Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy 2012!

Although penmanship has never been a strength of mine, I'm having fun playing around with handwriting styles and my new Parker Urban fountain pen, a post-Christmas gift from my husband.  The calendar page is from a desk calendar he found at an antique mall.  Since 1960 was a leap year, too, it seems appropriate. 

I've been working on a post about my efforts with Spencerian Business Script, shown above, and what led me to this uncharacteristic new interest.  However, I've been thoroughly enjoying time with family, friends, and books these past two weeks, so it's not quite ready.  I very much doubt that pencasting is anywhere in my near future, but I'm finding that as I get older, I'm more open to trying things that don't come easily to me.

I hope 2012 finds you and your loved ones well and happy.  I've enjoyed dipping my toe into the blogosphere (Thanks, Dwayne, for encouraging me!) and am looking forward to reading your posts in the year ahead!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Have yourself a nerdy little Christmas!

This year, at House Full of Nerds, we don't have our usual Christmas tree.  It's a long story involving a load of bamboo flooring and several robots.  We've had to get a bit creative with our decorations, so the Nerd in Chief has strung an X of fishing line high in our dining room and hung ornaments on it, so they appear to be floating in space, "like at Hogwarts!" as my younger daughter says.

Hanging the ornaments this high was also our solution when we had a cat who loved to climb the Christmas tree.

Even with the cool dining room decorations, my girls and I were bummed out about having to forgo the ritual of setting up and decorating our tree, an artificial one we've had for more than 20 years.  Over that time, we've accumulated an eclectic assortment of ornaments, many purchased at bargain prices the week after Christmas.  Our favorites include poor Captain Pike from Star Trek TOS, and a clear plastic ball trimmed with gold-tinted cardboard, reflecting the rationing during World War II, when my mom acquired it.

Claire solved the "no tree" problem when she dug out a table-top Christmas tree.  Her older sister got it at a white elephant gift exchange last year and promptly passed along to her.  "I decorated it with Mardi Gras beads!" she said triumphantly.  I added a couple of bells I'd found in a drawer, having forgotten to put them away the previous year, and we put the tree in the living room with some of our many robots.  It's festive, the perfect focal point for gifts, and small enough to be whisked away easily when it's time to install the flooring.

Godzilla and the robots are making sure no one peeks too closely at the presents.

With the tree situation resolved, I was pleased to discover that the remaining essential elements of my family's Christmas celebration were in a single box in the garage:  Our stockings, the Nativity set that goes on our mantle, the Advent wreath, and the Christmas Squirrel. 

The Christmas Squirrel is a relatively recent tradition, introduced to us by my best friend, Adela:  "Remember when you were a kid, and you would get stuff like underwear and tube socks in your stocking?"


"Well, Santa wouldn't do that to you.  That was the Christmas Squirrel."

Yes, those are tube socks in his little paws!
 Why a squirrel?  Since my kids read my blog sometimes, I won't go into the creature's unsettling origins.  Anyway, the adorable stuffed animal Adela fitted with a hand-made Santa hat and coat is so disarmingly cheery that it's been easy for our family to accept it as a well-intentioned provider of necessary if boring footwear.  Its exact origins don't really matter.  Hmm... I don't think that's the first time I've made that argument at this time of year.  I'd better quit before I get too metaphysical.  I hope this finds you and your loved ones happy and healthy, and if you celebrate Christmas, I hope it's a good one!

Please note that all photos are by Dwayne, aka the Nerd in Chief. He can be found at

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Nerd Roots

Argh, an extended absence and now a blank slate.  It's like writing my first post all over again.  I'm still trying to catch up after spending ten days around Thanksgiving at my parents' house in Arizona.  I went because my mom had knee replacement surgery (actually a "revision," I learned, since the surgeon was replacing an old artificial knee).  Mom needed a couple of extra days in the hospital, so I got to spend a lot of time with my dad, which got me thinking about my nerdy origins.
My dad never watched "Star Trek" or read Arthur C. Clark novels, but I trace my nerd-dom directly to him.  He had a cool Lego gear set that I envied (this was back when Legos were just colorful bricks).  It was his toy, not mine - he'd owned it before I was born and I'm his first child. We moved several times when I was growing up and each place we lived, we were the only family in our neighborhood with a compost pile.  Even at the retirement home where he and my mom live now, my dad saves banana peels and coffee grounds for the petunias.  I'm not sure whether the nerdiest thing my dad has done was teaching himself to knit so he wouldn't get bored on business trips (this was way pre-9/11) or spending a week studying soybeans at the University of Illinois (my mom will point out that this was when they were serving on our church's Hunger Action Committee, but he's been both an unapologetic meat-eater and a soybean enthusiast for as long as I've known him).  It is from him that I get my tendency to pick objects up with my toes, my preference for solitude over socializing, and my suspicion towards whatever the latest craze happens to be.

One of the things I admire most about my dad is his blatant disregard for what everyone else will think. Even as a teenager, I got a kick out of telling people that my dad had knit the sweater I was wearing, although I did slink down in the passenger seat of our Travel-All so I'd be out of sight when he stopped on a particularly tree-lined street to steal bags of leaves for his compost pile.  For the most part, though, it's hard to think of a time when I haven't appreciated his uniqueness and resourcefulness:  We had the coolest swing set in the neighborhood, made from an I-beam supported by 12-foot steel legs, because a store-bought piece of junk wasn't safe enough (or good enough) for his kids.  He made sourdough pancakes and bread from starter he'd had since 1964.  And when the antenna snapped off of my first radio because I threw it down in a fit of anger, he skipped the lecture and fixed it with a thick piece of copper he just happened to have lying around.

Either my appreciation of parental eccentricities is a family trait or my children aren't yet old enough to have outgrown it.  My fourteen-year-old recently told me she doesn't miss watching TV, and neither she nor my eleven-year-old have any qualms about taking weird leftovers to school for lunch; in fact my older daughter enjoys grossing out her friends.  When my parents visit, my eleven-year-old enjoys the four mile round-trip walk to the grocery store with my dad, and fondly remembers the time they walked home in the rain.  She maintains that they would have been just fine if I hadn't shown up with the car to rescue them.  My fourteen-year-old looks forward to the violin-viola duets she and my dad play because "it's nice to play with someone else who really cares about how they sound."  While they only barely tolerate my dad's puns, they both appreciate his kindness and positive outlook on life, which although not exclusively nerdy traits, may partly explain why my mom has put up with my dad's quirks so willingly for the past 48 years.