April 2017

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Well, we got the big snow as promised. I don't know how much we got, but it was a lot. There was a lot of blowing and drifting last night, so it'd be hard to tell, even if I was willing to venture outside, which I have not so far. Schools were closed today after an early dismissal yesterday.

This was our back deck this morning. It's still snowing lightly, but we're not supposed to get more than a few more inches today.

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Bobby took these pictures of the Wilds last night; he took them out to play in the snow. They are both like little children and get giddy when we have fresh snow falling.

Lancelot.

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Guineweird.

 photo gwen-2017snowstorm_zpsp2s4grsp.jpg



On a completely unrelated note, I have enough fannish stuff to report that I'm actually going to use a bulleted list. Whoa.

  • I wrote an essay for the B2MeM prompt "Analyze a Chapter or Passage." I chose to compare the death scenes of Fëanor and Fingolfin, looking particularly at the evidence those passages provide for historical bias. The result: The Deaths of Kings: Historical Bias in the Death Scenes of Fëanor and Fingolfin.


  • For the personal essay B2MeM prompt, I wrote a personal essay (duh) called Mountains between the Light and the World: On Walls and Greed and the Privilege of Isolation. Warning: It gets into my personal politics, particularly my musings on why I've always been so bothered by the hoarding of light in The Silmarillion and how contrary to my political and personal values that idea is.


  • There's a new SWG challenge up. We're explicitly encouraging participants to combine our prompt with one of the other challenges going on. There's lots of challenges going on in the next month.


  • Last week, I almost died when I was Googling for a link to Attainable Vistas and, in the process, stumbled on this review of the issue of JTR and my essay in particular. The review called it "one of the best -- if not the best -- article on Tolkien written this year." What?! The writer is a Tolkien scholar, so he liked the first half--about historical bias--more than the second about fandom. Which I'd agree: the historical bias stuff is more generally interesting and relevant to an audience familiar with Tolkien. The fandom stuff is more for the connoisseurs, as it were. :D One of the things I found about traditional publication versus fannish publication is that the relative silence that meets a traditionally published work makes me wonder sometimes if what I wrote is even being read. (There wasn't absolute silence around "Attainable Vistas," but the chatter all came from fandom--go figure!) I was pleased to know that my work was not only read but clearly appreciated. It was a really pleasant surprise.


  • Speaking of "Attainable Vistas," I will be presenting the unpublished parts of that paper at the Vermont Tolkien Conference in just a few weeks. I received official registration information a few days ago, so it's really happening. No fandom stuff this time--just historical bias!


  • I have most of the rest of my B2MeM path planned out or underway. Let me say again how nice it has been to participate in B2MeM this year. I almost never get to participate outside of volunteering. But I get to listen to people participating complain about participating, feeling like the kid whose family never goes on vacation listening to her friends gripe about having to spend a week in Paris. I've really enjoyed getting to focus on my research and writing; I usually need an excuse to do this, and B2MeM has been a great excuse. It's improved my mood toward B2MeM immensely as well. I will confess that this is the fandom project where I am always the closest to burning out--thank goodness for Indy taking the reins these past few years!


  • Not really related to fandom, but while Googling my article the other night, I found that my university has also published my thesis. So you can read it if you want to. Some people said they wanted to! It's been downloaded 21 times, which is pretty amazing in itself.


Well, report card grades are due today, and I still have a little left to do to make that happen, so off I go!
The Goldens have always been also named The Wilds. Alex and Lance were The Wilds, and now Lance and Gwen are also The Wilds.

People often speculate, "I wonder what my dog does when I'm not home?" I'm fairly certain I know what The Wilds do when we're not home. Spending both weekend days home with them revealed that all they do? Is sleep.

This was The Wilds over the weekend, both knocked out cold on the floor of my study while I worked.

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Guinevere has taken to not wanting to get out of bed in the morning and installing herself on the guest room bed. Bobby's staff holiday party for Jay Peak was tonight, and when we got home, we had to call her about five times before she finally deigned to come see us. And this was after a full day of doing what you see in the picture above.
I am presently on the train to New York, for the New York Tolkien Conference, stopped in Brattleboro in sight of Whetstone, the excellent nanobrewery that changes their beer menu daily. My train left Waterbury ... at 10:20, more than four and a half hours ago.

No, Vermont is not that big. The train was slowing down to stop in Brattleboro, people were standing in the aisles collecting their luggage, when the brakes went on hard. I heard one of the conductors say, "Uh oh, what happened?"

Remember last time I was on the Vermonter, when the train in front of us derailed? I didn't think we'd top that.

A few minutes later, the conductor came over the PA system. The train struck a "trespasser" (their words; I detest it in this context, although I understand the legal reasoning for it), who was pronounced dead immediately.

This was at 1:30, so two and a half hours later, we are just beginning to move. You know what? I don't care. I keep thinking about the poor person on the tracks, the "trespasser," and wonder why they were there, did they not hear the train? Or ...? To be fair, everyone was really decent about it, at least in my car, even though quite a few people were destined for Brattleboro, which was just a short walk away. No one complained, although the people seated near me for some reason misunderstood universally (maybe hopefully?) that the train had hit an animal. Ever the Mary Sunshine, I corrected them.

