Archive for the ‘daily life’ Category
… summer, that is. Hi there, summer is gone, it’s fall, and where did the last three months go anyway?
Work has been very busy. Stuff at home has been very busy. It feels like I haven’t really sat back and relaxed enough to appreciate the summer.
House and garden
The two big trees in our front yard really were hit hard by last year’s drought, so in June John decided to take down all of the dead branches in order to give them as good a chance at recovering as we could give them. “All of the dead branches” turned out to be a lot of branches indeed… both trees lost a significant portion of their canopies, and I am still getting used to the fact that the front yard is much less shaded then it used to be.
The garden did great…is still doing great. The tomatoes are almost done at this point, but I am not going to complain too much, given that we have been pulling 10-15 pounds of tomatoes a week out of the garden since mid-July. The green peppers, banana peppers, jalapeno peppers, and eggplants are still going strong, however. We will probably be getting peppers and eggplants for at least another month. The only thing that we really botched with this year’s garden was the plant spacing. It is really difficult to move around in the garden, as the plants have all grown all over each other.
For John’s birthday weekend (this year was the big 42) we went to Cedar Point for a couple of days. We had been talking idly about wanting to go to Cedar Point for a while, and decided that it was finally time to stop talking about going and actually go.
I can remember staying at the Breakers when my family went to Cedar Point for a vacation when I was little, and John and I stayed there when we went this summer. Being right in the park, it was really convenient, and the early admission for hotel guests was also nice.
Going when we did – right after the 4th of July holiday weekend – was a good call, because the park was not quite as crowded as it might otherwise have been. I think that the longest that we ever waited in a line was maybe 45 minutes, the first time that we went on the Millennium Force. Most of the time we were in line less than 10 minutes. It was great. It was also a touch rainy in the evenings… a couple of quick bursts of rain here and there, but not enough to get us to go back to the hotel. However, the rollercoasters (and a couple of other rides) don’t run when it is raining… they stop wile it is raining and once it stops, they run a test through to make sure that the tracks and brakes are safe, and then resume. So the bursts of rain were great for clearing out the crowds and eliminating the lines in the evenings.
We went on every ride at the park. (Seriously, we had a checklist.) Many of the rides, especially the rollercoasters, we went on multiple times. Okay, we went on all of the rides except the kiddy rides and that one ride that is basically just pretend driving a model-T car around a fixed track.
It was an awesome vacation. Something we should have done a long time ago. Now we need to go to King’s Island (down near Cincinnati) for comparison. And more rollercoasters.
It has been almost seven months since Merlin died, and almost five months since we adopted Vena.
You can tell when Vena is really enjoying being petted, because her eyes roll back a little bit, her nose starts to run, and she starts to drool. It is simultaneously adorable and kind of disgusting. She doesn’t purr very loudly, not like Merlin (Merlin’s purr was like an idling diesel engine) but she loves attention.
She is getting slowly cuddlier, and if I am lounging on the couch reading or watching TV she doesn’t need much encouragement to jump up into my lap. It does take her a little while to calm down and get settled once she is there, though. And god help you if you try to hold a book with one hand and pet her with the other. She doesn’t appreciate the divided attention, and has been known to bite at the book (or tablet or phone) in order to ensure that all attention is on her. Once she is settled, though, she doesn’t mind if you read while she naps on your lap.
She is still a bit wary and shy around John, and won’t stay on my lap if he enters the room of joins me on the couch. It will just take time.
It is edging into the hottest part of summer here, with a lot of high temperatures, blazing sun, and thick, heavy air. We have capitulated to the heat and humidity and turned on the A/C. Because of science (hot air rises!) the upstairs of the house has always been a good deal warmer than the downstairs despite the A/C. Up until recently, we tried to solve that problem by laying a box fan on its back in the front hall, blowing straight up the 2-story foyer/stairwell in an effort to keep the cooler air circulating.
It worked, but it didn’t look all that great to have the box fan in the middle of the front hall, plus it was a tripping hazard.
So we decided to replace the chandelier that hung in the front hall with a ceiling fan.
We had to rent some scaffolding from Home Depot for the job, as our ladder just wasn’t up to the job.
It took a bit longer than we expected. Altogether it took more than nine hours – all day Saturday – and we returned the scaffolding the next morning.
But it works, and looks a lot better than the box fan did.
