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When I started the "Home Sweet Home" section of this site my intent was to chronicle the process of fixing up what was formerly known as The Fortress of Solitude. What actually happened was, well, nothing, and this section of the site hasn't been updated in years. Since then, I've gotten married and moved to a new home, which also needs "fixing up" (it was built in 1896). That's all for now...

Christmas, 2004

Pictures of the tree and other decorations here soon, but I wanted to put up pictures of one of my favorite Christmas traditions: the best biscotti I've ever tasted.

Pistachio and cranberry biscotti 2004

Lenny's homemade pistachio and cranberry biscotti. Fabulous.

Biscotti and coffee 2004

Linger over coffee with one... or two!

My Birthday, 2004

Featuring some pictures taken by my niece, Susan.

Halloween 2004

Our first Halloween in the new house called for festive, welcoming jack o' lanterns.

Halloween 2004

Drawing the design.

Halloween 2004

Performing the seedectomy.

Halloween 2004

Performing the incision. One down, one to go.

Halloween 2004


Halloween 2004

The finished jack o' lanterns with candles installed.

Halloween 2004

Ready for Trick-or-Treaters!

Posts in “Home Sweet Home”

December 25, 2007

Christmas Carnage

Talk about timing. We happened upon the massacre pictured below moments before police arrived. I can’t imagine what horrible weapons could cause such wholesale destruction or the reason for such a senseless loss of “life.” So much for peace on earth and good will toward men.

Christmas carnage

Right after I took this next picture, the police arrived and one objected to me taking pictures of the crime scene. So I did what any citizen journalist would do—I called him a name and then punched him in the face.

Christmas carnage

But seriously.

We had a wonderful Christmas this year with visits to family and friends that started four days ago on Saturday. Each Christmas seems to tilt the balance more towards the social and spiritual and away from the commercial, and this year I felt like we struck a good balance. We went to church on Christmas eve and that short service was the highlight of the season. I admit that the handbell choir and the standing-room-only crowd helped make the service special. Presents were mostly modest this year, although I splurged and got my brother a GPS.

Today we shared brunch and dinner with dear friends. As much as we enjoy cooking and hosting, it was nice to enjoy a day off without any culinary pressure. And besides, food just tastes better when someone else makes it! Here’s a shot from tonight’s dinner; it’s the schedule our friend Scott (who is an amazing cook) made for the day. I had always heard that it was a good idea to make such a schedule, and next time we host I will definitely be using one. When we hosted Thanksgiving, I was over confident and almost missed some important steps. A schedule would have made for a much less stressful day.

Christmas dinner schedule

By the end of the evening, the schedule had suffered stains from virtually all the food and beverages.

I hope that your holiday was everything you could wish it to be. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.


I'm confused. Were you saying it was a "massacre" thinking someone popped the blow up decorations? That type of decoration only inflates when it is plugged in, so during the day, it looks like that. At night, when the person plugs the decorations in with the rest of their Christmas lights, a small fan in the back of the decorations blows them up.

Lisa, It was just a joke on my part, because of the way the deflated decorations look during the day.

November 5, 2007

Speaking of WHYY, one of their regular sponsors is, where you can get such paragons of modernity as the ergonomic and stylish Aeron chair, now available in “True Black” (I’m tellin’ ya, black is the new black). And you can get it, that’s right, for less! Not for cheap, mind you, just for less. Aerons and their ilk aren’t cheap. Fortunately, I am not in lust with the unaffordable Aeron, as my philosophy has changed somewhat over the years. I did own a less-worthy but still nice sculpted chair for years and was satisfied until I gradually realized that the secret of comfort was not being locked into one perfect posture, but rather having the freedom to change positions. One of the most comfortable office chairs I have ever used was a plain affair with a mostly flat seat and back. This design made it easy for me to sit on one leg (which I do until it falls asleep and I have to switch to the other leg).

We’ve been lucky to acquire a couple of nice, plain chairs recently, saved from the trash by friends who didn’t need them (hence

Rescued oak chairs

Neither of these chairs is “ergonomic” in the way the Aeron is, but both are surprisingly comfortable. Both feature solid oak construction, classic retro design, and authentic “distressed” patina. The one on the left is my current office chair. All I need now is a matching oak desk and a battered Underwood and I’ll be a real writer.