I did get a lot of work done while waiting, and some non-work too. I remember reading someone once remarking that many academics write their conference presentations on the plane to the conference. I couldn't do that! Anyone who knows me knows that my inner Hermione is hyperventilating at the mere thought. Of course I am not an academic and don't really aim to be! But I did do much of the Powerpoint on the train, so maybe that qualifies me to move up from baby-scholar status to wannabe-scholar. (I'm never sure what to call myself. The s-word seems fraught.)

I'm going to get something to eat. And a beer. I was expecting to arrive in the city in two hours and we just crossed into Massachusetts. I'm hungry, but I couldn't bring myself to buy pizza and beer while a person was dead under the train.

This week was pretty busy, mostly with getting ready for the conference (I think Oshun will be happy to not get any emails from me for a few days! I clicked the wrong button my phone today, and she was listed as my only Frequent Contact, which sums up my last week quite succinctly!) but also continuing to work on the house. We painted the living room and hallway this week, which involved a lot of taping and finicky, detailed work and so took longer than I wanted to spend on it.

We had fun too. On Sunday, we climbed Mount Pisgah, the third-highest mountain in the Northeast Kingdom, with both dogs. We didn't mean to. We thought we were climbing the more modest nearby Bald Mountain, but Vermont played a joke on us and had two identically named roads on opposite sides of the access area, with both trails blazed in blue. The only clue was to "walk east" from the access area, and I guess we walked west. (We did, I realize now that I'm thinking about us in relation to nearby Lake Willoughby, but I honestly wasn't thinking about it. I saw the road name, Bobby found the blue blaze, and we were both like, "HERE.") We made it to the top--even Lance! our little old man--and the view was as stunning as one would expect of the third-highest mountain in the Northeast Kingdom and overlooking Lake Willoughby to boot. We only figured out that it was the wrong mountain because there was supposed to be a fire tower and wasn't!

Oh am I out of shape! Remember when I was snowshoeing up mountains this winter? Four months of thesis-writing followed by all the chaos of moving (and making it to the gym maybe twice per week and usually copping out and doing weights when I did) means that ain't happening unless I get back to work.

On Wednesday, we took our trusty old inflatable Sea Eagle kayak out on the Barton River that runs near our house. We rowed (and floated a good deal, enjoying the scenery, the wildlife, and some incredibly scented flower that we never identified) for three and a half hours and made it most the way to the South Bay of Lake Memphremagog and back. We now know that if we row more than we float, we can easily make it. (If we cross the entire South Bay to Newport, we can treat ourselves to a nice lunch as well, but our neighbor says that it is ten miles from the access area near our house, so we might have to build up to that.)

We saw and heard these massive brown birds and assumed, they're massive so they'll be easy to identify, right? And it's Vermont, so it's not like there are hundreds of species of things. We've struck out utterly. Anything that lives in Vermont that looks like them doesn't sound anything like them.

Yesterday was Lancelot's ninth birthday, so we took both Goldens to Prouty Beach on Lake Mem in the evening and let them get in the water. It was Gwen's first time in the water, and she jumped and splashed with such unbridled joy that, when she'd stop, she had to catch her breath. Lance frolicked a little too but mostly acted like an old man in a pool and stood belly deep in the water. Gwen also treated herself to a nice roll in the sand that left her filthy. (Whose birthday was it again?)

I have so much catching up to do--including pictures from our various adventures!--but for now it is pizza and beer time.
Baltimore officially broke the record for the most snowfall out of a single storm, so this was officially The Most Epic Snowstorm EverTM Or At Least Since Records of Such Have Been Kept Because I'm Pretty Sure More Epic Snowstorms Happened Before But Just Weren't Written Down. Here in Manchester, the National Weather Service tells us that we received 32 in/81 cm of white powdery goodness. However, I can speak from experience that snowfall numbers from this storm are going to be unreliable because of the wind. When I checked NWS snowfall totals yesterday, Lineboro--a town five minutes away that shares our zip code--supposedly had 4 in/10 cm more than we did, which is unlikely. The wind was just blowing it around, so an accurate measure was difficult to impossible.

Let's just settle for saying we got a lot of snow.

Read more... )
Bobby and I typically refer to Golden puppies as loaves of bread because they are roughly the size of a decently proportioned homemade loaf and similar in color. Since Guinevere is 11 weeks old--Alex and Lance were both 9 weeks when we brought them home--then she's quite a bit bigger than a loaf. We were adrift for a few days, not knowing what to call her. We'd sort of gesture her proportions with our hands like we'd do for the loaf of bread but bigger. But we didn't have a word to go with it. Eventually, I started calling her the miche, after the extra-large loaves one can buy at Panera Bread.

Well, we picked up the miche after work today. More! Including pictures, of course!! Of the miche. )
I am briefly coming off of hiatus to share some big news.

About a year and a half ago, Bobby and I went with friends to a local ciderworks. On the way back, we passed a house in Hampstead (next town south) that had a pen of Golden Retriever puppies playing in the front yard. Well, by the time we'd driven past three times, the owners noticed us and waved to us, like, "Stop being creepy and just stop and ask to see our puppies!"

We were not looking for a third dog--three big dogs adds all kinds of logistical challenges--but we liked the breeders and took a card and promised to give them a call if ever we were looking to add another Golden.