One of the lights has already blown out, though.
So, we put in the garden over a month ago, and I am just now getting around to talking about it…
We did the whole “start stuff from seeds” thing again, and in general it worked out a lot better this year than last year. Mostly because we figured out why everything died a couple of days after we planted it last year – sunburn. All of the seedlings last year got sunburned to death because we took them out of the basement grow chamber and put them right out into the sun without giving them any time to acclimate and toughen up a bit. So this year before we planted the seedlings we spent a week getting them used to sunlight by putting the trays on the back porch for a couple of hours at a time. And then after we planted them, we rigged up sunshades out of some tarps, and left those up for a week or so.
We still lost some plants, but not to sunburn. A day or two after we planted them, something – probably a rabbit – come along and bit the tops off of every single green pepper, half of the hot peppers, and half of the eggplants. So we had to go to Home Depot and Loews for seedlings to replace the green peppers and eggplants. We still had some hot pepper seedlings in the starter trays, so we used those to replace the ones that got eaten. And then we put down rabbit and deer deterrent around the garden. We haven’t had any problems since then, though I have seen plenty of rabbits around the neighborhood.
We had to replace a couple of tomato plants as well, because some of the seedlings got washed away in some torrential downpours just after we planted them. Since then we have found a lot of tomato “volunteers” (tomato seedlings that we didn’t deliberately plant, that just grew from remnants of last year’s tomato crop) that we have been slowly replanting into the tomato cages.
So we ended up with about 3/5 of the garden being leftovers from last year and stuff that we started from seeds, and about 2/5 seedlings that we bought from Home Depot or Loews. Not bad. And the stuff that we started from seeds is finally catching up to the greenhouse stuff.
We are looking forward to the eventual harvest. Hopefully we will start to get stuff in about a month.
I am 37 years old today.
I don’t feel 37, but I don’t know how old I feel either. If you are only as old as you feel, how do you know how old you feel? Rhetorical question…
Anyway, I am not at work today. I have a personal policy of never going to work on my birthday unless it is completely unavoidable, and this policy has never steered me wrong. (I have tomorrow off as well, since it didn’t make much sense to take a Thursday off and then go back in to the office just for Friday.)
John and I celebrated my birthday by going out to dinner last night at The Oakwood Club, which is another one of Dayton’s classic supper clubs/steakhouses. It was extremely good. When comparing it to The Pine Club (as was inevitable) I think that it works out to a draw. The atmosphere at both places was excellent – lots of burgundy leather and dark wood. No clear winners there. The food at The Pine Club is slightly better … or maybe that is just because we both love their bone-in rib-eye so much and The Oakwood Club didn’t even have rib-eye on the menu. However, The Oakwood Club gets the edge in the convenience factor, as they actually take reservations and credit cards, while The Pine Club still (at this point in the 21st century) accepts neither.
John also made me a pineapple upside-down cake. We had that for dessert (along with pineapple martinis) for dessert when we got back from the restaurant.
My plans for today are pretty simple… I do have a few things on my to-do list… an errand or two I must run, and an appointment to get my hair cut. But I am also going to go out to the arboretum with my camera. And then spend a substantial chunk of time on the back deck with a book.
That’s a pretty full schedule. So I suppose that I had best get on with it.
One of the things that John and I got for Christmas was three of the Terry Pratchett “Diskworld” books. I tore through them pretty quickly since, even at 250+ pages each they were not exactly difficult reads. And now (because I can be crazy/obsessive like that) I feel compelled to read all of the Diskworld books. In order. Since there are (according to Wikipedia) 39 of them, this could take some time.
I am already four books into the project (not counting the three that were presents…I have not yet decided if I will reread them or not when I reach their places in the series). I had not previously read the very early DIskworld books, and I find it really interesting that I can tell, in these books where he is still finding his voice as a writer, that Terry Pratchett was hugely influenced by Douglas Adams.
This is not the first time that I got onto a reading jag like this. When I got into my mid-century detective kick, I read all of the Nero Wolf books (in order) and tried my best to do the same with Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot books (mostly in order). And currently I am listening to the audiobook versions of Ian Flemming’s James Bond books while I work out. In, of course, order.
The warm spell was short-lived, and the temperature is now back in the 20s and 30s, and I am back in jeans and sweaters instead of shorts and tshirts.
