7 Quick Takes (vol. 6)

October 30, 2008 | 39 comments

— 1 —

I am trying to love Halloween. I really, really am. It’s traditionally been a favorite holiday. But every time I think about wrassling a four-year-old, two-year-old, and a one-year-old into scratchy costumes (that will invariably not be appropriate for the weather because it always turns freezing cold or sweltering hot around here right on Halloween and I never guess correctly which one it’s going to be ahead of time) and think about dragging them around the neighborhood during the precise window of “after nap but before the pre-dinner-scream-fest” and getting a bunch of candy which will make me tired and fat but I’ll eat anyway and coming home to surly trick-or-treaters dressed up as Bratz dolls who say things like “Is that all? We don’t like your candy!” before rolling their eyes and running off…I want to go collapse somewhere.

Also…I would tell you about my costume decision/expense woes but I get tired just thinking about it. You don’t know how tempted I was to just cut some holes in burlap sacks and announce that all the kids would be St. Francis this year.

— 2 —

I keep re-reading this post about how a family of six paid off their mortgage on an income of $29, 000 per year (via a comment from Sandy), and I think my jaw drops a little further each time. I’ve always known that frugality is an area that I need to work on, but now I feel like I have all the humble prudence of P.Diddy when it comes to spending money. All I can say is: Wow.

— 3 —
I realized recently that I do not know how to fold towels. I go to friend’s houses and see their towels folded into perfect, fluffy squares stacked neatly in their linen closets. Despite my best efforts to achieve this look, mine look like drunk rectangles. This might be difficult to explain in writing, but how do you make towels turn into nice, neat squares? I perceive towel folding to be a secret, mysterious art known only to a select few.
— 4 —

I have this weird love/hate relationship with the idea of Kindle. I actually watched Oprah the other day because I heard she was going to be talking about it. On the one hand, the whole idea depresses me. Maybe it’s because I only read non-fiction, but I always write notes all over my books, underline compelling passages, and refer back to them over and over again after I’ve read them. Also, it brings me such joy to see my bookshelves packed with fascinating reads, ready to lend to friends, use as a reference or peruse again myself. And, oh, the sounds and smells of cracking open a brand new book that I’m all ready to delve into! I just can’t imagine my “library” consisting of a bunch of electrons on a gadget I can fit into my purse; that my husband and I wouldn’t walk guests over to our bookshelves to talk about books as we peruse the worn, multi-colored volumes on the shelves, but instead fire up an electronic device and press buttons on a screen.

All that said…after watching the Oprah episode I have this vague feeling of wanting a Kindle.

— 5 —

On Monday I hosted a playdate with two friends who also have lots of little ones, and together we had 10 kids, all under age 5 (with one on the way). The wide-eyed pizza man asked if it was a daycare.

— 6 —

Speaking of which, it’s been funny to see my son’s reaction to the new pregnancy. He’s our oldest, and he seems to think it’s all totally routine. His impression is that every year or so mommy and daddy go to the hospital and bring home a baby girl, and that that’s just how the world works. He seems to think it’s some kind of annual tradition (which I guess it sort of is).

— 7 —

Book update: So, writing a book is a lot harder than I thought it would be. If any of you have written books yourselves, whether they’re published or unpublished, I just have to say: KUDOS TO YOU. It’s hard.

That said, I’m happy with the way it’s turning out. I’m on Chapter 7 and expect to be done with a first draft in late February. It’s not Hemmingway, but I think it does explain clearly what it was like to grow up in an atheist family and then become a Christian, as well as explicitly giving the reasons behind my decision to convert. There’s also some good news in the probability-of-it-being-published department, which I’ll mention if/when it’s finalized.


That’s all I got for today. Have a lovely Thursday night!


  1. Susan Thompson

    I fold towels into a rectangle because my mother always did it that way. Folding towels into a square is just so wrong.

  2. lyrl

    One of my husband’s coworkers has a Kindle. She has eyesight problems and can’t read books unless they are large print: the Kindle makes all books available to her in large print.

    Watching the elderly people in my congregation struggle with the humongous large-print prayerbooks also makes me think Kindle (and/or Sony’s Reader) may find more uses in the coming years.

  3. Maria

    I spent a college summer working in a linens store, so I figure I’ve done my bit for folding towels neatly. If the linen closet door closes, it’s good. For the record, the official method at that store was to fold the longest side in half, allowing a slight overlap, then in half again. Then fold in thirds the other way.

    You could always go with the moment when St. Francis stripped naked and walked out on his father… oh yeah, it might be freezing. Wait a couple of years and your girls will be begging you to buy them princess/fairy/barbie outfits in September.

