Functional Friday

The plumbers did their job well, so now we can run water again, do laundry, wash vegetables and ourselves. Yay! It was quite novel to have breakfast before 9:00. Maybe I’ll get the hang of getting up early again.

Other things I have done today:

  • read for my grad class
  • corrected proofs for a book review
  • walked about 2 miles
  • met with a student
  • met with dead language group
  • cooked greens
  • processed two loads of laundry
  • bought groceries (there will be more cooking)
  • went thrifting, and scored an Eileen Fisher velvet top for $7

5-minute stock-take

Combining the stocktake format observed here and the 5-minute format followed by Undine (following Gwinne and xykademiq), here’s what I’ve been up to:

Cooking: clafoutis, with strawberries rather than cherries.

Eating: duh, see above.

Reading: for work, Illegitimacy in Medieval Scotland; for fun, Yestermorrow, which mysteriously appeared on my bookshelves though I have no idea where it came from and never heard of it before (I suspect that I acquired it on some trip, possibly at the Other Change of Hobbit when they still had a physical store, then promptly packed it up because we were trying to sell the house, and forgot about it because we didn’t sell the house for three years. . .); for self-improvement, The End of Procrastination, which I got to via somebody’s blog but not the one I thought so who knows and I won’t link, and also The Writing Workshop which I found via The Fora (where the Chron Fora went).

Making plans to watch: The Green Knight, because a former student got in touch and I know students this fall will ask me what I thought, and I can’t have thoughts if I haven’t seen it (except that I watched the trailer and was quite taken by the talking fox).

Buying (recently or soon): green and white tea, pearl-grey fabric dye, services in the form of haircut and pedicure.

Meeting: with my RL writing group (Zoom), grad students (office!!! live!!!).

And that’s already 15 minutes, partly because of finding links and going to look at the title of the fun book that I finished Saturday and stashed back on the shelves with its two sequels, undoubtedly from the same trip.

The very local news

It’s a little more focused than random bullets.

Politics: Basement Cat and Reina generally observe their détente, except when mealtimes are approaching and Basement Cat would like to eat his feelings only there is nothing to eat yet because the hoo-man servants have fallen down on the job. Then he stalks Reina and she growls at him and this gets the attention of the neglectful hoo-mans.

Crime, indoors: minor vandalism from Basement Cat, mainly chewing on things the hoo-mans would prefer him not to chew.

Crime, outdoors: some weeks ago, I found the corpse of a rabbit on the side steps to the deck. Since it was less than intact but not dismembered, I theorized that either a coyote had been interrupted or a bird of prey had managed to kill it but could not carry it away. I dug a grave and buried the rabbit. Today I found that the grave had been exhumed. This time, I definitely blame coyotes.

Economy: tax documents dropped off at the accountant. Income normal. Unusual expenses: new roof, new washer and dryer. Contemplated expenses: power lawnmower, re-surfacing of driveway, paint for two or three rooms.

Agriculture: bought a selection of Swiss chard, collards, pak choi, and herbs yesterday, to be planted in the vegetable plot.

World of work: Although a few student papers came in early, I have been ignoring them and taking the weekend off. Grading will resume tomorrow. It feels very strange not to have huge amounts of class prep to do.

Lifestyle, decorating: studying paint chips for bathroom, guest room, my study. I keep thinking light turquoise or pale green might be nice in my study, but looking at samples on the wall, I feel that it would be like trying to work inside a tube of toothpaste. There’s a super pale blue that I like, now, but it might seem too cold in winter. I also like a “chalky purple” that to me looks like a super pale mauve: could I live with it long term, or would it wear on me as the pink bedroom I chose at 10 wore on my 13-year-old self? I’d love a pale, glossy lemon yellow, but yellows are so hard to get right.

Lifestyle, cooking: instead of just grating carrots on top of greens and adding herbs, mayo, and dressing, I grated four carrots in the food processor and added chopped fresh dill, lime juice, mayo, dressing, and salt, and let it marinate for a few hours. Sir John and a visiting friend had seconds, and there was still enough for me the next day. I think I should mix up a batch of the stuff once or twice a week, and save the daily effort.

