It’s been a couple of years since we last had gallettes. I always look forward to Jen making them, but they are admittedly a multi-hour event since a single iron only produces a single gallette every few minutes. They are also known to those from the southwestern PA town as New Year’s Day cakes, and the time investment explains why this is usually a once a year event.

For years Jen has been using the recipe handed down from her grandmother on a stained 3 x 5 notecard, and for years she’s heard from her dad that her Aunt Louise made the best gallettes he ever tasted. Figuring that recipe had died with Aunt Louise and all the other Belgian immigrants from that area, she stuck with the recipe she’d been given.


In the last year, we’ve been through almost every inch of her Dad’s house, from the back corners of the attic to the crawlspace under the floorboards. We’ve probably read through and organized every scrap of paper in the house in an effort to organize his life again. It got so that we could speed-sort envelopes based on their color, weight and size. And the amount of paper we wound up throwing out recycling was immense. Contractor bags full of paper, boxes of books, enough to fill dumpsters—40 years of not just one life lived, but the lives of the whole family. Everything they’d collected and stored and forgotten about. We’ve boxed up the stuff worth keeping and tossed the rest.

So it was with surprise that Jen found a folded, yellowed piece of paper on top of my extension cords as she was putting something into the back of the CRV one day at her dad’s. At first she thought it had fallen out of one of the multiple tool boxes I had packed for the day’s work and nearly ignored it. The door was nearly closed when something told her that paper was worth a second look, so she picked it up to examine it and discovered a recipe for gallettes written in an unfamiliar hand. She knew immediately she’d “found” Aunt Louise’s recipe as given to her by Mrs. Bertiaux, the daughter of one of the original Belgian immigrants brought to the town to work in the glassworks. Jen said she literally looked around behind her to see who could’ve put it there.

Saturday afternoon she followed the new recipe’s increased ingredient list and more complicated instructions to create a fresh batch of galettes. And I’m here to tell you, these gallettes are amazing. So much more flavor, a lighter texture, just incredible all the way around. I’ve been trying not to sneak into the kitchen and eat them all myself, but it’s been very challenging. It’s so good I dusted off my eBay account and set up an alert for another gallette iron so we can do two at a time.

I told Jen I have no idea where that scrap of paper came from or how it got there, but I think it was meant to find its way home to our house.

(thanks to Jen for filling in the details in this post).

Date posted: March 13, 2023 | Filed under family, photo | Leave a Comment »

My brother in law and I drove down to Bob’s house on Sunday to install a new bathroom vanity, and I was glad for his help. It’s not heavy but it’s bulky, and having two people to get it up the stairs, into the bathroom and over the toilet to fit in the corner was super helpful. 1970’s bathrooms were made for hobbits, I think. We had to return the original sink that had been delivered with a giant chunk broken off the backsplash, and were able to exchange it with another off the shelf. Then we spent most of the rest of the day chasing plumbing fittings down. His house seems to be nonstandard in all the most annoying ways; by the time I had the sizing sorted out it was 5PM and the standard-sized reducer we found to go on the paint waste pipe didn’t fit the P-drain kit we’d bought—which claimed it would fit anything. Good times. So we contented ourselves to cut and fit some kickplate, swapped out the original plug with a GFCI unit, and measured for a new medicine cabinet.

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Renie, you will be glad to know I’ve figured out the notification preferences out for my AirTags. There’s a handy little setting to specify not to be notified at certain locations—so I’ve got notifications off for when I leave the AirTags and all my other location-aware devices at home, for example. Down at Bob’s on Sunday, the tag I put in my messenger bag worked exactly as advertised when I left to go to the store. So I’ve got three of them activated and serving different purposes, and I have an idea for the fourth.

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For the last three weeks I’ve been battling a weird form of insomnia. For my whole life I’ve been able to go to sleep almost anywhere, and make it the whole night through, even when I’d have to get up to go to the bathroom. But lately I’m waking up at 3, sometimes 4AM and I’m unable to get back to sleep. My mind is off and running, and I’m working through problems and issues from the day and I can’t calm it down to return to sleep. I might doze off and on until Finn’s alarm goes off—this morning I had a pleasant dream where Emma Watson delivered a pizza to our house, and I sat down with her and had a wonderful conversation about shooting the Harry Potter series with her even though I’d never been there or knew her—but more often than not I’m just awake. I don’t drink caffeine after 11AM anymore. I’d spent a good part of the day running up and down Bob’s stairs. The previous day I was on my feet for 14 hours straight. Something is clearly going on with my brain or my metabolism; I just haven’t figured out what.

