should ask.

Friday, May 8, 2009

My children are guinea pigs

Living in a university town, there are lots of opportunities for the boys to get involved in studies. They are both on the lists at Psychology and Optometry, so we get calls from time to time to participate in studies. They don't seem to mind, it gives us something to do, and we are helping research.
We just agreed to participate in a study involving sleep habits of toddlers. It will be a week-long project, including 2 home visits (one around bedtime) and a lab visit, plus sleep diaries. It will be interesting to see how things go. We'll do the study at the end of the month (Wil has to be 2 1/2 to participate, which will be around Memorial Day). 
They have gotten some nice toys and books and t-shirts for helping, but it really is interesting to see what sort of studies are going on. Hopefully, we are helping researchers learn a bit about how children develop. The Optometry group is working to identify signs that a child sees double so they can correct it early, thus preventing a lazy eye from developing (I'm pretty sure that was the explanation). Psychology has several different groups, working on language development, behavior, all sorts of things. 
Pretty interesting stuff as you can see from the fun picture of Sam just before an Optometry study he did. 

Sunday, May 3, 2009

How does your garden grow?

We've been busy with outdoor work this weekend, especially Chris. We borrowed a tiller from a neighbor to try to get the garden turned over. It's still a lot of work and the prospect of getting everything done and a garden planted was daunting, so Chris decided to try a planter box based on Square Foot Gardening. He has been busy building it today, so I will make sure he posts about it, along with the pictures I've taken. 
Another neighbor had tons of plant starts and offered some to us - several varieties of tomatoes, peppers, and basil. I'd also like to plant some beans and a few more herbs, plus maybe some spinach. I can't wait to get stuff planted!
I've been hauling logs from the tree we had cut down 2 years ago. We thought we would use some, but there is way too much, so we are offering free wood at our garage sale in 2 weeks. We just need to move a bunch to the driveway so people see it. I also spent some time digging out invasive honeysuckle plants. They are a pain, incredibly resilient and prolific. 
Chris decided a better use of the tiller was to work on the area we want to tile as a chess board (it will function as another patio). It needs leveling, but he did a lot of work on it yesterday. Of course, we used a bunch of the tiles for our front patio, so we need to buy more. 
We still have a ton of work to do, but it all doesn't have to happen this summer. One thing I would like to accomplish this summer is to really get a play area set up for the boys.