Virgo month of enforced leisure

In this color illustrated postcard, a snake is curled around a bottle marked with a skull and crossbones. It is facing a rabbit, which appears to be sick, with its tongue hanging out and lying under a white blanket. The background of the card is light blue, with a portion of a gold circle in the lower right-hand corner and gold rays eminating from it across the card. The snake and rabbit are on a red background. In the upper right corner, behind the rabbit there is a gold spider web.

So the Virgo Month of Leisure is wrapping up, an on-again off-again so-called holiday which I usually “celebrate” by doing something very complicated or time-consuming because I am me. This year I got COVID. And as these things go I was very lucky.

  • Lucky that I knew when I got it (at the library, from someone coughing on me) and so I was able to stay home and not infect anyone else
  • Lucky that I had tests at home and was able to confirm that I had it.
  • Lucky that I had access to both telemedicine and my local doctor so I was able to get Paxlovid even though I’m only somewhat eligible.
  • Lucky that I didn’t have Paxlovid rebound and found the metallic taste in my mouth manageable.
  • Lucky that my friends and neighbors stepped UP so I wanted for nothing except better health.
  • Lucky that my infection was brief (maybe four days of feeling pretty terrible) and didn’t include a scary cough and/or breathing problems because I am extremely anxious about that sort of thing.
  • Lucky that I had a lot of tests at home so I could test a few times and know I was safe to go out once my symptoms (fever, aches, lethargy) subsided.
  • Lucky that I was feeling mostly better by my actual birthday and, despite having to skip getting together with Jim over Labor Day weekend, we did have a very nice make-up birthday weekend the next weekend and fit in all of our favorite things.

The woman I got it from is likewise okay though she had a much rougher time of it. While I certainly have a lot of complaints about how COVID response is being handled nationally (go get your vaccination! free tests available September 25th!) my local response both personally and institutionally was not bad. I am happy to be better just in time to wave goodbye to the Virgo Month of Leisure. Better luck next year, me!

the noise of furniture

image of that weird piece of furniture I'm describing, sort of a wedge with two shelves in it

My office has gone from being too-cold-needs-heat to too-warm-needs-fan in one week. I consider myself pretty fortunate to have an office that I like and that is comfy or able to be made comfy. I also sort of like that now, on sunny days, it comes with a time limit. I can sit in here typing and sorting my paperwork and charging my devices and chatting on social media and tidying my virtual and real-life desktops, but after a time it gets too hot and I go downstairs. Downstairs has been taking a while to gel properly. The kitchen is fine. The entryway is odd. The front room is lovely. The bathroom is perfect. The tool room is getting there. That leaves the television room and the dining room.

The dining room had a wrong-sized table (it needed something and this one was free) and the wrong balance. The TV room had a wooden box that the TV sits on, a box that came with it, which was the wrong size and shape. I don’t know about you, but the wrong furniture, to me, can make a noise, enough so that walking in to a room with it just makes you want to walk right back out. Cacophonous. This is only about my own stuff, I don’t have this reaction to other people’s rooms.

Ronni’s place, where I lived for the 14 years before I moved here, is being sold soonish. Her niece asked me if I was interested in some of her furniture. So I, with significant help, brought over a few tables and a lot of chairs (as well as a weird and very heavy piece of marble that is now in my garage waiting for a purpose). One table replaces the dining room table, and it’s the right size. It came with six chairs, all of which were better than the ones I had. A friend took the old wrong-sized table, but did not want the chairs. The other table, more of a sideboard really, I thought could maybe go behind the couch (it couldn’t) or under the TV (nope) but is nice in my dining room. I got two more chairs, one of which was needle-pointed by an older relative of Ronni’s and is of-a-kind with a chair I already have which was needle-pointed by Jim’s grandma.

sideboard table with a lamp and some drawer things. in the foreground is a light colored table with some tulips on it

Later that day, on a walk, I was mentioning to a friend that I still use facebook mainly for managing the massive librarian group I help moderate, and to look for furniture. He asked what I was looking for, I described my dumb TV situation (it’s larger than I need, it’s what was available, it sits noisily in a corner, failing to fit, looking awkward) and he said he thought he had the perfect thing. His parents, who both passed away over the past few years, had a wedge shaped shelf thing, pictured above, which he’d had in storage and wasn’t using at all. He brought it over and it fit perfectly and now that corner of the room is… silent? Euphonious? Mellifluous? Whatever it is, it works. Now my only issue is that my entryway looks like a chair store. I got rid of the TV’s wooden box stand on facebook. Gone in an afternoon.

Best of all this means I now have a place to store all my old cassettes which I’ve been happily sorting this weekend.

one of those cassette head cleaners from an old tape deck

cooking

stovetop showing one pan full of sliced apples and one baking sheet full of roasted butternut squash

My new place doesn’t have an amazing kitchen. It’s better than my old one, and it’s good enough that I’m not always saying “How do I fix this kitchen?” but it’s small and somewhat cold in the winter. If you’re working in the kitchen it can be hard to talk to someone not in the kitchen which is one of the things I like doing, having Jim sitting nearby talking with me while I spin the plates involved in making a meal.