Date posted: March 6, 2023 | Filed under apple, family, life | Leave a Comment »

My sister sent us a Christmas care package filled to the brim with amazing, thoughtful gifts. The highlight for Finn was a Kanken backpack covered with cool metal and cloisonné pins; she immediately ditched her black LL Bean backpack and moved everything over to the new one. One of the things she gave me was a 4-pack of AirTags, which I’ve been curious about for years but haven’t ever pulled the trigger on. Intrigued, I set two of them up and put one in my travel messenger bag and the other on a keyring.

Since then I’ve been getting messages on my phone whenever we leave to walk the dog to tell me I’ve left my messenger bag, keyring, iPad, AirPods and Apple Watch behind (I don’t wear my Apple Watch all of the time). Somehow activating the AirTags kicked off a bunch of notifications for all of the location-aware Apple gear I own; my phone vibrates constantly. I’ve got to figure out how to turn off all but the essentials, I guess.

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As part of our remodeling in the Living Room, we’re opening up the space for new furniture and a new layout. Now that the built-in bookshelves are installed, it’s time to remove the bulkier furniture we don’t need or that doesn’t fit. I broke down the IKEA Expedit bookcase we’ve had in there since before I changed jobs and listed it on Craigslist for $20. The next step will be to disassemble Jen’s oak library table and store it safely in the basement, and move my carpenter’s trunk upstairs in the blue bedroom. There’s no way we’re getting rid of either of those items, but they are too big for our current living room. The West Elm chairs could be here anywhere between this Friday or the middle of March; we have no idea but want to be prepared.

* * *

On Saturday we drove down to Bob’s to bring food and spend some time with him. The three toilets I delivered two weeks ago are now all installed, including the one in the bathroom I’ve been working on. While the plumber was in there working we arranged to have him lower the flange to floor level, so that wrinkle has been ironed out. We’ve got a new 36″ vanity on order and waiting to be delivered this week. The plan is to head down on Sunday, set that in place and hook up the sink. I may rope my brother-in-law in and have him come in to help; we’ll see.

Date posted: February 27, 2023 | Filed under apple, family, house | Leave a Comment »

Saturday we decided to get out of Dodge and do something fun as a family. I’ve had the green couch in the living room since my house in the city, and it’s served us faithfully through the years in the living room as our main seating area, but it’s super long in the tooth and doesn’t fit our style anymore. It’s been under a brown cover for years because the original IKEA upholstery is stained and torn. Jen bought new legs for it and had me put them on last fall, and that made a visual difference but raised it up off the ground too much to be comfortable. So we started looking around for alternatives.

There are several wholesalers online that have generous return policies but we really wanted to be able to sit on something and look at it before we bought it, so we drove down to DC to 14th Street and hit up a long line of houseware and furnishing stores. Used to be you’d go to the mall for that kind of thing; funny how those stores have all closed. It was lovely to go back to the Big City and walk down the block to see the sights.

We started at a place called Joybird, who have beautiful Midcentury Modern designs with contemporary fabrics, and tested out a couple of couches with a salesman who was extremely helpful and patient. When we’d settled on a loveseat that we liked, we then spent about a half an hour worrying over fabrics. Deciding to think it over, we got our salesman’s card and continued up the street. There were a bunch of homeware stores available, and after some Shake Shack for lunch we hit the West Elm, where shades of white or off-white seem to be the only color choices. After looking on both floors, we came down to where Finn was waiting for us, Jen sat in a leather chair next to her and immediately said, “Ooooh! This is comfortable!” Looking it over, we both tried it out and realized it was pretty perfect for what we want to do with our room. So we took notes on that and continued on our way.

After stopping for a drink at a beautiful bar/restaurant, we crossed the street and hit a small shop next to the Black Cat called the Outrage, which is a combination storefront and meeting space for social justice/racial/feminist events. So many cool things there. Jen bought a couple of T-shirts and Finn got a ring from some local artists. By that point it was getting late and we needed to get back to the dog, so we hit the road and headed home.

This morning we both took advantage of the President’s Day sales and we’ve got a couch and two chairs coming; this marks the first time we’ve bought major furniture for the inside of the house since the yellow couch in the den. It will be great to make big changes to the living room—more on that to come.

