Saturday, July 25, 2009

Happy Birthday, Paige!

Um... yesterday. It was low-key. We went to Joe's and ate sushi to the point of gastric injury.

I made her a cake. An incredibly weird-ass cake. She requested a strawberry cake with Captain Crunch mixed in the batter. It was an idea that Gabe had and it sounded like an interesting experiment. Turns out it's not such a hot idea. I had baked it but didn't have time to decorate it before we went to dinner. When we got home Paige and Gabe went to get her a new filter for her aquarium and I stayed to decorate the cake. I had bought these cute, multicolored candles which gave me an idea for the design. I was going to pipe a black outline of a kitty and fill it in with green icing and give the kitty a big toothy smile. It would have gone really well with the candles.

I didn't have any black food coloring so I mixed the frosting with cocoa powder and a little blue food coloring. That made a pretty decent black color. When I found my cake decorating supplies I was missing some essential parts. Ok, improvise. I was going to make a tube out of baking parchment but the stuff we have seems to be a bit more like waxed paper. Tape wouldn't stick to it. Ok, no paper cone. I decided to use a sandwich bag with a small hole cut in the corner and insert a metal decorating tip. I filled it with the black frosting color and piped the outline of the cat's face. I didn't have very much control but it looked ok.

Then I filled in the green. That looked ok too, though it wasn't up to my usual standards. When I got that done I started to pipe on the nose with the black icing. The bag exploded and gushed black icing all across the cat's face! AARGH! I tried to clean it off but it kept getting worse and worse. Eventually I gave up and smeared it all around to blend the colors. It looked like the color of guacamole after it's been sitting out a while. And when I added the candles it really took a turn for the ugly. When Paige came home I ran to the kitchen to explain what had happened. I really didn't want her thinking I had made that monstrosity on purpose.

Lindsay and Kyle and Sam showed up a little later. We all gathered in the kitchen to cut the cake. You'll just have to imagine the glory of this rotten, avocado-covered thing with pink insides punctuated with yellowish, chewy blobs. At least it still tasted like cake.

Today we're going to the Folk Center to buy Sam a ukulele. She borrowed one of mine for a while to see if she really liked it. Now she's hooked and wants to get one of her own.

Tomorrow I'm flying to Missouri with Drew and Mindy to visit Debbie and Bob and the gang. We'll be back Thursday. Poor Drew. He's going to be stuck with me for 4 days while I talk his ear off about my home improvement ideas. The other day I filled up several notebook pages with lists and ideas. I'm taking it with me on the plane.

Ho-hum. Another hot summer day in Southern California.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Not a lot, but enough to help me feel better.

The plumber came today. Turns out the drain didn't need rooting, it needed replacing. It was just too small. Bigger bill for that one and when I saw what he had done it made me think he overcharged me a bit. Ok, whatever. It's fixed and I can proceed with the bathroom project without fear of further damage. And now we won't have to stand by the washer and turn it off and on while it drains every time we do a load.

The furniture repair guy came by and picked up the bedroom set I'm going to use in my room. It's this cool, walnut 1960's set that I got from Mindy and Drew. There's a dresser with a mirror, an armoire, and two night stands. The drawers didn't work very well so he's going to install glides. He's also going to fix the doors on the armoire so they close properly. Since I'm planning to have this set for a very long time I wanted everything to function perfectly right from the start. I'd rather spend the money now and get it fixed than be dissatisfied every time I open a drawer.

I got out a notebook and wrote lists for every project I have planned. It really looks like a lot but I think it's all doable. I might have to put the retaining walls on hold for a while, but I think I'll have enough money for the rest. Today Paige got a ticket for parking on the street during street sweeper hours. Widening the driveway is a high priority.

I feel a momentum building. Cool.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Another one of those days

Caution: Whining ahead. Welcome to my vortex.

Pleah. Sometimes when I'm trying to get things done around here I find myself going in circles until I plunge right into overwhelm. It all pretty much comes from having more crap than I can realistically deal with. I know I'm making progress but I wish I had a big shed (hey, I used to have a barn!) to hold everything until I can sort through it all before moving it into the house or the garage. But I don't. I have a full garage and a full house. The tile game continues.

My mantra is "more out than in". More things have to move out of this house than can come in. I'm really doing pretty well with that. Today I made a big pile for the thrift store. I'll be going along at a good pace and then I'll find something that stops me and I have to sit there and think about it and try to make a decision about it. Today it was my Arcosanti bells. I have these three cool-looking bells that I really like. I had them hanging on my front porch at the farm. But I don't have any place here that I'd like to hang them. If I ever build my fabulous patio that right now only exists in my head, I'll have the perfect place for them. But I don't know if I'll ever be able to afford to build it. Thinking about that made me think about the uncertainty of my financial future. I followed that line of thought straight to crapland. The whole thing had me thinking that I'm not handling my life very well.

