Wednesday, June 24, 2015

On lab meetings

I've been kicking around science for a long time - a loooong time. My apprenticeship to this tenure track position has been over 20 years in the making. For any of you out there that thinks professors are overpaid, and over-protected, think about that. I've been slogging away for 80+ hours a week for crap wage, no benefits and often for free for almost 21 years. There is no possible way that a job paying 5 digits is paying me anywhere near what I deserve.

But, that's not the point of this post. The point of this post is to discuss the lab meeting. Lab meetings - every P.I. thinks they need them, few P.I.s know how to run one. I've belonged to at least two labs that did not hold them, and one lab that held one for multiple hours on random Fridays. Both situations set me back as a student, as a scientist. Given I have taken the responsibility to train several students early in my position, I've spent a lot of time thinking about how to run a lab meeting. Why would I spend time doing that rather than hacking away at my data? The lab meeting is the cornerstone of lab productivity. Run it well, and you provide a good scaffold for your students and staff to complete tasks, produce science, publish papers. Muck it up, and you breed resentment, get confused about what is actually being done, and waste everyone's Monday morning.

I have one major suggestion, under which all other suggestions fall

Respect the time of your staff and employees
This is basic stuff. You may be the P.I. but you aren't a god, a king or a totalitarian president. If you are holding lab meetings so your staff and students can update you on minor issues, listen to you discuss the square footage of your new apartment, watch you grill one person relentlessly over their work, sit and wait 20 minutes for you to show up, or listen to you speak to one person the entire time, you are demoralizing your lab, and you need to take some courses on effective people and project management. Contrary to raging popular belief amongst the more senior of scientists, there is no place for enormous egos in experimental science. Act this way, and you will lose talent in your lab. Act this way, and your work will make you unhappy.

What does this mean? It means do, do the following:

1) hold a regular group lab meeting - even if you think there might not be any major break-throughs that week. Hold a regular meeting at least every two weeks where you discuss scientific progress, or attempts at progress in the lab

2) hold individual staff/student meetings at other times - no one wants to hear you discuss your grad student's class schedule, or the blow by blow of setting up purchase orders or reagents with your lab tech. It's an enormous waste of everyone else's time. Save that for your mid-week 15-30 minute update one-on-one meeting, in your office.

3) require update slides - make your staff and students provide you with slide that state the precise things they have done since your last meeting. Screen the slides. This is really important - all to often lab meetings turn into "round table discussions" that are really just a P.I. talking a single person about their progress without letting anyone else in on what that person is actually doing. I once sat in a lab for 2 years and had absolutely no idea what the person next to me was actually studying because it was never explicitly discussed. You want to kill morale, make a student feel like an imposter? Talk to only one person at a time and never provide your staff with an overview of the activities of the lab. You will succeed in alienating everyone but the tech in no time. 

4) show up on time - seriously. If you are showing up to your own meeting late, why the hell are the rest of us sitting here?

5) hold the meeting at a sane hour - you have to teach at 9 am? Great. You teach at 9 am. The rest of us do not need to be in a meeting room at 8 am on a Monday. To a person who works an 8-4 job that probably sounds a little uptight. When you work 80 hours a week and have a very reduced social and recreational life (i.e. when you are a grad student, a postdoc), you aren't heading to bed at 10 pm on Sunday. You are up troubleshooting problems, launching analysis, reading, sending those update slides at midnight. When you as a P.I. holds an 8 am meeting on a Monday you are saying "I don't give  rats a$$ how exhausted you are" to your students. You are taking parental time from their kids. You are effing up morning work outs. You are basically saying your little update matters more thant their real lives. It doesn't. Early morning meetings are not the hallmark of productivity. They just mean you don't care about how they affect the people who work for you. You teach at 9 am Monday? Fine - hold your meeting Tuesday morning at 9 am.

