Wednesday, November 20, 2013


     I have had many opportunities in the past few months to increase my self-efficacy. In case you don't know what self-efficacy is (and I didn't, until a colleague in Miami taught me about it), self-efficacy is your belief in your ability to do something. For example, I strongly believe that I can cook almost anything, but I don't believe that I can play sports or do computer programming. In science (and perhaps in other fields, although I don't know the research there), your science self-efficacy is connected to whether you'll be successful in science. And one way that you build your self-efficacy is by trying new activities and being successful at them.
     I lived on my own as an adult for many years before getting married, so I'm not too intimidated about taking over some of Andrew's tasks, like paying the bills. But one of the beauties of marriage, as far as I'm concerned, is the division of labor. You only have to be good at half as many things as when you were single. So I was good at cooking, cutting hair, purchasing clothes, and staying in touch with our families. Andrew was good at keeping the car running, training the dog, and cleaning the house. Now, all those jobs are mine as well. It is overwhelming to take on every task another person used to do, but each week I manage a few more of them.
    My most recent accomplishments were making cat food and roasting coffee beans. These tasks were Andrew's, and of course, the notes that he kept for these activities were cryptic, and written only for him. "10 minutes at mark 2" doesn't tell me much about how to roast. But with some careful googling, I am drinking good coffee and the cat is eating homemade pork food. And my self-efficacy for both of these task is increasing.
     And thanks to my Star Trek friends, S and N, I'm increasing my self-efficacy in the handyman realm. After our success with the toilet replacement, I came back last weekend and learned how to clean gutters. (I also learned that ladders oscillate a lot when you climb up to second-story gutters.) They are also building a chicken coop, which let me learn how to use a circular law and an electric drill. The hammer I already knew how to use, but it wouldn't hurt if I got a bit more efficient with that.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Social butterfly

Over the past few months, I've been working on making more friends. Luckily, I started from a good place, what with my friends from graduate school and a neighbor that shares the garden. I've realized that when I want to make friends in a new place, I use a rule I developed as an exchange student in Germany. The rule is: when invited, go. Of course I say no if I'm sick or to make sure I don't over schedule myself. But I don't allow myself to say no just because I'm not sure if the activity sounds like fun.

In Germany, that meant that I went to the equivalent of a Boy Scout cookout, and to movies I wouldn't have chosen. Here it means that I tried out a new (to me) cafe and will go bowling next week. And in the last few weeks, I've viewed Native American dolls, went on a tour of the National Building museum, and sang in a choir a few times.

Thank goodness no one has invited me to go to a football game.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Fall Wrapup

It feels like nearly the end of fall. As the temperatures have been dropping and the the leaves changed, I've reflected several times how happy I am that we moved to DC. Not only did this put me closer to my parents, but it meant that I've experienced my first fall in three years. It was hard to leave friends, and a job I loved, in Miami, but living in a tropical climate helped me realize how much I love four distinct seasons.

Inspired by my cousin, who picks and processes kilos of apples each year, I made applesauce and a few apple cakes. I love applesauce, but I do not love peeling apples. I think a food mill would separate out the peels in a cooked sauce, but I also don't own a food mill. So I tried a blender recipe: core the apples, puree them raw in the blender, then cook to desired consistency. In this fashion, I turned five pounds of apples into sauce in about 30 minutes. I don't mind the thicker, chewier sauce that results, but if you prefer a very fine, creamy applesauce, this recipe, with its tiny shreds of peel, is not for you.

I'm also working my way through the 25 pounds of green tomatoes that have been slowly ripening in my bedroom. Every few days I pick out a few rotten ones and half a dozen ripe ones. I don't think they'll all ripen, which is why I need to find some green tomato recipes. I can only eat so much fried food, so I tried a green tomato cake (verdict: delicious) and may need to make some green tomato pickles.