Saturday, August 29, 2020

Miser Family update: making faces edition

 Life continues to be rich and full of acorns in the Miser Family Household.   On a whim, I brought home a bunch of the acorns that are lining the sidewalks of our college campus, and drew faces on them:

They're not wearing masks, but my husband points out that's okay because they're only heads, so they already have anti-bodies.  (Oog).   This leads us to this week's Family Fun Foto theme:  

Make a Face. Not your own.

We start  in the top row with my acorns, rearranged a bit.  Next up, my sister-in-law says that since the only person in our family who has seen her condo in Las Vegas is L1, she thought the rest of us may be curious: "I took this selfie on our balcony on New Year’s Eve.  (That is an actual photograph, well about 1000 of them spliced together, by a photographer friend of ours. He gave us the image and we had it printed on acrylic.)".    And my husband drew a face made from 16 Hebrew letters.   I helpfully pointed out, "In English, it's left to right, but his guy is write to aleph."

In the middle row, we present a crab face eating my grandchild, two awesome faces that K-daughter and A-child made from wooden blocks, and happy food:  "D baked cupcakes from scratch and made the icing!".   And we end with Y's reason for being happy:  "Just spent 30minutes digging my fingers through all the crud that was stuck in my vacuum cleaner. But at least it was satisfying to see if working good as new afterwards."  If you can't quite see it, her clean feet are pointing at the two pieces of the (de-gunked) vacuum cleaner with smiley cord, on a very very clean floor.

In row three, 

  • L1 gives us a dog smile.  (She posted this and asked, "Is anyone surprised").  
  • N-son is working construction with his brother-in-law this week, and he drew a happy blue face (paradox, anyone?) on one of the scraps of wood on site.  
  • And whooooo do you think knitted an owl face?  (I asked I-daughter if she did that just for us, and she said, "No, I started the owl ages ago... But this week's theme is conveniently timed 😀")  
  • L2 made the kind of face she makes when she's in a nail salon, although I have to add that unless it's the kind of nail salon that also has hammers and cordless power tools, I'd make a "help me!" face. 
  • And finally, the granddaughter of my next-door neighbor is so entranced by the acorn people on my own porch, that she's started collecting and shyly delivering more acorns to me.  I made three people for the next door porch, in thanks.  (These ones have hair, of a sort).

While my husband and I are in the (cross-fingers) last throes of battling bedbugs, I-daughter is wisely avoiding the inside of our home.  In place of church and waffles on Sunday morning, we've started a lovely tradition of going for Sunday afternoon walks, which I find so pleasant that I almost want to thank these little pests for instigating our new rambles.  This past week, we did a four-+ mile loop into a series of woods and marshes that are just a mile from my old home, and yet that I just discovered THIS summer, after 28 years living in my little city.

We didn't get to go on family vacation with my sisters and dad this August, but I-daughter says going on a walk through the woods makes her feel like we're fulfilling part of the family vacation tradition.  In fact, it's even more like vacation tradition because I am wearing my brown dress, which somehow I always seem to be wearing when we take the family photo, and which my sisters ride me for because it makes my brown sons hard to see when they stand in front of me.
See?  You can't even see N-son or J-son in this photo when I'm wearing this dress!

But summer vacation ended, and school has started.

We're all excited!  I had my first three days of classes.  From now until Thanksgiving, four days a week, I'll be teaching at 6:30 a.m. my time, 6:30 p.m. my students' time (my math class is a cadre of students in Shanghai).   The language difference, the tech issues, the time differences . . . they all make this a semester I'm sure to remember for many years to come.  I'm trying to deal with each little challenge as an adventure.  And, I guess, I'm fortunate to have lots and lots of adventures.  

And that's the news from our family, which continues to face our adventures with a smile.  With lots of smiles.  Even blue smiles.  May you and yours be similarly prosperous.  

Monday, August 24, 2020

Adventures with Bedbugs, Episode 4

Here are some things I keep reminding myself about the bedbug ordeal we're muddling through.

  1. I haven't seen any real evidence anywhere of long-term side-effects of these animalitos.  There's all sort of evidence that, although they are very, very (very) tough to get rid of, but also a kind of general mantra that people working with professional exterminators eventually do get rid of them.  I repeat to myself, "A year from now, we won't have bedbugs; this is temporary".  
    (I know that's not a guarantee, but it is a likelihood, so I'm sticking to this mantra).
  2. If all of my DIY attempts fail, I can fall back on professional exterminators.  I don't want to, but if I can't get rid of the bedbugs on my own terms, at least I have back-up plans.
  3. Everything I learn is actually kind of interesting.  There's ways in which this is like a big experiment, or a big story.  It's not at all fun having bedbugs, but sharing the experience of having bedbugs is kind of cathartic.  
And so, with that forward (and maybe even with that foreshadowing . . . .), let us return to where we were last week with our bedbug saga.


  • hypo-allergenic mattress covers protecting our beds (and, heck, while we're at it, the sofa),
  • diatomaceous earth decorating the floors of my bedroom and a few other choice spots in the house,
  • nightly hunting expeditions with my trusty flashlight, and 
  • my beloved sidekick, Dracaris-The-Heat Gun,
we had managed to reduce bedbug populations dramatically.  During the week leading up to last Friday, I had only managed to find something like two dead bedbugs (on the bathroom floor: why?) and one live-but-extremely lethargic one (in Prewash's dog bed, which gets toasted daily).

But to deliver the final death blow to these invaders, on Friday we brought in . . . 
The Incinerator.

We'd had a choice between buying a $1300 version that promised to be able handle 200 square feet, and a larger $2400 one that could cover a bigger room; we went with the smaller one, because our bedrooms and other second floor rooms all fit the size requirement.  