6) dedicate at least one meeting a month to reviewing articles - part of your job as a  P.I. is to train students, and training them how to read and evaluate papers is part of that. A major part of your job is to provide an atmosphere where productive creativity can thrive. To do that, you have to provide space for your students and staff to read what interests them. Let them bring articles to you on any topic. Let them talk about these things out loud and invest in the science. 

7) make arrangements for food and coffee/tea - you don't have to provide it yourself. Have rotation. Food lightens the mood, creates community, and forgives the poor person who ran out of their house to get to the meeting on time and skipped breakfast.

8) hold a early-mid meeting at the beginning or end of the week  - no one wants to talk on Wednesday for the first time and no one can effectively act on bench work or even order processing in the afternoon.

 Do not

1) hold meetings that run more than an hour

2) speak to lab members individually without explaining the context of your discussion to everyone else

3) speak in languages that the less than the entire lab can understand. Practicing your Spanish? Good for you - but if anyone else in the lab does not speak Spanish, you have just alienated them. You have just told them that it isn't important if they understand what is happening in the lab.

4) yell

5) lose your temper

6) insult your staff or students

7) grill anyone - really need to get down to the nitty gritty of some tiny aspect of data collection, save it for your mid-week one on one meeting

8) hijack a regular lab meeting to discuss some minute aspect of theory or analysis that has always bothered you. Book a part of a meeting to discuss that stuff. Give your staff and trainees time to prepare so they can contribute

9) talk about your personal life for more than a minute - no one showed up to this meeting to hear you wax on about your ongoing search for the perfect apartment.

10) declare "we are having a lab meeting in an hour" whenever you please - lab meetings are regular scheduled meetings. They are not meetings that happen in the space called "Friday afternoon" just because you feel like having one. You couldn't have one Monday? Oh well. You'll have one next Monday.

11) don't skip multiple meetings in a row - as a P.I. you will have conferences and special guests and grant deadlines and inconvenient overseas skype calls. Sometimes all of these things will get in the way and you will have to cancel meeting. One cancelled meeting is fine. Two makes it difficult for the staff and students to keep on top of what is going in the lab. Three cancelled meetings  - not cool. Everyone falls behind. You want to book a month long vacation or field expedition - fantastic. You want to tell everyone on Thursday at 5 pm that for the third time in a row you don't see a point in holding a meeting that Monday, you will fray the morale of your team.

With that, I give you guidelines for productive lab meetings. Good lab meeting = healthy, happy lab and science. 

Monday, June 22, 2015

The tenure track

After all that education, you'd think the tenure track job at an R1 institution would fill a person with a sense of relief. As an undergraduate, graduate student and postdoc you train for years and years. More than a decade - sometimes more than two decades. You'd think the logical feeling would be "finally, I get to be in charge".

I wish that was my feeling. I think had someone come to me in the middle of my PhD and said "you can ditch this and run your own lab now", maybe I would have felt differently. I certainly felt more competent at the end of my PhD than I now do at the close of my postdoc.

Part of my hesitation is certainly due to the growing detachment between my benchwork and my analysis. My analysis requires a team of people with stronger math and computational skills than myself. I don't mean "strong math skills", like someone who took an extra statistics class. I mean someone who got a PhD in math. Someone who is writing bioinformatic programs. My feeling of inadequacy has certainly grown since 6 weeks ago, when I was ordered by my boss to tear down the analysis of my most important paper for the 7th time and do something completely new - and was assigned a collaborator who, by and large, creates analytical structures and codes by himself without must explanation.

So the jump to tenure track is extremely nerve racking.

It's also a bit of a financial hit. That might sounds kind of crazy, but my husband's income will take a hit in this move. Our income, overall, will be lower than it was during my graduate school days. As we near the end of our 30s, and develop our little family, the question for me really becomes how much longer am I willing to ride this horse?

From the perspective of asking questions, starting research and pulling papers together  I'm willing to ride until I can't ride any further. From the perspective of sitting in one spot for hours on end while I work out the tiniest of coding problems that had halted all progress for 3 or 4 weeks - AND at the end of that process not being sure how much more willing I am to continue coding....research.....getting out of bed....