Society: a friend I met at a wedding some years back (on the trip that inspired these reflections about tea and coffee) came to visit from a couple of states over, celebrating the fullness of our vaccinations. She and I walked around the neighborhood, critiquing the architecture, then we had dinner à trois and talked about architecture, books, and pets.

Weather: clear, sunny, cool, with warmer temps predicted for the next couple of days. A good time to get my veg planted, if my ribs permit digging.

Health, human: I am fully vaccinated. Sir John has had one shot. I pulled some muscles around my ribs a few weeks ago, and have been resting them ever since. Improvement is noticeable. Some of my other aches and pains have also cleared up, including my wonky hip, which only started hurting again when I carried books home from the library about half a mile away. I think I might need less yoga and more strength work.

Health, feline: Glendower has had a lot of hairballs recently, despite brushing and Laxatone. He has a re-check for his IBD coming up this week, so we’ll see what the vet suggests.

Sports: Reina demands that I wave the fevver toy every night before I go to bed, so she can chase it. Sir John is cycling regularly. I am cautiously walking a mile or two per day and hoping my ribs and hip won’t object.

Books: my visiting friend reminded me of the Agatha Raisin series, and I found I was about four books behind, so I went and got the most recent ones from the local library. They are even lighter-weight than most of the “light fiction by British women writing between the wars” that makes up a lot of my leisure reading, but that’s fine for end-of-term brain candy.

Winter Break, day eight


I’ve taken my notes on the big fat ILL book, and I’m going to take it to campus, scan some bits, return it, and pick up other books that I need for planning classes and finishing that dratted essay revision.

Speaking of which, after a week of procrastination (during which I drilled a lot of Greek, read the medieval Spanish art exhibition catalog from the Met (, started Sénac’s Charlemagne et Mahomet en Espagne, which I purchased five [!] years ago in Paris, read two mystery/ suspense books in full [], baked two batches of cookies, ordered flowers for the dowager Lady Hull’s birthday, bought presents for my great-niblings which will no doubt arrive after Xmas, and talked to two different friends on the phone), I got back to said revision this morning.

First I opened up the four most recent documents I’ve been tinkering with. Then I printed one, a series of topic sentences, and cut them up to spread out on my desk in an effort to ensure that the whole thing is well-organized before I start messing with large hunks of prose.

Glendower came in and, ignoring his food dish on the floor, leaped to my desk, sliding in among the little slips of paper. I rewarded him for this bad behavior by putting his food in front of him, because we’re always trying to make sure he eats enough.

Hissing in the living room was followed by Sir John yelling at Basement Cat for harassing Reina. I went out to see what was going on, and encouraged Basement Cat to stay upstairs. Then I went to the bathroom.

Back in my study, Basement Cat was definitely encouraged to stay upstairs—he was on my desk, eating Glendower’s food, with the slips of paper in even greater disarray than before.

Dear editor, it’s not exactly the-dog-ate-my-homework but it’s definitely in that genre . . . .

I may have to take my slips of paper to campus with me and spread them out in my office. Good thing I have to go return that ILL.

Six on Saturday: St Martin’s Summer

I need to post more often so as to get used to the new WordPress post layout.

Don’t hold your breath.

Anyway, after our early snow and frost, the weather has warmed up to very pleasant temperatures, and the autumn colours glow in the morning light:

1, leaves on the lawn. There’s a huge golden patch like this.

2, a single leaf on the stump of a tree we had taken down recently (it was dead, having succumbed to hemlock blight).

3, the magenta sedum has gone brick-red, with yellow foliage:

4, the hydrangeas and Japanese maple have similar coloration:

5, seedheads in the “wild” garden:

6, that little pink-flowered plant whose name I don’t know (see #2 here) also glows pink and gold in the morning:

Apart from the garden . . . wake me up when November ends. I’m avoiding the news, because I can’t deal with all the ups and downs. I’m sure I won’t be able to miss it when all the counting and re-counting is over, but until then, there’s no point in tormenting myself with if-this and then-that. I have plenty of grading to keep me busy, and several stages of the Vuelta to watch (we’re running behind, as usual, so please no spoilers about the last week). If I’ve made two batches of cookies this week (snickerdoodles and chocolate-chip), that’s a harmless domestic outlet, as is crocheting a headband to wear when jogging and starting a second one with a more elaborate pattern. I’m re-reading O. Douglas . . . the novels are just as soothing the second time through, and thinking about the short winter days in Scotland makes me grateful for the less-short ones here.

