Wednesday, March 30, 2011

No Lettuce Yet, and Other Garden News

Above, our early-spring solution to the problem of poo. Yes, poo.

The dogs make a lot of it. And we'd prefer (you understand) that when Iain go out to play in his sandbox he not have to dodge piles of steaming doggie mess. But how to keep them out?

Our answer came from IKEA, of course. It's only for now, until we can get a little gate up. But it's about 20 inches high, and with some small box or coniferous shrubs they'll be cute. They prevent doggie incursions so that area is clearing up nicely. We purchased an umbrella for when the weather warms (any minute! Friday is forecast for high 60s) so we can sit outside while Iain plays.

But what you really want to know is: lettuce? Not yet. Kate assures me that I need only wait but I prefer the "watched pot" method. That's where I check the beds every time I get into or out of my car. So far, it's not working.

Excuse me, I have to go nibble some toes.

[EDIT: Charles informs me that Boris has already jumped the planters. I will fill them with plants and see what happens then. Boo. Hiss.]

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Like Lunchables, Only Better

"Jam, Mommy. With butter. And jam."
Iain likes jam sandwiches. He still won't eat meat, or any cheese except Mozzarella, or really anything aside from his carb obsession (noodles, bread, pancakes, waffles, crackers...) and fruit.

But the plate can be pretty, right? No reason to surrender to mere functionality. Especially with so many cute Japanese bento-making tools available.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Caltech Fencing

Laura Decker, Fencing

Caltech undergrad and fencer Laura Decker has been competing in the national championships this weekend. I've been looking for the results, with no success yet. Any way you slice it, this is a great achievement. Congratulations and good luck! For more information, check out Caltech Today. Credit for the photo is also Caltech Today.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Happy Birthday, Grandma

From all of us. But especially Iain.

Friday, March 25, 2011


So delicious. It's a lot harder to snorgle the toes now that they walk around. Gritty. But still...chomp!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Moooommmmmmyyy!!! (I Pooped)

"Taking a nap" on the floor last weekend.

740am: I stumble into Iain's room to find him squatting over a puzzle. No pajama pants. This is normal, recently. diaper? Uh oh. Sure enough, he's decided to relieve himself on his bed. We have a pad under the sheet, so no harm done. But when I ask him why he didn't tell me he needed the potty he replies, "That's stupid." We are in deep trouble here, folks.

1010pm: From Iain's room, the dulcet sounds of "Mommy! I pooped!" Yes, 10pm.

Please send a nanny. Or a large coconut cake. Or both.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Passive Voice! Verbs of Being! Oh, Hai. I Can Haz Vacation?

Still grading. Still. Grading. Gah.

But in other news, things are great. The sun shines in a blue, blue sky and my pile of papers shrinks every hour.

Oh, and I got this:

I KNOW, right?? Legend offers two stories for these tables (there are 2 of them in the building). According to some, when we bought this building (a lovely late-19th-century middle school) the tables were already here. Too big to move, they stayed. Another version insists that they originated in the old campus and moved here.

Either way: I wanted one. My colleague down the hall uses his as an all-purpose seminar space. When I observed his class last year the level of discourse in a seminar on European history stunned me. Meanwhile, upstairs the other table lived in an English classroom. Creative writers worked at it, freshmen learning about punctuation sat around it, and someone used a pencil to insist that "Big Brother is Watching." Which, of course, he is.

But last month I heard that the table needed a new home. I emailed. I wrote a note for the principal's desk. I trolled the halls looking for him. I stalked that table.

And now it's mine. We had to get a (female!) welder to break down the base, then reassemble it. Honestly, the thing's like an aircraft carrier - big and heavy. Then our guys had to re-build the top. But they did it. Once the burning smell dissipated and the metal shavings disappeared into the garbage...


Monday, March 21, 2011

Let Us Have Lettuce

Spring has begun. Officially. So here goes: above the beds full of leaves, grass clippings and dirt.

Last year's yard waste filled the beds about 80%, but I figured that one or two inches of real soil would be a nice nest for my seeds. You can see the way that my FIL constructed PVC pipes into a frame above each bed. I'll use that to drape landscape fabric in case of bad weather, or netting when the blueberries set fruit, etc.

Ok, so above the beds filled with soil. I used about 4.5 cubic feet (3 bags) of a soil mixture that contains all the good stuff (vermiculite, perlite, compost, etc.).

So here's what's in there. On the south end, all the way across the bed (ie, 2 square feet), Cascadia sugar snap peas. Just north of that, 4 square feet of loose leaf lettuce (Red Velvet, Red Sails, and Navara Red. I realized, too late, that I only buy red lettuces.). In the final two square feet, on the north end of the bed (closest to you in the picture), on the left Charlotte red chard and on the right Teton spinach.