This experience of repetitive failure has had me thinking about Fabulife and how I want to move forward with this blog. It seems to me that most of my time in this space has been spent trying to convey that graduate school doesn't have to and, more importantly, shouldn't financially devastate a student. I came out of my graduate degree with a really nice chunk of money in the bank, my credit cards clear, some investments and a student loan paid off. I'm leaving my postdoc with a lot less money in my pocket, and I'm heading into a tenure track position that will not pay me what I deserve for my training or efforts. On top of that my days, because I work in experimental biology and deal with great deal of computational work, are filled with failure. Like every other scientist, I fail every day. I fail and fail and fail until something works. It's tough on the soul. The repeated mousing is tough on my wrists.

Enjoying oneself within the means provided by the tight budget my academic life has provided means more than just figuring out how to buy a low cost engagement ring. It really means being able to cope with the academic life as a whole. So, this is where Fabulife is headed - a more honest description of the totality of life on a budget, life on the campus. You've been given a heads up. It ain't all going to be cheery accounts of budget friendly whathaveyous. S#$% it getting real in this space.

So, to recap - tenure track still means counting change, starting your own lab is frightening when your postdoc work isn't published yet, the blog is shifting in focus.

See you soon!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Budget Weddings: Marshmallow chandelier

Hi All,

This pic has been around forever....well, since at least November 2011.  It comes from a stylized shoot of a breakfast wedding by wedding photographer Ely Fair, in collaboration with an Oklahoma-based event design company. Since I saw it a few years back it has been banging around in my brain. I'm long married and do not anticipate getting hitched again by this idea is just too good to leave behind (btw - breakfast parties....amazing. Mid-morning weddings? Why are there so few of those? Who doesn't love breakfast?)

So here I present to you this oft linked to pic of a marshmallow chandelier.

The feel of the shoot is pretty fantastic - crisp morning light, great flower and color combinations and some very tasty looking pancakes. I know the DIY small, laid back wedding thing has peaked as a trend, but the shoot is timelessly gorgeous. Honestly, the earnest, small, and fun wedding will always trump all other trends for me.

 So back to the chandelier - I must bring this into my life somehow. It might be a good second birthday decoration for the little one. It occurs to me, also, that we will be having a Fall house warming in the coming maybe that's the time.

I tried to count the marshmallows here, I put this chandelier at 6-7 bags of the big marshmallows, plus about $5 for the line....which makes it a $20-30 range as a project. The fishing line is wrapped around the marshmallows, which keeps them from slipping or melting around a string that might have been punched through them with a needle. You couldn't do this project days in advance because the marshmallows will melt and deform as they take on moisture - basically you will be up 2 nights or the night before tying these things together, and up the morning of the event tying them to some sort of grid on the ceiling...or a light fixture. This is most definitely a dry air project - late Fall and Winter for most folks. I'd do it.

One consideration for this project. Some transparent rope/fishing lines that you find in the average hardware store next to spools of fine gauge wire contain lead. Be sure to check the labels on the line. California state law requires that lead content be disclosed on such products, so most spools that you find should say something if lead is in there.  Why handle lead if you don't have too?

So it has done the internet rounds, but I really like this shoot - so here it is again for your viewing pleasure. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Most useful baby items during the first 6 months: Ergo carrier

and the list continues. I had intended to post more than one recommendation here today, but I have such unabashed love for the Ergobaby original carrier that I'm dedicating an entire post to it.

5) Baby carrier -  Ergobaby

Carriers are great, when you have a baby who HATES her stroller
Truth be told, our little one was pretty cranky for the first four months of her life. She had reflux and was extremely colicky as a result. When I say "extremely" I am not kidding around. She would cry for 13 or more hours a day - uninterrupted - during most of her second month.