All reports and rumors of global warming and climate change are obviously a liberal conspiracy. (<sarcasm>)
We now return you to your regularly scheduled winter.
Well, the 2-and-a-half-week long winter is over with, and it is now 62 degrees. It rained all yesterday and this morning, and the last of the snow from the Boxing Day storm is now gone excepts for bits of dirty white scum on the sides of the road.
I remember last March when it was in the 90s, and I wonder if that will happen again this year.
It just feels wrong to be wandering around barefoot and in shirtsleeves in the middle of January.
So… time now for the 2013 to-do list.
I can’t keep doing the thing where I correlate the number of items on my list to the number of the year anymore. It is just going to be too unwieldy. So I think that I will go with 9. 9 seems like a nice, manageable number. I would like to stack the odds in my favor a bit here since some of the list items are on the large side, and I would like to be able to make better headway on this year’s list than I did on last year’s.
- Finish the project where I photograph, identify and catalog my collection of china and glassware
- Recode AQalloys. I haven’t done a thing with Brian and Kevin’s company site since I set it up several years ago, and it could really use an overhaul. Not necessarily a design overhaul, but I really should get in and tinker around under the hood a bit. Modernize the code, make it responsive, stuff like that.
- Design and code work on this site. The perpetual project….
- Garden 5.0. We got the Burpee Seed Catalog in the mail yesterday, and I got all excited about the different varieties of tomatoes, peppers, and everything else that we can plant in the spring. I think that we will put in an order and try to start the garden from seeds again. (Reserving the right to just chuck it all and go to Home Depot and Loews to get seedlings if the whole “starting everything from seeds” plan goes sideways again.)
- Get this house in order. We do a pretty good job with maintenance and upkeep, but there are a couple of repair and upgrade projects that I think that we ought to knock out. The downstairs bathroom needs some work, there are a lot of patches of drywall that need to be patched up (mostly on corners that get knocked into), paint that needs to be re-touched, and other little things of that nature. And there are some bigger projects… for instance, I think that this is the summer where we need to do something (replace? clean? repair?) about the siding.
- Artwork update. I haven’t refreshed the photos that we have hanging in the house in years. I should replace some of the older photos with more recent ones, and I also need to re-frame some of the paintings from my Grandfather. Maybe I should think about getting a digital picture frame?
- Downsize. This goes along with the perpetual project to weed out the library. Really. We have a lot of stuff. We don’t need all of it, and the closets and storage spaces are bursting. We need to get rid of some of it.
- Get organized. A subset of the downsizing item, actually. If we have less stuff, then it will be easier to organize logically, store, and then find (and use) when we need it. Do we really need two junk drawers in the kitchen alone? I think not. Lets do something about that.
- Learn how to cook Indian food, especially curries. John and I both like Indian cuisine, and yet (other then a couple of semi-successful experiments) have not tried making it ourselves. How hard can it be? Other than the really long and intimidating lists of spices that every dish requires, of course…
And with everything else, I shall simply keep on keeping on: exercising, photography, reading, fencing, relaxing, playing with the cats, spending time with John, staying in touch with family and friends, visiting family and friends, and just enjoying life.
Laissez les bons temps rouler!
Happy New Year!
I have had a pretty good thing going the past couple of years with a retrospective on the year that just came to a close via a look-see on how I did with my year-long, high-level to-do list. So I see no reason to not continue with that trend.
Let’s begin, shall we?
1. Keep on with the exercising, but mix it up a little more.
I did so-so with this. Mostly I just kept up with the keeping up… kept doing the same-old-same old, with the addition of adding in long, hilly walks (while listening to books-on-tape… I am currently going through the Bond series by Ian Flemming). I never managed to work in any focus on weight training, however.
2. Garden 4.0
Again, so-so. The parts of the garden where we had the plants that we traditionally do very well with – tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, herbs – did very well indeed. The zucchini all died again, so I don’t think that we will mess around with them any more, and the peas and beans didn’t do all that well either.
3. Weed the library
Haha! Well, we started. John and I both find it very difficult to let go of books. We went through the books in the library bookshelves, and sorted those out into “keep” and “find a new home for” (aka “take to half-price books”) sections… but we haven’t gotten any further than that yet. Like I said… we never meet a book we didn’t like.