Buying a $1300 professional bedbug heater sounds like a dramatic and even perilous step. Certainly, in my head, this was a piece of equipment that would dwarf the household furnace, requiring incredible space to store and patient expertise to learn to use properly, and even then, using it would risk burning down the house (which would probably get rid of the bed bugs, but would not necessarily solve the problem of getting a good night's sleep).   

So when it arrived, I was incredibly relieved to see this, instead.

Removed from the boxes, "The Cube" is even more innocuous looking, sitting next to its buddy "Cube Blower".   Perhaps they both want to be friends with R2D2 someday.

It comes with a helpful set of directions saying, in red type, "For Professional use only".   Even the quotation marks are in red, which frankly makes the warning sound more wink-wink-nod-nod than anything else.  I kinda love the directions.  Here is my favorite line, which I reproduce with capitalization and punctuation exactly as it appears in the brochure.  

Remove all Animals (dog cats, fish, turtles, mice, snakes, hamster's, etc.)

The rest of the directions say (in summary) that you have to seal up the room, but don't move furniture around too much.  You need to have the separate blower on while you run the heater, to circulate air in the room.  And then to operate the heater itself, you have to follow this tricky set of steps:
  1. Plug it in.
  2. Turn it on.
  3. Leave it on for "at least 6 hours" until the room gets up to temp.
To be a bit more realistic, each step is a tad harder than it sounds.  
  1. As for "plugging it in", the heater actually comes with three (3) cords, and each of these has to be connected to a three-pronged outlet on three different circuit breakers, which is probably where the "For Professional use only" caution comes in.  (The heater draws something like 36 amps, 12 through each cord.)   I found three such outlets by using fancy equipment called "lamps" which I plugged into various outlets around the home, and then turned on and off circuit breakers in the basement, carefully labeling them for future reference.      
  2. As for "turning it on", there are two switches.  You first turn on the the fan-within-the-heater (in addition to having the separate blower running), and then turn on the heating element.  If you don't remember to turn on the heating element, then . . . you come back an hour later and find a noisy room that isn't particularly warm.  And then you can turn on the heating element and watch the thermostat rise slowly to 130 degrees, where you bake the room for 6 hours, and then move the whole set-up to the next room for at least another 6 hours.
So, I sealed up the bedroom, and I removed the dog cats and the snakes, together with the hamster's etc, and then I turned The Incinerator on, and left, checking every couple of hours on the progress.

3.  The fans are a bit noisy.   The directions say that we ought to keep the Cube running for a minimum of 6 hours, and that the temperature rises slowly.  "Slowly" is not an exaggeration; my fears of burning down the house turned at some point into fears that maybe we'd gotten a defective machine.  The machine is rated for rooms of up to 200 square feet; my bedroom is close to that (but with 9-foot, not 8-foot ceilings, making the volume larger), and it took an agonizing 8 hours before the temperature topped the magic 123 degrees (bedbug killing temperature), and inched up toward 130.    
There's a bit of technique in arranging the blower and the fan appropriately (that might be part of the professional use caveat.  It's really agonizing to have this heater on for 8 hours overnight, and see that the thermostat is still reading only 119 degrees.   Rearranging where the fan and blower were helped . . . but what I thought would take 18 hours, to heat up three rooms in sequence, ended up lasting all weekend long and then a bit.

A room that is 130 degrees is hot, but not burn-down-the-house hot.  (It keeps reminding me that in 2009, my husband was off in Iraq, where he regularly worked outside in 130-degree temperatures, and he's still, y'know, fine.)   But these guys draw a LOT of energy.  

And they do make the rooms very warm, even a day or so after.  

And I'd love to say that this particular experiment has been a resounding success.  

But . . . 

The night that I was heating my bedroom, I couldn't sleep there obviously, and I also didn't want to sleep in the next room over, because of the incredible noise  So I grabbed my sleeping bag and headed for the dining room, about as far away from my bedroom as you can get in the house.  In the middle of the night, I found a beddog in my sleeping bag with me.   That wasn't so bad, though.

But closer to morning, my beddog and I were joined by a pair of bedbugs.  Sigh.  The incinerator is definitely not large enough to handle the spacious rooms on the first floor.   I decided to continue with the experiment on the second floor, and just Dracaris the heck out of everything I could reach on the first floor.  We've already removed most soft stuff from that level, so although I knew it was a long-shot, I was willing to gamble.

But then.   But then I went up to the bedroom for something -- the bedroom that a mere 36 hours earlier had been though an Incinerator heat treatment.  And I saw a spot on the ceiling.  I got my step stool and flashlight from the other room, and came back to check . . .  and sure enough, that spot was a bedbug.  Alive. On my ceiling.

[As a minor aside, isn't amazing that bedbugs don't really run away like other insects?  It just waited for me to come back, identify, and murder it.  So very patient, the bedbug is.]

. .  .
And so I give up.  I'm not DIY-ing this anymore.  I called our local exterminators, and set up an appointment for early next week.  We're going to pack up all our (laundered, heated-in-the-dryer) clothes, stuff them into (shudder) plastic bags, and figure out how to leave the house for 6 hours, dog and all.  They're going to come spray the house with poison.  I'm going to cross fingers that my particular strain of bedbugs haven't developed a resistance to this particular strain of insecticide, and also that living in a row house doesn't mean that my neighbors and I start sharing animals back and forth.  

By the way, I am still extremely (extremely) fond of my heat gun.  I now think that diatomaceous earth is vastly overrated.  And that's where our bedbug situation stands as of Monday night.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Miser Family update: dOnnOr edition

Late August means tomatoes and peaches are coming in, and it means the start of the school year is just around the corner.  And for these reasons and more, life continues to be rich and full in the Miser Family household.

Last year, what with moving and settling in and all, I skipped canning tomatoes, but then, all winter long, I missed having tomatoes in my basement.  So this year, I resolved not to make the same mistake.   Three bushels of tomatoes later (which translates into 21 quarts of tomatoes and 24 quarts of tomato juice), my basement shelves are full to the point of me wanting make more shelves. 

