Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year!

We're going to a late dinner with friends, dessert back at our house, then downtown to watch a lit ball drop.  It's below freezing here and my feet hurt from helping my daughter clean out her apartment today.  Let's hope I behave myself and don't get too cranky.  M says I've already snapped at her once tonight.  Tired, hurt, hungry, cold, those are my triggers to being disagreeable.  Wish me luck, and I hope all of you have a great 2015.  

Monday, December 29, 2014

Book Review - Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

We heard a glowing review of this book on our local NPR station.   M decided to buy a hard cover copy of the book to have something interesting to read while on Christmas break.  I'm on break too and wanted to do some pleasure reading as well.  Unfortunately, I know how taking the time to sit still and read usually goes with me, I usually find cleaning, repairing, or remodeling projects to do, and I don't get around to reading.

Still, the premise of the book sounded interesting enough, and maybe I would actually take the time to read it.  The premise is a lethal flu virus wipes out 99% of the human population on Earth.  It's set in the current time.  It follows the story of a famous actor, and people connected to him.  The story jumps around in time from the actor's early life to later in his life, and from before the flu and up to 20 years after the collapse of human civilization.  

Well, I did read the whole book in less than 24 hours.  That right there should tell you a lot.  It was a quick, easy read.  It was interesting enough to reel me in, and keep me turning the pages.  I could easily imagine the characters and the events in the smoothly flowing narrative.  Okay, there's the good part.

Now for what I didn't like.  The author skipped around a lot, in different times, and with various character's lives and histories.  Sometimes the jump was seamless and logical, sometimes it didn't make sense and felt like the author was using the device as a crutch.  

Another thing I didn't like, and I'll try to explain this without being too specific and spoiling the story, was that the author spent a good bit of time building this one character and the character's backstory, creating this key player, powerful, tough to beat, only to snuff the character out very easily, and that was unsatisfying.  It felt like the author was trying to wrap up the story and had to resolve this character's story line, and just did it, without preamble.  It was very unsatisfying.  

The last complaint, there was a major thing that occurred near the end of the book.  It was never investigated, explained, or resolved in the story.  I don't know if the author is planning a sequel to this book, but that would be the only reason I would leave this gaping hole at the end of the story.

Overall it was a quick and enjoyable read, but I don't think the lavish praise the radio gave it was fully justified.  

Friday, December 26, 2014

Highlights from Christmas Dinner

The meal was phenomenal! No, really. M is such a great cook. The standing rib roast was cooked perfectly, very flavorful, and the roasted Brussells Sprouts, nutty and deliciou, however, her Yorkshire Pudding was decadently delicious. Also, a friend brought a ginger and fruit tart. I don't really care for ginger and the first bite didn't win me over, but I kept eating little bits, and then I began appreciating the subtle flavors and the creaminess. It was not sweet like I expected a desert to be, but it was refreshing with the fruit and I'm glad I didn't turn my nose up at it.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Sights and Smells of the Holiday

The house smells fantastic, rib roast, veggies, Yorkshire pudding, mmm.  Waiting on friends to arrive for dinner.  Wish you all were here. 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Merry Christmas!

I got busy and didn't get back to posting about the bathroom remodel.  I've been busy taking long walks with the dog, decorating for Christmas, and doing a very thorough cleaning of the house before we have people over.  Here are pictures of some of the decorating.  

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The inspiration

There have been a few luxurious bathrooms in our travels, one in London, another in New York City, another in Estonia, that when we saw them, M said, one day, she wanted a bathroom like that.  The styles were usually open, a walk-in type shower without a door, lots of tile, glass, multiple shower heads, and towel warmers.  I never thought we'd actually ever have one of those bathrooms, it was more just a pleasant fantasy.  Then when M's mom gave us a gift so we could remodel the bathroom, we had to try to get a special bathroom.  This picture above is a basic bathroom walk-in shower that we thought might fit our budget.  We weren't sure if we had space for it.  

M and I had to agree on tile.  She wanted something basic, modern, and clean looking.  I wanted something traditional and classic that would fit the age of the house.  I was thinking a black and white bathroom, M was thinking grays.  We both agreed on subway tile, kind of like this picture above.  

