Wednesday, September 26, 2018


     Water is currently the bane of my existence. It has been raining far more than usual in DC. Along with fact that this makes biking less pleasant, camping damper, and the grass grow faster, it has flooded my basement. Usually, after a few days, everything dries up just fine, but this time the damp patches turned into small, shallow rivers, and my walls started molding. Mold is Bad News, of course, but the good news is that it's not black mold and probably isn't going to make us really ill. However, it still needed to be removed.
     On Sunday afternoon I returned from my camping trip (Summary:  beautiful canoeing on Saturday and lovely friends who sat with me under tarps in the rain the next day) and went down to the basement to deal with the mold. While I was down there formulating my plan, I realized the basement sink was flooding rather than draining. So I reprioritized and spent the next two days trying to clear the drains. And I was 95% successful. Taking apart the drain didn't work, so I had to cut into the vertical drain PVC pipe, install a Y connector for access, and snake the pipes. See that lovely degree Y and access cap? I installed it, and the drain, well, drains now. I must admit that there is a teeny tiny drip where I installed it, which is why I only give myself a 95%.
     While I was working on the pipes, I realized that my furnace was gurgling. Furnaces shouldn't really have anything, ever, to do with water, so this was more bad news. I have again reprioritized my home disaster list, and will try to solve the excess water from the A/C problem tonight. Hopefully I can start on the mold tomorrow. And if I'm lucky, it will finally stop raining by the weekend so I can put my damp tent out to air. Please send very dry thoughts my way.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Catching up

Last week I turned 43* and celebrated by having my most foodie friend, D, over to share a meal of as many wonderful foods as I could think of. We had artichokes and lasagna and pots de creme. I will definitely make the lasagna again, although it took a LOT of time, and that's quite a statement coming from someone who cooks as much as I did. I made the homemade noodles and sauce a few days before, and then assembled everything to bake it right before the meal. It was heavenly, and I'm sad that I'll be eating the very last piece tomorrow.

It has been raining for days. My basement is flooded; this happens regularly and I just need patience, a good box fan, and all my belongings elevated off the floor. I also suspect that my newly sown grass seed will have washed away. But at least until the rain stops I will have an excuse to avoid mowing the rest of the lawn.And while I am so grateful that summer is nearly over, I wasn't quite so appreciative when I had to change a tire in the cold rain and then go pick up a door (more bathroom construction supplies) on a trailer on Saturday. I just need to hang on and soon it will be sweaters and campfire weather, which is pretty much my favorite way to spend time in the fall.

*I mentioned this at my widow(er) group tonight and all the seventy- and eighty-year-olds called me a baby. Which is yet another reason why I like hanging out with them.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Built to last

A few weeks ago, my neighbor called me to let me know that the former owner of my house had died. I never actually met Bill, because he was moving into assisted living by the time his house was on the market, and his son handled the paperwork during the sale. But I think about him often as I work on my house, because his personality shines through in the work he did.

Like many people in my generation, I don't really build things to last. Sure, I've made furniture that I hope to own until I die, but when I repair a door or plant a bush, I unconsciously think I'm making something that will maybe make it ten or fifteen years. Bill, on the other hand, built things like he wanted them to be around in fifty years. And a lot of the time, they still are. I appreciate his handiwork when I admire my custom-made bathroom cabinet, or the scale drawings of every circuit in the house. 

It can be harder to appreciate this engineering when I'm the one destroying his work. I am ripping out some beds that line by back garden to reseed with grass. These beds were probably once beautiful, but time (and tall trees) mean that they are now shady and grow far more weeds that edible crops. But of course, when Bill installed these, he didn't just line them with a few bricks, like I would do. He drove down a half-dozen metal rebar stakes in the the ground to firmly anchor the wood frame borders. This weekend I spent hours digging up holes around the rebar. I don't think I'll actually be able to remove them; even with a two-foot hole they are firmly entrenched, and I can't guess how long they are. Next weekend I'm going to try to saw them off below the soil line. "Try" is the operative word here. I'm not entirely sure whether I, and my recriprocating saw, are up to the task. 

Monday, August 13, 2018

West Virginia

Last month I got fed up with all of my friends texting me great vacation photos and I booked a weekend trip at the first AirBnb that I could find which  (1) was within driving distance of DC and (2) accepted dogs so I didn't have to bother with a housesitter.

That turned out to be a cabin in West Virginia. Driving distance is relative, of course, in DC traffic - it still took me three hours to go 85 miles (about 130km). But once I arrived it was idyllic. I researched, but didn't plan anything, which meant I spent lots of time sitting around in the woods reading books and drinking coffee. I did manage to eat out a few times, but the best meal I had, I cooked myself using garden tomatoes and cheese my cousin AinA had brought from Europe.

