Been quiet a long time on here. Guess I have some catching up to do.
First, I’m still pregnant. Here I am a week and a half ago, at 25 1/2 weeks.
25 1/2 weeks
Pregnancy has been really wonderful so far, no doubt due in large part to my ability to sleep and eat whenever I need to thanks to working at home and to the Professor’s constant help and attention. I’m just passing into the third trimester now, and I am getting a small taste of the discomforts to come, such as heartburn and sore legs and arch of one foot. But it’s minor really, easier than I was expecting.
True to nesting stereotypes, we are doing a lot around the house. We started simply, by dismantling the kitchen. Goodbye, wall!
Kitchen dismantling
Much to my dismay, the new wood floors were installed crookedly. The first boards were set crooked, so the rest were as well. I hate complaining and making trouble, but really, they were CROOKED. So our contractor took care of it–at her expense, she had more floor ripped out and it all installed properly. Behold, the straightness!
Behold! Noncrooked wood floors!
They sanded and stained and refinished the whole level. We needed it to match the stairs and the wood floors upstairs, and they did a great job of matching it. They could have taken the kitty to the hardware store to pick out matching stain.
Kitty modeling floor stain color
The floor refinishing fortunately coincided with our spring break trip to Charleston. The Professor’s parents gave us a gift certificate at Christmas to use at a B&B, and we figured if we didn’t use it before Sprout showed up, we might not ever, or at least for a long time. We stayed at the Battery Carriage House Inn, a lovely old house.
Battery Carriage House Inn
We were in room 10, which is supposed to have a resident “Gentleman Ghost.” We did not see the ghost but we did hear what sounded like rats frolicking in the attic our last night there. Ghost rats, perhaps.
The Professor near our room (10, top floor, far end)
We got to tour the Calhoun House, which was beautiful and amazing, and I highly recommend a visit. We also ate at Oak, shopped in the Market, went to a museum on slavery, toured Fort Sumter, and enjoyed the Magnolia Plantation, particularly the peacocks. You can see a full set of my pictures here. Of course, most places didn’t allow pictures. The most interesting thing to me about the slavery museum was a diagram showing just how few people owned slaves in the South. Just underscores again that the Civil War was a rich man’s war, poor man’s fight. We also were able to listen to recordings of former slaves sharing their experiences, which was really moving–sometimes inspiring, often heartbreaking.
Well, I’d better get back to cleaning drywall and sawdust off of everything in the house. That covers the basics. Just a brief tale.
Albino peacock

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Meet Magical Mister Mephistopheles

Here is Meph (short for Mephistopheles), the Professor’s cat, my step-cat, voicing his complaints to our unborn son.
Meph talking to Sprout
For several weeks now, Sprout has had hearing, and no doubt he’s heard Meph’s loud, loud wailing. We’re hoping this means Sprout will be used to the sound once he’s here, so the kitty won’t constantly wake him.
Meph is fourteen years old, lost his brother and companion last year, and is even more needy for attention than ever. Which would be less of a problem if I weren’t allergic to him, and all he wants to do is sit on us and rub against our faces. He’s an absolute love. Who whines painfully loudly whenever he thinks you should be rubbing him and you are not. In the wee hours. When he sees you. When he doesn’t see you. When you are on the phone on another floor of the house and the person on the line asks, “Is that a baby crying?” We pet and love on him a lot, even me (followed by vigorous hand washing), but it’s just not enough. Will be interesting to see how he and Sprout get along. By the looks of this picture, they’re already conspiring.

