Archive for June, 2009

A visitor

June 30, 2009

This morning, E. and I were getting ready to walk out to the grocery store for our weekly round of shopping. I had my boots on and was ready to go, then decided that the weather looked a bit too threatening and I wanted my hat—which I then remembered was upstairs in my bag. So I took off my boots and tromped upstairs for my hat, came back down, and put my boots on again. Then I realized that I needed my backpack, which was—wait for it—upstairs. Boots off, up the stairs, grumbling all the way. And then I happened to look out the back window and see:

An uninvited guest

An uninvited guest

Our visitor was browsing around in the back yard, brazen as could be. E. and I watched for a few minutes, thinking that we really ought to discourage it from sticking around, but enjoying the sight nonetheless. Then, as it started to move towards the fruit trees, we opened the windows, shouting and waving our arms. It bounded back a few leaps to the back of the yard, but still didn’t make for the woods until E. stepped out on the back deck and waved her boots in the air.


Compost happens

June 30, 2009

After some delays, yesterday we finally got our composter put together and established in the back yard. We started it with a layer of dead leaves (plus a couple of happy little earthworms) and have already made our first delivery of kitchen waste.

Our composter

Our composter

Radio drama

June 27, 2009

Yesterday while I was driving home from campus I had the radio on in the car, tuned to the local public radio news station, WBUR, as usual. Normally I get the signal perfectly clearly, but this time there was a lot of interference. I tried fiddling with the tuner, but to no avail. The sound kept breaking up and turning into something different, as if I were getting interference from another radio station, which is what I figured it must be. Then I started noticing that in the interference I was hearing some of the same newscasts being repeated, delayed by anything from a few seconds to a couple of minutes, but with the same recognizable NPR personalities. That’s weird, I thought to myself. I know there’s another public radio station in the area, but they mostly play music, and their channel is nowhere near this one. Then, I heard: “This is Wisconsin public radio.”


I could believe it if I were getting interference from a New Hampshire station, but Wisconsin? All I can figure is that something funny must have been going on at the WBUR transmitters. Something very funny.

On the other hand, of all days to have my commuting-time news interrupted by technical difficulties, this was not too bad. Most of the reporting seemed to be about Michael Jackson. I wasn’t interested in hearing about that man when he was alive, and while the fact of his death is arguably a newsworthy event, I am no more interested in hearing about him now.

WHA conference

June 26, 2009

Yesterday, today, and this weekend SSC is hosting the annual conference of the World History Association. This is a very big deal for the college and the history department in particular. Last year the conference was held in London, and next year’s is in Istanbul, so bringing this conference to Salem is quite an accomplishment.

On Sunday, I will be chairing two panels, but yesterday and today I am just hanging around helping out where I can.

Yesterday and this morning, I was working at the main registration desk, helping people find their name badges and get their conference programs and information. There were a number of badges that didn’t get printed properly for some unknown reason and we had to tell a lot of people to come back later. Most people took it all in stride, but we saw a few PhD-holding tenured professors throw tantrums worthy of a two-year old.

In addition to panels and discussions, the conference also hosts an exhibition by book publishers. One of the publishing representatives made an enormous fuss about the location of his assigned table, the signage for the conference, and the name badges and then started ordering people around to carry his book boxes for him. After he had been mollified and set up at his table, one of the SSC history faculty stopped by registration and remarked: “And that guy’s job is to get us to buy his books?”

Despite a few troublesome individuals, most people coming by for registration was very pleasant and it was quite satisfying to be there to help people get what they needed.

This afternoon, I am assigned to one of the classrooms where panels are being held to help with setting up the display technology, find tables and chairs, and take care of anything else the panelists need.

Rainy midsummer

June 22, 2009

E. and I celebrated midsummer yesterday, even though the weather was anything but summery. For several days we’ve had cloudy, rainy weather, but yesterday it was especially dark and grim. The rain was coming down all day long and a cold wind was blowing in the trees. E. joked that “now we’re getting proper Finnish summer!” That, however, made it a lovely day to have a fire in the fireplace, as well as candles. For dinner I cooked salmon and Finnish gratinated vegetables. For dessert we had bread pudding with fresh (though, sadly, not local) strawberries.