Inertia is my enemy. If I could keep moving and have it be my goal to accomplish something productive every day I'd whip this place into shape pretty quick. Ok, so that handles one of my problems. Then there's the money thing. Ok, I know I just had a big bag of money land in my lap and it really does help my situation. I'd be majorly screwed without it. But it'll only take me so far. It buys me some time. I can work on getting through school but then what? The whole point of getting my AA is to get a better job, but any kind of decent job is really hard to get right now. I also wonder if staying with RCC is the right thing to do.

See? It's a freakin' vortex of crappy, disorganized thought. Most of the time I'm really doing ok, but then there are the days when it all piles up. And I know I'm not the only one going through shitty times right now. The whole country is effed up. And even though I'm complaining a lot here, I'm not really feeling sorry for myself. It's just one of those days.

It's one of the effects of my widowhood. I've thought about this before. I know I'm capable of making good decisions, but when I was with Jim I had someone to bounce things around with. The whole process was different. I could feel comfortable and more certain about the decisions we made as a couple. The path was more clear. Fewer things fell through the cracks. A stitch in time saves nine. Buh-buh-buh-buh-buh...

Ok, I'm done. There's still daylight left. I can get some more things done.


I pulled the ugly plastic base board off the wall and found this.And this.
Oh, crap.

I wanted to remove the baseboard because it was poorly installed and it looked just plain awful. The wallboard next to the shower is a bit punky and needs to be patched. I knew that going in. It's no big deal, wallboard is fairly easy to deal with. But I really didn't want to get more involved than that. More involved I shall get.

The wallboard all around the floor is rotten and I know why. The drain for the washing machine is clogged enough that sometimes it can't handle the amount of water that's being pumped into it. It often overflows. You can see it running out from under the washer and I thought that's all there was to it. No big deal, we'd just mop it up and stand there turning the washer on and off until it finishes draining. I was planning to call a plumber eventually. I guess I'll do it NOW. The water has been running back behind the bathroom wall.

Also, it looks like there might be some termite damage. That might be old damage from before I moved in. The owners had the house was tented when it was sold. I sure hope that's the case. I really would rather not spend money on that.

I'm going to remove the toilet and the vanity so I can do all the repairs without trying to work in that cramped space. Drew is coming home tomorrow from vacation. I will definitely need his help with this one. I don't do plumbing.

Ah, the joys of home ownership.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

What have I done?

This is progress, right?The sheer magnitude of the home improvement projects was getting me down today. There's so much that needs to be done and I can't get started on it as fast as I'd like. So, ok, I can't solve all my problems at once but I can get started on a few things. Time to attack the front bathroom. Click on the photos to enlarge.Paige's friend, Nicki, asked if she could do some odd jobs for me to earn a little cash. Oh yes, I do have a few things that need to be done. I put her to work peeling wallpaper. She and I worked for about 2 hours. At one point I decided to dive right in and do some demo. I took out the 1970's monstrosity of a medicine cabinet. This hole is where the original cabinet used to be. I'm going to replace the light fixture and I'd like to see if I can move the outlet down and to the left a little. The vanity and sink will be replaced by a cool-looking set I got at Ikea. Tonight I was checking out the floor around the vanity. When they tiled the floor they tiled around the crappy vanity, which is a different size and shape from the new one. I'm going to have to think about that a bit. There's no way I'm going to rip out what's already there just to patch a little empty space. Mosaic, maybe.

It feels good to get things rolling in there. There's no turning back now.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Harry Potter and a haircut- two bits

Jeff and I saw the new Harry Potter the other night. Loved it. Visually it's quite stunning. I'm so glad the special effects people have figured out how to appropriately use computer juice. There was a time when it seemed like they were constantly saying, "Ok, let's see what this baby can do." and then they'd do it over and over again until there was nothing but effects overload. And from what I saw in the trailers it looks like that stuff is still happening. But in this movie they got it just right. I felt like I was being carried along with the flying wizards.

I also felt like it was pretty powerful emotionally, especially the scene where Dumbledore and Harry are in the cave trying to retrieve the Horcrux. Heart wrenching, really. Things did get a little goofy when they were dealing with teenage love, but even that dredged up some painful and bittersweet memories. I really got involved in this movie.

I like seeing the new Harry Potter films with Jeff. Two summers ago we read all of the books together. I enjoyed discussing them with him on our Mt. Rubidoux walks. This time I felt like I should have read The Half Blood Prince again before seeing the film. There's so much I'd forgotten. I might go see it again tonight.

