Monday, March 19, 2018

Observations from a sickbed

     I haven't posted in three weeks because I kept hoping something interesting would happen. Alas, I lead a prosaic life. I got sick AGAIN. I just got over what I thought was the flu (in spite of the vaccine) in February, and less than a month later, here I am again. I won't bore you to death with lots of details, but I haven't been this sick in years. I've had a fever for six days. In fact, I couldn't even walk downstairs and make breakfast without stopping to rest once or twice, and I gave up completely on unimportant things like bathing or walking the dog. I think it was that final item that really got my mother's sympathies - when she heard I was sick, she packed up and drove eight hours the next day to take care of me. And let me tell you, you are never too old to disdain a mother's ministrations.
     She's still here, and today she has managed to walk the dog, buy me groceries, and plant peas in my garden. Right now she's making me dinner. I feel really lucky.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Bathroom Installation, Part 4

I had two goals for today's bathroom construction efforts: purchase every conceivable item I might need that would not fit in my car, and to lay the plywood for the floor. The purchasing needed to be done all at once so I could rent a truck once and be done with it, and in that I mainly succeeded. We got plywood, drywall, the tub, and the tub surround. I have drywall stacked under my bed and a tub that will live in my hallway for a few months.

The Home Depot guy helped load. I can't decide if this is because I bought so much at once that I earned the white-glove service or if he thought I looked like a weakling and took pity on me.

Unloading and hauling everything upstairs was exhausting, and then we ended up moving things multiple times to get them stored in the right places. The flooring took time but was ultimately satisfying because the change was more obvious.

We ripped out all the floor boards until we had joists. This is the part where you are working very carefully- if you step between those long boards, your foot will easily pass through the insulation and ceiling tiles into the room below.
We attached the thick 3/4" subfloor with glue and screws, and then topped it with the underlayment, which needed to be nailed down with about a hundred nails per sheet. We couldn't complete all the installation, since my father and I will need to install some plumbing before making everything permanent. But if I squint I can see how it will look like a room.

This was definitely a team effort. We had remote technical support from my father, who consulted with me repeatedly in the planning and sent helpful hand-drawn diagrams. My friend K, who is recovering from the flu, handled child care at his house, which kept the chaos at a manageable level at my house. E hauled heavy stuff up the stair for hours, and N and S hauled, sawed, drilled, and nailed like the pros that they practically are.

Stay tuned for the next installment in May.

Monday, February 19, 2018


When I was planning my trip to Albuquerque, I told my aunt and uncle that my primary goal was to spend time with them, but secondary goals were to eat (excellent food, including green chile), drink (especially red wine), and walk outside (but not excessively).

I am pleased to report that we have succeeded spectacularly. I went walking in the hills both days, and have drunk a very good bottle of old red wine and coffee brewed two different ways. We have feasted on homemade pasta and omlettes. And tonight we finish with homemade French bread, cheese, and gelato.

I'm going to have to eat a lot of salads when I get home to make up for all of this.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

March is bound to be better

     I haven't posted much in February because it hasn't been a good month and just writing a bunch of complaints sounded sad for everyone. But I can now see the light at the end of the tunnel.
     I got the flu last week and slept for three days. I would have stayed in bed longer, but I was helping to run two conferences in a row, so I just powered through. The first day I kept looking longingly at the registration table, with its floor-length tablecloth, thinking that I could just crawl under where no one could see me so I could sleep. However, by the last day I was back to my normal self, i.e. the consummate event planner.
     To add to things, Andrew's birthday was this week, which is always a miserable day for me, and Molly the cat has been sick. Just like last fall, she simply quit eating. She spent her time wandering around, complaining that she was hungry and even licking the floor for spills, but she wouldn't eat anything in her bowl. In fact, I suspect she couldn't - I would see her try to eat and the food would just fall from her mouth, as if she couldn't swallow. I resisted taking her to the vet, but because the vet couldn't find anything wrong last time. Finally, yesterday, I tried yet a different kind of food. I don't know if it was the new food or if she is recovering from whatever was ailing her, but I'm no longer debating whether I'll have to take her to be put down this week or next.*
     The best news is that in two days I'll be in Alburquerque with Aunt and Uncle de-I, where I intend to eat green chile and drink much red wine.

