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Suburban Blue

Reston Town Center

Reston Town Center

I’ve been spending much of my time lately at my boyfriend’s house in Reston, Virginia, which is a fairly distant suburb of Washington, DC.  There’s no metro service to it, although there will be shortly when the DC Metro’s Silver Line extends toward Dulles airport.  When I was a kid growing up in nearby Alexandria, VA, or so I’ve been told, this area was almost completely farmland.  Now it’s a large and beautiful suburb—or beautiful as suburbs go. Continue Reading »

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JumbledCareful readers may have noticed that my mother is facing some health issues, which explains why she was out of town a few weeks back.  (She was visiting another city for medical treatment.)  When she got back, her many and very loving friends showered her with flowers. My mother has always loved flowers.  She buys them for herself often and has assorted vases to show them off.  They symbolize to her, I think, her delight in aesthetic beauty and her desire to relish the present.  Buying flowers means she cares enough about herself to merit beautiful surroundings. Continue Reading »

Herbivores Delight Bordered

The “Herbivores Delight” from Ripple

The other day I was trying to figure out what to do with all the herbs that are starting to really flourish in the garden, and the solution hit me—herbal drinks. I love herbal infusions in cocktails. My favorite drink at the moment is served at Ripple in DC and is called the Herbivores Delight. It’s chamomile-infused vodka with grapefruit-thyme soda. I love the way herbs fight against the sweetness in drinks, and I love how subtle their flavors are. I also thought they might work in a mocktail; my mother is not drinking at the moment but I still wanted to make her an interesting treat. So I went online and found every recipe I could for thyme flavored drinks, went out and bought the ingredients, and hauled them all to my boyfriend’s house to play with them. Continue Reading »

Outhouse by Seth AndersonThe other day, my sister started talking about “those European and Japanese hotels that have the sinks over the toilets to save water.”  I had never heard of such a thing, but it’s an idea that’s been around for a long time.  It makes a lot of sense–there’s no reason the greywater from handwashing can’t be used to help flush a toilet, and the construction of the combination toilet-and-sink also saves a lot of space.

This is the kind of virtually obvious solution to environmental problems that really pleases me.  I have a hard time understanding why these kinds of measures aren’t already simply standard.  Better yet, I started to think, why not just a composting toilet?  (One factor may be the price–they can start at $1,000 and rocket about $10k.)  And thinking about composting toilets made me remember my experiences with one about five years ago in a cabin in the woods of New Hampshire. Continue Reading »

Prunings

As I mentioned, when my sister’s boyfriend Kevin pruned the holly, magnolia, and crepe myrtle in the backyard the other day, he found the nest of the mockingbird that attacked me and my cats all last summer.  Here it is:

 

Mockingbird nest

Mockingbird nest

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Student

The view from the podium

I’ve been agonizing over laptops again.  Every year or two, something comes around to make me question whether I should allow (require?) students to have laptops in the classroom.  This year, it’s two articles: Dan Rockmore’s “The Case for Banning Laptops” in the New Yorker and Rebecca Schuman’s response in Slate, “In Defense of Laptops in the College Classroom.”

For a long time, I agreed with Schuman’s position, which is basically that if students are stupid enough to spend their time surfing the internet instead of focusing on class, we should let them.   Continue Reading »

Lovage

Lovage

This weekend, my boyfriend and I worked on the back yard of my mother’s house. My mother is out of town and as a present to her, I wanted to get the yard prettified at least a little before she came home.

The tale of prettification is complicated. My mother, my sister’s boyfriend, and I all have opinions about what should happen to the back yard to turn it from what it is now—a haphazard weed collection—into a place she might actually use for dining, relaxing, and growing pretty or edible plants. Mom has consulted a couple of landscape gardeners, all of whom have been seemed not to care whether they get a job at all. When it comes to deciding what to do in the mean time, we have a severe case of too many cooks, with my sister Meredith, her boyfriend Kevin, me, my boyfriend David, and my mom all voicing opinions about what should happen, when, in what order, and who should do it.  Despite the differences in strategies, we’re making progress.

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