The word on the street is infant carrying eases colic. The idea is that much of the crying stems from indiscernible reasons and that being close to Mom or Dad is comforting despite whatever discomfort or oversensitivity the child is expressing. That might be true for some kids. It is very hard for me to judge, because our daughter was so uncomfortable with reflux and cried so much it was nearly impossible to leave the house. We, literally, could not put her in a carrier or car seat or stroller for the first 2 months. She would scream hysterically and unrelentingly. This meant that all tasks outside of the house had to be completed by one parent, while the other one sat at home holding the baby with both hands. However, once the reflux and colic started to ease up, the very first tool that let both H and I out of the door at the same time was the infant carrier. For that reason alone, I will always be indebted to Baby Bjorn and Ergo.

Around month three, we managed to get our little girl into a baby bjorn classic carrier. Once ensconced, she would travel with us to the grocery store and even sleep on my chest while we ate at a restaurant. We even used it to get her down for a nap, on occasion. I really liked this carrier because it had several easy to snap into place locks on the shoulder and waist that made it easy to slip and secure the baby into place - and, importantly, lay a sleeping baby onto a bed and release the carrier without waking her.

The baby bjorn classic carriers are a two piece structure of straps for parents and a separate pocket structure that attaches to those straps and carries the baby. The pocket attaches, with a number of locking mechanisms, chief amongst them a large plastic lock that forms part of the carrier seat. Around month 5 this large plastic lock became very uncomfortable for our little one. All of her weight sat on it and she would cry every time we put her in the carrier. At this time we moved onto the Ergo, a one piece cloth carrier, the seat of which is formed by a large cotton pocket that tightens against the parent's stomach via a large and well padded waist strap. While the baby bjorn places the baby's weight on the parent's shoulders and between their shoulder blades, the Ergo places most of the weight on a parent's hips. As a baby grows, this carrier becomes infinitely more useful, as the child's weight is carried by the primary weight bearing parts of a human's body. Weight placements and the over structure of an Ergo means that a child can be carried until a child reaches 45 pounds in this carrier - outstripping most other carriers by at 15 pounds.

We were introduced to the Ergo coincident with our discovery that our little girl hated being in a forward facing stroller (the only way our current stroller faces). Turns out, many children are not magically induced to want to face away from their parents the second they turn 6 months and can no longer be left in a bassinet stroller or a car seat stroller without danger of injury. Our little girl wanted to see us at all times. With the bjorn carrier too small, and the stroller too forward facing, we were a miserable bunch. All of our outings were marked with the anxious screams of a poor little girl who didn't want to face the world alone. The Ergo was such a life saver - again allowing us to leave the house without hysterical screams.

I would say, between the two, the Ergo is a the better deal. It retails for a little over $100 and can be used (with an insert) from infancy to 45 pounds. They are continually posted on craigslist for less than $100 and are easily washed.  It can be adjusted to hang off a parent's side (presumably accommodating twins if you have two carriers) and, when the child is older, it can be positioned on a parent's back.  If I could go back I would have used an Ergo with an infant insert from the very beginning. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Most useful baby items during the first 6 months: Part 1

Okay, clothes are useful too...

It has almost been a year since our little one was born. I've been thinking about this one way ride, and how our baby changed so much so fast. When we found out I was pregnant, two big, panicky thoughts reverberated  1) does anyone here know what to do with a baby? and 2) how the hell are we going to afford this?

An industrialized mommy complex has been unleashed in the last 10 years that is almost on par with the wedding industry. While throwing a large party that is supposed to embody a relationship and make absolutely everyone with an opinion happy can be stressful, at the end of the day a wedding is an event at which a couple signs a contract agreeing to be, ideally, legally joined to each other.  Caring for a child so that said child, say, stays healthy, meets milestones, defecates in a diaper that has been put on properly requires a great deal more preparation, money and time. The objects and experiences available to "help" new parents keep a baby alive and help it thrive are not only infinite, but amount to a lot of cash. Unlike with a wedding, raising a child comes with almost immediately recognizable and barely surmountable responsibilities, along with a healthy dose of persistent guilt that you haven't done it correctly.

