Sunday, March 26, 2017


     One of the reasons I wanted to own a home was to have a guest room. I thought it was high time that my parents quit sleeping on the couch in the living room, and I wanted to be able to offer a comfortable place to friends when they came to visit. Well, they're coming to visit. Many of them. Next month I'll have guests for four weekends in a row. Every one had a different reason - my former thesis advisor is being feted, a friend's kid had Easter Monday off so it was a good time to travel, and so on.
     I'm delighted to see them all, but I purposefully kept March as low-social-event month so I could build up some socializing reserve. Instead, I caught up on projects, since I won't have much spare time in April. My mother made me a dressing gown from a vintage 1940's pattern, and I had to finish the hand-sewing on it. I am expanding the gardens in the back yard by five square meters, and I hauled in extra dirt and compost for them. I replaced two switches to my hallway light (which took me four tries, two calls with my dad, and the help of my friend N). I replaced my kitchen light. I snaked my drains which is most definitely the most disgusting homeowner job I've done so far (from now on, I will be seeking only roommates who are bald).
     And the guest room is ready: I added bedding, extra shelves, a luggage stand, and a reading light. Bring on the people!

Thursday, March 16, 2017


     The past month or so have been very busy at work, with a conference in Atlanta and a two-day meeting in Virginia, so I used a vacation day today. It was delightful to have a weekday off without any need to visit anyone, so I thought carefully about how I could use the day to the best advantage. My decision was to shovel compost. The city only sells compost on weekdays before 3pm, so it's quite difficult to manage it when I'm working and this seemed like a good solution. The only catch was that we were hit with a winter storm on Tuesday, and it's still pretty wintery. (My Minnesota family will laugh when I say that our 3" shut down the city, but that's what happens when you live in the almost-south.)
     The good part was that shoveling frozen compost meant it wasn't too muddy, but hauling the wheelbarrow across the snow was difficult. It's a bit jarring to see the fresh brown compost laying on top of the snow, but I figure that in a few days it will warm up, the snow will melt, and the compost will be right on top of the beds where I want it.
     My basement is filled with tiny pots of soil under the grow lights, where I soon expect to see tomato and eggplant seedlings. Today didn't feel like spring, but it's tantalizingly close.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017


I love making jam, but I only eat about two pints per year. In physics terms, this would result in a net positive flux of jam, except that it turns out that homemade jam makes a great hostess gift.

This year I made cherry, apple butter, and, just this weekend, blood orange marmalade. I'll be having the marmalade for dinner tonight, since it is Pancake Day. But there will still be plenty left in my larder. And if you'd like some, now you know what to do- just invite me over for dinner.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Just plain lucky

I just got back from Atlanta, where I was helping to run a 100-person conference. Now that I've recovered from the twelve-hour days and the people overload, here are some things that I am grateful for.

  1. I have a job that makes the world a better place. Like everyone else, my job has ups and downs and sometimes all I do is write email all day long. But there are people out there who have studied physics, become teachers, and discovered that people just like them can be scientists because of the programs I help run. This is immensely rewarding.
  2. Having a cat again, especially one that would prefer to sit in my lap all day long.
  3. A work friend who carefully noted the date of Andrew's birthday, and then, a year later, brought me a plant and a card to cheer me up on that always-bleak day.
  4. Living now, in the era of anesthesia for operations, safe drinking water, and wonderfully insulated homes.
  5. My brand-new currant bush, a Christmas gift from my in-laws, that I planted this morning. I am crossing my fingers and hoping that I'll have at least a bite or two of fruit this year.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Introducing Mollie

Meet Mollie the cat. She had lived the last ten years in my parents' shop, venturing out to decimate the local mouse population. We think she is now about fourteen years old, and she will be spending her final retirement years at my house. She is named for molybdenum, which is an element used to strengthen steel, and particularly appreciated by my father for its use in motorcycle frames.

She is tiny, completely deaf, and seems to love every person that she meets, but she is deeply and profoundly suspicious of the dog. Ada mainly ignores her, so I think in time they'll get along fine. Mollie lived on a farm up to this point, and there really were plenty of creatures (such as hawks and coyotes) that would have been happy to eat her, so this paranoia is somewhat reasonable.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Using my time wisely

     Since I was traveling back and forth to Ohio so much during January, my parents and I decided that it made sense to leave Ada the dog with them, so that she could skip about 30 hours of driving. And when I say 'parents' I really mean 'mother', because she's the one that does all the dog care.
     Ada's absence made my house a little too quiet, and I missed her. But I also realized that a dog-free month meant that I essentially gained 30 minutes a day, because that's how long I spend walking her. I didn't want to look back and think I had squandered that 15 bonus hours of free time, so I decided to refinish my upstairs hall floor. Of course, I had forgotten how incredibly dusty this job is, and I've spent the last week just cleaning all the sawdust that leaked through the plastic sheeting and into the downstairs. But the hall now looks great, and I have pictures to prove it.
Before, with blue fake wood paneling, and very-vintage 1960's carpet. 
After, with white walls and refinished floors. You'll have to use your imagination to put the furniture in, because that can't go back on the floor until it cures for another few weeks.

     And as a reward, I am going to Ohio today, and when I come back I'll bring both Ada and Molly the (new-to-me) cat.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Project day, again

January's project was to build Adirondack chairs. In 2015, N and I put together kits, but this time we were building them from scratch, using an existing chair as a template. I have the most awesome basement workshop for projects. It's large and empty, with lots of pegboards and workbenches. N brought over his table saw, and together with my miter and jig saws, we had lots of different ways to cut up wood.
Today the N&S family came back for a bonus project day, and we sanded, drilled, and assembled.
N&S took two of the chairs home, and I'll keep one. This means I can now have a campfire or morning coffee outside with a friend, but only one friend. If I want to have more friends, I'll have to build more chairs.