Monday, December 30, 2013

Nine envelopes filled with memories, ready to go

I have spent several days sorting through the memories in my mother's jewelry boxes.  The ultrasonic cleaner worked well, and things sparkled on the table.   I have some things for myself, of course, but I have assembled packages for her sister, nieces, and one dear friend.  Mom was into bling, so everyone got a piece or two of costume jewelry, but I also picked out a ring, bracelet, watch or some other piece I know she treasured and would have wanted someone she loved to enjoy.   A trip to USPS is in my immediate future. 

Next question, what to do with 28 cameo pins and 10 other assorted cameo items?  Not to mention the cardboard box of jewelry I will never wear? 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Picking up the remains of a life

We drove the MomMobile for 4 days from IL across the southwest, and then up to the bay area.  We were lucky weather-wise, and I always enjoy the grand staircase progression of cliffs where ever I cross the continental divide.  G has been such a brick, helping me move her entire home twice in a month, once to assisted living and then at the end.  Since we got home a week ago I have been dealing with stacks of stuff on my desk, closing accounts, paying bills, cleaning out a linen cupboard so I will have a place to put a few more quilts.  I have been soaking and drying a couple of them flat; some of them look OK without cleaning.  One embroidered quilt in particular had many small holes from years of kitty cats and numerous washings and looks too thin for further service.  But when your grandma makes a quilt, you mend it lovingly and put it where it can be seen when the cabinet is opened. 

It is sad to pack two lifetimes of cherished possessions and get it to fit into one car.   Now I have to figure out what to keep, what to give away, and what to try to sell.  Not like I don't already have a modest ranch house filled to the brim with stuff already.  Disposing of clothes and furniture was easy - it's the mementos lovingly stored in the cedar chest that are the hard part.  Wills from long-deceased great aunts, service medals from the armed service and corporations, the list is endless.  I'm tired, and need to get out of the house and go for a walk.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Paying forward

In my last post I mentioned how beautiful it was that one of the workers at the assisting living place where mom was took her two cats.  What I didn't realize until I got home and opened my calendar was the coincidence of the timing.   We got Louis the cat from my neighbor's vet.   His human died, the daughter didn't want him and took him to the vet to euthanize him.  The vet kept him in a crate in the lobby, where my neighbor saw him.  She called me from the vet and said there was a lovely male blue-point Siamese who needed a home and would I take him?  Sure, I said, how much trouble can one more cat be?  We no more got the cat into the house when my cousin called me to tell me my dad had died.  Six years later TO THE DAY some
lovely woman reached out to my mother's cats.  Isn't that sweet how things turned out?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

To be human is to live on a rollercoaster

My mother has died.  It was a good way to go, she evidently fell asleep and woke up dead.  I got to talk to her in the morning, evidently the last thing she did.  But the beautiful news is her two beloved cats are going to be adopted by one of the caregivers from the Lutheran village.  Kelly is 13, and a 'special needs' boy with kidney failure, but he gets to remain with Fifi for what remains of his life.  It is a beautiful outcome to a sad story.  I'm leaving today to lay my mother to rest with her George - the last thing I can do for her is to make sure she has her wedding ring on for the rest of eternity.

Friday, October 4, 2013

If you have a girl in your family, or even if you don't, read this:

I was not good at math, but my high school chemistry teacher made the labs very interesting to me.  There were 3 women in my college chemistry class (not my section - the whole graduating class).  During the Vietnam war, Emerson Electric told me they did not hire women for the lab jobs.  The next summer, I did manage a job, but the men often came and took over pulling spot wells on the big machine to check the welds. 

I applied to graduate school at Washington University, I left the interview feeling like I would be locked in a lab for five years and let out when I graduated.  When I applied to Indiana University, the faculty talked me into a Masters in Arts of Teaching program.  I did manage to put that right after a semester, but still only took a M.S. in chemistry because the only other women I knew in the program (and IU runs a BIG graduate program) were not in the Ph.D. program.  Serendipitously, I landed at Vanderbilt and finally braved the rigors of the doctoral program.  Even there, a professor told me to go home and have babies when I met him in the lunch line.  While I was in academia, I was the only woman in the chemistry department, and only one woman was a full professor in the A&S school. 

So if you have a girl in the family, buy her a Danica McKellar math book if appropriate, and search for role models and a mentor.  For the most part, and don't we all say that about our jobs, I have had a wonderful journey living better with chemistry, and I wish that on the girls growing up.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Jane Austin, revisited

I was 16 when my boyfriend's mother suggested I read Pride and Prejudice.  That started my journey to read everything written in the 18th and 19th century I could locate.  It is thus a real treat to have found Death Comes to Pemberly.  By P. D. James, this is a sequel to P&P, and of course, being by P.D. James, it involves murder most foul.  What fun, and thanks again, Mrs. Walker, for the recommendation.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Food for thought

the latest issue of the International Food Technology newsletter tells me three items of interest.  1:  1.3 BILLION tons of food is annually wasted, either during production, post-harvest handling and storage, or at the processing, distribution and consumption stages.  High income areas waste more food than low income areas (no surprise there).  2.  a recent Gallup survey reports 20% of Americans sometimes lack resources to obtain food - up from 17.7% prior to August.  3.  US House Republicans want to cut $40B in nutrition programs over the next 10 years. 


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Two conferences in one week

I got to attend two conferences in Davis and Sacramento CA with"Genomics" in the title last week.  In addition to the the sequencing stuff, of which I am not really a player, there were two sessions that spoke to agriculture.  There is significant concern, of which you may be aware, that food supplies may not expand to serve the expected population by 2050. This is due to expanding population and to more cultures including more animal foods in their diet.  1/6 of people are now "stunted", meaning inferior mental and body growth due to malnutrition or calorie restriction. 

