I have a lot of mementos. They date back to the day I was born, including a copy of the Washington Post AND Scientific American! I have boxes full of cards, letters and other mementos. We are trying to get them down to a more reasonable amount, so we sorted through boxes that we have been moving around for 20 years or so. I looked at every card and every letter. The ones that really moved me were the letters from my Grand Pop. He was my mother’s father. A large and imposing man, an ex-military guy turned security guard who lived in Florida while we were freezing in the Chicago suburbs.

When I was in elementary school, I apparently wrote a lot of letters to him, starting when I was 5 years old. Yes, I wrote letters when I was 5. I wrote a lot of letters as a kid, including some that were quite long if I am to believe the responses from my aunts, grandparents and friends.

What must he have thought of this little girl, half a country away writing him letters? I am sure that they were mundane and a little perplexing given the 50 or so years separating us. He probably thought: who is this kid? What could we have possibly had in common? But he told me about his job and how he was feeling. His letters were so sweet and kind. It’s only from a great distance through time and space that I realize what a gift they were and are.

In the latest round of memento sorting, I found a card from a childhood friend sent when I graduated from high school. I didn’t realize that our letters spanned almost a decade. So I looked her up on Facebook and reconnected. <3

A Northern Nevada Garden

I had a website visitor today looking for my Northern Nevada Garden site. I kept the site going for a long time, long after I left Reno, but finally retired it last fall. I loved that garden. I kicked butt in that garden.

I don’t have the website but I do have photos and a good memory. These are from July 2008. I had an AMAZING crop of squash and tomatoes that year. The garden was so beautiful.

Nevada Garden July 26-27, 2008

If you live in Northern Nevada, I suggest buying a copy of the Sunset Western Garden Book and installing raised beds if you want to grow food crops. I used 1/3 peat, 1/3 pumice and 1/3 potting soil in my raised beds. I heard a story on the radio several years ago that said most gardeners in most states will have better results with raised beds.

This is a photo of the raised beds under construction in March. I used large river rock which I had in abundance in my yard. That’s Brin, my gardening dog. She has supervised gardens in 4 states (and counting).

This is the same garden in May:

I used wall o’ waters from Gardener’s Supply to get a head start.

This is the garden in June. I had irrigation so I connected drip to the existing system. If I were going to do it again, I would add a new valve for the garden. A lesson I benefitted from in my Arizona garden.

And here they are in July.

The huge tomato plant on the left is a white currant tomato. It was an over achiever. SO MANY TOMATOES.

Read up on short season tomato varieties, I think you will be more successful. I bought several from Territorial Seed. Zucchini and summer squash did well for me. If I could do it all over, I would have planted more raspberries. More delicata squash. Later, I learned the amazing staying power of eggplant. I would plant that, too.

Also, buy a composter. I had a Steve’s Earth Engine (double bin). Loved it so much–I composted everything. Never threw away a single leaf and believe me, I had a lot of them.

Happy gardening, Nevadans! Spring is coming!

Start a conversation

I have always loved conversation hearts. Something about conversation and flirting with candy. Darn near irresistible. Sadly, I can’t eat them because they contain gelatin. So, a couple of years ago I decided to make conversation hearts out of fabric but with a nerdy engineering twist. I searched the interwebs for a how-to and found this tutorial by the lovely Jessica Peck: Valentine Candy Heart Pillows Tutorial.

I use a blind hem stitch and invisible thread to sew on the letters. You can get two pillows from 1/2 yard of fleece. So much fun from so little fabric.

Conversation Heart Pillows

I am adding to the collection this Valentine’s Day. Stay tuned!



Rock the flip flops

Driving home on Saturday, the battery light came on in the car. And then all the indicator lights came on. And then the speedometer died. And then it was if we had a blackout in the car.

We stalled out on the frontage road not too far from home. We were trying to make it to a parking lot and didn’t quite make it. So we got out and pushed but we were pushing a big car up hill and couldn’t quite do it. Then a young couple stopped and offered help. They had a young daughter, 4 years old maybe? She really wanted to help but her parents made her stay safely in the parking lot. After rolling back to align the car, the four of us pushed it into the lot. Our pint- sized Samaritan kept asking, “Now can I help?” And finally she got the green light. And she leaned in and pushed.  I looked down and noticed she was wearing silver glitter flip flops. Superhero? Probably.

Thanks to our Good Sams and Earl the best tow truck driver ever, we made it home safely.

We watched YouTube videos to learn how to change an alternator. Deciding that we didn’t want to lay on the ground and pull out an alternator, we found a local mechanic who specializes in Toyotas. And he helped us get it there. In the snow. No small thing when your car won’t start.

Shake it off

I stepped on the scale for the first time in the New Year.

Mother trucker.

Robert stepped on the scale and came out of the bathroom with a grim look. He pulled out his 2016 Sucked shirt. Still appropriate.

We have to shake it off. And we will.

Nothing sexy about filing

Some people have the kind of lives that don’t require records. I have come to accept that I don’t have that life, so I need a strategy for dealing with all of the files, paper and electronic.