Three dogs was too many, but we do like to keep two. We like that they are able to be companions to each other when we aren't home, which is an unfortunate but necessary effect of being married professionals. We had talked about when we'd like to get a new dog and decided on the spring. And we'd call the breeders in Hampstead first when we did. Their website made clear that they breed one litter each spring, so the timing should be perfect.

This was solid enough in our minds that Bobby called them the other day to see if we could make a deposit to reserve a puppy from their next spring litter. A, lo and behold, due to work schedules, they weren't able to have a litter last spring, so they had one in the fall instead.

They had one puppy left, a little girl, light golden (like Alex, not Phil, who is red). We went to see her yesterday. I don't think it's possible for us to see a Golden Retriever puppy and resist it. We knew the outcome. I even joked to the owners when they asked if we had any ideas for names that I'd suggested "Maybe" and had then taken it right back because we knew the answer wasn't going to be maybe.

So Guinevere Estel will be coming home with us next Monday. This weekend, we are in Ocean City for a teaching convention (really! I swear! even though all the classes are in the morning so yes we will have to figure out something to do with the afternoons and evenings ...). She was born on August 1, so she is a little over ten weeks old. We didn't know her birthday at first, and the day Bobby found out she was ready was the eight-week mark of losing Alex, so that meant she could have been born on the day we lost him. I'm ... kind of glad she wasn't. As poetic as it sounds in theory, it actually hurts quite a bit in reality. As you will see from the pictures (of course there will be pictures!), she is a pudgy puppy like Phil, not tiny and emaciated like poor Alexander was. She is playful and friendly (also not like Alex! the carpet alligator!! I often say he was the cutest puppy I've ever seen but also the most awful in terms of behavior. He had no socialization prior to coming to us, it seems.)

It's funny: We've had three Goldens now, all obtained under unplanned circumstances. All were from litters of nine and were the last to be adopted.

We debated at length over the name. Bobby initially suggested Guinevere (Gwen for everyday use), but I shot it down right away, since she is a character in literature that I've never felt much connection to. We went through literature and mythology. It's a lot harder to name a girl using that method than a boy. We were between Cassiopea (Cassie for everyday--my preference) and Estel (Bobby's preference), which oddly were suggested by the opposite person who preferred them. Finally, driving home today, we revisited Guinevere and decided that there was a lot to like about the name, mostly that we liked the name Gwen and could imagine calling a dog in from the backyard using that name. (One of the main reasons that Lancelot became Phil over time! And one of the main reasons that I didn't prefer Estel.) So Gwen it is.

Phil went with us and met Gwen and ... wasn't thrilled. Phil likes exactly one other dog: Alex. But he has learned to adjust to about a dozen dogs of friends, family, and neighbors who end up sharing his house and yard periodically. He even learned to live with a cat for a while. (He really wasn't happy about that.) So he'll adjust and maybe, I hope, even learn to like her over time? At least a little?

This is much sooner than expected but we've gone with the circumstances with both Alex and Phil and ended up with beloved pets both time, so we think we're doing right now too. And we really can't resist a Golden puppy ... :)

Meet Gwen ... )
When I first purchased my video camera, I practiced using it by taking lots of little videos of the Goldens just being the Goldens. Now that Alex is gone, I am so glad that I did.

I pulled these videos off my school laptop the other day to save them on Dropbox. This one is probably my favorite. In 2013, the Ravens went to (and won) the Super Bowl. We took the Goldens to a party for the AFC Championships over my inlaws' house. I took this video the next morning, when I couldn't even get them off the couches to go outside.



Alex always had a very expressive face and a way of looking and acting that sometimes made you feel like he understood a lot of what you were saying. The dirty looks he gives me in this video as I immortalize his laziness are priceless.

Phil is in it too, curled in a tiny ball on the couch. Unlike Alex, Phil couldn't care less that I was filming him.
We left Liberty at around 12:30 today. Bobby had been talking with our friend Dawn, who lives in town and was watching the Goldens, for the two days while we were gone. Last night, she informed him that the town had run out of salt and so wasn't able to salt the streets. We live within town limits (barely), so the town does our street. We also live at the top of a huge hill; continue up our street past our house, and you look out at the mountains from the highest point in Carroll County. So getting home with the Yaris if the roads were not salted could prove treacherous. Given that, we decided to wait till later in the day, to let the town hopefully get their hands on some salt and, at the very least, let the sun do its work.

Once we were off Route 140, the roads weren't great: still snow-covered in places and a slushy mess in others. This seems to be the MO lately. I don't know what's going on and why it is lately taking so long to clear big roads after a snowfall. Bobby saw something online where a lot of plow drivers were commenting that they hadn't even been called out for this storm; apparently, the state is trying to save money. Wonderful ... because Marylanders aren't perilous enough on the roads when it snows. Ironically, for all of our worry about Manchester, once we crossed into town, the roads were beautiful. I guess they got a hold of some salt. They always do a good job on the roads, and this is definitely one of the perks of living in town. (They also vacuum up the leaves in the fall and pick up Christmas trees, brush, and bulk trash for free.)

Our driveway was, of course, completely inaccessible, since it had a foot of snow as well as a nice pile from the plow at the bottom of it. We parked in Neighbor Bob's driveway while Bobby went to get the snowblower going. And guess what wouldn't start? It is not our luck, it seems, to have motorized things start as they should when we need them in inclement weather. Bah. So we both grabbed shovels and went to work. Luckily, it was a light, powdery snow, and we quickly cleared enough space to park the car and a path to the front door.