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Naming Sprout

We got to see Sprout last week in an ultrasound.
Sprout at 20 weeks
I think he looks just like his daddy. That’s right, we learned that he is a boy! The picture we have proving that seems a bit too graphic to put on the internet. It looks as though he is sitting on the camera. And as if that weren’t clear enough, the ultrasound tech labeled just above “BOY.”
Now we are trying to decide on names. I love names, so I have been toying with name ideas since before we started trying to conceive. I would throw out a name, and the Professor would shrug his shoulders disinterested in that one, and I would throw out another. We managed to find a girl’s name that we both liked, but no luck at all with boy names. After I ran out of standard names, I started throwing out semi-absurd to fully absurd names, like Mortimer, Mork, Exador, and Zebulon. (The latter of which I *love* but would never use. Probably.) Lately names have been inspired by my favorite podcast, the History of Rome, so Hannibal, Augustus, Scipio Africanus. (The Professor pointed out that Hannibal is a cannibal in a movie more famous than the great general. Also, Africanus has “anus” in it.) Also, I’m watching The Wire on DVD, and I’m in the second season, and right now I love the character Omar, and therefore his name. (He is awfully clever, loyal to those he loves, and knows and likes mythology–sigh. However, he also steals drugs from dealers and sometimes kills people, sooo, no).
Complicating finding boy names, *everyone* local that I know has had boys the last three years, so a lot of sweet names are taken. (We could still use them, but still.)
So, any suggestions?
Meanwhile, I’m starting to look unmistakeably pregnant. Here I am at 21 weeks.
21 weeks
I love how comfortable maternity pants are. I just wish they’d stay up. I may have to start sporting suspenders. If I get rainbow ones, maybe Mork won’t be such a bad name for Sprout after all. Or Mirth.

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Me and the Beanstalk

Here’s my torso, at eighteen weeks pregnant. Sprout is really starting to take off, and I think the evident growth from here on out is going to be pretty fast.
Me, 18 weeks pregnant
Everything seems to be going well. I’m enjoying a reprieve from tiredness here in the second trimester, and my nesting and organization instincts are full force. I’m reading a lot about the very large, very convoluted, and very lingo-heavy world of cloth diapers. It’s a glamorous life.

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Home Again

I was away from the internet for a while. Sometimes it was hard. But mostly, it was kind of nice to have a break. I am toying with the idea of not going back to Facebook. But then just now I spent thirty minutes on it. We’ll see.
Here’s some stuff I saw in California.
Coit tower.
Coit tower at night
Seals at Sea Ranch
And some really great art made from junk. On Florence Avenue in Sebastopol, an artist’s works are on display in his yard and neighbors’. I love the cow’s bell here–a rusted Prince Albert can.
A man and his dog and his cow in his truck
I also loved these kitties by the milkman.
Detail of kitties by milkman
Dinosaur in the artist's yard
Waitress, with forks.
Waitress, up close
And Batman! His utility belt includes a toaster.
There were lots more, but those are the main pictures I got. I also got to see the San Francisco Ballet’s Nutcracker and Cirque du Soleil’s Ovo, and I got to eat at the Slanted Door (where the waiters were gossiping about the fact Justin Timberlake was there that night) and Madrona Manor (where the food was divine and we got to dance in the new year after the decadent dinner), and a dim sum place twice, a Professor’s family tradition. I also did a lot of sleeping and some knitting and some editing, and Sprout did some growing.

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Water, Lots and Lots of Water

While the Professor’s folks and sister were here for Thanksgiving, we all went to the aquarium. They’d all been before but it was my first trip and I absolutely loved it. I know I’m the last person in the state to go, but if you haven’t been before, you should see it. And invite me for company. I didn’t take many pictures, was too busy taking in all the motion and color, but I did get a picture of the amazing shark whales. (Here’s another with people in the foreground for a general sense of scale.)
Whale Shark at the aquarium
Alas, my pictures of the penguins–ahem–procreating turned out blurry.
Also, right before the Professor’s folks arrived, we discovered that our upstairs bathroom had been leaking into our downstairs bathroom. So our shower and our main guest room shower were off limits. Fortunately this house is crazy big, so we did still have one working shower, which we all five used, without much mishap.
The tub upstairs was just installed in 2005 and has only really been used since June. But it developed a crack. How, why? Because it was completely and utterly improperly installed. The silver lining is that the leak caused damage downstairs, so we get to replace this stellar tile job.
I will be glad to see this horribly installed tile replaced
The bathrooms are in between demolition and reconstruction right now. The new tub was installed–closing up the big hole in the floor/ceiling–and new tile goes in tomorrow. Thankfully I’ve had easy access to a toilet this whole time (even when I had to dodge the hole in the floor and demo and tools), which is very very important for a pregnant lady, in case you didn’t know.

