Monday, May 25, 2015

By the numbers

Since last weekend was devoted to friends and traveling, I spent the holiday weekend catching up on things.

My weekend by the numbers:

30 miles cycled. That was 10 more than my goal.
20 pounds of strawberries, picked, hulled, and frozen. That's a bit less than last year's 35 pounds, but should probably last me until next spring
23 eggs collected from the chickens I was tending. Said eggs were turned into fresh pasta and deviled eggs.
5 items of clothing mended. I try to stay on top of mending. With the 333 Project I can't afford to have clothes out of the lineup.
6 episodes of A Brief History of Mathematics podcast from BBC 4 listened to. I just finished the 170-part History of Rome, which was awesomely educational and interesting. I'm looking for something to replace it. The History of Math is good, but it's only 10 quarter-hour episodes, so it's not going to last long.
2 servings of strawberry shortcake and 1 bowl of strawberry ice cream consumed. I have finally figured out that when you are a grownup and live alone, there's no one to tell you that you can't consider strawberry shortcake your lunch.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

On two wheels

     Since last fall, I've been trying to bicycle more. I've switched from walking to biking to work, which is actually a net loss in exercise, since biking is more efficient. I also use the bike for errands like doctors' appointments and the bank. Most of these things are within two miles, and the effort involved is primarily in choosing a doctor that will be within range. A long-term goal is to bicycle regularly to the grocery store, which is less than five miles away, although a large hill lies between my house and the store. My other goal is to take the dog on bike rides, using the trailer, to a nearby lake that is just out of walking range.
      To that end, I'm trying to build up my biking abilities. I know that I'm a pretty pitiful bicyclist; my brother is training to bike between LA and San Francisco, and he regularly bikes dozens of miles. So don't poke fun at me when I say that my goal this week is to bicycle 10 miles twice. I will be chicken-sitting for friends who live five miles away, and I need to go every day.  If I use the car half the time and the bicycle half the time, that will be a good. If I manage to not break the eggs I've gathered that day while riding back, I will consider it a complete success.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Physicists Camping

     Last weekend was the annual physicist camping trip. Take 8 physicists, add cabins, kids, a dog, and one lone artist/technology/entrepreneur spouse and put them in cabins in the Pennsylvania mountains for three or four days. It was a great success, where I define success as (1) no one was injured, (2) it only rained for part of one afternoon, and (3) no one got any ticks (so far as I know).

     One family brought an awesome straw/connector building set. 
Some of us snuck away for a hike. Many people didn't leave the cabin area, but even getting to the bathrooms was a quarter-mile hike, so you got plenty of exercise without effort.
The dog loved spending so much time outdoors. She also LOVED having the children around, because children drop a lot of food. The highlight of her weekend was a spilled bag of cheerios.
Like last year, we worked on crossword puzzles together. I accidentally picked an extremely difficult puzzle, with many puns. Even with most of the adults helping, it still took us four hours.
The campground is in a lovely area, surrounded by mountains and adjacent to a small lake.
The lake also had a beach. The beach was small, but had enough sand to keep an almost-four-year-old happy.

It was good to get away from technology (no cell phone signal or wifi) and great to see friends. Two families travel quite long distances to attend each year, and one family came in spite of having a one-year-old and a two-year-old. I feel lucky to call them all old friends.

Saturday, May 09, 2015


     Dear readers, I hope you are prepared for the annual parade of garden photos. I spend so much time there that I can't help posting on it often. I think I have more to show this year than most years in early May. A fair number of plants came up on their own - herbs from last year, garlic and tulips that I planted in the fall - but others are products of the the seed-growing factory I host in my bedroom.
     I just planted all the tomatoes. You can't really see them in this picture, but they live in the blue plastic-covered bed. The plastic is my attempt to protect them from blight, and it has mostly worked in the past. It's a bit early for tomato planting, but the soil is quite warm (according to the instant-read candy thermometer that I use for this purpose) and, more importantly, the plants were over a foot tall and desperately needed to get out of their tiny containers.
     I feel lucky to have discovered that I love gardening. Of course, two years before that I discovered that I loved Indian classical dance, and last year I discovered a love of woodworking. So maybe I should say that I am grateful to be interested in so many things, and to have the opportunity to learn how to do them.

Monday, May 04, 2015


     Since returning from my fact-finding trip to Germany, where I researched tortes, I've made two German tortes. Each time I underestimate how much time it will take. First, I always have to translate a bit. I can read the German, but then I have to answer questions like, "How many cherries are in a jar in Germany?" "How much gelatin is in a 'sheet'?" And then there are always a few substitutions that I have to investigate, since U.S. grocery stores don't usually carry things like potato starch or whipped cream stiffener.
     I also forget how BIG these things are. I need to promise myself to only make half-batches from now on. I took the first to a party, and shared the second with neighbors and friends, but it's still a lot of cake.
     Friesentorte mit Kirschen (Cherry torte from Frisia, a region on the North Sea). Each cake layer is topped with meringue and almonds, and the filling is cherries and cream.

Kirch-Joghurt-Torte. (Cherry yogurt torte).A chocolate cake, split in three, is layered with a yogurt/cream/cherry mixture. The base is a standard shortbread layer, which means the bottom of the cake never gets mushy. It's hard to tell in this picture, but the cake is very tall, maybe 6 inches, so that it towered above my springform pan.