Of course, once we were inside, Bobby went to start the truck, and naturally, now that we don't need it, it started right away. And today is much colder than it was on Wednesday; my only hypothesis is that it wouldn't start because of the rain. I don't know enough about cars to know what might be affected by rain that would cause a car not to start, but it's the only thing different between Wednesday and today that makes any inkling of sense.

The official snowfall for Manchester was 11.8 inches/30 cm. Bobby showed me a chart from the National Weather Service last night that ranked the reported snowfall in various locations. Check out who's sitting pretty at #6.

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Boo-yah, Manchester, in the top ten! I did see an unofficial report from the NWS with a report of 12.5" from Lineboro, which is the next town east of us, although they share our zip code. I'm not sure if they weren't included because of that or because the report came via CoCoRaHS and not from an NWS-trained spotter. (I am an NWS-trained spotter, yo. Although I haven't actually done anything with that for a couple of years now. After my MA, yaddayadda.) But then there's our friends in Westminster in eighth place! (I don't know where Funkstown is except that it is west of us--in Frederick or Washington County, I think; I used to know when I still assigned parole retake warrants and could tell you where every one-horse town in Maryland was located but that knowledge faded pretty fast--but I always imagine everyone there walks around in bellbottoms and platform shoes.)

My dad swears that Manchester is the coldest place in central Maryland. He insists that when Manchester [rarely] gets a spot on the evening news' weather map, it is always the coldest. I don't watch the evening news, but Manchester does have something of a microclimate. It is colder here, and we do get (and keep) more snow as a result. Not only are we pretty much as far north as one can go in Maryland--I like to joke that I can stand on my front porch and spit into PA--but we have a high elevation relative to the surrounding area. Our house stands at 1040 feet/317 meters above sea level. As noted above, the highest point in Carroll County is just up the road from us; to offer a point of comparison, my parents also live adjacent to the highest point in Baltimore County (the next county east of us), which is 505 feet/154 meters above sea level. Driving west on I-70, you have to go quite a ways into the mountains before the elevation signs show that you're above where our house sits. So it is not unusual, when driving from the bottom of the hill to our house near the top, to watch the thermometer in the car click down 2-3 degrees F as we drive.

With the driveway clear, we enjoyed the nicely cleared town roads as we drove into town to pick up the Goldens. We had a pristine backyard to let them out into; I took a video because they're funny in the snow. Apologies for the jiggly camera work; I was very often looking at something other than the camera.




In summary, these past two days have been awesome, despite first the truck and then the snowblower not starting. I was a good girl the other day and did download the syllabus for my next class, and I got one book read (Frankenstein) and two pages of notes typed up on it. I also got to play around a lot online, so it has not been all work and no play (for which I would get in trouble with a few people around these parts). And Bobby snowboarded for literally 15 hours, which seems ridiculous to me but makes him so very happy.
Bobby and I and my parents decided a few weeks ago that we wanted to go to Ocean City for the holiday weekend. It was a short trip--we left Friday around noon and came home today--but was very, very nice; I wish I was still there. Friday morning, Bobby left for Liberty Mountain to get first chair on their opening day of the season, which was--like last year--unusually early. (The Western resorts like Jackson Hole and Vale also opened this weekend.) He returned ecstatic, having spent the morning on snow that he said was more like January snow than November.

While he was gone, I rushed around getting things ready so that we could leave as soon as he came home. The Goldens knew that something was up as soon as the suitcase came out. As soon as their leashes and seatbelts followed, I had Alex on my heels for the rest of the morning. Despite having been thoroughly exhausted by the Thanksgiving festivities the day before, they managed to ratchet up some excitement for what they knew was an impending trip. Phil went to sleep in the car but Alex stayed awake for the whole three-hour ride.

We arrived in OC at around 3:30, only a couple minutes after my parents arrived. We were staying at the Fenwick Inn, which allows dogs in the wintertime. I took the Goldens to pee; they were both acting like wild animals and drove me crazy in just the short walk to the grassy spot where we take them and back to the hotel. We dropped them off in the room, knowing they were thoroughly exhausted enough to go right to sleep, and headed off to get a late lunch.

More and pictures below the cut! Including the tale of the old creaky hinge ... )
This weekend was fairly mild with another dip in temperatures and potentially our first snowfall due for later in the week, so Bobby finished cleaning up the leaves in the yard. Yesterday, I was able to help him: raking up the last of the leaves and putting a good, thick covering on all the garden beds.

Golden Retrievers pretty much know how to do anything handy that you might find yourself doing around the house, and they are always right there and eager to help. Cleaning up the leaves was no exception. For example, it is very helpful if, when you rake up a pile of leaves, a Golden Retriever lays in the middle of that pile because it keeps the leaves from blowing away.

When Phil did that the first time, I responded by raking the next batch of leaves over top of him. He became indignant and got up from the pile. Later, Alex did the same thing, so I thought, "Well, it worked with Phil, so it'll probably work with him too."