When you are just starting out, as H and I are, the perceived expense of a baby and the things you are "supposed" to buy or do are really overwhelming. When I think back to those first few months of our little one's life, there are only a few things that we really needed, and fewer still that helpful but optional. Here are the top five items that helped us slug through the first 6 months.

 1) Bouncer chair

Handy for a little one that needs to be "held" to nap.

When our little one came home she needed to be held constantly. She had difficulty settling into the crib and would cry for hours and hours. We eventually discovered that she would sleep if we placed her in the bouncer chair. I guess it closed in around her a little bit. In those very early days, one of us would stay awake with her in this chair, while the other guy slept. As she grew, the chair became a place where she could sit and watch us while we did little tasks in the same room. We used it right up until the day she could sit up on her own. A friend of ours very generously gave us the Fisher Price My Little Lamb Deluxe Infant Seat, which vibrates and plays music. Honestly, we never used those features. They kept the baby awake. There is very likely a cheaper version of this seat that would have served the same purpose.

2) Muslin wraps

Muslin wraps are handy for the swaddling challenged.

Best.swaddling.blanket.ever. Hands down champion. These wraps are long and stretchy, making swaddling a breeze. Our little baby was very uncomfortable with reflux during her early months, and swaddling made her feel marginally better. We now use these blankets to cover the ground when we sit in the park, or to cover her legs in the stroller/car seat on a mild day. They are also useful as make-shift sun shields. We got by with two by Aden and Anais, which I snagged on sale for $10 a piece.

3) Microwaveable bottle sterilizer

You name it, we sterilized it in here.
Once the bottles are boiled that first time, they still need to be sterilized before every use during the first 4 months of a child's life. With this sterilizer and 200 ml of water, 6 bottles can be sterilized in the microwave while a busy parent accomplishes other things. Four minutes on high, followed by four minutes of rest and the bottles are ready to go.

A friend of ours gave us her old Tommee Tippee Closer to Nature bottles and sterilizer. The bottle folks would have you believe that their microwaveable sterilizers only fit their bottles. Anyone with depth perception can see that isn't true. It is particularly untrue of the the Tommee Tippee sterilizer, as it is designed to fit Tommee Tippee bottles, which are extra wide and sometime very tall. We were able to stick pacifiers, Avent bottles as well as Ameda and Medela breast pump bottles in here no problem. In fact, this sterilizer was most helpful during the period that I pumped milk at work. Breast pump bottles absolutely have to be sterile. Every morning, I would pop the bottles into this sterilizer, get ready for work, and pack them into my purse on the way out the door. Indispensable.

4) Breast pump - Ameda, Purely Yours

Breastfeeding: great for baby health, and
budget friendly too
I almost recommended my bottle brush over this pump. I didn't have much success pumping at work, as there was no space to do so. That said, this pump worked well at home. Since it is closed system, the pump cannot be contaminated by cytomegalovirus and other such nasties, so the device is easy to resell or donate when a mother is done with it (sans the tubing, filters and cups, of course). In this respect, The Ameda Purely Yours double breast pump is very similar to the hospital pumps.

I was the happy recipient of this pump, which had been used by two other women. When I first returned to work, my supply dipped so I rented a hospital pump for a month in the hopes of boosting my supply. I found no discernible difference between the two pumps. In the end, though, this little guy gave out about 4 months before I stopped breastfeeding our little one. I guess four years of virtually constant use was too much. If you consider that a week's supply of formula for a 6 month old is roughly $30, investing $200 in a new pump to use for a year is kind of a budget and health no brainer.