On that note, I think the built-in shelves are done. Well, there are two small areas along the bottoms that need to get patched up. And then it’s done. I spent most of Sunday actually finishing the install process; I’d started screwing the two side units into the wall on Thursday night but had to place the two top shelves, mill down the side pieces, tack in the moulding, and then nail everything into place on Saturday. With that done, it was a lot of caulking and painting and painting and adjusting and painting; then I had to run out to Columbia to the only Lowe’s in the area that sells the toekick moulding I needed to finish off the edges. But that was just an excuse to get a couple of good hours in the Scout, which ran like a top and put a smile on my face.

Date posted: February 20, 2023 | Filed under family, general | Leave a Comment »

I’m snowed in with work but found a little time during a staff call to cut some highlights of our snowboarding trip together:

In short: we had a great time; Monday morning was super quiet at Whitetail and we sailed through all the lines to find the slopes almost deserted. Pennsylvania hasn’t had much snow this season so everything that was down was manmade, but because the place was so quiet we had the beginner slope pretty much to ourselves. I focused on getting the kids used to the chairlift so that the next time we go we can graduate up to an intermediate slope without worrying about falling. This year we got many more runs in—probably 10 on the chairlift alone—and left at about 4PM. They’re both doing great and they tell me they can’t wait to go back.

Date posted: February 8, 2023 | Filed under family | Leave a Comment »

Here’s where the bathroom at Bob’s stands. To recap, the Thompson Creek guys came and replaced the whole tub/shower section after I did all of the demo. I patched up the subfloor and put in 1/2″ tile backer board on the bare section last week, and we sourced and ordered new tile. I rented a tile saw up here and brought it with us to get the cuts done. I had to work fast to beat the clock due to a late start and Lowe’s getting the tile order wrong; After going back to exchange three boxes of the wrong tile with the right stuff, I got the floor marked off, some mastic mixed, and started laying it down. The tile saw wasn’t aligned properly so the first three cuts I made were off by 1/8″ over each foot, but once I sorted out the angle I made the cuts freehand and got it done. The other MVP was a little tile blade I bought when I did the backsplashes in the kitchen: they helped with the cuts around the toilet flange and small trim cuts elsewhere.

So the floor is in and curing. Next up will be floating all the grout to get things sealed in place. That shouldn’t take too long; following that I’ll set a vanity in place and putting some kind of moulding around the floor edge.

Date posted: January 29, 2023 | Filed under family | Leave a Comment »

Well, this week has been a real test of my sanity; there were points when I felt like I was doing OK and at other times I was a terrible husband, father, and Co-Acting-Director-whatever. I’m not used to the sheer amount of meetings coming at us now, and the immediate need to be caught up with all of the inside information we don’t know is overwhelming. My friend Lauren comiserated with me last week, saying, one day you’re looking around for the adult in the room to make a decision, and you suddenly realize that’s you. So much truth in that observation.

Stories to Watch launched on time after an intense three weeks of shooting, editing, organizing, and producing. This year’s production was, in a lot of ways, easier than last year’s (and I wasn’t trapped in my bedroom with COVID, which was nice) but other stressors were still front and center up until the morning of the event. The video portion, if I do say so, looked fantastic. We got a lot of great feedback on the presentation, and when I was in the office later that day, my CEO found me and shook my hand to thank me and the team for all our work. That felt very good.

I was in the office not for the event, but because I had to help another team mix epoxy and glue laser-etched plaques to the front of five trophies that had been 3D printed with sand and shipped from Germany. Don’t let ’em tell you different: the life of a Co-Acting-Director-whatever is full of glamour. Due to some internal production confusion we had to source the plaques and some laser-cut felt to complete the pieces in-house, so I brought tools and a pile of nitrile gloves and we got down to business. They made me glue and set the plaques: no pressure. This coming Tuesday I’m headed up to New York City to help produce the awards event itself, where I’ll be shooting video. Two nights in Manhattan ain’t so bad, I guess.

Meanwhile we visited with Jen’s Dad last Saturday, and I got to work setting a subfloor in the common bathroom. This involved cutting and fitting two sheets of waterproof hardi-board, mixing a bed of thinset, and setting them in place before screwing everything down. It went in with only a few small hitches, and should be good to go for the next step: this coming weekend I’m renting a wet saw and laying the tile. It did involve a ton of work on my knees, cutting, fitting, troweling, and screwing, and I felt it in my back that evening. Between that and 9-hour days at my desk my whole body is pretty pissed at me right now. Hazel got her first walk in 5 days this afternoon; it was like we’d sprung her from Solitary.

