Monday, March 31, 2014

Even more bagels

I've been travelling a ton (and I'm not done yet) which means I've been depending on dog- and cat-sitters. I was at my parents' house this weekend, so I used my mother's superior oven to make a LOT of poppy seed bagels. If you're one of my dog sitters, that means you have a key to my house: come and get homemade bagels. Really - there's a bag in the big freezer with your name on it.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Weekend adventures

I'm in the middle of a lot of travel right now - last week it was Virginia and this week it's two separate trips to Ohio. I might have to depend on photos as blog fill for a while until I'm settled back home in a few weeks.

I wanted an excuse to make even more donuts, so I invited some friends over for brunch. Not pictured here: a friend who managed to eat four donuts, along with the eggs, fruit salad, focaccia, pickles, and spring vegetable medley comprising the rest of the meal. It's nice to cook for people who enjoy eating.

My friend N and I are engaged in a big woodworking project. In general we can only meet about once a month, so it may be June before we're done. The project will deserve its own post when done, but in the meantime, we're having a lot of fun. N is trying his best to teach me to measure twice (or three or four times) and cut once. It doesn't come naturally to me, because I'm a bit slapdash in my projects, but I'm learning. I motivated by both the desire for furniture and the high cost of wood - a single incorrect cut might cost me $20.

Sunday, March 16, 2014


     I love my pets and the company they provide me, but this week I would have gladly traded them to someone else. Ada the dog didn't like the thunderstorms in Miami, but she had a lot of opportunities to get used to them. During that time, we acquired her thundershirt, which wraps her tightly and makes her feel safer. We also learned that petting or giving her attention only reinforces her whining and barking. So when howling winds hit on Wednesday night, I knew to wrap her up, turn on a radio for background noise, and ignore her. But ignoring is still pretty miserable when the dog is whining and barking all night long.
     For her side, Phi has been throwing up occasionally. This is not terribly unusual for cats, and the vet said I don't need to bring her in yet. But yesterday she managed to throw up on my bed, dirtying the sheets, pillowcases, electric blanket, and duvet. This is quite impressive, considering that (a) the volume of her stomach can't be more than 1/2 cup and (b) I always make my bed, so she practically had to burrow under the covers to manage to hit all those things at once.
     Maybe this is why people garden - my plants cause relatively little emotional distress or mess. This year I'm growing seedlings. A friend loaned me her grow light and helped me with the setup. As you can see below, the asparagus and green peppers are thriving. Not pictured are the 18 tomato plants, watermelons, and herbs which are perched on my radiators. Raising the soil temperature makes seeds germinate faster. You can buy seedling heating pads for this process, but my radiators are working perfectly. After the plants emerge out of the soil, I transfer the pots to the grow light. Since Maryland has an earlier spring than the Midwest, I expect that these seedlings will go in the ground in early May, and I should be able to sow seeds for lettuce and other cold weather crops this weekend - right after the snow we're getting tomorrow melts.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Project days

     I haven't been posting on project days lately, but we've been busy. In fact, Saturday was a 12-hour project day, but you'll have to wait a few months for news on that. because we couldn't complete it in one go. In the meantime, here's a quick montage of finished projects.
     My friends S&N did 99% of the work on their chicken coop and attached yard, but I can still take pride in my 1% contribution. There are now chickens, about half-grown. They split their time between two homes - their warm-weather home of the coop, and their cold-weather home in the spare bedroom. Once they are grown they won't need central heating to survive.
     We laid more insulation. A repeat job is always faster, in spite of the surprises that always await you when you start repairs on an old home. This time I used my respirator, which seems like a good idea when you don't know whether there's lead in the paint. I'll only wear it when I have to because it's hard work inhaling and exhaling through those thick filters. It is fun, though, when you breathe like Darth Vader. 
 This attic had housed wasps in the past. After careful research, we determined that wasps had most likely vacated this two-foot structure. I accidentally verified this by hitting it repeatedly in my clumsy efforts to lay insulation in the very small space. Luckily, the wasps were indeed gone.
 I've come up with a classier way to feed my cat. I need to keep her food out of the dog's reach, and a while ago I realized that Ada could stretch to reach the bowl when it was four feet off the ground. (The difference between when the cat cleans the bowl and when the dog cleans the bowl is that the dog leaves absolutely no trace behind. In contrast, cats are more finicky.) As a stopgap measure, I constructed a makeshift barrier with laundry baskets and books, but this did not meet my normal style standards. This weekend, we sawed a hole in a cabinet I owned. I can open the cabinet door to easily top up the food.
 But once the door is closed, only the cat can fit through the hole on the side.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Dog walking

     When dog walking become my chore, I dreaded it a bit. I like having a dog - the tail-wagging, dancing happiness when I arrive home is enough to guarantee goodwill - but I didn't like giving up 45 minutes a day for walks. Now that I've done it a while, though, it's growing on me. One thing that helps is my walking companion. If I had a dog that avoided cold or rain, we'd probably walk less. But every time we go out  - every single day - she acts like being outside is the best thing that ever happened to her. She walks at a slow trot, wagging her tail, ears bobbing up and down. Even when I'm bundled up against cold, wet sleet, Ada will walk for as much time as I'll let her, with just an occasional shake to get rid of the snow that has accumulated on her.
     I also like that these walks get me outside. I've become more attuned to the birdsong in my neighborhood and the bulbs sending shoots through the snow. I meet more of my neighbors, when they're walking their kids to school or coming home from the train station. And because I've already walked a mile with the dog, no matter the weather, I almost always walk to work, regardless of the rain or cold. If I've already done one mile, what's one more?
     There's no big point to this, except to appreciate that something that was once onerous is not that way anymore.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

It's done!

     Two years ago, I asked Andrew to pick out a Christmas stocking kit. Most of my family members have homemade stockings, and I thought it was time he had one. After careful thought, he chose a counted cross-stitch pattern. I knew this project would take months (actually, years), but we ordered it and I started work later that year. To be fair to him, he did not understand how much work he was asking of me, and I figured it was worth it for a Christmas stocking he would use for the rest of his life.
     In the end, of course, he never got to use it. He did enjoy watching it take form, and rejoiced every time another cat was completed. I finished the pattern this morning. My mother well help me with the straightforward task of turning it into a stocking, and I have offered it to his sister. Andrew's parents are planning to come to the U.S. next summer, and I'm glad it will be ready for them to take back. I don't think I could trust something like this to the post.
     I thought finishing this would make me sad, but it turns out I'm happy. It's a beautiful piece of work, Andrew got to see its creation, I liked making it (most of the time), and his sister will be able to enjoy it. And now I can finally start a new project.