Visitors

July 7, 2018

Last weekend we had a visit from our friends M and S, whom we don’t get to see very often. S was on his way up to Maine to visit a friend, so he took off for a couple of days and came back with lobsters, which we cooked up for a Canada Day dinner. M and I swam in the pond and talked a lot about teaching. We all had a wonderful time together.

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So much food

June 22, 2018

Several things have come together lately. For one, we got strawberries out of our own back yard. For another, we went and picked more strawberries at a local farm. For a third, we got our first box from our farmshare (from the same farm where we have our weekly fish share pick-up), with lettuce, rhubarb, more strawberries, kale, apples, eggs, and fresh biscuits. Finally, since juhannus (the Finnish midsummer holiday) is this weekend, we’ve stocked up on groceries so we can just relax and hang out at home together, enjoying the long day. As a result, our refrigerator is more full of food than any time since Christmas. We have been triaging the leftovers to eat up whatever we can get rid of to make more space. What can I say? It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it.

Popcorn nachos

June 14, 2018

As I continue to try to keep my glycemic load down, I sometimes make interesting discoveries about food. One I made recently is that even though corn is fairly high in glycemic load, popcorn is pretty low by volume, since the popped kernels contain so much air. This discovery led me on to a further thought: what if you made nachos with popcorn instead of tortilla chips? Once I had the thought, I had to try it out, and the results were pretty good.

I popped a batch of corn, picked out the unpopped kernels, and spread the popcorn in the bottom of a baking dish. Then I topped them with salsa, chopped peppers and olives, and mozzarella cheese, just as if I were making nachos on a layer of tortilla chips. I baked it in the oven at 350F until the cheese was nice and melted, and that was that.

The result tastes pretty good, although since the popcorn doesn’t stack the way chips do it tends to be a bit crumbly. Still, a big plateful has only about as much glycemic load as half a potato or a slice of rye bread.

Garden

May 12, 2018

I planted my vegetable garden for the year a couple of days ago. Last year was very discouraging, but at least I think I learned a few things from the experience, so I’m trying again this year.

I tried starting some vegetables from seed, but only the carrots took, so I transplanted those to the garden and sowed some more carrot seed. I also got some cabbage, beet, and artichoke (!) seedlings from our local nursery to try, plus I planted some old potatoes that had gone to seed. We’ll see whether anything comes of this at all. I also planted a few pumpkin seeds at the edge of the woods; I’m not going to put much work into them, I’m just seeing what happens.

I’m using a different mix of composts this year and I’ve put down newspaper around the seedlings to discourage weeds. The netting I put up last year didn’t keep the rabbits out at all, so I’m trying a deterrent spray this year.

Interview

May 6, 2018

Things are coming along on the book. I’ve been reviewing final edits and making some last corrections to the proofs. Last week I did an interview by phone for a book review podcast that should come out sometime this summer.

In other news, we had an engineer look at the recurring drywall cracks in our house and confirm that they are not signs of any structural problems, just the result of natural settling, so we can go ahead and patch and paint them without worrying about any bigger issues lying undiscovered.

Starting spring work

April 21, 2018

I’m in the midst of final proofreading for my barbarians book, but we finally had a nice calm, sunny day today, so I took an hour before lunch to do some random outdoor work. I picked up fallen branches, pruned the fruit trees and berry bushes, and shoveled some gravel that got banked up by the plows during the winter back onto the road. There’s a lot of work yet to be done, but it was nice to putter around in the sun.

Growth

April 20, 2018

I’m trying to start some seedlings for the garden inside this year, since I had very poor luck with the plants I started outside last year. I have a tray of carrot, green bean, and cucumber seeds. So far the carrots have sprouted nicely, but the beans and cukes have yet to put in an appearance.

In other news, the New England Historical Association had its spring meeting last weekend. I was the program chair for that conference, meaning I took all the submitted papers and organized them into panels, which is fun but a lot of work. We held our annual election at the conference and I was elected president of the Association for the next year, which is a great honor.

