Archive for August, 2008

End of summer

30 August 2008

Well, I must be back in school because once again I have no time.

I spent several exhausting days at school this week preparing for the school year to begin, sitting in meetings, working on my school website (where students can get their assignments and stuff), putting up posters, and taking the sequel to the stupid online professional development course we all took last year.

In the evenings I mostly didn’t accomplish anything, except for Tuesday when I put together my new lateral file cabinet, which looks better than my old filing cabinet, holds a little more than the old one, and also lets me see ALL the files (I was having difficulty with the ones in the back of the drawer on my old one.)  Oh, and Monday evening I worked on the sequel to the really great online physics graduate course I took in the spring.  This one is on Electric and Magnetic Interactions, and also involves the computer programming that I learned in the spring.

Then on Friday the refrigerator died.

Our new one is being delivered tomorrow morning, since we got to Sears too late on Saturday to get next-day delivery.  It is Energy-Star rated, and supposedly will cost only $54/year to run, but that won’t be true because we pay extra for electricity generated by the wind (I signed us up a few months ago–we already had some of our electricity from wind but now we are buying all wind energy.)  But it will use less electricity than our old ugly refrigerator and will match the rest of our kitchen appliances (we have also replaced the stove and the dishwasher since buying this house, choosing white for both).

I am still working on the guest room project, having stalled dramatically while trying to prevent summer from ending.  But the walls are washed and spackled, and partially sanded.  So here’s what’s next: finish sanding, use the tackcloth to remove all the dust, put blue tape where it needs to be, paint the ceiling, let dry, paint second coat, let dry, change up the blue tape, prime the walls, let dry, paint the walls, let dry, decided if it needs a second coat, do that if necessary.

That sounds like a lot!  And it doesn’t even get to the floor!

Someday soon I will take photos of my new glasses–both regular and reading.  Then you can see how cool they are.  In the meantime, this small spate of news will have to hold you, because I will be writing a lot less now (not that I am ever really prolific).

Enjoy the end of summer!

Adirondack week report

23 August 2008

I’ve been trying all week to figure out how to put my Adirondack vacation into a blog post.  I figured I better just go and do it before it completely fades from memory.

My cousin has a “camp” in the Adirondacks that I’ve been going to most summers for all of my life.  An Adirondack “camp” is a summer cottage, not a campground where large groups of people go.  Though the way my cousin runs things, it might as well be the latter.  We never had fewer than eight for dinner, for example, and several times we had to have two tables.  We had people sleeping in three buildings, pre-programmed activities, and a cooking schedule. There is also daily laundry service, courtesy of my cousin, who does at least two loads of laundry per day.

My preferred way of starting an Adirondack camp day is a quick breakfast, a walk of a couple miles, and a swim in the lake.  Unfortunately, I only managed this once the whole week.  It was a rainy, cool week, and I was the cook for two breakfasts.  At the very end of the week I at least managed a second walk, but the weather was forbidding and I didn’t feel inspired to jump in the lake.  Happily, it cleared up that afternoon and I did go swimming then!

The two breakfasts I cooked were popovers, a tradition at camp.  My great-aunt cooked these as her specialty when I was a kid and she and her husband were both still alive, and popovers are part of what makes camp special.  I am happy to make them, and everybody else is happy to let me!

Swimming in the lake is another tradition, one my mother studiously ignores.  The lake is the Great Sacandaga Lake, a man-made reservoir for the Hudson River.    Usually in August the water is low due to nightly discharges into the Hudson, but this year the water was very high.  While usually a rocky stretch of sand separates the grassy bank from the water, this August there was no sand to be seen.  Just a narrow band of rocks.

The water was “refreshing” which is to say rather cold.  I don’t know the exact temperature, but I did manage to go in the Sacandaga twice, and Jenny Lake (where we visited friends) once.  The best time is first thing in the morning, but my afternoon swim with my little second-cousin-once-removed (a lively 5-year-old) was delightful.  She showed me how she could dog-paddle and “swim underwater” and hold her breath, and we chased each other around (I swam slowly, she kicked to propel herself in a pink inflatable ring).  Fun!

