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Wednesday, June 02, 2004

It's Six (Six!) Entries in One 

It's been a little while (causing my Blogshares price to drop), so today I'll offer up a very, very long entry, but subdivided for easier reading:

The Past Few Days

Memorial Day Weekend was dominated by Evelin's parents visiting. They arrived Thursday night in time for us all to go to an O's game. Friday, while I was at work, Evelin and her mother toured the Decatur House and a few other sites downtown and her father spent the day with this brother riding motorcycles out to parts of Western Maryland. That evening, we all met up at Evelin's uncle's house for a barbeque.

Saturday, I took some alone time to cut the grass/ogräs/cicadas, and then we went to Rockville for the Hometown Holidays festival. M---, my mother-in-law, wanted to look through the Rockville Art Festival booths. We also took a walk over to nearby St. Mary's Catholic Church to visit the grave of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.

That afternoon, while R--- took a nap and ran up to The Home Depot, Evelin, M--- and I went off to the National Arboretum to feed the koi and to visit the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum. That evening, we all went out to Samantha's (which has shot right to the top of my and Evelin's favorite places to eat).

Sunday, the in-laws left by mid-morning, giving Evelin and me time to run to the farmers market for some tomatoes, apples, scallions and fresh eggs, and then it was off to watch the pandas, and then to have a friend over for dinner, which was pretty simple, but tasty -- grilled corn and a stir-fry of snow peas fresh from the garden, mushrooms, carrots, and garlic tops drizzled with sesame oil and tamari. For dessert, Evelin made some blueberry white-chip cookies: It's a very yummy cookie Evelin devised with white chocolate chips and Trader Joe's dried blueberries instead of regular chocolate chips. They're sweet and delicious.

Monday was fairly sedate, mostly because I was feeling stressed from work and all the socializing of late (my mother two weekends back, the trip up to Massachusetts one weekend back, in-laws and friends this past weekend). After cleaning up the house a bit and clearing all the furniture out of the guest/media room in preparation for painting, Evelin and I spent most of the day watching Colonial House, which we'd taped when it first aired. Unfortunately, the cassette could only hold 6 hours of programming, so we've seen the cape merchant start to straighten everything out, but the final two hours are lost to us ... and they aren't airing in June, so we'll probably have to wait until the autumn pledge drives to find out how it ends.

I did poke around the Colonial House website a bit and I love that the dogs -- Henry and Chloë -- are given full profile pages, just like all the rest of the participants. It would have been nice, however, to find out more about the Native American thoughts on the project. John Bear Mitchell has one page about the project, but I would have liked a little more from the Passamaquoddy and Penobscot perspective. (To be fair, it looks like the next episode does have more with the visit by the Wampanoag.)

Tuesday was back to work -- the start of production week and I'm still rushing to keep my new staff member busy. She's very efficient and a quick worker, which is making me have to think further ahead that I had been able to when M--- was splitting her time between my magazine and another one.

Pandas

Sunday was the first time since Easter that I have watched the pandas. I missed the entire breeding season, but I guess we'll have a pregnancy/pseudopregnancy watch in a few months.

I asked B---, the keeper, if the bears had been eating cicadas, and she said there haven't been any signs of it. She also said that there weren't that many cicadas in the zoo (or at least in the panda yard) this time, so it could be a lack of opportunity rather than interest. But the next time she came into the camera room from the yard, a cicada had attached itself to her shirt, so maybe there are more out there than have been noticed ... or Tian Tian is eating them as soon as they crawl out of the ground.

The other pandas in town are the Pandamania sculptures. Evelin and her mom saw a few on Friday, and I've run into a few more on my commute and elsewhere in town, but we haven't mounted a comprehensive expedition to see them yet. (The Pandamania website has finally posted an index to all the bear sites, but there's no PDF map/gallery like was done for Birds I View, which is a shame.

The Sunday Washington Post ran a slightly dismissive article about whether or not these sorts of projects can be called "art." They surely aren't high art, but I think the <quote>serious artists<unquote> criticizing the project overplay their complaints a bit. Yes, these projects do take up money that could go toward more permanent pieces of art that might challenge the viewer more, but excitement that these installations generate can help interest people in the idea of art more and might help generate raise interest and awareness in the importance of public funding for arts projects.

