How to Clean a Basement or Porch Floor AND Use Up the Last Dregs of Liquid Laundry Detergent

This technique is suitable for any floor that has either a drain or an open side where water can spill onto the ground.  I learned the cleaning technique at Girl Scout camp, and years later I realized its wonderful compatibility with those “still very soapy on the inside but with not enough soap to pour” bottles.  It’s thrifty, it’s fun, it’s safe for kids to help with, it’s good exercise, and it gets the floor really clean, so it works for me! Read more…

Fevered Imagining

I’ve been sick off and on for a couple of weeks, and the thermometer claims I have no fever, but I think I must because of the dreams.  For example:

The flowerbeds of the little plaza a few blocks away turn out to be a rich source of earthworms.  Nicholas and I spontaneously decide to bring home some worms to enrich our compost bins.  (In reality, our compost bins do an excellent job of converting vegetable scraps into solid, tangled masses of worms.)  We scoop up some worms and dirt in the nearest handy container, a discarded food box, one of those large styrofoam ones that unfolds into two halves. Read more…

Learning from Old Clothes

Learning about the history of clothing fashions is an activity I’ve done with Girl Scouts several times.  It’s part of the Art to Wear Try-It and badge, Listening to the Past Try-It, and probably a few others.  It’s always been fascinating.  Clothing is so intimately a part of our daily lives that thinking about what people like ourselves wore decades or centuries ago is a way of getting right into what it was like to live then.  It’s especially effective if you have some genuine examples of old clothing that you can handle and even try on. Here’s a summary I wrote in 2003 after spending a Saturday leading this activity, several times over, for groups of Girl Scout Brownies and Juniors attending a Try-It/badge workshop:

First we looked at old Girl Scout uniforms, borrowed from our council office.  I had them hung up on the walls with signs that said e.g. “1956–47 years ago!”  We talked about how and why they are different from our current uniforms; I pointed out a few things and encouraged them to talk about their observations.  For example, the very first uniform was light blue, but it soon changed to brown, why? Because the original Girl Scout program was mostly about camping and doing things outdoors, and light blue showed dirt too much!  It used to be that “nice” girls didn’t own clothes that could get dirty!  Read more…

Why aren’t we married?

Three years ago, Daniel and I were interviewed by Redbook magazine for an article called “The Changing Shape of the American Family” which profiled several different family structures.  The Alternatives to Marriage Project referred the reporter to us as an example of a stable couple raising a child without being married.  The final article [which, in its online archived version, has a photo of another family next to the text about us!] used only brief and paraphrased excerpts from what we’d said in two phone conversations and a lengthy e-mail interview.  So, in case anyone is wondering why we aren’t married, here’s how we explained it in lots of detail! Read more…

Layered Bedding

Something that really works for me in cold weather is putting layers on my bed, just the way I put layers on my body.  I’m one of those people who’s easily chilled and very bothered by feeling cold, especially when I’m tired, so having a cozy bed is very important to me.

Daniel and I had some arguments about bedding in the early years of our relationship because he tends to be somewhat warmer than I am, and he doesn’t like synthetic blankets–he says that even if he’s not too warm, they make him too sweaty and cause him nightmares–but I was very fond of my fuzzy Vellux blankets and felt I couldn’t get warm enough without them.

Then, just as our experience with the best nest was inspiring us to experiment with our bedding assumptions, a local hippie shop went out of business and had amazing clearance prices on batik and tie-dyed cotton bedspreads.  I couldn’t resist buying a lot of them, but if we only used one bedspread at a time it was pretty silly to have–gosh, I don’t even know exactly how many we have; this is just a guess–10 bedspreads.  One night when I was putting clean sheets on the bed, I decided to try a new approach, and it’s so comfortable we’ve never turned back! Read more…

My Favorite Invention Name Changes of 1997

One of my responsibilities when I was a technical writer at an invention-marketing company was to keep track of changes to the name of an invention (that is, the inventor had changed his/her mind about the name under which the concept should be pitched to manufacturers) so that we’d be sure to use the correct, current name on all materials.  Many inventors were nervous about their idea’s chances of finding a manufacturer and therefore changed the name several times, attempting to make it sound more appealing.  There were also some changes made when inventors realized that the name gave away the idea, perhaps enough that someone could copy it rather than enter a licensing agreement.  All this was complicated by the fact that a startling percentage of our clients were crazy and/or clueless and the fact that we were required to accept their choice of invention name without modifying the spelling or questioning it in any way.  The following is just a small sample of the name changes we processed in 1997–the ones that were funny enough that I wrote them down on a paper in my desk drawer. Read more…

Client Service Notes

Here’s another thing I saved from my long-ago job at an invention-marketing company: A letter I distributed to the client service representatives on my last day.  These were the long-suffering people who spoke with the inventors by phone and did their very best to speak to these people as if they were sane and reasonable. 

Dear Client Service Representatives:
When I’ve had occasion to read the phone notes, I’ve noticed some real gems that demonstrate what you all have to deal with on a daily basis.  I’ve been collecting them for a while.  Now that I’m leaving, I want you all to know how much I appreciate your help in communicating with the clients…saving me from dealing with moments like these!
—‘Becca

Client wants to change the name but doesn’t know what to.  Client wants us to be less descriptive but doesn’t know how we can. Read more…

Knee-bouncing Games

These two games have been enjoyed by little children in my family for at least three generations.  They worked for me when I was little, they’ve been favorites of my four-year-old son since he was about nine months old, and I look forward to trying them on his younger cousins this Thanksgiving!

These are the type of game that you play by bouncing a child who is sitting on your knees.  That means that the child needs to be old enough to sit up but lightweight enough not to hurt your knees.  It also means that you can play these games anywhere you can sit, with no additional equipment.  They’re great for sitting around at holiday parties, waiting in the airport or bus stop or doctor’s office, etc. Read more…