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Buns in the Oven

The other day I decided to try making cinnamon rolls from scratch. I’d seen pictures in the red-and-white-checked Better Homes and Gardens cookbook and was intrigued. So I mixed up the dough, rolled it out, and spread it with melted butter and cinnamon and sugar. Next time I’ll just let the butter get really soft and spread twice as much as the recipe calls for. Butter is what it’s all about.
Dough with butter and cinnamon sugar
Then I rolled the dough and used a thread wrapped around to cut the rolls without flattening them.
Using thread to cut the rolls
Then I let them rise a bit longer. (See this picture to see them before they rose, if you like.)
Rolls after rising
Then they were baked. Yum.
Rolls after baking, up close
Then I drizzled them with a very easy icing.
Rolls with icing drizzled
They were pretty good. Just not as buttery and gooey as I would like.
Meanwhile, the Professor and I have a different sort of bun in the oven, should be just right around June 14. It’s been really difficult keeping this exciting news to ourselves, but we wanted to make sure it was getting a good start and to tell our parents in person first, which we did the other night by giving them wrapped frames with sonogram pictures. I’ve had some mild nausea and fatigue, but it’s been much easier than I expected, except for a bug I just got but thankfully seem to be over. (I’m really glad that I got the seasonal flu and H1N1 shots, because a simple stomach bug was miserable–I can’t even imagine the flu.) The Professor has been really sweet and supportive and has taken good care of me. For now we’re calling the bun Sprout, given his or her resemblance to a fledgling bean. We should be able to find out the sex in nine weeks or so.
Meanwhile, my belly is pushing against all my pants. I need maternity clothing advice. Where can I get cheap clothes, and what are essential maternity wardrobe items?

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About a week ago, the Professor had a fall break, so we went camping. He picked the Pisgah National Forest, where we enjoyed the colors of the leaves.
We set up our fancy new giant tent. The top opens so you can have air breeze through and you can view the stars, but we were very grateful for the rain covering, as it was cold, cloudy, and the rain fell hard at night.
Our new tent
It was quite foggy and rainy our first day, blocking any chance of seeing vistas, so we went into Asheville to see the sights and eat well. Here are our shopping bags from the fabulous bookstore Malaprops and the best chocolate shop in the world, the Chocolate Fetish.
While it rained, we shopped in Asheville--Malaprops and Chocolate Fetish
The next day was gorgeous, and we took in every view we could. A nice local couple we met at one overlook told us their favorite place to hike was Dupont Forest, and we were so glad we followed their tip. So many beautiful waterfalls!
Here I am at Three Falls.
Me at Three Falls
And here are two of the Three Falls, with the Professor, for scale.
The Professor, for scale
And finally, High Falls.
High Falls
All this talk of “fall” reminds me of a short short piece of creative nonfiction that mesmerized me over a decade ago, stuck with me through the years, “Falling” by Art Homer. The final line is so gorgeous. I hate to repeat it here–you should read it in full. I don’t know why I shift from light talk about a camping trip to the profundity of this piece, but somehow it ties together to me. Perhaps the gorgeousness of nature, the sublime. The end of the life of summer, the terminal drop of rivers–they end, and start again, and that is the beauty of life.

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Ten-to-Go Wine Release Party