I said peaches are in, but they're "in" just barely: a spring warm snap followed by hail cut the peach output in our state way back.  So I canned a "mere" 12 quarts of peaches (and 4.5 quarts of juice) this year.  
And with all these jars full, I remove the rings . . . 
 . . . giving me a perfect segue into this week's Family Fun Foto theme:  the dOnnOr!

The dOnnOr began a decade or so ago as an "O" themed dinner.  In 2014, we added a philanthropic component.   I cull all the charity envelopes we've received that year, sort through them, and then my family and I work together to write checks to these places.   This year, we don't have the food, and we don't write checks together, but we got to share images related to some of the places we support.  Behold.


  • My sister-in-law nailed the theme with her hula-hooped photo of tOys-fOr-tOts purchases.
  • L2 shared a pic of her  first day volunteering at Gilda's Club, a free cancer community/fellowship center.
  • My guy comes full circle: Born Jewish, converting to Christianity in his early 20's, and finding new refuge in the synagogue after the 2016 election and particularly after the Charlottesville 2017 rally horrors, he's happy to be supporting a synagogue again.
  • Y says she's "Been regularly "donating" (sharing?) my herbs w/ the housemates and neighborhood thru my local BuyNothing :)".  The herbs include lavender, Thai basil, Italian basil, "I've got lots of thyme", and OreganO.
  • N-son and I haven't gotten to volunteer at our local soup kitchen for a while because [pandemic], but we're sending them money and prayers.
  • K-daughter says, "D and I support to his cousins missionary project in England. :) I don't have a picture.... But here's a cute picture of B-child💜"
  • I-daughter says, "There are a bunch of charities close to my heart (too many to choose from, and hard to photograph) so I'm highlighting the two closest to my home".   prOps to the lOcal library and to musicfOreveryOne.Org!
  • L2, but of course, supports Lu's Labs, the rescue agency she helps foster dogs for.  
You might notice I very rarely mention J-son these days.  That's partly because I can't figure out how to have GoogleVoice create a text chat with more than 8 people, so I have to leave *someone* from the family out of the chats, and partly because when I do include him as one of the 8, he doesn't exactly . . . respond.  Which is not fair; I'm his mom.  (Or I'm 1/3 of his moms, but still).  

However, he does seem to be happy and healthy, creatively figuring out how to live life on his own as a young (handsome) man.  This past week, my guy drove N-son up to see J-son, and snapped these photos, to prove that both of my sons exist and are still buds.

And that's the news from our family, which continues to be rich enough in our adventures that we have extra to share with others.  May you and yours be similarly prOsperOus.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Adventures with Bedbugs, episode 3

This particular episode of "Adventures with Bedbugs" won't feel particularly adventure-y. We're in more of a "vigilance" than a "vigilante" mode right now.

But let me back up. In our previous installment, I'd praised my new heat gun. My husband was sad, when he read the post, that I didn't mention that my heat gun has a name, so let me (re)introduce this baby. Inspired by the Game of Thrones, and in particular by a warrior's command that instructs her dragon to incinerate her enemies, my heat gun is named "Dracaris". There you go.

I ended the previous installment by saying,

I don't know whether we're actually beating them, or whether they're planning a surprise reemergence in a totally new place in the house. But I'm feeling better armed and more informed daily . . .

Prescient words, there, about "reemergence".  Right after I hit "publish", I decided I needed to go upstairs and do yet another bedbug hunt, and sure enough, I discovered the bedbugs had migrated over into the library, where my husband has been sleeping, and they were snuggled up underneath his mattress (the mattress cover we'd ordered for that bed hadn't come yet).   I dracarised the heck out of that mattress and the bed frame, and we haven't seen any bedbugs in that room since.

I want to say, I have been doing my best to seek out -- and to believe -- expert advice.   I am not going to pretend that these will all miraculously go away, that the bugs will maybe just disappear, or that "it is what it is".   Experts say that getting rid of bedbugs is very difficult; they are persistent.   Experts say that bedbugs tend to live within 8 feet of their food source (a bed where someone is sleeping), but that if an infestation gets bad, they can spread to other areas.   So I'm focused on our bedrooms on the second floor, but we're also keeping an eye on the couch and such on our main floor (so far, no sightings there -- phew!)

After our initial inspection, we've resisted bringing in an outside exterminator for a couple of reasons:
  • the near, "cheap" ($800) folks use poison spray and would need to do three treatments, with lots of bagging-up effort on our behalf; that's a lot of work for us, and I have serious concerns about the efficacy of poison on the bugs (it's well documented that the bugs are developing resistance) as well as health concerns for us about spreading poison in our home;
  • a one-hour-away, "mid-priced" ($1500) guy would use heaters on our second floor only (where the bedrooms are), but also ALWAYS adds a poison treatment;  there's the poison concern again, but also questions about whether the bedroom-level-only treatment would work long-term;
  • a three-hour-away, expensive ($3000) place would do the heat treatment to the whole home.  
The three-hour-away guy was very chatty.  He told us about a guy whose house he treated, but whose infestation was bad enough that the bugs had spread to the car, so after the guy had his house treated, he reintroduced them to the house by bringing them back in from the car.   Ugh.

A normal room heater won't work to do a treatment, we've discovered both by experimenting ourselves and by reading stuff on line.  However . . . it's possible to buy a bedbug-heater for a mere $1200.   Notice that this is less than the cost of hiring the two pricier exterminators.   So my husband, who loves buying things for me, especially when they're expensive, has bought me a bed bug incinerator.  It's supposed to arrive Friday.

