Tuesday, July 30, 2013


If you know me in person, then you've probably heard the news. Last Thursday, my husband suddenly died from a pre-existing condition. This was utterly unexpected, and of course has been devastating. I am grateful that my friends and family have surrounded me. His family will arrive this week, and the funeral will be held on Sunday.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Ready for fall

When I was an exchange student in Germany, my host mother taught me how to knit. There are only two basic stitches in knitting, and after that it's all about the ways you combine them.  In the years after Germany, I managed a few scarves and one sweater. But when I moved to Miami, I put away my knitting needles, because I couldn't imagine wanting to wear anything knitted in the subtropics. Once we moved back to Maryland, we experienced just enough cool weather to remind me that I don't own slippers any more. Amazon's cheapest pair was $12, which I thought was a bit steep. I couldn't find my old needles, so I bought a set of knitting needles for the same price as the slippers, and some yarn at a thrift shop. In just a couple of weeks, I had slippers. The only thing left to do is to apply some rubber paint on the soles so that there will be a bit more friction between the yarn and the floor.
On the website where I found this pattern, the knitter had posted a picture of a dozen different slippers. I think I know why she knitted so many - it's addictive to spend ten or hours an a project and have a complete item of clothing at the end of it. And now that I have needles, I need to find even more things to knit.

Friday, July 19, 2013


     My time in the City of Roses is nearly done. It's been a very good trip, work-wise, but there's no denying that nine days is a long time to be away from home. I've always liked Portland. It's accessible-  you can walk across most of the downtown in about a half an hour. It's vegetarian-friendly and full of food trucks with really excellent food. I even ate some Georgian (the country, not the state) food, which was interesting and just foreign enough that I couldn't decide if I liked it or not. I also can't decide if I'd like living here. The summers are beautiful - boy am I glad I missed a week of 90F+ weather in DC- and the political tone is decidedly liberal. There are lots of public spaces with fountains you can play in and live music. However, everyone seems to be very, very hip. As I am not a hip person, I feel just a bit out of step.
     In between many meetings, I squeezed in some sightseeing. The city has a huge public rose garden, where I discovered that roses can smell like peaches, or like lemon pledge, or even, well, roses.
     The Portland hipster vibe results in a high density of vintage stores, which I happily visited. I bought a new hat, which was perfect for a trip to the park.

     The most peaceful part of the week was a trip to the Japanese Garden. I hadn't intended to go, but a co-worker wanted to see it. I turned out to be exquisite - huge redwood trees, carefully placed waterfalls and paths, and raked rock gardens. In the distance, we could see Mount Hood. I suspect that this photo will just look like a great wall of green; I guess you'll have to trust me that it was a perfectly proportioned view.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Gone for a while

I'm in Portland, Oregon right now, at the start of a nine-day business trip. Posts will probably be rare. In the meantime, my husband's sister had a birthday recently, and he made her this awesome photo card. Bonus points if you can find the cat.

Monday, July 08, 2013

A very American Fourth

   During the previous Fourth of July weekend, my brother and his family were visiting. We tried our best to check off all the boxes in a typical DC summer weekend.
   First, we went to a picnic. There are no pictures of this, but I was particularly please that the hosts invited many vegetarians because that made the potluck extra delicious for me. I am now inspired to try making my own grilled paneer. I can also recommend taking mint limeade (no recipe required: mint, sugar, lime juice, water and ice) to a picnic in 90F-degree weather. I can guarantee that you will be the most popular attendee.
   Then we hit the beach. I miss the white sand of the Miami beaches, but these beaches made up for their lack of tropical-ness with their abundance of cute children to whom I am related.

   We splurged for day passes on the metro ($14 a person adds up pretty quickly). Metro trains pretty much count as an amusement park ride for the under-8 crowd, so this was worth it.

    We stopped for pictures outside the White House. There are always a million protests taking place near the White House. Some are for well known-causes (for/against abortion, Egypt) and other protesters just seem to be there for the long term with more general goals, like peace. In any case, it always provides me with a strong sense of place to be surrounded by all these politically-active people.
   We ended by going to the zoo. A word to the wise - if you think the weather is too hot to go to the zoo, it is. Not only were we miserable, the animals were all hiding in cool, shady places. So we braved the heat and humidity to look at a lot of rocks. Said my brother: "If you just pretend it's an arboretum, it's a nice place to be."

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Independence Day

Tomorrow is the Fourth of July, and my husband and I will be celebrating our independence, along with the nation. For the first time in (eep!) nineteen years, I am debt free. Between us, we have two Bachelor's, one Master's, and two Ph.D.'s degrees. We also had a bunch of student loans.* As of yesterday, we have paid off the very last one. Now, back to your regularly scheduled picnics and fireworks.

*Public Service Announcement: PhDs in the hard sciences do not cost money, they pay you money. You do lose potential earnings while you study, but in the US, the norm is that science graduate students receive tuition benefits, health insurance, and a modest salary. If your child is considering graduate school in art history vs. chemistry, tell her this! I did not know this vital piece of information when making a career choice, and I was lucky I didn't choose history.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013


As a childfree person, I don't have pictures of cute kids to post on my blog. So I hope this picture of a cute mushroom will suffice. When I saw this mushroom, on my way to work, I finally understood that the cartoon drawings of Smurf houses are based on real mushrooms.

I think all this gardening has me paying a lot more attention to nature than I did in the past...

Monday, July 01, 2013


It's been a week of culture here at the Styling homestead. During the summer, a nearby historic house hosts weekly free jazz concerts, so Andrew and I walked over and attended one. It was raining when they started, so they moved the concert inside, providing us with a peek at the interior of the house. The Riversdale Mansion was built by the Belgian and British founders of the tiny town in which we now live. It was lovely to sit in an old drawing room, listening to live music, and to imagine sitting in that same room 200 years ago listening to live music.

My parents visited us over the weekend, and my father is the kind of guy who can't pack enough into a weekend. So I soaked in even more culture. We saw a play, then attended the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. This annual festival features one country and two topics of cultural interest. This year we learned about Hungary, endangered languages of the world, and African American fashion and dress. I must admit that I actually skipped Hungary, because I was entranced by a lecture on African-American church hats. I wear hats, but I couldn't wear any of the hats they showcased; small women in big hats tend to look like mushrooms, I'm afraid. I also really loved the performances on endangered languages, because they were almost universally about cultures I've never heard of. It was pretty amazing to hear poetry written in a language I had never heard, translated into Spanish, and then translated into English. I think perhaps the literature student in me is lurking under the scientist suit I wear every day.