Photos beneath the Cut )
Yesterday was a very fun day: "Midmoot," or a gathering organized at the midway points between Mythmoots for local Tolkien fans affiliated with the Mythgard Institute. Bobby and I both went; participants pooled money to fly Professor Olsen down for a day-long seminar and dinner. (Professor Olsen is awesome: so down-to-earth and hilarious and brilliant.) It was in Alexandria, Virginia, which is not that far but manages to be that far: almost three hours from Manchester by the time all was said and done! Yikes. Just over an hour in the car and the rest of the time on the Metro. (Although, as Bobby put it, we did cross a state and all of DC in one of the busiest parts of the country.)

But it was worth the trip: The seminar was a series of informal talks and discussions but touched on several intriguing topics related to Tolkien and speculative fiction more generally. I thought about signing up to present something but sat on my hands, being overwhelmed generally at this point with academic stuff. Best of all, I got to hang out again with MithLuin, whom I've known online for many years and knew lived in Maryland and somehow managed to never meet in person till last Mythmoot when I complimented a woman on her Curufin costume and the rest is history. (I should have known. I mean Curufin? Really?? She had to be one of my own kind.) We had a great supper at the Bilbo Baggin's restaurant in Alexandria, in which Bobby, MithLuin, and I managed to talk about pretty much everything but Middle-earth (although we did talk about Tolkien's Beowulf a bit and MithLuin humored me by letting me yammer about my thesis a bit).

6:30 came too soon! The party went on for a while after that, but Bobby and I had that almost three-hour trip to make again, plus animals waiting at home to go out and pee, plus work the next day with planning still undone (for me). It sucked, though, having to leave; we've decided we are definitely staying on-site for Mythmoot this year because, however nice it is to live in the hinterlands most of the time, it isn't cool when you're having fun with friends and have to leave early. We had to leave Pub Trivia early this year at Mythmoot in an attempt to beat a snowstorm home (and we barely made it).

The drive home (or the "home drive" as I just typed it) was less painful until we reached Westminster and drove into a storm. So the poor Goldens had to hold their pee even longer because, when the rain subsided enough for me to let them out, they pretty much did a U-turn on the patio and gave me ugly looks like I was crazy for sending them out in the first place.

Speaking of Goldens ... today is Phil's birthday. He is seven. They're aging too fast ... So, for the next two months, until Alex turns eight, they will not be the Goldens but the Sevens.*

*They are Goldens and not dogs in the first place because, in the wilds of my imagination where most of the beings and objects of importance in my life are not only personified but characterized, then the Goldens take great umbrage at being known as dogs, a species they regularly rail against (sometimes including threats involving antifreeze).

I just downloaded a bunch of pictures of the Sevens off of our camera, but Photobucket is being a witch-with-a-capital-B and took just about forever to upload just two pictures of Phil. So those two pictures will have to suffice for now. They are really cute pictures, though.

The Little One on His Birthday! )
Welp, it's been a busy past few weekends, hence my relative silence here. Bobby and I have been spending most of our time outside, getting ready for planting season. Everything was crunched into April and the first few weeks of May (versus beginning in March) since we were under a blanket of snow for just about all of March. And last year, what with Bobby taking his Outdoor Emergency Care class for ski patrol and me physically unable to do much beyond moan and groan, we slacked off on things like weeding, so we have extra to do this year, since one thing weeds do very well is make more weeds and survive conditions that kills just about everything else living. (The latter attested by the number of plants we lost this winter: both blueberries, a holly bush, both rose trees, and the arborvitae, of course. We also have broadleaf evergreen shrub that is trying hard to live with some modest success after all the foliage on it dying this winter. But the dandelions are doing great! :)

Anyway, Mother's Day is the traditional planting day in central Maryland for tender plants, so true to tradition, we started to put our plants into the ground a week ago, which means that this week has been a lot of weeding, planting, fertilizing, mulching; weeding, planting, fertilizing, mulching; and so on. But everything is now in the ground and doing great.

I wish I could say the same for our bees. Bee-Talk Cut for Those Who Prefer to Avoid Bee-Talk :) )

We've also been busy socially, seeing friends on the weekend (sometimes accidentally! We went out for Indian on Friday, and I usually email our friends Tristan and Don to see if they want to meet us over there, but we decided to go so late that I didn't this time. But when we arrived, who had arrived only just shortly before us? So we got permission to combine our tables.) Last night, we hosted dinner for our parents as a belated Mother's Day dinner. We had a green salad, teriyaki chicken (asparagus quesadilla for me!), Bobby's incredible "island rice," grilled asparagus seasoned with that ubiquitous Maryland seasoning of Old Bay, and tres leche cake for dessert, topped with fresh strawberries and mango. Bobby made piña coladas and got the moms pretty soused. I was supposed to make strawberry ice cream, but every place we checked this weekend was sold out of local strawberries (Bobby had bought his for the cake earlier in the week), so I had to do vanilla instead.

We are dogsitting for our friend Dawn this weekend, so in addition to our two big dogs, we have her big black dog Duffy. And my inlaws, of course, brought their Great Pyrenees Bella, so the house was overrun with dogs. Big dogs.

More & Pictures below the Cut )
In other words, the backyard smells like poop. Presumably (hopefully?) that is because one of the neighboring farmers chose today's lovely weather for fertilizing the fields.