In the meanwhile, I've seen very, very few bedbugs.  I'm washing bedsheets and dog beds regularly, but for three days now I haven't seen any bedbugs in the dog bed (which I am using like a magnet to try to attract them and detect their presence, sorry Prewash!), nor anywhere else in my room.  I do kind of maniacally go hunting for them at night with my flashlight, but I'm running out of places to look.   It kind of feels like we're winning, although every time I find a carcass or a tiny bug somewhere, I remember that all it takes is one little Mama Bedbug to start this whole process over again.  

So, that's where we are.  Looking forward to the arrival of an incinerator, living in a house decorated with diatomaceous earth, and generally not sharing our beds with tiny little critters, at least for now.


Saturday, August 15, 2020

 Life continues to be wheely rich and full in the Miser Family Household.  

Y kicks us off, identifying us as big fans of wheels ("This came with my bedroom but I love the bronze work and mesh. You could say I'm a fan."), but it's clear we're fans of many kinds of wheels, whether on buses, or whether they come in sets of 48 on my husband's tank (he no longer drives that particular vehicle, by the way), or whether they appear only in the shadow of the cannon.  

Of course, bicycles are also wheely popular.  N-son resurrected this old photo from a bike race he did, back in the olden days when people could congregate for bike races.  (Remember those days?)  My sister-in-law has a great bike story.  She says, 
I was riding my bike on the Las Vegas strip in the early days of the shut down. I was down at the welcome to Las Vegas sign and ran into someone that owns a gallery, he was looking for someone in a mask willing to pose for a picture in front of the iconic Las Vegas sign. I said I will and how about if I am sitting on my sweet ride? The rest as they say, is history.
Biking is very sporty, and so is running.  As a digression, this morning we all got a text from L2 saying, "Once again ran a half without training 😂 paces better this time. Last run was March 24.  Wasn't sure if I was going to finish so I didn't tell anyone".  She picked up the pace toward the end; the last mile or so were 7-ish-minute miles.  (So, um, my friends weren't available, so I skipped my own 4 mile run and slept in today, thank you for the comparison. )

Somewhere between sports and driving comes whacking at golf balls, trying to hit the wheels on the green, as L2 demonstrates so aptly.  And then we have the back seat dogs, and the driver dog ("In the drivers seat ready to go back to Starbucks for more pup cups"), and the driver B-child.   I think somebody needs to start checking licenses a bit more carefully!

Wheels also play roles in craft and construction: I-daughter says,

I'm hanging out with my wheel (her name is Christy Burgh). . . also, Different angle so you can see more of the stickers.
(She says, "hanging out", but I think she's really "taking her for a spin").   And me, I love sticking wheels on existing things.  Here, I'm showing you "Adding wheels to a purple trunk that holds wooden train tracks.  Wheels inside the trunk, wheels under the trunk!"  And A-child and B-child love playing with their color wheel.  So crafty!

I love the Las Vegas photo so much I'm going share a more generous-sized version:

And although this doesn't have anything to do with wheels, I just want to say it's a lot of fun to "go" to church on Sunday and get to see my favorite Future Doctor banging away at the keyboard, keeping us all on tempo and in tune.  Screen shot!

Earlier this summer, I got to go cherry picking with K-daughter and my two grandchildren, and this week I found reason to be extra glad we did that when we could:  there will be no peach picking this year.  Our local orchard says, 

As you recall, we had very mild temperatures early this spring. Due to the warm temperatures, our peach trees bloomed almost a month earlier than normal. Unfortunately, after the bloom and fruit set, we had several frost and freeze events which damaged some of the small fruits and caused them to fall off. Some varieties survived with half a crop while others lost the whole crop. Fruit trees only get one chance a season to produce a crop and if there is damage we must wait until the next year for another crop.

While we would love to open and share the Pick Your Own experience with you, at this time we are only offering our peaches ready picked at our Orchard Outlet Store.

I am, I admit, both saddened and also wondering what I'll eat in February.  Last year, we picked 75 pounds of peaches.  Now, my fruit shelves are almost bare, except for 1-2 dozen jars of cherries.  I might have to break down and go to a [shudder] store.  sigh.

But even though my life isn't all peachy keen right now, it's still wheely nice.  And that's all I got for you from our family, which continues to be wealthy in our adventures.  May you and yours stay safe.  

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Adventures with bedbugs, episode 2

 For the riveting Episode 1 of Adventures With Bedbugs, see this link.

In this post, I'm going to write about how much I love my new heat gun, so I think I need to say right off the bat that

  • heat guns are not a recommended bedbug tool anywhere I can find on the internet;
  • heat guns can damage the finish on your furniture (after all, they're used to strip paint, so if you use them, you might end up stripping paint);
  • heat guns can start fires (I've haven't started fires myself, although I've set off a few smoke detectors, I think because of crispy dog hair);
  • and I LOVE MY HEAT GUN anyway.
With that said, let's resume the story in progress.  When we'd left off, an exterminator had agreed I'd correctly diagnosed the bed bug problem, but said the company couldn't come to treat them for a while (even if we'd signed the contract, the first treatment wouldn't be until a few days from today), and it'd cost $800.  So we decided to try to deal with this ourselves in the meanwhile, realizing we could go back and hire a professional in the future.

I have come to really appreciate the role of heat in eradicating these beasties.  For example, if we do hire pros, we're going to get some folks who can raise the temperature of the entire home to about 130 degrees.  Bedbugs and their eggs die at 122, so this treatment is reportedly very effective and non-toxic to boot, and it doesn't require coming back again and again (our local exterminators, who use spray, say they'd have to treat the home three times).   Another advantage of the heat treatment is that you don't have to bag up linens and clothes -- just open up your drawers and closets and let the heat do its work.

If bedbugs ever made an appearance at, say, my daughter's home, I'd urge her to go with this service immediately (she is a knitter, and has shelf upon shelf of yarn, and she also just generally likes being in a home where she has things piled on things).  But a whole-house heat treatment is also expensive -- like hundreds-to-a-thousand-dollars expensive -- and the nearest place that offers this service is an hour or so away.   So for me and my husband, who have wooden floors decorated with only the occasional floor rug and intermittent seasonal dog hair, and who have recently and happily pared down our earthly possessions, we're willing to try for a while with a more labor-intensive route.