I know this is an old blog posting but, two things...
First... Scott (AKA Blankbaby) needs a chair to match an old desk he's using. I'll point him to your post so he sees these cheap chair sites.

Second... Wow, my eyes widened significantly when I saw the rug the two chairs are sitting on. My grandparents had the identical pattern in their 2nd floor office/den! I used to sleep in that room when we visited them, so I am well acquainted with the pattern. Always liked it.

Now, you're at least five decades younger than my grandparents would be, so I'm wondering how and when you got it. It was in my grandparents' house certainly before the '80s...

Wow. Blast from the past.

April 3, 2007

Second Bee Hive

Anne started keeping bees last year, and in short order she harvested almost two gallons of honey. Her bees not only made it though the winter, but this year she is adding another hive. Saturday we went to pick up the new bees.

Jim pouring bees

In the morning we attended a hive-loading demonstration. Here Jim shows how to “pour” bees into the new hive.

Anne pouring bees

Later in the day, Anne pours her own bees into the new hive. The original hive is on the left.

It’s not quite as simple as it looks, but all went smoothly. Yesterday was the first warm, sunny day, and the new hive was already buzzing with activity.


I am totally fascinated by Anne's bees. I do believe a podcast about bees and honey is begging to be made.

Yay!! Keep it up, maybe you can singlehandedly solve this honeybee problem we seem to be having. Congrats on the new hive.

So no trouble with disappearing bees? You realize that you are bucking the world trend in which bees are leaving hives by the millions.

It certainly looks cool to raise bees. What besides honey do you get out of doing this?

Rick, we've been lucky so far. Last year was the first year for beekeeping, and the colony made it through the winter, but it's underpopulated and still not clear whether that hive will fully recover. Our bees have the common problem of varroa mites, but nothing more serious than that. No reason we should be immune to CCD though. My wife is the beekeeper (and gardener) in the family and always wanted to keep bees after taking a class in college. Her original and still-principal aim was to have bees for their pollination benefits; the honey is just a bonus.


December 25, 2006

The Christmas Post

Probably should try to get a Christmas post up while it’s still Christmas... I hope you had a great holiday; here are a few random notes and pictures from ours.

It didn’t look like we were going to be able to have a traditional celebration with the entire family under one roof at the same time, but things kind of fell into place at the last second by the expedient of moving Christmas up two days to Saturday. We hosted dinner at our place for 9 people and built the menu around a spiral-cut ham from Niman Ranch. To help cast a warm glow over the proceedings, Anne’s sister brought along the “Happy Holiday Hearth” DVD, which features video of a crackling fire as well as classic Christmas music. You could almost feel the heat coming from the iMac.

Yule log on an iMac

A week earlier, I helped decorate our Fraser fir and gave a prominent position to my newest ornament from Flax Art Design, a Rolleiflex twin-lens reflex. (I already have the Leica R8 ornament.) Collecting classic cameras has never been cheaper!

Rolleiflex ornament

I had to work a cat picture in here somewhere, of course. Here’s Julius in mid-yawn. Isn’t he kyoot?

Julius yawning

Christmas eve and Christmas day were spent visiting friends. Here’s the dinner table from tonight’s party while everyone was still in the next room cheering the Eagles on to victory over Dallas. Even though they had an early lead, I doubted they could win. They’ll just never be the same team without Iverson.

Christmas table

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.


Love the rolleiflex christmas tree decoration. Its to late for this year but I might keep the tree up a bit longer just to show the rolleiflex tree decoration. Thats if I can get it soon enough.

August 26, 2006

First Honey Harvest

Anne reaped the sweet rewards of her beehive yesterday with her first honey harvest, extracting about two gallons. Her hive is more about supporting a bee colony for its pollinating benefits in the garden than in honey production, but the bees are workaholics and make way more honey than they need. For more details, read her post all about it.

Jars of honey from the first harvest

OK, everybody, tall jars in the back. Everybody squeeze in close. Good. Now say “bees!”


I'm drooling here.