*I never thought I'd become one of those people who has a cat on anti-anxiety meds or buys different foods to placate their finicky eating habits. But, (1) a cat on drugs is actually a much nicer cat to have around and (2) if I think a creature is actually near starvation I will buy pretty much anything.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Signs of Spring

     We had some bitterly cold weather in early January,  but something that I've always loved about the DC area is that warm-ish days pop up in the middle of winter, breaking up the monotony of cold. Last weekend we were up to 16C, which felt positively balmy. I worked in the garden, cleaning up old plants from the beds, and biked to work without a jacket.
     There are about six weeks in mid-winter when biking is hard because it gets dark so early that I wouldn't be able to put a full day's work in before needing to go home. Better lights would help, but the truth is that lots of the forest trails are pretty deserted this time of year and I don't feel safe biking in the dark. As a result, I carefully pay attention to the changing amount of daylight. We are only five weeks past solstice but there's already plenty of light for biking, so I can make that my regular commuting method again. I have to skip it when there's ice on the roads, but that only happens a few times a month.
     And while summer seems far away, my gardening spreadsheet tells me that I can start planting things in two weeks - as long as the planting takes place under my grow light in the basement. Still, once it's time to play around with the potting soil and urge the little seedlings to grow, winter seems like it's almost at an end.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

King Cake

     A few weeks ago I had an irresistible desire to eat King Cake. As I don't celebrate many Christian holidays, I found convinced my friends N&S that I should make a cake that I could share with their family. Luckily, this was an easy sell, and everyone loved it. In researching recipes, I learned a lot. This cake is eaten any time between Epiphany and Lent and it can be a plain brioche or filled. Receiving the piece with the Baby Jesus usually means that you are "king" for the day, or that you have to bring the cake next year.
     I chose to make a braided brioche version, with a cinnamon-nut filling in the middle of each strand. It was insanely sweet (not a problem for the under-ten crowd, of course) but delicious. I have been eating it all week. A co-worker did hint that if I was going to bring such nice breakfasts to our meetings perhaps I need to bring enough for everyone...

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Canada, Part 2

     It snowed something fierce during the first day of my trip. My flight was only delayed a few hours, but then it took five hours to cover what Google had promised would be a three-hour drive. I was ever so grateful that I learned to drive in Ohio and wasn't scared of thickly swirling snow and not-quite-plowed roads. Furthermore, Canadians are more seasoned winter drivers than DC denizens, so I didn't fear for my life in the intersections.
     The next morning, nothing had been plowed. My little rental car would certainly not have managed the streets, so I hiked to the meeting, having wrapped my shoes in garbage bags. (I hadn't packed any boots, of course.) I felt like quite the intrepid winter business traveler.
     Alas, Sunday saw my not-quite-so-intrepid side. After a very nice breakfast at my BnB, I packed up the car and started it up so that it could warm up while I de-iced and de-snowed it. After ten minutes' work I realized that I had a clean, warm car that I had unfortunately locked my keys into. This was the only point in the trip where I came near tears. I had no phone, no ID, no recollection of which rental company owned the car, and no clear idea of how to break into a rental car. In the end, it all worked out. The BnB owner had an account with the Canadian Auto Association. I had to wait about 30 minutes for them to arrive, and then it took them about four minutes to free my car. It is astounding how easy one can break into a car with the right tools (See: air wedge). I will be suggesting to my boss that I earned hazard pay.
     In the end, the trip went fine. This particular conference requires extra attention, so it's important that I attended. I got to use the metric system (I *love* it) and eat Tim Horton's (the Dunkin' Donuts of Canada). I also drank about a gallon of tea, because tea in the UK, Canada, and Australia is always better than US tea (and I really wish I could figure out how to replicate it.) On the other hand, I lived on cheese sandwiches and pizza - undergraduates did the catering - and interacted with people fourteen hours a day. In response, I will spend my vacation day tomorrow sleeping, eating vegetables, and hopefully not talking to another living soul.