Here are some things we've bought/tried since the bedbugs woke me up on the night of July 31/August 1.
  • Hypoallergenic mattress covers and pillow covers:  A+.  They don't let new bugs into the mattress; they don't let existing bugs out of the mattress; they're non-toxic; they make it easy to search for bedbugs (and I haven't seen any on them).  I wish I'd gotten these long ago.
  • Flashlight:  B.  Because if there are bedbugs somewhere in the house, you kind of wake up in the middle of the night wondering if that tickle means they're crawling on you -- but ever since that first night, all the tickles have been hair, or a wrinkle in the sheets, or my imagination.   Since bedbugs only come out at night, having a flashlight really helps with identifying where they are.  Nightmare inducing, but also useful.   
  • Oven:  A.  Bake bedside books at 130 degrees or so for a half hour.
  • Dryer:  A-.  I've emptied out my drawers and heated all my clothes.  I leave the dog bed in the bedroom at night to serve as "bait" so I can see whether we still have bugs, and then I toss the dog bed back in the dryer each morning.  Our small area rugs got the dryer treatment.  Basically, anything fabric we run through the dryer.  We use this a lot, and I'm not generally a fan of dryers.  The minus in the "A-" is because it uses a bunch of energy.
  • Plastic Garbage bags: C.  I broke down and bought a bunch of plastic garbage bags, even though I hate plastic.  But I really wanted to get the non-essential fabric things out of bedbug range, so now our rugs are in those; my summer dresses are in there; extra dog beds are in there . . . I'll try to give them away to someone who would actually use garbage bags for other things when this is all over.  In the meanwhile, they're really helping with peace-of-mind.  
  • Diatomaceous earth:  B.   This is non-toxic powder that dries the bedbugs out so they die . . . eventually, so they say.  I've sprinkled it kind of all over my bedroom floor and a couple of other places, into many cracks and crevices.  It's not nearly as effective as I thought it might be, but I'm still giving it a B because it's nontoxic and partly reusable (eventually, I'll sweep up the excess powder and stick in a jar for potential future use).  
  • Spray Poison:  D.  I bought it; I wish I hadn't.   There are multiple articles about bedbugs adapting resistance to these sprays; the spray comes in a plastic bottle, and it's toxic enough that you're not supposed to have pets or kids around while you're spraying or until after it dries.  
  • My heat gun.  A.   More on this later.

So, two Tuesdays ago, when our exterminator said he wouldn't be able to treat the home anytime soon, we panic-bought the spray and the diatomaceous earth.  I applied the spray to all the cracks/crevices I could think of in my room, and when it had dried, I sprinkled diatomaceous earth all around.

Friday, I moved back into the room.  I'd been "camping" down the hall; a reader Amanda pointed out that this might encourage the bugs to follow me, and several internet sources backed her up.  That Friday night, with my flashlight, I saw bedbugs crawling up my bedroom wall, coated in the white diatomaceous earth.  I saw them boogie-ing on my bedside stand.  I didn't get any in my bed, but earth-covered bugs did crawl into the dog bed with Prewash and snuggle up there.  I didn't get much sleep, needless to say.  Saturday, I had a return of my anxiety attacks -- yuckers.

However, I *did* figure out, thanks to my trusty flashlight and my nocturnal sleuthing, that the bugs had made a tiny little nest in the crack between the top of my bed stand and the sideboards of my bed stand.  This is a *really* nice piece of butcher-block furniture, so when I say "tiny crack", I am not exaggerating.  I smacked them with poison spray.  Yuck.  That helped a lot, as I haven't seen any bugs crawling up my bedroom walls since, although I have seen them in a few other random places.

I did more research.  It was clear from the wall-crawlers that the diatomaceous earth wasn't killing the bugs instantly.  I'd been hoping for something like the Wicked Witch of the West encountering water, or slugs with salt -- watching the bugs shrivel before my eyes.  That wasn't happening, alas.  It turns out, says the internet, that the desiccating (drying out) effect takes hours or maybe even days.  

We also dug more deeply into professional services that might use heat, because I wanted to be ready to bring them in if the bugs spread to other rooms or got out of control.    As I said above, the nearest place we could find is over an hour away, but now we have the number.  A nearby franchise of a national chain uses spot heating, we discovered, kind of like a steam heater, but without the steam.  My husband and I were talking about this option, wondering if we could DIY it.  A hair dryer, for example, gets things hot, but it also blows a lot.  I mentioned that I used to use a heat gun to strip paint, and I'd be happy to try that . . . 

. . . and $25 later, my husband had bought me a new toy.  

So, here's how I've used my heat gun --- with the usual caveats that this is NOT something I've seen recommended elsewhere.   
  • When I do see bedbugs (there were some under a floor rug, or in the dog bed), I aim the heat gun at them.  And they shrivel up and die like the Wicked Witch of the West, and it's VERY satisfying.  Then I heat up anything that's nearby that might have been a hiding place.  I can't begin to tell you how much I enjoy that.
  • When I get paranoid about "maybe the bed bugs might move to the couch", instead of staying paranoid, I just go use the heat gun (carefully) on the couch, slowly heating up places where wood meets wood, cautiously toasting the seams and such.  I don't know if there were bedbugs there, or even if I successfully got the ones that might have been hiding in places that I ignored, but I'm doing *something*, and it's good for my brain.
  • I've preemptively gone over baseboards, bedroom furniture, etc, just to try to kill ones that I missed before.   I'm not doing the whole house, so I know I could be missing some, but I do feel like doing SOMETHING is better than nothing.
For what it's worth, last night (one Tuesday after the exterminator confirmed we had an infestation), I went upstairs with my flashlight and did a slow, careful search of the entire floor.  I couldn't find a single bedbug, and I admit I was a little bit disappointed because I really wanted to melt one with my gun.   In the morning, I found one tiny bug in the dog bed; so I gunned for that and then tossed the bed in the dryer for extra measure.