That looks scrumptious. And a good deed, indeed. From what I read, hinyebee populations are dwindling. Yum.

That looks sooooo good. I love honey.

(Great lighting too, btw! Your photo makes that honey look especially good.)

Mark, Can I put you down for a half-pint then? :-)

Frank, Yes, honeybees are not native to the US, and although there are wild colonies of bees, they have been in decline because of mite infestations.

Seadragon, Thanks! I tried backlighting through the honey, but didn’t like it as much.

I'll trade you some jam for some honey. I have black plum, white plum, and a couple of other varieties that I made before breaking my wrist. (In other words, I have no peach jam and it's breaking my heart)

Pierre MARECHAL Apiculteur écrivain
38 Ter, Chemin Reboul Ligne des Bambous
( Ile de la Réunion )
☎ 02 62 25 40 02
EMail :

Object: demand of photos with written authorization to publish apicoles photos

Sir, I appear at you: I am a small beekeeper on the Island of Reunion and prepare a work on the bees which should be born in 2009 My question is the following one, to illustrate the chapter stake in jar of the honey I look for some dumped on the conditioning(packaging) of the honey.

In summary would have you beautiful 2 or 3 dump high resolutions 300dpi to illustrate the subject of the conditioning(packaging) of the honey (put in jar) as well as your authorization has to reproduce clichés(pictures). Under every cliché(picture) will be mentioned your name and web site
To take(bring) out her(it) of this last one, I am going to see to it to inform you about it. I cannot assure(insure) you a copy of the work because this step(initiative) of free ventilation(breakdown) of books(pounds) is of the only spring(competence) of the publisher(editor). However it will be doubtless possible to me to send to you the page or will represent your clichés(pictures)
Sincerely Yours.


July 17, 2006

When Houseplants Attack...

...they’re vewy vewy kwiet. (You were expecting maybe explosions?) Consequently it can be weeks before you realize they’ve breached your defenses. Here are two terrifying tales from the front lines. The assailant in both cases is epipremnum pinnatum, commonly known to law-abiding citizens as pothos, but in underworld circles as the “marble-leaf ninja.” Swift, silent, and deadly. OK, maybe not swift.

Pothos view 1

This pothos obviously resented the solitary confinement of the mantle. In a daring attempt at escape, it has sent out an exploratory runner, attached itself to the wall, and starting climbing.

Pothos view 2

On the right, you can better see how firmly the plant has attached itself. It won’t be long before it will be able to make its escape. You can almost hear it boast, “There ain’t a pot built that can hold me!”

A friend sent me a link to the picture below. It’s an iMac under attack at the University of Minnesota by another pothos. This pothos realized it was hopeless to escape, so it sought revenge by sabotaging the nearby computer. Note the tendrils inside the Mac intent on wreaking destruction. If you have any of these diabolical plants, I urge you to be eternally vigilant. Don’t let this happen to you!



ha! same type of thing is going on at my parent's house back in NY. a few months ago when i went home for the first time in awhile, the front room was a jungle. i think they have 2 of those plants and they're running amok! not to mention the other huge potted plants [almost trees] growing inside.

This calls for a premptive strike! Does weed killer work on house plants? Let's find out!

It's like the blob, but in plant form!

Malnurtured, I took pity on the plant. A stay of execution is in effect, although the plant is under heavy guard. I’m hopeful it can be rehabilitated as a productive member of society.
Howard, Yes The Blob! I put Blobfest on the calendar for next year, and a trip to the Sly Fox is always welcome.

That's funny. One of the managers at my company has an office that is being taken over by some poorly groomed pothos and philodrendon. I offered to take the scissors to them, but he resisted. One of these days I'm going to walk in and find him restrained by his very own plants.

Melissa, I have the same situation at work. A coworker had a pothos that she let wrap around her cube a good ten feet in both directions. I inherited it from her when she left the company. After moving it a few times, it lost some leaves and really needed a trim. Scissors took care of all that and today it’s quite lovely. I’m keeping my eye on it, though...

In the first picture, I noticed that you have a bird's-eye-view of Oil City by T.M. Fowler. Is it original? If so, any interest in selling it? I collect Fowlers.

you shd know pothos is highly toxic to cats.