When we went to pick out the gray subway tile, we also picked out this mosaic tile for an insert to break up the solid wall of gray tile.  When we had people come give us estimates to remodel the bathroom, we thought we might need to expand the bathroom to get what we wanted, which is what ended up happening.  We ended up gutting the whole bathroom down to the studs, which was a good thing considering past disasters the previous homeowner left us, and considering what we found when these walls were removed.  Okay, honestly, the next post will be the demolition.

Bathroom Remodel

The last room in our house that had yet to be touched by us was the upstairs bathroom, well except for the attic and basement, and I plan to get to them.  So the first time we saw this bathroom, before purchasing this house, we thought, how luxurious!  A HUGE jacuzzi tub, we could imagine long soaks after long days.  We'd never had a tub like that before, so what did we know? 

It doesn't look that fancy in this picture, because this is the reality.  A big soaker tub isn't practical in the real world.  There was a large couple of steps if you wanted to climb into the tub.  There was no shower door and the space was too wide to install a standard shower rod, so we strung a wire across the space so we could shower.  Also, it was a hand-held shower, for those of you who haven't tried holding a shower nozzle in one hand while washing your hair and body with the other hand, you have no idea how annoying that can be.  

Initially the brown color of the bathroom seemed calm, and relaxing, after nine years of that, it was just dark and depressing.  There was no counter space for everything, there's still not, but we're working on that.  

The other problem with this tub was that the previous homeowner did it and he didn't know what he was doing.  He never sealed the grout around the tub, so it quickly went from a light cream color, to an orangy brown that would not come clean.  You could not reach across the tub to clean it without falling in head-first, so you had to climb in the tub and get cleaning products all over yourself on a weekly basis.  I ended up just not using the bathroom, and instead, hauling all my stuff downstairs, and using that bathroom.  

We knew we would have to re-do this bathroom if we ever decided to sell this house, but after dropping 30k to do the outside of the house, there wouldn't be any money to do this for quite a while.  In comes M's mother, gifting us money to re-do the bathroom.   It wasn't enough to go hog-wild with the re-model, but if we were careful, and got some estimates, and bargained the price down, we might just be able to do it.  It took about 6 weeks to complete, but it's so nice now.  Next post, the rip out phase.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Let the wild rumpus begin!

Yay!  Vacation time, finally!  Finals are done, grades are turned in, I've the preps for my Winter class done, now I'm moving on to decorating and prepping for Christmas.  Over this short break I hope to get some reading done.  I'm also hoping to get the attic insulated and wired for recessed lights and electrical outlets.  We'll see how far we get. 

Here's one of the books I plan to read.  I'm reading it to see if it would be a good text to assign for my students to read.  

This is another book I'm planning to read.  It's about a race riot that occurred near here.  I'm thinking of assigning it for my American history class.  Now I will start assembling a blog post about the bathroom remodel we just had done.  That should be a little more interesting.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

So funny

I don't know if this link will work, but I've watched it a couple of times today and it's so funny. This young guy goes around narrating what people are doing in public.  Click here >>> Like a Boss


Monday, December 8, 2014

Update on my niece

I was looking through my blog while my students take their final and saw pix of Lexi. I decided I should post some recent ones so you can see how she's grown. She will be 9 months old on the 22nd of this month. She is scooting and crawling around, trying to walk. She is still the happiest baby anyone has ever seen. She's not afraid of anything and has no problem with strangers picking her up. Her first encounter with Santa went beyond well. In the picture below you can see her smiling directly into the camera and hamming it up. What a blessing this baby is.