And the built-in project is moving along. I found a decent 12′ board for the top shelf and cut it into place. Then I cut and fit small insets under each of the shelves that dress up the horizontals and give them a little visual weight. Jen and I discussed how to finish off the top and after some negotiation we agreed upon a solution to box in and frame out the top shelf with a section of moulding that matches the stuff above all our windows. So I’ve got to get a 12′ piece of that from the mill in Glen Burnie on a dry sunny day ’cause it won’t fit inside the car.

Date posted: January 27, 2023 | Filed under family, house, WRI | Leave a Comment »

Old office shelves

Wow, look at that. Fifteen years ago this week I started demoing the old exam room in preparation for a renovation; I think it was this same day Jen came in and told me she’d just gotten a positive result on a pregnancy test.

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I’ve been using a cast-off MacBook Pro from work for email since before the pandemic; I have one good machine cobbled together from multiple out-of-service 2013 Retina models—this one has a drive from one machine, a replacement battery from another, and a screen from a third. It’s serviceable for what I’m doing on it, mainly email, photo selection/cataloguing, and other basics. But I’m stuck at OS 10.14 on this machine and I’d really like to upgrade to the latest version for security and modern features. It can’t talk to my iPad, which kind of sucks. It suffers from random 1-5 second freezes. There are some applications I can’t run anymore.

I think it’s time to upgrade my personal system here, given that the last truly new MacBook I bought was back in 2011, funded partially by the sale of my previous laptop. I’m looking at something ligher and slimmer (and cheaper) than a true MacBook Pro, which points at a MacBook Air: They’ve just updated the model to the new M2 chip and it goes head-to-head with the 13″ MBP with only a few minor omissions that I don’t care about at all. I’m waiting for a large expense report check to come in from work, and when that does, I’m going to pull the trigger.

Date posted: January 24, 2023 | Filed under apple, family, finn, history, photo | 1 Comment »

2022 was an odd year for a lot of reasons. World events just seemed to get stranger and stranger; 2012 Bill would have laughed at a description of the state of the world in 2022. Shit, 2021 Bill is still trying to process the last twelve months.

Most of the progress we made this year was at a house we don’t live in. Having spent every weekend between the end of March to the beginning of November and my father in law’s, I’m proud of the work the three of us did to improve his quality of life, as much as it took out of us. That meant that there’s little to show for our efforts here at the house. Our vacation to Austin was fantastic; everything about the trip was better than I could have hoped. We all got COVID at different times of the year, and apart from Jen’s missing taste and smell we came through OK. There have been a lot of challenges over the last twelve months, some of which we overcame and some of which we’re still working through.

Over here at the weblog, I’ve kept busy; the frequency of posts has fallen off slightly, but I’m averaging about 20 a month.

Lining up the category counts, it’s interesting to see what’s been focused on and what hasn’t. Clearly I’m not using some of the categories, so I’m going to consolidate some and add some new ones. Some of these categories are artificially inflated—everything posted on the Scout blog gets cross-posted here, and every post with a photo linked from Flickr gets tagged “photo”. I think categories like Album of the Week and Favorite Things will be decommissioned and I’ll find new homes for those few posts.

Date posted: December 30, 2022 | Filed under family, housekeeping | Leave a Comment »

It’s five degrees outside, but with the wind the temperature is negative ten. Hazel got up with Finley and wanted to go outside, so I put on a pair of bike tights under my jeans, bundled in my puffy down coat, and took her for a walk around the school. After about ten minutes I couldn’t feel my face, even though the sun was out and shining. We did a short loop, only 1/3 our normal route, and headed back inside for warm coffee and warmer paws.

Apart from the wind taking the power down for about five minutes and a brief hiccup without FIOS until I reset the battery, we made it through the storm just fine. Down the street there’s a tree that’s been dead for years, rotten from the inside and with a hole in its trunk that we pass daily on our walk; it finally blew over in the storm and out onto Frederick Road.

I took the girls out for a fancy Christmas dinner at the Milton Inn on Thursday evening as part of our advent activities. The Milton Inn was a famous restaurant for years and recently closed its doors during COVID, but was reopened by the Foreman Group as part of their portfolio. We were treated to a fantastic meal: Jen had a griled venison leg in cognac and peppercorn sauce, Finn had the duck leg confit, and I had a prix fixe menu with a plate of oysters to start and seared veal in a wine reduction for my main course. They paired two excellent glasses of wine with our meals and made Finn a delicious virgin cocktail. We ate every bite, left happy and stuffed, and I think we all went straight to bed when we got home.

Date posted: December 24, 2022 | Filed under family | Leave a Comment »