All that is to say I haven’t warmed up to it entirely, but I feel like I’m getting back to myself in some ways and I spent the weekend doing make-ahead food prep. This included prepping and roasting a butternut squash (olive oil, salt, and garam masala), making applesauce (apples, vanilla, maple syrup, salt, lemon juice), and two kinds of beets (sliced and boiled (with gorgonzola, parsley, and balsamic vinegar), chopped and roasted). I also made some stuffing from a box because that’s a winter comfort food.

The kitchen went from trashed to cleaned to trashed to cleaned again and I still have a pink tinge to my fingertips that I’m assuming is beets and not mercury poisoning (family joke). I woke up today with vaguely sore wrists from chopping and a fridge FULL of food in case I don’t feel like making a big fuss over dinner, which I almost never do. We’re expecting maybe a foot and a half of snow later this week and while I do have a bit of shoveling fatigue, I can safely say hey I’m ready for it.

wraps up IV

the same plant as from the previous few years only this time it has big flowers

OK now the wrap-ups of the wrap-ups are becoming their own regular thing. You can view past wrap-ups here: 2019, 2020, 2021. Here’s what was up for 2022.

  • libraries visited – had a lot going on, did not do a lot of library visiting but I did get to see one new place
  • books read – a banner year for reading books but only because the year was stressful. Hopefully not to be repeated.
  • places stayed – pretty uneventful
  • other events — still keeping these lists on Medium for now

I’ve moved some of my Twitter activity to Mastodon and I’m on an instance called https://glammr.us which pleases me. Same username as my first name, I have no real creativity when it comes to usernames. If you’re exploring that space go find me there.

The biggest news which happened between the time I started writing this post and the time I hit “publish” was that my mom’s house, aka the Magic Castle, aka The Haunted Castle, aka Heathen Meadows, aka just “Boxborough,” finally sold. Closing was yesterday. Definitely one of those End of an Era things. Kate and I were an incredible team and even though everything took much longer than it should have, for every reason you can imagine, we got the job done and still get along. I can now also wax poetic about all the nuances of getting a new septic system installed in a place that is a designated wetlands, ask me anything! More news in other posts but that’s the biggest wrap-up there is. Thanks for reading.

now that I pay for my own heat

a pellet stove with a fire in it in front of two windows with sheer curtains

There are a few major things that have changed with my move two blocks up the road. Being a homeowner comes with all sorts of new stuff in it and the three things that are the biggest deal for me are.

  1. Having my bedroom and office on a different floor from my kitchen and my living room. For the first month or two I was here, I felt like I was forever going up and down stairs. My last place was on the second floor but most days I’d go down to “ground level” maybe once or twice.
  2. Having a split sink. This feels so minor but my last kitchen had one big sink, this one has a split sink. No big deal but just the basic “You move the faucet here and the water goes there” muscle memory has been tough to retrain.
  3. Paying for my own heat. People who know me well know that I grew up in a miserly-feeling household and I have some maladaptive miser issues. In my old apartment, heat was included in the rent. I still kept the heat lowish but I did keep it on. In this place, with the price of heating oil like it is, I’ve been trying to walk the line between reasonable and prudent energy conservation and being ridiculously cold at all times.

The heat thing is such an interesting puzzle, to me, because there are so many moving parts. Here are some of those parts, the things I do differently now that I am paying for my own heat.

  • I blow dry my hair now. Sitting around in a slightly-cold house with damp hair is a non-starter. This also means I got a blow dryer. And I got a trim, the first haircut I’ve gotten since 2018, because my ends were getting all frizzly. I kept saying I’d cut it back to short when we sold my mom’s house and… that’s been taking a while.
  • I have space heaters now, a bunch of them. If I know I’m going to be in my office for a chunk of time, I’ll just fire up the space heater with the door closed, no sense in heating the entire house.
  • I have zones now (upstairs and downstairs) and I get to try to figure out how to optimize zone heating. Like why heat the upstairs more than the minimum if I’m not up there? But then I turn the upstairs heat up before I go to bed, but not TOO far up because there are enormous radiators. By the time they’re hot, they’re staying hot. Sleeping in a hot room in the winter feels wrong. I regularly turn the heat up to 65 upstairs and by the time the boiler cuts off, it’s over 70. Weird!
  • Along the same lines I have a heated mattress pad on my bed, an electric blanket for the guest room, and a smaller throw (I call it the electric woobie) for when I’m reading downstairs in the morning. Colder rooms, warmer feet.
  • I closed my front door completely off. The entryway is already pretty chilly since it’s in the far reaches of the downstairs relative to the pellet stove. So there’s a little note written on a card catalog card that says use the side door. This house could really use a mud room but there’s no obvious place for one.
  • I got a pellet stove. This is a huge change. I’ve never had one before. I’ve been reading owner’s manuals, learning the cleaning schedule, ordering pellets by the ton. This means the kitchen is a decent temperature which is good because it’s COLD otherwise since it has two outside walls, a door to the outside, no real passive solar gain, and a fan which is basically a hole in the wall that is poorly insulated on the outside. Since there’s also running water in there, this is a huge plus. Also this particular pellet stove has a wood stove look and it’s making me remember back when I lived in Topsham and heated primarily with wood. So messy! So many heavy logs. A 40 pound bag of pellets is no joke, but even though the thing needs cleaning every other day, cleaning it doesn’t make ME dirty.
  • I have one upstairs room in this house with no heat in it at all (??). I haven’t been in it in a while. Closed the door, haven’t gone back.
  • I got window inserts for ten (out of 30-someodd) windows in the place. I think they’ve been useful but some of the window frames are kind of leaky so I’ve also been jamming rope caulk in all over the place.
  • At my old place, my usual house outfit was leggings and shorts and a sweater. In this house, I’m usually wearing at least one extra layer most days and slippers, always slippers.
  • My set point just seems lower nowadays. I feel warm in a room that’s in the low 60s. I fall asleep dreaming of curtains and rugs and fans and doorway schemes.