Here she is at 4 days old.
Here she is with daddy.
This is from when they visited us late this summer.
Here she is around 6 months old.
Here she is with Santa. She just smiled at him and then for the camera. What a sweet natured baby!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

More tattoo

So while my daughter was here for Thanksgiving dinner, she showed me more work on her tattoo.  Her tree now has branches, and he added more small animals at the bottom.  There are breaks in the branches because other animals will be added there later.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Just waiting on the guests to arrive, 17 this year for dinner.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Sorry about my absence

Bogged down in grading, bathroom remodel almost done, attended the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Run last weekend.  M ran it, I couldn't because of a foot injury.  *sigh*  Fall came in fast and furious here, one moment it was September and worrying about October coming, I blinked and we're already in the middle of November.  I tell myself I will sit still when I get old, but I'm not sure I'll be able to even then.  :-)  Until I can get on top of all this grading, here's a lovely tree near our house blazing in its Fall colors.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Skeletons climbing

I've been so busy that I forgot to take pictures of this year's Halloween display. We moved things around, added new features, and had over 300 trick-or-treaters this year! This is the most we've ever had. We had multiple people handing out candy and they got overwhelmed a couple of times at the massive number of people swarming onto our property. Oh my! I told CK about the skeletons we added that we positioned to look as if they were climbing up the side of the house. I didn't get any pictures, but M did, so I snagged this one from her FB page.

We're also in the midst of a major bathroom remodel. Yes, we are gluttons for punishment. I will post on that as soon as the dust settles. We had the whole bathroom gutted down to the studs and expanded a bit. After 3 weeks of destruction, re-construction, wiring, plumbing and painting, we are finally at the tiling stage today. I'm really hoping it all gets done this week. Well, mountains of grading awaits me. Later!

Friday, October 24, 2014


I love my daughter.  What mother wouldn't say that?  Sometimes when I look at the pictures she posts on Facebook, I'm suddenly faced with the realization that this beautiful girl, my baby, is a wild child.  I am constantly amazed at her bravery, some might call it willfulness, but she's living her life on her own terms.  It's not an easy life.  She works harder than anyone I know, but she also plays hard, lives fully, and is always pushing herself to see what else she can do.  The above picture is her, on the right, taking fun pictures with her best friend on the left.

She has always been connected to animals without even trying.  When she was very young, somewhere between age 3-5, a wild cat followed her home.  The cat would run if we came near it, but would come up to her.  As a teenager she worked on a nearby horse farm, and I watched as the horses followed her across fields and to the barns, without her even getting reins to bring them in.

She's always been an odd mix of worry-wart, perfectionist, and daredevil.  New things always scared the hell out of her.  She never handled change well, but she was also very stubborn.  She would force herself to confront scary things if she really wanted something on the other side of it.  It made me really nervous when she began jumping horses.  When she moved onto trick-riding, I had to find peace with it, that if she broke her neck doing it, well at least she would go out doing something she loved.

I don't think I would ever strap jets to my back and skyrocket over water.  The height, the speed, the water, nope, I would never do that, but damn, you go girl!  She's not one to sit on the sidelines.

I don't believe she's an adrenalin junky.  I've met the type before.  She doesn't do things for the rush of risking her life.  She does these things because she's alive, and she wants to experience everything she can.

She wants to achieve competence.  She wants to try everything once (at least) to understand the experience, to learn new things, to participate.

She's decided she wants to be in a circus, but not one of these romaticized, "I'm going to run away and join the circus," type of fantasies.  She wants to join Cirque de Soleil.  She first started with pole classes, then competitions.  It was great, but she wanted more.  Next she began taking aerial hoop classes.  Better, but she wanted to do more.

Then came the ribbons.  She excelled at all of these things.  She then applied to various circus schools.  She had to send in video auditions for these schools.  She got accepted to two programs.  She really wants to go to the school in England, but she doesn't have the money.  You can't get student loans for this type of education.  So she has begun selling off everything she owns, piece by piece to get the money.  I think with covering boarding for her horse while she's gone, continuing to pay on her car, airfare, room, board, and tuition, she needs around $10,000.  

To me, this would be overwhelming, which is probably why I gave up on too many things that I wanted to do when I was younger.  I admire her determination.  She can't afford to continue her hoop and ribbon classes if she's going to save any money.  So she found people who do free acro-yoga classes in Baltimore in one of the churches.  She's now expanding her acrobatic skills by working with the instructor and classmates.  I admire her focus, drive, and determination.  I will give her some money to help her out, but I don't have ten grand.  Her father said he will give her some money too, also not ten grand.  I hope she's able to pull this off.  She's working so hard for this.  Sacrificing all she can.  Is it any wonder I love this child?  She's just amazing.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Greetings from Miami

We hopped on a plane this morning and headed down to Miami for the weekend.  M, her sister, and some of their friends from high school flew in from around the country to all attend a Green Bay Packers game on Sunday.  Ths is M and her sister catching up on the beach.

