Archive for the ‘Hearth and home’ Category


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.


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.

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!

Strawberry enclosure

June 15, 2017

We have a little patch of strawberries out back and I’ve tried various arrangements in the past few years to keep the critters out of them, but I wasn’t quite satisfied, so today I built this little netted enclosure to go around them. We’ll see how that does.

To keep the rabbits and chipmunks out of our berries

Conference, conference, conference, garden

April 30, 2017

I’ve been a busy academic lately. A week ago, my university hosted the spring conference for the Historical Association that I’ve been an officer of for the past couple of years. As local host, it was my responsibility to coordinate session rooms, catering, meeting spaces, and other practical details. I’ve been working on those practicalities since last summer and it was very gratifying to see everything come together. The conference went off almost without a hitch (there was a little last minute confusion in room booking, but we got it sorted out) and people seemed to be having a good time, so I’ll call that a success.

Also at the conference I was elected vice president of the Association for next year. The vice president’s job is to organize the conference panels. I didn’t have to do that as local host, I just found spaces for the panels to meet in. So, next year, I won’t have to wrangle session rooms and catering, but I’ll be collecting paper submissions and assembling panels for both the fall and spring conferences.

The Association’s custom is that after one year as vice president, you become president for a year, so I have that to look forward to. The president’s job is mostly ceremonial—giving a short address at lunchtime at the conference. I look forward to that. (And it will look nice on a CV.)

In other academic news, I just had a proposal accepted to a conference in Edinburgh this December, so I’ll be making a quick trip across the pond.

Somehow, in the midst of all this academicking, I’ve also fond time to plant my garden. I’m trying corn, green beans, and cucumber this summer. I’ve tried various setups with deer netting to try to keep critters out of the garden in the past, and now that I’m giving corn a shot, I know that I need something a little more serious, so here’s the frame I built for this year.


February 20, 2017

I’ve been sick for the past few days. Nothing more than a mild cold with a persistent sore throat. I’m still able to work and function, but I’m getting tired of sucking on cough drops all day long.

Christmas peace

December 24, 2016

This year has not been a good one for holiday cheer. In addition to stressing out about the news, I’ve been wading through the end-of-semester grading and preparations for the spring while trying to draft another book chapter. It hasn’t felt very Christmasy here. Yesterday I finally decided to call a halt and put myself on vacation, and I’ve been feeling better every since I did. Preparations for our Christmas dinner are well in hand, presents are wrapped under our tree, and I’ve stopped stressing out about things that haven’t gotten done. I’ll get back to work soon enough. Right now, I’m happy to have myself a little break.

Utility pole crash

December 13, 2016

Yesterday morning I was up early to make pizza for the departmental holiday party. We got a wet, slushy rain/snow mix overnight and I wanted to give myself plenty of extra time for driving to campus. I had been cooking for about half an hour when we heard a plow truck going by outside, then suddenly a big crunch. We looked out to see that the plow truck had struck the utility pole right next to our driveway and the pole had just snapped and come down. The truck was stuck, tangled up in downed wires, and blocking our driveway and the road. Fortunately, it didn’t look like the driver was hurt.

Pretty soon we had a fire truck, ambulance, and several town utility trucks out front. They got the plow truck disentangled, then to work clearing the old pole out of the way and installing a new one. The whole process took about four hours and we were blocked in until it was over. Happily, we only lost power for about ten minutes during that time. I was able to finish my cooking, but I couldn’t get out of the driveway in time to make it to the party. I was sad to miss it, but at least I didn’t have to try to drive to campus on slushy roads.

I give a lot of credit to the town utility crew. They were on the job right away, they got it done, and they were good about communicating with us as it was happening.

In shock

November 13, 2016

Has it only been five days since Election Day? It feels like a month already. We’ve been sleeping poorly, crying, and generally numb with our fears about what the new president-elect is going to do to this country and the most vulnerable people in it. We know that we–well-off white people who live in a quiet country town in a solidly Democratic state–will be the most insulated from the worst consequences of the next four years, but we know that so many people are going to be much worse off and some of the damage will be irreparable. We’ve been watching the upsurge of hate crimes and racist violence in the news with a sick feeling of frustration and outrage. Through our social networks, we have already heard of people who have died.

I need to be a source of calm and comfort for my students. A lot of them are very upset and frightened by what has happened. That’s hard to do when I am so far from calm myself, but I’m doing the best I can because they need it.


November 8, 2016

This scary fellow was at our door to greet tick-or-treaters last week. Unfortunately, no one came. I don’t think they were scared off–we don’t usually get many on our dirt road in the woods, anyway.

161108jackSpeaking of scary, today is election day. We’re looking forward to a lovely sunny fall day, so our plan is to walk out to the polling place together after breakfast, spend the day trying not to freak out about how badly this could all go wrong, then watch the results in the evening. One way or another, this long terrible campaign season will be over soon.