I have three large pothos. I have one in a pot on the floor. Across from it I have another plant. The pothos went across the floor and into the pot with the other plant(which is not a pothos).It had buried itself far down in the dirt.I finally removed it.

I gave up the coffee table to the pothos & presently have it confined by wrapping it round & round itself. But the philodrendon is seriously on the attack! I've had to wire the container to the baseboard to keep it from turning over. Now I'm wondering if I can lop off a big section (ouch!!) without completly ruining the plant. My apartment isn't big enough for the two of us.

I have one of these growing in my apartment ... the little devil that it is started in one pot then one branch broke and unwittingly i put it in another pot and now 2 of the segments out of the 5 total are both 20 feet and 27 feet long. Im wondering if i can wrap it around the cieling and if it will be able to survive the .. growing conditions

April 16, 2006

Cutting the Grass

Sounds like what traffickers do when they get a new shipment, but no, I was just mowing the lawn for the first time this season. Exciting and glamorous, no? Well, yes, simply because it was such a beautiful day to be outside. Our cranky old hand-me-down gas-powered mower finally died, so I used the Brill Luxus 38, a nice little push mower. Took all of about 10 minutes.

Being outside under the trees reminded me that I forgot to post about the last tree planting. I did write about our outing to help plant trees for UC Green, but this time it was a local neighborhood effort. I took pictures, of course, and actually helped dig a hole. That was two weeks ago and I still haven’t recovered from the exertion. After a long winter of inactivity, I’m a pasty blob of untoned flesh. Actually I’m that way all summer, too.

Unlike the UC Green trees which were balled-and-burlapped, weighed 300 pounds, and cost $200 each, these were bare root and cost a tenth of that. They were much easier to handle, of course, but because they were bare root, they had to be planted (“heeled in”) in loose soil as soon as they arrived. On the day people came to pick up their tree, each tree was dug up and the roots were dipped in hydrogel to keep them moist.

Bagging a bare root tree

The roots were dipped in hydrogel, then wrapped in a plastic bag for the short trip to the tree's new home.

Tree in a Burley trailer

This Burley trailer was probably the most practical method anyone used to take their tree home.

Two generations of trees

Two generations of trees living side by side.


Fortunately, and unfortunately at the same time, I do not have to cut our grass here. That is taken care of. I remember cutting my family's lawn when I was a kid, and it was a great time to think about things by yourself.

Great job on planting the tree.

I've always wanted one of those old school blade rotary cutters. But who sharpens those anymore?

Albert, it's a new school mower with disposable blades that are supposed to last at least ten years. At the rate we use it, it will probably last a lifetime. For way too much information on this mower, check out the garden section.

We had a push mower for most of my LA childhood (although near-constant drought conditions made the amount of grass pretty paltry). I remember being about 2 1/2 and watching my very pregnant mom trying to do the front lawn with that thing. Our 83 year old neighbor, Mrs. Bobo, came flying down her front steps yelling at my mom to stop mowing, that she was going to send herself into labor. I actually think that was the point of the exercise, but there was no arguing with Mrs. Bobo.

March 27, 2006

Blackbird Singing in the Dead of Night

There’s a bird in a tree across the street singing like he’s on American Idol or something. Just surprising to hear a bird this early in the year this late at night. It’s a quiet night, and he has no competition. Quite a variety of songs, too; he knows all the hits. I’m 99% sure this is just one (talented) bird. Anybody recognize his song(s)? (bird song mp3, 1:51, 1.7MB)


That is absolutely one of my favorite Beatles songs.

I downloaded this clip a few days ago. Now if I could just put it on a loop, I think it would really help me fall asleep faster...

February 14, 2006

This Just In: Snow

Better late than never, but let the record show that it snowed over the weekend. While this winter has been warm and relatively snow-free, we got an entire winter's snowfall in one day, about 18 inches.

It couldn't have happened at a better time, although I was too busy working on cutting over to Movable Type to take more than a handful of pictures. Thanks to our neighbor, who for some reason owns a large snowblower and actually seems to enjoy clearing the whole neighborhood, it only took a little over an hour of shoveling to free the cars for Monday's commute. Our street leads to the boro's parking lot, so it is one of the first to be cleared. Fortunately, we had nowhere to go.