5) Sherpa - as diaper wipes, face wipes, miracle clean up fabric

Best baby purchase ever, hands down.
Photo credit: Wazoodle
So this was a bit of a surprise. Babies seem to require an insane amount of fabric be invested in mopping up messes everyday. Between pee spray, milk drool, bum wiping, wetting themselves mid-diaper change and the unidentifiable muck collecting around hands and face, babies need to be wiped down constantly. An easy cleaning fix is to buy cartons of diaper wipes and keep them handy during all baby interfacing. Diaper wipes, however, are usually made of some kind of polyester mix. This means they do not break down in land fill. While cheap on a per pack basis (around $4 for a small pack), the ludicrous amount of wiping up required to keep a baby alive and healthy means that in the very short term diaper wipe buying becomes expensive.

While looking into how to make our own cloth diapers (more on that later), I found a very absorbent and inexpensive knit fabric called "sherpa" referenced frequently as a good absorbent layer fabric. A quick google search led me to a New Jersey company named Wazoodle, which sells organic cotton sherpa for around $13 a yard. I bought a yard and a half, cut it up into roughly diaper wipe size (no sewing required, since the fabric is knit) and haven't bought a wipe since. Not only does the fabric absorb over 3 cups of liquid per square yard/square meter, it is softer than most terry clothes and its nap is the best dirty bum cleaner we have every used. We keep a little homemade diaper wipe solution beside the changing area and dip these bad boys into it at change time. We have another set that we keep just for wiping food covered faces. At the end of the week, we wash the sherpa with either the cloth diapers or regular clothes (depending on how it was used). The purchase of this fabric, no lie, was the most budget friendly and clean-baby making decision we ever made.

What items have you found most useful? Any DIY baby supply suggestions?

Monday, December 9, 2013

Etsy engagement rings part 2

Squeeeeee!!!! SO PRETTY!
Photo credit: Marajoyce
The Christmas season is fast coming upon us. With trees and mistletoe comes, inevitably, a slew of Christmas time proposals. A Christmas time proposal might mean snowy romance and glowing lights to some. Eternally budget-minded, for me Christmas engagements mean an important expense at a expensive time of year. 

Couples have varying views on what an engagement ring should be. I knew at the time that H proposed to me that I wanted a pretty, reclaimed ring for under  $300. 
As I've mentioned before on this blog, I'm a huge proponent of hand-crafted engagement rings that use reclaimed materials and semi-precious stones (I ended up finding a beautiful piece featuring a semi-precious stone on eBay for $102). I love the aesthetic of such pieces. Buying such rings has the added benefit of supporting a small business, having greater control over design and, in the case of rings made from reclaimed materials, the benefit of  being environmental friendly and avoiding the ethical muck of blood jewels.

Here is a selection of handcrafted rings for under $200 a piece currently available on Etsy*. 

Moonstone &14k Solid Gold Ring by Ringsland - $149
I LOVE the bezel set and the misty quality of the stone. So pretty!! Ringsland makes some rings to order, so there might be wiggle room on stone size and color. 

2.5ct Cushion Cut Ring , Green Amethyst 
                                                 or Citrine Ring by Baragent- $125.94

Photo credit: Barargent
I could not choose between these two very chic rings featuring cushion cut stones available at Baragent. The company's designs tend towards art deco style and statement pieces, with multi-faceted stones. Almost all designs in the shop fall under the $150 mark, with a few pieces coming in at just over $20.

 Aquamarine Twig Gemstone Ring, Silver by Marajoyce - $153.32 
Photo credit: Marajoyce
I am a fan of the bezel set ring, in large part because it reminds me of ancient Mediterranean jewelry. Most of the designs by Marajoyce have a distinct Roman feel to them, with some pieces featuring real Roman era coins.  This particular ring, in my view, is a bit of a departure from the other designs in the shop, both in its stone color and band width. Many of the pieces are larger statement pieces, multi-colored and many featured. Beautiful, but for my taste, this ring really hits it out of the ball park - just a lovely and peaceful mix of aqua/azure tones paired with a silver, tactile band. 

* I have not purchased any items from these vendors. I just dig the rings.  