And that's where we are with Episode 2 of "Adventures with Bedbugs".   The saga isn't over yet . . . I don't know whether we're actually beating them, or whether they're planning a surprise reemergence in a totally new place in the house. But I'm feeling better armed and more informed daily about how to thwart them, so that's good.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Another shelf-ish project

It looks like I'll be teaching the bulk of my classes from my Command Center this semester.   In fact, it ought to be an especially interesting version of teaching, because my students are all clustered together in a city in China -- the consulates haven't been open, so even if our College were wide open (which it's not; it's a very mixed kind of open), they would still be cooling their heels on the other side of the many oceans.  

So, I'll be teaching across thousands and thousands of miles; I'll be teaching across 12 time zones; I'll be teach across cultural and language barriers; and I'll be doing it all from the comfort of my own home. My class will be at 6:30 a.m. my time, 6:30 p.m. their time.  It should be fun.   

I'm still pinching myself at how fortunate I was to have splurged (unlike me) on a pair of really nice chalk boards for my home last fall.  Because of this, I can perch my laptop computer on a tall stand, point it at my chalkboard, and start writing and talking.  It's an awesome way to present mathematics. 

The only difficulty is getting a tall stand.  Last semester, when the pandemic first struck and we were all in Scramble Mode, I snagged a bookshelf from the living room to set my laptop on, but it was less than optimal.  What I *really* wanted was a tall stand on wheels, one that I could move in front of the chalkboard when I'm teaching, and get it back out of the way when I'm not -- which is most of the time, really.  

And then, about a month ago when I was walking around the neighborhood, I saw an ugly skinny dresser, kind of falling apart, out at the curb waiting for the Garbage Collectors to haul it away.  And so I hustled home, fetched my handy-dandy green garden wagon, and returned to my neighbor's trash pile.  I became a Ringer Garbage Collector for the moment, and I did my job with gusto.

I got to spend a fun (loud) day sanding off the old ugly paint.  (Like, seriously ugly.  You can tell this dresser had been loved by kids, who had hand-labeled the drawers in pencil:  "board games", "cards", etc).  I removed the metal door pulls, which had been painted in the same ugly paint.  After googling, I decided to soak these in boiling water -- and sure enough, that allowed me to remove the paint from the metal knobs and pulls pretty easily.  Yay for being in hot water!

Then came hardware time.  I used assorted left-over screws and nails to reattach the side panels, which had been coming loose.  My daughter has gifted me with a bunch of furniture wheels, so I used scrap wood to make support bars in the bottom of the dresser, and added the wheels underneath.  

And then I got to paint.  I have a bunch lot paint leftover from my previous shelf project, and decided it would make sense to have this new set of shelves match.  

And behold!

I wasn't sure, at first, that I'd want to reuse the same knobs this dresser had come with, but I think they actually look pretty good! 

If you look closely, you'll see the that this dresser doesn't seem to sit all the way on the floor. That's because, wheels.  It kind of miraculously fits exactly in the space between the existing shelves and the door, and I can roll it easily into the middle of the room where it's just about exactly the right height for my laptop to film my "class".  


Saturday, August 8, 2020

Miser Family mug shot update

We've got some good-looking mugs here in the Miser Family household, where our lives are rich and full.   

Actually, we've got a bunch of well-loved favorite utensils and dishes.  D loves his spatula.   I-daughter can hang her spoon on her nose.  (I taught her that awesome skill!).   In my planner bag, I carry a spoon that used to cause daily arguments between me and my sisters -- we three girls shared three spoons, and we all fought over the "girl" (the one wearing a dress), and it didn't matter how many times my father told us, "they're all girls!  Girls wear overalls!".  We knew that, and then we started arguing over who would get the "girl" today anyway.  

A-child and her mom both have the same favorite spoon, one I gave them.  Kinda continuing a family tradition?  They both want to use it to eat breakfast, so I guess if they share it, it's a serial cereal spoon.  N-son is taking fake sips from a silver-plated mug with his initials on it that he got as an infant.  And this week, for the first time, my husband's sister is joining in the Family Fun Foto;  "I have just the thing!! I ❤️ my morning tea."

And what a cool collection of plates and mugs we have! Y makes beautiful food;  L2 found a mug whose handle has slots to hold a spoon; my guy loves his bicycle mug, L1 has a mug with a confused mug and also a "This is my Social Distance Mug!  Get back or get cracked".  And Amelia Dog loves any dish that contains food.  (Okay, me too!)

What else? Well, on a kind-of-related theme, N-son has had interviews and even paperwork-filling-out sessions with a nearby nursing home, where he might get his first real job, washing dishes.  I taught him that!  Yes!  Today N-son went to get his TB test read, to make sure he's got the health background sorted out before he heads in for work.  

And, further along in the realm of medical updates, my husband and I both had doc visits.  I got to visit my dermatologist who confirmed (a) I have all my skin, and (b) none of it has Danger Moles.  So, I get another year of living with my spots, knowing they're friendly.   Meanwhile, my guy had a visit from his physical therapist who gave him his new Torture Device.  This is a lovely contraption that he's supposed to wear three times a day, a half-hour at a time, to help him get back his flexibility and his extension.  If it doesn't work, he'll get to have another surgery to get the screws in his elbow loosened.  (Ooh, *I* have screwdrivers!! I can do it cheap!)

Although maybe I'm not quite as adept with screwdrivers as I'd like to think.  A year ago this week, I was taking a quick break from Fitness Blender with my sister when I accidentally locked myself in a bathroom and couldn't get out without having my sisters rescue me, which was hard for them because of all the laughing we were doing.  Maybe we would have done better if I'd had my spoon with me, y'know?

