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Staycations seem to have become popular these days, but of course I’m just happy to have any time off, whether or not I get to do anything special. When I was a kid we always went camping or to a camping near the beach. (A friend of the family owned the cabin.) I never thought of those times as vacations exactly. I was a kid. Many kids at my school went to Europe or a tropical island for vacations.

My summer school is finally over. Thank the deities! I passed my Spanish class and now have six weeks or so to get some research done and relax a bit before the fall term starts. Living as we have been for the last year, with Beorn not working, makes taking any time off very challenging. Summers have been the worst for us in the last few years because we haven’t gotten financial aid. This year, even with some summer financial aid and two paychecks for summer teaching, not getting money in August will be challenging.

I enjoy having free time to putter around the house and “get things done.” (Ever seen the TV series Dead Like Me? In one episode a character reveals that she records herself doing stuff around the house and broadcasts it on the web. The show is called “Getting Things Done with Delores Herbig.”) There are a number of things I need to catch up on around here. Here is my list of things to do when you have time off, but no money to speak of.

1. Work on your vegetable garden. This week my mom visited and helped me get caught up on weeding me vegetable garden. I have a yardshare garden of about 600 sq ft that has been terribly neglected. When I got the space it was terribly overrun with bindweed.

Isn’t it cute? Any yet it’s evil. I can’t believe how much bindweed I have pulled this year and it is still winning!

2. Do some “spring” cleaning. I’m also spending time going through all the boxes in our closets. I gathered some old clothes to give to Good Will. Later in the week I will probably spend an afternoon at a few thrift stores looking for some clothing for the fall. My sewing machine and serger also haven’t gotten any use this year. The serger I bought for $5 at a garage sale last fall and I’m eager to try out sewing with it. I have a large tub full of various fabrics so I have lots of free material to experiment with.

3. Cook for the freezer or preserve some summer fruits and vegetables. Most likely, I will do some major cooking for the freezer. Having some already prepared food in the freezer makes it easier to avoid being tempted to buy food out when I’m tired or busy. We have also been freezing fresh fruits. While my mom was here we visited a pick-your-own blueberry farm and brought home several pounds of blueberries. I also froze quite a few strawberries and cherries while they were in season and so cheap.

4. Go to the library. When I was a kid we went to the public library a lot. As a grad student I don’t have much time for leisure reading, but I’m taking advantage now.

5. Play on your computer. Lots of people who are truly poor don’t have computers, which is another reason to go to the library, but I need a computer for work, so that’s a lot of recreation available to me. I can even catch up on my blog reading!

6. Go to a park. My mom and I visited the local arboretum and went for a little hike. Beorn’s mom went fishing at the county park while she was here.

7. Go swimming. Beorn and I have been swimming at the pool here at our complex, but there are lots of public pools and even rivers around here. I prefer to swim in natural water. It’s more interesting and there’s less chlorine. If you live near an ocean, even better. Swimming is the best exercise for people with rheumatoid arthritis because there is no stress on the joints.

8. Go to a museum or a concert. Most university towns have some sort of museums and concert series. As a grad student I get free entry into the museum and can get inexpensive concert tickets. Most museums have a free day at least once a month.

Now all of you academics will probably be wondering why I’m not spending all this time working on my research. But I will be spending a significant amount of time on it and I don’t think it’s healthy to drive yourself work once you have reached a certain point of exhaustion. In order to have good ideas I need time to refresh my brain.

Anyone else have ideas about what to do with “time off” when you don’t have a lot of money?

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This summer, for the first time since I started grad school, in fact, for the first time ever, I’m “doing” summer school. This has kept me very busy! My department here at Crunchy U. offers summer classes, so for the first time I got the chance to teach my own class. Unfortunately it was the class from hell. I don’t want to tell the entire story, but there were a bunch of students in the class who weren’t ready for that class and my TA was no help. I think I worked 60-80 hours a week for the 4 weeks. On the up side, colleges and universities everywhere need people to teach this particular class and since it’s technology related, there are a limited number of people willing and able to teach it, so it will be good for my CV.

As soon as that was over, I started a Spanish class. I’m required to have two years of a language for my PhD. Unforunately, it’s been more than 10 years since I took any language classes, so those classes don’t count. Because I have limited time (I’m hoping to graduate before I’m 40) I decided to hop right in to second year Spanish. Since I had been teaching during the first four weeks of the summer, I had to start with the second quarter of second year Spanish. Make sense? Needless to say, there are huge gaps in my memory. My pronunciation is terrible now. I think it’s my age. Also, I can’t spell, even in Spanish! My previous college courses in Spanish were focused on speaking, now I’m expected to write, and I’m discovering a little of what it’s like to be illiterate. I have been making progress over the last three week though. Next week is the end of the class, so I will finally have some time off, and a chance to do a little more of my research.

Last week I took a couple of days off and travelled to my research site to do a couple of interviews. I need to get at least 15 or so interviews done by the end of September when school starts, so that I have some priliminary results to work with over the next year. I feel luck about the topic I’m working on and the location. Friends at Crunchy U. know people in the area, so I have been able to find places to stay and make connections locally.

The point of telling you all about my summer is to say that I’m burnt out! I need at least two weeks of lazing around doing nothing before I will be motivated to do anything again. I know many academics seem to be able to work long hours day after day, without a break, but I have become overly grumpy. Overwork is not good.

Now I’m getting off the computer and going to make some gazpacho and pizza. On Saturdays we have friends over for dinner and games.

I know it may sound like I have gone crazy, but the combo of little money and a sick husband has resulted in lots of cooking experiments. Last weekend I tried homemade pasta and crackers. I have a little hand crank pasta roller that I think I must have gotten from a thrift store or a garage sale. The pasta was good, but not amazing. I think next time I have to add the flour more slowly. Too much flour in any kind of recipe is a big problem.

I found this recipe (Olive Oil Crackers Recipe – 101 Cookbooks) which uses semolina flour and a pasta roller to make crackers. I have never made crackers before, they turned out very tasty! They were easy to make too, the only problem was keeping an eye on them in the oven. I burn the first batch and then some batches I took out too early so they didn’t get really crunchy. The under-done ones tasted like flat bread or pita, so that was good too.

Sometime I want to try making granola bars. My granola turned out yummy, so I think granola bars are next.

Monday is Beorn’s next rheumatology appointment. The rheumatologist was amazing. He was friendly, thorough, and quickly concluded that Beorn most likely has rheumatoid arthritis. Hopefully this next appointment will result in some medication. In the meantime he gave Beorn a cortasone shot in his knee. Beorn could barely walk at this point so it’s been an amazing relief just to have a couple of weeks during which he wasn’t struggling just to walk around the house. We know cortasone isn’t a long term solution, but pain relief is important sometimes.

I have been working day and night and sleeping little, so there isn’t much fun to report. Since Jan 1. I have worked out seven times! Woohoo! And I have been taking vitamins! Yay! My big excitement this week has been the successful creation of Elderberry Jello. A few years back I bought this book on how to make your own herbal concoctions. It contains all sorts of recipes, but the most fun is the idea to make your herbal teas into jello. Yum!

I combined Elderberry juice (Beorn and I juiced some elderberries last summer and froze the juice in our chest freezer), much loved for it’s supposed antiviral properties, with sugar-free black cherry jello to create a semi-healthy treat. Tonight I had some with a little cool-whip.