I’ve also recently been in talks for a second book with the publishing house that is putting out my barbarians book. They were looking for someone to write a brief introduction to the Greco-Persian Wars, with translated documents. That’s a subject I regularly teach and I’ve been wishing for more opportunities to do translation work, so I jumped at the chance. The next step is to put together a proposal. I hope to have a contract in hand and start working within a couple of months. It’s shaping up to be a busy summer again.

New car

March 4, 2018

After 10 years and 100,000 miles, I decided it was time to replace the old silver steed with a new car. After some research and thought, I picked a Honda Clarity plug-in hybrid. Here it is. I was able to get it in a pretty good green (although in some lights it looks little more blueish).

The new car. The charging port is behind the little hatch forward of the driver’s door.

The plug-in hybrid has both a chargeable battery and a gasoline engine. The battery charges overnight from a regular wall socket. I could get a special charging station installed if I wanted to that would charge it up in a couple of hours, but so far I don’t see the need for that. The electric battery alone will take me almost 50 miles, and on a fully-charged battery and a full gas tank, the car has a range of over 400 miles. I haven’t had the car long enough yet to have gotten used to its rhythms, but I’m expecting to make many fewer stops for gas in the future.

The new car has a lot of fancy features that I’m also going to have to get used to. Instead of a key it has a key fob, which the car can detect. When the key is near the car, it automatically unlocks the door, and when the key gets farther away, the doors automatically lock, but the doors won’t lock if the key is inside the car and the car is stationary. The headlights also have an automatic setting: the car detects the ambient light level and turns the lights on and off accordingly. This means that there are two things I will never do again: lock my keys in the car (in my defense, I’ve never done this) or leave me headlights on (which I’ve done far too many times to count).

It also has a Bluetooth connection to my mobile phone. When my phone is in the car, I can take calls directly from the instrument panel, and it will read incoming text messages out loud to me. (I still worry about distracted driving, so I don’t plan to use this feature very often, but it might be useful in emergencies.)

We’ve been referring to this new car with all its features as “the sci-fi car,” and it really does feel like I’m piloting a tiny starship.

Nor’easter

March 2, 2018

We’re getting a serious storm today. The reports are of hurricane-strength winds and up to three feet of coastal flooding. The University administration has apparently decided to proceed as usual, but after a look at the weather reports, I decided to cancel my classes today for the sake of my students’ safety. All day I’ve been getting emails from students about flooding, even some who have had to evacuate their homes, so I think I made the right call.

We’ve been listening to the howling wind and watching trees come down in the woods out back. So far, we’ve had no interruptions to power or phone service, and I hope that holds true through the rest of the day and tonight. Tomorrow we’ll have to go out and survey the damage.

After Christmas

February 4, 2018

It’s been a little over a month since Christmas, and I thought I’d just mention how I’ve been enjoying some of my presents.

I start every morning with a pot of tea, usually the good Darjeeling, in my new teapot.

I’m staying very cozy and warm in my new sweaters and Smartwool socks. We had some very cold weather in late December and January, so it’s been great having nice new warm things to wear.

I’ve also been doing plenty of cooking. I’m really enjoying my new slow cooker. So far I’ve made Bermuda fish chowder, pulled pork, and borscht. (According to my cookbook, the recipe I make is “Russian borscht,” a beef stew with beets, red cabbage, and a rich broth. I have a recipe for a different kind of borscht, which is pureed, but I haven’t tried making that.) I’m getting lots of use out of my new kitchen tools, as well. I’m really appreciating the silicone heads that are so easy to clean, but the thick wooden handles are really nice in my hands. I’ve also really enjoyed using the salt and pepper mixes. The smoked citrus salt is now a standard ingredient in my breakfast frittatas. (Side note: I finally found the right word for the egg and greens dishes I make for breakfast: frittata.)

Thank you again for these and everything else!