And that's the news from our family, which continues to be wealthy in our adventures.  May you and yours stay safe.  

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Adventures with BedBugs

About two weeks ago, my pillowcases looked dirty; they had little brown spots on them.  I waited until my husband (the Lord of the Laundry) was back in town, and had him wash them.  They didn't really get clean. 

Here's what I wish I'd known:  that was bedbug evidence. They chomp on skin at night, and the blood spots get on sheets or pillowcases.

Although, honestly, the only difference it would have made, knowing what those spots meant, would have been that I would have had a week's head start on combatting the beasties.  Compared to other pests I've battled in my life (lice, I'm lookin' atcha) or that my friends have had to deal with (rats, ugh), these guys are fairly benign.  Bedbugs don't seem to cling to body parts; they don't make their home in food you were planning to eat so you open a box of cereal to see it wiggling (ants and I have not seen eye-to-eye on where they should live); bedbugs don't chew through wires and make stinky poop like rats do.  

At any rate, a week later I woke in the middle of the night to feel something (a fly?) on my arm, but my arm was under the sheet.  I grabbed whatever it was, and it was a real thing.   I tossed it in a nearby canning jar, turned on the lights, and looked under the covers.  Little black/brown bugs, the size of apple seeds, were scurrying all over.   Creepy.

When you wake up in the middle of the night to find things crawling all over your bed, and partly on you, it's very hard to go back to sleep, even when you move to a new space.  I did a bunch of dark-hours internet searching.  I threw a blanket (not from the bed) on the floor of my Command Center, and slept there . . . eventually.  

Where did they come from?  We're not sure.  My husband has been doing a bunch of traveling to NY and Philly, occasionally staying in hotels, but he's also been sleeping in a different bedroom (one with air conditioning, unlike our master bedroom), and his bed is completely free of bedbugs, whereas the bed where I've been sleeping is infested.  We live in a row house; I've warned neighbors on either side, but none of them have seen anything in their homes.  My best guess is that the bedbugs came in tucked into a book I'd grabbed from a Little Free Library.  

Here's something I know now:  You can bake a book in the oven.  Bedbugs die at 120 degrees Fahrenheit; paper burns at 451.  I have now "sanitized" my bedside books at 170 degrees (the lowest our oven will do) for an hour.  

What doesn't work:   Baking soda.  (I put it down anyway, because I figured it wouldn't hurt and might deodorize, although there wasn't much that was stinky.  Diatomaceous earth works according to all the advice I've read, but baking soda, not so much.

What else doesn't work:  Space heaters.  We borrowed a few and turned them on full blast in the bedroom, hoping the heat would kill the bedbugs.  But the space heaters didn't get the room much above 100 degrees, and the bedbugs lounged in the sauna we'd made for them, refusing to die. 

Fortunately, although I don't know how we managed to get this lucky, it really seemed to be just that one room that had bugs --- and they haven't migrated into our chests of drawers or into our closets of clothes.  In fact, the list of places there are no bedbugs goes on and on:  They're not in the spare bedroom where my husband sleeps.  They're not in the command center where I've been "camping" this past week.  They're not in the living room, in any of the upholstered chairs or sofa.  They're not in the dog bed or in the front hall closet.  As plagues and infestations go, this is a pretty mild one.

We bought mattress covers.  (By "we", I mean "my husband", because he's the designated shopper, and knows his way around online while I cover my eyes and pretend we're not spending money).  

What I wish I'd known: Mattress covers that protect against things like bedbugs aren't the plastic pee-guard covers I'd been imagining.  They come in small zipped-up plastic bags but they themselves are cotton.  Apparently, we can put the mattress covers on the mattress NOW, with the beasties inside, and they won't be able to come out.  

The covers are on to keep the bedbugs from spreading, but I'm still camping down the hall.  Meanwhile, yesterday we had a professional exterminator come over to the house.  With neighbors on either side of us who could be affected if we don't get this under control, and with no past experience with bedbugs myself, I figured I really want to make sure we have the full inspection and a careful treatment.  I have friends who had dealt with bedbugs, and got a recommendation from them.

Here's how the conversation went with the Exterminator.  

Me:  We have bedbugs; they're probably only in this one room, in the bed and fortunately not in the clothes drawers or closets.   Here, I caught two of them in this canning jar.

Exterminator (looking in canning jar):  These are bed bugs.  

Me:  Yes, they are.  They're in the bed, too.

Exterminator:  Let's take a look at the bed.  (We unzip the mattress covers).  You have bedbugs in your bed.  

Me:  Yes, they're in the mattress and in the box spring.  But they don't seem to be anywhere else in the room.  

Exterminator (looks through the closets and drawers):  They don't seem to have spread here.   Has anyone been traveling, or stayed in a hotel?

Me:  My husband has, but the bed where he's sleeping doesn't have bedbugs.  

Exterminator.  Let's have a look . . . there don't seem to be any bedbugs in his bed.   

. . . [inspects the rest of the house]

Exterminator: The only place they seem to be is in the bedroom.

Me:  Good to know.   Can you treat the house?

Exterminator:  I'd recommend treatment.  I can write up the paperwork.  Even though we just see them upstairs, you should treat the whole house.

Me:  Great; I agree.  When can you start?

Exterminator:  I'll write up the paperwork, so you can decide whether you want to do this . . . 

So, the exterminator went away with a promise to get back to us with the paperwork and timing.  In the meanwhile, we got instructions, which say -- in not so many words -- that a bedbug infestation  is a heck of a lot easier for minimalists to deal with than it is for regular people or hoarders.  Before our exterminator could come to spray the whole house, we'd have to remove all clothes from the drawers, wash them, heat them to bug-death in the dryer,  and bag them up (in plastic bags . . . . shudder).  Shoes and stuffed animals would get the same treatment without the washer.  We'd need to get everything off of floors, remove pictures and mirrors from the wall.   