One morning most of the week’s residents were off doing various things that my husband and I and one of my cousins were disinclined to participate in.  That left the three of us with the 5-year-old and the dog (the dog was another invited guest who didn’t belong to anyone who spent the week at camp).  One of our activities was making a horse mask.

The main pre-programmed activity was a tour of local tannery sites from the late 19th century, when for about 20 years the Adirondacks were a center of the industry.  The sites consisted of stone foundations, bits of broken window glass, rusted barrel hoops, and at one site actual old piles of scrap leather.  While the sites themselves were very similar, the nice bit was the fact that we got to tromp around in the damp woods, where I took photos of mushrooms and trees and flowers and a stream.  I also got a couple of photos of my relatives.  We had “adventures” along the way, running into road re-construction on the way there and getting directionally confused when finding our way home by a different route.

Because of the weather, there was a lot of sitting around the cabin during the week.  I read a book, worked on crosswords, did sudokus (I’ve become addicted), played a game of scrabble, played cribbage, and watched some TV.  One major change in the camp has been the introduction of modern telecommunications.  My generation of cousins has introduced HD TV and 500-channel digital cable to camp, and there is internet access!  While I tried to stay offline, I did have to answer some e-mails about the online graduate course I am taking this fall and carpool arrangements for the day after our return home, and I showed my parents my facebook page.

All in all, it was a lovely time, thank you cousins!  I came home mostly relaxed and ready to get things done, and while I haven’t managed to accomplish everything I’ve wanted to since I got home, I have managed to do significantly more than lie about on the sofa!  I might post on some of that later.


22 August 2008

Buzz has gingivitis!  I took him to the vet for his 3-year rabies shot and a general check-up, and he has bright red gums next to his teeth.  I never look in his mouth (he really doesn’t like me doing that) so I hadn’t noticed at all!

The vet prescribed a liquid antibiotic, which we have to squirt into his mouth twice a day, a two-person job that will become more interesting once I am back at work starting Monday.  More interesting because I usually leave the house in the morning before my husband is out of bed.  Since the first week is all in-service, I don’t need to be as early as I like to be once classes begin, so I will leave a little later and we’ll get the morning dose down Buzz somehow.  I hope he doesn’t start to hide every morning when he sees us coming!  It is very hard to get him out from under the bed, for example.

I really don’t want to start brushing Buzz’s teeth.

Probably Deadly

18 August 2008

We came home from our trip to find a lonely cat, a lot of weeds in the garden, and some giant white mushrooms among the marigolds.

I pulled them all out and took some photos, and I poked about online to see if I could find out if I could of eaten them if I hadn’t put them all in the garbage.  Most sources say that if the gills are pale or white, don’t eat it!  Also, these don’t look like any photos of edible mushrooms I could find.  So I’m glad I followed the mushroom rule: if in doubt, DON’T EAT IT!

Here is another photo of a bunch of them next to my foot (size 6.5 wide) for scale.  Can anyone identify these?  I’d like to pin a name to them, if possible.

UPDATE: I found mycologist Tom Volk of the University of Wisconsin – LaCrosse online and sent him the link to these photos.  He thinks they are Chlorophyllum molybdites, which are definitely poisonous but generally not deadly.  See also this site.

Away for a week

9 August 2008

FreshCSACorn, originally uploaded by TeaWithBuzz.

I’m off for a family vacation in the Adirondacks. I won’t be blogging from there. However, I thought I would leave you with a photo of the beautiful corn we got on Thursday from our CSA. The first couple of weeks that we had this organic corn, the ears were wormy or otherwise “organic-looking”. However, this batch was just amazingly perfect. We ate four ears immediately, and I cooked and froze the rest. I now have a quart of fresh corn in the freezer.


7 August 2008

A rambling post that gives me an excuse to post some photos of quilts.

