Tuesday, April 28, 2015


     I don't really take many pictures when I'm on my own; during the my recent nine-day trip to Germany, I think I took about 25, and most of those were of cake. Luckily, my mother is more of a photographer, and she documented their recent stay with me. This should give me good fodder for the next few blog posts.
     It's becoming a tradition that when my parents travel to Maryland, we arrange a trip to Costco for the neighbors and me. I'm way in the back, behind two of my neighbors, and another friend is already up front bagging our haul. It's a chance for me to stock up on good olive oil and cheese, and since we all go together, we can split some of the larger packages, because one person doesn't need four pounds of grapes.

     We fit in a trip to one of my favorite gardens. It's my favorite because (1) it's nearby and (2) it's free. Formal gardens usually have a steep entrance fee (understandably, because it takes a ton of people-power to keep them up) but this one is part of the local park system. Here you can see a typical situation for my family - if I'm awake, my dad is asleep, and vice versa. Now that he's retired, he stays up working on projects all night long, and sometimes just comes to bed as my mother is getting up. I like to tease him a bit because I did the same thing during the summers in between high school and my dad gave me a bit of flak for it then.

     Of course, what trip would be complete without a visit to the even nearer vegetable garden, especially when you have free labor. I hope to have chamomile this year, grown from seeds from my parents-in-law and transplanted by my mother.

     As a final note, I'm happy to report that the weird pine-nut thing went away after about 5 days. From now on, I'm sticking to walnuts, almonds, and hazelnuts.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

This and that

     My brother and I got to have dinner together this week, because he was in town for some training. I had to drive from Baltimore, where I was working that day, to Dulles airport during rush hour. It took about two hours, but that was okay because I really like him. Also, I forgot how we share a similar sense of humor. I'm lucky to have him (although I didn't think that when I was thirteen).
     For the past few days, everything I eat has tasted bitter. I am definitely not enjoying my food. I googled it, and it turns out that I have "Pine nut syndrome ." I can hardly even believe this is a thing, but sometimes when people eat pine nuts, everything the eat for days (or weeks) afterwards tastes bitter. I did, in fact, eat some pesto with whole pine nuts and now I rue it every day. It's like the bitterness fairy comes by and waves her little wand over everything that I eat and drink. Even water tastes a little unpleasant. Count me a permanent enemy of pine nuts from this point forward.
     I have awesome neighbors. We were taking a walk together last night, when I passed huge bundles of cut bamboo. I need some bamboo stakes for my garden this year, and I'd love to not buy them. I already had the dog on a leash, so friends J and C carried them a half mile to home.

Thursday, April 09, 2015


     The train tracks that run in front of my house are used by both freight and passenger trains. It's a disappointment to me that I have never yet traveled on one of the passenger trains. It's a commuter line between DC and Baltimore, but it only runs weekdays (and only during commuting times). Since my workplace is a mile away, I have never contrived an excuse to take a ride into DC on the train.
     I have managed to learn a bit about trains, simply by watching. One highlight is when the circus train drives in. I've only seen it in the evening, but you can see all the individual living quarters, flat cars with trucks and cars, and even a bus used for local transportation. (Unfortunately, they also still use animals in the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, but I haven't see those.)
     This week I saw something new - a gravel train. I'm not sure what it's actually called, but it was a small train, traveling very slowly. There were cars full of gravel, and a huge conveyor belt lifting the gravel 20 feet above the tracks to another device which seemed to spread it next to the tracks. It was far louder than a regular train, what with all the pouring stone. Wikipedia explains that this gravel is called track ballast and what it does, but I can't find a picture of the type of train.
    I need to make friends with some train nerds so they can teach me more about this stuff.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015


     As I've mentioned before, I sit out on my front porch every mooring and drink my coffee. It's finally warmed up enough that the cat doesn't have to snuggle inside my coat while sitting on my lap.
     The house sparrows that nest in the porch eaves every year returned at least a month ago. Their chirping wakes me, and that's a nice kind of alarm clock. I think that mating season must have kicked up a notch recently, because today it's so loud that I feel like I'm sitting in an aviary and I'm starting to think about whether I need earplugs.
     I'm awfully glad that I don't own this house, because then I'd worry about all the damage that a dozen nesting pairs of birds can do to the eaves. As it is, I can just enjoy the sincere, somewhat raucous, sounds of nature.