Yesterday, Bobby and I rode our bikes along the southern portion of the North Central Railroad trail. We rode over 14 miles (22.5 km), which sounds more impressive than it is, since the NCR trail, by virtue of being a rail trail, is pretty flat. We had never really ridden to the south before--I think we may have walked a short distance once--but found it really enjoyable, with lots of crossings of the Gunpowder River and high ridges. Bobby packed us a picnic lunch, which we ate on a grassy plot alongside the river: egg salad sandwiches on his homemade rye bread (the egg salad made delicious by the addition of his sweet pickle relish), blueberry chevre with crackers, a giant Mutsu apple that we shared, and snap pea snacks (which if you've never had are awesome). He even packed a small jug of "fruit salad": our favorite local shiraz. Good man! :D

We rode NCR about a year ago. Oh the difference a year makes. I was in such pain through the whole of it last year. Even getting on and off of my bike was hard. It hurt. Everything hurt. EVERYTHING. (I'm not exaggerating. It hurt to turn over in bed. It hurt to lay down; it hurt to move.) I constantly find myself thinking about what life was like a year ago and being so fecking grateful to be well again.

The trail, especially the southernmost part, was pretty crowded. I witnessed a head-on collision between a woman and a preteen girl; the woman was trying to pass some people walking--and the trail is not that wide!--it is as wide as would be needed for railroad tracks!--and appeared to swerve right in front of the girl. The woman messed up her bike and claimed to be fine and not upset but then implied blame of the girl by parting with a, "Just be careful next time!" while the poor, stricken girl looked at her father and insisted in a whisper, "She turned right in front of me!" I was directly behind the woman so I got to witness all of this excitement, whispered commentary included. The woman was already covered in grass, which led me to believe that was not her first fall of the day? (She'd come up silently to pass on my left at one point without signaling and startled me, so responsibility didn't seem to be a strong point.) Wow.

Today (the last day of spring break ... waaah ...) was potter-around-the-house day. Bobby is undertaking multiple masonry projects; he has already done a flagstone path in front of the house to match the tiled steps he did last year, he is expanding the front garden beds (to further our quest to have virtually no front lawn to mow; seriously, grass lawns are such a ridiculous waste of space!), and he is doing brick walls around the kitchen gardens in the back. My contributions are more meager: I turned the compost, dug the soil in half of the vegetable garden, and fertilized our newer evergreen shrubs. And I took pictures of some of the flowers in the yard. Whoopdedoo. Click the jump if you're interested.

Lots of Flowers, One of Phil )
Alex had his vet appointment this afternoon for his sore leg. He's been favoring his right hind leg a lot lately; when he first gets up, he'll limp and hold the leg off the ground. He is sometimes slow to get up, and once when we pushed him over on the bed, he showed his teeth, like we'd hurt him. We assumed that, since he's seven, he maybe had a touch of arthritis, a theory compounded by the fact that my sister's dog--who is around his age--was just diagnosed with the same.

But the vet checked his leg and pronounced that he has injured his ACL: not torn it, which would require surgery, but just strained it. So instead of having an old man's arthritis, he has an athlete's injury! (He is named after Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals.) It's not surprising given the way he plays. He's on anti-inflammatories for two weeks and not allowed to run, play, or do anything more strenuous than a 5- to 10-minute walk on-lead or go outside to use the bathroom. The proscription on running and playing is going to be the hardest part, since he tears around the yard on his own and plays hard with his brother both in and out of the house. (They get in trouble pretty much every night during dinner for playing tug with inappropriate toys or the famous "ad hominem attack," when they wrestle in the house, which they are not allowed to do, with their combined weight of 150 lbs. They go into the living room where we can't see them, but I can hear their mouths snapping open and closed at each other and will holler, "No ad hominem attack!" at which point they'll come back into the dining room all wide-eyed and innocent to be reminded to "Attack the toy, not the man.") Dr. Baker is worried that he could tear his ACL, which would require an expensive surgery to fix. So we have to endure the two-week torture of keeping him from running and playing, she said, to avoid the much worse torture of paying for an expensive surgery. (Alex has health insurance, so presumably that would cover all or most of it, but we'd still rather avoid it altogether if we can.) He'll go back for a re-evaluation in two weeks.

Meanwhile, Phil was sitting on the floor next to me and let out this squeaky fart, which scared him enough to propel him to his feet and partway across the room, looking behind himself like, "WTF was that??!"

Phil went with us to the vet because, when we opened the door to let Alex out, Phil ran out too and to the car. Alex had his leash on, so that was the logical conclusion! Since we got Phil at 9 weeks, I can probably count on one hand the number of times he's been separated from Alex, and he seems incapable of wrapping his brain around the idea of Alex going somewhere separate from him. So we just let him have the ride in the car.

