Monday, January 28, 2013

A Rockwellesque Sunday

Except for my Mom's ability to draw adorable faces and cartoon characters, we weren't a super artsy family. Her abilities fell so far from the tree we never did find them. Growing up we had the typical generic paintings and prints on the walls. There was one that hung for years over the fireplace. It was a beach scene with two children climbing up the sand dunes. For an odd reason, the artist included a man in the foreground carrying  a large piece of driftwood, following the children. We called him The Hacker. The Hacker painting was a part of our family for years, not doing much to contribute to our appreciation of fine art.

We went through a phase of working on Norman Rockwell puzzles as a family. I just loved them; as a kid it was art I could understand. I didn't have to turn my head sideways to "get it" and the characters seemed like people I would like to know. When we heard about the Norman Rockwell exhibit at the Crocker Museum, I knew we had to go. It runs through Super Bowl Sunday, which might be a great day to go to avoid the crowds. But for once we didn't wait until the last chance; we met some friends down there this Sunday afternoon.

Many of Rockwell's most recognizable paintings were in the exhibit. By far the most powerful was The Problem We All Live With: the brave little girl being escorted by federal marshals, past the racial epithet and tossed tomatoes, on her way to school after integration in the South. It was sad hearing parents attempting to describe the painting to their children, but good to hear their surprise that a child could be barred from school because of her color.

Like all the other talents I didn't get (singing, dancing, sports and all things involving graceful movements) you either have an artistic ability or you don't. I still draw like I did when I was in fourth grade. My trees look like lollipops and my people look like lollipops with limbs. But if you tilt your head just the right way...

Saturday, January 26, 2013

World War P-U

All the good smelling results of her trip to The Honest Dog lasted less than 168 hours. Seems a little early in the season, but tonight Molly got hit yet again by a skunk. It is really bad, like the skunk had been percolating this batch all winter long in his little pocket of smelliness, just waiting for the perfect bratty dog to use it on. He found his brat and she is on our back porch, whining to come in. Since we still don't have any blinds on the back porch window, we are hiding out in the living room so she doesn't give us her look of utter disappointment. The cries are hard enough to endure.

Here is our recipe for getting rid of the skunk smell. It's supposed to go on right away, but it's too cold and we'll Ernst will have to apply it tomorrow.

Anti-Skunk Remedy

Hydrogen peroxide - one quart
Baking soda - 1/4 cup
Dish soap - one tablespoon
Vanilla extract - as much as you can afford, or about one tablespoon

Apply and let soak in for five minutes, then rinse off. Keep out of the dog's eyes. It really works, but the sooner the better. Remember to soak the collar too, because usually that's right where the dog got sprayed.

It's going to be a long spring.

If you'd bring me to the hall with you this wouldn't happen.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Work like an Egyptian

On my list of things not to do when I grow up - become a brick layer. Today at the RBC project in Rancho Cordova it was day three of laying the pavers in the parking lot. Eventually there will be about 150,000 pavers installed at this project, so far I officially installed the grand total of...drum roll please...ONE!

I declined to be a "setter" but took on the job of being a "feeder." The setters, mostly young women, were amazing and speedy and super efficient, laying the large bricks down in a herringbone pattern that stayed straight row after row. We less confident folks were the feeders who got the bricks off the dollies and placed them strategically in piles so they could be quickly grabbed for placement. It was really hard work and my body is not very happy with me right now. What saved us was the almost perfect January day. Right now I'm off for a long soak as an apology to my back and shoulder muscles. I'm not in pain yet, but tomorrow I think it'll hit like a ton of bricks.

Pavers are bricks on steroids

We reached the tree by dinner time

Ronnie Chipmonk!

Three at a time was my limit
I really need to get some new work jeans, my old jeans were all either too short or too big so I made them into a jean rag quilt. For today, I raided Ernst's closet, found a pair and just rolled up the cuffs. When I told him I was borrowing his jeans, he said "They fit you?" I asked what he meant and he said, after a pause, "Won't they be too long for you?" Good save, my man, good save!

Monday, January 21, 2013

An Honest Dog

Launder Dog has become The Honest Dog, Moving from Alta Arden & Fulton to Arden & Morse, but keeping all the great vibe of the old place, An Honest Dog is still just a hop, skip and a pounce from our house. New location, same great service, or so we humans think. Our dog has another opinion.

What else could a dog owner want than big waterproof aprons, large doggie-safe wash basins with ramps, warm water, pet shampoo, dry towels at the ready, blowers for drying and a big choice of brushes and combs? And best of all, all the shaking and stinky wet dog hair shedding happens somewhere other than our house.





Go Niners!

All is forgiven. An Honest Dog is a happy dog.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Cold nights, not so cool lights

Freezing their peels off

The oranges on the tree at our new house are legendary. The tree is big, the crops are prolific and the fruit is sweet and juicy. We used to wait eagerly for D and H to pass them out among their friends. We were on the Orange List.