I also thought carefully about whether I'd like to live in a place like this someday. When I retire, my current financial plan dictates that I can either stay in DC in my house while having a roommate,or move to a lower cost-of-living area and have my home to myself. I have sometimes considered that a college town in Pennsylvania, within driving distance of my parents, might bring the diversity and cultural aspects that would allow me to thrive in a small town. Spending the weekend in West Virginia added a few more qualifications: I don't want to have to drive everyday and I need to figure out exactly what I mean by diversity. I like my life now, where I'm in the car about twice a week. And I'm pretty sure that diversity means more than different skin colors: what I love is people with a variety of experiences, who haven't all lived in the same place their entire lives. I don't know if this wish list is even possible, but if I don't start creating it, I'll never know what to look for.

And finally, some hiking pictures.
 Ada abhors a bath, but loves swimming in ice-cold mountain streams.
The woods were very green for late summer, and exceptionally peaceful. I only saw four people in three hours, and luckily managed not to encounter any rattlesnakes (although I did see evidence of them).
Ada has no fear of heights, and walked right up to the edge of this cliff, which has a several-hundred foot drop. This is terrifying in a creature that is tied to you.

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Numbers I've been thinking about

That's the average number of miles I drive in a year, over the past four years. The average American drives about 13,000. I'm actually a bit proud of this - all that cycling is paying off.

The average number of books I've read per month in 2018. That's two per week! In the last year, my reading has really picked up since I've rediscovered ebooks (and the newly improved collection at my library). I still read a fair number of actual paper books, but the convenience of checking out books remotely combined with the ease of holding a book displayed on a phone has made a big difference. I regularly read while walking the dog, and even occasionally read while cooking. I was also surprised to find that for every two books I read, I start one and never finish it (these are not counted in the statistics). I would not have guessed that I was latter number, which means either that I am becoming more choosy or less willing to plow through things I dislike.

The answer to life, the universe, and everything, of course. Also, the number of dollars I'd need to pay each week to have my lawn mowed. This comes to mind, not infrequently, as I push my little electric mower through the tall grass in the overly humid DC summer heat. I suspect my neighbors think I'm a bit crazy. Some of them hire a mowing service, and the rest have big gas-powered mowers. And it is definitely a man's job - I've never seen another woman in my neighborhood mowing. Currently I am too frugal to hire someone, especially at those outlandish rates, even though this is far and away my most hated chore. But if I inherit millions of dollars from my unknown great aunt, a lawn service is the first thing I'll purchase.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018


My cousin AinA and her family visited last weekend, and it was delightful. I am at a disadvantage with young houseguests, as I have neither kids, nor toys, nor video games to entertain them. Luckily, I have my ace in the hole- extremely tolerant pets. During the first morning, her girls fell in love with the animals and covered my refrigerator with drawings and notes professing their love. The preschooler, N, decided she was in fact Molly the cat, and meowed her way through the next four days, although  her attempts to drink water out of a bowl on the floor were less than successful. Both Ada and Molly put up with a large number of pats and only rarely retreated to a corner of my bedroom to recover.

My cousin and I are surprisingly close for people who only see each other every three to four years. We make up for our lack of visit by reading and commenting on each other's blogs. I am fond of her in spite of her excessive love of cabbage and likewise, she tolerates my new-found love of The Archers. And we all like desserts: she made butterscotch ice cream to go with my chocolate cake, her husband R did all the dishes, and we all feasted. I'm looking forward to my visit to see them at the end of the year, although I worry her children will like me a lot less without my pets.

Sunday, July 15, 2018


Alas, my trusty three-speed bicycle's gear hub has been making ever-more-worrying noises, and it now sounds like a small airplane is following me when I pedal. They don't make parts for that bike anymore, so I needed a replacement.

Craigslist to the rescue. I was quite delighted that buying something used was even a possibility. Because of my size, I ride a kid's bike. There was only one bike for sale that was the right size in the entire DC metro area, but a two-hour roundtrip drive to Virginia and a bit of cash made it mine.

Then I spent all weekend doing bike DIY, resulting in this:
Anyone who had seen my old bike might recognize parts of it, because I basically took off anything that I liked from my old bike and put in on the new one. The old bike is truly destined for the scrap heap, as it now looks like this:

I am pretty darn proud for doing this all by myself. Sure, it took a lot of explanatory YouTube videos and hours in the hot sun, but I'm hopeful that it will all work. The new bike is German, as in "actually from Germany" because all the instructional labels are in German, and I can only guess that someone in DC's oh-so-transient population brought this over with them for their kid long ago.