Six on Saturday is hosted by the Propagator, and thank you for the outlet and distraction.

Spring break in the time of coronavirus

Around the middle of last week, it occurred to me that I usually post daily through spring break. I thought about doing a sort of Cliff’s notes version for the first few days, but, TBH, I was sort of paralyzed by the news, even as I tried to avoid the most flamboyant sources. It was a bit like preparing for a hurricane, where you know it’s coming but life just continues as usual, around the nailing of windows and stashing of supplies, until the rain and wind actually hit.

As of today, Sir John has sniffles and a low fever. I think I have spring allergies, because I feel the way I always do around this time of year (that is, some respiratory stuff, no fever, don’t feel particularly ill), and the trees I see from my study window are in bud. We are isolating ourselves. We’re well stocked and this is an area where it shouldn’t be a problem to have things delivered if we need to order online.

This week is “extended break,” to allow faculty to prepare to teach online for at least a couple of weeks. Maybe longer. Because of my commute and Midwestern winter weather, I generally have a couple of days’ worth of online ideas up my sleeve, but I’m going to have to think about the second week, and the further future. Although I think it would be fun to learn about some of the fancy stuff it’s possible to do online, it’s probably better to keep it simple. I don’t know what my students’ tech is like, and considering how much difficulty I sometimes run into with stuff I use regularly in the smart classrooms on campus, I can imagine the hassles with 25+ of us trying to do something unfamiliar to at least a few people. So today I plan to revise my syllabus, and think about what I can reasonably put into place.

Here’s the Cliff’s notes for last week. Already it seems unbelievable that we did some of these things:

Saturday, 3/7: gym, Spanish conversation group, some work with a manuscript facsimile.

Sunday, 3/8: read 1960s YA novel in the bathtub, after some gardening.

Monday, 3/9: Stock market tanked (round one). Cooked a lot. Mammogram. Watched stage one of Paris-Nice.

Tuesday, 3/10: Stock market bounced upward. Watched stage two of Paris-Nice and went out with friends. Stayed up too late reading program for K’zoo. E-mails from LRU hinted at coming changes.

Wednesday, 3/11: tried to sleep in but Basement Cat was having none of that. Went out with different friends for the afternoon. Watched stage three of Paris-Nice. Started watching Avenue 5, which we find hilarious (big fans of Hugh Laurie in this house). LRU announced plans to extend break, teach online after that.

Thursday, 3/12: A conference Abroad was cancelled. It was one I was really looking forward to, and before it I was going to get to see a manuscript in another bit of Abroad. I made a store run; store was well stocked and had more shoppers than I expected for mid-afternoon, mid-week. We went to a concert that was (a) the last for this group, whose home is in a state that had already banned gatherings of over 100 people, and (b) the last for this venue, because the next day the university where it is located banned large gatherings, and sometime in the next few days the state did the same. I’m not sure exactly when; in all the excitement, I kinda lost track.

Friday, 3/13: Went for a walk with a friend, who said local schools had closed; she thought it was premature. Afternoon: the state announced school closings. We re-listed our house. Our timing is so bad it should be comical, but I’m not really appreciating the joke. I thought spring break would be the perfect time: fairly early in the spring market, and I’d organized myself to have no grading last week, so I could spend time on tidying up all the stuff that silted up while we were off-market last fall. I did some garden work while the weather was nice. We watched two stages of Paris-Nice. Either today or Thursday (I get confused because of watching stages a day late, and doubling up on Friday), the race organizers announced that the race would finish a day early.

Saturday, 3/14: I made strawberry-rhubarb pie, and cleaned the refrigerator. More cycling.

