Monday, January 27, 2014


     I had dental surgery on Friday. This was something I had been avoiding for years, even though I didn't know all the details. Every dentist I would visit would simply say, "You should probably see a periodontist." And, of course, when I saw a periodontist, he told me I needed surgery. It didn't involve general anesthesia, but it did use lasers and many, many shots of Novocaine.
     On one hand, I'm grateful for this. I recently learned that my grandmother had dentures for a large part of her adult life, and that's a fate I'd like to avoid. Having teeth is a great convenience, and I'd like to keep them.
     On the other hand (and here I'll just admit that I'm complaining), I didn't know what I was getting into. The actual surgery was quite unpleasant -  I discovered that laughing gas, contrary to its name, makes me cry and shake. I'm eating soft foods for the next two weeks, so I guess this will take care of all that extra applesauce I have in the freezer.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


In the most recent episode of "Styling Home Repairs", our brave heroine learned how to insulate an attic. My friends N and S, who are teaching me home repair, had decided to insulate the ceiling of a bedroom. This room had been added on late in the house's history.  N and S were pretty sure that no insulation had been used, since the room was always colder than the rest of the house.

The first step was to gain access to the attic, which we did by sawing out a chunk of the drywall ceiling. I thought this was great fun - it's kind of amazing to me that when you're a homeowner you can cut a hole whenever you want. It's like doing amateur surgery on your house.

My friend N is not quite twice my size, so when we saw the attic, I volunteered to lay the insulation. At its tallest point, the attic was so small that I couldn't sit up in it. So I spent an hour lying face down on boards, scooting over the joists and trying not to break hole through the ceiling.

Luckily, I am not claustrophobic, and there did not appear to be many bugs in the attic. We laid blankets of the insulation, and just a few hours after we were done, you could already notice a difference in the temperature of the room below.

I can't wait to see what repair they schedule for next month's adventure.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Happy creatures

While I'm busy working at a conference, here are some animal pictures to amuse you. My in-laws bought both pets Christmas gifts. Ada immediately started chewing her elk antler, and Phi loved her ball of yarn. We couldn't manage to get a picture of Phi playing with the yarn, though, because taking pictures of an all-black creature darting across the floor is a technical challenge beyond me. If you look carefully, you will note the festive bows my niece K bestows upon the animals every Christmas day.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Sartorial choices

Around New Year's I packed up the black clothes. In response, a friend asked me if this meant I was feeling different. I'm not really sure of the answer to that. In one way, I do feel different. I felt like the black clothes helped signal to people that I was fragile and not ready to engage in regular-world activities, and now I feel more capable of doing that. It doesn't mean, though, that I'm done grieving or that I'm suddenly much happier. I do have days when I am not enormously sad, for which I am most grateful. On the other hand, I still feel sad almost every single day, and that is not my regular temperament.

On a more practical note, packing away all those black clothes meant I had to find other clothes. Since I've been living in Miami for the past three winters, I suddenly realized that I only owned one non-black, long-sleeved shirt, which did not seem an optimum situation for a work wardrobe. (It's probably not optimum for any wardrobe.) This prompted many rounds of thrift-store shopping, but I've finally got enough clothes.

Because I like the simplicity of my all black wardrobe, my friend M and I decided to try the 333 project, in which you chose 33 pieces of clothing to wear for 3 months. You pack up everything else, and in 3 months you can rotate in other things to adjust for the season. There are rules about what counts (a pair of shoes is one item, socks and underthings don't count), but following the rules to the letter doesn't seem like the critical part. Instead, I like the idea of wearing all the things in my closet, knowing that they fit and are flattering. In addition, there's room in my closet, I can get dressed quickly in the morning, and I actually spend less time thinking about my clothes than I did before. M and I haven't precisely hit 33, but we've both streamlined our closets to about 7-9 outfits, plus shoes and coats, which is pretty amazing to me.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Last of the 2013 Garden

Last night I picked the last of the garden produce, because I wasn't sure that it would survive the really cold weather coming our way. I'm quite excited about the carrots, because they're the first I've ever grown and they actually look like carrots. (Sometimes homegrown carrots have really funny shapes, if they're not grown in deep, loose soil.)

It is cold, here, like everywhere else in the U.S. I was quite proud of myself that I walked to work and wasn't tempted to drive in. But I shouldn't be too proud - I have an aunt in rural Minnesota who doesn't own a car. You never hear her bragging about how she managed to get to work on her own two feet, because it's what she does every day.

Saturday, January 04, 2014


There is a particular noodle shop in Cleveland that makes a coconut ginger soup that I adore. When I was going to college in Cleveland, I would often walk the 15 blocks each way just to buy this soup. Yesterday, I was sitting at home, enjoying the snow day off of work, and thinking about this soup. Even after I moved away to DC, I'd go get some when I was visiting my parents in Ohio. But now they live 50 miles from the shop, and I realized that I would probably never get to eat it again if I didn't learn how to make it myself. With a trip to the Asian market and some Internet research, I made a fairly good approximation today of this coconut ginger soup. Like my favorite noodle shop, I used tofu and raw, thinly sliced vegetables in place of the chicken and canned mushrooms. I'm not quite sure what the best vegetarian substitution for fish paste is; I suspect that there is nothing equivalent, but I used a vegetarian oyster sauce (good old H Mart to the rescue) that added a lot of umami. Except for the fact that I can't find the smoked tofu of the original recipe, it was excellent and I will be happily eating it for the next week.

In other noodle news, I am trying to perfect my sweet potato gnocchi recipe, with mixed success. I made several pounds again this afternoon, and will report back if I ever achieve consistently delightful, non-mushy, gnocchi.

I had heard that the holiday season could be difficult during grief, and it was. In comparison to October, the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas was rough. It was wonderful to see my family, but I am glad that Christmas is over. When I worked extra hours during December, then took vacation time to visit my parents and brother's family, it reminded me how careful I am right now. I can do everything that needs to be done - work, buying groceries, making meals, and walking the dog - but only if I'm always careful to eat and sleep precisely when I need to. I am hopeful that that coming months will be better.