Now we're on the other side of the Orange List and boy is it stressful. This ongoing freeze is making for some worried orange tree newbies. A normal winter would have been nice as we eased our way into this place. But instead we've had flooding rain, thrashing winds, and now a week of sub-freezing nights. What's a person to do when it dips to 27 degrees and there is citrus to protect?

Christmas tree lights - that's what we needed. Not twinkle lights or fairy lights, but Christmas tree lights that produce some heat. As usual, we sort of just waited around for some to fall from the sky. They almost did. I was taking a walk, a short one because it's freezing out there, and I found that someone had thrown out their Xmas tree. Not just the tree but everything on it - the stand, the star, the bows, the ornaments and the lights - right there in the street. Too bad they kept the presents. So I unraveled the lights and came right home, a great excuse to stop exercising if ever I found one. They weren't quite the kind that create much heat, but Ernst strung the red lights in the orange tree anyway. They covered about 10% tops.

So Ernst decided to break down and check the Goodwill for really old fashioned Xmas tree lights. He hit the gold mine. Wow are they tacky, but each one is a little furnace of wonderful heat, just what we need to keep the oranges from freezing and splitting. But being newbies at stringing lights too, we made the mistake of making one big long strand all connected, mixing the really old with the really new. They did not jive. One by one they shorted each other out. The tacky lights won, they killed the new ones, but now only half the tree is protected. I'll be glad when all this fruit is ripe and picked and passed out. Maybe next year we'll ditch the 60's lights and hang some lava lamps.

The small orange is actually a really tacky light

That 70's Porch
"The colder the weather, the closer to the house I poop.'

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

When kitchens barf

Today after work, as I was puttering around the house figuring out something constructive to do, I had a great peaceful feeling. The house is basically done inside and we can have a few weeks of enjoying it before we start tackling the gardens. Oh, the joy of having all that work behind us.

I started a vegan rice pudding from Baked Bree and a big pot of veggie and barley soup from scratch. As I was peeling the carrots I was thinking that soon we'll get the worm composting bin going. Those little critters will munch away at our food scraps and produce some great compost for the garden. At the other house we had a traditional compost bin. It went something like this:

Walk past the dog who was doing her best to look nonchalant.
Dump the compost on the pile and try to bury it with the pitchfork.
Walk back past the still nonchalant dog, who is not making any eye contact at this point.
Go back inside, shut the door, and watch the dog make a bee line to dig up and eat the food scraps.

Oh, the joy of garbage disposals, I thought, as I fed quite a few carrot peelings down the chute. Grind, grind, grind and good-bye veggie scraps. Good thing I looked back, because a few minutes later I noticed water coming out from under the sink. Then I saw it was more than just water. It was carrot barf! Lots and lots of carrot barf spilling out from under the sink. I opened the cupboard and saw an even worse sight - carrots scraps and water were everywhere.

I screamed for Ernst, who brought rags and buckets. It was a gag-inducing amount of food scraps to clean up. Turns out the configuration of plumbing coming out of our garbage disposal cannot provide enough pressure to keep the gunk from backing up. A trip to Home Depot was in order. And then another trip. It's a really good thing we have a big pot of barley soup and some comfort food to get us by, because we may not have a working sink for a while. Oh, the joy of home ownership.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Ditchin' the old kitchen

Kitchen remodel. If you hear the term, run for the hills. Don't look back, just save yourself.

We didn't even remove a wall or change the layout, and it was still so much work. Some people might rise to the occasion, but living with a refrigerator in the living room, the stove in the dining room and still trying to eat here? Not on my list of things I ever want to do again. Maybe in summer it would be easier, but please say no to re-doing your kitchen after the leaves begin to fall from the trees.

Here's what we did:
New windows
New trim and baseboards
Patched ceiling
Sanded and painted the old brown cupboards and changed hardware
Ripped out old counter top and back splash
Replaced flooring with new overlayment and VCT tiles
Painted ceiling, trim and walls
New microwave
Upgraded electrical and plugs

Seems like more, but that was it. The biggest bang for our buck was definitely sanding and painting the old cupboards. The color that matches with the Ikea white cabinets? Dover White from Sherwin-Williams. I think that little stove wall is my favorite part of what we did here. Those old cupboards were perfectly great, they couldn't help if they were ugly greenish brown. Now they're a fresh white and looking good with the new Ikea counter top. The kitchen is all united now, instead of one with a serious case of identity crisis.

The new blue floors? I really like them- don't know if it was love at first sight but they are totally growing on me. I have yet to buy the floor cleaner recommended for these tiles, but even with just vacuuming and doing the wet rag dance they look great, even if they're not super clean. I think we got a bit of our retro look (as retro as can be with Ikea stuff) and can now say the kitchen project is done.


More of the former ugly duckling cupboards

Our new addition
The nook