  4. MOm

    The secret to towel folding is:
    Fold the towel in thirds lengthwise first, then in quarters or thirds to fit the shelf. It’s quite easy and very satisfying.
    Sheets too.

  5. Anonymous

    Fold the towels lengthwise first, then crosswise twice. Lay them down in a pile with the last fold facing you and the second folds on the left. The right side will have no folds, just single fabric, and the top will have a mixture of fold and singles. Spend about five minutes working out exactly how to make this happen with your towels. (Think motions studies with the guy who had twelve children – Gilbreth?) Then fold your towels always this way. I know it sounds totally a___ but it makes your closet look very nice. (I used to fold my towels any old way.) Also as a bonus when you do this it is much easier to teach your kids to help because you show them something very exact and they like that. I would never send this to someone who hadn’t shown me what was in her purse.

    Jane M

  6. Anonymous

    You don’t need to go trick-or-treating. We usually go to the parish party and don’t bring any candy home … and we just put together costumes from whatever we have around the house. My son actually won the costume contest one year with his knight’s costume. There were a couple items we borrowed from friends to complete that one.

  7. Spring

    My mother used to fold them in half vertically and then roll them. Towels, that is. Hers made need little stacks. Mine are uneven. The towel folding gene apparently passed over me as well.

    I have written a book and appreciate the difficulties…please tell us how on earth you’re finding time to write? Babysitter? Late nights?

  8. Marian

    A trio of little St. Francisses. Very cute. =)

    The lady whose article you linked is quite an inspiration!

  9. Sue

    My name is Sue, and I am a drunk rectangle towel folder. Sorry, can’t help you there.

    I say go with the burlap sacks. I see no problem there.

    That article is amazing. I have book marked it to read litle by little. I don’t want to overwhelm my frugal-wanna-be brain by reading it all at once!

  10. Julie

    My husband has a kindle, and I have to say, it’s pretty darn cool. We’re book people (he’s in publishing…think BEA, hundreds of free books a year) but still think it’s awesome for certain situations. The web browswer comes to mind…what’s not to like about reading blogs on the kindle at Starbucks for free? 😉

    It also solves a space problem for us…our den/computer room is 9×9, and houses thousands of CDs, hundreds of books, our computer desk, all of my work and hobby stuff…in the same way that iTunes solved our music storage prob, the kindle is helping the book storage prob. You can buy it, but you no longer have to worry about where to put it. Which, come to think of it, is both good and bad at the same time…

  11. Melanie B

    1. Well, we’re not doing Halloween this year. The move gives me an easy excuse. I’m still not sure about next year. Maybe I’ll just wait until the girls ask me to make them costumes and take them trick-or-treating. I just don’t see the point when they’re still at the have to be herded like sheep stage.

    2. I’ll have to go read that article about paying off the mortgage, since as of last night we now have one.

    3. I fold my towels and washcloths in half lengthwise and then roll them. Then I stack the rolls in the linen closet. This has the advantage of it being very easy to pull out what I want. The disadvantage seems to be no one else can roll them and when my husband rummages he undoes the rolls.

    4. Last month my husband got an offer from amazon to try the kindle for free for 30 days. He was ambivalent about it; but hey for free why not. Unfortunately, he fell in love with it. (We can’t afford it, I told him… again and again and again.) While he’d never get rid of traditional books, it was great when he had to go on a business trip. Usually, he’d have packed at least a couple of books. This way he could pack just the kindle but have dozens of books to read. What a space saver! He also found it great for taking to work and reading at lunchtime. No more struggling to prop open the pages of his book with random objects. He did find that the page forward and page back buttons were awkwardly placed exactly where he wanted to hold his thumbs while reading in bed.

  12. Garden Gal

    OK, so, I haven't even read past the 2nd paragraph of the letter regarding paying off the mortgage & I am STUNNED these people live in So. Cal!! Seriously, my first thought when I saw your comment about it was, "well, yeah, if they're living in the mid-west with a $40K home mortgage, that isn't THAT difficult." But California?? I'm eager to read more of the letter!

  13. Shelly W

    Oh how I love neatly folded towels! I just folded some today. Here’s what you do, Jen. Fold the long way first, in thirds. Then fold the other direction, in fourths. You’ll have a nice square. Enjoy!

  14. MJS

    Hey can someone explain how to fold sheets, too?

  15. Jeana

    Laine is a favorite of mine. She really humbles me! You should read all of her stuff–it’ll take you a while, but it’s soooo good.

    I was thinking about you today, and your food thoughts lately. Have you read Animal, Vegetable Miracle? I think you would like it. I wrote a review on it, if you’re interested.