Today I got a haircut. Hmm... I'm not so sure I like it. I think it'll be perfect in about two weeks when the bangs grow out a bit. Yesterday at work I searched the internet for hairstyles. I printed out a couple photos and showed them to Maria. I was really just trying to give her an idea of what I wanted but she tried to replicate exactly what she saw in the photo. I actually do like the cut, it's just the bangs that bug me. The length now is just below the shoulder. I got tired of leaning on my long hair.

The furniture repair guy was supposed to come by this afternoon but he didn't show. I have this cool, mid-cent-mod bedroom set that I want him to work on. I want glides installed in the drawers. I want to get it done soon so I can get my bedroom painted and arranged. On Monday the guy from Second Time Around is coming to get the rest of the gift wrap. Don't worry, I'm keeping enough of it to keep everyone stocked up for years to come. But I really don't need 15,000 sheets of paper stacked up in my bedroom.

Yesterday I put almost half of my inheritance cash into investments. Man, that felt weird. I keep feeling like I should have held some back. One chunk is locked in for 10 years but I can get to the other one if I need to without too much of a penalty. But what I kept out might not be enough to do everything I had planned and still have enough to supplement my income. So, ok, I'll just scale back a little. Maybe I won't get that retaining wall put in.

My baby fishtail palm arrived yesterday. I need to get it into a pot. I hope it lives.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Weekend with Bob

Walking helped. I feel better. On my third circuit around my block I discovered that Lio was following me. So, ok dude, you've got to keep up. He whined the whole time. We passed by some people hanging out in their front yard. He got so freaked out he froze. I had to go back and pick him up and carry him until they were out of earshot. Silly boy.

This weekend I went to Long Beach and had a nice visit with Bob Craig. We basically had a two day blab fest with activities. It was great. On Saturday we went to the Museum of Latin American Art. I'd love to go there again. Almost every piece in there was mind-blowing. I enjoyed discussing the art with Bob. After that we hit some thrift stores. A couple of them specialized in mid-century modern furniture. I was in heaven. Bought some lamp shades.

Bob has a photography business on the side and he showed me his photos. He does head shots for actors and weddings and family portraits, but the most interesting photos were the nudes. And not just because they're pitchurs of nekkid people. They were really good.

We spent a lot of time just hanging out. We went to some really yummy restaurants. Just down the street from his place is a Centinella pet store. We went down and checked out Lindsay's signage. On the exit door was a sign that had a drawing of a kitty that was very clearly Ivy. Ivy the exit kitty. It was fun walking around and seeing Lindsay's work.

I had a very nice, relaxing time with a good friend. Even learned a secret or two! I also enjoyed exploring Long Beach. I'm looking forward to future visits. Thanks, Bob. It was a fun weekend.


Feeling a little heartsick today. Thinking about Jim. I have all these house plans and no one to do them with. He and I had such a good time improving the house on Sunny Manor. We didn't get to do everything we wanted with that place but it was a much better house when we left. Man, we really worked well together. I miss that a lot.

I shopped for dishwashers today. I was hoping to spend less than $400 but the cheaper models are really flimsy. The quality seems to kick in at around $600. I need to check Consumer Reports. Dean?

Today I cleaned, puttered and made lists. Not a whole lot got done but my brain is a bit more organized. And my kitchen is much cleaner. I did a lot of detail work in there. Whoop-dee-doo.

Yeah, today I had that WTF? thing going on. I haven't felt that way in a while. For that first year after Jim died it felt so weird to think of him as being, like, gone. Just gone. Like, that's impossible. He can't be gone. It doesn't make sense. And that's what I was feeling and thinking today. It's been two and a half years. In January it will be three years. One day it'll be ten years since he left. The time just goes. My mom's been gone 22 years. My monkey mind can't wrap itself around all that.

So, as I was walking around Lowe's I was once again pondering the whole me-ness of it all, which is not a good way to shop. I was freshly reminded that it's all up to me. I have to find the energy and the gumption to make it all happen on my own. It really is more fun doing it with someone, with a partner. The job doesn't look so big that way. Too bad, toots.

So, I bought an iron and picked out paint samples.

I need to walk.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Mo' money. Thanks, Dad.

I know it's tacky to talk about money, but this inheritance is the source of all the stuff that's going to be happening here soon, so I think I should at least mention it. Yep, I gots me a wad.

Not the biggest wad that was ever bequeathed, but it'll make a huge difference in my life. Actually, it already has since my house is the biggest chunk of it. The rest of it will be divided, saved, invested and spent. I must be wise with my wad.