There were a couple of presentations addressing heritage seed genetics.  Some of the many seed varieties developed by crossings, a la Gregory Mendel, have desirable characteristics of low water requirements, disease resistance, tight seed heads, etc.  It's not always possible to breed all these genes into one organism, so genetic engineering is one way to fit these genes into a single cell.  The resultant GMO seeds would not release "new" genes into the world, but would increase the yield and nutritive value of the resultant crop.  So to characterise all GMO seeds as dangerous is a very wide brush that can tar a valuable tool to enhance food security for the next generations.  Not common to get a global take-away from a scientific meeting.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A little gin chemistry

I found a review in Science and checked out The Drunken Botanist, the Plants that Create the World's Great Drinks by Amy Stewart  It's fun, a cheap chance to learn more botany and good stories (know how the alcohol content measure "proof" came about?)

Coincidentally, G and I went to the Scotch tasting at the Scottish Games Sunday.  G was chatting up one of the Scotch vendors, and I happened to mention the above book to him when said vendor mentioned gin botanicals.  His eyebrows shot up and he said juniper was poisonous.  I said not in the quantities ingested in gin.  He said true, but the botanical is never metabolized, so over a lifetime of drinking gin, it accumulates.  Of course, that got my attention. I searched MedLine, the FDA Poisonous Plant list, and some other trusted sources this morning.  With all the lore out there on herbaceous bioactivity, this was not a time to turn to Wikipedia.

There are 60 species of Juniperus; the one used for gin flavoring most widely is J. communis communius.  Three examples of toxic species are J. ashei, J. sabina, and J. pinchotii.  The latter have much more sabinene and sabinyl acetate among the many terpenes in the leaves and berries.  Those are the compounds responsible for the unwanted reproductive and kidney effects.  I could find no reference in Medline indicating that any of the terpenes bioaccumulate.  So I don't have to give up my gin after all.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver

Ever been to Pacific Grove CA to see the Monarch butterflies hang in the trees at the coast?  Most impressive tour force of nature.  Either way, if you would like to revisit the phenomenon, Kingsolver's new book is an informative read.  Kingsolver uses this novel, as she uses other books she has written, as a bully pulpit.   Not only does she explore the plight of these animals experiencing a diminished habitat, but she takes on climate change and the way a news network explores the topic.  Of personal interest is Kingsolver's exploration of science education and the perception of scientists in a poor, rural town in the south.  When the football coach teaches introductory science class, how much do you expect the kids to learn?  Evidently Kingsolver did take a science class from someone who understood how scientists, at least scientists like me, think.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A garden is truly a living organism

It's mid August here in northern California.  Already my liquid amber sweet gum is tinged with rose.  I supposed it was just dry, and soaked it the other week, but it continues to turn.  My veggie garden was pristine and green the end of July and now lots of brown leaves, chard with black bugs, and grass setting seed is evident.  With a sigh I went out this morning, cleared two carts of garden debris, and started to turn over the earth for my winter garden.  I dug a dishpan of carrots, a couple humongous, and a bunch of fingerlings and itty-bitties.   I was not quite ready for summer to end, but life moves on.  The last of the tomatoes is always a rude shock. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

I am officially old

I clicked the 'send' button on my Medicare application today.   When did that happen?

Monday, June 24, 2013

summer in my kitchen

I took 90 pounds of plums, apricots, and more plums to the Food Pantry today.  The lady who runs the place gave me a big hug as she does every year.  So after cutting, chopping, boiling, and canning for a lot of the weekend, I have 10 jars of plum-mango jam, 9 jars of apricot jam, 5 jars of Chinese plum sauce (yum).  We paid our annual fruit tributes to the street.  And now I will stop for awhile until the peaches come in.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A Little Scenery from U CA Davis Putah Creek

Green Heron

Snowy Egret
 I also saw a pair of Little Blue Herons and a pair of Bitterns in a tree.  Nice day here.

Mama mallard
Crochet tree

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Mason Bee biology project.

I have a Certified Wildlife habitat for my yard.  Other than gophers in my day lillies, almost anything is welcome to live in my yard.  I saw some mason bees at my nursery the other year, but they were mighty expensive.  My former spouse got some in Tennessee, and kindly sent me a package over the winter.  Now that the fruit tree buds are starting to color, I decided to put them out.  I read on the internet how to make tubes out of parchment paper for new nests, and looked at pictures of expensive nest boxes.  For bees?  Really?  Surely cardboard should be cosy enough.  I need to get some chicken wire and cover this so the birds don't mess with it, I read, but otherwise, it is ready for spring.  So, we shall see what happens.  I'll let you know. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Seen in the heartland

Across highway 40 from Lambert-St. Louis airport was a billboard with signage from a local church:  "Face-to-Face Visits with Jesus".  I was in a taxi, so I couldn't go around the block to get a snap.  Sorry to disappoint. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Up the Mississippi

Stopover between business trips to visit Mom.  We drove the Great River Road north to Alton IL.  On this part of the river are bluffs on the Illinois riverbank, where the ceaseless prairie winds blow east and drop the soil load onto the bluffs that arise from Vicksville MS and up north past here.  In the winter, the bald eagles fly south to stay on the bluffs and fish on Ole Man River.  Didn't really expect to see any eagles, as it is a bit warm here and the river up north is not frozen.  But there was one, a black dot at 11 o'clock in the sky. I pointed it out to Mom and we both watched, entranced, as it dove down, did a back flip with wings extended, and smoothly entered the water.  Could not see if it got lucky from the car, but we sure did get lucky to see such a skillful dive.