Sunday, 3/15: lots of e-mail with students. I went to the gym, for what will be the last time for a few weeks, cleaning all machines obsessively. Made plans to work to a schedule Monday. Watched the last stage of Paris-Nice; disappointed that Alaphilippe didn’t pull off the attack he made, but pleased with Quintana’s stage win.

Monday, 3/16: since I had trouble falling asleep last night (general anxiety, financial, virus, blah blah) I got up later than I’d planned, then Sir John got up (temporarily) earlier than usual and announced that he wasn’t feeling well. He’s back in bed, which is no doubt the best place for him, and I’m trying to concentrate. One of the people I was worrying about last night, whose home is in Bergamo, reports today that he and his elderly father are feeling better after a couple of weeks of fever and aches. So that’s a bright spot!

Pi Day and the refrigerator

Although I don’t consciously track the arrival of Pi Day, somewhere in early March I always seem to start feeling the urge to bake a pie. Earlier this week, I defrosted homemade rhubarb compote and a bag of strawberries, and having realized that today is Pi Day, after breakfast I got them out, along with other ingredients, so I could get started. I also had the thought that while it was baking, I would write this post and schedule it to appear at 1:59, haha clever right?

That was before I discovered that the strawberries had leaked.

Pie-baking was postponed while I cleaned the refrigerator. Well, the half of it that was under the strawberries. I meant to clean the fridge soon, anyway. Maybe tomorrow. Or next week.

Once the pink sticky was removed, I had to restore shelving and drawers to the refrigerator. I assure you, the refrigerator has been cleaned on other occasions, and I don’t remember this part of the process being so awful. It ultimately took two Ph.D.s to get the drawers sliding reasonably smoothly under the appropriate shelves.

Then I made the pie. Crust: whiz in food processor 1 cup rice flour, 1 cup potato starch, 1 t xanthan gum, 1 t salt, 2 t sugar. Cut in 7/8 of a stick of dairy-free margarine. Add one egg and about 5 T of cold water. Roll out carefully. The egg made it less crumbly than last time, but it still fell apart a bit.

While the pie baked, I ate lunch. As it cooled, I cleaned the shelves above the strawberry spill.

After I ate a large slab of pie, I cleaned the shelves in the door of the refrigerator.

Now the refrigerator is clean! Yay! Plus there’s strawberry-rhubarb pie!

And the whole day is shot, but what the heck. I have a Pi Day story.

Six Saturday things

Not garden things this week, plus I’m a day late, so I won’t link to the usual Six on Saturday host.

Six food items I bought yesterday, and what I did with them:

1. Strawberries. Washed and eaten plain.

2. Baby lettuce. Salad.

3. Four pounds of rhubarb, washed, chopped, turned into compote and frozen.

4. Swiss chard, washed and steamed in the water that remained on its leaves.

5. Ginger root. Some went in the rhubarb compote, and I chopped the rest fine, put it in a jar, and poured sherry over it for future use. And had a glass of sherry while I was at it.

6. Sliced turkey. Went with the salad.

Items 1-4 were from the local farmers’ market, and 5-6 were from Trader Joe’s. I walked to do these errands. I was so under-slept that I didn’t want to get behind the wheel of a car. The day was sunny and warm, but not too hot or humid. I was in the sort of state where I’m fine if I keep moving, but intellectual activity isn’t happening, so I stuck with laundry, cooking (made a stir-fry for Sir John), and a bit of gardening.

Finally I’ve caught up on sleep, though my hours are still skewed very late (by my standards: admirably early by Sir John’s!). I’ll see what I can do about that, this week.