In the orange bed, on the south end I planted two square feet of Oregon Giant snow peas. North of that are two square feet of romaine lettuces (both Little Gem). The last four square feet are butterheads (Four Seasons, Buttercrunch, and Speckles).

On both beds I tossed in a few tiny, tiny Johnny JumpUp seeds (violets!).

There are 2 beds left. One will be carrots, then other things (tomatoes and peppers later). The last box has the two blueberry bushes, and will hold herbs once it's warm enough (ie, May).

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Signs of Spring

Above, little buds of love on my blueberry bush. Below, leaves emerging from the blackberry canes.

I planted both of these last summer. The blackberries are in the ground because - basically - they're invasive snarling hyenas of the plant world. The blueberries (2 of them, different varieties) are in a raised bed because the soil here is basic while blueberries love acid. In a raised bed I can add soil amendments more easily.

Stay tuned. Today I planted seeds! Outside!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

And Now for the Icing on the Cake

I was sick today. Yes, because the best thing to enhance a weekend full of exam grading (not that I've actually done any grading...) is a nice bout of gastroenteritis. Joy.

But before it hit, we managed to accomplish a couple of things. First, we popped down to our home-away-from-home (read: IKEA) and grabbed a Big Boy Bed for Iain.

Image is a hyperlink, in case you're desperate to buy a new bed.

In case you're asking (and if you're LC, you are): Hey, isn't that the exact same bed you picked out with Lawrence 7 years ago when he was moving to Pasadena? Yes, yes it is. And it's the exact same price, too. I love IKEA.

The great thing is that we're going to have house guests for about 3 weeks next month. So we needed additional bed space. And Iain has grown so large that he really could do with a bigger bed. So we killed two birds with one stone and got this bed. It'll help us make a nice nest for our guests, then it will move upstairs so Iain can enjoy a nice big bed. It'll be nice. Nice!

To dress it, we got 3 new pillows, a new duvet, and 2 versions of this cover:

It comes in green, blue, and grey. We got one set in blue (my favorite color) and one in green (Iain's favorite color). Plus bottom sheets, and a mattress ordered from Sears, that makes us readyreadyready to host a house party.

And then I got sick. So boo. But still: productive morning!

Thursday, March 17, 2011


Thin posting this week because we're in exams.

And on that subject, a conversation today:

[Student is considering which essay question to choose. He is asking about this question:

1. Modern life, for all its connections to the past, offered Americans a series of profound changes. Explain the power of modernity, and responses to it.]
Student: So, if I write this one, I can discuss modernity as an intellectual force as well as a set of social and cultural changes, right?

Me: Yes.

I can't wait to read that. Sometimes teaching is like eating a huge ice cream sundae with a cherry on top. And fudge sauce. And maybe some caramel, too. Yes, that good.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Last night, on the Big Bed:

Iain: Chase me! Tickle me! Nooooo!
Me: Gotcha! [tickle, tickle] Mmm. These toes look good and I'm HUNGRY! Oh nom, nom, nom [nibbles toes].

Iain: No! Toes not for eating.
Me: Well, then. What are they for?
Iain: Walking.
Me: Oh.

Iain: Here's some chocolate. [mimes throwing me a piece of chocolate.]
Me: Yum! [I mime eating the chocolate.]
Iain (looking thoughtful): My...toes...are...chocolate!
Me: Oh? [Grabs feet] NOM NOM NOM [nibbles toes energetically]

Cute squealing.

Also, we signed up Iain for about 65 weeks of swim camp. Because we'd like to see gills by September.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Gardening and Shopping Success

After our garden fail with the chard seeds, I needed something to go right.

So today I took Iain down to Millcreek Gardens and we bought some pansies. Because you can't go wrong with pansies. Also, we checked out the conifers, the fencing, and the lilacs. I restrained myself, but only just.*

When I returned, Iain and Charles helped me load my new wheelbarrow (!!!) with decayed leaves and glass clippings (aka compost) and transfer them to the raised beds. Did I mention that my blueberries and blackberries are about to leaf out? Exciting.

Anyway, I filled the beds so they can break down a little more before I add soil (probably only about 2 inches in each bed since the lasagna method took care of the rest) and begin sowing lettuce seeds. Then we put up the PVC pipes that will eventually hold landscape fabric (to protect from unexpected snow - like last year's May 26 snowfall).

But wait! There's more. While Iain napped (no, really) I popped out to Barnes & Noble where I found some good books for my seniors. Graduating students traditionally receive a book from a faculty member, and this year I have 3 seniors in my charge.

After that, I went looking for something cute to spend my birthday loot on. Sundance to the rescue. Cute, right? I love pleats. And color! And pattern! You're wondering about body snatchers, aren't you?