New doctor, new meds

June 21, 2009

We had our first visit to our new local doctor last week. He was a cheerful, chatty older gentleman who turned out to also be a Columbia graduate. He and I probably spent more time reminiscing about Columbia than talking about our allergy symptoms, which is what brought us in in the first place. He gave us an Astelin nose spray and some Allegra D pills to try. They seem to work better than what we’ve been using (at least for me), but the Astelin is foul stuff. After I spray it in my nose in the morning, it’s like a skunk curled up and died in my head for the next hour. Still, if it keeps me from being runny-nosed all summer, I’ll use it.

Recent arrivals– welcome and otherwise

June 11, 2009

When we moved into Heather House, we had great hopes of seeing chipmunks in our woods. Sadly, none were to be seen or heard for the first few months. About a week ago, though, we started seeing and hearing lots and lots of chipmunks all around us, and today we officially spotted the first one bounding across our property. I don’t know why they haven’t been in evidence until now (I’m pretty sure they should have woken up from their long winter’s nap months ago), but we’re happy to have them.

Some weeks back we planted pear and cherry trees out back, and the local deer have discovered their young tender leaves, so E. and I have been working on putting up fencing around the trees to keep the hungry critters at bay.

We’ve had plenty of robins hopping around our yard for months, but this afternoon we spotted a pair of birds with black backs and bright orange bellies. I don’t know my birds well enough to be sure, but I wonder if we might have had a couple of Baltimore orioles.

Another recent arrival of a different kind: a couple of days ago E. snipped a white hair off my head—the first that either of us has noticed on me.

Recipe: lamb pseudo-tagine

June 7, 2009

This is a recipe that I worked out myself based on a Moroccan lamb tagine. I can’t properly call it a tagine, since it’s not an authentic Moroccan recipe. All I can say is that it is somewhat tagine-like. Tagine-inspired. Any similarity between this recipe and any actual Moroccan cooking is purely coincidental, etc. Still, I happen to like it.

The lamb is cooked with couscous in a big dish, so that the cooking liquid from the couscous keeps the meat moist, and the juices of the meat drip down into the couscous. Sweet dates and sharp olives make for a variety of flavors and pine nuts give it some crunch. As usual in my cooking, all measurements are approximate and most ingredients can be substituted (the last time I made this I didn’t have pine nuts, for example, so I used slivered almonds instead).


Boneless leg of lamb
4 cups / 10 dl couscous
4 cups / 10 dl stock
2 cups / 5 dl cooking wine
1 cup / 2 dl pitted dried dates, roughly chopped
1 cup / 2 dl kalamata olives, roughly chopped
½ / 1 dl cup pine nuts
A large pinch each of turmeric, mint, garlic, and black pepper

Pour the couscous into a large oven dish with a cover. (Rice would probably also work fine for this recipe, although you’d have to adjust the amount of liquid.)

Couscous and spices

Couscous and spices

Stir the spices, dates, olive, and nuts into the couscous, then add the stock and wine.

Olives, dates, and nuts

Olives, dates, and nuts

Lay the leg of lamb on top.

Leg of lamb

Leg of lamb

Cover the dish and bake at 325 F / 170 C until the lamb is cooked through.

Something sort of like a tagine!

Something sort of like a tagine!

When ready, slice the lamb and serve it with the couscous.

Travels and tribulations

June 5, 2009

Last week we spent a few days in Maine visiting friends and family.  Then we came back to Heather House, where Kris visited with us for a few days.  While she was here, she was unfortunately sick with something unpleasant, but we still had a good time together and just took things easy.

After another quick trip to Maine to carry some assorted cargo (including swapping some beds around), E. came down with something that has had her sniffling and coughing so badly that she’s found it very hard to sleep.  No sleep on top of being sick has made things very hard for her, but there has been a bright spot: last week she went to an interview for a job at the library of a nearby boarding school, and yesterday they called back to offer her the job.  It is a great relief to her to be done with job-searching, and the place and people sound very god indeed.  When fall comes, we will both be going back to school.