I have plastic storage tubs that I've been using for a few decades for off-season clothes, and during the past few days I've made use of those for my cleaned/laundered clothes, in lieu of plastic bags.  We happen to have a few giant army chests that we could use for my husband's clean clothes.  We're still trying to figure out how best to deal with his dry-clean-only suits.  I deeply, deeply feel the irony of putting my clothes in plastic bags right after I've finished blogging for an entire month about the evils of wanton plastic use.   

At any rate, the exterminator finally got back to us:  the next available date is almost two weeks away, and it would cost $800.  

At this point, we decided to get rid of the exterminator, along with the bugs.  So we spent $28.02 for some bedbug spray and diatomaceous earth, and I followed the instructions and treated the mattress and boxspring (with the special covers off, of course) with the spray, plus all possible cracks/baseboard stuff with the diatomaceous earth.  

Bonus:  while I was driving back from the hardware store with the bedbug stuff, I got to see this rainbow, an aftereffect of Isaias blowing through.  I like to think it's a good omen.

Now that the spray has dried and the mattress covers are back on, I'll be moving back into the bedroom, keeping a close eye on the space and everything in it.  I know I need to repeat the treatment in 10 days, and then in another 10 days.   I worry that I'll feel a bit like Amneris sleeping on top of the tomb of dozens of little Aidas and Radames-es, but I do think that I now have this under control.

Anyone out there in the blogosphere have further wisdom for me?  

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Sporty Miser family update

Life continues to be rich and full and sporty in the Miser Family Household.  So full.  Behold.

Being sporty is pretty hard right now, for a bunch of reasons.  For one thing, in our neck of the woods . . . er, city . . . this past month has been the hottest July on record since our city started keeping records.  Also, my running buddy is temporarily off limits to me.   (She does physical therapy for little kids, which is hard to do online, although she's been doing that valiantly for a while.  A few weeks ago, her organization started home visits again, and about two weeks ago, she did a home visit with a child who subsequently tested positive for Covid-19.  She's feeling fine herself, but she's doing the usual self-isolation for a while until she gets the green light).  

Okay, so that's two reasons: heat and loss of a running buddy.  The third is I gave blood.  So I did try pumping iron mid-week along with Dan and Kelly Fitness Blender, but I bailed early.  Wimpy me.  I don't have a photo, but I did get to do a fun 4-mile run through a local park with some different friends, later in the week when I'd recovered a bit from my phlebotomist encounters.  

Athleticism runs in the family, so to speak.  I just got the update from my dad, who "has been going faithfully to the gym three times a week."  My step-daughter L2 shows in her photo above that sometimes you have to bend over backwards to get in a good workout (acro yoga is above and beyond me).  Another example of flexibility is taking a selfie with a spinning wheel (if you haven't tried, you'll see how tricky that is). I-daughter writes, "This is me with my wheel and the yarns I spun during this year's Tour de Fleece".

L1 has had a tough week.  She says, "Sorry been a long day, we are watching the Yankees Sox game. Dogs are watching peter eat his pizza; it's a sport for them".   We've just learned that their foster dog, Ameila, has terminal cancer.   L1 and Peter have decided that Amelia is now their forever dog, and will be with them and be made comfortable in a way that only L1 can really do.  We're all sorry for this beautiful old dog, but grateful that she has the best place in the world to live out the rest of her days.  

On a different kind of difficult journey, Y says, "My sport was spending 5 hours in the car moving back from Southern Maryland to Phillyphilly. #NoMeGustaElAtasco".

The sport theme was N-son's suggestion, and he hit this theme out of the park with his wooden bat.  A-child decided to do him one or two better:  she's got two bats, and a swimsuit!   She had a great time in the ocean with her dad.  See them both in the water?

My guy has multiple sports that he excels at; he's still walking something like 60 miles a week for example.  But this picture shows two other of his favorite sports: biking and buying things.  And guess what he did this week? He bought a bike!  Because why not?  We only have like 5 or 6, so might as well get another one.  (For what it's worth, this is a single speed mountain bike with fat tires; it's slower and steadier than his other bikes, and I did bless the plan to get this.  If it had been me, I would have carefully mulled things over and then considered the purchase and then thought about buying the bike, and maybe then I might have worked my way up to figuring out whether I wanted to actually go out and buy it.  But he saw it at our local bike place on Tuesday evening as they were closing, chatted with me about it that night, and bought it Wednesday morning.  crazy.)  

I mentioned that the weather has been really hot and the sun has been fierce.  In some ways, I'm kind of delighted by this.   Here' s a spreadsheet showing our energy usage for July -- you might notice that about the middle of the month, our usage went negative.  Yes, we now have solar panels, and they're working.  Whoop!

Yesterday, Friday, was our 23rd wedding anniversary.  To mark the special day, I got my husband bedbugs, and he got me mattress covers and chocolate.  This was not actually what we'd planned to get each other, but I woke up in the middle of the night and realized to my horror that even though my husband was sleeping in the recovery bed in the next room, I was not alone, and in fact I had approximately a gazillion companions.  Icky, icky, icky.  Fortunately the bedbugs seem to be restricted to one room.  My husband (did I ever mention he's good at shopping?) ordered mattress covers; we've put the solar panels to good use by washing and then using the dryer on sheets and pillows and such, and we have an exterminator coming Tuesday.  So we're crossing fingers that we caught this before it takes over the whole house.  Still, icky.

Oh, and did I mention he got me chocolate (from a local store, and brought it home in pyrex with no plastic)?  Love that man so much.  

And that's the news from our family, which continues to be wealthy in our sporty adventures.  May you and yours stay safe, and don't let the bedbugs bite.