  16. Michelle

    One thing that I did last year was to buy a costume way out of season on clearance. So I got this $40 disney store winnie the pooh costume for like $3. It has worked out great so far (we got to try it out at the zoo last weekend). From what I’ve heard about what my friends spent on their kids costumes, we did pretty good. For the record my husband actually liked the St. Francis idea a lot.

    That woman that paid off her mortgage made me look like I live some life of extravagance or something. I’m impressed. It gave me some ideas on things I look at as needs, but are not. I don’t think I’m ready to go that far, but I could see trimming some more fat out of our budget. Neat!

    I’m with Maria on the towel folding. If the linen closet closes you’ve done your job. My Mom and Grandma would probably be ashamed if they knew that (linen closets are a great way to hide the lack of effort and/or ability) but in my busy household it works.

  17. Thia

    My dh has a sony reader and he loves it b/c of the portability. I mean, look at how big your Bible is. He has a Bible that is no bigger than…well, a reader. It’s crazy! Me..I like a book for the reasons you mentioned, but am tempted by the reader too.

  18. Bonnie

    I love #5!

  19. Sandy

    I didn’t mean for the letter to make anyone feel guilty. I am nowhere near as frugal as Laine but I draw inspiration from some of her ideas. The one that really got me was when she turned off her refrigerator and water heater when the energy prices in California tripled. Imagine! I do get good ideas from her and we are hoping to pay off our mortgage (albeit an inexpensive midwestern one) in about four more years.

    I’m gonna practice some of these towel folding methods.

  20. Jennifer F.

    I didn’t mean for the letter to make anyone feel guilty. I am nowhere near as frugal as Laine but I draw inspiration from some of her ideas.

    Me too! I hope it was clear that I loved the article, I was just awed by her detachment from material things. Amazing.

  21. Shel

    Here’s a halloween secret for costumes. I have used this every year, except this year…’nother story. Go to Target, Walmart, Kroger, wherevever you saw tons of costumes. Today and tomorrow they start marking them down. I noticed some are already 1/2 off but in a week or so they will be 75% off and more. They are very picked over, but you can find some good ones, especially little sizes. Maybe it will have a missing accessory you can live without, or it will have accessories you can pair with regular things to make a better costume. (I did this with a flower bonnet and green fuzzy one piece that was too small but the bonnet fit me so I just added green sweat outfit. Cost me less than $5) I put the costumes in the dress up box and the girls wear them all the time, and then can choose from them for Halloween. This year, we are a butterfly with all black clothes and wings found on clearance. I made antenae from a headband and pipe cleaners, no glue involved, I added cute little butterflies to the ends of the pipe cleaners that I cut off cheap hair ties from the $1 shop. My neighbor made us a pumpkin costume, so I just had to pay for a couple yards of orange fabric. She already had a headband that looked like a pumpkin top that she gave me.

  22. Christine

    I am so looking forward to your book. Keep working hard at it. Anything hard is worth doing.

    The towel situation….hilarious! Same here….

  23. Jess

    I want a Kindle, though I agree with you on the pleasure of real books. The Kindle is just too cool and convenient, not to mention it would allow me to buy books cheaper, save paper and trees, shipping, etc. of real books.

    I don’t have the $$$ for it right now so I’ll just keep using my library!

  24. Cheryl

    I can’t see myself using a Kindle. I like the smell and feel of books (especially old books). I love handling the books that my grandfather or great-grandmother had, my hands holding them where theirs would have. I love the feeling of being a part of history, of receiving something passed to me – a book club of shared thoughts and interests spanning years, decades, or more.

    I can see where Kindle might be useful for folks for font size (I agree with lyrl there), but I personally just cannot pass up the total sensory experience that a book (especially an old one) gives.

    Even if it came to just using it for new release books – I don’t know. Maybe then. Maybe.

  25. Trubador

    On how to fold sheets (ignore the fact that this is being written by a single guy):

    For fitted sheets (the ones with the elastic corners), imagine the sheet spread out on the bed, but with the underside facing up. Fold the sheet in half from feet end to head end, but make sure that the head-end corners are inside out so that you can fit each of the foot-end corners into the head-end corners (almost like fitting your hand in a glove).

    Do the same fold, but from left to right so that all four elastic corners are all in the same corner and are all neatly tucked together in the same direction. Now you have a large square with one rounded corner.

    Then just continue to fold in halves or thirds until you have a nice-sized manageable square.

  26. Carrien

    May I suggest Home Comfort, The Art and Science of Keeping House by Cheryl Mendelson for all your house keeping conundrums.

    Plus it’s such a comforting book to just settle into and read sometimes. It’s home focus is so peaceful compared to some things I’ve read.

    Also- first fold the towel in half. Then holding it at the fold fold it into thirds, then fold it in half again length wise. Ta da.