My hero.


Hey, I needed one of those heavy-duty snowblowers. Absent that, I had teenage boys, who complained...but shoveled. I helped.

Tony, I'm glad you have comments up. You have some great stuff going and it's fun to say so.



no shoveling for me! ah sweet apartment dwelling.

December 24, 2005

Dress Your Cats for Christmas and Other Tales

Well, here it is Christmas Eve and our Christmas is basically over already. Yesterday we headed to the in-laws’ for a very festive dinner with Anne’s parents and her sister and husband. After dinner we all got to open our presents two days early. That was fun. Tonight we went to church and when we got home, I had an overpowering urge to mull something. I stifled the impulse, and instead we tucked into a nice dinner of leftovers.

So you’re probably wondering if we dressed our cats for Christmas. Well, we didn’t (why risk life-threatening injuries?), but I see that Mrs. Harridan has successfully dressed two of her cats in holiday splendor here and here. Those reindeer antlers look like they stayed on all of maybe 1/125 second. Still, very cute.

While our cats may not be dressed for Christmas, we’ve been decorating the rest of the house. Two weeks ago we purchased our Christmas tree, a Fraser fir, and decorated it, although not without incident. A cat (or cats) chewed clear through the wires of one of the light strings. Fortunately, the lights weren’t plugged in at the time. We also wrapped the banister and doorways with princess pine garland.




While we enjoy giving and getting presents as much as anyone, this year we decided to do things a little differently; Anne proposed a plan to donate what we spend on each other to our favorite charity. Not long after that, I read a post by Chris in the same spirit, “Take the ten bucks you were going to blow on tube socks for your aunt Beatrice and donate it to the gulf coast releif effort.” That’s what we decided to do this year if only for each other. We didn’t want to deprive our Aunt Beatrice of her tube socks.

Christmas Day will be a whirlwind of visits with relatives and friends that we’re both looking forward to. In fact, I need to make a pie crust before heading to bed tonight, so if you’ll excuse me...

Merry Christmas everyone!

December 11, 2005

Biodiesel—It’s Not Just for Cars

Announcer: We secretly switched the heating oil they usually use with renewable bio-heating oil that contains between 20% and 50% biodiesel. Let’s see if they notice...


Me: Anne, do you think the house smells like French fries?
Anne: No, why?
Me: Oh, no reason. I just had a funny feeling it should.


Wind turbine in Somerset, PA

I took this picture about 4 years ago of one of the six 1.5-megawatt wind turbines located in Somerset, Pennsylvania. The wind farm is operated by Exelon. That little hatch at the bottom is actually a full-size door--the tower is about 200 feet tall and each blade is almost 100 feet long.

Yep, count us among the households who didn’t notice. This winter Anne switched our heating-oil supplier to The Good Fuels Company, and last week we got our first tankful of blended heating oil that includes at least 20% renewable biodiesel made from vegetable oils. So far, so good. I didn’t expect our home to smell like French fries. In fact I was a little disappointed when it didn’t.

The biggest surprise was that the blended oil is about 20 cents cheaper than the price we were quoted by our regular heating-oil dealer. Can’t complain about that. Our switch wasn’t based on economic reasons. We both wanted to support alternative fuels, and this was an easy way to do it. Who knew it would be cheaper, too?

This wasn’t our first foray into renewable energy. We had been buying electricity from The Energy Coop (instead of PECO/Exelon), who were licensed to sell electricity from renewable resources as a result of deregulation. We paid a premium for several year for renewable electricity until we learned about a new program called PECO Wind, which provides electricity generated by wind. Since I am psyched about wind turbines (see photo), we switched to PECO Wind for our electricity. Again, we are paying a premium for 100% wind power, but it is cheaper than buying electricity from The Energy Coop. Of course, we’re indebted to the Coop for starting the bio-heating oil program in the first place.

(For more biodiesel news in Pennsylvania, see the America’s Hometown piece, “Homegrown Energy Solutions from the Rendell Administration.”)