Pretty soon I'll be using some of it to take care of this house. My ideas for that are starting to gel, which is pretty exciting. Some of the work I can do myself and I'm looking forward to the challenge. I'll hire some burly dudes for the heavy lifting and I'll pay some smart and experienced dudes to do the things I really shouldn't attempt. But I can dig a trench and I can operate a power washer and I can paint. Here's the plan so far-

First, remove some trees and the spent landscaping. Start with an empty canvas. Once the trees and bushes are cleared I can see where I want to draw my lines. Along the far side of the house I want to put in a retaining wall and cover the ground with concrete. Right now it's nothing but a weedy and very steep slope, which is hard to maintain. I tried pulling the weeds out there and I kept falling down the hill. Putting in a retaining wall will add about 2 or 3 feet of useable space and make the whole thing tidy. I can then use that space for a dog run and storage. The retaining wall will continue out to the front yard, where it will dead-end into two large, step-down planters (these plans aren't yet set in, um, concrete).

And now to the front porch. I think I'll have to bust out the existing concrete before I can pour the new stuff. I'm going to enlarge the porch and make it into a small patio. I have an idea for a privacy screen which will look very mid-century modern, very retro. A new walkway will be poured. I want to widen the driveway so two cars can park there side-by-side.

Once all the cement work is done I'll start on paint prep. I'll power wash the whole place, have the stucco repaired and scrape and sand. The gutters will be removed. I'll make any wood repairs that need to be done and fill in the gaps with foam and caulk. Then I'll prime and paint. I picked out the colors today. A dusky teal for the shiplap siding, celery green for the stuccoed upper part and a creamy white for the trim.

After the house is painted I'll install new gutters. Then it's time for the fun stuff like adding plants and irrigation. I'd like to get rid of my lawn but I'm not solid on that idea yet. I know I can get my water usage way down if I use mostly California natives. One non-native plant I'm looking forward to getting is a fishtail palm. I saw some at the Huntington Museum that day I went with Virginia and I totally fell in love with them. I've never seen them anywhere else. Hey, I might be the first person in Riverside to get one!This is a very large one. I didn't see any that big at the Huntington. Click on the photo to enlarge.

I'm also adding a large planting bed that will run across the front of the house down by the sidewalk. In front of the bedroom windows I'm going to place five large ceramic pots planted with fruitless olive trees. They'll stay small for a long time and I think it'll look quite sharp, kind of zen.

And that's about it for now. I have lots of other ideas for the driveway and back yard but for now I want to concentrate on the front. I can't wait to get started.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Me date

In that first year after Jim died I would occasionally take myself out for dinner and a movie. It felt like a nice way to pamper myself when I really needed it. I haven't done that in quite a while. I wasn't really planning on it but since I had nothing to do tonight it felt like the right thing to do.

First I went to Borders and got the new issue of Atomic Ranch. I also got a gardening design magazine. Good stuff in there. Lots of inspiration for my front yard. Then I went to California Pizza Kitchen and had their new Moroccan chicken salad, which is freakin' to DIE for. Lordy, it was good. I got the half order, which is plenty big enough. Then I went to Cherry On Top for a little frozen yogurt. I strolled down to Gottschalk's to peek in the windows. They're closing in 9 days and they've finally gotten serious about lowering their prices. After that I moseyed up towards the theater.

I ran into Bill and Judy from uke circle. They're fun to talk to. You'll never fully explore whatever subject you're discussing because after a few sentences they're off onto something else. Plus, there was a band playing at the Plaza and they were kind of loud. Still, it was a fun conversation. I really like Bill and Judy. Judy's an artist. We both think we need to have a girly afternoon of creative creating and invite Virginia. We should do that soon.

After I left them I went to the movies. I saw Away We Go. I sort of liked it. It has its moments but it's not the romp I expected. It left me a little emotionally meh. Just kind of meh. Well, a little better than meh.

Anyway, it was a nice evening.

Stuff's been happening lately. I went up to Washington last week to see Michele. It was a very, very nice visit. Lots of cool activities. Michele is involved with a small theater group and right now she's working on props for a show. We spent an afternoon building stuff. I took a broom apart and made another broom out of it. Friday night her bluegrass band gave a concert as a fundraiser for the theater. Man, they're good. Bluegrass isn't my thing but I sure enjoyed these guys. On Sunday I went to her church. It was my first Unitarian service. Enjoyed that too. We ate at some really good restaurants. Spent an afternoon singing rounds with a friend of hers from church. Loved that! I love singing with Michele.

On Monday Jeff texted me and said that his mother had died. Hoo boy. No real surprise there but it was still a shock. Like Dad, she had been sick for a long time and she was pretty old. The last few months were really bad for her. I came home on Tuesday. Sister Pam and her family arrived on Wednesday. They all seem to be doing pretty well emotionally and they're working together on funeral arrangements. Having just been through this myself I know what they're going through. It's a weird time.

Celebrities are dropping like flies. Sarah Palin has resigned. Looks like she's in deep doo-doo. Good stuff.