OK, see, there were these old quilt tops that my mom’s mom had lying around her house in Florida, and nobody really knew who had made them.  Maybe they used to belong to an aunt, maybe not.  But they were just the pieced tops, and Grammy Wilma was sure they were worth something.  She convinced my dad’s mom to try finishing them: adding the batting and a backing fabric, quilting the layers, binding the edge.  She did this with one of them and gave it to me.  That will be the piece I am “designing” the new guest room around this summer.  Here she’s binding it, and in the next photo she and I are posing next to the finished quilt:

It’s a pretty nice quilt, though my grandma says she never said as many bad words while making a quilt as she did with this one.  She dealt with lumpy seams, an uneven pattern (i.e. this quilt top was not made by an expert), and old fabric.  I’m going to hang it in the finished guest room by putting a muslin “sleeve” on the back at the top and putting a pole through the sleeve.  The walls in the guest room will be painted a pale green.  You can’t tell from the photo, but the green triangles in the baskets and the green binding fabric each have pale green bits in them.  There is a dark green carpet remnant currently stored in the basement that will also find a place in this room.  I bought a duvet cover and pillowcases from IKEA last summer that have similar colors to the quilt, and that will actually go on the bed.  Why not put the quilt on the bed?  Buzz likes sleeping on the bed, that’s why!

Incidentally, my grandma in these photos, my Native American grandma, is a prize-winning quilter.  She has made dozens of quilts, by herself and with groups of people, and all of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren have one of her quilts.  My “original” quilt is a twin-size, with wide pale yellow sashing (my favorite color) and appliqué purple and lavender pansies on a white background for the blocks.  I don’t have a photo to insert, and that quilt stays on “my” bed in my parents’ house.

So, my mom sent me a photo this week of a second one of the old quilt tops that my grandma had finished.  She wanted to know if I wanted it, or if I knew anyone who would be willing to buy it.  If so, she would bring it to the Adriondacks next week where we are meeting for a mutual vacation.

The second quilt is only two colors: red and white.  It would be very striking on a bed, if you had decor it would complement.  Here it is:

So the thing is, we don’t want it.  It doesn’t go with anything we own, really.  We already have another quilt that we love, and which we don’t have a good place for at this time: our wedding quilt.  In our community of friends, people make quilts as a group and give them to couples when they get married (or as soon thereafter as can be managed by the group of quilters).  Friends of the couple make different squares somehow relating to the couple, and they are all put together in one quilt.  Here is ours:

This quilt actually has a title: Double Word Score, and is obviously based on Scrabble®, one of our favorite games.  Some of the squares include West Virginia, tofu and edamame, piano keys, beer Greg likes, a viola, a garlic bulb, and Buzz!  Unfortunately, I am afraid to put this quilt on our bed because we have skylights in the bedroom (plus Buzz sleeps on our bed too), and I don’t want the quilt to fade.  Also unfortunately, our house has low ceilings, and there is no place where we can hang the quilt on a wall without it dragging on the floor.  We’ve reached a compromise in which we fold the quilt and lay it across the back of a loveseat, and every so often (or not so often) I re-fold it so a different set of squares is showing.  Maybe someday we will have a house with high ceilings, and then we can display our quilt properly!

Here’s a wedding quilt I helped make for a wedding celebrated last summer:

This was for Kristen and Eirik’s wedding.  It is a hanging quilt, not a bed quilt, and had to fit in someone’s luggage for a trip to Norway!  The square I contributed is the one with cod and herring, two of Norway’s principal fishing exports.  Unfortunately, I don’t have pictures of any other wedding quilts I’ve been a part of.  Sometimes I think I might like to make a quilt all on my own.  Usually, I get disabused of this notion pretty quickly.  The time, the patience, the tiny little stitches with the sharp needle…  right.

Anyway, if you want the red-and-white stripey quilt, e-mail me ASAP and I can tell you how much my mom wants for it.  I have to know before Saturday morning.


5 August 2008

I used to hate yogurt.

Most yogurt tastes like sour milk to me, which I find repellent.  I have tried many varieties, and found that they’re pretty much all terrible-tasting to my palate.

Until last month, when I tried Fage greek yogurt.  With honey, over granola or fruit with honey, in a cucumber salad, I finally like yogurt!  Here is my breakfast of the other day, before mixing it up:  granola, Fage yogurt, organic local honey.  Yum!  So if you think you don’t like yogurt, try this.  Once, anyway.  You can get it in small containers, with honey included.