Painting

With our schedule clear of house guests for the immediate future, I can finally get back to the plans for painting the guest/media room. I started spackling a few weeks ago. On Monday, we moved all the furniture out of the room. The nursery, already unorganized and crowded with baby clothes and other stuff, is now hosting an extra chair and few other things; the upstairs hallway gained a bookcase; and our bedroom is now home to the TV and couch -- I can't get into the bottom three drawers of my dresser.

I also spent a bit of time patching the hole in the baseboard where the previous owner had the cable TV connection come into the wall and chiseling out a bit of a beam in the ceiling and planing the door so that the pull-down stairs to the attic would close more securely. It's about a half-inch better, but I think part of the mechanism is bent, keeping it from closing 100% flat. I may add somesort of weather stripping around the edge to create a better seal, but that will be after everything is painted.

Last night, I sanded down all the excess spackle and all the other surfaces, creating quite a mess that I had to clean up. That was followed by spraying the small cracks in the plaster ceiling with a crack-stopping coating. Basically, it is a aerosol-projected rubber treatment designed to help prevent small cracks from reappearing over time. After it's painted, the rubber should stretch if a crack reappears without the paint breaking -- at least that's the theory. We'll find out in a few years, I guess.

Tonight, I plan to tape up the woodwork and outlets, put down plastic drop clothes, and vacuum the dust out of the ceiling fan and then bag it for the painting. (I probably should take the fan down, but it is well balanced right now and I'd rather deal with painting around it than trying to have to rebalance it after everything else is finished.

The plan is to paint the ceiling white and the walls somesort of mossy green. The woodwork will probably be white, too, but we only started talking about that this morning. (The green walls, however, have been in the plans since we moved in; it will work well with the futon, and we both like the color.) It did have the though this morning of a shade of blue for the ceiling and a tree-bark brown for the woodwork to give the room a real forest-like look, but I don't think Evelin would go for that. Plus, it's a kind of dumb idea.

Garden

Things are going well in the garden. The blueberries and some of the raspberries seem to be setting pretty heavily, so depending upon when they all ripen we may be able to do more than just grab a berry or three to snack on every other day, which is what I've been doing with the strawberries. We did get to taste our first three raspberries last night, and they were very good.

The peas have finally started coming fast and furious. We made a stir-fry Sunday night with them and Evelin and I have been taking small bags full to work for munching throughout the day. We've had some cool days mixed in with the heat of May, so maybe they'll last a bit longer than initially expected, which is good even if it means we'll be later in getting the tomatoes into the ground. Evelin's also thinking about a few stalks of corn for one of the beds currently home to peas.

We topped the garlic on Sunday morning, so I am getting to work those into my cooking this week. I essentially treat them like scallions; the give a nice mild garlic flavor when cooked, but remain crisp. They can be a bit strong when raw, however. Some of the stalks look like they're starting to wither, which is what we want them to do before harvest; others are still going strong, but we weren't expecting to dig the cloves up until July or so.

The okra is sprouting nicely in the sideyard, and the scarlet runner beans (which are both edible and ornamental) are starting to crawl up the lamppost and fences where we planted them.

Cicadas & Dragonflies

The die-off of the cicadas seems to have started. They are still audible, but the peak singing seems to have past and most of the ones I'm finding on the ground are dead nowadays. And I've noticed a bit of a decaying cicada smell in some places. The next step will be the eggs hatching and cicada grubs falling to the ground to bury themselves for another 17 years.

But as the cicadas fade, the dragonflies are appearing. We've spotted several around the pond already this year, including a female blue dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis) and a male great blue skimmer (Libellula vibrans) that I took pictures of for BugGuide.net.

The Baby

Last, but certainly not least, is the baby. There's been some pretty active kicking (maybe due to the blueberry white-chip cookies) some nights, and I actually could feel some of it. Other than that, things are going well. Our next appointment with the midwife is on 10 June and between now and then we're all just taking things easy.

Evelin and I have been talking names some more. We have one we both like, but it feels more like a nickname than a name (and the name it is contracted from is not appealing), so we're still poking around. On Monday, I spent some time reading out family names from both sides of our family tree and a few possibilities popped up, including one surname that might make an interesting prénom or middle name.

I'm also reading bedtime books (using a paper towel tube to focus my voice toward Evelin's belly). Farmer Duck by Martin Waddell and Helen Oxenbury seems to be a favorite (it got some good kicking), so we've been reading that a lot. Last night, however, we tried Sandra Boyton's Barnyard Dance.

Other (Baseball) Stuff

Okay, I know I said six (six!) entries in one, but take this as a little lagniappe.

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