I actually bought this. It's not black. I think I'm growing as a person.

Did you think I was done? Nope! When Iain woke up we all went down to IKEA, where we got an umbrella and stand plus 3 planters. We're going to barricade the part of the yard near Iain's sandbox so the dogs won't go in there. The umbrella's purpose is, surely, obvious.

In other words: our seeds failed but we're doing ok anyway. It's mid-March, and spring is in the air. Crocuses line the sidewalks, daffodils and tulips will be next, and before you know it we'll all be complaining about the heat. I'll be complaining while wearing a cute skirt, though.

*I may have slipped 4 dahlias onto my cart, but I'm not telling. And you won't know anything about it until July, anyway.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


Goggles again. Who could have predicted that looking at the world through rose-colored plastic would be so magical?

If you're thinking, "He looks so grown up!" don't worry. He's not ready for college yet. Can't spell, for one thing.

The other night we heard him singing to himself: "BPPDD, BDDPPD, and hmmhmm was his name-O!"

Uh...I don't think that's how that song goes.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Gardening Fail #1

Spring is here! Sort of.

It's consistently in the high 40s and low 50s during the day. The sun is shining all the time. And every so often the sky opens and 8 inches of snow appears (like Monday night!). Spring in Salt Lake City.

I was excited, obviously, so I planted some Swiss chard seeds in one of the egg cartons I'd been saving. Every day I watered my little soil buckets, hoping to see green poking through. I watered. I waited. I looked carefully. I waited.

Nothing. Today I decided to poke around. None of the seeds germinated at all. At. All.

Oh, well. In 3 or 4 weeks it'll be warm enough to plant lettuce seeds. See you then.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Fun with the English Department

Ok, bear with me on the context for this.

1. James Franco is a movie actor. He recently hosted the Oscars with Anne Hathaway.

2. James Franco is smart. Rumor has it that he is starting a PhD in English at Yale.

So...a grad student at the University of Chicago started a Twitter feed devoted to tweeting imaginary things related to how James Franco is a rock star in the Yale English department (and the English field as a whole). A taste:
Aristotle plagiarized James Franco's dissertation. Ashamed, he burned all extant copies of it, a treatise on comedy.

James Franco's diss. doesn't have rough drafts. It just has the parts forthcoming from Verso, Routledge, & @UChicagoPress.
James Franco doesn't hire research assistants. 1. He doesn't need help. 2. He doesn't search; he has already found.

James Franco is allowed to drink in Special Collections. His reflexes guarantee no coffee spills on rare books.

James Franco never pays for photocopies at the library. Why kill trees while neglecting a photographic memory?

James Franco's dissertation is not a "contribution to the field." It *is* the field.

Search committees fly to James Franco's house during the MLA Convention and interview him while sitting on his bed.

James Franco doesn't take notes in class. Sure, his memory is great, but, more, it's that the lecturers are quoting him.

Funny stuff, especially if you've ever been on the academic job market, gotten a PhD, or spent much time with the folk in English. You can read the rest here.

In other news, last night Iain ran around the house yelling "Wonder Iain! Superboy!!"

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Oh, Penzey's. You Are My Valentine.

Tonight I had to pull something out of my butt.

That is, I had a social engagement that required me to bring a dish. I failed to plan ahead. So.

In the fridge: carrots, snow peas, sugar snap peas, red bell peppers. Greek yogurt. Aha!

I added minced garlic to the yogurt, then lemon juice, then Penzey's Greek seasoning (I know! A spice mix. So retro. But so good!). Stir it up, decant into a beautiful hand thrown pottery bowl, and voila! PartyPartyParty.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Today, on the Iain Show

Today, Iain will demonstrate the proper use of goggles. Please pay careful attention, as he does not like to repeat instructions. Also: whales!

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Happy Birthday To Me (Whales)


My birthday (yesterday) was just fine. In fact, better than fine. My loving spouse gave me a weapon (en garde!), my mother gave me this dress, my in-laws gave me the means to maybe get juuuuust one more cute spring dress, and my students gave me one cake plus 2 songs ("This is the birthday sooong...It's not very looong."). We had sushi for dinner. It was a good day.

Iain, meanwhile, was busy thinking about whales. I know this because I saw a poster outside his classroom door. It asked, "What do you play with when you can't go outside?"

Each toddler's idea appeared. Kid One said "a Bus." Kid Two "my brown doggie." After that it was pretty predictable: "Stuffed animals," "Trains," "Cars," "Airplanes," "My school bus" (lots of boys in Iain's class).

Iain? He said, and I quote: "Whales, killer whales, humpback whales, whale sharks."


Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Tooonnnny! Here, Tony Tony!

You know you want it, my friend. You Know.

Article here.