Completely unrelated, but today is the first full day of spring break! \0/ It's pretty nice outside, in the mid-50s and sunny. We only ended up with a dusting of snow the other day, thank goodness, and all the plants that looked damaged by the deep freeze have pretty much sprung back. It's supposed to get progressively nicer during the weekend. Tomorrow, we're planning to go to Gettysburg for a late lunch or early dinner at the French restaurant and then to see The Grand Budapest Hotel at the Majestic. Saturday, we are going back into Baltimore (twice in a week, which might be a record!) on the lightrail for lunch at a highly rated Indian restaurant, a visit to the Walters Art Museum for a bookbinding exhibit, back on the lightrail to the Inner Harbor, where we plan to visit the National Aquarium in Baltimore, then take the water taxi across to Fells Point to meet Pat and Chanel for a beer festival at Max's Bar and a slice of pizza at the legendary BOP (Brick Oven Pizzeria). And Sunday, continuing what we both have decided is a nice tradition of enjoying nature on the day of Easter for us (since we don't celebrate Easter but most things are closed that day), that we started last year when we went to the Grand Canyon, we are going to ride our bikes and have a picnic lunch along the North Central Railroad Trail. I guess an upside to us being out of the house is that Alex will be forced to stay in!
Every few days, I think, "I should write in my journal about that!" but then never actually do. Although I'm not taking any classes right now, it's a busy time of the year in the House of Felagund, and I've been staying very loyal to my gym schedule. And I've been busy at work, with a large senior class this year and all of them in some form of jeopardy (usually related to HSAs), plus the after-school program. And trying to get the B2MeM ebook together. Anyway, I've been photographing things, so I'll at least share my photos and some updates will likely straggle along with those photos.

Pictures below the Cut ... )
Bobby and I went to Ocean City again this weekend. We took the Goldens again and also met my parents this time. We had a great time. We took a half-day from work on Friday and made really good time getting there; the traffic over the Bay Bridge can be hell. We arrived 15 minutes after my parents and, after getting unpacked, headed to the beach. The shelling was really good again this time, and we found several sand dollars as well as a number of pretty shells.

Like last time, it was cold and windy when we arrived. Aside from the late-afternoon beach walk (which my parents skipped), we stuck indoors on Friday: went to dinner at Adolfo's, a lovely Italian restaurant on the Boardwalk, and went back to the hotel to hang around the pool. Saturday, though, the weather was gorgeous: 68F/20C, sunny, no wind, and not a cloud in the sky. Bobby and I took the Goldens down to the beach at about noon; within a few minutes, we had stripped down to summertime clothing and removed our shoes, the weather was so perfect. Not surprisingly, we were among the only people on the beach. I told Bobby that I thought it was fitting that we were probably among the first people of 2014 to sit on the OC beach in beach chairs! :D

We ended up staying for close to three hours and both of us ended up getting a little sun: not enough to hurt (and it's already faded, except for a very stark stripe across my right bicep) but enough to remind us that summer is coming. We went next to the Boardwalk. Poor Lance becomes frightened by too much excitement and noise, and this was the busiest we've ever had him on the Boardwalk. He is particularly frightened of people on skateboards, especially since, when we were there in February, there was a guy dressed in a blue Grateful Dead bear outfit that kept skateboarding past and terrified poor Lance. We had dinner reservations at 7 and so decided to have a snack while on the Boardwalk, so I held the Goldens on a bench, and Lance jumped up next to me and curled into a little ball as much behind my body as he could manage. People kept coming by, seeing Alex and exclaiming over him, followed immediately by, "Aww, there's another one!" when they saw Lance wedged in beside me.

Read more... )
We didn't think that we were going to make it to Ocean City this weekend. We got dug out from the big snow just fine (one of the good things about living in town limits: that we don't have to wait for county plows to make it to the side streets!), but the "snow showers" that were supposed to leave us with a dusting on Friday night got bumped up to a "winter weather advisory" with the possibility of another 6 inches/15 cm through Saturday afternoon. *headwall* Then, to add injury to insult, Bobby came down with this weird 24-hour virus that has been going around the school and had chills and fever for much of Friday. We didn't want to trust that it would run its course in 24 hours with him, so we held off on making reservations.

But Saturday morning, we woke up and Bobby was not only feeling better but the winter weather was actually downgraded for probably the first time this winter. (The winter weather advisory was cancelled everywhere but ... Carroll and northern Baltimore Counties. *sigh*) So Bobby made us a reservation, we grabbed some leftovers for lunch, and packed ourselves and the Goldens into the car. It started snowing lightly in the early afternoon and snowed the entire way down, until we were within a few miles of Ocean City, but the temperatures were several degrees above freezing, so it didn't stick to the roads. I had some final revisions to do on my paper, so these were done at 60 mph, while cruising down the highway. (Bobby was driving, not me. I can read and write just about anywhere, but not while driving!)

When we arrived, the weather was awful. It was raining with a fierce wind and about 38F/3C. We ended up staying at the Fenwick Inn because it was the only place Bobby could get a pet accommodation at the last minute. (The last time we stayed here, someone died in the pool, among other horrors!) We swore we wouldn't stay here again but such is the desperation to get away from the almost three feet of snow we have at home and see the ocean. And it's been nice; they've put a literal and figurative coat of paint on the place.

We went for a delicious and HUGE supper at Tequila Mockingbird, then headed back to the hotel to hang out in the pool and hot tub (which no one has died in this time, to the best of my knowledge). We went to bed ridiculously early; we were both exhausted. We woke in the small hours of the morning to Phil sitting on the other bed and barking at the air, then again a short while later when something went rolling across the floor overhead. (The restaurant is above us, so for all I know, someone dropped a cantaloupe.)

As miserable as was yesterday's weather was as beautiful as was today's. The skies were clear and the sun was beaming; it was a balmy 40F/4.5C but felt more like 50F/10C in the sun. Bliss. And there is no snow down here. It's like being on another planet.