Just over a week ago, my generous cousins brought us to New York to help them celebrate at their wine release party. My cousin Bill and his friends Ed and Fred started a winery almost ten years ago, called Ten-to-Go, and they’ve become quite gifted winemakers.
The Ten-to-Go winemakers: Bill, Fred, and Ed
We already knew something of their talent from a gift Bill and Jane gave us at our wedding: a case of wine! They made the wine and they had labels made especially for us, which they designed from one of our engagement pictures on Facebook and our wedding invitation. We sampled one bottle, but the other eleven will age a year. Fantastic!
Wine wedding gift from the Austins
The winery is housed in the old tractor barn belonging to Ed and his wife, Betsy, on their gorgeous property. The grapes are ordered from Chile, and when they arrive, it’s time to work. First they use this equipment to remove the stems and crush the grapes.
Grape-pressing equipment
After a long period of fermentation and all sorts of other tricks of the trade, it’s time to bottle the wine. First you sterilize the bottles, as I’m doing here.
Sterilizing the bottles
Then the wine is bottled. Then the bottles are corked, as Fred and my cousin Kyra are doing here.
Fred and Kyra corking the bottles
Honestly, I came late and didn’t pay all that much attention to the work, so I can’t accurately report the process, but that’s a rough sketch. Now, what interested me more–the beautiful farm, the fun people, the amazing food and wine, and the party! The farmhouse was built in the 1800s and was gorgeous. Between that house and the barn was another home they rent out, pictured here, amid many flowers.
One of the houses on Ed and Betsy's property
I couldn’t believe how much was blooming in October in New York. Such a beautiful place. Laurie and I enjoyed walking around the fields, and she collected a lovely bouquet of wildflowers and colorful fall leaves.
Laurie and the flora she found on our walk
My cousins’ neighbor Joe is a teacher at the Culinary Institute of America nearby, and he barbecued a pig and kindly taught us some tricks along the way. Here the Professor, Joe, and Daddy take the pig off the barbecue for the last time and get him dressed for dinner. The pork was absolutely delicious.
The Professor, Joe, and Daddy get Wilbur dressed for dinner
My brother can’t miss a Georgia football game, so cable was run out to the barn. Here are my mom, Austin, and Laurie watching the Dawgs get stomped. But not like grapes.
Watching the Georgia football game
After the official party ended, my family still hung around the bar, and there was dancing to “Meatball” and “Thriller” and other random fun. Austin lost his appetite after the game but recovered some by this time–here he is behind the bar and some of the Ten-to-Go bottles.
Austin and some of the Ten-to-Go wines
You can see the Professor and I enjoyed ourselves. In fact, we had barrels of fun. Thanks, Austins! Cheers!
The Professor and me

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The Art of Beeing

I went to a beekeeping class at the Oakhurst Community Garden, and now I would love love love to start an apiary. My neighborhood may not allow chickens, but I bet there’s no rule against bees.
Here are the hives at the garden after the weeds were cut back. They let the weeds grow tall to protect the hives from heat. The bees were quite confused at the new openness and were everywhere. A bit intimidating.
Active hives at the Oakhurst Community Garden
Here’s our teacher showing us an empty hive and how to shift the boxes and panels inside to maximize brood and honey.
Learning the anatomy of a bee hive
Here are some interesting things I learned.
* To get out a bee stinger, use your fingernail or something else and scrape across the skin. If you try to pinch it to get it out, you might just squeeze in more venom. If you’re working with bees, put smoke on the sting, to mask the alarm pheromone.
* Tulip poplars are the main source of nectar flow for bees around here. They’re also fond of white clover, privet, golden raintrees, and around Christmas, when there’s not much else blooming, they love mahonia.
* It must be at least fifty-five degrees for bees to fly, so it’s ideal to place a hive where it can get morning sun.
* Swarms of bees aren’t likely to sting. They don’t have a nest or brood to protect. You can shake them right off a tree branch into a tub then pour them–yes pour–into a hive.
* In July and August around here, bees get mighty ornery.
* Lemongrass mimics the attraction pheremone for bees–rub it on a new empty hive to attract bees.
* Before manufactured hives became available, around these parts folks used hollowed sweet gum trunks to house hives. For years in Europe folks used skeps, hives made of wound straw, because large trees were scarce due to deforestation.
* If you work with bees, you will get stung.
And most important:
* Chickens coexist well with bees. If chickens are allowed to free range under the hive, they help control hive beetles, one of bees’ worst pests around here. Chickens may eat a few bees too, but eventually they learn.
Keeping bees really is an art. You have to learn how to read the bees and their needs. The best way is to start. Fortunately, Oakhurst has hives I can practice with. I’m going to volunteer so I can learn a bit more. I also want to do some reading on the subject. There were a lot of good modern books recommended, such as Sue Hubble’s A Book of Bees, but until I can get to the awesome Decatur library, I think I’ll find my copy of Virgil’s Georgics.
Okay, now off to nurse my cold with ice cream and the new episode of Dollhouse.

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