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Making a blanket out of pashmina scarves

$25 and some street haggling later,
 I have a throw blanket
Our current apartment is very small. It is approximately 450 square feet. As we were packing to move I realized that for the space to feel orderly and clean, it would have to be well organized and coordinated in terms of both shape of items and their color.

We decided to buy some new furniture to fit the space. I went on the hunt for the perfect throw blanket for the living room couch. I knew that I wanted the blanket to be predominately white and turquoise, without a lot of intricate patterning. This turned out to be a fruitless search, as the gods of West elm, CB2, Target etc. all seemed to conspire to be really into gray and yellow at the time I started the hunt. This is when I decided to make my own blanket.

As our move coincided with the last three months of my pregnancy, grant season and a major publication project, I knew I didn't have a lot of time to quilt or knit a blanket. Moreover, I had just seen the perfect turquoise color on the streets of NYC - a "pashmina" scarf being sold by a table vendor. Fake pashminas  pepper Manhattan. They are sold by every street vendor in the city, for about $5 a piece. That's when I decided to make a throw blanket out of pashmina scarves.

My street shopping bounty 

I picked up two turquoise scarves with white scarf for contrast,  and then more or less followed the blanket-making instructions I found at Centsational Girl. I made a few adjustments, mentioned below. The blanket is basically a striped duvet cover that sewn directly over a piece of quilt batting. The total cost of this project is $25-$35 - $15 for the scarves, and $10 or $20 depending on whether you want polyester or cotton batting.

Cut the scarf into strips and pin the first
 two strips together

Three scarves will make a blanket about the size of a twin coverlet. The first step to make a striped blanket is to cut the scarves in half, lengthwise. The scarf strips will, eventually, be assembled and sewn in two groups of three. The two sewn groups are then sewn together. To start, pin two of the lengths together, right side in, and sew them with a straight stitch. Since the scarves fray, I found it helpful to give myself a little bit more than the standard 1/4 seam allowance. I left about 1/2 inch of allowance.

It is helpful to leave a 1/2 inch seam allowance

To this pair of sewn strips, add and pin the third strip and sew. Repeat this entire process a second time to make a second sewn panel of three strips. Then assemble the two panels, right side in, pin and sew along the two long sides and one short side. Leave one short side open. Turn the newly assembled blanket cover right side out and carefully line up with the quilt batting and temporarily pin it in place. Us as few pins as possible, as these scarves sort of lack a self-healing ability. The holes left by the pins might be apparent.

 It's possible, due to differences in scarf, seam allowances and batting widths that the cover will be slightly smaller than the batting. At this point, the batting can be trimmed if needed. I found that the batting needed to be trimmed, though Centsational Girl seemed to get her batting to slip in effortlessly - no lining up, no trimming.

No pic of the lining up process, sorry

After trimming the batting,  it's a simple matter of guiding the batting into the gigantic duvet cover just sewn and straightening it so that the batting corners fit into the cover corners. Once the batting is in place at the corners, I stitched the batting to the cover in a few places, along the fringe of the scarves. I don't have pictures of this process because in the tiny apartment in which I assembled this blanket, I had to slip the batting and then hang the blanket across a door and a few other structures to complete this task. Presumably, you have a more spacious apartment and won't have to spread you blanket across two separate rooms to get the batting into place.
hand stitch the open side of the cover
and you are done!

Once the batting is in place, be sure to lay the blanket flat, smooth the cover and batting and pin the open end to the batting in a handful of places. Hand stitch the open end of the blanket closed using a slip stitch, or whatever stitch rocks your world. Centsational Girl likes colorful and apparent stitches so she used very colorful thread. I prefer less apparent stitching, so I used a more subtle color.

The finished product in its usual place. 

Three final thoughts on this project. 1) I love the blanket (it is super warm), but would have liked it to be a bit more square. If I were to redo this project I would resize the batting 2) the blanket actually holds up really well. It has collected a few snags from heavy use, but that's hardly a problem. 3) I really like this project because when the cover eventually gives out or I grow tired of the colours, the batting can be used again and again.