We had lunch at The Shark on the Habor, which is an incredible restaurant in West OC set alongside the commercial harbor. They serve all local foods. I had southwestern sweet potato soup and a cauliflower "steak"; Bobby had the fisherman's stew and a crabcake sandwich. We stopped at the inlet on the way back and blew $10 in quarters in Marty's Playland, playing pinball and the two-player Deadstorm Pirates game that includes such lovely English translations as "Shoot that burly monster!" (Not as good as the infamous--but turned off this time--Ocean Hunters game, in which one is encouraged to "Aim the throat!" and "Aim the eye!" whilst fighting various monsters.) Then, back to the room to get the Goldens and take them for a turn on the Boardwalk.

At this point, we started taking pictures, so the rest goes below the cut. More and Pictures below the Cut! )
Well, the predicted snowstorm has hit with a vengeance. We are currently in a lull (Bobby told me the technical meteorological term for it but I forgot what it was), but it is expected to pick back up tonight. (ETA ... it is actually freezing rain again out, which SUCKS.) Bobby estimates that we have gotten about 16 inches (41 cm) so far. We could get 6 additional inches (15 cm) tonight. It is hard to estimate the depth because it has also been very windy, so the snow is drifted quite high in places. We also had quite a bit on the ground from the storm last week. I'll be interested to see what the NWS reports as our official snowfall totals.

Thank goodness the ice was finally out of the trees before this hit. That could have been a disaster. Or maybe I spoke too soon! The power just flickered. It is really windy outside right now.

Bobby took some pictures out in the yard when he went out to clear the front steps.

Pictures Featuring Goldens and Freyja and Snow beneath the Cut )
Today is Imbolc, which is the halfway point between winter solstice and spring equinox. To all who observe Imbolc as part of your spiritual or cultural tradition, I wish you a good day and spring to come!

Today was a rather appropriate Imbolc for us. Today is the warmest it's been in weeks. Read more... )
  • Every now and then, I have one of those social butterfly weekends. This was one of those weekends. Bobby and I met our friends Tristan and Don for Indian food on Friday night. On Saturday, we hosted a Burns supper for six of our friends in the SCA. It was so, so much fun. The food, prepared by Bobby (except vanilla ice cream by moi), was fabulous and plentiful. We had some big eaters at the party and still put away leftovers. There was beer and Scotch. Lots of empty bottles, and four different kinds of Scotch to pass around. (I indulged in my favorite, Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban, and ended up quite happy.)


  • Sunday was less good. Bobby was at Ski Patrol training, taking the sled down a double black diamond run with moguls (apparently the most challenging run to do with the sled on a snowboard) when some ass on skis cut in front of him. To avoid hitting the guy, Bobby put on the brakes hard and ended up wiping out and reinjuring the shoulder he separated last year. So he's back in the sling. It's not as bad as the injury last year, thankfully. Two of the senior patrolers took off after the guy who caused the accident and gave him a piece of their minds at the bottom of the hill.


  • It's been ridiculously cold now for over a week. It is presently 12F/-11C. Yesterday, it got above freezing here for the first time since last week. When I woke up in the morning, it was 33F/1C and actually felt warm outside when I went out to care for the chickens. It was short-lived, though, and by going-home time that afternoon, was back down below freezing again.


  • I am almost done with my current grad school class. The class is on the Enlightenment and is the one where I am the only student in the class. It has been ... okay. It is just not the time period that I am most interested in, and the reading has been lengthy and intense, with a paper due for each work.

    • The Memoirs of Princess Dashkova

    • The Confessions of J.J. Rousseau (this guy is fucking crazy and the book is about as long as Don Quixote*)

    • Pride and Prejudice (this week felt like vacation!!)

    • the major works of Thomas Paine (totaling to DQ length again)

    • The Journals of Lewis and Clark (not the whole thing thank god)


    It has been hard to motivate myself. I have my final paper left and a multimedia presentation of my abstract, and that's it. I finished the Lewis and Clark paper this weekend. I think the final paper is going to be on idealistic depictions of Nature in Rousseau and Paine and how each author uses the concept of the "natural man" in developing his ideas of the ideal government and civilization. Doesn't that sound exciting? The good thing is that I have most of my sources already from the papers I already had to write on these authors.

    *Don Quixote has long been my standard for what counts as a long book, ever since middle-school Spanish class when the length of DQ was the subject of hushed awe by my teacher. I had to read DQ for my last class on the Renaissance so it is on my Kindle now, and it is easy to compare its length to that of other books by the number of little dots below it on the listing.


  • I am taking March off from school. I can do crazy things like that now that I'm no longer on financial aid.


  • The Goldens got into a fight yesterday. I had taken some overcooked, stale wontons out to the chickens. The wind caught them and blew a few of them and a lot of crumbs past the fence and onto the snow. Phil gobbled up the whole wontons right away. I didn't think much of it. Bobby and I were eating breakfast when we heard one of the Goldens start crying outside. We both ran to the door since there is a possum living in the shed, and we were afraid one of them had gotten to it. But no ... Phil had his jaws closed on Alex's head and was pinning him to the ground while Alex screamed. Alex has a small puncture over his right eye. As far as we can tell, they were fighting over the wonton crumbs, as though they don't have ample meat-based food constantly available in the house.


  • And I think that's all.

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