I have adopted a few strategies over the past 15 years or so that work most of the time. As long as I stick stuff in the folders. 🙂 When I need to find something, date seems the most reliable method and I can recall with good accuracy when something transpired.

For email, I use a month-year filing system. I have 12 folders per year, one for each month and I file 99% of emails by date.*

*For work, I have a few other folders: freelancers, orders/receipts and a folder for emails from my boss. I used to keep a “To read” folder, but now I read things straightaway and post them to Slack for the good of the team and for future reference.

For paper, I use monthly folders, too. One of the advantages of this method is at the end of every year, the files can go in a box and at the end of seven years, I can shred the contents of the box.

I create a new set of folders every year. I have a similar set at work.

For paper files, I do have additional folders for:

  • Important papers
  • Each of my dogs and cat
  • Health insurance information
  • Portfolio samples
  • Each car
  • Each house
  • Tax information and receipts for the current tax year

I have some other folders, too, but jury’s out on whether they are actually helpful.

Read more:

From Consumer Reports:

From Real Simple:

From FEMA: Safeguarding valuable papers

Ready to organize those files?

Tidying up and the Great Material Continuum

You may be familiar with Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing of Magic of Tidying Up. I have read it and adopted some of her tips. It’s so much easier for me to part ways with things now and our t-shirt drawers are amazing. (If you haven’t read it, please read it before judging it–to do otherwise is so not cool.)

Very often when I read a self-help book, I look for the thing or things that I can integrate into my routine, the concept that improves life in some way. I am not fanatical about self-help books. For me, they are just tools in the tool box. And I need tools for tidying.

I have too much stuff. I have good ideas but sometimes like a Pinterest pin, things don’t go to plan. Sometimes I outgrow things (literally and figuratively). And Kondo’s suggestion to thank an item for its service and then to let it go is helpful when faced with an overflowing closet. I do have a generous heart and something that has really assuaged my guilt about acquiring so many things is a Ferengi concept, the Great Material Continuum. This is explained in Treachery, Faith and the Great River from season seven of Star Trek Deep Space Nine. (Get the complete series for less than $100–what a deal.) Basically it’s the idea that you have too much of a thing and not enough of something else while someone else needs what you have and another person has what you need. You put your excess out to the universe and you ask the universe for what you need. (Like Freecycle!)

As Nog says, you have to have faith in the Great Material Continuum.

So I do.

What I have been watching and reading

We have been Netflix customers for more than 10 years. We started off as DVD-in-the-mail customers and then made the switch to digital. In the beginning, there wasn’t much to watch and admittedly I can go weeks without turning on the TV. But I have some recent favorites.

The Fundamentals of Caring is a movie that everyone should watch. It deals with the difficulties of severe physical problems without descending into disability porn. We are all the same in spite of what we might appear to be.

Like Sunday, Like Rain is a story about love and the inconvenience of love. I like stories about kids that let them have power and depth without being far-fetched.

Copenhagen starts in such a way that you loathe the main character. He is also transformed by a kid. This is also a story about the inconvenience of love and doing the right thing even after a lifetime of being wronged and doing the wrong thing.

The Beauty Inside is such a Korean filmmaker’s take on the Quantum Leap idea of jumping from body to body. (It was also a television series.) The loneliness and logistics of such a life do feel unbearable but I, the queen of happy endings, can tell you to hang in there until the end.

I also really loved the TV series Haven based on the Stephen King book The Colorado Kid which I also recommend. We listened to the audio book. The Maine accents took a little adjustment but it was something we looked forward to every time that we got in the car. Haven is a town plagued by “the troubles” and Nathan, Audrey and Duke are on a never-ending quest to help the troubled. Also Nathan and Audrey: epic love story.

Lost Girl is a supernatural drama about the world of the Fae.  Bo and Dyson, another epic love story. Bo and Kenzie are a different kind of love story, friends that rescue each other and become bonded at the heart.  It is extremely violent at times and I spent some portion with my hands over my eyes. But the story is captivating.

Limitless is based on a movie   It’s so sad that there is only one season of this. The main character, Brian, is a bit of a hapless dork with a crazy wardrobe who is transformed into a super computer with the help of NZT a brain enhancing drug.

Vampire Diaries: I initially bought the first season on DVD mistaking it for Vampire Academy (vampires in high school–you can see how it happened). I am a sucker for vampire stories–they are always the ultimate redemption stories. The last couple of seasons have been weird for me but I definitely recommend the first few. This is based on the books by LJ Smith. I couldn’t read the books after watching the series (some of the differences were disconcerting) but I did like Smith’s Night World books and I hope the promised 10th book will be published some day.

I am reading Hidden Figures  by Margot Lee Shetterly and looking forward to seeing the movie. It’s a fascinating account of African American women mathematicians working for Langley Research Center starting at the end of WWII. But it also makes me sad because just as these figures have been hidden from history, others have, too. It makes me grateful for writers and historians who bring these histories to light.