We had a wonderful Cuban dinner and then strolled around South Beach.  The place was packed with young people and dance clubs.  That was never my thing even when I was young.  I looked up at one point as night was falling and saw some clouds moving in and the trees looked very moody.  This was the best I could do to catch the moment with my cell phone camera.

While walking on the beach we saw this guy, on his laptop and smartphone.  Dude!  Look up, there's an awesome ocean right in front of you.  ;-)

This is the view from our room on the 18th floor of the Hilton.  Tomorrow we're planning to drive down to the Florida Keys.  

Saturday, October 4, 2014

A day at the beach

My sister came for a visit from Ohio.  We went to the beach today and I snapped these pictures of my baby holding my sister's baby.  First cousins, 25 years apart.  Life is amazing.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Oh the irony

Over on CyberKitten's blog he has a picture of a seagull on a "no birds" sign. This made me think of a photo I showed to my class today. What are the chances of a cop holding a sign reading, "no more police brutality," while another cop is brutalizing a 6 year old child, and then, that someone will get the shot with all the elements in the frame at that exact moment?

This photo was taken by Matt Herron in 1965, in Jackson, Mississippi. The 6 year old boy was holding an American flag as part of a Civil Rights demonstration. When his mother saw the cop grab the flag, she told her son, "don't let that man take your flag," so the boy held on, was yanked up off the ground, and then fell to the ground. Stunning how people can behave.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

My love of old hurricane lamps

I blame CK for this post.  He had a post about design on his blog here:

In the comments section I mentioned which time periods I liked as far as design (1920s-1930s) and I also mentioned my love of hurricane lamps.  I've been thinking lately about what I would like to post about, and the minute I thought about my lamps, I thought, that's it!

So I have no idea how old any of my lamps are, and until this post, I never bothered to research anything about them.  I didn't buy and collect them because they were worth money, I collect them because they have aesthetic value to me. I love the weight of them when I pick them up.  I love the cool feel of the glass in hand.  I love the beauty in their curving lines, and I love that they are practical as well as beautiful.  

I purchased my first oil lamp (a reproduction) in 1982.  It has a glass top and a wooden base.  I got it for the look, but I was also moving away from home for the first time and I wanted to make sure I had a source of light if I couldn't afford to use electricity, which as it turned out, was pretty prescient.  I was very poor when I first went out on my own and couldn't afford to use electricity for anything that wasn't necessary.

Later when I was living in Arkansas, I discovered Quattlebaum's junk shop.  I was like a kid in a candy store there, they had junk, but also antique oil lamps and iron beds (both of which I began collecting) and I was hooked.  I became a regular customer, haunting the aisles and the shelves every week when he brought in new products from estate sales and other places where he found these treasures.  

Now I'm a long way from Arkansas, and there are no junk shops in Maryland like you would find on every back road in Arkansas, so I have to satisfy myself with getting to the weekend flea market a few times every few months and picking up the occasional lamp, or part of a lamp.

Currently I've found myself in the possession of two very old bases (first photo on top) in which they have a base that has the brass threads for the burner on the inside of the glass neck.  Reproduction lamps and reproduction burners are made to screw into threads on the outside of the glass neck.  So I've been unable to find a burner to fit either base.  In the picture at the top, I placed a burner and chimney on top of one of the bases, but they re not secured.  

In addition to the oil/hurricane lamps, I've also started picking up lanterns, antiques and reproductions. I don't know why lamps have captured my attention so thoroughly, but I do love looking at them.  Currently I have lined all the shelves in my daughter's old room with various lamps and lanterns.  I'm actually out of room to put any more up there, so I don't know what I'll do if I find another I can't live without.  

Recently I've begun picking up old milk and medicine bottles.  I love clear glass, etched or pressed. I also collect dishes like that.  I wonder what my fascination is with old glass. Oh well, I guess I should get back to researching them.  Maybe I'll find out how old they are or find replacement burners for those two older bases.