I still don’t like raw tomatoes, though.  Or olives, or wasabi.

Curtains, DIY

5 August 2008

I spent last weekend sewing.  My sewing machine hasn’t seen this much use since the summer the National Constitution Center opened.  That year my dance group was performing as part of the opening festivities around July 4 and we needed to be in authentic colonial garb.  You can see another of our historical-interpretation performances here and here.  In a hurry, I made my own colonial-style ladies’ jacket (I already had a shift, skirt, and apron, but I’d been wearing them with a more modern lace-up vest with grommets—uncool for colonial re-enacting).  I’m wearing the colonial jacket in the second video linked above ,but I’m not in the first video.

Now my pins…they have NEVER seen so much use.  I spent way more time pinning than I did sewing, and I used a LOT of pins!

Anyway, the weekend’s first projects were hemming pants so I won’t step on and consequently wear out the ends of the legs, and hemming my colonial skirt so (a) I don’t trip on it in performances and (b) I don’t have to roll the waist into a big lump around my middle.  Perhaps you who haven’t met me are now figuring out that I am short.  Yep!  And while I know I won’t be one of the cool kids now that I won’t wear out the end of my pants legs, that is OK seeing as I am not a kid, and I am a science nerd, so I am not expected to look cool.  Professional, that’s the word the school administration and the union both use when talking about how teachers dress.  We don’t have to wear ties, but we have to look professional!

The much bigger (and more time-consuming) project was the curtains of the title above, which I started making a little under a year ago for my office.  I went curtain-shopping, and the curtains you can buy in Bed Bath and Beyond are generally ugly or in unsuitable colors to go in a yellow-painted room, and the ones you can buy at Target generally have only low odd numbers of curtains available.  You can buy one, or three, but not four (the right amount for two windows).  At least, this is true of the curtains available in the store.  Online, there may be more options, but you have to buy them without touching them or seeing the colors in person.  With two stores struck out, I didn’t have the enthusiasm to continue my search at K-Mart or WalMart.

So, my only option was to go the do-it-yourself route.  I measured my windows (happily, both are the same size even if they are at different heights), bought café rods and put them up, and planned my project.   I needed to allow a one-inch space for the curtain rod, I wanted some extra fabric at the top, I wanted the hems just above the stool (the part most people call the sill, but which our buyer’s agent explained to us isn’t when he was helping us buy our house), and I wanted the curtains to look full even when all the way closed.  I also wanted  reasonable light-blockage, just in case.

I chose two fabrics and bought enough of each for two curtains, so I could make them striped.  I bought enough of the lightest muslin I could find to make four curtains.  That would be the liner that would help block more light, or that I could close separately for privacy while still letting some light in.  First, I cut the front fabrics to the appropriate lengths, and sewed them together in four-stripe panels.  I decided which end was the top end and made sure I had two sets with the greenish fabric in the center of the window, and the blue and white print on the outside edges.

Then I waited about 10 or 11 months before doing anything more.  The panels were flung over the rods in the meantime, looking unfinished and tacky.

The next step was to attach the liner at the top (leaving it unattached at the bottom).  This would enable me to hang both the curtain and liner as one piece, but they would still hand as separate pieces.  I had a very long piece of muslin, so I attached the front panels one at a time onto ironed segments of my liner, cut it at the appropriate length, and then pinned the next one on.  I folded back and pinned the edges, for finishing in the next step.  Then, an easy straight seam on each.  Heck, all the seams in this project were easy, straight seams.  Yay!

Next, finishing the edges.  the liners got wide edge-hems, and the curtains got narrow ones.

Here is the double line of stitching to create the tube to stick the curtain rod through:

And then, hemming the curtain fronts with a 1.5-inch hem, and the liners with a 2-inch hem, so they wouldn’t show under the fronts.

Installation involved sticking the large end of the rod through both curtains, before inserting the smaller end into the larger end, putting up the rod, and re-distributing the fabric.

Extra muslin and some binder clips are acting as curtain ties until I decide curtain ties are a project worth working on!