4. Crock pot cooking
This went well! There are a lot (not very surprising) of great sources for crock pot recipes online, and we have gotten to have several favorite recipes that are now a permanent part of our go-to dinner selections. And we keep trying new ones…. in fact, I have two new crock-pot recipes that I plan on trying out this week.
5. Improve my communication
I think that I did pretty well here. There were a couple of points where things started to fall behind a bit, but overall, I think that I did all right with staying in touch with folks.
6. I am not very crafty, and I often admire John his ability to just make things. So I am going to work on just making things also… maybe I will give knitting a try again, maybe I will get back to making Ukranian eggs. At the very least I will finish that embroidery project that I started at the beginning of last summer!
Fail! Well, I finished the embroidery project. And I realized that at heart I am just not a very crafty person, and I think that I am just fine with that.
7. Update this site
I updated the underlying code, but not the overall design. I still like the current design just fine.
8. Photograph, identify, and catalog all of the china and glassware in my collection
Ehhh… started this, but still haven’t finished it.
9. Kick up my photography a notch in general
Did a couple of (online) classes and also went to a very interesting workshop on working creatively with light by a couple of National Geographic photographers. But didn’t end up doing much beyond that, really.
10. Get authorized for (heavy weapons) combat archery. Between that and the fencing, I figure that I will be able to ironman (i.e. participate in all point battles that I am eligible for) at Pennsic this summer.
Win! I am now a combat archer, and can now participate in heavy weapons melees by shooting people (safely) in the head. And I did Ironman at Pennsic this past summer. Which was both a lot of fun and very very tiring. Fencing tournaments in the morning, and then straight into gearing up for heavy tournaments in the afternoon with scant time for a lunch break in between was exhausting.
11. Work on German longsword techniques outside of official fencing practices
Other than cutting practice (occasionally) in the back yard, I didn’t really get much done here. There are only so many hours in a day. I did end up co-teaching a class at KWAR (Known World Academy of the Rapier) with John back in November, but it wasn’t focused on longsword.
12. Mobile design and development
This site now has a responsive layout (try it out and see! Take a look at it in different browser sizes and even on your smartphone.) and I have been doing a lot with responsive design and mobile development projects at work, so I this that I will count this as a success as well.
So this year was a pretty mixed bag as far as the overall goals went. Some I did really well on, some only so-so, and some I completely bombed out on. That’s okay, there is always 2013,
We have already passed through the nice, Indian summer portion of fall (temperatures in the upper 70s here last week) and now are firmly in the cold, rainy, and miserable portion of fall. I spent a lot of the last couple of weeks traveling for work, so I didn’t even get to enjoy the nice bits of fall.
Today has been so gloomy and overcast that it has felt like it was early evening since about 11am. In other words, it has been a good day to stay indoors and do chores.
The weekend before last, John and I retired the garden for the year. Despite the fact that there were still green tomatoes on the vine and some of the vegetables were still trying gamely to product flowers, we had had several frosts. And frosts equal the effective end of the growing and ripening system. We removed the irrigation system of weeper hoses and coiled them up in the shed for next year. Ditto the tomato cages. Those were pulled up, cleaned off, folded neatly, and stacked in a corner of the shed. All of the vegetables and herbs, with the exception of the rosemary (which is an evergreen) and the sage (which is also used to colder climates) were pulled up and chopped into the soil, to provide fertilizer for next year. A couple of rounds of fallen leaves have also been shopped up (via the lawnmower) and layered over the fallow garden as well.
We even ripped out and dug up the blackberry and raspberry vines. Those were pretty much a failed experiment. We never got enough berries off of them to make them worthwhile (the birds saw to that) and they were so aggressive that it was a constant battle to keep them from overgrowing the vegetables.
I also brought my houseplants back inside, which I honestly should have done weeks ago. The two Christmas cacti are just fine, but the African violets were pretty frost nipped. One of them has died, but the other might still be able to recover from its extended sojourn out of doors.
The weekend before that (so three weeks ago) we were up in Cleveland visiting with my parents, and celebrating my brother’s newly-minted PhD degree. The parts was a very enjoyable all-day buffet while friends and family came and went. By now my brother has probably moved out to California to join our other two brothers while he looks for a job in industry. (He has no desire to do a post-doc or to stay in academia, and I cannot say that I blame him.)
Right now, I kind of wish that I were out on the west coast as well. Sunny skies, warmer temperatures, and better weather than here.