The Very Local News; or, How I Spent a Summery Saturday Morning

  • I woke up at 7:00, Glendower at my feet, thinking that I needed to go outside as soon as possible. A few minutes’ thought allowed me to recall that I needed to release the feral cat who was recovering in the garage (TN done yesterday, R today).
  • After feeding the indoor cats, I woke Sir John for the ceremonial Release of Cat, since it was his concern for this cat that led to the TNR operation. Feral cat, a ringer for Glendower, has been hanging out for a month or two. I thought he might be a neighbor’s pet, but inquiries led nowhere, and his behavior at the vet certainly indicated feral status. We put some food in his usual hang-out corner of the garden, and hoped he’d have a bite before dashing off, but as soon as I got the trap open he leapt the fence and was gone.
  • Sir John went back to bed, where he remains (he seems to be on Hawaii time lately).
  • I read three essays in The Oxford Handbook of Women and Gender in Medieval Europe.
  • The urge to go out kept nagging me until I remembered that I had planned to go to the Farmers’ Market. I walked, taking the long way so as to go by the ATM, admiring other people’s gardens (and noting a few that have that vile beast, creeping bellflower, invading their lawns), and greeting dog-walkers, joggers, and religious proselytizers.
  • I bought two pounds of rhubarb, two potted herbs, and two heirloom tomatoes (I think a Cherokee Purple and a Lucky Cross).
  • At home, the first course of lunch was two half-tomatoes sliced with salt and pepper.
  • I drank mint-ginger iced tea with a splash of lime seltzer. A couple of weeks ago, I found ginger-lemon seltzer at TJ’s, but I like this homemade blend better.
  • Dessert was a brownie from this recipe. These are lethal! Their impact is probably more intense because, my 8×13″ pan being packed away, I baked them in an 8×8″ pan for 50 minutes. They separated: the bottom layer is lighter, gooey, rather caramel-like, then comes a thick fudgy layer, and on top there’s a thin crunchy crust. I think I might capitalize on this tendency by baking them over a pie crust next time.
  • After lunch I made rhubarb compote. Two pounds rhubarb chopped into roughly 3/4 inch pieces, one cup sugar, half-teaspoon salt, hefty dash cinnamon, and a knob of ginger peeled and cut into three thick slices. Put it all into a pot on very low heat until eventually it boils and the rhubarb gets as soft as you like it. Fish out the ginger slices. Put them in a glass and pour more seltzer over them.

A week of spring

But how is it already a week since I posted?

Spring is moseying along thinking about whether it really wants to show up or would rather just turn back, go home, and put its fleecy pjs back on for a Netflix binge. There are more birds. They perch on the roof next door and taunt Reina, who chitters at them. There are snowdrops and crocuses in other people’s yards, not mine. Some other bulb flowers have stuck leaves above ground, in my yard, but that’s all. I considered raking up the leaves/mulch from last year, but we’re still supposed to have some below-freezing nights in the next week, so I think I will wait.

One of my classes is still awesome. The other, well. I had them sign up for conferences about their third paper, and lectured them a bit about making the most of the opportunity by doing a little work beforehand, like at least decide which option they want to write on. And check the instructions for the paper, because I am not giving them instructions just to make them jump through hoops, I am telling them how to do well on this paper and exactly what I am looking for if they will just read the instructions.

I mean, I can explain it to you again but I can’t understand it for you.

I once had a massage therapist who told me that in Chinese thinking, spring is the angry season. Works for me. Of course, then I need some excuse for my mood during the other seasons.

Sometimes I look at spring clothing online or in the catalogs that still show up in the mail, and consider this dress or that shirt, and then realize I don’t want to buy anything new, I want it to be warm enough to wear the spring clothing I have.

Lots of the bloggers I read post recipes they have tried or devised, or about meals they have enjoyed. Sometimes I enjoy these vicariously but more often lately I get cranky because I can’t eat that, can’t eat that, can’t eat the other thing either. It seems like some people travel to eat. I travel to look at things, because architecture, paintings, and scenery don’t make me sick.

I am making progress on some of the things I need to work on rather than having feeeelings about (mainly guilt) but now my feeeeeling is omg there is so much of this no wonder I didn’t want to do it because this is going to take so long. That is, I absolutely should have started sooner, but now the only thing to do is keep slogging along because It Is Not Going To Get Any Earlier, and the best I can do now is Don’t Make It Worse.

Usually this is the sort of thing I say to myself in February. Hey, April, are you going to be bringing warm days and a burst of energy? Come on, girl, we could use you over here. Take off the pjs and put on a flowered dress, you’ll have a good time once you get there.