    Also, it’s fine to not like halloween, especially the part where carved pumpkins hark back to earlier scarier days before it was known that there was a good god out there and out of fear and a need to appease the anger of the spirits a human sacrifice was required. A candle was placed in the skull to show the spirits passing by that the sacrifice was already made so they would leave every one else alone.

    Eventually they started to try and fool the spirits by carving turnips to look like skulls. ANd then they got to North America and used the pumpkin instead.

    I suppose we could try and find some redemptive aspect of it, the turnip as a pagan symbol of subsitutionary atonement. Just as the lamb’s blood at passover. Only the fear involved was never very redemptive I don’t think. Let’s just say that we like costumes and candy around here, but we skip this holiday completely.

    I don’t even think that the Catholic attempt to redeem this tradition is worth it.

  27. dinka

    Maybe i’m the only one but i barely managed to read half of that Laine’s lady’s letter. “I love going shopping with the LORD”
    I don’t even know where to start. Kudos to her for being frugal, but the whole attitude and lifestyle (and tone) makes me want to run away. Living debt-free and being perfect financial administrators is not a priority in a faithfilled life for me.

  28. SuburbanCorrespondent

    Thanks a lot for #2. Now we both feel inadequate.

  29. Jeanne

    It is just plain WEIRD to visit here every day and not read anything about the election! It is the giant elephant in the room. PLEASE say something!

  30. jean

    I was so pleased to see one of Laine’s letters in your blog. I have been reading her letters for years now and she is such an inspiration. As someone who is also on a low income I love how she makes being frugal seem like fun. Her tips are not always useful to me as I live in a different country (NZ) but the basic idea of planning, careful shopping and looking out for bargains is always worth knowing. She is also such a great Christian, and Jen, she gets up at 4.30am every day to pray!!!

  31. matthew archbold

    Great post. Really enjoyed it. Drunk rectangles…heh.

  32. Lerin

    Your sense of humor is wonderful… thanks for writing the way you do!

  33. truthfinder

    I fold trick-or-treaters into thirds, and then in half and send them packing! Not really, but Halloween has always been unpopular with me. When I was a member of a Pentecostal church, Hallowe’en was frowned upon, but they did have a “Harvest Party” where non-scary costumes were permitted. Cute animals and saints were the rule. One year, our two oldest boys were creative enough to come up with costumes of their own, but I had to make one for the youngest. I had a set of those white, fuzzy tank-and-lid covers for the “john”, so I cut them up and sewed a polar bear costume for him. I drew “whiskers” on his face, and everyone thought it was great, until his older brother “tattled” about what the outfit was in its original incarnation. After that, he was teased unmercifully and called “pottyhead”. Not one of my best ideas. And even though I’m now Catholic — I really don’t celebrate Hallowe’en. Hope you’re feeling better.
    Praying for you,

  34. Dustmite

    I am pretty sure the reason all those towels at your friends house look so good is because they are never used. They probably brought them home from the store and stacked them so that people like you and I would try and figure out how the heck they managed to fold them so nicely.

  35. breagha

    I agree with you re: the Kindle. I’d get one in a heartbeat if I could truly, truly defend the expense, which I cannot right now. The reason I would like it is for web access, blog reading, newspaper access, etc. And yes, for books. But the books that I adore, the ones I really want around, I will always have hard copy. There is nothing that can replace the comfort and feeling of home as a book.

  36. Shannon @ Rocks In My Dryer


    Actually, I’ve never tried one. But I just don’t like the *idea* of it, you know? Then again, no one’s ever accused me of adapting to new ideas quickly…

  37. Dawn

    I don’t have any advice for towel folding—mine are a hideous mess closed off from sight behind the closet door, thanks be to God. But I, for one, am excited about the book that you are working on!

    Count me on the list of people that will be eagerly waiting to buy it when that happy day arrives.

  38. The Koala Bear Writer

    Just wanted to say… excited to hear about your writing! I’ve written several novels, but never tackled book-length fiction. I’d love to read yours when you’re done. I really enjoyed Scott Hahn’s testimony–some of his books made a big difference in my conversion. 🙂

  39. Shelly D.

    Just found your blog and I have really enjoyed it. Had to chime in on the Kindle discussion. I pooled all my bday money and sold a couple of my Vera Bradley purses to buy one in May. It’s the best purchase I’ve ever made! Hands down. I have teens and we homeschool. I can’t even tell you how much time I spend waiting in the car in any given week. Now I always have with me (in a very small package)my Bible, the daily newspaper (yay no ink on my hands), the internet, nonfiction, spiritual writings and even a bit of chick lit. We are huge book lovers in our house. Will the Kindle replace dead tree books? Never! But it will reduce some of the book clutter in our smallish house. Check out http://www.kindleboards.com, they are a nice bunch of readers!


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