I know people have said they’d love to come visit. And I’d love to have you. But really, for your own comfort, wait until spring.

acquisition and closure

a coffee table made from an old barn door, sitting in front of a schlumpy couch on top of a braided rug

As of this weekend, we have a signed purchase and sale document on my mom’s house, aka the Magic Castle. This was a long time coming. We are also, right now, getting the septic replaced for Massachusetts reasons. The amount of paperwork involved in these two things has been astonishing to me and I work in libraries. The house stuff has also involved a ton of email, much of which was from realtor but also our lawyer who tried to dissuade us from some of the negotiation tacks we took. It’s always weird to be like “I know you are a legal professional but we’re going to go a different direction that we think will work for us” and have it work out. So far.

Also had a friend come and do some handyman work for me including making a coffee table out of an old door that came off the wood shed (or sugar shack, or milking shed, I was never quite sure what that little room was for) at my old house in Topsham. With the completion of this coffee table I now have what I consider to be a full complement of furniture in this place. I’m sure there are a few more things I need (rugs, as I am typing this, I realize I need rugs), but every bed has a nightstand and every room has a light (I am remembering that one of them does not but I only use it during the daytime). I have a functional bedroom, office, living room, and kitchen. I have a place to sit and read that I enjoy. My plants are doing well and seem to like it here. I am able to ignore enough of the “to do” items that I can be comfortable relaxing here sometimes and then doing projects at other times.

The one thing that has so far not quite settled is the endless shopping. For a long time I had a pretty static complement of stuff. I’d buy clothes occasionally and food more occasionally and replace things that wore out or ran out, but this is more like “Hey you have approximately 30 light switches now (my old place had five) and about half of them need screws. Oh and maybe they need those little draft blocker things behind them. And when you look at them close up, they seem a little mungy so maybe you need a brush to scrub them off with?” There will be a time when I’m not making shopping runs to Home Depot or getting trapped in Amazon’s labyrinth of possibilities, but that day hasn’t come yet.

However a lot of what I’ve gotten has come from around here, from other people. The same phenomenon that made cleaning out the Magic Castle such a project (she never got rid of anything!) is also working for me up here (people don’t get rid of anything, and they have extra things!). So I’ve gotten a free couch from a neighbor, bought a reading chair from another neighbor, bought a stereo cabinet from a local person from a facebook group and a tv from a neighbor moving to Arizona who posted it on a local mailing list. A pal brought over an extra chair. A friend gave me a compost bucket. A bed came from an old local abandoned house. I bought five tables of varying fitness from one guy up the road who purchased a house previously occupied by a hoarder. I found a table on the side of the road. I got another table and four chairs for free from a person who lived up the side of a mountain. I bought some floor lamps and a rug from the town’s new thrift store which has very reasonable prices. A man in town delivered some old folk albums he was no longer listening to. I bought a rugged stepladder from an older woman in town who said it was too heavy for her. I bought some porch rockers from the Arizona-bound neighbor who tossed in a wicker porch couch for free.

And I got rid of some stuff. Most of my boxes went to people who were using them to move or to mulch their gardens. My bubble wrap went to Silloway Farm where I traded it for maple candy. The thrift store still receives regular boxes of stuff from me, some because of upgrades, a lot because I just need different things now.

So I think in my dream world, we would have sewn up the sale of the Magic Castle before I moved in here and I could have just outfitted the place with things that were already in the family. And yet also, there’s something to be said for starting from a different sort of scratch. I like looking around this house and thinking about all the different people in my neighborhood who helped me get it to where it is.

kicking the tires

old newspaper image of some kind of chassis for a train or something. all you see are the wheels
For only the third time in its life I’ve moved this site to a new host. Or rather, my host is moving to a new host which means moving all the content over and making sure the things still work. So far it looks like they do. It’s hot here and I took a nap today which probably means I’m feeling a little iffy but I wanted to put a post here to make sure the blogmachine was working. If you can read this, it is!